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Wednesday, July 27, 2005 

A point of no return?

A "point of no return?" Does such a thing exist in the Christian faith? I don't think it does.

Just look at Saul/Paul. He was obviously an enemy to Christianity--doing everything in his power to stop people from accepting Christ. No doubt he committed other sins along the way, and yet he became one of the most powerful prophets in the Christian faith.

But maybe what we're talking about here is people who believe in Christ and turn away. From personal experience, I would hazard the guess that if you really actually believed in Christ, then you wouldn't turn away. I don't think people who have real faith can turn their backs on their religions.

One of the things that always irked me when I heard it was that there were only two sins that were nearly unforgivable... mortal sins. They were murder and adultery. I think murder and adultery can have a similar emotional affect on thier victims. Yet people "find God" after committing these sins all of the time.

I think that just leaves us with the sociopaths. Basically the people whose anti-social disorder leaves them entirely uncaring about society and the people in it. (This might just be too many episodes of Law & Order talking.) But... if it's a disorder, then is it really their fault?

Basically, I think Christianity's got a lot of loopholes... ways to allow people to come to Christ. This may have come off as cynical and negative, but my point is that the strength of Christianity is that there isn't a point of no return. Christ will always love you.

I agree with you. According to Paul, there is no sin that is not covered by the atonement. LDS theology contradicts that doctrine. That is troubling for two reasons. First, it minimizes the sacrifice of the Savior. Second, arguing that denying the Holy Ghost is an unforgivable sin is a blatant attempt to scare the Saints into submission. Christ did not govern by fear and neither should we.

Anyways, I think our leaders need to make up their minds how serious they are about being Christians. For Christians there is no such thing as a limited atonement.

In the same vain, a couple of months ago Russell Nelson published a talk in the Ensign where he argued that the love of God is conditional. And then we wonder why others do not consider us Christians.

There doesnt appear to be any sin, besides murder, that couldnt potentially be covered by the atonement.

Denying the Holy Ghost is an unforgiveable sin not because Jesus wouldnt forgive you, but because the individual has flat out rejected Jesus and would murder him if he could. If the person refuses to go to Jesus and repent, that is different from Jesus being unwilling to forgive the sin.

Hellmut, are you an axe-grinder?

There are instances where the consequences of a particular sin have not been lifted, which is different from not having the sin expiated by virtue of the atonement. Cain was cursed for murdering his brother. Moses was refused entrance into the Promised Land, but still ended up in celestial glory. David got into some serious trouble over having Uriah killed so he could get Bathsheba, wasnt allowed to build the Temple at Jerusalem. I cannot think of any Scriptures off the top of my head that explicitly say where he ended up.

Sins are covered by the atonement regardless of our response. The notion that murder is an unforgivable sin contradicts the words of the Savior himself who promised the murderer that he would be in paradise with Christ the very same day.

I think Kurt's argument runs into problems in the following scenario. Suppose people have denied the Holy Ghost yesterday but recognize the error of their ways today and turn to Jesus. Jesus atoned. The sinners have mended their ways. According to Kurt's post it would appear that all the necessary conditions have been fulfilled. How is the denial of the Holy Ghost unforgivable then? Isn't it just like any other sin?

Conversely: If I steal somebody's car I am in no position to take advantage of the saving grace of the atonement until I repent. Does that make autotheft an unforgivable sin?

It appears to me that what Kurt is really saying is that repentance is necessary. If denying the Holy Ghost is an unforgivable sin then there must be more to it then we have discussed so far.

D&C 132 states that David had lost his exaltation, and it is inferred that he will inherit the telestial kingdom with other murderers.

Christ himself mentions several sins for which "it would be better if they had never been born" or "that a millstone were hung about their neck". The question is not whether Christ and God continue to love sinners, it is whether a vicarious atonement can compensate for every sort of evil. The answer is yes, except in two conditions. If you absolutely refuse to accept Christ as your Mediator, despite a perfect knowledge of his existence and godhood, then he cannot save you. And while the atonement can eventually bring the murderer out of hell and into the telestial kingdom (a kingdom of glory), God has decreed that murderers cannot be exalted. This is not church leaders limiting Christ's atonement. This is God saying that some things are so bad, no amount of repentance can make up for them. Happily, there are only these two. Adultery is forgiveable, and if repented fully of, does not disqualify one for exaltation.

Sins are NOT covered by the atonement regardless of our response. Else why all the scriptures telling us to repent and be baptized? If we don't need to do anything at all, why even have scriptures, church, etc. A response of some sort by us is required.

