Richard Mouw is the former president of Fuller Theological Seminary, and he has spent years searching for a way to merge Mormonism with Christianity. Unfortunately for Mouw, blending two religions isn't quite as easy as he had hoped.
Mouw reminds me of the veteran Florida zookeeper who was mauled to death last Friday by a 13-year old male tiger she loved dearly. Stacey Konwiser was only 38 years old and was known as "the tiger whisperer." It is yet another tragic case of someone who was victimized by a wild animal she had devoted her life to helping. And it is reminiscent of what happened during a Las Vegas show in 2003 when a white tiger attacked stage entertainer Roy Horn.
Richard Mouw has built friendships with Mormon leaders, and this practice is commendable. Unfortunately, Richard has also befriended the tiger of Mormon doctrine. And Mormonism has been mauling Mouw's theology as Richard continues to underestimate the spiritual danger possessed by this wild beast.
The word "orthodoxy" in this context refers to "generally accepted Christian doctrine."
For example, Fuller Seminary's "Statement of Faith" begins with the foundational doctrine of the Trinity: "God has revealed Himself to be the living and true God, perfect in love and righteous in all His ways, one in essence, existing eternally in the three Persons of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."
The doctrine of the Trinity is accepted and taught by Christians around the world. And it is essential to Christian orthodoxy and Christian practice.
One reason it is essential to orthodoxy is because those who truly accept the Gospel also come to accept the doctrine of the Trinity. No one who is spiritually reborn rejects this doctrine. Such a blasphemous sin against Christ and the Holy Spirit cannot survive within someone whose body has become a "temple of the Holy Spirit." (1 Cor. 6:19)
Rejecting the doctrine of the Trinity becomes as damning to the soul as a rejection of Christ as Messiah. Either of those positions are enough to keep a person outside the kingdom of God.
This leads us to Richard Mouw's fanciful opinion that Mormon doctrine is "approaching orthodoxy." The title of his piece would suggest that Mormon leaders are rethinking the first article of their religion.
The first article of Mormonism states: "We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost."
The Mormon organization views the Father as eternal, whereas Jesus is thought to be a created being. Right out of the gate, Mormon doctrine demonstrates why it is light years away from Christianity. Mormonism rejects the doctrine of the Trinity.
In his article, Richard Mouw chose to focus on this Mormon phrase: "As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become." Mouw seems to now think that some Mormon leaders may not actually embrace this idea.
But even if that's the case, how does it solve the Mormon problem concerning the Trinity?
Even if some Mormon leaders stop believing that God was once a man, they still would need to accept the fact that God exists eternally in the three Persons of the Trinity. And there is not a shred of evidence that the Mormon hierarchy is willing to repudiate the first article of their faith, and replace it with orthodox Christian Trinitarian doctrine.
Fuller Seminary and the Mormon organization both begin their doctrinal statement by explaining the nature of the deity they worship. And there is no way to reconcile these different deities because we are talking here about the One true God. We are not talking about the preferred age for baptism; or a particular view of the end times; or even the style of worship you utilize.
It is imperative to land on the side of truth when talking about the nature of the Creator.
Sadly, Mouw's article leads a person to wonder how seriously he takes the doctrine of the Trinity. For example, Mouw writes, "Take the case of Ralph Waldo Emerson's daughter Ellen Tucker Emerson. She was a Sunday school teacher at the large Unitarian church in Concord and organized Bible studies in the Emerson home."
And then Mouw offers this zinger: "Her Christology was Arian, but she firmly believed that Jesus was the Savior sent from heaven — not quite a member of the Godhead but of a status higher than the angels .... Without a doubt, her Unitarian system of theology gravely impaired her ability to express an orthodox view of Christ's identity. But was her Christocentric view of salvation negated by her rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity?"
Come again. "Her Christology was Arian," but Mouw seems to feel that such a belief is acceptable because she organized Bible studies.
Let's break it down. Arianism was a 4th century heresy that was completely rejected by the Christian church. Arius taught that only God the Father was eternal, and that Jesus Christ was a created being. The Nicene Creed was adopted by the church in response to the Arian heresy.
Sound familiar? Mormonism teaches the same heresy.
When describing Ellen Emerson's faith in an "Arian" Jesus, Mouw seems to think that such faith can save your soul. I wonder what ever gave him that idea.
If your Christology is Arian, the Holy Spirit will not come to live within you because you already have a false god living in your soul. The blasphemous doctrine that Jesus is a created being is a doctrine that keeps people from receiving the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ. And this false doctrine is a wild beast that must be euthanized in a person's heart before he or she can actually meet the real Jesus.
