Scared of Hell: Evangelicals don’t really know if they are saved?

Byline: Does the difficulty in feeling assured of salvation dissolve the practical differences in “works”-focused vs. belief-focused religion?Hell Awaits You!

I used to think that the problem of assurance of salvation was a big practical difference between Mormons and Evangelicals.  I am not so sure now.The theological differences seem stark. According to the rough academic analogy, Mormons believe that everybody is born with a passing grade, and you have to decide to fail.  So long as your intentions are in the right direction, and you are living up to your potential , you are going to the Celestial Kingdom. If you fall short you are going to get a great consolation prize– eternally living in heaven with Jesus forever.   If you criminally screw up and reject Jesus,  you are going to suffer for your  sins but eventually you will be in a heavenly place with the eternal joy that the Holy Spirit can bring you.  Mormons believe (or used to) that some striving souls could get a “second endowment.”  An ordinance performed in the temple that seals a person with their spouse to the Celestial Kingdom.  They have their “calling and election made sure.” Anymore, this concept and practice has practically disappeared from the Church.  Mormons are left completely sure they are going to heaven, but always unsure of which heaven they will go to. I believed that whatever I–or nearly anybody else–was in for in the afterlife, it was going to be a whole lot better than this world.

Contrasting my experience with the children of Evangelicalism. I can see how the “faith alone” doctrine would have scared the hell out of me.  Evangelicals believe you are born with a failing grade– the default is hell.  People qualify for salvation by correct belief and reliance on the work of Jesus alone.  It seems to me that if you are an Evangelical facing the never-ending torment of hell, you’d better make darn sure you are saved.  And the problem is, because non-saving faith can masquerade as true belief and faith, there is a lot of room for consternationJust as Mormons obsess about doing enough to be “good enough” , it seems that doubt-prone Evangelicals can easily fall into a cycle of severe anxiety trying to assure their faith is “true” enough.  And the stakes– and possibly the potential anxiety seem considerably higher.  It seems that many Evangelicals indeed have this problem of assurance gauging from this article in Relevant Magazine, by J.D. Greear, Evangelical author of Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart.    

Continue reading

The Universalist Pope?!

Pope Francis appears to have a new, dramatic, position on salvation for the non-believer.  Catholic Online  gives a detailed account of the Pope’s sermon yesterday where he stated that even atheists were redeemed by Christ and would go to heaven if they “do good.”

A quote from the article:

Francis explained himself, “The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart, do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can… “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ, all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!” We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”

I recognize that the pope is not really making himself out to be a universalist, but he definitely opens the door to salvation to anyone regardless of belief. If this is a sign of things to come, I think this pope may have ideas that could really unite Christianity.  If the pope believes an atheist can get into heaven, this seems to change the entire dynamic of Christian interaction with the world.  The fundamental missionary act would be to promote and support good conduct–Christian love–rather than merely spreading Christian theology or belief.  Is the pope implying this? Am I reading too much into it? Whether this represents a sea change or is simply warmer rhetoric, I think its a very positive step. Thoughts?

Why Mormonism is only for those who desire it, and why it matters.

In our discussion about the LDS temple ritual.  I mentioned that I do not believe the endowment is for everyone, nor was it meant to be.  It is only for those who desire it.

While this seems to be a somewhat technical/semantic point. I think it is important in the context of the “Mormonism-seems-to-be-a-cult-because-it-has-secret-Rituals” discussion. By saying that endowment is ONLY for those that really want it, I underscore how different this position is from any sort of cult-like view of the ritual. Mormons are not forcing people to do weird things against their will. This seems akin to the same fallacious argument that Mormons are somehow disrespectful for performing rituals for the dead or that they disrespect holocaust victims by baptizing them. It makes no sense in context of Mormon thought and doctrine. It seems that among the pervasive misunderstandings and/or misrepresentations regarding the religion are that Mormons are a cult that pushes people or brainwashes them into making crazy commitments and weird secret rituals against their will.  This is unsupportable by the doctrine or the scriptures.

Continue reading

You are SAVED (from Hell)!! – What Evangelicals have that Mormons don’t: Part II

One thing that strikes me as a key difference in how Mormons and Evangelicals view being “saved” is what they believe they are saved from.  For Mormons, the flip-side of not feeling the joy of being COMPLETELY forgiven like Evangelicals do, is the comfort of never having to worry about hell in the least, for me or anybody else.  I think this difference may shape how Mormons and Evangelicals differ in they way they see God, their purpose in life, and, to some degree, what life is about. I offer my own experience as a way for Evangelicals to gain some insight on how not believing in Hell can shape your thoughts and behavior.

To somebody raised in the LDS church in the late twentieth century, there is no hell.  A fiery place where souls are sent by God to burn forever? As a Mormon growing up, I took that as seriously as the idea that the devil had horns and pitchfork. The only thing close to “hell” that I was taught about was not anywhere God would send me, It was merely the pain and disappointment of not being with our Father again, who wanted us to be there and provided a way for us to do it. I was taught that if we even got a glimpse of the Telestial kingdom, we would want to kill ourselves just to go their.  The absolute worst part if it was that I couldn’t be with my family forever. This sounded crappy enough, so I couldn’t imagine my Father in Heaven, who loved me more than my real parents did, wanted any of us to go through anything worse.

Continue reading

More on Love Wins

The controversy surrounding Rob Bell and his new book “Love Wins” continues to boil in the Evangelical world. Here is a video from Bell discussing the book. I’m mid-way through the video.

