Eternal Rewards

Eric, a Mormon, poses this question:

When I browsed through the well-known evangelical book The Purpose-Driven Life by the Rev. Rick Warren, I was struck by the following passage near the beginning of the book:

From the Bible we can surmise that God will ask us two crucial questions [before we enter eternity]: First, “What did you do with my Son, Jesus Christ?” … Second, “What did you do with your life?” What did you do with all that God gave you — all your gifts, talents, opportunities, energy, relationships, and resources? Did you spend them on yourself, or did you use them to fulfill God’s purposes for your life? The first question will determine where you spend eternity — with God or separated from God. The second question will determine what you do in eternity — your responsibilities and rewards in heaven.

(Emphasis has been added. You can download without charge the section of the book that includes this passage here.)

My first question for evangelicals is this: Does Warren accurately convey evangelical belief, that there are blessings in heaven based on our earthly works? (Or is my summary misinterpreting his teaching?)

Then I have two follow-up questions:

2. If Warren in wrong, if there are no blessings in heaven based on our works, is what Warren teaching heretical?

3. If Warren is correct, what will be the heavenly “responsibilities and rewards” for what we do on Earth?

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91 thoughts on “Eternal Rewards

  1. I’m surprised no one was able to answer this question for you. I’ve only got a moment now, so I’ll give you the short answer.

    Yes, he’s conveying Evangelical beliefs correctly. We simply don’t know what our “responsibilities and rewards” will be in Heaven. But the Biblical message on work is that it is good. In the afterlife we’ll be restored to a proper relationship with our work that has no longer been corrupted by the fall.

  2. My understanding of Evangelical thought was that there would always be rewards for the believers in Heaven. I always understood that different believers would have different rewards, depending on the works they had accomplished during their lives.

  3. Tim said:

    I’m surprised no one was able to answer this question for you.

    When I’ve asked the question before, I’ve received a gamut of answers, and also on occasion much hedging and hawing. As I indicated in my note to you this morning, that’s why I posed the question.

    On the one hand, some have said just what you said (and I think that’s a very Biblical answer), while others have talked about how our works are utterly worthless before God and can’t possibly count for anything, and that the work on the cross did all that can possibly be done for us, so therefore we will all be judged based on the completed work of Christ, period.

    To be honest, that second answer is what I thought the typical evangelical answer would be, until I skimmed through Warren’s book a year or two ago. (It’s not a bad book, by the way, but I think his exegesis leaves plenty to be desired.)

    Since then, I’ve looked through various statements of faith of many denominations, and nearly all of them are silent on that issue. (For example, your church’s faith statement is silent on that matter. So is the statement of faith of the National Association of Evangelicals. So are the statements of faith of the several denominations to which my family members belong.) So if that’s an evangelical belief (and I see no reason why it shouldn’t be, because the Bible seems to be pretty clear), it seems that evangelicals aren’t talking about it very much.

    In recent years (after I became LDS), there have been a few times that I’ve asked the question (and the person knew my religious affiliation) and I basically got evasion. So I’m happy to see straightforward answers her so far.

  4. I’ve heard this from enough different Evangelicals to be confident in assuming it to be a popular, maybe even majority, belief.

    This, of course, fills my dark heart with glee, because it means that Mormon/Evangelical dialogue about faith and works–in my experience one of the most contentious points equalled only perhaps by the divine nature of Jesus and the origin of God–is either 1) about a difference of theology so subtle as to be classically mockworthy, or 2) a bitter argument that has no substance at all, a purely semantic debate,

    The best satire writes itself.

  5. This is kind of my conclusion as well Kullervo.

    Over the last year I’ve increasingly found the entire grace vs. works debate (vis a vis Mormons and Evangelicals) to be a distinction without a difference and an utterly pointless point of contention.

    Honestly, if someone can tell me the key difference between degrees of heavenly glory, and differing rewards in heaven, speak up now. Because I don’t see any difference whatsoever, except that – as usual – the Mormons have taken the same concept and formalized it more than their Evangelical neighbors.

  6. Eric, I’d wager the reason you got evasive answers is that no one wants to give you an opening for saying exactly what Kullervo and I just said – that Evangelicals and Mormons don’t have any real difference on the grace vs. works thing.

    All it really boils down to – in essence – is whether the local Evangelical congregation has a more tolerant atmosphere than the local LDS meeting house. Thus leading the local Mormon or Evangelical to conclude that the grace is greener on the other side.

  7. I believe that there will be rewards in heaven. Don’t know what they will be. The Bible does tell us that the saints will judge the world and the angels, whatever that means. (1 Corinthians 6:2-3)

  8. I think the only difference I can see is that Evangelicals think a lot more people will go to Hell and Mormons believe most everybody will go to some sort of heaven, eventually.

    I guess another parallel question is whether or not there are going to be lots of different layers of hell depending on how bad you were?

  9. I guess another parallel question is whether or not there are going to be lots of different layers of hell depending on how bad you were?

    Yes.

    I view hell as essential to agency myself. How’s that for irony . . .

  10. I SO appreciate that the grace-works debate is becoming more and more about semantics. I hope that trend continues.

    I do think there are differences between us, at least between Evangelicals and “non-Robinsonian” Mormons. Clearly some are making the distinction larger than necessary (I can give examples on both sides most notably anyone who couldn’t give Eric a straight answer).

    YES, Evangelicals and Mormons believe in doing good works. The question remains, “what do those good works earn us?” YES, Evangelicals and Mormons believe in the power of grace to save us. The question remains “how much power does grace have to save us?” and “how much power do works have to save us?” and YES, we agree that we have a great many good works to do.

    But there is a horse-and-cart issue. I don’t think we can simply overlook that. It’s not as subtle and compatible as “does character exhibit discipline or does discipline build character?”

