“Although you say that I misunderstood your question, I don't see any clarification as to what that question meant. I fully expected that you would affirm that LDS obey God's commandments because they love him and want to please him. Yet it is puzzling that you would ask what the point of the commandments is if they are not preconditions of salvation. Perhaps you could try to clarify what you were asking.”
What I am asking is if keeping the commandments (such as those given in the sermon on the mount) is not a condition for salvation, then why did Jesus give them? What good can they accomplish? Now if the reason they are given is to convict one of their sins, then why the need for these things to be observed after a person attains to faith in Christ? Now I realize that your argument is that good works are evidence of faith, not a requirement for the "so-called gift" of salvation. Yet do you not see the contradiction here? If we have no good works, if we do not keep God's commandments then that can only mean that one does not have faith in Christ. If one does not have faith in Christ one cannot be saved. So how then can one accept the gift? Is there a way of loosing this gift once it is gained? That is what I am asking!
Well, you seem to be asking a couple of questions, and I’m still not sure that I completely understand your objection. Let me approach your question from a different angle and then we’ll see if I have cleared things up.
All evangelicals believe that when our redemption is complete, consummated, in the resurrection and glorification that is still future, we will then be perfect, sinless, absolutely holy beings. There is no salvation that does not have this end result. You cannot be saved and not eventually arrive at this consummated state of redemption in which sinless obedience is the norm. However, this does not make meaningless the observation that we don’t save ourselves by attaining such a state. Sinlessness or perfect holiness is not a condition of salvation but the final result of salvation. Are you following what I am saying so far?
Now, when someone receives the gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, as we evangelicals understand it, the act of receiving this gift entails receiving the whole
gift. That is, what a person receives is not just the bare forgiveness of sins—a kind of “Get out of hell free card”—but the gift of eternal life in God’s kingdom as his adopted children. Salvation does not mean that a sinner “gets saved” and is allowed to go on his merry way ignoring God and his will. It means that a sinner “gets saved” out of a life estranged from God and into a life reconciled to God. Salvation means that a sinner “signs up” for a life that will culminate in the consummation of redemption described above, eternal life in sinless holiness in God’s eternal kingdom as his adopted children.
In this context, believers are in an awkward “in-between” stage in which they are still part of this fallen, corrupted world and yet belong to the age to come in which everything will be made new. We are sinners saved by grace and living by faith on the basis of a hope for eternity. God’s commandments to us in Scripture provide specific directions on how we ought to live in this awkward transitional stage. We are to live as people who are living in the present evil age and yet destined for the glorious age to come. Perfect obedience is the ultimate result we know will be realized in the consummation; we pursue holiness in this life because God has called us into reconciled relationship with him and that relationship begins now even though the consummation is still future.
Now, you argued that my position is contradictory because if I agree that those who produce no good works are showing that they don’t truly have faith, then I am implicitly agreeing that those who produce no good works will not be saved. There is no contradiction, because the good works are the fruit, the result, of salvation, not its precondition. Again, evangelical theology affirms that those who are saved will be changed; some measure of good works in this life, and perfect goodness in the age to come, will result from God’s gracious salvation. But we don’t do good works to earn or merit or prove our worthiness to receive that salvation.
I still don’t understand why you keep asking questions about good works like “what good can they accomplish” if we affirm salvation by grace alone. Good works accomplish a lot! Obedience to God is a good end in itself; we should obey God because he is worthy to be obeyed, because he is our Creator and Sustainer and Lord and Judge. Furthermore, obeying God has good effects in our lives and in the lives of others. These good things that obeying God accomplishes don’t need to be conditions of salvation for them to be good.
