Living by the Sword

I don’t want to disrespect Slowcowboy or any other Christian that hangs out here with this post, but something is under my skin.

TO EVANGELICALS: If you want to have any influence whatsoever with Mormons you have to adopt the same approach they adopt toward you. i.e. “Bring all the TRUTH you have and let us show you MORE.” Not, “You have it wrong and you are going to hell if you don’t shape up.” This is not about theology, it’s just human relations.  I am not pointining any fingers here, but from what I know of the love of God and the truth in Christ, traditional Christians should not be afraid of Mormons. Yet,  90% of all the inter-faith dialogue I see among Christians is complaining, arguing and fear-mongering.  If Evangelicals spend their efforts resisting the evil of bad theology, they are going to be as effective at winning souls for the TRUE Christ as the Spanish inquisition. Resisting bad theology is not teaching good theology. 

Mormons are not traditional Christians for a reason.  The more Evangelicals try to tear down LDS theology and claim that Mormons are not committed to Christ, the more Mormons feel completely secure that Evangelicals are part of the crowd in the great and spacious building mocking those who seek the love of God in Christ. This approach keeps people in the Church more than it leads them to whatever view of Christ Evangelicals have.  The folks that attack Mormonism come across like self-serving dumb-asses. Resisting Evangelicals come across as part of that crowd that Mormons think are clearly apostate. Why, because attacking anybody is blatantly un-Christian.

From a LDS perspective, and the perspective of a whole lot of non-LDS Christians, there is nothing to be proud of in Christian theology, and nothing to be proud of in Protestant theology. The most Protestant nations on earth are also the harbingers of death, destruction, and mayhem. It is arguable that the holocaust was an all-too-direct result of the Reformation. There is a strong case that the “whore of all the earth” is the traditional Christian Church.  The LDS don’t use this approach much because it is completely ineffective in converting Protestants, but that is not because it is not completely reasonable to see the church this way.  From the LDS the field is white, but most of it is choked with tares.

Mormons don’t see traditional Christianity as a reasonable alternative because they don’t believe they have everything that traditional Christians have and more. When I was a missionary, it was all too easy. I would stack up the LDS approach against anything out there. And it had nothing to do with theology.  If you take the ordinary run-of-the mill deist, they are going to find the LDS view just as reasonable as the Evangelical view.

Why am I saying this?  Its because I have skin in the game. I actually think Evangelicals have something the LDS do not have, but I fully believe that most Christians I have met don’t have what many Mormons have.

I WANT ENLIGHTEN MY LDS FAMILY TO CHRIST. If they want to be Christian, they should more fully join the body of Christ.  I think it is obvious that they do not need to leave the Church in order to accept Christ in an Evangelical way, just like Catholics don’t need to become Calvinists in order to be Evangelical. I believe the LDS should wake up to a richer and deeper view of redemption, but in the six years I have spent following the conversation I don’t see how Evangelicals are going to help them do that.  And the problem is not the Mormons. They need people that can see to lead them, not people that are blind to the Spirit that they follow, that they are sure leads them to Christ and God.  There are plenty of people in the Church that would be willing to embrace and teach a more grace-filled theology.  One of the greatest barriers to this is that those that try to teach them grace can’t get past their pagan theology enough to break spiritual bread with them. The boundaries are more important than the Gospel.  I don’t think the truth Mormons learn from the Spirit is AT ALL incompatible with the truth that Evangelicals know from the Spirit and from scripture.  I don’t think you have to name all of your errors in order to embrace the truth. I don’t think you have to give up all of your cults or culture to embrace the truth.

Evangelicals often try to save Mormon’s souls from the wrath of a God that Mormons know loves them. You can’t convince a Mormon that God will send them to hell.  Evangelicals should be focusing on saving Mormons from the wrath they hold in their hearts for their own souls and the hell they put themselves through on earth. God has nothing but love for the Mormons, and He routinely shows this (even if they don’t quite understand the breadth and depth of that love).  I can’t see why Evangelicals can’t follow suit.

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82 thoughts on “Living by the Sword

  1. “God has nothing but love for the Mormons,…”

    How can you know that? God does love all his creatures, yes…but He will let many go. Those who are found to not be washed in the blood of the lamb…those (according to St. Paul) who are engaged in trying to build a righteousness based upon what ‘they do’…will be severed from Christ.

    God is a God of love. But He is also a God of wrath. God is not pleased with those who do not trust completely in what He has done for them on the Cross. God is not pleased with those who do not recognize that He made Himself manifest in the Son, who is one with the Father.

    This is not a game. There are serious consequences here, and this is why some of us are trying as hard as we can to wake up these religionists, otherwise known as Mormons.

  2. Mormonism is based on personal manifestation of God’s love and institutional imposition of God’s rules, i think its safe to say that they should be able to feel God’s love, even if they don’t understand it. Their main trouble, Imho is that many are confused about the depth of God’s love. This is the message they need to hear more powerfully.

  3. Well, Jared,

    There’s about a million ways I could respond. I think, though, I will respond simply with this: do you think that just being a good person, and loosely accepting something called Jesus is enough to avoid hell?

  4. No, good people put themselves in hell all the time. My aim is to keep my children from hell, whom i am quite sure god loves.

