18 December 2009

Talbot-Trained "Evangelical" apologists for Mormonism?

Clueless Losers?
Carl Mosser and Paul Owen Weigh in on my comments about MacArthur, Millet, and Mormonism

(First posted Thursday, September 08, 2005)

n 1997 Carl Mosser and Paul Owen were graduate students at Talbot School of Theology. In April of that year, they jointly presented a paper at the Far West regional meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. The paper, titled "Mormon Scholarship, Apologetics, and Evangelical Neglect: Losing the Battle and Not Knowing It?" was a harsh critique of evangelical counter-cult ministries and a paean to the supposed superiority of Mormon scholarship.

Mosser and Owen said that when it comes to dealing with Mormon apologetics, evangelical apologists are, on the whole, clueless losers. That wasn't the precise language they used, of course, but it was undeniably the point of the paper. In their own words: "At the academic level evangelicals are losing the debate with the Mormons. We are losing the battle and do not know it. In recent years the sophistication and erudition of LDS apologetics has risen considerably while evangelical responses have not." And, "In this battle the Mormons are fighting valiantly. And the evangelicals? It appears that we may be losing the battle and not knowing it."

If nothing else, the paper was a public-relations bonanza for Mormons. It can still be found on websites offering Mormon missionaries ammunition for use against evangelicals. (One site includes a glossary that explains terms like apologetic and hermeneutics. Evidently, impressive as current Mormon scholarship may be, there are still a few Mormons bicycling around your neighborhood who haven't quite acquired the highbrow theological vocabulary or attained the rarefied level of scholarly erudition embodied in the work of these two Talbot students.)

Anyway, about a year after Mosser and Owen presented their ETS paper, they participated in an e-mail forum on apologetics where I occasionally posted. When the subject of Mormon soteriology came up, sure enough, the Millet-MacArthur meeting (see [Monday's] post) was instantly played like a trump card. What follows are my four contributions to the subsequent discussion.

These are somewhat long but (I think) not tedious, and well worth the time. The discussion was filled with insights on the subjects of cluelessness, scholarship, research, even-handedness, logic, apologetics, and effective evangelism. From these four messages you'll be able to discern the gist of what was being said on all sides. (These are posts from a discussion forum, so this is not private correspondence I am quoting from.)

Subject: The truth about MacArthur and the Mormons
Date: Wed, 4 Mar 1998 13:55:33 -800

Carl Mosser writes:

Millet has gone so far as to meet with John MacArthur in person to make sure that they understood matters similarly. I don't know what MacArthur's evaluation of the meeting was, but a pastor friend who was instrumental in organizing the meeting and who participated told me that Millet and MacArthur came very close together in their views on this matter.

That was definitely not MacArthur's perspective.

Millet and others have selectively cited snippets from The Gospel According to Jesus and Faith Works to try to suggest that their view of justification is not much different from John MacArthur's. They evidently imagine that when MacArthur points out the inevitability of good works in a true Christian's life he is saying good works are in some sense the ground of the Christian's justification. The truth is that MacArthur has gone to great lengths to insist otherwise, even to the point of writing a whole chapter exploring this point with regard to justification by faith alone in Faith Works.

The difference between MacArthur and the Mormons (on justification) is that MacArthur believes the imputed righteousness of Christ is the sole and sufficient ground of the Christian's justification. The Mormons deny this. Since both sides believe a changed life is the necessary and inevitable result of conversion, Millet wants to portray their difference over justification by faith alone as insignificant. But it is not. It is the whole difference between the true gospel and the lie the apostle Paul anathematized in Galatians 1. (Proponents of ECT would do well to take note of this point, too).

In the Millet-MacArthur meetings MacArthur highlighted those issues and also pointed out that Mormon Christology is fatally flawed. In fact, Mormonism's flawed Christology is one of the heresies lying at the root of the Mormon error over justification by faith.

I'm told that the meeting was cordial, even warm. (I was supposed to be there but ended up in hospital that week, so my knowledge of this meeting is based on what John MacArthur and Jerry Wragg [associate pastor, who attended the meeting] told me.) But the friendly tone of the meeting should not be used to obscure the substance of what was said. If someone is telling you that MacArthur and the Mormons were close to agreement on the gospel, that person either missed the point or is spin-doctoring the issues for PR purposes.

I was also told that MacArthur—in classic MacArthur style—grilled Millet with questions, forced him to make distinctions, etc. to make sure that he really held the view he said he did.

. . . and he did this to underscore for Millet's sake the fact that Millet's view is not the same as MacArthur's.

All indications are that in certain Mormon circles a substantive move has been made toward an orthodox position.

"A substantive move" toward orthodoxy? I can say this with certainty: MacArthur would call that a gross overstatement. I think the most he would say is that these guys are getting very good at nuancing their position to make it sound evangelical. We're very wary of a Mormon-evangelical effort that mirrors what the proponents of ECT are doing on the Catholic front.

Phillip R. Johnson

Subject: Re: MacArthur, Millet & theological coffee brewing
Date: Thu, 5 Mar 1998 16:56:44 -800

Carl Mosser writes:

I suppose there could be something I have missed or forgot, but to my recollection no Mormon interprets MacArthur as saying that "good works are in some sense the ground of the Christian's justification."

I doubt he has employed those very words. That was my summary of Millet's position. It is, I believe, a fair assessment of why he has seized on MacArthur's works to stress the importance of good works. Combine his view that works are necessary with a denial of sola fide, and there's no option I know of but the view that "good works are in some sense the ground of the Christian's justification"—even if that's not precisely the language he is currently using to state his own position.

I agree that Millet wants to portray the difference over the word "alone" as insignificant.; I also agree with you that it is not insignificant. Further, I agree that proponents of ECT should take note of this point. However, the points raised by myself and Paul Owen are not that Mormons now hold a completely orthodox soteriology free from Gal. 1's condemnation. What we are trying to get across to people is that there is a trend in Mormon soteriology toward a more orthodox understanding of grace and works and justification.

