“Christian theology exists to push us into a relationship that we can brought to the truth,” said Michael Minch, associate professor of philosophy.
The concept of the Christian identity was debated between Minch and Brian Birch, Director of Religious Studies. This has been an ongoing discussion between the two. With prodding from their mediator, Don LaVange, Program Coordinator for the Center for the Study of Ethics, a public forum was created for their debate.
While the debate did not get past semantics, the arguments revolved around two main topics: the definition of Christianity and whether Mormons fall into that definition.
Minch was first to make his argument, focusing on words and their definitions. His points were that the definition of Orthodox Christianity is made up of three points, the first, monotheism, one god and only one god. The second, Jesus of Nazareth is God and the reference to son is only metaphorical. The third, grace of God is a gift; it cannot be achieved or merited.
His argument evolved, stating that according to this definition, Mormons or LDS (Latter-day Saints) do not fall into this category of Christianity. He went on to say that early Christians did not want to rob the identity of Judaism. He equated the LDS claim to Christianity to the Fundamentalists claim to be Mormon.
“People who create their own words are the ones who get to define the words,” Minch said. “We are not what we are just because we say we are.”
Brian Birch continued this argument of whether or not Mormons are Christians. His argument was that words have different meanings in different settings and different usage.
“A concept cannot be meaningfully supplied without a border,” Birch said. There are multiple uses of the word Christian. The first, theology normative is a moral set of criteria. The second, ecumenical sense is inclusive to the historical definition. The third, secular sense is a broader connotation in secular areas.
Using the same three points that Minch used to describe and define LDS as non-Christians, Birch defined LDS as Christian. His argument went longer than he predicted when he began and took on a “general conference talk” feel.
While both side argued their points, there was no real conclusion and those in the packed auditorium were left to answer for themselves whether Mormons are Christian.