Thursday, March 16, 2017

Grace in Mormonism, and Other Topics

I came across the above video in which many views were expressed by the panellists on various topics which are worth commenting on. The first question asked (as phrased by the host) was regarding the doctrine of grace as follows:

“‘Would you give an overview of the doctrines of grace?’ That is the phrase that is used, ‘the doctrines of grace’. What doctrines does that phrase refer to, and what do they mean?”

After comments by RC Sproul, followed by exchanges regarding the Catholic doctrine, at 4:20 minutes into the video John MacArthur interjects the following:

“Just to comment on that, I have been in correspondence with essentially​ the gatekeepers​ of Mormon theology at BYU, in particular Dr. Robert Millet who is appointed by the Apostles, the Mormon Apostles, to articulate and propagate the Mormon faith. And their latest effort, and his latest letter to me which I think I received a few weeks ago … is a plea for me to understand that they believe in salvation by grace. They believe that it is all of grace, and that there wouldn’t be any salvation if God didn’t graciously provide that.

Host: “That sounds awfully good!”

“It sounds very good. You know, what they are trying to do of course is to mainstream themselves, and get the Evangelical … I should say ignorant consensus to just embrace this. As I begin to press it a little more—of course they have a different God, a unitarian God; they have a different Christ, a created creature. And when you get down to salvation by grace, I wrote back a rather extensive letter, I got back another plea to please understand this, a big thick paper. When all is said and done, what they are saying is, God is gracious to let us work our way to heaven, he didn’t have to do that. But it is a huge trapdoor for many people who won’t go beyond that. So sola gratia, back to the reason why all the ‘solas’ are there, sola scriptura, nothing but the scripture etc., is crucial.”

I am not privy to his correspondence with Dr. Millet, so I can’t comment on that. But I can inform him that the Mormon doctrine of grace is the biblical one, which is not the same as the Evangelical/Calvinistic one that he adheres to. In the Bible grace is not unmerited. Peter says that God “resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). So that is at least one prerequisite​ for receiving grace―being humble. But it is not the only one. Another requirement is obedience:

Ephesians​ 5:

5 For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.
7 Be not ye therefore partakers with them.

Colossians 3:

5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
6 For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:
7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.
8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:

You can’t have wrath and grace at the same time. It is either one or the other. If you are experiencing the wrath of God, then you can’t be experiencing his grace at the same time. If wrath comes upon the “children of disobedience,” it follows that the grace comes upon the children of obedience. So while it is true that salvation is of grace, and that without the grace of God no one could be saved; grace itself is not dispensed unconditionally, or without merit. To say that we are saved by grace, and that without the grace of God no one could be saved, does not translate​ into saying that God dispenses his grace to mankind unconditionally,​ or without any merit on their part. There is no logical connection between the two statements. God “resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble,” says Peter. The fact that we are “saved by grace” does not mean that God dispenses that grace to mankind unconditionally​. Humility, repentance, and obedience are the prerequisites. That is what the Bible teaches.

If the Evangelical doctrine of grace were true, either everyone should be saved unconditionally (universal salvation), which we know is not biblical; or else God saves and damns people by an arbitrary decision without regard to any degree of their personal righteousness, worthiness, repentance, obedience, virtue, or anything else, which we know is also unbiblical. Throughout the Bible we are told that God condemns the wicked and saves the righteous. The Mormon doctrine of grace as taught in the Book of Mormon is the biblical one, and leads to neither of those conclusions. This is how the Book of Mormon teaches the doctrine of grace:

2 Nephi 2:

5 And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever.
6 Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.
7 Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.
8 Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.
9 Wherefore he is the firstfruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make intercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him shall be saved.
•  •  •
26 And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.
27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.

2 Nephi 10:

23 Therefore cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life.
24 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.

2 Nephi 25:

23 For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

“After all we can do” means in spite of all we can do. In other words, there is nothing we can do by our own strength, or virtue, or wisdom, or righteousness etc. that can save us―aside from the redemptive work of God. That is the Mormon doctrine of grace, which is the biblical one. It doesn’t mean that we don’t need to repent or keep the commandments of God to be saved.

In Mormon theology the Atonement of Jesus Christ had two major consequences​ for man. Firstly, it redeems all of mankind unconditionally ​from the effects ​of the Fall. That is universal and applies to all men, the wicked as well as the righteous. It means that all men will be resurrected, and all will be brought back to the presence of God to be judged. No one will be condemned or punished because of the Fall of Adam. That is taken care of unconditionally by the Atonement.

The Fall brought about two kinds of deaths on mankind: a physical death as well as a spiritual death (meaning that they are cut off from the presence of God). The Atonement unconditionally redeems all of mankind from both these two kinds of death―from physical death by the resurrection; and from spiritual death by bringing them back to the presence of God to be judged.

