Teaching the Gospel to Monkeys

My conversion from philosophical atheism to whatever-sort-of-Christian-I-am-now came over the course of a couple of weeks, after having a series of epiphanies about what it is to be human.

The first of these epiphanies came after watching a video where the animal behavior researcher, Frans De Waal, explains the ongoing project to “discover” the rules of human morality based on a detailed study of animal and human behavior.  He conducted experiments showing moral behavior in elephants, dogs, monkeys.  What intrigued me most was the experiment that proved that monkeys (and even birds and dogs) show a consciousness of fairness:

In the experiment the monkeys are trained to perform a simple task for a reward.  The two monkeys were accustomed to getting one cucumber slice for each task.  During the stream of tasks the monkeys performed the researchers gave one of the monkeys a grape for their task instead of a cucumber.  When the second monkey received only a cucumber slice for his task, he immediately threw the cucumber back at the researcher, screamed, and shook his cage in protest.  The dramatic emotional response from the monkey was eye-opening.

The rebellious monkey’s plight stuck in my mind.  The monkey was not showing fairness, his behavior only showed that he understood what fair was, expected the keeper to act that way.  The monkey’s anger sprang from its awareness of the law and the awareness that keeper was not following it. He is driven by futile, self-destructive anger which causes him to throw his food in the face of the source of his food. A sub-optimal survival strategy, to say the least.

Whatever made the monkey engrained this rebellion in its mind and heart. The rebellion is spawned by the “law” in his own mind, and recognition of insanity of the system he is caught in. The monkey expect even humans to obey the law of the jungle.  His disappointment is what enrages him. The law is what torments him.

The root drive for this sort of research is empathy for the suffering of the humans stuck in both literal and metaphorical cages and fed on cucumbers, while other humans are kept in much larger, and luxurious cages and receive grapes for their work (not to mention decent healthcare and iphones).

And we should empathize with the monkey. Given the sort of life the monkey’s body and mind were designed for, the insanity clearly lies in the experiment itself. Whatever fate the monkey now suffers, we don’t understand it to be just by any myth of justice we live by. To the monkey, the game is impossibly cruel, surreal, and strange, the cage must be deemed oppressive. I am sure he is is tired of all the ridiculous unnatural crap he has to put up with, even if he normally seems completely resigned to his fate as a caged lab animal. Our empathy makes his rebellion appear noble, because the monkey is only asking for simple equity — equal pay for equal work.  We should also see his rebellion as practical. If enough monkeys decide not to participate in the unfair experiment, the keepers will have to accommodate according to whatever fairness that the monkey demands in order to avoid their rebellion. But this is the salvation of revolutionary politics, not of traditional Christianity or LDS Christianity.

The human researchers are seeking to understand the natural morality of the human spirit and conscience — i.e. our natural understanding of right and wrong. Put in the language of law, the researchers are seeking to define the content of human rights based on the biological nature of human beings, i.e. what rules allow people to flourish as human beings in the world.  

Why is this research important? The twentieth century has shown that  it is very good thing for everybody to have simple, reliable arguments to identify the injustice in a situation, and then point the sane way out.  Our conscience tells us that all of our resources and reason should be marshaled to identify and enshrine the goodness written in human hearts and condemn and eliminate the countervailing badness that leads to genocide, war, and personal atrocity committed in the name of good, profit, and justice, i.e. the insanity of both Rome and the Pharisees that Jesus rejected.

The project entailed by the Gospel, is radically different than this project of science because it does not seek to merely illuminate the law, but it seeks to reveal a reality that is outside the law and the world. The Gospel changes the world not by informing us of the law and enforcing it with guilt and fear of retribution, but by somehow removing the torment that our knowledge of the law causes us and others. It stands firmly against nature. It does not stand against the natural law, it seeks to transcend it. It has the hope that through Christ the lion will abandon the violence that sustains it and the sheep will abandon the fear that controls it.

If monkeys were human, the LDS and the Evangelical would both reach out to somehow save the monkey from his sorrow, even though they would be powerless to change the injustice of the experiment. The LDS would tell the monkey that it is spiritually free, even in its cage, and it should make something of itself within the confines it has been placed simply by following the Holy Spirit, rather than the spirit of wrath that the law of nature inspires. The Spirit brings meaning, understanding, and joy through the monkey’s suffering by somehow purifying the monkey’s thinking about the law, and teaching it to see its suffering as an opportunity to suffer as Christ did, and in doing so, learn to be Christlike. How the monkey bears the suffering caused by the law is the goal of the LDS, and it will also determine the type of joy the monkey is prepared to receive in the hereafter.

The Evangelical would seek to free the monkey from the law that is in its head, to tell him simply that he is free to accept the cage, and ignore the suffering it entails, because in Christ he is released from the law, and the suffering will be only a small moment in the context of eternal joy. The contemplation of the unfathomable joy offered in Christ swallows up the suffering of the cage. The joy should swallow up the fear of death that drives the monkey to rebel in order to feed itself better.

If the monkey could find the strait gate or narrow way of the Gospel, would it be psychologically free from the law and find unending joy in Christ, as Evangelicals urge, or psychologically bound by the law, but free to follow the Spirit in joy, as Mormons claim? Does the Gospel allow the monkey to take advantage of both of these paths to spiritual salvation?

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67 thoughts on “Teaching the Gospel to Monkeys

  1. I am intrigued by your project from the last few posts, although I have to admit that I really don’t get it. Still, I like this part especially:

    If monkeys were human, the LDS and the Evangelical would both reach out to somehow save the monkey from his sorrow, even though they would be powerless to change the injustice of the experiment. The LDS would tell the monkey that it is spiritually free, even in its cage, and it should make something of itself within the confines it has been placed simply by following the Holy Spirit, rather than the spirit of wrath that the law of nature inspires. The Spirit brings meaning, understanding, and joy through the monkey’s suffering by somehow purifying the monkey’s thinking about the law, and teaching it to see its suffering as an opportunity to suffer as Christ did, and in doing so, learn to be Christlike. How the monkey bears the suffering caused by the law is the goal of the LDS, and it will also determine the type of joy the monkey is prepared to receive in the hereafter.

    The Evangelical would seek to free the monkey from the law that is in its head, to tell him simply that he is free to accept the cage, and ignore the suffering it entails, because in Christ he is released from the law, and the suffering will be only a small moment in the context of eternal joy. The contemplation of the unfathomable joy offered in Christ swallows up the suffering of the cage. The joy should swallow up the fear of death that drives the monkey to rebel in order to feed itself better.

  2. The gospel is a liberating Word. It does not free us from the law in this life. But from it’s condemnation in the next.

    Jesus said “not one iota of the law will be undone until His Kingdom is brought forth in it’s fullness”

    The gospel is not a project, but a liberating Word. Bringing us forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. And because we are bound in our sin…stuck in the law…we need to hear the gospel continually all throughout our lifetime.

    As we Lutherans would say, “Don’t just do something…sit there! (and listen)

  3. To answer your question: “Does the Gospel allow the monkey to take advantage of both of these paths to spiritual salvation?”

