Moore to the Point on Mormonism

Russell Moore, a Southern Baptist theologian, has been gaining a larger audience from Evangelicals in the last several years. His book “Adopted for Life” has become a must-read for Evangelicals considering the plight of orphans and he recently published an epic take-down on Pat Robertson that had many people cheering. Today he offered this reflection on how to reach Mormons with the truth. How Christians Should Engage Latter-Day Saints.

I think he has some interesting things to say about offering more than arguments against Mormonism. There’s plenty that Mormons will take offense to, but much of that is inherent in advocating that anyone should transition from one belief system to another.

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113 thoughts on “Moore to the Point on Mormonism

  1. We don’t always agree with everything Pat Robertson says, but one thing I’ve always respected about him—he doesn’t check to see what’s popular with Christians before he expresses his views.

  2. I like Moore’s points. He mentions the road to Emmaus incident, which was my paradigm for Christian proselytizing as a missionary. (Luke 24:13-32; Mark 16:12-13)

    Its a strange story really, Jesus, a go, made efforts to convince the disciples of the truth of the Gospel by companionship and explanation of the scriptures. The convincing came in the activity and its effect on the disciples, it was who Jesus was as a man, not a god, that did the trick. Only after they were converted, and urged their kindness on him did he show himself.

  3. I read it–not overly impressed frankly. Preaching to his own flock I’m sure this would play well, but as an active Mormon it comes across as perpetuating stereotypes: Mormons don’t believe in Jesus! Disappointed actually that a pastor can get so much wrong, with a dose of condescending arrogance to boot. Moore reminds me in his approach to reach Mormons, of the salesman who is trying to sell snow to eskimos, without realizing they already have snow. For example when Moore oddly writes; “For an example of how to proclaim the gospel to Mormons, we should pay attention to Paul’s proclamation of the gospel to a cultural milieu that closely resembled that of Salt Lake City: the pagan enclave of Ephesus. Paul presented Jesus as the key to understanding God’s cosmic plan, as the reason for human existence, human worship, human fatherhood, even human sexuality.” You’ve got to be kidding me.

    Not sure about the “sexuality” reference, but telling Mormons that Jesus is the key to the cosmic plan, the reason for human existence, the Savior of the World, the divine son of God, the only name under heaven, etc., would likely be met with the blank stare of a Mormon waiting for the point. “Yeah…and your point is…?” Mormons already believe everything Pastor Moore believes about Christ! The issue really isn’t that Mormons believe “less” about Christ–it’s that they believe “more” about Christ. (Insert here the narrative of the Christ in America, Christ’s role in the pre-existence, Godhead vs. Trinity, etc.) Moore talks as if A) Mormons are just pagans who have no belief in Christ B) Need to have a first encounter with Christ as the redeemer. C) Mormons can’t see the big picture without Christ in their painting. This makes Moore A) insulting B) uninformed. C) really uninformed. I have no doubt this is just a simplistic derivative of his view that “Mormons are not even remotely Christian.” Sounds like just another arrogant condescending run-of-the-mill-everyone’s-wrong-and-going-to-hell-but-me kind of pastors.

    Moore’s also over-simplistic message to Mormons to awaken them from their demonic trance is stated by him as: “our LDS neighbors (and all of us) need to hear of the biblical glory of a restored universe in which human beings will rule with Christ over all things, a universe in which nature itself is freed from the curse and in which human friendship, love, and community continue and grow forever. LDS families don’t just need to hear that we are pro-family. They need to understand that we are pro-family because the family reflects the Fatherhood of God.” Again–“Yeah…and your point is…?” Tell me something I don’t already believe, but don’t insult me by telling me I reject Jesus Christ, when actually our Christology is about 90% the same.

    The only tack that Moore got right was that Mormons believe it because we love the picture our beliefs paint. But I don’t think that’s different for evangelicals either, is it? That’s why Baptists, Catholics or Mormons are who they are, because they find the narrative and claims ring true. I’m not seeing the black and white, good-bad, right-wrong, saved-damn conclusion that Pastor Moore sees. I’d rather he emphasize that Mormons see Christ differently in some key areas, rather than that Mormons don’t see Him at all–which seems to kinda be his message.

  4. If Moore is saying that Mormons need to hear *why* belief in a Trinitarian Jesus is essential for salvation and that all other considerations are fruitless, then I agree with him.

  5. Garth, I think your reaction demonstrates why Evangelicals need to improve their game if they want to have a chance at converting Mormons.

    The Mormon missionary approach to converting Evangelicals is “Read the Book of Mormon, come to church, pray and feel the spirit and you’ll know.” A typical Evangelical approach to Mormons is “You need to learn who Jesus is, ’cause you got it all wrong (I’ll prove it to you) and you don’t want to end up not being a Christian.”

    However, I don’t quite understand the defensiveness to the way he approaches Mormonism. He, like many Evangelicals, have a deep belief that Mormonism is wildly out of line. That is all well and good. Mormons think he is as wrong as he thinks Mormons are. Mormons trivialize and distort Evangelical belief all the time, its their doctrine to have contempt for the way they approach Christianity. Mormon missionaries seem more effective because they don’t lead with that in their missionary efforts. The basic approach is to ignore whatever false doctrine a person may believe and let that work itself out once a person is convinced the church is true. They will build on the “false” beliefs until they are eclipsed by the “true” beliefs.

  6. I don’t think Pat Robertson is a Christian.

    Fortunately for Pat, he doesn’t believe in a Christianity that is works/behavior based. So, he’s all set.

  7. Jared I think has it right. As one who’s never found the logic or hermeneutics of the Trinity convincing for me as explained from the traditional point of view, it only would stiffen my spine to have someone damning me for believing something (the Godhead) for which I have no viable alternative. You are also right that many generational LDS have the same tendency of over-simplifying evangelical theology. What tempers that however is the number of in-coming converts, and our missionaries spending 2 years hearing the other side. Most LDS I know where I live in MI would not have as many misconceptions as someone living in the sheltered LDS bubble of say Utah or Idaho.

  8. What Garth said – When I read/hear Evangelicals talk about Mormons the same way they would talk about a Buddhist or a Hindu or even a Jesus-as-Prophet believing Muslim, I’m convinced they’re talking to a caricature that their pastor dreamed up.

    Moore actually starts out well with – To understand the draw of Mormonism, evangelicals should read the works of Latter-day Saints who explain why they love their religion. – then completely blows it by omitting the Mormon belief in Jesus as Savior and God (albeit non-Trinitarian God). I’m not suggesting a way for Moore to be nicer or more ecumenical to Mormons. No, I’m saying that acknowledging Mormon beliefs about Jesus is the best way to explain what you (the average EV) believes about Jesus! I’ll stop helping you now.

  9. It seems strangely obvious, but if you are an Evangelical, the best way you reach a Mormon is to follow their own approach, i.e. to tap into and affirm their faith in and love for Jesus.

