You’re Going to Hell

A rather distasteful aspect of mainstream Christianity is the idea that people are going to Hell based on their beliefs. I say “distasteful” because people outside of my faith tradition don’t like it. I don’t like it either. But I believe Christ to be who he says he is, which means he’s trustworthy. Jesus talked more about Hell than anyone else in the Bible. I feel like Peter after some of Jesus’ other difficult teachings, “where else am I to go?” If Jesus’ teachings are true, then that means I have to accept them even if they are distasteful.

Some comments were made under another post about the theology of Hell. I thought I’d clear some misconceptions up and bring the topic into its own post.

ilmarinen said:

I as an “open-minded” Mormon wouldn’t consider “evangelical” Christianity simply because it describes God in a way that it is near diabolical, at least to my understanding. You don’t believe in Christ, you are going to hell. How can it make sense that he puts you in a world that is filled with confusion, extremely easy not to make the “right” choice of believing in the Trinity, and then punish you for eternity for screwing up during the 50-70 years you hung around earth. It doesn’t make sense that any sort of loving God would condemn you to hell for eternity for much of anything you BELIEVE as a stupid mortal human on this earth.

I think this mischaracterizes the Evangelical position. It may be nuanced but profound to us at least. We don’t believe that anyone is going to Hell because of belief. We believe people can’t be with God because of sin, their actions.

Only actions have the power to remove us from God. Only belief (in Christ) has the power to reconcile us to God. Mormons believe the same thing. They just believe that people have the opportunity to believe in Christ either here on earth or later on in spirit prison. If someone in spirit prison refuses to believe in Christ he is no closer to God than the person who refuses to believe here on earth.

To which Seth responded:

Tim, but what about the logistics of it? That still isn’t a clear answer for the African girl born in a mud hut during the 5th century who never had a shot at accepting Christ in mortality or not. This life is your only shot at accepting Christ? Really?

Paul makes it clear in Romans 2 that all people have some knowledge of God and will be judged based on their own knowledge but there is no other name they can be saved by but Jesus Christ.

“If you sin without knowing what you’re doing, God takes that into account. But if you sin knowing full well what you’re doing, that’s a different story entirely. Merely hearing God’s law is a waste of your time if you don’t do what he commands. Doing, not hearing, is what makes the difference with God.

When outsiders who have never heard of God’s law follow it more or less by instinct, they confirm its truth by their obedience. They show that God’s law is not something alien, imposed on us from without, but woven into the very fabric of our creation. There is something deep within them that echoes God’s yes and no, right and wrong. Their response to God’s yes and no will become public knowledge on the day God makes his final decision about every man and woman. The Message from God that I proclaim through Jesus Christ takes into account all these differences.” (Romans 2, from The Message)

Some basic things to keep in mind:
1) ALL have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) That means everyone is going to hell.

2) God loves his creation and doesn’t wish anyone to perish. (2 Peter 3:9)

3) God sent his Son so that no one would have to perish. (John 3:16)

4) People perish for refusing to believe the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10)

4) Christ is the only judge. (2 Timothy 4:1)

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126 thoughts on “You’re Going to Hell

  1. Tim,
    “Jesus talked about Hell more than anyone else in the Bible.”
    Where is your evidence for this statement? Even if that is true, my understanding of it is that many times when Jesus talked about “Hell” he was referring to the Jewish idea of the grave, which is not the same as the Christian view of Hell.
    Since my marriage, I have learned from my husband the idea that, it’s ok for the Evangelicals to believe what they believe about Jesus and Hell, but when they do this, they are NOT believing in or worshipping a Loving God, no matter what they may say to the contrary.
    My husband and I just disagree with the way Evangelicals choose to interpret scripture, and the verses they selectively choose to support their particular view. There are other Christians out there who love Jesus, but who don’t interpret the Bible the way Evangelical Christians do.

  2. I can see the need to define Hell a little bit more.

    God is perfect and holy. His holiness is such that it can not allow imperfection near him. We as sinners are imperfect and can not be near God. Because God is love he allowed a perfect sacrifice to be made so that our debt to him would be paid. Anyone who chooses to accept this sacrifice can be with God and it’s God’s desire to make this choice available to anyone who will accept it.

    Hell is not a place God sends people to torture them for all eternity. Hell is a place where God is not. If someone chooses not to be with God, God honors their choice. Unfortunately all that is good and loving is an expression of God. So a place without God offers nothing of virtue, relationship or satisfaction. Some interpret this to be annihilation.

    If I could write all the verses about Hell out of the Bible, I would. I know enough about the Bible to know that I can’t pull out the stuff I don’t like without it affecting the authority of the stuff I do like. There are numerous liberal Christian denominations that have no theology on Hell other than it doesn’t exist, they also offer no compelling reason to believe faith in Christ is valuable or meaningful.

  3. Hey Tim:

    When I first began to believe in a living God, the God of the Bible, Jesus’ hell-talk just freaked me out. So I did what any wise person does in that situation and just ignored it for a while. I know, great wisdom. A few years ago, I got totally convicted that I needed to find out more about what Jesus was talking about when he spoke of hell. Some time in seminary helped me clarify some things too.

    The first century Judaic concept of hell is certainly distinct from our own post-modern, post-Dante understanding. However, it is nevertheless a place with overwhelming darkness and negative attributes. I do think that the “hell threat-down” that gets thrown around is pretty unhelpful. But we can’t pretend that Jesus wasn’t concerned about his people avoiding this badness.

    I think that the idea that Hell is ultimate separation from God is a good effort at encapsulating its meaning.
    Megan

  4. Well, OK… The Mormon concept of hell is also separation from God…

    But you’re still not being entirely clear and I’m not sure if that is inadvertent, or by design.

    I think we can all deal with the idea that a person who has the opportunity to find Christ and chooses not to doesn’t qualify for evangelical heaven. Whatever you think about the niceness of it, it has a certain sense of justice to it.

    But let’s bring this back to the African girl. Are you saying that if she has lived a “good life” in accordance with Christian principles (although not recognizing them as such), she may indeed be “saved” anyway in the final analysis?

    Is a good life sufficient without the conscious choice to turn things over to this person called Jesus Christ?

    Or are you being agnostic on the point and simply saying “Christ judges and we don’t, so let’s not second-guess what he has in mind?” This falls under the “God’s mysteries” category.

    I just want to be clear, because your post sounds like you are hedging a bit between two different ideas.

    One more thing – do evangelicals explicitly deny the existence of a Mormon-style post-mortal chance at accepting Christ? Or are they simply agnostic on the issue?

    And finally, is whatever answer you are giving shared by other evangelicals? And if so, roughly how many? Is there a difference between what evangelical ministers believe on this issue and what their parishoners believe?

  5. Tim,
    Maybe what you say is true, but when I go to the Methodist Church with my husband, I go to worship Christ and honor him. I don’t need the Methodist church to give me a compelling reason to believe in Christ or worship him.
    I know that I definitely don’t have the most objective view of Evangelicals anymore, but whenever an Evangelical starts quoting the Bible and saying, “Jesus says this!” anymore, I just have to take it with a grain of salt. A great big one.
    There is one man, my first Evangelical pastor, who is virtually the only Evangelical person in the entire world that I still admire and respect. Someone once asked him during Bible study whether or not some virtuous non Christian historical figure was really going to Hell. He replied, “I do not know, but I do know that if he does go to Heaven, it will be because of the Grace of Jesus Christ, and not because of anything he has done.” That is a statement that I can agree with.

  6. “That is a statement that I can agree with.”

    I have no problem with that statement. Like I said earlier, the agnostic approach is perfectly respectable to me. I don’t expect religion to have all the metaphysical answers. But I’m just not sure that pastor’s approach really is the “official” approach (if there is one).

  7. Someone once asked him during Bible study whether or not some virtuous non Christian historical figure was really going to Hell. He replied, “I do not know, but I do know that if he does go to Heaven, it will be because of the Grace of Jesus Christ, and not because of anything he has done.” That is a statement that I can agree with.

    Not only is that an answer I can agree with. I believe it’s the only answer than can accurately be given.

    Seth,

    You’re asking good questions, I appreciate that. I think I can speak with a good measure of confidence about evangelical thought. I’m doing my best to give an accurate depiction of our beliefs. I have an education and “pedigree” which I believe qualifies me to do so.

    That being said, Protestants aren’t monolithic on non-essential doctrine. Hell is not at the center of our faith. There are some who don’t believe it exist, there are some who delight in the thought of other people going there. You’re going to get as many specific answers as there are Protestant denominations. But I think I’m giving a good description of what 13% of Americans believe. What the other 57% of Americans who call themselves Christians believe is anyone’s guess.

    My answers that follow are going to be classified under “my best guess”. I simply don’t know based on the Bible alone.

    Is a good life sufficient without the conscious choice to turn things over to this person called Jesus Christ?

    No. No one lives a good enough life on their own. The only thing that gets anyone to heaven is the grace of Christ. That being said, there is nothing “magical” about the name J-e-s-u-s. The girl in the mud village doesn’t have to invoke his name. But I do believe that she has to acknowledge that she has failed her Creator and must rely on Him for salvation/forgiveness/eternal life. I believe our separation from God and our need for forgiveness are written on everyone’s hearts.

    One more thing – do evangelicals explicitly deny the existence of a Mormon-style post-mortal chance at accepting Christ? Or are they simply agnostic on the issue?

    For the most part yes absolutely. I think we’re willing to be wrong about it. But there’s not enough to go on based on I Peter which we believe is a reference to those who died before Christ died on the cross.

    Even Catholic concept of purgatory is reserved only for those who have already accepted Christ and need to be further cleansed from their sin.

  8. “Hell is not at the center of our faith.”

    Really?

    Well, I’ll accept that answer. As long as you are willing to accept that polygamy and stuff isn’t really all that theologically central to modern Mormonism either.

    I was tempted to throw in the progressing nature of the Mormon God and the human path to godhood as “non-essentials” as well, but that actually does seem “central” enough (by some calculations) to be pushing it.

  9. No, I don’t think so. I’ve argued with Gene here on this blog that those doctrines aren’t central to modern Mormonism in particular.

    They’re not- they’re simply not at the center of most Mormons’ beliefs in any practical sense.

  10. I don’t think I’ve argued that polygamy is central to Mormonism. I think you need to account for it and its effects just as I need to account for any teachings on Hell.

  11. Tim,

    To that girl in the mud hut in Africa, her parents are her creators. Your vision of justice simply doesn’t cover enough instances to be coming from a loving God.

  12. The strange thing I find about the evangelical position is that anybody can be positioned to go to hell not for refusing Christ but for refusing a particular doctrine of Christ, i.e. a version of Trinitarian God.

    If the mud hut girl believes in Christ but also believes in another god does she also go to hell without accepting the trinity?

    If she runs in to Mormon missionaries and believes them, i.e. that she needs Christ to save her, is she still lost ” without the trinitarian God?

    If I grew up a baptist but became a Mormon because my preacher was an idiot, does that put me in line for hell if I don’t convert back to a “bible believing” religion?

    If I fully believe in Jesus Christ and that he is God, but I also believe that he was also the king of Ethiopia until 1975, and that the best way for me to be close to him is to light up a joint, can I still experience Grace and Salvation?

    If I am a particular kind of Hindu and believe that Christ, instead of Krishna, is the one true way to God for me and that by his grace I can gain eternal Union with God, but I don’t denounce the existence of God’s other manifestations (Krishna, Ganesha, and the like) am I lost?

    I don’t think is can be argued that the Gospels yield themselves to reasonable interpretations that produce very different conclusions about the nature of Salvation than the one given by Evangelicals, If I screw up and don’t accept “their” Jesus rather than the “mormon” Jesus, or the Jehovah’s witnesses Jesus and I die in theis erroneous faith, am I screwed?

    What if the only book I ever read about Christ was the Book of Mormon, and the Jesus I believe in was a physical one who appeared with his Father side by side in a grove of trees, not mysteriously related to his Father through a mysterious relationship known as the Trinity?

    I could find a ton of quotes from evangelical sources that say the answer to all of these questions is yes.

