A Muslim & A Christian discuss belief

From my earliest days as a Christian, when I began to follow Christ out of a personal commitment (due to God’s regenerative work upon my heart and mind), I have enjoyed learning about the doctrines of Christianity. My study of Christian doctrines was and is accompanied by (and largely facilitated by) learning the history of doctrinal development and expression.

Bible-believing Christians have always believed the same foundational things (though great differences have existed in regard to secondary and tertiary doctrines), but they have articulated them in different ways and argued for them against different opponents over time. Whatever else might come from the exchange of ideas, one would be hard-pressed to argue that healthy and thoughtful debate doesn’t benefit everyone in search for genuine truth.

I am a convictional, Bible-believing Christian. I mean to say that I am a kind of 21stcentury fundamentalist. I believe in the virgin birth of Christ, His divinity, His physical death and resurrection, and the exclusive nature of His offering of grace to guilty sinners. These beliefs (among others) compel me to engage those who believe differently with thoughtful arguments and patient dialogue. I do not want to merely build a bunker and survive with like-minded separatists.

To that end, I recently had a conversation with Zahir, a self-proclaimed Ahmadiyya Muslim. His views do not represent the beliefs of all Muslims, just as mine do not represent all Christians. But the exchange was (I think) an honest and helpful dialogue about important beliefs, which form the overall worldviews we each possess.

What follows is part of the phone exchange between me and Zahir. I don’t know Zahir outside of our 3-hour interaction as transcribed below, but I pray that our dialogue might continue and that God might use it to benefit us both. I am making this a public post in order that the exchange might benefit others as well.

Note: Admittedly, the transcript below is from my (Marc) perspective, but I checked each of my recordings of Zahir’s answers with him to ensure an accurate record of his thoughts.

What religion do you associate yourself with?

Zahir: Zahir is an Ahmadiyya Muslim (a brand of Sunni Islam), which is possibly the newest sect of 73 different sects of Islam. Ahmadiyya Muslims understand themselves to be going back to the original sources and teachings (though, of course, Sunni and Shia Muslims disagree). Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was the self-proclaimed Messiah in modern times, and his teaching is carried forward by the Ahmadiyya Muslims by the phrase, “Love for all, hate for none.”

Marc: I am a Christian, but I should clarify that label. I understand myself to be in line with historical Christianity that would trace its lineage from the earliest days of the first century – to the teachings and practices of the prophets and Apostles. While there have been many misapplications of Christian belief and practice, I generally find my Christian heritage coming down from those Middle Eastern and Hellenistic Christians who subscribed to the Apostle’s Creed (circa 200 C.E.) and the Church Councils of Nicaea (325 C.E.) and Constantinople (381 C.E.).

From there, I would claim the side of the West at the schism of 1054 C.E., though I do not necessarily endorse the battles or wars that were fought in the name of Christendom. These roots are deep and nourishing for me, but I most easily associate myself with the Protestant church tradition, which began in the 1500s. The Reformers (such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Ulrich Zwingli) understood themselves to be going back to the sources (namely the Bible) for Christian belief and practice. Of the many Protestant denominations, which share this basic heritage, I gladly join with the Southern Baptists (founded in 1845 in the USA, but now has adherents in many countries).

When and how did you become an adherent to that religion?

Zahir: Zahir was born and raised as an Ahmadiyya Muslim, but at an early age Zahir was encouraged to explore spirituality and religious texts (including the Bible and the Quran). Zahir’s father was a very spiritual man, and he was a leader in the home and the community. Through personal study and experiences, Zahir has come to believe a sort of amalgamation of religious teachings, but he claims to be a true Ahmadiyya Muslim.

Marc: My father left my mother when I was young, but my mother taught me some of the basic beliefs of Christianity. She is joined with a different branch of the Protestant churches, the Assemblies of God, but I did not decide to follow Jesus Christ for myself (become a true convert to Christianity) until I was away from home at 19 years old. I was alone in my college dorm room, reading the Bible, when I believed the gospel (the story about Jesus) and trusted in Jesus Christ as my God and Savior.

