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MORMONISM: A NEW RELIGIOUS TRADITION OR APART OF CHRISTIANITY?


Many scholars and historians who have studied Mormonism, including Jan Shipps, have concluded that it is an entirely new and distinct religious tradition (a conclusion I do not entirely disagree with). Yet, some of them (Shipps included) still maintain that Mormonism is a form of Christianity. This seems rather confusing – how could it be a new religious tradition all its own, and yet still be a form of Christianity? Perhaps this part of the reason why Shipps views this as a complicated question, without a straightforward answer (See Jan Shipps, “Is Mormonism Christian? Reflections on a Complicated Question,” BYU Studies 33:3 [1993], pg. 438-465).

Anyway, yesterday I was reflecting on this seeming contradiction (as I personally hold a similar view) when the thought occurred. Perhaps it analogous to how Christianity sprung up out of Judaism and became a distinctly different, new religious tradition, yet both Christianity and Judaism both are Abrahamic religious traditions. Or, in other words, while they are separate religions, they are both forms of religion rooted in the Abrahamic covenant and tradition (as is Islam, another distinctly unique religious tradition). Likewise, although Orthodox Christianity and Mormonism are two separate religions, both are forms of religion centered and focused on Jesus Christ as our Savior, therefore both represent different forms the Christian religious tradition.

Anyway, just an idea which I felt I should share. More study would need to go into it before a serious conclusion could be reached.

Any thoughts? Agree, disagree? Let me know what you think.

Comments

  1. I'm enjoying these little thought provoking posts. Agree or disagree, it's good to have these ideas discussed.

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  2. Mormonism definitely, without doubt, is a Christian faith.

    But what zealous Evangelicals usually mean by the word "Christian" is something far different than what Mormons usually mean. To the Evangelical the word "Christian" is analogous with "saved." So when they claim that Mormons are not "Christian" what they are really saying is that Mormons are not "saved."

    But as far as a fundamental belief in Christ is concerned, Mormonism is as Christians as the next faith. If we apply the way the word "Christian" was first employed by the enemies of Christianity, Mormonism would certainly be considered "Christian."

    But when someone unrelentingly insists that Mormons aren't "Christian", I sometimes just sigh and tell them "Fine, you can be the Christian and I will be the Christ-believer."

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  3. To me it seems a bit odd that Evangelicals treat the word Christian with such reverence and exclusivity when the term Christian did not originate as a term of self identification either with Jesus or his earliest followers. A cursory study of the New Testament will show that there were several other terms the early "Christian" Church used to self identify, and one of the more popular ones happens to have been Saint.

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