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

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Missing Topic in Much of Popular Christianity: Repentance from Sin


Feeling rather dismayed after listening to a televised sermon from the nation's largest mega-church. Protestant Pastor Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church just talked a lot about faith, but not the kind I'm used to hearing about. In my opinion, this morning he wasn't preaching faith in the Savior (which he may preach most of the time, I hope), but faith in yourself, and faith in other mortals, helping them to look past their problems and see that they can do great things if only they will believe in - you guessed it - themselves. I agree that we should encourage others and be positive, but that's about all there was to this sermon. Without the foundation of true faith in Christ and repentance of our sins to follow Him, none of us will come anywhere close to realizing our potential. Maybe that part was last week?

The broadcast looked and sounded like a typical motivational speaker for corporate America, but given to a huge audience (about 44,000 people in the stadium that used to house the Houston Rockets). It could have been Antony Robbins or some other feel-good and believe-in-yourself cheerleader raking in megabucks for an hour or two of inspirational froth. Not that delusional, greed-based froth doesn't have an important place in religion.

I missed the first couple of minutes, so there might have been some heavy references to Jesus and the Bible before I tuned in, but during over 20 minutes of preaching I can only remember one such reference. Pastor Osteen told people that having faith in others is like what Jesus did with Peter. He said that when Jesus met Peter, Peter was rough and used foul language (???). But Jesus looked past all that and believed in Peter, and told Peter that he had the talent, the skills, and the personality to be a great disciple (???), and through this encouragement, Peter was able to go on and become great - presumably by believing in himself. I got out my LDS printing of the Bible and thumbed through the Topical Guide trying to find references to personality, believing in yourself, and Peter's foul language, but I guess we Mormons are using one of those Bibles with a lot of stuff subtracted from it.

I get the feeling that the financial pressures that mega-churches face - just think of the air conditioning costs for such a large church - might have a profound effect on what gets preached. Sadly, I think this is the problem we find in some corners of modern Christianity. A core element of the Gospel has always been that man must repent. We must have faith in Christ and repent of our sins and follow Him.

The repentance of sin part is the sticking point. To actually preach this, one must denounce sin. Not abstract sin, not the sins of other people, but our own sins, even our favorite ones. Ouch. Repentance hurts - it begins with pain, the pain that tells us we are not right with God and have done something wrong that we are responsible for. Yes, it hurts - and good preaching and a true Christian ministry can often induce genuine pain in the hearts of the hearers, especially when they are engaging in serious sin, as Jacob found in Jacob 2 in the Book of Mormon. Such preaching makes people uncomfortable because we all have sin. And discomfort can take a toll on the collection plate. Kudos to those churches and religions that boldly teach repentance, but up here in the northern Midwest, as conservative and religious a place as this is, it seems rare to find a preacher teaching his or her people that it's a serious sin to live together before marriage, for example. It's easy to find preachers who are totally cool with that and can meet with and counsel young people for months who planning their marriage without ever telling them to repent and begin on a stronger foundation by not shacking up first. But not many seem willing to be known for being "intolerant" and "prudish."

Have faith in Christ, repent and be baptized. It's the basic message of Christianity. And one that still needs to be restored in many quarters.

We also need to do a better job of emphasizing this message in some LDS quarters. It's too often that we have sacrament sermons that are also contaminated with pop psychology and feel-good fluff off the Internet rather than being rooted in scripture, where the call to repent is one of the most repeated messages of all. You'll get plenty of calls to repent from the leaders of the Church, especially in General Conference, but how are we doing in our own circles of responsibility? Are we helping our families and those we are responsible for to understand the need to repent and the dangers of sin? True faith in Christ leads to repentance, something we can't afford to stop teaching.

But there were some things I really like about Pastor Osteen, compared to some other dangerously influential preachers these days: (1) he doesn't hate America, (2) he doesn't encourage his audience to hate America, and (3) he doesn't make money by telling his audience that they are all oppressed victims who have no hope unless an all-powerful paternalistic government steps in and takes care of them (at the expense of their freedom, of course - but the part about becoming slaves is often left out). So while I found it to be a troubling sermon, it wasn't as disturbing as some other sermons I've heard recently.

52 comments:

Tyler Mitchell said...

Sadly we're seeing more and more of this everyday. Makes you think of Nehor and many such characters in the scriptures.

NM said...

Greetings Jeff =)

I'm very saddened by people like Joel Osteen. He hovers toward liberalism.

Personally, I'd recommend John Piper over at DesiringGod d0t org =)

gentlyhewstone said...

"...if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil.

"But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth--and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet.

"Yea, ye will lift him up, and ye will give unto him of your substance; ye will give unto him of your gold, and of your silver, and ye will clothe him with costly apparel; and because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is well, then ye will not find fault with him."

Helaman 13:26-28

Mormanity said...

Thanks, NM. Nice to hear from you! I've listened to some of John Piper's stuff and I can understand the endorsement. He does a nice job and isn't just telling people what they want to hear.

Hans said...

"I get the feeling that the financial pressures that mega-churches face - just think of the air conditioning costs for such a large church..."

That wouldn't be from all the hot air from preaching would it?

