BYU professor Robert Millet and evangelical scholar Gerald McDermott recently coauthored an essay for Christianity Today entitled, “Mitt’s Mormonism and the ‘Evangelical Vote’: Can conservative Protestants vote for a member of what they consider a cult?” It’s an important piece on several fronts and raises many significant questions, but my focus here is singular.

A little more than halfway through their commentary, Millet and McDermott assert that

… Mormon beliefs are not as un-evangelical as most evangelicals think. Unlike Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons hold firmly to the deity of Christ. For Latter-Day Saints, Jesus is not only the Son of God but also God the Son.

Mormons hold firmly to the deity of Christ. I like the sound of that. I desperately wish I could join the chorus. But for reasons I’ll explain below, the words ring hollow in my ears.

For nearly two millennia, historic Christianity has professed the infinite and unique deity of Christ. With regard to the former, traditional Christian teaching has vigorously maintained that the Son is true deity by virtue of the fact that he is an uncreated being who has always existed in the form of God. With respect to the latter, the New Testament is replete with explicit and implicit affirmations that Jesus possesses a wealth of attributes that are unique to the most high God. Thus, by his very nature, Jesus is superior to the entire created order. This is why the Nicene Creed calls Jesus “the only Son of God” (i.e., uniquely divine) and says that he is “eternally begotten of the Father… true God from true God” (i.e., infinitely divine).

We’re not dealing with ethereal theological theory here. In recognition of Christ’s infinite and unique deity, the early church felt free—indeed, compelled—to direct worship and prayer toward the Son. Following their predecessors, Christians today lift their petitions to Jesus and fall on their faces before him. And they find him worthy of such honor precisely because he is infinitely and uniquely God.

Mormon doctrine, on the other hand, does not teach that the Son is infinitely and uniquely God. Rather, Christ is portrayed as a created and common deity. In Another Jesus? The Christ of the Latter-Day Saints, Millet himself says that “Jesus was the firstborn spirit child of God the Father” and that “he grew in light and truth and knowledge and power until he had become ‘like unto God'” (p. 20). In other words, Christ’s divinity is finite. Further, “God is literally our spirit Father” (p. 19) and Christ is our “Elder Brother” (p. 20), meaning we are all of the same species. And since Jesus was once like us, it’s possible that we might become like him. We thus share with Christ a common nature and the potential for godhood.

Not surprisingly, these beliefs impact the practice of Latter-Day Saints, who do not offer worship (in the fullest sense of the word) or prayer to Jesus. As in the case of historic Christianity, Mormon creeds and customs go hand in hand.

It seems plain to me that Mormonism and historic Christianity have different working definitions for “the deity of Christ.”

None of this is to say that I think Millet is playing word games or trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. I’m familiar with his work and I believe he’s an honest scholar. I sense the sincerity in his words. But I also think, for reasons touched on above, that he’s wrong if he thinks Mormons and evangelicals preach the same Jesus.

Perhaps more disappointing to me is the fact that evangelical scholar and author Gerald McDermott allowed the statement about Mormons embracing the deity of Christ to stand in an article bearing his name. After all, McDermott is a respected evangelical authority who has penned books for evangelical publishers like Baker and InterVarsity. I have personally benefited from his writings and commended them to others. But, judging from his recent essay, it looks like we’re on different pages when it comes to the meaning of Christ’s deity.

I can’t help but wonder how many evangelicals will read the words of Millet and McDermott on the deity of Christ and assume that shared nomenclature means Mormons and evangelicals should share the name “Christian.” Truth be told, we haven’t exactly done a bang-up job of equipping the average evangelical on this front.

It’s been roughly two decades since a biblically comprehensive treatment of Christ’s deity has been made available to a wide audience by a mainstream evangelical publisher. Yet we’ve had bestselling book after book containing everything from newspaper eschatology to slot-machine prayers. What does this say about our priorities as western evangelicals? And dare I ask what it suggests about our future?

