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Who Gets to Define "Christian"?
Beliefnet.com ^ | Thursday June 28, 2007 | By Orson Scott Card

Posted on 07/13/2007 7:28:01 PM PDT by restornu

Each time a group of Christians comes up with an unfamiliar way of understanding the scriptures and our relationship with God, there are other Christians who are quick to insist that anyone who believes like that can’t really be Christian.

Much blood has been shed over these doctrinal differences; wars have been fought, boundaries have been changed, and people have gone into exile.

Whether it was the often bloody struggle between Arians and Athanasians, between Lutherans and Catholics, between the Church of England and the Puritans, people have been willing, it seems, to die, to kill, and to deprive others of their rights as citizens over differences of Christian belief.

In America, though, we long ago decided — though not easily — to put such things behind us. Many states refused to ratify the Constitution until it included provisions forbidding one religion to be given preference over others.

Besides the first amendment, there is this statement in Article 6: “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

This didn’t mean that Americans stopped caring about doctrinal differences. Quite the contrary — America became a place where, if anything, we talked incessantly about religious differences.

I mean, what would have been the point of open religious discussion in Catholic France or Church-of-England Britain or Lutheran Sweden?

But in America, we agreed that people who had very different ideas of what it meant to be Christian could — and must — get along without violence.

Well, mostly without violence. There were many places in America where Catholics were not counted as Christians. And when we Mormons came along, well, we were clearly beyond the pale — for precisely the reasons that Dr. Mohler outlines (though for other reasons as well).

While Dr. Mohler sometimes couches his summary of our beliefs in terms we would not choose, I am happy that his explanation is generally clear and fair-minded. (His characterization of the Book of Mormon’s presentation of Christ is the exact opposite of the truth — the Book of Mormon makes every single point that he says it does not. But I don’t expect him to be an expert on the book, or even to have read it.)

I am also happy to agree with him that when one compares our understanding of the nature of God and Christ, we categorically disagree with almost every statement in the “historic creeds and doctrinal affirmations” he refers to.

The only major point on which I could criticize Dr. Mohler’s essay is that he begged the question in the first and second paragraph.

“Christianity is rightly defined in terms of ‘traditional Christian orthodoxy,” he says. “Thus, we have an objective standard by which to define what is and is not Christian.”

In other words, he began the discussion by saying, “We win. Therefore we can define anyone who is not us as ‘the losers.’”

When he defines “traditional Christian orthodoxy” as “the orthodox consensus of the Christian church [as] defined in terms of its historic creeds and doctrinal affirmations” he is ignoring the fact that these creeds were the result, not of revelation, but of debate and political maneuvering.

Arians and Athanasians got along about as well as Shiites and Sunnis; the Athanasians generally prevailed by the authority of the Roman state and force of arms. It is hard for us Mormons to understand why ancient force and bloodshed, rather than revelation from God, should be the basis for defining the doctrinal consensus of Christianity today.

Many evangelicals have as many doctrinal problems with calling Catholics “Christians” as they have with us Mormons. While they accept the (Catholic) creeds insofar as the various Protestant denominations accept them, they reject other Catholic beliefs that were, prior to the Protestant reformation, every bit as “orthodox.”

Which is why the Catholic (i.e., “universal”) Church branded the Protestants as heretics, using precisely the kind of arguments that Dr. Mohler is using against us Mormons.

Because Martin Luther (and his fellow Protestant reformers) rejected many parts of the traditional beliefs and practices of the Universal Christian Church as they had been defined for a thousand years in the West, they could not be considered Christians — they were heretics, and their ideas were forbidden for any good Christian to hear, let alone believe.

So the Christian world has been down this road before. Thank heaven we live in more tolerant times, where our debate takes place on the internet or from the pulpit or in quiet conversations in people’s homes, instead of on the battlefield or in the courtroom.

But what if we don’t let Dr. Mohler define the question in such a way as to specifically exclude Mormons before the debate begins?

What if we define “Christians” the way most people would: “Believers in the divinity of Christ and in the necessity of the grace of Christ in order to be saved in the Kingdom of God.”

Or, “People who believe Christ is the Son of God and the only way to please God is by following Christ’s teachings as best you can all your life.”

Or how about, “People who believe that the New Testament is scripture and that its account of the life, death, resurrection, and teachings of Jesus is true and that we should act accordingly.”

We can come up with a lot of definitions that do a much better job of describing what most people mean when they use the word “Christian.”

How many ordinary Christians actually know or care about the “historic creeds and doctrinal affirmations” that form Dr. Mohler’s definition-of-choice?

I remember, as a Mormon missionary in Brazil, how many times I would explain our doctrine of the nature of God, and the Catholic or Protestant family I was teaching would say, “But that’s what we believe.” And they were telling the truth.

