Answering Greg Trimble’s 51 Questions – Part 3

I see that my good friend Greg has had his article picked up and partially reprinted by Meridian Magazine under a new title, “51 Questions that Mormonism Answers More Easily & Completely Than Any Other Religion“.  Way to go!  I’m hoping that my responses are picked up and reposted with a new title like “This Guy Answered 51 Impossible Questions and You Won’t Believe What Happens Next!”  or “Man Tries to Answer 51 Questions from a Mormon, His Response to Number 34 Left Me Speechless”. Between you and me Greg, I think you should tell those gosh dern hacks at Meridian to write their own content.  They’re killing the SEO juju on your own blog.

Some quick caveats for those that missed my first post. . . These answers will be short and to the point. I’m not trying give a complete answer, nor am I trying to convert anyone out of Mormonism.  If I throw in a joke or two it’s to keep things interesting and not a personal attack on Trimble or an attempt to disrespect the Mormon faith.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

VW Transporter T2

21. Why do many Christians say that our works don’t matter, but Jesus says that we are required to repent and keep the commandments?

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  When Christians hear Mormons say that grace isn’t enough to save us, we often over sell our commitment to grace.  To be sure, our works matter.  We are saved by grace to do works (Ephesians 2:8-10).  But what we really mean to communicate is that our works don’t save us.  Only the grace of Jesus saves us.  AFTER we are saved, we’re invited into his kingdom to do his work AND we receive rewards in the afterlife for out good works.

22. The Bible specifically says that we’ll be judged according to our works. Where is the cutoff line for heaven and hell? If you said 20 lies and I said 19, will you go to hell while I go to heaven?

So far, this is the most confusing question for me because I can’t tell where you’re headed.  But the Traditional Christian answer is “one.”  That’s all it takes.  One violation of the law is all it takes to separate us from a holy and pure God.

23. Why do people believe in one heaven and one hell when the Bible teaches that there are various “degrees of glory” after the resurrection? (1 Cor 15:40-42)

This is a common Mormon proof-text and still even when you pull these two verses out of context it seems the Mormon concept of “three degrees of glory” are ham-fisted into the verses.  Let’s back up a few verses and then keep reading a few verses afterward (in other words, let’s look at this in context):

I Corinthians 15:35-44

But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39 Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40 There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41 The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. 

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

Paul is making an analogy to describe the final resurrection.  You’ll notice in verse 39 he says that not all flesh is the same. There are birds, fish and people.  The “seed” of these different types of flesh grow to be something different from one another.  In addition, there are “earthly” things and “heavenly” things and even in the “heavens” different objects have different “splendors” just as earthly things have different “flesh”.

Notice something significant in the verses that follow.  Paul talks about “natural” bodies and “spiritual” bodies.  Paul’s point is that just as every star is unique, so too will our resurrected bodies.  Though our natural bodies perish, we remain as individuals.  When he uses the word “heavenly” he’s not talking about Heaven, he’s talking about the things in the sky. When he starts talking about the afterlife he starts using the word “spiritual” rather than “heavenly”.  Paul and early Christians had no conception that “Heaven” was where the sun and the moon physically reside.  They knew it to be a spiritual place not found in the “natural” world.

24. What was Paul talking about when he said he saw in vision a “third heaven”? (2 Cor 12:2-4)

Yes!  I’m glad you followed up with this question.  Like us, 1st Century people had multiple uses for the same word.  Here are three 1st Century uses for the word “heaven”.  Let’s see if we can guess what Paul was referring to.

1) The atmosphere, the air around us
2) The sky above us. The place we look to see clouds, the sun, and the moon
3) Heaven, the place outside of nature where God resides.

Paul had a vision of of #3

25. Why does Christ say that there are many “mansions” or if you prefer the Greek, “residences, stopping places, degrees” in heaven? (John 14:2)

Oops, looks like we’re getting confused by a 400 year old version of English.  Here’s the KJV
In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

Here’s the ESV
In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

Now which are you more likely to find INSIDE a house; mansions or rooms?

If all these rooms, or mansions, or residences, or stopping places or “degrees” are IN the Father’s house, doesn’t that imply that all people are in his presence? Not just those in the Celestial Kingdom?