    The answer is no. The paths lead to different gods. Since there is only one true God, one of these paths leads to him, or neither do. They both cannot lead to the same god.

  4. I am intrigued by your project from the last few posts, although I have to admit that I really don’t get it.

    I am actually with you on this. I am just feeling my way out right now, I don’t really know what to make of my so-called conversion. Whatever the project comes to it will only be art, not theology, but that is the art that I feel pressed to make given who I love, where I sit, and what I see in the world.

  5. ECUMENICALISM AND THE APOSTLES DOCTRINE?—BY STEVE FINNELL

    Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to to apostle’s teaching….(NIV)

    Did the apostle’s doctrine include ecumenical worship and joint charity endeavors with those who perverted basic Christian doctrine? No, it did not.

    The Judaizers were Jewish Christians who wanted to impose Jewish practices on all converts to Christianity. They were perverting the gospel of Christ. Did apostle Paul join in worship and charitable works with the Judaizers in the name of unity and good works? No, he did not.

    Galatians 2:4 This matter arose, because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. (NIV)

    Paul called those who perverted the gospel, false brothers. Today many call those who pervert the gospel co-workers in Christ as they feed the poor and preach the man-made gospel of their choice.

    Galatians 5:4-12 You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace……….12 As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves! (NIV)

    Does it sound like the apostle Paul would be asking the Judaizers to teach a Bible study or join him in feeding the poor?

    2 Timothy 2:17-18 Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.(NIV)

    Did the apostles have shared teaching and preaching Christian conventions with men who did not teach the apostles doctrine? Of course they did not.

    Acts 15:1 Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.(NIV)

    The truth is today some men who deny that water baptism is essential in order to be saved are invited to teach and preach at churches and at assorted Christian gatherings. And it is not only tolerated but supported by Christians. Is this the apostles doctrine of Acts 2:42?

    2 Corinthians 11:4-15 For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough……..13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. (NIV)

    The problem with most church congregations who call themselves Christian is that they believe in ecumenical unity regardless of the doctrines being preached. Would joint charitable works, shared Bible study in which false doctrine is taught be in keeping with the apostles doctrine?

    The apostle Paul called those who perverted the gospel false brothers and false apostles. Today many refer to them as co-worker in Christ.

    The apostles terms for salvation. Faith: John 3:16–Repentance: Acts 3:19—Confession: Romans 10:9—Water Baptism: Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16. 1 Peter 3:21.

    YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY BLOG. http://steve-finnell.blogspot.com

  6. Slowcowboy said:

    “The answer is no. The paths lead to different gods. Since there is only one true God, one of these paths leads to him, or neither do. They both cannot lead to the same god.”

    I have thought a bit about your claim that the Mormon path leads to a different God. I don’t understand why you say that. It seems that Christians have followed the Spirit to derive meaning from their lives for centuries. The entire monastic tradition seems to be evidence of this. Can you explain what you mean?

  7. The Mormon god is a created being, one who was once not god. He has not been eternally god.

    The Christian God is the creator of all things and has always been God.

    The Mormon path is one of following rigid guidelines and rituals that if not completed preclude reaching the highest heaven. It is a merit based system, even though this merit may be based upon grace. Due to the requirements of the system, though, it is not a system of grace. It is more of a contractual relationship, with an offer, acceptance, and consideration (that one complete these specific works).

    The Christian path is based entirely upon Christ’s gift. Yes, there is a requirement of acceptance, but there is no consideration. The only thing one has to do to reach heaven (of which there is only one level) is to accept the gift.

    That it is spirit led is irrelevant to those truths, and those truths are why I say that. You end up with not only a different god but different ways to get there.

    Yes, the details matter.

  8. This sounds may sound a bit antagonistic, but I think you overestimate the power of philosophical or theological error to lead one away from the truth. As you have said, the Christian faith is pretty simple, and those who make drastic mistakes about the nature of God may find it. I think theology may be able to point to the truth, but bad theology rarely harms an individual who already enjoys light from the presence of God or the Holy Spirit. I think you also misunderstand the heart of Mormonism, which– as seen by the lives of its boldest followers and prophets — has little to do with keeping the rules. Whatever you think or say god is must be, to some degree, tainted by folly.

    In my experience it is clear that God gives his gifts to the stupid and ignorant often easier than than he does to the clever and learned. I submit that most Christians anthropomorphize God like the Mormons do, seek to do good works to please him or out of fear, and look to the spirit to guide their lives. There are plenty of Mormons who accept the gift of salvation, even if they don’t have clear doctrine to pass it on effectively to their children. If you miss this point you conversation with the LDS is nearly pointless because it will always come down to the relative sharpness of theological abstraction and speculation. Many Mormons won’t concede the superiority of traditional theology because they are so right, they resist it because they think it is laughable that traditional theologians think they even have the capacity to be as right as traditional Christians think they are.

  9. Jared, pride. Pride is a problem, yes. I can’t control what others put pride in. To a large degree, you describe pride here. You also take a very relativistic point of view here. You seem to appreciate the simple, every day facets of faith. Sure, they exist, and as Christians we do much of that to stay within God’s word. However, if we have the details wrong, we toil in vain, ignorant or not. Once we know and have been presented the truth, we are responsible to respond to the truth, not explain it away or alter it.

    Back to pride for a second, I am surely guilty of being prideful from time to time, yes. But I am indeed confident in my God. I won’t split the truth so as not to offend. I believe that anyone can say things that make people feel good or spiritual, but not all of that is helpful. To a degree, its like going to a positive thinking conference of some sort and leaving feeling all giddy. The feeling of ‘light’ comes in all forms and most of it will not lead one to salvation. I cannot, in good faith, accept alternate definitions.

    If you have never seen it, I encourage you to google Penn Teller and evangelism. He has some words on if Christians that believe there is only one path to salvation that are really quite powerful. He is not a believer, as I am sure you know, but his thoughts are very thought provoking. Basically, he says that if you really believe that only Jesus can save, you will be failing everyone to let them die without trying to save them. In the same way you would save someone drowning in a pool, you need to try to save everyone by telling them the truth of your faith. The link is readly out there, but I encourage you to look it up.

    But my more immediate point is this: there is only one truth and one God. The details matter, and they matter no matter how much you try to explain them away.

  10. However, if we have the details wrong, we toil in vain, ignorant or not. Once we know and have been presented the truth, we are responsible to respond to the truth, not explain it away or alter it.

    I am not so sure of your thesis, or Penn Gillette’s. I don’t think Jesus invoked the details you do in order to bring people to the living water. The parables basically ignore the details you are talking about. The parables have little explicit theology, but point to a lot that cannot be said, their truth is beyond their words. From the Gospels, we can find almost nothing of what you seem to think is essential to know about about God in order to take advantage of redemption in Christ.

  11. However, he did say, “I am the truth and the light, and no one comes to the father except through me” and several other like comments. The question is who is Jesus, who is the “me”.

  12. Jesus may not be around, but the truth and the light are still around. If you describe that in a way that a Mormon can see without raising objections, it seems they may find the path that only few are promised to find. For example, I am not convinced that the mystery of the hypostatic union is the only way to point people to the light, even if it has proven to be an effective way of resolving theological questions. I don’t think correct theology can’t be equated with the roots of the truth you are talking about, it seems like theology is only the leaves and branches of Christianity.

