12 Years and More to Come

The journal, Evangelical Interfaith Dialogue, dedicated its most recent issue to Evangelicalism and Mormonism. It features two terrific articles I’d like to direct your attention toward.

The first written by Robert Millet, reflects on the meetings of Evangelical and Mormon scholars over the last twelve years. Speaking of the challenges the meetings have confronted he writes:

Third, as close as we have become, as warm and congenial as the dialogues have proven to be, there is still an underlying premise that guides most of the Evangelical participants: that Mormonism is the tradition that needs to do the changing if progress is to be forthcoming. To be sure, the LDS dialogists have become well aware that we are not well understood and that many of our theological positions need clarifying. Too often, however, the implication is that if the Mormons can only alter this or drop that, then we will be getting somewhere. As one participant noted, sometimes we seem to be holding “Tryouts for Christianity” with the Latter-day Saints. A number of the LDS cohort have voiced this concern and suggested that it just might be a healthy exercise for the Evangelicals to do a bit more introspection, to consider that this enterprise is in fact a dialogue, a mutual conversation, one where long-term progress will come only as both sides are convinced that there is much to be learned from one another, including doctrine.

Later, Millet writes:

In pondering on the future, there are certain developments I would love to see take place in the next decade. I would hope that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would become a bit more confident and secure in its distinctive theological perspectives and thus less prone to be thin-skinned, easily offended, and reactionary when those perspectives are questioned or challenged. In that light, I sense that we Mormons have to decide what we want to be when we grow up; that is, do we want to be known as a separate and distinct manifestation of Christianity (restored Christianity), or do we want to have traditional Christians conclude that we are just like they are? You can’t have it both ways. And if you insist that you are different, you can’t very well pout about being placed in a different category!

Craig Blomberg writes another article about the future of these meetings. He writes:

It is also time for people to stop learning only secondhand about people whose religious views at times differ from theirs. In a global village, there is no reason not to engage members of other religions or denominations directly.12 So much Evangelical literature on these topics is overly simplified, historically dated, not representative of the entire movements depicted, and/or downright inaccurate. Short introductions to complex belief systems almost inevitably distort, especially when the author has a particular dislike for a given movement. The biases may be semi-conscious, but they affect the results nevertheless. I have been recently reading for the first time a collection of fifty of the most important or famous sermons of John Wesley and realize how skewed my own theological education was in mostly Lutheran and Calvinist contexts as to what I was taught about Wesley’s theology!

Mormons likewise need to engage Evangelicals in far less confrontational settings than the classic door-to-door evangelism they are known for. They should invite Evangelical friends and leaders to fireside chats and similar forums, as I have occasionally experienced. They need to get to know the “silent majority” of us who are not nearly as “mean-spirited” (to use their preferred term for the most combative or polemical of us) as the anti-Mormons they are more used to encountering. They need to learn the breadth of Evangelicalism, so that we are not all tarnished with the same two brushes of “easy believism” and rigid Calvinism.

There are several other articles in the journal which I have not yet read, but all of them appear to be as thoughtful as the two I’ve linked to. I look forward to reading these others as well.

271 thoughts on “12 Years and More to Come

  1. “They should invite Evangelical friends and leaders to fireside chats and similar forums”

    What a great idea to invite an Evangelical youth leader or youth pastor to give a LDS youth fireside about their core beliefs. I would be totally for this. I wonder how much resistance such a suggestion would get at the ward leadership level . I am guessing A LOT.

  2. Fascinating dialogue. I would have given up a years salary to have been a fly on the wall at these almost 2-dozen meetings. These were meetings among theological giants on both sides. You don’t have better men than Stephen Robinson, Robert Millet, Jeffrey Holland on the LDS side. And I have immense respect for Richard Mouw and had the pleasure of meeting him for the first time last April. I am devoutly Mormon but meeting him, I sensed I was in the presence of a true disciple of Christ. I also recognize in Millet’s detailed description of their meetings many of the exact same discussions (and conclusions) I have had with evangelical friends (and sometimes foes) and in fact I have reached I’m sure many of the same conclusions MIllet discusses. What an amazing group of men have sat around those tables at BYU, Fuller Seminary, Nauvoo, Kirtland, etc. And what amazing discussions. It is a shame they weren’t video taped for posterity. And, unlike the battle of Arius and Athanasius, it sounds like no one was banished. It’s a great first step. Long overdue.

    I also particularly liked the ending comments about Rob Bell’s controversy. I am in the same town as his Mars Hill Church, where all that controversy has played out. It has been interesting to watch what can happen when someone rocks the evangelical boat and some of the tempers which flared. Millet mentions this; “On the other hand, I long for a kinder, gentler brand of Evangelicalism, one that is less prone to consign to perdition anyone who sees things differently; one that holds tightly to its doctrinal tenets, but is more concerned with welcoming and including than with dismissing and excluding; one that is eager to delight people with the glories of heaven rather than terrifying and threatening them with the fires of hell. Rob Bell’s book Love Wins (Harper, 2011), may cause some Evangelicals to believe the author is a universalist (which I do not) and others to cry heresy, but it seems to me that he is asking all the right questions. The image of Christianity is at stake, and some outside the fold may well be justified in wondering where the “good news” is to be found.” Thanks for the links Tim–a fascinating read and frankly, very few in the LDS Church are even remotely aware of this outreach and dialogue. I’m sure it’s a topic among BYU faculty and our General Authorities, but it has not disseminated widely to the common Mormons yet. We Mormons need to step out of our insulated bubble. Evangelicals need to guard against condemnation and dogmatism. Maybe there’s hope for a companionship relationship between our two great faiths as we learn to talk to each other, instead of about each other, in the future.

  3. @Tampinha
    I agree that it would be very beneficial. 3 weeks ago, a Methodist minister invited me to give the Sunday Sermon to her congregation from her pulpit on the “Judge not that ye be not judged” verse from the Sermon on the Mount. She urged me to give the sermon as I would give it to an LDS congregation. So I did, using portions of Dallin Oaks great talk on “Judge Not, and Judging”, as well as excerpts from King Benjamin, and other B of M passages, as well as the Bible. What a great experience for me (and I hope for them.) I was kindly received, warmly thanked, and greeted as a guest pastor, even though a Mormon Bishop in a different faith tradition. It occurred to me too that it is a shame we would likely have a controversy if we reciprocated in like manner. Yet our members are likely far more familiar with evangelical theology–or even Catholic–than they are with ours, since many of our members came out of their faith traditions to join the LDS church. Should we not be as or more willing to invite their clergy into our midst to share so much we have in common? I’d like to see that happen, but we are use to not feeling that kind of welcome so would likely take a while to tear down old barriers and suspicions. We should reach out if we want to be reached out to in return.

  4. We would never allow an Evangelical to give a sermon to our congregation. The proclaim ‘another gospel’, which is then, no gospel at all. The freedom of Christ to forgive sinners in the pure gospel must be protected, lest the wolves enter in and offer another gospel, which has the stench of human participation in their own salvation and justification. One might as well become a Roman Catholic, where this Semi-Pelagian theology runs wide open and full blast and obliterates any assurance that the sinner may have ever had.

    We guard the pure gospel very carefully. We have to, it is on the endangered species list here in America.

  5. Steve Martin, Can you give me your definition of ‘Evangelical’? My understanding of the term is pretty broad.

  6. I would hope that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would become a bit more confident and secure in its distinctive theological perspectives and thus less prone to be thin-skinned, easily offended, and reactionary when those perspectives are questioned or challenged.


    In that light, I sense that we Mormons have to decide what we want to be when we grow up; that is, do we want to be known as a separate and distinct manifestation of Christianity (restored Christianity), or do we want to have traditional Christians conclude that we are just like they are?

    I have been thinking about this lately, and I think it does make the most sense to categorize Mormons (and Jehovah’s Witnesses, Church of Christ Scientists, and New Apostolics) in their own “Restorationist Christian” category.

  7. Christian J.,

    The original definition, I believe, is of one who brings the good news to others.

    But the word has taken on a different meaning in the American faith landscape, of one who belongs to a church, or denomination (or non-denomination) who are Protestant, Calvinist or Baptist theology, generally rejecting of the sacraments as having any real power, self-focused, spiritual ladder-climbers who put a great emphasis on what ‘we do’ with respect to the Christian faith.

  8. Steve is using his very own definition of Evangelical, which seems to mean “non-Lutheran Protestant.” Most sociologoical and theological definitions of “Evangelical” would included many Lutherans.

    “one who brings the good news to others.” = EvangeLIST, not EvageLICAL

  9. Many non-Evangelical Christians (Catholics, many Lutherans, Episcopalians,) would not be welcome to preach to our congregation, either. For their understanding of the gospel, we believe, has too much to do with what ‘we do’, or’ special requirements’ to make their version of Christian ministry valid.

    We are grace alone, through the Word alone, by faith alone, believers. And we can’t have the ‘add-on’ folks working against that Word and watering down the pure gospel.

    NOT that those folks are not Christians. We don’t dispute that for a minute. It’s the pure gospel and God’s grace for real sinners, totally apart from anything that we do, say, feel or think, that we are defending.

  10. Evangelicalism is a cultural/theological movement that extends through all denominations including Catholic, Orthodox and yes, even Lutheran. YOU are more than likely an Evangelical. There are even some Mormons who could be called Evangelical.

    This is how the Barna Group describes Evangelicals

    Evangelicals meet the born again criteria plus seven other conditions. Those include (1)saying their faith is very important in their life today; (2)believing they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; (3)believing that Satan exists; (4)believing that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works; (5)believing that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; (6)asserting that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches; and (7)describing God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today. Being classified as an evangelical is not dependent upon church attendance or the denominational affiliation of the church they attend. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as evangelical.

  11. “sometimes we seem to be holding “Tryouts for Christianity” with the Latter-day Saints.”


    No kidding. I am so sick of this dynamic. And blame for it lies on both sides – Mormon and Evangelical.

    As far as I’m concerned, the sooner “tryouts” are over, the better.

  12. Tim,

    You are describing the true meaning of the word. I have beeb describing what the term has come to mean as far as American Christianity is concerned.

    A ‘liberal’ traditionally would mean someone in favor of more freedom. Now it means (in the context of the American political scene, someone who is actually in favor of LESS freedom, and more governmental control.

  13. Steve, words have multiple (often overlapping) meanings, senses and shades of meanings. And they change over time, too. That’s just, demonstrably how language works. You don’t have to like it, but it is what it is.

    A “conservative” classically has meant someone with the desire to maintain the status quo and preserve existing values and institutions in the face of social change. Now it means (in the context of the American political scene), someone who wants radical, major change.

    The key phrase? “In the context of the American scene.” Words can have multiple meanings and senses depending on their context, the intent of the speaker, and the experience of the listener.

  14. “Born again Christians” are defined as people who said they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and who also indicated they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Respondents are not asked to describe themselves as “born again.”


  15. In Steve’s defense in confessional Lutheran circles it is not uncommon to eschew the evangelical title as it is used in America (particularly the neo-evangelical movement of post WWII). Look at the LCMS, especially after the Seminex Controversy.

    Barna’s definition aside, religious historian George Marsden believes that ecumenical cooperation is a key factor in identifying “evangelicals”. Lutherans have generally been pretty successful in maintaining their distinctive religious culture. There has never been and probably never will be a Lutheran member denomination in the NAE because they are not inclined to comprise their theology of the sacraments and ecclesiology for ecumenical relations.

  16. In Germany, the Lutheran church is called “Evangelisch.” The overwhelming majority of my fellow (laughably but predictably ignorant about non-Mormon Christianity) Mormon missionaries were under the impression that a German Evangelisch was the same thing as an americna Evangelical.

  17. And in parts of Latin America where I’ve traveled, an evangélico is a Christian from any proselytizing non-Catholic denomination, so evangélicos include Mormons, Seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses (among others) as well as American-style evangelicals.

  18. I was in Germany a couple of weeks ago and the big news was Roman Catholics opting out of the Church tax by declaring themselves atheist on their tax form. The Bishop’s didn’t like the idea. There was no mention of the EKD.

  19. I took the time to read Millet’s article.

    Four unrelated thoughts, first, his observation that “Mormons and Evangelicals have a vocabulary that is very similar but often have different definitions and meanings for those words.” I couldn’t agree more.

    Second, John Stott’s book Basic Christianity isn’t Trinitarian. American evangelicals shouldn’t be surprised when Mormons question the value of Nicaea, Constantinople, or Chalcedon when we basically ignore them ourselves.

    Third, it’s nice to see that 12 years of interfaith dialog tells us that the LDS church’s doctrine of exaltation of is also a vital facet of Eastern Orthodoxy. Good to know Salt Lake and Constantinople have so much in common.

    Finally Millet asked ” Just how much “bad theology” can the grace of God compensate for?” God’s grace can compensate for all of it! Is that really the point of theology? Is theology a password, key or secret hand shake that gets you in? Christ does not become inoperative because of our doctrinal errors any more than he is unable to forgive because we sin.

  20. “Christ does not become inoperative because of our doctrinal errors any more than he is unable to forgive because we sin.”


    Good theology is important, but we certainly aren’t saved by it.

  21. Interesting thought, which makes me wonder then if “bad” theology keeps us out of salvation? (since Steve states “good” theology doesn’t get us in.) Rob Bell’s point was that perhaps we’re not damned by an absence of good theology either. Who we choose to become–even a good Buddhist, Muslim or Mormon–may take us farther than traditional Christianity would espouse. That is a fair question and I fear too often we let “theology” dictate the answer, even when it seems counter-intuitive to a loving, just, and omnipotent God. While I’m not a true universalist, I am a universalist that ALL must have a first chance to accept Christ. Either on earth or after.

  22. And if you’re a confessional Lutheran, the Athanasian Creed is right up at the front of the Book of Concord.

    I mean, it’s right up at the front of the Book of Concord whether or not you are a confessional Lutheran. But if you are a confessional Lutheran, that matters a lot.

  23. My experience is that some Protestant critics of the validity of LDS faith will agree with commenters here that correct theology is not the passkey into heaven and that Christ’s grace can compensate for bad theology.


    They then immediately work around this admission by saying something like “Mormons are worshiping the wrong being.” The “different Jesus” argument – usually accompanied by a bunch of strained comparisons to Islam.

    Which basically amounts to the same thing, it seems.

    Theology IS the passkey into heaven for these people.

  24. Yes.

    But at least we don’t try to pretend otherwise.

    And just for clarity’s sake – you are equating “heaven” with the Celestial Kingdom here, are you not?

  25. That’s a flip response, now that I think about it. It’s more complicated than that due to proxy work, the Mormon emphasis on orthopraxy rather than orthodoxy, and so forth.

  26. Yeah but ordinances alone are not enough, are they? You have to believe something, and not just anything. I just wonder where the line is that demarcates “theology is a passkey to heaven” from “theology is not a passkey to heaven?”

  27. I just wonder where the line is that demarcates “theology is a passkey to heaven” from “theology is not a passkey to heaven?”

    At the same place it is for Evangelicals. Heresy.

  28. No; maybe I miscommunicated my question.

    I am not asking where an individual religion’s line between “your theology is good enough; welcome to heaven” and “your theology is not good enough; have fun in hell” is.

    I am asking, when we describe religions, is there a way to meaningfully distinguish religions that require correct theology for entrance to heaven from those that do not. Is all belief “theology?”

    Seth repeatedly takes issue with evangelical Protestantism’s apparent requirement that you have to think the right thing about Jesus to be saved. Mormons believe that faith in Jesus Christ is essential for salvation: is the act of having faith itself a theological act? Doesn’t having faith in Jesus Christ necessarily mean believeing certain theological propositions about Him, e.g., at a bare minimum, that he is divine and able to save? Isn’t that a theological passkey that is the same, or at least on a spectrum with quicumque vult?

  29. Correction Kullervo – I take issue with Evangelical demands for correct belief COMBINED with a disingenuous pretense that they are not demanding “works” to get into heaven.

    I don’t have a problem with the concept of correct belief as a requirement for salvation as a conceptual matter. No more than I have a problem with the idea of good works as a prerequisite – as a conceptual matter.

    It’s the double-speak that usually gets my goat.

  30. Evangelicals typically say that the act of “having faith” is not as important as the object of our faith. The “work” (the mental ascent) of belief or faith is not what actually saves us, it’s Jesus that saves.

    This is part of the problem with the Name-It-Claim-It crowd. They believe that the actual act of believing that they will be blessed is what will deliver them blessings.

    I don’t think “right theology” saves. But I think a sign of discipleship is seeking to believe true things about Jesus and his doctrines.

    As I’ve said before, if you want to discuss whether or not a confession is a “work” I’m sure I’ll be bored, but there are plenty of Calvinist who will love to debate it with you.

  31. Tim, that’s fair enough – but I would just point out that the “object” of my temple rituals is also Jesus Christ.

    So there we are.

  32. I think there’s an interesting connection point here between right theology and proper procedure. . . . but I don’t know if I have anything to say about it.

  33. Garth,

    I am not sure that Mr. Bell has taken into account the source of faith. For that matter I question if Mr. Bell has adequately addressed the object or the results of faith. This is why sound theology matters, it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to see the gaping holes in his theology and wonder if he is writing checks he cannot cash.

  34. Kullervo

    I am not a Lutheran, but if I were I would say that the anathemas in the Athanasian Creed are understood as didactic (teaching against tri-theism, modalism, Arianism, Nestorianism, and Eutychianism) and ecclesiastical (excluding heresy from the Church) rather than soteriologically.

  35. Seth,

    John tells us not to receive those who teach falsely, calling this with wicked works. Paul commands that we exclude false teachers. Orthopraxy dictates sound teaching.

  36. I don’t think that’s the issue gundeck.

    The issue is HOW you conduct that rejection.

  37. I think the mistake Evangelicals make is arguing that those who believe in Jesus in the Mormon way are disqualified from salvation, i.e. not worthy recipients of the mercy of God. I don’t think that their theology really supports this although it seems to be a common belief. I have not yet seen a convincing argument that the Bible supports this when read in the Evangelical way. (of course I don’t get out much.)

  38. I have come to the conclusion as I get older that God surely knew (being all-knowing) that most of us mortals would not find the “one and only” gospel Truth with a capital-T. And none of us on earth will find all truth in the absolute sense. We’re at best just blindly feeling different parts of the same hidden elephant. (You recall that allegory of several blind men feeling parts of the same elephant–the nose is like a snake, the tail is like a rope, the leg is like a tree–but none of them are wholly right or wrong because they only know the parts their separate encounters revealed.) I suspect so it is with God and therefore, since He designed this Gordian Knot, which by design we cannot fully untie, I rather suspect He is less concerned about our answer, but more about our effort. We fuss and fret over the elephant. I don’t think God cares so much.

    And even when we debate which of our theologies sees the “real” Jesus are we not likely both wrong on some things and right on others? So it’s not that I think there is no “T”ruth. But I don’t think God cares that much if we fully discover it on earth. Of course there must be a final absolute “T”ruth. And some day it will be revealed. But I’ve pretty much concluded that it’s more important to our egos than it is to God. If it were so critical that it be discovered with perfection during our brief mortal life-span then I have a bone to pick with God on why he managed to hide it so well! There are only a few % of people who find Mormonism or Evangelical Christianity–assuming one or the other of us is closest to “T”ruth– compared to the billions of “lost” souls who live and die in abject paganism, ignorance, and pseudo-religions. Born into those conditions with no hope of self-extrication! That’s why Rob Bell’s book is great at asking the right questions–he’s just unable to answer them with evangelical theology.