Secondly, the Atonement also redeems all of mankind from their own personal or individual sins on conditions of faith and repentance in this life. These then will be given a free pass on judgement day; whereas ​those who have not believed nor repented will then experience a second death which is a spiritual death, not a physical death; from which they can no longer be redeemed because the opportunity of “faith and repentance” no longer exists for them. That window of opportunity is only open during the period between birth and resurrection. After that there is no more opportunity for faith, repentance, or redemption. It is the Atonement that sets men free, and enables them to choose the way of life and salvation, or the way of death and damnation in this life. See Revelation 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8; Jacob 3:11; Alma 11:40–45; 12:12–35; 13:27–30; 40:22–26; 42:22–27; Helaman 14:15–19.

The scriptures also speak of more than one resurrection. The redeemed come forth in the first resurrection; the rest in the second. Calvinism is not the gospel that Jesus taught. Our freedom and ability to make a choice between salvation or damnation comes because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ; and we are rewarded accordingly.

As far as his remarks about the Mormon doctrine of the Deity is concerned, he is wrong about that too. Firstly, God in Mormonism is not “unitarian”. I didn’t know what that was; I had to look it up. Secondly, Jesus Christ in Mormonism is not a “created creature”. The Book of Mormon teaches that Jesus Christ is eternal, and eternally God. Here are some quotes:

Book of Mormon Title page:

… And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.

2 Nephi 26:

12 And as I spake concerning the convincing of the Jews, that Jesus is the very Christ, it must needs be that the Gentiles be convinced also that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God;

Mosiah 3:

5 For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and curing all manner of diseases.

Mosiah 16:

15 Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, who is the very Eternal Father. Amen.

It is the Bible in fact that describes Jesus as a created being:

Colossians 1:

15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:

Revelation 3:

14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;

The doctrine of the divinity of Jesus Christ and his eternal nature is far more clearly taught in the Book of Mormon than it is in the Bible.

Continuing on with the rest of the question and answer session, at around 16:00 minutes into the video RC Sproul starts discussing the limited versus the unlimited nature Atonement as follows:

“I have had many conversations with people who identify themselves as 4-point Calvinists, and the one on which they demure of course is ‘definite atonement,’ ‘particular redemption,’ or what we call ‘limited atonement;’ which of course is the easiest one to affirm. But every time I hear somebody say that, I make the assumption that if they really believe the other four, they just don’t understand this doctrine, and so let’s take some time to unpack it. And if I ask them what they really believe about God’s intent in the cross; did God intend from all eternity to save every person in the world? I mean it’s rare … every person will say to me they don’t believe that. God knew from all eternity that not everybody was going to be saved, and he didn’t sovereignly decree that everyone will be saved. If he did, everybody would be saved. And so did Jesus fail on the cross to fulfill the task that the father had given him? Well no, we wouldn’t want to say that, well then how can you … they just didn’understand the doctrine. …”

This of course is the argument that RC Sproul always brings in support of his doctrine of limited atonement, apparently oblivious to how untenable and logically deficient it is. His argument amounts to saying that the Atonement must be limited, otherwise salvation must be universal! That is simply not a valid logical deduction. God desires everyone to be saved, and made it possible for everyone to be saved by providing everyone the opportunity to be saved by atoning for the sins of all mankind. If some are not saved, that is their choice, not God’s. Inherent in the entire biblical narrative, both the Old and New Testaments, is man’s ability to make a choice―and be held accountable for it. “​Choose​ ​you​ ​this​ ​day​ ​whom​ ​ye​ ​will​ ​serve,” said Joshua to all Israel (Josh.​ ​24:15). And this has been the recurring theme throughout the Old and New Testaments:

2 Peter 2:

4 For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;
5 And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;
6 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;
7 And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked:
8 (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)
9 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:

This is the constant theme running throughout the Old and New Testaments, including the express teachings of Jesus himself in the Gospels. Here is one example:

John 5:

28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

The “Reformed” doctrine of predestination goes against everything that is taught in the Bible from start to finish. If man is not free to choose good and evil, why tell him to choose good and reject evil on every page (or near enough)―and reward him accordingly? Limited atonement means that God didn’t want everyone to be saved, which contradicts what is taught in the Bible, as already explained in this post.

The biblical references are unmistakable. My aim here is to demonstrate the logical absurdity of the assumption frequently made by RC Sproul that an unlimited atonement necessitates a universal salvation. His argument is that if God has atoned for for everyone’s sins, then everyone should be saved. Where is the logical necessity of that? I don’t see one. The biblical assumption is that God has made it possible for everyone to be saved, which means that he has atoned for everyone’s sins. Whether they are saved or not is entirely their choice. God has not predestined anybody to be saved or to be damned. The fact that he knows in advance who will be and who will not, does not mean that he has predestined them to.

