(Photo: AP Images)
The debate on whether Mormon presidential candidate Mitt Romney can be called a Christian carries on with the pastor of a Seattle-based megachurch being the latest to describe the Latter-day Saints as a cult, theologically.
“Simply said, by the theological definition, Mormonism is a cult,” wrote Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church on his blog Tuesday – the day author and speaker Chuck Colson told The Christian Post in an interview that Christians should not refrain from voting for someone because they are not a Christian.
Driscoll didn’t directly say if former Mass. Gov. Romney’s faith should be a consideration for Christians in their decision to vote, but he expects there will be a “continued effort to bring Mormonism into the center of Christian orthodoxy” as the GOP presidential race moves forward.
Therefore, he said, it’s important to understand what Mormonism teaches and “that it’s antithetical to Christianity.”
“While it's certain there are some Christians in the Mormon church who love the Jesus of the Bible and don’t understand or agree with what their church teaches, the Mormon church could never be considered orthodox unless it made some serious and massive changes to [its] theology,” the Seattle pastor wrote.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is “most certainly a cult theologically speaking” as it “deviates substantially from historic Orthodox Christian belief about essential issues related to God, humanity, and salvation,” Driscoll asserted.
But it’s not its deviation from Christian teaching alone that makes it a cult, he noted; otherwise, all belief systems apart from orthodox Christianity would be labeled a cult. The fact that Mormonism claims Christianity while subtly subverting it in both practice and theology makes it a cult, he contended.
Driscoll responded to recent commentaries by evangelicals who stated, though cautiously, that Mormonism is not a cult. He criticized Rod Dreher, an Eastern Orthodox Christian, and Richard J. Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, of “breaking rank.”
Dreher wrote for The American Conservative, saying he finds it offensive to hear Christians call Mormonism a cult, especially when it has produced “exemplary people, the kind who form stable families and strong communities, and who make good neighbors.” However, he clarified, “I do not believe in Mormonism, nor do I have the slightest interest in becoming Mormon,” and that “Mormons tend to be good people does not make their doctrines true.”
Writing for CNN, Mouw said, “While I am not prepared to reclassify Mormonism as possessing undeniably Christian theology, I do accept many of my Mormon friends as genuine followers of the Jesus whom I worship as the divine Savior.”
Many Mormons are good neighbors, friends, and fellow citizens, Driscoll agreed, but “we cannot go so far as to call them brothers and sisters in a common faith.” Doing so, he said, “is to not only confuse real Christians, but to also diminish the importance of lovingly speaking with Mormons about the errors of their belief in hopes of seeing them come to know the real God of the Bible and avoiding eternal damnation for worshiping a false god.”
The Mars Hill pastor argued that contrary to the Mormon belief – that one should be perfect – Christianity is not about being a good Christian. “The Christian is not a Christian because he or she is good or even like Christ, but because he or she is in Christ,” he wrote. “Out of this comes good works (Ephesians 2:10), but it is not our good works that make us Christian, it is Jesus’ work on the cross (1 John 1:5-7).”
A former Mormon from Idaho, Beth Johnston, who is now a born-again Christian, told The Christian Post recently, “The main difference between Christianity and the LDS is that they don’t believe in grace.”
The LDS church is running an “I’m a Mormon campaign” in 12 cities in seven states of America, featuring ads on television, city buses and billboards asking people to visit the church’s website to learn about its beliefs and followers. While it claims to counter “Mormon-phobia,” some believe its goal is to gain wider acceptance.
Mormons deviate from Christianity’s central tenets including the Trinity, the belief in one God in three Persons. They also believe Joseph Smith Jr. is the first latter-day prophet who restored the original Christian church in the 19th century in America. They believe the entire structure of Christian orthodoxy affirmed by the post-apostolic church is corrupt and false. Additionally, Latter-day Saints are often criticized for their belief in “divine” books of scripture, aside from the Bible, including the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.