Thursday, October 14, 2004

If you pass along a lie you are a...

Maybe it is just me. I really like the internet, but remember any idiot or grudge bearing goof ball can write whatever they like, without any need to present facts. This is especially true of people attacking the LDS Church, since they can say just about anything they want about people now dead, and they can distort the teachings of the LDS Church by quoting any person who has ever been a mormon or an LDS Church leader commenting any time in history, and then assert this is somehow LDS doctrine.

Let me illustrate. (hereafter 'Morg') puts out a brochure called SEVEN DIFFERENCES BETWEEN MORMONISM AND CHRISTIANITY by R. M. Sivulka. First of all, while many of the LDS points are relatively accurate, Rob does not really seem to notice he is speaking for a "Christianity" which did not exist for over 300 years after Christ died, at a minimum, and 1600 years in some cases. The Apostles and prophets never believed in the Trinity, faith only salvation, or a "Church" being an undisciplined group of believers having nothing in common but a common belief about neo-Platonic meta-physics centered on an unknowable god.

On the webpage, Morg makes it clear they do not want to deal with issues from the scriptures. They never quote them. OK, not really 'never'. In their entire web site, I did find them quote two verses in their entirety. WOW. But that is typical of anti-Mormons. Lots of assertion, no scriptures.

Another example of storytelling at Morg is their FAQ section. Here you will find the two verses of scripture on their webpage which they actually fully quote. Let's drill down on one particular topic. Stephen seeing God and Christ. Here they decidedly mis-state the issue of Acts 7:55-56. They quote part of verse 55, where it says Stephen sees the Glory of God, but they ignore the rest of verse 55 and all of verse 56, where Stephen says he actually sees God, and the Son of man to his right. For giggles, here are the scriptures which they avoid quoting:

Acts 7:55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

OK, so we have two explicit statements of Christ standing next to God. I know some people struggle with deductive reasonsing, so in the spirit of logic 101, here is what we must conclude from these verses: God and Christ are separate and distinct beings. Not the Father and the Son. The Phrase Father is never used. Luke uses the phrase "father" 16 times elsewhere of God the Father, so he clearly is making a theological choice. Christ is next to God, not just the Father. So if words mean anything, I can safely conclude the following:
1. God is separate from Christ
2. God has location to his being, since whatever that being is, Christ is standing to its right.

It is funny they are so messed up about scripture argumentation that they do not dare actually quote them. For example, Morg asserts no one can see God. That is a good joke, just completely false:

Genesis 32:30 "And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved."

Moses, Abraham, Jacob, Isaiah, and many others saw God. Face to Face. But explaining this truth out of scripture contradicts the False Gospel preached by Morg. God does also say no man can see his face and live, but apparently it is more of a suggestion than a rule.

He similarly asserts that "[Exodus 33] Verse 11 is figurative in much the same way that the "wings" and "feathers" of the Lord are in Psalms 91:4."

Really. Let's read the two passages, and discover this great truth:

Exodus 33:10-11, 20-23
10And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the tabernacle door: and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his tent door. 11And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle. 20And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. 21And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: 22And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: 23And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.

1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the LORD , "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." 3 Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. (NIV)

OK, poetry is not my strongest subject, but does anyone reading these two passages need to have a special lesson in simile and metaphor or allegory? Who is actually living in the physical shelter of the Most high? How is it possible for me to be captured by a bird trap? Is God really a shield and rampart, physically? It is probably this passage which serves as background to Christ saying in Matt 23:37

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, [thou] that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under [her] wings, and ye would not!"

Wasn't Moses' experience a PHYSICAL, real experience? He was going to be shown God's back parts. So, God has back parts? The Bible reports Moses was placed in a location, and God did pass by him. Or is this also part of an intimate experience, as Morg asserts? Can anyone looking sincerely, with an open mind as the Bereans (Acts 17:11), help but be astounded at this horribly self serving interpretation? It is funny that Morg has the nerve to attack the LDS position on the loss of plain and precious things out of the Bible, since this type of interpretation is exactly that. And there is no one to stop them, the Internet being free.

