Friday, May 20, 2016

Among other things. . .

One of the most famous statements of Mormonism came from one of the early LDS Presidents, Lorenzo Snow, who put LDS teaching this way:  “As man now is, God once was; As God now is, man may be.” It does not take much to figure out that this catchy little couplet denies any ontological difference between God and man and thus places Mormon theology far beyond the realm of Christian orthodox teaching.  Some may think that in a push to be seen within the Christian pale Mormons are now downplaying some of this.  It does not hurt that the LDS is in a conversation with Evangelicals, an ecumenical discussion much like other Christian denominations have with each other over their differences.  That said, the LDS website still promotes the essay “Becoming Like God,” in which the teaching of Joseph Smith that God “was once as one of us” and the couplet in question. This doctrine is not some peripheral teaching but is well situated within the Pearl of Great Price, part of the Mormon canon of sacred teaching, which suggests that Jesus is fully God now, but that He as not always so. At one point in the past, He was as we are now, but He grew to become “like unto God” (Abraham 3:24).

Mormons have a long way to go before they make even the fringes of Christian orthodox teaching with regard to the Trinity and the deity of Jesus.  This is but one of many areas in which the LDS official teaching falls far short of anything close to Nicene Trinitarian teaching or Chalcedon confession of Christ's two natures.  I suppose we should be thankful when Mormons hope portions of their past would simply fade away -- don't we all -- but nothing positive can happen with respect to Mormon teaching and Christian orthodoxy until and unless Mormonism is willing to reject such teachings that conflict with Scripture and tradition, reject the canonical status of the Book of Mormon, and submit to the creedal statements that were and remain the litmus tests that bound true teaching.

I can understand the desire of Mormonism to find acceptance within the pale of Christian identity but this is ultimately not theirs to claim.  The LDS must acknowledge and confess that basic Christian doctrine regarding the Trinity and the two natures of Christ.  The easiest way to do this is to affirm the three ecumenical creeds and to disclaim what Mormons had previously taught.  Even with this, there is some distance for the heirs of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young to go before Christians are willing and comfortable to share the name with them.  What may be enough for some Evangelicals may not be sufficient for those churches who have fully invested and identified in the catholic and orthodox theology of Trinity and the two natures of Christ.  For we note that others who pass themselves off as Evangelical Christians may be more modalists than Trinitarians (Bishop T. D. Jakes, for example).  Christianity means nothing unless there are limits and boundaries to its definition.  Though some have struggled with this, it should not be too difficult to agree that Nicene Trinitarian doctrine and Chalcedonian Christology is basic.

1 comment:

John Joseph Flanagan said...

The LDS teaches a view of Jesus which is contrary to scripture. But they can easily disregard what the Bible teaches by relying on "extra-Biblical" authority, as in the visions of Joseph Smith and the ideas stated in the Book of Mormon. The Roman Church similarly views scripture through 'extra-Biblical authority' and even while truths about Christ are taught, they fall back on false premises connected to the elevation of Mary as co-redemptress, ascribe supernatural powers, miracles and teachings to her which are contrary to the Bible. Prayers to dead saints, reverence and special powers to bones and relics. Papal discretion was and is used to direct or change theological positions....and so forth. These are the things which have caused the continuation of cults, and the manifestation of truth mixed with error. So many churches teach so many things and many depart from the Bible to invent new things. I suppose this will never change.
As I look at the history of Christianity, with all the centuries of conflict and bloodshed over doctrines, schisms, apostasy, and heresies, I wonder why we have wandered so far from the simplicity of what Our Lord taught, and why Man persists in reshaping and reinterpreting the Bible for a carnal end, for power, for exclusivity in the pursuit of truth. Tonight, as I do each night, I shall sit in my bed and read the book of John by the by warm light by my bedside. I thank God for His word. It is really not so complicated after all. . "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."