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

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Three Chiseled Stones and the Increasing Evidence from the Arabian Peninsula for the Plausibility of the Book of Mormon

When it comes to evidences for the plausibility of the Book of Mormon text, the most exciting finds come from the Old World, where we have the significant advantage of knowing the precise starting point of Nephi's account and where we have far more archaeological work to draw upon than we do in the New World. As Latter-day Saints in upcoming Sunday School lessons review the stories of Nephi's journey out of Jerusalem and across the Arabian Peninsula to Bountiful, I hope some of them will learn that trek as described in First Nephi 16 and 17 is remarkably "interesting" in terms of its plausibility as an ancient record. Indeed, it is hard to imagine how some of the fine details in Nephi's account could have been written by anybody who didn't actually make the journey and experience the places he mentions.

These places include the Valley of Lemuel and River of Laman, places that until recently were mocked as impossibilities for "everyone knows" that there is no river that flows into the Red Sea as Nephi described. This Book of Mormon weakness has become a strength, a granite-walled stronghold, in fact, with the field work that discovered actual candidates for the valley.

That was early in the long journey of Lehi's group, a journey that, though described in brevity, is given numerous specific details such as the specific directions traveled: south-south east, followed by a sharp turn to nearly due east after Ishmael is buried in a place called Nahom. Following that eastward direction, the group eventually hits the coast and finds Bountiful--one of the biggest barriers to plausibility that the Book of Mormon suffers from. Or rather, suffered from, until people did field work and gave the Latter-day Saints at least one and perhaps two excellent candidates for that lush, green, abundant place that Nephi and his family found in that part of the world that "everyone knows" is nothing but barren sand dunes. If only Joseph had lived in the day of movies and had seen Lawrence of Arabia, he would have known what a ridiculous blunder his description of Bountiful was. Today, we have the luxury of knowing that it might be plausible after all. Now, of course, the argument of the critics must switch to arguing how obvious it was to come up with directions, descriptions, and even place names. Joseph the Blunderer who couldn't even get the birthplace of Christ right (per the standard anti-Mormon attack on Alma 7:10, now handily refuted with the help of modern discoveries such as the Dead Sea Scrolls) has become Joseph the Erudite, apparently armed with his vast frontier library and an international network of scholars, carefully building detailed "evidences" of authenticity into the text that, uh, he and his fellow-conspirators didn't seem to know about. Chiasmus and other Semitic literary tools, ancient covenant formulas, the details of the Arabian Peninsula, civilization and its Mesoamerican discontents, and other evidences were carefully woven in so that future generations might be impressed. If only Joseph had bothered to trot out some of these evidences in his lifetime, it might have helped. Highly-publicized reports of ancient American civilization in Mesoamerica did come in the 1840s and created a positive stir among the Saints, over a decade after the Book of Mormon came out, but we would have to wait for over a century before the real fun would even begin.

Yes, I mentioned not just directions and descriptions, but placenames. Foremost on the list is Nahom. The argument here is missed by many critics, who seem to think that we are arguing that there is exciting new evidence that Nahom as an ancient Semitic name. No, of course we know it's a Semitic name since it is a book in the Bible. But as a place name, it is rare, exceedingly rare. More interestingly, it is a specific placename in the Book of Mormon associated with some very specific details: a) it is a specific place in the Arabian Peninsula where one can turn nearly due east after having traveled south-south east from Jerusalem; b) it is a place that was not named by Lehi but apparently was already called that name by others in the area; and c) it is a place where Ishmael was buried (he died somewhere, and then was buried at Nahom). Given those specific, how fascinating it is that we now know that these details are remarkably plausible. There is an ancient Arabic tribe in Yemen with the name Nihm, having the same Semitic root NHM as Nahom. We know that the location of that tribe fits extremely well with the one place where a survivable eastward turn to the sea can be made to depart from the ancient incense trails that were south-southeast from Jerusalem. And we now know, based on archaeological finds from Yemen, that the Nihm tribal name was in existence all the way back to the 7th century B.C. or so, making it possible that Lehi's group did in fact bury Ishmael in an ancient burial location called Nehhm, Nihm, or, as it may have sounded to Nephi, Nahom--a name that in Hebrew nicely fits the concept of mourning as described in the text.

The Nahom story is an important and exciting part of the growing body of evidence for plausibility of the Book of Mormon as an ancient text. A key part of this story comes from the discovery of several ancient altars bearing the tribal name Nihm. Here are some links for those interested in learning more:

"Newly Found Altars from Nahom," Warren P. Aston, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, volume 10, no. 2, pp. 56-61, 2001. (PDF)

"In Search of Lehi's Trail—30 Years Later," Lynn M. Hilton.

"New Light: 'The Place That Was Called Nahom': New Light from Ancient Yemen," S. Kent Brown.

Book of Mormon evidences (my page)

70 comments:

Openminded said...

This is one of those topics where I have to hand it to you guys. I'm not sure what (if any) position the critics take against this is nearly as convincing as saying Smith just got it right on this one (for reasons we'll both disagree on, of course. But mine are limited to luck, really).

If this was all there was to the BoM, I'd find it convincing.

Darren said...

Openminded;

A farm boy from upstate New York wrote a story of a man across the world who left Jerusalem, provided the "directions and descriptions, but placenames" with bulls eye accuracy as to the travels of tha man and his family in the Arabian Penninsula, and you call this luck?

Are you sure you don't want to change your call name from "openminded" to something else. ;>)

Openminded said...

Darren:

A farm boy from upstate New York wrote a story with some GLARING issues involved. There are reasons to dispute the claims to God-inspired origins of this book.

I gave you Nahom, how openminded do you want me to be ;>)

In all honesty with my name, though, since you brought it up: I am open to a good argument. but what if I was open to every argument? I could switch things around if your username was mine and say "Darren (ha, or openminded in this case), you should be more open to my arguments. they are very convincing, and your side just does not last in the face of a few of these fool-proof criticisms".

As much as the BoM got a great hit with this topic, there are too many other issues that just entirely ruin the God-revealed narrative that you aim for.

But to get back on topic (as if a few tangents we could go from here are ever truly off topic!), my side wouldn't stand much of a chance if all we had to criticize was this particular story. anyone in their right mind can concede this.

however, there are other issues that lead me to believe (and trust me, being atheistic does not lead me to be nearly as biased as your evangelical opponents!) that the BoM just could not have been divinely inspired.

Do you see where I'm coming from here?

Anonymous said...

...and you call this luck?

Yes, luck. Just as one calls it luck if someone shoots a hundred arrows and leaves them strewn more or less at random all over the side of the barn, but does manage to hit the bull's-eye a few times.

If you isolate just the hits, it looks pretty impressive. If you view them in the context of the whole, it looks like the luck it is. No sensible person would praise this archer for his exceptional aim.

Just as my fictional archer shoots a lot of arrows, the Book of Mormon makes a lot of geographical claims. It's only natural that a few of those claims will cohere enough with geographical reality to look like bull's-eyes, especially for those theologically predisposed to see them as such.

Let me take my analogy a step further. Suppose my archer shoots his hundred arrows over the course of several years, at the rate, let's say, of one per month. As before, he leaves arrows strewn at random all over the side of the barn. But everyone once in awhile, just by luck, he gets off a pretty good shot.

And then, let's say a year or two into my thought-experiment, he get's a bull's-eye. Would it make sense to jump up and down at that point and say, "Look! A bull's-eye! What a great archer!"

Of course not.