Anonymous said...

You really don't like Obama, do you?

Rich said...

Hi Jeff,
I have listened to Mr. Olsteen before, my wife bought a book of his, and I have heard him speak of faith in Christ. I don't know which he does more, but it does have a feel of a motivational speaker most of the time. Some seem more like a pep rally before a big game.
I comment occasionally at a site called debunking Christianity, and it does seem like there is very little talk of repentance. Quite a bit about the atonement, but little about repentance. I almost always bring up the topic there because it is so key to the gospel. It mostly seems that the talk is centered around the fact that we are all doomed sinners unless God's grace saves us. I do really wonder why there is so little emphasis on repentance and so much on doom and gloom.
I'll second your last paragraph!

Bookslinger said...

Jeff, A lot of Sundays go by where we don't hear anything said about repentance in LDS sacrament meetings either.

In the Gospel Principles manual, only one chapter, Chapter 19, is about repentance. And several chapters don't even mention repentance at all.

The good reverend Joel was just preaching from other chapters that day.

I bet he could turn the tables on us, and point out that many of our sermons don't mention Christ until the perfunctory closing before the "Amen".

Mormanity said...

Fair comment, Bookslinger. That's why I mentioned we LDS folks have to improve our efforts as well: We also need to do a better job of emphasizing this message in some LDS quarters. . . . Every teaching moment should be aimed at bringing people to Christ, and we can't do that unless repentance is at least implicit in our message all along.

We are all in such need of repentance - we can't push that enough, though some eyes glaze over rather easily.

Mormanity said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kalola said...

I've been trying to understand what it means to "repent of our sins." What "sins" are being referred to? Every time I read "repentance from sin," I wonder am I missing something? Do we "sin" without even knowing? Can someone enlighten me?

Mormanity said...

Not liking the anti-American preaching of a minister doesn't necessarily meant that I don't like someone who turns to that minister as a friend, mentor, and confidant.

Mormanity said...

We all sin throughout out lives, and thus fall short of God's standards. When we hurt one another, lie, do something mean or selfish, cheat, steal, etc., we are sinning. There are numerous other ways in which people sin. The 10 Commandments are a good standard to consider, for example.

Bookslinger said...

Sins are essentially disobedience to God's commandments.

There are the 10 Commandments listed in Exodus 20:1-17.

There are "the two great commandments" in Mark 12:30-31, : 1) to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and 2) Love our neighbor as ourselves.

Another good list are the "seven deadly sins", though not officially recognized by the LDS church as an official list with that name, I think most LDS would agree that each one is indeed a sin.

The "Seven deadlies" are:
Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, and Pride.

LDS prophets have often spoken out about pride. Pride was the downfall of the Nephites. President Ezra Taft Benson told latter-day saints that pride was a big problem in the church.

I think I could come up with a scriptural reference for all those, but I'm feeling a bit slothful.

Jia said...

I can't recall where this happened to me, but I was visiting a relative who was of another Christian faith, and during my daily scripture study I realised that I had already packed my scriptures and I didn't want to fuss with digging them out, so I asked to borrow a copy of her bible, that, happened to be missing the section where scripture stated that wives should submitt to their husbands. I asked her about this, and she said, "Well I guess my Church doesn't find that to be relevant."

It blew me away.

I'm so grateful for the restored and complete gospel.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
You really don't like Obama, do you?

1:20 PM, June 15, 2008


"I am absolutely certain that generations from now we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick. This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal."

BHO

daveja vu said...

I wonder if the lack of discussion of repentance by these "mainstream" megachurches may have something to do with the concept of being saved by grace rather than works. That Christ washes away all our sins, so there is no need for us to do anything. That's the attitude I get from many of those people.

And how is there any sense of community or closeness inside these megachurches? I shudder to think what if my ward became so huge that I was nothing other than a stranger in the crowd.

Ujlapana said...

My, my Jeff. I trust the next time someone on exmormon.com says General Authorities are in it for power and prestige, or intentionally misspells "prophet" as "profit", you'll remember this post and think--"live by the sword, die by the sword." I've been away for a while, but hopefully the "anti" tone of this post isn't part of a trend.

Jia,

I agree, continuing revelation blows me away too. It's great to see it alive and well in other churches. Or are you suggesting that revising the Bible is a bad idea?

Anonymous said...

Ujlapan,

Whom do you put your trust in to make these modifications to the Bible?

Ujlapana said...

I use the same standard any mature, rational adult uses: my own conscience.

Now, some may say that they rely on others, and that's true to an extent. If President Monson were to say, "We are removing Songs of Solomon" from the Bible most active Mormons probably wouldn't bat an eye. But how many would leave if he did something much more severe, like commanding animal sacrifice or the stoning of disobedient children (per the Bible)? I'd guess more--my point being that people ultimately follow the dictates of their conscience. I, personally, do not need General Authorities to tell me to ignore the "menstruating women are unclean" parts of the Bible any more than I need them to tell me to ignore the few homophobic portions; I know they are wrong through simple moral reasoning.

Some may say they rely on God (or the Spirit), and if that's true then so do I. We just define God differently.

