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This just in: Mormonism can’t be Christian because it is a religion

February 28, 2009

Now, really, I’ve heard Christians (or I suppose I should say…Christ followers) argue that Mormons aren’t Christian for many reasons. Some reasons are better than others. I could probably say which ones I find more convincing (but then again, it depends too on your definitions of Christianity — which for many practical purposes, the Christians who are against Mormonism being a Christian denomination use a very technical definition of Christianity that most people don’t care about and don’t associate with Christianity.) But that’s not my purpose on this blog. I’m not here to say Mormons are definitely Christian or Mormons are definitely not. It doesn’t really matter to me.

But a blog entry wrote an argument that I had…not seen before. I mean, I’ve seen *part* of it…but I hadn’t seen this particular iteration.

See, the traditional argument of this sort goes something like, “Aha, Christians believe in faith only…Mormons have works and so they are wrong.” Mormons will counter by saying…Faith in Jesus Christ is still central to the Gospel, so it’s not like faith is unimportant. But faith without works is dead.

And the arguers will posit, “But you have all of these strange ceremonies and ordinances that must be done that are unessential…baptism, baptism by proxy (that’s for the dead, foo’), other kinds of temple work, etc.,” I guess Mormons will try to distinguish between what is sufficient for salvation and then contrast it with instead what will net exaltation — because they are different things that cannot be really equalized.

But, because of the nature of things, I guess I can see how AncientArrow would say that Mormonism is a religion of process.

(I would just say: so what?)

The interesting thing is…he uses this idea as a proof that Mormonism is not Christianity. Because it is a religion of process, it cannot be Christian.

Wait, no, that’s not what he fully says.

Christianity is not religion.  Christianity is not a process.  True Christianity is relationship.  The leader of Christianity, Jesus, when he walked on the dusty roads of Galilee and Judea taught the commandments, both are relational.  Love the Lord your God with all your might, and second Love your neighbor as yourself.  The relationship with God is pre-eminent in Christianity.  Christianity is God-centered.  Relationship that can only be restored by individual belief (faith, trust) in Jesus.  The relationship with God was broken because of rebellion by man.  Rebellion is sin.  Jesus alone is sufficient to restore that relationship by his death for all sin.  The work of salvation is all ready completed.  No further work is needed.

Oh, so REALLY…because Mormonism is religion, it cannot be Christianity. Because Christianity is not religion.

Now, I can really understand why people would want to make Christianity less organized and more personal, but I mean, to say that historically, Christianity hasn’t been a religion with a process is just rather silly. It has thrived and spread precisely because it was a religion and a process. So, even if in modern times thanks to the embarrassing acts of certain religious organization you want to break away and be in a “relationship,” then that’s fine. That’s admirable. But it doesn’t mean that Christianity is not religion.

And maybe my bias is showing, but I think that a religion that just says you need to have faith in Jesus and that’s all that’s necessary for salvation without any works is…off. For all of this guy’s ranting against the “process” of Mormonism, I guess what he does not concede is that at least this process gives people a system by which to try to improve themselves (or so they think). It seems that faith-only Christians, although they try to defend that repentance, works, etc., follow as a result of faith…well it seems that because of their position, they really don’t have a convincing position about why people should be *better*.

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13 Comments
  1. See, the traditional argument of this sort goes something like, “Aha, Christians believe in faith only…Mormons have works and so they are wrong.”

    The other big reason is that we don’t believe in the Trinity as set forth in the Nicene Creed. IME, the two are about half and half in import as to why we are not considered Christians. The rest of the stuff is just gravy to be used at will.

    And maybe my bias is showing, but I think that a religion that just says you need to have faith in Jesus and that’s all that’s necessary for salvation without any works is…off.

    After 9 years of Southern Baptist education and a high school diploma, I still couldn’t wrap my head around it. For all their protestations that we’re a cult, I’d never seen cult behavior until I went to a revival.

  2. Thanks for the comments, MoJo…you’re right on I think.

    I think that the strongest argument that nonMormon Christians have is with creeds…IF they can convince people that you have to follow certain creeds to be Christian, then that’s that. But if they can’t, then really, Mormons should be considered Christian.

    Now, I would say that even though creedal arguments are the strongest, they aren’t convincing enough. Christianity wasn’t originally a creedal religion.

  3. Hey I love this blog. I can see the time and effort put into this.. Thanks!

  4. Now, I would say that even though creedal arguments are the strongest, they aren’t convincing enough. Christianity wasn’t originally a creedal religion.

    Agreed. I take comfort in the fact that even though Catholicism does believe in the Trinity, they’re all going to the Great Lake of Fire, too.

    It’s all good. 😉

  5. And a P.S. Sorry about comment bombing you.

    I figure, if you can accept that a virgin was implanted with a deity’s sperm and delivered a half man half god (Greek mythos anyone?) to be a perpetual sacrifice for man’s sin, that he was crucified and got resurrected on the third day after his death, then arose to heaven 40 days thereafter and now your sins are washed clean because of aforementioned miraculous occurrences (not counting what miracles said half man half god performed while he was alive), then you have no right pointing fingers at anything anybody else believes.

