What if Mormons are right?

There’s an interesting article that I would recommend:  “What if Mormons are right, and Catholics and Protestants are wrong?”

The full article (and well worth the read) can be found here.

The author asks the important question “Why are the Catholic bishops so concerned about Mormons baptizing dead parishioners?”

His article is referring, in case you weren’t ware, to a recent and ongoing controversy over use of records of the Catholic Church by Mormons in their ongoing genealogical endeavors, to discover and trace back ancestors and create complete genealogical trees, which are also used to perform ordinances for those that have died.

He suggests that the practice of baptism for the dead makes more sense than the practice of baptizing babies, since throughout Christendom it’s agreed that the soul lives on after death and maintains “understanding and consciousness of self”, which is more than can be said of babies, who have no understanding at all.

What’s more, the practice of baptism for the dead, he points out, wasn’t invented by Mormons, but rather was a common practice of early Christians for more than 300 years after the Crucifixion, and was only abandoned after a close-run, highly heated debate, which he describes as an effort to hamper growth of competing sects.

He concludes that if we (Mormons) are wrong, then who cares, what does it matter?  But if we’re right, then there’ll be a lot of people in the hereafter that are awfully grateful the Mormons had the inspired guidance to restore a practice that dates back to Christ’s original church.

His argument is much similar to one in the Bible where the apostles were brought before the court, and the argument was given that they should be allowed to preach, for either they are right, in which case what they teach is good, or they’re wrong, in which case it doesn’t matter.

For those who might be less familiar, baptism for the dead refers to the practice of allowing the saints to be baptized by proxy, for those who have already died.  It’s a doctrine and practice that is sublime, a clear manifestation of God’s mercy, and a key element in his eternal plan of the salvation of man. 

For baptism is a required step unto salvation (“Except a man be born of the water and of the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” John 3:5), but what of those who have died without a knowledge of Christ, or an opportunity to hear and accept his Gospel?

Either they are eternally damned for something over which they had no control, or there must be a way provided for them.

Most Christian religions today subscribe to the former view, believing that they were somehow simply “not selected” for salvation, and as such, are eternally damned. 

But such an argument contradicts the notion of a just, fair, and merciful God.  For if Christ’s mercy is sufficient for all, why not for them?  This is the “sufficiency paradox” which I describe in detail here

But the doctrine and practice of baptism for the dead is a key element in understanding the real meaning of the atonement, and the concept of “sufficiency”.  Indeed, and it is my solemn testimony, that for those that have died before, without an opportunity to hear and accept the gospel, a way has been provided.

Hence, why in the original church of Christ, and why as a part of the restored church of Christ, we have the practice of baptism for the dead (see also 1 Corinthians 15:9).  That those who have passed before, might have the opportunity yet in the life beyond death, and before judgment, to accept the gospel, and have the work of baptism done for them, by proxy.

The doctrine and practice of baptism for the dead is yet another instance of the loss of purity of the gospel of Christ over time, as saving doctrines and practices such as this, have been slowly eroded and even removed.  But this apostasy was not to be forever, for in 1820 the lord appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith in a grand vision that would change the world forever, and would initiate a complete restoration of the fullness of the gospel to the earth today.

To learn more about the prophet Joseph Smith, see www.JosephSmith.com

Realizing the reality of that grand vision is the quintessential question of our time, for as I explain here – if Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, then the fullness of the restored Gospel is available today, in a church led by living prophets, with ordinances performed by the power and authority of God, the one and only path to perfection.

My hope is that awareness of the sublime doctrine, along with the ancient and restored practice of baptism for the dead will lead many to discover the many other restored truths that can be found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (The Mormons).

Rusty


46 replies
  1. Ray Hoyt says:

    Question

    In John 3:5, “Jesus answered … Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Now what does it mean here when it talks about water? Being born of the water and the Spirit?

    Answer

    Well, some folks suggest that it is referenced to baptism. That in order to be saved you must not only be born of the Spirit but you must enter into water baptism. However, that is one thing that this verse does not mean. It’s not a reference to water baptism.

    If you look over in John 4:2 you might be interested in noting that is says, “Though Jesus Himself baptized not, but His disciples.” Salvation is accomplished other than by baptism. Jesus was involved in leading many people to salvation. I would be convinced that the woman at the well was truly saved and Jesus did not baptize her, at least there is no record of that. Jesus led the thief on the cross to Himself and said, “This day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise” and He never entered into baptism. There’s no reason to believe that there is water here in John 3:5.

    And another thought is that Nicodemus to whom Jesus was speaking, wouldn’t have the remotest concept of Christian baptism, because Christian baptism never even occurred until the day of Pentecost. And that was after Jesus had died; that’s a long time in the future; and been risen from the dead. So that Christian baptism is something way in the future. Nicodemus, who was a teacher of Israel, a ruler of the Jews, would have had absolutely no concept. And when you said to Nicodemus, “You must be born of the water and the Spirit,“ Nicodemus without any further clarification wouldn’t have thought, “Oh, I got to be baptized like the Christians are.“ There weren’t any Christians yet. They weren’t called “Christians“ till Antioch Antioch and baptism wasn’t even instituted as the rite for the identification of a Christian at the point of salvation, till after Jesus had died.

    Well other people say, “The water doesn’t mean baptism but the water means physical birth.“ That what Jesus is saying to him is you must be born physically, and we use the term the water breaks and that the baby is encased in water, and what He is saying here is you must be born of water and Spirit, in order to enter the Kingdom of God. But that is a ridiculous statement to make to an old man like Nicodemus, to tell him he must be born, he knows that. If he wasn’t born he wouldn’t be trying to get in the Kingdom of God anyway. And I hate to destroy some folks thoughts about this but the Greeks didn’t call it “water“ anyway. It isn’t really water, we just call it that in English, but let us not assign our medical colloquialisms to the Greeks. They didn’t term it that. And Nicodemus certainly wasn’t thinking about that.

    You say, “Well, what water is it?“ Well it’s clearly the water that Nicodemus would understand and for that you go back to Ezekiel chapter thirty-six. If Nicodemus was a teacher of Israel and an authority on the Old Testament he would have only thought of one passage. One familiar, famous, well known passage and that would have been the key to interpreting to what Jesus said. And that is why Jesus never went any further with His statement then to say “water and Spirit” and leave it there–because Nicodemus would have understood.

    In Ezekiel chapter thirty-six verse twenty-four, we have the promise of God to the nation of Israel to be fulfilled when the Messiah comes. “I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.” Now watch, “Then will I sprinkle clean water on you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you…”

    Now notice, He says, “I will wash you with water, and cleanse you of sin and place my spirit in you.“ That’s the water Nicodemus would have understood. It is the water of cleansing that occurs at salvation. If you want to put it in Paul’s term “it is the washing of the water by the Word,” that occurs when you’re saved. It isn’t baptism, it isn’t physical birth, it is simply the concept of cleansing that occurs at the point of regeneration and salvation. You must have that promised cleansing and the implanting of the Spirit, to enter into the Kingdom Of God. That’s what He is saying, so don’t confuse baptism, or the water that we associate with physical birth with the concept that Nicodemus would have understood.

    And that is a good point to remember. Whenever you are studying a Bible passage, remember, that what is said will have it’s primary interpretation located at the point in time in which it was said to the people to whom it was said. And it is important that you reconstruct that situation so that you will understand. Nicodemus clearly understood: “Oh, what You are saying is there must be a purification of the inside, and there must the planting of God’s Spirit within my heart, to make me fit for His Kingdom.“ That’s exactly right.

    Reply
  2. Rusty Lindquist says:

    Thanks for taking the time for such an lengthy comment. I happen to disagree with your interpretation of the scriptures (surprise, surprise), but appreciate your taking the time to clarify your views.

    It’s interesting, some of the interpretations you make of scripture though. For instance, you suggest that Christian baptism didn’t occur till after Christ had died. Would a Christian baptism somehow exclude Christ’s own baptism?

    Regarding Christ’s own baptism, how do you approach a scripture such as Matthew 3:13-16, stating that baptism is necessary, even his own (coincidentally by water), to fulfill all righteousness?

    I might suggest that inadvertently you have offered evidence of the very subject to which I refer – the loss of truth over time necessitating a full restoration of the gospel of Christ. Here is a scripture, seemingly plain and simple “be born of water and of the spirit”, with repeated evidence of such baptism by water throughout the New Testament, even by Christ himself – in water to “fulfill all righteousness”, but then here are some today who say “well, he didn’t really mean water”. But he SAID water, and he backed that up with his own example of baptism by water.

    Repeatedly throughout the New Testament we find teachings such as that illustrated by Acts 2:37-38 “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said… what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

    Acts itself is a great book to use actually, since it illustrates the administrative affairs of the church established by Christ, and therefore paints a perfect example of the course to follow. Looking just within Acts itself, we find the following references, each of which teaching this same doctrine of “if you believe, be baptized”: Acts 8:12 (the people of Samaria), Acts 8:13 (Simon of Samaria), Acts 8:36-38 (Eunuch of Ethiopia), Acts 9:18 (Saul/Paul ), Acts 10:47-48 (Cornelius baptism commanded), Acts 16:14-15 (Lydia), Acts 18:8 (Corinthians), Acts 16:30-33 (the Jailer), Acts 19:5 (re-baptism), Acts 22:16 (Paul’s teaching).

    Additionally, baptism by water was practiced by Christ’s early church, as recorded by ancient saints such as Justin Martyr (100-165 A.D.), Irenaeus, and Clementine Homilies. So there is ample record (outside of the bible) of the earliest saints carrying on the teaching of water baptism.

    But, and bringing it back to the point of this post, if baptism weren’t necessary, why then would his original church have practice baptism for the dead? Mark 16:16 makes it clear… “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”

    So while we can debate and debate about whether or not Baptism is essential for salvation, and whether or not it must involve water, the conclusions we draw are irrelevant. Christ is the judge, all we can do is follow his example, and the teachings he set forth in the scriptures, each of which point to one clear course – baptism by water, including that done for the dead.

