Romans 14

This review of Romans 14 is provided by BrianJ, a Mormon.

NET: Now receive the one who is weak in the faith, and do not have disputes over differing opinions.

NIV: Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.

NKJV: Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.

NRSV: Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions.

receive/accept/welcome: It seems as though Paul meant this as an instruction to “receive in full fellowship; i.e., as a member,” as opposed to merely “welcoming as a (temporary) guest.” Still, I wonder if he wouldn’t extend this advice to the latter as well. Do we receive/welcome/accept guests or visitors the same as we do new converts of our denominations? Should we?

One problem with interpreting Paul here is that he was writing with a Christianity in mind that is quite different than today. I realize that there were differences in doctrines taught in the different cities during Paul’s day, but the delineations were not nearly as demarcated as they are today. Is it reasonable to extend Paul’s admonition to include interfaith relations? Would Paul encourage a Catholic to receive a Baptist? an Evangelical to accept a Mormon? a Mormon to welcome an Anglican?

weak: I confess that I’d like to misread Paul here as well. I’d like to read this verse as an indication of his self-awareness: Paul wrote some confusing, difficult stuff in the chapters we’ve already covered, and here he is backing down (intellectually speaking) to acknowledge that a lot of people aren’t going to understand everything at first pass.

But that would require misreading what Paul means by “weak in faith.” “Weak” must refer back to Paul’s use of “weak” in previous chapters to mean someone who is holding onto old religious traditions; their weakness is made manifest by their inability to let go of the outwardness of the Law and make the leap to the new covenant. Thus, Paul makes no concession (at least here) to those who don’t understand—or trust—his previous chapters.

disputes/quarrels over opinions: This is where I saw some irony if I purposefully misread Paul. Throughout our group study, we’ve had many disputations—in fact, to some degree that was one of the purposes of our group discussion. So even though Paul, in chapter 14, wasn’t talking about discussions like ours, I wonder what he would tell us. Some sort of adaptation of this verse, encouraging flexibility and friendship, or would he favor a more hard-lined approach? Would Paul tolerate differences of opinion over matters of doctrine, or just over something he sees as trivial (such as what one eats)?

Actually, that’s the kind of question we’ve had all along in regards to Paul: How far is Paul willing to take his rhetoric? How far would Paul extend this forbearance? Some of us have taken Paul’s words with full force, whereas others have suggested that Paul might be exaggerating his doctrinal positions for effect.

Verses 5-6: What I still don’t get from Paul is whether he is merely tolerating the idea of holding on to certain religious “rules” or if he actually respects the practice. It seems the former, since he keeps referring to such people as “weak.” Is this why (some) Evangelicals criticize Mormons for our adherence to rules of Sunday dress, Sabbath activities, Word of Wisdom, etc.?

Verses 7-9: I find this analysis very odd. Not that I dispute the conclusion in verse 9, but it seems kind of thrown in there—almost like a reflex “amen!” If I just look at the logical flow of these verses, I come up with: Christ died and was resurrected so that he could be Lord of…people who eat pork and people who don’t (?).

Verse 13: Okay, I promise never to put a stumbling block in my brother’s way…but tell me: what is a stumbling block? How am I to know if I’ve placed one? Paul’s teaching seems straightforward enough, but in practice…. Paul used as an example the eating of kosher foods, telling both “sides” not to make it an issue for the other “side.” That’s a fine example, because it’s easy to see how pork chops or crab cakes could cause disputations between early Christians, but where I get a bit lost is in knowing how to apply this today. How can I know what will cause my brother to stumble? (And isn’t it, at some point, still his decision whether or not to stumble?)

Verse 15 anticipates this concern, even if it does not explicitly answer it. “Do not destroy by your food someone for whom Christ died” (NET). Ahh, well said Paul: you expertly call us petty. There’s no room to complain about another’s “weak faith,” saying anything like “What? I have to give up meat because my (ignorant) brother doesn’t understand that it’s okay to eat? What’s next? Give up milk, cheese, bread? How about my clothes or musical preferences? Maybe my brother should just grow up!” No, there’s no room for any of that because, after all, Jesus gave up his very life! Points like this make me very grateful for Jesus’ example of charity.

Verses 19-20: I’ve hinted at this already, but what if we took “food/meat” in these verses as merely a metaphor. A metaphor for…doctrine? ritual? worship style or ritual? etc.? Is that taking Paul’s words too far out of context, or would Paul endorse that exercise?

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70 thoughts on “Romans 14

  1. Thanks, BrianJ. You asked lots of good questions and didn’t pretend to know the answers when you didn’t.

    Kullervo is going to love my comments.
    Applying Romans 14 to today, I believe Christian Mormons, including those who believe what their leaders tell them to believe, are supposed to accept non-Mormon Christians as part of the body of Christ (his church, made up of all who have made Jesus their Lord, no matter what denomination or movement they may identify themselves with).
    And non-Mormon Christians are supposed to accept Mormon Christians as part of the body of Christ, as their brothers and sisters bought by the blood of Christ and a part of his special family through reception of his Spirit, his nature.

  2. BrianJ said:

    If I just look at the logical flow of these verses, I come up with: Christ died and was resurrected so that he could be Lord of…people who eat pork and people who don’t (?).

    That sounds exactly right to me!

    Paul was teaching at a time when the issue of how much Christians had to follow Old Testament law wasn’t fully settled. Some people felt that commandments such as the dietary rules were still binding, and others didn’t. Paul seems to come down on the side of saying those rules were no longer binding, but he wants people from both sides to see each other as part of the body of Christ.

