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

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Role of Obedience and Endurance: Peter's Perspective

It's almost an article of faith in anti-Mormon literature that the LDS Articles of Faith rule us out as Christians. After all, they call for that most unchristian, unbiblical attribute, a dirty word in some religious lexicons: obedience. I'm always puzzled over the instant rejection, though, since I think that virtually every time "obedience" (or forms thereof) is used in the Bible, it's a clean word, almost always in the context of urging us to obey God and keep His commandments.

Obedience is part of how we follow Jesus and most fully access, not earn, the grace Christ offers us through the conditions of the covenant of mercy His Atonement provides. But today, lingo like "keep the commandments" (search here) and "obey" (search here) is the stuff of non-Christian cults in the new-fangled post-biblical framework that self-styled cult-bashers call "historic Christianity." Yes, of course you've heard me discuss this before, citing things like the oft-neglected words of Christ on the topic (as in "if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments" in Matt. 19:17). But today I want to offer a further perspective from Peter regarding the purpose of obedience and the role that it plays in God's work with us.

Why obedience? And why endure in obedience unto the end? This makes the most sense when we realize that God is interested not just in declaring us to be saved, but in shaping us and nurturing us to more fully become His sons and daughters, beings who, as Peter describes in 2 Peter 1:4-10, eventually put on the "divine nature" as they pursue step after step in the progression of faith that eventually leads to having one's "calling and election made sure."

In the opening lines of his first book (1 Peter), Peter provides information about obedience and endurance that help set the tone for much of his writings. 1 Peter 1 is what I'd like to emphasize today. Read it with the issue of grace, obedience, and enduring to the end in mind. Excerpts follow with my emphasis added:
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,

5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:

7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:

9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls....

13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:

15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;

16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear....

22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:

23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.
Peter calls for us to be faithful and obedient, enduring to the end, even through difficult trials of our faith, in our hope for salvation. Why? Not just because will be judged by our works (of course, the works don't save us and it's Christ who gives us strength to follow Him and obey), but more importantly, I think, because of who God wants us to become. He want us not just to say and believe, but to become. Become what? Holy. Holy like God. That is the ultimate journey, and it requires the steady growth and transformations that come, through God's power, when we endure trials of faith, when we choose to repent and obey Him, when we keep the commandments with faithful obedience. This is the journey that brings us to the destination God has in store. This why why Peter writes, "ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth." Obedience refines and purifies and helps us become more like our Father in Heaven. It's not a dirty word after all. It's a holy word. Wish more folks would recognize that basic biblical truth and not fall for all those new-fangled philosophies.

25 comments:

Cindy said...

Hi Jeff,

I can't represent all Christians, but for me it's not the word obedience that is troubling within Mormon doctrine, it is the reason for obedience that is at odds with Biblical Christianity. In the article of faith to which you refer, it is what comes before the word obedience that is at issue.

Biblical Christians rely on the work of Christ in order to have eternal life with God:

“But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Rom 4:5

while LDS doctrine states that it is man’s work that merits eternal life:

“We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”

That difference has eternal ramifications, and for those of us who have love people who are in the LDS church, we feel an urgent desire to have them rely on Christ for their eternal life rather than themselves.

For aren’t we rejecting Christ if we rely on our own ability to repent of our sins instead of accepting the forgiveness of sin offered through Christ’s death on the cross?

“”For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21″

If I don't get a chance within the next week, I want to take this opportunity to wish you a very Merry Christmas Jeff. It must be a bit difficult to be so far away form home during this season, and I'm thinking of you.

Anonymous said...

Hi Cindy,

I do not know why evangelical Christians insist on stating that Mormons rely on themselves for salvation. As the aforementioned article of faith states:

“We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”

You will notice that atonement is in the front of the verse. We accept this free gift when we repent.

-Steve

Papa D said...

Semantics, Cindy. Seriously, semantics. This is one issue (obedience to divine command) where it really is ALL semantics.

Jesus commanded everyone to obey the commandments of His Father. I can't see how that is questionable in any reasonable way - and I don't think you believe it is questionable. We believe in that injunction. If that makes us un-Christian, somehow, in other people's eyes, so be it. All I can do is sigh.

It's not the obedience that is your issue; it's the end result of that obedience. Those are two VERY different things - important, but different. We believe we were created to become like our Creator; you don't. That's the issue, not the obedience itself - and that belief is NOT "at odds with Biblical Christianity".