26. What does the scripture in Acts 3:19-21 mean when Peter talks about the need for a future restoration?

19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. 21 Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.

He’s talking about the final resurrection when Christ’s work will finally be complete.

I understand that you’re saying this implies that the Church will be restored, but wouldn’t that imply that Peter thinks an Apostasy has ALREADY taken place . . . less than a year after the Ascension?

Yes, he uses the word “restore” but if you think that’s just about an organizational church structure and a priesthood you’re selling the word “everything” WAY too short.  No more sin, no more tears, no more angry blog commentors, no more Anti-Mormons, no more list of impossible questions to answer. Everything will be restored to its rightful place.


OVER HALF WAY! That’s right. You remind me of a blind kitten trying to nurse off a moldy rubber glove. Your unnaturally sharp, baby kitty razor claws can’t scare me because I know you’re weak. Next time make a list with an even number so I’m not tempted to put this vain posturing statement in the middle of an answer. (you know this part is a joke, right?)


27. What was Christ teaching his apostles during the “40 day ministry”? What did He need an entire 40 days for after he was resurrected when he was with them everyday for the last 3 years? (Acts 1)

Well we don’t know everything but he was probably helping them make sense of what just happened.  After all, he had just died and then defeated death and eliminated the need for the entire Old Covenant . . .all in a way they totally didn’t expect, so I think they’re brains were a bit scrambled.  There’s a LOT to unpack there in ways we 21st Century Gentile Christians don’t quite understand. He was probably helping them see that HE was their sacrificial lamb, that HE was their High Priest, that HE was greater than Abraham and Moses and all the prophets combined.

Why 40 days?  Jesus’ ministry starts out with 40 days of prayer, fasting, solitude and temptation in the wilderness.  It concludes with 40 days of Resurrection Joy.  Symmetry!

28. Why don’t Christian denominations build temples?

Because Jesus eliminated the need for them.  Why would we go about building something that Jesus destroyed the need for?  It’s like asking “why don’t Mormons sacrifice animals?”

The New Testament teaches that WE are God’s temple.  Through the Holy Spirit, God lives in US.  There’s no need to build a special place where we can meet God, we already have Him.

29. Revelation 7:15 say [sic] that in the last days, disciples wearing white clothes would be working “day and night” in the temple. What church does that?

It’s that time again, when I do my favorite Bible trick. . . provide context.

Revelation 7:13-17

13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

14 I answered, “Sir, you know.”

And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.15 Therefore,

“they are before the throne of God
    and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
    will shelter them with his presence.
16 ‘Never again will they hunger;
    never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’[a]
    nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne
    will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’[b]
    ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’[c]

Revelation is a vision of three things 1) Heaven 2)The Second Coming 3) The Final Resurrection.  In this particular passage John sees people who have died in the Tribulation.  As far as I know, Mormons don’t believe the Tribulation has already taken place. Nor do they think they died in that Tribulation. Nor do they think they have experienced the final Resurrection. Nor do they think they are serving in a temple in the otherworldly presence of God. Nor do they think every tear has been wiped from their eyes.

This ISN’T something anyone should expect to see Christians on Earth acting out because this ISN’T about Christians who are living on Earth.

I’ve visited a Mormon temple, there was no throne for God inside, so we also know that this passage ISN’T about Mormon temples (notice there is only one in the passage, not 144 with 14 under construction). It’s clear where Joseph Smith gained some inspiration for LDS temple worship but this passage is not instructive in nature, it’s descriptive.

30. The last chapter of the Old Testament seems kind of important. Does anyone have any idea what it means to “turn the hearts of the the[sic] fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers?” (Malachi 4:5-6)

If you non-Mormons are thinking that you must be missing something here, you’re not the only ones. Doctrine & Covenants 128:17-18 tells us that there could have been are plainer translation of this.

I might have rendered a plainer translation to this, but it is sufficiently plain to suit my purpose as it stands.

What all of us are missing is that this is all about baptism for the dead (according to LDS scriptures). Obvious right?  Well according to Joseph Smith, even God says it’s not super obvious, but that’s what we should have guessed.

For the final time in this post I’m going to say the word the word “context.” Are you ready? Here it comes . . . context.  Let’s go back a full chapter (remember Malachi wasn’t written with all those numbers crammed in between the words.

