Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

A Neglected New Testament Passage? 2 Peter 1:2-10

One of my favorite passages of scripture might be rather neglected outside the LDS Church, I fear. (Correct me if I'm wrong!) But it strikes me as beautiful and extremely important. I refer to 2 Peter 1:2-10:
[2] Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,
[3] According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
[4] Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
[5] And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
[6] And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
[7] And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
[8] For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
[9] But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
[10] Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.
I love the way Peter begins with Christ and God, then raises their call to us to obtain glory and virtue and godliness through the power of Christ, the power that enables us to become more like God and partake of the divine nature. But the call to follow them requires diligence and patience, with progression step by step until our calling and election is sure - for, after all, it is possible for believers in Christ to fall and lose their salvation.

I'm not sure how this passage could fit into a sermon from those who condemn us a non-Christian cultists for believing in the type of things Peter teaches here. Other than an occasional reference to the divine nature, I don't think I've heard this passage used much at all - but my sampling of non-LDS sermons is small. In some cases, it is cited largely to refute its use as a "prooftext" in favor of LDS-like doctrines. One example is an article by Zane Hodges in the Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society. Here is one interesting excerpt:
A careful consideration of the context of these remarks shows that they are not supporting the Reformed Doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints. Indeed, they actually support the opposite conclusion, that believers in Christ are secure forever, whether they add Christian character qualities to their faith or not. What is at stake, here, as we shall see, is not kingdom entrance, but abundant kingdom entrance.
I'm curious about other interesting uses of this passage, as well as many of the rather plain teachings of Peter in general. I really enjoy Peter's writings. Wish we had more!

14 comments:

Greg said...

One of my favorite passages of scripture might be rather neglected outside the LDS Church, I fear.

As a Catholic, I fail to understand why Mormons speak as if the only Christians in the world are themselves and the evangelicals, as if there were no Catholics or Orthodox or mainline Protestants or any others.

The doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints (i.e. "once saved always saved"), aside from being rejected as a grievous heresy by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, is a relatively recent doctrinal innovation and a small minority opinion among the world's Christians.

As far as I know, John Calvin was the first Christian in history to teach this doctrine. It is based on certain passages of Scripture, such as John 10:28-29 and 1 Cor 1:8. However, other passages of Scripture directly contradict it, including the one you cite. It is believed by some (but not all) Calvinists. Calvinists represent a fraction of all Protestants, who in turn are a small fraction of worldwide Christianity (25% according to Encyclopedia Britannica).

for, after all, it is possible for believers in Christ to fall and lose their salvation.

As Catholic apologists never fail to teach from the Scriptures when dealing with "born again" Christians.

Anonymous said...

As a former baptist, it's been my experience (both in dealing with my family as well as my own memories of what we studied in my Christian school) that protestants tend to conveniently ignore the epistles of anyone else than Paul. Given that Martin Luther (one of the first protestants) called James a "letter of straw" that attitude is not surprising.

Jettboy said...

I find this comment Intersting:

"What is at stake, here, as we shall see, is not kingdom entrance, but abundant kingdom entrance."

Isn't that an argument for graded Kingdoms? I thought there was Kingdom enterance or none at all according to LDS critics. What would be the difference between simple enterance and abundant enterance? Why would you want one when the other suffices?

As for the "minority Christian" status of the idea, the faith only and salvation once crowed are the most noisy and boisterous. Its hard to hear other voices when people are shouting.

Brian Duffin said...

Greg,

I don't believe Jeff was trying to say the LDS Church and Evangelicals are the only Christians out there. In fact, in addressing the question of the use this passage outside the LDS Church, Jeff writes, "...I don't think I've heard this passage used much at all - but my sampling of non-LDS sermons is small."

Mormanity said...

Greg, I apologize if you thought I was implying that Mormons and evangelicals are the only ones out there. Evangelicals seem to be among our most vocal and prolific critics and I may frequently respond to some of their charges, but my comments were not meant to imply that there are no others in the Christian community - and I don't think that's a fair reading of what I said.