    Rusty

    Reply
  3. Ringer says:

    First, it is quite clear from such passages as Acts 15 and Romans 4 that no external act is necessary for salvation. Salvation is by divine grace through faith alone (Romans 3:22, 24, 25, 26, 28, 30; 4:5; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 3:9, etc.). If baptism were necessary for salvation, we would expect to find it stressed whenever the gospel is presented in Scripture. That is not the case, however.

    We’re not saved by the water—that’s not going to save you. “By grace are you saved, through what?” “Faith, that not of yourself, not of works…not of works.” Paul says in I Corinthians 1:14, “I’m glad that I baptized none of you.” Now, if that was a saving act, how could he say that? It doesn’t save you—you can go through all the water you want and not be saved. And, I have to confess that you can be saved and not be baptized, but you’re in a condition of disobedience. Baptism produces nothing but blessing. Nothing but the joy and the reward of obedience. Nothing but the affirmation of God to an obedient child. It doesn’t save you, it doesn’t make you holier than somebody else…it just brings you the blessing of obedience—that’s what it does.

    Peter mentioned baptism in his sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38). However, in his sermon from Solomon’s portico in the Temple (Acts 3:12-26), Peter makes no reference to baptism, but links forgiveness of sin to repentance (3:19). If baptism is necessary for the forgiveness of sin, why didn’t Peter say so in Acts 3?

    Paul never made baptism any part of his gospel presentations. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, Paul gives a concise summary of the gospel message he preached. There is no mention of baptism. In 1Corinthians 1:17, Paul states that “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel,” thus clearly differentiating the gospel from baptism. That is difficult to understand if baptism is necessary for salvation. If baptism were part of the gospel itself, necessary for salvation, what good would it have done Paul to preach the gospel, but not baptize? No one would have been saved. Paul clearly understood baptism to be separate from the gospel, and hence in no way efficacious for salvation. Perhaps the most convincing refutation of the view that baptism is necessary for salvation are those who were saved apart from baptism. We have no record of the apostles’ being baptized, yet Jesus pronounced them clean of their sins (John 15:3–note that the Word of God, not baptism, is what cleansed them). The penitent woman (Luke 7:37-50), the paralytic man (Matthew 9:2), and the publican (Luke 18:13-14) also experienced forgiveness of sins apart from baptism.

    The Bible also gives us an example of people who were saved before being baptized. In Acts 10:44-48, Cornelius and those with him were converted through Peter’s message. That they were saved before being baptized is evident from their reception of the Holy Spirit (v. 44) and the gifts of the Spirit (v. 46) before their baptism. Indeed, it is the fact that they had received the Holy Spirit (and hence were saved) that led Peter to baptize them (cf. v. 47).

    One of the basic principles of biblical interpretation is the analogia scriptura, the analogy of Scripture. In other words, we must compare Scripture with Scripture in order to understand its full and proper sense. And since the Bible doesn’t contradict itself, any interpretation of a specific passage that contradicts the general teaching of the Bible is to be rejected. Since the general teaching of the Bible is, as we have seen, that baptism and other forms of ritual are not necessary for salvation, no individual passage could teach otherwise. Thus we must look for interpretations of those passages that will be in harmony with the general teaching of Scripture. With that in mind, let’s look briefly at some passages that appear to teach that baptism is required for salvation.

    In Acts 2:38, Peter appears to link forgiveness of sins to baptism. But there are at least two plausible interpretations of this verse that do not connect forgiveness of sin with baptism. It is possible to translate the Greek preposition eis “because of,” or “on the basis of,” instead of “for.” It is used in that sense in Matthew 3:11; 12:41; and Luke 11:32. It is also possible to take the clause “and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” as parenthetical. Support for that interpretation comes from that fact that “repent” and “your” are plural, while “be baptized” is singular, thus setting it off from the rest of the sentence. If that interpretation is correct, the verse would read “Repent (and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ) for the forgiveness of your sins.” Forgiveness is thus connected with repentance, not baptism, in keeping with the consistent teaching of the New Testament (cf. Luke 24:47; John 3:18; Acts 5:31; 10:43; 13:38; 26:18; Ephesians 5:26).

    Mark 16:16, a verse often quoted to prove baptism is necessary for salvation, is actually a proof of the opposite. Notice that the basis for condemnation in that verse is not the failure to be baptized, but only the failure to believe. Baptism is mentioned in the first part of the verse because it was the outward symbol that always accompanied the inward belief. I might also mention that many textual scholars think it unlikely that vv. 9-20 are an authentic part of Mark’s gospel. We can’t discuss here all the textual evidence that has caused many New Testament scholars to reject the passage. But you can find a thorough discussion in Bruce Metzger, et al., A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, pp. 122-128, and William Hendriksen, The Gospel of Mark, pp. 682-687.

    Water baptism does not seem to be what Peter has in view in 1Peter 3:21. The English word “baptism” is simply a transliteration of the Greek word baptizo, which means “to immerse.” Baptizo does not always refer to water baptism in the New Testament (cf. Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; 7:4; 10:38-39; Luke 3:16; 11:38; 12:50; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; 11:16; 1 Corinthians 10:2; 12:13). Peter is not talking about immersion in water, as the phrase “not the removal of dirt from the flesh” indicates. He is referring to immersion in Christ’s death and resurrection through “an appeal to God for a good conscience,” or repentance. I also do not believe water baptism is in view in Romans 6 or Galatians 3. I see in those passages a reference to the baptism in the Holy Spirit (cf. 1Corinthians 12:13). For a detailed exposition of those passages, I refer you to my commentaries on Galatians and Romans, or the tapes of my sermons on Galatians 3 and
    Romans 6.

    In Acts 22:16, Paul recounts the words of Ananias to him following his experience on the Damascus road: “Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.” It is best to connect the phrase “wash away your sins” with “calling on His name.” If we connect it with “be baptized,” the Greek participle epikalesamenos (“calling”) would have no antecedent. Paul’s sins were washed away not by baptism, but by calling on His name.

    Baptism is certainly important, and required of every believer. However, the New Testament does not teach that baptism is necessary for salvation.

    Reply
  4. mormonsoprano says:

    Rusty, excellent post.
    Ray, you are correct that there must be an inner purification, and a baptism by the Holy Spirt. But you are mistaken to think that baptism by water is not necessary for salvation.

    In regards to baptism by water, you have forgotten the most important record pertaining to baptism in the Bible which is the baptism of Jesus Christ himself.
    Matthew 3:13-17. Jesus came to John the Baptist at the river Jordan. When John the Baptist asked Jesus why Jesus, a perfect being, needed to be baptised by John – Jesus replied “Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.” Jesus stated that baptism is necessary for complete righteousness in all things. It requires a considerable stretch of the imagination to think Jesus would go to John at the River without getting into the water. The scripture says that he did. It states Jesus “went up straightway out of the water” after the baptism. He couldn’t come up out unless he went in. It was only after this baptism in water that Jesus was baptized with the Holy Spirit which “decended like a dove” upon him. Thus, Jesus himself showed the perfect example of what all must do.

    Jesus himself did not perform baptisms during his ministry. It was given to John the Baptist to perform this work. After John was beheaded, the priesthood was not lost. Jesus returned to his apostles after his resurrection and bestowed the power and authority to baptize in His name upon his apostles – then he commanded them to “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16)

    The manner of baptism by water is very clear. The importance of baptism is obvious.

    Baptism requires not a “little” water either, but “much water”.

    “And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized”

    If water was not needed for baptism, or only a little bit for sprinkling or pouring, then John could have baptized anywhere. But he specifically needed MUCH water – a large body of water in order to baptize by immersion.

    Matthew 21:25-26 states that John’s method of baptism was “from heaven”, divinely apointed. Mark 1:4-5 states John preached the “baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” which was performed “in the river Jordan”. I’ve never been in a river without getting wet.

    Romans 6:3-6 explains baptism by immersion in water is symbolic of being buried and rising again like Christ.

    The story of Peter and the first convert Cornelius is another significant example. Acts 10:47-48
    From this example we learn that no matter how righteous one may be who seeks after truth, the Lord directs him to one of his servants who has been ordained to the priesthood so that he can be baptized at his hands and be instructed.

    However, after the baptism of water, comes the “baptism of fire” – or, The Holy Spirit. which purifies and sanctifies. Both baptisms are critical. But the water must come before the spirit can enter in. (John 3: 1-5; 9-10)

    Peter taught this principle on the Day of Pentacost. They heard the word, and they wanted to know what to do next. Peter told them (Acts 2:37-39) “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ of the remission of sins, and [THEN] ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” And he states that this promise is extended to “all”. Which brings us back to Rusty’s wonderful point of his post – if Christ extends this promise to ALL, then how can he exclude those who died without the chance? This is the great and glorious truth. Baptism of the dead was instituted in Christ’s ancient church (1 Cor. 15:29), and it is restored today.

    Christ told the man on the cross that he would be in paradise this day” with him, because that is exactly where everyone goes after this death. However, paradise is not the final resting place. It is a waiting room until the final judgement. Holy scripture states that the preaching of the gospel will take place in paradise, and that is where souls will have the chance to accept baptism by proxy. (John 5:25, Malachi 4:5-6, 1 Peter 4:6). Many more scripture has been revealed through modern-day prophets on this subject. It is a beautiful and critical doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Reply
  5. Ringer says:

    Acts 2:38 says, “Repent, and be baptized for the remission of sins.” Some people think, “Well, that means you can’t have your sins forgiven or remitted unless you’re baptized.” Is that what it’s saying? It could be translated, “Repent, and be baptized because of the remission of sins.” That’s a construction that is used, for example, in Matthew 12:41—the same construction translated that way. But, even it says, “Repent, and be baptized for the remission of sins,” the baptism doesn’t save you. The baptism is evidence of genuine repentance and an obedient heart—it’s just a way to demonstrate the genuineness.

    Because, you see, when a Jew was…if you were listening to Peter preach on the day of Pentecost and you were going to go and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, you were going to be baptized in the name of the one who was probably hated more than anybody else by the Jewish leadership. You were going to wind up losing your family, your social status, your job, your right to attend the synagogue…everything. You would become immediately indigent and homeless. The price was very high…you would become a pariah, a social outcast. But, true faith will pay the price, count the cost.