  5. I understand, and I agree that we should be most concerned about the pastoral treatment than we are about being right. There is more power in being humble than there is in beating one’s chest.

    I happen to agree that grace powerful, in fact it is the most powerful and wonderful thing in Christianity.

  6. this is the post in which Jared hits us all over the head.

    I think to some degree we Evangelicals are stuck in a trap. The New Testament makes it clear that we are to contend against false doctrine that will actively try to infiltrate our churches. The “christianee” form of Mormonism causes Evangelicals to jump to “purifier” and “sheep defender” mode. To some degree our defense of true doctrine is an acknowledgement of Mormonism’s place within Christianity.

    If we view Mormons as members of an entirely different faith, it’s much easier for us to release the “jots and tittles” of doctrine and approach them the way we approach anyone from any other faith. But then inevitably the Mormon always says something along the lines of “oh that’s nice I’m already a Christian.” This provokes us to want to clear up the confusion. It’s tough not to take the bait.

  7. Tim, honest question, though: You wrote, “This provokes us to want to clear up the confusion.” Do you not feel it is necessary to clear up the confusion?

  8. I respect that answer, and it is probably accurate. Of course, the challenge is figuring out what those ‘sometimes’ are.

    …I’ll take this moment and say that the person of Jesus is one of the few things I find non-negotiable within Christianity. That is not to say that we can’t dispute some minor aspects of Christ and declare it mere difference of opinion. However, discussing his very nature is a different proposition– I cannot, in good faith, allow any question that God humbled himself by coming to Earth in the form of his creation (man) to save them (us) from being eternally separated from Him and released His Spirit so that we may know him now. (I know that is a loaded sentence, but it describes the nature of God: loves us and wants to save us and literally came to Earth as a man, meaning that Jesus is literally God not a separate god or being; it alludes to how Christ will save us, and therefore act as judge, and nothing we can do will alter his opinion aside from being underneath his covering at the time of judgment).

    That said, my intent in standing up for this proposition is merely to ensure it is understood, at least to the point that it is acknowledged that this is what is believed by Christians. I contrast it with Mormonism not as much to tear down their position but to highlight what is important to Christians. It is not meant as an argument against their faith.

    I do realize it often takes the form of an argument. Its not intended to be, and not everything I say should be construed as wanting to tear down Mormonism. I do disagree with it, but I think it is important that each side understand the other.

    I come back to this question: How can one understand another position without it being presented to them. In other words, you never learn anything unless the information or experience is put in front of you to consider. That’s what I like about this site: its very premise is to exchange information on Mormonism and traditional Christianity.

    Believe it or not, and I hope it is believed, that is the spirit in which I post here.

  9. I suppose it’s a hit over the head, and I don’t mean to dis those who clearly were very patient with me. But for some reason I feel a bit frustrated, and I am perhaps just personally fed up with the “other Jesus” argument. It is designed to aggravate not teach. Often the discussion ends up sounding like partisan political debates about who are the real representatives of America. Clearly both sides believe they are right and the other side misguided, but the divide is intractable. I don’t think Christianity is about partisan politics.

    Why am I frustrated? Because Evangelicals don’t lead with the strength of the Evangelical position. I don’t see that there is a trap, mainly because the Mormons actually have the same position, but are not caught in the same trap. They see traditional Christianity as equally apostate, but they have no fear of it infiltrating their Church. This is curious, and I submit that it is because curiously they believe they come to the discussion from a position of power. Their hyper-defensiveness is actually very aggressive. They don’t fear Evangelicals even though they are a Goliath to the LDS David.

    The LDS method of conversion sidesteps the “your’e not the real Christians” polemic and says, “we have something more.” They then teach people how to sincerely pray and link that prayer and any answer whatsoever to the Church. When I was a missionary, I was supremely confident in this position because most people I met had no experience with God, and had not sincerely sought communion before, even though they were almost always from traditional Christian backgrounds. They wanted more, and Mormons offered them “More Good”

    Evangelicals could easily co-opt this approach mainly because most Mormons are culturally trained to look for “more good”. They are trained that believing more is better than unbelief. Evangelicals should not have to compete with Mormons. Evangelical Churches have a lot more cultural power, and can trade that for closer relations without jeopardizing their position or their own flock. There are droves of Mormons that believe they “get” the Evangelical position but don’t . The Evangelical position has a lot more intellectual resources as well, but I think they are not aiming at the right targets. The anti-Mormons and liberal post-Mormons seem to control the entire scene.

    I frankly don’t see an easy solution to the problem, even though I felt a bit foolish when I finally “got” what Evangelicals were teaching, and I admittedly am a total newcomer to the problem. But from my experience a missionary, it seems that Evangelicals should meet this foreign religious culture in a close to their own language a possible with as little antagonism as possible. The Mormons have an “unknown God” just like the pagans in Acts.

    And for the record, I understand why Evangelicals don’t think Mormons are Christians and I by-and-large agree with them in this judgment as a matter of integrity. I don’t think they need to concede that Mormons are Christians in order to adopt a more diplomatic and effective tactic.

