“Creedal Christians” and “Joseph Smith’s Saints”

I think John F. enjoys his constant use of the term, “Creedal Christians” for his categorizing of me on this blog.  He mentions this term because of his firm conviction that I derive the idea of the Triune God not from the Bible but from perceived corrupt church history creeds sourced in human imagination under bondage or unenlightened.

I use to be bothered by this on the HI4LDS blog, for you could almost track the history of all this if you have lots of time to waste. (To be fair, I am sure that not all would be disturbed by the term.  I just came across The Pondering Pastor today. As a pastor in the ELCA, perhaps he might accept the description of “creedal Christian” from any insistent LDS.  It might be fun to ask him, especially as he has just started this series of comparing LDS Articles of Faith with Lutheran doctrine.)

But today, I really don’t fault John F. for this belief.  He is only parroting the underlying conviction of Church headquarters in SLC.

If it is alright for the LDS Church apologists and apostles to continue labelling me a “creedal Christian” rather than a biblical Christian, is it acceptable for me to label them as “Joseph Smith’s Saints” rather than latter-day saints.

Aren’t genuine evangelicals, living in 2008, latter-day saints?

23 comments

  1. Thanks for the note about the series I’ve started.

    If I understand you correctly, there are some who make a distinction between “creedal” and “Biblical” Christians. I think it is a false distinction. The creeds attempt to take seriously all of scripture, and therefore include portions of scripture that many so-called Biblicists would rather ignore. The creeds keep us centered in the faith in such a way as to not lean toward heresy by neglect of another side of the witness of Scripture. My experience has been that those who distance themselves from the creeds do so because there are parts of the creeds that are uncomfortable. Welcome to the reality of scripture!

    Additionally, our culture isn’t comfortable with an external authority.

    FWIW
    Pondering Pastor

  2. PP, thanks for joining in with me and John F. I carefully weigh your words and acknowledge kernels of truth, but I would not easily wave away the concerns with the idea of a “false distinction”.

    My interpretations can be wrong. Creeds can be wrong. And creeds are limited in properly expressing all of scripture, the fount of inerrant truth.

    I, happily but humbly and dependently, embrace the label of biblicist. There is much that I need to learn of God beyond just the scope of creeds.

  3. Todd, the issue is that the one-substance Trinity is not found in the Bible — so how can you be a Biblicist when you make an extra-biblical abstraction the focus of your worship?

    As I have stated to you before, the one-substance Trinity is the result of a syllogism that some have deemed a plausible solution to the apparent contradiction between the Old Testament and the New Testament — the One God of the Old Testament and the mysterious appearance of the Son of God in the New Testament. But the one substance Trinity is not the only way to interpret this occurence, nor is it the most straightforward. Jesus’ statements in the New Testament that he is one with the Father and that if you have seen him you have seen the Father, etc. are perfectly compatible with an interpretation, such as that held by Latter-day Saints, that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are indeed united as the Godhead. But then, following Tertullian, the creedalists take the extra, philosophizing step and assert that the three members of the Godhead must also be one substance. What’s more, the creedalists then say that anyone who doesn’t sign on to this philosophization of Biblical doctrine does not believe in Jesus Christ and is not a Christian. It is true that they are not a creedal Christian but claiming that we are not followers of Jesus Christ constitutes bearing false witness against us.

  4. John f, I don’t ultimately need creeds (4th century on up) nor published 19th century writings to explain to me the plain and precious revelation of Scripture (1) who YHWH is and (2) that YHWH is the only God worthy of worship. All other elohim of the heavens, all boastful nephilim of the earth, and even the tannin of the sea give obesience or fall down before the all creating and redeeming God who is Father, Son, and Spirit.

    There is no “apparent contradiction between the Old Testament and New Testament” on who God is.

    Joseph Smith obviously demonstrated his conviction that the Bible did not correctly or clearly portray God.

    I categorically reject the doubt he cast on the biblical revelation. Mark me down here in the latter days as a biblical saint, John f., and not one of Joseph Smith’s saints.

    Carry on with your crusade against creeds and Greek philosophy, but I would urge you to reconsider the notion that the Bible carries contradictions about God.

    as an unwavering biblicist, thinking of heart issues . . .

    et

  5. Todd, if there weren’t a biblical contradiction, nobody would have considered the Nicene Creed necessary in the first place would they?

  6. “Creedal” or “Biblical” Christians? Simply another way to create divisions between people. I find it interesting that LDS members want to take a minimalist approach to defining Christianity (for instance, dismissing the value of the creeds) … but at the same time, would eliminate all other Christians as being Christians or Christ followers because we do not follow Christ as Joseph Smith would have us do. Just because a duck calls itself a horse does not make the duck a horse. Christians define what is Christianity, and LDS doesn’t cut the mustard.

    Pondering Pastor

  7. #5 – what?

    Seth, flesh your thoughts out for me on this one.

    PP, out here in the LDS I-15 corridor, I will probably not meet one LDS friend who will deny you the label of “Christian.” They would readily grant to you that. But you are a creedal Christian. Big difference.

