Skip to comments.Who Gets to Define "Christian"?
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 cant 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 didnt 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 Mormons 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 dont 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. Mohlers 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 peoples homes, instead of on the battlefield or in the courtroom.
But what if we dont 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 Christs 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. Mohlers 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 thats 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 dont 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.
Thats 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 didnt 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.
Heres 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 Gibsons 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.
Its 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, thats 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, theyre 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 dont accept the authority of the Pope, we dont 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 thats a matter of private belief and conscience. Those who put our religion to the test and come to believe in it dont 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 lets remember now why we are having this discussion. Its 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.
Heres 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 doesnt 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 hes 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 Im going to do it, then American voters can be reasonably confident that he really does believe it and he really will do it.
Thats 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? Its not impossible to determine that even with people whose religious commitments are, shall we say, skin deep. Certainly, for instance, it wasnt hard to find out what Bill Clintons 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 Romneys religion, and how well he has lived up to it. Its a fair test.
But dont 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 somebodys 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, hes a Mormon in good standing. And hes a Democrat a liberal Democrat, on most issues.
If Salt Lake City is telling Mormon politicians what to do, theyre sure giving Harry Reid a different set of instructions from those theyve been giving to Mitt Romney.
Like Harry Reid, Im a Democrat. If my own party nominates somebody that I think would make a better president than Mitt Romney, Ill vote for the Democrat. If my party doesnt, and the Republican Party nominates Romney, I might well vote for him.
It wont be because hes a Mormon. Itll be for a whole range of reasons his political views, his announced plans, and my assessment of his character. And that assessment wont 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 dont have to be a Mormon to use those standards.
Now, what if you are an American citizen who absolutely hates every Mormon doctrine youve heard about?
My advice is: Dont 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 hes 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. Were above average in our education. Were 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 dont 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 dont want your kids to join the Mormon Church; well, I dont want mine to join the Baptist Church, either. Thats because you think youre right about your religion, and I think Im right about mine.
But I would rather vote for a believing Baptist who lives up to his faith than for a Mormon who doesnt take his religion seriously or keep the commandments hes been taught.
And vice versa. Dont you feel that way, too?
No true Scotsman...
Are you saying that you are GiovannaNicoletta too?
Such tests existed in several States and may still exist. The United States is not the States.
You are incorrect.
2 And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the LORD:
3 And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them.
We teach that Christ is the Jehovah of the Old Testament, thus affirming the deity of Christ.
The Living Christ:
The Testimony of the Apostles
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Ensign, Apr 2000, 2
As we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ two millennia ago, we offer our testimony of the reality of His matchless life and the infinite virtue of His great atoning sacrifice. None other has had so profound an influence upon all who have lived and will yet live upon the earth.
He was the Great Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Messiah of the New. Under the direction of His Father, He was the creator of the earth. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made (John 1:3). Though sinless, He was baptized to fulfill all righteousness. He went about doing good (Acts 10:38), yet was despised for it. His gospel was a message of peace and goodwill. He entreated all to follow His example. He walked the roads of Palestine, healing the sick, causing the blind to see, and raising the dead. He taught the truths of eternity, the reality of our premortal existence, the purpose of our life on earth, and the potential for the sons and daughters of God in the life to come.
He instituted the sacrament as a reminder of His great atoning sacrifice. He was arrested and condemned on spurious charges, convicted to satisfy a mob, and sentenced to die on Calvarys cross. He gave His life to atone for the sins of all mankind. His was a great vicarious gift in behalf of all who would ever live upon the earth.
We solemnly testify that His life, which is central to all human history, neither began in Bethlehem nor concluded on Calvary. He was the Firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Redeemer of the world.
He rose from the grave to become the firstfruits of them that slept (1 Cor. 15:20). As Risen Lord, He visited among those He had loved in life. He also ministered among His other sheep (John 10:16) in ancient America. In the modern world, He and His Father appeared to the boy Joseph Smith, ushering in the long-promised dispensation of the fulness of times (Eph. 1:10).
Of the Living Christ, the Prophet Joseph wrote: His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying:
I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father (D&C 110:34).
Of Him the Prophet also declared: And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father
That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God (D&C 76:2224).
We declare in words of solemnity that His priesthood and His Church have been restored upon the earthbuilt upon the foundation of apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone (Eph. 2:20).
We testify that He will someday return to earth. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together (Isa. 40:5). He will rule as King of Kings and reign as Lord of Lords, and every knee shall bend and every tongue shall speak in worship before Him. Each of us will stand to be judged of Him according to our works and the desires of our hearts.