And when, a few years later, the archer gets another bull's-eye, would it make sense to say, "See? I told you so! What a great archer! The evidence for his greatness has just doubled. That's what I call INCREASING EVIDENCE for the greatness of the archer! What do you say NOW, skeptic?"

Like I said, luck.

-- Eveningsun

Anonymous said...

Hi Eveningsun,

While I have not done a statistical analysis of the chances of a random bull's eye not have I done the statistical analysis of a random place name at a random location set at the correct spot in a journey, I would tend to believe the chances are better for the archer than the would-be imposter. But, since there are always outliers, one can choose to accept the outlier as the acceptable answer in every scenario which is what you have done. Personally, I would love to see the odds of this random guess.

Steve

Darren said...

I gave you Nahom, how openminded do you want me to be

That's good enough...for now. ;>)

Darren said...

Eveningsun;

Yes, luck. Just as one calls it luck if someone shoots a hundred arrows and leaves them strewn more or less at random all over the side of the barn, but does manage to hit the bull's-eye a few times.

Whom else can you cite shot out a bunch of unsupported declarations but yet got the direction, place, and placename exactly right across the world and did so during a time and place where "everybody knew" he was wrong?

An implied argument on Jeff's post here is that it's not "just luck". Scienfifically-speaking, things are looking better and better for the Book of Mormon.

If you isolate just the hits, it looks pretty impressive.

That's because it is impressive. And as time went on, and science developed better, more hits were found. With this asa rubric to measure, Joseph Smith's impressiveness looks better and better. But, as I said before, your approach will never provide you with an "iron-clad" conclusion that Joseph smith wasa true prophet of God. Even with this/these bullys eye hit/hits you rationalize it away. What do you expect to achieve from that?

Darren said...

Openminded;

(and trust me, being atheistic does not lead me to be nearly as biased as your evangelical opponents!)

From what I've seen from you and from certain arguments from certain Evangelicals I would have to agree with you. And dont worry, I do not hold any bias against you because you're Atheist; but that's not to say that I will never see atheistic bais in any of your arguments, just that I tend to approach arguments on their own merits.

Pops said...

It's not exactly like an archer spewing arrows across the side of a barn with a few hitting the bull's eye. In the case of the Arabian Peninsula journey, it's more like hitting the bull's eye with one arrow, then the next arrow splitting the previous arrow, and the next arrow splitting that one, and the next arrow splitting that one, and so on. It's a chain of low probabilities producing an infinitesimal probability of a work of fiction getting them all right in the right order.

Does that "prove" the Book of Mormon is true? Of course not. God wouldn't allow it. He requires us to exercise faith. Now having faith doesn't mean we just accept the claim that it's true; it means we examine it with a willingness to believe. If the Book of Mormon teaches us to behave in a particular way in order to receive blessings from God, we're willing to actually try it to see if it works.

Darren said...

Pops;

it's more like hitting the bull's eye with one arrow, then the next arrow splitting the previous arrow, and the next arrow splitting that one, and the next arrow splitting that one, and so on.

And:

Does that "prove" the Book of Mormon is true? Of course not. God wouldn't allow it. He requires us to exercise faith

Thou art very wise. :>)

Openminded said...

pops,
I'll let eveningsun reply to your response.

but this: "[God] requires us to exercise faith"
could justify any religious belief that's out there.

It's not like we haven't seen it before, either.

Ken said...

An archer shooting a bunch of arrows at the side of a barn at a given target and totaling up the hits and misses is not a very accurate analogy to what we have here.

Each aspect of the story is in of itself a target on the side of the barn that is either hit or missed. So if you were take a barn, and put a bunch of targets on the side, each target being a separate part of the story. For example one target would be the path that the family took their journey on. The next would be the turning point on the path, and so on. And Joseph only gets one arrow to shoot at each target, then that would be a more reasonable analogy.

Some targets would be rather large, other rather small. The target of the name of the community where they buried Ishmael, that would be like hitting an ant on the side of the barn from 100 paces. Often times we don’t even know what the target is until we look real close and examine all the information.

It reminds me of a movie I watched a long time ago. Don’t recall the name of it, but this guy took 5 shots with a rifle at a rock that was a long way off. The other guys watching saw that the shots never hit the rock, but when they went up to check it out, there were 5 very well placed holes in a small cactus standing a little further off from the rock.

So it is often times with the Book of Mormon. Critics are claiming large rock targets they believed to be missed, but as we learn more over time we realize that it was a much smaller cactus that was the real target and we find that Joseph put a hole right in the middle of it. The real challenge here is not just in hitting the target, but knowing the real targets from the fake ones.

So the problem with trying to figure out how well Joseph did statically at hitting each of these targets with one shot, is first knowing and agreeing on which targets are real ones and which ones were the fakes. We are still learning that part of it all the time. What is amazing is that as we discern more and more of the real targets from the fakes, his stats improve, that to me is what makes his hits, and misses, most impressive.

Pops said...

...but this: "[God] requires us to exercise faith"
could justify any religious belief that's out there.


It doesn't justify anything. It is the method by which truth is found.

Steve said...

re: the birthplace of Christ and Alma 7:10, Jeff writes: "...standard anti-Mormon attack on Alma 7:10, now handily refuted with the help of modern discoveries such as the Dead Sea Scrolls". I'm curious how Alma 7:10 is explained, "...he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem...". Christ was clearly born in Bethlehem. Micah 5:2 "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel..." and Matthew 2:1 "Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea". Jerusalem is not Bethlehem. Alma 7:10 doesn't say "in the land of Jerusalem", it says "at Jerusalem". Other "land of Jerusalem" quotes come from the BOM. When one questionable source supports itself, that is not very convincing.

You cannot claim that you believe the BOM AND the Bible. There are many significant conflicts.

Darren said...

You cannot claim that you believe the BOM AND the Bible. There are many significant conflicts.

Actually, there's probably no two book more complimentary of each other.

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

Steve;

I've decided that the following would be the more relevant and poignant quotation from one of Jeff's previous posts on his own website (different from this one) and a quotation that fits well with the software format of this blog:

Two non-LDS scholars, Robert Eisenman and Michael Wise, discuss an example of the phrase "land of Jerusalem" in the Dead Sea Scrolls in a passage discussing the time of the prophet Jeremiah. They write that the use of this term "greatly enhances the sense of historicity of the whole, since Judah or 'Yehud' (the name of the area on coins from the Persian period) by this time consisted of little more than Jerusalem and its immediate environs" (The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered, New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 1992, p. 57, referring to a passage translated on p. 58). Jeremiah's time overlapped with Lehi's time, and in that time, what was latter called Judah or the land of Judah could appropriately be called "the land of Jerusalem," a term that "greatly enhances the sense of historicity of the whole" when used in a document linked to Jeremiah's time. Should not the same be said of the Book of Mormon?

Lehi and his people left "the land of Jerusalem" in Jeremiah's day. With the Dead Sea Scrolls before us, we now know it would be perfectly logical for them to refer to the place where Christ would be born as "the land of Jerusalem." Use of that term was utterly illogical for Joseph Smith, who published the Book of Mormon over a century before the Dead Sea Scrolls were even discovered.


Bethlehem vs. the Land of Jerusalem: Is Alma 7:10 a Blunder?

Jeff's main source for this info is cited as from FARMS. An excellent research site in and of itself.

Pops said...

Alma 7:10 doesn't say "in the land of Jerusalem", it says "at Jerusalem".

You're being sarcastic, right, Steve?