Malachi 3:1

“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.

The Messiah is coming and before he arrives a messenger will prepare the way (and then the chapter goes on to say that when the Messiah arrives the gig is up).

Malachi 4:5-6

“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes.  He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”

Now let’s take a brief look at what Jesus said about this Elijah:

Matthew 17:10-13

10 The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” 11 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.

According to Jesus, Malachi 3 & 4 were fulfilled 1800 years before Joseph Smith gave us D&C 128.  So if the prophecy was REALLY about Elijah telling Joseph Smith about baptism for dead, does that means Jesus was wrong?  Man, if I had to choose between baptism for the dead or Jesus correctly understanding Old Testament prophecies, I’m rooting for Jesus.

To answer Mr Trimble’s question I think “turning the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers” is about repentance. . . which is what John the Baptist taught.


Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

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88 thoughts on “Answering Greg Trimble’s 51 Questions – Part 3

  1. I knew you’d pick on Bro. Trimble for taking verses out of context! You take all the fun out of prooftexting.

  2. Nice job, Tim.

    Mormonism is a weird version of Protestantized Judiasm with mysticism and science fiction thrown in for ‘good’ measure.

    It is my prayer that people would get out of that stuff and rely solely on the Cross of Christ…alone.

    Nice work here, Tim.

  3. Tim,

    I am serious when I say you should put this in print. I would buy a copy.

    I liked your answers to questions 22-25. I haven’t read the rest.
    I’d like to tweak your answer to #21. (For the convenience of not having to scroll back up, here’s the question again: “Why do many Christians say that our works don’t matter, but Jesus says that we are required to repent and keep the commandments?”)

    You first made the excellent point that “when Christians hear Mormons say that grace isn’t enough to save us, we often over sell our commitment to grace” and the excellent point that “we are saved by grace to do works (Ephesians 2:8-10).”
    Then you said, “AFTER we are saved [did you mean justified?], we’re invited into his kingdom to do his work AND we receive rewards in the afterlife for our good works.” I would modify that to say, “After we’re saved (that is, after we’ve received the Holy Spirit, received Christ, are born again, have entered the present-day form of God’s kingdom on earth) we are empowered and commanded to do good works. And to avoid semantical misunderstanding, we evangelicals recognize that Jesus called faith itself a work (in John 6:29), so we can say we are saved by the work of faith.” (John 6:28-29: “Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.'”)

  4. If it makes us say things like “We have no work” then yes. It might even be a stumbling block. Not because “grace” is the problem but our misunderstanding of the context of grace.

  5. I don’t think that’s overselling grace so much as selling a cheap knockoff. Tell me, which grace is greater: one that let’s you off the hook for your sins and lets you go your own way, or one that lets you off the hook for your sins and then transforms you into Christ’s image?

  6. I respectfully disagree on the notion of overselling it. That said, I fully agree that it is important to put it in appropriate context and avoid the notion that it is not work to be a Christian. Not only are we called to charity, but we must work to ensure our lives conform to Christ. Both of these require lots of work.

    However, we cannot oversell grace.

  7. Can you be unsaved if, after receiving grace, you don’t do the works you were saved for? Or if you do the works of the flesh outlined in Galatians 5 or 1 Cor 6?

  8. If you don’t do the works chances are you were never transformed through grace, ie, never saved.

    If you do the works of the flesh you can still be saved. We are still tempted and we will still fall. Not that we should seek it out (absolutely not), but that’s what forgiveness is all about, isn’t it? And isn’t grace unlimited forgiveness?

  9. “Can you be unsaved if, after receiving grace, you don’t do the works you were saved for?” The strident among us will tell you that the “saved” part never happened.

  10. Once saved, you cannot be unsaved.

    Those who are actually saved in Christ Jesus cannot totally fall away from grace–this is again, not because of their merits, but because of the faithfulness of God, the merits of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the Holy Spirit and the seed of God’s grace growing within. The process of sanctification isn’t made complete in this life, though, so they may very well fall into sin in the meantime. But they cannot completely lose their salvation. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philipians 1:6.

  11. Kull, I tend to agree on the never losing salvation. Once saved, you cannot lose it. However, some folks simply were never saved to begin with. After all the emotion and highs after a ‘conversion’ many simply revert back to their old ways, never coming back to Christ in a real and meaningful way. Were these folks ever saved? I don’t know, but I have to grant the likelihood that not all were.