What would you say are the top 2-3 benefits you get from participating in your religion?

Zahir: One: Zahir claims a direct connection with the creator, without intermediary, including guidance and direction. God is more of a reality to Zahir than his own parents. Dreams of prophets have played a major role in Zahir’s religious experience. Two: Zahir has a relationship with God’s creation. He feels closer to creation and other humans, a connectedness through his religious beliefs.

Marc: Christians may answer this question quite differently if asked, but I believe the top benefits of Christian believers are as follows: (1) gracious favor from God; (2) knowledge of the nature and character of God; and (3) intimacy with God. Christians know, like everyone else, that we are not as morally good as we should be. Christians also know that God is holy and that He will judge all disobedience and immorality.

In the Bible, we learn that God has demonstrated grace towards guilty people by sending His Son (Jesus Christ) to live obediently, die as a substitutionary sacrifice for the guilt of those who would trust Him, and conquer death so that those who trust Him could hope to do the same. Christians know that God should judge them for being guilty, but the Bible teaches us that God offers gracious favor to those who will hear His words and believe and obey.

Once a person believes the gospel (the story about Jesus, as I expressed above), he or she is then a Christian. The Christian who reads the Bible can learn much about who God is and what He is like. As the Christian learns about God, he or she also learns much about himself or herself. The exploration of what and who God is provides both intellectual and emotional stimulation beyond compare.

Moreover, the Christian who studies and applies the Bible’s teaching to everyday life will discover that God Himself becomes known. It is hard to explain here, but the Christian who seeks God in the Bible and lives according to God’s precepts in life somehow comes to know an intimate relationship with God Himself. The Bible teaches that this is the doing of God’s Spirit who comes to live with and in those who believe and follow God’s words.

What does your religion teach about other religions? Are other religions valuable? Are they bad?

Zahir: “There is not a place or people on earth to whom a messenger has not come.” Muhammad is the latest in a long line of prophets, and Zahir believes that even Socrates and Buddha are valuable prophets. Therefore, all religions have value, but some of the modern forms are corrupted. God created all religions for diversity, not for infighting.

Marc: Here again, you will likely get many different answers from different Christians. I will answer by saying that the Bible teaches that God cares very much about how humans live, how humans worship, and what humans think about God. The Bible teaches that God has revealed Himself in nature and in the special revelation of the Bible itself. In nature, we may learn much about God, and this includes deductive and experiential reasoning within ourselves.

Therefore, various religions may have some (even many) things in common, because what can be known about God in nature is plain to all who observe it. However, any approach to living, worshiping, or thinking about God that is contrary to or aberrant from what the Bible teaches about such things is not good. The Bible teaches that all humans deserve dignity, respect, and even love; therefore, religious tolerance is perfectly in keeping with Christian belief and practice. But any religious system that would seek to dissuade someone from the clear teaching of the Bible is not to be followed.

What does your religion teach about the afterlife?

Zahir: When a soul is freed from the shell of the human body, it is like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. The soul/spirit endures an intermediate stage before the final judgment, and all souls (good or bad) get a taste of a lesser paradise or lesser hell. This state lasts for an undefined period of time that does not necessarily have a direct correlation with the time experienced on earth. All people will have the opportunity to turn to God during this intermediate state. Hell is not eternal, but a place of cleansing, making one ready to enter paradise. Eventually, all people will be in paradise… “even Satan himself.”

Belief in God and doing good are the only necessary prerequisites to entering paradise. Intentionality is the only important matter for judgment so God will judge people according to the light or understanding they had on earth. Zahir seemed to believe that very few people would fit into the category of intentionally wicked people who had any form of judgment to come in the afterlife.

