21 comments

  1. I’m not a huge Glenn Beck fan, but I would be surprised to hear Beck associate himself as part of the Evangelical Protestant movement in the United States. Several Latter-day Saints consider themselves part of the “Religious-right” constituting the conservative movement in America today. The fact that Latter-day Saints and conservative Evangelicals often hold similar poltical stances on many social and/or economic issues is not to say that Beck or Latter-day Saints in general wish to be part of the Evangelical mainstream. I’m aware of some Evangelical ministers who have supported Beck’s stances on politics, while respectfully disagreeing with his theological standpoints as they do with pundits like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity (both Roman Catholics) and Michael Medved (conservative Judaism).

  2. And what theses above all would a “radical” Latter-day Saint need to nail onto the doors of the Church Office building in Salt Lake? Reformist movements (a.k.a. Tea Party-ism, Mormon Fundamentalism, Mormon Liberalism) have done relatively little in “shaking the foundations” of the LDS Church, though there are some at Signature Books who would disagree with me. Luther’s Reformation had a political and theological climate that was ripe for change. Catholicism was deeply divided already. I don’t see this same climate in the LDS Church, nor do I see the Church changing socio-economic or theological positions any time soon. (Just my two cents.)

  3. I don’t listen to Glen Beck. Talk radio isn’t my thing. (Too much inflammatory hyperbole and strawmen) However that seemed an odd article. After all the change in heart is a pretty prominent feature of Mormonism. Mormons just look at how Evangelicals talk about it with distaste since it seems like what some Evangelicals call “cheap grace.” But being born again is a constant them in the Book of Mormon.

    As for earning and works this is a place Evangelicals misunderstand Mormon theology typically. (Which isn’t to say Beck isn’t using Evangelical rhetoric more than Mormon rhetoric) Mormons think that the atonement allows us to do what is required to return to God. But that the atonement or grace can’t itself be earned. So Evangelicals see all the comments in Mormonism about works and the like and freak out. (And admittedly the Mormon rhetoric itself developed in opposition to what early Mormons saw as cheap grace in Evangelicalism – so there’s some reason for the rhetorical emphasis)

    The way this is sometimes discussed is as a first and second covenant. The first covenant is Abr 3:5 and because of our state of being natural men (Mosiah 3:19) we all fall short of that requirement. Christ then overcomes the fall and our natural state so that we can become free to choose. (2 Ne 26-27) However Mormons rhetorically tend to assume people are already free and in certain state of grace and therefore able to freely choose. So the rhetoric emphasizes making the choice.

  4. I say praise God for Glenn Beck! God is using him to break down misconceptions that evangelicals have of Mormons and misconceptions that Mormons have of evangelicals. I believe God is using him to help bring in a reformation of unity in the body of Christ—a unity between born again Mormons and born again non-Mormons!

    Thanks, Clark, for reminding me of Alma 7:14 in the Book of Mormon. For anyone interested, I quote it below:

    “Now I say unto you that ye must repent, and be born again; for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness.”

  5. Cal, I don’t know if you are LDS or Evangelical, but whatever. This Beck-inspired coalition, or whatever it is, represents the worst of both worlds, and has little to do with being “born again” or otherwise.

  6. FrGregACCA, nice to meet you.
    I’m sorry you have a negative view of the coalition. I thought Beck was encouraging Americans to look to God and to the values of the Christian forefathers of America. Is that correct?
    God bless you, Father.
    What does ACCA stand for?

  7. Hi Cal. Nice to meet you as well.

    Regarding looking to God: which god? That of Joseph Smith, that of Western Evangelical Christianity, or that of the authentic, Apostolic Orthodox Christian faith?

    Which values? That term covers a great deal of ground, from those expressed in the Bill of Rights (obviously the First Amendment is greatly relevant here) to the ownership of slaves, something widely considered to be a right at the time.

    “ACCA” stands for “Antiochian Catholic Church in America”. See my blog for more information (linked to FrGreGACCA)

  8. I believe the three “gods” you mentioned are really the same God. I believe the one God is accessed by faith in his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. When we first make a decision to follow the one God through Jesus, we start as babies so we don’t know much about right and wrong. This explains why Christians often differ on nonessential doctrines. We rely too much on our own understanding, rather than in all of our ways acknowledging Him so that He will direct our paths.

