Saturday, June 23, 2007

Mormons ARE Christian



Mormons Are New Testament Christians, not Creedal Christians

The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) is often accused by Evangelical pastors of not believing in Christ and, therefore, not being a Christian religion. This post helps to clarify such misconceptions by examining early Christianity's theology relating to baptism, the Godhead, the deity of Jesus Christ and His Atonement.

Baptism:

Early Christian churches, practiced baptism of youth (not infants) by immersion by the father of the family. The local congregation had a lay ministry. An early Christian Church has been re-constructed at the Israel Museum, and the above can be verified. The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) continues baptism and a lay ministry as taught by Jesus’ Apostles. Early Christians were persecuted for keeping their practices sacred, and prohibiting non-Christians from witnessing them.

The Trinity:

A literal reading of the New Testament points to God and Jesus Christ , His Son , being separate , divine beings , united in purpose. . To whom was Jesus praying in Gethsemane, and Who was speaking to Him and his apostles on the Mount of Transfiguration? The Nicene Creed”s definition of the Trinity was influenced by scribes translating the Greek manuscripts into Latin. The scribes embellished on a passage explaining the Trinity , which is the Catholic and Protestant belief that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The oldest versions of the epistle of 1 John, read: "There are three that bear witness: the Spirit, the water and the blood and these three are one." Scribes later added "the Father, the Word and the Spirit," and it remained in the epistle when it was translated into English for the King James Version, according to Dr. Bart Ehrman, Chairman of the Religion Department at UNC- Chapel Hill. He no longer believes in the Nicene Trinity. . Scholars agree that Early Christians believed in an embodied God; it was neo-Platonist influences that later turned Him into a disembodied Spirit. For example, it was an emperor (Constantine) . who introduced a term, homoousiouItalics, which defined the Son as “consubstantial” (one being) with the Father. Neither term or anything like it is in the New Testament. Harper’s Bible Dictionary entry on the Trinity says “the formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the New Testament.” The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) views the Trinity as three separate divine beings , in accord with the earliest Greek New Testament manuscripts.

Theosis:

Divinization, narrowing the space between God and humans, was also part of Early Christian belief. St. Athanasius of Alexandria (Eastern Orthodox) wrote, regarding theosis, "The Son of God became man, that we might become God." . Irenaeus wrote in the Second Century: "Italicwe have not been made gods from the beginning, but at first merely men, then at length godItalics"ItalicItalicItalicItalicItalic . . Italic Justin Martyr, in the same century wrote: "all men ar deemed worthy of becoming 'gods', and of having power to become sons of the Highest . . ." Jerome wrote that God "made man for that purpose, that from men they may become gods." Clement of Alexandria said worthy men "are called by the appellation of gods, being destined to sit on thrones with the other gods that have been first put in their places by the Savior." Origen in reference to 1 Corinthians 8:5-6 said "Now it is possible that some may dislike what we have said representing the Father as the one true God, but admitting other beings besides the true God, who have become gods by having a share of God . . As, then there are many gods, but to us there is but one God the Father, and many Lords, but to us there is one Lord, Jesus Christ.Italic" . The Gospel of Thomas (which pre-dates the 4 Gospels, but was considered non-canonical by the Nicene Council) quotes the Savior: "He who will drink from my mouth will become as I am: I myself shall become he, and the things that are hidden will be revealed to him," (Gospel of Thomas 50, 28-30, Nag Hammadi Library in English, J.M.Robinson, 1st ed 1977; 3rd ed. 1988) The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) agrees with all these Early Christian writers regarding theosis.

Confirming the views of Origen, LDS Apostle, Bruce R. McConkie said: "There is and can only be one who is supreme, who is the head and to who all the others are subject". Becoming like God is not saying we will ever by equal to him, frankly we won't and can't. He, and only He, will forever be worshipped by us.