Their theological-seminary-trained priest or minister certainly did not believe what we were teaching, but time after time we found that the ordinary church-going Christian already saw things as we did, and thought that our peculiar doctrines were what their church had always taught.

The theologian is bound to say, “Just because ordinary, ignorant Christians don’t understand the doctrine of the Trinity does not mean that their ignorance should prevail over our more-sophisticated understanding.” I agree completely. When Baptist theologians define Baptist beliefs, it is their privilege to base it on as sophisticated an understanding as they please.

But when we are defining words as they are used in the English language, we all get a vote. Dr. Mohler does not get to speak for all Christians. Nor does he get to speak for all English-speakers. The ordinary meaning of the word “Christians” definitely includes Mormons; and when you say Mormons are not Christians, most would take that to mean that Mormons “do not believe in the divinity of Christ,” which would be flat wrong.

That’s why I appreciate the fact that Dr. Mohler made it clear at the start that by “Christian” he means “everybody but the Mormons,” so that if we accept his peculiar definition of the word, the argument is, indeed, over.

But it still makes me sad that he would single us out for rejection, when we really ought to be working together.

I remember a few years ago attending a conference with the Templeton Foundation, which brought together scientists, theologians, and science fiction writers to discuss the future of religion in relation to science.

There was only one theologian present, a man highly trained in all those creeds that Dr. Mohler insists define Christianity. As we listened to a group of brilliant scientists — and some science fiction writers who, unlike me, were also trained scientists — explain with marvelous clarity some highly sophisticated concepts, I was impressed by how eager they were to communicate clearly — to be understood.

But when the theologian spoke, he immediately did what the scientists could have done but chose not to — he plunged into the jargon of his own intellectual community, deliberately excluding non-experts from the conversation.

However, I had read and studied enough traditional Christian theology — and enough deconstructionist and multicultural mumbo-jumbo — to know the vocabulary he was using; and the more I listened, the clearer it became that with all his sophistication, this man did not actually believe in the literal existence of the God and Christ described in the New Testament. He didn’t even believe in the literal existence of the Trinity described in the Nicene and later creeds.

In fact, as I looked around the table, I realized that I was the only person in that room who believed that Jesus is the Savior of the world, the Son of God, and that God created humankind in his image for the purpose of bringing us to a joyful reunion with him, after we had learned to control the desires of the flesh and turn our lives over to him, and after the grace of Christ has cleansed us of our guilt for the many sins we have committed.

He was an ordained minister of the Church of England who did not actually believe in the God of any official Christian creed.

I was an ordinary Mormon, holding no lofty office.

But in that room, I was the only believing Christian.

Yes, Dr. Mohler. You and I disagree on exactly the points you listed in your essay. You are correct in saying that we Mormons completely reject the neoplatonic doctrines that were layered onto Christianity long after the Apostles were gone.

And just as you would put any reference to Mormons as “Christians” in quotation marks, we Mormons refer to those who believe as you do as “Christians” in exactly the same way.

Here’s the difference. While we have no patience with creeds that owe more to Plato and other Greek philosophers than to Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, we do recognize and respect as fellow Christians anyone who confesses that Christ is the Savior of the world.

So I can go to "The Passion of the Christ" and be moved by it, even though Mel Gibson’s view of what the passion actually consisted of is very different from the Mormon view. I recognize and respect the sincerity of his faith, and I recognize that despite our doctrinal differences, his faith is in Jesus Christ.

It’s like the ancient Hebrew penchant for referring to God as “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” They did not try to subject God to the limitations of human understanding; they did not define him in ways that would say more about the limitations of their own minds than about the nature of God.

Their definition, unlike yours, was simply to point to the great fathers of their religion and say, “The God they worshiped, that’s the God we worship, too.”

Can we not define God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit in a similar way? “The God that Jesus prayed to, that is the God we pray to. The Jesus Christ of the New Testament, he is the one we believe has suffered to redeem the world from sin. He is the way, the truth, the life, as best we understand what he taught.”

That last phrase is a key to our getting along, I think. It is one of the central tenets of Mormon religion that our understanding is not perfect or complete, that we fully expect that many of our present ideas are incorrect, and we look forward to a day when we will be ready to receive a better understanding.

In the meantime, we do our best with what light and knowledge we have received. We might be in error. So might you. We all struggle to puzzle out things that are, in fact, beyond the ken of mortal minds.

The points of disagreement between us are not insignificant. In fact, they’re so important that we do not recognize the efficacy of baptism performed by any other denomination, and anyone joining our church must be baptized — for the first time, we believe — regardless of any previous Christian baptism they might have received.

In other words, at the level of religious practice we believe that we are the only Christians who act and speak with the authority of Christ today. So we can hardly take offense when Dr. Mohler and many other ministers and priests of other Christian churches return the favor and refuse to recognize us as Christians of their communities.

