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Long-time board participants may remember me as a (mostly) level-headed Evangelical Christian of the Calvinist variety who started studying Mormonism (as a cult) while at a (Southern Baptist) seminary. This farewell post is mostly for them. Others are free to move on to something more interesting.
Farewell, you say?
Yes, I think so. I mean, I haven't posted in many, many moons. And since that time, I've left my faith-based worldview behind. I no longer consider myself a Christian in any sense of that word (or even a theist, for that matter), so there's really just no reason for me to "correct" or convert you fine Mormon folks and/or stand up against Mormon attacks on my cherished theological beliefs with the most righteous indignation allowable by law.
I think that's a win-win scenario for all concerned. 😁
You know what's interesting, though? When I now consider Mormonism vs EV Christianity vs RCC, etc., purely in terms of manmade mythologies, I actually think Mormonism is the better story (in general, that is; there are parts I don't like at all, too). It very nearly pained me to write that given the emotional muscle memory associated with this discussion board. Ha.
AMA if there's any interest. Otherwise, to my Internet friends here (if any are still hanging about), happy trails!
By Five Solas
A couple of recent threads on the forum have brought to mind the 17th century's allegorical novel--John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress. For those unfamiliar, it's a story that has never been out of print and second only to the Bible in terms of number of printings. You can read it here (or on many other sites). Difficult to understate its influence, from C.S. Lewis to Alan Moore (yes, that reference was for you, boblloyd91) from Joseph Smith to Mark Twain. Last year the U.K.'s Guardian ranked it first among best novels written in English, calling it the "ultimate English classic."
And now, it feels time to dedicate a thread here on this board to Bunyan's work. And it's certainly interesting to consider in the context of the questions/discussions on the "the gift of grace" thread near the bottom of page 1 (it might have slipped to page 2 by the time you read this).
Here's an excerpt (from The Ninth Stage), a dialogue between "Christian" and "Ignorance." Recall, this is an allegorical novel--and please forgive the archaic English/KJV style prose. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Ignorance: Pray, what count you good thoughts, and a life according to God’s commandments?
Christian: There are good thoughts of divers kinds; some respecting ourselves, some God, some Christ, and some other things.
Ignorance: What be good thoughts respecting ourselves?
Christian: Such as agree with the word of God.
Ignorance: When do our thoughts of ourselves agree with the word of God?
Christian: When we pass the same judgment upon ourselves which the word passes. To explain myself: the word of God saith of persons in a natural condition, “There is none righteous, there is none that doeth good.” It saith also, that, “every imagination of the heart of man is only evil, and that continually.” Gen. 6:5; Rom. 3. And again, “The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Gen. 8:21. Now, then, when we think thus of ourselves, having sense thereof, then are our thoughts good ones, because according to the word of God.
Ignorance: I will never believe that my heart is thus bad.
Christian: Therefore thou never hadst one good thought concerning thyself in thy life. But let me go on. As the word passeth a judgment upon our hearts, so it passeth a judgment upon our ways; and when the thoughts of our hearts and ways agree with the judgment which the word giveth of both, then are both good, because agreeing thereto.
Ignorance: Make out your meaning.
Christian: Why, the word of God saith, that man’s ways are crooked ways, not good but perverse; it saith, they are naturally out of the good way, that they have not known it. Psa. 125:5; Prov. 2:15; Rom. 3:12. Now, when a man thus thinketh of his ways, I say, when he doth sensibly, and with heart-humiliation, thus think, then hath he good thoughts of his own ways, because his thoughts now agree with the judgment of the word of God.
Ignorance: What are good thoughts concerning God?
Christian: Even, as I have said concerning ourselves, when our thoughts of God do agree with what the word saith of him; and that is, when we think of his being and attributes as the word hath taught, of which I cannot now discourse at large. But to speak of him with reference to us: then have we right thoughts of God when we think that he knows us better than we know ourselves, and can see sin in us when and where we can see none in ourselves; when we think he knows our inmost thoughts, and that our heart, with all its depths, is always open unto his eyes; also when we think that all our righteousness stinks in his nostrils, and that therefore he cannot abide to see us stand before him in any confidence, even in all our best performances.
Ignorance: Do you think that I am such a fool as to think that God can see no further than I; or that I would come to God in the best of my performances?
Christian: Why, how dost thou think in this matter?
Ignorance: Why, to be short, I think I must believe in Christ for justification.
Christian: How! think thou must believe in Christ, when thou seest not thy need of him! Thou neither seest thy original nor actual infirmities; but hast such an opinion of thyself, and of what thou doest, as plainly renders thee to be one that did never see the necessity of Christ’s personal righteousness to justify thee before God. How, then, dost thou say, I believe in Christ?
Ignorance: I believe well enough, for all that.
Christian: How dost thou believe?
Ignorance: I believe that Christ died for sinners; and that I shall be justified before God from the curse, through his gracious acceptance of my obedience to his laws. Or thus, Christ makes my duties, that are religious, acceptable to his Father by virtue of his merits, and so shall I be justified.
Christian: Let me give an answer to this confession of thy faith.
