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« The Right Battle on the Right Battlefield | Main | Elements of Thanksgiving »

November 22, 2006


Richard John Neuhaus is a Catholic. Catholics are, for the most part, nominal Christians who are NOT saved by the true Son of God, Jesus Christ.

The Catholic Jesus is second to Mary, the Mother of God, and hears her pious pleas for the souls of those who deserve a second chance.

The Catholic Jesus' bodily sacrifice is re-enacted, and he is indeed, litterally re-crucified every Sunday in masses that take place in hundreds of thousands of churches across the globe when the Sacrament of the Eucharist is performed.

Our Jesus, the Jesus of Nazareth who died once and for all for the salvation of all, currently sits at the right hand of God, His work of redemption complete.

Your comment contains a major logical fallacy. You completely fail to deal with the content of the article, but instead comment on the religion of the author. And then you make a generalization about him, based on your assessment of other adherents of his religion. If you have something substantive to say about the relationship between Mormonism and Christianity, we're eage to hear it. But save your anti-Catholic rhetoric for a more appropriate time and place.

And how is Mormonism's claims any more 'fantastic' than that of Christianity or early Judaism? Multiplying loaves and fishes, raising from the dead, walking on water, healing the sick, reading people's thoughts, etc. all are very fantastical claims.

The problem with Mormonism isn't that their claims are fantastic. Rather, the problem is that their claims are false. They are unsupported by either history or Scripture.


That is certainly debatable. If you want to look at "history," plesae notice how the so-called "orthodoxy" that is so much cherished by Evangelicals is intelligible (note also, possible) only after hundreds of years of theological controversy and the inclusion of (admittedly altered) pagan philosophy. The Nicene creed, which is one of the things most often cited in relation to Mormon "heresy," is unintelligible except on the background of a neo-Aristotelian metaphysic that is, for some reason, not mentioned or sanctioned in scripture (which also raises issues with sola scriptura). Evangelical claims hold weight (in my opinion) only if one ignores history per se.

You started your response to Dv in a promising way by saying "That is certainly debatable". But instead of debating the claim, (namely, that Mormonism has no evidence to put forth while Christianity does) you go on a big detour talking about stuff that has nothing to do with the topic at hand. It went something like this:

1. Article: "Mormonism's claims are fantastic"
2. Kevin: "So are Christianity's"
3. Dv: "But Christianity can put forth evidence"
4. Kevin: "I suppose that is true and we could talk about that but... Let's talk about the greeks, the Nicene creed and "history"

Boy, talk about "unintelligible". But if you're right, I guess it does take "hundreds of years" to get there. ;-)


I did not get into it because, quite frankly, I do not have hours that I can spend on this blog discussing issues that, again quite frankly, are not congenial to discussion in this setting. However, Dv raised a double issue: history and scripture. My response, if you did not notice, dealt with both: "orthodoxy" is a historically contingent reality and Evangelicals, in my experience, have failed to understand the ramifications of this (particularly as it relates to so-called "cults"--a worthless term as it is used in the so-called "counter-cult" industry). This issue was raised by Benjamin Huff in his response to Craig Blomberg's discussion of Mormonism's Christian status in _The New Mormon Challenge_ (found here: If you or anyone else would like to discuss this particular topic, please feel free to email me; we could use Huff's paper as a starting point. Otherwise, it is way too big for blog comments and I will stay with generalities.


One more comment, then I'm off for the night: the question of "orthodoxy" is central in the Evangelical rejection of Mormonism's Christian status. Thus, raising the issue of historical contingency as it relates to orthodoxy is, in fact, relevant to the topic of this thread, not a "big detour."

If one of the prime reasons that I, as a Mormon, am denied the name of Christian (in a meaningful way) is because I do not accept creedal statements about God's nature (e.g., Nicene) that in themselves are contingent on not only hundreds of years of post-Biblical (i.e. post-scriptural) doctrinal controversy, but also on non-Biblical (notice, I did not say contra- or anti-Biblical) philosophical dogmas, then the Evangelical claim must be understood within such a context, including the ramifications that are inherent in it (sorry for the long sentence, but I think it is clear enough). One of the most important ramifications is that, if the above is true and such "orthodoxy" only became intelligible within a certain historical framework, than anyone before that historical timeframe (Peter, John, Matthew) are de facto denied Christian status due to their historically contingent inability to profess and adhere to such "orthodoxy." That is my primary point and it is certainly in line with both Dv's and this entry's topic.

