Last week I blogged here about the recent controversy over evangelical views of TV political commentator and culture warrior Glenn Beck, who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons). The issue there was whether and in what sense one might speak of a Mormon such as Beck as a “Christian.” As something of a follow-up to that piece—this time approaching the subject from a somewhat different angle—I would like to comment here on some particularly interesting remarks about the unbiblical theology of Beck’s religion.

The remarks come from James L. Garlow in a guest column at One News Now, an evangelical Internet news outlet. Garlow, a Methodist pastor, author, and activist who sees himself as an advocate for the healing theology of the late John Wimber, came to national prominence earlier this year when Newt Gingrich named him to chair the nonprofit Renewing American Leadership. In his column defending his association with Beck and his “Restoring Honor” rally, Garlow offered the following argument:

Let me ask you a question.  Is your theology “off” at all?  Even one percent?  Only the most arrogant would say, “Oh, my theological understanding is 100% perfect.”  No, we all keep growing.  God’s Word does not change.  God’s truth does not change.  But we grow in our understanding of spiritual, biblical truths.
I suspect my theology is off by 1% or 4% or 7%.  And, I have news for you: yours is too.
Here is my question:  if your theology is off slightly, but you still trust exclusively in Jesus Christ’s death on the cross for your salvation, and in his resurrection, are you still saved?  Going to heaven?  Yes.
How far off might your theology be – and yet still trust exclusively in Jesus Christ’s death on the cross for your salvation, and believe in his resurrection – and still be saved?  Is it 10% or 15% or 20%?  Or what?
My point is this:  all of us are missing part of God’s full truth.  He knows all truth.  I don’t.  I am striving to understand all truth, but it is a journey of maturing in the understanding of God’s Word.
Someone might truly trust in Jesus Christ’s death on the cross for one’s salvation and believe in Jesus as Lord as demonstrated by the resurrection, yet be lacking in many points of doctrine.

This sounds like a plausible objection to thinking that if someone adheres to a heretical theology, such as Mormonism, that theology would not impede a saving faith relationship with Christ. Unfortunately, the argument is quite fallacious. The specific fallacy on exhibit here is popularly known as the fallacy of the beard. It gets its name from the conundrum that it is impossible to specify how many hairs must be on a man’s face before one may conclude definitively that he has a beard. How unshaven may a man’s face be and still not have a beard? Is it 10% or 15% or 20%? How long must the facial hair be before it’s a beard: 1/32 of an inch? 1/16? 1/4? No one can say. Does this mean, then, that we can never assert truthfully that a particular man has a beard? Of course not. When A. J. Jacobs grew his beard as part of his experiment recounted in The Year of Living Biblically, there was not some arbitrary point of time before which he did not have a beard and after which he did have a beard. Yet eventually there was no denying that he had a beard!

Likewise, we may admit that it is impossible to specify some mathematical measure of false doctrine, such that anyone accepting a greater degree of false doctrine cannot be saved. This admission, however, in no way entails the conclusion that a person can believe practically anything and still be saved. Such an argument is an instance of the fallacy of the beard. Underlying the fallacy is the assumption that what marks a person as spiritually lost is a certain amount of false doctrine. That isn’t the case. Heresy, like beardedness, is a qualitative matter, not a quantitative matter. It isn’t the number of erroneous doctrinal assertions to which one holds that constitutes heresy; it’s the nature of those erroneous doctrinal beliefs and of the whole belief system of which they are parts that results in heresy.

The relevance of understanding this particular fallacy for thinking about a contemporary controversial issue like the faith of Glenn Beck illustrates the great need of the church today for critical thinking skills and a deep, sound understanding of the principles of logic. I am very pleased and privileged to have the opportunity, starting tomorrow night, to teach an eight-week online elective course for the fall 2010 semester of The Theology Program on the subject of Critical Thinking. The course will not be a formal academic course on logic per se, although it will cover some fundamentals of logic. Rather, it will be an orientation to the subject of critical thinking that will include introductory (but not superficial) material regarding logic and the major methods of reasoning. Here are just some of the things we will be discussing in this course:

  • Does the Bible discourage critical thinking or the use of logic? What about such texts as Proverbs 3:5-6 or Colossians 2:8?
  • What exactly is critical thinking? Is it a covert form of relativism, always questioning everything and never arriving at settled conclusions?
  • How do we identify and analyze real arguments “in the wild” of books, articles, and other media, as distinguished from simplistic textbook examples of arguments?
  • What are legitimate, reasonable ways to challenge someone’s argument? How can we tell if a criticism of an argument is relevant or not?
  • What are the values and limitations of deductive and inductive kinds of reasoning?
  • What is “inference to the best explanation” and why is it so popular in evangelical apologetics?
  • Logicians have identified a plethora of fallacies; how can we get a handle on this subject so we don’t get lost in a maze of technical terms (in Latin!) for all those fallacies?
  • Are fallacies always poor reasoning, or can some fallacies be legitimate ways of reasoning in some contexts?
  • How can we develop our Christian minds to be skilled in critical thinking without becoming hypercritical, fault-finding nitpickers?

Those who take this course will have access to some excellent Christian writing on subjects relating to critical thinking as well as the opportunity to work through some exercises to hone their skills in this area. The principles and methods studied in the course will be illustrated using examples from apologetics, theology, biblical studies, and ethics. I hope you’ll join me!


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    38 replies to "Of Glenn Beck and Beards"

    • Stuart

      Interestingly Roger E Olsen has posted a piece entitled: Why can’t we all just admit our theologies are flawed?”

      Please don’t think that I’m undermining the premise of this piece, namely, that fasle doctrine is potentially dangerous in a salvic context, but I do maintain that It will transpire in the end that we were all wrong to some degree or another and the only person 100% correct on all things is God himself.

    • teleologist

      Thanks Rob, this is an excellent illustration.

      It never ceases to amaze me how much the Christian mind has been corrupted by the postmodern culture. How did we get from the mind of Christ who judges all things (1 Cor 2:15-16) to a mind that discerns nothing? Was this how the Apostles acted? Is this how the Bible commands us to act? When did we start to believe that Christians must be infallible before we can discern between a false god and a true God?

      Borrowing from Rob’s illustration, at which point before you can call a beard a beard, we may not have a consensus. However, when you glue some hair on a bowling ball and try to call it a beard, there shouldn’t be any dispute that it is not a beard. I am sorry but salvation and atonement cannot be imputed to someone using the same words and phrases and applying it to a false god.

    • Scott F

      So if Glenn Beck loves God with all his heart and all his mind and loves his neighbor as himself, he has only grown a little stubble? Are we becoming more concerned with wrong-thinking than Jesus was?

    • Rob Bowman

      Stuart, thanks for that link to Roger Olsen’s piece. I agree entirely with his argument that all theologies outside the Bible are fallible and therefore subject to correction. God’s word is infallible; my word is not. So I agree with the observation that everyone’s theology is somewhat flawed. I should have made that agreement explicit when critiquing Garlow’s argument, so thanks for bringing this up. My point is that even though he is correct in saying that everyone’s theology is a little bit off, it does not follow that we cannot recognize some theologies as orthodox and others as heretical, or some theologies as inimical to salvation and other theologies as conducive to a saving response to the gospel.

    • Rob Bowman

      Scott, the same Jesus who affirmed those two greatest commandments (Matthew 22:37-40) in *the very same chapter* of Matthew also asserted that the Sadducees’ denial of the resurrection of the dead demonstrated that they did not understand Scripture or the power of God (Matthew 22:29). Jesus cared about both right attitude toward God and right thinking about God. The two go together in Christ’s teaching, and they should in ours as well.

      To love God with all one’s mind requires accepting with one’s mind what God says in the true Scripture — the Bible — and conforming one’s beliefs to that revelation as much as one can. Loving God with our minds involves desiring to know the truth about God and to live according to that truth. Those who are passionately committed to knowing God’s truth may need to go through a process of discovery and correction before they arrive at an adequate grasp of that truth, but they should get there eventually.

