No comfort in the “just do your best” gospel

November 9, 2015

… as Luther himself understood as well as anyone.

For a non-Lutheran like myself, I couldn’t be a bigger fan of Lutheran Satire. And you don’t have to be a Mormon to feel the weight of Donall and Conall’s indictment of “just do your best” theology, which, while prominently featured in Mormonism, infects even orthodox Christian traditions such as Methodism.

Heed this warning: We are all absolutely lost and bound for hell apart from God’s saving grace, made possible by Christ’s atoning death on the cross. The Law, apart from God’s grace, can only condemn us. This must be the starting point for the gospel.

12 Responses to “No comfort in the “just do your best” gospel”

  1. shematwater Says:

    “We are all absolutely lost and bound for hell apart from God’s saving grace, made possible by Christ’s atoning death on the cross. The Law, apart from God’s grace, can only condemn us.”

    This is the starting point for the LDS.

    • brentwhite Says:

      That’s good to know, but then how would you respond to the critique of this video? The point is, it’s impossible to do what LDS scripture says that one must do in order to be saved.

      • shematwater Says:

        Actually it isn’t, when one understands what is being said. Remember, all things with God, and through faith we may do all things that God has commanded us.

  2. shematwater Says:

    Oh, and right now I have no volume to listen to the video, so I can’t critique it.

  3. shematwater Says:

    I was able to watch the video last night and I have to say that the argument is a very poor one.

    Q. Is it better to pray for two hours or to watch a movie for two hours.
    A. Neither. Good movies have their place in our lives, just as prayer does. Sometimes going to see a movie is what we should be doing (or other whole recreational activities).

    Q. Is it better to work at a homeless shelter for two hours or to watch a movie for two hours.
    A. Same as above. Charity work is good, but so are wholesome recreational activities. Both are vital to our well being.

    As for what the scriptures say, this verse is frequently misunderstood. You should read this talk by President Utchdorf. It explains it very well.

    • brentwhite Says:

      Fair enough. I’ll read it. In this recent episode of the “Unbelievable?” podcast, a British Mormon scholar debates an evangelical from Utah over the question of assurance, and this verse figures prominently in the debate. But the Mormon, James Holt, doesn’t speak as if the question is as easily settled as you make it seem. Don’t get me wrong: he vigorously defends LDS doctrine, but he doesn’t disagree with his interlocutor that salvation depends to a large extent on human effort. The question for Holt was over how much anxiety this ought to produce within the life of a typical Mormon.

      All that to say, this video is highlighting the problem (really for everyone, not just Mormons) with depending on human effort at all for salvation.

      Orthodox Christianity would call this emphasis on human effort the heresy of Pelagianism.

    • brentwhite Says:

      Sorry… Here’s the link to the debate.

      It’s not s formal debate. It’s a friendly conversation, I promise.

  4. shematwater Says:

    I have watched such debates before. I generally find that the LDS member is not very articulate and makes the common mistake of not clarifying the starting point of LDS doctrine.
    However, when I get the chance I will watch this and tell you what I think.

    On the subject of salvation, if we were to discuss it we would need to understand the definition, or definitions, that each uses for the term. Only then can we accurately compare our doctrine.

    • brentwhite Says:

      On your last point, I’m sure that’s true—especially given how Mormonism and, for want of a better word, “traditional” Christianity share so many terms that we define very differently.

      This debate is informal—more like a conversation—and congenial on both sides. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

  5. shematwater Says:

    I have finally had a chance to listen to the discussion from Unbelievable.
    James, as I expected, was not as articulate as one might hope. He never referenced the scriptures himself, and only once referenced one of the current leaders. While he stated the doctrine in a simple and clear manner, he never took any of the many opportunities to elaborate and clarify what it. In particular, early on Bill mentioned being justified and then going through the process of sanctification. This should have been used by James as it provided a perfect opportunity to give further understanding to LDS doctrine.
    Bill, on the other hand, did reference scriptures, as well as modern sources, but he made the mistake of using his definition of salvation in describing and explaining LDS doctrine. He also seemed somewhat arrogant in his understanding of the doctrine; he never actually accepted James’s explanation, but kept insisting that he knew better what the church leaders meant in various statements.

    All in all, it was exactly what I expected.

  6. shematwater Says:

    Now, as to the actual doctrine that was discussed, while I think James was correct in everything he said, he tried to make it too simple. So, if you don’t mind, I will make it a little more complex so that one may have a fuller understanding.

    First, as to salvation, this can mean a number of things. However, it has two primary meanings. First is salvation from Death and Hell. This salvation comes to all those who are born on this earth, regardless of anything. It is a gift given by God through the atonement of Christ. All will be resurrected and all will be brought out of Hell.
    Second is perfection and exaltation; or being saved from a stagnate existence. This salvation is gained through the combination of God’s grace and our effort.

    Now, speaking of Grace, this also comes in two forms, each directly related to the two forms of salvation. So, just as the first salvation is to be resurrected and brought out of Hell, this gift is made possible by the Grace of God. Nothing is required on our part. The second form is an enabling power that gives us the means whereby we can act for ourselves and become sanctified before God. In either case the grace is a free gift.

    Now, let us talk about heaven. It is mentioned briefly in the discussion that we do believe in three degrees of glory. However, to make it easier to compare our doctrines let us step back and put this in its simplest form.
    To most Christians there is Heaven and Hell, each representing the extremes of reward and punishment. In this way of thinking it is either one or the other, all or nothing. Either you are in the presence of God or the presence of the devil.
    The LDS speak of Hell and glory (we generally reserve the term heaven only for the Celestial glory). For us it is also one or the other; either you have glory or you do not. Those in Hell do not, everyone else does. Those who do enjoy the presence of God, and those who do not endure the presence of the devil.
    So, in this sense we are actually very similar with other Christians. The main difference (and it is a big one) is that we believe that in this glory there are many levels of degrees, with three primary divisions of glory.

    How does all this work together?
    The first form of grace brings salvation from death and hell and raises everyone into glory. The only exceptions are those who knowingly and willfully reject glory, and they are cast back into Hell (this is known as the second death).
    However, once we are in glory the question becomes, what level will we inherit? This is where the second form of salvation and grace come in. Christ has already raised us from Hell and has forgiven our sins. Now, working will Christ, we must perform the necessary actions that slowly, but surely, sanctify us. When we leave this life our actions will not determine if we receive glory, only what level of glory we receive. We receive the glory that we have prepared ourselves to receive.
    Those who have lived the Celestial Law have prepared their bodies and spirits so that they can endure the Celestial Glory. Those who have only lived the terrestrial law cannot endure Celestial glory, and so they are given a lesser glory that they can endure. Those who obey only the Telestial law cannot even endure the Terrestrial glory.
    Truly, for a person who lived only the Terrestrial law to be in the Celestial glory would be a greater torment than to be in Hell, for they would always have before them the knowledge of what they could have been.

    In this way the mercies of the Father are shown all the more clearly. He wants us to return to Him, but in His compassion He does not bring us any closer than we can endure. In other words, God will bring all men as close to Him as He can and cause them the least amount of torment possible.

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