Friday, July 17, 2009

The Book of Mormon 17/18

Now I'm going to talk about a few verses from the BOM on the subject of grace.

For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. (2 Nephi 25:23-24)

Therefore, blessed are they who will repent and hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; for these are they that shall be saved. And may God grant, in his great fulness, that men might be brought unto repentance and good works, that they might be restored unto grace for grace, according to their works. (Helaman 12:23-25)

Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. (Moroni 10:32).
I remember the subject of grace came up when I was talking to the Bishop. I had told him I hoped to be able to share the doctrines of grace with Kay. He asked me what I meant by "grace," and I told him I understood it to mean "unmerited favour--when God does something for us wholly undeserving." I don't remember his exact words, but it was something to the effect of God granting grace in proportion to a person's good works.

But that is exactly what Paul said grace was not. Paul said, "But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace" (Romans 11:6). The Mormon view of grace doesn't even make sense. Even Mormons will agree that salvation is by the grace of God. 2 Nephi 10:24 says that "it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved." But what are we being saved from? Why do we need to be saved? It is because we sin, and because we sin, we are under the wrath of God. But God shows mercy by giving us eternal life in spite of our sins. He spares us from the wrath we deserve, and that is the grace he shows us. It follows that the more you sin, the more grace you need. Likewise, Paul said, "where sin increased, grace abounded all the more" (Romans 5:20). But that is exactly the opposite of the Mormon view where you are given grace according to your good works. The better you live, the more grace you get. Essentially, you earn grace by living properly. That view makes no sense at all since the more righteously you live, the less grace you need.

I told the Bishop this issue of grace was probably the biggest difference between us, and he agreed.

I wonder if any Mormon has ever met the requirements of the Book of Mormon for obtaining God's grace. Has any Mormon ever done all they could do as 2 Nephi 25:23-24 requires? Has any Mormon ever denied himself of all ungodliness as Moroni 10:32 requires?

Part 18

40 Comments:

At 7/17/2009 4:05 PM , Blogger Paul said...

A monetary analogy would be something like this:

Classical Christians believe that we have been accruing debt all our lives and that when saved God sees fit to erase that debt, no matter how big, and even to fill our bank account (in a sort of trust fund).

Mormons appear to believe that when you are "saved" you go to work for God and He just pays you according to your labor. What God does with the accrued debt and whether there is a clear threshold between saved and unsaved is unclear to me.

From what we've discovered, Mormons believe that Jesus' death bought everyone the resurrection, but this has nothing to do with where you end up in the afterlife. It's not clear where faith comes into play in their theology, but it is abundantly clear that works make the difference in which "heaven" you wind up in. Your fate is merely your just reward—what you are due. It is not a matter of grace and mercy, only justice (apparently with sin being erasable with "good" acts).

I think Paul had many things to say against this idea. You point out one, and here's another from Romans 4:

For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about . . . Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: "BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED. BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT."

 
At 7/17/2009 4:16 PM , Blogger Paul said...

You asked the questions, What are we being saved from and why do we need to be saved? This reminds me of a point of confusion I still have. I don't understand why it is that we (supposedly being preexistent being) need to be born into this earth and saved in the first place. Seems to me to be some sort of system of testing and earning of the right to make it to the highest heavens; it's works-based from the getgo. And if we have to go through this to prove ourselves worthy, and Jesus is just like us (our eldest brother), then why was Jesus exempt (i.e., why was He on a whole different program when He came here)?

 
At 7/18/2009 2:18 AM , Blogger Carl said...

I'm really just posting so that I can get a current "... has replied ..." email, I'm tired of digging thru 400 emails to find the last one I received.

But since I'm here I'll go ahead and reply. I'm shooting from the hip though, so bear with me.

It's not nearly as easy as I thought it would be, you've clearly got very defined ideas of what "grace' and 'works' and 'saved' mean, which are different that what most Mormons may understand them to mean. It's especially not easy to do it in a clear way...

While I won't go into detail on every thing you said that I disagree with, I will touch a few.

Because of the atonement of Christ we can be forgiven of our sins. Repentance is the means by which we ask for that forgiveness. Basically one would be truly sorry he sinned, ask for forgiveness and then strive to never do it again. And yes, there is that phrase in there, "strive to never do it again." Because we are in this world, we will be tempted again, and may again fail to resist the temptation. And we can be forgiven again, If we are truly trying, doesn't mean we have to succeed. Christ knows if we're really trying or just paying lip service.

Our 'works' do not enter into the forgiveness of sins. I don't beleive there is any real time at which one can be considered 'saved', we all must endure until the end.

By honoring that gift, along with everything else that Christ has done for us, by striving to live the commandments and follow Christ's example, we show ourselves to more or less worth of exaltation. I beleive in eternal progression, and what we learn and show ourselves capable of in this life determines how exalted we will be at the end of this life. This is also because of Christ's grace, he will lift our sins allowing us to continue to grow without their scars.

I suppose I could put it as: "By Christ's grace we can be saved from the eternal burden of our sins, by our works we exalt his name and amplify the gift of his atonement, for which we shall receive eternal blessings.) I really do talk like that sometimes.

There is nothing man can do, no works, no repentance, nothing that man can do will lift his sins without the gift of Christ's atonement.

>>Has any Mormon ever done all they could do as 2 Nephi 25:23-24 requires?

I'm sure plenty of people have tried their hardest and done everything they could. That doesn't mean they succeeded, it means they sincerely gave it their best.

>>Has any Mormon ever denied himself of all ungodliness as Moroni 10:32 requires?

This one takes a little more thought to see how it works...I'm sure plenty of people have denied themselves of all the ungodliness they could, and when they failed they repented, so those times don't count...because of Christ's atonement. It's just silly to imply that the only way to receive grace is to not need it. When you repent of a sin, it is lifted from you, and does not count against you any longer.

Important note on the last two statements, Only Christ and yourself know if you truly did all that you could, and repented when you failed, and chances are, you'll be fairly biased on the matter.

 
At 7/18/2009 2:21 AM , Blogger Carl said...

(I guess I should paste the spell checked version not the other one)
Paul, I don't know how to do the quote thing obviously and you hit enough points it would be a waste of space for me to repeat them when I address them...so I'll go in order and try to keep track of where I am :)

Mormons don't beleive in the concepts of 'grace' 'saved' and 'works' in the same way you seem to use them here. And the closest I can get to what I think you mean by them still doesn't help explain the difference, which is why I tried to use other more generally descriptive words and phrases above.

Because of Christ's sacrifice on the cross we are able to be resurrected and receive our physical bodies for eternity. Because of his suffering in Gethsemane, we are able to return to God free of sin. Our actions and decisions on earth, how we live our lives, determines the glory we receive in heaven. They are 3 separate things.

Actually reading back thru, I think that covered all your points except why Jesus was on a different program.

Because in order for it to work, someone had to pay the price. Jesus choose to pay the price for everyone knowing that most would be either unable or unwilling to pay it themselves. (Jesus played a far bigger role and did far more than just that to place him in his unique program, but that's the part relevant to this discussion)

------------------------

What doesn't make sense to me, are the ideas of "grace" and "saved". If thru Christ's grace, everyone is saved, I don't see the point at all to any of this, why not just gather people back to heaven as soon as they are saved, for that matter, why keep going after Jesus paid the price? It's been paid, no amount of work from us can change that, so why bother with the last 2000 years? Without the idea of eternal progression and a different interpretation of some scriptures than the one man has been refining for 2000+ years, this whole mortal life doesn't make alot sense to me.

I've noticed a trend here where some verses or doctrines are taken out of the context and looked at from a perspective that carries presumptions with which they don't fit. This is a good example. Mormon doctrine teaches a completely different idea than what you have here with 'grace and works and saved" yet you've taken some references to grace and redemption and tried to make them fit into your preconceptions. You would gain more understanding if you were to try to understand why things make sense to the people that they do make sense to, than by taking things, comparing them to subjective interpretation and then deciding they don't make sense. It's possible to see how things can make sense without agreeing with them.

Is it plausible that if you interpret the scriptures referring to grace they way that LDS' do, and you look at it from their understanding, does the LDS viewpoint make sense? Not are you convinced, not have you seen the errors of their way, but yeah, that could be another way to read it. Regardless of if they make sense compared to what you beleive, could another interpretation be valid?