(For further interesting reading on that last point, I recommend you to University of Chicago research that demonstrated that as people change their beliefs on a subject, they believe that God changes his beliefs, too: http://magazine.uchicago.edu/0712/investigations/god.shtml)

NM said...

I wonder if 'sin' could be thought of as any action, which makes us think we are independent of God. I agree with BookSlinger here, but I wonder if it isn't just about breaking commandments, but that sin is any expression of thought, word or deed which says, "No thanks, I'd rather do it my own way..."

I don't know too much about Joel Osteen, and little do I know about American evangelicalism, but here in the UK, it seems that evangelicalism is going through somewhat of a turmoil with popular names like that of Steve Chalke (who professes to be of the evangelical ilk), but denies some very central doctrines in salvation, i.e. penal substitution...

...anyway, I've digressed. It's great to be back Jeff!

MG said...

The issue of the necessity of a saved Christian to practice lifelong repentance _in order to receive salvation_ is a hot topic in Protestant circles. There is not consensus. Most do agree that they need to change their ways and seek to follow Christ. The usual explanation is that a saved Christian has his heart changed and his works/actions are a manifestation of that salvation. Everyday human experience, however, shows that not every saved person always wants to do or chooses to do the right thing. He continues to sin, which most Protestants would admit as true. So the discussion here usually gets a little muddy as to the relationship of repentance and salvation because repentance can become a "work", which then puts the saved by grace alone doctrine in question.

Some Protestants will say, yes, repentance is necessary salvation, but I believe (I may be wrong here, though. Anyone with more definitive info please correct me) that most see repentance as something we should do "even though we've already been saved." I've heard this argument, more or less, in some sermons on the radio and with a Protestant friend of mine. There is so much intersection betweens OSAS (once saved always saved), works, falling from grace, etc., and the doctrine of necessary continual repentance that discussions about this topic get pretty confusing really quick, with conclusions all over the map.

In light of this, D&C 6:9 takes on a whole new dimension:

"Say nothing but repentance unto this generation."

Why? Because the doctrine of repentance, while seemingly straightforward, is not really clear even to this day. This understanding of the Christian landscape adds further significance to this charge to the missionaries. Repentance is a requirement for salvation, and this is not generally understood to be the case if you are a saved Christian.

An aside, I like Joel Osteen in many ways. I do not believe he is after money. My wife has one of his books and I've watched him a little, and I truly believe he is sincere. In an interview when asked about Mormons he would not take the bait. He said he is not in a position to judge people, and he'll leave that up to God, which I thought was a great answer. He seems to have a problem with the common evangelical approach of preaching and wants to reach larger audiences with encouraging messages that reach people who otherwise wouldn't be reached by more sectarian approaches. He wants to lift people up and avoids more rigid dichotomies (heaven goers and hell goers) than others. He takes it in the chin from many evangelicals, and is seen by many of them as a heretic.

As a Latter-day Saint I obviously feel he is missing some important pieces, the same pieces that we feel the Protestants, Orthodox, Catholic and others are missing. He is more motivational than doctrinal, and basically uses scripture as a motivational tool in practice. However, his desire to stay away from confrontation, even with the Mormons, makes it hard for me to not like him as a person.

Rich said...

Hi MG,

Maybe you hit on why repentance isn't spoken of much. That it can muddy the waters of saved by grace alone doctrine. I was hoping to get some input from someone who could shed light on this topic.

Bookslinger said...

MG (@11:28, June 16), I like your analysis.

Russtafarian said...

Just a quote from G.K. Chesterton...

"When friends fade into ghosts, and the foundations of the world fail; then when the man, believing in nothing and in no man, is alone in his own nightmare, then the great individualistic motto shall be written over him in avenging irony. The stars will be only dots in the blackness of his own brain; his mother's face will be only a sketch from his own insane pencil on the walls of his cell. But over his cell shall be written, with dreadful truth, "He believes in himself." (Orthodoxy, not sure of page number)

gentlyhewstone said...

"I use the same standard any mature, rational adult uses: my own conscience."

Ujlapana, your comments are clearly sincere but, bottom line, placing certitude in any subjective opinion falls short of the reliable standards of God. If someone else's conscience contradicts yours, then who's right?


"people ultimately follow the dictates of their conscience."

Sad but true. This hardly establishes, as you seem to wish to do, that following your conscience is the only way to live, or even a good way to live. What are we to make, then, of those who have clearly gone contrary to wishful thinking and achieved great righteousness despite the obvious mental and emotional inclinations to which we humans tend to be biologically inclined?

If everybody just follows their conscience, how do we account for the lives of those who have sublimated their whims for a greater good, like Mother Teresa, Saint Francis of Assisi, Brigham Young, or millions of others?

"I, personally, do not need General Authorities to tell me to ignore the "menstruating women are unclean" parts of the Bible any more than I need them to tell me to ignore the few homophobic portions; I know they are wrong through simple moral reasoning."

There's nothing simple about moral reasoning; three thousand years of philosophy won't get you a working definition of good or evil. To say that we do not need a GA to tell us what to follow or ignore is to assert that our conscience is infallible, and that the great prophets of the ages are irrelevant. Is there not more than a hint of hubris to this?