Marc: The Bible teaches that all humans will eventually face God and be judged for all that they thought, spoke, and did in this world. Those who live wicked lives, disobeying God’s laws, will be judged as guilty and suffer the penalty of God’s eternal wrath. Of course, as I said above, Christians know that all humans are guilty of disobeying God’s law, but the hope of the Christian is the gracious favor of God. As I said, Jesus Christ lived a perfectly obedient life, He died under God’s judgment (not because He was guilty, but as a substitute for all who would trust and follow Him), and He conquered death in order to demonstrate that He could do the same for those who believe or trust in Him.

The promise of God is that all those who believe or trust in Jesus will pass from judgment to peace and life everlasting. Despite their guilt, those who believe will avoid God’s judgment because it has already been poured out on Jesus Christ in their place. Therefore, in the afterlife, Christians will enjoy a new creation without the presence of wickedness or evil, in which God Himself will abide with humanity in gracious blessing and peace forever.

What does your religion teach about your purpose in the world or your responsibility to other people?

Zahir: Our primary reason for existence is to recognize God, to meet God, and to unify with God – represent God in the world. The person must overcome individualistic thinking, taking on the “color of the Holy Spirit.” Every person must treat creation with love and respect, looking for beauty and good in the world. Everyone and everything in creation is to be treated as an extension of God Himself. The protection of personal religious freedom and practice is paramount, and Zahir repeatedly affirmed the value of all beliefs from all religions.

Marc: The Bible teaches that Christians must show love for all people, especially for other Christians. The Christian is responsible to live in community and fellowship with other Christians, learning to follow God more faithfully and to love one another more honestly and meaningfully (such as sharing material resources, depending on one another in times of difficulty, and distributing the various responsibilities of life among one another).

The Christian is also responsible to meet the needs of those in his or her broader community (Christian and non-Christian alike) as he or she is able. In many ways, the Christian is to show love for neighbor (such as teaching, maintaining social order, developing healthcare resources and efforts, cultivating food, manufacturing clothing and shelter, and a host of other things) by living as a productive member of society for the benefit of all people. Additionally, the Christian is to show love for neighbor by helping those with some deficiency of a human good (such as food, water, clothing, shelter, companionship, education, social capital and/or the ability to maintain any of these).

Some Concluding Thoughts

I have always enjoyed thoughtful dialogue with those with whom I disagree. Zahir and I discussed more than the questions above, and the topics ranged from biblical textual criticism to the Trinity and substitutionary atonement to personal sinful desire. Zahir was a pleasant and thoughtful dialogue partner, but he and I obviously disagreed at some major points of theology, Christology, soteriology, and hamartiology.

Four Apologetic Methods

Apologetics is the study and use of reasonable arguments to promote and defend ideas. Christian apologetics is interested especially in arguing for the existence of God (theism) and for the rationality of the Christian worldview (the wholistic lenses through which one views the world).

If you have ever tried to delve into apologetics, you may have become overwhelmed by the information available on the subject. In fact, the wide range of subjects involved in apologetics is enough to splash cold water on anyone’s intention to become an apologist. And yet, some swim in the apologetics pool long enough to reach the deep end where methodology and practice come together.

It is one thing to promote an idea, another to argue in defense of it, but it is another thing entirely to understand the various (and often conflicting) methodological paths you might choose to travel in order to make your argument. Here are four of the major approaches to apologetics today.

Evidentialism is the apologetic method that seeks to prove Christianity by pointing to independent facts which suggest their own (right/true) interpretation.

Presuppositionalism is the method that begins with presuppositions, arguing that only the Christian worldview is sufficient for having any productive and coherent conversation about anything. Presuppositionalists argue that there are no independent facts, but everyone argues from a basic foundation of presuppositions.

Reformed epistemology is grounded firmly in John Calvin’s concept of the sensus divinitatis (the innate sense of the divine or sense of God). Rather than appealing to foundational and incorrigible facts that must be known as such, Reformed epistemologists seek to tap into that intuitive awareness by offering secondary arguments in order to simply build onto the inherent base.