    If Christianity is true at all, most of the truth is already stuck inside of people’s minds and bodies, just like the law is stuck inside the monkeys in the experiment. I think a lot of that truth is very difficult to put into words that are clear, especially in light of the conceptual confusion found in the world. I think also that older theologies, such as those developed to meet certain historical intellectual challenges, may not be fully up for the task of meeting contemporary intellectual challenges. New forms of confusion might need new forms of clarity.

  13. I would suggest that much of Mormon theology came from a psychological place very similar to that of the rebellious monkey. It was a reaction to the theology of certain keepers that justified their treatment of their captives.

  14. I think you should reconsider your position that mormons have created another Jesus. They believe jesus of nazereth is the messiah who rose from the dead. That sounds a lot like the same Jesus Evangelicals have “created”. Thinking that anybody can “create” a Messiah seems like a heresy in itself.

  15. So, Jared, someone who believes that Jesus of Nazareth is actually a giant ball of invisible spaghetti but also messiah and rose from the dead would be acceptable?

    Surely, the one true historical Jesus has significance. Even casting aside the extreme example I provided above, we are not free to assign to God attributes that do not apply to Him.

    The Mormon Jesus is one of many gods, and one of three that exist fully separately, if united in thought, that Mormons recognize as important. That alone means that the person and deity of Jesus are both incompatible with the Christian Jesus. They are different beings entirely, even if they both are said to have lived in the land around Jerusalem about 2000 years ago.

    They both cannot be correct, can they? Jesus was always God, or he wasn’t. Jesus is one with the father in every way, and has been through eternity, or he wasn’t. Jesus is alone as God, or he is not.

    Now, before I continue, I want to know if you understand the premise and its significance or if you simply disagree. Can you address whether you understand and disagree, or if you do not understand the premise and its significance.

  16. I will write more later, but i think your argument confuses the facts with the way people talk about the facts. You can believe anything you want about a person, but the qaulities of that person remain fixed. my argument is parallel to the observation that fire, and all its properties stay the same, whether you call it phlogiston, or you call it oxidation. The love of god is the same whteher or not you talk as if it is conditional. Christ is the same no matter what you say about jesus. Any theory of reality is likely wrong, but reality stays the same.

  17. Jared, either we both talk about the wrong reality, or only one of us.

    I am talking specifically about addressing the reality of Christ. The two versions are incompatible. We’re also not talking about whether Jesus was white or black, or whether he was tall or short. We are talking about his very nature, which is crucial to your faith and mine, but they are incompatible.

    I am not sure what is holding you up on this. I’m led to believe, at the moment, you do not get the argument to begin with.

    In this last post you change the target: we are not talking about the love of God. We are talking about God himself. At least that is what I am talking about, I should say.

  18. Is being saved like taking a test? Like, is the deal that we are going to be quizzed on Jesus’s attributes, etc., and if we don’t have the right answer, then we are not saved?

    Is that why it’s bad to believe the wrong things about Jesus?

  19. Andrew, I believe its simply believing in two different deities both named Jesus. Just because something is called an apple doesn’t make it an apple.

    As to being saved, it is important that the Jesus we follow is the correct Jesus.

    Do you not agree?

  20. I think the experience of reconciliation can come from accepting what Evangelists tell us jesus said. Mormons might say that actual contact with jesus is more important than assenting to a partucular description of what must be a mystery of god.

  21. slowcowboy,

    Well, as I said in my first comment, i don’t get any of it. My perspective is that if God/Jesus cares so much, they should reach out to me. I mean, they are the ones who are supposedly all powerful, all knowing, and all benevolent. I don’t get why people should take a test blind on this subject to be saved, and I don’t get why people seem to put this in terms of a test (e.g., intellectually assenting to various statements about Jesus’s attributes.)

    Like, if we cannot earn grace, then what does it mean to follow the correct Jesus at all? Like, I thought the idea was that nothing we can “do” can earn our way. If we have to choose to follow the right Jesus vs the wrong Jesus, that makes it seem like grace is dependent on what we do.

  22. Jared, I still don’t think you are addressing my point. You are not at all addressing the different versions of Jesus and revert to a generic Jesus. And even within your post, you infer that contact is important. So, contact with who? Jesus? I’ve raised the issue that there is more than one version, so which one?

    Again, do you even understand my point, or do you disagree with it?

  23. Andrew, how do you know Jesus is not reaching out to you?

    If recognizing a false god as opposed to the real God is earning our way to salvation, that’s a very broad view of ‘earning’. Grace is given to those who do follow Jesus, indeed. However, if you follow a cat named Jesus, does that give you grace? That’s a simple answer, I would think. Why should it be any different as it applies to the Christian version and the Mormon version? As I have stated, they are incompatible, and therefore only one can give saving grace.

  24. I will try to address this later but, in short i cant believe that having faith in an idea of jesus makes any difference in salvation. Believing that there is a christ that happens to be the man jesus seems to be all that the gospels tell us.

  25. I cant brlieve that any idea of jesus could matter except to the psychological frame of the the person who has the idea. You cant explain the Truth without resorting to mystery and mystery cant be accurately described. Both mormons and Evs brlieve thay jesus is a mystery.

  26. If Christianity is true at all, most of the truth is already stuck inside of people’s minds and bodies, just like the law is stuck inside the monkeys in the experiment.

    I liked this.

  27. slowcowboy,

    Well, that’s a good question — how would i know what Jesus reaching out to me would feel like. Since I have no awareness of my need to be saved, no awareness that I am saved, no awareness that Jesus loved/loves me or died for my sins, I don’t think any of those things can be representative of Jesus reaching out to me.

    I know from descriptions in scriptures — Mormon and non-Mormon — that there seem to be some pretty big things that happen when people are reached out to by God (e.g., see Saul to Paul on the road to Damascus…or Alma and the sons of Mosiah).

    And I can say that it doesn’t feel like I’ve had any such experiences.

    You say:

    If recognizing a false god as opposed to the real God is earning our way to salvation, that’s a very broad view of ‘earning’. Grace is given to those who do follow Jesus, indeed.

    I’m just saying it all seems altogether incoherent. And to add insult to injury, some people say that Grace is not given to those who follow Jesus, but that the interaction is the other way — that those who have grace are driven to follow Jesus. So it’s not that these people earned their grace and their fellowship. It was freely and — to my mind, arbitrarily — given. In that sense, at least Calvinism kinda makes sense to me. God is arbitrary, but he makes the rules, decides who will be saved and who will remain reprobate. You can’t choose otherwise because if you are reprobate, God’s ways will seem like foolishness. Grace assuredly is not earned, because you would not choose it unless God chose it for you.

    But this is just to point out that christianity can’t even get its own message consistent. So, how can you say that it’s about a test when even within mainstream, traditional Christianity, people can’t decide whether Arminius or Calvin got it right (just to use ONE example.)

    You ask:

    However, if you follow a cat named Jesus, does that give you grace?