    I’m not sure how relevant that is to the doctrinal issues that divide Christians today; I don’t see him as addressing issues of heresy. The things he writes about seem to be matters of practice rather than doctrine (although at the time the issue would have been considered doctrinal).

  3. Pingback: Paul’s Epistle To The Romans | Songs From The Wood

  4. Eric: I should have been clearer. The sentence ending when I put my question mark in parentheses (?) was meant to convey that I followed Paul’s logic and found it using a beautiful and profound act (the atonement) to reach a somewhat rudimentary conclusion. I mean, the same argument could have been used to show Christ’s power to save the most vile and lost person as well as the righteous Abraham—instead, Paul just talks about kosher v non-kosher. It just kinda left me hanging. ya know?

  5. Cal . . . I heartily disagree. Fundamental issues on God and the Gospel are clear and non-negotiable.

    I appreciate Eric’s comment, though Romans 14 is doctrinally related. Romans intertwines the orthopraxy with the orthodoxy.

    Brian, I love Romans 14 – a very good chapter on gospel unity. Every church family needs to spend several months in the chapter and flesh out all the applications . . . the diversity of personal eating and drinking convictions, the diversity of Sabbatarian convictions, etc. And there are all kinds of different ways that we can apply this today.

    And even in the area of evangelism, gospel love prevails. I should be careful to not push some drinks or customs in front of the LDS friend who could be sincerely offended. And in front of the ex or jack-lds friend, he can drink his beer freely and happily with me, with no judgment on my part.

    And here are some fun Greek tidbits . . .

    verse 1 – diakriseis (distinguishing, differentiation, discernment, quarrel) of dialogismon (thought, opinion, reasoning, doubt, dispute). We get our English word, dialogue, from dialogismos.

    verse 13 – proskomma (stumbling, offense, obstacle) . . . or skandalon (trap, temptation, that which offends, stumbling block). From skandalon, we get our English word, scandalous.

  6. We ought bear with the failings of those weak in faith. If someone’s faith is so weak that they believe that they ought not eat pork, or shellfish, or drink alcohol or coffee, or…whatever…we ought bear with them. Not to stuff it (Christian freedom) in their face, but to be gentle with them until the time comes when they are able to experience Christian freedom for themselves.

    Christ said, “It is not what goes into a man that defiles him, but rather what comes out.”

  7. Todd Wood said, “Cal . . . I heartily disagree.”

    Yes, I especially remember the heartily part!

    Can I issue you a challenge that so far no-one has been able to meet?
    Find me a verse–preferably 2 or 3–that says such and such is essential for salvation, or verses that say such and such will leave you without salvation–something to that effect. Then find me a quote of a Mormon official, that you have not taken out of context, that indicates clearly that LDS teachings disagree with those Bible verses.

    Good luck. (You’re going to need luck because no grace will be available to help you.)

  8. Cal: thanks for your kind words.

    “…supposed to accept non-Mormon Christians as part of the body of Christ…”

    If it were up to me, I’d just as soon not accept anyone. I’d like to leave the accept/reject business up to God—the whole “shepherd knows his sheep” / “sheep from the goats” / “wheat and tares” business (or, as stated in 1 Nephi 14:10, church of lamb or church of the devil).

    The biggest reason is that I’m not really sure how to act differently toward someone whether I accept or reject them as belonging to Christ. Either way, I’d like to do what I can to serve them. So it seems like a useless distinction.

    Now, I recognize that what I’ve said above depends heavily on what we mean by “accept.” For some, that includes accepting another’s baptism (for example). For others, it simply means being willing to pray with someone else or not (I ran into this when I visited an Evangelical church and was very much not welcome, being a Mormon). So I’ll admit that I’m using “accept” loosely—or looser—to mean something like, “acknowledge the efforts of / treat with respect / look for ways to work and worship together.” Perhaps Paul would have been appalled? I really don’t know.

  9. BrianJ: Like you, I’m also using “accept” to include working and worshiping together. No doubt, Paul included that as well (Romans 15:5-7).

    I apologize for my misled fellow-evangelicals who did not make you feel welcome. There is, as you know, a tremendous division between LDS and non-LDS churches. Lots of improvement is needed in all of us. I for one, would have gone out of my way to make you feel welcome if I had been at that church you visited.

    Not only that, but assuming that Jesus is living in your heart, Brian, I would have accepted you as my brother, as one adopted into the family created by Jesus’ sufferings on the cross.

    Have a great day!

  10. Let me ask you something, Brian and Cal.

    Romans 14 is a text used in application by some American ministers to accept practicing homosexuals who say they are disciples of Jesus.

    Should that be a plausible application of the text?

    (ps – And I am thrilled when LDS friends and family members visit at B.B.C. in Ammon, Idaho)

  11. With regard to discipleship,

    Doesn’t the question hinge on whether the sin prevents you from having Christian love?

    “By this shall men know that you are my disciples”

    It seems that pride or intolerance would exclude more people from the category than homosexuality.

    Acceptance of whatever level of faith sinning people have seems to be a hard pill to swallow for those who have the sufficient faith or luck to follow the rules and interpret things correctly, whether in the LDS or Evangelical crowd.

  12. I think in our American culture in 2010, intolerance is the buzz word no one wants to be pegged with.

    Here is the 2010 interpretation, presently in some influential sectors of our country:

    Intolerance = violation of Romans 14 = misled, narrow-minded, unloving, divisive, disrespectful, judgmental, prideful bigots.

