Joseph Bottum, John Mark Reynolds, Bruce Porter: No Case for Homosexuality in Bible

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On any plane of argument, the contradiction would appear stunning, but, then, neither Jon Meacham nor Lisa Miller are engaged in argument. They're speaking, instead, in familiar tropes and fused-phrases and easy clichés. They're trying to convey a feeling, really, rather than an argument: Jesus loves us, love is good, homosexuals love one another, marriage is love, love is loving--a sort of warm bath of words, their meanings dissolved into a gentle goo. In their eyes, all nice things must be nice together, and Jesus comes to seem (as J.D. Salinger once mocked) something like St. Francis of Assisi and "Heidi's grandfather" all in one.

In truth, of course, Meacham and Miller actually know what everyone else knows: The Bible offers no support for homosexual marriage. Christianity teaches love, mercy, and forgiveness for those who do bad things, true enough. Look, for example, at the story in the Gospel of John where Jesus offers his divine love, mercy, and forgiveness to a woman guilty of adultery. He shamed those who would stone her. He taught us all that we are sinners and often hypocrites. And then he told her, "Go and sin no more." He did not reinterpret the Old Testament to proclaim adultery another life-style choice.

Miller demolishes the distinction between sin and sinner, thus eradicating any real conception of sin and guilt. But without sin and guilt there is no need for forgiveness--and no basis for morality. An amoral world may be a quite suitable environment for gay marriage, but it is hardly the kind of world in which most Americans want to bring up their children.

Those who tried to live by the Christian understanding have come to amazingly similar conclusions about what God wants in marriage.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMarriage & FamilyMediaSexuality--Civil Unions & Partnerships* TheologyTheology: Scripture

Posted December 31, 2008 at 9:50 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Jeffersonian wrote:

Bottum et alia get close to putting their collective finger on the major problem with the current debate over gay marriage:  Its defenders are making their arguments far too broad and that is, rightly, scaring away a lot of people who might otherwise be amenable to it.

December 31, 12:34 pm | [comment link]
2. AnglicanFirst wrote:

The agitation-propaganda from the GLBT faction has been so incessant that most of us just ‘tune them out.’

They have become like noisy and quarrelsome children and that makes them easy to ignore.

December 31, 12:55 pm | [comment link]
3. Franz wrote:

I loved this line:  “They’re trying to convey a feeling, really, rather than an argument: Jesus loves us, love is good, homosexuals love one another, marriage is love, love is loving—a sort of warm bath of words, their meanings dissolved into a gentle goo.”

The authors have diagnosed a problem that C.S. Lewis also noted in “The Four Loves.”  Lewis also observes its cure:  In his introduction, he observes that human love “begins to be a demon” when it “begins to be a god.”  He continues—“This balance seems to me an indispensable safeguard.  If we ignore it the truth that God is love may slyly mean for us the converse, that love is God.”  And of course, if our love, and our notion of love, is in our minds God, we are fully engaged in idolatry.

December 31, 1:04 pm | [comment link]
4. Philip Snyder wrote:

Western Society seems to believe the following “truth” statements
God is Love
Love is Sex
Sex is god.

I have much more respect for those like Luke Timothy Johnson who admit that Scripture condemns homosexual sex, but believe Scripture is wrong.  They do not try to make Scripture say what it manifestly doesn’t say and they don’t rely on the unproven saw “Scripture did not contemplate today’s homoerotic relationships.”

Phil Snyder

December 31, 1:30 pm | [comment link]
5. Jon wrote:

Ultimately I think this is a bad piece, for the following reason.  I think it is bad any time prominent Christian writers permit a Mormon to equally share their byline in an essay that purports to describe Christianity and Christian theology.  It sends one of two possible messages:

(1) Mormonism is just as authentically Christian as the creedal traditions of Protestantism (Luther, Calvin, Cranmer), Rome, or the Eastern Church.  The uninformed reader should feel free to speak with the Mormons on his doorstep to understand what the Christian faith teaches.

(2)  We (the two Christian writers) are so frantically obsessed with gay people and the possibility that they might have legal civil marriage (NOT marriage in a church) that all our other principles pale beside it.  Ultimately we just don’t care that much about all other traditional Christian doctrine—not nearly as much as we do about sticking it to those damn queers at all costs.  Sure, people may mistakenly get the impression from our article that Mormonism is Christianity—but that’s a small price to pay if we can stop Judy and Diane from getting a piece of paper from the courthouse.

