Friday, 23 May 2008

The Mormon Jesus - and Satan

At the back end of 2007 there was a flurry of interest in the media in Mormons and Mormonism because of Mitt Romney's involvement in the race for the presidency. In the ongoing debate over what Mormons really believe and what Mitt Romney will admit to believing the following was reported:

"On Tuesday, December 11, 2007, the Associated Press reported that Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee would, in an upcoming article in the Sunday New York Times Magazine, ask "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?"

By the end of the following day, Wednesday, December 12, Huckabee had already begun back-pedaling and apologizing for the remark. Earlier on Wednesday Mitt Romney had appeared on NBC’s Today show criticizing Huckabee for “attacking” his religion."

Read the full story here.

In response the Mormon Church issued a statement to 'clarify' the Mormon position on the subject. Here are the main points in the statement:

Mormons believe that God is the Father of all.

Other Christians believe that God is the Father of all.

Paul wrote that God is the Father of all.

All beings were created by God and are his spirit children.

Christ was the only begotten in the flesh.

Mormons worship Christ as the son of God and the Saviour of mankind.

Satan is the exact opposite of who Christ is and what he stands for.

This statement, designed to 'clarify', is actually a classic exercise in Mormon obfuscation and is controversial to say the least. Let's look at it and take each element in turn:

"Mormons believe that God is the father of all.

Other Christians believe that God is the father of all.

Paul wrote that God is the father of all.

All beings were created by God and are his spirit children. "

Christians do not believe that God is the Father of all as Mormons mean that. To say that Mormons and "other Christians" believe that God is the Father of all mankind is desperately misleading, suggesting a concord between the two faiths that just isn't there. To a Mormon, we are the literal offspring of God, begotten in the same way men and women are begotten in their human condition. In Mormonism God is an exalted man, who has a physical body, and who produces his children in the way a man produces children, i.e. by sexual intercourse. Lest we get sidetracked by a discussion about what exactly is wrong with sex, after all it was God's idea, let me say that there is nothing wrong with sex. It is just that this is not how the Bible portrays God and not what Christians believe of him and of his creation.

The Bible does say that we are "the children of God" but this is in the sense that we are all created by God. Malachi 2:10 clearly links creation and the fatherhood of God "Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us?" God is the Father of humanity in the sense that he created humanity. Acts 17:24-26 speaks of God "giving all men life and breath" teaching that "From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live." The statement that "we are his offspring" is clearly set in the context of creation. Romans 8:16 is again dealt with properly in context for in verse 15 we read "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the spirit of adoption. And by him we cry Abba, Father".

In Acts, then, we have a reference to God as our Creator/Father, while in Romans we have a reference to God as our Father by adoption, through faith in the saving work of his Son and the leading of the Spirit. Matthew 5:48 takes on a wholly different meaning as we consider our creation and subsequent adoption into God's family, i.e. "even as your Father (who made you and adopted you into his family) is perfect".

"Christ was the only begotten in the flesh."

Christians believe what the Bible tells us, i.e. that Christ is God's "only-begotten Son" - period. There is no distinction of "in the flesh" to be found in the Bible. In fact, this is the exact opposite of what the Bible teaches, as shown above, since it is men who are God's children because of being created "in the flesh" and Jesus who is God's "only-begotten Son" from eternity. The Greek in John 1:14 is monogenace and literally means "only born". Modern translations say "one and only" although this is for many not entirely satisfactory but the sense is there of the only one.

"Mormons worship Christ as the Son of God and the Saviour of mankind."

The only way that Christ can receive worship is if he is God. This brings us to a discussion about the Trinity of course, which is too big to address in full here but there is an article on the Reachout web site addressing the issue. However, if Jesus is only different from us in magnitude and not in nature then what Mormons describe as worship is creature worship, forbidden in Scripture.

"Satan is the exact opposite of who Christ is and what he stands for."

This is where the obfuscation in the statement is strongest because it avoids the obvious truth, obvious to those who understand Mormonism, in that Satan is exactly like Jesus in Mormon doctrine inasmuch as they are both the literal offspring of God; brothers in fact, and he only differs in that he has gone bad, and is the black sheep of the family, but family he is and all this dissembling to avoid the plain truth, leaving to so-called "anti-Mormons" to clear away the fog of Mormon disingenuousness is a shame. The Bible, however, portrays Satan (or Lucifer) as a fallen angel, a created being, while Jesus is God's only-begotten Son, uncreated, the Word of God from eternity passed.

The problem of course is that the Mormon starts from a position of thinking that these issues are obscure to Christians, hence the need for Mormonism, while the truth is that we understand full well what the Bible teaches about God and man. The Mormon, on the other hand, begins from a position of ignorance of what the Bible actually teaches and what Christians understand, counting it not worth consideration, preferring to bring to the Bible their Mormon preconceptions. I suggest a course in basic Christian apologetics for any Mormon aiming to 'clarify' Mormon doctrine or 'correct' what Christians have always believed based on sound biblical theology.

No comments: