Are Mormons Christian? A look at the question itself

Why is this question so important?  Why does it deserve its own post?  Does it really matter what another person says about me?

Absolutely.  Particularly in cases when it leads to the confusion of others who are sincere.

Labels are a powerful thing. 

For example, we’ve all known for a painfully prolonged period of time that we are in a recession.  We’ve all felt it.  We’ve even called it that.  But Monday morning (Dec 1, 08), when the National Bureau of Economic Research made it official, announcing that we are in a recession, and have been since Dec ’07, the Dow plummeted almost 700 points by the end of the day.  Nothing was different that day, from the day before, other than the fact that now it had been given an official label from a trusted source, and because of that label, the market lost almost a billion dollars in just one day.

 Labels are powerful things.

So are words.  Words are the way we convey meaning, how we communicate.  And the words we choose have strong bearing on those that they’re given to.  If you ever doubt the ability of words to affect human events, think for a moment about Adolf Hitler and his book Mein Kampf.  On the other end of the spectrum you’ve got the Bible.  Words are powerful, and the words you choose determine the way people look at things.

So when a trusted source, say a pastor, preacher, priest, or even a close friend tells you that Mormons are not Christian, that’s a big deal.  For many people, particularly those who lack the personal motivation and courage to research it themselves, that singular statement is sufficient for their wholesale dismissal of Mormonism.  And those who made those statements will be accountable for that impact.

But who can say if someone else is Christian or not?  Who has that authority?  Certainly not a man.  Only Christ has that capacity to judge. 

There are several excuses offered up to justify such statements, each of which will be covered in the other supporting posts in this series.   But in the end, they are just excuses, the skin of reason, stuffed with lies.  For none of us are in the position to judge another.

But why then do so many work so hard, to perpetuate such claims? 

Because it’s an effective mechanism for deterring souls from finding the truth.  It’s a superficial argument meant to take advantage of members of congregations or peers who are willing to take their word, rather than finding out for themselves.  Often it’s an illustration of the effects of commercialized religion’s influence on ecclesiastical leaders.  For their very business stands to fail, and their structures crumble around them unless they can stop the onslaught of the growth of the LDS church.   And they’re incented (financially) to sufficiently pollute public opinion with baseless propaganda, such as statements and claims that Christians are only those who are exactly like them.  Why?  Why not rely upon solid doctrine, sound reason, and pure facts, trusting in the truth to make itself evident?  Why resort to labels, and name calling? 

And so it behooves us as Latter-day Saints (Mormons), to have a public voice, to speak out, to ensure the facts are heard, that people may know that indeed, Mormons are Christian.  Mine is the intent to teach the truth about Mormonism, with God as my witness, that the truth may be made known and the children of men may determine for themselves, rather than trusting in labels others would force upon us in their endeavors to ensnare and mislead.

Please, take the time to read the posts in this series.  And if you still doubt the Christian claims of Mormonism, tell me why, that I we may address it openly together.

But it is my testimony to all that Christ lives, and I believe in Him.

Rusty

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41 Responses

  1. OK… let’s discuss it.

  2. I’d be happy to. Let me know what part you’d like to discuss. What part is it about Mormons being Christian that you don’t agree with or undestand. Pick one thing and list it, and we’ll talk about it. Then we can move on to another. Unless the things you’re thinking of talking about are already listed on my planned supporting posts listed at the bottom of the introduction to this series here.

    I’m removed the link to your blog, I don’t allow links to anti-Mormon sites, but any discussion you want to have will be allowed, as long as it remains respectful. That’s one of my only rules.

    Thanks,
    Rusty

  3. Rusty, the “conspiracy theory” sounding part of this post is really beneath you. Do you really mean these two statements together?

    “But why then do so many work so hard, to perpetuate such claims? Because it’s an effective mechanism for deterring souls from finding the truth.”

    Just before that, you write,

    “But who can say if someone else is Christian or not? Who has that authority? Certainly not a man. Only Christ has that capacity to judge. ”

    I’d propose that when you “judge” the motivations of another, you are exceeding your authority. We are able to judge the behavior of others. Christ says that when we forgive the sins of others, (which necessarily entails judgment), those sins are forgiven. But to judge motivation is to judge based on my assumptions.

    If I had written this post against Mormonism, you would have either chastized me or not allowed the post. Please, apply the same standards to your own posts.

    Pondering Pastor

  4. Well, my “position” will BE anti-mormon. So if you do not allow my link to my post about mormonism, why should I expect to be allowed to discuss it here? I have already “discussed” it in my post. Read it. Anything you wish to repudiate? I will not argue with anyone who chooses to believe a lie. If you can successfully repudiate anything I have presented, I’m all ears.

  5. “Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced … more true than truth itself.” – Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 1.2

    Rusty, some anti-mormons have been called by Christ to repudiate the false claims of anti-Christian religions. Those who know the real Truth can spot a fake because they are spiritually discerning. There remians the “inexperienced eye” that may stumble on your post and it is them we serve to keep away from cultism.

    Your god is not the God of Abraham, but is rather the god of your imagination. And that imagination is bound to your ever selfish and central desire to crown yourself an immortal God. All falsehood you mimic proceeds from this desire and has since the beginning.

