I’ve known a number of people who joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints years after they considered themselves to be “saved Christians.” Now that they are Latter-day Saints, many of their fellow “saved Christians” may believe that they are destined for hell. I’d like to explore the steps leading to their eternal doom to understand when it is that these saved Christians lost their souls.
First, from my perspective, the phrase “I’ve been saved” always seems so premature because I believe that salvation includes being resurrected and brought back into the presence of the Father, and those who are still mortal just don’t look completely “saved” yet, especially with all those wrinkles around the eyes. Plus I believe there there is the possibility that Christians can fall from grace (see I Cor. 10:12, Rom. 11:22, Heb. 3:12-14, etc.), so we need to endure to the end to make the hope of our salvation sure (Matt. 24:13, 2 Pet. 1:10). But when I hear someone say that, I just mentally translate it to mean “I’ve accepted the Savior, have been forgiven for my sins, have tasted of His love and goodness, and now seek to follow Him.” And that’s wonderful.
So back to my inquiry. Let’s consider the life of “John” – based on real people I’ve known. I’ll go through several stages of John’s life. For those of you saved Christians who think Mormons are headed to hell, please help me understand when John became doomed and gave up his salvation. I’ll number the stages to make things easier.
- John grows up in a Christian home and is taught to believe in the Bible and to believe in Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation.
- John goes to college and hears many challenging doctrines. He has a crisis of faith.
- While pondering, praying, and reading the scriptures, John has a powerful spiritual experience and realizes that Jesus Christ truly is Lord, no matter what scholars and mockers may say.
- John commits himself to serving the Lord, and fully accepts Jesus Christ as His Savior.
- John continues in college as a science major. In pondering the discrepancies between what he learned in Sunday School and what science teaches, John concludes that there must be ways to reconcile science and true religion. Recognizing that the Hebrew word for “day” can refer to lengthy periods of time, John suspects that the Genesis account of the Creation may describe the stages of Creation in general terms, but need not require a young earth made in six 24-hour days. Perhaps God even took advantage of evolutionary mechanisms to prepare the earth for its present state.
- John attends evangelical services, but grows uncomfortable with some of the positions and attitudes. He loves the Lord, but feels he is missing something in his understanding. He wishes to strengthen his personal relationship with the Lord and better understand his mission on earth.
- John takes a dance class. He finds he has a flare for dancing. He even enjoys doing the cha-cha.
- John meets a Mormon girl, Elaine. He is surprised at how non-evil she seems.
- John is disappointed to find that Elaine is waiting for a missionary, but they are still friends. John asks a few polite questions about Elaine’s faith, and becomes intensely curious. How can he learn more?
- He accepts Elaine’s challenge to read the Book of Mormon. John has many questions, but the teachings about the Savior resonate with his beliefs. The insights about the power of the Atonement and the love of the Savior stir him. Is it possible that a fraudulent book could be such a moving witness for the divinity of the Savior?
- John meets with the missionaries and learns details about the Restoration that help him make sense of many puzzling issues in Christian history. The idea that the Church of Jesus Christ has been restored sounds so exciting – too good to be true?
- John earnestly wishes to follow the Savior, and wonders if this Church and the Book of Mormon truly come from Him. As he learns more and experiences more, he senses that he is finding those things that he felt were missing in his understanding and faith before.
- John spends a weekend fasting, praying, studying, pondering, and pouring out his soul to the Lord to understand if he should join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is not sure, but as he explores the Book of Mormon in more depth, he has a powerful spiritual experience that gives him knowledge and faith that the Book of Mormon is scripture, like the Bible, and that it stands as a second witness for Christ.
- John concludes that his commitment to love and serve the Lord can more fully be realized by joining what he believes to be the Church of Jesus Christ, entering into a formal covenant through baptism to follow Jesus Christ, a covenant that he has already had in his heart for years.
