Idaho Falls Musings over Raymond’s Charge

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?

 

Yes.

 

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?

 

16 comments

  1. Todd, I get the feeling conversation here is stuck in a loop.

    You: It sure is unfortunate that LDS deny that Jehovah is part of a triune God.

    Mormons: That’s because he isn’t triune the way you say he is, and here’s why.

    You: It’s wonderful to realize that Jehovah is part of a triune God.

    Mormons: But we do believe he is, just not the way you assert he is.

    You: I just can’t believe that LDS would reject Jehovah as part of a triune God.

    Mormons: No, we just reject the creedal additions to the idea, but we accept trinity in X, Y, and Z ways.

    You: Sure is terrible that they don’t accept the one true triune God…

    You see a pattern here? You are simply repeating the same theses ad nauseum, without much regard for any of the discussions surrounding the issues. I’m getting the feeling it wouldn’t make much difference if I just said nothing at all. Your script wouldn’t even miss a beat, or change in the slightest.

    Maybe this is unfair of me Todd, but I often end up wondering whether you’ve heard a word I or any other Mormon here has said. Just the personal frustrations of one more flawed and imperfect guy. Take it for whatever it is worth.

  2. My wife is sitting beside me, and she is laughing. I think she likes you, Seth. You remind her of her own sense of humor. 🙂

    And I am listening very closely. I am just not agreeing.

    The Trinity. How can I get away from this conversation, friend? Every page in John’s gospel is blowing my mind!

    Seth:That’s because he isn’t triune the way you say he is, and here’s why.

    We will be moving on to other themes about God and His work here on HI4LDS, but Seth did you tell me who you personally think is YHWH? I can’t remember.

    (And btw, my wife is wondering what your occupation is . . . healthcare? . . . she is a nurse and says those in the healthcare have a great sense of humor.)

  3. My dad is a family doctor for IHC in Orem. But I’m a bankruptcy attorney. And I do recall his nurses being rather funny…

    Glad I provided some amusement. At least I got something productive done today…

    I believe Jehovah is Jesus Christ acting as the intermediary between God and humankind. I believe He is eternal and I accept Him as God. I also personally regard and reverence Him as my Elder Brother. I pray to the Father in His name and consider Him the ONLY path to both salvation (as evangelicals mean the word) and exaltation (as Mormons mean the word).

    I believe that the Father and the Son are one in purpose – but it goes far beyond that. They are not just two perfected individuals co-operating in perfect harmony. They also share a perfect love for each other and harmony with each other so intense that they basically indwell in each other in love. Thus the Father’s thoughts literally are the Son’s thoughts and the Father’s will is the Son’s will.

    But I do see each as free beings who could choose not to so indwell if they wished. But due to their grace, righteousness and perfection, they freely choose to remain within the relationship and I have full and complete confidence in them.

  4. Every page in John’s gospel is blowing my mind!

    Todd, this just isn’t a satisfactory answer to the pressing question of why you find it appropriate to import an extra-biblical philosophical construct such as one-substance unity into the Biblical text which itself merely describes and implies unity, not necessarily a unity of homoousios. That metaphysical mind-bender is a great way to reconcile Greek philosophies of the first centuries A.D. with the religion that Christ announced and is one possible way to bridge the disconnect between the Old Testament’s evident “One God” and the appearance in the New Testament of the “Son of God” and of the Holy Spirit.

    Unfortunately, after all the time I have spent reading this blog, I don’t believe I have seen an answer besides “The Gospel of John is blowing my mind” and “This verse in John talks about unity” and “Isaiah talks about One God”. I can see that syllogisms are very important to you but there can be other solutions.

    I think that it is unfortunate that despite this long post you did not actually address Raymond’s main thesis, which I believe is a very important one: By calling Latter-day Saints — whose entire lives are devoted to Christ, though admittedly not the Christ of the one-substance Trinity but rather the Christ described so vividly in the New Testament — “unchristian” or “not Christian” you are bearing false witness on two levels.

    The two levels can be roughly summarized as follows:

    (1) You are falsely accusing Latter-day Saints of lying about their belief in and devotion to Jesus Christ. Sure, it is not Tertullian’s or Father Greg’s Jesus Christ but we believe him to be the Jesus Christ of the New Testament, even if Fundamentalist Baptists such as yourself recoil at him because of his physical incarnation that is separate from that of his and our Heavenly Father.

    (2) You are also bearing false witness by claiming that Mormons don’t believe in Jesus Christ when what you really mean is that they do not agree with the same extra-biblical philosophical conclusions as you about the nature of Jesus Christ.

  5. John f., I don’t recoil at the physical, bodily incarnation of Jesus Christ. This greatest act of humiliating condescension by eternal Jehovah, to obtain a body and to be lifted up as a curse for me, saved my soul. I can’t even begin to fathom such love.

  6. even if Fundamentalist Baptists such as yourself recoil at him because of his physical incarnation that is separate from that of his and our Heavenly Father.

  7. I don’t recoil at the physical, bodily incarnation of Jesus Christ.

    Excellent! Then we do believe in the same Jesus Christ after all and you can stop calling Latter-day Saints “not Christians”.

  8. Seth writes, I believe that Jesus Christ is Jehovah. The writings of the beloved apostle John make this undeniably clear about the Christ of the New Testament (considering my current study in John 8 all the way to the book of Revelation, where He is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last.) If I were to ask every contemporary General Authority the same question, I think they would respond with the same answer you give, Seth. Joseph Smith implied this, and so I believe for every consecutive LDS prophet all the way up to the present 16th, though I could be mistaken.

    But Gerald McDermott in the book, Claiming Christ, adds this popping thought to the discussion about Jesus: “I think Mormons misstep when they say he is Jehovah, for it seems to me and most other scholars that the Hebrew word “YHWH” that is translated as “Jehovah” is the same person in the Godhead whom Jesus called “Father” (57).

    Do not LDS like Blake Ostler, Dart, and others (maybe Dave at Mormon Inquiry) suggest that the Father, the Most High, is YHWH? Did they learn this from creeds and councils or from the readings in the Pentateuch (Ex. 3, etc.), the Poetry (Ps. 2, etc.) and the Prophets (Is. 42, 48, 53, 61, etc.)?

    Regrettably, neither Joseph Smith nor Thomas S. Monson will allow you to set up as a standard biblical formula that the Father God is Jehovah and Jesus Christ is Jehovah. Such open profession of faith does not unfaithfully break from OT/NT scripture, but perhaps such a frank confession would confuse CES uniformity of teaching about God each Sunday in the corridor.

  9. John f.,

    Mormonism – not Christian

    But I have met some cultural Mormons who do reject major tenets of Mormonism and believe in some of the major tenets of historical Christianity.

  10. Yes.

    I am focusing on the system and not individual people.

    To accept Church Mormonism as Christian, I would have to recant my heart belief in biblical fundamentals of historical Christianity.

  11. Are you accusing Mormons of lying about their devotion to their LDS Jesus Christ?

    Not in the least.

    As a lawyer, you probably make distinctions all the time, right John? so that people do not bear false witness . . .

    But when have you ever been the least concerned about calling me a “creedal Christian”?

  12. Creedal Christian accurately describes what kind of Christian you are. There is no false witness involved. Mormon Christian would describe me quite accurately, I believe.

  13. I would say that Mormons have no objection to being called Mormon — it’s when you say they are not Christians that they realize something fishy is going on.

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