The advantages of bad theology

July 18, 2007    By: Geoff J @ 12:34 am   Category: Calvinism,Theology

I occasionally spend a little time debating the fine folks at various anti-Mormon(1) sites. I have recently come to the conclusion that there are some advantages to believing certain popular but awful creedal Christian theologies. I am specifically thinking of the horrifying variety of Calvinism that one particularly well read critic of the church named Aaron described to me. Here are some highlights of what his theology looks like as far as I can tell:

1. Only God is self-sufficient and beginningless and uncreated
2. Everything that exists in the universe was created by that uncreated God out of nothing (aka creatio ex nihilo)
3. All people are filthy and evil and depraved by our very natures
4. God chooses to save some people by no effort of their own through his grace (aka “unconditional election”)
5. The saved are predestined to salvation and the damned are predestined to damnation
6. The way to get saved is by accepting Jesus in only the narrow way prescribed by Evangelical Christianity
7. Anyone and everyone who is not saved in this narrowly defined way will suffer an eternity burning in hell

Frankly, to me that is a hideous theology. It has a God who dooms the vast majority of his human creations to an everlasting hell with no chance whatsoever of avoiding it. Yep, according to this theology essentially every Muslim, Jew, Hindu, and Buddhist — men, women, and children — who ever lived will be burned in hell for all eternity for not becoming an evangelical Christian. I’m not kidding. Of course the list of the Frying Pan Club goes on. The vast majority of Mormons, Roman Catholics, secularists, along with gobs of Methodists, Eastern Orthodox Catholics and whatnot are gonna fry too.

I had trouble believing anyone would really adhere to such a theology in our discussion so I kept trying to give Aaron an out. But he came back with comments like this one:

If humanity is as bad as the Bible says, and sins against God are as serious as they seem to be, then it at least makes some sense (however emotionally hard it is for humans to swallow) that humans who don’t receive the benefits of Christ (especially those who reject the Son and his promises) would “suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thessalonians 1:9; cf. Matthew 25:46). It isn’t cruel, but it is just.

Of course it doesn’t help much that he also believes in predestination. So all of us hell-bound folks not only deserve it but we can do nothing to avoid it. My impression is that Aaron doesn’t like to think about the implications of that aspect of his theology much though. When I asked him why God would even bother creating a poor little family of Buddhist peasants if he were just going to predestine them to rot eternally in hell anyway Aaron said this:

I think the same sort of question is asked of those who (like myself) believe in God’s definite foreknowledge. Why would God create a human that he knows will ultimately end up in hell for rejecting the worship of God? I’m not completely sure, but I think the best answer is found in Romans 9:21-23. Ultimately God does everything in a display of the panorama of his glory, including both justice and grace.

So there you have it. The kind of God this theology paints seems more like a cruel sadist than a being worthy of our worship to me. Seems nothing like the Jesus I read about in the New Testament — and if it were the same person, Jesus sure seems like a hypocrite in such a theology to me.

But apparently lots of people in this world disagree with my opinion on the matter.

So what are the advantages of believing such a theology? Well I can think of a couple:

A. Missionary motivation. As long as you can ignore the whole predestination thing (which I suspect most Calvinist Evangelicals do) you have all sorts of reasons to preach to hell-bound sinners around you — like them durn Mormons for instance. If you had any compassion at all you’d want to try to help save as many people as possible from eternal suffering after all.

So from that point of view I must admit that I actually sort of appreciate Aaron trying to save me from the everlasting torture he believes God has in store for me. The fact that I wouldn’t even want to spend eternity with a person as monstrous as he views God as being doesn’t help his marketing efforts, but I appreciate his concern for me at least.

B. The Zoramite High. There has to be a certain high that comes from believing you are among the few saved people on the earth while 95% or more of the rest of the people on the planet are destined for everlasting torture. The once-saved-always-saved thing must have a nice peace-inducing aspect to it too. Unfortunately that part of the theology is all very reminiscent of some aspects of the theology of the Zoramites to me. Remember their weekly recitation?

16 Holy God, we believe that thou hast separated us from our brethren; … but we believe that thou hast elected us to be thy holy children; …
17 But thou art the same yesterday, today, and forever; and thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell; for the which holiness, O God, we thank thee; and we also thank thee that thou hast elected us, …
18 And again we thank thee, O God, that we are a chosen and a holy people. Amen. (Alma 31)

Near-Universalism vs. religious motivation

I must admit that the more I study God and humanity and theology and philosophy the more universalistic my theology seems to get. We Mormons have a near-universalistic theology to begin with when you consider D&C 76 and the notion of a temporary hell for even the wicked. But I tend to lean more universalistic than most Mormons these days as a result of my belief in eternal free will and the possibility of progression (or retrogression) between kingdoms. I just think that God never gives up on us and that the opportunity to freely choose to repent and come unto him will never cease throughout eternity. But while moving in that theological direction tastes right and true to me, universalism in general tends to be somewhat less religiously motivating than fearing a vengeful God and a relentlessly ticking clock. (I have talked about this a little before.) Part of me envies the passion that the awful theology Aaron believes evokes in him. Sort of like part of me misses the days before I became an entrepreneur and had a boss breathing down my neck as motivation to work, work, work. It is sometimes hard to be a self-starter. But even though believing a near-universalistic theology requires more self motivation of me, I can’t help but sense that it closer to the truth than the alternatives.

[Associated Radio Thang Song: Bad Religion - Sorrow]

End Notes

(1)Apparently Evangelical anti-Mormons get grumpy when we call them anti-Mormons. Mormon blogger JDC offered to call them “The Fluffy Bunny Nice Nice Club” at one blog but none of them seemed to prefer that. They reportedly don’t mind being called part of the “anti-Mormonism” movement but don’t like being called anti-Mormons because apparently most of them think they are doing God and us a favor with their anti-Mormonism efforts…

104 Comments »

  1. I had a prof. who once said, commenting on the fact that this kind of theology (a version of which most Christians believe in) is highly motivating, that “Marx was wrong, religion isn’t the opiate of the masses, it’s their amphetamine.”

    Comment by JKC — July 18, 2007 @ 4:52 am

  2. I served my mission in Georgia – I think a few years before you were in Tennesee (right?). Anyway, after I started getting a feel for what many of the protestants officially believed I think I may have had a hard time accepting that individuals really bought it. Whether they want to believe it or not, we are a lot more accomodating.

    Anyway, I think it is good to step back and see what other churches are teaching. It makes me feel grateful for what we have.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — July 18, 2007 @ 5:45 am

  3. “The Fluffy Bunny Nice Nice Club”

    I LOVE it!

    Comment by Rusty — July 18, 2007 @ 6:58 am

  4. “The amphetamine of the masses”

    Ha! I love it. Thanks JKC.

    Eric – Yes, you are right. I got the sense that most lay Protestants didn’t really buy much of what I outlined above. I have to commend Aaron to owning up to it all.

    Rusty – I thought you (and others) might appreciate that line. Glad you did.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 18, 2007 @ 8:40 am

  5. Almost it convinces me that I worship a different Jesus than Aaron, one that didn’t create the vast majority of his creation with a predestination to suffer eternal hell-fire.

    Bringing someone into existence out of nothing just so that they can burn in hell for eternity certainly fits the definition of cruel as far as the dictionary is concerned. Trying to say this exemplifies justice instead of cruelty is a simple and obvious abuse of language.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 18, 2007 @ 9:32 am

  6. I hope I am not creating a straw man of his theology here — I really try to avoid that. But I don’t think I am. Those are real quotes from Aaron and I really did try on several occasions in that exchange to give him an out or even nudge him away from these awful positions he boldly took. But he and others at that blog were persistently and confidently pushing this brand of theology. I must confess that was truly amazed to see someone actually preach such a thing…

    Comment by Geoff J — July 18, 2007 @ 9:38 am

  7. I am at a total loss as to what the big picture is with this theology. In what way does predestination play into the overall scheme of things, how does that advance God’s will in any constructive way? So much of those points make absolutely no sense whatsoever if we try to look at eternity as a whole, rather than just life on earth.

    Comment by Rusty — July 18, 2007 @ 10:08 am

  8. Col. 1: 17 and 2 Cor. 4: 18 make it clear that the opposite of created is not eternal and visa versa. Created things like man can become eternal and eternal things were once organized. Evangelicals seem to interpret the scriptures to create a false dichotomy between things that are eternal and things that are created. If that were so, man could never inherit eternal life.

    The spirit of man was co-existent with God (unseen things are eternal). This is why God is not responsible for wickedness. The spirit (intelligence) of men always existed and had agency (liberty). This is why the souls of man are so valuable in the sight of God. God gave us the ability to make choices, through Christ, which would bring about our eternal life (freedom).

    Comment by BRoz — July 18, 2007 @ 10:57 am

  9. In what way does predestination play into the overall scheme of things, how does that advance God’s will in any constructive way?

    Aaron and others obviously struggle with this question too Rusty. I sense that since they believe we are essentially poofed into existence out of nothing the question of eternity as a whole — especially eternity past — is pretty much a non-issue to most creedal Christians. Certainly not all Evangelicals believe in predestination or even once-saved-always-saved. The Calvinists do but the Arminians don’t for instance. I don’t have much of a sense of where the average Evangelical falls in this scale but it is likely that they assume some personal theology between the two (like assuming they are permanently saved but not really believing in predestination or something). I do suspect it is common among Evangelicals in general to assume that pretty much all non-Evangelicals will rot in hell forever though. That alone is baffling to me. What kind of God would create all these people just to torture most of them for all eternity? Sounds more like Sid from Toy Story than Jesus from scriptures to me. (Oh… sorry… I am doing it again…)

    Anyway, that ex nihilo thing makes them see our relationship with God as mostly a Pinocchio to Geppetto relationship I think. God is fond of us but we aren’t the same kind of being as him. So I guess that on their view if God wants to act loving like Geppetto or sadistic like Sid he is perfectly good and justified either way…

    Comment by Geoff J — July 18, 2007 @ 11:06 am

  10. They only claim to be doing us a favor because it, in their minds, justifies any slander or attack.

    Comment by Seth R. — July 18, 2007 @ 12:27 pm

  11. Well perhaps this post of mine will be viewed as a slanderous attack against Calvinist evangelicals too Seth. I hope it isn’t that because I am trying to paint an accurate picture of the beliefs amidst my editorializing about them…

    Comment by Geoff J — July 18, 2007 @ 12:34 pm

  12. Evangelical A: “All Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists and children not yet baptized are all going to Hell.”
    Jesus: “Welcome to Heaven my child.”