  6. I’m not religious and I think the question is one of simple symantics. The word Christian denotes someone who follows the practices or teachings of Christ, in whatever form they interpret them to be. So, Mormons are Christians, as are Catholics, Protestants, and every other denomination that talks about and preaches the teachings of some one called Jesus Christ.

    For those of you arguing that “your god” or “my god” stuff is what makes the difference, try reading a dictionary or looking something up once in a while.

  7. 23five23

    Define thyself with the Webster…..Very Funny – I hope you weren’t serious.

  8. Rich Parr – I understand you feel in your heart you are doing good by belittling my beliefs. What I don’t understand is why Mormon beliefs are so offensive to you? We have difference, as do all “Christian” Churches, but to call us “Anti-Christian” is where we as firm believers in Christ must draw a line. Such mischaracterizations are nothing short of lies or complete misunderstandings by individuals that have never actually studied the core beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ. As Christ taught in Matthew 7:13-23, false prophets are easily identified by their fruits. Are not the fruits of Thomas S. Monson, our current Prophet, worthy of the title Christian? He spent most of his life visiting and serving the less fortunate around him. He had a soft place in his heart specifically for widows. Do our members, in general, live such appalling lives? Doesn’t our Church teach many principles for daily living that differ so substantially from “Christians?”

    Sure, we may have different interpretations or understandings of the written word in the Bible about what happens after this life, or the true nature of God. Are those things so clearly defined in the Bible that no confusion should exist? How can any “Christian” proclaim all doctrines are clearly defined in the Bible? Isn’t the existence of the Nicene Creed evidence of confusion from the text of the Bible?

    If so many within the “Christian” belief can differ substantially on points of doctrine as crucial of what saves an individual, or what type of baptism ought to be performed for salvation, even using the Nicene Creed to clarify the text of the Bible, why can’t other believer’s of Christ disagree with the Nicene Creed, or what happens after salvation?

    I will not attempt to guess the motive why other “Christians” refuse to allow us to believe in the Jesus Christ of the New Testament, as we interpret it. (NOTE: Mormons generally read the King James Version of the New Testament, not a version re-written for clarification or to make it easier to understand using modern language).

    I find it ironic that it is okay for “Christians” to change the language in the Bible and they are not admonished by the collective “Christian” coalition.

    In conclusion, I can tell you and the whole world, that I believe in Christ. He is my Lord and Savior. I know He lives today. No matter what you call me, or my church you cannot destroy my personal relationship with my Savior.

  9. your god lives on another planet and was once a man?
    satan and Jesus are brothers?
    Try those two for starters.

  10. Frank,

    Do you not believe Christ was a man? Where is heaven? What explanation do you have for Satan? Is Satan a person, if so, where did he/she come from? The LDS Church has explanations for some of these questions through revelation from God. Can I say, that because you have no answers to these questions makes you less of a “Christian?” I guess that is one line of logic I don’t follow.

    On the other hand, if are you implying that because a latter day Prophet received a revelation that God is the spiritual father of us all, including the evil one, that makes us less loving, respectful, and worshipping of Christ? How? Can’t we use the same logic to say that Ghandi and Hitler were spiritual brothers? The LDS Church explained the relationship between Jesus and Satan here:

    http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/commentary/answering-media-questions-about-jesus-and-satan

  11. Also, here is an article written by a LDS scholar. It does not represent actual Church doctrine (meaning it is not written as an official declaration of the LDS Church), but it is an accurate portrayal of our beliefs. It also explains in the beginning paragraphs why people like Frank ask such questions. Enjoy.

    http://www.fairlds.org/pubs/JesusSatan.pdf

  12. Re: Rich: “Your god is not the God of Abraham, but is rather the god of your imagination. And that imagination is bound to your ever selfish and central desire to crown yourself an immortal God.”

    No Mormons have the desire to “crown [themselves] God[s]” and if they do, they do not understand LDS doctrine. Anyone who states that that is what Mormons believe is either misinformed or lying. Any reward or status that people receive in the next life will be because of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. We also need to strive to live righteously and repent when we fall short. We additionally need to receive all the ordinances of the gospel (baptism and so forth) by those who hold the authority of God.

    Members of the LDS Church by and large just want to live good lives and do good to those around them.

  13. Listen, people fall into Mormonism to save themselves from eternal harm. Just as when you strap a seat belt around your waist to save from injury or pain. The underlying motivation for following the church ordinances is for the very act of eternal self preservation. Now you may say “We are following His commandments to be obedient to His word.” And outwardly that expression looks holy and justified. But at the heart and very core is your belief in the doctrine of exaltation which feeds your sinful nature to save thyself from pain. Therefore your god is a stepping stone and you quote “love him” because he is helping you climb the rope. Without him you couldn’t self preserve to be with your love ones who passed before you or have your own kingdom.

  14. http://www.lds.org/library/display/0,4945,11-1-13-59,00.html

    Blessings of Exaltation

    Those who receive exaltation in the celestial kingdom through faith in Jesus Christ will receive special blessings. The Lord has promised, “All things are theirs” (D&C 76:59). These are some of the blessings given to exalted people:

    They will live eternally in the presence of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ (see D&C 76).