Mouw even had the audacity (or the delusion) to ask, "Was her Christocentric view of salvation negated by her rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity?"
It is unimaginable to me that someone who claims to hold to the historic Christian faith would ask such a warped question.
Emerson's "Christocentric" view of salvation was rooted in a "created Jesus." This heretical belief keeps a person outside of God's family. If you place your faith in an "Arian" version of Christ, it is impossible to have a true "Christocentric view of salvation."
Mouw's question was essentially, "Can believing a false doctrine about the nature of Christ be negated by rejecting the doctrine of the Trinity?"
That level of confusion is astounding my friend. But I guess it is where you can end up if you are determined to blend an Arian, non-Trinitarian view of God with the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. There is no compatibility in those doctrinal positions. And the Holy Spirit does not bear witness in Scripture or in the human soul to any teaching that rejects the eternal nature of Christ and the Trinitarian nature of God. The Creator exists eternally as three Persons in One God.
Mormonism and Christianity are at complete odds over the doctrine of the Trinity. No wonder the Christian church has never accepted Mormonism as one of its own. Christian theology has rejected Arianism for centuries, and rejected Mormonism from the day Joseph Smith introduced it into the world.
A more accurate title for Mouw's article might have been: "Richard Mouw Approaching Orthodox Mormonism." Perhaps Mouw finds himself getting closer to a personal belief in the gods of Mormonism.
The goal posts have been moved, but not in Scripture or in Christian theology. Instead, the theological goal posts have apparently been moved in the heart and soul of this former seminary president.
Mouw will eventually have to make a choice. Will he continue to believe what his seminary teaches about the nature of God in their first point of doctrine, or what the Mormon organization says in their first article about the nature of God?
It is no surprise that Mouw would conclude his essay by appealing once again to emotion rather than to the biblical doctrine of the Trinity. Mouw suggests that "we approach our conversations with Mormons with a trust that they genuinely 'mean' what they say — especially when they are singing Christ-adoring hymns."
Mouw assumes it is possible for someone embracing Arianism or Mormonism to nevertheless sing Christ-adoring hymns. So let's see. I can reject the eternal nature of Christ, and yet still "adore Jesus" simply by singing certain hymns?
Do you see the major problem with Mouw's premise?
Singing about "Jesus" doesn't guarantee that you have received the gift of salvation or the gift of the Holy Spirit who lives inside every Christian.
Unless the Mormon organization rejects their first article of faith, and all the other false doctrines that are built upon it, they are doomed to perpetuate the modern-day Arianism that Joseph Smith introduced a couple hundred years ago.
Mouw would be wise to go back and review the first doctrine on Fuller Seminary's "Statement of Faith": "God has revealed Himself to be the living and true God, perfect in love and righteous in all His ways, one in essence, existing eternally in the three persons of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."
No one who rejects this doctrine can accurately claim to "trust Jesus as Savior." It doesn't work that way. And the Holy Spirit will never enter a person who stubbornly refuses to accept the fact that God is three Persons in One God.
You can be saved without yet knowing much about the Trinity. But you cannot be saved while flat out rejecting the doctrine of the Trinity. You will first have to bring that blasphemous doctrine, along with all your sin to the cross of Christ. Anyone who repents of rejecting the Trinity can rather quickly start to come into the light, assuming he is willing to trust Christ alone for salvation rather than his own works.
And then you will instantly be forgiven, saved, justified, born again, and redeemed. Salvation happens on the front end of a person's relationship with God, which is much different than what Mormonism teaches.
The Book of Mormon teaches, "It is by grace we are saved after all we can do." (2 Nephi 25:23)
Salvation is held out there like a carrot on a stick. Mormonism defines "faith" wrong because it defines God wrong. In Mormon mythology, "faith" includes your obedience to the Law. In Christianity, your obedience only comes after the foundation of faith is laid when you are converted. Good works do not add to the free gift of salvation you received on the front end when you first repented and believed the good news.
Christians "have been justified through faith." (Romans 5:1) It is past tense. It is a done deal, and salvation is secure.
The bottom line is that it is impossible to salvage Mormon doctrine.
Thankfully, some Mormons choose to scrap it completely, and build their life upon Jesus Christ and the doctrines of Scripture and Christianity. If you attempt to blend Mormonism with Christianity, you end up with something that is every bit as twisted as Arianism.
And while it's not politically correct to say such a thing, it is just as true today as it was when Arius presented his false doctrine of a "created Christ" some 1700 years ago.