I understand. What I don't understand is your eagerness to view this trend with such a high level of optimism. A damnable theology is still damnable whether it is overt, like Zoroastrianism, or subtle, like Galatianism. In fact, I would argue that Galatianism poses a greater danger precisely because of its close resemblance to orthodoxy. The subtlety of it makes it something we should argue even more fiercely against.

Furthermore, I know of no case where any cult has become evangelical through doctrinal evolution. The jury is still out on the WWCOG [Worldwide Church of God], as far as I am concerned. I'm hoping to see them arrive at a sound position and park themselves there, but there's no guarantee it will happen. In fact, I'll be surprised if it does. There is certainly no precedent for it.

(I realize many have already declared the WWCOG perfectly sound, but I fear the "movement" we have seen in the WWCOG is already propelling them beyond evangelical orthodoxy, into neo-orthodoxy mixed with a dangerous ecumenism. More frighteningly, they seem to be following the [Robert] Brinsmead trail. Some of you will know what I mean.)

Here I think you have not read what I wrote very carefully. I did not in any way say that MacArthur and the Mormons were close to agreement on the gospel. My point was made in direct reference to the specific aspect of grace and works. Millet's and MacArthur's views are close to each other on the role works play in evidencing true faith, how true faith manifests itself in faithfulness, etc..

. . . but only in the sense that Galatianism was "close" to the true gospel. The Judaizers' legalism was certainly closer to the truth than non-Christian Pharisaism. But Paul evidently did not have the sort of enthusiasm about the Galatian legalists that you seem to think evangelicals ought to have for these rogue Mormons' subtle adaptations of evangelical soteriology.

It was reported to me that MacArthur in fact said that he was positive about what he heard if it is genuine, encouraged Millet to keep asking the types of questions he did, and was encouraged of what is happening in Mormonism if Millet is representative. Please ask him if this is accurate, I'll check my source as well.

MacArthur may well have said those things, or something close—but I know for a fact that he said much more. Others who were in the meeting told me he kindly suggested to Millet that when Millet came to a full understanding of biblical soteriology, he would be compelled in spirit and in conscience to leave Mormonism.

MacArthur tells me he does not see how anyone who was present at those meetings could possibly have come away with the opinion that John MacArthur believes evangelical-Mormon rapprochement is a valid means of evangelizing Mormons.

A final point. The fact that there even was a meeting between an important and influential Mormon thinker and a prominent Evangelical for the express purpose of discussing theology is quite an illustration of the points about change occurring that I and Paul are trying to make. First, this shows that Mormons are beginning to read Evangelical literature. This in itself is an important change. It shows that they are not finding their own writings sufficiently helpful when doing theology. So, they are turning to ours. Good. I am glad they are reading our books, this might influence them toward truth (rather than reading liberals who would leave them damned). Second, it is a change that a Mormon of Millet's stature would look up to and learn from an Evangelical like MacArthur.

You're saying you have no fear that this might to some degree involve nuancing or posturing for PR purposes?

There must be something in Millet's theology different from his predecessors' that he would find MacArthur's Protestant views so attractive. That Millet, Dean of Religious Education at BYU, went out of his way to fly to California to meet with MacArthur indicates something new blowing in the wind. The LDS Church may not yet be on the brink of a WWCOG kind of change, but something is brewing in Mormonism's coffee house.

That vague almond-flavor I smell reeks of cyanide, not Amaretto.

Taking my coffee with cream and sugar,

Spitting mine out quickly,

Phillip R. Johnson

Subject: Re: Mormonism
Date: Fri, 6 Mar 1998 11:00:16 -800

Paul Owen gave me permission to respond publicly to a post he sent privately, because the server won't let him post to the list. So in fairness to him I have quoted his entire post below. Nothing has been cut. However, my comments have been interspersed at the points where they apply:

Mr. Johnson, I am emailing you personally because something is not working right with my [DISCUSSION FORUM] account, and none of my messages seem to get through. _________ says he is working on it. Before I get started, just for trivia sake, you probably don't remember me but several years back when I was in Bible college, I sent a critique of Charismatic Chaos to MacArthur and you sent me a rather cordial letter in reply.

I looked it up in my correspondence log. I do remember.

Now, about Mormonism. I am going to be rather straightforward. You need to repent. I find your attitude to be most disturbing.

Interesting. We've never exchanged any correspondence on this issue. You don't really know how much or how little I know about Mormonism. Yet you're insisting I need to repent, and telling me so in unvarnished language.

Excuse me, but isn't that precisely the approach you are labeling uncharitable and unfruitful when applied in Mormon evangelism?

The bulk of the Evangelical counter-cult community is dead wrong in their attitude toward current trends in Mormonism. I don't know how I can put it any more plainly. My reasons for using such harsh language are manifold. First of all, neither you or John MacArthur have done enough reading in current LDS theological literature to make the bold, unqualified statements that you have made to Carl in your responses to him. Your views seem to be based entirely on one conversation between Millet and MacArthur. That hardly constitutes exhaustive research.

Well, I've never claimed that I have done "exhaustive research" into the latest trends in Mormonism. But the truth is, Paul, you have no basis whatsoever for speculating on how much or how little I have studied these issues. In other words, I have far better reasons for saying Mormons need to repent than you have for saying I need to repent.

And please, don't tell me that you have talked with lots of Mormons, and so you have a good handle on what their views are. You critique theological trends by interacting with qualified theologians, not untrained laypersons.

I wasn't going to tell you that. It strikes me as somewhat odd that while you're wagging your finger at me about my lack of scholarship you seem to imagine you can read my mind. :-)

By the way, this is very similar to my complaints about Charismatic Chaos. MacArthur interacted very little with careful Pentecostal and Charismatic theologians, and based his critique largely on the easiest of targets.

Thanks for sharing that. It's perfectly irrelevant to the point we're talking about here, though.