That God had a face, physically speaking, is obvious from the passages in the OT. Gen 1:26-27; Gen. 18:1; Gen 32:30; Ex. 33:11; Num 14:14; Dt. 5:4; Dt. 32:10; Dt. 34:5; Judges 6:22; Job 19:26; Ez. 20:35. Did Morg miss the part of seeing the face of God and not living? I think Stephen died immediately after seeing God, though by the pummelling of the mob. But he did not live, and so he could have seen God's face, based on the pertinent Bible passages.

There are many places where "face" is not literal, but it requires reading the passages in context to know. See Ps 27:8,9 for example. But Morg is inserting a huge anachronism into this verse by suggesting:

The Lord speaking to "Moses face to face" is symbolic language for the intimacy that they shared together, since the verse goes on to say, "[A]s a man speaketh unto his friend."[End of paragraph 2, FAQ 7]

People in Moses' day that spoke face to face as a man speaks to a friend actually had faces, and actually spoke. Morg needs to stop thinking that Moses had a web page where he had virtual friends with just images of themselves.

Morg goes on to say there are different meanings for the word "see" in Greek. Morg then inserts their neo-platonic greek Trinitarianism, without any scriptural support, of course, since there is none. God really cannot be seen, so Morg says, so these words must mean something else. Again, the analysis falls apart upon actually reading the scriptures. Once more, for effect:

Acts 7:55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

So in the passage, do we have metaphorical language, or someone reporting what they see? "Looked up" is the greek word atenizo, which according to the foremost N.T. Greek lexicon in the world (BDAG, 3rd edition, page 148) means "to look intently at, stare at something or someone", and cites Acts 7:55. The word is also used in Acts 1:10 and 2Cor 3:7, 13. Let's exam their usage in those passages:

Acts 1:9-10
9 And when [Jesus] had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;

2Cor 3:7, 13:
7 Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. (NIV)

Nothing metaphorical here. Staring, steadily gazing, looking steadfastly. Not a chance that it is figurative.

Neo-Platonism is then spewed forth, again with no scriptural support of course, to argue that despite all the times God appears or is said to be visible, it must be a mis-understanding. The authors meant to say something else, which Morg magically knows what that something else is. How is that possible? Morg does not believe god is capable of speaking clearly to people in a manner impossible to be misunderstood, so there must be something else. It cannot come from the scriptures, since they don't use them. What does that leave? Answer: Creeds and dogma, post-biblically developed, of course. They would have you think God jumps in and out of bodies more often than snakes stuck with perpetual molting disorder. There is no statement anywhere in scripture saying that is what God does, but we all should applaud how clever an idea it is. History shows they did not think of it first, but it sure makes the other non-Biblical doctrines go down easier with their other contradictions out of the scriptures.

I "see" what Morg means, it just is so unscriptural it does not deserve anything other than a passing laugh.

Briefly, the word 'see' used in Acts 7:56 is theoreo, and means "to observe something with sustained attention, be a spectator, look at, observe, perceive, see (with physical eyes)" BDAG, pg 454. Does this look "iffy"? BDAG actually add the words "with physical eyes" so that nobody will attempt to privately interpret this word. There is nothing, absolutely nothing in the passage to turn its meaning into figurative imagery. Oh, well there is if your theology cannot stand the thought that the Mormons are correctly interpreting a passage you must butcher.

Anybody see the value yet of actually reading the verses? Have I now proven adequately that at Morg citations are very untrustworthy if they do not actually quote them?

Morg puts a brief statement of Rob Sivulka's educational resume in his biography page. He attended a theological college. I know from personal discussions with Rob that he has studied Greek in some form. So exactly what should we think about his final paragraph in this FAQ?

"LDS want to interpret this literally, but only to a point. They too must treat this figuratively in some sense otherwise Jesus would actually be standing on the Father's right hand, and then we'd wonder if Jesus left stretch marks on the Father's hand by doing this. Instead, this "right hand" language is typical in Scripture of talk that is similar to Cheney being Bush's "right hand man". This is talk of a position of favor or power."