I can’t emphasize how extremely damaging either conclusion is.  (Some readers will draw #1, some #2.)  I hope I don’t have to explain to T19 readers how monstrously dangerous conclusion #1 is. 

But conclusion #2 is also awful… because it terribly undercuts the claims that Ken Harmon and Bob Duncan and Fitz Allison and scores of other traditionalist Anglicans are making when they say that they don’t have anything against gay people per se, and that homosexuality is really not the central issue.  Kendall (et al.) say that their real concern is the precious ancient teaching of the apostolic Christian church, central doctrines about Christ and sin and the Atonement and the Bible.  Well, when prominent Christians who are supposed to represent the epitome of sober central creedal traditionalist Christian thought (the editor of FIRST THINGS, for God’s sake!) share their platform with a Mormon, on a piece that is supposed to be explaining Christian theology—Kendall’s claim goes right out the window.  Apparently, people will think, all this rhetoric about how “our real concerns are deep theological ones” that’s all a load of crap.  These “thoughtful traditionalists” are at bottom no different from Rev. Fred Phelps (of  Because as soon as they have an opportunity to ally with a manifest danger to the ancient teachings of the Christian faith (the Mormon Church) they do it—any ally is a good one as long as we can screw over some gay people.

I personally DO believe Kendall and Bob Duncan and Fitz (etc.) when they say that they love gay people and homosexuality is not in itself their primary concern.  They are however fighting an uphill battle in convincing most Americans of that, and when their colleagues share a byline with a Mormon on an article explain the Christian faith, they just made that hill a mountain.

December 31, 1:37 pm | [comment link]
6. Ex-Anglican Sue wrote:

Or perhaps, Jon, that people from traditions as different as Catholicism, Evangelical Protestantism and Mormonism still agree on this particular truth? That’s just as likely.

December 31, 2:05 pm | [comment link]
7. Jon wrote:

No, Sue.  The piece purports to represent the Christian position on what consititutes Scripture, how to read it, and deep theological concepts like sin, redemption, the nature of God, the nature of Christ, etc.  It implicitly says that the three authors are fundamentally agreed on these basic concepts which the authors refer to as “the Christian understanding” and “what Christianity teaches.”

December 31, 2:19 pm | [comment link]
8. libraryjim wrote:

I agree with Jon. 

If the article had presented that “Christianity and other religious traditions teach similar ideas on the subject, based on their sacred texts, including the Bible” that would have been more accurate.

Happy New Year
Jim Elliott <><

December 31, 2:30 pm | [comment link]
9. Frances Scott wrote:

Jon, Are there no Christian Mormans?  Morman’s read both the Book of Morman and the Bible.  Are there no Biblical scholars among the Mormans?  Aren’t we limiting the Holy Spirit just a little too much here?  Are all Episcopalians, Baptists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, etc., etc., etc., Christians?  Does our denominational affiliation necessarily reflect our personal relationship with Jesus Christ?

December 31, 2:35 pm | [comment link]
10. Branford wrote:

As I saw a commenter on this piece at StandFirm note, perhaps including a Mormon was to show solidarity with Mormons after the extreme GBLT reaction to the Mormons in California and the Mormon support of Prop 8. As a Californian, I can tell you, the Mormons have taken the brunt of criticism and protest from those opposed to Prop 8 and they have handled it well.

December 31, 2:39 pm | [comment link]
11. Phil wrote:

Sue and Frances Scott - were the Arians Christians?  Were the Gnostics?  Are Muslims?  The latter revere Jesus as a prophet.

December 31, 2:52 pm | [comment link]
12. Jon wrote:

#9… No, there are no Christian Mormons.  By which I mean, if a person believes orthodox Mormon teaching, then he cannot consistently be a creedal Christian, since Mormonism is in stark conflict with apostolic creedal Christian teaching in a number of crucial areas.  If, of course, you mean “Are there people who call themselves Mormons and also call themselves Christians”—well of course there are.  There are ordained Christian priests who call themselves Muslims, there was a movement in the 1960s called the Christian Atheists, there is Jack Spong… I mean anybody can call themselves anything.

