Chapter 10 from "To Be Learned is Good If..." A response by Mormon
educators to controversial religious questions. Published by Bookcraft
Since the very inception of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there have been some who have denied that it is Christian. Within the past several years this tendency has become quite noticeable in certain circles. In response to this claim, articles have been written1 and general conference addresses have been devoted to a reaffirmation of our deep and abiding commitment to Christ.2 Given the importance of the question, it would be profitable to investigate the basis for the claim that Latter-day Saints are not Christian. At root, this involves determining how the earliest Christians—those of the New Testament period and the immediately succeeding generations—viewed and defined themselves, and what they believed.
In Acts 11:26 we are told that "the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." Here, the use of the passive construction "were called Christians" strongly suggests that the term was first used, not by Christians, but by non-Christians (similarly, the names "Yankee" and "Mormon" were first used by outsiders). It was probably modeled on such words as Herodian and Caesarian, already in circulation at that time, and means nothing more complicated than "Christ's people" or, perhaps, "partisans of Christ." It is important to note that the Christian congregation at Antioch represented a wide range of backgrounds and included Jews as well as non-Jews, and believers in this Christian congregation displayed the whole spectrum of attitudes toward the Jewish law.
At Acts 26:28 Agrippa II made his famous reply to Paul, after the Apostle had related to Agrippa and Festus the story of his conversion: "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian." The doctrinal content of Paul's speech is not great: Paul bore witness that Jesus had been foretold by the Jewish prophets, that he suffered and rose from the dead, and that it is through him that forgiveness may be obtained. Paul described Christ's mission as that of summoning people to "repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance" (Acts 26:20). The scriptural account gives no indication that Paul attempted to suggest to Agrippa that belief in these basic doctrines did not represent the essence of "Christianity."
1 Peter 4:16 is the last instance of the appearance of the word in the New Testament. Yet this verse is virtually without doctrinal content, merely assuring the believer that he need not worry if he suffer as a "Christian." Persecution is here contrasted with suffering "as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer." Even here, perhaps, we are to think of "Christian" as a term used by persecuting outsiders, just as "murderer," "thief," and "evildoer" might be judgments rendered by a Roman court.
In each of the three instances where the term Christian is used in the New Testament, it appears to originate from someone outside of the community of Christians themselves. In particular, in neither of the passages in Acts where the word is found is it used by Paul himself, but by non-Christians. In the case of 1 Peter, it is used, as we have noted above, parallel to legal terms, and may have derived from current Roman (i.e., non-Christian) legal usage. In those instances where it is used, the beliefs of the Christians that are implied—that Christ suffered and died, that through him we may obtain forgiveness of our own sins—are a far cry from the theological reasons commonly given for denying that Latter-day Saints are Christians. Several of the more common reasons will be listed and discussed below.
What did the early Christians mean by their use of the term? Ignatius, in his Epistle to the Romans ,7 addresses his cobelievers with regard to his impending martyrdom: "Only pray for me for strength, both inward and outward, that I may not merely speak, but also have the will, that I may not only be called a Christian, but may also be found to be one." He got his wish, and was thrown to the beasts at Rome under Trajan, ca. a.d. 108. Plainly, to Ignatius, who was—significantly8—the third bishop of Antioch, being a Christian depended at least partially upon behavioral criteria.9 "A Christian . . . gives his time to God," he writes to Polycarp. "This is the work of God."10 On several occasions he calls us to be "imitators of God."11 On another occasion he exhorts the Magnesians. "Let us learn to lead Christian lives."12 Ignatius is faithful, in other words, to an important part of the heritage of his church in Antioch, reiterating the ethical emphasis of the Gospel of Matthew—which very likely was written there only a few decades earlier.13
Outsiders, too, sometimes noticed the great emphasis given by Christians to moral behavior. Writing some time between a.d. 97 and a.d. 109, Pliny the Younger describes a regular "ceremony" practiced in the early Church: Christians, he tells the Emperor Trajan, "bind themselves by oath ... to abstain from theft, robbery, and adultery, to commit no breach of trust and not to deny a deposit when called upon to restore it."14
In his Epistle to the Ephesians, Ignatius appears to presume yet another sense of the term Christian, an ecclesiastical one, when he writes of "the Christians of Ephesus, who . . . were ever of one mind with the Apostles."15 This is consistent with his Epistle to the Magnesians, where he declares that "we should be really Christians, not merely have the name."16 And how do we do so? The burden of this epistle is that we must be subject to the authority of the bishop, who presides "in the place of God."17
It cannot, of course, be denied that, for Ignatius, being a Christian involves more than simply mere behavior and obedience to priesthood authority. He gives us a few theological guidelines to follow. He is the first writer known to have used the term Christianity. which he explicitly contrasts with "Judaism."18 Much like Paul before Agrippa, he bears witness of Christ's birth, death, and resurrection. Against the Docetics, who teach of Jesus that "his suffering was only a semblance," Ignatius affirms that the Savior "was truly born, both ate and drank . . . [and] was truly crucified."19 "I beseech you therefore," he writes to the Trallians, "live only on Christian fare, and refrain from strange food, which is heresy."20 Here, at last, we seem to have a doctrinal criterion for what is and what is not Christian.
