I listened to Mitt Romney live today at Skyline High. I am glad I went. Mitt sought to rally us all around the Creator. And I appreciate his highlighting this beautiful description of God. But when it comes to Southeastern Idaho culture, let me express my disagreement with the community push of Mormonism as another Christian denomination alongside of what I believe. Though the year is 2012, we still have some pretty deep disagreements over what are the foundational stones for Christianity.
Quickly, consider at least 5 tonight . . .
1. Latter-day Saint – God does not create out of nothing.
a saint living in the latter days (that’s me) – God did and does create out of nothing.
2. Latter-day Saint – God and man are the same species.
a saint living in the latter days – There is God. And I am not. And I never will be of the same species.
3. Latter-day Saint – God and Jesus are not equal.
a saint living in the latter days – God and Jesus are equal.
4. Latter-day Saint – You work to attain celestial glory
a saint living in the latter days – You work because you have celestial glory
5. Latter-day Saint – A modern day prophet can correct or add to the Bible.
a saint living in the latter days – The Bible tells us everything we need to know now about the perfect Prophet.
These first 5 are pretty significant discussion points, don’t you think?
And so the 182-year old “community push” by evangelical Christians to demonize members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as “not Christian” continues, even in Idaho Falls.
Yes, Latter-day Saints disagree with evangelical Christians on many of your interpretations of the Bible, but I sincerely maintain that on many points, we believe the Bible more literally than do you. Since you deny the possibility of continuing revelation, you have, by self-definition, no mandate from God to stand as arbiters of all things Christian. The living God alone will judge who is a true follower of Christ.
We Latter-day Saints are Christians in every honest sense of the world and wholeheartedly and devotedly follow the living Lord Jesus Christ, the Lion of Judah who cannot be muzzled by man.
1. Creation ex-nihilo is not a Biblical doctrine, but a doctrine of men.
“Out of Nothing: A History of Creation ex Nihilo in Early Christian Thought,” by Blake T. Ostler
2. So all those dozens of Biblical references to our Heavenly Father are just metaphorical? Then the many references of Jesus to his Heavenly Father are also must metaphorical, and Jesus is a different species than the Father? Paul begs to disagree with you: “Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?” (Hebrews 12:9) So all those spirits of whom God is the father are not of his species?
3. Jesus himself emphatically sides with the Latter-day Saints on this issue: “My Father is greater than I.” (John 14:28)
4. You have been told many times that we do not believe in salvation by works alone, any more than we believe in salvation by grace alone. Please stop bearing false witness against us.
But maybe you agree with Martin Luther that James is an “epistle of straw?” Clearly Luther invented the doctrine of “by grace alone” to distinguish his new religion from that of Rome. But it required a cafeteria approach to the Bible that continues among evangelical Christians to this day. Latter-day Saints happen to agree with Jesus that “That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20)
The Sermon on the Mount, which has been so sadly lost by the wayside on the broad and wandering “Romans Road” is, in fact, the new law given by Christ to replace the Law of Moses. A careful comparison of the version Christ taught to the Jews to the version he taught to the Nephites makes clear that we are under this law and must obey it. Read, for example, how he rendered the above verse to the Nephites: “Therefore come unto me and be ye saved; for verily I say unto you, that except ye shall keep my commandments, which I have commanded you at this time, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (3 Nephi 12:20)
If you do not believe James about the necessity of faith AND works, then please believe Nephi: “For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Nephi 25:23)
5. The prophets whose works are preserved, often imperfectly, in the Bible, wrote of many, many books that they considered canonical that have been lost from our present canon.
The Bible itself is silent on the decision by councils of men, hundreds of years after its writing, on what or what is canonical. To argue the completeness of the Bible from the Bible is completely circular reasoning.
If any of those many lost works were to be discovered, would we all be under condemnation to “add” them to our present Bible?
God is not dead, nor can he be silenced by men. If he wants us to have additional scripture, who are we to forbid him?
Tracy Hall Jr
First of all, Tracy, when a pastor in Idaho Falls wants to talk about the differences can you refrain from just jumping out so easily with words like “demonize” or “bearing false witness”?
