Preface to My 95 Theses to the LDS Corridor

On October 31, 1517, a fiery, fearless, tempestuous, monkish man by the name of Martin Luther decided to issue 95 theses in addressing the corruptions he saw within his mother Holy Roman Catholic Church.  He despised the selling of indulgences.  And he hated the manipulation of the Catholic doctrine of purgatory for the robbing of the poor.  He was ready to debate, caring not that his words infuriated others.  In every way, St. Peter’s Basilica became the greatest monument to the Protestant Reformation.

 

As a college student, I can’t recall the number of times that I watched the classic Louis De Rochemont production of the black and white film, Martin Luther.  I enjoyed listening to the accomplished Shakespearean and church historian professor, Dr. Edward Panosian, act out in first person the life of the boisterous reformer.

 

So after seminary days, I decided to take my wife to Germany and hunt down this historical figure.

 

I will never forget Worms.  In the garden of the modern Heylshof House of Art, I personally located all the German plaques that marked the events of that notorious day where Martin Luther stood before Kaiser Karl V.   In a blow by blow account on that sunny day in Germany, I reconstructed the explosive events that shook the world.

 

From there, I examined every detail in the Luther Room, reconstructed in 1983 on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Luther’s birth.  And after strolling through the big Catholic Romanesque Church and the Holy Trinity Church (built in honor of Luther), we finally headed to the centralized Luther Monument containing the bronze-cast figures of Friedrich der Weise, Philip the Magnanimous, Johann Reuchlin, Philip Melancthon, Augsburg with the palm of peace, Protesting Speyer, Magdeburg in mourning, Dr. Martin Luther, Petrus Waldus, John Wyclif (Wiclef), John Hus, and the Italian Girolamo (Hieronymus) Savonarola.

 

To see Martin Luther, towering high in the center of the monument, wearing preacher’s garb, and holding a Bible, is an impressive sight.  He is staring at the Bishop’s palace, which once stood overshadowed by the cathedral.

 

The upper block underneath Luther’s sculpture provides these famous four statements by Luther alongside the portraits of contemporaries (John of Saxony, John Frederick, Justus Jonas, John Bugenhagen, Ulrich von Hutten, Franz von Sikkingen, John Calvin, and Ulrich Zwingli):

“Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.  God help me.  Amen.”

“Faith is nothing other than the true and real life in God himself. – To really understand the Scriptures one needs the spirit of Christ.”

“The Holy Gospel, given us by the Lord through the mouths of the apostles, is his sword and with it he will strike in the world as though with thunder and lightning.”

“Christianity in its true sense will not be held captive by any human law. – They are free, not according to the flesh, but according to their conscience.”

There are some ideas by Luther, wherein I stand in opposition to him.  To carelessly affront the Jewish race is sad.  I relished walking quietly through the oldest Jewish cemetery in Europe, the “Holy Sands”, next to the Luther Room.  My wife thinks Martin Luther to be ugly in appearance.  Well, I would say that some of the things he said were bestial and ugly.

 

But Martin Luther courageously stood for the soteriological doctrine of justification by grace alone and defended with all his heart biblical authority.  Thank God he was not blasé on these fundamentals.  Bravura happened to be the need of the hour.

 

I have neither the cultural shaping nor the scholastic training of Luther.  My temperament is both shy and blithe compared to Luther’s bombastic personality.  Yet as Luther felt burdened at almost age 34 (birthdate, November 10, 1483) to share his convictions to the greater religious populace of his day, at age 37, I earnestly desire to share my 95 Theses to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dominating my Intermountain West I-15 corridor.  Independent apologist, Blake Ostler, even encouraged me in such a wild idea somewhere on one of those threads on New Cool Thang.  Thanks.  Some time soon, I will be mailing my 95 Theses to both the first Presidency and the Twelve Apostles.

 

On the heels of a first ever National Student Dialogue Conference sponsored by Standing Together Ministries in Salt Lake City, involving both evangelical and LDS professors and students, I am trying something a little different.  Scholars today, like John Morehead of Salt Lake Theological Seminary and others, would encourage evangelicals and LDS in the dance of dialogue.  Some conversations I saw in the conference as beneficial; but other things I saw as unhelpful tip-toeing, leading to theological compromise in the name of not hurting any good friend’s “sacred” feelings.