Hard to imagine more things wrong in four sentences. The second sentence is a pure strawman argument to try making the totally non-scriptural twist appear plausible because the Mormon's argument is silly. But his scripture twisting is not the LDS argument, so he is in fact grossly misrepresenting LDS thought. The next sentence is either a knowingly false statement, or Morg truly has some of the dumbest PhD candidates anywhere in the world.

" Jesus would actually be standing on the Father's right hand". Please. The Greek word here, which Rob knows because he and I have discussed this in the past, is dexion, and means in context "right", as in direction. To the right side. The word for hand, which Luke uses in Luke 6:6 with the word dexion, is Xeir or Cheir. Luke, the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, uses the word dexion 13 times, but uses it in the context of a physical hand only once as noted above, with the word for hand, cheir. But he uses the word cheir 46 times, including in Acts 7:50. He also uses cheir in a compound word in vs. 48. Verses 55-56 are not even remotely speaking of an anatomical right hand. He does not mean right hand. It is the King James English meaning of 'to the right hand side'. He means "at the right hand" or "right side", which is how nearly every translation since the KJV does it(see NIV, NRSV, RSV, CEV, Darby, REB, ESV, NCV, TEV, etc.)

Luke uses the preposition ek, translated "to", which in Greek grammar answers the question in this case "where is something?" (BDAG, page 296, #2). In this case, where is Christ? To the right, directionally, of God. Sadly, Rob knows this, but apparently is making a choice to be disingenuous about the nature of the passage. It is not about being "the right hand man" of God. It is speaking of a physical direction. Any attempt to suggest a different meaning does violence to the passage, and therefore one should exam the motivation for the violence. It appears to me to be the need to be right about theology, and let the scriptures be hanged.

Morg wraps up by pulling a completely non-contextual verse from the Old Testament, Isaiah 41:10. For a person to say there is contextual similarity between Isaiah saying he is upheld by God's right hand, and Stephen looking into Heaven and seeing Jesus standing to the right of God is simply outrageous. It is also a perfect example of the quality of scholarship among anti-Mormons. They will say practically anything, no matter how unscholarly or unscriptural, to steal the faith of a Latter-day Saint.

In future issues, I will continue to go through Morg's web page. Frankly, it is frustrating to review such hypocritical work. Morg stands outside Temple square and yells to people they are going to hell if they are Mormons, but the Bible was pretty explicit about Morg's behavior:

[They] changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. (Romans 1:25) The creature is their neo-Platonic Trinity, unBiblical, without historical basis.

¶ But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; (Colossians 3:8-9)

As I always say about self-righteous anti-Mormons, if the truth is so devastating to the LDS position, why lie or distort what you say about the Mormons and their doctrine? It is funny that Morg accuses the LDS Church of not being scripturally sound, yet we see that when forced to actually analyze the scriptures, Morg is dead. As I read elsewhere once, if your theology is not based on the scriptures, whence came the theology? Still a good question.


Todd Leroy said...

Bob, did you know that...

Jesus Christ [is] infinitely greater than the angels


Aaron Shafovaloff said...

" is what we must conclude from these verses: God and Christ are separate and distinct beings."That inference falsely assumes a being cannot have more than one manifestation, or that that multiple persons can be in one being and separately appear.

Bob the Anti-Anti said...

I assume nothing. I am reading what he said. He said he saw God, and Christ standing to the right of God. He did not go into a philosophical treatise about the obvious impossibility of God having a physical location, which Rob denies in his highly flawed expose'. If you are saying he could have seen lots of appearances of God, that is fine, as an opinion. But it is not Biblical. He says Christ is standing next to God. Since this is how it is repeatedly described more than a dozen times in the New Testament, I am inclined to agree with the Bible. Nowhere does God discuss having a physical, locational manifestation in multiple places, so what you are suggesting is just new doctrine and an unBiblical one at that. I doubt I can convince you of that, but I think someone reading the Bible sans a pre-imposed theology would find my perspective more consistent with scripture. Thanks for the comment though, and if you have some support for your perspective out of scripture, I would think it would be helpful to this discussion.

Bob the Anti-Anti said...