[It was concern over the lack of up-to-date, in-depth, and down-to-earth material on the deity of Christ that led Rob Bowman and me to write Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ (Kregel, September 2007). This blog entry has touched on subjects covered in the book (e.g., attributes of Jesus, worship of Jesus, prayer to Jesus, etc.). If there’s interest, perhaps I can post some relevant excerpts in future blog entries.]

I hope and pray that God will stir a passion in us, spark a sense of urgency in us, and instill a godly discipline in us when it comes to the “first things” of our faith—starting with the true identity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Only then will we be privy to theology that seems palatable at first but fails to satisfy in the end.

    18 replies to "Millet Lite: Mormon Scholar’s Christology Sounds Great, But It’s Less Filling"

    • JoanieD

      Thanks, Ed. That was interesting.

      You wrote something that I would like you to expand on, if you have the time. You write “…traditional Christian teaching has vigorously maintained that the Son is true deity by virtue of the fact that he is an uncreated being who has always existed in the form of God.” I agree that is what has been taught, but I don’t fully understand it. If the Son is an “uncreated being” and Jesus is a fully human (as well as fully divine) being, then isn’t Jesus himself “created” since he is a physical being? Are we saying that the Son is “in” Jesus? Jesus as a man had a birth-date, being born of Mary.

      Another thing I started wondering about lately is that Jesus commented that John the Baptist was the greatest human being born of woman. So I always took him to understand that he was referring to being “born of woman” to mean people who were born by first being conceived through the coming together of a man and a woman, which didn’t happen in Jesus’ case. But the part I started wondering about is that I always figured that God still “used” an egg within Mary to conceive Jesus and now I am wondering if maybe God didn’t even use the egg but instead conceived Jesus within Mary without a sperm or an egg. But if that is so, how can we say that he is “fully human?” In fact, if Jesus didn’t have DNA contributed by a man, how still can we say that he is fully human? Perhaps you answer all this in your book.

      Thank you for your time and I am sorry if this sounds so basic that I am silly for not understanding.


    • richards


      Thanks for bringing this out with your post and with yours and Rob’s book. I cringe when I hear other Christians refer to Mormons or JWs as “denominations”, as though they are Christians, too, like Baptist, Methodists, etc. Words have been emptied of any real meaning, becoming useless veneers.

    • tnahas

      Amen Ed!

      We need to keep in check those who name Christ as Lord and yet diminish His essential being.

      I am so looking forward to your book, Ed.

      Ed Said:

      “If there’s interest, perhaps I can post some relevant excerpts in future blog entries”

      Bring it on bro!

    • Chad Winters

      Nice post Ed!! (I already pre-ordered your book 🙂

      I agree we have to understand that language has fallen to relativism as well
      and it is no longer enough to say “I believe Jesus is the Son of God” Now we have
      to ask “what do you mean by that?” In almost all of theology you can see people who
      seem to agree on topics if surface language is used, until you nail down how they define those terms

    • C Michael Patton

      Sure . . . give Ed all the good comments!

      Great post Ed. It is amazing that this type of affirmation can make it into a mainstream Christian magazine such as Christianity today without notice or challenge.

    • Threepwood

      Thank you thank you thank you thank you.

      I’m glad others share my argument about the cults who claim to be Christian. We have Christian meetings and I know for certain that Mormons attend. One even asked if he could help educate others in “our belief.” Ahhh. I don’t have the authority to say no, but I have to make sure that he doesn’t whip out the book of Mormon. Although they agree with the diety of Christ, I think you said that they also believe that we will eventually have the same status as our Savior and God also has a wife. I’m crossing myself as we speak. (At the same time I am also looking up to see if your book can be purchased anywhere near here.)

      Keep up the great work.

    • Eriol


      A couple of answers off the top of my head (FWIW). Your questions have to do with anthropology and the nature of the Incarnation, both important theological matters.