    They will become gods.

    They will have their righteous family members with them and will be able to have spirit children also. These spirit children will have the same relationship to them as we do to our Heavenly Father. They will be an eternal family.

    They will receive a fullness of joy.

    They will have everything that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have–all power, glory, dominion, and knowledge. President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “The Father has promised through the Son that all that he has shall be given to those who are obedient to his commandments. They shall increase in knowledge, wisdom, and power, going from grace to grace, until the fullness of the perfect day shall burst upon them” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:36).

    To be exalted, we first must place our faith in Jesus Christ and then endure in that faith to the end of our lives. Our faith in him must be such that we repent of our sins and obey his commandments.

    He commands us all to receive certain ordinances:

    We must be baptized and confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ.

    We must receive the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

    We must receive the temple endowment.

    We must be married for time and eternity.

    In addition to receiving the required ordinances, the Lord commands all of us to–

    Love and worship God.

    Love our neighbor.

    Repent of our wrongdoings.

    Live the law of chastity.

    Pay honest tithes and offerings.

    Be honest in our dealings with others and with the Lord.

    Speak the truth always.

    Obey the Word of Wisdom.

    Search out our kindred dead and perform the saving ordinances of the gospel for them.

    Keep the Sabbath day holy.

    Attend our Church meetings as regularly as possible so we can renew our baptismal covenants by partaking of the sacrament.

    Love our family members and strengthen them in the ways of the Lord.

    Have family and individual prayers every day.

    Honor our parents.

    Teach the gospel to others by word and example.

    Study the scriptures.

    Listen to and obey the inspired words of the prophets of the Lord.

    Case Closed?

  15. […] Are Mormons Christian? A look at the question itself […]

  16. Re: Richard Parr

    My issue with your statement was that you said that members of the LDS Church believe that we crown ourselves gods (that’s like saying that people can save themselves). That’s not true. If we are exalted, we will be crowned gods but not by ourselves but by our Father in Heaven or by His Son Jesus Christ. It’s like Hebrews 5:4 states, “No man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God.” We don’t take honors upon ourselves but we take what is given by God. You also make it sound like we believe that we can supplant God in a way, which is also incorrect. God is God eternally.

    This belief is Biblical, although so many people understand the Bible so differently that quoting the Bible to each other is often fruitless. For members of the LDS Church, verses like Psalm 82:6, indicate the divine potential of man.

    I also don’t appreciate you prescribing motives to members of the church: “outwardly that expression looks holy and justified. But at the heart and very core is your belief in the doctrine of exaltation which feeds your sinful nature to save thyself from pain.” Doing this is like telling us Mormons that we are not Christians. Or, it’s like stating that everything Mother Teresa did was because she gained personal benefit from her “service” – that she was trying to “save [herself] from pain.” How do you know the hearts and motives of others?

    I just had to respond to your incorrect representation of LDS doctrine; I hope I was able to do so respectfully.

  17. to: Rob Loblaw…
    You arrogantly presume I have no answers? I do not “pose questions”. I confront you with heretical lies. You sir are a heretic, and I said above I will not argue with anyone who chooses to believe a lie. Over and out!

  18. Make that: BOB Loblaw

  19. Jared, I didn’t write the doctrine I posted above. Maybe you should contact the LDS website if you disagree with what it says. Simply said, “crown thyself” is performed when one works the list of ordinances so that you can inherit the celestial kingdom with its rewards. Do you want me to teach you your own doctrine?

  20. Richard Parr, I love it when people tell me what I believe and why I believe it. I am yet to understand why anti-mormons get so much pleasure telling Mormons how deceived we are, when most of them have never sincerely studied our beliefs. Another of my favorite things is when an anti-Mormon reads a couple of paragraphs of LDS theology and presumes to know everything there is to know.

    Notice the doctrine you listed above the first and most important aspect is to have faith in Christ. We use our works as evidence of our faith (See James 2). Let me guess, I have interpreted that chapter different than you, right? Most of these discussions do nothing more than confirm to me the need for God to follow the plan He has used since the beginning of time. To call a Prophet as His spokesperson to His children (Amos 3:7, and then entire Bible for evidence of God calling Prophets and Apostles to teach and lead). You can attempt to teach members of the Church our doctrine based on a single passage you found on a website. That is like me telling you faith has no part in salvation because of what James 2 teaches. Doctrines of Christ’s gospel were not taught with the intention of being applied in a vacuum. The LDS Church teaches that it is through faith in Christ and His mercy and grace that all may be saved. I honestly believe that much of this debate comes down to semantics. Most “Christians” tell me that if they are truly converted that they will not commit evil works (an amazing statement to me). While we believe there are things Christ has asked us to do to qualify for HIs saving grace, as evidence of our faith in Him.

    To Frank – when individuals resort to name calling it displays their level of intelligence. My goal is not to argue with you, rather to defend my faith from a critical attack. I was not presuming what thoughts you did have on the subject matter, merely showing the faulty logic you used. Did you even read the links I posted? I made a sincere effort to answer your questions and your only response is one of confrontation. I guess that is my biggest concern about the way many anti-mormons approach discussions with me (at least) is in a spirit of contention, which is not the spirit of Christ.

