Less Than True Christianity

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles recently delivered a devotional at BYU-Idaho and told the students the following:

“Without his commission from the Father and the Son, without his priesthood ordinations and the keys he received at the hands of duly appointed heavenly messengers, without the fulness of the gospel restored through his visions and revelations and his translations of the Book of Mormon and the Bible, what we would have is something much less than true Christianity.”

Is this a way Mormons would prefer orthodox Christians to refer to Mormons, as something much less than true Christians? In many ways I think this appropriately settles the “Are Mormons Christian?” question. It acknowledges and gives deference to someone’s self description, but I’m not sure it tastes much better.

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115 thoughts on “Less Than True Christianity

  1. Eh,I think he is claiming that Joseph Smith’s commission from the Father and the Son, his priesthood ordinations and the keys he received at the hands of duly appointed heavenly messengers and fulness of the gospel restored through his visions and revelations and his translations of the Book of Mormon and the Bible are the very things that make Mormonism “true Christianity.”

  2. So if I understand this correctly absent a commission from the Father and the Son, priesthood ordinations, keys, the fullness of the gospel restored, translations of the Book of Mormon and Bible we have something much less than true Christianity.

    And it took a prophesy from an angel to see this might cause some level of distress to people?

  3. I would like to point out to Jared C that Joseph Smith’s commission from the Father and the Son, his priesthood ordinations and the keys he received at the hands of duly appointed heavenly messengers faunldness of the gospel restored through his visions and revelations and his translations of the Book of Mormon and the Bible are all theological distinctions that (a) matter to both the average Mormon and the average Evangelical and (b) are disunities with orthodox Christianity that Mormons themselves are not willing to compromise.

    So how about you stop pedling your monotone and absurd nonsense about how theology doesn’t matter to the average believer and how the mean Evangelicals are refusing to be unitied with Mormons like Jesus said to because of petty theological differences.

  4. I suppose I should be clearer. My beef is with making philosophical theology equivalent with Christianity. Philosophical differences should not confound brotherhood. The kingdom of heaven is not those who believe the best interpretation of the the canonical texts.

    My beef with Mormons is the same, whatever they think they have on other Christians is petty. They unnecessarily distance themselves from other Christians. I have a big problem with that in general, which is partly why I can’t hang out with many Mormons. They should stop.

    But Mormons are the little brother in this relationship.

  5. My beef with Mormons is the same, whatever they think they have on other Christians is petty. They unnecessarily distance themselves from other Christians. I have a big problem with that in general, which is partly why I can’t hang out with many Mormons. They should stop.

    If Mormonism drops its reasons for distance from other Christians, there’s no more Mormonism.

  6. And what qualifies the creeds and philosophical theology? Besides we are not talking about an individual but an institutional denial.

  7. This is a great answer to the question “Are Mormons Christians, too?” Not “Are Mormons Christians?” As you said, I can give deference to someone’s self-description. But according to Christofferson, Mormons and traditional Christians cannot both be “true Christians”. This is exactly the point that evangelicals have been making, but which Latter-day Saints have found so offensive. I don’t think it would be less offensive to LDS if evangelicals said “Mormons are not true Christians” instead of just “Mormons are not Christians.” Is there a double standard here?

  8. I can live with this.

    There really isn’t any way around this. If Mormonism wants to make the claims it makes, then it’s going to have to accept a certain adversarial relationship with the rest of Christianity.

    I would prefer it to be a cordial, professional, and accurate adversarial relationship. But you can’t make it non-adversarial relationship without removing the existential heart of what Mormonism is.

  9. There really isn’t any way around this. If Mormonism wants to make the claims it makes, then it’s going to have to accept a certain adversarial relationship with the rest of Christianity.

    I would prefer it to be a cordial, professional, and accurate adversarial relationship. But you can’t make it non-adversarial relationship without removing the existential heart of what Mormonism is.

    Which is why Jared C’s monotone complaint is so preposterous. Mormonism’s not just some cute-little-offbeat-Christian-sect-marching-to-the-beat-of-its-own-drummer-so-why-can’t-we-just-all-be-brothers. Mormonism began as, and continues to be, a restorationist movement. Its existence is predicated on its claim that orthodox Christianity is fallen, apostate, void and of no effect in the eyes of God.

  10. If Mormonism drops its reasons for distance from other Christians, there’s no more Mormonism.

    I think you are confusing my argument for unity– It was directed at Protestants and assumed the truth of Protestant Christianity, not Mormonism. Protestants obviously would be happy if Mormons were absorbed into their orthodoxy.

    @Seth, I disagree that the “existential heart of Mormonism” requires an adversarial relationship. Philosophical differences don’t require conflict and lack of fellowship.

  11. Kullervo, reading between the lines of your argument it seems like you are also calling for dis-unity of Catholics and Protestants. No?

  12. Then again, maybe it is absurd. I am beginning to think think what Mormons need is a good spanking for believing all the silly things they do, and they should be made to stand in the idolatry corner until they recant and are ready to join the class again and ask proper questions.

  13. Maybe Mormons aren’t asking for what you want them to have. Seth seems to want a cordial, professional, and accurate adversarial relationship.

  14. My argument was not that the Mormons are asking for it, my argument was that Jesus was asking for it.

    My argument doesn’t really work against Mormons, they may be incorrigible prodigals, intent on practicing their Samaritan idolatry.

  15. Right, I forgot, I think we have established that Jesus wants to condemn the Mormons to hell for their insolent beliefs that make Him out to be less than He is.

    Maybe my argument would work if I was talking about a different Jesus than Protestants are.

  16. I have said no such thing but, in making your argument you decided to ignore any text that spoke to the Church’s response to false teachers. Hyperbole isn’t going to make your case for you.

  17. Well Jared, again, for the third, fourth or moreth time, you have never been clear about what kind of unity you are imagining that Protestants should have with Mormonism anyway.

    Organizational unity? That everyone becomes one big church organization? Mormonism’s beliefs and church structure actually stand in the way of that.

    Mutual recognisiton of salvific efficacy? Again, it’s Mormonism’s beliefs and church structure that stand in the way of that.

    Just basic good feeling and brotherly love? Not only is that not unity in any meaningful sense anyway, but it’s also complicated given that the LDS Church aggressively proselytizes Protestants.