    So, when Peter says, “Repent and be baptized,” he’s saying, let’s see, if the repentance is real, you’ll take the stand. If the repentance is real, you’ll respond in obedience no matter what the price. Baptism was the immediate and inseparable indicator of salvation. True believers were obedient and they were baptized. Day of Pentecost: three thousand were saved and three thousand were baptized. The apostles insisted on it. If a convert was not willing to be baptized—in the early church, there was little confidence in his repentance. There was no such thing as an unbaptized church. There was no such thing as all kinds of unbaptized believers. Baptism was obedience and obedience was the fruit of repentance.

    “Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. So, in submitting to baptism, Jesus is showing us how critical obedience is. So critical that He did it, even though there was no need for Him to go through any kind of cleansing, any kind of repentance, any kind of confession of sin. Yes, I think Jesus, when He was going through that baptism by John and being immersed in water, anticipated that that’s what His death, burial, and resurrection was going to be like and that out of that would come a new symbol of baptism. But, He did it to fulfill all righteousness.

    So, baptism is clearly a ceremony—very simple, somebody immersed in water and it has a spiritual significance of great importance. What is the history of it? It really is sort of a transition from proselyte baptism, which was also to identify some one as a sinner who is repentant, confessed his sin, and desired new life…and desired to be associated with the kingdom of the true and living God and His Son, the Messiah.

    Reply
  6. Rusty Lindquist says:

    Ringer,

    I’ll try to find some time to go through and comment on some of the specifics in your posts, for there are important aspects that deserve coverage (not to mention the time you spent deserves a more complete response). But the meat of your response can be addressed simply…

    You wrote in conclusion: “…the New Testament does not teach that baptism is necessary for salvation.”

    Mark 16:16 “He that believeth AND is baptized shall be saved” (emphasis is mine).

    Can you help me understand the ambiguity of this, or how you reconcile this verse?

    I’m unsure how two people can read “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved”, and one comes away thinking he has to believe and be baptized, while the other comes away thinking “I just have to believe”. It confuses me, then again I find myself easily confused.

    Thanks in advance.

    Reply
  7. Howard says:

    Ray Hoyt; It isn’t baptism, it isn’t physical birth, it is simply the concept of cleansing that occurs at the point of regeneration and salvation.

    Please explain the difference between the concept of cleansing that occurs at the point of regeneration and salvation and baptism.

    Doesn’t baptism include the concept of cleansing that occurs at the point of regeneration and salvation?

    Reply
  8. ryan says:

    I think you all make excellent points. And aren’t you essentially saying the same thing?

    Baptism on the day of Pentecost was an outward manifestation of repentance and faith. It is the same today. The symbolic nature of baptism by immersion is glorious–water for cleansing, burial of the old selfish self, and arising anew. Each of you has touched on these points.

    So now we are discussing whether one HAS to be baptized for salvation? Who cares! A well known, witty authority within the Mormon church named J. Golden Kimball spoke of baptism in this way. “You can lead some men down to the waters of baptism and you can dunk them under and pull them out again, and even do it over and over again, and you still aren’t going to make them any cleaner–baptism won’t make any difference . . . unless you keep ’em under.”

    I acknowlege Ringer’s comment that baptism is not the means to salvation. Baptism alone is meaningless. It requires faith, then repentence. Those that truly believe and have a true change of heart will want to be numbered among Christ’s believers. This is when baptism is important. Then we are granted the full companionship of the Holy Ghost.

    I said, “who cares” earlier. This was mainly to parallel the original post–if it’s not true, it doesn’t matter. But if baptism is a requirement, I won’t let a few ambiguous passages keep me from entering heaven. So I do care. If Jesus did it to fulfill all righteousness, then I can too.

    Reply
  9. Howard says:

    Baptism is not necessary to be “saved” in the Christian sense of the word, but baptism by one having priesthood authority opens the door to the celestial kingdom and being together with our families for eternity.

    Reply
  10. Eric Nielson says:

    This was an excellent article, by a non-Mormon. He appears to at least be objective enough to begin to ‘get it’.

    And what lengths evangelical types will go to dismiss things like baptism!

    Reply
  11. Margaret says:

    Again, a terrific discussion of Mormon doctrine. I sure am glad I’m Baptized with Priesthood authority and have done it for many of my ancestors. I really want to be with them in the next life!

    Reply
  12. Jim B. says:

    Rusty,

    First, it is both ludicrous and dishonest to claim without qualification that baptism for the dead “was a common practice of early Christians for more than 300 years after the Crucifixion”. It was a common practice for a very few heretical groups like the Marcionites. I challenge you to name one orthodox Church father who mentions the practice favorably. Tertullian, Chrysostom, Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria all mention the practice in connection with heretical groups (chiefly, the Marcionites).

    Second, you continue to purposefully misrepresent the Christian notion of sufficiency.

    “But such an argument contradicts the notion of a just, fair, and merciful God. For if Christ’s mercy is sufficient for all, why not for them? This is the “sufficiency paradox”…”

    You continue to incomprehensibly argue that if (non-Mormon) Christians don’t espouse universalism, then they are guilty of the “sufficiency paradox”. We’ve gone over this before, yet you continue to employ this silly argument. Let’s try again:

    When Christians speak of the sufficiency of Christ’s atoning sacrifice on Calvary, they DO NOT SAY THAT CHRIST SAVINGLY DIED FOR EVERYONE. They are speaking to the complete adequacy (sufficiency) of what Christ purchased for the believer; that Christ’s life and death perfectly fulfilled the Old Testament law and prophecies; that Christ’s sacrifice purchased salvation, sanctification and glorification for all those who believe.

    You’re confusing sufficiency with EFFICIENCY. Christ’s cross is sufficient for all – it secures all that is required for salvation for the believer. However, Christ’s cross is only EFFICIENT for those who repent and trust in Christ alone, through faith alone, by grace alone. Admittedly, Christians differ on the question of EFFICIENCY, but only in the how and why, not the what. This gets into questions of God’s sovereignty, free will, etc.

    Please, Rusty, for the sake of honest dialogue, stop misrepresenting the orthodox (non-Mormon) Christian faith.

    Lastly, I don’t care if you try to get my genealogy, or my local church’s genealogy, for the purposes of baptizing the dead. While I believe it is a waste of time, and a biblically unsupported practice, it certainly doesn’t do me any harm.

    God Bless

    Reply
  13. Howard says:

    First, it is both ludicrous and dishonest to claim without qualification that baptism for the dead “was a common practice of early Christians for more than 300 years after the Crucifixion”.

    Baptism for the Dead in Ancient Times, Hugh W. Nibley

    In 1895 there was found in Egypt a Coptic papyrus purporting to contain an account of the teaching of Christ to his apostles after the resurrection. The most learned church historian of modern times, Adolf von Harnack, was prompted to point out that this document was neither “a provincial production of the Egyptian Church” nor a brainchild of the Gnostics, but an authentic statement of certain important doctrines of salvation and resurrection common to the whole Christian church at a very early date. Shortly after, Carl Schmidt, second only to Harnack in his knowledge of early Christian documents, produced a number of ancient fragments, matching the Coptic text word for word in a half dozen languages and showing it to be derived from the Greek original of an apostolic general epistle which had enjoyed widespread authority and popularity in the church at least as early as the second century. The subject of this epistle was salvation for the dead, a doctrine which, as Schmidt demonstrated, was believed in the early church to have been the main theme of Christ’s teaching after the resurrection.

    Enjoy: http://farms.byu.edu/publications/transcripts/?id=67

    Reply
  14. Rusty Lindquist says:

    Thanks Howard.

    Jim, if you don’t believe it, that’s fine. Ours is not the responsibility to convince you of the validity of the ordinance, or of its biblical roots. Rather, ours is the responsibility to proclaim the gospel, and let the elect souls we’ve mentioned earlier, listen and understand. Will all be convinced by the truth? Not hardly. Even when Christ himself taught, only a few listened and understood, only a few were prepared, only the elect.

    Secondly, if I continue to inaccurately articulate your understanding of sufficiency, I apologize. I really do. It is only because I truly don’t get it. Still, even after all these discussions. Reading only your comment above, I am in complete agreement. But when I try to merge that with prior comments it all falls apart.

    I’ve wondered if it’s simply because I’m slow. But the more I think about it the more I realize that’s not the reason (I’m not denying, I can be a bit slow), but that’s not the problem here. The problem is that as I merge your comments together to try to form a complete picture, it just doesn’t work. It’s so rife with irreconcilable paradoxes, conflicts with so many other scriptures, and attempts to follow a path of logic that seems born out of a time of doctrinal famine.

    It feels much like a game of “connect the dots” when many of the dots are missing. Sure, I can look at the drawing and see an object, and here and there certain parts line up, but as a whole it is so vastly different to one who has seen the real picture because they have embraced the fullness of revealed truth, that it is virtually unrecognizable. So no matter how hard I stare at it, all I see are its shortcomings.

    It’s a compelling example of the need for the Book of Mormon. For when left with the bible only, well, you can see where that brings us… to a point where none of the numerous Christian denominations can agree on its interpretation. It’s the very reason why “out of the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.”

    Having read and studied the purity of the Book of Mormon, and then having studied the bible, with the two “sticks” becoming one in my hand, suddenly the dots all connect, the picture becomes clear, and the paradoxes resolve themselves. From this vista you step out of the fogs of obscurity and confusion, can behold with compelling clarity the full panorama of Gods eternal plan and the doctrine that lies therein.

    But then trying to step back down and stare again at an incomplete picture, it just feels so wasteful and frustrating, that my mind refuses to accept it. It would be much like me trying to convince myself that the world was flat, after having partaken of the added light and truth that allows me to know that it just isn’t so.

    But, at least we have been able to present both sides, you feel you’ve clearly represented orthodox Christianity’s understanding of sufficiency, and I’ve tried diligently to point out the missing dots. May those who read now, and in the future, be able to see the truth wherever it may lay.

    Reply
  15. Jim B. says:

    Howard,

    RE: Hugh Nibley (MORMON scholar – funny you didn’t mention that)

    No one denies that certain sects practiced baptism for the dead. (Why would Paul mention the practice in I Corinthians 15 if it was nonexistent?) A Coptic papyrus confirms that the practice existed; it does not establish that it “was a common practice of early Christians for more than 300 years after the Crucifixion”.

