A frequent commentor named Ray has asked a series of questions. I appreciate these questions because they get at some of the most deeply seeded controversies between Mormons and Evangelicals. A full post (or book) could be written on each question so don’t expect my answers to be completely comprehensive, just an introduction to each issue. The comments section might be a great place to direct Ray and other Mormons to further resources on each topic.
You’ll notice that I will not make a lot of Bible references in my answers. This is not because my answers are not informed by the Bible but because I can answer these questions much quicker and make the length much shorter if I leave them out. To be sure, I can direct anyone interested to the Biblical texts that support my answers.
I have proposed that continuing in sin can cause some one to lose their salvation. Do you agree or do you think once saved always saved? What does “endure to the end” mean to you?
The question of “once-saved-always-saved” rages on within Protestantism. This is by no means a settled question, it’s the kind of question that forms denominations. First off I think it’s important to clarify that there is no Protestant church who thinks its believers should go on sinning. Every church teaches some conformity to moral standards. The question is whether or not failure to meet these standards can nullify the grace that has been granted by Jesus’ death on the cross. Anyone who accuses Protestants of believing that you can just go on sinning because of grace is egregiously mischaracterizing our beliefs.
The “reformed” and “covenant theology” faction of Protestantism believes that it is impossible for a true believer to lose his salvation. They acknowledge that there are “Christians” who either fall away or don’t display the life of a true disciple, but they reject that those people were ever truly saved to begin with. On the flip side of the coin are those who tend to agree with the Methodist or Wesleyan tradition. They teach that personal holiness must be maintained to secure salvation. Shortly after his First Vision experience Joseph Smith joined the Methodist church. So it’s not surprising that his theology would follow this pattern (not to mention the form of worship and church architecture).
Personally, I’ve come to the conclusion that all disciples of Jesus exhibit a life where sin is diminishing but (probably) not eradicated from their life. Even the most ardent defenders of the Wesleyan tradition continue to sin in some manner. Despite this ongoing sin, their salvation is secure. Sin should be confessed and removed from a believer’s life but salvation is not in jeopardy for those who suddenly die with unconfessed sin. Despite that security, personal apostasy is possible for someone who wishes to disown Christ. Christ’s love is never-failing but neither is it coercive for those who do not wish to have it.
Where do Evangelicals say is this physical body of Jesus residing? I realize you may not know the answer, but based on your theology, what is your best guess or understanding.
The short answer is “with the Father”. God is spirit, so it’s not in a physical location. I realize the absurdity of saying that Jesus’ physical body is in a non-physical location and I don’t have an answer for exactly where it is or how that can be. All I know for certain is that a person can not travel there in a rocket ship. The knowledge of the location of a star named Kolob would not help us find his body. (I suspect that if I asked a Mormon “where is Kolob?” they would give a similar answer.)
Jesus has a resurrected and perfected body. He will come again in this body and will reside in the “New Earth” with all of us in our resurrected and perfected bodies.
Tim thinks the “Trinity” is the reason the LDS are ‘Not Christians”. Maybe I don’t understand your version of the Trinity. If Jesus has a body and his Spirit is in it, then where is the rest of the Trinity? Is God the Father inside the body of Jesus? Is the Holy Spirit in this body as well? Or there really isn’t a God the Father and it’s just really Jesus?
The first place to begin in understanding any religion is with its description of God. In the orthodox Christian tradition (Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestants) there is one God that is manifested by three persons who share one essence. This “essence” is spirit, non-physical and supernatural. It is not “anywhere”, it is “everywhere”. We describe God as omnipresent.
The Bible is very clear that there is only one God (e.g. Isaiah 43:10 – Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.) It also describes three separate and unique persons as God. The word “trinity” is not found in the Bible, it’s not a biblical word. Rather it is a logical argument to answer the question of how the Bible can describe three persons as God yet declare that there is only one God. The solution of the Trinity is that there is only one essence that can be described as God, but there are three persons who share that essence.
Jesus has a body and his spirit resides in that body. The Father and the Holy Spirit do not possess any body of their own and they do not reside in Jesus’ body. Only the person of Jesus is in his body. According to the logic of the Trinity only one person can possess a physical body. Other posts have been written on this blog you can read them here, here, here, here and here.
When I was at the Baptist Church, they seldom addressed “Our Father in Heaven” but prayed directly to “Jesus” or just “Lord” and then they would close their prayers with something like, “And we say this in Your name.” They always prayed in “Your name” and never said “in the name of Christ”.
So today, when Evangelicals pray, who do they address? And how do they close their prayers?
This will totally vary by church. The way that the Bible (specifically Jesus) says we should pray is to the Father in the name of the Son. Different denominations and churches have different levels of formality and structure in their prayers. The way Fred Sanders describes these prayers in “The Deep Things of God” (a great book about the Trinity) is that they are like rubbing a cat the wrong way. God receives these prayers and doesn’t condemn anyone who doesn’t address him properly or anyone who gets the wording wrong but they don’t conform to the Biblical pattern. Ultimately the heart is more important than the words used.