    Cooperation on important and relevant social issues? They pretty much already do that. but that’s not unity either.

    Mutual acknowledgement that the other is “Christian?” Is that what you think Protestants should do? That’s a pretty low bar for “unity.”

  18. (Is this a way Mormons would prefer orthodox Christians to refer to Mormons, as something much less than true Christians? In many ways I think this appropriately settles the “Are Mormons Christian?” question.)

    As a former WASP and now a member of God’s Restored Church, this is how I see the differences.

    Mormons say that you are not a complete Christian if you do not have what this Church leader talked about.

    Evangelicals say you are not a Christian if you do not follow the definition “Trinity”, that was added to God’s word through a man proclaimed creed.

    It all boils down to which is the “other gospel” spoken of in the NT.

  19. And AGAIN, your critique is irrelevant to my argument.

    The argument points out the goal, not the method. Not having the method worked out is irrelevant to the strength of the argument. Until Protestants accept the goal, discussion of the method is pointless.

    And simply because the path is unclear does not mean Jesus didn’t invite you to follow him on that path. I think throwing up hands in puzzlement because the task seems too hard or complicated is the typical Christian cop-out on most of Jesus’ ethical teachings.

  20. Jared,

    Except that many Protestants have accepted the goal and have tried any manner of method to achieve it. While others not wanting to cop-out on of Jesus’ ethical teachings reject the goal based on the instruction regarding false teachers.

  21. Yes Fred,

    The doctrines of the God were formulated just to keep Mormons out of the club.

  22. I think you’re playing word games: you say the goal is “unity” but you won’t say what that means. What unity means is not the method; it’s defining your goal in such a way that we can evaluate whether it has been reached or not.

    But fine, accepting your nonsense arguendo, we agree completely on the goal, because of course Jesus commands unity.

    And the method for reaching unity is for us to preach the Word and thereby persuade Mormons to abandon their heretical doctrines and unbiblical ecclesiology and return to the fold of orthodox Christianity.

    Why is that not acceptable to you? Why is that not acceptable to Jesus?

  23. Why is that not acceptable to you?

    If I had to judge Protestants I would say that the way the “Word” is preached to Mormons is often terribly counterproductive, divisive, focused on winning theological arguments, and dismissive of Christian spirituality and practice among Mormons. It is also cloaked in a Cold War mentality, as I have mentioned. This inspires mockery among Mormons and shuts them down. Also, the common stance taken toward Mormons is inconsistent with the stance taken toward other Christian groups (like Catholics).

    Why is that not acceptable to Jesus?

    Frankly, I really can’t say why.

  24. Gundek, I got a bit flippant, sorry. I can accept that you disagree with my argument. I also see your point, there is always a balance to be struck between divisive heretical teachings and unity. But I made the argument because I think that, for most Protestants, the balanced is tipped in favor of resisting evil than walking the second mile.

  25. Again, it seems like you are re-casting the situation in an extremely distorted way, starring Mormonism as the plucky, quirky offbeat Christian sect that just wants to be validated and appreciated and be a part of the big tent of world Christianity but mean, severe Protestantism is bound and set on bullying Mormonism and never giving it a break or letting it come in out of the cold, and all over nothing more than the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin.

    That’s what I mean by your “Mormon-sympathetic orientation on the unity issue.”

    In reality, Mormonism is a schismatic restorationist sect that condemns orthodox Christianity as apostate and invalid, loudly and forcefully claims to be the one objectively true and authorized church of Jesus Christ, and aggressivgely proselytizes orthodox Christians. And then cries foul and whines when it doesn’t get validated.

  26. But I made the argument because I think that, for most Protestants, the balanced is tipped in favor of resisting evil than walking the second mile.

    In what way are Mormons asking Protestants to walk a mile with them?

  27. Jared,

    Your comment about tactics used by some evangelicals is an issue. I have said before that the Church has outsourced engagement with Mormonism to the para-church in a way that is not true with Rome or the East. Part of this comes from the regional nature of Mormonism, some of it comes from insular mature of Mormon theology.

    I don’t know that I have the solution but, reclaiming the priority of the Church in the ministry of the word would be a start.

  28. In reality, Mormonism is a schismatic restorationist sect that condemns orthodox Christianity as apostate and invalid, loudly and forcefully claims to be the one objectively true and authorized church of Jesus Christ, and aggressivgely proselytizes orthodox Christians. And then cries foul and whines when it doesn’t get validated.

    Yes, as I said, they need a sound spanking.

  29. But I think its hard to pin a Mormon-sympathetic bias on me when I compare them to Soviet Russia and One Direction fans.

  30. Mormons didn’t start the phenomenon of rejecting those “other guys” from the “other church” because their doctrine isn’t just like ours.

  31. Jared said

    The argument points out the goal, not the method. Not having the method worked out is irrelevant to the strength of the argument. Until Protestants accept the goal, discussion of the method is pointless.

    and then said:

    If I had to judge Protestants I would say that the way the “Word” is preached to Mormons is often terribly counterproductive, divisive, focused on winning theological arguments, and dismissive of Christian spirituality and practice among Mormons.

    At first you say that Protestants don’t have the goal of unity, but then later you concede that it’s the methodology that is all wrong (which is by no means a controversial stance here). It’s also not all that controversial to say that Protestants have been far too divisive within Christianity.

    I don’t think you need to give us an 8 step plan for developing unity but I think Kullervo has an excellent point; unity in what? In what specific way do you think Protestants don’t have unity with Mormons? Is it really just about the use of the word “Christian”? If we said “yes Mormons are Christians” would there be no complaint about our lack of unity? I could claim that Protestants are united with Mormons as evidenced by their lack of violence against them, but you’re clearly looking for more out of us.

  32. I have to point out that the phrase “something less than true Christianity” denotes that the believer is not a “true Christian”. I’m not sure if there is a big difference between saying “Protestants are not true Christians” and “Protestants are not Christians”.

  33. We would say that Mormonism is not Christian…but that there certainly may be Christians in the Mormon religion.

    We would say that Protestants and Catholics are Christian churches (even though the gospel often is covered by barnacles)…but that there may beChristians there, too.

    We would say that Lutheranism is Christian, but that Lutherans are ALL over the map. And that there might even be some Christians there, as well.