There’s tons of references out there on the web which explain the stark differences between Mormonism and Nicene Christianity.  Feel free to take a look.

December 31, 2:56 pm | [comment link]
13. Phil wrote:

Further to #11 (and Jon’s remarks), let me expand my question a little bit.  Much of Episcopalianism regards Jesus as kind of a proto-hippie, about half of whose teachings fit very well (in their opinion) into their fuzzy Marxist, no-moral-guardrails, ‘60s-inspired worldview (while the other half of what he said can be ignored).  That is, he is held to have thought a lot like (coincidentally!) a modern, white, Manhattan liberal.  At the same time, Christianity itself is viewed as an embarrassment, and one of only many ways to experience God - probably, not even the best one for most of the world’s people.  Logically, of course, this implies Jesus was not the Son of God, since they feel there is no compelling reason to follow Jesus uniquely above other thinkers.  (I mean, if the only begotten Son of God isn’t an option you feel you had better take, how much can you really believe He’s the Son of God?)

The bottom line is, we’ve got a set of people that think Jesus was an interesting thinker who had some special access to God, but only in the context that so does Gene Robinson and Jack Spong.  They “follow” Jesus, in a way, and they call themselves Christian.  So my question is, are they?  Is that good enough?

December 31, 3:07 pm | [comment link]
14. nwlayman wrote:

#9 : No.  Why does the question need to be asked?

December 31, 3:18 pm | [comment link]
15. Ian+ wrote:

St Paul answers the question very clearly and succinctly as to who is a Christian in Romans: “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Implied in Paul’s understanding of the Lordship of Jesus is triunity with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Mormons don’t accept that. Many Episcopalians whom Phil (13) describes don’t accept that God raise him from the dead (Jesus, not Phil).
One question: Not having followed election news much, is it true that the militant gay-agendists in CA shouted racial epithets against blacks who opposed gay marriage?

December 31, 3:57 pm | [comment link]
16. Branford wrote:

Yes, Ian+, that is true that racial epithets were used against blacks, as noted here and here.

December 31, 4:13 pm | [comment link]
17. the roman wrote:

Why should the content of the article be impugned because of it’s affiliation with “a Mormon”? Why should Jon’s opinion that this article sends “ of two possible messages.” sidetrack discussion onto the great theological differences between Christianity and Mormonism?

If a Jew, a Muslim and a Christian stood before a podium and declared simultaneously that their belief system defines marriage as between a man and a woman does their joint declaration become invalid and irrelevant simply because they have other major theological differences, or as Jon suggests would it represent tacit acknowledgement among them all that there are no differences with any of their beliefs and one’s is as valid as another’s?

December 31, 4:26 pm | [comment link]
18. Paula wrote:

I thought this alliance of authors was a showing of strength, revealing some of the breadth of this perennial interpretation of the Bible and of the bedrock of Christian morality.  I applauded their work and I don’t object to the authorship.

December 31, 4:28 pm | [comment link]
19. Phil wrote:

#17 and #18, for my part, I fully agree.  I am just taking gentle issue with the idea advanced that Mormons are Christian in a way the Church would understand the term.

December 31, 4:44 pm | [comment link]
20. Jon wrote:

#17…. if a Jew and a Muslim and a Christian did what you described, that would be fine… as long as they didn’t all claim to be representing one religion.  The article clearly states that the authors are representing one religion: Christianity.  They repeatedly use phrases like “What Christianity teaches” and “the Christian understanding.”  Further—and this is CRITICAL—they claim to be explicating common deep fundamental doctrinal issues, things far deeper than the question of a particular sexual practice: ideas like original sin, guilt, salvation, forgiveness, what constitutes Scripture, how to read Scripture, etc.

It’s simply not the case that the piece is three guys from three different and incompatible religious traditions each raising their hands and saying: Yup, my religion says being gay is bad.  If that’s what it was, it would be frankly not terribly interesting.  Is that news to anybody?  That a conservative Mormon, a conservative Catholic, and a conservative Protestant all think that?  Hold the presses—front page news!