I also note in my initial blog that it is God appearing, not the Father. The trinity describes the persons of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost as being one God of one substance. As I detail, Luke uses the phrase Father of God the Father many times. He chooses not to here, and so we are left with Christ standing next to God, which according to trinitarianism would be impossible, since he is God too. A thing cannot stand next to itself. The use of the word God physically separates Christ by location from God. He cannot be both Christ and God, or else there would only be one being in the vision. But there are two.

Bob the Anti-Anti said...

Did you know Christ is called an Angel? Rev. 10. So is he infinitely greater than himself? No. Context matters, as do the meaning of words. Thanks for the comment though.

Todd Leroy said...

Bob, thanks for the response. What makes you think that the angel in Revelation 10 is Jesus?

Bob the Anti-Anti said...

Rev. 11:3, to be specific. Also, the description of the "angel" in vs. 1-3 , and as noted by most non-LDS commentators, Matthew Henry, John Gill, John Nelson Darby and John Calvin, for example. For a non-scriptural opinion, see 1828 Daniel Webster's Dictionary, entry under "angel".

Todd Leroy said...

Revelation 11:3 "And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth"

I don't have access to all those commentaries but do they say the "my" identifies the angel or the voice? I don't think the voice belongs to the angel. I don't think the scroll the angel delivered contains the angel's words either...

Did you see my other comment about Romans 5 and justification? I'm honestly unclear if you were saying that every person on earth is justified or if you were trying to make a point about reading the Bible literally... interested in that discussion?

Bob the Anti-Anti said...

I apologize for creating confusion. To me, Rev 11:3 seems to be the angel speaking, based on Rev 11:1, so the "my" seems definitive. However, the commentaries base their opinions on the content of Rev. 10:1-3, primarily. I won't speak for their reasoning, just note their conclusions.

I am interested in the justification discussion. Short answer: Yes, I think Paul is unequivocal in saying that all people are justified, and as a result personal obedience is the determining factor in ultimate exaltation. But the good news is the obedience he requires is a repentant, humble demeanor, not specific "works". He requires us to do what we can, but his grace makes up for our human short comings. But we must want to be obedient. It is expected we will fail, that is why his grace saves us. This contrasts with evangelicals who think salvation is assured regardless of attitude after regeneration, and good works follow from a changed nature. I reject both positions. Thanks for the comments.

Dave the Elucidator said...

Bob, you say that "This contrasts with evangelicals who think ... good works follow from a changed nature. I reject both positions."

I am not clear on this. Are you saying that good works do not follow from a changed nature? Or are you saying that you disagree that good works ONLY follow from a changed nature?


Todd Leroy said...

Bob, thanks for explaining your position a little more thoroughly. I want to move to a point of linking justification directly with what we can continue to call 'ultimate exaltation' for now.

Read this, Luke 18:9-14,
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Was the Pharisee justified or not?

Bob the Anti-Anti said...

I reject the idea that good works only follow regeneration. Examples: Eph. 6:8; Romans 2:1-16; Acts 10:22; Luke 11:8-13 is especially interesting, since Christ notes that even being "evil", we "know" how to give good gifts not unlike the Father knows how to give good gifts. Luke 10:42 has unregenerated Mary choosing the right thing. Matt 5:43-48. But I think the influence which leads people to good comes from Christ, regardless of whether one is regenerated or not.
The Pharisee was not justified because he did not do things by faith, but out of pride. He was actually not obedient, since he thought he could force god to exalt him by simply keeping the rules. That mentality makes the atonement unnecessary. As a Mormon I cannot accept such hubris. As the book of Mormon teaches: It is all we can do to repent (Alma 24:11).

Most anti-Mormons emphasize a caricature of Mormons self-justifying, and quote verses like 2 Nephi 25:23 (" for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do") or Moroni 10:32 ("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."), failing to note LDS beliefs about the absolute need for the grace of God. For example, the very next verse in Moroni 10:33 makes it clear that the ability to do the things stated in verse 32 is only possible by the grace of God: "And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ...". Pretty impossible to see how I can ever be perfect without Grace. This is not at all different than Paul's teachings: Titus 2:12(11-14) ("Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;"). Paul is clear this is only possible by God's grace. Exaltation is only possible through the grace of God. But no amount of Grace can overcome a lack of obedience (Romans 10:16). They are the two ends of the same stick.
Thank you both for your comments.

