The Associated Press reported Tuesday on Mitt Romney’s visit to South Carolina, a “Bible Belt state” where “a few Republicans expressed deep reservations about backing a Mormon.” Mr. Romney isn’t really concerned about that, believing people recognize they will be electing a president, not a pastor.Nevertheless, South Carolina Republican State Representative Gloria Haskins said,
“I don’t think that I could see someone who is a member of a faith so contrary to my [Presbyterian] faith having my support,” said Haskins, a graduate of Bob Jones University, the Christian fundamentalist college. Haskins is backing Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
Another South Carolina Republican State Representative, Bob Leach, questioned Mr. Romney about his faith.
Romney attended a House Republican Caucus meeting that always begins with a Bible verse and prayer in Christ’s name, led by Republican state Rep. Bob Leach.Leach told caucus members he asked Romney who Jesus Christ was and Romney responded that Christ “was his personal savior.”
Leach said that was good enough to earn his vote.
Setting aside the implication that Rep. Leach only needs to know two things about a presidential candidate in order to grant his support (i.e., that the candidate is republican and that the candidate claims Jesus Christ is his personal savior), I’m very troubled by the lack of spiritual discernment here.
Bob Leach is a member of Taylors First Baptist Church, a member-church of the Southern Baptist Convention. According to the church’s web site, it subscribes to The Baptist Faith and Message as a statement of faith. That statement of faith says this in part:
The eternal triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being…Christ is the eternal Son of God. In His incarnation as Jesus Christ He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Jesus perfectly revealed and did the will of God, taking upon Himself human nature with its demands and necessities and identifying Himself completely with mankind yet without sin. He honored the divine law by His personal obedience, and in His substitutionary death on the cross He made provision for the redemption of men from sin. He was raised from the dead with a glorified body and appeared to His disciples as the person who was with them before His crucifixion. He ascended into heaven and is now exalted at the right hand of God where He is the One Mediator, fully God, fully man, in whose Person is effected the reconciliation between God and man. He will return in power and glory to judge the world and to consummate His redemptive mission. He now dwells in all believers as the living and ever present Lord. (Please see the complete statement for supporting Scriptures.)
This is an orthodox Christian statement of faith, describing Christ as He is revealed in the Bible. One might say this statement of faith represents belief in the traditional Jesus Christ. But this is not the Jesus Christ embraced and worshiped by Mormons who hold to the teachings of the LDS Church.
As was reported in the LDS Church News a few years ago,
In bearing testimony of Jesus Christ, President [Gordon B.] Hinckley spoke of those outside the [LDS] Church who say Latter-day Saints “do not believe in the traditional Christ. No, I don’t. The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak. For the Christ of whom I speak has been revealed in this the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times. He, together with His Father, appeared to the boy Joseph Smith in the year 1820, and when Joseph left the grove that day, he knew more of the nature of God than all the learned ministers of the gospel of the ages.” (Church News, June 20, 1998, 7)
There is no doubt or disputing President Hinckley’s pronouncement that Latter-day Saints believe in a different Christ than the Being that is and has been worshipped by Christians throughout the history of Christianity. Some points on which the Christ “revealed in this dispensation” according to LDS prophets and apostles differs from the Baptist statement of faith quoted above are these:
- Mormonism denies the doctrine of the Trinity, holding instead to a doctrine that divides the nature, essence, or being of Father, Son and Holy Spirit (i.e., three Gods).
- Mormonism denies the eternality of Christ, claiming He is a created being.
- Mormonism denies that the earthly body of Christ was conceived of the Holy Spirit, teaching instead that His body was conceived through a physical union between Mary and God the Father, a being of flesh and bone.
- Mormonism denies the sufficiency of Christ’s atoning death in providing reconciliation between God and man, teaching that some sins are beyond the power of Christ’s blood to remit (e.g., murder).(For documentation on these items, or to learn more, please see “Who is the Living Christ of Mormonism?” by Bill McKeever.)
So Mitt Romney answered Bob Leach’s question about who Jesus Christ is, declaring that Christ is Mr. Romney’s personal savior. What did Mr. Leach actually learn? Which Jesus Christ is Mr. Romney’s “personal savior”? I’m guessing Mr. Leach believed Mr. Romney was talking about the “traditional Christ.” And what, exactly, did Mr. Romney mean when he used the phrase “personal savior”?
A tract published by the LDS Church in 1973 says this:
Christians speak often of the blood of Christ and its cleansing power. Much that is believed and taught on this subject, however, is such utter nonsense and so palpably false that to believe it is to lose one’s salvation. For instance, many believe or pretend to believe that if we confess Christ with our lips and avow that we accept Him as our personal Savior, we are thereby saved. They say that His blood, without any other act than mere belief, makes us clean. (What the Mormons Think of Christ, 22)
Well, this is what the Southern Baptist (and biblical) faith entails — salvation by grace through faith alone:
Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. (The Baptist Faith and Message)
This is probably what Bob Leach believed Mitt Romney was talking about. Mr. Leach’s unfamiliarity with the doctrines and terminology of Mormonism put him at a disadvantage and left him with an assurance regarding Mr. Romney’s faith that is wholly unfounded.
To be fair, “Who is Jesus Christ?” is a question which requires a long and complicated answer in order to effectively communicate how one Christ differs from another. A much better question could have been asked, one that would not have allowed Mr. Romney — and Mormonism — so easily off the hook. Charleston County GOP chairwoman Cyndi Mosteller suggested,
“The question is: Does Governor Romney support Joseph Smith’s doctrines? We as evangelicals don’t believe we can go in and change Paul’s doctrine. I don’t see how you move around this.”