14 December 2009

Latter-Day Ecumenism

by Phil Johnson

Peddling Mormonism as mainstream Christianity
Why the Campaign to Seek Rapprochement between Evangelicals and Cultists?

(First posted 07 September 2005)

ack in May [2005], 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.

Greetings from Salt Lake CityI 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.

He's not.

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 Christianity—not 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).

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
Why is Dr. Millet nonetheless courting evangelical acceptance?

Robert L. Millet
Robert L. Millet

I have no way of knowing whether Dr. Millet's meticulous attempt to reconcile Mormon doctrine with certain evangelical ideas and terminology reflects an authentic interest in better understanding the biblical principle of grace—or a carefully-crafted PR campaign to gain mainstream acceptance for Mormonism. I wish I could believe it is the former. It has all the earmarks of the latter. After all, a few other cults and "-isms" have already successfully mainstreamed themselves by simply appealing to the ever-broadening evangelical consensus. Most of the books that ever treated Seventh-Day Adventism as a cult are now deemed out of date and unsophisticated. Roman Catholicism has sought and received the evangelical imprimatur from dozens of key evangelical leaders in recent years. Even the Worldwide Church of God—a cult that was virtually a monument to one man's ability to assimilate almost any heresy into one elaborate labyrinth of spiritual mischief—sought and received widespread evangelical acceptance by tweaking their beliefs and adopting evangelical terminology, but without ever formally renouncing their founder's religion as false. After a decade-long public-relations campaign, the WWCOG has still not settled into a truly evangelical doctrinal position, but they have nevertheless found warm acceptance from the evangelical mainstream. Hey, if it worked for them, why shouldn't the Mormons try it, too?

Phil's signature


James Scott Bell said...

Lloyd-Jones counseled knowing the ancient heresies, so you can spot them when they rear their heads today. Mormonism is a guise of Arianism. That should be enough for Christians to put away any ecumenical thoughts pertaining to LDS.

steve said...

You can add the Local Church of Witness Lee to the list of cults that have attempted to receive acceptance as part of mainstream evangelicalism, even though their leadership remains absolutely unbudging when it comes to rejecting the heretical elements of Witness Lee's teachings.

When they proselytize (and I've met Mormons missionaries who do this too), they point to carefully select quotes from Lee and their leadership that, on the surface, don't seem problematic. But when you go back and examine the entire body of teaching, you find a doctrinal system riddled with serious error.

That's why it's so necessary to exercise great caution and discernment...

Mark B. Hanson said...

As a one-time visitor to the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City three decades ago, I was amazed at how strongly the Mormons wanted to appear to outsiders as just another branch of Christianity. But of course there were places in that building that I was not allowed to go...

It only took a couple of months living next-door to less circumspect Mormon missionaries to understand that this was part of their strategy - to slip in under the guard of nominal Christians, and only then begin to appeal to some of the distinctives of Mormonism - male headship on steroids, ongoing revelation, etc. Oh, and they were nice.

One key thing about Mormonism is its gnostic tendency - only those that are "inside" can gain the secret knowledge, visit those inner rooms, or mail-order the underwear. In this way it is much more like Freemasonry than Christianity.

In the Protestant church, our religion is an "open book" - no hidden scriptures, no secret teachings only for initiates. We don't even send unbelievers out during the Lord's Supper anymore (as the early church often did). No secrets - in doctrine, practice or expectations.

Mark B. Hanson said...

And lest I forget, in one sense the Mormons are like the Roman Catholics. At the Council of Trent, the Roman church anathemized the Protestant distinctive of sola fide.

At the Mormons' inception, according to Joseph Smith, the first Mormon prophet, in his vision he asked Jesus which church he should join. "I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong...that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight, that those professors were all corrupt..." (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith History 1:19).

So do they want us, or don't they? I don't think they have ever repudiated this view.

Aaron said...

as a former Mormon I thank you for re posting this it was John MacArthur's book Charismatic Chaos that convinced me to leave The Mormons. Also thanks for calling The LDS Church what it is it is a cult maybe not on the level of The People's Temple but all the destructive dynamics are there and where there in the beginning. So thanks again and keep on keeping on.

olan strickland said...

If Millet only knew that all he needs to do is do away with polygamous practices and fight with evangelicals - not for the faith, but for morality - contending for the sanctity of life, the meaning of marriage, and the nature of religious liberty--he could get the acceptance he desires a whole lot quicker than pretending that John MacArthur agrees with and accepts Mormonism.

donsands said...

