Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

J. Warner Wallace: important differences between Christianity and Mormonism

Here’s a podcast featuring J. Warner Wallace that I listened to twice on a recent road trip. This is an after action report from Wallace’s recent missions trip to Utah to evangelize Mormons.

The MP3 file is here. (74 minutes)

Topics:

  • Mormons disagree with Christians about the nature of God, Jesus and salvation
  • The differences are so dramatic that the two religions are completely different views
  • Mormons try to portray themselves as a denomination of Christianity
  • The Utah missions trip: how Christians were trained to engage with Mormons
  • Mormonism is a works-based religion – you earn your way to eternal life by doing works
  • In Christianity, eternal life is a free gift from God to anyone who accepts Jesus as their leader and redeemer
  • Mormons believe that doctrines can change from generation to generation (progressive revelation)
  • Mormons commonly make the case for a works-based theology by appealing to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount
  • Mormons believe that you have to be perfect in order to get “exalted” eternal life
  • Christians are perfect because Jesus has paid the price of our rebellion against God
  • Christians: Jesus’ sacrifice pays for anything evil that we have done and could do
  • Christians are made perfect because Jesus’ perfection is applied to them
  • Christians are not practically perfect, but they are perfect by accepting that the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross
  • God credits righteousness to Christians because Jesus has already died to pay off the punishment for their sins
  • The good works that Christians do are a voluntary response to this free gift of salvation
  • The good works do not secure a Christian’s salvation, they are the natural outworking of accepting the gift of salvation
  • The Mormon view of the afterlife is different from the Christian view
  • The best Mormon afterlife (“exaltation”) requires continued righteousness to the end of one’s natural life
  • This is not compatible with Christian teaching about salvation being by grace and not by doing good works (Gal 3:10-14)
  • Mormons can never know whether they are saved or not until the day they die
  • Christians can be sure of their salvation from the moment they accept Jesus as their leader and redeemer
  • The Bible is clear that we can know whether we are saved or not (John 5:9-14)
  • It is inconsistent for Mormons to claim to be Christians and then try to convert Christians to Mormonism
  • The reason why Mormons go door to door is because they think Christians are wrong
  • The Mormon view of Jesus is nothing like the Christian view of Christ (from the Bible)
  • Mormonism is polytheistic, whereas Christianity is monotheistic
  • Mormon “gods” are just beings who have a human nature who were “exalted” for doing good works
  • When debating Mormons, they will try to argue that Mormonism is true because it results in good works
  • The Biblical standard for a good prophet is to see whether his prophecies come true
  • The Mormon view is that Joseph Smith is reliable because he did good works
  • But good works are not a good way to test truth claims – a person could be “good” and still say false things
  • A good question to ask Mormons: is the Book of Mormon ancient? It claims to be ancient, but is it?
  • They may try to answer this question by appealing to fideism: praying for confirmation by burning bosom
  • But this is not a question that can be assessed by subjective feelings (just pray about it)
  • This is a question that needs to be assessed by historians using historical evidence
  • There is no historical or archaeological support for the claims in the Book of Mormon
  • In contrast, we have direct eyewitness testimony about the life of Jesus in the New Testament
  • We have fragments of NT manuscripts dating back to first century so we know that the New Testament is ancient

Previously, I posted my refutation of Mormonism which used two evidential arguments. And J.W. Wartick has posted two philosophical arguments against Mormonism as well.

Filed under: Podcasts, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What is more important? True beliefs about God or doing good actions?

What does the Bible teach about the relative importance of actions and beliefs? Which should we settle first?

J.Warner Wallace explains:

I just came home from a week in the great state of Utah. Our missions team of high school students had the opportunity to talk with many LDS and Christian believers about the nature of salvation. Many of our conversations centered on the relationship between faith and works. Christianity is unique in its characterization of salvation as the free gift of God:

Ephesians 2:8-9
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.

This concept of grace is missing in Mormonism (as it has been classically described by LDS prophets and Mormon scripture). In fact, many of the Mormon believers we talked with described Christians as people who consistently take advantage of “cheap grace”. One member of the LDS church told us, “Christians say a prayer, get ‘saved’ and then run out and live like hell. They don’t think it’s important to obey the commandments.” At times, in an effort to emphasis the free nature of salvation, many Christians minimize the importance of good works in the Christian life. We sometimes neglect to tell our LDS friends that a grateful life, surrendered in response to what Christ has done for us, does actually result in a life of good works. The passage in Ephesians provides us with an important equation that can help us make this distinction. If you divide this verse in the middle, you’ll find faith and salvation on one side of the verse and works on the other:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith | not by works, so that no one can boast.

