The cult of agreeableness

Joel Osteen’s disturbing inability to say that Mormonism is something other than Christian reflects a particular affliction from which our culture suffers. I’m not sure what to call it other than the cult of agreeableness, a widespread tendency to avoid disagreement, conflict, and contradiction whenever possible, a disposition to never draw hard lines for fear that we’ll upset or make ourselves unattractive by the action.

But Christians must be willing to upset and be unattractive. After all, we believe things that are upsetting and unattractive. When Jesus tells us to pick up our cross and follow, he’s bidding us to do something that many others will avoid because laying down one’s life is hardly appealing. Dying to our ego, ambitions, passions, and delusions is undesirable for most of us; I don’t even want to do it most of the time that I’m aware of the choice. So when we ask those people to join us, we shouldn’t be surprised that they say no. Further, when they do say no, we shouldn’t say, “I understand. Your position is quite reasonable. By not picking up the cross you’re really pretty much doing what I’m doing when I pick up mine, so it’s all good.” Real differences exist and cannot be papered (or smiled) over.

We shouldn’t seek to be disagreeable for its own sake, but we have to be willing to be disagreeable from time to time if for no other reason than that the world disagrees with God and we’re on his side, or trying to be. No truth is harder to swallow than God’s truth.

When Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn addressed Harvard University in 1978, he said, “[T]ruth is seldom pleasant; it is almost invariably bitter.” This is particularly true when someone has to call out failings, sins, perversions, and the like, as Solzhenitsyn did in part at Harvard. He talked about the “spiritual exhaustion” of the West and our disordered priorities and values. That hurt, but it was (and is) necessary to hear, and the only way for Solzhenitsyn to say it was to apostatize from the cult of agreeableness, to be willing to oppose, confront, point a finger, and contradict. We need more people willing to so apostatize. The pay is bad; just ask the prophets. But that’s part of picking up our cross.

Our spiritual exhaustion is worse as a culture, and our priorities and values are more out of whack now than in 1978. Perhaps nothing makes this so obvious as a Christian minister unwilling to defend the traditional, creedal, biblical understanding of Christ and the Father vis-a-vis Mormonism. But of course it isn’t just Mormonism. What about our materialism, our political subservience (on the right and left), our sanctioned immorality, our alienation from suffering, our doctrinal infidelity? The list can go on just as long as we’re wiling to be disagreeable. But too many of us are unwilling, and so we stifle the conversation and abort the argument like an importune fetus. We should let the kid come to term and scream a little. It might clear the air of all the insufferable apologies for simply confessing the truths of the gospel.

Christians face intense cultural pressure to conform and agree with the world. That’s normal and natural, and it should be opposed at every possible turn. It’s part of picking up the cross and laying down our life to ease, self-deception, and false peace. It’s just disappointing that it has to be opposed in the church too. But it must be because the cult of agreeableness has adherents warming many a pew.

Question: How do you think the cult of agreeableness affects the Christian witness in the world?


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72 Responses to The cult of agreeableness

  1. Robert Wolgemuth says:

    If only I could be exhibit A for you and disagree with your post, Joel. But I can’t. It’s just right. Well done. Now, I’ve got to go look for something to disagree with. Let’s see…

  2. Pete DIngeldey says:

    Well written, thoughtful & accurate observations – you give us a reminder of the tough challenge that comes with being a Christian.

  3. Deb says:

    Thanks for this timely post. I have been thinking about this quite a bit lately. Although, I do believe that as Christians we need to boldly speak the truth, I don’t believe it is necessary for us to be disagreeable and attack others personally.
    My reasoning is as follows:
    When I speak Biblical truth it is up to the Holy Spirit to convict and move in the hearts and minds of readers. When I go after teachers with whom I disagree – I am forcing people to take sides. My personal opinion is that we do that more for our own popularity and recognition than for God’s glory.
    Just my thoughts. Thanks for giving me an opportunity to share them. Deb

    • Deb, I agree in part. I do think it’s right and good to call people out by name on occasion, and I think it’s OK to be harsh if the situation requires. Certainly Scripture provides many examples, even from one Christian to another.

  4. Josh says:

    Mr. Miller, would it occur to you that Mr. Osteen possibly does not believe mormonism is a cult? (gasp) And as a Christian he believes in not tearing down someone elses religion? Maybe he figures it’s best to leave the description of what mormons believe up to the….well….the mormons! For what it’s worth, I am a mormon who believes in and worships Jesus of the New Testament (not that you would believe me)

    • Josh, first, Mormonism isn’t a cult. It’s a false religion that has been trying to look more and more like mainstream Christianity for over a generation. That certainly wasn’t the case when it was founded in the nineteenth century. Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and those who followed their teaching considered historical, traditional Christianity to be apostate.

      Second, there’s nothing wrong with calling a spade a spade. If that appears to some as “tearing down,” that’s fine by me. But that’s also not pertinent to the Osteen question. The question relative to Osteen is this: Is it right for a professed believer in historical, traditional Christianity (the apostate kind for the founders of your religion) to equate his confession with yours?

      The answer is no. And he should be bounced from the pulpit for it, as Paul would say based on the criteria for church leaders found in his epistles. Osteen clearly does not have enough knowledge of the doctrine and Word (or not enough interest in defending them) to qualify for his position.

      Third, I’m sure you read and believe the New Testament. But the question isn’t in the reading; it’s in the understanding.

