October 9, 2008

Appeals court rules that Mormon Church is outside of the Protestant Christian faith . . . . .


In a remarkable decision an appellate court ruled that the Mormon Church is outside of the Protestant faith. The decision came in a divorce decree contempt case by the Arkansas Court of Appeals on October 8. According to an October 9 Arkansas Democrat Gazette piece,

“Joel Mark Rownak and Lisa Monette Rownak agreed in their 2005 divorce to raise their children ‘in the Protestant faith.’ The decree bars them from promoting another religion without the other’s consent. In May 2007, Benton County Circuit Judge John R. Scott found Joel Rownak in contempt of that decree based on evidence that Rownak had ‘candidly acknowledged’ promoting the Mormon faith to his sons.”

Interestingly, Mr. Rownak, who is a Mormon testified that the Mormon faith is outside of the Protestant faith. The court, based on Mr. Rownak’s testimony and “evidence to that effect from the [Mormon] church’s Web site” ruled that the Mormon faith was indeed outside of the Protestant faith and therefore found Mr. Rownak in contempt of the divorce decree.

The significance of this ruling of course is that both an active Mormon (Mr. Rownak) and an appellate court both agree that Mormonism is not a Protestant church. The other significant aspect of this ruling is that the court has made a ruling on a theological matter. While the ruling was technically on a divorce decree contempt case, the grounds for the decision were theological.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

But the Mormon Church has always insisted that it is outside the Protestant faith. That an appellate court was able to determine this to its satisfaction based on the testimony of a believing Mormon and the official LDS website doesn't seem particularly remarkable. The theological subtext of the decision is indeed interesting, but unavoidable given the nature of the issue at hand.

Preston Condra said...

Mormons and the Mormon Church routinely claim to be Christian, but since the LDS is not Roman Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox, or Protestant, one can naturally extrapolate that Mormonism is not Christian. And this ruling really weakens the LDS Church's claims to being Christian.

Kelly said...

Hi Preston--

I really just don't think that this particular court ruling will have any significant impact on the LDS claim to being "Christian." Note that the ruling affirms that Mormonism is not a subset of Protestantism. Which just is an uncontroversial claim on both sides of the aisle.

While I generally agree with you theologically, I don't see any necessary, logical warrant for the extrapolation you've suggested is "natural."

If anything, the ruling merely affirms that Mormonism is not in line with the Protestant tradition. Again, this is an uncontroversial claim (albeit for radically-divergent reasons) for both Protestants and Mormons.

I believe this will become merely a very minor footnote in the history of Protestant-Mormon interactions with no significant implications to speak of.

Time may well prove me wrong, however.

Grace and peace to you.

Christopher Bitner Hayes, KY said...

I'm Mormon and I'll easily say that we're Christian, and not Protestant, Orthodox or Catholic. Catholics and the Orthodox Church believe they hold the authority given by Jesus Christ to his Apostles, by the laying-on of hands. Protestants believe the old Church strayed from Christ's doctrine, and now see the various protesting strains as a return to the faith. We agree with the Protestants in their view of the Old Church having strayed - where we disagree is how it was to be fully restored. We agree with the Catholics and Orthodox that an authority directly from God must be held to speak in His name. Our belief is that God restored the Church Himself by reestablishing the organization and authority we read of in the New Testament, including a prophet and apostles, and a continuance of scripture and revelation. Is that a "radical" concept? You bet! We're not out to "prove" it to anybody either. I'll offer the same challenge our missionaries do: Read the Book of Mormon and ask God, in the name of Jesus Christ, to tell you, by the power of the Holy Ghost, if it's true. If the Book of Mormon is truly an additional witness of Christ, translated by Joseph Smith, then Joseph really was a prophet, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints really is the only Church to truly speak with authority. Go ahead and throw out all the complaints, gripes, accusations, opinions, interpretations of scripture etc... that you like. I'm not online much, so it will probably be awhile before I see any replies to this. We simply suggest that folks go look for the same conviction from the Holy Ghost that confirms to them that Jesus Christ is the Savior. The Lord said He'd send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to teach us what is true. We love the Bible, and accept and worship Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and Savior of mankind. I know He knows my name, and died on the cross for you and me, and that through His grace, we can be forgiven of our sins, and because of His resurrection, we will live again after we die. So I'll say it again - if you want to know what's true, go straight to God in prayer about it until you find peace.

Anonymous said...

Give it a rest people... Unless you did not READ the total article,"HE" was the one, that stated that, "he" was the one that wanted the statement put in the Divorce decree. The ex wife, agree'ed to it, since she goes to a Baptist church & AT that time so DID HE. !!!! Since then, He has married a, guess who, a mormon.... That's why he's fighting it....

Kelly said...

Hi anon--

Since neither Preston's article nor any of the subsequent comments have even attempted to bring your obvious observation into question or doubt, I'm not able to suss the point of your response.

Moreover, no one has yet even broached the subject of "why he's fighting it." Other than you.

"!!!"

?

Anonymous said...

"...And this ruling really weakens the LDS Church's claims to being Christian."

