Scared of Hell: Evangelicals don’t really know if they are saved?

Byline: Does the difficulty in feeling assured of salvation dissolve the practical differences in “works”-focused vs. belief-focused religion?Hell Awaits You!

I used to think that the problem of assurance of salvation was a big practical difference between Mormons and Evangelicals.  I am not so sure now.The theological differences seem stark. According to the rough academic analogy, Mormons believe that everybody is born with a passing grade, and you have to decide to fail.  So long as your intentions are in the right direction, and you are living up to your potential , you are going to the Celestial Kingdom. If you fall short you are going to get a great consolation prize– eternally living in heaven with Jesus forever.   If you criminally screw up and reject Jesus,  you are going to suffer for your  sins but eventually you will be in a heavenly place with the eternal joy that the Holy Spirit can bring you.  Mormons believe (or used to) that some striving souls could get a “second endowment.”  An ordinance performed in the temple that seals a person with their spouse to the Celestial Kingdom.  They have their “calling and election made sure.” Anymore, this concept and practice has practically disappeared from the Church.  Mormons are left completely sure they are going to heaven, but always unsure of which heaven they will go to. I believed that whatever I–or nearly anybody else–was in for in the afterlife, it was going to be a whole lot better than this world.

Contrasting my experience with the children of Evangelicalism. I can see how the “faith alone” doctrine would have scared the hell out of me.  Evangelicals believe you are born with a failing grade– the default is hell.  People qualify for salvation by correct belief and reliance on the work of Jesus alone.  It seems to me that if you are an Evangelical facing the never-ending torment of hell, you’d better make darn sure you are saved.  And the problem is, because non-saving faith can masquerade as true belief and faith, there is a lot of room for consternationJust as Mormons obsess about doing enough to be “good enough” , it seems that doubt-prone Evangelicals can easily fall into a cycle of severe anxiety trying to assure their faith is “true” enough.  And the stakes– and possibly the potential anxiety seem considerably higher.  It seems that many Evangelicals indeed have this problem of assurance gauging from this article in Relevant Magazine, by J.D. Greear, Evangelical author of Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart.    

Greear attempts to give believers a guide to knowing if they can rest easy from the impending threat of death and hell:

Here is how many Christians think of “getting saved”: they realize they’re a sinner and they need Jesus to save them. So they approach Him and ask Him to come into their heart. Of course He says, “yes,” at which time He forgives their sins, writes their names in the Lamb’s Book of Life, gives them a “certificate” of salvation (a carbon copy of which is placed in their Bible), and commences a party in heaven in their honor. If they begin to doubt later whether they are really “saved,” they replay in their minds that moment of conversion, assuring themselves of their sincerity and reminding themselves of the feelings they had after it.

The Bible depicts the moment of salvation differently. Instead of asking Jesus for a “certificate” of salvation, you start believing what God’s Word says about His Lordship and His completed work at the cross. You understand that you have lived in rebellion against the rule of God and have no hope of escaping God’s wrath on your own. You “kneel” in submission to His claim on your life, and rest your hope of heaven upon Him. Picture this as hopping up into His arms, submitting to go wherever He takes you, and trusting in Him to carry you into heaven.

If at some point in the future you begin to doubt whether you really have put faith in Jesus, do you look backward to try and remember that moment when you first hopped up into His arms? I suppose you could. Better, though, would be to look at where you are currently resting. If you are right now resting in His arms, knowing when you began to rest is less important than that you are doing it now.

Here’s another way to think about it: If you are seated right now, there was a point in time in which you transferred the weight of your body from your legs to the chair. You may not even remember making that decision, but the fact you are seated now proves that you did.

The apostle John almost always talks about “believing” in the present tense because it is something we do continually, not something we did once in the past (e.g., John 3:36; 9:36–38; 10:27–28; 1 John 5:13). The posture begins at a moment, but it persists for a lifetime.

Many people know exactly when the point of decision was for them. There was a dramatic moment when they submitted to Christ’s Lordship and trusted in Him for salvation. For others, the moment is less clear. Perhaps they were raised in a Christian home, and their awareness of Jesus’ Lordship grew over time. For them, it was more like they came to a point where they realized they believed rather than one in which they decided to believe.

