24
Mar
09

Choose the Right

 

     A familiar Mormon expression is, “Choose the Right”.  Where I live, it is common to see the initials CTR (Choose the Right) on rings and other forms of jewelry.  This is a popular way of expressing Mormonism’s teaching of agency, that God has given the people the right and ability to make right choices.  The teaching of agency is one of the foundational teachings of Mormonism.  On it Mormonism builds its whole idea that man has the ability and thus the responsibility to participate in their salvation.  “Agency is essential to the plan of salvation.  Without it, you would not be able to learn or progress or follow the Savior.”  (True to the Faith, p.12)

     This teaching, like many of the teachings of Mormonism, not only has no biblical support, but goes contrary to biblical teaching.  In various ways the Bible describes the utter inability of natural man to do anything right – including making wise choices.   “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.  They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”  (Romans 3:11-12)  That’s pretty clear.  That doesn’t leave room for exceptions.  No one understands.  No one seeks God.  No one does good.  The premise that we have the ability to choose the right would imply that we understood what was right – that we would be seeking God.  By choosing the right we would have done good.  Talk about being on the opposite side of the issue!  Mormonism teaches the direct opposite of what the Bible teaches.

     Salvation is totally the work of God.  Jesus paid for all our sins.  Jesus fulfilled all the requirements of the law for us.  The Holy Spirit creates faith in people’s heart to believe that good news.   There’s no agency – a word or concept that is not found in the Bible. 
Rather it is all about grace – a word and concept that fills the pages of the Bible.

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85 Responses to “Choose the Right”


  1. 1 GB
    March 24, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    It is interesting that to support your point you are quoting Paul, who was referencing Psalms 14:1 and 53:1.

    The ability to choose the right is not Biblical?

    Deut. 30:19 I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:

    Josh 24:15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

    1 Kings 18:21 And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.

    Prov 1:28 Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me:
    29 For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord:

  2. March 24, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    Mark: I’m not sure I’m on board with the basic thesis here. If I understand it, which is a big IF. As GB noted, and he could have quoted many more blocks of similar scripture, choice making seems to run throughout the Bible. The truth of what Paul is communicating, and it is truth, will have to be weighed against other scripture as well. Just off the top of my head, i’d say Romans is NOT a treatise agaisnt choice making, but a well thought out argument, series of arguments for the pre-eminence of Christ and the gospel, and as a corollary, the limited usefulness of the law. Yes men, all men, are depraved, but we are also created in GOD”s imange,and as such, it seems our choices matter. Our very ‘divine nature’ seems to be an argument for our choice-making ability. I don’t see how this runs counter to GRACE, there is NOTHING in our choosing that spells “merit” or “GOD owes me….”.

    I’m willing to talk this out….maybe there’s something here I don’t quite get.
    More later.

    GERMIT

  3. 3 GB
    March 24, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    Germit,

    I am afraid that Peter was correct when he said of Pauls writings,
    2 Pet 3:16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

    “some things hard to be understood” is another way of saying “some things easy to be misunderstood”.

    If we have no choice then we are mere drones or puppets and are no greater than animals.

  4. 4 ladonnamorrell
    March 25, 2009 at 1:19 am

    Mark is the master of “stirring things up”. I don’t for one MINUTE believe that HE believes what he wrote in this post. IMO he is just trying to get a rise out of the Mormons who check out this blog. Then he sits back and watches the fireworks.

    Hey Germie…it sounds to me like you agree with us Mo-dawgs more often than not?

    or is it just wishful thinking?

    your friend
    LaDonna

  5. March 25, 2009 at 1:28 am

    The statement that “there is none that doeth good” does not equal “Total Depravity” Mark. And it’s not just the Mormons who will tell you so (as you well know). Total Depravity is not a requirement of Christian belief.

    Mormons believe in a dual nature in human beings. There is the “natural man” which is an enemy to God. This tends to predominate and probably does taint all we do. Thus Christ’s declaration that none doeth good. But that doesn’t mean we are fundamentally depraved – through-and-through, to the bone. That is wresting the scriptures Mark.

    Humanity does have an inner core that is capable of freely choosing God. Otherwise the entire project outlined in the Bible is a moot point and can be attended to, or ignored without making much difference one way or the other.

    The entire Bible is a TWO-WAY proposition Mark. Both Old and New Testaments. Remove one of the parties, and you’ve got nothing. Just a lonely and bored God playing with His toys.

  6. 6 germit
    March 25, 2009 at 2:40 am

    LaddonnaM: “more often than not…” ??
    no, but it seems I’ve “crossed the aisle” to use a political expression , a few times this past week. I’m not trying to buck heads with our gracious host or my ev. friends, by I decided months ago that agreeing with a Mormon was not a deadly sin. Sure hope I was right about that.

    My theology leans toward the Arminian take on things, so there will be friction points between me and Calvinism/calvinists, BUT I’m trying to keep charity and unity at a high value at the same time. The areas where a Calvinist and I would disagree aren’t make or break issues of entrance into the Kingdom (as far as I know).

    Glad to see you are still hanging around, someone has to help keep GERmIE in check.

    GERMIT

  7. 7 geoff456
    March 25, 2009 at 2:48 am

    Mark,

    It seems to me that this post sounds like the old saying, “the devil made me do it”. I may be wrong, but isn’t that a TOTAL COP OUT?

    Humans CAN make choices. Good and bad. I think the Lord is pleased when we “Choose the Right”.

    Geoff

  8. 8 germit
    March 25, 2009 at 3:06 am

    Just a quick note on “choices” ; the following is from M.Spencer the internetmonk

    “If all Jesus did was help me become good and not GIVE ME all things necessary for adoption, justification, eternal life, etc. I wouldn’t get within a hundred miles of Christianity.”

    the GOSPEL is not fundamentally about choosing right from wrong, but about going from dead to alive; we do right things in gratitude from being raised from the dead, similar to Lazarus.

    The CHOICE to accept Jesus , on HIS terms, into HIS Kingdom, is an important one and is as much a work of GOD as it is a decision of ours.

    hope this makes GERMIT’s position clearer.

  9. 9 ADB
    March 25, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    ADB (post #13 from “Reconciliation”:

    “It’s hard for me to struggle with what I see as a blatant contradiction coming from the LDS view. To me it is such an obvious and clear contradiction, but none in the LDS seem to recognize it. Your closing thoughts expressed it again: “And He certainly does deserve all the credit for everything good in our lives and 100% of our salvation. But again, we must do our part …” I just don’t see how God can get 100% of the credit when his 100% credit is dependent on us “doing our part.” If we’re “doing our part,” then how can God still be doing 100%? I can’t seem to reconcile it.”

    GB (post #14 from “Reconciliation”:

    “I can give God credit for my breathing. Who does the breathing for me, me or God?

    I can give God credit for the food on my table. Who put the food on my table, me or God? Did He do it all? Did I have a part in the process? Did I use the resource/talents He gave me to do my part? Did I have a choice in doing my part or was I forced (predestined?) to do my part?

    Did God build my house? Can I give Him credit for providing it to me? Did He just give it to me or did He provide me with the opportunity to do part?

    Did God build my car? Can I give Him credit for providing it to me?

    If I just sit back and do NOTHING will God put food on my table?

    If no food shows up on my table, whose fault is it, mine or Gods?”

    You are not seriously taking credit for breathing, are you? Something that God has designed your body to do on its own that you don’t give a conscious thought to whatsoever?? In each of your illustrations I guess I would point to an infant, who has food to eat, a place to sleep, and travels around as needed. Would you credit the infant for doing any of those things? I wouldn’t. I think mom and/or dad would get the credit. So yes, the infant does NOTHING, and yet is taken care of. I have done NOTHING, and yet God has taken care of me, not only physically, but spiritually.

    Maybe I’m spinning my wheels here, but what do all of Paul’s references to the dead being made alive in Christ have to do with anything if, as the LDS seem to imply, there’s this little itty bitty part of us that is already alive and is able to choose the right? I’m not trying to be facetious, I’m simply trying to reconcile how a dead person can do anything. I’m wondering what Paul’s talking about if not referring to the unregenerate, naturally sinful man being dead in his sin. Please help.

  10. 10 ADB
    March 25, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Germit,

    God’s image was lost with the Fall into sin. Notice how Adam’s first child was not born in God’s image, but in Adam’s (his sinful flesh was passed down to his children, and has been passed down throughout history to everyone born of a natural father/mother–we refer to this as “inherited” or “original” sin), which is quite different from how Adam and Eve were created, in God’s image.

    God’s image (his holiness and perfection) is only restored through faith. Man is no longer naturally born in God’s image ever since the Fall (cf. Genesis 6:5 – “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that EVERY INCLINATION of the thoughts of his heart were only evil all the time.”).

  11. 11 ADB
    March 25, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    Germit,

    Lazarus could only do good after he had been raised from the dead, right? He didn’t consciously choose to be raised from the dead. God raised him.

    So God “raises us from the dead” spiritually. As to why not everyone will receive the benefits of having been “raised” (i.e. salvation), well, that’s not on God, but rather on their preference to reject what he’s done for them and their preference to “stay dead.” In no way did they CHOOSE to be made alive.

    That at least explains the foundations of my understanding of what Mark is talking about.

  12. March 25, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    ADB, the fact that we didn’t choose some things doesn’t mean that we are incapable of choosing anything.

    Also, just because God has mercifully decided to do some things for us does not mean that He has decided to do everything for us.

    Like I said. You think like a Calvinist. You are assuming a universe where God exercises meticulous control, and is the direct cause of everything in the universe. Deny all you want, the Calvinist universe is the only one where your remarks make any sense.

  13. 13 GB
    March 25, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    ADB, and Mark,

    You seem to only focus on God’s part of the salvation process and ignore our individual part.

    There is no question that God is and was ready, able and willing to do His part. We need to worry less about Him doing His part and worry more about us doing our part.

    2 Nephi 2:26 And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.
    27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.

    2 Nephi 10:23 Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life.
    24 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, 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.

  14. 14 markcares
    March 25, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    Ladonna:
    Be assured that I believe what I post. There are some issues that are too serious to be played with. I believe that the issue of where one spends eternity is such an issue. Whether you agree with my theology or not, please be assured that my motivation is not to just stir things up. My motivation is to bear my testimony to the truth.

  15. 15 markcares
    March 25, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    Seth:
    Thank you for addressing the passage in the post. I would like to focus the discussion a little more sharply to the phrase, “there is none that seeketh God.” Does none mean none? What does seeketh mean to you? In your mind, does this only happen after God has taken the iniative? If so, how does that square with Mormonism’s teaching of agency?
    By the way, millions of Christians who aren’t Calvinists believe like how I posted. I’m not a Calvinist.

  16. 16 markcares
    March 25, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    ADB:

    Good question about resurrection. Here is how one LDS person responded back in August. “Lazerus had the choice then but I am unclear what will transpire on “The last day.” Maybe we all will have a choice but prefer to be resurected, I cannot say as I have not experienced the last day yet.”

    Ladonna, Seth, GB, or any other LDS person, do you agree? Do you agree that Lazarus had a choice and could have remained in the grave? Do you believe that some people on the last day will have the choice not to be resurretted?

  17. 17 GB
    March 25, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Mark,

    The choice to receive a physical body was already made, prior to coming here, by all who are born here on earth. God didn’t force us to take it.

    All who are born, through the Atonement of Christ, will be saved from death and receive an immortal body of flesh and bones similar to Jesus’ immortal body of flesh and bones.

  18. March 25, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    ADB and Mark, I don’t think Lazarus had a choice about being raised from the dead any more than the Red Sea had a choice in whether to be parted.

    I just happen to think it’s also irrelevant to the discussion. I think it’s an inappropriate analogy that you’ve drawn from the story.

    I’m sure you are aware Mark that there are alternative explanations for the sort of control God exercises over the universe. Is it not possible that God is CAPABLE of absolutely controlling everything in the universe – just the way Calvin said (“meticulous control”) – but CHOOSES not to? And is it not possible that SOMETIMES God exercises absolute control (as he did over the Red Sea), but at other times does not exercise such control?

    What is stopping God from placing limitations ON HIMSELF in order to fulfill a greater desired aim?

    I believe that free and loving relationships are that aim. I also believe they are impossible under either Calvinist or Arminian models.

  19. 19 ADB
    March 25, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    GB,

    The talk of choosing to be born physically into this world is a Mormon teaching that comes from some source other than the Bible, right? At least that’s what I recall about it–I think that is a teaching that is unique to the LDS.

    Seth,

    You had asked for me to try to explain why you should buy into my version of God/faith (I’m paraphrasing you) with something other than Scripture. While I’m sure you’re aware that my understanding is that Scripture alone is the means by which the Holy Spirit convinces people of his truths, here’s my feeble attempt at explaining it through an analogy:

    I love my wife dearly. I would literally do anything for her. I love to make her happy. I love to complete her “honey-do” lists. I love to see her happy.

    I love that she takes such good care of me. I love that she is such an amazing mother to our children. I love everything about her.

    It breaks my heart when I say or do something that hurts her. I hate disappointing her. I hate seeing her sad. I hate letting her down. I’ve done all of these things to her on occasion.

    In spite of it all, she loves me. She loves me unconditionally. She loves me even though I don’t love her perfectly. When it comes down to everything that I love about her, the one thing that stands out above everything is this: I love that she loves me in spite of me.

    That’s the best I can do in terms of my relationship with God. When I read in his Word what he expects of me, I see nothing but reminders of how I fail him in my thoughts, words, and deeds. He wants me to be perfect. I fail. He’s clearly told me what I deserve because of it. Yet in spite of my failures, he loves me. He loves me not because of who I am, or more accurately, who I am not, but because of who HE is.

    That is why I want to please him with everything that I am. He loved me first. I can’t help but reflect in my life how much I appreciate that from him.

    That’s it for now. I’ll probably re-read this later and have to clarify myself … but that’s at least an attempt.

  20. March 25, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    WOW: Seth, Love the last post; Mark and ADB, I think Seth’s points are carrying more weight than what I’ve heard so far from your (our?) side. How ironic :-) Think about it: do you REALLY want to follow out the Lazarus incident in EVERY detail to model how conversion goes ?? OK, GERMIT brought it up, because it underlines the “from death to life” message that I think GOD was getting across. Of what use is teaching, preaching, witnessing, exhorting, reasoning, debating, contending, (add more verbs HERE…..) if you want to make the audience of all those actions INCAPABLE of any kind of response ??? IF that’s your point, you’ve just made a LOT of scripture purely irrelevant.

    I’m still working on what ‘dead in our trespasses and sins” means exactly, but I think some here have stumbled into some less than helpful literalism in their appoach to the text. For starters, as our LDS friends are very helpful to point out, REPENT is not a suggestion, it’s a command. Does a person become born again and THEN repent ??? I dont’ think so. We need to rethink what “dead men” can (and should) do .

    ADB: more on the “image of GOD” later: safe to say I disagree with you on that one too….must be my contrarian nature, or bad pizza or something :-)

    LaddonnaM: STOP SMIRKING or that expression will FREEZE on your face.

    GERMIT

  21. March 25, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    ADB,

    I believe, and all Mormons I know believe, that God loves us unconditionally.

    It is because He loves us unconditionally, that He refuses to do “100%” for us, but rather allows us to have part in the relationship.

    germit,

    Rest assured, I’m not smirking. Nor do I read your comments as “score one for the Mormons.” I am well aware that there are many among traditional Christians who prize human free agency just as highly as Mormons do. We don’t have a monopoly on the idea of human free will.

  22. 22 ADB
    March 25, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    Germit,

    “Of what use is teaching, preaching, witnessing, exhorting, reasoning, debating, contending, (add more verbs HERE…..) if you want to make the audience of all those actions INCAPABLE of any kind of response ???”

    Of what use? I guess because it’s what God has commanded us to do … “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” Then, once faith is planted in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, we are encouraged to grow in that faith (2 Peter 3:18).

    No one comes to faith without hearing God’s Word. No one grows in faith without hearing God’s Word. At least that’s what the Bible says.

    It seems to me that the flip side of the argument works as well. If man is capable of choosing to come to God, then why do we need the Bible? Get rid of it. Toss it out. We’re fine on our own without it.

  23. 23 ladonnamorrell
    March 25, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    oh, it isn’t a smirk….more like a cheesy GRIN!! The Gospel(according to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) makes perfect sense..all the time! i peaked in on darrels blog and he has a post on CHOICE!! funny, huh?

  24. 24 ADB
    March 25, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    Seth,

    If God loves us unconditionally, which means that he allows us to have a part in the relationship (I would state it differently: “He has MADE us a part of the relationship that he wants to have with us”), then what does that say about those who don’t take part in the relationship? Does it say that God doesn’t love them unconditionally?