Well done. Mormonism comes as an "angel in light" for sure.

I remeber speaking with two young men, LDS's, for quite a spell.
Bottom line I said to them was that there gospel was one of works.
They were very inspiring, and the one Mormon said, "I truly do love Jesus, and wnat to serve Him."
I said "you are loving a jesus of Joseph Smith."

He then said, "Joseph Smith was a great prohpet of God. And I said he was a false prophet.

He then asked me, "Would you pray tonight, and ask God, if He would reveal to you that Joseph Smith is one of His prophets?"

I thought that was strange.

Thanks again for the good post.

Nash Equilibrium said...

An "evangelical" trying to reconcile LDS with Christianity? What is wrong with these people? Do they read the Bible? I swear there is some sort of mental illness at work here.

David said...

We can also thank Richard Mouw for creating this mess, "this mess" being a re-motivated marketing initiative designed to sway post-seekers.

John said...

@Mark B Hanson.
The similarity to Freemasonry is no accident - Smith was a third degree master mason, and apparently ripped off quite a bit of symbolism and ritual for use in LDS.

Rachael Starke said...

That an ostensible scholar so baldly misrepresents the work of another scholar and uses it to build up his own credibility tells me all I need to know about his "scholarship." Does secular academia put up with this craziness the way so-call religious academia does? Shame on Eerdmans.

Aaron said...

Phil is still on the phone with Apple, so nothing fresh today.


On the subject, can you imagine what the reformers would have thought of Mormonism? How can anybody claim with a straight face that Mormonism is Christian? My mom is convinced that when all kinds of sexual degeneracy are legalized, the Mormons will revert to their polygamous roots.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Many sub-sects within Mormonism already have. I think your Mom is probably right about LDS at large going that way, too.

Bobby Grow said...

Actually, I would say Mormonism is more akin to Stoicism than Arianism. I would say that JW's are Arians though.

Aaron said...


Yeah, I should have clarified. I did mean mainstream Mormonism.

Joseph said...

Consider what really is the first principle of Mormanism, that Christian orthodoxy vanished with the death of the last Apostle, not to be restored until Joseph Smith promulgated his epiphany. In view of the 'orthodoxy' that reigned from the time of the early 'Church Fathers' until the Reformers took their ecclesial leave, although the Protestant 'restoration' of 'orthodoxy' followed a radically different track, is its first principle not essentially the same?

Matthew said...

An excellent post. I am seeing more and more Mormans sent over here from Utah and the like. Honestly, it grieves me to see them speaking to people.

Them and the Hare Krishna's!

I now carry in my Bible a number of hard questions for Mormans - some of which they cannot answer.

Sadly, they are blind.

Bobby Grow said...


Your proposition is a false parallel. LDS teaching introduced new revelation; Protestant teaching re-introduced old revelation. Even so, what's your point? The issue isn't methodlogical or how dialectic works; but it is an issue of material substance. Protestants worked within the walls of the church (until they were kicked out, so Martin Luther); Mormans were never in the church (they claimed the church had been lost).

Just some feedback.

Sir Brass said...


I had gotten the impression from some folks (can't remember if it was Al Mohler or Chris Arnzen who said it, though..... it was one of those two programs, though, or maybe both..... memory is fuzzy as to which it was) that the WWCOG had actually repented of their heresies and come to a biblical understanding of the gospel.

I bring this up b/c I'm curious as to the actual state. Don't know anyone who is in the WWCOG, but when I hear somewhat conflicting reports I like to sort out what the actual case is.

P.S. Good luck with Apple. I doubt they'll budge on this one, since I bet that the whole return thing with your iMac was counted as being PART of the apple care plan (since, iirc, the AppleCare plan replaces the regular warranty, not appends additional and extended coverage), so it HAD to be active for you to return the iMac in the first place. Or something like that. Try dealing with them directly at an apple store, though. The apple store folks are WAAAY easier to deal with than folks on a phone. I just got a bad OSX 10.6 disc (that I got when it was first released) replaced today free of charge even though the 90 day thing had run out, simply by going to the apple store and talking to one of the sales reps.

Associate-to-the-Pastor said...