  11. Warren may be right. But his emphasis is wrong.

    If one focuses or just has rewards on his/her mind…then whatever “work” they happen to be doing is sinful at heart.

    It is the un-selfconciousness of the Christian, acting in faith to fulfill a need that is the true good work. (Jesus to those who fed Him when He was hungry, clothed Him, etc….”when did we do these things?” They weren’t even aware that they were doing these things.)

    A constant emphasis on the self (Warren’s So. Baptist background and theology) is a wrongheaded shifting of the centrality of the gospel (you are forgiven, for Jesus’ sake) to placing the person at the center…and what he/she does.

    No thanks. No Mormon theology, no Baptist theology, no Roman Catholic theology for me. There’s just way too much religiosity (the self) in it.

  12. Its clear that for both Mormons and Evangelicals good works don’t earn you salvation. And, apparently equally true that both groups believe in different awards in heaven.

    For Mormons salvation in the sense Evangelicals are using the word, i.e. finding a place in Heaven, is awarded freely due to the sacrifice of Jesus to nearly all people. To avoid salvation in the Mormon sense you have to explicitly reject Jesus after knowing him. . . earning you perdition. It seems to most Mormons, endless hell is the only thing you have to work hard at getting into. The three “kingdoms” of heaven are simply another way of describing what Warren alludes to in the passage, i.e. multiple levels of reward.

    Ultimately grace is the ultimate power in saving all of God’s children. The irony of course, is that Mormons believe that grace will extend to and save many more people than Evangelicals allow for. This is perhaps the primary reason I could not believe in the Evangelical concept of heaven and hell, because they don’t describe the grace of God in expansive enough terms.

    I imagine that Evangelicals object to Mormon characterizations of heaven at root because they are more descriptive than those found in the Bible. However based on the numerous depictions of what its going to be in like in heaven I have heard from Evangelicals, it seems they have very active extra-biblical visions of what its going to be like. Ultimately I think the objections boil down to the fact that Mormons consider that latter-day visions of the hereafter are held to be of the same character as scripture, not that they have new, more explicit thoughts about what will happen.

    I think if Evangelicals did not consistently mis-characterize Mormon belief in salvation, heaven, in contrast to their own, it would appear that the key difference between Mormons and Evangelicals is not the primacy of Grace to save people from an endless hell, but the level of opportunity people will have to take advantage of the Grace of God to avoid it.

  13. Hints to the answer to Eric’s second question–“What will be the heavenly ‘responsibilities and rewards’ for what we do on Earth?”–can be found in the many books published by Christians who have gone to heaven and come back. My wife and I are now reading “We Saw Heaven” by Roberts Liardon. We also recommend “Heaven: Close Encounters of the God Kind” by Jesse Duplantis, “Heaven Is So Real” by Choo Thomas, and especially “6 Big, Big, Big Angels” by Mary Jo Pennington.
    1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 says “What is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.” 1 Thessalonians 1:5-6 indicate Paul was involved in bringing the Thessalonians to the Lord.

    Love to all you believers in Jesus, Mormon & non-Mormon! Check out EvangelicalsandMormonsforJesus.com!

  14. It’s a matter of emhasis.

    You start on people with that ‘good works’ talk and you poison the well.

    One drop of filty water in a glass of pure water despoils the whole thing.

    That’s my problem with Evangelicalism and Mormonism.

    Their emphasis is bass ackwards.

  15. I think I get tripped up on this issue as far as Mormonism is concerned because exaltation—the ultimate reward—almost certainly requires a very specific list of good works. Simultaneously, exaltation is often referred to as and conflated with salvation. Hence where all of the “Mormons believe in being saved by works” charges come from.

    Let me pose an open-ended question before continuing: how does putting my faith in Jesus Christ change my eternal status as far as Mormonism is concerned? Not baptism, not confirmation, not anything else, just faith in Christ. Let’s say I’m a Christian in the Salvation Army and I firmly believe in Jesus Christ, but I’ve never been baptized (not in any church) or taken Communion. But my life is full of good Sermon on the Mount type stuff. What happens to me when I die?

  16. “What happens to me when I die?”

    Of course that is up to God. He will save whom He will save.

    But we know that He commanded baptism and also that He commanded Communion.

    So, we can reasonably assume that since He commanded it, that He will be present in it.

    Jesus did say that whoever does not eat my body and drink my bllod has no life in them.

    I think He gave us the gift of those Sacraments, so that we might have assurance (of salvation) totally aside from anything we do, think, or feel. The kind of assurance that comes totally from Him.

  17. Ms. Jack Meyers,

    I couldn’t tell you if most the members of my own congregation are saved…or not.

    The scriptures are full of the ‘faithful remnant’ language.

    Only one of the ten lepers returned to thank Jesus.

    But, we cannot know for sure who is, and who is not saved.

    We do give people the benefit of the doubt in their confession. (they say they are believers)

  18. Jared C said:
    “For Mormons salvation in the sense Evangelicals are using the word, i.e. finding a place in Heaven, is awarded freely due to the sacrifice of Jesus to nearly all people. To avoid salvation in the Mormon sense you have to explicitly reject Jesus after knowing him. . . earning you perdition.”

    Do EVs define salvation and heaven as making it home to God/Christ? Would the Terrestrial and Telestial Kingdom in Mormon heaven be salvation for them when God does not dwell there and they can not enter His presence?

    The lower kingdoms are better than hell though.

  19. According to the Evangelicals understanding of God, God will be in those kingdoms.

    Even in the Telestial Kingdom God will be there as the Holy Ghost, i.e. God the Holy Spirit part of the one God.

    D&C 20:28 Which Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one God, infinite and eternal, without end. Amen.

    According to the ultimate description of the Telestial Kingdom in the revelations of Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, even the Telestial Kingdom is glory beyond our understanding.