Classical apologetics is similar to Evidentialism (sometimes called “two-step” evidentialism) in that both seek to apply the use of reasonable facts in order to prove Christianity. Classical apologetics begins with theistic arguments to prove theism (cosmological, teleological, anthropological, etc.), and then employs historical and theological arguments to prove Christianity.

Transparently, I find myself most drawn to the Classical apologetic method, both in talking with Christians and non-Christians. My attraction is probably due to R.C. Sproul’s influence on me… his impact on my Christian worldview is unparalleled and will likely remain so.

That said, I believe the reasonableness of theism is a strong argument in practice. For my own belief, rational arguments have bolstered my trust in the reality of God. Additionally, I have had many conversations with self-proclaimed agnostics and atheists in which the Classical apologetic approach has served me well.

Whichever method you find to be logically sound, practical to employ, and (above all else) biblically faithful, I hope you’ll open your mouth to promote the gospel of Jesus Christ. This subject is worth every moment you spend on it.

 

For those interested in taking a closer look at apologetics, I suggest the following resources.

Classical Apologetics” by R.C. Sproul, John Gerstner, and Arthur Lindsley

The Consequences of Ideas” by R.C. Sproul

Apologetics to the Glory of God” by John Frame

Mapping Apologetics” by Brian Morley

A Simple Introduction to Textual Criticism (John 5:3-4)

The careful reader of Scripture will likely at some point ask, “Why is there no verse 4 in chapter 5 of John’s Gospel?” If not this specific question, then one like it. There are numerous places one might turn for textual variations among English translations (both old and new). This brief article will not address the matter exhaustively, but it will provide an introductory explanation and basic defense of the affirmation of biblical reliability and fidelity.

First, let’s take a look at the particular passage in view, John 5:3-4.

King James Version

“3 In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. 4 For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.”

New American Standard Bible

“3 In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, [waiting for the moving of the waters; 4 for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.] (Notice: brackets are included by NASB translators)”

English Standard Version

“3 In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. (Notice: verses 3b and 4 are simply missing from this translation)”

Second, let’s consider why many translators include verses 3b and 4.

The reason why some English translations include the verses is that the text is included in the majority of later manuscripts.[1] Manuscripts are the multitude of copies of the original biblical text, dated at various points throughout human history. While we have no original documents, the vast number of manuscripts gives us a great deal of confidence regarding the content of the originals. Because most manuscripts available to translators during the time of their translation do include verses 3b and 4, several groups of translators have believed it prudent to include the verses in their translation.

One translation that includes the disputed verses is the King James Version (KJV), also known as the Authorized Version (AV), which was originally published in 1611 and revised for spelling and vocabulary in 1769 by Dr. Benjamin Blayney. The KJV is based on many sources, including the Septuagint [LXX], the Latin Vulgate, Textus Receptus (TR), Erasmus’ Greek NT, many available manuscripts, and William Tyndale’s translation work. In fact, Tyndale’s translation accounts for 84% of the New Testament and more than 75% of the Old Testament.[2]

Another translation containing verse 3b and 4 is the American Standard Version (ASV), which is grounded in the KJV and originally published in 1901. It was updated in the form of the Revised Standard Version (RSV) and the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), published in 1952 and 1989 respectively. However, both later translations omitted the disputed text.

The most recent translation to keep the curious verses is the New American Standard Bible (NASB), which was grounded in the ASV and KJV, originally published in 1960, and most recently updated in 1995. The clear demarcation of brackets around these verses (as noted above), and other included-but-dubious texts, makes this translation a good combination of historical gratitude and biblical fidelity.

These translations and others, which include verses 3b and 4, are not unfaithful for doing so. These translations are not deceptive, nor are they lacking in integrity. These translations, like all faithful ones, seek to bring the original text of infallible and inerrant Scripture to the contemporary reader through the use of fallible and imperfect translations. Such an effort is commendable and greatly appreciated.

