“If that’s what a Christian is, well, by that definition, I’m a Christian.”

In this video Stand to Reason’s Brett Kunkle poses as a Mormon to an unwitting Christian congregation for the purposes of equipping them to respond to the typical LDS script. There are two issues that Kunkle focuses on in the (approximately) 44 minute interaction. Unfortunately, after he reveals his true Christian identity, he does not provide the audience with ways to respond to these issues. That’s okay! We’ll do it for you.

Issue 1: What is a Christian?

Leading off (at the 2 minute mark) “Elder” Kunkle asks the audience: What is a Christian? Various members of the church essentially respond with, “Someone who believes in Jesus.” This, unfortunately, is not very helpful; and Kunkle cleverly counters by saying, “Okay. If that’s what a Christian is, well, by that definition, I’m a Christian” (2:58). His response mirrors the relatively recent Mormon tactic to appear to be just another Christian like you. Here’s the problem: simply identifying belief in Jesus doesn’t go far enough in this day and age. Yes, technically, someone must believe in (that is, put his active trust in) Jesus. But you have to make sure you have the right Jesus.

Let’s say someone told you that he was best friends with me (Nate) and that I’m a short, pale Irish chap who was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1986. Well, there’s a problem. I’m actually a tall(ish), brown Samoan born in Pago Pago in 1979. So the person who claims to be my bestie simply has the wrong Nate. Likewise, Mormons say they believe in Jesus. But here’s a question to ask them: Is my Jesus your Jesus? We Christians affirm that Jesus is the uncreated, second person of the Trinity. In other words, Jesus is God. Mormons, on the other hand, believe Jesus was created at some point in the past. He was spiritually born of a Heavenly family[1] and his physical body was produced through sex between God and Mary.[2]

So the Jesus of historic Christianity is simply not the Jesus of the LDS. Turns out these two are more like an electrical engineer and a toaster. Therefore, when asked, we must go further than simply saying: A Christian is someone who believes in Jesus. The person of Jesus must be properly defined before someone can claim to be just another Christian like you.

Issue 2: Is belief in the Trinity justified by Scripture?

“Elder” Kunkle characterizes the Trinity as “three beings who are one being” (9:04) and “Jesus is the Father and the Father is the Son and the Son is the Holy Spirit” (14:24) before pointing to a contradiction. Kunkle cleverly misrepresents the Christian view here (and nobody in the audience seems to catch on). The Trinity is understood by Christians as one being (or essence), three persons (or subsistences).[3] Mormons (and others) can say what they will but this is not a contradiction. How we infer a Trinity is simple: Scripture makes a case for it.

Point 1:

  • There is only one God (Deuteronomy 4:35, 39; 6:4; 2 Samuel 7:22; 1 Kings 8:60; Isaiah 43:10-11; etc.)

Point 2:

  • Jesus referred to Himself as God (John 8:58; 10:30).
  • Jesus claimed to do what only God could do, i.e. give eternal life (John 10:28) and forgive sins (Matthew 9:2).
  • The people Jesus interacted with understood Him to be God (John 1:1; 20:28), even His enemies (John 10:33).
  • Christians affirmed that Jesus was the exact representation of God’s being (Hebrews 1:3).

Point 3:

  • The Holy Spirit is referred to as God (Acts 5:3-4; 2 Corinthians 3:17).
  • The Holy Spirit is characterized as a person (Isaiah 63:10; John 16:13-14; Acts 13:2; etc.)
  • The Holy Spirit is referenced together with the Father and Son suggesting equal status (Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; 1 Peter 1:2).

Place these Scriptural evidences together and you have the case for the Trinity.

A Clear Lens applauds Kunkle’s excellent work in equipping Christians to engage others. We hope you get a chance to watch the entire roleplay as it is important for us to gauge our own individual levels of knowledge with regard to Christianity. We also hope that this information has been helpful to you in some regard; for, as Kunkle points out, it is our responsibility to accurately handle the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

*Get Brett Kunkle’s bio and contact info here.

[1] According to Orson Pratt in Journal of Discourses, 18:290.

[2] According to Brigham Young in Journal of Discourses, 8:115.

[3] For the purposes of this post, a full explanation of the Trinity will not be discussed. However, there is a helpful book on this subject entitled What is the Trinity? by R.C. Sproul.

19 COMMENTS

  1. Issue 1: You didn’t explain who the Proper and correct Jesus is so that we all can get it right. I’d like to see you get your Jesus right in a way that excludes Mormons as Christians but preserves the Christianity of everyone else you call Christian.