  12. 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

    So if someone lives by the Spirit for 10 years as a saved person, but then falls to temptation, and little by little, begins living as described above, what becomes of them? Can they fall from grace?

  13. “If you don’t do the works chances are you were never transformed through grace, ie, never saved.”

    What constitutes the required “work”, is the real question. Or what the real fruit of grace looks like is absolutely debatable. Just ask some of our Presbyterian friends.

  14. JT, a saved person can and will sin, and sin greatly, within a month of salvation. It seems you infer that living as a saved person means the person is living a sinless life.

  15. Work is decidedly not ritual or prescribed rules and regulations. Work is loving your neighbor as yourself, and loving God even more. Have you ever just tried to do that?

  16. No – I’m just trying to understand Paul’s statement quoted above (that “those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God”) within the context of your (and others’) understanding of salvation.

  17. Haha – the “no” is referring to the comment before that. Yes, I’ve tried living the two great commandments. 🙂

  18. Tim: I fully agree with the points you’re making here that Bro. Trimble has given these quotations meanings that are out of context. For example, I find it extremely improbable at best that Paul had the terrestrial, telestial and celestial kingdoms in mind when he wrote to the Corinthians.

    But I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that taking Biblical sentences out of context has a long tradition in Christianity, starting with Matthew. Most famously, he uses Isaiah 7:14 out of context, making it into a prophecy of Jesus’ birth. But it takes only a quick reading of Isaiah 7 to realize that the Old Testament prophet was talking about someone else, someone who would be known for eating sour milk and honey and who would not know right away how to reject evil. Although the passage came to be seen as messianic early on, it doesn’t seem to do a good job of describing Christ.

    So what I see Matthew as doing is repurposing Isaiah’s words into a kind of a type, giving the old words new meaning, one that wasn’t intended by the original author. Doing that doesn’t make for good apologetics, but it does offer a fresh way using that imagery, in this case that of a young woman giving birth.

    I see Joseph Smith doing much the same thing when he repurposed Paul’s words into an imagery of the three kingdoms of glory. I don’t have a problem with him doing that; the problem is that Mormons have come to see Paul speaking only anachronistically and thus miss the point of what he really was saying. The imagery of sun, moon and stars serves its purpose in Mormonism well; it’s just not what Paul was getting at.

  19. So if someone lives by the Spirit for 10 years as a saved person, but then falls to temptation, and little by little, begins living as described above, what becomes of them? Can they fall from grace?

    If they were actually saved? Then he who began a good work in them will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. They will come back out of it. Saved people can and do commit pretty much every kind of sin other than the sin against the Holy Ghost–it’s inevitable. But the one thing more inevitable is God’s ability to save those who he has determined to save.

    If you’re asking about a hypothetical person who is truly saved and then rejects God completely and gives his life totally over to the sins of the flesh and never turns back… that person actually does not exist.

  20. So in my hypothetical, it should be assumed that the person was never saved in the first place. By definition, a saved person cannot give themselves back over to the works of the flesh. Is this correct?

  21. JT, if your list of sins of the flesh were in fact a list of sins that would cause you to lose your salvation, then we’d all lose it pretty much immediately, since sexual impurity affects every single human being.

  22. Very nice job, Tim!
    Thanks for the concise, clear explanations and the occasional chuckles. (:
    I am enjoying reading your answers.

    Agree with Kullervo on grace. For the ones of us who have experienced attempt to attain redemption by works of the law, the utterly magnificient power of transformation by Christ’s grace is only partially describable through words.
    I, for one, am so grateful that “God’s gifts are irrevocable.” Everyday is like Christmas morning when his grace in unwrapped anew for me.

  23. What do you understand him to mean by that?

    Put the passage in context. Paul contrasts the sins of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit. One of the characteristics of the life of a believer–one of the ways that salvation is demonstrated by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit–is a life that undergoes the process of sanctification. Moving from the picture of the flesh to the picture of the Spirit. So if your life is filled with sin and you’re not undergoing the process of sanctification, I don’t think you can rest on any assurance of your salvation.

