Why Mormonism is not Christianity– the Issue of Christology

While there are many reasons why Evangelical Christians of all stripes might disagree with Mormon theology, perhaps the most important of these is Christology and the related matter of soteriology.

I would encourage you to read carefully through the statement at the link below by a practicing Mormon scholar, presented at Harvard Divinity School a few years ago. Here is the link—http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/what-mormons-believe-about-jesus-christ (in order to actually find this page you will need to do a Google Search of ‘What Mormons believe’ and then scroll down to the entry from 2001 when Millet spoke at Harvard. It has been taken down from the Mormon website).

Please note that these views, as expressed by Mr. Millet are not unusual or eccentric, rather they are typical. While it is true that in some respects, Mormons have more disagreements with Catholics and Orthodox Christians than they do with Evangelicals they certainly have major differences with Evangelicals as well. They could not, for example, in good conscious sign a faith statement that the Evangelical Theological Society might present to them for membership in that society. What are these major differences? Here it will be worth listing just a few in this post:

1) Mormons are polytheists, not monotheists. That is, they believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three separate beings, thus denying the essential monotheistic statements of both the OT and NT that God is One.

2) Mormons, thus, not surprisingly, deny the doctrine of the Trinity, calling it an amalgam of Greek ideas with Biblical ideas. Their basic view is that the original doctrine of God and of the ‘priesthood’ and key ideas about sacrifice, and leadership of the NT era were lost, as the church became entirely apostate and needed to be renewed, and that the NT church was not renewed until Joseph Smith came along in the 19th century (who btw, had an interest in Methodism whilst he was in Palmyra N.Y. and apparently took part in some of the revivals in the ‘Burnt Over District’ there in the first part of the 19th century). Mormons see the ecumenical councils which produced the Nicean creed or the Apostle’s Creed or the Chalcedonian creed as in essence contradictory to what Scripture teaches.

3) Mormons believe that even God the Father has, and apparently, needs a body, denying that God in the divine nature is spirit. Indeed they believe that God the Father is an exalted man!

4) Just as they believe that the early church became apostate, they also believe the Bible as we have it is not inerrant or always truthful and trustworthy, even on major issues like Christology, and therefore needs to be supplemented (and corrected) by subsequent prophetic revelation in documents like the Book of Mormon, or even The Pearl of Great Price.

5) in terms of soteriology, Mormons deny the sufficiency of Christ’s death for salvation. They suggest, as the linked article says, that each of us must do all we can and then trust in the mercy of God. In other words, the de facto position is that Mormonism is to a significant degree a works religion even when it comes to salvation.

6) The goal of Mormon soteriology is that we all become as ‘gods’ become both immortal and divine, blurring the creator/creature distinction which was already badly blurred by a theology that suggested that God is actually a sort of uber-human being, with less flaws. One rather familiar teaching is ‘as God was, so we are. As God is, so we shall be’.

I bring this issue up now, because of the general ignorance of the American public about whether or not Mormons are actually Christians or not. If they really embrace the official positions of their religious group, they are not Christians, though they often present themselves as such, for example, calling their meeting places churches sometimes (but notice— no crosses to be found on top, or worn either).

What of course makes this whole deal slippery is that Mormon doctrine is a constantly evolving thing due to a belief in the living voice of prophecy. For example, the head of the Mormon Church in my lifetime corrected what had previously been taught by Mormonism’s original leaders (e.g. Brigham Young) that black people were the descendents of the least favored race of the big three (Shem, Ham, and Japeth), and as such could not become priests in the Mormon church. Not so, any more.

It is of course true that there are Christians who are a part of the Mormon religion. I would call them confused Christians who know neither church history very well (including the history of the origins of Mormonism in America and the actual origin of the Book of Mormon), nor do they know what the NT actually teaches when it comes to things like Christology and salvation and the nature of the Scriptures.

It is typical of groups like the Mormons (any of the branches) or the Jehovah’s Witness that they are actually split offs from some orthodox Christian group, in both cases from Protestantism. Not surprisingly then, they have more in common with Protestants in some respects than they do with Catholics or the Orthodox, except in regard to the matter of an all male priesthood and therefore the nature of worship.

Mormonism certainly is a highly patriarchal religion, modeled more in its praxis on Leviticus than say on what is said in the NT letters about male and female apostles, prophets, teachers, and this also extends to the Mormon view of the physical family which is far from egalitarian in character.

I am not suggesting for a moment that there aren’t many Mormons that would pass the test of being decent and honest and loving human beings. There are. I know some of them. Nor can one fault their zeal for their form of religion, indeed their missionaries often put actual Christian missionaries to shame. Nor would I suggest that these folks are deliberate deceivers of other people. The ones I know are not. They are sincere and committed to Mormonism, and truly believe it is the true religion.

What I would say is that they are deceived about what the Bible really teaches about the nature of God, of Christ, of salvation, and of true humanity, not to mention the nature of the Scriptures which are indeed the sufficient rule of faith and practice for all true Christians and do not require supplements or corrections from Joseph Smith’s works.

