Tuesday, February 3, 2009

More Conversation with an Evangelical Ex-Mormon...

[It's] fine with me, really, if you “believe the evidence shows Mormonism to be false”. I believe otherwise. Nevertheless, I don’t think the point here was to try and prove one or the other, but rather explore how you take things and understand things to mean what you say they mean. In that spirit, I want to commend you in the way you describe evangelical belief in God. I think you speak that language very well. But remember that Latter-day Saints have a different theological vocabulary, and I am recognizing a gap between your theological understanding and your ability to translate that understanding into a theological vocabulary Latter-day Saints can agree with and see themselves portrayed completely accurately. There is plenty we can still disagree on and hold our own views on by getting it completely right, without having to include (intentionally or not) caricatures of LDS belief.

For instance, you talk of Christ being a “formed” being as if that rules out his ability to simultaneously be God himself. You fail to recognize that Latter-day Saints do not hold to the strict wall of separation between the Creator and the creatures that factors into your understanding/paradigm. If I had did indeed hold to that paradigm, as you do, then I could understand why you would find your evidence as contradicting “Mormon Theology”. But I do not agree with that strict wall of separation that comes out of creation ex nihilo. I do not find it to be biblical. Again, we must agree to disagree here, but I find that strict wall of separation between God and everything else (including us) to be a product of the creeds and philosophical discussions rather than biblical.

Please don’t misunderstand me to be “attacking” your paradigm nor the cherished doctrine of the Trinity. (By the way, you’re absolutely right that just because it is mysterious doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be incorrect, but this goes both ways. Just because our belief about God is less “complex”, or more “simple”, doesn’t necessarily mean that it must be wrong). I’m just saying that we need to work toward becoming more theologically bilingual, and it seems that you are not as fluent in LDS understanding as you think you are.

I certainly don’t think I’m an expert in understanding both theological vocabularies, but I’m trying. “How Wide the Divide?” really helps promote mutual understanding and getting past the hang-ups that naturally come when we try to impose our unique biblical paradigms onto the others’ beliefs. I think this is what is happening when you say your view of our theology surrounding God does not match well with the Bible. We, of course, feel that the Bible matches very well with the true nature of God. You and I are viewing the Bible through different lenses, and some of what we may be projecting onto the others’ beliefs are non-biblical assumptions. I do not think there is a single verse of the Bible that I would say is “wrong”, as you claim we do. There is not one passage of the Bible I disagree with. (See "Are You Telling the Truth About the Bible?").

You also claim that we try to read something into the Bible text that is not there…Eisigesis. But again, this is a two way street, and we feel that traditional Christians do the same.

You say we “bring God down to a point where they [we] can understand Him. [We] simplify Him”, but this just won’t do. It is not an accurate representation of how Latter-day Saints also believe God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. We just also believe that we are of the same kind, or species, as God. For us, this doesn’t take anything away from God, as you seem to think it does.

You are correct, however, that our understanding “elevates man”, because now we are not a different kind or species than God–we are literally the children of God with divine worth and noble potential. Apparently the LDS take the “offspring of God” scriptures more literally than evangelicals do, because when one literally believes that God is our Father and we are His children, it’s not hard to understand how some consider us “gods in embryo” and that we can become exalted to godhood, too. This is our belief. But even this teaching is much misunderstood WITHIN the church and is taken too far, beyond what our scriptures say, into the realm of speculation.

We will be gods by grace, because God, through the grace of His Son, makes us divine beings and part of the family of God. We will be exalted, but only through Christ who does the exalting and takes away the wall of separation between Divinity and mere mortals through the “at-one-ment” of Jesus Christ. But I wouldn’t be comfortable in going so far as to say we believe that we will become worshipped beings ourselves. That’s not official Mormon theology. The goal is to become LIKE God, not to replace or supplant God. We believe we will always worship Him and be subject to Him, but it will be from a relationship of “oneness” with Him. See my post "Becoming Like God: some things I know and some things I don't".


Papa D said...

CC, you might be interested in the following post I wrote on Mormon Matters a while ago:


Clean Cut said...

I'm always interested in what you write! I just checked out that post. I especially like this paragraph of yours:

"What separates Mormonism at the most fundamental level from the rest of Christianity is that we take these and other similar scriptures literally - and that literalness changes the very core of our view of God’s glory. We don’t praise and honor His glory; we praise and honor him by realizing that we are His glory, unworthy though we are and everlastingly “below Him” though we also ever will be. We give glory to God, our Eternal Father, in the same way that my children give glory to me - by becoming what I hope and pray they become, NOT by telling me how wonderful I am."

Well said.

Michael said...

During the period leading up to WWII, British Prime Minister Chamberlain sought to find common ground with and to placate Hitler. It didn't work.

