God's truth for today's world

Today, we begin a new message series called “GodQuest.” What is a quest? A quest is a search for something of great value. Going on a quest is an adventure which connects you with other people who are on a quest for the same thing. In our case, the object of our quest is God, the ultimate treasure.

Hebrews 11:6b (NIV) … anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

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In “Is Mormonism Christian? Part 1“, I described the four fundamental marks of the Christian faith. In “percentage of born-again adults, those who believe “they have made a personal commitment to Christ that is important in their life today and also say that when they die they know they will go to Heaven solely because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior,” range from a high of 81% in the Assemblies of God to a low of 25% in the Catholic church. The Mormon church suprisingly has 34% of born-again adults according to Barna.

How should you respond to a Mormon that you know personally? As with any other person, you should seek to determine whether they are truly a Christian, not assuming to know their personal relationship with God based on what church they go to. If they are truly Christians, endeavor to discuss with them the problems with Mormon doctrine compared to biblical teaching. If they are not Christians, seek to get them to read and discuss the Bible and contrast it to Mormonism. Reference books on Mormonism, such as those mentioned above will be important to address the issues. Above all, do not take a claim to be a Christian from anyone, including a Mormon, at face value.

In response to the question, “Are Mormons Christians?”, an article on the official Mormon site gave the following answer.

Why would anyone say such a thing? Isn’t the name of our church The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Do we not worship Christ? Is not the Book of Mormon another testament of Jesus Christ? How could anyone seriously doubt that Latter-day Saints are Christians?

None of the reasons given in this response has anything to do with the basic marks of Christianity given in the Bible. 2 Corinthians 4:4 (NIV) The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. May we pray that God opens the eyes of Mormons to truly see the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In “,” I laid out the four marks that distinguish a Christian group or denomination. In Part 2 of this series, I will apply these tests to the doctrine of the Mormon church to answer the question, “Is Mormonism Christian?” The Mormon position will be verified with links to the official website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. As many people have no idea of the origin of the Mormon church, here is a brief history.

The founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith was born in Vermont in 1805. At the age of 14, Smith had his first vision, in which a supernatural personage informed him that all of Christianity current at his time was a false abomination. Three years later, Smith had a second vision, in which a spirit called Moroni told him of a book of gold plates on which was recorded the history of the former inhabitants of the American continent. Smith supposedly translated the gold plates to produce the Book of Mormon in 1829. The gold plates were never seen by anyone other than Smith. The historical records contained in the book of Mormon have been demonstrated to be false by noted Mesoamerican archaeologists and respected archaeological societies. Thomas Finley in the book “The New Mormon Challenge” summarizes the evidence for the origin of the Book of Mormon. “There is no solid evidence that the Book of Mormon was written by Semites in ancient times. Contrary evidence makes it more likely that the book is a product of Joseph Smith’s time with the KJV strongly influencing it.”

The first mark of a Christian group is that it upholds the unique authority of the Bible and does not add or take away from it. The Mormon Church has four authoritative books: the Bible, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price, all but the Bible penned by Joseph Smith. Mormonism teaches that the Bible is unreliable and has been corrupted. Therefore Smith “translated” a corrected version of the Bible which introduced thousands of changes into the King James Version. One of the changes was the addition of a prophecy in Genesis foretelling the coming of Joseph Smith. Of course, since the Bible is considered unreliable, the writings of Smith take precedence in the formulation of Mormon doctrine. This will be seen as I look at the next three marks. Mormonism fails the test of being based on the unique authority of the Bible.

The second mark of a Christian group is it’s understanding of God. The Mormon church teaches that God the Father is the supreme god, ruling over other gods. Mormonism teaches that God the Father has a body of flesh and bones. It teaches that God the Father was once a man like us and progressed to become God. Therefore, humans may also become gods by following the Mormon doctrine of eternal progression. Mormonism rejects the Christian Trinitarian concept of God and views the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as separate beings. Suffice it to say that the Mormon doctrine of God is radically different from the biblical view accepted by Christendom.

The third mark of a Christian group is it’s teaching about Jesus Christ. The Mormon Church teaches that Jesus did not always exist, but was begotten from the union of the Father and an unnamed wife. Jesus and Lucifer therefore are considered spirit brothers. Although a recent statement of the Mormon church appeared to reject this, it was deceptive, as an in-depth discussion of Mormon theology on this point indicates. Mormon doctrine actually teaches that Jesus, in His mortal state, was born as a result of sexual relations between God the Father and Mary. According to Mormon theology, Jesus is not to be worshipped in the same way as God the Father, nor to be prayed to. Mormonism fails the test of the third mark of Christianity.

The fourth mark of Christianity is a biblical doctrine of salvation. It must be noted that Mormonism uses Christian terminology but deceptively defines the terms completely differently from Christianity. Mormon doctrine teaches that there is no salvation outside of the Mormon Church. Mormonism speaks of salvation by grace, but examination of Mormon doctrine clearly shows that individual salvation comes by what you do (Mormon baptism, church attendance, good works, worthiness and temple works). The atonement of Jesus’ death according to Mormonism provides the opportunity to earn salvation through personal merit, rather than paying the full penalty for our sins. Thus Mormonism fails the test of the fourth mark of Christianity.