The piece is not three guys from three different religions being polled about one narrow question (“gay sex—yes or no?).  It is a sustained argument in which three guys claim to be fundamentally united at the deepest level as to “the Christian faith”—and they then explain how the original Newsweek piece is at odds with that faith on a level far deeper than the specific narrow question at hand.

December 31, 4:54 pm | [comment link]
21. the roman wrote: you’re saying I shouldn’t be fooled by the title of the article, disregard it’s superficial, simplistic refutation the Time magazine article and I should read much more into what is I getting warmer? I can be pretty thick most times and now is no exception.

December 31, 5:10 pm | [comment link]
22. Paula wrote:

We all seem to be admitting that the message is unimpeachable.  Then I’m glad that a Mormon leader feels he can be a signatory to this traditional understanding of the Bible.  Surely that’s not an occasion for lament.

December 31, 5:20 pm | [comment link]
23. Jon wrote:

#21… unsure what you mean.

#22… I always lament any time Christian leaders help Mormons advance their religion by lending them credibility as fellow Christians.  And Mormons do not have a traditional understanding of the Bible.  They have a wildly revisionist understanding of the Bible and of the Christian faith as a whole.

December 31, 5:27 pm | [comment link]
24. the roman wrote:

Not to be argumentative #23 but which Christians would change their minds about Mormons simply because representatives of their denominations co-authored an article? How does co-authorship translate into co-promotion and to whom?

December 31, 5:44 pm | [comment link]
25. Jon wrote:

#24… I never suggested that, among Christians who fully understand that Mormonism is at strong odds with the Nicene faith, a significant number would become Mormons (as you say “change their mind”) after reading this article.

There are, however, two other groups:

(1)  Self-described Christians who do not understand that Mormonism is at sharp odds with Christianity

(2)  Nonchristians who are beginning to search, perhaps without yet fully realizing it, for a Christian home and who do not understand that Mormonism is at sharp odds with Christianity

Converts to Mormonism almost all come from these two groups.  You can see some examples of #1 even inside this T19 thread.  The majority of self-professed Christians in America are probably in this boat.

I don’t think I can do a better job than I already have at explaining how co-authorship on a piece which represents all three authors as jointly explaining Christian ideas on sin, salvation, forgiveness, the nature of Scripture, the nature of God, and so on—how that co-authorship necessarily means that each of the three regards the other two as an authority on Christianity.  Not that he’d agree with the other two on every minute doctrinal issue that someone could propose, but on all the big ideas of the faith.  If it’s not yet clear how that works, I doubt I can do a better job of explaining it.  My apologies for not doing a better job.

My concern is about anyone helping the Mormons in their agenda of the last 30 years, which is to rebrand themselves as “Christians.”  It’s actually been a fairly recent thing.  Cooper Abrams writes:

Historically, only until recently have Mormons wanted to be called Christians, preferring not to be included with Christian denominations, which Joseph Smith said were, “all wrong ... all their creeds were an admonition in his sight, and that those professors (Christians) were all corrupt” (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith, 2:18-19).

Mormons have preferred to be called “saints”; however, in the recent years the LDS church has spent millions in an intense “PR” campaign aimed at moving the church into the mainstream of Christianity. The political and economic benefits of Mormons being included in the mainstream of Christianity are obvious. Further, for Mormons to be accepted as traditional Christians would greatly aid in proselytizing the members of Christian denominations into the LDS church. This is why the LDS church is trying so hard to present itself as Christian and is trying to overcome the stigma of being a cult.

Maybe it will help you if I make a constructive suggestion.  You may be wondering… “Well, what in blazes does Jon think those two Christian guys should have done instead?”

It’s simple.  Never include a Mormon on a letter you are co-authoring when you are representing Christian teaching.  EVER.  And ESPECIALLY so if you are refering to a number of fundamental Christian doctrines.  Instead the two Christian guys could have gotten a thoughtful representative from the Eastern Church to join them.  The Eastern Orthodox are a large and fast growing group in America and could have easily fielded a rep who was both eminently EO and also very American.

So what ARE we allowed to do with Mormons, according to Jon?  Lots of things.  Work next to a Mormon at the local soup kitchen.  Befriend them.  Play golf with them.  Vote for one if you think he’ll make a good US President.  Even engage in joint strategy sessions to attempt to pass Prop 8 or some other very concrete political goal.  Just never EVER do anything, especially but not limited to coauthoring a letter on Christian teaching, that could give a person who doesn’t know any better the impression that they are just another Christian church.

