Tuesday, May 09, 2006
What's Really Wrong With Mormonism?
Another encounter with Mormon's arrived at my doorstep today. Unlike in times past, where I really wanted to zing and blast the Mormons I got a chance to talk with, this time I really just felt bad for these young men. I let them give their spiel and humor me as the said things like "apostasy we know that's a big word". Basically, Mormon theology is kind of a mutant version of Catholicism, where a God ordained priesthood is necessary for salvation which has recently been restored by Joseph Smith.
The real issues:
In the past after reading apologetic write ups on Mormonism I had always wanted to bring up the ridiculousness of a lot of what they believe. Such as the fact that God was begotten of another God and His sexual relations with His Goddess wives and God (our God) resides on the planet Kolob (Yet somehow they can believe this stuff and maintain biblical passages such as "without Him nothing was made that was made"). There are many other bizarre teachings of Mormonism, my point is that these really aren't the issues we need to be addressing these are peripheral matters. (On a side note: This is in part why I am some what disappointed with the quality of apologetics out there, we have hundreds of books on Mormonism all saying the same things and giving people ammo to fire at unorthodox groups while failing to equip people with the ability to understand what issues really matter.) The real issues with Mormonism, Catholicism, Oneness Pentecostals and other groups like them is their diversion from justification by faith alone.
The groups I named above depart from justification by faith alone on nearly identical grounds, they all claim that the sacraments are necessary for salvation and not only that but the sacraments need to be administered by a true priest, one of their groups priests. Apart from the Catholics the case is nearly always made on grounds that the church went apostate after the apostles and has only recently been restored by Mr.X, thus one can now be truly saved because the true priesthood has been reestablished. This pattern has been repeated time and time again by unorthodox groups.
We are under a new covenant, a better covenant, Christ is our eternal priest.
"but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him: "The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, 'You are a priest forever.' This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but He holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever." (Heb 7:22-24)
The book of Hebrews seems problematic for a priesthood view of the channeling of grace, for Christ is the high priest. Another thing to note is that Hebrews repeatedly describes that Christ "Sat down" after His sacrifice at the right hand of the Father. This conveys that because of the sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice redemption was completed by Him once and for all. This undermines all priesthood mediums of grace (such as the Catholic view of mass where they "offer a sacrifice" to God through transubstantiation on behalf of the people). What really has gone awry is a failure to grasp the sufficiency of the new covenant. Christ under the new covenant is the High priest to Him we go to confess our sins, to Him we go in times of need, to Him we look for our salvation. Christ alone.
And to go with the priesthood as a necessary medium of grace is the obvious departure from justification by faith in Christ alone.
"And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, " (Rom 4:5)
I go to this verse because all the groups I have described will say they believe in justification by faith, the problem is that there is an "and" that is subtly tacked on. The "and" is usually baptism and various other forms of law such as hair length and dress codes. (side note: Mormons to be full members are required to do 6 months missionary work, their door to door work isn't necessarily out of zeal but adhering to law given to them.) Romans 4:5 wipes away all mingling of works and faith for justification, it clearly teaches justification by faith alone. Now of course the faith that justifies will be followed by works (fruit of the Spirit) but we need to be justified before we will do works glorifying to God. I say this because works done by the unjustified are done to placate God and earn righteousness in His sight are servile, where works done by the already justified are done out of joy and gratitude in all that God is to them.
These are the real issues we need to deal with when talking with unorthodox groups, not the absurdities of their theologies (that's easy and kind of a low blow). Ranting about how stupid it is to pray to saints (although it is a valid issue) is not the center, Catholicism's view of the priesthood and justification is at the center. These are at the center because in these issues is the essence of the gospel.