    D&C 76:89- http://scriptures.lds.org/en/dc/76/89#89

    So when comparing how good the Telstial Kingdom is to the Evangelical description of Heaven you end up comparing one incomparable glory to another and if we start talking about that are back to the silly “Our heaven is better than your heaven discussion”.

    But if you break it down describe Heaven as being with God in a place of unimaginable glory, the Telestial Kingdom fits the bill.

    Of course those in that kingdom may have to suffer prior to going there, but it won’t be forever.

  20. Jack said:

    “Let’s say I’m a Christian in the Salvation Army and I firmly believe in Jesus Christ, but I’ve never been baptized (not in any church) or taken Communion. But my life is full of good Sermon on the Mount type stuff. What happens to me when I die?

    You will have opportunity to go to the Celestial Kingdom they will have a clear chance at joining the church of the Firstborn, after they die.

    See D&C 76.

    And by the way, if you haven’t read D&C section 76, 88 and 19 carefully you don’t understand Mormon doctrine on heaven or hell. Evangelicals (and Mormons) seem to get it wrong constantly.

    D&C 19- http://scriptures.lds.org/en/dc/19/4,6,10,12#4

  21. The Bible says that if you believe and are baptized, you will be saved.

    I’m sure there are cases of people who haven’t (for whatever reason) been baptized who will still be saved.

    But Jesus is the one who commanded us to baptize. So we do it.

  22. theoldadam ~

    you say “One drop of filty water in a glass of pure water despoils the whole thing.”

    So you have to have “perfect” theology in order to avoid being a hopeless heretic? Not one mistake?

  23. No…not perfect theology.

    But grace is grace. And works are works. When it comes to justification, the two don’t mix.

    It’s one or the other…not a combo.

    And it’s not works.

    The cross accomplished everything, otherwise the cross was in vain.

    We want people to be free of the religious project. (Galatians 5:1)

    Like I said earlier, it’s up to God whom he’ll save. But He is not after our perfomance (it’s a bit late for that – we have all blown it).

    He is after faith.

    The Bible says somewhere, that when the Son of Man returns to earth with His Holy angels…will He even find faith?

    That remains a question.

  24. Jared ~ You will have opportunity to go to the Celestial Kingdom they will have a clear chance at joining the church of the Firstborn, after they die.

    Before or after someone else does postmortem work for my theoretical Salvation Army Christian?

    If after, what kingdom does SAC qualify for in the meantime?

    I’ll try to review D&C 76, 88 and 19 later tonight.

  25. Jack, this gets to the role of ritual in religious observance.

    The ritual is meant to cultivate beliefs and attitudes in the minds of the performers. That’s the primary value and point of it. This is why we are commanded to enact our worship in symbolic ritual form.

    In the case of baptism for the dead, it is doing two things:

    1. allowing the deceased to participate in an important ritual form of bring personal mind and will into unity with God.

    2. allowing the living performers of the ritual to come into a state of unity with not only God (by reenacting our own ordinances and pondering them), but also with our ancestors (by keeping them in mind).

    Unity is an important Celestial concept. Unity with God is an essential component of theosis. But lacking unity with each other, this theosis is not possible.

    It is a ritual representation of a crucial spiritual reality.

  26. MS. Meyers

    I only have a few minutes at this time, but to answer your question from the LDS perspective.

    If you have never been baptized by the proper authority there are two possibilities. As a member of the Salvation Army the likelyhood of you having been exposed to the LDS church is high. If you have been given the information and rejected it than you cannot raise higher than the Terrestial Kingdom, for Baptism is the gate to the Celestial. This was revealed in D&C 76, fairly plainly.
    If, on the other hand, you died without having received that opportunity of accepting the gospel you will be given an opportunity as a spirit in the time between your death and the resurrection. You can then be baptized by proxy and receive all the blessings of the Celestial Kingdom if you accept it in that life.

    (I cannot say for certian about a specific individual, as all that is up to God, but in general terms this is how things are according to LDS doctrine.)

  27. “If you have been given the information and rejected it than you cannot raise higher than the Terrestial Kingdom, for Baptism is the gate to the Celestial.”

    I don’t think this is plain. . . and is a non-sequitur. Baptism can be had in the afterlife, and many who had opportunity to hear the Gospel here have been baptized by proxy.

  28. Just so we’re clear, I’m not a member of the Salvation Army. I just used them as an example because they’re a very conservative evangelical denomination that’s well known for their good works and humanitarian service, but they don’t practice the sacraments. The denomination was formed at a time when they felt that other denominations were putting too much emphasis on ritual and not enough emphasis on charitable service to mankind, so they swung the pendulum in the other direction and got rid of the sacraments altogether. And while I consider that to be a theological error myself, it’s a fact that few churches outdo the Salvation Army in charity to the poor and needy.

    Seth, that sounds like a roundabout way of saying that no, SAC isn’t eligible for the CK until someone does his/her temple work for them. Which is fine; I’m just trying to understand here.

    I notice that no one has answered my first question yet though. What does faith in Christ (and faith in Christ alone) get someone in the LDS system? How does that alter his or her spiritual fate in the afterlife? Or doesn’t it?

    shematwater, can’t say I have any interest in diving into the “can people who have rejected the LDS gospel still progress” debate. For the sake of argument, let’s just assume that SAC has never come into serious contact with Mormons. I’m asking what his or her faith in Christ and attempts to live a Christ-like life have earned him or her in the LDS system.

  29. That is true, Jared, but they will not enter the Celestial Kingdom.
    D&C 76: 73-78 “And also they who are the spirits of men kept in prison, whom the Son visited, and preached the gospel unto them, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh; WHO RECEIVED NOT THE TESTIMONY OF JESUS IN THE FLESH, BUT AFTERWARDS RECEIVED IT. These are they who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men. These are they who receive of his glory, but not of his fulness. These are they who receive of the presence of the Son, but not of the fulness of the Father. Wherefore, they are bodies terrestrial, and not bodies celestial, and differ in glory as the moon differs from the sun.”