    Issue 2: You fail to recognize the “God” in the old testament is a plural noun. To believe otherwise supposes that the mortal Jesus deceived everyone by appearing to pray to His Father while teaching his disciples to do the same. There are too many accounts in the new testament making nonsense of Christ’s actions and motivations. Everything that Jesus did during his ministry was a willful subordination to his Father. “Not my will, but thy will be done.”

    One Godhead.

    • Hey, thanks for your comment!

      While not exhaustive, we don’t see how our explanation for Issue #1 is insufficient. Perhaps you can explain how it is.

      You’re correct, “elohim” is plural. But that’s not the end of the story. The verbs, pronouns, and other parts of speech providing the contextual structure of the noun “elohim” are overwhelmingly singular.

      o Consider the singular verb in Genesis 1:1 – Elohim (God) bara (“created”: third person masculine singular) the heavens and the earth.

      o Consider Psalm 82:1 – Elohim (God) nissab (“stands”: masculine singular participle) in the divine assembly. Notice it is not “Gods stand” but “God stands.”

      o Actually Psalm 82:1 is a good example of both usages of “elohim” in the singular and plural when appropriate. Here’s the full verse: “Elohim (God) nissab (stands) in the divine assembly; He judges beqereb (“among”: plural preposition) the elohim (“gods,” in this context human rulers).”

      So there’s no confusion over singular and plural usages of “elohim;” rather, they are specifically utilized and explicitly understood. By the way, the singular parts of speech corresponding to “elohim” are everywhere in the Bible. That’s why Jews and Christians who wrote the Bible (and therefore should know best) don’t agree with your interpretation.

      Long story short, if you want to say that “elohim” means a unity of Gods then you’re going to have to:

      o Resolve the overwhelming usages of singular verbs, pronouns, prepositions, and other parts of speech in syntactical relationship to “elohim” in the Bible.

      If, also, what you want to say is that a united office of Gods (i.e. the Godhead) can somehow be expressed by singular parts of speech then you’re going to have to:

      o Resolve the areas of Scripture (like Psalm 82:1) where the writers use “elohim” in the plural sense when the word clearly entails more than one personage. (For Psalm 82:1, there is a single assembly or congregation with more than one personage reflected in the plural preposition.)

      We appreciate the challenge, Robin, and the opportunity to clarify!

      • Issue 1: You still didn’t explain who the proper and correct Jesus is so that we all can get it right. Psalms/Genesis? I’d like to see you get your Jesus right in a way that excludes Mormons as Christians but preserves the Christianity of everyone else you call Christian.

        Instead, there’s Protestant obscurity with Psalm 82, where you identify Elohim (singular) standing among the gods in a grand assembly in the eternities. As a Mormon and High Priest, I agree the One God both singularly and plurally, as found explicitly in scripture. and now acknowledged by you.

        But you must agree, Christian folks have little interest in this sort of discourse beyond the acknowledgement of the plural gods among the singular God who must be paid homage by His creation and the solemn assemblies where he stands.

        You contend that the LDS (singular and plural) don’t/doesn’t have Jesus correctly while the rest of you do. It’s a dangerous and frightening world out there for your youth. We want them to be safe and sound with the people they choose to befriend. So, tell us, thousands of years down the road from the Bible(s), so that your folks do not become prisoners of fear and run away…, get your Jesus right in a way that excludes Mormons as Christians but preserves the Christianity of everyone else you call Christian.

        Or give up the charade. Simply stating an empty affirmation doesn’t halt the arterial bleeding in your Protestant collective membership.

        • Robin, we believe our characterization in the post is sufficient to answer your question. We said this in our previous response. If you don’t think it is, please explain how it is insufficient.

          You also have not addressed the particular types of challenges that we gave you in our previous response. Before we start talking about other subjects (like your interpretation of Psalm 82:1) we would like to see how you resolve the numerous syntactical problems of your interpretation of “elohim.”

          P.S. We do appreciate your responses, Robin! Our hope is not to upset you but to engage. We also appreciate your patience as our default comment program is in place to catch spam messages (of which we receive our fair share). As soon as we’re able we approve all genuine comments.

  2. 1. The post makes vague pronouncements about the LDS not knowing Jesus. That remains your unsupported premise.
    2. The post does not mention Elohim in the singular or the plural. Your offering that Elohim is plural does not help your point that you have Jesus right and the LDS do not.
    3. The post makes no reference to the Book of Psalms.

    Now in complete distraction from your premise concerning Jesus I go to the Psalm:

    4. The New English Bible reads: “God takes his stand in the court of heaven to deliver judgement among the gods themselves” (Psalm 82:1). One of your scholars, introducing a book-length discussion on this psalm, observed that “scarcely any psalm seems to have troubled interpreters more or to have experienced a wider range of interpretation and a more disturbing uncertainty and lack of finality therein than Psalm 82.” (Julian Morgenstern, (1939). “The Mythological Background of Psalm 82,” Hebrew Union College Annual, 14:29-30.) And with that, you want my interpretation?