This verse in Ephesians provides us with a simple equation that can help us remember a life transformed by the saving grace of God produces good works, even though good works are not what save us:

The Christian equation:
Salvation + Faith = Works

The Non-Christian equation:
Faith + Works = Salvation

The question is not whether someone performs good works, but why someone performs good works. Both Christian and non-Christian believers have a place for good works in their respective equations. Works are not missing from the Christian calculation. But for us, good works are the result of our gratitude for (and recognition of) what God has done. When we realize that our own efforts are utterly impotent, we begin to understand the gift that God has given us. When we understand what God has done for us, we can’t help but be humbled and grateful. A grateful life, ever reflective of the depth of God’s kindness, results in a surrendered response. We can’t help but want to live differently.

I think it’s pretty important to get it clear that in Biblical Christianity, the focus is on getting the beliefs correct first. I actually think that the heavy burden of a works-based faith is a big reason why people are turned off about religion in general. It would really be much better for us all if we figured out who God is first and then made adjustments to live in light of that, instead of leaving the theology aside and just trying to join an organization and do what people tell us to do. Let’s meet God in truth first, then act accordingly once that relationship is settled.

Filed under: News, , , , , ,

Reformation Day celebrates the supremacy of Scripture and reason in theology

The Ligonier Ministries web site has a summary of the event that kicked off the Reformation.

Excerpt:

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther tacked up 95 theses on the church door at Wittenberg. With this act, he hoped to provoke a discussion among the scholars about the abuses of the indulgences by the Roman Catholic Church. He was not trying to create a public furor by any means, but within a fortnight, these theses had spread through the country like wildfire. The last thing Luther had in mind was to start some kind of major controversy, but nevertheless major controversy did begin.

From the discussions at Wittenberg, the disputations began to accelerate and escalate. Copies of the theses reached Rome and critical meetings were scheduled with the young monk. In these debates, Luther was maneuvered into proclaiming publicly that he had questions about the infallibility of church councils and also that he thought that it was possible that the pope could err. In 1520 a papal encyclical was issued which condemned Martin Luther as a heretic. Luther burned the document in a public bonfire and his defiance before the church was now a matter of record.

In response, Martin Luther picked up his pen to challenge the entire penitential system of the Roman Catholic Church, which undermined in principle the free remission of sins that is ours in the gospel. By doing so, he was unswervingly advocating his commitment to sola fide, the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

In 1521, Luther was summoned to the Imperial Diet, an authoritative meeting that involved the princes of the church, called by the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire to be held in the city of Worms in Germany. Luther was an outlaw. For him to appear at the Diet was to risk his very life; therefore, he was given safe conduct by the Emperor to attend. With a few friends, Luther traveled from Wittenberg to Worms. The eyewitnesses of that episode tell us that when Luther’s little covered wagon appeared around the corner of the bend, there were lookouts posted in the church tower at Worms. All the people were agog waiting for the arrival of this notorious person. When Luther’s caravan was sighted, people were throwing their hats in the air, blowing trumpets, and creating all the fanfare of the arrival of the hero. It was the 16th century answer to a ticker-tape parade.

Things, however, became very solemn in a hurry because the next day he appeared before the Diet. His books were stacked on a table in the room, and he was asked and ordered to recant of his writings. This surprised Luther because he thought he was going to have an opportunity to defend his writings; but the only question really of any importance that was asked of him was this: “Are these your writings?” And when he said yes, they said, “Are you ready to recant of them?”

Hollywood has their version of Luther standing there boldly with his fist in the air saying, “Here I stand!” and so on. But instead he dropped his chin on his chest and muttered something that nobody could understand, so they asked him to speak up. “What did you say?” He said, “May I have 24 hours to think about it.” And so Luther was granted a reprieve of 24 hours to return to his room to contemplate the seriousness of this occasion.

The prayer that Luther wrote in that ensuing 24-hour period was one of the most moving prayers I have ever read in my life. In that prayer, Luther cried out for God in his sense of total loneliness fearing that God had abandoned him, and proclaimed, “O Lord, I am Thine, and the cause is Thine, give me the courage to stand.”