In 2008, President Barrack Obama pledged to talk with Iran to find common ground with and to placate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It won't work.

In 2009, Clean Cut continues his efforts to talk with, find common ground with, placate, and share his love with evangelicals. There is no way in heck that it will EVER work.

Amazing how history continually repeats itself and its lessons never get learned.

Michael said...

Just as a side note: The evangelical movement is NOT the "rest of Christianity" as you reference in your last post (summarizing Papa D's post). It is, in fact, a very very small subset of the protestant movement which, in turn, is dwarfed by the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

Clean Cut said...

Michael, those are some strong feelings you've expressed! Do you really see this as a war, a battle, in which one side must "win"? I certainly don't.

I've learned so much about my own faith by learning about the faith of others. For me this is rewarding and enriching, however challenging. Apparently I have a very different perspective on this than you. Do you care to share about your own experience/motivation?

On both "sides" there are some who are willing to do this and some who are very closed minded and easily offended. I'm not trying to "win" anyone over, however. I just enjoy having a respectful dialogue to advance mutual understanding.

Michael said...

Dear Clean Cut,

I know you are trying to have a respectful dialogue. You and I have spoken of this evangelical love fest thing before. I am just giving you a hard time.

We have cozied up to the evangelicals so many times over the past twenty years and have deluded ourselves into thinking we can establish a relationship with them. But it is not true. At the end of the day, they will be the primary ones that harass and persecute us for our beliefs.

I would continue to suggest that you seek a respectful dialogue with the Catholics or Greek Orthodox. They have a stronger and deeper intellectual tradition and are not as emotionally unreasonable as the evangelicals.

I know it is harder to do when you live in San Antonio. Maybe you and the family should head up to the Northeast for a while.

Clean Cut said...

"At the end of the day, they will be the primary ones that harass and persecute us for our beliefs."

Playing the persecution card? Yes, some do this, but there are generally many ordinary people, our neighbors, who ask us tough questions because they sincerely want to know. We ought to be up for the challenge of respectfully answering them without resorting to a bunker mentality; feeling threatened and getting so defensive.

aquinas said...

Michael, I don't doubt this has been your experience. However, it is very possible that you simply haven't found the right Evangelicals to engage in dialogue and discussion. Certainly, I don't advocate that people should engage in dialogue with everybody out there. Yet, when you find people who are at least willing to engage, I think it is important to foster that relationship. It can be very frustrating to find people willing to engage. That is one of the challenges. I've been fortunate to have met such individuals and I look forward to building relationships with many more. For some it takes longer than others, but I believe the rewards are great. I would encourage those out there who have experienced set backs in this area to keep trying and not let one, or perhaps even many negative experiences cause them to end communication altogether.

Michael said...

Thanks Aquinas.

I agree wholeheartedly with what you say. I currently live in Orlando so there are plenty of evangelicals with which to converse. However, I find it difficult to have a rational discussion with most of them because of their emotional default positions. Specifically, they are so hung up on biblical literalism and have no coherent position on revelation through the Holy Ghost that I find myself just wasting time.

Jack Meyers said...

Anytime you guys want to come have a respectful dialogue with an evangelical, you know where to find me. Most of the time I'm pretty bored.

Clean Cut, am I correct in understanding you're kind of starting out in this desire to dialogue with evangelicals and other Christians? I think you're on the right track. Michael's entitled to his cynicism based on his own experiences, but there are evangelicals who will reach out to you in friendship.

BTW, I came across something you might want to see, an a capella arrangement of Caedmon's Call's "Prove Me Wrong." Now the lead singer is HORRIBLE, but I love the background arrangement and singing. If only they'd had a good lead...

Clean Cut said...

Hi Jack--nice to "see" you again. I've enjoyed commenting off and on, here and there, for the past year or so on various blogs, including on my own, with people who's religious views are very different from my own. It's been an eye-opening experience, and I love it when improved mutual understanding is the result. I think there is still plenty people can disagree about AFTER we have portrayed each other accurately, fairly, and even charitably.

I only recently stubbled upon your blog and I've enjoyed reading your unique perspective as an Evangelical who went to BYU and married a Mormon. I've been impressed with your approach as you continue to bridge that divide of your own. And frankly, it's fun that we share the "BYU Experience" in common.

On a side note, I have to say that that group you linked to does NOT do justice to Caedmon's Call. For those who haven't heard the real Caedmon's Call, here's a link to one of my FAVORITE songs: Thy Mercy. I keep it in my iTunes playlist right along with great EFY songs!

Jack Meyers said...

Ah, okay. I thought from your talk of having recently read HWTD that you might be new. I'm not new myself, I've just been very quiet for the last few years due to real life stuff and only began speaking with other LDS and evangelical bloggers about these things a few months ago.

Of course the video I linked to isn't as good as the real Caedmon's Call. Very few things are that good.