    The only sects we know practiced baptism of the dead were heretical (not just in regard to this practice). Even Nibley acknowledges elsewhere that the Marcionites practiced BotD, but wants to insist they were “orthodox” Christians.

    Howard, do you know who Adolf von Harnack and Carl Schmidt were? Harnack was a German high-criticism liberal. He didn’t believe the Bible was the Word of God. He was no friend to Christianity or Mormonism. And Schmidt was a Nazi!

    I would reposit my challenge to you and Rusty: Name ONE early Church Father who cites the practice favorably. ONE. If it was such a common and essential practice, one would expect to find favorable discussions on the practice without difficulty.

    Rusty,

    “Ours is not the responsibility to convince you of the validity of the ordinance, or of its biblical roots. Rather, ours is the responsibility to proclaim the gospel…”

    Proclaim the gospel… without appealing to the validity of your ordinances or its biblical roots? Odd.

    You continue to state your confusion over the Christian notion of sufficiency, and maintain that the root of this confusion lies outside yourself. Yet, you have up to now failed to accurately articulate what that doctrine actually teaches. While I reject most Mormon doctrines, I try very hard to accurately understand them so that I can fairly and honestly interact with those who hold them.

    I know you’re a busy guy (as am I), but I would very much like to know – specifically – how, where and why my comments are irreconcilably paradoxical.

    I would be content to let this discussion die a natural death if you were to ACCURATELY articulate the Christian doctrine of Atonement (and its sufficiency), and THEN explain why you think it is wrong, incomplete, paradoxical etc. Up to now, you have only deconstructed a doctrine that exists only in your mind.

    God Bless

    Reply
  16. Rusty Lindquist says:

    That sounds both fair and reasonable! In fact, just to be sure I don’t butcher it (as I am apparently bound to do, having butchered it each time I’ve tried), why don’t you create a comment that you think most accurately describes the full context of the notion of sufficiency from your view. Including within it the answers to some of the questions you might anticipate I’d ask (based on past discussion, particularly in regards to how some are chosen to be saved versus others). Then I’ll reply with the LDS view, and where I see the paradox lies (if anywhere).

    Reply
  17. Rusty Lindquist says:

    Additionally, we can then ask Pondering Pastor to add his thoughts, if he’s willing and has anything else to offer. I think it’s valuable having both views (or three views if it ends up that way), clearly presented within the same post, so those reading along now and later will be able to compare and contrast. But we’ll get a better result if they’re each authored by the one that believes in it, so there’s no prejudice in the presentation. Sort of going back to the notion of “go to the source”.

    Thanks (PP, would that be okay with you?)

    Reply
  18. ponderingpastor says:

    It may take me a few days. I’ve only been half “listening” to this particular conversation and was surprised to find a note to me here! I’m extremely busy right now in the church, and the short holiday week meant all the work needed to be done in fewer days.

    One of the reasons I’ve not jumped into this thread was because the original proposition is deeply flawed. The “what is the worst that can happen” argument is very dangerous.

    I’ll see if I can shake some time loose.

    Pondering Pastor

    Reply
  19. Howard says:

    Jim B,
    RE: Hugh Nibley (MORMON scholar – funny you didn’t mention that)</em?

    Sorry Jim, I didn’t think Hugh Nibley would need an introduction on a Mormon blog. Thank God for Google!!!

    Why would Paul mention the practice in I Corinthians 15 if it was nonexistent?

    Excellent question.

    Harnack was a German high-criticism liberal. He didn’t believe the Bible was the Word of God. He was no friend to Christianity or Mormonism. And Schmidt was a Nazi!

    And your point is?

    Reply
  20. Ringer says:

    For many people, rationally it seems unfair that God chooses who will be saved. For other people it is emotionally hard to accept and endure that God would decide who He would save. To other people and maybe to the same people as the first two, it seems like some kind of assault on free will, human choice which many people are convinced is some kind of human right. And I understand those feelings. It is a hard doctrine to accept. All of us who have come to understand what the Bible teaches about the doctrine of election have had to deal with the rational arguments that say this doesn’t seem fair, this doesn’t seem just, this doesn’t seem equitable, this can’t be the way it is. We’ve all had to deal with the emotional issues of, “it’s tragic, it’s sad that God passes by some sinners.” We’ve all had to deal with the fact that while we have volition and we have choice, ultimately it is not independent of God.

    What satisfies my reason and what satisfies my emotion, and what satisfies my sense of freedom is not the determiner of truth. And so we have to come back to that point, I’m not God. And while things may not make sense to my reason, my reason is fallen. And while things may not make sense to my emotion, my emotion is fallen. And while things might not seem to square up with my sense of freedom, my freedom is fallen too. And one thing I will not do and none of us really would openly want to do, we will not create God in our image. We will not design God to fit our reason, our emotion and our freedom. We cannot design God to be what we think He should be. We cannot design God to act how we think He should act. Still there are some who appear to be bold enough to make the attempt. They seem to be undisturbed by the fact that in rejecting the doctrine of divine election, predestination, they have created a God who is not the God of the Bible. The God of their creation may be more reasonable to them, He may be more comfortable to them. He may fit their instincts better. But the fact of the matter is, that God which they have made is not the true God. A misrepresentation of God, any corruption of God, any diminishing of God is to then create a God in your own mind that is not the true and living God and such misrepresentations inevitably corrupt our worship, they corrupt our service to Him and they can be blasphemous as well as ignorant.

    And I do understand that the idea that God chooses people for salvation is a hard thing to accept, I do understand that it’s hard reasonably because we’re so concerned with what is fair by our understanding, and I do understand that it’s a difficult thing emotionally, and certainly with regard to the freedom of the human will. But denying the doctrine of election or denying the doctrine of predestination doesn’t change anything because if I say that you’re able to go to heaven based on your choice, not God’s, that you’re the determine of your destiny, your eternal destiny, this is up to you to do, God leaves it completely to you, the next question would be, “Does God know what you’ll do?” And the answer to that question has to be yes, He does know what you’re going to do because He knows everything. And because He already has a book from eternity in which the names of all the people who will believe are already written down, so God already knows, so the question is if He knew you weren’t going to believe, then why did He go and create you anyway? I mean, you really never escape the dilemma.

    Reply
  21. Jim B. says:

    Howard,

    First, my concession that baptism of the dead was certainly a practice that existed when Paul wrote I Corinthians is entirely beside the point. No one disagrees that the practice existed. The question is, “Is/was the practice Christian or Biblical?” There is NOTHING in the oft-cited I Corinthian text that connotes approval of the practice.

    If this was a central and crucial practice of the early Church, why is there only one ambiguous reference to it in all of Scripture?

    And the only references to the practice you will find outside the Bible in the early Church Fathers DISAPPROVE the practice.

    So yes, some people in the early church practiced baptism of the dead. In fact, the Corinthian church was guilty of all sorts of doctrinal and practical error. That was sort of the point of Paul’s letters.

    Second, my aim in pointing out who the “scholars” were that Nibley cites is to question their dependability. My experience with both Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses (the problem seems to me worse with the latter) is that their apologetic literature frequently appeals to anti-Christian (and I mean “Christian” here in a very loose sense – all those who believe the Bible is God’s Word, that God actually exists, that Christ is divine, etc.) historians and scholars. Harnack was a functional atheist. He didn’t believe any of the things that you and I would agree on – God exists, He has a history of interaction with His people, this history is accurately recorded in Holy Scripture(s), etc. He was hostile to any notion that the Bible was actually a divine text, and was therefore presuppositionally committed to “debunking” Scripture (or at least the supernatural aspects of it).

    So, why would you appeal to someone like this, unless you are cherry-picking any and every authority on a subject that seems to agree with your position or disagree with your opponent’s position, regardless of their reliability? You only make these kinds of appeals out of desperation.

    That’s my point.

    God Bless

    Reply
  22. ryan says:

    Ringer,

    That was a well presented article. I really admire your ability to write what would be offensive doctrines in a way that is non offensive. It was put in such a clear and consice manner that I applaud you.

    I see your point of view is coming from the heart. You have struggled with these issues and come to terms with them, and I love your reasoning, that “we cannot create God in our image.” So many people do this, bending religion to meet their personal needs. It reminds me of the discussion in “why Mormons don’t get paid” section of this blog. I think your acceptance of “God as He is” is noble.

    I respectfully submit a different opinion. I’m not trying to convince you to a more reasonable God that is easier to accept–I just believe in a God that is more fair. We read the same Bible but have different views of our Maker. I’ll disclose freely that by being raised in the LDS church, my view is intertwined with a fundamental LDS principle–the gift of free will.

    There are subtle differences between the “predestination” you allude to and the “foreordination” I grew up with. You may not even see a difference, and then it’s just a matter of semantics. So that I don’t slaughter predestination in my attempt to define it, I’ll let the above allusions to it suffice.

    Foreordination is best explained by imagining the pre-existence. God, as our Father knows us so well as spirits that He knows what decision we would make in the throes of certain circumstances. There were elect spirits that he saved for specific missions while on earth, and they were “fore-ordained” to fulfill this calling. But God gives them the agency to choose their destiny. It works because they have proven themselves in the pre-earth life, and God knew they would come through. This is how prophecies can be fulfilled, yet free-agency is still preserved. He knows what we will choose, yet He still lets us choose it.

    In this context, and with Rusty’s permission, I like to interject a post, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” I won’t have time to post my thoughts for another week or so, but I’d love to start a discussion on Job.

    Peace

    Reply
  23. Ed Darrell says:

    Way too many Mormons are right — they’re just voting the wrong way.

    Mormons who live Christian principles should be left, shouldn’t they? Beatitudes over Leviticus, no?

    Reply
  24. Margaret says:

    Ryan,
    I, for one, am so glad you are willing to help Rusty! I know he’s overwhelmed at times with his many responsibilities. I can do a little research for him and send him some things that inspire me, thinking they may inspire others, too. I think he’s awesome and I really believe in what he’s doing. Even though I’ve never met him, I think he would really appreciate the kind of help that you, and now a few others, can give him.

