The Gospel to a five-year-old – Part 2

I tried this once before, but — as was obvious in the long, rambling –– I overshot the intended audience by quite a few years.   Here is another attempt at translating the Gospel into language a contemporary young deist — like a kindergartner — could understand:

God is the mysterious source of all things.  God is the source of the orderliness of the universe, including the law of right and wrong.  We cannot say anything coherent about the nature of God because it is necessarily incomprehensible, but we posit that there is a source that injected order into the chaos of simple matter that is the universe.  We can prove this source “exists” because there is order and not chaos.

The interaction between human society and the individual human yields law. These are the patterns of behavior that humans think they should follow. This law is “written in our hearts” — i.e., we understand the law in our bodies and brains through our intuition, conscience, and culture.   When we violate the law we are guilty.  Guilt exists when facts of our choices do not fit the pattern of the law. We can’t erase the law inside us easily.  To abandon the law inside us, would be to abandon our past and future care about society and culture.  There are some who are this way, but for most the law sits over our thoughts.

Logic dictates that guilt is a state that does not go away on its own because: (1) the facts do not change, (2) the law inside us does not change, and (3) guilt is a simple relationship between the facts and the law.   Guilt persists even when a punishment is inflicted. Some of us feel guilt when we violate the law, others don’t . But guilt is independent of the feeling.

When people are conscious that their choices are not in compliance with the law in their hearts they either (1) deny guilt, (2) deny the importance of the law in their hearts, or (3) admit guilt. The first two options lead to injustice, cultural disintegration of the law, and dishonesty.  The third option can lead to a state of self-hatred and sorrow in most people, described as “hell”.  Christians recognize that some people are conscious that they are in hell now, but some are not conscious of hell in this life.  But logic dictates that if the existence of an individual actor is eternal, guilt and the resulting hell are also eternal.

Experiencing “salvation” is the consciousness that comes from self-honesty, admitting guilt, and — in doing so — recognizing that the source of the law has erased this guilt through the mysterious fact of Christ. This consciousness precipitates a state of joy often called “grace”.

The fact of Christ has a redeeming relationship with all guilt.  Christ is available to all persons —  the wicked and the righteous — just like the sun and the rain.  Because the fact of Christ is an infinite fact that exists outside of experience, sort of like a numerical constant, the fact of redemption does not depend on any particular behavior, compliance with the law, or state of mind.

The fact of Christ is the meaning of the phrase “the love of God”.

Following Christ is acting in grace — i.e. admitting guilt, experiencing redemption, and letting our will bend to the law —  and having faith that this will lead to an abundance of life that is worth living.

Failing LDS-Evangelical Dialogue: “Was it the Holy Spirit telling you something? Or last night’s pizza?”

TheOldAdam, (aka Steve Martin) is the indomitable Lutheran delegate to this blog.  Over the years he has attempted to demonstrate that when it comes to certain good news, repetition can never be redundancy. As much as I sincerely appreciate the charm of theOldAdam’s message, I think he gets the LDS wrong in a very common and egregious way, i.e. by completely mis-characterizing the LDS view of the Holy Spirit.

I have tried to point to my view of the LDS understanding of the experience of the Spirit hereherehere and here, but my recent exchange with theOldAdam seems like he missed these points and it might be worth reiterating how the LDS view and the Lutheran view of the Holy Spirit are, in principle, nearly identical. It went like this:

Jared C. (Me): . . .  Mormons believe they are following the Holy Spirit and place faith in that as primal. Whatever the membership classify as common experiences with the Spirit ultimately dictate the social facts that make up doctrine. This is why some doctrines stick and others don’t, regardless of whether they are taught by the leadership.

 theOldAdam: Once again, a dubious exercise (following the Spirit)…since apart from the gospel and God’s law…”the devil can come to us all dressed up as an angel of light” (Moroni). As St. Paul said, “Even if an angel from Heaven come down with another gospel, let him be accursed.”

Me: This really makes no sense oldadam, the Holy Spirit is an integral part of any Christian life, no?

theOldAdam: What is the job of the Holy Spirit? We believe that it is to point to Christ. Not to lead us off into self-focused ladder-climbing, or experiential feelings which we cannot trust in. Was it the Holy Spirit telling you something? Or last night’s pizza?

This sort of talk always makes me shake my head. This is one of the oldest of chestnuts flung at Mormons by Evangelicals and the like: i.e. that Mormons are misguided by their emotions rather than reason because they believe in following the Spirit.

Whatever differences the LDS and Evangelicals have, it really makes no sense to say that the LDS believe substantially differently about the Holy Spirit. The OldAdam and other Lutherans wishing to speak intelligently with Mormons should take note that Mormons share the same view of the Holy Spirit: i.e. that the Holy Spirit it is the source of all scripture, and that – according to one celebrated angel – its purpose is to point Jesus. (Revelation 19:10.)

For Mormons, like most other Christians, do not believe that following the Spirit is following a human feeling at all.  “Experiential feelings” may be product of an experience with the Spirit, but not the experience itself.  The phenomena of feeling is simply the product of experience. If theOldAdam rejects the practice of trusting experiential feelings is foolish, then it’s difficult to imagine why he believes anything at all.

And the argument that Mormons are somehow not Christian because they believe in “self-focused ladder climbing” also seems like a strange argument coming from a bible believer. Mormons do, indeed, believe in the value of righteous acts committed through actively following the Spirit in faith. And, from time to time, dress themselves “in fine linen, clean and white”, to symbolize what God gave them to wear when Jesus comes again. As the voice of the Spirit pointed out, fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people. (Revelation 19: 8) However “self-focused” it may be by some estimations to wear pure white clothing, it is indisputably engaging in biblical symbolism. In the context of this symbolism, Mormons do not believe they earned their “fine linens”. The garments are literally given to them by the Lord’s servant, as a consequence of tendering a broken heart and contrite spirit, and in preparation for the Second Coming. Even though many Mormons misinterpret these symbols, this is not a knock on the “Mormon Gospel” but only on its adherents.

If Lutherans and other Evangelicals want to actually bring more LDS into the light of the Holy Spirit that testifies of Jesus, it seems far more practical and friendly to reinforce the biblical basis for the LDS temple and baptismal symbolism rather than to mock them for participating in these sorts of symbolic exercises.  (This strategy also seems less ridiculous to the outside observer.)

Why and how does God use believers to save people?

This came up in anther discussion and I thought it deserved separate attention.

Mormons definitely believe that people are an integral part of God’s plan to bring salvation to he world.  He uses us to send the message.

Here is an example of some thinking on this subject from Feast Upon the Word Blog

Evangelicals seem to believe something similar, that faith comes by hearing the word, and that people are there to evangelize.

Romans 10:17– “So then Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. ”

In principal I don’t see any fundamental difference in how we view God’s use of humans in this capacity- people are the vehicles God most often uses to spread the word, with some exceptions.

Of course Mormons believe that people will have a lot longer to spread the word to their brothers and sisters and that everyone will ultimately have the opportunity to hear and accept the gospel. I am not as clear on all the Evangelical Answers to the issues surrounding this.  Although I have listened to this:  from parchment and pen: Fate of the Un-Evangelized

Do we have very similar or radically differing thoughts about how or why God uses people to work salvation? What does this say about our respective God-views?