    Do you agree?

    I don’t know much about how slavery was practiced during the founding of our nation. I don’t imagine it was a godly thing. Do you?

    Blessings to you, Father.

  9. Cal, I of course disagree that these three “gods” are one and the same God. I don’t know if I can include two links in one comment without ending up in the spam queue, so there will be two comments.

    The first link is specifically concerned with the difference between the god of Evangelicals and the God of Jesus Christ. The second is something I wrote concerning the gulf between Mormonism and Apostolic Christianity.

    http://www.orthodoxpress.org/parish/river_of_fire.htm

  10. I don’t have time to read your articles, Father Greg, but I’m surprised that you think evangelicals serve a different God than Jesus Christ. Most Catholics don’t believe that, do they?

  11. I am not Roman Catholic, Cal. I am non-chalcedonian Orthodox, and the notion that the god of Evangelicals (and actually, the god of Roman Catholics) is a different god than that of Apostolic, Orthodox Christianity may indeed be an overstatement. However, it is clear that the Western theology of Augustine, Anselm, and Calvin has fundamentally distorted the nature of God for millions of people.

    However, given that, I will stand by my assertion that the god of Joseph Smith is not the Father of Jesus Christ.

    No time to read the links? Both articles would together take about a half hour to read, Cal.

  12. I hope I’m not being discourteous to the manager of this blog by drifting from the topic (hopefully they’ll tell me if I’m out of line), but I’m interested in what makes the Orthodox Church unique.
    I know little about it, although my wife and I did visit the Orthodox church in town. What does non-chalcedonian mean? I’ll probably look it up later but it’s more fun to ask you—a live person.
    Does the Orthodox church encourage people to make Jesus Christ their Lord and live in him and by him? Do they believe Jesus died on a cross for our sins, and that he is coming back to bring judgment?

  13. Cal, Todd, the man who runs this blog, is used to my getting into these conversations and so far, he hasn’t objected.

    In general, there are four communions of churches which are direct iterations of the apostolic Church: the Roman Catholic Church, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the chalcedonian or Byzantine Orthodox Churches (Russian, Greek, etc.) and the non-chalcedonian, so-called Oriental Orthodox Churches which include the Armenian Church, the Syriac Church, the Coptic Church, the Indian Orthodox Church, and a couple of others. In about 99% of cases, all of these agree, especially over against Protestantism and especially, Mormonism.

    The Church of which I am a priest, the Antiochian Catholic Church in America, is an off-shoot of the Indian Orthodox Church. “Non-chalcedonian” refers to the rejection of the Council of Chalcedon, AD 451.

    You ask: “Does the Orthodox church encourage people to make Jesus Christ their Lord and live in him and by him? Do they believe Jesus died on a cross for our sins, and that he is coming back to bring judgment?”

    Of course. However, this begs the question, what exactly do these words mean? The issue relating to the first question is, “how is that to be done?” The short answer is: to be incorporated into the Church is to be incorporated into Christ. One is incorporated into the Church by means of faith, and the mysteries/sacraments of inititation: baptism, confirmation/chrismation, and receiving the body and of blood of Christ in Holy Communion, the latter being continued throughout one’s life. This incorporation into Christ and the Church also requires the pursuit of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. It requires that one seek reconciliation with Christ and the Chuch via that mystery/sacrament when needed.

    As far as the second question, I refer you once again to the following:

    http://www.orthodoxpress.org/parish/river_of_fire.htm

    The critical question is: are we first saved from the wrath of God or from the desructive effects of the world, the flesh, and the devil? Orthodoxy states that we are first saved from the latter, but Anselm and the West have turned this around. THAT is the crux of the issue here with regard to Evangelicalism vs. Orthodoxy.

    When it comes to the LDS, the first, critical issue is simply this: there was no Great Apostacy. Therefore, Joseph Smith, Junior is no prophet and there is no need for restoration, for reinventing the wheel.