    To ignore this approach is to deeply misunderstand the Mormon faith.

    I think the problem many Evangelicals have with this approach is that they enter the conversation with the assumption that Mormons don’t have faith at all similar to theirs. Mormons don’t have that assumption.

  10. the best way you reach a Mormon is to . . . tap into and affirm their faith in and love for Jesus.

    That might be the most important thing said in these comments.

  11. I pretty much agree with what Garth and Christian J said. It struck me as strange that when Moore described what made evangelical Christianity so appealing that he basically said what almost all Mormons would agree with. He doesn’t understand Mormonism, nor Mormons, at all.

  12. We can’t judge if anyone is a Christian or not on the basis of the stupid things that they say…or do, for that matter. Although we might have our suspicions. Jesus warned us against that, anyway.

    Mormons? I believe that if St. paul were alive today he might request that the Book of Galatians be directed at the Mormons, as well.
    The Galatians believed in Jesus…but then they were talked into keeping the law, too. To be quite fair, many Christian denominations could also qualify to be the target of that letter.

    He basically said, “you heard the gospel and believed…but now you want to add your good works and obedience into the equation? You started well, but went off the rails. Forget about the holiness, ascendancy, becoming perfect project. That’s not gonna happen, and if you want to play that game, then you’d better keep all the law and keep it perfectly. And in so doing you sever yourself from Christ.”

    The cross did all that was needful to accomplish our salvation. Period. I pray that one day all Christians, Mormons, Muslims, and everyone on earth would come to believe that truth.

  13. I think that many Evangelicals are taught that having the correct doctrine is essential to salvation.
    If you say it bluntly like I just wrote it, they would disagree and affirm “salvation by grace through faith”. But i also know, being an Evangelical, that there is an unspoken assumption that you must believe that Jesus is eternally God–in other words, have your theology straight–in order to be able to believe in Jesus in the first place.
    This belief is reinforced many of the apologetics books written for Evangelicals about Mormons.
    In those books (especially the older ones), we are constantly told that Mormons are not Christians because of their “false doctrines”. These books teach that we have to evangelize Mormons as nonbelievers, because that’s what they are because of their doctrines.

    I’m starting to realize that these books may have unintentionally done a disservice to both the Evangelical and Mormon communities (the books I’m thinking of are in the mold of “Kingdom of the Cults”) by reinforcing the view that you have to approach a Mormon as an unbeliever, instead of at least allowing for the possibility that the Mormon you speaking with may believe in Jesus just as much as you do.
    These books also make a direct moral correlation between Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, a correlation that I suspect is not fair or accurate. But perhaps that’s a topic for another time…

  14. We can’t judge if anyone is a Christian or not on the basis of the stupid things that they say…or do, for that matter. Although we might have our suspicions.

    I can.

    Jesus warned us against that, anyway.

    Where?

  15. Why is doctrine important? Because without correct doctrine, us sinners will surely miss that Christ has done everything, really everthing for us on the cross. Our stubborn sinful hearts are always looking for a way to save ourselves (even when we understand correct Biblical doctrine). If I miss Christ crucified as the center of the gospel, I have missed everything.
    I have heard Russell Moore speak on adoption and life issues on a Lutheran radio program, Issues Etc. and he spoke at the Lutherans for Life 2011 Conference (He was adopted and is a big adoption versus abortion advocate). He is a good speaker and I appreciate his understanding of the gospel of adoption by God through Christ. However, I found his article, while saying we need to be focused on doctrine, to be light on actual doctrinal distinctives between Mormons and Christians. I think he could have practiced this idea a bit more in his own article. I do think his heart is in the right place though, and I do not question his sincerity or his motives.

  16. @ Steve Martin: (loved you in “Parenthood”, BTW)–I’m just gonna deviate off Moore to resopnd that Mormons also believe in Galatians, but we view the context perhaps more literally than your theology promotes. Galatians is condemning those Jews, who were trying to impose the law of Moses–in any portion– upon themselves and the new gentiles joining the church. I view Paul’s rebuke you mention, NOT so much directed at the Galatians, but at the Judaizers OF the Galatians. These gentile Galatians (newly converted to Christ) had absolutely no reason to want to live the “law”, but they were being given 2nd class citizenship in the church of Paul’s day, because they were not Abraham’s children. They were not circumcised and they were not of Jewish heritage. This is why Paul in Gal 2 confronted Peter “to his face because he was to be blamed” for refusing to eat with unclean Galatian converts when fellow-Jews arrived from Jerusalem. Paul says Peter “feared them of the circumcision.” It is in this context then (Gal 2-3), in which Paul rebukes the concept of “living the law of Moses” and points out that “if you (Peter) being a Jew liveth not after the manner of the Jews, why do you expect my gentile converts to do what you yourself are not doing.” {Paraphrased} Paul then points out that there’s no reason to live part of the law of Moses, as if it’s little components bring salvation. The law of Moses is fulfilled in Christ. Keeping a foot in both worlds (Jewish and Christian) defeats the grace of Christ who fulfilled the law of Moses. Even Eph 2 is ONLY rebuking the Judaization of the early church. Not the idea of having no law at all for Christians.

    Where the Mormons differ is that we don’t believe Paul was refuting ALL laws or commandments, nor all expectations of behavior. In fact, just the opposite. Christ RAISED the bar for Christians, not lowered it. Christ said that now it wasn’t only murder–but even being angry was a sin. Not only was it adultery–but even lusting in your heart was a sin. Not only was it being circumcised in the flesh–but being circumcised of the heart which Christ would now require. Christ’s law emphasized what you DO–how you act–what you think–how you live–who you minister unto. So, while I respect the evangelical view that “the law” was accomplished in Christ, I feel you misunderstand that Paul meant the law of Moses. Not the law of Christ. To believe that Paul–who constantly railed against sin and false discipleship among believers–believed that discipleship requires literally nothing is the opposite of what the Bible actually says, IMHO. Faith without works is dead. Christ now asks us to “become”, not just “behave”. An informed Mormon, should know that the truth is not to have zero law, but to let Christ’s expectations of us lead us to sanctification. I’m not going to debate if sanctification is a post-salvation gift, or a pre-salvation process. I don’t care how one defines it, so long as we achieve it.

    Just thought your view of pointing Galatians at the Mormons as if they’re unaware of Paul’s teaching. It’s the exegesis, not Paul’s letter with which the Mormons would fundamentally disagree. The context of Paul’s entire ministry to the gentiles leads LDS theology to think Paul didn’t mean what you think he meant. Mormons think Paul preached both grace AND discipleship, in equal parts. What he didn’t preach, ironically as a former fanatical pharisee–was living the “law of Moses.”

  17. Garth,

    Pauls says that he wishes that the Judaizers would “slip with the knife”. Pretty harsh but he os obviously ticked off at the Galatians for being suckered into falling for all this keeping ther law baloney for righteousness sake.