Unfortunately, Greear’s explanation left me puzzled.  It’s not clear at all to me what he is talking about other than evaluating whether your intentions and actions are focused on Christ.  It seems the only solid way to know if you are saved is precisely the way Mormons gauge what level of heaven they may go to– by evaluating their actions and intentions, repenting, and striving for the good.   On top of this, it seems that Evangelicals have to strive avoid the myriads of theological pitfalls that may invalidate their faith.   I can see how this could easily lead to the same sort of practices and at attitudes that Evangelicals point to as evidence of LDS heresy–namely an obsessive focus on doing righteous “works” and having a strong enough belief or faith.  The online commentators show how those with OCD could easily be tormented by this practical consequence of Sola Fida religion.

I’m interested in knowing if Greear’s cryptic explanation of how to know you are saved is enough for most Evangelicals?  Am I missing something?  Is the practical divide between Mormon and Evangelical religion as narrow as it seems?

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90 thoughts on “Scared of Hell: Evangelicals don’t really know if they are saved?

  1. “People qualify for salvation by correct belief and reliance on the work of Jesus alone.”

    This is not the doctrine of faith alone.

  2. Jared your first assertion is only partially correct about Mormon belief.

    Mormons believe that everyone basically gets a passing grade. I suppose I have no beef with that. But it does not follow that everyone with a passing grade gets into the Celestial Kingdom. Just being forgiven and having the Atonement applied to you does not equate with exaltation. That can only be had through the ordinances of the Restoration and the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost.

  3. But yes – I long ago concluded that I would have no greater assurance of salvation as a believing Evangelical than I would as a believing Mormon, largely because of this exact point.

  4. I not sure that Greear means this passage to be his full-orbed explanation of assurance.

    I have not read his book but, in the passage you posted Greear seems to be saying that assurance of salvation does not rest on the initial conversion experience. It would be hard to disagree with that.

  5. Seth,

    I have always understood Mormonism to be universalist. Assurance of salvation kinda goes with the basic presupposition of universalism that basically everybody is saved.

    Comparing assurance in a universalist religion to assurance in a particularist religion isn’t even apples to oranges.

  6. Comparing assurance in a universalist religion to assurance in a particularist religion isn’t even apples to oranges.

    Mormonism believes in universal salvation from hell. . . eventually. Those who do not receive Jesus will be thrust down to hell and only redeemed at the last resurrection.

    There is a clear difference in those who have to suffer for their sins and those that don’t, but the suffering has an end.

    It seems to me that the big difference is the characterization of the bad thing you are escaping through the atonement of Jesus.

  7. Greear has some of it right (we need a Savior)…but the most important part (assurance of our salvation) he gets wrong.

    We can’t look to ourselves…our current state of faith for assurance. Our faith is often weak and wavering and sometimes seems nonexistent. Where is the assurance in those times? Forget that stuff.

    We look to the external Word…alone. The promises made to us…apart from anything that we do, say, feel, or think. And to make those promises concrete, tangible, events that happen to us (done to us), the Lord has commanded that Baptism, and His Supper. Pure gospel (because He is doing them to us), that we can trust in…no matter where we are in our faith, at the time.

    So instead of having faith in our works or religious performance (Mormonism)…or faith in our decision or even faith in our faith (Evangelicalism)…we can have faith in God. There’s a huge difference there.

  8. I’m not sure I get your point? Why would it matter to your ultimate assurance when universal salvation kicks in? Mormonism is universalist, with or without their own unique version of purgatory.

    If your a believing Mormon assurance is built into the system behind the plan of salvation, with the rare exception everybody makes it back. The system keeps you in line by promising head of the line privileges.

    The debate about assurance is between Protestants and Roman Catholics, not Protestants and Universalism. Mormons may want to take part in a grace, faith, and works debate, but universalism makes all of that irrelevant to their plan of salvation.

  9. theoldadam,

    I think you should read these excerpts of Greear a little more charitably. There simply isn’t enough information to claim the Greear is wrong about anything. The basic point that assurance is not grounded on the initial experience of believing is sound. He may not say everything you want him to say in 6 paragraphs but, that is quite different from being wrong.

  10. gundek,

    When someone says that we ought look to where we are in Christ, at any particular moment (for our assurance)…they are wrong.

    Because none of us have strong faith or substantial faith. That is evident by the way we live.

    So one cannot go inward without ending up in pride…or despair.