Are those who humbly submit their will to God's will, go through the agonizing work of repenting of unholy lifetsyles, and make serious sacrifices in the name of keeping covenants, to be written off as robotic flakes?


"Some may say they rely on God (or the Spirit), and if that's true then so do I. We just define God differently."

Perhaps this is a diplomatic attempt to be concilliatory; if so, thank you. However, such rationalizing only really serves to water down the strength of religious language by equating it with relativism. A person either chooses to follow God by adhering to the counsel of prophets--even if they say to do something shocking--or chooses to make it up as they go, by relying on whatever they feel is right.

Ultimately, Ujlpana, which way is more difficult, and thus less likely to be the result of selfishness? Which produces the greater good? And which, unlike the interpretations of some limited studies, has the evidence and testimony of God behind it?

I hope this is taken in a spirit of good will and honest dialogue. May God bless you.

Ujlapana said...

ghs said:...placing certitude in any subjective opinion falls short of the reliable standards of God.

Reliable standards? As evidenced by the consistent application of moral codes across global religions, all attributed to God?

ghs said:Sad but true. This hardly establishes, as you seem to wish to do, that following your conscience is the only way to live, or even a good way to live.

Hmmm. Last I checked, we called this Free Agency. And we taught that it was such a good way to live that we banished 1/3 of our spiritual siblings for questioning it.

ghs said:If everybody just follows their conscience, how do we account for the lives of those who have sublimated their whims for a greater good...?

Following their conscience, obviously. Not sure where the disconnect lies....

ghs said:three thousand years of philosophy won't get you a working definition of good or evil.

No, but 3 days in kindergarten will. Do you like it when people hit you? No? How do you think it makes Jenny feel then? Okay, then don't hit Jenny.

ghs said:Are those who humbly submit their will to God's will, go through the agonizing work of repenting of unholy lifetsyles, and make serious sacrifices in the name of keeping covenants, to be written off as robotic flakes?

Robotic flakes? Not sure where that came from. But those who "submit" themselves to God's will are submitting themselves to that which they think is right and good. One might call that following the dictates of their conscience.

ghs said:...such rationalizing only really serves to water down the strength of religious language by equating it with relativism.

Yes, religious belief are subjective and relativistic. They can't all be right, now can they?

ghs said:A person either chooses to follow God by adhering to the counsel of prophets...or chooses to...[rely] on whatever they feel is right.

Surely you can think of some more options here? Protestants don't get so caught up in prophets. Hindus certainly don't, and neither do Buddhists. And I submit that 90% of devout Mormons have something "shocking" enough that they would disregard the president of the church in a flash if asked to do it--murdering a child, sacrificing animals, taking a plural wife. People are the captains of their souls.

ghs said:...which way is more difficult...?

Following your conscience in the absence of social support. Abstaining from drinking at a party may be hard, but you know you're part of an "elect" group, which helps. Living as a liminal member of Mormonism--that's hard.

Anonymous said...

At 2:59 PM, June 16, 2008, gentlyhewstone said...


Sound so much like the double speak found in the scriptures by the anti-Christ. When Christ stated it simple. Repent obey the commandments.

Mormanity said...

Yes, I do think Joel is a nice guy and sincere. And he's a very good speaker and his sermons undoubtedly help a lot of people.

I don't normally write "anti" messages going after someone else - but on the other hand, this is an instructive case study in the apostasy of our era and the potential dangers of a paid ministry. As nice as the preacher is, the message reveals seriously wrong that deserves to be noted.

Trevor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Trevor said...

Ujlapana:

"No, but 3 days in kindergarten will. Do you like it when people hit you? No? How do you think it makes Jenny feel then? Okay, then
don't hit Jenny."

This is an oversimplification of ultimate moral standards.

However:

I agree with you in general that relativism is important when dealing with others though. Pluralism is, I believe, essential if we want to strive for peace.

For example: While Mormons certainly appeal to an ultimate source of truth via the Moroni 10:3-5 challenge if someone prays and says that they sincerely were answered that it was not true, it is not our place to correct or change them. Belief is a choice and it is not our place to decide what others should believe, only to invite them to understand where we come from and why it is compelling to us.

MG said...

When I think of those like Joel Osteen and others I see out there who really seem sincere and non-confrontational, my personal belief is that when they get to the Spirit World and have an opportunity to get the full picture, their hearts will be open to accepting the fulness. Of course there is absolutely no way to confirm this, but I think of the founding fathers appearing to Wilford Woodruff asking for ordinance work to be done.

It's clear that Joel Osteen is not giving the full picture and is missing essential pieces. That's the only conclusion you can come to if you are a believing Latter-Day Saint. As Spencer W. Kimball once said (I'm paraphrasing), "[The other religions of the world, including traditional Christianty] can bring you right up to the veil, but no further." Those in the telestial kingdom will be worthy enough of the presence of Christ during the millenium as stated in the D&C and will resurrect sometime early on as part of the first resurrection.