Hope that helps….


December 31, 6:49 pm | [comment link]
26. Paula wrote:

I don’t take up the sectarian tone about there not being Mormon Christians; I consider it terribly untrue.  I have lived for 20 years where the nearest neighbors were Mormons, and one family, especially, was intimate best friends with my parents.  They certainly called themselves Christians, and they happened to agree with my orthodox Christian family on many, even most,  things; they prayed with us often.  I realize the chance that they were anomalous among Mormons, but I always suspect there are many like them—yes, Christians.

December 31, 8:00 pm | [comment link]
27. jkc1945 wrote:

“As man is, so God once was:  as God is, so shall Man become.”  If you accept this, you can be a Mormon.  (as a matter of fact, you have to believe this to be a Mormon) but surely it is indisputable that no one who calls themselves ‘Christian’ can believe this, if there is any sense to orthodoxy.  The question of whether Mormons are Christian is a silly question.  Mormons are sincere;  Mormons are nice folks, as a rule;  Mormons have a wonderful concept of “family”, and the value of family;  but that doesn’t make them Christian.  One can be a Mormon;  one can be a follower of Jesus Christ;  one cannot be both.

December 31, 8:35 pm | [comment link]
28. Jon wrote:

Hi Paula.  Part of the problem here is that we are talking about a word.  Different people can mean different things by a word.  I’m a middle aged man, but I can actually remember a time when I was a child when the word bad meant the opposite of good.  Then I remember it getting a different slang meaning as I grew up.  On the street the word came to mean “good, attractive”—as in “that’s one baaaaad car, man!”

It’s silly to say that one guy is right and the other is wrong about what they meant by the word BAD.  It’s just a word, just a series of sounds, and the way language works is that a set of sounds change in meaning over time.  It’s improbable that God has a dictionary that objectively defines the correct meaning for every series of sounds.

That’s why arguments over what a word “really” means are fruitless.  What is important is identifying what meaning a particular person or group of people are giving it.

I had a long T19 thread with a fellow a few weeks ago who was quite insistent that he be allowed to call himself a “Christian”—even though he disbelieved in much of the Nicene creed.  Likewise there was a celebrated TEC priest in the last year or two who insisted that she was a Christian while at the same time being a Muslim.  Ultimately it’s pointless to fight over the moniker: anybody can call themselves anything they like.  I mean, it’s a free country.

What I encouraged the T19 fellow to do is define how he was using it, and I explained how I was using it.  That ultimately breaks the impass.

So if you go back to my post #12, you’ll see I write:

#9… No, there are no Christian Mormons.  By which I mean, if a person believes orthodox Mormon teaching, then he cannot consistently be a creedal Christian, since Mormonism is in stark conflict with apostolic creedal Christian teaching in a number of crucial areas.

So note that the way I am using it, I am not talking at all about whether I like the person, whether the person has prayed with me, whether he talks about Jesus in a favorable way, and so on.  In a way, I am not talking about persons at all, which is good because we can never know what goes on inside people’s heads.  I am talking about belief systems.

Creedal Christianity makes certain claims.  I’ll indicate just one.  It makes the claim of something called “the Trinity.”  Mormonism rejects the Trinitarian understanding of God as one God.  Instead, Mormonism teaches (very quietly in recent years) that there are three gods, and that the Father long ago was basically a big strong but finite guy who gradually became more and more godlike over time, like getting more and more superpowers.

It’s entirely possible that the family you know and loved, Paula, were indeed Christians, or were being unconsciously drawn that way more and more—increasingly drawn into true creedal belief about God and Christ and so forth.  To the extent that this was happening, however, they must have been abandoning Mormon beliefs.  It is simply not possible to belief fully in the Trinity and believe it is false at the same time—unless you are crazy.

December 31, 8:44 pm | [comment link]
29. Jon wrote:

No T19 thread is complete without a little C.S. Lewis.  (Grin.)  So here is a relevant passage from C.S. Lewis on the subject of who gets to call themselves a Christian:

People ask: “Who are you, to lay down who is, and who is not a Christian?”: or “May not many a man who cannot believe these doctrines be far more truly a Christian, far closer to the spirit of Christ, than some who do?” Now this objection is in one sense very right, very charitable, very spiritual, very sensitive. It has every available quality except that of being useful. We simply cannot, without disaster, use language as these objectors want us to use it. I will try to make this clear by the history of another, and very much less important, word.