- John horrifies his parents when he announces that he has decided to be baptized as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He explains his decision as best he can, and they try to be understanding, but there is a painful divide as the parents fear their son is lost. They try to point him to some helpful Websites to help him reconsider his faith. One of them, a site providing powerful evidence for Book of Mormon plagiarism, backfires on them – a tragic mistake, they feel. John’s intellectual appreciation of the Book of Mormon is only strengthened. He sees it as a Christ-centric scriptural account that profoundly strengthens his understanding and appreciation for His Savior, Jesus Christ.
- John is baptized and receives the Gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands.
- John is ordained as a priest in the Church, and takes delight in helping to bless the sacrament – the communion – in Church services, and marvels at the opportunity he has to break and bless the bread in remembrance of the Savior.
- Three weeks later, in a testimony meeting, John gladly bears witness of the Savior, of the love and mercy of the Savior, and his gratitude for having learned about the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
- Elaine can’t get over John, and they begin dating. Elaine writes something of a “dear John” letter to her missionary.
- John spends significant amounts of his free time seeking to serve the Lord through service to others. He gladly pays tithing on his small income, and attends meetings each Sunday at Church. John is puzzled about the indifference some Mormons seem to have about their faith, not taking it as seriously as they should, and prefers to associate with the Latter-day Saints that sincerely seek to live their religion. There are some disappointments in Zion, but John feels closer to the Savior than ever, and feels that he is following Him, though there are plenty of things he doesn’t understand about the Church and life in general. He will always seeks to learn and understand more.
- Some friends share anti-Mormon literature with John. He is shaken but does online research and finds plausible answers. He is not prepared to deny his faith and the powerful experiences he has had on the basis of some bitter critics ranting, anymore than he was prepared to abandon his faith in Christ and the Bible on the basis of evolutionary theory and other attacks he experienced in his early college days. He recognizes that his understanding may need to be adjusted on some issues, but he has no doubt that the Savior lives, that God is real, and that the scriptures – including the Book of Mormon – are inspired of God.
- John is asked if he would be willing to serve on a mission. He has already given that serious thought, and accepts the challenge.
- John spends two years in France bearing witness of the Savior and the Restoration to people who mostly don’t want to hear what he has to say. It is the most difficult and painful experience of his life, but he later learns that two of the people he taught later joined the Church, and that one of them stayed active. Not a huge harvest of souls, but he knows he made a difference – not to mention the companions he helped strengthen. Regardless of the size of the harvest, the experience of sacrificing for the Lord for two years brought him closer than ever to the Savior, and he feels that the experience was worth the pain.
- John returns from France and soon marries Elaine in the temple.
- John starts a pro-LDS blog to share his faith promoting experiences and insights, and becomes an amateur LDS apologist. And believe it or not, he sincerely thinks he’s serving the Savior in doing this, and in his heart, firmly believes that He has accepted Jesus Christ as His personal Savior, and seeks to be a witness of Jesus Christ throughout his life. He feels he has never departed from his early faith in Christ, have only accepted more of the gifts and blessings that Jesus Christ offers as he has progressed on his journey through life.
So now John, once an acceptable saved Christian, has become a “true blue Mormon” destined for eternal roasting. I’m just curious to know at which point join abandoned Jesus Christ and lost his soul. I ask this question in all seriousness for it points to a very fundamental puzzle that I encounter in dealing with so many angry Christians trying to tell me and other Mormons why we are going to hell for not believing in the Bible or in Jesus, when in fact we do. By considering the case of someone who at least initially met acceptable criteria for salvation, pinpointing the loss of the Mormon soul in the above list of events will help me understand where some of our critics are coming from.
It’s hard for me to see at what point our saved Christian friends could say that John truly denied Jesus Christ and became a child of hell. Could it be step 7 – something to do with the cha-cha?
87 thoughts on “Exactly When Do Saved Christians Lose Their Souls?”
Well, most southern baptist jurisdictions do tend to proscribe dancing (compare Footloose).