  21. Frank,

    Can you tell me which belief is heretical?

    Richard,

    Can you tell me where on the LDS website it says we will “crown ourselves Gods”? Also, great quote in your first comment, thanks for that. I’ve added it to our quotes page here.

    PP

    Thanks for holding me to a higher standard. I reread the post, and it did come across sharper than it should. I’ll revise.

    However, this is not a conspiracy theory, this is a daily reality. Just before I’d read this post, I’d read another blog about a pastor who was holding weekly meetings with his congregations dedicated to arming them with anti-Mormon literature, concepts, and words so that when they encounter a Mormon, they’ve been trained on just what to say.

    It is this to which I refer. Here are these people, trusting in their ecclesiastical leader, who instead of just teaching the truth about their own religion, using their time and talents to build up the testimonies of their followers with doctrine, instead choose to implant in their minds falsehoods about another religion.

    None of the anti-Mormon literature is correct, and what hints of truth are there are subject to so much spin and lack of context that they’re dramatized to the point of being flat out flabbergasting to those of us who know better.

    But most of these people never take the time to research themselves, and instead move about perpetuating the same falsehoods. In Australia, teaching the Chinese people, there were numerous among them who actually thought Mormons had horns, and were genuinely surprised to not see them bursting out of my dark brown, closely cropped hair. So while I wish it were merely a conspiracy theory, it’s something that as a missionary, and as a Mormon blogger, I encounter(ed) almost daily. It makes me sad.

    Otherwise, it looks like each comment was more than adequately addressed by Jared and Bob (thanks you guys).

    If anyone feels differently, please specify exactly what wasn’t addressed and we’ll be sure to address it.

  22. Bob, once again I guess I have misquoted Mormon doctrine. I have provided a page from lds.org. Isn’t that the official LDS web site. Could someone tell me where I can go to get official Mormon doctrine?

    You will notice that the doctrine “to have faith in Christ” precludes with “To be exalted”.

    David asked to be given “thy salvation…that I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation” (Ps. 106:4,5). Paul likewise says that to see the Thessalonians in the Kingdom would be his glory and joy in that day. Both those men had a perspective far bigger than merely themselves. If our sole desire to ‘be there’ is so that I will live forever, I will have a nice level of existence, have my own kingdom…this, it seems to me, is not only essentially selfish but is driven by our basic sinful nature to become like god as it were in the fall.

    But if we see the true picture, then we will pray for the kingdom to come so that the things of God’s name may be glorified instead of mine. This adoration is far more true to the gospel than the primitive desire for self-preservation which we all have and which we can articulate. And because our desire to self preserve is natural, the exaltation doctrine is like a fishing lure to catch the one looking for eternal happiness. At the very end it leads down to the path quench the thirst of self love.

    I am sure you heard the saying: “Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die.” I can only say as a witness, that God’s love is so great and beyond any measure, that I cannot wait to die and be with Him to see His Glory. He is the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, eternally Holy and True.

  23. Richard, other church Fathers have summed up what you have written so truthfully. I will share them with you below. Also, I am thankful you have come to know the risen Christ.

    Transformative grace, according to the Augustinian tradition and the young Luther, is that the heart loves God above all things for His own sake; in Augustine’s terms, we come to enjoy God and use created things for God’s sake, rather than attempting to “use” God for the sake of created enjoyments.

    Luther, best known is his depiction of the sinner as incurvatus in se, “curved in on self”: “Our nature, by the corruption of the first sin, is so deeply curved in on itself that it not only bends the best gifts of God towards itself and enjoys them (as is plain in the works-righteous), or rather even uses God himself in order to attain these gifts, but it also fails to realize that it so wickedly, curvedly, and viciously seeks all things, even God, for its own sake.

  24. Richard,

    I guess I’m not following your “misquote”. LDS.org is the official website for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons). Can you tell me again what it is on there that seems inaccurate? For some reason I’m not following your logic, it could just be because I’m tired. Thanks.

    I also don’t follow your logic in stating that straining toward perfection is selfish. We’re told that we should be perfect, even as our Father in heaven is perfect. And that as such, we can earn the “great reward”, receive “all the father hath”, and become joint heirs with Christ.

    And now you’re telling me I’m selfish for saying “wow, that sounds incredible, okay, I’ll try to be perfect, I’ll keep the commandments, just like you said, because indeed, I’d love to ‘earn that great reward’”. How is that so? Is that not our goal? If not, why would he say those things?

    Can you help me understand your reasoning, especially pertaining to these scriptures?

    Thanks.

    Ringer,

    Welcome back. I’d enjoy your thoughts on the matter as well.

  25. I think Richard’s issue is that LDS doctrines can come across as a way to “save oneself” – in that we place emphasis on the works we do. Please correct me if I’m wrong. This is an inaccurate representation of what Mormons believe (I’m not saying that the misrepresentation is intentional; I’ve met a lot of people confused about this). We have faith in Jesus Christ first and foremost. He is our foundation. His propitiation for our sins – his sufferings and sacrifice – provided the way for us to live with God eternally.