    For those then who wonder what the “passkey” is?…my response is the same one Christ gave in Matt 7 and 25. Those who enter heaven are those who were not just hearers but doers, who fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the imprisoned. The good Samaritan was chosen for Christ’s allegory because his heritage was an alleged “disqualifier”. And that was the point–there is no heritage! There is no denomination! There is no indisputable “pass-key”! For those, like Gandhi–who died a good Hindu–he will encounter Christ and be added upon when his chance arrives. It will be the icing on his cake. The pass key is not your denomination, nor your Nicene acceptance, nor your temple recommend. The pass key is you! What have you made of yourself? Are you a son of God as best you knew to be. Nicea is a weak human construct. Priesthood is a tinker-toy to just give us a hint of godliness on earth. You have an eternity to see clearly once the bright light of Christ illuminates all our dark misunderstandings. If God could only save those lucky few who stumble onto the magic carpet of “T”ruth, while he damns everyone else to hell, that frankly is not a God I care to worship. The answer must be simpler than we try to make it with our arrogant machinations.

  39. “Those who enter heaven are those who were not just hearers but doers, who fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the imprisoned.”

    Christ said to many who did things in His name, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”

    Notice that the ones who were praised (blessed) by Jesus at the judgement were ones who were not even aware that they were ‘doers’. “When did we do those things?” they said to Him.

    The convicting Word of the law (the perfect standard never met) and the liberating, life-giving pure gospel of forgiveness for the ungodly, will lead the hearer to do ‘works’…but they won’t be on the mind in the sense that they see themselves as getting something for it. Improving themselves in the eyes of God. In that case, the motives are shot to hell.

    So preaching a theology of works for righteousness or betterment in the eyes of God just places the law (‘what we do’) on the brain and becomes the motivation…and not love. I have never met a pure motive yet. That is probably why the Bible tells us that “All our righteous deeds are as filthy, used tampons (dirty rags).”

    Continual repentance and forgiveness ought be the entire life of the Christian…not spiritual, self-improvement/religious ladder climbing.

    My 4 cents.

  40. Gundek,

    I suppose I would conclude that who have faith and trust in the mercy of Christ and are working to be his disciples are not stolen sheep. From a Protestant perspective they may be a bit astray– as are Protestants from a Catholic perspective- but where does that nullify grace?

  41. Jared C said:

    I think the mistake Evangelicals make is arguing that those who believe in Jesus in the Mormon way are disqualified from salvation, i.e. not worthy recipients of the mercy of God.

    In my experience, that’s not something I hear evangelicals saying all that much about Mormons as individuals — many will concede that an individual Mormon might be “saved” even if the church teaches falsehood.

    Garth said:

    You have an eternity to see clearly once the bright light of Christ illuminates all our dark misunderstandings. If God could only save those lucky few who stumble onto the magic carpet of “T”ruth, while he damns everyone else to hell, that frankly is not a God I care to worship.

    I totally agree. And it was that sort of semi-universalism that made Mormonism very appealing to me after spending much of my live around evangelical teaching that focused on the salvation of the few.

    If I have any misgiving about this conversation,though (and my guess is that you might agree with me), it is the apparent assumption that what Christianity is primarily about is getting into heaven (or the Celestial Kingdom). I find it better to think that what it’s about is becoming like Christ — not so we can get into heaven but because that’s what kind of people God created us to be. To paraphrase the Brad Wilcox devotional I wrote about earlier, it’s more about preparing for an eternity with God than it is about qualifying for it.

  42. The kingdom of heaven was nearly always mentioned in conjunction with self-purification, becoming like a child, giving up your life, sacrifice. The goal was not to get to heaven, entering heaven was achieved by purification and surrender. Perfection was the goal, not saving souls through reliance on what Jesus did.

  43. We are perfected by what Christ declares about us. He declares us to be righteous and holy…for His sake. No project required. In fact, all projects were nailed to the cross with Him.

  44. This is from my pastor’s blog (this morning):

    October 11, 2012

    From time to time I flip through the television channels to watch various T.V. preachers, just to see what they’re up to. Not long ago I came across a woman who was speaking to a packed auditorium of several thousand people. I listened in for a few minutes and the message was clear; if you expect anything from God, if you want success, you had better get your life in order.

    It didn’t seem to occur to the preacher that these folks had spent the last week doing just that in any number of ways, mostly with limited or no success, and that some relief might be in order. It’s hard to understand why she would simply remind them of their wounds and then put the verbal whip on them to try harder. It’s also hard to understand why people would return week after week and subject themselves to reminders, couched in omnipotent terms, of their inadequacy. Well, actually, it’s not hard to understand at all.

    Preying on people’s fears, inadequacies and brokenness works. And it works precisely because we are so terribly vulnerable in this life. Once we get our wits about us in this world it becomes quite obvious that to get along we have to be good for something. We must demonstrate our value in tangible ways. Some are more or less up to the challenge, some fail miserably, and most people wobble along in fits and starts anxious for security, looking for shelter from the storm. They are suckers for bootstraps religion. Nothing else in life is free, why should God be free?

    Well, based on the generally lackluster performance most of us produce in this life I can fully appreciate the question. I’ve asked it myself. And the answer, surprisingly enough, has been given by God Himself.

    “When the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.”

    We call that the Good News. It is what I was hoping the T.V. preacher would get around to but she never did. So, here, in an unvarnished quote from that late purveyor of God’s glorious grace, Gerhard Forde, is the word of irrepressible freedom delivered to you this day; it is a word of pure gift.

    “We are justified freely, for Christ’s sake, by faith, without the exertion of our own strength, gaining of merit, or doing of works. To the age-old question, ‘What shall I do to be saved?’ the confessional answer is shocking: ‘Nothing! Just be still; shut up and listen for once in your life to what God the Almighty, creator and redeemer, is saying to his world and to you in the death and resurrection of his Son! Listen and believe!’”
    (Gerhard O. Forde, Justification by Faith (Philadelphia, 1983), page 22.)

    Isn’t it great? There is nothing left to do. Christ Jesus has done it all! Let go of your bootstraps, sit back, relax and take a deep breath of the free air. The Son has set you free!


    And then Gerhard Forde used to say (he’s with the Lord now),

    “Now that you don’t have to do anything…what do you want to do?”

  45. Steve, I get that is what Luther and perhaps even Paul said, but Jesus didn’t talk like that, at least not in the Gospels.

  46. I thought it was Jesus who said, “When the Son of Man makes you free, you are free indeed.”

    And I do believe it was Jesus who said (when they asked him “what is it to do the works of the Father?”), “This is what it is to do the works of the Father, believe in the one whom the Father has sent.”

  47. When a Protestant observes that false prophets and blasphemy are to be excluded from the Church, Mormons cry foul. This is the same denomination that claims to be the One True Church©, calls the creeds an abomination, preachers corrupt, doesn’t recognize other denominations baptism, excludes non-Mormons from the Lord’s Table, and all but the worthy from weddings. Your soteriology may claim to be a semi-universalism but your works say otherwise.

  48. Frankly, I am not sure why Jesus had to die like he did. I don’t think anybody has a satisfactory answer to that question except the non-believers. (i.e. that’s what happens when you defy both the Jewish leadership and the Romans in first century Palestine)

    I know that many who claim to be Christians and place all their hope and faith in Jesus do not appear to be good people. . . or any better than anybody else. Something more seems to be required to bear “good fruit”.

    The only Christians I have respect for are those who submit to being disciples of the love Jesus taught. Whether or not heaven awaits me when I die, I think that is a worthy pursuit.

    Mormonism is full of irony, as is Protestantism (the “loving” father who condemns most of his children to eternal suffering.)

  49. There was no other outcome for Jesus in this world.

    When goodness shows up in this world, true goodness (not phony religious piety), it will be extinguished. The religious people will see to it and use whatever means they have to gid rid of the One who has exposed them for what they truly are.

  50. Steve,

    When goodness shows up in this world, true goodness (not phony religious piety), it will be extinguished. The religious people will see to it and use whatever means they have to gid rid of the One who has exposed them for what they truly are.

    How, then, do you explain Father Divine?

  51. Gundeck, the difference is that the Mormons aren’t claiming you aren’t “Christian” just because you’re all heretics.

  52. By your words or your action? Why do you re-baptize? How many non-Mormons were at your wedding? Why is the Lord’s Table closed?

  53. Father Divine?

    God the Father? He’s not visible, tangible, fully human as Jesus was. We can’t touch Him. Although people do hate Him and are in rebellion to Him.

    But we did a number on His Son. And that was always the plan. To dies for the sins of the world, and to forgive us.

  54. What does any of that have to do with the label of “Christian” Gundeck, or acknowledging the virtue of your faith?

  55. As to Gundek’s comment: “This is the same denomination that claims to be the One True Church©, calls the creeds an abomination, preachers corrupt, doesn’t recognize other denominations baptism, excludes non-Mormons from the Lord’s Table, and all but the worthy from weddings.” Don’t most of these apply in reverse? From the creedal-version of Christianity for which you claim to feel excluded, aren’t Mormons told their church is an abomination, their preachers corrupt, their baptism is not recognized, they’re excluded from your Lord’s communion table?…so what’s the difference? But I will give you the wedding point as there is no parallel to a Mormon temple in orthodox Christianity. (Though if my LDS daughter marries a Baptist I don’t think he’ll burn in hell for all eternity as many Evangelicals would believe of their new Mormon daughter-in-law. So a 1 hour temple ceremony vs. all eternity in hell seems like Mormons are less exclusionary in the long run.) So…I’m not seeing the validity of a feigned shock at alleged exclusivity in your comments. Your points apply bilaterally it seems to me.

  56. Garth,

    If a Roman Catholic wants to join my church rebaptism is not preformed. The Lord’s Table is open to any baptized believer that is a member of a congregation and trusts in Christ for salvation. Baptist, Methodist, Anglicans etc. All are welcome, it is the Lord’s table, not ours. It’s not that shocking, there is one Spirit.

    Nobody goes to hell in your system, except for apostates and gays of course, but this is based on a post life forced conversion, so much for free will. What does the “so called Christian” non-Mormon have to look forward to in the life everlasting?

  57. @ Gundek…yes, but a Mormon would need rebaptism. And a Mormon would not be eligible to receive communion, etc. So while you on one hand point out that the Mormons don’t give you parity, you have no problem with the Mormons not receiving parity from you either. It’s not that your point is wrong, only that you’re the pot calling the kettle black. So all, EXCEPT Mormon are welcome in your theology, which led to my point that your welcome mat is the exact same one that you then describe from the Mormons. Pointing out how ecumenical Christendom is to their perceived “acceptable” cousins, doesn’t change the fact that it excludes the “unacceptable” Mormons. Which I actually have no problem with, but just think your in essence saying “Look how excluded we are by Mormons, whom, by the way, we exclude too.” Plus, as to claiming “Christianity”, (which I think was Seth’s point) you’re not accurate since there Mormons grant you parity, which you deny to them. And your comment about a “forced conversion” is odd, since you surely know that temple work is not and has never been coupled with a concept of lack of free will. Mormons have always acknowledged that spirits are free to accept or reject temple work.

  58. Gundek asked:

    What does the “so called Christian” non-Mormon have to look forward to in the life everlasting?

    Exaltation to godhood, potentially.

  59. Too vague Gundeck.

    Value for what?

    I’d posit that faith in a corrupt abomination has a lot of power and value.

  60. Let’s be completely honest. No sugar coating. One of the points of interfaith dialog should be honesty.

    The problem as I see it, as anyone who has actually read your canon of scripture knows, is that Mormons have declared “so called Christianity” apostate, corrupt, and an abomination before God. For either side to deny this would be to insult the intelligence of the other.

    This isn’t brought up very often on this site, but it is in the back of the mind of every non-Mormon. Every time I hear a Mormon say “evangelicals are Christian” what I hear is the part left unsaid, “evangelicals are “so called” Christians apostate, corrupt, and an abomination before God.”

    The great apostasy is central to your beliefs but it is anathema to ours. This goes equally with the more positive spin of “restoration”. I understand your apologists can produce various doctors and ministers who claim apostasy (my favorite being Fosdick), but I think that the general consensus across Protestantism is an ebb and flow of more or less pure Church across history, not a great apostasy. No One True Church©, no perfect Church, just God’s people between the already and the not yet.

    I personally have no issue with seeing Mormonism as schismatic, heretical, and blasphemous Christianity. People who don’t like 3 dollar theological words commonly use the shorthand, “not Christian”. I am not convinced that this short hand, “not Christian”, is at all that different from teaching of a restoration.

    While we are being honest with each other, we should not kid ourselves that it is just evangelicals that take issue with claims of apostasy and restoration, the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox (despite theosis), are pretty clear on these issues, even if they are generally more interested in calling Protestants schismatic.

    To be clear, if I were to say Mormonism isn’t Christian it is simply shorthand for schismatic, heretical, and blasphemous. I don’t intend this to be personal and for clarity sake, I am not making pronouncing a judgment on the state of a person’s soul (present or future). It is simply a way to say Mormonism has needlessly separated itself from the rest of the church, teaches doctrines that can damage the faith, and speaks about God in ways that are contemptuous and insulting.

    Now in an interfaith dialog I believe we often put things out of our minds for the sake of the present topic. For instance, if we were discussing Mormonism’s practice of not praying to Jesus Christ, there really isn’t a reason to discuss the apostasy and restoration. What Mormons should understand is that the apostasy is always there, beneath the surface. If it bothers you that evangelicals don’t think Mormons are Christian, I recommend that you remember your own doctrinal claims of apostasy and implications of that claim.

  61. Gundek: I appreciate that the Mormon position of the great apostasy can be a sticking point. You point out the harshest context however, when in application, you should know that the LDS faith views with great respect and admiration the martyrs, reformers, and missionaries who kept alive the embers of faith during the dark ages. (A great apostasy is not a “total” apostasy.) To only emphasize the harsh rhetoric without the context of how the LDS really feel gives an unbalanced point of view that would not present the LDS view as it is in reality. In reality there is no concept in Mormonism that other Christians are “so-called” or “apostate”. We would simply view them as lacking, not deviant, as your words infer. Though frankly, from a strictly logical standpoint, if emotion can be set aside, I’m not sure why it should be seen so offensively as you state. If you’re in a Protestant denomination, you also believe in the great apostasy. Martin Luther wasn’t nailing 95 minor improvement suggestions to the door, but a declaration of the heresy and apostasy that existed in the Catholic Church. No one can look at the rise of papal “kingdoms”, armies, assassinations among church leaders, and the massive corruption of doctrine, and really quibble too much about that being fairly called an “apostasy”. You believe in the same apostasy as do the Mormons, and we differ more in the way God resolved it.

  62. Garth, I’m afraid you’re seriously distorting Evangelical views when you state that we (and Luther) believe in an apostasy that is in any way similar to the LDS view. Either that or you’re taking a “cafeteria” approach to Mormonism.

    In no way do Evangelicals think that God’s priesthood authority had gone missing or been removed in the time leading up to the Reformation.

  63. “Throughout history, evil people have tried to destroy the work of God. This happened while the Apostles were still alive and supervising the young, growing Church. Some members taught ideas from their old pagan or Jewish beliefs instead of the simple truths taught by Jesus. Some rebelled openly. In addition, there was persecution from outside the Church. Church members were tortured and killed for their beliefs. One by one, the Apostles were killed or otherwise taken from the earth. Because of wickedness and apostasy, the apostolic authority and priesthood keys were also taken from the earth. The organization that Jesus Christ had established no longer existed, and confusion resulted. More and more error crept into Church doctrine, and soon the dissolution of the Church was complete. The period of time when the true Church no longer existed on earth is called the Great Apostasy.”

    There is a distinctly different tone in your post and the introductory paragraph in the Gospel Principals manual. I am not going to tell you what Mormons believe, that would be an insult to our intelligence.

    What I can say is that at no time has the Church of Christ ceased to exist. As Calvin put it, “Surely the church of Christ has lived and will live so long as Christ reigns at the right hand of his father. It is sustained by his hand:defended by his protection; and is kept safe through his power.”

  64. “What I can say is that at no time has the Church of Christ ceased to exist.”

    Amen. That is a proper understanding of how God works. Through sinful men and women who often are quite mistaken in their theology and doctrines.

    We Lutherans don’t believe (for a moment) that we are the ONLY ones who know the truth. But we do believe we know it.

    What really cracks me up about churches or organizations who believe that they ARE the true church on earth, is that their theology is the same old tired and well-worn theology of ‘a bit of God and a bit of me’. That is nothing new and distinct. It is the default condition of mankind that we have ‘to do something’ and that we have something that God wants. That is sickly, man-made religion.

    What was truly new and truly liberating was the cross. Where everything was accomplished by God for our sakes, in spite of our best efforts…not because of them.

    Some think so little of that cross that it is nowhere to be found on top of their buildings and scarcely in their sanctuaries, and sadly, not even in their theologies (that are worth anything).

  65. Tim…would that be the priesthood of the Roman Catholic Church, or the priesthood of all believers? The Catholics through the 1500’s would certainly not have known what the latter is referring to. Yet you brush aside 1500’s years of a defined Priesthood, enforced at sword point, as if it was just “option A”. Semantics are squirmy things, but I’m not aware of any historical lineage that would honestly let you make your claim without a wink and a nod. I’m not arguing that you can’t prefer a revisionist history, but don’t expect me to agree. The very definition of a world-wide state of apostasy from true Christianity is beyond dispute by weight of logic. The Catholics of the reformation era certainly wouldn’t have seen it the way reconstructionists and apologists of the modern church era have packaged it. The Catholics saw the Protestants as the Apostasy. The Protestants saw the Catholics as the Apostasy. They killed each other with great relish in their passion to kill the apostates. And now your waving your hand and saying “These are not the droids you are seeking.”

    There was a falling away of “the Church”, with man-made theology at its very core. A reformation recognized that and tried to make a course correction. The fact you’ve semantically cleaned all that up and refuse to call it an apostasy (yet you simultaneously claim a reformation of the apostasy) just means your theological concepts soft-sell reality. No one, least of all the Mormons claim that ALL Christian concepts, beliefs, principles, history was lost. Apostasy does not mean an “absence of” but only a “falling away from”. We claim only that the authority and some of the key doctrines were lost or changed. Protestants claim the same thing. You seem to be arguing that so long as the “trinity” doctrine remained in tact, all else that had deteriorated into apostasy (celibacy, elevation of saints, intercessory prayers, transubstantiation, last rights of absolution, selling of indulgences, papal supremacy, confessions by torture, exiles of dissidents, burning at the stake, Spanish Inquisition,, the Crusades, etc.,) somehow doesn’t count. Tyndale’s simple effort to publish the Bible was anathema which cost him (and many others) their lives. Yet you don’t see an apostasy? Fox’s book of Martyrs might challenge that “friendly disagreement” theory of Christianity. And, if the Trinity doctrine is also wrong, as I believe it is, it really leaves just an empty shell, meaning the apostasy was even more deep at its core, than you could ever acknowledge. But even if I pretend the Trinity was the one shining plank of truth that survived the Protestant reformation, it still means virtually everything else needed jettison. If that’s not an apostasy, take it up with the dictionary, cuz you’re making up a new definition of the word in my opinion. Even the Jews at the coming of Christ were “apostate”, and their deviation was arguably far less pronounced and overt than what had become of the Christian Church by the dark ages. I still hold to my description, that when honestly defined, virtually every Protestant should acknowledge without equivocation that they also accept the doctrine of a Great Apostasy. Only the manner of its resolution divides the Mormons from their own history of those dark days.

