Sunday, March 27, 2005

Salvation by Justification and Works

Mormons believe that our works play an important role in our salvation. President Spencer W. Kimball wrote:

“... However good a person's works, he could not be saved had Jesus not died for his and everyone else's sins. And however powerful the saving grace of Christ, it brings exaltation to no man who does not comply with the works of the gospel.”—Spencer W. Kimball, Miracle of Forgiveness, 206-208.

I love the foregoing quote by President Kimball as it clearly illustrates the dual roles of man and God in working out our salvation. I have written a brochure, which I will paste here, which addresses most of the TULIP vs. LDS issues. I present it with just a few modifications.

Mormonism is Far More Biblical:

Reformed Evangelism’s Fatal Errors Compared to LDS Doctrine


Is it really just a Divine crapshoot to be saved? Reformed Christians, also commonly called Calvinists, adhere to a belief that there are 5 basic tenants of their faith, represented by the acrostic (fancy word for a beefy acronym) TULIP. The most fatal error is that it is unscriptural. We will see that in a moment. It is also based on the false Trinitarian concept of God.

Before we address TULIP and its stark contrast to Mormonism, here is what the parts stand for and some related scriptures:

T is for the total depravity of mankind. No way for man to find his way out of the sinful nature he has. Romans 7:18; Romans 3:9-10, 18; Romans 8:7-8; Eph 2:3,

U is for Unconditional Election. God chose whom he will save, and absolutely nothing we do can change that determination. Because of total depravity, you can do no good worthy of salvation. John 6:37,39, 44, 63-65; John 3:3,6; Romans 8:28-32; Eph 1:4-6, 11; Eph 2:1, 5, 8; Romans 9:11-26; 1 Cor 4:7.

L is for Limited Atonement or Particular Redemption. Christ only died for those he will save, not all mankind. Mt 25:33; Mt 7:22-23; Luke 10:20; Col 3:1-6; Acts 20:28; John 17:9; Eph 5:25.

I is for Irresistible Grace. Even if you don’t want to be saved, and when you are depraved you really don’t, God will drag you into salvation and you will respond when you hear the message of salvation. 1 Cor 4:6; Daniel 4:35; Ps 115:3; Romans 9:14-20; Jn 6:44, 64-65; 2 Cor 4:4-6; Acts 16:14.

P is for the Perseverance of the Saints. Once you are saved, there is no way to lose your salvation. Romans 8:30-39; Philippians 1:1-6; Hebrews 9:11-15; John 6:35-40; John 10: 22-30.

There is no Free Will or Choice in Calvinism!

The first problem, which is totally fatal to Calvinism, is the lack of Free Will or Choice. They have argued this since Calvin cooked up this idea, and it was affirmed at the Synod of Dordt. But mankind is free. It is a scriptural position: 1 Pet 2:16;

Matt. 7:11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

Mark 8:34 And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Galatians 5:1 ¶ STAND fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

Paul is talking about our freedom to chose to be righteous or sinful. Even if he is talking about “saved” people, it would mean men could choose to sin and fall away.

Luke 10: 42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

The Spirit had not come yet (John 15:26; 16:13). So how did Mary choose the good part, if corrupt mankind is incapable of choosing good?

This is too silly in some ways to even argue. Calvinists don’t really believe people are totally depraved and incapable of doing good, or they would not be able to actually participate in legal processes, elections or believe in disciplining their children.

God is Sovereign

Evangelicals believe God is so powerful, he will overwhelm mankind’s freewill to complete his ends. Thus, he always gets what he wants. The problem is the tie-in to Free Will: God wants everyone to be saved:

1 Timothy 2:4 [God] will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

Not All Men Are Saved

Calvinists admit that all men are obviously not saved. They are unable to explain Paul’s statement in 1 Tim 2:4, but assert the rest of scripture supports their position, so it must just be accepted on faith that we are incapable of fully understanding.

Here is an illustrative quote: “We should never give the unsaved the idea that God loves them savingly or redemptively—for that would imply that He gave Christ to die in vain for the sins of the non-elect, or that He is powerless to save those He wishes to save.” (by Mitch Cervinka, a Calvinist explaining 1 Tim 2:4) Mr. Cervinka tries to force an interpretation to the Greek words which effectively means the phrase “all men” really means some men. Oy. He never deals with Romans 5:18 or 1 Cor 15:21-22, where "all" must mean "all", or we are reduced to a theology as the key for scriptural interpretation, and actually reading the words of scripture has no value.

More devastating to this non-Christian approach is the fact there is so very much scriptural support of God’s desire to save all people. Aside from 1 Tim 2:4, there are similar passages in almost every book of the New Testament:

2 Peter 2: 9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Matthew 10:32 Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.

Titus 2:11¶ For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,

Romans 9:33 As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Also Rev. 22:17 and Deut. 30:19

Faith is Offered to All Men Through Preaching the Gospel

Romans 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

For Paul, belief meant obedience.

Romans 10: 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?