    However, we do believe that we have to receive certain ordinances in order to receive all that God has promised. These ordinances are necessary but not sufficient. Even adding repentance or striving to live worthy lives still is not sufficient. The only thing that saves us is the Atonement of the Savior. Again, the ordinances like baptism and those of the temple, are necessary but not sufficient conditions for exaltation. Only the Savior’s Atonement has the power to sanctify us.

    This is why saying that those who make it to the celestial kingdom will “crown themselves” gods is very inaccurate. We cannot crown ourselves anything. God may crown us but we cannot crown ourselves. The distinction is very important.

    Historically the LDS Church placed more emphasis on our works because so many other churches minimized that; that a simple profession of the Savior and acceptance of Him into your heart was sufficient for salvation. Mormons placed that emphasis on works because we believe that people do need to be baptized by one with the proper authority. We do need to live good lives and repent. We do need to follow the commandments. However, in this emphasis, many people (and even some within the church) misunderstood the doctrine. This is why the church, within the past 13 years or so, has made a more concerted effort to stress that yes, we do in fact believe in the grace of Christ, that we cannot “save” ourselves. This is not a change in doctrine, it’s just a clarification of what people had misunderstood about LDS doctrine.

    I could no more crown myself with God’s power and glory than I could steal His power or glory. Richard, your quote from the LDS Church website was fine, it was just your conclusion about we being able to crown ourselves that was not correct.

  26. Rusty, I think what Richard is trying to say is that when repentance and works are done in the spirit to gain exaltation than that act in itself cheapens saving grace.

    Scripture is everywhere clear-the one thing a person must do to be saved is exercise “true saving faith” in Christ. Faith is the instrument that God uses to bring individuals into a saving relationship with Himself. That is not to say that faith is the basis of our salvation; rather, it is the channel by which God grants salvation.

    Faith comes to the believer as a gift from God. It is not something that individuals are capable of mustering up on their own. Were faith a work of man’s own doing, man would be in a position to take partial credit for his redemption. But such a concept is foreign to the writers of Scripture. Paul anticipated that men would tend to boast of their part in salvation when he wrote that faith (one of many components of salvation) “is the gift of God…that no one should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

    Faith comes as a result of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit-He quickens our hearts to believe. Apart from the new birth, there can be no true faith. Therefore, faith, though it manifests itself in action, comes as a result of God’s work in us. God grants us faith and that faith is evidenced by our walking in the good works that “God [has] prepared beforehand” for us to walk in (Ephesians 2:10).

    The Bible says that if we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved. However, the Bible does not present faith as simply “mental assent to the facts of the gospel.” True saving faith involves repentance from one’s sin and a complete trust in the work of Christ to save from sin and make one righteous. The Reformers spoke of three aspects of faith: recognition of the truth claims of the gospel, acknowledgment of their truthfulness and exact correspondence to man’s spiritual need, and a personal commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ who, by virtue of His death, provides the only sufficient sacrifice for one’s personal sin. Any one of these three aspects of faith, taken by themselves, is insufficient to meet the biblical definition of saving faith. However, the presence of all three components together results in saving faith. In other words, saving faith consists of mental, emotional, and volitional elements. Saving faith involves both the mind and the will.

    In addition to calling us to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, the New Testament uses several figures of speech to describe the nature of saving faith. Perhaps the most vivid of those figurative references is found in Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6). In that passage, Jesus likens true faith to hungering and thirsting. The unbeliever, by virtue of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, recognizes his or her dire need of nourishment and refreshment and comes to Jesus begging that He fill the need. That is a beautiful picture of faith. First, there is recognition of Jesus’ claim to be the “bread of life” (John 6:35) and the possessor of “living water” (John 4:10). Next, the unbeliever is convinced that Jesus’ promise is really true and that it corresponds exactly with his profound hunger and thirst. Finally, the unbeliever acts-he begs Jesus to satisfy his hunger and quench his thirst. True faith hears, believes, and actively responds.

  27. Jared,

    Marvelous response, as usual.

    Ringer,

    Wow, terrific comment. Tons of meat, real content, no accusagtions (even though we disagree), I have a high respect for that.

    As I read through your comment (and I need some more time to digest it), it seems that I agree with everything you say.

    The one immediate addition, not exception… or perhaps question that I would follow up with is this…

    I agree that faith is a gift. Is there a portion of faith though, that is not? Is there a portion of faith that must be “earned”, “achieved”, “found”, etc.?

    When the Savior says “THY faith hath made the whole”, does that allude to the fact that perhaps faith can be given, but yet still has to be excercised to be efficacious?

    When the Lord chastizes his apostles “Oh ye of little faith”, as apostles, wouldn’t they have been given faith? Clearly they have had faith in other instances. Is it because again, it can be given, but must yet be exercised? It doesn’t make sense that he would chastise them for having little faith, if it were entirely up to Him to give it.

    So I’m left wondering if perhaps there isn’t a level of personal responsibility for our faith. That faith, even though it’s a gift, is something we seek, we build, and we excercise in order for it to be of worth.

    What are your thoughts?