  66. Don’t mean to interrupt a discussion, but this 6 minute long mp3 is on the Trinity…and who do we pray to. He mentions the Mormons near the end of it:


    It’s pretty painless, but interesting.

    Here’s another good one that is full length. Pretty interesting stuff and helps to explain why some do not believe in the Trinity and other orthodox Christian doctrines:

    [audio src="http://theoldadam.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/trinitarian-and-christological-controversies.mp3" /]

  67. Oops…I cut off that link for the 6 min. audio on the Trinity. Here it is:

    [audio src="http://theoldadam.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/a-christians-prayer-life-as-it-relates-to-a-proper-understanding-of-the-trinity.mp3" /]

  68. Millet just told M. Russell Ballard off! (So, you want to be “Christian” and not at the same time? Not going to happen, buddy.) Nice.

  69. For the sake of honesty, and not apologetic, let me repeat what I previously said regarding forgiveness.

    “Christ does not become inoperative because of our doctrinal errors any more than he is unable to forgive because we sin.”

    To be honest, defining apostasy is of no particular consequence in a discussion about your “great apostasy”, unless we are trying to score apologetic points. Nobody, I believe, would dispute apostasy existed and continues to exist. The question is did this apostasy cause the “dissolution of the Church” so that the “Church no longer existed”?

    It would be ahistoric to claim that error, man-made theologies, blasphemies, even heresies didn’t enter into the church. Proving this seems to be beside the point though, the disagreement is not about any particular doctrine of the Church, but if the Church even existed. In this context the Reformers are clear; “the Church exists where Christ is present”. In this context Calvin said:

    “For he will surely accomplish what he once promised: that he will be present with his own even to the end of the world (Matt 28:20). Against this Church we now have no quarrel. For, of one accord with all believing folk, we worship and adore one God, and Christ the Lord (1 Cor 8:6), as he has always been adored by all Godly men. But they stray very far from the truth when they do not recognize the Church unless they see it with their very eyes, and try to keep it within limits to which it cannot at all be confined.”

    It seems to me that you may be making the same error as the Roman Catholic church identified in the 16th century, imposing a visible system and trying to confine the one true Church©..

  70. It seems to me that you may be making the same error as the Roman Catholic church identified in the 16th century, imposing a visible system and trying to confine the one true Church©

    Except that God himself revealed that the LDS church is the one true Church. If God revealed this, as Mormons believe then the dispute is historical, not theological.

  71. I would not dispute that a question could be, “did God reveal one true Church© to Joseph Smith?”

    In an interfaith dialog where both parties believe that God acts in history, I don’t see how the dispute could be separated into either history or theology.

  72. Jared, Evangelicals do not believe in Mormonism or its theories on restoration or apostasy. Garth is asserting that we MUST believe in a great apostasy in the same way Mormons do.

    When he’s finished defining our beliefs for us I’ll explain why Mormons believe Adam is God.

  73. I agree that Garth’s method is wrong-headed. A belief in the Great Apostasy is not sensible without a belief in a present or future restoration. You have to believe everyone has it wrong. Evangelicals clearly do not believe that the Gospel needs to be restored.

    The only reasonable path to a belief in the apostasy is demonstration of the historical reality of the restoration.

  74. Again Gundeck, you are being too vague –

    This time with the term “Christian.” Your broad brush condemnation of of “historical Christianity” that you insert into Mormon mouths indiscriminately trashes plenty of aspects of historical Christianity that Mormons value as much as anyone.

    When God appeared to Joseph Smith – he declared that all the existing churches were wrong.

    And they all were. They all had aspects and teachings that were incorrect. But that doesn’t mean it was just falsehood uniformly, all the way through.

    Don’t twist God’s words here.

    He said that their creeds were an abomination – which you can read with a degree of expansiveness or narrowness – as you please. Evangelicals trying to justify an aggressive stance against Mormonism usually find it self-serving to take the most expansive reading humanly possible. Which should be no great surprise to anyone.

    And let’s get one thing straight here – you don’t find anything remotely like the equivalent of anti-Mormon ministries in the LDS Church. We don’t devote classes to trashing Evangelicals and their beliefs. Aside from the random student comment in Gospel Doctrine class, Mormons don’t really devote any time or energy in their own meetings to discussing the failings of Protestant theology. At the times that I’ve brought up the controversies in my own ward – everyone else in class was disinterested to indifferent.

    We – don’t – care.

    By and large that is completely true of the Mormon attitude toward other faiths. Not something we have on our brains. And I guarantee you – we don’t hire the Mormon equivalent of James White to come around for Sunday “firesides” in LDS stakes.

    I’ve seen the nastiness that both sides have to offer – and I’ll tell you right now – the LION’S share is coming from the Protestant side.

  75. Mormons who think that Joseph Smith did not fundamentally depart from traditional Christianity also misunderstand the message of the Restoration. Mormons are not “evolutionists” they are “creationists”. The Church did not evolve by morphing from the primitive church to Catholicism to Protestantism to Mormonism, it was created as a complete organism where no similar species previously existed.

  76. I 100% agree with Seth. Anti-Protestantism is a complete non-issue. The anti-creedal rhetoric of Joseph Smith is truly a thing of the past. Why? Because Mormons are not at all threatened by Protestants. Protestant theology is unconvincing because of the reality of the spiritual witness of the restoration. Protestantism is incorrect because it does not have authority, regardless of what they believe.

    Protestants attack Mormon theology because it is a threat. Because people do feel the Spirit and are converted from the protestant ranks, and because Mormon theology is markedly different than theirs– and theology is THE thing that sets them apart from all the majority of other Christians.

    Mormons invite dialogue and inclusion because they believe it can only help them. They are supremely confident. Protestants keep their guns raised because including Mormonism doesn’t seem to help them at all, and they are not very confident that Mormonism can be defeated by a simple spiritual witness.

  77. Seth,

    Good to know that you don’t care. Now if you will stop deploying a corp sized force of missionaries with marching orders to convert people out of evangelical churches we can both leave well enough alone.

  78. Jared,

    The rhetoric is what it is because the evangelical churches have outsourced engagement with Mormonism to para-church organisations. These groups and their supporters are setting the agenda for the Church not the other way around. This is not my observation but the observation of a church planter in Provo.

  79. Gundek,

    Mormons don’t care that Protestants are apostate gentiles, they accept that they are worshipers of the real Jesus anyway, Missionaries will keep coming because Mormons like Protestants so much so much that they also want to extend to them the benefits of the restoration, its a sign of love, not an attack.

  80. Wrong Tim. I’m not expecting you accept the Mormon view of the apostasy. I’m not stating something new or shocking as the original Protestants said the same thing, even going farther as to call the Pope the anti-Christ. I’m just asking that you use the dictionary to know what the word apostasy means. My point was never that you are required to subscribe to the LDS concept, but only to your own. There would have been no “reformation”, if there hadn’t been a “deformation” first. By reminding you of the near totality of that falling away it should not require me to simply remind you of Christian history. The protestants of their day had no compunction about calling it an apostasy. Modern theologians have simply tempered their rhetoric out of ecumenical outreach. “Most leaders in mainstream Protestant churches have changed what was held from the start of the Reformation and backed away from teaching the apostasy of the Roman Catholic Church as it is the largest in the world, which is now felt to be divisive, and to belong to the more vehement quarrels of another day.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Apostasy

  81. @ Jared: I am flumoxed that you seem to think that one can ONLY resolve an apostasy via a restoration. That was not my point at all, which perhaps Tim also misunderstood. I stated clearly that there are 2 ways to resolve the concept of an apostasy. A Reformation or a Restoration. So when you stated; “I agree that Garth’s method is wrong-headed. A belief in the Great Apostasy is not sensible without a belief in a present or future restoration.” No…the reformation can also claim to resolve the great apostasy. That is what Luther, Calvin, and other reformers claim. I’m simply acknowledging that their claim also begins with an apostasy. For them it ends with the process of the great reformation. Fine. Make that claim, but lets not pretend that there was no alleged apostasy as the first domino. For the Mormons the reformation was a step but it ended with the restoration. Either concept can be claimed, so I don’t think there’s anything “wrong-headed” about me pointing out the obvious. Protestants and Mormons both believe in a great apostasy. Thus my comment that “Only the manner of its resolution divides the Mormons” from the Protestants. Tim and others however are claiming that they can just use the jedi-mind trick to pretend the word apostasy must not be applied at all. It is that flimsy logic which I’m addressing.

  82. The Lutheran Reformers (not the radical Anabaptist Reformers) called a spade a spade.
    Luther called the Anabaptists AND the Catholics “two wolves tied at the tail” (even though they hated each other). They both had a theology whereby man, and what man does, places himself back at the center…instead of the finished work of Christ and His Cross.

    He would say exactly the same thing about Mormonism.

    It’s the same stuff. Nothing new at all.

  83. Gundeck, I said we don’t care about the “threat” of Protestantism. Nor do we see the Protestants as a threat.

    I didn’t say we don’t value our unique convenants and ordinances and view them as the best thing since sliced bread.

    So we’ll continue with the missionary force I think.

    The difference however between the LDS Missionary force and the Evangelical counter-cult industry however – is that the LDS missionary force stands FOR something. Whereas, the Evangelical counter-cult industry merely stands AGAINST something.

    And that sums up the situation nicely.

  84. Garth –
    You may be interested to know that Rob Bell has come out as gay affirming. So what exactly separates Rob Bell from mainline protestant liberalism? What separates Bell from protestant liberalism is easy – it’s his hip demeanor. Yawn. He’s Coke Zero, they’re Diet Coke. Same company, same calories, ever-so-slightly different taste.

    Also, sure, Luther brought reform – because there was a Church to reform. If you reform Islam, you don’t end up with Christianity. If you reform Mormonism, you don’t end up with Christianity, you end up with the difference between Brigham Young Mormonism and modern day LDS. If you reform God’s Church, you bring it back to the core Christian truth of Christ crucified for our sins – forgiveness freely given through Christ. So you are essentially wrong – we don’t believe in a great apostasy as you define it – God did not allow His Church to fail or disappear from the earth. He kept a faithful remnant just as He promised. He’s saving and doing the work of justifying sinners – we sure aren’t – otherwise we’d all be done for and the Church would be just another form of law based religion with no cross needed.

  85. Garth, I think what you are missing is that the Great Apostasy is significantly different than the “deformation” which Luther purported to correct. Then, like now, the attacks between the sects were politically driven. Then it just happened to be with cold steel rather than negative PR campaigns.

    You say For the Mormons the reformation was a step but it ended with the restoration.

    But it is most logically seen as a political step, not a theological step. What made the Joseph Smith’s Restoration possible is the political freedom to start a new church, something that was impossible or thoroughly impractical under pre-reformation Catholicism.

    Protestantism may have generated conditions for the Restoration but not because it reformed Catholic doctrines, rather because it created the chaos out of which Joseph saw the need for a new catholic faith.

    What led Joseph to the sacred grove was directly related to the confusing sectarianism of Protestantism, not their theology superiority over the Catholic church. If there was only one catholic church option there would be no confusion to pray his way out of. Thus Mormons may have protestants to thank for the restoration, but only because they caused a disruption of the politcal power of the Catholic Church, not because they moved Catholicism any closer to the restored Gospel.

    I think I am right because Catholicism is arguably closer theologically to Mormonism than is Protestantism. Catholics come down closer to the Mormon side on the grace-works debate, the authority issue, and the necessary ordinance question. Protestants added new errant creeds and doctrines such as sola fide and sola scriptura, which are as opposed to Mormon views as the Trinity.

  86. 4fivesolas: I understand your point that “we don’t believe in a great apostasy as you define it – God did not allow His Church to fail or disappear from the earth” I agree that the degree of severity of the apostasy as our two religions define the great apostasy is different. That’s why I’m not arguing that Protestants must accept the LDS definition of the great apostasy. But I don’t think one has to claim a complete absence to have a legitimate apostasy–only a significant “falling away.” Therefore, though you don’t use the term (out of preference), it doesn’t make it less applicable. I would therefore clarify that we both do believe in an apostasy, but the degree of that apostasy, and the manner of resolution of that apostasy differ. I would also add that the LDS do not believe that all truths were lost either. We are sometimes saddled with the misunderstanding that Christianity was completely “gone” before it could be restored. Jared sums up the conditions nicely and I agree with all he said about the state of the world being ripe in which there could not have been a restoration, without the reformation first. And while the structure or framework of Catholicsim is closer to Mormonism, much of the theology is closer to Protestantism, as I perceive it.

  87. We Lutherans believe that there is a constant apostasy that takes place in this world because of the hearts of men. That is one of our missions. To be a witness to the church as much as anything else. That is what I believe (as well as others) I am doing here. We believe the Mormon view, centered on ‘the self’ and what ‘the self’ must do, is a apostate view.
    When I look at Mormons I see great pride. I see the Pharisee in the Temple who is doing a pretty good job of living the religious life. Christ Jesus is looking for the sick. The ones who like the scumbag tax collector, know their desperate need of a Savior.

    When an errant doctrine of Christ + works is in place, you will get one of tow situations; pride or despair. That’s it.

    Our job is to announce the law in it’s fullness. So that NO ONE is left standing. So that everyone will realize that they are NOT up to it in any way, shape, or form. “All our righteous deeds ARE as filthy rags.”

    Then we can cry out for a Savior and He will save us. If we are doing alright on our own…we don’t need a savior from anything.

  88. Steve–That construct of “we are doing alright on our own…we don’t need a savior from anything” is not even on the LDS table. They have no such doctrine or belief and in fact quite the opposite. The discipleship concept in the LDS church does not think that way. One can reject the “total depravity” concept without having to insert evil “self-righteousness”. Pride is a human foible, I agree but to infer it is enshrined as a doctrine of simply believing that we are the children of God and therefore inherently good and loved is not a logical conclusion. Both of those extreme views (total depravity and self-salvation) are on the outer fringes and, as in most things, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Mormons simply believe that justification and sanctification are both required for salvation, as opposed to your view that only justification is required. If you only see pride as the reason to seek righteousness you are missing the motive of love. A child may obey its father out of fear, or pride, or reward. But a child may also obey its father out of love, in which no fear, pride, or reward motivate. Your scenario paints only the negative motivation while discounting the positive motivation of love. To say the Mormon view is “centered on self” is a gross misunderstanding of LDS doctrine. You rightly decry the risk of pride but then assign that as the only alternative to a concept of total depravity. I honestly don’t think that has anything to do with LDS theology.

  89. Garth,

    Self-depravity (with regard to justification) is totally Biblical and correct…if we are honest with ourselves and if we don’t want to blaspheme the Living God by ascribing to ourselves attributes (being able to save or contribute to saving ourselves) that only God has.

    When you teach the law for betterment, then you have to water it down. There’s no way around that since the law (what ‘we do’) demands perfection and it demands it now. This business about making the law manageable leads to pride or despair.

    You may not see it because you are in it, but when I look at the Mormon organization I see a pride factory.

    I have asked many a young Mormon missionary how they are doing with respect to keeping God’s law or the 10 Commandments, and almost without exception they respond that they are doing pretty well or very well.

  90. Jared,

    In Bible class today we went over some Scriptures that talk specifically about why Jesus had to die on the cross. These Scriptures are a great comfort to those depending on God’s mercy and grace:

    God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in His blood. Romans 3:25

    Above the ark were the cherubim of Glory, overshadowing the place of atonement…He (Christ) did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves, but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption…So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people. Hebrews 9:5, 12, 28

    This is love: not that we loved God, but the He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10

    For this reason He had to be made like His brothers in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people. Hebrews 2:17

    My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have One who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:1,2

    And we can participate in Christ’s sacrifice for our sins:
    While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Matthew 26:26 – 28

    Christ endured the cross for us – for our eternal life with God. He gave Himself freely:
    This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 1 John 3:16

    These Scriptures give me great comfort and assurance – and bring me joy in taking communion. Lord have mercy on me a sinner.

  91. Depravity is certainly a biblical concept.

    “Total depravity” is only arguably biblical.

  92. “I said we don’t care about the “threat” of Protestantism. Nor do we see the Protestants as a threat.”

    I’m not sure I buy that Seth. You can complain about James White or the counter-cult but to maintain honesty we need to acknowledge William Schryver and Dan Peterson and their organizations. I am not sure any of this is going to change just because John Dehlin got Dr. Peterson fired.

  93. And almost nothing of what they do is discussed in Mormon wards.

    In my 30+ years of church activity I have never had a non-internet relationship with anybody who cares at all about Counter-Anti-Mormon activities, except Daniel Peterson. And I only knew him because he taught my Islamic philosophy class at BYU.

  94. 4fivesolas,

    I appreciate the answers. I understand the scriptures– at least I believe I do– my problem is that I don’t have a satisfying answer why there needs to be a savior in the first place. I am not necessarily denying that these scriptures could be true but they don’t explain much about the assumptions that underlie their explanation of Jesus.

  95. “Counter Cult groups represent a dramatically small portion of Protestants.”

    Fair enough. I haven’t met any of these people outside my mission. But I have consistently encountered religious people that are unreasonably distrustful and negative towards Mormons due to whatever they were taught in church.

  96. And almost nothing of what they do is discussed in church. In my 20+ years of church activity I have never had a non-internet relationship with anybody who cares at all about Counter-Anti-Mormon activities, except someone who has a Mormon relative. And those people are far less militant than you encounter online.

    This is only personal experience in my tiny little section of the Church.

  97. Gundek, my “catholic structure” comment was acknowledging part of Jared’s observation just prior when he noted; “I think I am right because Catholicism is arguably closer theologically to Mormonism than is Protestantism. Catholics come down closer to the Mormon side on the grace-works debate, the authority issue, and the necessary ordinance question.” One could also add big families, Peter as the chief apostle, ordination by those in authority, necessary baptism, etc.. The meat on the bones is not Catholic, but I grant some of the skeleton looks a bit Catholic, which is not surprising.

    @Jared, I read your comment; “my problem is that I don’t have a satisfying answer why there needs to be a savior in the first place.” I’m not presuming to know if this is rhetorical or a genuine issue for you. But, if a real dilemma, wouldn’t you think the LDS concept of 1.) Jesus as creator helped design the earth as a testing ground knowing full well that all of us would fail the test, to one degree or another. 2.) Jesus agreed to accept the responsibility for that part of the test which we would unavoidably fail due to sin (i.e. “any degree of unrighteousness” excludes our return) 3.) No unclean thing can return to God, yet the test is unpassable as we are ALL unclean and fall short of God’s glory. 4.) Since Christ’s hand helped make the test, he has the right and obligation to bear some of the responsibility for our failure, and only Christ and no other could then pay it. If God must be just he can’t let just anyone else pay for my sins, unless that someone else was somehow integral to my being able to take the test (and fall short by sin) in the first place.

