Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Todd, are Mormons Christian?

Let's kick things off with some cardio. I'd like to know where you come down on this one Todd. Are Mormons Christians in your opinion? Please give your reasons one way or the other.

Over at HI4LDS, a commenter posting under the alias AAT referred to Mormons as non-Christians and I took issue with it. Todd stayed out of fray, so I don't know what his opinion is, but I assume he holds the standard evangelical view that Mormons are not Christians. As I said on that thread, I think this view is problematic. There are a whole bunch of possible explanations an evangelical might give for why Mormons don't qualify as Christians, but knowning Todd, and knowing that his allegience is to the Bible, I am guessing that his reasons will revolve around the Bible. To rework (slightly) my comment from that post, I think that this hypothetical position requires one of the following:

  1. Mormons are not really sincere believers in the Bible, which we can tell by the fact that they don't interpret the Bible like evangelicals do. In other words, the Bible is so clear in its doctrine about God that disagreement with evangelicals is evidence of insincerity on the part of the person disagreeing.
  2. Mormons are simply too stupid to be Christians. In other words, the Bible is so clear in its doctrine about God that disagreement with evangelicals is due to the the person disagreeing being too stupid to read the words and comprehend their clear and unambiguous meaning.
  3. The Bible must be interpreted according to non-Biblical creeds and that the title “Christian” is fundamentally defined by those non-Biblical creeds. Interpretations that do not follow those creeds are non-Christian by definition.

I'm not sure what other options there are if our non-Christian status is to be justified based on our differing understandings of the Bible. Help me out here Todd.

27 comments:

Todd Wood said...

Jacob, I believe that Joseph Smith has unfolded a completely different story of Christianity.

If I admit to his story than I must conclude that the fundamentals of the Christian story which changed my life are false.

Joseph Smith tears right into the deep tissue of many heart issues that I hold dear.

I think that the orthodoxy and the orthopraxy that he initiated is not Christian.

And I tend to think that in my present stance, he would not consider me a "worthy" Christian, worthy of stepping foot in any LDS temple, or worthy of high LDS celestial glory.

So Jacob, my problem goes all the way back to the first latter-day prophet on the celestial boundaries of Christianity. But I will again attempt to delve into LDS scripture in this new year.

Jacob J said...

Okay, thanks for the response Todd. So, if I understand you correctly, someone must agree with you about the "fundamentals of the Christian story" in order to qualify for the title "Christian." Can you be more specific about what the fundamental elements of the story are? I can't tell what you mean by the "story of Christianity." Virgin birth? Crucifixion and resurrection on the third day?

Jacob J said...

Todd,

Once we establish what the "story of Christianity" is, the next question will be why your view of the story should be priviledged over my view of the story. Should I say that you are not a Christian because your story differs from that told by Joseph Smith? Why is your view define the word "Christian" rather than my view defining it?

Thinking of heart issues for Todd Wood...

Eric Nielson said...

Go, Jacob, Go!

Todd Wood said...

You are welcome to say that I don't have the right Christian story, Jacob. Many honestly tell me that to my face. I can respect that.

I just can't buy that the same Christian story is being told by the first LDS prophet and me.

For that matter, not all Baptists tell the same story. And I think there is one true story to be told.

Jacob J said...

Todd,

My point is not that you have the wrong story, but that it is pretty useless for everyone to go around saying they are the only "Christians" and everyone who disagrees with them is not a Christian. Are the Baptists who tell a different story non-Christians? Would that be an accepted thing in the Evangelical community, to call other Baptists non-Christian who disagree?

Todd Wood said...

yes, Jacob.

I will try to come back next week and provide an example.

Just because one is a member of a denomination, that doesn't make them a Christian.

Global said...

So christian/nonchristian is identical to orthodox/heretical? Is it possible to be a heretical christian?

BrianJ said...

Jacob J---not to hijack your nascent blog, but I have a related question for Todd Wood: Given that some denominations that differ on many points are still (I assume) considered Christian by Todd Wood, what would Mormonism have to 'give up' in order to be considered Christian?"

For example: keep the Word of Wisdom but drop the temple ceremony; or keep the Book of Mormon but accept trinitarianism.

(Please feel free to ignore this if it is too much of a thread/blogjack)

Jacob J said...