We bear testimony, as His duly ordained Apostlesthat Jesus is the Living Christ, the immortal Son of God. He is the great King Immanuel, who stands today on the right hand of His Father. He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son.
You ended your quotation early, making the intent of it seem different than it was.
Adding the context back in....
“Many religions teach that human beings are children of God, but often their conception of Him precludes any kind of bond resembling a parent-child relationship. 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! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit was to make himself visible , you would see him like a man in formlike yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with Him, as one man talks and communes with another. We are of Gods family. We are His sons and daughters, created in the image of heavenly parents.”
The purpose the quote was used for was to establish God’s anthropomorphic nature, and our familial relation to him. The claim that God experienced a period of mortality was an opinion of Joseph Smith’s, but it has not been accepted as doctrine by the church.
If it someday was accepted as doctrine, the fact is that Christ was God before he was mortal, when he was mortal, and after he was resurrected and glorified. If Christ can progress from being a pre-mortal spirit, to a mortal, to a glorified and exalted immortal while being divine the whole time, surely the Father can as well. In fact, Joseph based his opinion on the verse in the Bible where Christ says he only does what he has seen the Father do.
So the LDS founder, Joseph Smith, is "no true Scotsman." Oh, what a tangled web we weave.
BTW, Grig, please don't post those lengthy URLs as you did at #54. It is because of that post that we now have to scroll left to right to read the page.
Instead of the way you did it, put the entire URL in the code section only and something like "Link" in the textual designation section.
How telling that none of the people disagreeing with OSC are even trying to address the substance of his remarks.
He also ministered among His other sheep (John 10:16) in ancient America. In the modern world, He and His Father appeared to the boy Joseph Smith, ushering in the long-promised dispensation of the fulness of times (Eph. 1:10).
This is where you screw up.
Satan only needs a kernel of truth to deceive people and when you try to intertwine the writings of a fallen human, one who engaged in the occultic practice of "money digging", one who proclaimed seven prophecies, all of which failed, one who claimed that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three separate Gods in direct opposition to Holy Scripture which states that the Trinity is one God in three persons, who claimed that the Son and the Holy Spriit are the literal offspring of the Heavenly Father and some celestial wife: the list of lies and blasphemies created by this man goes on and on and on.
Again, I will refer to the true Scipture, not one wholly corrupted and befouled by a sin-sick man seeking to be worshiped:
And if you say in your heart, 'How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?'-- 18:22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him. (Deuteronomy 18: 21,22).
You can quote God's Scipture all you want, but you need to be careful not to throw in any of Joseph Smith's lies or your house-of-cards claims folds like a cheap camera and you are exposed for all to see.
Joseph Smith was a fraud who is responsible for millions of people believing lies and living their lives apart from a true relationship with God.. And that's all he was.
No tangled web here, although your understanding of how we view prophets.what we consider doctrine, and how doctrine is accepted into the church seems rather jumbled.
We do not view prophets as being inherently mystical men who know anything and everything they want to know. They are ordinary men, called by God to at times receive revelations from God on behalf of God’s people.
On matters where a prophet has not received revelation, they are free to form and express their own opinions and those opinions are no more binding on the church than that of any other member. Revelations are canonized into doctrine via a formal process that includes all the other General Authorities of the Church (who also hold the keys of prophecy) seeking and recitatives a confirming witness from the Holy Spirit.
There has been no attempt I know of to canonize that idea, it remains as a personal opinion of Joseph’s, not doctrine of the church and members are not required to accept it as doctrine.
You claimed we denied the deity of Christ and I provided the evidence that your accusation was false.
Spewing out a bunch of equally false accusations to distract from the fact that you were wrong before doesn’t change that.
Gosh, that being the case, you'd think I read Ensign.
Please show me where the Bible explicitly states that.
Here is the truth: Brigham Young denied emphatically that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Ghost (Journal of Discourses 1:511). Mormon doctrine is really a denial of Jesus virginal conception. God himselfa God of "flesh and bones"is the father "in the flesh" of Jesus rather than a "mortal" man. In plain language, Mormons believe that God the Father appeared at Nazareth and had sexual intercourse with Mary. Such was the "miraculous" conception of Jesus, in Mormon theology.
False, blasphemous, and demonic. I wouldn't want to believe it either, but it is fact.
Choose who you will believe: Joseph Smith, or God.
1 Corinthians 8:6:
yet for us there is but one God the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Three Persons, one God: The Trinity.