You display your lack of familiarity with LDS views in your comments. For instance, you still cling to the notion that Millet and company believe that good works are 'in some sense the ground of the Christian's justification.' But a reading of the current literature proves you dead wrong. Robinson, Millet, Lund and numerous others have stated rather clearly in numerous published works, that justification is based Soli on Christ's merits. They not only do not affirm, but in fact expressly deny that our works are the ground of justification. They believe and teach, unlike Roman Catholicism, that justification is forensic, and involves the imputation of Christ's perfect righteousness to the believer.

Well, I have read some of the literature Millet shared with MacArthur—enough to know you are giving an overly generous summary of his position. Though he acknowledges in places that the sinner's own works are not sufficient for justification, he insists throughout that our works are necessary for our justification. (You don't cite any quotations that support your interpretation of his position, which would have helped.)

In any case, the Mormons are hardly in the Reformation tradition. The comments on justification I have seen from Mormon sources— even the recent ones—are seriously muddled at best, even if they are not explicit denials of sola fide. I have seen nothing from any Mormon author defending forensic justification, and that was certainly not a point Millet made in his dialogue with MacArthur.

However, whatever Mormons might say about the imputation of Christ's righteousness must be understood in light of their mangled Christology, and it cannot be orthodox, no matter how much they employ the language of imputation.

It is true, that current LDS theologians continue to stress the necessity of good works. But such works are not understood as meriting justification in any way, but rather are markers of sincerity, and the fruit of true faith. In other words, works are necessary as evidence of genuine faith and repentance. Because Mormons (I mean of the Robinson-Millet variety—the current trend) stress that faith must be accompanied by works in this manner, they are hesitant to adhere to the formula 'faith alone' unless this is qualified very carefully.

I would indeed like to see how they qualify it without making works a ground of justification, or without making works part of the definition of faith (which is tantamount to the same thing). If you know of a source you can point me to, I'll be happy to read it. But if you're saying the trend in Mormon theology is toward sola fide, and you want me to buy that, you're going to have to supply something more than assertions.

But Robinson himself has stated that he is willing to speak of 'faith alone' so long as works are not thereby excluded as 'evidence' of true commitment. It is also true that Mormons still believe that baptism is necessary for regeneration and union with Christ. But please keep in mind that such champions of grace as Augustine and Luther both likewise believed in baptismal regeneration—so this does not automatically make the Mormons legalists.

It doesn't? I'd say on that issue both Augustine and Luther were wrong, and their views on baptism smacked of a ritualistic legalism. In their arguments against Pelagianism and semi-pelagianism, however, both Luther and Augustine gave enough crystal-clear teaching about divine grace to retrieve the core of the gospel from the murkiness of their own legalistic understanding of baptism. I affirm what they wrote about grace; I deplore what they wrote about baptismal regeneration. I regard them as authentic Christians because their defense of grace made it clear that they understood the gospel sufficiently, even though they did not understand it perfectly. In both cases, grace was the central message of their ministry, and what we remember them most for.

The New Mormons, by contrast, merely seem to be trying to cloak the Pelagian principle at the heart of their belief system with some cunningly-adapted evangelical terminology. That doesn't work for me. There's no valid parallelism between Augustine and Robert Millet.

If you disagree, show me a Mormon source that elucidates the doctrines of grace as clearly as Luther's Bondage of the Will or Augustine's "Treatise on Nature and Grace," and I might think you're onto something. At the moment, though, it sounds to me as if you and Carl think Mormonism might be embraced as truly Christian with a little subtle nuancing. I hope that is not what you are saying.

Second, I can't understand why on earth you say to Carl, 'What I don't understand is your eagerness to view this trend with such a high level of optimism.' Why shouldn't we be optimistic about seeing important and influential LDS thinkers looking to orthodox Christian writers like MacArthur for theological guidance? Why shouldn't we be encouraged when we see adherents of another religion being attracted by the beautiful simplicity of the Gospel of Grace? Why on earth do you have such a rotten attitude about this?

I don't know, Paul. Heresy just has a way of making me indignant.

I can just hear some 1st-century theological student on the banks of the Jordan: "Why shouldn't we be optimistic when important and influential Pharisees come to a prophet like John the Baptist for baptism? Why shouldn't we be encouraged when we see adherents of other sects being attracted by John's call to repentance? Why on earth does John have such a rotten attitude about this?" (Matt. 3:7-8).

Third, your comparison of Mormon theologians to the Galatian heretics is hermeneutically irresponsible. The problem at Galatia was far more than a simple issue of legalism. A comparison with Acts 15 will show that there were a variety of approaches to the Mosaic Law in the earliest decades of the Church, within the genuine believing community. The Pharisaic wing of the Church (Acts 15:5) was not automatically condemned as heretical, although it was determined that the view of Paul and Barnabas was most consistent with Scripture and the will of God. The issue at Galatia was that the false teachers were denying Paul's apostolic credentials and divine calling. They were tearing apart the Christian community by claiming that the Gospel which Paul brought to them was inadequate.

So you're saying all those conditions must be present before we oppose Mormonism as utterly non-Christian? I disagree, and I think your position is the one that's "hermeneutically irresponsible." In fact, what you're suggesting takes the force out of Paul's warning to the Galatians. Paul himself said that when someone corrupts the gospel, that alone is grounds for rejecting them (Gal. 1:8-9). Paul's apostolic authority was not even an issue: "But even if we . . . should preach to you a contrary gospel . . . anathema!" (v. 8).

Now I agree that the Mormon church at the present time still falls under the category of Galatianism in that they claim to be the only divinely authorized Church. But they are significantly different from the Galatian heretics in that: 1) They affirm the Apostle Paul's credentials and authority; and 2) They do not teach that law-keeping is necessary for justification—except as evidence of genuine faith, which I have already discussed.

Whether Mormons accept Paul's apostolic credentials or not is irrelevant if they corrupt the gospel. See above. Plus, they worship a different Christ. They are not Christians.