  34. It has been my experience that Creedal Christians are most likely to declare Mormons to not be Christian. They tend to say that you must believe in and follow a man-made creed to be in the one true Christian Religion. If you believe the right creed, you can almost do anything you want with the rest of God’s Word and still in their one true church.

  35. It all boils down to which is the “other gospel” spoken of in the NT.

    fred, Paul was not referring to Mormons. He was not referring to Protestants or Catholics either.

    Tim, I think the words of Christofferson are confusing. I would be fine if he said, “the most correct path to God” or “the best understanding of the role of Jesus Christ”. I’m not sure if he realizes – or cares – how much historical weight is in that word. And yes, I think if Mormons want to talk like this, they should stop whining.

    fwiw, I still maintain that Mormons only care about being called Christian insomuch as it relates to their belief and faith in the NT Jesus as Messiah and divine Savior of their souls. Believe it or not, its a real thing for them. Claiming its not (whether intended or not) is a not starter.

  36. Maybe it being a non starter is irrelevant. The point is, that’s why it drives them batty.

  37. What does the Mormon church get by being called “Christian?” Answer: better PR spin.

    And for the record, faith in Jesus as the divine savior of your soul has never been the key definitional point for Christianity. Mormons think it is, because the Mormon conception of Jesus (what with no Trinity and no Incarnation and no Kingdom) essentially conflates the Jesus the Person with Jesus’s act of Atonement. In other words, the significance of Jesus for Mormons, at least during the space between creation and judgment, is limited to Jesus’s role in the Atonement.

  38. Kulervo, I know this is a pet idea of yours – that Mormons think of Jesus only in terms of the Atonement. However, its not based on any real survey of Mormon teaching and history. Mormons most certainly view Jesus as the key to the Kingdom of God on earth and view themselves as servants in helping to build that kingdom – today – in these *latter-days*. Article 10 is an easy way to check that. Any quick read of what JS was trying to do in Kirtland, Independence or Nauvoo would do the job as well. Any rhetoric surrounding missionary work, the building of temples or the sanctity of the family in the contemporary church would point to kingdom language as well. You may not think that this is what Jesus meant – you may think it completely misses the mark, but you can’t claim that Mormons don’t view Jesus through a lens of kingdom building and still hold any credibility as an ex-mo Protestant insider/outsider.

    And the -Mormons want to be considered Christian because of PR- dig is not only lazy and cynical, but its also un charitable.

  39. And before anyone says it – Mormons often lack charity as well when it comes to those of other faiths- the Christofferson quote is exhibit A.

  40. Right. Except that, to Mormons, the “kingdom of God” on Earth is the Mormon Church, and the “kingdom of heaven” is the Celestial Kingdom, under the reign of Heavenly Father. And even though the Church is named after Jesus Christ, Jesus has nothing personally to do with it on an ongoing basis. He’s the titular head and namesake; that’s it. He’s not even the source from which priesthood authority is ultimately derived, as Jesus’s authority is derivative of the Father’s.

    The fact that Mormons say “Christ” with increasing frequency at General Conference doesn’t mean Jesus plays an active role in actual Mormon theology. His role is functional only, and for the moment, his functions have all been discharged. And while Mormons are supposed to be super-super-thankful for his faithful discharge of his functions (because without grace we would not be able to go through the repentance process and earn our exaltation), Jesus plays no other immediate or ongoing role.

  41. And even though the Church is named after Jesus Christ, Jesus has nothing personally to do with it on an ongoing basis. He’s the titular head and namesake; that’s it. He’s not even the source from which priesthood authority is ultimately derived, as Jesus’s authority is derivative of the Father’s.

    Arguably, this stance is very biblical. Jesus’ focus was not on himself but laser focused on his Father. He sent the Holy Spirit after he left. Mormons look forward to his return, when he will reign on earth. Mormons believe that Jesus leads the Church on a daily basis. I can see that there be a disagreement about focus, but the Mormon stance doesn’t seem out of step with a reasonable interpretation of the Bible.

  42. Mormons believe that Jesus leads the Church on a daily basis.

    Absolute nonsense. In what way does Jesus lead the Church, other than as a figurehead? Even accepting, arguendo, that the Church is in fact led by a constant stream of divine revelation, that revelation, per Mormon doctrine, is from the Father via the Holy Ghost. Jesus is not personally involved.

    That’s my point. Despite saying “Jesus Christ” a lot, Jesus is not personally involved with Mormonism at present. He is a ministerial functionary only, discharging duties delegated to him from the Father.

    I think that this is an inescapable problem with any form of nontrinitarian subordinationism: if Jesus is ontologically subordinate to the Father, any glory he has is purely derivative of the Father’s. He’s a conduit only and thus only interesting inasmuch as he carries out his assigned duties (both for the effect of carring them out those duties and as an exemplar of perfect obedience by carring them out perfectly).

  43. Ok, but Jesus himself cast his role in terms of only being a witness and messenger for the father. Why is this a problem that makes mormons not christian (rather than just divergent from traditional theology)

  44. Why is this a problem that makes mormons not christian

    I never said it was. That’s not the argument Christian J and I were having.

    I think that Mormons are Christian because they believe in the resurrection. That is and always has been the dividing line.

  45. I don’t find the Christofferson quote lacking in charity, it is refreshingly honest.

  46. Jared asked,

    “Ok, but Jesus himself cast his role in terms of only being a witness and messenger for the father. Why is this a problem…”

    In his book The Nicene Faith FR John Behr points out that coming out of the 4th century we not only have the ecumenical creed but we also have an ecumenical hermeneutic. Prior to this point the Church struggled with the humanity of Christ and the divinity of the Son in relationship with the Father. He says, “Trinitarian theology results from reflecting on how the crucified and exalted Lord Jesus Christ reveals the one and only God as Father…”

    The question facing the fathers was if Jesus Christ is Lord in the fullest since of the word how to understand passages that show his humanity and subjection to the father? The non-Nicene viewed these passages in a univocal manner, that what is said about the Son in his humanity is the same as his divinity. Recognizing this is a bit of an oversimplification this univocal hermeneutic requires either subordination, createdness, or some type of derivative nature of the Son.

