Is Mormonism 'Christian'? (Cue the theme from 'Jaws')

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KEVIN ASKS:

Is the Mormon religion considered Christian? There are radical doctrinal differences.

THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS:

Depends on who’s talking.

The steadily expanding Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (nicknamed “LDS” or “Mormon”) vigorously defends the Christian identity proclaimed in its very name and resents assertions to the contrary. However, the Catholic Church, virtually all evangelical Protestants, and major U.S. “mainline” Protestant denominations all find the label problematic because, as Kevin indicates, the LDS church disputes central beliefs the Christian religion has taught through history.

It’s not The Guy’s journalistic role to settle this, but to note some salient aspects of the debate.

One formula comes from a leading non-Mormon expert, historian Jan Shipps. She says Mormonism is to Christianity as Christianity is to Judaism, obviously related to the older religion that helped give it birth and yet a distinct new religious community.

On the other hand, Mormon insider Terryl Givens asserts that “the faith’s congruence with the essentials of Christian orthodoxy is unambiguous,” citing especially LDS belief in Jesus as the savior. Givens, a University of Richmond literature professor who has written 10 books about his church, says that in a blog item this month.  Yet he admits there are “undeniable” substantive differences in theology over against “the contemporary Christian mainstream.”

That word “contemporary” is significant because Mormons believe God established their church in these “latter days” to restore what was Jesus’ original religion, which only existed for a brief time until his apostles died off and all churches fell into permanent apostasy. Thus the church based in Salt Lake City believes it uniquely conveys God’s truth.

Givens sees LDS “adventuresomeness” in such distinctive concepts as: That the universe had no beginning so God is not the “creator” but “supreme organizer” of pre-existing matter, that “humans are co-eternal with God,” that “God himself is a material embodied being,” that God revealed holy books for the LDS church to add to the Bible, and that the Christian doctrines of original sin and God as the divine Trinity are huge errors.

Of course, there’s a flip side. From its beginnings Mormonism has cast official aspersions upon the Christian authenticity of all other churches.

Continue reading "Is Mormonism Christian?" by Richard Ostling.

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