    So one that point, Greear is wrong. And that just happens to be a huge point.

  11. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”

    Why are You so eager for Greear to be wrong? Of course where you are “in Christ” is vital. You are either “in Christ” or in Adam.

  12. theoldadam preaches a reductionist gospel so he is eager for everyone to be wrong who does not also preach theoldadam’s reductionist gospel.

  13. We’re talking about ‘assurance’.

    One cannot have any real assurance when their faith is the size of a mustard seed (at best).

    We have to look outward…not inward…for real assurance.

  14. I’m not “eager” for anyone to “be wrong”.

    But the truth is the truth. There’s no real assurance in looking at one’s faith, at any particular moment.

  15. The gospel is pure gift. Given to us apart from anything that we do, say, feel, or think.

    If it were dependent on even the slightest little bit from our side of the equation, then the cross was in vain.

    If that “reduces” the gospel and puts God in charge of the salvation project…then so be it.

    Semi-Pelagain/religionist schemes actually serve to reduce God (make Him smaller and less powerful) and build up the sinner.

    “I must decrease…He must increase.” (or vice versa)

  16. Its hard for me to see how Greear is simultaneously telling us to look to our faith for assurance when he has claimed our faith will be challenged?

    I’m sorry, I don’t see where Greear is claiming that faith is the source of assurance. He seems to be saying that when your faith is challenged looking at yourself is the wrong direction. He may not use the specific formula you like. He may not address every wicket you want him to. We simply don’t know what he has to say about these issues because all we have are 6 paragraphs of an entire book.

  17. “Better, though, would be to look at where you are currently resting. If you are right now resting in His arms, knowing when you began to rest is less important than that you are doing it now.”

    And what if you are NOT…resting? What if all is falling apart, your sins are killing you, you are not living outward, for the neighbor…but are self-consumed? (like we so often are)

    What then?

    See what I mean? He’s sending you inward. There’s no REAL assurance there.

  18. theoldadam,

    “Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.”

    I don’t understand your problem with resting in Christ? This seems perfectly biblical.

  19. Good question, and a simple answer: I don’t know that Jesus saved me, I don’t know that I really belong to Him in the sense you are talking about. I don’t know how I can know that I really belong to Him.

    But I still am trying to figure out your answer to the question Greear is asking.

    Assuming Jesus did save me from sin, how, if ever, should I feel assured of that from outward things rather than looking inward?

    Should I always fear that Jesus hasn’t saved me?

  20. Of course we ought rest in Christ!

    But that “rest” needs to be accessed. How? Especially when we doubt…we don’t trust (worrying is a sure sign of not trusting in God)…we continue in sin. Maybe we aren’t one of His? What is there to give you any REAL assurance there you are one of the elect? Outside of what we do, say, feel, or think?

    It’s what He has done to us, in real time, in our personal history. That we can trust in, no matter what. St. Paul explains it very well in Romans Chapter 6.

  21. Jared,

    I think I would start with the universal offer of the Gospel and work from there. If you look at the history of Christian thought instantaneous assurance is a pretty new and particularly American phenomenon.

  22. theoldadam,

    I don’t know how Greear thinks rest needs to be accesses. My point is unless you have read his book neither do you.

    Did you ever think of reading Greear’s book? Romans is 16 Chapters, your basing a claim Semi-pelagianism on 6 paragraphs.

  23. It’s what He has done to us, in real time, in our personal history.

    What sort of thing are you talking about? Spiritual experiences?

    I am still not getting the Romans 6 reference:

    What if can’t help but disobey Paul’s counsel and “let sin reign in my mortal body so that I obey its evil desires.”

    If I am not offering myself as an “obedient slave” to righteousness, can I be assured of avoiding death and hell?

  24. Gundek, I agree that the instantaneous assurance is a new thing. Except in the case of Paul perhaps. 🙂 But this issue seems to be a big part of the debate between Mormons and Evangelicals. Mormons consider the sinner’s prayer practice = salvation as a joke. It’s nearly always used to point out of how shallow “born-again” Christianity appears from the LDS perspective.

  25. Gundeck, the confusion comes from thinking salvation is the highest aim in Mormon theology.

    It isn’t. Exaltation is. Salvation is nice and all – but it’s not becoming like God. So you can view Mormonism as focusing more on extra incentives beyond salvation rather than threats that you might not get salvation.