Would the real Jesus please stand up!

I think Christology is terribly important when asking the question posed above. This would by necessity, have to deal with questions about God's nature; I don't see how you can avoid that?

If Mormon and Christian Christology differ, then it would be an error to say that one is interchangeable with the other.

The Nicene Creed is just one of many (successful) attempts by the Christian church to deal with false notions of God over the centuries and thereby develop a clear Christology for the Christian Church. So the only way that the early Biblical writers could be denied Christian status among modern-day evangelical Christians (as Kevin suggests) is if it could be shown that any creed supported by the Christian Church, was not supported by Scripture. I haven’t seen any argument for this. But then again, Christians who would distance themselves from Scripture to cuddle up with creedal statements could hardly be described as evangelical.

So before you can answer "Is Mormonism Christian?”, I am thinking that you have to answer "Is the Jesus that the LDS characterise, the same Jesus that the Biblical Scriptures portray?"


But the Nicene creed, in its entirety, is not "supported by Scripture." It introduces an alien metaphysic that is neither mentioned, endorsed, nor even hinted at within scripture. To demand that I, as a Mormon, must accept a neo-Aristotelian metaphysic, which strongly informs the Nicene dogma of God's nature (Nicea is unintelligible without it), when said metaphysic is not itself within scripture, not only dilutes sola scriptura (scripture is *not* sufficient), but also entails an anachronistic view of scripture whereby the consequences that I mentioned hold. This is not merely an issue of scripture, but of what post-Biblical metaphysic one holds. By literally canonizing neo-Aristotelian metaphysics within the Nicene Creed and hundreds of years of further theological speculation (Christianity's "history," which Neuhaus thinks is paramount to determining one's Christian status; this, by the way, is simply begging the question), to say that the issue rests on sola scriptura is laughable, a mere farce (i.e. mask, cover, smoke screen) to the range of issues that this question runs through.


Does Mormonism teach that Jesus Christ is the uncreated creator?

Does Mormonism teach that God the Father was once a man?

Does Mormonism teach that Jesus is the spirit-brother of Lucifer?

Does Mormonism teach that Jesus Christ was born after sexual intercourse between God the Father and Mary (thereby denying the virgin birth)?

Does Mormonism teach that we can become Gods and rule over our own planets?

Does Mormonism teach that Jesus Christ was a polygamist?


Each of those questions would require a few pages of text to answer adequately (and even then it would require more). Contrary to what you might think (I'm curious on your source, as I'm certain it isn't LDS), they cannot be answered with a simple yes and no (as most [if not all] theological questions cannot). There are questions of distinction (like between cultural belief and official doctrine), nuance (given that words are not univocal and have metaphorical underpinnings), and, as I said, a metaphysic that is not the neo-Aristotelian one that you assume (hence, it requires even *more* discussion in order to get right). You perhaps think that you can settle the issue right now, with my answering those questions. Forgive me for not playing the game as it is entirely too simplisitic to be 'true to reality.' I would also say, again, that I think discussing such issues is a "mere farce" in relation to the deeper issues that your questions don't even touch (I mentioned some of them above).

Let me also add that taking the above approach is hardly taking Mormonism seriously. It simply reduces it to a few simplistic ideas that are hardly allowed to have any degree of sophistication or nuance. Hence, please take us seriously if you are going to discuss these issues with us. I'm not under the illusion that if you do so you will convert; I do not think that everyone who honestly examines Mormonism will convert, nor do I think it a sign of faulty reasoning if someone does not (such is philosophical hubris of the highest degree). So please do not caricature me in that way: you do not have to agree with me to take me seriously.

Hi Kevin, your references to "sola scriptura" seem more to me to be actually *solo* scriptura. Sola scriptura is orthodox to reformed christians and solo is not. Sola recognizes revelation taught in extra biblical writings so long as they are supportable by the higher authority of the Word of God.

