Some (Big) Misunderstandings about Mormons

The following is a blog post that I feel deserves being included here in its entirety, as it deals superbly with a number of issues regarding “Mormonism” that Evangelicals and other Christians often misunderstand, and hence often misrepresent (though I believe it’s not done knowingly or willingly, in most cases):

Discussing Mormonism with Anne

Jan Brown, a freelance writer, apologist, and ministry consultant, wrote an interesting article at Christianity Today. The article is not that bad, from an Evangelical Christian’s perspective. There are, however, a few things that just jumped out at me as I was reading through the piece.

The article uses the context of a discussion between Ms. Brown and her childhood friend, Anne. The friend moved to Utah and (you guessed it) joined the LDS Church. Playing off of Anne’s question of “Do you think I’m still a Christian,” Ms. Brown discusses six things that she thinks separate Mormonism from “orthodox Christianity.”

The Bible

In the first difference, Ms. Brown talks about “The Bible.” In bold text Ms. Brown states that “Mormonism identifies biblical Christianity as an apostate and errant faith.” This is incorrect, as Mormons only identify problems with creedal Christianity–religion and belief based on extra-biblical creeds. It is those creeds, which Mormons don’t believe are biblical, that they see as the problem. Thus, saying that Mormons have problems with “biblical Christianity” is incorrect.

Another related problem with Ms. Brown’s assertion about Mormonism is that it doesn’t take into account the history of Protestantism, which includes Evangelical Christians. The roots of Protestant denominations are found in rebellion against the Roman Catholic church. That rebellion was based in an understanding that the Church was no longer teaching the true gospel of Jesus Christ in its simplicity and purity. In other words, the Protestants believed that the Roman Catholic church was “apostate” and that it was best to start their own church to somehow reform the errant faith and reclaim the purity and simplicity.

It seems very odd for Ms. Brown, whose Evangelical Christian faith is rooted in the Reformation made necessary by the apostasy of the Catholic church, to accuse Mormons of being non-Christian because we believe that creedal Christianity is apostate, as well.

Jesus and God

Ms. Brown’s third and fourth points of difference have to do with views regarding God and Jesus. Near the end of the fourth point she states that Mormonism is polytheistic while orthodox Christianity is monotheistic. This is a simplistic misstatement, as Mormons are not polytheistic any more than a believer in the Trinity is polytheistic.

While Evangelical Christians may believe that they are monotheistic through the incomprehensible miracle of the Trinity, the fact still remains that the Trinity is composed of three Persons or Beings. Muslims and Jews are more strictly monotheistic than trinitarian Christians are, and many of them will be glad to explain why.

The difference, of course, between Mormons and Evangelical Christians when it comes to the “Godhead” is that Mormons don’t believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are of one essence or substance. They are of one purpose, but not one essence.

In the Mormon view, stating that the three are of one substance raises a multitude of problems with scriptural accounts of God and Jesus. For instance, it makes the baptism of Jesus almost incomprehensible. If the Person being baptised is the same as the One talking from Heaven and the One descending in the form of a dove, then being of the same substance loses all meaning because the singular God can manifest Himself in three ways to the confusion of those watching the event.

Salvation

Ms. Brown’s sixth point of difference has to do with salvation. She states that “Mormons equate salvation with exaltation.” They do not; this is a flat-out misstatement of belief. To Mormons, salvation and exaltation are two entirely distinct things. A good, concise blog post on the differences can be found elsewhere on this blog.

Reserving Judgment

Finally, there seems to be a disconnect in Ms. Brown’s statements near the end of the article. she says “…I don’t believe Mormonism is Christian.” Two sentences later she say “Ultimately God–not I–will decide who’s a Christian.” It seems odd that Ms. Brown would clearly judge Mormons as non-Christian, yet give lip-service to leaving such judgments up to God. If she is really willing to leave it up to God, then why bother saying that she doesn’t think they are Christian? If she doesn’t think they are Christian, then why bother leaving it up to God?

Perhaps Ms. Brown will find these points helpful in her next discussion with Anne.

-Allen

The Best Books They Read in 2007…

If you’re looking for good books to read, here are a few suggestions from some folks whose taste I consider trustworthy (authors, editors, & staff of Ignatius Press):

The Best Books I Read in 2007…

Highlights from the article:

From Peter Kreeft‘s reviews:

Regarding Michael O’Brien’s new novel, Island of the World : “Michael’s book was predictably good, perhaps his best one yet, an intergenerational, long, yet exciting read about the Catholic heroes of Croatia. Michael is spinach.”

Anne Rice’s novel Jesus of Nazareth: Out of Egyptis a book supposedly written (or thought) by Jesus Himself as a kid! Yet it works, remarkably well. There is not an inauthentic note in it. I’d rank it third on the all-time list of Jesus fiction, only the third time anyone has successfully written a piece of fiction about Jesus (the first being Dostoyevski’s “The Grand Inquisitor” and the second being Lewis’s Narnia chronicles (they should be called the Aslan Chronicles).

(Note: the book’s title is actually Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt.)

From Dale Ahlquist, president and co-founder of the American Chesterton Society:

Jesus of Nazareth, by Pope Benedict XVI. A lifetime of learning comes together in the most important subject of all. I savored each page.

Religion and the Rise of Western Culture, by Christopher Dawson. A glorious study of Medieval civilization. A book that should be read by everyone even remotely connected to education.

The Offbeat Radicals: The British Tradition of Alternative Dissent, by Geoffrey Ashe. Shows how Chesterton influenced Gandhi.

Mark Brumley is President of the Board of Directors of Guadalupe Associates and Chief Executive Officer for Ignatius Press.

Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen. I had never read it before. Loved it. Would read it again at the drop of a hat.

The Jesus Legend, by Paul Rhodes Eddy and Gregory A. Boyd. Good rebuttal to the Jesus Seminar, and the other revisionists.

From journalist, author, and architect Moyra Doorly:

Story of a Soul, by St Therese of Lisieux. This was the first account of the spiritual life that had me laughing out loud with delight.

From Dr. Thomas Howard, a highly acclaimed writer and literary scholar noted for his studies of Inklings C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams:

The Lyttleton–Hart-David Letters. A 3-vol. collection of letters written between 1955 and 1962, between the publisher Rupert Hart-Davis, and his former Eton “beak” (master) George Lyttleton, of the gold-plated Lyttleton family. Gloriously literate, clever, urbane, flashing letters. The best sort of bedtime reading.

From Sandra Miesel, a Catholic journalist, medieval historian, and co-author of The Pied Piper of Atheism and the best-selling The Da Vinci Hoax:

An Experiment In Criticism, by C.S. Lewis. An admirable model for critics.

Preface to Paradise Lost, by C.S. Lewis. An excellent antidote to Philip Pullman.

Planet Narnia, by Michael Ward. An exciting and persuasive new interpretation of the Chronicles in terms of planetary symbolism.

Michael O’Brien, Canadian self-taught painter and writer, wrote:

The Bridge on the Drina, by Ivo Andric, a novel that chronicles the “life” of a bridge and a town in Bosnia, including its Serb, Croat, Muslim, Turkish, Jewish, and Austrian residents. First published in 1946, this book has become a classic, beloved by (amazingly) all peoples of former Yugoslavia–and throughout the world.

I wanted to include something from each of the article’s contributors, but this post is already quite long enough. So I opted for a few excerpts that I hope motivate you to read the article in its entirety – it doesn’t take as long as you might suspect, and you may find yourself planning to read nearly all of the books listed (as I did). My favorite comment is the reference to spinach (though I’m not sure what it means…).

Note: most of the descriptions above are taken directly from the article at Ignatius Insight.