Quite alright BrianJ. However, I am not sure your assumption is correct that other demoninations are considered Christian by Todd. In my last comment I asked if it would be acceptable in the evangelical community for him to refer to other baptists as non-Christian if they disagreed and he answered "yes." So, I will be anxious to see what example he comes back with next week to clarify. It may be that there are far fewer Christians in Todd view than I previously thought. At any rate, you ask a good question.

The Yellow Dart said...

Todd,

If doctrine alone is what one uses to define who the "in crowd" is, at what point can one judge if another person is really "in" or not? If the doctrine of the Trinity, for instance, is the doctrine (or one of the most critical doctrines) one must understand and believe in a substantially appropriate way to be a true Christian, then surely we must all be doomed. I mean, who really believes they understand that doctrine even if they profess to believe it? If you don't understand it entirely, does that exclude one? How can one be sure they or others really understand it sufficiently to be saved? Does every one who professes to believe it explain and understand it the same? At what point does ones understanding or explanation differ to such an extent as to prevent that person from holding the title "Christian"? And who says so? If it is the bible which says so, who exactly can declare in an authoritative way what the bible says when a conflict arises in interpretation since the bible itself is what is supposedly the only authoritative teacher?

Similarly, if it is the inerrancy and sufficiency of the bible that one must accept, then clearly historically those who originated the faith (such as Jesus and the apostles) would be excluded, since the canon as understood by modern evangelicals simply didn't exist anciently (not to mention the philosophical idea of "inerrancy" is a very recent historical development that simply didn't exist anciently, having to do mostly with American Fundamentalist Evangelicalism's reaction to higher biblical criticism).

I am certainly interested to know how knowledge and acceptance of doctrine alone can be the sole means of defining who is "in", because it would seem to exclude numerous people on historical grounds, as well as people who are not very well educated, people who can't read, and little children, etc. It seems to me that salvation is about a relationship with God, and that doctrine is only important inasmuch as it facilitates that saving relationship. If it is truly only "doctrine" alone that saves, it seems that it is nothing more than modern day gnosticism.

Todd Wood said...

Yellow Dart,

I think scripture makes it clear that to be Christian involves more than just doctrinal head knowledge. For any Christian, God supernaturally regenerates the sinful heart - capturing the mind, the will, and the emotions - as one places repentant faith in Christ.

But how many biblical higher critics (all the leading "Christian" scholars in America) promoted this as fundamentally necessary for one to be a Christian in 2007? How many are there, Dart? Could you name them? If Biblical scholars do not believe that Jesus is the Savior who needed to come and die for our sins, why are they looked upon as authorities for what is Christian?

Jacob,

Have you ever heard of Charles Spurgeon, a pastor of Baptist lore in England during the century before last? There is an infamous period in Baptist history, known as the "down grade" controversy. During Spurgeon's ministry, it began in 1887 and continued on until - and even after - his death in 1892.

When in London, I picked up a whole book, compiled of articles Spurgeon wrote during the times of spiritual declension in his beloved denomination, the Baptist Union. Spurgeon was censored and he eventually withdrew from his own denomination because of the higher critics.

I would have done the same. If I may, let me put these words in the mouth of a protesting Spurgeon, "why say we are experiencing Christian fellowship when we don't even believe the same story about God and his work? when we don't have the same statements of faith?"

Back in March of 1889, here are some questions asked (emphasis as in the text):

1. Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be an infallible and sufficient guide in all matters of religious faith and practice?

2. Do you believe in the DEITY as well as divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, i.e., that he is himself God?

3. Do you believe that Christ, in his death, endured the penalty due to divine justice for human guilt?

4. Do you believe the Holy Spirit to be, not only a divine influence, but, in the true, real, and proper sense of the term, a divine person, and himself God?

5. Do you believe man to have become, by sin, a fallen creature, and to have lost, by his fall, his original peaceful, happy, and holy relations with his Maker?

6. Do you believe that, by regeneration, man becomes possessed of a new and higher life, described as spiritual? that this life is only rendered possible by the mediatorial work of Christ? that is only rendered actual by the work of the Holy Spirit in the soul? and that, apart from these means, it can never be enjoyed?

7. Do you believe in the resurrection of the dead, as an event of the future, and not of continual recurrence?

Gang, I thought these questions posed to higher critics among Baptists over 100 years ago were quite good.

