It is the 19th of July 2021 Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
*A quick note and thanks to Sam for filling in*
[[[One of the true joys of my life as a teacher is seeing my former students grow and learn and succeed. For the thousands of students I have taught, there are a few I have been able to watch flourish from a front-row seat. I was excited for Sam to take over the show for a week but even more delighted when I heard the shows on Ida B. Wells to a nice reference to Nazis and Indiana Jones. I dug the show on Samson Occam the most and I’m always happy to hear people clarify the distinction between Jacobites and Jacobins. Also, it’s “Le Ahn Za” and not “Le ANN Za” and I’ve been saying it wrong for many many years. My apologies.]]]
For today’s show let us head back to July of 2001. This is, of course, pre-September 11th and in the relatively peaceful calm before the disastrous beginning of the 21st century- globally- but particularly in America where decades of war, economic instability, and disaster were on the horizon.
Many in the church were in full ecumenical mode. (Some) Lutherans and (Some) Catholics signed the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification claiming that almost 500 years of strife was over. Church bodies were reversing a trend of division with union and reunion. And in the midst of this, the Mormon church made more bold forays into attempting to establish itself as an American and Global Christian church.
However the Mormon church- which had officially dropped the “Latter Day Saint” language suffered a blow in its efforts when on this, the 19th of July in 2001 The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith declared that baptisms in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are “not the baptism that Christ instituted.”
My hometown paper wrote: “The Roman Catholic Church declared Thursday that Mormon converts must be re-baptized, a setback to the Mormon Church’s effort to characterize itself as a Christian denomination.”
The Catholic Church had previously practiced “conditional baptisms”. This is a practice in many churches whereby if someone is unsure if they had been properly baptized the one baptizing says “If you are not baptized, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”.
Now- this gets to a question, or a number of questions, I have received about Mormons and their relation to the Christian church.
The Catholic Church stated that Mormonism and Mormon baptism was not the same as Christian baptism because of the essentially different understanding of the nature of God and the person of Christ.
The official teaching of the Mormon Church concerning the nature of God and the person of Christ deviates substantially from the Nicene tradition of Christology which has been in the majority since the 4th century. But this is a judgment on the official church and her teachings.
I have found that a very helpful question in the study of the church and her member is: “How many people comprehend and believe what their church officially teaches?”
And then I suppose the million-dollar question is: What makes a Christian?
(And as hopelessly Protestant as I am I think that is a question for the individual and not the institution).
The very important questions of the nature of God, the person of Christ and the question of individual salvation and baptism were raised and answered by the Vatican with their statement on the necessity of former Mormons being re-baptized- a declaration made on this, the 19th of July in 2001.
The last word for today comes from the Gospel of John, the 3rd chapter with Jesus talking with Nicodemus
5 Jesus answered, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again. 8 The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 19th of July 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by the man who makes this all sound so pretty, Christopher Gillespie.
The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis, who btw loved growing up with his Mormon friends and their full fridges of Dad’s Rootbeer.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.