If you thought presidential eligibility was a hot topic for this blog to cover, I really don’t think you’ve seen anything yet. However, one of the reasons why I originally started this blog was as a personal experiment in sharing my thoughts with the blogosphere. Over the past few years, I’ve garnered lots of friends and lots of adversaries.
This time, however, it’s personal; it should be — this posting is about theology which is, by definition, a very personal thing.
Now, before I move on, allow me to make a few things clear:
- Constitutionally-speaking, religion is not a litmus test that is a part of presidential eligibility;
- I am an apologist, not an evangelist; I don’t “save” individuals nor do I lead individuals towards salvation; rather, I give reasons for why I believe;
- Before you send me virulent emails, be sure to read this entire posting, then feel free to “let me have it!”
Getting the main caveats out of the way, let me share what the balance of this posting is intended to be about.
Ever since Mitt Romney decided to become a Republican presidential candidate, I have been very wary about his belief system, specifically Mormonism. After watching how he handled all of the presidential debates, I personally have decided that I don’t like the way that Mr. Romney has handled his opposition, which I believe points to more fundamental issues regarding who he his, which must be understood within the context of his faith.
I’ve also spent a lot of time deciding whether to step into the court of public opinion and provide what is essentially a scathing rebuke of Mr. Romney’s belief system and why I will personally have an exceedingly difficult time overcoming my wariness of Mormonism and potentially voting for Mr. Romney, should he become the Republican nominee.
With that, I knew I had to say something.
You see, Mr. Romney’s Mormonism has some staggering rhetorical parallels to Mr. Obama’s eligibility; it is becoming (perhaps, has become?) the new “taboo” topic that just shouldn’t be discussed. Which, of course, to me, immediately gets me ready to launch against such tripe. What isn’t liable to be discussed when it comes to selecting the top federal office in America?
Let me further say the following regarding any discussions that compare any sort of belief system against historical, orthodox Christianity: my family taught me a long time ago that if you really want to get to the crux — literally, the cornerstone — of the legitimacy of any belief system that proclaims itself to be of God, all you have to do is find out exactly what said belief system says about Jesus Christ.
I’ve had dozens of conversations with adherents to another belief system that I do not regard as Christian, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, in offline formats, and I’ve spent several years chatting it up with individuals from scores of other belief systems, and I do not subscribe to “scripts” on either “side” of such a discussion. Again, to me, it’s about Jesus, and everything else falls in line with Him, despite the fact that other topics such as salvation, heaven, hell and the like are otherwise worthy topics of discussion.
However, no other topic is as pivotal to the life of a human being than that of the Messiah.
So, my beef with Mr. Romney’s Mormonism is centered on the person of Christ.
Now, as you know (or you need to know), I approach any given topic from as logical and rational a position as I can possibly muster, and I’ll do no differently with this topic. I am purposefully going to steer clear of most other topics where Mormonism and Christianity diverge. I am going to present facts as I find them to be true so that you and I have every opportunity to form an opinion based on what is legitimately publicly available.
First Main Point
At the outset, it is incredibly difficult to find out exactly what Mormons actually say about who Jesus is. By definition, I find this very telling. While it’s true that any given belief system can claim to believe that Jesus is “the son of God,” “the Savior,” and similar language, what is fundamentally critical is to understand what that given belief system means by these phrases. More specifically: does the belief system believe that Jesus is 100% God and 100% human?
Unfortunately for the Mormon, the answer to this very basic, fundamental question is a resounding “no.”
The first bit of evidence comes from MormonBeliefs.org, a site that while officially disclaiming itself as a part of the official Mormon organization, I will show mirrors what the main belief system believes.
The Mormon Doctrine of Salvation reads, in part, accordingly:
God is a glorified, perfect, all-powerful, all-knowing, resurrected man; Christ is His first-born in the spirit, and His Only Begotten Son in mortality; Christ is a separate, corporeal being; the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit and does not have a body.