So while I see Joel Osteen as not having the necessary pieces for full salvation in the highest kingdom, after hearing so much negative rhetoric from those who make a career of slinging mud at the LDS church, it's refreshing to see someone like Osteen just focus on doing some good. If all he Evangelicals were in his mold in that respect, the LDS apologists might have to find something else to do with their extra time :).

MG said...

Whoops! I meant to say "terrestrial". My bad!

MG said...

Jeff brings up a good point that's probably worthy of another blog topic (probably has been on in the past). That's the perils of a paid ministry. That is probably the single most detrimental product of the apostasy. Having your paycheck tied to your preaching and your audience simply does not work. It is a setup for disaster. You have to worry about losing your income if you say the wrong thing. There have been some preachers that have lost it all when they went in a direction the parishioners didn't like. The conflict of interest is just too big.

A colleague at work with whom I discuss religion and gets most of his information about the LDS church from the unfriendly apologists changed churches recently because he felt that they were running it more like a business than trying to follow the New Testament. We have friendly conversations about religion despite our differences. However, I thought it ironic that he would think the Mormons are off base, yet talks about lack of consensus on things such as infant baptism even among those of his same faith (he's Presbyterian) and of the problems with money getting in the way. We have no such issues. As President Hinckley used to say, "a lay ministry [in the church] is its genius." I don't know of anyone else that does this at an institutional level. Everyone I've ever told this is extremely impressed that the entire church is basically run by a bunch of amateurs like myself! God has to be involved at some level if folks like myself haven't completely destroyed it yet!:)

Anonymous said...

"Jeff brings up a good point that's probably worthy of another blog topic (probably has been on in the past). That's the perils of a paid ministry. That is probably the single most detrimental product of the apostasy. Having your paycheck tied to your preaching and your audience simply does not work. It is a setup for disaster. You have to worry about losing your income if you say the wrong thing."

Your statement certainly has merit, but does it not apply as well to the LDS church? Couldn't you apply that to, say, the church President and the Apostles? I am admittedly non-LDS, but it would appear that the Apostles, Quorum of the Seventy, and the Prophaet/President do just as much to influence the direction of the church as the unpaid clergy.

MG said...

anonymous @ 7:24 PM, June 17, 2008:

Let's look at this at every level.

The day-to-day operation of almost all local operations of the church (minus perhaps the custodians and the Church Education System employees) is run by a lay clergy. Wards and Stakes (equivalent of diocese) are run by unpaid volunteers. The majority of our weekly messages and counsel comes from these local volunteers.

Now if someone is called to be an apostle, prophet or seventy, they are asked to give up their careers and give their life to the church (some local area seventies still keep their jobs, but get no income from the church except perhaps for mileage).

So the first thing to recognize is that all of these leaders previously had other careers, in most cases having nothing to do with religion (heart surgeon, lawyer, pilot, educator, engineer, etc.). This is equivalent to the call to Peter to "cast away your net and come follow Me."

Now these leaders are provided with income for expenses. Some of them have been leaders for decades and, having given up their careers, need money with which to subsist. My guess is that they are probably making less than what they were in their careers in many instances. I don't know exactly what the living expense arrangements are for the general authorities (does anyone know)?

However, they are usually given assignments over regions on the church, sometimes foreign, and may have to live overseas some of the time.

The difference here is that their messages, which we usually only hear twice a year and sometimes in the church magazines, are not given with concern for income in mind. If ever released (which they aren't, their calls are for life except for some of the seventies), they would likely go back to their previous careers. In fact, they often say things that are not very popular yet are what they deem the Lord would have them give as a message to the church.

President Spencer W. Kimball's constant call for repentance is not a message that generates revenue. President Ezra Taft Benson's call to Beware of Pride is not one that fills the stands. President Gordon B. Hinckley's presentation of "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" that states:

"We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets."

is not going to win any popularity contests. These are hard messages for a basically selfish and self-centered society, hardly to be expected from those whose next paycheck teeters on filling the stands.

If you watch a general conference, you will see a drastic difference in approach from the hoopla and stage show of many modern evangelists (see http://lds.org/conference/sessions/display/0,5239,23-1-851,00.html for an example). Messages are simple, there's no yelling, screaming, or loud stage bands, just straightforward teaching without self-promotion.

In the words of Alma to the Anti-Christ Korihor:

"And now, if we do not receive anything for our labors in the church, what doth it profit us to labor in the church save it were to declare the truth, that we may have rejoicings in the joy of our brethren?" (Alma 30:34).

MG said...

The glitz and show of many of the TV evangelists is just a modern version of the rhetoric of the early church. Pay close attention and compare to what Hugh Nibley said in his book "The World and the Prophets":

"To speak in tongues, says Chrysostom (whose own title means Golden-mouth), is not as great as to prophesy, since prophecy is the interpretation of tongues; but a greater thing than prophecy even is to be able to give a good oration! This was in answer to people who kept asking Chrysostom why the church no longer had the gift of prophecy: The answer is an enlightening one, namely that the church now has rhetoric, which is better than prophecy. John's own sermons, of which, fortunately, a great number have survived, clearly proclaim his intention of making rhetoric do the work of prophecy and revelation.