 

Do conservative LDS and conservative evangelicals dance well together in 2007?  I think my conservative LDS friends, rather than me approaching them and asking for a graceful dance in dialogue, would desire to see my candid beliefs written in the 95 theses.  In kindness and respect, I owe you all in LDS bloggernacle that much.  We might not dance together in worship, but we can properly converse.

 

Look for it on HI4LDS, this Wednesday, October 31, 2007, presently 490 years later from Luther’s day in Germany.  I have been to both the Vatican and Temple Square.  My issues lie with the religious Mecca of my loved corridor—Temple Square and its powerful authorities.

20 comments

  1. The Restored Gospel is a beautiful thing. Philisophical disputes about essences and esoterica will only bring rancor and division. This may well be the better course, as you suggest. There is not much reason for tip-toeing around differences, particularly when the only result of that is Evangelical Christians’ spitefully using LDS goodwill and sincerity in often misguided political causes. After all, a belief in the evil and depravity of Latter-day Saints and the Restored Gospel is no reason to reject LDS support and money for pet causes, is it?

    If the General Authorities see your 95 theses, they will be inclined to offer you sincere thanks for your concern about the well being of Mormon souls but will do so in the face of personal irritation at (1) your arrogance in arrogating to yourself the role of a Martin Luther who wanted to reform a corrupt church and not deconvert people from any church and (2) your stubborn lack of understanding at the motivations and belief of Latter-day Saints who believe in the Jesus depicted in the New Testament despite their rejection of the creedal abstractions that have been made into the sina qua non of being a “Christian”.

  2. John f.,

    two things that I understand . . .

    1) I am not a Martin Luther. I am using the 95 theses theme as a springboard to discuss doctrine not necessarily religious practice.

    2) No doubt, there is much irritation to my public discussion.

  3. john f.

    Do you really intend to come off the way you do? I’ve not read a single one of your posts that does not embody anger, bitterness and pettiness. Nor have I read many of your posts that do not simply recite the same mantra over and over: “Mormons believe in the Jesus Christ of the New Testament while Evangelicals believe in mere creeds of men.” Yet, you do not engage in a sincere discussion of the Scriptures themselves. Rather it is more convenient to continue throwing out unfounded labels and leveling personal accusations and attacks. Surely this is not the type of behavior or engagement endorsed by the LDS church. Quite to the contrary, many LDS that I work with (and many who post here) are quite genuine and sincere in their openness and willingness to discuss doctrines and beliefs and their origins, and do so with gentleness respect.

    To be perfectly honest, I do not see in your posts any desire to educate others or to gain any understanding for yourself of the hearts and minds of others. I am deeply saddened at each new, repetitive post, taking sardonic pot shots in between echoes of your self-reassuring Mormons-are-true-Christians/Evangelicals-are-creedalist tirades.

    Incidentally, for those who care about creeds ( I do not), you have not provided one shred of contextual, Scriptural evidence to factually and convincingly debunk a single tenet of the creeds you so despise. Not only has this caused me to have no inclination of engaging you before now (without substance, there is nothing to engage), this causes me to wonder why indeed you are posting here. If you truly believe in the Jesus Christ of the New Testament, why would you not simply address doctrinal differences with the Word of God itself as its own defense? Surely God does not need the vitriolic attacks of men to defend His truth.

    Indeed, the study of God’s Word in earnest is where we may prayerfully find the ultimate truth about God and His nature, as He Himself has revealed. What higher authority is there but the Sovereign Himself? Creeds? Traditions? Opinions? Extra-biblical doctrine? Certainly not!! In the words of the Apostle Paul himself, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (Gal. 1:8-9) So a productive discussion leading unto the discovery of truth will ALWAYS be centered upon the Scripture itself; all else must come into subjection to its supremacy. In this, there is no room for personal prejudice, misguided assignment of motives, nor labels of stereotype.