    The Nicene’s recognition that if Jesus Christ is truly Lord, in the fullest since of the word, these passages could not be univocal in nature and, they must be read with a partitive hermeneutic referring differently to his humanity and divinity. Once again with the risk of oversimplifying, if the Son is truly the perfect revelation of the Father, if Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God (note, not created in the image of…), to imply subordination, createdness or derivative nature cannot be accepted.

    I used to wonder why Mormons would point out a suffering servant passage to prove the subordination of Jesus Christ as if they have never been read before. Reading Christofferson or Fred, who want to chalk this debate up to some amorphous Greek philosophy, misplaced keys, missing priesthoods, usurped authority etc. I understand. It is much easier to dismiss or rewrite history that to examine the exegetical focus of these controversies.

  47. I should have added that I am not trying to shoe horn Salt Lake into Nicaea, they have uniquely combined subordination, createdness, and a derivative nature to the Son.

  48. Jesus is not personally involved.

    Again, ever read the D&C? That’s ALL Jesus. Creator of the earth – Jesus. God of Israel- Jesus. Visiting “other sheep” in Glory – Jesus. 2nd Coming – Jesus. Millennium – Jesus.

    I think if there is a point you have – its that Mormons themselves talk about their Heavenly Father – a TON. And this is a strange development (that I chalk up to the fact that they’re taught to pray to the Father – by Jesus of course), considering what Mormonism has and still does teach about the role of Jesus in ever single heartbeat of the “plan of salvation”.

    But, I’m guessing that anything short of Trinity is not going to do. And that’s where we are.

    PS. Next time an Evangelical tells me that Mormons don’t focus on the cross – I’m sending them to this thread.

  49. But, I’m guessing that anything short of Trinity is not going to do. And that’s where we are.

    I’m sure you meant that dismissively, but yeah, that’s the thing. As I said above, this is an inescapable problem with any form of nontrinitarian subordinationism: if Jesus is ontologically subordinate to the Father, any glory he has is purely derivative of the Father’s. He’s a conduit only and thus only interesting inasmuch as he carries out his assigned duties (both for their effect and as an exemplar of perfect obedience by carring them out perfectly).

  50. I actually didn’t mean it dismissively. Just trying to cut to the chase. However it sounds now like you’re conceding that Mormons do in fact understand Jesus in terms of building the Kingdom of God on earth – with all the explicitness of article 10 – and in other ways in harmony with the Atonement, but that it still fails to satisfy on account of the inherent weakness of Godhead-Jesus. And that’s where we are.

  51. Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.”

    Yes, it’s a mystery…but Jesus was fully man…and was (is) fully God.

    We focus so much on Jesus, that we put the Cross on top of our churches. Not only that…we preach Christ crucified…for real sinners…the kind that we know we are. No Jesus as cosmic helper…or cosmic butler…or cosmic stable bot to help us into the saddle of our religious ascendancy project. We preach the Cross. Death…and resurrection. Not just His…but ours. And no further.

  52. PS. Next time an Evangelical tells me that Mormons don’t focus on the cross – I’m sending them to this thread.

    But Mormons believe the atonement did not happen on the cross. The cross’s significance to Mormons is only incidental.

    I realize that’s not literally what you mean, but it’s not insignificant.

  53. ( But Mormons believe the atonement did not happen on the cross. The cross’s significance to Mormons is only incidental)

    I see you have learned about our Church from outsiders.

    We believe that the atonement started in the Garden and was finished on the Cross.

    As for the significance of the Cross, we pay more attention to what Jesus did for the world through the atonement instead of focusing on how He did it.

  54. If you’re looking for a systematic theology on substitutionary atonement in Mormon teaching, you’re probably not going to be satisfied. (I’m sure you know this)

  55. The cross’s significance to Mormons is only incidental.

    That the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross is essential to the Mormon view of the Atonement is obvious with any thorough reading of current teaching manuals, conference addresses and especially the standard works – which surprisingly includes the Bible.

    But you raise an interesting question, which I know is not a new one – was the suffering and death of Jesus according to God’s redemptive purposes or was it historically contingent? it seems that the NT writers favored the former. I don’t think there’s a believing Mormon alive who would disagree. You might be surprised at how Calvinist Mormons start to sound – when God’s sovereignty is on the line, in spite all this talk of agency and the war in heaven.

  56. Fred said

    I see you have learned about our Church from outsiders.

    Fred, you should be aware that Kullervo was a Mormon his entire life until a few years ago. He learned about the church from insiders.

  57. That the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross is essential to the Mormon view of the Atonement is obvious with any thorough reading of current teaching manuals, conference addresses and especially the standard works

    Nevertheless I’m now genuinely curious (and not just trying to get in zingers or make you look dumb; I save that for Cal and fred) about the mechanics of Mormon Atonement, which is unique because of the role that Christ’s suffering in Gethsemane plays. To my knowledge, nobody other than Mormons claims that the Atonement happened (wholly or in part) in the garden. It’s a Mormon distinctive in a theological area where it seems like Mormonism otherwise just sort of assumes Protestant Atonement theology without realizing it.

    So what happened on the cross then, in terms of Mormon Atonement? In what way does what happened on the cross add to or complete what happened in the garden?

    I suppose what I would have said as a Mormon would have been that the Atonement largely took place in the garden, but that Jesus’s death was necessary to complete it, to finish an otherwise unfinished sacrifice. But I’m not now 100% sure what that means specifically. In what way did death complete Jesus’s infinite suffering in the garden?

    My suspicion is that, as a practical matter, Christ’s death on the cross did nothing in terms of his sacrifice for sin, but was an obviously necessary prerequisite for his victory over death. So that’s why I am saying it was incidental. And I’m not coonvinced that saying “cross” in General Conference is the same thing as the cross being essential to the mormon view of the Atonement.

    – which surprisingly includes the Bible.

    I am not convinced that the Pauline epistles (where most of the talk about the significance of the cross is) have very much influence on Mormon theology. Mormons love to mine Paul for pithy quotes, but I don’t think they really grapple with the substance.

  58. The physical pain Jesus suffered on the Cross was the same as hundreds of thousands of men suffered.
    The cross was a common form of execution.
    The physical pain was common to the cross.

    The pain He suffered for us by accepting the Atonement on Himself had to be greater, and most likely longer then what other men suffered on the cross.