I did finally notice the "Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]" at eh bottom of the page, but by that time I'd already typed to much to stop ;)

 
At 7/20/2009 10:13 PM , Blogger Sam said...

Carl, you can just italicize the quotes by putting a [i] before the quote and [/i] at the end of the quote except you should use carrots instead of brackets.

Because of Christ's sacrifice on the cross we are able to be resurrected and receive our physical bodies for eternity. Because of his suffering in Gethsemane, we are able to return to God free of sin. Our actions and decisions on earth, how we live our lives, determines the glory we receive in heaven. They are 3 separate things.

Carl, am I understanding you correctly that Mormons don't believe Jesus died for sins? It sounds like you're saying that he atoned for our sins while in the garden of Gethsemane, that his death secured our resurrections, and that the two are distinct.

You said a couple of times that your understanding of "grace" is different than ours. I know the Mormon view is different, but I'm not totally clear on what the Mormon definition is. Would you mind explaining that? And please try to be as clear as possible, because I've had it explained to me before, and I don't think I quite understood.

What doesn't make sense to me, are the ideas of "grace" and "saved".

"Grace" is just anything God does for us that we don't deserve. Like when God sends rain on the just and the unjust, that's an act of grace on his part. It's the opposite of earning or deserving something. Anything God does for us that we didn't earn, deserve, or contribute to, is an act of grace on God's part.

"Saved" is used in different ways in the Bible. Usually, when we say we are saved we mean that we are spared the wrath of God for our sins. We talk about it in the past, present, and future in different senses. We were saved in the sense that Jesus died for our sins 2000 years ago. We are saved in the sense that we have exercised faith in Jesus, and so have been declared righteous before God. We will be saved in the sense that when God pours out his wrath on mankind because of their sins, and when he judged the whole world, we will be spared his wrath.

to be continued...

 
At 7/20/2009 10:14 PM , Blogger Sam said...

If thru Christ's grace, everyone is saved, I don't see the point at all to any of this, why not just gather people back to heaven as soon as they are saved, for that matter, why keep going after Jesus paid the price?

I think I can understand why this question would come up. You believe we all existed as spirits in heaven before coming to earth, and that's where we belong. So you wonder why God doesn't "gather people back to heaven." But we don't believe we existed as spirits in heaven. This earth was the beginning of our existence. This is where God created man, and this is where we belong. And at the resurrection, Christ will bring back to earth those who have fallen asleep in him.

We also believe God has many purposes for us that he doesn't reveal to us. But one that he does reveal to us is that the church is supposed to proclaim the gospel. We can't do that if God snatches each person up as soon as they believe.

It's been paid, no amount of work from us can change that, so why bother with the last 2000 years?

During the last 2000 years, more and more people have been coming to faith in Christ. I suspect the whole delay is for the sake of gathering in all those who are predestined to salvation. Some of them haven't even been born yet.

Without the idea of eternal progression and a different interpretation of some scriptures than the one man has been refining for 2000+ years, this whole mortal life doesn't make alot sense to me.

God created man for his own glory. He created us as physical beings to inhabit earth. That was our original state. That's the kind of beings we are. Unlike the Mormon view, we are not simply passing through.

Is it plausible that if you interpret the scriptures referring to grace they way that LDS' do, and you look at it from their understanding, does the LDS viewpoint make sense?

I don't know how Mormons would interpret the references I gave above, but I would like to your take on it.

 
At 7/20/2009 11:39 PM , Blogger Paul said...

Carl,

Thanks for responding! I have some questions:

1) Is everyone resurrected, no matter what they believe about Jesus?

2) What do you have to believe in order to be "able to return to God free of sin" due to the suffering in Gethsemane?

3) What happens if you are a pretty decent believer who happens to commit some bad sins, but then you die before you have a chance to repent?

4) Could one have the right beliefs, but manage to end up in the lowest heavenly realm?

5) Could one have the wrong beliefs, but be a really good person, and end up in a really good place in the afterlife?

6) If Jesus is like us (our elder brother), then why could He live a sinless life and we cannot?

7) If we could manage to live a sinless life, would we need to be concerned about Jesus at all?

8) What's special about Jesus? Could any other of the Father's children have done the same work of atonement?

9) Do you think Scripture can have different understandings for different people, which contradict each other?

10) Do you think it is important (or possible) to assess what the author of any given passage of Scripture was trying to communicate?

 
At 7/20/2009 11:40 PM , Blogger Paul said...

And now to your question:

If thru Christ's grace, everyone is saved, I don't see the point at all to any of this, why not just gather people back to heaven as soon as they are saved, for that matter, why keep going after Jesus paid the price? It's been paid, no amount of work from us can change that, so why bother with the last 2000 years? Without the idea of eternal progression and a different interpretation of some scriptures than the one man has been refining for 2000+ years, this whole mortal life doesn't make alot sense to me.

I hope that your rejection of classical Christianity and its longstanding "different interpretation" of Scripture is not predicated upon what "makes a lot of sense" to you. There are things in Scripture that I cannot fathom, but I accept them because they appear to be the plain reading of Scripture and they are supported elsewhere in Scripture as well.

We're not saying that there are no benefits to living the Christian life. There is still something to be learned from this life, and apparently something of an eternal nature involved, since Hebrews 11:35 states that martyrs were obtaining "a better resurrection." For converts, there is also the duty and opportunity to win more souls. Who would evangelize if all Christians were snatched up upon conversion? For centuries, we have been privileged to be participants in the great drama of redemption and the spread of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Kind of anticlimactic if Jesus came to a small region and then that was it.

I think you're assuming that history is all about humans and their particular needs and glories (the whole theology of Exaltation to peer status with God suggests a rather egocentric perspective). Scripture seems more concerned with what is to be learned of God's glory and nature. I'm sure the stories of God's redemption of fallen individuals over the last 2000 years will be no small part of the great heavenly narrative.

Is it plausible that if you interpret the scriptures referring to grace the way that LDS' do, and you look at it from their understanding, does the LDS viewpoint make sense? . . . could another interpretation be valid?

Asking whether some things could possibly be interpreted in a way consistent with some other theology (like LDS theology) is not a helpful question. (Taking a random passage from Scripture) I could say that 1Co 15:50, which says that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God," could be interpreted as support for someone who had a theology that denies the bodily resurrection and goes for a purely spiritual heaven. I would assume that you would agree that this would be Scripture twisting.

The question is not whether some theology could offer a different understanding of selected verses; the question is what the best understanding of any given verse is in its context. I would argue that classical Christian theology fits more naturally with the plain reading of Scripture and that the Mormon reading only begins to make sense if you first presuppose Mormon theology. I first read the Bible as an adult before I really understood Christian theology. In fact, I had more of a New Age view at the time, which shares some beliefs in common with Mormonism. After reading Scripture (largely in a vacuum) I came away from the experience with a rather orthodox understanding of what it was trying to convey. What a coincidence! It was 5 years later that I started being exposed to classical Christian theologians, and what I learned from them offered no surprises, only systematics.

 
At 7/21/2009 11:25 AM , Blogger DagoodS said...

Paul: I would argue that classical Christian theology fits more naturally with the plain reading of Scripture and that the Mormon reading only begins to make sense if you first presuppose Mormon theology.
.
Mmm…Doesn’t this hold true for creedal Christianity—or classical Christianity—as well? Dependant upon what one defines as “Scripture”?

To turn this same phrase around, I could see a Jew saying, “I would argue that classical Judaism theology fits more naturally with the plain reading of the Tanakh and that the creedal Christian reading [of the Tanakh] only begins to make sense if you first presuppose creedal Christian theology.”

To a Jew, the New Testament is not scripture. Therefore, the creedal Christian theology of reading prophecies about Jesus, Jesus being a Spiritual Messiah, a new Covenant, and Christophanies do NOT fit with their plain reading of the Tanakh. Only once the New Testament is considered Scripture does the Tanakh take on a creedal Christianity viewpoint.

In the same way, I could see if we add a “Newer Testament”—those who presuppose the “Newer Testament” is Scripture would view the Tanakh and the New Testament in a manner that made more sense under the “Newer Testament.” Whether that Newer Testament is the Book of Mormon, Qur’an, or Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.

