Got Fruits? (if so, then what?)

In response to my last post an ex-Mormon, Evangelical teenager, Richard, come pretty strong and hard in expressing his reasoning from scripture that Mormons hate God and don’t understand him. He argued specifically that I was blind to the “Real” truth, qouting this scripture:

1 Corinthians 2:14 : But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

Kullervo  (in his typical understated manner) responded to Richard and suggested that Richard’s approach was evidence that, according to Christianity, it didn’t seem that his religion was really inspired by The Spirit:

Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance”

Now at this point in my spiritual quest it would be hard to classify me as either a Mormon or a traditional Christian by my  partly because of my “lifestyle” and partly because of my eccentric theology but I think the idea that we can find out what is good by examining the fruit.   Love, joy, peace, gentleness are things I that I can sink my teeth into.  It’s experience rather than abstraction. Something that even atheists may understand.  Real proof . . .

QUESTIONS REMAIN

Of course the question is, is this an appropriate way of going about discerning what is of God from either the Mormon or Evangelical (or any other) perspective?

Does lack of these fruits demonstrate a failure to be “fully” Christian?

Do fruits of the Spirit demonstrate a closeness to the Spirit regardless of theology?

If I feel the Spirit and experience its fruits outside of either Mormonism or Evangelical Christianity, maybe even to a greater degree than I have experienced it in those contexts what conclusions can i draw?

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36 thoughts on “Got Fruits? (if so, then what?)

  1. I think that to say lacking these fruits demonstrates a failure to be “fully” Christian is a bit of a cop-out…because then, people can easily slide around and say, “Christianity is great and true; it’s just that x, y, and z, who APPEAR to be bad Christians, are not being “fully” Christian.”

    And since everyone is a sinner, we can eventually say, “Well, none of these imperfect people truly represent Christianity, so you really shouldn’t judge us by our imperfect, sinning members.”

    For practical consideration, this makes evaluation somewhat useless.

    As for the second question, if these fruits demonstrate a closeness to the Spirit (regardless of theology), then I think we have to re-evaluate what the spirit is, and make it a whole lot more universal than we previously had. I’m personally ok with this.

    A while back, I wrote a couple of articles trying to analyze Alma 32. They didn’t go over so well, but my idea is that we need to really look at the seed idea. See, Alma talks about one seed — the Word. But as we know in life, there are many seeds. They can differ in what particular kind of fruit they bear, but many fruits are healthy, many fruits are edible, many fruits are desirable (you need many fruits to make fruit salad) and ultimately, despite the different seeds, we can find several different ways to bear forth good fruit.

    So, isn’t it possible that each tradition that we come from is a possible seed? It’s not the only seed that will work, so we shouldn’t pretend that it is (or that there is only one seed that will grow).

    (I am afraid of clicking the Notify me of follow-up comments via email. There are just too many comments to discussions here, :0D)

  2. But these fruits aren’t how you judge Christians. They are how we are supposed to judge Christianity.

    I think the effect is the opposite of what Andrew is concerned about. I think a Church that fails to produce these fruits can’t excuse itself by saying things like “the church is true, the members are just flawed.”

    By its own standards, if Christianity (Christianity in general, or your particular form of Christianity) does not produce good fruits, then Christianity is not a good tree.

  3. 1. Do fruits of the Spirit demonstrate a closeness to the Spirit regardless of theology?

    I think so. And I think that a person can be close to the Spirit without recognizing that that’s what it is–which is why an atheist or whoever can not recognize that what they’re feeling is from God, but it still is. I don’t think the Spirit really cares what you believe.

    2. If I feel the Spirit and experience its fruits outside of either Mormonism or Evangelical Christianity, maybe even to a greater degree than I have experienced it in those contexts what conclusions can i draw?

    I think that a conclusion you can draw is that you are bringing yourself closer to God, or God is closer to you. I don’t know that it makes sense to say that you have to be following or believing in the tenets of a certain religion in order to experience the fruits of the Spirit.

  4. “By its own standards, if Christianity (Christianity in general, or your particular form of Christianity) does not produce good fruits, then Christianity is not a good tree.”

    Of course the underlying assumption is that some form of Christianity will produce the fruits.

    Fruits of the Spirit seem to be a necessary condition to determine “true” followers of Christ, but lack of those fruits among some members of an organized group does not necessarily impune all members, it just shows that group membership is not sufficient to produce the fruits.
    e.g. There may be elements of some of that group’s practice that place some people far from the Spirit.