    I don’t think that is what the Jesus of the Gospels taught about hell. Please cite chapter and verse if I am mistaken.

    I think the most Christian position is expressed by Paul:

    “For I am persuaded, that neither DEATH, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-9 KJV

    I think that certainly leaves room for post-death showing of love and compassion by Jesus. Even if the doctrine came from the mouth of a man as flawed as Joseph Smith Jr.

    I am certainly not saying this to convince evangelicals or convict them. If evangelicals are too stuck in the dogma of their position they are as bad as any Mormon who is stuck in their own particular dogmas that keep them from understanding the love of God or Jesus (there are plenty). Its easy to find fault in beliefs, and equally easy to hold tight to one particular belief system.

    My opinion is that if you can’t be open minded enough to doubt that you are right, especially if you truly believe you are fallen and wretched creature, you can be lead by the nose almost anywhere.

  13. What I mostly don’t understand about what people discuss about hell is why they even bother to speculate. Who says the Bible wasn’t using imagery? It certainly wouldn’t be the only time that metaphor was used in place of actual specifics.

    I don’t have any grounds on which to judge anyone else, and I don’t have any way of knowing what Jesus will or won’t do. I believe in a loving god who knows me–and therefore knows what I could or couldn’t have learned. That god knows how I was raised, and takes my parents’ teachings into consideration when making decisions about me. I don’t think that people can ever say with any authority how anyone will be judged–even a hypothetical person.

    But then, I tend to take a much more laid-back approach anyway. I’m okay saying that I have no idea how it works. I want to believe in Jesus, but I will never believe that people who live their lives the best they can while rejecting religion–for whatever reason–are condemned. Not my business, really. I don’t understand why there are so many religions. And I’m okay with that. And I don’t understand why anyone would want to pigeon hole God, or try to nitpick at specifics. He probably knows what He’s doing, and He doesn’t have to share His reasons or His methodology.

    I don’t share with my 1 year old why he has to take a nap… and he doesn’t think it makes sense or that he needs one. With regards to that, I know better than him. God is the same way, but I can’t understand Him because I have a limited worldview.

  14. I believe Tim has it right, and his thinking is in accordance with the Bible. There are many who don’t “want” to believe in hell – it’s not a pleasant thought. For that very reason, people try to use the existence of God to justify there NOT being a hell, with the oft-used “but a loving God wouldn’t send people to hell” being the most usual argument.

    But it all stems from people’s refusal to take responsibility for their actions, and acknowledge that God is in charge of all, and will hold people accountable for their lives. People like to set up their own ideas about what is “fair” or what seems “just”, in terms of what God would do. But the truth is, it’s not up to US to decide what is “fair” or “just”, it’s up to God, and He has told us in the Bible what the options are.

    As to the “deepest darkest Africa” theories, which always surface in discussions like these, again b/c people try to explain away (using OUR logic) what they don’t think makes sense. As Tim said, Romans 2 dispels this notion. For that matter, so does much of Romans 1, especially verses 18-20. We don’t specifically know HOW the truth of God is revealed to all people (i.e. those in the African mud huts), but we do know from Scripture that in some fashion, it is. We are ALL responsible for our actions and what we believe, irregardless of our lot in life. We just don’t like holding others, or ourselves, accountable.

    As to the opportunity for salvation post-death (which Mormons believe, but Evangelicals do not), what about the story of Abraham and Lazarus, where one could see the other, and Lazarus in torment asks for someone to go to his family and witness to them, a request which is denied? This leaves no opportunity for any salvation after death, and is just one of many places in Scripture that can be directly or indirectly used to support that notion.

  15. No, the Abraham-Lazarus story says little on this subject.

    Lazarus was obviously portrayed as one who rejected righteousness in life and was then told essentially that “he had his chance.”

    He is not a useful analogy at all for the Africa hypothetical. You’re grabbing at the biblical text to say things it doesn’t say.

  16. Seth,

    You’re comment makes sense, but only if you don’t believe Romans 1:18-20. For if you believe that, then you believe that Lazarus, you, I, the girl in the African mud hut, we ALL have had our chance to accept or reject God in this life.

    Of course, if you don’t believe that, then your outlook is different.

  17. ilmarinen,

    I don’t think anybody has to pass a theology test to get into Heaven. God is not going to judge someone because they are confused about the doctrine of the Trinity. But I do believe that if someone understands the doctrine and refuses to believe it, they are going to have something to explain to God.

    Believing false things about God is a form of idolatry. We all are guilty of it on some level. Intentionally avoiding repenting of sin is risky business as far as I can tell.

  18. “but only if you don’t believe Romans 1:18-20.”

    Oh, I believe Romans 1. I just don’t believe it’s making the conclusions you are. It says that God is displeased with the idolatry of the Greeks and Barbarians, and Romans (mentioned in verses 14 and 15). It says they will feel his anger and suffer for their folly. So far, so good. Verse 20, they “are without excuse”… yes, justice lays claim on us all, does it not? Hmm…

    Nope… not seeing anything about “eternal damnation” in there…

    It seems Paul is speaking exclusively about the evils of idolatry and the destructive consequences it has upon those who adhere to it IN THIS LIFE. The entire first chapter of Romans has nothing explicitly to do with the afterlife as far as I can tell. In fact, Paul hasn’t even gotten around to explaining how the Atonement fits into the picture yet. Important detail, that.

  19. Seth R.,

    You’re confused again, with yet more misinterpretation from the Mormon church about the Bible. But that’s OK – I’ve said my peace on it.

  20. One of the main differences between Mormonism and Christianity is that Mormons think that they’re going to get to heaven by being a good person.

    Christians believe that salvations is a gift, and there’s nothing anyone could ever do to earn it. A proper understanding of who God is can come only from God (Mark 16:16-20). In fact, no one is good (Luke 18:19), and we all deserve to go to hell. If God only lets one person into heaven, He would be kind and loving and merciful for doing that. If God sends everyone to hell, He would be kind and loving to do that, because He cares about justice.

    One thing that is clear in reading the comments is that Mormons don’t just differ on the Trinity or a few doctrinal issues. They have a different gospel.

    Thanks,
    Bill

  21. The point is, Brad, if you can have a good-faith disagreement about what the Bible means, how does it makes sense to say that God will deny you his Grace simply by having a different interpretation of Scripture?

    Where in the Bible does it say that if you don’t believe in the trinity that you don’t have access to grace?

    If it doesn’t say it in the bible why do we continually hear that Mormons will “die in their sins” and go to hell when they die?

    What if you Understand both the Trinitarian idea and the Mormon idea and when you get to the judgment but have the wrong answer but were a great guy, is Jesus going to disown you?

    Won’t you be punished for your evil works and given glory for your good works as Paul says in Romans 3?

  22. Bill,

    I agree Mormons have a different Gospel than the Evangelicals. But I don’t believe God is going to send either one to Hell forever that discrepancy.

  23. Tim, you beat me to the post, for discussing the topic of hell.

    I had something under the wing, yesterday, but still sitting in the garage of my blog. I started thinking about the need to share some thoughts after emerging from a “postmormon.org” article, denying hell.

    Thanks for the post.

  24. “Mormons think that they’re going to get to heaven by being a good person.”

    A lot do.

    Some evangelicals also think the same thing. Keep in mind that Protestantism used to be pretty darn focused on the works end of the equation as well. Almost as much as Mormons are today. Read through some of the Protestant sermons of the 19th century. They were pretty hung-up on whether you were doing good works. The “relationship with Jesus” stuff seems to be a mostly 20th century trend.

    Easy to get hung up on the works part. But while you may be right in that a lot of Mormons themselves hold this view, don’t think that this view is actually supported by Mormon doctrine.

    Go grab a copy of the Book of Mormon and read through Mosiah 2:20-41. Chapters 3 through 5 wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

    The short of it is, the Book of Mormon teaches that salvation comes only through the Atonement and not from any inherent merit of our own “good works.” It’s right there in those passages if you’d care to check.

    And what about Paul’s statement that “faith without works is dead, being alone.”?

    I think you’ll find that Mormon doctrine on grace vs. works isn’t quite so removed from Protestant doctrine as you think it is.

  25. “I think you’ll find that Mormon doctrine on grace vs. works isn’t quite so removed from Protestant doctrine as you think it is.” (Seth R.)

    I think you’ll find, if you really look, that it is.

  26. Truth is, Brad, that there actually isn’t a lot of consensus in Mormonism as to the grace vs. works question. The issue is, in my opinion, a quietly divisive one.

    Not all Mormons believe the same things, especially in light of how elusive “official” doctrine turns out to be.

  27. I add it, Seth, you just disagree with it.

    I could “add” stuff all day long, and give all the reasons in the world, but you wouldn’t agree with them, would you?

    However, I will always still point out that you are wrong.

  28. Kullervo, I absolutely agree with you on that one. Ask 10 different Mormons about grace vs. works, you’ll get between 2 and 10 different answers, all of which they think go along with “official” church doctrine.

  29. Hasn’t the faith vs. works issue been addressed by LDS folks on here before????

    Faith without works is dead…. the two (faith and works)go hand in hand. Mormons do not believe they can “earn” a spot in heaven.

    Christ did many things while He was here. Before He died for us He taught the people. He taught them to be obedient, and to serve others, and to be kind and take care of the sick and the widows. Then He died for us.

    So I would say (and this is MY opinion) That if you do good works you are following Christ’s teachings. If you do not do good works, and you think you will go to heaven just by believing then you are telling Him that everything He said and did doesn’t matter. That basically His life and teachings didn’t matter and all that mattered was His death.

    “Even so faith without works is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith and I have works: Shew mw thy faith without thy works and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” James chap 2 verses 17-18

    verse 26 “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”

    So, I find this to be quite simple, will this end the faith verses works quarell????? probably not 😦

  30. “Ask 10 different Mormons about grace vs. works, you’ll get between 2 and 10 different answers, all of which they think go along with “official” church doctrine.”

    And this is a problem, why?

    I’ve got my own ideas, but I’m just curious why a lack of orthodoxy is such a problem for a religion in the first place.

  31. Ok, let me see if I understand the protestant doctrine:

    1. We are saved by our faith in Jesus alone- we can do nothing to merit this, we are unworthy of it
    2. We qualify for grace by accepting Jesus as our savior and having faith in him, nothing else.
    3. We are then saved from the pains of endless hell that would be the consequence of our sins.
    4. We go to heaven when we die to be one with God to sing his praises.
    5. No man has any real part in his own salvation except through his faith in Christ.

    Mormon Doctrine:

    1. We are saved by Grace of God in Christ, we qualify by offering a single sacrifice, a broken heart and contrite spirit. All those who show this faith in the least degree are saved in that they are granted a “kingdom of glory”, the lowest “kingdom” is tantamount to the evangelical heaven, i.e. eternal communion with the Holy Spirit. (telestial kingdom). All but those who knowingly reject the Savior after knowing who he is will be saved in the evangelical sense.

    2. We are blessed and judged according to our works, we will be punished for those that are evil and rewarded for those that are good. Those who do evil and do not repent through Christ will be punished for their own sins (not simply because Adam fell)

    3. All mankind will be given the opportunity to know Jesus as well as the opportunity to covenant with God to accept his law through baptism and other ordinances. The ordinances bind us to God and make us responsible to him. These covenants are part of obtaining all of the glory God offers, i.e. inheriting his kingdom with Christ.

    4. If we live a higher law we will be granted a greater portion of God’s glory, up to becoming co-heirs with Christ in all of God’s glory. (1 John)

    I see quite a few differences. But it does seem to me that Mormons have themselves covered by the Protestant’s since they do accept Jesus as their Savior and fundamentally believe that we are save through faith in him.

    I also think that Mormons believe protestants are correct in that they will certainly go to heaven when they die if they follow Christ.

    The way Evangelicals get around this is they get into the doctrinal debate that Mormons aren’t really accepting Christ as their savior since they don’t interpret the other passages of the Bible correctly, and have heretical teachings.

    This comes to the point I have been belaboring. If I through tradition or deception or stubborness misunderstand the nature of Jesus, but still call on his name alone and trust in him alone for salvation, am I not saved by an a plain reading of Evangelical doctrine?

    Isn’t my false belief just one of the sins that Jesus saves me from?

  32. Seth, to me it’s a problem because it ain’t the bill of goods that the Church is selling.

    Mormonism is extremely modernist in that it is deeply rooted in certain assumptions about absolute truth. To the Mormon, there is a knowable absolute truth, and furthermore, this truth is knowable through revelation, and the singular appropriate channel for revelation is God’s earthly priesthood organization.

    (Yes, I know there is personal revelation, too, but I would maintain that it’s a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing, since in the end, the only legitimate personal revelation in Mormonism is that which confirms the party line or which imparts new knowledge that is purely personal, like which car should I buy, but it never really imparts new eternal knowledge of any kind, but that is a different matter, and one I would be interested in Tim writing a new post about)

    So Mormons believe 1) that there is one single corpus of absolute truth–God’s truth, and 2) that said body of truth is to be found in its revealed entirety only the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

    If that was the case, it would be a pretty fantastic thing, since it would mean absolute truth was accessible to basically everyone in the world, and it’s only a matter of figuring out which Church is dispensing it.

    As a practical matter, though, once you get into the Church, the Gospel, and a couple of Sunday School classes, it becomes clear that while virtually every Mormon believes that there’s an absolute truth that the Church teaches, there is virtually no consensus as to what said truth is. The problem is not just that Mormons don’t all agree on doctrine–almost no Church has can claim that kind of uniformity without being seriously controlling and dysfunctional, much more so than Mormonism is–but the problem is that Mormons don’t all agree on what doctrine the Church teaches.

    Once again, Mormons believe in an absolute Truth revealed through God’s Church, but nobody seems to be able to agree on what that absolute revealed truth is.

    Thus, one of the Church’s major selling points, that God has an earthly vehicle for absolute revealed truth and it is the Mormon Church, turns out to be basically meaningless in practicality.

    Now, I think it’s typical for educated Mormons to realize this, and to seriously hedge by claiming that the perception of the Church as the vehicle for completely trustworthy absolute truth is maybe misconstrued or improperly understood by the majority (or at least a significant number) of Mormons. But that perception is the image that the Church is selling. That’s the PR spin, the missionary approach, the whole basket of “what the Church has to offer the world.” If members are misguided about the true purpose and character of the Church, it’s because the Church is misguiding them.

    To summarize, it’s not an inherent problem, but it is a problem in the context of Mormonism because it contrasts so sharply with how Mormonism presents itself.

    To me, this is one of many ways that Mormonism in fact contrasts sharply with Mormonism as presented by the Church and understood by its membership. And things like this, much more than the implausibility of Mormonism’s foundational claims, are what ultimately enabled me to decide that the Church isn’t true. It isn’t what it presents itself to be. In short, Mormonism is a fraud.

  33. Kullervo, I’m not the one to go to for a defense of “absolute Mormonism.” I would merely suggest that there is a good defense to be made for it.

    Not everyone is cut out to wade into the intellectual life of the Church. I know plenty of people who have a very simple faith in the Gospel and are utterly unconcerned about philosophical and historical problems. They devote their thoughts to other matters and would consider what we are doing here a waste of time.

    I do not sneer at them for that. In fact, it’s not a bad way to live really. Saves a lot of headaches.

  34. Unfortunately, I think most of Mormonism’s defenses are cut from the standard apologetic mold, which is to say that they go about demonstrating how the religion is not impossible.

    That’s fine for people who have already chosen to believe, but need to be reassured that their beliefs aren’t totally bonkers, but to everyone else, it’s a pretty flimsy defense.

    I think the simplistic approach to Mormonism involves self-indoctrination/self-deception akin to the Emperor’s New Clothes. And while I respect the rigor of the intellectual approach to Mormonism, I feel that it invariably leads to the necessity of mental gymnastics, essentially creating your own religion by picking and choosing the pieces of Mormonism that you like best, discarding what doesn’t work for you, and filling in the gaps with homemade doctrine (“the Gospel according to Seth” or “Kullervo”). That in itself isn’t so bad, but when each person who has done this is convinced that their personal permutation is the True Gospel That Is Being Taught By The Church If Only The Members Would Study And Understand It They Would All See I’m Right, they’re fooling themselves.

    And I wonder if it’s just not a lot more reasonable to simply walk away from the whole thing instead of bending, twisting, and distorting until you’ve finally worked Mormonism into a thing you can believe.

  35. Isn’t my false belief just one of the sins that Jesus saves me from?

    Are you saying that false belief is a sin you’re not willing to repent of?

  36. Tim,

    I think MissMojo’s point is important. Say I am willing to repent of false belief, but due to my own intellectual flaws, I am never convinced it is false prior to death. I just mentally can’t accept the Trinity. However I still try to follow Christ and live as a believer in Him and his atonement.

    Aren’t I still saved, is this one sin going to keep me from heaven when say, murder, rape, or theft won’t?

  37. Kullervo,

    I am puzzled by the reference to “absolute truth” in Mormonism. I have seen nothing like systematic theology in Mormonism. I think the Mormon concept of truth is much more subjective and it is taught that way. We are taught that we are revealed the truth for us, and ultimately the most important truths cannot be taught, they have to come from God.

    I ultimately find that there is no real “party line” in Mormonism except perhaps the very simple theology taught by the missionaries. If you read BH Roberts vs. Bruce McKonkie vs. the Journal of Discourses you are going to get different conclusions about a lot of things.

    You will notice the Church hardly mentions doctrine in Conference at all anymore except for the basics, I think this is designed to allow as much diversity of opinion on doctrinal subjects as possible since people in the church.

    I do agree with you that the Church does not have a clear picture of itself, and consequently does it present a clear picture to others. There is a certain attitude conceit and pride running through that boasts of having the answers to everything.

  38. I’m curious, if the protestant and Mormon understanding of faith aren’t that different then why do Mormon missionaries still try to convert me? I’m not being saracastic. I’m really curious. I thought that was the main issue. I had some Mormon missionaries visit me recently, and they mentioned something about the faith not counting if certain ordinances weren’t accompanied with my belief. So, I’m not sure where my faith would stand inside of Mormonism.

    Also, Tim, I think you are incorrect that hell is not a central doctrine to Evangelicals. It may not be at the absolute center (like Jesus’ divinity, resurrection, authority of the Bible), but it is a core doctrine. I’m not aware of that much variation among denominations. I think most protestant denominations agree on the basics of hell – separation from God, place of torment, no chance to be rescued from there, one gets there by refusing to believe in the work of Jesus. What am I missing?

  39. I think MissMojo’s point is important. Say I am willing to repent of false belief, but due to my own intellectual flaws, I am never convinced it is false prior to death. I just mentally can’t accept the Trinity. However I still try to follow Christ and live as a believer in Him and his atonement.

    Aren’t I still saved, is this one sin going to keep me from heaven when say, murder, rape, or theft won’t?

    I don’t think that’s a problem. How can you say someone is sinning if they don’t know they are sinning. If they don’t know the law, they aren’t condemned by it. If they do know the law, they’ve already been condemend. But I think you might try to clear up for yourself why you can’t accept truth about the nature of God. Could a false prophet be standing in your way?

    Seth said:
    I’ve got my own ideas, but I’m just curious why a lack of orthodoxy is such a problem for a religion in the first place.

    “As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work—which is by faith.” (I Timothy 2-4)

    “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.” (I Peter 2:1)

    Your own scriptures tell you to guard against heresy because it can lead to destruction. Should I be surprised that someone who has fallen under heresy doesn’t think it’s a big deal?

    Aaron,
    I agree that it’s an important doctrine but it’s not in the dead center of our theology or a defining doctrine. Someone can believe in annihilation and get by in most circles. Even those churches which absolutely deny the existence of hell are still technically defined as Christian.

  40. “I see quite a few differences. But it does seem to me that Mormons have themselves covered by the Protestant’s since they do accept Jesus as their Savior and fundamentally believe that we are save through faith in him.” (Missmojo)

    Mormons accept what THEY believe to be THEIR interpretation of Jesus. They do not believe that Jesus is also God, or vice versa, i.e. only one God. Evangelicals (at least those who believe in the Trinity) do. So right there, you have a HUGE difference in the “person” of Jesus Christ, and what each believes about Him. Since they are different, they can’t both be correct, b/c Jesus is either one or the other, but not both. Hence, either the Evangelical or the Mormon position on Jesus is wrong, but not both (nor are both right, at the same time). Why does this matter? B/c, in my opinion, the Mormon belief rejects the full divinity of God, while the Evangelical position does not. Therefore, “accepting Jesus” in the Mormon faith is NOT the same as “accepting Jesus” in the Evangelical sense.

    “The way Evangelicals get around this is they get into the doctrinal debate that Mormons aren’t really accepting Christ as their savior since they don’t interpret the other passages of the Bible correctly, and have heretical teachings.” (Missmojo)

    It’s not a “way of getting around it”, it’s what is actually happening. You make it sound as if it’s a made-up difference, but it’s not. There are REAL, BIG differences between what Evangelicals and Mormons believe, big enough to mean that some are saved and some not.

    “This comes to the point I have been belaboring. If I through tradition or deception or stubborness misunderstand the nature of Jesus, but still call on his name alone and trust in him alone for salvation, am I not saved by an a plain reading of Evangelical doctrine?” (Missmojo)

    Personally, I would say No, b/c you have not believed in the correct Jesus. False belief is a sin, and it is one that Jesus can save you from, if you repent. Repentance of false beliefs, however, inherently means giving up those false beliefs, i.e. coming to the correct beliefs. If you don’t do that, then you haven’t come to Christ, as He requires.

  41. “I don’t think that’s a problem. How can you say someone is sinning if they don’t know they are sinning. If they don’t know the law, they aren’t condemned by it. If they do know the law, they’ve already been condemend. But I think you might try to clear up for yourself why you can’t accept truth about the nature of God. Could a false prophet be standing in your way?” (Tim)

    But Tim, doesn’t Romans 1-2 speak to this, basically saying that all men ARE aware of the Law inherently, thus there is no excuse (not even “ignorance” of the Law)? It would seem that what you say above contradicts that.

    If what you say is true, can’t everyone then just claim ignorance, and expect to be saved b/c they “didn’t know any better”? No, b/c according to Romans, we DO clearly know, b/c God has placed it on our hearts. It’s just that, as Romans further says, some of us REFUSE to believe, and God gives us over to those thoughts. He’s not going to ever MAKE anyone believe what they don’t want to – that’s not free will.

  42. I was speaking to the exact and specific theological understanding of the Trinity. Most people sitting in Protestant pews can’t give a iron clad description of the Trinity. I don’t expect a little girl in a mud village to be able to do it and I don’t think God does either.

    BUT I do think the doctrine of the Trinity is important and we can’t just cast it aside because we don’t want to think hard about it.

  43. Nor do I expect it from the girl in the mud hut. But do you not agree, that they must acknowledge Jesus as Lord and as God, not a SEPARATE God, but the only God? Doesn’t this inherently mean acknowledgment of the Trinity?

  44. Tim and Brad,

    Look, I am really open to any position that is consistent with who God says he is. I have always tried to be as open as possible, when I was Mormon missionary and I felt that it was inconsistent for me to expect others to be open to my beliefs when I was not just as open to convert to their position if the Spirit backed it up. I really am not interested in convincing you of my position, I really want to be clear on yours.

    Looking at your position from as objective position as I can, I still think its hard to swallow.

    Here is a hypothetical example to illustrate my question: Lets say you are 100% right about the nature of God and Jesus. They are one substance but two persons. But say I was raised an atheist in communist Russia and picked up a Gideons bible and started reading.

    I read the Gospel of John, (arguably the most trinitarian) Jesus says all kinds of things, its difficult for me to determine if Jesus is being figurative when he says that “I am in the Father and the Father is in Me” or literal. Because he speaks in parables its hard to take everything he says literally. But then I get to John 17. Here we have Jesus praying to God. I think, hmm, if God and Jesus were the same being, why do we have the prayer.

    Then I look to see if Jesus explains the nature his oneness with God.

    When he prays for his disciples he says in verse 11:

    “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one.”

    ok, here he explains that he wants his disciples to be one in a similar way as He is one with the Father. Well, I think, he certainly doesn’t expect his disciples to form some co-substantial union with each other. So, I reason, that Jesus must not have meant he was the same being as the Father when he says he was one with the Father.

    Verses 22-24 really convince me, Jesus says: ” I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

    Ok, I think, Jesus is surely one with God, but not the same being as God. I think that this is strange because if Jesus is like God and I worship him, then there seems to be two Gods, Jesus and his Father. Not trained in the nuances of theology to dissuade me from my common sense interpretation of John I accept the not-the-same-substance-as-God Jesus as my Savior and begin to follow him.

    I run into some Protestants who try to convince me I am wrong for believing this and explain the Trinity. They explain it completely, I study it in depth. Even after al of this It seems to me that the doctrine is confusing and not biblical as I understand it and reject it. I find the Mormons, who have a similar understanding of God so I join them. I never learn anything about the Adam-God theory, or even know anything much Joseph Smith or the fact that he courted teenagers, I don’t really care because my faith is not in Joseph Smith but in Jesus.

    So this guy, who comes to the wrong conclusion about Jesus, simply because the scripture was ambiguous or confusing on the subject.

    What is the Evangelical position on his salvation? Given that this guy gets it seriously wrong, he believes that Jesus and God are two Gods, not one. Does he die in his sins and spent eternity in hell for believing in the “wrong” Jesus based on his reading of John 17?

    I just want to be absolutely clear about the evangelical position on this type of situation.

  45. Ilmarinen,

    I can only speak for myself on this one. You do present a good argument – you do have many assumptions inherent in your argument:

    1) John is the ONLY book the person reads. I would think that if the person is diligent in seeking to learn more about this new-found God, he would read more than just 1/66 of the Bible, don’t you?

    2) The person doesn’t ask anyone else for help, or pray to God for guidance in interpretation. You’ve already assumed we’re 100% right about the nature of God. Therefore, if the person prays, asking for divine guidance with his seeking of God, whom he has just learned about, Scripture promises that if you seek Him, you will find Him, if you seek Him with all your heart. I don’t believe it’s correct to assume that the person won’t try prayer (something you’ve already referenced the person will read about in John).

    3) You assume the person will come to the same conclusions you do about what he reads in John, specifically John 17. Keep in mind that YOUR conclusions about John 17 are based on YOUR understanding of the Trinity, which is different than mine. We also have to assume that the person would have NO understanding of the Trinity. Assuming what you have (that Evangelicals are 100% correct about the Trinity), then it would mean that your position is incorrect, and I would defer to #2, that the person would pray to God for guidance and continue to seek Him.

    4) Gideons, I believe, leave contact info in the Bible (I may be wrong about this, but I thought they did). The person could contact any Gideon for clarification, and would be given the Evangelical Trinitarian position, not the Mormon one. (Again, throw this out if the contact info isn’t in the Bible, b/c I may be wrong about that one).

    5) The person, if they read the Bible, will see God’s plan unfolding about sending His Son, in flesh, to Earth to die for us. The fact that Christ has a dual nature on Earth (fully man/fully God, which you assume to be correct in this scenario) lends itself perfectly to an explanation of John 17, b/c Christ is praying as Christ the man while on Earth, not as God the Son. In my opinion, the Mormon take on John 17 completely overlooks this.

    6) You assume that “this guy comes to the wrong conclusion about Jesus, simply b/c the scripture was ambiguous or confusing on the subject.” Well, we know God is not the author of confusion, so the confusion MUST arise from OUR understanding of what is written, based upon what WE believe to be true. Without preconceived notions, which the person would not have, it’s hard to tell what he would take from what he reads. But from the points above, and with your assumption that Evangelical position is true, I don’t think it can be said that it would be Scripture which would mislead Him, b/c that would mean God is being unclear, since He inspired Scripture.

    As to what the “position” is on His salvation, that’s an open question. Who can say, b/c who can say what the man would think? It’s all a hypothetical that can’t go down the way anyone might think it would, b/c there are too many variables. Do I believe a person has to believe in the Jesus of the Bible to be saved? Yes. Do I believe that is possible for everyone, regardless of who they are or where they live? Yes. Do I believe that it WILL happen for everyone? No – but I don’t attribute that to circumstance, I attribute that to free will, based on Romans 1-2.

  46. I don’t see how anyone reading the Bible without preconceptions about the Trinity would end up arriving at the Trinitarian position. I really don’t, and that’s one reason I ended up becoming LDS. The more I studied LDS theology, the more consistencies I found with what the Bible teaches. (Of course, there are also many LDS beliefs that aren’t in the Bible. They don’t contradict the Bible, they’re just on issues where the Bible is silent.)

    The example in John is a key one, of course. Even more persuasive to me are the letters of Paul. He repeatedly says that there is one God (the Heavenly Father) and one Lord (Jesus Christ), writing about them as if they are separate beings. It seems to me there are a lot more mental gymnastics involved with Trinitarianism than the LDS concept of the Godhead.

  47. Brad, you’ve got a MAN – Jesus. And he’s going around talking about his father.

    It’s kind of a no-brainer how this person is going to picture God.

    He’s going to picture him in human form.

    And what do you know! That’s exactly how the biblical God IS portrayed in popular human culture.

    The only way you end up with the trinitarian concept of God is by playing complex logic games. The God of the common folk (i.e. not the philosophers and apologists) is a human father.

    You have to presume a lot more biblical and philosophical training before the trinitarian God starts to make sense. The trinitarian God is a God for the philosopher and the clergyman. Not the butcher and the baker.

    Anthropomorphic imagery and Jesus’ reference to his Father as separate from him are rife throughout the New Testament. As it so happens, a lot of untrained minds throughout the Christian world draw the same conclusions Mormons have about God the Father. He has a human form and He is entirely separate from Jesus – Jesus literal Father. Those are easy conclusions to draw from the Bible. In fact, my Methodist grandmother drew those conclusions and was surprised to find out her pastor might not agree with her. Mormon missionaries in Christian populations encounter this kind of thinking all the time among lay Christians.

    Trinitarianism is so far from a no-brainer, even after you’ve read extensively in the Bible, that I don’t see how you can make a straight-faced argument that it’s “obvious” from the text without coming from an extensive background of Christian apologetics.

  48. “I don’t see how anyone reading the Bible without preconceptions about the Trinity would end up arriving at the Trinitarian position.” (Eric)

    Said from an LDS point of view, right?

    The more I studied LDS theology, the more consistencies I found with what the Bible teaches.” (Eric)

    But only through the LDS lens, of course. You found consistencies in what the LDS church says the Bible teaches, when you studied LDS theology to see what they say the Bible teaches. It’s a circular argument that only works in an LDS circle!

    “(Of course, there are also many LDS beliefs that aren’t in the Bible. They don’t contradict the Bible, they’re just on issues where the Bible is silent.)” (Eric)

    Such as?

  49. “Brad, you’ve got a MAN – Jesus. And he’s going around talking about his father.” (Seth R.)

    He is a man, yes, but also God. Welcome to the dual nature of Christ. God Incarnate, right?

    “You have to presume a lot more biblical and philosophical training before the trinitarian God starts to make sense. The trinitarian God is a God for the philosopher and the clergyman. Not the butcher and the baker.” (Seth R.)

    I never said it makes sense (that I comprehend it), just that I can understand what is going on (I can apprehend it). It doesn’t matter whether it makes sense to us. It doesn’t make sense why God would have to send His Son to die for us, when He COULD have chosen a different method. But in His perfect plan, that’s the way He specified it, so it’s the way it happened. We don’t have the luxury of deciding whether it makes sense or not, we just have the responsibility of choosing whether we do or don’t believe it. God is the SAME for ALL people, no matter their standing in life or their intellectual assumptions.

    “As it so happens, a lot of untrained minds throughout the Christian world draw the same conclusions Mormons have about God the Father.” (Seth R.)

    Amen to that.

    “Trinitarianism is so far from a no-brainer, even after you’ve read extensively in the Bible, that I don’t see how you can make a straight-faced argument that it’s “obvious” from the text without coming from an extensive background of Christian apologetics.” (Seth R.)

    I don’t see where I said it was a “no-brainer”, or “obvious.” Is the concept itself difficult, if not impossible, for the human mind to wrap itself around? Yes, I believe it is. But does that make the concept not true? No, I don’t believe it does. I don’t understand many things about physics or math, b/c they just don’t seem to make sense (light years, etc…). But it doesn’t mean they’re not true, just b/c I can’t understand them. You don’t need an “extensive background of Christian apologetics” to apprehend the Trinity, especially if you have no pre-conceived notions. It just takes someone to explain it to you. What it requires is faith to believe it, a faith that transcends what our minds can comprehend. You believe in Heaven, right? How – you can’t definitively prove it’s there, can you? Nobody’s been and come back, and talked about, or provided proof for it, so what makes you believe it’s there? Faith. No difference with the Trinity. The Bible, although maybe not as directly clear as some would like, DOES speak about the Trinitarian nature of God. John 1:1, for example.

  50. Brad,

    I think you have good points about the Trinity, its not a unreasonable interpretation of the scriptures in my view. It is very different in its consequences from the Mormon position but I don’t think it changes the way evangelicals or Mormons behave in a big way.

    I think Eric and a whole bunch of other mormons are perfect examples of people who have read the entire Bible, studied it diligently and have come to different conclusions about whether God is a trinity or not. Mormons are focused believers in asking God and receiving answers, practically the entire foundation of our faith is based on personal revelation. (Which is why I am completely open minded on the subject, I am open to God telling me that Mormonism is wrong)

    The question is, if these sincere, bible studying, praying seekers of truth from God are WRONG, which my hypothetical assumes they are are, and we end up believing in a Christ that is not of one substance with God. If this is the case, in your view, or the view of evangelicals, are Mormons and others who aren’t influenced by a “false prophet” but came to these conclusions on our own, going to hell for this doctrinal shortcoming?

    If yes, which is what I am hearing from dozens of other evangelicals, Why if all we have faith in the same Jesus of Nazareth that asked us all to believe in him. (We just don’t fathom his true nature).

  51. “I think Eric and a whole bunch of other mormons are perfect examples of people who have read the entire Bible, studied it diligently and have come to different conclusions about whether God is a trinity or not. Mormons are focused believers in asking God and receiving answers, practically the entire foundation of our faith is based on personal revelation. (Which is why I am completely open minded on the subject, I am open to God telling me that Mormonism is wrong).” (Ilmarinen)

    Yes, personal revelation is key to Mormonism, I know that. That’s one of the things that makes it scary, in my opinion. Scripture tells us to consult Scripture to see if what we’re hearing is true. It doesn’t tell us to wait for personal revelation. And, if our personal revelation doesn’t line up with the Bible, regardless of whatever else it might line up with (i.e. BOM, POGP, D&C, etc…), then it is to be rejected. Further, based on personal revelation, would God, the God you believe in as a Mormon, ever reveal to you that He was wrong? That would be a self-defeating revelation, wouldn’t it, b/c then the person you’ve been worshiping, would have just told you that everything you know isn’t true. That’s not even something that would happen in Mormonism. Which is my point about not being able to rely on personal revelation, but rather on the Bible (and not other books).

    “The question is, if these sincere, bible studying, praying seekers of truth from God are WRONG, which my hypothetical assumes they are are, and we end up believing in a Christ that is not of one substance with God. If this is the case, in your view, or the view of evangelicals, are Mormons and others who aren’t influenced by a “false prophet” but came to these conclusions on our own, going to hell for this doctrinal shortcoming?” (Ilmarinen)

    You assume that you WEREN’T influenced, though. But for any Evangelical who believes that Mormonism is wrong (as we’re assuming in this hypothetical), it is BECAUSE of the influence of a “false prophet” (Smith and all the other Mormon leaders since) that you believe this, b/c they have continued with this line of thinking, and have convinced you of it. Think of it this way. You wouldn’t pick up the Bible, and read it only, and come to conclusions about Mormonism, would you? No, b/c you would also have to be exposed to D&C, POGP, BOM, etc… for that to happen. So to be Mormon (under this Evangelical assumption), you HAVE been influenced! As to your real question, which is the eternal destination; yes, I believe that Mormons will not be in heaven based on their beliefs. But it’s not something that can’t be changed, although beliefs would have to change for the destination to change.

    “If yes, which is what I am hearing from dozens of other evangelicals, Why if all we have faith in the same Jesus of Nazareth that asked us all to believe in him. (We just don’t fathom his true nature).” (Ilmarinen)

    B/c of the assumptions that we’re working with. Jesus asked us to believe in HIM, not what we make HIM to be, but what HE actually IS. Let’s think of it this way. There is a Latino man named Jesus (pronounced hay-soose). There is also Jesus of Nazareth, spoken of in the Bible. If you say you believe in Jesus (meaning the Latino), and I say I believe in Jesus (meaning of Nazareth), do we both go to Heaven? No, b/c my belief is founded in the true Jesus, while yours is in a different person of the same name. An odd illustration, I admit, but it shows the point. If the assumption is that Evangelicals are correct in their beliefs about the nature of God, then Mormons cannot be, so to believe in Jesus who is not also fully God, one God in 3 persons, means you are not believing in the same Jesus, and thus do not yet have salvation.

  52. “If the assumption is that Evangelicals are correct in their beliefs about the nature of God, then Mormons cannot be, so to believe in Jesus who is not also fully God, one God in 3 persons, means you are not believing in the same Jesus, and thus do not yet have salvation.”

    This is going round in circles.

    It just comes back to the same old thing:

    You don’t believe in this incomprehensible, non-intuitive, and biblically sketchy trinitarianism we’ve embraced so you’re going to hell.

    In a nutshell.

  53. “I don’t see how anyone reading the Bible without preconceptions about the Trinity would end up arriving at the Trinitarian position.” (Eric)

    Said from an LDS point of view, right?

    The fact is, I was predisposed to believe in the traditional evangelical understanding of the Trinity. See below.

    The more I studied LDS theology, the more consistencies I found with what the Bible teaches.” (Eric)

    But only through the LDS lens, of course. You found consistencies in what the LDS church says the Bible teaches, when you studied LDS theology to see what they say the Bible teaches. It’s a circular argument that only works in an LDS circle!

    But I started out in an evangelical circle; that’s my point. I spent my childhood in an evangelical youth group and Sunday school and graduated from an evangelical college with quite a few credits in religious studies (enough for a minor at some schools, but my school didn’t have minors). I tried for years to make the doctrine of the Trinity consistent with the Bible, and I never was able to. Neither was I able to make the Biblical hints of universalism (and there are plenty) fit in with evangelical understanding. Once I started studying LDS theology and soteriology, the pieces of the Bible I couldn’t harmonize with evangelical teaching started to fit. I have continued my Bible studies since becoming a member, studying both LDS and non-LDS commentaries and the like, and the pieces continue to fit.

    So if you’re accusing me of trying to make the Bible fit my LDS preconceptions, you don’t know me very well.

    “(Of course, there are also many LDS beliefs that aren’t in the Bible. They don’t contradict the Bible, they’re just on issues where the Bible is silent.)” (Eric)

    Such as?

    Ex nihilo creation. The preexistence. An open canon. On all these issues, the Bible offers no conclusions. I would argue that it hints at all three, but I would call them extrabiblical doctrines rather than biblical ones.

  54. If the assumption is that Evangelicals are correct in their beliefs about the nature of God, then Mormons cannot be, so to believe in Jesus who is not also fully God, one God in 3 persons, means you are not believing in the same Jesus, and thus do not yet have salvation.

    But if that’s the case, then many, many evangelicals — I’m not talking about the ones here or those who have studied theology — don’t have salvation either.

    I have talked to many evangelicals and other Protestants over the years (I used to be one), and my observation is that many, perhaps even most if we exclude those who have done lots of study, don’t believe in the traditional doctrine of the Trinity but instead believe in modalism. I’ve been in evangelical Sunday school classes and heard God compared with water (ice, liquid and gas) to explain the Trinity, or (somewhat better) an egg (yolk, white and shell). Many evangelicals don’t believe in three distinct persons that are common in substance, but they believe in God revealing Himself in three different ways, or of having three “parts” that we see at different times.

    That view has long been considered a heresy in traditional Christianity. The God and Jesus of modalism are as different from the Trinity as they are from the LDS godhead.

    So if I were an evangelical and believed that people who didn’t have a right understanding of the Trinity were at risk of hell, I’d spend a lot more time trying to get the evangelical churches to teach correct doctrine than I would trying to save those hopelessly lost Mormons.

  55. I misstated myself in #58. We LDS don’t believe in ex nihilo creation. Sorry if I confused anyone.

    And the argument about believing in a Latino named Jesus is absurd. We believe in Jesus of Nazareth, the one who was born in Bethlehem around 5 B.C.

  56. From my perspective, it’s not absurd at all. It still speaks to worshiping a “different” Jesus. Do you believe in the Jesus of Nazareth, who was also the Word who “was God”? No.

    Different Jesus altogether. In my mind, it’s no different than the Muslims who believe in Jesus, but don’t believe He is God, or the Jews. Same thing, different religion.

  57. Where in the Bible does it say you go to hell if you don’t understand the true nature of Jesus of Nazareth?

  58. “Do you believe in the Jesus of Nazareth, who was also the Word who “was God”?”

    Wrong. I do believe in Jesus of Nazareth who is the Son of God, shares in His glory and majesty, and has been symbolically referenced to as “the Word” in John 1.

  59. Wait, Mormon’s believe that Jesus is a God as well, just not one substance with his Father, who is also God.

  60. Do you believe in the Jesus of Nazareth, who was also the Word who “was God”? No.

    Please don’t tell me what I believe. Please. I find it highly offensive.

    Like both Seth R. and Ilmarinen, I believe that Jesus is “the Word” referred to in John 1:1.

  61. As long as we are using absurd arguments (see Hay-soos and Jesus), answer me this, Brad.

    Say Jesus Christ appeared in your room tonight and told you that while he is God, The Word, he is of different substance from the Father. That they are two speperate Beings, and that (hold on to your britches), he was created by the Father and is His literal Son. Would you still hold fast to your “interpretation” of the bible in regards to His nature, because the Bible is innerrant (and therefore our interpretation of it must be as well, right?), or would you find a way to justify the text of the Bible to coincide with this newly revealed truth? Do you think it is possible? Or is the bible so clear in this regard that you would either have to reject the entire bible as false based on your new “revalation”, or reject your being visited by christ himself as false because it goes against what the bible clearly states?

    Like I said, a little absurd. But I would be greatly interested in hearing your responses. Indulge me.

  62. The first thing I would think is that is wasn’t Jesus who had appeared to me. The Bible tells us that Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light. The Bible is God’s Word so this “Jesus” would be contradicting what He says in His Word. This is a point where Mormons are in error. They look for special revelations, just like their prophet Joseph had. His “vision” was not of the living God so Mr. Smith either invented his vision or he had a vision that wasn’t of the living God of the Bible we know.

  63. My point was that if you look closely at the text, then the “new revalation” provided by the appearing Christ is not contradictory in the least to what is in the bible, only to the way you have grown accustomed to interpreting it. But instead you would reject Him as a “false christ” because his words don’t match your long held beliefs based on nothing more than a “traditional” interpretation of scripture, and not one which came from revalation, since to even suggest that God might want to clear up doctrines regarding his nature or Gospel through revalation is outright heresy.

    In other words, this Jesus would not be contradicting what “He says in His Word”, as you say. He would only be contradicting how you have long interpreted His Word. Do you see the distinction? I here a lot from ECs that the Mormon interpretations only make sense through the a Mormon “lens”. Only very rarely do I encounter one who will admit that they too fall victim to this very phenomenon. Has it occured to you that Christ never said revalation was no longer required, ever, and that if he were to show up in your room to clear things up, you might want to give him the benifit of the doubt before dismissing him so abruptly? I would surely re-evaluate my position should such an event ever happen to me.

  64. But for any Evangelical who believes that Mormonism is wrong (as we’re assuming in this hypothetical), it is BECAUSE of the influence of a “false prophet” (Smith and all the other Mormon leaders since) that you believe this, b/c they have continued with this line of thinking, and have convinced you of it.

    Brad… so, what about a situation like this. A person grows up, being told by Evangelicals that Jesus hates them because they don’t know Him properly. That Jesus is sending them to Hell. This kind of preaching doesn’t influence said person to pick up a Bible, but to shy away from Christianity due to the terrorist tactics used by the Evangelicals. Let’s assume they never hear more about Jesus from any source (say, they spend the rest of their lives volunteering in a Buddhist monastery in India, and while not becoming a Buddhist, also never learns anything good about Jesus).

    Do you think that Jesus is going to send this person to hell? Or perhaps He’ll send the folks who misrepresented His message in such a way as to make it a message of hate and fear instead of good news of life and hope? Or both?

    Or what do you think about the little kids who are killed in Iraq right now. The ones who are brought up to hate Jesus and die before they could have independently learned anything else? Do they go to Hell? Or do their parents for teaching them wrong doctrines?

  65. My first job out of graduate school was in an Arab Embassy, and my colleagues were practically all Muslim. I was single and alone in DC. However, I was singled out for friendship by many of my married female Muslim colleauges. One family virtually adopted me. I helped their daughter with her English and math homework, and advised her parents on how to deal with the school authorities, what was going on, etc–as education in the US is totally different from the educational system in their country. Their little girl took a real liking to me, and I to her. Sometimes I would bring my bible with me when I stayed over with them on the weekend. She was very interested in it. She actually was very interested in anything I was interested in. We grew closer over the years. One time, we were sitting in their kitchen, and we were talking about Christianity and Islam, and Nina (not her real name) started jumping up and down and saying, “I want to learn about Jesus! I want to learn about Jesus! I will never forget that moment as long as I live. On the one hand, I was overjoyed, but on the other I was terrified. I knew in my heart, that if someone had at that very minute explained Jesus and salvation to her, she would have accepted it–in a heartbeat! There is NO doubt in my mind whatsoever. But I was an invited guest in their home, and they were devout Muslims. I explained my Christian beliefs to my Islamic friends when I was asked, but I did not push it. Anyway, I’m still in touch with that family to this day, and I recently sent this “little girl” who is now a young woman in graduate school herself, flowers and a birthday card. I have named my own daughter after her.
    I am thinking about sending my young friend some of my favorite bible verses. It is a touchy subject though, because Muslims have been taught that Christians are guilty of the worst sin imaginable, saying that Jesus is equal to Allah, and is one God with him.
    There is no way in the world that I will ever believe that my little friend is going to Hell. As far as I’m concerned, she is one of the sheep that our Lord was talking about when he said, “My sheep are mine, and I know them.” I’m not saying that I agree with LDS theology, BUT, they do make allowances for this type of situation where Evangelicals do not.

  66. I think Lisa’s point is the most sensible position and is a natural belief when you believe in a loving God. Which I assume both Evangelicals and Mormons agree on.

    It makes no sense, in light a belief of a loving God that God will send you to hell for what you believe. It makes no sense and defies Justice that God will send you to hell forever, for something you believed for 40-50 years on earth.

    If you say, well God is just very different from us his love is different from what we understand to be love and we don’t understand him then you are being unbiblical. The bible says that God is love…..and we understand what love is, there are all kinds of references to God having human-type love for us. Like a parent loves a child. If we contort God into something other than loving we are not believing in the God of the bible. If we start contorting the definition of Love to fit our conception of God, we are equally being unbiblical. We

    But by the same token, the Bible also says that Christ is the only way to salvation. Therefore if God is loving, and wants all of his children to be saved, he must give them all a fair opportunity for salvation. We know that all of his children don’t get a fair opportunity to understand Jesus in this life, that is irrefutable.

    So, if God has the power, and he is loving, he must give them an opportunity to avoid hell. This is especially true if you believe in the never-ending hell taught by most Protestantism.

    Without this love, God becomes an unloving and capricious monster. Creating us to live a law that we can’t, and then giving a select few a way to avoid never-ending torment, and condemning all the rest because they accidentally were born without Christ or because they got confused or mistaken about which “Christ” to believe in. That doesn’t sound like a loving father to me.

    That is the problem I have with the Protestant/Evangelical dogma regarding hell, most people don’t accept it in their hearts, the can’t believe that God is such a monster. Which He isn’t. He has the power and the ability to provide a way for all of his children to receive Christ, now or in the future.

    That is not a Mormon thought, that is reasoning that seems like common sense. This seems to be true regardless of whether you believe anything Joseph Smith said or if you believe God is a Trinity or a Trio.

    You don’t have to be a Mormon to believe in a plan of salvation where all people have a fair chance at salvation, but I haven’t found many other churches that do.

  67. Put short and Sweet, even if Evangelicals are right and Mormons dont’ believe in the biblical Jesus, Evangelicals don’t believe in the biblical God.

    Those who believe God is sending them to hell forever for such common misunderstanding and confusion don’t believe in the God described in the Bible.

    God is Love, and this is not the description of a perfectly loving being.

    I do believe that you cannot develop the faith in God Jesus speaks of without really understanding who He is and I think that Mormons and Evangelicals should give up any beliefs that keep them from this understanding of Him as an all-loving Being.

    I think the Evangelical position is unbiblical and is a false tradition that keeps them from have strong faith in God. I think Mormons have plenty of traditions that keep them from understanding Him as well. Good news is that God has never said that he will send either of them to hell forever for their traditions. .

  68. One more, sorry,

    Tim’s point that God isn’t sending you to hell for what you believe, he is sending you for your sins, does not change my point.

    If your only sin was non-belief in the “right” Jesus you will still be sent to hell without Christ’s salvation in the evangelical view.

  69. “Wait, Mormon’s believe that Jesus is a God as well, just not one substance with his Father, who is also God.” (Ilmarinen)

    Bang. Thank you. Thus the differences.

  70. “Please don’t tell me what I believe. Please. I find it highly offensive.

    Like both Seth R. and Ilmarinen, I believe that Jesus is “the Word” referred to in John 1:1.” (Eric)

    Well, then, it goes on to say “…and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Not “a” God, as some (including the JW’s) think or mis-translate, but simply the “Word was God.” There’s no other way to interpret it. Jesus is God. Same.

  71. To respond to #65-68, yes I would go along with the explanation in #66. Why? B/c it doesn’t hold to the Bible. Mormons love to knock the EC interpretations, while not wanting the EC’s to knock theirs. But if the Bible is our standard (and EC’s believe it is, as it was and is inspired by God), then any “revelation” or “appearing” that lends information inconsistent with God’s Word (the Bible), yes, I would dismiss. The Bible says that we are to look to Scripture to see if what we hear is true, not to ourselves, or to personal feelings, but to Scripture, which does not lie.

    That’s not putting the Bible first, and God second. That’s putting the Bible as God’s written Word, since God inspired the Bible.

  72. Well Katyjane, you only asked about 47 questions here, so give me time to dissect.

    “So, what about a situation like this. A person grows up, being told by Evangelicals that Jesus hates them because they don’t know Him properly. That Jesus is sending them to Hell. This kind of preaching doesn’t influence said person to pick up a Bible, but to shy away from Christianity due to the terrorist tactics used by the Evangelicals. Let’s assume they never hear more about Jesus from any source (say, they spend the rest of their lives volunteering in a Buddhist monastery in India, and while not becoming a Buddhist, also never learns anything good about Jesus). Do you think that Jesus is going to send this person to hell?” (Katyjane)

    I would agree, that if the person were told this, it probably wouldn’t influence them in the right way. But, this assumes that all people tell the person this. I have not, at any time, EVER said that Jesus hates “them” (non-Christians, including Mormons, for example). Jesus loves ALL. But He hates sin, and cannot look at it. And His true nature will always be upheld. Again, you’re also assuming that the person’s only ability to be saved is through other people telling them, which I don’t believe to be true, due to Romans. You have many assumptions inherent in your question, which makes your question nearly impossible to answer, without addressing all the assumptions. It’s why questions like this are useless. Jesus doesn’t “send” anyone to hell – we choose to go there ourselves, based on our refusal to accept Him, as He says He is, as our Lord and Savior.

    “Or perhaps He’ll send the folks who misrepresented His message in such a way as to make it a message of hate and fear instead of good news of life and hope? Or both?” (Katyjane)

    Depends on what each person believes, doesn’t it?

    “Or what do you think about the little kids who are killed in Iraq right now. The ones who are brought up to hate Jesus and die before they could have independently learned anything else? Do they go to Hell? Or do their parents for teaching them wrong doctrines?” (Katyjane)

    I believe in an age of accountability for children, wherein they are not held accountable for a decision up to a certain age. I believe that age is different for different kids, different mentalities, etc… If their parents go to hell, it won’t be necessarily for teaching them wrong doctrines, but for unrepented sins and not accepting Christ as their Savior.

  73. “There is no way in the world that I will ever believe that my little friend is going to Hell. As far as I’m concerned, she is one of the sheep that our Lord was talking about when he said, “My sheep are mine, and I know them.” I’m not saying that I agree with LDS theology, BUT, they do make allowances for this type of situation where Evangelicals do not.” (Lisa)

    And this is one of the more dangerous mindsets that Christians (or anyone, for that matter) can have, Lisa. I empathize with your situation, and your history with this girl. But regardless of whether YOU believe she’s going to hell or not, it doesn’t matter. What matters, as it relates to her eternal salvation, is her relationship with Jesus Christ as her Savior. She is no longer a “little” girl, and no longer your “little friend”. She is grown up, and held responsible for her decisions. “As far as you’re concerned” – plays no part. What the Bible says is the ultimate authority. Has she accepted Jesus in her heart as her Savior, regardless of whether her parents and family are Muslim or not? Do you know this for a fact? B/c if she hasn’t, then despite your feelings, she will not be in Heaven with Jesus if she dies. Now, some view that as harsh. But that’s what the Bible says. It’s also what makes Christianity hard for many to believe, b/c it goes against what many WANT to believe. They don’t WANT to believe that others will go to hell, so they choose not to. Like you say, LDS theology (as well as other religions) makes allowances for this situation. Why? B/c it’s more pleasant than what the Bible teaches. Harsh? We’re in no position to question an Almighty God on what He deems to be just.

  74. Yeah Brad, the Bible was inspired by God, on this we agree perfectly. But to say God “wrote” the Bible, followed by he “inspired” the Bible is disingenuous, IMO. Which is it? Because they certainly are not the same thing. I can write an autobiography, or I can inspire a biography to be written about me. I can tell you right now that what would be written in the two would differ significantly, even if the writer of the latter had the best of intentions and tried sincerely to be accurate and objective in his portrayal.

    The fact of the matter is, the Bible was written by men inspired by God. Written in human language (very limited language) and by human hand. We know from the Bible that Moses was not good at speaking. Whatever the particular impediment was, it follows that anything that was written about what he said would not have been perfect. Not to mention that of what we now have in the bible (in regard to Moses’ words), no orignal documents exist (this goes for most of the OT). They were translated multiple times, sometimes reinterpreted to make the language more “understandable”. Today we have numerous versions of the Bible. Which one gives us the exact words of God? Can you tell me? Evangelicals repeat often the fact that we are all fallen, imperfect and sinfull in nature (especially in a discussion about Faith and Works), but I guess that doesn’t apply to anyone who had anything to do with bringing forths tha bible as we know it to us, at any of the thousands of steps along the way.

    Interpretations of the Scritures number like sand, even within the mainstream protestant churches, and even in regards to the nature of God. You claim yours to be right, fine, I accept that. You have that right, even a duty to follow what you feel in your heart to be right. But what makes your claim more right than a fellow protestant who believe that God is actually an obscure formless deity who just manifest himself in different forms for different purposes depending on who he is talking to or when? You reject the possibility of modern day revalation (because it is unbiblical?), so naturally you are rellying only on your interpretation of the text. Newsflash! So is the other protestant guy to whom I refer! But they are different.

    In closing, it is not the fact that you come to the conclusion that God is 3 persons in 1 God that disturbs me. That is a perfectly reasonable interpretation of the Biblical text (one that I just happen to disagree with). What is disturbing to me is that you can so readily claim that your interpretation is not only the right one (a view I can respect), but the ONLY one, contrary to all of the evidence that you (and the millions of other bible readers/translators/interpreters/dictators (i.e. paul)) are, in fact, human. So next time an Omnipotent, Omniscient Deity appears in your room to set your feeble human mind straight regarding HIS nature, you might want to give him the benifit of the doubt, instead of relying on flawed human texts.

    P.S-And I thought it was arrogant to tell Mormons what hey believe. It is infinitely more arrogant to tell Christ what he is really like, and reject him if he says differently.

  75. “We know that all of his children don’t get a fair opportunity to understand Jesus in this life, that is irrefutable.” (Ilmarinen)

    What is the irrefutable basis for this statement?

    “So, if God has the power, and he is loving, he must give them an opportunity to avoid hell. This is especially true if you believe in the never-ending hell taught by most Protestantism.” (Ilmarinen)

    I absolutely agree, I’ve never said different. The Bible is clear on this (again, see Romans 1&2, for example). God says He desires “all men to be saved” – doesn’t mean they all WILL be, though, does it?

    The rest of what you say is based upon YOUR feelings about what is fair, and what is not. Incorrect basis. We have no say in the matter. God is God Almighty – His justice is just, whether WE think it is or not! We ALL deserve hell, b/c we’re all sinners in light of God’s perfection. What about the doctrine of election? How does that play into our free will? Irregardless, what we think about it doesn’t matter, it’s what God thinks about it. Fair to us, in light of what we know, is not necessarily fair to God. Everyone here seems to be overlooking that.

  76. “Put short and Sweet, even if Evangelicals are right and Mormons dont’ believe in the biblical Jesus, Evangelicals don’t believe in the biblical God.” (Ilmarinen)

    Ridiculous. I’ll leave it at that.

    “Those who believe God is sending them to hell forever for such common misunderstanding and confusion don’t believe in the God described in the Bible.” (Ilmarinen)

    Those who continue to say that God sends people to hell for misunderstanding and confusion, don’t understand what God sends people to hell for, why people go there, or what role people play in getting sent to hell. It’s called SIN.

    “God is Love, and this is not the description of a perfectly loving being.” (Ilmarinen)

    According to who, though? You? This is my point. God is love, but He is also just, and will not stand for sin, or those who reject His Son, which we hear about through the Bible. If people reject that, God has said what the consequences are. Nobody goes to hell without having had a chance to NOT go there.

    “I think the Evangelical position is unbiblical and is a false tradition that keeps them from have strong faith in God.” (Ilmarinen)

    That’s your right. For eternity’s sake, you need to be 100% sure that it is correct. Which is between you and God. But you can’t say that you didn’t have a chance, b/c of this very conversation, that’s for sure.

  77. “If your only sin was non-belief in the “right” Jesus you will still be sent to hell without Christ’s salvation in the evangelical view.” (Ilmarinen)

    Correct. Nevermind that that would never be someone’s “only” sin, but you’re still correct in this statement.

  78. Frofreak, as you say, you are welcome to your opinion. It is your right. I don’t back down from mine, as it is Biblically justified and supportable in all senses. The Bible is true, all of it, and nothing can change that, no matter how much anyone wants to try and argue around it.

    Everyone is entitled to their beliefs. They need to be sure they are 100% right about them, for eternity’s sake. And I would say most people would think they are. But from the varying beliefs, some are wrong, and some are right. It’s unfortunate, but true.

    I love to discuss all things religious, but feel very sorry for those who don’t, and may never, truly understand how to gain salvation and a relationship with Jesus Christ. Still shows how powerful Satan is, and how he can blind others. It truly makes me sad.

  79. Brad,
    Nina, my little friend, She WANTED TO KNOW, and her heart was totally open to Jesus at that moment. I’m leaving it up to Jesus, because he is infinitely more gracious, compassionate, and merciful than people like you, in my opinion. And I will send her those bible verses.

  80. “but feel very sorry for those who don’t, and may never, truly understand how to gain salvation and a relationship with Jesus Christ. Still shows how powerful Satan is, and how he can blind others. It truly makes me sad.”