Paul: The question is not whether some theology could offer a different understanding of selected verses; the question is what the best understanding of any given verse is in its context.
.
Again, isn’t this a loaded question? What is the “best understanding” of Psalms 22? A prophecy or a person requesting deliverance from their God during a troubled time? Depends on whether one presupposes the New Testament is scripture, doesn’t it?

Or the Parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30) In the First Century Mediterranean society, the first servant would be the wicked one, the third would have been the good one. Yet in American society, it is the reverse. What is the “best understanding”—that of the time of writing or now?

By what method do we determine “best understanding”? [O.K.—you had to see that one coming! *grin*]

 
At 7/21/2009 11:00 PM , Blogger Paul said...

Fair points, DagoodS.

The difference is that Christians agree very much with the Jews in their own time and context. In fact, we largely hold the books of the Tanakh to be more literal and inspired than many of the Jews. Christianity does not add any competing Scriptures that overlap the Hebrew Scriptures and Jewish historical narratives, unlike the BoM. Christianity does not offer anything like "Another Testament of Moses."

In fact, we agree with the Jews that there was a Messiah to come and that a new covenant would be made. We just disagree over whether or not Jesus is that Messiah. I don't know that there was universal agreement over what that Messiah was to look like, since Scripture seemed to predict one fitting the diverse roles of priest, prophet, and king. It seems like their theology became a bit more refined once they had that pesky Jesus against which to measure what the Messiah would NOT look like :-) However, most Jews I've seen queried about their messianic expectations don't really even factor one into their thinking anymore. This does not surprise me, since their entire system has fallen apart since the coming of Jesus, e.g., they've had no Temple for 2000 years, which was the centerpiece of their religion and the place where most of their system of worship was to be executed! What's a Jew to do?

It would be different for Mormonism if there was a prevailing interpretation of Scripture (among us Christians) that the entire church would go apostate and one man, visited by God, would put it all back in place, or that there would be some future new location for the epicenter of the Judeo-Christian faith. If we had these, then we could understandably debate with the Mormons over whether or not Smith and America qualified for such fulfillments.

As it stands, I think even an atheist outsider such as you can detect the weak cheese of Mormon biblical exegesis to fit their program. I think they do better to stick to the tactic that the Bible is only inspired "as far as it is translated correctly" and that there were "many plain and precious things taken away" from it. Should the Bible agree with their theology so well, then Smith would not have had to resort to such tactics. And this is the tactic of Islam and all the cults of Christianity, too. It is not the tactic of Christianity in relation to Judaism.

What is the “best understanding” of Psalms 22? A prophecy or a person requesting deliverance from their God during a troubled time?

Both. We don't refute the plain reading; we only agree with the O.T. itself, which says that the Messiah will be, in some sense, a type of David and that God puts prophetic words in the mouths of men. It is an awfully spooky Psalm if one accepts the passion narrative as actual history.

What is the “best understanding”—that of the time of writing or now?

The best understanding is the intended meaning of the author, whether or not it agrees with the values of one time or another. In fact, Scripture seems to be keen to make the point that cultures may be very wrong in their values and understandings! In the parable of the Talents, the author makes his point, so we do not even need to speculate.

 
At 7/22/2009 3:53 AM , Blogger Carl said...

It sounds like you're saying that he atoned for our sins while in the garden of Gethsemane, that his death secured our resurrections, and that the two are distinct.

Actually, that's pretty much what I said. However the answer is yes/no. Christ's death was the culmination of the many things he had come to Earth to accomplish. In the garden, Christ took on the sins of all the world, he paid the price there, which was why he bled from the pores. (There is a condition cause by extreme emotional and physical stress where blood can seep thru the skin. It's a rare occurrence because typically either your body has shut down before that point, or you've died, and is typically limited to areas where the skin is very thin with shallow blood vessels. But the point is that at that time, Christ paid the very real physical and emotional price that sin requires to be paid.) So it was in the garden that he paid the price for mankind's sins.

However, his entire life makes it possible. Because he lives completely without sin himself, he was uniquely able to take on the sins of others. Because he spent the last week of his life as lowly and powerless as any other man could live, he encompassed us all, no one was overlooked by his atonement. Upon the cross, God accepted the sacrifice that Christ had made for all of us, and his mission on Earth was complete.

You said a couple of times that your understanding of "grace" is different than ours. I know the Mormon view is different, but I'm not totally clear on what the Mormon definition is. Would you mind explaining that? And please try to be as clear as possible, because I've had it explained to me before, and I don't think I quite understood.

I did some looking around to find a good way to explain it. I have a general idea of the classical Christian concept of grace, however it's not a concept that was taught under such a title to me. So I don't have a definition of "grace" aside from the usual ones. Which doesn't mean I don't believe the biblical verses which stsate that it is by Christ's grace that we are saved, without his sacrifice, we could not be. I found an article here that I think explains it well.

We were saved in the sense that Jesus died for our sins 2000 years ago. We are saved in the sense that we have exercised faith in Jesus, and so have been declared righteous before God. We will be saved in the sense that when God pours out his wrath on mankind because of their sins, and when he judged the whole world, we will be spared his wrath.

I was being slightly facetious when I posted that, I'm just not clear on how it works in the grand scheme of things. And I do agree with your statements except on a few niggly points of terminology. And the part about God pouring out his wrath, he loves us and wants us to return to live with him again. Joy for those who returned, sorrow for those who failed, but wrath? I don't see it.

I don't see any conflict between my beliefs on the subject of grace and the biblical verses. I know that it's only thru Christ's sacrifice that we can be freed from sin.

God created man for his own glory. He created us as physical beings to inhabit earth. That was our original state. That's the kind of beings we are. Unlike the Mormon view, we are not simply passing through.

I don't believe we are simply passing thru. This life is as essential part of our progress. It is here that we mature and grow. It is here that we learn to follow principles and to know right from wrong instead of being subject to often changing whims and unrighteous desires. (I'll get the "for his own glory" part in a minute)

 
At 7/22/2009 3:59 AM , Blogger Carl said...

1) Is everyone resurrected, no matter what they believe about Jesus?
Yes. And I'll point out that I don't believe that resurrection is the same as being saved and declared righteous. I believe that everyone will be resurrected and receive glory based on their righteousness.

2) What do you have to believe in order to be "able to return to God free of sin" due to the suffering in Gethsemane?
That is a complicated answer to spell out, and still wouldn't be accurate. Basically you have to strive to the best of your ability to follow the commandments. I believe there are other ordinances which are also required, Jesus taught that baptism was one of them. There is a time between death and judgment where the gospel is still taught, where those who are wanting still have the opportunity to repent and to obtain those ordinances. A note here...part of repentance is to resist temptation to do it again, that can be pretty difficult to do when you don't have a physical body subject to temptation, so it's important to do your best here.

3) What happens if you are a pretty decent believer who happens to commit some bad sins, but then you die before you have a chance to repent?
Oh, I just answered this one.

4) Could one have the right beliefs, but manage to end up in the lowest heavenly realm?

5) Could one have the wrong beliefs, but be a really good person, and end up in a really good place in the afterlife?


I believe the sun will come out tomorrow. however I don't plan to leave the house, so I get no real benefit from the sun being out. There is a difference between belief and faith, you have to act in faith in order to see the rewards of belief. The world is full of awesome people, people who through out their life have shown that they hold dear to principles that are true eternal principles, integrity, honesty, charity, things of that sort. Gandhi, to pick a random example. He was not a christian, yet he lived his life in such a way that when presented with the gospel in the afterlife, he will surely recognize it as the source of the true eternal principles by which he led his life. (I do not profess to make any judgment here, simply using an example I think we can agree on). so the answer to both is yes, but it's not our place, nor do we have enough information to line judge.

 
At 7/22/2009 4:00 AM , Blogger Carl said...

6) If Jesus is like us (our elder brother), then why could He live a sinless life and we cannot?

Because Jesus is like us in that he is our elder brother, however he is not like us at all. In the pre-mortal existence, Jesus was already our superior. I don't believe the details of why or how have been revealed to use, but it can suffice to say that Jesus was already set apart as being above us.

7) If we could manage to live a sinless life, would we need to be concerned about Jesus at all?
Because we can't. It simply is not possible for us to live a mortal life and remain pure.