I think if I were an evangelical, my response to your question would be, “Between numbers six and seven” in all seriousness. I think it would be a desire to look beyond the community of believers, in your example, to a dance school, for fulfillment, that he starts to “apostatize.” Or, I could just be talking out of my you-know-what. But I think it’s important to emphasize that we Latter-day Saints can be guilty of accusing people of the same thing. For instance, I recently chose to visit a masjid (mosque) to inquire about Arabic lessons. Telling that to people at church was precarious at best.
I, by the way am a convert to the Church from atheism (though to which degree of atheism, I do not know myself).
Wow, Elaine got the short end of the stick. Half way through one missionary only to start completely over.
well from being exposed to the once saved always saved ideas, I have heard it said that a person like that was never really truly saved to begin with.
I’m not sure how you can hold that idea simultaneously though because by default they are then, at least by implication, making a case for enduring to the end at the same time.
The moment John accepted a belief that he would one day become a god himself.
The moment he abandoned Christ’s teachings (ie: accepted a secret handshake prerequisite for heavenly entry).
The moment he accepted a belief that Christ alone was insufficient for salvation…
My name is John, and I haven’t gotten past Step 2.
Conversely, we can ask why anyone who was moved in the Spirit would ever leave the “one true church” (if it even exists).
People switch their religions all the time, even after they claim God was guiding them in their first religion. Even Mormon bishops have been known to abandon their “calling”.
Most people, even atheists, base their beliefs on what they want to be true. But wants can be easily manipulated, and what satisfied the soul one day may feel dry the next week. Most spirituality is a matter of taste.
The Book of Mormon reads like a epic, and I myself have been wrapped up in at times. But no matter how fantastic it may sound, I cannot accept what insults my intellectual integrity.
I am curious as to why it is that anonymous – let’s call him, assuming that anonymous is a male, Joe – thinks that the doctrines of the LDS church (i.e. deification, Temple worship, etc.) are contrary to Christs’ teachings. Let us examine as to whether or not those teachings are Christian, shall we?
“The moment John accepted a belief that he would one day become a god himself.”
The idea that man can become a divine god is nothing new to Mormonism. Early Christian doctrine is saturated in the idea of man becoming a God. Here is what Irenaeus said,
“While man gradually advances and mounts towards perfection; that is, he approaches the eternal. The eternal is perfect; and this is God. Man has first to come into being, then to progress, and by progressing come to manhood, and having reached manhood to increase, and thus increasing to persevere, and persevering to be glorified, and thus see his Lord…We were not made gods at our beginning, but first we were made men, then, in the end, gods.” (Henry Bettenson, The Early Christian Fathers: A Selection from the Writings of the Fathers from St. Clement of Rome to St. Athanasius, 94)
Irenaeus also wrote,
“For he who holds, without pride and boasting, the true glory (opinion) regarding created things and the Creator, who is the Almighty God of all, and who has granted existence to all; [such an one, ] continuing in His love and subjection, and giving of thanks, shall also receive from Him the greater glory of promotion, looking forward to the time when he shall become like Him who died for him, for He, too, “was made in the likeness of sinful flesh,”to condemn sin, and to cast it, as now a condemned thing, away beyond the flesh, but that He might call man forth into His own likeness, assigning him as [His own] imitator to God, and imposing on him His Father’s law, in order that he may see God, and granting him power to receive the Father; [being] the Word of God who dwelt in man, and became the Son of man, that He might accustom man to receive God, and God to dwell in man, according to the good pleasure of the Father.” ( Irenaeus, “Against Heresies,” () Ante-Nicene Fathers 1:450, chapter 6)
Here is Clement of Alexandria,
“…yea, I say, the Word of God became a man so that you might learn from a man how to become a god.” (Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Greeks, 1)
“…if one knows himself, he will know God, and knowing God will become like God…His is beauty, true beauty, for it is God, and that man becomes god, since God wills it.” (Clement of Alexandria, Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, 3.1 see also Clement, Stromateis, 23)
“Those who have been perfected are given their reward and their honors. They have done with their purification, they have done with the rest of their service, though it be a holy service, with the holy; now they become pure in heart, and because of their close intimacy with the Lord there awaits them a restoration to eternal contemplation; and they have received the title of “gods” since they are destined to be enthroned with the other “gods” who are ranked next below the savior.” (Henry Bettenson, The Early Christian Fathers: A Selection from the Writings of the Fathers from St. Clement of Rome to St. Athanasius (London: Oxford University Press, 1956), 243–244. And Stromata 7:10 (55–56).)