      I am not judging Glenn Beck, but if he truly loves God he will want to know the truth about God. To do that, he will need to investigate the issues that separate Mormonism from biblically-based Christianity. I am convinced that someone who does so and is committed to learning and accepting the truth at any cost will come to understand that the LDS Church is a false church and its understanding of the gospel is fatally defective. I am making this case in a comprehensive way in my chapter-by-chapter response to the LDS doctrinal manual Gospel Principles, 18 chapters of which are complete and available free online (http://www.irr.org/mit/Gospel-Principles-Study-Guide.html).

    • cherylu

      Rob,

      The link you gave above for this course does not seem to be working. Where can a person check out this class further? Are there still openings available?

    • cherylu

      Thanks Carrie.

    • Jared C

      Rob,

      I think the problem with your argument is that Evangelicals seem to believe that the grace of God will cut any beard, and that any stubble is unacceptable. it is only by God’s grace that we can shave the beard, and everybody has them.

      I would not argue that critical thinking is important in understanding the bible, but the problem with the Bible is that it does not present absolutely clear propositions and reasonable and honest minds can disagree about critical doctrines.

      Therefore the question is not whether one (Evangelical) has a beard and the other (Evangelical) doesn’t but that we all have beards, just some are longer. You are right that you can argue cogently about the relative length of a beard but it seems arbitrary to say that at some point the razor of God’s grace just won’t cut through it.

      This is entirely different from denouncing, through reason and reference to scripture, that some doctrinal views are clearly whisker-like.

      Some Evangelicals, perhaps very very few, believe that calling on the name of Jesus may be enough, even for those long bearded Mormons of the world.

      Not that I really worry about whether Evangelicals think LDS are saved, but I do think this is more consistent with the Evangelical conception of salvation by faith alone.

    • Lee H

      So we are saved by agreeing with certain statements?

      Doesn’t sound too much like faith to me 🙂

    • Jared C

      Ironically, Evangelicals use the same fallacy to exclude Mormons from Christianity. it cuts both ways.

      Mormons believe in the biblical account of Jesus in the bible, in this belief, they clearly call upon the name of Jesus for salvation, they have faith that he will save them and believe he was the redeemer of the world, and many show their faith by their works.

      Evangelicals can argue that Mormons don’t get these things quite right, and that they have all sorts of heretical views about the bible, etc., but this is really tantamount to arguing that a man ceases to have a beard if he shaves his sideburns, or his mustache. A goatee is clearly a species of beard, even if it is slight.

      The frustrating thing about the Evangelical argument is that they make the qualification for salvation sound so simple yet when the rubber hits the road they believe that God will condemn you to hell due to reasonable disagreement about the meaning of the bible.

    • Rob Bowman

      Lee H,

      No one here said any such thing. This would be another fallacy, known as knocking down a straw man.

    • Rob Bowman

      Jared,

      Your argument (particularly in comment #9), if I follow you correctly, misunderstands the difference between the evangelical and LDS view of the gospel. You reason, I think, that since you have faith in Christ and evangelicals teach that faith in Christ is enough for salvation, by evangelical standards you have enough for salvation. But that misunderstands the evangelical view. Our view is not that faith in Christ is *enough* but that faith in Christ must be faith in Christ *alone* (i.e., apart from one’s own works, religious activities, religious rituals, church membership, etc.) to be genuine, saving faith. For example, if someone teaches that to be saved one must believe in Christ PLUS get circumcised, that is a false gospel (Gal. 1:6-10, and see the rest of the epistle). Paul is adamant: Make circumcision part of the gospel, and you have just in effect circumcised yourself off from Christ (Gal. 5:2-4). Add works to grace as the basis of salvation and grace is no longer grace (see Romans 11:6). There are other problems, but I think the point here addresses your concern directly.

    • Jared C

      You reason, I think, that since you have faith in Christ and evangelicals teach that faith in Christ is enough for salvation, by evangelical standards you have enough for salvation. But that misunderstands the evangelical view. Our view is not that faith in Christ is *enough* but that faith in Christ must be faith in Christ *alone* (i.e., apart from one’s own works, religious activities, religious rituals, church membership, etc.) to be genuine, saving faith.

