Sunday, 15 November 2009

Conversation with a Mormon – Good Works

Christian: Where do you get the idea that “Christians don’t believe in works”?

Mormon: Every Evangelical I speak to tells me that they are saved by grace alone. But James 1:5 says that “faith without works is dead”.

Christian: Do you count any Evangelicals among your friends?

Mormon: Yes, I do and they all say the same thing – “grace alone, faith alone”.

Christian: These Evangelical friends, do they go to church?

Mormon: Yes, we see them setting off Sunday mornings about the same time as us.

Christian: And do they have a nice building in which to meet?

Mormon: Yes, it’s a nice building.

Christian: And they have a pastor? Is he full time? Does he get paid to preach?

Mormon: Yes, their pastor is a professional man.

Christian: And do your Evangelical friends get involved in the community?

Mormon: Yes, they seem to have open houses just like we do and they run a soup kitchen. They also have something called – “Street Pastors” I think.

Christian: How do you think the building, its upkeep, the pastor, etc. are paid for?

Mormon: I suppose they take up a collection or something.

Christian: So, these Christian friends, who don’t believe in works, attend church regularly and seem to pay for their own building, pastor and running expenses by what I suppose you would call tithes and offerings. They busy themselves with charity work, invite the neighbours in for refreshments and make every effort to tell the gospel. Quite busy then; for people who don’t believe in works?

Mormon: I hadn’t thought of it that way. But if works are required then why don’t you say as much instead of continually talking about “grace alone”?

Christian: But works are not required.

Mormon: I don’t understand. You are making no sense.

Christian: I am making perfect sense; biblical sense. But you are right in saying you don’t understand. It is because you are so full of Mormon preconceptions about my faith that you have left no room for any other understanding. Christians do good works because we are saved no in order to be saved.

My faith will never fit into the scheme of Mormonism because it looks nothing like Mormonism. No temples, no “priesthood”, except that which we share as followers of Christ, no “law of eternal progression” because all that we need to grow more Christ-like we find in Christ.
“Church” is not for us an institution we join to be saved but a natural congregating of all those who are in Christ to sing his praises, encourage one another and work to build his kingdom.

Christianity or Christianity-lite?

The Mormon view is that what I have is a sort of Christianity-lite while Mormonism is the real thing "Restored", a sort of Christianity with muscle. You believe that your faith is a fuller expression of mine, that if I were to become a Mormon your church would add to what I have and correct some misconceptions on my part. On that basis a Mormon will typically expect to see at least some parallels, some features that can be compared in order to better understand "some of the differences".

I believe that your faith bears no resemblance to mine at all. That mine is the original Christianity of the New Testament and that no elements of my faith can be made to correspond with elements of yours. You don't understand because you are looking for direct comparisons such as, "we have temples and you don't; we have formal priesthood and you don't; we have rules and you don't." This will never work and if you are to understand what and how I believe you must forget Mormonism and attend to my totally different religion.

Of course Christians have order, structure and rules to live by. It would be impossible to function without these things. Of course we believe in obedience, charity, making sacrifices and being accountable but these simply don't work in any way you would relate to because my Christian faith is completely unlike your Mormon faith.

Its foundation is different, its structure is different, its ethos is different, and its adherents think entirely differently to the way you think and what gives us confidence and hope is quite different. I don't mean any of this in a dismissive or disparaging way but simply want to press home how very, very different is the way we believe.

So if you are to understand you must be prepared to see through different eyes before you could possibly say whether you like what you see. Otherwise, you will simply be judging and dismissing a caricature of my faith based on inappropriate comparisons with your faith and on misconceptions taught by your church. What I find tragic is that you believe you have accepted the Mormon message and rejected the Christian Evangelical gospel based on sound teaching. However your decision is based entirely on wrong information and mistaken ideas. If you are going to prefer Mormonism over what I believe at least understand properly what it is you are rejecting.

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