    When I add those 4 points together, it leads to Christ’s unique ability to pay the atonement. Jesus helped design the plan. Jesus built the earth. Jesus co-signed my risk in the pre-existence. I came to earth knowing I would not be able to return on my own as I would become unclean but I counted on Christ’s promise to co-sign my debt. He acts then as the “guarantor” of my student loan and when I can’t pay it all, the bank has every right to demand it of Him. Through Christ, I am loaned His perfection if I meet His offer of salvation. That’s how I’ve always understood why we need a Savior, and why only Christ could fill that role. He made the test and required a 100% score, which none of us can do. I teach in a college and once I gave a test which no one passed. It was too hard and therefore I realized I also bore the responsibility, not the students alone. So I graded it on a curve because the fault was partly mine, and partly theirs. I asked more than they were capable of. Likewise Christ gives us a test where we can’t get an A+, yet God being perfect cannot dwell with B or C students. Christ then grades those who follow Him on a curve because they’ve overcome the world and become disciples, till they become A+ students. Christ makes the difference. Not trying to preach, but is that not how you’ve heard it and if so, where’s the flaw in that concept?

  98. Gundeck, Dan Peterson’s work has been almost entirely in response to anti-Mormon nastiness. Over years of dealing with anti-Mormonism, he himself has gotten a bit unpleasant himself at times.

    As for Will Schryver – this is completely random Gundeck. I wonder what sort of intellectual mischief you’ve been getting yourself into while I’ve been away.

    Schryver, thankfully, was never published anywhere, and remains nothing more than an Internet message board douchebag who got perilously close to being affiliated with an organization that actually matters.

    The LDS Church no more has to “own” Schryver than you have to own any random, and unsurpassingly nasty commenter over at CARM.

  99. And Gundeck, counter-cult groups represent a disproportionately large element of the Protestant embassy to Mormonism.

    The same is not true of FAIR, FARMS or anyone affiliated with them. The LDS Church’s missionary force is a far more prominent face to the world than Dan Peterson is.

    On the other hand – the counter-cult industry is about the only face that Protestantism has deigned to show to the Mormons. Thankfully this is changing with the likes of James White being replaced by the likes of Gerald McDermott. But we aren’t there yet.

  100. Final note – I think it’s thoroughly in dispute whether Dehlin had much at all to do with Peterson being offered a different position of lesser duties, and then quitting the organization in response.

    You’re worrying me Gundeck. I’m going to soon have to draw the rather upsetting conclusion that you’ve been spending time on MormonThink for information about the LDS Church.

  101. I think the comparison between FAIR/FARMS/MI and counter cult ministries in relative size and influence is a fairly accurate one. Mormonism isn’t discussed at Protestant pulpits at nearly the same rate as the Nicene Creed or the Trinity is at LDS General Conference.

    We’ve also never made cheap shots about Mormons being the instruments of Satan a part of our most sacred ceremonies.

    Seth’s point about our chief ambassadors is fair but I’ve had LDS missionaries say some pretty offensive things as well.

  102. Garth, Protestants might have had plenty of nasty things to say about the Catholic Church but none would EVER use the words “total apostasy” to describe the state of Christianity at any point in history. The establishment of the Roman Catholic church has never represented the entirety of Christianity or defined the scope of the Holy Spirit’s interaction with the world.

  103. Steve told Garth:

    You may not see it because you are in it, but when I look at the Mormon organization I see a pride factory.

    In my Gospel Doctrine class this morning there was a strong emphasis on humility. I agree with Garth that LDS doctrine is the opposite of what you claim it to be. But, like other Christians I know, we often fail to practice what we preach.

    As to anti-whatever activities on both sides, I’ll comment only on what I’ve personally observed aside from Internet discussions:

    For Protestants, Tim is right that in most churches (with the exception of perhaps some occasional Sunday school classes) there is very little emphasis on the evils of Mormonism, and certainly less than there was 40 years ago. I communicate regularly with an LDS missionary serving in the Bible Belt, and he has experienced little antagonism directed toward him.

    On the other side, the main thing I hear from fellow Mormons who have Protestant friends or relatives is how much they have in common with us; unfortunately, there are also major suspicions because of the jerks who make their presence known outside every General Conference (I’m living in Utah these days). Most Mormons I know have a very poor understanding of Protestant theology (as do Protestants of Mormons); what little they may have heard about the doctrine of the Trinity of the the “faith alone” approach just doesn’t make sense to them more than it might seem “satanic” or whatever.

    Whatever progress that has been made in activities that prompted the original post hasn’t filtered down to the general membership on either side, as far as I can tell.

    These days, the most vicious attacks on the LDS church aren’t coming from evangelicals/fundamentalists, but from secularists (and secularism is more of a threat to evangelicals these days than Mormons have any hope of being). And, actually, evangelicals are facing the same sort of threat in that regard as we are.

  104. Most Evangelicals should face the same “threat”, criticisms would be a better word.

    Far too many Evangelicals do NOT understand the bound nature of the human will (bound to sin), and believe in this errant doctrine of “free-will”, which is nothing more than a blasphemous mechanism to prop up the self.

    You can try and teach ‘humility’, but where the law ( what ‘we do’) is the motivating factor then it will be a false/pious humility that really only is a mask for the inner pride.

    The gospel is for the brokenhearted.

  105. Back when I was a recently returned missionary in Tennessee, I spent one afternoon trying to have some interfaith dialogue with a Muslim classmate. I spent the conversation trying to point out how similar our religions were: a strong belief in prophets, no drinking alcohol, high moral standards, and a scriptural canon that extends later than Jesus’s era.

    None of this seemed to even make an impression on him, because at the end of the day, Mormons are not strictly monotheistic, and that was, to him, a fundamental and irreconcilable difference. All of the similarities I was trying to point out, which to me seemed so relevant, were incidental and superficial to him. And I completely failed to understand that: the fact that some of our practices were comparable did not make our religions similar, because we were starting from radically different places. The fact thta we had similarities was more coincidence than anything else.

    This is what Garth’s nonsense about Mormonism and Catholicism makes me think of.

  106. Tim…I agree your side would never say “total apostasy”. That’s why I never insisted you must accept the LDS definition, only your own. My point has always been that Mormons and you all agree there was a great and worldwide apostasy. We only differ on the effect and the resolution. But that distinction does not diminish the correctness for both of us to admit it was indeed an apostasy. And a big one at that! (And yes Steve’s point that apostasy is an on-going problem is true, but the historical divide which came to a head via the Reformation is such a huge historical event we can at least admit those events changed the entire world.) Even the LDS use “total” in reference mainly to the authority issue, not to ascribe a total absence of Christian thought, influence, effort and value. Maybe you’d rate it at 70% and we’d rate it at 90%. The degree was not the issue to me. But this only came up in this thread because Gundek was claiming the LDS concept of a great apostasy was both offensive and untrue: “The great apostasy is central to your beliefs but it is anathema to ours…I think that the general consensus across Protestantism is an ebb and flow of more or less pure Church across history, not a great apostasy.” I think Gundek was describing the current view, not the actual view of historical Protestantism of the past. He likes the sanitized version, and I was pointing out the historical version. My point was just that you guys have (or had) no problem with a doctrine of apostasy either and the real sticking point between us should not be the great apostasy so much, as the loss of authority question and the manner of its resolution. But to claim blasphemy at our mere acknowledgment of the spiraling bastardization of true Christianity when it is such a clear historical fact (unless you’re a Catholic) seems like a dodge. The great apostasy shouldn’t even be controversial, much less offensive. One can disagree with the effects of the great apostasy, but not in its existence in history, it seems to me.

    @ Eric, I echo your observations. I live in an area which also has had lots of anti-Mormonism in the past. It has lessened in the past few years as frankly Evangelicals are starting to realize that as far as discipleship, the Mormons are pretty darn in sync with them. Sometimes they even chide themselves for not holding the standards as highly as do “those Mormons.” Pretty hard to hate your own reflection in the mirror. The outreach also between men like Mouw, Blomburg, and others is also starting to reset the clock a bit, I sense. It will be gradual and doctrinal differences will (and should) always exist. But when the true assault on both of our religions is coming from secular humanism and newly zealous atheism, we will hopefully find more reasons to bury old grudges and prejudices. We face a common enemy–and it isn’t each other.

  107. Kullervo– I think you are mis-attributing a comment to me that I never said. Funny that you’re saying the exact same thing I said, and then calling it nonsense. Catholic framework in Mormonism was never “my point”. That was Jared C’s comment. I simply agreed that yes there is a superficial framework of similarity between the Catholics and the Mormons–to which I then said that that was about all we had in common since “the meat on those bones” is not at all similar to Catholicism. The main similarity I agreed with Jared on was the hierarchical priesthood issue–which is not “nonsense” but a well-acknowledged fact. Haven’t you heard that famous and oft-quoted Orson F. Whitney story about the Catholic Priest who said: “You Mormons are all ignoramuses. You don’t even know the strength of your own position. It is so strong that there is only one other tenable in the whole Christian world, and that is the position of the Catholic Church. The issue is between Catholicism and Mormonism. If we are right, you are wrong; if you are right, we are wrong; and that’s all there is to it. The Protestants haven’t a leg to stand on. For, if we are wrong, they are wrong with us, since they were a part of us and went out from us; while if we are right, they are apostates whom we cut off long ago. If we have the apostolic succession from St. Peter, as we claim, there is no need of Joseph Smith and Mormonism; but if we have not that succession, then such a man as Joseph Smith was necessary, and Mormonism’s attitude is the only consistent one. It is either the perpetuation of the gospel from ancient times, or the restoration of the gospel in latter days.”

    That is a valid position between our priesthood authority claims and that’s all I said. That’s about all we share with Catholics, except having big families and not ordaining women. Not seeing the “nonsense” you apparently see. So your point is the same point I was making as far as I can tell. Not sure how you got that turned around. But, like a good Catholic–I absolve you. Say 3 “hail Mary’s” and 4 “our Fathers” and go and sin no more.

  108. FYI, in addition to the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Anglican Communion and some Lutheran denominations all claim direct apostolic succession.

    Furthermore, a significant number of Christian sects originating in the 19th and 20th centuries make similar claims to Mormonism regarding restored apostolic authority. The New Apostolic Church in particular makes priesthood authority claims very similar to Mormonism’s and boasts membership numbers comparable to Mormonism. They’re a big deal in Germany pretty much exactly the same way Mormons are a big deal in the US.

    So yeah, any special comparison between Mormonism and Catholicism is indeed nonsense.

  109. Thanks for the overview. It’s nice to know that during that great non-apostasy which never happened, that the non-apostate Catholics didn’t succeed in eliminating all their non-apostate opposition. (Be assured I’m sporting a mischievous wry smile on my fingers as I’m typing that as it’s just my sense of humor. Just meant for a rib poke, not a slap, I promise.)

  110. Kullervo–ha, well your comment was not complex, so I had no problem grasping it. Maybe you hadn’t read my on-going discussion with others (not you) about the apostasy issue, so frankly, I suspect you didn’t understand my comment. I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem understanding your comments. Just agreeing with them sometimes.

  111. Of course I understood your comment re: apostasy. The problem is, from a historical standpoint, your comment doesn’t make sense. Even tongue-in-cheek. Mostly it just betrays a typical Mormon total ignorance about Christian history.

  112. Well I served my mission in Southern France and stood in the ruins of several Cathar castles in the Languedoc region, where they had been systematically destroyed for heresy a few hundred years before the height of the Reformation. I think from a historical standpoint most folks would know exactly what I was talking about, which is also not a complex concept. I was not confining my comment to only the few off-breaks you mentioned but speaking with my tongue in my cheek about the entire scope of the atrocities during the dark ages. At times it bordered on ethnic-like-cleansing! If you don’t think there was an on-going purge of heretics (on both the Catholic and later on the Protestant side) then which one of us is showing some ignorance about Christian history?

  113. Look,

    My comment specifically catalogued (1) churches that claim direct apostolic succession like the Roman Catholic church and (2) churches that claim restores apostolic authority like Mormonism. The point was to illustrate that Mormon claims that “its gotta be us or the Catholics” and unverified (and irrelevant!) anecdotes like the Orson F. Whitney story simply don’t hold water. There are too many other churches with priesthood authority claims just as valid and believable as Roman Catholicism’s and Mormonism’s for you to be able to hold on to the notion that there is any kind of special or unique similarity there.

    I am well aware of (1) the early competing non-orthodox sects like Gnosticism, Nestorianism and Arianism, (2) the medieval Cathars and the Albigensian Crusade, (3) the other major branches of reformation Protestantism and (4) the morass of modern New Religious Movements, Christian and otherwise. I am fully aware that these groups have been branded heretical and sometimes treated violently at the hands of orthodox Christianity and the Roman Catholic Church (and vice versa!). But none of that has anything remotely to do with my comment about the number of churches that make claims to priesthood authority that are similar to those made by the Mormons and those made by the Catholics.

  114. Maybe our problem is you thought my comment was suppose to confine itself to your topic of competing claims to Priesthood authority. But frankly, I thought you were just making a commentary, which is well known, and for which I had no reason to dispute. After all–the Catholic comment from Orson Whitney was not MY comment, so why would I need to defend it? So, since I didn’t really think you were waiting for me to defend the little quote I placed, I moved on to the idea that “my, isn’t it nice that the Catholics didn’t kill everybody with a competing claim!” That was a joke Kullervo. I didn’t realize you were thinking I should only address the historicity of the apostolic claims of other denominations. I don’t care. Nor do I dispute that others claims apostolic or restorational authority. That’s a given. So sorry if I zigged and you expected a zag. But lets agree that there’s no script and it doesn’t mean I’m non-comprehending “as usual”, or “betraying a typical Mormon ignorance”…which frankly seems a bit rude, since you can’t possibly know what I know. No harm, no foul. I’ll state that you are absolutely correct in your review of competing priesthood claims. Whether Orson Whitney’s little story is factual or embellished is not in need of parsing, as it is his account of a conversation he claims to have had. Seems we’re crossing swords over a non-issue to me. Let’s shake hands and move on,eh?

  115. I meant the non-issue of me agreeing with you and that I was talking about something else. But if I ever need a lawyer, I hope I can afford you as you are a tenacious fellow.

  116. “I think Gundek was describing the current view, not the actual view of historical Protestantism of the past. He likes the sanitized version, and I was pointing out the historical version.”


    You’re wrong. I’m not claiming some apologetically sanitized version of a Protestant doctrine. I’m not basing my opinion on a correlated Sunday school manual or a cutesy anecdote. This is plainly taught in the primary sources. You don’t have to agree with the primary material but you cannot deny it.

    If you want the historical position look at my previous quotes from John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion the 1560 edition Prefatory Address to King Francis, originally written for the 1536 edition. Read the entire letter. Nothing could be more clear, “…the church of Christ has lived and will live so long as Christ reigns at the right hand of his Father.”

    Calvin was not alone with this position, John Winram, John Spottiswoode, John Willock, John Douglas, John Row, and John Knox wrote in the Scots Confession of 1560 “We most constantly believe that God preserved, instructed, multiplied, honoured, decored, and from death called to life his kirk in all ages, from Adam, till the coming of Christ Jesus in the flesh.” They also say “As we believe in one God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; so do we most constantly believe that from the beginning there has been, now is, and to the end of the world shall be, a kirk: that is to say, a company and multitude of men chosen of God, who rightly worship and embrace him, by true faith in Christ Jesus, who is the only Head of the same kirk, which also is the body and spouse of Christ Jesus…”

    The Westminster Confession of Faith says “Christ always hath had, and ever shall have, a visible kingdom in this world, to the end thereof, of such as believe in him, and make profession of his name.” Both the Savoy Declaration and The Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 use the exact same language.

    This is such a basic position of the Magisterial Reformation, Luther, Bucer, Zwingli, Bullinger, Melanchthon, Beza. I am at a loss to think of any Protestant Reformed or Lutheran writer who didn’t espouse this position.

    I understand that you think your position shouldn’t be all that offensive, you’re only talking about apostolic authority and priesthood keys. Unfortunately, that’s not the way the New Testament talks about the Church, the body and bride of Christ. The Reformers understood that if you claimed that the Church was gone, you’re claiming that Christ was gone as well.

  117. Gundek: It is manifestly obvious that the protestant view never claimed a total apostasy with a loss of Godly authority. Granted. I never claimed that you concurred with the LDS view and in fact always stressed that I’m talking about the simple concept that we both believe in “a” great apostasy. The severity of it is not something we need to share to still admit to the enormous apostasy which triggered the reformation. Those are 2 separate issues. Thousands lost their lives. Kingdoms rose and fell during the upheavals. I never defined, implied or required that your side had to adopt the LDS view of a total apostasy of authority. In fact, it is self-evident that they could not hold that LDS view or they might presumably be LDS. Your quotes simply correctly point out that the reformers presumed (though they cannot site the exact practitioners) a body of valid believers must have theoretically resided somewhere on the earth, even if vague and non-specific. Even more ironically, it is presumed after the fact that many of the valiant folks burned at the stakes, tortured, impaled, beheaded were these very souls being murdered during the apostasy you claim didn’t exist. I appreciate the reformers quotes and I have no argument that such is their opinion. But that was not my argument. I am apparently unable to get the point across that an apostasy does not require the “absence of”, but only “the falling away from.” It is a manifestly obvious fact that you would not have needed a reformation without a falling away first. I’m just trying to get that far–which is simply stating that we both believe in the same apostasy. Only the severity/totality and eventual resolution of that apostasy separate our beliefs. But frankly, I can’t keep making the same point, when your side keeps coming back with–“but that’s not an apostasy.” Yes–that is an apostasy. A great apostasy, in fact. Of course particles and glimmers and devotion to Christ still endured on the earth even at the height of the apostasy. No one, for example, can look at the life of William Tyndale–a victim of that great apostasy–and not affirm that great Christians endured the fires of the apostasy.

  118. No one ever said there is no apostasy. Look around, is there not enough apostasy today that you think it is reasonable to claim it was greater yesterday than it is today? That seems to be a pretty judgmental position to make such vicious statement about the saints and martyrs. What I said and what I will continue to insist is that the Church of Christ has never been absent from the earth. .

    And since it is manifestly obvious that Protestants have from the beginning of the Reformation taught that Christ’s Church existed, what is your point in claiming that I am presenting a sanitized version history. Besides since the result of your great(er) apostasy (than today) is no church it is difficult to see the resemblance.

    I’m glad that you judge Tyndale to be a glimmer of devotion and not just a corrupt scholar but, Cardinal Wolsey condemned and Henry Phillips betrayed Tyndale, his killers should be remembered for what they did, not as an apologetic aside.

  119. It was in relation to the quote from Orson Whitney that I was first introduced to the false choice logical fallacy. I quoted it to a friend as a freshman in college, thinking it was a pretty good argument, and then he said “that’s a false choice” and explained the false choice fallacy to me. It was such a clear example that the meaning of a false choice has stuck with me ever since. What if the protestants are right? Then all those who have that simple faith in the complete sufficiency of the blood of Jesus will inherit eternal life with God.