The word gentleman originally meant something recognisable; one who had a coat of arms and some landed property. When you called someone “a gentleman” you were not paying him a compliment, but merely stating a fact. If you said he was not “a gentleman” you were not insulting him, but giving information. There was no contradiction in saying that John was a liar and a gentleman; any more than there now is in saying that James is a fool and an M.A. But then there came people who said - so rightly, charitably, spiritually, sensitively, so anything but usefully - “Ah but surely the important thing about a gentleman is not the coat of arms and the land, but the behaviour? Surely he is the true gentleman who behaves as a gentleman should? Surely in that sense Edward is far more truly a gentleman than John?” They meant well. To be honourable and courteous and brave is of course a far better thing than to have a coat of arms. But it is not the same thing. Worse still, it is not a thing everyone will agree about. To call a man “a gentleman” in this new, refined sense, becomes, in fact, not a way of giving information about him, but a way of praising him: to deny that he is “a gentleman” becomes simply a way of insulting him. When a word ceases to be a term of description and becomes merely a term of praise, it no longer tells you facts about the object: it only tells you about the speaker’s attitude to that object. (A ‘nice’ meal only means a meal the speaker likes.) A gentleman, once it has been spiritualised and refined out of its old coarse, objective sense, means hardly more than a man whom the speaker likes. As a result, gentleman is now a useless word. We had lots of terms of approval already, so it was not needed for that use; on the other hand if anyone (say, in a historical work) wants to use it in its old sense, he cannot do so without explanations. It has been spoiled for that purpose.

Now if once we allow people to start spiritualising and refining, or as they might say ‘deepening’, the sense of the word Christian, it too will speedily become a useless word. In the first place, Christians themselves will never be able to apply it to anyone. It is not for us to say who, in the deepest sense, is or is not close to the spirit of Christ. We do not see into men’s hearts. We cannot judge, and are indeed forbidden to judge. It would be wicked arrogance for us to say that any man is, or is not, a Christian in this refined sense. And obviously a word which we can never apply is not going to he a very useful word. As for the unbelievers, they will no doubt cheerfully use the word in the refined sense. It will become in their mouths simply a term of praise. In calling anyone a Christian they will mean that they think him a good man. But that way of using the word will be no enrichment of the language, for we already have the word good. Meanwhile, the word Christian will have been spoiled for any really useful purpose it might have served.

December 31, 8:54 pm | [comment link]
30. the roman wrote:

#25..I enjoyed this article better when it was still just a Christian/Mormon response to a specious Time article on homosexuality and the Bible. I never saw the inherent danger to “self-described Christians” and “non-Christians” receiving the “message” that Christians who co-author an article with a Mormon necessarily legitimize Mormon theology.

I can only speak for myself but after reading this article it never occurred to me to reflect, “Gee..a Mormon agrees with my interpretation of Scripture, therefore; A. Their theology must be close to mine. B. Maybe Mormonism is just another Christian denomination. But then I’ve already admitted to being quite thick most times.

All this off-topic discussion about Mormonism or ruminating deeper question “what is a Christian?” appears a smoke screen to distract ones attention from the article itself. No Case for Homosexuality in the Bible. It may not be front page news but I appreciate their rebuttal to the Time magazine article which in my opinion had many flaws and I’m being charitable when I say flaws. One needn’t be a fundamentalist to discern that much.

December 31, 8:59 pm | [comment link]
31. Paula wrote:

Certainly I know that official doctrines of the LDS are not Christian in the Trinitarian sense that we uphold in the Anglican Communion.  But that’s a far cry from saying that there are NO Christian Mormons.  You are right, Jon, when you say that “we can never know what goes on inside people’s heads.”  I’m convinced there are Mormons who are more Christian (even in our sense) than we suppose.  I didn’t say my neighbors were strictly “orthodox Mormons” but that they may have been “anomalous” in their church.  But I, a 55-year Episcopalian/Anglican—and parents, one High Episcopalian, one charismatic—considered them Christian.

December 31, 9:32 pm | [comment link]
32. Jon wrote:

Hey Roman.  Yup, I agree with you.  You don’t see how, in that article, the two Christian writers legitimated Mormanism as part of Christianity.  You are right that you don’t see that.  But I also agree that it’s fine to just say that we aren’t seeing the same thing—I don’t have a need to keep discussing it with you, except out of courtesy to respond to someone who directly asks me a question.

Incidentally, just a point of T19 etiquette, any time you aren’t interested in a particular post, it’s easy not to respond to it.  Or you can just focus on the stuff that does interest you.  It’s actually easy to do that without attacking a sub-thread that you don’t have interest in.

Quick point of clarification: you’ve refered a couple times to the TIME magazine article.  Do you mean the NEWSWEEK article by Lisa Miller that the three co-authors kept refering to?  I’d be interested in reading the TIME piece—let me know if there is one or whether you just meant to say Newsweek.

Very best wishes this new year,


December 31, 9:39 pm | [comment link]
33. Jon wrote:

Great Paula.  I don’t think we are really saying anything different.  I was saying that if the folks you know were TRULY Mormons then they couldn’t be at the same time committed Christians (and I explained that I was defining those terms in terms of official church doctrine, not in terms of membership in an institutional organization, etc.

Thus a person might have grown up in the Mormon church and therefore still (mistakenly) believed they were a Mormon, but had been drawn by the Holy Spirit into believing creedal Christianity, which as you agree contradicts Mormon teaching in a number of ways.

The key thing to remember about JKC1945 and myself and a few others is that we are using the word CHRISTIAN as shorthand for meaning “a person who believes the Nicene Creed.”  So really we are talking about systems of belief, not persons.  Obviously, as Lewis says, we are forbidden to judge who God might be drawing to Christ in some private way, and likewise we are not suggesting that mere intellectual assent to the Creed is the same as being saved, etc.

The problem, as Lewis observes, with all those other uses of the word, is that they become useless.  Nobody is allowed to use the word CHRISTIAN any more, except in a vague sense that anybody might be a Christian in their heart, who’s to say, etc.

Whereas if we focus on belief systems, then it’s easy.  Person X claims to be a Christian—well, then he can’t be a Muslim.  Cause Islam and Christianity contradict each other.  Person Y claims to be a Mormon?  Well if Y is truly correct, then he can’t be a Christian, since the two belief systems clash on major issues.  But is it possible for person to mistakenly think he is still a Mormon when he’s really become very close to Christian belief?  Sure.

December 31, 9:56 pm | [comment link]
34. Ad Orientem wrote:

Re # 5
That was a great catch.  I have to admit you have raised an issue I had never contemplated when reading the article.  And it’s a very legitimate one.  I do believe there is ample room for cooperation between Mormons and Christians.  But as an Orthodox Christian I must agree that if the price of that cooperation is blurring the basic tenets of the Christian Faith then we need to pass. 

To the extent that this piece implies an acceptance of Mormonism as Christian it is a very bad article and one that should be repudiated, its more sound points not withstanding.  In the end I would have to say that as written, this article is theologically scandalous.

Christ is born!

December 31, 9:57 pm | [comment link]
35. the roman wrote:

Newsweek, not Time..thank you for correcting me. I proved my point about being thick. And my responses were not intended as an attack, I just assumed if one uses sarcasm or long patronizing explanations they must have thick skin and so are used to responses in-kind. Something about dishing it out and being able to take it, no? When did we stop having fun?

But telling me this is a “bad piece” because of some underlying message you fear for the sake of others is not saying whether or not you agree or disagree with the authors assertion that there is no case for homosexuality in the Bible. Regarding the articles authorship, it was my impression this was more a case of a Mormon agreeing with Christian theology and not necessarily a Christian agreeing with Mormon theology and so the alarm needn’t be raised at all. But that’s only my view I know.

December 31, 9:59 pm | [comment link]
36. Jon wrote:

Roman… hey buddy, I’m sorry.  If I read you now just right, you’ve been wanting to know whether I personally agreed that Lisa Miller’s original article was full of sloppy theology and whether the three fellows’ response to it was right on target.