1. Thou believest with a fantastical faith; for this faith is nowhere described in the word.
2. Thou believest with a false faith; because it taketh justification from the personal righteousness of Christ, and applies it to thy own.
3. This faith maketh not Christ a justifier of thy person, but of thy actions; and of thy person for thy action’s sake, which is false.
4. Therefore this faith is deceitful, even such as will leave thee under wrath in the day of God Almighty: for true justifying faith puts the soul, as sensible of its lost condition by the law, upon flying for refuge unto Christ’s righteousness; (which righteousness of his is not an act of grace by which he maketh, for justification, thy obedience accepted with God, but his personal obedience to the law, in doing and suffering for us what that required at our hands;) this righteousness, I say, true faith accepteth; under the skirt of which the soul being shrouded, and by it presented as spotless before God, it is accepted, and acquitted from condemnation.
Ignorance: What! would you have us trust to what Christ in his own person has done without us? This conceit would loosen the reins of our lust, and tolerate us to live as we list: for what matter how we live, if we may be justified by Christ’s personal righteousness from all, when we believe it?
Christian: Ignorance is thy name, and as thy name is, so art thou: even this thy answer demonstrateth what I say. ...
So, what do LDS here think? Is Bunyan's work just another illustration of how the Christian Faith had become corruption & abomination (borrowing language of the "First Vision") and therefore required Joseph Smith's restoration--or is there something more that might be said on its behalf?
By Five Solas
Article in the New York Times caught my eye and reminded me of a post made by Robert F. Smith on another thread: http://www.mormondialogue.org/topic/62489-miraculous-anti-conversion-stories/?p=1209329937
A timely reminder not all churches are in decline. The NYT article is here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/04/us/a-calvinist-revival-for-evangelicals.html?_r=0
For reasons I do not like to relate, the shrubs, trees and plants around my parent's home were neglected for about 6 years.
Rhododendron bushes grew up past the windows. Hemlock and Spruce soared way above the roof -- of an already rather tall house. Holly grew into an unruly mass without shape extending many feet from its original limits.
And then there were volunteer trees -- some of them quite large now -- growing in places where their roots would damage things and where they were not wanted.
The Hemlocks needed to be topped so that the vast majority of those trees are gone. They will have to be shaped like Banzai trees now. Holly was tamed, Rhododendrons unfortunately lost their flowering tips but now look like a plant someone cares about.
I felt bad topping the Hemlocks, even though it needed doing, but the utter cutting of the volunteer trees at ground level -- beautiful, strong, young trees, surviving when others had died and putting forth many beautiful branches for birds to dance and nest in -- were cut down and destroyed. I did not like that feeling even though it was really the right thing to do for my Mom and for the House.
As I did it, I remembered the talk by Hugh B Brown, which he gave in several different forms and titles. Here is one: http://margiesmessag...m/currantb.html. It is about God being the Gardner.
I thought about these trees that seemed to say "You wanted your home to be beautiful and shaded -- I am only doing what all the other trees around here are doing -- growing beautiful, bringing birds to sing and shading the home! I saw what you wanted and I did not wait for you to plant me where I was wanted or needed but volunteered myself where I saw I was bet suited to grow in the way I want to grow. I am only doing what has been one in other gardens! Why have you cursed me and destroyed me when I am really doing your will?
Well, the answer is that the Tree was NOT doing what the other trees were doing and was in the wrong place steadying the wrong ark so to speak. But it thought so.
This led me to two final thoughts. The first is that this whole idea, this parable, may seemingly give justification to the Calvinists. God raises up some trees and curses others -- all for his own good pleasure. To the tree, it seems capricious. But to God there is a plan.
(I think that this idea sort of distorts God and His Love for His Children, but I can see how it might be used)
The second thought though was different and I am curious to see comments.
We know that Jesus has said that Tares and Wheat together sown will grow together until some time of harvest, when the Wheat will be gathered in and the Tares burned in a hot fire.
Do the Tares think that they are wheat? Do they believe that they are helpful in the garden as perhaps the adversary claimed in the Garden before God? Do the trees that grow up and shove roots into the foundation to crack and destroy it -- do they think that they are doing right? Do they think that the Gardner is never coming -- that he delayeth is coming? Or do they anticipate his arrival even with possible eagerness? Do apostates and fellow travelers who want to direct or coerce the Prophets and Apostles to manage the Church the way that they prefer -- do they really think that they are doing God's work? Are they sort of secret atheists or agnostics, not believing in the divinity of the Church and thinking that the Church is a man-made and totally man-run organization that will bend to and twist and move in the winds of opposition?
That was my actual thought process as I cut the "innocent" trees down that were growing near my Mom's windows and foundations and I thought then, that I would post my thoughts to see how other people view this.
I don't expect definitive answers -- and I am not looking for fights -- but I am curious about how people see this sort of thing. I would think some Catholics would have interesting perspectives on this with regard to their Church and may sort of have an advanced view of how the LDS Church and its members will be in the future. So if there are Catholics reading this -- what are your views with regard to such things in your Church?
So.. what say you? What of the Tares?