  8. On the contrary Pondering,

    You almost never hear a Mormon claim that other Christians are not followers of Christ or “Christian.” Nor do we ever claim that a good Baptist is “going to hell.”

    We consider the rest of Christianity to be apostate, but sincerely Christian nonetheless.

    Todd,

    The chief aim and purpose in convening the debates at Nicea was to reconcile the monotheism of the Old Testament with the tri-theism of the New Testament. John 1 or not, you’ve got more than one God in the New Testament.

    Nicea was an attempt to explain this seeming contradiction inherent in the text.

    I say it missed the boat by imposing artificial philosophical absolutes on Old Testament monotheism, but…

  9. O.T. = one God
    N.T. = three Gods

    And this was “the chief aim and purpose” for debate at Nicea?

    What did they teach you in school, Seth? 🙂

  10. What I said above really isn’t that controversial Todd. Everyone knows a major theme of Nicea was an attempt to preserve Old Testament monotheism in the face of some rather inconvenient facts in the New Testament.

  11. When did the persecuted apostles and elders, to the officially sanctioned presbyteria and the bishops begin to believe in three Gods, Seth?

    The early gnostics? Cerinthius? The young, arrogant presbyter, named Arius, following Origen, who loved debate?

    Arius became the trigger man, tickling people’s ears with not just Origen’s borderline views, but disputing openly the creaturely status of Jesus. Arius did not consider Jesus as true God – an “inconvenient fact of the New Testament” he woefully despised.

    And there is the same error being propogated today.

    Thank God for those who stood up for the full deity of Jesus Christ.

  12. Here is the interesting part, Seth. I have met some LDS who align themselves with Arius, parading him as a hero, thinking he is establishing a second God. Yet other LDS know better and correct me if I suggest any substantial attraction of Mormonism to Arius.

    Note the tension between LDS and Jehovah’s Witnesses (which by the way, is this a better label – Arius’ witnesses).

    Am I just painting with a wrong brush concerning Arius, dupped by the historical Church’s propoganda? I don’t think so.

    On March 22, 2007, after watching the sunset over Fethiye Bay on the Mediterranean shorelines of Turkey, my wife and I listened to a full lecture by a schooled, secular Muslim on the 7 ecumenical councils that took place in this ancient land of long ago.

    Fascinating.

  13. that Jesus is God as the Father is God?

    You wish they would have ruled, “other substance”? beginning the transliteration of that infamous Greek work with a “heter”?

    And yet you would not say that Jesus Christ is some other substance from the one YHWH of the O.T.

  14. We’ve been over this ground before Todd. If you didn’t hear us the first time, why should today be any different?

  15. You know me Seth. 🙂

    Let me end this particular thread with a quote, perhaps even hinting on some wording from your comments:

    “The battle for the Trinity during the fourth century was about the lordship of Jesus. The question was whether Jesus was fully Lord, as much entitled to that designation as God the Father. The real passion of that battle was not over metaphysics or technical language. It was over the practical relgious realities of worship and salvation. Should we worship Jesus? Is he the Lord who comes to save his people? Worship is our chief duty as creatures, and salvation is our chief blessing as sinners saved by grace. In both of these areas, the doctrine of the Trinity plays a major role.”

  16. I try to listen to you, Seth. Well, at least most of the time.

    That is why I put up this quote.

    Actually, I am glad you like it.

  17. One more thing . . . tritheism was not the major issue of debate. Seth, sometime you need to do a post, listing those in early church history who believed in full fledged tritheism.

  18. Mormons don’t believe in Tritheism Todd. We believe that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are One God. If you were really reading the Book of Mormon, you would know that.

    What is missing from Mormonism is homoousios; but that is also missing from the Bible, so it’s okay.

    PP, you’re simply wrong. Also, you are a liar if you dare to say that I do not believe in Jesus Christ nor lead a Christian life just because I declare that the Bible does not require the theory of homoousios.

    Take that to your one-substance God and see what he has to say about it if he can respond to you.

  19. Todd,

    I think a mutually respectful way for Mormons and Evangelicals to refer to each other is using those terms “Mormons and Evangelicals”.

    When Evangelicals start trying to co-opt the term “Christian”, that causes problems. So the response to that ploy is to use the term “creedal Christian” (to refer to any Christian church that adheres to the teachings of the creeds) and Mormons as “Mormon Christians” (since we are indeed Christians but we reject the creeds).

    I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: Trying to hijack the general term Christian for themselves by Evangelicals is a dirty rhetorical trick in my opinion. It seems to be mostly like slimy marketing to me. (And ironically, such slimy tactics are decidedly uncharitable and unchristian…) If Evangelicals can hijack any English term you want to exclude others what’s next? Will they try to co-opt the term “human” too and insist that they are the real humans and all other people shouldn’t refer to themselves as such?

  20. So nice to see that others too are having heart to heart discussions with the Pondering Pastor. I’m the “conversation” he mentions at the start of his series, that is the ongoing conversation covering the articles of faith on my blog. But only just now did I find this whole thread (well, in truth, the whole blog), but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and will make sure to come back often.

    Rusty (www.rustysblog.com)

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