  10. The problem is that Mormons and Evangelicals do not perceive their differences symmetrically. In general, Mormons tend to teach and believe that Mormonism’s doctrines are additional revealed truths meant to supplement the prior revealed truths of the Bible. In other words, a Mormon genuinely believes that Mormonism is “Christianity Plus.” Where an Evangelical believes something incompatible with Mormonism, Mormons tend to see this as something false that has been added onto a basic foundation of truth.

    On the other hand, Evangelicals believe that the differences between Mormonism and orthodox Christianity are fundamental and irreconcilable because they start with the most basic square one doctrine of orthodox Christianity (the nature of God) and ripple through every other doctrine. This is made more serious by the orthodox Christian tendency to approach doctrine systematically. Because the most basic foundations of Mormonism and orthodox Christianity are so radically different, there really is almost no common ground at all–even if Mormons and orthodox Christians use some of the same vocabulary.

    So “Bring all the TRUTH you have and let us show you MORE” doesn’t actually work, from the Evangelical point of view, because the “TRUTH” Mormons already have is too rotten with falsehood to build on. The places where Mormons and orthodox Christians agree (say, for example, Jesus’s command to be kind) don’t work as a foundation to build on because they are not foundational to orthodox Christianity.

  11. Jared,

    If you are concerned about the pastoral care, I wouldn’t worry so much about internet exchanges. Maybe it’s just me but I don’t generally discuss platonic nature of Mormonism or Patristics with the LDS that I regularly interact with. It’s the medium and the message kind of thing.

    Your use of Goodwin’s law shows that you have probably just missed the point about Christian theology, because the beauty of theology isn’t in the the system of thought. The beauty of theology is found in the object of theology, God Himself.

    Of course Christians are corrupt hypocrites. Abraham was a liar, Moses was a murderer, David was an adulterer and murderer, Peter was a coward, Paul was a murderer etc. etc. etc.

    Christianity isn’t a religion where you pull yourself up, or theologize your way into heaven. Christianity is a sinners religion. Its a failures religion. A religion for people who don’t have it all together. The bottom line is, the Christian Church only has fallen and corrupt people for members.

  12. I don’t see that there is a trap, mainly because the Mormons actually have the same position, but are not caught in the same trap.

    Except for when it comes to apostate Mormon groups. They are just on the opposite side of the leverage for confusion.

    it seems that Evangelicals should meet this foreign religious culture in a close to their own language a possible with as little antagonism as possible. The Mormons have an “unknown God” just like the pagans in Acts.

    I don’t think they need to concede that Mormons are Christians in order to adopt a more diplomatic and effective tactic.

    This I think is your “gospel” to Evangelicals in relationship with Mormons. I believe, help my unbelief.

  13. Jared, I am honestly not trying to aggravate. I honestly believe the two Christ’s are different. Why won’t you just accept that I view them as different? I am not attacking the LDS position, just pointing out how I see them as different. I can’t, and won’t speak for other Christians, but I won’t deny it. In your last post about monkeys, you asked a question and I answered it. I’m certainly not trying to be antagonistic.

    As to the rest of your post, I don’t know. It is a curious position. Do Christians feel defensive about Mormonism? I dunno. I would describe Mormonism as a group that has a false Christianity that is deceiving others who may not know differently into believing a false Christ and thus leading them away from the one true God, and therefore, their message deserves clarification.

    By way of example, I have researched some LDS position and have gone to various LDS sponsored sites. Now, through cookie tracking, I have messages popping up asking if I want to know more about Jesus, and if so, please visit Mormon.org.

    Now, one of my frustrations, which has been expressed before, is how little Mormons know about traditional Christianity. The frustration does not help when it comes to adding to my patience, but I can’t deny it exists. When trying to be patient, and being accused of beating down someone else’s religion and dealing with someone who thinks they know-all-about-my-faith-but-doesn’t-and-expects-me-to-get-theirs-right, the task at remaining patient is hard. Its even harder when no burden is placed upon the Mormon to ‘play fair’ (I’m happy to expand on the use of the phrase I used here, if need be).

    I’ve started to ask if it is possible to have this discussion successfully. Of course I think it is. However, it is a difficult one in large part because the way the discussion is built. Its built such that one side (Team A) claims to be part of another group but the other group (Team B) denies it. Team B has a language it uses to describe its beliefs, and Team A has its own language. However, these different languages use the same words. So, when Team B says that Team A is not part of Team B because its beliefs are outside the scope of its faith but Team A can honestly say that yes, they believe in the same thing. (For example, using a sporting analogy: Team B says Team A does not believe in playing on grass, Team A can say yes, we do believe in playing on grass even though the grass to them is astroturf).

    Sometimes, it will take a brick over the head of the parties, both of them, to get what is being said. Sometimes, it may take prayer and patience over all. Sometimes, people have to decide on their own without any active intervention outside of being presented with the information. Sometimes, God can convict someone on their own. But conversation is appropriate, even if some feelings get hurt and tempers rise.

  14. As of now, but don’t take me too seriously, I don’t have a gospel, I am brainstorming out loud (as well as some just plain storming.) Perhaps, I am still forgetting I don’t need to work out out my own wrath by myself. 😉

  15. Well, I think Mormons have truth, even though it is less than they think they have, and it might not be properly put in the language of their theology. I don’t think Evangelicals have to engage Mormons at the foundation. The foundation may crumble before their eyes or become irrelevant if there is another foundation revealed. Analogously I don’t think America doesn’t have to crumble in order to adopt a new foundation.