“to prove to you that the Holy Ghost reproaches men because they were made like God, free from suffering and death, provided that they kept His commandments, and were deemed deserving of the name of His sons… in the beginning men were made like God, free from suffering and death, and that they are thus deemed worthy of becoming gods and of having power to become sons of the highest…” (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 124)
“the Word was made flesh in order that we might be enabled to be made gods….just as the Lord, putting on the body, became a man, so also we men are both defied through His flesh, and henceforth inherit everlasting life…[we are] sons and gods by reason of the word in us.” (Athanasius, Against the Arians, 1.39, 3.39.)
“…but He himself that justifies also defies, for by justifying He makes sons of God. For He has given them power to become the sons of God, (John 1:12). If then we have been made sons of God, we have also been made gods.” (Augustine, On the Psalms, 50:2)
Jerome thought that man could become divine,
““I said ‘you are gods, all of you sons of the most high.’” let Eunomius hear this, let Arius, who say that the son of God is son in the same way we are. That we are gods is not so by nature, but by grace. “but to as many as receive Him he gave power to becoming sons of God” I made man for that purpose, that from men they may become gods. We are called gods and sons!…[Christ said] “all of you sons of the Most High,” it is not possible to be the son of the Most High, unless He Himself is the Most High. I said that all of you would be exalted as I am exalted… give thanks to the God of gods. The prophet is referring to those gods of whom it is written: I said ‘you are gods’ and again ‘god arises in the divine assembly’ they who cease to be mere men, abandon the ways of vice an are become perfect, are gods and the sons of the most high…” (Jerome, The Homilies of Saint Jerome, 106–353.)
Now these are not so called ‘heretical’ teachers and Christians, these are Orthodox Christian theologians and teachers. Now, let’s see if this idea of becoming divine is in the Bible. Here is a list of biblical passages that seem to show that indeed man can become perfected and divine:
2 Peter 1:4
2 Corinthians 3:18
1 Peter 3:7
So the idea of becoming a divine God is right at home with primitive Christian teachings. Indeed, the early Christian Fathers would have loved Joseph’s King Follett Discourse, as he was basically just repeating what they themselves had taught about becoming gods. Now if Evangelicals are so passionate about being “bible-Christians” then why is it they get so mad at Mormons for teaching that you can become like our Father in Heaven when the doctrine is completely biblical?
Anon/”Joe”, help me out. If someone accepts Christ as his or her savior, but also believes something you think is incorrect — such as believing that the resurrected Lord still has the glorious, tangible physical body he allowed people to see and touch in Luke 24, or using the Catholic Bible instead of your Bible, or using wrong terminology such as “gods” in describing the final state of sons and daughters of God who put on the divine nature and become more like Jesus — then why does that error in understanding send the person to hell?
Do they also have to get correct answers on a quantum physics quiz? Or be able to name every starting pitcher in the World Series? Just how extensive is the Eternal Salvation Quiz that we have to pass with perfect answers in order to be saved?
And Anon, if the John of my example never actually thought that he’s going to one day be classified among “gods”, would he still be OK?
I just want to say that I really, really appreciate what stesmo explained. I’m a LDS member and I am always questioned about that from people outside the church. Thanks!!!
This is a follow up response to Joe’s second assertion. I hopefully demonstrated in my first post that the doctrine of Exaltation, or becoming a god/goddess, is right at home in Apostolic Christianity. This second post will be a response to Joe’s assertion that John lost his salvation “The moment he abandoned Christ’s teachings (ie: accepted a secret handshake prerequisite for heavenly entry).”