Becoming like God is the heart of Biblical Christianity - but it is at odds with Prostestant Christianity. There's a difference, and it's important.

We've gone over and over and over and over and over this in multiple threads, so I'll leave it at that - with the following link:

"As God Is, Man May Become Is a BIBLICAL Concept"

http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2011/09/as-god-is-man-may-become-is-biblical.html

Anonymous said...

While I was reading about Eastern Orthodox theosis I read this about faith and works,

Orthodox Church holds to the teaching of synergy (συνεργός, meaning working together), which says that man has the freedom to, and must if he wants to be saved, choose to accept and work with the grace of God. The first who defined this teaching was John Cassian, 4th century Church Father, and a pupil of John Chrysostom, and all Eastern Fathers accept it. He taught that "Divine grace is necessary to enable a sinner to return unto God and live, yet man must first, of himself, desire and attempt to choose and obey God", and that "Divine grace is indispensable for salvation, but it does not necessarily need to precede a free human choice, because, despite the weakness of human volition, the will can take the initiative toward God.". Some Orthodox use the parable of a drowning man to plainly illustrate the teaching of synergy: God from the ship throws a rope to a drowning man, pulls him up, saving him, and the man, if he wants to be saved, must hold on tightly to the rope; explaining both that salvation is a gift from God and man cannot save himself, and that man must co-work (syn-ergo) with God in the process of salvation.

When I read the description it sounded exactly like what I feel we believe as Mormons. I was wondering what others here, both Mormon and Non-Mormon thought about this?

--TJayT

Lamdaddy said...

I also don't understand why they can't address the actual scriptures that are being discussed and instead use straw-man scriptures that frankly are irrelevant.
Cindy, you don't have to agree with our reason for obedience (although, as Jeff showed in this article, they ARE biblical). The whole "reason" that you're referring to was lifted directly from Peter, as it captures the essence of LDS motivation to do good. That being the case, what are your thoughts then on the passage? Would you reprimand Peter for teaching all to BE holy, as Christ is holy? Do you fear for Peter's soul for teaching that every man will be judged according to his works and the eternal ramifications that that entails?

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Cindy, after all that LDS people have explained to you in past dialogs, to throw out this old anti argument again suggests you are being disingenuous or just refuse, refuse, refuse to consider anything that others say. How is that Article of Faith any different from Christ saying, "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments?" or any of many other simple calls for obedience in the Bible? Blessed are those who keep the commandments, for they gain access to the tree of life. That's biblical. Very close to our articles of faith, though we are more explicit that the salvation comes through the Atonement of Christ. It's grace, with the condition that we access the grace by following Christ, who said, "Ye are my friends IF ye keep my commandments." So if people want to be friends with Christ and choose to obey him, how is that denying Him or His grace?

You imagine you know what is in our hearts and tell us that we can't be saved because we don't really love and accept Jesus. Fine, you've made that point ad nauseum, but this has gone far beyond dialog. Really, Cindy, it's insulting, annoying, and disingenuous. If you disagree with my interpretation of Peter, explain why, but quit telling us what is in our hearts.

Steve said...

Hello- I think the problem that Christians have with the third article of faith is that on first reading, it sounds great, but on closer examination, it exposes some concepts that are not Biblical. For convenience, here is the third article: “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”

1.) The atonement of Christ. LDS doctrine says that the atonement took place in the Garden of Gethsemane. To be sure, Christ suffered greatly in the garden, but the atonement for our sins took place with the expiration, not the perspiration of Christ. Where is the Biblical backing for this belief?

1 Corinthians 15:3 “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures”.

Romans 5:8-10 “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life”.

Galations 6:14: “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”

Throughout the New Testament, it is the death of Christ that is emphasized, not his experience in Gethsemane.

2.) “all mankind may be saved”. From the Biblical perspective, that just won’t happen.

Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
14Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”

Matthew 7:22-23: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

3.) “by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel”. This clearly says that it is necessary to obey the law in order to be saved. But who can do that? Try as we might, no one can do that. Since even evil thoughts are sins (do we agree?), and we constantly have evil thoughts, there is no way we can truly be obedient. I can’t think of one person that ever lived on earth, apart from Jesus, that was or is sinless.