      Jesus is from everlasting, i.e., He always has been and always will be. He existed prior to the Incarnation, at which time He took upon Himself the likeness of human flesh. His embodiment had a beginning but He was always in existence: personhood, as I understand it, resides in the spirit of the person. The Person of Jesus Christ, the Second Member of the Triune God, took upon human flesh and was fully human.

      Second, it is no problem for God to create a human zygote and implant it in Mary: He created the first human form and then breathed life into him; He can easily create another human form in which the Son of God may dwell and to which the Son gave life. Jesus’ earthly body had the DNA given Him by God, even as Adam’s DNA had been given to him by God.

      Hope this helps. Sorry if it’s confused or too abbreviated.

    • Chad Winters

      Well Michael, you should take heart in the fact that no one can engender an exciting debate like you do!!

      P.S. am I the only one who has all the right sided text invisible in the reply box as you’re typing?

    • tnahas


      Michael is just playing with us. He knows I’m right.

      Yes Chad the text does disappear, except one of my computers actually lets you see it all.

      You have two options. Be very eloquent and short on the left side or type in word and copy and paste.

    • tnahas


      Michael is just playing with us. He knows I’m right.

      Yes Chad the text does disappear on the right except for one of my computers, it lets me see it all.

      You have two options. You must type eloquently and short on the left side or type in word and then copy and paste.

    • C Michael Patton

      No, it is an IE thing. If you update to IE7, it won’t happen.

    • Ed Kratz

      Thanks for the great post Ed, it is discouraging to see an Evangelical scholar like McDermott co-author an article like this. As a layman myself, I find it difficult to determine which books or articles to read and often go by reputation to determine the worthiness of such materials.

      Things like this always throw me for a loop, and when I pick up a book that has forewords or recommendations from scholars that I respect only to find that books author is contrary to the Evangelical Christian understanding of the topic at hand I’m equally discouraged and confused.

      How is a layman such as myself to know who and what to read when it seems people who hold to a specific view appear to put their names on anything as long as it opens a door for discussion?

    • Ed Komoszewski

      Thanks for the comments, everyone!

      Joanie, you’ve asked some important questions related to the logical coherence of the Incarnation. I’ll try to address each one succinctly and separately in future blogs. Please be patient with me; I have major project deadlines this week and next.

      Taffy, I’ll try to start posting some excerpts from the book in a week or two.

      Ed Kratz, you raise a very valid concern. As you know, I’m eager to converse with folks of different theological persuasions—even if those folks fall outside the pale of what I consider to be orthodox. But such conversations can never involve compromise on essentials of the faith. We can be friendly without being fickle; we can watch our tone without changing our tune.

      I’m not bothered, in itself, by the fact that an evangelical and a Mormon spoke jointly through an evangelical megaphone. But the distortion made me cringe. There’s simply no way that a Jesus whose godhood had a starting point and can be duplicated in other humans is comparable to the Jesus whose eternal, one-of-a-kind deity is professed by evangelicals. But even with an evangelical co-author and evangelical editors, a different impression was allowed to stand.

      This is by no means an isolated incident. A few years back I read a book about Jesus that was published by one of the largest evangelical publishing houses on the planet. In that book, the author flatly stated that Jesus swapped his divinity for humanity. I couldn’t believe that he had written that, and I was even more stupefied that none of the editors caught it.

      So what’s an average layperson to do? Three quick thoughts come to mind. First, learn to sniff bad theology by systematically studying good theology. The Theology Program provides this opportunity in a biblically grounded, historically sensitive, widely accessible way. Those of you, like Ed Kratz, who have been through the program know its value on this front.

      Second, listen to more than one voice. It’s troublesome (and a bit creepy!) when people put a particular pastor, professor, author, etc., on a lone pedestal. I’ve known more than one person who would only read books by John MacArthur, sit under a pastor trained at DTS, or take a course led by Michael Patton. [Okay, I just added the third example for the sake of style.] Just as a single nutrient consumed alone and in excess can become toxic to the body, too much exposure to one limited perspective can produce theological blind spots. This is why Reclaiming the Mind Ministries is committed to exposing folks to various viewpoints within the Christian tradition, as can be clearly seen in our list of past guests for the Converse with Scholars webcast.