The man on the cross next to Jesus was a thief, not a murderer, and the word that King James' men translated "paradise" is more accurately understood as "the abode of spirits", or in other words, he is telling him, "don't worry, death is not the end, you'll learn more on the other side, where I also am going." He is NOT saying "all your sins are forgiven because you've been nice to me for the last hour or two."

The point about denying the Holy Ghost is that these are people that will NEVER realize the error of their ways, or to state it another way, they KNOW that Christ is Lord, they KNOW that he is the Son of God, and yet they still reject him and consent to his death (unlike Saul/Paul who did not have a sure testimony of Christ when he was persecuting the church). They have reached the point of no return because they have chosen to never come back, and they never will. They have basically gone back to their first estate, and changed their minds about following Christ, and thus end up in the same situation as Lucifer and the spirits that followed him there. Is there any chance for Lucifer to repent and come back? I would think not, and the Sons of Perdition (another of his names) share his fate.

I think it is not at all uncommon to confuse love with forgiveness. God will never NOT love his children, and in this way, God's love is unconditional (forvige me, Hellmut, but I have a hard time thinking that Nelson's quote said contrary...it might have been taken out of context...I would like to look it up though...).

Forgiveness IS conditional. It is false doctrine to think that we can do whatever we want to in this life (once we have learned the "rules" or once we know better) and think that we won't be held accountable for what we do (or don't do).

I think it makes a lot of people feel good to think that God will love them no matter what they do, and they really focus on that (born-agains). It sure makes me feel good. But I don't for one second think that I will not be held accountable and punished (Oh how we hate that word!) for the sins I am not trying to repent for. Now if I am a "successful repenter" (a long road with no forseeable end), I will be forgiven.

Now...denying the Holy Ghost and therefore becoming what we call a "son of perdition" IS scary...but it is not a scare tactic. Denying the HG does not mean that we ignore a prompting...because we are doing that pretty much constantly. Lucifer IS perdition. "He become such by open rebellion against the truth, a rebellion in the face of light and knowledge." B.R. McConkie "Mormon Doctrine" Imagine standing in God's presence and rebelling to his face...pretty much telling God that you deserve his glory. That's pretty seriously messed up. Denying the Holy Ghost means that you have a SURE, or perfect knowledge "that comes only by revelation from the HOly Ghost" and you still deny him and actually take up with Lucifer and his casue. This is pretty tough to do. Mostly because VERY FEW of us have, or will have, this kind of confirming revelation. While I say that I know God lives, and I really feel like I do...until I see him or until he speaks to me I am going by faith. Prophets and the occasional apostle have this kind of knowledge...God does not throw this kind of knowledge around lightly.

As far as I know (and if you know differently I'd love to learn about it) there is no record of anyone becoming a son of perdition besides Lucifer, those who followed him, and Cain. So...I'm not so worried that I'm going to become a Son of Perdition anytime soon...

And, I'm not trying to pick on you, Helmut, but the guy next to Jesus on the cross was a theif, not a murderer... but here's the good go-to scripture to clarify sin-forgiving whether you are diety or not...

"I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men. And ye ought to say in your hearts--let God judge between me and thee, and reward thee according to thy deeds." Doc & Cov 64:8-11

Hellmut,

You didnt answer my question as to whether youre an axe-grinder or not. Are you going to?

Your exegesis on Luke 23:43 is poor.

Your understanding of the denial of the Holy Ghost is susprisingly non-Mormon. Exactly how "Mormon" are you? If you are indoctrinated LDS, then you would realize that phrase is referring to sons of perdition, and wouldnt equivocate over the possibility of the hypotheical individual repenting. According to the definition of the term, a son of perdition would not choose to repent, so your example doesnt really make sense.

Rob, yes D&C 132 infers David will be with the other murderers, but for some unexplained reason I have some idea in my head that David's repentance got him up to the terrestrial glory, and cannot find or recall the source. Probably just some nonsense I read someplace.

Kurt,

Your Comments:


You didnt answer my question as to whether youre an axe-grinder or not. Are you going to?

Your exegesis on Luke 23:43 is poor.

Your understanding of the denial of the Holy Ghost is susprisingly non-Mormon. Exactly how "Mormon" are you?


were confrontational and judgemental. Hellmut is merely stating his opinions. You can do the same, but with respect for others' opinions.

Thank you.

Carrie Ann,

It is certainly not for me to judge, but i think it likely that Judas will also belong to that infamous group.

I've heard that there's a quote out there by Joseph or Brigham that says the sum total of all the sons of Perdition of all ages will be less than twenty, or perhaps it was less than ten.

