Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Worshiping Jesus differently does not equal "a different Jesus"
I had an epiphany yesterday. This is how it came about. After hearing over and over the accusation that "Mormons worship a different Jesus"--I started to recognize why some people of other faiths have claimed (wrongly I might add) that we are being deceptive or disingenuous when we say that we are Christians. In frustration they state: "We are simply talking about a different Jesus than you". Both parties tend to go away frustrated from this type of exchange, and nothing productive seems to come of it.
Now of course if Latter-day Saints believed only that Jesus was simply a great prophet and wonderful moral leader–if that were the extent of our testimony or our witness of Christ, than they would be right in assuming that that does not make us Christian. But few people bear stronger witness of Christ--and that He is much, much more than that--than do the Latter-day Saints. Of His divineness there is no doubt. We bear witness that Jesus is the Christ–the very Anointed One–and of His Messianic mission. The Book of Mormon confirms the truth of the Bible in this fundamental fact. So to be very honest, the claim that we are not Christian seems so pointless to most Mormons, because we know that we believe in and worship Jesus, and are therefore Christian.
But their claim of “a different Jesus”–that one is a tab bit more interesting. Because there are “differences” in our belief for sure. We believe in the Christ of the Bible, but not the Christ of post-biblical councils and creeds. I was there in person and remember when President Hinckley said:
"As a Church we have many critics, many of them. They say we do not believe in the traditional Christ of Christianity. There is some substance to what they say. Our faith, our knowledge is not based on ancient traditions, the creeds which came of a finite understanding and out of the almost infinite discussions of men trying to arrive at a definition of the risen Christ. Our faith, our knowledge comes from the witness of a prophet in this dispensation who saw before him the great God of the universe and His Beloved son, the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. They spoke to him. He spoke to them. He testified openly, unequivocally, and unabashedly of that great vision of the Almighty Redeemer of the world glorifying our understanding, but unequivocating in the knowledge it brought." (April 2002 General Conference)
Can it be put any more simply? Both sides accept the biblical teachings about Christ, but we interpret them through different lenses. Yes, this is a difference. No one has ever claimed "we're the same". So the epiphany I had was how to respond to this claim.
Even though we have differences in our Christian beliefs, (ie: Evangelicals believe in the Trinity where all three persons are one being; I believe in the Godhead where three distinct beings are one completely unified God) does that really mean that one of us can’t be Christian? I don’t necessarily think so. Or rather, do those differences really mean that we’re worshiping a “different Jesus”? I think the better answer is that perhaps we’re just worshiping Jesus differently.