thoughts on a Sunday afternoon

There's a lot of danger in studying theology. The joke in seminary is to call it "cemetery" because it's where your faith dies. Or can die. Of course the vast majority of people who attend seminary don't lose their faith. But they certainly are left with a lot of unanswered questions.

Surprise! to anyone who thought you go to seminary to get all your questions resolved.

We've been chatting with some Mormon's on their blog this week. One of whom commented here on this blog. And we've been dialogging about what it means to be saved. And they say, mostly, the same things we do. But we mean different things. They too have studied theology. They really have. The read the Bible and other Mormon works and articles and books. They pray and ask God to reveal the truth to them and as long as that truth is the 'truth' found in the book of Mormon they are satisfied. Our dear friend Chris was a Mormon until, in his words, he asked God to show him the truth and opened his heart to the reality that the answers found in the book of Mormon might be wrong.

I am not removing God from the equation - so don't say that I am - but a lot of what I believe, I believe because that is what I was taught. I grew up in a church that taught the Bible. My friend Chris grew up in the LDS church where they teach the Bible plus other things. The other things really make a difference because Mormons consider the Book of Mormon and other teachings equal to the Bible - they believe it to be new revelation. God opened Chris' eyes and, as he says, the scales fell off and he saw Jesus for who He really is. Chris left the LDS church (not an easy thing to do) and he and his wife were recently baptized by one of our former college students. How cool is that! It is an AMAZING story. And that's where I'm going with this.

Being part of a church where the Bible is believed to be all that we need in terms of Scripture is hugely important. To be a part of a church where they teach the Bible and where the Bible is their authority for life and doctrine is paramount. Being in a place where other believers can, in community, interpret and apply the Bible is so very, very important. Not every church does it the same. Not every preacher is the same. But you know one when you see one.

In the context of the body of Christ we get the stories of how God works among us. We get to hear what He has done, how he has changed us, and we can talk about how much He loves us and we love Him. And we can encourage and challenge one another to follow Christ with our whole heart and communicate fearlessly the freedom of the true Gospel.

I'm not Mormon bashing so please keep those comments to yourself. But I am talking about some of the things that have been re-clarified for me in my discussions with my Mormon friends. And I use that word intentionally. See, our experience is not the measuring stick for our doctrine. I have all kinds of experiences that I have a hard time making sense of and often I struggle to figure out how they line up with what I believe to be true. But see, there are some things I believe that do not change. That never change. Because the Foundation, the Cornerstone upon whom I place my belief never, ever, ever, ever changes. God is Who He Is. He is One God. He is Father, Son, Spirit. He has no beginning and no end. He is not merely eternal, He is infinite. He is without measure. He can be known only because He has made Himself known. We throw around words like infinite and all powerful and sovereign and apply them to things to which they do NOT apply. Only God is infinite. Only God is sovereign. Only God creates and no one, no man, no angel, no created thing (which includes everything and everyone but God) will ever be God. That is impossible. There cannot be two God's. There's cannot be two infinite beings. One would have to give in to the others infinitude. There cannot be two all powerful beings. One would have to relinquish power to the other. There cannot be two sovereign beings. One would have to relinquish authority to the other.

The whole of that we believe falls back to this: that God is Who He says He is. If He is not, we're all just making stuff up and I'm going to move back to Texas where life is a little easier. But if He is Who He says He is...O, and He IS - than everything has perspective. Life has meaning. Eternity is a reality and a lot of people have it all wrong.

So, like many of you, I too am in process. I am thinking and learning and growing and the whole time I am enjoying very, O so very much the love of God to me. And to you.


KB said...

Great post Brandon. I have friends of other faiths Catholic, Mormon and so on. We have had a few conversations but nothing of substance. I just can't git over Jesus turnin his childhood friend into a frog, so we keep it light.

Chris Pray said...

To those reading the comments, I am the "Chris" spoken of in the blog post. God is so awesome.

Brandon, - I don't know if this has come up in your conversations with mormons or not, but I thought of it as I was reading your post. The LDS have a thing that they call having your "calling and election made sure". This is, i believe, similar to the Christian idea of salvation. It is the assurance in this life that you will return to live with God in the next. This is, of course, achieved by a certain level of obedience and perfection achieved by works/faithfulness to the church, in this life. This was the dangling carrot and the dream for me when I was in the LDS church.

That may help bridge some of the "language" barrier in the conversation.

Also an interesting note: Emma Smith (Joseph's first wife) supposedly had this experience according to LDS history. What is interesting about that is that when Joseph died and Brigham Young was chosen as "Prophet", she effectively left the Mormon church (as mainline Mormons would see it).