8) What's special about Jesus? Could any other of the Father's children have done the same work of atonement?
Somewhat covered this before, we don't really know what exactly set Jesus apart from the rest of us. The easy way to think of it is that he's the oldest of God's children, there for he already knows the most, is the most mature, and is the closest to God. As far as the atonement itself. No one else could have done it. At least 2 facts play into that, first that he had lived completely without sin, and so was able to take onto his unburdened shoulders the sins of everyone else. You'll like the second one :)
Jesus was the literal child between the mortal Mary and the immortal God (not literal in any weird immoral way, but in some means available to God that we simply don't understand). As such he inherited attributes from both, those attributes were not mutually exclusive, he felt hunger and pain and temptation and all the other facts of mortal life, but he was also immortal, his life was his to hold and to offer. He was not held bound by the weaknesses of a mortal body and could have denied hunger or pain. The suffering he went thru in Gethsemane could not have been born by any mortal. Christ very willingly took the pain and suffering of the sins of mankind. It was in his power to cast off the suffering, he choose not to so that we might be saved.

9) Do you think Scripture can have different understandings for different people, which contradict each other?
Certainly, we've done it repeatedly here. Neither of our viewpoints on the 'grace' verses really invalidates the other. I'll do you one better in fact, I think it's possible for 2 people to have 2 different interpretations of a given scripture and for them to both be right. I don't believe the gospel is determined by nitpicking words or phrases. I don't believe the gospel is limited to a black and white version of everything. God loves us and has given us the scriptures to guide us, they're not road maps back to him, they're not instructions manuals, they are the ideals and principles that will lead us back to him. They are the way we calibrate our moral compass.

That kind of answers #10 too.

 
At 7/22/2009 4:02 AM , Blogger Carl said...

I hope that your rejection of classical Christianity and its longstanding "different interpretation" of Scripture is not predicated upon what "makes a lot of sense" to you.
No, in fact mostly I was reacting to what seems to me to be your rejection of a different belief. I don't 'reject' classical Christianity, though I will later question your use of the word classical, I believe that many of the principles that Christ taught have lasted thru the ages, I also believe that many of them have been lost or distorted, having been poured over and studied by man for 2000 years. We can not observe something without changing it.

I think you're assuming that history is all about humans and their particular needs and glories (the whole theology of Exaltation to peer status with God suggests a rather egocentric perspective
We will never be peers to God. He is our Father in Heaven, he will always be our God. When man is exalted, he receives the glory. If you use the family metaphor, he is the perfect TV Father who never goes wrong and always loves his children, the 'perfect father'. We've been thru infancy in the pre-mortal existence, we've learned to stand and walk, but we've never really had to 'be' (it's not a perfect metaphor, kids are a person well before they walk) We don't know how to think for ourselves really, in the perfection of Heaven we've never had challenges or temptation to over come. We are learning that now. How to know and choose what is right, God has done all he could to help us, but has left us our free agency so that we can truly learn. Like the family, when we are again with our Heavenly Father, He will be exalted by our exaltation. He will still be our Father in Heaven. Nothing will ever change that. That almost agrees with your saying that he created us for his glory, although I don't believe we created us out of an ego trip, I believe it was because he had love to give. Acting out of love is perfectly in line with the scriptures.

 
At 7/22/2009 4:03 AM , Blogger Carl said...

(Last one)
Asking whether some things could possibly be interpreted in a way consistent with some other theology (like LDS theology) is not a helpful question.
Dagwood answered this better than I could I think. But what I've seen following your posts here is a dismissal of the LDS view based on your interpretation. Take the verses above, none of them invalidate the view that we are save thru Christ's grace by the measure of our works, unless you apply and understanding that is not provided by the scriptures in question.

Doesn’t this hold true for creedal Christianity—or classical Christianity—as well?
There is an interesting observation. Christianity, as it's usually defined today, didn't come into being until 300ish years later. Of course many of it's doctrines and beliefs were in practice for centuries before hand. However we can witness the apostles trying to maintain unity in the teachings of the Church in the New Testament, so discerning based on recorded history which doctrines are true becomes impossible. Interestingly, several of the LDS doctrine have been shown to have also been practices by first and second century Christians, from sources that were not known at the time they were instituted in the LDS Church.

It would be different for Mormonism if there was a prevailing interpretation of Scripture (among us Christians) that the entire church would go apostate and one man, visited by God, would put it all back in place, or that there would be some future new location for the epicenter of the Judeo-Christian faith.

The scriptures are testaments to Christ, not the prophets. Other than John the Baptist, I don't know of any other prophet foretold in the Bible.
There are scriptures that can be read as prophesying the restoration of the gospel in the latter days. Of course those scriptures, like any other, can be argued to not be prophesying the restoration.
And no, it wouldn't be different because the Jews had scriptures foretelling the coming of the Messiah, without the benefit of a living prophet for the last several centuries before Christ, they were waiting and looking for their savior. And with 1600 years worth of scripture telling them very clearly that their savior was coming followed by 400 years of being left to their own interpretations, when Jesus came, they used those scriptures to deny him his divinity, charged him with claiming to be the Messiah, and had him executed.

I think the fact that the Jews had drifted so far from the fullness of the truth they had in the time that they did, lends a fair amount of credence to the idea that the gospel would again need to be restored after the first thru 16th centuries got thru with it.

 
At 7/22/2009 2:44 PM , Blogger DagoodS said...

Paul: As it stands, I think even an atheist outsider such as you can detect the weak cheese of Mormon biblical exegesis to fit their program.
.
Paul, I’ve been wresting with how to describe the differences I see between Mormonism and creedal Christianity. I would, as a broad brush, agree there are more problems in Mormonism. However I see the difference more of quantity (how many) rather than quality (the type of problems.)

By virtue of Mormonism subscribing to both the creedal Christian Bible and the Book of Mormon—they subsume the problems of the Bible with the additional Book of Mormon problems. For example, we have the archeological problem of Exodus/Joshua’s genocide. Both creedal Christian literalists and Mormon literalists have this archeological problem. The Book of Mormon has accounts with steel, creating additional archeological problems.

So Mormonism has more quantity archeological problems (Exodus plus Steel) than creedal Christianity (Exodus only) but the quality of the problem—archeology not supporting the writing—is the same.

Or to touch upon another example:

Paul: Christianity does not offer anything like "Another Testament of Moses."
.
True, Christianity does not insert entire books into the Tanakh—but it does add to the Jewish history of the time. Things such as killing the prophets (1 Thess. 2:14-15) or Archangels fighting over the body of Jesus (Jude 9) or every time a Christian claims Christ appeared in a Christophany. And the Jewish concept of Satan is quite different. Or putting Satan as the snake in the garden

Again, the Mormons may have larger quantity (entire books) but the quality of the problem is the same—inserting one’s one history into another’s belief system.

I am not sure that I, as an unbeliever, would be helpful to either Mormonism or creedal Christian. I see such similar problems in both. “Pot,” “Kettle” and “Black” come to mind.

 
At 7/22/2009 2:45 PM , Blogger DagoodS said...

Carl: Interestingly, several of the LDS doctrine have been shown to have also been practices by first and second century Christians, from sources that were not known at the time they were instituted in the LDS Church.
.
Can you tell me what these are? I find early Christian history very interesting, and so any information you can provide here would be most fascinating.

Thanks.

 
At 7/22/2009 4:05 PM , Blogger Carl said...

Hello DaGoodS,

I'm trying to get some work done, but took a break and saw your comment, I'm just replying briefly. I'll look up some references on doctrines shared by the LDS and early Christianity latter and get them to you. Bear in mind I don't think that there's going to be any 'solid proof' to be found, is we had incontrovertible proof either way, then our need for faith, and our agency would be compromised.

I just wanted to touch on your comments regarding the problems.

LDS do not beleive in infallibility of the scripture or of the prophets. They are still subject to human interpretation and understanding. The Lord guides his prophets, but it is up to the prophet to understand and act on the Lords promptings.

Because of that, I can respond to the flood accounts with an, "I don't know". Personally I think it happened, if evidence is found that it did, I'm ok with that, if evidence is found proving without a doubt that it did not happen, I'm ok with that too. The flood account is what happened as understood by those who recorded it and by those who re-scribed it later. If it wasn't really a global flood, fine, the point of it isn't invalidated because the details were misunderstood.

