Monday, September 8, 2008

Battle of the Two Straw Men

After a few days of engagement on the issue of being saved by grace/works, I have concluded that the Mormons and evangelicals have simply been setting up strawmen consisting of what they imagine the other believes about salvation. Then they gear up to fight with all their might against what they have constructed.

Mormons do not believe that a person can be saved by works. Neither their scriptures nor their leaders advocate any such doctrine. However, we tend to preach the importance of works, probably as a reaction to the evangelicals' "saved by grace" emphasis. The LDS assume that the Christian rejects any commitment of action, which is also an unfair portrayal.

I've been trying to promote an interfaith dialogue wherein each group would accept at least the basic idea that we believe in the same Christ. Is this even possible? Sure, guys, we have a few differences. But c'mon. How many white-robed bearded men had a mother named Mary, a father named God, lived in Judea and Jerusalem around 0-33 AD, claimed to be the Messiah, rose from the dead and founded a world religion based on his teachings?


Maraiya said...

I appreciate what you are saying. I grow weary of hearing that I am worshiping a false Jesus and that I'm really not saved (which I believe myself to be). I even had one friend question where my mother is after her death.

On the other hand, I grow weary of hearing Mormons who think they are superior and who think that we alone are entitled to certain blessings from God.

Our God is one God. He answers all our prayers, bestows blessings on all and loves us all. I fully expect that after this life, many evangelical friends and myself will be in the same place.

Anonymous said...

"I've been trying to promote an interfaith dialogue wherein each group would accept at least the basic idea that we believe in the same Christ."

I had this very discussion with several evangelical friends.

In the end they decided that, no, they could not accept that idea primarily because we do not believe that Christ and Heavenly Father are the same person, but they do. They concluded that the "Mormon Christ" is really a non-entity and not the same as the Christ they worship.

Bored in Vernal said...

But what about us?? Can we accept that their Christ has power to save them even though they believe he and HF are the same person?

btw, everyone who comments under "anonymous," I'd love it if you could choose a name and just sign it at the end of your post so we can tell who we are talking to. Thx. :)

brooke said...

i'll jump in, wearing my soon to be officially presbyterian cap.

since leaving the lds church there have been 2 commonalities that i've been able to maintain with my dear lds friends - a belief in Christ and a belief in God. the Christ that was talked about in my ward is the same Christ that my pastor preaches about at my church. yep.

but it's at that point that things, for me, diverge.

you said this:
"Mormons do not believe that a person can be saved by works. Neither their scriptures nor their leaders advocate any such doctrine."

and i would disagree. in thinking about the three levels of heaven within the lds belief system - in order to get to the celestial world a person has to do something - a person has to go to the temple. there's work involved there. there are certain things that one must do, above and beyond, in order to get to that celestial world - in order to be given the full blessings of God.

whereas in the presbyterian view of it - and i'm pretty sure i can generalize out to most, if not all, mainline protestant denominations, there aren't different levels of heaven - there's only one. heaven is heaven. i am given the full blessings of God not because i go above and beyond and attend something extra special, i am given the blessings of God simply because i am. pastor p. has not said that i have to have to participate in the day to day work of the church (though i am a member of the mission committee), pay tithing, etc.. in order to get those blessings. what i have to do is be the best person i can be. i am imperfect and that's okay - i don't have to jump through any hoops other than working to have faith and connection with God, and confessing and repenting for my sins (which is a part of every worship service). but to take that further - i asked my pastor the other day if i was going to go to heaven. he said that yes, he was sure i was. but if pressed about the subject - about how he really knows - what he defers to is that he can't unequivocally say for sure - because he really can't predict the judgments of God. he can't unequivocally assure me that i'm going to heaven - heck, he can't even say that about himself!

what i heard in the lds tradition is that yes - if you do these works you will get to the celestial world. i hear other traditions speaking about heaven in the same way - preachers making promises, that the presbyterians - at least my presbyterian pastor - stresses over and over that he cannot promise or guarantee.

Anonymous said...

"But what about us?? Can we accept that their Christ has power to save them even though they believe he and HF are the same person?"

I recognize that they worship Christ even if we understand him differently. Do I think he can save them? Absolutely. Do I think that He & God answer their prayers? Most assuredly.