    It really is true that the Lord usually meets our needs by using His children who listen to that still, small voice. You kind of remind me of another Ryan, who lives down the street from me.

    Reply
  25. Ringer says:

    Ryan, if you don’t start with the total depravity of mankind, and understand that we are dead in our sins and trespasses, you’ll never get unconditional election as the Bible teaches it. All of humanity is dead in their sins and trespasses, personally culpable before God for their sins, deserving of nothing, and if God had only exercised His justice and His righteousness, only God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit and the angels that didn’t fall would be in heaven. God could have done that if He wanted to.

    We as human beings believe that we can think on the same level as God. And it’s deifying the human mind and humanizing the divine mind. If we think we can understand everything that’s in the mind of God, which we can’t, we then come to the conclusion that it’s unfair, not right, for God to do what He does, because that makes Him without mercy. And I would suggest that nowhere in the Bible does it suggest that man has a free will and that he acts independent of outside sources, conditions, people, etc. Man has a will. But Luther said it was a “will in bondage.” And the Bible says that our will is always a slave. It’s either a slave to sin, or a slave to righteousness.

    So you need to park your pride on our humanity — and see ourselves as sinners, lost forever apart from God’s unmerited favor and His grace, unconditionally bestowed by election — and see ourselves as Isaiah saw the mind of God in Isaiah 55, that God’s thoughts are so far above our thoughts that it’s the difference between the distance from heaven, which we can’t measure on earth. And you need to establish these things very, very clearly.

    There’s another thing you have to understand, and that is – God does say he loves humanity, and there is a universal love of God that manifests itself in common grace, manifests itself in temporal, physical deliverance from death; the sinners live and enjoy life. It manifests itself in a universal call of the gospel; it manifests itself in the tears of Jesus; it manifests itself in the compassion of God; weeping through the eyes of Jeremiah. That’s a real love.

    God wills, God draws, He grants, He calls, He appoints, He prepares, He causes, He chooses, purposes, delivers, transfers, saves, makes alive, brings us forth, justifies, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And if you just read right through the New Testament looking for verbs, the only thing you could conclude is God is salvation, He is the initiator and He is determinative, regardless of what humanity does or doesn’t do.

    God elects those that are saved; those that perish do so without any help from God. He remains passive. And you see that in Romans 9 where God is fitting vessels unto salvation. But vessels are being fitted unto damnation, and God is passive in that. It is also true that God does love humanity, and manifests that in common grace, as I said before. Now, having said that you believe all of that, you now have a problem. And that is that your brain can’t handle all of that information and bring complete resolution. But that’s alright; because if you could, you wouldn’t be human. There are things that only God can understand. And I really do believe that. I’m very content with that. That’s one of the reasons I know the Bible is written by God, because men would fix it. If I wrote a book that had those contradictions, they would edit them all out. One of the bench marks of divine inspiration is the fact that you’re dealing with transcendence. And an element of transcendence is the inability to grasp fully everything. So you’re content to believe what the scripture clearly reveals. And yet, we’re told to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. And so there is a universal offer that, from the standpoint of God is a legitimate offer, and which, sad to say, even heightens the culpability of the sinner, because if he treads under his feet the covenant and counts the — Christ as an unholy thing, his punishment is even greater. So God doesn’t have a problem harmonizing all that. Man, playing God, coming up with his concoctions in the middle, tends to destroy that all.

    Jesus said in Matthew 11:28: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me,” and so on. And that’s a great verse, because it talks about human responsibility. But just immediately prior to that in Verse 27, which is a part of the same lesson, He says: “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” And if it wasn’t God’s will to reveal the Son as the Savior, and the Father as the provider of the deliverer, no one then could come. And the most significant thing is Jesus didn’t footnote his message by explaining how to reconcile those two apparently irreconcilable ideas. Paul in Philippians 2 in Verse 13 it says: “For it is God who is at work in you, both the will and to work for His good pleasure.” And we say we can just sit back and do nothing in our Christian life, if we haven’t read Verse 12, that says you’re to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” No matter where you go, God is sovereign, God’s determinative; man is responsible, and man participates with his will. But he doesn’t have free will to determine, and he doesn’t have free will to override.

    All this hinges on and stems from the doctrine of total depravity, and a person who understood human depravity wouldn’t raise that objection, because he would understand that there are no depraved people who really want to know God. The thing is they hate God. Romans 8 Verses 7 and 8 says they can’t — they’re not capable of loving God or pleasing Him or even obeying Him. They cannot do it. It’s impossible for them, because their hearts are so fixed against Him. So there’s no possibility that anyone would ever say well, I wish I could know God, but He didn’t choose me. And on the other hand, it’s also not true that anyone who would resist salvation would be dragged kicking and screaming against his will into it, because what God does in His regenerating work is give us a new heart, a heart of love for Him.

    Reply
  26. Hailey says:

    ryan-
    way to go teddy!!

    I am new to the site and new to the religion…so bare with me…

    All I can really say is that everyone is arguing with their perception of God; everyone wants their views and beliefs to be the correct one and they will scream until their face turns blue and their hair turns white.
    I want to add my little tid bit. Religion is there..or for other’s sake…was created… to give man kind peace of mind. Peace of mind that there is some greater authority in which they can hand over their lives when it gets too aggressive for them. Peace of mind that they aren’t alone. Peace of mind for their eternal salvation, for we are frightened to think of an ending to existence.
    LDS, Christianity ( which might I add, are to an extent, very very similar), Muslim, whatever your preference…all just want peace of mind coming from God.
    I am LDS. I was born and raised, but never cared, until recently. I have been inactive for three long and excruciating years. Now that I am back on the straight and narrow, I will never, never return to that life of pain and sin. If you had asked me before, I would have said, ” God is real, but where does he reside? So many churches claim to hold the truth and knowledge; to be the only church in existence to obtain it.” Now, without even hesitating, I will proudly say that I know I belong to the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I know that my redeemer LIVES, and I know this because i have felt the UNDENIABLE feeling of my great Father in Heaven’s love. I asked in faith, to give me guidance, to bring me peace, to help me come to love myself again. I have witnessed miracles through the power of the priesthood that could have only come from God himself.
    I thought about where I needed my life to go for months on end, and I concluded with the same thought and the same feeling every single time; I needed to repent and return to church.
    You can argue with every aspect of this church and try to cut it down in any possible way, but I tell you, satan is trying to hurt the TRUTH. He doesn’t want this world to know the truth. He is scared of the truth. He is cunning and deceitful, and will put false contexts into the mouths of those who wish to speak out, those who wish to bring down my religion. They will give all their anti-mormon remarks and they will question every aspect of the church. I’m not trying to be snide to those who speak out against the church, I’m just acquiring why you are so persistent on knocking my beliefs down? Why you feel it is so necessary to express that it is wrong?…..Satan is trying to manipulate and pervert the truth. And if it comes to when I get to those pearly white gates and I sit before my God on judgement day and He tells me i belonged to the wrong church…I can proudly say, “God, I lived a good life. I wasn’t living a corrupt lifestyle, and I tried to come to know thee.”

    I pray the same for you….

    If it comes down to it, and I’m wrong, I know that I was living life the way God intended for all people to live.

    Thank you for reading my rambling. And if it doesn’t match to the conversation…I’m sorry, I’ve only been reading bits and pieces to the debates and thought I’d throw in my two cents.
    -Hailey

    Reply
  27. Jim B. says:

    Hailey,

    It seems your argument boils down to this:

    1) I know my faith (LDS) is true, because I personally feel and have experienced that it is true.

    2) If you oppose my faith or disagree with any of its tenets, you are a tool of Satan.

    Hmm… Both are kind of conversation-killers, no? What am I to do with your personal feelings and experiences? I don’t mean to belittle them, but I have feelings and experiences as well. And they lead me away from LDS. And I’m sure you’re aware of atheists, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, Muslims, etc. who also have feelings and experiences which they believe validate their faiths (or lack thereof).

    This is why it is so important that faith be grounded on some kind of objective reality. I appreciate Rusty’s attempts to show some objective basis for the LDS faith. (Though, I think Rusty also – when push comes to shove – resorts to the “seeking a sign is a sin, you just need to pray the prayer of faith and wait for the bosom-burn” argument.)

    God Bless

    P.S.

    Rusty, for what’s it worth – vis a vis our conversation on the atonement/sufficiency – I agree with Ringer’s last comment on humanity’s condition of depravity. I’ll try to post something myself on the topic soon.

    Reply
  28. Jim B. says:

    Rusty,

    RE: The atonement and its “sufficiency”

    Christ’s atoning work on the cross is sufficient in that it provides/secures all that is necessary for salvation for the believer. The believer can add nothing to or subtract anything from what Christ accomplished at Calvary. My works add nothing to what is required for my salvation, because Christ FULLY paid my debt at the cross. My failings (sin) subtract nothing from salvation, because Christ FULLY paid my debt at the cross. My salvation is not contingent upon what I do or do not do.

    (To anticipate the objection of the necessity of works: Works are necessary as an evidence of being saved (regeneration). Works are the fruit of genuine faith. So, the Christian does not believe that works are unnecessary, but believes they do not function to merit or earn anything from God. That’s the whole point of the Gospel – Christ came to accomplish in His people what the Law never could: obedience (works) springing forth from a heart that loves God and pursues His holiness and righteousness.

    But HOW does He accomplish this? By bartering with His people? “If you will fulfill such and such laws and ordinances, then I will offer you salvation, exaltation, etc. But if you do not fulfill such and such… then I will rescind this offer.” This is NOT THE GOSPEL. This is LAW. (Just read the Old Testament – this is EXACTLY how God interacts with the Israelites.) Christ came to redeem a people for Himself – a Church and a Bride. He came to remove their hearts of stone and give them hearts of flesh. He came to enable them to do what they could never do on their own. He came to give His people new hearts; hearts that seek to honor and obey God.)

    The sufficiency of Christ’s atonement is also related to the doctrine of Imputed Righteousness. (“Impute”: to ascribe to or charge (a person) with an act or quality because of the conduct of another over whom one has control or for whose acts or conduct one is responsible.) On the Cross, the sins of the elect are imputed (ascribed) to Christ. The wrath of God rightly aimed at sinners is, on the Cross, aimed at a substitute (Substitutionary Atonement), Christ. This all mirrors and fulfills the Old Testament sacrificial system. Christ becomes our scapegoat.