      If you understand one thing when the text means something else, then you’re wrong. Compare the situation to progressives who deconstruct the U.S. Constitution. It’s a free country and they’re free to try, but can you say while they’re doing so that they believe in the original intent of the founders or that they adhere to document as it was conceived by the founders? No. Same document, different animals.

      That’s Mormonism, as I wrote about more thoroughly here. It uses the Bible but doesn’t affirm about its teachings what traditional Christianity does. Ergo, it’s not Christian. This is an accuracy in advertising thing. For the same reason, a Protestant can’t call himself a Catholic with any credibility, nor can an Eastern Orthodox believer call himself a Protestant. We’re just trying to be clear on terms here.

      For a Mormon to call himself Christian is to distort the meaning of the word Christian to the point that it no longer means anything.

      The Jesus confessed by Mormons isn’t the Jesus of Christianity. The Heavenly Father confessed by Mormons isn’t the Heavenly Father confessed by Christianity. You can use the words; they’re not trademarked. But you can’t expect others to believe you.

      Nor can serious Christians tolerate a Christian minister who won’t take a stand for simple doctrinal truth. This is basic.

      Fourth, to say that should only permit self-definition of beliefs is naive. Mormon belief has already been defined by the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Journal of Discourses, and other documents. Based on these Osteen should have said that Mormonism isn’t Christian. He doesn’t need to wait around for Mormons to define what they believe. Mormons have said what they believe. We’re just taking them at their word; he should have too.

      Finally, back to the “tearing down” comment. You say you believe the Jesus of the New Testament. In your reading of the NT, can you have missed the repeated and harsh denunciations of Jesus and Paul about false religion? Joel Osteen didn’t need to go as far as they went (Paul had a severe streak that Osteen obviously doesn’t have), but he did need to at least do the unpopular thing and say, “No I don’t believe that Mormons are Christians.” Because they’re not and he owes it to his followers and the truth of the gospel itself to be clear about it.

      • Josh says:

        In regard to your point on the “understanding” of the bible, not just reading it. Why then are there thousands of Christian denominations? Because we ALL interpret the bible differently. Otherwise there would be one single Christian church. Why do you only focus on the Mormon interpretation?

      • Josh, that there is division among Christians is lamentable. But to equate the differing opinions of Christian groups (e.g., on infant baptism, church polity, eucharist) with the chasm that separates Christians and Mormons is silly. Even non-creedal Christians adhere to the basic assertions and teachings of the Nicene Creed, though they not approve of creeds. Mormons do not. We’re talking about disagreements between two differing religions here, not disagreements between differing Christian groups. That’s why I’m singling out Mormons.

      • Bill Larsen says:

        You make a logical error:

        “It [Mormonism] uses the Bible but doesn’t affirm about its teachings what traditional Christianity does. Ergo, it’s not Christian.”

        The correct conclusion: “Ergo, it’s not traditional Christianity.” Of course, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not claim to be “traditional Christianity,” i.e., part of the Christian tradition defined by the various creeds that were articulated long after the death and resurrection of Christ. It claims to be a restoration of the original Christianity of Christ himself. Mormons certainly affirm that Christ died for their sins, that only through grace made available in his generous self sacrifice can they be saved. That they believe Christ is the essential mediator of all human salvation is beyond contestation by anyone who is adequately informed. Their belief in Christ as redeemer cannot be denied through a sly equivocation that shifts without comment from “traditional Christianity” to “Christinaity.”

        It is demonstrable that most non-orthodox beliefs Mormons accept were embraced by one or another of the Church Fathers who lived in the period before all the creeds that define orthodoxy were articulated (e.g. Iraneus, Clement,Justin, and on certain points even Augustine). Few would deny that these Church Fathers were Christian in spite of the fact that some held beliefs later held to be unorthodox.

        Mormons do not ask to be recognized as part of “orthodox Christianity.” They ask only that if others who hold the same or similar unorthodox beliefs are recognized as Christians, they too should be so recognized.

      • Bill, it’s no logical error. If the true faith was, as Jude says, once for all delivered, then the true faith is by definition one that’s traditional because it’s passed down. If it’s not traditional, it differs from what was passed down and is therefore not part of the faith once for all delivered. Mormon doctrines that don’t square with traditional, creedal Christianity are adulterants at best, substitutions at worst. A comparison of Mormon doctrine with the Creed reveals many substitutions, enough to say that this is a different animal.

        I’d be interested in the passages you mention from Irenaeus, Augustine, and others. I’ve read deeply in the fathers and can give you many such examples where the fathers disagree on one point or another–e.g., the fall of the angels. When did it happen. Irenaeus and Augustine don’t agree on this point. In fact, Gregory of Nyssa and his family friend Gregory Nazianzen disagreed on the same point. But the angelic fall is not part of the Creed, not part of the rule of faith, so there’s room for variance and disagreement here. Augustine says in The City of God that varying opinion and interpretation is good so long as it doesn’t run counter to the rule of faith.

        The question is where those variances occur. If they run counter to the Creed, if they don’t square with the faith once for all delivered, if they are not part of the tradition, then there’s a problem.

        Christians agree with all the fathers insomuch as they agree with the creed, and all the fathers agree with the creed. If they don’t, they are not recognized as fathers. Irenaeus and Augustine, while they disagree on this point or that, do not agree on the central teachings of the faith.