  14. Thanks, Father, for your complete answer.

    I’d like you to clarify a little though. I had asked, “Does the Orthodox church encourage people to make Jesus Christ their Lord . . . ?”

    You answered, “One is incorporated into the Church by means of faith, and . . . baptism, confirmation/chrismation. . . .”

    When you say “church,” do you mean all people who have Jesus living in them by faith (born again), no matter what earthly organization they are associated with? That’s my understanding. Or do you mean the Orthodox church or something like that?

    Also, what if someone makes Jesus their Lord (begins to follow him) but doesn’t participate in any of the sacraments of initiation? Does he or she go to heaven or hell?


    I agree with you that the priesthood authority, as LDS calls it, was never completely lost from the earth; therefore it didn’t need to be restored. (Although I do believe, based on a book I read, that there are Dark Ages in the history of the church when spirituality was at a low ebb).


    God is awesome. What a privilege it is to be in his eternal family!! Life is so much more exciting living in his presence than it was before I met him.

  15. Cal, in the New Testament, and in the minds of everyone right down to the Reformation, the “Church” (“ekklesia” in Greek – roughly “assembly”) is a visible, social community that one enters by means of baptism. Baptism, according to the New Testament and the entire Apostolic Tradition, is nothing other than “birth by water and the Spirit” and “the washing of regeneration” by which one “dies with Christ” and “rises with Him to newness of life”. IOW, to be baptized is to be born again and to become a “member of Christ” by being made a member of the body of Christ, the Church.

    The Church has a definite structure, history, and authoritative, apostolic leadership.

    St. Paul writes, “if anyone is in Christ, he (or she) is a new creation.” Christ, “the second Adam,” has come to recreate humanity. But humans are not simply interior, disembodied, “spiritual” entities. Humans, humanity, is also social, embodied, and exterior, and it is by exterior things that we first relate one to another. Even God the Son, in becoming human, acquires a physical body. Normally, we are exposed to the gospel itself by exterior channels, by human interaction. “How shall they believe unless someone preaches to them?” Since I am both interior, psychological, and exterior, social, my interior relationship with Christ cannot be complete unless my exterior relationship to the Church, my brothers and sisters and parents in Christ, is intact as well. “He who says he loves God but his brother is a liar.” St. Paul tells us that since we are members of Christ are also “members one of another.”

    If this is not clear to you from the above, consider St. Paul’s encounter with the Risen Christ on the road to Damascus: there, Christ tells Saul that he, Saul, is persecuting Christ himself. How was Saul doing this? By persecuting the Church.

    The universal Church, then, is a visible, social, organization, a communion of local Churches, and is continuous in time from the Day of Pentecost until the Lord returns: it is historical, continuous in history. Jesus also says, “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you shall not have life within you”. Thus, both baptism and the eucharist are integral to the normal method of salvation which is simultaneous incorporation into Christ and the Church followed by “abiding”, “continuing to the end”.

    But suppose there is no real visible Church. What then? Well, for one thing: we would not have the New Testament! The Church, this visible, social, historical entity, has discerned, guided by the Holy Spirit, the contents of the New Testament (and has also sealed the extent of the canon of Old Testament). The Church did this by reference to other “canons” which precede that of the New Testament: the canon of “faith” (the last, most developed iteration of which is the Nicene Creed), and that of “prayer”, or the norms for worship, including the celebration of the mysteries, the central one being, of course, that of the Eucharist. The people primarily responsible for accomplishing this are those who take the place of the Apostles in the Church, the bishops. Thus, Augustine is correct in declaring, “If not for the Church I should not have believed the gospel.”

    Further, we would be subject to “every wind of doctrine”. In Acts 15, the Church decides to admit gentiles without requiring they be circumcised. Why? “Because it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and us.” In the fourth century, a presbyter named Arius begins preaching that the pre-existent Christ is a creature, that the Son of God is not God the Son. Arius persists even after being rebuked by his bishop and a local council of bishops. Finally, two representative bodies of bishops from throughout the world gather, first at Nicea and then at Constantinople, and fully and explicitly the doctrine of the Trinity: “it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.” It is the Church, “the pillar and ground of the truth” that is empowered to correctly interpret the Bible, to correctly teach the faith as a whole, and to regulate its practice.