  16. Most of all, Jared, whether we are talking about foundational matters or Mormon underwear (is that foundational?) Christians need to remember that grace and love are most important and will do more transformation than will our words. Our aim should not be to tear someone down or take them out of a given faith but to bring folks to Christ.

  17. Kullervo writes,

    “the most basic foundations of Mormonism and orthodox Christianity are so radically different, there really is almost no common ground at all–even if Mormons and orthodox Christians use some of the same vocabulary… The places where Mormons and orthodox Christians agree (say, for example, Jesus’s command to be kind) don’t work as a foundation to build on because they are not foundational to orthodox Christianity.”

    Agreed! We’re speaking very different languages. This is the main reason I don’t find debating with Mormons fruitful. What I think should be done is correcting Mormon misconceptions about traditional Christianity. If they’re going to reject traditional Christianity, let them reject the real one and not an imagined one. And by the same token, if they’re going to find traditional Christianity attractive, that can only happen if they see it for what it really is.

    In short, keep it positive! Show them what we have, not what they lack.

  18. “Agreed! We’re speaking very different languages. This is the main reason I don’t find debating with Mormons fruitful. What I think should be done is correcting Mormon misconceptions about traditional Christianity. If they’re going to reject traditional Christianity, let them reject the real one and not an imagined one. And by the same token, if they’re going to find traditional Christianity attractive, that can only happen if they see it for what it really is.”

    My turn to agree. Exactly what I have been trying to state in just four sentences.

  19. Analogously I don’t think America doesn’t have to crumble in order to adopt a new foundation.

    Social changes in a nation are not sufficiently analogous to regeneration by the Holy Spirit to even make a meaningful comparison. You’re equivocating.

  20. I think Mormons can be Christians if the put there Mormonism in the same place they put there nationality. Everybody has cult. If the Cross is a completely transcendent event, it can transcend their cult as well as all the others if they acknowledge its mystery outside of their myth.

  21. I think idiosyncratic Mormon beliefs will fall away through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, as the Holy Spirit demands. Mormons, like other Christians, will still remain free to contradict themselves.

  22. “Controversy in religion is a hateful thing. It is hard enough to fight the devil, the world and the flesh, without private differences in our own camp. But there is one thing which is even worse than controversy, and that is false doctrine tolerated, allowed, and permitted without protest or molestation. It was controversy that won the battle of Protestant Reformation. If the views that some men hold were correct, it is plain we never ought to have had any Reformation at all! For the sake of peace, we ought to have gone on worshipping the Virgin, and bowing down to images and relics to this very day! Away with such trifling! There are times when controversy is not only a duty but a benefit. Give me the mighty thunderstorm rather than the pestilential malaria. The one walks in darkness and poisons us in silence, and we are never safe. The other frightens and alarms for a little season. But it is soon over, and it clears the air. It is a plain Scriptural duty to ‘contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints.’ (Jude 3) . . . I believe many are content with teaching which is not the whole truth, and fancy it will be ‘all the same’ in the end. I am sorry for them. I am convinced that nothing but the whole truth is likely, as a general rule, to do good to souls. I am satisfied that those who willfully put up with anything short of the whole truth, will find at last that their souls have received much damage. Three things there are which men never ought to trifle with, – a little poison, a little false doctrine, and a little sin.”

    -J.C. Ryle, Warnings to the Churches

  23. Let me put it this way. If Mormons can somehow be brought to the knowledge of the truth, their confusion might fall away. I think that there could be many approaches to this. I think if Mormons are able to face the reality that that in Christ their calling and election is made sure, the Church covenants will assume the same status as oaths of citizenship and the like. I think one way of doing it is to ignore Mormon mythology and explain salvation and redemption in terms of the Light of Christ, which is outside of the church and these covenants. Perhaps, if a believer can recognize that all they need is within the Light of Christ, they will see most of their other religious practice as a worldly endeavor.

  24. I think the problem with Ryle’s qoute is that he assumes there is some escape from false doctrine and sin. Cult is everywhere.

    I think Joseph Smith’s words might be appropriate for Mormons:

    “The Lord will feel after your heart-strings, and will wrench them and twist them around, and you will have to learn to rely upon God and upon God alone.”

  25. @Gundek,

    I suppose you could eventually use that language, but the different definitions of these terms creates a lot of confusion. Evangelicals are not comfortable equivocating, and Mormons are not comfortable adopting traditional theology in place of their own.

  26. I guess that’s the problem. I honestly don’t know another message that doesn’t start with the universal Christian confession.

  27. I think the problem with Ryle’s qoute is that he assumes there is some escape from false doctrine and sin. Cult is everywhere.

    Right, and Jesus’s finished work on the cross is the only possible escape from sin.

  28. “If Mormons can somehow be brought to the knowledge of the truth, their confusion might fall away.”