I used to work with a few guys who were WWCOG. If they were representative of its beliefs, then they are definitely heretical. To my knowledge there was a split: one half refusing to change and one half 'moving forward.' The concern of a lot of people is that the group only moved forward in name, merely baptizing their beliefs in acceptable language in order to make nice with everyone else. I do know the guys I worked with denied the personhood of the Holy Spirit and believed that you needed to obey all of the OT laws, feasts, and festivals. During the winter time, they even had to adjust shifts at the shop so they could make it home before dark on Friday evening.

Aaron said...


nice try. The notion of an angel giving direct revelation to a single individual, post canon, was the very thing the Reformers such as Luther, Calvin, and Knox were fighting against. They would have considered Mormonism to be the very spawn of Satan and treated it accordingly. They would have been much less accomodating than today's Christians, that's for sure.

Joseph said...


I see your point, that the Reformation undertook to reintroduce orthodoxy, and that LDS introduced new 'revelation.' I meant just that both regarded the prior, institionalized "orthodoxy,” beginning with the recorded beliefs of the early Church fathers and ending for Protestants with extravagant ~16th century corruptions, ending for LDS with the confusing ecclesial multiplicities of the 19th century.

By Protestants who "worked within the walls of the Church," I trust that you mean such figures as Berengarius (& later, e.g., Wycliffe), whose denial of transubstantiation eventuated in conciliar refutations. Please note, however, that until such proto-Protestants were "kicked out of the Church," and their doctrine was codified as "restored" orthodoxy, the teaching that was transmitted to the numberless millions of believers who constituted the whole body of the Church for 1500 years was RC 'orthodoxy,' fundamentally heterodox, i.e., heretical, by Protestant standards. Hence, as far as the erstwhile codified and universally transmitted beliefs of the Church at large are concerned, wouldn't the Protestant say that orthodoxy rapidly disappeared after the death of the last Apostle?

Joseph said...

Bobby - P.S. (forgive the obvious signs of haste),

A correction:

'I meant that both *rejected* the prior, institutionalized "orthodoxy"...'

Joseph said...

FYI - If you can find it, a subtle and comprehensive debunking of LDS claims to Christian orthodoxy was written by Richard John Neuhaus a few years ago in "First Things." I do not believe its combination of courtesy, forthrightness, and intellectual rigor has been equalled, nor that a substantive rebuttle ever appeared.

Bobby Grow said...

Joseph said:

. . . Hence, as far as the erstwhile codified and universally transmitted beliefs of the Church at large are concerned, wouldn't the Protestant say that orthodoxy rapidly disappeared after the death of the last Apostle?

Not me. But you don't seem to know your patristic theology; there was no "Roman orthodoxy" until at least the 4th cent. (see J.N.D. Kelly). All historic Protestants hold to the ecumenical church councils and creeds, esp: Nicaea, Chalcedon, Constantinople.

As far as Wycliffe, Hus and others; all I see that as is a foreshadowing of things to come (thanks, in part to the Vallan humanist movement). Again, you seem to not know the history --- I don't know --- Martin Luther was apart of a 'church reform' movement (which Cajetan was even in favor of, in ways; as was von Staupitz, Luther's Augustinian Father see Oberman) which sought to 'reform' from within. His excommunication (Decet Romanum Pontificem) of course had social consequences that spawned the Protestant movement; nevertheless, this movement still saw itself operating within the walls of the Western church (which makes it totally different than the parallel you were trying to draw between LDS and Prot -- it makes your parallel false and to me just a rhetorical move). Also see Stephen Strehle's The Catholic Rooots of the Protestant Gospel, this should ally your fears on this point.

Joseph said...


You make the insightful observation that I don't know my 'patristic theology,' nor 'the history.' I am very regrettably ignorant, of surely much more than you observe, and I would be very grateful for the theological specifics I bypass, and the missing historical perspective that leaves my statements more wishful than objective. Perhaps your general summaries of historical periods, and my regrettably narrow focus can converge at the level of the particular.

I mentioned the Eucharist which, complementing its endlessly rich symbolic aspect, was I thought from its earliest appearance in the historical record understood to bring the communicant into actual physical contact with Christ; i.e., it looked still like bread and wine, but became actually, mysteriously, Christ Himself (this and no more and no less is what was later labelled, in the best available terms, 'transubstantiation'). If this is essentially heretical, then the faith transmitted to the numberless millions of believers prior to the doctrinal codification of the Protestant view was fundamentally corrupt. And although I respect that you would not say that orthodoxy vanished after the last Apostle left this languishing world, please would you tell me, with respect to this particular issue, which like other points of contention that were not codified until they were contested, would we not say that what was taught by the Church was heterodox, and therefore a fall from Apostolic orthodoxy? With respect to the Eucharist, where do we find a magisterial, Reformed orthodoxy whole and pure, vouchsafed by Christ's promise and preserved by the Holy Spirit, in the Church of the first several centuries? Calvin's sacramental theology takes Chalcedon as its starting point, but is not logically implicit in the 'distinct but indivisible' language of that council, or the Church must be found guilty of immediately misunderstanding its own doctrinal pronouncement.