The Deity of Jesus Christ:

Mormons hold firmly to the deity of Christ. For members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS), Jesus is not only the Son of God but also God the Son. Evangelical pollster George Barna found in 2001 that while only 33 percent of American Catholics, Lutherans, and Methodists (28 percent of Episcopalians) agreed that Jesus was “without sin”, 70 percent of Mormons believe Jesus was sinless.

The Cross and Christ’s Atonement:

The Cross became popular as a Christian symbol in the Fifth Century A.D. . Members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) believe the proper Christian symbol is Christ’s resurrection , not his crucifixion on the Cross. Many Mormon chapels feature paintings of the resurrected Christ or His Second Coming. Furthermore, members of the church believe the major part of Christ’s atonement occurred in the Garden of Gethsemane as Christ took upon him the sins of all mankind.

Grace Versus Works:

One Evangelical Christian author wrote of his sudden discovery that his previous beliefs about salvation were very different from those held by the early Christians:
If there's any single doctrine that we would expect to find the faithful associates of the apostles teaching, it's the doctrine of salvation by faith alone. After all, that is the cornerstone doctrine of the Reformation. In fact, we frequently say that persons who don't hold to this doctrine aren't really Christians…
Our problem is that Augustine, Luther, and other Western theologians have convinced us that there's an irreconcilable conflict between salvation based on grace and salvation conditioned on works or obedience. They have used a fallacious form of argumentation known as the "false dilemma," by asserting that there are only two possibilities regarding salvation: it's either (1) a gift from God or (2) it's something we earn by our works.
The early Christians [and Latter-Day Saints!] would have replied that a gift is no less a gift simply because it's conditioned on obedience....
The early Christians believed that salvation is a gift from God but that God gives His gift to whomever He chooses. And He chooses to give it to those who love and obey him
.” —David W. Bercot, Will The Real Heretics Please Stand Up: A New Look at Today's Evangelical Church in the Light of Early Christianity, 3rd edition, (Tyler, Texas: Scroll Publishing Company, 1999[1989]), 57, 61–62

Definition of “Christian”: .

But Mormons don’t term Catholics and Protestants “non-Christian”. They believe Christ’s atonement applies to all mankind. The dictionary definition of a Christian is “of, pertaining to, believing in, or belonging to a religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ”: All of the above denominations are followers of Christ, and consider him divine, and the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament. They all worship the one and only true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and address Him in prayer as prescribed in The Lord’s Prayer. It’s important to understand the difference between Reformation and Restoration when we consider who might be authentic Christians. . Early Christians had certain rituals which defined a Christian , which members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) continue today. . If members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) embrace early Christian theology, they are likely more “Christian” than their detractors.

· The Need for a Restoration of the Christian Church:


The founder of the Baptist Church in America, Roger Williams, just prior to leaving the church he established, said this: "There is no regularly constituted church of Christ on earth, nor any person qualified to administer any church ordinances; nor can there be until new apostles are sent by the Great Head of the Church for whose coming I am seeking.” (Picturesque America, p. 502.) Martin Luther had similar thoughts: "Nor can a Christian believer be forced beyond sacred Scriptures,...unless some new and proved revelation should be added; for we are forbidden by divine law to believe except what is proved either through the divine Scriptures or through Manifest revelation." He also wrote: "I have sought nothing beyond reforming the Church in conformity with the Holy Scriptures. The spiritual powers have been not only corrupted by sin, but absolutely destroyed; so that there is now nothing in them but a depraved reason and a will that is the enemy and opponent of God. I simply say that Christianity has ceased to exist among those who should have preserved it." The Lutheran, Baptist and Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) churches recognize an apostasy from early Christianity. The Lutheran and Baptist churches have attempted reform, but Mormonism (and Roger Williams, and perhaps Martin Luther) require inspired restoration, so as to re-establish an unbroken line of authority and apostolic succession.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .* * *

· Christ-Like Lives:

The 2005 National Study of Youth and Religion published by UNC-Chapel Hill found that Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) youth (ages 13 to 17) were more likely to exhibit these Christian characteristics than Evangelicals (the next most observant group):
http://mormonteenagersreligiousity.blogspot.com/

1. Attend Religious Services weekly
2. Importance of Religious Faith in shaping daily life – extremely important
3. Believes in life after death
4. Does NOT believe in psychics or fortune-tellers
5. Has taught religious education classes
6. Has fasted or denied something as spiritual discipline
7. Sabbath Observance
8. Shared religious faith with someone not of their faith
9. Family talks about God, scriptures, prayer daily
10. Supportiveness of church for parent in trying to raise teen (very supportive)
11. Church congregation has done an excellent job in helping teens better understand their own sexuality and sexual morality

LDS Evangelical
1. 71% 55%
2. 52 . . 28
3. 76 . .62
4. 100 . 95
5. 42 . . 28
6. 68 . . 22
7. 67 . . 40
8. 72 . . 56
9. 50 . . 19
10 65 . . 26
11 84 . . 35

So what do you think the motivation is for the Evangelical preachers to denigrate the Mormon Church? You would think Evangelical preachers would be emulating Mormon practices (a creed to believe, a place to belong, a calling to live out, and a hope to hold onto) which were noted by Methodist Rev. Kenda Creasy Dean of the Princeton Theological Seminary, as causing Mormon teenagers to “top the charts” in Christian characteristics. It seems obvious pastors shouldn't be denigrating a church based on First Century Christianity, with high efficacy. The only plausible reason to denigrate Mormons is for Evangelical pastors to protect their flock (and their livelihood).

Further Reading: http://jesuschrist.lds.org/SonOfGod/eng/

A Southern Baptist minister says the Book of Mormon is consistent with Jesus Christ’s teachings in the New Testament: http://www.centerplace.org/library/bofm/baptistversionofbofm.htm

21 comments:

Craiger said...

saw your post on Fox Attacks. I wonder if evangelicals believe mormonism as non-christian because of the deification portion of your talk. i have heard that in mormonism you can potentially become a godhead which i think goes against most evangelical thought, possibly because of the idea that there is only one god..im no expert but its just a thought, maybe you could explain further

Bot said...

Divinization, narrowing the space between God and humans, was also part of Early Christian belief. St. Athanasius of Alexandria (Eastern Orthodox) wrote, regarding theosis, "The Son of God became man, that we might become God." . The Gospel of Thomas (which pre-dates the 4 Gospels, but was considered heretical by the Nicene Council) quotes the Savior: “He who will drink from my mouth will become as I am: I myself shall become he, and the things that are hidden will be revealed to him” The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) views the Trinity as three separate divine beings , in accord with the earliest Greek New Testament manuscripts, and agrees with Athanasius and Thomas regarding theosis.

Craiger said...

great comment! looks like this is a true discussion. i think i understand why evangelicals (which i am not) see why Mormonism as something other than christianity. the issue of divinization while it may be commented on by previous church writers and saints, i think many traditional followers have issue with the idea of becoming godlike. and from my experience with the scriptures jesus does not comment on becoming like him, but just being with him. im gonna stick with my knowledge of approved church scriptures as added texts just complicate the issue for now, in a strict discussion sense. additionally how does the mormon church account for the passages in revelation that comment on no one should add or take away from the testament? im full of questions today

Bot said...

As a father, wouldn't you want your offspring to have all that you have (especially intellectually and spritually)? I believe our Father in Heaven wants that for his valiant spiritual offspring.

The Book of Revelation was not the last book written in the New Testament (despite it's placement last). Thus the comment about not adding to the book pertains just to the Book of Revelation.