  28. Rusty, I believe your question regarding faith is determined whether justification is a process rather than immediate. I have previously posted this answer and it may have been off topic then. But if you allow I will insert it again for your comment.

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

    Declared Righteous: What Actually Changes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    How Justification and Sanctification Differ

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

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

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

  29. Great posts Ringer. You’ve captured well the argument.

    Pondering Pastor

  30. Rusty,

    “So I’m left wondering if perhaps there isn’t a level of personal responsibility for our faith. That faith, even though it’s a gift, is something we seek, we build, and we excercise in order for it to be of worth.”

    If faith is a gift of God, then it’s value or worth is a given. It is not changed by our seeking, building, or exercising. Yes, faith without works is dead … and only God can raise the dead.

    Not to detract from the point, but much of Christianity baptizes infants which points to a faith that is a gift and not an accomplishment of ours. It is so much a gift that the infant can’t even communicate the faith that has been received.

    The thing Ringer posts above has a name. “Alien righteousness”. Alien righteousness is righteousness before God that is not of our own. It is from Christ and on account of Christ. St. Paul is clear that none of our own “righteousness” counts for anything except condemnation.

    Pondering Pastor

  31. Jared, I also appreciated your comment on an earlier post where you wrote:

    “Historically the LDS Church placed more emphasis on our works because so many other churches minimized that; that a simple profession of the Savior and acceptance of Him into your heart was sufficient for salvation. Mormons placed that emphasis on works because we believe that people do need to be baptized by one with the proper authority. We do need to live good lives and repent. We do need to follow the commandments.”

    Biblical justification as I described above must be earnestly defended on two fronts. Many today misuse the doctrine to support the view that obedience to God’s moral law is optional. This teaching attempts to reduce the whole of God’s saving work to the declarative act of justification. It downplays the spiritual rebirth of regeneration (2 Cor. 5:17); it discounts the moral effects of the believer’s new heart (Ezek. 36:26-27); and it makes sanctification hinge on the believer’s own efforts. It tends to treat the forensic element of justification–God’s act of declaring the believing sinner righteous–as if this were the only essential aspect of salvation. The inevitable effect of this approach is to turn the grace of God into licentiousness (Jude 4). Such a view is called antinomianism.

    On the other hand, there are many who make justification dependent on a mixture of faith and works. Whereas antinomianism radically isolates justification from sanctification, this error blends the two aspects of God’s saving work. The effect is to make justification a process grounded in the believer’s own flawed righteousness–rather than a declarative act of God grounded in Christ’s perfect righteousness. As soon as justification is fused with sanctification, works of righteousness become an essential part of the process. Faith is thus diluted with works. This was the error of the Galatian legalists (cf. Gal. 2:16). Paul called it “a different gospel” (Gal. 1:6, 9).

  32. Fascinating, and I agree with most all of what you’ve described (particularly your presentation of that last part, that’s perhaps the clearest I’ve heard it explained, and thanks for taking the time).

    Still, my question was meant to be less large and nebulous in concept, but more practical and of daily use. Instead it turned into the discussion of “saved by faith vs saved by works” (and we all agree that we’re not saved by works).

    But of particular interest to me of late is the more pragmatic implementation of faith as a means to affect your life. So it’s the actual act of faith to which I refer. For instance, if I were sick, my ability to be healed can be impacted by my faith. But that alludes to a proactive action on my part. Something I must DO… “exercise faith”.

    Do your views of “faith as a gift” preclude the notion that one must “exercise” their faith? Or do you subscribe to a view of faith that leaves one entirely powerless to impact their own life?

    Is faith, in your understanding, something that I can “build”?

  33. Rusty, the distinction between doctrinal and practical truth is artificial; doctrine is practical. In fact, nothing is more practical than sound doctrine. When you asked earlier if we can build our faith, I wanted to clearly outline your question in context of my understanding of doctrine so not to be misunderstood.

    Yes, the nature of saving faith desires us to add to what we have been given. When we choose not to diligently pursue all that He has commanded, then we forfeit the blessings and assurances of our salvation. We live in doubt and we live in depression and we will live in fear and we will live in despair and we will worry about our spiritual condition and we will wonder if we are really saved.

    However, in 2 Peter 1, Peter calls our faith “like precious faith.” That is a translation of the Greek word isotimos. That word means “of equal value” or “of equal honor.” There are no first-class and second- class Christians. Some people believe you become a Christian first, and that if you get your spiritual act together at some later time you get promoted to the level of disciple. But verse 1 says we have obtained a saving faith of equal value. There’s no inequality in the body of Christ. Galatians 3:28 says, “There’s neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” First Corinthians 6:17 says, “He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.” The faith we have received is equally valuable.

    No matter who you are, whether educated or uneducated, rich or poor, we all have received a saving faith that is equal in value and that gives us equal standing before God. That’s what makes the body of Christ so wonderful. We all come from every imaginable walk of life, and none of us have anything over anyone else. We all will spend eternity in heaven. We all will know the glories of being like Jesus Christ because our salvation knows no grades.

  34. Ringer, I want to sincerely thank you for shedding light on the beliefs of so many of my Christian friends. I have been quietly following this intriguing dialogue. I appreciate all who have contributed.