    Even Jesus says that “it is not what goes into a mouth that defiles a man (so much for dietary laws), but what comes out.”

    St. Paul refers to the law (the 10 Commandments) as “the ministry of death” (in 2nd Corinthians, I believe). We are not justified, at all, by what we do, or don’t do…and Paul goes to great lengths to make that clear.

    When we confuse the law and gospel, as I believe not only the Mormons do, but many Evangelicals and Catholics and other Christians, as well, then you’ll water down the gospel so that it really is no gospel at all and the whole thing becomes one big ascendancy project.

    I think the Galatian letter was written to all of us who are tempted to take matters into our own hands, instead of relying on the finished work of Christ on the cross. We put that cross on top of our buildings and in our sanctuaries to keep us grounded on that fact and keep us from going astray into the self.

    Thanks, Garth.

    Steve (the jerk) Martin

  18. You’re right that we are not justified by what we do…But we are sanctified by what we do. Mormons believe both elements are required. Many evangelicals feel only Christ’s justification is required. So there is a fundamental difference between our theologies. (Though evangelicals often misstate the LDS theology to say we burden ourselves with a vain effort at perfection.) As to which theology is closest to what the Bible teaches is up to the individual. I’m just trying to respond, from the LDS perspective, to your comment about “if St. paul were alive today he might request that the Book of Galatians be directed at the Mormons…” Frankly, I’ve always felt that he’d be directing it to the evangelicals with a little rebuke–that he was only talking about giving up the law of Moses. Not the higher law of Christ. I suspect Paul would be appalled to think evangelicals took him to mean that their behavior and actions don’t count at all. In purging the Catholic misconception of “buying” heaven with acts of contrition and penance, the Protestants simply threw the baby out with the bathwater. But this “salvation equation” was beat up in the previous thread about “evangelicals have something the Mormons don’t have.” So I’ll leave it there. No need to rehash all that. I just feel the evangelicals sometimes (not you per se) tend to dismiss the LDS perspective out of hand, without realizing how entrenched the New Testament actually is in presenting the LDS theology. They take Paul to as teaching only their version of “the law”–to mean ALL behavior, in which I feel they greatly err. This toss-off dismissal of the LDS perspective of what Paul actually was saying I just find a bit vexing, since the LDS feel they are only preaching what the Bible (and especially Paul) are teaching. What we become by free will choice, is just as necessary at the Grace Jesus offers. Mormons see it as 1+1=2. Evangelicals seem to see it as 1=1+1.

  19. Sanctification is the flipside of justification. The Lord does both, as 4fivesolas has rightly pointed out.

    “Sanctification is forgetting about yourself” – Gerhard Forde

  20. “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

    1 Corinthians 6:11

    I don’t see a lot in there about what ‘we do’.

  21. Steve: Read the two verses before verse 11. “9/ Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
    10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

    Then Paul reminds them “And that is what some of you WERE.” They repented, were baptized and have become justified and sanctified. If they still were doing those things, they would not be going to heaven. How can you read 11–in context–and still say you don’t see a lot in there about what we do? It’s actually all about what we do and don’t do. Christ makes repentance possible, but Paul would not be complimenting these former sinners if they were still sinning! Notice Paul did not say “And that is what some of you ARE.” Be not deceived was Paul’s warning as if you can live a sinful life and then say “diplomatic immunity! diplomatic immunity!” That’s when Christ will say–depart from me, I never knew you. Christ says who goes to heaven very clearly and it’s not the willful sinners. (Matt 7 & 25) It’s those who are not just “hearers of the word, but doers also.” Only the cross can justify mankind. Christ paid that price alone, bearing of all our sins. Christ did what we could not do. I agree Christ is the essential bridge that brings us to God. But we have to choose to walk across the bridge by discipleship.

    Think of how often the NT brings this message home of self-determination: He enters–only when we knock! The good Samaritan was praised because of what he DID, not because of what he believed like the priest and the Levite who passed by. The rewarded servant magnified his talents and was rewarded with salvation, whereas he who brought nothing back to his Lord was condemned. The 5 virgins who had acted to fill their lamps with oil were welcomed while the indolent 5 virgins were shut out. The parable of the laborers rewarded for their labors, the parable of the prodigal son who could only be saved when he chose to repent, the example of the rich young man who was told to act by selling what he had, giving to the poor, and following Christ but instead “went away sorrowing.” Hundreds of examples! Over and over and over, the actions of man is laid at the root of his salvation.

    Christ saves us from our sins, not in our willful sins. As I said before, I don’t think it’s profitable to argue if mans sanctification is a post-salvation “gift” or a pre-salvation “process”. That to me is a nuance since ultimately Evangelicals and Mormons arrive pretty close to the same conclusion=God requires us to be good! You think he just makes us good by ignoring our evil and making us decide to be good (indwelling). Mormons think he makes us good by teaching us how and letting us decide (agency). The LDS concept is just as biblical and supportable as is the evangelical. (I would argue more so.) Nor do I think Jesus is a narcissist who demands that he gets all the credit for what we become. Heaven “rejoices” when a sinner repents. After all, Jesus gave us free agency just so we could choose for ourselves, so why would He now say our choices don’t really matter? Of course they matter.

  22. Oops on my mind-finger brain coordination–I meant (par 3) He enters–only when we open the door. (Yes–I know–he does the knocking.)

  23. Garth, I’m totally with you in regards to Galatians that the first question we need to ask is “how did this apply to the Galatians.” A lot of sloppy thinking could be corrected with that mindset. That being said, that doesn’t mean that the book doesn’t have some application to those of use who are not Judaizers. There’s all kinds of ways to run a fowl in the same manner as the Judaizers.

    I’ll tackle your thoughts of Jesus’ “higher-law” in a post.

  24. Absolutely true Tim. Whenever we allow any “law” to supplant Christ, or become a check-list-mentality, thus granting pseudo assurance, we become like the Judaizers. Sadly, humans like to live life in sound-bites. I think the LDS are too often guilty of inadvertently conveying the message to our youth that the “step” of marriage, or the “step” of going on a mission, or the “step” of an idyllic family will necessarily be our destination. Then we’ll be happy! Then we’ll have God’s approbation! But marriages can be sad, missions can be hard, family’s can be disappointing. In that sense, over-focusing on any specific step in life could risk pride or false assurances. We all face counterfeit goals. Frankly, I think that is the potential risk also with “being saved” –the ultimate “step” theology. We mistake the commitment to begin, as the last step instead of the first. The “step” is mistaken as a destination. It’s not just one group because life is full of people trying to Judaize us into shooting at the wrong target. I’d love to hear your thoughts on Jesus raising the bar, not lowering the bar as the law of Moses was fulfilled. You always have great insights.

  25. Garth,

    We are ALL unrighteous. “There is none that are good. No not one.” “No one seeks for God.”
    “All our righteous deeds are as filthy rags.”