    This sort of test would necessarily cut across theological lines since it is clear from our last discussion, that we find un-fruited knuckleheads in most all brands of Christianity, but i would also argue you can find fruited believers in most brands as well.

    The conclusion that I reach is that no brand of Christianity (theology, creed, denomination, etc.) can claim that all of its members follow the “true” way nor can they say that ONLY its members follow the “true” way.

    Of course the conclusion extends beyond Christianity, if some Hindu’s and atheists have the fruits, could we still say that Christianity has a monopoly?

  5. Well, it’s a statement Jesus made: by their fruits ye shall know them. So it only makes sense to apply the standard to other religions if you’re doing it as a Christian.

  6. 15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
    16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
    17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
    18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
    19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
    20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

    Jesus is saying “judge a religion by the behavior of its advocates.”

  7. “So, isn’t it possible that each tradition that we come from is a possible seed? It’s not the only seed that will work, so we shouldn’t pretend that it is (or that there is only one seed that will grow).”

    i suppose if you use the “fruits” standard, and you are open to identifying these fruits in other traditions, it would necessarily move you away from concluding that there can only be one seed, especially if that seed does not seem to grow in some people.

    I guess the parable of the sower is apt here since Jesus there points to the condition of the ground is the most important factor in determining if the seed would bear fruit.

    If this particular fruit grows, I think we can conclude that the seed, whatever its variety, is good enough for the Spirit. . .

  8. Right, but here there is a distinction between prophets and adherents.

    Fine, but you can’t force a Mormon understanding of “prophet,” i.e., the authorized president of the religious organization, on Jesus’s words.

    That’s why I said “judge a religion by the behavior of its advocates.

    Judge the message by the behavior of the people who are preaching the message.

  9. i think we might be talking about two standards, one to judge whether a particular prophet is of God, and another to judge whether an individual is filled with the Spirit.

    I can walk up to somebody who may simply be parroting what his leaders tell her with regard to theology, doctrine, etc. Therefore it might not be appropriate to judge her own personal spirituality based on her own declared theology, but we should be able to determine if she has the fruits of the spirit. We can judge her personal spirituality by the fruits she brings to the table. We can determine that her walk is productive.

    Likewise, if she has the fruits of the spirit, it doesn’t necessarily say anything particularly positive about the theology she is parroting, except that it does not “kill” the fruit.

  10. I’m with Jared on the parable of the sower. One may show the “Fruits” just as a parroting excercise, but that usually won’t stand up for very long.

    On the other hand, none of us is perfect and even if we have the fruit, we stumble. Example ? I lost my patience with my 22 year old last night. Where does the fruit show ? I realized I did, went over to her room and apologized before going to bed. Yes… my wife had to point it out to me, but that’s besides the point 😉

    Not all who have the fruit are Christian, but not all who claim to be Christian have the fruit. That’s why we’re told not to judge others. He will do that when he returns.

    1) Does lack of these fruits demonstrate a failure to be “fully” Christian?
    Eventually I think so. 1John makes that pretty clear too. If one continues to walk in darkness, one can wonder whether they really are Christian or just doing lip service

    2) Do fruits of the Spirit demonstrate a closeness to the Spirit regardless of theology?
    Perhaps. Or they (in the words of Jack Sparrow) could just be a “good man”… he was a bloody pirate, a scallywag… and a good man

    Cheers
    Mick

  11. I think this is all a question of discipleship. Who are we being discipled to?

    A radical example is the Westboro Baptist Church (God Hates Fags). I wouldn’t deny they are Christians, but I’d also be hard pressed to say that they are displaying the fruits of the spirit. The members are being discipled to something other than the gospel of Jesus. Instead they’re being conformed to the image of a Christian knock-off. I believe the Holy Spirit is actively working in their congregation, he’s just being vigorously ignored.

    An authentic Christianity should end up with the fruits of the Spirit prominently displayed in the life of the believers. I don’t by any means think that Christians are the only ones who can display these virtues (like I don’t believe that it’s impossible for atheists to do good works). The fruits of the spirit do not mean the Spirit is present, but the lack of the fruits indicate the lack of the Spirit.

  12. Tim, why would you believe that the Holy Spirit is actively working in that congregation? Their behavior has amounted to an aggressive mockery of Christian love for years, and the congregation remains completely unrepentant about it.