      Hmm, I guess i do misunderstand the Evangelical position, i thought that most Catholics and Orthodox could be saved in the Evangelical view.

      Of course, if this is the Evangelical view, it seems even more strange than i thought. All of those billions who trusted and had faith in Jesus for their salvation, most all of those who called on His name, would be cast to hell because they thought that they had to be baptized and confirmed to be saved. And all of this due to a reasonable disagreement in the interpretation of the bible. Instead of being simple, accepting Jesus just became a whole lot more complicated. It seems that you believe God will not accept the faith of those who may, in their own weakness or ignorance, place some of their faith in non-divine sources. Is there any faith this pure?

    • Jared C

      Rob,

      After re-reading Galations I think you certainly have a point as to circumcision, but I don’t know that you can extend his point to other areas. I suppose I still would either interpret what Paul is saying differently or perhaps even disagree with Paul. I don’t know that his teaching is entirely consistently with the Gospels if this is what he really meant.

      Circumcision would appear to be a special case because it was a specific act to accept the previous covenant that was replaced by Jesus, so I can understand the fundamental inconsistency that Paul saw, how can you accept the new Covenant if you were stuck on the old? I can’t see how you can extend Paul’s reasoning to diligently attempting to follow the bible, and reasoning from the bible that baptism and church membership are necessary, as the Catholics do.

    • nazaroo

      Since you are giving a talk or course on “logic”, it seems important to analyse your so-called “fallacy” (the ‘beard fallacy’).

      Is it really a fallacy at all? Or to take your own question:
      “Are fallacies always poor reasoning, or can some fallacies be legitimate ways of reasoning in some contexts?” – in other words, are some “fallacies” not true fallacies?

      Here is the problem with the ‘beard-fallacy’ argument.

      On the one hand, it is actually easy to spot the beard. If a bank-robber presented as in picture # 6, 99 out of 100 witnesses would say “beard”. While some might prefer “stubble” for pic #2-3, the practical cut-off is still between 4 and 6.

      This is the test: “Did the guy who robbed you have a beard, yes or no?” 9 out of 10 would say “yes” after picture #4. After all, we don’t want the cops chasing clean-shaven men instead. So there is a strong “majority-vote” that makes the line quite unfuzzy, though not exact.

      On the other hand, even the wispiest “goatie” is going to be classed as “beard” by these same witnesses. Again it doesn’t matter how pronounced or heavy the beard is, so much as can it be told from “clean-shaven”. A swarthy “5-o’clock shadow” will also class as a beard, because it still singles out the suspect.

      So one could say that “any beard-growth” separates “beardy” people from clean-shaven, = the best line for nailing suspects in a clean-shaven society.

      But that is the rub! In a society like say Egypt, where shaving is popular, but not being “clean-shaven” in a 1 or 2 times daily manner, the line might be better at some point PAST “5-o’clock shadow” or “stubble”, where THAT might be more useful for police hunting suspects.

      Thus its all context. In other words, arbitrary, dependant upon circumstance. If the analogy fails in its natural state, how can it be a metaphor of a logical fallacy?

    • Phil McCheddar

      Jared,

      I think you make a good point, and I look forward to hearing Rob’s reply.

      It seems to me that the evangelistic sermons in the book of Acts do not stipulate trusting in Christ alone for salvation. In fact, those early sermons hardly make any connection at all between salvation and Jesus’ crucifixion. Instead the emphasis is on believing that Jesus is the Messiah and repenting from sin. The 3000 converts on the day of Pentecost could justifiably have interpreted Peter’s exhortation to “repent and be baptised for the forgiveness of your sins” to mean that baptism was a work they had to do to be saved.

      In Acts chapter 15 the leaders of the church had to hold a debate amongst themselves whether circumcision was required for salvation. The very fact that the leaders needed to ask that question shows that it was not a settled and widely-held belief amongst even the apostles that faith in Jesus alone (rather than faith in Jesus plus this-or-that work) was essential for salvation. Also, in that church council of Acts 15 the Judaizers seemed to have a free pass to come in and go out amongst the church leadership as though they were regarded as fellow Christians in close association with the church’s leaders rather than as heretics.