    Please understand, I am making no attempt to judge you personally. Not only is that not my place, but I do not know you personally. These are simply my observations about the manner and character of your posts. If my observations do not reflect your intentions, then I hope you will undertake to pursue more productive discussions and at least seek that we may better understand each other, even in our vehement disagreement, rather than seeking to undermine or discredit or label with a broad brush.

    I do pray that this falls on receptive ears (or eyes, as the case may be) and that kindness and respect may prevail in future threads. For it is in our humility that He (Christ) will increase, and we will decrease, that we may not obscure His glory and ministry (cf. John 3:30).

    In Christ Alone,
    Brian

  4. Todd, I appreciate the passion of your heart to dialogue with our precious LDS friends. The way to eternal live and the everlasting blessings of the Bible is decidedly different from the way taught in the LDS church. You are one more who cares enough to want them to join us in the Glory to come. AMEN to that as we love them too. You’re onto something really good here that has been a long time coming. I believe you have the insight and the right spirit to really do a good job. And what an appropriate and informative introduction to introduce this thesis! I’ll be checking your site for more to come.

    Chuck Brocka

  5. Todd, thanks for the positive mention. I do have a few questions related to this post.

    First, you seem to find value of some sort in the evangelical-Mormon dance of dialogue. How do you see this relating to the proclamation of a theses?

    Second, you found some things helpful at the dialogue conference. Could you enumerate those for us?

    Third, you found some things at the dialogue conference as possible leads to compromise. Could you discuss those things for us as well?

    Fourth, how do you see counter-cult paradigms of heresy refutation as shaping your perceptions of Mormonism, dialogue, and the role of your theses for the exchange process?

    Thanks!

  6. Incidentally, for those who care about creeds ( I do not), you have not provided one shred of contextual, Scriptural evidence to factually and convincingly debunk a single tenet of the creeds you so despise. Not only has this caused me to have no inclination of engaging you before now (without substance, there is nothing to engage), this causes me to wonder why indeed you are posting here.

    Brian, this is because I am not trying to debunk your creeds or ruin your interpretation of Jesus Christ through the lens of the creeds. Rather, I am bristling that this interpretation is used to justify Todd and his co-religionists in calling me, my wife, and my children “not Christian” because we do not use the creeds as the lens through which to interpret Jesus Christ, despite our sincere devotion to and intimate knowledge of the Bible. Yes, I believe that Latter-day Saints have the correct understanding of Jesus Christ but I would never call a creedal Christian “not Christian” and say that they don’t seek, don’t believe in, and don’t know Jesus because they interpret Jesus differently than I do. (The issue of ordinances remains, however, as does that of the priesthood authority to perform those ordinances.) No matter how Christ-centered and structured the life of my family is, Todd and his co-religionists feel justified in labelling us as “not Christians” because we do not hold to the Trinitarian creeds and do not see their interpretation as necessary (i.e. following inexorably) from the Biblical text (although we do believe in the Trinity to the extent that it comports with the Godhead, i.e. one in everything but substance).

    I tried to express this point (of umbrage at being called “not Christian” as a major impetus to my participation here) to Todd to little or no avail in comment # 95 on his Pam Miller ex-Mormon post.

    Surely God does not need the vitriolic attacks of men to defend His truth.

    This is a very good point with which I fully agree. The question is whether you have discussed this point with your co-religionists. A note on my background might be informative here — I grew up as a Latter-day Saint in Dallas, TX where a mega-church pastor recently said that if people wanted to vote for a Christian as President, Mitt Romney “is not qualified”. Forget Romney’s life and Christian living, including raising a family wholly devoted to Jesus Christ — he doesn’t interpret Jesus Christ through the Trinitarian creeds so he is “not Christian” and does not qualify for the White House.

    If you truly believe in the Jesus Christ of the New Testament, why would you not simply address doctrinal differences with the Word of God itself as its own defense?

    What you are overlooking is that my willingness to do so, as expressed in my comment # 86 to Todd’s Pam Miller ex-Mormon post, has been put off by Todd (in his comment # 89). However, I am not game for some kind of massive Bible-bash — it just does not interest me to do that and it seems that’s all it would be. My condition was that we “forget the creeds and their homoousia and see what the Bible itself says” but I doubt that will be possible or that Todd or his co-religionists would want to do that.