    But at the same time, look at Romans 7:14-25. The flesh–and sin–remain present in the saved. But for those who are Christ’s, the Spirit’s victory over the flesh is absolutely inevitable.

  24. What constitutes the required “work”, is the real question. Or what the real fruit of grace looks like is absolutely debatable. Just ask some of our Presbyterian friends.

    Can you elaborate? I am, after all, officially a Presbyterian now.

  25. Just to keep with the same example of sin mentioned as a possible “deal breaker” for continuous grace and salvation:
    You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
    Ouch, the bar just got raised to an impossible height by Jesus… That would most probably mean that pretty much everyone saved by grace would already have lost it if the gift was conditional to living sin-free.
    We might want to classify sin in different slots but according to Jesus, sin is…sin.

  26. I will say the Presbyterians church, USA is one of the more liberal Christian groups. Others are not nearly so liberal.

    I, personally, think it a shame to see so many Christian groups embracing such ideas and trends.

  27. I’m having a hard time imagining how an absolute assurance of salvation can mean anything significant in a persons life, if whole traditions of Christians disagree on what the transformed life in Christ looks like.

  28. What does the truth have to do with whole traditions disagreeing, Christian? Isn’t truth the truth no matter what people, even large groups, think about it?

  29. The Presbyterian church, USA would not claim to be following an untrue path. You would disagree. And there we are.

  30. If whole traditions of Christians disagree on what the transformed life in Christ looks like.

    But they don’t, really–the traditions of Christians who agree that salvation by faith produces a transformed life in Christ are pretty unanimous on what that kind of life looks like.

    The churches who are now shifting on what a transformed life looks like have long since shifted on the basic questions of salvation in Christ Jesus.

  31. Christian, I second what Kullervoo wrote, and I would add that the Church of Christ would argue it is the true successor to Smith’s church, as would the FLDS.

    If we look at what different groups do, throw up our hands and lose confidence in truth because of the existence of the various groups then we are not trying very hard. Its not a very good argument, and it presents a problem that no one is immune to.

  32. “Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus,[fn] 2 because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you[fn] free from the law of sin and of death. 3 What the law could not do since it was limited[fn] by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending His own Son in flesh like ours under sin’s domain,[fn] and as a sin offering, 4 in order that the law’s requirement would be accomplished in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
    I am not sure there is such disagreement in regards to what a saved person’s life should look like once they have received it by grace and been indwelled by the Holy Spirit.
    We live are to live according to the Spirit, whose work in us is ongoing, shaping and molding us bit by bit to conform to Jesus’
    likeness. That is a lifelong process.

  33. “By grace you have been saved through faith.” is the first thing you see when opening the Presbyterian Church USA website. FWIW.

    Not that it means everything, but I don’t think your claim – that a shift toward progressive social norm is inextricably linked to a disbelief in traditional Protestant soteriology – is based in reality. There is also a long tradition in this country of socially conservative traditions that lost sight of faith alone – particularly in the 50’s and 60’s.

  34. But the PC(USA) most definitely shifted towards theological liberalism first, as did all of the other mainline Protestant denominations. I’m not necessarily saying that there’s an inevitable formula involved; I’m saying that as long as we are basing things in reality, effectively all of the churches that are now making major changes to their picture of what the Christian life looks like have long since given up on their commitment to evangelical theology. Like, decades ago.

    There is no remotely significant body of believers in existence today (including the PC(USA)) where you would walk in and hear them preach mankind’s total depravity, helplessness in sin, dependence on the grace of Jesus for salvation, justification by faith alone in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross and sanctification in the life of the believer and conformity to Christ’s image but then also turn around and say that sanctification in the life of the believer and conformity to Christ’s image accomodates a progressive view of human sexuality. I’m not asserting here that the two are irreconcilable; I’m just saying that they are in fact nowhere reconciled.

    And, for the record, I call complete BS on your assertion that socially conservative (Protestant) traditions abandoned–or even moved away from–salvation by grace alone in the 50’s and 60’s. Name one.

  35. It can be confusing because a lot of liberal Protestant churches retain theologically orthodox doctrinal statements, creeds and confessions as a part of their history and identity, but do not necessarily use them as theological standards. The PC(USA) has the Westminster Confession in their Book of Confessions, for example, but they have long since set it aside as a regulatory norm.