In case you're not, the complete phrase reads, "at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers" - not even a comma there. You have to really stretch to get "at [the city] of Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers".

So, how far from the city of Jerusalem is the city (town) of Bethlehem? Well, they practically touch today. City centers are about 4 1/2 miles apart. They're clearly part of the same land, which can appropriately be called after the name of the chief city in the region.

Anonymous said...

Just a minor quibble, but perhaps important as an example of how easily people can misread each other:

Openminded said "'[God] requires us to exercise faith' could justify any religious belief that's out there."

Pops responded, It doesn't justify anything. It is the method by which truth is found.

Pops seems to have misunderstood Openminded's sentence. He seems to be confusing a statement about faith with faith itself.

Openminded didn't say that faith justifies anything. He was clearly referring not to faith itself but to a particular statement about faith, namely, the statement "God requires us to exercise faith." And Openminded is correct to point out that this statement "could justify any religious belief that's out there." I think even Pops would agree that all kinds of believers, with vastly different beliefs, justify their beliefs by saying their God requires them to exercise faith, as in: "Hey, maybe it seems strange to you that I believe in the Koran, and you're right that I don't have any real evidence to justify my Islamic beliefs, but Allah requires me to exercise faith." Rightly or wrongly, religious folk try to justify their beliefs with such statements all the time.

Pops is right that faith is a "method by which truth is found." (Not a very good one, if you ask me, but set that aside.) But the statement "God requires us to exercise faith" is not a method; it's, you know, a statement.

-- Eveningsun

Anonymous said...

Isn't that where you can open stone doors by saying open sesame?

Darren said...

Isn't that where you can open stone doors by saying open sesame?

Or pursue a theory. Bu, yeah, Pops was talking about Alibaba.

/Rrrrrriiiiiiggggghhhhhht

Steve said...

Hi Darren and Pops,

Thanks for the Dead Sea scrolls/Robert Eisenman and Michael Wise reference. I see your point, but I don’t see that they say this supports Alma 7:10 explicitly. Is the “Should not the same be said of the Book of Mormon?” quote yours or theirs? I think some extrapolation is needed to come to that conclusion, but I suppose we will have to agree to disagree on that point. Pops, even if they are 4-5 miles apart, they are not the same city.

I’ll even agree that there are similarities between the BOM and the Bible. But my point is, there are very substantial differences, such as the Gospel. Wouldn’t you agree that the Gospel (salvation) is quite an important concept? I know y’all have a different concept of salvation, but rather than go down that rabbit hole, for the purpose of this discussion, let’s say that “going to heaven” and “exaltation” are synonymous.

The Gospel of Mormonism (and the BOM) is quite different than that of the Bible. For example:

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.

Contrast the above with some of the apostle Paul’s writings:

Ephesians 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.”

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.”

When James says in chapter 2 verse 26: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also”, it does not conflict with Paul’s writings. Good works do not earn us anything. If we have faith that is alive and active, if we study God’s word and endeavor to follow his commandments, even though we know we cannot fully do so, good works follow that faith. Good works are a by-product of faith, not a requirement for salvation.

I believe that Christ’s church is not limited to certain denominations. True, there are disagreements between denominations, some minor, some not so minor, but I have to consider Acts 4:12: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved”.

There is not salvation only in the Catholic, Mormon, Lutheran, Methodist, or any other organized church body- the authority to save comes from Christ alone. To say that (active) membership in one organized church body gives someone salvation is not Biblical.

Consider what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:27: “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” The body of Christ is the true church. It consists of people who acknowledge that they sin and need forgiveness, for “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23). The body of Christ believes that Christ fully paid for our sins.

Jesus said...

If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.

John the Revelator said...

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

James said...

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

Luke said...

And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

And Jesus said unto him, ...Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother.

Jesus said...

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Darren said...

Steve;

Pops, even if they are 4-5 miles apart, they are not the same city.

I dont see why that really matters inthe context you seem to be placing your argument in. What as been advocated to you here is that it is perfectly legitimate to refer to Christ's birthplace as the "Land of Jerusalem" knowing full well that He was really born in Bethlehem. I tell people here in Houston that i grew up in Chicago. But that's not explicitly true, I grew up in ta town which borders Chicago and about a 10 minute drive south on I-290 to actually get to Chicago. You could also take about 25 minutes and go east on the local road to get to Chicago proper. I am not lying, nor deceiving people by saying I grew up in Chicago. Even those who actually grew up in Chicago which I am aquainted with here take no offense.

If the verse would have stopped after "...it is by grace we are saved", I would be fine with that

From what I see you are advocating an evangelical/protestant viewpoint of salvation. The notion that you do not need to work at all to get into heaven that sola fide in Christ is all which is necessary for salvation did not enter into the Christian dogma until the 16th century with the Reformation. Before that Christians pretty much believed that yes, you need to be good if you want to get to heaven. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is a restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and has restored the teachings of salvation (exaltation included). The most similar teachings of salvation in Christianity in terms of faith + works would be found in Catholicism where Catholics very much believe that no one merits his salvation but salvation is bestowed by the grace of God and by God alone. But to obtain that grace, works are needed.

“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.”

Exactly. No man merits his salvation but by God's grace salvation is obtained. Likewise King Benjamin in the Book of mormon taught, "21 I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants." (Mosiah 2). Even mormons do not believe, at least not from my understanding of its official doctrines, that anyone can merit his or her salvation. It is by God's mercy which we are saved.

(con't)

Darren said...

(con't)

.When James says in chapter 2 verse 26: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also”, it does not conflict with Paul’s writings.

I agree, they are two parts ofthe same coin: salvation. But I do say that James 2:26 conflicts with your interpretation of what is needed for salvation to the extent that you seem to believe that works are not needed at all. If so the savior would not say, "come, follow me". From my understanding of James is that works are esential for your faith. Faith does save but works are needed to keep your faith alive. That without working according t oyour faith, your faith is dead and dead faith is nothing to place hope in.

Good works do not earn us anything.

As I noted, we have no conflict here.

If we have faith that is alive and active, if we study God’s word and endeavor to follow his commandments, even though we know we cannot fully do so, good works follow that faith.

Again, I do not see a conflict between your statement and the LDS concept of salvation.

Good works are a by-product of faith, not a requirement for salvation.

I don't know. I can provide you a list of things I know God wants me to do but I don't. Does that mean I don't have faith or does that mean I'm simply choosing not to do God's will despite my faith?

To say that (active) membership in one organized church body gives someone salvation is not Biblical.

Agreed but God is a God of covenant and of authority. The LDs believe that God's authority to preach, teach, and administer the Gospel of Jesus Christ was restored to Joseph Smith and said authority has been passed along to all subsequent prophets and that is very biblical.

No arguments regarding the body of Christ.

Openminded said...

Faith vs Grace.

the long-standing debate over two doctrines that both have solid biblical support.

knock yourselves out, it's a tie. I like to consider it a contradiction, but modern biblical scholarship goes more along the lines of a sort of debate being carried out among the authors who, don't forget, were part of an era where Christian orthodoxy and the bible as we have it today didn't even exist yet.

Also, thanks for pointing out Pops' reply to my statement, Eveningsun

Ken said...

“Good works are a by-product of faith, not a requirement for salvation”.


A by-product generally refers to a secondary product when other primary or main products are being made, most often used in chemical reactions. Generally these are the useless portions of the out come side of the process, but sometimes they can be very useful and have value.

Substance 1 + Substance 2 ---> product + By-product


So to use the term by-product when it comes to faith and good works, it would seem that faith would be the desired product and good works is just that which happens as a part of that process, and not necessarily what we are looking for. It has no value at least when it comes to salvation.