        The usual way of speaking about this is to say that the faith is what is always believed everywhere by all. The faith isn’t the quirks and small interpretations that aren’t universally believed. The faith is that body of belief and practices that have been universally believed by Christians wherever Christians are since the days of Christ and the Apostles.

        Heresies are those doctrines that are not universally believed and are at variance with what is universally believed — that is, they run counter to the creed. Some ancient Christian writers who are not deemed fathers of the church (Tertullian and Origen, for instance) because they taught things deemed at variance with tradition. If Irenaues and Augustine did the same, they would have suffered the same fate. As it is, they did not and are regarded as great champions of the tradition, which is to say great champions of the faith once for all delivered.

      • dannyk says:

        Joel – your constitutional analogy is a little flawed, to my advantage…in fact it’s exactly what we Mormons think “traditional” Christianity did at the time of the Nicene Creed.

        To say that the definition of Christianity should rest on the interpretations set forth in the Nicene Creed would be similar to saying that if a group of constitutional scholars met 300 years after the constitution’s writing, and tried to establish a consensus of what THEY believed the founding fathers intended and meant by the words contained therein, that that consensus should hold equal or greater value than the original words themselves. The fact is, however “close” those scholars may come to deciding what they believe the founding fathers’ intentions were, they’re probably going to be wrong, in at least some way or another, and what ever they decide will, by very definition, be an interpretation. And then to go on saying that anyone who did not hold to their consensus can no longer be called a constitutionalist or an American…would be LUDICROUS.

        And yet, that is essentially what you do when you claim that we are not Christian because we do not hold the same views as Creedal Christianity (which is a few hundred years AFTER Christ and the writings of the New Testament). Every individual has every right to their own interpretation of what the Bible really says, they probably all feel like they are inspired by God, just like I do and just like you do. I may think your wrong and you may think I’m wrong, but we both have a right to believe it. And it doesn’t change the fact that BOTH of us believe in Christ, even if our interpretation is different. I’m not trying to minimize the real differences that exist between our beliefs, but let’s not forget that both of us believe that Jesus Christ is “the way, the truth, and the life” and that “no man cometh unto the Father but by [Him].”

        Again, you may think Mormons incorrectly interpret New Testament scripture (and I don’t care if you do…I’m not insisting we agree on doctrine), but to not recognize the influences of politics and power that were at play while the Creed you adhere to was being established as “the official” interpretation of the true Original Christianity…well that just seems silly. And to deny those who believe in Christ as their Savior the title of Christian is just as ludicrous as Progressives defining the constitution according to their interpretation and calling the rest of us un-American.

      • No analogy is perfect. But it pays to study your church history. The Nicene Creed was not an innovation that created new doctrines. It was a restatement of doctrines handed down by the apostles. Read the ways in which the early bishops of the church (long before Nicaea) discuss the faith and how to defend it: they appeal to the doctrine they were handed by their successors. The party at Nicaea was conservative, not progressive in that sense.

        A question for you: If the church apostatized as Mormonism maintains, how are you sure what what you have today squares with what Christ taught? It can’t merely be the New Testament because it was the very same apostate church that so carefully guarded, collated, and canonized it. In fact it was one of those Nicene defenders, Bishop Athanasius, who was the first in recorded history to list the New Testament canon as we have it today. Seems odd, not to say unbelievable, that the greatest enemies of the faith would be the most zealous protectors of its sacred scriptures.

        So without a historic link like that what do you have that affirms your confession and disclaims traditional Christianity? To say the writings of Joseph Smith and others like Brigham Young hardly boosts the confidence of someone whose read much of Mormon history.

      • John B says:

        I would say Mormonism is certainly a cult theologically speaking. It uses Christian terms with drastically different definitions: salvation, saved, the trinity, etc. Very Christian sounding words, very unChristian definitions.”

        Belief in Jesus” broadly speaking is not what makes one a Christian. It depends entirely on who you mean by “Jesus”. Mormons have an entirely different view on who Jesus is. By definition, Mormonism is not Christian. And that’s even according to Mormon literature and Mormons Apostles and Prophets through out its history. Why are people getting so offended now?

        It’s funny that I should come across this now. I wrote something this morning on this very subject. Political correctness and fear of offending has become the filter people use to determine whether ideas are true. It’s ruining Christianity, and it’s ruining politics.

    • Lewis H. Seaton III says:

      “Mr. Miller, would it occur to you that Mr. Osteen possibly does not believe mormonism is a cult?”
      That’s why he said it: Mormonism IS a cult, and if Joel Osteen doesn’t see that, perhaps he has a major spiritual problem. Mormonism worships a totally different god altogether. Theirs is a god who BECAME what he is. That’s not the real God.

      • Bill Larsen says:

        Joel,

        I’m afraid you continue to make basic logical errors, i.e., you offer as an argument statments that are either self-contradictory or tautologous and, thus, trivial and unpersuasive. For example:

        “The faith is that body of belief and practices that have been universally believed by Christians wherever Christians are since the days of Christ and the Apostles. Heresies are those doctrines that are not universally believed and are at variance with what is universally believed — that is, they run counter to the creed.”