Finally, I simply cannot believe that you are so suspicious of the motives of these people. Do you really think that Millet flew all the way to California just to learn from MacArthur how to masquerade better as a Christian? I am so weary of hearing all this talk about how the Mormon Church is 'trying' to sound Christian. Maybe they are 'trying' to sound like the Apostle Paul and other New Testament writers. Have you ever thought of that?

I'm certain that many JWs sincerely believe they are "trying" to be totally biblical, and Pauline. That does not obligate me to embrace them as brethren. If Christ's sheep hear His voice and follow Him (Jn. 10:27), what does that say about Mormons, who follow a different christ? (cf. Jn. 10:5).

Anyways, if __________ fixes whatever is wrong my previous message may end up getting posted, which you can ignore because it is very similar to what I have just written to you. Then again, you will probably ignore this email letter. If you choose to say anything in reply, you can do it personally, or on [the public forum]. Sincerely, Paul Owen

As you can see, I did not ignore your e-mail. It strikes me as odd, Paul, that you are so eager to be charitable and friendly to Mormons but are perfectly willing to think evil of evangelicals. I fear for where this crusade will lead you. And I would urge you to contemplate how seriously out of harmony with the NT your approach to Mormonism is. Where do you see Paul—or any NT writer, for that matter—responding to false religion by trying to woo the false teachers into the fold?

Phillip R. Johnson

Subject: Final comments on MacArthur and Millet
Date: Mon, 9 Mar 1998 01:16:26 -800

Carl Mosser writes:

[Forum members], notice that Johnson has not read Millet or any other Mormons.

I have made no pretense of any broad expertise with regard to "the latest in Mormon theological developments." What prompted me to enter this thread in the first place was Carl Mosser's suggestion that John MacArthur and modern Mormon scholars are "very close together in their views" on soteriology. The implication of Carl's earlier posts seemed to be that John MacArthur's recent meeting with Prof. Millet had resulted in near total accord between MacArthur and Millet on the crucial aspects of soteriology. The point I was keen to make is that John MacArthur himself does not believe that to be the case. I'll reiterate that here for clarity's sake.

Millet evidently came to the meeting eager to assure John MacArthur of his personal agreement with MacArthur's two books The Gospel According to Jesus and Faith Works. After listening graciously to Millet explain why he believed the two of them were in harmony, John MacArthur explained why he believed otherwise. I'm told (by others present at the meetings) that John's side of the dialogue consisted chiefly of underscoring for Millet what a great chasm remained between their positions. John himself tells me he reminded Millet that the two of them worship different Gods, follow different Christs, and proclaim different gospels. There is no real common ground. John says Millet's response was cordial: "I would have been disappointed in you if you had not been frank with me." Others present have confirmed that is what Millet said.

(BTW, I would have been in those meetings myself but I was quite literally lingering at death's doorstep those couple of days, undergoing three surgeries in as many days for a ruptured gall bladder. I'm not speaking as a distant observer but as someone who had a close interest in that dialogue from the beginning.)

In any case, I will be happy to get a formal statement from John MacArthur himself if Carl or anyone else wants to dispute the point further. It is simply wrong and misleading to suggest that MacArthur's views on justification and the role of faith and works are not significantly different from Millet's.

I also want to say this about the broad issue of Mormon apologetics: If Carl Mosser and Paul Owen were only saying that evangelical apologists need to stay abreast of recent Mormon scholarship and handle Mormon beliefs with integrity, I would agree completely, of course. And to the degree that this is what they are saying, I affirm the point.

However, I frankly have not seen much evidence that Mosser's and Owen's own approach to "scholarship" is dispassionate and without an agenda. Their responses to me have been anything but scholarly and fair. Paul's first words to me were a demand for my repentance, and Carl spent a couple of posts trying to discredit scholarly credentials I never claimed for myself in the first place. Both have condemned my "attitude," which they have far less basis to evaluate than I have for concluding that modern Mormon soteriology is unorthodox.

When Carl suggested that Mormon soteriology is substantially in harmony with Reformed and evangelical beliefs and then summoned John MacArthur's name as a witness in favor of that assertion, I felt I had both a right and a duty to speak up on MacArthur's behalf. Mormon scholar or not, I certainly have enough knowledge to refute that claim with some authority. I will do so again if anyone tries to represent MacArthur's position as "very close" to anything that would harmonize with Mormon theology. As MacArthur pointed out to Millet himself, Mormon Christology a priori rules out an orthodox position on justification. The two positions, far from being "very close" to one another, are quite incompatible. That is the main point I have tried to make, and attacking me on the grounds that I have not thoroughly studied Millet's works does not nullify the point.

Carl writes,

It should be mentioned, in order to be fair, that when Mormons like Robinson and Millet say that they deny sola fide they are very careful to qualify just what they mean by this. They deny any version of sola fide interpreted to mean that one can be saved by a faith that is alone, that does not manifest itself in works. That is, they deny the Zane Hodges understanding of sola fide. They are also careful to say that they do not see works as the basis of justification. They are careful to tell us that they believe faith is the only ground of justification and that if one understands sola fide to mean that true saving faith will manifest itself in good works, then they do believe in sola fide.

However (and this was precisely the sort of thing I was talking about from the beginning): we do not believe faith is the ground of justification at all. The ground of justification is the perfect righteousness of Christ. Faith is simply the instrument by which justification is applied. I believe John MacArthur attempted to clarify some of these very issues with Millet. These are not minor differences but the very kind of difference that separates evangelicalism from virtually every cult.

I need to close out my involvement in this thread. We are hosting two international conferences at our church this week, and I will be swamped. So this must be my last contribution to this discussion. But let me say this once more in closing:

On the question of evangelical scholarship, I agree completely that those who work as apologists against Mormonism (I am not one of these and do not aspire to be) should diligently familiarize themselves with current Mormon trends. And all of us who speak about Mormon doctrine should do so responsibly and with the highest standards of integrity.