    On the flipside, Christ’s righteousness – His perfect obedience to and fulfillment of the Law – is imputed (ascribed) to His elect. God the Father accepts me into His kingdom and adopts me into His family, because He sees Christ’s righteousness when He looks at me, not my own (because, as I’ve stated earlier, our good works/deeds are like filthy rags to God).

    And this is how it can be that my works in no manner work toward my salvation. Christ ALONE is my salvation – His righteousness is imputed to me in the eyes of God.

    THIS is what Christians mean (or should mean – there are certainly Christians, as I would assume there are Mormons, who don’t understand their faith and its teachings as they should) when they refer to the “sufficiency” of Christ’s atonement.

    As I have stated on this blog elsewhere, the sufficiency of Christ’s atonement is in regard to WHAT was accomplished, not FOR WHOM it was accomplished. All Christians answer the FOR WHOM question with ALL THOSE WHO BELIEVE (those who repent of their sin and place their trust in Christ and His atoning work).

    (And to anticipate the response, “Well, Mormons DO believe!” To BELIEVE implies intellectual assent to a particular list of Biblical truths – the deity of Christ, the Trinity, justification by grace alone, through faith alone in the righteousness of Christ alone, etc. Mormons and Christians radically disagree on many of these essential truths. So no, Mormons don’t BELIEVE in the sense I am above referring to.)

    I hope that helps the conversation in regard to this topic.

    God Bless

    Reply
  29. ryan says:

    wow, that was well said! Thank you, Jim! I agree! So maybe were are on the same side of the coin after all!

    The LDS church teaches that “faith without works is dead,” but they do not feel that works directly work toward salvation. Every human being is needing the atonement of Christ. There is no other way to the Father but by Him. I guess we could say it in reciprocal fashion, “Works without faith is dead.” I (and Mormons) do not believe that works in any way negate the need for the sacrifice of our Savior. Rather, works are an outward manifestation of the truly repentant. Works show a moving faith in Christ and His redemption.

    That’s why I also agree with wordofme in his last comments about depravity. Your words reminded me of a great oration from a righteous king descibing our nothingness compared to God. “If ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another–I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.” (Mosiah 2:21, the entire oration comprises chapters 2-4)

    You may not agree with the free will part of this, but we share the same complete dependency on God. No matter how minute or how heinous the sin is, the only way back to the Father is through the atonement of the Son.
    ryan

    Reply
  30. Hailey says:

    Jim-
    As I was kindly pointing out before, everyone will kick, pout, scream, do whatever their maturity level requires to get their point of view across. Religion, most days will end up being a conversation killer, if the people invovled butt heads. I believe with all my heart that my religion is true, as you may also. I am not tearing down any religion, I just find it interesting that some people make a point to try and bring out flaws or say that I am terribly and utterly wrong about mine. That everything I stand for is a conspiracy and a lie made up by some man in the 1800’s because he was bored. I believe that satan uses those who have a loose tongue to try and pervert the TRUTH….key word….truth.
    Lastly, I prayed for months for an answer, and I received one. If you prayed as well and got an answer, then awesome! I give you credit at least for saying a prayer.
    Thank you for giving time to retort to my post. God Bless

    Reply
  31. Sherry says:

    Ryan, the text below came from another Mormon explaining your doctrine.

    “The truth is that we are saved by the grace of Christ which is offered to us through a covenant, a two-way contract: if we accept Christ and do our part, following and obeying him, then Christ does everything else, forgiving us, cleansing us, healing us, and giving us power to return to the presence of the Father – not because we earned it, but because we accepted the terms upon which he offers his infinite grace and mercy.”

    If I had read your contract that had the phrase “do my part” I would have never signed it. Why? Because I knew I was a filthy rotten sinner, undeserving of any favor of God. And knowing who I was in the past, I would then also be completely incapable of “doing my part” in the future. It was a contract that I knew that I couldn’t keep. So I would have kept looking for a different contract.

    Reply
  32. Jim B. says:

    Hailey,

    You say you are not “tearing down any religion”, yet your religion’s founder claimed your faith was necessitated because all other Christian denominations were an “abomination” and that all their adherents failed to love God with their hearts, but only vainly and hypocritically professed Him with their lips. This notion was repeated by many of your faith’s early leaders.

    So, your faith is based on the notion that all other religions (and Christian denominations) are “terribly and utterly wrong”. So, I’m not sure it’s fair to complain when this is thrown back in your face.

    Ryan,

    I appreciate your above comment, but I think Sherry is right. I could point to countless quotes and texts demonstrating that the Mormon doctrine of atonement in regard to works & faith is radically different from the Christian notion. I was not arguing above that our works do nothing apart from Christ’s atonement, but in combination do accomplish something. I was arguing (I thought pretty clearly) that our works do nothing, period. My salvation is not contingent upon my works, period.

    God Bless

    Reply
  33. ryan says:

    Sherry,

    Yes, I’ve heard baptism simplified into those terms. But it is indeed a simplification. Mormon doctrine is not about works–it is about faith. We say works are important, but not in a way of earning salvation. Works are merely showing God that we have a contrite spirit and a true heart. It is in contrast to those who profess that they believe in Christ, and accept Him as their Savior, but do not change their behavior one bit. True acceptance of Christ requires giving of our whole souls to Him. We take upon us His name, become members of His church, and act as He would act.

    Baptism is a covenant–a contract like you said–and of course we cannot keep our end of the bargain. But that is why repentance is a process, not a single event. Just like learning to throw a baseball–as we get more and more practice, we can hone our skills to throw strikes every pitch. We grow weary in well doing trying to follow Christ’s example. We fail, but repent and rededicate ourselves to do better. Eventually we can stay on track, making minor adjustments before getting derailed. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of repentance. No matter how many times we fail, as long as we sincerely repent we will feel of His love. As God said while speaking through Isaiah, “My anger is not turned away, yet my arm is stretched out still.”

    Reply
  34. Hailey says:

    Jim-
    Once again….I will say it. I MYSELF am not tearing down any religion. I support any person on this wonderful earth that even believes in God. I admire the person who says I love God, for as we all know, many are trying to disarray any beliefs of God. You may “throw it back in my face” as much as you like, in fact, please do… Throw my love of God and my religion in my face. It will only make my faith stronger.
    Joseph Smith was an amazing man and suffered more pain and afflictions than you could never hope to imagine in your entire lifetime, please throw it in my face that he suffered and ultimately died in something he believed in. Please, keep throwing it in my face that good men, men who believe in eternal life through faith in God are conspirators who wish to only bring down others. Good men, who only wish to support their own beliefs and emphasize the works of God. Please, throw it in my face again, that I have come to see a good light in my life, and want to become a better person through Christ…PLEASE…throw that in my face.
    Thank you Jim, for comfirming my beliefs even more, Thank you!!

    Reply
  35. Rusty Lindquist says:

    Fabulous and fascinating dialogue. Thank you to all who have been bold enough to participate.

    Reading along this evening (trying to catch up), I had the following thoughts/impressions/questions regarding comments from many of you. I’d hope you might help me clarify these points.

    Ringer

    First, you’re an excellent writer, you communicate very clearly and I appreciate the real effort both you and Jim B. have clearly invested in keeping this a discussion of principles as much as possible. It is really hard, since religion is such an insanely personal thing.

    Regarding your comment about human choice: “which many people are convinced is some kind of human right”. Mormons don’t believe human choice is a right, but a gift. A crucial component for our time here in life. We can only grow and “become perfect” even as God is, if we have the inalienable right and power to choose, and then be held accountable for those choices. How else could we “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” save we be given the ability to choose. This topic of free agency has surfaced a lot, and is one that is so crucial to the core of the Gospel, it definitely deserves a separate post (I’ve added to my growing “list”) LOL.

    You also say (and I paraphrase) that “All of us… have had to deal with the rational arguments that say it’s not fair, just, equitable, etc.”

    As Ryan suggested, I admire the courage it must take to accept that doctrine, and the difficulty it would be to have faith in a God that may not have “chosen you”, who claims all control, and who bases decisions on personal fancy. It does definitely “feel” more reasonable/comfortable to believe instead in a God that leaves us in control of our own destination, but who mercifully facilitates our shortcomings by providing a means to overcome them (repentance).

    I understand your reasoning that some things simply don’t make sense, and that it is often merely because we cannot understand God, and shouldn’t attempt to shoe-horn him into what we might call “convenient doctrine”. But perhaps it doesn’t make sense because it isn’t accurate. In other words, just as we shouldn’t attempt to bend our understanding of God to suit our fancy, we also shouldn’t dismiss all things that don’t make sense, simply because we God’s thoughts are above our own. Sometimes things don’t make sense because they’re not right, and that is intended to be cue to search for alternate explanations.

    Otherwise, I would suggest that many of my possible answers to your questions about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith would simply be “some things simply don’t make sense”. But instead, I always attempt to illustrate “why” those things would happen by referencing principles we’ve already been taught, because I believe that God is a god of principles, and must be so for us to exercise true faith in him.

    One thing does still remain unclear to me, however, regarding the doctrine of predestination as you describe it. What motivation do we have to be righteous, if the decision of our salvation is already determined? And how do you describe “working out our salvation with fear and trembling” under the doctrine of predestination.

    Jim B.

    Regarding baptism for the dead… doesn’t the simple fact that it had to be banned, and was only done so in a close decision and after great debate in a counsel convened to discuss it, assume the fact that it was widely accepted. If it wasn’t, if it was as you suggest, only practiced by heretics, why would it be so greatly debated, why the necessity to meet and make a decision at all?

    Ryan,

    I do SO much appreciate your comments in helping me field these questions (so also with Hailey), your descriptions and answers are always so well articulated. I thought you gave a beautiful explanation of foreordination.

    Ringer,

    Regarding the total depravity of mankind… I believe we were created in God’s image, and at our core is something amazingly beautiful, the very essence of God, but the natural man, which is an enemy to God, is who we become through our actions. Are we saying the same thing, or are you saying that all man is evil, pure and simple, and that NO man is capable of loving God or even desiring to love God?

