Question: Do Mormon beliefs or practices exclude them from being considered Christian?


Question: Do Mormon beliefs or practices exclude them from being considered Christian?

Latter-day Saints are not excluded from being considered Christans by belief or practice

When critics make the claim that LDS are not Christian, they typically will present a laundry list of doctrines and practices that they believe put LDS outside the category of "Christian." At its base, this claim is an excellent example of the No true Scotsman fallacy.

There are two problems with such lists. The first, and most important, is that the original and enduring meaning of "Christian" has been a person or group whose beliefs or practices are founded on the life and/or teachings of Christ. That is, all groups whose religion is founded on Jesus of Nazareth have been classified as Christian since the term was first coined in the first century, regardless of specific beliefs and practices. "Christian" has always included such wildly diverse groups as the Ebionites, the Marcionites, and the Christian Gnostics of ancient times, along with Unitarians and Coptic Christians in modern times. Critics may believe that LDS are "false Christians" or "heretical Christians" or "hell-bound Christians," seeing that such terms are subjective and without standard definitions, but neither belief nor practice can exclude any group from the family of Christian religions and denominations if that group claims to be founded on the life or teachings of the first-century Jesus of Nazareth.

The list of objectionable beliefs and practices used to exclude LDS from the Christian family are lists of beliefs and practices that are found in other groups that are clearly classified as Christian

The second problem with the critics' list is that their list of objectionable beliefs and practices used to exclude LDS from the Christian family are lists of beliefs and practices that are found in other groups that are clearly classified as Christian. The claimed bases for the charge that the LDS are not Christians include:

All of these doctrinal differences have been held not just by the LDS, but by other Christians as well

However, all of these doctrinal differences have been held not just by the LDS, but by other Christians as well, including the early Christians of the first and second centuries. [1] These Christians:

  • were not Trinitarians, since the creeds were not yet formulated
  • did not teach creatio ex nihilo
  • did not consider "the Bible" to be the sole authoritative scripture, since it was not compiled until centuries later
  • considered some writings to be authoritative which many modern Christians now reject
  • taught theosis, or human deification through Christ
  • followed living prophets (the apostles)

One might debate whether these Christians were correct or complete in their beliefs, but can the critics seriously exclude them from the family of Christians? [2]

Critics of Mormonism essentially create a definition of "Christian" that includes their brand of Christianity, and excludes others with whom they disagree

The critics essentially create a definition of "Christian" that includes their brand of Christianity, and excludes others with whom they disagree. The merriam-webster dictionary defines the word Christian to mean "one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ". [3] The Oxford Dictionaries Online defines the word Christian as "a person who has received Christian baptism or is a believer in Jesus Christ and his teachings". [4] Critics have the right to disagree, but their claim that Mormons are not Christian is just their opinion or their religious belief.

Notes

  1. For a discussion by a non-LDS, conservative evangelical on points of doctrine upon which modern evangelical Christianity differs with the doctrines taught by the early Christian Fathers, see: 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]), 1. ISBN 0924722002 off-site
  2. For a discussion of these issues, see Daniel C. Peterson and Stephen D. Ricks, "Comparing LDS Beliefs with First-Century Christianity, (Provo, Utah: FARMS, no date). off-site
  3. Christian. 2012. In Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved November 24, 2012, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Christian
  4. "Christian". Oxford Dictionaries. April 2010. Oxford Dictionaries. April 2010. Oxford University Press. 24 November 2012 <http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/american_english/Christian>.