Why have I posted this now? Because of the many times I am asked these days, the question– Can Evangelicals vote for Mitt Romney? I have done a previous post, some time ago for Beliefnet about Mitt Romney in regard to his previous campaigns for high office. I will not repeat that here. I think deciding on who to vote for as President should involve a consideration of many different factors, many different pros and cons of the two candidates.

I think each person must make up their own mind who they will vote for, but the point of this post is that such important decisions should not be made on the basis of false assumptions, and particularly not on the basis of false assumptions about a person’s actual religion.

SPOILER ALERT: THINGS YOU SHOULD NOT SAY IN RESPONSE TO THIS POST

1) ‘You’re just prejudiced, you don’t know what you’re talking about, and that’s just your opinion’.

Wrong. These are the facts. I have taught classes on both world and American religions, and what I have said is based either on what Mormons themselves have said about their beliefs, and/or what their source documents say about the same.

2) ‘This is unkind and untimely. Everyone should have the right to their own religious beliefs and should not be criticized for them. If a person wants to call himself a Christian, then he or she must be a Christian.’

Yes…and no. Yes, a person has an American right to freedom of religion. No, a private individual does not get to decide for themselves what is and isn’t true or is or isn’t orthodox Christianity, and that includes me. Christian beliefs need to match up with what the Bible in fact claims, and what the historic creeds and confessions of the church have understood the Bible to say and mean. Furthermore, even if we were talking about genuine Christian groups, no single group has the authority to add additional books to the sacred canon of Scriptures, whether it be the Book of Mormon or something else. The Bible is both the necessary and sufficient revelation of God and God’s character and God’s will. All three great monotheistic religions recognize the Bible or some part of it as God’s Word. None of them recognize the Book of Mormon as the necessary appendix to the Bible.

3) ‘Aren’t we disputing about words and minor issues here.’

No we are not. The attempt to trivialize important theological issues, and make them a mere dispute about words is frankly an insult to the earliest Christians, many of whom died for their monotheistic and Trinitarian beliefs. Yes indeed, it does matter what the content is of your religious belief.

4) ‘But look at all the energy and zeal and earnestness and deep commitment of Mormons. Isn’t that to be commended?’

Yes and no. Zeal that is not according to knowledge does not honor the real God, and is misguided. Sincerity is not the same thing as true faith. A person can be sincerely wrong, indeed badly wrong however convinced they are of what they believe. So, yes some of these traits are commendable, if they are properly directed and guided and serving the God of the Bible and the good of humankind.’

I could go on, but this is more than enough for you to chew on. Think on these things.

  • https://mormonscriptureexplorations.wordpress.com/ Bill Hamblin

    Funny you should mention Ps. 8:5, which you claim reads “little lower than the angels.” Of course the Hebrew is not angels, but that man is teḥasserhu meʿat me-elohim, or “lacking [but] little from gods.”

  • Tony Startup

    Tony…here again…..Hey Ben….I thought your commenting was over…???…..one last comment from me….Ben, I say this with all kindness and to Rev. Baker, your knowledge, learning and divinity degrees are an impediment and handicap to your understanding of God and His ways. You are the kind of men the good Lord spoke of in Luke 16:31
    31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

    In Acts chapter 4, Peter and John are brought before the ruling council and Elders of Israel to explain their healing of an impotent (lame) man in front of the temple. Peter’s response is very famous…..Acts 4:8-12 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, …that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, [even] by him doth this man stand here before you whole. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

    Notice Peter spoke his testimony as “filled with the Holy Ghost”…….then in Verse 13 “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; “…Peter and John are unlearned and ignorant men…!!! Dear Ben, Jesus Christ is teaching the gospel throughout the world by employing young unlearned men, they are the Elders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He’s using the same tactic as He did in NT times. They simply speak and rely on the Holy Ghost for their success. The Lord Himself so declared in 1830…”Wherefore, I call upon the weak things of the world, those who are unlearned and despised, to thrash the nations by the power of my Spirit;” .D&C 35:13

  • http://www.debatingobama.blogspot.com greg metzger

    Well done, Ben.good, clear teaching.

  • Ben Witherington

    Thanks Tony. Always a compliment to be compared to the apostles Peter and John, especially since it’s perfectly clear from 1 Peter and the Fourth Gospel that these were highly learned persons! Acts 4.13 is yet another text you don’t understand. The point of saying they are unlettered and not insiders (this is what idiotai means— it does not mean they were idiots) is that they are Galileans who are without a Sanhedrin or Jerusalem training. It does not mean they were uneducated. Notice that the issue here is the ‘perception’ of the Sanhedrin not what these men actually are. So, I trust you are not saying you agree with the Sanhedrin’s misperception of Peter and John. Jesus is also using learned men and women all over the world to share the Good News accurately with the lost. It is not a badge of honor to be ignorant of God’s Word, and think you don’t need to study it in the original languages. After all— Jesus spoke Aramaic, and the whole NT was written in Greek, not in English, not even in Joseph Smith’s English. Blessings anyway, BW3

  • Ben Witherington

    Hi Bill:” You are absolutely right that the Hebrew says elohim. This is a word regularly used in the OT to refer to one particular person Yahweh, and when it actually is used as a genuine plural it refers to the divine beings we know as angels. Jews had nothing but polemics for the idea of ‘other gods’. They called them idols and various other things. But here in Psalm 8 the comparison is positive and not negative and so means either: 1) we are but a little lower than God (singular), or 2) we are but a little lower than the angels. Please check the Hebrew lexicon on this (Brown Driver Briggs) and you will discover that the term is not used to mean ‘gods’ plural in Jewish contexts such as Psalm 8. Again… you need to do your homework, in this case you need to do it in the Hebrew. Blessings, BW3

  • Rick Lusby

    All of this comes down to one simple attitude we are all familiar with…… Mormons are not Christians because they don’t believe and worship Jesus Christ the way I do. I am better and smarter than they are, believe me.

