Richard Mouw–Mormonism has theological differences with Christianity, but a Mormon can be president

I have read most of those books [that argue that Mormonism is a cult], and I have studied and taught about cults for many years. I have also spent the last dozen years meeting with Mormons – scholars and church leaders – to engage in lengthy theological discussions. These dialogues have included several other prominent evangelical Christian leaders.

Based on these conversations and my own careful study, I do not believe Mormonism is a cult. However, I am not convinced that Mormon theology deserves to be classified as Christian in the historic sense of that word. I have serious disagreements with my Mormon friends about basic issues of faith that have eternal consequences. These include issues regarding the nature of God, the doctrine of the Trinity and the character of the afterlife. But I have also learned that in some matters we are not quite as far apart as I once thought. In any case, such theological differences don’t preclude a Mormon from being a viable presidential candidate, in my view.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Mormons, Office of the President, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

9 comments on “Richard Mouw–Mormonism has theological differences with Christianity, but a Mormon can be president

  1. DTerwilliger says:

    The problem appears that Mouw is working from or has changed the definition of what a cult is. He acknowledges the differences between Mormonism and Christianity regarding the nature of God, the Trinity, and the afterlife but apparently does not believe this constitutes cult status (largely because of the size/growth of Mormonism). Herein lies the problem – Christian doctrine matters less and less today, even by supposed evangelicals. Doctrine has become viewed as a political construct with overtones of exclusion. Sadly, what is at stake is truth itself and the first principle of reason in the law of non-contradiction. So those religions claiming the name Christian that deny, implicitly or explicitly, basic historic Christian doctrine are apparently no longer “cults” – and yet this is the very definition of what a cult is. Apparently, the early Church was being too exclusive with passing on to us the Creeds.

  2. Franz says:

    Mmm. Perhaps you need to define how [i]you[/i] use the word. For example, one common use of the word implies a “quasi-religious organization using devious psychological techniques to gain and control adherents.” Under that definition, one might find a world of difference between the LDS and, say, the Church of Scientology.

    Mouw acknowledges that Mormonism has aspects of its theology that may take it outside the historic definition of Christianity. All he is saying is that does not necessarily prevent Mormons (such as Governor Romney) from serving as President of the United States (who heads the executive branch of the government and serves as Commander & Chief of the Armed Forces — the President is not a bishop, a theologian, or a pastor).

  3. DTerwilliger says:

    What I am saying is that those who claim the name Christian who deny basic Christian doctrine – such as Mormons supplied by “extra revelations” – are a cult. That is all …. AS for your supplied definition, have you looked carefully into the rites of Mormonism and the control through secrets? Anyway, with regard to Romney serving as President, I am not invested. But transparency about what Mormonism is won’t be helped by redefining it away from being the cult which it is.

  4. deaconjohn25 says:

    Many orthodox Catholics find it laughable that for some evangelicals the Mormon Church is doctrinally impure and some sort of a cult. But from the strict orthodox Catholic point of view there isn’t much difference between Mormons and many who go under the heading of “evangelical” or Protestant–a heretic is a heretic (teaching and believing incorrect doctrines). And it can be argued that the Mormons after all are the spawn of one of the great evangelical revivals in American history.
    But in some respects this is irrelevant as long as the public stands of a candidate are correct.
    I live in Ma. and am a very orthodox Catholic. I also gladly voted for Romney for governor of our state as he was running against an Irish-Catholic extreme liberal Democrat who might as well have been a Communist-Marxist and anti-Christian activist.
    That conservatives are only too willing to attack a candidate whose stands have all moved in their direction is a real death wish. Instead of calling Romney a flip-flopper conservative Republicans should publicly rejoice that he has “grown”, “matured,” become “enlightened”–that’s what liberals and the liberal media did when Jesse Jackson, Ted Kennedy, and Bill Clinton “flip-flopped” from being pro-life to being pro-abortion.
    Also history shows that it is very, very rare for a candidate to go back on the direction the trajectory of his career has carried him.
    There’s got to be someting behind the White House’s almost palpable fear of a Romney candidacy.
    Also, irony of ironies, the two candidates the evangelical leaders seem to be leaning toward–according to all news accounts I’ve heard or read–are Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Newt is a convert to the Catholic Faith and Santorum sometimes comes across as more Catholic than the pope.

  5. NoVA Scout says:

    “Cult” is not a very useful word in a political context. Very few people ever self-describe themselves as belonging to a cult. It is generally a term that is used offensively and is intended to be pejorative, but it has little impact in that no one in the “cult” particularly believes they belong to one. I have even heard Roman Catholicism described as a cult. I don’t share that view, but it shows how debased the currency is with regard to that particular epithet.

    As no. 2 observes, however, the central thrust of Mouw’s article was not the use of that particular word, but whether Mormonism, cult or not, is something that would disqualify a candidate from occupying the Presidency. We could probably even round up some Mormons to agree that it is certainly a non-orthodox variant of Christianity. Huntsman and Romney nonetheless seem to have a great many qualities that citizens of the United States want to see in holders of high public office.

  6. Ad Orientem says:

    My issue with Gov. Romney is not his bizarre religious beliefs, but his politics. The man has, at one time or another, stood firmly on both sides of most of the issues that I really care about. In short I have no idea what the man really stands for beyond his own career advancement. Unfortunately there really isn’t anyone running right now that I have any inclination to vote for.

    Ron Paul probably comes closest to getting a vote from me. Agree or disagree with the man, he has been just about the most consistent politician in Washington for the last 30 years and he is as honest as the day is long. Those are two qualities I am not in the habit of linking with members of Congress.

  7. NoVA Scout says:

    RE comment no. 6, the delightful thing about Ron Paul (at least for me) is that, during the candidate fora (they hardly seem like “debates to me), he is the only one on the stage who makes absolutely no effort to gussy up his comments to sway this or that part of the Republican presidential-picking electorate. He’s thought about these issues a good deal, formed his opinions, and he just lays it out for you. He’ll try to persuade you that he’s right, but he’s not going to cut you any slack just to tickle your political fancy. I very much enjoy the contrast between him and everyone else in that regard. I wouldn’t vote for him for president or pick him as my idea of an optimal candidate, but I surely do respect him.

  8. libraryjim says:

    It really depends on what your definition of “Cult” is, as in definition 1, or definition 2, or definition 3:
    1) A system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object.
    2) A relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister.
    3) Any group which deviates from Biblical, orthodox, historical Christianity.

    Origin of CULT
    French & Latin; French [i]culte[/i], from Latin [i]cultus[/i] care, adoration, from [i]colere[/i] to cultivate.
    (various sources)
    First Known Use: 1617

  9. Ad Orientem says:

    Re #4
    Mormons are not heretics. You have to be minimally Christian to be a heretic. They are polytheist pagans. This doesn’t mean they are horrible people. But it does mean they are outside of anything that could reasonably be described as Christianity. Even Rome recognizes this by refusing to recognize Mormon baptisms when she recognizes just about everyone else’s.