Are Christians Mormons?

Joel Osteen, minister of America’s largest church, joins David Barton among others Christian leaders, in believing that Mormons are Christians:

Megachurch pastor, best-selling author and perennial optimist Joel Osteen has good news to share.

“I see faith in America at an all-time high,” he told editors and reporters at The Washington Times on Monday.

Yes, people are struggling, but “our message is so much about hope,” said Mr. Osteen, whose weekly television services are seen by 7 million people in the U.S., as well as by people in almost 100 other countries. . . .

Mr. Osteen expressed admiration for home-state Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry — “I pray for his candidacy, I pray for him as a friend” — and disagreed with another pastor who said former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is “not a Christian” because he is a Mormon.

“I believe that [Mormons] are Christians,” Mr. Osteen said. “I don’t know if it’s the purest form of Christianity, like I grew up with. But you know what, I know Mormons. I hear Mitt Romney — and I’ve never met him — but I hear him say, ‘I believe Jesus is the son of God,’ ‘I believe he’s my savior,’ and that’s one of the core issues.

“I’m sure there are other issues that we don’t agree on. But you know, I can say that the Baptists and the Methodists and the Catholics don’t all agree on everything. So that would be my take on it.”

via Osteen: Americans’ faith at ‘all-time high’ – Washington Times.

The usual question has been “are Mormons (or some of them) Christians?”  I think we should turn that around:  “Are Christians (or some of them) Mormons?”

There are lots of people today in churches and in various ministries that are dismissive of historical Christianity and care nothing for theology.  They don’t care about the Trinity and they never say anything about the Incarnation.  They focus on attaining a happy life in this world.  They are moralists.  They have a ramped-up civil religion.  And they think Christianity is mostly about having a certain kind of family.   Isn’t that Mormonism?

So without thinking that Mormons are Christians, I do think some people who think they are Christians are actually Mormons.  Is that fair to say?

The Prosperity Gospel and the Megachurches

In her article Did Christianity Cause the Crash? – The Atlantic (December 2009), Hanna Rosin points to the connection between the “prosperity gospel,” which teaches that God will make you rich if you only have enough faith–by which is meant positive thinking–and America’s megachurches:

Among mainstream, nondenominational megachurches, where much of American religious life takes place, “prosperity is proliferating” rapidly, says Kate Bowler, a doctoral candidate at Duke University and an expert in the gospel. Few, if any, of these churches have prosperity in their title or mission statement, but Bowler has analyzed their sermons and teachings. Of the nation’s 12 largest churches, she says, three are prosperity—Osteen’s, which dwarfs all the other megachurches; Tommy Barnett’s, in Phoenix; and T. D. Jakes’s, in Dallas. In second-tier churches—those with about 5,000 members—the prosperity gospel dominates. Overall, Bowler classifies 50 of the largest 260 churches in the U.S. as prosperity. The doctrine has become popular with Americans of every background and ethnicity; overall, Pew found that 66 percent of all Pentecostals and 43 percent of “other Christians”—a category comprising roughly half of all respondents—believe that wealth will be granted to the faithful. It’s an upbeat theology, argues Barbara Ehrenreich in her new book, Bright-Sided, that has much in common with the kind of “positive thinking” that has come to dominate America’s boardrooms and, indeed, its entire culture.

It seems clear to me that, unless I am missing something, the prosperity gospel is a different gospel than that taught in Scripture–namely, Christ crucified for sinners–and that it constitutes a new religion, and not Christianity at all. (Am I wrong? I’d be glad to hear otherwise.)

This seems to be largely a phenomenon among African-Americans, Hispanics, and poor people in general who get caught up in big dreams sold to them by their preachers. Does anyone know if it has penetrated to the white suburban megachurches? (Rick Warren, for one, condemns the teaching.) Does it show up (I shudder to think) in any Lutheran churches?


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