One Faith: Are Islam, Mormonism, & Jehovah’s Witness Christian

docThe following is a question I received in regard to our recent Wednesday night Bible Study post – The Rock Church Live: Exodus.

Questions:

What is the meaning of “one faith” in Ephesians 4.5? Is it Christianity? If so, then are Islam, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witness, etc. basically denominations of Christianity? If these are not denominations of Christianity then what is the one Faith?

One could, if he had the inclination, write a book based upon the premises inherent in these questions. I, on the other hand, will attempt to answer these questions as succinctly as possible. Let us begin then, with a look at Paul’s meaning of “one faith” in Ephesians 4.

Answers:

Q1: Is [“one faith] Christianity?” The short answer to the first question is yes. Unity in the body of Christ is the heart of the text in Ephesians 4. Paul’s repetitive use of one (i.e., one Lord, one faith, one baptism) clearly stresses his intended emphasis on unity.  In light of the unity motif the phrase “one faith” seems to refer to the unified belief system of Christianity.[1]  Paul confirms this in 4.13 by describing the content of the message of the apostles, preachers, teachers, and evangelists as the “unity of the faith.”[2] Paul seems to be asserting that the doctrinal message passed on by these teachers are the tenants of the fundamental doctrines of the “one faith” known as Christianity.

Q2: Are Islam, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witness, etc … denominations of Christianity?” The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines denomination as “a religious organization whose congregations are united in their adherence to its beliefs and practices.”[3] If we take this definition as our standard then the short answer to the question is no. Islam, Mormonism, nor the Jehovah’s Witness are denominations of Christianity. They do not meet the definition of denomination because they do not adherence to Christian doctrine. I believe this can be shown by examining each group’s view of two fundamental Christian doctrines – namely the Christian doctrines of Christology (the Doctrine of Christ) and Soteriology (the Doctrine of Salvation).

Since a complete discussion of Christology would be too cumbersome for the task at hand, we will narrow the focus of our discussion by isolating one of the core elements of Christology – the Deity of Christ. In short, the Christian doctrine of the Deity of Christ posits that Jesus Christ is God incarnate. He is equal to God (Philippians 2.5-11). In fact He is God. He was not created, but coexisted eternally with the Father and the Spirit (John 1.1-3).

Secondly, the Christian doctrine of Soteriology, simply stated, is that radically depraved because of our inherited sin nature. Left to himself man is destined toward judgment and wrath because of his sin. However, the Godhead , in eternity past decreed that Christ, the second Person of he Trinity, would be incarnate and become the propitiation (appeasement offering) for sin making it possible for human beings to be saved from God’s wrath and reconciled with Him for all of eternity. The appropriation of God’s redemption comes by God’s grace alone, through faith alone (Ephesians 2.8-9), in Jesus Christ alone (John 14.6; John 3.18) with no admixture of human works. These two doctrines are inextricably linked and fundamental to Christianity. They are so important that the apostle John’s epistles remind us of the importance of maintaining the truth of these doctrines of the faith. Denying either of these is enough to disqualify one from being able to claim the name Christian. Now that we have a cursory understanding of our two fundamental Christian Doctrines, let us see how Islam, Mormonism, and Jehovah’s Witness measure up.

I will attempt to allow the Qur’an to show how Islam expressly denies the Christian doctrine of the Deity of Christ and crucifixion of Christ thereby illustrating that Islam is not a denomination of Christianity. The following texts from the Qur’an should suffice to make our point:

Surah[4] 6:100-101 “Yet they made the jinn partners with God, though He created them, and without any true knowledge they attribute sons and daughters to Him. Glory be to Him! He is far higher than what they ascribe to Him, the Creator of the heavens and earth! How could He have children when He has no spouse …”[5]

Surah 2:116 “They have asserted, ‘God has a child.’ May He be exalted! No![6]

Surah 4:66 “People of the Book, do not go to excess in your religion, and do not say anything about God except the truth: the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, was nothing more than a messenger of God, His word directed to Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in God and His messengers and do not speak of a ‘Trinity’ – stop [this], that is better for you God is only one God, He is far above having a son…”[7]

