Works and Grace: Buying Our Way into Heaven

8 Comments

  1. You’ve had to ignore some very key scriptures to make your argument here. If the works that have spiritual benefit to us our those works performed out of a sincere desire to be like Christ, and out of sincere love, I would argue that the only way we can be free to really engage in those kinds of works is to be assured of our spiritual standing before God. In other words, we cannot work out of sincere love unless we are already justified. Otherwise, our works are indeed earning us something: justification. And if we are justified by works of law, we are fallen from grace. That’s in Galatians.

    Thus, Paul rightly says that we are justified by grace APART from the works of the law. If the works are required for justification, then justification is earned wages. There is no other way around it.

    If I tell my son I will give him a new car as a gift, but then make him mow the lawn for 25 years of his life before he can have the gift, then the gift is not really a gift. And I can never be sure if my son is following my commandments because he loves me, or because he wants the car. Thus, to really know if my son loves me, I’ll see what he chooses to do AFTER I give him the car. That will prove it.

    So, God justifies us, makes us right with him, because of our faith. NOT our works. Then it is obvious who truly loves God, because the motivating factor of eternal reward is gone. Now…the works are only a result of true love and true faith. Or there are no works at all, and thus the faith was the false faith which James is talking about.

    Whether you call the works a condition or a price, it doesn’t matter. It is all the same. A gift is not a gift that has a price or a condition attached to it.

    What you have done here in this blog post is summarize current Mormon apologetic trying to reconcile Mormon doctrine with the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith alone. In fact, your piano analogy is straight out of Brad Wilcox’s writings. But these are deceptions. They attempt to make it look like Mormons believe in grace in the Christian sense of the word. But they don’t.

    1. Hi John,
      A few points to consider is that a very small percentage of Christians believe a you do. What you mean is grace as your segment of Christianity understand it. Secondly, Wilcox’s analogy is not a new one, I have been using the piano lesson analogy for 30 years so to say I borrowed it shows a lack of familiarity with Christian thought on the matter that includes many protestant writers. If you want to have a discussion, you have to be careful not to assume that you are right and the other is wrong. If you could prove your point then everyone would believe as you do, but clearly 75% of Christians see it very differently. You cannot learn if all you know how to do is attack those who disagree with you.

      Gods grace comes first. What the bible tells us is that once we have Gods grace, we are then empowered to move forward. To say that we can only love if we are already justified is rather a confusing concept. What of all those people who, according to you, are not justified that are filled with love? I have met numerous atheists, muslims and other non Christians who are truly filled with love. You would have to provide references in the bible that better explain your view point.

      If you read my article, you would read that we are not justified by works. The works of the law are the ritualistic activities. We are saved by grace through faith. Faith is a work. Even believing is a work. We have to have faith in order to obtain grace. So as I said in my article, we are looking at it the same way, just from different ends of the stick. Your analogy of mowing the lawn is a flawed comparison to my position. A better one would be you giving your son a car and him earning his drivers licence and learning how to drive. This is the works we must do. We must learn how to put Gods grace to work in our lives. Gifting your son a car is pointless if he does not know how to drive. Gifting eternal live is useless if we do not learn how to be an eternal being.

      Remember, faith without works is dead so we are justified by our faith, which is acting on our belief. My point is that we are cannot buy our way into heaven. We are saved by grace through faith.

      1. What does it mean to be saved? Elder Oaks gave six different definitions. I prefer not to talk about “salvation,” but “eternal life.” That really forces us to get to the bottom of things.

        To a Christian, salvation and eternal life are always the same thing. To a Mormon, they are not necessarily the same thing.

        So, let’s limit ourselves just to eternal life. What do we need to do to inherit eternal life?

        In your view, are any of the following optional:

        1. Baptism.
        2. Endowment
        3. Eternal Marriage

        Are you required to receive all of these, some of these, or none of these for eternal life?

        1. Hi John,
          A reminder that it is your minority version of Christianity that believes this; the vast majority of Christian religions have a different perspective. The word ‘saved’ has no clear definition in the bible. If you have one, you may be imposing it on the bible. The New Testament has people being saved from blindness (Luke 13:23), from enemies (Luke 1:71), by another person’s belief regardless of their own choices (Acts16:31), from drowning (Acts 27:31; 1 Peter 3:20), from gods wrath (Romans 5:9) from annihilation (Romans 9:27), as a nation (Romans 11:26), in childbearing (1 Timothy 2:15), and from captivity (June 1:5). None of these are synonymous with eternal life. The meaning of ‘saved’ depends upon the context as is the case of all words so if a verse says ‘you are saved by grace’, there is no way of knowing what you are saved from or too without more information.