    But that’s the thing: I don’t know. If, from following a cat named Jesus, I fed the hungry, visited the sick, wouldn’t that matter more? I mean, one thing the scriptures do suggest in terms of “actions” and “following Jesus” is that many of the people whom Jesus will say were serving him won’t recognize it…vs many of the people who say they were serving him will be rebuffed. But the “test” (to the extent there is any) will be on how people served others.

  28. Andrew, before I move on too far, I wonder what your spiritual position is currently. Are you LDS, atheist, agnostic, something else?

    You raise some interesting points, though. How do you know if Jesus is reaching out to you? I’ll tell you that he is, and that you do not need a miraculous experience to see his arms. Don’t believe me? I can only convey the information. You have to figure it out. Is that work? I don’t think so, but if you call it earning salvation, what can I say except that the exercise is hardly effort.

    I think you misunderstand the concept of grace and its relationship with Christ, both in the concept of free will and election. This is not necessarily an easy concept, I’ll grant. But both fully grant to God/Jesus the source of the grace. While they differ in that ‘free-willers’ believe the individual must accept the gift and the “election-ers” believe God’s will for us is inescapable.

    My personal belief on the issue essentially merges the two: while we cannot escape God’s will, God does give us a considerable amount of freedom to choose or to choose otherwise. God is in control always, though, and knows who will choose what.

    As to Biblical support for my position, I think it best reconciles the verses that reflect usage of the word “elect” with those that express a need to respond and accept Christ. Why would we need to spread the Gospel if everyone was set before hand by God.

    As I said, I think these are good questions, and I am trying to provide a quick answer as my son talks to me about everything under the sun.

    As to the cat as Jesus, you can’t be serious. Like Jared, you seem to think Jesus is an idea, and whatever inspires folks to do charitable works is OK. See, I don’t think that is the case at all. I think the identity of the savior matters, and while there is benefit to that which creates charity, not every thing that creates charity saves.

  29. slowcowboy,

    I am an agnostic atheist who was raised LDS. (I am not an agnostic atheist who lost my faith — I was always agnostic atheist…but I was raised LDS.)

    My understanding of the difference between free-willers and the election-ers is a little different. It’s not (just) that the free willers believe that individuals must accept the gift of grace and the electioners think it is inescapable. It’s that grace is only efficacious for those who accept it, but per the free willers, *anyone could conceivably accept grace on their own* (i.e., prevenient grace + unlimited atonement), whereas for the electioners, *only the elect would accept grace, because the reprobate will not understand/get/appreciate it.*

    But in either case, Jesus has to offer that grace first.

    You say that Jesus is reaching out to me, but now we’re just at a standstill of your perception against mine. And it’s really quite silly to have this you-said-I-said…If God is omniscient and really cared to get this message across, wouldn’t he know what it would take for me to get this? So, as I see it, there could be a few things happening:

    1) Jesus is not reaching out to me. I am not elect, and the atonement is limited only to those who are elect. NBD, I am a vessel of wrath prepared for destruction.

    2) Jesus is reaching out to me, but since I am not elect, I don’t hear it/sense it/will never accept it. NBD, I am a vessel of wrath. For example, I read the Bible, hear people like you and others try to teach me it, and it doesn’t inspire me to repent. Rather, I hear the concept of vessel of wrath and think that’s horrible and that that would be a horrible God. But wouldn’t that be exactly the reaction of a reprobate vessel of wrath? Wouldn’t a reprobate be reprobate because his inbuilt reaction to God’s word is to view God more like a tyrant than a loving parent?

    3) Jesus is reaching out to me, and maybe I am elect, but irresistible grace hasn’t kicked in yet. So I’ll just keep on with my life as is and it’ll kick in through whatever life circumstances that make it kick in on God’s own time. Maybe it’ll be something small, maybe it’ll be something gradual, or maybe it’ll be something sudden or big. The thing that intrigues me about Jared C’s post series is that his revelation so to speak doesn’t seem like something he chose. it was serendipitous.

    4) Jesus is reaching out to me, and I have to work to hear/accept the call. As you say, I have to figure this out. OK, but what is motivating me to actually do this? What is motivating me to try? If I don’t get the point, then why would I be motivated to figure it out when instead, I’m thinking about living my life and trying to figure that out seems utterly irrelevant to me.

    My personal belief on the issue essentially merges the two: while we cannot escape God’s will, God does give us a considerable amount of freedom to choose or to choose otherwise. God is in control always, though, and knows who will choose what.

    I actually don’t see where there is any freedom here. God is in control, and he knows who will choose what. How would we have any freedom to choose or choose otherwise then? Can you explain what this even looks like..?

    As to Biblical support for my position, I think it best reconciles the verses that reflect usage of the word “elect” with those that express a need to respond and accept Christ. Why would we need to spread the Gospel if everyone was set before hand by God.

    It’s certainly possible that the way that God reveals election is through people. but you know, don’t Mormons also think that God works through people? And it’s certainly possible that irresistible grace might manifest itself to me after conversation and conversation. I am totally open to that possibility, but I’m not holding my breath.

    However, it’s also possible that Calvinists are programmed to feel the need to spread the Gospel because 1) it’s in the programming and 2) just because God knows who’s elect, people on this earth don’t. So you have an inefficient process to try to reach out to everyone, but some people just are hopeless disgraces.

    As to the cat as Jesus, you can’t be serious.

    I think I absolutely can be serious…or at least, as “serious” as I think Christianity is (which, at this point, is “not very”, sorry.) Since Christianity doesn’t make sense to me, I can’t rule out things based on what makes sense to me. I mean, the Old Testament would have me understand that God spoke through a burning bush once. Why not a cat?

    Like Jared, you seem to think Jesus is an idea, and whatever inspires folks to do charitable works is OK. See, I don’t think that is the case at all. I think the identity of the savior matters, and while there is benefit to that which creates charity, not every thing that creates charity saves.

    Well, just to be sure, the parable of the sheep and goats does seem pretty clearly (to me, but as I said, I can’t really go based on what seems reasonable to me, because for all I know, I could be a vessel of wrath who has been programmed to see righteous things as foolishness!) to say that the charitable works are way more important. When I read that not everyone who cries ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, that reads to me that what one professes or believes or thinks really isn’t the matter. Rather, doing the will of the Father is the matter. But again, per sheep and goats, you can be doing the will of the Father *without even knowing it*. Yet, you can be casting out demons in God’s name and Jesus will say he never knew you.

    I understand that you don’t think this to be the case. But *your* model makes things sound like a sort of test…like if we’ll be given a line-up and we have to pick Jesus from that line-up, but if we get it wrong, then we’re out to Hell. And that seems even stranger to me.

  30. Andrew, seems your mind is made up. Nothing I could tell you now would change your mind, which is apparently closed to Jesus. I could offer a detailed response to everything you’ve said, but what’s the point?

    Not to be crass, but really, I don’t feel much like a discussion at present. You think of Jesus more as an idea, and you don’t feel you need any help. What could I offer you except that which you’ve already heard and ‘know’.

  31. but that’s the thing, slowcowboy, you can’t offer me grace. You don’t have the wherewithal to convince me of Jesus.