Predestination is a heresy. Its aim is to absolve mankind of the moral responsibility to do good and refrain from evil, as commanded by the Lord. The very purpose of scripture from the beginning to the end is to enjoin mankind to choose good and abstain from evil. “Let us not be weary in well doing,” says Paul in Galatians 6; and “do good,” says Jesus, repeatedly in the four Gospels. The whole of the Sermon on the Mount is centered on doing good. The whole of Jesus’ ministry is centered on doing good. The whole of the Bible, from start to finish, from Genesis to Revelation, is centered on doing good―and abstaining from evil. “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” is the constant refrain of Jesus in the New Testament, and of every prophet in the Old Testament. Predestination, “faith alone,” TULIP, and Calvinism is the doctrine of the devil. It is Satanic. It is an abomination in the sight of God. It is an evil heresy intended to blunt the repeated injunction in the Holy Writ to do good and eschew evil.

Continuing with the rest of the panel discussion, however, at around 18:00 minutes into the video the following question was asked about the “doctrine of God’s foreknowledge,” as put by the host:

“Is there a difference between foreordained and foreknown? So I guess in a general sense explain what that means, God’s foreknowledge, and is there a difference between those two terms?”

To this John MacArthur gives the following reply:

“I don’t think there is any difference. I think you can come at that from the text standpoint foreknowledge is a predetermination to establish a relationship with; you have a statement in Amos, ‘Israel only have I known’. You have John 10, ‘my sheep hear my voice and I know them’. Cain ‘knew his wife’ and she bore a child. Mary was with child and Joseph had not ‘known her’. We even talk about that kind of knowledge; we use the phrase ‘carnal knowledge’ or whatever. We understand that there is a metaphoric use of the word ‘know’ that speaks of intimacy, and I think that is the way that it is intended. It is a predetermined relationship with. It is essentially the same as to ‘predestine’ or to ‘predetermine’ or to ‘preordain’ as opposed to God ‘looking down’ as you have often heard some ‘corridor’ and ‘seeing’ what is going to happen, and based upon the knowledge that comes to him through some anticipated empirical or reality some virtual reality, he then reacts and says based upon what I know is going to happen, this is what I am going to do. I think it is not that at all. That would undo the entire reality of God as sovereign. That would make man completely sovereign, and capable of doing whatever he wants to do which we have already talked about flies in the face of moral capability. So foreknowledge is simply God’s predetermination to establish a relationship with a person as I see it the way it is used.”

That is a pretty ignorant reply. It is a denial of the omniscience of God. Omniscience is pretty standard Christian theology. God knows everything, including everything that will happen in the future. Even RC Sproul (the inventor of the “corridors of time!”) seems to have been embarrassed by that reply, and tries to correct it in the same conversation.

As far as the “corridors of time” is concerned (LOL!), there is no such thing. God knows everything, period. “All is as one day with God, and time only is measured unto men” (Alma 40:8). God knows the end from the beginning. To God, the whole of the past, present and future is one great ever-present now. There is no “looking through the corridors of time”.

At 29:09 minutes into the video RC Sproul makes the following comments regarding the Arminian view of salvation. I am not an Arminian; but Mormon theology is more sympathetic to Arminianism than it is to Calvinism; so I am going to come to the defense of the Arminian in the following hypothetical exchange. This is what he says:

“In a non-theological, simple, personal way, when I talk to my [Arminian] friends I say to them, You are a Christian? Yes! You have friends and relatives that aren’t Christians, right? And I say, Are you a Christian, and your friend isn’t, because you are better than that person? Now I have never had an Arminian look me into the eye and say, Well yeah, that is why I am a Christian, because I am better.”

That is because he is asking the wrong question. Jesus has addressed that issue in several places in the New Testament. First we have this:

Luke 17:

7 But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat?
8 And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?
9 Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not.
10 So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.

I follow that dictum. After I have done all that God has required of me to do, I say I am an unprofitable servant. I don’t claim or pretend to be better than, or superior to anyone else. And there is no telling that my friend or neighbor who is rejecting the gospel today, might repent and accept it tomorrow, and become a more committed disciple than I am. That, however, does not mean that there is no merit in keeping God’s comments. The only thing it means is that I am not the one who is qualified to judge. I don’t sit in judgement on my own righteousness, or anyone else’s. That is reserved for God. Here is another scripture he may have missed:

Luke 14:

11 For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

I am not the judge of my own righteousness, nor of anyone else’s, nor required to be​. God is the​ judge of that. I do what God commands, and leave judgement up to him. But that does not mean that there is no merit or virtue in keeping God’s commandments​. Here is another:

Matthew 7:

1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.