But I also believe that those evangelicals who study Mormon trends ought to do so dispassionately, without forming any Mormon- evangelical alliances. Mormonism is, after all, a false religion masquerading as Christianity. The spirit of 2 John 7-11 certainly applies here.

If that strikes you as an attitude for which I need to repent, you'll have to give me some biblical justification for that—not just an emotion-laden jeremiad. In the meantime I stand unashamedly against Mormonism as a false religion that damns its adherents. Love for Mormons compels me not to obscure that dreadful reality from them. And loyalty to the gospel binds me to that conviction.

Still wary of Mormons offering coffee,

Phillip R. Johnson

Phil's signature


Bobby Grow said...

Wow, that was long!

You're not saying that Carl Mosser and Paul Owen are actual scholars, are you Phil? If their interaction with you is any indication of their scholarly acumen, then I would say that "Evangelical" scholarship is in need of an over-haul.

LDS will always be a cult simply because they deny the Jesus of the Bible (just like JW's and Muslims). Get the wrong Jesus, get the wrong Gospel.

Sir Brass said...

I find their claims against you to be quite interesting, Phil. Not saying that you actually ARE well-versed with Mormons if you said that at that time you were not (as in, having had a good deal of interaction with them, etc.). However, others in the Reformed camp who you ARE close to, HAVE had a great deal of regular interaction with them. Enough for them to reliably pass on that Mormonism is still quite alive and well (though I know Dr. White has said recently that mormons seem to have lost their way..... but that's more along the lines of them drifting about.... NOT drifting towards biblical orthodoxy) in their Arianism, Pelagianism, and Henotheism.

When we know fellow workmen for the Gospel who have our implicit trust who regularly do interact and witness to Mormons tell us something different than what these two men have told us, then I'm more likely to be thinking that they're either overly optimistic, envisioning a pipe-dream, downright deluded, or almost ecumenical (in the very bad sense of the word).

I WILL say that the mormons have gotten better at hiding their gross paganism behind alot of our language. To those ignorant of the true issues, their words make them sound like they're as orthodox as reputable as most solid evangelical leaders. However, to those who know what they do believe, they can see how the mormons redefine those terms taken from our vocabulary. It's a regular dowry/cow mixup (Fiddler On The Roof reference) if one isn't careful to define terms. They're getting craftier about it.

Mormons Are Christian said...

Perhaps some Evangelicals understand that the Church of Jesus Christ has a legitimate claim to being a First Century Christian church!

•Mormons Are New Testament Christians, not Creedal Christians
The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) is often accused by Evangelical pastors of not believing in the 4th Century Christ and, therefore, not being a Christian religion. This post helps to clarify such misconceptions by examining early Christianity's theology relating to baptism, the Godhead, the deity of Jesus Christ, and His Grace and Atonement.


Early Christian churches, practiced baptism of youth (not infants) by immersion by the father of the family. The local congregation had a lay ministry. An early Christian Church has been re-constructed at the Israel Museum, and the above can be verified. The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) continues baptism and a lay ministry as taught by Jesus’ Apostles. Early Christians were persecuted for keeping their practices sacred, and prohibiting non-Christians from witnessing them.

The Trinity:

A literal reading of the New Testament points to God and Jesus Christ , His Son , being separate , divine beings , united in purpose. . To whom was Jesus praying in Gethsemane, and Who was speaking to Him and his apostles on the Mount of Transfiguration? The Nicene Creed’s definition of the Trinity was influenced by scribes translating the Greek manuscripts into Latin. The scribes embellished on a passage explaining the Trinity , which is the Catholic and Protestant belief that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The oldest versions of the epistle of 1 John, read: "There are three that bear witness: the Spirit, the water and the blood and these three are one." Scribes later added "the Father, the Word and the Spirit," and it remained in the epistle when it was translated into English for the King James Version, according to Dr. Bart Ehrman, Chairman of the Religion Department at UNC- Chapel Hill. He no longer believes in the Nicene Trinity. . Scholars agree that Early Christians believed in an embodied God; it was neo-Platonist influences that later turned Him into a disembodied Spirit. For example, it was an emperor (Constantine) . who introduced a term, homoousious, which defined the Son as “consubstantial” (one being) with the Father. Neither term or anything like it is in the New Testament. Harper’s Bible Dictionary entry on the Trinity says “the formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the New Testament.” Furthermore, 11 of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were non-Trinitarian Christians The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) views the Trinity as three separate divine beings , in accord with the earliest Greek New Testament manuscripts and the Founders.


Divinization, narrowing the space between God and humans, was also part of Early Christian belief. St. Athanasius of Alexandria (Eastern Orthodox) wrote, regarding theosis, "The Son of God became man, that we might become God." Irenaeus wrote in the late 2nd Century: “we have not been made gods from the beginning, but at first merely men, then at length gods” Justin Martyr in mid 2nd Century said: “all men are deemed worthy of becoming ‘gods,’ and of having power to become sons of the Highest” The Gospel of Thomas (which pre-dates the 4 Gospels, but was considered non-canonical by the Nicene Council) quotes the Savior: "He who will drink from my mouth will become as I am: I myself shall become he, and the things that are hidden will be revealed to him," (Gospel of Thomas 50, 28-30, Nag Hammadi Library in English, J.M.Robinson, 1st ed 1977; 3rd ed. 1988) For further information on this subject, refer to NewTestamentTempleRitual blogspot. The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) agrees with Early Christian church leaders regarding theosis.

Mormons Are Christian said...

The Deity of Jesus Christ

Mormons hold firmly to the deity of Christ. For members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS), Jesus is not only the Son of God but also God the Son. Evangelical pollster George Barna found in 2001 that while only 33 percent of American Catholics, Lutherans, and Methodists (28 percent of Episcopalians) agreed that Jesus was “without sin”, 70 percent of Mormons believe Jesus was sinless.

