Monday, April 23, 2012

When Mormons and Christians Unite

Is it appropriate for Christians to unite with non-Christians? The answer is Yes. In some situations. And the answer is No in other situations.
So, which is the appropriate answer in the situation of Liberty University inviting Mitt Romney to be their commencement speaker this year. Is the graduation ceremony at an evangelical University the right time to partner with a Mormon presidential candidate?
The answer is No.
Mormonism is not Christianity. It is not a denomination within Christianity. It is a cult. This is not one man's opinion; it is a fact. Mormon's reject the divinity of Jesus, they reject the doctrine of the Trinity, and they believe that people are saved through good works. These are not disagreements over minor issues. These are irreconcilable differences.
Does this exclude Christians from ever partnering with Mormons on any issue? No. If a partnership between Mormons and Christians could lead to less abortions, to justice for the poor, and for relief for the oppressed, then partnering is a good idea.
Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with Christians voting for Romney (or any other Mormon) for president.
But the actions by Liberty University are something different. They promote an unhealthy partnership. It sends a message that has confused people about the true nature of Christianity.
Here is the message: Christianity is a moral code.
The morality of Mormonism is similar to the morality of Christianity. If morality is at the center of Christianity, then there is no real discernible difference the two. This is the message of this partnership.
But this is a harmful and confusing message because Christianity is not a moral code. The Bible is not given to us in order to improve our morality. Morality on its own has limited value. It may help our lives make a bit more sense and bring some relief to other people, but it does not fix the fundamental problem in our lives. Sometimes our morality can mask our true problem. Sometimes our morality can even become an idol or a point of status.
Jesus didn't come to make us moral people. He didn't leave us with a code of ethics and instruct us on how to live up to it. He came to save us. He came to rescue lost and broken people and restore them into the freedom and satisfaction that go along with a relationship with God. This certainly has moral implications, but  morality is not at the center of the message. The similarities between Mormonism and the gospel of Jesus are all on the surface. The differences are at the core.
A school's commencement address is meant to reflect the core values of the school. So, here is my question: If the gospel of Jesus is at the center of the message that Liberty University has proclaimed to their students, if the gospel of Jesus is what the school hopes to be at the center of the graduating students' lives, why would they bring in a speaker who does not embrace the gospel of Jesus? John Piper put it well in a not-so-subtle tweet: "If a baptist pastor or a candidate for president should preach to you a different gospel, let him be accursed. (Gal. 1:8)"
Mitt Romney is not the enemy. Nor are Mormons. Nor are any non-Christians, whether religious or not. Nor are Christians in any way superior to anyone else, religious or not. But it is not helpful to confuse the message of Jesus with a code of morality.
Ironically, Mitt Romney has been the one taking the brunt of criticism in this partnership. News outlets have raked him over the coals for aligning himself with an "intolerant" evangelical institution. Among Christians, Liberty University should be taking the brunt of criticism. Not for the sake of throwing stones, but for the sake of protecting the pure gospel of Jesus from becoming a message of mere moral improvement.

1 comment:

  1. Having a Mormon speak at your commencement doesn't necessarily mean that the school having him there is for the sake of promoting moralism. What are the motives of the administration that invited him? Maybe they intend to show Romney the Hella-Gospel...maybe they are praying that Christ save a moralistic wretch like Romney(me) and that subsequently they would have the most Kick-booty commencement speech by someone who really got the Gospel. I pray Romney see that his strength and stalwart Spartacus-ness won't find Jesus, and also that the same is true for me. It is not in my rightness, strength, good choices, will-power where Christ is most present, but rather in my sitting in the weeds, incompetence, utter failures, and cruddyness that He comes to be with me to do the most healing. I pray we partner with Mormons to see that goodness and moralism lead us to ourselves but that weakness and humility lead us to Jesus Christ.