Are Mormon’s Christian?

Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, had a debate with Orson Scott Card, an author and commited Latter-day Saint, on whether Mormon’s are Christians.

Dr. Mohler’s basic objection is that mormon’s deny the historic orthodox understanding of Christianity. He says, “Mormonism rejects traditional Christian orthodoxy at the onset – this rejection is the very logic of Mormonism’s existence.” Earlier, Dr. Mohler contended that the central argument for Mormonism is itself a denial of orthodox Christianity. The central argument: that the true faith was restored through Joseph Smith in the nineteenth century in America and that the entire structure of Christian orthodoxy as affirmed by the post-apostolic church is corrupt and false.

On the other hand, Orson S. Card argues that it is not up Dr. Mohler to decide how we define Christianity. In a rather fair objection to Dr. Mohler’s position, Orson says,

“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.’”

Although it was implicit within his argument it would have been wiser had Dr. Mohler said explicitly that the orthodox position of Christianity was derived from the Scriptures, and thus based upon revelation.

Orson’s makes the error of using a straw man argument by not analyzing Dr. Mohler’s position in a charitable way. It should be rather obvious that Dr. Mohler was assuming it was understood by the readers, especially a learned man like Orson, that the orthodox understanding of Christianity was derived and based on interpretation from Scirpture. Instead, Orson, in a rather hand waving objection, simply states that the orthodox formulation of Christianity (which is outlined in historic creeds and doctrinal affirmations) is derived not from revelation, but from “debate and political maneuvering.”

This is very unsatisfactory analysis of the development of doctrine not only because it is too simplistic and misleading, but it is downright false.

The establishment of these creeds came about as a result of others parting from the common understanding of the Christian faith. It became important to formulate what exactly Christians believed so as to protect the church from falsehoods. There was debate only insofar as others began to challenge the common beliefs of the church. Often that which is implicity believed in the church is distinct from that which is confessed and taught in the church not because the content of the former is of different fundamental form than the latter, but because that which is confessed and taught is more precisely rendered. Or, in other words, the simplisitc understanding of the faithful church-going yet naive old lady most likely will be less precise than that which is exposed and taught by the theologians of the day. This is due to the fact that folk-understanding is of a more simple and less technical form. And it can be said, that while heresies gave urgency to the formulation of that which was implicity believed it did not instigate a creation of the ideas themselves. It was not as if the creeds were made and Christians began to believe something other than the already had, it was that there beliefs were more clearly pronounced and succintly formed. The creeds, therefore, are important so as to help the common church goers understand what it is they believe at a more precise level so they won’t fall into the subtle falsehoods of the time.

The real issue that must be debated in on whether the historic creeds are interpreted correctly. That is, we must ask the question: Do these creeds affirm the things Scripture testifies and proclaims?

Nevertheless, the debate is definitely an interesting read. Here is the link:

http://blog.beliefnet.com/blogalogue/2007/06/who-gets-to-define-christian.html

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