“Mormonism and the Christianity Police”

 

The cover of the 1998 second edition

 

A good little article by my fellow Patheos writer Taylor Petrey:

 

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peculiarpeople/2013/09/mormonism-and-the-christianity-police-2/

 

I myself took a sustained look, back in the 1990s, at the arguments for excluding Mormons and Mormonism from Christianity in the book Offenders for a Word: How Anti-Mormons Play Word Games to Attack the Latter-day Saints:

 

http://www.amazon.com/Offenders-Word-Daniel-C-Peterson/dp/0934893357

 

I would imagine, given the political realities, that it will soon be completely unavailable in print.  It’s still available, though (at least for now), online:

 

http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=58

 

 

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  • John P

    I liked “How Wide the Divide” too.

    • DanielPeterson

      Yes. That’s a good and important book.

      • RaymondSwenson

        I agree, A real breakthrough in establishing a real dialogue in which each participant tries to understand the other guy’s position, rather than looking for ways to portray the opponent in the worst light possible.

  • mike

    Great book. I read it about 20 years ago when I was in high school and at a time when I was really wondering about Mormonism’s place in the larger Christian family. Many overdue thanks to Dan. The book is still relevant and worth another read.

    • DanielPeterson

      Thank you.

  • UWIR

    In 325, a council convened to come to an agreement as to the central doctrines of Christianity. The result of this meeting was the Nicene Creed. While one can argue that etymologically, the word “Christian” can be applied to anyone who reveres Jesus as Christ, the widespread meaning of the word “Christian” is someone who accepts the Nicene Creed. By that standard, Mormons are not Christian.

    • DanielPeterson

      I deal with this in my book “Offenders for a Word,” of course.

      Among other things, I show that those bishops and others who voted against the creedal statement at Nicaea were universally still considered Christians in the ancient world, and that they continue to be considered Christians today.

      Which rather destroys your claim, UWIR.

      You could try reading the book.

      • UWIR

        People who do not accept the Nicene Creed are not, today, universally considered Christians, and to merely assert otherwise is simply begging the question. Declaring a claim “destroyed” merely because you have asserted that it is false is rather arrogant.

        • kiwi57

          Except that he doesn’t merely assert it. In the book (which you can read online entirely free of charge) he deals with the argument.

          Please note that it was published 15 years ago, and while those in the “Mormunz ain’t Chrisjun” camp have not been enthusiastic about it, they have yet to even attempt a cogent rebuttal of its arguments.

          To merely assert that people who don’t accept the Nicene Creed aren’t Christians is not only begging the question, it’s an instance of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy.

          • UWIR

            “Except that he doesn’t merely assert it.”
            He said “Which rather destroys your claim, UWIR.” The word “which” clearly refers to the previous sentence, which consisted of merely asserting it. To claim that he did more than assert it elsewhere does nothing to change the fact that what he said “destroyed” my claim was not anything more than an assertion.

            “To merely assert that people who don’t accept the Nicene Creed aren’t Christians is not only begging the question”
            I never said that people who don’t accept the Nicene Creed aren’t Christians. I simply said that there is a commonly held view that Christianity includes such things as the doctrines espoused by the Nicene Creed. If asked “What sort of beliefs define a person as being a Christian?”, most people would include the belief “Jesus was God”.

            “it’s an instance of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy.”
            You clearly don’t understand what the No True Scotsman Fallacy is. You really shouldn’t use terms that you don’t understand.

          • DanielPeterson

            I’ve addressed these issues in my book. You, of course, haven’t read the book.

            I offered one abbreviated argument here of the form known as “modus tollens”: If P, then Q. Not Q. Therefore, not P.

            If disagreement with the Nicene Creed were adequate grounds for denying the Christianity of those who disagree, those who rejected it anciently would be considered non-Christians. But those who rejected the Nicene Creed anciently were not considered non-Christians then and are not considered non-Christians today. Therefore, disagreement with the Nicene Creed does not constitute adequate grounds for denying the Christianity of those who disagree.

            Which, by analogy or extension, demonstrates that Mormon denial of the Nicene Creed does not constitute adequate grounds for denying the Christianity of Mormons. Which rather destroys your original claim, UWIR.

            You’ve now rephrased it a bit. Lots of people imagine that rejecting the Nicene Creed makes Mormons non-Christians. This is certainly true, but it’s not universally so. And, as I’ve argued briefly here, and as I argue in my book (which you haven’t read), it’s a baseless claim.

            Moreover, you seem to imagine that Mormons don’t believe that Jesus is God. But Mormons do believe that. You’re evidently mistaken.

          • UWIR

            Per wikipedia: “The LDS Church, the largest denomination within Mormonism, teaches that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are three separate and distinct beings”. D they have it wrong?