    But Romans 14 has context parameters — it is the book of Romans.

    Our church family was in I Corinthians 5 last Sunday morning, where we got into applicational homosexual issues swirling in our country. Bishop Gene Robinson wrote last month: “Religious Right hatemongers and crazies are spewing all sorts of venom and condemnation, all in the name of a loving God. The second-highest-ranking Mormon leader, Boyd K. Packer, recently called same-sex attraction ‘impure and unnatural’ in an act of unspeakable insensitivity at the height of this rash of teen suicides. He declared that it can be cured, and that same-sex unions are morally repugnant and ‘against God’s law and nature’.”

    I think Bishop Gene Robinson speaks nationally as a fool, completely disregarding the biblical message of Romans.

    Certainly, we don’t bar the doors from anyone coming to church. Let LGBT young people come to B.B.C. Please come and taste God’s love and goodness and grace. NO ONE is more righteous in and of themselves in comparison to anyone else.

    And yet please, let’s allow the Bible to dictate who is God, what is the gospel, and who is Christian community, and what is Christian orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

  13. And when Bishop Gene Robinson seeks to fortify his argument by quoting Baptist minister, Cody J. Sanders, I can not accept the doctrine or the lifestyle promoted by this Baptist man.

    And I don’t think that I am in violation of the very important and critical words about unity laid before us in Romans 14. I believe that it is the one arguing from the other side of the table.

  14. Todd: “…to accept practicing homosexuals who say they are disciples of Jesus. Should that be a plausible application of the text?”

    Well, as I indicated in my post, I’m not really certain how to apply the text—meaning, that I’m not sure what Paul means. So I can’t answer your exact question.

    I can answer the larger question, though: should practicing homosexuals find acceptance in Christian congregations? I absolutely believe that they should—again, check above for how I am using the word “accept.”

  15. Jared: “Acceptance of whatever level of faith sinning people have seems to be a hard pill to swallow for those who have the sufficient faith or luck to follow the rules and interpret things correctly, whether in the LDS or Evangelical crowd.”

    I think it might actually be the reverse of that. If I can’t trust Christ enough to save someone I deem “less than” myself, what exactly is so superior about my faith? What do I have faith in? I would say that if I’m finding accepting someone else to be a “hard pill” then I have some serious issues I need to resolve.

    Todd: I think that “tolerance” is a very poor synonym for “accept.”

  16. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this chapter and the idea of accepting others into our congregations and in our lives, and I admit to having a similar struggle as Brian: I don’t know what it means to accept others.

    I don’t know how I should treat non-Christians compared to how I treat Christians. I don’t know how I should treat non-Mormons compared to how I treat Mormons. I try to treat everyone with equal degrees of love and understanding. I may not condone their actions, but I don’t think that I need to treat them unkindly, either.

    I will point out that, in my own experiences, I have always been treated with a great deal of love, respect, and welcome when I have attended an Evangelical church. The three times I have done so, I have done so openly as an outsider and as a member of the LDS faith. The last time, the senior pastor and his wife actually made cookies and dropped them off at my home with a note to me and my wife letting us know that we were welcome any time. Is this what Paul means by accepting?

    If it is, I still don’t quite understand how it is any different from accepting believers into my life. But then, maybe that was Paul’s point in the first place. Perhaps this entire chapter is a 1900+ year old way of telling Christians to be in the world without being of the world.

  17. “The last time, the senior pastor and his wife actually made cookies and dropped them off at my home with a note to me and my wife letting us know that we were welcome any time. Is this what Paul means by accepting?”

    No, I don’t think so in this chapter, Alex.

    I think Brian hit it right on the head in the opening of the post: “receive in full fellowship”.

  18. I think I should clarify my comment about not being welcomed in a particular Evangelical congregation.

    My family visits another Christian church on Easter Sunday in addition to our own LDS meetings. We do this to experience a broader sense of fellowship on a day held most sacred by most Christians.

    I knew ahead of time that some Christian denominations, including some Evangelicals, proscribe against praying with non-Christians. And of course I know that some Christians regard me as non-Christian due to of my Mormon-ness. Nevertheless, when I sent an email to the local pastor, I did not identify myself as Mormon. His emailed reply was warm and expressed excitement for our upcoming visit.

    When we met after the services, I identified myself as the person from the email. Again, he and his wife we very happy to meet us in person and we talked for a bit about our families, our thoughts about their services that day, etc. Then they asked where we normally attended church—and my answer pretty much ended the conversation. No one came right out and said it (in fact, the conversation really did end right there, so no one said anything), but I got the distinct impression that they felt as though I had ‘sneaked in under their radar’—that they would have preferred that my family had never visited because we are Mormon. And the best explanation I had—and still have—for their reaction is that they are of the “exclusive prayer” vein of Christianity.

    Now, maybe I’m wrong about them. I don’t know. But if I’m right, I want to be very clear that I do not blame them or hold them responsible for being unwelcoming. I knew beforehand that it was a possibility that theirs was an “exclusive prayer” congregation, so I should have asked if it was okay for Mormons to visit. That was my oversight. True, not everyone knows about this sort of thing, but I did; i.e., my bad.

    PS: I’m sure that “exclusive prayer” is the wrong term. Someone correct me please.

  19. I think they just didn’t know what to do with you. Personally, I’m glad for that end to your conversation as compared to the alternatives.

  20. Brian, if you were to ask me to pray with you, I would. I would do it in a heartbeat.

    I would do that with any LDS friend.

