Media’s Confusion about Mormonism – Journalists’ Poor Theologians? by Rev Michael Bresciani, October 13, 2011
Dr. Robert Jeffress said Mormonism has “never been considered a part of mainstream Christianity.” He indicated that he thought Mormonism is a cult at the Values Voter Summit on Friday October 7, 2011. His statement has ignited a firestorm of controversy and questions. From the forthright Fox News to the feckless far left media, questions like “did he go too far” are circulating around the media like a deadly tornado. What is it all about?
It would be easy to simplify it all by saying that for years most of mainstream Protestantism has held Mormonism as a cult, so Jeffress was not wrong. But here we will ask the question of just why Mormonism is viewed this way.
Volumes have been written that deal with the theological problems with Mormonism, which is why I will not presume to settle it here in one article. What is needed is some clarity and some history so it can be understood just how mainstream Christianity came to these conclusions.
Journalists generally don’t make great theologians and that can be seen in their repeated misuse of terms they obviously do not understand. The terms used most often are, heresy and cult.
While it is possible for some sects to be such aberrations of standard Christianity that they are labeled as cults it is not the best or normal usage for this term. A cult is adherence to a person or teaching that usually has no connection to Christianity or the Bible at all. Manson, Aum Shinrikyo, Scientology, Jonestown, are good examples of cults that never had Christian foundations or if they did they were completely discarded for something else.
The second most often misused word is heresy. Here is a word with a clearer definition but a broader application, the misuse of this word is rampant, even among the best Christian minds of the day.
Heresy is something perceived to be outside of accepted orthodoxy, but who’s orthodoxy? Anything that bucks ex-cathedra or the patristic teachings of the Catholic Church is heresy to the Catholics. This also holds true for the Protestant Church as well, because anything outside of traditional Protestantism is also seen as heresy. It would seem there is no resolution and this is why confusion reigns. It is at this juncture that we must step outside of the box and take another look.
To the degree that any protestant church holds the scriptures (Bible) as it’s only authority any source that is used to teach or guide followers that is extra-biblical is seen as heretical. That would include the book of Mormon, Jehovah’s Witnesses “New World Translation,” Christian Science’s “Science and Health” written by Mary Baker Eddy, and to be completely honest, all ex-cathedra that is in conflict with the Bible.
A religion like Catholicism sees anything not in compliance with its doctrines as heresy. In true Protestantism anything not scriptural is heresy. Starting with the idea that Jesus made Peter the cornerstone of the church is where the problem starts. The language of Matthew 16: 18, is certainly used to refer to Jesus as the rock upon which the church is built, not Peter. This is substantiated by countless other scriptural references not the least of which is Ephesians 2: 20, “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.”
After that it is not just what Catholicism teaches that isn’t biblical but more so, what is taught that is antithetical and in complete opposition to the bible that causes the word heresy to emerge. Since the Catholics have raised the words of the Pope to the level of the scriptures the Protestants are forced by reason of the bible message to reject anything the Pope says that doesn’t jibe with writ.
For example, Catholicism teaches such things as, Mary as co-redemptorist the Bible says, not so Acts 4: 12. Calling a Priest, ‘father.’ Not so, Mt 23: 9, consubstantiation or transubstantiation (converting of the Eucharist,) not so, Luke 22: 19, (memorial only.) Repetitious and recited prayers, not so, Matthew 6: 7. Perpetual virginity of Jesus’ mother, not so, Mt 13: 55. This list is not comprehensive so we must stop here but the point is made. This is why Protestants hold Catholic doctrine as heresy. For the most part Catholics hold Protestant doctrine as heresy because it is not Catholic. Of course there are, and always will be, those who don’t give a hoot about any of this in both churches.
It is now easier to understand why the mainstream bible believing protestant church would hold Mormonism as a heresy or a cult. Mormons have an entire ‘other’ extra biblical source they view as equal to the bible much like the Catholic Ex-cathedra.