Joseph said...

Bobby et al.,

That is, although certainly the LDS community abandoned fundamentals of "mere Christianity," and the Reformation sought to restore them, both expressed belief that the historical Church adopted heretical practices after the death of the Apostles, such as the RC Eucharist (Clement of Rome: the Eucharist is an "oblation/sacrifice"; the Didache: "sacred" & "a sacrifice"; Ignatius of Antioch: "the flesh of Christ"), and that the Apostles' successors lost the Apostles' authority to forgive sins (Jn. 20:23) and transmit the faith infallibly ("Who hears you hears Me.")

I would mention too that Luther's campaign to "reform from within" against seemingly overwhelming odds is not without precedent. Threats against the life of Athanasius, by a Church heierarchy that had largely turned Arian, were constant. He persevered virtually single-handedly from within the Church, however, until orthodoxy was restored. (Note that he too shared the modern RC view of the Eucharist.)

Joseph said...

With respect to your list of MacArthur's truths contra-Mormanism, you cite:

(i) "Scripture is the touchstone to which all other truth-claims must be brought (Isaiah 8:20)"; and (ii) "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."

Re. (i), in the OT God's people were afforded prophets and Scripture alone, but isn't the sole relevant categorical directive in the NT, expressly and exclusively identifying the touchstone of truth-claims, 1 Tim. 3:15? - "The Church... pillar and mainstay of truth."

And re. (ii), in Acts 17 the Bereans did not turn to Scripture to verify everything revealed to them by Paul and Silas, but to determine whether or not the living, breathing men before them could be accepted as bearers of the Good News only intimated in the OT, fulfilling OT promises and not violating them. If Scripture alone were "sufficient" (this being nowhere taught in Scripture; c.f. 1 Tim. 3:15), Paul and Silas could have directed the Bereans to the decisive verses, perhaps supplied the little exegetical aid needed by the diligent Bereans, and then been on their way.

Joseph said...

..in conclusion,.. you observe that "After all, a few other cults and "-isms" have already successfully mainstreamed themselves by simply appealing to the ever-broadening evangelical consensus... Roman Catholicism has sought and received the evangelical imprimatur from dozens of key evangelical leaders in recent years." Please, specifically which RC initiative sought an evangelical imprimatur? The RC Church has sought dialogue certainly, the fruit of which has been the polite obtuseness of joint statements that founder on fundamentally divergent meanings of their terms, much like the result of RC-Muslim talks following the controversial Regensburg address. From whom did the RC Church receive an imprimatur? Elements of Vatican II have been construed as overtures to Protestant Christendom, but this forced rendering was in fact the work of liberals whose higher purpose was the accommodation of modernity. I belabor this only because one who would evangelize Roman Catholics must show integrity enough to know objectively what RCs believe. The nearly uniform rule among Evangelicals is rather a cavalier, not infrequently obstinate, insistence on quite egregious distortions of RC doctrine. If we are to love our neighbor we must be willing to take the trouble to know who he is, and not strain to disabuse him of beliefs he does not hold.

Bobby Grow said...


I meant no disrespect by my comments to you; sometimes my tone gets a way from me.

To be honest, I'm not even sure what you're trying to argue --- I'm assuming you're RC --- but your points are non-starters as far as dealing with actual material dogmatic loci. You're assuming a certain ecclesiology, which then informs the way you're approaching things here. I reject your apparent ecclesiological framework, which then means that I subsequently reject "what I think" you're trying to say.

If you want to argue points of material value (like conceptual points relative to soteriology, christology, etc.) then that would be a better way forward --- but then I think that would take this thread off point. I don't really think you have much of a point . . .

In Christ

Joseph said...


You propose that I am begging the question; i.e., that my statements to some extent assume my conclusion, an ecclesiology that you reject, and therefore I am endeavoring to start a discussion beyond a proper, shared starting point.