    But in light of LDS Authority positions on both orthodoxy and orthopraxy, B.B.C is not currently joining with LDS ward congregations surrounding our church for joint worship in the precious bond of unity and full Christian fellowship.

    I and the LDS bishops probably look very similar on Sundays. We can wear suits. We can carry our KJV Bibles. We can enter our church buildings with steeples (I constantly get asked if our building is an LDS ward chapel). We can sip water at our drinking fountains near our restrooms. We can open up our hymnbooks and sing the same hymns. Our families sit together. We enjoy potlucks. Outwardly, the Baptist pastor and the LDS bishop are much more similar than Roman Gentile believers and Hellenistic Jewish believers.

    But our heart issues go beyond such important issues like Sabbath activity, worship days and wine drinking, etc. “Full fellowship” is based on the full righteousness of God. Our division is on how as sinners to obtain and apply and keep God’s full righteousness, thus maintaining full fellowship in the precious bond of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    We shall see how the Lord unfolds His gospel glory in future days . . . looking forward to Romans 15. 🙂

    He has a glorious, universal, inclusivistic plan! God is in the business of bringing together people as one mind and one mouth in glorifying Him.

    The climax of chapter 14 is in chapter 15.

    We look with yearning eyes to this God of hope.

  21. Tim, commenting to BrianJ, said:

    I think they just didn’t know what to do with you.

    That would be my guess as well. If they had known ahead of time (or faced a similar situation before), they probably would have reacted differently. Whether in a positive or negative way, it’s hard to say.

  22. Tim, Eric: I don’t want to “out” the pastor by providing too much info (not that anyone is really going to try to track him down, but still…). He grew up in Utah. 20-something years living there. I’m definitely not the first Mormon he’s interacted with—though, perhaps the first that’s visited his church here.

    At any rate, I don’t mean to dissect that experience or their reaction. I originally brought it up as an example of what could happen when people have different rules about praying with others. Then I worried that people were reading my comment as a criticism of him (or people like my interpretation of him), and wanted to clarify that I didn’t mean to place blame, etc.

  23. “But our heart issues go beyond…”

    Is ‘heart issues’ a common term in Evangelical Christianity? If so, what does it mean?

    I ask because once I was told by a very Evangelical girl that she thought that I might have heart issues because I rode in a car with a single man when I was a married woman. I’d never heard the term before or since, until Todd Wood.

  24. Katyjane, I was taken to task by some in bloggernacle for breaking into the culture with that term four years ago . . . some decrying it as a sappy, sentimental, emotional, experiential, or romantically charged, etc.

    But it was nine years ago in Ammon, Idaho among my own congregation that I began using this term. Two aspects are significant to me in the use of this expression

    (1) In Hebraic culture, the heart encompasses everything – emotions, intellect, and will. It is the worship of God with the greatest efforts of your mind, with the obedience of your will, and with the flow of your feelings. Among the Hebrews, the heart captures it all.

    (2) We need the divine light and grace of heaven to enable us to continually see what sits on the throne of heart – God or self. The Greek word for the pronoun “I” is ego. And it is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ (contained here in the book of Romans and elsewhere) that powerfully dethrones the ego from being the harmful and hurtful center, sets us free, and sweeps us into the heavenlies.

    We must have that in our country.

    This is what I mean by the expression. Someday, when I write a little book, entitled “Heart Issues in the I-15 Corridor”, I will send you a copy, Katyjane.

  25. Todd Wood asked me:
    “Romans 14 is a text used in application by some American ministers to accept practicing homosexuals who say they are disciples of Jesus. Should that be a plausible application of the text?”

    Hard question.
    I have had two friends over the course of the last 27 years who were practicing homosexuals IN THEIR MINDS. (One of them is now married to a woman & has children.) Both of them had some sense that their thoughts were wrong, and didn’t want them.

    Sadly, I couldn’t spend much time with them because they were attracted to me in the wrong way. Since they were definitely both Christians, I would have to say that if I were a pastor, I would accept them as Paul told us to accept those weak in faith, but I would regard them as having a serious problem. I would be concerned about their influence on my congregation. I would preach about the harmfulness and sinfulness of gay thoughts and behavior. I would try my best to be patience, understanding, and compassionate toward them while encouraging them to grow into the power of the Lord to overcome.

    I still catch myself gossiping sometimes, and I think that’s just as bad. A pastor once told me he’d rather have a homosexual in his church than a gossiper.
    We can’t throw out all the gossipers.

    P. S. I noticed you haven’t taken on my challenge, Todd.

  26. Cal, I think the basic problem with your challenge is that you’re seeking to minimally define who is “in”. I think the New Testament is much more concerned with the markers of a disciple than who gets into Heaven with the smell of smoke.

    Someone who denies the Historic Resurrection of Jesus passes your test. So what if you can find a definition of “Christian” that Mormons can agree with? All the other irreconcilible problems between us remain.

  27. “Someday, when I write a little book, entitled “Heart Issues in the I-15 Corridor”, I will send you a copy, Katyjane.”

    I look forward to reading it. Hopefully mine will come autographed? 🙂

  28. Cal, I am not really interested in the challenge until you finds for me quotes from President Thomas Monson or any of the 12 that provide for me assurance that I can be positionally in full fellowship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, presently.

    There are around 100 LDS bishops in my town area. Maybe you can find one bishop. Just 1%, saying that because of my submission to the gospel of Jesus Christ, I am in full fellowship/acceptance with the Father right now.