Without a living prophet to guide, man is left to his own interpretation of scripture to determine the Lords word. So man becomes 'obsessed' with the details and terminology of the words in order to support his understanding. With a living prophet we have revelation that ties the ancient teachings of Christ directly to our lives, as the Lord intends them, and we have the gift of the Holy Ghost to assure us that it's true.
Though in the case of steel, we know that steel by it's modern definition did not exist in biblical times, however refined metals that would be considered steel by it's broad definition did exist. I don't know that that information was available to Joseph Smith when he translated the plates.
An interesting point to consider is that when Nephi left Jerusalem, he had a steel bow. Though out the trek from Jerusalem, Nephi does alot of hunting, though he never mentions having to replace his arrows when they become lost or broken. When he loses his steel bow, he does specify that he had to make a new bow and arrows. Arrows were made by hand and were made specifically for the bow they would be used on before there was any form of standardization. So the arrows that Nephi had been using for his steel bow were no good for his new bow. It's a trivial little detail that has no real bearing. Something that would be recorded by someone who was familiar with archery, but not something that seems likely to have been inserted by someone with no experience with archery.

Right after reading your reply, I checked my Google alerts and found this article which I think touches on the point you brought up.

 
At 7/22/2009 5:03 PM , Blogger Sam said...

Carl,

In the garden, Christ took on the sins of all the world, he paid the price there, which was why he bled from the pores…So it was in the garden that he paid the price for mankind's sins.

If Jesus paid the price for our sins in the garden, then the price was paid before he got to the cross. That would mean he did not die for our sins. He had already paid for our sins before he died. If that is what you are saying, then I think this is a major difference between Mormons and myself (and probably most other Christians, as well). In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul wrote, “I make known to you, brethren, the gospel, which I preached to you,” and then he goes on to quote, in the form of an oral tradition, what he apparently takes to be the bare bones essentials of the gospel:

"that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures
And that he was buried,
And that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
And that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
"

That’s a summary of what Paul calls “the gospel.” If you deny any of these things, you’re denying the gospel that Paul preached. If I’m understanding you correctly, Mormons deny that “Christ died for our sins.” So I just want to ask again to make sure there isn’t any misunderstanding: Do Mormons deny that Jesus died for sins? Do Mormons deny that Jesus paid the price for our sins on the cross?

 
At 7/22/2009 5:05 PM , Blogger Sam said...

The article you linked to only had a couple of paragraphs about grace, but it didn’t really define grace. I just want to know what Mormons think the word “grace” means. If Mormons mean the same thing by “grace” that I mean, then their view of how grace and works are related doesn’t make sense to me. Maybe it might make sense if they are defining it differently, but that’s what I want to find out.

Lemme try to explain again why the Mormon view doesn’t make sense to me. Let’s say, hypothetically, that there are 10 requirements to be perfect—5 things we must do and 5 things we must avoid doing. And let’s say that nobody is perfect. So everybody violates at least one of the 10 requirements.

Let’s say Jim fulfils 6 of the requirements, but fails to fulfill the other 4. Bob, on the other hand, fulfills 8 of the requirements, but fails to fulfill the other 2.

It seems to me that for both Jim and Bob to be saved requires the grace of God. God must grant them salvation from their shortcomings in spite of the fact that they didn’t fulfill all the requirements. Since there are more requirements that Jim didn’t fulfill than there are that Bob didn’t fulfill, Jim needs more grace than Bob does. God must forgive more failure on Jim’s part than on Bob’s part.

Likewise, Paul said, "where sin increased, grace abounded all the more" (Romans 5:20). Paul’s view makes good sense. But the Mormon view is just the opposite of Paul’s view. In the Mormon view (as I understand it), grace is something that we earn through our good works. In the Mormon view, Bob would get more grace than Jim since Bob fulfilled more of the requirements than Jim did. Do you see why that doesn’t make sense to me? Jim needs more grace than Bob, but in the Mormon view, Bob gets more grace than Jim.

The Mormon standard for acquiring God’s grace seems impossible to satisfy. It doesn’t say simply that God’s grace will cover our shortcomings. Rather, it says that God’s grace will cover our shortcomings only after we’ve done our very best. You have to deny yourself of all ungodliness before God’s grace is sufficient for you. Only once you’ve done all that you can do is God’s grace sufficient for you. In my view, it’s precisely because we can’t live up to these impossible standards that we need God’s grace. Nobody does all they can do. Nobody rids themselves of all ungodliness. Nobody loves God with all their mind, might, and strength. We all fall short of these requirements. That’s why we can only be saved by the grace of God. God saves us in spite of our shortcomings, not on the condition that we live up to his standards.

That’s why the true gospel is good news. People are slaves to sin. As Paul put it, we are, by nature, children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3). God saves us in spite of our failures, not because of our successes.

Earlier, I had said: “We will be saved in the sense that when God pours out his wrath on mankind because of their sins, and when he judged the whole world, we will be spared his wrath.

To which you replied: “And the part about God pouring out his wrath, he loves us and wants us to return to live with him again. Joy for those who returned, sorrow for those who failed, but wrath? I don't see it.

It’s right here in Romans 5:9: “Much more then, having now been justified by his blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through him.” A search for “wrath” on BibleGateway.com will turn up many more references.

 
At 7/22/2009 5:06 PM , Blogger Sam said...

You said to Paul, “Basically you have to strive to the best of your ability to follow the commandments.” This is something I’ve been wanting to talk to a Mormon about, and I hope to get your thoughts on it. Lemme see if I can use a series of syllogisms to make my questions more clear. These are based on what I understand the Mormon position to be.

1. If you do not follow the commandments to the best of your ability, then you cannot be saved (or God’s grace is not sufficient for you, etc.)
2. Some people are saved (or God’s grace is sufficient for some people).
3. Therefore, some people do follow the commandments to the best of their ability.

In other words, some Mormons do fulfill these requirements about obtaining God’s grace, exaltation, etc.

BUT…

3. Some people do follow the commandments to the best of their ability.
4. Nobody keeps all of the commandments all the time (i.e. we all sin).
5. Therefore, nobody is able to keep all of the commandments all of the time.

#5 seems to follow necessarily from #3 and #4. Let me put it another way:

6. People are able to keep all the commandments all of the time.
7. Some people keep the commandments to the best of their ability.
8. Therefore, some people keep all the commandments all of the time (i.e. some people don’t sin).

I’m sure you would reject #8 and since #7 is true, you’d also have to reject #6. Sure enough, in your post to Paul, you said, “It simply is not possible for us to live a mortal life and remain pure.

So if you agree that nobody is able to keep all of the commandments all of the time, then that raises some questions for me. First, how do you reconcile that with the Mormon view of free agency? From what I understand, Mormons believe we have free will in the libertarian sense. Anybody can do good or evil, and the only reason they do one or the other is because they freely choose to do so. Second, how can we have obligations that we are incapable of fulfilling? Doesn’t “ought” imply “can”? Can we be required to do something we are incapable of doing?

 
At 7/22/2009 5:57 PM , Blogger Carl said...

I think that arguing the when of Christ's atonement for our sins is beside the point that it happened. I don't know that it matters in the big picture when the actual deed was done, be it in the garden, on the cross or sitting by the road one day waiting for Timothy to get back from looking for a room for the night.

I think his death sealed all the sacrifices he made on Earth, including the atonement. I'm not deny the gospel of John because I'm not taking a definitive yes/no, black/white viewpoint.

In the garden, he took upon himself our sins, and on the cross that atonement was sealed. I don't see any contradiction to that in the bible, simply a condensed testimony of it.

Again, you are taking a definitive yes/no viewpoint and applying it to a piece of doctrine where it's not valid.

There are degrees of glory, which degree a person attains is based on his performance in life. If meeting 7 of the 10 requirements is the best that a person could do, then meeting 7 of the requirements is the best they can do.

My son is outside on his skateboard, I know he can't do tricks off the ramp they've set up, I don't even expect him to get any air off it. However he is doing the best that he can, and when he comes in I will be proud for him. It's not if he does it, it's that he's trying.

I don't ascribe to an all or nothing view regarding sin, repentance, salvation, glory, or any related topic. God's plan is far broader and greater than simple pass/fail.

