Sunday, April 21, 2013
1 John 4:1-3 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.
Back in 1998 the North American Mission Board, a mission outreach agency of the Southern Baptist Convention dedicated to evangelism in North America, did a thorough study of comparison and contrast between Mormon beliefs and Historic, Biblical Christianity. Their findings were produced in a document called: "The Interfaith Witness Belief Bulletin on Mormonism", which can be found on the Southern Baptist Website: www.sbc.net. If you go on the SBC website, type "mormonism" into the search browser to find the link to the article entitled: "Always Ready, Sharing the Gospel with you Mormon Friends" which contains material from the "Interfaith Witness Belief Bulletin on Mormonism" and is part of the online SBC magazine: "SBC Life", March 2012 issue.
What has changed since 1998 - a greater need for doctrinal discernment
The reason I make mention of these resources is because for the next few days I will be relying heavily upon them in a series of blogs that will simply be entitled: "Christianity vs. Mormonism". Obviously a lot has changed since 1998 when it comes to the growth of Mormonism and its level of public exposure and acceptance. For one thing, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) of the SBC reported in 1998 that Mormons' had a worldwide membership of 9.8 million adherents. Today, the Mormon website lds.org claims a worldwide membership of over 14 million people, with several million in the U.S. Also too, with the recent increase of Mormon candidates running for public office, as well as the increased attempts by Mormons to appear more Evangelical, the need for discernment is greater than ever.
The game plan for this series of blogs
In having read through the material on the Mormon's official website, their literature, books and articles, I find the Southern Baptist resources that I mentioned above to be still very helpful and accurate. Although I will include a few of my own thoughts and some newer information to facillitate understanding, yet the bulk of this blog series will derive from the above cited article so as to avoid reinventing the wheel. As noted in yesterday's blog, in Christian History heresies have attacked at least four key areas of Bible Doctrine:
1. Doctrine of God
2. Doctrine of Christ
3. Doctrine of Salvation
4. Doctrine of Scripture
Therefore in comparing Christianity and Mormonism, we will evaluate Mormonism by means of those four main areas. The aim will be simple: to discern whether or not Mormonism is another Christian denomination (as it so claims) or conclude that is a non-Christian belief system. With those introductory matters stated, let us now compare Christianity vs Mormonism in the first key doctrinal area: The Doctrine of God.
Christianity vs Mormonism on the Doctrine of God
In the March 2012 issue of the SBC Today article : "Always Ready, Sharing the Gospel with you Mormon Friends", we read the following statement about the Historical and Biblical Christian Doctrine of God:
"The Doctrine of God - Historic Christianity
The one God is a Spirit who is the personal, eternal, infinite Creator of all that exists. He is the only God and necessary for all other things to exist. He exists eternally as a Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is God and not man. Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 43:10; 44:6-8; Hosea 11:9; Matthew 28:19; John 4:24; 17:3; 1 Timothy 1:17; Jude 1:25"
The above statement matches with what scripture teaches about God. Furthermore, Article II of the current Baptist Faith & Message 2000 communicates the same truth about God.1 Asserting God as being One in Existence and Three in Identity (i.e The Trinity) lies at the heart of Christian Faith and Life. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Matthew 22:37-39); 28:18-20) Now let us compare what Mormonism claims to understand about the doctrine of God, again quoting from the SBC Life article "Always Ready, Sharing the Gospel with you Mormon Friends":
Mormonism's Doctrine of God
"Elohim (Heavenly Father) is an exalted man with a physical body of flesh and bone who sires spirit children destined for human life on earth. Having kept the requirements of Mormonism, he was exalted to godhood and inherited his own universe. LDS founder Joseph Smith said, "If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible . . . you would see him like a man in form" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345). The Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, and "Heavenly Father" comprise three separate and distinct gods: the Father and the Son have bodies of flesh and bones "as tangible as man's," but the Holy Ghost "is a personage of Spirit" (Doctrine and Covenants [D&C], 130:22)."
When you compare Mormonism's teachings about God to that of Biblical Christianity, the differences are quite profound. The reference to a Mormon book: "Doctrine and Covenants" shows that the statement is drawn from primary source materials within Mormonism itself.2 The god of Mormonism is not Singular and unique, but rather One among many, lesser deities.3 A well cited Mormon statement summarizes the Mormon doctrine of God: "As man now is God once was, as God now is, man may be."
Conclusions for today
So in returning to our central question: "is Mormonism another Christian denomination or is it a non-Christian belief system", we would have to conclude that with regards to the doctrine of God, Mormonism is profoundly non-Christian and unbiblical in how it conceives of the Nature, Person and Character of God.4 I leave the reader with two suggestions for sharing the Gospel with Mormons from the March 2012 SBC Life article: "Always Ready, Sharing the Gospel with you Mormon Friends":
"Witnessing to Your Mormon Friends
1. Practice the basics of the Christian life—maintain a daily quiet time of Scripture and prayer, trust the Holy Spirit to use you, ask the Lord to give you a heart and passion for the lost.
2. Develop a basic understanding of Christian doctrine and the Gospel. Reading and reviewing The Baptist Faith and Message on a regular basis is a good place to start."
1. The BFM 2000 Article II reads: "There is one and only one living and true God. He is an intelligent, spiritual, and personal Being, the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver, and Ruler of the universe. God is infinite in holiness and all other perfections. God is all powerful and all knowing; and His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present, and future, including the future decisions of His free creatures. To Him we owe the highest love, reverence, and obedience. The eternal triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being."
2. Mormonism claims three additional books to the Bible as its supposed set of scriptures (called by Mormon's "The triple Combination). The first is the "Book of Mormon", authored by Joseph Smith after a series of supposed visions in the 1820's. The Book of Mormon is an alledged history of the Americas and Jesus' visitations and revelations to three groups of people, one of which supposedly descended from lost descendants of Abraham and who are ancestors to many of the American Indians. The second book, "Doctrines and Covenants", is the more doctrinal of the three books, compiled mostly by Smith but also his sucessors. The third, "Pearl of Great Price", is both doctrinal and devotional and was compiled almost entirely by Joseph's Smith's followers. Joseph Smith also produced his own version of the Bible, the "Joseph Smith Translation" (JST), introducing some 600 changes to the Biblical text of ther KJV to match the writings he wrote.
3. This particular observation was gleaned from the Mormon book "Pearl of Great Price, Book of Abraham, Chapter 3-4". Of the three works ascribed to the Mormon's founder Joseph Smith, the "Pearl of Great Price" is the only one that was compiled after his death, and was not completed until a few years after the beginning of the twentieth century (some 50 years after his death). The textual history of the Mormon writings is complex. All the information concerning the Mormon writings can be found on the Mormon's official website: lds.org.
4. As we noted in yesterday's blog, if you get God wrong, you get Jesus wrong, since Jesus Christ is the Personal Revelation of God, being Himself God in Human flesh. Truly the doctrines of God, Jesus, the Bible and salvation rise or fall together. In tomorrow's blog we will consider what differences exist between Christianity and Mormonism on the Person of Jesus Christ.