          Are ordinances necessary? Clearly John the Baptist went around baptizing people and even the Savoir was baptized. If ordinances are not necessary for salvation then what was the point? Was Jesus just of the habit of endorsing superfluous works of the law? Both ordinances and principles play a role so yes, they are required. This is why the early Christians practiced baptism for the dead, to ensure all received this vital ordinance. Pay attention to the ‘if…then’ statement in 1 Corinthians 15:29. An ‘if…then’ statement has a falsehood followed by a truth. For example, if smoking does not cause cancer (falsehood), why do the majority of smokers develop cancer (truth)? If the dead rise not at all (falsehood) why are they then baptized for the dead? (truth).

          Consider the following:
          Mark 16:16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
          Matthew 10:22 he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
          Luke 7:50 And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace. (no mention of grace)

          So clearly the bible teaches that ordinance and obedience are necessary for our salvation.
          Obviously the question cannot be answered definitively with an appeal to the bible, otherwise (as I said earlier) there would only be one religion. You have one opinion that a minority of Christians adhere to, but most do not. This fact does not prove you wrong, but it should give you pause.

          I think that your tripping point is that when you see ‘saved by faith’ you read ‘saved by faith alone’, but in order to read it this way, you need to add words to the verse and ignore all other verses that mention other requirements for salvation. Paul also makes it clear that once you are saved, you can fall away and lose your salvation so clearly effort must be exerted to maintain God’s Grace and if this is not ‘work’ then what would you call it?

          If we look simply at the requirements for eternal life, which you believe to be synonymous to being saved, we learn the following:

          Matthew 19:29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.
          Matthew 25:46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. (does not say believers)
          Matthew 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
          Matthew 18:3 Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
          Matthew 18:4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
          Luke 10:25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.
          Romans 2:7 To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:
          Here are a few other references for you to consider:

          Judged by works: Rom. 2: 4-11; Rev. 20: 12-15; Matt. 16:27; Gal. 6: 7-9; Rev. 22:12-14; 2 Cor. 5:9,10; Col. 3:24-25; John 5:28,29; Eccl. 12:13,14; 1 Peter 1:17; Psalm 62:12; Prov. 24:12; Rev. 2:23; 1 Peter 4:17-19.
          Christians can fall from grace, so be cautious: Heb. 12:15; 1 Cor. 10:12; 2 Pet. 1:4-10; Heb. 3: 12-14; Heb. 4:1,11; Matt. 7:21-23; Luke 21:34-36; Phil. 2:12; Gal. 5:4; Heb. 6:4-6; Heb. 10:26-31; 2 Cor. 6:1; Jude 1:3-13; Col. 1:23; James 5:12,19,20.
          Sin can keep you out of heaven: 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:16-26; Eph. 5:3-7; 1 Thess. 4:1-7; Col. 3:5-25; Jude 1:14-25; Heb. 12:1-17; James 4:4; Matt. 5:22; Matt. 25: 31-46; Ezek. 18.
          I would be interested in hearing your explanation of the verses I provided.

  2. “To say that we can only love if we are already justified is rather a confusing concept. What of all those people who, according to you, are not justified that are filled with love?”

    Who is to say they are not justified? Human beings have no way of discerning who is justified and who is not justified. We can get an idea based upon someone’s works. But even that is not a surefire proof.

    We cannot have Christlike love unless we are justified. Love seeks not her own, remember. If we are justified, and condemnation is no longer hanging over our heads, we no longer love in order to be justified, but because we actually love.

    If we are not justified, then we still are hoping to be justified, and with that threat of condemnation still hanging over our heads, our acts of love are not pure acts of love, but acts that are, in some way, self-serving.

    No one can possess purely Christlike love if love is required before the person is released from condemnation.

    When someone you love dearly is standing over you with a hammer poised to crack your skull if you don’t give them a hug, that hug isn’t really going to be a loving hug, is it? It is going to be a hug with an ulterior motive, namely to save your skull.

    That is an awful scenario, but it isn’t too far from the scenario painted by the LDS doctrine. If you do not engage in certain rituals, you will not inherit eternal life. But Mormons want to say that it isn’t the rituals that save, it is the love and faith you express by performing them that save you. Same scenario here. It doesn’t matter how much love and faith you have. Unless you actually do the ritual, you will not inherit eternal life.

    In Mormonism, eternal life is a carrot on a string. If you prove your love and faith by doing what you are asked, you get the carrot. But how can the person be sure that he is really doing what he is asked out of love and faith, and not out of a desire to get the carrot? You can’t know that.

    You can only know if you have true love and faith after God gives you the carrot. How you behave after you are promised eternal life, and the threat of condemnation is no longer hanging over your head, will be the true test of your love and faith.

