The term cult is admittedly loaded, conjuring up images of Jonestown and David Koresh. But the popular usage of that term isn't what I had in mind. The more proper term to describe Mormonism is probably heterodox from a Christian perspective.
Heterodox, which is an English transliteration of the Greek compound word meaning, basically to attempt to glorify God in a wrong way, is the opposite of orthodox. Orthodox means to glorify or honor rightly.
Christians believe that over a period of many thousands of years, to many hundreds of thousands of people under the prayerful guidance of God's Spirit, God has revealed Himself and His will for humanity. Christians also believe that God's ultimate self-disclosure came in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Mormonism claims to add something more to God's self-disclosure. There is no inherent reason why God can't disclose more of Himself, of course. But if one believes, as Mormon theology claims to believe, that God reveals Himself and His will for us in the Bible, one cannot also believe in the very different God, with a very different will for humanity, discussed in the Book of Mormon.
In contrast to the Judeo-Christian faith, Mormonism, like Islam, depends on the supposed communication of God with one man. In Mormonism's case, that one man was Joseph Smith; in Islam's, Mohammad. But Christians describe Mormonism, not Islam, as a cult because Mormonism claims to be Christian. Christians don't believe the faith claims of Islam. But Islam never claims to be Christian.
I bring all of this up because in that previous post, I said that three things indicate a heterodox cult from a Christian perspective:
- 1. doesn't believe in salvation by grace;
- 2. repudiates the deity of Christ; and
- 3. repudiates the doctrine of the Trinity.
How do you think that Mormonism does not use the word "grace" in the same sense as the Bible uses it? Mormonism claims that grace is not earned or deserved, but Christ gives it freely upon our obedience. Please address Heb 5:9.Good question. The Mormon take on grace is, I'm afraid, both facile and, from a Biblical perspective, untrue.
The term grace translates the Greek New Testament word, charitas, from which we derive the term charity. This conveys the character of the word.
God's way of bridging the decimated relationship between Him and humanity has always been through grace, God's charity, and not the works of human beings. When, in the Old Testament, Abraham was made right with God--declared righteous, it wasn't because he was obedient, if by obedient one means in compliance with God's law. Abraham, like the rest of the human race, was never able to fully obey God's law.
Abraham's rightness with God--what the Bible calls righteousness, when applied to human beings means--was solely and totally a question of trust (faith). Abraham trusted God. God called Abraham righteous.
What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin.” (Romans 4:1-8)What was true of Abraham and his descendants as God revealed Himself to them is true for all humanity through Jesus Christ:
“no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus. Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. (Romans 3:20-28)How are we made right with God? By believing in--trusting in--Jesus Christ. What does it mean to obey God? To heed God's call to believe in Jesus Christ:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life." (John 3:16)Though it's true that I will want to conform to God's will once I've been saved from sin and death through Christ, my salvation has nothing to do with what I do. It has everything to do with what Christ has done for me on a cross and from an empty tomb.
The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household." (Acts 16:29-31)
Sadly, to say that grace is free as long as one is obedient to certain proscribed rules, which is what Mormomism says, is akin to saying, "Charity is free. But first you have to earn it."
And what of Hebrews 5:9? As we've explained, to obey Christ is to trust that He--and He alone--can free me from sin and death. Only Christ. Not my works. Not my "obedience" of God's law, which the Bible teaches none of us is capable of keeping perfectly anyway.
Christians will seek to be obedient to God, out of their gratitude for Christ. But, thank God, our salvation does not depend on our sin-limited capacity to be obedient.
Lest some readers get their stomachs in knots, remember that this discussion all began in the context of debate over the probable presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney. I have always held--and first expressed it on May 29, 2005, that there is no inherent reason to reject a Romney candidacy based on his being a Mormon.
But his faith is an issue insofar as it provides a window onto his worldview. To inquire into a candidates' worldview is not to create a religious test for their election to office. It is a way of understanding what their predispositions and predilections may be.
And it is likely to become an issue if rumors that the Romney campaign is asking Mormon churches for their mailing lists, deeming them fertile territory for fund-raising and volunteer recruitment, are true. I have always been opposed campaigns using churches or churches getting into bed with campaigns in this way. Christians shouldn't do it. Neither should Mormons.
It does bother me that Mormons aren't more forthright in admitting that their religion is not the same as Christianity. Such honesty from Mr. Romney would enhance his chances as a presidential candidate, engendering the respect of Christians willing to accept someone of another religion, but not a phony.
[Interesting: A thorough site called Utah Policy has linked to this post. UP has a sidebar category devoted to the candidacy of Mitt Romney. It's called, Mitt Romney Watch. Welcome to those readers.]