        A body of belief and practices are not universally believed if, as your own statement indicated, some (the heretics) don’t believe them. It follows that there is no body of universal beliefs and practices that one can appeal to as being authoritative by virtue of being univerally believed. Surely you are aware that there were many people during the 300 year period after the death and resurrection of Christ who called themselves Christian and believed themselves to be sincere followers of Christ who rejected the various doctrines that were later held to be authoritative by the councils that established the creeds. None of these early Christians would have rejected all of the doctrines in the creeds (just as Mormons do not reject all of them), but it is beyond dispute for anyone familiar with the earliest documents we have from people who called themselves Christian that virtually all affirmations in the creeds were denied by one or another early group of followers of Christ. So there was (and is) no universal, uncontested body of beliefs and practices that define Christianity.

        I presume that your response will be that people like Origen (there are of course many others) were not Christian and, therefore, their doctrinal disagreements do not render orthodoxy non-universal. But if you say this, your argument is tautologous and trivial. You start with the premise that only those who accept the creeds are Christian. You then argue that all Christians accept the creeds–and their universal embrace of the creeds make them authoritative. This basically reduces to the same logical error I pointed out in my first comment, a sly equivocation that seeks to make “traditional Christianity” the only Christianity by illogical sleight of hand. The invalidity of the argument is, of course, transparent if we apply the standards of Logic 101.

        It is inconvenient, I suppose, that Origen and many other early followers of Christ viewed themselves as being a Christian while not being orthodox as you define orthodoxy. It is likewise inconvenient that among these pre-creedal Christians are found virtually all of the distinctive doctrines that differentiate modern Mormonism from your Christian orthodoxy.

        With respect to who has a better claim to authority, I am persuaded by the commentator above who suggested that earlier sources are usually more dispositive than later ones when interpreting the intent of the writers of the Constitution. It is not unreasonable to think that the same may be true in matters of theology, though additional revelation from the Source, God, would be the best guide for correct interpretation.

  5. Eli says:

    I am Christian (not Mormon) and have had dealings with mormons on a professional and personal level througout my life. I have never met a Mormon I did not like A LOT!

    Anyone who spends their time bashing another religion of such wonderful people is an ignorant fool. Get a life and real job.

    • Ken A says:

      The question is not whether Mormons are likeable, but whether what Mormons believe can be called Christianity. I wholeheartedly agree that Mormons are very nice people. I too have never met a Mormon I didn’t like. However, being nice is not synonymous with being Christian. Mormons simply have a different belief about who God is and his nature than Christians do. If our belief in God has any meaning at all, one cannot claim that Mormons are Christian.

      • Exactly correct, Ken. I’ve met Muslims that are very nice, and Muslims believe in Jesus too. They just believe the wrong things about Jesus so they cannot be called Christians any more than Mormons. And historically, this a relevant point in that both Mormonism and Islam claim a later prophet had to come and straighten out the mess caused by earlier believers. In both cases, however, they didn’t straighten. They substituted one faith for another.

    • Steve Powell says:

      I’m a Mormon, and you just made my day! Thanks! The irony of this article is that there’s really no shortage of “disagreeability” among Creedal Christians toward Mormons. If you follow the Creedal Christian bloggesphere, it truly is disheartening as a “Mormon” to hear how contentious and vitriolic the banter can be. It’s too be expected, really. All people, including the Savior and his followers in their day, were met with “dissagreement.” I’ve only lived in a couple states in our beautiful country, but in our day, in Harker’s Island, North Carolina, some dissagreeable Creedal Christians burned down the chapel there, and again in Bangor, Maine, some disagreeable folks decided they’d had enough of this Mormonism thing too and lit us up there as well. We’re not talking about one person acting annonymously. A crowd… of dissagreeable folk. Torches and pitchforks in hand. That said, we’re 40-50 years down the line now and a lot has changed for the better. What a blessing it is to have the internet to freely exchange ideas in such a way that we can cooly and calmly discuss what we believe and how we differ from each other, and appreciate our differences with love and hope that the other will come to a more perfect understanding of Jesus Christ, our Lord. My prediction is that over time, people will understand that when Creedal Christians say Mormons aren’t “Christian” what they really mean is that we don’t subscribe to the Nicean Creed. Isn’t that “nice.” :) Because what we believe IS different.

      • I’m hardly being vitriolic. Even if I were, I think we can agree that disagreement, even severe and vitriolic disagreement, does not necessitate violence. It’s just as tragic and reprehensible that anyone would burn down your assemblies as it was when Mormons massacred over a hundred settlers at Mountain Meadows in 1857.

        The issue is whether Mormons can lay claim to the title Christian with any seriousness. I don’t see how, not when they hold beliefs that run counter to those that make up the doctrinal core of Christianity.

      • Steve Powell says:

        Mr. Miller – You cite below a very sad isolated instance in LDS history, whose context is widely neglected by Creedalists like youself. But, do you really want to spend another moment going tit-for-tat regarding the atrocities set in place by adherents to the Creed? Really? From the Ku Klux Klan, to the Missouri Mormon Extermination Order, to Hauns Mill. None of them believed we were “Christian” either. Or we can turn to history for a lesson on how “Christians” have been treating each other. Let’s try on the Inquisition… Or more recently the terrorism between Protestants and Catholics in Ireland, or King Henry the VIII and his need to behead his wife and declare himself divine soverign? I know you’ve never been to an LDS church service, but have you ever spent a day in Western Civilization 101?

      • There’s certainly no point in going tit-for-tat. I’m confident that both of us would rather our faiths be remembered for their ideals and doctrines rather than arson and murder.