    It can be no other way. John tells us in his first epistle that IF we have the Son, then we HAVE (notice the present tense) eternal life.

    But Moroni 10:32 says that you must first deny yourself of all ungodliness, THEN is his grace sufficient.

    Have you denied yourself of all ungodliness? When do you plan on accomplishing that? You better get to work….or grace will not be sufficient.

    I do not believe you have seriously taken the time to truly understand the Protestant position on this matter. You are trying to be ecumenical, and that is great, but ask yourself why you want to be ecumenical. If you really possessed the truth, it wouldn’t matter whether or not your doctrine fit in with the rest of Protestant/Evangelical Christianity, would it?

    1. Hi John,
      You have created a very dramatic and misleading characterization of the rolls of works. You have also painted yourself into corner by accusing the mormon faith of being a carrot on a string, and need I remind you that the vast majority of Christian churches adhere to the same doctrine as us. When you teach your children do you honestly believe you are holding a proverbial hammer over their head threatening them if they do not do their homework or clean their room? Your argument is rather flawed. Your belief is the same as mine because it comes from the same book. You believe that if I do not accept your version of Jesus I am going to hell. Is this not a threat? The reality is, the entire bible fits into your condemnation. I would suggest you read the bible verses I provided. The God of the bible clearly demands that we must follow his commandments. If we want to live with him again, we must follow his commandments. I find it curious that Protestants such as you who are so passionate about rejecting works are the most cruel in their condemnation of people of other faiths. I wonder, what is it about your faith that causes you to be so angry about others who believe differently then you, particularly when you are in the profound minority? Why are you filled with so much hate?

      1. Don’t get ahead of yourself, Grant, and start arguing with someone who isn’t here. I haven’t said anything about condemnation and damnation to people of other faiths. Not a word. You are reading that into my words.

        I’ve challenged your doctrine. I’ve made no declarations about the state of your eternal soul. That’s up to God, and for all I know, you might be just fine. You have posted your ideas on a public forum. And that’s great! I love the marketplace of ideas, and venues like this one which you have provided in which we can discuss things. Keep it up. But you need to expect a challenge from time to time, so don’t accuse your challengers of hatred.

        I find it interesting that you point to my “minority Christianity” as some sort of evidence that I am wrong. How many other Christians (Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox) believe that God was once a man?

        I’d be careful making a case for truth on membership numbers. Catholics are 1.2 billion strong. Mormons are 15 million. That means for every 5 Mormons there are 400 Catholics. And that is just comparing Mormons to Catholics. If we throw in the Protestants, who also reject your “nature of God” doctrine, ….well….you get the point.

        You are the one in the minority when it comes to some of the most basic of all Christian doctrine. Does that mean you are wrong, perhaps?

        You didn’t answer my question. You’ve given me a lot of Bible verses, all of which I have read at some point in my life. Many quite recently, most likely. Show me a Bible verse that claims I need to receive an LDS temple endowment and be married in an LDS temple to inherit eternal life.

        After you do that, do me another favor. Show me a scripture in the LDS Standard Works that say I need to receive an LDS temple endowment to inherit eternal life.

        Then, show me a scripture in the Standard Works that claims I need to be sealed to a wife to inherit eternal life. If you can do this, please make sure that scripture you cite is NOT in a section that is defending plural marriage. (D&C 131 and 132 can’t be used. They are both set within the historical context of Mormon plural marriage.)

        1. I am responding to examples of your comments so that hopefully we can get this discussion on tract:

          “Whether you call the works a condition or a price, it doesn’t matter. It is all the same. A gift is not a gift that has a price or a condition attached to it. What you have done here in this blog post is summarize current Mormon apologetic trying to reconcile Mormon doctrine with the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith alone”

          This is purely polemic by calling it ‘momon apologetic’ and is meant to antagonize rather than to open up a dialogue. To say I am trying to reconcile is to assume that you are right and I am wrong. I have made no effort to reconcile; I am simply showing through the scriptures why I believe what I believe. I have shown that you have added to the bible by claiming we are saved by ‘faith alone’ but you have not acknowledge this, you just move the goal post by trying to find some other argument that sticks. I would ask you to provide a verse that says we are saved by faith alone and explain all those other verse that provides other requirements for salvation.

          “They attempt to make it look like Mormons believe in grace in the Christian sense of the word. But they don’t”

          I demonstrated that my concept of grace is the same as the Catholic concept so your broad brush that says I am out of step with the rest of Christianity is simply incorrect, but you have not acknowledged this.

          “To a Christian, salvation and eternal life are always the same thing. To a Mormon, they are not necessarily the same thing.”