If that is correct then once a person accepts Christ and exercises faith in him, then his works change automatically without any additional effort on his part, it just naturally happens.

I would suggest that the scriptures teach not that good works is just a by-product of faith, but that good works is also an important substance that goes into the equation which produces faith and more goods works as a useful by-product to go back into the equation again and again.

Read the following and tell me if good works does not fit on the left side of the equation as a substance used to get a product.

Matt 5:16
Rom 13:3
Eph. 4:28
1 Peter 2

Faith can only die if good works is removed from the substance side of the equation. And I fear we are seeing that more and more every day.

So I suggest we come up with something better than "by-product" to discribe good works.

Darren said...

but modern biblical scholarship goes more along the lines of a sort of debate being carried out among the authors who, don't forget, were part of an era where Christian orthodoxy and the bible as we have it today didn't even exist yet.

I don't know. My understanding is that Christian thought on faith and works were pretty much cut and dry that both were needed until the Reformation of the 16th century. It was during the the 16th century that faith alone (sole fide) became part of the Christian theological dogma. Even then, not all Christians believed it; nor do tha vast majority of Christians today; but all Christians believe that coming unto Christ is an absolute necessity for salvation.

Steve said...

Openminded, it’s not faith vs grace, it’s grace vs. works. I understand that you are an atheist. I encourage you to take up Pascal’s Wager, and make the rational choice.

I had no idea Jesus was contributing to these comments, but, you know that man was born sinful and cannot fully keep all of your commandments, despite our best efforts. Your apostle Paul wrote to the Romans in chapter 7:14: “I am carnal, sold under sin”. None of us humans are capable of being sinless.

John the Revelator, Revelation 20:12 is not saying that works are a DIRECT requirement at judgment time. Good works are the result of one’s faith. Christians have faith because, by the grace of God, Christ came down to earth and made the ultimate sacrifice for us. Then He proclaimed his victory over death on the third day. The context of the New Testament is that we are saved by grace. This conflicts with 2 Nephi "after all we can do".

Openminded said...

haha, oh gah. Faith vs *works, i'm sorry. I just responded to a post in another topic; i think my brain was done after that. But Steven, you're still using Pascal's wager. Pretty scary, the thought of going to Hell. imagine how hard I must have thought through my choices, how much research into the bible and my own beliefs I must have gone through, before I considered it safe to leave Christianity.

Darren,
"I don't know. My understanding is that Christian thought on faith and works were pretty much cut and dry that both were needed until the Reformation of the 16th century..."

True, but the bible wasn't nearly as prominent as was the pope. the bible essentially took the pope's place to some of the new followers.

However, these days bring Catholic scholars trying to reconcile beliefs with the bible (and by try, I don't mean they failed). Catholic interpretation of Paul's verses try to differentiate between two different types of "works".

Meanwhile, my previous statement can be found in some form in one of the Oxford commentaries on the bible (or their NRSV study bible).

Darren said...

Steve;

I had no idea Jesus was contributing to these comments, but, you know that man was born sinful and cannot fully keep all of your commandments, despite our best efforts.

Huh? I understand the Jesus posting here remark but after that is "that man' the man who posted using "Jesus" as a username? And whose commandments are "your commandments"? Is it some sort of "LDS commandments"? God's commandments? And who are "our" in "our best efforts?

The context of the New Testament is that we are saved by grace. This conflicts with 2 Nephi "after all we can do".

We are absolutely saved by grace. This does not conflict with 2 Nephi, the Book of Mormon, or any other official LDS doctrine.

Darren said...

openminded;

the bible essentially took the pope's place to some of the new followers.

Pesky Protestants. ;>)

Jesus said...

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Openminded said...

Darren,
"Pesky Protestants. ;>)"
ha, I used to be one of those. One time, when I really started looking into Mormonism (had a girlfriend who was Mormon), I "realized" you all weren't "experiencing the love of Jesus". And so I cried for you guys.

I considered it a very spiritual moment.

Jesus,
Matthew is a great book. Why does John differ so much in his telling of your teachings? 3:16-19 is so much different than Matthew 7:21. Was it a different crowd of people?

Darren said...

Steve;

Looks like "Jesus" left a message for you. ;>)

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Darren said...

Openminded;

I considered it a very spiritual moment.

As I said, pesky Protestants. ;>)

My parents were Protestant before becoming Mormons. My father in particular was Luthran, the mother of protestantism. Grandma was worried when he became Mormon. She read literature which called them all sorts of names. Perhaps your name was in one of the pamphlets. ;>)

Pops said...

The problem, as I see it, is that too many people discard the data that doesn't match their worldview, rather than modify their worldview to match the data. It isn't necessary to discount the passages of scripture that disagree with what you believe - far better to modify what you believe to accord with the scriptures.

God is not offended by those who seek to earn a place in the Celestial Kingdom by obeying His will any more than the provider of a college scholarship is offended when the scholarship recipient works hard to earn a degree. Quite the opposite, in fact. Both the student and the benefactor realize that the student's study and work pays not even one penny of the cost of the education, just as Christ and His disciples realize that all of the good works performed by a follower of Christ pay not one iota of the debt for one's sins. But, clearly, work we must if we wish to show gratitude for the infinite gift of the Atonement and receive the greatest blessings made available to us thereby.

There's an excellent article by Brad Wilcox on this subject in the Winter 2012 edition of BYU Magazine. Here's a little bit from the article:

"The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can go home but that—amazingly—we can feel at home there. If Christ did not require faith and repentance, then there would be no desire to change. Think of your friends and family members who have chosen to live without faith and without repentance. They don’t want to change. They are not trying to abandon sin and become comfortable with God. Rather, they are trying to abandon God and become comfortable with sin. If Jesus did not require covenants and bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost, then there would be no way to change. We would be left forever with only willpower, with no access to His power. If Jesus did not require endurance to the end, then there would be no internalization of those changes over time. They would forever be surface and cosmetic rather than sinking inside us and becoming part of us—part of who we are. To return to our metaphor, if practice were not required, then we would never become pianists."

(Wilcox earlier compared Christ's Atonement to a mother paying for piano lessons for a child, noting that it is to no avail if the child does not practice.)

Anonymous said...

Think of your friends and family members who have chosen to live without faith and without repentance. They don’t want to change. They are not trying to abandon sin....

Pops, do you think that living without faith is the same as not trying to abandon sin?

Are you saying that the ONLY way to "abandon sin" is through your own Church? Are you saying that people who leave the Church are bad people? It sure sounds like it when you say they "are not trying to abandon sin."

-- Eveningsun

Pops said...

Pops, do you think that living without faith is the same as not trying to abandon sin?

Living without repentance (the part you left out) is, by definition, the same as not trying to abandon sin. Faith generally precedes repentance, although I consider the orthodox definition of faith [fideism] to be a bit askew.

Are you saying that the ONLY way to "abandon sin" is through your own Church?

No, certainly not.

Are you saying that people who leave the Church are bad people?

No - that appears to be another extrapolation.

It sure sounds like it when you say they "are not trying to abandon sin."

I would only say that about those who are, well, not trying to abandon sin. But sometimes those who appear to be mired in sin are those striving the hardest to abandon it, so it's best not to judge by appearances.

Steve said...

Hi all- miss me?

Yes, my earlier address to “Jesus” was tongue-in-cheek, sorry if I was not clear.

