Are You a Christian? Who Gets to Decide?

In an article posted last week on The New Republic web site (November 12, 2007), journalist Josh Patashnik took a look at Mitt Romney’s tendency to distance himself from LDS doctrine for the sake of his presidential campaign. Mr. Patashnik wrote,

“But seeking common ground with adversaries [i.e., evangelicals suspicious of Mormonism] doesn’t always endear you to your own side–particularly when animosity between two groups runs deep. At the most basic level, Mormons regard themselves as Christians and want others to do the same. But a recent Pew survey found that a plurality of evangelicals do not consider Mormons to be Christians. ‘I understand he [Romney] has to appeal to them for political purposes, but it makes me, as a Mormon, feel very, very queasy to see him doing it,’ says Greg Kearney, a computer programmer in Casper, Wyoming. ‘These people hate us, and they are so vitriolic–they think they get to decide who’s Christian.'”

Looking at Mr. Kearney’s statement, there are two things I would like to address. One is the charge that evangelicals hate Mormons. Hopefully, readers here know that this is an emotionally driven claim without basis in fact. Generally speaking, Evangelicals disagree with Mormonism, but we do not hate Mormons.

DictionaryIn the second half of Mr. Kearney’s statement he complains that evangelicals “think they get to decide who’s Christian.” I hear this criticism a lot from Mormons, and it does raise a question: Who should (or does) get to decide who’s Christian?

Most everyone has adopted a definition of some sort, including the LDS Church:

“Anyone who accepts Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Redeemer of the world is a Christian, regardless of differences in theology.”

This LDS definition has a very different focus from another definition penned by SBC pastor Paul Cline. Many evangelicals would agree with this:

“Historical Christianity has a set of core beliefs that define it. Christianity has basic truths without which Christianity fails to be truly Christian. These basic truths have been the basis of true Christianity throughout the ages.”

So the Mormon definition disregards theology; the evangelical definition embraces it. Who gets to decide which definition is the right definition? notes, “Who is a Christian? A simple question, with many answers.” Even dictionaries can’t agree on a definition. Webster’s tries to cover all the bases with five definitions:

1. A person professing belief in Jesus as the Christ, or in the religion based on the teachings of Jesus.

2. A decent, respectable person.

3. having the qualities demonstrated and taught by Jesus Christ, as love, kindness, humility, etc.

4. Of or representing Christians or Christianity.

5. humane, decent, etc.

The Free dictionary says Christianity is,

A monotheistic system of beliefs and practices based on the Old Testament and the teachings of Jesus as embodied in the New Testament and emphasizing the role of Jesus as savior.

Perhaps a trustworthy definition is the one found in the Bible. In A Biblical Definition of Christianity I went through the scriptures systematically and came to this conclusion:

“What is a Christian?

“A Christian is a follower of Christ. A follower of Christ is one who does the will of the Father. The will of the Father is believing on Christ. Believing is not merely acknowledging, but trusting Christ alone for personal salvation. Personal salvation is being reconciled to God, having the promise of spending eternity in His presence.” (For support of this progression of logic, please see A Biblical Definition of Christianity.)

So are Latter-day Saints Christians? Are evangelicals Christians? It all hinges on the definition we accept. Who gets to decide?

We all can (and must) evaluate any belief system or religious leader, prayerfully examining their teachings and behavior. For those professing to believe the Bible, God’s Word is the standard by which judgment is made. In this way, we may discern truth from error regarding a prophet, a church or an organization. But this doesn’t tell us who is Christian; it tells us what is Christian in doctrine and action.

Ultimately, it is only God who decides who is a Christian, for He alone sees and knows our hearts.

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
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57 Responses to Are You a Christian? Who Gets to Decide?

  1. GRCluff says:

    Rick B:
    Sorry for the delay– was doing some research. I looked through Genesis KJV, but didn’t find any verse to “command” Abraham. But you already knew that. I did find the word “command” in the BOM in that context, but you won’t care about that.

    So, if you are keeping score, chalk up the point.