Craiger said...

i guess possibly viewing god and humans as close maybe defeats the purpose or meaning behind the infinite or sacred. i think that god wants for us is to be with him, and that does not mean being gods like him. for me that gets a bit to close to that of the fall of lucifer. and according to history john was the last of the apostles and his writings of revelation were thought to be have written while on patmos in the last few years of his life. that would make him the last of the apostles to have written biblical text...what scripture are you citing was written after revelation that is considered biblical?

Bot said...

Wikipedia:

Mark: c. 68–73,[6] c 65-70[1]
Matthew: c. 70–100.[6] c 80-85.[1] Some conservative scholars argue for a pre-70 date, particularly those that do not accept Mark as the first gospel written.
Luke: c. 80–100, with most arguing for somewhere around 85,[6], c 80-85[1]
John: c 90-100,[1]

According to early tradition, the writing of The Book of Revelation took place near the very end of Domitian's reign, around 95 or 96. Others contend for an earlier date, 68 or 69, in the reign of Nero or shortly thereafter.[13] The majority of modern scholars also use these dates.[14]

Clearly, the Book of Revelation is not the last Book of the Bible.

Andreas Olsen said...

I was wondering if other Christians understand the extent to which Mormons believe they will be Gods. To be as God is, is not to say we are going to be equal to him. Being like God is to gain the exaltation he possesses. Meaning our souls are eternal and can progress in wisdom and power eternally. Opposite of being damned, meaning your progression is stopped.

In the words of an LDS Apostle, Bruce R. McConkie: "There is and can only be one who is supreme, who is the head and to who all the others are subject". Becoming like God is not saying we will ever by equal to him, frankly we won't and can't. He will forever be worshipped by us.

Andreas Olsen said...

I have to weigh in on the book of revelations as well. Not critical at all of earlier posts, everyone has their opinion about the dates. But, the Apostles wrote their sermons in text individually, not collectively.

Of the entire corpus of 5,366 known Greek New Testament manuscripts, only 35 contain the whole New Testament as we now know it, and 34 of those were compiled after a.d. 1000. The orders of the books were never preconceived by the Apostles, how could they be? I must say however, if I were compiling the writings and I had to choose a good ending verse to the bible, I probably would have picked the one currently used. But don't confuse Johns intentions, he meant "that" book as in the book he was currently writing in.

Jared said...

The scripture quoted in Deuteronomy 4:2 should also be taken into consideration. It says the same thing basically as the one in Revelation. We should assume that these scriptiures pertain only to the books that were being written in at the time. Also, the scholars of the NIV study bible footnote that the verse in the Book of Revelation pertain only to that book.

Also, there are a few scriptures that talk about the divinization of man in the New Testiment, for instance Romans 8:16-17 which reinforces the point made by bot about the righteous desires of a father "The Spirit itself beareth withness with our spirit that we are the children of God. (17) And if children, then heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ (because without his partnership and grace it is not possible) if it so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together"

I know it sounds like a lot, but just listen to what Paul writes in the next verse "(18) For I reckon that the suffrings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us"

Also the parable given in Luke 12:41-48 explains it pretty plainly to me, especially verse 44 "OF a truth I say unto you, that he will make him (talking about the servant who was faithful to his Lord) ruler over all that he hath"

God has everything, so sharing his joy and all that he has with His children would not be taking away anything from him. I hope that helps.

Faithful Witness said...

Just wondering, how might you justify or for that matter reconcile eternal progression with first century Christians?

Bot said...

Faithful witness:

Please re-read the section on "Theosis". Do you think that Jesus Christ is progressing in knowledge and understanding (i.e. is the Jesus Christ of the New Testament on target vis-a-vis the Jehovah of the Old Testament)?

If we have any hope of approaching our Father in Heaven in knowledge and wisdom, wouldn't we be progressing? That is Eternal Progression.

Lee Roy said...

I'm sure Joseph Smith would be very interested in this blog considering the religion came from his disenchantment with Christianity and in his own words denied Mormonism being Christian (most recently so did Hinkley). There was practicing self-deifying sects in the Bible, but in contradiction to God's plan. The first being the serpent(who was a created angel not eternal) in the garden who told Eve God had lied to them and by the consumption of the fruit they could become "like god". One problem lies in the true definition of a Christian. A Christian is more than one who "believes" in Christ. (see James, even the demons believe). A Christian is one who realizes he is a total wretch and unable to keep God's laws. In God's great love he came in human form as his "only" eternal Son as a payment for the punishment deserved by the "created" person. In turn the Christian must repent and have faith. No works of the individual will ever make up for the transgressions. So, you can call a cat a dog but that doesn't make it so. You can't become something by changing the definition.

Bot said...

Joseph Smith (and Pres. Hinckley) were disenchanted with the Fourth Century CREEDS, not with Jesus Christ's gospel. Eve recognized that living in the Garden of Eden was not progressing, and she wanted both Adam and she to know good from evil, although she did say Lucifer "tricked her". It was a gamble, full of hardships and disappointments, but worth it in the eternal nature of things to be able to progress.

With regard to "works", please re-read my post by the Evangelical who realized the Evangelical assumption that works (and therefore sin) have no place in our salvation, was not what was believed by 1st Century Christians. Read Proverbs 14:23and 1st Timothy 5:8.

mary78 said...

There is a misunderstanding among Mormons that they will actually become Gods. In fact, they are only promised that if they are completely faithful to the Lord, they will help the Lord rule and reign, as does Abraham. When humans are told we can become as "gods," this refers merely to the fact that they are children of God who can be exalted by him to live in his presence.

I know very well that many Mormons do not understand this, but there is a distinct difference between the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ, and his angels who are exalted.

Also, I think you need to be careful when you say that God is separate from Jesus Christ. Certainly the Lord has a Father on his level. He's made that clear enough. But the Son of God is a title. The Lord's actual identity is Jehovah, the Great I Am. In other words, Jesus Christ is God.

Be careful not to sound like a Jehovah Witness when describing this. JWs deny that Jesus is Jehovah and claim he is Michael, the archangel. Of course, the Lord has said flat out that Adam is the archangel Michael, the Ancient of Days.

Mormons know that Jesus Christ is Jehovah. If they don't, they have to be about as clueless as it gets, especially if they have read the Old Testament and the Doctrine and Covenants.

Any Mormon who hasn't read the scriptures, by the way, needs to remedy the situation. Relying on hearsay instead of going to the scriptures will result in your not knowing much about anything.

For example, I've heard people at church correct children who respond to the question, "Who created the earth?" with the answer "Jesus." This is an accurate answer. But adults will correct the kids and tell them that it was Heavenly Father. Please read what John the Beloved said on the subject and then see who officially created the world — it was the Lord, not his dad.

Other clueless Mormons are teaching the children they CANNOT pray to the Lord. They will chastise anyone who mentions that Abraham, Moses, and Nephi prayed to the Lord and that the Lord, who is Jesus Christ, answered their prayers. Many Mormons seem to be under the impression that we are only allowed to pray to the Lord's dad, which is merely a tradition. I know the Lord said we can pray to the Father who is in Heaven, but guess what? Jesus Christ is the Father of Heaven and Earth.

There's nothing wrong with praying to Heavenly Father, to show respect and honor to him. But Mormons have turned that into a strict practice of never praying to the Lord, which is utterly insane and completely wrong. Again, please read the Doctrine and Covenants and you will find that Joseph Smith, like all true prophets of God, prayed to Jesus Christ all the time.

No wonder so many Christians question whether Mormons are Christian. It's because so many Mormons don't even bother to know the Lord their God, Jesus Christ.

Lee Roy said...