        The issue, as stated already, is whether those Mormon ideals and doctrines can lay claim to the title Christian with any seriousness. As also stated, I don’t see how, not when those ideals and doctrines run counter to those of historic, traditional Christianity.

        Christianity isn’t merely whatever a group of people say it is. It’s a reality, rooted in history. Now, history is a hotly debated thing, but no one with any credibility could claim that Mormonism as a religion goes back any further than the nineteenth century; it has nothing do with Christian faith and practice except the hijacking of certain terms and texts that it bends to its own interests.

        I’m glad you agree that what you believe “IS different,” as you say above. That’s the most straightforward thing said so far from a Mormon in these exchanges. Mormonism is different than Christianity, so different in fact that it cannot be called Christianity. To be Christian is to be in the historic, traditional stream of faith that goes back to Christ and the apostles. To be Mormon is to be in a novel, even interesting, stream of belief that goes back to a nineteenth century New England fabulist named Joseph Smith, who would have nothing to do with the Christianity of his own day and would probably be outraged that his twenty-first century followers are so intent to claim the name for themselves.

      • Steve Powell says:

        First, you’re right, that there’s no point in gonig tit-for tat on attrocities, because I think we both know there’s no comparison.

        Again, this conversation is SO fascinating! I’m wondering, would the “Traditional Jews” in the Savior’s time have made the same arguement? That the Savior was teaching Non-traditional Judaism? What was His end? Time alone will vidicate us. Not blog responses or even a world-wide missionary effort. Mormonism will simply continue to quietly, and hopefully peacefully and loving assert our claim, that God has spoken to the world IN OUR DAY, just as he has in the past. And not only has he spoken to the world, but that he speaks to you and me, through the quiet reassurance and peace of mind found through abiding by his commandments, and studying his words. And, the object of His message is simply to say the Savior of all mankind, the very Jesus of Nazareth, who died for our sins on the cross and sufferred in the Garden, will return to the earth to redeem his people, which are me, AND you.

  6. Guest says:

    Why does this author obsess over mormonism? I wonder if he has ever been to a mormon service…i bet he hasn’t, but somehow he is an expert on their beliefs. I have been to mormon services several times and they teach about Jesus Christ and as far as I know, there has only been 1 Jesus Christ that has ever lived. It’s ok for all the other christian denominations to claim belief in Christ, but not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints?

    • Guest, I hardly obsess over Mormonism. I’ve only written a few things about it actually. Just check the archives. You are correct that there has been only one Jesus Christ. The trouble is that there hasn’t been just one understanding of who this Jesus is. The gnostics of the first and second century believed in Jesus. But their beliefs were errant and so they couldn’t seriously be called Christians. It’s for heretics like the gnostics and those later like the Arians that the Creed was formulated to declare what the proper understanding of that one Christ looks like. I write about that here. Christians believe that Mormons get that understanding of Christ wrong, just like the gnostics or the Arians did.

      • Guest says:

        Fair enough. I guess I can only go off of what I have experienced for myself. Like I said I have been to their services and they read straight out of the new testament…hard to call someone non-christian when they profess Christ in their services, but that’s just me. Have you been to their services?

      • Josh says:

        You can’t be serious that you’ve never been to a mormon service, yet you are all over this blog telling people what their church teaches.

      • Of course I can be serious without having attended a Mormon service. The doctrinal standards of Mormonism are widely published and available for all to read, which I’ve done. It’s absurd to think that I’d have to attend the religious services of all those with whom I disagree. Haven’t been to mosque, or synagogue, or the ashram either.

  7. Wolfinsheepsclothing says:

    This Miller guy is deceitful – he turns things around like Satan does. He takes Mr. Olsteens tolerance of allowing mormons to define themselves and turns it to make it look like Mr. Olsteen is avoiding the issue. Mr. Olsteen is simply being a good Christian, but this guy is very good at making black look white.

    • Er, no comment. I mean, what can you say? I only said Joel Osteen was a joker. Now I’m Satan; that’s tough news on a Friday :)

    • Stephen says:

      I have watched Joel Osteen enough and read enough of his writings to know that is a a false teacher. In his writings and his sermons he focuses on health and wealth. I heard him say in one of his sermons that Jesus died to give us complete victory in all areas of our lives. This includes health, wealth and relationships. That is a lie. Jesus died to pay the price for our sins. He died to provide a bridge back to the Father. Joel will admit that he never talks about sin in his church. He always leads people in a little prayer at the end of his service. He then tells everyone that if they said that prayer he believes they are born-again. That is also a lie. In order to be born-again you must know your fallen condition first. In other words, you must know that you are lost in your sin. You must know why you need a savior in the first place. Joel “never” talks about these things. But if you want a feel-good pep talk, Joel is the man to go to. I refer to him as the cotton candy preacher because everything about his sermons is so sweet. His father certainly was not like that. In his failure to teach the whole counsel of God, Joel is leading his flock down the road to hell.

  8. Josh says:

    I very respectfully disagree with you, Ken A. Why is the question whether or not Mormons can be called Christians? Why is that even a question that is being raised? The ONLY important question is, what is the definition of a Christian? The definition, and i am sure you will agree is this…a Christian is someone who loves Christ, has faith in Christ, worships Christ, and strives to follow Christ and this teachings. I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the previous sentence defines me.

    • Josh, that isn’t enough to formulate the definition of a Christian because you have to also identify the Christ in question. Mormon doctrine teaches a false Christ.

