Jan Brown, a freelance writer, apologist, and ministry consultant, wrote an interesting article at Christianity Today. The article is not that bad, from an Evangelical Christian’s perspective. There are, however, a few things that just jumped out at me as I was reading through the piece.
The article uses the context of a discussion between Ms. Brown and her childhood friend, Anne. The friend moved to Utah and (you guessed it) joined the LDS Church. Playing off of Anne’s question of “Do you think I’m still a Christian,” Ms. Brown discusses six things that she thinks separate Mormonism from “orthodox Christianity.”
In the first difference, Ms. Brown talks about “The Bible.” In bold text Ms. Brown states that “Mormonism identifies biblical Christianity as an apostate and errant faith.” This is incorrect, as Mormons only identify problems with creedal Christianity–religion and belief based on extra-biblical creeds. It is those creeds, which Mormons don’t believe are biblical, that they see as the problem. Thus, saying that Mormons have problems with “biblical Christianity” is incorrect.
Another related problem with Ms. Brown’s assertion about Mormonism is that it doesn’t take into account the history of Protestantism, which includes Evangelical Christians. The roots of Protestant denominations are found in rebellion against the Roman Catholic church. That rebellion was based in an understanding that the Church was no longer teaching the true gospel of Jesus Christ in its simplicity and purity. In other words, the Protestants believed that the Roman Catholic church was “apostate” and that it was best to start their own church to somehow reform the errant faith and reclaim the purity and simplicity.
It seems very odd for Ms. Brown, whose Evangelical Christian faith is rooted in the Reformation made necessary by the apostasy of the Catholic church, to accuse Mormons of being non-Christian because we believe that creedal Christianity is apostate, as well.
Jesus and God
Ms. Brown’s third and fourth points of difference have to do with views regarding God and Jesus. Near the end of the fourth point she states that Mormonism is polytheistic while orthodox Christianity is monotheistic. This is a simplistic misstatement, as Mormons are not polytheistic any more than a believer in the Trinity is polytheistic.
While Evangelical Christians may believe that they are monotheistic through the incomprehensible miracle of the Trinity, the fact still remains that the Trinity is composed of three Persons or Beings. Muslims and Jews are more strictly monotheistic than trinitarian Christians are, and many of them will be glad to explain why.
The difference, of course, between Mormons and Evangelical Christians when it comes to the “Godhead” is that Mormons don’t believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are of one essence or substance. They are of one purpose, but not one essence.
In the Mormon view, stating that the three are of one substance raises a multitude of problems with scriptural accounts of God and Jesus. For instance, it makes the baptism of Jesus almost incomprehensible. If the Person being baptised is the same as the One talking from Heaven and the One descending in the form of a dove, then being of the same substance loses all meaning because the singular God can manifest Himself in three ways to the confusion of those watching the event.
Ms. Brown’s sixth point of difference has to do with salvation. She states that “Mormons equate salvation with exaltation.” They do not; this is a flat-out misstatement of belief. To Mormons, salvation and exaltation are two entirely distinct things. A good, concise blog post on the differences can be found elsewhere on this blog.
Finally, there seems to be a disconnect in Ms. Brown’s statements near the end of the article. she says “…I don’t believe Mormonism is Christian.” Two sentences later she say “Ultimately God–not I–will decide who’s a Christian.” It seems odd that Ms. Brown would clearly judge Mormons as non-Christian, yet give lip-service to leaving such judgments up to God. If she is really willing to leave it up to God, then why bother saying that she doesn’t think they are Christian? If she doesn’t think they are Christian, then why bother leaving it up to God?
Perhaps Ms. Brown will find these points helpful in her next discussion with Anne.