Sure!  Miller’s article was lame and the article as written was well reasoned.

I am a traditionalist who was deeply opposed to VGR’s nomination by New Hampshire the first I heard of it back in spring of 2003.  And one of my deepest complaints about reappraising theology is how flimsy and vacuous it is.

Do note, however, that I am not the only fellow to be deeply concerned about the co-authorship issue.  Ad O is a fellow I respect who posts a lot on T19.  He just chimed in in the last few minutes.  You may want to glance at what he said.

Again, very best wishes….


December 31, 10:09 pm | [comment link]
37. libraryjim wrote:

Unfortunately, Mormons do not believe in:

The Trinity—there are countless numbers of gods, we have three who oversee Earth
The Eternal nature of God—as has been pointed out, each ‘god’ evolves from human form into diety.
Jesus as the ONLY son of God—Lucifer was one, too, and Elohim have countless children from ‘spirit wives’ in heaven, who take human form at the birth of a child

The atonement—we still have to pay with our own blood for sin)

The virgin Birth—Elohim had physical/bodily relations with Mary, just as a ‘man’ would

The Bible as the Inspired word of God—only those parts ‘correctly translated’ are inspired, the other books of Mormonism correct the mistakes, as does the Mormon version of the Bible, edited and corrected by Joseph Smith

There are many websites that detail the sources of these conflicts, such as this one,  quoting Mormon teaching alongside Christian doctrine. If you believe they are compatible, I find that strange.

December 31, 10:18 pm | [comment link]
38. Paula wrote:

Jon, I think you’re right that we don’t really disagree fundamentally.  I’m still glad that the Washington Post used the response of these three authors, rebutting the foolishness in Newsweek.

December 31, 10:58 pm | [comment link]
39. the roman wrote:

Jon, I guess I need stronger glasses or being the last day of the year I am at the apex of my thickheadedness cycle.

From what I can glean it is only the inclusion of Mr. Porter as co-author which is objectionable? I can’t see what Ad O. does that the article “implies an acceptance of Mormonism as Christian”, but again that’s just me. I know that Mormons are very nice pan-theists but then I know a lot of very nice people.

My question is this, if the truth is the truth what matter is the vessel that carries that truth? Can Satan cast out Satan as it were? I am not trying to be flippant here but if I carried your concern further if this article were written by a Baptist and a Catholic is the Baptist therefore subscribing to transubstantiation by association? What if an atheist Bible scholar also weighed in that there’s no case for homosexuality in the Bible. Does their association with the article necessarily promote athiestic views?

I am not usually nit-picky by nature but am just curious about this concern of yours and Ad O’s.

God’s continued blessings in the New Year


December 31, 11:03 pm | [comment link]
40. libraryjim wrote:

I think it more a case of even a broken clock being right twice a day. grin

January 1, 1:35 am | [comment link]
41. Jordan Hylden wrote:

Just a clarification, for whatever it’s worth—FT isn’t technically a Christian magazine.  There have always, for instance, been Jews on the editorial board.  Check out the mission statement:

“First Things is published by The Institute on Religion and Public Life, an interreligious, nonpartisan research and education institute whose purpose is to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society.”

January 1, 2:27 am | [comment link]
42. dwstroudmd+ wrote:

For the record, the Dalai Lama also opposes homosexuality as disordered - in public interviews.  In fact, the general moral and ethical teaching of all the great religious traditions do so.  If one points to the reality of this and has a corporate statement with them in this regard it in no manner denies Christian teaching or its basis in Scripture.  The Tao, as CS Lewis described it, is remarkably consistent.  In the gleams of Divine Truth falling on pagan minds we still see and recognize Truth Himself.  God, as St Paul observed, has not left Himself without a witness in the world.

Fullness of Truth is another issue.

January 1, 2:11 pm | [comment link]
43. austin wrote:

On a different tack: Jon Meacham is on the vestry at St Thomas, 5th Avenue, under Fr. Mead, a rector who is supposed to be an orthodox Anglo-Catholic.  Of course, Fr. Mead has a record of siding with TEC authorities when it comes to ecclesiastical conflicts, but he himself has reiterated traditional teaching.  I wonder how Jon Meacham is undermining the theological positions of the parish from within.

January 1, 7:17 pm | [comment link]
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