    Can the moralizing Brad. We could say exactly the same thing about you. And we’d all have gotten exactly nowhere useful. I refrain from this kind of martyred sort of talk because it’s not useful and would serve to put me in a position of moral superiority over my colleagues. “Oh how my heart burns to see such folly among my brothers and sisters…” This is just a device to give yourself a self-reaffirmation you haven’t earned. Self-pronouncements of moral superiority serve no useful purpose here.

  81. Brad,

    I’m glad I don’t go to your church. 🙂 We don’t believe the same thing, and I hope that I never believe as you do.

    And if I go to “Hell” for eternity because I decided that a God of love didn’t make sense based on how you’ve described the one and only truth (which I also reject), I probably wouldn’t have met anyone that I liked in “Heaven” anyway.

    You put a lot of restrictions on what God can and can’t do, and will and won’t do in your posts. The Bible was written by PEOPLE. Fallible, imperfect PEOPLE. And there are many ways that it can be interpreted–just putting emphasis in different places or punctuation in different places can change the entire meaning of passages!

    Jesus said that the two great commandments were to love God and to love our neighbor. I work on doing those. And if that means that I wind up in Hell because I am wholly unconcerned with whether God and Jesus have two bodies, one body, no body… and I see no reason to be concerned about it. I don’t think that God really cares if I know, understand, or care about that–He said to love Him (He didn’t say to love Him as the Trinity, or not) and to love my neighbor. Of course that’s not all, and I work to become a transformed person. I believe that I can do that and leave how the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost interact a future date.

  82. Well, then, it goes on to say “… and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Not “a” God, as some (including the JW’s) think or mistranslate, but simply the “Word was God.” There’s no other way to interpret it. Jesus is God. Same.

    When you have some spare time, you might want to check out the Greek for “the word was God.” What many scholars have said, and I’m not talking about LDS scholars here, is that the Greek doesn’t exactly say that “Word = God,” and that there’s a reason John wrote “the Word was God” rather than “God was the Word.” The meaning of the Greek, these non-LDS scholars say, isn’t that Jesus and God are ontologically the same, but that the attributes of God are the attributes of the Word. There’s a subtle difference there, and LDS belief is perfectly consistent with that understanding.

    It’s kind of like the verse in I John that says “God is love,” where “love” (agape in the Greek) is a qualitative predicate noun. What it’s saying is that God has the qualities and attributes of love. To say “Love is God” wouldn’t be the same thing. The same is true with John 1:1. In “the Word was God,” “God” is a qualitative predicate noun (because it doesn’t say “a God” or “the God”). What the verse is saying as that the Word had the qualities and attibutes of God, not that the Word equaled God in some sort of a mathematical/physical sense.

    I’m no expert in Greek, and I’d be happy to be corrected if my understanding is wrong. But according to the articles I read, possible translations that better capture the subtlety of the Greek include “the Word was Deity” and “what the Word was, God was.” Neither of these translations is inconsistent with LDS belief.

    By the way, like Frofreak, I’m not arguing that the traditional understanding of the Trinity is inconsistent with the Bible. What I am saying, and I think Frofreak is saying too, is that the traditional doctrine isn’t the only way of intepreting passages that seem to treat God as both one and three.

    There’s no other way to interpret it. Jesus is God. Same.

    So how is your understanding different than modalism? Are you saying that Jesus is just another name for God?

  83. Katyjane said: I don’t think that God really cares if I know, understand, or care about that–He said to love Him (He didn’t say to love Him as the Trinity, or not) and to love my neighbor. Of course that’s not all, and I work to become a transformed person. I believe that I can do that and leave how the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost interact a future date.

    Yeah, I agree with that. At some point, these theological debates get rather pointless. To paraphrase Paul, I could do all the right things, have perfect theological understanding, pay triple tithing and go to the temple every day, but if I don’t have love, it does me no good whatsoever.

    Our goal on this planet is to become more like Christ, and that’s more important than what church you belong to or what your level of scriptural understanding is. And if people like Brad think that belief will cause me to burn in hell for eternity, then so be it. I wouldn’t want to spend eternity in a heaven ruled by his kind of arbitrary and capricious God anyway.

  84. “Nina, my little friend, She WANTED TO KNOW, and her heart was totally open to Jesus at that moment. I’m leaving it up to Jesus, because he is infinitely more gracious, compassionate, and merciful than people like you, in my opinion. And I will send her those bible verses.” (Lisa)

    That’s good for Nina, and I hope that she did accept Jesus as her Savior. Whether her heart was open or not, doesn’t matter; it matters whether she accepted Him or not! You, having a relationship with Nina, are not called to just “leave it up to Jesus”, as we are ALL called to be a witness to others, according to the Great Commission, are we not?

    And you are right, Jesus most definitely is infintely more gracious, compassionate and merciful than “people like me”. And I am thankful for that.

    I am glad you’re sending her those verses (though we don’t know what they are). If she hasn’t accepted Him already, I hope these will prompt her to do so.

  85. Either way, Seth, I don’t need you or anyone to confirm I’m right, nor do I need to confirm it for myself. I know that what I believe is 100% correct, and that what Mormonism believes is 100% wrong. I say that on the authority of the Bible, God’s Word.

    I realize you (and many others) do not see it the same way, but doesn’t change my beliefs, nor my opinion of your beliefs.

    I do sincerely pray that your mind and heart will be changed, before you find it’s too late to do so (and that time will indeed come).

  86. Katyjane,

    Again, you’re welcome to your opinions, as I am to mine. I agree, we do not believe the same things. And I believe your particular interpretations are faulty, in many respects.

    It does matter what we believe about God, for many believe that a “god” exists, but few believe properly. If all beliefs led to Heaven, there’d be no need for hell, would there, except for Satan and his angels, but the Bible tells us that they won’t be the only ones there, unfortunately.

    I do hope you give further consideration to what you believe. I don’t put any “restrictions” on what God can or can’t do; I only have said what Scripture has said about Him, and what He Himself has said He will and won’t do.

  87. Brad, Brad, Brad,

    (Sigh) I can’t believe I am being sucked in again. Anyway:

    According to who, though? You? This is my point. God is love, but He is also just, and will not stand for sin, or those who reject His Son, which we hear about through the Bible. If people reject that, God has said what the consequences are. Nobody goes to hell without having had a chance to NOT go there.

    Well, the according to the Bible, actually. God is love, and you are right, no one will be sent to hell without first having the chance to “NOT” go there. Again we agree on this principle. Where we disagree (and where you disagree with katyjane who is not LDS, btw) is in the implementation of this principle. You seem to think it is enough of a “chance” to condemn someone to eternal hell for simply hearing about some ancient religious figure named Jesus Christ. Even if this were true, not everyone has even heard of Christ. Rant all you want, but it is an undeniable fact that not every person who has ever lived has heard about Jesus. You could try to pretend that everyone alive today has heard about Jesus (which is also likely not true), but that still ignores all of the people who lived on the earth outside of the holy land in the thousands of years preceding the life of Jesus. What about the native american living in today’s argentina around 4,000 b.c., or the local resident of Borneo 10,000 years before Christ came to the earth.

    I don’t think we believe in different Christ’s (we just see him in a different light), but for argument’s sake, YOUR Christ does not save these people, or provide for them a chance to accept him and be saved. But we have already agreed that Christ wants all to be saved (even though, as we actually agree, not all will be). What, just not the people that came before him? Or lived in other parts of the world during his lifetime? Or live today in places like a cannabalistic village in Papua New Guinea with no contact with the outside world? They just don’t deserve it I guess?

    You like to believe that we all just can’t stomach God’s justice, I guess it makes you feel justified in condemning people to hell and patting yourself on the back because you were lucky enough to be born into a time and place where it was possible, if not easy, to learn about the Lord and accept Him. The truth is, we are all fine with a just God, it couldn’t be any other way. You teach us such words of wisdom such as “His justice is just, whether WE think it is or not! We ALL deserve hell, b/c we’re all sinners in light of God’s perfection” as if in contrast to what we believe, but you assume wrong. We all believe He is just, and I agree that we can’t impose our own view on his, just to make ourselves feel better. But that, Brad, is exactly what you are doing. You claim to be 100% right, and know with 100% surety that your interpretations are right, as if there were not any others. That puts you in the realm of infallibility. Congratulations! So much for being human. If God really requires that we be 100% right on ANY point of doctrine to be saved, then we are all screwed (except you, of course 🙂 )! Luckily, depite your protests otherwise, God’s justice is likely nowhere near how you see it, and many of us sincere worshipers of Christ, who try to repent daily, forsake our sins, follow His example, treat our fellow men the way He taught us to, and basically call upon His name as the only source of our being liberated from sin and brought once again into his presence, will, according to the grace and will of God, one day find ourselves in His embrace.

    The Lord is truly mercifull, is he not?

  88. Eric,

    We can debate Greek back and forth all day long, if you like. Different scholars will say different things, based on their bent. However, the best scholars on the Greek language, appear to support the EC assumptions of John 1:1, rather than LDS (or JW, for that matter) assumptions. I’d be curious to know your sources for what you wrote, though.

    I don’t believe the EC understanding of the Trinitarian verses is the only interpretation, but I do believe it’s the only CORRECT interpretation.

    No, I am not modalistic. I believe in 3 separate Persons, all of whom are God. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, are 3 separate persons, yet they are all one God.

  89. By the way, it’s actually rather sketchy as to whether John actually even wrote John 1 or whether it was a much later addition, but whatever…

  90. If you admit that there are other interpretations, but that yours is right (suprise, suprise, I believe that about my view as well), on what grounds to you stake your claim to truth in regards to your interpretation? You can no longer use your claim that the Bible backs up your claim, because you already permit that there are other interpretations, so in the same regard the Bible backs up my claim, which is what I’ve been saying all along. If your claim is tradition and the niceen council, then I would advise you rethink your plan to reject the Christ appearing in your room as “False”. If your claim is, as you seem to be implying more and more, infallibility (or being 100% sure that you are 100% right), then it basically comes down to “I’m right because I say I’m right”, and not because the Bible says you’re right, which it doesn’t, but which you have been claiming all along. Either way, you seem to be the final authority on all things Biblical and regarding God’s true nature. Again, I congratulate you on attaining this status and level of understanding. The rest of us will have to keep moving along, picking ouselves up as we stumble ignorantly, putting our faith in Christ, that he might one day make known to us all of these things. Until then, I will try and follow His lead. This will be my final word to you on this topic, Brad.

  91. “God is love, and you are right, no one will be sent to hell without first having the chance to “NOT” go there. Again we agree on this principle. Where we disagree (and where you disagree with katyjane who is not LDS, btw) is in the implementation of this principle. You seem to think it is enough of a “chance” to condemn someone to eternal hell for simply hearing about some ancient religious figure named Jesus Christ. Even if this were true, not everyone has even heard of Christ. Rant all you want, but it is an undeniable fact that not every person who has ever lived has heard about Jesus.” (frofreak)

    I never said they were condemned to hell for “simply hearing about some ancient religious figure named Jesus Christ.” What I said was that, according to Romans, everyone has the chance for salvation, regardless of location, upbringing, etc… I never said HOW God would effect that promise, only that He would. How does it happen? I dont’ know. Partly through missionaries, partly through some other means, it’s hard to know for certain. But we do know the chance is there. Without you having talked to everyone individually, to find out if they had heard of Christ, you can’t really make the statement “not everyone has even heard of Christ…it is an undeniable fact.” B/c you don’t know for sure. The Bible says through Romans that all people have the chance, so I believe that if Christ is the only way, and all people have a chance, that somehow God is able to reveal to them what they need to know. How? I don’t know, nor do I claim I ever will.

    “You could try to pretend that everyone alive today has heard about Jesus (which is also likely not true), but that still ignores all of the people who lived on the earth outside of the holy land in the thousands of years preceding the life of Jesus. What about the native american living in today’s argentina around 4,000 b.c., or the local resident of Borneo 10,000 years before Christ came to the earth.” (frofreak)

    This is just more of the same argument, covered under what I said above.

