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.