Nor do I see any of this as 'rejecting' traditional Christianity, clarifying, expanding on, sometimes correcting, but not rejecting. Traditional Christianity is what we have left of Christ's teachings 2000 years later, my beliefs are based on his restored gospel in current times. I don't see any conflict between what he taught then and what he's revealed now, only between man's interpretation of the two.

I don't know that you will get a definition of the Mormon view on grace that satisfies you because you are looking for one that fits your paradigm. "Grace" as you use it is not taught in Mormon theology, the principles that lead to "Grace" being defined are, you have a part of the process which has been interpreted into a concise act, you can't get an LDS equivalent because the understanding of the process has been restored and is larger and more encompassing than fits into a simple label.

 
At 7/22/2009 6:36 PM , Blogger Sam said...

Carl,

What do you mean when you say that Jesus’ sacrifices were sealed on the cross? I want to understand how you are reconciling your view that Jesus paid for our sins in the garden with the Biblical view that Jesus paid for our sins by dying on the cross. You obviously don’t think there’s any contradiction, so I want to understand how you are reconciling the two.

How do you interpret the phrase, “died for our sins” in 1 Corinthians 15:3, “died for sins” in 1 Peter 3:18, “bore our sins in his body on the cross,” in 1 Peter 3:18, and “give his life a ransom for many” in Matthew 20:28?

Maybe a follow up hypothetical question might help you clarify things for me. If, at the last minute, Jesus was not crucified, or if he had been taken down from the cross before dying, and he managed to recover, would our sins still have been paid for?

I don't know that you will get a definition of the Mormon view on grace that satisfies you because you are looking for one that fits your paradigm.

I’m not looking for a definition that satisfies me. I don’t expect to be satisfied with the Mormon definition because you’ve already told me that it’s different than mine. At this point, I just want to know what the definition is. You said the Mormon view might make more sense to me if I had a different understanding of grace. Let’s find out.

 
At 7/22/2009 10:17 PM , Blogger Paul said...

Rats, I was going to post something, but I just noticed I've gotten behind. Will have to review the dialog and get back to this later.

For some reason I'm not getting emails from comment postings anymore.

 
At 7/26/2009 1:49 AM , Blogger Carl said...

For some reason I'm not getting emails from comment postings anymore.
I've taken them all! HaHa!

Christ knew that his life was at an end, he took his apostles and retired to the Garden where he frequently went to pray. While Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, he took upon himself the sins of the world. He bore the physical, emotional, and spiritual pain and suffering for all man so that we would not need to. Had Christ been mortal, he would have been destroyed by the anguish. Even as he was, he pleaded with God to 'lift up this cup', each time acceding that God's will be done.

It is possible that at that time, God withdrew his presence, the certain knowledge of his identity that Christ had felt his whole life. It's possible that even the Holy Ghost at that time left him. To carry the weight of our sins thru the last days of his life. Christ had to be brought as low as the lowest man ever would be. We know that at least for some time while he hung on the cross that God had withdrawn his presence from Christ. Personally, I think it began in the garden, for that was where Christ took on our sins, and no sin can be in God's presence.
Matthew 27:46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
Christ lived a life without sin so that he could take them upon himself in the Garden, bore their pain thru the last days of his life, and as he hung on the cross, suffering spiritually, emotionally, and physically, without completely bereft of God's presence comfort, his sacrifice was accepted.
John 19:30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.
His mission had been fulfilled. The sacrifice that he paid in the garden, when he pleaded for it to end, if it was God's will, when he could have simply pleaded for it to end, when he conceded to God's will, beyond his desire to continue, he hung on the edge of our redemption, and with a love for us that we can only begin to comprehend, suffering more than we could ever bear, THEN is when the price was paid. After the garden, he bore the pain, on the cross he again bore it fully, without any comfort his spirit was again rendered for the sin's of mankind. But the decision to do so was made in the Garden.

When Christ knew that that sacrifice had been accepted, that the price had bee paid in full and without any comfort or mercy from God, he surrendered his body to the ravages he had suffered in the garden, in the prison, and upon the cross. Christ did die on the cross for our sins. His death was a direct result of the suffering that began in Gethsemane.

 
At 7/26/2009 2:34 AM , Blogger Carl said...

There should be an edit button, I could have spaced that out better.

If, at the last minute, Jesus was not crucified, or if he had been taken down from the cross before dying, and he managed to recover, would our sins still have been paid for?

The problem with this questions is that Christ knew it was time. Had it not been the correct time, then Jesus wouldn't have been the Christ and the whole thing falls apart. But I'll answer it anyways because it's an interesting answer.

John19:31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the across on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
32 Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him.
33 But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs:
34 But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.


The Romans were experts at crucifixions, there was no physical reason they knew of that Christ should have died as soon as he did. They fully expected him to still be alive at sunset when they came to break his legs (which was the usual method of hurrying death along) yet he was dead.

Once Christ's sacrifice was accepted, once his mission was complete, he yielded his divine control over his mortal body and allowed it finally to suffer the fate that had been set when he took on our sins.

There is a condition in which the inner wall of the heart can be torn in such a way that the blood begins to separate into a thick coagulate and a clear serum, which would appear very much as water and blood gushing forth were the soldier's spear to have pierced the heart cavity. The cause of this rare condition? Extreme emotional, and we can assume spiritual, stress.

The Romans crucified Christ, at the insistence of the Jews in power at that time. People died from various causes when crucified, in our saviors case, that cause was a broken heart.


At this point, I just want to know what the definition is.
At this point, I go "oh, duh!" and feel like a fool.

Grace

I was going to copy it over here, but decided it was too long...then I thought I'd edit it down shorter, but decided it was too relevant.

 
At 7/26/2009 3:03 AM , Blogger Carl said...

And after I posted that, I was looking for information on parralells between early Christian and LDS beliefs that DaGoodS had asked about earlier in the comments (I thought it was a different post) and found this site from Jeff Lindsey, who does a good job of covering alot of topics, in this case faith and works.

And that site had a link to this site which covers several doctrine shared by the LDS and early Christians. Though it's alot of reading.

 
At 7/26/2009 3:44 PM , Blogger Paul said...

Carl,

And I do agree with your statements except on a few niggly points of terminology. And the part about God pouring out his wrath, he loves us and wants us to return to live with him again. Joy for those who returned, sorrow for those who failed, but wrath? I don't see it.

You don't see it where? Do you discount the Bible in what you "see" about God, because the very word "wrath" is used scores of times in relation to Him, not counting mentions of judgment and hell. And I sure hope God's got something sterner in mind for Hitler than merely sorrow for his failure.

On the answers to my questions I come away with this:

There is no necessity to believe in the cross and resurrection, since that only pertains to our resurrection, and that's going to happen no matter what you believe. Also not important to believe in the Gethsemane suffering or even to believe in Mormonism so long as you're a good person. You'll always get another chance after death for the proper beliefs and undone ordinances. In fact, there's nothing much to fear no matter what you do or believe, because God isn't in the wrath business anyway! The worst case seems to be that we live a pleasant life in someone else's heaven rather than being the boss in one of our own.

Seems to me that the best bet is just to be a good mainstream Christian. If I end up in the afterlife and I discover Mormons free to continue proselytizing, then I'll know my theology has a problem and I'll probably convert then. But if I go the Mormon route on earth and start thinking I can earn my way to glory and that I'm essentially the same-order being as God, and then I die and discover that the classical Christian view is true, I'm in big trouble.

Additionally, since you answer #9 in the affirmative, this means that both of our contradictory understandings of Scripture can be true and you've got no beef with my beliefs anyway.

 
At 7/26/2009 3:45 PM , Blogger Paul said...

I believe that many of the principles that Christ taught have lasted thru the ages, I also believe that many of them have been lost or distorted, having been poured over and studied by man for 2000 years. We can not observe something without changing it.

We have been observing and pouring over nature for centuries, too, but we seem to be successfully refining our understanding of it, not distorting and losing truths about it. It does not follow that having the Scriptures to look at and think about for 2000 years means that they will necessarily be distorted, only potentially. For support of that idea you would have to look at the earlier copies of Scripture and the beliefs about it versus the later. The fact that we seek in the present to improve our translations based on older manuscript discoveries and better linguistic understanding says something about the attitude toward first things. And the problem of theological accretions by the Roman church was affirmed and engaged at the Reformation. (I should add that this problem was facilitated by the idea, similar to Mormonism, that its leadership is still channeling revelation.)