In answer to the implicit question of how one is to distinguish truth from heresy, Ignatius immediately falls back on lines of priesthood authority.21 "This will be possible for you," he declares, "if you are not puffed up, and are inseparable from God, from Jesus Christ and from the bishop and ordinances of the Apostles. He who is within the sanctuary is pure, but he who is without the sanctuary is not pure, that is to say, whoever does anything apart from the bishop and the presbytery and the deacons is not pure in his conscience."22 And as for the "strange food" of the heretics, which Ignatius contrasts with "Christian fare," is it not reasonable to see in that an allusion by the bishop of Antioch to eucharistic service conducted by invalid authority? "Let no one," he admonishes the Smyrnaeans, "do any of the things appertaining to the Church without the bishop. Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop, or by one whom he appoints."23
"Let no one be deceived," Ignatius warns the Smyrnaeans.Even the heavenly hosts are subject to judgment. Thereupon Ignatius applies his ethical standard to the heretics: "Mark those who have strange opinions concerning the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary they are to the mind of God. For love they have no care, none for the widow, none for the orphan, none for the distressed, none for the afflicted, none for the prisoner, or for him released from prison, none for the hungry or thirsty."24 They have, in other words, forgotten what the epistle of James (1:27) describes as "pure religion and undefiled." Statements by Jesus himself are relevant to the question at issue: "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples [mathetai], if ye have love one to another." For Ignatius, notes Walter Grundmann, "Christianismos simply means discipleship." It is "being a Christian as expressed in life-style."25 This ethical view of Christianity is not unique to Ignatius, either. The early-second-century Shepherd of Hermas, one of the "Apostolic Fathers/' views Christianity as "above all, a series of precepts that must be followed."26
As is implied in the assertion that "the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch," the original word applied to the followers of Jesus was "disciples."27 It was, states Grundmann, "obviously the term which the original believers used for themselves."28 K. H. Rengstorf argues that the Greek mathetes, "disciple," is merely a translation of the Hebrew talmud, and that it derives from the common name which Palestinian Christians used in self-description. It gave way to the term Christian only as the Church became more and more Hellenized.29
What did the earliest followers of Jesus understand by "discipleship"? Rengstorf sees three—largely behavioral—elements: (1) commitment to the person of Jesus; (2) obedience to Jesus; and (3) obligation to suffer with Jesus.30 "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him. If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed" (John 8:31).31 Commenting on this verse, Bruce Vawter remarks, "Merely to be receptive to the word is not enough; one must also take it in and act on it constantly. Then alone can one be a true disciple of the Lord."32 The following verse continues: ' 'This is my Father's glory, that you may bear fruit in plenty and so be my disciples" (John 15:8 NEB).33
Being a disciple of Jesus was not an easy thing. "Those who responded," writes Frederick Sontag, "left their family, friends and conventional religious practices to follow an itinerant preaching, healing ministry which was at the time subject to danger. To follow Jesus meant to abandon convention and to join a religious cult of the day. . . . Thus, the most obvious definition for 'Christian' would be: 'One called to follow Jesus no matter what danger or ostracism is involved.' "34
It appears that there are few if any guidelines to be found in the New Testament or in earliest Christianity for ruling on who is, and who is not, Christian. And apart from a condemnation ofdocetism, there are no doctrinal criteria given whatsoever. There is, furthermore, sufficient ambiguity in the records left behind by the earliest Christians that the question of just which doctrine and what practice is authentically "primitive" has historically remained very much open. In late antiquity, each Christian sect claimed apostolicity.35 Among nineteenth-century American Protestants "each church conceived of itself as conforming more closely to the primitive church than any of its rivals."36 Why should it be so difficult to get a fix on the pure Christianity of the earliest believers? Modern biblical and patristic scholarship would reply that this is because there never was a golden age of unambiguous and unanimously held Christian truth. "The fact is," says Loraine Boettner, "that [the Church fathers] scarcely agree on any doctrine, and even contradict themselves as they change their minds and affirm what they had previously denied."37
Terms like orthodoxy and heresy seem increasingly—to modern objective scholarship—to be mere self-congratulatory epithets worked up by the victors in the dogmatic skirmishes of Christian history.38 In earliest Christianity, the two are often impossible to distinguish, at least without the benefit of hindsight. In many areas, the "heretics" were the established church, while the "orthodox" were the damnable minority. And this is not merely the case in later "apostate" centuries. The New Testament itself contains conflicting perspectives and positions that resist even the most determined harmonizer.
The great creeds and the ecumenical councils of mainstream Christendom—while they can clearly be used to demonstrate that Mormonism is out of step with the evolution of "historic Christianity"—furnish very weak grounds upon which to deny that Mormons are Christian. This is so for at least three reasons: (I) the creeds are themselves innovative, and of a nature foreign to the earliest period of Christianity; (2) the creeds are not inclusive of all those groups generally viewed as Christian; and (3) the ecumenical councils that generated the creeds have never been viewed as consigning to "non-Christianity" those whom they anathematized.39
According to Edwin Hatch, in his magisterial study The Influence of Greek Ideas on Christianity:
It is impossible for anyone, whether he be a student of history or no, to fail to notice a difference in both form and content between the Sermon on the Mount and the Nicene Creed. The Sermon on the Mount is the promulgation of a new law of conduct: it assumes beliefs rather than formulates them; the theological conceptions which underlie it belong to the ethical rather than the speculative side of theology; metaphysics are wholly absent. The Nicene Creed is a statement partly of historical facts and partly of dogmatic inferences; the metaphysical terms which it contains would probably have been unintelligible to the first disciples; ethics have no place in it. The one belongs to a world of Syrian peasants, the other to a world of Greek philosophers.The contrast is patent. If anyone thinks that it is sufficiently explained by saying that the one is a sermon and the other a creed, let it be pointed out in reply that the question why an ethical sermon stood in the forefront of the teaching of Jesus Christ, and a metaphysical creed in the forefront of the Christianity of the fourth century, is a problem which claims investigation.40Of course, certain creed-like passages can be located in the New Testament, although not of the metaphysical type popular in succeeding centuries. Both Protestant and Catholic scholars recognize 1 Corinthians 15:1 -11, for example, as a very early Christian creedal statement.41 It is quite similar to Paul's statement before Agrippa. Latter-day Saints accept it fully—and in a much more literal way than liberal Protestants. However, this makes little or no difference in the eyes of some of their critics, who still claim that Latter-day Saints are not Christians.
