By Sharon Lindbloom
4 January 2016
Peter Leithart at First Things recently addressed the oft-heard claim that “Christians and Muslims worship the same God but understand God in partly different ways.” He explains,
“Muslims and Christians indeed share certain beliefs, and it is, of course, possible to believe different things about the same person…
“Yet the common beliefs of Muslims and Christians don’t go very deep. At every point, the two diverge. Both say, God is one; but Christians will say that the one God’s oneness is a triunity. Both say, God created the world; but Christians will say that God created through His eternal Word and Spirit.”
As Mr. Leithart develops his argument, he points out that an assessment of theology that fails to go beyond the face value acceptance of shared terminology “virtually excludes the possibility of idolatry.” In other words, if whatever one calls “God” really is God (though perhaps understood a bit differently), there can be no “false Christs” or “false worship.” Since these are things the Bible repeatedly warns against, to deny their existence is very dangerous spiritual ground on which to tread.
This is where we find many Mormons in their objections to being placed outside the camp of historic Christianity. They argue that they are Christians, because they believe in Christ. In a recent Huffington Post blog article LDS author Mette Ivie Harrison implied the absurd position of
“Christians who do not consider Mormons part of the ‘group,’ despite the fact that Mormons quite obviously believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and as the Redeemer of mankind…”
Ms. Harrison has failed to recognize the seriousness – or even the possibility – of false Christs and false worship. She knows and understands many of the differences between Christianity’s Christ and Mormonism’s different Christ. She knows that her statement regarding Mormon beliefs about Christ, if unpacked, would reveal a great chasm between Mormonism and Christianity. Indeed, she admits, “Mormons are heretics.” Yet she apparently believes it doesn’t really matter.
But it matters to God. The very first commandment He gave to Moses called for total allegiance to the one true God, the God who brought Israel out of the land of Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:7). He describes Himself as a “jealous God” who will not tolerate the worship of idols (Joshua 24:14-24). He identifies the “first and greatest commandment” as loving Him, the true God, “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37-38). He takes great care in revealing Himself throughout scripture, and differentiates His attributes from those of false gods (for example, see Isaiah 44-45). “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised,” King David sang, “and He is to be feared above all gods. All the gods of the people are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens” (1 Chronicles 16:25-26).
The “common beliefs” shared by Mormons and Christians (to borrow terminology from Peter Leithart’s article) don’t go very deep. Though Mormons and Christians both truthfully say they worship “God,” unlike the God of Christianity, Mormonism’s God did not make the heavens. Mormonism’s God is not the first and the last. Mormonism’s God is not the only true God but is, in fact, one of many.
Mormonism’s God is not merely the true God understood differently; it is a different God than God as revealed in the pages of the Bible.
Idolatry is real, and it is detestable to God. But as long as we have breath, our estrangement from Him is not set in stone. Because this God, the true God who David called “great…and greatly to be praised,” offers deliverance: “Repent and turn away from your idols, and turn away your faces from all your abominations…that [you] may be my people and I may be [your] God” (Ezekiel 14:6-11).