    Also, you mention Romans 9 in discussing how God is passive in damnation. It seems to me there is no passivity in the doctrine of predestination. You’re chosen or you’re not, and that’s an active decision of God. But in the doctrine foreordination, that “passivity” if such it could be called, holds true – he knows all things, the beginning and the end, but lets us make our own decisions regardless.

    Also, you say “No matter where you go, God is sovereign, God’s determinative; man is responsible, and man participates with his will. But he doesn’t have free will to determine, and he doesn’t have free will to override.” How are we then working out our salvation if our salvation is pre-determined? I’m still working on understanding that one.

    Jim B.

    You say “But How does He accomplish this? By bartering with His people ‘If you will fulfill such and such laws and ordinances, then I will offer you salvation, exaltation, etc. But if you do not fulfill such and such… then I will rescind this offer.’ This is NOT THE GOSPEL. This is LAW.”

    Actually, it sounds a lot like a covenant. Do you believe that god uses covenants still, or only in the Old Testament? I’m not very familiar with other denominations belif/acceptance of covenants within the gospel. We view baptism as a covenant.

    You mention “He came to give His people new hearts; hearts that seek to honor and obey God” and I was having a hard time fitting that in with the total depravity of mankind, leaving us incapable of such things.

    You did a superb job of presenting sufficiency, I “think” I get it now, and we seem to agree on so many points.

    I did have one question occur to me though as I read through that. You said

    “As I have stated on this blog elsewhere, the sufficiency of Christ’s atonement is in regard to WHAT was accomplished, not FOR WHOM it was accomplished. All Christians answer the FOR WHOM question with ALL THOSE WHO BELIEVE (those who repent of their sin and place their trust in Christ and His atoning work).

    And to anticipate the response, “Well, Mormons DO believe!” To BELIEVE implies intellectual assent to a particular list of Biblical truths – the deity of Christ, the Trinity, justification by grace alone, through faith alone in the righteousness of Christ alone, etc. Mormons and Christians radically disagree on many of these essential truths. So no, Mormons don’t BELIEVE in the sense I am above referring to.)

    But then by this measure none of the differing Christian denominations are Christian, for none of them agree on all of these points (correct me if I’m wrong). So at that point aren’t you saying that only one denomination is correct and can lead to salvation?

    If so (which is fine, that’s what we believe too), how does that reconcile with the desire for evidence. What physical evidence is there to prove one Christian denomenation over another. According to your thoughts on evidence, if it was so important that our salvation could only be attained through faith in the one and only true denomination, why wouldn’t there be physical evidence? And without such physical evidence irrefutably pointing to which Christian denomination is correct, what are we left with, faith and prayer?

    Sherry,

    What you’re describing is a covenant, a sacred contract between us and God, and it’s always been a mechanism he uses within his church. Do you believe in covenants, or do you see them differently than I do?

    Reply
  36. Jim B. says:

    Hailey,

    You’re welcome.

    Rusty,

    RE: Free Will – Though sorely tempted, I have purposely avoided the “free will/free agency” discussion on this comment thread, because it’s a huge issue and a bit of a tangent from the main point – atonement/sufficiency. I do look forward to your post on the subject. If you can, I would love to hear precisely how Mormons define this key doctrine. I’m genuinely interested, because my experience is that 100 people will define “free will” 100 different ways. And at the same time, many end up essentially holding to a libertarian notion of free will (with the power of contrary choice). I find the libertarian notion of free will untenable and nearly incomprehensible, but many professing Christians would assent to it.

    “You say “But How does He accomplish this? By bartering with His people ‘If you will fulfill such and such laws and ordinances, then I will offer you salvation, exaltation, etc. But if you do not fulfill such and such… then I will rescind this offer.’ This is NOT THE GOSPEL. This is LAW.”

    Actually, it sounds a lot like a covenant. Do you believe that god uses covenants still, or only in the Old Testament? I’m not very familiar with other denominations belif/acceptance of covenants within the gospel. We view baptism as a covenant.”

    I find this both saddening and confirming of my view that Mormons do not understand the Gospel. Yes, I believe God has in the past, does now and will always work covenantally. Again, this is the whole point of the Gospel. Why did Christ have to die? The whole Cross image of Jesus as a lamb is a clear reference to the Old Testament/Covenant sacrificial system. (Or, more accurately, the latter was a clear foreshadowing of the former.) The entire OT story is one of repeated failure on the part of God’s people to live up to their end of the covenant. In Ezekiel (and elsewhere), God promises to one day remove His people’s hearts of stone and replace them with hearts of flesh. He promises to put His spirit within them and CAUSE them to walk in His statutes.

    Christ’s life and death were a perfect obedience to and fulfillment of the Old Covenant and the establishment of a New Covenant. NEW Covenant. Not like the old one. Your above quote seems to suggest that God replaced one quid pro quo covenant with another. THAT ENTIRELY MISSES THE POINT OF THE GOSPEL! The whole point of the Old Covenant was to demonstrate man’s need for God, his inability to fulfill this covenant, and to point to messiah – Christ. God, in Christ, mercifully and graciously fulfills our end of the deal in the New Covenant. The terms for God’s people in this New Covenant are now repentance, faith and trust. Turn from your sin, and believe on Christ and trust in His righteousness ALONE. (And now we are now back to the doctrine of Imputed Righteousness. See above comments.)

    Nowhere in the New Testament is baptism spoken of as a covenant. It is a symbol and expression of our new birth in Christ. It is important. It is mandated of believers. It does not save.

    “You mention “He came to give His people new hearts; hearts that seek to honor and obey God” and I was having a hard time fitting that in with the total depravity of mankind, leaving us incapable of such things.”

    I think the fit is pretty obvious. Because man is totally depraved (meaning that his depravity – sinfulness – permeates every part of his being, not that he is as sinful as he could possibly be), he cannot seek to honor and obey God without having a heart transplant. Again, this is the whole point of the Gospel. Christ regenerates His elect, giving them new hearts with new desires and affections – desires and affections (for God) which were totally at odds with their old hearts of stone.

    The total depravity of man is what necessitates the Holy Spirit’s regenerating (heart-transplanting) work – made possible by the atonement of Christ in accordance with the will of the Father. What exactly do you not understand here?

    “But then by this measure none of the differing Christian denominations are Christian, for none of them agree on all of these points (correct me if I’m wrong).”

    You’re wrong. While different Christian denominations do differ on various secondary theological issues, all agree to the essential doctrines of the faith (a few of which I listed above) – those tenets which define the core elements of the Christian faith (Who is God? What is the Gospel? etc.). Those that have strayed beyond these essentials are no longer Christian (e.g. Mormons, Jehova’s Witnesses, etc.), because we are saved by FAITH, and this FAITH must be placed in the historic Jesus who actually lived and in the historic Gospel which He actually preached.

    “So at that point aren’t you saying that only one denomination is correct and can lead to salvation?”

    Nope.

    Regarding evidence: Even if I believed my denomination (I’m a Reformed Baptist) was the only “true” denomination (in the sense that we were the sole possessors of SAVING TRUTH – that we were right about EVERYTHING, and everyone who disagreed with us about ANYTHING was doomed to eternal hellfire), my evidence for this would be nothing but Holy Scripture. I would argue, from the divinely inspired texts of the Bible, that my/our positions were the correct ones.

    I think our disagreement on the issue of evidence/signs is in kind. My beef with the LDS faith is not that it cannot prove to me that such-and-such supernatural event took place in history. My beef is that its holy texts lack even the most rudimentary sorts of historical and archaeological evidences that the non-supernatural events, peoples, places, etc. ever existed in history.

    This is the glaringly obvious difference between the Bible and the Book of Mormon. But this is a different topic entirely, and I’m sure there’s a better place to hash it out than here.

    God Bless

    Reply
  37. Ringer says:

    Rusty, you had asked for an explanation of “working out our salvation”. Let me start with the verse:

    Philippians 2:12
    “Wherefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

    Now you must think that this tells us that we have to work our own salvation out. In other words, we are a part of saving ourselves. And some have been distressed by what that verse says, work out your own salvation when we have just read Ephesians 2 which says salvation is not of…what?…works. Is this a contradiction? Is he saying in one place it’s not of works, and somewhere else work it out? What is this troublesome verse really saying?

    Go back in Philippians and kind of get a running start. Go back to chapter 1 verse 27. He says this, “Only…and this is a single most important exhortation…let your conduct be fitting to the gospel of Christ.” You see what he’s saying there? If you claim to have been redeemed by the gospel, then your conduct ought to show it. “Let your conduct,” he says to the Philippians, “be as it is fitting to the gospel of Christ that whether I am present, whether I come and see you, or whether I’m absent, I may hear of your affairs, or if you will, your lifestyle that you stand fast in one spirit with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel,” and so forth.

    In other words, he says…Look, if you’re truly saved, then let your conduct show it whether I’m there or not. In other words, let it be so genuine and so true that it doesn’t need to be policed by my presence. Let it be that if I’m there or if I’m not there you still have a conduct fitting to the gospel.

    Notice verse 5 of chapter 2. Paul says, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Be like Christ. Think like Christ. Have the attitude of humility that Christ had. And then he describes it, doesn’t he, in verses 6 to 11. It was an attitude of humility. “He didn’t think it something to hold onto…in verse 6…to be like God, but He made Himself of no reputation, took upon Him the form of a servant, was made in the likeness of men, was found in fashion as a man, humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” He humiliated Himself, humbled Himself for us. And verse 9 says, “Wherefore God is highly exalted Him, given Him a name above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven, in earth and under the earth and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”

    So he says let the mind be in you that was in Christ. It was a mind of humiliation. It was a mind of submission. Let that mind be in you.

