A challenge to anybody who believes in the Bible: Does lack of unity make us less Christian?

Are we unified? 

I have thought about what the goal and purpose of the discussions we have on this blog and debates/discussions like Millett v. Johnson.    One goal that Christians could have would be to “become one” as Jesus seems to demand of his followers.  (Of course, one way to avoid the task is simply to deny certain groups the right to be His followers. )    As a critical thinking Mormon, who thinks Jesus’ request may be possible, I have the following questions for those who believe the Bible is the primary and final authority on religion: 

1. Is the Bible obviously trustworthy?  Can reasonable people doubt that the Bible is true and correct? 

Follow up questions: Assuming that the Bible isn’t obviously true, even after diligent reading and study,  what is the process by which we can find out if the Bible is trustworthy? What should we trust other than the text of the Bible to determine its worth? 

2. Is your intepretation of the Bible regarding the nature of God and Jesus the only possible reasonable interpretation? 

Follow up: If it isn’t the only possible reasonable interpretation and it is true that reasonable minds can disagree on the interpretation using the text alone is it possible to resolve these disputes? What are reliable places to look to resolve disputes in interpretation aside from the text of the Bible itself.  

3. Is your intepretation of the Bible completely free of possible undue influence of your own personal history, background, emotional temperment, community, or family? 

follow up: Our contexts and perspectives can often give us insight into things that others don’t have, and often can often lead us to wrong-headed positions.  If you think this may not be true for your clear-headed thinking, you should admit that others may have this problem.  If your own context and perspective may distort your inteprepetation, can we be so certain of our own position or uncertain that somebody may not have a clearer view from their perspective? 

My own conclusion:  

If you cannot answer “yes” to these four questions,and you are a believer in the Bible doesn’t it follow that the God of the Bible created (or allowed) reality where: 

(1) the truth of the “true” religion is not clear and obvious to all observers, and

(2) it is difficult to determine whether we have the capacity to see clearly from our perspectives

(3) the correct interpretation of the inspired writings we have are is not unambiguously clear 

(4) Differing intepretations, even on the most fundemental theological issues amongst even the most devout believers, are unavoidable

Thus, isn’t it unfair and unreasonable to assume that you are in a position to exclude believers in the Bible from fellowship of Christians solely based on your “correct” interpretation of the Bible?  If so, isn’t it unreasonabe (and un-Christian) to exclude similarly believing people from fellowship of believers because of differing interpretations?  

What unity must mean: 

I think John 17:20-21 is a remarkable passage:  

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

To an Evangelicals, it seems that unity among believers in “the message” or “the word” is (should be) a critical part of spreading the Gospel to the world. 

Given the text and the reality of ambiguity and uncertainty of interpretation, must not believers in the Bible seek and aknowledge some degree of unity with other believers in scripture prior to debating intepreptations of the Bible and despite differences in interpretation and belief

Shouldn’t we be one before the debate begins?

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30 thoughts on “A challenge to anybody who believes in the Bible: Does lack of unity make us less Christian?

  1. I think you raise some good points/questions. One thing that I find interesting is that (based on from I have seen) many evangelicals say they believe certain theological positions because they are in the Bible, but they are selective in which Bible passages they use to support their beliefs and/or they are unaware of how much their particular church’s teaching influences how they understand the Bible. And I don’t think they see the ambiguity that is there; in this particular conversation, I would add that the don’t see the ambiguity that is there on many of the issues that divide evangelicals and Mormons, such as the nature of the Trinity/Godhead or the relationship between works and grace.

    I think we all (Mormons and evangelicals) interpret the Bible in the light of our own understanding and what has been taught to us. Because we Mormons believe that revelation exists outside the Bible, it’s probably easier for us to realize that there’s plenty we believe that isn’t in the Bible, or even in our entire set of scriptures. The same might be said of Catholics, who believe that their church is a source of truth outside of scriptures. But (again, based on what I’ve seen) evangelicals seem less likely to realize how much of what they believe isn’t explicitly taught in the Bible.

  2. Protestants are more than willing to acknowledge that there are differences of opinion when it comes to Biblical interpretation. We’re ALL ABOUT the differences in interpretation. Armianian vs. Calvinist, Spirit-filled vs Cesassionist, Pre-Millenial vs. Amillenial, the list goes on. We’re more than willing to live with some of the Biblical ambiguity.

    I think the questions Mormons need to ask are “Would our point of view still be an option if we discovered that Joseph Smith was a false prophet?” and “How and why is Mormonism injecting ambiguity that Historic Christianity does not share?”

    One thing that I find interesting is that (based on from what I have seen) many Mormons say they believe certain theological positions because they are in the Bible, but they are selective in which Bible passages they use to support their beliefs and/or they are unaware of how much the LDS church’s teaching influences how they understand the Bible.

  3. Tim said: >”One thing that I find interesting is that (based on from what I have seen) many Mormons say they believe certain theological positions because they are in the Bible, but they are selective in which Bible passages they use to support their beliefs and/or they are unaware of how much the LDS church’s teaching influences how they understand the Bible.”<

    One thing that I find interesting is that (based on from what I have seen) many evangelicals say they believe certain theological positions because they are in the Bible, but they are selective in which Bible passages they use to support their beliefs and/or they are unaware of how much the evangelical teachings influences how they understand the Bible

    Are we using a double standard here?

    “How and why is Mormonism injecting ambiguity that Historic Christianity does not share?”

    By definition, you can’t inject ambiguity into anything. It is either ambiguous, or it isn’t. You claim to take the bible as a whole, and not pick and choose passages to support you view. But you do exactly that, by ignoring the ambiguity of passages that are potentially problematic for you. Or by saying that they are “not really ambiguous, mormons only thinks so because they need to in order to justify their own beliefs, but in actuality, they are crystal clear, as evidenced by 2000 years or Christian tradition” or some mumbo jumbo along those lines.

    Sounds like a major cop-out from having to defend the infallablity of the Bible in the context of ambiguous passages that can reasonably be interpreted differently than you do, having major implications regarding some very fundamental doctrines.

  4. What I am saying is that I (and Protestants as a whole) are fully aware that some passages are ambiguous. I can name at least a dozen theological issues that arise out of biblical ambiguity.

    What I am also saying is that Joseph Smith has made some passages ambiguous when they previously had not been. I could also credit Joseph Smith with adding certainty to a number of passages that had previously been ambiguous. Because the theological implications of some of these injections is profound I think it’s worth asking serious questions about the validity of Joseph Smith.

    The ambiguity that exist in the Bible is something the Bible must be held responsible for. The ambiguity or certainty that Joseph Smith adds to the Bible is something Joseph Smith must be held responsible for.

  5. I think you clarified yourself pretty well, and now that I understand you more clearly, I agree with you. Especially this part:

    “Because the theological implications of some of these injections is profound I think it’s worth asking serious questions about the validity of Joseph Smith.”

    I think the LDS church realizes this, however. One of the reasons it’s missionary effort sometimes emphasizes JS so heavily is precisely because the theological implications of his teachings/revelations/claims are so great. It’s another reason that we spend just as much time proselytizing to other christians as much as to those who are not.

  6. I agree with frofreak, I can’t see how Joseph Smith made something ambiguous, he could only point out the ambiguity where there was a consensus opinion before. Ambiguity is a attribute of the text, not something you can create.

    I think we can all agree that there are lots of reasons people believe in the Bible in the way Joseph Smith taught, some interpret the Bible in a certain way because Joseph Smith did, others accept Joseph Smith because his interpretation of the Bible makes more sense than alternatives.

    This is the same with any interpretation. Sometimes we believe the person advocating the interpretation (Calvin, Luther, the local Pastor) because he appears to be a really inspired teacher and sometimes we believe the interpretation because it jibes with our own reasoning. Lots of times is a bit of both. I think its often hard to distinguish which is the stronger basis for any particular belief we have.

    However, ultimately it makes no difference to my argument WHY you believe a particular interpretation. My only point is that multiple interpretations are inevitable and a single, obvious, unassailable interpretation is not possible given the text alone.

    I am not arguing against the debating of interpretations, only that Jesus must have meant that we should be unified DESPITE our differing interpretations. Believers in the bible should be unified before we start the debate. Jesus doesn’t advocate that we debate our way to unity, convince everyone of the “right” interpretation prior to becoming one.

    Tim,

    Do you accept the conclusion (1) that believers of the Bible should be unified PRIOR to debating its meaning or (2) do you believe that believers in the bible should only unify with those who come to similar conclusions about the meaning of key passages?

  7. Yes I think unity is more important and precedes debate. I think the LDS church is the Protestant church’s roosters coming home to roost because of disunity.

    BUT that same Bible specifically list circumstance which fellowship should know longer be pursued. Those circumstances include unrepentant sin and false prophecy.

    As far as textual ambiguity goes. . . Any specific verse can have it’s own ambiguity, I’m not denying that. But given the larger context of the Bible as a whole many of those ambiguities are clarified (though some are heightened). Joseph Smith adds ambiguity to the Bible by introducing 3 additional sets of scripture which at times contradicts that which is already presented in the Bible. Joseph Smith also adds clarity to some Biblical ambiguities with those same additional scriptures.

    BEFORE we can accept Smith’s solutions to some of our theological problems we first need to confirm if his scriptures meet the canonical test the Bible was put through and if he meets the qualifications of a true prophet. If he and his scriptures fail the test, then we can consider him a false prophet and no longer need to maintain unity with him (or his followers).

  8. The canonical test? Pardon my ignorance, but could you please tell me what that test is? And it seems to me that in the early days of the christian church, followers were required to accept the divinity of Christ to be counted as his followers, not whether or not Paul was a true apostle/prophet. It was about the message and he who sent it, not the messengers. When Christ asked them/us to be unified, there was no prerequisite that we accepted a particular teacher/messenger/leader, only him and his teachings.

    I may be splitting hairs here, but it wasn’t a testimony of Peter that converted them, it was a testimony of Jesus Christ as menifested through the Holy Spirit. Today, whether LDS or Protestant or Catholic or Orthithidox, we share this testimony, and know through the Holy Ghost that Christ is our Lord and Savior. So Christ councel for us to be unified should apply today as it did then. You don’t have to accept JS, just accept that my testimony in the divinity of Christ is real. That whole thing abou–if JS is a false prophet, then his scriptures are false, or if his scriptures are not “canonical”, then he is obviously a false prophet, then his followers (naturally) are not true christians and we therefore don’t have to make any effort to be unified with them–sounds to me a convenient means for absolving yourself from having to take any responsibility to do just that: unify.

  9. Tim said: ” If [Joseph Smith] his scriptures fail the test, then we can consider him a false prophet and no longer need to maintain unity with him (or his followers).”

    Where in the Bible does it say this?

  10. Well… the Bible does give some instruction on identifying false prophets, and it also gives some pretty strong instructions on what to do with them.

  11. Of course then, Catholics fall under this as well, right? Since evangelicals don’t hold the Pope to be a “prophet”, there is no need to show unity with catholics. And if he’s not a true prophet, he is a false prophet. They also use books in their bible not considered cononical by protestants. Double wammy there as well.

    They do however subscribe to the nicene creed…hmmmm, is this what it all boils down too…again.

    I know there is not a lot of inherent unity among catholics and protestants, hence the devide. But seeing as how Portestants still (for the most part) consider them (catholics) christians, doesn’t Christ’s appeal for unity apply? The point I was trying to make above is that if it does, there is very little (except the nicene creed) to eliminate Mormons as well among those who you as evangelicals should try and be united with.

  12. Does the Protestant mainstream consider the E. Orthodox religion to be Christian?

    I’ve never found a clear answer on this one.

  13. yes, the Protestant mainstream thinks the Eastern Orthodox are Christians. (if a protestant doesn’t think that Catholics are Christian then they don’t think the Orthodox are either, but they aren’t mainstream).

    Back to the main discussion, let me take this out of the Mormon context. What if a person interpreted the Bible differently and didn’t believe that the resurrection was physical? Should we still strive for Christian unity with them? This was exactly who Paul was getting after when he attacked Gnosticism. He himself set the example that if a different Gospel is preached than the one given to him and delivered by him, then we shut not pursue unity. Paul’s words were later validated by Peter.

    So I think there are some assumptions about interpretation that we can hold before establishing unity carte blanche. There are some people that have come up with some rather loony things based on textual ambiguities. We aren’t required to assume them all into the Christian umbrella. In fact, we’re told to safeguard ourselves against them and weed them out.

    Jared C said:
    Tim said: ” If [Joseph Smith] his scriptures fail the test, then we can consider him a false prophet and no longer need to maintain unity with him (or his followers).”

    Where in the Bible does it say this?

    I was suggesting that all the New Testament has to say about false prophets and wolves-in-sheeps-clothing needs to be applied to Joseph Smith if he is not a true prophet. Do you want me to give you specific references?

  14. The canonical test? Pardon my ignorance, but could you please tell me what that test is?

    There was a test the early church fathers put on all purported literary works of the disciples to determine if they should be canonized. That test is not found in the Bible itself but I (and 2,000 years of Christians tradition) think it’s a good standard for the authenticity of scripture. Unique Mormon scriptures don’t live up to this standard by any stretch of the imagination. To insist that they be included as scripture is heretical.

  15. I am aware that they used some method or “test” in forming the bible, and you allude to a similar test still being used today, by stating that mormon scripture would fall short of the standard. But you still haven’t answered the question as to what that test is. Also, the Catholic church, presumably using the same test, inlcude additional books in their version of the bible that you do not accept as scripture. In fact, accepting these apocryphal writings would be considered heretical as well, right? Yet they are still considered christian, regardless of thier false prophet and heretical scriptures. Why is the standard applied differently in the case of mormons and catholics?

  16. The apocrapha is actually considered less than scriptural by Catholics though it is printed with the Bible.

    If you would like to know how the cannon was formed there are plenty of online resources for that. try this one for instance http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_cannon

    Why should I consider the Pope a false prophet? I’m willing to consider the argument.

  17. Are you talking about “apostolicity?”

    The test of apostolicity cannot be a valid argument against the Mormon notion of an open canon for the simple reason that it begs the question. It assumes that only stuff that can be directly or reliably linked to the original apostles in can be canon.

    But LDS reject that premise from the outset. We had our own apostles in the Americas during Jesus’ visit there. And we have apostles now. So to limit the canon to the original apostles without giving a good reason why this should be the case gets us nowhere.

  18. One of the tests of canonicity, at least for the New Testament, is that the book was written by one of the early apostles or someone under an apostle’s authority. As far as I know, nearly all Christian denominations agree on the New Testament canon; the differences are on which pre-New Testament books should be included. Based on what I understand from reading parts of the Apocrypha, there’s not a whole lot of doctrine at stake, although Catholics do find support for the doctrine of purgatory (kind of like the LDS spirit prison) in one of the books.

    One of the criteria also had to do whether the book taught correct doctrine. But this ends up involving a bit of circular reasoning. Ultimately, as I understand it, the canon was somewhat self-selected, so to speak. Although ultimately there were votes on various councils, most of the books that were used and circulated were the ones that ended up in the canon.

    Frofreak asked:

    In fact, accepting these apocryphal writings would be considered heretical as well, right?

    I think that would be overstating things. My guess is that knowledgeable Protestants would say that’s one of the things Christians can disagree on. After all, there’s nothing in the Bible that says which books belong in it.

    Frofreak asked:

    Why is the standard applied differently in the case of mormons and catholics?

    The books of the Apocrypha have a long history and have largely stood the test of time for many Christians. And many of them were certainly in use by some of the first apostles and probably even Jesus. (Even Joseph Smith found value in them.)

    I think it’s unrealistic to expect those outside the LDS church to put the Book of Mormon in the same category at 1 Maccabees, for example. Ultimately, the veracity of the Book of Mormon is based upon the testimony of Joseph Smith and a few of his close associates; there’s no objectively convincing archaeological basis for saying it’s a historical document. That doesn’t mean it’s not true; it’s just that there may be different means for determining its value than there is for something whose verifiable lineage goes back more than 2,000 years.

  19. Tim,

    As I understand your position you are arguing that the Bible says the following:

    Become one with all believers in the message of the original apostles. – (John 17:20) UNLESS those people also follow a false prophet.

    However, I can’t see that this a biblical position nor a position that is really followed by evangelicals.

    Here is the problem:

    1. Your position goes beyond warnings against false prophets. Even if the bible allows you to cast out the “wolves” there is nothing that tells you to cast out the “sheep” that follow them. In fact, Paul’s epistles are often directed at members of congregations that had sympathy for what he considered false teachers.

    2. There is no unambigiously clear biblical standard for whoe is a “false prophet” and what is a “follower”. : if you accept that there is inherent ambiguity in the Bible and that the Bible is the only authoritative source, the tag of “false prophet” can be applied to anybody who has a differing interpretation of the scriptures. (Such as the interpretation that the canon is not closed, which appears very reasonable to some).

    Your example of Paul and Peter and the Gnostics is of no help to your position. They were not judging false prophecy by the Bible alone, they were making authoritative calls as leaders of the church. In a priesthood of all believers, where you have to rely on the bible alone. There is no authoritative leader to cut through the ambiguity, you simply have a bunch of competing interpretations. The point is, in a church where the Bible is the only authority, the command to unity is not about everybody having the right interpretation (since reasonable people can disagree about most every interpretation) it has to be about about extending unified fellowship.

    Ultimately allowing the boundaries of unity to be determined by biblical interpretation is a prescription for disunity.

    Examples of the ultimate disunity allowed by your position:

    Here is a long list of those whom some Christians consider to be false prophets:

    http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/fprophets.html

    (I don’t see a people generally considering those who believe in the inspiration (and donate to the cause) of Benny Hinn, Oral Roberts, Pat Robertson or any of the others non-Christians. There seems to be no biblical basis for considering Joseph Smith any different than other false prophets that inevitably exist among the ‘orthodox” camp)

    Barack Obama is even numbered among the false prophets by some evangelicals:

    http://www.onenewsnow.com/Election2008/Default.aspx?id=141700

    Some say that the pope is a false prophet simply because catholics hold extra-biblical tradition on par with the bible.

    http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/False%20Religions/Roman%20Catholicism/pope_burning_in_hell.htm

    My counter argument: Your position completely unravels Jesus’ imperative in John 17. Establishing a standard that is not unambigiously supported by the Bible leads to a wholesale increase in disunity among those who believe in Jesus since all you need to do to push someone out of your sphere of fellowship is to claim that they have sympathy with the long list of “false” prophets and teachers. Instead of uniting all of those who pray to the Father in Jesus name, this position leads to a frantic mess of fingerpointing and bickering. That can’t be right. Can it?

  20. I guess that some mormons want to be part of the “club” so they can infiltrate and convert the other members.

    However, I don’t really care at all if Mormons convert anybody else, or if any Mormons are “lost” to the other christian groups. I am not really interested in Mormons being part of the nicene “club” but I am interested in the general Christian message of love and unity and justice. The “club” I envision is one that doesn’t focus as much on theology. (I think Mormons would have to change their attitude as much as Evangelicals would in order to unify.)

    Its a general human problem that groups divide against themselves and create unjust conditions for one another. I think the Christian message works against petty theological disputes that divide people.

    My view of Christianity is extremely practical and I see that lack of any aspiration to unify is a barrier to actually practicing Christian principles.

  21. Jared, it is about not wanting to be misunderstood.

    Stephen Robinson, right in the introduction of How Wide the Divide, wrote:

    Mormons do not now wish to be known as post-Nicene, ‘orthodox’ Christians. . . . Latter-day Saints do not, in fact, seek to be accepted as historically “orthodox” Christians or as Evangelicals. We are neither. Neither do we seek to have our beliefs validated by Christian “orthodoxy” (HWD, 20).

    Robert Millet, speaking to an audience and Greg Johnson, at Christ United Methodist Church in Utah, remarked:

    And I would not consider Mormonism to be a part of the traditional Christian world per se. On the other hand, I know you understand why and I’m fine with that, and many of our friends [understand why]. What worries me is not you and the theologian, what worries me is the man or woman in the pew, or even worse the man or woman on the street who hears, “Well, Mormons aren’t Christian.” I mean, the question is what immediately comes to mind if you don’t know anything about them? Does that mean: Oh they must not accept the New Testament. They must not believe in the divinity of Jesus. They must not believe he rose from the dead, and they certainly must not believe he offered a substitutionary offering on our behalf through the Atonement. See what I’m saying?

    The main idea here is that Latter-day Saints want to be better understood. There are misunderstandings that can arise by referring to Mormons as not Christian. Many Evangelicals, for their part, also don’t want misunderstandings to ensue by including Mormons as Christians, and many Latter-day Saints would agree with those concerns and find them legitimate. I think sincere individuals on either side desire to advance understanding and promote correct information but, given our history, it is a challenge and will probably remain so.

  22. Jared, I’m well aware of those who wish to declare all but their own pastor a false prophet. I think disunity among Protestants has been a sin.

    I have to ask “what’s the point of unity?” I know that it was Christ’s desire that his people be unified, but to what cause? I think the cause (of making authentic disciples) is more important than unity for unity’s sake. At some point some Biblical interpretations fail to make authentic disciples.

    Let me counter pose the question to you. At what point do you break unity with those claiming the name of Christ? Is the body of Christ open to any and every possible interpretation of the Bible?

  23. Tim,
    to answer your questions:
    You ask: “I know that it was Christ’s desire that his people be unified, but to what cause? . . . “

    The biblical answer (in italics)from the intercessory prayer in John 17:16-25(NIV):

    “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 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.

    i.e. To show the world that Jesus is who he says he is, that his teaching is worthy to follow, that it will bring something to the world that is heavenly, that this man was in fact a God whose teachings have the power to unite the most diverse of humanity.

    My answer: I think that that is the part of the point of Christianity, to bring people, who are inherently different to see eye to eye in spirit of love. I believe that part of what it means to follow Christ is to heed the commandment to have love for neighbors as ourselves and I don’t think that this can happen psychologically without aspiring to fellowship and brotherhood with those who don’t have the same beliefs (See the good Samaritan story where the heretic is the hero). You say that the cause of making authentic disciples is more important than ‘unity for unity’s sake’ I think the capacity for unity is an integral part of being an “authentic” disciple.

    I think Christians are essentially selling out by walling off the sphere of care and unity to those with similar interpretations of an admittedly ambiguous text.

    You ask: “Let me counter pose the question to you. At what point do you break unity with those claiming the name of Christ?

    At some level, never. If someone believes in the message of Jesus, and the clearest message is love one another, I should be their brother (or sister).

    I think it ultimately this decision has to be at an individual level, not a group level. In the same way that I think its insane to disown a member of my family because they have very different religious beliefs, I don’t think it makes sense to say, everybody who believes X must not be worthy of brotherhood. There are a lot of people who nominally call themselves “true” Christians who are corrupting influences and there are a lot of heretics that are among the best influences. However, it may make sense to keep some individuals whose actions and motivations are completely at odds with the Christian message just as I might stay away from a brother that was openly attempting to destroy my family.

    You ask:“Is the body of Christ open to any and every possible interpretation of the Bible?”

    Well, I think my argument also points out the difficulty in using the text of the Bible alone as the sole authority, ultimately it leads to confusion and disunity (as we have seen in the protestant world). However, I think the “body of Christ” should be open to most every reasonable interpretation of the Scripture (I think the Mormon church should allow for this as well). I think its a safe assumption that the more ambiguity in the text, the less important the point must be to God, and the less it should be a barrier to seeing eye to eye.