Romans 3:23, 28: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; …Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”
Trying to reach perfect obedience is what a Christian strives for, because it is a fruit of faith, as noted in Galatians 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,…” However, striving for perfection is work. It is a work of love that our salvation does not depend on. Galatians 3:11 “But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.”
To claim that obedience to the law is necessary for salvation makes the death of Christ unnecessary.

The third article nullifies the grace of God. Galations 2:21: “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”

Ken said...

Steve,

It sounds like to me you are only strengthening Jeff’s argument. Jeff’s argument is that Peter’s statement is saying at length eccentrically the same thing as A.o.F. #3. In your rebuttal you only laid our your argument against A.o.F.#3, but you failed to show how you would distinguish it from what Peter had to said (which sounds very much the same). To complete your argument you now need to break down Peter’s words and explain how he meant something different than how it is presented by Jeff’s argument. Then from there the exchange can continue, without that you have given nothing upon which to respond. Ball is still in your court.

mkprr said...

Steve,
You said “ LDS doctrine says that the atonement took place in the Garden of Gethsemane.”

You then quoted scriptures talking about how Christ’s death is what atoned for us to present a contradiction. Your logic is sound, the problem with your argument however is that you started with a false premise. The LDS doctrine, directly from the “Guide the the scriptures” at LDS.org says the following under the heading “Atonement”:

"His atonement included his suffering for the sins of mankind in the Garden of Gethsemane, the shedding of his blood, AND HIS DEATH and subsequent resurrection from the grave (Isa. 53:3–12; Mosiah 3:5–11; Alma 7:10–13).” (The added emphasis is mine)

When the real LDS teaching is fully presented, your argument no longer holds because nothing you quoted from scripture in any way contradicts the LDS teaching. Why do so many critics resort to misrepresenting what the church teaches before arguing against it?

I don’t know your intent, maybe you really didn’t know that the death of Christ is a significant part of the atonement in LDS theology. If that is true, you ought to come to sacrament meeting sometime and flip through the hymns we sing before we take the sacrament.

Steve said...

mkprr, sorry, but it's hard for me to understand the atonement concept of the LDS church, given the passage you provided, and the one from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism at http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Atonement_of_Jesus_Christ:

"Christ's Atonement satisfied the demands of justice and thereby ransomed and redeemed the souls of all men, women, and children "that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities" (Alma 7:12). Thus, Latter-day Saints teach that Christ "descended below all things"-including every kind of sickness, infirmity, and dark despair experienced by every mortal being-in order that he might "comprehend all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth" (D&C 88:6). This spiritual anguish of plumbing the depths of human suffering and sorrow was experienced primarily in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was there that he was "in an agony" and "prayed more earnestly." It was there that his sweat was "as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Luke 22:44) for he bled "at every pore" (D&C 19:18). It was there that he began the final March to Calvary.

Ken, Peter's (1 Peter 1) words are different than Jeff's argument. That is, if I understand Jeff's argument correctly. To me, it seems that Jeff is saying that someone can be perfectly obedient, that is, follow all of God's commandments and ordinances perfectly while living here on earth. If not now, keep trying, and you will be able to do so eventually. Which I believe links to the concept of eternal progression, that a man can eventually become a god if certain steps are followed. "He want us not just to say and believe, but to become. Become what? Holy. Holy like God".

Those are Jeff's words, not Peter's. Peter is encouraging believers to strive for holiness, to follow the law, with the understanding that no one can do so perfectly. We are not gods, and never will be. Isaiah 43:10: "Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.
11 I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour.

Malachi 3:6: "For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed"

So, I do see a contrast between Jeff's words/AoF #3, “by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel”, and 1 Peter 1. AoF #3 requires obedience. Peter exhorts obedience, knowing that neither he nor anyone else can achieve perfect obedience on earth. But it is something Christians strive for nonetheless. The third article nullifies the grace of God. Galations 2:21: “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”

Ken said...

Steve,

Now that gives me something to work with. Although you didn’t break down Peter's words the same as with A.o.F. #3 you did give me your take on reading his words, though I would disagree.

My take on your argument is this, because we are no longer under the law, but under grace our sins, past present and future, are no longer of consequence and changing our behavior to be “holy because he is holy” is encouraged but not required. Therefore we can remain disobedient or obedient to sin if we want and not be a servant of the author of sin.

When I read Peter’s words, this is what I hear. You have accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ and you look forward to his grace, but right now you are going through the trials of life that will refine you more than gold, so be of a sober mind, and be like him who has redeemed you, holy. And pray to the Father knowing that he will still judge you according to your works, because you remain the servant of him you choose to obey.