    And we cannot make ourselves anymore righteous.

    That is why Mormonism, and a lot of Christian religion, are like different religions than the one that St. Paul is speaking of.

    It’s faith and trust in the completed work of Christ that God is after in us. Period.

    “What is it to do the works of the Father?” (they asked Jesus)

    “Believe in the one whom the Father has sent.”

  26. Garth — Well said again. I don’t want to play the prooftexting game, but I really have a hard time getting the idea from the Bible that believing in Christ has nothing to do with our actions. At one point Jesus himself even said unequivocally that if we don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive us.

    Of course, it’s the Atonement that gives us the ability to forgive, and, as you said, we make a huge mistake to think of forgiving others (or anything else required of us) as something for the checklist. God calls on us not only to be saved by grace (justification) but also changed by grace (sanctification). We don’t do it on our own — but that doesn’t mean we have nothing to do.

  27. We have LOTS to do.

    Just not for our salvation or sanctification.

    “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion. In spite of our efforts…not because of them.

  28. This argument again? 🙂

    Steve Martin, I have to say I think that many Evangelicals are being coy when they proclaim a salvation sans effort. If a man was saved one day (whatever that means for you) then a month or year later began living a homosexual lifestyle and actively promoting it, I’m guessing he’d be called into question and would not be admitted into fellowship with a conservative congregation. Take a look at Obama – when people proclaim that he’s not a Christian, its his *actions* that they point to, not his witness of Jesus.

    I think Garth has it right – saying that works are only the offspring of a true Christian life – is still to say that works are part of the equation.

  29. Take a look at Obama – when people proclaim that he’s not a Christian, its his *actions* that they point to, not his witness of Jesus.

    BS. Pony up with specific examples.

  30. This debate goes back to Luther and Erasmus, if not futher back to St. Augustine who explained grace in very much the same way as Luther. Are we saved and sanctified apart from anything we say or do, or do we cooperate with God. Garth is coming down on the Erasmus side of the equation, as do many evangelicals. Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? If salvation is a self-improvement project based on man’s supposed free will, our own ability to choose good on our own (which was unfortunately lost when we fell) then we really have not been saved by Christ from anything – it’s just delayed God’s judgement until He gets a good look at our works and then He can judge how we have done. From the people that I have known, both Mormon and Christian, this sanctification, delayed judgement project is not going too well. Nobody is getting across that bridge that Garth describes – it’s a futile effort. Lord have mercy on me a sinner!
    The passage is Galatians verse 11 spells it out – you were sanctified and justified. How are you declared righteous, how is your identity now in Christ rather than your sin which wages battle in your flesh? By living a righteous life, and striving to live according the the 10 commandments? No, “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
    If salvation and justification really is completely by Christ – then what use is the law? The law should be preached and it’s absolute need to be fulfilled completely should be declared. As Garth pointed out, Christ’s higher law – especially the sermon on the mount sets the bar even higher – revealing even more so how are hearts are sinful and we need a Savior. God’s law brings us to repentence and shows us our need of a Savior. The cross comes to relieve our distress and give us assurance in Christ of our salvation. But if our works are not necessary for salvation won’t we just live like college students on Spring Break – all crowded on to Miami Beach! You know, with Christ’s higher law, really, aren’t we all in our hearts like those college students? Jesus came to save sinners.

  31. Take a look at Obama – when people proclaim that he’s not a Christian, its his *actions* that they point to, not his witness of Jesus.

    I would agree that Obama is attacked as not being a Christian because of his actions, but the arguments are nearly always directed at his statements related to God and faith.

  32. Christian J.,

    You have picked ‘big’ sins for your example.’ How about the others?

    Jesus said that if you are angry with your brother, then “you are a murderer”. Of how about the use of your time. Do you spend most of it at the homeless shelter or soup kitchen, volunteering your time and money? Do you go to the jails and visit the prisoners? Sins of omission are every bit as deadly as sins of commission.

    The fact of the matter is that we all continue to sin, in many, many ways all throughout our lives. Read Romans 7. St. Paul admits to it. Not like so many people today who are big phonies, or worse yet, deluded about their own righteousness and full of pride.

    Our efforts? Right. Give me a break.

    “All our righteous deeds ARE as filthy rags (used kotex).”

  33. Anyone who thinks that they are doing a fairly good job at being obedient to Christ Jesus really ought to listen to this sermon:

    [audio src="http://theoldadam.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/the-last-day-of-jesus-life.mp3" /]

    I think it’s a real eye opener.

  34. The book of Mormon obviously helps frame the Mormon mindset.
    The law of restoration as taught my Alma 41 adds additional depth to the conversation. Here are a couple verses:
    12 And now behold, is the meaning of the word restoration to take a thing of a natural state and place it in an unnatural state, or to place it in a state opposite to its nature?
    13 O, my son, this is not the case; but the meaning of the word restoration is to bring back again evil for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish—good for that which is good; righteous for that which is righteous; just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful.

  35. I agree with Jared C, I think. As I would put it, the doctrine we love is important because without it, what would we fight over?

  36. Steve Martin, loved LA Story and the sermon you posted. If I am ever out your way I will definitely visit your Church.

  37. Garth (and others), I think accusing Russell Moore of displaying ignorance of Mormon beliefs by stressing things Mormons believe already is missing the point of his post. It seems to me that Dr. Moore is knowingly and deliberately stressing areas of historic Christian orthodoxy which will resonate with Mormons. He is advocating that his evangelical readers engage Latter-Day Saints by starting with areas of common ground rather than leading with attacks on Mormon history and beliefs.

    Also, what Moore means from within his own belief system by some of the phrases he is using here is probably not identical to what Mormons would understand by these phrases. (Sound familiar?) For instance, Moore, like Mormons, believes in “Jesus as the key to understanding God’s cosmic plan”, but his understanding of how and why Jesus is the key to God’s cosmic plan will entail (among other things) the belief that Jesus has from all eternity been the second person of the Trinity and is thus the Creator who is ontologically distinct from all created beings.

    I understand him to be suggesting that what attracts people to Mormonism is the presence within LDS doctrine of distorted versions of real truths which resonate with human need. These truths, when understood correctly, are already present within Christian orthodoxy but may unfortunately often be neglected in practice by evangelical Christians. For instance, in their focus on individual salvation, evangelicals may often neglect the New Testament teaching that through Christ the whole cosmos will be renewed. Recovering an emphasis on the cosmic scope of redemption might help to make historic Christian orthodoxy more attractive to Mormons.

    Moore is arguably encouraging his evangelical readers to adopt a similar kind of missionary strategy towards Latter-Day Saints to that which LDS missionaries adopt in the other direction. To draw on Jared C’s summary of LDS missionary strategy, it seems that Moore is wanting to build not exactly on false beliefs but on those aspects of Christian truth which exist in distorted form within Mormonism, and from there he would hope that truth will displace error.