  26. Jared,

    I don’t think the sinner’s prayer = salvation is sound theology. At the same time grace, faith, works, assurance debates between Mormons and Protestants misses LDS universalism.

  27. Ok, but is assurance something a Protestant should feel? According to sound theology, are universalists the only ones that can be assured of salvation?

  28. Seth,

    I agree with you but, don’t you think this makes any comparison of assurance between the two systems pointless.

  29. Jared,

    Yes, I think a person can “be assured that they are in the state of grace”.

    I think the ultimate grounding for assurance starts with the universal offer of the Gospel.

  30. gundek,

    I’m going off what Greear said (what I quoted) regarding assurance.

    Romans 6 concerns what God does in our Baptisms. He Baptizes us. He DOES something to us. He makes promises to us, in that Baptism, which are good and valid, no matter how we feel about them.

    “I am Baptized.”

    Not I ‘was’ baptized. God carries us in that Baptism all throughout our lives. We live in it and it is trustworthy in the midst out our weak and wavering faith. it is the external Word in which we can have REAL assurance…outside of ourselves.

    This issue of assurance is why I’m not a Catholic, Evangelical, Mormon, Evangelical, or other Protestant types whose doctrines send one back to themselves…ultimately.

  31. theoldman,

    Yes, I agree. You are going off your understanding of an excerpt of an excerpt.

  32. I am going to use the words I grew up with as a WASP before I became a member of God’s Restored Church.

    Because of the Grace of God through the atonement of Jesus Christ, we will all be born again so we can stand before God at the Day of Judgment. At that time the big book that was keep by the Recording Angel will be opened and checked, and what we do in heaven will be decided.

    Your job in heaven will be decided on what you do here.

  33. What do I have to do to be a cook. I like cooking and I could probably do that for eternity.

  34. I don’t recall saying the comparison was pointless. I was just pointing out a clarification.

  35. I’m not trying to put words in your mouth. I just think the underlying theology of the two systems are so different it is pointless to insert Mormonism into disagreements between Protestants and Roman Catholics.

  36. Hmm, I don’t think the systems of the average believer are all that much different.

    The average person doesn’t care any more about theology than they do about relativity. They are happy to use Newtonian physics—if it works–all day long. Tell them it is fundamentally flawed because of the theory of General Relativity and they will chuckle and go on using Newtonian theorems. Ultimately, for the average person, both systems work pretty well, nearly identically.

    Along these lines, if Jesus offers salvation to all, I am interested in how the ALL will receive it and embrace it. My guess is that most won’t care much about the finer points of theology when they do. Theology may be different, but people are the same and what they are looking for in church is very similar: they want to know when to stop worrying about their past sins, they want to know how they can feel the love of God, they want to know how best to live their lives. On these practical points, it is reasonable to compare Mormonism and other traditions

  37. The average person doesn’t care any more about theology than they do about relativity.

    You don’t think that the average Mormon cares about the Celestial Kingdom, sharing the gospel, temple work, taking the sacrament, being worthy to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost, and following a living prophet of God?

    Because that’s all theology.

  38. Jared,

    I should have been more clear, you are right that we can continue to compare Mormon theology with other beliefs but, once you understand that Mormonism is universalist and Protestantism is particularist the categories used between Roman Catholics and Protestants, both particularist religions, no longer apply. Continuing to use the same categories that do not recognize or address the universalism of Mormonism is self defeating.

    My basic point is that many Protestants engaging with Mormons have mistakenly transferred basic disagreements with Rome onto Salt Lake. I am only agreeing with you when you said “The theological differences seem stark.” Now that I am agreeing with you about a stark theological difference you’re beating a swift retreat back to theology doesn’t matter. Color me confused.

  39. I’m not sure where to start on any of this, other than to agree that unfortunately many Protestants do indeed carry unnecessary anxiety about whether they “did it right” when they prayed the sinners prayer. I think it’s the problem with the minimalist approach Cal presents.

    We aren’t selling fire insurance, we’re selling a life with Jesus. If you start living a life with Jesus you don’t have to worry about your “insurance” policy.

  40. My basic point is that many Protestants engaging with Mormons have mistakenly transferred basic disagreements with Rome onto Salt Lake

    This is a very good point.

  41. What about the Protestants that believe that only those who God choose from before they were born are saved? What do thay have to offer the nonchoosen?