    At least theoretically, if God is as great as people say, he could. He seems up to this point to be uninterested in the prospect. Or maybe he’s just not there.

    Anyway, I wasn’t hoping for this to turn into a huge debate about trying to convince me about whatever. I was just asking if being saved is like passing a test or identifying someone out of a lineup, because from your view of Jesus and your disagreement with Jared C, that’s what it seems like.

  32. Well, Andrew, you have to react to Jesus, too. You can’t claim to be open and then ignore all the arguments or evidence.

    As to the correct Jesus, I really do not understand what is confusing about the very clear differences in the Jesus presented by Mormons and Christians. Its a simple equation and a simple observation. Its not a complicated matter to see that the two are incompatible.

    Your proposition, and Jared’s, is a bit of a head fake because it dodges and ignores what is painfully obvious. That YOU think it is irrelevant shows more about your disbelief in God than it does about God himself. Hypothetically, if it is a test as you say, its an easy one.

    Arguing that the differences don’t matter ends up justification for disbelief in the Christian Jesus. Failure to take the differences head on is weak and shows an indifference to finding the truth by dodging the issue.

    As I said in my prior post, you’ve already made up your mind, and nothing I say will make a difference to you.

  33. slowcowboy,

    But openness is really dependent on reprobation or election. It’s entirely possible that I could think I’m open, but really, I’m a vessel of wrath.

    You say that you don’t get what is confusing about the very clear differences between the Jesus presented by Mormons and Christians. but I also see the differences in the ideas of how grace works, how the atonement works, etc., etc., etc., between Arminians and Calvinists and Lutherans, etc., etc., I do see hundreds of denominations. That is painfully obvious to me, and yet traditional Christians would have me believe that those differences are irrelevant, or that they do not detract from a saving grace.

    It apparently isn’t all that easy.

    It just seems pretty strange that the test would be about whether someone intellectually assented to all the right statements about Jesus, about atonement, about grace and faith and works, etc., That seems like playing roulette.

  34. Jared, so, is Jesus a real person or just an idea, a concept? If its both, then it does matter what his true identity is, right?

    I think Jesus is a real person who taught certain things and was killed by the Romans, I don’t think Jesus is an idea. I don’t think what people say about Jesus’ identity matters too much so long as they can see the facts. Some facts are not describable to those who have not seen them e.g. the color red. I think Christ is this sort of fact, it is deeply mysterious.
    I don’t know how to explain Christ. I think it has to be shown somehow. My attempt in the original post, was to point out a problem that is deeply natural and absolutely real –. i.e. the natural reaction of the monkey — with the hope that if the problem is clarified, the solution may come into view.

    I think almost any way you describe Christ will be confusing to someone who has not somehow see this fact. If you insisted that the color red must be described as a certain wavelength of light this might be perfectly reasonable. But if I had never seen red, the description of red would not allow me to understand what red is, it would just be another sort of name for something that I have no idea about.

    When a Protestant says to Mormons that they have a different Jesus, this seems like a tactic that confuses things far more than it clarifies. I think it is nearly impossible to show the fact of Christ by legalistically insisting on a particular formulation of an acknowledged mystery, especially when that formulation is incoherent from many perspectives.

    Insisting that people acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ is not effective if the person does not get what Christ is. Insisting that Jesus was a man that was mysteriously also God does not clarify the matter either unless you have already grasped God, Christ, and human. I think the grasping what a human is is often the most difficult.

  35. Job’s friends could not understand what Job saw. It seemed to be a very personal understanding, he described it as a sensation. He said of the Redeemer, “I will see him for myself, my eyes, not someone else’s, will behold him.”

  36. Andrew and Jared, you still don’t even get my argument. Its not even ultimately an argument that one Christ is right, though of course I argue the Christian Jesus is the correct Jesus. The argument is that the Mormon Jesus and the Christian Jesus are incompatible. It does not take belief to understand the point. All it takes is a logical comparison at a being who was once maybe a man but became God against one who has always been God. All it takes is a comparison of Jesus’s relationship with the Father and the Spirit, not to forget to mention other details regarding Christ such as his relationship with Satan. Think of looking at a spreadsheet with characteristics checked off, such as:
    __________________
    Jesus Comparison
    Christian Mormon
    Always been God x
    May have once been man x
    Is literally the father x
    Is not literally the father x x
    Is a brother to Satan x
    Progressed to become a god x
    Equal to the Father x
    Not equal to the father x
    Equal to the Spirit x
    Not equal to the Spirit x
    Is literally the Spirit x
    Is not literally the Spirit x x
    Died fully for our sins x x*
    Fulfills the law in and of himself x
    Can reveal himself to reach us as we need x
    Is omnipresent x
    Is omniscient x x
    Is omnipotent x x
    Lived about 2000 years ago x x
    Was the literal son of God… x x
    …who many have been conceived literally x
    Gives a free gift x x
    Gives a gift but we must pay it back by work x
    Finished his mission on cross x
    Finished his mission in Gethsaname x
    Came back to the New World x

    (This is something I just literally put together. The *indicates that Mormons believe Jesus dying for our sins applies after all we can do)
    __________________

    If we go through it, the only things that are the same are that he lived 2000 years ago, was the son of God (though there is a difference on this one), that The Trinity does allow for the separateness of the three figures (though that Mormonism denies they are one in the same is important), and the omniscient and omnipotent (though Mormons do not believe Jesus is omnipresent. Oh, also as to the free gift, Mormons don’t entirely believe it is fully free.

    I simply ask, from a logical position: can it be possible that these beings are the same?

    When considering this, understand the emphasis Christians place on the full deity and the eternal deistic nature of Christ. Look at the differences such as the full oneness with God that Mormons deny. Is it possible for a God to satisfy all of these differences?

    I don’t think so.

    Jared, you said this: “I don’t think what people say about Jesus’ identity matters too much so long as they can see the facts. Some facts are not describable to those who have not seen them e.g. the color red. I think Christ is this sort of fact, it is deeply mysterious.” I am showing you the facts. They are there for you to see and react to. You keep saying it is a mystery, but its really not. These things are not secrets.

    So, consider my list and ask yourself if these Jesus are compatible. It really is a straightforward question

  37. slowcowboy,

    You’re missing my point, which is more simply that if being saved means getting a bunch of questions about Jesus correct, then that seems pretty weird. So, your assessment of the differences between the ways Mormons would answer questions about Jesus vs the ways that non-Mormon Christians would answer questions is still assuming that those are the critical and most important questions.

  38. Yes, Andrew, I do pose, not assume, that the issues concerning Jesus are integral to his very identity, which plays a direct role in who we acknowledge and call upon to save us. You don’t get the significance of that. Again, all I ask is that you answer the question of whether the versions are compatible.

    Now, if you question whether a Jesus, any Jesus, has the power to save, your question is relevant and is an entirely different proposition. But if we ask who the “me” is in Jesus’s words that no one gets to heaven except through “me” (being Jesus as the speaker) then the details are highly relevant.

    You seem to think that asking and expecting answers of these questions is weird. Not so at all. Can we go to any judge and expect him to rule on our behalf? No! Its important we have the right court and the right judge.