Grace Versus Works

One Evangelical Christian author wrote of his sudden discovery that his previous beliefs about salvation were very different from those held by the early Christians:
“If there's any single doctrine that we would expect to find the faithful associates of the apostles teaching, it's the doctrine of salvation by faith alone. After all, that is the cornerstone doctrine of the Reformation. In fact, we frequently say that persons who don't hold to this doctrine aren't really Christians…
Our problem is that Augustine, Luther, and other Western theologians have convinced us that there's an irreconcilable conflict between salvation based on grace and salvation conditioned on works or obedience. They have used a fallacious form of argumentation known as the "false dilemma," by asserting that there are only two possibilities regarding salvation: it's either (1) a gift from God or (2) it's something we earn by our works.
The early Christians [and Latter-day Saints!] would have replied that a gift is no less a gift simply because it's conditioned on obedience....
The early Christians believed that salvation is a gift from God but that God gives His gift to whomever He chooses. And He chooses to give it to those who love and obey him.”
—David W. Bercot, Will The Real Heretics Please Stand Up: A New Look at Today's Evangelical Church in the Light of Early Christianity, 3rd edition, (Tyler, Texas: Scroll Publishing Company, 1999[1989]), 57, 61–62.

The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) agrees with the earliest Christians that grace is conditioned upon obedience to Jesus Christ’s commandments.

The Cross and Christ’s Atonement:

The Cross became popular as a Christian symbol in the Fifth Century A.D. . Members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) believe a preferable Christian symbol is Christ’s resurrection , not his crucifixion on the Cross. Many Mormon chapels feature paintings of the resurrected Christ or His Second Coming. Furthermore, members of the church believe the atoning sacrifice began in the Garden of Gethsemane and culminated on the cross as Christ took upon him the sins of all mankind.

Definition of “Christian”: .

But Mormons don’t term Catholics and Protestants “non-Christian”. They believe Christ’s atonement applies to all mankind. The dictionary definition of a Christian is “of, pertaining to, believing in, or belonging to a religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ”: All of the above denominations are followers of Christ, and consider him divine, and the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament. They all worship the one and only true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and address Him in prayer as prescribed in The Lord’s Prayer. The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) teaches that good Christians of any denomination are able to live with Jesus Christ in the Eternities. Contrary to some other denominations people who don’t believe in “their Jesus” are not consigned to Hell. It’s important to understand the difference between Reformation and Restoration when we consider who might be authentic Christians. . Early Christians had certain rituals which defined a Christian, which members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) continue today. . If members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) embrace early Christian theology, they are likely more “Christian” than their detractors.

Mormons Are Christian said...

• Christ-Like Lives:

The 2005 National Study of Youth and Religion published by UNC-Chapel Hill found that Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) youth (ages 13 to 17) were more likely to exhibit these Christian characteristics than Evangelicals (the next most observant group):

1. Attend Religious Services weekly
2. Importance of Religious Faith in shaping daily life – extremely important
3. Believes in life after death
4. Does NOT believe in psychics or fortune-tellers
5. Has taught religious education classes
6. Has fasted or denied something as spiritual discipline
7. Sabbath Observance
8. Shared religious faith with someone not of their faith
9. Family talks about God, scriptures, prayer daily
10. Supportiveness of church for parent in trying to raise teen (very supportive)
11. Church congregation has done an excellent job in helping teens better understand their own sexuality and sexual morality

. LDS . Evangelical
1. 71% . . 55%
2. 52 . . . 28
3. 76 . . . 62
4. 100 . . 95
5. 42 . . . 28
6. 68 . . . 22
7. 67 . . . 40
8. 72 . . . 56
9. 50 . . . 19
10 65 . . . 26
11 84 . . . 35

So what do you think the motivation is for the Evangelical preachers to denigrate the Mormon Church by calling it a "cult"? You would think Evangelical preachers would be emulating Mormon practices (a creed to believe, a place to belong, a calling to live out, and a hope to hold onto) which were noted by Methodist Rev. Kenda Creasy Dean of the Princeton Theological Seminary, as causing Mormon teenagers to “top the charts” in Christian characteristics. It seems obvious pastors shouldn't be denigrating a church based on First Century Christianity, with high efficacy. The only plausible reason to denigrate Mormons by calling the church a "cult" is for Evangelical pastors to protect their flock (and their livelihood).

Sir Brass said...

MaC, any religion that purports there to be an infinite number of exalted men-become-gods, one of whom is our creator, is anything BUT Christian.

The point of this post was specifically regarding justification, but your name alone suggests serious confusion and error on your part. In no way is Mormonism Christian. It doesn't even have a place in Christendom (though Romanists and EO's have a place there).

Mormonism in no way can have a claim historically or theologically to the Faith Once For All Delivered to the Saints, passed on in the Apostolic Tradition.

The Damer said...

I know one thing. Mormons can cut and paste.

James Scott Bell said...

Finally, I simply cannot believe that you are so suspicious of the motives of these people.

I have a few questions for MaC and other Mormons. Let's say for a moment WE evangelicals accept YOU as Christians.

1. Do you accept US as true Christians if we never subscribe to Mormon doctrine or practice?

2. Has someone who has been baptized in a Baptist church received Christian baptism?

3. I read the Book of Mormon asking the Holy Spirit to witness to me about it, and received a burning message that the book is a lie from hell. I kept reading, and kept getting that direct, spiritual message. Why would the Holy Spirit tell me that?

So here is the thing about motives. Mormons are trying to gain acceptance from the evangelical world, yet they consider themselves the only "true church" and deny non-Mormons the spiritual benefits of practicing Mormons.

Thus, if Christians become lax and start to "accept" Mormonism as a legitimate form, the snake will have come into the tent.

The Damer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Damer said...

"a creed to believe, a place to belong, a calling to live out, and a hope to hold onto" Huh???

Let me add... A hell to call home.

It's amazing the amount of ignorance and truth twisting they can do in Utah.