  • https://mormonscriptureexplorations.wordpress.com/ Bill Hamblin

    Hi Ben: Do you have any references in Hebrew where an angels/mal’akim are ever called elohim. Angel is an impossible translation of elohim (see HALOT 1:52-53), that derives from the Greek Septuagint translation, not the Hebrew. Thanks

  • https://mormonscriptureexplorations.wordpress.com/ Bill Hamblin

    It is worth nothing that there apparently is such a thing as a “spiritual body” (sōma pneumatiokon) according to Paul. If God is pneuma/spirit, it doesn’t preclude him from have a body.

  • Darren

    I’ve been watching the comments. Some are very insightful. Then there is Rev. Stephen Becker. On 8/28 @ 7:47 pm he said, “I know the LDS Church, and its teachings inside and out. ” @ 10:37 pm he said, “If you believe that you are “saved,” like Christians, by believing in an exalted, alien man from Kolob…”

    It’s interesting that coming from as Lutheran Pastor, obviously educated and devoted to God that he’d claim to know the Mormon doctrine “inside and out” yet declare as LDS doctrine which does not exist. Nowhere does any LDS doctrine say God came from Kolob. And for this matter, despite my being fully aware0 of what certain LDS leaders have said regarding the unique and divine conception f the LORD Jesus Christ, despite, there is no LDS teaching, official or unofficial, which teaches that God had sex with anyone. Particularly one of His own daughters. It’s pretty obvious to me that Rev. Becker (formerly Elder Becker, but nobody’s perfect) learned the LDS doctrine “inside and out” from hostile sources.

    As for his ministry, God speed to Rev. Becker. I hope and pray he has the Lord’s peace and he is instrumental in bringing souls to Christ.

  • Darren

    Ben;

    “Let’s take that phrase that you mention Moses spoke to God ‘face to face’. This is the same God who told Moses he was not allowed to see God’s face! Your problem is that you insist on taking idiomatic and metaphorical phrases as if they were literal. Face to face communication in Exodus means the same thing it does today— intimate conversation. It does not mean Moses saw God’s literal face!”

    So if you have an intimate conversation with a family member over the phone or via a written letter, you’ll say that you conversed “face to face” with that person?

  • Noel

    What I have found strangest about Mormon thinking was their approach to polygamy. They practiced in secret while denying it publicly. Some of Smith’s plural wives were 15, 16 and 17. I know it is argued that young marriage was common then. But to marry so many women? In a paper Michael Quinn responded to a Brian Hales trying to defend polyandry. Smith writes to the parents of one of his most recent wives. “… my feelings are so strong for you since what has pased [sic] lately between us that the time of my absence from you seems so long and dreary, that it seems as if I could not live long in this way: and three would come and see me in this my lonely retreat, it would afford me great relief, of mind … I have a room intirely [sic] by myself, the whole matter can be attended to with most perfect safty [sic] … the only thing to be careful of; is to find out when Emma comes [here,] then you cannot be safe, but when she is not here, there is the most perfect safty [sic] … pardon me for my earnestness on when you consider how lonesome I must be … I think Emma wont [sic] come to night [--] if she dont [sic,] dont [sic] fail to come to night. ” So Smith was not like most husbands should be accountable to their wives, in other words Emma should know where he was going.

  • Ben Witherington

    Hi Bill: Sure. Look them up in the Brown, Driver Briggs lexicon. And there is a reason why they are translated as angels in the LXX. They knew their Hebrew pretty well. Let’s talk for a minute about your reference to a pneumatikon soma. This is contrasted with a psuchikon soma by Paul. Adjectives that end in -ikon in Greek do not describe the character or nature or materiality of the noun they modify. So for example psuchikon soma does not mean a soulish body, a bodhy made out of soul, any more than pneumatikon soma means a body made out of spirit. No, in both case the meaning is a body empowered by X, in the former case natural life breath (the normal meaning of psuche) and in the latter case a body totally empowered by the Holy Spirit. Last point to the query about ‘face to face conversation. The question was asked could it be applied to say a letter or a phone chat. We actually choose a different metaphor than the Hebrew ‘heart to heart’ So for example you can certainly say I had a heart to heart talk with my son on the phone, not at all meaning we were present in the same room and doing chest bumps because our hearts were close to each other and visible. The same applies to the idiomatic phrase ‘face to face’. It is not meant literally in the OT, it simply connotes intimacy. Blessings, BW3

  • Noel

    Hi Ben
    You might find this analysis interesting.
    http://www.withoutend.org/christianity-or-lack-thereof-mormonism/

    This is by an evangelical Christian who is married to a Mormon.