But if you're Joseph Smith, or you buy into the lies and blasphemy, you can believe that God is a liar, and that He is not one God, like He said, but, um, three gods.
Joseph Smith or God, Joseph Smith or God, Joseph Smith or God. What a quandry!! Who to believe???
The word “trinity” is not in the Bible.
The concept is from ancient occult paganism.
The trinity is today’s version of baal worship.
Jesus Christ was/is a man, at least the Bible tells me so.
God is not a man that he should lie, nor the son of man that he should repent.
God cannot be tempted with evil but Jesus was tempted in all ways.
God is one and there is but one God.
(Trinity means three...not one!)
So, you admit that the Trinity is not a biblical doctrine.
You really are out to lunch and have no clue what it is we teach.
10 And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.
1 Nephi 11
13 And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white.
14 And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou?
15 And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.
16 And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?
17 And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.
18 And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.
19 And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!
20 And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.
21 And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!
The Book of Mormon teaches that Christ was born of a virgin, it is our doctrine. The conception was a miracle brought about by the power of the Holy Ghost, and the result of that miracle is that Mary, a virgin, conceived a child. Genetically that child was the child of Mary and Heavenly Father (not the Holy Ghost), and there was no sexual union. What you claim we teach is as repelling to us as it is to you.
That’s twice now that you’ve been shown to be totally wrong. How many more times would it take before you realize that you have been fed a pack of lies about us?
Indeed, Eagle Eye goes a step beyond and earns a ticket straight to Hell.
"The trinity is todays version of baal worship." - Eagle Eye
I do have a white blouse!
Joseph Smith was a fraud who is responsible for millions of people believing lies and living their lives apart from a true relationship with God.. And that's all he was.
Funny you should say that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is still standing stronger than ever!
While you continue to bash The Lord's Church, the Lord and his servants shall continue to build and uplift the Lord's Children until His WORD fills the whole earth.
One would think that Jesus would be the one to define a Christian. John 3:16 should be enough.
But some around here have higher and mightier plans than those of Christ as to who should be allowed to be called his follower...
I think you exclude yourselves by your own denials and deficiencies
Freep-mail me to get on or off my pro-life and Catholic Ping List:
Please ping me to all note-worthy Pro-Life or Catholic threads, or other threads of interest.
I believe in God the Father Almighty,
Creator of Heaven and Earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven and is seated
at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church,
the Communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. Amen.
|Fr Luis Ladaria, S.J.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has given a negative response to a "Dubium" regarding the validity of Baptism conferred in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more commonly known as the Mormons. Given that this decision changes the past practice of not questioning the validity of such Baptism, it seems appropriate to explain the reasons that have led to this decision and to the resulting change of practice.
Doctrinal errors usually do not invalidate baptism
This explanation becomes even more necessary if one considers that errors of a doctrinal nature have never been considered sufficient to question the validity of the sacrament of Baptism. In fact, already in the middle of the third century Pope Stephen I, opposing the decisions of an African synod in 256 A.D., reaffirmed that the ancient practice of the imposition of hands as a sign of repentance should be maintained, but not the rebaptism of a heretic who enters the Catholic Church. In this way, the name of Christ attains great honour for faith and sanctification because whoever is baptized in the name of Christ, wherever that has taken place, has received the grace of Christ (cf. Denzinger-Hüngermann [DH] 110-111). The same principle was upheld by the Synod of Arles in 314 (cf. DH 123). Well known also is the struggle of St Augustine against the Donatists. The Bishop of Hippo affirms that the validity of the sacrament depends neither on the personal sanctity of the minister nor on his belonging to the Church.
Right intention is the intention to do what the Church wants, what Christ wants
Even non-Catholics can validly administer Baptism. In every case, however, it is the Baptism of the Catholic Church, which does not belong to those who separate themselves from her but to the Church from which they have separated themselves (cf. Augustine, On Baptism 1, 12,9). This validity is possible because Christ is the true minister of the sacrament: Christ is the one who truly baptizes, whether it is Peter or Paul or Judas who baptizes (cf. Augustine, Treatise on the Gospel of John VI, 1,7; cf. CCC n. 1127). The Council of Trent, confirming this tradition, defined that Baptism administered by heretics in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, with the intention of doing what the Catholic Church does is true Baptism (cf. DH 1617).
The validity of doubtful baptism is presumed especially in the case of marriage, as in the case of the Christians of Nagasaki
The most recent documents of the Catholic Church maintain the same teaching. The Code of Canon Law prescribes that those who have been baptized in non-Catholic ecclesial communities (as long as there is no doubt regarding the matter or the form or the intention of the minister or of the person being baptized) should not be baptized again (cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 869 §2), Intrinsically connected to this problem is that of who can be the minister of Baptism in the Catholic Church. According to the Code, in cases of necessity anyone can baptize, provided the intention is correct (cf. can. 861 §2). The Code of Canon Law confirms the fundamental elements of Tridentine teaching and makes more explicit what is the required correct intention: "The intention required is to will to do what the Church does when she baptizes. The Church finds the reason for this possibility in the universal saving will of God and the necessity of Baptism for salvation" (CCC, n. 1256. Evidently, the necessity of Baptism spoken of here is not to be understood in an absolute sense; cf. ibid., nn. 1257-1261). Precisely because of the necessity of Baptism for salvation the Catholic Church has had the tendency of broadly recognizing this right intention in the conferring of this sacrament, even in the case of a false understanding of Trinitarian faith, as for example in the case of the Arians.
Taking into account this deeply-rooted practice of the Church, applied without any doubt as to the multiplicity of non-Catholic Christian communities emerging from the so-called Reform of the 16th century, it is easily understood that when there appeared in the United States the religious movement of Joseph Smith around 1830, in which the matter and the words of the form of Baptism were correctly utilized, this Baptism was considered valid, analogously to the Baptism of so many other non-Catholic ecclesial communities. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, according to their teaching, received the priesthood of Aaron in 1829. Given the circumstances of the Church in the United States in the 19th century and the means of social communication at that time, even though the new religious movement gained a considerable number of followers, the knowledge that ecclesiastical authorities could have had of the doctrinal errors that were professed in this new group was necessarily very limited throughout the entire century. For the practical cases that emerged there was applied the response of the Holy Office of 9 September 1868 given for the Christian communities of Japan which had remained isolated and without priests from the time of the persecution at the beginning of the 17th century. According to this response: 1) those persons about whom there was doubt whether they were validly baptized should be considered Christians; 2) this Baptism should be considered valid with regard to the validity of marriage (Gasparri, Fontes, IV, n. 1007).
Current doubts about the validity of Mormon baptism
In the 20th century, the Catholic Church became more aware of the Trinitarian errors which the teaching proposed by Smith contained, though he used the traditional terms, and therefore more and more doubts spread about the validity of the Baptism conferred by the Mormons, in spite of the fact that the form, as far as the substance of the terminology goes, coincided with that used by the Church. As a result, almost imperceptibly there developed difference of practice, insofar as those who had a certain personal knowledge of the teaching of the Mormons considered their Baptism invalid, while the common practice continued of applying the traditional principle of the presumption in favour of the validity of such Baptism, since there was no official norm in this regard. In recent years, as a result of a request from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Bishops' Conference of the United States undertook a detailed study of this delicate issue with the hope of coming to a definitive conclusion. On its part the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith undertook a new examination of the material that came from the United States and thus was able to resolve the proposed question.
What are the reasons which now led to this negative position regarding the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which seems different from the position of the Catholic Church throughout the centuries?
Huge divergence on Trinity and baptism invalidates the intention of the Mormon minister of baptism and of the one to be baptized
According to the traditional doctrine of the Catholic Church there are four requirements for the valid administration of the sacrament of Baptism: the matter, the form, the intention of the minister, and the right disposition of the recipient. Let us examine briefly each of these four elements in the teaching and practice of the Mormons.
I. The Matter. On this point there is no problem. Water is used. The Mormons practice Baptism by immersion (cf. Doctrine and Covenants [D&C] 20:74), which is one of the ways of celebrating Baptism (application of the matter) which is accepted by the Catholic Church.