    Now you come to verse 12 and he says, “Wherefore, or so then, my beloved, as you have always obeyed not as in my presence only but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Now in the context I think it’s very clear what he means by that. Listen now, since you belong to Christ through the gospel, as chapter 1 verse 27 said, since you belong to Christ through the gospel… Secondly, since Christ has in His humble obedience to God given you the example of how you ought to live in humble obedience to God. Since Christ has shown you the reward of that obedience, verses 9 to 11. Christ is obedient in verses 5 through 8, 6 through 8, and He’s rewarded in verses 9 through 11, right? He humbled Himself and God…what?…exalted Him. Since you belong to Christ, since He is your example, since you see what happens to one who obeys, wherefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, keep on obeying, implied, whether I’m there or not. They had been obedient in Philippi. But no doubt their obedience was an obedience that was leaning heavily on Paul. When he was present, he set the pace. When he was present, he taught, he exhorted, he challenged, he helped, he confronted, he answered their questions, he solved their problems, he unscrambled their dilemmas. But what he is saying to them and the same thing in chapter 1 verse 27 is, “Now that I’m not there don’t be less obedient, you’ve always obeyed in my presence, now keep obeying in my absence just the same so that it isn’t a question of me policing you. Let it come from within, and let it be…and here comes one of the most important things at the end of verse 12…with fear and trembling.”

    In other words, because it is such a serious thing to obey, do it with fear and trembling, not fear of me, or trembling of me, but of God, reverently, whole-heartedly, humbly, meekly you obey. And he says, “Continue…here it comes…to work out your own salvation.” Now what does he mean? It simply means by great effort, by constant desire to be pleasing to God, by constant dedication to the Spirit of God and obedience to the Word of God, you work out what is already…where?…in.

    In other words, all he is saying is the salvation that’s in you ought to be visible outside. This is the Christian life, to live on the outside what is already on the inside. And it is a word of great encouragement in verse 13 when he says, “For it is God who works in you both to will and do of His good pleasure.” God is working on the inside to do His will, and to fulfill His good pleasure and let it happen on the outside. And so we are then to live on the outside what we are on the inside. It’s another way of saying what we saw in 2 Corinthians 7:1 and Ephesians chapter 2 verses 4 to 10, since God has done all of this, since you’ve seen the example of Jesus Christ, the One who obeys is exalted, as you have obeyed in my absence…in my presence, keep on obeying in my absence and do it with fear and trembling because you regard the holiness of God and work on the outside what is on the inside. And that’s to be the standard of Christian living. We’re to live on the outside what we have on the inside so that the people who don’t have it will desire it, right? And God will be glorified.

    Now what does it mean? You say, “All right, I’m willing to cleanse myself and live the way I ought to live, I want to work on the outside the salvation that’s on the inside.

    Reply
  38. ryan says:

    Amen! Ringer hit the nail on the head! I’m so glad you said this so eloquently. This is the Mormon way of thinking as well! So you see, there is no discrepancy. We believe the same thing.

    So why do Mormons concentrate so hard on obedience? Salvation should be enough to make our obedience be a natural consequence of our conversion, right? But after conversion the fervor, passion, determination, and excitement fade, and we go back to being naturally evil. By teaching obedience, we encourage righteous living so the members can feel of God’s love more purely. By doing so we rekindle the fire within to motivate us to be obedient for another season.

    Do all Christian sects believe the way Ringer explained? It seems from the above discussion that there are some that feel like all that is needed is to profess once in a lifetime that Jesus is the Christ, and then no matter what sin or heinous crime the person commits, he is saved automatically. If so I would counter the way Ringer explained. This man was not truly professing his faith, and so hasn’t been saved after all. Works are the fruit of faith.

    Again, I will say it as clearly as I can so you at least understand Mormon doctrine:
    I do not believe that works alone will earn me a mansion in heaven. I cannot be saved except through the sacrifice of the Only Begotten. I exercise faith in Jesus Chirst–faith that He lived a perfect life, faith that His atonement provides a way back to the Father, faith that His sacrifice met the demands of justice layed out by the Father, faith that through repentance Christ can wash away my sins and make me clean again, faith that if I do what Christ wants me to do, He will make up the difference and intercede to the Father on my behalf.

    Yes, I used the word “DO” (works, right?). It is merely to show Christ that I have faith in Him. It does not, as Rusty put it, “pick the lock of salvation.”

    Reply
  39. Ringer says:

    Ryan, when you had wrote “He will make up the difference”, I needed to show you how that sentence separates teachings.

    Justification by faith was the great truth that dawned on Luther and dramatically altered the church. Because Christians are justified by faith alone, their standing before God is not in any way related to personal merit. Good works and practical holiness do not provide the grounds for acceptance with God. God receives as righteous those who believe, not because of any good thing He sees in them–not even because of His own sanctifying work in their lives–but solely on the basis of Christ’s righteousness, which is reckoned to their account. “To the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness” (Romans 4:5). That is justification.

    Declared Righteous: What Actually Changes?

    In its theological sense, justification is a forensic, or purely legal, term. It describes what God declares about the believer, not what He does to change the believer. In fact, justification effects no actual change whatsoever in the sinner’s nature or character. Justification is a divine judicial edict. It changes our status only, but it carries ramifications that guarantee other changes will follow. Forensic decrees like this are fairly common in everyday life.

    When I was married, for example, my wife and I stood before the minister and recited our vows. Near the end of the ceremony, the minister declared, “By the authority vested in me by the state of Illinois, I pronounce you man and wife.” Instantly we were legally husband and wife. Whereas seconds before we had been an engaged couple, now we were married. Nothing inside us actually changed when those words were spoken. But our status changed before God, the law, and our family and friends. The implications of that simple declaration have been lifelong and life-changing. But when the minister spoke those words, it was a legal declaration only.

    Similarly, when a jury foreman reads the verdict, the defendant is no longer “the accused.” Legally and officially he instantly becomes either guilty or innocent–depending on the verdict. Nothing in his actual nature changes, but if he is found not guilty he will walk out of court a free person in the eyes of the law, fully justified.

    In biblical terms, justification is a divine verdict of “not guilty–fully righteous.” It is the reversal of God’s attitude toward the sinner. Whereas He formerly condemned, He now vindicates. Although the sinner once lived under God’s wrath, as a believer he or she is now under God’s blessing.

    Justification is more than simple pardon; pardon alone would still leave the sinner without merit before God. So when God justifies He imputes divine righteousness to the sinner (Romans 4:22-25). Christ’s own infinite merit thus becomes the ground on which the believer stands before God (Romans 5:19; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Philippians 3:9). So justification elevates the believer to a realm of full acceptance and divine privilege in Jesus Christ.

    Therefore, because of justification, believers not only are perfectly free from any charge of guilt (Romans 8:33) but also have the full merit of Christ reckoned to their personal account (Romans 5:17). Here are the forensic realities that flow out of justification:

    * We are adopted as sons and daughters (Romans 8:15)
    * We become fellow-heirs with Christ (v. 17)
    * We are united with Christ so that we become one with Him (1 Corinthians 6:17)
    * We are henceforth “in Christ” (Galatians 3:27) and He in us (Colossians 1:27)

    How Justification and Sanctification Differ

    Justification is distinct from sanctification because in justification God does not make the sinner righteous; He declares that person righteous (Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:16). Notice how justification and sanctification are distinct from one another:

    * Justification imputes Christ’s righteousness to the sinner’s account (Romans 4:11b); sanctification imparts righteousness to the sinner personally and practically (Romans 6:1-7; 8:11-14).
    * Justification takes place outside sinners and changes their standing (Romans 5:1-2, sanctification is internal and changes the believer’s state (Romans 6:19).
    * Justification is an event, sanctification a process.

    Those two must be distinguished but can never be separated. God does not justify whom He does not sanctify, and He does not sanctify whom He does not justify. Both are essential elements of salvation.

    Reply
    • Tatiana says:

      Scott, I appreciate the seninmetts. There are a number of pastors (and others, of course) making a very strong case for the sin of idolatry being the primary sin under-girding just about every other sin which we commit. Essentially, we commit idolatry whenever we put anything before God or worship anything else as God instead of the true God of the Bible. Very thought provoking stuff. One book (which I’m yet to read but is on my shelf) is by Tim Keller called Counterfeit Gods , but I’m sure there are others as well.

      Reply
  40. Frank says:

    I will not engage in these arguments because it has been discussed and argued before. Nothing new here. Moreover, they are all academic because, contrary to the blogs title, mormons are NOT right. Only mormons believe they are right. They wrote their own book and call everything else a lie. Amazing. To be fair, there is a lot of error in the rest of “Christendom” but not to the extent of mormonism. mormonism is ENTIRLY false.

    Reply
  41. Rusty Lindquist says:

    Why don’t you tell me how you really feel? 😉

    First, the original “what if Mormons are right” post wasn’t written by me, nor actually by another Mormon, but by someone else saying giving essentially the same council that Rabbi Gamaliel gave Saul, and others, in encouraging them to not persecute the saints, for if their work is the work of men, it will come to nothing, but if it is the work of God, then you’ll be found fighting against it. Turns out, contrary to what Paul thought (who was much like you, thinking, testifying, and convinced that the saints were ENTIRELY false), that he was wrong. Fortunately for him, he was made aware of his error for the Lord had a profound mission in store for him.

    But, more to your comment… we didn’t write our own book (to find out what really happend with the Book of Mormon, click here.

    Also, we don’t call everything else a lie. We believe the whole of the Bible, we just believe that many misinterpret it.

    Reply
  42. MANUEL says:

    Thank you for taking your time to answer this questions.
    Is this true can you explain why, and where can you find it in the bible.
    Thank you
    Lorenzo Snow (fifth president) proclaimed, “As man is, our God once was; As now God is, so man may become (quoted in Ludlow, p. 72).

    For the Mormon, God the Father “was once a man like us.” And he “dwelt on a earth.” By keeping the ordinances and laws of the Mormon gospel, he “became a God.” Further, “We can become Gods like our heavenly Father” (Gospel, pp. 289-293).

    In addition, Joseph Fielding Smith (tenth president) declared, “The Prophet (i.e.. Joseph Smith) taught that our Father had a Father and so on” (Smith, p. 12).

    So according to Mormonism, through eternity past, gods have been creating planets. They populate them through sexual intercourse with their goddess wives; then some of their “spirit children” become gods themselves. And throughout eternity future, the same process will continue “worlds without end” (Brigham Young, second president; quoted in Ludlow, pp. 72-77).

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