    Here is some reasoning to pull us back to the stated theme here: Was Abraham “Christian”? Christ seemed to grant him that in the NT, AND he didn’t seem to have any problem getting answers to his prayers, or functioning as a prophet.

    There is no question that God allowed Old Testement prophets to have multiple wives, so that shouldn’t disqualify Joseph Smith (or Brigham Young). Do you agree?

  2. Rick B says:

    GRCLuff said

    There is no question that God allowed Old Testement prophets to have multiple wives, so that shouldn’t disqualify Joseph Smith (or Brigham Young). Do you agree?

    Yes God allowed, but does that mean it was good? Just because God does not kill us dead every time we sin or screw up does not mean it is OK with God. Does it mean that JS or BY were disqualifyed? Yes it does. Why? Because they said it was from God that it was a law and to be done, Here is what they said.

    “Some quietly listen to those who speak against the Lord’s servants, against his annointed, against the plurality of wives, and against almost every principle that God has revealed. Such persons have a half dozen devils with them all the time. YOU MIGHT AS WELL DENY “MORMONISM,” AND TURN AWAY FROM IT, AS TO OPPOSE THE PLURALITY OF WIVES. Let the presidency of this church, and the twelve apostles, and all the authorities unite and say with one voice that they will oppose that doctrine, and the whole of them would be damned.”

    Let us add to D and C 132, verses 1 and 2; I will start on 3. “Therefore, prepare thy heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same. 4. For behold, I reveal unto you a new and everlasting covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory. I would like to point out some things here. First off, in D and C 1:14 it says we must obey the Lord, the apostles, and the prophets or we will be cut off.

    Now the Bible says:

    1Ti 3:2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
    Tts 1:6 If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.

    Rick b

  3. shelli says:

    Please provide a list of all the good blessing’s God provide to the OT Prophets and saints who had multiple wives. I simply do not see any.

  4. GRCluff says:

    Thats easy: yours truly, my family, my cousins, and all my aunts and uncles. You may not want to accept that as a blessing, so let me explain:

    All 4 of my grandparents were children in polygamst families, and few of them were the product of the first wife. All of us would not exist. We are productive members of society, and we have strong families. We have a strong commitment to family, because our great grandfathers stayed around to help raise theirs. Can you say the same about fathers today?

    More women joined the LDS church than men, and they survived the trip west in greater numbers. Do you expect them all to remain childless in a society that places such emphasis on the eternal family unit? Where the good blessings from that? I simply do not see any.

  5. GRCluff says:

    Rick B:
    What IS clear from my reading of Genesis is that God promised that Abraham’s seed would populate nations. It actually seemed like God intended to populate as much of the world as possible. It seemed that God thought that would be good.

  6. Rick B says:

    So your saying that God said marraige was between one man and one women, but yet our all powerful God is not powerful enough to see the world get populated with out going against his own word.

    Then you say we were that blessing, I dont agree, David ruined his family, had a man killed, a sword never departed his house, Hagar was cast out as the Bond women, her offspring is now over in the middle east trying to kill us and others. I could go on with some more examples, yep that looks like great blessing from plural marraige. Rick b.

  7. GRCluff says:

    Where is that in the Bible? One man and one woman “”if you are a Bishop” is what I read.

    I am saying that God commanded Adam to multiply and replenish the earth. (Yes, you can find that commandment in the Bible) Was that commandment ever reversed? That issue was so important that God added certain biological imperatives to insure that the commandment would be obeyed.

    I think you have it backwards. Choosing not to have children would be a violation of God’s commandment.

    Making a choice to allow a woman who would otherwise remain childless to have children is an effort to COMPLY with God’s commandment, especally if/when the children can avoid fatherlessness. (Is that a word?)

    Another consideration– did God consider Abrahams “seed” to be superior to others? That would give him another reason the focus on his posterity. One man and one wife is quite limiting in that context, especially when your wife is already beyond childbearing years. Christ himself was born in Abraham’s line, was he not?

    I will insist that those who readily recognized Mormonism as the restoration of Christ church were those who were perceptive to the witness of the holy spirit. In that context they were “chosen” seed just like Abraham. It would make sense to amplify their lineage as well, right?

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