Solo scriptura is understood to mean that scripture is the only source and that it is the only source one could rely on. Here is a quote regarding this subject:

"He who would consistently banish creeds must silence all preaching and reduce the teaching of the church to the recital of the exact words of Holy Scripture without note or comment." - R. L. Dabney

Whatever you might think of the neo-Aristotelian metaphysic, this doesn't necessarily make it incongruent with revealed truth. Mormon theology is in fact desperatly incongruent with a mountain of historic orthodox christianity though, so it seems.



I have no source. I am asking you genuine questions to determine your Christology, because I happen to think that is important. Perhaps you would rather make this about creedal statements, but that was never my point.

Also, what is the need to convert if Mormons are Christians anyway?


"Sola recognizes revelation taught in extra biblical writings so long as they are supportable by the higher authority of the Word of God."

But how is the neo-Aristotelian metaphysic as effectively canonized in the Nicene (and other) creed "supportable by the higher authority of the Word of God"? I largely reject the Nicene Creed's interpretation of God and I find the metaphysic it is based on to be philosophically lacking. And yet when being 'Christian' requires accepting this creed, with its non-Biblical metaphysic, that is exactly what I am required to do--I must accept the non-Biblical metaphysic of neo-Aristotelian 'persons' and 'substances' and 'natures' (essentially the metaphysic of substance/property). Yet I ask again: where is this metaphysic "supported" in scripture? Does that merely mean that it is not contradictory to scripture? If so then the necessity of accepting it is considerably lessened.

"Whatever you might think of the neo-Aristotelian metaphysic, this doesn't necessarily make it incongruent with revealed truth."

I did not say it did. I'll requote: "creedal statements about God's nature (e.g., Nicene) that in themselves are contingent on not only hundreds of years of post-Biblical (i.e. post-scriptural) doctrinal controversy, but also on non-Biblical (notice, I did not say contra- or anti-Biblical) philosophical dogmas." You cannot say that I am not a Christian because I deny how "historic orthodox christianity" understands the Trinity without falling back on the said non-Biblical metaphysic. The Trinity is unintelligible except on that metaphysical background (if it is intelligible on that background).

"Mormon theology is in fact desperatly incongruent with a mountain of historic orthodox christianity though, so it seems."

But here you are also begging the question (along with Neuhaus): in order to be Christian one must be a "historic orthodox christian." Why? Because that's how we interpret it, hence any idea like a Restoration is rejected before any dialogue begins. But, yet again, this raises the question of those before the various historic periods: are they no longer "Christian" since they, by sheer historical contingency, cannot be seen as heirs to this traditional orthodoxy, which developed hundreds of years after their time? If you reject Mormonism due to its removal from "historic Christianity" (whatever that means), you must thereby also reject many others who were most certainly Christian (Peter, Paul, Matthew, James, etc.). This point has yet to be addressed in this forum.


I answered the way that I did because any answer I could give in this forum would be incredibly diluted, hence not taking Mormonism seriously enough to hold a genuine, deep, and relatively long dialogue. You want to learn about Mormon Christology? Read the Book of Mormon. There you will find statement after statement concerning Christ, our inherent dependence on him for both our existence and our salvation, and how he is the center of Mormon thought and theology.

As for your second question, the need to join Mormonism, if it is also Christian, is due to the lack of authority in other Christian denominations. The Restoration is first and foremost a restoration of the authority to act in God's name. Having the mere name of Christian, even in a meaningful way, is not sufficient to make up for the lack of authority to administer in God's ordinances to man. With this we tend to accept a looser understanding of Christian as one who seeks to follow, emulate, and serve Christ.

Hi Kevin, although you dont have time to answer some of the questions that Duane asked due to the time required to sufficiently answer, you may need to in order to quiet others like me. I'm tempted to answer your response to me in full, but I think it'd be unfruitful so I'll stick to one point at a time.

The Nicene Creed: We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God,
begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The reason why this creed is recognized as conforming to scripture is that in no way does it contradict it. The doctrine of the Trinity answers the paradox between scriptures. Taking the weight of each scripture and not doing violence to the text to make one more important than the other in an inordinate way shows faithfulness as stewards of Gods revelation about Himself. If it appears to you that the neo-Aristotelian metaphysic is polluting the interpretation, I'd ask you to specifically point out how it abused the correct interpretation, and show what is in fact the correct interpretation.