  • https://mormonscriptureexplorations.wordpress.com/ Bill Hamblin

    Hi Ben,
    Actually, as I’m sure you are aware, BDB is a century old. HALOT is a much more reliable source, incorporating a century of linguistic and archaeological data.
    The LXX authors certainly knew Hebrew. They also made all sorts of ideological translations in the text.
    But you ignored my original question. Where in the Hebrew Bible are the mal’akim are ever called elohim. Do you have any examples?
    If your interpretation of pneumatikon soma is correct, why do the disciples think that the resurrected Jesus, obviously in human form (Lk. 24:40-43), could be a pneuma (Lk. 24:39)? Obviously, one can have a soma/body that is pneuma, or a soma/body that is sarx/flesh. Thus, in biblical conception, the Father could be pneuma (Jn. 4:24) and still have a soma/body.

  • Ben Witherington

    Yes, you are right about BDB. It’s just the one I grew up on. But as for your second point about Lk. 24.39 your argument doesn’t work at all. Look at what Jesus says—- a ‘pneuma does NOT have flesh and bones as I do.’ How in the world could you cite that text to prove that a person can have both, and so God can have both. I would call that one of the more amazing misinterpretations I have heard in a while. You win the prize. As for the former question, as you know the term angellos simply means messenger. So for example even John the Baptizer can be called this. The term malak can and is most certainly translated this way. Take for example the story of Abraham and the visitors. Who were these folks? Traditional Jewish exegesis in the Talmuds is clear enough— they are malakim which is to say they are angelloi. They are not gods, nor are they mere humans. And of course this is exactly how the story is interpreted in Hebrews 13.2— Abraham hosted angelloi unawares. Blessings, BW3

  • Ben Witherington

    P.S. to Bill. I forgot to answer your prior question. Sorry. I would take the reference to elohim in Psalm 82 to refer to angels, as also in Psalm 8, which is a common position found in Psalms commentaries. In Psalm 82 we are told at the outset that God is sitting in the heavenly council. Early Jews always envisioned this as involving angels (compare for example Rev. 4). Notice that the first verse distinguishes between Yahweh and the ‘elohim’ that are there. Notice in vs. 6 the comparison of the ‘songs of God’ who are called elohim here with mortals. Notice he doesn’t say they are mortals, but ‘you shall die LIKE mortals’. Later Jewish exegesis also saw here a reference to the fallen angels of Gen. 6.1-4 and even to Satan, the prince (Baal ze bul). Blessings, BW3

  • Ben Witherington

    I meant the sons of God. This is what happens when you type with two fingers :)

  • Ben Witherington

    P.P.S. to Bill Hamblin. Sometime we should have a further more extended conversation on all these things. I appreciate the spirit of your comments and the good back and forth. For now, the semester is starting, I have to give the Hester lectures in San Francisco, and it is time to let this very interesting series of exchanges go. I will ask now, for future reference— what resources do you use to present a summary of LDS doctrine (and I do mean a summary of the essential beliefs today)? Counselor Ostler referred me to a couple of chapters in his book, but perhaps you have a different preference. Thanks and blessings, BW3

  • Chris

    In case anyone missed the response at Interpreter, heres the link: http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/are-mormons-christians-witherington-says-no/

  • Fred Kratz

    Has anyone read anything from the journals of Wilford Woodruff? He was the fourth Church president and prophet who wrote in his journals nearly every day from 1834 until his death in 1898. Contained within, are many conversations and accounts of lectures, sermons and discussions among the various brethren as well as his own accounts of the struggles the early Church faced.

    The journals have not been published on LDS.org. An edited version is available online in PDF format and contains roughly one sixth or less of his total writings. “Waiting for World’s End: the Diaries of Wilford Woodruff” is another great source.

  • Darren

    Ben;

    ” Last point to the query about ‘face to face conversation. The question was asked could it be applied to say a letter or a phone chat. We actually choose a different metaphor than the Hebrew ‘heart to heart’ So for example you can certainly say I had a heart to heart talk with my son on the phone, not at all meaning we were present in the same room and doing chest bumps because our hearts were close to each other and visible. The same applies to the idiomatic phrase ‘face to face’. It is not meant literally in the OT, it simply connotes intimacy.”

    Thank you for that reply. While I do not dispute that “face to face” can refer only to intimacy as opposed to a literal encounter, I do note that I fail to see why it must be interpreted that way. “Heart to heart” must be interpreted figuratively since I do not know of a situation where one person’s heart literally spoke to another person’s heart nor where a heart was literally exposed to another person’s heart when a conversation was realized. Therefore I fail to see what is unchristian about interpreting scripture which renders to the reader that a mortal man spoke to God “face to face” meaning that said mortal literally saw God who had a face (eyes, nose, mouth, etc.). This is particularly true since man was created in God’s image.