On the level of theology, doctrine, practice, ritual, and even history, we Mormons stand alone, neither Protestant nor Catholic. Just as Lutherans and Baptists and Presbyterians generally don’t accept the authority of the Pope, we don’t accept the authority of anybody except those that we believe hold the keys of the Kingdom of God on earth today.

And so when we send out our missionaries to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ as we understand it, it is perfectly fair for Baptist ministers and Catholic priests and any other religious leader to point out to their congregants precisely what we point out to them — that our beliefs are very different from theirs.

They call us wrong; we call ourselves right.

But that’s a matter of private belief and conscience. Those who put our religion to the test and come to believe in it don’t do so because we fooled them into thinking we believe just like Dr. Mohler.

If that was our message, who would join us? They could join the Baptist Church and accomplish as much (and it would be cheaper and easier, given the way we Mormons tithe and abstain from alcohol, coffee, tea, and tobacco).

We openly state that we teach a version of Christianity radically different from all others. We proclaim it.

But let’s remember now why we are having this discussion. It’s because Mitt Romney is running for President of the United States, and Mitt Romney is a Mormon.

Mitt Romney is not running for Pope of America, or Head Rabbi, or Minister-in-Chief. He is not running for any religious office. He is a citizen of this country, who has a distinguished record of achievement in business and government, asking people to vote for him to become the leader of our country and, perforce, the leader of the free world.

His religious beliefs are not irrelevant. Far from it. Americans should care very much about religious beliefs that will affect how a president would fulfill the duties of his office.

Here’s a man who is faithful to his wife, without a breath of scandal associated with him; he is a devoted father and grandfather; he tithes to his church; he doesn’t smoke or drink and never has. In other words, he not only claims to be a member of a particular church, he lives by the standards of that church.

I think that matters a great deal. It means he’s not a hypocrite, pretending to be religious when he needs the votes. He has put in the time, made the sacrifices — he has walked the walk.

So when Mitt Romney says, “I believe this is the right thing to do, and I’m going to do it,” then American voters can be reasonably confident that he really does believe it and he really will do it.

That’s something that I would look for about any candidate, from any religious tradition. Does he live by what his religion teaches? Or is he a member in name only?

His profession of membership in a Church gives us a way to find out about the standards of good and evil, of right and wrong, that his religion teaches. Where I would be worried is when we have a candidate who does not profess any religion, or does not live up to the standards of the religion he professes.

How then would we find out what he really believes? What his standards are? How well he keeps his commitments? It’s not impossible to determine that even with people whose religious commitments are, shall we say, skin deep. Certainly, for instance, it wasn’t hard to find out what Bill Clinton’s standards of truth-telling and word-keeping were before he was elected; he absolutely performed exactly as his past behavior had given us reason to expect. We got what we voted for.

So by all means look at Mitt Romney’s religion, and how well he has lived up to it. It’s a fair test.

But don’t look at his religion as if it were a complete guide to how he would perform as president. There are those who fear a Romney presidency because somebody’s been telling them that Mormonism is a “cult” and they think Romney would get all his instructions from Salt Lake City — or from what he imagined God might whisper to him.

May I suggest that before you leap to that conclusion, you consider carefully: Senator Harry Reid of Nevada is also a Mormon. As far as I know, he’s a Mormon in good standing. And he’s a Democrat — a liberal Democrat, on most issues.

If Salt Lake City is telling Mormon politicians what to do, they’re sure giving Harry Reid a different set of instructions from those they’ve been giving to Mitt Romney.

Like Harry Reid, I’m a Democrat. If my own party nominates somebody that I think would make a better president than Mitt Romney, I’ll vote for the Democrat. If my party doesn’t, and the Republican Party nominates Romney, I might well vote for him.

It won’t be because he’s a Mormon. It’ll be for a whole range of reasons — his political views, his announced plans, and my assessment of his character. And that assessment won’t be based on mere membership in the same Church as me. It will be based on how well I think he lives up to the commitments that Mormons make.

You don’t have to be a Mormon to use those standards.

Now, what if you are an American citizen who absolutely hates every Mormon doctrine you’ve heard about?

My advice is: Don’t join the Mormon Church if you feel that way. But what does it have to do with choosing a president?

Dr. Mohler has gone on record elsewhere as advising evangelical Christians not to vote for Mitt Romney, even though he’s the candidate whose life practices and whose professed beliefs are the closest to fitting the political agenda of many or perhaps most evangelicals.

Why? Because he fears that the election of Mitt Romney will lend “legitimacy” to Mormonism.

Guess what, Dr. Mohler. Mormonism has legitimacy. Millions of American citizens already believe in it. And not the dumbest American citizens, either. We’re above average in our education. We’re also above average in our religious activity, our charitable donations, our marital fidelity, and the time we spend with our families. We try to be good neighbors and good friends.

