Contending or Contentious

The LDS church commonly warns its members about being contentious.  LDS missionaries sometimes will leave a house because they say its inhabitants have a spirit of contention.  And the Bible indeed warns against being contentious.


But the Bible also tells us to contend for the faith.  See, for example, Jude 3.  My dictionary defines contend with words like strive, debate, assert, struggle and even argue.  The root of the Greek word that Jude used is one from which our English word “agonize” is derived.  Obviously contend involves more than having a pleasant, light conversation.  It involves vigor and passion.


How then can one contend for the faith without being contentious?  It’s all in the attitude.  A contentious person is belligerent (my dictionary) – he is looking for a fight and enjoys the fight.  On the other hand, a person who is contending for the faith doesn’t really enjoy the battle but engages in it because he is passionate about his beliefs and thinks they are worth fighting for.


I will be the first to admit that I have often seen a contentious spirit exhibited by Christians as they talk with Mormons.  It is painfully obvious that they have no concern for the Mormons or even, at times, the faith.  They just want to win the battle.  But this has not been limited to Christians.  Over the years I have received numerous letters, emails, and even pictures from LDS members that are blatantly contentious. 


Why do I bring this up?  Because I feel the need to regularly state why I am doing this blog.  My goal is to contend for the faith without being contentious.  I want the differences between Mormonism and historic Christianity to be clearly seen.  My prayer is that many Mormons see the wonderful truth that we are saved without any works on our part.


The other reason why I am writing this today is because in the next series of posts I am planning on examining Mormonism’s claims that Joseph Smith and his successors are true prophets of God.  Obviously that is something that I don’t believe.  But up front I want to say that I state that not just to be contentious and get Mormons’ blood boiling but because I think this is a serious issue that needs discussing – that here too we need to contend for the faith.


11 Responses to “Contending or Contentious”

  1. August 14, 2008 at 2:00 am

    Mark, would you be kind enough to explain what you mean by “historic Christianity”? Are you referring to Catholics, Lutherans, Puritans, Evangelicals, or some other protestant sect? Or are you going all the way back to the time of Christ and the preceding age of the prophets?

    I’d also love to see your take on the parables, beatitudes, and other direct teachings from the Master.

  2. August 14, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    I see you point(s). To me, the words contend and contenious, although they might have the same root (am too lazy to look this up), they are quite different in their connotation. As a convert to the LDS faith, I will contend for it and defend it without being contentious. Hmmm. I just had an image flash through my mind of Christ talking to the Jewish leaders about His identity, what should and shouldn’t be done on the Sabbath, etc., and while he was strong in contending, he was not contentious.

  3. August 14, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    Oops…looks like I should have proofread the above for spellling. Make that “your point(s)” and “contentious.”

  4. 4 markcares
    August 14, 2008 at 7:41 pm

    Thanks for asking me to clarify what I mean by historic Christianity. I mean Christianity that is based solely on the Bible. I do believe that the Bible is God’s inspired word in the original languages of Hebrew and Greek. I was privileged to have in-depth instruction in both languages and refer to them almost daily in my ministry. I have also studied both formally and informally the transmission of the texts and am convinced by that study that today’s Greek and Hebrew Bibles are very, very accurate. As I type this, I realize that I am opening up a large topic – one that I will address more in depth sometime in the near future.
    I also realize that there are some differences in interpretation even aomng people who say that they are basing their beliefs solely on the Bible. I feel the problem often is that peoople often don’t do the hard work of interpreting the Bible in light of the Bible (keeping a passage in its context includes not only the immediate context but the whole context of the Bible.) Often reason or emotion gets the upper hand and gets in the way.

  5. August 14, 2008 at 9:16 pm

    Isn’t it extremely vague to say “Christianity based solely on the Bible?” As far as I can tell nearly every “Christian” religion uses the Bible as the only cannon of scripture. But that didn’t keep the original protestant groups from breaking off from the Catholic church, nor has it unified the modern day version of those various groups with each other or the more orthodox churches.

    Just to be clear, lds believe the Bible to be the word of God. We believe that the Book of Mormon, the words of the living prophets, and the Bible are all given to us by the same source and for the same purpose: to bring people to Christ. All I and others have been trying to do in our various discussions here is to show that the Bible supports the lds doctrine completely, when understood correctly. Of course we disagree on that understanding and so we just go back and forth with little gained on either side.

    If you could offer more background on what you believe constitutes true “historic Christian” doctrine I would love to hear it. Is it embodied in a single religion today? Or does one class of “Christian” groups have it correct?

  6. August 14, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    i think the goal of the LDS church is to avoid feelings of hate toward others. Should we debate things of a spiritual nature, sure. But should we get into arguments where we are butting heads and we have two sides that will not understand one another? No!!!

    I think the Contentious sprirt strives not for anyone’s betterment or their health but toward the distruction of any understanding. We “Mormons” are counseled to avoid contention so we do not halt the progress of understanding and love. If we do not heed this counsel we tend to become rigid in our own thinking and cannot see things from other perspectives, no agreement can come out of contention. But Striving for the spirit is a good thing. It is like climbing a mountian, we struggle and we go up, we streach out a hand for others to help them, they can take it or not. In a contentious state we would either force others to take our hand or we would all sit in that same position never moving. See how contention inhibits progress?