I have taken pains to assume only two things: (1) historical and Biblical data which I think we can acknolwedge to be objectively ascertainable and thus shared, and (2) that rigorous reasoning is fully compatible with faith.

Please, would you point out the ecclesiological assumptions implicit in my reasoning? If I have failed to avoid tacitly incorporating an ecclesiology, please help me avoid repeating my failure.

Christ's peace be with you.

Bobby Grow said...

Peace, Joseph.

Joseph said...

P.S. Sorry, in response to your query about my purpose, I was exploring the possibility that the LDS view of early Church beliefs is not altogether unlike that of Protestants.

Was there a Christian Church teaching the whole Truth throughout the 1st 1500 years of Christendom, or not? If the historical record is indicative of the actual development of doctrine, a Protestant Christian, like the LDS, apparently must answer no. The Roman Catholic of course answers yes.

I have attended a Presbyterian church (PCA) for 10 years with my wife and now 7 children. In response to my questions about the particulars of Reformed theology 7 year ago, I was given R.C. Sproul's "Grace Unknown." I read it, Jonathan Edwards, J.H. Newman, and others. It was after all my grave need of the gift described in John 20:23, however, that led me to the Catholic Church.

Joseph said...

An earnest postman studied his route assiduously and walked his neighborhoods with obvious confidence. Given any name, he could cite the street and house number, given a street and number he could cite the name. Then he met a little boy who, absorbed in the bouncing of his ball, had wandered far from his home. The boy, finding himself in front of the home of a kindly old woman, whom he had often greeted and who had walked him home before, observed to the postman: "I’m glad this is Mrs. A’s house. She’s a nice lady who knows where I live and can take me home.” The postman said: “Oh, that’s number 19 Cedar Circle, have a nice day.” The boy didn’t understand, of course, because he knew none of the addresses, only about the historical, existential fact of the relationship, though he would have expressed this only as “Huh?”

Bobby Grow said...

Like I said, Joseph, you have caricatured Protestants. I already answered your question on the 1st 1500 yrs; yet you cont. to go with the caricature.

I'm sorry you think Sproul and others are the only reps of the Prot. church within the reformed camp; but you're mistaken, if you think that. The fact that Prot, in general, hold to Chalcedonian christology (etc.) debunks your assertions straight up. Like I said, Prot. teaching is deeply grounded in the Tradition of the church. The problem is ecclesiology and authority structure, not some sort of discontinuity between the 1st 1500 yrs and Prot now. I think your point is a non-starter. Your assertion and caricature of Prot. is inaccurate; thus your conclusions are non-sequiter.

This discussion is over for me, I'm sorry you've gone Rome; but there's still hope!

Joseph said...


Thank you for your patience. I suspect you're right. We had best agree to disagree. I am a little puzzled though. You hadn't remarked my caricaturing Protestants, nor that Prot. teaching is deeply grounded in tradition.

If you will forgive my directness, our fundamental difference is not so much ecclesial as logical. You recall the media was astir with a Sept. '06 lecture in Regensburg Germany. It was a learned critique of Muslim thought. It was also an elemental critique of Protestant thought, observing that the Reformation revised the relation between faith and reason. Islam responded as expected, but also with overtures. The critique of Protestant thought, and a sequel two years later in Paris, both remain uncontested. If you are inclined to defend your heritage, the transcript is widely available.

Joseph said...

Thought let us be frank. The discussion was over before you started.

Bobby Grow said...

Whatever, Joseph.

I can't believe you're appealing to Muslim critiques of Prot. thought; are you serious?

As far as Faith and Reason, not sure what you're referring to; but I have spent plenty of time critiquing Thomism (within Prot, let alone RC), along with TF Torrance, Karl Barth.

So far you haven't evidenced that you're aware of any critical scholarship in the area of theology. Spend some more time engaging real theologians, and understanding the history of ideas (and quit appealing to anecdotal "studies" that you think are unanswered --- an argument from silence, Joseph), as well as understanding some basics of logic (you've engaged in caricature, sweeping generalizations, post hoc fallacies, and more). I'm totally unimpressed with your approach, Joseph.

Gidday (as my NZ friend would say).

Joseph said...