    • Tim Martin

      Rob,

      I want to take the class. The topic is interesting and I know it would come in very handy for my work. The $100 fee is very doable, but 10-11:30 pm is impossible. If the lectures and materials can be recorded and purchased later, let me know. Or if you offer it again at an earlier time, I will take it.

      Thanks!

    • Rob Bowman

      Jared,

      The belief that one must be baptized to be saved is, I think, a misunderstanding, but it is not necessarily damnable. If someone is trusting in Jesus Christ alone as Savior, and understands baptism as a required expression of that trust or a means by which that trust is formalized (like needing to go through a wedding ceremony to be married), such a view would in fact be very close to what I perceive to be the biblical view. If someone thinks they are saved because they were baptized, trusting in the rite but not trusting in Christ, that would obviously be a problem. And yes, a lot of people do just that. Confirmation in the Catholic tradition is a rite of passage for teenagers (primarily) in which they are supposed to formally affirm the faith for themselves and not just as something their parents taught them. The idea is biblical even though the rite itself is not.

      Catholicism does not teach that one must be a member of the Catholic Church to be saved. It does claim to be the only true Church, but its ecclesiology has theological loopholes to allow for Protestants and Eastern Orthodox to be saved. I disagree with Catholic ecclesiology, of course.

      The issues with regard to the LDS faith go far beyond anything that could fairly be construed as a “reasonable disagreement on the interpretation of the Bible.” Mormonism is not founded on the Bible, but on the revelations allegedly given to Joseph Smith. Where Mormons think the Bible can be pressed into service in support of LDS doctrine, they will make such use of it, but the final authority for doctrine in LDS belief is not the Bible but the living prophets and their teaching based primarily on the LDS scriptures.

    • Rob Bowman

      Tim,

      Sorry the time slot for the course won’t work for you. I have another person who wanted to take it but can’t because 10 pm EST for them is 3 am! The course is being recorded and will be made available after it is completed.

    • Tim Martin

      Jared,

      Your comments make me wonder if you know the theological problems with Mormonism. You can understand Paul’s objection to circumcision because of it’s connection to the old covenant. Have you considered the covenant that the Mormons are under? Every week they take the sacrament to renew their covenantal promises to God. The promise is that they will keep all of God’s commandments. One of their prophets said “Our agreement to keep all the commandments is our covenant with God. Only as we do this may we deserve His blessing and merit His mercy.” This is also found in LDS scripture and taught throughout LDS history. It was suggested above that that the LDS have a faith that Jesus will save them. Yes, but only after they meet God’s requirements. If this is not a false gospel, then there is no false gospels anywhere.

      The second problem is their concept of God. Yes, they may call on the name Jesus for salvation, but it is not the Jesus of the Bible. The LDS Church teaches that our God was a mortal man born on another planet. Since he kept his covenantal promises to his god, he is now an exalted man living with his wife(s) on another planet. Jesus, and the rest of us, are his spiritual offspring. We have the opportunity to become a God over our planet the same way he did. This is a false God and false Jesus (see 2 Cor. 11:4). If Baal worshipers renamed Baal to “Jesus,” they would still not be saved by calling on “Jesus.” The Catholics may have stubble when it comes to Jesus, but the Mormons have a 3 foot beard.

      I can document any of this using LDS Church curriculum if anybody is interested.

    • Rob Bowman

      Phil,

      The all-important words “in the name of Jesus Christ,” which you missed from your quotation of Acts 2:38, indicate that forgiveness of sins was offered to the people as a gift from Jesus Christ. In the first-century Jewish culture, baptism would not have been viewed as a “work” in the sense you suggest. It was an admission that one was unclean before God, no better than a pagan Gentile, and in need of redemption. A person would get baptized once as an outward, public expression of their humble admission that their works were not good enough to merit life in God’s kingdom. This is quite a different category of response than, say, tithing, refraining from hot drinks, attending meetings as often as possible, performing numerous temple rituals, and the like, as ongoing obligations thought to be necessary to obtain (eventually) the forgiveness of one’s sins.