II. The Form. We have seen that in the texts of the Magisterium on Baptism there is a reference to the invocation of the Trinity (to the sources already mentioned, the Fourth Lateran Council could be added here [DH 8021). The formula used by the Mormons might seem at first sight to be a Trinitarian formula. The text states: "Being commissioned by Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" (cf. D&C 20:73). The similarities with the formula used by the Catholic Church are at first sight obvious, but in reality they are only apparent. There is not in fact a fundamental doctrinal agreement. There is not a true invocation of the Trinity because the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, according to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are not the three persons in which subsists the one Godhead, but three gods who form one divinity. One is different from the other, even though they exist in perfect harmony (Joseph F. Smith, ed., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith [TPJSI, Salt Lake City: Desert Book, 1976, p. 372). The very word divinity has only a functional, not a substantial content, because the divinity originates when the three gods decided to unite and form the divinity to bring about human salvation (Encyclopaedia of Mormonism [EM], New York: Macmillan, 1992, cf. Vol. 2, p. 552). This divinity and man share the same nature and they are substantially equal. God the Father is an exalted man, native of another planet, who has acquired his divine status through a death similar to that of human beings, the necessary way to divinization (cf. TPJS, pp. 345-346). God the Father has relatives and this is explained by the doctrine of infinite regression of the gods who initially were mortal (cf. TPJS, p. 373). God the Father has a wife, the Heavenly Mother, with whom he shares the responsibility of creation. They procreate sons in the spiritual world. Their firstborn is Jesus Christ, equal to all men, who has acquired his divinity in a pre-mortal existence. Even the Holy Spirit is the son of heavenly parents. The Son and the Holy Spirit were procreated after the beginning of the creation of the world known to us (cf. EM, Vol. 2, p. 961). Four gods are directly responsible for the universe, three of whom have established a covenant and thus form the divinity.
As is easily seen, to the similarity of titles there does not correspond in any way a doctrinal content which can lead to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. The words Father, Son and Holy Spirit, have for the Mormons a meaning totally different from the Christian meaning. The differences are so great that one cannot even consider that this doctrine is a heresy which emerged out of a false understanding of the Christian doctrine. The teaching of the Mormons has a completely different matrix. We do not find ourselves, therefore, before the case of the validity of Baptism administered by heretics, affirmed already from the first Christian centuries, nor of Baptism conferred in non-Catholic ecclesial communities, as noted in Canon 869 §2.
III. The Intention of the Celebrating Minister. Such doctrinal diversity, regarding the very notion of God, prevents the minister of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from having the intention of doing what the Catholic Church does when she confers Baptism, that is, doing what Christ willed her to do when he instituted and mandated the sacrament of Baptism. This becomes even more evident when we consider that in their understanding Baptism was not instituted by Christ but by God and began with Adam (cf. Book of Moses 6:64). Christ simply commanded the practice of this rite; but this was not an innovation. It is clear that the intention of the Church in conferring Baptism is certainly to follow the mandate of Christ (cf. Mt 28,19) but at the same time to confer the sacrament that Christ had instituted. According to the New Testament, there is an essential difference between the Baptism of John and Christian Baptism. The Baptism of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which originated not in Christ but already at the beginning of creation (James E. Talmage, Articles of Faith [AF], Salt Lake City: Desert Book, 1990, cf. pp. 110-111), is not Christian Baptism; indeed, it denies its newness. The Mormon minister, who must necessarily be the "priest" (cf. D&C 20:38-58.107:13.14.20), therefore radically formed in their own doctrine, cannot have any other intention than that of doing what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does, which is quite different in respect to what the Catholic Church intends to do when it baptizes, that is, the conferral of the sacrament of Baptism instituted by Christ, which means participation in his death and resurrection (cf. Rom 6,3-11; Col 2,12-13).
We can note two other differences, not as fundamental as the preceding one, but which also have their importance:
A) According to the Catholic Church, Baptism cancels not only personal sins but also original sin, and therefore even infants are baptized for the remission of sins (cf. the essential texts of the Council of Trent, DH 1513-1515). This remission of original sin is not accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which denies the existence of this sin and therefore baptizes only persons who have the use of reason and are at least eight years old, excluding the mentally handicapped (cf. AF, pp. 113-116). In fact, the practice of the Catholic Church in conferring Baptism on infants is one of the main reasons for which the Mormons say that the Catholic Church apostatized in the first centuries, so that the sacraments celebrated by it are all invalid.
B) If a believer baptized in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, after renouncing his or her faith or having been excommunicated, wants to return, he or she must be rebaptized (cf. AF, pp. 129-131).
Even in regard to these last elements it is clear that the Baptism of Mormons cannot be considered valid; since it is not Christian Baptism, the minister cannot have the intention of doing what the Catholic does.
IV. The Disposition of the Recipient. The person to be baptized, who already has the use of reason, has been instructed according to the very strict norms of the teaching and faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It must be maintained therefore that one cannot think that the Baptism received by that person is anything different from what he was taught. It does not seem possible that the person would have the same disposition that the Catholic Church requires for the Baptism of adults.
