Monday, March 30, 2009

LDS bishop tackles truth, Evangelical Christianity

I've been wanting to spotlight this post at Adventures in Mormonism: "LDS bishop tackles truth, Evangelical Christianity". It's a spoof which nicely points out the irony in a recent news article entitled Pastor Tackles Truth, New Age Spirituality, Mormonism.

After reading the actual article I find myself vacillating between what I would say and how I would respond to this particular pastor.

There are some natural disagreements, and I'm fine with disagreeing. For example, Pastor Phillips says that "Historic Christianity ... believe[s] that we have only one source for ultimate eternal truth and that is the holy Bible."

I admit that as much as I love the Bible, it's not my ultimate eternal source of truth. For me, the ultimate eternal source of truth rests with God himself.

On other points, Pastor Phillips is either completely ignorant of LDS Christianity or he is purposefully spreading untruths when he says that Mormonism denies the deity of Christ and "completely negates the biblical view of salvation through Christ alone". Nothing could be further from the truth. Obviously he has not done his homework. Or perhaps he does not care to truly understand.

Look, it's fine to disagree, but let's at least disagree about the right stuff! Unfortunately he gets it wrong. And that's unfortunate for himself, for the ordinary lay person in his pews, anyone reading the article, and lastly for Latter-day Saints who are blatantly being misrepresented.


Jared said...

I got to the part in the article where it says we deny the concept of Christ as deity (or however it was phrased); all I could say was, "What?! What?!" Sure, we deny the concept of the Trinity as put forth in the creeds but we deny the deity of Christ? I'm always so happy to hear some non-Mormons tell us what we believe. We're even crazy enough to believe the Bible (in general) more literally than most other denominations.

Clean Cut said...

:) Agreed. Thanks Jared...

NM said...

Clean Cut,

Do you personally still stand against the concept of the Trinity? Bearing in mind that what you may have (mis)understood about the doctrine was not it? i.e. what you may have been taught as the trinity by LDS were actually aspects of modalism...

Clean Cut said...

Hi NM--great question. First off let me just clarify that I've never been "taught the Trinity" by fellow Latter-day Saints in any official church capacity. All that I've learned about the concept of the Triune-God "as three persons in one being" I've learned by seeking understanding and reading informed Christians (usually Evangelical Christian scholars), such as Craig Blomberg in "How Wide the Divide?" and Gerald McDermott in "Claiming Christ".

Through blogging I've had contact with several informed Latter-day Saints who have an interest in interfaith dialogue and mutual understanding, and they have been able to make some clarifications that reflect a charitable view of what "the Trinity" is and what it is not (ie: Modalism), and I'm glad I'm further along the path of understanding than I was even one year ago. It's important to me that I properly understand and represent the traditional Christian view of the doctrine of the Trinity.

To answer your question, I unequivocally believe in both the oneness and the threeness of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. I do not, however, subscribe to (nor can I comprehend) the idea that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are ontologically "one Being".

I personally find it hard to believe that a person sitting down to read the Gospels or the Epistles for the very first time without any background in traditional Christian views on the Trinity would come away believing that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are somehow three persons but one Being. And as hard as I personally try, I just can't wrap my mind around an idea that seems so at odds with what is natural and reasonable and understandable to me.

I don't say this to be disrespectful one bit--just that I personally don't believe that I should have to have a Ph.D in theology to truly know and understand God--and the mystery of the Trinity. (Because, when all is said and done, it is still a mystery right? For as one LDS scholar questioned, how does 1+1+1=1?) "Meaning no irreverance...if we were to invite the Trinity to dinner, how many place settings would I need to set? Three persons are three persons. Three persons cannot be one person, nor can I conceive how three persons can be one being."

As for my understanding, I'm essentially in the same boat as the scholar I quoted above, Robert Millet. We "Mormons" believe in three persons in the Godhead--the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Our first article of faith states: "We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost." The fact that we conceive of them as separate individuals does not at all take away from their unity.

(Parenthetically, I was recently at a workshop at "Trinity" University here in San Antonio and I asked my Episcopalian colleague how she personally conceives of the Trinity, and she admitted that she conceives of them as separate individuals, even though she considers herself "faithful" Episcopalian. I found that both telling and interesting).

To quote Millet, "We believe that each of the members of the Godhead posses all of the attributes and qualities of godliness in perfection. We believe that the love and unity that exist among the three persons in the Godhead constitute a divine community that is occasionally referred to simply as "God" (see 2 Nephi 31:21; Alma 11:44; Mormon 7:7). In other words, we have no problem speaking of a Mormon monotheism in the sense that we believe in one God, one Godhead, one Trinity, one collection of divine persons who oversee and bless and save the human family." ("Claiming Christ", p. 81)

Therefore, I do not "stand against" the Biblical teachings of the threeness or the oneness of God, but I find the "doctrine" of the Trinity (meaning the mystery of three persons in one being ) to be non-biblical, and that's what I "stand against".

Tom said...

Excellent comments, CleanCut!

I was shocked that the evangelical article had so much misinformation - "nearly 6 million members" and that we "deny the Deity of Christ."

I really hope there aren't a lot of Christians reading that site! Our work would be so much easier if we didn't have to spend 25% of our evangelizing undoing misconceptions created by tracts and preachers that get our doctrine wrong. I see it over and over and over.....sigh.

Jared said...

Tom, that "nearly 6 million members" was referring to just the U.S. membership. :) The article did have some inaccuracies though.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Damon said...

Yeh,,, that is what I thought !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Clean Cut said...

Damon, I deleted your comment out of respect for you. I felt that you'd probably be embarrassed to have that comment up in public--it was quite juvenile. Would you like me to put it back on? I will be more than happy to do so, but I tried to assume the best and figured you were just having a bad day.

You're welcome to comment here, but my primary concern is that the conversation be civil and respectful, regardless of religious persuasion. Your comment was neither. Please remember that when dialoguing here, you are doing so with a real person--a human being--not with a movement or Mormonism. If that's too much to ask, than it's too much for me to hope we can actually have a civil and productive conversation.