    • Phil McCheddar

      Thank you, Rob. I now see your point about being baptised in the name of Jesus.

      However, I still find it curious that in Acts 15 (when the church was by now several years old) the apostles were still not clear in their own minds about whether faith in Jesus alone is necessary for salvation. You said to Jared in comment #13:

      [The evangelical] view is not that faith in Christ is *enough* but that faith in Christ must be faith in Christ *alone* (i.e., apart from one’s own works, religious activities, religious rituals, church membership, etc.) to be genuine, saving faith.

      The church at the time of Acts 15 consisted of thousands of Christians, most of whom were Jews brought up in the context of legalistic righteousness. Since an evangelical soteriology had not yet been crystallised in the minds of the apostles, thousands of early Christians had not been taught they had to believe in Christ alone to be saved. If Glenn Beck had been one of those early Christians, would the apostles have excluded him from the church and labelled him a non-Christian?

    • Jared C

      Rob,

      I see that your objections don’t come back to the individual faith of LDS people in Christ, but their reliance on extra-biblical scripture. I still think these objections are beside the point. Evangelicals seem to make an arbitrary line where simple faith in Jesus of Nazareth as the savior of the world just won’t work, it has to be a particular faith in a particular concept, and if you don’t get that right, you are in danger of eternal damnation. This appears to be legalism of a different form. It seems to encourage people to walk in the doctrine rather than walk in the Spirit.

      Mormons like me see this and it looks inconsistent and confusing. i absolutely understand why Evangelicals see the LDS as heretical and wrong on so many things, but I think that the doctrinal divergence blinds them to the fact that many, if not most, LDS have a faith in Jesus that is extremely close to theirs, at least in Spirit. LDS depend on nothing and no-one to save them other than Jesus Christ. Like Catholics, the ordinances and rituals are considered tools by which Jesus allows people to take advantage of his promises, but they have no effect without His sacrifice, and have no effect unless the make of the covenants has faith in Jesus. So when Evangelicals begin to characterize LDS faith in Christ as something radically different than their own, it is similar to distinguishing a goatee as radically different than a full beard.

      Why does this matter to me? I suppose it doesn’t very much, but I think the intellectual drive toward purity in faith defy the spiritual heart of Evangelicalism. It strikes me as a distortion of the Gospel perhaps in the same way that Mormonism strikes you as a distortion of the Gospel. In my view, it gives a very uncharitable picture of God, fosters pride and I don’t think it squares with the message of the New Testament.

    • Jared C

      Tim,

      I am very aware of LDS theology, and there is no need to recount why Evangelicals don’t like it. I get it.

      However, I think the “other Jesus” argument is unsound in its own right because both LDS and Evangelicals place their faith in a single object, i.e. Jesus of Nazereth. They simply believe different things about Him.

      Nazaroo,

      I think you have a point, the “beard fallacy” is not, in fact a fallacy at all, I would consider it an illustration of the logic of language and the way language works. I do think it is a good example to show how the terms we use are never as cut and dried as they may seem. Ultimately coherent use of terms and labels has to be seen in context of the use of that term in the language. Clearly what some people define as a beard is different that what others define as a beard, and there will never be a clear line.

      However, when you define a “beard” (or any other term) too closely, i.e. in some platonic way or some technical way, you are taking its meaning out of common parlance, and this will ultimately lead to confusion to those who use the word in the “ordinary” way. I think that Evangelicals make this with “faith in Christ” and that is the heart of the “other Jesus” argument against LDS “faith in Christ”. “Faith in Christ” no longer has its ordinary meaning, but it is highly qualified and defined by a large body of theological thought. I don’t think that Jesus defined faith in Him in this way.

    • Rob Bowman

      Phil,

      Sorry I didn’t reply earlier to your argument regarding Acts 15.

