05
Nov
08

PLAYING WITH FIRE

 

    “Don’t play with fire or you are going to get burned.”  That advice is often given when people are flirting rather than fleeing from temptation.  In our area, there is a set of TV ads that make that point about drug use.  It shows a girl saying that she will use meth only once. That is followed by sobering scenes of what drug addiction does to people.  Although these ads don’t actually use the words, I’m sure that many who see them think of the words, “don’t play with fire”.  Unfortunately, many in our society are not following that advice – and they are getting burned.

     Sadly, I see the same thing happening quite often in the Christian world.  More and more I see people tolerating errors in belief by thinking those errors are not serious.  They see differences in beliefs as good fodder for healthy discussion but not as things that could seriously hurt or even destroy people.  Unfortunately many are getting burned.

     That is why the Bible speaks so strongly against false teachers and prophets.  Jude surely didn’t pull any punches talking about false teachers:  “These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear; clouds they are without water, carried about of winds, trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame. . .” (Jude 12-13)  And that is just a portion of what he wrote.

     Neither did Jesus pull punches when he talked to the Pharisees.  Read the 23rd chapter of Matthew and hear all his woes ring out.  What is so striking about that is that the Pharisees were highly moral and religious individuals. But Jesus still pronounces woes on them.

     The incident that really strikes me is the one recorded in Galatians 2.  There Paul relates how he publicly confronted Peter because he was acting hypocritically by not eating with the Gentiles.  Paul shows how that action was supporting the false belief that circumcision was still required – therefore he comes down hard.  For even a “little” error is dangerous.  “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.”  (Galatians 5:9)  False belief – no matter how “little” we consider it – is dangerous and is not to be tolerated.

     There are two applications that dovetail with the purpose of this blog.  One is that Christians should not do anything that gives the impression that they are tolerating the false beliefs of Mormonism or that those beliefs are not serious.  The second application is that members of the LDS Church who believe that there are errors in the LDS Church should not remain in the LDS Church.  In both cases the saying is true:  Don’t play with fire or you are going to get burned.

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19 Responses to “PLAYING WITH FIRE”


  1. November 6, 2008 at 6:42 am

    Given the wide diversity of Protestantism, it’s fairly clear that you guys tolerate at least some doctrinal differences.

    Again, you are trying to make some absolute divide out of a situation that is actually a matter of degrees.

  2. 2 Brad
    November 6, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    Wrong. Most differences between truly Protestant denominations (e.g. Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, etc…; I would not include Catholics in this, by the way) are not “doctrinal” in nature, as they pertain to salvation. They would be what are called “non-essential” doctrines as they pertain to salvation and core beliefs. It is true that these are items that shouldn’t divide Protestants. As has been said “in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” That applies here.

    However, the differences between Protestants and Mormons are NOT of a non-essential nature – they would be of a basic, essential doctrinal nature, and therefore are something that need to be truly hammered out, and are points that dividing lines need to be set up on.

    Not looking for your agreement, Seth, b/c I know it won’t happen. Just making the point.

  3. November 6, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    Actually Brad, SOME of the disagreements between Mormons and Protestants are of an essential nature. But not all of them are. And extremist both among Mormons and Protestants often try to over-hype nonessential differences to make them LOOK essential when they are really not.

  4. 4 Susan
    November 6, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 3:11

    Obviously, the foundation of Jesus Christ is more than just His Name, since the Bible speaks of “False Christ’s”. It includes what we believe about His nature and His purpose. If our foundation in regards to Christ is wrong, nothing we build on that foundation will matter. I participate in Bible studies with women from many different Christian denominations, and although there are some things we view differently, our view of Christ’s nature and purpose are the same (I’m sure there are extreme cases where this is not true, but that has not been my experience).

    Romans 14:1 speaks of not allowing divisions on disputable matters, “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.” But I think it’s very clear throughout the New Testament that the nature of Christ and what He accomplished for us through His life, death and resurrection doesn’t qualify as a “disputable matter”.

    Our purpose as a follower of Christ is to be witnesses to everyone of who He is and what He came to offer: Eternal Life. I realize there are people out there that are more interested in a debate than to reach people for Christ. But those of us who take Christ’s commission seriously have to address anyone who is teaching of a false Christ….the early Church took this very seriously, and we do too. Not in order to win an argument, or convert them to our “religion” but to hold out Christ’s gift of Eternal Life to all who will receive it.

    I think a lot of times we put the cart before the horse when witnessing to Mormons. I agree there are many falsehoods that need to be brought to light. I also understand that God reaches people with His Truth in a variety of ways. But the central issue is our foundation….I think the other things will become much clearer once that has been established (not always, of course). The foundation of most Christian denominations is the same, but that is not the case when you compare Biblical Christianity with Mormonism. I don’t have the quote, but I believe their founding prophet felt the same way about the importance of the nature of God….that it was foundational.

  5. 5 Brad
    November 6, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    I agree, Susan – well said.

  6. November 6, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    I agree with that Susan.

    The nature of God is a foundational difference between both faiths.