    Just as we are to love our enemies, resist not evil, and forgive all things of others, I think that the Christian message is radically inclusive and goes against every natural tendency to foster pride in insular groups of the “saved” and the “elect” who really understand what the bible is saying.

  24. Aquinas,

    I see your point.

    I suppose what I am talking about goes beyond the “Are Mormons’ Christian” debate.

    Ultimately I think protestants are wrongheaded for not including Mormonism within “Christianity” but I think that it is a symptom of a general tendency toward separatism and disunity that should be recognized and avoided.

    Mormons have similar tendencies but are exhibited in other ways.

  25. Have you looked into Unitarianism? Because I think the practical implications of what you are after looks like that.

    I think even a cursory reading of the New Testament epistles of Galatians, Romans, Jude and 2 Peter show that Christ’s earliest disciples weren’t advocating the level of inclusiveness that you are. (and perhaps that supports the LDS view that the apostasy happened shortly after the death of Christ, but then that leaves the LDS church out for not being inclusive either).

    I think the “body of Christ” should be open to most every reasonable interpretation of the Scripture.

    Who decides what is “reasonable”? You? Thomas Monson? Christ?

    If it’s Christ then I’m more than happy to agree that he gets the final say about who is a member of his body.

  26. I think you are confusing what I am advocating with the idea of universal salvation. I am not, here, making any particular argument about who gets saved, I am simply advocating that Christians should be brothers to those who have a different interpretation of scripture, even if they believe that those opposing interpretations are going to send their brothers to hell. Likewise, it doesn’t seem christian to reject somebody simply because they believe that I am going to hell.

    This is especially true when those brothers share the same aspiration follow the two “great commandments. ”

    The practical implications of what I am advocating is a greater degree of unity among those who have different beliefs and tolerance and respect for people that hold different views about scripture. How else will protestants overcome the “sin” of disunity? It seems like it will take a radically different view of whom Christians should unite with then currently advocated.

    (I don’t think Unitarianism is much different in this respect than any other denomination or theological position. In fact, this sort of unity is a very “Mormon” idea. Establishing “Zion” requires being of “one heart and one mind.” )

    As to the level of unity advocated by the early disciples. I think its a bit naive to think that the early disciples would get Christianity right within one generation. I mean in the 2000 years since Christ, Christians have failed to universally abolish slavery, liberate women, establish the idea of “equal rights” and justice (Things that most of us American Christians think are Godly things), how can we expect that they had it right in less than one generation. I don’t think it makes sense to look at Paul,, or any other early apostle, as the perfect model of Christianity. Especially when they openly admits that they were not perfect. I expect it will take quite a long time from today before we see the unified society of believers that Jesus seemed to advocate. (Aside: I don’t think mistakes or wrongheaded views by early followers proves or disproves the idea of apostacy.)

    I said: I think the “body of Christ” should be open to most every reasonable interpretation of the Scripture.

    I guess I will retreat and restate. I don’t think ANY interpretation, reasonable or not, should keep you out of the body of Christ. According to John’s Jesus, Christ will dwell with those who follow his command to love others as he did, and how can we fault a man’s interpretation when God is dwelling with him?

    I think if God is real, we should all have the capacity and opportunity to recognize Him if he is hanging out in other people.

  27. If you’re advocating that Christians extend “Brotherly Love” to everyone and anyone we’ve got no disagreement.

    If you’re saying I’ve got to call Jim Jones and David Koresh Christians and take communion with them, I simply can not find agreement with you.

  28. If you re-read what I said (as painful as that may be :)) I don’t advocate unification with everyone and anyone, I am simply saying that interpretation of the bible should not be a big factor in deciding who to unify with. Otherwise you have a recipe for disunity. I think human behavior, rather than belief is a better indicator of whether someone is a “believer in the message.” (“By their works you shall know them”)

    I think you would agree that our main complaint with Koresh and Jones was not their theology but their behavior.

    I can’t see how any unity is possible within Christianity if we are held up by differing interpretations. Because of the ambiguity of the bible, the interpretation that strikes a person as most reasonable seems as accidental as the place they were born or the color of their skin.

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