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Posts Tagged ‘Christian’

I know in recent years the Christian fish symbol has fallen into some pretty tacky and over used marketing (much like the ruin of the Christian holidays, Christmas and Easter).  However, it seems to have had a noble beginning, one with which I am still glad to associate myself.  It helps me recall the still dangerous situations many of my persecuted Christian brothers and sisters find themselves around the world today.

In the early years of the church a famous acrostic was made in Greek for the acclamation “Jesus Christ , God’s Son, Savior” (Iesous Christos, Theou Uios, Soter).  In Greek ch is X and th is Θ, so the initial letters of this phrase spelled IXΘUS.  U is interchangeable with y so IXΘUS could also be IXΘYS, which just so happens to be the Greek word for fish, thus the frequent use of the fish by early Christians and up to now as a symbol for Jesus Christ.

Greeks, Romans, and many other pagans used the fish symbol before Christians. So, unlike the more obvious cross symbol, the fish attracted a lot less attention which made it the perfect secret symbol for persecuted believers. When threatened by Romans in the first centuries after Christ, Christians used the fish symbol to mark meeting places and tombs or to distinguish friends from foes.  According to one ancient story, when a Christian met a stranger in the road, the Christian might draw one arc of the simple fish outline in the dirt; if the stranger drew the other arc, both believers knew they were in trusted company.

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Mitt Romney’s faith has been a matter of discussion now as he runs toward the Presidency.  While he may make a good president, many may wonder if Mormonism is a branch of Christianity.  After all, Mormons use Jesus Christ in their title (“Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints); they use terms like Christian, saved, salvation and heaven; and they have a version of the Bible that they use alongside their own Book of Mormon.  Their members hold to traditional values…and their commercials are so-o-o nice.

A recent blog post by Justin Taylor tackles this subject in a simple Q & A format based on an appendix entry he constructed for the ESV Study Bible. To show that this is not an elitist attitude held only by those in the Christian camp, Taylor begins with a reference to an op-ed piece in the New York Times written by a devout Mormon who insists that he is not a Christian.  Taylor’s responses reflect traditional, orthodox Christian beliefs and are “an attempt to be concise and accurate without being overly simplistic.”

Q:  What do Mormons believe about apostasy and restoration?

A:  Mormons claim that “total” apostasy overcame the church following apostolic times, and that the Mormon Church (founded in 1830) is the “restored church.”

Q:  What’s the problem with this understanding?

A:  If the Mormon Church were truly a “restored church,” one would expect to find first-century historical evidence for Mormon doctrines like the plurality of gods and God the Father having once been a man. Such evidence is completely lacking. Besides, the Bible disallows a total apostasy of the church (e.g., Matt. 16:18; 28:20; Eph. 3:21; 4:11-16), warning instead of partial apostasy (1 Tim. 4:1).


Q:  What do Mormons believe about God?

A:  Mormons claim that God the Father was once a man and that he then progressed to godhood (that is, he is a now-exalted, immortal man with a flesh-and-bone body).

Q:  What does the Bible teach about the nature of God?

A:  Based on the Bible, God is not and has never been a man (Num. 23:19; Hos. 11:9). He is a spirit (John 4:24), and a spirit does not have flesh and bones (Luke 24:39). Furthermore, God is eternal (Ps. 90:2; 102:27; Isa. 57:15; 1 Tim. 1:17) and immutable (or unchangeable in his being and perfections; see Ps. 102:25-27; Mal. 3:6). He did not “progress” toward godhood, but has always been God.


Q:  What do Mormons believe about the Trinity and polytheism?

A:  Mormons believe that the Trinity consists not of three persons in one God but rather of three distinct gods. According to Mormonism, there are potentially many thousands of gods besides these.

Q:  What does the Bible teach about the Triune God?

A:  Trusting in or worshiping more than one god is explicitly condemned throughout the Bible (e.g., Ex. 20:3). There is only one true God (Deut. 4:35, 39; 6:4; Isa. 43:10; 44:6, 8; 45:18; 46:9; 1 Cor. 8:4; James 2:19), who exists eternally in three persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14).


Q:  What do Mormons believe about human exaltation?

A:  Mormons believe that humans, like God the Father, can go through a process of exaltation to godhood.

Q:  What does the Bible teach about humanity?

A:  The Bible teaches that the yearning to be godlike led to the fall of mankind (Gen. 3:4ff.). God does not look kindly on humans who pretend to attain to deity (Acts 12:21-23; contrast Acts 14:11-15). God desires humans to humbly recognize that they are his creatures (Gen. 2:7; 5:2; Ps. 95:6-7; 100:3). The state of the redeemed in eternity will be one of glorious immortality, but they will forever remain God’s creatures, adopted as his children (Rom. 8:14-30; 1 Cor. 15:42-57; Rev. 21:3-7). Believers will never become gods.


Q:  What do Mormons believe about Jesus?

A:  Mormons believe that Jesus Christ was the firstborn spirit-child of the heavenly Father and a heavenly Mother. Jesus then progressed to deity in the spirit world. He was later physically conceived in Mary’s womb, as the literal “only begotten” Son of God the Father in the flesh (though many present-day Mormons remain somewhat vague as to how this occurred).

Q:  What does the Bible teach about Jesus?

A:  Biblically, the description of Jesus as the “only begotten” refers to his being the Father’s unique, one-of-a-kind Son for all eternity, with the same divine nature as the Father (see note on John 1:14; cf. John 1:18; 3:16, 18; see also John 5:18; 10:30). Moreover, he is eternal deity (John 1:1; 8:58) and is immutable (Heb. 1:10-12; 13:8), meaning he did not progress to deity but has always been God. And Mary’s conception of Jesus in his humanity was through a miracle of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:20).