  13. Because I believe the Holy Spirit is actively working everywhere and most specifically in and through those who call on his name.

    CLEARLY I don’t think they are displaying the work of his love or grace in any way.

  14. In one comment way back somewhere it seemed like the writer was confusing fruit with self-righteousness, or what the Bible calls “observance of the law” in Romans 3:20.

    Before I became a Christian someone used to call me “Honest Cal.” Actually, I was often deceptive, but I guess I was more honest than your average unbeliever. This was only because my parents had trained me to be honest. I had no faith in God and since it is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6), my righteousness was like filthy rags to the Lord.

    Isaiah 64:6
    All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags. . . .

    My honesty was not the result of God’s righteousness in me, his Spirit in me. And my motives were not to bring glory to God or obtain his rewards.

    But the fruit of the Spirit comes from the sap of the Spirit within a believer, or you could say, Jesus in us (John 15:1-7).

  15. That’s semantic garbage. Honesty is virtuous and praiseworthy, and even more so when you act honestly because you are honest.

    Denigrating clear human virtues because of what your holy book says is absurd.

  16. Yeah, I have plenty of “unbeliever” family and friends, and I don’t notice any difference in honesty between them and other Christians. My uncle is actually a leader in the Idaho Humanist Society (ALERT–ATHEISTS–ALERT), and he has more integrity than most people I know. Having had to deal with a lot of mean, manipulative (self-described) Christians, as a human being, my uncle’s actual character means a lot more to me than people who go out of their way to hurt people in the name of Christ.

    One is certainly free to argue that he’s bound for the fires of hell, but I fail to see why his (and others’) virtue shouldn’t be celebrated for the way it improves the lives of those around them where other Christians have failed.

  17. Your uncle’s virtues should be celebrated. Goodness is something to be rejoiced about wherever we find it.

    I think the proper use of Cal’s scriptures is in regards to the inability of virtue and goodness to overcome our sin and fulfill our need for salvation.

  18. Fair enough, Tim. It’s just that when I see blanket comments about the virtue of the “average” unbeliever I have to shake my head.

    Cal, how does someone like Gandhi fit into your view of the matter?

  19. AND…if Tim is correct that the Holy Spirit is working everywhere, wouldn’t that make at least some actions of “unbelievers” righteous in His eyes?

    I think Katyjane’s points make a lot of sense in this context.

  20. The way I take the “filthy rags” point is that we all should acknowledge that human beings can be naturally selfish and we aren’t generally going to reach the ideal of goodness.

    I do think that Evangelicals often harp on this point far too much. To the point of thinking of all men as equally bad, and all virtues essentially base. I don’t think Tim is doing this.

    Mormons really have essentially the same position, they just don’t focus on it. The Book of Mormon teaches that men are less than the dust of the earth:

    http://scriptures.lds.org/en/hel/12/7-8#7
    http://scriptures.lds.org/en/mosiah/2/25-26#25

    However I think there is a more subtle point made by Benjamin, i.e. that there is a certain spirit in man that is selfish and animal that will never bear the fruits of the spirit and that the Spirit is the way out, the spiritual transformation. :

    Mosiah 2:19- For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy fSpirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

    I suppose from my perspective, there is no real distinction between salvation and discipleship in Christianity, the Spirit is the point, and if its not, you are just like everybody else.

    And, I think if the Spirit is cutting across all theological lines, then theology starts looking more and more like a poor guide to becoming a “saint”.

    Tim said:

    “The fruits of the spirit do not mean the Spirit is present, but the lack of the fruits indicate the lack of the Spirit.”

    If we see the fruits of the Spirit, why should we deny the Spirit is present, or how can we tell that its not?

  21. I think the flithy rags discussion might be worth an entire post. It was written to the people of Israel about a specific situation. I think Evangelicals generally take it out of some of its context. Not that it’s entirely inapplicable but not to the extent some try to make it.

  22. “A radical example is the Westboro Baptist Church (God Hates Fags). I wouldn’t deny they are Christians, but I’d also be hard pressed to say that they are displaying the fruits of the spirit.”

    Which would make me wonder whether they are Christians, and what “spirits” they are listening to.

    “Because I believe the Holy Spirit is actively working everywhere and most specifically in and through those who call on his name.”

    Isn’t there a verse that says something about even Satan calling Jesus by name?

    Westboro is so full of hate there’s no room for any love of any kind to squeeze through, and they’ve been at it for generations (I used to live near there). No love, no light, no Word. No fruit. No Spirit. No Jesus, imo.