    You ask about those outside the bounds of the Church. First, let’s be clear that “salvation” is not simply nor even primarily “fire insurance”. No, salvation, “healing” is first and foremost transformation into the image of Christ. Second, we know that God “desires ALL to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” We also know that there is “no salvation outside the Church.” Why? Because the Church IS salvation. So what of those who have trusted in Christ, but remained outside the explicit bounds of the Church? What of those who have not had the opportunity to receive baptism, chrismation, and the Eucharist? Of course, the full answer to these questions cannot be known until the last day. However, I think, for example, of A.W. Tozer, a man of God and yes, a Saint, if there ever was one. Of course, he was most certainly baptized, which, in and of itself, unites him to the Church, but I doubt that he ever received the Eucharist. Now I suspect strongly that had he been born perhaps 30 year later, lived 30 years longer, he would have found his way into the Orthodox Church, as so many former Evangelicals have over the past 20+ years. However, since that did not happen, we can posit, as does the Roman Catholic Church in such cases, that his ignorance of the need to be a full member of the Church, and to receive the body and blood of Christ, was “invincible,” meaning that it could not be overcome. Thus, we can also posit that he received Holy Communion “spiritually” if not sacramentally. We can thus account for the fact that Tozer was indeed a true man of God. In general, the answer to your question must be found in the answer to another question: “Why?” Why was this person not baptized? Why where they not christmated? Why did they not receive the sacramental body and blood of Christ?

    This is not, however, a path that one can choose to take as if participating in the mysteries and being a member of the one, Apostolic Church were somehow optional. If we seek to be saved, to be healed from the ravages of sin and to be truly freed the world, the flesh, and the devil, we will surely seek to use any and all means at our disposal, all the means that the Lord, in whom we claim to have faith, to trust, has given us, in order for that to happen.

    As I have written before, this is not “works righteousness”. We are not trying to get God to love us. We are not trying to earn anything from God. We know that God loves us and we know that God does not need to be induced to do whatever is necessary in order that we be saved. No, this is “the obedience of faith.”

    Regarding levels of spirituality: they have ebbed and flowed throughout history and at different times and places. In general, in the East, the Church has usually been under some kind of oppression from various regimes connected to Islam. However, the Greeks survived this for almost 400 years and regained their independence, while indigenous Churches continue to thrive in Egypt and Syria in spite of this. Consider also the Churches in lands which were dominated by atheistic communist regimes for almost a century.

    In the West, the tragedy of the Reformation was that, in many ways, it threw out the proverbial baby (Church as real entity, loss of conscious connection with the Saints, sacraments/mysteries,, etc.) while retaining the dirty bathwater (Augustino-Calvinist original sin and predestination, Anselm’s notion of how the death of Christ reconciles us to the Father).

  16. The following is an edited version of something I wrote for another forum:

    Concerning the Church, consider, for example, the following passages in Scripture: Matthew 16:18-20, 18:18, 28:19; Luke 10:16, John 13:20, John 20:22-23; Acts 1:15-26, 6:1-6, 14:23,15:1-29; Ephesians 1:22-23.

    What do these passages tell us? First, that the Church, led by the Apostles, is given plenary authority to “bind and loose” meaning that it is empowered to authoritatively decide questions of faith and practice. At the end of Matthew, Jesus promises to be with the Church “until the end of age”, thus reinforcing this authority which he delegates to the Church. In Luke and John, Jesus tells the apostles, “those who hear you hear me, those who receive you receive me and those who hear and receive me, hear and receive him who sent me.” Jesus comes and speaks in the Name of the Father. The Apostles and their successors, the bishops, speak in the Name of Christ. The passages in Acts document the Church acting on this authority. First, they choose a replacement for Judas, bringing the group of apostles back to 12. Then, in Acts 6, the Church creates a new order of ministry, that of the diaconate. In 14:23, we find apostles ordaining “elders” or “presbyters”, delegating a portion of their authority to the latter. In Acts 15, the Church as a whole, led by the apostles and elders, “because it seems good to the Holy Spirit and us” rules that gentiles need not be circumcised prior to baptism. Finally, in Ephesians, the Church is called “the fullness of him who fills all in all.” “Him” of course is Christ. Thus, according to the Bible itself, one cannot reject the authority of the Church. “Sola scriptura” is self-contradictory.