Notice in the above paragraph that Mormons claim that Christ (Jesus) is not the same as God. Of course, the even larger point is their belief that somehow God, per se, is a resurrected man. Just based on this claim I have to wonder, “Who or what preceded this ‘resurrected man?'” After all, creation has had to derive itself from an Uncaused Cause, a Logos; a human, per se, could not possibly fulfill that role, as humans are, by definition, finite and created beings. I see a lot of “cart-before-the-horse” faulty logic here.
Next, from the official LDS.org web site, under Plan of Salvation, there reads this, in part:
Before we were born on the earth, we lived in the presence of our Heavenly Father as one of His spirit children. In this premortal existence, we attended a council with Heavenly Father’s other spirit children. At that council, Heavenly Father presented His great plan of happiness (see Abraham 3:22–26).
In harmony with the plan of happiness, the premortal Jesus Christ, the Firstborn Son of the Father in the spirit, covenanted to be the Savior (see Moses 4:2; Abraham 3:27). Those who followed Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ were permitted to come to the earth to experience mortality and progress toward eternal life. Lucifer, another spirit son of God, rebelled against the plan and “sought to destroy the agency of man” (Moses 4:3). He became Satan, and he and his followers were cast out of heaven and denied the privileges of receiving a physical body and experiencing mortality (see Moses 4:4; Abraham 3:27–28).
Again, I see a complete separation of Jesus from God. What’s more, it is a morbidly fascinating concept to suggest that Lucifer is claimed to be a son of God, versus the highest of the angelic beings that God originally created before man was created. Candidly, I would have to controversially say that Lucifer apparently gave himself a good word within Mormonism by essentially making himself on equal footing with God (coincidentally, his original sin that got him kicked out of heaven!).
How many of you knew that these were the kinds of things that Mormonism claimed about Jesus? I know I didn’t specifically realize these things prior to performing research for this posting. This is precisely why very specifically defining the terms you use in any discussion is vitally important in understanding exactly where someone is coming from, and helps to spot lies very quickly.
On the other side, I will now present what historical, orthodox Christianity has to say about Jesus.
In what turns out to be a bit of irony for me, I’m going to present a portion of what the Roman Catholic Church says about Jesus in their exhaustive and extensive posting over at NewAdvent.org (I’m fiercely non-denominational and greatly respect but disagree with much of Catholicism in practice):
Jesus is God
St. John affirms in plain words that Jesus is God. The set purpose of the aged disciple was to teach the Divinity of Jesus in the Gospel, Epistles, and Apocalypse that he has left us; he was aroused to action against the first heretics that bruised the Church. “They went out from us, but they were not of us. For if they had been of us, they would no doubt have remained with us” (1 John 2:19). They did not confess Jesus Christ with that confession which they had obligation to make (1 John 4:3). John’s Gospel gives us the clearest confession of the Divinity of Jesus. We may translate from the original text: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was in relation to God and the Word was God” (John 1:1). The words ho theos (with the article) mean, in Johannine Greek, the Father. The expression pros ton theon reminds one forcibly of Aristotle’sto pros ti einai. This Aristotelian way of expressing relation found its like in the Platonic, Neo-Platonic, and Alexandrian philosophy; and it was the influence of this Alexandrian philosophy in Ephesus and elsewhere that John set himself to combat. It was, then, quite natural that John adopted some of the phraseology of his enemies, and by the expression ho logos en pros ton theon gave forth the mystery of the relation of Father with Son: “the Word stood in relation to the Father”, i.e., even in the beginning. At any rate the clause theos en ho logos means “the Word was God”. This meaning is driven home, in the irresistible logic of St. John, by the following verse: “All things were made by him.” The Word, then, is the Creator of all things and is true God. Who is the Word! It was made flesh and dwelt with us in the flesh (verse 14); and of this Word John the Baptist bore witness (verse 15). But certainly it was Jesus, according to John the Evangelist, Who dwelt with us in the flesh and to Whom the Baptist bore witness. Of Jesus the Baptist says: “This is he, of whom I said: After me there cometh a man, who is preferred before me: because he was before me” (verse 30). This testimony and other passages of St. John’s Gospel are so clear that the modern rationalist takes refuge from their forcefulness in the assertion that the entire Gospel is a mystic contemplation and no fact-narrative at all (see GOSPEL OF SAINT JOHN). Catholics may not hold this opinion denying the historicity of John. The Holy Office, in the Decree “Lamentabili”, condemned the following proposition: “The narrations of John are not properly speaking history but a mystic contemplation of the Gospel: the discourses contained in his Gospel are theological meditations on the mystery of salvation and are destitute of historical truth.” (See prop. xvi.)
