Beliefnet is hosting an online debate of sorts on the topic (and I’m sure you’ve never seen this one before) “Are Mormons Christian?” Albert Mohler, who holds a Ph.D. (in systematic and historical theology) and is president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, titles his post “Mormonism Is Not Christianity.” Orson Scott Card, an award-winning science fiction writer and an active Latter-day Saint, replies with “Who Gets to Define ‘Christian’?” I’ll take one paragraph to talk about Mohler, one paragraph to talk about Card, and one paragraph to talk about the mixed bag of comments to Card’s post.
Mohler writes a regular blog opinion column over at Crosswalk.com. I used to get some quickie “link and comment” blog posts from his short essays. They are pretty much indistinguishable from what a particularly literate and well read CES instructor would write on such topics were they inclined to publish weblogs or opinion columns. In other words, Evangelicals (and I’m assuming Mohler is writing his posts there as an Evangelical Baptist) and Mormons have an awful lot in common. Except for the religious differences that most Evangelicals invariably insist on emphasizing, we’d be almost indistinguishable. It would be nice if having so much in common would lead people like Mohler to be a little friendlier towards Mormonism as a religion. Alas, the quest for religious purity has its own dynamic that seems to pull in the opposite direction.
Card is a busy guy: he runs a popular website, he is on the faculty at SVU, and he is writing a screenplay for a promising motion picture scheduled for release in 2008. He writes books, too. As you might expect from his willingness to defend Mormonism at the Beliefnet site, he is not shy about advertising his status as a believing and practicing Mormon or in writing about it. You have to admire someone who is willing to attach the label “Mormon” so openly to their public persona. And you gotta know it costs you once in a while (or more than once in a while) to do that. It’s nice he took the time to post a long explanation defending the LDS position on the never-ending Christian question. This seems like just the sort of thing that the recent post at LDS.org is trying to encourage.
Finally, have a peek at the comments to Card’s post. The one I like most is by the Pagan, who is seemingly offended by a Christian who dismissed Mormonism as “a Masonic, pagan … cult.” No, responds this self-described classical polytheist, “I can assure you that Mormonism is not Pagan and would not pass as Pagan as far as most Neopagans are concerned.” Well, finally some good news: Mormons aren’t Pagan, even in the eyes of those newfangled Neopagans.