    Now there are those who try to get around this by redefining the Church as “invisible” and “spiritual” only and by denying that the Apostles could, or did, pass on their office and authority to others. However, we have already seen that the apostles did in fact do exactly this in Acts 1, and in Acts 14:23, the presbyters are made, by their ordination, delegates of St. Paul. Consider also the pastoral epistles, Titus and I and II Timothy. These are written as from St. Paul to two men who are second generation bishops, instructing them in preserving and passing on the faith and giving directions to ordain presbyters/bishops and giving the qualifications for these offices as well as for deacons.

    Stepping out of the New Testament for a bit, let us consider the letter that Clement of Rome wrote to the Church in Corinth. Some time shortly before AD 100, the Christian community in Corinth had deposed its leaders, its bishop/presbyters, without cause. Clement writes to rebuke this community and to call them to reinstate those who had been removed from their position of leadership. Clement writes:

    “Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry.”

    In other words, the apostles appointed and ordained bishops to replace themselves as they reposed and left instructions that these bishops should continue to do likewise. This is usually considered the first explicit documentation of apostolic succession which is implied in the New Testament, but not stated so plainly as in Clement.

    And this brings us back to the question of the nature of the Church. Yes, the Church, the “assembly” is described in the New Testament as a spiritual communion, but it is equally clear that this spiritual communion, the “body of Christ” is also a visible, historical organization, structured in a certain way, and continuous in history.

    If the Church is not continuous in history, if it comes and goes, then Jesus lied at the end of Matthew in promising his continuous presence with the Church. This means that the Church, acting together, as at Nicea and Constantinople, can say, with the same Church in Acts 15, some three hundred years earlier, that “it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and us” to state the belief, indeed ever present in the Church, but now challenged by Arius, that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is in fact God the Son, of one essence with the Father, and the Holy Spirit as well.

    Finally, had it not been for the Church, we would not have the Bible, especially the New Testament. It is the Church which discerned, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, over several centuries, what the canon of the New Testament would be and which put the Apostolic seal on the Old Testament.

    For us, today, the bottom line issue is, who or what is divinely empowered to interpret the Bible? According to the Bible itself, the one entity so empowered is the Church, led, instructed, and taught by its apostolic leadership, the bishops. Here is so many first stumble: Jesus says to the Apostles, and by extention, to their successors, the bishops: “He who hears you, hears me, and he who hears me, hears Him who sent me.”

  17. I agree with most of what you said, Father—with the main thrust of it. For example, I agree that “the Church has a definite structure, history, and authoritative, apostolic leadership.” I don’t think the church of Christ is invisible—certainly not! Rather, the church is the people in whom Jesus resides, including leaders, apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers, janitors, etc. It is a shell, if you will, that is animated to the extent of its maturity by the Spirit of God.

    I like your explanations. I do believe, unlike the Mormon Church, that the structure of the church is not presently in its perfect form. If this ever happens, I believe it will be shortly before the return of our Lord, as the parable of the weeds indicates. The weeds and the wheat matured together.

    Unfortunately, many Christian denominations have slipped somewhat away from the flow of the juice of the Spirit through them so that although they have a neat organized structure, the leaders in the structure are not totally controlled by God. For example, there is great unity within the LDS but some of their unity is not of the Spirit, it is unity in misconceptions of God’s will. My life is the same: Some of what I do is directed by the Spirit, but although my intentions are good, some of what I do is not of the Spirit (Romans 7).

    Good to talk to you. I’ll have to wind down somewhat. I’m finding that blogging can easily take up more of my time than the Spirit wants to give!—my time belongs to Him!

    Thanks.

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