After a survey of the various creeds and councils, Einar Molland concludes that the Lord's Prayer is "the one creed of all branches of Christendom."42 All other creeds exclude one denomination or other that is universally recognized to be Christian. Acceptance of the Lord's Prayer, Molland implies, is good demonstration of one's Christianity. While Mormons do not use the Lord's Prayer liturgically—they have very little liturgy to speak of—they certainly accept it. Indeed, 3 Nephi 13:9- 13 has the resurrected Christ teach that prayer in the New World.43
J. 0. Sanders identifies Christianity with the so-called Apostles' Creed.44 But is this acceptable as a basic definition of what a Christian believes? According to Einar Molland, "If we take the recognition and use of the Apostles' Creed as our test, both the Orthodox Church and a number of Protestant Communions will fall outside the limits of Christendom, which would be absurd."45 While Latter-day Saints do not use this creed, they do—as some non-Mormons have observed—accept its principles.46
Some conservative bishops, even among those who were committed to the doctrinal position taken by the Council ofNicea, were very much worried by the fact that, in it, a word utterly foreign to the scriptures—homousios—was proclaimed the dogmatic standard for the church.47 This consideration ought to, but does not, give pause to those who would make of the Nicene Creed—or any of its Hellenistic cousins—the sine qua non of Christianity. In any event, the Nicene Creed is not accepted even by all those churches universally recognized as Christian.48
In 431 the Council of Ephesus condemned Nestorius and his followers. Yet the Nestorians are invariably described as Christians.49 The verdict of that council is now generally recognized to have been unjust.50 Further, the Monophysites were condemned at the Council of Chalcedon in a.d. 451. Yet they—and their numbers include the Coptic, Armenian, Ethiopian, and Jacobite churches—are invariably described as Christian.51 Is there any authority anywhere who would dispute the claim of, say, the Coptic Church, to the title "Christian"? The idea is preposterous. Is this merely a matter of some bloodless modern "tolerance"? Clearly, no. In 531 that great persecutor of the Monophysites, the Emperor Justinian, sent envoys to the Monophysite Negus of Ethiopia, requesting, "by reason of our common faith," assistance in the war against the Sassanians.52
The Fifth Ecumenical Council, in a.d 553, posthumously condemned Theodore of Mopsuestia, who had died in a.d. 428.53 Norbert Brox characterizes the period of Theodore's excommunication in terms that could also be used to describe some brands of anti-Mormonism: "A nervous, polemical climate of polarization dominated the era, in which people positively waited for their enemies to commit dogmatic or political mistakes."54 Still, he is invariably referred to as a Christian.55
A look at other major "heresies" discloses that they, too, are, in both specialist and common usage, referred to as Christian. The Montanists, for example, were a faction of the second and third centuries a.d. whose chief sin was admitting post-biblical revelation. Yet they are always called Christians.56 Their most famous convert, the great Latin father, Tertullian, is described by one historian as "the first Protestant."57 Similarly, Donatism, condemned as a heresy in ad 405, is considered to be Christian by the scholars who deal with it.58 Authorities are not at all reluctant, in discussing what is perhaps the most radical complex of heresies ever to appear in Christendom, to speak of "Christian gnosticism."59 Marcion and his followers are routinely called Christians.60
Never condemned were the "Christian Platonists of Alexandria"—who surely
represent a melding of biblical doctrines with pagan influences, and who
count among their number some of the most illustrious thinkers in the history
of Christendom.61 Even the Docetists, who seem to be the only
group that might, on the basis of earliest Christian writings, justifiably
be termed non-Christian, are not.62 Nevertheless, it may be
interesting to examine some of the specific standards that anti-Mormons
claim to derive from the Bible, and by which they claim to be able to discern
"true" Christians from false pretenders.
Though the idea of human deification waned in the Western church in the Middle Ages, it remained very much alive in the Eastern Orthodox faith.72 Indeed, as Jaroslav Pelikan notes, "the chief idea of St. Maximus, as of all of Eastern theology, [was] the idea of deification."73 However, echoes of it are still found in the work of modern writers in the West.74 Thus, for instance, C. S. Lewis's writings are full of the language of human deification.75
Related to the claim that Latter-day Saints are not Christians because
they believe that man may become as God is the assertion that the Latter-day
Saints do not view Jesus as uniquely divine. Such an assertion is fundamentally
misleading. The phrase, "only begotten Son," for example, occurs with its
variants at least ten times in the Book of Mormon, fourteen times in the
Doctrine and Covenants, and nineteen times in the Pearl of Great Price.