The clarion voice, the waving arms, the flashing eye, the studied poses and sweet modulations, and ear- and mouth-filling words that thrilled the hearers like the clash of cymbals and had just as little meaning, the sweeping robes, the musical background (a very important adjunct of church-rhetoric)—what spells could they not weave? What multitude could resist them? St. Augustine himself reports that he listened spellbound to the electrifying sermons of the immortal Ambrose without paying the slightest attention to what the man was saying; carried away by his words; as he puts it, he remained indifferent or even contemptuous of their content."

Sound familiar? A very enlightening chapter. The original radio address can be heard at:

The Prophets and Rhetoric - Hugh Nibley:
Part 1:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgKKA_Q0MFI&feature=PlayList&p=501EADD1AAEA20B8&index=44
Part 2:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8J_mC_loQw&feature=PlayList&p=501EADD1AAEA20B8&index=45&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL

Drew said...

I have always thought we should focus more on repentance. It is a foundational truth and principle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! We focus so much on preventance (which is good to some extent) that we neglect repentance, which gives repenting a negative and frightening connotation, which it shouldn't. It's a great gift and really, should be mentioned in practically every sermon, LDS or otherwise.

Ujlapana said...

The clarion voice, the waving arms, the flashing eye, the studied poses and sweet modulations, and ear- and mouth-filling words that thrilled the hearers like the clash of cymbals and had just as little meaning, the sweeping robes, the musical background (a very important adjunct of church-rhetoric)—what spells could they not weave? What multitude could resist them? St. Augustine himself reports that he listened spellbound to the electrifying sermons of the immortal Ambrose without paying the slightest attention to what the man was saying; carried away by his words; as he puts it, he remained indifferent or even contemptuous of their content."

Wow...Barak Obama, anyone?

Anonymous said...

I am a former Mormon, and agree that repentance is often avoided in evangelical circles. The Joel Olsteens of the world preach a gospel that is not often in line with biblical Christianity. I, myself, hold to the Wesleyan-Holiness viewpoint. I believe that we are indeed saved by grace, and that our "works" are a reflection of our relationship with Christ. At the moment of accepting Christ, a person is justified by his/her faith, repentance ensues, and all past sins are forgiven. Unlike the Calvinists, I believe that we need to repent of any sins that occur after accepting Christ on the road to entire sanctification, which is the work that God does in us. I also agree that a person can indeed lose his/her salvation through a life of disobedience and failure to repent. From Wesley's point of view, man's response (works if you will) and God's work equal synergism. Yes, man has responsibility in his salvation, and fruits of the Spirit must be evident; however, works such as baptism are not seen as necessary to man's salvation but as the sign of the new covenant, much like circumcision for the Abrahamic covenant. Christ was baptized to identify with humanity as part of the atonement.

I hope my comments aren't disregarded because I'm a former member. I just want to let you all know that repentance is necessary throughout our lives because we all miss the mark and fall short, and that the Joel Olsteens of the world need to remember that UNLESS he markets himself for what he is--a motivational speaker who happens to use the bible.

Tracy Keeney said...

I believe that we are indeed saved by grace, and that our "works" are a reflection of our relationship with Christ.
Well said. I enjoyed your comments.
I'm a little familiar with Wesley and his teachings. I've not heard of Weslyan-Holiness however. Is the "holiness" a reference to his teachings on "Christian perfection"?

Another question--I'm curious about something you said.
Yes, man has responsibility in his salvation, and fruits of the Spirit must be evident; however, works such as baptism are not seen as necessary to man's salvation but as the sign of the new covenant
So are you saying that you believe that "baptism" in an of itself doesn't save you, but that it is still necessary, not because it saves you, but because it's a sign of the covenant?
In other words, do you believe we must make the covenant and the SIGN of that covenant is baptism, but it's not the baptism that saves you, it's the Lord's grace?
(If so-- Mormons would fully agree.)

Or, did you mean that baptism isn't necessary to man's salvation because it's just a sign of one's covenant, and people can make the covenant without giving that particular sign? Does someone of your faith believe that they must be baptised as a sign of the covenant? Or that they can make the covenant, without making the sign?

Gordon Blyed said...

Nice post, Jeff, but a bit longwinded. Mind if I tighten it up a bit? No? Good. How's this:
"So, I kinda sorta listened to about 20 minutes of this one guy, I didn't get the whole thing, but he didn't address one topic that I thought he mighta shoulda in that 20 minutes, and never mind the fact that weekly my own church only sporadically addresses that same topic, I will feel free to condemn this guy and all similar efforts. They are probably just trying scrape together the big bucks to pay the bills, which are likely quite large! Shame on them!
In an unrelated story, LDS chapels and temples continue to be built and function worldwide - some with A/C even! - without any money donated by its members, saving LDS leaders from any pressures of caving to the members sensitive psyches. How you ask? It's magic!"

How is that? Any better? Aw, you're welcome, don't mention it.

Latter-Day James said...

"In an unrelated story, LDS chapels and temples continue to be built and function worldwide - some with A/C even! - without any money donated by its members, saving LDS leaders from any pressures of caving to the members sensitive psyches. How you ask? It's magic!"