And on the morrow, Luther was called once again back to the court and was told to reply to the question. He said to the Diet, “Unless I am convinced by sacred Scripture or by evident reason, I cannot recant, for my conscience is held captive by the Word of God, and to act against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me.” And with that there was an instant uproar.

The Protestant Reformation emphasizes the responsibility of each person to become familiar with what the Bible teaches for themselves and to make sense of it using the laws of logic for themselves. There is an enormous focus on the individual and individual’s responsibility to puzzle theology out for himself, using the tools available to him: reason, science, Scripture, history.  The Reformation put forward the famous five Solas: “Sola Scriptura” (Scripture Alone); “Sola Gratia” (Grace Alone); “Sola Fide” (Faith Alone); “Solus Christus” (Christ Alone); and “Soli Deo Gloria” (To God Alone Be Glory).

My friend J.W. Wartick has a post about the effects of the Reformation on society as a whole.

Here’s one of the effects: (links removed)

Capitalism had already begun before the European Reformations, having its renewal start in Italian city states in the 12th Century (for a detailed and extremely interesting discussion of this, see Rodney Stark, The Victory of Reason, 71ff). The Reformation, however, provided a place for capitalism to flourish. John Calvin’s thought touched upon nearly every contemporary problem, and one of these was usury (money lending at interest). Focusing upon the cultural context of the prohibition of usury in the Hebrew Scriptures, Calvin argued that his contemporary cultural context provided a way for usury to work without being necessarily wrong. Lending money in such a fashion was essential for the later development of capitalism (Alister McGrath, Reformation Thought: An Introduction, 259-260).

The Reformation also paved the way for a “Protestant Work Ethic.” Martin Luther’s notion of the “priesthood of all believers” demolished the hard distinction between the “temporal” and “spiritual” realm which dominated the thought of the church at the time. By breaking down this barrier, hard labor was elevated. It was no longer seen as an inferior life to that of monastic withdrawal; rather, any type of work could be pleasing to God (McGrath, 256-258). In contemporary churches, one can often hear about how the engineer, the retail worker, the auto worker, and the like should all utilize their skills to the glory of God. Such thinking came directly from the Reformation.

The Reformation also kick-started science, because nature held secrets about God’s existence and character.

Excerpt:

Without the Reformation, modern science would probably have developed in any event because of the ethos of rationality and the doctrine of creation conducive to it. The Reformation, however, hastened the development by criticizing scholasticism and by putting emphasis on the direct observation of nature. Luther has been called the Copernicus of theology while, on the other hand, Copernicus has been called the Luther of astronomy. Indeed, Thomas Sprat, an Anglican clergyman and an early member of the Royal Society, emphasized that there was a reformation, some would say revolution, in both philosophy and theology [3]. In natural philosophy or science, questions about nature were no longer answered primarily by quoting Aristotle and the Scholastics, but by turning to observation of and experimentation on nature itself. Similarly, after the Reformation, Protestants no longer answered questions in theology primarily by quoting scholastic philosophers and theologians, but by turning directly to the Bible. Luther interpreted Scripture by asking: what is the clear and straightforward meaning of the text? Scientists interpret nature in the simplest way using the minimum number of hypotheses.

Luther believed that the world was beginning a new age, which would bring not only a reform of religion but a new appreciation of nature. In his informal “Table Talk” he said,

We are at the dawn of a new era, for we are beginning to recover the knowledge of the external world that was lost through the fall of Adam. We now observe creatures properly …. But by the grace of God we already recognize in the most delicate flower the wonders of divine goodness and omnipotence [4].

In the last part of this statement, Luther paraphrased the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans (Rom. 1:20).

Luther was open to the authentic scientific advances of his age [5]. He appreciated the mechanical inventions of his day.

He accepted the use of medicine in treating disease and is quoted as having said [6],

It’s our Lord God who created all things and they are good. Wherefore it’s permissible to use medicine, for it is a creature of God.

To someone who said that it is not permissible for a Christian to use medicine, Luther replied rhetorically, “Do you eat when you are hungry?” According to Andrew White [7], this attitude of Luther made the Protestant cities of Germany more ready than others to admit anatomical investigation and dissection.

