WASHINGTON – One of America's pre-eminent evangelical leaders recently reasserted that Mormons are not Christians during an online debate with a well-known Mormon author.
Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, argued that Mormonism cannot be considered part of the Christian faith because it rejects historic Christianity.
"We are not talking here about the postmodern conception of Christianity that minimizes truth," Mohler wrote. "We are not talking about Christianity as a mood or as a sociological movement. We are not talking about liberal Christianity that minimizes doctrine nor about sectarian Christianity which defines the faith in terms of eccentric doctrines.
"We are talking about historic, traditional, Christian orthodoxy," the theologian stated.
Mohler, who often represents the Christian voice on shows such as CNN'S "Larry King Live" and Fox's "The O'Reilly Factor," pointed out that Mormons reject one of Christianity's central tenets – the Trinity. Instead of believing in one God in three Persons, Mormons believe in many gods.
Moreover, followers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints 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.
Thus, Mormons reject the Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed – which are based on the Bible and were agreed upon by the ancient Christian churches as statements that true believers should affirm.
In addition, the Book of Mormon, although about Jesus Christ, contains a different Jesus than traditional Bibles who is "not the only begotten Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, or the one through whose death on the cross we can be saved from our sins," wrote Mohler.
"Without doubt, Mormonism borrows Christian themes, personalities, and narratives," the evangelical theologian explained.
"Nevertheless, it rejects what orthodox Christianity affirms and it affirms what orthodox Christianity rejects. It is not Christianity in a new form or another branch of the Christian tradition. By its own teachings and claims, it rejects that very tradition.
"Mormonism is not Christianity by definition or description," Mohler declared.
Orson Scott Card, the defending Mormon science fiction writer and former Mormon missionary, challenged Mohler by asking, "Who Gets to Define 'Christian'?" in his rebuttal blog essay.
"Dr. Mohler does not get to speak for all Christians. Nor does he get to speak for all English-speakers," Card wrote. "The ordinary meaning of the word 'Christians' definitely includes Mormons; and when you say Mormons are not Christians, most would take that to mean that Mormons 'do not believe in the divinity of Christ,' which would be flat wrong."
In terms of Mormon's rejection of Christian orthodoxy, Card contends the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed and others are not derived through revelation from God but through debate and political argument by man.
Card asserts that a Christian should be defined simply as anyone who confesses Christ as the only path to salvation.
The debate on whether Mormons are Christian was re-sparked by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's run for the U.S. presidency. Many Christian voters have expressed hesitation on endorsing a Mormon, conveying confusion if Mormonism should be considered part of Christianity.
On a recent episode of "Larry King Live," King had asked Mohler whether or not Romney's faith bothered him.
"Oh, it does certainly concern me as an Evangelical Christian," answered Mohler. "I have to answer first as a Christian and say I believe Mormonism is a false that is antithetical to historic orthodox Christianity."
He then went on to say, "But, at the same time, I'm not electing a theologian. I'm looking at electing a president, and I will have to consider all of those things in the context of what a candidate represents."
The debate between Mohler and Card through "blog dialogue" began June 28 and will continue for an unspecified period of time on the Web site Beliefnet.com.