  29. Sadly, I couldn’t spend much time with them because they were attracted to me in the wrong way.

    I’m sure they were just seething cauldrons of lust for you, Cal. How could you fail to be the primary object of every gay man’s unbridled passion?

  30. Todd, what difference does LDS acceptance make to Cal’s challenge?

    Whether the LDS think you could benefit from more ordinances is completely irrelevant to the question of whether the New Testament excludes LDS from Christianity or salvation.

  31. Cal,

    I don’t wish to hurt your feelings but your challenge to show biblical proof texts to exclude Mormonism from Christianity isn’t exactly difficult but the solo scriptura chalenge is quite divisive and shows a disregard for the history of the Christian Church (warts and all), a failure to recognize the most basic ecclesiology present in the New Testament, and an abandonment of the few ecumenical doctrines that create a common ground across Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism. I would imagine that the reason nobody has responded to your challenge is the belief that you have already rejected any doctrine as essential and that a response is an exercise in futility.

    Before I go on let me say that I usually don’t participate in “are Mormons Christians” conversations. I find it pointless. These conversations are based on competing definitions of “Christian” and serve only to demonstrate a radically different hermeneutical approach to the Bible. These discussions generally degrade into egregious proof texting (on both sides), name calling of one form or another, and because it is based on an expansive view of doctrines fails to deal with the real issues that divide us.

    Historically and ecumenically there are two basic issues. First the early Church following the biblical imperative to maintain sound doctrine came together to explain the nature of the Triune God. Mormonism’s outright rejection of the resulting creeds is problematic when you acknowledge that Eastern Orthodoxy considers them infallible, Roman Catholicism regards them as dogmatically binding, and most Protestants regard them as accurately reflecting biblical teaching. Second the entire Church (not just evangelicals) has rejected Joseph Smith as a prophet and including the followers of a false prophet into the Church is, I believe, without biblical warrant.

    Ecclesiastically, the most basic part of the Church is discipline. For the Chruch To neglect discipline would be to ignore the clear teaching of the Bible (Matt 18:17; Acts 20:28-31a; Rom 16:17-18; 1 Cor 5:1-5, 13; 14:33, 40; Gal 6:1; Eph 5:6, 11; 2 Thes 3:14-15; 1 Tim 1:20; 5:20; Tit 1:10-11; 3:10; Rev 2:14-16a; 2:20). Part of discipline is the instruction in the whole council of God, teaching sound doctrine, and the exclusion of false doctrine and prophets from the Church (Jer 14:14; John 8:31, 47; 14:23; Rom 16:17-20; Gal 1:8-9; 2 Thes 2:15; 2 Tim 3:16-4:4; 1 John 4:1-3; 2 John 9-11).

    There is of course disagreement between Mormons, Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism about what sound doctrine is, but this disagreement does not remove the responsibility for each of those traditions to exclude those who would teach error and heresy from the Church. The Roman Church anathematized the Protestant Reformers. For the Eastern Orthodox, being a Christian is “defined by participation in the Holy Eucharist”, pretty much excluding everybody but the Orthodox from being a Christian. In much the same way Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism (not just evangelicals) have for various reasons (some better than others) rejected Mormonism.

    Where does this leave us? If we take our own beliefs seriously, recognise the ecclestical imparitives of the Bible, our connection with the historical Church, and are concerned with the the unity of the Church excluding Mormonism’s prophets and doctrines from the visible Church of Christ is ecclesiastically required, historical based and truly ecumenical. This is not a declaration of the state of salvation of particular Mormons. Ecclesiastically, called and ordained leaders in the Church are charged to remove false prophets and doctrine. Historically the Church has defended its biblical mandate to exercise discipline by removing false prophets and doctrine. Ecumenically there is no hope for unity inside the Church of Christ if we feel free to abandon the catholic creeds of the early Church to make room for Mormons thus making the alienation between Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox worse. We are not calld to make up our doctines every Sunday. True ecumenism recognizes areas of agreement while working through differences in language and thought but never claiming agreement and unity where it does not exist. False ecumenism by glossing over the details and distinctions of doctrinal differences is dishonest and an insult to the beliefs of both parties.

  32. Jared, the “Authorities” are saying that God the Father is not granting to me full fellowship and eternal life until I perform the necessary ordinances. It is that simple.

    And I fully rebel against the whole system.

  33. And it is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ (contained here in the book of Romans and elsewhere) that powerfully dethrones the ego from being the harmful and hurtful center, sets us free, and sweeps us into the heavenlies.

    Personally, I see the gospel of Jesus Christ doing the exact opposite. I see it taking the ego from its base nature and raising it to the glorious mansions that God has prepared for it. I think God wants to have many wonderful, faithful individuals worshiping Him. But that is probably just my inner Rand speaking in a distinctly religious way.

  34. Just this morning a Mormon contacted me thru my site and made comments that will lend to my response to Tim.
    This Mormon said that he has “felt a kinship with Evangelicals for many years but that feeling is rarely reciprocated.”
    Let’s imagine that you, Tim, discover that the LDS is Christian at its core. I believe that although you would still respectfully and gently try to steer them away from their error, as you do now, they would sense your feeling of kinship with them in a way that they can’t now. In my view, that would be a significant step.

    Incidentally, this Mormon also said that to him D&C 1:14 “is saying that a day is coming that there will be a great division amongst the people in which Mormons and all other Bible believing Christians will stand side by side in the face of an atheistic onslaught. I am so happy to see that is beginning to happen.”


    I haven’t read all of gundek’s comments yet. I’ll get back to that later. Thanks.