Election is Because God Knows Who will respond, Not because he does not want everyone saved:

1 Peter 1:2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.

As I have described in a previous blog post, the Potter's clay is in fact the vehicle of salvation. God has chosen that. The analogy of the Potter's clay and God choosing Israel as the vehicle for those blessings to be funneled is the clear, historical meaning of the teaching in Romans. Every Jew was conversant with the teachings in Isaiah and Jeremiah 18:6, and so Paul aims his comments in Romans 9 to the Jews among the Christians of Rome. He says so in the text. To fail to understand the audience to whom Paul was writing is one of the main reasons Calvinists have twisted the argument of God foreknowing and selecting the vehicle of salvation into God pre-destining only some of His children into salvation, despite His express wishes for all of His children to be saved.

Did Christ Only Die For a Few People?

The idea that men are free to choose, but they will always choose evil because of their natures is the same as not having a choice. The Bible actually taught about this condition at some length. It is the argument of MANSLAUGHTER.

In the Pentateuch, Moses taught that if a man accidentally killed another man, he could run to a designated safe city called a city of refuge. There he could wait until the death of the High Priest, and emerge without penalty. If he were to leave before the death of the high priest, and he were caught outside by the family of the dead person, the family had the right to kill him. (Numbers 35).

It is clear from the passage that motives matter. If there is no ability to sin (or in TULIP’s case, not sin), then there can be no punishment. This is why Mormons hold that little children are saved (Moroni 8:22). If you cannot comprehend the act you perform, you cannot be held accountable. Jehova says in Num 35:29 that these are “statute[s] of judgment” for all generations. Did God’s Judgment change?

Mormons hold that Christ died for all mankind.

First, he died to provide the resurrection for all men (1 Cor 15:21-22). This act on Christ’s part justified all mankind into God’s presence. Let’s examine three critical passages:

Romans 3:22-25

22 Even the righteousness of God [which is] by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth [to be] a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

Notice that because all have sinned, all have Christ’s sacrifice extended to them. It is unto all AND all that believe. Two classes are clearly taught here.

Paul follows this up by explicitly stating who is JUSTIFIED by the atonement of Christ:

Romans 5:18

18 Therefore as by the offence of one [judgment came] upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [the free gift came] upon all men unto justification of life.

To show this is not just a twisting or contorting of just a few passages from Paul by the Mormons, here is what John says on the subject as well:

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2, NIV translation)

Are Mormons Universalists?

No. But this is where the false constructs of the Sovereignty of God and Pre-destination just conceptually collapse. God absolutely wants all men to be saved. But he honors mankind’s agency. This goes back to the purpose 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…

Calvinists would have you believe that the ability to choose was lost after God said it was what made us like Him. Of course God knows who will be saved. But knowledge of the future is not forcing it upon us. Mankind must be free to choose, and able to be saved, or God is a partial God, and a respecter of persons.

So Who Were Those Given to Christ?

Calvinists often quote John 6:44 which reads:

44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

The problem is they fail to note that this passage is very limited in scope, and is fulfilled. Let us read a little further on in John:

John 17: 11 ¶ And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we [are]. 12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.

Christ leaves no doubt here. He was with those God gave him. He asks God to keep them. And he acknowledges he saved all of them, except Judas. His comments in John 6:44 are about his Earthly ministry. He considered everyone his sheep (Matt 9:36), and yet also realized that they would someday be separated, like sheep and goats (Matt 25:32-33). His teachings in Luke 15:1-7 on finding the lost sheep, and especially on sinners repenting cannot be construed as salvation to a certain prescribed class. All have sinned. A sinner repents, and the angels and God rejoice. It is an open call. In one of the most moving and prophetic passages in all scripture about Christ, Isaiah 53 describes all of us as sheep who have gone astray, and Christ suffered for us who esteemed him as nothing.

We Can Lose Our Salvation

Because of mankind’s free will, men can lose their salvation. This is taught all throughout scripture. (Ezek. 18:25-28; Matt 5:13; Luke 8:13; 1 Cor 10:12-13; Gal. 5:4; 1 Tim 4:10; Heb 6:4-6;10:26; James 5:19-20; 2 Pet. 1:10; 3:17; Rev. 2:5)

Calvin was a control freak. Thus we see him advocating a Control Freak God. Calvin found justification in the control freak mentality of God, as he saw him, for committing mass murders and torturing and hurting untotaled numbers of people. So of course God takes vengeance against the wicked. They were unsaved, and not really people anyway. He never really loved them or wanted to save them. But just in case, even if Calvin did a bad thing, his eternal security was assured, in his mind, so he could in fact murder, but it was OK. Paul teaches that all have fallen short. We are saved from our sins, as we apply our will with the will of God. President Spencer W. Kimball made this awesome observation:

“... However good a person's works, he could not be saved had Jesus not died for his and everyone else's sins. And however powerful the saving grace of Christ, it brings exaltation to no man who does not comply with the works of the gospel.”—Spencer W. Kimball, Miracle of Forgiveness, 206-208.