  120. Kullervo, are you saying you are one of those increasingly rare creatures known as EMPLOYED lawyers?

  121. @ 4fivesolas: I think the Orson Whitney story depends upon accepting that Peter was the first “Pope” and that all future authority necessarily descended from his reign via the Roman line of exclusive authority. That was certainly their claim anyway. (Of course that claim would be only a hypothesis, which I reject too.) BUT…if that is this Catholics starting point and the direct laying on of hands from chief apostle Peter is the lynch pin, then actually there is no logical fallacy to this alleged Priest’s point of view that I can see. The supremacy of the 1st Pope or the claim of Peter’s new ordination of Joseph Smith would indeed arguably be the only two common contact points where the Apostle Peter invested authority with his own hands that I’m aware of. (From this Priests perspective.) While others can show their branching off of the Roman claim (as the Catholics view it), this priests argument seems solid, if the Catholics claim their authority never resided in those break-offs. Frankly I’m not seeing that the scenario is a very good example of false logic. The logic is actually solid. False premise-yes, but as a closed loop hypothesis, it seems to hold up darn well, I think.

    But, you are correct that if one rejects the foundational premise of this Priests world-view, then sure, other interpretations open. The “universal priesthood of all believers”, or presuming the Roman Church was the branch rather than the trunk of the tree like the Greek Orthodox branch alleges, changes everything. But I think your friends argument sounds like it just rejected the premise, which actually isn’t discovering a logical fallacy in the original premise. It just rejects the premise. So while I get your point that the Priests alleged logic is narrowed to only his own definitions, I’m not seeing that just expanding the hypothesis counts as a fault of the original logic. But I could be wrong.

  122. @ Gundek: Well, I think I understand your point of view and I hear what you’re saying. I can appreciate your perspective. I personally do think the apostasy of the middle ages is quite a different animal than the deviations we see today–or at least it’s less bloody and shattering these days. My point was just to say that our historical pivot point (the great apostasy) is closer in effecting the historical rise of both Mormon and Protestant branches than I think most Protestants are able to understand or admit. I think that era of great apostasy spawned both our fatih pathways, though the Mormon culmination was long after the initial revolution of course. I revere the reformers. They were amazing men and women. BYU not long ago made the 3-part “Fires of Faith” documentary walking through that amazing world history. I recently watched it and it brought tears to my eyes to see the sacrifice and dedication of those martyrs. Of course these theologians of the reformation had to claim that the church was never “lost”, or their validity would also be hollowed out. I understand that theologically, their interpretation that acknowledging a loss of authority would seem to them as admitting Satan had been more powerful than Jesus. I don’t think that holds true, since there have frequently been apostasies and restorations among Gods people. God gives man free agency, and that is a messy thing. We don’t feel Satan “won”, but simply forced the church into the “wilderness” for a time, till the moment arrived where the world was prepared for the full restoration. Daniel saw the church would not be cut from the mountain without hands and fill the earth until the era of the “toes” (our day). Certainly good people, striving to follow Christ and living lives of dedication and worthiness never ceased as God’s word can never be fully expunged. We will not find full agreement, but the apostasy and reformation show that God certainly loves us and will inspire great people of courage to seek Him in all ages.

  123. Garth, you forgot to say that you absolutely agree with gundek and that was what you were saying all along; that there was a great apostasy just before the Reformation just as there has always been apostasy.

  124. Garth – the entire argument of the “priest’ was a false choice as to the identity of the true Church. Sure, he may believe in some specific formula for how Apostolic authority is passed on. But no matter what his underlying context – it’s still a false choice. It is set-up as an either/or with no option of “we could both be horribly mistaken” or maybe everyone mentioned, including the protestants, are wrong… Kullervo gave you several examples of other Church bodies – some who claim a restoration and some others apostolic authority. The Church I attend has a true Office of the Keys – the power to forgive and retain sins in the power and stead of Christ. Who grants this authority? Jesus – and the authority comes through His cross and blood. How can we contend this is true? Well, if this authority only passes through direct ordination from one priest/pastor to another in a spiritual transference – then one false teacher/pastor/priest and then it’s over, the authority has stopped. How can a false priest pass on a true priesthood in this scenario? But if every pastor is ordained directly by God’s authority, then it generally makes no difference who is ordaining, God Himself is calling that pastor to that office, perhaps even using or in spite of a corrupt false believer. And if God Himself is calling that pastor by his Word, then establishing a direct lineage to the Apostles is rather pointless. (And actually, if you look at Church history, I would say in principle the Roman Church agrees with this – for example St. Augustine and the Donatists controversy – but Augustine is a Church Father that most Christians claim, i.e. the Roman Church does not have exclusive claim on him). So yes, the Apostolic authority has been given by God (not by human action) and illumines and actually delivers the benefits of Jesus death on the Cross through God’s Word (of absolution, of baptism, of Jesus death on the Cross for our sins). Hearing the Word of forgiveness in my ears and tasting the bread and wine brings Jesus to me and gives me faith in the finished work of the Cross and gives eternal life. Do we believe as Mormons about Apostolic authority? no. Do our beliefs align perfectly with the Roman Church? no. Does that mean we are inherantly wrong as Orson Whitney story purports to show? no. The story clearly presents a false choice.

  125. Tim– When both sides have laid out their points and neither one finds full agreement, most agree its simply time to lay the topic down where it ends. That’s all I did. I laid out my case for the loss of authority, and simply said I realize why the Protestant view can’t go that far. I rested my side of the apostasy case and tried to finish with an expression that answered, from the LDS view, Gundeks perspective that a loss of authority would show an alleged failure of Christ, which it isn’t. I also explained where I feel we have similarities and differences. If you think my appreciation of the reformers is coddling the other side just to “agree”, you simply err. I have never made the case you seem to think I was making, as if trying to define for you what your doctrine must be. My main point that we both believe in the same apostasy, but differ only in the severity and resolution, was laid out and I simply said I see both sides. Isn’t that a good thing? Or do you think that expression shows vacillation? I don’t. Didn’t this entire thread begin about finding a way to express our different points of view while maintaining respect and civility?

  126. I would love to see some brave and honest Mormon get up in the temple and say,
    “What are we doing? There has already been a Reformation to get the train back onto the tracks. We are STILL relying on the work of ourselves, as the Roman Catholics did during Luther’s time, in addition to the finished work of Christ Jesus for real sinners. We need to stop ‘playing church’ and taking all of this into our own hands and rely upon the Lord, totally. We have been even more apostate than the Catholic Church has been because we are guilty of the same sorts of false beliefs that they were guilty of but we have also rejected the proper Christ centered doctrines out of a desire to do it our own way. St. Paul said “that if an angel from Heaven (Moroni) comes down from Heaven with ‘another gospel’ , then let him be accursed.” We should have paid attention to that warning lest we go down this road to yet ANOTHER semi-Pelagain religion that places man back at the center…instead of Christ Jesus.”

    That would be the first step in turning around that apostate “church”, and that man or woman would go down in history as a great Reformer and soldier for Christ Jesus. (assuming that there would be anyone with ears to hear it)

  127. Garth, the big problem with your notions about the Great Apostasy is that you are conflating doctrinal error with loss of authority. This is not a surprise; many Mormon sources simply lump them together (or cite the latter as evidence of the former), but if you take a closer look, you will see that even on strictly Mormon terms, the former can be reformed while the latter cannot. In other words, you are simply wrong when you say (or strongly imply) that the only difference between your view of the Great Apostasy and a Protestant’s view of Roman Catholic error is one of degree. There is a significant difference in the nature of the apostasy in either case.

    Nobody here is claiming that there has never been doctrinal error in the Church. That’s nothing new: you can;t claim that about Mormonism either. Think of all the things that have been taught in early–or not so early–Mormonism that you now disbelieve: Adam-God, blood atonement, Moon Quakers, polygamist Jesus, blacks as neutrals in heaven. All of these things have been taught in the Mormon Church at one time or another but are now considered to be false doctrine. But you don’t think there needs to be a second Restoration, because these are mere doctrinal errors that can be corrected (either by divine revelation or simply by better theology), provided that the Church qua Church still exists, i.e., as long as the Church retains its priesthood authority, errors can be corrected. Sins can be repented. Course corrections can be made institutionally as well as individually.

    This is no different from what anyone here is claiming about medieval Roman Catholicism. The staunchest confessional Lutheran in this thread will tell admit (gleefully!) that although the medieval Roman Catholic Church was deeply in error in terms of doctrine and practice, it nevertheless still constituted the Church.

    While we may have different ideas about what priesthood authority is, how it is significant, how it functions, and how it is transmitted, every orthodox Christian will tell you that this authority was never lost, no matter how many doctrinal errors crept in. We don’t believe that selling pardons and teaching supererogation made the medieval Church’s priesthood authority go away any more than you believe that teaching Adam-God made Brigham Young’s priesthood authority go away .

    I will spell this out in simple terms for you: We all readily acknowledge that the medieval Church fell into deep doctrinal and praxis errors. But that is not what the Mormon doctrine of the Great apostasy says. The Mormon doctrine of the Great Apostasy says that priesthood authority was lost from the earth, and we disagree with you about that. And we do not think that doctrinal and praxis errors are evidence of a loss of priesthood authority and neither do you.

    Our disagreement about the nature of medieval apostasy is not simply a matter of disagreeing about the quantity of error. The Mormon claim of lost priesthood authority, which is the core distinctive of the mormon Great Apostasy narrative and must be firmly established in order to justify the Restoration, is something qualitatively different.

  128. BUT…if that is this Catholics starting point and the direct laying on of hands from chief apostle Peter is the lynch pin, then actually there is no logical fallacy to this alleged Priest’s point of view that I can see.

    Except for all the other churches that can demonstrate priesthood authority by laying on of hands that goes back to Peter. That’s what we are all trying to say here: even if it is correct that priesthood authority must be transmitted by the laying on of hands in a chain of priesthood holders that goes back to Peter, the Roman Catholic Church is not the only church that has that.

  129. Garth, I was teasing you for your habit of stating that you agree while simultaneously stating that you disagree. My comment wasn’t really about the topic at hand (and probably not helpful).

  130. Steve Martin, I would likewise love to see some “brave and honest Lutheran/Evangelical” get up and say “What are we doing – we’re just as works-obsessed as the Mormons and Catholics we love to criticize so much.”

  131. Thanks Tim. Point taken.
    Kullervo: excellent points also and well summarized. I agree that the “authority” is the key issue and the point of critical mass which moves one side to a reformation, and the other side to a restoration. That is the essential dividing line. I never expected that point to find a middle-point of agreement so I more took that as a given that there could be no agreement there. My emphasis therefore was more on just seeing where I’d find some common ground (the historical apostasy), rather than on where we could not agree (the loss of priesthood authority.) Your point is correct that the dividing line of valid authority is not just how much error crept in, but more on how or if that was a symptom of, or causal to, an alleged loss of authority as well. You could have also cited that LDS once presumed all of N America was the land North, and S. America was the land South in B of M geography, which we no longer teach. (Though the Quakers on the Moon was always a single spurious attribution that no one took seriously.) Your point is valid that errors in doctrine do not necessarily remove authority. If all doctrine was required to be born perfect and fully developed, there’d be no need for on-going scriptural scholarship. I certainly feel that even in the blackest of the dark ages, the spirit of God was not withdrawn and the reformers were inspired, quickened and enlightened. I view the priesthood authority–e.g. the sealing keys–as a separate and distinct issue however from “godliness”. To me, “Priesthood” and “Preistcraft” (which I don’t mean in the negative connotation but more in the righteous ministration of people seeking God’s will), are two separate concepts. But that’s another topic for another day. Thanks for your perspective and good points.

    @ Steve–your “dream confrontation” presumes so much that I think no one with such an attitude would ever find their way into a Mormon temple in the first place. I think for those stars to align, you’d really need Ed Decker or Sandra Tanner to sneak into a temple session with a forged temple recommend. In other words–not only is it never gonna happen–it can only be a fantasy of someone who comes to that hope with a devout disavowment for everything “Mormon” in the first place. Be kinda like hoping an atheist would publicly rebuke his own Lutheran Synod for their crazy talk about that faker Jesus! Don’t hold your breath–though by the way we’ve had folks that “brave”. We call them apostates. (But at least we don’t burn them alive.)

  132. NO I DON’T!!!

    I mean ANYONE who has the guts and honesty and to admit who and what they really are (sinner), and who will stand up for Christ and His finished (He said it Himself) work on the cross…for those same sinners.

    When Luther did it. he was a Roman Catholic. Lest we forget.

  133. You are probably right, Garth.

    People who realize that need a real Savior and not a self-help guru may never find their way into the pride factory that is Mormonism.

    The only hope is for those who are already in there to somehow receive some honest and realize that they are just not up to, instead of remaining prideful or phony.

  134. Just one more thing about Luther.

    He was standing up to THE power in the world at that time, politically and religiously. They could have put him to death and they even tried to do so (they did it to others, such as John Hus). And Luther did not voluntarily leave the Catholic Church they kicked him out.

    He had guts.

    It wouldn’t take nearly as much guts for someone to get up in front of a Baptist, or Catholic, or Lutheran, or Mormon group these days and stand up for the pure gospel.

    That’s it. For now.

  135. Indeed, it is self-evident that anyone brave and honest would have no choice but to agree with Steve Martin.

    The rest of us who disagree with him are liars and cowards.

  136. It has nothing to do with me. It has to do solely with the freedom that Christ has won for sinners on the cross. Period.

    I’m not advocating that people become Lutherans. I’m advocating that people get real about who and what they really are, and realize that there is no hope in trying to clean themselves up and live up to a perfect standard.

    The only hope we have is to repent (constantly) and trust in Christ Jesus.

    Proclaim this in your church or wherever, and lets the chips fall where they may. Every once in a while, someone will hear this Good News, and be liberated. But more often than not, you will not be thanked and you might even be mocked. So what?

  137. My emphasis therefore was more on just seeing where I’d find some common ground (the historical apostasy), rather than on where we could not agree (the loss of priesthood authority.)

    So yeah, the existence of doctrinal errors in the historical church is common ground, but it’s not really interesting common ground. Everyone acknowledges it, even Roman Catholics. It doesn’t get us anywhere. You know what else we all have in common? We all believe that water is wet. It’s true, but it doesn’t serve to move the discussion along.

    With regards to the Mormon doctrine of the Great Apostasy, the doctrinal errors of the medieval Roman Catholic church are a red herring.

  138. Garth said

    blackest of the dark ages

    You keep calling the medieval period the “dark ages”; as someone once said “you keep using that word, but I don’t think it means what you think it means”.

    Historically it’s simply inaccurate to continue to use that term. They were dubbed the “dark ages” by their intellectual predecessors in order to make the Enlightenment seem even better than it was, but there really was nothing unusually “black” about the dark ages. Western Civilization made a number of strides in that period and historians now view those who continue to call it the “dark ages” as people with an agenda to push.

    I think for those stars to align, you’d really need Ed Decker or Sandra Tanner to sneak into a temple session with a forged temple recommend. In other words–not only is it never gonna happen

    This is WAY off topic but if you don’t think it’s possible to sneak into the temple with a forged temple recommend you clearly haven’t been paying attention to YouTube.

  139. Kullervo: Well, I found it interesting. And I gained one insight that perhaps the others in the discussion didn’t get–how reticent Protestants are to actually use the word “apostasy”. (And never calling it a great apostasy.) And when I drew it into a historical context it seemed folks went out of their way to re-cast it as anything else but a defined, historical event. Most trended to minimize it, or even phrase it as only an on-going “condition” affecting individuals personally. (Which the term can apply to, but not in the context I was using.) But in all the comments, I don’t think a single person expressed it as an actual revolutionary or historical “event”. The Reformation–yes. The condition of pervasive, massive apostasy which set up the Reformation–no. Vague, undefined, easily-morphed into a slippery thing. I frankly did not expect that it would even be controversial to see this huge world-changing milieu of the dark-ages apostasy as even disputed given the reformation–which Protestants are happy to embrace as a major historical event! That was news to me at least. Some of those who joined in the discussion never even used the apostasy word, almost dancing around it to avoid, it seemed, having to say the word. Even you, in your comment avoid the word and call it “the existence of doctrinal errors in the historical church.” I had no idea the massive apostasy–which I’ve always thought was pretty obvious even if most don’t see it as an issue of lost authority–was a victim of such watering-down by modern theologians. At least that’s how it came across to me. I don’t think that was just to avoid mormonizing the term, but what I perceived as a true reticence to actually let the term into the lexicon of modern Christianity. I found that interesting and don’t pretend to say that’s the main lesson I got from this thread, but I did find it interesting. So at least it was an education for me if not for you.

  140. Tim–I am using “dark ages” loosely, I admit. But it’s quite valid I think to see a dividing line between the dark ages and the renaissance. Well, more a process than a line. The sluggish stagnancy of a Europe mired in superstition, religious suppression, little innovation, repression of thought and science, little education, feudal system poverty, etc., was markedly changed once the light from the Reformers, Gutenberg’s printing press, etc. finally caught a foothold. I think I used the term as I intended to simply point out how the Reformation was part of that truly Enlightenment period that historians acknowledge.

  141. The sluggish stagnancy of a Europe mired in superstition, religious suppression, little innovation, repression of thought and science, little education, feudal system poverty, etc.,

    these are all things people say about the medieval period when they wish to use the term “dark ages”. That’s not really an accurate description of the period.

    I’ve even heard a BYU history professor complain that returned missionaries always try to contradict her on this point because it was a tool they used in their lessons.

  142. as far as “The Apostasy” you’re right that we don’t view it as a historical event.

    It’s your use of the word “The” that’s more objectionable than your use of the word “Apostasy”.

  143. How are you not getting this? We are refusing to acknowledge that the Great Apostasy was an event because it wasn’t an event! Mormons believe that it was an event, that there was a moment or a short era during which priesthood authority was lost and consequently the plain and precious truths of the gospel ceased to be taught. And it looks all the more like a distinct event to you because (1) you believe that Jesus and the apostles believed and taught Mormonism but (2) it is historically well-documented that the early church was teaching something other than Mormonism. So you pretty much have to say that there was a sudden and drastic descent into error that accompanied the purported loss of authority.

    The rest of us don’t have to say that! We don’t refer to “The Apostasy” as an event that happened because we reject your assertion that such an Event ever happened. “Apostasy” doesn;t mean “error” or even “a lot of error.” Apostasy means rejecting or defecting from the faith and we don’t believe that the medieval Church, even in its worst and most egregious errors, ever did that.

    This is what you are apparently not getting. Yes, Mormons and orthodox Christians may agree that the medieval Church had errors. But we disagree vehemently on what was an error and what wasn’t, and consequently we disagree on when those errors crept in. You believe that a massive and fundamental Departure From Truth happened as early as the second century. That’s a part of your Great Apostasy doctrine. That’s an apostasy. I don’t believe that. I don’t believe that the Church Fathers were in error. I don’t reject the creeds as abominations. I don’t believe an apostasy happened.

    The things that I believe the medieval Church had wrong? It’s historically undisputed that they were added, piecemeal, gradually, over centuries. That’s not an event. That’s not a rejection of or a defection from the faith, That’s a set of gradual shifts in some doctrines and practices. There simply is no identifiable Error-Event that an orthodox Christian can call “The Apostasy.” And that’s why I don’t use the term.