I recognize that many Christians don't accept Perserverance of the Saints, but that doesn't necessarily imply that Catholics and others make much out of 2 Peter 1. I'm not sure if it's underrepresented in non-LDS sermons, but it seems that way to me. I did some searching for Catholic sermons that dealt with 2 Peter 1 and the concept of the divine nature relative to humans (not just Christ), and wasn't too successful. I'm sure there is some interesting material out there, so please let me know what you've encountered. That's part of the purpose of my post - a query to learn how other faiths use 2 Peter 1 and how often they use it. For now, my guess is that it's not a commonly used passage.

Curtis said...

Being that two of my favorite topics (making one's calling and election sure, and Charity) are spoken of in this scripture, this is a scripture that I like alot. I like how among the list of character traits/gifts listed, charity is the last of all (elsewhere we are told it is the most important of all) and I like how that immediately leads into not being barren in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. In my mind, Charity is the heart and soul of Christ. If we have Charity, we desire all that He desires for the same reasons and therefore, we become like Him and appear as He is, and Know Him as He knows us. To know Him is to receive Eternal Life and that is what it is to make one's calling and election sure; you have Eternal Life promised to you, whether in this life or the next. Little wonder that Joseph Smith called Peter's writings some of the most sublime in the Bible.

Greg said...

I did some searching for Catholic sermons that dealt with 2 Peter 1 and the concept of the divine nature relative to humans (not just Christ), and wasn't too successful.

If 2 Peter 1 is relatively neglected by Catholic preachers, that's probably because the themes included there are more famously dealt with in other places in Scripture.

This concept of participation in the divine nature is pretty important in Catholic theology (and Orthodox too). It's usually referred to by the Greek term theosis. If you google either "theosis" or the phrase "participation in the divine nature" you'll get hits to your heart's content.

I was looking at this passage in my Catholic study Bible last night, and the footnotes gave probably 7 or 8 other NT references dealing with the same theme. Two or three from John, one from Romans 8, I think one or two from 1 Corinthians, then I stopped looking. If you're interested, I could post all the footnotes from that passage to give you an idea of how Catholics read it.

Going back to the former Baptist's comment (the second comment)... it's also my experience that Protestants tend to regard certain parts of Scripture as more important than others. So if there's an apparent discrepancy between two passages (like Romans and James), they'll say "you have to read one in light of the other", which to my ears sounds like code for "one cancels the other out". I haven't known Catholic or Orthodox commentators to do that.

I did a little unsystematic digging in the Church Fathers for something on this passage. Didn't find one, but I did find something from St. Augustine dealing with 2 Peter 3 which may be relevant to the present discussion. It's from Augustine's treatise "On Faith and Works", in which he argues you need both.

"Whence clearly Peter in his second Epistle, exhorting unto holiness of life and morals, and foretelling that this world is about to pass away, and that new heavens and a new earth is waited for, which should be given unto the righteous to inhabit, that from this they might observe how they ought to live, so as to be made worthy of that dwelling-place; knowing that of certain rather obscure sentences of the Apostle Paul certain unrighteous men had taken occasion, so as to be careless about a good life, as though secure of the salvation which is in faith, made mention that there are certain things difficult to understand in his Epistles, which men perverted, as also they did other Scriptures, unto their own destruction: when notwithstanding that Apostle held the same as the other Apostles, concerning eternal salvation, as what was not given save to them who live a good life."

He then goes on to quote 2 Peter 3:11-18.

Anonymous said...

It seems a bit ironic that Jeff is being accused of suggesting that LDS Christians are the only ones out there. His site is unusual among apologetic sites (not just LDS apologetic sites, but apolgetic sites in general) in the appreciation that it shows for others' relgious beliefs.

Bookslinger said...

Greg,
That's a good related passage. LDS speakers and writers have often referred to 2 Peter 3:16 when discussing those who selectively quote from Paul in regards to the faith versus works question.