  23. “Cal, how does someone like Gandhi fit into your view of the matter?”

    I don’t know enough about Gandhi to have any opinion about him.
    Incidentally, I used to wonder if or imagine that Mother Teresa was someone who did a lot of good in the world but didn’t have a personal relationship with the Lord. When I learned more about her I found out that my impression was totally wrong. She had a deep faith in Jesus. He was the reason she did what she did. And she was always quick to give the Lord all the credit for anything good that he did through her.
    To tie this back to the subject at hand, she produced a lot of the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

  24. Cal, Gandhi was the primary leader of the non-violent Indian independence movement. He helped liberate an entire country from foreign oppression without resorting to war. Learning about him (even at a superficial level) is worth your time. But–gasp!–Gandhi was Hindu.

    Interestingly, one of Gandhi’s most famous quotes was, “I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

    I think Tim and Jared probably made the most salient points about your “dirty rags” quotation above. Just something to think about.

  25. Westboro seems to be equal opportunity protesters, they picketed the funerals of Gordon B. Hinkley and Ronnie James Dio.

    Don’t even get me started. “Dio” means “god” for a reason.

  26. Whitney said, “one of Gandhi’s most famous quotes was, ‘I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.’

    I agree with your quote of Gandhi for the most part. Most Christians are so immature that they shine forth little of the light of Christ (and I’m not excluding myself from the immature category). However, if I shy away from Christ because his followers are so slow to learn and apply his ways to their lives, I have been duped by the devil.

    I don’t like to say I don’t like someone, though. It sounds too close to saying I don’t love them. I believe in loving everybody.

    Whitney also said, “I think Tim and Jared probably made the most salient points about your “dirty rags” quotation above.”

    I agreed with Jared. I thought his comments backed up what I said.

    Tim was also correct when he interpreted my statements to apply to salvation. To put salvation in perspective, consider Luke 9:25: “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?”

  27. To put salvation in perspective, consider Luke 9:25: “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?”

    That is a total non-sequitur.

  28. I only mentioned Gandhi’s quote about Christianity because it seemed relevant to the topic of the OP. His reasons for not converting went much deeper; from what I’ve read, he believed all religions were equally valid, but he felt a deep connection to Hinduism.

    As for the semantics of how he phrased his point, I think you’re missing the forest for the trees. Gandhi famously forgave the man who assassinated him with his dying breath. He seems to have had plenty of love for humanity.

    In short, I think Gandhi displayed some pretty incredible “fruits,” and he was a better person than I’ll ever be. He didn’t really “gain the world” in a material sense; he lived a life of austerity and service to others, and he died in that service. So I personally struggle to understand how that sort of righteousness–coming from an “unbeliever”–could be like “filthy rags” in the way that you originally presented it. Jared and Tim were nice enough to present alternative interpretations of that scripture, but the original paradigm you offered seemed much more narrow.

  29. katyjane, I heart you, too. I’m sad we don’t live within a short car ride of each other anymore. 😦

  30. That’s great the way you two love each other. That’s the way all believers ought to love each other.
    I have lots of wonderful brothers and sisters in the Lord in my local area, starting with my faithful wife, the best friend of all.

    Since we’re on the subject of fruit, I’ve known lots of Christians and lots of non-Christians over my life. Over and over, I have seen a real difference. Jesus changes people in a positive way. He is real. His love is greater than we have yet to imagine. He rocks!

    Tonight I looked to see what my study Bible says about that verse in Isaiah 64:6 about the Israelites’ righteous acts being like filthy rags. It’s revealing. It directs me to Isaiah 57:12, a similar verse. The note there directs me to 58:2-3. This is what 58:2-3 says:

    “For day after day they seek me out;
    they seem eager to know my ways,
    as if they were a nation that does what is right
    and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
    They ask me for just decisions
    and seem eager for God to come near them.

    ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
    ‘and you have not seen it?
    Why have we humbled ourselves,
    and you have not noticed?’
    “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
    and exploit all your workers.”

    Interesting. . . . So the “righteous acts” that with filthy were likely hypocritical, insincere, religious acts. They SEEMED eager to know God’s ways. They even fasted. But actually there fruit was bad. They did as they pleased. They took advantage of people.

    The next verse, 58:4, says,

    “Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
    and in striking each other with wicked fists.
    You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.”

    I guess we better not quarrel!

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