Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Special Witnesses of Christ 2 - Who is the Way? Joseph or Jesus?

Last time we looked at the questionable apostolic claims of Mormon leaders and the way Mormonism demotes Jesus to the status of “a God” in a pantheon. This time we test the Mormon way of salvation and compare it with what the Bible teaches and discover the true focus of the Mormon message.

Jesus declared "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6). The Biblical Apostle Peter said, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which they must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

The Biblical Apostle Paul stated,

"Just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

(Romans 5:18-21)

It is a constant in Christian teaching that salvation and justification, the putting right of men and women before God, is found in Christ alone, whose righteousness brings life and justifies all who believe in Him. Simply put, through the sin of one man, Adam, all stand condemned before God. Through the obedience of one man, Christ the new Adam, all who look to Christ in faith are justified and made righteous before God. Thus He is "the way and the truth and the life".

The Mormon Apostle Joseph B Wirthlin testified, "Jesus the Christ taught the words of life. He showed the way to truth, the way to peace, the way to happiness". (p.9 emphasis added) The Mormon Apostle Dallin H Oaks said, "I testify that as the Light and Life of the World, He has provided the way for us to return to our heavenly home…" (p.13 emphasis added) Already Jesus is not the way but simply shows the way. He is not the truth but only teaches the truth.

The Mormon Apostle Richard G Scott spoke of "the plan of happiness that would guide our life", and declared, "Only those who make and keep the covenant of baptism, diligently obey His commandments, and receive all the other necessary ordinances will have a fulness of joy on earth and will live eternally in the celestial kingdom." (p.10) Finally, then, Jesus is not the life. The life is found in obedience to "the plan of happiness" (Mormonism).

Christ and the Law

Biblical Apostles clearly teach that righteousness comes to everyone who puts faith in Christ. It is clear also that Biblical Apostles teach that the righteousness we seek comes "apart from the law…through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe." (Romans 3:21-22). They further teach that "the law was added so that the trespass might increase", i.e. so that the full extent of sin in our lives could be fully and finally revealed. But "where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

The more comprehensive the law, the more apparent the depth of sin, the more extensive the reach of grace to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. The law, by making us conscious of sin, draws us to Christ. Biblical Apostle Paul tells us that "the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith" (Galatians 3:24).

The Mormon Apostle Neal A Maxwell declares "Having purchased us (1 Cor.7: 23) with His atoning blood (Acts 20:28) in the great and marvellous Atonement, Jesus became our Law-giver (Isaiah 33:22). It is by obedience to His laws and His commandments that we may return one day to His presence and that of our Heavenly Father." (p.6) This is the gospel message turned entirely on its head!

Where Biblical Apostles have the law leading us to Christ, Mormon Apostles have Christ leading us to the law.

Where Biblical Apostles have men and women justified by faith in Christ who fulfilled the law, Mormon Apostles have us justified "by obedience to His laws and His commandments", laws that we ourselves must fulfil.

The Last Days

Just as the focus of scripture is Jesus so the time of His coming is the centre of that focus. John the Baptist's message clearly demonstrates this, "The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" (Mark 1:15). Jesus said of John the Baptist "all the Prophets and Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come" (Matthew 11:13-14), a reference to Malachi 4:5.

The writer to the Hebrews declared,

"But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Hebrews 9:26) and wrote, "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days (latter days) he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe" (Hebrews 1:1-2).

The Biblical Apostle Peter said of this time "He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake" (1 Peter 1:20).

In contrast with the message of prophets who had prophesied until John a new and unique category of revelation is experienced in the Son. Jesus is God's loudest and clearest expression of Himself and His coming brings the kingdom of God to the people, ushering in the Messianic age known as "the last days", the era of God's mercy and salvation. This was the time prophesied by Malachi and ushered in by John, who, Jesus said, is "Elijah who was to come" (Matthew 11:13-14); when the promise to our first parents would begin to be fulfilled (Genesis 3:15; Rom.16: 20; 13:12); when the promises to Abraham would begin to see fruition in the lives of all who have the faith of Abraham.