    Evangelical B: “Even though I’ve been an a**hole my whole life and beat my wife and molested my kids, I accepted You into my heart when I was 18.”
    Jesus: “Welcome to Heaven my child.”

    Evangelical C: “It actually doesn’t matter what I do because it was going to happen anyway. Thanks for predestining me to Heaven.”
    Jesus: “Welcome to Heaven my child.”

    Mormon: “God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost are separate beings.”
    Jesus: “Get thee to Hell you heathen!!”

    Brilliant.

    Comment by Rusty — July 18, 2007 @ 1:29 pm

  13. Geoff,

    If you send Aaron a heads up, I’m sure you could crank up the number of comments on this thread considerably (g).

    Comment by Jacob J — July 18, 2007 @ 1:42 pm

  14. Geoff, Aaron’s POV is largely the argument I would use to convince my friends in high school that there was no God. Or as you note, if such a God really was out there he’s no one worthy of worship.

    Comment by Téa — July 18, 2007 @ 2:03 pm

  15. Well, there are nice fluffy bunnies, and then there are Killer Rabbits merely posing as nice fluffy bunnies. And they are fearsome, aren’t they?

    Comment by Dave — July 18, 2007 @ 2:03 pm

  16. Although Calvinism has been making a resurgence as of late, I understand that most evangelicals in the U.S. lean towards Arminianism.

    It is worth noting that Arminians do not believe in (4) and (5), i.e. no predestination – a voluntary effort to accept (and keep) Christ in one’s life is required.

    See here.

    Comment by Mark D. — July 18, 2007 @ 2:09 pm

  17. Thanks for that link Mark. Very interesting and succinct presentation. Wesleyanism/Arminianism (aka Methodism) is far less objectionable than Calvinism/Augustinianism to be sure.

    Still, as Tea noted, the whole awful “pretty much everyone who is not an evangelical Christian is going to an eternal hell” thing (6. and 7. on my list) seems to generally apply to both camps of evangelicals as far as I can tell.

    (And I should note that Aaron also wrote this classic line in one of our exchanges: “Methodists are a diverse group, but a lot of Methodists I know are Christians.” Hehe. Nice.)

    Comment by Geoff J — July 18, 2007 @ 2:24 pm

  18. #’s 4, 5, and 6 pretty much negate any reason to have a religion at all.

    Just do whatever you are gonna do, you will be saved…or not. Either way it’s been predestined.

    Comment by Trevor — July 18, 2007 @ 3:11 pm

  19. So I am wondering . . .

    What is the interpretation by the current LDS prophet and apostles on gracious, individual election? Is this disavowed? Have any of the apostles considered and presented the LDS position on Romans 9? I am interested.

    Secondly, the seminary I attended had Methodist roots. Fiery, Methodist roots! I would like to see how Mormonism embraces Methodist fundamentalism.

    And Geoff, I am sorry. Your advantages laced with sarcasm are inaccurate.

    And I thought LDS in posting to the whole world were sensitive to misrepresentation. Does Aaron go around saying he saves people? Did he mention his view of predestination as equal and the same for both saved and lost? Which evangelical Calvinists have you met and know that within their hearts abides a Zoramhite high? Frankly the Alma 31 that I see in LDS films doesn’t match up with what I observe among real flesh and blood.

    (Sigh) and I am not the only one tempted to exagerate or exploit.

    It does say a lot about human nature, chief.

    Thank God for the Savior sent to die for us.

    Comment by Todd Wood — July 18, 2007 @ 3:32 pm

  20. Well I am glad you showed up Todd. I neither want to exaggerate nor exploit and that is why I emailed you and asked you to come straighten out the straw men we may be building here.

    What is the interpretation by the current LDS prophet and apostles on gracious, individual election?

    I’m not familiar with this term “gracious, individual election”. What does it mean exactly?

    I would like to see how Mormonism embraces Methodist fundamentalism.

    Me too. What does Methodist fundamentalism entail?

    Does Aaron go around saying he saves people?

    Not that I know of. Did someone imply otherwise? I’m afraid I have no idea what prompted this random comment or most of the other sort of random things in that paragraph… (LDS films? huh?)

    Comment by Geoff J — July 18, 2007 @ 3:57 pm

  21. Ah, I see your email, now. Thanks Geoff. I had come over initially because of the provocative title.

    Concerning the last question . . .

    As long as you can ignore the whole predestination thing (which I suspect most Calvinist Evangelicals do) you have all sorts of reasons to preach to hell-bound sinners around you — like them durn Mormons for instance. If you had any compassion at all you’d want to try to save as many people as possible from eternal suffering after all.

    This set me off.

    Only Jesus can save.

    The LDS film, Work and Glory, I think the first one, contained a preacher ranting and raving on election.

    No more time for the moment. Be back later.

    Comment by Todd Wood — July 18, 2007 @ 4:16 pm

  22. One of the most important things I have read that has informed my Calvinism is an essay by John Piper entitled, “Are There Two Wills in God?”. It starts out with this:

    My aim here is to show from Scripture that the simultaneous existence of God’s will for “all persons to be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4) and his will to elect unconditionally those who will actually be saved is not a sign of divine schizophrenia or exegetical confusion. A corresponding aim is to show that unconditional election therefore does not contradict biblical expressions of God’s compassion for all people, and does not nullify sincere offers of salvation to everyone who is lost among all the peoples of the world.

    I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to have some of their caricatures of Calvinism corrected.

    I’d converse more but I’m in CO and I have to present some work tomorrow that I’m scurrying to prepare.

    Grace and peace in Christ, who justifies the ungodly by faith apart from works (Romans 4:4-8),

    Aaron

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — July 18, 2007 @ 4:30 pm

  23. Aaron: I don’t believe that the two-will doctrine is coherent. God’s hidden will is just what occurs (so it’s not really hidden after all). But since God can cause us to be saved were he to so choose, his will isn’t really conditioned on anything outside of him and there is no basis for the two will doctrine. I discuss it at length in vol. 2 of my work Exploring Mormon Thought in ch. 9.

    Comment by Blake — July 18, 2007 @ 6:21 pm

  24. Todd W.,

    The LDS do believe in gracious, individual election, but not in “unconditional election”.

    See for example here and of course here.

    Comment by Mark D. — July 18, 2007 @ 6:32 pm

  25. “I think the same sort of question is asked of those who (like myself) believe in God’s definite foreknowledge. Why would God create a human that he knows will ultimately end up in hell for rejecting the worship of God? I’m not completely sure, but I think the best answer is found in Romans 9:21-23. Ultimately God does everything in a display of the panorama of his glory, including both justice and grace.”

    Sorry, Aaron, I don’t see how that is any demonstration of Divine justice and grace. This idea — that God created me, gave me no free will, and will eventually thrust me to eternal Hell as “punishment” for my lack of agency, and all simply to demonstrate His justice and grace — is simply repulsive to any form of justice that I can grasp.

    To be brutally blunt, I think I’d rather spend eternity in Hell than with any such deity.

    Comment by Dave T — July 18, 2007 @ 8:05 pm

  26. Todd and Aaron: I would like to put to rest the notion that Romans 9 somehow teaches individual election to damnation or salvation. First, Romans 9 never once mentions salvation or damnation. It is addressing the corporate election of Israel and the Christian community as the new Israel that continues to be the beneficiary of God’s covenant promises. It refers to Jacob and Esau not as individuals, but as representatives of those who are entitled to the covenant promises as God’s people and the Edomites who are not so entitled. We know that these two are referred to as representatives because Rom. 9:6-7 is actually quoting Mal. 1:4 which so states. Moreover, the election is not an individual election to salvation or reprobation, as Protestants read it, but of election of the Church or those “in Christ” to be conformed to the image of God. Such renewal of the image of Christ is the result of the process of sanctification and not justification to be saved. Thus, the notion of individual predestination based on God’s election of individuals to damnation or salvation was never taught by Paul — and certainly never by Jesus.

    Given the rather pernicious implications of predestination of the fact that God sends to hell those he could save, I suggest that it isn’t a doctrine that can be squared with Jesus’s view that God is love.

    Comment by Blake — July 18, 2007 @ 8:22 pm

  27. Dave T,

    Amen.

    And we’ll have the company of countless millions of good Hindus, Buddhists, Catholics and Agnostics and who knows how many brands of Christians who fooled themselves into thinking God had granted them some freedom to do good or on some other point had failed to beleive in the ‘right’ Jesus, and, in spite of living according to the best light they could find, are eternally punished right along with us.

    ~

    Comment by Thomas Parkin — July 18, 2007 @ 9:53 pm

  28. And we’ll have the company of countless millions of good Hindus, Buddhists, Catholics and Agnostics and who knows how many brands of Christians who fooled themselves into thinking God had granted them some freedom to do good or on some other point had failed to beleive in the ‘right’ Jesus, and, in spite of living according to the best light they could find, are eternally punished right along with us.

    Yep, I suspect the company will be better where we are. :)

    Comment by Dave T — July 19, 2007 @ 3:38 am

  29. You guys are reminding me of Joseph Smith’s famous line:

    Let me be resurrected with the Saints, whether I ascend to heaven or descend to hell, or go to any other place. And if we go to hell, we will turn the devils out of doors and make a heaven of it.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 19, 2007 @ 9:36 am

  30. Geoff, I think you make a good case for universalism in Mormonism. I remember someone somewhere claiming that Joseph Smith was basically taking the traditional heaven-hell as Outer Darkness and the Telestial Kingdom, and simply adding two additional layers on top (Terrestrial and Celestial). Or maybe they were arguing that the Telestial was hell and I’m reinterpreting.

    (By the way, has the tone become more caustic here generally, or is this thread an outlier? I have to say that Todd Wood has always been most polite at the Feast blog, so it’s easy for me to read his comments and theological views charitably; I’m guessing that previous experience has made reading Aaron’s comments a more challenging exercise of faith??)

    Comment by Robert C. — July 19, 2007 @ 10:36 am

  31. Blake: We know that these two are referred to as representatives because Rom. 9:6-7 is actually quoting Mal. 1:4 which so states.