  6. If all your comments are good (which they are), then you can’t be a comment bomber.

  7. AncientArrow permalink

    Andrew,

    I can see why an atheist x-Mormon would need to dismantle my argument. Mormonism is grounded in heresy (bad theology) and its daughter Mormon Culture is nothing more than Mormonism without the bad theology.

    You are intelligent to recognize the error of Mormon Theology, and also wise in connecting Mormonism to Religion. But, to participate in building another tower of babel, a symbol of bad religion, Mormon style by remaining in its culture, whether you believe in God or not, may remove you from its bad theology, but you are still trapped by its lies.

    I would be an atheist, too, If the only God I knew of was the LDS God. But the LDS God is a false God. Consider a relationship with the True God. God is pursuing you, why else would you see the need to stop and remove the arrow of truth that hit your heart? Its time for you to pursue God, not chase the daughter (the culture) of bad religion.

    Jonathan

  8. The curious thing is that Christianity *is* a religion. It amuses me that so many Christians are moving in this direction of trying to reject that Christianity is and historically has always been a religion (and its success is due to propagation by very strong hierarchies — even with Protestant Reformations, that would never have come about in the first place without strong foundations with Roman Catholicism or Orthodoxy).

    But this isn’t a problem, because it seems that the big part that could conceivably be attractive about religions *are* precisely the “process” parts.

    My question is this: why are you pursuing a relationship with the “True God” and why do you feel this antithetical to the religious aspect or the process aspect? Wouldn’t it make sense, if you are going to reject the religion part that is central to it all, to also reject the unjustified and unjustifiable relationship part? After all, the relationship idea is the weaker and less attractive of the two (which compared to the religion part), and the relationship aspect is propagated and supported by the religious process aspect?

    If God is pursuing me, in other words, he needs to step up the efforts, whereas religions are doing a great job of being visible; they just happen to be unsuccessful. If my heart is pierced with an arrow of truth, then maybe there should be blood. But if it’s as you say, and *I* need to pursue this hypothetical God, then you’ve got to provide a lot more compelling motivation for why.

  9. Andrew,

    My Final Word.

    As long as you see God, whether you believe in Him or not, as only connected to this reality through religion, or process; you will never find Him. There is no flow chart to salvation. It is not divided up into phases or steps. There is no compelling logical argument that can convince any of us of God or our need for Him. Yet our act of Faith in Him is not contrary to reason. It is self preservation. Anyone that wants to save his life, must lose it.

    Salvation from eternal separation from God (hell) upon death, only comes from believing. And believing is placing trust and hope in someone else. That someone is the Lord Jesus Christ. It is relationship to God that saves.

    Atheism is a lonely place to be. Religion is also lonely. Process is lonely. None of them requires relationship with others. It is the safe thing to do. Trusting in others is a risk. Take the risk and Trust in the Lord; He will never leave you or forsake you.

    Jonathan

  10. Your religion (despite your insistence that it is not religion) leads you to believe in a certain god. Why not any other kind of god, if you believe his is not connected to this reality through religion. In fact, the very arguments you use and the very way you describe your god highlight how enshrined you are in religion. A religion that happens to be life denialist, but a religion nonetheless.

    Your religion gives you a problem and then it gives you a solution for the problem it created. You have a problem, “Salvation from eternal separation from God.” This problem only exists because of the religion you subscribe to. And your chosen solution — faith in Jesus Christ — only comes from the particular solution you have chosen.

    You believe atheism is lonely because you have been taught well by your religion, regardless of the nature of reality. But what you fail to realize is that your religion is precisely lonely, because you are building a relationship with something that denies life — you are building a relationship with the idea of an afterlife, with the idea of faith that is not justified through practicality and reality in the here and now. And then you want to say that it is atheism and religion and lonely.

    In atheism and religion, you at least learn to trust in the people you deal with on a daily basis. But you forgo that (you lose your life) to instead embrace something unseen (heaven, afterlife, Jesus) that you still believe in. So, in reality, it seems like *you* are the one who is taking a safe and comfortable excursion away from reality.

    That’s fine, if you want to do that. All I’m saying is it’s not convincing. I’m not convinced that I need to see the problem that you have been taught to see, so the solution seems utterly unnecessary. However, I DO see every day that building relationships with *people*, learning to respect the *here and now*, learning to appreciate *life* while we have it, those are things that have bearing on our lives.

  11. Thanks for the thoughtful posts. It’s . . . interesting to see a well-reasoned approach to Mormonism from someone who has left it behind.

    My experience with various Christian denominations and churches has proven that Christianity is as much a religion in the context used in this post as Mormonism is. In the end, no faith holds a monopoly on a relationship with the Creator. I’ve seen plenty of Baptists, Catholics, non-denominationals and Pentecostals who were phoning it in (convincingly to those outside) faith-wise.

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