The Biblical Apostle Peter told his Jewish hearers,

“Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days. And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, "Through your offspring all the peoples on earth will be blessed." When God raised up his servant (Jesus), he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”

(Acts 3:24-26)

The Biblical Apostle Paul told his Gentile converts,

“The scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith…For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise. What, then, was the purpose of the law?…the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.”

(Gal.3: 8-9,18-25).

Mormon Apostle Boyd K Packer spoke of the day in 1836 when Malachi 4:5-6 was fulfilled in the presence of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey as reported in D&C 110:14 "Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi - testifying that he [Elijah] should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come." (p.17)

The Mormon Apostle Russell M Nelson, speaking of the covenant God made with Abraham, said, "From scriptures we learn that this covenant 'should be fulfilled in the latter days' (1 Nephi 15:18). Then the fulness (sic) of His gospel would be preached and many would truly believe…" He went on to declare, "Brothers and sisters, you may also claim the supernal blessings promised to the faithful lineage of Abraham. The Lord explained that blessings and responsibilities of His priesthood are yours because of your faith, works, and lineage - the lineage declared in your patriarchal blessings…The ultimate blessings of the Abrahamic covenant are conferred in holy temples." (p.7)

Thus the focus of these prophecies, so clearly centred around the Saviour and the Messianic age ushered in by Him, shifts from the first century to the nineteenth; from the founding of a church comprising people of faith, to the inception of Mormonism, a religion based on works; from an Abrahamic covenant fulfilled in all who are of the faith lineage of Abraham, to its fulfilment in those who are, through a mystical (patriarchal) blessing, declared to be of his literal lineage; from simple and life-giving faith in the finished work of the cross to esoteric temple ceremonies centred on the dead; from Jesus to Joseph.

Previously:

Special Witnesses of Christ

Next:

Enemies of the Cross

17 comments:

  1. Mike, again, this is really insightful stuff. I can't help but be reminded of Martin Luther's work - his 95 theses against the works-based religion of his day!

    Justification by faith alone, in grace alone, in Christ alone! Penal substitutionary atonement all the way...

    ReplyDelete
  2. 1. Do you believe it is possible, after being justified by Christ, to earn additional rewards in heaven based on righteousness here on earth?

    2. Do you believe it is possible for a person, having accepted Christ once, to "fall from grace?"

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yes, we are so apparently familiar with the work of Luther that we forget how incredibly important and world-changing his challenge was.

    Seth

    The Bible speaks of rewards and punishments and of those who are "saved as though by fire." It is possible to be a bad Christian and many of the letters of the New Testament are corrective in nature. But Christians believe in good works because we are Christians not because we aspire to rewards.

    I found the analogy of being on a ship very helpful. When you become a Christian you are on the ship of salvation. You can fall on the deck of the ship but you can't fall of the ship. Mormons fail to understand this because they don't understand on what basis they have boarded the ship.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yes Mike, but it seems you are trying to evade both my questions here. A "yes", a "no" or an "I don't know" would work.

    You can even do a "yes/no - with qualifications" if you want.

    I've heard the ship analogy before. But it sheds no illumination on the specific questions I was asking.

    ReplyDelete
  5. There is a rich irony in a Mormon asking me for a straight answer Seth. I can't help but smile at it.

    Perhaps if you were more specific I might ehlp. What do you have on your mind? What in my writing has prompted your question?

    ReplyDelete
  6. I just want to know if you think a person can earn more or less rewards in heaven AFTER justification by righteous works.

    And whether it is possible for a person to fall from grace.

    Because your answer does have a real impact on how potent your criticism of the LDS position turns out.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I had no difficulty understanding what you want to know Seth. I am reluctant however to allow you to control the discussion by talking what you want to talk about on my blog.