    First, I think you meant Rom. 9:13 and Malachi 1:2 (or am I missing something)? Second, where is that so stated? Verses 2 and 3 seems to refer to the actual people Jacob and Esau, whereas verse 4 switches to the descendants of Esau. What am I missing?

    Comment by P. Nielsen — July 19, 2007 @ 10:50 am

  32. Robert C.

    I’m not sure what you mean with your last paragraph. This post is in response to discussions at an anti-Mormon… err… Fluffy Bunny Nice Nice Club blog so the tone is perhaps a bit reflective of the seed from which it came. I’ll let you be the judge about this post being an outlier though — what do you think based on all the other posts here? (I can say that I’ve never addressed anti-Mormonism or Calvinism directly before so it is definitely an outlier in terms of subject matter.)

    Comment by Geoff J — July 19, 2007 @ 10:59 am

  33. (Geoff #32, sorry, I think your phrase “hideous theology” caught me off guard in the post precisely because I’m used to reading such good solid reasoning here, sans ad hominem. This tainted the way I read the rest of this thread and since I haven’t visited here in a while, I blurted out that last paragraph rather unthinkingly. Also, I guess I tend to think anti-Mormon is a pejorative term that should be avoided when engaging in the kind of responsible discussion I’m used to reading here—so, without reading the seed from which this conversation was thrown, the footnote in the post also caught me off guard. Anyway, sorry for the distraction, feel free to edit/delete my comments….)

    Comment by Robert C. — July 19, 2007 @ 11:25 am

  34. No worries Robert. Others might have had similar thoughts or questions so I’ll leave this exchange here to make the history behind this post more obvious.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 19, 2007 @ 12:04 pm

  35. Geoff, popping in for just a moment tonight to say, I don’t have time till next week.

    And has Blake written any cross-examination on the theology of Jonathan Edwards?

    Will be back. Important conversation.

    Comment by Todd Wood — July 19, 2007 @ 8:28 pm

  36. P. Nielsen: You’re quite right that Malachi 1:2 must be read in conjunction with Mal. 1:3-4. Verse 3 says: “I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste …” V. 4 speaks of “Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate place…” The subject is the fate of the descendants and Jacob and Esau as representatives of people who have been the beneficiaries of God’s covenant promises and who return as a remnant. That is why Paul cites this passage, because the Church in Christ is now the beneficiary of these covenant promises. So Paul is speaking of corporate election; not individual election. He is speaking of the covenant people; not election to individual salvation and damnation (a subject that is nowhere addressed in Rom. 9). So I believe that citing Romans 9 to support the Calvinistic doctrine of election to salvation or damnation is not a viable reading.

    Geoff: I think that your initial post provides a better balance of some of the positive aspects of Calvinism than your more recent commments — with the obvious elephant of predestination in the room.

    Todd: Yeah, I address Jonathan Edwards’ arguments in my book.

    Comment by Blake — July 19, 2007 @ 8:44 pm

  37. Blake,

    While I definitely see that God’s love and hatred for Jacob and Esau were expressed through His actions and covenants, in relation to the posterity of the two brothers and the promises given to them, I do not see Mal. 1:2 as speaking of Jacob and Esau only as representatives for peoples. God has literally favored Jacob (the person) by blessing his posterity, and not favored Esau similarly.

    So, as I see it, when Paul quotes Mal. 1:2 it is possible he is speaking of the persons Jacob and Esau, not necessarily as representatives of peoples, but with regards to how God treated them (as individuals) via the blessings to their posterity. This is futher brought out in verse 11, where Paul talks about actual events in their lives. And again, in verse 19, when Paul speaks of God’s actions regarding a specific individual (Pharoah).

    But, just to be clear, I agree with you that Paul is not speaking of individual election to salvation. My point is that I’m not convinced he is only speaking of corporate election. In other words, in my opinion there are valid ways to exegete the scriptures to support the position that Paul is speaking about both corporate and individual election to callings in this life (both good and bad), but I agree, not reflective of salvation in the next. [Although the scenario with Pharoah needs some addressing.]

    I’ll have to get vol. 2 to see what you say there.

    Comment by P. Nielsen — July 20, 2007 @ 8:54 am

  38. A couple of suggestions:

    1. Your accompanying radio blog song should be bad religion’s sinister rouge not sorrow.

    2. Also, I believe you err on the side of generosity by allowing Aaron S.’s Calvinism to hold that “The way to get saved is by accepting Jesus in only the narrow way prescribed by Evangelical Christianity” in your point # 6.

    Under Calvinism, God chooses who will be saved before they are ever born. In this sense, no one really has any choice at all. If you are someone who chooses to accept the creedal Jesus of Evangelical Christians (i.e. Jesus Christ as defined in the creeds to the exclusion of Jesus Christ accessible straight from the New Testament), then that just means that God chose you to do that before you ever existed. It was not your choice.

    It is curious that Aaron specifically said that Mormons would burn in hell though. The ONLY apparent justification for this comment is that the Jesus that Latter-day Saints accept is not the same Jesus that Calvinists accept, and therefore even though Latter-day Saints have accepted him, they are still damned forever. The reason this is curious is because the only reason that the Jesus that Latter-day Saints accept is viewed as a different Jesus by Calvinists and Evangelical Christians is because Latter-day Saints accept the Jesus of the New Testament — the one who has a resurrected physical body and who is a separate being from God the Father — while Calvinists and Evangelical Christians restrict themselves in reading the New Testament to the lens of the creeds. Thus, when they accept Jesus it is the Jesus of the creeds, a creation of fourth-century politician Bishops heavily glossed by medieval Catholic philosopher clergy. It is strange that Evangelical Christians, even though they are not Catholic and have therefore rejected the Catholic Church, still choose to limit themselves to the Catholic creeds.

    Comment by john f. — July 20, 2007 @ 11:15 am

  39. John: I believe you err on the side of generosity

    Hehe. Well that’s the best way to err in these things I suppose. But your point is a good one. (And thanks for the song selection — I’ll check that one out.)

    Comment by Geoff J — July 20, 2007 @ 11:19 am

  40. Todd:

    Geoff’s post here is far more respectful and less exaggerated than the posts at the anti-Mormon blog that inspired this post. Why is it that you do not take exception to exaggerations and denigrations of Mormons and Mormonism at an Evangelical Calvinist blog but then decry such (even when they do not exist) at an LDS blog that presents some of the reasons why Jesus Christ’s Church had to be restored and not merely reformed from the Catholic Church.

    Perhaps it has to do with the idea that any criticism of creedal Christian beliefs is just considered beyond the pale — that creedal Christian views should be considered by all, not just born and raised creedal Christians, as so self-evident that they bear no argument.

    Todd and Aaron:

    What is it with Evangelical Christians and Romans? Romans is just one of the scrolls that comprise the New Testament.

    Perhaps Evangelical Christians should be called Romans (that would be easier to debate — the Romans vs. the Mormons — because Evangelical Christians, or even creedal Christians, can be so tedious to write).

    Romans must be read in harmony with the rest of the New Testament. It is fundamentally dangerous to build an entire splinter-group of the Catholic Church based on a fistful of quotes from Paul. None other than the chief among the apostles Peter (perhaps Evangelical Christians wish to diminish Peter because, after all, Peter is the rock upon which the Catholic Church as a hierarchical institution is purportedly built?) wrote in another equally valid part of the New Testament that the epistles of Paul which speak of salvation, although full of wisdom, contain “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” .

    Little doubt exists that those who build a theology around single verses by Paul, and then force the words of Jesus Christ himself as recorded in the Gospels to conform to those verses, are wresting the scriptures.

    Comment by john f. — July 20, 2007 @ 11:51 am

  41. re # 30, Robert:

    It would be more logical to assume that (if Joseph Smith was making this stuff up rather than receiving it as revelation from a loving God) Joseph Smith meant heaven/hell as spirit paradise/spirit prison, i.e. creedal Christians lost the knowledge of the degrees of glory throughout the course of the Apostasy or never fully understood it in the first place before teachings went out of favor. Thus, when creedal Christians think of heaven, they are really thinking of Paradise, a pre-final-judgment state into which just people, including creedal Christians, find themselves immediately after death. This concept confused Alma because he took it as a judgment in and of itself and so wondered how it related to the final judgment. This goes to show that even prophets are learning precept by precept.

    When the Bible speaks of Jesus putting death and hell at his feet, obtaining the victory over both of them so that their collective sting is overcome, Latter-day Saints take it seriously. Therefore, Spirit Prison will be eventually be emptied and upon Final Judgment all will inherit one of the three degrees of glory — even the lowest of these will be a glory that far supersedes that of life on this earth. Moreover, each individual will enjoy the kingdom to which they are assigned in their resurrected physical body, the expression of salvation enjoyed by all of God’s children as a result of God’s immeasurable love for all of those he has created.

    Comment by john f. — July 20, 2007 @ 12:11 pm

  42. Geoff and I had a recorded, cordial chat and everyone is invited to… set aside a whoppin’ 2.5 hours to listen to it :-)

    Part 1

    Part 2

    Part 3

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — July 21, 2007 @ 11:31 am

  43. My word, 2.5 hours. Should be fun, thanks guys.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 21, 2007 @ 6:36 pm

  44. The main problem is that the quality of my voice recording is pretty poor (because we were on the phone and Aaron was recording it on his side). Nevertheless I enjoyed the talk with Aaron and felt like it was pleasant and educational.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 21, 2007 @ 7:18 pm

  45. Aaron: After listening to your explanation of Calvinism, it appears as though you believe that whether we are saved is up to the human heart’s response in some sense. However, whether the human heart responds is due to the logically prior election of God. The problem is simply and totally this: God could save all, everyone, without doing violence to the human heart or free will on your Calvinistic view. That means that God either chooses to leave some to hell for eternity (single predestination) or affirmatively chooses to reprobate some to hell (double predestination). Either view is simply not consistent with the view that God is loving. Any person who could save another at will but chose to leave them to hell is certainly missing something vital about love.

    Comment by Blake — July 21, 2007 @ 8:30 pm

  46. I enjoyed it too, and I appreciated your friendliness, Geoff. If you lived in Utah I could see us becoming good friends, at least in the enjoyment of conversing these issues. We both of course think the other has an insanely warped view of God, but I appreciate people who are willing to be forthright about that and yet do so with composure and patience.