Surely this by itself should suffice to demonstrate the uniqueness of Jesus
in Latter-day Saint scripture and theology. However, Mormons will confess
to taking seriously such passages as Psalm 82:6, John 10:33-36, and Philippians
2:5-6, where a plurality of gods and the possibility of becoming God's
equal are mentioned. Is this truly a closed question? After all, the Origenist
monks at Jerusalem divided, in the fourth century, over this very question,
"whether all men would finally become like Christ or whether Christ was
really a different creature."76
This argument, however, presumes that it has been definitively established that the meaning of 1 Corinthians 15:29 has nothing to do with an early Christian practice of baptism for the dead. It also ignores the fact that such groups as the Montanists—who are universally recognized as Christians—practiced a similar rite.77 As Hugh Nibley has shown in great detail, many of the Church Fathers understood this verse literally, even when they did not always know what to make of it.78 But it is not only the Latter-day Saint practice of vicarious baptism that is a point of disagreement. Mormon temple rilual in general is a source of contention, because the alleged "secrecy" surrounding it is "un-Christian." But the New Testament scholar Joachim Jeremias has shown that "the desire to keep the most sacred things from profanation"—a concern shared by the Latter-day Saints—is widely found in the New Testament and in the early Christian community.79 Indeed, Jeremias argues that this was the very motive that led the writer of the Gospel of John consciously to omil an account of the Lord's Supper, "because he did not want to reveal the sacred formula to the general pub- lic."80 The second-century Church father Ignatius of Antioch was also known to have held "secret" doctrines.81 Tertullian (second century a.d.) takes the heretics to task because they provide access to their services to everyone without distinction.82 As a result, says Tertullian, the demeanor of these heretics becomes frivolous, merely human, without seriousness and without authority.83 The pagan critic Celsus probably referred to Christianity as a "secret system of belief" because access to the various ordinances of the Church—baptism and the sacrament of the Lord's supper, for example—were available to the initiated only. In his response to Celsus, Origen (third century ad.) readily admits that there are both practices as well as doctrines that are not available to everyone, but he argues that this is not unique to Christianity.84 As late as the fourth century, efforts were being made to return to an earlier Christian tradition of preserving certain doctrines and practices for the initiated only.85
The so-called Muratorian Fragment, dating from the late second century a.d., shows that at least some Christians of the period accepted the Apocalypse of Peter. Clement of Alexandria, writing around a.d. 200, seems to have admitted a New Testament canon of some thirty books, including the Epistle of Barnabas and the Epistle of Clement, and the Preaching of Peter. Origen recognized Barnabas and the Shepherd ofHermas.93
Even in more recent times, the question of canon has not been unanimously resolved. Among Reformation figures the question of canon was not entirely settled. Martin Luther characterized the epistle of James as "an epistle of straw"94—largely because, it needs to be pointed out, it seemed to disagree with his teachings of justification by faith alone. Luther also "mistrusted" the book of Revelation.95 Roman Catholics and the Orthodox churches tend to accept the Apocrypha as canonical. In fact. Eastern Orthodoxy has never really settled the question of the canon—which is, of course, rather odd if that question is all-important. It has been pointed out that the Church has priority, both logically and historically, over the Bible—that is, a group of believers existed before a certain body of texts (in this case, the books of the Old and the New Testaments) were declared canonical.96
By Augustine's time, the idea that some single great sin lay behind the visible decay of Roman society was common to both pagans and Christians.99 Augustine, indeed, may have been more inclined toward it because of his Manichaean past, which he never entirely outgrew.100 But, as Norbert Brox points out, "properly considered. Pelagian theology was the traditional one, especially in Rome. But the Africans, under the theological leadership of Augustine, managed to make their charge of heresy stick within the church, thereby establishing the Augustinian theology of grace as the basis of the Western tradition."101 Some modern scholars now raise the issue of whether Augustine, and not Pelagius, was the archheretic.102
The generations immediately following the New Testament period also recognized the need for both grace and works for salvation.109 According to the illustrious Werner Jaeger, "The oldest datable literary document of Christian religion soon after the time of the apostles is the letter of Clement of Rome to the Corinthians, written in the last decade of the first century." In it, "the special emphasis is on good works, as it is in the Epistle of James, which may belong to the same time and is so clearly polemical against Paul."110 The famous Didache, The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, which dates back to before a.d. 70, is conspicuous for its "moralism" and "legalism.111 The second century Shepherd of Hermas contains twelve commandments. There "are a summary of the duties of a Christian, and Hermas affirms that in obeying them there is eternal life." Indeed, summarizes J. L. Gonzales, according to the Shepherd of Hermas "it is possible to do more than the commandment requires, and thus to attain a greater glory.112 Ignatius of Antioch downplays Jesus as a redeemer from sin in order to emphasize Jesus as a "revealer of God." In fact, in the epistles of Ignatius the word sin appears only once. On the other hand, he could advise Polycarp: "Let your works be your deposits, that you may receive the back-pay due to you.113 "The Biblical doctrine of divine grace. God's favour shown to sinful humanity," writes F. F. Bruce, "so clearly (as we might think) expounded in the teaching of Christ and the writings of Paul, seems almost in the post-apostolic age, to reappear only with Augustine. Certainly the majority of Christian writers who flourished between the apostles and Augustine do not seem to have grasped what Paul was really getting at ... Marcion has been called the only one of these writers who understood Paul.114 But other observers, including Edwin Hatch, have identified the trend in nearly an opposite manner. To them, a growing emphasis on doctrine, on orthodoxy, came to supplant the ethical focus of earliest Christianity.115
Likewise, "Eastern Orthodox Christians emphasize a unity of faith and works. For the Orthodox, being conformed to the image of Christ . . . includes a response of our faith and works."116 In the fourth century, at least one prominent Christian bishop was teaching the necessity of rituals. "If any man receive not Baptism," wrote Cyril of Jerusalem, "he hath not salvation."117 Intriguingly, too, he writes of an ordinance called "anointing," or "chrism." "Having been counted worthy of this Holy Chrism, ye are called Christians. . . . For before you were deemed worthy of this grace, ye had properly no right to this title.118
Certain Protestant writers, sensing the danger that a "grace alone"
position could become "cheap grace" (to borrow an expression from the German
Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer) or "a theologically thin, no-sweat
Christianity,"119 have adopted positions that recognize that
works also play a vital role in salvation.120 In any event,
it hardly seems justifiable to exclude the Latter-day Saints from Christianity
because they reject the doctrine of grace alone.
A definition of Christianity that would, we believe, exclude no denominations that desire the name is a belief in Jesus as a uniquely normative person. But, rather than attempting to establish a standard of what a Christian is, it is perhaps best to take the person claiming to be a Christian at his word and to let the Lord judge. As Augustine once said, in fundamentals we agree, in other things diversity, but in all things charity.
1. Jack Weyland, "I Have a Question: When Nonmembers Say We're Not Christians, What Is the Best Way to Respond?" Ensign, January 1985, pp. 43-45,
2. For example, the October 1986 general conference address of Presi- dent Gordon B. Hinckley, "The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost," Ensign, November 1986, pp. 49-51.
3. H. Kung, Christ Sein (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1980), 135: "eher ein Schimpfname als ein Ehrenname."