    I have written three thoughtful and challenging pieces on the subject of bogus Mormon claims regarding this special Easter season and it would be nice if you actually engaged with what I have written instead of comming by with your own agenda. I used to play that game thinking it may "open doors" etc. but found Mormons just abuse the privilege.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Well, if you admit that a person can fall from grace, you have a problem. Because now it seems that there must be some role for the person to play in being saved - if nothing more than failing to "fall from grace." Which brings you rather close to the LDS position of "enduring to the end."

    And if there is a biblical possibility of greater or lesser rewards in heaven, then this opens the possibility to the LDS notion of their being three degrees or kingdoms of heaven premised on works - entirely from the Bible.

    Which, I'm starting to think, is a pretty good explanation for LDS theology. It talks about the work of sanctification that commences after justification (which we hold is available to just about anyone).

    In short, not making the Celestial Kingdom doesn't mean you weren't "saved."

    You may consider this abusing the privilege Mike, but I think it's more just frustration on your part that introducing these kind of concepts completely shoots-down all the bright lines you've been painstakingly drawing between "us and them."

    But, the more I debate with Protestants on this subject, the more convinced I am that there really is no dividing line. At least not on this particular subject. Distinctions without real differences, it seems.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Seth,I am not frustrated by the ideas you want to introduce and you shouldn't flatter yourself that you can frustrate me with such tenuous arguments. I do find myself frustrated that you have failed to address entirely three carefully written blog posts, quoting extensively from the Bible and representing orthodox Christian faith.

    Why do Mormon apostles play down the Cross while biblical apostles "boast in nothing but..."? Why has the cross been the centre and focus of Christian faith since the beginning while Mormonism rather perversely places the atonement in Gethsemane?

    Why do Mormon apostles teach that the Mormon Church is the way and that Jesus "showed the way" when Jesus said, "I am the way..."?

    How do Mormons leaders qualify as apostles in light of Acts 1:21-22?

    How is it that Mormonism teaches that Jesus is "a God" when the bible clearly teaches that he is "My Lord and My God" John 20:28?

    As to your point I am aware of the argument that Mormonism somehow sits well enough into the Arminian camp. I am no Arminian but my Christian friends who are would be horrified by such a comparison. Mormon ideas about rewards and punishments are about as far from any mainstream Christian view as it is possible to get.

    "Salvation" does not, as Mormons insist, come to everyone but to everyone who believes. Nor is it won by a combination of faith and works. If you had read my posts more carefully you might have seen that.

    As to your three heavens, I know no one outside Mormonism who would subscribe to anything like this idea. It is shallow and fatuous to make the connection between "rewards" and "degrees of glory". Not so much a connection as a leap of blind faith. The Bible doesn't teach blind faith or degrees of glory. It seems to me Mormons will grasp at any passing straw to achieve acceptance as orthodox.

    ReplyDelete
  10. "It is shallow and fatuous to make the connection between "rewards" and "degrees of glory"."

    How is it "shallow and fatuous" Mike?

    By the way... I've been doing some reading on the "New Perspective on Paul" recently.

    Interesting stuff.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Seth,

    Every generation seems to throw up "a new perspective on Paul" yet there he remains, teaching what Christians have believed for two thousand years. I am curious to know whose work are you looking at?

    If there is anything more ubiquitous than new perspectives on Paul, or Jesus, or (name your favourite candidate for revision) it is the everpresent and inexhaustible enthusiasm of Mormons for new perspectives on the New Testament and biblical faith. No theory is too tentative, no "insight" too tenuous, no idea too bizarre to be jumped on and cited by the champions of Mormonism to prove that Christianity has had it wrong for two thousand years. As Robert Burns had it:

    Oh, that God the gift would give us
    to see ourselves as others see us

    (Sorry, I don't run to braid Scots)

    When I described attempts to make a connection between "rewards" and "degrees of glory" as shallow and fatuous I meant:

    "fatuous: complacently or inanely foolish"

    I mean that Mormons are too complacent about theology and apologetics to do more than make the most tenuous of connections between Christian and Mormon thinking and are too ready to settle for any prize in debate that merely appears to suit their cause. This betrays a shallow and foolish turn of mind that seeks no more than the barest minimum, the mere appearance of evidence to satisfy them they are right.

