A recent post on who owns a definitionis sparking some great conversations, on-line and off. Writes Todd:
Mormons are not Christians because they believe an angel visited Joseph Smith, just like Catholics are not Christian because they believe that the Virgin Mary appeared to a bunch of kids in Lourdes. They are Christians because they believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the saviour of mankind.
Many Catholic saints lived (and performed miracles, according to the Catholic church) more recently than Joseph Smith. Do you think having odd beliefs about recent divine manifestations negates someone’s belief in Christ?
Before a response, a comment on belief. Fill a cup with water and place it on the south poll. The water in that cup represents the sum total of all human knowledge. The surrounding ice is the great unknown. The time it takes the water to freeze is our time on earth. In other words, the universe is knowable, but it probably won’t happen in our time here so because of the vast unknown let’s all try to avoid definitive statements about belief.
Also, odds are any organized religion – anything that claims to know the mind of God – is wrong. And so every statement we make about belief must be informed by an awesome and playful mockery
And so, Todd, consider: Virgin Mary gets knocked up by an Angel, gives birth to a son, who is perfect, and who eventually dies so that anybody who believes the tale has eternal happiness in Heaven. Eventually the narrative gets codified, after much debate, so that folks who believe in the codification (Christians/Bible) get to have the eternal happiness in Heaven. And according to that bible, you must take it as fact that yes, there was a virgin birth and yes, the son was perfect and yes, if you believe this happened then you get to live forever. Definition of Christian established, in other words, with room for ambiguity, but not much.
Mormons come along and say, great, all this happened but also Jesus came to America and there’s this whole other book that must also be believed in order to go to the place of eternal happiness called heaven. Mormons say “we’re Christians.” Mainstream Christians say harrumph. And so it goes.
Todd asks, “Do you think having odd beliefs about recent divine manifestations negates someone’s belief in Christ?” My answer: odd beliefs are fine, so long as they are codified by the keepers of the book all those years ago. Sorry, but that’s the rules. You can believe in Christ. And you can have odd beliefs. But, sorry, the definition of the word “Christian” is owned by the keepers of the book.
‘Course, I could be wrong.