David V. Mason, an associate professor at Rhodes College and author of My Mormonism: A Primer for Non-Mormons and Mormons, Alike, lets it fly in a recent op-ed for The New York Times:
This is the so-called Mormon Moment: a strange convergence of developments offering Mormons hope that the Christian nation that persecuted, banished or killed them in the 19th century will finally love them as fellow Christians.
I want to be on record about this. I’m about as genuine a Mormon as you’ll find — a templegoer with a Utah pedigree and an administrative position in a congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am also emphatically not a Christian.
For the curious, the dispute can be reduced to Jesus. Mormons assert that because they believe Jesus is divine, they are Christians by default. Christians respond that because Mormons don’t believe — in accordance with the Nicene Creed promulgated in the fourth century — that Jesus is also the Father and the Holy Spirit, the Jesus that Mormons have in mind is someone else altogether. The Mormon reaction is incredulity. The Christian retort is exasperation. Rinse and repeat.
The theologically astute reader will note a significant problem: orthodox Christians do not believe “that Jesus is also the Father and the Holy Spirit”, as that is not what the Nicene Creed states. The Son is “one in being with the Father”, but he is not the Father, nor is he the Holy Spirit, as they are three divine Persons. The Athanasian Creed states, “For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.”
Small potatoes? I don’t think so—if only because it indicates that Mason hasn’t considered such matters very well or carefully—but Mason apparently thinks such doctrines are essentially metaphysical puzzles that have taken up too much time and energy over the centuries:
I am confident that I am not the only person — Mormon or Christian — who has had enough of the acrimonious niggling from both sides over the nature of the trinity, the authority of the creeds, the significance of grace and works, the union of Christ’s divinity and humanity, and the real color of God’s underwear. I’m perfectly happy not being a Christian. My Mormon fellows, most of whom will argue earnestly for their Christian legitimacy, will scream bloody murder that I don’t represent them. I don’t. They don’t represent me, either.
Which suggests, further, how unserious Mason is about ultimate truths, divine revelation, the issue of authority (both theologically and historically considered), and the essential nature of dogmas, doctrines, and creeds. After all, doesn’t the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hold that the text, The Doctrines and Covenants, is divinely inspired?
Regardless, the glaring problem with Mason’s protestations is how makes light of “the acrimonious niggling” while “acrimonious niggling” himself with both Mormons and Christians! He makes light of serious doctrinal differences while making a serious fuss about how he is Mormon and not a Christian because of, uh, docrinal differences. A classic case of making the cake, having the cake, eating the cake, and denying the cake ever existed. Finally:
I’m with Harry Emerson Fosdick, the liberal Protestant minister and former pastor of Riverside Church in Manhattan, who wrote that he would be “ashamed to live in this generation and not be a heretic.” Being a Christian so often involves such boorish and meanspirited behavior that I marvel that any of my Mormon colleagues are so eager to join the fold.
Here, again, Mason wants it both ways; he’s above the doctrinal fray, but he’s proud to be a “heretic”. And what is a heretic? One who purposely and knowingly skews and distorts orthodox doctrine. Huh. Well, I’ll take Mason’s word that he is proud to be a Mormon, but it also sounds as if he’s proud to bash Christians with a brush that is absurdly broad and patently lazy. In short, I wonder if Mason is simply a contrarian first, a Mormon second, and a Christian never.
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