    As for the council of the gods, declaring that these gods would die as mortals can very well refer to human beings. I draw special attention to John 10 sheer Jesus called Jews about to stone Him for blasphaming by saying He (Jesus Christ) was one with the Father. He called them gods specifically by referring to Psalms 82.

  • Ben Witherington

    Darren I appreciate this dialogue but I will sign off with a thought question for you— if the Bible says God is omnipresent, and it does, how exactly can it be that God has a body which is a confining thing? A body has to be here rather than there. It has a specific location, and for sure, God’s supposed physical body is not and cannot be seen everywhere. For example, it’s not in my kitchen cabinet. God who is spirit neither needs nor has a body. When the Son of God took on flesh he limited himself (see Phil. 2.5-11– he took on limits he did not have before, and did not take advantage of his divine attributes). He took on all the normal limits of human existence. God the Father never has, nor never did such a thing. Blessings on you and keep pondering God’s Word, Ben W.

  • Darren

    Ben;

    “if the Bible says God is omnipresent, and it does, how exactly can it be that God has a body which is a confining thing?”

    Good question. Now here we see the tables turned as bit, don’t we? Should we interpret this as Gd literally mnipresent in a physical / immaterial fasin r figuratively meaning that although He may be in one particular place in the csmos, His presence can still be experienced anywhere at any given time? Time and space as we know it does nt apply to an eternal being in the same manner as it applies t mrtals. Jesus had a body yet did not seem to be “limited” to have opened up a door to appear to His apostles following His miraculous resurrection, did He?

    While the exact nature of God is unkown, the LDS do not view God having a body as limiting. Just as Jesus received His body and used it to serve the Father, so shall we. Just as He was able to ascend to heaven because He did all that the Father desired, so shall we through the “infinite and eternal” sacrifice Christ offered while on earth. Bodies are essential for deification and Christ showed that perfect example. While the glory of the Father is spiritual, the LDS view His having a body as part of being part of His existence as the most high God.

    “When the Son of God took on flesh he limited himself ”

    Philippians 2:5-11 speaks of Christ taking upon Himself flesh and being a servant to the Father. Yet it also declares Himself to be “equal” to the Father. Jhn 5:18 says, “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God”. This reutrns us to John 10:33-34, “The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?” Again, Jesus’ application of Psalms 82 is in the explicit context of being “gods”, not angels. And more poignantly, as being one with the Father. We all can and will be one with he Father through the Son as the Son and the Father are one.

    “He took on all the normal limits of human existence. God the Father never has, nor never did such a thing.”

    LDS faith and worship is in exact agreement with you on this. It is only speculation thart we hear that the Father used to be a mortal man. Speculation is not doctrine of worship or of faith as per to place complete trust in. And, frankly, “Holy Trinity” is speculation yet Chrsitians have cme to place complete faith in that formulation, despite “Holy Trinity” not being doctrinal. It’s philosophical; but not doctrinal.

    Take care and God bless.

  • Tim Jones

    To Bill; You need to read John 4:24. Also, nowhere in the Bible does it refer to the body of God. However, there are many, many times that the Bible refers to the Spirit of God. Why is it that the so-called prophets of the LDS church are wrong most of the time? Joseph Smith’s claim that he had “discovered and translated an existing ancient work” (a “discovery” which consisted of Egyptian papyrus scrolls and fragments that he purchased from the owner of a traveling road show which exhibited Egyptian mummies and documents and the “translation” which became a part of “The Pearl of Great Price”) was proven to be incorrect. His claim that he had “received divine inspiration, not in writing a new book of scripture, but instead in having discovered and translated an existing ancient work.” was wrong. It seems that this book was incorrectly “translated”. This was proven after the discovery of the Rosetta Stone. Here are some of the comments concerning this so-called prophet:
    the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City: “Joseph Smith’s interpretation of these cuts is a farrago of nonsense from beginning to end…five minutes study in an Egyptian gallery of any museum should be enough to convince any educated man of the clumsiness of the imposture.”

    “…difficult to deal seriously with Smith’s impudent fraud.”

    “Smith has turned the Goddess into a king and Osiris into Abraham.”

    “…very clearly demonstrates that he (Joseph Smith) was totally unacquainted with the significance of these documents and absolutely ignorant of the simplest facts of Egyptian Writing and civilization.”

    “…the attempts to guess a meaning are too absurd to be noticed. It may be safely said that there is not one single word that is true in these explanations.”

    Here is a warning in Deuteronomy 18:20-22 (KJV)
    20 But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.
    21 And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken?
    22 When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.

    Since the so-called “prophets” of Mormonism have been repeatedly proven wrong isn’t it apparent that all the additional “scriptures” and holy texts are, at the very least, false and useless and at the most an abomination to God?

  • Darren

    Man. I need a new keyboard which types in “o”s better. I should double check before posting to. :>(

  • Tony Startup

    Hi Ben…I concede your great knowledge of the scriptures, Hebrew and Greek and many different manuscripts which you know and study. I would thoroughly enjoy taking a class from you or attending a lecture. But as we all know, great knowledge doesn’t always translate into understanding. I’ve taken college classes and studied the Bible commentaries which give me knowledge, but prayer, fasting and climbing the mountain to converse with God has taught me 1,000 fold over those other things. I felt like the saints Timothy was speaking to…2 Timothy 3:7 “ Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

    My most favorite scripture in the NT is…1 Corinthians 2:14 “ But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned.”