    Those who were given the chance in this life can still attain to the Terrestrial glory, but they cannot gain the Celestial, for they rejected Christ in the Flesh. This is what Joseph Smith revealed in this great vision, and what is taught as truth in the LDS church.

  30. Jack, it’s roundabout because to focus on the mortal trivialities of waiting for the ordinance, and deficiency of ritual is to take this out of context of the spiritual reality such people are living in.

    What is time and waiting to those in the spirit world? Does LDS theology really address this?

    But I guess it could possibly matter. The standard LDS view I’ve heard is “don’t worry about those we cannot possibly cover by proxy ordinance – it will all be sorted out in the Millenium after Christ returns.”

    I guess that’s a view. But I wonder if it’s really valid or not.

    Could it be possible that the time of Christ’s second coming is contingent on the readiness of the human family and, more specifically, the readiness of his covenant Church? Could the general unreadiness of the LDS Church be cause for Christ to delay his coming until we get our act together?

    It wouldn’t be the first time God has put a big event on hold due to human deficiency. And it kind of fits with my general personal sense that there are irrevocable consequences for the things we do.

    But again, that’s just a view too.

  31. Jack, I can take a stab at this, but do you want me to answer your question in terms of what I believe, or what the Church teaches? Because they’re pretty different.

  32. here is what the church teaches precisely from the Gospel Principles manual:
    http://www.lds.org/library/display/0,4945,11-1-13-59,00.html

    Requirements for Exaltation:

    The time to fulfill the requirements for exaltation is now (see Alma 34:32-34). President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “In order to obtain the exaltation we must accept the gospel and all its covenants; and take upon us the obligations which the Lord has offered; and walk in the light and understanding of the truth; and ‘live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God’ ” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:43).

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

    He commands us all to receive certain ordinances:

    We must be baptized and confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ.
    We must receive the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
    We must receive the temple endowment.
    We must be married for time and eternity.

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

    Love and worship God.
    Love our neighbor.
    Repent of our wrongdoings.
    Live the law of chastity.
    Pay honest tithes and offerings.
    Be honest in our dealings with others and with the Lord.
    Speak the truth always.
    Obey the Word of Wisdom.
    Search out our kindred dead and perform the saving ordinances of the gospel for them.
    Keep the Sabbath day holy.
    Attend our Church meetings as regularly as possible so we can renew our baptismal covenants by partaking of the sacrament.
    Love our family members and strengthen them in the ways of the Lord.
    Have family and individual prayers every day.
    Honor our parents.
    Teach the gospel to others by word and example.
    Study the scriptures.
    Listen to and obey the inspired words of the prophets of the Lord.

    Finally, each of us needs to receive the Holy Ghost and learn to follow his direction in our individual lives.

  33. Wow! That’s a lot of stuff we must do!

    I like what the Bible says, better.

    “Believe and be baptized.”

    What is it to do the will of the Father, they asked Jesus in the gospel of John.

    Jesus answered, “Believe in the one whom He has sent.”

    What does that do to the religious project that the LDS church lays out?

    It obliterates it. As well as any other religious requirements that ANY church trys to lay on the backs of people.

    Jesus did it all…on the cross.

  34. I think this quote reflects the general tenor and teaching of the church regarding exaltation.

    The SA guy is going to be saved, according to Mormon teaching, just not exalted, unless he gets the ordinances by proxy and accepts them.

    My own take on this subject is that Mormon scripture is not clear enough to trust to come to particular conclusions about what is going to happen to people and which kingdom they are going to.

    I think the scriptures are somewhat inconsistent and trying to achieve consistency leads to wide differences in interpretation. In this area especially, Every “answer” brings up dozens of new unanswerable questions.

    Therefore i think that God must not care too much that we understand the details. . . or else these are mysteries that cannot be adequately explained extra-spiritually.

  35. theoldadam,

    I am not saying that i agree with the teaching in the GP manual precisely . . . but according to Mormons, almost EVERYBODY will be saved in the way you suggest because “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess” an everybody will be given he opportunity to be baptized.

    Just to be absolutely clear- if it wasn’t painfully so earlier. if you are using salvation as salvation-from-death-and-hell-without-end then FAITH ALONE SAVES, NOT WORKS. EVEN FOR MORMONS.

    However it is also true that Mormonism is about a particular religious project, i.e. getting people “exalted” and they go about that by trying to have people behave in the way that is described in this manual.

  36. “However it is also true that Mormonism is about a particular religious project.”

    Right.

    No thanks. Not for me. Jesus put an end to all that on the cross.

  37. Old Adam,

    That is a list for exaltation, not salvation. It’s comparable to asking “what must I do to receive jewels in my crown?” Both Mormons and Non-Mormons need to be careful that we don’t confuse salvation and exaltation in these conversations.

  38. Oh, for crying out loud theoldadam….

    The Bible does not JUST say “repent and be baptized.”

    Did you ever notice the other pages of text in there?

    Give me a freaking break…

  39. Tim,

    We Lutherans don’t buy into the “exaltation” talk.

    That’s just another door to open towards legalism.

    Whatever rewards the Lord has or doesn’t have for us is his business. Our worrying about that will just cause us to slip into religious navel gazing and cause us to focus on our performance.

    I rather like what the Scriptures say, that “all our righteous deeds are as filthy rags.”

    It’s the unconscious doing that the Lord is after. That’s what He told those who fed Him when He was hungry, clothed Him when He was naked, etc.

    Thanks, Tim.

