Offenders for a Word

The classic Daniel Peterson/Stephen Ricks historical defense of LDS doctrine, Offenders for a Word, has been put up on the FARMS website, along with a slew of other volumes.

The approach they take is one described by Stephen Robinson in  Are Mormons Christians? Some categorize Mormons as non-christian by what he calls the  doctrinal-exclusion argument, somethig like this.

1) Mormons hold belief x.

2) Belief x is not a belief of historical Christianity.

3) Therefore Mormons are not Christians.

Peterson and Ricks make the following logical  argument.

1) Mormons believe x.

2) Prominent theologian Z in century w also believed and taught x, and he/they are always considered to be Christian

3) Therefore, Mormons cannot be excluded from being Christian for holding belief x.

It’s a fairly simple framework, and an effective counter-argument. Mostly.

I’m not a fan of how the menus work on the FARMS page. Linking directly to the book doesn’t allow you to access other chapters without clicking on multiple links, since whatever section you click on replaces the full menu of all books. Clunky it may be, it’s good to see it online.

11 Replies to “Offenders for a Word”

  1. Offenders for a Word – I had no idea this Isaianic phrase was made into a full-blown title of a LDS book. But of course, that Isaiah chapter is crucial to much of our divergence.

    I will look at this Nitsav.

    What past theologians say is not nearly of consequence to me as how we take for face value what biblical prophets and apostles say in regards to Yahweh.

  2. Todd, you may be missing the point.

    A large chunk of this book consists not in arguing that so-and-so believed x and Mormons believe x, therefore x is true, but rather that you can’t call Mormons non-Christian for holding a belief that is explicitly called Christian when its an early Christian thinker who holds it.

  3. I am very impressed all this is being offered for free. Now we just need Royal Skousens critical text project free online and I’m in Hog heaven!

  4. The entire argument over who is and who isnt a Christian based upon doctrinal positions is ascriptural. The Biblical definition of a Christian is that of “disciple”, per Acts 11:26. All NT tests of discipleship are behavior based, not doctrinal. But, hey, polemicists and sophists are going to ignore this, because they would otherwise have nothing to argue about.

  5. #3 – Nitsav, let me try a different angle.

    Some LDS tag me as a “creedal Christian”.

    What about this?

    1. Creedal Christians in ancient times believed x.
    2. The contemporary first presidency and apostles also affirm some of those teachings (for example, male authority) taught by the early creedal Christians.
    3. Therefore, the LDS Church should not hesitate in being called creedal Christians, today.

  6. Your analogy is flawed, if I’m understanding you correctly.

    If a creed sets up x,y, and z as required beliefs, anyone who holds x,y, and z is a creedal Christian. If I believe x and y but not z, I’m not.

    You haven’t adequately defined belief x in relation to the creed to make an argument. Let’s say 4th century creedal Christians believe x,y, and z, but also a and b. If the first presidency accepts a and b, but rejects x and y, then Mormons are clearly not creedal even though some beliefs are shared. You see?

    Peterson and Ricks are exposing a double-standard. If scholars accept, for example, divinization as a Christian belief when ancient Christians hold it, why then are Mormons excluded from Christianity for believing in divinization? THEY can believe in divinization and still be called Christian, but WE can’t?

    Ricks and Peterson get into this fairly quickly in the first chapters of the book.

  7. I think Todd’s point is worthy of consideration. If we want to argue our Christianity on the basis of historical precedent, how much of that precedent must we accept?

    In other words, if Christians of the past believed ‘x’, and Mormons believe ‘x’ we are therefore Christians. But why isn’t it then also the case that (creedal) Christians of the past believed ‘y’, and Mormons believe ‘y’, so we are also creedal Christians?

    I don’t think it’s helpful to say, “But they believed x,y,z and we only believe x and y, so we are therefore not creedal.” In this case we should be at least creedal to the degree of x and y.

    It seems his point is that we want to have our cake and eat it too. We want to cherry pick those parts of history that work for us, but deny the parts that don’t.

    Of course this doesn’t take into account the possibility that one could believe something but not make it into a creed.

  8. That may be, Smallaxe, but that’s not the point either they or I am making.

    The book isn’t about wanting to join a club.

    As I see it, Todd is suggesting a “We *must* be included because we too affirm x” vs the authors viewpoint “we can’t *logically and fairly* be excluded because we affirm x.”

    Creeds are largely absent from the book (which I gather Todd hasn’t read.)

    Frankly, I hate the are we-or-aren’t-we arguments. I don’t mind being called non-Christian provided that the basis of the definition is made completely clear. I’m also perfectly happy calling myself a heretical Christian, which conveys that I follow and accept Christ but am not within the historical norm.

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