    I’m not being difficult–just trying to understand. As I’ve already stated previously, I cannot in my mind reconcile “unconditional love” with a condition that must be met to benefit from the “unconditional love.” If he refuses to do 100% of the work, then it’s something less than unconditional. There is, by definition, some sort of condition attached to it. You may disagree, but I don’t think you can use the term “unconditional” to describe the type of love you’re talking about. By definition it has to be something less, something conditional.

  25. 25 GB
    March 25, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    ADB: The talk of choosing to be born physically into this world is a Mormon teaching that comes from some source other than the Bible, right? At least that’s what I recall about it–I think that is a teaching that is unique to the LDS.

    GB: It is obvious that God is not in the business of compelling His children to accept Him or His plan for our salvation and exaltation. God giving us the opportunity to follow His plan and come to earth to receive a body of flesh is consistent with the Character of God. This choice was given to us while we were all in the presence of God prior to the physical creation of earth.

    Many people who are not LDS are entirely comfortable with the concept of a life before this life. Many see this mortal life as nothing more than a temporary way station on some cosmic journey. Consider a small portion of a poem by William Wordsworth:

    Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
    The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
    Hath had elsewhere its setting,
    And cometh from afar:
    Not in entire forgetfulness,
    And not in utter nakedness,
    But trailing clouds of glory do we come
    From God, who is our home:
    Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

    William Wordsworth (1770–1850), Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.

    A common question faced by parents, holding their newborn child for the first time, is where this tiny miracle comes from. The origin of the child’s physical body is obvious, but the beginnings of personality evident at the earliest stages of child development are easiest explained through an understanding that our spirits—which make up our personality—do not have their beginnings in the womb. Indeed, they hearken back to an earlier time, as so aptly stated by Wordsworth.

    It is certainly true that the LDS are not the only people to believe in a premortal life. In fact, many scholars (both LDS and non-LDS) find strong evidence for a belief in premortal life in the writings and teachings of the early Christian fathers. While these teachings may have been dropped from the rote canon of the church, there is little doubt that they were understood and espoused from the earliest recorded times.

    For instance, Clement of Alexandria, commenting on the scriptural passage in Jer. 1:5 (which is also addressed more fully in the next section), generalized the doctrine as having universal application. He wrote:

    “…the Logos is not to be despised as something new, for even in Jeremiah the Lord says, ‘Say not “I am too young,” for before I formed thee in the womb I knew thee, and before thou camest forth from thy mother I sanctified thee.’ It is possible that in speaking these things the prophet is referring to us, as being known to God as faithful before the foundation of the world.”[Clement of Alexandria, in Patrologiae… Graeca, 8:321, as cited by Hugh W. Nibley, The World and the Prophets, 3rd edition, (Vol. 3 of Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, Gary P. Gillum, and Don E. Norton, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1987), 228. ISBN 087579078X.]

    Another church father that spoke directly to the idea of a premortal existence was Origen of Alexandria (ca. AD 185–254). Writing in the third century, he stated a belief that differences evident among men on earth were attributable to differences in rank and glory attained by those men as premortal angels. According to Origen, God could not be viewed as “no respecter of persons” without such a premortal existence. In fact, if the differences of men on earth were not related in some way to our premortal condition, then God could be viewed as arbitrary, capricious, and unjust. Origen felt that just as there would a judgment after this life, that a sort of judgment had already taken place based on our premortal merit, with the result being the station to which we were appointed in this life. As an example of this concept supported in the Bible, Origen referred to the Old Testament story of Jacob being preferred over Esau. Why was this so? According to Origen, because “we believe that he was even then chosen by God because of merits acquired before this life.”[Origen, Peri Archon, in Patrologiae… Graeca 9:230–231, as cited by Hugh W. Nibley, The World and the Prophets, 3rd edition, (Vol. 3 of Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, Gary P. Gillum, and Don E. Norton, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1987), 230.]

    Belief in a premortal life was not confined to various early church fathers. In the course of his writings the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus wrote about the beliefs of the Essenes. He reported they believed “that the souls are immortal, and continue for ever.” He further related that the Essenes believed that the souls of men “are united to their bodies as in prisons” and that when the spirits are set free they are “released from a long bondage” and ascend heavenward with great rejoicing.[Wars of the Jews, Chapter VIII, 11. translated by William Whiston, A.M., in The Complete Works of Josephus (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1981), 478.] Josephus’ description of Essene doctrine has surely taken on greater validity in light of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran. Together these records provide primary evidence that contemporaries of Christ and the apostles believed in a premortal life—a belief that is validated by the Bible itself, as discussed in the following section.

    These historical citations are just the tip of the iceberg. Serious students of the topic can find additional information that verifies that ancient Christians and Jews understood and accepted the concept of premortal existence. While knowing that the concept has historical roots does not prove the concept to be true.

  26. March 25, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    ADB, God’s love in Mormonism is unmerited and unconditional. You don’t have to be baptized to be loved by God. You don’t have to go to the temple, pay your tithing, be honest, or even love God in return. He loves you period.

    He even loves His child Lucifer. So much it hurts.

    But that doesn’t mean everyone gets into heaven without making their own choices on the matter. You seem to be confusing God’s love with LIVING with God.

    Two separate issues. Don’t conflate them.

    “If man is capable of choosing to come to God, then why do we need the Bible? Get rid of it. Toss it out. We’re fine on our own without it.”

    If man is capable of choosing God, he would still need guidance from the Bible and other sources to help him do so. You have to know what you are choosing before you can choose it.

    “No one grows in faith without hearing God’s Word.”

    I was listening to the Dali Lama speak a few months ago. There were portions of what he said that deeply touched me, and I knew I was hearing “God’s Word.”

  27. March 25, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    ADB: you wrote

    No one comes to faith without hearing GOD”s Word. No one grows in faith without hearing GOD’s Word. At least that’s what the Bible says.

    It seems to me that the flip side of the argument works as well. If man is capable of choosing to come to God, then why do we need the Bible? Get rid of it. Toss it out. We’re fine on our own without it.

    As to the first two lines: EXACTLY: and hearing with an implied, or not so implied imperative to RESPOND IN FAITH. Doesn’t this sometimes happen incrementally, where the Holy Spirit woos someone one step at a time ?? These are rhetorical questions….if this is so, we are balking at the idea of someone making choices that matter in regards to their salvation ?? Note , I didn’t say “earn an audience with GOD’, or even “merit a response FROM GOD….” and as to HEARING the Word, doesn’t that mean automatically a WILLINGNESS to HEAR ?? Not everyone will sit still for a gospel message being preached ??

    Bottom line: the Bible is full of moral free agency….you can lean on all this being pre-destined and GOD ordained if you want, but aren’t human choices in operation here (GRACE filled, though they are) ??

    Your last point is kind of odd, of course the Bible is necessary, no one is putting forward the idea that man has WITHIN HIMSELF all the resources to come to GOD just because his (man’s ) choices matter. You’ve made a bit of a stsw man there. I’m seeing conversion as BOTH a human and supernatural enterprise (NOT necessarily in equal amounts, we can figure out the ratio on the other side of eternity) It feels bizarre to type it, but I’m with Seth on this: to think otherwise is to buy into a less than biblical view of humanity.

    Comments welcome
    GERmIT

    along with the free agency thing, it should be readily apparent that orthodox christians hold different views on the depravity of man, and what that means exactly; or to put it in a positive, what does it mean that man does (or did) hold the IMAGE OF GOD. I, for one, do not think man lost GOD’s image (totally) at the fall; there is a “GOD like-ness” that all men have, this is not holiness or righteousness or a right desire/heart; this would be an interesting topic all it’s own, more on that later.

  28. March 25, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    ADB: this may be a case where as evangelicals, we’ve been sloppy in accepting a description of something (CONVERSION) that is less than true, or not as good as it could be; you wrote

    I’m not being difficult–just trying to understand. As I’ve already stated previously, I cannot in my mind reconcile “unconditional love” with a condition that must be met to benefit from the “unconditional love.” If he refuses to do 100% of the work, then it’s something less than unconditional. There is, by definition, some sort of condition attached to it. You may disagree, but I don’t think you can use the term “unconditional” to describe the type of love you’re talking about. By definition it has to be something less, something conditional.

    well, OK, seen this way lets state clearly that GOD’s love , as it is EXPERIENCED by the believer is certainly CONDITIONAL. I know that blows our ev. paradigm, we’re use to throwing that word around, but maybe we’ve played a little fast and loose with it: how much of GOD’s love is experienced if we don’t REPENT and OBEY. Precious little. My stars, I’m sounding like every Mormon poster I’ve talked to for the last year !!!! But isn’t this true?? That doesn’t mean we DESERVE GOD’S response, or have a claim to it, but without our response, GOD has a heart of love for us that is unrequited. Isn’t that so ?? He WAITS for our response, really as believers or unbelievers (I don’t think the process is that different other than as believers we do this with the indwelling companionship of the Holy Spirit).