Once again, we find that the early Christians were ripe with Temple liturgy, including the Savior teaching his Apostles secret ceremonies. First off, I would recommend Margaret Barker’s “The Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy”, Dan Peterson’s “Offenders for a Word” and Hugh Nibley’s “Mormonism and Early Christianity”. All of these books deals with this issue quite masterfully.
Now, onto the issue at hand. We find plenty of Biblical references to the “mysteries of God”. Lets use one example, from, let’s say, 1 Corinthians 4:1 wherein Paul refers to himself and his associates as “stewards of the mystery of God”. Now, turning to the Greek word for ‘mystery’, we find the Genitive Plural Neuter word “Mysterion” which literally means “secret doctrines” and is associated with initiation into a religious ritual when put in context with the passage. So, in other words, Paul is saying that he and his associates are “stewards of the [secret doctrines] of God”.
Now, turning to the Secret Gospel of Mark, one of my favorite apocryphal works, Jesus is said to have taught a young man “the mysteries of the Kingdom of God” at the Jordan river while the young man was nothing but a linen cloth. Remember the Greek word “mysterion” meaning secret doctrines or ordinances? Sure enough, the original Greek used informs us the Jesus was teaching the young man “the [secret doctrines and ordinances] of the Kingdom of God”. So we see how Jesus himself was teaching secret doctrines and ordinances. We also read in several more apocryphal texts (i.e. Acts of Peter, Gospel of Thomas) that Jesus’ teachings during his 40 day Ministry was to be top secret, and that the Apostles were to tell no one save those involved about what he was teaching them. Why the Gospel of Thomas flat out tells us that what is being recorded are the “secret sayings that the living Jesus told us.” (80:10)
In the Gospel of Philip, we read that Jesus has “everything within himself, whether human or angel or mystery [secret doctrines and ordinances] and the Father” (Gospel of Phillip, 56:13-15) It is interesting to note that the Gospel of Philip refers to marriage, baptism (i.e. washings and anointings) and many other ordinances as “great mysteries” [secret doctrine and ordinance]” (The Nag Hammadi Scriptures, 2007, Marvin Meyer, 171, 173).
In the Secret Book of John, in which Jesus teaches John more doctrines, it starts out by saying,
“The teachings of the Savior, and [the revelations] of the mysteries [secret doctrines and ordinances] hidden in silence, the things that he taught his disciple John.” (Secret Gospel of John, 1,1- 4)
And then it ends by saying that the previous teaches had been “communicated to him in a mystery.” (Secret Book of John, 31, 25-32, 10)
So we have Canonical and non-canonical references to Jesus teaching the Apostles “secret doctrines” including the giving of new names, washings and anointings, teaching signs and tokens, teaching the disciples the prayer circle, etc. that were not to be shared publically. Check out two great books entitled “The Nag Hammadi Scriptures” and “The Essential Gnostic Gospels” for more info.
Celsus, the early anti-Christian polemic, often accused the members of the “cult of Christ” – note how early Christians got slack for being a ‘cult’, just like the Latter-day Saints – as being “a secret society whose members huddle together in corners for fear of being brought to trial and punishment.” (Celsus, 1987, 53) Caecilius Natalis asked,
“Why do they [Christians] endeavor with such pains to conceal and to cloak whatever they worship, since honorable things always rejoice in publicity, while crimes are kept secret?…Why do they never speak openly, never congregate freely, unless for the reason that what they adore and conceal is either worthy of punishment, or something to be ashamed of?” (Bolle, 1987, 1) I can almost hear Decker or McKeever as I read these words. Caecilius demanded that the Christians be uprooted because,
“They know one another by secret marks and insignia…certainly suspicion is applicable to [these] secret and nocturnal rites.” (Octavious X, 9). Tertullian wrote that the apostles “did not reveal all to all men, for…they proclaimed some openly and to all the world, whilst they disclose others only in secret and to a few.” (Against Heretics, 25) And finally, Athanasius wrote,
“It is good to keep close the secret of the King, as the Lord has charged us, ‘Give not that which is holy before dogs, neither cast ye pearls before swine.’ We ought not then to parade the holy mysteries [or secret doctrines] before the uninitiated…” (Defence against the Arians, 1:11)
There are countless more apocryphal books and Christian theologians that taught that Jesus himself gave secret doctrines to his Apostles, who should not reveal them to the world. So Joe’s second assertion is spurious, as Christ was recorded teaching the apostles and others secret doctrines and ordinances.