The phrase "you have to read one in light of the other" is also something that I remember from my early days in evangelical/fundamental Protestant churches. One other phrase I remember hearing was "use the simple passages of scripture to explain/understand the harder ones. I can see how that leads to "one cancels out the other." But the better approach is obviously finding the position that encompasses all.

One of the clubs with which the most fervent religiously based critics of the LDS church try to beat us is the faith-verus-works argument, accusing us of trying to buy salvation with works.

First, I think they confuse, or incorrectly label, our emphasis on obedience with other kinds of works without specifying what "works" they're talking about. Paul talks about three kinds of works: good works, outward works of the Mosaic law, and dead works or sin. I used to think Paul's reference to "dead works" was the outward works of the Mosaic law, which was now dead, but further research into various translations has shown me that Paul's connotation of "dead works" was more akin to "sinful acts."

I believe LDS doctrine is in line with most Christian religions in that faith without obedience avails little to nothing.

Even among the sincere "saved-by faith-in-grace-alone" evangelical critics of the church, they still preach obedience to the Lord's commandments after the faith-versus-works debate is over.

momon-curious said...

On a somewhat but not really related note (I'm scatter-brained), does anyone know of any LDS testimonies by or personal stories of one converting from being a evangelical/fundamental born-again Christian to the LDS church?

Bookslinger said...

Curious: Besides me?

mormon-curious said...

Bookslinger--What's your story? :) I would love to hear it. Thanks

Nicodemus said...

Bookslinger--It's me again (mormon_curious..."There was a man of the evangelicals, named "Nicodemus", a leader: The same came to investigate the church by internet..."). If you'd like, you can e-mail me at mormon_curious @ yahoo.com, instead of posting a lengthy post.

Bookslinger said...

I haven't put the whole thing on the internet, but I have it on a disconnected hard drive (in Word Perfect format, that I don't have installed on my new computer.)

A small portion of my story is here

There are some powerful things that carry over from evangelical/fundamental Christianity into the Mormon flavor of Christianity. Perhaps the most important one is walking by the Spirit, or what LDS call personal (and potentially constant) revelation under the broader head of "Gift of the Holy Ghost."

We both believe that God literally and personally answers prayer through many means including individual revelation, and both mundane and miraculous divine intervention. (I use "mundane" divine intervention to describe situations that a non-believer would chalk up to coincidence, but to the believing participants it is obviously divine intervention of some sort.)

I once visited a friend's evangelical-leaning Korean church, and their men's Sunday school lesson was about 95% to 98% LDS-compatible.

The second thing in common is miracles and gifts of the Spirit, such as miraculous healings and speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues. Many LDS downplay the latter under the heading of "facility with tongues," which makes it (relatively) quicker and easier for missionaries to pick up a new language when serving a foreign language mission. But that is only one part. Immediate fluency in speaking and/or understanding a modern human language sometimes happens.

We also believe in "speak[ing] with the tongue of angels, and shout[ing] praises unto the Holy One of Israel" which is mentioned in the Book of Mormon in 2 Nephi 31:13.

The "rise-up-and-walk" healings and full-blown speaking in tongues are rarely mentioned in a contemporary setting due to the sacred nature. But if you look at the published journals of people now deceased, you can find it. Those are not the kinds of things that people talk about in the first person outside of sacred moments with family or very close friends.

The third thing that comes to mind of what evangelicals and Mormons have in common is their attitude toward "mainstream" Christian denominations. We both tend to look upon them as edited scaled-down versions of the true religion that Jesus preached. In my younger days the evangelical group I was in described the mainstream denominations as "churchianity". Today I think that lines up with Joseph Smith's line quoting the Savior "they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof."

The evangelical emphasis on the Biblical teaching that God communicates with man and answers prayer through revelation is what guided me to having full faith in Moroni's Promise, in Moroni 10:3-5.

I knew that if this church really were God's "official" church as they claimed, that surely God would tell you if you asked.