            And claiming that a particular meaning of a word is “baseless” is silly. Words means what they’re used to mean. If people generally consider the Nicene Creed to be necessary to be a Christian, then that’s part of the meaning of the word “Christian”.

          • DanielPeterson

            UWIR: “Per wikipedia: ‘The LDS Church, the largest denomination within Mormonism, teaches that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are three separate and distinct beings”. D they have it wrong?’”

            No. And, in Mormon doctrine, the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. Hence, the Son is God. Hence, your apparent belief that, in Mormonism, the Son isn’t God is incorrect.

            UWIR: “And claiming that a particular meaning of a word is ‘baseless’ is silly.”

            No it’s not. (You could, of course, read my book.)

            If I say that the word “piano” means “a little man guarding a pot of gold in Ireland,” that is (except insofar as it illustrates my personal eccentricity) baseless. The meaning of words is socially constructed. Anomalous outliers are sometimes of interest, but they don’t determine how the rest of us have to use a term.

            UWIR: “Words means what they’re used to mean.”

            That’s precisely the argument of my book (which, if you chose to do so, you could read).

            UWIR: “If people generally consider the Nicene Creed to be necessary to be a Christian, then that’s part of the meaning of the word ‘Christian’.”

            I show in some detail, in my book (which you haven’t read), that neither ancient writers nor modern scholars have generally believed acceptance of the Nicene Creed necessary to being a Christian.

            I provided a brief “modus tollens” argument to that effect here on this very thread. You apparently refuse to recognize the classical logical form “modus tollens” (first identified by Aristotle) as an argument. That’s eccentric.

          • kiwi57

            UWIR :

            “He said ‘Which rather destroys your claim, UWIR.’ The word ‘which’ clearly refers to the previous sentence, which consisted of merely asserting it.”

            Does it? Let’s look at that sentence:

            “Among other things, I show that those bishops and others who voted against the creedal statement at Nicaea were universally still considered Christians in the ancient world, and that they continue to be considered Christians today.”

            What’s that sentence asserting? That in his book, he shows something.

            The sentence refers to the book.

            The book does indeed show (1) that those bishops and others who voted against the creedal statement at Nicaea were universally still considered Christians in the ancient world, and (2) that they continue to be considered Christians today.

            I’ve read the book; it does show it.

            And having shown it, it rather destroys your argument.

            But you wouldn’t know that, because you haven’t read the book.

            “You clearly don’t understand what the No True Scotsman Fallacy is. You really shouldn’t use terms that you don’t understand.”

            Being patronised by someone lacking an attention span is amusing.

        • DanielPeterson

          Actually, presuming that no argument has been presented simply because you’re unfamiliar with any such argument is rather arrogant.

          But, even here in this thread, I offered a short and simple argument: “those bishops and others who voted against the creedal statement at Nicaea were universally still considered Christians in the ancient world, and . . . they continue to be considered Christians today.”

          Which still rather destroys your claim.

          • UWIR

            “Actually, presuming that no argument has been presented simply because you’re unfamiliar with any such argument is rather arrogant.”

            Whatever does that mean? I never said any such thing.

            “But, even here in this thread, I offered a short and simple argument”

            You do not grasp the difference between argument and simple bare assertion, I see.

          • DanielPeterson

            I presented an argument. That you didn’t recognize it doesn’t constitute a defect in ME.

          • UWIR

            Simply asserting that which is in dispute is not an argument. That you do not recognize that does constitute a defect in you.

  • jafnhar

    I haven’t read your book and honestly, I probably never will given the backlog of reading I have. As we saw above, the question usually comes down to tedious polemics around definitions. I’ll just say that people have a right to claim membership in a community and others have a right to dispute it. People disagree about stuff and usually for bad reasons.

    • DanielPeterson

      Obviously, yes, people have a right to disagree.

      • jafnhar

        Sounded dumber than I intended, I suppose. There are real theological differences that make the LDS Church different in special ways. I can define “Christian” however I feel like defining it. I could exclude the Pope or Billy Graham if I felt like it, and people have done both.

        So I guess I don’t understand the importance of having the discussion. Why is it important to argue that people accept your definition of “Christian”? If they agreed with your theological propositions, they’d join your Church. I guess it’s more about fostering an attitude than intellectual persuasion. “These ideas are different, to be sure, but they aren’t weird.” But “weird” is indefinable. I think veganism is weird, but who cares what I think about vegans and veganism? I’m not vegan. Good enough.

        • DanielPeterson

          I care because, when mainstream people are informed that “Mormons aren’t Christians,” they typically, I would guess, take the claim to be a statement of fact (much like “Muslims aren’t Christians” or “Buddhists aren’t Christians”) rather than an ideologically-charged statement of controversial opinion. And, taken that way, it’s deeply misleading and distorts our beliefs.