    How do they get the knowledge? Remember they think they already have it all and more. They think they know all about Christianity but don’t, and they further won’t accept our descriptions of it. They think doctrine was created in Nicea (and other counsels) and that Christianity is all a mess due to all of the denominations, etc. They think their doctrines are just the same as ours and don’t get that they follow a merit based system. Their history is as malleable as string and can be made to suit any present day need. Basically, anything that a Christian will them about Christianity is dismissed or distorted to suit their needs.

    If the only foundation is based on a ‘testimony of Jesus’ and an authority that shifts based upon ‘revelation’ then sharing knowledge with them is exceedingly difficult.

    If you don’t like this description of the difficulties in sharing knowledge with them, try A) discussing Christian doctrine with them B) Discussing their history with them C) Discussing Mormon doctrine with them.

    I happen to fully agree that if they can be brought to the knowledge of the truth their confusion will fall away. But that’s the struggle. I also happen to fully believe that our aim needs to be to bring them Christ, which is a different task altogether. Christ’s love and forgiveness is so full and great that it can overlook the worst of sins and heresy. However, that takes a humbling of the heart that the Mormon has been clouded to see. The Mormon heart has been covered by distortion and false information about Jesus.

    I know this description is harsh, but it is truth, I think. Its worth saying it even if it ruffles a few feathers. You can’t know something is wrong until you are told it is wrong. And saying it does not in and of itself mean the aim is to antagonize. Sometimes, it is just an exchange of information.

  29. Well, the Mormons I am most concerned with got their knowledge from their parents and Sunday school. They are set in there ways and frankly don’t really have a clue about what salvation is. They barely understand the words correctly in Mormon parlance.

    They don’t have false information so much as they have little or no information. They are bound by tradition to follow the Church, and tradition can hold the attention well.

    It has been hard to explain Jesus outside of that tradition without staunch resistance, and suspicion. Most don’t believe that they can have their calling and election made sure in this life, through the cross or otherwise. It seems maddeningly hard to explain with or without a lot of theological concepts, especially coming from an admitted outsider. My frustration is primarily with myself.

  30. Jared, telling anyone that does not always remove the veil from the law.

    I think part of the issue with Mormonism is that it really seems Mormons are discouraged from considering alternate points of view. I also think the church keeps most of its members quite busy so that they don’t have time to consider alternate views. There’s also a strong sense of peer pressure not to let anyone in the church down. The family side of it motivates members to tow the line, too.

    Anyway, these things have to be difficult for the Mormon to hear and understand. I actually am quite sympathetic to that. Again, the question is how best to do it. I am not sure there is a right answer except to stick with the truth of the one true Jesus. How that is presented is important, too, but most vital should be Jesus.

  31. God loves ALL His creation.

    That does NOT mean that He isn’t going to judge them. For those who are engaged in a process of spiritual ladder climbing and trying to make themselves over into a god…or those whom He loves who do not recognize Christ Jesus as the Living God…or those who just flat out deny Him…their eternal destiny may have much more to do with God’s wrath…than His love for them.

    Jesus even said, “Many will do this and that in my name. But I will say depart from me, I never knew you.”

    So much for God’s love.

    God is looking for the scumbags of the world who know their need of a loving, forgiving Jesus. A Jesus “who justifies the ungodly”.

  32. “Mormonism is based on personal manifestation of God’s love and institutional imposition of God’s rules, i think its safe to say that they should be able to feel God’s love, even if they don’t understand it. Their main trouble, Imho is that many are confused about the depth of God’s love. This is the message they need to hear more powerfully.”

    I agree with you that it is their need, to understand the depth of God’s love, made fully shown at the Cross, but the empirical evidence I have in a decade of sharing this specific point of the Gospel with my Mormon family is that, due to what they believe about the nature of God, the nature of man and the destiny of man as future gods, this “offer” coming from the Cross becomes much less enticing to the “much better deal” they think they have, therefore, to them, found to be lacking in truth and worthy of pity for the traditional Christian who believes it. The orthodox Christian view of the message of the Cross becomes to them, foolish, indeed. Based on that, I see myself agreeing with Gundek, Slowcowboy and others.

    I agree with all my heart, that IF the Holy Spirit does not illuminate a person’s mind to see and understanding, any and all means to communicate the Gospel news will prove ineffective. That is a given. But the Spirit may use different approaches to different people. I personally, needed to learn about all the inconsistencies, the lies and half-truths repressed by the church for so long, in order to have the spiritual bondage to the claims of Mormonism to be completely shattered from my mind and spirit. Once that happened, I was free to slowly but surely, begin to study the Bible and be willing and open to learn its interpretation, apart from Joseph Smith’s own.

    Others here have stated the following as the main points where Mormons miss the depth of God’s love:
    (and it is frustrating for me to realize they cannot understand what the biblical text is saying and I seem not to speak words they can understand also, when I try to relay their meaning to them.)

    -The belief that sin is outside the nature is appealing to the pride of man but a very big hindrance for one to recognize just how deep their sin runs, and the extent and the depth of their need to be saved from it. Not a case of spiritual chicken pox but of terminal stage of leprosy, cancer and every other awful disease put all together. (Not that I now can say I have a total grasp of how bad my sin is because I still can only grasp at how holy God is.) This is where I see Mormonism diminishing Christ’s redemption but with it, they also miss the depth of His love for them and for us.