  35. a personal note to Alex: You contacted me through my site some months ago. I wrote back but didn’t realize until now that you probably didn’t receive my comments because of a malfunction.
    So here’s a belated thanks for your helpful comments.

  36. Alex, the KJV mansions are the many rooms of the one abode. 😉

    When I stand in front of the Grand Canyon or on top of the Grand Teton, my ego seems very small and at the same time experiences exhilaration.

    I can only imagine what it will be like when this creature literally stands in the presence of the Eternal Son.

  37. Gundek, you didn’t hurt my feelings at all. I’m just glad someone responded.

    I assume you referred to the Nicene Creed and/or the Apostles Creed, and how they came about? I consider the Bible to be above any creeds that were written later on, although I don’t remember having any differences with those creeds the last time I looked at them.

    You said, “Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism (not just evangelicals) have for various reasons . . . rejected Mormonism.”
    This is apparently part of your reason for rejecting Mormonism, and is part of the problem. People are going with the majority rather than listening to God. You know the old saying, “If everyone walks off a bridge, would you do it too?”
    Besides, there are ministers in high places, such as Joel Osteen, who believe Mormonism adheres to the essential doctrines.

    You said “I would imagine that the reason nobody has responded to your challenge is the belief that you have already rejected any doctrine as essential. . . .”

    That may be true. But if it is, they would all be wrong. If they are wrong about that, they might also be wrong about the LDS. I believe there are essential doctrines and that God has made them abundantly clear (because He wants us in heaven with him so badly that he has repeated himself over and over and over again throughout the Scriptures).

    We must repent (change direction) and believe in Jesus. This is stated in many different ways—trust in Jesus, live for him, receive him, follow him, pick up your cross daily, etc.
    First John says that if you don’t acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God, the Christ, you are not a Christian.
    Hebrews says that to come to God you must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

    Do you know any others? (I’m challenging you because I know if you think about this prayerfully, God will sooner or later begin to open your eyes.)

    Billy Graham used to say, “Come as you are.” God accepts us, justifies us, forgives us, covers our sin under the blood of Christ, etc., first; THEN he starts to clean up our doctrine and lifestyle. The Bible doesn’t say we have to know God’s history, etc. Just come! “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).

    I appreciate your taking the time to address my challenge, if not take it on. Have a fine evening, my brother Gundek.

  38. Besides, there are ministers in high places, such as Joel Osteen, who believe Mormonism adheres to the essential doctrines.

    Even if I were Protestant, I wouldn’t be using Joel Osteen as an authority.

  39. “Besides, there are ministers in high places, such as Joel Osteen, who believe Mormonism adheres to the essential doctrines.”

    I don’t think Osteen would know an essential Christian doctrine if it hit him in the face.

  40. Eric, to say I was using Osteen as an authority isn’t entirely fair. I was just pointing out to gundek that if one is going to look to humans instead of God as final authorities, then one should consider that there are respectable humans, successful in ministry, who break away from the mold. Isn’t the president of Fuller Theological Seminary, Richard Mouw, another example?
    Eastern Orthodox and Catholics aren’t great authorities in my estimation. According to barna.org, only about one third of Catholics are even born again.

    theoldadam is unfair as well. Joel Osteen’s father was John Osteen, a man who knew the Word of God very well. I’m sure Joel does as well, altho he may not quote it as often. And really, what’s of more significance: knowing it or living it? Give me someone who LIVES the gospel—he’s the one who really knows it.

    Tim: Oprah & Joel Osteen are in totally different categories.

  41. I have heard several talks by Osteen. I don’t call them sermons because a sermon contains God’s Law and His Gospel.
    Osteen’s talks are all about…’you’. And what you can obtain from God if you only are …whatever.

    No talk of repentance, of suffering, or of the need of forgiveness, or the free gift of Christ in the Sacraments, and no talk of Christ’s forgiveness. When I say no, I mean not in any of the times that I listened to him.

    When dying and rising, repentance and forgiveness are being preached, you will not end up with the huge crowds that Osteen draws each week. The Christian faith has never been that popular.

    He may be a great guy. He seems like it. What he’s doing may be fine. It may help people. But it shouldn’t be connected to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Sorry, that is just the truth of it…no matter who his father was.

  42. The Christian faith has never been that popular.

    I like when people keep repeating things like this that are just, demonstrably untrue.

  43. Really?

    How many of Christ’s followers remained with Him at the cross?

    How big a following did St. Paul have?

    Now, when we get into the part where we can get goodies for ourselves…then the crowds start to grow.

    Sorry, that’s just the sad truth of it.

  44. So you really meant, “the Christian faith as I understand it and practice it has never been that popular.”

  45. Maybe that’s better.

    I still believe that orthodox Christianity is not about ‘us’. It’s about Him.

    When He showed up in this world 2,000 years ago, people did not want Him.

    I don’t anything has changed.

    But He wanted them, and He still wants us…in spite of our rebellion and desire to be our own gods.

  46. I avoid the teaching of Joel Osteen (Rom. 16:17).

    Alongside discussion of Phoebe and Junia, I am very interested in what Jack might say about Romans 16:17.

    Cal, if I were a minister in Joseph Smith’s day, I would have placed him in the same category. And in regards to Richard Mouw, I am more hesitant than him concerning some LDS individuals. That is no secret –

    http://heartissuesforlds.wordpress.com/2008/03/07/mormon-metaphysics-the-lds-trinity/#comment-4142

    But I have never heard him claim that evangelicalism should join hands in full fellowship with the LDS prophet, his counselors, and the twelve. You are arguing for a reductionism of God and the Gospel that is very offensive.