    Take a closer look at your phrase “condition that must be met….” I’d suggest that it doess indeed need to be met, but that does not, nor ever will make us GOD’s debtor: HE owes us NOTHING…..but HE waits for the heart to CHOOSE repentance and bowing of the knee. You seem to think (I’m guessing here a little) that to honor this choice making ability would take away something of what GOD does….. am I right with that ??

    LaddonnaM: cheesey grin….yeah, well, I’d say “smoke ’em if ya got ’em….” but I can’t use that one with you very well can I….???? I’ll check out Darrells post later, grazi…

  29. 29 GB
    March 25, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    Germit,

    If you keep this up, we will have to strike up a chorus of kumbaya or something. :-)

  30. March 25, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    GB: don’t forget the smores…..and hot chocalate….is it too late for a campfire ??

  31. 31 ADB
    March 26, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    Seth,

    “It is because He loves us unconditionally, that He refuses to do “100%” for us, but rather allows us to have part in the relationship.”

    I’m struggling with this. The only thing that keeps coming to mind is a father giving his son a gift, but before the son opens the gift, dad says, “Now in order for you to really appreciate this free gift I want to give you the opportunity to feel the satisfaction of helping cover the cost, so I’ll let you give me whatever you can–a dollar, five dollars, or whatever you can–to contribute toward this “free” gift. Then it’s all yours.”

    Sounds off to me.

    I think one of the differences at hand (not just between Christianity and Mormonism, but really between Christianity and any other religion) is that in everywhere but Christianity (and sadly, even in some strains of Christianity today) there is this perception that if we take away the requirements of the law, then people won’t be good. “If we make no requirement, then what reason do people have to be obedient? If we don’t have that requirement in place, then everyone will just do whatever he wants to.” Is that an accurate summary of the LDS take?

  32. March 26, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    The problem is you are still thinking that I’m saying the kid has to “earn” something here.

    It’s not about the kid earning the money for the gift. It’s about the kid having enough self-respect in himself to accept it in the first place. If Jesus just storms into the scene loudly declaring “I’ve done everything for you, come, let’s have a party” is the person ever going to really benefit from it?

    Go back to the parable of the Prodigal Son. Did the son do nothing to return to his father?

    No. He did do something.

    He repented. And he went back. ON HIS OWN.

    The father did not controllingly go to the pigsty, lovingly yank his son out, tell him “it’s all right, daddy’s here now.” The father WAITED for the son to return. When the son “came to himself” he decided ON HIS OWN to return. THEN father ran out to him and embraced him as a son again.

    All these ordinances in the LDS tradition, all of these requirements for repentance. They are the JOURNEY home. We have to decide and re-decide to come home to our Father. He will not force any of us into heaven, even if we’ve had a “born again” moment at an Evangelical rally. There is always a human choice in our relationship with the Father. You can ALWAYS fall from grace after receiving it once.

    Otherwise a mockery is made of human freedom and God’s divine purposes for us.

  33. 33 GB
    March 26, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    ADB,

    It seems that you are suffering from MDS (Mormon Derangement Syndrome). Try to separate “Christianity” from “Mormonism” with this issue, but then acknowledging that “even . . . some strains of Christianity” are separate from “Christianity”. (As if you are the person that gets to define “real” Christianity).

    In general, will a child really appreciate something that they put absolutely no effort for? If you give your child a car with all of the things that go with it, with no strings, conditions or requirements, will they really appreciate it and take care of it? (Especially if the know that you will just replace it with a new one if they destroy it.)

    NOT likely!!!!

    Even if you require them to 1)get good grades, 2)pay for their own gas, 3) pay for their own insurance, 4) take a defensive driving course, 5) keep their room clean, 6) take out the garbage, 7) mow the lawn, 8) other forms of obedience, does mean that the car was NOT a gift? I don’t think so!!!

    Do the indolent appreciate what the rest of us are giving them through the welfare program? No!!! In fact, after a while they begin to think that they are ENTITLED to the fruits of our labors. They begin to think that we HAVE to give it to them because we OWE it to them.

    Do you think that you are ENTITLED (no obedience required) to the fruits of Christs labor?

    Do you think that Christ OWES (no obedience required) salvation to you?

    I don’t think so.

    Germit: is it too late for a campfire?

    GB: Nah!! it is still March. :-)

  34. March 26, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    GB, you have to be careful with such analogies though. You have to make sure you don’t suggest that the child is somehow “earning” the car with those good deeds.

    As a father, I would be willing (perhaps) to provide such a gift to my child, but only if I felt that the RELATIONSHIP between my child was one of proper affection and respect. If my child was just being a little snot and not respecting me or showing any affection, I wouldn’t want to provide the vehicle. In fact, I think the vehicle would damage my child even more than my wallet in such an instance. Provided the RELATIONSHIP is good, the car is freely given.

    But let’s not pretend that mowing lawns “earns” a car. We all know it doesn’t even come close to that kind of monetary value.

    The disparity is even worse when you are talking about salvation.

  35. 35 GERMIT
    March 26, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    ADB: you are dodging Seth’s main point,and I think mine also; Seth wrote

    Go back to the parable of the Prodigal Son. Did the son do nothing to return to his father?

    No. He did do something.

    He repented. And he went back. ON HIS OWN.

    It’s not just the prodigal son….this motif runs throughout the NT; effort on our part does not have to mean merit or earning something. I’m still working thru what Romans 3 is all about, but I’ll repeat, whatever it means, the NT seems to be very clear that our choices, EVEN AS UNBELIEVERS make a difference;

    You seem to mixing two different topics: how works pertain to salvation and moral free agency; I’m not so sure these things belong together: we can be moral free agents and not be “earning” or “meriting” anything.

    comments welcome
    GERMIT

  36. 36 GB
    March 26, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    Seth,

    As you know, all analogies break down at some point.

    And also, as you know, the difference between the analogy of the child and the car and salvation is that it is actually possible for the child to earn the car on his own, not through good deeds (or obedience) but by getting a job and earning all of the money to buy the car, and all that goes with it, whereas it is NOT possible for us to earn salvation ON OUR OWN. It is beyond our capabilities.

    But we will not receive the gift of eternal life if we are not obedient. The scriptures are quite clear on this.

    We can only wait and see if someone will try to twist my analogy beyond its breaking point. :-)

  37. 37 GB
    March 26, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    Germit,

    A summary of Rom 3.

    Man is not justified by the law of Moses—He is justified through righteousness which is by faith in Christ, made possible through his atoning sacrifice. :-)

  38. 38 GERMIT
    March 26, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    Saw this just now over at internetmonk and thot it fit our thread. I don’t know which christisan group Nora belongs to.

    on 24 Mar 2009 at 6:28 pm Nora
    Kelly said “…saving faith is not our response– it’s receiving something that God gives us single-handedly”.
    But receiving IS a response; receive is a verb, an action word. I have never quite gotten this notion that we as humans do nothing. We don’t earn our salvation, true, but…. I like to think of it as the old Japanese soldiers found hiding in the jungle many years after WWII, hiding there and not realizing the war was over. But the war WAS over, no matter what they thought or did; they had no part in that, did not cause it, did not control it. But, when they were told that the war was over, they had to act on the knowledge of that fact, leave the jungle, and go home or refuse to believe it and stay in the jungle. The war was still over, even if they did nothing, but they would not be a part of the peace if they did not respond. Jesus death and resurrection ended our war with God, but if we don’t respond to that, we are, like the soldiers, staying in the jungle and continuing the fight.

    I thot this was a good picture: we can fight GOD, or go with HIM, this isn’t a question or works vs. faith; it’s a question of response to GOD’s love, or trying to ignore HIM.