Yeah that is exactly the same because all of those dollars donated are being used to pay temple presidents, stake presidents and bishops! O wait, all those guys go unpaid. Guess that kills your comparison.

I think Jeff was trying to point out that Christ, being the center of Christianity, was not mentioned very much. Jeff also mentions that we as members of the LDS Church and other churches included, probably should be doing better preaching on certain topics such as repentance as well.

jackg said...

To Tracy Keeney,

Sorry it has taken so long for me to come back to this site. I always get confused and forget how I found it in the first place. :-)

You ask great questions. First off, Yes, holiness reflects Wesley's teaching on Christian Perfection which, simply stated, is becoming perfect in love. This is part of God restoring us to the original image in which Adam and Eve were created: they had perfect love and perfect trust in God until they yielded to temptation, put themselves above God and no longer trusted in His word. Sanctification, which is part of Christian Perfection, is the process of the Holy Spirit working in a person to restore them to that original image. For me, I believe the image of God to be His character, which is holiness.

Now, for the questions on baptism: we need to be careful when we start using the word "necessary." A man can come to believe in the Person and Work of Christ and die before he is formally baptized. He is still saved. In fact, when Jesus is teaching Nicodemus about baptism, He is not referring to physical water baptism, but to spiritual baptism or rebirth. Nicodemus was misunderstanding what Jesus was saying. In verse 16of chapter John 3, Jesus clarifies this teaching by saying: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life." There is nothing mentioned that water baptism is a part of that equation of believing in Jesus and being saved.

I believe baptism to be important in my walk with the LORD because it's a public confession of my acceptance of Christ. However, I do not believe baptism to be a requirement for my entry into God's presence. So, as a sign of the covenant, I do not believe it is necessary for the covenant to be efficacious. Hence, I would not believe in the ritual of performing baptisms for the dead; however, I still allow my children to participate because it is their faith tradition--even though I don't agree with it.

I hope I am explaining myself clearly enough. I definitely differ from the LDS belief regarding baptism. If you believe it is God's grace that saves us, then I agree with you on that point. But, if you believe that it is "necessary" to be baptized, then I disagree with you on that point.

I also think we have a different perspective about God's grace with relation to salvation and holiness. I think the LDS perspective is that humanity must perform works of righteousness in order to earn coming into God's presence. In some way, I see this as achieving holiness prior to salvation. (I'm sure you don't see it this way because of your belief in eternal progression.) I see salvation happening before being made holy; it is the work of the Spirit that occurs after justification. Anyway, let me know where we agree and disagree. And, thanks for your questions. You were very polite and sincere in asking them, and I appreciate that.

Mormanity said...

Gordon, you can learn a lot about a medical professional by watching them at work for 20 minutes. If they don't wash their hands before performing a medical procedure, that's a legitimate red flag. Then if they put on a witch doctor mask and start chanting spells as they sprinkle magic powder in the air, we would not be unjustified in questioning their approach. You can defend the doctor by saying we only saw him at work for 20 minutes and didn't see the particular techniques that we were looking for, but that fails to recognize the important data that is available. Someone who does utterly bogus, dangerous, quack medicine during one session is not likely to be practicing solid state-of-the-art medicine the rest of the time.

Someone who preaches a feel-good message on the importance of believing in yourself, equates success in life with success in the world, and mangles basic Biblical stories (Christ teaching a foul-mouthed Peter to have faith in himself?) isn't likely to sound like Peter or Paul in their next sermon.

Look, he's a nice guy and maybe he helps people feel better. But does Joel Osteen preach repentance from sin? Does he take unpopular stands against sin to help those engaged in sin sorrow over their behavior and turn to Christ to repent of their sins and quit their bad behavior? Maybe, but a search of his site shows little evidence of that. Try these Google searches:

site:joelosteen.lakewood.cc repent
= 0 hits

site:joelosteen.lakewood.cc repentance = 0 hits

site:joelosteen.lakewood.cc donate = 93 hits

Lauren said...

Please don't judge Christianity just by Joel Osteen. A lot of Christians disagree with a lot of his teachings, as they believe he focuses too much on improving our lives.. which is not what Jesus asks of us.

I believe we are saved by grace when we repent and turn from our sins, it's a once off action that saves us. However, ongoing repentance is still necessary for santification. As Paul said, now that we have died to sin we should no longer live in it.

So it's not you repent once and do whatever you like. You repent once, get saved.. then continue onwards learning to be like Christ. It's an ongoing process that God will finish when he returns. Also, sin no longer condemns those who are in Christ Jesus. Praise God for that, because we can't do it alone.

Mormanity said...

Lauren, you write as if you think there's a difference between LDS religion and Christianity. We're definitely Christians, too, if you aren't familiar with the Latter-Day Saints.

But what do you mean about this "once off" business? "You repent once, get saved. . . sin no longer condemns those who are in Christ Jesus." Do you mean I can then rebel against Christ and still be saved, no matter what I do and what I believe? Do you believe that one cannot fall from grace through wickedness? That's absolutely contrary to the plain teachings of the Bible. I Cor. 10:12, for example, and Heb. 3, etc. We still have the freedom to depart from the living God and fall from grace - He doesn't make us slaves and robots once we believe and repent.