    Comment by Aaron — July 21, 2007 @ 8:34 pm

  47. Either view is simply not consistent with the view that God is loving.

    Blake, I believe God is love but I do not believe this precludes God’s ultimate commitment of loving himself above saving all people. I believe God is more committed to the display of the panorama of his glory (with both justice and mercy) than he is to the equal and undifferentiated bestowal of grace upon all humans. In his plan preparing vessels of wrath for destruction serves to help the vessels of mercy appreciate “the riches of his glory”:

    “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory–even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?” – Romans 9:22-24

    Comment by Aaron — July 21, 2007 @ 8:40 pm

  48. Okay, I finished the first part. Great discussion so far, I very much enjoyed it.

    Here are a couple of notes.

    On the salvation of children: Geoff spoke to this in the discussion, but just for Aaron’s reference, the Book of Mormon says the following about the salvation of children.

    16 And even if it were possible that little children could sin they could not be saved; but I say unto you they are blessed; for behold, as in Adam, or by nature, they fall, even so the blood of Christ atoneth for their sins. (Mosiah 3:16)

    This seems like something Aaron could agree with based on his own description of the situation.

    On what mankind deserves: At one point, Aaron was pressing Geoff about whether or not it would be just for God to put absolutely everyone in hell forever. Do we all deserve hell? This is a central point for Aaron.

    The crucial issue here is creation ex nihilo, and it speaks to the problem of evil. If God created us ex nihilo, why did he create us depraved and deserving of hell? There seems to be absolutely no satisfactory response to this question from Aaron’s perspective. We must be the way we are because God willed it to be so. How could it be otherwise? And if God willed us to be as we are, then even if we deserve hell based on what we are, that doesn’t let God off the hook for creating us this way. Aaron, where am I going wrong here? It seems like you have no escape from the fact that God created a whole bunch of people and destined them to an eternity of hell when he didn’t have to do so. That doesn’t seem godly from a Mormon perspective.

    Incidentally, Mormon theology has considerably more wiggle room on the problem of evil because we reject creation ex nihilo. Thus, God is not responsible for the fact that we are depraved. He just found us that way and makes it his work to help us overcome whatever depravity we have to begin with.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 21, 2007 @ 8:42 pm

  49. If God created us ex nihilo, why did he create us depraved and deserving of hell?

    I believe God created humanity in a pristine and holy condition, and that Adam and Eve sinned “fell”: they were cast out of the garden, they were sentence to physically die, and they spiritually now had fallen, wicked natures, and “were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:3). I look to the Fall to more immediately explain the depravity of man, not God’s creation or any direct, violent actions on the will of man.

    Comment by Aaron — July 21, 2007 @ 8:52 pm

  50. Aaron,

    Thanks, I can see how the Genesis story can be used this way, but doesn’t this beg the question?

    Is it true that on your view God created me when I was conceived? If so, why does God continue to create everyone who is born today in a depraved state simply because of what Adam and Eve did thousands of years ago? He is all-powerful, right? Why didn’t he send Adam and Eve to hell and create me in that pristine and holy condition you mentioned?

    I might just be misunderstanding your doctrine of creation, I’m not sure.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 21, 2007 @ 9:16 pm

  51. #49. Aaron,

    If Adam and Eve were pristine and holy prior to the Fall, that is, I’m assuming, without a sinful element to their nature, what element in their nature allowed them to choose sin?

    I’ve got some other questions about #49, but no hay tiempo, nunca.

    ~

    Comment by Thomas Parkin — July 21, 2007 @ 9:34 pm

  52. Aaron: I believe God is love but I do not believe this precludes God’s ultimate commitment of loving himself above saving all people. I believe God is more committed to the display of the panorama of his glory (with both justice and mercy) than he is to the equal and undifferentiated bestowal of grace upon all humans.

    Your view entails that God is so self-centered in his self-love that he cannot see that he can both love himself and save everyone at the same time. It is beyond me how sending some to hell somehow glorifies God. It seems to me that God is glorified, just as Jesus said in the Gospel of John, because Jesus saves all those that are entrusted to him by the Father — and that is all of us.

    Further, there is not a single mention in Romans 9-10 of damnation or salvation and it seems to me to be wresting these texts beyond recognition to suggest that they mean that individuals are somehow damned or saved as a matter of predestination. As I argued before, these texts refer to corporate election to be God’s people and the beneficiaries of his covenant blessings. Indeed, that is the primary thrust of the best Pauline scholarship offered by the New Perspective on Paul.

    The problem of evil looms large here as Jacob and Geoff state. God created us ex nihilo with perfect foreknowledge of all of the atrocities humans would perform and effectively we are all caused as a result of his First Cause to do these evils. It simply seems impossible to suggest that God isn’t an accessory before, during and after the fact in every human evil and therefore is culpable, indictable and evil himself.

    However, with respect to human depravity it seems to me that you’re also missing a crucial point of Calvinist doctrine. We are not truly guilty or evil as a result of Adam’s sin. Rather, for some unfathomable reason God in his absolute voluntary sovereignty chooses to impute Adam’s sinfulness to us though we are not guilty of it. It may be the least charitable imputation possible. isn’t that a doctrine you also accept (as John Piper argues)?

    Nevertheless, I thank you for your friendly and straightforward discussion of your views. It was interesting to listen to.

    Comment by Blake — July 21, 2007 @ 9:44 pm

  53. Why didn’t he send Adam and Eve to hell and create me in that pristine and holy condition you mentioned?

    The short answer is: I don’t know.

    One help to me is Romans 5, where Paul speaks of me as having sinned in Adam, as sharing moral responsbility for it (although this is another thing I don’t understand).

    I tend to believe that if I were created in a pristine condition as Adam I would have done the same thing.

    Your view entails that God is so self-centered in his self-love that he cannot see that he can both love himself and save everyone at the same time.

    This is true, and I don’t think this is a caricature of my belief. I agree with the following quote:

    It is a proper and excellent thing for infinite glory to shine forth; and for the same reason, it is proper that the shining forth of God’s glory should be complete; that is, that all parts of his glory should shine forth, that every beauty should be proportionably effulgent [=radiant], that the beholder may have a proper notion of God. It is not proper that one glory should be exceedingly manifested, and another not at all. . .

    Thus it is necessary, that God’s awful majesty, his authority and dreadful greatness, justice, and holiness, should be manifested. But this could not be, unless sin and punishment had been decreed; so that the shining forth of God’s glory would be very imperfect, both because these parts of divine glory would not shine forth as the others do, and also the glory of his goodness, love, and holiness would be faint without them; nay, they could scarcely shine forth at all.

    If it were not right that God should decree and permit and punish sin, there could be no manifestation of God’s holiness in hatred of sin, or in showing any preference, in his providence, of godliness before it. There would be no manifestation of God’s grace or true goodness, if there was no sin to be pardoned, no misery to be saved from. How much happiness soever he bestowed, his goodness would not be so much prized and admired, and the sense of it not so great . . .

    So evil is necessary, in order to the highest happiness of the creature, and the completeness of that communication of God, for which he made the world; because the creature’s happiness consists in the knowledge of God, and the sense of his love. And if the knowledge of him be imperfect, the happiness of the creature must be proportionably imperfect. (Jonathan Edwards, “Concerning the Divine Decrees,” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1974), p. 528)

    Further, there is not a single mention in Romans 9-10 of damnation or salvation

    Romans 9 is spearheaded by Paul’s genuine concern for Jewish individuals who he believes are accursed, for whom he wishes he could be accursed in their place (9:3). I of course think that the promise of Abraham Paul goes on to mention absolutely has to do with salvation (from, among other things, damnation). In verse 23 Paul speaks of God’s wrath and vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and constrasts this with vessels that receive mercy. In verse 30 he speaks of the Gentiles who attained a righteousness that the Jews did not attain but pursued, etc. In 10:1 Paul says, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.” Verse 13 says, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

    All things considerd I have a hard time believing it has nothing to do with individual damnation or salvation.

    Regarding your philosophical objections to ex nihilo, I won’t pretend to have good philosophical answers for you. I don’t know. Speaking honestly, my belief in God’s definite foreknowledge has more to do with a simple trust of who I see him for in scripture than it does with a serious philosophical evaluation of the implications.

    We are not truly guilty or evil as a result of Adam’s sin. Rather, for some unfathomable reason God in his absolute voluntary sovereignty chooses to impute Adam’s sinfulness to us though we are not guilty of it.

    I don’t know how else in good conscience to read Romans 5, so I believe in the imputation of Adam’s sin to humanity. This seems important for me not to reject, as Paul parallels it in Romans 5 with the fact that, “for some unfathomable reason God in his absolute voluntary sovereignty”, God imputes Christ’s righteousness to undeserving sinners. When people reject one, they usually end up rejecting the other. And that makes sense, since Paul connected the two.

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — July 21, 2007 @ 10:41 pm

  54. I tend to believe that if I were created in a pristine condition as Adam I would have done the same thing.

    I guess this gets back to Thomas’ question in #51. How do you answer that? If we were created in a holy and pristine condition, why would you expect us to sin? and how do you account for Adam doing so in the first place? I am having a hard time making sense of it from your perspective.

    By the way, I finished all the parts, and just want to echo Blake in thanking you both for a very friendly and substantive discussion.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 21, 2007 @ 10:54 pm

  55. how do you account for Adam doing so in the first place?

    The scripture seems silent on this, so I don’t have an answer. I think the question is also valid for Protestant adherents of libertarian free will, since it is simply extraordinary and amazing that a person created in a pristine condition, enjoying the Garden of Eden and a personal relationship with God, would even think about not trusting the God who just created them and the world they live on. It’s baffling.

    I of course don’t think that is sufficient reason to believe that the Fall was good or that Adam and Eve’s decision was righteous and imitable, because the scripture doesn’t speak of it like that (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:3).

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — July 22, 2007 @ 8:32 am

  56. I enjoyed the conversation. Thanks guys. Some disjointed reactions:

    1) On the question of whether God is obligated to offer mercy to everyone equally, my answer would be that I don’t know what God is obligated to do—he didn’t even have to create us in the first place—but in order for Him to be a being worthy of admiration, he would have to be just and loving (which in this case I use synonymously with “charitable,” which I define as being interested in and willing to work for the happiness of others, like Christ did).