So why do mainstream Christians doubt the book of Mormon? Here is the short answer, for a more detailed answer you may have to do a bit of research on your own. Don’t worry you can judge the veracity of my short answer after you’ve done your homework.
The same method of criticism used to test the canonicity, historicity and derivation of original autographs of the Bible was used to verify the book of Mormon, the book did not make it past stage one. It is among one of most spurious and highly questionable books ever printed. It would be safe to say that it is a complete fabrication without a single word of truth in it.
Covering all the strange doctrines of Mormons like, the brotherhood of Satan and Jesus and strange practices like, its history of polygamy, would open up another huge matter for discussion that would take more space than a single article would allow. So let’s move on to something that can help to bring about an honest conclusion.
Jesus said a man could not serve two masters, Mt 6: 24, which raises a pertinent question. When a moral dilemma or a serious question in our lives arises, what source will we use to answer the hard questions? Is it the Bible or the Pope, or the book of Mormon, or The New World Translation or any other source we may see as equal to the Bible? Here is where the answer is easy.
Jesus Christ said very clearly, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.”
The answer seen here is best understood if posed as a question. If we are going to be judged in total at the end of our lives by the words Jesus spoke, why would we regard or hold as equal the words of anyone else or any religion known to man? If you need help with this question then you may need more help than I or anyone else can provide.
I have not yet been able to determine whose idea it was to, create the first red letter edition of the Bible (Words of Jesus in red) but I would be willing to say that it was the greatest single act of theological genius the bible has seen in its entire history. Looking for authority? Go red, because it is the only sure way to keep from, running in the red.
I believe every word of the Bible is inspired by God, is infallible and completely inerrant and yet no one would dare accuse me of Bibliolatry. (Worship of the Bible) I am a worshipper of the God of the Bible and no less. It is because of this that I have seen the sovereignty of God manifested in peculiar ways that almost, and I emphasize almost, do not seem to line up with the written word.
It is because of this that I had to ask God why I have met Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and some from other so called pseudo Christian religions that seemed to have the same love for God that I do. I strove to find an answer to this perplexing part of my experience as a believer. I feel that his answer came from the scripture itself and I have always been quite satisfied with it. I will convey this answer to you, again, by means of a question.
If at any time before, during or after becoming a Catholic, a Mormon, a Witness, a Pentecostal, a Baptist, a Methodist et al, if a person were to look at Jesus Christ and believe that he died for their sins and rose again from the dead would Jesus accept or reject them? Here is Christ’s answer to the question.
“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6: 37)
Herein is why I will believe to the end that regardless of what subset or brand of Christianity you are in if you trust the finished work of Christ on the cross, you are saved, not because of your religion, but, in spite of it.
As the question relates to Mitt Romney and his bid for the White House it may be for some not so much whether he is a Mormon but is he even true to the very strong Mormon stand against abortion and preserving the sanctity of marriage?
In the long list of Romney flip flops both of those issues come into play. While his position on both issues is now in keeping with the republican party’s platform, while he served as Governor of Massachusetts that was not the case. Being a Mormon raises only one question being true to his faith on other issues raises many more questions.
We can only hope that Americans will not repeat the mistakes of 2008 and choose someone who looks and sounds right for the job but because we will not look much deeper, may prove to be just more of the same.
Finally, it may be worth a look to see where churches differ in doctrine and polity but with a modern day apostasy underway in our nation and the world it may be harder to find a church that sticks to its own doctrines at all. Some differences will not be settled until the end of time. Catholics have seven sacraments; Protestants (in general) have only two ceremonial ordinances. But alas, along comes one denomination that that decides to add ‘foot washing’ as a third ordinance.
Whether we are debating church polity and tradition, or strict Biblical doctrine, there is the point when the rubber must come down to meet the road. Oddly in the two issues that concern so many Americans today, saving the lives of the unborn and the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman there are two churches that have unswervingly held the line. Yes, you guessed it, they are Mormon and Catholic.
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