Darren, I don’t know how to make it any more clear- the BOM (2 Nephi) and LDS teachings (Third article of faith, Gospel Principals) require good works for “progression”. This so clearly conflicts with Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 3:20, Romans 4:5, Romans 11:6, Galatians 2:16…I don’t know how you can deny that Mormons feel like they have to earn their way to heaven. I could go on but I quote from Romans 11:6 for your convenience here, “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work”. By earning or working for “progression” mormons are saying that the grace of God is not enough, that Jesus died for nothing. I am not saying that good works should not happen, or that we should not try to follow God’s laws. By our faith, good works will follow. But they are not *required* for salvation.

When Christ told the parable about the workers in the vineyard in Matthew 20:1-16, THAT was his point- He has the right to award “salvation” to anyone, regardless of how much work they’ve done. Workers who had only worked an hour got paid just as much as those that had worked all day.

The same can be said for the malefactor on the cross next to Christ, as in Luke 23:43: “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise”. That malefactor had done no “work” to earn anything other than trust that Christ was the Savior. Yes Jesus said that was enough. He didn’t say, “OK, but before I see you in paradise, you have to tithe, attend services regularly, be married in a temple, be baptized…” Believing (faith) is enough. Works follow faith.

Consider also John 6:28-29: “Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent”. And verse 40: “And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Re: Matthew 7:21, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven”. Consider the context of that verse. Christ is warning against false prophets. Works do matter- “fruit” matters a great deal to Jesus. It’s a question of why these works are done.

Again- from Acts 4:12, the membership to the “body of Christ” does not belong to any one “denomination” or religion.

Anonymous said...

Pops, here's what Wilcox says about people like me: they are trying to abandon God and become comfortable with sin.

I submit that he's wrong, because in fact I am not "trying" to "become comfortable with sin." (Please pay particular attention to the implications of the word trying, and the phrase become comfortable with.)

On what does Wilcox base his little slander (that I'm trying to get comfy with sin)? On the fact that I "have chosen to live without faith and without repentance."

But does it really follow? Just because I have chosen not to believe in the Christian doctrine of faith-plus-repentance, does it necessarily follow that I'm trying to get comfy with sin?

Sorry, Pops, but I ain't buyin' that. Wilcox is slyly attributing some pretty heinous motives to me and other nonbelievers (we're trying to reconcile ourselves to sin: wow!), and I'm calling him out on it.

Stripped of its obfuscation, here's what Wilcox is saying about people like me: It's not just that those who reject my doctrine are wrong. It's worse than that. They reject the doctrine because they are trying to be able to sin without conscience or remorse. They want to be able to sin without the interference of some pesky morality, and their rejection of my faith is part of that effort.

To boil it down further: Those who reject my religious beliefs are bad.

That kind of thing strikes me as the worst kind of bigotry, and no one should be propagating or defending it.

-- Eveningsun

Steve said...

Hi all- miss me?
Yes, my earlier address to “Jesus” was tongue-in-cheek, sorry if I was not clear.

Darren, I don’t know how to make it any more clear- the BOM (2 Nephi) and LDS teachings (Third article of faith, Gospel Principals) require good works for “progression”. This so clearly conflicts with Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 3:20, Romans 4:5, Romans 11:6, Galatians 2:16…I don’t know how you can deny that Mormons feel like they have to earn their way to heaven. I could go on but I quote from Romans 11:6 for your convenience here, “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work”. By earning or working for “progression” you are saying that the grace of God is not enough, that Jesus died for nothing. I am not saying that good works should not happen, or that we should not try to follow God’s laws. By our faith, good works will follow. But they are not *required* for salvation.

When Christ told the parable about the workers in the vineyard in Matthew 20:1-16, THAT was his point- He has the right to award “salvation” to anyone, regardless of how much work they’ve done. Workers who had only worked an hour got paid just as much as those that had worked all day. The same can be said for the malefactor on the cross next to Christ, as in Luke 23:43: “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise”. That malefactor had done no “work” to earn anything other than trust that Christ was the Savior. Yes Jesus said that was enough. He didn’t say, “OK, but before I see you in paradise, you have to tithe, attend services regularly, be married in a temple, be baptized…” Believing (faith) is enough. Works follow faith.

Consider also John 6:28-29: “Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent”. And verse 40: “And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Re: Matthew 7:21, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven”. Consider the context of that verse. Christ is warning against false prophets. Works do matter- “fruit” matters a great deal to Jesus. It’s a question of why these works are done.

Again- the membership to the “body of Christ” does not belong to any one “denomination” or religion.

Pops said...

To boil it down further: Those who reject my religious beliefs are bad.

Well, that's a bridge too far.

Pops said...

By earning or working for “progression” you are saying that the grace of God is not enough, that Jesus died for nothing.

So if a person who receives a scholarship works hard and earns a degree, does that mean the scholarship was given for nothing? Is it somehow a slap in the face of the benefactor?

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Steve, you can't make your position more clear because it's wrong. Mormons DO NOT feel that we earn our way to heaven. We do not EARN resurrection. We do not EARN the forgiveness of sins. We do not earn the grace of Christ. We understand, as early Christians did, that we must follow Christ in a covenant relationship as conditions for receiving the fullness of His grace. We understand that we will be judged by what we do and that we must endure to the end in following Him, as he urged us to do and as His Apostles and prophets did, for it is possible to fall away and lose the salvation promised to those who accept Christ.

Accepting Christ includes keeping His commandments, and we strive to do that, as He taught.

Steve said...

OK Jeff- I'm not judging the hearts of anyone, Mormon or otherwise. But when you say "Accepting Christ includes keeping His commandments,..." does that mean you believe that anyone can actually keep all of God's commandments in this lifetime?

The BOM says that you MUST achieve perfection before you can inherit the kingdom of heaven.

Alma 11:37 "And I say unto you again that he cannot save them in their sins; for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins."

Surely you are not suggesting that the commandments (works) can be kept after death?

Because Alma also says it can't be done after death in 34:32-35: "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.

34 Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.

35 For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his ..."

Not only that, but "trying" to achieve perfection is not good enough.

I'm sure you are familiar with Kimball's "The Miracle of Forgiveness". On page 164, the story of the military officer telling a soldier who says he'll "try" to deliver the message. The moral of this story is that to "try" is weak. So the effort and responsibility for being perfect is on the mormon's shoulders- and that is a heavy and impossible load.

The gospel of Mormonism is very different than that of the Bible. Works vs Faith. Nephi says "after all we can do". This conflicts with what Christ said in John 6:28-29, 40. That's all I'm trying to say. I have nothing personal against anyone commenting here- just providing some food for thought. Works do matter- “fruit” matters a great deal to Jesus. It’s a question of why these works are done.

Darren said...

Steve;

I don’t know how you can deny that Mormons feel like they have to earn their way to heaven.

It's easy to deny because they Mormonis don't believe in "earning" salvation. They believe that good works are essential to access God's grace which saves us; not our works. Our works will show unto God our willingness to be like him. If we repent of our sins regularly, then we show Him that we strived to be like him in all we do. If we refuse to repent, then we are telling God that we simply do not wantto be lieke Him in all that we do. God will save us from sin; not in sin.

Romans 11:6 for your convenience here, “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work”.

I repeat myself that it is by grace alone (sola gratia)wich we are saved. This is universally accepted by Christians; including Mormons. What you're actually trying to get at is if faith alone (sola fide) gets us God's grace. Sola Fide was never part fo Christian dogma until the Reformation as far as I can tell. By preaching sola fide you're ignoring the ther side of the salvation coin: "faith without works is dead". Romans and James do not contradict each ther but teach the two essential parts for salvation: faith + works God's grace for salvation.