If a Baptist came up to me and said, "Todd, those are stupid questions. Of course not! to all seven themes. But don't forget, I am your Christian brother desiring your warm fellowship as we study the Bible together."

What do you think I should say? Should I say? "Well as long as you keep paying your tithes, you are my Christian brother."

Jacob J said...

Excellent Todd. So, the list you have provided is the true measure of whether someone is a "Christian," is that correct? The problem, of course, is that your list is far too specific to your personal understanding of the Bible. That is, the Bible itself is not necessarily a Christian document based on these criteria.

Of course, you will disagree and say that this is what you believe the Bible to be teaching, and this is how we get back to the possibilities I raised in the original post. Why should your understanding of the Bible be the gold standard for the term "Christian"? It is not just the Mormons who take issue with one or more of those statements, but the majority of Christians since the time of Christ have rejected one or more of the points in your list. Quite clearly, your definition of "Christian" is disasterously overspecific to your individual beliefs.

We have a word for people who believe as you do, it is "fundamentalist Evangelical Christian." You want to hijack the word "Christian" (without a qualifier) and say it only applies to people who believe exactly like you do. That is the height of arrogance. If you truly didn't trust your rational abilities due to your fallen nature, you would not make your doctrinal positions (arrived at through rational analysis of the scriptures) the standard by which everyone else is judged.

So, to get back to my questions in the original post, do you think all these points are unambiguously laid out in the Bible? If so, is it (1) that Mormons are not sincere or (2) that Mormons are not smart enough to figure out what the Bible says?

1. or 2.? Which is it?

BrianJ said...

JacobJ - Yes, I know that Todd is more restrictive than perhaps most Evangelicals on the term "Christian," but I assume that at some level he still allows differences of belief (even if it's as minor as who really wrote the epistle to the Hebrews). I'm interested in knowing his "wiggle room."

Todd - While I disagree with your list, I agree in part with the concept. The term "Christian" has to be restrictive to some degree or it becomes meaningless.

JacobJ - (just responding to comments in order) I would be interested in reading your definition of "Christian." (See comment to Todd, above.) If I, for sake of argument, believed that Jesus really lived, but was a mere mortal, taught good ethics, died and no longer exists, you wouldn't let me "get away with" calling myself Christian, would you?

Jacob J said...

Brianj,

I would be interested in reading your definition of "Christian."

Well, the suffix "-ian" means "one from, belonging to, relating to, or like." From a basic deconstruction of the word it seems "Christian" must mean something about relating to or being like Christ. In the vernacular, we use "Christian" in both senses, sometimes to describe people who profess a certain belief in Christ and other times to describe people who are actually like Christ (e.g. a person might say "An athiest friend of mine was one of the most truly Christian men I've ever known.").

When we ask the question "Are Mormons Christian?" we are not asking if Mormons are like Christ because that must be answered individually for each Mormon. The question seems to be in reference to the first sense about professing to believe in Jesus Christ.

Given that Christianity is one of the dominant religions of the world, the standard usage naturally takes on enough specificity to distinguish between religions that honor Christ as a moral teacher (whose members do not refer to themselves as Christians) and ones that worship Christ (whose members do refer to themselves as Christians). So, as a generic term, I believe it has come to mean someone who worships Jesus Christ as the Savior of humankind.

Since there is a lot of variation among those who profess this belief (i.e. there are many views under the umbrella of Christianity), believers further distinguish themselves by identifying with certain sects, doctrines, and movements. To claim that the term "Christian" only applies to some small slice of what is known in the world as Christianity seems to me to display a simple lack of understanding about language and how words gain their meanings.

The Yellow Dart said...

Jacob,

You said:

"Well, the suffix "-ian" means "one from, belonging to, relating to, or like." From a basic deconstruction of the word it seems "Christian" must mean something about relating to or being like Christ...the standard usage naturally takes on enough specificity to distinguish between religions that honor Christ as a moral teacher (whose members do not refer to themselves as Christians) and ones that worship Christ (whose members do refer to themselves as Christians)"


I think what may be important, as you have discovered, is whether or not someone self-identifies themselves as a "Christian". If someone, for instance, identifies themselves as such, then I think it is disrespectful and mean-spirited to deny them that right and to disinherit them of that title even if you have serious disagreements in doctrinal matters. Even if that person thinks of Jesus as merely a good man worthy of emulation, if they nevertheless sincerely self-identify as "Christian" and consider that meaning to be of great value to their person and identity, they should be given the courtesy of being called such when they ask. Of course, this doesn't mean that you agree doctrinally, or that you feel their brand of Christianity is correct, but simply that you recognize their integrity in trying to do what they feel is right, and that you are respectful of their self-identification.