Surah 5:72-73 “those who say, ‘God is the Messiah, son of Mary,’ have defied God. The Messiah himself said, ‘Children of Israel, worship God, my Lord and your Lord.’ If anyone associates others with God, God will forbid him from the Garden, and Hell will be his home. No one will help [such] evildoers. Those people who say that God is the third of three are defying [the truth]: there is only One God if they do not stop what they are saying, a painful punishment will afflict those of them who persist.”[8]

Surah 9:30 “…the Christians said, ‘The Messiah is the son of God’: they said this with their own mouths, repeating what earlier disbelievers had said. May God thwart them! How far astray they have been led!”[9]

Surah 4:157 “…they uttered a terrible slander against Mary, and said, ‘We have killed the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the Messenger of God.’ (They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, though it was made to appear like that to them; those that disagree about him are full of doubt, with no knowledge to follow, only supposition: they certainly did not kill him – No! God raised him up to Himself. God is almighty and wise.

Surah 7:8-9 “On that Day the weighing of deeds will be true and just; those whose good deeds are heavy on the scales will be the ones to prosper, and those whose good deeds are light will be the ones who have lost their souls through their wrongful rejection of our messages.”[10]

The fundamental doctrine of Islam, in my opinion, is the “absolute” oneness of God (i.e., a complete denial of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity). By denying the Trinity Islam denies the Deity of Jesus Christ. Islam  also expressly denies the crucifixion of Jesus Christ as atonement for the sins of humanity. Moreover, as stated in Surah 7.8-9, Islamic Soteriology is inextricable linked to human works rather than the substitutionary atoning work of Jesus Christ through His death, burial, and resurrection. Since Islamic doctrine denies our two fundamental Christian doctrines, Islam cannot be defined as a denomination of Christianity.

Secondly, we will take a look at how Mormonism views the Deity of Christ and Soteriology. Let us begin our discussion with the Mormon view of the Doctrine of Christ. Mormon doctrine teaches that Jesus is a created being brought into existence as a spirit child by heavenly parents.[11] In fact Mormon Doctrine states that “Christ is literally our Elder Brother. Since all men are the personal spirit children of the Father, and since Christ was the Firstborn spirit offspring, it follows that he is the Elder Brother of all men.”[12] These Mormon doctrines are in complete contrast to the Christian doctrine of the Deity of Jesus Christ which states that He was not a created being but rather the eternal God of creation who has eternally coexisted with the Father and the Spirit. Moreover, the Mormon doctrine of “spirit children” is not congruent with the Christian doctrine of Anthropology (the doctrine of man). Furthermore, the Mormon belief that “Heavenly Father” (God) conceived all of humanity as “spirit children” with his spouse “Heavenly Mother,” is also contrary to the Christian doctrine of God (Theology Proper). These discrepancies with Christian doctrine are enough to deem Mormonism as non-Christian.

Mormon Soteriology suggests that Heavenly Father devised a plan to help his spirit children attain their highest level of achievement. The plan included sending them to earth as mortal children whom he knew would sin. He then needed to devise a plan of salvation to redeem them and help them attain righteousness. Two of his spirit children, Jesus and Satan, offered their respective plans and he chose Jesus’ plan.[13] As a part of his plan men could attain salvation by grace through faith in Christ, engaging in good works[14], and accepting acknowledging that Joseph Smith is a true profit of God.[15] Again, Mormonism fails the test of Christianity by adding the works of men to the doctrine of Salvation. Therefore, based upon Mormon theology we must conclude that Mormonism is not consistent with fundamental Christian doctrine and cannot be considered Christian or a denomination of Christianity.

Finally, let us turn our attention to the doctrines of the Jehovah’s Witness. We will once again start with the doctrine of the Deity of Christ. On their online library the Jehovah’s Witness have a question and answer teaching format which includes questions concerning Jesus Christ. One of the questions asks, “Is Jesus actually God?” Their answer is “No. Jesus never considered himself equal to God.” [16] Jehovah’s Witness teach that Jesus was “God’s first creation,” thus further denying the Deity of Christ by denying His eternality.[17] Obviously, Jehovah’s Witness doctrine is in direct conflict with Christian doctrine concerning the person of Christ.