    Knowledge of God and His Son Jesus Christ is similar to Peter’s declaration “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” How did he know…? “ And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed [it] unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. Matthew 16:16-17

    Thank you for your article which provides a great platform to share our thoughts and feelings. God Bless, Tony.

  • Ben Witherington

    My final comment to you Tony is that I pray someday the Holy Spirit will reveal to you the truth about Mormonism, and when that happens I especially hope you will not throw the Christ child baby out with the murky Mormon bath water. Blessings, Ben W.

  • Ben Witherington

    Darren actually the Trinity is an essential doctrine of the Christian faith for any Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox Christian. It is not merely philosophical. It is true that the Nicene and Chalcedonian formulations go further in explaining the relationship of the Father and the Son, and in explaining the two natures of Christ, but they are expanding something that already exists in nodal form in the NT. The idea of the Trinity was not invented in the 4th century A.D. You already see it in the NT when the Scriptures that had previously referred to Yahweh were then transferred to Christ himself. The point is— all the earliest Christians were Jews, and they were all clear enough— there is only one God who manifests himself in three personal expressions. Blessings, BW3

  • patricia watson

    I dont care what Romneys religion si, i want bama out. Why is it that Mormons are so much kinder and self disciplined than other christian religions?

  • Darren

    “My final comment to you Tony is that I pray someday the Holy Spirit will reveal to you the truth about Mormonism, and when that happens I especially hope you will not throw the Christ child baby out with the murky Mormon bath water. Blessings, Ben W.”

    The Holy Spirit’s shown me the true nature of Mormonism and thus I know it is the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I purposefully and sincerely sought the guidance and influence of the Holy Spirit regarding the truthfulness of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I asked and I received.

    Regarding the Holy Trinity, it is philosophical. Both you and the LDS believe in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Both you and the LDS believe that these three divine persons are one God. Both you and the LDS believe in the godhead which is composed of three divine persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The point of disagreement comes from the concept of the existence of the three divine persons. Trinitarians believe that the three are separate and distinct beings (which is why Orthodox Jews will perhaps NEVER consider Christians as “monotheists”) yet one numerical being, while the LDS believe that the three divine persons are separate and distinct beings. Both you ad the LDS interpret the doctrines differently. the Holy trinity is philosophy and frankly there is no evidence of it being taught in the New Testament. In fact, I’d say that the New Testament can be better understood in the view of the Father and the Son as being separate beings rather than separate persons yet one numerical being. The Sermon on the Mount is doctrinally founded, the Nicene Creed is philosophically founded. The Sermon uses language quite familiar to 1st century Jews while the Nicene Creed and especially the subsequent creeds use metaphysical jargon very foreign to 1st century Jews. Since you cannot find “same substance”, “not three gods but one god”, etc. in the Bible, the only other source for these descriptors must be extra bib.ical and therefore should NOT be viewed by traditional Christians as doctrinal yet that’s precisely as it has evolved to be.

  • Darren

    Ben;

    “there is only one God who manifests himself in three personal expressions.”

    I am certainly no expert so I may very well be wrong but isn’t that close to advocating “modalism”?

  • Patrick

    “Elohim” might be a more generic word than traditionally thought. It might be simply “a spirit being” and the context would determine when it should be translated ” The creator God we worship”(99% of the time), “gods as in pagan think” or “spirits”:

    http://www.thedivinecouncil.com/What%20is%20an%20Elohim.pdf

  • David Capp

    Dr. Witherington, I agree with your analysis of Mormonism. As one who grew up surrounded by one of it’s splits (Independence, Missouri) i have seen it’s variations a lot.

    I’m also curious though because it appears to me looking at this election we have a Mormon in Mitt Romney, but we also have a person who appears to be steeped in Black Liberation theology in Barack Obama. Have you ever done an article on Liberation theology, and whether or not it would fit as legitimate Christianity? As I understand it, I would have very deep concerns with the Christological and Soteriological concepts behind it was well.

    Thanks so much for a very interesting blog post.

  • Ben Witherington

    Hi David: I have done some analysis of liberation theology, but Barack Obama is not an advocate of Marxist economic theories. So, liberation yes, social justice yes, Marxism no. He’s as much of a capitalist as the other candidate. I have done a review of Neil Elliot’s Marxist analysis of Romans and was strongly critical of it. I understand standing with the poor etc. That’s fully Biblical. But the solutions suggested by Marxism are not very Biblical in various ways.

    Blessings,

    BW3

  • Pastor S. Becker

    Interesting that no Mormon answered my three questions. The Non-answer speaks VOLUMES…

  • http://www.facebook.com/sarah.mcquade.7 Sarah McQuade

    I found the article very informative, but I have to reply to your response, Darren, with Scripture.

    John 4:23-24 “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

    John 17:20-21a “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.”

    John 16:13-15 “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

    All of these are Jesus’ words, directly from the Bible.