    God must be just: For God to offer mercy to only some of his children would be unjust. Sure, if you believe that mankind is depraved, you might say that true justice would be eternal damnation for everyone. But once God offers mercy to one individual, even if everyone is depraved and is deserving of eternal tourment (which I can’t accept), justice demands that he offer the same thing equally to every other individual. If He doesn’t we can’t call Him just.

    God must be loving: For God to create souls with no intention of offering them a chance to avoid eternal torment would not be loving. That would be the opposite of loving.

    2) Self love is not a virtue. Nobody would say that a man who treats almost everyone he knows badly but loves himself a lot is a loving person. That’s what we would call a jerk (actually we’d use stronger language, but this is a family blog). That’s not how Christ behaved when He was here.

    God’s work and glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. He’s in the business of charity. That’s why He’s good. That’s why I love Him and want to be like Him.

    3) I sometimes think it’s hard to be a Mormon. But today I feel like it would be pretty darn hard to be an evangelical. It seems like Aaron feels forced to believe some things that I consider pretty awful, and which he admits don’t sit well with him, because that’s what he understands the Bible to be teaching. That can’t be comfortable.

    Comment by Tom — July 22, 2007 @ 1:31 pm

  57. Thanks for your honesty Aaron. These are the obvious tough-spots in Calvinist theology and by pressing them I don’t mean to overlook that Mormons also have a few doctrinal tough-spots. However, in my view the scriptural exegesis is extremely strained. Rom. 5 cannot be cited to support imputation of Adam’s sin — it says that we are evil because we have all sinned. It says nothing at all of imputation of any sort. Indeed, the notion of imputation either of Adam’s sin or of Christ’s righteousness just isn’t found anywhere in the Old or New Testaments. I discuss the exegesis of imputation at some length in volume 2 of my Exploring Mormon Thought series. I also discuss the exegesis of justification by grace in light of the New Perspective on Paul which I believe is a far superior reading of the relevant texts.

    I trust that you’ll forgive me in suggesting that sometimes “I just don’t know” isn’t enough. We know quite enough to know that arbitrarily sending people to hell that could be saved by the same divine fiat is inconsistent with divine love. We also know enough to confidently suggest that the asserted scriptural basis for these doctrinal disasters is thin at best. I know that Arminianism is a viable option for most evangelicals. It seems far preferable to me.

    Comment by Blake — July 22, 2007 @ 4:59 pm

  58. FYI — Here is my post on Blake’s chapter on Original Sin. It was an interesting discussion too I thought.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 22, 2007 @ 5:22 pm

  59. Robert C. (#30),

    As far as the scriptures are concerned, I think “hell” almost always translates more correctly to what we call “spirit prison” than what we call “outer darkness”. See D&C 76:81-84 in particular. Otherwise many scriptures wouldn’t make any sense.

    Of course the big difference is that most of those who have a tenure there do not suffer there eternally, but are redeemed through repentance and resurrection to a kingdom of glory.

    In fairness, it is also worth noting that there are those who believe that the telestial and the terrestrial are kind of like the Catholic Limbo (lit. edge of hell), and the celestial is the only heaven worthy of the name. I think D&C 76:88 and 138:59 belie that perspective though.

    Comment by Mark D. — July 22, 2007 @ 6:35 pm

  60. But once God offers mercy to one individual, even if everyone is depraved and is deserving of eternal tourment (which I can’t accept), justice demands that he offer the same thing equally to every other individual.

    Yuck, this seems like a gross conflation of the principles of justice and mercy. A summary of the evangelical view is this:

    1. Justice is necessarily meted out by God (either on sinners or on Christ as the received substitute). Anything less would not vindicate the holiness of God.

    2. Grace and mercy by their very nature are not obligatory. They are given freely, and God is not forced into bestowing equal and undifferentiated grace upon all. The LDS view seems to generally be that God is obliged to bestow mercy on everyone.

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — July 22, 2007 @ 9:39 pm

  61. As far as the scriptures are concerned, I think “hell” almost always translates more correctly to what we call “spirit prison” than what we call “outer darkness”.

    Just for the record, I still disagree with Mark’s assessment on this point.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 22, 2007 @ 10:20 pm

  62. Aaron (#60),

    I think there is a lot of miscommunication on this point because we are not defining justice and mercy in the same ways.

    We agree with you that God is not obligated to save a person who remains sinful and unrepentant. The BofM refers to that possibility as mercy robbing justice and says that it can’t happen. Mormonism agrees with you here.

    When we say that God is obliged to bestow mercy on all, what we are saying is that God is Good, and therefore he must be trying to save everyone. If it is fully within God’s power to save someone and he doesn’t do it, then he cannot be considered Good. This is the situation described by your theology.

    It is not that it is owed to us, it is that it is demanded by the definition of goodness. You seem to be continually misunderstanding this crucial point and thinking that we feel something is owed to us. It is the definition of “good” (and “loving”) that concerns us, and the God you describe doesn’t meet the definition.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 22, 2007 @ 10:33 pm

  63. Well said Jacob. That is the key.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 22, 2007 @ 10:38 pm

  64. Geoff, it seems that God is in your view quite obligated to keep extending (at least in the sense of offering) grace to those who are sinful and unrepentant. If God abandoned those in outer darkness—those whom you have indicated have an eternal opportunity to eventually progress into kingdoms of glory and even godhood—would his goodness be compromised? If you affirm this, then at least be aware that you have a rare view within the landscape of Mormonism, most of whom believe the sons of perdition will be in outer darkness forever and ever. By your standards, most of your fellow Mormons reject your definition of God’s goodness.

    If it is fully within God’s power to save someone and he doesn’t do it, then he cannot be considered Good.

    This is not a presuppositional demand I bring to the Bible.

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — July 22, 2007 @ 11:18 pm

  65. Aaron,

    Yes, I do think that part of being good means extending mercy to all. And in Mormonism God is good. So if those in outer darkness do indeed retain libertarian free will (or even remain sentient for that matter) then no I don’t think God would withhold mercy from them ever. The idea that God would be so merciful is not the rare part in the Mormon landscape though — it is the idea that souls in outer darkness might retain free will that is rare. In fact, other than Blake, I don’t recall having heard any other Mormon even broach the subject of people in outer darkness retaining free will. One thing is for certain — there is no revelation on the matter so that subject remains squarely in the “speculation” category. But in any case, no I don’t think most of my fellow Mormons would reject my view on the goodness and graciousness and mercy of God.

    This is not a presuppositional demand I bring to the Bible.

    The problem is that the definition of “good” you are using is not the English definition of the word good as far as I can tell. The divine person your theology insists upon could not be called generally good or merciful or gracious or kind or loving by any definitions of those words I am aware of.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 22, 2007 @ 11:48 pm

  66. Jacob (#60),

    Please refer to Acts 2:27-31 where Peter is expounding upon Psalms 16:10, saying that David knew that his soul would not be left in “hell” forever, and that he would be resurrected. What else can “hell” here refer to here if not to spirit prison?

    Nephi says that his people must go “down to hell” because they do not repent (2 Ne 26:10). Clearly not outer darkness, right? See also 2 Ne 28:15,21.

    I refer to D&C 76:84,106 which states twice that the denizens of the telestial shall be thrust “down to hell”, where they shall remain until the fulness of times. That is a lot of people.

    The scriptures speak of multitudes going to “hell” on numerous occasions. If “hell” only refers to outer darkness, then the scriptures are flat out wrong, and the “eat drink and be merry-tommorrow we die-few stripes-saved in the kingdom of god” theory is right on.

    Comment by Mark D. — July 23, 2007 @ 12:03 am

  67. Either that or the Calvinists are right about most of humanity remaining in outer darkness forever…

    Comment by Mark D. — July 23, 2007 @ 12:04 am

  68. So if those in outer darkness do indeed retain libertarian free will (or even remain sentient for that matter) then no I don’t think God would withhold mercy from them ever.

    So I take it you would reject this excerpt from LDS.org?

    Those in this second group will be resurrected from the dead but will not be redeemed from the second (spiritual) death and cannot dwell in a kingdom of glory (D&C 88: 32, 35). None of them is lost but the son of perdition, John 17: 12. It is impossible to renew them again unto repentance, Heb. 6: 4-6 (Heb. 10: 26-29). Mercy hath no claim on that man and his final doom is never-ending torment, Mosiah 2: 36-39. He is as though there was no redemption made, Mosiah 16: 5. Those who deny Christ’s miracles to get gain shall become like the son of perdition, 3 Ne. 29: 7. They will receive no forgiveness in this world or the next, D&C 76: 30-34 (D&C 84: 41; 132: 27).

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — July 23, 2007 @ 12:13 am

  69. The problem is that the definition of “good” you are using is not the English definition of the word good as far as I can tell. The divine person your theology insists upon could not be called generally good or merciful or gracious or kind or loving by any definitions of those words I am aware of.

    The problem for you isn’t that I don’t believe God is ever “good or merciful or gracious or kind or loving”. It’s that I don’t believe God is “good and merciful and gracious and kind and loving” to all people in the same, equal, and undifferentiated way.

    I believe God is, ultimately speaking, good to himself. The goodness of his grace is predestined to be enjoyed by his elect new covenant people. While God shows goodness to the permanently unrepentant (for, by example, giving them rain and food and family and a life to live on earth), he is not good to them in all the ways that he is good to the Bride of Christ.

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — July 23, 2007 @ 12:30 am

  70. Aaron S.,

    I believe the scriptures are clear that salvation comes only on condition of repentance. The intransigent will not be saved, unless they repent. No unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven (Alma 11:37).

    However, the EOM article is probably too severe. D&C 29:29-30 implies that the opportunity for redemption might be granted even to sons of perdition, at some future time but they have no promise. Some might say, not in this world, nor in the next, but perhaps the world after that (smile).

    Comment by Mark D. — July 23, 2007 @ 12:38 am

  71. Aaron,
    Nobody’s demanding that God extend mercy to everyone, just that He give everyone the same opportunity for mercy. If He doesn’t, He’s not just. He doesn’t have to offer mercy to anyone, but it would be wrong to create someone without the intention of offering them mercy. The only people who would say that a God who arbitrarily selects the recipients of His mercy is good would be the favored people who think they are saved. And even then, if you had any love for your fellowman, you’d have to blind yourself to the plight of the people who were created just to suffer and who have no way of avoiding that fate. So even if I were Calvinist and considered myself “saved,” I’d have a hard time finding any reason to love God.