  47. Cal,

    I am wondering why maintaining with the historical Church the essential nature of the Trinity would be regarded as jumping off a bridge? I could be wrong but it seems that you have made the general call of the Gospel your only essential and as I pointed out briefly when I commented on ecclesiastical discipline the Church is commanded to keep false prophets and their doctrine out.

    While I agree that all creeds and councils are prone to errors I believe that the early Church was correct in its understanding of the nature of God. Outright denial of the Trinity is denial of the nature of God. This is the truly ecumenical position you are rejecting.

    We could go on and discuss other doctrines rejected or affirmed by Mormon prophets but if we acknowledge the triune nature of our God it seems pointless

  48. I should also add that no matter if it is Joel Osteen, Dr Mouw, or Cal I think that we should examine the theological claims in the light of Scripture. Each generation of the Church must understand its doctrine, history, and tradition in light of the revealed Word. I must admit that I am always suspicious of approaches to these issues that begin with a rejection of history and tradition.

  49. While I agree that all creeds and councils are prone to errors I believe that the early Church was correct in its understanding of the nature of God. Outright denial of the Trinity is denial of the nature of God. This is the truly ecumenical position you are rejecting.

    The Trinity doesn’t explain the nature of God does it? If anything it simply frames the mystery in a certain way. By its very nature, its a doctrine beyond understanding.

    I don’t think Cal is saying that Joseph was not a false prophet in his understanding, nor that he had the correct understanding of God, only that individual Mormons seem to have faith sufficient for salvation given what they do believe about Jesus.

    I would agree that Cal’s approach doesn’t make as much sense in a catholic or orthodox perspective, but it does seem reasonably consistent with the Evangelical perspective regarding sola fide.

  50. Jared,

    Two very good questions…

    No the Trinity does not speak exhaustively to the nature of God, but it does express a genuine aspect of God, part of His nature. While the doctrine of the Trinity, is as God Himself, beyond understanding it is more than just a mathematical formula.

    Understood properly “solo fide” does not ground salvation in our faith but in the person, work, and obedience of Christ. Christ’s obedience is the foundation of our justification. Faith is instrumental in justification it is the righteousness of Christ that is effectual.

    With that said it is faith in Christ the second person of the Holy Trinity not faith is some abstract second God that is instrumental in our justification. Denial of the Trinity inevitably leads to a denial of the incarnation and the divine nature of Christ. Followed by a denial of either the perfect obedience (active obedience) or the efficacy of His sacrifice on the Cross (passive obedience), if not both. Once you deny the Trinity you no longer have the God that justifies you have a cosmic tragedy. This leaves you very little to have faith in.

  51. hmm,

    With that said it is faith in Christ the second person of the Holy Trinity not faith is some abstract second God that is instrumental in our justification.

    I thought it was faith in the Person, Jesus of Nazareth that was required.

    I suppose I can’t see how:

    “faith in Christ the second person of the Holy Trinity”

    is not identical to:

    “some abstract second God” who is Jesus of Nazareth.

  52. right. . . only some abstract second Person who is also God.

    I suppose if you eliminate the abstractions you are left with Jesus of Nazareth.

  53. I’d be interested in Todd & Gundek’s view of the following quotation of Joseph Smith:

    “Each God in the Godhead is a personage, separate and distinct from each of the others, yet they are ‘One God,’ meaning that they are united as one in the attributes of perfection. For instance, each has the fullness of truth, knowledge, charity, power, justice, judgment, mercy, and faith.”
    —Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1976), 345-47.

    I see it as an accurate explanation of the Trinity. I agree with Jared that while the “each God” part may be offensive, if you put it in context, you find the apparent difference a matter of semantics.

    Gundek said, “I am always suspicious of approaches to these issues that begin with a rejection of history and tradition.”
    I’m not rejecting any history or tradition as far as I know. You are exaggerating my position in the same way that Mormon critics tend to exaggerate LDS positions.

    @ Todd: You think Joel Osteen is a false prophet? You’re almost as sectarian as Latter-day Saints are!

  54. Jared,

    I understand that you don’t believe that the Trinitarian expressions of the Church are true, much less that it is essential to Faith, the problem is that a reference to sola fide ignores that this SLOGAN represents a reformation doctrine resulting from a Trinitarian understanding of God. I am not trying to offer an apologetic for the Trinity, I am only stating that it is a central, critical, and ecumenical doctrine. Denial of the Trinity has been considered to lead to some form of either tri-theism or unitarianism, both have been denied by the Church as idolatry. We also should be careful not confuse denial of the Trinity with an improper but correctable understanding of the Trinity.

    I cannot comment on Cal’s understanding of “by faith alone” but classically it is understood that our faith (the instrumental cause of justification) comes from the Holy Spirit, it rests on the person and work of the Son (the formal cause of our justification) and the promises of the Father. Solo fide goes hand in hand with Solus Christus, teaching us that Christ is our only mediator with God. He functions as this mediator because He is truly man and truly God. All of this rests on the divinity of Jesus Christ and the Triune nature of God. I tend to believe that there is ample biblical evidence for this position. I also tend to believe that a faith based on the active denial of the Trinity cannot have as its source the very Triune God it denies. Considering that both the source and the object of our faith is the Triune God it is difficult for me to understand how “by faith alone” can come into play.

    Like I said, I completely understand that the LDS deny the Trinity but if we are going to have a truly ecumenical dialog it cannot be based on ignoring how crucial this doctrine is for the Christian Church.