    Now, again, I have asked a very specific and answerable question: are they compatible? You continue to ignore the question, which does not even require answering your concern about the weirdness of it. You can answer the question without addressing any other point.

  39. slowcowboy,

    Well, to answer your question simply, I don’t think that Mormonism has the same answers about Jesus as other denominations. You can interpret that as saying that I don’t think they have compatible views about the facts about Jesus. But I would go further — I also don’t think that what people typically refer to as traditional Christianity has the same answers anyway — hence the hundreds, if not thousands of denominations. I don’t think any of the denominations’ differing answers on any of the questions of grace, atonement, Jesus, etc., are compatible with each other. So it isn’t really surprising that Mormonism would also disagree.

  40. Andrew, thanks.

    I urge you to focus on the question of Jesus here, not baptism, communion, tongues, etc. I think if you look at what most of the mainline, traditional churches say about Jesus you will find almost universal agreement.

    Now, you brought up Jesus as things that differ within these groups, so I am curious as to what you think these groups is different about Jesus.

    So, anyway, if you are belatedly admitting Jesus is incompatible between Mormonism and Christianity, does it follow that they therefore must be separate beings?

  41. traditional churches can’t agree on whether or not jesus saved everyone or just those who were elect.

    That’s something about jesus. Your item “dies fully for our sins” is not answerable the same way for every Christian denomination, because some Christians believe that Jesus died fully for the elect’s sins, but not at all for the reprobates’ sins, etc.,

    But instead, you want to say that what is important is whether we could take a quiz on Jesus’s biography and get those answers right.

    Sorry, but that still seems inconsequential.

    But let’s not get caught up on that, since you say that’s a different question. I’ll say that it doesn’t follow that the Jesus between Mormonism and Christianity must be separate beings because their descriptions are incompatible. I mean, if you say, “George Washington chopped down the cherry tree,” and I say, “No, that didn’t actually happen. George Washington never chopped down the cherry tree.” That doesn’t mean that we are talking about two different people. That, at worst, means that we disagree on facts about the same person. And I agree to that extent. It doesn’t make sense to say that we are talking about two separate people though. I mean, when Muslims talk about “Isa”, they are not talking about yet a THIRD person. Their Jesus is your Jesus is Mormons’ Jesus, but each group disagrees about the facts about Jesus.

    But even if we disagree about facts on Jesus, I dunno, the Bible already says that the sheep of Jesus won’t necessarily know they were serving Jesus, won’t necessarily know when they fed, clothed, visited, etc., Jesus. You seem to think that this is a different question so you’d rather address your question. But it still seems to me that this would be more important.

  42. Andrew,

    I don’t see the question of who Jesus saves as addressing his very identity. And I do think every church would say Jesus died for all of our sins. Those who believe in election have no idea who is saved and who is not, and treat everyone as such.

    As such, the question of election does not alter the person of Jesus, and your objection does not destroy my contention. Bear in mind that there is room for disagreement on some of the points I make, however, the extent of the disagreement and the number of disagreements between Mormons and Christians on this topic creates an irreconcilable difference between the very person of Jesus in the two faiths. Differences in Armenians and Calvinists are not so great or numerous as to create two distinct and incompatible Christ’s.

    Whether Jesus chopped down a tree is a very different proposition than whether he has eternally been God. This question gets to the heart of the identity of God. You use the example of George Washington and the cherry tree. Its one thing to deny or affirm that act, but it is very different to deny or affirm his American-ness. To deny that he ever loved his new country would be to deny his very person and his role in history.

    So it is with Jesus. To deny that Jesus was always God is to deny who Jesus was and is. Its no small matter. It also distorts our position against him. It lowers him and raises us to inappropriate levels.

    Are you talking about John 10? If so, I don’t see how that fits your description that the sheep don’t know who feeds them. Or are you talking about the birds and how God takes care of them? Tell me what it is you are referring to, and I can respond.

    Don’t forget that Jesus also told us that not everyone who calls on his name will be saved, and God tells us he is a jealous God. I believe that his identity is crucial to true salvation. Think of it this way: if Jesus claims to be the truth, how can there be more than one truth? If the versions are incompatible but there is only one truth, the claim that it doesn’t matter which version you believe cannot stand.

    (I would argue the same to the Islam version.)

    To summarize: we are addressing the very identity of the one, true savior. There cannot be more than one true savior. The Mormon and Christian savior are incompatible. The Christian savior in most mainline churches are compatible, if not identical. Not only can there be but one true Savior, but this one true Savior tells us that not everyone who calls his name will enter heaven, and God is a jealous God. Therefore, it is vital to ensure we address the correct Savior, who is Jesus.

  43. Jared, still not addressing the issue, I see.

    At this point, fair enough, but I will submit that this unwillingness to address the issue is further evidence that Mormons and Christians can’t talk to each other successfully. I have found Mormons, and I know you no longer consider yourself Mormon, really avoid addressing certain topics. They love to stay around the edges.

    Now, why have I spent this time on whether the same Jesus is worshiped/honored through both faiths? Because you asked the question of whether the two paths would lead to spiritual salvation. My answer is still no, because a) the Jesus is a different Jesus and b) the path these options provide are markedly different.

    The only real options are a) there is no salvation, b) there is only one salvation and neither addresses it c) it doesn’t matter what you believe about Jesus you will be saved, or d) there is only one salvation and one of these two versions is correct and has the right path while the other doesn’t.

    I believe there is a salvation, one of us has it, and it matters what we believe about Jesus. If nothing else, I hope you better understand why.

  44. slowcowboy,

    why would you yourself include “died fully for our sins” in *your* comparison if you didn’t think it was part of his identity? But anyway, the big difference between calvinism and, say, amyraldism (4-point Calvinism, as it were) is precisely a disagreement on whose sins Jesus paid for. I’ve read several articles that argue from a Calvinist perspective that it simply doesn’t work if Jesus died for everyone’s sins — if he did, then no one should go to Hell, because it shouldn’t matter whether they accepted Jesus’s sacrifice or not, because the debt is paid.

    But no matter, since you argue that this is not basic to Jesus’s identity.

    Let’s go to your change to the George Washington analogy. Even if someone denied that he loved his country, they would not be talking about two different people. You’d have big disagreements about the narrative you apply to Washington, but it wouldn’t be a different person.

    Re: sheep and goats, I’m talking about Matthew 25: 31-46.

    I agree with your paragraph that per the scriptures, not all who say “Lord, Lord” will be saved. But Matthew 25: 31-46 suggests that the criteria isn’t about knowing facts about Jesus’s person, but about serving the “least of these brothers and sisters of mine.”

    Maybe we can synthesize what I’m trying to say and what you’re trying to say like this: it seems to me (but you know, I am not a Christian, so what the hell do I know) that the truth of Jesus is that one must serve the least of these brothers and sisters of his. To the extent this is so, then focusing on Jesus’s identity in terms of facts about Jesus’s person, etc., misses the point, especially to the extent that we try to look for Jesus’s attributes and fail to feed, clothe, and visit the least of these.