  40. Yep, I think Jared just about summed up my understanding of the traditional Mormon understanding.

    Salvation — i.e. being saved from death and an eternity in hell — happens free of charge.

    Exaltation requires that long list.

    The question of whether or not you can “progress” from a saved state to an exalted state after death, as the conversation between Jared and shematwater demonstrates, isn’t clearly addressed or settled — though I believe the majority view would trend toward shematwater’s perspective.

    So to answer Jack’s question, here’s what I think most Mormons would do with your Salvation Army Christian:

    –Salvation Army Christian gets to the Terrestrial Kingdom because she lived a good life and accepted Jesus.

    –If Salvation Army Christian never had a chance to hear the Mormon gospel in mortality, she DEFINITELY has a chance to accept it in the next life.

    –If Salvation Army Christian did have a chance to hear the Mormon gospel in mortality, it’s possible she’ll get another shot in the next life, but not likely.

  41. Jack The mission of the church is in a nutshell IMHO:

    “1. Perfecting the saints” – i.e. getting people exalted

    “2. Redeeming the dead” – i.e. allowing all people to take part in salvation, getting everybody to heaven.

    “3. Spreading the Gospel” – i.e. preparing for the second coming, gathering the “elect” who are prepared to participate in missions 1 and 2.

  42. “Believe and be baptized.”

    Ah…yes it does say that.

    Are you denying that Jesus’ answer to the question,”what should we be doing to do the will of God?” was indeed…”Believe in the one whom He has sent?

    It’s right there in black and white (or maybe red).

    But, people with a religious itch to scratch just refuse to believe it.

  43. Thank you, Seth and Katie.

    Okay, fellow evangelicals: how would we feel about an evangelical denomination that put minimal emphasis on saving the lost and instead focused on helping the saved to put jewels in their crowns?

  44. theoldadam,

    You are right, Mormons are going to disagree with Luther about the purpose of going to church.

    Mormons believe that God has said something more about what he does with people after they are saved.

    If you don’t believe those new revelations good news is that even if Mormons are correct, you are going to get exactly what you expect. i.e. you are saved and will go to heaven. Which is why Pascals wager does not work with the Mormon concept of God.

    Good news indeed.

  45. Not to quibble, Jared, but I think “redeeming the dead” would be better classified an exaltation issue.

    My take on this whole thing?

    While it’s human nature to try to determine where people are going to end up, it’s more than a little presumptuous. I anticipate that there will probably be a good deal of surprises, and don’t believe that any human being really has even a semblance of a clue of what it’s really like up there. I trust God to be merciful and kind to all His children.

    On a somewhat related note, I also think that vicarious temple ordinances are symbolic and lovely, but in the end, I doubt very much that they are literally required.

  46. Jared,

    For us it is a matter of emphasis. We emphasis what Christ has done, is doing, and what He will yet do.

    We don’t emphasis ‘us’, because then the grace just goes away and the legalism starts to rear it’s ugly head.

    The Holy Spirit will complete in us that which God has started. We trust Him in that. We certainlt do “good works”…we just don’t look at them that way. We just live and do what is necessary and trust that God will use all of it (even our sin) for His purposes.

  47. Talk to y’all later.

    Thanks for the good discussion!

    I’m off to take my friend who’s in a rehab hospital out to lunch and then a do a few errands with him.

    He had a stroke at 45, and cannot take care of himself anymore.

    I don’t mention this to toot my own horn, just to say that I know that I do not receive anything from God for doing this. Nothing.(I don’t need anything more – I am a fully adopted son of the Living God). But my friend needs me, and he will benefit from my helping him.

  48. Jack,
    I was taught in church that those who rejected the Mormon gospel in this life, could not inherit the Celestial Kingdom. They would still have a chance to accept it in the spirit world, but they would be placed in the Terrestrial Kingdom. I know many Mormons who still do proxy work on behalf of their relatives who DID reject Mormonism, but the church doctrine on it conflicts with their beliefs.

    In the 2005 April Ensign (from LDS.org) is says of those who are placed in the Terrestrial Kingdom:

    • Were in spirit prison and received a testimony there but rejected the testimony of Jesus while on the earth (see D&C 76:73–74; see also D&C 138:32).

    Here are other quotes from LDS.org

    “Each of us will inherit a kingdom of glory based on the manner in which we have “received the testimony of Jesus”

    Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve explained: “Those destined to inherit the terrestrial kingdom are: (1) those who died ‘without law’—those heathen and pagan people who do not hear the gospel in this life, and who would not accept it with all their hearts should they hear it; (2) THOSE WHO HEAR AND REJECT THE GOSPEL IN THIS LIFE AND THEN ACCEPT IT IN THE SPIRIT WORLD; (3) those ‘who are honorable men of the earth, who [are] blinded by the craftiness of men’; and (4) those who are lukewarm members of the true church and who have testimonies, but who are not true and faithful in all things” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [1985], 146).

    Here’s what they teach the Youth on the Kingdoms of Glory:
    Terrestrial Kingdom

    Generally speaking, individuals in the terrestrial kingdom will be honorable people “who were blinded by the craftiness of men” (76:75). This group will include members of the Church who were “not valiant in the testimony of Jesus” (D&C 76:79). It will also include those who rejected the opportunity to receive the gospel in mortality but who later received it in the postmortal spirit world (see D&C 76:73–74). To learn more about those who will inherit terrestrial glory, see Doctrine and Covenants 76:71–80, 91, 97.

    So if the Salvation Army Christian heard the gospel here and rejected it, but accepted it later in the spirit world through LDS missionaries, he/she is still headed for the Terrestrial according to current Mormon doctrine.

    Proxy work is done for all, but really only applies to those spirits who never heard the Mormon gospel in mortality.