This is my final post in response to Joe’s comments.
Joe wrote that John would lose his salvation at “The moment he accepted a belief that Christ alone was insufficient for salvation…”
To say that this claim is LDS doctrine is completely bogus! Anyone in the LDS Church who teaches that Christ cannot save you would be excommunicated so fast that it would make their head spin!
Article of Faith 3:
“We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel”
In 2 Nephi 2:8 we read,
“Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.”
The entirety of King Benjamin’s Address (Mosiah 2-5) was on how *only* through Jesus Christ and his Gospel can we be saved. Here is just a snippet of that address in Mosiah 3:12-18,
“But wo, wo unto him who knoweth that he rebelleth against God! For salvation cometh to none such except it be through repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus. And the Lord God hath sent his holy prophets among all the children of men, to declare these things to every kindred, nation, and tongue, that thereby whosoever should believe that Christ should come, the same might receive remission of their sins, and rejoice with exceedingly great joy, even as though he had already come among them. Yet the Lord God saw that his people were a stiffnecked people, and he appointed unto them a law, even the law of Moses. And many signs, and wonders, and types, and shadows showed he unto them, concerning his coming; and also holy prophets spake unto them concerning his coming; and yet they hardened their hearts, and understood not that the law of Moses availeth nothing except it were through the atonement of his blood. And even if it were possible that little children could sin they could not be saved; but I say unto you they are blessed; for behold, as in Adam, or by nature, they fall, even so the blood of Christ atoneth for their sins. And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent. For behold he judgeth, and his judgment is just; and the infant perisheth not that dieth in his infancy; but men drink damnation to their own souls except they humble themselves and become as little children, and believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.”
The last freakin’ thing that Moroni taught in the Book of Mormon (Moroni 10:32-33) was the following:
“Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.”
Joe’s third charge is as spurious as his other two. The entire foundation of LDS doctrine is that only through faith on Jesus Christ and obedience to His commandments can we be saved.
Jeff, this wouldn’t happen to be your life story summed up in twenty-five easy steps, would it?
Ha – I was wondering the same thing as Mr. Antley…
No, I come from an LDS heritage. I’ll admit that the part about starting a blog is closer to my experience than the lives of the converts I had in mine, though there some good LDS blogs operated by converts from various forms of Protestantism.
It might be interesting for some to read about the Eastern Orthodox’s view of “Toll Houses.” It isn’t a dogma, but many of their saints and theologians believe them and they do bear a similarity in some ways to the whole “passwords and handclaps” thing. Just to show that LDS aren’t alone in a view like this.
As someone who lives because of His grace, again, I can’t help but point out that salvation belongs to God alone. It is Him who chooses and not us…
Throughout your 25-step guide, I couldn’t see any evidence of John being in despair because of his sin. There was not an instance when John (it seemed) did not fall to his knees and BEG for forgiveness and for help. It almost seemed like a gnostic’s way to attain salvation more than anything else – (that the way to God is through knowledge…)
There are many (even within Evangelicalism) who think that they have salvation when they do not.
The person who failed to live the Mormon life and failed to gain a temple recommend has more chance of receiving salvation than a LDS stake president…just as the evangelical Christian who committed adultery/murdered etc. has more chance of receiving salvation than the Catholic pope. =(
Jeff, it is God who chooses. You will see the true mark of salvation in someone because they recognize the ugly sin that they have been forgiven from. And in their state of forgiveness cannot help but thank God for the rest of their life… =D
There is a youtube video lingering around the net of Mr. John Piper who addresses the absurdity of nominal Christianity… are people really prizing Christ in their lives or are they just after a ticket to heaven? Thought-provoking stuff =)
For those of you who don’t know, I was brought up in a Christian environment, a Bible believing family…but my faith was not in Christ but in religion…
At university, I wandered elsewhere – I began to reject Christianity in my embrace for atheistic-existentialism and some traits of Buddhism.