    5. Jesus is not alone as Creator. The New Testament one cannot help but be struck with how perfectly Christ complies with the standard for a true prophet as established by Jeremiah. “I came down from heaven,” he said, “not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38). “The Son can do nothing of himself,” he declared, “but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever the doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise” (John 3:19). “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. . . . He that speaketh of himself,” he continued, “seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.” (John 7:16, 18.)

    Jesus makes it clear he does not do his own bidding.

    • Robin,

      We’re having two different conversations at this point. Maybe it’s best to recap what’s happened so far:
      In our post we clearly (although not exhaustively) showed that the Jesus of historical Christianity is different than the Mormon Jesus. One specific (and huge) difference is we believe that Jesus is God and you don’t.

      At this point we haven’t said anything controversial, Robin. Even your own Prophet Hinckley explicitly affirmed what we at A Clear Lens are saying.

      “‘Mormons are not Christians,’ they say; they do not believe in the traditional Christ. No, I don’t. The traditional Christ of whom [Christians] speak is not the Christ of whom I speak” (Church News, January, 1999; also June 20, p.7).

      This is why we suggested asking the question: Is your Jesus my Jesus? Clearly the answer is no.
      But you wrote us suggesting we need to explain ourselves further. We believe we have. And we don’t see how any of this is vague.

      Next you appealed to the Hebrew word “elohim” to make an argument that God should be understood as three Gods (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) in one office (the Godhead).

      We responded by pointing out that if you want to make that claim then you have a lot of work to do resolving the Hebrew syntax of every usage of “elohim” referring to God. As we pointed out, they are all singular parts of speech. The real problem is when three Gods refer to themselves as “I,” “Me,” “My,” etc. Why shouldn’t it be “We” or “Our”? Also, when the Jews translated the Hebrew into the Greek (for the Pentateuch) they used “theos” (singular) instead of “theoi” (plural). Why do that if God is supposed to be plural?

      Look the basic question is: If “elohim” is supposed to refer to three Gods as you suggest why is it used in the singular sense everywhere in the Bible?

      Now, we cited Psalm 82 as a good grammatical example of both singular and plural usages of “elohim.” At this point we’re not discussing the proper interpretation of Psalm 82, Robin. We’re asking you to resolve the grammatical usages of “elohim.”

      You still haven’t done that.

      Also, it seems like, in your interpretation of Psalm 82, that you’re affirming that one God (“elohim”) stands among the assembly. Well if He’s one God then you’re agreeing with us. That’s what we’ve been saying all along. And if God is one God in this grammatical sense then why is He not one God in every other instance where the same singular parts of speech are used?

      This is the particular challenge we’ve offered you and we’re still waiting for your answer.

  3. You ask “Is your Jesus my Jesus?”

    You suppose your Jesus is the right one; I get that.
    Of the hundreds of thousands of Christologies out there, which Christology binds the clear lens folk together (assuming there is only one), I wonder if your Christ is THEIR Christ? The majority of Christendom who are un”smudged” by cultural bias and religious intolerance declare members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as Christians.

    Religious intolerance is a hallmark for irrational thought and a people not particularly in Christian peace. By example, your quote of Hinkley is grammatical chaos with subordinate quotes and inserted words that the rational person would wonder what he really said instead. But chasing down the source becomes a futile exercise. Nothing like this quote exists in any LDS church publication.

    • Okay, got it. Thanks for the comments, Robin. We’re going to move on now.

      For the rest of our readers:

      We hope you’ve paid attention to what’s taken place here because this is instructive. The comments Bishop Robin made were certainly intended to challenge our post. But they never got off the ground floor as it were. When we asked for an explanation of the first claim Bishop Robin implicitly made (“Elohim” is a plural noun; therefore there is more than one God), Bishop Robin responded with more assertions and changes of subject. At the end, after we continued to request an explanation for this particular claim, Bishop Robin resorted to calling us names. That’s okay. We’re not offended. And we hope Bishop Robin is not offended either.

      Simply disagreeing with another person’s point of view is not intolerance. If that were the case, Bishop Robin was clearly being intolerant against us. But we know better than that. As Christians we should ask ourselves: Is it out of bounds to question another person’s point of view? Can we be allowed to ask these questions to a Latter Day Saint and expect clear answers? Lastly, can we reasonably expect to ask questions without being called names? We hope the answer to all of these is yes. Our overall interactions with Mormons have always been very pleasant and gracious and we look forward to maintaining that civility in future conversations.