4. Tacitus, Annal 15:44—quos per flagitia invisos vulgus Christianas appellabat.
5. F. F. Bruce, New Testament History (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1972), 268. Clearly, by the time of the correspondence between Pliny and Trajan, i.e., between a.d. 97 and a.d. 109, the term Christian was both well known and held in contempt.
6. Ignatius, The Martyrdom of Polycarp 10:1: cf. 12:1-2. F. D. Gealy, "Christianity," in G. A. Buttrick, ed., The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, 4 vols. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1962), 1:562, agrees that it is in the second century that the term Christian came into "common use" among the followers of Jesus themselves.
7. Ignatius, Epistle to the Romans, 3:2.
8. J. P. Meier, "Part One: Antioch," in R. E. Brown and J. P. Meier, Antioch and Rome (New York: Paulist Press, 1983), 35, thinks so. See also J. L. Gonzales, A History of Christian Thought, 3 vols. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1970) 1:76 n. 56; Walter Grundmann, "chrio etc.," in Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, eds.. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, trans. Geoffrey Bromiley, 10 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974). 9:576.
9. In a similar situation. Martyrdom of Polycarp, 3:2, speaks of "the nobility of the God-loving and God-fearing people of the Christians." Aris- tides, a Greek Christian apologist of the early second century ad., emphasized the Christians' mutual love and "superior customs." "Because of this [public-relations-style] manner of presenting Christianity, Aristides says little about the beliefs" of the Church: see Gonzales, History of Christian Thought, 1:102. A virtually identical charge is routinely made against the Mormons. The great German theologians and historians of doctrine, Albrecht Ritschi and his student Adolf von Harnack, dos Wesen des Christentums (Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1901), held that ethics and morals were the essence of Christianity—not dogma.
10. Ignatius, Epistle to Polycarp. 8:3.
11. See, for example, Ignatius, Epistle to the Ephesians, 1:1; Epistle to the Trallians. 1:1; Epistle to the Philadelphians, 7:2; cf. Ignatius, Romans 6:3.
12. Ignatius, Epistle to the Magnesians, 10:1.
13. See Meier, "Antioch," 81.
14. Pliny, Epistulae, 96,
15. Ignatius, Ephesians. 11:2.
16. Magnesians, 4.
17. Magnesians, 6:1; cf. 2:1, 7:1, and especially 13:2.
18. Magnesians, 10:3; Philadelphians, 6:1; cf. Ignatius, Romans 3:3; see also Grundmann, "chrio." 576. Ibid., 537 sees the term Christian as having arisen with the realization that the followers of Jesus now constituted a group distinct from the Jews.
19. Trallians, 9-11; cf. Epistle to the Smymaeans, 2, 5-7. Compare, in the New Testament itself, I John 4:2-3. Docetism was a real threat in Antioch to the form of Christianity advocated by Ignatius; see J. P. Meier, "Antioch," 75.
20. Trallians, 6:1.
21. Ignatius's view of' 'priesthood" is not altogether unlike that of the Latter-day Saints, who do not accept the notion that priest and prophet are naturally opposed. Writes J. P. Meier, "Antioch," 76-77: "Ignatius does not view his office as un-charismatic. Rather, in Ignatius we find a peculiar fusion of office and charism, perhaps because Ignatius has come forth from the college of prophets and teachers and still considers himself very much a man of the Spirit. ... To sum up, then: the presiding teacher-prophet at Antioch became the one bishop, the other teachers and prophets became the college of elders."
22. Trallians, 7:1-2.
23. Smymaeans, 8:1. Docetists proper tended to ignore the eucharist. presumably because they denied the incarnation; see Smymaeans, 7:1. The word strange in Lake's translation of Trallians 6:1 renders the Greek allotrios. This can also mean "belonging to another," "alien," "hostile," "enemy," or, as a substantive, "other people's property." See Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, trans. and ed. William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), 40. There may also be a possible reference to idol offerings, as at Acts 15:20, 29: 21:25; 1 Corinthians 8:4,
24. Smymaeans, 6:1 -2.
25. Grundmann, "chrio," 576 (we have transliterated the Greek of the original).
26. J. L. Gonzales, History of Christian Thought, 1:89.
27. This did not forbid the use of other titles. See K. H. Rengstorf, "manthano," in Kittel and Friedrich, eds.. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 4:457.
28. See Grundmann, "chrio," 536. Pierson Parker, "Disciple," in G. A. Buttrick, ed.. Interpreter's Dictionary, 1:845, surveying the gospels and Acts, calls "disciple" "the most frequent and general term for believers in Christ."
29. Rengstorf, "manthano," 458-59. Irenaeus (d. ca. a.d. 202), notes Pierson Parker, "Disciple," 845, "used 'disciple' as equivalent to 'Christian.'
30. A notable fact is that the word "disciple" [mathetes] occurs about 260 times in the Gospels and in Acts, yet is utterly absent from the rest of the New Testament: see Rengstorf, "manthano," 441.
31. This is a "classic passage" on the subject: thus Rengsiorf, "manthano." 458.
32. In R. E. Brown, Joseph Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy, eds.. The Jerome Bible Commentary (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968),
63:111. Likewise R. Russell, "St John," in R. C. Fuller, Leonard Johnston, and Conleth Kearns, A New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture (Nashville and New York: Thomas Nelson, 1975), 810h,
33. The New English Bible is slightly clearer here than the King James Version.
34. F. Sontag, "The Once and Future Christian," International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 19(1986): 113.
35. N. Brox, Kirchengeschichte des Altertums (Dusseldorf: Patmos, 1984), 149.
36. K. J. Hansen, Mormonism and the American Experience (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 56.
37. L. Boettner, Roman Catholicism (Phillipsburg, NJ: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1986), 78; cf. 41.
38. Such a view represents a significant shift in interpretation, but reflects the trend set by the groundbreaking work of Walter Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971); cf., for example, Robert Wilken, "Diversity and Unity in Early Christianity," The Second Century 1:2(1981): 101-10.
