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Mohler tackles Mormonism in online debate

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Mormonism is not Christianity, R. Albert Mohler Jr. argues in an online debate with a prominent Mormon author.

Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, made his first in what will be a series of posts on Beliefnet, which is sponsoring the “blog dialogue” on Mormonism. Arguing that Mormonism is a Christian religion is Orson Scott Card, an author, screenplay writer and committed layman in the Church of of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The debate between Mohler and Card, which began June 28, will continue into the near future on Beliefnet, with both writers posting periodically in a point-counterpoint format.

In his first post, Mohler makes it clear that Mormonism cannot be considered orthodox Christianity because the religion itself begins with a rejection of historic Christianity.

“Christianity is rightly defined in terms of ‘traditional Christian orthodoxy,'” Mohler writes. “Thus, we have an objective standard by which to define what is and is not Christianity.

“We are not talking here about the postmodern conception of Christianity that minimizes truth. We are not talking about Christianity as a mood or as a sociological movement. We are not talking about liberal Christianity that minimizes doctrine nor about sectarian Christianity which defines the faith in terms of eccentric doctrines. We are talking about historic, traditional, Christian orthodoxy.

“Once that is made clear, the answer is inevitable. Furthermore, the answer is made easy, not only by the structure of Christian orthodoxy (a structure Mormonism denies) but by the central argument of Mormonism itself -– that the true faith was restored through Joseph Smith in the nineteenth century in America and that the entire structure of Christian orthodoxy as affirmed by the post-apostolic church is corrupt and false.”

Card calls Mohler’s explanation of Mormon beliefs “clear and fair-minded,” but argues that Mormons are Christians even though they reject central biblical doctrines such as the Trinity. Card says such doctrines stem more from the philosophy of Plato than divine revelation. By Card’s definition, a Christian is anyone who confesses Christ as the Savior of the world.

“Yes, Dr. Mohler. You and I disagree on exactly the points you listed in your essay,” Card writes. “You are correct in saying that we Mormons completely reject the neoplatonic doctrines that were layered onto Christianity long after the Apostles were gone.

“And just as you would put any reference to Mormons as ‘Christians’ in quotation marks, we Mormons refer to those who believe as you do as ‘Christians’ in exactly the same way. Here’s the difference. While we have no patience with creeds that owe more to Plato and other Greek philosophers than to Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, we do recognize and respect as fellow Christians anyone who confesses that Christ is the Savior of the world.”

“Without doubt,” Mohler acknowledges, “Mormonism borrows Christian themes, personalities, and narratives.

“Nevertheless, it rejects what orthodox Christianity affirms and it affirms what orthodox Christianity rejects. It is not Christianity in a new form or another branch of the Christian tradition. By its own teachings and claims, it rejects that very tradition,” Mohler writes.
The debate may be followed at http://blog.beliefnet.com/blogalogue/.

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  • Jeff Robinson
    Jeff Robinson is director of news and information at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.Read All by Jeff Robinson ›