Todd Leroy said...

Thanks Bob, though I'm more confused after this clarification.

You said, "Paul is unequivocal in saying that all people are justified," and then, "The Pharisee was not justified..."

Can you reconcile these two statements?

ps. The reason I wanted to contact you after April GC and the primary reason I'm interested in you now is your apparent dedication to reconciling all of scripture with LDS teaching and seeming unwillingness to use the Bible mistranslation defense (which I'm sure you have noted as a common defense among many LDS missionaries etc).

Dave the Elucidator said...


I think the challenge here is defining "Good". I think the passage in Luke 11 isn't on point. The Savior is contrasting a worldly definition of "Good" in "Good Gifts" (ie: good from a worldly perspective) with the infinitely better Holy Ghost.

Matthew 7:11 adds the words "good things" in place of "Holy Ghost" in this quote, but again, it is a contrast--just think of how "good" the "good things" God can give you, versus what you consider "good gifts" here on Earth.

I think the New Testament supports the process that beneficial actions (doing good) will be credited by God to anyone--believer or unbeliever--at the Judgement Bar. The question is: is there a class or order of "good works" (as in Eph. 2:10) that exceed the normal expectation of good?

Matthew 5:16 implies this, for if one does "good works" like any other person, why then would the onlooker be moved to glorify God? vs. 47 especially calls this into question. The Lord asks rhetorically, "what do ye more than others" with these "good works" that the rest of society does?


Bob the Anti-Anti said...

Thank you for the kind words Leroy.

Justification is the process of being made right with God. All men fall short of being worthy of returning to God due to their fallen state. Death entered the world with our first parents' fall. The state of all beings was to be forever condemned to face the justice of god alone.

Then Christ atoned for the sins of the world. Since all had sinned and fallen short, including small babies who were still subject to death because of the imputation of condemnation, Christ's atonement must be universal or god would have been a respector of persons.

The atonement removed the consequences of the fall from all people. Small children who die, or those without mental capacity to comprehend right and wrong, are saved by Christ's atonement. They cannot sin, since at least one definition of sin is James 4:17 "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth [it] not, to him it is sin." These people cannot sin.
Therefore we LDS believe they are saved into the highest glory of heaven, the Celestial Kingdom.

With the blight of Adam's transgression removed, and the resurrection of all men assured, men therefore stand naked before God with their own works to justify them. It is impossible. The book of Mormon, in Mosiah 2:25, says the LDS position better than just about anywhere in scripture: "And now I ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you."

We are required to obey Christ to be saved by him (Hebrews 5:9), and the primary act of obedience is to have a broken heart and a contrite spirit, which is an attitude of repentance. Matt 22:37; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 2Peter 3:9 and many more.

I want to be careful to not come across as if I know the heart of the Pharisee in the passage you cite. I am not qualified to judge him, but let me talk about my understanding of the issues around this passage. It was because the Pharisee sought by his own works to exalt himself that the atonement of Christ would only have applied to him in the limitation of the resurrection. But he stands naked before God in judgement. His works are worthless in God's eyes, since they are not done by faith. He lacks humility. The portion of the atonement of Christ which covers our knowing disobedience is granted upon the condition of repentance and humility. He is in fact disobedient, as Christ views obedience. So while he is justified as concerning Adam's transgression, he is actually in a state of rebellion and pride relative to exaltation. I think he loses.
Thanks for the dialog.

Bob the Anti-Anti said...

I think it is a really insightful comment. I also am a little confused. I was sort of trying to reply as if you were a Calvinist. Your comment would put you outside of a Calvinistic sphere. If you were a Calvinist, then if you are not chosen to be saved, your works are irrelevant. If you are chosen to be saved, your works are irrelevant. So rewards for "good works" are sort of silly. Basically the saved's works are accepted or corrected by grace, and the unsaved's works are pointless, no matter how good they may be.

