Wow! That’s pretty insulting. However, I’m so used to hearing this one that I tend to laugh a little. Sometimes when in a trouble making mood (yes I admit it), I like to throw in the “we’re Christians too” in conversations with some Christians who I know will then react and give the whole “no you’re not!” – with added story to insist why! I think some Christians feel it is more insulting to them for them to accept that we are! It’s not that we are not Christians… it’s that they don’t want us to be!!
Unfortunately, many Christians have added new words to the definition of ‘a Christian’ so as to purposely exclude others who do not happen to believe their particular interpretations of scripture. The definition therefore varies widely! Some Christians will present a whole list of ‘the things you must believe’ to be a Christian (as per their definition) – quite coincidentally placing themselves firmly within that definition, and most others without.
A highly popular ‘new definition’ is that to be a Christian, one must also accept and believe the “Trinity” (that Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit are one person). I will address this matter – specifically to explain why it is a highly erroneous teaching – in a separate post.
Creating a definition of a Christian has sadly become more of a club status. If someone doesn’t want you to be a part of the club they belong too, they will try to find ways to exclude you. In this case, they try to redefine the definition of a Christian to exclude others.. yet, they have no right to define a word that isn’t theirs! They have no right of ownership to the “Christian” club. (See http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_defn.htm which illustrates the varied opinions and definitions of the word Christian)
To understand the real definition, we need to go right back to the beginning – the times of Christ himself.
It is interesting that this highly contested word – Christian – appears only 3 times in the Bible:
- Acts 11: 26
- Acts 26:28
- 1 Peter 4:16
With these passages of scripture, you should immediately recognise that this was after Christ had died. The term Christian was not directly used with Christ, but was a name given to those who followed him – his disciples – after he had died. Interestingly, it was not a name created by those who were disciples of Christ, but by others who mocked them for their belief. The “Christian” name was not spoken positively! However, regardless of the motive behind it, the name was first given to the disciples in Antioch, and this became a generic term for all of his followers.
Immediately after Jesus had instructed his apostles to go forth and preach the gospel, it is record in Acts 2:36 that when preaching, Peter said:
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
Lord means ‘master’
Christ means ‘anointed one’ or ‘messiah’
The gospel thus taught was that Jesus was the Master, the Messiah! He was – as repeated continually through the scriptures – the Saviour of the world. Matthew 1:21 tells us that Mary should “call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins”. It is this message, the message that Jesus of Nazareth was more than just an ordinary man; that he was the Messiah, the Saviour, and as taught by Christ himself – the Son of God – that so led the people of Antioch to mock those who believed.
To understand the definition of a Christian, we therefore need to strip the meaning right down to its core element. An element that is indisputable from the scriptures. An element that all Christians agree on. That is, what one believes Jesus to be. At its core, a Christian is one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God, and the Saviour of the world. That in and only through him, are we able to enter the kingdom of Heaven. He literally saves us from our sins.
Other matters such as ‘how we are saved’, ‘how we are supposed to live the gospel’, ‘whether or not we ought to be baptised’, ‘whether Jesus was God (the trinity) or separate to God’ are appendages to the core element mentioned above. All other matters are subject to interpretation, and are hotly debated by Christians today. However, the core element – on which all Christians do agree – is that Jesus is the Son of God, and the Saviour of the world. Thus the real definition of a Christian is one who believes this.
Mormons (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints) are Christian. Methodists are Christian. Pentecostals are Christian. Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christian. Catholics are Christian. Baptists are Christian. Seventh Day Adventists are Christian. The list goes on!
Each of these churches are different. They all believe different things. They all disagree on some doctrines and agree on others. They all however, regardless of the various elements on which they disagree, believe the core element – that Jesus is the Son of God, and the Saviour of the world.
The only people who will tell you that Mormons are not Christian, are those people who do not want us to be. They want to exclude us. We are not invited to the club – so they think. But as I said from the outset… it’s not their club!
Why then do they go about insisting that we are not Christian? In my opinion, this is simply because they know it is the most insulting and confusing claim that they can make about us. They don’t want others to listen to our teachings, and the most effective way that they can put somebody off, is to say “oh, but Mormons are not Christian”. Why would someone want to listen to our teachings if they thought we were not Christians? It’s a bit nasty… totally erroneous too.. but highly effective! When Mitt Romney was in the running for Presidency in the US, it was quite common for Pastors of various denominations to come out with the “he’s not a Christian” line… and it literally scared many evangelicals from voting for him. They believed it… as do many.
This is why I have chosen to address this issue today. It belongs quite firmly in the “popular myths & misunderstandings” about Mormonism category!!
To put it simply – the myth is not true. Mormons are Christians. We do believe in Jesus Christ. We do believe that he is the Son of God, and the Saviour of the world. We do believe that he alone can save us from our sins. We are as Christian as any other denomination of Christianity.
Within the Book of Mormon (an ancient record of scripture that we have accepted from God) a prophet wrote:
“..we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”
Christ is the central doctrine of our faith. All other doctrines and practices are appendages to him. Without him, nothing else matters.