My conclusion is that Mormonism is not Christian. Based on the beliefs of Mormonism, biblical scholars identify the Mormon Church as a theological cult. A theological cult is a group that consistently refers to itself as Christian, yet differs from the fundamental beliefs of Christian orthodoxy. In “” of this mini-series, I will explore how believers should respond to Mormons.

The Mormon religion has been in the news a lot lately, as part of the coverage of the Presidential election. Many opinions have been presented by candidates and the news media, some of which do not agree with one another. The most fundamental question that has been raised is whether Mormonism is Christian or not. Is Mormonism just another Christian denomination? A recent poll by the Pew Research center found that 52% of American adults believe that Mormonism is a Christian religion, while 31% disagree. The Mormon church claims to be Christian, yet rejects all non-Mormon churches from the close of the apostolic age until now as being apostate.

If a group claims to be Christian, is that proof that it is? What does it mean to be Christian? This broader question is vital to answer, as many groups claim to be Christian. The first mark of a Christian group is that it upholds the unique authority of the Bible as the Word of God. Jesus said in NIV Matthew 5:18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished validating the Old Testament scripture of his time. At the end of the New Testament, the book of Revelation concludes with the statement, NIV Revelation 22:18-19 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. These verses apply specifically to the book of Revelation and more generally to the New Testament and the whole canon of the Bible. The authority of the Bible has been a mark of the Christian church from it’s foundation.

The second mark of a Christian group is it’s understanding or doctrine of God. God is the Creator and Ruler of the universe. He has eternally existed as a Trinity, that is, one being existing in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These three are co-equal and are one God. NIV Isaiah 44:6 “This is what the LORD says– Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God. Man is a created being and can never become God.

The third mark of a Christian group is it’s teaching about Jesus Christ. Jesus was fully human and fully God. As part of the Trinity, He has eternally existed, He was never created. He is co-equal with God. Jesus lived a perfect life on earth, died for the sins of mankind, rose from the dead on the third day and ascended into heaven. NIV Hebrews 1:3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

The fourth mark of a Christian group is the doctrine of salvation. Salvation is obtained by admitting you have sinned, believing that Jesus’ death forgives that sin and committing one’s life to Jesus as Lord. Salvation is having one’s sins forgiven and entering into a relationship with God called eternal life. Salvation is a free gift received by faith alone and cannot be earned by doing good works. NIV Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith– and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast.

While there are many other important beliefs taught in the Bible, these four marks have historically defined a true Christian church. Deviations from these marks indicate that the group is not Christian or has deviated from a true Christian belief. These four marks can be used to test whether a group is Christian in it’s teaching or not. An individual must grasp these truths in some form and believe them in order to be a Christian. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Americans claim to be Christian, while many of them are ignorant of what the term means or what the Bible teaches. In Part 2 of this mini-series, I will apply these tests to the doctrine of the Mormon church to answer the question, “Is Mormonism Christian?”

For many people, Christmas is simply a holiday season for time with family and friends. “Merry Christmas” has been replaced by “Happy Holidays” on buildings, in front yards and in various publications across America. The politically correct view is that we must not offend any non-Christians by using the word Christmas in any positive context, even though over 80% of Americans call themselves Christian. Does Christmas matter or should we just relegate it to another secular holiday?

Even though Christmas has not always been celebrated by the Christian church or in the same way we celebrate it today, I believe Christmas matters. The Bible does not teach that we should celebrate Christmas, yet it has multiple accounts of what happened at Christmas and teaches us why it matters. You see the origin of Christmas is not just about the birth of the founder of Christianity. No, Christmas is about much more than that, for Jesus was not just a good, moral teacher.

Christmas matters, because on that night in a small Palestinian village 2000 years ago, God came to earth in human form. The God who created the universe, who flung the galaxies into place, who created you, was born as a flesh and blood baby. Colossians 1:15 (NLT) Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, 16 for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see– such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. When you looked at that baby born on that first Christmas night, you saw the invisible God. The most incredible event in human history took place on Christmas.

Jesus grew up, taught us about God, died on a cross and rose back to life, so that a rebellious humanity might have an opportunity to have a relationship with their creator. You see, Jesus didn’t come into the world for no reason. He came because He loved you and wanted you to fulfill the purpose He created you for. 1 John 4:9 (NLT) God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. Eternal life is simply a relationship with God that begins in this life and lasts forever.

I think what happened at Christmas 2000 years ago is something worth celebrating, it’s something worth teaching your children and it’s something worth telling everybody you know about. Anybody who doesn’t understand why Christmas matters is missing the point of life and the point of eternity. Christmas matters. I wish you all a Merry Christmas!