I agree there is a whole range of actions all people engage in which are good. Even a spectrum of good, from real good to just minimally good. Whatever that might be. Certainly we cannot comprehend the gifts God has prepared for those who believe. But from Paul's comment in Romans 2:12-16 it appears that there is a way for the "un-evangelized" to receive a reward when Christ comes to judge the world. That is not a problem from an LDS perspective, but I have a book called "What About Those Who Have Never Heard?" by Gabriel Fackre, Ronald H. Nash and John Sanders, and it is a pretty significant problem in evangelical circles.

I don't know if the last paragraph is on point or a distraction. In the end, I believe people are very capable of choosing to do good. That is one of the key issues of the Fall. Genesis 3:22 "And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil..." Unless this is over-ruled some place, we may know good and evil like God knows it. The fact is that the influence of the Spirit helps us to execute on those good works. Matt 5:16 is an interesting choice of verses. The attribution of our good works to God is one of the things which would make them different. Of course, they need to be "good" works.

I have a very close friend who is an agnostic. He married a Mormon lady 20 years ago. He is still an agnostic, but he is also one of the nicest fellows you could ever meet. Has done huge amounts of public service, for which he seeks no recognition or reward. In other words, he is Christ like. But he lacks faith in Christ. I also have spoken with several people who lie about the LDS faith, shout obscenities at LDS women, and rejoice if they can disrupt LDS events, such as weddings. But they are believing, saved Christians. Right.

As we allow the Spirit of God to become more and more of the compass of our life, we become more able to be led by the Spirit. Babes in Christ eventually can grow into the fullness of the stature of Christ. But if we are doing our best, which is different for everyone on their spiritual journey, I think by the grace of God he makes up the difference. Should we continue in sin that grace may abound? Let it never be so. I am tired, so I hope this is cogent. Thanks for the thoughtful response.

Dave the Elucidator said...


In returning to the discussion on Justification, you said in regards to the Pharisee that "His works are worthless in God's eyes, since they are not done by faith."

So then it is your understanding that it is by faith that we are justified, not, as Paul put it, as an unequivical gift. Would then a Latter-day Saint who merely goes through the motions for much of his or her life but did not believe be rejected of God, while an evangelical who sincerely believed in Jesus and desired to serve him, at that moment, without works, would be accepted?


Bob the Anti-Anti said...

Christ posed a very similar question in Matt 21:28-31:

"28 ¶ But what think ye? A [certain] man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. 29 He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. 30 And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I [go], sir: and went not."

The repentant who did the work of God, as opposed to the "professing believer" who choses not to exercise faith.

"31 Whether of them twain did the will of [his] father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you."

Seems that more than an expression of faith is necessary. Likewise, doing something without faith, but for the praise of man, is its own reward (Matt 6:5). God requires action of our faith for it to be suffient to save us.
It is however a non-realistic hypothetical to say a person could have faith without works "at that moment", since life is not a moment but a stream. That "moment" is repentance, the turning or changing of the mind and heart to God. To make a determination to exercise faith is not the same as having faith.

Paul's statement of justification being an unequivocal gift (Romans 5:15, 16,18)is correct. Taking a discussion of the universal application of the atonement to the redemption of mankind from the effects of the fall through the resurrection is in my mind to twist Paul's message. It would negate any need for faith or obedience. It also would contradict Paul's eight specific statements of salvation by grace through faith (Romans 3:28; 3:30; 5:1; Gal 2:16; 3:8,11,24; Eph 2:8).

Paul is specific in stating that faith means obedience (Romans 10:16 "But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?"). In James' discussion of faith and works in James Chapter 2, he uses the word faith 13 times, more than any other chapter of Paul's writings with the exception of Hebrews 11, which clearly illustrates as well Paul sees faith as an active not reflective trust in God. Paul says that by faith the great figures in Biblical history received a good report from God (Heb 11:2). He goes on to say "But without faith [it is] impossible to please [him]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and [that] he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." This completely dovetails with James saying that faith without works is dead, but we are justified by our faith-based good deeds (James 2:24). His meaning of being justified, or made right in the sight of God, is identical in its usage and context to Paul's when talking about exercising faith.