    Then, the real question is: who is feeding, clothing, and visiting the least of these? Are Mormons unable to do this because of what they mentally assent to about Jesus’s identity? Are Christians enabled to do this because of what they mentally assent to about Jesus’s identity? How about Muslims? And and and…?

  45. Keep in mind, niether Andrew nor I am a mormon. We admit we dont know the identity of jesus. We have a problem with your logic in explaining your belief about Jesus’ identity .

  46. Andrew, in Matthew 25, we still see an emphasis on Jesus and his “me” as both parties ask how they could have known it was him. Certainly, attention given to those in need is important, but Now, again, who is the “me”? Is it some generic ideal that we place upon an ancient man, or is it descriptive of a living, active God? This is really the thrust of the entire Bible and Gospel: that Jesus was more than a man: he was God incarnate. Borrowing the old 7-Up commercial, not only was he God incarnate, but he always had been and always will be. Mormons deny this, and in so doing pervert the entire Gospel by cheapening Christ.

    Now, you state that Jesus, in Matthew 25, seems to suggest that its not about identifying him accurately but more on how people treat each other. Certainly, there is truth to that, but you also have those pesky verses like John 3:16 and words of Christ saying that whoever drinks HIS water will have eternal life. Apparently, its not all about just treating others right, or at the very least even that concept is more complicated than you make it.

    For the sake of argument, if we accept your premise that performing charitable works is more important than the correct identification of Christ, why even bother studying or worrying about in whose name one performs charity? If we accept that, then Christ’s admonitions that those who believe in him will be saved were for naught and he was lying or mistaken. At that point, its all a joke and means nothing. The house tumbles as nothing Christ did or said is reliable.

    I think you recognize these implications, which is why you are generally atheist/agnostic. I will say that I do think accepting the real Christ is a bold move. Its dangerous and frightening. It may even seem foolish.

    But there is only true Christ, or its all made up. Are you open to the possibility that there is only one true Christ?

  47. Jared, I know that you are not Mormon, but what is your problem with my explanation? You’ve completely dodged the question. Here you have admitted you don’t know the identity of Jesus, but I am not asking you to identify him. I am asking you to acknowledge that both the Mormon Jesus and the Christian Jesus are incompatible and therefore both cannot be true. And that is what you continue to dodge.

  48. slowcowboy,

    Now, again, who is the “me”?

    The least of these brothers and sisters.

    That is the point. If you are looking for Jesus, you pay attention to the destitute, the homeless, the sick, the poor, the hungry. Not study about what it means to be 100% man and 100% divine, or what it means to be part of the trinity or how 3 can be 1 or whatever.

    For the sake of argument, if we accept your premise that performing charitable works is more important than the correct identification of Christ, why even bother studying or worrying about in whose name one performs charity?

    Well, matthew 25 seems to suggest to me that you really shouldn’t be worrying about that.

    But instead, the narrative about sin nature suggests (if I buy it) that because of my sin nature, I will not be charitable, I will always snap back, fight back, be angry, be miserly, be stingy, etc., Salvation is not being able to answer a bunch of questions about Jesus…it’s being pulled out of my human nature.

    Like, the salient disagreement between Mormonism and traditional Christianity is the directionality of it all. Like, it seems to me that the relevant disagreement is that traditional Christianity would say that I cannot even begin to work my way to being charitable…it’ll only happen as a result of my being saved. But Mormonism says that it’s “after all I can do” (and as an agent with free will, I can do my part. It’ll never be enough. It’ll never make it. But I’m not powerless to do nothing.)

    If we accept that, then Christ’s admonitions that those who believe in him will be saved were for naught and he was lying or mistaken. At that point, its all a joke and means nothing. The house tumbles as nothing Christ did or said is reliable.

    Not really. It’s just that your view of what it means to believe in Christ could be mistaken. (And again, I am not saying I know). But it seems that you think believing in Jesus means to cry “Lord Lord” while knowing various mental assents about him. But Jesus seems to have said that what it means to believe in him is to serve the least of these. And other scriptures point to similar idea (“I’ll show you my faith by my works…”)

    I think you recognize these implications, which is why you are generally atheist/agnostic. I will say that I do think accepting the real Christ is a bold move. Its dangerous and frightening. It may even seem foolish.

    Nah, I’m atheist/agnostic because I don’t think there was a God who “loved/loves” me, I don’t think that there was a god to send his only begotten son to die for my sins (and that sort of concept doesn’t even make sense to me in the first place.)

    And I’m also atheist/agnostic because when people who claim to be Christian (people like you) try to tell me about what Christianity’s about, you don’t tell me about what you’re doing to help people, but you tell me about facts you think are necessary about jesus. Your religion is in your head. When I see how Christians live, I see people who persecute others. I see people who are just the same as the average joe in terms of being spiteful, vengeful, petty, etc., So, the hypothesis, “people who accept jesus as their lord and savior are transformed by into more charitable, loving, kind, accepting people” doesn’t seem to be borne out by the evidence as I can see it.

    But there is only true Christ, or its all made up. Are you open to the possibility that there is only one true Christ?

    Sure. show it to me by how you ACT, not by what you think you KNOW.

  49. Andrew, so you reject the message because of the messengers? OK. Oh, by the way, how do you know what I might do apart from post on this site (I actually do do charitable works)? Another question as to charity, what would be sufficient charity? Is spreading God’s word and standing up for truth not considered enough charity?

    As to the rest of your post, you completely ignore the passages where Christ tells us that He is the living water and the way, the truth, and the life. This is selectively picking and choosing that with which you like. You just waive your hand and Christ’s very clear statements are brushed aside in favor of the verses you like.

    Anyway, I suspect you don’t take much of religion very seriously, let alone the Bible, so its not much help to argue from it.

    I submit that your mind is made up and nothing I say or do would ever convince you. That’s OK. God is in control, and whether you see it or not does not change that fact. And yes, I realize how poor an argument that might seem to you. You’ve expressed your ‘openness’ before. Apparently, you feel like you would be a pawn, and reject it, when considering your role in religion. Either you work/earn your way to heaven by recognizing the right Jesus or you are elected by God apart from your free will, or left out due to the same.

    …I wonder what brings you here.

  50. Andrew, so you reject the message because of the messengers?

    Well, it certainly seems that Jesus isn’t reaching out to me himself (but we’ve already gone back and forth on that earlier), so all I have to go by are Christians. Y’all as a lot are not so convincing, it turns out.

    To be fair, i don’t know you from anyone else. So maybe it’s unfair to opine about what you do in other discussions here or elsewhere, or what you do elsewhere in your life. All I know is that you are just one example that fits in with a lot of interactions I have with Christians — you put more online bandwidth in these comments about what people believe and whether people are believing thing by how you interpret the Bible.

    Is spreading God’s word and standing up for truth not considered enough charity?

    Maybe it is for *you*. But if you’re trying to convince someone like me, no, that’s not enough. That’s the protip I’m trying to give you, but you don’t have to accept it.

    As to the rest of your post, you completely ignore the passages where Christ tells us that He is the living water and the way, the truth, and the life. This is selectively picking and choosing that with which you like. You just waive your hand and Christ’s very clear statements are brushed aside in favor of the verses you like.

