Friday, August 20, 2010

If Mormons are Christians, aren't Muslims Christians also?

Christian theologians may blanch, but isn't it true that most folks think that Mormons are Christians?

That being the case, why, then, aren't Muslims considered Christians as well?

Granted, I understand that Mormons insist they are Christians and Muslims insist they are not. But consider:

Mormons accept Jesus as a great prophet -- I'll leave it to Mormons to explain whether they consider Him the greatest of all prophets. But it is indisputable for Mormons that Jesus is not the last prophet. Joseph Smith had to come along with golden plates given him by an angel in New York State to provide all the stuff that Jesus missed.

Muslims also accept Jesus as a great prophet. There is, scholars assure us, far more in the Qur'an about Mary the Mother of Jesus than there is in the New Testament. But, here again, Jesus is not the last prophet. Muhammad had to come along in order to restore true monotheism.

Mormons may insist they are Christians because their faith was born in what was then a largely Christian nation. They may have perceived a tactical advantage in not positioning themselves too far away from their Christian neighbors. (They encountered strong resistance anyway. Look up the Mormons' expulsion from Nauvoo, Illinois some time.) Muhammad, on the other hand, undertook his mission in largely pagan Arabia. His pagan neighbors had over 500 years to take up Christianity, if they'd had a mind to, but they hadn't. For Muhammad, there was a tactical advantage in presenting a new faith.

I've long wondered how news of Muslim expansion was first received in the West. I'm not talking about later -- when it became apparent that Christianity and the remnants of Roman civilization were under dire military threat. (How many school children today have even heard of Charles Martel?) Rather, I'm thinking about an earlier time, as Arab armies were just beginning their march of conquest across Africa: Was Islam at first considered just another Christian heresy among many? My church history is a little shaky, but I seem to recall that Gnosticism was strongest in Africa; that the apocryphal gospels found in Egypt contained more stories about Jesus as a child than any of the canonical texts; and, finally, that some scholars cite a number of parallels between these accounts and those in the Qur'an. Could the initial attitude in Rome or Constantinople have been 'we've heard this all before?' If so, what a horrible, tragic blunder that was for the West.

Anyway, I suppose it wouldn't help relations between Islam and the West if we were to consider Muslims as just another Christian sect... because, somehow, I can't help but think that no serious Muslim would accept the designation favorably. But we in the West must begin to think about who we are and how we differ from our Muslim cousins.

To get you started on your weekend reading, let me direct you to an op-ed piece from the August 18 Wall Street Journal entitled "How to Win the Clash of Civilizations." The article is by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

13 comments:

Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

i cannot tell you how many baptists i have had arguments with that catholics ARE christians. they disagree. grrr.

smiles, bee
tyvc

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Very true. Muslims would hate to see themselves as Christians.

Bob said...

Mormons don't consider Jesus as "a prophet." Mormons consider Jesus to be the Son of God who atoned for the sins of mankind, far more than just a prophet.

In contrast, Mormons consider Joseph Smith to be a prophet called by Jesus Christ to restore the Church of Jesus Christ.

So it's really not accurate to paint the two as comparable in Mormon eyes.

Dave said...

Why do you always insist on making me think, with the result that I find out I don't have enough knowledge?

I read, decades ago a book about, don't take offense, the "Savior myth." It compared all of the great religions and concluded that almost all religions are variations of a theme.

I wonder if Google is up to my needed research.

Kacey said...

I agree with Bob that Mormons consider themselves Christians. They have just changed up a few of the tenets of Christianity to make their faith agree with their lifestyle. But, the Arabs are half brothers of the Jews through their common father, Abraham. (Father of the Jewish tribes through Issac and father of the Arab Muslim tribes through Ishmael.) Since Jesus was a Jew, it is hard for me to even have a glimmer of a thought that Muslims could consider Christianity. I am not Catholic, but am truly indebted to them for saving the beginnings of Christianity that I might know the Son of God as a Protestant.

Seth R. said...

I'm a Mormon. I think we are "Christians" in the same sense that St. Peter and Paul were "Jews."

Which is to say - we are. But that's not the entire story either.

Ellee Seymour said...

Doesn't it depend which God you believe in?

The Curmudgeon said...

Bob, Seth -- Thank you for your points. I think in all groups that claim to be Christian, Jesus is at least the 'fulfillment of the Prophets.' Not being a Mormon, and not having studied the sect except in a historical sense, I did not presume to make any claims beyond that most basic one. But if there may be an additional prophet and the followers of that prophet may still be Christians... then the question posed in my post about Islam still remains.