  • L. M. Rasmussen

    I am sorry you feel this way, but you have shown some serious flaws in your argument. The way you talked about so called “Confused Christians” I would have to guess that you have never attended a Latter Day Saint church meeting. As a religion one of the main topics taught is of the church’s history. Christianity is having a belief in Jesus. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints most definitely express a belief in and a profound love for Christ. The whole Idea that Mormons are polytheists is dead wrong. If one believes that there is one God and that Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are descendants of God. If they are not God then there are no multiple Gods. Sure Joseph Smith showed some interest in Methodist practices. He investigated every single one he could find. All seemed just a little bit off to him. He didn’t quite buy into those other religions till he received Divine Revelation from God, the Heavenly Father; and in his son, Jesus Christ.

    You may be able to discourage others from joining the church, but I have recieved personal revelation from the Holy Spirit testifying that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saint and the Book of Mormon are true. I know it, I live it, I love it.
    Thank you for your time.

  • L. M. Rasmussen

    I would love to answer your three questions. Please, i have not heard them thus far and cannot answer a question i have not heard.

  • L. M. Rasmussen

    I have been all around the country. If you want to see variation look at most other religions. Catholics and LDS are literally the most organised and consistent churches on the face of the planet. There’s not much room for variation when one is known for being organised.

  • L. M. Rasmussen

    So because God has a body he doesn’t have a spirit? Doesn’t make much sense if you get right down to it. There is no hard evidence of him not having a body.

  • L. M. Rasmussen

    Thank you for at least seeing that the saints at least try to treat others with respect.

  • L. M. Rasmussen

    Many professors of Language have proven that the original Book of Mormon was written in abridged Egyptian. The sentence structures match, the words match, everything matches. Please check your facts before addressing the idea some have of the Book of Mormon being written entirely by a man with an education of a third grader without the help of some divine revelation.

  • Janet Johnson

    Thank you for this site. Mormons are not Christians. I pray that all mormons will be brave enough to read the Bible for themselves and find out the truth. The Bible is what God gave us. God did not and does not need help from joseph smith to correct His Holy word or add to it. Revelation 22:18 and 19 warns against the adding or taking away from God’s word. God’s word is the truth!
    I am glad to share that a friend and I went to see a young woman yesterday who has been visited by the mormons several times and her mom was concerned she may fall into this cult (man made religion). We shared with her the plan of salvation and she accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.
    She had already realized for herself that the book of mormon by joseph smith was not the word of God. We shared with her verses from the Bible. God’s word has all the power needed to convict and bring the lost to salvation. Christians, we need to be sharing the gospel. God loves all people and it is our job to tell them the truth before it is too late.

    Jesus Christ came to earth to show us how to live. (read the book of John) He died on a cross to pay for the sins of everyone. (John 3:16) This was and is God’s plan. We all are sinners. (Romans 3:23) The free gift of salvation is through Jesus. (Romans 6:23) (Romans 10:9-10) (Ephesians 2:8).
    Jesus said “I am the way the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father except through Me”, John 14:6
    Read the Bible for yourself. Ask God to open your eyes.

  • bill

    I will answer your questions to my ability and understanding. 1st – God the Father his son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost- lets talk about the dallas cowboys ,or new york yankees, or pick a team a band a dance troupe any group who act as 1 in purpose, are they not still seperate beings, in Genesis we read “Let us make man in our image after our likeness” Genesis 1:26. And again “The Lord God said-behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: Genesis 3:22. In the new testament St. Matthew 27:46 And about the 9th hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? St. Mark 14:35,36 And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36: And he said Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt. St. John 17:11 And now I am no more in the world, and I coe to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.(speaking of the 12 Disciples)Now a simple question is the God that you believe in, or Jesus Christ, mentally ill, or schizophrenic? Obviously not, then he must not be talking to himself, and he must know that 12 individuals resurrected upon his return will not be morphed into one individual or be mashed with God and Jesus into one individual. 2- The Ot and Nt are true and the words and teachings of God. The Book of Mormon, is another testament of God and teaches the same
    Gospel as does The Bible. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, does in
    no way replace the Bible with the Book of Mormon, rather it is a testament of the
    Gospel written in a manner that is less confusing for some to understand, the Bible
    is written in a language architecture that is foreign to most and from the fact of the
    many religions is obviously open to many interpretations, the Book of Mormon is an
    inspired message in more modern language of this same Gospel as taught in the
    Bible. 3- The Bible tells us in the Old testament that God made man in his own
    likeness after his own image. Since God the father loved us so much to send and sacrafice his only begotten son Jesus Christ for the atonement and salvation of us his children, then as our father he desires us to share in his glory and be as he is, as such it states in the new testament, and because God is infallible then the plan to send Christ to earth obtain a body for ressurection and complete the atonement it, is then required of us to have a physical body, as it were with Christ, and then by deference as with God. In using your belief that if God and Jesus are truly physically one then by your own admission God does indeed possess a physical body. As this post is becoming very long, I would be happy to answer specific questions that are asked of me. May God bless each of you and may his spirit be with you, may your questions be answered and the light of Christ be in and with you always. I love each of you, you are my brothers and sisters of God, and I have an innate responsibility to serve you and to teach and lift you up, I will always do my best to remove the stumbling blocks from your path that you may not stumble.