That's a non-sequitar if I've ever heard one. One needn't "protest" the RCC or be part of the RCC to be Christian. Sure, you may have an opinion but I'd like to see some evidence that Christ agrees with you.

Preston Condra said...

Kelly,

If you do indeed agree with me theologically that Mormonism is outside of Christianity then surely you can see that the ruling by the court -a non-partial entity- confirms what Christians have historically been saying about Mormonism, that it is not Christian. Mormonism -due to its deviant theology- does not fit categorically into Christianity at all. It's not Protestant, it's not Catholic, it's not Orthodox. Hence, it's not Christian. I don't see what's so difficult to understand about that.

I'm not saying that the Mormon Church will agree with my analysis. I'm sure they won't. Nonetheless, this court's decision is significant because of it's theological nature and clearly the court decided that Mormon theology is not compatible with Protestant theology. Hence, the court decided that Mormonism is categorically outside of Protestant Christianity.

Preston Condra said...

anonymous,

Just because Mr. Rownak became a Mormon after his divorce does not change the crux of the issue at hand which is that Mr. Rownak promoted Mormonism to the children and was therefore in violation of the divorce decree because Mormonism is not Protestant.

The court’s opinion says, “the court found the LDS church not to be a Protestant faith and found that appellant had promoted the LDS faith to his sons. The court noted that appellee had not
consented to appellant’s promotion of the faith to them and, indeed, had objected to his promoting it." http://courts.arkansas.gov/court_opinions/coa/2008b/20081008/published/ca08-193.pdf

Preston Condra said...

Christopher,

The Mormon Church not only deviates from the teachings of the Bible, but the beliefs of the LDS Church are even contrary to the teachings in the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon teaches that there is one God (see Alma 11: 22-35). The Mormon Church teaches that there are many gods (see Abraham 4). And this is just one major reason why Mormonism is outside of Christianity.

Here's a good article on why Mormonism is not Christian: http://www.watchman.org/lds/aremormonschristians.htm

Anonymous said...

"The Mormon Church not only deviates from the teachings of the Bible, but the beliefs of the LDS Church are even contrary to the teachings in the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon teaches that there is one God (see Alma 11: 22-35). The Mormon Church teaches that there are many gods (see Abraham 4). And this is just one major reason why Mormonism is outside of Christianity.

Here's a good article on why Mormonism is not Christian: http://www.watchman.org/lds/aremormonschristians.htm"

Oh brother,

What you mean to say, I'm sure, is that YOU think that The Church of Jesus Christ has teachings outside the Bible. Your opinion, however, means nothing. What matters is what God thinks and He isn't saying.

It doesn't say to much about you when you reference an anti-Mormon website to explain Mormonism

Kelly said...

"If you do indeed agree with me theologically that Mormonism is outside of Christianity ...I don't see what's so difficult to understand about that."

Hi Preston--

I'm not having any difficulty understanding what you're saying. I just disagree with your view of the significance of the ruling.

Consider the following.

Prior to the ruling, we had this scenario:

(1) Protestant: Mormonism is not Protestant Christianity.
(2) Mormon: Mormonism is not Protestant Christianity.

The court determined, unsuprisingly, that

(3) Court: Mormonism is not Protestant Christianity.

After the ruling, we have the same situation:

(4) Protestant: Mormonism is not Protestant Christianity.
(5) Mormon: Mormonism is not Protestant Christianity.

Nothing has changed.

If Mormonism's claim to be Christian predates the court's ruling, and that claim is adjudicated by Mormons on grounds that are in complete harmony with the court's ruling, then it should be clear that the court's ruling is largely irrelevant to Mormonism's claim to be Christian.

The Mormon claim is terminological in nature, not creedal or theological.

I don't see what's so difficult to understand about that.

Whether or not Mormonism is Catholic or Orthodox is a straw man. After all, Evangelical Protestants are neither Catholic nor Orthodox, but that in no way, on either of our views, entails or even implies that Evangelical Protestants are not Christian. If the consistent application of a standard of judgment would falsify one's own position, then it is out of bounds in philosophically responsible engagement.

On a related note, since you've brought Catholicism into the arena, would you consider the "irreformable" dogmatics of Trent to be consistent with biblical Christianity?

If so, your theological world view is not really Protestant in nature to begin with. If not, then I don't know why one would argue that Mormonism is not Christian on the basis, in part, that it is not Catholic(!).

Moreover, since Mormonism claims to be Christian and at the very same time claims not to be Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox, one will have to dig deeper than an appellate court's ruling that Mormonism is not Protestantism in order to demonstrate one's case against that Mormon claim.

I'm not suggesting that Mormonism is a Christian denomination; I'm just suggesting that the court ruling has no significant bearing whatsoever on Mormonism's claim to be Christian.

Best to you, brother.

cks

Bruce said...

Come on you guys, if Mormons consider themselves to be a "church", where is the cross? I have never seen a cross displayed in any Mormon "church" that have been in. Just food for thought. God bless you all.

Anthony said...

when you look at the doctrine of the protestant faith and the mormon faith it is clear that the two are not the same..

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