    Comment by Tom — July 23, 2007 @ 4:53 am

  72. Mark (#66),

    We hashed through all the examples you give back at the thread I linked to. I don’t want to rehash it all here, just wanted to point to that thread for anyone who missed that debate and is interested in the topic.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 23, 2007 @ 9:39 am

  73. Aaron (#69),

    Given your description, is it fair to say you reject the omni-benevolence of God?

    Comment by Jacob J — July 23, 2007 @ 9:45 am

  74. Aaron,

    Much of your comment #69 works perfectly if I substitute “Tony Soprano” in for “God”:

    The problem for you isn’t that I don’t believe Tony Soprano is ever “good or merciful or gracious or kind or loving”. It’s that I don’t believe Tony Soprano is “good and merciful and gracious and kind and loving” to all people in the same, equal, and undifferentiated way.

    I believe Tony Soprano is, ultimately speaking, good to himself.

    When the God you describe is morally indistinguishable from a vicious mobster, I’d say you have a theological problem on your hands…

    Comment by Geoff J — July 23, 2007 @ 10:15 am

  75. Guys, sorry to just jump in with a lengthy comment . . . and I have only read up to comment #41.

    Regarding the initial post,

    Having some time now, let me shoot back up to the initial post. When discussing conservative, evangelical Calvinism, Geoff, I think it would be proper to at least acknowledge the contemporary levels of belief on the dark side of predestination declared in your proposition #5. Though all conservative, evangelical Calvinists believe in God’s gracious, unconditional election to salvation, there are different responses to reprobation. Some believe reprobation is only for the fallen angels. Some believe that God actively predestinates human reprobates to an eternal hell. Some believe that God passively passes over rebellious humans whose very desire is to be as far as possible from the revelation about Himself in the Bible. The passive predestination is only a granting of sinful humanity’s will.

    Of course, some American Calvinists would make you feel right at home. The Crystal Cathedral in California would just be concerned that no one on this thread has a low sense of self-esteem. Don’t think about the possibility of an eternal hell. Just be happy. All those warnings about eternal judgment in Scripture . . . that is just figurative for being forever stuck in having a low view of yourself. “Calvinism” is quite elastic, today. Anybody can probably find a brand that they like. Some Presbyterian churches in the neighborhood are just nice clubs for a universalistic social gospel.

    As far as conservative, evangelical Calvinists ignoring the “whole predestination thing” in the work of missions, Geoff, you are gravely mistaken and woefully under-read (as much as I am on NCT in the department of philosophy) of the huge amount of missionary biographies compiled throughout church history. It is the knowledge of God’s unstoppable work of saving power in individual lives that drove these missionaries to preach the gospel to all (i.e. – William Carey and a whole slew of others). It is the very promises of God’s sovereignty in men’s salvation (Romans 15, etc.) that become the fuel for missionary endeavor.
    Alma 31 – frankly, Geoff, in my perspective, this is a perfect straw men argument by Joseph Smith in the 19th century toward evangelical Calvinism. Too bad, he didn’t meet Jonathan Edwards. Read Edwards journal accounts as a late teenager – it wasn’t a description of the Zoramhite High. Far from it.

    Sort of like part of me misses the days before I became an entrepreneur and had a boss breathing down my neck as motivation to work, work, work.

    Some in Idaho Falls need a kick in the butt. God does judge. God does get angry at sin. People are asleep to the chapter after chapter of the judgment prophecies in Isaiah. This week, I am in Isaiah 24, trying to share with as many people as I can. People have got to wake up!
    Some are awake, and they are fearful and insecure. They gain acceptance by work, work, work in the Church. But some just give up. They are tired of failing. And then some have found complete security and assurance in Jesus Christ.
    __
    #2 – Eric N., you need to study a little more carefully what others are teaching than just doorbell conversation. I have learned this in Idaho Falls if I want to get a solid grasp of Mormonism.

    #8 – These verses establish human pre-existence???

    #9 – Yes – a typical Baptist would seem to not believe in “unconditional election” but they would believe in “eternal security”. The rest of the comment – just strawmen.

    #12 – Strawmen in abundance

    #18 – strawmen

    #20 – first question – God makes a choice to do a favor, and it relates to His sovereign free will. second question – 1 thru 7, minus the parenthesis in 4 and the statement in 5. Of course, mainline Methodists today might give you different answers then the Wesley brothers.

    #26 – “Individual election” is not so easily put to rest for me. The elect are on my mind (Mark 13:27, Col. 3:12, II Thess. 2:13, and I Pet. 2:9). Though I see corporate election— the Church in Romans 9, the Jewish nation in chapter 11—I don’t divorce this from the individual, soteriological implications, especially with Romans 10 tucked squarely in the middle. Individual, gracious predestination is a foundational cornerstone to my marveling over God’s love (John 6:37, 44, 65; Acts 13:48; Eph. 1:4,11; and especially Romans 8:29-30). Btw, what is your interp on Esau in Hebrews 12:17?

    #29 – So if people can make a heaven out of hell, is there the possibility that future heaven can be turned into a horrible, eternal hell?

    #40 – Conservative, evangelical Calvinism clear back to Augustinianism on God’s sovereignty is specifically spelled out. It has been carried for hundreds of years. It much easier to detect the exaggerations then in Mormonism where there is no systematic theology. I don’t know which LDS prophets are currently orthodox in their statements, and I don’t know how long the current prophets’ words will continue to be right thinking for future years.

    Little doubt exists that those who build a theology around single verses by Paul, and then force the words of Jesus Christ himself as recorded in the Gospels to conform to those verses, are wresting the scriptures.

    John, I never have been a topical teacher or preacher. Come visit, and you will see. Your warning is my very burden for the wards in Southeastern Idaho.

    #41 – for me, it is all death and hell, if I am not where Christ abides.

    In conclusion, I must admit that I am not a true Calvinist because I don’t see clearly the ‘L’ in TULIP. I see Christ’s universal atonement taught (I John 2:2, I Tim. 4:10, John 1:29; I John 4:14; John 3:16). Here are verses which indicate that God does not desire the death of the wicked but that He desires the salvation of all men (Ez. 18:23,32; 33:11; I Tim. 2:4; II Pet. 3:9). In the Calvinist-Arminian Controversy here is my triad of mystery that theologians explain away.

    1. All men will not be saved (a denial of universalism) – Matt. 25:41,46; 12:31-32; Mark 9:43,48; and Revelation 21:27; 20:15

    2. God elects certain men and women to salvation.

    3. Christ died for all men.

    Of course, many reject one or two of these points. And I am sure the debate will continue on through the next millennium. A Calvinist says that if one believes in gracious, unconditional election, then you must believe in limited atonement. An Arminian says that if one doesn’t believe in limited atonement, then you cannot believe in gracious, unconditional election. And so goes the logic . . .

    Here is what I have learned in Scripture.

    Those in heaven – 100% God’s undeserved grace. The patriarch scoundrel, Jacob in the Bible, couldn’t brag about the favor God showed him. Neither can I. There is nothing to boast in, except Christ. No, to man’s pride. God gets 100% credit for our ultimate exaltation in Christ.

    Those in hell – 100% their own rejection of the Biblical revelation, sharing clearly of Christ and His gospel. No, to God’s responsibility for sin. Men get 100% credit for their rebellious unbelief.

    Comment by Todd Wood — July 23, 2007 @ 7:42 pm

  76. Todd,

    First, you don’t need to feel responsible to respond to every comment in this thread. However, if you do respond, simply calling responses strawmen does not make them actually strawmen — you would need to demonstrate why they are strawmen at some point too.

    Second, thanks for the insights on the varying and competing theological factions within the evangelical movement. Interesting stuff.

    Third, I am aware that Calvinists do missionary work; I just can’t figure out what theological motivation they have to be so works oriented. As you said they usually believe in both unconditional election and in eternal security. That means they believe they were predestined to salvation by God and that anyone else who ends up with the Golden Ticket was predestined to salvation as well. So why all the works? The results were already in before the earth was created in that theology. Do they claim they just can’t help themselves because being saved drives them to it or are they just trying to assure themselves that they really do have the Golden Ticket already or are they trying to build up more “treasures in heaven” or what? And what do they even hope to accomplish by the missionary work to begin with? The saved are predestined to salvation so couldn’t all that missionary work be seen as steadying the ark so to speak?

    Fourth, please tell me specifically what strawmen I used in #9 and why they are strawmen.

    Fifth, the Calvinists and Arminians are right about one thing: unconditional election logically contradicts universal atonement. You can’t have both mate. No more than you can has a round square.

    Sixth, you confirmed one thing for me… I suspected that lots of evangelicals take an a la carte approach to their theology taking some parts from the Calvinists and others from the Arminians. The problem is that it leads to logically incoherent theologies. But Mormons do that as much as anyone so I can’t afford to criticize evangelicals for it.

    Seventh, you said: Those in heaven – 100% God’s undeserved grace.
    I agree. My latest post is all about that. The key is that the Mormon view on the grace of Christ makes the evangelical view look anemic in comparison.

    Eighth, you said: Those in hell – 100% their own rejection of the Biblical revelation, sharing clearly of Christ and His gospel.

    So how do you explain God sending all those billions of Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists to hell (according to the evangelicals) having never even been given the chance to hear about “Christ and His gospel” let alone know enough to understand and reject it?

    Comment by Geoff J — July 23, 2007 @ 10:01 pm

  77. Todd W.,

    The Westminister Confession has the following statement, concerning God’s Eternal Decree:

    God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.

    Strictly speaking, this looks like a first class contradiction. With a little imagination, one might imagine an independent will inside each person, but one that has no real control of any of his or her actual actions.

    How is that different from a puppet in a play? And how can a puppet be justly held responsible for actions it has no control over?

    Now if the puppets had pre-existent souls, one might argue that God is just demonstrating artistic license in portraying the true character of each one. However, each one is created out of nothing, decreed from all eternity to have the sort of character the playwright had in mind.