The Gospel Coalition supplied a lengthy review that makes a clear case for disagreement with Bell over his use of scripture, his view of Christian history and his conclusions.

Salvation & Rewards According to Evangelicals

This is a crude diagram that I made in Microsoft Paint which shows how I view evangelical soteriology, especially features which I believe will be of interest to Latter-day Saints:

(Trogdor the Burninator comes from; drawing retrieved here. All the crappy stuff was drawn by me.)

Any questions?

I don’t claim to be an expert on theology, even my own theology. I’m just now enrolled in my first ever theology class which is set to cover Christ, Humankind, Sin and Salvation, but we haven’t gotten to talking about the “salvation” part yet.

Listed below are some of the scriptures from my personal study which have influenced this interpretation. I welcome correction from the other evangelicals.

Continue reading

What happens after we die?

This question is generally a fundamental question for believers and non-believers alike, often both groups are pretty certain about what its going to be like.  I am both unsure of a good answer to this question and very skeptical about those who have sure answers both Mormon and Evangelical.

Instead of going through all of the “orthodox” or “official” ideas on the subject, I think it would be profitable to understand what the readers of this blog believe on the subject and why.  I am primarily interested in the basis for the beliefs and the details behind it.

I think there is actually solid scientific evidence for life after death or the life of a spirit outside the body.

I also have solid belief and spiritual experience evidencing God in my life based on numerous experiences as a fully practicing LDS.

However, despite all this, I am very unclear of what is going to happen when we die.  As far as I can see, all we seem to have is a brief and uncertain view of the afterlife, and there are many interpretations.  I base my own concepts on two primary ideas.

  1. God loves us with a love that that is at least similar to what we can understand, e.g. good parental love.
  2. God is just according to a concept of justice similar to what we understand.

Frankly, these two concepts cause me to disbelieve a lot of what is said about the afterlife so I would also be interested to know who believes these principles and  how everybody squares their belief in the afterlife with them.

I am also interested in how primal your belief regarding the afterlife is in the foundation of your faith.  Some become Christians out of fear of hell, others become Christians because Jesus is good and touches them and they never develop any fear of hell. Some are strong LDS because they want to go to the Celestial Kingdom- i.e. the best place, and some want to go to the Celestial Kingdom simply as a by-product of their LDS experiences.

For me this could be a helpful exercise for LDS and Evangelicals, and anybody else, to examine their own personal feelings about this issue while getting new perspectives on this very important area of faith.  Or it could just be a good way to kill some time during the day.

I know I am not offering a lot of my own feelings but I am really at a loss to offer any confident opinions.  I appreciate your thoughts in advance, Thanks for sharing!

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?

What’s The Big Deal About The Trinity?

I’ve had a couple of comments asking if I think some one is not saved just because they don’t buy into the doctrine of the Trinity. It’s an important distinction between Classical Christianity and Mormonism. So it’s worth talking about it as often as needed.

First off, I’m not the judge and I’m not pretending to be. Second, I do not think personal confusion over the doctrine of the Trinity is going to keep anyone out of heaven. No way. Not in the least. The only thing that has the power to save us is the grace of Christ. Nobody has to pass a theology exam to get in. All they have to do is repent from sin and believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

I’m pretty sure that if I walked into any Evangelical church a large number of people would give a theologically inaccurate description of the Trinity. I would hear everything from modalism to tri-theism. I’m also sure that the more I separated those people by theological education, the better their description would become. And with greater theological training comes greater responsibility to understand and avoid heresy.

Whereas I don’t think confusion or misconception about the Trinity will separate anyone from God. I DO think that an outright rejection of the Trinity is a serious problem. Why? Because we have to repent from our sins. One of our chief sins against God is idolatry. Idolatry does not only involve holding on to false gods, it also is about holding on to false ideas about God. If someone understands the doctrine of the Trinity and understands why Christianity describes God as a Trinity but utterly rejects it, then I have some questions.

Do they reject the Trinity because:
1) they do not believe the Father is God and is worthy of our worship as God?
2) they do not believe Jesus is God and is worthy of our worship as God?
3) they do not believe the Holy Spirit is God and is worthy of our worship as God?
4) they do not believe that only one God can necessarily and logically exist?

A rejection of any of these 4 ideas based on an educated reading of the Old and New Testaments (heck I’ll even throw in the Book of Mormon) I believe will pose a problem for anyone facing Christ on Judgment Day. In some way rejecting each of these ideas is rejecting God. It’s hard for me to reconcile someone rejecting God and receiving a place with him.

My question for Mormons is why do you reject the Trinity? My understanding of Mormon doctrine is that the rejection of the Trinity is founded first and foremost based on the First Vision. Between The Book of Mormon and the First Vision account, which has undergone the most revisions outside of spelling and grammatical changes? Which can be trusted as the most authoritative? Which did Joseph Smith say was the most accurate of any book? Which did you receive a spiritual testimony about?

2 Nephi 31:21

“And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end.

3 Nephi 11:22-27, 36

And again the Lord called others, and said unto them likewise; and he gave unto them power to baptize. And he said unto them: On this wise shall ye baptize; and there shall be no disputations among you. Verily I say unto you, that whoso repenteth of his sins through your words and desireth to be baptized in my name, on this wise shall ye baptize them–Behold, ye shall go down and stand in the water, and in my name shall ye baptize them. And now behold, these are the words which ye shall say, calling them by name, saying: Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. And then shall ye immerse them in the water, and come forth again out of the water. And after this manner shall ye baptize in my name; for behold, verily I say unto you, that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one; and I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one…

And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one.

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.