    I wonder which missionary strategy LDS folks here would prefer to be on the receiving end of. Moore’s approach has some appeal to me as a Christian who thinks Mormonism is heretical but is temperamentally uncomfortable with polemic. I’d be interested to know if you think it would be more effective than the more typical countercult approach.

  38. I wonder which missionary strategy LDS folks here would prefer to be on the receiving end of. Moore’s approach has some appeal to me as a Christian who thinks Mormonism is heretical but is temperamentally uncomfortable with polemic. I’d be interested to know if you think it would be more effective than the more typical countercult approach.

    The typical countercult approach is a disaster. IMHO the countercult movement is rooted the general desire for people to feel correct and superior within a environment of competing belief systems. . . Its not a way to connect to those who are in these “cults”. From a missionary perspective, its defense, not offense.

    Mormon missionary efforts succeed, despite the astounding nature of their claims, because they have real “offense” they come in with the spirit . 1 Corinthians 2:4 style. Head-to-head I would bet on mormon missionaries over others because they have a very pure approach which is very focused on the welfare of the person they approach. People feel that and respond to it. They also are extremely confident in the truth of the message because they (often) feel close to God, and are not intimidated by what others believe or believe about them.

    When I was a missionary I lived near Azusa Pacific University, a private evangelical college and we would regularly talk with ministry students and others. It was always surprising how often I felt significant fear and nervousness in these people. Mormons were clearly viewed as a threat rather than an opportunity to “show people the light”. We were supremely confident in almost any discussion, and I rarely felt that others were as confident in their faith. (Of course my ego may have had a lot to do with this 😉 ) We would almost never engage in real arguments, and 90% of the time the person we spoke with knew so little real information about what we believed that it was almost laughable. I saw the conversion of life-long pentacostals, southern baptists, calvary chapel(ists?), catholics, muslims by this method, i.e. a real experience with people who were really trying to be disciples of Christ and spreading the Gospel with the spirit.

  39. Jared, what I’ve read online here and elsewhere seems indeed to confirm that the typical countercult approach is largely counterproductive, with the few exceptions tending to be with those already disaffected with Mormonism for other reasons.

    In my interactions with LDS missionaries a couple of years ago, which first brought me to this blog, I consciously tried to bear positive witness to my faith (having prayed beforehand for the help of the Spirit in this) rather than just bashing theirs. I tried to find something to affirm in each discussion as well as something to gently query. I might do things a little differently now. (I’m also not totally sure how ethical it was for me to give them cause to believe I was a potential convert, which may well have been the effect of me coming back each week with enthusiasm and seeming to respond positively to some aspects of their message.)

    Probably partly due to personal temperament (and perhaps academic training), a dialogical approach appeals to me. However, what bothers me about how this approach appears to play out, at least in the public sphere, is that it seems to be the case that when evangelicals or Catholics or other Christians say anything nice about Mormons or even express disagreement with Mormon beliefs in a more polite manner than hitherto, this is often coopted into a PR narrative of Mormonism being accepted by other Christians as an authentic mainstream form of Christianity. This is an agenda I would prefer not to further.

    Is there any way I can engage Mormons and Mormon beliefs in a friendly, polite, scholarly, finding common ground kind of a way without this being construed as an endorsement of Mormonism? Or is this a risk I need to be willing to take in order to commend the truth as I perceive it to Latter-day Saints in a more gracious manner than is often the case?

  40. I think you may be right about this. That might be a life lesson I need to learn. In relation to religious discussion, I think the context of a personal friendship is somewhat different to a public discussion on a platform or in writing.

    Would it be cynical of me to sense that in the public sphere (rather than on the part of individual Mormons) there is sometimes a conscious PR spin put by LDS representatives on friendly interactions with (other) Christians to suggest that these Christians’ view of Mormonism is more positive than is in fact the case?

  41. Eric,
    I applaud your efforts to communicate with Mormons. Do you feel like your efforts have been worth while? My guess is that the Mormons that you interact with are faithful, fully engaged Mormons, correct? In my opinion, these are the Mormons that are trying their best to actively live the gospel of Jesus Christ. And they would tell you that they have found Christ and feel the spirit of Christ guiding their lives. And you know what, they seem fairly content and happy and it seems to me that the power of Christ has amazingly found them, even within the confines of Mormonism. Just like it is evident to me that Christ finds Evangelicals within the context of their worship, because engaged evangelicals seem content and happy with the message they are hearing and the lives they live. The power of the gospel of Jesus Christ is bigger than you or me or any disputed doctrines.
    My question to you is: Why not put your energy and efforts in finding those that are truly spiritually suffering. That question would go to Mormons also. As a missionary in Brazil, I encountered a lot of different people of many different religions. Looking back, I feel like I was just wasting my time trying to convert those people that were actively living the gospel principles and enjoying the fruits of living the gospel. I taught a wonderful Catholic lady towards the end of my missions who I came to have a great respect for, and she came to have a great respect for me to. Guess what, she was happy and content and God was blessing her life. I was grateful to get to know her and talk of Christ with her. In the end, I didn’t really care if she became Mormon or not, and I don’t think she cared that I wasn’t Catholic. We were both trying to serve Christ and live his Gospel and Christ was blessing us for it.
    However, I came across many people that were suffering spiritually, including ,many Mormons. Many of them were living very secular, Godless lives, and there lives were empty and unfulfilled. I really feel like those are the lost sheep that I was out there to bring to the good news of Jesus Christ.

  42. Many of them were living very secular, Godless lives, and there lives were empty and unfulfilled. I really feel like those are the lost sheep that I was out there to bring to the good news of Jesus Christ.

    These are the people from which any missionary looks for converts. It is a rare thing to convert a faithful active Mormon, or a faithful active-[name your religion]. The “white field” are those who are not wed to a particular tradition. Both Mormons and Evangelicals want to harvest.

  43. Would it be cynical of me to sense that in the public sphere (rather than on the part of individual Mormons) there is sometimes a conscious PR spin put by LDS representatives on friendly interactions with (other) Christians to suggest that these Christians’ view of Mormonism is more positive than is in fact the case?

    I think is absolutely the case that Mormons resent other Christian groups being as negative as they actually are. Mormons are not trying to make it look like other Christian groups like them, they are trying to actually get other Christian groups to like and accept them.

    More importantly, they are trying to demonstrate that there is nothing to fear from Mormons and to dispel misrepresentations of their faith that would prevent the average person from hearing and believing the gospel.

    To me the whole PR, both pro and anti-mormon is about the same thing. . . increasing or preventing Mormon converts.

  44. OK. Sorry if that seemed liked unnecessary sniping. I was just seeking clarification on whether or not my own perceptions were accurate.

  45. oops, my comments above were meant for David P, not Eric. New to reading Tim’s blog so don’t really know everyone’s position or religious affiliation.

