They brought up a theme that I think is consistent in conversations between LDS and Evangelicals. LDS counter our “saved by grace alone” with “so then you can do whatever you want because you’re saved?” And the answer is “NO, absolutely not”. Paul makes it quite clear that we DON’T go on sinning, we start a new life. I have never heard a Protestant pastor preach forgiveness without preaching repentance at the same time. Repenting means leaving your sin behind and not returning to it.
So why do Evangelicals go on sinning? I’d venture to guess for the same reason LDS go on sinning. Because they haven’t fully converted. They still somewhere in their heart believe that their will should be done rather than God’s will (me included by the way).
So why haven’t they fully converted? I think there are several reasons for this. First off, we Evangelicals have done a terrible job making disciples. We aim for converts and then hope that discipleship will happen. We are definitely out of line with Jesus on this one. Your critiques are well aimed (although a 30% activity rate in the LDS church seems to indicate that it could equally be turned on you).
Second, when we do disciple people, we allow it to be messy. When an LDS convert is baptized he commits before his baptism to live a certain way. We don’t believe that people can straighten out their lives without the Holy Spirit first being in them. So we invite people to come worship Jesus with whatever junk they might be carrying with them. Sometimes that junk is substantial. Then we invite them to start the process of sanctification. We spend our whole lives turning away from sin. We don’t pretend that there are nothing but sinless people among us. We KNOW that they people sitting next to us in the pews are sinning.
So do Evangelicals allow people to go on sinning? Yes and no. If someone owns their sin and acknowledges how they continue to mess up, then we help hold them accountable. We walk them through the process of leaving it behind. Some are able to leave their sin cold turkey others are not. We make space for failure. If a person is unrepentant and blatantly goes on sinning with no intention to seek holiness we for sure confront them. Church discipline is different everywhere. If the person is in leadership, they are removed from that position whether they are repentant or not. They are given the resources of the church to seek restoration and it’s up to them to respond.
As far as orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Having right belief entails knowing what is right action. I dare say that those who are strict on their orthodoxy know quite well that sex before marriage is wrong. Those that think fornication is okay are probably missing quite a few other things in their “right belief”. But I think Jesus makes it quite clear that both orthodoxy AND orthopraxy fall short. The Pharisees had their doctrine and the religious practice nailed but their hearts were still corrupt. It’s pointless to focus on belief OR practice if we aren’t first reforming the heart. A right heart will produce fruit. But stapling apples on a lemon tree doesn’t do anything other than make a fraud.
Another comment by Lisa in that same post indicated that Evangelicals believe that all sins are the same. This is true and not true. We believe that ALL sin equally removes us from God. But to say that all sin is equal is ludicrous. I know that many Evangelicals believe that but they’re wrong. They have a very weak concept of justice. The sin of murder quite clearly destroys and corrupts much more powerfully than speeding. Adultery and lust are both sins, but adultery IS worse than lust in it’s consequences.
Lisa also reported that 40-80% of Evangelicals lose their virginity before marriage. The difference between those numbers is so huge it’s obviously not scientific. But even the 40% number is distressing. I’d venture to say that a belief that the numbers aren’t the same in the LDS church is naive. The only thing that might be reducing the number is the fact that the average LDS gets married probably about 8 years earlier than the average Evangelical. That’s no excuse for the Evangelicals. Hopefully I explained why it is happening.