  59. It has been along time since I was a Protestant. At the time it seemed that this was the most important part of what I was taught;; ” suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried;”.

    Has it changed?

  60. Kullervo:

    In what way did death complete Jesus’s infinite suffering in the garden? My suspicion is that, as a practical matter, Christ’s death on the cross did nothing in terms of his sacrifice for sin, but was an obviously necessary prerequisite for his victory over death."

    Yes of course Jesus had to die in order to resurrect. So let’s suppose that he had simply suffered immediate death from an embolism while he slept. What would have been “lost” in terms of the atonement?

    The cross (and prelude to it; i.e., flogging, etc.) inflicted not only horrible physical pain, but spread it out over an excruciating period, and added humiliation on top. Why or how does that “improve” the atonement? The answer, I believe, is that it gave Jesus every reasonable excuse to quit, to say we weren’t really worth the agony, to announce “I am God; I don’t deserve to be treated like this!” Instead, even as he suffered he used the time to show his concern for others. Even someone who denies his divinity would still admit that that was a powerful example of charity.

    In short: his suffering demonstrated his undeniable dedication to us. I can’t say, “I don’t want to go to Christ with my sins; they are too embarrassing/overwhelming,” when I see what he already went through to show that he will not be turned off by a little gore. Ditto for similar doubts: Jesus showed that he’s ready to suffer right along with me. (And since I believe in an ongoing atonement, this point is especially important.)

    Dying in his sleep eliminates all that. I’m not saying that the cross per se was important; it just happened to be the method of capital torture used at that time and place.

  61. Why or how does that “improve” the atonement? The answer, I believe, is that it gave Jesus every reasonable excuse to quit, to say we weren’t really worth the agony, to announce “I am God; I don’t deserve to be treated like this!”

    But didn’t he already have infinite torment poured into him in the Garden?

  62. The physical pain Jesus suffered on the Cross was the same as hundreds of thousands of men suffered.
    The cross was a common form of execution.
    The physical pain was common to the cross.

    The pain He suffered for us by accepting the Atonement on Himself had to be greater, and most likely longer then what other men suffered on the cross.

    fred, all of this is only an issue if you assume a penal substitution theory of the Atonement.

    In my experience, most Mormons just take penal substitution for granted without even realizing that (a) it’s not spelled out explicitly anywhere in scripture and (b) it was formulated as a doctrine centuries after the events of the New Testament.*

    Just like the Trinity.

    *It’s roots start with Anselm of Canterbury’s satisfaction theory in the eleventh century, but it’s full development is generally credited to John Calvin.

  63. { (a) it’s not spelled out explicitly anywhere in scripture and (b) it was formulated as a doctrine centuries after the events of the New Testament.*

    Just like the Trinity.}

    Yes, you have given another good example of why Heavenly Father had Joseph Smith help to restore His Church to the earth in this Latter-Days.

  64. Yes, you have given another good example of why Heavenly Father had Joseph Smith help to restore His Church to the earth in this Latter-Days.

    Except that we are not talking about a doctrine that Mormons reject. Mormons (including you)almost universally take penal substitution atonement for granted.

    I’ll spell that out for you so it’s clear:

    You criticize the Trinity as a doctrine because it’s not spelled out explicitly anywhere in scripture and it was formulated as a doctrine centuries after the events of the New Testament.

    Yet you accept penal substitution atonement as a doctrine, even though it has exactly the same problems and it hasn’t been explicitly revealed in modern days to Mormon prophets either.

  65. Kullervo: “But didn’t he already have infinite torment poured into him in the Garden?”

    To answer this question specifically: Yes, but how one reaches that conclusion depends on whether one believes that the atonement is ongoing or not, whether one subscribes to penal substitution, moral influence, or some other model, etc. If penal substitution, for example, then Jesus had to pay precisely for all of our sins and it could be said that he paid in full in the garden. I think it makes more sense to think of “infinite” here in terms of quality rather than quantity: it doesn’t matter how many kilograms of sin he paid for, rather it matters that there’s an unbridgeable gap between him and sin, and yet as God he willingly suffered for a lot of sins that weren’t his (whether it was 5 sins or 5 trillion, the impossible juxtaposition is the same—like dividing 5 or 5×10^12 by zero).

    So one could say that he paid it all up in the garden and had no additional suffering to do, or one could say that he suffered a bunch in the garden, and on the cross, and still today. Either way, the suffering could be seen as “infinite.”

    (Personally, I don’t believe that sin has any “substance”; thus, what Jesus suffered was the feeling of separation that sin creates between humans and God. He was one with God the Father, but was made to experience a loss of oneness…and continues to suffer that separation with us as we sin.)

    To answer your broader question: Regardless of whether the suffering terminated in the garden or continued on the cross, it’s not easy for any of us to wrap our heads around whatever he might have suffered in the garden. It is easy for us to at least understand the pain and humiliation of the cross. That’s why it serves as a powerful symbol—even if that’s all it was, that’s still something more than just dying in his sleep. If someone is not sure what “suffered in the Garden” means, then they would still understand what crucifixion entailed. So yeah, I suppose that someone could say that he suffered so infinitely in the garden that he was beyond pain—numb—by the time he reached the cross and thus the cross was no worse for him than a mere inconvenience. But to reach that belief, you’d have to already have faith that the suffering in the garden was worse than whatever the cross delivered. So at the very least, the awfulness (from our perspective) of the cross is a…(I can’t think of the right term)…sort of “fail-safe symbol” of Jesus’ dedication.

    This is not unlike the symbol of resurrection—it’s the reason it is upheld as the ultimate proof of Christ’s divinity. He could have quietly taken his body and disappeared to heaven, but there was value in showing himself and the empty tomb. (For that matter, he could have demonstrated power over death by disappearing in a whirlwind like Moses, but again, the symbolism is lost.) It didn’t change how resurrected he was, it just changed how we could approach it.

  66. Christian,

    Don’t you need a systematic study before you can have an understanding of the work of Christ and atonement?

  67. Brian,

    Does a doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement rule out moral influence or other doctrines of the atonement?

    I can understand that substitutionary atonement can exclude some versions of a ransom or governmental doctrine but, it seems that moral influence, substitutionary atonement, Christus Victor, even a careful ransom doctrine can be taken as complimentary in explaining the work of Christ.