  36. The point of this is that, among churches that actually teach historic Protestant evangelical doctrines of grace and salvation (including assurance of salvation and sanctification in the life of the believer), there is no meaningful disagreement as to what sins do and do not belong in a saved person’s life. The churches that now advocate for a “progressive” morality one and all abandoned Protestant evangelical doctrines of grace and salvation a long time ago.

  37. So, mainline, progressive Protestant traditions are not saved through grace. I’m glad we’ve cleared that one up.

  38. So, mainline, progressive Protestant traditions are not saved through grace. I’m glad we’ve cleared that one up.

    The mainline, culturally progressive Protestant denominations (the PC(USA), Episcopal Church, ELCA, UMC, United Church of Christ) all began embracing liberal theology and rejecting orthodoxy a long time ago. This is not a remotely controversial assertion.

  39. I don’t think anyone is misunderstanding that here.

    Also, to make it more complicated, even within liberal mainline denomionations there are big ranges. theoldadam’s church is ELCA, but it’s very conservative. I’m a member of a PC(USA) church that is also significantly more conservative than the denomination as a whole.

  40. i agree its not controversial for most American Evangelical Protestants. But the downplaying of Christian division has been popular at this site for a while. Divisive statements such as these are more rare.

    The legalist movement I’m referring to is not a religious movement, but a political one – the rise of the Christian Right. Sure, backed into a corner they would hold to faith alone. But most of their energy/fruit was not in pushing grace through the cross of Christ, but in lobbying/legislating “morality”, “family values” and hyper-nationalism.

  41. As I said, I just want to be clear about that so that no one can say, or infer, that all Christians now believe something other than salvation by grace.

    And you are right, it is a complicated matter, with each individual church congregation taking on different personalities and therefore emphasizing beliefs in a different matter. I grew up in a United Methodist church that was fairly conservative, but have attended some that were very liberal.

    To a large degree, we ought judge the churches individually on their own accord rather than the larger organization. This is not to say the organizations are above reproach, because they should be held accountable for their beliefs, good and bad.

  42. Pushing to legislate morality says something about how you view the process of obtaining salvation. If people really believe that the Christian life of good works is found only after you obtain grace, then that will be your priority. But I’m not going to beat this to death….

  43. “But most of their energy/fruit was not in pushing grace through the cross of Christ, but in lobbying/legislating “morality”, “family values” and hyper-nationalism.” Not only is it about public policy rather than theology, it is one area, I think, where Mormons and conservative Christians align fairly well.

    But the distinction between theology and public policy is quite important.

  44. Again, the role you think government should play in our daily lives says something about your theology.

  45. What does it say about our theology?

    I believe, if anything, it says that we believe that people should lead clean, good lives. I don’t see how that is inconsistent with what we are saying here.

  46. It definitely says something about our theology; no question. Just not something about how a sinner can be reconciled to a holy and righteous God (except in the negative). God’s holy law is binding and obligatory on everyone, saved or not–otherwise, salvation wouldn’t be necessary in the first place.

  47. This is why we Reformed types talk about the three uses of the law: first, to convict us of our sin and our desperate need for salvation; second, to curb and restrain human behavior which is sinful by default; third, to guide the beliver into a new life that pleases God.

    Laws that legislate morality–such as, for example, laws against rape and murder–are how the second use is properly played out.

    But we don’t have one set of laws for believers and one set for unbelievers–God’s law tells everyone what pleases Him and what his expectations are. And, although we are in a fallen state, we were created to obey, serve and glorify God. The fact that we are unable to obey, serve and glorify God because of our fallen and sinful nature doesn’t relive us of the obligation to do so. It’s why we are desperately in need of reconciliation.

  48. Just to be clear: when we use code words like “progressive morality” what we actually mean is, “treating LGBT people like human beings,” right?

  49. ZING! No, we are talking about the approval of human sexuality outside of what God set in creation and in his law.

    If you are insisting that the only way to “treat someone as a human being” is to affirm as good and holy whatever sexual expression they feel drawn to, then I am afraid that your vision of what it means to be human is fundamentally at odds with our existence as created beings who are dependent on God. But it’s no surprise–the desire to overthrow God as our god and set ourselves up as our own gods has been the very heart of sin since Eden.