…but something happened…and God broke (even) the power of canceled sin. For once in my life, I could not depend upon anybody (even myself) – only to God. It’s very humbling because I’ve always been brought up to stand up on my own two feet – and it’s shameful if one cannot.
But the message of Christianity is that WE ARE ALL FAILURES – WE CANNOT LIVE ACCORDING TO THE LAW. WE CANNOT LIVE ACCORDING TO THE DOCTRINES & COVENANTS – and because the work has already been done (through the death and resurrection of Jesus) – ‘grace‘…we cannot stand on our own two feet but instead rest and look to Him who has already done the work… =)
And the result? A life filled with thankfulness! =)
I have just posted the video of John Piper on my google blog if people want to hear what he has to say – well, his rebuke to nominal Christians(!) =/
My head is buzzing with so many criticisms around this ‘John’ incident…but you say in point #5:
“Perhaps God even took advantage of evolutionary mechanisms to prepare the earth for its present state.”
Personally, I am a creationist. I hold to the literal 6-day creation account.
Death and suffering only entered into our world because of Adam and Eve’s sin. Purely from a ‘gospel perspective’, how can you hold to an evolutionary model (survival of the fittest – where death must have existed BEFORE Adam & Eve)?
Again, ‘death’ and ‘suffering’ only entered at the point that Adam and Eve sinned…
Interestingly, have you read Darwin’s Black Box by Behe? A good read…I don’t fully buy everything he says, but it’s good. =)
NM, from my perspective, being a faithful Christian implicitly calls for the process of pouring out our souls to God, confessing our sins, and seeking His grace and forgiveness. This should be assumed to be part of the background of John’s sincere dedication to Christ. To follow Christ is to seek forgiveness of our sins, to confess our sins, and to seek to “go and sin no more.” This personal quest for forgiveness and a relationship with the Savior should be understood as implicit to John’s life, with numerous events of seeking to be closer to the Savior in contrite prayer. He is not a nominal Christian by any means.
And Nat, God doesn’t choose what I do. The scriptures plainly teach that God’s will is that all men be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-5) and He is “not willing that any should perish, that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Sadly, we resist the grace he offers us through our choices. We choose whether to accept Jesus Christ or not. We are not robots utterly devoid of freedom to choose, but sons and daughters of God called to grace – if we choose to accept His Son and seek forgiveness.
I’ve known Protestant minister to become Latter Day Saints too–so it’s a wash. Can’t say that Mormons are the only ones to leave their religion for Protestantism. Vice versa as well.
NM: …the evangelical Christian who committed adultery/murdered etc. has more chance of receiving salvation than the Catholic pope
I am always puzzled when this notion pops up that the abject sinner is in some way more eligible for salvation than the person who does their best to follow God. I’ve actually heard it from LDS people as well, and it just doesn’t sit well with me.
I think the “abject sinner” theory makes two bad assumptions: (1) that “big” sins are fundamentally worse than “little” ones, and (2) that Grace consists only — or at least mostly — of forgiveness for sins. The ability to make “bad men good” is only a small piece of Christ’s grace. He also makes “good men better.”
1. Even the tiniest sins (committed by “good men”) are plenty to keep us out of God’s presence, and, to be honest, the big, obvious sins are often not the most pernicious. Adultury, murder, theft, abuse — they all come with an equally obvious consequences that most people are able to recognize, whether they claim to follow Christ or not. Others, though — pride, impatience, hypocrisy, and whatever other inner weaknesses keep us from growing closer to God — they are just as hard to fully root out, in my opinion.