    I give you examples:

    "There are temples in the Bible
    Mormons have temples
    Mormonism must be biblical"

    "There are prophets in the Bible
    Mormons have prophets
    Mormon prophets must be from God"

    "Christians believe in rewards
    Mormons teach degrees of glory
    Mormonism is close to Christianity"

    You see the problem don't you? Definition, Seth, that is what is absent from all these familiar and fatuous lines of reasoning. I am taking seriously your remarks however and, not being Arminian in my outlook myself, I plan to meet with a close Christian friend who is and ask him for his insight. Who knows but that he might agree with you?

    ReplyDelete
  12. I don't really care what your Arminian friend has to say after you've poisoned the well with him. Most Christians will reflexively deny any similarity with a Mormon out of mere self-defense. So I'm not really interested, thanks.

    The only reason the NPP is called "New" is because the most recent fad of grace-only Evangelicalism THINKS it is just "the way things have always been."

    Anyway, I don't really care if you want to rot in your coffin of "tradition" or not. If the NPP makes a better scriptural argument than you do, you better believe I'll go with them in a heartbeat.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Ooh, waspish! Well, at least I got you animated Seth. There are times when I fancy you are typing in your sleep you are so indolent in your responses. This means enough to you to keep coming back but not enough, it seems, to make any effort to actually address issues.

    As to my Arminian friend I have no need to "poison the well" as you so colourfully put it. The well was already thoroughly "poisoned" with the love of Christ and a deep suspicion of all things Mormon before ever I got there. Indeed, he is the man who led me to Christ and out of the Mormon cult. I bless the day he "poisoned" me with such great good news as we just celebrated over Easter.

    I say "we" meaning of course Christians. I got the April Ensign this morning and scanned it carefully for any mention of the Cross of Christ but, to my great disappointment though not to my surprise, it wasn't there. Not even a picture, an aside or a passing remark.

    Now consider, this is the Easter Ensign magazine of a church that purports to be Christian, indeed Christianity "restored" and personified in its fullness. Waht would anyone expect would be the great Easter message of the leaders of this pristine and fully restored "Christian" church?

    The seven last words from the Cross? The words of redemption spoken to the thief? the expression of common grace in those marvelous words, "Father forgive them..."? The cry of dereliction, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani" as the weight of your sin and mine and the sins of the world descended on him?

    No. None of these. No Easter message in the Mormon Easter Ensign from the Mormon leadership. Under the heading "A Great Work of God" we have Deiter Uchtdorf giving the "First Presidency Message"...

    "One hundred and eighty years ago, Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdrey, and a handful of others gathered together to organize The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

    Does anyone have a bucket 'cause I want to puke right now at the thought that this fraudulent apostle should dare steal the glory of Christ at Easter and offer it up to his fraudulent prophet forebear as an offering of praise for ushering in what he calls "2these glorious times, foreseen by ancient prophets and attended by a watchful, angelic host."

    Oh, and by the way, just in passing Christ died for the sins of the world.

    If your going to get animated Seth find something worth getting animated about. You are talking and writing like a "poputchik", a "fellow traveller" and perhaps you should consider why the Cross doesn't feature in the Mormon Easter message when it is the centre, focus and challenge of every "Easter" message in the Christian Church since that first great Passover event. Maybe you should consider then where you should be in relation to the Christ who died for you, in the Mormon Church that trumps his great sacrifice with stories of Joseph or in the Chirstian Church that kneels at the foot of the Cross and worships the One who died there.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Seeing as how the April Ensign is always full of talks about the Atonement and what Christ has done for us, I don't see why I should be particularly fussed about what pictures they choose to include.

    It's Easter, and the Ensign this time of year is always firmly centered in Christ.

    Seems good enough to me.

    ReplyDelete
  15. What do you consider more important about Easter?

    The cross?

    Or the Atonement?

    ReplyDelete
  16. Explain to me the difference and their relative significance in your understanding

    ReplyDelete