  50. (And it’s not code words, for the record, because I’m not just talking about homosexual behavior, but definitely including, say, heterosexual sex outside of marriage, which liberal/mainline denominations are also falling all over themselves to affirm)

  51. Maybe its a lifetime of hearing the “oversell” from EVs, but non Christian acts of goodness as valuable for society but also filthy rags before God is where I see the disconnect. And if we say it’s only good works with the intention of earning salvation that God despises, well good luck sorting through daily mess of good intentions.

  52. Christian, contrast the works Christians are called to with the works LDS are called to. LDS are required to act a certain way to get to the Temple where certain rituals are required for ultimate salvation, that is exaltation. Christians are to be good to everyone and honor God first. For the Christian, salvation is achieved at belief, so there is nothing to work towards, no boxes to check off whereas that is precisely what Mormonism prescribes.

    If a Christian wants to work to gain rewards in heaven, but understands his salvation is apart from those works, who can blame him? I cannot judge his heart, though I take the position that we are to forego any degree of selfishness in Christ. Though I see working for rewards in heaven as selfish, I also know full well the Bible seems to maybe allow for the concept of rewards, ie storing up treasure in heaven and rooms in God’s house, et al.

    I don’t get hung up on such matters, though, because we should be put God first in everything. Arguing over rewards seems foolish. Arguing over internal intentions seems a lost cause.

    And, a final point: yes, non-Christian acts can be good and beneficial to society, which is yet another reason why such works are worthless in terms of salvation.

  53. God says “don’t murder.” If I refrain from murdering but am not regenerated by the Holy Spirit to saving faith, then my non-murdering ways are still meritless in terms of salvation–I’m still thoroughly tainted with sin in everything I do, even my not-murdering is laced with pride and a sense of superiority. My nature is poisoned with sin, so all of my good works are tainted and do not merit salvation.

    But even so, God still expects me to not to murder people, because murder is evil and God hates evil.

    I just don’t get any credit towards salvation for obeying because my obedience is tainted throughout by sin.

  54. I can’t think of any Christian denomination that is “falling over themselves” to affirm promiscuity, or that “affirms as good and holy whatever sexual expression people feel drawn to.”

  55. I don’t believe it’s inescapably implicit. You said “whatever sexual expression people feel drawn to.” That’s just not true. I recently read the ELCA’s official statement on sexuality, and it was theologically robust, framing the discussion in the context of justification by grace through faith and the Lutheran concept of the “saint and sinner” nature of believers, and speaking God’s ongoing work of creation of which human beings are a part. It talked about trust and love of God and neighbor and fidelity and public accountability and the importance of marriage and lifelong commitment. It decried sexual promiscuity, the early sexualization of children, pornography, and the sex trade. It encouraged reserving sex for marriage, or a public lifelong commitment ceremony for gay and lesbian partners. It was decidedly not, “God’s cool with whatever you do.”

    I’m mostly objecting to the idea that churches (like mine) that accept what science/the actual lived experiences of LGBT people tell us have somehow rejected salvation by grace and transformation in Christ. It’s just not true.

  56. And I guess to make it more personal, I’m objecting to the idea that Christians (like me) who accept what science/LGBT people tell us about their own lived experiences have somehow rejected salvation by grace and transformation in Christ. I’m in a transitional phase right now, moving from Mormonism to Protestantism but if there is one thing I’m building on, it’s salvation by grace and transformation in Christ. That’s the heart of everything for me, and I kind of feel like the attitude in this conversation was that my position isn’t “real.” Maybe I misread/misunderstood, but that’s how it came across to me.

  57. Katie, I’m really sorry if I came across as saying that your position is not “real.” I know how vicious and hurtful that kind of accusation can be. It’s the last thing I would want to throw at anyone, and for you specifically, it would just be an absurd charge.

    I think your position is ultimately inconsistent, and can’t be reconciled. But I have no doubt that it’s real.

  58. It was decidedly not, “God’s cool with whatever you do.”

    I’m mostly objecting to the idea that churches (like mine) that accept what science/the actual lived experiences of LGBT people tell us have somehow rejected salvation by grace and transformation in Christ.

