Friday, April 27, 2012

Osteen Strikes Again: Mormons are Christians?

Joel Osteen, the really nice guy who is the pastor of the largest church in the USA, has done it again. Now he says that Mormons are Christians. See it yourself here. Given a national media opportunity to proclaim the Gospel and clarify orthodox Christian beliefs, he has muddied the waters and revealed either some colossal ignorance or an unwillingness to stand for truth when it might be a little uncomfortable. Either way, he has shown himself to be dangerous. Again. He’s already compromised Christian beliefs on homosexuality (before a retraction) and said that there are ways to be saved outside Christ (before another retraction). He is an adamant proponent for health, wealth, and prosperity doctrine (no retraction for that, of course).

 Some might be thinking: “But he’s so nice. Who cares if he calls Mormons Christians. They say they’re Christians and believe in Jesus, right?”

 Yeah, that seems to be the consensus. I feel mean for even suggesting otherwise.

What Mormons (the "Church of Latter-Day Saints" or LDS) Believe

 Let’s not forget that Joseph Smith (founder of the LDS church) repeatedly said that all Christian denominations were wrong and only Mormons were going to heaven. From his own writings: According to Smith, when he asked an angel from God which denomination was right, he told Smith “that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong, and...that all their creeds were an abomination in His sight: that those [professing Christians] were all corrupt” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, vol. 1, p. 5-6). And again, Smith taught, “What is it that inspires professors of Christianity generally with a hope of salvation? It is that smooth, sophisticated influence of the devil, by which he deceives the whole world” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, compiled by Joseph Fielding Smith, p. 270).
 And check out these questions to Joseph Smith and his answers (from Teachings, p. 119):
 Q: “Do you believe the Bible?” Smith’s answer: “If we do, we are the only people under heaven that do, for there are none of the religious sects of the day that do.”
 Q: “Will everybody be damned, but Mormons?” Smith’s answer: “Yes, and a great portion of them, unless they repent, and work righteousness.”

 Hmmm. Mormonism’s founder was quite clear. All Christians are wrong, corrupt, are deceiving and being deceived by the devil, and are damned. I don’t feel so mean anymore. Maybe Osteen doesn’t know about Joseph Smith.

 Also, let’s not forget that it has only been the last few decades that leaders in the LDS church have moderated their religion’s views on blacks (once viewed as a cursed race), women, polygamy, and other things like the prohibition of drinking soft drinks, all in hopes of becoming more mainstream. Check it out for yourself if you don’t believe me. Their holy books have been revised dozens of times—all without any extant manuscripts to reference (there was only one set of gold plates with the text in the language of “Reformed Egyptian,” according to Joseph Smith, who, after translating them returned them to the angel Moroni). In fact, there are so many problems with the Book of Mormon itself; I don’t have the time and space to address them here. There is NO archeological or historical evidence of the people, nations, cities, rivers, mountains or ANYTHING mentioned therein; and the claim that the American Indians were descendants of a “lost tribe” of Israel has been proven by geneticists and DNA evidence to be impossible. One should compare this lack of evidence for the Book of Mormon with the overwhelming evidence for the Bible. Maybe Osteen’s never heard of this either.

 Perhaps most importantly, Mormons are merely the latest manifestation of a very early heresy called Arianism: the belief that Jesus Christ is merely a created being who became a god, not the One true and eternal "very God of very God" who is not created but is the Creator. Mormons deny this essential fact about Jesus Christ.

The Arian Heresy

 A few years after Christianity became legal in the Roman Empire in 313, the emperor Constantine recognized that there were some opposing views about the person and nature of Christ. Some, led by Arius, a pastor from Alexandria, Egypt (strangely enough—I wonder if he knew “reformed Egyptian”?), believed that Christ did not always exist, but was created by—and was therefore distinct from—God the Father. As you might imagine, it caused quite a stir. So much so that Constantine determined that a council of church leaders should be convened in the town of Nicaea in 325. After weeks of debate, all but three of about 300 bishops voted against Arius’ views and established a creed—a binding confession of beliefs that defined true Christianity—making anyone else a heretic—not a true Christian. Mormons? Believe Jesus was made. That fact alone puts them outside Christianity. As the Nicene Creed from the year 325 states it:
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible. 
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; 
By whom all things were made both in heaven and on earth; 
Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man; He suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven; 
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. 
And in the Holy Ghost.
The creed ends with this condemnation of those who didn’t teach the true Jesus:
But those who say: “There was a time when he was not;” and “He was not before he was made;” and “He was made out of nothing,” or “He is of another substance” or “essence,” or “The Son of God is created,” or “changeable,” or “alterable”—they are condemned by the holy catholic [which means, “universal”] and apostolic Church.
The conclusion is not difficult. Mormons believe in a different Jesus. One who was once not God. Whose death does not fully save those who believe (thus they require works). One who was (among other things) a polygamist. Simply put, believing in a person other than the Jesus Christ of the Bible does not save. Only HE is THE way. All must surrender to HIM to be born again. For Osteen to proclaim Mormons Christians is to do them and us a great harm. How do I illustrate it? It worse than telling the passengers of the sinking Titanic that all is well. Lifeboats are not needed. No danger exists. It is worse than telling the rescue ships the same. What a tragedy!

While these beliefs must be condemned strongly, the people who have been deceived by them must be loved by us enough that we would clarify true saving faith in the true Jesus. An especially important thing for us to do when one of the candidates for President is a Mormon!

Don't be like Osteen who seems so nice, but is either so ignorant or so cruel for the sake of being considered nice by men. Surely it is more important what God thinks!

Friday, April 6, 2012

What's so good about Good Friday?

The Friday before Easter is what we call Good Friday. Twice today someone has asked me why it is called "Good" when it is the day we remember something as brutal as Christ's crucifixion. It just seems so, well, bad. I think all of my kids asked me the question at some point when they were younger, and I remember asking my mom the same thing when I was a kid. The answer she gave is about as good as it gets. It's what I told my kids and all who have asked me since:

Good Friday is the day Jesus--the only person who was truly good--died on the cross in our place, cleansing all our sin with his blood. Now when God looks at believers, he doesn't see sinners...he sees us as good!

That never left me. In fact, I think her simple explanation of the GOOD in Good Friday, helped me understand the Gospel as a child as much as just about anything else I can think of.

The historical/etymological answer isn't as easy. Here is a great article about that if you're interested. But my mom's answer reveals, at least to me, yet another evidence of God's providence--even in the "accidental" way we came to call it "Good Friday."

Blessings to all this Easter season! If you have not received Christ, you can be seen as good by God, too. Read 2 Corinthians 5:21 and Romans 10:9-10.

Rembrandt's Jesus on the Cross, painted 1631.