Here is the kicker. I have other evangelical friends who recognize that we worship the same God & Christ. They believe one's "Christianity" is not determined by religious affiliation but by choices and deceleration.

I think this faith/works debate is interesting. I think that the protestant definition of works has shifted... though admittedly it has been a few years since I was protestant. My search for truth wasn't THAT long ago however. Then MOST protestant denominations would have said baptism or at least some kind of saving prayer/request was necessary. When I was growing up, those weren't works. "Works" involved doing things for others, physical or otherwise. The shift is definitely interesting.

The same anonymous chick from before... you can call me Al.

Hoopla said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...


Declaration... not deceleration.

lol. And THAT is why I am anonymous. ;)


Mormon Heretic said...


I'm with you here. I really wish that mormons and evangelicals could just listen to Rodney King: "Can't we all just get along?" Both sides focus on the differences too much.

One other thing--Faithful Dissident and I have a question. Can you check out her latest post?

Anonymous said...

A Christian can say to a Jew, or a Moslem, or a Buddhist, and many other faiths or even an atheist, can we not put our differences aside and say “Can't we all just get along?

But we are not in a situation where they are coming into our neighbor’s homes and saying that they believe in Christ and are Christians and members of the only True Church on the Earth, and that all other Churches are an abomination. Come join our organization.

Of course we focus on the differences. That is the point. There are irreconcilable differences in the Nature of God and Christ between the two Testaments and dooctrines for one to say that they worship the same God and Christ. These differences are the nature of Salvation itself with each believing that the members of the other organization are not saved.

Just because a few LDS choose to ignore the differences in claiming to be (Traditional) Christian does not fix the problem.

There is quite often deliberate deception when a LDS Christian claims to be a (Traditional) Christian. The LDS knows that they are referring to a different term for “saved” when the are speaking of saved by grace than that of the (Traditional) Christian.

(Traditional) Christians follow the Bible only. The basis for saved by grace in the Traditional Christian world is that they will be in paradise in the presence of God and with Christ.

Salvation to Traditional Christian does not just mean that you have earned resurrection. The bible teaches that everyone will be resurrected whether you believe in Christ or not. Saved is not resurrection.

No matter how many deny it, there are two different Christians here. One is Biblical (Traditional) the other is LDS Christian and the two are not compatible or interchangeable by doctrine.

I cannot understand why a LDS Christians would want to be grouped with a (Traditional) Christian, unless it is to add to the membership and to deceive. It makes no sense. Those of you who remember years ago, members distanced themselves from such a distinction. What happened?

Can a member of the LDS Church also be a (Traditional) Christian? Well Yes. Are they also saved according to their own Church doctrines? Well no.

Have the LDS been properly baptized according to (Traditional) standards? Well no. Do they need to be baptized properly? Who knows…the thief on the Cross was not baptized but he is in paradise with Christ. No one is saying that per capita that LDS are not better citizens. If they were judged on that I think that there is no doubt that they would win the rubber ducky; however that contest will not save them. Strange but true.


Bored in Vernal said...

David, do you feel you were not a Christian when you were a Mormon?

Anonymous said...

No I was convinced that I was and I defended that assumption and screamed at my persecutors also. I just did not understand what a Christian truly was until I read and came to understand the Bible. You talk about contradictions in the Bible. I have found none. What I find are misinterpretations that come from not ready everything in context. The Church favors this attitude. I will give you examples later. I want you to share in what I have learned, and vice versa. Romans 13 made it very, very clear that I could not be a (Traditional) Christian and LDS. I had to make a choice and it was like Indiana Jones in search of the Holy Grail stepping out onto the precipice out of pure faith. I too found solid ground that I could not see at first. At first I tried to reconcile everything together but the pieces did not fit and deep down I knew it, and I knew that I had always known it. I put my questions on a shelf like a good little Mormon boy. The problem is I had a brain that remembered everything and the shelf got full and collapsed on me one day.


Bored in Vernal said...

David, in spite of our differences, you don't know how much I can sympathize with this...

geebee said...

Blame the counsel of Nicaea, which gave us the Nicene Creed. Pretty much all Christians but Mormons put quite a bit of stock in it. As it defines the nature of God, it's something of a sticking point.