    These are the two statements that reveal the inconsistency here. On the one hand, you are trying to affirm that God as the creator and lawgiver sets the standards for human behavior. But on the other hand, you are rejecting what God has actually revealed about human sexuality in creation on the basis of fallen humans’ felt needs.

  59. This goes back to the conversation we were having about the Bible, I think. I don’t reject what God has revealed about human sexuality in creation, but I do believe that part of that revelation can be discerned through science and what people who live that reality tell us about their experiences.

  60. slowcowboy said, “If you do the works of the flesh you can still be saved. We are still tempted and we will still fall. Not that we should seek it out (absolutely not), but that’s what forgiveness is all about, isn’t it? And isn’t grace unlimited forgiveness?”

    I get your point and like it.
    I believe that if someone were to go completely back to serving the devil (Heb. 6), grace would not cover them. Is it possible for a Christian to do that? As long as our freewill stands, it’s got to be possible. My wife and a friend both say they knew a Christian who turned totally back. I think it happened to me, too, actually. The first time I decided to be a Christian, the seed of Christ germinated in me, I felt new inside, but the presence of God left a few days later because of a contrary force (a person) I knew and the fact that I didn’t start going to church nor reading a Bible nor praying. Like in Jesus’ parable, the seed lacked nourishment, roots failed to form, and it died.

    Just thought I’d throw that out for your consideration. The bottom line is that we stay awake. “Blessed is he who stays awake” (Rev. 16:15).

    I enjoy your comments on this blog, buddy. Have a peaceful night.

  61. Kullervo said, “God says ‘don’t murder.’ If I refrain from murdering but am not regenerated by the Holy Spirit to saving faith, then my non-murdering ways are still meritless in terms of salvation–I’m still thoroughly tainted with sin in everything I do, even my not-murdering is laced with pride and a sense of superiority. My nature is poisoned with sin, so all of my good works are tainted and do not merit salvation.”

    Excellent.

  62. Katie said, “I’m in a transitional phase right now, moving from Mormonism to Protestantism.”

    You dropped a bomb.
    Why are you switching?
    May God guide and uphold you. Tim once said something to the effect that many transitioning out of Mormonism fall through the cracks and become atheists or something horrible like that.

  63. You dropped a bomb.
    Why are you switching?

    Oh heavens, that’s a long story. 🙂 But it’s been a very long time coming. ‘Bout 10 years now.

  64. Christian J,

    Do you believe that an act that’s in line with the law, such as paying all your taxes, for example, but not inspired by faith in Christ, is an act that pleases God?

  65. Yep. 🙂 The short answer is that I feel called to ministry (which I can’t do as a Mormon woman), I don’t believe any of the LDS church’s truth claims, I believe the institution of the LDS church is corrupt, I disagree with its position on gay marriage, and I do not believe that the LDS church teaches a gospel of grace, which is very very important to me because of my own personal experiences with Christ.

  66. Oh gosh. I think Tim and many of the regulars around here know my story pretty well by now.

  67. I’ve been thinking about the gay issue recently, as many have. I’m planning to visit a cousin who has a long-term girl-friend. They may be “married” for all I know. I’m using Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well as a guide. Jesus didn’t condemn her for her fornication. He listened to the Spirit tell him inside information about her and that did it! I need to be more in tune with the Spirit like that.

  68. I guess I’ve been somewhat out of the loop.
    Nice talking to you. I’m going to eat and do my prayer time and go to bed. May God bless your ministry.

  69. Oops, I didn’t mention that my female cousin is a lesbian. (I hope that’s the right word to use.)

  70. “Do you believe that an act that’s in line with the law, such as paying all your taxes, for example, but not inspired by faith in Christ, is an act that pleases God?”

    I believe I’m called to obey the law of the land, for a variety of reasons. I believe others in this world are called to oppose their government (even this one) and I think God is potentially pleased with us both.

  71. Christian J,

    Thanks for your response. I agree with what you’re saying.
    You said you’re called. Assuming you mean the Father and Jesus have called you, for you it’s an act of faith in the Father and in Jesus, so it’s pleasing to God.
    But what about someone who obeys the law of the land just as you do but ignores God and doesn’t even believe he exists? Is he pleasing God?

    (My answer would be no because of Hebrews 11:6 which says it’s impossible to please God without faith.)

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