  • Ethan Williams

    Mormons are Christian…

  • Partier

    Hey Janet, did you also show her Deuteronomy 4:2-3? By the way, have you discarded the rest of your bible after those verses? How about John 20:25? Right now my bible doesn’t quite fill an area of about 1 ft x 1 ft x 6 inches. Not quite the size of the world. What should I do if I want to read about some of that other stuff Jesus did? Also, the Book of Jasher, can you tell me where to find that? It is mentioned in Joshua 10:13, and since the Bible is complete, I know it’s got to be in here somewhere. Also, what about:
    Gospel of Matthew 12:47, 16:2b-3, 17:21, 18:11, 23:14, Matthew 24:35;
    Gospel of Mark 7:16, 9:44, 9:46, 11:26, 15:28, 16:9–20
    Gospel of Luke 17:36
    Gospel of John 5:4, 16:15, 20:5b-6, 21:25
    Acts of the Apostles 8:37; 15:34; 24:7; 28:29;
    Epistle to the Romans 16:24
    Where did those go? And which Bible is the true one, the one with them in, or the one with them out?

    I have read the bible several times. I study from it. Love it. Believe in it. And yet, every time I do, it makes a lot more sense in the context of Mormonsim than in does in the context of the Nicaea Creed, which by the way, came long after the Bible was written.

  • Partier

    “Jesus Christ came to earth to show us how to live. (read the book of
    John) He died on a cross to pay for the sins of everyone. (John 3:16)
    This was and is God’s plan. We all are sinners. (Romans 3:23) The free
    gift of salvation is through Jesus. (Romans 6:23) (Romans 10:9-10)
    (Ephesians 2:8).
    Jesus said “I am the way the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father except through Me”, John 14:6″

    Also, by the way, I believe that all of this is true.

  • Natural

    How can you be a Christian if you do not believe in trinity…all three as one and that the Father is not a spirit but requires physical body. After reading this, I understand why my mormon friend wasn’t going to explain or justify why mormons are Chriatians and why they have to have extension to the Bible.

  • BenW3

    Hi: You seem not to have grasped that the OT overwhelmingly promotes monotheism. Yahweh is one. All of the NT was written by Jewish Christians, (Luke is a possible exception). They are assume monotheism. The word God, except for seven times when it refers to Christ in the NT, refers to Yahweh, God the Father. In this sort of context the affirmation of the personal nature of Father, Son, and Spirit cannot possibly be an affirmation of polytheism. The Trinity is not a later idea foisted on the NT. It is Mormonism with its polytheism and polytheistic interpretations of the Bible that is distorting the Bible. It also fails miserably to understand the figurative use of language when applied to God who is spirit, not flesh. When it says ‘God’s nose burned’ (often translated God was angry), it doesn’t mean God has a nose and that it turned red. He is not Rudolph. It is simply a vivid figurative way of talking about God’s anger, and the same applies to language about God’s hands etc. Mormonism are not Christian for the same reason Hindus are not Christian— they believe in multiple gods. They even believe they can become as gods…. which last I checked was the lie of the serpent. Blessings any way, Ben W.

  • Trina Ann

    Sign… I am more confused then when i started reading this thread. Today I was told that my Grandmother who I love and respect more than any person in the world for the good and loving person that she is, is not a christian. The reason I was given was that Mormans do not believe that Jesus Christ is their savior. I called my grandma and she told me that this is not true. That they believe that Jesus is the Son of God and he died for our sins. And that she was in fact a Christian and my whole life was not a lie. As far as everyone throwing versus at each other , everyone interprets them differently the word of God is meant to touch you specifically and when you read it you interpret in a way that touches your heart.

    “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.”
    Ephesians 2:8-9

    New International Version (NIV)

    It is not up to anyone to decide if someone is a christian it is up to God and our savior Jesus Christ. I am just learning about all of this and trying to figure it all out. One thing that I have learned is that we are not to judge other and that as long as you accept Jesus as your savior, you are living in Christ, and not in ADAM. There is no one that I know who lives the word of God and has Christ in her heart more than my Grandma. Even though I do not believe everything about the LDS religion, I do know that they believe in the Bible and that is their main bible. They prefer the King James Version, so maybe that is what you were talking about when you said “as long as it is interpreted right” The book of Morman does not by any means replace the scriptures but are an extension of the scriptures, that they feel are the works of Jesus Christ. Please forgive me if I am saying any of this wrong. I am still learning. I just feel that everything I was raised with the one thing in my life that gave me faith that there was a God even when I fell away from it, is coming from someone who isn’t a Christian. I would love to know more about the Trinity I have never been able to figure it out. And I have read more than once in the old testament where it refers to more than one God. And now I am confused if Jesus is God? Also how did God make us in his image if he does not have a body? I would love someone who isnt going to Rip Mormans apart to mentor me. I am not morman myself but I have a huge respect for the religion and have been defending it my whole life and would like more education so I can continue to that. My email is trinaseger@hotmail.com


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