We are as legitimate, as citizens and therefore as potential officeholders, as anybody else in America. Because there is no religious test for holding office in America.

And if you try to impose one, by saying that all persons belonging to this or that religion should never be elected president, then who is it who is rejecting the U.S. Constitution? Who is it who is saying that people with certain beliefs are second-class citizens, for no other reason than their religion?

I urge all evangelicals Christians who are worried about a Mormon as president to consider this:

What if somebody were saying that no evangelical Christian should be elected president, solely on the basis of his religious beliefs?

Oh — wait — they already are.

Think about it. How often has President Bush been mocked because he believes he was born again? How often have his critics ridiculed him because he believes that when he prays, God hears him and even, sometimes, answers?

How many have, in effect, claimed that evangelical Christians have no business holding the office of President — that they are unfit for such a vital public trust precisely because of their beliefs about how God and human beings interact?

We Mormons don’t agree with you on many vital points of doctrine. But I hope we all agree with each other about this: In a time when a vigorous atheist movement is trying to exclude religious people from participating in American public life unless they promise never to mention or think about their religion while in office, why are we arguing with each other?

You don’t want your kids to join the Mormon Church; well, I don’t want mine to join the Baptist Church, either. That’s because you think you’re right about your religion, and I think I’m right about mine.

But I would rather vote for a believing Baptist who lives up to his faith than for a Mormon who doesn’t take his religion seriously or keep the commandments he’s been taught.

And vice versa. Don’t you feel that way, too?


TOPICS: Current Events; General Discusssion; History; Other Christian
KEYWORDS: christian; christians; lds; osc
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1 posted on 07/13/2007 7:28:02 PM PDT by restornu
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To: Choose Ye This Day; CheyennePress; TChris; kkmo9; Safford; T. P. Pole; Reaganesque; VegasBaby; ...

CTR


2 posted on 07/13/2007 7:29:00 PM PDT by restornu (Romney keeps his eyes on the mission, and not on those who attacks his campaign!)
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To: restornu

Well, St. Paul set the standard. “If anyone comes to with a gospel other than the one I preach, even an angel” etc. So let’s see if someone comes up to you with golden tablets and wings and subtle (or radical) changes to the gospel and its theology/christology, you’re still supposed to say, “uh no thanks.”

That said, the church fathers raised the bar a little higher. Even translators of the bible who twist the meanings from the original traditions(i.e gnostics, et. al.) are anathema (c.f. Tertullian)

Pretty clearly, therefore, Mohammed, Charles Taze Russell, L. Ron Hubbard, and other “new religion” founders would be “not Christian.”

Sorry Mr. Card.


3 posted on 07/13/2007 7:53:29 PM PDT by WriteOn (Truth)
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To: restornu

I vote according to a person’s political beliefs and his personal trustworthiness and character. Theology is not a political issue. So this is interesting and everything (Mormons are not Christians in any orthodox sense of the term), but it is too bad he ended it the way he did. I find Romney politically untrustworthy and that’s why I will not vote for him.


4 posted on 07/13/2007 8:14:19 PM PDT by The Ghost of FReepers Past (Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light..... Isaiah 5:20)
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To: WriteOn
It is not another Bible WriteOn it is the word of God from the Lord himself!

If you honestly study Gal 1 you will see Paul talked about his time as he conversed with the Lord who altered Paul that his words were being changed as they spoke and than Paul said that he received the Lord's Gospel directly.

Gal 1
6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:

7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.

8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.

11 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.

12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ

The Lord is speaking currently not in the future but Paul's present.

5 posted on 07/13/2007 8:20:30 PM PDT by restornu
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To: WriteOn

So, according to you, Paul wrote the Revelation of St. John the Divine?


6 posted on 07/13/2007 8:40:52 PM PDT by Old Mountain man (Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice!)
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To: restornu

Since the god of Mormonism is not the God of the Bible, Mormonism is not, by definition, Christian...it is not orthodox.


7 posted on 07/13/2007 8:47:04 PM PDT by LiteKeeper (Beware the secularization of America; the Islamization of Eurabia)
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To: LiteKeeper

You are assigning your personal assumptions to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints which still does not make it so no matter how many join you!:)


8 posted on 07/13/2007 9:01:30 PM PDT by restornu
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To: LiteKeeper

Is the Trinity Biblical?


9 posted on 07/13/2007 10:35:40 PM PDT by Choose Ye This Day (I love thy rocks and rills, thy woods and templed hills...)
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To: restornu

Oh, oh, oh, I know the answer to this question.

It’s Shirley Dobson.


10 posted on 07/13/2007 10:36:56 PM PDT by Saundra Duffy (Romney Rocks!)
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To: restornu

“In fact, as I looked around the table, I realized that I was the only person in that room who believed that Jesus is the Savior of the world, the Son of God, and that God created humankind in his image for the purpose of bringing us to a joyful reunion with him, after we had learned to control the desires of the flesh and turn our lives over to him, and after the grace of Christ has cleansed us of our guilt for the many sins we have committed.”