I did not cite a Muslim critique of Prot. thought, but a critique of all thought that limits the application of reason (the Logos is identically 'reason and word'). The critique opened with assessment of Mulsim thought, and then expressed concern as earnest, and for fundamentally the same reason, the the legacy of the Reformation. It was not an 'anecdotal study' but a scholarly synopsis of the whole history of the relation of faith and reason, by Pope Benedict.
One is not rash to include him among 'real theologians.' His point was that the Reformation devalued reason. I very respectfully and gently note that your 'declarative' approach has marshalled sweeping generalizations, but has not cited a single specific "caricature, sweeping generalization, or post hoc fallacy" in my reasoning. If my reasoning betrays an ill-informed, ignorant perspective, then please take this opportunity to exercise your Christian charity and correct a specific fault, any specific fault. You have, again forgive me, been a bit evasive.

Don't they say G'day?

Joseph said...

You know what argument ad hominem is. You have not yet departed from this. If I insulted you at the outset, please forgive me. As a weak and wretched creature, I assure you that I seek one thing only, and that is the conformity of my life to that of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, by Whose grace alone I have hope, but a glorious hope.

Joseph said...

And Bobby, that you cite me for "appealing to a Muslim critique of Protestant thought" suggests that you did not apply your certainly very keen intellect to what I last wrote you. I was not unclear about the nature of the Regensburg address. It was the center of Media attention when it was delivered. Remember the Muslim violence that answered the appeal to Muslims to reconsider violence?

I do very much appreciate your willingness to continue an exchange that does not comport with your theological commitment. Perhaps we could continue at your blog?

Bobby Grow said...


There's no doubt that Ratzinger is a top-notch Catholic scholar. It's just that commitment to Thomism serves as the framework through which he makes his pronouncements with faith and reason and the Reformation. I'm no Thomist, if anything Scotist (at least per a doctrine of God).

I'm not going to itemize the various fallacies I noted previously. Although I would submit that they are there.

If you want to come over to my blog and comment, that would be fine. I like to stay on the topic of the particular post, usually. But there is some flexibility within the posts for broader discussion --- like the most recent post I have up now.

Maybe you'll come back over the Tiber; I can only hope, Joseph semper Reformanda.

Joseph said...

What is the origin of 'Semper reformanda'?

It stands to reason that, if individual conscience is trusted to hear and heed the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and regarded as the final arbiter of religious truth, an ill-formed conscience could divert one out of Christianity. Of course this supposes that one's faith can founder like a froward ship on a reef.

Sam Lundstrom said...

I'm LDS and would like to leave some thoughts. Getting back to the original post. I have not read Dr. Millet's book and know nothing of MacArthur's teachings (apart from what has been discussed in this post). I think the whole premise that LDS are seeking 'rapproachement' with orthodox Christians is flawed. I don't know the content of Millet's argument, but LDS in general are aware that our faith is fundamentally different than orthodox Christianity. If it was not there would have been no need for a restoration. We also hold to the revelation given to Joseph Smith that the creeds are 'an abomination' in God's sight, and that the professors of Christianity had become 'corrupt'. What LDS object to, is the accusation that since we don't hold to orthodox views we aren't Christian. Christ is the very center of our faith. It would be more proper to say we aren't creedal Christians (or something along those lines)

Re: MacArthur's Four Points

The issue of authority
Having grown up LDS I am puzzled by the evangelical claim to biblical inerrancy and authority. We believe that God is the ultimate authority. That scripture (as far as it is translated correctly) is God's word. That God can speak through his prophetic servants to provide more of his word whenever he wants. After all, he's God isn't he? The question is not whether God can provide more scripture, the question is whether that which claims scriptural authority is true. Read the Book of Mormon and find out for yourself. The verse quoted in Revelations could not possibly refer to the Bible since the canon did not exist when John received the Revelation. So on that we agree, John's Revelation cannot be added to or changed.

The doctrine of God.
We reject the creedal doctrine of the trinity. Our understanding of the nature of God is based on revelation to Joseph Smith, consistent with our interpretation of biblical scripture. The trinitarian doctrine is the product of democratic deliberation (admittedly non-revelatory)consistent with orthodox interpretation of the bible.

The supremacy of Christ.
We believe that Christ is a pre-existant God,the Jehovah of the Old Testament. He is not the spirit child of Mary in our doctrine. He is the Son of God in the spirit and the flesh, the son of Mary in the flesh only.

The means of justification.
This is a common misinterpretation of LDS doctrine on justification. We believe that man is saved by grace alone. Grace is conditional however on Man's 'faith unto repentance'. As the Book of Mormon tells us:

And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.
16 And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption.

Good works naturally follow one who is born of Christ and truly repents of all sin, therefore God is able to judge us by our works.