If you are concerned that fallible human reflection on what Christ taught might distort it, then I would think that you would be sympathetic to the Protestant view of Scripture alone as the final authority in doctrinal formulations, and that we should always be open to reforming ourselves in light of it. However, LDS theology appears systematically opposed to this idea, because what is really important is what its modern leadership is saying to the church, even if it negates or contradicts past teaching. This makes it impossible to accuse Mormonism of being corrupt, since there is no measure to use in order to assess its orthodoxy other than its current state!

Perhaps if we Protestants were claiming that our theology were acquired in the present moment through revelation of God to our leaders, then you would forgive any conflicts between what it is now and what you think it was in the time of Jesus. But I suspect that if this were the case, you would be more inclined to say that we are just wrong, i.e., that we are not really receiving revelation from God. That charge can be applied to the LDS leadership as well, but by what measure shall we judge their supposed revelation? How could you ever know if any or all of them were false prophets? Since they are permitted, nay, expected, to give new and evolving decrees, then all yardsticks are left behind in the dustbin of history.

So it was in the garden that he paid the price for mankind's sins.

This is one of the oddest doctrines of Mormonism, and it epitomizes many of the problems I have with it. You'd think that if this were true, and such an important truth, that somewhere in all of the writings of Scripture it would be emphasized. Unfortunately, it seems that Jesus' followers missed the point and focused instead on the cross. Ah, but we know that the truth has been "distorted," so I'll move on.

It is an odd doctrine on common sense grounds as well. I might ask the question, "Why was Jesus so stressed in the garden?" The answer to this is because of what He was anticipating to occur on the cross. If this were not so, then we could say that Jesus could have gone through this experience and not even gone to the cross, technically. Mormon theology seems to make these events out to have separate purposes.

If Gethsemane and the cross are connected, then it is weird to say that the real work was done in the garden rather than the cross. This would be like saying that it was your dread on Monday that got you your fillings rather than the dental appointment on Tuesday. It seems clear from both the Text and from reason that Jesus' emotional duress in the garden was due to the nature of the profound burden that was to be laid upon Him at the cross.

 
At 7/26/2009 3:45 PM , Blogger Paul said...

In the pre-mortal existence, Jesus was already our superior. I don't believe the details of why or how have been revealed to use, but it can suffice to say that Jesus was already set apart as being above us. . . . It simply is not possible for us to live a mortal life and remain pure.

For me, this is one of the most theologically troubling conundrums for Mormonism. In fact, non-Christians ask this question quite often: How can one person's actions affect the guilt or innocence of another person, much less all persons? The orthodox Christian answer lies partly in the claim that Jesus wasn't just a "person." If Jesus and us earthlings are all just the same, then it is a mystery how Jesus can do anything but save Himself, much less why He gets to go through some alternative program and why He could manage to be sinless and we can't. It reminds me of the Roman Catholic belief that Mary (a human like us) manages to be born sinless and thus can bypass the whole salvific system that the rest of us poor schmucks have to live with. If there's some alternate way to deal with the sin problem, which was granted to Mary (or to Jesus in LDS theology), then why not just employ that for the masses rather than the whole complicated and excruciating plan of the cross? I guess when Jesus was praying to the Father in the garden that He take the cup away from him if there is any other way, that the Father could have said, "Yes, there's another way, but I only let you in on that. You've got to go through the grinder for the rest of your siblings, and then they've got to slave over a burden of laws and rituals."

We will never be peers to God. He is our Father in Heaven, he will always be our God. When man is exalted, [the Father] receives the glory.

Let me know if I am mistaken, but isn't it the Mormon view that we are the offspring of God, just like Jesus? We are of the same essence as God, just as we are identically human like our earthly parents. This means that we are only separated from God by chronology (he was before us) and by His role/relationship (he is the "father"). But chronology is merely incidental. I am no more valuable or objectively special than my children, just because I am their father. I'm just in a different relationship with them. In fact, someday my son will be a "father" too. Hopefully he will still love me then, and bear a certain respect and gratitude for my investment in his youth, but we will be complete peers as humans and even as fathers. This saying from Smith says it all: "God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man."

This is one of the fundamental differences between our religions, and I think it is not a minor one: God is an essentially different being than man, and no matter how righteous we might become, with or without His aid, we will still be mere creations of the Father. We are only children by means of His gracious adoption. This seems so clearly the message of Scripture that one must do violence to it in order to deny it.

And exactly why should God receive the glory for our exaltation? From everything you've said, the difference between our final destination being, say, the Telestial Kingdom and full exaltation is based solely on our goodness, beliefs, and our practice of the ordinances. We have only ourselves to praise or blame for our destiny. The Father might be happy for our exaltation, but I fail to see how He would be glorified. He was glorified by His own exaltation.

 
At 7/26/2009 3:46 PM , Blogger Paul said...

Take the verses above, none of them invalidate the view that we are saved thru Christ's grace by the measure of our works

I'm not sure what verses you're referring to. I only see references to BoM passages "above," and we do not hold those in common between us, so they cannot arbitrate anything in this dispute.

I agree with Sam that the Mormon view of "grace" seems hard to grasp, but what I've heard so far makes it out to be very different from the mainstream Christian (and biblical) view of it. It seems that it must be one of two things: the reward that God gives or the aid that God gives. Since you affirm that it is according to "the measure of our works," then we are either being compensated for our works or given aid and comfort for them.

The first option doesn't sound like it should be called "grace" at all. Why not call it what it is: reward, payment, compensation, etc. The second option seems to create a situation of spiritual haves and have-nots: those who do well get aid to do better, and those who do poorly get little or nothing. It's like saying you only get charity if you already have money. The rich get richer . . .

The bigger problem is (for LDS theology), neither of these options is supported by Scripture. Examples: Ro 4:4, 5:20, 11:6; 2Co 12:9; Eph 2:5, 2:8; 2Ti 1:9. I wonder if it even matters that it is so clearly contradicted by the Bible. For that reason I would commend Paul's story to you. Paul was clearly not doing good work, nor advancing the Gospel, yet out of the blue he received the grace of God, which was his very salvation. Paul received grace while he was persecuting the church. As he says in Eph 3:8, "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ." To complicate matters further, even the works that we do are apparently by way of the grace of God (1Co 15:10; 2Co 9:8).

 
At 7/26/2009 3:46 PM , Blogger Paul said...

Christianity, as it's usually defined today, didn't come into being until 300ish years later.

We can dispense with all of church history if you like. Since you think that Christianity has strayed from the original teachings of Jesus and the apostles, and we have a record of their teachings in the Bible, then my concern (indeed Protestant Christianity's concern) is to measure competing doctrines against these Scriptures. By that measure, I think that Mormonism fares poorly.

There are scriptures that can be read as prophesying the restoration of the gospel in the latter days. Of course those scriptures, like any other, can be argued to not be prophesying the restoration.

If you rendered up such scriptural support and they could be found wanting, would it make any difference? Is there any way at all that the Bible could be used to disprove any doctrine of the LDS Church? Certainly we can understand disagreement over an equivocal passage here or there, but what happens if the Bible can be shown to be clearly teaching some contradictory doctrine in numerous places?

when Jesus came, they used those scriptures to deny him his divinity, charged him with claiming to be the Messiah, and had him executed.

Remember that the religious authorities constantly tried to trap Him with Scripture and twist it against Him, but he defeated them by His superior application of it until they dared not ask Him any more questions (Mark 12). This was not an example of the need for a living prophet to sort things out, or that orthodoxy had been lost and needed to be restored by some entirely new scriptures. This was a case of a rebellious people who would not see the existing Scriptures properly and who did not want this kind of Messiah. We have seen this same problem ever since.

 
At 7/27/2009 8:50 PM , Blogger Sam said...

Carl, I don’t mean to exasperate you, but I just want to make sure I understand what you’re saying. I’m going to summarize in my own words what I think you are saying, and I would like for you to tell me whether I’ve got it right or not. It sounds like you’re basically saying that our sins were atoned for in the garden. That’s when Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. Dying on the cross was the result of Jesus atoning for our sins in the garden. It’s only in that sense that Jesus died for our sins on the cross. He died because of our sins, but not for the sake of our sins. He did not die for our sins in the sense that his dying on the cross was the payment for our sins. Have I got it right?