      • Josh says:

        I know of only one Christ – Jesus of Nazareth. The one who walked the streets of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. He is who I worship, and I am a mormon.

      • I hope that’s true, but from my reading of Mormon scripture and other literature, you’d hold that belief in spite of the Mormon church.

      • Josh says:

        You can rest assured with your hope. I have attended mormon services my entire life and have learned only about this Christ. The one who’s birth was celebrated in Luke and the other gospels. The same who gave the sermon on the mount. The one who died on the cross to save me and you. That is the only Christ I’ve ever even heard about let alone learned about. Learned it all from the “mormon” church.

    • Stephen says:

      It has to be the living Christ of the New Testament. The Jesus of Mormonism is a spirit brother to Satan. He is a created being. He is not the Alpha and Omega of the bible. It is no different than the Jesus of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. He is a created being also. Definitely not the Jesus of the bible just like the Mormon Jesus.

  9. When I began studies at Vanderbilt Divinity School, there was a Mormon student in my orientation group. She made it clear that she did not want to be enfolded into the category of Christian students. “I am a Mormon, not a Christian,” she said. I remember this very clearly.

    In the UMC, my denomination, there are special procedures and counseling that must be done before we can offer membership vows to Mormons. See here.

    The question of this post, as I understand it, is not whether Mormons are likable (they are no less than us Methodists, of course) or whether they “may define their own religion,” it whether Mormonism is within the family of apostolic tradition, which is the faith handed down to us through the apostles from Jesus himself. The answer is simply no.

    That doesn’t mean that I have the right to pronounce Mormons outside of the love of God or outside of salvation itself, which is God’s decision alone. It does mean that as a pastor within the apostolic tradition and faith, I am obligated, when the occasion arises, to distinguish between historic Christian faith and teaching and that of Mormonism, and why it is important.

    We are not called to be liked. We are called to be faithful. Here I stand, I can do no other.

    BTW, respond to this comment as you wish, but I probably won’t be back to read or answer. I am long past the urge to get into commenting debates on blog sites.

    Grace and peace, to all.

    • Very well stated. And I appreciate this part of your comments very much: “That doesn’t mean that I have the right to pronounce Mormons outside of the love of God or outside of salvation itself, which is God’s decision alone. It does mean that as a pastor within the apostolic tradition and faith, I am obligated, when the occasion arises, to distinguish between historic Christian faith and teaching and that of Mormonism, and why it is important.”

      Augustine said that there were lambs outside the fold and wolves within. God will decide how it all shakes out. All we who have inherited the faith can do is declare and defend it as we received it.

  10. Josh says:

    Reverend, please see my previous post as a response to this one.

  11. Josh says:

    It would be naive of me to think that I will convince this author to abandon his mission of tearing down my LDS (mormon) religion, so this post is not for him. If anyone reading this is truly interested in hearing what a mormon believes, from a mormon’s point of view, visit mormon.org. You will see thousands of mormons profess their Christianity.

  12. Jenn Wilson says:

    Joel, I admire your commitment to stand firm for doctrinal truths. You certainly have the big picture. That glorious day when you stand before Christ himself, He will say: “Well done my faithful servant”. All those insults hurled at you for your faithfulness to the gospel of Christ are to be expected. As Ravi Zachariah said once, “truth is, by definition, exclusive.”

  13. Stephen says:

    Mormons consider anyone who is not a Mormon a Gentile. That was also the case with Jews. If Mormons profess to be Christians; then why are other Christians considered to be Gentiles?

  14. Tom Currie says:

    Great article, I understand your point and hope he incorporates some of your suggestions.

    Please take it easy on Joel Osteen though, his “agreeableness” brought me back to Christianity after a very long absence, and I assume many others as well. (I do not attend his church). I’ve never been happier.

    I’ve notice that at every service he recommends: “get in a good Bible based church….” He’s great at bringing lost sheep back to the flock in large numbers, people like me that usually don’t attend church. Then again, he may indeed need to be more specific as to ‘which flock’ to join. Thanks again, looking forward to future articles.

    • Thanks be to God for that, Tom. I’ve got serious theological difficulties with Osteen, but I can’t say anything but good for a testimony like that. I hope you find edifying material here.

  15. Damon Whitsell says:

    Hi Joel,, I seen you ruffled some feathers on those in the “cult of AGREEABLENESS” (reminds me of the book The Tyranny of Nice),, and I wanted to commend you. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK.

    As you noted, Mormons used to make no bones about it that they where not Christian. Indeed Mormonism was allegedly started when Joseph Smith prayed about which Christian denomination he should join and the response was that all of Christianity was an abomination. Here is an interesting verse from the Book of Mormon,, ““Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth” (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 14:10)”,, and of course,, the LDS church is the “church of the Lamb of God”.

    READ THIS TO SEE WHAT MORMON PROPHETS, APOSTLES AND LEADERS HAVE SAID ABOUT MORMONISM NOT BEING CHRISTIANITY…..

    So Joel Osteen says Mormons are Christians, But what do Mormons say about Christianity? (http://how2becomeachristianinfoblog.com/2008/08/17/so-joel-osteen-says-mormons-are-christians-but-what-do-mormons-say-about-christianity-2/)

  16. mascmen7 says:

    Joel Osteen is not very well informed on Islam which is the world’s most violent and intolerant religion which is also a political movement that seizes control of any nation it enters. Witness the southern tier of The Mediterranean Sea from Turkey to Morocco which was once solidly Catholic but now is totally Islamic.