So it appears there are two parts to the doctrine of justification based upon Paul's statements, as well as the rest of the Bible. First is the free gift of redemption from the effects of the fall for all mankind. Second is the need to exercise faith to obediently follow God to obtain saving justification at final judgement. The most significant work is repentance from the sinful natural man, but the second is to respond to the promptings of the Spirit to do those things deemed righteous by God.

Thus a faithless baptized Latter-day Saint would have no benefit in terms of salvation, while a person claiming to "believe" yet doing nothing is likewise no better for wear. Christ exactly answers the question in Matt 7:21-23:

21Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

I hope this helps explain the LDS position a little more clearly. Peace.

daiv said...

I have studied the co-equality and co-eternity of God and Christ Jesus. I have come to the conclusion that in the case of God the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit, they fit the model of the trinity that you discount (1+1+1 = 1). Now I don't pretend to be able to explain that, but there are many things about God that I cannot explain. I'm sure Mormans and Christians alike accept that Christ(God) turned water into wine in an instant. (a miricle) Yet there is not a single person on the planet ever (except Christ himself) that can explain how that was done. How much more difficult is it then for an Omnipotent God to be three seperate persons existing in one (trinity) than to turn water into wine, walk on water, create the earth, or break any other natural law!?! It seems clear that you've got God neatly packaged up in a box that is limited to the confines of your own understanding contrary to Proverbs 3:5.

Bob the Anti-Anti said...

I discount the doctrine of the trinity because it is fundamentally contradicted by the Bible. I find it a hugely confining doctrine, really putting god into a box, philosophically speaking. As the source entry of these comments on this blog indicate, and the subsequent entry on God having a physical body, my sense is that God is a loving Father who has a son, Jesus Christ, who is in fact completely separate from God the Father. I gather that because Stephen is quoted by Luke as saying "I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!" (Acts 7:56, NRSV). Therefore, it MUST be that WHATEVER Christ is, he is not GOD in the sense of the Christian understanding of the ultimate being. And Luke uses the word God, not the Father as he did many times previously. He is in fact making a theological statement. Instead, as Luke, John and Paul all teach, Christ IS divine/or god-like as to his nature. Luke quotes the philosophers in Acts 17:18 referring to their understanding of Paul's teaching on Christ and the resurrection, and they use a very technical word, daimonion. It means an intermediary divine being, understood to be separate from a personalized theos/God (BDAG, 3rd ed., pg 210). John 1:1 and 18, Phil 2:6-9, Heb 1:2, 8-9 are all clear statements of separation of such a nature that a trinitarian approach is not resolvable with these verses, at least if the words are to be taken at their meaning. The fact that 1 John 5:7-8 was changed to add support for the doctrine is back-handed proof that there is no passage in the NT or OT supporting the Trinity. It is for those and similar scriptural reasons I reject the Trinity. I cannot explain all the things Christ did, but the idea of an unknowable Trinity is a post-Biblical construct. "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" said Peter. So Paul warned us not to be spoiled by the philosophies of men. Famed conservative Christian Scholar G.L. Prestige in his book, "God in Patristic Thought", is not ashamed of the development of the doctrine of the Trinity. As he notes, the Trinity "is a legitimate rational construction", "reached by true rational development, and not by syncretism between Christianity and paganism". To me it is a "who cares" issue. It is in any event not a direct Biblical doctrine. Why does is not bother people that Paul speaks plainly about the resurrection, judgement, the absolute requirement of baptism, forgiveness of sins, the need for good works, yet his statements on the nature and person of God and Christ are ignored? If theology is needed to understand the Bible, not the Bible to understand theology, then where did the theology come from? It is the product of man, and in turn man tries to write off all of the clear statements of scripture.

Anonymous said...

The critics are obtuse on purpose (maybe they really are obtuse without trying).
The critics can not admit the truth of many Bible verses because then it would mean the Mormons are right. So the critics cherry pick, put one Apostles teachings (Paul) over all the other Apostles and even above what Jesus says.
And the critics accuse Mormons of mental gymnastics. What hypocrisy.