  42. The simple fact that those kinda Protestants don’t claim to know or try to decide who are chosen and obey the command to spread the gospel without discrimination.

  43. fred, if you want to talk about the Protestant understanding of predestination, or any point of theology really, I think it’s reasonable to expect you to at least look it up on Wikipedia or something first.

  44. Tim, John Piper’s wikipedia page sums it up like this – “According to Piper, a once-professing Christian who does not faithfully persevere until the end demonstrates that he was mistaken about his election and was never a true believer in the first place.”

    I know Piper, a Calvinist, doesn’t represent all Protestants but this seems to be a common explanation from the Reformed Christians I’ve met. Of course, I’ve always wondered why its not emphasized more in Mormon/EV dialogue. It seems to bridge the divide – a little. (sometimes the way you say something makes all the difference).

  45. No Christian worth his or her salt would attempt to judge who is in, and who is out of God’s grace. when those in question confess Christ. Jesus warned us NOT to judge. As St. Paul said, “I don’t even judge myself.”

    “The wheat and the tares grow together.”

    God is more than capable of separating the sheep from the goats.

  46. I have never heard a decent sermon out of Piper’s mouth. And I’ve listened to more than a few.

    He’s spends so much time and flowery adjectives describing God but never does God to the hearer. Instead he just plants doubt. “Are you sure you really love God like a Christian ought?”

    That word isn’t from God. But the devil.

  47. Fred,

    When you look at the fundamentals of your theology it isn’t surprising that you don’t understand predestination. By fundamentals in this case I don’t mean a short list of what you must believe but, instead the most basic presuppositions forming the basis of your theology.

    For instance, as a Mormon you believe in personal and corporate continuing revelation, if you also believed in predestination it would only be logical to assume that you could expect a revelation concerning the divine decree.

    Not believing in continuing revelation Calvin calls this “seeking an outside way”, and warns that by trying to break into the inner recesses of divine wisdom we would cast ourselves “into the depths of a bottomless whirlpool to be swallowed up.” (He has a way with words)

    Take this a step further, by examining the historical debates about predestination (Reformed vs. Rome, Reformed vs. Orthodox, Reformed vs. Arminian). In each case basic fundamentals are held in common (nature of God, Incarnation of Christ, nature of man, creation, the fall, etc. None of these basic presuppositions are held in common with Mormonism.

    Without this commonality the discussion about predestination is no longer exegetical, or theological, it is simply philosophical. We cannot assume that despite a similar theological vocabulary that we mean the same thing. This creates confusion and confused people get angry quickly. …and say rash things about the devil.

  48. I hear you guys are all united in the Trinity, yet I don’t know what good it does – with vastly different visions of what the Kingdom looks like.

    John Piper is semi controversial, but he’s pretty much the Mick Jagger of the neo-Calvinist “resurgence”. And theoldadam think him a devil. wow. head spinning.

  49. Christian,

    My point isn’t that the Trinity whitewashes over all other disagreements within Christendom. It is really a continuation of my theory that we cannot easily transfer theological debates from one group (say Rome vs. Geneva) to another (say American evangelical vs. Mormonism).

    For instance a Roman Catholic and Presbyterian discussing predestination may start with Augustine or Aquinas where much similarity in the fundamentals can be found. The Arminian and Reformed could begin this same conversation with the Belgic Confession or the Heidelberg Catechism once again grounding their debate in common fundamentals.

    If I rush headlong trying to convince you of the propriety of predestination and step out with Heidelberg question 1 “What is your only comfort in life and in death?” you’re not going to understand a word I am saying.

    theoldamdam is a conservative in an extremely liberal denomination. Coming from past experience this is not an easy place to be. It can be very easy to fall into either a defensive us vs. them or offensive heresy hunter approach to theology.

  50. By the way, your only comfort in life and death is:

    “That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him.”

  51. gundek, the thing is, upon reading that (the answer to your only comfort in life and death), my guess is that a lot of Mormons would say they agree with it.

    It’s an issue of general theological imprecision in Mormonism and preference for devotional rather than theological approaches except where there is specific modern revelation on the matter (e.g., Mormons can talk about the Plan of Salvation with a great deal of precision, but do not possess vocabulary or a framework to talk specifics about the atonement).