    So (for a Calvinist) claiming that God is not the author of sin seems to make about as much sense as claiming that Shakespeare is not the author of Hamlet.

    Comment by Mark D. — July 23, 2007 @ 10:16 pm

  78. Blake, Geoff, Jacob, Tom, et al. — your comments invoking philosophy in response to the way creedal Christians read the Bible (this method itself having been heavily formed by medieval philosophy that still remains in the exegesis to this very day) are insightful and gratifying but they are not the ticket to a productive discussion with Evangelical Christians about the ways in which they are wresting the scriptures. Blake’s approach focusing on context and meaning is much more effective. So far, Aaron simply has no real answer for Blake’s position on Romans 5 and 9 except to say “that’s not so”.

    Aaron repeatedly deleted any comments I made on his blog that made the point that what Paul preached is not Calvinism. Even though it is tempting to roll our eyes at the myriad isolated, proof-texted verses that Aaron throws out from Romans in any given discussion, doing the work of addressing each verse for its context and the relevant scholarship is more effective. Alas, there is no time for that. The other problem is that these threads just turn into one huge old-fashioned Bible bash. Still, I think Blake provides an excellent example with the way he addresses Romans 5 and 9 on this thread, and other specific verses of scripture on other threads.

    When expounding on doctrines of salvation, however, Latter-day Saints need to be careful not to imply that they believe all will be saved. That is, when they speak of this aspect of the Gospel, they should always clarify that what they mean that once Christ puts death and hell at his feet, obtaining victory over both of them so that their sting is swallowed up in him, as is revealed to us in the Bible, then those who were in Spirit Prison (which is what creedal Christians believe is hell and which is most likely what Old Testament prophets, including early Book of Mormon prophets, spoke of as hell) will finally obtain the salvation that is resurrection (as the last of those who are resurrected by the grace of the unconditional aspect of Christ’s Atonement finally exit Spirit Prison and are resurrected to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or evil, for the purpose of inheriting a degree of glory). Those who went to Spirit Prison and remained there by virtue of not accepting Christ while there choose not to benefit from the conditional aspect of the Atonement (conditional because it depends on the individual exercising free agency to choose Christ, not because the individual can in any way save him or herself — the Atonement still kicks in and is the only thing that cleanses from sin). When they resurrect and are judged in their Final Judgment, they are assigned to the lowest of the three kingdoms, a kingdom that is inherently disjointed, comparable as it is (as expressed by Paul) to the stars, which, as clarified by Jesus to Joseph Smith, each have their own varying degree glory. By contrast, the glory of the Terrestrial and the Celestial Kingdoms are unitary, i.e. comparable to the moon and the sun respectively, each of which is one body and not many, as is the case with the many stars, each of varying brightness.

    God loves his children and does everything he can for them constrained only by his children’s own rejection of him. But that does not mean that everyone is saved. The Gospel is founded on the need to accept Christ, repent of sin (continually), and be baptized by one holding God’s only valid priesthood authority to be saved in the way that creedal Christians mean the word. Creedal Christians do not mean the partial relief experienced by those who reject Christ after having the opportunity to accept him and therefore end up in the lowest of the three kingdoms when they say the word saved. Aside from all the problems of creedal Christian theology flowing from the idea of any kind of unconditional election to salvation or of once-saved-always-saved or of whatever other wrested reading of a verse from Paul, going in circles around the argument that Latter-day Saints believe everyone is saved whereas creedal Christians don’t believe that is a waste of time, because when Latter-day Saints speak of everyone being saved, for some reason creedal Christians decide to interpret that — but nothing else — in the same way that they do, and then stumble at that idea, when it really isn’t what Latter-day Saints believe (when the word “saved” is used as it is used by creedal Christians).

    Comment by john f. — July 24, 2007 @ 5:14 pm

  79. Geoff and Aaron, reading the rest of this thread, I am highly pleased by the discussion you too have had. Thanks. I need to meet you both sometime in person.

    Fifth, the Calvinists and Arminians are right about one thing: unconditional election logically contradicts universal atonement. You can’t have both mate. No more than you can has a round square. You have me laughing on this one, chief. Nothing new here that both Calvinists and Arminians have been telling me for a long time.

    Depending on what Bible passage I am in, people have labelled me either Calvinistic or Arminian. But I tend to work more out of a biblical theology of the text than a systematic theology.

    But that leads me to a question. Does Blake, Jacob, others, or you consider the biblical data, standing as it is, incoherent for a logical, systematic theology? I could offer more mysterious triads that I see in the Bible. God just hasn’t explained to me all his infallible reasoning.

    Mark D, (and thinking back to Geoff’s #9), I wish I were more of a puppet. I hate my continual struggle with daily sin. At times, I have wished that God would just forcefully check my tendencies to not believe Him. The puppet illustration doesn’t match up with the Romans 7 experience. Biblical passages cut off the Calvinists’ logic from calling God the author of moral sin, but the idea that God creates evil, that is another matter.

    Comment by Todd Wood — July 24, 2007 @ 6:24 pm

  80. #67 – Mark D., conservative Calvinists that I have read and studied believe otherwise.

    The Kingdom of God will be far more in number than the kingdom of outer darkness.

    John F., I have been thinking about creedal Christianity.

    Comment by Todd Wood — July 24, 2007 @ 6:36 pm

  81. Todd W.,

    Of course one can believe anything he wants, but he cannot choose the logical consequences of their beliefs. If the traditional interpretation of some verse of scripture leads to logical contradictions, perhaps it is time to consider alternative interpretations. Otherwise one is building his doctrinal house on the sand.

    Comment by Mark D. — July 24, 2007 @ 9:30 pm

  82. John F.,

    I’ll have to disagree with you on how we should use the word salvation in conversations with evangelicals. See my latest post on that point. They do see salvation as being saved from eternal hell so by that definition (and by the definition of a few modern scriptures) the telestial kingdom is salvation.

    Now in LDS conversations the word is indeed more squirrelly. See this whole thread debating that subject.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 25, 2007 @ 9:20 am

  83. Mark D.,

    logical contradictions? No
    mysterious paradox? Yes

    In soteriology, every theologian, whether Calvinist or Arminian eventually sees paradox, I just see it a little sooner than others. Unfortunately, some philosophers just explain away the untraceable mystery altogether.

    Back to #76, Geoff to your third point, I would suggest the missionary motive is love. Love for God’s glory to be displayed. And God’s love through them toward others.

    Comment by Todd Wood — July 25, 2007 @ 8:11 pm

  84. Todd W.,

    Suppose a man raises ten alligators and sets them them loose in a crowded city, five with muzzles and five without, and the latter five maim several innocent bystanders.

    Under what theory of liability does he escape prosecution for contributory negligence, if not actual malice?

    Especially when it becomes known that he had detailed casualty projections, and no greater purpose in the stunt than promoting his own notoriety? Shall his defenders claim that surely he was not the author of this awful deed?

    Comment by Mark D. — July 25, 2007 @ 9:23 pm

  85. Todd (#80): The Kingdom of God will be far more in number than the kingdom of outer darkness.

    Oh really? So all those Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, and (gasp) Mormons may be saved from burning forever in hell after all on your view? Please tell us more about that!

    Also, mysterious paradox = logical contradiction.

    I would suggest the missionary motive is love.

    Certainly not God’s love in Calvinism. In Calvinism the saved and the damned were saved and damned before they were even born so missionary work is meaningless. In fact it seems like steadying the ark to me. Don’t Calvinists trust God’s power to bring about his irresistable will — do they feel compelled to get the job done for him?

    Comment by Geoff J — July 25, 2007 @ 11:02 pm

  86. Mark D.,

    Another mysterious triad paradox . . .
    1. God is onmnibenevolent
    2. God is omnipotent and omniscient
    3. There is real evil in this world

    I just trust God. Job didn’t get answers to his questions. But I would tackle the man. He is neither #1 nor #2. And I would shoot the alligators.

    There is only One that has the exclusive claim to say Isaiah 45:7. No one else.

    The last World magazine had an interesting quote on God and evil/suffering by Michael Behe. I will try to round that up.

    #59 – Dave, just out curiosity, what is your interp on Isaiah 24:21-22. I have read LDS authors who suggest that the visitation at the end of verse 22 for those in prison ends up good. I wholeheartedly disagree. Your thoughts?

    Geoff, no, conservative Calvinists just feel humbled that they can be used as servants in the accomplishing of God’s will through their prayers, witness, service, etc. A godly Calvinist is not going to flat out disobey God’s commands to worship Him through their service. It is all about loving worship.

    Comment by Todd Wood — July 26, 2007 @ 11:19 am

  87. Todd W.,

    Can’t shoot the alligators. The alligators are us.

    Comment by Mark D. — July 26, 2007 @ 9:14 pm

  88. I decided to follow the link from Geoff and come over and check out what is going on at the New Cool Thang. I was really not surprised to see a bunch of Mormons bashing Christians and their theology. I find it not only ironic but amusing.

    Moreover the theology on this board is just like the stuff over on the relativist, new age and hindu boards. Amazing to me that you all really want to develop your own theology above that which God has ordained.

    As Mormons you do not see yourselves as the idolatrous, blasphemers when it comes to God that your theology dictates.

    I have to wonder where you get, beside your whimsical feelings do you develop some of the thoughts on this board. Humans do not have the rules when it comes to how God should behave. Yet you are without excuse. True faith which true Evangelicals have, is one that does not boast about who is saved but is concerned about who is not saved. This drives us and our motives to spread God’s amazing Gospel to everyone, including the Mormons. Evangelicals are not exclusivists, nor do we attack Mormons. If Mormonism is of the devil then we should let you know about it. Universalism has no place with a Savior dying for the sins of those you trust in Him. If Mormon theology and Universalism is correct then Jesus Christ died in vain.

    If you honestly think human beings by nature are good, then you have not read your newspapers lately. If you think that God would be just in letting everyone just go to a nice place when they die then you don’t understand justice. If you believe that all paths lead to the same place then you don’t understand God. I promise your big issue is not the Trinity but your sin that keeps you from coming to the knowledge of the truth. Jesus Christ did not die in vain, he died so that you would have a defender on judgment day, one that could pay your fine. If you hire the wrong lawyer regardless of his name, even if it is similar and he does not have the ability to pay your fine you will be in trouble. That is why understanding of Jesus is so important. To make an idol is easy, to follow the Biblical Jesus Christ requires a humility that Universalism, Mormonism and Humanism cannot attain. It requires re-birth, only then will Jesus Christ know you.

