Evangelical witnessing to Mormons/Craig Blomberg - Jesus to the Mormons

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Dr. Craig Blomberg's 'Top Ten Things Jesus Would Say to Mormons'

Introduction

Dr. Craig Blomberg, a noted Evangelical scholar, gave a speech in which he discussed ten things which he claims Jesus would tell Latter-day Saints. These points have been summarized here. Unlike many critics of the Church of Jesus Christ, Dr. Blomberg is known for his more balanced views and sincere desire for Christian engagement, as evidenced in a book which he coauthored with Stephen Robinson, How Wide the Divide.

FAIR will not presume to put words in Jesus' mouth save those recorded in scripture, but Dr. Blomberg's comments are worthy of response, since they demonstrate how even a sincere and relatively well-informed critic can misunderstand and even misrepresent issues important to the Latter-day Saints.

This list of concerns would perhaps be better thought of as the "Top Ten Things Jesus Would Say To Mormons...If He Were a Conservative Evangelical Christian." That is, Dr. Blomberg assumes that his own theological views are givens, and reads them into the texts upon which he draws to reprove members of the Church.

#10 I admire your devotion to your families, to your wards and to giving generously to your church.

Latter-day Saints also give generously to various non-Church and humanitarian causes around the world. They do these things because they believe that Jesus has commanded them to love and serve others.

#9 I never intended anyone to believe in me and act in any way they please. You are right to reject that idea.

Latter-day Saints whole-heartedly agree with this idea. As we will see in #3 below, however, this conviction is often misunderstood or misrepresented by Evangelicals.

#8 Please don’t judge me based on unkind things done by some who profess to know me.

Why would Latter-day Saints judge Jesus simply because others have misused his name?

Dr. Blomberg seems to presume that Latter-day Saints have misjudged the value of "true" [i.e., conservative Evangelical] Christianity based on the actions of others. This is not the case—Latter-day Saints have discovered Jesus and come to know him through the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and the teachings of modern prophets.

It is not that Latter-day Saints have rejected Evangelical Christianity because of the actions of Evangelicals. Most members are probably unaware of Evangelical actions or theology except in the broadest sense. Latter-day Saints become and remain members of the Church because they believe they have found something better that teaches them more about Jesus than is available anywhere else.

It is true, though, that the actions of a small minority of Evangelicals—those who engage in anti-Mormon polemics and tactics—do little to enhance the reputation of Evangelicals among the Latter-day Saints. Dr. Blomberg could probably best address this problem from within his own tradition, in correcting or denouncing the unchristian behavior of others (see #9 above).

#7 I applaud your restored emphasis on Bible study. Please note when you read the Book of Mormon how often it says I am one God in three persons and how often it says that salvation comes by my grace alone.

This point consists of three main claims:

(7a) Nicene Trinitarianism

Latter-day Saints—like the Bible and Book of Mormon—believe that God is one. There have been many answers to the question of how God can be one, while also consisting of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Dr. Blomberg wishes to have Jesus say that Latter-day Saints ought to believe in the Nicene Trinitarianism solution to that problem.

Latter-day Saints who practice Bible study know that the idea of God being "one God in three persons" is nowhere taught in the Bible. It is also not taught in the Book of Mormon. Bible scholars are unanimous that these ideas are not to be found in the Bible, or in Christian history for more than two centuries after Christ's resurrection. Jesus himself and the apostles were not Nicene Trinitarians, and neither were any Bible writers or first century Christians:

Thus the New Testament itself is far from any doctrine of the Trinity or of a triune God who is three co-equal Persons of One Nature.[1]
The New Testament does not contain the developed doctrine of the Trinity.[2]
There is in them [the Apostolic Fathers], of course, no trinitarian doctrine and no awareness of a trinitarian problem."[3]
The Church had to wait for more than three hundred years for a final synthesis, for not until the Council of Constantinople [AD 381] was the formula of one God existing in three coequal Persons formally ratified.[4]

Dr. Blomberg is reading his own theology into scripture; it is simply not there, as virtually all scholars have long recognized.

(7b) Salvation by grace alone

Since the Latter-day Saints accept Jesus as both Savior and Lord, they feel bound to strive to obey Jesus' commandments. As Jesus himself said:

"why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46)

If we truly believe that Jesus is Lord, we will obey him. Thus, while we are saved by grace, it is unbiblical to claim that our actions have no role to play in salvation.

Jesus also taught:

"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21)

Grace saves us, but the Book of Mormon and the Bible teach that Jesus requires our engagement and participation in that process.

To learn more Grace

(7c) Renewed emphasis on the Bible?

This statement implies that Latter-day Saints have somehow recently rediscovered the Bible, or are giving it greater preference than before. This seems unlikely. Most early Latter-day Saint teaching drew on the Bible, even in preference to the Book of Mormon. (To first generation members of the Church, the Book of Mormon was seen more as an evidence of Joseph Smith's prophetic calling and as a tool for conversion, providing proof that God continued to reveal truth to humankind. Most members remained more familiar with the Bible than the new scripture.) Latter-day Saints have been long encouraged to make scripture study a daily practice, and Latter-day Saint Sunday Schools have traditionally focused on the Bible during two out of every four years.

To learn more:'

#6: It is tragic how often my churches have fought with one another, but no one who has ever rejected all of the existing churches and tried to restart my church has ever gotten it correct.

Dr. Blomberg assumes that Christ has multiple "churches." Yet, the Bible tells us that there is "one Lord, one faith, [and] one baptism" (Ephesians 4:5).

How can all these churches be Christ's? No two denominations agree on all points of theology. Evangelical Christians are divided about such fundamental matters as Calvinism vs. Arminianism, which has major implications for the core doctrine of the gospel—the atonement of Christ. Is God the author of confusion? How can all these different perspectives come from Him?

Dr. Blomberg is not a Catholic—yet, the founders of his denomination rejected the existing religious practices to form their own denomination. Indeed, Evangelical Christianity is a relative latecomer to Christian history. How does Dr. Blomberg presume to know that "no one" has gotten it right—and if this is true, why isn't this equally true of his theology or his religion?

This statement also implies that the Latter-day Saints reject everything in other churches. This is not true, since the Saints believe that there is much truth in many faiths. They simply reject the idea that any faith was complete before the gospel was restored.

To learn more:

#5: I liked what Joseph Smith was doing at the beginning a lot more than what he was doing at the end.

It is very presumptuous for Dr. Blomberg to speak for Jesus about the mission of Joseph Smith. God is able to speak for Himself to any sincere seeker about the value of Joseph Smith's claims and mission. It was at the end of Joseph Smith's earthly mission that Jesus Christ established the full temple ordinances through him. The purpose of the temple rites is to make a person Christlike in the fullest possible sense.

#4: I never established any priesthood or ordinances that required you to be part of One True Church to receive them.

It is understandable that Dr. Blomberg would wish to minimize the importance of legitimate priesthood, since his relatively new denomination clearly cannot claim to have such a priesthood without new revelation and authority being given to its founder(s). He would also wish to dismiss the idea of necessary ordinances, because this doctrine conflicts with his belief that we can be saved by "grace alone," and implies that someone must have authority to perform such ordinances.

However, the words that Dr. Blomberg thus puts into Jesus' mouth require us to ignore the words of the Bible:

To learn more:

#3: I LOVE your good deeds, but PLEASE don’t count on them to earn you anything. (Blomberg notes that in his discussions with LDS scholars everyone on both sides of the table agrees on this one).

If Dr. Blomberg is sincere in his claim that no deeds matter or earn us anything, then it is strange that he considers it so vital that Latter-day Saints accept a certain theology—the Nicene creed (see #7). If the good works commanded by Jesus have no role in our salvation, then why does the work or act of accepting or not accepting a theological claim make any difference at all?

Latter-day Saints do not obey because they believe they can earn salvation. They obey because they love the Lord, wish to emulate Him, and have promised Him that they will do so.

To learn more Grace

#2: On judgment day all that will really matter is that you have accepted me as Savior and Lord. . . and it has to be both.

If this is true, then Dr. Blomberg's concern for the Latter-day Saints is misguided and unnecessary—since the Saints unreservedly consider Jesus to be both Savior and Lord.

We again cannot escape the impression, however (see #7), that Dr. Blomberg seems to believe that Latter-day Saints must also accept various theological claims and positions (e.g., Nicene Trinitarianism) in order to be safely saved. If he truly believes that only accepting Jesus as Savior and Lord is necessary, he and his denomination need have no worries about the Latter-day Saints.

Since the Latter-day Saints accept Jesus as both Savior and Lord, they feel bound to strive to obey Jesus' commandments. As Jesus himself said:

"why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46)

If we truly believe that Jesus is Lord, we will obey Him. Thus, while we are saved by grace, it is unbiblical to claim that our actions have no role to play in salvation.

To learn more Grace

#1: I love you and really do want you to be part of my forever family.

On this we can certainly all agree.

And, because Christ requires the salvation of all humanity, he has again called prophets and apostles to teach us how to return to Him. The Latter-day Saints gratefully bear witness that we do not need to trust man-made interpretations of scripture, disputes between denominations, or later historical developments in theology to understand God's will.

Instead, God continues to speak in our day, answers prayers, provides scripture, and gives living prophets and apostles to teach modern Christians just as He did for the people of God throughout the Bible.

Dr. Blomberg and all others are invited to enjoy the blessings which come from an enhanced appreciation and understanding of Jesus and His will for us, which will compliment the truths they have already accepted from the Bible.

Endnotes

  1. [note] William J. Hill, The Three-Personed God (Washington DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1982), 27.
  2. [note] New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids MI, Zondervan, 1967), 1:84.
  3. [note] JND Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, revised edition, (New York: Harper, 1978), 95.
  4. [note] Edmund J. Fortman, The Triune God: A Historical Study of the Doctrine of the Trinity (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1972), 44.

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If you have questions about anything you read on this page, we encourage you to ask. FairMormon is a volunteer organization, and our members are glad to answer questions. You can ask by using our handy contact page. You will get one or more answers, via e-mail, usually within a short time after asking.

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