I wrote: I have already responded to this line of reasoning. There is a fundamental difference between faith as an act of accepting a gift and works as acts one must perform as conditions for receiving the (so-called) gift. I must insist that it is only "so-called" if there are conditions of works to be performed before the "gift" may be received. Confirming the problem is the fact that LDS authorities routinely affirm that a person must "earn" or "merit" this individual salvation. I'm sorry, but it is axiomatic that if you have to earn or merit something, it's not a gift. This is true not only definitionally but also biblically. "Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due" (Romans 4:4 NRSV). If God gives us salvation as a gift, as an act of grace on his part, then it is not something we can earn or merit by our works. Again, Paul says so explicitly: "But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace" (Romans 11:6). To try to overturn this point by claiming that even evangelicals agree that we must have faith to be saved completely misses the point. Faith, in this context, is not doing something to earn or merit salvation; it is humbly and gratefully accepting the gift of what God has done for us that we cannot earn or merit.
So the heart of the argument is what constitutes "humbly and gratefully accepting the gift of what God has done for us that we cannot earn or merit" what is the means of that acceptance? Is it faith alone?
Yes. That is what faith means. Again, this acceptance will demonstrate itself or be evidenced in good works, but faith means accepting the gift, not working for it.
Now James (the book of "straw" according to Luther) explains something very different from what you are proposing.
I consider the aside about Luther a bit of poisoning the well. My theology is in complete agreement with James, just as much as with Paul or John. You quoted the following:
(James 1:21-27) "Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world
I completely agree with what James says here. You wrote:
Now is being a doer of the word earning salvation?
Can one be just a hearer and not deceive there own selves? What way are they deceiving themselves, if it is that they may think they are "saved" when they are not.
Please notice a couple of things here. (1) James contrasts those who merely hear
the word with those who do
it. He does not contrast those who believe
the word with those who do it, but rather those who merely hear
it. (2) James does not say that the person who hears but fails to do will be condemned eternally even if he has faith. Again, then, James is not denying that we are saved through faith alone, but arguing that those who are saved should do what God says—a point with which I fully agree. (3) James does not contrast faith with works; rather, he contrasts empty religion with a religion that shows itself by good works.
You are trying to suggest that we (LDS) do not accept Christ's atonement, that we somehow think that it is only necessary for forgiveness of sins, or just to attain the resurrection. You are suggesting that we look upon the atonement as an optional plan.
No, I never suggested any such thing.
I had written:
You then go on to state that for LDS the necessary conditions for individual salvation are (1) repentance, (2) looking to Christ for remission of sins, and (3) baptism. In support of this explanation, you quoted at length from several passages of the Book of Mormon. The problem here is that your list is incomplete; your quotations of the Book of Mormon do not represent the complete LDS teaching on this matter. The LDS Church teaches that in addition to these three things, one must (4) accept the LDS Church, its scriptures, prophets, and ordinances, (5) be endowed and married in a temple, (6) keep the commandments (again, as a precondition), including such commandments as not drinking coffee and tea, (7) do genealogical research, (8 ) perform proxy ordinances for the dead, (9) tithe, and (10) attend Church meetings as often as possible. Again, the LDS doctrine is that these things must be done to "earn" or "merit" eternal life. And that simply cannot reasonably or biblically be interpreted to be consistent with the idea that eternal life is a gift.
You commented, “Now this is not true,” and quoted 2 Nephi 31:19-20, which does not address my point. In fact, you went on to agree with me that a person must do all ten of the things I listed above in order to attain individual salvation. You also went on to affirm that you hope to be saved by your obedience to Christ as the means of obtaining the “gift” of eternal life:
Obedience to Christ is the first law of heaven and the means of salvation, the means of laying hold upon the gift of eternal life.
I respectfully continue to insist that if you must perform “obedience” in the sense of living a superlative life of conformity to a list of commandments as “the means of salvation,” then it is not really a gift. “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace” (Rom. 11:6). In this regard, you have misunderstood Hebrews 5:8-9, which says:
"Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him
I agree that we must “obey Christ” to be saved in the sense that we must respond affirmatively to him as Lord and Savior in order to be saved. This is very different from saying that we must keep a list of commandments in order to attain eternal life.