  144. Kullervo: I’m totally okay with the “authority” issue being off the table, but I didn’t realize before this thread, that most Protestants of today did not see the catalyst for the Reformation as a valid condition of Apostasy (by which I mean “falling away from” not a wholesale “rejection” of. Catholics never “rejected” Jesus Christ so of course that concept to me is not a requirement for an Apostasy.) I just didn’t realize that you (meaning Protestants in general) thought all the martyrdoms, excommunications, banishments, imprisonments, tortures and accusations of mutual apostasy, which reached a crescendo during the reformation, would not fit the definition of a legitimate apostasy. What would constitute a valid “apostasy” then I wonder? What would be a historical apostasy, or so long as a core creed is agreed upon (even if it may be wrong), does that avoid the definition? Has there then ever been a legitimate apostasy? Since the Jews still held their core Shema when Christ came, were they then not in an apostate condition when they crucified their Messiah? Using what I think is your definition, then it almost seems so long as there’s no formal declaration of “rejecting or defecting from the faith” then there can never be an official “apostasy”? I’m confused trying to apply your definition. Wouldn’t that mean that the FLDS and other Mormon “apostate” groups aren’t really in apostasy, since they never rejected JS or the B of M, or other core beliefs? If they only reject our later leaders (like Luther did with the Pope), then they’re not in or claiming their former group is apostate? I think I understand how you’re trying to define an apostasy, but I’m not seeing how that can apply when the entire face of Europe was thrown into war, turmoil, and division on religion–yet it was maybe just a gentlemen’s disagreement then? Apostasy would be hard to apply as a term at all then, it seems to me.

  145. Oh, I should add that of course apostasy is in the eye of the beholder. But since both sides can’t be right, it seems one or the other must be apostate. Obviously to the FLDS the Mormons are in apostasy (falling away) and vice versa. Apostasy seems to be subjective to the apostate, but objective to their antagonist.

  146. Garth

    I found it interesting that you think an appreciation of the Reformation makes a Mormon Great Apostasy theology any more palpable. I find it illuminating that any denial of your Great Apostasy theology is equated with a denial of apostasy. This is the key for my education because your Great Apostasy is a theological claim with the result of the total removal of the church from the Earth and not an historical event, such as the Great Schism, that can be evaluated.

    I find it fascinating that in your claims of a Great Apostasy you focus completely on Rome to the exclusion of Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy.

    I find it interesting that you dismissively continue with a Black Millennium storyline for the history of the Medieval Church. I find it an education that you would call the era of Anselm, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (a personal favorite), Peter Lombard, and Thomas Aquinas a huge world-changing milieu of the dark-ages apostasy.

  147. Garth there is probably more religious persecution against Christians at this very moment than there was during the Reformation. It just doesn’t happen to dominate the headlines like the Reformation did at that moment in time.

    We would NEVER accept the notion of a historical event that could be referred to as an Apostasy because we believe Jesus when he said that the gates of Hell would not prevail against his church. His church remained alive in Medieval Europe as it remains alive now.

    What would constitute a valid “apostasy” then I wonder?

    It would be confined to a person or a group of people. It wouldn’t be global or descriptive of all people. We very much believe that people (or organizations) can reject the faith and become corrupt. We might even say that they’ve become evil and describe their acts as violently Satanic. But that description would not fit Christ’s church (a spiritual body made up of true believers).

    We aren’t by any means redefining the violence of the Reformation as a gentleman’s disagreement (you’re using a false dicotomy).

  148. Garth, the Dark Ages is largely a myth. It wasn’t half as horrible a period as Hollywood, and atheist demagogues like to go on about.

    You ought to give this book a read: “Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and its Fashionable Enemies.” I summarized a part of the book in a comment on another forum where a rather unpleasant “new atheist” commenter was trying to make the point that religion ruins everything and Christianity set back the course of human progress a thousand years:

    [start paraphrasing of Hart’s book]

    “Up until the middle of the 13th century, the Islamic world enjoyed a genuine measure of scientific superiority, but it had largely stagnated on Aristotelian science and had nothing more to contribute. From this point on, Christian culture, innovation, and thought would take up the baton and run with it, completely eclipsing all other human cultures for scientific theory, innovation, and human advance.

    A big driving force behind this rapid advance was the creation of the MEDIEVAL CHRISTIAN university. No doubt Brent was unaware that the university was a Christian invention. The universities of Western Christendom were well-endowed with great financial backing, and access to the greatest collections of old learning, antiquities, and human knowledge in the world at the time. There was astonishing freedom of inquiry and thought and debate was not only tolerated, but encouraged. Nowhere else on the planet had as much academic freedom at the time as the Medieval Christian university. They were also largely legally and financially independent of the cities in which they were located and were integrated with each other in an educational network that spanned Europe. They were also largely sheltered from the ravages of the wars that occurred throughout the period. You couldn’t have found a better location for critical thought anywhere in the world at that time, or in any time previous to that.

    From the time the Cathedral School of Chartres reached its height in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, Western Christendom produced natural philosophers at least the equals of any of their classical predecessors (for the unlearned – “classical” refers to the old Greco-Roman period). Robert Grosseteste (c. 1175-1253), for example, an astoundingly learned scholar who was the first known expositor of a systematic method for scientific experimentation (bet Brent wasn’t aware that the Christians invented the scientific method); or St. Albert the Great (c. 1200-1280), who you could term the father of all biological field research, who was literally a walking encyclopedia of all the natural and speculative sciences.

    Furthermore, in the field of medicine and health care, the Christian world far outstripped any achievements in the Islamic world or anywhere else at that time. Byzantine medical care was far more advanced than that in the Islamic world at the time. It has become clear that in the Eastern Christian Roman world, at least as early as the sixth century, and probably earlier, there were free hospitals served by physicians and surgeons, with established regimes of treatment and convalescent care, and with regular and trained staffs. The Byzantine hospital system even went so far as to develop specialized hospitals for different classes of ailments. Homeless shelters, orphanages and such were also developed.

    Muslims society later imitated the Byzantine medical system, and after the First Crusade, Latin Christian society established its own hospital system on the Byzantine model (see – the Crusades didn’t just spread the sword – they spread LEARNING too). The most famous example is the Hospital of St. John created in Jerusalem by the Hospitallers in 1099 – which became the model for hospitals throughout Western Europe in the Middle Ages (bet Brent didn’t know that Christians invented the modern hospital either). By about midway through the 13th century, almost all major municipalities in Western Europe employed trained physicians for the care of the poor.

    In the realm of technological innovation, Western Christianity smoked every other civilization on the planet and left them in the dust at an early stage. Architecture, engineering, machinery, agronomy and development of new sources of power… the Christian Middle Ages were marked by periods of invention far more prolonged, creative and diverse than any known to Hellenistic, Roman, or Muslim culture. Modern readers probably have a hard time appreciating just how truly revolutionary devices like the heavy saddle with stirrups, the horseshoe, the wheeled plow, the rigid horse collar, heavy armor, and such really were. But these inventions of Middle Age Christianity revolutionized their societies and allowed for the cultivation of soils that had never been useable before, and ushered in a period of military security that was crucial for the sort of economic and demographic growth the Roman Empire had never managed to achieve because it lacked such innovations.

    Waterwheels appeared in the dawn of the Middle Ages. First as simple watermills, but later gears and engines of mechanized industry – most particularly in the Cistercian monasteries of the 12th century and after. In these monasteries, they used water power not just to grind grain, but also to drive hammers on camshafts for the fulling of wool, prep leather for tanning, run oil presses, wood saws, furnace bellows.

    And I’m not done with these Medieval savages (as our learned friend Brent no doubt declares them to be). Abundant production of wrought iron and finally cast iron; manufacture of cannon; constant improvements in technology of mining, like methods of pumping water, trolley transport of ore, and more stable mineshafts; development of sophisticated earthenware and glass glazing; the flying buttress and the Gothic arch; discoveries in geometry of refraction and the consequent perfection of magnifying lenses for eyeglasses; the birth and continuous refinement of the mechanical clock; the devolopment of large seafaring vessels with rudders supported on sternposts and sails so rigged as to allow complete exploitation of the winds; the invention of the magnetic compass…

    All of these, among many more, were the special achievements of Western medieval culture. And no previous culture had ever boasted technological advances of such scope and variety. As I’ve said, Aristotle held all artisans in contempt, believed that all invention was exhausted (proof, if any was needed, that even learned men can hold utterly baseless and laughable beliefs). Western Christianity, in breaking with such prejudice, became the first EVER truly technological society.

    “Dark Ages” indeed.”

    [end paraphrasing]

    Garth, the religious poisoning of human progress is not an argument that simply damages Catholicism and Evangelicals. It damages Mormonism as well. These are not apologetic arguments that we should be using.

  149. By the way, that’s a block of text I wrote last month or so paraphrasing the book I mentioned. However I think it may overstate the case a bit by not mentioning the achievements in China during this period. A comparison between the two might be in order. But in fairness to Hart, his chapter was specifically directed at refuting the myth that there was some “golden ages” of human knowledge in the Hellenistic age that was lost in the “dark ages” until it was rescued by the Renaissance and the Enlightenment along with the Protestant Reformation. So I suppose Hart can be forgiven for neglecting China a bit.

  150. Then Seth, I assume you’re on board with the assertion that the Mormon apostasy narrative is greatly overstated. Not that there isn’t a legit case for Christian Restorationism, but its a much more delicate matter than the apostles-died-all-was-lost story of Talmage and the boys.

  151. This was my point earlier, Christian: the Mormon Great apostasy doctrine only requires an interruption in priesthood authority. As Gundek pointed out, this is a purely theological claim. False doctrines and erroneous practices in the historical record are for the most part a red herring.

  152. For me, investigating the history of early Christianity did much to reshape completely the way I think about religion (all religion). I began my research believing that the Great Apostasy was historical, that there was a primitive church of Christ identifiable in history whose form was somehow perverted between 30-33 AD and 1820. When I read people like Martin Luther calling for a return to primitive Christianity, I thought they were speaking historically (as I think they often meant to, though neither they nor Joseph Smith ever really separated history from theology as much as moderns do). But the more I learned about early Christianity and the branches of the faith that survived to the present (and those that died), the less my original narrative made any sense. Today, I think the Great Apostasy is just the Mormon version of a widespread early Protestant delusion (that there was a unitary primitive Christian church and that our denomination represents its only or at least most legitimate successor).

    Paradoxically, I find myself agreeing with G. K. Chesterton, who called the Reformation an atheist movement. I see where he was wrong (not all Protestants are atheists), but for me (and many people I know, Mormon and not) he was right. Taking faith away from God (a mystery outside time and space) and putting it in history (specific events that happened or didn’t) and historical things (e.g. the Bible) leads people like me inevitably to atheism (when we read the holy books and the history and discover incoherence and human vanity masquerading as divine certainty all over the place).

    I am not against God. I rather think I am for him, insofar as he represents good things about humanity. But when he represents pieces of humanity that I find abhorrent, I cannot support that (e.g. most of the OT, and even many sentiments in the New: the only books that I consistently read with enjoyment are Ecclesiastes, the Gospels, and James). The repeated claim that someone understands God better than someone else I find historically extremely problematic, since it is traditionally advanced in order to make one person subject (in ways that I find immoral) to another. Also, I don’t see the hand of God in history. A Deist god (the Platonic demiurge who sets the world going and then steps back to let it unwind ad libitum) I might admit as a possibility, but the problem of evil appears in my mind too large and glaring to be undone by the reassurance that poor children dying in agony as a result of natural disasters (leaving aside manmade ones for the moment) will be rewarded in another life. Why would a personal, loving God send tsunamis or tse-tse flies to torture small children, too little and ignorant to have done anything to warrant that kind of punishment? I cannot answer, and try as I might I don’t see God providing one in history. (All history provides is theologians telling Job to quit whining and consider that he is an idiot to trust his eyes. I don’t dispute that I am an idiot, or that my eyes can play tricks, but that doesn’t actually make life better–for me or the kids dying out there. I have spent years asking God, “Where is the pavilion covering thy hiding place?” and the only answer I get is that it is everywhere, everywhere and nowhere.)

    I will confess too that I prefer models of divinity which make it less powerful (and/or less good), since these seem more like reality to me. I actually like the Mormon god(s) more than some versions of the Abrahamic (Jewish/Christian/Muslim) one, precisely because he is not (at least not necessarily) all-powerful, all-knowing, and the rest of it. He is just a being like us, only at some remove. (Maybe he doesn’t send the tsunamis and tse-tse flies. Maybe he would block them if he could.) I like “pagan” gods (who like the universe are sometimes just dicks: Apollo gets mad for no real reason and starts killing people because he can, just like the tse-tse flies). But I also like the idea of God as something ineffable and impossibly remote (the reality outside our limited ability to understand or express): I just don’t see this reality as necessarily kind or cruel. Like the world, it is simply there, giving some of us sunshine and others tsunamis (kind of like Zeus reaching into his two jars and tossing blessings and curses at random on everybody).

    The more I have interacted with believers and non-believers in all kinds of different traditions, the less I believe in the utility of “missionary work” (at least as it exists in most traditions historically). There is a place for sharing with others. We can help each other, and we can talk about the thoughts and practices that give our individual lives meaning, but it is presumptive and wrong-headed to insist that others come around to our ways and leave their own (against their will). There is nothing inherently superior in any historical religion, nothing that makes it objectively better for all people everywhere than whatever other religion they happen to be practicing at the moment. There are superior people, people who practice their religion better than other people, but their superiority is not a matter of transferrable doctrine or ritual but something integral to themselves, an expression of their individually outstanding moral character. We can learn from these people. We can respect them. But real learning and respect is not about wearing the clothes they wear, saying the prayers they say, believing the doctrines they believe, etc. It is about cultivating our own moral excellence, looking into the depths of our own spirit and bringing out the best aspects of the humanity that we find there. That humanity is not all-knowing or all-powerful or anything similar. It is weak. It makes mistakes. But it can learn from those mistakes. It can be kind as well as cruel. It can repent. It can find and cultivate all kinds of beauty in the strangest places. I believe in it. I believe in you guys, even if I find your gods mostly fictions (some more infantile than others, but in the end we are all just children playing in the sand, building castles that the tide washes away the way it always has). I hope that doesn’t come across sounding too condescending. That is not how I mean it, honestly. I will stop rambling now and let you get back to business.

  153. What is the standard you use to judge the apostasy of a nation? Chances are good by whatever standard you use the United States won’t fare very well.

  154. This question begs the Mormon paradigm of Old Testament Christianity. Israel was not “The Church of Jesus Christ B.C.”. They were under a completely separate covenant.

    Despite the many times and many ways they abandoned their end of the covenant, God continue to speak through them and use them as a blessing to the nations.

  155. I don’t think I or most Mormons would need to equivocate on that answer. I guess it depends again on the definition. If one were to say did the Jews hold to their understanding of the law of Moses–their separate covenant as Tim calls it–then one could argue that Jesus was indeed the Apostate. By that definition, the Sanhedrin were right to crucify Christ, by their paradigm. But I would simply point out that their paradigm was wrong. (Hence–apostate.) So, if one were to say that the schoolmaster of the law of Moses had led to their “falling away” from the reason for the law of Moses in the first place, then clearly they were indeed in apostasy. They crucified the author of their law. They replaced the Messiah, with the law that should have taught them to kneel at his feet. Mormons are far less equivocal about this issue. If a group can kill the author of their religion, that suggests a definite “falling away”.

    As an aside–I do agree with Gundek that the U.S. is also pretty far down the path of abandoning many of our founding principles too.

  156. Garth,

    I don’t imagine that our (United Sates) founding principals would define apostasy. That seems to be a confusion of the Kingdom of God with the kingdoms of man and not the paradigm I would use for defining apostasy.

  157. Sometimes we abandon founding principles because they prove useless or harmful. We don’t practice slavery the same way in the United States anymore (even though we had to abandon some pretty deep principles to get rid of it, e.g. the idea that individual states have sovereignty). The vast majority of Jews and Muslims have decided that God does like genocide (anymore). The Inquisition is no longer an active part of Christian ministry, and Christians don’t call on secular authorities to punish heretics (for the most part: the punishment is less, and the methods for requiring it more subtle, requiring argumentation that non-Christians can find compelling). In leaving behind all these practices, principles, including some that some people found central to belief, were abandoned. When principles change in this way, it is often a good thing. (“We don’t live like our tribal ancestors back in the day! We have apostatized!” To which many modern men, including some of very high moral character, say, “Thank goodness!”)

    The US Constitution in particular appears (to me) designed to evolve. It was made by realists who did not see it as the One Ring to rule them all and in the darkness (I mean “the heavenly light of Columbia’s torch”) bind them. They knew that regimes change (or die). What they did was try to lay down a system that allowed for change without unnecessary war: so far, their system has succeeded and failed; it has succeeded in remaining in play and failed at preventing wars that didn’t have to be. We’ll see how it fares in future. I don’t think the Founders themselves would see their work as some sort of finite standard of perfection, revealed once for all time by God and delivered by them to society as the Deuteronomists imagined Moses delivering the Law to Israel. Their conception was overall more realistic, more “cynical” (if you like), more grounded in the reality that things change. (Apostasy happens, all the time. You cannot stop it. Sometimes it even makes life better! The key is learning to accommodate it well rather than badly. In Mormon terms, you have to believe in continuing revelation and be willing to listen when God says, “I’m sorry, but you’re dead wrong, no matter what priesthood office or scriptural citation you might throw back in my face.”) There is something dangerous about the idea that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. This aphorism is fine when we think of God existing apart from ourselves (as something immanent in the multiverse, say), but people typically invoke it when they can think of no good reason for hanging on to some tribal custom that they just don’t want to get rid of or confront (like slavery back in the day). “I don’t know why we have this (bad) custom, but I don’t want to change it, so I am going to invoke it as God’s will and denounce you as an apostate for stepping out and overturning it.” There is danger in charging ahead too cavalierly, seeking innovation without noticing that order is always fragile, but there is also great danger in holding on too tightly to outworn customs (especially when that means that they become elevated to a place beyond criticism, such that even to question their utility is to call down the wrath of angry men who claim to speak for God).

  158. Gundek–True. We wouldn’t use the word “apostasy” due to the inherent religious context. But the “abandoning core principles” was my concept.

    Tim–not just a wrong paradigm (because no entity but God himself can claim an absence of all error.) But my point is that once a point of falsehood perhaps exceeds 51%, metaphorically speaking, they might indeed resemble something that has less in common with their original parent. I grant that all entities/organizations evolve. Sometimes that’s even for the better as any maturation process. But sometimes it’s for the worse. It’s also self-evident that the breaking point is almost never seen by those who’ve crossed it, or they obviously would have known not to cross it.

  159. I hate to do this, but I have to let everyone know this entire blog thread has fallen into great apostasy. Welcome to the digital dark ages. 😉

    On another note, we know for a fact that God was active and His people were present in ancient Israel when He arrived. Simeon and Anna met Jesus in the temple and acknowledged that they lived to see the Lord’s day. They recognized God when He came.

    So was there a great apostasy in Jesus day? If you mean that there were some who were not welcoming of the Messiah, then yes. If you mean there were no Jewish people with true faith – then you would be wrong. There were still some who hoped in the coming Messiah and not in their own works of righteousness.

