Thursday, June 19, 2008

Unreliable Cultists and the Mormon Jesus

Over the past few weeks, some missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints have been coming around my neighborhood. Each time that they’ve come around, my wife has just happened to be outside and I’ve either been putting my boys to bed or not at home. According to my wife, their conversations have been pleasant and she’s held her own recognizing some of the subtleties of their language as being concerning. For instance, nearing the end of one of their conversations she said, “You know, there’s nothing better than talking about Jesus” to which they responded by saying, “Yes, there’s nothing better than talking about the church.”

Now, I don’t know all of the reasons for them to make the distinction that they did, but perhaps it was because my wife had been defending historic Christian doctrine about Christ and salvation in the midst of their heretical characterizations of Him. But wherever the conversation went on those two days, my wife said one thing on both occasions. “My husband would love to talk to you.”

It is true that I enjoy talking about Christ and the gospel. Most often these conversations are with my wife, my children, my brother-in-law, or a few of my Christian co-workers. But I’ll also try to talk about Christ and the gospel with co-workers who aren’t Christians as well as anyone else who’ll engage me in a conversation. This is not to say that I do aggressive street evangelism to strangers, but I will take any conversational open door that comes my way. I don’t say this to impugn street witnessing, but as a self-impugning confession that I truly want to change. Because, hey, there’s nothing wrong and almost everything right with politely asking someone to talk, and then witnessing to them in a reasonable and gentle way.

After the last conversation with my wife, the Mormons made an appointment to come back to my home this past Tuesday evening at 7:30 PM so that I could talk with them. When my wife informed me of this arrangement, I was both excited and a bit nervous. But, when Tuesday rolled around I was reading Colossians and studying up on what the Bible says about the eternality of Jesus Christ so that I could have those verses fresh on my mind to counter the Mormon assertions that Jesus is a created being.

We setup a patio table in our garage (in case of rain), setup four chairs, and even made some lemonade so that we could all sit comfortably while we tried to convert each other. But 7:30 came and went and there were no Mormons sitting at my table telling me about the fact that there are still prophets today. My wife and I were getting disappointed, but I made the comment that perhaps these young men were still on Utah time, and so 7:30 on their watches would be 8:30 on ours. I didn’t really think that was the case, but I was really looking forward to speaking with them. Well, once 9PM rolled around, it was a pretty fair certainty that they were not going to show up, and we packed away our gear and retreated to the mosquito-free inside of our home.

While I was preparing to discuss some of the more troubling aspects of Mormon theology, I really had only a few goals for our conversation. I wanted to give some Scripturally sound answers to their assertions about their understanding of Jesus, grace, works, baptism, salvation, and God. They believe that Jesus is their savior, but the Jesus they believe in is not the Jesus revealed in the Bible. They believe that they’re saved by grace, but they confess that they’re saved by grace “after all that we can do”. In other words, they’re saved by their works. This is evident when you pose the “knife in the back” scenario.

The “knife in the back” scenario is simply that you set the stage that you’re a man who has a knife in his back, and you’re going to die in minutes. You confess that you’re not religious, but you’re scared of going to hell. Then you ask for them to tell you what you can do to escape hell. I’ve posed this to Mormons in the past, and their reaction is very telling. The last time that I did this, the young men said plainly that you can’t be saved in three minutes. The obvious biblical rebuttal to their assertion is the account of the thief on the cross or Jesus’ parable of the tax collector and Pharisee at the temple.

But even more important than the truth that their salvation method is wrong is the truth that their Jesus is wrong too. They believe that Jesus is the firstborn son of the former man Elohim. They believe that Jesus, like Elohim before him, was born as a man who then was exalted to deity and given his own domain to rule as god. The Bible is emphatic that Jesus existed from the beginning (Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1; 8:58) and was not created. He is the first-born of creation (Col 1:25) in that He has power over creation and is the pre-eminent one. The Mormon Jesus is not the same as the Jesus of the Scriptures. Believing in the Mormon Jesus will not save anyone any more than believing in a fictitious 11th century red-headed Viking warlord named Jesus who lived in Scandinavia. That fictitious person isn’t the savior of mankind, God incarnate, and neither is the Mormon understanding of Jesus.

He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. (John 5:23b)

Even if the Mormons had a perfect doctrine (which they don’t) of salvation that was by grace through faith alone and not of works, they would be left unsaved because they do not place their faith in the truly revealed Son of God.

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