. I am not saying that good works should not happen, or that we should not try to follow God’s laws.

What your'e saying I actually find wors: that by saying we need to keep Gd's commandmantes that we are rejecting the Atonement of Jesus Christ. This is an upmost absurd notion. Suppose an individual accepted Christ in his life and constantly thought, "that's what Jesus would have done, I should repent and be more like Jesus if I want to be saved," and then made the repentence as needed throughout his life that when he stands before God God will thrust hmto Hell for rejecting the atoning sacrifice of the Lamb of God? Tell me where that even begins to make any sense or how that is remotely biblical!

When Christ told the parable about the workers in the vineyard in Matthew 20:1-16, THAT was his point- He has the right to award “salvation” to anyone, regardless of how much work they’ve done.

Keep in mind that in this parable those eternally blessed are people who did as they were told to do by God. There's definitely times when we can think we have to do more than others but the bottom line is to do what God asks/comands us to do. "If ye love me, keep my commandents".

The same can be said for the malefactor on the cross next to Christ, as in Luke 23:43: “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise”.

If i'm not mistaken, "paradise" refered to the paradisical part of Hades in this scripture. "Hell" in the New Testamentoften times came from the Greek word Hades which had a condemnatory part for the wicked and a paradisical part for the good. "Paradise", therefore, should not mean "salvation" in this scripture passage.

That malefactor had done no “work” to earn anything other than trust that Christ was the Savior.

That's the only work *that we know of*.

“OK, but before I see you in paradise, you have to tithe, attend services regularly, be married in a temple, be baptized…”

How do we know he didn't do these things already?

Darren said...

Re: John 6:28-29 - What does it mean to eat the bread of life? Eating is a work, no? Are we eatingthe bread of life by lying, adultering, coveting, cheating, etc.; or are we eating the bread of life by repenting andstriving to be like christ in all that we do?

RE: Mathew 7 - Yes, let's keep it in context. Those who keep God's commandments are like wise men who built their houses on a roc and those who do not obey God's commandments are like those who build their houses on sand and will be blown ayaw. That sounds like works to me. Why not you?

Darren said...

Steve;

does that mean you believe that anyone can actually keep all of God's commandments in this lifetime?

Nope. Only Jesus did that.

The BOM says that you MUST achieve perfection before you can inherit the kingdom of heaven.

Here's what it says in 3 Nephi 12: "48 Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect." That paralells almost verbatim this passage from Mathew 5: "48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." The main difference is that in the Book of Mormon, Jesus included the first person singular "I" in the category of being perfect. I believe this is because He had already ascended to the Father and therefore "perfect" like unot Him. ("17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." - John 20:17)

Surely you are not suggesting that the commandments (works) can be kept after death?

Why not? Eastern Christians have long believed in theosis, why not Mormons in teir own (more correct)way?

RE: alma 34 oat verse 35 you hit onthe conditional nature of Aklma's axortation: "35 For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death". This goes right along with faith + works. Those who procrastinate *the day of their repentence* while in this life will be those sealed unto the devil. What of those who *did* repent while in this life? What of those (the vast majority of the world's population) who never heard of the gospel of Jesus Christ? They can't perform fgood wos after death? They can't come unto Jesus after death?

Very sad, do explain.

Regarding perfection - It is an impossible load, which is why we place our load on Jesus. It is *only8 though Him that we achieve the greates of all of the Father's blessings: exaltation.

Connor Carpenter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Connor Carpenter said...

Steve

You are pointing out words of our scriptures and prophets that are works-centric. As in the Bible, we have doctrines that are works-centric and doctrines that are grace-centric. It's up to us to interpret that balance correctly.

From the Book of Mormon
"Reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the GRACE of God that ye are saved." (2 Nephi 10:24)

or

"If men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and MY GRACE IS SUFFICIENT for all men that humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."

Our Prophets both confirm the fact that it is necessary to become perfect, and deny that that is even possible. Like how in the Bible Jesus commands us to be perfect but Paul later tells us that is impossible.

"We have not reached a condition of perfection yet, it is hardly to be expected that we will in this life, and yet, through the aid of the Holy Ghost, it is possible for us to stand united together seeing eye to eye and overcoming our sins and imperfections." Joseph F. Smith

You continue to quote 2 Nephi 25:23 ("...It is by the grace of God that we are saved, after all we can do.") First, is it not apparent from this verse that, apparently, "all we can do" is not sufficient to be saved? That despite all we can do we are still saved by the grace of God? Steve, if you can interpret Revelation 20:12 to mean that dead WEREN'T judged according to their works, I can interpret 2 Nephi 25:23 to mean that we are saved by the grace of God despite all we can do.

You question the motive of our works. Let a modern Apostle Dallan H. Oaks clarify this for you,
"The Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become." (Liahona, Jan. 2001)

Steve, I wish that you could understand, coming from an active believing Mormon, that I believe what you do about the overwhelming dependence we have on the grace of God, despite how you interpret my scriptures. I wish you could understand how when I read my scriptures or talk in church or do a service project, I worry whether I am just going through the motions or doing good works with an eye only to the glory of God. I wish you could understand how I feel during my daily battles of trying to be Christ-like, failing, but then feel Christ's overwhelming love and acceptance when I acknowledge my faults and bend over in prayer to Him.

We're on the same team here brother. Wish you could feel how I feel about that.

Steve said...

Darren, I know exactly what I’m trying to get at. You say “grace alone”, but then you say sola gratia was never part of Christian dogma until the 16th century? What about Paul’s letter to the Romans (11:6) that I just quoted? That text was circulated, along with other letters, before any formal Bible was created.

Martin Luther’s “Grace Alone, Faith Alone, Scripture Alone” was part of the Reformation- of course he was trying to reform the Catholic Church because they had gotten too far, in some instances, from first-century scripture.

How can a Mormon who strives for “exaltation” (which is not Biblical) say that their church does not require works? I’ve been trying to make the Christian’s salvation equate to the Mormon exaltation, just for discussion, but I’ve come to the conclusion that they are so different that it makes no sense to do so. There are “Requirements for Exaltation” listed at:
http://lds.org/manual/gospel-principles/chapter-47-exaltation?lang=eng
If that’s not work…but then you can say that this list doesn’t apply to “general salvation” to a “lower” level of heaven. There is one heaven, and one God.

To suggest or claim that in any sense God’s justification of the sinner through the work of Christ includes obedience to the law renders the death of Christ unnecessary and nullifies the grace of God (Gal. 2:21, “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain”). Such a claim also undermines St. Paul’s central argument that human beings are justified before God by faith alone, exclusive of works (Rom. 3:23-28). To be sure, while justification is by faith alone, faith is never alone; it is followed by works (Eph. 2:10). Obedience to Christ and His will is indeed a necessary fruit of faith. But obedience is in no sense the cause or basis of our salvation, nor does it give us any claim to our salvation.

Darren said...

Steve;

I know exactly what I’m trying to get at. You say “grace alone”, but then you say sola gratia was never part of Christian dogma until the 16th century?

I had to double check but, no, that's not what I said. Here's what I said:

What you're actually trying to get at is if faith alone (sola fide) gets us God's grace. Sola Fide was never part fo Christian dogma until the Reformation as far as I can tell.

It's not sola gratia (grace alone) which hasn;t been in Christian dogma until the 16th century for it's always been part of the Christian dogma and theology; but it's sola fide (faith alone) which entered into the Christian dogma in the 16th century.