Peter is therefore warning us that there will be consequences to the choices we make as we go through the refining process of this life. Obedience, or not, still has consequences.

Grace is a gift of love to be received with love toward the giver of that gift. As the giver of the gift said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments”. How then can we as the recipients of that most precious gift conclude that we now have the option of whether or not to love him in return? And how can we argue that obedience is on option to our love for him?

To argue that because our obedience (or love) is not perfect, “we have all sinned and fall short”, and is therefore of no consequence and cannot be included as part of the process of our salvation as indicated by A.o.F. #3 is to misunderstand what Peter and the other New Testament writers are telling us.

When we accept the invitation to come unto Christ, we step into the refiner’s fire to be refined which will give us the power become the sons of God (John 1:12) which allows us to inherit all things (Rev. 21:7) if we abide, but if we transgress and do not abide in the doctrine of Christ we have no part of God.(1 john 1:9) While in the refining process of this life we become a new creature in Christ, (2 Cor. 5:17) not a perfect creature yet, but a new creature that wants to love him and lives to obey him that he may abide with us (John 14:21) for we understand that salvation is to all that obey him.(Heb 5:9)

Salvation through Christ does not make obedience optional, but possible. If we love him with all of our heart might, mind and strength will we love him perfectly, no, but that is the love that is needed for him to abide in us that he may redeem us and make our love perfect as his love is perfect.

Steve said...

Ken, my take on 1 Peter is not "we can remain disobedient or obedient to sin if we want". I don't think Christians can go ahead and sin if we want to. I'm saying that even though we try not to sin, it's going to happen. Perfect obedience is not possible by anyone. Man was born sinful. No one had to teach me to sin.

I would rephrase the opening sentence of your last paragraph, "Salvation through Christ does not make obedience optional, but possible" to "Salvation through Christ does not make obedience optional, but something that Christians strive for out of love and respect for our Savior. We know it is not possible but try nonetheless. Obedience is not a requirement of salvation." We have different concepts of salvation, but that's a conversation for another day.

Ken said...

Steve,

You said, “I don’t think Christians can go ahead and sin if we want to”. But when we sin it is because we want to, it is not something that just happens to us. Every action is a choice, and when we choose to sin it is generally to get something we want. In that moment we want what that sin gives us more than we want to love our Savior. He offers to us a free gift of salvation that will allow us to return to live with him if we want to, but he will not force us. So as we go through life we weigh out our choices based on what we really truly want. And if our choices do not change toward increased obedience then do we really want the gift that he offers?

Though you do not agree that obedience is required for salvation, would you agree that change in us is required for salvation once we have accepted Christ as our Savior? If what we want most has changed will not our actions change also?

Steve said...

Hi Ken- I don't think we sin because we want to. I think it's part of our nature. If anyone claims to be sinless, they are either fooling themselves or are dishonest.

Paul writes in Romans 7:15-25, "For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. ...Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me....For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not....
20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.

Paul didn't want to sin, but because of his sinful nature, found himself sinning. We are no different than Paul, in that sin lives in us. Despite our best efforts, sin is part of us. I would not agree that change in us is required for salvation, other than the change that consists of believing that Christ died for our sins (accepting Him as our Savior). Our actions will change based on that belief, but the belief, or faith, is all that is required.

Faith without works is dead. But the works come from faith. Works do not earn anyone salvation. Striving for perfection is work. It is a work of love that our salvation does not depend on.

Ken said...

Steve,

When Paul says “…but what I hate, that do I…” I believe he is referring to how we feel afterwards, not in that moment. In that moment we sin to get what we want, no other reason. And we have no one to blame but ourselves (“The devil made me do it” isn’t going to cut it) Can you name for me one sin that is not motivated by the desire of the outcome that is anticipated from committing that sin?

You said “I would not agree that change in us is required for salvation, other than the change that consists of believing that Christ died for our sins (accepting Him as our Savior). Our actions will change based on that belief”. Are you suggesting by this that the only conscious change we make is in our belief and that the changes in our actions are somehow subconscious changes in which there is no decision making on our part? Are you suggesting that every action whither wrong or right is something we just find ourselves doing and is no reflection of what we want or don’t want?