  17. Josh says:

    Mr. Miller, in your response to your “hope” that the Christ I believe is the same of the new testament, the one who walked the streets of Jerusalem. You are simply lying or grossly misinformed when you say that is different from what my church teaches…a church that I have attended for 35 yrs and you stated above that you have never been to a mormon service! In short and in simple summary, you can search the world over, but you will never find a mormon who believes in a different Christ than the one of the new testament. We simply know of no other Christ. Period. You have now been informed accurately so there is no excuse for you to ever get this wrong again.

    • Josh, you’re missing the point. You can talk Jesus all day, but if that Jesus doesn’t square with the Jesus presented by traditional Christianity, we’re obviously talking about a different Jesus. I may be wrong, you may be wrong, but we both can’t be right.

      To know that much one only has to compare the doctrinal writings and standards of Mormonism with those of Christianity. They don’t match up. I don’t need to attend services to know that, any more than I need to go to Mosque to tell you that the Muslims believe differently about Christ than Christians. Ditto the Ashram or the Christian Science Reading Room. Let’s not be silly here. The texts are available and anyone can read and compare them.

  18. Animaskim says:

    Nice-y-nice smiley pod people in thrall to whatever cultural fad was fashionable 25 years ago.
    That’s why good men don’t ‘go to church’ anymore: it’s a wishy-washy feminized waste of time and space.

  19. Steve Powell says:

    This is great. What’s occuring here is that Mormon’s simply aren’t satisfied with being labled as Non-Christian by Creedal Christians. There will come a time, I’m not sure when or how, but the time is a comin, when blogs will describe “Traditional Christians” exclusively as “Creedalists.” Much like we are labled, “Mormons.” That’s not the name we gave ourselves, yet it’s convenient for us too. I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ, and I’m a Mormon.

    • To say “Traditional Christian” is to say “Christian”; to say “Non-traditional Christian” is to say “One of innumerable heresies and false religions.” If it’s not the faith passed down (another word for tradition) to the Apostles from Christ and from the Apostles to the rest of the church, then it’s not the Christian faith. It’s something else. I’ll happily be called a traditional Christian; I hope I live up to it.

  20. Captain Dg says:

    If you accept the definition of Christian that you employ then Mormons are not Christians. But words have lives of their own, definitions change as words are used. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is clearly creating a definition of Christian that encompasses Mormons. In your effort to maintain clearly defined doctrinal differences, you are policing the meaning of a word- and sadly, as we have seen with the changing of the definition of marriage, the meaning can change nonetheless.

  21. Ben says:

    Thanks for the article. I really don’t see the point of calling Mormons out if you don’t think they are Christian. They do believe that Jesus is God’s son, yes? Sounds Christian to me. I don’t buy into all of their belifs, but I don’t by into other Christian’s beliefs (esp. fundamentalism, for example) either. Quite frankly most Mormons that I know are better Christians that the “real” Christians who define who is and isn’t in the club.

  22. Lewis H. Seaton III says:

    Once again,the Mormon god is a god who became what he is. As Peter said, Jesus of Nazareth is the only son of the living God. The Mormon Jesus is not the son of the only God in existence anywhere. The Mormon Jesus is not the son of the only self-existant being anywhere, and the Mormon Jesus is not the son of a God who has never changed in any way. The Mormon Jesus is the son of a different god.

    • Ben says:

      Lewis, now we seem to be quibbling over who people say Jesus is. You still did not address my point that mormons are better christians than christians with the “official” seal of evangelical approval. They engage in charitable efforts and exemplify the ideal that Jesus set out in the Sermon on the Mount. Too many of us “real” Christians spend too much time worrying about who is and isn’t in the club. Maybe we will have time to worry about that when there is no more hunger, poverty, racism, hate, and general sinfulness. Until then, lets focus on making a world that we pray for in the Lord’s prayer.

      • Ben, it’s a valid “quibble.” It’s really the central question.

        No on disagrees with, let alone devalues, the Mormon contribution to charity, etc. That’s great and good and worthy of praise. Christians could learn a thing from their efforts, their sacrifice, and their passion.

        But it’s not just a matter of who is in the club or not. It’s God’s club, not ours anyway. We don’t get to say who’s in it. But we do get to declare the definitions that previous generations literally died to confess and defend. This is important, not mere quibbling.

        Jesus says that people who think they know him, don’t necessarily know him at all and that he will reject them despite the good they did in his name. That’s pretty heavy.

        There are two tablets of the law, and while we must act with love in regards to our neighbor, we must also love God. It does us no good if we believe the wrong God.

      • Ben says:

        Joel, thanks for calling me out on quibble. You got it exactly right. It IS God’s club and we don’t get to decide who gets in, and I am not arrogant enough to think I know.

  23. Harry says:

    One thing that needs to be brought to light is the utter lack of proof of Mormon history. Never mind that Mormon’s assert that they are Christians and that they believe in salvation through works, rather than by grace alone through faith alone. The Holy Bible is very clear on this point. There is absolutely nothing we can do on our own to gain salvation on our own. But I digress.

    Now onto the historical evidence. Or the lack thereof.

