First, let me interact with Raymond’s T&S post and then ask two core questions (among the myriad of little ones) back to Raymond.
Raymond, feel free to only focus on my two questions in the bold font.
Why it’s unchristian to call Mormons nonChristian: Musings over Raymond’s Charge
Responding to Raymond’s Paragraph #1 – Robert Millet writes, “But to be totally frank, I cannot remember ever being told or ever reading anywhere that Mormons are not Christians until the 1970s, although I now realize that Walter Martin was making such a claim earlier in his masterwork” (45). I am surprised on two accounts. Is Walter the man of culpability in American church history for declaring Mormonism as non-Christian? Undoubtedly, both modern LDS and emergent missional spokesmen seem to consider Martin the arch type of “unchristian” thought and speech. Yet I am also taken aback by Dr. Millet’s limited survey of evangelical counter argument in the book, Claiming Christ. What about D. L. Moody’s later heart responses after speaking in the Tabernacle? What about the Presbyterian minister, R. G. McNiece, in The Fundamentals (Vol. 4, Bible Institute of Los Angeles, 1917)?
I believe historically that American puritans/protestants/evangelicals have been alienated from the very beginning when Joseph Smith unabashedly began correcting their Bible and their Christianity.
Paragraph #2 – Raymond writes about the “bodiless, emotionless trinity of the creeds”. First, does that phrase properly express the creeds or their authors? Secondly, I am intrigued by Raymond’s observation, “we get no credit for having a stronger loyalty to the text of the Bible than many modern Protestant denominations.” Is he against textual higher criticism and the cutting-edge, liberal Protestant, biblical scholarship in America? Which Protestant scholars, in comparison, would the General Authorities find not as loyal to the biblical text as themselves? Examples? And would Raymond and any GAs be concerned at all that many scientific, academic, and laymen LDS actually prefer the more liberal protestant views on scriptural text. I see all kinds of disparity with the LDS fold, so I don’t quite know who exactly Raymond speaks for when he uses the pronoun “we”.
Paragraphs #3-8 – If Raymond could be particularly honest with me, would he inwardly believe that I am involved in a sectarian Christianity both corrupted and not fully enlightened? Would he warn his own kids in words along this very vein if they started attending my church family in Idaho Falls? I would think he might. Therefore, would he be offended if I told him that as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he was involved in a corrupt form of Christianity that is not true in doctrine to the fundamentals of the biblical prophets, apostles, or Jesus Christ?
I see the new LDS ward chapels that look patterned somewhat after the architectural structure of Baptist churches in the South. I see the name Jesus Christ on signs. I hear much of the same religious language. But I think we are talking about two very different faith systems.
In all my years here in Idaho Falls, I have never thought it Christian to call my LDS friends belittling names or to scoff at them in conversation. And I appreciate where they have treated me with the same respect. But Raymond is the very first in Idaho Falls whom I have heard imply, “Todd, you are unchristian if you do not call me a Christian.”
Paragraphs #9-11 – I would agree with Raymond that it is wrong to label anyone with disgraceful, derogatory or spiteful words. At the same time, it would be wrong to force individual consciences to grind their teeth and publicly accept and declare any and all religious doctrine associated with the name of Jesus Christ as “Christian.”
Raymond seems to be still somewhat disturbed over the Mitt Romney scenario. The T & S post in a way takes me back to Richard Cohen of last December.
I think Romney would have been more attractive to conservatives if he had a more conservative track record. I would vote for an active Mormon, as I personally believe in separation of church and state; though I doubt I would vote for an active, lifestyle promoting homosexual. I know. I am the hateful, narrow-minded, fundamentalist, unchristian bigot, who is not keeping up with the politically correct rules for not appearing “unchristian” to nonchurched, disbelieving community pockets today in America.
What Is a Christian?
I venture forth with a few, elementary thoughts. A Christian is a saved disciple in and of the Christ revealed in Scripture, heeding the teachings of the apostle Paul (Acts 11:26), seeking to evangelistically persuade others of the Gospel (Acts 26:28), and living for one sole purpose, even in suffering – that is, to glorify God (I Peter 4:16).
To tell you the truth, I think there are so many conceptions of the term Christian in America, it has almost lost any kind of precise definition. Reductionism rules the day. Can Latter-day Saints give me a more solid, unified explanation as to what Christians are to biblically believe?