However, the reality is that translations do require perennial critical review and appropriate responses to the findings. The Committee of translators of the NRSV (which excludes verses 3b and 4) explained the situation well in their preface.

“This preface is… to explain, as briefly as possible, the origin and character of our work… To summarize in a single sentence: the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible is an authorized revision of the Revised Standard Version, published in 1952, which was a revision of the American Standard Version, published in 1901, which, in turn, embodied earlier revisions of the King James Version, published in 1611… With good reason [the KJV] has been termed ‘the noblest monument of English prose…’ We owe to it an incalculable debt. Yet the KJV has serious defects. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the development of biblical studies and the discovery of many biblical manuscripts more ancient than those on which the KJV was based made it apparent that these defects were so many as to call for revision.”[3]

The message is clear: we continually discover more manuscripts, encounter earlier manuscripts, and advance in our efforts and methods in the field of biblical studies. This necessarily will lead to the criticism of past work in the field of translation, as well as other fields.

The translators of the original King James Version of the Bible believed that this kind of criticism was what they were doing, and they expected that such criticism would continue after them. They wrote in the preface:

Let us… bless God… to have the translations of the Bible maturely considered and examined. For by this means it cometh to pass, that whatsoever is sound already… the same will shine as gold more brightly, being rubbed and polished; also, if anything be [uncertain], or [added], or not-so-agreeable to the original, the same may be corrected, and the truth set in place… [There is] no cause, therefore, why the word translated should be denied, or forbidden, notwithstanding that some imperfections and blemishes may be noted in the setting forth of it. [For nothing is] perfect under the sun… [except that which the] Apostles… men endued with an extraordinary measure of God’s Spirit, and privileged with the privilege of infallibility, [wrote from] their hand…”[4]

From the view presented above, it is inevitable that their own work would eventually become the object of scrutiny and come to need ‘rubbing,’ ‘polish,’ and even ‘correction.’

Third, let’s consider why many translators exclude verses 3b and 4.

Because of discoveries and advances in the field of Bible documentation and translation, translators have come to realize that the earliest manuscripts do not include the disputed text (v3b-4). Since it is more likely that biblical text would be added during transcription than subtracted, many translators concluded that the later manuscripts must be the result of a scribal addition (maybe multiple scribes).

The New International Version (NIV) was originally published 1973 (based on best available Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic manuscripts at the time), and it was updated in 1978 and 1984. The 2011 NIV update is a notable departure from the NIV translation tradition, but these exclude verses 3b and 4 and feature translation notes explaining the omission.[5]

The English Standard Version (ESV) is grounded in the RSV and KJV translation traditions and is based on Masoretic text and the best available Greek texts (the Greek New Testament 5th Ed. and the NA28). It was originally published in 2001, and it too excludes the brief passage (v3b-4).

Both the NIV and the ESV include translation notes, which explain that the missing text is found in some translations. However, the NET Bible, published in 1996 and updated in 2005, provides extensive textual-critical notes throughout. This translation is unique among others for its open and candid attempt to exhaustively furnish the reader with sufficient rationale behind textual and translation decisions. The NET Bible excludes verses 3b and 4, for the reasons cited above.

With these translation committees disagreeing on such an important matter (Is this text canonical or not?), what is a person to do? Any thinking person can see that this has big implications for the rest of Scripture and the general trustworthiness of the Bible.

Fourth, and last, let’s consider four features of a thoughtful response.

First, I think it is wise to take a deep breath… and acknowledge that God never promised anyone an inerrant translation of His word. Christians have overwhelmingly affirmed (and successfully defended) the inerrancy and sufficiency of the Bible, but only in its original manuscript form. Christians have just as regularly been willing to embrace the unique difficulties that transmission and translation over the centuries create for faithful Christians.