    Unlike the fictional empires of the Nephites, Jeredites, Lamanites, other people groups mentioned in the Bible have left artifacts that archaeologist have been able to dig up and prove that they existed and that they built the ancient buildings that are being discovered to this day. There is no evidence that the Nephite’s ever existed in the America’s. The civilizations of the Central America’s peaked between 600-900 AD which is well after the events described in the Book of Mormon.

    The Book of Mormons states that the Lamanite empire annihilated the Nephite empire around 400 AD. The Lamanite empire is said to be the only one to have survived becoming (according to the Book of Mormon) the ‘principle ancestors of the native American Indians’. And yet the DNA of the native American Indian has been traced back to east Asian people and not the remnants of the house of Israel as Mormon’s have claimed. No evidence has been found of a culture originating in Israel traveling to the America’s called the Lamanites, or Nephites.

    On the other hand, the Bible accounts for people groups that no longer exist today and yet there is tons of evidence of their existence that has been dug up, cataloged and archived and laid out in museums for anyone to see. Such as the Canaanites and Philistines to name two.

    It is impossible for an empire to have existed in the America’s and not leave one trace of archaeology behind. Had the remnant of Israelites come to Central America they would have constructed buildings that were familiar to their architecture. Not the Aztec architecture that the Mormons readily use in their fictional history. It logically does not make sense that they would start constructing buildings that were not familiar to them had they come from a far away land.

    The permanent settlements named in the Bible that were established are still in existence today. Bethsaida, Chorazin, Jerusalem, Jericho, Bet She’an, Bethlehem, Caper naum, Be’ er Sheva, City of David, Nazareth; just to name a few. But, there is not one city in the America’s named in the Book of Mormon such as Nephi, Manti, Sidom, Jershon, Bountiful, that is in existence today nor is there any record of them outside of the Book of Mormon to prove that they ever existed. It is impossible for them to not leave any archaeological evidence behind. Not one anthropologist has ever found any evidence of these fictitious cities what-so-ever. If they had it would be public knowledge, or at least it should in order to remove any doubt. Even if they are wrong on just a few points then there would be room to say that they have just not found it yet. But there is not one iota of archaeological evidence to back up any claims made.
    Now lets take a look at the Christian history again.

    The Dead Sea Scrolls confirm the trustworthiness of the cannon of the Old Testament. They contain either the whole or portions, of every book in the Protestant Old Testament. Even still, there is enough evidence beyond the Garden of Eden to make it statistically highly unlikely that the Bible is anything other than historically correct.

    There is in fact more manuscript evidence of the Bible than any other ancient writings. So much so that it dwarfs any of the others. Along with that the statistics of how the Bible came into being is highly unlikely as well.

    Consider the following:
    There is 66 books written by 40 different authors over the course of 1600 years and yet there is one unified storyline. The statistics of that is astounding.

    The Book of Mormon is nothing but a construct of one man that has no manuscript evidence at all. That is the delusion. Where is the history? Where are the documents?

    Language:
    The Book of Mormon states in Mormon 9:32 that the language used in ancient America in the supposed ‘golden plates’ were written in reformed Egyptian and yet there is no such language? Hebrews scholars and linguist will tell you that it does not, nor did it ever exist. There is absolutely no record of it at all. There is not even a hint of Hebrew writing (reformed or otherwise) found in ancient American archaeology.

    The Book of Mormon states in the introduction that it is comparable to the Bible but it is not. It is pure fiction. It has no basis in ancient history. It was written merely by one man based on his account and his alone with no witnesses. That alone should be enough to make one wonder about Mormonism. Prophecy or scripture is never hidden or secretive.

    • Excellent reminder, Harry. The Christian faith is grounded in history and therefore can speak to all of history. The events it declares actually happened. The events Mormonism claims happened — particularly those on the American continent — are bogus. There’s no historical, archaeological, anthropological, or linguistic evidence that any of it’s true. You might as well put your faith in Paul Bunyan and Jack’s beanstock.

  24. Lewis H. Seaton III says:

    Finishing His conversation with Peter(“You are the Christ, the son of the living God”), Jesus said, “…you are petros (stone), and upon this Petra (bedrock, as in Rock of Gibraltar) I will build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Who Jesus is, is the bedrock foundation of the Church of Jesus Christ. This is not about a stone. It’s not a quibble over a pebble. This is about the bedrock foundation against which the gates of hell never have and never will prevail.

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  26. I am finding it quite amusing to read all the comments from Mormons as they continue their claim to be Christian. Joel, you are doing an excellent job responding to them.

    I am an EX- Mormon. Gasp! According to Mormons I am an apostate and have no hope of attaining any salvation in their almost universalist system.

    The Christ of the LDS has no resemblance to the Christ of the Bible. The God of the LDS has no resemblance to the God of the Bible. Just those two things demonstrate that Mormonism is NOT Christian in any sense of the word.

    As to calling it a cult, that word in regards to Mormonism has a theological definition rather than the sociological definition which reeks of mind-control etc. Theologically speaking, a cult is a group claiming to be Christian when in fact they do not adhere to any orthodox doctrine.

    As an ex-Mormon, I did attend services. I have a library full of actually LDS publications with their own doctrine. I DO KNOW the LDS doctrine, and it is NOT Biblical Christianity. It is a man-made religious system. And for Joel Osteen to say differently is another example of why he has no business in a pulpit.

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  28. J.d. L says:

    Guys, I’ll be praying for you. Until the whole world hears. Rebuke each other with KINDNESS. And take no offense, for that is a tool for the enemy. God bless.

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