    I had a discussion with my DH about this a few weeks back and he argued with me that there is no doctrine on what it means to reject the gospel in this life, so that is why LDS have hope for the proxy work of those relatives who rejected Mormonism. (I had instigated the argument by saying it would be better for LDS missionaries to let people live in ignorance so they can have a better chance at the Celestial Kingdom by hearing the gospel in the spirit world)

    So my question to fellow LDS is, what does it mean to reject the gospel in mortality?

  49. theoldadam.

    So I take it you ignore the rest of the Bible aside from that single scriptural passage then?

    Like…. I don’t know…. all those parts where Jesus demands good works, for instance….

  50. Seven, the position you mention about everyone who leaves the Church being a Son of Perdition is a rather hardline position that is only hinted at in McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine (where he implies the majority of the early apostates from the LDS Church were going to Perdition). This does not appear to be a popular view in the modern LDS Church.

  51. Seth,

    Demanded good works?

    He demanded a lot more than that!

    In the Sermon on the Mount he demanded perfection!

    That’s a law/gospel distinction. Most Christians do not have any idea the theological uses of the law/gospel paradigm.

    The law demands, convicts, and kills (so that we have no where to go for our righteousness other than to Jesus himself…and then the gospel forgives, and raises anew.

    It’s a Lutheran thing, but I believe it to be a correct theological understanding.

    Otherwise you end up with a schizophrenic Christianity. A little bit of God and a little bit of me.

    Only it usually ends up to be a lot of me and a little bit of God.

  52. Well then. I guess we’re in agreement then. As I already mentioned in my first comment on this thread.

    Sorry we had to waste our time over this issue when there really isn’t a difference to begin with.

  53. If you agree that it is Christ…ALONE, that does it for us..then yes, we agree.

    This law keeping stuff that Mormons and Catholics and Evangelicals (many of them) believe we MUST do is a total nonunderstanding of the law/gospel paradigm.

  54. He accepts us. On the cross and in our baptisms.

    We don’t bring Him…He comes to us in Word and Sacrament.

    See what I mean. The Lutheran view is VERY Christ centered…and not man centered.

  55. After all that has been said, are we really going to go into the Works-Faith-Grace semantical debate again?

    I am going to smack my thumb with a hammer a couple of times instead of participating any further.

    😉

  56. Seven said and asked:

    So my question to fellow LDS is, what does it mean to reject the gospel in mortality?

    In my opinion, it’s not possible to reject something unless you know it’s true.

  57. Then I guess that means I’m accepted then theoldadam?

    Glad to know you think I’m saved – even though I’m a believing Mormon. We’re making progress here.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to carry on exactly the way I have been for the last ten years of my life as a Mormon. After all, if God really has already saved me, I’m sure he won’t mind what I do, or what attitude I do it in.

  58. Seth,

    Do what you want. Why should I care if you want to be a legalist?

    I do care that you would lead others into a life of Phariseeism (which so many Mormons are into – they actually believe they are doing it – living the way God would have them live)

    He accepts us all. Trouble is many of us walk away from His acceptance of us, and want to play church and be Mr. Righteous. Usually Mr. Righteous turns out to be Mr. Self-Righteous…or Mr. Phoney.

  59. SethR,
    I’m not sure where you got this from my previous comment.

    Seth R said:

    “Seven, the position you mention about everyone who leaves the Church being a Son of Perdition is a rather hardline position that is only hinted at in McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine (where he implies the majority of the early apostates from the LDS Church were going to Perdition). This does not appear to be a popular view in the modern LDS Church.”

    I didn’t say or post anything about outer darkness or Sons of Perdition did I? (I’ll have to read through those quotes again) My comment was about who is inheriting the Terrestrial Kingdom because of Jack’s theoretical SAC, and there are countless quotes I could have posted on it from teaching materials at LDS.org which all say the same thing; that if we reject the gospel in this life, we CAN STILL ACCEPT it in the post mortal Spirit World, but those spirits will inherit a Terrestrial glory. Only those who had never rejected the gospel here on earth can achieve Celestial glory. These are not my personal beliefs, but it is current Mormon teaching and doctrine.

    Can you please clarify what you were addressing to me? 🙂

  60. Eric said:

    “In my opinion, it’s not possible to reject something unless you know it’s true.”

    That is my personal belief as well Eric. And by “know”, I don’t mean warm and fuzzy feelings. It would have to be a sure witness, in my opinion.

    How do covenants made in the temple work into that though?
    (I’m specifically thinking of parents who have been told their is still hope for their apostate/covenant breaking children to be in the CK with their family)

  61. Just misread you Seven.

    theoldadam,

    So what you are saying here is that I can continue to take the Sacrament, attend LDS services, pay my tithing, try to be good, go to the temple, and all that… and as long as I make sure to cultivate a proper attitude of humility and deference to God, it’s all good. Is that correct?

  62. So is it faith in Christ [even the incomplete non-LDS kind] that generally gets someone to the Terrestrial Kingdom instead of the Telestial Kingdom?

    More to say, but I’m making this comment on the run.

  63. Seth,

    I’m saying that God is after sinners. Real sinners who know they can’t quite cut it when it comes to God’s demands on us.

    I see precious little of that repentant attitude in the many Mormons I have encountered over the years.

    Most have a “I doing pretty good” attitude.

    God can and does save people in every denomination. It’s just that many seem to foster that neo-Pharisee attitude …and we are all familiar with the story of the slimy tax collector (Publican) and the Pharisee.

  64. I believe Rick Warren is S. Baptist albeit in OC?

    When we lived in NC triangle area, S. Baptist missionaries would often visit and would teach what Warren is quoted teaching here. Basically Jesus saves us from the Judgment and there are rewards for good works once saved. BTW, those missionaries never condemned us for being Mormon, although sometimes a few rare S. Baptists did. The LDS church was very strong there with Utah type wards and there had been enough intermarriage between S. Baptist and LDS that much previous animosity between the groups had dissipated. I’ll add it was kind of easy being a Mormon there with the similar orthopraxy of the dominate S. Baptist.