Further, here is what the Nicene Creed (a creed commonly accepted by most historical, orthodox Christians) says:
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.
Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.
And I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
And again, from the above-referenced NewAdvent.org posting, in helping to explain the context of the second paragraph of the Creed:
The first general council of the Church was called to define the Divinity of Jesus Christ and to condemn Arius and his error (see ARIUS). Previous to this time, heretics had denied this great and fundamental dogma of the Faith; but the Fathers had been equal to the task of refuting the error and of stemming the tide of heresy. Now the tide of heresy was so strong as to have need of the authority of the universal Church to withstand it. In his “Thalia”, Arius taught that the Word was not eternal (en pote ote ouk en) nor generated of the Father, but made out of nothing (ex ouk onton hehonen ho logos); and though it was before the world was, yet it was a thing made, a created thing (poiema or ktisis). Against this bold heresy, the Council of Nicaea (325) defined the dogma of the Divinity: of Christ in the clearest terms: “We believe . . . in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, generated of the Father (hennethenta ek tou patros monogene), that is, of the substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, True God of True God, begotten not made, the same in nature with the Father (homoousion to patri) by Whom all things were made” (see Denzinger, 54).
Second Main Point
This point is deceptively simple and amazingly profound:
If Jesus is not 100% God and 100% human, then he lied, the Bible is false, and humanity is worse than dead in its sins.
Christianity bases itself on God’s grace, in that God provided the means to transcend the natural realm and provide the way for fallen humanity to be redeemed to God. No other religion in history makes this claim; most other religions teach what actions you can perform in the hope that, maybe someday, your good deeds will outweigh your bad deeds and the Supernatural General Ledger might one day balance itself out.
God made the rules that the universe runs by, and that includes the rules of morality. If you break the rules, the consequences are bad. Therefore, only God can fulfill the rules that he set forth, which is the very premise of true Christianity. If Jesus was merely a really, really, really good human, then he died for absolutely nothing, except maybe for himself.
Third Main Point
It is very easy to “appear” as a Christian-based organization simply by following a set of rules and regulations that maintain moral and ethical values. Basically what this means is that such an organization enjoys the benefits of the Judeo-Christian historical basis but otherwise allows itself to deny certain fundamental aspects of why it’s not just about the rules and regulations of morality.
Can you now see why (1) it’s not patently obvious on Mormon-based web sites who they actually say that Jesus is and (2) this topic is not more thoroughly discussed regarding Mr. Romney’s candidacy? As I’ve just demonstrated, the belief system (1) is categorically not what historical, orthodox Christianity teaches and (2) would likely have very disastrous political results if commonly discussed among the rank-and-file populous.
Again, it’s all about Jesus to me. Some folks simply don’t like talking about Jesus, and some folks simply don’t want to confront the possibility that their favored presidential candidate could be a rather high-ranking member of, frankly and bluntly, a cult. And that’s fine.
The point of this posting is to present a viewpoint that I don’t think is very abundant on the Internet at all. To wit:
- Mr. Romney’s faith, like Mr. Obama’s eligibility, is a worthy topic of discussion
- Mormonism is not a Christian organization, except for the fact that it teaches a given set of Judeo-Christian-inspired moral/ethical rules
- Mormonism does not teach that Jesus is 100% God and 100% human and so therefore could not possibly have redeemed mankind of its sin
- Religion is not a litmus test regarding presidential eligibility
- Religion is a leading indicator of how said candidate perceives the world
I remain, as always:
phil [at] therightsideoflife [dot] com