Second, faithful Christians need not release their grasp on a strong affirmation of biblical inerrancy.[6] Acknowledging errors or variants in a copy or a translation does in no way undermine the potency and purity of the original. We may simultaneously recognize the need for constant criticism of translations and manuscript evidence and boldly affirm the historic doctrine of biblical inerrancy.

Third, for this particular passage (John 5:3b-4), I believe we can and should acknowledge it as a scribal addition and not canonical Scripture. The earliest manuscripts we possess do not contain verses 3b-4; this portion includes vocabulary and syntax which does not match John’s writing generally; and several of the manuscripts that do include verses 3b-4 place an asterisk or obelisk to mark the portion as a scribal addition. Therefore, I believe it is unauthentic, and rightly excluded. For a much more thorough (and scholarly) address of this subject, see Gordon D. Fee’s essay “On the Inauthenticity of John 5:3b-4[7]

Fourth, we must consider our selection of Bible translation wisely and knowingly. I do not think that any of the translations cited in this article are bad ones. In fact, I believe each one has value beyond that of any other book known to mankind. However, we ought not blindly hold a view of any translation that the translators themselves did not hold. Nor should we place our trust in any notion of an inerrant translation.

Do research on which translation best brings the original text of Scripture to your mind and heart. Ask your pastor which translations he prefers and why. Don’t throw away a translation you like, but be aware of its own unique flaws, so that it will not surprise or offend you when someone else points them out.

There are attacks launched from many vantage points against Christianity today. Even from within American Evangelical churches, you may hear the Scriptures undermined. In such a cultural climate, Christians cannot afford to credulously parrot tired slogans and call it evangelism or fidelity. Christ has called His followers to much more than that, and His word is worthy of more than that.

For our own sake, for the sake of those who do not now love and trust Christ, for the sake of the next generation, for the sake of God’s glory… let us seek to wisely affirm the power and purity of God’s holy word. Let us make bold claims from sure and solid ground. And let us find incredible confidence in the trustworthy promise of God: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Luke 21:33).

 

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[1] “The majority of later MSS [abbreviation for ‘manuscripts’] (C3 Θ Ψ 078 f1, 13 𝔐) add the following to 5:3: ‘waiting for the moving of the water. 5:4 For an angel of the Lord went down and stirred up the water at certain times. Whoever first stepped in after the stirring of the water was healed from whatever disease which he suffered.’ Other MSS include only v. 3b (Ac D 33 lat) or v. 4 (A L it). Few textual scholars today would accept the authenticity of any portion of vv. 3b–4, for they are not found in the earliest and best witnesses (𝔓66, 75 א B C* T pc co), they include un-Johannine vocabulary and syntax, several of the MSS that include the verses mark them as spurious [or unauthentic] (with an asterisk or obelisk), and because there is a great amount of textual diversity among the witnesses that do include the verses. The present translation follows NA27 [Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament, 27th Edition] in omitting the verse number, a procedure also followed by a number of other modern translations.” Biblical Studies Press. (2005). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press.

[2] Lawson, Steven. The Daring Mission of William Tyndale (A Long Line of Godly Men Profiles) (Kindle Locations 1848-1849). Reformation Trust Publishing. Kindle Edition.

[3] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Translator’s Preface of the King James Version: http://www.dbts.edu/journals/1996_2/KJVPref.pdf

[5] For more on the NIV, see this article: https://marcminter.com/2016/03/15/is-the-niv-bible-good-or-bad/

[6] I recommend the following resources on the subject of biblical inerrancy: “Scripture Alone” by James White; “The Bible Doctrine of Inspiration” by Basil Manly; “The Scripture Cannot Be Broken” edited by John MacArthur; and “Inerrancy” edited by Norman Geisler

[7] Fee “On the Inauthenticity of John 5:3b-4” (PDF): https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/eq/inauthenticity_fee.pdf

The “Jesus” of Mormonism

What do Mormons believe about Jesus Christ?