  160. 4fivesolas–very true. Too bad Simeon and Anna didn’t have voting seats on the Sanhedrin council that passover. There are always individuals who don’t succumb. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea perhaps dissented, I would like to think. Sadly though the ruling councils may not be representing 100% of the people, but they hold the reigns of power. Those who hold to the truth often became the evidence of an apostasy. (That’s largely who we called “martyrs” in the Reformation era.) If we demand that an apostasy be 100%, either in its corruption, or the % of the corrupted, we’d likely never reach that definition. When the crowd called for Barrabas, there were other voices calling for Jesus. When the majority of people in ancient Israel wanted a king, I’m sure others beside Samuel knew it was a mistake. As we say these days “elections have consequences”!

  161. There has been and there always will be a “faithful remnant”.

    Jesus said it himself when he asked (rhetorically), “When the Son of Man returns to earth with His holy angels, will He find faith?” (will there even be any?)

    There will be plenty of self-focused, ladder climbing spirituality…there always has been.

    But faith in the crucified and risen Christ is something altogether different.

  162. Maybe there will come a time when the returning Jesus won’t find faith. Not even a faithful remnant. Maybe that’s when He will put an end to this place and create it anew.

  163. I must have missed something, Seth, did Jesus not say what I quoted him above?

    And did not Jesus speak in Rabbinic hyperbole at times?

    And was the point to mean that there’s a whole lot of religion going on, all over the place, but very little faith in God?

    Methinks, anyway, that is what He meant by it.

    On the last Day, if I was wrong, I’ll buy you lunch at your favorite burger place.

  164. I think I may have been just quibbling about semantics Steve. I just realized it’s probably not worth having a debate about.

  165. Garth, the Dark Ages is largely a myth.

    Seth the Dark ages had been over for centuries by the 13th century. Some people have it ending with the Carolingian Renaissance, the most common end date is the founding of the Holy Roman Empire in 962. The invention of the university happens centuries later. It is fair to say it was a Catholic invention it is not to call it a product of the dark ages. There is twice the distance in time between the founding of the university and the worst of the dark ages as is there is between you and the Pilgrims landing on Plymouth Rock.


    As for Garth’s point I agree with him. Protestantism demands a mid sized apostasy. While they claim to firmly reject the basis of reconstructionist Christianity the fact is that by the late 2nd century the (proto-)Catholic church agrees with the Catholics on virtually every issue that separates Protestants from Catholics. So one is left with:

    a) denying the clear historical evidence of what 2nd and 3rd century orthodox Christianity was or
    b) affirming Catholicism (western or easter rite) as the legitimate heir to the orthodox Christianity of the late 2nd century or
    c) embracing the 2nd and 3rd century non orthodox Christianities and
    d) asserting that the Christianity of Jesus has not survived to the late 2nd century

    Paedobaptists generally do (a). Catholics and Orthodox do (b). Baptists pay lip service to (c) “trail of blood” but generally do blink at how far away the (c)’s were from their theology. Mormons to some extent do (d), though they are all over place on specifics about the Great Apostasy. The big problem for Mormons is that their theology divergences are so deep that at least some New Testament authors (ex. Paul) would have had to have been part of the group killing true Christianity and replacing with apostate Christianity.

  166. CD, I disagree – the “Dark Ages” is popularly thought of as the entire period between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance. It’s often used as a synonym for the “Medieval” period.

  167. Kullervo —

    For one thing, that doesn’t help Protestants any. They still need something like a mid sized apostasy to explain why the doctrines of every Christian who is orthodox are Catholic. The problem with the doctrine of a gradual falling away is there is no evidence for anything like Protestantism at all ever existing in the ancient world.

    As for the institution, when one decides to declare the church far enough along to be called the Catholic Church is a bit of a question. I think if you have city wide officials coordinating in an organization, that organization has continuity and by the 4th century is unquestionably the Catholic Church it gets hard to at the very least not call it a proto-Catholic Church.

    I’m not sure exactly what alternative you are proposing, so perhaps it would be better if you explained what you think 2nd century Christianities were so I have a better idea where our disagreement lies.


    Seth —

    I’d consider that a silly definition of dark ages. If people use that definition then OK I agree with your point.

  168. CD-Host,
    Contrary to your assertion, one thing I appreciate about Lutheranism is our continuity with the early Church, minus the accretions of middle-age Catholicism. I have posted this here before, but I find this blog interesting in it’s partial review of the early Church Fathers:
    We regularly have readings in daily devotionals from the early Church Fathers, and our Pastors study early Church history. I personally would like to study up more on the early Church in order to better understand the foundations of my faith. Recently I read letters of St. Ignatius and found that he inferred/referred a lot to the Scriptures, and I was amazed how much of what he wrote reads like Scripture.

  169. 4fivesolas,

    Good point. St. Jerome was also a favorite because of his insistence on going back to Scripture. There is a famous portrait of him with his finger on a text in the Bible.

    Where these guys were right, we stand with them. Where they strayed from the pure gospel, then we contend with them.

  170. 4solas —

    As we discussed last year. These early fathers would
    all reject the solas
    considered apostolic succession as the mark of the true church
    rejected the notion of a “pure gospel” as the mark of the true church
    supported baptismal regeneration
    supported episcopal church governance
    considered the Eucharist a sacrifice often involving the real presence

    You have continuity with them only in some vague sense. The non-Catholic parts of your faith are stuff they never heard of, or heard of and rejected.

  171. I think the historical record shows pretty clear lack of continuity between Lutheranism and early Christianity (exegesis is different, the concepts of priesthood and sacraments are different, the liturgy is different: in general where the same words occur they mask very different approaches to worship and understanding). I guess I agree with CD-Host (making me apostate again!).

    I have a hard time seeing Luther as a pure champion for moral integrity. Like Joseph Smith, he did some things that don’t sit well with me (e.g. taking the side of the German nobility against the peasants: essentially he invoked the secular arm of society to support his religious and social views against people whose faith he didn’t like, whether they were Catholic authorities, secular and religious, or dumb peasants too weak-minded, or whatever, to join him and his powerful friends). I see Luther standing ultimately for the kind of theocracy (God working to enforce his views on schismatics at the point of a sword) that I find abhorrent in nineteenth-century Mormonism (certainly as envisioned by Brigham Young). Young had a kind of charisma and courage, yes, and a revolutionary theology that cut against the grain. He was a powerful speaker. But at the end of the day he was a fascist (and a racist, kind of like Luther, who hated Jews). I don’t therefore consider him (or Luther) worthless, or refuse to learn from him (quite the contrary), but I cannot give him (or Luther) the kind of deference that faithful Mormons (or Lutherans or Protestants generally) often do.

  172. For the record, above I meant to write that “the vast majority of Jews and Muslims have decided that God does NOT like genocide (anymore)” (note the negative). Sorry!

  173. Hermes, every Christian (and even non-Christian) religion on the planet has it’s own history of dabbling with theocracy.

  174. Seth —

    Not all denominations do. Some religions explicitly deny ties with the state and have belief incompatible with a state church. Baptists / Pentecostals, for all their faults have an excellent record on freedom of religion and that’s international as well. Sufism has about 1400 year record which is essentially clean.

  175. I agree, Seth. That is part of why I find all religion problematic when it demands adherence to standards (whether canon law or human judge) that are not subject to criticism. There should never be a law beyond scrutiny, a dogma that all must accept without thinking. (There will always be implicit standards that we act by voluntarily and involuntarily. People will make unilateral decisions. Some of these will turn out well, and others will turn out poorly. I am not naive enough to think that this will not happen. But so help me I cannot see the value in fixating upon a particular lawbook or lawyer as the authority beyond which there is no appeal, ever. I don’t trust one judge to decide all cases permanently. I think all judges should be subject to scrutiny. I don’t trust one canon of law permanently either. All law should be subject to scrutiny.

    I find historical religions consistently problematic in that they demand carte blanche for law (e.g. the Bible) or lawyers (e.g. Moses, Mohammed, Innocent III, Martin Luther, Joseph Smith). Stories about great men are useful, but only when the great men are recognized to have feet of clay. Great books are useful, but only when we acknowledge they are often mistaken (even about very basic things). I don’t think any of us gets carte blanche. And that goes for God, too, the moment he shows up acting in history. He has to answer for himself, the same way you or I would. His book has to answer for itself, the same way yours or mine would. He cannot throw dust in our eyes claiming, “My ways are higher than yours, so you must accept unnecessary injustices or insults as fixed facts of life, and accept my church (leaving aside the problem of which that is) as the ultimate authority on how to live well.”

  176. Good point, CD-Host. I guess the real problem is one of how community is viewed. How important is authority, and how does authority get exercised. There are ways of making decisions that do not require the kind of despotism that I find most troubling in religion (especially mainstream Abrahamic faiths).

  177. CD-Host,

    The early Church fathers do not reject the solas – see the blog I linked. They did not call them that, but they certainly did not reject them.

    On baptismal regeneration – this is accepted by Lutherans – Jesus calls children to Himself and makes them His own.
    see http://www.lutheranism101.com/?p=817

    On the real presense – Lutherans believe in the real presence. Jesus comes to us and gives us His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins.

    On the liturgy, I have read extensively on the roots of our liturgy and it holds closely to the ancient liturgies, the creeds, the Te Deum, etc. all point to this continuity with the historic Church. Read the book Heaven on Earth.

  178. “The problem with the doctrine of a gradual falling away is there is no evidence for anything like Protestantism at all ever existing in the ancient world.”


    And all of that is precisely beside the point. The question at hand is not the continuity of the doctrines of baptism, the Eucharist, monarchical episcopacy, from the post-apostolic church to today, a position that not even the Roman Catholic Magisterium takes.

    The question is was the Church of Christ removed from the Earth. This is a theological question, a doctrinal dispute about the nature of the church and its relationship to Jesus Christ. Like almost every doctrinal disagreement between Protestants/Rome/Mormons the disagreement Protestants have with Rome is different than the disagreement with Salt Lake. Rome’s Disagreement with Salt Lake is not the same as its disagreement with Protestants. This can be summed up:

    1) For Rome, the Christ is where the Church is.
    2) For the Reformers, the Church is where Christ is.
    3) For Salt Lake, the Church is where Authority/Priesthood is.

  179. Of course Hermes, religion is always at its best when it’s an anarchical muddle of disorganized individuals doing… whatever it is they want to do.


  180. Paul rebuked Peter when Peter was into becoming a goodJew first before becoming a Christian.

    St. Paul was right (of course)…this isn’t about ‘what we do’. To the extent that the Church Fathers agreed with Paul, they were right. Whenever they got into the religion business (of things we need to be doing), then they were wrong…and still are.

    That’s why so much of Catholicism and Evangelicalism have basically the same theology whenever they get on the ‘things you should, ought, and must be doing’ kick. Two wolves tied at the tail (as Luther out it). They appear so different and are at each others throats much of the time…but basically treat the God project the same.

  181. Historically, religion is always an anarchical muddle of people doing whatever it is they do. This muddle happens better when they realize that this is what they are doing (i.e. that they are not clearly doing the one and only thing that must be done to save the world for everyone else, that there are viable alternatives to whatever path to salvation they happen to have stumbled upon).

    Religion is anarchy and chaos, a collision of random things in time and space that do not agree or cohere. It is like traffic in Calcutta, which you will understand better when you take the time to notice that the rules of the road you learned in Podunkville, Kansas no longer apply (even if you are driving the same car). Instead of driving like a Westerner and getting mad at all the lawbreakers around you, you make an effort to fit in. You don’t hate Indians for “failing” to drive the way you do in Podunkville, and you realize that the rules of Podunkville actually wouldn’t work very well in Calcutta (even assuming you had some way of convincing every driver simultaneously that their old ways are wrong and they should drive like you). There is not one rule to rule them all, one law to bind them, one love to take them all and in the Lord’s hand bind them. Different contexts require different rules, different gospels, and so apostasy has always been a necessary feature of every religion.

  182. There is one gospel, and one gospel only.

    It is the forgiveness of one’s sins for the sake of Christ Jesus who died for those same sinners.

    Anything else, or anything else in addition to said gospel, is, as St. Paul warned us, “another gospel”…which is NO gospel at all.

    All roads do not lead to Heaven. God revealed Himself and His will in a specific way, in a specific person, who said and did specific things…that we might hear, and believe.

  183. Steve, I too used to know that all non-Christians are charlatans, and that their faith comes from the devil. Then I met some of these “infidels” (Jews, Muslims, atheists, Buddhists) and studied the history of my own faith very deeply. I appreciate where you are coming from, and I have no way of judging the personal position from where you take your stand as a witness, but I just cannot take that kind of witness seriously anymore for myself. It does not reflect the reality that I see in the world (or in God).

    Sometimes I think Paul never stopped being a Pharisee. I confess I don’t like him very much.

  184. Hermes,

    You and (about Paul) many, many others.

    There are a lot of wonderful people who are going to go to hell. Jesus spoke of hell quite a bit. He spoke of people doing this and that in His name, and who will go to hell.

    But He has a soft spot in His heart for those who know their need of Him.

    In any event, it will be Jesus making all those calls, and thankfully not us. If I had anything at all to do with it, I’d probably let everyone into Heaven . I know this much…I don’t deserve to be there.

  185. I do think there is a reason that Christ Jesus picked Paul AFTER all the others.

    And I think it’s because Jesus realized that the others just didn’t get it (yet).

  186. And all of that is precisely beside the point. The question at hand is not the continuity of the doctrines of baptism, the Eucharist, monarchical episcopacy, from the post-apostolic church to today, a position that not even the Roman Catholic Magisterium takes.

    Huh? The Roman Catholic Magisterium most certainly does take the position of continuity of the monarchical apostolic church: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12272b.htm

    The question is was the Church of Christ removed from the Earth.

    I just want to get this clear. Is the doctrine of justification a fundamental of the faith? Can one legitimately belong to a church that teaches a doctrine of justification that denies sola fide? Can one legitimately remain a Catholic priest if they agree with Calvin? Was Calvin right to follow Luther out the door or should he have been a french priest and not sweated the small stuff?

    If your answer is no, then your attitude towards the Catholicism is not much different than your attitude towards Judaism. It is a deeply corrupted from which the “true faith” originated and from which you can learn stuff, but everything needs to be examined. That is not a doctrine of continuity.

    The reason your sect hasn’t reunited with Catholicism is because you believe their church has become heretical. But the doctrines you consider heretical were already being taught and widely believed by the late 2nd century.

    The attempt to reform the Catholic church in the 16th century failed. Your views are well understood and institutionally rejected. What happened instead was a permanent schism and the death of Christendom as a meaningful concept. It is ridiculous to talk about “reforming” a church most Protestant sects diverged from 20 generations ago.

    Rome’s Disagreement with Salt Lake is not the same as its disagreement with Protestants.

    Rome’s disagreement with Salt Lake primarily concerns baptism in so far as Mormons are generally not (in a Catholic’s view) baptized at all they aren’t part of the church. That’s different than you who would be an apostate.

    However Mormons and Protestants both makes claims about the past. And the Catholic Churches evaluation of those claims is similar.

    1) For Rome, the Christ is where the Church is.
    2) For the Reformers, the Church is where Christ is.
    3) For Salt Lake, the Church is where Authority/Priesthood is.

    (1) and (3) are basically the same doctrine. I agree with the distinction between (1) and (2), though I wouldn’t apply it to the Reformers themselves. I would apply it to Protestantism from the 19th century on. Calvin disapproved of the Radical Reformation he didn’t embrace it.

  187. The early Church fathers do not reject the solas – see the blog I linked. They did not call them that, but they certainly did not reject them.

    OK and when I find quotes of the early Church fathers contradicting the solas quite explicitly then what?

    Our appeal, therefore, must not be made to the Scriptures; nor must controversy be admitted on points in which victory will either be impossible, or uncertain, or not certain enough. But even if a discussion from the Scriptures should not turn out in such a way as to place both sides on a par, (yet) the natural order of things would require that this point should be first proposed, which is now the only one which we must discuss: With whom lies that very faith to which the Scriptures belong. From what and through whom, and when, and to whom, has been handed down that rule, by which men become Christians? For wherever it shall be manifest that the true Christian rule and faith shall be, there will likewise be the true Scriptures and expositions thereof, and all the Christian traditions. — The Prescription Against Heretics (Tertullian)

    Or I have a longer quote on my blog: http://church-discipline.blogspot.com/2008/08/vincent-of-lrins-on-perspicuity-of.html another explicit rejection of sola scriptura. The church fathers could not be clearer that authority to read scripture came from the church, that the true understanding of scripture was not intrinsic to scripture but intrinsic to the church.

    Similarly the others I quoted the last time, where you had a bunch of quotes out of context and those very church fathers had taken positions against the solas in longer expositions; with the exception of sola gratia which everyone agrees on and seems like a misunderstanding not a genuine point of theological dispute.

    On baptismal regeneration – this is accepted by Lutherans – Jesus calls children to Himself and makes them His own.

    That’s not baptismal regeneration. Baptismal regeneration is the doctrine that through baptism one becomes Christian and gets a one time remission of all sins: The effect of this sacrament is the remission of all sin, original and actual; likewise of all punishment which is due for sin. As a consequence, no satisfaction for past sins is enjoined upon those who are baptized; and if they die before they commit any sin, they attain immediately to the kingdom of heaven and the vision of God.

    On the real presense – Lutherans believe in the real presence. Jesus comes to us and gives us His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins.

    Yes Lutherans accept something pretty close to the Catholic understanding. I can’t tell where the church fathers were on Lutheran vs. Catholic. That ain’t the case with the Reformed however. I’ll withdraw this objection I was giving a list I’ve given quite a few times.

    On the liturgy

    I never listed the liturgy. As an aside I don’t even think Catholics have terrific continuity on the liturgy, though they do have a train of reasonably spaced “developments” to use a Catholic term.

  188. Steve —

    Thank you for proving my point. That’s the way I was raised!

    Far from subtle distinctions about the RCC, my pastor openly considered the ECLA an apostate church, and celebrated when people found Christ by leaving it and joining our church. The historic Protestant churches of Europe were “a spiritual wasteland” and the RCC he wouldn’t have considered much different from Islam. Mormon views are just a tad bit stronger than what most Protestants hold to.

  189. Yes, to be clear, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (94) doctrinal development is affirmed.

    I don’t get the idea that you have read Garth’s argument or all that much of Mormon Great Apostasy writing otherwise you would not claim that 1 and 3 are the same. Mormons are clear that they believe Christ was active with individual Christians durring the Great Apostasy, when there was no Church because those Christians lacked Priesthood Authority. I am open to correction from a competent source, but that has been the basis of Garth’s position.

    Calvin argues for a perpetual Church against the Radical Reformers and the Socinians, to claim that he would deny that the Church is where Christ is a unique perspective, that I am afraid is incorrect.

  190. CD,
    Tertullian may be wrong in this writing on the importance of Scriptures – I can’t tell from your quote. If so, this would not be the only thing he got wrong.

    Here is what the Lutheran short catechism says about the benefits of baptism:

    “What does Baptism give or profit?–Answer:
    It works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.”