For instance by way of analogy, as a missionary I self-identified as an "Elder". I remember an interfaith meeting once where a respected Muslim leader gave me the honor of always referring to me by my title "Elder *Name*". Now, of course, I wasn't old, and he didn't accept my priesthood office. But he called me Elder anyway. It was the type of interaction that fosters respect and trust. The very fact that I can still remember the respect he gave me is noteworthy. In contrast (and perhaps the reason I remember the previous incident so clearly), I ran into not a few evangelicals who wouldn't refer to me as "Elder" but insisted on calling me by my last name or mocking because I wouldn't give them my first name--even after I sincerely and kindly asked them to call me "Elder". I think this is indicative of the fact that they are both insecure about their own faith and disrespectful of other human beings.

Does what I am saying make sense? These are my current musings. What are your thoughts?

Jacob J said...

Yellow Dart,

There is certainly something to the idea of being courteous, as when someone wants you to refer to them by a certain name. On my mission, if there was anyone who did not want to call me "Elder" I would be perfectly comfortable with them calling me "Brother."

The reason I don't fully sign up for your suggestion of just letting everyone self-identify is that words get their meanings from a social context, not from a private context. That is, everyone doesn't get to redefine whatever words they want and expect everyone to conform to that redefinition. "Christian" has come to refer to those who worship Jesus Christ as their Savior.

But you raise an important point. If I knew someone who self-identified as a Christian simply because they thought Jesus was a good man and they appreciated the golden rule, then I would be happy to let them refer to themselves as "Christian" in the sense that they were a follower of Christ. However, and this is important, I would expect them to qualify this if they were calling themselves a Christian in some setting where this was not understood. If you are using a word in a way that will be misunderstood, it is your responsibility to clarify it.

Thus, I am perfectly fine with fundamentalist-Mormons calling themselves "Mormons" as long as they clarify that then are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints if the situation is such that this could be misunderstood. After all, they believe in the Book of Mormon. In the same spirit, it is often appropriate for LDS to clarify that although we are Christians, we do not share all the same beliefs about the nature of God with our Evangelical brothers and sisters.

The Yellow Dart said...

Jacob,

I agree that clarifications should certainly be made, especially in situations of possible confusion. For instance, saying LDS Christian, or Catholic Christian, Evangelical Christian, etc., might be helpful to prevent misinterpretation and allow for future clarification.

But you said:

""Christian" has come to refer to those who worship Jesus Christ as their Savior."

My problem with this, however,is that it is your own personally favored (and some-what vague) definition of what Christian means, and that it privileges your group over another, deciding beforehand who is "in" (i.e., allowed to use the term "Christian" for themselves) and who is "out"---and without allowing that person or group to speak for themselves and to define themselves, regardless of our own personally favored definition. It may deny some the title that they feel represents them. Your original "dictionary" definition didn't necessarily say anything about worshiping Jesus (which is a term-phrase that would also need some serious clarification). I would bet Todd doesn't think we appropriately worship Jesus and so cannot possess the title as you have defined it (regardless of whether you think we properly worship Jesus).

I agree that there is a certain context where your social definition of "Christian" applies. However, it is such restricted definitions that others like Todd, Catholics, etc., can and do use to deny LDS Christians the title of Christian--for from their view we fall outside their usage. I think your view leaves that as a serious problem.

However, I think our views can be harmonized. As you have described you are apparently using the term "Christian" in a specific "social context", just as Todd is using it in his. I have said, however, that we should allow persons to define themselves, and give them the kind of respect we would ourselves want.

So to solve the problem, we should allow others to use whatever term they feel applies to them (whether it fits our own personally favored social definition), but make important distinctions where confusion might otherwise arise. This seems to best allow for genuine respect and friendly Christ-like conversation.

What do you think?

Jacob J said...

Yellow Dart,

I am happy to have you turn it around on me and say I am using my own personally favored definition, but my whole point is that I am not doing that. I am trying to describe what the word has come to mean in our society as a matter of usage. I am not trying to promote what I think the definition of "Christian" should be.