    -The assurance of salvation by faith through grace, I learned, is not as attractive if one cannot become a god in the process. And yes, a very great pull, which is quite understandable, is the concept of eternal family, although not commonly thought of in its polygamous sense.

    In my experience the Bible alone does not offer to them enough of an argument and the closer look on LDS prophets, givers of their doctrine and biblical interpretations, is seen as an attack on their faith. And that is the quandary we find ourselves in. Kind of a vicious cycle.
    But we are to keep on speaking the truth. In love, but speaking it. The rest is up to God.

  33. I appreciate the comments.

    I suppose you have to know what Christ is before you can turn to Christ. I think that is different than knowing Jesus as a man, which is what LDS focus on. I think if what a Christ is could be explained better, Mormon views on Christ might come into line. I guess there has to be a place to start and it seems to matter what order you start from person to person.

    Pascal explained:

    “Let no one say that I have said nothing new; the arrangement of the subject is new. When we play tennis, we both play with the same ball, but one of us places it better.

    I had as soon it said that I used words employed before. And in the same way if the same thoughts in a different arrangement do not form a different discourse, no more do the same words in their different arrangement form different thoughts!

    Words differently arranged have a different meaning, and meanings differently arranged have different effects.”

  34. Jared,
    “Let no one say that I have said nothing new; the arrangement of the subject is new. When we play tennis, we both play with the same ball, but one of us places it better.”

    Tennis!!! Yey! Really enjoy hitting that lime green round thing!
    Would love to know how the arrangement of the subject we are talking about can be better placed with Mormons. Am open to hear your ideas. Perhaps we can even come up with a few aces? (:

  35. A wrestler, huh? So you are a guy who knows all about sacrificing personal space… Not a sport for the faint of heart.
    That made me think about Paul’s admonition, which I think is very pertinent to and needs to be considered, as we continue our present discussions.
    “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12

  36. Gundek,
    “Christianity isn’t a religion where you pull yourself up, or theologize your way into heaven. Christianity is a sinners religion. Its a failures religion. A religion for people who don’t have it all together. The bottom line is, the Christian Church only has fallen and corrupt people for members.”

    Young said it this way, ‘the Church is a hospital for sinners’.

    But look at what cowardly Peter did. He grew strong, exercised faith, built up the Lord’s Church and died a martyr’s death. “The gospel makes bad men good and good men better”.

    We can all be better if we but have some faith, ask God, then do the best we can, and over time we will get better.
    The dialogue here, though sharp at times, is certainly far better in decades past when people said I wasn’t worshipping God, I was worshipping Joseph Smith. And the LDS aren’t calling every one else “Gentiles” any longer (which was just as stupid).

    So, we are all getting better. The only question is, do we want the dialogue to get to an even better level faster?

  37. As a metaphor the church as a hospital for sinners has a certain validity.

    Of course being dead in our sins it is a little late for a hospital.

  38. We are not all “getting better”.

    That is delusional. That is what the Pharisee believes.

    Those who really need a Savior (like the scumbag tax collector)…who really know their need of God when stacked up against the perfect demand of God’s law…they are truly blessed. And, as Jesus said in that same parable, “will be the ones who go away justified.”

  39. By the way…that is what all ladder-climbing, religious betterment schemes believe. That we are getting better. In those types of places you will either end up with people caught in pride (we are getting better)…or people driven to despair. Those who are driven to despair at least have a shot of some day really hearing the gospel and coming to a living faith…by the grace of God.

  40. From the sound of it it seemed as though you were saying (using Peter as an example) that we somehow progress in the Christian life…from a lower to a higher state.

    If you only meant the conversations here on this blog, then disregard my comments.

  41. OldAdam,

    I was saying that as well though I was citing an example of it with our dialogue.

    Christ grew in wisdom and spiritual things. He’s the great example.

    You don’t consider putting off the worldly man and putting on the spiritual man helps us to grow and get better?
    Are you saying only “bad men become good”?

  42. Cowboy, I would hope in a state that Jesus would approve, if he was here in the flesh right now.

    Today, in the news, a Syrian woman is being lamb blasted for being photographed with an Israeli woman. Those doing the blasting just simply Hate Jews. This is totally contrary to the nature of Christ. Being in line with the nature of Christ those same people could chose not to promote hate and division and be glad the two are getting along well enough to be in a picture together: fostering brotherly love rather than hatred.

    The spectrum from ultimate love and ultimate hate is the gauge. In ultimate hate, murdered occurrs. In ultimate love, acceptance and aid occurrs. This doesn’t mean we have to agree on anything but attitude is truly what matters between people.

  43. Adam’s point, which I generally agree with, is that Jesus will never approve of our earthly state. Our sin nature is impossible to overcome. That is why we need Jesus, who alone can cover our transgressions. Its not about Bill & Ted’s admonition to the world: “Be Excellent to Each Other”. Its about living in Christ and in Christ alone, striving for nothing but Him.

    So, in your opinion, what state is a state that Jesus would approve of?

  44. Jared, I disagree that Mormons focus on Jesus as a man. The entire D&C is filled with the
    voice of the risen Jesus. In other words, as God. The BoM leads up to and culminates in the appearance of the risen Lord. The First Vision is another example.

