Salvation Dilemma


#1

So I’m in an online discussion/debate with a Mormon. And he has raised an interesting question about salvation and justification.

The dilemma is…well, I’ll just quote him:

**"If the law makes salvation easier, then the problem of God’s justice comes into play. Why make it easier for some people based on accident of birth and history (i.e. those who were given the opportunity of hearing the Gospel)?

The alternative is that it’s a wash (i.e. it doesn’t matter if you were born in Alaska around 100 A.D., you will be judged according to what you knew and understood God’s law to be). In which case it gets hard to justify the urgency of spreading the Gospel since it has no net impact on the safety/difficulty of the path to salvation."**

Reformulated he puts it this way:

**"Either

1: the amount of law you have helps (Gospel is necessary but God seems unjust)

or 2: you are judged “based on the Law they had” and thus the amount of law you have is rendered immaterial because it’s how you act based on whatever Law you have that matters (thus the Gospel is not necessary but God seems just)

There’s no way to have the Gospel necessary (or even beneficial) AND have God seem just at the same time. None."**

My question is, does anyone have a great answer for this?


#2

Not to get into long, drawn out discussions but I do have a comment. The Mormon Church teaches that those who did not have the opportunity to learn the Gospel while they were living on earth have the chance to hear it after death. The Mormons baptize for the dead to give them a chance to either accept or not accept the message. Baptisms for the dead are performed in the various Temples throughout the world by Temple Recommend holders.


#3

Right.

In fact, this is how Nathaniel (my Mormon friend) get’s out from under the weight of the “dilemma” – he claims that by baptizing for the dead the imperitive nature of spreading the Gospel is achieved, and God’s “fairness” is not compromised because everyone will have a chance to hear it.


#4

Yes – Calvinism.
Your friend just asked the question that, on the surface, annihilates the “five points of Calvin.” Oddly, Calvinism hasn’t gone away. :wink: Conclusion: Evangelism must be desired of God, eh?

Read this book. I promise it will not undermine your Catholic faith.
amazon.com/Evangelism-Sovereignty-God-J-Packer/dp/083081339X/ref=sr_1_5/103-2443797-3155844?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1190785952&sr=1-5


#5

Scott, thanks so much for the recommendation. I do plan to read the book.

In the meantime, could you elaborate at all on your post and/or summarize the answer provided by J.I. Packer?


#6

I don’t think knowing God’s law (teaching and commands) makes salvation “easier” - at least not in the sense of the effort required on our part to live morally according to God’s law.

The BIG advantage of becoming Christian, IMO, has to do with timing! We receive already here on earth the knowledge of what we (all humans) must be like before we can enter heaven. We can begin early on to convert.

Eg. a pagan who commits forunication/adultery because in his culture it’s acceptable will not be judged guilty of knowingly breaking God’s command, but he will still have to be cleansed (in purgatory) of lust before he can enter heaven. I think people forget that sinful desires and thoughts have to be removed from our hearts/mind/soul before we can enter heaven - regardless of whether we’re Christian or pagan. Nothing unclean can enter heaven. (Rev 21.27) With the help of God’s grace in the sacraments we can get started right now.

As to God’s seeming unjust to those who do not receive His law, I would respond that God is all-knowing, all-loving, all-merciful, etc. In choosing where He will place each soul, He knows exactly what He is doing and why. I trust His wisdom. Perhaps the soul placed in the circumstances of a pagan will manage to save his soul, whereas had he been born or become Christian, he would have lapsed and lost his soul.

However, the above possibility should never serve as an excuse to put aside Our Lord’s command:
*“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you;…” (Mt 28:19-20). *
We are Christian and we know Our Lord’s command; therefore we will be held accountable for our response to it.

Nita


#7

Or look at it this way. Someone tells me, “Cpayne, you need to go to Los Angeles. Here’s a compass.” Okay, I know the right direction, generally, but it’s still going to be difficult to get there, especially since I have this innate tendency to ignore my compass or even read it upside down occasionally, when it’s convenient for me to do so. (When I don’t feel like going to Los Angeles.)

Compare that to “Cpayne, you need to go to Los Angeles. Here’s a detailed map and a car (with a Driver provided as well).” My arrival in Los Angeles will be more sure, and I will know more of what I am doing along the way. Plus, I have the Driver with me to encourage and help me when my feelings turn negative about the whole trip, or when I feel like jumping out of the car.


#8

As far as God’s seeming “injustice” related to the amount of law one possesses: A wonderful little very short book I would recommend is The Scandal of Particularity, by Emil Brunner.


#9

"If the law makes salvation easier, then the problem of God’s justice comes into play. Why make it easier for some people based on accident of birth and history (i.e. those who were given the opportunity of hearing the Gospel)? .

The law is a guidance to salvation. It neither makes salvation easier or harder on its own. If it does makes salvation easier, then man can get to heaven just by blind obedience to the law alone. God’s law already exists in manmade laws in various forms (laws against killing, incest, respect for parents, etc.). Individuals will be judged by how much of the moral laws they apply in their lives. Those who know more of the moral laws, God will expect more from them. Those who know less (e.g. those who had no opportunity to hear the gospels), will be judge differently. (parable of the talents, church teachings on the baptism of desire,whereby non believers who do good are Christians by their actions).

This allows the concept of freewill - to choose to do good or to do evil. the mormon custom of baptising the dead in their faith denies the person’s right to choose his beliefs, as well as being pointless. After all, how do they know that that their act of baptism actually does anything to the souls of the dead?

“The alternative is that it’s a wash (i.e. it doesn’t matter if you were born in Alaska around 100 A.D., you will be judged according to what you knew and understood God’s law to be). In which case it gets hard to justify the urgency of spreading the Gospel since it has no net impact on the safety/difficulty of the path to salvation.”

Judgement according to what a person understanding of morality and doing good bears no relationship to the urgency of spreading the gospel.

The first involves the fairness of God’s judgement and his unwillingless to condemn man just for being in ignorance of his laws. Man actually has to choose to do evil before God will condemn him.

The 2nd involves the need for Christians to do the work of God - that is spreading and preaching the gospel to all nations. It is incorrect to say that spreading the gospel has no net impact on the path to salvation, since the last book of the NT, Revelation, states that the gospel will be part of the books of God’s law which will be used to judge all men, and the spreading of the gospel will herald Jesus’ return to defeat the Devil. The urgency of spreading the gospel is dependent on God, not man. To believe that even the dead need to be ‘converted’ to the faith by baptism as mormons believe would suggest that God is weak and depends on humans to save other humans before time runs out.

If time can run out on God, as mormons seem to believe, then their God is not divine. Would anyone want to believe in such a God?


#10

Thanks, Nita.

But (if I can play Devil’s advocate here) I must say that if this really is the big advantage of being Christian, it doesn’t lend itself to an overwhelming zeal for the conversion of the whole world…


#11

cpayne,

I see what you’re getting at with your analogy of the trip to LA.

Here’s my problem. Isn’t it unfair or God to give one person a compass, a map, a car and even a driver to get there (i.e. born into a Catholic family in 2007) while he gives only the compass to to another (i.e. born into an Aztec family in 207)?


#12

porkscratchings,

I appreciate your comments. You said

Individuals will be judged by how much of the moral laws they apply in their lives. Those who know more of the moral laws, God will expect more from them. Those who know less (e.g. those who had no opportunity to hear the gospels), will be judge differently.

Okay.

So what you’re saying is it’s a wash. We’re judged according to what we know.

What then, is the impetus for conversion, if Mahmud, who has never heard of Christ, is going to be judged only according to what he does know about the moral law?

the mormon custom of baptising the dead in their faith denies the person’s right to choose his beliefs, as well as being pointless. After all, how do they know that that their act of baptism actually does anything to the souls of the dead?

Agreed; but this is not relevant to the discussion.

Judgement according to what a person understanding of morality and doing good bears no relationship to the urgency of spreading the gospel.

I’m listening…

The first involves the fairness of God’s judgement and his unwillingless to condemn man just for being in ignorance of his laws. Man actually has to choose to do evil before God will condemn him.

…Okay…so it’s still a wash…

The 2nd involves the need for Christians to do the work of God - that is spreading and preaching the gospel to all nations.

I think you might have something here…

It is incorrect to say that spreading the gospel has no net impact on the path to salvation, since. . .

Yikes! But now you’re saying it’s not a wash. It does matter whether folks have heard the Gospel or not…

The urgency of spreading the gospel is dependent on God, not man.

…Man needn’t be concerned about the urgency of spreading the Gospel??

To believe that even the dead need to be ‘converted’ to the faith by baptism as mormons believe would suggest that God is weak and depends on humans to save other humans before time runs out.

Then why does the Catholic Church have missionaries?

If time can run out on God, as mormons seem to believe, then their God is not divine.

While they certainly have unique beliefs about the dead, I don’t think Mormons are the only ones who have a sense of urgency to convert the world. Therefore, I don’t think this argument holds much water.

Would anyone want to believe in such a God?

Again, this is irrelevant. What I want to believe in has no bearing on whether or not a religion is true. The only thing that I should want to believe in is truth itself.