If you, or anyone else, disagrees with my assessment, the way this can be settled is by doing a study to determine what people actually think you are telling them when you declare yourself to be a Christian, or what they think you are telling them when you say Mormons are not Christians, etc.. We are not caught in an unresolvable problem of relativism. The answer could easily be settled by an objective measure.

I don't have the resources at my disposal to actually do that study, but that is how I would ground the definition. As I tried to say before, the fundamental issue is one of communication. It sounds great to let everyone self-identify, but I am only okay with that to the extent we all understand what is being said. It is no good to tell everyone they can use language in whatever confusing way they want just so we can get along. However, I did say that I am willing to allow someone to self-identify however they want so long as they clarify things when their use of a label doesn't match the expected meaning of that label in a given situation. That way, we can still communicate (which is the purpose of using words after all).

Now, although Todd is free to use "Christian" in his own social context as it is defined within that context, he is not justified (according to my view) of using that private definition when he steps out of his evangelical bubble and uses the word in the context of the larger society. Why not? Simple, because that is not the definition of the word in that larger society.

Thus, if evangelicals want to say that I am not a Christian and they all agree on what that means, that's fine--so long as I never hear about it. If I do hear about it, then it means they were using a private definition outside the scope of that definition and that is a misuse of language. Thus, my view does not leave any hole with respect to us falling outside their private definition.

We all know that the main reason they don't want to call us Christians has nothing to do with our disagreements over doctrine but because they want to marginalize us in the eyes of people who don't know anything about Mormonism. Put more bluntly, they are using the word with the intention of creating misunderstanding. Given what I have said above, I hope you can see why this use of language is not justified in my view.

Again, I am not basing this on my own favored definition of the word "Christian" but on the usage in the vernacular, which is where all words get their meanings. Dictonaries don't "define" words, they try to capture how words are actually used, which is why definitions of words change over time. If someone can demonstrate that the average person, upon hearing that Mormons are not Christian, understands this to mean that we take issue with some of Todd's seven doctrinal points, then I will concede that he is using the word correctly. However, if they average person understands from that that Mormons do not worship Jesus, then I am correct in my definition.

ldskaitabiblia said...

Jacob,

I understand what you are saying--and I agree largely with you. I think you sound a little over-defensive, however. I am not just trying to "turn things around on you", but engage in meaningful discussion and learn and clarify my views on the way. Sorry if I came off like I was attacking you.

This is an example of what I took to be over-defensive:

"It sounds great to let everyone self-identify, but I am only okay with that to the extent we all understand what is being said. It is no good to tell everyone they can use language in whatever confusing way they want just so we can get along. However, I did say that I am willing to allow someone to self-identify however they want so long as they clarify things when their use of a label doesn't match the expected meaning of that label in a given situation. That way, we can still communicate (which is the purpose of using words after all)."

My point wasn't about making things just "[sound] great" and allowing people to use language "in whatever confusing way they want just so we can get along." Obviously, I think that persons need to extend their love and respect to each other as they would expect to receive it--but I don't think this in any way compromises our own deeply held views. In fact, in my view (which I stated includes full self-disclosure of ones meaning and view), not clarifying ones position in terms of another is quite misleading and wrong, for it breeds distrust and is only hurtful to a healthy relationship. I completely agree that proper clarification and proper communication is key. I think we agree on these points, no?