Steve said...

when Paul says, “…but what I hate, that do I…”, I believe he is talking about sin in a general way. I don't think all sins are conscious decisions. I think you (Ken) are implying that sinless perfection is possible by men here on earth, but...
Romans 5:12 "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned..."
Romans 3:23 "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God"

I believe man is inherently sinful, as stated above. I'm not suggesting that every action whither wrong or right is something we just find ourselves doing. But some actions we take, or think, are only later realized to be sinful. Our very thoughts can be sinful.

The bottom line is that man is sinful, and cannot reach perfection here on earth. Modern-day mankind is no better equipped to reach perfection than anyone else in history ("All have sinned").
Accepting Christ as our Savior is all that is necessary for salvation. Good works are a by-product of that acceptance.

It was good to converse with you Ken.

Ken said...

Not sure how or where I ever implied that sinless perfection is possible by men here on earth, I even quoted Romans 5:12 in one of my earlier posts.

The idea that good works are a by-product of acceptance of Christ rather than something that we must consciously engage ourselves in once we have accepted Christ is something I don’t agree with, and for this reason. This County still considers itself to be 78% Christian which is only down by about 10 to 12% in the last 50 years or so. Yet church attendance and tithing and other critical tenants of Christian faith has dropped off at a much higher rate. Too many of us who call ourselves Christians are partaking of and enjoying the sinful pleasures of the world at an ever increasing rate with an attitude of it does not matter, I am saved. I see it and hear it within my own family.

I for one believe that this is a result of the twist to the true doctrine, designed to carefully lead us from living the lives we have been commanded to live, and it looks as though it is working.

But I will admit that the reverse could be true. Satan could be putting it into the hearts of many of us to do too much and to try to hard to live by the commandments, in the hopes that convincing us to live such lives will take away our faith and hope and belief that Christ will ultimately be the one that we must turn to for our salvation. And if that is true then his influence over the Christians of this County is getting weaker with every passing year.

It has been nice to discuss these things with you. Take care and have a very Merry Christmas.

Anonymous said...

Satan could be putting it into the hearts of many of us to do too much and to try too hard to live by the commandments, in the hopes that convincing us to live such lives will take away our faith...

Could be.

Then again, Satan could be tricking us into believing that he could be putting it into our hearts to try too hard to live by the commandments, in the hopes that convincing us to live such lives will take away our faith.

He's a subtle one, that Satan. He could even be tricking me into believing he could be tricking us into believing that he could be putting it into our hearts to try too hard to live by the commandments, in the hopes that convincing us to live such lives will take away our faith.

I just can't keep up with all the Satanic possibilities latent in such reasoning.

Come to think of it, I wonder if Satan was the one who convinced the Puritans to repudiate Christmas, perhaps in the hopes of making the faith less attractive to young children. A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, Satan is.

But enough. Gotta go check the ham.

-- Eveningsun

Papa D said...

Fwiw, we blame Satan for way too much, imho.

We are gods, but we also are devils. We like to admit the former and thank God for it; we don't like to admit the latter, so we blame Satan for it all too often.

Steve said...

Hi Ken - thank you for your Christmas wishes, and I hope you had a wonderful Christmas with your family and friends.

I want to be clear on my point the good works are a by-product of accepting Christ as our savior. I didn't mean that Christians don't try to consciously engage in avoiding sin. Of course Christians try to avoid sin. But, due to our sinful nature, it is impossible for anyone to totally avoid sin, as discussed earlier.

If we agree that sinless perfection is not possible here on earth, then surely you don't believe it is possible after death? Alma says it's not possible in 34:32-33: "For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.

33 And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed."

This is not Good News. We can't be perfect while living on earth. We can't be perfect after death (it's too late). D&C 1:31 "For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance;"

Do you start to see my meaning? The "true doctrine" is not attainable - it's impossible. When Paul says to the Ephesians in 2:8-9, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Not of works, lest any man should boast." THAT is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Papa D said...

and we're back to semantics

Steve said...

Hi Papa D,

Thanks for the link- http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2011/09/as-god-is-man-may-become-is-biblical.html, I just read it. But I have to say I repectfully disagree, and I have some specific, scriptural reasons for doing so, which I'll explain soon.