  7. 7 markcares
    August 16, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    For example, the Roman Catholic Church officially cites two sources of authority: the Bible and tradition. That is why it can teach as doctrine things such as the assumption of Mary that has no biblical support.
    Other churches look to the Bible as their sole source of authority. When they differ on individual doctrines or interpretations, the right teaching can be ascertained from a careful reading of the Bible. They all, however, agree on the fundational biblical fact that we are saved by grace alone and not also by works.
    Wouldn’t you agree, Reggie, that the LDS church conditions its belief in the Bible as God’s Word “in so far as it is translated correctly”. That is quite a bit different from the view of Christianity now and down through the ages. Can you show me any Christian church that officially has made a statement like that? Another question I have asked before but have not received an answer. Are there any Christian churches will officially view the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price as scripture?

  8. 8 markcares
    August 16, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    The problem I have with your analogy of climbing the mountain, is that I wholeheartedly believe that the path of Mormonism is leading people off the cliff. I say that not to anger you and I realize that you vehemently disagree with me – but I say that so that you try and see why I just can’t stand by idly. And what has encouraged me to continue are the many former LDS members who have thanked me for doing so.

  9. August 16, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    So which church has studied the Bible to the point that they have full and complete understanding?

    Regarding the correct translation of the Bible, JLFuller knows a lot more about this than I do and left an excellent comment here (https://markcares.wordpress.com/2008/07/25/why-jesus-last-words-it-is-finished-is-so-important-for-mormons/#comment-208). However my question to you is why do you continually reference the Hebrew and Greek versions if you think the English translation contains no errors or deliberate modifications?

    As far as traditional churches accepting LDS scriptures, that doesn’t make much sense does it? We believe that Christ established His church with authority, organization, and the fullness of the gospel; if another church accepted these truths that would mean the end to their church and they would all need to convert to LDS in order to follow these truths. So no I don’t know of any and I don’t ever expect there to be any that accept them.

    Another major point is regarding authority. Is it possible to study the Bible so thoroughly without realizing that God chooses His spiritual leaders and not the other way around? In others words you can do all the study you want, but one still must be called of God and given authority to preach, baptize and be a leader within His kingdom. Which “traditional” church claims this authority? I only know of Catholics to do so; believing in a direct line of authority from Peter to the current Pope.

  10. 10 JLFuller
    August 17, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    You said above “Mormonism is leading people off the cliff.” Right there you have closed your mind. The Socratic Method for discussing a subject requires an open mind. Like the saying goes, “you can’t teach a closed mind”. Honest discussion requires all involved to reasonably ponder other views. It is through consensus of the parties that understanding becomes firmer. If all you intend to do is convert Mormons then this is all a waste of time. We end up talking past each other. But if your intent is to clarify, which is what I intend, then what results is a change in the fundamental relationship to one of mutual respect. If that isn’t your intent then you are just another anti-Mormon propagandist or it seems so to me.


  11. August 19, 2008 at 11:48 pm

    Many evangilists Churches produce “Lemming-congragations.”

    People who follow along with what ever is said by someone else in the church with no thought as to what it is that is said. These people are willing to follow the herd over the clift’s edge without question and without a testimony. This kind of faith is blind faith. I have had extensive experience with this kind of Church as I grew up Lutheren, as I visited a Catholic Church for sunday services 10-20 times a year with my Dad, and as I Investigated a Baptist chrurch for 3.5 years. The normal atmosphear is one of strict conformity of idealogy without the support for resolving any question of statment or docturne.

    When I were to question some athoritive figure of the Lutheren Church I would get vague baseless answers and a summery of, “so that is that and you are to question it no further.”

    When I were to question some athoritive figure of the Catholic Church I would receive stern looks and a shocked glare or a frown both of which made the statment of, “How rude…” or “How Inpudent, this young person dare question me!” With no verbal answer at all, leaving me to wonder if they were keeping the basis for their views a well guarded Secret.

    When I were to question some athoritive figure of the Baptist Church I would get the responce of, (Verbally) “Don’t ask these questions.” or “Read so-and-so’s Book such-and-such, he explains it.” and when I read the book suggested I can only find one small passage that the statment was gleaned from and do not find any answers as to why these people have these views.

    Whith each of these 3 churches I have found people oustersizing me for haveing questioned and not just followed the herd over the edge.

    On the other hand, I get encouragement to finding the answers to my questions in the LDS faith, that is one of the smallest things that attractes me to this paticluar Church.
    In the LDS Church, I hear time and time again the counsel to ask God (go to the ultimate source of truth), test your faith, question and meditate on spiritual matters, Read Scripture, Learn and Teach the Gospel, ect. Basicly we are not to just listen and go along with the crowd, but find out for ourselves, and develop a Personal Testimony of the Gospel. This leads us to develop a Faith based in the Principals of the Gospel, not based on what some guy said last week.

    So, who is it that is leading the “Leammings” over the clift?


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