  39. 39 ADB
    March 26, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    One thing at a time, as I have time during the day …

    Point to the prodigal son, and I would respond by saying that it was the father who ran out to meet his son … “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (v. 20). Yes, the son returned to the father–big deal–that’s nothing more than common sense. How could anyone actually take credit for not being a moron? Notice the father is the one taking action before the son expresses anything whatsoever. For all the father knows, the son could have been coming back to curse his dad for giving him the money, or any other possibility. Point being, the father took action as soon as he saw the son, not because he knew the son was sorry (how could he–he hadn’t opened his mouth yet), but because he was moved by compassion for his son (NOT delight in his expressed sorry). Notice also throughout the rest of the parable when explaining why all the joy over the son’s return, there is NO mention by anyone on rejoicing that the son saw the error of his ways or said he was sorry or anything like that. Rather, the father just focuses on the fact that his son is back (not WHY he’s back).

    I anticipate we could go back and forth on this whole issue, but as I am accused of “avoiding” this parable, I have yet to hear a satisfactory response for Jesus’ “You didn’t choose me, but I chose you,” or the first chapter of John, which states that we are born children of God NOT by human decision. To me those passages are clear enough. God picked me, not the other way around.

    Here’s another issue I need clarification on:

    “But we will not receive the gift of eternal life if we are not obedient.”

    Who defines “obedience?” What is “obedience?” God says it’s all or nothing. What I hear from the LDS is a VERY subjective “try” for obedience and God does the rest. That’s not what the Bible says. Maybe its found in Nephi or some other book or maybe the fathers taught that …

    On the one hand no LDS seem to be afraid of hell, but on the other, “we will not receive the gift of eternal life if we are not obedient.” So what’s in between? I’m just lost trying to keep up with the talk that seems to come out of both sides of the mouth.

    Also, GB, for what it’s worth, if my parents had given me a car with no strings attached, I’m pretty sure I would have appreciated it very much and taken pretty darn good care of it BECAUSE it was so graciously given with no strings attached. Not sure I agree with that illustration (but that’s OK, as I’m sure many of mine have not hit the point either:)

  40. March 26, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    ADB,

    “You didn’t choose me, but I chose you,”

    So what.

    That doesn’t mean you’re going to heaven ADB.

  41. 41 GB
    March 26, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    ADB: Also, GB, for what it’s worth, if my parents had given me a car with no strings attached, I’m pretty sure I would have appreciated it very much and taken pretty darn good care of it BECAUSE it was so graciously given with no strings attached.

    GB: That is why I prefaced my analogy with “In general”, knowing full well that there are non-typical exceptions to the typical teenager.

    It is easy to claim a that you would respond to a hypothetical situation in a certain way, especially now that you are an adult. But what you CLAIM you would do now, doesn’t in any way change the accuracy of the analogy nor the point it was meant to support. :-)

  42. 42 GERMIT
    March 26, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    ADB: sounds like you are having a busy day; thanks for the post. I don’t have much new to say for now, I’d like to take a closer look at “you did not choose me, but I chose you….” certainly if Jesus said it, I believe it, but I’m a very firm believer in comparing scripture with scripture, so let me chase that down and respond on that verse a little later.

    As to the parable, you bring up points that are not really at all an issue with me: I’ve been very clear throughout my posts that GOD is a ridiculous giver, and ALWAYS takes initiative: HE gives first and best….so that’s not really a point that’s on the table. You say “no big deal” to the prodigal’s actions, but without them, what does he get ? Sure, they aren’t much in comparison to the Father’s lavish grace filled heart of love, but the point we were talking about was how important were the son’s choices, do they matter ? Nothing in your post says otherwise.

    If MARK is reading this: what is it about the lDS notion of free agency that is ant–biblical ? could you flesh this out a bit, I don’t quite get it, yet.

  43. 43 GB
    March 26, 2009 at 9:11 pm

    The context of John 15:16 (also see John 6:70) is that Jesus is speaking to the 12. Although what he said to them specifically applies to all of his chosen and ordained servants. Although a separate topic this verse clearly shows that the Biblical church had a top down authority structure. This point is supported by Heb 5:4.

    John 15:16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

    Heb 5:4 And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.

    Now back to the topic.

    Jesus also said Matt 22:14 For many are called, but few are chosen. (See vs 1-14 for context). This parable clearly shows that for the called ones to just show up, isn’t enough to merit selection.

    Jesus also said “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” John 13:17

    Choose the right when the choice is placed before you.
    In the right, the Holy Spirit guides.

  44. 44 ADB
    March 27, 2009 at 4:04 am

    One more as far as the whole ability to “choose the right” … how does Hebrews 11:6 play into this? I would take “without faith it is impossible to please God” as an indicator that it is impossible for the unregenerate/unbeliever/heathen/pagan to “choose the right.”

    Let me have it:)

  45. March 27, 2009 at 4:08 am

    Faith is a CHOICE ADB. An ACTION.

    Try again.

  46. 46 ADB
    March 27, 2009 at 6:30 am

    And yet Eph. 2:8 seems to refer to it as a gift … quite clearly might I add. So does faith as a “choice” please God? I would think so, and yet according to Hebrews 11:6 one can’t please God without faith.

    Sorry to keep bringing up Scripture, as it is becoming more and more clear that Scripture alone does not hold all that much weight among some LDS. I just don’t know any other way, but I will keep trying.

  47. 47 GERMIT
    March 27, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    ADB, you wrote
    So does faith as a “choice” please God? I would think so, and yet according to Hebrews 11:6 one can’t please God without faith.

    ADB I don’t understand the holdup on the second part of your sentence. what’s the problem with GOD being pleased when we CHOOSE FAITH ?? Many translations of the NT have “trust in” or “cling to” or “rely on” when the word FAITH is used. Isn’t GOD pleased when we choose to cling to, trust in, and rely on HIM ?? These aren’t just actions that GOD ‘zaps us” with, aren’t we involved ???

    OF course it is ALL a gift, in HIM we live and move and have our being. Are you OK with the possibility that GOD’s initiating givingness, and our action/response might be two sides to the same coin ?? One does not have to preclude , or preempt the other.

    You seem to see the verses that show us GOD’s sovereignty, but have a tougher time seeing the verses where we as humans do something.

    I appreciate the dialogue.

    GERMIT

  48. 48 GERMIT
    March 27, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    ADB: simple question: doesn’t an unregenerate man/woman CHOOSE to have faith ?? If they do, THAT is how (at that exact instant) they please GOD, and at that moment, it’s not a “works” thing, it’s a clinging to GOD thing.

    thoughts welcome

  49. 49 GB
    March 27, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    ADB: And yet Eph. 2:8 seems to refer to it (faith) as a gift … quite clearly might I add.

    GB: ADB don’t you see the contradiction in that sentence? First you say “seems” and then you say “quite clearly”.

    Do you know what “seems” means? Do you know what “quite clearly” means?

    You are forcing your opinion into that verse. The gift in that verse is SALVATION not faith.

    Now you could have quoted,
    1 Cor 12:8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
    9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
    10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:

    Notice that the Spirit can give faith, but it is not generally given to all.

    Also notice that Mark 16:17 clearly declares that these gifts of the Spirit (signs) FOLLOW the believers. In other words belief/faith first then signs/gifts of the Spirit follow.

    Nice try though.

  50. 50 ADB
    March 27, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    GB,

    Come on now, you do that routinely in your posts: “Doesn’t this seem to indicate that?” In other words, you believe something, and you are trying to convince those who disagree that a particular passage seems to support you. Please give me a little bit of a break.

    Actually, I’m forcing nothing. The Greek very much allows the “gift” to refer back to either “grace” or “faith.” Since Paul also uses a Greek work that clearly makes the point that we are saved “through” (dia) faith and not “by” or “because of” faith, it is just as likely to assume Paul was emphasizing faith’s role in salvation as he was the role of grace. Both are gifts.

    The 1 Cor. reference would apply to believers, but not unbelievers. My point all along is that unbelievers are unable to come to faith, which leads me to …

    Germit,

    The problem with God being “pleased when we CHOOSE faith” is that Hebrews 11:6 rules that out. It says that without faith one cannot please God. “Choosing” faith assumes that prior to that “choice” the person didn’t have faith. He was an unbeliever. He couldn’t please God because he didn’t have faith. Does that help clarify?

    Seth,

    “Faith is a CHOICE ADB. An ACTION.”

    That appears to be the prevailing thought among the LDS. The only problem I see is that Scripture constantly contrasts faith and actions, clearly making a distinction between them and saying that one saves and the other does not. I don’t know where we get the license to define “faith” or “believing” almost synonymously with effort/action/obedience when so often in the Bible it means no such thing (e.g., “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith APART from observing the law” – notice how faith and observing the law are clearly distinguished).

    “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and [ALL] are justified (declared “not guilty”) FREELY (“at no cost to us”) by his grace (“undeserved love”) through the redemption (“buying back” from Satan) that came by Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:23, 24). I fail to see where that passage allows even one iota of effort on the part of man.

    Here’s another good one:

    “It DOES NOT, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy” (Rom. 9:16).

    On a side note, I can’t help but detect a, shall we say, less-than-loving tone in some posts on the site (e.g., “Try again.” “Nice try though.”). I simply try to make my point without “dissing” anyone for disagreeing with me. I don’t always sense the loving tone that our Father demands all the time. Forgive me if I’ve ever written anything that could be perceived the same way.

  51. March 27, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    Why can’t faith be both gift AND choice? It’s spoken of both ways in scripture.

  52. March 27, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    ADB: first of all, thanks for the effort you are putting into the dialogue; i know you’ve got other things to do with your time; also, I’m not trying to just tug you around , or win some kind of theology prize here….just trying to better understand 1)your mindset and 2)the mind of GOD as revealed by HIS WORD; I know you want that as well

    your quote:
    That appears to be the prevailing thought among the LDS. The only problem I see is that Scripture constantly contrasts faith and actions, clearly making a distinction between them and saying that one saves and the other does not. I don’t know where we get the license to define “faith” or “believing” almost synonymously with effort/action/obedience when so often in the Bible it means no such thing (e.g., “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith APART from observing the law” – notice how faith and observing the law are clearly ditinguished)

    Generally speaking , scripture does NOT contrast faith and actions (this is a major area of disageeement between us) but it does contrast SALVATION based on grace through faith, and SALVATION based on our efforts. You are needlessly mixing two categories of things here; in fact (and I will gather the scripture for this later today) the Bible is very clear that FAITH is very much an action verb, not at all what some (not you , I think) would have it: some kind of mental assent (the devil has that….for all the good it will do him)

    I know you are a student of the WORD so consider carefully my claim and ask yourself if it rings true: FAITH has ACTION written all over it….the great men and women of faith in Hebrews DID an amazing array of exploits. Perhaps you agree with that, then when it comes to the unbeliever, you seem to tell me that he can do nothing …..nothing that would please GOD. Your take on Heb 11:6 is that it rules it out; I see Heb 11:6 more as a billboard for faith, so for the unbeliever (and actually US as well, it works the same way….) CHOOSE FAITH AND PLEASE GOD, because nothing else will.

    More on this later today, but your line of thot seems , to me, like a total dead end for evangelism and witnessing, what are you asking the unbeliever to DO ?? what is the response, if any, that you are making an appeal for ?? I’d be curious to know where you go with this.

    the shalom of GOD on all who love the LAMB and rest in HIS work…
    GERMIT

  53. 53 ADB
    March 27, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    Germit,

    Thanks for the very important clarification on my post. I was speaking strictly in the realm of salvation. Outside of that specific realm, faith and works are inseparable. It’s probably been stated (either by me or by Mark at some point) that “faith alone saves, but faith is never alone.” That’s how the Bible addresses the relationship between the two in terms of salvation.

    As to the “dead end,” by preaching the law and gospel and pointing out the unbeliever’s sin, through that message the Holy Spirit creates saving faith. While we deserve all the blame if we reject or refuse that message, which leads to a suffering of eternal separation from God, only God gets the props when he leads us to believe it.

    Thus, my entire confidence in the certainty of my salvation rests COMPLETELY with God. Were any part of it dependent on me, then I would daily question if I’ve measured up to God’s demands (I could never ever be certain I’d tried hard enough). I would daily question whether or not I will be with him for eternity. But I don’t, because he’s taken care of my salvation from start to finish. Praise the Lord!

  54. 54 GB
    March 27, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    ADB: Come on now, you do that routinely in your posts: “Doesn’t this seem to indicate that?” In other words, you believe something, and you are trying to convince those who disagree that a particular passage seems to support you.

    GB: True, but do I use two contradictory phrases in the same sentence?

    “The 1599 Geneva Study Bible” disagrees with your interpretation.
    (2:8 For by (h) grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God:

    (h) So then, grace, that is to say, the gift of God, and faith, stand with one another, to which two it is contrary to be saved by ourselves, or by our works. Therefore, what do those mean who would join together things of such contrary natures?)

    It clearly separates “the gift of God” from “faith”.

    From the “People’s New Testament” commentary.
    (The salvation is not due to ourselves, but is God’s gift. The grammatical construction of the Greek does not allow us to make faith the subject of the last clause. It is not faith, but salvation through the faith, which is the gift of God. So says John Wesley in his Notes: This refers to the previous clause, ‘That you are saved,’ etc.)

    So it is “salvation” that is the “gift” not “faith”. :-)

    ADB,
    It is CLEAR that reasonable people can reject your analysis.

  55. 55 GB
    March 27, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    ADB: I don’t know where we get the license to define “faith” or “believing” almost synonymously with effort/action/obedience when so often in the Bible it means no such thing (e.g., “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith APART from observing the law”

    GB: Let me make a minor clarification.

    “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith APART from observing the law OF MOSES”.

    If you will just understand that IN GENERAL <= take note, I didn’t say “always”, when Paul refers to “the law” he is referring specifically to the law of Moses. As a Jew and a former Pharisee what other “the law” would he be referring to?

    Some people mistakenly assume that “the law” refers to any “law”.

  56. March 27, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    ADB you wrote
    Thus, my entire confidence in the certainty of my salvation rests COMPLETELY with God.

    and it justifiably can, because (this is maybe a little ironic, given our conversation) at some point, and as an unbeliever, you responded to, leaned into, believen into, trusted in, clung to, embraced, confessed, accepted, received, the good news of the gospel in the person and work of Jesus……SO: would a reasonable person say that you had ANYTHING to do with your salvation ?? (note I said nothing about “merit” or “earn”)

    Your post was clarifying, for me, and I’ll make an interpretive observation; my “take” on your posts as a whole is that you are concerned about GOD not getting the glory and honor that is HIS right in the salvation process, and you do not want to be found preaching a gospel different than the one preached by Paul in Romans 3, or the author of Hebrews. having said that, my concern is that you’ve done damage to the nature of man, the importance of moral free agancy (at least in the way that orthodox christians use the term), and the human response to what we both agree is GOD”s initiative (always, I might add…).

    So for those poor souls who do NOT take action and respond to the gospel and actively, day by day, trust in and lean into the Father’s embrace…..they can wait for GOD’s sovereigntu all they want, but I’d suggest that it is GOD WHO is waiting for THEM…..

    thanks for the back and forth.

    GERmIT

  57. March 27, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    what is the response, if any, that you are making an appeal for ?? I’d be curious to know where you go with this.

    ADB: this question above is what I’m most curious about…and I think I can get a better idea of where you view is coming from.

    THANKS

    the GERMSTER

  58. 58 GB
    March 27, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    “faith alone saves, but faith is never alone.”

    The only verse in the Bible in which both words “faith” and “alone” appear is;
    James 2:17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

    So “faith alone” is dead.

    What Paul is continually trying to contrast is the faith and obedience of the Gospel of Christ versus the works of the law of Moses.

  59. March 27, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    GB,

    I think you meant James. Don’t you think that James is explaining that a saving faith will by necessity be accompanied by good works? And that a “faith” that does not produce good works might not be a saving faith?

  60. 60 GB
    March 27, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    Gd: I think you meant James.

    GB: I assume that you are referring to this statment “What Paul is continually trying to contrast is the faith and obedience of the Gospel of Christ versus the works of the law of Moses.”

    I really meant Paul.

    Gd: Don’t you think that James is explaining that a saving faith will by necessity be accompanied by good works?

    GB: Real true faith is a principle of action not indolence. Real true faith is revealed by good works. It is inseparable from good works. So I think we are in agreement here.

    Gd: And that a “faith” that does not produce good works might not be a saving faith?

    GB: A “faith” that does not produce good works is not real true faith, but only lip service to the principle.

  61. March 27, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    GB,

    That is why I asked. Were you talking about Romans 3?

  62. 62 GB
    March 27, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    Gundeck,
    Yes, as I mentioned in post #37.

    It is good to see you here :-)

    I assume that you have healed all up and are doing well. I haven’t been to your place for a while and all of a sudden I see I have missed a bunch.

    Cheers and God bless.

  63. March 27, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    GB,

    I am moving around well, thank you. Rehab continues.