    “How can water do such great things?–Answer.
    It is not the water indeed that does them, but the word of God which is in and with the water, and faith, which trusts such word of God in the water. For without the word of God the water is simple water and no baptism. But with the word of God it is a baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Ghost, as St. Paul says, Titus, chapter three: By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ, our Savior, that, being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying.”

    Baptism delivers what God promises. This is clearly how one enters the Church as we see in Scripture. We are born again in the waters of our baptism. If our being buried with Christ in death through our baptism and raised in his resurrection is not baptismal regeneration, what would you call it? Jesus has put his seal on us as his children, made us Christians, and has given us the benefits of his death on the cross. We can reject our baptism and deny his death on the cross for our forgiveness – but only God is the judge of that.

    Can one be a Christian without baptism? Yes, God can create faith in the crucified Christ through His Word. Can one be a Christian and despise baptism? One would have to wonder about such. Baptism is essental to God’s Church – it was part of the great commission for a reason.

  191. Gundek —

    Lets play this out.

    Amy Akin believes that Jesus taught doctrines x,y and z which are critical to Christianity. She believes that by the 2nd century those doctrines were lost.

    Beth Baeder believes that Jesus taught doctrines x,y and z. She believes that by the 2nd century those doctrines were lost. She believes the cause of this is that the invisible bunny responsible for doctrine preservation disappeared from the earth in 70 CE. She also believes x,y and z are critical but additionally are effectually in so far as the bunny is present.

    Amy and Beth have the same doctrine of history. They have a different theology. In Mormonism the creeds don’t just lack authority they are factually incorrect statements generated by churches that were propagating incorrect doctrines.

    As for Calvin, Calvin disagreed with the idea of a faithful remnant and instead supported an institutional church. That is the Catholic church for him was contiguous. He rejected the notion of a faithful remnant and he rejected the idea of setting up churches for the faithful. He disagreed with people like Foxe who held the opposite view.

  192. I’m sure you have a point but I have no idea what you are talking about.

    Calvin is quite Unambiguous on the subject of the Church’s existence.

    “Surely the church of Christ has lived and will live so long as Christ reigns at the right hand of his father. It is sustained by his hand:defended by his protection; and is kept safe through his power. For he will surely accomplish what he once promised: that he will be present with his own even to the end of the world (Matt 28:20). Against this Church we now have no quarrel. For, of one accord with all believing folk, we worship and adore one God, and Christ the Lord (1 Cor 8:6), as he has always been adored by all Godly men. But they stray very far from the truth when they do not recognize the Church unless they see it with their very eyes, and try to keep it within limits to which it cannot at all be confined.”

  193. Tertullian may be wrong in this writing on the importance of Scriptures – I can’t tell from your quote. If so, this would not be the only thing he got wrong.

    You can read the whole work in context. The whole point of The Prescription Against Heretics is that the rule of faith is a prerequisite for scripture. That scripture in an of itself supports heresy and Christianity equally without the rule of faith. Which is a well argued, well thought out case against sola scriptura in a book that was well accepted and received by the church. I also quoted Vincent and could easily quote another dozen church fathers on anti sola-scriptura. It is irrelevant whether Tertullian is right or wrong. Your claim is that the ancient fathers supported Protestant doctrines. That is the claim was that the church was not preaching the apostate Christianity that Luther had to break with until much later.

    Yet 95+% of the time when we look at where the ancient fathers discuss the divergences between Protestants and Catholics they take the Catholic side, unambiguously. That is to say the orthodox Christianity that existed from the late 2nd century onward was Catholic. I understand you don’t want to believe that your religion was mostly made up in the 19th century. But you can’t do that in an honest way and ignore what the Christianity of those who came before you looked like.

    So once you come to terms with the church fathers directly, you are left with a historical question: how did the church come to believe in Catholicism within a few centuries? There are a few possibilities:

    a) Christianity needs to evolve with circumstance (Liberalism).
    b) The Catholic faith is the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. What the ancient fathers believed is what we should believe (Catholic)
    c) There was a massive shift in doctrine early. A great apostasy (Mormon) or a mid sized apostasy which left only a faithful remnant (Baptist)

    (c) was the position of most position of most Protestants very rapidly. (c) is the position of most Protestants today. Mormons aren’t preaching anything radical in preaching (c). There is no disagreement between Protestants and Mormons on the issue of continuity because neither of you is continuous.

  194. CD,
    We know the early Church had some problems with error, this is in the New Testament. On the Church Fathers – as Steve Martin said – we accept where they are right and reject where they are wrong. We test what they say against Scripture. If they contradict what God has already revealed, we reject that statement. We must do the same with any statement by any Christian. As for Tertullian, as far as I can tell he moved away from the truth into error – in other words, he represents only himself.

    I also agree with Gundek, the Church is where Christ is – as Christ promised us he would never leave us and that his Church would not fail. Jesus builds up the Church, we do not.

    I reject your notion that there is no continuity within the Church. You threw out several ideas and theological points to try and make your flimsy case – I came back and showed you how the Lutheran reformation agreed with many – and on baptism you stated matter-of-factly what Lutherans don’t believe without any knowledge of the truth. Other points – such as episcopal church structure are of no consequence and have zero bearing on doctrine – this is a non-essential and individual denominations can do as they please. Anyone who asserts that one must order their Church government in a specific way are just wrong.

    So we are left with your assertion that there is no continuity. I find plenty of evidence, and even the testimony of Christ Himself that his Church would not fail.

  195. I just came across a quote from LDS prophet John Taylor which I do not have a citation for – but would like to share here since it seems relevant to the discussion of Apostasy.

    President of the church John Taylor said,

    “There were men in those dark ages who could commune with God, and who, by the power of faith, could draw aside the curtain of eternity and gaze upon the invisible world. . . There were men who could gaze upon the face of God, have the ministering of angels, and unfold the future destinies of the world. If those were dark ages I pray God to give me a little darkness.”

  196. It should also be noted that Joseph Smith didn’t believe in a total apostasy either. He didn’t believe that all light in the world had been extinguished and that nothing but error and falsehood remained. He felt that God was bringing the church back “out of the wilderness” – like the children of Israel nurtured and supported by God in their exile. He felt there was truth scattered throughout all those traditions, and he was an insatiable student – devouring any old idea that he felt those traditions had preserved that was “virtuous, lovely, or of good report.”

    Joseph saw his mission as one of bringing all that light and knowledge together into a cohesive whole, not reintroducing the gospel ex nihilo. That’s never been my sense of Joseph Smith as I’ve studied him.

  197. “The devil can come all dressed up as an angel of light.”

    One has to wonder why God would wait so long, and after the finished ( “It is finished”) work of the Cross, to bring some sort of new revelation to the world.

    Maybe it wasn’t God after all, who delivered those golden plates.

  198. CD
    I read St. Vincent of Lyons on your site. Good stuff, a lot there I agree with. I understand his point about Scripture twisting to prove some illegitimate point. Scripture is not open to unique individual interpretations. If this is what you mean by Scripture Alone, then you are arguing against a strawman. Church tradition and the creeds are of great value. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel with every generation of Christians.

  199. Gundek —

    I said that Calvin wouldn’t agree with the radical reformation version that anyone can setup a church. I didn’t say he believed in discontinuity.


    4/5 —

    On baptism I agreed Lutherans are pretty close to the historic understanding. You do get there are like 6 different Protestant sects represented here and which parts of Catholicism you accept and reject varies. And it varies within Lutheranism. For example when the Episcopalians agreed to lay hands on Lutheran ministers so as to give them apostolic succession, 1/2 the Lutherans though this was important ecumenicalism; and 1/2 thought it was promoting outright heresy. The point of the list is that nothing like any modern Protestant sect existed and among the orthodox what you have is something which can reasonably be called Catholic.

    On sola scriptura you can read the whole thing: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf211.iii.html . He’s talking about just individuals but rather entire schools of thought, which in his mind are equally supported by scripture. “Therefore, it is very necessary, on account of so great intricacies of such various error, that the rule for the right understanding of the prophets and apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard of Ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation.” I’m not sure how he could take a position more in opposition to sola scriptura. He’s not saying the creeds are of value he’s saying scripture is rightly understood only in so far as it agrees with the church’s interpretation. The whole book is an attack on the Protestant approach of reading scripture and as best as you are able to determine Go’d will.. For Vincent scripture is a device for the church and for individuals only in so far as it leads them to the teachings of the church.

    As for Jesus promising his church would not fail, I agree that is how that promise is understood. Which is why Protestants who rejected strong continuity with Catholicism preached the existence of a faithful remnant, Landmarkism. In modern times there is generally some sort of muddled belief in continuity as well, what I call Landmarkism-lite.

    The degree of apostasy for Mormons is on the high end. On the other hand Pagan Christianity By Frank Viola and George Barna, which makes an argument for almost total corruption was the #1 selling Christian book other than the bible the year in 2008-9. That’s why I say the Mormon position is slightly stronger than the Protestant one.

  200. Steve Martin, probably for the same reason he waited so long to send Christ to Israel in the first place.

    And why he apparently never sent anyone to China for thousands of years, and seems to have completely neglected the Australian bushmen.

    If you want to complain about God neglecting the population – your own house has a lot more theological problems with that than mine does.

  201. CD,

    Like i said, i’m sure you have a point but telling me that Calvin wasn’t an ana-baptist is like saying the Pope isn’t Reformed.

  202. Calvin wasn’t the point of the 20 line post. The post was about the great apostasy. Calvin showed up as an aside in one line where I was offering qualified agreement to your response. You just choose to focus there.

  203. Seth,

    God never neglects anyone.

    He sent Christ Jesus “at the right time” to accomplish all that is needed by us, on the Cross.

    What theological problems does “my house” have that you are referring to?

  204. Steve:

    These problems:
    The fact that (1) Ostensibly only those who hear of Christ this life can be saved. (2) A whole lot of people do not get a fair opportunity to hear and accept the Gospel you speak of. (3) this looks a lot like neglect of the interests of a lot of humanity.

    If somebody who never heard of Jesus winds up in hell because of it, I am sure they will feel neglect– along with the eternal torments and flames of hell.

    (The course of these discussions is one eternal round.)

  205. CD,
    A #1 selling Christian book represents an incredibly small fraction of American protestant Christianity, and an even smaller portion of world-wide protestantism, and an infintessimally small portion of world-wide Christianity. Of course, Barna could still be right, but just gauging his influence and importance. Besides, I am not a fan of Barna and his theology – from what I have heard he tends toward seeker-friendly heresy, and thinks what the Church really needs is a great marketing firm (based on the most reliable survey results of what people are wanting the Church to be to really fulfill their felt needs).
    Tradition, Church History, the Creeds all inform the Church along with Scripture. Scripture is sufficient for proper doctrine (the meaning of Scripture alone); however these other sources can also be taken into account – and quite frankly should be, making use of the great foundation of faith upon which the Church has been built. It does help to provide a shield against heretical groups. Sources other than Scripture are just not sufficient or infalliable and must be rejected where they contradict the clear teaching of Scripture, or they are simply not supported by Scripture. For instance, one cannot find invocation of the saints in the Scriptures that talk about the great cloud of witnesses who praise God together with us – so in good conscience how can I do something that nowhere is indicated as a proper practice? Church tradition is not sufficient without the support of Scripture. As for heresy finding Scriptural support, of course one would have to take them one at a time, but I am convinced that heretical beliefs cannot find their source in the plain meaning of Scripture – otherwise they would not be heretical.

  206. Jared,

    Nowhere in Scripture does it say that if one does not believe in Jesus they are going to hell.

    What it (the Bible) does say is that Jesus is the One who will make that judgement.

    If anyone IS saved…God gets ALL the credit. If anyone goes to hell, then they themselves will get ALL the blame.

    That is the Word of Scripture.

  207. Steve Martin, someone who believes that God left the entire Australian subcontinent to rot for thousands of years has no business tut-tutting at Mormons for teaching a gap in God’s attentiveness.

    It’s hypocritical.

  208. Besides, Mormons don’t teach that God abandoned humanity until Joseph Smith anyway – so your caricature of our belief wasn’t even accurate in the first place.

  209. If anyone IS saved…God gets ALL the credit. If anyone goes to hell, then they themselves will get ALL the blame.

    To me that sounds nonsensical.

  210. A #1 selling Christian book represents an incredibly small fraction of American protestant Christianity, and an even smaller portion of world-wide protestantism

    Not really there are about 600m Pentecostals and Charismatics. Other evangelicals are around 290m. http://www.pewforum.org/uploadedImages/Topics/Religious_Affiliation/Christian/webready-graphic-43.png

    Of course, Barna could still be right, but just gauging his influence and importance. Besides, I am not a fan of Barna and his theology – from what I have heard he tends toward seeker-friendly heresy, and thinks what the Church really needs is a great marketing firm (based on the most reliable survey results of what people are wanting the Church to be to really fulfill their felt needs).

    Yes Barna is seeker-friendly. But the question is whether such views of little continuity do represent the majority of Protestants not whether they should or not. My position is the view that Steve represents is mainstream evangelical Protestantism and the more reformed leaning view with greater continuity is quite rare. Among mainline / historic denominations you have more of a liberal belief that the church is just an element of culture that evolved with culture and that the teachings of Jesus are not reflected well in the early church. Combine those together and I’d argue you are looking at 90% of Protestants.

    As for heresy finding Scriptural support, of course one would have to take them one at a time, but I am convinced that heretical beliefs cannot find their source in the plain meaning of Scripture – otherwise they would not be heretical.

    That’s a different argument. I happen to believe that orthodoxy violates the plain meaning of scripture. For example subordinationalism seems to have far better scriptural support than the Son as coequal to the father. If you look at the historical debates on this the subordinationalists were the ones quoting scripture directly.

  211. Heads I win, tails you lose Eric.

    Good is whatever I say it is, and if you don’t like it – that just simply means you’re the bad sort.

  212. Whenever people start talking about the “plain meaning of scripture,” I confess my eyes glaze over. I have been reading scripture for years and have yet to find plain meaning. (I could rephrase this to say that I find too much plain meaning: every devoted reader finds his own theology written in the word of God, which ends up being invoked against itself as plain meanings plainly contradict each other.)

  213. Eric,

    You’re not alone in believing what I wrote to sound “nonsensical”. Most humans employ their reason, instead of relying what Scripture says about the matter, and trusting that God is good, as the Scriptures say, and desires that no one be lost. But that faith comes through the hearing of the gospel. And who hears it? Those who hear it.

  214. Steve Martin,

    Good luck trying to convince anyone that your gut impressions are more holy than theirs are without reason.

  215. Kind of interesting how plenty of Christians I encounter like to go on and on about how all works of human flesh are completely flawed and worthless before God. They’re often quite proud of this insight.

    Then they suddenly act all shocked that maybe their human-created creeds might be subject to the same analysis.

  216. Seth,
    Creeds are nothing more than a summary of biblical belief – not something nefarious. Creeds are of immense value. So much so that every religion has one – even those who claim they don’t.

    Jesus said that all Scripture speaks of Him. So I look at Scripture and see “Christ crucified for my sins” revealed in the sacrificial system established by the prophets, I see “baptism” in the waters of the flood through which Noah passed, and the Red Sea through which the Israelites passed and were saved, I see “Christ as the sacrificial son” who really was sacrificed for my sins in the story of Abraham nearly sacrificing Isaac, etc. If you accept Jesus as the Messiah – then interpreting Scripture through that lens is perfectly reasonably and provides the plain meaning. Letting Scripture interpret Scripture is not only a protestant belief, but really it’s the best way to let any text speak to you – rather than bringing your foreign theology and imposing it on Scripture (or foreign ideas and imposing it on the text – no matter what you are studying).

    I appreciate your answers. God justifies the ungodly and saves sinners. That’s my only hope, cause I do a miserable job at “living in victory!” I used to think I was the only one (or maybe one of a few) failing at being righteous in Church. Now I realize that every one of us is utterly dependent on God’s mercy. It does appear unreasonable that sinners would be saved without any effort of their own. There are many things about Christianity which appear “unreasonable” – but God is not bound by what we consider reasonable.

  217. 4five,

    I reject the notion that I am “imposing” an external theology upon the Bible any more than anyone else on this blog is.

  218. Seth,
    I could give you an entire litany of doctrines that define LDS beliefs, both historically and presently, that find no basis in Scripture, beginning with LDS denial of the Shema by proclaiming earth has three gods and postulating the exsistance of innumerable real gods. But I suspect you are already well aware of these contradictions and they do not trouble you – because your starting point is not Scripture – it is Joseph Smith and modern day revelation. And you hold those beliefs above Scripture in authority. I would encourage any Mormon reading this to honestly assess and read through entire books of the Bible and ask – can I get Mormonism from this?

  219. 4five,

    “There are many things about Christianity which appear “unreasonable” – but God is not bound by what we consider reasonable.”


    The gospel is so unlike us…we would never have cooked it up!

    All the things we cook up, look just like us…’there is no free lunch’, ‘we need to kick in’…’we need to do…SOMETHING.’ That is all just man-made, looks just like us, religion. False religion.

  220. 4five,

    If you can make “one God” out of three beings – I can do the exact same thing with three hundred. Or three thousand.

    You have zero room to talk on this score.

  221. Besides, the LDS Church doesn’t deny the shema. Nor do we have any problem with it.

    It all depends on what the word “one” means – as creedal Christianity discovered long ago.

  222. I would encourage any Mormon reading this to honestly assess and read through entire books of the Bible and ask – can I get Mormonism from this?

    Honestly, this was a big deal for me and helped precipitate my exit from Mormonism. Even though basically all of my exposure to the Bible had been through the lens of Mormonism, I just always felt that there was an obvious and significant disconnect between the Bible and Mormonism.

  223. From my perspective as a reader of texts, there is no such thing as “letting a text speak for itself.” I necessarily construe every text I read by my own lights (which I can try to inform but can never put out entirely, such that I become an unbiased mirror for somebody else’s information). I maintain that the Bible does not offer a unitary perspective from which one may objectively interpret it. Beyond this, I reject the notion that any book is prior to behavior in determining the moral rectitude of any action (or collection of actions). What matters to me is not what story you tell yourself, but how you behave. The core of religion (any religion) that I believe in is not belief but behavior. I believe in kindness as a behavior, not as a theory, and I don’t really care what the nature of the universe is (or see the proper understanding of it as instrumental in determining how we should live and live well). I doubt the ability of human beings to comprehend reality: when it comes to theology, we are all idiots, and our books (including the Bible) are all more or less idiotic. But being dumb when it comes to theory does not mean that we must be mean in practice. Fortunately for us, we can be kind without understanding how or why such a thing as kindness is possible (physically or metaphysically).

    I believe Jesus when he tells us to love our neighbors. I don’t believe that I love my neighbor better or worse when I change my assessment of Jesus’ character. Jesus’ character is irrelevant to the fact that his advice is good.

  224. Hermes,
    No one is perfect, so certainly we bring bias to any text we read. Personally, my goal is to read a thing for what it means, not what my bias tells me. Sometimes I fail.
    In belief vrs. behavior and their importance, we are opposite in our beliefs about that. Does that matter, or is it irrelevant? I believe no one is righteous and all fail greatly – we are sinners. And we are saved completely and solely by Christ alone apart from anything we say or do. I try to do good works for my neighbor, but I often fail.

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