39. See ibid., 170, 183-84, on the problematic character of conciliar authority.
40. E. Hatch, The Influence of Greek Ideas on Christianity (Glocester, MA: Peter Smith, 1970), I. Latter-day Saints, adherents of an essentially creedless church, access to whose temples depends upon ethical worthiness far more than upon doctrinal purity, would tend to see the change as merely further evidence of the Great Apostasy.
41. D. F. Payne, "Jude," in F. F. Bruce, ed.. The International Bible Commentary, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 1591.
42. E. Molland, Christendom (New York: Philosophical Library, 1959), 360.
43. Ibid., 360. Still—strangely—Molland denies that Latter-day Saints are Christian.
44. J. 0. Sanders, Cults & Isms: Ancient and Modem. rev. and enlarged ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1962), 15; cf. K. Boa, Cults, World Religions, and You (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1984), 67. The received text of this creed probably dates back to no earlier than the sixth century.
45. Molland, Christendom, 355.
46. See Elmer T. dark, "Latter-day Saints," in V. Ferm, ed.. An Encyclopedia of Religion (New York: Philosophical Library, 1945), 432; R. C. Broderick, The Catholic Encyclopedia (Nashville and New York: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1976), 401. Mormons would weigh carefully the phrase ton sullepthenta ek pneumatos hagiou / qui conceptus est de Spiritu Sancto. the translation of which is sometimes questionable. They are concerned to affirm the divine fatherhood of the Father.
47. Brox, Kirchengeschichte. 179.
48. Molland, Christendom, 356-57.
49. F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone, eds.. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 962; S. G. F. Brandon, "Neoplatonism," in S. G. F. Brandon, ed., A Dictionary of Comparative Religion (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1970), 468.
50. As by Brox, Kirchengeschichte, 161-62.
51. C. E. Farah, Islam: Beliefs and Observances (Woodbury, NY: Barren's Educational Series, 1968), 20, speaks of "Christian Abyssinia," while on p. 30 he implicitly so labels the Jacobites. Speaking specifically of the Ethio- pians and the Arab Ghassanids, F. E. Peters explicitly calls Monophysites "Christians" at least a score of times. Monophysitism is implicitly identified as Christian by Cross and Livingstone, Dictionary of the Christian Church, 932; S. G. F. Brandon, "Monophysitism," in Brandon, ed.. Dictionary of Comparative Religion, 450. Similar references—these have been found largely at random—could be multiplied indefinitely.
52. F. E. Peters, Allah's Commonwealth (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1973), 25.
53. N. Brox, Kirchengeschichte. 186.
54. Ibid. (Translation ours.)
55. J. C. Brauer, The Westminster Dictionary of Church History (Phila- delphia: The Westminster Press, 1971), 814-15.
56. On the Montanists, see P. Johnson, A History of Christianity (New York: Atheneum, 1983), 71. They are implicitly identified as Christians in ibid., 85-86: Cross and Livingstone, Dictionary of the Christian Church. 934. The label is explicitly given to them by Clarence T. Craig, "Montanism," in Ferm, ed.. Encyclopedia of Religion, 505, and by the Oxford English Dictionary.
57. P. Johnson, History of Christianity, 50.
58. Herman Hausheer, "Donatism," in Ferm, Encyclopedia of Religion, 233; P. Johnson, History of Christianity, 83-85; C. T. Manschreck, A History of Christianity in the World, 2nd ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1985), 59; implicitly, D. W. Treadgold, A History of Christianity (Belmont, MA: Nordland Publishing Company, 1979), 71.
59. Examples of this or similar phrasing include R. E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy, eds. The Jerome Bible Commentary (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1968), 60:3; J, M. Robinson, The Nag Hammadi Library (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978), 4; H. Jonas, The Gnostic Religion, 2nd ed. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1963), 124; K. Rudolph, Gnosis: The Nature and History of Gnosticism, tr. Robert McLachlan Wilson (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1983), 118; E. Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels (New York: Random House, 1981), xxxvii; M. W. Meyer, The Secret Teachings of Jesus: Four Gnostic Gospels (New York: Random House, 1986), xvii. The astute reader will recognize that this list reads like a partial "Who's Who" of authorities on gnosticism. Cf. Cross and Livingstone, Dictionary of the Christian Church, 1423, who clearly imply Valentinian gnosticism to be Christian, and Johnson, History of Christianity, 45, who explicitly says that the Valentinians were "quite inside Christianity," C. T. Manschreck, 30, identifies both Valentinus and Basilides as Christians. IfBrox, Kirchengeschichte, 139, really denies the Christianity of the Gnostics—he is ambiguous—he is distinctly in the minority.
60. As by Manschreck, History of Christianity, 31. Johnson, History of Christianity, 46-48, implicitly so recognizes Marcion.
61. See Brox, Kirchengeschichte, 160. A classic book on the subject bears the title. The Christian Platonists of Alexandria.
62. Johnson, History of Christianity, 45, 89, implicitly identifies them as Christians.
63. Cited by Bill Forrest in "Are Mormons Christians?" (Mormon Miscellaneous Response Series) (Salt Lake City: Mormon Miscellaneous, n.d.)
65. See, for example, the index entries in Jaroslav Pelikan, The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600): The Christian Tradition, vol. 1 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971) and Pelikan, The Spirit of Eastern Christendom (600-1700): The Christian Tradition, vol. 2 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974) under "Salvation—defined as deification," as well as the appropriate index entry in A. Nygren, Agape and Eros, trans. Philip S. Watson (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982): refer also to K. E. Norman, "Divinization: The Forgotten Teaching of Early Christianity," Sunstone 1 (Winter 1975): 14-19, and Norman, "Deification: The Content of Athanasian Soieriology," Ph.D. dissertation. Duke University, 1980; Seely J. Beggiani, Early Syriac Theology (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1983), 73-78, on the Syriac tradition.