    How would you define “Law of Moses” and “obedience of the Gospel of Christ”? I only ask because one of the reasons I generally do not join in on faith/works debates is a lack of common definitions between our traditions.

  64. March 28, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    “one of the reasons I generally do not join in on faith/works debates is a lack of common definitions between our traditions.”

    That’s probably not a bad idea. Wish I had enough self-restraint to do that.

  65. 65 geoff456
    March 28, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    Mark,

    you wrote:

    ” In various ways the Bible describes the utter inability of natural man to do anything right – including making wise choices. “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Romans 3:11-12)

    and then you wrote this:
    “That’s pretty clear. That doesn’t leave room for exceptions. No one understands. No one seeks God. No one does good. ”

    I would say that the “natural man” is different from “all men”. When you say that NO ONE seeks God, NO ONE does good are you referring to the “natural man” or “ALL MEN”?

    When someone submits his heart to God, he is putting off the natural man. He is “Changed”. That person is VERY capable of making good choices. I would think God would expect us to make good choices with the brain and intelligence He has given us. Otherwise, what would be the point of making humans AND animals? We would all be about the same.
    So, I would say that I think you are mixing these two entities erroneously.

    just a thought.

    ~Geoff

  66. 66 Stephanie
    March 30, 2009 at 3:42 am

    Geoff456 writes, “When someone submits his heart to God, he is putting off the natural man. He is ‘changed.’ That person is very capable of making good choices.”

    I respectfully yet forcefully disagree. Consider Paul’s writing in Romans Chapter 7. I would consider Paul a devoted follower of Christ at the time of this writing, yet he describes his own anguish and struggle with “choosing the right.” He describes his complete inability to do good, and he understands that only Christ can rescue him from his “body of death.” Read on.

    Romans 7:15-25. “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate to do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

    So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within in my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!

    So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”

    Contrary to what Geoff456 wrote, when someone submits his heart to God, he is incapable of putting off the natural man entirely. Indeed, God imparts his Spirit into every believer at the moment of conversion. God gives every believer a “new” nature in Christ. But the natural man remains. This is the source of Paul’s anguish. “…when I want to do good, evil is right there with me.”

    We are different from animals because we have a knowledge of our sin, a conscience. We know what is good, we know how to be good, but we also know that we fail at our attempts to be “good enough.” We can “choose the right” in our best moments, when we have the strength and the ability to deceive ourselves. But we are also aware of the many countless times that we have failed to “choose the right.” If we are honest with ourselves, many times we lose Paul’s battle with evil in our own lives. We know that if we break even one of God’s laws, we are guilty of breaking them all.

    Paul knows God’s standard is perfection. He asks the logical question, “Who will save me from this body of death?” He knows that the “wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).” He answers his own question, “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Jesus saves.

    Jesus was our substitute, not our example. The Bible is clear about the depraved nature of humankind, even those who are devout followers of Christ (as Paul was), who place their trust in the perfect life and death of Christ. As followers of Christ (or whatever name with which you choose to label us), we don’t need to argue about agency. The bottom line is quite clear and simple: God demands perfection and we cannot ever meet that standard, no matter how many times we “choose the right,” according to our own warped and sinful standards. As true followers of Christ, we struggle daily with our own sin, but we also know that we exist in a state of perfection because of Christ’s perfect life and death in our place.

    Because of this, we are assured of our forgiveness. We are already reconciled to God through Christ, right now. And like Paul, we can also say, ‘Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

  67. March 30, 2009 at 4:15 am

    “Jesus was our substitute, not our example.”

    Nice how you render at least half of Christ’s mission utterly irrelevant.

  68. 68 GB
    March 30, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    Gundeck,

    You asked, ‘How would you define “Law of Moses”. . .’

    Here is a short answer.

    The name assigned to the whole collection of written laws given through Moses to the house of Israel, as a replacement of the higher law that they had failed to obey. The law of Moses consisted of many ceremonies, rituals,and symbols, to remind the people frequently of their duties and responsibilities. It included a law of carnal commandments and performances, added to the basic laws of the gospel. Faith, repentance, baptism in water, and remission of sins were part of the law, as were also the Ten Commandments. Although inferior to the fulness of the gospel, there were many provisions in the law of Moses of high ethical and moral value that were equal to the divine laws of any dispensation. The law of carnal commandments and much of the ceremonial law was fulfilled at the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The law functioned under the Aaronic Priesthood and was a preparatory gospel to bring its adherents to Christ. See JST Ex. 34: 1-2; Rom. 3: 20; Gal. 3: 19, 24; Eph. 2: 14-16; Heb. 7: 11, 18-19; Heb. 9: 7-14; 2 Ne. 25: 24-30; Mosiah 12: 27 to 13: 32; 3 Ne. 9: 17; 3 Ne. 15: 1-8; D&C 84: 23-27.

    One of the major questions the early Church in Palestine had to decide was about the obligation of Christians to the ceremonial law of Moses. The matter was partially solved by the conference held in Jerusalem, as recorded in Acts 15 and Gal. 2. The Jewish Christians in particular had difficulty giving up the ritual of the law of Moses. The Nephites, on the other hand, seemed to have had much less of a problem doing so (see 3 Ne. 15: 1-5).

    The law as given through Moses was a good law, although adapted to a lower spiritual capacity than is required for obedience to the gospel in its fulness. However, the Jewish leaders had added many unauthorized provisions, ceremonies, and prohibitions to the original law, until it became extremely burdensome. These innovations were known as the “traditions of the elders.” By N.T. times among the Jews the law had become so altered it had lost much of its spiritual meaning almost to the point that the law was worshipped more than the Lord. It is this form of the law that is so harshly spoken against by Jesus and by Paul (see Matt. 15: 1-9; Mark 7: 1-13; Gal. 2: 16-21). There is no evidence that the law of Moses had become as altered among the Nephites as among the Jews, and this may partially explain why the Nephites had less trouble in giving it up when the Savior came.

    Hope that helps. :-)

  69. 69 geoff456
    March 30, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Stephanie,

    Why so complicated? Choosing the right is relatively easy. Most people teach their children from the time they are toddlers! We each have a conscience, a sense of right and wrong. It isn’t any “harder” to do right than to do wrong! I teach my children THAT THEY ARE VERY CAPABLE OF CHOOSING THE RIGHT!! This gives them confidence in themselves and keeps them on the right path! We know where the “power” to do right comes from. You are short changing your children if you teach them they are powerless against evil. With God nothing is impossible!

    Mark, why make such a big deal out of this?? Choosing the right is a good thing!

    Geoff

  70. 70 Stephanie
    March 30, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    Hi geoff456,

    It’s not complicated. As Christians, we also teach our children to be moral people, to love thy neighbor, to be the good samaritan, etc… But doing these good things (or being a good person) does not earn us the right to live forever with Heavenly Father in the Celestial kingdom. Doing good and being good will never be enough to earn us a ticket to heaven because we know we are imperfect. We know that although we may be very good people, we will never be perfect. And God requires us to be perfect. Therefore, we continue to do good and teach our children to be good citizens, but not with the motivation that these deeds will earn us eternity with Heavenly Father. Our motivation comes from the love we have for what our savior did for us on the cross.

    It’s not complicated. In fact, it’s amazingly simple. Simply put, we place our trust in Christ’s substitutionary death for us on the cross. Christ lived perfectly because we can never live perfectly. Christ suffered the consequences of our sin for us, so that we don’t have to suffer them. Christ won forgiveness for us.

    Our children are capable of being good people according to the world’s standard. Most of the time, we all hear about how “good” a person was at his funeral. But if we are honest, we would admit that no one is perfect. We can debate various levels of goodness, or agency, but it doesn’t matter to God, because no one is perfect. And God says, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)” James 2:10 says, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”

  71. March 30, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    Stephanie, no one here – NO ONE – is talking about “earning” salvation.

    Get it through your head. I don’t believe in earning salvation. Neither does Mormon scripture preach it.

  72. 72 GB
    March 30, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    Stephanie,

    Christ suffered the consequences of our sin for us, so that we don’t have to suffer them IF WE REPENT.

    There fixed it for you. :-)

  73. 73 Stephanie
    March 30, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    Seth, according to the LDS, one must be “worthy” to receive salvation. I’m sure that in order to be worthy, certain actions are involved. In my view, worthiness comes through individual effort, a.k.a. “earning.” Semantics. This is discussed and taught throughout Mormon literature.