    First, I would echo everything you posted above. Your description of faith and the love of God is great. It only makes sense that God is just, and provides an equal opportunity at salvation for all His children. This equality is an important foundation to Christ’s saving sacrifice.

    I do have a question on the doctrine/belief of salvation by grace alone, i.e. that no ordinance is necessary. My understanding, while limited, is that there are 2 general thoughts regarding the Calvinistic belief in the Grace of God. The first you outlined above, in your post about antinomianism. You explained that belief well.

    The second general belief is that good works are a natural extension of those who have been truly saved. The desire to do good flows naturally from the grace of God within them, because they have accepted Christ’s spirit of saving grace. Is that correct?

    In conclusion, PP posted above an interesting thought that because most of Christianity baptized infants that is evidence that such an ordinance is not an accomplishment. I question that line of thinking. Is the doctrine of infant baptism taught in the Bible, or was it a convenient way for the Catholic Church, among others to ensure growing membership numbers? I apologize if that last comment was offensive to some, just my cynical side rearing its ugly head. My point is simply that infant baptism is not a Biblical doctrine and should not be used as evidence of the role baptism does or does not play in one’s salvation.

  35. Bob, I understood through your comment that you already knew the Calvinist position on infant baptism. Your attempt to bait me to throw spears at PP, my brother in Christ, is unnecessary.

  36. Perhaps I misread his comment, but that didn’t seem to me as bait, but rather a question of the origin of infant baptism. Either way, I’ve long wondered the same, for I too can find no evidence of it in the Bible. In its absence, I’m left to draw conclusions based on motivation for the origination of the doctrine, and I came to the same conclusion, which I covered here (Commercialized religion). But I’d love to have a more detailed response to how that came to be.

    I’m particularly interested though in your answer to my question on faith. It feels contradictory, probably just because I’m still struggling to understand a foreign viewpoint, and it requires me to think differently.

    You say that we must “add to what we have been given”, or else we “forfeit the blessings and assurances of our salvation”. It contradicts what I thought I understood about your understanding of the unnecessary nature of works in salvation. If we’re required to add to our faith or else we forfeit the assurances of salvation, that’s saying I have to “do” something. If you’ve already gone over this, forgive me, sometimes it takes several encounters of the same viewpoint for it to really sink in, plus, the readers of this post may not have read those long earlier threads.

    Also, believing that we must “add to what we have been given” would suggest that we’ll each be at different levels, for we certainly don’t all progress the same. But then you say suggest that our faith is all of equal value. I can see the premise behind the concept that “saving faith is of equal value”, for the value is salvation, and whether it’s for one or another, salvation is salvation, it’s of equal value. But I don’t see how that would indicate that faith is all equal. Saying one person’s faith is greater than another’s is not saying that there are first-class and second-class Christians, but rather we develop along different timelines.

    There are some who have faith, and some who don’t. There are some who have lots of faith, and some who have little faith.

    So when I say “pragmatic implementation of faith”, I don’t suggest that practical faith is different than doctrinal faith, I think faith is faith (the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” Heb 11:1).

    But the part I’m failing to connect is that earlier you said “faith comes to the believer as a gift from God. It is not something that individuals are capable of mustering up on their own. Were faith a work of man’s own doing, man would e in a position to take partial credit for his redemption”.

    Yet later you say that we must “add to” our faith, or else we forfeit the assurance of salvation, which would seem to contradict. I’m not saying there’s not an explanation, I’m just wondering what it is. The scriptures I find in the bible seem to say that faith is indeed something that must be “worked by man”. When the Lord chastised the apostles during the storm for being of “little faith”, and later Peter as he tried to walk on water he said the same. That would tell me that he expected them to exercise their faith. When some are healed he said “thy faith hath made thee whole”, but then other times others are not healed, and even the apostles at times couldn’t heal some, for their faith was insufficient. Each of these would lead me to believe that indeed, faith is something for which we are individually accountable for.

  37. Ringer,

    I apologize if my previous post gave the appearance of a “bait”. That was not my intent. Words can be just blunt instruments. My question for you was regarding the belief that good works flows directly from within one who is saved. I have many neighbors, who seem to believe that once they are saved, the grace of God is the source of good works that flows from them i.e. from no act of their own. Is that correct? I have a sincere desire to learn more about this line of thinking.

    As for my question regarding infant baptism, I intended to direct that to PP not you. If you feel inclined to explain the Biblical foundation for infant baptism, that would be great.

    In conclusion, Rusty’s post regarding faith and accountability I fail to see how individual effort, even if the strength to do so comes from God, does not play a vital role in one’s salvation. Notice the difference between how works are a component, like the gas petal on a car, but without grace no amount of works is sufficient to save one’s self. The concept of saving one’s self is impossible and destroys the need for a savior.

    An illustration if I may, when you were ‘saved’ didn’t the minister or pastor ask you to stand and recite a prayer or a pledge of some kind? My understanding is this “work” is your witness to Christ that you have accepted Him as your savior, correct? I apologize if prayer or pledge is incorrect, I am not certain on the proper terminology used. But the point is, do you believe one can be saved without such an act? Doesn’t performing this act require one to exercise a modicum of faith – perhaps more than the person they were sitting next to who did not accept Christ, and are not reciting the prayer? This process is somewhat foreign to me, so any explanation would be helpful. Thanks.