I also agree that inasmuch as the popular cultural usage of "Christian" defines it as someone someone who "worships" Jesus as divine, that someone not using that definition should clarify their position to avoid creating distrust and misunderstanding (as I have stated above, and in my last post as well). However, inasmuch as "Christian" has come to be identified popularly with "worshiping Jesus" as defined by historical so-called "orthodoxy", we, of course, need to make proper distinctions for the publics' benefit and for our own benefit (I am sure you agree with this). If we simply state that we believe and worship Jesus, when our views regarding the Godhead are later more fully disclosed, some who disagree with our theology (and hold creedal views) may feel distrustful and mislead. Unfortunately, I disagree with you that every person who doesn't consider LDS Christians entitled to the term "Christian" is trying to purposefully mislead others (though I think they are a very large group, perhaps even the majority)-but I do agree that if they are doing so that you are correct, and that is terribly wrong. Those who do not see us as Christian (but not for the purpose of maligning and misleading others) would argue, I would expect, part of the point that I made regarding what the meaning of "worshiping Jesus" is--namely that it is in need of definition and unpacking, and that if it doesn't agree with what has been historically (and popularly) identified with "orthodox" Christianity, than it isn't rightfully entitled to be "Christian". I think this is Todd's case. I don't think he is purposefully misleading others on LDS views (at least I hope he isn't), and I think if someone asked him what LDS Christians believe about Jesus he would try his hardest to explain what we believe accurately--even telling them we believe Jesus to be divine (though he would likely make plenty of clarifications about how he sees it differing from historical "orthodox" Christian teachings, I am sure). I think they would say something similar to your quote above (albeit saying even if we self-identify we still shouldn't have that title, unlike your position) and argue something similar to what you said regrading the person who follows Jesus but doesn't worship him--namely, that if we are going to use the term "Christian" as a self-description, we need to properly clarify it based on its relationship to the more popularly held historical "orthodox" views of Jesus and God, which are held by the majority of other Christians who hear us using this term for ourselves. I guess I need to ask: to what extent do you think the popular definition of "Christian" overlaps with the historical "orthodox" understanding(s) of Jesus and the Godhead?

However, as said, I disagree that this is a proper reason to deny someone the respect and love of calling them by what they choose to be their self-designation, even if one seriously disagree with them on matters of practice and doctrine. This was why I shared my experience of being called "Elder". Of course any word is meaningless outside of context, clarification, and distinction. I believe that is why LDS Christian, or something like it, would be a good characterization for LDS--for it shows we follow Christ and it opens a door for others to learn what that really means for us, and thus decide for themselves whether or not we should qualify as truly "Christian" in their view. This is why I think of Catholics as Catholic Christians, and Evangelicals as Evangelical Christians.

Lastly, I think, however, that people should be able to define themselves (as you agreed) and not be allowed to be simply defined by others, which I feel creates a situation where genuine learning and trustful and meaningful engagement ceases. I am in full agreement with you that full disclosure of views should be made clear, especially in light of potential disagreements and confusion. But just because our culture may have a popular definition, that doesn't mean that it is the only definition, or that others positions should not be respectfully heard (even if disagreed with). I think you agree with this also (but if not I am sure you will say so). That is why someone who believes in Jesus as their great example of humanity, but doesn't worship him as divine, but nevertheless self-identifies as Christian, can hold the title Christian in my view. Because the dictionary definition of the word and its linguistic etymology allows for such an self-understanding, even if I disagree with their particular view of who Jesus was/is, and even if their view is at odds with the most popular understanding of the term. Again, of course, they should clarify themselves in relationship to others. I guess I can't say that too many times, huh? :)

I am feeling that we may be largely in agreement but just coming at it from different angles, and debating minutia. Hopefully I have clarified a few things from where I am coming from.

Jacob J said...

ldskaitabiblia,

I'm sorry for coming across as defensive, I wasn't feeling defensive. I think you are making good points and I appreciate the exchange of ideas.

It does seems that we have quite a bit of common ground to work with here. I won't go through all your points one by one, but I think we agree on all of the stuff you are suspecting we agree on. Furthermore, I think we even agree on the point where you disagree, because I never suggested that every single person who says we are not Christian does it to mislead.

I certainly agree with you that we should show respect to everyone and give consideration to other points of view.

ldskaitabiblia said...

Jacob,

I know you didn't say *all*. Sorry.

Furthermore, I think we agree on pretty much everything, because inasmuch as the popular definition of "Christian" is as you describe it, and inasmuch as that doesn't mix in popular thought with historical "orthodox" views, then clearly we are entitled to the title "Christian" as you have outlined your position. However, if "Christian" has popularly come to identify those who hold historical "orthodox" views of Jesus and God, then we wouldn't qualify as most others understand historical "orthodoxy", would we? Anyway, I would just ask again: to what extent do you think the popular definition of "Christian" overlaps with the historical "orthodox" understanding(s) of Jesus and the Godhead? If you don't think it does (and if it really doesn't), than you are clearly right about how to apply the title.