Thanks, Brad


Why not try to understand it as it was understood prior to the introduction of the neo-Aristotelian thought? Is scripture unintelligible without the said metaphysic? It had to have been for those who did not have it to 'inform' their interpretation. In fact, the very act of imposing a foreign metaphysic on scripture is itself an act of eisegesis, or "violence" (to use your term). The assumption that is quite prominent is that the early Christians were simply variations of ourselves in relation to culture, values, 'metaphysic,' or what have you. This is not the case: they did not have the hundreds of years of doctrinal debate, the adoption of (admittedly altered) pagan thought, or the rise of modernism which itself is so foreign to how previous generations have seen the world (see Taylor's _Sources of the Self_ and Toulmin's _Cosmopolis_, to give to well-spoken examples).

In short, I don't think the neo-Aristotelian metaphysic that is so important for "orthodoxy" is without a great deal of "violence" to the scriptural text. Sure, I could generally agree that it does not "contradict" scripture, but that is far from saying that it is, in fact, close to 'authorial intent' or how a first-century Christian would interpret the texts. It is this a-historical, a-cultural eisegesis that I have issues with, especially as it relates to the question of a group's 'Christian' status.

I appreciate your efforts Kevin. I know it's difficult to get all the details out in such a small space, but your responses are not compelling.

I know Mormons are devoted to 'Jesus', but I am still no closer to being convinced He is the same Christ that I worship.

I take your point about reading the Book of Mormon. I have never read it, and my views on Mormonism are based on those who I think have earned recognition as sound Christian thinkers.

But this is an opportunity for you to convince me otherwise. If you would like to answer any of my questions in detail, feel free to do so at my blog. I've set up a post for it there under the same name.

Keep in mind, dealing with Christology is the key for me. Creeds aside, if it is clear that the Mormon Jesus is different to the Biblical Jesus, then Mormonism cannot be Christian.
You can start with the first one if you like; Does Mormonism teach that Jesus Christ is the uncreated creator?
Oh, and I think it will help if you quote your authoritative reference(s) in support of your Christology.


My responses were never meant to be "compelling"; they were meant to be informative. I've learned long ago that trying to convince someone, especially in religious issues, is like trying to convince a rock: it takes more effort than its worth. I don't care if you disagree with me, just get it right. And show me (and Mormonism) enough respect to become informed beyond the (mis)information found in, say, Martin's Kingdom of the Cults or James White's works.

If you want a good non-Mormon work, see Douglas Davies' An Introduction to Mormonism and The Mormon Culture of Salvation (I would not suggest the Ostlings, though most non-Mormons hail their book). At present, in relation to Christology, the best efforts have been done by Blake Ostler; see his Exploring Mormon Thought series (currently two of three volumes available). Blake tends to do well in representing various possible LDS views, though, naturally, he is arguing for his own.

That would be a better start in taking Mormonism seriously. Oh, and read the Book of Mormon. Critiquing Mormonism and not being familiar with that book is somewhat (though not wholly) akin to critiquing Evangelicalism without reading the Bible. I'm sorry, but I cannot take you very seriously as someone who is either 1) interested in learning more about Mormonism or 2) critiquing Mormonism if you have neglected to read its central texts...

So that's a no then?


That's an "I don't have the time to go into this in-depth (I have a dozen other more important things that require my time and attention right now), but if you would like more (informed) information see these sources." Not quite a "no," but not a "yes" either.

Honestly, Duane, do you not see it as a serious flaw in your understanding and also judgment of Mormonism that you have not even read the Book of Mormon (should I even ask about the Doctrine and Covenants or Pearl of Great Price)? Even more, is it not a flaw in your understanding and judgment of Mormonism that you are relying on wholly non-Mormon texts? It would be like me critiquing Christianity by relying solely on atheistic and anti-Christian texts, ignoring the Bible or what Christians themselves have said in their defense. Put simply, you are not taking Mormonism seriously in your critique, which is a huge hermeneutical blunder and one that I cannot, on my own (even if I had the time), help remedy.


I am still trying to get answers to Mormon Christology so I can decide. Please re-read my comments. I am merely asking for answers to genuine questions.

I've admitted I haven't read the Book of Mormon, hence the questions. If you're a Mormon then can't you attempt an answer?Don't you guys have the equivalent of 1Peter3:15 in the book of Mormon?

