Baptist Scholar Roger Olson Says Mormonism Is Becoming More Christian

Roger Olson
Roger Olson

Though strong theological differences remain between Mormons and traditional Christians, a Baptist scholar said he believes a gradual shift is occurring among LDS scholars “toward a somewhat more biblical and even evangelical account of Christ and salvation.”

While political alliances between Southern Baptists and Mormons on issues like same-sex marriage are nothing new, a Baptist scholar says the two camps have more in common theologically than many assume.

Roger Olson, a theology professor at George W. Truett Theological Seminary, said in a June 12 blog he categorizes the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints neither as scary cult nor orthodox Christianity. Rather, based on extensive study of Mormon literature and dialogue with LDS scholars, Olson described Mormonism as a fluid belief system that he can envision someday “evolving into a Christian denomination.”

Olson said Mormonism “is a bit amorphous” and always evolving. In his experience, he said, most of the harshest critics of the LDS haven’t kept up with changes in the church nor read the current literature.

Olson said much anti-Mormon criticism draws on enigmatic statements of past presidents, whom Mormons consider as prophets, but aren’t considered infallible or authoritative for all Mormons today.

Olson said Mormons engage in practices like men wearing special underwear that many evangelicals deem “curious or even odd,” but those are a part of their tradition and don’t bother him.

When it comes to theology, he said, the LDS leaders “very much want their religion and church to be considered authentically Christian — the fourth ‘branch,’ as it were, of Christianity: Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Mormon.”

The scholars he knows aren’t monolithic. Asking in private their views of the relationship between Mormonism and historical Christianity, one friend told him “Mormonism is to Christianity as Christianity is to Judaism.”

“I thought that was a somewhat fair description — in the sense that I perceived Mormonism to be qualitatively different from, even if rooted in, Christianity,” Olson said.

When he told others they reacted negatively, insisting that Mormonism, as espoused by the LDS Church, is most definitely Christian, but “with a difference.”

“In other words, they explained, it is not ‘orthodox Christianity’ but true Christianity.” As an orthodox Christian, he respectfully disagrees.

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SOURCE: Baptist News Global
Bob Allen

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