Now and Before
By Steven J. Grisafi, PhD.
The following is an excerpt from an article published on the website of CNN.
“Here’s the problem. Who decides what Christianity is?” says Matthew Bowman, associate professor of religion and history and Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University in California.
Professor Bowman creates controversy where there is none. The issue of interpretation of the character of the Holy Trinity has never divided those who claim to be Christian with regard to their Christianity. The schism between the Catholic and the Orthodox Church occurred because of disagreement between their respective interpretations of the character of the Holy Trinity. But neither church denied the other’s Christianity. The Orthodox Church asserted that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father alone. The Catholic Church argued that the Holy Spirit proceed from both the Father and the Son. But neither church questioned the crucial element: the divinity of the Christ. It is the acceptance of the divinity of the Christ that distinguishes Christianity from the other Abrahamic religions.
Mormons accept the divinity of the Christ regardless of their interpretation of the Holy Trinity. That makes them Christian without question. I object to the manner in which Professor Bowman has addressed this issue. By posing the question “Who decides what Christianity is?” he immediately draws upon the anti-Catholic hatred that is pervasive within the United States. It is through this manner of questioning the authority of a centralized organization that Professor Bowman invokes anti-Catholic hatred.
Martin Luther never questioned the Catholic interpretation of the Holy Trinity. So too within all of the various fragments from his original Protestantism. It is a rebellion against the central organization of the Catholic Church that motivates most critiques one hears of the Church here in the United States. While Martin Luther posted his concerns regarding, what he failed to recognize, the duality of the Church acting as both a religious organization and the only unifying secular institution within the Holy Roman Empire, nobody nowadays shows any concern about the central authority of Federalism. The symbol of the double headed eagle, found nowadays as the national symbol of several of the nations fragmented from the Holy Roman Empire, indicated this duality. While most Americans today insist upon the separation of church and state, this distinction is not wholly recognized throughout many nations of the world today. That list includes several nations within which Protestantism took firm hold and anti-Catholic hatred persists.