Terry said...

While the positive-thinking type of stuff that Osteen teaches certainly has its place, it should be treated as a tasty snack for encouragement rather than the meal itself. His sermons have little of real substance, and more or less repeat the same "believe in yourself" message. Actually, as non-LDS preachers go (and there are some that I enjoy), one of the best I have found is Tim Lucas at Liquid Church in New Jersey. His series "Money and Your Stuff" is one of the best treatments I have heard on materialism and wealth from a spiritual perspective. Lucas is energetic, thought-provoking (not afraid to address tough issues head-on), and doesn't spend time bashing others. His sermons can be found on iTunes or at www.liquidchurch.com. (His personal website is www.bighairpreacher.com.)

Lauren said...

I agree, we can fall away. But we are saved by grace, not our own works. The bible is clear on that Eph 2 4.

There are big differences between the LDS church and Christianity. We believe in one eternal God (not many Gods or a God that was once a man) and we believe that we won't be turned into gods ourselves after we die.

jackg said...

Mormanity, you write as if you think Mormonism and Christianity are the same. If that were so, why are there so many Mormon missionaries proselytizing Christians? Mormonism and Christianity do not preach the same gospel message. So, it would be great if you could just be honest with that.

I'm sure you're aware that there are different camps with regard to salvation and whether a person can lose their salvation or not. Although I do not align myself with Calvinism and "once saved always saved," I have heard some Baptist preachers make compelling arguments for their beliefs.

The difference between Calvinist thought and Wesleyan thought is that of justification and sanctification. We are justified by our faith, and that happens at the point of believing in Jesus Christ as Messiah. Naturally, repentance occurs, but repentance is not some drawn-out process; rather, it is "turning away" from sin. Simply put, it means that a person no longer continues in the offense(s) against God, but turns away from them. At justification, past sins are forgiven. (Calvinist thought teaches that past, present, and future sins are forgiven; however, I have never heard a Calvinist (Reformed) preacher preach that it was okay to sin. Paul deals with this in Romans when discussing God's grace). Also, at justification, there is a change in our relationship with God, meaning that we become sons and daughters of God because of the new birth in Christ. All this is the work of the Holy Spirit because of God's grace. In other words, God initiates the redemption process, and we respond to the offer (or not). The work of the Holy Spirit throughout our lives from this point on is that of sanctification, or making us holy. In actuality, it is the process of being restored to the original image of God that was intended for humanity prior to the fall, which is God's character.

Now, those who are Wesleyan in thought believe that a person does not have to sin. However, if someone does sin (which most do), they are repulsed and seek forgiveness because they no longer want to sin. Before, we lived in our sins because we enjoyed our sins, but after accepting Christ, when the work of sanctification by the Holy Spirit commences, the desire to sin is no longer there; hence, the things we want to do we don't do, and the things we don't want to do we do. This is all part of the cleansing of original sin where sin no longer reigns in our hearts but love does. So, becoming entirely sanctified is being perfected in love.

Ultimately, it is not a matter of what we do or don't do. It is a matter of whether or not we have true relationship with Jesus Christ. If we are truly believers, then we must truly love Christ. If we love Christ, we will keep the two commandments that superseded the law of Moses, and love God and our neighbor. (The 10 commandments need to be viewed relationally to understand why the love commandments supersede them.) Our works, therefore, do not save us, but by our works non-believers will know that we are followers of Christ. If we have no works, then we are merely lying that we are Christians. Works are the evidence of relationship with Christ and our salvation, not the means of coming into relationship with Christ or salvation. For, it is only the blood of Jesus Christ that has the power to save us, because His blood cleanses us from our sins.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jack G,

Wow! The last few words of your posting are quite powerful, and are words with which I agree. I think that you make an interesting point about prostelitizing to other denominations as well. Why do that if everyone is Christian to begin with, this is a great question. I suspect the answer you will recieve though, is that while we are also Christian, we don't have all of the gospel, therefore we are not being guided accordingly.

Sincerely

Catholic Defender

Dusty said...

Interesting Mormon-centric thread. I have been to the Lakewood Church, and what you are seeing on TV is not the whole service. I went expecting a televangelist, and was stunned to find a man with a real face and real good intent. Both he and his wife preach. In the service I attended, he lost it in the middle of his sermon and began to weep uncontrollably as he told a story of a woman in the congregation who was struggling with a drug addiction. The theme was that through faith in the Lord you could do all things. As he cleaned himself up, he remarked, I'll have to edit that out. Now, I need to finish this...he took a deep breath and began to speak again. It could be that you saw a part of that sermon. I would suggest, after a lifetime of membership in the LDS church and a lifetime of service in the same, that for us to criticize the content of a sermon based on the little we see is to claim with the same breath that Christ is actually preached regularly from our pulpits, which he is not. We preach seminary, missionary work, references to the restoration, love for parents, commandments, quorum matters, tithing, but never the "light yoke" of the Savior of the earth. Hmmmm. So, who's Christian and who's not, and what do visitors think when they try to digest our meetings?