#13

It’s about the mercy of God - God doesn’t condemn someone out of ignorance but choosing evil out of their freewill. It’s in the parable of the pharisee in the temple. Jesus compared the pharisee who stood before good boasting of all the good he has done and obeying the laws of God, with the ignorant layman who kneeled before God asking him to show mercy on him, a sinner. The pharisee would certainly know more about God’s law thru his seminary education than the layman who probably can’t even read or write. The point of this is that the pharisee may have obeyed the letter of the law and performed the rituals correctly. But he did it for show - in his boastful pride his heart did not serve God. But the layman did not know all the laws of God, and could not have followed all of them. So he feared God and wouild have tried to do what is right as far he is able. This is obedience to the spirit of the law. The pharisee can be the Christian, and the layman can be the non christian, if u like.

God would not condemn a good person who did good despite ignorance of God, but God cannot reward a person who does evil despite knowing what God requires of him.

If u want to call God’s mercy a wash, that’s up to u.

The purpose of conversion is to enable more people to share in God’s blessings and eternal life. While God would not condemn someone who does not know him, God urges all to come to him. Christians are charged by Jesus to preach the gospel to all nations. Missionaries are created to carry out Jesus’ instructions.

The quote in the first post is clearly referencing mormon practices to christian ones, therefore a response to mormon teachings is relevant.

The sense of urgency can be interpreted many ways. Many evangelical groups see the ‘end time’ as coming very soon - so they must convert everyone before the time runs out. But u will find the ‘end time’ is not in the bible. Nor is the notion that God is forced to work to a time table beyond his control. Others also see that they need all the converts they can get to wage war on Satan and his followers (which some of them label muslims, other christians, catholics, pagans, atheists, etc.). Still some groups have predicted that end to come is as early as 1971, leading to a mad rush to convert, only for them to find they’ve got the date of the return of christ wrong. Others have predicted the end to be in 2087…Before u can argue that my views hold no water, u need to work out whether whether this urgency is reflected in the NT.

I’m not discussing which religion is true. As an atheist this is not important to me.


#14

Maybe not unfair, but certainly a scandal (in the theological sense). :slight_smile: I’d still recommend that Emil Brunner book.

Look at it this way: If God were going to reveal Himself in a specific way in history, He’d have to choose SOMEONE or some group living at some specific time. No matter who He chose, it would appear unfair that He did so.

Remember that old poem?

“How odd
of God
to choose
the Jews.”


#15

Christian love for our fellow man should be what causes our zeal. Added to that is obedience to Our Lord’s command:

*Mt. 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 28:20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; *

Nita


#16

It does on the surface seem unfair but God dispenses His grace as He wishes, and He is a just God, this is what Rom 9:1-14 tells us.
YET, to whom God gives grace much is required by receiving that grace (Luke 12:48).

So a person born into a Catholic family who is properly catechized and knows the fullness of truth has greater repsonsibility before God as does a person born into an Aztec family in 207.
Again, God doesn’t hold one responsible for what they don’t know, but if they do know the truth, then…much is required.
Luke 12:48 “…everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

And that God gives everyone sufficient grace in order for them to follow Him; that everyone has the gospel written on their hearts (they inherently know right from wrong).

This is what it says in Romans 2:14-16

“(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) 16This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.”


#17

When you consider that God is both perfectly JUST and simultaneously perfectly MERCIFUL you will indeed realize that comprehending all of the mystery of God is impossible. The scenario above only considers Justice while ignoring Mercy. Perhaps it is Just that all men be condemned due to the fall, but in God’s Mercy he saves some, and those through the proclamation of the Gospel. It doesnt make God any less just, it makes our urgency to spread the Gospel all that much more imperative…


#18

Where does the Bible say: “If the law makes salvation easier,…” I believe it says the law was created to condemn us, but those of us who are in Christ Jesus are no longer condemned by the law because we have been made free by the blood of Jesus.

Also,
The Bible says everyone will be given a chance to accept the gift of salvation

It says no one will have an excuse - and that God is blameless.

You need to take the time to pray about this and search the Bible. Take your time in responding because God may give you the exact answer you need to reach this person.


#19

Sorry – been preoccupied with a hospitalization. I’ll look for the book on my shelf.


#20

Where does it say the first one? It certainly says the second. You have to read your belief into the Bible to get the first one.

Calvinists hold that grace is not fair, it is unmerited in its entirety, but condemnation is fair. God will have mercy on whom he will have mercy. It was not fair for God to choose Jacob over Esau. It was not fair for God to bless Abraham. It was not fair for God to choose Israel to be his nation. Yet, it was fair for Death reigned since Adam. It was the natural result of original sin that condemns everyone. In actuality and also in fact. People knew God instinctively from nature, primarily his divine attributes and power but failed to worship him. (Romans 1)

The advantage of the law towards salvation is that it teaches sin. One must understand sin to understand salvation from it. OT law also teaches the necessity of salvation through christ by types and shadows.

ps. Mormons aren’t christians. Their God comes from another planet.


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