  38. Ah, infant baptism, one of those controversial practices of the church!

    “In conclusion, PP posted above an interesting thought that because most of Christianity baptized infants that is evidence that such an ordinance is not an accomplishment. I question that line of thinking. Is the doctrine of infant baptism taught in the Bible, or was it a convenient way for the Catholic Church, among others to ensure growing membership numbers? I apologize if that last comment was offensive to some, just my cynical side rearing its ugly head. My point is simply that infant baptism is not a Biblical doctrine and should not be used as evidence of the role baptism does or does not play in one’s salvation.”

    Acts 16:15 might/likely include(s) infants/children.
    1 Cor 1:16 might/likley include(s) infants/children.
    Especially since it was not unusual in those days, like today in those parts, to have a multi-generational household.

    You will find no prohibition in the Bible about baptizing infants. In fact, it is clear that the Holy Spirit has been given to those who have been baptized as infants. In a sense, the Holy Spirit has “confirmed” the validity of those baptisms.

    No, it is not a convenient way for churches to increase membership.

    Pondering Pastor

  39. Rusty, I want to give you some statements about “adding to our faith” because I don’t want you to have any misunderstandings about it. I think this is very formative and very basic for your understanding, so I want it to be clear in your mind. Let me just give you a few things to understand. First of all, spiritual growth has nothing to do with my standing before God in Christ. That’s all settled. When we put our trust in Jesus Christ, the righteousness of Christ covers us. The righteousness of God has covered me. And that is essentially what the Apostle Paul acknowledged, “Not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.” So my standing before God is set. I have been covered with the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ. That doesn’t change. Wherever I am in my spiritual growth doesn’t change my standing before God. That is fixed forever. In fact, in Colossians 2:10 it says, “In Him you have been made complete.” As far as God is concerned, that’s settled. He sees us in His Son as righteous. He sees us in His Son as perfect. “On the cross Jesus took our sin so that He could give us His righteousness.” He dies on the cross as if He had lived your sinful life and mine and then God imputes His perfect life to our account as if we had lived His sinless life. That’s the glory of the great doctrine of substitution, imputed righteousness. So spiritual growth has nothing to do with your standing before God.

    Secondly, spiritual growth has nothing to do with God’s love for you. God doesn’t love you more or like you better if you’re mature. In fact, in John 13:1 Jesus was meeting with the disciples in the upper room and it says in that passage that having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto perfection. The Lord loves all of His own to perfection. And the disciples in that case were immature. They were doubters. They were proud. They were arguing about who of them would be the greatest in the Kingdom and they were utterly insensitive to Jesus facing a cross. But He still loved them to perfection. In fact, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us because God loved us when we were enemies.” He loves us with a perfect love. He cannot love us more because we are more mature. He cannot love us less because we are less mature. He loves us into eternal salvation and He loves us into eternal glory. Where we are in the process of spiritual growth does not affect our standing with Him, nor His love for us.

  40. Ringer,

    What you wrote about the doctrine of substitution is a fundamental belief in the LDS Church. We call it vicarious atonement. And you are correct that our standing before God has been settled by God’s Son. This to is a basic understanding of the Christ’s sacrifice that is taught in the LDS Church.

    A common video shown in sunday school classes church wide is about a man who borrows money to buy a farm house. When the day comes to pay the debt, the farmer is unable to pay. The debtor demands justice. The farmer cannot satisfy the debtor’s demand for justice – in fact it is explained that debt the farmer owed was so substantial – he could never repay it on his own. The farmer is shackled. Before the farmer is led to prison, another man enters. He offers to completely pay the debt. When that debt is paid the debtor no longer seeks justice – he has received payment. The farmer’s new creditor is his savior. Notice that if the creditor asked the farmer to perform certain acts, such acts would never repay the original debt the farmer owed.

    That simple allegory does not perfectly capture the doctrine of the Savior’s atonement, as some could reason that the farmer could earn enough money on his own to repay the debt without any help. The narrator in the movie explains that this is not possible with our salvation. That no amount of “works” on our part can satisfy God’s demand for justice for our evil works.

    As to your discussion regarding God’s love – you do an excellent job of describing how God’s love is perfect. I am unsure if you are a parent, but if you are you can start to understand God’s love is not based on works, maturity, spiritual growth etc. I think you are missing the point of Rusty’s comment. Our faith does not result in an increase of love from God. His love is perfect. Our spiritual growth does not affect our standing with him regarding His love. Our “debt” was paid by Christ. His love is perfect. That does not mean that some works, those requested by Christ himself are not essential to our salvation – not that we can gain salvation only by our works. That is completely and utterly impossible. It is only by Christ that we are saved. You have quoted plenty of scripture to back this point up, so I don’t need to. I have more to say, but not enough time right now – work calls…

  41. “… life [is] not so much about what to accomplish, but what God does in us with our consent.” Catherine Cleary

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