      We know that it took a while for the apostles to process everything that Christ had taught them, even after they had the Spirit come on them in power at Pentecost. For example, Jesus had told them to take the gospel to all nations (Matt. 28:19), but they were slow to start that effort and might not have done so at all except for a vision that Peter had (Acts 10-11). Mark 7:19 states that Jesus had declared all foods clean, but the apostles, including Peter, didn’t realize that was the point until the issue of fellowship between Jewish and Gentile Christians forced it on them (see Galatians 2:11-21). I don’t see why we should assume that the apostles had a completely solidified soteriology on the day of Pentecost. The basic message was there, but qualifications and explanations would naturally have to be made as time went by and issues arose and false claims threatened the gospel. Bad theology, historically, has commonly driven the development of good theology, because it forces the church to wrestle with issues they would otherwise miss. For example, Marcion’s hatchet-job canon of Scripture forced the church to address overtly and thoughtfully the issue of the New Testament canon.

      It’s quite misleading to ask whether Glenn Beck (for example) would have been saved had he believed what he does and had been a Christian in Jerusalem in AD 48. Bracketing the question of Beck as an individual, a Mormon is not simply a generic Christian who happens to think that works in addition to faith in Christ is part of what qualifies him for salvation. Such a statement isn’t even using the term “salvation” in the same sense as we do, or as the Bible does. Then there is the rest of the LDS theological system of which these soteriological issues are just a part. I can guarantee you that had someone in the early church started teaching that God had a wife, that all human beings were the spirit offspring of those heavenly parents, that Jesus was the literal son of God in the flesh, that we were sent from heaven to become mortals as a stage in our progression toward godhood, etc., etc., etc., that the apostles would indeed have excluded him from the church!

    • Rob Bowman

      Jared,

      As I told Phil, when Mormons speak of trusting in Christ for salvation, they aren’t even using the term “salvation” in the same sense as we use it.

      You wrote: “LDS depend on nothing and no-one to save them other than Jesus Christ. Like Catholics, the ordinances and rituals are considered tools by which Jesus allows people to take advantage of his promises, but they have no effect without His sacrifice, and have no effect unless the make of the covenants has faith in Jesus.”

      This statement is ambiguous as to what you mean by “save” within the LDS concept. If you mean the general, unconditional salvation of immortality, that is something you will get whether you believe in Christ or not. You need never believe, you need never participate in an ordinance or ritual, and you don’t even need to be a nice person, to be “saved” in that sense. In that context, LDS doctrine does teach that Jesus does it all, that Jesus’ atonement saves us by grace alone and we do nothing to contribute toward our salvation. If you mean the individual, conditional salvation of eternal life in the celestial kingdom, it simply is not the case that LDS doctrine makes that dependent solely on what Christ does. Christ makes it possible for you to attain this salvation, and you do have to believe in Christ and accept what he did, but to get it you must personally do a whole lot of things, including but not limited to those ordinances and rituals. You can’t get it unless you tithe, abstain from hot drinks, alcohol, and tobacco products, fast at least once a month, sustain the LDS Church leadership, attend church meetings as often as possible, do missionary work, get married for eternity in the temple, and in general obey all the commandments. That’s works, plain and simple.

    • Jared C

      I am speaking of salvation in the Evangelical context, being saved from hell, achieving everlasting life, John 3:16, etc.

      I am not talking about the LDS view of salvation, I am really trying to understand why the Evangelical view would exclude Mormons from salvation due to their errant views.

      I can’t see that LDS are any more works based than Catholics – see Council of Trent.

    • Phil McCheddar

      Rob,

      Thanks for post #26 which was helpful. I certainly agree with your point that someone in the first century who espoused LDS doctrine would be excluded from the church because of his radical and bizarre views on some fundamental issues.

      Regarding your point …

      I don’t see why we should assume that the apostles had a completely solidified soteriology on the day of Pentecost. The basic message was there, but qualifications and explanations would naturally have to be made as time went by and issues arose and false claims threatened the gospel.

      I agree it took time for the apostles to join up all the dots in their understanding of the truth. But if the basic message was there from the start, then the basic message did not include the stipulation of modern Evangelicalism that genuine saving faith has to be faith in Christ alone, otherwise there would have been no need to convene the council in Acts 15 where James and the elders did not know what their final decision would be before arguing it out at the meeting.