66. See P. Barlow. "Unorthodox Orthodoxy: The Idea of Deification in Christian History," Sunstone 8:5 (September/October 1983): 17.
67. Ibid.. 16.
68. G. W. Butterworth, "The Deification of Man in Clement of Alex- andria," Journal of Theological Studies 17(1916): 157-69: A. Nygren, Agape and Eros, 356.
69. K. E. Norman, "Deification"; cf. Manschreck, History of Christianity. 62: Treadgold, History of Christianity, 57. Boettner, Roman Catholicism, 82, acknowledges Alhanasius as "the champion of orthodoxy at the Council of Nicea."
70. A. Nygren, Agape and Eros, 428, note 3. And the Arians, as we have seen above, are routinely described as being Christians.
71. H. F. Davis, I. Thomas, and J. Crehan, eds., A Catholic Dictionary of Theology (New York: Nelson, 1971), 3:382; Brox, Kirchengeschichte, 189.
72. G. I. Mantzaridcs, The Deification of Man: Saint Gregory PaJamas and Orthodox Tradition, trans. Liadain Sherrard (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1984), deals particularly with St. Gregory Palamas, but is useful for the Orthodox tradition generally. We are under no illusions that such figures as Athanasius and the Byzantine fathers, given their very different metaphysical presuppositions, understood theosis in the same way as do the Latter-day Saints. We do suspect, however, thai the views of the Greeks represent the Hellenization of an earlier doctrine—which was perhaps much closer to Mormon belief.
73. J. Pelikan, Spirit of Eastern Christendom, 10, citing S. L. Epifanovic. Cf. A. Nygren. Agape and Eros. 428, note 3.
74. Apparently even Martin Luther was capable of speaking of "the deification of human nature," although in what sense or context we arc unable to say. See Jack R. Prcssau, I'm Saved, You're Saved. . . Maybe (Atlanta: John Knox, 1977), 57: A, Nygren, Agape and Eros. 734. P. Barlow, "Unorthodox Orthodoxy," 14-15, offers evidence that other post- Reformation theologians espoused a belief in deification. It is certain that the ancient doctrine had undergone massive dislocations by the time it reached the sixteenth century. It had already been "spiritualized" by ttie time of Pseudo-Dionysius; see A. Nygren, ibid., 584ff.
75. See, for example, Lewis, A Grief Observed (New York: Bantam Books. 1963), 84-85; idem. The World's Last Night and Other Essays (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1960), 9; idem. Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan Company, I960), 138-40, 174. 187. Note that the bulk of the references above arc to a book entitled Mere Christianity: this demonstrates the centralily of the concept in Lewis's thought. Cf. also Barlow, "Unorthodox Orthodoxy." 13-14.
76. C. T. Manschreck, History ofChristianity, 52.
77. Samuel M. Gilimour, "Baptism for (lie Dead," in Ferm, ed., Encyclopedia of Religion, 54. The Marcionites, also invariably referred to as Christians, observed the practice as well. Tlic practice was condemned in a d. 393, by the Council of Hippo, which certainly implies that it was still a live issue in the late fourth century of the Christian era.
78. Hugh W. Nibley, "Baptism for the Dead in Ancient Times." Improvement Era 51:12 (December 1948): 786-88, 836: 52:1 (January 1949): 24-26, 60: 52:2(February 1949): 90-91, 109-10, 112, 52:3(March 1949): 146-48, 180-83: 52:4(April 1949): 212-14.
79. Joachim Jereinias, The Eucharistic Words of Jesus (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1966). 130.
80. Ibid., 125, 136-37.
81. Ignatius. Trallians. 5: cL Gilbert W. Scharffs, The Truth About "The Godmakers" (Salt Lake City: Publishers Press, 1986). 200-202. Magnesians. 1:2. and Romans, 6:2, may possibly contain very weak allusions to a doctrine resembling eternal progression.
82. Tertullianus, Apologia, 7-8. Initiates of mystery religions were also under a strict rule of secrecy, and Tertullian likened Christianity to the mystery religions in this respect.
83. Tertullianus, De praescriptionibus adversus haereticos, 41.
84. Origen, Contra Celsum, 1:7.
85. Norbert Brox, Kirchengeschichte, 134.
86. J. A. Goldstein, "The Origins of the Doctrine of Creation Ex N\hi\o." Journal of Jewish Studies 35:2 (1984): 127.
87. B. W. Anderson, "Creation," in G. A. Buttrick, ed.. Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, 4 vols. (Nashville: Abingdon, 1953), 1:728.
88. D. Winston, "Creation Ex Nihilo Revisited: A Reply to Jonathan Goldstein," Journal of Jewish Studies 37:1 (1986): 91.
89. J. A. Goldstein, "Creation Ex Nihilo," 132. Ibid., 133, thinks that he has found an "unequivocal" Jewish insistence on ex nihilo creation in Rabban Gamaliel II, "at the latest early in the second century C.E." But see the reply by Winston.
90. Goldstein, "Creation Ex Nihilo," 135.
91. On this, and on Orthodox and Roman views, see, generally, the interesting article on "Apocrypha," in Buttrick, ed.. Interpreter's Dictionary. 1:161-69.
92. E. Isaac, "1 (Ethiopic Apocalypse of) Enoch," in J. H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2 vols. (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1983), 1:10.
93. C. T. Manschreck, History of Christianity, 33.
94. See H. Holzapfel, DieSekten in Deutschland (Regensburg: Verlag Josef Koesel & Friedrich Pustet A.G., 1925), 27; R. Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (Nashville: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1950), 177, 331-32; T. Carson, "James," in F. F. Bruce, ed.. International Bible Commentary, p. 1536; see Max Lackmann, Sola Fide: Eine exegetische Studie uber Jakobus 2 zur reformatorischen Rechtferigungslehre (Gutersloh: C. Bertelsmann Verlag, 1949), for the definitive study of Luther's interpretation of this passage.