Again, Robert Millet writes,
My worry is that the woman in the pew and the man on the street will hear the idea that Latter-day Saints are not Christian and ask themselves: Do these people not believe in Jesus? Do they not believe in his virgin birth? Do they not accept the fact that he performed miracles? Do they not receive him as Lord and Savior and accept his substitutionary atonement? Do they deny the literal bodily resurrection of the Master? (45)
Ok, look at Millet’s fourth question. I consider the meaning in that query (among the others) underlying a fundamental for what biblical Christians believe. But do all LDS accept substitutionary atonement? I don’t think so. Does this mean that the LDS who reject substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ are not Christians?
I picked up a book last week at the Deseret bookstore nearby the Idaho Falls temple. In the book, The Problems of Theism and the Love of God (Kofford, 2006), Blake writes about the penal substitution theory, “it is a perverse sense of ‘love’” (267); “our sense of justice is still violated” (268); and “Why can’t God simply forgive us the way that we can forgive one another?” (277).
Are Bob and Blake on the same page concerning substitutionary atonement that makes one a Christian?
Also, in contemplating not only the works of Jesus, think of Jesus’ person. Which Jesus among the Jesus’s do people pick in America? Even among Mormons, which Jesus will you prefer among those within LDS culture? The Jesus of LDS higher critics? The Jesus of LDS gay? The Jesus of LDS feminists? The Jesus of new-order Mormons? The Jesus of LDS Buddhists? The Jesus of LDS syncretists?
Does LDS Christianity ask me to deny the core beliefs of my Christianity?
The voice of traditional Mormonism does whisper to me from the dust, seemingly everyday. Let me pause for a moment and mention just ten whisperings of this voice that seeks to shroud hearts from soaring in the I-15 corridor:
For you to embrace my LDS Christianity, (1) deny that those ancient scriptures in your hands are God’s words straight from heaven, sufficient and fully preserved by God’s power. Give in to the persistent argumentation and skillful skepticism of the biblical scholars. (2) Deny that those inspired words of Old and New Covenants coupled together, even remotely teach that there is altogether one, vividly personal Triune Jehovah and none other – self existent and interpersonally self-exalting in equality among Father, Son, and Spirit. Confess your false imaginations and chalk it up to being duped by creeds and councils. (3) Deny that the Father is not ontologically bound within a physical body. God must be fully like you with hair, hands, and reproductive and waste organs in order to be God. (4) Deny your inappropriate thoughts of the Father not needing a physical wife in order to truly be a spiritual, loving, all-knowing Father. And of course, he can’t act as a spiritual mother. Also, while we are on the topic, realize that celestial marriage between you and your mate is the core relationship of celestial glory. (5) Deny that you can pray and sing and fully worship Jesus as more than just a remarkable Son of God, God representative, and divine spiritual brother of the same kind of organized species as you. Obviously, it would be unfitting for you to cry like David and think that Jesus could fit one worthy of worship in this context: “I will praise thee with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing praise unto thee. I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name” (Psalm 138:1-2). Please don’t sing this with the same meaning as did the historical evangelicals:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! In his temple God be praised; in the high and heavenly places be the sounding anthem raised. Hallelujah! Praise Jehovah for his mighty acts of fame; excellent his might and greatness; fitting praises then proclaim Hallelujah! Hallelujah! All that breathe, Jehovah praise; let the voices God has given joyful anthems to him raise.
(6) Deny that the Holy Spirit speaks through one sacred collection of books, the Bible, and one spiritual Body, the Church, for the advancement of the glory of Jesus Christ and the way of Christianity in this world. (7) Deny the guilty condemnation by your own internal conscience, the external Word, and the external Spirit over your own helpless depravity in matching up to the perfect, holy Law of God. You are not perfect, but you are certainly not that bad – desperately in need of a total regeneration of heart. (8) Deny that you could ever possibly deserve a literal, eternal hell. That is just a scare tactic of Bible-thumpin’ fundamentalists. No one in their right mind believes that today. And God would not be just or loving in doing that. (9) Deny that Jesus Christ provided a substitutionary atonement and satisfied the full wrath and penalty of God for all your sin. That doesn’t seem just or loving either. How could God handle wretched evil under His sovereign rule in this fashion? And besides, not all hearts have an evil nature. (10) Deny that the essence of Christianity is about giving glory on this earth and in heaven to the one, true God. Is it really the central and continual sin of mankind to not give God the proper glory in their unbelief? God would be wrongfully jealous to state this in an absolute sense that there can be no other God of glory. And shouldn’t you focus more on the horizontal, BIG sins, like racism, and not worry too much about your more respectable little sins and the root cause of that?