As is true of Christian churches, those parishioners of the Mormon Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints may not be aware of or able to articulate every foundational belief of the institution. Like many naïve Christian church attendees, some Mormon temple members might be unable to state (and fewer are likely able to explain) the doctrinal stance of the LDS (Latter-Day Saints) Church pertaining to the person and work of Jesus Christ. However, a church’s statement of belief concerning Christ (biblically orthodox or not) is essential to understanding what the church believes about almost everything else.

So foundational is the biblical description of Jesus Christ that maintaining an inaccurate or lacking view of His person and work in the face of truth is destructive to the soul. In other words, belief or trust in the true Jesus of the bible ensures the salvation of one’s soul, but a belief or trust in someone with different or missing attributes accompanied by the same name leaves one condemned. Of particular importance is the acknowledgment of Christ’s full divinity and actual humanity. This unique and biblical description of Jesus Christ is at the heart of Christian belief and the message of the Gospel itself. God’s plan to redeem sinful humanity is only accomplished through the person and work of this singularly capable God-man – Jesus Christ.

Mormonism maintains a view of Christ that is extremely dangerous to those who are not deeply planted in the soil of biblical truth. One could read the statements about Christ on the official Mormon or LDS websites without noticing much in the way of distinguishing marks from Christianity. However, Mormons may use the same terms as Christians when they speak of Christ, but they have attempted to redefine His person and work – the terms have new definitions.

Brigham Young, a major Mormon Prophet who directly followed Joseph Smith, said, “He [Jesus] was the Son of our Heavenly Father, as we are the sons of our earthly fathers. […]Jesus is our elder brother spirit clothed upon with an earthly body begotten by the Father of our spirits.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 10, p. 2, September 28, 1862 [emphasis mine]).

An Apostle of Mormonism stated, “We are brethren and sisters of Satan as well as of Jesus. It may be startling doctrine to many to say this; but Satan is our brother. Jesus is our brother. We are the children of God. God begot us in the spirit in the eternal worlds.” (Apostle George Q. Cannon, March 11th, 1894, Collected Discourses, compiled by Brian Stuy, vol. 4, p. 23 [emphasis mine]).

Not only do Mormons believe that Jesus was the literal offspring of Mary and a physical Heavenly Father, but it also claims that Jesus had many wives himself. “The grand reason of the burst of public sentiment in anathemas upon Christ and his disciples, causing his crucifixion, was evidently based on polygamy, […] a belief in the doctrine of a plurality of wives caused the persecution of Jesus and his followers. We might almost think they were ‘Mormons.'” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 1:345-346 [emphasis mine]).

In conclusion, there could be many other citations and a more detailed description of the Mormon Jesus as he contrasts the biblical Jesus Christ. The words of authoritative Mormon Apostles and Prophets state it clearly as they proclaim, “It is true that many of the Christian churches worship a different Jesus Christ than is worshipped by the Mormons or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” (LDS Quorum of the Seventy member Bernard P. Brockbank, The Ensign, May 1977, p. 26 [emphasis mine]) In fact, Brigham Young makes it unambiguous when he says, “Brigham Young said that the “Christian God is the Mormon’s Devil…” (Journal of Discourses, Volume 5, page 331).

The Jesus of Christianity and of the bible is not the Jesus of Mormonism and, therefore, not the Jesus who saves.

The purpose of stating such a thing in dramatic contrast is not to personally ‘cast stones’ at those who willingly take upon themselves the label of “Mormon” or “LDS.”  Rather, my purpose is to present the real and present divergence of these two religious systems.  Christianity – the bible itself – offers salvation, the forgiveness of sins, through the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.  This gift is to be received by faith, apart from any work, effort or will of man.  Mormonism offers a version of salvation through one’s diligent effort and overwhelming obedience.  This system is like many others with respect to its “path towards salvation.”  According to the bible, the path is really no path at all – the path is a man, and only He can save sinners from God’s imminent wrath (John 14:6).