Having been thoroughly terrified after watching the Sunset Limited based on Cormac McCarthy’s novel, I thought I should try to actually do a little philosophy in order to (at least?) believe in God again. I do it here in an attempt to keep myself honest in the company of those that do believe. If this doesn’t make much sense, please keep in mind my lingering view of philosophy, and consider this an apologia and a confession.
Some thoughts to set the stage:
“I am not a religious man but I cannot help seeing every problem from a religious point of view”. — Ludwig Wittgenstein, noted philosopher.
“But theology is the function of the Church. The church confesses God as it talks about God… But in so doing it recognizes and takes up as an active Church the further human task of criticizing and revising its speech about God” — Karl Barth, noted theologian, Church Dogmatics, 1.1, p. 3.
I am always harping about how Mormons are allowed to believe a lot more things than traditional Christians and still be Mormons. I don’t think the Mormons that run the Church care about truth per se, but its usefulness in the cause, and it is eminently useful not to engage in debates about what you have to believe to be LDS. I think most sane people believe this— it is generally not wise to declare how stupid you think others are within their earshot, and most people are apt to say stupid things when they are cutting down another cause.
From my point of view, this reality presents those who make massive truth claims, such as Evangelical Protestants, an interesting test: Here is a group of people who ostensibly believe a lot of the same things you Evangelicals believe; they are going to hell, forever, because of their confusion; it seems that the power of your message should be able to convert these people. For me, it’s as if the Mormons are laying ready on Mount Carmel and Evangelicals can’t make so much as a spark to ignite what is dry kindling. I thought a good place to put my pet theory to the test is to determine whether a Mormon can fully believe the Protestant view of Salvation and remain LDS. Is there some logical necessity of rejecting the message of the Restoration? If they are not now, Mormons even become saved Christians and remain in the Church?
The question seems important. If the answer is “no,” Protestants should joyfully want Mormons to believe in their view of the Gospel whether or not the Mormons remain faithful to their LDS covenants or attend LDS church or believe the Book of Mormon is the word of God, or even continue to gather converts. The entire approach to LDS missionary work would not be to show them where they are wrong theologically (which is extremely boring), but to teach them the truth in spirit and in power like Paul advocated (manifestly less boring). I recognize that many Mormons do not, and never will, understand or believe the theology behind the Evangelical view of salvation from original sin. But most Mormons are new Mormons without set theologies, and LDS Missionary efforts require a wide tolerance for strange beliefs. (I learned this acutely while eating dinner with a Jet Propulsion Laboratory physicist and my missionary companion, who was convinced that the earth was hollow.) Continue reading →
I’ve become aware of a deficiency in Evangelical Christianity in the last couple of years.
Gnosticism is the belief that the spirit is the only thing that is real or good. The body is disposable and unimportant. In our missionary efforts we are at times evangelically gnostic. We often teach that the MOST important thing is that people say a prayer so that their souls will not go to Hell. Many of our missionary approaches in turn have reflected a huge emphasis on church planting, tent meetings, street evangelism, door-to-door tracting and Billy Graham style crusades.
The problem with this approach is that it’s only one part of the story the Bible expresses. When sin entered the world all of creation fell out of relationship with God. Jesus’ sacrifice doesn’t just redeem our spirit’s relationship to God; it redeems all of creation. The Bible clearly teaches that when Christ returns ALL of creation will be restored. So when we focus solely on people’s souls we do not love them the way God intends them to be loved. God loves their whole person, body and soul. He wants their bellies, minds, hearts AND souls to be filled.
We absolutely should be seeking to save people’s souls. There is nothing wrong with church planting and evangelism. They are vital. But they are not all there is. We also need to be building schools and water wells, teaching people how to grow food and eat nutritiously and strengthening family and community relationships. Sole focus on the spirit leads to gnosticism.