    Also, I had been conversing with traditional Christians for over a decade before I ever heard the Trinity as a starting point of difference. So TCs have this problem with not even knowing exactly what it is your offering that Mormons don’t already have. “you need to get saved,you need Jesus, you need to read the Bible, you need to abandon whatever it is you’re doing” is really sloppy and shows no real level of interest in the other persons approach. And of course, Mormons are really good at this too. I recently met a new elder from SLC. When i mentioned in passing that my wife grew up around a lot of Evangelicals in WV, he asked, “what religion is that?” He has little idea how his “message about Jesus” could be received by the people in his mission. He’s offering Thai food to people who just at Korean. (I’ll leave judgement out of the analogy)

    So, I’ve basically tempered any hope I have of your average Mormon or TC connecting on a significant level. Our people don’t even know the basic starting points. I do, however, try to infuse a TC perspective to my fellow Mormons, when I can. And to EVs who want to converse, I usually just say this:

    Learn to validate different redemption narratives. If you consider any Trinitarian as a Christian,
    then you’re already halfway there. Because not every Christian in the world experiences Jesus in the same way as your average American Evangelical. And believe it or not, a big chunk of Mormons really have felt a powerful kind of redemption in their lives and associate it with faith in Jesus. Because Mormons are actually taught that Jesus is where goodness in their lives come from. And that’s a feature, not a bug. So, when your approach is to tear it all down as lies, you’re turning them into atheists, as has been pointed out on this blog for years.

  45. Christian J,

    I sincerely appreciate the comment, please continue to hang around and give your input.

    I personally don’t think the Trinity is an integral part of Christianity. I know unquestionably that my father, a sealer in the temple, former mission president, former bishop and stake president, is a Christian in every sense of the word. Those who would not consider him a Christian, don’t know what a Christian is. This, of course, does not mean he has the best way of explaining Christ, he was just blessed enough to have found Christ.

    Rest assured, as you might have seen by my participation in this blog over the past six years, my approach has never been to “tear it all down as lies” and never will be. I am firmly committed in bringing a fuller understanding of God’s love through Christ to anyone who will listen, not just to the LDS. This is why I am firmly against the “other Jesus” argument. Calling the Mormon view of Jesus “another Jesus” dishonors the work of Jesus within the Church, something Evangelicals need to recognize.

    I firmly believe that there is nothing comparatively wrong with Mormonism except that they need to teach a clearer picture of Christ. My data points are mainly my own family. who are completely devoted Mormons, many of which do not realize the fullness and power of the love of God through Christ.

  46. As an aside, I think the first step in the the ecumenical struggle here is to not to clarify and agree on what is Jesus is, and what is God, but to clarify and agree on what mankind is.

  47. I want to add that I ask the question about all good men as Christians to develop discussion that there is more to the equation than being a good person who acknowledges a Christ.

    I think its easy, and it certainly feels better, to believe that Jesus is a broad concept that can be described in many ways. However, the truth is much more difficult to both acknowledge and accept.

  48. No, all good men are not Christian.

    As far as who is a Christian — I think Christ defines who a Christian is. I wouldn’t presume to guess who a Christian is until I could sit down and talk to them, examine their lives, and know something of their hearts. It’s not an easy question. I think “false doctrine” is literally around every corner and only very few find the way.

  49. What would you be looking for within their hearts?

    Now, I want to state that I know of no Christian, myself included, who knows precisely what another person’s heart is. Its not about us judging others, though I know how and why it seems that way. Its about standing up for truth and for Christ.

    As I have said, I believe Jesus is something very specific, and not some concept that has to be accepted. Jesus is very real. As I have heard it said, Mormons believe Jesus is very real, too. The differences are in how Jesus is explained.

    I don’t buy that. Here’s why: how we explain something, the descriptions we prescribe to something reflect the reality of how we view that something. The descriptions are of two very different beings. Therefore the realities of the two cannot be reconciled.

    Can I know the hearts of Mormons and know if they have accepted the one true God, who came to earth to fully save us so that we don’t need to do anything to warrant our salvation? No, I cannot, however, I can surmise that given that they believe something different of Jesus, they do not accept that the one true God came to earth to fully save him or her.

    Its not for me to judge their hearts, but I can try to educate them on the differences and the significance of those differences.

  50. I don’t buy that. Here’s why: how we explain something, the descriptions we prescribe to something reflect the reality of how we view that something. The descriptions are of two very different beings. Therefore the realities of the two cannot be reconciled.

    If you say that the Mormons believe in a different Jesus, to be consistent you also have to say that they believe in a different SlowCowboy than you do, and a different Barack Obama, and a different Jared C.

    I personally don’t think it makes sense to point out error (or underline truth) in this way because it is patently confusing. Didactically it is a disaster of a strategy.

    I don’t deny that Christ is a very specific fact, and I also freely admit that most Mormons (and perhaps most Christians) don’t recognize the fact of Christ, even if they proclaim that Jesus is the Christ.

  51. slowcowboy, belief in the Trinitarian Jesus as required for salvation seems rather dicey when you consider how long it took for Christians to “settle” the matter – there were even factions long after stamping out Arius & co.. I think that part of it has to be somewhat broad, unless you want to exclude a lot of pre-Nicaea Christians. Of course, I’ve beat this drum before….