  55. Cal,

    If I misrepresented your view that I was jumping off a bridge with the historical Church instead of listening to God as a rejection of history and tradition then I apologize. I would think that mistake would be taken as perfectly reasonable considering the circumstances.

    I think that the quote you presented perfectly represents tri-theism and has absolutely no resemblance to an orthodox expression of the Trinity.

  56. Gundek,

    Its not that I don’t think that Trinitarian expressions are true. I just don’t think they are remotely understandable.

    I feel the same way about LDS expressions of God.

    Both lines of explanation are, by their own admission, abstract, incomplete, and point to a mystery rather than explain it. Both LDS and Evangelicals don’t really have any idea what they are really talking about but are very happy feeling they do with neat explanations.

    The problem with tradition in general is that it requires assent to language that describes something that cannot be understood. It becomes a funny language game rather than a real description.

    I think if you remove all of the analytical stuff and break down Jesus’ teaching on a human level, its hard to really justify a dramatic difference between the LDS faith in Jesus vs. the Evangelical faith in Jesus when compared with the faith that is spoken of in the Gospels.

    Its obvious that the Trinity is critical to the historical Christian church, but this appears to be, in part, a political development.

    The problem of course with tradition is that it sets certain ways of thinking in concrete and can distorts clear thinking.

    Joseph Smith’s understanding of God was a rebellion against the traditional strictures in thought about God. He is, was and will be heretical. Some LDS attempts to shoehorn LDS revelation into traditional creed based theology won’t work.

    I think the point I am making is that if you had Jesus here today, based on his behavior in the Gospels I don’t think you would have a creed based religion, you would have a Person/spirit based religion that would would be as natural as common human behavior yet as difficult to nail down and define as common human behavior.

    The point Cal seems to make is that Mormons and traditional Christians may not put their faith in the same description of the Person Jesus, but they both put their faith in that Person.

  57. Solo fide goes hand in hand with Solus Christus, teaching us that Christ is our only mediator with God. He functions as this mediator because He is truly man and truly God. All of this rests on the divinity of Jesus Christ and the Triune nature of God.

    Perhaps I guess I don’t understand how a Divine Christ being the only savior and mediator with the Father depends on the triune nature of God. If God the Father is not of the same substance as Jesus (the details of which is considered a complete mystery) how does this throw off the entire system?

    Why does assent to this particular inexplicable so critical?

    And if something is inexplicable, it seems that “wrong explanations” of equally inexplicable phenomena and facts are practically as good as “correct explanations”.

  58. Jared,

    I imagine that you know that I polity disagree. We all have creeds the difference is that some people write their creeds down and publicly confess their beliefs so that they can be examined and tested against the revealed word of God. Others keep them private.

    The greatest commandment is “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” I think we are commanded to use our minds in developing and understanding of God as He has revealed Himself.

    If Christ were present we would walk by sight and not by Faith.

  59. Jared,

    First, if we did not have the Trinity we would no longer have monotheism.

    When we describe the work of God in Salvation we understand that there no work accomplished by God that all three are not present in. This becomes important we we understand the application of Christ’s righteousness. Sometimes this is explained as the Father ordains, Christ accomplishes, and the Holy Spirit applies.

  60. Jared: “If God the Father is not of the same substance as Jesus (the details of which is considered a complete mystery) how does this throw off the entire system?

    Why does assent to this particular inexplicable so critical?”

    I think it makes a big difference about what it means to be God, or a god. Because Mormonism rejects (traditional) Trinitarianism, it is free to believe in exaltation—and to appreciate the “power of godliness” that the Triune God concept denies.

    gundek: “First, if we did not have the Trinity we would no longer have monotheism.”

    That relies entirely on a very specific definition of “monotheism.”

  61. Gundek, no apology was needed, but I’ll accept it anyway.

    Jared’s intelligence is pretty advanced when it concerns the problem of how attempts at explaining the Trinity by those who do not understand it have caused needless divisions.
    And you’re right, Jared, when you said, “The point Cal seems to make is that Mormons and traditional Christians may not put their faith in the same description of the Person Jesus, but they both put their faith in that Person.”

    If we take this discussion any further, I think it would be useful to ask, “Can the Trinity be understood?” I believe it can, and I think if we all understood it would help solve this monumental problem of division.

    I think we’ve been tricked by the lie that it can’t be understood. Where does the Bible say it can’t be understood? All three members of the Trinity are living inside us. I think we ought to know something about them. Like most of the principles of truth, it is impossible to understand outside the Holy Spirit, but once the Spirit reveals it to you, it’s the simplest thing in the world!

    We know that the Father and the Son are two persons—“I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.” (John 8:18).

    We also know according to John 10:30 that “I [Jesus] and the Father are one.”

    In John 17:11 Jesus prayed, “Holy Father, protect them [his disciples] by the power of your name . . . so that they may be one as we are one.”
    We know how we are one—we are one in the Holy Spirit. So according to John 17:11 Jesus and the Father are one in the Holy Spirit, that is, one in love, truth, righteousness, power, purpose, light, eternal life, & so on.
    Of course, the Son and the Father are PERFECTLY one, while we aren’t perfectly one yet because we aren’t controlled by the Holy Spirit all the time.

    It took many years for God to put that together in my mind because I had to wade through all the religion to get to it. Looking back now, I think I missed it because I wasn’t expecting it to be so simple. Have you ever spent 3 frustrating minutes looking for a misplaced pen only to find it right where it was supposed to be?

    You all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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