In order to help distinguish "gratia" and "fide" think of addressing a king as "You Grace". That's another way to aknowledge the king's mercifulness. When someone asks for your "bonafides" they are asking for how faithful you are to the given subject.

If by Romans 11:6 you're again making claim that faith alone is all that is needed then i simply say Romans 11:6 is declaring that grace alone is what's needed for salvation andthere is no dispute over that between mormonism and Christanity at large. If you're tryingto support faith alone then I don't see how that scrtipture is declaring faith alone. It seems to be declaring that grace alone is what saves; not works. But d we need works to get that grace? I say absolutely yes. Even today Catholics and the Greek Orthodox would readily agree with what I'm saying; and those two make up almost 2,000,000,000 Christians worldwide.

How can a Mormon who strives for “exaltation” (which is not Biblical)

Exaltation is not biblical? What are you Steve but a god yourself? If you were not a god then you'd be nothing more than a beast of the field who stands as no heir to sit with God throughout all eternity.

(con't)

Darren said...

(con't)

When Christ was accused of blashpemy ha answered the charge by saying, "34 Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?" (John 10). "Your law" refers to Psalms 82:6, " 6 I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High." The reason you, Steve, are a god is because you are a son of the "most High". As a god yourself you have a divine potention to be like God ("like" does not mean "equal to"). But you and I are obviously imperfect and so how can we become like God "most High" (El Elyon)?

As previously mentioned, Jesus exorted people to " 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." (Mathew 5). Why would He command anything that is impossible? But how can imperfect beings become perfect, like the Father (God "most High" or "El Elyon")even? The answer lies that it is done through a perfect being sacrificed on our behalf. " 28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." (Mathew 20); and as Nephi taught, " 7 Wherefore, it must needs be an infinite atonement—save it should be an infinite atonement this corruption could not put on incorruption. Wherefore, the first judgment which came upon man must needs have remained to an endless duration. And if so, this flesh must have laid down to rot and to crumble to its mother earth, to rise no more." (2 Nephi 9)

The Apostle Paul wrote that in the reason God sent apostles and other religious leaders was "12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:" (Ephesians 4). Also, in the LORD's prayer, Jesus Himsef asked of His Father and His God regarding His apostles and all the faithful, "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." (John 17).

Jesus' supplication is for all the faithful to be one in Him *as* He is in the Father and the Father in Him. That's powerful. That's perfection. That's exaltation.

(con't)

Darren said...

(con't);

There is one heaven, and one God.

There is one God yes, in unity. One heaven? If there is one heaven then thereis one glory, yes? But Paul saw different degrees of glory in the resurrection. "40 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. 42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:" (Corinthians 15). Paul notes three glories: the Sun, moon, and stars. Why all that if there's only one degree of glory is heaven and only one other (well, gloryless) in hell?

To suggest or claim that in any sense God’s justification of the sinner through the work of Christ includes obedience to the law renders the death of Christ unnecessary and nullifies the grace of God

Not in the least. Obedience opens the door to access the works through the Son; not takes place of God's grace.

St. Paul did not teach faith alone but that faith is nessesary as James taught that works is nessesary to keep your faith alive. Two parts of the same coin.

But obedience is in no sense the cause or basis of our salvation, nor does it give us any claim to our salvation.

I repeat myself to say, we agree.

Mateo said...

this link here does a pretty awesome job of describing the archer analogy being used above.

Mateo said...

@ pops,

"The problem, as I see it, is that too many people discard the data that doesn't match their worldview, rather than modify their worldview to match the data."

Exactly!! Every religion and world view under the sun does this. Atheists, 7th day adventists, Muslims and mormons. We're all biased towards what we want to see and we tend to ignore all the stuff that doesn't fit because it's generally more satisfying to pretend like we understand the universe then to admit what is most likely the case, "we haven't got a bloody clue."

Steve said...

Darren- no, exaltation is not Biblical and I’m not a god. I’m a man, born sinful and doomed to hell except for the grace of God. My faith is my belief that the sacrifice of Christ on the cross allows my soul to enter heaven upon my death. If you say (which you just did) that works are required to earn the grace of God, you’ve missed my point time and again.

The term “gods” in John 10/Psalm 82:6 refers to judges/rulers who were God’s representatives on earth. They had the responsibility to seek God’s guidance and to rule wisely. It in no way even implies that men can become like God. To get that meaning out of these verses is just wishful thinking, man-made stuff. Isaiah 43:10 “...before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.”

Re: Matthew 5, earlier in the chapter He was speaking against the hypocritical Pharisees and their legalism. They too thought righteousness came through works. They outwardly followed every law, but inwardly broke the spirit of the law. He spoke of a righteousness that comes only through faith in Him and HIS work, as illustrated in the following verses (murder, divorce, etc.) Verses 43- 48 is an exhortation to strive for perfect love, not that we can attain it in this life.

John 17- sorry, that’s not saying that exaltation is possible. Christ is asking that his apostles and followers become one in mind and spirit. His prayer is a rebuke against groundless divisions among believers. Membership to the “body of Christ” is not limited to a certain denomination or religion.

Paul saw different degrees of glory- yes, but to read into those verses that they relate to heaven? He is saying that there is glory on earth (terrestrial) and a different type of glory for the planets (celestial), but he’s not saying that there are different levels of heaven. He doesn’t even mention your third main level, telestial, right?

Anyway- we’ve had some great conversations but I don’t want this to turn contentious. I realize that we are both pretty firm in our beliefs. I respect your convictions, although I don’t agree with them. I feel that my beliefs are based on God’s inspired Word, and I’m sure you feel the same way about your beliefs. There are some very specific reasons I don’t believe Mormon doctrine, some of which I have already mentioned. I wish the best for you and your family.

Paul said...

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ...

Darren said...

Steve;

Darren- no, exaltation is not Biblical and I’m not a god.

Steve says so but the Bible doesn't.

I’m a man, born sinful and doomed to hell except for the grace of God. My faith is my belief that the sacrifice of Christ on the cross allows my soul to enter heaven upon my death.

Me too. Wer'e in good company. ;>)

If you say (which you just did) that works are required to earn the grace of God

Nope, that's not what I said. In fact I do believe that I consistantly said that we do not earn or merit salvation tha it is only be God's grace that we can be saved.

The term “gods” in John 10/Psalm 82:6 refers to judges/rulers who were God’s representatives on earth.

tht doesn't make any sense. In John 10 Jesus was responding to the accusation of of blasphemy for His declaring Himself the Son of God. Was Jesu simply saying that He was a judge or ruler? I don't think so; but that He was God's "Only Begotten" Son. Also, why would God tell his children that they are "gods' "children of the most High" just to let them know that they are judges and rulers? It makes far more sense to me that god was teaching the divine nature and potential of all mankind.

"It in no way even implies that men can become like God."

Yes, it does imply that but a better implication is Jesus praying that the faithful will be one with the Father *as* He is one with the Father. That's powerful. Again, that's exaltation. We have that potetial as sons of "the most High".

"Isaiah 43:10 “...before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.”"

Mormons agree with that statement. Before YHWH there was no God formed for Elohim was always there as far as LDS faith and worship is concerned. adn there will never be any other YHWH after him for He is the only (mono) YHWH and Elohim is the only (mon) Elohim. This is an eternal truth.