    “I don’t think we believe in different Christ’s (we just see him in a different light),” (frofreak)

    I don’t know if you’re Mormon or not. But if you are, then I believe we do believe in different Christs.

    “…but for argument’s sake, YOUR Christ does not save these people, or provide for them a chance to accept him and be saved. But we have already agreed that Christ wants all to be saved (even though, as we actually agree, not all will be). What, just not the people that came before him? Or lived in other parts of the world during his lifetime? Or live today in places like a cannabalistic village in Papua New Guinea with no contact with the outside world? They just don’t deserve it I guess?” (frofreak)

    Again, I addressed these arguments up top. You leave no room for God to work in manners that we know nothing about, but only through human word of mouth, with your arguments.

    “You like to believe that we all just can’t stomach God’s justice, I guess it makes you feel justified in condemning people to hell and patting yourself on the back because you were lucky enough to be born into a time and place where it was possible, if not easy, to learn about the Lord and accept Him.” (frofreak)

    It doesn’t make me feel justified, I think it’s obvious from what you and others write that your real basis for believing that, is b/c you as a person CAN’T logically believe it any other way. I stand by that. I have heard about Christ, and I had the choice to accept or reject Him; I chose the former.

    “You claim to be 100% right, and know with 100% surety that your interpretations are right, as if there were not any others. That puts you in the realm of infallibility. Congratulations! So much for being human.” (frofreak)

    That doesn’t make me infallible, nor do I claim to be. I didn’t come up with what the Bible said, I just agree with what it says. I believe there are thousands of incorrect interpretations of the Bible, and only one correct interpretation, for any given theological point, verse, etc… I believe that the interpretation I follow is correct. And though there don’t appear to be others on this blog who follow the same, I know that there are thousands others who do. Only God is infallible.

    “If God really requires that we be 100% right on ANY point of doctrine to be saved, then we are all screwed (except you, of course )!” (frofreak)

    I don’t believe He does. But I do believe we need to have the key doctrinal points correct, which is what we’re talking about here. Get those wrong, and I do believe you’re “screwed”, as you put it.

  92. “We know that all of his children don’t get a fair opportunity to understand Jesus in this life, that is irrefutable.” (Ilmarinen)

    What is the irrefutable basis for this statement?(Brad)

    You believe that all human kind get a fair chance to understand Jesus?????? Come now.

    You can say that God’s love is whatever he wants it to be, but if you believe the Bible, his is the love of a loving father. He inspired those words, we understand what a loving father is, so if we have any understanding of the Bible we have to think in God in those terms. When I say that you describe a God that is not just loving but IS LOVE, (that is what the bible says) Word=God=Love.

    What you can’t do, if you believe the Bible was inspired, is twist love to mean anything you want. You should, as a good bible believer, take the Bible at its word.

    Love is described at length in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13.

    Longsuffering, kind, upbraideth not, is not puffed up. If we believe the Bible, we have to attribute these qualities to God. The question is, is God capable of providing a way for all of his children to REALLY know who about Jesus, not just some sub-conscious understanding of Him.

    “I think the Evangelical position is unbiblical and is a false tradition that keeps them from have strong faith in God.” (Ilmarinen)

    That’s your right. For eternity’s sake, you need to be 100% sure that it is correct. Which is between you and God. But you can’t say that you didn’t have a chance, b/c of this very conversation, that’s for sure.(Brad)

    The question is Brad, did you explain Jesus well enough to me not to have pushed me away from the real Jesus and further into the throes of the false prophets? Are you leading me astray by not teaching me correctly. I am really open to learn. I just want to learn, from the bible, why misinterpretation lands me in hell FOREVER, despite my faith in Jesus of Nazareth.

    Doesn’t it say that I will suffer for my sins (I assume commensurate with their severity) and be rewarded for my good works with Glory in Romans 2?

  93. Brad said: I’d be curious to know your sources for what you wrote, though.

    I haven’t drawn on any one particular source, just my studies. This page, though, which is not from an LDS source, seems to give a decent overview of the grammatical issues involved in understanding John 1:1. There are literally thousands of pages that have been written on the subject, so they’re not hard to find.

    And I’ll probably join Frofreak in making this my last comment to you on this topic. There’s not much point in discussing something with someone who says, in essence, “This is the correct interpretation of the Bible because I say it is.”

  94. Brad,
    In response to your comments with my being in a relationship with Nina, and not “leaving it up to Jesus.”
    Yes, you are correct, but if I’d followed the strict Evangelical interpretation of what the Bible says, I wouldn’t have been in their home all those years. (unequal yoking) I wouldn’t have gone anywhere near my friend or her husband, or their children. The relationship I establised with my friend was a REAL relationship, as opposed to a phony one based simply on trying to get someone converted. Both me and my friend went into it knowing that we liked each other for who we were, regardless of whether or not the other ever converted. Everybody in the Evangelical church I attended thought that Muslims were dirt, as far as I could tell, and this was way before the time of Osama Bin Laden et al. I was in that home, babysitting those kids, helping them with their homework, answering the parent’s questions about American society and culture as best as I could, and yes, even talking about my Christian beliefs when I was asked. I did the best I could, and I know that I still failed, but my faith is in Jesus, that he can redeem this situation, if need be.
    My opinion, for Evangelicals, it’s not about “believing in the Bible.” but in “believing what we Evangelicals SAY that the Bible says.” If I had continued to believe and do everything that the Evangelicals told me the Bible said, my life would have been shipwrecked. But God in his mercy intervened, and didn’t allow that, Praise His Name Forever!!!!

    PS. This is my last comment, too.

  95. Frofreak,

    I don’t claim infallibility, but I do believe 100% that the interpretation I have shared (which is shared by thousands of others, as well, not just me) is THE correct one. I do believe Scripture has numerous different possible interpretations – I just believe there is only 1 CORRECT interpretation.

  96. Ilmarinen,

    We can discuss anything you wish. If you have questions about Jesus that you wish me to answer, you need only to pose them, and I will do my best.

    God can be loving, yet still grant people their wish to spend eternity without Him, in hell, which people choose in this life based on their decision to accept or reject Him.

  97. Lisa,

    “Unequal yoking” has nothing at all to do with being friends with someone, going to their house, etc… In the context that phrase was written, it has to do with marriage relationship. So you didn’t violate anything by being their friend, by any standard.

  98. Stepping back from the discussion a bit I see that what we can say is that the theological differences between Mormons and Evangelicals are not regarding the nature of God and Jesus. I believe there are significant differences conceptually, but the don’t make a lot of difference in practice.

    I.e. if you believe in Trinitarianism or Modalism or in the Mormon Godhead concept, to a non-Christian observer these differences would seem pretty trivial.

    I would argue that the most significant difference between Mormons and Evangelicals is this concept that misinterpretation will cut you off from salvation vs. the Mormon idea that everyone will get a chance to fully understand the plan of salvation.

    I say this because it best explains the rift between the two groups. If Evangelicals didn’t believe in the “wrong interpretation=no salvation” position they would not be readily anti-Mormon.

    Mormons do talk a lot about the “errors and apostasy” or other churches and are very missionary oriented, but I think doctrinally the missionary work is most motivated by their “works” focused practical theology and the concept of spreading the blessings of the church for people in this life and preparation for the second coming, rather than saving souls for eternity.

    Evangelicals do a lot of Mormon bashing simply because they believe that Mormons are leading their fellow evangelicals to hell and pose a threat not because of Mormon’s differences, but because of their practical similarity. (From an outsider’s perspective a devout evangelical looks an awful lot like an “orthodox” Mormon.

    Brad, I apologize if the discussion got a little too argumentative. I do respect your position, even if I disagree with it.

    I suppose the practical problem I see with the evangelical position is the ham-fisted way the “non-believers are going to Hell” position is often put across. It makes evangelicalism very unattractive to a lot of open-minded people since it smacks of arrogance and seems to simply ignore the reasonableness of opposing views. Most open minded people would believe that even though they think they are correct in their views and place their faith in them any human interpretation could be wrong…..(even according to the bible we walk by faith and not by sight and now see only a dark reflection of what is real in this world)

    Rhetorically its seems critical to acknowledge that its certainly possible to interpret the Bible the “mormon way” without being demonically possessed or under the influence of a false prophet. (This is not the same as acknowledging that it is correct)

    Anyway thanks for the discussion. happy to hear other comments.

  99. The book of mormon teaches that Jesus visited the Americas?!? Why didnt anyone tell me? Damn! I would have bought tickets to see that.

  100. Here, Tim is correct in saying that you don’t go to Hell for not knowing about Jesus, in his opening arguement. God has confirmed that is correct and he also agrees with Tim here. People go to Hell for their deeds and not for their beliefs. God gave me a number examples of people that go to Heaven. Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin, and Nancy Reagan. Money does not seem to be a factor here. Richard Dawkins the well known atheist also goes to Heaven. God said that he is an embrassment, yet God if fond of Richard. God gave one example: “Who is going to Hell”. Leona Helmsley goes to Hell for Eternity. Now she never killed anyone but she was very mean to people her entire life. She thought she was a Queen and a ruthless one at that. She knew about God and Jesus. When she realized that she was dying she asked God to forgive her. God said it was to late, he sent her to Hell to make an example of her. God also gave an example of a Christain that is not going to heaven, Jerry Falwell. Jerry is a well know TV evanligist, yet he does not go the Heaven. Jerry falls into a third catagory of where God doesn’t want him in Heaven and he doesn’t want to torture him in Hell either. Jerry just disappears, it is quick and plainless. Jerry becomes null and void. I hope this answers your question on “Are you going to Hell’? Mell Steffor

  101. Frofreak, what you wrote is correct. What brad wrote is not correct. Brad has not applied logic to his thinking. Frofreak has logically figured out the right answer. Now in the examples that I gave above about who is going to Hell and who is going to Heaven. God picked famous people as example because I think that information on their lives can be found easily. You can study information on their lives for yourself. You can determine for yourself why they go to Hell or Heaven. God did not include people who commite whorable crimes, were they go is obvious. Mel Steffor 🙂

  102. Brandon, you are not correct either. Jesus did visit America. He was here in 2006. He says that he is sorry he didn’t get to see you. And last of all the Devil did not visit Joseph. Your comment shows your intelligence, Brandon. I gave you an F. F is for failure. Mel Steffor 🙂

  103. Mel, what I want to know is, am I going to Heaven? Since you know that Michael Douglas and Nancy Reagan are going to heaven even though they’re not dead, am I?

  104. Ilarnine . . . .
    God did not say where Tom Cruise goes when he dies. He only gave 3 examples of where people go when they die. Four people go to heaven, One goes to Hell for being a mean boss. A word of caution to bosses. One goes to Null, or nothing. Looks like 4 out of 6 go to Heaven in America.
    Katy Jane . . . .
    You had the best comment. You get an A for positive commenting. Girls always do better in schoold than Dudes. What’s with Trolling dudes? Michael Douglas and Mike Douglas are two different people. Mike died on August 11, 2006. Mike had a talk show years ago just like Merv did. God must have enjoyed the show too, so they go to Heaven. Nancy Reagan is still alive and is ear marked for Heaven. I also found that interesting. I didn’t care that much for her yet she did care for an ill husband for a number of years. I am sure that wasn’t easy, so she gets points in Heaven. Mel Steffor

  105. God did not tell me if your going to Heaven, Katy? My quess is Heaven. If you get to be a boss, remember be kind to your employees.

    God didn’t give me any information on the Guys in here. I would guess Heaven, since this is a Religious blog. And I am asumeing that you have been good.
    However Kullervo used the Crazy word, he gets one point towards Hell. I didn’t like that word.
    Remember Leona said she was sorry at the Eleventh Hour. God said that was too late. Judgment Day is to late to say your sorry for calling people crazy, Kullervo. I could be on God left side on Judgment Day, wink, wink. 😉

  106. God covered a number of subjects. The meaning of First is Last was his biggest issue. Birth is Last! That means that you haven’t been born yet.

  107. You know, all the activity on this thread has filled the “Recent Comments” window lately. All I see when I first arrive is “You’re Going to Hell” over and over again. Are you trying to tell me something?

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