  52. Of course, whatever precision the Mormons have in speaking of the Plan of Salvation is completely illusory. You can’t have precision when speaking about things that we don’t have any precise knowledge of.

    I think this goes the same for the specifics of the atonement in the Protestant vernacular. The problem Greear is trying to remedy is an indication of the incurable ambiguity of this particular Protestant approach to understanding how Christian atonement works. Ultimately most people do not have the capacity to be precise–they couldn’t write Church Dogmatics or even understand it if they had a lifetime to do so–which, perhaps, explains why Jesus was so vague in the teachings we have from him. He was almost never precise.

  53. Jared,

    I assume that by Church Dogmatics you are not referring to Karl Barth’s?

    I think that Greear’s article is an irenic confrontation with a theology he disagrees with.

  54. Kullervo,

    I will have to defer to you about the theological imprecision in Mormonism. What I have found is that Mormons willingly embrace the same vocabulary of their interlocutor, knowing that they mean very different things, for instance the eternal nature of the Son. In the past I have chalked this up to a basic misunderstanding of theology outside of their own.

  55. Christian J,

    When Jesus said to Peter, “get behind me, Satan”, he was stating that what was coming out of his (Peter’s ) mouth was not of God, but in keeping with the devil’s plans.

    Piper spews doubt and looking to one’s self to know if one is of God, or not.

    That, is not Christian. But of the devil.

  56. In the past I have chalked this up to a basic misunderstanding of theology outside of their own.

    Sure, but that’s the other side of the same coin. They’re not being duplicitous when they agree with you about the eternal nature of the Son; they’re simple not used to expressing things in precise theological terms so they don’t grok that that’s what you (and much of the rest of Christianity) are doing.

  57. @Gundek,

    The same. I can’t claim to have read Church Dogmatics but I did spend hours pouring over it as a young philosophy research assistant at BYU.

    I think Mormonism must be seen as an outright rebellion against the roots of traditional theology.

  58. Not a principled rebellion though.

    I have thought for years that much of early Mormonism is sort of a no-nonsense frontier ignoramus’s reaction to high-falootin’ big words he don’t need.

  59. I can’t disagree too much, Joseph Smith was clearly about lighting random things on fire and watching them burn. But there was plenty of dead, dry conceptual tinder lying around when he made the scene.

  60. Jared,

    Wouldn’t Barth say that Jesus Christ the Word of God is the source of theology?

    I wouldn’t think it is a coincidence that the roots of Mormonism stem from an anti-clerical age. If the sermon looses its place as the central act of worship you no longer have the need for seminaries. Without the need to train people for the pulpit why would you need a theological curriculum?

  61. If you think about it the whole ecclesiastical structure is designed to prevent a Barth.

  62. I tend to agree with you.
    There are/were some aspiring Barths within Mormonism. Cf. McConkie, Joseph F. Smith, Talmage, B.H. Roberts, etc. But the talent and resource base is pretty small and I think the task is actually far larger than Barth’s.

    But as you point out, Mormonism does not have the same stable foundation to build systematic theology upon. Its ecclesiestical structure can invalidate any point made, no matter how well-reasoned. Barth is writing in the stream of a large body of catholic and liberal Protestant thought which is centered on a stable canon and a philosophical tradition stretching back millenia. Aspiring Mormon theologians have a gaggle of teachings by prophets, seers, and revelators to contend with, a canon that takes powerful and often contradictory positions on almost every area of traditional theology.

  63. Also, I like your point about training people for the pulpit. But I think Barth’s work was actually made in opposition to what was happening at the pulpit in Germany. As may be apparent in contemporary Catholicism, strident theological minds often have trouble managing the politics of church leadership.

  64. That is part of my point, Barth was responding to the failures of the Continental theology. McConkie, Smith, Talmage and Roberts were all insiders, building not reacting to the theology of the day. I’m not saying the intellectual pool is missing, a systematic theology could be produced if Mormons wanted one. I don’t think the LDS would tolerate someone saying Nein!

  65. Re: “Nein!”

    Well, I agree with you on Roberts. He never published his theology because he lacked Church blessing. But McConkie did, which is probably why the Church eventually (this year) stopped publishing his Mormon Doctrine.

    But to some extent both Richard Bushman and Hugh Nibley have made strong, if subtle, intellectual stands against the thinking of the ecclesiastical establishment. Mormonism may have to be clear on its history before it can be clear on its theology.