I have not given a critique, I am asking you to explain your Christology. You've already said you're not willing to do that. If you don't want to answer my questions, that's fine. Thanks for the chat.

But please do not accuse me of not taking your view seriously just because I haven't read every major Mormon works out there. This is a Non Sequitur.

Hi Kevin, the Nicene Creed was not an offensive/proactive attempt to hijack the scriptures to make them serve some perverted view. The heretics were being answered by scriptures and church tradition. The triune nature of God wasn't introduced with the Nicene Creed, it was just clearly spelling it out--taking all that the scriptures have to say about it.

Doctrines have most usually been formulated and systemitized to answer stray interpretations and to make clear statements of what is being revealed. You'd have to deny Eph. 4 to suggest that teachers aren't a part of God's plan and that He's gifted some for that position for the building up of the saints. Peter described some of the things that Paul taught to be "hard to understand", see the quote:

2Pe 3:15 And account [that] the longsuffering of our Lord [is] salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
2Pe 3:16 As also in all [his] epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as [they do] also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
2Pe 3:17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know [these things] before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.

His warning about being led away with error is why hundreds of years of debate has occurred, not to introduce an alien metaphysical thought system into the understanding or minds of the saints. Faithful stewards of Gods Word teach and write of what they know, and we as like Bereans are to see if these things be so.


For Chris Sumpter:

My "anti-Catholic rhetoric" is perfectly suited for placing this discussion in context. The context is that a so-called expert in the field of salvation and Truth doesn't even graps the most basic tenets of those truths to be self-evident. Rather, he is diluded about the various rituals, chants, and recitations he must endure in order to be saved. Is this a man who is eligible for comment on the topic of salvation?
Is a person who believes in Santa Claus fit to discuss the truths and myths of modern fables and urban legends? Don't you think that this person would be ill-suited for the discussion? Incredible at best, tossed in a rubber room at worst.


First, I agree: the Nicene Creed was not an explicit attempt to "hijack" scripture. I never claimed it was. I am saying, however, that such has been the effect, whether desired or not. I am suggesting that, in the attempt to establish orthodoxy in the wake of "stray interpretations," Christianity has canonized a metaphysic that is not found, endorsed, spoken of, or even hinted at in scripture. Then, in relation to the topic of this thread, Mormons are denied Christian staus because they generally reject the said metaphysic (i.e. the Trinity).

To illustrate my point, given what you have said, please show me what 'scripture has to say' about substances and properties. If the Nicene Creed was simply an elucidation of what is already found in scripture, then by inference the substance/property metaphysic should be in scripture, right? This is what must be assumed if scripture is to be our sole authority. Furthermore, the supposed non-contradictory status of the said metaphysic to scripture demonstrates nothing: coherence is not sufficient for demonstrating the priority of an idea (whether it came in scripture or pagan thought first).

Here's a general outline of what I propose: Christianity, in its infancy, found itself up against the philosophers who demanded, as an ethical imperative, that things conform to its mode of discourse. In the desire not to appear 'foolish,' coupled with a desire to 'defend' the faith using the rocket science of the day (philosophy), Christianity then adopted this mode of discourse, with its discussion of substances, properties, and what have you. These were then canonized in creeds and the discussion of what metaphysic is in fact appropriate is thereafter decided. To use Martin Heidegger's phrase, the question of being is then forgotten. And because it has been forgotten, the mere fact that Mormonism does not accept the metaphysical presuppositions as elucidated in the creeds is then seen (at least by Neuhaus, as well as some members of STR) as a fully sufficient reason to deny it Christian status (i.e. they reject the Trinity, they reject creatio ex nihilo, etc.).

Does that make my issues clearer?

"Christianity, in its infancy, found itself up against the philosophers who demanded, as an ethical imperative, that things conform to its mode of discourse.
In the desire not to appear 'foolish,' coupled with a desire to 'defend' the faith using the rocket science of the day (philosophy), Christianity then adopted this mode of discourse, with its discussion of substances, properties, and what have you. These were then canonized in creeds and the discussion of what metaphysic is in fact appropriate is thereafter decided."