    • Tim Martin

      Jared,
      I did not realize you were LDS. I would not have bothered to recount your doctrine if I knew. Sorry for that.

      From your post 28: you are not speaking of the evangelical context as you suppose. That may be the way many explain it, but there is another side that is part and parcel of the whole issue. “Everlasting life” does not mean simply being alive forever for evangelicals. It means being in the presence of God forever (Father Son and Holy Spirit).

      In LDS terms, this is the Celestial Kingdom. Any other lower degree of glory does not have the presence of the father. Still, the presence of the father isn’t even the ultimate goal. Instead, personal exaltation is the goal. I don’t say this to fault you, but just to point out that you are not accurately understanding what evangelicals mean by “faith” “salvation” and “eternal/everlasting life.”

    • Nazaroo

      Jared: Thank you for your thoughtful reply.

      I too feel that many so-called fallacies may be more ambiguous than we think, not just this one. On the internet we often get an oversimplified application of a “fallacy” in an attempt to win an argument or damn an opponent. I don’t have much confidence in internet arguments on their face, but the public nature of the internet is a great equalizer and probably the best guarantee we have that arguments will at least be challenged and examined by someone.

      I can see the problem with a phrase like “faith in Christ”: Never mind the Mormons, what does it mean for an ordinary Christian? Perhaps more importantly, what did it mean for a Jewish Greek-speaker?

      In modern English the word “faith” has become synonymous with “belief”. But its original context and usage in the NT is quite different and nowhere near as developed as in modern Protestant evangelical thought. It originally had a meaning more akin to “loyalty”, not belief.

      Thus Thomas was completely loyal as a disciple, but did not “believe”. Jesus solved the problem of his “belief” by an appearance. The word is often found in Jesus’ parables with a meaning much closer to “loyal” (=faithful, not “full of faith”).

      So again, maybe that works in the LDS’ favour: Maybe they don’t need “belief” in Jesus in the modern strictly defined sense, but rather simply “loyalty” to Jesus, whatever primitive ideas or misconceptions they may have about Him intellectually.

      peace
      Nazaroo

    • Michael Gormley

      What is required in order to have Jesus ABIDE in us and we in Him?

      Can we do it:

      1. By accepting Him as our our own personal Lord and Savior ?
      No. Where does the Bible say that?

      2. By the grace of GOD only? Sola Gracias?
      No. Where does the Bible say that?

      3. By faith in GOD alone? Sola Fides?
      No. Where does the Bible say that?

      It is simple common sense that since He commanded that we must do something, then doesn’t it stand to reason that He would also tell us how to do it?

      Jesus was very clear in what we must do in order to have Him ABIDE in us and we in Him.

      Jesus left this command for us in John 6:53-57:

      53 “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you (the taken away branch);

      54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.

      56 HE WHO EATS MY FLESH AND DRINKS MY BLOOD ABIDES IN ME, AND I IN HIM.

      57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.”

    • Tim Martin

      Michael,

      Are you suggesting that unless one literally has his/her teeth interact with (chew/masticate) the physical body and of Jesus, then swallow Him, that he/she will not have eternal life?

      Not event the magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church would say that. Right?

    • Michael Gormley

      Dear Tim,

      Whoever eats 19 my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. (John 6: 54)

    • Tim Martin

      Michael,

      You did not answer my question. I can only guess that you believe that this verse is very self evident and needs no interpretation. However, you are interpreting it, I assure you. My question in post 33 was to help me see how you interpret it.

      What does “eat” mean to you Michael? Masticate and swallow? That seems to me what it means to literally eat.

      Or do you take this figuratively? Some would say there are strong reasons for doing so. If you do, what does it mean to “figuratively eat?”

    • Michael Gormley

      Why do you ask, Timothy?

    • Tim Martin

      I assume you made your posts to create discussion or make a point. I am merely asking so we can have meaningful dialogue.

    • Michael Gormley

      Dear Timothy,
      26 But you do not believe, because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. (John 10: 26 – 28)

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