Moreover, I think Todd *is* using the term more restrictively than a typical person would use it popularly (including other evangelicals). I was really only thinking about views that relate to Christ and the Godhead as outlined by the creeds that have come to define popular historical Christian views. Todd's 7 points are over-doing it, even from within the Evangelical community I think. I am still waiting for him to answer the questions that have been directly asked to him.

One of my greatest problems is that even after proper clarification has been made, many evangelicals (and others) still won't allow us to be called Christian *in any sense of the word*. I think this is hurtful and un-Christlike conduct, for it denies another the right to self-define themselves, as well as being distrustful of their intent to do what is right as they attempt to follow Jesus to the best of their understanding.

Best wishes,

The Yellow Dart/ldskaitabiblia

Jacob J said...

Yellow Dart,

However, if "Christian" has popularly come to identify those who hold historical "orthodox" views of Jesus and God, then we wouldn't qualify as most others understand historical "orthodoxy", would we?

I agree that we qualify as heterodox on many fundamental doctrines in the Christian community.

Anyway, I would just ask again: to what extent do you think the popular definition of "Christian" overlaps with the historical "orthodox" understanding(s) of Jesus and the Godhead?

To a very small extent, they overlap. In my experience, the lay members Christian religions are not experts in "orthodoxy" and would not qualify as Christians if that standard were rigorously applied to their actual beliefs (the ones in their heads). I think equating "Christian" with "orthodox" is both linguistically incorrect and usually disengenuous. As has been pointed out many times in other places, it is incredibly problematic to define "Christian" in such a way that it excludes most of the early Christian fathers. Certainly they are considered "Christian" by the common usage of the word.

One of my greatest problems is that even after proper clarification has been made, many evangelicals (and others) still won't allow us to be called Christian *in any sense of the word*.

Agreed, that is ridiculous. I think we have the same approach here. I mentioned previously my own willingness to let FLDS call themselves Mormon.

ldskaitabiblia said...

Jacob,

You said:

“To a very small extent, they overlap. In my experience, the lay members Christian religions are not experts in "orthodoxy" and would not qualify as Christians if that standard were rigorously applied to their actual beliefs (the ones in their heads). I think equating "Christian" with "orthodox" is both linguistically incorrect and usually disengenuous. As has been pointed out many times in other places, it is incredibly problematic to define "Christian" in such a way that it excludes most of the early Christian fathers. Certainly they are considered "Christian" by the common usage of the word.”

After thinking about your statement, I think I agree that the majority of lay individuals probably do follow your definition of “Christian”, and so I agree, as I said before, that since this is the case LDS Christians qualify as “Christian” and others (like Todd and other evangelicals predominately) who do not use the term in the aforesaid way should properly clarify their meaning to prevent distrust and confusion. I think I was just overly concerned before about making sure that just because a definition is “popular”, that doesn’t mean it should be the only definition allowed, for then it would prevent genuine respectful and trustful dialogue with others who hold differing views. But I think we agreed on this, providing that proper clarification is always given as to prevent deception and misleading. Sorry for my confusion as to what your point was originally.

I suppose my conclusion is that “Christian” is a heavily packed word/title/term that many differing groups claim for themselves, and that, although it does have a popular meaning that can serve as a starting point for discussion, it almost always needs further clarification.

Todd Wood said...

Coming back here tonight . . . wow, you guys have written a lot over here.

"fundamentalist evangelical Christian" - yep, I would accept that label.

But I have mentioned that description ever since I started blogging over a year ago. No real news.

Jacob, as as Christian fundamentalist, I just get the impression that God communicates one singular way to heaven and clear directions for accepting that way.

Many call this the height of arrogance. I understand the sentiments. I at one time agreed.

Ok, let me ask you guys a question. What is the proper usage of language in defining what is a true saint?

Jacob J said...

Yellow Dart,

I think I was just overly concerned before about making sure that just because a definition is “popular”, that doesn’t mean it should be the only definition allowed, for then it would prevent genuine respectful and trustful dialogue with others who hold differing views.

Fair enough. I think that it is an important point, so I'm glad you have raised it.

Todd,

Ok, let me ask you guys a question. What is the proper usage of language in defining what is a true saint?

Before you open things up to a brand new question, can you answer the question I asked in my last response to you?

BrianJ said...

Jacob J -

Thanks for your definition. I don't want to rehash the conversation already had here. I will just say that I think we agree on how that term "Christian" (or Mormon, etc.) should be used.