2. We face so many weak moments in mortality, so many painful experiences, and during those times grace takes the form of strength and spiritual healing, in addition to forgiveness for our lapses in obedience. Many of these terribly painful things we go through are not our own fault, but are the result of others’ sins (abuse) or of living in a fallen world (sickness). I can only imagine the gratitude of someone who, through no sin of their own, has suffered the most atrocious consequences of sin and mortality and discovers that Christ’s Grace can save them, too.
Christ doesn’t just open the prison doors for His people; He also wipes away their tears.
So, while I agree that it’s possible for a “nominal” Christian to have not accepted Christ’s grace in a meaningful way, God is aware of this possibility and has built “ends of the rope” into our mortal experience that do not depend on (our own) sin. Some of them don’t even depend on “bad things” happening.
My own experience has been that even an honest, obedient disciple of Christ will come to the end of their rope just trying to follow Him. We can’t even bear Christ’s “easy yoke” without his Grace. My most profound moments of appreciation for Christ have actually come from the “good” end-of-the-rope experiences where I had to beg for strength to go on rather than forgiveness for some sin.
If someone tries to follow God, and somehow makes it through mortality without committing any “big” sins, I am absolutely certain that God will make sure they come to an appreciation of His grace through other means at some point. I can’t imagine Him witholding that blessing from someone just because they did their best to follow His commandments without a full understanding of the grace that made it possible.
Very well put.
I’ve never understood the endless fascination many Christians have with determining who is “saved” and who is not (Mormon w/o temple recommend v stake president, evangelical murderer v. Pope). Isn’t judgment something reserved for the Almighty? Didn’t Christ have a few choice words to those who would judge others?
I think that those who insist on passing judgment on the souls of others have “missed the memo” regarding the Gospel message.
I wasn’t talking about BIG sin.
The example I gave is similar to the examples written about in the gospels.
The two kinds of people who were almost always present when Jesus did his healing/exorcism/miracle ministries were the pharisees and the publicans/’sinners’.
All sin is equal in the sight of God…whatever form it takes, they are all expressions of ‘I am god’. I think my point was to show that people who fail are more likely to receive help, just as it is those who know they are physically ill who are likely to receive medical attention. =)
I was not making a judgement. It is God alone who has that right; I think I was merely making an observation. =)
What you said were very good points though…
“My own experience has been that even an honest, obedient disciple of Christ will come to the end of their rope just trying to follow Him.”
EXCELLENT!! Lovin’ it! =D
I believe there is a big difference between sins. Aren’t some harder to repent for? Wouldn’t the Lord look very differently upon one who tells his wife she doesn’t look fat in a dress when perhaps she does compared to one who is a rapist or who has committed adultery?
No, you shouldn’t start down the road of small sins; that could lead to the big ones. But there is a difference.
“I believe there is a big difference between sins. Aren’t some harder to repent for?
WHAT IN THE WORLD IS THIS ALL ABOUT?!
Is this Mormon doctrine? Or this just your interpretation Latter-Day James?
Some sins are harder to repent for(?)
I think actually the meaning behind sin being equal could be that any sin will keep you from God, whether it be small or big. The steps of repentance are equal for all sin right? But as far as all sin being equal, apparently one isn’t because it is unforgivable.
I really haven’t seen a good answer to the question at hand yet.
LDS James: Sins differ in magnitude, but not in kind. While some sins are “bigger” than others in terms of damage done to self and others, they are all the same in the sense that any single sin — of whatever magnitude — is enough to cause spiritual death.
NM: I think what he meant is that some sins have serious consequences in mortality; in the sense that they can impact one’s social standing (prison), economic status (fines), and relationships (divorce).
Our worldly concerns over the mortal consequences of sin can interfere with our journey to Christ, while facing those consequences can be a lot of unpleasant work, even after sincere repentance.
In my understanding, Christ’s injunction to “render unto Caesar” stands even in matters of sin. The repentant sinner must still pay any debt owed to society, and hopefully has the sense to make restitution to the victim(s) of his sin, when possible — perhaps even beyond what society’s law strictly requires.
I doubt you think a career burglar should keep his booty and escape all criminal prosecution simply because he repented…