  46. Thanks David P,

    You said: “However, what bothers me about how this approach appears to play out, at least in the public sphere, is that it seems to be the case that when evangelicals or Catholics or other Christians say anything nice about Mormons or even express disagreement with Mormon beliefs in a more polite manner than hitherto, this is often coopted into a PR narrative of Mormonism being accepted by other Christians as an authentic mainstream form of Christianity. This is an agenda I would prefer not to further.”

    To try and answer your original question, what is the alternative to the above approach then? It seems that the other approach has been to use the word Cult a lot or label Mormons as Heretics. Like Jared C. said, this type of rhetoric is way over-the-top. I hear the word Heretic and I am thinking that if i lived 2000 years ago, you’d be picking up stones, or if I lived 300 years ago, you’d be coming at me with a noose in your hand. And why exactly? In my mind, I am just trying to take my discipleship as sincerely and as seriously as any other Christian. And I think God honors that
    I am fine with other faiths engaging me and trying to show me a better way, but put it in proper perspective.
    By the way, I think Mormons have historically been pretty terrible at engaging other faiths, so we have a long way to go ourselves.

  47. My impression was that many Mormons find being called heretical much less offensive than either being called a cult or being called not Christian. Would you agree with that? Would you prefer heterodox or unorthodox? Is there any term which expresses disagreement which is not offensive or is less offensive than the alternatives?

    I personally don’t call Mormonism a cult any more, as it has highly unhelpful connotations relating to brainwashing, mass suicides, and being a danger to society in a way which is I don’t think is true of Mormons. However, the word “cult” as used in evangelical circles doesn’t necessarily mean all that – at a popular level among evangelicals “cult” is basically equivalent to “a heretical religious group”, i.e. a group which professes Christianity but deviates from historic Christian orthodoxy on some fundamental issues. They are using a theological rather than sociological definition of cult. This means that the statement “Mormonism is a cult” does not necessarily indicate that the speaker thinks Mormons are evil people who sacrifice babies. Many Christians would see no incompatibility at all between the statements “Mormons are really nice people who share many of our moral values” and “Mormonism is a cult”. I get that that’s not the meaning that comes across to Mormons or to much of the wider public, so don’t use the word.

    I would tend to use “heretical” in taxonomy rather than polemic, i.e. “This belief is heretical” rather than “You heretic!” In actually talking to people I suspect hold heretical beliefs I might not think it best to use the word if I want to win a hearing. (I haven’t actually called any Mormons that I know heretics to their face in personal conversion.) It is possible to believe that heresy is a bad thing because it is spiritually damaging to people to have erroneous beliefs about who God is and at the same time to accept that killing heretics was a bad idea. The truth of Christ advances by persuasion and not by coercion.

  48. To be clear, I don’t think calling Mormons heretics over-the-top. They clearly are from the traditional Christian perspective. I think the fear of Mormons as a political or religious threat is over the top.

  49. I just think Heretic is inflammatory and I don’t think it serves a real purpose. It also presumes an ultimate authority. To call someone a Heretic, I must be the arbiter of truth. I think Christ alone has that authority, thus he condemned those that condemned.

    I realize that EVs want to narrowly define the term Christian, but I don’t see that they have any real authority to do that. I personally would rather side on inclusion than exclusion. To me, there is an undercurrent of pride there, which also manifests itself when EVs condescendingly claim they want to help Mormons know the “real Jesus”. Barf!

    This is where I think Mormonism has also gotten it way wrong in the past and is guilty of the same behavior and similar rhetoric.

  50. I just think Heretic is inflammatory and I don’t think it serves a real purpose. It also presumes an ultimate authority. To call someone a Heretic, I must be the arbiter of truth.

    No. Heresy just means not-orthodox. It’s a norm-referenced definition, not an objective definition. Even if Mormonism is true, Mormons are heretics.

    I realize that EVs want to narrowly define the term Christian, but I don’t see that they have any real authority to do that.

    The overwhelming consensus of the vast majority of Christians for the last 1,500+ years that the creeds are normative is about as much authority as you could ask for.

  51. You’re being too clinical. Terms carry baggage beyond clinical definitions.
    If you want to say someone is not-orthodox, then call them not-orthodox. When you call them a Heretic, you are trying to say something more in my opinion. Heretic also has historical baggage that comes with it and to not recognize that is to be disingenuous.

    “The overwhelming consensus of the vast majority of Christians for the last 1,500+ years that the creeds are normative is about as much authority as you could ask for.”

    You just choose to follow a narrow definition of the term Christian. I define it very broadly. Authority also has a clinical definition, but you choose not to use it, seems inconsistent.

  52. Its a bit silly to appeal to authority here. Of COURSE these historical churches do not have authority to brand the True Church of Jesus Christ heretical. however heresy, unlike the definition of “Christian” is always defined vis-a-vis a particular standard of orthodoxy.

  53. You’re being too clinical. Terms carry baggage beyond clinical definitions.

    The words you are looking for are “connotation” and “denotation.”

    When you call them a Heretic, you are trying to say something more in my opinion.

    True! It’s a matter of degree. Heresy is less orthodox than “unorthodox.” But the point you are missing is that it is still a norm-referenced standard. Heresy, heterodoxy, and orthodoxy are always terms that depend on a point of view. From the point of view of orthodox Christianity, Mormonism is definitely heresy. From the point of view of Mormonism (which teaches that Jesus Christ established the true and living gospel among his apostles, and a Great Apostasy followed), “orthodox” Christianity is heresy.

    The difference is that orthodox Christianity’s claim to orthodoxy is historical and verifiable going back a long way (not to say necessarily that Jesus taught “orthodox” Christianity, but that for most of the past 1,500+ years, the overwhelming majority of Christians have). Mormonism’s claim to orthodoxy is a religious truth-claim with no evidence to support it. So, you’ll have to frogive the rest of the world in not thinking that the two claims are equivalent.

    None of this has to do with whose beliefs are true or not.

  54. I am not talking about truth claims.

    I get that heresy is defined by a standard of orthodoxy. The problem for me is the historical baggage that comes with the term. To me, heresy is a term of condemnation not of non-orthodoxy. In the past, its been a term of condemnation to death and hell, where now it is just a condemnation to hell.
    Am I wrong to believe that EVs want to help Mormons because right now, in our heretical state, we are going to find ourselves in Hell? Isn’t that the weight that Heresy brings with it?

  55. To me, heresy is a term of condemnation not of non-orthodoxy. In the past, its been a term of condemnation to death and hell, where now it is just a condemnation to hell.

    It is condemnation for non-orthodoxy. Precise theology has long mattered a lot to traditional Christians. While there is a reasonable discussion that Mormons should be called “Christian” by most common definitions, Mormon teachings are definitely heretical from the “gentile” Christian viewpoint.

    To most Christians, Mormons will likely burn in hell for believing and spreading heresy. They have a strong interest in labeling it as “bad” even if they don’t get to hang them.