Hey, that’s what I believe, too. Yahoo!


11 posted on 07/13/2007 10:48:05 PM PDT by Saundra Duffy (Romney Rocks!)
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To: Choose Ye This Day

Sure is!


12 posted on 07/13/2007 10:55:30 PM PDT by LiteKeeper (Beware the secularization of America; the Islamization of Eurabia)
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To: restornu

Question: Are Elohim and Jesus of the same essence with the Holy Spirit?


13 posted on 07/13/2007 10:56:36 PM PDT by LiteKeeper (Beware the secularization of America; the Islamization of Eurabia)
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To: LiteKeeper

I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is my personal Savior and the Savior of the whole world. Heavenly Father sent His Son Jesus Christ to suffer and die for me and the Holy Ghost tells me it’s true. Now, when you say that I do not believe in the same God as you do, what exactly do you mean? Are you saying that the same Jesus Christ who died for you did not die for me?

I love my Church. I was baptized in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

I am sick and tired of people telling me what they have heard about Mormons - repeating stuff that is not true. But it’s a free country.

I have a question for you: What would Jesus do? I suppose you think He would fashion a whip and beat me to death with it. My Jesus loves and cares for me and I love Him with all my heart. He is the way, the truth and the life. No man, or woman for that matter, will return to Heavenly Father except by Him, Jesus Christ.

You think I’m deceived and I am worried about you. I guess we’re even. Only God knows our hearts.


14 posted on 07/13/2007 10:56:44 PM PDT by Saundra Duffy (Romney Rocks!)
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To: Saundra Duffy
Are Elohim and Jesus one and the same? Can men in the LDS become like Elohim? When Jesus said, "The Father and I are One" what did He mean?

I have been studying the LDS for over thirty years...I am not ignorant of your teaching.

15 posted on 07/13/2007 10:59:41 PM PDT by LiteKeeper (Beware the secularization of America; the Islamization of Eurabia)
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To: restornu

Thank you for posting this. I enjoyed reading it. Very insightful.

Many’s the time during LDS meetings and events when members of our Church have complimented the faith and service of people from other Churches - for example Mother Theresa, who was just about as perfect as a Christian can be.

I was very touched last General Conference when President Faust told us to look to the Amish community as an example to follow regarding forgiveness.

There’s a lady I know who’s a Baptist and she is a real good person, a sweetheart. One day she said to me, “You’re not a Christian.” After I explained that I believe that Jesus Christ died to save me from my sins, that He is my Savior, she apologized. We are Sisters in Christ.

CTR.


16 posted on 07/13/2007 11:08:20 PM PDT by Saundra Duffy (Romney Rocks!)
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To: LiteKeeper

Jesus Christ is the Son of God; He said so and that’s good enough for me. I believe the Bible. Jesus laid it all out there for us.


17 posted on 07/13/2007 11:12:05 PM PDT by Saundra Duffy (Romney Rocks!)
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To: LiteKeeper

Elohim is God the Father and Jehovah of the Old Testament is Jesus Christ.


18 posted on 07/13/2007 11:18:58 PM PDT by restornu
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To: LiteKeeper
I have been studying the LDS for over thirty years...I am not ignorant of your teaching.

Basic Beliefs

19 posted on 07/13/2007 11:26:36 PM PDT by restornu
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To: restornu
Elohim is God the Father and Jehovah of the Old Testament is Jesus Christ.

And this is exactly where orthodox Christianity differs with LDS...biblical Christianity teaches that Elohim and YHWH (Jehovah is a non-word)are one in the same - two of many names for God. They are not two different Persons.

There are even times when God is called YHWH Elohim.

20 posted on 07/13/2007 11:27:47 PM PDT by LiteKeeper (Beware the secularization of America; the Islamization of Eurabia)
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To: Saundra Duffy

Jesus Christ is one in essence with the Father. They are not separate and distinct. Jesus said, “The Father and I are one.”


21 posted on 07/13/2007 11:29:36 PM PDT by LiteKeeper (Beware the secularization of America; the Islamization of Eurabia)
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To: restornu
Your post at #18 proves my point. The LDS understanding of the nature and essence of God radically differs from orthodox, evangelical Christianity. So much so, that it would exclude the LDS from Biblical Christianity.

Elohim and YHWH are the same Person in the Old Testament. Jesus Christ is never called "Jehovah."

22 posted on 07/13/2007 11:33:00 PM PDT by LiteKeeper (Beware the secularization of America; the Islamization of Eurabia)
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To: LiteKeeper

Jesus Christ prayed to His Father in Heaven and taught us how to pray: “Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed by Thy Name . . .” I believe Jesus when He says He’s the Son of God. When Jesus ascended into Heaven, He said He was going to His Father. I don’t want to argue over this. I love Jesus. I love Heavenly Father. I love the Holy Ghost. Amen.