    As for my being a vitriolic person who is not interested in dialogue, etc., perhaps the best way to refute or respond to that is by showing you what I, as a Latter-day Saint, have written in celebration of Reformation Day (at http://www.bloggernacle.org/?p=195). (Hint, it is not 95 theses against the Lutherans.)

  7. john f.

    Once again, sir, I see nothing in your post besides convenient labels (creedal christians, co-religionists) and assumptions (creeds as the lens through which to interpret Jesus Christ) that allow you to dismiss those who see the clarity of the Bible itself (independent of, indeed regardless of, creeds) as wholly in contradiction to many Mormon teachings…especially those concerning the nature of God and His Christ as revealed in His own Word. I suppose labels and assumptions may make it easier for some to dismiss the words of those who stand in opposition to your beliefs.

    Personally, I am not concerned with whether or not I, or my brothers and sisters, are dismissed. Rather, it is the dismissal of evidence and truth that is of concern to me. Dispute me…disregard me…hate me…label me…that’s fine. It is of no substance at all. Your dispute is not with me…or Todd…or any other so-called “creedal christians” and “co-religionists”.

    However, if you are willing to exalt the BoM, D&C, etc. as a higher authority than that of the Scripture itself (and I am well aware of Mormon reasoning for this), then we have no common authority what-so-ever on which to base an exploration of truth. Either way, I still see no discussion or defense of what you believe to be truth based on Scripture; only labels to dismiss clear teachings from Scripture, some of which may have been summarized in creeds. Creeds, however, are absolutely creations of men. I’m with you there. A work of man should NEVER be used as the lens through which to interpret Scripture. Quite the opposite is true.

    Indeed, let us forget the creeds and rely upon the light of God’s Word itself. Yet, once again, you assign motives to Todd and all other non-Mormons, making assumptions like, “I doubt that will be possible or that Todd or his co-religionists would want to do that.” In fact, that was your response to your fear of, “some kind of massive Bible-bash.” Perhaps you pour a different meaning into that phrase than I, but why exactly would hearty discovery of the Bible be somehow dependent on creeds for non-Mormons? Are you again basing this on the assumption that non-Mormons believe only creeds, and that in spite of the Scriptures???

    For Todd’s part, I saw no resistance to your request to forget the creeds and discover the Scriptures themselves. Post #95 that you reference, however, reverts right back into the comfort of your list of assumptions and labels.

    I fear, sir, that your assumptions have severely clouded your vision…and willingly so. But discrediting you is of little value to you, and before God. The point behind Scriptural exploration is to discover the unbridled truth, and, if we care for others at all, to share the truth we discover with them that they, too, may know the truth. After all, does not our eternal destiny depend upon a right understanding and response to the truth of God? Yet it is the Sovereign who Himself opens the eyes and the hearts of men. No man can change another’s heart or somehow give him the Spirit of God that teaches all wisdom; only the lovingkindness of God can grant this.

    As for Luther, while your post on the Bloggernacle lends a bit of credence to the work of Martin Luther, it gives no Scriptural reason for or against it; only opinion. It also gives no glory or even recognition to God Himself, from whom ALL good works originate, (“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Eph 2:10), and to whom all glory and honor is due.

    Incidentally, I wonder at the need of a man to “restore” the gospel. Was the Sovereign God not Himself able to preserve His gospel through the ages? Was His plan somehow thwarted by evil men until such time as a boy was brave enough to take up His cause and bring restoration? Indeed not! Isaiah repeatedly trumpets the truth that, “the LORD of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?” The Apostle Paul resounds this truth, declaring that God, “worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” Surely Satan himself cannot derail the plan and ordination of God!

    In any event, I tell you sincerely that Todd and his ilk are not out to tear down the LDS church. Rather, the love of Christ motivates men in the desire to see others know the truth that sets free, regardless of current position, affiliation or creed (pun intended). The truth does not bend to man; man must bend to the truth, else live in rebellion. If that means some must decide to “deconvert,” as you put it, then so be it.