Translation: Christians with impure motives and problems with self-esteem acquiesced to the ideas of their age so that their pagan friends could accept them. That sounds like the plot of a DaVinci Code for 19th-century Restorationists.

The problem with Restorationist thinking is that it thinks of the church as playing no role in the progress of dogma, and that the Bible, unadorned with theological reasoning, can result in real theology. That has simply never been the view of the Christian church since its beginnings. For example, the Gospels are different than the Epistles and the Epistles are different from the early church fathers, though they have a seemless continuity, one in which the premises laid down by Christ are the foundation on which later insights are built. The fact that the Nicean Creed was the conclusion drawn by the church-universal in order to more clearly articulate its understanding of Scripture is good enough for me. I see no reason why anyone would reject its conclusion if one claims to be a Christian. To step outside of the Great Tradition is to step outside the church. If you don't have a good reason to be a Protestant, then you're a Catholic (or Eastern Orthodox)by default if you claim to be a Christian.

Nevertheless, from a strictly philosophical point of view, Kevin's thesis is an example of the historicist's fallacy: explaning how someone may have acquired a belief is not the same as showing the belief to be irrational or false.


Thanks for dropping in. I hope life has been well with you since we last talked (or emailed).

I disagree with your assessment: Restorationism in fact does see the Church's role in relation to the establishment of dogma. In fact, it is exactly how that role become normative within the Christian tradition that is an issue, namely that the post-New Testament Church lacked authority and revelation. Left to their own devices and the 'learning of the world,' they did the best they could but lacked extensive divine guidance (I would not argue that there was *no* divine guidance). The Church's relation to dogma is not denied, but is in fact seen as a prominent exemplification of the problem to begin with.

Your own argument commits the same fallacy as Neuhaus: you assume that to be Christian one must be an inheritor of the "Great Tradition" and thereby reject Mormons from Christiandom by definition, apparently unaware that if Peter lived today he would, due to his historical contingency, not be a Christian *by definition*. He would have to align himself with one of the historically emergent traditions--Catholicism or Protestantism--before we could call him a Christian, which is absurd! "Listen, Peter, we know that you talked with Jesus, suffered martyrdom, and are going to stand with Christ in heaven, but we really need you to align yourself with one of these traditions before you can be a Christian."

As for theology, the issue is precisely that none of the Biblical writers, from begining to end, attempted to write anything remotely like a 'systematic theology.' It seems that any notion remotely like a 'system' or 'worldview' is foreign to their way of thinking. It is only in the wake of systematic philosophy that such an idea gains prominence. You will not find anything like a systematic theology in any culture prior to the Greeks. If such a thing is of such great importance, why is it sorely lacking within the text that is considered the sole authority of Christianity? Judaism and Christianity has never focused on systematic philosophically sophisticated and precise propositions, but on narratives, stories. This is seen all throughout the Biblical text, while not a peep is seen of systematic theologies. In short, there is no Biblical precedence for theology as the 'science' of God.

As for your last statement, I did not claim that the history of Christian dogma is itself sufficient for demonstrating that it is false. I was simply pointing out the fact that, given the historical definition of the concept "Christian," those who by sheer historical contingency are not heirs to the "Great Tradition" are excluded by definition with Mormonism. If Peter, Paul, John, and Matthew are outside the confines of this definition then it is not worth much.

(an) andrew,
You have committed what is called the genetic fallacy, which is dismissing a claim because of the source rather than the claim itself. An example would be, "Men cannot comment on abortion, because they don't know what it is like to carry and give birth to a child." While it is true that they don't, you cannot dismiss their claims on those grounds - rather, the claims themselves must be evaluated. In this situation, Neuhaus, even if he is (as you seem to argue) unregenerate, this does not automatically disqualify anything he has to say - he may indeed have gotten some things right. To rule against his claims, one must actually examine those claims and show how they are false.


Whoops - that was me above.

Hi Kevin,
It seems to me that to say one must stand within the "Great Tradition" does not *necessarily* exclude the apostles from said tradition, as you seem to be saying. Rather, one could see them as a part of the "Great Tradition" as originators, or first receivers, or something along those lines. Whatever merits your argument may or may not have, I would suggest abandoning this part - it's not going to do the work you're wanting it to do.

