Peddling Mormonism as mainstream Christianity
Why the Campaign to Seek Rapprochement between Evangelicals and Cultists?
(First posted 07 September 2005)
ack in May , a few weeks before I joined the Christian blogosphere, there was quite a lot of controversy when an erstwhile evangelical publisher (Eerdmans) released a book by Mormon scholar Dr. Robert Millet (professor of religion at Brigham Young University). The book, (A Different Jesus? The Christ of the Latter-day Saints) was Millet's attempt to argue that Mormonism is both biblically and creedally within the bounds of historic Christian orthodoxy.
I realize the controversy over that issue is yesterday's news as far as the blogosphere is concerned. Both Eric Svendsen and James White (among others) did a superb job responding to some of the post-evangelical quislings who thought it was wonderfully even-handed and genteel for Eerdmans to be broad-minded enough to publish an apologia for Mormonism. (Ironically, some of these very same quasi-evangelicals who plead for pious deference to Mormon theology can't seem to find it within themselves to treat Baptists with any kind of respect at all.)
Even though I missed the initial buzz about Millet's book, I still want to weigh in on a certain aspect of this controversy that has annoyed me for some six or seven years. I'm talking about way Dr. Millet and his fans (both Mormons and post-evangelicals) continually invoke my pastor's name as if he were friendly to their cause.
This is neither mine nor John MacArthur's first attempt to set the record straight. (I'll be posting some past correspondence on the issue in the next few days.) John MacArthur has repeatedly attempted to make his position absolutely clear: He does not regard Mormonism as legitimate Christianitynot even close. But you might get the opposite impression from some of Millet's publicity, and especially from his Internet groupies' postings.
Tuesday I read an Internet forum where a Mormon missionary was attempting to convince some naive evangelical that MacArthur's "lordship doctrine" asserts the very same soteriology as Mormonism. The Mormon guy claimed the Bible is full of verses that deny the principle of sola fide and make salvation a cooperative work between God and the sinner, just the way the Mormon "gospel" teaches. That, he insisted, is also John MacArthur's view.
No, it's not.
Millet's Internet fan club also seems intent on trying to get as much public-relations mileage for their side out of the fact that MacArthur once met personally with Millet (at Millet's request) to discuss theological issues. Floating around in various Internet forums are some romanticized accounts of the Millet-MacArthur talks that would have you believe the two men see one another as fellow-warriors in a common battle against easy-believism.
Millet's book itself strives to leave that same impression. Although Millet hasn't really grasped the first principles of what MacArthur actually teaches, he quotes frequently but selectively from MacArthur, apparently attempting to give the impression that MacArthur believes the sinner's own works are instrumental in justification.
How familiar, really, is Millet with the doctrinal stance of John MacArthur? The publicity for Millet's book at Amazon.com includes a snippet from a Publishers Weekly review that says, "Millet is as at home in the writings of such evangelical heroes as C.S. Lewis, J.B. Phillips, John MacArthur and Max Lucado as he is in the teachings of LDS prophets like Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and Gordon Hinckley."
"At home in the writings of . . . MacArthur"? Hardly. No one who has been even casually attentive to John MacArthur's ministry could possibly imagine that Millet is representing MacArthur correctly. MacArthur has always regarded Mormonism as a dangerous, heretical cult that is opposed to true Christianity. And he said so plainly to Millet when the two of them met.
It was a conversation between theological adversaries, not a conclave of potential allies.
John MacArthur's meeting with Dr. Millet took place in August 1997. That meeting was nothing more than a discussion of Mormon-evangelical differences in a cordial environment. It was not, as some have suggested a "dialogue" about Mormon-evangelical rapprochement. MacArthur was congenial but clear. In the meeting itself he repeatedly stressed his conviction that there is a great gulf between Mormonism and true Christianity. He told Millet in plain, unvarnished words that Mormonism worships a different god, follows a different christ, and proclaims a different gospel from authentic New Testament Christianity.
MacArthur's position on this has never wavered. He believes and teaches that Mormonism is not true Christianity in any historic or biblical sense, but is a classic cult. Indeed, Mormonism is similar in many ways to the Gnostic heresies that plagued the church for centuries. Mormonism and genuine biblical, evangelical Christianity are in effect antithetical, sharing no common spiritual ground whatsoever.
Mormonism is pseudo-Christianity.
In the eight years since his meeting with Dr. Millet, MacArthur has often summarized his concerns about Mormonism by pointing out four significant, unbridgeable chasms between Mormonism and authentic biblical Christianity. Here, in writing, is MacArthur's own list of four foundational truths where Mormons and evangelicals take perfectly incompatible positions. (This list is routinely sent to people who ask about MacArthur's stance on Mormonism).
- The issue of authority. Christians believe the Bible is God's authoritative, inerrant, unchanging and complete self-revelation (Jude 3). Scripture is the touchstone to which all other truth-claims must be brought (Isaiah 8:20). The sole and sufficient authority by which all controversies in spiritual matters are to be determined is none other than God's Spirit speaking through Scripture.
By contrast, Mormons consider The Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price, and Doctrine and Covenants as additional authoritative revelation, thereby undermining the true authority of Scripture and violating the principle of Revelation 22:18.
- The doctrine of God. Christians believe there is one God who eternally exists in three co-equal Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Mormons reject the doctrine of the Trinity, believing that there are many worlds controlled by different gods.
- The supremacy of Christ. Christians believe Jesus Christ is pre-existent God who became a man in His incarnation while maintaining His full deity.
Mormons claim Jesus was a "spirit child" of Mary and Elohim (and the brother of Lucifer) who has now been elevated to the level of deity.
- The means of justification. Christians believe justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
Mormons believe a person's works in this life will determine his or her status in the life to come, and that "salvation" is actually a progression toward godhood.
Robert L. Millet