Tracy, a few thoughts from a classical Christian perspective:
1. Orthodox Christians of all stripes, Protestant/Evangelicals, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics etc…all affirm Creation ex nihilo. You and other LDS members are of course welcome to reject the classical Christian doctrine, but realize that this is one of many reasons why orthodox Christianity rejects the LDS as simply another “flavor” of Christianity. If you think you are smarter than all of the Christians in history both past and present on this issue, than so be it.
2. I have yet to hear someone from the LDS movement discuss how the term “father” automatically means ontological sameness. In other words, the word father has a semantic range, and to assume exegetically that “father” means the same species is not warranted by the text, nor the context in which the text was written. The term father is certainly one of intimacy, function etc…but this does not imply ontological sameness.
3. Related to the previous point, God is by definition uncreated, whereas creation is created. If God needed pre-existing materials, exists within time etc…he is a lesser god, and not the God of classical Christianity (or the God of scripture), because he is lesser than or at best equal to the creation. If you want to worship a God who needs other material to create and is confined to a body of flesh and bone, you are welcome to believe that, but those of us orthodox Christians are worshiping a God greater than time and matter itself. The God we worship does not change (immutable) and has always had everything, never lacking anything. To argue that he has undergone change is also a “smallish” view of God, because it means there was a time he was not God, or not fully God at minimum. The God Christians worship has always been so, and never lacked anything (and the same is true of the Son and the Holy Spirit, 3 in One).
4. As a Anglo-Lutheran Evangelical Catholic, it is true Luther had issues with James, but he kept it in the canon anyways, because it was received as scripture in the the church. It must be remembered that the Lutheran Augsburg confession quotes St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, St. John Chrysostom etc…in order to demonstrate that it was falling within the clasical Christian consensus. Reformation is completely different than “restoration.”
5. As Greg has posted earlier, I am still waiting for a date the great apostasy happened. Put a date on it.
6. Christ said that he would build his church, and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. He also said he would send the Spirit. With this in mind, did the Spirit disappear for over a thousand years, and did Christ’s church disappear needing to be restored? If so, please put a date on when this happened. Also, if the Holy Spirit is truly with the church, that means he has guided the church into certain interpretations of Scripture, including the Trinity, Creation ex nihilo etc…and this would include the ecumenical Creeds and early councils. To ignore the Spirit’s work in history is to have a stunted and rather chauvinistic view of the church and history. Christians receive doctrine based on Scripture and the consensual teachings of the church, guided by the Holy Spirit. If LDS doctrine is at variance with this, the Christian is in a superior position both historically and doctrinally in regards to the doctrine of the church.
7. To read a later text (Nephi) into Scripture in regards to interpretation commits modern chauvinism, and is an exegetical fallacy.
So if these points make me “demonizing” LDS folks than I suppose I can’t avoid the label (whatever demonizing means in this case). Don’t get me wrong, I admire the moral living, hardwork, family values etc… that exists in the LDS community, but the reasons for it, and claiming that the doctrine involved somehow “restores” Christianity is an inherently arrogant and untenable position. If that makes you call me names, I’m okay with that, since the truth is more important.
(orthodox Christianity rejects the LDS as simply another “flavor” of Christianit)
When I was a Protestant I found that there were too many “flavors” of Christianity. Too many men reforming what they saw wrong with other man made reforms. Yes, there is a difference between manmade reformation and God lead restoration.
(and to assume exegetically that “father” means the same species is not warranted by the text, nor the context in which the text was written); (God is by definition uncreated, whereas creation is created)
Remove the manmade definitions that the councils of man have added to God’s Word and the meaning becomes clear.
(Also, if the Holy Spirit is truly with the church, that means he has guided the church into certain interpretations of Scripture, including the Trinity, Creation ex nihilo etc…and this would include the ecumenical Creeds and early councils.)
If all his were true then you would have no need for your teachers to create newer and better versions of the Bible. One English translation would be enough.
(claiming that the doctrine involved somehow “restores” Christianity is an inherently arrogant and untenable position.)
Just why is God restoring His Word any more arrogant then claiming that another man’s religion is wrong and needs “reforming”?