I should add/clarify: I don't think Beckwith's argument assumes that one must be an INHERITOR of the "Great Tradition" to be a Christian, but that one must be a member of/participator in it.

Thank you the kind words, Kevin.

There's a way in which the Peter illustration backfires. Since Christianity claims to be the fulfillment of Judaism, could not a Jew offer the same argument: Peter in AD 60 would not have been considered Jewish by the Jewish community if he were transported back to the 5th century BC version of that community.

More to the point, I believe the Peter illustration begs the question, since Neuhaus and I could argue that Peter himself understood the role of the church in the progress of dogma. We could argue that Peter would not be surprised at the Nicene creed or even the Apostles' creed. He would have said, well done, my brothers.

BTW, what I mean by "Restorationism" is the Campbellite movement and not necessarily LDS restorationism, though I believe the latter (pardon the pun) would not have been possible if not for the former.



But even as "originators" they do not accept the standard Creeds, which is now one of the primary reasons why Mormonism is not considered Christian. We cannot say that they accept the Trinity, hence they are theistic 'heretics'--they simply do not have the philosophical background that hundreds of years of doctrinal debate allow. We cannot say that they accept the two-nature theory of Christ for the same reason. One may assume that if they were properly explained to them they would accept them, but I see no warrant for such an assumption. My further question of coherence also comes up: just because the now 'traditional' metaphysic is supposedly coherent with scripture does not demonstrate its scriptural status (which is inherent in the claims that the creeds do not add to scripture, they simply elucidate them).

In such works as _The New Mormon Challenge_, Mormons are rejected Christian status because of their rejection of certain dogmas. It is argued that if Mormonism were to reject more of its 'unorthodox' dogmas and accept more 'orthodox' dogmas then they might be considered Christian. But this criteria is never extended to pre-Nicene Christians, nor any legitimate basis for such an extension given. To import into the title "Christian" the notion of being a participant in the "Great Tradition" is rarely the issue, and when it is it can be seen quite easily as simply begging the question against Restorationists.

Defining Christianity as being part of the "Great Tradition" inherently makes any notion of a "Christian" restoration impossible, hence it is begging the question. If all that is allowed is "Reformations," then by historical fiat Mormonism is excluded. Yet one finds no notion of this constricted and historically arbitrary definition in the scriptures. One's Christian status is understood in relation to one's relationship with Christ, not one's acceptance of philosophically precise dogmas. Similarly, if Christ were to appear in revelation to some distant tribe, taught them the good news, and they believed, they would by definition be non-Christian--they lack the historical continuity that is apparently needed in that definition. Or if someone stranded on a distant island somehow stumbled on a Bible, read it and believed, but could not be tied to the philosophically sophisticated dogmas of the creeds nor could proclaim his denominational status; would he be non-Christian?

I fail to see how this does not have any cogency, nor how you can simply hand-wave the question beggining nature of the definition away. There are problems with this approach: it begs the question, it does not allow for many hypothetical cases where Christian status should be readily given, it does not enlighten the question of Mormonism's Christian status (it simply waves it away by definitional fiat; it cannot even *be* a question, but a ruse), nor does it have any support in scripture. These are serious problems.


No, it does not backfire, particularly since the Restoration views Christianity more as a Judaic religion than a historically traditional Christian one. We tie ourselves explicitly to Judaism, both through the Book of Mormon and even our temples. We see ourselves as inheritors of a more pristine Judaism that was similarly in apostasy before Christ's time. This includes our tradition of prophets and new scripture.

Yes, I know, Jews would have serious problems with the above, but that's fine with me. Christianity as it is today is closer to what we hold to be the truth in the Old Testament (as it relates to Christ; recall Nephi's statement that plain and previous things concerning Christ were lost from scripture) than the Jews, hence the title fits better today (even if we claim to be the spiritual children of Israel). Furthermore, a less constricted definition shows exactly what we desire: "we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins" (2 Nephi 25:26). We are Christians because we seek to follow and emulate Christ: we accept his divinity, his status as redeemer and lord, and his sole status as the only means to salvation. And that's not enough? I guess we need to accept the above, but we need to understand them in terms of an alien metaphysic, right? Otherwise we can't be part of the "Great Tradition" despite Christ's centrality in the Restoration.

