Heretics Abound! Marcion, Montanus and Mormonism
Carried in an enlightening article entitled "Comparing LDS Beliefs with First-Century Christianity," published in the official magazine of the Mormon Church, was the following statement:
"The argument that Latter-day Saints cannot be Christians because they practice baptism for the dead presumes that it has been definitely established that 1 Corinthians 15:29 has nothing to do with an early Christian practice of baptism for the dead.
"The argument ignores the fact that such second-century groups as the Montanists and Marcionites - who are invariably referred to as Christians - practiced a similar rite," (Ensign, March 1988, p. 8).
Were Marcion and Montanus truly considered Christian? What were the teachings of such men that modern Mormonism wishes to claim as theological companions?
As Dr. Everett Ferguson, graduate of Harvard University, notes under the heading Marcion, "Second century heretic, founder of church that rivaled orthodox Christianity.
"Jesus Christ was not the Messiah predicted in the OT but a revelation of the God of love. This Christ was not born but simply appeared; he only seemed to suffer and he raised himself from the dead.
"Reaction to Marcion speeded up the formulation of the orthodox canon, creed and organization of the church," (Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Walter Elwell, ed., pp. 685-686).
It is astonishing that Mormonism would extol Marcion, a heretic, as its vital link with early Christianity!
Dr. Bruce Shelley, professor of Church History at Denver Theological Seminary, provides further insights on Mormonism's champion of the faith.
"About A.D. 140 a wealthy and much-traveled shipowner from Sinope on the Black Sea came to Rome. His name was Marcion.
"...Marcion fell under the spell of the gnostic teacher Cerdo, who believed that the God of the Old Testament was different from the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.
"Marcion developed Cerdo's distinction. He held that the Old Testament God was full of wrath and the author of evil.
"...Marcion rejected the entire Old Testament and also those New Covenant writings that he thought favored Jewish readers -- for example Matthew, Mark, Acts and Hebrews.
"Marcion's garbled Christian views were firmly repudiated by the church in Rome and Marcion was excommunicated from the church in A.D. 144.
"Some of the Marcionite beliefs spilled over into the various gnostic sects, and Marcionites were themselves affected by gnostic views," (Church History in Plain Language, pp. 78-79; for further information on Gnosticism, see New Age/Old Lie elsewhere in this issue).
It seems peculiar that Mormonism, being tritheistic (three gods), having a completely different view of God than Marcion had, would elevate him to the position they apparently have. They are attempting to prove that they are Christian because Marcion was a Christian.
However, as has been demonstrated, Marcion was a heretic! Where then does this leave Mormonism? Perhaps Montanus will shore up the buckling pillars of Mormon theology.
As Dr. Shelly observed, "If Marcion, a heretic, nudged the churches into thinking about forming a New Testament, another troublemaker, Montanus, forced the churches into thinking about closing it," (Ibid, pp. 79-80, emphasis mine).
Unfortunately for the LDS Church, in picking Marcion and Montanus, they have chosen two second century heretics.
"...sometime between A.D. 156 and 172 Montanus appeared, a voice in the wilderness of Asia minor. He came with a demand for a higher standard and a greater discipline and sharper separation of the church from the world. Had he halted there, he could have done little but good, but he went much further.
"He and his two prophetesses Prisca and Maximilla went about prophesying in the name of the Spirit, and foretelling the speedy second coming of Christ. That in itself was not extraordinary.
"But these new prophets, in contrast to prophets in biblical times, spoke in a state of ecstasy, as though their personalities were suspended while the Paraclete spoke in them. ...when Montanist insisted that opposition to the new prophecy was blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, many churches split over the question.
"The prophet claimed the right to push Christ and the apostolic message into the background.... Christ was no longer central.
"It was not that the church had ceased to believe in the power of the Holy Spirit. The difference was that in the first days the Holy Spirit had enabled men to write the sacred books of the Christian faith; in the later days the Holy Spirit enabled men to understand, to interpret and to apply what had been written," (Ibid pp. 80-81).
Montanus began to claim that his prophecies superseded the written word of the apostles. He explained that the new prophetic words were of greater importance.
As a reward for Montanus's theological position, Dr. H.D. McDonald, former Vice-Principle of London Bible College, explains, "In 230, the group was virtually excommunicated: the Synod of Iconium refused to recognize the validity of Montanist baptism," (The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, J.D. Douglas, ed., p. 674).
While Marcion had little theological similarity with Mormonism (it is a mystery why LDS writers would attempt such a coupling), Montanus did have at least one common characteristic with Mormonism. The shared link is a prophetic word which supersedes the Bible.
Like the prophets of Montanus, Prisca and Maximilla, Mormonism has its own modern-day prophets whose revelations supersede the Bible (Following the Brethren, Ezra Taft Benson, transcript of speech given 2/26/80, Point #2).
Dr. Carl F.H. Henry, founding editor of Christianity Today and author of several books on theological movements, clearly explains that a balanced biblical position will, "...rule out claims of supernatural prophetic inspiration for postapostolic personages, be they Joseph Smith, Ellen G. White, Mary Baker Eddy, or contemporary relig¬ious spokesmen," (God, Revelation and Authority, Vol. 4, p. 431).
Dr. Henry continues by quoting Dr. F.F. Bruce, who is one of the greatest authorities on New Testament theology and scriptural reliability.
"But F.F. Bruce rightly notes that the New Testament pays less attention to prophetic inspiration in the church than to the authority of the apostolic witness. He comments:
"`Prophetic utterances themselves required to be checked... not so much by the activity or those gifted with the discernment of spirits as by the agreement or disagreement with the apostolic witness.
"`On the contrary, the process of canon-making received a considerable impetus from the necessity of controlling prophetic utterances, especially after the rise of the Montanist movement,'" (Ibid, p. 432).
The test for prophetic utterances was not simply their reliability or even necessarily their accuracy. Rather it was the test of the written word. Did the prophetic proclamation agree with the scriptures?
Mormonism, in order to prove its position has claimed theological partnership with Marcion and Montanus.
In the article, "Comparing LDS Beliefs with First Century Christianity," the Ensign has failed to examine first century Christianity. Instead, they have pointed to second century heretics.
Marcion and Montanus are not "invariably referred to as Christians" but rather are des¬cribed as heretical.
Even if Marcion and Montanus were classic examples of first century Christianity, LDS theology violently disagrees with the theological positions of both men.
Marcion, Montanus and Mormonism are simply three forms of heresy which disagree with each other and biblical Christianity.