Roger Overton of Ambassadors for Christ received an e-mail this morning from Richard Mouw. Roger had quoted the line from my blog wherein Mouw says he believes Millet is believing in the Christ of the Bible for salvation. Mouw asked him to at least provide the context. Since Roger was quoting me, and then kindly himself provided the context, let’s do the same thing:
At the heart of our continuing disagreements, I am convinced, are very basic worldview issues. Judaism and Christianity have been united in their insistence that the Creator and the creation—including God’s human creatures—are divided by an unbridgeable “being” gap. God is the “Wholly Other”—eternal and self-sufficient—who is in a realm of existence that is radically distinct from the creation that was brought into being out of nothing by God’s sovereign decree. On this view of things, to confuse the Creator’s being with anything in his creation is to commit the sin of idolatry. Mormons, on the other hand, talk about God and humans as belonging to the same “species.” Inevitably, then, the differences are described, not in terms of an unbridgeable gap of being, but in the language of “more” and “less.”
This kind of disagreement has profound implications for our understanding of who Jesus Christ is. In traditional Christianity, the question of Christ’s saving power cannot be divorced from how we understand his “being.” If we believe that we are, in our fallenness, totally incapable of earning our own salvation, then the crucial questions are: What would it take to save us? What would a Savior have to be in order to pay the debt for our sin? And, faced with answers given to these questions by teachers who saw Jesus as less than fully God, the church leaders gathered at the Council of Nicea set forth, in 325 A.D., this profound confession of who Jesus is. “We believe,” they wrote, in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, begotten from the Father before all ages, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made; of the same essence as the Father. Through him all things were made.
And only when we acknowledge all of this about him, the Council stipulated, can we move confident to this bold and amazing proclamation: For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven.
As an evangelical Christian I want more than anything else that people—whatever disagreements I might have with them on other matters—know this Jesus personally, as the heaven-sent Savior who left heaven’s throne to come to the manger, and to Gethsemane, and to Calvary, to do for us what we could never do for ourselves. I also know that having a genuine personal relationship with Jesus Christ does not require that we have all our theology straight. All true Christians are on a journey, and until we see the Savior face-to-face we will all see through a glass darkly.
But I also believe with all my heart that theology is important. There is a real danger for all of us that we will define Jesus in such a way that we cannot adequately claim the full salvation that he alone can provide. I think that an open-minded Christian reader of this book will sense that Bob Millet is in fact trusting in the Jesus of the Bible for his salvation. That is certainly my sense. And this is why I find it especially exciting to be in dialogue with him and other LDS friends about what it means to have a theologically adequate understanding of the person and work of the One who alone is mighty to save. I hope that reading this book will inspire many people—traditional Christians as well as Latter-day Saints—with a new motivation for engaging in that eternally significant conversation. (pp. 182-183)
As Roger points out in his reply, there is nothing in this context that changes the import and meaning of the citation. If anything, it only exacerbates the problem. Mouw rightly points out the fact that Mormons continue to make God a man, continue to speak of God and man of the same species, and, if he were to just listen to the KFD and do some reading in official Mormon literature outside of the hallowed halls of academia at BYU, he would know that the entire LDS focus upon temple ordinances and priesthoods speaks to the very same concept. So, in light of this, how can the Jesus of Bob Millet be anything other than “a different Jesus”? Isn’t monotheism, Dr. Mouw, foundational? Answer: NO. How can I speak for Dr. Mouw? I can because Mouw did an AOL online chat session on the subject “Can a Mormon Believe in the Real Jesus? in December of 1997. I asked Mouw a question during that online session. With the help of Google I tracked it down just now:
Question: Dr. Mouw: I have identified the fundamental issue in the question “Is Mormonism Christian” as the issue of monotheism vs. polytheism in my book, _Is the Mormon My Brother?_ Could you comment on your view of this approach?
Dr R Mouw: I don’t see it in exactly those terms. Most OT scholars see the early stages of OT thought as henotheistic, i.e., the view that there are many Gods but that Jehovah is the supreme deity before whom we should place no other. Similarly, Paul in Colossians seems to suggest that there are many powers, but we should not placate them, because everything holds together in Jesus Christ. I think the important thing is that we acknowledge that only the God and Father of JC is worthy of our worship and obedience.
Well, there you go. The LDS apologists were sent into ecstasy by that response, and now we see it was but the first of a long line of such gifts to the LDS apologetic effort.
I truly hope it will not be the approach of Richard Mouw to say, “Oh, you all are misrepresenting me.” We have quoted Dr. Mouw quite accurately. There is no need to misrepresent him, as the last thing I have ever wished was to see someone in his position used as a smokescreen for the LDS apologetics movement. But that is what has happened. Dr. Mouw knows Mormons believe God is an exalted man, yet, he then says a believing Mormon has placed his faith in the biblical Jesus. As I asked earlier, when will we be offering apologies to Arius? Indeed, how about Marcion? His theology seems a good bit more orthodox than Joseph Smith’s, so, shall we be consistent?