Luke 6:

37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:

I am not required to sit in judgement on anyone’s righteousness, including my own. Judgement belongs to God. But that does not mean that I should not attempt to be righteous, or that my righteousness ​has no merit in the sight of God. RC Sproul then continues his hypothetical conversation with the Arminian as follows:

“I say are you a Christian and your buddy isn’t a Christian because you are smarter than they are? Well no! Because they know if they say Yes, I am going to say, Where did you get your intelligence from in the first place … And I say, Let me ask you this, Is there a right response to the gospel that God commands? Does God command all men to repent and embrace Christ? Yes! I said now your neighbour here has rejected that command, and has disobeyed God, has he done something wrong? He said Yes! I said, But you have done the right thing! So ultimately the reason why you are in the kingdom and that guy isn’t in the kingdom is because of your virtue, as distinguished from his vice! Well I don’t want to … I say I know you don’t want to say that. You would rather cut your tongue out before you say that, but that is what we say … is the inconsistency of Arminianism. This is what they have to say if they really believe in the final analysis that the thing that gets them in the kingdom is their right choice which the good thing to do, rather than the bad choice that the reprobate made. And I say you need to be saying the rest of your life, Thank God I said yes! Not thank me that I said yes.”

Wrong! That is not the conclusion it leads to. The right conclusion is the one I showed above. The biblical response to that is as follows:

John 5:

28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life [i.e. salvation]; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

I didn’t say that, Jesus did! When RC Sproul discusses the question of salvation being a “reward” in heaven, he tries to get round it by saying that once we get to heaven, the rewards we get in heaven is based on merit; but salvation itself is not based on merit. Salvation itself is only by unconditional grace. But that is not what John 5:28–29 teaches. According to this scripture (and many more, some of them already quoted), salvation itself is based on merit, not just the rewards we receive in heaven once we are saved. Calvinism numbs the mind and blinds the eyes to prevent them from seeing the truth that is plainly taught in the Bible.

At 31:05 minutes into the video the question is asked, “Could you comment on how we are to recognize a false teacher. What makes a false teacher a false teacher?”

To this John MacArthur gives the following reply:

“I have just been going through all of that: 2 Peter 2; Jude; 1, 2, 3 John; you know the essential tests they are all essentially doctrinal tests and you go back to the doctrines of grace of course, you go back to the further drivetrain of our faith, the Trinitarian God, an understanding of the doctrine of sin and helplessness of man, the Incarnation, the perfect life of Christ, substitutionary death, bodily resurrection, perfect understanding of the God-man, all man and all God at the same time, the incredible incarnation reality, salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, imputed righteousness. I think just the drivetrain of those doctrines of grace that we were talking about, are what mark the true teacher. And John points out repeatedly that they start with an assault on Christ, there is either an assault on the humanity of Christ, or on the deity of Christ, and Paul talks about if anybody preaches another gospel, which would include perhaps some aberration regarding Christ or some addition of works to grace. I think anybody who tampers with that is for certain a false prophet. I mean it would be categorically in the place of a damning lie. A hypocritical liar as Paul writing to Timothy calls them. A hypocritical liar, somebody who is espousing doctrines of demons, at that particular point. There are a lot of ways people can be false and hypothetical and driven by money, and pride, and power, and all of that; but the core of it is some aberration of the gospel, and the elements that are necessary for the gospel.”

What that amounts to saying is that a “true teacher” is somebody who preaches Calvinism, otherwise he is a false teacher! He has got that the wrong way round. Anybody who teaches Calvinism is unquestionably a false teacher. That is settled. No arguments over that one. If he is not preaching Calvinism, he may or may not be a false teacher depending on a number of other factors.

The criterion that Jesus laid down for determining a true teacher from a false one, however, was that we should judge them by their fruits (i.e. their works). See Matthew 7:15–23. Calvinism is the very antithesis of that. It discourages “good fruit” at the most fundamental level—theologically. It tells you that you don’t need to do any good to be saved; just “believe,” and you are done! The entire theology is built from ground up to discourage people from doing good and abstaining from evil. It is hard to imagine a more damnable, a more perfidious heresy that has ever been conceived.

At 58:22 minutes into the video John MacArthur says the following:

“I know there are errors in my theology, I am not under any illusions, I know that. I said that one time and somebody said, Why don’t you change them? And my response was that I just don’t know where they are. I know they are there, but I don’t know where they are. You show me where they are and I will change them! I mean that is not a problem.”

Well, he has come to the right place to find out! I have shown him many of his theological errors, let’s see if he will change them. But his errors are too fundamental for him to be able to easily change them. To change them, he would have to ditch Calvinism and “Reformed” theology altogether, flush TULIP down the toilet, and embrace the Book of Mormon. That is not going to be an easy thing for him to do. He is too​ committed to his abominable heresy to be able to easily give it up. The whole of “Reformed” theology is heretical. It is the doctrine of the devil. It is built on dishonesty, deception, hypocrisy and guile. It is rank heresy. It is the gospel of damnation rather than salvation. Avoid like a plague!

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