      We pray this helps the rest of you (in some small way) in your ministries.

      • What an interesting debate. My Jesus is better than your Jesus.
        Surely a Christian is someone who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ, as presented by Him, and his followers, in the New Testament.
        How He came into being – whether he be a physical representation of an unknown, amorphous, “God” being, or a literal spiritual/physical offspring of God, the Father – would seem irrelevant.
        Either way, surely accepting Him as our Saviour, and seeking to, as He commanded, “Become Perfect” is the mark of a true Christian.
        If someone, who grew up completely unaware of the Christian churches, sects and doctrines were to read the New Testament I think they would probably conclude that Christ was a separate being from God, the Father. But the important thing from that reading would be whether it changed their life, the way they lived with their fellow man. The “Love Thy Neighbour” approach that seems to be lacking from this discussion.

        • Hi Andrew,

          Thanks for the comment! We sincerely hope that the takeaway from our post and previous comment dialogue is not “My Jesus is better than your Jesus.” The particular question we posed (in so many words) was: Are we speaking of the same person? We believe that is an entirely legitimate question to ask at this point. And we get an indication that this question is important from Jesus’ own words in Matthew 16:13-17 and John 17:3.

          Also, if someone grew up completely unaware of church doctrine and were to read the Bible, they would discover the Scriptural case for the Trinity as we presented it in our post. What someone does with the Scriptural case is entirely up to him. But we do believe the Scriptural case deserves to be wrestled with, not dismissed.

          Lastly, the important thing from reading the Gospel is not whether it changes your life but whether Jesus has the ability to pardon your sins and offer this pardon as a free gift, not because you did anything, but because of His grace and love for you. See, now we’re starting to touch on distinctly different understandings of what Jesus came to accomplish in the first place; which brings us back to our original question: Are we speaking of the same person?

          So, at the end of the day, we disagree with each other; but that’s okay. We say: Let Christians and LDS have this discussion! And let them do so with grace and clarity.

          We appreciate you taking the time, Andrew.

          • Of all scripture to use you use the intercessory prayer. Nothing stands out more than a Son talking to a Father.

            And if it speaks of the oneness you speak of then in John 17:21 Christ is asking for His Apostles/Disciples and ultimately all His followers to become one with God and Him as they are one – which will make the Tirinity fairly crowded.

            “not because you did anything”
            Apparently I do have to do something. I have to believe what you believe. So being a Catholic would stop me from being saved, being LDS also, and indeed quite a few Christians I know.

            Jesus taught us how to live, and treat others – That is the purpose of the Sermon on the Mount. And yet we don’t have to do anything? What was the point of His ministry?

          • Andrew,

            With all due respect, you’re doing the same thing Bishop Robin did; which is to stray from the issue that we are raising. We can certainly talk about your particular interpretation of John 17 after we finish discussing whether or not it is important to identify the correct person as God. At this point, that’s all we’re discussing. And the two verses we cited support what we’re saying.

            Also, faith is a disposition not a deed. While good works are a fruit of regeneration, they are not sufficient for salvation.

            • Jesus (to Nicodemus): “that whoever believes in Him shall not perish” (John 3:16)
            • Jesus to woman: “Your faith has saved you” (Luke 7:50)
            • Jesus to blind man: “Go; your faith has made you well” (Mark 10:52)
            • Jesus to Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies” (John 11:25)

            These are not selective passages, Andrew, this is the tip of the iceberg. The particular if/then relationship required for salvation (i.e. if you believe then you will be saved) is everywhere in the New Testament. Perhaps your confusion rests in thinking that the Sermon on the Mount teaches that good deeds are a requirement for salvation. We believe it’s clear that, in these teachings, Jesus is simply describing what a Christian should look like in everyday life (in stark contrast to Jewish traditions).

            If your contention is that the Sermon on the Mount teaches good deeds are a requirement for salvation, we would ask you to point us to the particular verse where Jesus teaches that. We would also ask you to resolve the passages we cited where Jesus does not mention following the Sermon’s teachings to gain salvation. We don’t believe that, in the examples we just cited above, Jesus misled those whom He was speaking to.

            Thanks!

  4. Here is my real problem with the whole “Mormons are not Christians” idea.

    I believe in Christ – the one in the Bible. I have faith in Him, that because of Him, and His Atonement I will, by His Grace, live again and be with Him.

    You tell me that I do not need to do anything more than that.

    So why do you believe I am not saved?

    No where in His teachings does it say I have to believe, or even try to understand, what God is. Only that through His sacrifice that I will be saved.

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