Skip to comments.Mormonism, Catholicism, and the Romney Candidacy
Posted on 10/26/2011 8:31:31 PM PDT by rzman21
By Francis J. Beckwith 1 In a piece recently published in the Catholic and Evangelical portals of the Patheos website, Warren Cole Smith explains why he cannot support Mitt Romneys candidacy for President of the United States. A Vote for Romney is a Vote for the LDS Church reminded me of the sort of anti-Catholic screeds that were widely published during the presidential candidacy of Senator John F. Kennedy.
Catholics conversant with the 1960 election will recognize in Mr. Smiths piece the sort of histrionics that were employed against them and their faith in the not-too-distant past. Consider this excerpt from Smith's essay:
The Christian worldview teaches that there is a short tether binding beliefs to the values and behaviors that flow from them. If the beliefs are false, then the behavior will eventually but inevitably be warped. Mormonism is particularly troubling on this point because Mormons believe in the idea of continuing revelation. They may believe one thing today, and something else tomorrow. This is why Mormons have changed their views, for example, on marriage and race. Polygamy was once a key distinctive of the religion. Now, of course, it is not. Mormons once forbade blacks from leadership roles. Now they do not. What else will change? Where to begin? First, the claim that if beliefs are false, then the behavior will eventually but inevitably be warped, depends on the plausibility of the belief in question and not on the overall plausibility of the worldview from which it heralds. For example, suppose that Mr. X, a Mormon, believes that marriage is a one-flesh communion between one man and one woman, and thus he aligns himself with the Catholic tradition, though he believes this understanding of marriage because he heard it from a Mormon prophet and he believes that the prophet speaks infallibly on such matters.
Although, as a Catholic, I do not believe that Mormon prophets are real prophets, this does not mean I believe that Mormon prophets may not utter true beliefs. After all, Mormonism developed out of nineteenth century American Protestantism, which is itself the result of the sixteenth century schism within Catholic Christianity. For that reason, it should not be a surprise to discover that the LDS [Latter Day Saints] get a lot of things right about the nature of the moral life and civil society, even though one may have good reason to believe that Mormonism as a theological tradition is mistaken.
Mitt Romney: Should his Mormonism trouble Catholics?
So, there is nothing incoherent in saying that one may have good reasons to reject a particular theological tradition, such as Mormonism, Islam, or Christian Science, while at the same time claiming that the tradition embraces beliefs that are nevertheless true. Mr. Smith, however, seems to believe that a belief is false if it is tethered to a worldview that is false. But that cannot be right, since it is overwhelmingly the case that people who hold a religious faith we think is mistaken are able to quite easily hold true beliefs that are derived from that faith but can be defended as true independently of it.
Second, Mr. Smith seems to be claiming that because LDS theology has changed over time based on the directives of an unaccountable magisterium, therefore, Mormon candidates cannot be trusted to hold those beliefs that they presently hold in common with traditional Christians. This is reminiscent of the old anti-Catholic canard that one ought not to vote for Senator Kennedy because he will take orders from the pope. So, just as a Catholic candidate must unthinkingly listen to the Supreme Pontiff (as it was often depicted during the 1960 election), an LDS candidate must obey his capricious and authoritarian leadership as well.
But in both cases the critic holds a one-dimensional and superficial understanding of doctrinal development. Take, for example, the two LDS cases cited by Mr. Smith polygamy and the priesthood. In both cases the LDS Church has moved in the direction of Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and the Reformers, all of which have rejected polygamy as well as racial tests for clerical office. So, far from being a sign that portends to a theologically arbitrary LDS future, these shifts are positive and reasonable developments in Mormon doctrine that traditional Christians should applaud and support. That is, one may view these shifts as evidence that Mormonism is moving closer to the moral and doctrinal commitments of the Christian communities from which it sprang in the nineteenth century.
Third, it seems that the changes within Mormonism are far more modest than the sort one finds within Mr. Smiths own Evangelical Protestantism. For example, on the matters of womens ordination, abortion, contraception, divorce, eternal punishment, Chalcedonian formulation of the Incarnation, infant baptism, ecclesiology, the nature of God, and even the inerrancy of Scripture, Evangelicals have held a wide variety of views over the past fifty years, all of which are considered by many Evangelical scholars as well within the bounds of orthodoxy.
But unlike Mormonism, or even Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy, there is no magisterium within Evangelicalism that is constrained by the doctrinal pronouncements of its predecessors, such as in church councils or in official catechisms. Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church has far more latitude for changing his churchs doctrine than do Pope Benedict XVI and Mormon President Thomas S. Monson in tinkering with their own.
The lesson to be learned here is that one should examine anothers theological tradition with at least as much charity and rigor as one expects others to assess ones own. (I know that this last sentence will probably come back to haunt me).
Francis J. Beckwith is Professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies at Baylor University. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books including Politics for Christians: Statecraft as Soulcraftand The New Mormon Challenge: Responding to the Latest Defenses of a Fast Growing Movement, finalist for the 2003 Gold Medallion Award in theology and doctrine.
Well done, especially considering the childish contempt you earlier experienced.
My point all along has been that Evangelicals ought to look at the plank in their own eyes when it comes to where their beliefs square with those of the early Christians before they judge the Mormons.
I was raised in a Protestant home, but I left when I started seeing that early Christian belief and Protestant teaching were worlds apart.
Read the Church fathers and find out for yourself. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/
“To know history is to cease to be a Protestant” - Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman
Virtually every single belief Evangelicals attack Catholics for believing was taught by the early Christians.
The thread discusses beliefs of non-Catholics and therefore does not qualify for the “Catholic Caucus” label. It will be removed.
Romney. Not a baptized Christian. If sacramental grace is not a necessity of the Presidency, then it might not be a problem. But add in the fact that Mitt and his inner circle are corrupt ...
I have serious objections to this particular analysis. It is unfortunate.
Yes, there are many things that Mormons believe that Catholics also believe. However, the differences are wide and broad.
As much as I dislike the Anglicans, my Anglican baptism is accepted by the Catholic church. They would not do so for the Mormons.
That alone should be the first sign that the gulf is broader between Catholicism and Mormonism than between any of the Protestants.
I agree. However, it is true that evangelicalism has become less and less orthodox during the past forty years. I would, however empty many South Baptists who are more dogmatic in their teachings than many of them realize. They cling to an interpretation of Scripture that is closer to that of the chief Reformers than do many of the other mainstream denominations.
I’m of the opinion (and my fellow Freepers are free to disagree with me on this) that a man’s faith is his own business. Protestants, Catholics, Mormons, Adventists, Christian Scientists, etc. etc, whatever you believe, as long as you’re a person of character, who displays integrity in his or her affairs and has the courage of his convictions, then I care little for how you choose to worship your Creator.
I don’t care that Mitt Romney is a Mormon. I know many Mormons, indeed I have Mormon friends, and they are good, decent people with whom I have no quarrel. While I may think that some of their beliefs are misguided, or even somewhat silly, I respect their freedom to worship as they choose and if their understanding of God is different than my own, well, so be it.
What I do care about is that Mitt Romney is a phony, a man who I believe wants to be the President so badly that he would say whatever it took to be elected to that office. I have no idea what he believes in, nor do I care much, because his positions shift according to the political winds and when he speaks, I don’t hear conviction, rather I hear desire for power. He would be an absolute disaster as a candidate and I truly think the Republican establishment is making a terrible mistake if they back him for high office.
I won’t vote for a man I don’t respect, and I don’t respect Mitt Romney. Period, point blank. It has nothing to do with him being a Mormon, it has everything to do with his insincerity and naked lust for power.
Religion matters...much like race
JFK did not get 80% of the Catholic vote in 1960 for having good hair
That's a very good point -- I didn't even need to think about what religion Ro-ro believes in to reject him, there's enough rot in his political beliefs.
Exactly. If Mitt Romney were a constitutional conservative, I wouldn’t care if he burned incense to the Flying Purple People Eater. There are worse qualities in a politician than being a total nut - and being a completely predictable afficionado of big government is one of them.
I don’t know what Rick Perry’s or Herman Cain’s precise religious beliefs are. I’m interested in their potential to destroy the federal government behemoth. I know Rick Santorum is a faithful Catholic with whom I likely have very few religious differences - but I also know he’s a government-snuggler.
Oh, I like that. I makes me think of an adult wearing PJs with foots in them sitting in the lap of huge stuffed bear with a fur covered face like Joseph Stalin complete with a pipe in its' mouth and a big red star on its' cap.
Too bad there isn’t an “anti-Christian” label available for this thread.
Busy little beaver...
at least one of the threads started out as a “Catholic Caucus” of all things...
Whats that about ???
This stinks to high heaven of "retread"...the only arrow in their quiver is to follow their early leaders and denigrate Christianity and Christians.
A very poor attempt at moral equivalency n00b. As many have already pointed out, the variation between the beliefs of Evangelicals and the early Christians is miniscule when compared to the vast gulf that exists between mormonism and the early church.
Most of the NT was written in response to false teachers who called themselves "christian" and exposed those false doctrines they tried to bring into the early church. Are you going to tell us that you believe that the Apostle Paul had a plank in his eye when he suggested to the Galatians that the false teachers there should essentially castrate themselves?
I would point out that the context of the 'plank' reference by Jesus, it was against hypocritical judging of a persons motivations and heart attitudes. It has nothing to do with the teachings of their religion.
This same Jesus commands us to judge righteous judgement. Infact, just a few verses after the 'plank' Jesus tell us to beware dogs and pigs so that we dont waste time giving them knowledge of God. The only way you can detect a metaphorical dog or pig is to judge other peoples actions!
BTW, in your statement, you are guilty of exactly what you are accusing others of. What gives you the right to judge?