Now at the outset let me say that I know of Olson mostly for his Quixotic tilting at the Calvinst windmill. He is a fountain of trite and demonstrably false quips about "Calvinism" so I wasn't expecting much. I try to stay out of the Calvinist/Arminian wars as best I can but I simply cannot stomach those who mischaracterize those they disagree with. Mr. Olson may get a wide audience and publish a lot of books but based on his interaction with me and with others who know a lot more about mormonism than he does, he comes across as a middle-schooler on the playground rather than a serious academic. Here is a screen shot of my comment, his response and my rejoinder that never made it through moderation (although he seemed effusive in his praise of mormon comments). Click to enlarge the photo:
"Duh, I know this"? I didn't think my comment was "Duh" worthy but there you go. I guess that is what passes for academic discourse these days.
Back to the article itself.
From the get-go the question in the title itself is ridiculous. No orthodox Christian tradition has ever considered mormonism to be Christian in any sense of the word. You might as well have a post titled "Are lemons made of uranium?". Any theologian with even a cursory understanding of Christian teaching and mormon teaching knows that we are not talking about two different flavors of ice cream, we are talking about the difference between a rock and a tree. Also, again as anyone who pays attention realizes, the mormon religion has changed tactics over the last decade or so, moving away from the prior position of emphasizing how different mormonism is from Christianity to trying to soften the public face of mormonism to emphasize the alleged similarities. I don't even know if a lot of younger mormons realize how much the alleged great apostasy and the vitriolic way that Smith describes "Jesus" speaking about orthodox Christianity is foundational to their religion. It is all P.R., as the response to LDS teachings becomes more widely disseminated thanks to the internet and their aberrant teachings more clear in the public square, mormons have had to change tactics to keep bringing in the converts. Olson seems to blithely accept that Millet is in the vanguard of the change in mormonism to become more orthodox. That is a wonderful idea but it is impossible. Every aspect of mormonism, from the "prophet" who claims direct revelation from Christ to the temples where pagan ceremonies are held to every bit of the mormon proselytizing machine would have to be torn down. My fervent prayer is that mormons as a people leave mormonism and come to saving faith in Christ but I have no hope for orthodox reform of the religion itself.
Second, Olson may consider Millet to be his buddy but Millet has no authority to speak for mormonism. When the current "prophet" declares that Joseph Smith was a liar, as he was, and that the "Book of Mormon" is a fraud, which it is, and that the teachings of all of those who came before Monson and claimed the title of "prophet" were also liars and deceivers, then we can cheer their progress. Until then this is all just a bunch of smoke and mirrors.
Third. Here is the thing about false prophets and wolves. They lie. It is kind of what they do. I don't know Millet but I imagine that someone that deep in the mormon hierarchy and with the ear of many top mormons has to know that what they teach is untrue. He has to. So his continued defense of mormonism, nuanced as it may be, is tantamount to lying and false teaching. He is a wolf, not a slightly confused Christian.
Fourth, Olson's response to fellow Christians often seemed (as shown above) to be arrogant, juvenile and downright nasty. His use of the term "Anti-mormon" to describe those who have been doing the heavy lifting of witnessing to mormons while he hides away in his ivory tower is insulting and childish. I got a chuckle of out the statement he made on his follow-up post, , where he states:
This blog is for civil, respectful, constructive dialogue, not preaching, flaming or advocacy.Ah, I see. Maybe where Olson comes from "Duh, I know this" qualifies as "civil, respectful, constructive dialogue" but it doesn't where I am from.
Olson's final paragraph is his follow-up post, What I Learned from the Responses to My Post about Mormonism tells you everything you need to know.
On the other hand I do not consider the LDS Church a cult. I consider it a quasi-Christian denomination and a Christian-based world religion. I still think there is enough Christianity in Mormonism that there is reason to hope that someday the LDS Church will emerge, as the WCG did, as a truly Christian denomination.That kind of says it all. In one fell swoop he discounts the cultic behavior that left scars on virtually everyone I know that left mormonism, myself included. I know of families that are divided and devastated by this cult. I know first hand the cultuc tactics used to scare people into staying in line On top of this he sees "enough Christianity" in mormonism and sees it as a "Christian-based world religion". In what possible way? Taking aside some common terminology with a different meaning, which Roger "Duh, I know this" Olson claims to understand, there is not one shred of Christianity in mormonism. None. It is a polytheistic, pagan religion more akin to Islam than to Christianity. Trying to find common theological ground with mormonism is like trying to find common theological ground with ISIS. That is not an exaggeration.
Mr. Olson is not doing anyone any favors with his kid gloves approach to mormonism coupled with his pompous treatment of fellow believers. Hopefully someone with more time on their hands can disassemble his posting for the benefit of the church because Roger Olson has done Christianity and those trapped in mormonism an enormous disservice.