Thoughts on recent discussion on Mormonism’s relationship to Christianity
Sparked by the presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney (a devout Mormon), the media has been pursuing a line of questioning regarding how Christians view Mormonism. Below is a video where Pastor Joel Olsteen (Senior Pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston Texas, the largest and fastest growing church in America) responds to an interviewer’s question on his take on Mormonism.
Without wanting to throw another pastor under the bus, I can say that I was shocked to hear him say that to him, Mormons are Christians. He does give the qualifications that they might not be the “purest form” of Christianity that he believes he grew up with. But because Mitt Romney believes that Jesus is the Son of God and his savior; Joel Olsteen reckons him a Christian. By the term Christian, implying that someone is “in Christ”; belonging to Christ, with all the spiritual identity and destiny therein.
First of all, I do understand the desire on the part of Joel Olsteen and other pastors to find common ground with other faiths and belief systems; seeking for civility and mutuality over and above divisiveness and attack. Too much violence and vitriol has been carried on in the name of God. At the same time, integrity when it comes to what we believe is a hallmark of what Christians, and especially pastors are called to. Timothy 4:16 says, (in the New International Version): Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
I am of the firm belief that we should be rightfully wary of passing direct judgment on someone’s eternal destiny. Ultimately, that is exclusively God’s right and role. But we are called upon to judge truth and teaching (2Tim.2:15); beholden to no other gospel (Gal.1:8) . Even a brief survey of Mormon teaching reveals massive divergence from basic Christian belief e.g. regarding God’s nature (i.e. not an eternal being; rather being formerly a man who became the god of this universe); personhood of Jesus (i.e. as Satan’s brother); what is authentically God’s word (i.e. Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, Doctrines & Covenants); salvation as resulting from faith with an emphasis on works; future destiny of saved (i.e. become gods themselves); etc. By no means are these the kind of differences that Baptists and Methodists wrestle with. And to say so would be disingenuous.
For it is not possible for both the Bible and the sacred Mormon texts to both be right about: who God is, how to come into salvation and have an authentic relationship with Jesus, and what heaven will look like. For in the Mormon belief system, Christians will by no means make it to heaven. And likewise, by my understanding; the teachings of the Bible exclude the Mormon path to salvation as an authentic one.
I have to believe that there is a way, even in this stifling culture of political correctness that we can and must hold onto the integrity of our beliefs without becoming haters. That love is not diametrically opposed to truth, rather inextricably bound. That genuine love for souls and truth would lead us to fervent prayer, authentic dialogue, and ultimately calls to embrace the authentic gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. I pray that this would be the shape and soul of New Vision’s ministry to Mormon, Christian, to all.
Who or rather what are the “Four Al’s” of the ECC?
This past Sunday, Peter Sung (Director of Church Planting for the ECC, i.e. Evangelical Covenant Church) visited New Vision as a guest speaker. He shared a great message on prayer, but later during a Q&A time with some of our leaders, Peter referenced the four historic “Al’s” of the ECC.
At first we though he was talking about four founding fathers of the ECC who happened to all be named “Al” (wouldn’t that be weird). Rather, these ended up being an articulation of the ECC’s core values that still hold sway today. Here is a breakdown:
ECC’s Four AL’s
1. BiblicAL - Authority of Scripture
“Where is it written”
Lived out by study and personal transformation by the impact of the Word.
2. DevotionAL - Intimacy with God
“How goes your walk with Christ?”
Lived out by developing an intimate relationship with God
3. RelationAL - Importance of fellowship with one another
“I am a friend of all that fear the Lord.”
Lived out by realizing the unity of the Body.
4. MissionAL - Going out into the world
“God wants to see the lost people fond and hurting people helped.”
Lived out by reaching people for Christ worldwide with deeds and words of compassion and hope.
I found it so fitting that this breakdown of the ECC’s core values so closely echo New Vision’s (which were formed way before we even looked into the ECC).
New Vision’s Core Values:
1. Anchored in the SCRIPTURES(2Tim. 3:16, Ps.119)
2. Empowered by the SPIRIT (Eph. 5:18, Gal. 5:25)
3. Embedded in the BODY(Rom.12:5, 1Cor.12:12-26)
4. Missional in the WORLD(Matt.28:19-20, Acts 1:8)
There were many of places where we felt a great resonance with the heart and ways of the ECC; making us look all the more forward to our coming adoption and partnership.
Well, our next ECC guest speaker will be Dave Olson, the executive minister of the Department of Church Growth and Evangelism of the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC). I’ll give you a heads up when that visit gets scheduled.
We sometimes use the ”brother from another mother” to describe a strong connection with someone regardless of DNA. A similar phenomenon could then be used to describe a deep connection between two local churches; owing to the connection that comes by being birthed of the same Father.
New Vision has an opportunity to develop this kind of connection and partnership with a local church in Kherwara, (Northern India). Through our relationship with the Native Missionary Movement, we have been brought into contact with a passionate church near their home base in Udaipur, Rajasthan. This region is starving for the gospel, and ripe for the harvest! We have been assured that their pastor and church are open to a long term relationship where we could get a front row view of how God will redeem their region as we partner in faith.
One of the most strategic ways we could partner with them at this stage would be to help them finish their church construction. In that region, having a building is such a positive, attractive sign to those looking on. For in that culture, it is a tangible demonstration of the legitimacy and power of the God who is worshiped there. People already travel from long distances to experience the presence of Jesus; and the church has great visions of how they will become a hub for their whole region in Christ.
This February, a small team will be traveling out to Udaiapur to visit the church, and work with the Native Missionary Movement at a nearby conference. I will be keeping you updated as to what God reveals, but for now; please read the informative letter sent by Pastor Paul Matthews regarding this church (see below), and pray for every party and every step in the process.
What an exciting opportunity, to partner with a local church on the frontier envelope of the burgeoning gospel of Christ! Glory to God!
New Vision’s contribution to the Japan relief effort
Back in April of this year, Japan experienced a horrific series of natural disasters; from massive earthquake to devastating tsunami. As the calls to help in the relief effort went out, New Vision came together to donate $3,385.00, through the relief and development agency Samaritan’s Purse.
Here is a letter from Franklin Graham, President of Samaritan’s Purse (and son of Billy Graham), thanking us for our contribution.
Let me echo the thanks to all who gave from your hearts! I know God used every penny to meet people in desperate logistical and spiritual need. Let’s continue to conspire to be even more generous in healing the world through Christ’s tangible and transforming love!
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