Ellee -- The God of Islam IS the God of Christianity. As Kacey correctly notes, we are both children of Abraham. As members of Abrahamic faiths, Christians and Jews are supposed to be respected by Muslims as "People of the Book." It hasn't always worked out that way, though.

Dave, no offense taken -- in fact, that's something I want to talk about in another post.

And, Bee: Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Would now be a good time to point out that the New Testament was written not by Christ, but entirely by other people after his death?
If one does not accept that Paul (formally Saul of Tarsus) was a prophet, then why would his writings qualify to form the bulk of the sect's text? Paul never met Christ (in mortality.) His entire ministry was based on revelation after Christ's death. Perhaps one might be more willing to accept that John, the so-called Revelator, was a prophet whilst recording his visions in the book of Revelations? Were they prophetic or not? They direct Christians with new information that pertains to the the future of mankind and the end of the world. Surely they are considered among the most fundamental prophesies directing Christians. They were written decades after Christ's death and are self professed Revelation and prophesy. Who started this non-sense that Christians believe Christ was the last prophet? The lion's share of things we know about Christianity were written by prophets after the death of Christ. Christians who believe otherwise need to examine the text and their hearts. Christ names Peter as successor and future Revelator in Matthew 15:17-19. That is evidence enough.
Undoubtedly by that standard, Muslims do not consider themselves Christians... not because they believe in prophecy after Christ, but because they do not believe Christ to be the Savior of mankind...the new and everlasting Covenant.
By that standard, Muslims might not qualify as Christians, but members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, you may call them Mormons, do.

Seth R. said...

1. "But it is indisputable for Mormons that Jesus is not the last prophet."

Wrong.

Mormons believe that Jesus will arrive again at the end in his Second Coming. Which would make him the "last prophet" for us too now, wouldn't it?

2. "Joseph Smith had to come along with golden plates given him by an angel in New York State to provide all the stuff that Jesus missed."

Wrong again. We don't think Jesus missed anything. We just believe that human beings didn't manage to transmit his message in its fullness. In short, we feel the rest of Christianity didn't manage to transmit the entire Bible.

We believe scriptural inerrancy to be a literal impossibility - as long as imperfect human beings are involved in the process.

Incidentally, the purpose of the Book of Mormon is to act as a second witness of Jesus Christ - not to fill in the theological gaps left by the Bible. In fact, if you read the Book of Mormon, you'll find very little unique theological content in there. It doesn't add to the Bible much at all actually. It merely extends it to another continent - proving that God is not limited solely to a small country on the east coast of the Mediterranean.

"3. They may have perceived a tactical advantage in not positioning themselves too far away from their Christian neighbors. (They encountered strong resistance anyway. Look up the Mormons' expulsion from Nauvoo, Illinois some time.)"

And... you have managed to directly contradict yourself in the space of two sentences.

As for whether you guys consider us Mormons Christian - some of my fellow LDS seem to care, but I really don't. I'm frankly not really interested in being a part of your club.

I am however interested in accuracy. I believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ and worship God the Father through him alone. I would like that point to be understood and acknowledged. After that, I'm not really interested in being just another Protestant religion. They're pretty much a dime a dozen these days.

But new world religious tradition seems to fit well enough. I'll take it. The first truly new world religion and theology to emerge since Muhammad (though we Mormons, of course, claim our religion is very old - far older than Protestantism, Islam, Catholicism, or even Judaism).

But I don't mind acknowledging the real differences between us - as long as the are accurate and honestly reported differences, and not just the manufactured rubbish that you find in the counter-cult section of your local Christian bookstore.

Mormons are "Christian" in the same same sense that St. Peter and Paul were "Jewish."

Which is to say they were - but that's obviously not the whole story.

Seth R. said...

Sorry for repeating myself with the "Paul and Peter" line.

I got a little mixed up as to where I was in this conversation.

Anonymous said...

Point # 1 well taken, Seth. I suppose I meant to postulate that Prophecy/ Prophets did not end with the death of Christ. Revelation and leadership functions seem to be the cornerstone of the foundation he was laying for the Church after his demise... Second-coming not withstanding... but of course that is the whole function of the Book of Revelation, to explain the Second-coming of Christ. Case in point. I did not mean to infer otherwise. I believe you are a Christian... Bona fide. And, by the same token, despite the fact they believe Christ to be a Prophet, perhaps your brothers in Islam are not (as I suspect they might agree with no hard feelings.)

Anonymous said...

BTWs Kacey,
How do you believe Mormons have shifted Christian tenets suit their lifestyle?