95. Bainton, Here 1 Stand. 332.
96. H. Holzapfel, Die Sekten in Deutschland, 20, 23-37. Johnson, History of Christianity, 22, supports the view that the canonical gospels are "products of the early Church."
97. E. F. Harrison, G. W. Bromiley, and C. F. H. Henry, eds.. Baker's Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1960), 488.
98. K. Rahner, "Original Sin," in Rahner et al., eds., Sacramentum Mundi: An Encyclopedia of Theology, 6 vols. (London: Burns and Oates, 1969), 4:329; Cross and Livingstone, Dictionary of the Christian Church, 1011.
99. P. Brown, Augustine of Hippo (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1969), 388.
100. He was often accused, even after his conversion, of being still a Manichaean, rather than a Christian. See P. Brown, ibid., 203-4, 370-71, 386, 393-94.
101. N. Brox, Kirchengeschichte, 141 (translation ours). Note that Prof. Brox specifies that, even triumphant, Augustine's innovation became only the "basis of the Western tradition" (italics added).
102. See W. E. Phipps, "The Heresiarch: Pelagius or Augustine?" Anglican Theological Review 62(1980): 124-33. Latter-day Saints' views would be closer to the Rabbis'—who, after all, spent a great deal of time in meditation upon the text of Genesis—than to Mani. S. G. F. Brandon, "Original Sin," in Brandon, ed.. Dictionary of Comparative Religion, 481, summarizes: "Jewish Rabbinic thought traced man's tendency to actual sin to Adam's Fall, and explained death thereby."
103. Bill Forrest's pamphlet, "Are Mormons Christians?" contains a brief summary of the claim, and a concise but effective reply. See also G. W. Scharffs, The Truth About "The Godmakers" (Salt Lake City: Publishers Press, 1986), 18-19, 21-22, 39, 96, 191-95, 198-200, 241-42, 275. J. R. Pressau, I'm Saved, You're Saved, 1, is also apt here: "It is a scandal that the widest credibility gap among Christians is caused by the many meanings of this central doctrine of 'the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.' It's ironic that the salvation understanding gap generates so much condescension and pride from some Christians and so much suspicion and ill will from others when both were exhorted to 'love one another.'
104. Roman Catholicism is described by Van A. Harvey, A Handbook of Theological Terms (London: George Alien & Unwin, 1966), 199, as a subtle and nuanced synergism. Thus one of the canons at the Council of Trent specifically repudiates the notion of grace alone: "If anyone saith that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sin for Christ's sake alone; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified, let him be anathema" (Session VI, Canon 12), cited in Boettner, Roman Catholicism. 261. For a good summary of the Catholic position, see J. Pohle, "Grace," in Charles G. Herbermann, el al., eds.. The Catholic Encyclopedia, 16 vols. (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909), 6:689-714. As pointed out in Brauer, Dictionary of Church History, 799-800, even Luther's close associate Philip Melanchthon, disturbed by some of the implications of Luther's extreme grace-alone position, flirted with a doctrine of synergism.
105. F. R. Harm, "Solafidianism," in W. A. Elwell, ed.. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1984), 1032. Etymologically, mon-ergism conveys the idea of "working alone," while syn- ergism denotes "working together." Both terms are, of course, derived from Greek.
106. Sometime between November 1512 and July 1513, after an intense preoccupation with Paul's teaching in Romans 1:17, Martin Luther came to his doctrine of sola gratia ("by grace alone"), but, tellingly, the phrase itself is missing from the passage. See, however, the intriguing article of John Dillenberger, "Grace and Works in Martin Luther and Joseph Smith," in Truman G. Madsen, eds.. Reflections on Mormonism: Judaeo-Christian Parallels (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Religious Studies Center, 1980), 175-86, in which he argues that there is more of works in Martin Luther, and more of grace in Joseph Smith, than is generally realized.
107. See F. Somag, "The Once and Future Christian," 116-18.
108. Richard L. Anderson, Understanding Paul (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983), 185-86, 272-76; cf. 355-62.
109. Gonzales, History of Christian Thought. 1:94-96.
110. W. Jaeger, Early Christianity and Greek Paideia (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1961), 12, 15-16.
111. Gonzales, History of Christian Thought, 1:69.
112. Ibid.. 89.
113. Ignatius, Epistle to Polycarp, 6:2.
114. F. F. Bruce, The Spreading Flame (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerd-
mans Publishing Company, 1979), 334. Marcion was a second-century Gnostic Christian who distinguished between the God of the Old Testament —a mere demiurge—and the God of the New Testament, whom he termed "the Father." Thus. he rejected the Old Testament utterly, as well as any New Testament writings too much "tainted" with Old Testament ideas. He produced a canon of scripture—the first—which recognized no apostle of Jesus except Paul. The others were considered falsifiers of the gospel. It is tempting to see in Marcion the first Protestant.
115. See Hatch, Influence ofGreek Ideas, 1: Cf. N. Brox, Kirchengeschichte, 138.
116. W. G. Rusch, "Getting to Know the Orthodox," The Lutheran (2 April 1986): 12 (italics added). This view is reminiscent of the Book of Mormon, at 2 Nephi 25:23, Moroni 10:32.
117. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, 3:10.
118. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures. 21:5. On the anointing, see 1 John 2:20, 27.
119. Pressau, I'm Saved, You're Saved, 38.
120. See, for example, J. Macquarric, An Existentialist Theology (Harmondsworth. GB: Penguin Books, 1973), 144-49, for a Protestant view in the tradition of Rudolf Bultmann. And, indeed, an article by K. R. Snodgrass, "Justification by Grace—to the Doer: An Analysis of Romans 2 in the Theology of Paul," New Testament Studies 32( 1986): 72-93, argues for an interpretation of Paul himself which is quite close to the Mormon stance.