Today’s currency exchange is a little different; that is, normally someone writes us and we respond in a Q&A format. This currency exchange arose out of a conversation in the comments section of our earlier post – Mormon Roleplay: Two Questions. In that post we suggested asking the question – Is your Jesus my Jesus? – in a conversation with a Mormon. We also quickly gave a Scriptural case for the Trinity. In the comments section of that post Andrew R. gave us some interesting push back. So we thought we’d share our ongoing interaction with him here. (As of this post, our interaction is still ongoing).
Thanks for the comment! We sincerely hope that the takeaway from our post and previous comment dialogue is not “My Jesus is better than your Jesus.” The particular question we posed (in so many words) was: Are we speaking of the same person? We believe that is an entirely legitimate question to ask at this point. And we get an indication that this question is important from Jesus’ own words in Matthew 16:13-17 and John 17:3.
Also, if someone grew up completely unaware of church doctrine and were to read the Bible, they would discover the Scriptural case for the Trinity as we presented it in our post. What someone does with the Scriptural case is entirely up to him. But we do believe the Scriptural case deserves to be wrestled with, not dismissed.
Lastly, the important thing from reading the Gospel is not whether it changes your life but whether Jesus has the ability to pardon your sins and offer this pardon as a free gift, not because you did anything, but because of His grace and love for you. See, now we’re starting to touch on distinctly different understandings of what Jesus came to accomplish in the first place; which brings us back to our original question: Are we speaking of the same person?
So, at the end of the day, we disagree with each other; but that’s okay. We say: Let Christians and LDS have this discussion! And let them do so with grace and clarity.
We appreciate you taking the time, Andrew.
With all due respect, you’re doing the same thing Bishop Robin did; which is to stray from the issue that we are raising. We can certainly talk about your particular interpretation of John 17 after we finish discussing whether or not it is important to identify the correct person as God. At this point, that’s all we’re discussing. And the two verses we cited support what we’re saying.
Also, faith is a disposition not a deed. While good works are a fruit of regeneration, they are not sufficient for salvation.
- Jesus (to Nicodemus): “that whoever believes in Him shall not perish” (John 3:16)
- Jesus to woman: “Your faith has saved you” (Luke 7:50)
- Jesus to blind man: “Go; your faith has made you well” (Mark 10:52)
- Jesus to Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies” (John 11:25)
These are not selective passages, Andrew, this is the tip of the iceberg. The particular if/then relationship required for salvation (i.e. if you believe then you will be saved) is everywhere in the New Testament. Perhaps your confusion rests in thinking that the Sermon on the Mount teaches that good deeds are a requirement for salvation. We believe it’s clear that, in these teachings, Jesus is simply describing what a Christian should look like in everyday life (in stark contrast to Jewish traditions).
If your contention is that the Sermon on the Mount teaches good deeds are a requirement for salvation, we would ask you to point us to the particular verse where Jesus teaches that. We would also ask you to resolve the passages we cited where Jesus does not mention following the Sermon’s teachings to gain salvation. We don’t believe that, in the examples we just cited above, Jesus misled those whom He was speaking to.
We understand your concerns. We do. But we see a problem with the conversation up to this point. You’re making too many assumptions and it’s causing you to ascribe things to us that we’re not saying. You ask, “Why do you believe I’m not saved?” When did we tell you that you’re not saved, Andrew? Up to now you have not identified which religion you follow. Are you a Latter Day Saint? It kind of seems like you are; but, for all we know, you could be a Muslim or a Jehovah’s Witness or a Catholic who is sympathetic to LDS doctrine.
Please go back and look closely at our comments. We have not made any assumptions in our interaction with you over your salvation or even if you are LDS in the first place. Our conversation has been about the differences between historic Christianity and Latter Day Saint teaching. We have not even addressed which view is correct yet! We will even concede at this point that it’s possible for our views to be incorrect and for yours to be correct. But we have not gotten that far in the discussion. So, please Andrew, be fair to the particular kind of conversation that we are actually having. And we’ll be fair to you in addressing your concerns.
You said, “Nowhere in Jesus’ teachings does it say I have to believe, or even try to understand what God is.” Look again at John 17:3: “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” What is eternal life, Andrew? That you know your maker. Even Joseph Smith tells LDS to do the same (and we agree with him on this point): “It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance… It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the character of God” (History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, vol. 6: xliv).
Consider the fact that the devil is the father of lies (John 8:44), the deceiver of the whole world (Revelation 12:9), and disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). Consider the fact that there will be many who profess to know Jesus but He will say to them, “I never knew you; depart from me.” Why would you think it’s not important to figure out if you’ve got the right person?
We believe the questions and material that we have presented show a difference between historic Christianity’s and LDS’ understandings of God, Jesus, and the Bible. We don’t believe this is controversial to do so. Even the Book of Mormon makes it clear that historic Christians are not Mormons. It describes the historic Christian church as abominable and as being founded by the devil in 1 Nephi 13. So we’re scratching our heads at this point, Andrew, as to why LDS would want to come across as just another Christian like us. Clearly, we are not the same.
There’s another way to look at this that illustrates what we’re saying. If Mormons are Christians does that make us Mormons? That is, if there is no difference between a Mormon and a Christian then we at A Clear Lens must also be Mormons. Now, we suspect that LDS would disagree on this point. Certainly the Book of Mormon disagrees. So, if there are differences (which is what we’ve been saying this entire time) then why would LDS want to try to appear to be like historic Christians?
We’ll end with this, Andrew: Imagine we held up two small, round, white pills. Are they similar? Sure they are. But what if one is aspirin and the other is arsenic? The similarities would be irrelevant because it’s the differences that are critical. Likewise, we can be using the same terminologies – Christian, God, Jesus, atonement, salvation, grace – while describing entirely different concepts. Mormons might ask, “Does this really matter?” We say, absolutely. Your entire salvation depends upon placing your trust in the right things.