Verses 43- 48 is an exhortation to strive for perfect love, not that we can attain it in this life

Thought i read a more general exoration to be perfect, I agree that obtaining a perfect love is part of that exortation and thus we can apply, "15 If ye love me, keep my commandments." (John 14). This fuses works and love together.

not that we can attain it in this life

Whoa, are you saying that we can continue to progress spiritually in the afterlife? We're making progress with you Steve. ;>)

Christ is asking that his apostles and followers become one in mind and spirit

Really? Silly me. I thought Jesus was asking (if you want to use that weak verb) the Father that they be one *as* He and the Father were one. Also, I do not see where this is limited to only the apostles but to all the faithful, ' 20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." Note here that being one withthe Father is for the faithful; not the unrepentend sinner when Jesus referred to them as "gods" for being children of "the most High". And, yes, this is one mind and spirit *as* Jesus and the Father are one. In oter words the Son and the Father are one in mind and spirit; not physical substance. it is the Greek "hen", not "mono" which is spoken here.

Paul spoke of the different degrees of glory in the resurrection. Where do souls go after that? Also, Paul wrote, "2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven." (2 Corinthians 12).

Darren said...

"I don’t want this to turn contentious."

Amen, brother!!! I don't find your posts contentious though I think I may have approached contentiousness and so I do apologize. It is prudent to avoid contentiousness.



Thank you very much. And may God bless you and yours.

Anonymous said...

Darren, Steve, just for the record, the ancient religion of Israel grew out of earlier polytheistic religions, traces of which remain to this day in the Hebrew scriptures (e.g., references to Elohim and statements like "Thou shalt have no other god before me"). Joseph Smith got that part right.

Also, millions of conservative Christians today are functionally polytheistic, at least those who believe in a literal Satan. For what is the devil if not an immortal being with supernatural powers? And what is an immortal being with supernatural powers, if not a god? An inferior god, to be sure, as Ares was inferior to Zeus, but still a god.

Polytheism is alive and well, and not just in Mormonism.

-- Eveningsun

Ken said...

Judaism didn’t just grow out of polytheistic religions, it was itself for much of Israel’s history polytheistic.

Many scholars believe that monotheism is a late invention of around the 7th Century. Archeologist have found hundreds of small female figures in Israelite homes, they believe to be statues of the Goddess Asherah. It appears that Israel worshipped her and other God figures that came from the old Canaanite religion. Bible passages also suggest that Israel believed in the pantheon of Gods similar to the Canaanite religion but worship was reserved for the chief God which for Canaanites was El and for Israel was Yahweh, though Israel often used El as a proper name and not just the generic term for god. Inscriptions on burial markers in Israel have been found with the inscription of a blessing from Yahweh and his Asherah indicating that Israel believed that God had a wife according to some scholars. And this idea is growing in acceptance among scholars.

But with the Babylonian conquest of Israel, the people were desperate to understand why their God would allow this. They concluded that it was due to the worship of these other gods. So they attempted a revision to their history and diminished all other gods to false gods including Asherah. And so from this the three main religions that stem from ancient Judaism, Muslims, Christians and Judaism itself, all are based on a belief that God is a lone and unique figure of which there is no other like unto him. And that is why as Eveningsun points out that the Bible is filled with statements that are very polytheistic.

Christianity is the only one of these three religions that is moving back toward polytheism, but is fighting it all along the way. Jesus declared that he was the son of God and as such was himself God. He even uses ancient scripture to back up not only his claim to such a position, but that others had right to this claim as well. Early Church fathers, in their writings seemed to embrace deification which again would be classed as polytheism. Over the years main stream Christianity has moved back away from that.

Mike Heiser is an Evangelical who accepts the concept of a divine council, check out www.michaelsheiser.com, but he is not in agreement with man being included in this pantheon. So yes, Mormons are not alone on this one, though there is little agreement between the various views.

So I have a question. It appears from the Canaanite religion that Baal was part of the pantheon of gods, and was worshiped by Israel, but with the diminishing of all other gods to false gods that do not exist, where does this put Baal? Does he exist? Is he part of the pantheon if there is indeed one? And is he demonized by the Bible only because he was worshipped? I think even most Mormon’s believe that he is a false god, but I’m not so sure.

Darren said...

Ken;

I think even most Mormon’s believe that he is a false god, but I’m not so sure.


Yes, Mormons absoutely believe Baal was a false god. He was nothing more than a dumb idol. Te mighty power of God shown through Elijah in 2 Kings chapters 1-2 are not so much to show that only the true God has power over the false god Baal but asa very stark rebuke for the people of Isreal turning away from the LORD (YHWH)and worshipping Baal.

http://www.lds.org/scriptures/ot/2-kgs?lang=eng

You are correct in that tere was polytheistic worship in anciet Isreal andtha, at least from my understanding, it was their return from Babylonian captivity in whic hancient Isreal turned to a strict monotheistic structure of worship. According to Margaret Barker, this was why Jesu was accused of blashpemy by Jews when he proclaim Himself to be the Son of God. The accusers were followers of the dogmatic strict monotheism whch started in the Old Testament. The Jewswho followed Jesus realized that He taught, and was the fulfillment, of the pure nature of the worshp of the ancients.

Darren said...

Eveningsun;

Also, millions of conservative Christians today are functionally polytheistic, at least those who believe in a literal Satan. For what is the devil if not an immortal being with supernatural powers? And what is an immortal being with supernatural powers, if not a god? An inferior god, to be sure, as Ares was inferior to Zeus, but still a god.


I think you make a very good point there.

Ken said...

Darren,

That is what we read in the Bible yes, but understand that this was written around the 7th Century and was influenced by what was going on at the time. But long before this Baal was part of the pantheon of gods in the Canaanite religion, and El was part of that pantheon as the Chief of all the gods. Asherah and others were part of that pantheon. And many of these names then continued to be used among the Israelites. But then all of a sudden none of them existed anymore and become no more than false idols including the wife of God Asherah.

If all the gods of the Canaanites were false gods and no more than dumb idols then is that true of their chief god El? What is Israel doing using the name of one of the idol gods of the Canaanites? And what is Israel doing worshipping and recognizing all of these gods of the Canaanites? Were they drawn back to it or did they adopt it?

I think what may well be possible is that the Canaanites did at one point in time have the fullness of the gospel, but over time became apostate. Their knowledge of a Council of gods was rooted in truth and has too many parallels to Israel to be mere coincidence or totally false.

So I think it may be possible that the name Baal used by the Canaanites may have at one point in time been legitimate as well as the name Asherah just as their use of the name El was legitimate. But as they fell away from the truth their practices became corrupt as they began to falsely worship these other gods.

LDS are not monotheistic in that we do not believe that there is only one entity in existence that can be identified with the attributes of godhood. Neither are LDS polytheistic in the concept of worshiping multiple gods. However we do recognize that God the Father and God the Son are two separate beings, we pray to the father in the name of the Son, and so in that respect we do worship these two as part of the Godhead. We also know that the third member of the Godhead, The Holy Ghost, is also a god, but we do not know his name nor do we in any way worship him. We believe that God does indeed have a wife (And I would assume that would have to apply to both the Father and the Son), but we do not know their names nor do we worship them. We also know that there are many other beings under the direction of the Father and the Son that are righteous enough to hold the title of god, but again in no way do we worship them. I think that Israel and possibly the Canaanites both had very similar knowledge of these things.

The Father and the Son have always been two separate beings, but prior to the restoration in these times were they ever known as two separate beings? Did Israel know them as two separate beings? And if the Canaanites did have the true gospel at one point in time did they know them as two separate beings?