    Comment by Andy B. — August 2, 2007 @ 12:27 pm

  89. Andy: I was really not surprised to see a bunch of Mormons bashing Christians and their theology.

    Well if it makes you feel better Andy, this is the first post about evangelical theology out of the 400+ posts we have put up here over the years. (A far cry from those ridiculous anti-Mormon blogs which have 100% of their posts bashing Mormonism.)

    Amazing to me that you all really want to develop your own theology above that which God has ordained.

    We don’t. You made that part up. I must admit it was pretty fun bashing the absurdities of man-made evangelical theology in this post though. Having said that, I am already bored with it and don’t plan to keep up this topic in for future posts.

    I have to wonder where you … develop some of the thoughts on this board.

    Scriptures mostly.

    Evangelicals are not exclusivists, nor do we attack Mormons.

    Har! You are sadly mistaken on both of those counts.

    If Mormon theology and Universalism is correct then Jesus Christ died in vain.

    Totally untrue. See my follow up post to this one if you would like so see why you are so wrong on that count.

    But from a missionary work standpoint I am sort of pleased when evangelicals try to vigorously defend the cruel and sadistic version of Jesus your theology teaches of. I know countless Mormons who joined the restored church of Jesus Christ because they found such notions totally absurd and contra-scriptural.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 2, 2007 @ 1:05 pm

  90. Andy B. Thanks so much for your comment. I’ve been unable to ignore the recent posts about Libertarian Free Will any longer, and was needing something new to ignore. Again, thank you.

    Comment by Matt W. — August 2, 2007 @ 1:10 pm

  91. This argument seems to be going in circles, because the evangelicals and Mormons are defining “God” and “good” differently.
    The evanglicals see God as the creator and supreme ruler of the universe. As such, he cannot be called “good” by the “human” definition, as he is responsible for everything that happens. Thus, they have to either admit that God is not “good” by our definitions, or re-define “good” to mean whatever God does, or to somehow blame “evil” on humans even though God is all-powerful and created humans (a rather tortured logic).
    Mormons escape this particular problem by stating that their God is not the creator ex nihilo and must obey certain laws (he must be just, for example). As such, they can say that God is “good” by the human definition, because God cannot simply eliminate evil (as the evangelical God could).
    With these very different definitions and outlooks, I’m not sure that trying to compare the two are particularly useful.
    Having said that, one of these two versions of God is certainly much friendlier than the other.

    Comment by Doug Hudson — August 3, 2007 @ 5:37 am

  92. Very interesting discussion. I am sad that it ended without more rebukes from Andy B.

    Comment by BHodges — November 18, 2008 @ 5:59 pm

  93. Geoff: just stumbled into this thread today; thanks for the lively dialogue. You wrote

    Still, as Tea noted, the whole awful “pretty much everyone who is not an evangelical Christian is going to an eternal hell” thing (6. and 7. on my list) seems to generally apply to both camps of evangelicals as far as I can tell.

    I would ask you to think harder on this response,and maybe “get out more” , esp. in blog-dom. Michael Spencer has noted before that Calvinists hold a major portion of band width out there, and while I’m not here to slam them, neither is EVANGELCALISM accurately portrayed by ONLY their view. As to hell, the great majority of ev.’s that I know would hold out the very real possibility/probability of heaven for 1)born again ones from many other traditions (Anabaptist, Catholic, Orthodox, etx) AND 2)those not hearing the gospel , but judged according to what light they have been shown (Romans 1).

    Just thought you might want to hear another side to this. I’m only about 15 responses into the thread; thanks again.

    GERMIT

    Comment by germit — April 1, 2009 @ 2:59 pm

  94. Germit: Calvinists hold a major portion of band width out there, and while I’m not here to slam them

    No worries. Calvinism is so appalling it is practically self-slamming in my opinion.

    neither is EVANGELCALISM accurately portrayed by ONLY their view

    I can buy that. It is tough though when so many Calvinists try to speak for the whole movement/confederation/not-sure-how-to-label-it.

    As to hell, the great majority of ev.’s that I know would hold out…

    What the people believe personally and what their leaders/theologians officially teach often don’t match. This is true in many churches. But if the people don’t believe the official theology of the church perhaps they are in the wrong church, no? (BTW — This response is me taking advantage of the near total lack of systematic theology in Mormonism…)

    Comment by Geoff J — April 1, 2009 @ 3:34 pm

  95. It is tough though when so many Calvinists try to speak for the whole movement/confederation/not-sure-how-to-label-it.

    not sure what to label it myself, even WITHIN one particular fellowship, the views held that answer your talking points would very widely at MOST ev. churches, though this depends on how conformist that preacher wants to push his own “micro-othodoxy”. For example, in my church, there are differing views of what ‘inerrancy’ means exactly, and many different eschatologies. That’s just getting started.

    haven’t yet had time to read all the posts above, but I look forward to it (I think….)

    in all things charity
    GERMIT

    Comment by germit — April 1, 2009 @ 5:05 pm

  96. I suspect you’ll enjoy the thread. It is an interesting read. I’m glad you reminded me about it.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 1, 2009 @ 5:13 pm

  97. Geoff:
    this is a quick example of what I was talking about on comment #93; thought you might like it (if you haven’t read M.Spencer’s I-Monk blog, you’re missing out; great blog

    on 03 Apr 2009 at 12:13 am iMonk
    Martha:

    I have no idea what Christian denomination Everyday Mommy belongs to. She only lists the non-denominational Cambridge declaration on her website and no church affiliation. So please don’t associate her with my denomination, Southern Baptists. I wouldn’t venture a guess.

    What I will say about Southern Baptists is this (NOT speaking for them or for me. Just painting with a broad brush.):

    1) They are not confessionally committed to rejecting Catholics as Christians.

    2) Many of us believe that many Catholics have a simple saving faith in Jesus, no matter what else they may or may not believe.

    3) I think the majority of our team would say the RCC is in serious error, but there is sufficient truth in her teachings to be genuinely saved.

    4) I’ve met very few Southern Baptists who reject the salvation of all Catholics.

    5) Most Baptists would attempt to clarify the Gospel, Biblical authority and justification by faith alone with a Catholic friend.

    6) The average Baptist suffers more from ignorance about Catholicism than a belief that all RCs are lost. This is partially the RCs fault for being so complicated. The explanation given over at EMs for Mary NOT being worshiped is plain to me now, but there’s a lot to be explained, and then there are all those Mexican Catholics who appear to be, well…you know.

    peace

    May GOD’s mercy find and console us
    GERMIT

    Comment by germit — April 3, 2009 @ 6:17 am

  98. Yeah germit, it is pretty obvious that assuming Catholics will be excluded from the tiny saved-from-eternal-torture club is not as common as assuming most everyone else in the world (including Christians who happen to be Mormon) has such a fate in their future. I don’t think that leeway for Catholics really impacts the point I made in this post or in the follow up post (found here) though.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 3, 2009 @ 8:34 am

  99. Germit,

    Your comments here seem to be ignoring that we were having a real live conversation with *actual* evangelicals and we were taking on their professed beliefs. This is not some thread were we made up a straw-man about evangelical theology (despite Todd’s unsupported claims). So your call for Geoff to “get out more” is off base. We had evangelicals actively participating in the discussion and although they couldn’t defend their positions at all, they agreed with Geoff about what those positions were.

    Comment by Jacob J — April 3, 2009 @ 8:59 am

  100. Jacob: certainly you were talking to real live evangelicals, so I’m not saying you made up the representation; what I am saying is that your general representation is very skewed by the particular ev.’s who happen to frequent this blog. You can only respond to those who talk to you, fine, but be careful about making statements about “what ev.’s believe” or what “evangelicalism” is like.

    It’s a very big ocean, Jacob, and perhaps you already know that. Let me put this another way. If I were to present Geoff’s descriptions to the ev’s I hang with, they’d get a big charge out of it. Nothing to take too seriously, maybe the same way you feel about a lot of material on the anti-bogs. So beware the generalizations, that’s all.

    I’m new (less than a year) to blog-dom, but Spencer’s comment about Calvintists taking up major bandwidth (disproportionate to their numbers) seemd to ring true to me.

    To Geoff: many ev.’s do have as narrow a view of salvation as you’ve portayed. I know that I’m not that happy about it, and neither is N.T. Wright and a host of up and coming theologians. The view of salvation is much more wholistic and all encompassing than the narrow view that some have (foolishly) chosen. Again, one can be thoroughly “evangelical” and reject such a narrow framing of this glorious truth. In honesty, this is ONE of the conflicts between what some are calling the emerging church and more traditional churches, and most non-denoms that I’m aware of would not want to own the “salvation as escape from hell ” picture. Your point has merit, but to equate it with “the evangelicals” goes too far, in my opinion.

    GERMIT

    Comment by germit — April 3, 2009 @ 11:42 am

  101. Agreed and duly noted.

    Comment by Jacob J — April 3, 2009 @ 12:57 pm

  102. Your point has merit, but to equate it with “the evangelicals” goes too far, in my opinion.

    Agreed. The real problem is that no one seems able to pin down what “Evangelical” really means. So folks like you get lumped in with people loudly spouting doctrines you reject.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 3, 2009 @ 1:24 pm

  103. Or at least doctrines that are lopsided and incomplete, as far as I see it

    God’s sovereignty makes a great caricature

    the irony of ironies, though , while typing this back and forth, the revelation hit..: SO THIS IS WHAT IT’s like to be misunderstood….. :-) just another day at the office for an LDS I suppose, as an evangelical this happens not so often (for now)

    agreed on “evangelical” pretty much scoffing at defintion…

    Comment by germit — April 3, 2009 @ 2:03 pm

  104. Germit,
    I think Evangelicals are misunderstood all the time. Religionists misunderstand some atheists, and most atheists misunderstand religionists. Muslims misunderstand Christians and Jews, and I’m sure it’s all reciprocal.

    But ti was touching to see you recognize how horrible it is to have someone falsely describe your religion and tell you why you’re bad because of a belief that you don’t really have. Welcome to the club.

    Comment by MadChemist — May 6, 2009 @ 8:17 pm

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