23 posted on 07/13/2007 11:35:17 PM PDT by Saundra Duffy (Romney Rocks!)
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To: LiteKeeper

That is your belief!


24 posted on 07/13/2007 11:56:25 PM PDT by restornu
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To: LiteKeeper
Some would disagree:

In one of the major Christian treatments of the doctrine of the Trinity, Jesuit scholar Edmund J. Fortman, having examined the various parts of the New Testament individually, notes that "there is no trinitarian doctrine in the Synoptics or Acts." He also observes that in the New Testament "nowhere do we find any trinitarian doctrine of three distinct subjects of divine life and activity in the same Godhead," and that "in John there is no trinitarian formula." Concerning the letters of Paul, Fortman states:

These passages give no doctrine of the Trinity, but they show that Paul linked together Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They give no trinitarian formula... but they offer material for the later development of trinitarian doctrine· [Paul] has no formal trinitarian doctrine and no clear-cut realization of a trinitarian problem, but he furnishes much material for the later development of a trinitarian doctrine.

After examining all parts of the New Testament, Fortman concludes that the classical doctrine of the Trinity is not biblical:

There is no formal doctrine of the Trinity in the New Testament writers, if this means an explicit teaching that in one God there are three co-equal divine persons. But the three are there, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and a triadic ground plan is there, and triadic formulas are there .... The Biblical witness to God, as we have seen, did not contain any formal or formulated doctrine of the Trinity, any explicit teaching that in one God there are three co-equal divine persons.

Stephen E. Robinson, Are Mormons Christians?, p.74

Edmund J. Fortman, The Triune God: A Historical Study of the Doctrine of the Trinity (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1972), pp. 14, 16, 29.

25 posted on 07/14/2007 12:23:54 AM PDT by Choose Ye This Day (I love thy rocks and rills, thy woods and templed hills...)
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To: LiteKeeper
Harper's Bible Dictionary: "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.'"
26 posted on 07/14/2007 12:26:32 AM PDT by Choose Ye This Day (I love thy rocks and rills, thy woods and templed hills...)
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To: LiteKeeper

Who IS the God of the Bible? Perhaps you can tell us about Him? Is he without body, parts or passion?


27 posted on 07/14/2007 12:31:04 AM PDT by Choose Ye This Day (I love thy rocks and rills, thy woods and templed hills...)
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To: LiteKeeper

I was raised Baptist and taught that churches “in error” or even “false churches” like the LDS contain genuine Christians who have through simple faith been born again, whether they really understand it or not. I agree, and say we can judge a church’s doctrine without judging the souls of individual members.


28 posted on 07/14/2007 3:57:57 AM PDT by beachdweller
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To: Choose Ye This Day

I am not a theologian but God is without “body, parts, or passion” except for the Son who became fully man as well as God. But since all parts of the Trinity are fully God, He understands and is all you suggest.


29 posted on 07/14/2007 3:57:59 AM PDT by beachdweller
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To: Choose Ye This Day; LiteKeeper
1st John 5:7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

In Italian: Perciocchè tre son quelli che testimoniano nel cielo: il Padre, e la Parola, e lo Spirito Santo; e questi tre sono una stessa cosa.

In Portuguese: Porque três são os que testificam no céu: o Pai, a Palavra, e o Espírito Santo; e estes três são um.

In Russian (don't know if cyrillic will display on your browser) :Ибо три свидетельствуют на небе: Отец, Слово и Святый Дух; и Сии три суть едино.

In the original Greek (using Latin alphabet): oti treiv eisin oi marturountev en tw ouranw o pathr o logov kai to agion pneuma kai outoi oi treiv en eisin

And following that, we have 1st John 5:8-10, which includes an admonition.

8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

9 If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.

10 He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.

30 posted on 07/14/2007 4:24:26 AM PDT by Westbrook (Having more children does not divide your love, it multiplies it!)
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To: beachdweller; LiteKeeper; Choose Ye This Day

> I was raised Baptist and taught that churches “in error”
> or even “false churches” like the LDS contain genuine
> Christians who have through simple faith been born again,
> whether they really understand it or not. I agree, and
> say we can judge a church’s doctrine without judging the
> souls of individual members.

Exactly.

Ephesians 4.


31 posted on 07/14/2007 4:27:07 AM PDT by Westbrook (Having more children does not divide your love, it multiplies it!)
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To: restornu
Bottom line: If you deny that Jesus Christ is God, you are not a Christian.

Anything and everything else is meaningless.

And once someone denies the deity of Christ, the "what is a Christian" conversation is over.

32 posted on 07/14/2007 4:29:01 AM PDT by GiovannaNicoletta
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To: GiovannaNicoletta; restornu
And once someone denies the deity of Christ, the "what is a Christian" conversation is over.

Furthermore, once you claim that the Father was once a man who attained godhood and that you too can win the kewpie doll, you exit all bounds of Judaeo-Christian teaching and enter into fantasy land.

33 posted on 07/14/2007 5:33:20 AM PDT by Enosh ()
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To: Enosh
Exactly.

you exit all bounds of Judaeo-Christian teaching and enter into fantasy land.

Fantasyland and cultland.

34 posted on 07/14/2007 5:37:09 AM PDT by GiovannaNicoletta
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To: Saundra Duffy
"for example Mother Theresa, who was just about as perfect as a Christian can be."

Really??

How is it that a Universalist can be a "perfect Christian"?

To deny Jesus as the only way to the Father is not even close to perfection (in fact, it is the opposite side of the spectrum).

35 posted on 07/14/2007 6:52:03 AM PDT by pby
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To: Choose Ye This Day

To Choose Ye this Day:

I will state up front that I am Catholic and also this post may be long. However, this sound-bite mentality that is part of current American Culture is just not me (I have to deal with it with my students). With that, I would like to address the reference the Jesuit Scholar Fortman. First, a Jesuit Scholar does not confirm what Catholic Orthodoxy is. I would conjecture that Fortman relied only on the “historical critical” method of scripture exegesis. While this method has given the Church better insights into the means of Sacred Scripture, as Pope Benedict stated in his excellent book “Jesus of Nazareth”, this method has its limitations.

So the Sacred Scriptures do teach the Holy Trinity. From the Catholic Churches view, the Sacred Scriptures “teach firmly, faithfully, and without error that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided in the Sacred Scriptures” (Catechism of the Catholic Church par. 107). However, Catholic hermeneutic principles include three main criteria of interpretation Sacred Scripture in accordance with the Holy Spirit who inspired it. 1) Be especially attentive to the content and unity of the whole Scripture, 2) Read the Scriptures within the living Tradition of the whole Church and 3) Be Attentive to the analogy of faith, i.e. the coherence of the truths among themselves in the whole plan of salvation.

Thus, reflecting on the Sacred Scriptures and the Sacred Tradition of the Church (i.e. expressed in the Liturgy of the Church, Consensus of the Early Church Fathers). The Church in the Four Great Early Councils (Nicea 325, Constantinople 381, Ephesus 431, and Chalcedon 451) formally defined the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity and developed its Christological formulations regarding Christ, the second Person of the Holy Trinity.

So from the Catholic perspective, what makes one a Christian is Baptism in the Holy Trinity, which also requires, as some of the other posters stated, a belief in the Divinity of Christ and his Passion, Death and Resurrection. The Sacrament of Baptism and the underlying Theology behind it is critical, from the Catholic Theological view, of who is a Christian.

As someone who works with RCIA (assisting those who are seeking to become Catholic) I can state the following 1) While Mormons may use the Trinitarian Formula to Baptize, the underlying Theology of Mormonism is not consistent with how the Catholic Church understands the Trinity (Eastern Orthodox and Traditional Confessional Protestants share the same belief about the Trinity). Therefore, Mormons who enter the Catholic Church are “Unconditionally Baptized”. 2) While the Protestant Traditions do not agree with the Catholic Churches Doctrine on some issues (and this is ok), among the Doctrines we do share is belief in the Holy Trinity and the Divinity of Christ and therefore persons from the Traditional Protestant Confessions (Anglican, Reformed, Lutheran, Methodists, and Baptists) are “not rebaptized”

Pax Domine


36 posted on 07/14/2007 8:42:29 AM PDT by CTrent1564
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To: LiteKeeper; restornu
Elohim is God the Father and Jehovah of the Old Testament is Jesus Christ.
And this is exactly where orthodox Christianity differs with LDS...biblical Christianity teaches that Elohim and YHWH (Jehovah is a non-word)are one in the same - two of many names for God. They are not two different Persons.
There are even times when God is called YHWH Elohim.

I believe that the bible does teach that they are two separate persons, yet one in unity, thought and purpose. An earthly shadow, a parallel, would be an ideally married couple. They share a common name. They share the same goals. They build toward these goals together. They are separate persons, yet one. "Elohim" could be considered the last name of God, while YHWH (an English representation of the Hebrew term) could be considered the personal name of Christ.

Christ seems to make this distinction in scripture:

Joh 1:18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

This is an amazing statement in that Christ says that nobody has seen the father. He states this in stronger terms later:

Joh 5:37 And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.

Well we know that some Israelites DID hear a voice of God and did see his shape. They heard the voice of God at Horeb: Deu 1:6 The LORD our God spoke unto us in Horeb, saying, Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount:

So the only conclusion that can be drawn is as Restornu said, that the "God" who interacted with his people throughout the eons was the pre-incarnate Christ. And though he was "God", he is still separate and distinct from God the father.

Yet at the same time, he makes it clear that he exactly represents God, the father:

Joh 14:7 If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.
Joh 14:8 Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.
Joh 14:9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?
Joh 14:10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.

37 posted on 07/14/2007 8:51:31 AM PDT by DouglasKC
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To: GiovannaNicoletta

Who in is denying Jesus Christ as deity?


38 posted on 07/14/2007 8:53:46 AM PDT by restornu (Romney will win the Primary!:))
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To: restornu

Mormons deny the deity of Christ.


39 posted on 07/14/2007 8:57:56 AM PDT by GiovannaNicoletta
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To: Enosh; Grig

Never claim that the Father was once man to ATTAIED GODHOOD.

That is your addendum God was always God just like Jesus was always God even when he was manifest in the flesh!


40 posted on 07/14/2007 9:02:29 AM PDT by restornu (Romney will win the Primary!:))
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To: restornu
Those were a lot of words for that which has a simple answer:
I Corinthians 2:11
For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.

41 posted on 07/14/2007 9:07:13 AM PDT by AnnaZ (I keep 2 magnums in my desk.One's a gun and I keep it loaded.Other's a bottle and it keeps me loaded)
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To: GiovannaNicoletta

Mormons deny the deity of Christ.

Please stop ascribing you addendum and assumptions to what the LDS believe!

1 Tim 3
16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.


42 posted on 07/14/2007 9:07:34 AM PDT by restornu (Romney will win the Primary!:))
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To: restornu
Then you need to get your white-shirts together and get your stories straight because the ones who have showed up at my house have denied the deity of Jesus Christ at which time the conversation ended and they were escorted to the door.

1 John 4:1-3

1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh F11 is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.

43 posted on 07/14/2007 9:11:47 AM PDT by GiovannaNicoletta
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To: restornu; Grig
'The Prophet Joseph Smith taught of a much simpler and more sensible relationship: “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens!..."'

The Ensign, Jan. 2005, pg. 48

Good morning, Resty. How are you today?

44 posted on 07/14/2007 9:16:06 AM PDT by Enosh ()
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To: Enosh; restornu; Grig
'The Prophet Joseph Smith taught of a much simpler and more sensible relationship: “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens!..."'
The Ensign, Jan. 2005, pg. 48

Oops!!!

45 posted on 07/14/2007 10:21:27 AM PDT by SeaHawkFan
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To: Choose Ye This Day
Is the Trinity Biblical?

Then God (Elohim) said" Let us make man in our image"

Elohim: Eloh (God) im (plural).

Start at the beginning and work your way through.

46 posted on 07/14/2007 10:31:45 AM PDT by D Rider
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To: GiovannaNicoletta; Enosh
Than who ever showed up was not LDS he could have been JW or some other group!


Basic Beliefs

47 posted on 07/14/2007 10:35:02 AM PDT by restornu (Romney will win the Primary!:))
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To: GiovannaNicoletta

I don’t have a white shirt cutie!


48 posted on 07/14/2007 10:37:01 AM PDT by restornu (Romney will win the Primary!:))
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To: GiovannaNicoletta; Choose Ye This Day; Grig; sevenbak
1 John 4:1-3 1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh F11 is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.

Hey you I have vision trouble would appreciate you using "<>p" if it us not to difficult for you!:)

1 John 4:1-3
1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

2 By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God,

3 and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God.

And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world

We could go back and forth with this, first of all most of the MC are "afraid to try the Spirit" they rely on the Bible only!

Most dismiss even the thought of it yet man is commanded by the Lord to do this, but many are taught use the Bible only is the source.

There are some places in the Bible that are questionable by man own common sense and if one don't learn how to recognized the Holy Spirit they will continue to grope in the dark!

This is the first thing The Chruch of Jesus Christ of latter Day Saints teaches is how to pray and to receive the Holy Ghost.

I had a witness from the Holy Spirit that the Book of Mormon was true, before I every read the Book of Mormon or knew "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" existed

49 posted on 07/14/2007 10:58:01 AM PDT by restornu (Romney will win the Primary!:))
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To: Enosh
Furthermore, once you claim that the Father was once a man who attained godhood and that you too can win the kewpie doll, you exit all bounds of Judaeo-Christian teaching and enter into fantasy land.

By reading your understanding you are using the reasoning of man only.

What some are doing is applying their own addenum or assumptions to fit their temtplate or comprehension!

What the LDS talks about about can only be discern by the power of Holy of Spirit of God.

The LDS always believed Jesus always was Alpha and Omega.

Rev 1
1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:

2 Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.

3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.

4 JOHN to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;

5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,

6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.

9 I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.

10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,

11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.

50 posted on 07/14/2007 11:42:29 AM PDT by restornu (Romney will win the Primary!:))
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