  68. Gundek: I don’t know. I’m hardly an expert on any of the theories. I can imagine that many would be complimentary. The problem lies in which way(s) any of them are wrong or misleading.

    fred: you change your avatar, aka the “green star,” in your WordPress profile. If you don’t have a profile, then you can’t change it. (Getting a profile is free.)

  69. And I guess that takes me back to my question to Christian, without a systematic review of the work of Christ all you seem to have are proclamations and proof texts.

  70. gundek, I’m sorry, but I’m not sure what your point is. It sounds a lot like: “Without a comprehensive understanding, your understanding is incomplete.” (And yes, I recognize the difference between “understanding” and “proof text.”) I’m sure you mean to say something deeper.

  71. I think gundek is saying that it’s hard to really say anything specific about the garden vs. the cross when you don’t have a systematic theology to use as a framework. Instead, you are stuck with “proclamations and proof texts,” i.e., lots of vague and broad “Jesus Christ” and “the cross” but without any way to get t particulars.

    So Christian J saying “[t]hat the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross is essential to the Mormon view of the Atonement is obvious with any thorough reading of current teaching manuals, conference addresses and especially the standard works” is nearly meaningless. Sure, those sources say “cross” a lot, but there’s no way to drill down any deeper than that, because it’s all broadly devotional instead of theological.

    As a science guy, Brian J, I feel like you should be able to appreciate the difference between saying broad and vague things about how the universe works versus being able to make more specific and particular sense out of it, and the relative value of each.

  72. Yes, yes, as I said before, I recognize the difference between “understanding” and “proof text.” I just didn’t understand why gundek was bringing it up here, now, because it seemed like he meant his comment specifically in response to mine—in which case it felt like an tangential reference to epistemology. In response to Christian J, as you explain, it makes more sense.

  73. Brian,

    My comment wasn’t really directed at you or anyone in particular and I don’t really think a systematic theology is by necessity comprehensive.

    To be honestly I would love to understand the atonement from a non-trinitarian perspective but I haven’t really understood why an atonement is a necessity or how Christ is uniquely capable of meeting the demand in Mormonism. I know many critics of Mormonism complain about the cross or the lack of the cross in Mormon theology. I just cannot make it that far. It is hard for me to see why Jesus had to suffer in the garden or the cross if life is a test and Adam didn’t sin.

  74. ( Yet you accept penal penal substitution atonement as a doctrine, even though it has exactly the same problems and it hasn’t been explicitly revealed in modern days to Mormon prophets either.)

    ······ Does this meet your definition of penal substitution atonement? ·········

    {{ The only way for us to be saved is for someone else to rescue us. We need someone who can satisfy the demands of justice—standing in our place to assume the burden of the Fall and to pay the price for our sins. Jesus Christ has always been the only one capable of making such a sacrifice.

    From before the Creation of the earth, the Savior has been our only hope for “peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come” (D&C 59:23).

    Only He had the power to lay down His life and take it up again. From His mortal mother, Mary, He inherited the ability to die. From His immortal Father, He inherited the power to overcome death. He declared, “As the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself” (John 5:26).

    Only He could redeem us from our sins. God the Father gave Him this power (see Helaman 5:11). The Savior was able to receive this power and carry out the Atonement because He kept Himself free from sin: “He suffered temptations but gave no heed unto them” (D&C 20:22). Having lived a perfect, sinless life, He was free from the demands of justice. Because He had the power of redemption and because He had no debt to justice, he could pay the debt for those who repent.

    Jesus’s atoning sacrifice took place in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross at Calvary. In Gethsemane He submitted to the will of the Father and began to take upon Himself the sins of all people. He has revealed some of what He experienced as He paid the price for our sins:

    “I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;

    “But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;

    “Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—

    “Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men” (D&C 19:16-19; see also Luke 22:44; Mosiah 3:7). }}

    http://www.lds.org/topics/atonement-of-jesus-christ?lang=eng

    If it fills your definition, or even if it does not fill your definition of penal substitution atonement, the answer is in a book of scripture that comes to us by a man who God gave His authority to to speak for Him.

  75. I got an account and now i am having trouble. Please excuse my trying to get it right.

  76. Fred said
    The pain He suffered for us by accepting the Atonement on Himself had to be greater, and most likely longer then what other men suffered on the cross.

    To which Kullervo responded

    Um, do you realize that now you’re actually telling me why the Atonement didn’t happen on the cross?

    I seriously want to know who teaches Mormons to do this (say something is a false perception and then radically endorse it later). What lesson manual is it taught in? It boggles my mind how frequently I encounter it. It’s like there’s this unstated agreement to not let anyone know actual Mormon beliefs when they differ with orthodox Christianity.

  77. I don’t think its deliberate:

    There are different narratives about the Cross. These get mixed up sometimes. One diminishes is it because it is a symbol of corrupt Christianity. The other recognizes the obvious, that it is an important part of the Atonement narrative in the scriptures. The iconoclasm directed at the cross extends to how Mormons view the atonement. (I am not sure which came first, frankly.) Mormons move the focus from the drama and blood of the cross and replace it with the one-on-one discussion with God in the garden.

    The Garden is also symbolic of maintaining spiritual life with God while in infinite turmoil, through prayer– a very powerful Mormon theme. (See Nephi, Alma, Ammon, Samuel the Lamanite, Moroni, Mormon, etc..) In the Garden, Jesus is the strong prophet-hero, perfect yet human, speaking with God while suffering for the whole world, strengthened by angels his Father sends.

  78. I seriously want to know who teaches Mormons to do this (say something is a false perception and then radically endorse it later). What lesson manual is it taught in? It boggles my mind how frequently I encounter it. It’s like there’s this unstated agreement to not let anyone know actual Mormon beliefs when they differ with orthodox Christianity.

    I don’t know that there is one single source for Mormons doing this. I think a prevalent source for this is the old “Missionary Guide,” specifically the section that teaches missionaries to build on common beliefs. I don’t know how it was originally intended to be used, but it often was used as a way to avoid dealing with disagreements or differences in opinion.