As for your point about Peter, yes, you could claim that, but I don't think it would be as easy as you think. Most likely Peter (or Paul) would ask that you refrain from the philosophies of men and high theologizing; instead spend that time helping the poor, visiting the sick, helping the weary and afflicted. Is that not more likely, given that Peter never seemed to try to do 'systematic theologizing'? In fact, such an endeavor probably wasn't even considered a good in his immediate culture: why waste time with such when thousands in the world cry out for our help? And yes, I understand that this is just as much a judgment on myself as well as any theologian.

On your last point, readily agreed!

Kevin has said:
"We are Christians because we seek to follow and emulate Christ: we accept his divinity, his status as redeemer and lord, and his sole status as the only means to salvation."

As far as this goes and if this is true, then I see no immediate reason why Mormons could not be considered Christian.

But of course this assumes we are talking of the same Christ from the Christian Scriptures. Despite all this discussion, the Christology question still lingers for me and will likely not abate until I have a satisfactory answer?

It's been enjoyable though.

For Aaron Snell:

Because my initial post did not comment directly on Neuhaus' article or claims, it's impossible to say I commited a logical fallacy or broken some debate rule.
I was simply bringing into light the fact that Father Neuhaus is coming from a perspective where his comparison between Mormonism and Christianity is actually a comparison of two theistic belief systems that stray from the "Christianity" of Jesus Christ.
In other words, you cannot debate the truthfulness of two points of view if both points of view are false.
Which is more correct? 4+4=9 or 2+2=5? The answer is niether is correct.

(an) andrew,
You are correct, your original post did not commit the genetic fallacy - nor was it the subject of my comment. Rather, I was commenting on your *second* post, when you said, "The context is that a so-called expert in the field of salvation and Truth doesn't even graps [sic] the most basic tenets of those truths to be self-evident...Is this a man who is eligible for comment on the topic of salvation?"

This is a blatant disqualification of claims because of who made them, not because of what they actually say (see my abortion analogy above). Correct me if I am wrong, but you seem to be saying, "Why should we listen to Neuhaus on this subject - he's a Catholic!" If I were to write a logic textbook, I would be tempted to use this as an example of the genetic fallacy. If you don't see it, there's not much more I can say.


"In such works as _The New Mormon Challenge_, Mormons are rejected Christian status because of their rejection of certain dogmas." And for the same reason non-Mormons in Christian churches are outside the true Church, according to the LDS understanding, since we too reject dogmas, ones that have their roots in upstate New York in the mid-19th century.

If I may be so bold as to say that the judgment that the LDS church is outside the scope of Christendom is not merely because it rejects certain "dogmas." Rather, it is because it rejects the collective wisdom of its theological predecessors from the infant church through the 19th-century. That is an incredibly audacious belief, one that has a heavy burden to require that others believe it.

Ok i've known of the church of england for many years, my relative has been invovled with Mormons recently.

From what i gather the Mormons teach that the old churches no longer have "Authority" that being from the 12 disciples (Apostles as the LDS say)
all the disciples were killed off in the past, landing humanity in a dark age... until Josef Smith arrives and then distributes the "Authority" back ammong its people.

Considering both sides have i missed anything out?
If not then this clearly points out that the ENTIRE roman catholic church and all other denominations incorrect.
Leaving the LDS the true way....

I'm not an indepth person in religion so if someone knows more please let me know [email protected]

Can anyone at all answer the above question?

Dave, yes--authority is very important to Mormons since there are certain rituals they think they need to perform to get to the highest heaven. Therefore, the institution providing those rituals is key for them. They believe all authority from God was lost soon after the apostles and then returned by Joseph Smith. And JS did say that all other denominations are an abomination to God.

The key differences between LDS and Christian beliefs go much deeper than this, however. They believe the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three separate gods, that the Father has a physical body, that he was once a man who became a god, that he had a father god, and that we are of the same species as God and can become like him someday, among other differences about the way they view salvation and how it is brought about.

Their god is different enough from the God of the Bible that I would not call them Christians.

You can view a short video here that explains some of the differences:

Or if you have trouble with that link, try the link on You Tube here:

(click "play all videos" on the right of the page at that link)

I've read many Mormon works and interacted extensively with Mormon missionaries, so if you have any questions, feel free to email me.

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