          Here you are again making it us against them. I reminded you that it is your version, not the Christian version. I am not the one that is arguing for majority rule, you are. I am pointing out the hypocrisy of this argument, but instead you say I am making a false accusation. Will you acknowledge that it is your version, and not the majority version that adheres to this doctrine? This does not prove you wrong, only the argument that we are out of step with the rest of Christianity.

          “In your view, are any of the following optional:”

          You have asked if these ordinances are necessary. I have shown that the bible makes it clear that ordinances are necessary but you do not even acknowledge this. It is difficult to have a discussion with someone who goes from failed argument to failed argument without stopping to consider that a different interpretation is possible.

          “No one can possess purely Christlike love if love is required before the person is released from condemnation. When someone you love dearly is standing over you with a hammer poised to crack your skull if you don’t give them a hug, that hug isn’t really going to be a loving hug, is it? It is going to be a hug with an ulterior motive, namely to save your skull.”

          I have demonstrated that the bible clearly teaches that obedience is required or we are dammed. You have not addressed any of the scriptures; rather you just dismiss them out of hand and create a caricature that does not even remotely compare to what I said in my blog. Again, if you do not engage in the discussion it is difficult to have an intelligent conversation

          “But Mormons want to say that it isn’t the rituals that save, it is the love and faith you express by performing them that save you.”

          We want to say? What exactly do you mean by this comment? You are creating a strawman by saying we claim one thing but actually believe something else. I have demonstrated that ordinances are necessary through the bible but you simply dismiss them and continue as if I did not offer any references.

          “In Mormonism, eternal life is a carrot on a string. If you prove your love and faith by doing what you are asked, you get the carrot.”

          Again, I have shown that the New Testament clearly states that there are requirements to obtain eternal life and this belief is shared by the majority of Christians.

          “If you really possessed the truth, it wouldn’t matter whether or not your doctrine fit in with the rest of Protestant/Evangelical Christianity, would it?”

          At no point have I made an effort to make my doctrine fit with your version of Christianity. I am not clear why you are making this argument other than to be antagonistic.

          “But you need to expect a challenge from time to time, so don’t accuse your challengers of hatred.”

          There is a difference between disagreeing and finding fault. I have pointed out the difference. I am willing to have an intelligent conversation but I am not interested in polemics. You do not seem to understand the difference between having a different point of view and being condescending.

          “I find it interesting that you point to my “minority Christianity” as some sort of evidence that I am wrong.”

          Again, you have completely missed my point. What I was demonstrating is that you are the one in minority so by pitting us against them you are in fact painting yourself into a corner. I have never made the argument that majority rules, you did but you seem unwilling to accept the fact that my doctrine on salvation is in agreement with the majority of Christianity so you should stop trying to use this argument. You want to have your cake and eat it too.

          “You didn’t answer my question. You’ve given me a lot of Bible verses, all of which I have read at some point in my life. Many quite recently, most likely. Show me a Bible verse that claims I need to receive an LDS temple endowment and be married in an LDS temple to inherit eternal life.”

          This is again moving the goal post. Our doctrine is not exclusively found in the bible. Your argument is that ordinances are not necessary so when this argument fell apart, you moved on to specific LDS ordinances as if that makes a difference. Cleary ordinances are necessary as per the bible, and clearly not all LDS doctrines are found in the bible so again, this demand is simply meant to antagonize rather than to seek to understand.

          “If you can do this, please make sure that scripture you cite is NOT in a section that is defending plural marriage. (D&C 131 and 132 can’t be used. They are both set within the historical context of Mormon plural marriage.)”

          Here is an example of an impossible standard. You get to dictate what scriptures I use. This is like saying to a defendant in court – you can use any video you like that proves you were in Mexico except for those videos that show that you were in Mexico. Your unreasonable requirement makes it very clear that you are not interested in engaging in a conversation, rather you are throwing volley after volley. When one fails, you simply throw another, when that one fails you throw another. When that fails, you change the rules. I will give you a chance to redeem yourself by going back to your first post:

          “Whether you call the works a condition or a price, it doesn’t matter. It is all the same. A gift is not a gift that has a price or a condition attached to it. What you have done here in this blog post is summarize current Mormon apologetic trying to reconcile Mormon doctrine with the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith alone”

          Show me in the bible where it says we are saved by grace through faith alone and explain why the other verses I provided do not apply, and explain why the bible says we must obey yet you say there is no price. I responded to these claims but you ignored them and changed the topic.

          You are welcome to your beliefs and I do not presume that I can prove you wrong, but I have demonstrated that my point of view is perfectly valid based on the bible. If you choose to simply throw out more polemics and engage in more moving the goal post I will not respond. Be advised that you will never be able to prove your position, only find support for your position in the bible.

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