    A common way of using this tactic would be the following. You are teaching a discussion and an investigator would offer an opinion that was not in line with Mormon doctrine. The missionary would then try and identify any aspect of the opinion which which he or she could then agree. The missionary would then reflect back the point of agreement and the investigator would usually agree with that (after all, you restated a portion of what they said). Since there was now “agreement,” the missionary would then keep on teaching the discussion with no need to clarify the church’s position because after all, both investigator and missionary where in “agreement.” “Agreement,” not clarity of doctrine or understanding, is what is deemed most important.

    This leads to Mormons and non-Mormons having different goals and tactics in a conversation. Often I think that Mormons generalize this and see any agreement, no matter of what kind, as the prime purpose and goal of a coversation about faith. Agreement means we can move on, maybe to something that is more interesting or faith promoting to the Mormon. As a double bonus, the Mormon is heeding the advice that “Contention is of the devil.” However, to the non-Mormon who is looking for clarity of position, this just seems crazy.

  79. Here it seems that the opposite of the Missionary Guide is happening. No building on common beliefs here.

    Fred starts defensively with a pretty basic explanation of the Mormon position, and instead of explaining it to actually build on whatever common beliefs there are, he moves to what is essentially an attack– dragging out Mormon rhetoric on the cross-centric focus. It’s not crazy, or even inconsistent theologically, just rhetorically confused.

    Fred likely believes that both the cross (i.e. Jesus’ death) is an integral part of the atonement, he just doesn’t think that the specific means of death (the cross) mattered that much. I think the term “cross” is just being used in different senses.

  80. It’s like there’s this unstated agreement to not let anyone know actual Mormon beliefs when they differ with orthodox Christianity.

    Tim, David may be onto something, but I think its more a sincere misunderstanding of the real differences between Mormons and traditional Christians than a deliberate attempt to deceive. The “build on common beliefs” line in the missionary guide was a real thing on my mission, but I think its mostly just practical advice in building connections with people. I do it in my ward, neighborhood and work communities all the time.

    gundek, On fully understanding the atonement through a systematic theology of it – that would be my preferred direction for a Mormon understanding of the Atonement. But, as K has stated, what Mormons really have is a vague sort of penal substitutionary concept, sprinkled with some Stephen Robinson ideas and selective passages from scripture and GC addresses. Two passages that immediately come to mind are:

    And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

    And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

    and

    http://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/19.16-17?lang=eng

    Proof-texting aside, I just think the Mormon view of atonement is much more of a lived experience. They don’t seem to care so much that all the concepts aren’t sewn up tight. We take the sacrament as a renewal of our baptismal covenants to be buried in Christ and born anew through his sacrifice. We target our sins, turn away from them and exercise faith in “what he did for us” (again, the details are not there) resulting in sanctification. One phrase I’ve heard over and over again: “I don’t know how the Atonement works, but I know it works.” (ps. I don’t love hearing this)

    And this is where I have some serious difficulties with Mormon rhetoric and practice. With all the talk of pure, restored doctrines and practices, most of the concepts (while many are profound to me) are fuzzy on specifics and down right confusing in some cases. So, in the end, not that different than any other religious tradition in that regard.

    But, as I’ve pointed out before, there is a ton of precedent for this throughout the Bible. I love reading about Pentecost in Act 2. Peter wasn’t really doing theology either. And the people who were there and experienced that glorious event could not have cared less.

  81. Tim, David may be onto something, but I think its more a sincere misunderstanding of the real differences between Mormons and traditional Christians than a deliberate attempt to deceive.

    I can understand and appreciate building on common values. This is something more than that though. I think it’s in part that Mormons use the same vocabulary but with different definitions. So yes, there’s lots of talk of “the cross” and Mormons will say “oh yeah! we hear that word all the time, it’s for sure important to us.” But then when you push the issue they say “ewwww no, not that cross.”

    Which once again brings us to the problem of “a different Jesus”. Mormons really WANT to build on the common value of a 1st Century dude in Jerusalem that went by the name Jesus. . . but not that Jesus.

    There’s also the common Mormon prime value of reducing the surface area of criticism for the church. In many ways I think many Mormons would be quite happy if the church didn’t make any truth claims in particular outside of having the only authoritative priesthood.

  82. Tim: “I seriously want to know who teaches Mormons to do this (say something is a false perception and then radically endorse it later).”

    Half of it comes from Mormons frequently being faced with misconceptions about our beliefs. I’m not talking about complex concepts (like atonement theory), I’m talking truly elementary-level misconceptions: “You don’t believe in the Bible,” “You worship Joseph Smith,” or “You can’t drink Coke.” Even statements that are contextually accurate according to particular definitions (like “Mormons aren’t Christian”) sound utterly false from our perspective.

    More often, I encounter just a general ignorance about Mormonism. In my experience, it is extremely rare to find someone who knows more about Mormonism than they do about Hinduism or Shinto; i.e., only what they saw on “The Simpsons.” So the assumption is that whatever someone says about Mormonism will most likely be wrong. And if that someone is an evangelical—especially an evangelical with a blog dedicated to showcasing the errors of Mormonism—then there’s the added defensiveness from the adversarial nature of so much of our “dialog.” (See also: a Democrat’s response to a Republican stating what Democrats believe.)

    The other half comes from people in general being poorly trained in making or following coherent arguments; i.e., exactly what I encounter in every comment section on every topic of every web site that I visit. What David Clark says is part of this: the old Missionary Guide method was an attempt to train missionaries to engage in thoughtful conversation. Unfortunately, it was kind of like “logic training wheels”: it only got missionaries thinking in the right direction. As anyone who has helped a child ditch the training wheels knows, there are significant differences between driving 4 wheels versus 2, and a lot has to be unlearned when one finally removes the trainers.

    And the other half (yes, there are more than two halves!) is that Mormonism lacks the authoritative theology that other faiths have. You’ve been over this point a hundred times. My point here is not to defend it (just as I haven’t defended the other problems I listed above), but rather to point out that poor arguments are a consequence, but not the goal, of eschewing authoritative theology.

  83. “Which once again brings us to the problem of “a different Jesus”. Mormons really WANT to build on the common value of a 1st Century dude in Jerusalem that went by the name Jesus. . . but not that Jesus.”

    Let’s pretend that I’m thinking of ditching Mormonism and aligning myself with your church instead. How would your approach be any different? “Forget everything you’ve ever heard about Jesus”?