What do Jehovah’s Witness believe about the doctrine of Soteriology (i.e., Salvation). Remember, Christian Soteriology states that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone with no mixture of human works (See Ephesians 2.8-9). While Jehovah’s Witness doctrine teaches that faith in Christ is important to salvation, it is not the exclusive means of salvation.[18] Like most cult groups salvation for the Jehovah’s Witness is based on the work of Christ and the works of men. The Jehovah’s Witness  doctrine of salvation includes the acquisition of biblical knowledge.[19] This is not all, however, when it comes to attaining salvation via Jehovah’s Witness Soteriology. According to a Watchtower[20] article entitled “You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth – But How?,” there are four requirements one must meet to attain salvation.[21] The first we have already discussed; namely attaining knowledge of God and of Christ.[22] The second requirement is to be obedient to the laws of God.[23] The third requirement for salvation is to be aligned with the only “organization” God is using to accomplishing His will (i.e., the Jehovah’s Witness or Watchtower organization.[24] The fourth, and final, requirement for salvation according to Jehovah’s Witness doctrine is to faithfully “advocate his Kingdom rule to others.”[25] These tenants of Jehovah’s Witness doctrine are confirmed in an article called “Jehovah’s Witnesses: Working Out Their Salvation.”[26] Just like our previous religious groups, the Jehovah’s Witness doctrine of Soteriology is based upon the works of men rather than the work of Christ. Therefore, Jehovah’s Witnesses fail to meet the requirements to be a denomination of Christianity.

While much more could be said about these subjects, we have briefly compared and contrasted the Christian doctrine of the Deity of Christ and Soteriology with the corresponding doctrinal beliefs of Islam, Mormonism, and Jehovah’s Witnesses in order to ascertain whether or not either of the three was consistent enough with Christian doctrine to be considered a denomination of Christianity. Based upon the preponderance of the evidence presented it is painfully obvious that neither Islam, Mormonism, nor Jehovah’s Witness beliefs are consistent with Christian belief. Therefore, we must conclude that neither of the three are consistent with Christianity and cannot be considered as Christian.

[1] Frank Thielman, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Ephesians, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010), p. 258

[2] Ibid.

[3] Meriam-Webster, accessed online February 1, 2015, available at http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/denomination.

[4] A Surah is kind of like what we would call a book in the Bible or a chapter in a book.

[5] The Qur’an, translated by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), p. 87-88.

[6] Ibid., p. 14.

[7] Ibid., p. 66.

[8] Ibid., p. 75.

[9] Ibid., p. 119.

[10] Ibid., p. 94.

[11] Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, (Salt Lake  City: Deseret Book Company, 1996), p.200.

[12] Ibid., p. 156.

[13] Ibid., p. 193.

[14] James Talmage, Articles of Faith, (Salt Lake City: The Desert News, 1919), p. 78-79.

[15] Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrine of Salvation, Volume 1, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft Publishers, 1954), p. 188.

[16] “Jesus Christ: Our Questions Answered,” The Watch Tower, Volume 4/1, 2012, Available at http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2012242, (accessed February 2, 2015), p. 5-6.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] “This Means Everlasting Life,” The Watch Tower, Volume 6/1, 2012, Available at http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2012407http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2012407, (accessed February 2, 2015), p. 9.

[20] The Watchtower is one of the primary teaching publications for the Jehovah’s Witness.

[21] “You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth – But How?,” Watchtower, February 15, 1983, Available at https://carm.org/religious-movements/jehovahs-witnesses/four-requirements-salvation-watchtower-organization, (accessed February 2, 2015), p. 12-13.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Jason Barker, “Jehovah’s Witnesses: Working Out Their Salvation,” Watchman Fellowship, Available at http://www.watchman.org/articles/jehovahs-witnesses/jehovahs-witnesses-working-out-their-salvation/, (accessed February 2, 2015).

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About Ronnie Knight
Follower of Christ, Husband, & Father. B.A. in Theology Masters of Divinity

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