    It comes to this: What a man believes to be true does not make it so. Truth is unchanging and not negotiable. It is incumbent upon man to seek out the truth and find it that he may believe it. Without a commonly accepted resource for the basis of truth, however, I suppose there is nothing to discuss.

    God help us.

  8. What a man believes to be true does not make it so. Truth is unchanging and not negotiable. It is incumbent upon man to seek out the truth and find it that he may believe it.

    I fully agree with you and therefore implore you to accept the Restored Gospel, stop rejecting God’s prophets, accept the full Atonement of Jesus Christ, and be baptized by God’s priesthood authority that has been restored to the earth and which is only found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

  9. Wow…I can see that I wasted my time. You appear unwilling to hear anyone else, and your imploring gives no Scriptural reason or basis at all for acceptance. You may as well obscure me safely behind your labels whilst my salvation rests in the finished work Christ alone rather than in an institution of man.

    Creedlessly,

    Brian

  10. Brian, my response to you was in kind. I should make the following points:

    (1) I actually wrote a substantive response that got eaten by the blog when I hit submit and did not have time to repeat it;

    (2) I agreed with you when you said that “What a man believes to be true does not make it so. Truth is unchanging and not negotiable. It is incumbent upon man to seek out the truth and find it that he may believe it.” The catch is that I believe that the unchanging and non-negotiable Truth is as found in the Restored Gospel. Your reaction to this is puzzling. Am I to understand that you are actually not interested in debate and dialogue at all but rather that you are only willing to hear yourself?

    (3) I should note that you also did not give scriptural reason or basis for me to accept what you claim is the unchanging and non-negotiable Truth but rather merely said that you believe it is found in the Bible. I agree with that — it is found in the Bible. What is not found in the Bible is “one substance”. Rather, homoousia is an extra-bilbical gloss on and abstraction from the Biblical text — it appears nowhere in the Old or New Testaments, the Apocrypha, or the pseudepigrapha, and more importantly does not follow necessarily from anything that does appear in the Bible. As a formulation of churchmen trying to compromise on a definition or description of the nature of God, it is natural and logical that the Catholic Church holds to it as normative. That is because scripture + tradition can be a source of truth and doctrine in the Catholic Church. Notions of sola scriptura, however, seem to complicate reliance on the trinitarian formulation of the creeds, i.e. “one substance”, because it is not immediately clear how an extra-biblical text can be necessary where the text itself is supposed to be sufficient and inerrant. And yet the creeds are necessary because it is in the creeds that “one substance” has its life.

    This is why the creeds are relevant. Frankly, your insistance that the creeds are irrelevant is astounding. Apparently, you are claiming that you would have sua sponte believed in “one substance” even if creeds had never existed. This is possible but since “one substance” does not follow inexorably from the plain text of the Bible, it is unlikely. The reason millions of Christians read “one substance” into the language of the Bible is not because the text requires this but because they approach the text a priori with the Trinitarian assumptions in place.

  11. Actually, john f., I did not ask you to believe anything. I simply asked you to stop applying your labels and assumptions to those who do not believe like you do, and simply approach them with a discussion of Scripture, as the Scriptures themselves are indeed sufficient. Most of my comments were geared toward what I see as a very unproductive, even venomous approach in your posts. Perhaps you don’t see that. Take it for what it’s worth.

  12. John F.

    I happen to agree with your points about the creeds being, while not inconsistent with the Bible, nonetheless extra-Biblical. I also do not think that purely creedal concepts provide a valid instrument for determining who is and is not “Christian.”

    But geez man. It would be a lot easier to have a discussion with you if you’d ditch the chip on your shoulder. If you want to talk like this to some counter-cultist, or anti-Mormon, or Aaron Shavofalov, or whatever, be my guest. They pretty-much deserve it. But I remain mystified as to why Todd’s largely mild-mannered posts continue to cause you to storm onto the scene, guns blazing.

    It’s completely up to you, but you might want to lighten up just a touch.

  13. #7 – John, noticing these questions again, it reminds me that I need to formulate some answers for you.

    Let me place these answers in a separate post.

    When I have written something, I will link you.

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