Difference of views: Mormons hold that there is no real Trinity, no original sin, that Christ did not institute baptism
Summing up, we can say: The Baptism of the Catholic Church and that of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints differ essentially, both for what concerns faith in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in whose name Baptism is conferred, and for what concerns the relationship to Christ who instituted it. As a result of all this, it is understood that the Catholic Church has to consider invalid, that is to say, cannot consider true Baptism, the rite given that name by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints.
It is equally necessary to underline that the decision of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is a response to a particular question regarding the Baptism of Mormons and obviously does not indicate a judgment on those who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Furthermore, Catholics and Mormons often find themselves working together on a range of problems regarding the common good of the entire human race. It can be hoped therefore that through further studies, dialogue and good will, there can be progress in reciprocal understanding and mutual respect.
Weekly Edition in English
1 August 2001, page 4
L'Osservatore Romano is the newspaper of the Holy See.
The Cathedral Foundation
Provided Courtesy of:
>>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 churchs doctrine without judging the souls of individual members.<<
Do the Baptists really teach this?
That is amazingly Chistian!
Only God knows who makes it.
Thank you for sharing YOUR belief!
Not just mine, but that of over 1,000,000,000 Catholics all over the world. That would be the belief of the Church that has survived 2,000 + years as the bearer of good News. That Church, the True Church, you know the One Church founded by Our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Do you even know what Elohim means and where it came from? Elohim is plural first of all.
Thank again for sharing!:)
This is more or less precisely what the Catholic Church teaches believe it or not.
I suspect there will be a good many surprises on Judgment Day some pleasant, others horrible...
Who gets to define “Christian”?
Jesus Christ -> St. Peter -> Linus [ ... ] -> Bl. John XXIII -> Paul VI -> John Paul -> John Paul II -> Benedict XVI
After a year of Hebrew, and 30 years of teaching the Bible, I am quite aware of the meaning of Elohim, to include that the word is in the plural form. You might want to employ your linguistic skills to discover that the plural noun, Elohim, is always used with a singular verb.
I’m still trying to see how I have proven myself “not Christian.”
“Mormons deny the deity of Christ.”
Jesus Christ is my Savior; He is divine. He is the Son of God. What are you talking about?
And I agree, from the other direction. (ps are you really a monarchist?)
Some Baptists do, but others do not. One of my closest friends is a Southern Baptist pastor whose leader teaches that there is a demon also named “Jesus” who is the God of false churches (including, in his view, both Catholics and Mormons). I disagree, and believe Jesus heeds the cry of those who call out to him as Savior, whatever conception of theology they may have (if it is genuine,even if it be in ignorance or error).
A good review of the chapters before this gives a fine definition of "Christian" through the words and acts of those to whom the name was given.
(In context of Romney) He does.
Who gets to determine whether or not his definition is accepted?
I do. (Each of us have the right to determine whether or not his definition is accepted)
It's just that simple.
For me to determine whether or not his definition is accepted is based on his acceptance of the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds (in form...not that he needs to cite them every Sunday or anything). If his confession does not allow him to ascent to those creeds, he is not Christian.
But don't feel bad, I also don't call those who are in "oneness" communities Christian, either.
Don't feel badly, though, I think that the vast majority of LDS people I've met are wonderful people and have the utmost respect for how they live their lives.
We've had a lot of Unitarians as presidents in the past. (Unitarians don't subscribe to the Nicene and/or Athanasian Creeds either) Didn't seem to disqualify them. So I am not sure why being LDS would disqualify Romney. Look at it this way, I sure would rather see Romney in the Oval Office than a Kerry, a Pelosi, a Mikulski, or the vast majority of pols who call themselves Catholic -- and that statement is COMING FROM a Catholic.
Would you also ad that Jesus Christ is the One, True, and Only God? If not, you are in error, but may be born again.
Happened to see this post and getting a smile out of it. Maybe I'll post more later, for "for the present," what time period do you suppose Jesus was referring to, when He said, "I AM?"
Just in case you forgot there were eleven other apostles.
And I listed him who would be first last, as is appropriate.
Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
That is why Paul received revelation from the Lord so he could teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Something to ponder sense it was an on going challenge in those days to keep the word of the Lord intact as Jesus made know in Gal 1.
There was 1800 years of opportunity to edit and revise the scriptures according the government in office.
That was why there was needed in the last day a restoration OF ALL things
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.
That angel in Gal 1;8, had nothing to do with the latter days restoration
5 And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.
6 And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,
One elemental aspect is your disbelief in the Trinity. All Christians confess this to be true.
There are also several blasphemous teachings in the Mormon church which exclude by default.
What does that mean?
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by ceremonial foods, which are of no value to those who eat them.