SandMan said...


That was quite a diatribe you took us on. I must be honest that I have neither the time or the inclination to study all of what you have written...
However, one theme seems common in all of your points. You appeal to anything and everything as authoritative except the 66 canonical books of the Bible.

You make unfounded assertions about the early church, unfounded accusations regarding embellishments by scribes (because someone at UNC says so), and then make a sharp left-turn to assert that we should all care about the doctrinal views of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Then you throw in a popularity poll of the sinlessness of Jesus... as if doctrine by majority rule were somehow relevant. You quote book by an "evangelical" author. You throw in a few unfounded LDS assertions on atonement, quote the dictionary, more unfounded "early church" assertions, a morality poll, and unfounded accusation that evangelicals are really just afraid that Mormons will steal their sources of income. Finally, you assume (wrongly) throughout that historic councils were inventing Christan ideas rather than identifying and codifying Biblical truths commonly held by true believers. These councils were to prevent the others from coming along later and suggesting that other doctrines were acceptable Biblically (the precise thing that you are doing here).

I challenge you to go to the Bible(I referenced above) and prove from it your position favoring Mormonism. God has spoken to us through this book and no more sources are needed. If you continue to appeal to any/everything else and continue to ignore God's Word, you have suppressed the truth of God and exchanged it for lie. By sidelining God's reveled truth as contained in His Word (the Bible, 66 books, Genesis through Revelation), you have either unwittingly (or worse) decided that you have the authority on spiritual matters.
This lie of Mormonism will condemn you to Hell as God's Word explicitly states (Revelation 20:15), and no amount of extra sources (claiming Hell doesn't exist) will be sufficient to save you from God's wrath.
I pray that you will search God's Word and that He will remove your blindness to understand that you are a wretched sinner (like all mankind), offensive to God, and deserving of Hell, and believe in faith that Jesus Christ is THE eternal God incarnate, sinless, who died for sinners, resurrected, and that no work can earn this salvation (see Ephesians 2:8-9).

The Damer said...

Mormonism at it's core is based on the lie from the Garden.

It believes that though "knowledge"(received by their prophet) will make them "like" god.

How is this not so obvious? Maybe the Deceiver was telling the truth.

Unknown said...

Any particular reason that you point out these men are Talbot trained?

I noticed you don't mention the training of MacArthur, Millet, yourself, etc.

DJP said...

(Proponents of ECT would do well to take note of this point, too).

Writing today, would you add "and signers of the MD"?

FX Turk said...

Phil --

UNFAIR! I'm trying to close up my office at work for vacation AND prepare for a hiatus of historic proportions (in impact, not length), and you open up the can of Mormon equivocation and the evil Paul Owen?


FX Turk said...


Rather than duel you here, I invite you to open up a dialog with me at DebateBlog where I would be glad to defend this thesis:

Mormons cannot declare they are like other sociologically-Christian groups because the foundational premise of their religion is the fatally-flawed nature of all other religions related to Jesus Christ.

Go to the link, read the rules in the side bar, and e-mail me if you're interested. This is an issue so transparently-clear and so simplistically-true that there is no way for you or anyone to deny this issue and remain a credible person.

Unknown said...

I live in a historic community of Mormonism. I see many of the LDS sects on a daily basis and have to interact with them in the community where I live. We have also had several theological dialogues that have been open to the public and without question I can state that Mormons are not Christian in any sense of the word as commonly used within Orthodox circles. In fact, they will be the first to point out that they do not accept the Bible as authoritative over their prophet or any of the works of their past prophets. They will be the first to tell you that they do not, can not and will not accept the doctrine of the Trinity. And they will tell anyone who listens, that the only true Christians are Mormons, since the only true church is their own.
Subtlety is key. Using the terms of Evangelicalism is of utmost importance for them. Redefining those terms to suit their needs, they boldly proclaim their Christianity while hiding their agenda of wanting to convert the unsuspecting.
I only need to hear the hiss of a snake in order to discern danger, I don't need to pick it up and play with.

DJP said...

Isn't that whole line of argument really, at least at one level, irrelevant?

Suppose a group said that "Jesus Christ" was actually a turnip, Son of a kumquat. A noble turnip, a perfect turnip, a turnip without blemish. But a turnip.

And HSAT, suppose then that this group said "one is saved by grace alone, through faith in 'Jesus Christ' alone, to the glory of God alone."

OK... so? Would even a perfectly orthodox formulation of justification by grace alone through faith alone redeem the sect's bankrupt, idolatrous misrepresentation of Christ and His Father?

David said...

There is a recurring error here and it's this, and I speak from personal, blood-relative experience: Only the Gospel will open the Mormon's eyes. And very likely, presenting the whole Gospel (and not Gospel lite) will provoke a furious response - not one based "at the academic level, where evangelicals are losing the debate with the Mormons."

Unbelievers will not believe, even in the face of truth, fact, and evidence. See the Pharisees and the man thrown out of the synagogue after Jesus healed Him. They had truth before their very eyes. Yet what did they want more of? Evidence.

olan strickland said...

Mosser and Owen have lost the battle and don't know it!

Phil's use of John the Baptist's treatment of the Pharisees in defense of his not accepting Mormonism was enough to show any saved, sane man that Christianity isn't all sugar and spice and everything nice - something that Mosser and Owen evidently don't understand.

ockennedys said...

Quite the timely post -- some Christian friends and I are meeting today with a couple Mormon missionaries to discuss their understanding of justification by faith. Thanks for posting this!

Euaggelion said...

Regardless of their belief on Sola Fide, they believe in another Jesus; one who is NOT God. They believe that Jesus was an angel, a created being. How can a created being be a perfect sacrifice? They preach a different Gospel, which is anathema, regardless of their view of justification by works.

DJP said...

No, Euaggelion is not just me reposting my 6:54 AM, December 18, 2009 comment in different words. Before someone asks.

Phil Johnson said...