    I think Jesus IS a narrow concept in that he is God and the only way for the salvation of our eternal souls. But, from there I let go of the strict definitions.

  52. Well, Jared, each of your examples about me, the prez, etc. are apt. If I told you I lived in X place and someone came in and swore I lived in Y place, can both of those be true? Further, if you were to find through a phone book saying that I lived in place X in truth, but that someone else still held that I lived in place Y, what would you say?

    The truth is that there is only one me. And sure, some descriptions can be vague, such as some might say I am nice, others might swear I am mean, but I have traits that cannot be denied. For instance, I am how tall I am, whether that is described as short or tall.

    So it is with Jesus. The Mormon Jesus is described with traits that cannot be reconciled with reality.

    And if Jesus is a narrow way, how can we allow such a broad description? You’ve yet to nail down what that way is.

  53. Christian J, which God is Jesus? Is he the only God, or is he one of many, even if the only one recognized (apart from the Father and the Holy Spirit, and maybe Adam)?

    I ask to demonstrate the importance of the language here. I know of no Christian who would disagree with your statement on its face, but given how Mormons believe in the existence of more than one god, its important to clarify.

  54. And, yes, it seems we are in a circle again, Jared. Until we can recognize the same meanings and the same positions for what they are, we will continue to go round and round. A spade is a spade, so why putz around and deny it?

  55. I think this is a point that you need to consider about the Mormons slowcowboy: they may not need another formula or definition. Their problem is not their formula of the truth, but their certainty in it.

    I go to Pascal again:

    “We desire truth, and find within ourselves only uncertainty.

    We seek happiness, and find only misery and death.

    We cannot but desire truth and happiness, and are incapable of certainty or happiness. This desire is left to us, partly to punish us, partly to make us perceive wherefrom we are fallen.

    I think this is also an apt insight that both Mormons and Evangelicals might gain from:

    “It is superstition to put one’s hope in formalities; but it is pride to be unwilling to submit to them.”

  56. I think Christ is Christ and not another thing. Using the Trinity or other theological propositions may enlighten us to Christ but they are not a definition of Christ.

  57. Jared, we disagree on the formula and its importance. By the way, still no definition of Christ from you.

    It seems like you are avoiding defining Christ, as if you are more comfortable in the idea of Christ. Though you say you don’t believe he is a broad concept, you seem unwilling to offer a definition.

    If that is the case, I will not force you to do so. I can’t anyway, but I won’t push you in that direction. I merely make an observation here that you are doing almost everything you can to avoid taking a specific stand. Honestly that’s fair enough, Jared, for the purposes of this discussion.

  58. cowboy, I grew up around a lot of Muslims who (assuming I was was a trinitarian) were always hammering away that the Trinity is not really one God. That perspective helped me see the Trinity and the Mormon Godhead as not terribly far apart. Just saying that its 3 and 1 at the same time dos not make its – is my view.

    Again, I do empathize with the TC concern over the correct definition of the nature of God. I just think its ok for it to be somewhat ambiguous on the finer details. Based on my own reading of the Bible, I think God is ok with it too. (I realize I part ways with traditional Mormonism on this point)

  59. Jared, we disagree on the formula and its importance. By the way, still no definition of Christ from you.

    Whatever experience of Christ I have came in spite of any definition I could give. It was a process of many many years of thinking through many definitions. I don’t know that the definitions helped me until I understood other things. But Jesus did not define “Christ” except to say he fulfilled the prophecies. I admit I don’t understand the prophecies well enough to define Christ any better, so I venture no definition.

    To see Jesus as Christ was a mystery to me, and I looked up and saw that it was a mystery to the church as well.

  60. Well, Jared, we still disagree. I submit to you that you can know Jesus fully and personally. While in some ways a mystery, He is still very knowable.

    And when you say it was a mystery to the church as well, what do you mean by ‘church’? And what about prophecies? This is an interesting addition…

  61. By the church I mean the “body of Christ”, by the scriptures, I mean “the law and the prophets”

    (My M.O., when in doubt, incorporate by reference. ;))

  62. Ah, but does the body of Christ include Mormons? If so, your sentence takes very different meaning.

    And I asked about prophecy, not scripture. So, I am curious as to which prophecy you refer to, and what holds you up from them.

  63. I am sure the body of Christ includes some Mormons, some Evangelicals, some Americans, some Russians, some Catholics, and some Orthodox but I am not naming names.

    I only reference prophecy, i.e. Old Testament prophecy because that is how Jesus defined Christ. Like I said, as of now, I have no better definition.

  64. Jared: Just wanted to let you know that your essay really struck me, and I think you are right-on. We don’t change anyone’s mind by attacking, but rather by inviting them to see differently. Mormons are not starting from ‘ground zero’ – they have a lot of truth and goodness, but are burdened by some bad theological speculation from some prophets who didn’t have any training in theology. I think we should help them see that the ‘plurality of Gods’ takes them away from some other beliefs, and departs from the Book of Mormon. Thanks for your good thoughts.

  65. Thanks, Chidi. I’m glad we share that point of view. Please feel free to stick around and chime in on these discussions as we try to hone our invitations. 🙂

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