First, though, I question your last comment about semantics. Christians do good works and try not to sin because of love and gratitude for what Jesus did for us on the cross. We realize that we will fall short, because no one can be perfect, despite best efforts. This concept conflicts with what I see from the mormon church in several places. Take 2 Nephi 25:23, "For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." If the verse would have stopped after "...it is by grace we are saved", I would be fine with that. But adding "after all we can do", changes the Gospel of Christ into a works-based salvation. The third Article of Faith confirms 2 Nephi in that... “by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel”. I don't see this as semantics. It's a very different concept of salvation.

Paul writes in Galations 3:11, "But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith."

Which leads me to your blog post, and the ultimate salvation, which is "exaltation". "As God Is, Man May Become" is not Biblical. "It is clear that the Bible teaches that we are to become like God." I do indeed see Matthew 5:48, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." But He knows, as do we, that although we may try to be perfect, it is not possible for us to do so. Yes, He is telling us to strive for perfection, but that is not a requirement for salvation, nor is it possible for men to achieve perfection. The context of that verse includes verses 18-19, "For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees, against their hypocritical following of the letter of the law, while ignoring it's spirit. I quote again Romans 3:23, 28: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; …Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”

I quote AGAIN, Isaiah 43:10 "Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me."


Your third blog point "The NT takes the OT admonitions and actually adds a stated reward", is to me a strange interpretation of the NT.

Christ's coming in the NT makes the OT law obsolete, as quoted earlier in Ephesians 2:8-9. The NT does not make the law unimportant, but keeping the law is not a requirement for salvation. Are we destined to become gods ourselves if we do all the right things required for "exaltation"? No. As for Romans 8:17, "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together", that does not say that we will become God. Joint-heirs with Christ means that believers will join Christ in the company of the Father, not become gods ourselves.

Papa D said...

Steve, obviously, we disagree - but theosis has a long history within Christianity among those who obviously were Christian. To dismiss it as anti-Biblical . . . just doesn't work from a historical perspective.

I get it that you don't agree, and even that you believe it's an incorrect interpretation of the Bible. I disagree, obviously. At the very least, I think it is impossible to make a reasonable claim that it's not a logical interpretation of what the Bible actually says in, literally, hundreds of verses and passages.

Notice, your ONLY refutation of Matthew 5:48 (and every other instance of the same stated end) is, essentially:

"Well, God didn't mean it to be taken literally."

That's really interesting and ironic, since logic would dictate that the Mormon would be the one making that claim (and I do make it about plenty of things in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament), especially since we get slammed regularly for our "as far as it is translated correctly" belief - while the more traditional Christian would be the one defending Biblical literalism.

All you said in your comment is, "My interpretation of what the words mean is different than your interpretation of what the words mean." I'm fine with that, but at least admit that's all it is - and that it is a difference that has divided Biblical scholars for well over a thousand years.

(As a personal note: I've had Divinity School professors and fellow-students say theosis [and anything like unto it] is heresy, but I've also had Divinity School professors and students say it obviously is taught in the Bible - and others say that, while wrong, it certainly is a logical reading of the Bible. I even received an "A" on a paper I wrote on this exact topic [coupled with the idea of a tangible resurrection] from someone who said, in short, "This is an excellent paper, and there is no logical issue in it at all - but it's not a correct reading of the Bible, even though I can't give you a good rebuttal to your argument." If it can be such a divisive issue even at that level, I think it is more than slightly naive to dismiss it out-of-hand as obviously non-Biblical.)

Steve said...

Hi Papa D, you are right, I can't buy into the theosis idea. To say that theosis is Biblical is, in my opinion, quite a stretch. Another example is Psalm 82:6-7, "I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.
But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes." In the OT the term "god" could be given to rulers or judges, who were very human but "deputies" of the heavenly God. To go before these "gods" was to go before "God" in an indirect way. The fate of these "gods" was the fate of every other man, physical death. If you read verse 6 literally, without the context of the chapter, book, and entire Bible, I can see how some might think that theosis or some variant such as henotheisticism might be possible. But in the overall context of God's inspired Word, the Bible, it becomes clear, at least to me, that man cannot become a true god. If the "historical perspective" means people that supported theosis for whatever reason, I don't believe that because someone says something, it's true. Isaiah 43:10 seems pretty clear though.

But we are getting away from the blog post- "The Role of Obedience...". The LDS church teaches a works-based salvation. That point is well covered in earlier comments.
I suppose we agree to disagree- it's been a great conversation and for that I thank you. I wish you and your family a blessed New Year.

Papa D said...

Thanks, Steve. I hope you have a wonderful New Year's Eve, New Year and new year, as well.