Luther accepted astronomy as a science, but rejected astrology as a superstition because it cannot be confirmed by demonstration. Astrology, according to Luther, is idolatry and violates the first commandment. He was both amused and distressed by Melanchthon’s interest in astrology, a belief system that was widely accepted at the time [8].

The Reformation means good economics and good science, as well as good theology.

But theology still had some growing to do.

The challenges of the Reformers led to the development of the doctrine of middle knowledge, which reconciles divine sovereignty with human freedom and responsibility, solving a major problem with Reformed theology.

A very good book on middle knowledge is “Salvation and Sovereignty” by Kenneth Heathley. Highly recommended by Paul Gould.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Pro-religious liberty protesters arrested for praying outside White House

From Life Site News. (H/T Mommy Life via Mary)

Excerpt:

Six pro-life activists, including one Catholic priest, were arrested this morning in front of the White House while holding a peaceful prayer vigil in protest against the Obama administration’s birth control mandate. They were released shortly thereafter, after paying a $100 fine.

Fr. Denis Wilde, the Associate Director of Priests for Life, told LifeSiteNews that by their arrests the protesters hoped to send a “wake-up call” to President Obama that opposition to his mandate is not going away.

The six were arrested on a charge of “disobeying a lawful order.” The priest explained that while it is legal to hold protests in front of the White House, protesters are not allowed to remain stationary, including if they kneel down and pray.

“Occupy Wall Street protesters have been occupying federal property for months, but when we kneel in prayer, the police are called in and we are arrested,” Father Wilde said. “We knew that was the risk when we gathered today, and we will do it again regardless of the risk. What people of faith – of every faith – need to do now is stand with us.”

My previous story on Obama’s war on religion is here: The Becket Fund assesses Obama’s “compromise” on the contraception mandate.

Related posts

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Becket Fund assesses Obama’s “compromise” on the contraception mandate

Eric Metaxas shared this on Facebook, so here it is.

Full text:

Facing a political firestorm, President Obama today announced his intent to make changes to a controversial rule that would require religious institutions, in violation of their conscience, to pay for contraception, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs. But this “compromise” is an exercise in obfuscation, not a good faith effort to solve the problem. Thousands of churches, religious organizations, businesses, individuals, and others will still be forced to violate their religious beliefs.

For example, the fake compromise will not help the Becket Fund’s clients Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina, Colorado Christian University, and Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), a Catholic media organization. They will still be forced to pay for insurance that provides contraceptive coverage. The White House’s claim that “the insurance companies will pay for it” is silly. For-profit insurance companies aren’t going to donate contraceptives and abortion drugs to employees; the employer will pay for it one way or the other. More fundamentally, the Becket Fund’s clients still face the same chilling dilemma they did yesterday: choosing between helping their employees buy immoral abortion drugs or paying huge fines.

“This is a false ‘compromise’ designed to protect the President’s re-election chances, not to protect the right of conscience,” says Hannah Smith, Senior Legal Counsel for The Becket Fund. “No one should be fooled by what amounts to an accounting gimmick. Religious employers will still have to violate their religious convictions or pay heavy annual fines to the IRS.”

According to a White House “fact sheet,” some religious employers will no longer be required to provide insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing drugs; coverage for those services will instead be provided for free directly by insurance companies. This does not protect anyone’s conscience. First, the problem is helping employees get abortion drugs, not the cost of providing those drugs. Since providing insurance benefits would still help employees get insurance, religious employers still have to choose between providing health benefits that help employees get abortion drugs, and paying annual fines. Second, thousands of religious organizations self insure, meaning that they will be forced to pay directly for these services in violation of their religious beliefs. Third, it is unclear which religious organizations are permitted to claim the new exemption, and whether it will extend to for-profit organizations, individuals, or non-denominational organizations.

“It is especially telling that the details of this fake ‘compromise’ will likely not be announced until after the election,” said Smith. “Religious freedom is not a political football to be kicked around in an election-year. Rather than providing full protection for the right of conscience, President Obama has made a cynical political play that is the antithesis of ‘hope and change.’”

My previous post in which I chastised the Roman Catholic bishops for supporting Obamacare is here.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Click to see recent visitors

  Visitors Online Now

Page views since 1/30/09

  • 4,963,105 hits

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,444 other followers

Archives

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,444 other followers

%d bloggers like this: