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Textbook Example of False Tolerance: Are Mormons Christians?

Think Christianly: Textbook Example of False Tolerance: Are Mormons Christians?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Textbook Example of False Tolerance: Are Mormons Christians?

Mormonism could be true. Now as a Christian, I don't think there is good evidence that it is true but religions make truth claims and those claims are either true or false. Our culture is having a spirited conversation right now about the nature of Christianity, Mormonism, and religious discourse in general. Is religion merely a private thing that no one can critique, criticize, or investigate? Or is religion both personal and public?

I have blogged on the issue of tolerance before, but this is a textbook example of "false tolerance" where we can make no judgments at all about the truth of others’ beliefs. People are throwing around words like "bigot" and "hate speech." But as Stephen Prothero, professor of religion at Boston University argues, “the ideal of religious tolerance has morphed into the straitjacket of religious agreement.” That is an astute observation. He goes on to say in his provocative book God is Not One:
“No one argues that different economic systems or political regimes are one and the same. Capitalism and socialism are so obviously at odds that their differences hardly bear mentioning. The same goes for democracy and monarchy. Yet scholars continue to claim that religious rivals such as Hinduism and Islam, Judaism and Christianity are, by some miracle of the imagination, essentially the same, and this view resounds in the echo chamber of popular culture.”
Mormonism is not the same thing as Christianity. This shouldn't be a controversial claim. Biblical Christianity teaches that Jesus is the eternal creator of the universe (e.g. Col. 1:16) and is part of the Godhead (i.e., the Trinity cf. Matt. 28:19). Mormonism teaches that Jesus was a created being and deny the Trinity. These are mutually exclusive claims (click here and here for more on the teachings of Mormonism). A civilized society needs to have the ability to talk about these difference without demonizing each other. We need to recover true tolerance, where we allow others the freedom to hold beliefs which we judge to be false. As everyday ambassadors, Christians need be able to intelligently engage the questions our culture is asking and discussing. But we must learn how to do this well and then have the confidence to enter the cultural conversation.

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