 
At 7/27/2009 8:52 PM , Blogger Sam said...

Thank you for the link to the Mormon definition of “grace.” I had already gone to yahoo answers before you posted and asked the Mormons there how they defined “grace,” and several of them referred me to that same entry. I’ve read the entry several times now and thought about it to make sure I understand what it’s saying. In some ways, it is similar to my view of grace, but there is some difference. I’ll quote it and then make my own comments.

The main idea of the word is divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ.

I do agree that it is because of the love and mercy of Jesus Christ that he bestows his grace on us. But there is an ambiguity in the first part. I could agree that grace helps us and gives us strength, but is there something we have to do before God will help us and strengthen us, or is grace something God gives us freely through no merit of our own? According to Paul, grace is, by definition, something that cannot be earned or merited in any way. He said, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.” Grace is a gift, and a gift is, by definition, something that cannot be earned.

It is through the grace of the Lord Jesus, made possible by his atoning sacrifice, that mankind will be raised in immortality, every person receiving his body from the grave in a condition of everlasting life.

I do agree that it is through the grace of Jesus, made possible by the atonement, that people will be raised to eternal life. But not all who are raised are raised to “eternal life.” As Daniel 12:2 says, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.” “Eternal life,” in this context, does not appear to mean simply living forever since those who will be raised to everlasting contempt will also live forever. It seems, rather, to signify a certain quality of life. And that also seems to be the sense in which the new testament uses the phrase, “eternal life” (cf. Matthew 25:46, John 3:36, Acts 13:48). Being raised to shame and everlasting contempt hardly seems an act of grace in the sense of divine help or mercy.

It is likewise through the grace of the Lord that individuals, through faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of their sins, receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means.

I do agree that it is through grace that we receive strength and assistance to do good works that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to do. I do not agree that repentance is a requirement to get such grace. On the contrary, I think the strength and assistance necessary for us to repent also requires grace. It is through grace that we are enabled to repent. Repentance is something that God grants to people (Acts 5:31, Acts 11:18, 2 Timothy 2:25). According to Jesus, we would not even be able to come to him for salvation without the Father enabling us (John 6:44, 65). According to Paul, we were dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1), but “God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together]with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Ephesians 2:4-5). Since repentance requires the grace of God, it cannot be a condition that must be met before God bestows that grace. If it were, we’d all be doomed.

to be continued...

 
At 7/27/2009 8:52 PM , Blogger Sam said...

This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts.

I agree that it is because of grace that we are able to lay hold on eternal life. But I’m not sure what it means by “enabling power.” If it means we are enabled to live a life that is righteous enough to merit eternal life, of course I couldn’t agree with that. Paul explicitly says that works cannot merit eternal life. You can’t undo a wrong by doing a right. James said, “Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” (James 2:10). A law breaker is a law breaker no matter how good they otherwise are, and they deserve to be punished for that violation. So there’s no way that anybody can merit eternal life by doing good works. I’m sure even a Mormon would agree that nobody lives completely without sin even when God enables us to do good works.

I’m not sure what is meant by “after they have expended their own best efforts.” If that means the same thing as “because they have expended their own best efforts,” then again, this would contradict Paul’s understanding of grace in Romans 11:6. According to Paul, none of our efforts can avail us of the grace of God. It is a gift, and a gift, by definition, cannot be earned.

Divine grace is needed by every soul in consequence of the fall of Adam and also because of man’s weaknesses and shortcomings.

I totally agree.

However, grace cannot suffice without total effort on the part of the recipient. Hence the explanation, “It is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Ne. 25: 23).

Nobody does all they can do. Nobody exerts “total effort.” If this point of view is true, then grace is insufficient to save anybody. Carl, I want you to be honest with yourself about this. Do you exert total effort to do good at all times? Can you honestly say that you have done all that you can do? If you haven’t, then the Mormon gospel cannot save you.

But I would like to recommend to you the wonderful and liberating gospel of Jesus Christ that Paul taught. It begins with the unfortunate observation that “there is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one” (Romans 3:10-12). We are all dead in sins. But, by the grace of God that he bestows on those he loves, we are rescued from our deadness in sin. We are freed from our slavery to sin. We are enabled to come to Christ for salvation. God saves us completely. In doing so, he glorifies himself. The true gospel leaves no room for boasting on our part.

The Mormon gospel leaves plenty of room for boasting. A Mormon can boast that he has, by his own strength, repented of his sins in order to obtain God’s grace. A Mormon that actually has obtained God’s grace ( if it’s even possible to do so under the Mormon system), can boast that he exerted all his effort and tried his hardest.

It is truly the grace of Jesus Christ that makes salvation possible.

Again, I totally agree.

This principle is expressed in Jesus’ parable of the vine and the branches (John 15: 1-11). See also John 1: 12-17; Eph. 2: 8-9; Philip. 4: 13; D&C 93: 11-14.

John 15:1-11 says that apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. I would submit that includes repenting, which Mormonism says is necessary to obtain God’s grace.

Ephesians 2:8-9 says that salvation by grace through faith is not a result of works, which explicitly negates the Mormon view that we obtain grace through our best efforts.

I’m not sure how Philippians 4:13 applies. This passage is about how God appoints offices in the church for the equipping of the saints (see the previous verse).

 
At 7/29/2009 7:26 PM , Blogger Curtis said...

I hesitate to get involved in this discussion because too much of it is centered around definitions, but I felt the need to make one point.

I don't think that Mormons believe that Jesus didn't die for our sins. I think we believe his death was a necessary and concluding part of the process. We believe, however, that the garden was also a necessary part of the process. It was not "just" his death that was necessary, but that he pay the full price for our sins. That means that every bit of emotional and/or physical pain that is due under the law for our having committed the sins needed to be paid for us to ultimately be forgiven. Jesus had to do that, and he had to do it entirely by himself. So, while angels attended him in the garden, eventually he was left entirely alone (on the cross). That was why we have the heartfelt plea about being forsaken.

Note that He said "it is finished" and then allowed himself to die. I don't necessarily believe that His death wasn't part of it, but that a process had been going on for some time prior to that moment.

Every bad thing he suffered was part of the process, including being denied by the apostles and the flogging and revilement by the crowd.

 
At 7/29/2009 10:38 PM , Blogger Sam said...

Curtis, are there any Mormon scriptures that address this issue? Anything in the D&C maybe?

 
At 7/31/2009 4:31 PM , Blogger Curtis said...

I can't find anything right away that limits discussion to his death. To us, the entire process was necessary.

There are lots of conference talks on LDS.org that cover the topic of the atonement. General Conference is where our leaders speak to us twice a year in their capacity of prophets, seers and revelators. Their words during this time are the closest thing to scripture that we identify, that is not bound in one of the four books we refer to as scripture. As an example, I'll put in a few urls (don't know if they will work as links):

http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?hideNav=1&locale=0&sourceId=5597230bac7f0210VgnVCM100000176f620a____&vgnextoid=f318118dd536c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD

http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?hideNav=1&locale=0&sourceId=6c1e1f26d596b010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD

There are many, many conference talks on the atonement. Just use the search feature on the main LDS page and put in terms of interest to you, like grace, jesus died, saved, etc. You will get articles with our understanding of those terms.

 
At 8/03/2009 1:36 PM , Blogger Paul said...

Are you saying that the bottom line is that it doesn't so much matter what the primary LDS scriptures say, only what is being currently taught by the leadership?

 
At 8/04/2009 12:54 AM , Blogger Carl said...

Paul, I'm not sure where you see that in what Curtis said.

LDS teachings focus on the fact that Christ atoned for our sins and that we can be forgiven of them thru repentance. Far more stress in placed on what that means for us rather than on the specific details of when and how Christ suffered.

I assume you're taking the 'black and white' approach to Curtis' statement referring to the prophets "Their words during this time are the closest thing to scripture that we identify, that is not bound in one of the four books we refer to as scripture."

The scriptures are the teachings of the Lord's prophets collected and bound into books. The addresses of the prophets during general conference are the teachings of the Lord's prophets.

I'm not aware of any time that a prophet speaking in his capacity as the Lord's mouthpiece on Earth has contradicted the scriptures. Though I do see times the meaning, and intent of those scriptures can be expanded or clarified.

 

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home