    Seth, regarding post 67, Christ is often spoken of in the secular world (and in many modern churches also) as ONLY an example. He is referred to as a great teacher, and an example of good living. To merely stop at this point is the fatal flaw that many people make. I do not render irrelevant Christ’s perfect example, but his example is not the focus. We can never be perfect, as He is perfect. We don’t want to let Christ’s example prevent us from seeing the most important thing: Christ’s perfect substitute.

  74. 74 geoff456
    March 30, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    Stephanie,

    “But doing these good things (or being a good person) does not earn us the right to live forever with Heavenly Father in the Celestial kingdom”

    NO, but it gives us the right to use the Atonement!

    ” Doing good and being good will never be enough to earn us a ticket to heaven because we know we are imperfect.”

    I Agree 100%. Doing all we can PLUS The Grace of our Father in Heaven and our Savior Jesus Christ will get us to heaven!

    A popular LDS hymn says:

    “Choose the Right when the choice is placed before you! IN the right the Holy Spirit guides.”

    That is another benefit of Choosing the Right! The Holy Spirit can inspire and guide you.

    *Geoff

  75. 75 germit
    March 30, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    GEOFF: you wrote

    Mark, why make such a big deal out of this?? Choosing the right is a good thing!

    the difference SEEMS to be, to me at least, the role that doing good and choosing good has to play in gaining us a relationship with the Heavenly Father through HIS SON Jesus. Ev.’s would say RELATIONSHIP first thru believing, then good works (always) follow. I won’t put words in your mouth as to how the LDS would describe that,but suffice to say, it’s different. BOTH sides commend the value of good works, but the emphasis is different. It would be very interesting to know how much of a big deal this is to GOD HIMSELF…..GERMIT is starting to woner about this…… :-)

  76. 76 geoff456
    March 30, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    Germit,

    Mark is very specific about “man’s utter inability to make wise choices”.

    I think that is a fallacy. Man CAN make wise choices. We are sons of God. We have brains, intelligence and a will. We have knowledge of right and wrong. We have the Spirit to guide us. We have a wonderful Savior as our supreme example.

    To say that man cannot make wise choices is false. Is man all knowing? NO. Is man infallible? NO. Can man be tempted? YES.

    But to say that we are “incapable” is 100% false.

    ~Geoff

  77. 77 germit
    March 30, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    Geoff: I see your point….take my post as GERMIT’s view, but I’m pretty sure there are more than three or four ev.’s out there that see this as I do….that would be Moe, Curly, and can’t forget Shemp….love that hair…..I think what IMAGEO DEI means exactly is somewhat debatable (obviously).

    GERMIT

    I’m still not sure how and if the lDS view of free agency is different than mine…. maybe I’m a closet Mormon …..

  78. 78 GB
    March 30, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    Germit,

    Maybe you are just a dry Mormon! ;-)

    In the overall scheme of things, I don’t think it really matters whether you believe faith or works come first. Perhaps it is a false choice.

    What is obvious to me is that our works are evidence or proof, if you will, of our faith both to ourselves and to God.

    When we stand before the Judgment bar of God, what evidence of faith will we be able to produce other than our works?

  79. March 30, 2009 at 11:26 pm

    I’ve found that Evangelicalism doesn’t really sound much different from Mormonism where the rubber hits the road. Mormons believe in our insufficiency to earn salvation, and Evangelicals believe that we are supposed to be good. We’re not really all that different, at the end of the day.

    But when you throw in apologetic impulses into the mix, it gives us an incentive to differentiate from each other.

    I’ve found Evangelicals talk quite differently about the Gospel when they don’t think any Mormons are listening.

  80. 80 germit
    March 31, 2009 at 2:03 am

    Seth: I think we’re really different, but not that much on the works vs. faith issue. The nature of GOD and what authority is all about, well…… Suffice to say that ev’s don’t really WANT to say, “you know, we’re close on that one….” and depending on the ev. , there may be the same stance reg. Roman Catholics, or E. Orthodox, among others. I have to admit that in proportion to just getting the positive message of the gospel out, ev.’s have distinguished themselves in excessive border patrol. Maybe too much of Galations and not enough of the gospels, I’m just musing here…

    GB: well, I had 4 or 5 cups of regular coffee today and a beer at my Dad’s (Catholics, GOD bless ’em stock beer in the fridge…..so if I’m “dry”, I’d hate to see “wet”… :-) :-)

  81. March 31, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    Hi, mark! I just fell upon your blog! God bless you in your efforts to reach the lost in the LDS church. I wanted to just drop you a line and encourage you in the work you are doing here. I was LDS for 19yrs. Served a full time mission and married in the temple In 2007 God did a great work in my heart and I left the LDS. It came after spending 2 yrs in serious study of the Bible. I found the bible clearly teaches that jesus , the I AM of OT and the promised Messiah and Christ of the NT. I realized that the Jesus of the Bible is not the “jesus” taught by the LDS. Jesus has always been God, He did not progress to becoming a “god”. There is no other God. Isaiah 44.
    My heart aches for the lost in the LDS, including my husband of 17yrs. Please pray for him. Praise God our 10 children have all accepted the Lord!
    I look forward to reading more of your blog. I recently started a blog to reach the LDS. http://www.musingsonmormonism.blogspot.com

    God bless you!

    gloria
    < John 3:16

  82. 82 geoff456
    April 1, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Mark,

    another sentence that stood out in this blog:

    “There’s no agency – a word or concept that is not found in the Bible.”

    Have you ever heard of the Law of the Harvest? It is ALL ABOUT agency. You reap what you sow! In the LDS Church we also call this “accountability”. It is the paramount responsibility of a parent to teach their children to be accountable for their actions!! Why would God our FATHER, our ETERNAL PARENT, be any different??

    ~Geoff

  83. 83 Stephanie
    April 3, 2009 at 12:49 am

    Geoff456, allow me to reply to your above post (81).

    First, I would submit that God our Father is not our physical parent in the sense that we are his offspring, created through union with a woman. I do agree with you that as human parents we are obliged to teach our children the law of the harvest, as you say, or the law of consequences. Accountability and responsibility are all very good things. On a side note, it is very debasing to bring God down to the level of a human being.

    The incredible thing about Christ’s substitutionary death is that we true followers of Christ will not reap what we have sown. This is the miracle of grace, which is an undeserved gift, not based upon our own actions. According to our actions, none of us is perfect; all of us deserve death… but God has a different idea.

    1 Corinthians 15:42-44: “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.” This is not the “law of the harvest” which teaches about the natural consequences of hard work or laziness. This verse speaks about reaping that which was not sown. In other words, those who place their trust in Christ receive his robe of righteousness in place of our filthy rags. Through no action of our own.

    Our efforts here on earth are all corrupt, yet through Christ’s perfection, we are clothed with his robe of righteousness and perfection. Although we are the worst of sinners, we are pardoned for the sake of Christ. This is the true “miracle of forgiveness.”

  84. 84 geoff456
    April 3, 2009 at 2:04 am

    Stephanie,

    Your comment: “On a side note, it is very debasing to bring God down to the level of a human being. ” is very interesting. I believe it is the other way around. God put us on earth in families. This was HIS design, not ours. He calls himself Father, and gives us mortals the opportunity to be fathers on earth. We are not bringing Him down to our level, He is bringing US up to His level.

    Your comment about the resurrection is also not quite right. We will ALL be resurrected. We will ALL receive a incorruptible, perfect body….no matter what we did on earth. Jesus conquered death, and resurrection is truly the “free gift”. This is 100% different than eternal life. That is reserved for those who love, obey and serve Him. Over and over in the Bible it tells us that we must keep the commandments, choose to serve Him and love Him. Those are “conditions” of eternal life. His Grace (which IS a wonderful thing) fills in the gaps. He knows we are human and are not yet perfect. His grace is sufficient for all who truly love Him. Jesus Christ is the VERY AUTHOR of Salvation for all who obey Him.

    finally your comment: “Our efforts here on earth are all corrupt,” is not true. Our efforts will never be enough by themselves to gain us entrance into “heaven”. But we are COMMANDED to obey. God would NOT give us a commandment and then slap us in the face when we obey it by telling us we are “corrupt”. I believe that for every commandment there is an automatic blessing. That is justice and we know that God is just and true. He is also guileless. He doesn’t “trick” us into doing things and then not deliver the promise. For example, He promises us that IF we honor our Parents, then our days will be long on the earth. That is an automatic blessing for obedience. There are many more.

    *Geoff


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