God being by definition uncreated is not “manmade,” but based on the implications of Scripture, as interpreted by the church throughout history, and also as understood by the Jews during the time of the O.T and N.T. So in other words, God as infinite creator who has never lacked anything is not some sort of “Greek speculation,” but a received teaching of the scriptures. In fact, this definition by John of Damascus (admired by Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and many Protestants, ans is a Syrian/Arab, not a Greek) sums up nicely what the apostolic faith of the church has always taught about God:
“We, therefore, both know and confess that God is without beginning, without end, eternal and everlasting, uncreated, unchangeable, invariable, simple, uncompound, incorporeal, invisible, impalpable, uncircumscribed, infinite, incognizable, indefinable, incomprehensible, good, just, maker of all things created, almighty, all-ruling, all-surveying, of all overseer, sovereign, judge; and that God is One, that is to say, one essence; and that he is known and has His being in three subsistences, in Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit; and that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are One in all respects, except in that of not being begotten, that of being begotten, and that of procession;
And that the Only-begotten Son and Word of God and God, in His bowels of mercy, for our salvation, by the good pleasure of God and the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, being conceived without seed, was born uncorruptedly of the Holy Virgin and Mother of God, Mary, by the Holy Spirit, and became of her perfect Man; and that the Same is at once perfect God and perfect Man, of two natures, Godhead and Manhood, and in two natures possessing intelligence, will, and energy, and freedom, and, in a word, perfect to the measure and proportion proper to each, at once to the divinity, and to the humanity, yet to one composite person; and that He suffered hunger and thirst and weariness, and was crucified, and for thee days submitted to the experience of death and burial, and ascended to heaven, from which also He came to us, and shall come again. And the Holy Scripture is witness to this and the whole choir of the Saints” (John of Damascus, Orthodox Faith, Book I Part II).
Such a God is worth worshiping. A god that needs materials to create and is confined to a body is a smallish god, and certainly not worthy of worship, since such a god needs matter to make things, and is confined to the universe and time. The Christian God, the Holy Trinity, is much bigger than that, infinitely big.
The councils did not “add,” but summarized and explained what has always been taught in the church. To argue that somehow the councils and the classical teachings of the church (such as the Trinity etc..) are the result of some sort of conspiracy is to commit modern chauvinism, and reads a certain presupposition back into history.
Also, translations are just that, translations. All trained pastors/teachers are able to use the original Greek manuscripts etc…so, to argue that the Holy Spirit guiding the church implies a single translation in a specific language misses the point, which is that orthodox doctrine has been arrived at, regardless of language, geography etc…
Restoration is far more arrogant than Reformation because:
Restoration=church disappeared, we are the truth church
Reformation=church muddied, cleaned up.
One has a high view of Christ’s church and the work of the Holy Spirit, the other has a church that can’t last and needs to reappear. I worship the God whose church never disappeared.
And if any one has ears to hear, let him hear.
(All trained pastors/teachers are able to use the original Greek manuscripts etc…)
One of the things I found when I was a Protestant was that trained pastors/teachers did not agree with each other. How do you know that your teachers are correct, other than you agree with their teachings?
Fred, what core themes did the pastors/teachers disagree on?
The answer is found in my response, by the collective witnesses of the church throughout time and geography, Christians everywhere, both fathers and by lay consent. When studying the manuscripts and the text, and by looking at what was taught everywhere, consensus can be reached on the core essentials (such as the Trinity, person of Christ, creation ex nihilo, etc…). Not what one individual or localized group may have said, but what has been believed everywhere since the Apostles, one deposit of faith, which has been preserved in Christ’s church and never disappeared. Even those who have little respect for the traditions of the church (such as certain Baptists or Bible-church types) still arrive at the same core conclusions regarding those issues, guided by the Holy Spirit, who has never left the church.
I’m still interested as to why one would want to worship a God who needs preexistent matter, who has to exist within time, needs a physical body, and has a church that disappears. The God orthodox Christians worship is much bigger and superior to such limitations. The infinite God that John of Damascus finitely describes is worthy of worship.
Tracy, I read this morning in my Bible reading:
“Then they fell on their faces, and said, ‘O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, You be angry with all the congregation?” Numbers 16:22
When Moses and Aaron address God as the God of the spirits of all fflesh, do you think think that they are interceding for the sparing of sinners because they are of the same species as God?