The Mormons get it right with three verses of scripture:

2 Nephi 25: 23 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.

Alma 24: 11it has been all that we could do, (as we were the most lost of all mankind) to repent of all our sins and the many murders which we have committed, and to get God to take them away from our hearts…

Moroni 10:33 And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot. (This verse also explains perfection in vs. 32).

Hopefully this is enough information to illustrate the clear LDS vs. Calvinistic position. I truly believe one of the main driving aspects of Calvin's doctrinal formulation was his candid realization of the horrific crimes he continued to commit after his supposed "saving" moment. The thought of losing his own personal salvation led him to a doctrine which essentially ignores what men do and delivers man into a kind of Divine lottery. The logical and practical inconsistencies this doctrine creates for interacting with daily life makes it worthy of the not-so-becoming title of "cheap grace". It also forces a person to ignore the very plain teaching by every prophet that sin is to know good, and do it not. (James 4:17)

The logical consequence of total depravity is that no person can know Good or Evil, and therefore cannot be convicted of transgressing the Law. Christ's atonement would therefore cover 100% of mankind. Otherwise a Calvinist must assert that even the unsaved among mankind can know good and evil, and have the ability to choose which to follow. But then logically God would have to accept them on their own merits and desires, thus providing the need for both absolute grace to absolve men of their sins, and a converted heart to desire to be obedient to the commandments of God. This is why Hebrews 5:8-9 states of Christ:

8. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him

Christ is our Saviour, our example and the only name whereby we must be saved. Calvinism destroys that by forcing the willful sinner in with those pursuing obedience, and making false all of the statements of scripture requiring our obedience for salvation.

Salvation is a free gift, but it is gift given only to those who answer the Kings call to enter the Wedding Feast (Matt 22:1-14). He requires us to wear His robes, which means not only responding to the call, but obeying His commandments. The story makes it clear that people choose to respond, of their own will, since the will of the King was for all to enter. That all do not enter means somehow mankind is able to assert their individual will's over that of God.

Come my friends, choose to enter the Feast.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Observer Effects and Attitudes

Anti-Mormons don't get it. They do not engage LDS people in normal ways, but then they draw conclusions from the reactions of the people they pester. Here is a fun link to several great examples of this attitude, and the truly narcissistic view they have of Mormon interactions with them. They are seemingly baffled the Mormons have the nerve to say they are Christians. They JUDGE the Mormons in the harshest of terms and apparently possess a gift of divination, for they KNOW the only reason the Mormons won't interact with them is because their true righteousness crushes the false Mormon system of religion.

It is called observer effect and bias. Start with your "discovery" already firmly in mind. Negatively interact with the environment, and then pretend your anecdotal assaults on Mormonism and their chilly response to "drive-by insults" constitute the norm within the LDS people. Of course ignore the studies and surveys of active LDS people which accurately reflect their attitudes, understanding and level of commitment to their beliefs.

Sadly, what we see in most anti-Mormons is simply a conversion from one horrifically unhealthy life destroying compulsion to another. Whether it is sexual sin, pornographic addiction or good old mind-numbing pride, it is easy to see these ministerial muppets for the unChristian practioners they are. Why do they assault the Mormons? Because they love them! That is why they use terms like "Mormon Repugnance", "inauthentic dialogues", "confrontational evangelism". Even talking with people who think this is normal makes one want to take a bath afterwards.

They just don't get it: They are still sick, lost souls. Transferring one severely bad addictive behavior to another compulsion means you are still sick. I have personally spoken with many of the "stars" of anti-Mormonism. Some I believe are just frauds who have figured out how to make a living and boost their pride. Some seem to do it to cover up their sins. But many, many seem to be sick people who really do not understand how 12 step programs work. They show up like lemmings every 6-months to Temple Square or the LDS Pagent or Temple gate. Throw a few uninformed words onto a web page or blog somewhere and you get the kind of pernicious passionate know-nothing who feels the fact that 500 people frowned at them or told them to go home translates into a widespread trend among 120,000 conference goers. Average length of conversation which went into opinion formation: 2-seconds. Average amount of study of non-Anti-Mormon scholarly materials? 2-seconds. Average time they kept an open mind: You guessed it: 2-seconds.

I will be at Temple Square during conference in April for at least a few sessions. Sadly, I know there will be several of the usual group of uninformed anti-Mormons confused that the Mormons won't stop to hear their sophmorish deridings of the LDS faith and their "true" god. Truly unBiblical god, but then, they will not stop and speak with the Mormons who will politely but thoroughly walk them through the scriptures to show them the error of their ways. When someone tries, they have one answer: "You are just trying to waste my time."

Such is the observer effect. Define the end at the beginning, and then expound your parochialisms. As if handing out brochures and studying poorly researched material made you an expert. You couldn't pass a bone-head math class with that kind of suspended intellect. Which is why the observers still haven't figured out why the Mormon masses have truly figured them out. The effect of being observed.

See you at the gates. Peace.