“Are Mormons Christians?”: A Blog Round Table (Updated)

Author’s Note: This post is cross-posted at Approaching Justice.

Are Mormons Christians?

For most Mormons, the answer to this question is obvious. Yes, yes they are. They believe in Jesus Christ. This settles it for them

For people from other religious perspectives, the answer is obvious but in the negative. Mormons are not Christians. The reasons for this response is varied.

For some, few answers are obvious. Instead, this question is more one of inquiry. For me, the question itself, and that it gets asked, is what intrigues me and brings me to this round table. Why do we get caught up in these debates? What do such questions tell us about Mormonism, Christianity, and religion.

A group of bloggers here at Patheos has decided to take turns addressing this question. The participants on this round table, include contributors to the Mormon channel here at Patheos, as well as bloggers at the Buddhist and Catholic Channels. I am hoping to rope in contributions and responses from other channels as well.

We will also have at least one guest contribution from a leading scholar who has written on this topic.

One of my purposes in announcing this round table, is to invite you to participate. Please, ask questions and leave comments in the comment sections of the respective posts.

If you would like to contribute a guest post about this question, shoot my a message. You can do so by sending me a message at my Facebook page or by emailing me at approachingjustice@gmail.com

I am looking forward to this discussion. Patheos is a great place for it.

UPDATE: Here are the contributions to this round table so far.

Faith, Scholarship, and Teaching at BYU Series
Notes on John Gee’s Biblical Training
Doubting Our Doubters
The Call of Simon Peter in Luke 5:1-11
About Chris Henrichsen

Chris Henrichsen has moved Approaching Justice off of Patheos. Find his latest posts and the new Approaching Justice. Thanks!

  • Thomas Thigpen

    An exercise in futility of course. But to each his own.


  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/approachingjustice/ Chris Henrichsen

    Like that ever stops me!

  • Thomas Thigpen

    I was smiling when I typed that in. And a good response from you.

    Actually, Mormons are not Christians, if the definition includes the current mainstream Christian beliefs in Christ and the nature of the Godhead.
    But if the definition is simply one who believes in and attempts to follow the teachings of Christ, then we are “in”.


  • douglas hunter

    “What do such questions tell us about Mormonism, Christianity, and religion.”

    One thing it suggests is that at this point institutional concerns, competiting institutional truth claims, and PR have taken priority over doing the work that Christ himself asked us to do. Too many people want to own the idea of being Christians®.

  • Brad Eckert

    2000 years is long enough for history to have been written and rewritten by conquerors many times over. For all we know, Christians aren’t even christians.

  • John W. Morehead

    Some readers may find my discussion of an often ignored aspect of this discussion that plays a part in Evangelical perspectives, but perhaps without their awareness: http://johnwmorehead.blogspot.com/2013/09/are-mormons-christian-evangelicals.html

  • Dale

    Chris, I agree that Patheos is a good place for a look at this topic. The bloggers are well-informed about their faiths and they are open to discussion with persons from other faith traditions.

    I do worry, however, that finding the contributions of the various bloggers may be difficult, given the size of Patheos and the volume of the posts. Will this webpage (or another) act as a central site for links to the various contributions?

  • Dale

    oops… I see a list of links to the various blogger responses is already posted elsewhere:


  • John W. Morehead

    I recently posted on my blog on an aspect related to this question often missed by Evangelicals. We tend to focus on creedal and doctrinal considerations, but miss this important consideration. I’ll reproduce that post here:

    “Are Mormons Christian?: Evangelicals, Modernity, and Cognitive, Propositional Definitions”


    There is a saying frequently attributed to a Chinese proverb: “If you
    want to know what water is like don’t ask a fish.” Regardless of the
    source the idea behind it is true: when someone is too familiar with
    their surroundings it becomes a blind spot that so influences their
    perspective that they aren’t aware of it. It simply becomes something
    that is taken for granted. This is the case with Evangelicals and
    modernity. As Myron Bradley Penner argues in his new book on
    apologetics, modernity influences Evangelical assumptions on
    apologetics, theology, and as I will note in this post, it is also what
    is behind Evangelical definitions of Christianity that then serve as the
    backdrop for a major sticking point in Evangelical-Mormon dialogue.

    I am currently reading and enjoying The End of Apologetics: Christian Witness in a Postmodern Context (Baker Academic, 2013), by Myron Penner. The main thesis the author develops is that Evangelical apologetic approaches of whatever type are
    based upon the assumptions of modernity and its perspectives on reason.
    In particular, Penner states that, “In the modern philosophical
    paradigm, then, reason forms what I will call the
    ‘objective-universal-neutral complex’ (OUNCE)” (32). Penner identifies
    these features of reason in modernity in distinction to premodern views
    wherein, “reason is internal to (and possessed only by) human beings in a
    way that is universal, objective, and neutral” (32). Given these
    assumptions, apologists like William Lane Craig, and many conservative
    Evangelical theologians, present arguments, evidence, and theological
    propositions in ways that conform to the assumptions of modernity in
    regards to reason and epistemological justifications of belief. Penner
    takes issue with these assumptions and finds them far more secular than
    Evangelicals assume in the name of reason and its alleged objectivity
    and neutrality.

    As Penner goes further in his description of Evangelicalism and
    modernity, he makes the interesting observation that, for many (most?)
    conservative Evangelicals, “What is essential to being a Christian is
    an objective event: the cognitive acceptance (belief) of specific
    propositions (doctrines)” (36). While Penner explores this in
    relation to Evangelical apologetics, and to a lesser extent theology
    (after all, apologetics is a branch of theology), I want to consider
    this in relation to Evangelical-Mormon dialogue.

    You don’t have to search for or read much in dialogue and conversations
    between Evangelicals and Mormons to find the question “Are Mormons
    Christian?” raised by concerned Mormons. Evangelicals usually respond in
    the negative, and with certain historic, creedal, and doctrinal
    assumptions providing the foundation for that response. Mormons are
    naturally offended by this idea, as they have a different set of
    assumptions, with the idea that Mormons believe in and follow Christ,
    therefore they should be considered Christians.

    As Evangelicals and Mormons pass each other like two ships in the night
    on this topic I would note that members of both groups are missing an
    important element in exactly why Evangelicals would answer this question
    negatively. It goes beyond historic creeds and doctrines to some
    underlying philosophical assumptions. Evangelicals have so imbibed at
    the well of modernity and its philosophical assumptions that for them,
    as Penner notes, “What is essential to being a Christian is an objective event: the
    cognitive acceptance (belief) of specific propositions (doctrines).” This
    means that while Evangelicals connect these propositions to a
    relationship with Christ, even so, the cognitive acceptance of certain
    specific propositions are primary in their definition of what it means
    to be a Christian. The assumptions of modernity have become so
    intertwined with Evangelical thinking that, like the fish in water that
    knows nothing else other than its daily experience of its environment,
    that Evangelicals may not be aware of the extent to which these
    modernist assumptions impact not only its apologetics and theology, but
    also its ways of relating to those of other religions, as well as the
    formation of perceptions by those of other religions because of the
    views Evangelicals have of them that are shaped in part by the
    assumptions of modernity.

    My friend and colleague at the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy,
    Charles Randall Paul, once shared his observation that Evangelicals are
    the scientists and philosophers of their religion. I agreed with his
    assessment, and made my own observation that Mormons are the performers
    and artists of their religion. We certainly approach our religious
    pathways very differently. But the more I reflect on the “scientists and
    science of Evangelicalism” the more I realize how modernity has
    impacted us, even in the way in which we define what it means to be a
    Christian and relate our message to those in other religions.

    Maybe it’s time for Evangelical fish to jump out of the bowl and look around for a bit.