      Third, continually watch your doctrine—and let others see it, too. Our theology is not something that we construct and then file away for retrieval as needed. It requires continual maintenance and ongoing refinement. Practically speaking, I think we should all, at any given time, be doing something to grow in our theological knowledge. This may mean putting the Christian living book or inspirational novel down for awhile. And it will certainly mean letting our guard down. Theology is meant to be done in community, with growing transparency that lends itself to genuine accountability. But theological community doesn’t exist merely for the sake of checks and balances; it’s the means by which God has ordained that we all grow.

      I believe that there’s a certain protection that accompanies broad, balanced learning in the context of community. We simply need to do what we can in these three areas and lean heavily on God’s grace, asking him to set us—and keep us—on paths of truth.

    • JoanieD

      Ed Komoszewski, I look forward to your future blogs. Thanks for your reply.

      Eriol, thanks for your reply too. So do you think God created the zygote and placed it in Mary, not using one of Mary’s eggs at all? I am sorry if this kind of question offends anyone and surely hope it does not. If God did NOT use one of Mary’s eggs, then, in a way, Mary is not the biological mother of Jesus at all. Jesus just “borrowed” her womb to grow as a human being. She surely would be his mother in the sense that she raised him, the same that any adoptive mother would be. And that makes her just as important, but different.

      I will be very interested to see what Ed has to say about this.

    • Chad Winters

      Interesting questions Joanie…

      Personally I feel the Bible does not give enough information to come to a conclusion on those questions.

    • iakobusdoulos

      Amen, Ed, I have a brother who was sucked into Mormonism because he fell in love with a Mormon girl. He had to become Mormon to marry her in the “Temple.” I guess it was a nice ceremony, I didn’t attend, and made pretty pictures for the wedding album, but the marriage didn’t last and now he’s totally confused as to what to believe.
      PLEASE, know for a fact…THERE IS INTEREST!
      Looking forward to buying the book Ed. I’ve read all I could on the web about it. I’m excitedly waiting in anticipation. It sounds great!

    • mcdermott

      This is Gerald McDermott, the
      evangelical theologian some of you
      think is flirting with heresy.
      The point of our op-ed in CT online
      was to say that, when considering
      presidential candidates, we are voting
      for a president, not a theologian. And
      that plenty of other presidents have
      had wacky theologies.
      On the LDS and Jesus, it is a fact that
      the Mormon view of Jesus is far better
      than the JW view, which is fully Arian.
      They do indeed believe Jesus is fully
      God–altho, as some of you have
      rightly said, their Jesus was not
      always God. He “grew” into God.
      If you read our forthcoming book
      (Claiming Christ), you will see that
      over and over I repeat my thesis, that the
      the LDS Jesus is not the Jesus of
      classic orthodoxy.

      Gerald McDermott

    • Steve St.Clair

      In case you have not already seen it, my blog contains excepts from chapter 12 of Blake Ostler’s just-published second volume of “Exploring Mormon Thought”, on “God the Eternal Father”. He is the philosopher who came for the workshop of BYU and Talbot Philosophy students at Biola last year, and is of course one of the three LDS thinkers (along with Steve Robinson and Robert Millet) that the editors of “New Mormon Challenge” suggested are emphasizing the right things at this point in time. Blake takes a very different approach to the King the Follett Discourse and the Sermon in the Grove toward the end of Joseph Smith’s life, and combines it with scriptural studies to give a very different picture of the Godhead/Trinity, God’s and Christ’s eternal divinity, and no need for an infinite regress of Gods.

      Also, David Paulsen and Brett McDonald have just published their paper comparing Joseph Smith’s view on Godhead with the Social Trinitarian model now accepted by many Christian, including Evangelical, philosophers. Richard Mouw considers it an important step. See this link:

      Thanks for letting me know what you think;
      Steve St.Clair

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