Charles: "Any particular reason that you point out these men are Talbot trained?"

Yes. As I'll explain in a post tomorrow, I believe ideas such as the one floated in that paper by Mosser and Owen are symptomatic of the drift Biola/Talbot have been following for a couple of decades. I think Talbot's policies made a definite contribution to the development of the Mosser/Owen thesis, and in tomorrow's post I'll explain why.

Nash Equilibrium said...

I think I see the point that Mosser and Owen were trying to make: They were showing that evangelical scholarship is in serious trouble by demonstrating poor scholarship themselves.

Yep, I think that was it.

John said...

Long, but worth it. And it provided food for a future post. Do you notice how frequently people these days immediately jump to "You are [insert: in sin, mean, unChristlike, or some other euphamism for offensive], and need to repent." As if the legitimacy of an argument hinged upon the deliverer (who, in most instances, is not even guilty of the ad hominem). Sigh.

Kyle Mann said...


Please put more effort into your arguments than copy-pasting. Thanks.

Mormons Are Christian said...

The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) teaches that good Christians of any denomination are able to live with Jesus Christ in the Eternities. Contrary to some other denominations, people who don’t believe in “their Jesus” are not consigned to Hell.

Which view of Christianity is more "Christian"?

Kyle Mann said...

MaC: Please take Frank up on his debate offer so we can clear this thread up for those who want to actually address the subject at hand.

Sir Brass said...

Yes, take up the gauntlet Frank threw down, MaC.

I could say more, but that would keep the fires of battle going on here. The general has change the field of battle. I suggest you follow.

wordsmith said...

A false theology leads to a false Christology and a false soteriology. Mormonism fails on all accounts.

It really is that simple.

James Scott Bell said...


- Has someone who has been baptized in a Baptist church received Christian baptism?

- Why did the Holy Spirit tell me the Book of Mormon is a lie?

Eric said...

A little peak into the theology of MaC (From his website - all that follows is quoted):



Is represented as:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26.


H-A-R-D-W-O- R- K

8+1+18+4+23+ 15+18+11 = 98%


K-N-O-W-L-E- D-G-E

11+14+15+23+ 12+5+4+7+ 5 = 96%


A-T-T-I-T-U- D-E

1+20+20+9+20+ 21+4+5 = 100%

THEN, look how far the love of God will take you:

L-O-V-E-O-F- G-O-D

12+15+22+5+15+ 6+7+15+4 = 101%

Therefore, one can conclude with mathematical certainty that:

While Hard Work and Knowledge will get you close, and Attitude will get you there, It's the Love of God (Christ's atonement) that will put you over the top!

It's up to you if you share this with your friends & loved ones
just the way I did..

Have a nice day & God bless!!

Sharon said...

A suggestion for TeamPyro: Ban all obvious cut 'n' paste posts.

I'm just sayin'

A Musician by Grace

SandMan said...

Contrary to some other denominations, people who don’t believe in “their Jesus” are not consigned to Hell.

Which view of Christianity is more "Christian"?

I agree with the others that have encouraged you to engage with Frank at his invitation.

I do not wish to argue and will not respond again (in the interest of obeying the rule about being on topic).

Sir, I do not say this to win an argument...there is no animosity toward you.. to the contrary, I risk upsetting the owners of this blog to answer you directly again.

To answer your question, it does not matter what my opinion on the varying views of what a true Christian is. What matters is God's opinion about what a true Christian is and He has clearly revealed Himself in His Word and it states plainly that Christ's position on the matter is that Hell awaits those who reject Him for who He is. And, who He is can only be found in the Bible... Sir, I implore you... search the Bible.

If you feel the desire to continue to talk about this (Frank's offer is on the table), and now I make an offer of my own. You can find my email address in my profile. (I am not interested in becoming a Mormon--since you state that there is no Hell, let me be annihilated. However, if the Holy Spirit is convicting you of your rejection of the truth about your sin and your need for repentance, and about the deity of Christ, and the sufficiency of His substitutionary death for the remission of your sins by His blood... I would like to talk to you).

DJP said...

Maybe it isn't responding because it's a Mor-bot, or a Spam-mor-bot.

Mike said...

The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) teaches that good Christians of any denomination are able to live with Jesus Christ in the Eternities. Contrary to some other denominations, people who don’t believe in “their Jesus” are not consigned to Hell.

Which view of Christianity is more "Christian"?

That's an easy one, isn't it? The biblical view of Christianity is the more "Christian" one.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Or maybe the dreaded bike-riding Mor-droid?

Nash Equilibrium said...

or a Mor-Tal-bot?

Rachael Starke said...

Good grief. What Frank said. If my neighbors have to munch on stale tortilla chips because I didn't finish my baking for our open house on Sunday,

I'm blaming you guys.

(And MaC, if you truly care about this issue, take up Frank's challenge. I promise I'll read every word. The destiny of eternal souls is at stake, including yours.)

Carlo Provencio said...

Galatians 1:8-9
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

Paul already called it!

Nash Equilibrium said...

Ooooooh. Eternally condemning people - not tolerant or diversity-friendly!


Unknown said...

Just as a clarification, even if mormons had what seemed to be a correct soteriology, they're still off the deep end with all their faux-archeological nonsense about golden books buried in Pennsylvania, right? A cult's a cult, so why would any self-respecting evangelical seek to find "common ground" with a mormon? Why not try to find "common ground" with the thousands of Britains who profess to follow Jedi-ism. It's ludicrous!

Nash Equilibrium said...

Because no one wants to be seen as saying that anyone is actually wrong in their beliefs, these days; it's all about inclusiveness and tolerance. That includes many (most?) "evangelicals." So if there were enough Jedites, they would be finding common ground with them, too.

Natrimony said...

Nice coffee interchange...very pithy. But, I thought Mormons didn't drink caffeine? Not very likely they're brewing much java in their coffee houses. Oy.

Nash Equilibrium said...

It's decaf - all the truth has been removed.