  84. gundek:

    “To be honest I would love to understand the atonement from a non-trinitarian perspective but I haven’t really understood why an atonement is a necessity or how Christ is uniquely capable of meeting the demand in Mormonism.”

    You’re well-read. What are the chances that I could add anything that would change or improve your understanding? Sincere question.

    Related question: when you say you don’t understand, are you sure that you’re trying to understand without bringing in trinitarian concepts?

  85. Let’s pretend that I’m thinking of ditching Mormonism and aligning myself with your church instead. How would your approach be any different? “Forget everything you’ve ever heard about Jesus”?

    Honestly, that’s precisely what I had to do in order to come back to Christianity after leaving Mormonism.

    I spent most of my adult life assuming that Mormonism was sort of like, Basic Christianity+, or in other words, that I could take away the Mormony parts of Mormonism and be left with a solid unerstanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I was really, really wrong.

  86. I get that—it happens with any paradigm shift—but you didn’t have to be like, “Bible? What is it? A type of mammal?”

    I deal with correcting misconceptions all the time at work; most grad students have a terribly messed up foundation in evolution, biophysics, etc. But I would almost never take a “forget everything you know” approach.

    P.S. I hadn’t realized you had come back to Christianity. Last I knew, you were pagan.

  87. gundek,

    To be honestly I would love to understand the atonement from a non-trinitarian perspective but I haven’t really understood why an atonement is a necessity or how Christ is uniquely capable of meeting the demand in Mormonism. I know many critics of Mormonism complain about the cross or the lack of the cross in Mormon theology. I just cannot make it that far. It is hard for me to see why Jesus had to suffer in the garden or the cross if life is a test and Adam didn’t sin.

    On my mission, I read Cleon Skousen’s talk, “The Meaning of the Atonement” and it blew my mind. I think that it lays out a clear, precise, Mormon, non-trinitarian theory of Atonement. It’s obviously not authoritative and I don’t think it is widely held among Mormons: it’s “deep doctrine” and that simultaneously intrigues Mormons and makes them wary, especially because it’s not canonized or even semi-canonized, and Mormons usually just say “I don’t know how the Atonement works” and happily leave it at that.

    Anyway, I think that you should go read it here, but I’ll briefly summarize.

    All matter in the universe is composed of physical matter and spirit matter and an intelligence. Intelligences have free will. The universe obeys the laws of physics because those laws are the commandments that Heavenly Father gave the matter of the universe, and the universe obeys because it knows it can trust Heavenly Father fully and completely. In fact, that is ultimately what makes Heavenly Father God: the universe willingly obeys him because the universe has complete confidence in him (thus the Book of Mormon talk about God ceasing to be God if he was unjust).

    Heavenly Father’s plan involves elevating humans to Godhood, and part of that plan involves letting us experience mortal life where we will inevitably sin. Heavenly Father can’t merely wink his eye at sin and make us Gods anyway, because that would be unjujst: the rest of the universe is stuck obediently being oxygen molecules and such, and Heavenly Father goes and grants godhood to disobedient humans? It wouldn’t be fair, it wouldn’t be right, and the universe would lose confidence in Heavenly Father and stop obeying him. He would cease to be God and existence would basically unravel.

    So Jesus comes to earth, never sins ever, and then willingly suffers eternal torment on our behalf: the universe loves Jesus completely, to the extent that seeing him suffer like that causes the entire universe to shake and tremble.

    Jesus is then our advocate with the universe. No, it’s not fair for Heavenly Father to let humans be gods even though humans sinned, but Jesus asks if the universe will allow it on account of what Jesus was willing to suffer for humans: Jesus willingly suffered the punishment that justice demands sinful humans suffer and willingly paid the price for the exaltation of humanity. And so the universe relents and allows an injustice to occur, because the universe loves Jesus so much and Jesus paid such an awful price. So humans go on to exaltation and Heavenly Father continues to be God.

  88. Let’s pretend that I’m thinking of ditching Mormonism and aligning myself with your church instead. How would your approach be any different? “Forget everything you’ve ever heard about Jesus”?

    I understand that there was a dude living in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago and his place in history is extremely important. But Mormon theology is much more expansive than that and it denigrates and diminishes both faiths to reduce them to the lowest common denominator. It also makes me look somewhat deceptive/irrational when later I say “Oh no, you can never be a god like Jesus. Yuck! That’s just stupid.” Part of acknowledging common ground is the recognition that it just covers the common ground and not giving the perception that it covers the whole ground.

  89. Honestly, that’s precisely what I had to do in order to come back to Christianity after leaving Mormonism.

    I spent most of my adult life assuming that Mormonism was sort of like, Basic Christianity+, or in other words, that I could take away the Mormony parts of Mormonism and be left with a solid unerstanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I was really, really wrong.

    That’s been my experience as well.

  90. “it denigrates and diminishes both faiths to reduce them to the lowest common denominator.”

    I don’t view identifying common beliefs as a reduction, and certainly not toward a “low” denominator (unless those beliefs are inherently petty or banal).

    But okay, I asked the question; I shouldn’t be disappointed just because I don’t like your answer.

  91. I’m not talking solely about identifying common beliefs. I’m talking about the “Mormon” habit of going past that step. David identified it as : “Often I think that Mormons generalize this and see any agreement, no matter of what kind, as the prime purpose and goal of a coversation about faith. Agreement means we can move on, maybe to something that is more interesting or faith promoting to the Mormon”

    Or in other words “Finding any common ground in order to claim that we are in agreement on X.”

  92. So your answer to my question was actually a response to David Clark’s comment? I asked if you would follow a “Forget everything you’ve ever heard about Jesus” approach to a potential convert; i.e., you see no value in identifying common ground in that situation (or perhaps in any situation).

  93. Christian,

    I don’t think anyone would claim to fully know the atonement, even systematic theologians, but I think it is the wide verity of sources inside that scream for a compilation and comparison. I have never looked at a systematic theology as the book with all the answers, but a place to start looking, almost a bibliography with an editorial view.

    Brian,

    I don’t know what you could do, the blog format doesn’t lend to extended commentary. I may disagree with your theology but I don’t want to disagree with a caricature of your theology.

    Kullervo and Jared,

    Thanks for the links. I’ll start there.

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