  65. theoldadam,

    Many of us do plenty of that kind of agonizing in private. And even among ourselves.

    But we’re hardly going to do it in front of the critics of the LDS Church – who are just looking for an opportunity to slander the things precious to us.

    If you want to talk about “precious little” of the ideal attitude, I don’t imagine the percentage of prideful, arrogant, and unrepentant Mormons is much different from the percentage of prideful, arrogant, and unrepentant Evangelicals.

  66. Being prideful and unrepentant is the human condition. The Word of God’s law ought lead us to repentance.

    Glad that many Mormons are not on the ladder to ever greater heights of righteousness. Far too many, in many churches (including my own), are.

    We ought not treat the law as a stepping stone to become a better Christian, but as God’s vehicle to expose us and give us a contrite heart.

    Thanks, Seth.

  67. First, I wish that theoldadam would give references to the scriptures he is quoting.

    Now, when it comes to rejecting the Gospel, this is how I see it.

    When the missionaries knock on your door and you simply turn them away because you don’t have time, you have not rejected the Gospel.
    However, if you go through several discussions, come to an understanding of the doctrine, and then reject it, refusing baptism, you have rejected the Gospel.

    The idea of needing a witness of the Gospel before you can reject it does not truly fit, as this witness does not usually come until you accept it (at least accept the possibility).

    Speaking to Theoldadam: I agree with the statement that “believe and be baptized” is all that is required for entrance into the Celestial Kingdom, as baptism is the Gate that leads to eternal life. However, it is only the gate. If the Celestial kingdom is your goal, and not Exaltation, you don’t need to do anything else (except remain faithful).

    On a final note, there is a reason to do proxy work for all people. If they rejected the gospel in this life, they still must except it in the next or inherit the Telestial. It says in D&C 76: 81-82 “And again, we saw the glory of the telestial, which glory is that of the lesser, even as the glory of the stars differs from that of the glory of the moon in the firmament. THESE ARE THEY WHO RECEIVED NOT THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST, NEITHER THE TESTIMONY OF JESUS.”
    Even though those who reject the gospel now cannot make it to the Celestial, they still must accept the gospel later, which includes the acceptance of baptism, or they will not even make it to the terrestial. This is partly why we do work for everyone (as well as the fact that we don’t know how the work will effect specific individuals).

  68. However, if you go through several discussions, come to an understanding of the doctrine, and then reject it, refusing baptism, you have rejected the Gospel.

    As much as philosophically savvy and apologetically-inclined Latter-day Saints may disagree with shematwater, this was always the impression that I got from my readings of D&C 76 and other official LDS teaching materials. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen good scriptural support for the idea that the opportunity to progress between kingdoms never goes away, or the idea that someone can take the missionary discussions, get a degree from BYU, marry a Mormon, then refuse to join the church and still be eligible for progression to the CK (*cough*). The arguments I’ve seen for irrevocable eternal progress have usually been based on reason, not scripture.

    Perhaps someone has a link to a New Cool Thang discussion that says otherwise though.

    In any case, there’s a reason I always joke about being TK-bound if Mormonism is true.

  69. Ugh, shem, I think you’re being highly presumptuous when you pretend to know what God’s going to do at the judgment bar. It’s icky to me.

    Still, I grant Jack’s point that your position is probably the most common one in the church…which is also icky to me…but it is what it is, so what do you do?

    Here are a couple of links I just pulled up from New Cool Thang on this issue.

    http://www.newcoolthang.com/index.php/some-pro-progression-between-kingdoms-quotes/

    http://www.newcoolthang.com/index.php/2007/06/what-are-we-to-make-of-final-judgment/401/

  70. Seth,

    You asked if this was the same position of N. T. Wright and his newer perspective on Paul.

    I don’t think so because Wright is teaching that justification by faith has little to do with how a sinner is made made right with God but who is in covenant with God. In his view Faith in Christ is a first justification or an entrance into the covenant with God. According to Wright we maintain our justification by obedience and this life is followed by a second justification where our salvation is determined at the final judgement according to the merit of our works. Basically faith gets you in, works keep you in.

  71. Thanks for the clarification Gundeck. No wonder so many of the LDS apologists and thinkers I know are excited about this guy.

    I seem to remember some Protestant scholar doing a counterpoint to the NPP. Who was that? Piper?

  72. Seth,

    Yes Piper did but I would recommend Cornelis P. Venema he has a number of things available online.

    Michael Horton also has a work on the NPP and covenant theology but it is about 3 levels above my paygrade so it has taken me a while, especially the second half.

    Venema is very readable. D. A Carson, Sinclair Ferguson, and others have also done audio critiques. Carson’s is longer Ferguson is from my denomination.

  73. And if you are crazy “Justification And Variegated Nomism” is the most widely recognised scholarly critique of the NPP. But this is 4 levels above my paygrade.

  74. I bumped into D. A. Carson on-campus the other day. I was like, “You’re D. A. Carson!” He just kind of blinked for a second and said, “Well, yes I am.” I told him I recognized his face because of his appearance in the “All Things Are Better In Koine” music video:

    I’m sure he thought I was weird, and he’d be right.

  75. The collection of articles in Justification And Variegated Nomism (JVN) appears to be the most popular critique of the New Perspective(s) on Paul. I think that some of the articles make some useful criticisms, but for the most part I think that the fundamental features of the NPP are untouched. If anything, after reading Wright, Dunn, Sanders, Stendahl, Richard Hays, and others, and comparing their contributions with JVN, I think it is clear that the NPP is here to stay. JVN just doesn’t cut the mustard in the end. A useful collection of Dunn’s articles and reviews on the NPP (including a review of JVN, if I recall correctly) can be found in his aptly titled book “The New Perspective on Paul.” I’d say that’s about as good an entry as any. I believe that Wright is also almost finished with his book on Paul (the fourth volume of his larger series), and he has an extended critique of Piper and JVN.