    What I say when I get to those passages is, “Hmm, that seems unclear. What does that mean? How does that mesh with other passages?” And then I get to something like Matthew 25 and think, “OK, that could make sense.” But then Christians like you say, “No, that’s not what it’s about.” And I’m like, “Well, that’s kinda lame then. I don’t get that.” I totally get I could be wrong. That’s one of many reasons why I wouldn’t say I’m a Christian — because the sorts of things that you and other Christians are so jazzed about doesn’t really appeal to me in the slightest.

    …I wonder what brings you here.

    Normally, I lurk. But in the past, i have responded to discussions from others about why many exmormons are atheists and don’t go the traditional Christian route. However, as is relevant to this discussion and as I said in my very first comment, I am incredibly intrigued by Jared C’s post series. I can’t say that I “get it”, but it’s *different*.

    Jared could maybe be on to the thing that convinces me and converts me. (Again, I’m not holding my breath, but still.) And here you are crapping all over it because Jared won’t agree with you on facts about Jesus.

  51. Andrew, I believe Jesus is reaching out to you. Accept that or not, but I believe he is. That’s why I have asked you if you are willing to accept it if he is. I’m sure you’ve heard this line before, but his revelation does not always come in dramatic ways. Perhaps the revelation may be found in Jared’s posts.

    I am enjoying them, too, by the way. This is the first thing he and I have really discussed with any great ‘urgency’. We have not always agreed with everything, but generally I appreciate his thoughts and his willingness to share his spiritual struggles and growth. His thoughts to provoke interesting questions.

    In this article, he asked a question that I happen to have strong feelings on: the Mormon path and the Christian path cannot both lead to salvation. If that is closed minded of me, what can I say? I won’t role over and play dead on something I see as vital so as this to avoid conflict.

    As to the passages like where Jesus talks about him providing living water and drinking the water he has to give, I actually understand why this is confusing. Its a radical and supernatural thought that seems more in place of some psychedelic movie than from Jesus. I remember reading John and being blown away at how bizarre some of the messages actually are. Its no surprise, and I mean that sincerely and positively, that you might struggle with them.

    You ask how they might mesh with other scripture, and I will spare you the Bible lesson, but the Epistles do a good job of explaining the point Jesus was making when they reference faith. How does the idea fit with Matthew 25? I would point you to John 14 to start: Jesus is the way, the truth and the light. Reconciling these two we can conclude that Jesus is the judge that will separate the sheep from the goats, the good from the wicked. The way is through Jesus, who judges, and no one gets to heaven except through Christ.

    There’s a lot more interesting stuff in John 14 that may be relevant to this discussion, but I am trying to keep this brief (and failing miserably). In that spirit, I will end by saying ultimately, your decision to accept or reject my arguments concerning the importance of the identity of Christ is yours. Its certainly not mine. All I can do is put it out there, and that’s what I have tried to do.

  52. slowcowboy,

    In this article, he asked a question that I happen to have strong feelings on: the Mormon path and the Christian path cannot both lead to salvation. If that is closed minded of me, what can I say? I won’t role over and play dead on something I see as vital so as this to avoid conflict.

    I dont’ think there is a problem that you have a particular view here and that you are set on it. But I’m just saying that for a lot of people, the thing you are so focused on is not going to seem all that relevant or sensible to them. So your focusing on it won’t help them to Jesus.

    Like, let’s saying you’re absolutely right about the facts about Jesus. Focusing on this won’t get someone to Jesus.

    Reconciling these two we can conclude that Jesus is the judge that will separate the sheep from the goats, the good from the wicked. The way is through Jesus, who judges, and no one gets to heaven except through Christ.

    Yep. But when Jesus says how he will judge, he doesn’t say, “it’s based on whether you knew x, y and z facts about me.” He says that the sheep are separated by the goats by whether they served the least of these. How can we beware of false prophets? It’s not by what they say about facts about Jesus. It’s by their *fruits* we shall know them.

    And what are those fruits? That’s where the epistles can get us somewhere. To the Galatians we know that the fruits of the spirit are things like love, joy, peace, kindness, etc., Not whether someone can recite facts about Jesus.

    I mean, wow, the epistle of James puts it out there. “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!”

    But James seems to think that faith is shown by works.

    Jesus says in John 14 says: “If you love me, keep my commandments.” That’s when Jesus will ask the Father and the Father will give the Spirit.

  53. Maybe you are right about those who may be on the fence. Maybe I am. I don’t necessarily know. All I know is that the identity of Christ is one of the few non-negotiables in Christianity. In other words, we can disagree on something like free will vs. election but not on the identity of Christ.

    Maybe also it very much is something that can only be fully appreciated once you accept Christ. But fully appreciating it and acknowledging it are not the same thing. One can acknowledge something without fully appreciating it. That’s what I have been pushing for with you and Jared: acknowledgement, not necessarily buy in.

    The thing is, and Jared and I have discussed this a little, is that Mormons really have little appreciation for Christian doctrine, this while they expect us to understand their faith. This is to say they expect something from us but are not willing to do the same to us. So, when I say that I find the Mormon god and the Christian God incompatible, and Mormons then dig in their heels and say that they are, I find that they are doing the exact same thing they accuse us of in telling us what we believe. (This is just one example, by the way.)

    I also find Mormons have very little interest in learning Christian beliefs outside of a very shallow level wherein they are able to compare this church with that church, and condemn the church as a whole for its disagreements. That really bugs me.

    Anyway, as to the Biblical discussion, we disagree. I certainly could go point by point, but we will not solve anything here. I’ll simply repeat what I said above about the verses and admonitions found in the Bible that suggest that faith is what saves, not works, need to be addressed and explained. This is not something I expect you to go through in discussing this online right now, especially after all the time we have spend on other things. I just mean to express that there is more to consider on this issue.

    A final thought: even the role of faith v. works is secondary to the identity of Christ, as long as one does not think the works supplant Christ’s grace. I am OK with the Christian who feels they have to work (which is in and of itself a term that needs a definition) to be saved, as long as they recognize that it is not the works that save them but their faith in Christ. Its not and never has been a matter of completing a checklist or doing enough to be saved, because one can never do enough. It is one thing to work because you have faith than it is to work to gain merit.

    Hope you understand and have a great night.

  54. Slowcowboy, I am not dodging, i think it is obvious that mormons describe Jesus differently. I dont think the question is helpful in interfaith dialogue.

  55. Jared, its not about description. As you know, I hope, I think it’s important we be clear on what is at issue. My position is not that it is a mere description but a reflection of the reality we see in Christ. In other words its about not some ideal concerning Christ but about the reality of Him.

    I am curious about what may be helpful to interfaith dialog if one side is required to withhold inquiries that directly affect our paths to salvation.

    Shouldn’t we be honest and open about the issues that trouble us?

  56. Yesterday, we sang a song at church where the chorus plead to be led to the Cross. Mormons don’t concern themselves with the Cross, though it is at the heart of traditional Christianity.

    Anyway, I thought of this thread when singing that song, as I don’t believe Mormons have a path that leads to Jesus death on the Cross.

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