A meditation on religious conflict

[This is a prose poem that came out after I finished up writing brief about a particularly gnarly run in with original sin and the law that punishes it. Enjoy!]

“Religious War has signified the greatest advance of the masses so far, for it proves that the masses have begun to treat concepts with respect.  Religious War start only after more refined quarrels between sects have refined reason in general to the point where even the mob becomes subtle and takes trifles seriously and actually considers it possible that the “eternal salvation of the soul” might depend on small differences between concepts.” – F. Nietzsche

“But if all religious teachers were honest enough to renounce their pretensions to godliness when their ignorance of the knowledge of God is made manifest, they will all be as badly off as I am, at any rate; and you might just as well take the lives of other false teachers as that of mine. If any man is authorized to take away my life because he thinks and says I am a false teacher, then, upon the same principle, we should be justified in taking away the life of every false teacher, and where would be the end of blood? And who would not be the sufferer?” – J. Smith

Science tells us that our universe began as a single point, and that human beings are super-developed animals with incredible imaginations that in their limitless symbolizing and shaping of the world with their art spawned religion, civilization, and consciousness of our unfathomable beginning and becoming.

The orthodox catholic tells us that God is the unknowable Father that is the source of this point, but that he is nothing within it, that God is the substance of the man Jesus the Christ that became part of the created world, and the substance of the Holy Spirit that fills creation and the strange human souls that take on the the image of this substance but are condemned to be separated from it.

Mohammed tells us that man is nothing like God, and absolute and unknowable, who has no child and wills all that happens and all that exists, God is the final arbiter of this created reality and should be feared and loved.

The Buddha tells us that we are not separate souls, and God is irrelevant to our enlightenment to this fact; only in our giving up ourselves and our souls can we awake to the reality of God.

Paul tell us that man is a debased spirit separated from God, clothed in corrupt flesh but redeemed to God’s image through assent and capitulation to the reality of the single Christ, the God who submitted to death and suffering to save the world from it.

Moses tells us that there is a law from heaven that all must follow and that one people were chosen to proclaim it.

Joseph Smith tells us that God is the same as us: a single eternal soul living within the uncreated universe who discovered intelligence and then glory though the laws of reality that fill the immensity of space and makes all things as they are.

The Hindu tells us that we are all the shifting faces of God, the absolute reality that sits behind all appearances, and that only those whose intelligence has been stolen by material desires surrender themselves to other gods and follow the particular rules and regulations of worship according to their own many natures.

Pilate tells us that truth is an illusion and then spilled the blood of the man the Christians call God by the power of the law and might of Rome.

Jesus tells us that God’s law and all other truth is swallowed in Christ, the mystery and promise of God’s love, that God’s kingdom has nothing to do with Rome that killed him, but is in midst of the love and joy that springs from His blood and suffering and ours.

The Evangelical tells us that we should proclaim this last Word above all others, and attests that there is no end to this blood that saves us.

It seems that in this blood there should be an end to the blood Nietzsche and Joseph Smith spoke of, but how remains its mystery.


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.

We Pretenders

When I was a kid, I loved to pretend.  My life was filled with forts, guns, armies, horses, dragons, talking animals, magic swords, and space armadas.  You didn’t have to point out to me that I was pretending, I was doing it on purpose.

Jesus pointed out the pretenders who did not seem to know they were pretending. To the Romans he pointed out that they were merely pretending to be the masters of the world. In fact, the Kingdom of God was in our midst and held sway over what mattered.  To those pretending to be good, he said there is no good but God.  To those pretending to honor the temple of God, he dealt a beating.  To those pretending to be his disciples, he exposed as denyers, betrayers, and court jesters. Jesus was God who pretended to be a man and–in the end–He exposed this pretense as well.

Few would disagree that those who follow Jesus only pretend to.   The Old Testament teaches us that we are foolish and pretending children to a Perfect Father who has given us his law, the New teaches us that we are all fallen and lost, incapable of following the law God gave–we can only pretend. The Book of Mormon teaches that when it comes to obedience, we are less than we are not the dust of the earth, only pretending to be submissive. Joseph Smith taught that our compliance and authority is often–because of our nature and disposition–simply pretense to fulfill our pride and hide our sins. Jesus’ apostles made it clear that Jesus was the Christ, we merely pretend to be Christians. Paul taught that whatever we are of Christ is not us, but Christ in us.

Ironically, Christians also like to point out pretenders.

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Eternal Rewards

Eric, a Mormon, poses this question:

When I browsed through the well-known evangelical book The Purpose-Driven Life by the Rev. Rick Warren, I was struck by the following passage near the beginning of the book:

From the Bible we can surmise that God will ask us two crucial questions [before we enter eternity]: First, “What did you do with my Son, Jesus Christ?” … Second, “What did you do with your life?” What did you do with all that God gave you — all your gifts, talents, opportunities, energy, relationships, and resources? Did you spend them on yourself, or did you use them to fulfill God’s purposes for your life? The first question will determine where you spend eternity — with God or separated from God. The second question will determine what you do in eternity — your responsibilities and rewards in heaven.