  66. ( Fred, When you look at the fundamentals of your theology it isn’t surprising that you don’t understand predestination)

    I did not understand predestination as a WASP. That was part of the questions I had about the “faith of my fathers”.

  67. I think Mormonism must be seen as an outright rebellion against the roots of traditional theology.

    Any movement attempting to “restore” primitive Christianity would have to right? Not that I agree with the standard characterizations of Mormonism as carbon copy of the historical Jesus movement (obviously), but they got the ad hoc flavor of it right. The no-nonsense frontier ignoramus thing as well.

  68. Going back to the law…what ‘we do’…is the crux of the Galatian letter.

    Paul might as well have said, “Oh you foolish Mormons…”

    Mixing ‘what we do’…with the finished work of Christ is not Christian and merely is a reflection of our ‘quid pro quo’ mindset. God doesn’t operate the way we operate. Thank God.

  69. The irony of course is that the Lutheran confessions remind us that “as long as all this preaches God’s wrath and terrifies men, it is not yet the preaching of the Gospel nor Christ’s own preaching, but that of Moses and the Law against the impenitent.”

  70. I did not understand predestination as a WASP. That was part of the questions I had about the “faith of my fathers”.

    Okay fred, explain to me what Ephesians 1:3-5 means then:

    “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,”

  71. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” Rom. 8:16

    Back on the topic of assurance, it seems clear that when one is in relationship with God the Father through Christ that the Holy Spirit will bear witness to one’s assurance of salvation as a child of God. Is this just me living inside my Methodist bubble or is the concept of assurance foreign to others inside the Protestant family?

    This is the standard Wesley sermon a Methodist would reference on this topic: http://wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/the-sermons-of-john-wesley-1872-edition/sermon-10-the-witness-of-the-spirit-discourse-one/

  72. Kullervo, I understand the LDS teaching of foreordination, I still do not under the teaching of part of the Protestants about Predestination.

  73. Kullervo,

    The post deals with assurance of salvation.

    Too many Mormons and Evangelicals believe that they are going to be saved (or receive certain rewards) because of something that they do…or have done (or didn’t do).

    So then ‘the law’, or keeping the law, comes into play as an errant theology, and poor yardstick for the assurance of one’s salvation.

  74. Your answer seems very familiar, and also quite consistent with Mormon thought.

    That’s because early Mormon thought is heavily influenced by Methodist/Wesleyan thought.

  75. ( When you look at the fundamentals of your theology it isn’t surprising that you don’t understand predestination. )

    I did not understand predestination when I was a WASP, it is not a Mormon thing.

    ( Take this a step further, by examining the historical debates about predestination (Reformed vs. Rome, Reformed vs. Orthodox, Reformed vs. Arminian). In each case basic fundamentals are held in common (nature of God, Incarnation of Christ, nature of man, creation, the fall, etc. None of these basic presuppositions are held in common with Mormonism. )

    The “common knowledge” was a mith, the Church Fathers had to call to creat a oneness that never happened. They had to add manmade definitions to God’s Word because non of them had an authority like an apostle to correct mistakes.

  76. “In Christ” somehow has a vapid, simplistic, egotistical, self-righteous, sanctimonious, narcissistic ring to it. Why don’t you people try and find something with a little more substance to preach…?

  77. “In Christ” somehow has a vapid, simplistic, egotistical, self-righteous, sanctimonious, narcissistic ring to it. Why don’t you people try and find something with a little more substance to preach…?

    Are you kidding? If you’re serious, then you need to take it up with Paul, not with us:

    1 Corinthians 15:22 – “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”

    Romans 9:1 – “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,”

    Romans 12:5 – “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.”

    1 Corinthians 3:1 – “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.”

    1 Corinthians 4:15 – “For though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.”

    1 Corinthians 4:17 – “For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church.”

    2 Corinthians 1:21 – “Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God;”

    2 Corinthians 2:17 – “For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.”

    2 Corinthians 5:17 – “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

    2 Corinthians 12:2 – “I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.”

    Ephesians 1:3 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:”

    Philippians 1:13 – “So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;”

    Colossians 1:2 – “To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

    1 Thessalonians 4:16 – “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:”

    1 Timothy 2:7 – “Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.”

    Philemon 1:8 – “Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient,”

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