Richard J. Mouw, the president of Fuller Theological Seminary and an influential voice of the evangelical church, said Saturday that Mormonism is not a cult, but hesitated on whether it is Christianity.
Mouw's response, published by CNN, was a reaction to a controversy caused by evangelical pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Robert Jeffress, who said Friday that Christian voters should not endorse Mitt Romney as presidential candidate because he is a Mormon, and Mormonism is a cult, not Christianity.
Jeffress also suggested that that it is the opinion of the majority of the evangelical church.
In his Saturday article, Mouw denounced that opinion.
"Some prominent evangelical pastors have been telling their constituents not to support Mitt Romney's bid for the presidential nomination. Because Romney is Mormon, they say, to cast a vote for him is to promote the cause of a cult," he wrote. "I beg to differ."
Mouw made it clear he does not believe Mormonism to be a cult.
"I know cults. I have studied them and taught about them for a long time," he wrote. "Religious cults are very much us-versus-them. Their adherents are taught to think that they are the only ones who benefit from divine approval. They don’t like to engage in serious, respectful give-and-take dialogue with people with whom they disagree."
Mouw wrote about his long academic and theological cooperation with his Mormon colleagues.
"We evangelicals and our Mormon counterparts disagree about some important theological questions. But we have also found that on some matters we are not as far apart as we thought we were," he stated.
But the pastor and scholar acknowledged he is not sure if Mormons are to be considered Christians. He stated that "that’s a complicated question."
"My Mormon friends and I disagree on enough subjects that I am not prepared to say that their theology falls within the scope of historic Christian teaching," he wrote. "But the important thing is that we continue to talk about these things, and with increasing candor and mutual openness to correction."
Friday, Jeffress told The Christian Post in an interview why he is so certain that Mormonism is not Christianity.
"Historically, evangelical Christianity has never embraced Mormonism as a branch of Christianity," the Baptist minister said. "Mormonism has always been treated as a cult."
"In fact," he added, "the Southern Baptist Convention, which is the largest Protestant denomination in the world, officially labels Mormonism as a cult, since it does not follow historic evangelical Christianity closely enough."
"A Christian is somebody who embraces the beliefs of historical Christianity," Jeffress told CP. He added that he thinks Romney to be a moral and good person, but not a Christian.