  56. Kullervo,

    If that is what EVs believe, then that is what EVs believe. I just think it’s myopic. I also think that condemnation is a bad business to be in. I can’t think of anything less Christian (possibly even heretical……Oh, the irony).

  57. But now you have switched from diagreeing with terminology to disagreeing about Evangelicals’ religious beliefs. There are probably many religious beliefs held by Evangelicals that you disagree with, or think they are false, or myopic. Should they change what they believe about God and Truth and the Eternal because you think it’s distateful?

  58. Of course I disagree with some of their religious beliefs, or else I would be EV. I also disagree with the terminology.
    I am not asking them to change their beliefs, neither do I condemn them for their beliefs. I am just trying to see it how God sees it. And I certainly think that EVs do the same. I am pretty sure that none of us have it exactly right.
    I just think that condemnation is very tricky.

  59. I also think that condemnation is a bad business to be in

    Was Jesus wrong to condemn false teachers? When he told us to be on the look-out for them was it only for the people-watching lulz?

  60. When my wife and I first got engaged, we had a fairly confrontational visit with a large contingent from her family (by “visit” I mean “intervention”). She was a convert to Mormonism and her family didn’t know much about it, and this was the first time they met me.

    One of the things that came up was that my wife’s (non-Mormon) sister in law was offended at our belief in eternal temple marriage, because it meant we did not believe that her marriage was forever.

    That’s what Tampinha’s objection to being labeled a heretic makes me think of.

  61. The notion that it is somehow wrongto condemn false religion makes me think of this exchange where a talk show host jumps on Anne Coulter for wanting everybody to be Christians:

    Transcript here: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,301216,00.html

    The Jewish talk show host Donny Deutsch took great offense when Coulter said that she wanted all people to be Christians and that Judaism needed to be “perfected” through Christianity.

    If you believe in only one true Way, condemnation of other religious systems in some way is simply a sign that you take your own exclusivist religious beliefs seriously.

  62. “Was Jesus wrong to condemn false teachers? When he told us to be on the look-out for them was it only for the people-watching lulz?”

    Yes, I think God can condemn. However, you and I are not God. That is where I draw the line. The message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is not condemnation. See John 3:16-19

  63. “If you believe in only one true Way, condemnation of other religious systems in some way is simply a sign that you take your own exclusivist religious beliefs seriously.”

    This is an interesting thought. Now look back at history and you will find that this type of belief has been believed and applied over and over. What do you find? Nothing that looks like what Jesus taught.

  64. “Sometimes the candid truth is not good for public relations.”

    So true!! EVs need to take a page from Mormons playbook…….Milk, Milk, Milk. At least it seemed to work for a long time…..damn internet!

  65. No…I jest.
    Mormonism has lots of its own problems. I side with openness. We need to air it out and make sure our focus is where it should be.

    Believe it or not, I have a lot of respect for EVs and I think they do some things really well and that they are performing a great work.

  66. The Bible and Jesus seem to be very clear that we need to evaluate (judge) teachings. Jesus exhortations against judgment were about individuals.

    That people have misused the term heresy to harm other people doesn’t mean that the term doesn’t have legitimate value. That’s like saying we shouldn’t diet because some people become anorexic.

  67. We make judgments everyday of our life….how would we live if we didn’t. It’s the whole purpose of opposition in all things, and certainly God has given us instructions on how to judge between good and evil.
    Judgment and condemnation are not the same thing.

    People have abused the term heresy because condemnation is tricky, like I said. We should learn from their examples.

  68. Tampinha,

    It seems you have a very Mormon way of seeing all this. Mormons don’t generally condemn anybody, why should they when God doesn’t. Mormons don’t have to condemn even those who fight against them, or those that teach the damnable creeds and corrupt Christianity. As a Mormon, you can take your religion very seriously but have no need or impetus to explain why false religion is contemptible. Mormons really don’t care about what other Christian’s believe at all. If they made anti-Protestant literature it would be as laughable and false as a lot of anti-Mormon literature.

    This is not the view of Evangelicalism. For those who believe in salvation by faith in Jesus alone, it seems that corrupt Christianity would be the ultimate lie, a deception of infinite irony, one where you think you are saved by Jesus, but actually you are lost. If Evangelicals took their religion seriously at all, they would want to condemn such heresy. When heaven and hell are on the line, it makes perfect sense to condemn false teachings with the harshest language.

  69. Tampinha, I would not say that any given individual is hellbound or is already in hell – this is indeed a judgement that only God can make. I believe that forgiveness of sins and eternal life in relationship with God is received through a heart trust in Jesus Christ and not in any merit or moral/religious performance of our own, which is what in the jargon we call saving faith. I think it probably is possible to have this heart trust in Jesus and not in ourselves whilst still holding to some heretical beliefs, but false beliefs on central aspects of Christianity (rather than more peripheral things) might get in the way of this core trust in Jesus alone to save us, and so are spiritually dangerous.

    On another topic, re the Ann Coulter clip, “perfected” was an unfortunate choice of vocabulary given its racial/eugenic overtones. I agree with the theological point she was trying to make (probably from Paul talking about Christ as the fulfilment of the law and Christians being incorporated into the story of Israel) but this probably wasn’t the best way to communicate it and I can see why it sounded anti-Semitic. She seems to finish the clip by saying that Jews can get to heaven by obeying the law, which rather derails a Pauline theology of salvation by grace and not by works of the law.

    (This is an aside, but as a British evangelical, I rather cringe at my belief system being aligned with the more reactionary elements of Republican politics too – I don’t particularly object to some evangelicals supporting the Republican party and articulating their reasons for doing so, but I’m not sure it particularly commends the gospel of Jesus Christ to give expression to it in the context of a political rant demonising one’s opponents.)

  70. I think that in matters of faith and of God, that the truth is always best course.

    We don’t want to be a stumbling block to people, so we don’t flaunt our Christian freedom in front of them. We wouldn’t invite Jews to dinner and serve Pork. We wouldn’t serve coffee to a Mormon. We’d be patient, but we would not deliberately hide the truth, either.

    Freedom is the real ‘meat’ of the Christian life, and many stuck in the law (what they do, or don’t do) for the sake of their own righteousness, have to be gently taught that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness for all those who have faith.”

    Thanks. Off to work.

  71. Jared, I realize that I am coming at this in a very Mormon way. I don’t know how to help that. Over the past 8 years, I have rethought a lot of my beliefs and have rethought Mormonism. I have tried to drop the bias toward other faiths that I inherited being raised Mormon. I can appreciate where EVs are coming from on this. I just think that if we are not careful, the message of the gospel gets clouded over by religious dogma, and we start worshiping it instead of Him.