Time may heals wounds, but time never improves false teaching about Christ and salvation. And this is why it is impossible to blend Mormonism and Christianity. It's like trying to blend Arianism and Christianity. It didn't work in the 4th century, and it won't work today. The doctrines of Mormonism and Christianity are completely incompatible.
Richard Mouw would be wise to stop trying to combine Mormonism and Christianity, and instead, encourage his Mormon friends to reject the first article of their religion. Unless you get the foundation right, everything you build on top of it comes crumbling down in the end.
The reason doctrine matters so much is because the Holy Spirit does not convert people through false doctrine, but only through the truth of the Gospel. And if you get God wrong, you get the Gospel wrong as well. Arianism is a prime example.
And so when Joseph Smith arrived on the scene, the heretical view of God he chose to embrace wasn't completely new after all. People had been rejecting the eternal nature of Christ for centuries.
Converted people don't reject the Trinity. In fact, those who reject the Trinity expose a major reason they remain unconverted. And that goes even for those who seem to be singing "Christ-adoring" hymns.
Always remember. The Holy Spirit will never live inside a person who rejects the Trinity. And without the Holy Spirit coming to live inside you at the moment of your conversion, you cannot enter God's eternal kingdom in heaven.
You can certainly do other religious things without being converted. You can use a lot of Christian terminology, and even sing religious hymns. But that will never fix a broken foundation, and so it can never save your soul.
Arianism and Mormonism teach doctrines that block the Holy Spirit from coming to live within their followers. These anti-Trinitarian religions literally prevent people from understanding and believing the Gospel.
Just imagine if Fuller Seminary started teaching that Arianism or Mormonism are compatible with Christianity. It would result in spiritual chaos and confusion, and would turn the message of Fuller Seminary into some religion other than Christianity. I don't even know what they would call such a newfangled religion.
Thankfully, Fuller Seminary teaches the historic Christian faith. They define God correctly. And that is critical if you want to know the Lord, and if you want to have your sins forgiven by the eternal Son of God.
Even though Richard Mouw has been getting mauled by Mormonism, there is still time for him to correct his errors and recover from his injuries. Just look at Roy Horn. He survived his 2003 tiger attack, and he is still alive today.
Only Richard can decide whether he wants to continue getting mauled by the wild beast of Mormon doctrine. This will require him to finally accept the fact that Arianism is poison to the soul. You cannot reconcile spiritual poison with the truth of God's Word and the reality of God's Triune and eternal nature.
On an emotional level, Richard Mouw wants his Mormon friends to be included in Christ's eternal kingdom. On a practical and theological level, such a thing will never happen unless a person renounces the first article of Mormonism. You have got to get the poison out of your system, and then you need to start believing the truth about God. When that happens, people are delivered out of the darkness of false religion into the light of Christ, the eternal God and Savior.
This is a spiritual battle. And it requires the supernatural power of God in order to experience victory. Emotional appeals and downplaying the danger of Arianism never won a single soul to Christ. It merely keeps people in darkness as they continue blindly following the false doctrines of their organization.
If Richard Mouw had been living in the 4th century, he might have been rather annoyed by the formation of the Nicene Creed. It sounds to me like there sure is a warm place in Richard's heart for Arianism. You could call it a "burning in his bosom." Every Mormon knows what I am talking about. And if you don't know, just look it up.
Who do you suppose creates that burning in the heart of one who professes allegiance to the "created Jesus" of Mormonism? Go ahead. Take a guess. I will give you a clue. It is a spiritual being who was created good, but decided to go rogue. And his army of fallen angels come up with seductive counterfeit beliefs that the Bible calls "doctrines of demons." (1 Timothy 4:1)
Such doctrines, when accepted, prevent people from being spiritually reborn through faith in Christ. And the two biggest doctrines of demons are: (1) a counterfeit definition of God; and (2) a works-based approach to saving your soul.
Demons don't want people to meet the real Jesus. And so they produce doctrines that entice people to accept the counterfeit.
If you have been duped by these intelligent evil angels, you can get free today. But only if you turn to your Creator who consists of three eternal Persons in One God.
If you have placed your faith in an "Arian/Mormon" Jesus, then you should be very concerned about that burning in your bosom that you have been relying upon for assurance. Counterfeit doctrines come with counterfeit experiences that are meant to deceive those who are not grounded in biblical theology.
Isn't it time to place your faith in the true God of the universe? Reject the counterfeit. God offers the real thing.
You will never get mauled by true doctrine, but you will get saved if you accept it and believe it.