(Emphasis has been added. You can download without charge the section of the book that includes this passage here.)

My first question for evangelicals is this: Does Warren accurately convey evangelical belief, that there are blessings in heaven based on our earthly works? (Or is my summary misinterpreting his teaching?)

Then I have two follow-up questions:

2. If Warren in wrong, if there are no blessings in heaven based on our works, is what Warren teaching heretical?

3. If Warren is correct, what will be the heavenly “responsibilities and rewards” for what we do on Earth?

Does God Have Sex?

In the comments section of another post, Jayleen asked:

Personally, I don’t think Satan can create anything. Therefore I must believe that God created sex. While Satan can pervert it, he can’t create it. So my question is this…

Dando, can God create something he has never experienced?

If families are forever but there’s no couples or sex involved in the eternities, and there is no heavenly mother…

Why didn’t he simply create Adam? Why would it not be good that man was alone if ‘femaleness’ isn’t eternal?

What would make God think it wasn’t good that Adam was alone?

Why not just have made everything self replicating instead of making a male and female of things?

What’s wrong with sex when it’s not perverted? Why would’t God have sex?

This question doesn’t really have anything to do with that other post, so I’m turning it into it’s own topic. Katy Jane also asked:

Dando, why do you believe that God doesn’t have a body? And that He doesn’t have a wife?

First off I’d like to clarify and agree with a number of things that Jayleen stated. I don’t believe that Satan has the power to create either. His own power is to twist and corrupt. Also I agree that sex is good (at least in my house).

I don’t understand how it follows that God can only create what he has experienced. There seems to be a chicken and an egg problem here. Does God need to experience something before he creates it? If so, how did He experience something He had not yet created? If it existed prior to His creation then, can you properly say that He created it? Or did someone else?

Even without that conundrum, does God experience his creation the same way we do? I don’t believe that God needs to eat so I don’t think he’s ever eaten a potato. Did He really create potatoes if He doesn’t know the experience of eating them? I don’t believe that God needs to breathe oxygen to live, so why did He create it if He doesn’t need to experience it? The answer to all of these things is that God created sex, potatoes and oxygen FOR US. He’s a good God and He gives us good things. For whatever reason He decided that He wanted to create us with the need and capability to experiencing these things. That’s all up to His own creative license (and I appreciate what a good job he did). God didn’t need to create Eve for Adam, but He chose to because He saw that Adam was lonely and loneliness wasn’t good. Notice that Eve’s creation wasn’t a solution to procreation, it was a solution to loneliness.

So why wasn’t God lonely Himself? I believe that the Bible teaches that God is a self-sufficient being. He doesn’t need anything for his own existence. He is contingent on nothing. God was already (and always) in relationship with Himself. That relationship is expressed in the doctrine of the Trinity; 3 personalities in continual relationship making up 1 essence. God doesn’t need anyone to love because the Father loves the Son loves the Spirit. The Creator doesn’t need his creation like the creation needs its Creator.

I believe that there is only one family that is forever. And that is Adam’s family. We are are all sons and daughters of Adam and Eve and thus will always be in relationship with ALL of our relatives in eternity. Why assume that we will only be limited to relationship with those we happen to be in legal proximity to here on earth? That seems to be selling the beauty of eternity really short to think otherwise. Why would you want to be just with your “family” the way it’s described in temporal terms? I think God’s offering us so much more than the way the LDS church describes “forever families”.

You can read more about my thoughts on this subject here Jesus, the smartest man to ever live and here Don’t You Want to Be With Your Family Forever?

A Formula for Eternity

What is the better way to express what LDS believe is necessary for salvation?

faith + grace = salvation + works = exaltation


faith + grace + works = salvation + more works (worthiness) = exaltation

For evangelicals the “equation” would go like this:

faith + grace = salvation + works = sanctification and eternal rewards

Don’t You Want to Be With Your Family Forever?

One place I see LDS and Evangelicals talking past one another is on the issue of eternal families. LDS longingly look forward to the day in which they can be together with their family for ever. Temple wedding versus chapel wedding — “don’t you want an eternal marriage?” When LDS missionaries ask Evangelicals “don’t you want to be with your family forever?” they often get a quizzical “What? No.” And with that Evangelicals seem to be tossing aside something that is precious to LDS.

It’s not that we Evangelicals don’t want to be with our families for all eternity, it’s just not any part of our focus when we think of heaven. We look forward to spending eternity with Christ (as I’m sure LDS do as well). We actually do believe that we will be with our families forever. But we don’t think our family will be limited to our immediate biological family. We believe that we will be in loving, intimate relationship with EVERYONE in heaven, not just our families. The closeness I share with my wife, I’ll have with everyone, and I’ll have eternity to get to know them. I look forward to catching up with Paul, Michaelangelo, St. Francis and a little boy in Kenya whose name I don’t even know, and listening to them all recount all that Christ did for them.