    But the whole grace vs. works debate?

    I’m far from convinced that THAT is a “foundational” difference. So much of it seems to rely on semantics and differences in emphasis. I don’t know that Evangelical and Mormon differences on Christ’s grace really are “fundamental” in nature. But people act like they are.

    Likewise, the issue of a closed canon vs an open canon might not even be as fundamental as some people make it out to be.

    But I agree that the nature of God is both fundamental and foundational and cannot be ignored.

  7. 7 Brad
    November 6, 2008 at 6:51 pm

    Grace v. works – fundamental (how can you call the means of salvation NOT fundamental?)

    Closed v. open canon – fundamental (would drive your entire outlook on scripture, and the validity of other sources as Scripture)

    Seth, while you will make the argument that some things are “not as fundamental as some people make it out to be”, realize that many others make the argument that certain things are “more fundamental than some people make them out to be.”

  8. 8 Susan
    November 6, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    I have to agree that how one receives Eternal Life is fundamental and foundational (grace vs. works). Although how to communicate that effectively to a Mormon is honestly beyond me. I have heard/read many sincere efforts to do this and they all seem to fall on deaf ears. The difference in our beliefs on this seems very obvious to me, but not obvious at all to the Mormons I have encountered. The only explanation I can think of is that the difference is spiritually discerned, and that Mormons do not have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

    “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:14

    “So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Romans 8:8-9

    I have had Mormon missionaries tell me the same thing….that I don’t receive what they are saying as Truth because they are spiritually discerned (implying that I don’t have the Spirit).

  9. November 6, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    Yeah, yeah. We’ve been around this issue before. There is a range of belief on grace vs. works in Mormonism and there is a range in Protestantism as well.

    I do not think the issue is clear cut. All debates I have had on the subject have been ultimately unsatisfying for the purpose of establishing a clear dividing line. This particular debate is a matter of degrees. Not clear black and white divides.

    As far as the canon goes, Protestants I’ve talked have conceded that there COULD be additional scripture brought to light – as long as it met their criteria for reliability, veracity, and orthodoxy. So that’s not clear cut either.

  10. 10 Brad
    November 6, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    Remember, Seth, “not clear cut” to you doesn’t mean that it isn’t “clear cut” to me, or others. Some people, myself included, believe it’s very clear cut.

    Susan’s post above addresses this very well.

  11. 11 booey98
    November 6, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    Unfortunately, a lot of professing Biblical Christians spend very little if any time studying the Bible, or they pick and choose what to believe out of Scripture and toss the rest. I believe that God is very clear in the New Testament….we can KNOW THE TRUTH. Again, I would recommend you go to biblegateway.com or some other online Bible Study resource and do a keyword search on “truth” or “know the truth” or “gospel”. There are definitely elements of the faith that are “meatier” and more difficult to understand, but the Gospel isn’t one of them (2 Peter 2:16). John’s letters talk a lot about not wandering away from the Truth, to hold fast to the gospel they had received. We have that same Gospel, that same Truth, communicated to us through the same Spirit. The mystery has been revealed and preserved for all who are willing to receive it.

  12. 12 Darrell
    November 7, 2008 at 1:40 am

    I have often thought about this issue. In my opinion most of the essential differences between Mormons and Christians stem from differences in two main areas…

    1) The Nature of Man
    2) The Nature of God

    Most of the essential differences when it is really boiled down to it, go back to a difference on these foundational issues. For example, the difference on faith vs. works goes back to a difference on who God is and who man is. Mormons believe that God was once a man who progressed to become a God (Worked to do it). They also believe that man is inherently good (the fall was a GOOD THING) and can progress to become a God himself (work his way to it). Christians believe that there is only one God who was never a man and that man has an inherent sin nature (the fall was a BAD THING). Man can never be good enough, no matter how hard he works, to be with God. Therefore, the gift of going to be with God in heaven can never come from anything we do… it all comes from God. Because of the nature of God He was able to save us. Because of our nature, we can never accomplish it on our own… it has to be a gift. Under mormonism man is essentially good and the fall was good… so of course man has it in his power to be responsible to save himself. We might need God HELP under their theology but the rest is up to us. Mormonism lifts man up (God in embryo) and brings God down (exalted man).

    Another example, the inerrancy of scripture. Mormons believe that man corrupted the bible and that God HAD TO send another man, JS, to restore the truth to the earth. Chrisitans on the other hand believe that God is IN CONTROL. That He is all powerful and all knowing and that He gave us scripture and preserved it. Scripture is His word and the He would not ALLOW IT to be corrupted. Therefore, Christians believe that because God is in control that we can trust what the bible says… we don’t have to second guess it. Mormons don’t really trust that God is in control and so we can’t really trust what the bible says b/c man was able to corrupt it.

    If you can get Mormons to see who God really is and what the nature of man really is a lot of the other essential issues will take care of themselves. Mormons don’t have God “BIG ENOUGH”. If you can get mormons to see how BIG God really is and how insignificant man is compared to Him the rest of the differences will kind of melt away. That is how it worked in mine and my wife’s case anyway.