    Best,

    TYD

  76. KATIE

    Why is that “icky” as you put it. I am not speaking in specifics. I do not claim to know who has truly rejected the Gospel and who hasn’t. If you were to ask me about a specific, and real individual, I would tell you that I do not really know.
    Now, speaking of historical figures, we can frequently make a very educated guess as to where they will end up. Like Hitler will not be exalted, for murders cannot gain eternal life (1 John 3: 15 – Which is quoted in Mormon doctrine with this same interpretation under merders).
    These things should be considered by everyone, for we should know, not only where we stand, but where our family and friends stand. If we simply except that we can never know and so there is no point than what is the point in teaching the Gospel in the first place.

    As to the idea of progressing from Kingdom to Kingdom, I do not think this is very scriptural, and I think that the opposite is seen in scripture.
    First, the quotes given in the first link you give seem to, in general say that there is no official doctrine, but personally they won’t deny it.
    The only two that are different are the one from Brigham Young, which seems to say that it is true, and the one from Joseph F. Smith, which seems to say it isn’t (but allowing for exceptions). Now, without knowing the full context of these quotes I can’t really comment on them, but they do seem to oppose one another.
    The second link I only read the first paragraph in, for the author states “I am one of those heretics that believes in the continuation of free will after judgment, progression between the kingdoms of glory (i.e. the possibility of eternal progression for all but the SofP), and even the logical possibility of God’s downfall.” Anyone who believes in the chance of God’s overthrow is so far outside of truth that I don’t feel it that great to even pay attention.

    For me, I use this quote “For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, BUT REMAIN SEPARATELY AND SINGLY, WITHOUT EXALTATION, in their saved condition, TO ALL ETERNITY; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever.”

    It seems to be fairly obvious that once we have received our reward and dominion that those who are not exalted cannot be exalted, for they remain singly for eternity. So, if such progression in not possible in the levels of the Celestial Kingdom, why would they be the lower kingdoms, or between kingdoms?

  77. TYD,

    You realize your mere existence is serving as a justification for me to slack of learning this stuff?

    I mean, I come across some big, hairy theological argument or book that I really ought to educate myself about. But then there’s this little voice in my head that says:

    “nah… you don’t need to read that. After all TYD has already read it. So we’re all covered.”

  78. TYD,

    I think that anyone interested in the NPP would be well served by reading Dunn’s “The New Perspective on Paul” the first chapter is principally illuminating with regard to the old perspective.

  79. Seth,

    I think that one forgets as much as they learn it seems, so it is always worth reading it (again and again sometimes…).

    TRD

  80. Jack asked:

    Okay, fellow evangelicals: how would we feel about an evangelical denomination that put minimal emphasis on saving the lost and instead focused on helping the saved to put jewels in their crowns?

    I’m going to answer that question, because I’ve been thinking about it ever since it was been asked and never got around to answering it (even though it wasn’t asked directly of me).

    I suppose that if I saw an evangelical church that was encouraging its members to do things for the purpose of getting jewels in their crowns … I’d say the same thing that many evangelicals say about Mormons, that it’s a works-based church and all that. And if they were saying that because they do A, B and C that they have more jewels than anyone else does … again, my attitude would be similar to what many evangelicals have of Mormons.

    So after thinking about this, I can understand better where many evangelicals are coming from in their criticism of the LDS church, even though ironically there is a sense in which we believe in “more grace” than evangelicals do, since in some sense in the LDS view nearly everyone is (or will be) saved.

    And I certainly think it’s possible with our talk about “earning” various rewards and emphasis on “becoming worthy” of same to get caught in the traps of legalism and self-righteousness and that sort of thing. On the other hand, we do have one of those little snippets of scripture (among other things) that runs counter to that: We have the promise in D&C 137 that God will “will judge all [people] according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.” (Emphasis has been added.) The teaching seems to be that our intent, our attitudes, who are are, are determinative at least as much as what we accomplish. And doing all the right things for the wrong reasons gets us diddly.

    My own view is that I have been called on to follow the example of Christ and all that, and that there is joy and a sense of purpose in doing that, and whatever happens after death is a natural outgrowth of wherever I’m doing in this life, and that there’s something — I don’t know what the word is, creepy or arrogant perhaps — in seeking eternal glory for its own sake.

    I thank all who answered my original question. I found the resulting discussion enlightening.

  81. Wow, Eric. Thanks for posting this (and reminding me again why I like you so much).

    My comment seemed to get ignored when I asked it, so I’m glad somebody thought about it.

    Thinking of Mormonism as a religion that puts most of its emphasis on “sanctification” helps me to understand it better, too. Not that I don’t still see that as an error, but given how Mormons feel about salvation being offered to all who haven’t heard the gospel in the next life, it’s kind of understandable.

    I also think that eschatology plays a big part in it. Some evangelicals believe that evangelizing the lost will hasten the return of Christ, and that’s why they put their emphasis there. There was an article in Fidei et Historia last year on how this was an important part of Jonathan Edwards’ missiology and how it has influenced evangelicalism today. Mormons don’t have such an eschatological belief, so spreading the gospel isn’t necessarily such an urgent matter for them. More room to work on “perfecting the saints.”

  82. Great question Jack! I had somehow missed it when reading this thread. I also want to thank Eric for his thoughtful post. When I read his comments and blog posts, I’m usually thinking how nice it would be if more LDS were like him in the church. Bravo!

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