Q:  What do Mormons believe about our eternal destiny?

A:  Mormons believe that most people will end up in one of three kingdoms of glory, depending on one’s level of faithfulness. Belief in Christ, or even in God, is not necessary to obtain immortality in one of these three kingdoms, and therefore only the most spiritually perverse will go to hell.

Q:  What does the Bible teach about our eternal destiny ?

A:  The Bible teaches that people have just two possibilities for their eternal futures: the saved will enjoy eternal life with God in the new heavens and new earth (Phil. 3:20; Rev. 21:1-4; 22:1-5), while the unsaved will spend eternity in hell (Matt. 25:41, 46; Rev. 20:13-15).


Q:  What do Mormons believe about sin and atonement?

A:  Mormons believe that Adam’s transgression was a noble act that made it possible for humans to become mortal, a necessary step on the path to exaltation to godhood. They think that Christ’s atonement secures immortality for virtually all people, whether they repent and believe or not.

Q:  What does the Bible teach about sin and atonement?

A:  Biblically, there was nothing noble about Adam’s sin, which was not a stepping-stone to godhood but rather brought nothing but sin, misery, and death to mankind (Gen. 3:16-19; Rom. 5:12-14). Jesus atoned for the sins of all who would trust him for salvation (Isa. 53:6; John 1:29; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:24; 3:18; 1 John 2:2; 4:10).


Q:  What do Mormons believe about salvation?

A:  Mormons believe that God gives to (virtually) everyone a general salvation to immortal life in one of the heavenly kingdoms, which is how they understand salvation by grace. Belief in Christ is necessary only to obtain passage to the highest, celestial kingdom—for which not only faith but participation in Mormon temple rituals and obedience to its “laws of the gospel” are also prerequisites.

Q:  What does the Bible teach about salvation?

A:  Biblically, salvation by grace must be received through faith in Christ (John 3:15-16; 11:25; 12:46; Acts 16:31; Rom. 3:22-24; Eph. 2:8-9), and all true believers are promised eternal life in God’s presence (Matt. 5:3-8; John 14:1-3; Rev. 21:3-7).

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Rick Gamache has created a wonderfully readable narrative combining the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday based on the Gospel accounts, The Father’s Cup.
The excerpt below is a dramatized scenario of Christ’s hours on the cross as he drank the Cup of his Father.
 
 
 
 
 “And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will’” (Matthew 26:39).
 

…[Jesus] sags back into silence, back into countless hours of limitless pain.

Then Jesus is startled by a foul odor. It isn’t the stench of open wounds. It’s something else. And it crawls inside him. He looks up to his Father. His Father looks back, but Jesus doesn’t recognize these eyes. They pierce the invisible world with fire and darken the visible sky. And Jesus feels dirty. He hangs between earth and heaven filthy with human discharge on the outside and, now, filthy with human wickedness on the inside.

The Father speaks:

Son of Man! Why have you sinned against me and heaped scorn on my great glory?

You are self-sufficient and self-righteous — consumed with yourself and puffed up and selfishly ambitious.

You rob me of my glory and worship what’s inside of you instead of looking out to the One who created you.

You are a greedy, lazy, gluttonous slanderer and gossip.

You are a lying, conceited, ungrateful, cruel adulterer.

You practice sexual immorality; you make pornography, and fill you mind with vulgarity.

You exchange my truth for a lie and worship the creature instead of the Creator. And so you are given up to your homosexual passions, dressing immodestly, and lusting after what is forbidden.

With all your heart you love perverse pleasure.

You hate your brother and murder him with the bullets of anger fired from your own heart.

You kill babies for your convenience.

You oppress the poor and deal slaves and ignore the needy.

You persecute my people.

You love money and prestige and honor.

You put on a cloak of outward piety, but inside you are filled with dead men’s bones — you hypocrite!

You are lukewarm and easily enticed by the world.

You covet and can’t have so you murder.

You are filled with envy and rage and bitterness and unforgiveness.

You blame others for your sin and are too proud to even call it sin.

You are never slow to speak.

And you have a razor tongue that lashes and cuts with its criticism and sinful judgment.

Your words do not impart grace. Instead your mouth is a fountain of condemnation and guilt and obscene talk.

You are a false prophet leading people astray.

You mock your parents.

You have no self-control.

You are a betrayer who stirs up division and factions.

You’re a drunkard and a thief.

You’re an anxious coward.

You do not trust me.

You blaspheme against me.

You are an un-submissive wife.

And you are a lazy, disengaged husband.

You file for divorce and crush the parable of my love for the church.

You’re a pimp and a drug dealer.

You practice divination and worship demons.

The list of your sins goes on and on and on and on. And I hate these things inside of you. I’m filled with disgust, and indignation for your sin consumes me.

Now, drink my cup!

And Jesus does. He drinks for hours. He downs every drop of the scalding liquid of God’s own hatred of sin mingled with his white-hot wrath against that sin. This is the Father’s cup: omnipotent hatred and anger for the sins of every generation past, present, and future — omnipotent wrath directed at one naked man hanging on a cross.

The Father can no longer look at his beloved Son, his heart’s treasure, the mirror-image of himself. He looks away.

Jesus pushes himself upward and howls to heaven, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Silence.

Separation.

Jesus whispers, “I’m thirsty,” and he sags.

The merciful centurion soaks a sponge in sour wine and lifts it on a reed to Jesus’ lips. And the sour wine is the sweetest drink he ever tasted.

Jesus pushes himself up again and cries, “It is finished.” And it is. Every sin of every child of God has been laid on Jesus and he drank the cup of God’s wrath dry.

It’s three o’clock, Friday afternoon, and Jesus finds one more surge of strength. He presses his torn feet against the spikes, straightens his legs, and with one last gasp of air cries out, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”

And he dies…


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