  72. Amen. That is why I really like how Jesus defined condemnation in John 3:19-21. He framed it in a much broader, more universal way. It is more about light and darkness, good vs evil. So where is the heresy and condemnation if I am searching for light? I can still embrace goodness and reject evil whether or not I believe in the Christian Trinity or the Mormon Godhead. That is why I said earlier that we are being myopic when we start attributing heresy and condemnation over religious dogma. I think we completely miss the point. Religious zeal has been the cause for a lot of true evil historically, where to me, by Jesus’ definition, the condemners risk becoming the condemned….let’s not make the same mistake.

  73. I would suggest that many Evangelicals are not at all focused on condemning people. They believe that God condemns all of us, and a faith in the “true” Jesus is the answer. Their message is not “we hate you because you believe heresy and you are going to hell” , it is “give up your false beliefs and quit spreading them because your soul and others may be at stake” or “Stop preaching that stuff that may make people lose the true faith . . .and their salvation from hell.”

  74. I would suggest that many Evangelicals are not at all focused on condemning people. They believe that God condemns all of us, and a faith in the “true” Jesus is the answer.

    This is pretty much how I understand John 3:17-18, so I’m intrigued that this is the passage Tampinha is drawn to. Here are these verses in the King James Version and the New International Version:

    For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

    For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

    Tampinha, I agree with you that our focus should not be on condeming the world Jesus came to save. I wonder, though, what you understand by this passage saying that those who do not believe stand condemned already.

  75. Verses 20 and 21 are part of the teaching and give a better picture of what Jesus was teaching.

  76. I suppose I’d see verse 19 as saying that we all are resistant to God’s truth as embodied in Christ because the light of truth exposes the darkness of our self-deception. I’m less sure what verses 20 and 21 are saying exactly – I understand that it brings our actions into the discussion somehow, and I sense that you may understand this in a way which supports your reading of the passage as a whole. I’ll have to think about this some more.

  77. I think you have to read verse 16-21 to understand the context of what Jesus is teaching. The key points for me are:
    -God loves us…all of us
    -Jesus did not come to condemn
    -We must accept Jesus to be saved unto Everlasting Life
    -Jesus then frames condemnation in the broader context of lightness and darkness, good vs evil

    I like this more universal concept of searching for and accepting the light. And If we embrace evil, then we are rejecting the light and Christ. This idea plays out better in the world that we actually live in. So I don’t feel like Christ condemns the Hindu, or Jew, or Muslim, etc. that never “accepted” Christ. Vs 21 says that “he that doeth truth cometh to the light”.

    I know that this thinking is very problematic for EVs. Here is how I approach Jesus saying in verse 18 that if you don’t believe on the name of Jesus, you are condemned already.
    Mormons believe that “every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is the Christ”. So it appears to me, that at some point, every one of us will kneel before Christ and recognize Him as Lord and Savior and fulfill this requirement, whether in this life or the next.

    To more fully understand Mormon approach with these issues, you have to see it all in context of Mormon teaching regarding the Fall of Adam and Eve.

  78. But it seems that the light refers to God’s revelation in Christ and not just to generic moral behaviour. So rejecting Jesus is embracing darkness.

    I’m a little unclear what “Mormon teaching regarding the Fall of Adam and Eve” is exactly. Is the Fall a good thing? Is it a necessary step in the spiritual progression of humanity?

    This blog by a thinking Mormon seems to suggest that Mormon understandings of the Fall have varied over time, with some more positive and some more negative views of its significance. He has a whole series of long posts with footnotes that I haven’t got round to reading properly but plan to do so sometime as this is something that genuinely interests me from an academic perspective and not just from an apologetic motive. (I’m hoping to write a paper sometime on different understandings of the Fall in scholarship on Milton’s Paradise Lost, and since one of the scholarly works I hope to interact with is Anxiety in Eden by John S. Tanner, then a BYU English professor and now a mission president in Brazil, Mormon understandings of the Fall will be pertinent to my research.)

    Here is how I approach Jesus saying in verse 18 that if you don’t believe on the name of Jesus, you are condemned already.
    […]
    So it appears to me, that at some point, every one of us will kneel before Christ and recognize Him as Lord and Savior and fulfill this requirement, whether in this life or the next.

    But are we condemned/in darkness until such time as we believe in the name of Jesus?
    Ephesians 5:8 suggests this: “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord” (KJV “sometimes” is an archaic use which means “once” (as per NIV) rather than “some of the time”).

    (I don’t believe this means that we are incapable of in any sense doing anything good – I believe that every human being bears the image of God and that this is damaged but not obliterated by our sinful condition.)

  79. I see Jesus teaching both things in that verse, that He, while on earth, was the light that men rejected, because they loved darkness rather than light. I don’t see this is as a blanket condemnation of all mankind, but specifically referring to the conspiring Jewish leadership of His day that sought his death. Obviously, all men didn’t reject him when He came.

    But I also think Christ is teaching a universal principal of good/evil and that anytime we embrace light, we accept Jesus in part. From the Mormon D&C 51:24, we read “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”
    So I think there is some truth in the idea that anyone that embraces “light” embraces God also, whether they recognize it as such or not. That doesn’t mean that accepting Christ as Lord and Savior isn’t necessary, it most surely is. But, no, to answer your other question, I don’t think we are condemned to darkness until such time as we believe in the name of Jesus. At least to me, that idea clearly doesn’t play out when I look at the world around me. Would you agree that when a person lives gospel principles that light comes into their lives, whether or not they understand that it is a gospel principle?

    Regarding the fall of Adam and Eve. Yes, Mormons believe it was necessary and essential to our spiritual progression. The blog you linked to did a good job of looking at Mormon thought on some aspects of the fall, but it by no means is comprehensive, nor does was it able link the fall to all other core principles. However, it is a very good intro. You will also see that there is diverse thought on the this issue. Different Mormons will have different answers on varying aspects of the fall. Mormon doctrine/teachings are not as dogmatic as Mormons think they are, for sure!!

  80. Do you see people as morally immature rather than morally culpable?

    I believe that people can experience benefits in this life and a measure of God’s blessing by following the divinely ordained moral order built into creation. This is not the same thing as experiencing saving grace. It may be part of moving towards a saving faith in Christ (which would fit somewhat with your understanding), but this does not appear to be the case in all instances.

  81. CJ: Take a look at Obama – when people proclaim that he’s not a Christian, its his *actions* that they point to, not his witness of Jesus.

    Kullervo: BS. Pony up with specific examples.

    If you require examples, see below. Each will discuss his lack of Christianity in direct correlation to his actions as president.

    http://www.christianadc.org/resources/seven-reasons-campaign/67-reason-6

    http://conservativebyte.com/2012/05/proof-that-obama-is-not-a-christian/

    http://www.dakotavoice.com/2010/09/barack-obama-is-not-a-christian/

    http://www.redstate.com/brenthyatt/2012/02/12/barack-obama-not-the-anti-christ-but-certainly-anti-christian/

    But even without them, its easy to conclude that if Obama were a Republican, with traditional conservative policy positions and a history of attendance at a conservative congregation, his personal confession as a Christian would not ignored/called into question by conservatives themselves.

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