    Darrell

  13. November 7, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    Darrell, both the Bible and Mormon scripture make it clear that man is both puny and limitless at the same time. Both inherently good and inherently bad. The Book of Mormon clearly outlines the inherent evil in man. In Mosiah 3:19 (a constantly quoted verse in LDS circles) we read:

    “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”

    Also, your statement:

    “Mormons believe that God was once a man who progressed to become a God (Worked to do it).”

    Should be changed to:

    “Mormons ARE ALLOWED to believe that God was once a man who progressed to become a God (Worked to do it), BUT NOT REQUIRED.”

    In fact, I think a closer read of Mormon scripture causes serious problems for this view of God. I’m not saying it isn’t a possibility, but it isn’t airtight either.

    Just because you’ve rejected the “traditions of your fathers” Darrell doesn’t mean you are correctly attributing them to the LDS religion itself.

  14. 14 Susan
    November 7, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    Seth,

    So are you saying that the foundational/fundamental beliefs about the nature of God in Mormonism don’t matter? I’m really confused.

    By the way, Susan and booey98 are the same person (me). I set up a wordpress account so the name changed.

  15. November 7, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    No, where did you get that read of my post from?

    I’m just saying there is a range of belief on these issues. It is inaccurate to paint it as if Mormon belief was monolithically one thing. What Darrell and other ex-Mormons have left is their perception of what Mormonism is, not Mormonism itself.

    I know it just bugs the heck out of some people that God has NOT really told us a whole lot about Himself in certain respects. But that’s what he chose to do, so we’ll have to live with it I’m afraid.

  16. 16 Susan
    November 7, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    “Mormons ARE ALLOWED to believe that God was once a man who progressed to become a God (Worked to do it), BUT NOT REQUIRED.”

    That was the comment I was referring to. You also stated:

    “The nature of God is a foundational difference between both faiths.”

    If the nature of God isn’t defined in Mormonism (I think that it is, but let’s just say you are right for arguments sake), and they are ALLOWED to believe certain things but not REQUIRED, then how can you say that it is a foundational difference between both faiths? If one faith doesn’t have a foundational belief, how can you compare the two?

    Does that question make sense?

  17. 17 Brad
    November 7, 2008 at 6:59 pm

    What Darrell and other ex-Mormons have left is their perception of what Mormonism is, not Mormonism itself.

    So, Seth, what exactly IS Mormonism, then? Be sure to state it accurately WITHOUT using any of YOUR perceptions, which evidently shouldn’t be done.

  18. 18 Darrell
    November 7, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    Seth,

    Just to make it clear… I have left MORMONISM, period. BTW, my perception was and is pretty darn accurate…

    1) I taught early morning seminary
    2) I served as a ward mission leaderm, supervised missionary’s service in our ward and taught the discussions many times
    3) I was asked MANY TIMES to come with the missionaries to help investigators who were interested in the church
    4) I served in the bisphoric for years
    5) I served on the High Council and was sent to speak and share my views openly in wards for years

    With the callings I help it doesn’t appear that the brethren considered my views out of line.
    My views were considered to be right in line with the first presidency’s views. Yours on the other hand are not. Your perception of mormonism just blows my mind. I would love to see you speak in a ward sometime and openly share your views. I wonder how quickly you would end up in the stake president’s office?

    I know you, like Millett, have a burning desire to try and make mormonism seem less dogmatic and more liberal… good luck, it won’t happen.

    Darrell

  19. November 7, 2008 at 11:05 pm

    Millet is much more conservative in many ways than I am. There is nothing in his books that I have read that would raise an eyebrow in most Sacrament Meetings.

    It really depends on what part of the United States or what part of the world your ward is in Darrell.

    Out here in Colorado there tend to be a lot more political liberals than there would be in a ward in Provo Utah. When I served in rural Wyoming, we actually had a rather progressive bishop and a lot of maverick attitudes about doctrine among the membership. I’ve heard of wards on the East Coast US that are extremely liberal in their outlook. And of course, if you go to places like Japan or England, it’s a completely different ball of wax.

    Growing up in rural Southern Utah, the range of opinion was actually pretty broad. I’ve heard of High Priests Quorum meetings in places like Manti that are doctrinally completely off the reservation. And then, there have always been a few eccentrics in almost every ward I’ve lived in. Typically, they are tolerated by everyone else with a knowing smile.

    But, at the end of the day, I really don’t care too much – as a matter of personal belief – about how most of my fellow worshipers are conceptualizing the Gospel. There is a difference between what a religion is and what it’s followers think it is. There are a lot of popular beliefs among Evangelicals that would make a lot of Evangelical ministers wince to hear them. But I would be foolish indeed to reject Evangelicalism based on what its misguided membership thinks and does. Right?

    And don’t kid yourself Darrell. This is a young religious movement. It has changed RADICALLY in the last hundred years. Heck, it has even changed a lot in the last 30 years. Don’t think for a moment it can’t change again.


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