@mary78 Most of what you said was right on the money, I was just concerned because I detected a "oneness penecostal" theme. John said in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. We can in no way interpret that the Word(Jesus) created the earth. The trinity must be understood as one Godhead, three distinct persons, not one God three seperate manifestations. The scripture proves this at the baptism of Jesus when all three were present (Jesus, Holy Spirit came down like dove and Father spoke, "this is my Son, in which I am pleased. As for instructing mormons to read scripture..kudos to you. Reading the Bible is what brought my wife (6th generation temple mormon) to the truth. If interested, check her blog at terisstory@blogspot.com. Keep speaking the truth sister!

mary78 said...

I did not mean to indicate in my post that I was confused about the fact that the Lord, his dad, and the Holy Spirit work together as one God. What I meant to point out is that you cannot chastise a child for saying Jesus created the earth when there are so many scriptures that directly state Jesus is the Maker of Heaven and Earth.

I think Mormons can be exceedingly lazy about knowing the scriptures. They also appear to be deaf and blind, because even the Primary manuals point out that Jesus Christ is Jehovah. He is the Lord God Almighty.

This tendency to replace Jesus Christ with Heavenly Father, who is a separate being on the Lord's level, is utterly wrong. Jesus himself is the Father of Israel, the Lord of Hosts, and God of our Salvation.

One time I was appalled in Primary by the adults' ignorance. We were singing an Easter hymn about the King of kings, tied in to scriptures about Psalm Sunday. The chorister asked a child who the hymn was about. The child answered that it was about Jesus, which is accurate. Jesus Christ is the God of our Salvation and he is the firstfruits of the resurrection. Psalm Sunday is all about him. Just read the New Testament.

But the adult corrected the child and said the reference was to Heavenly Father.

This goes beyond sloppiness and borders on the criminal, because in the church the title Heavenly Father refers to the Lord's dad, not to the Lord himself.

Of course, the Lord is also a Father in Heaven, but the church never uses that title for him so that he can easily be distinguished from his dad.

The scriptures don't give us much information about Heavenly Father. Almost all of it is about the Lord, Jesus Christ.

This penchant for putting Heavenly Father in Jesus' place is beyond the pale. Jesus Christ is our God and Savior, and there is none beside him. In other words, Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the light. He's the God of our redemption who sits on the mercy seat.

The Book of Mormon is another testament about Jesus Christ. It's not a testament about his dad.

Josh said...

As a member of the LDS faith, I do believe that Jesus Christ created the Heavens and the Earth. He and other "Great and Noble Spirits" did the work Heavenly Father gave them. Christ did create, but through the power and authority that comes from the Father. Our Heavenly Father also allows faithful members to hold the Priesthood and do his work here on Earth. This is His design to help us grow and mature spiritually. We are literal children of our Father in Heaven, as such, we have the potential to become exhalted or to become Gods. As was mentioned in several posts earlier, this does not mean we will ever stop worshiping God the Father. Heavenly Father is and always will be "The Supreme Being".
I do also pray to Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ. I have been a member my whole life and never have been taught by the Church anything different.

Progressive Pilgrim said...

There are major differences between Traditional Christianity and Mormonism. Traditional Christians reject unique LDS scriptures and we reject LDS prophets- with good reason. Within those two are contained countless differences in the way we see God and mankind.

Bot said...

Progressive Pilgrim -

Would you acknowledge that if Joseph Smith restored First Century Christianity in all of the areas cited in the article, that you should examine the Book of Mormon, other LDS Scripture, and listen to the LDS Prophets to see if the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) is authentically (pre Nicene)Christian ?

Dallin Brand said...

I just want to say how inspired I am as I read blogs such as yours which are meant to instruct and edify. I pray for God's greatest blessings on people, like you, who spend precious time teaching and influencing others toward better understanding and living. Thank you!

creeksalmon said...

The Trinity taught by the Christian Creeds is Three separate and distinct persons represent the ONE GOD, same as 2 Nephi 31:21, Alma 11:44, Mormon 7:7 and Mark 12:28-29. So the Baptist Minister was right when he said Book of Mormon agrees with Creedal Christianity