Um, Kaycee,

His exegesis on Luke 23:43 is wrong, saying it is poor is an accurate statement, not judgemental. The guys on the cross are thieves, not murderers. I'm not allowed to point out errors in fact? Which one was that, "confrontational" or "judgemental"?

And asking Hellmut how "Mormon" he is is a legitimate question given his rather obvious misunderstanding of sons of perdition, a common Mormon doctrine. He presents himself as a Mormon, and criticizes the Mormon community, and yet seems oddly ignorant of common Mormon Doctrines. Questioning his connection to the Church is legitimate given the evidence. Again, which one was that, "confrontational" or "judgemental"?

Thank you very much for your support, Kaycee. I actually don't mind if my arguments are rigorously engaged. But I do think that enquiries into personalities are inappropriate. No one here is running for office. Who we are is not important. What matters is what we say and whether our claims can stand up to inquiry.

I understand of course that people care deeply about the subject matter and that we have to be patient and tolerant if someone steps over the line, which can happen to anyone. In my opinion, the line is that arguments ought to be engaged on their own merit.

Russel Nelson's sermon about the conditional nature of Heavenly Father's love was published in the Ensign, February 2003, page 20. The summary line of the Ensign reads: "While divine love can be called perfect, infinite, enduring, and universal, it cannot correctly be characterized as unconditional." I found that troubling.

Though I understand that love does not imply redemption automatically, I find the arguments that limit the scope of the Savior's atonement troubling for the same reasons.

Allow me to focus. I agree with Kaycee's argument that according to a Christian understanding of the atonement there is no point of no return. I remarked that this implies that there is no such thing as an unforgivable sin. The teachings in the church that murder and the sin against the Holy Ghost are unforgivable mischaracterize the nature of the atonement, for Christ suffered for every individual sin that was and will be committed by human beings.

I agree that sinners need to repent to enjoy the benefits of the atonement.

I argued that Jesus himself had promised paradise to the murderer who was crucified next to him. It turns out that the King James translation refers to these people as thieves in the gospels of Matthew (27:38) and Mark (15:27). However, the Luther translates the same passage as murderers (Mörderer). Unfortunately, I do not read Greek. However, Joseph Smith did declare that the Luther translation was the best available translation into the vernacular available. The Gospel of Luke (23) describes the promise of paradise. The King James Bible uses the term malefactors to refer the crucified (verse33). So does the Luther Bible.

I am compelled therefore to admit that the nature of the sins is not clear when Christ makes the promise of paradise.

All the translations that I have checked consistently use the term paradise. Given the consistency, I find it unlikely that there is a translation problem regarding that term as Ron suggests. Even if I were to accept Ron's suggestion, that paradise is properly understood as "the abode of spirits" there is still prison, which is also the abode of spirits. Clearly, something qualitative has happened to the man to obtain accession into the abode of spirits for the good guys.

Anyways, these questions are not all that relevant since I cannot establish whether the guy was a murderer.

The other sin, which is Mormon theology deems unforgivable is denying the Holy Ghost. Rob's reference to the sons of perdition is not very helpful. The original question was not who people are but whether there is a point of no return. I in turn argued that there is no sin that cannot be forgiven. The question that I am raising in light of Kurt's response is whether people who have denied the Holy Ghost can reverse themselves and repent. Kurt seems to say that through repentance those people can enjoy the benefits of the atonement. Quote: "If the person refuses to go to Jesus and repent, that is different from Jesus being willing to forgive the sin." If Jesus is willing to forgive the sin, then a repentant denier will be forgiven. If that is the case then denying the Holy Ghost is not an unforgivable sin.

It seems to me that one either has to argue that Jesus will not forgive us certain actions, something to the effect that the power of the atonement is limited, or that there are no unforgivable sins.

As Mormons we like to invoke feelings when we refer to the Holy Ghost and as a source to uncover the truth or a "perfect knowledge" as Rob puts it. I think that there ought to be more to the discovery of truth than feelings. Jesus Christ himself instructed us to observe a prophet's fruits to identify the phonies. First telling folks that something as unreliable as feelings is the source of truth and then suggesting that investigating those feelings might account to an unforgivable sin, might be manipulative. Hence my initial remark that it is an attempt to scare the Saints into submission.

As rational beings, we need to consider the possibility, which would be a great thread for another day.

I find it troubling to suggest that Christians shall believe in an atonement of limited power. It belittles Jesus. At the Last Supper the Savior was quite clear. He said: "Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (26:26-27). He did not say for the remission of some sins but not others. Jesus shed his blood for all sins. Anything short of that sells Jesus short.

So it seems to me that we have arrived at a logical juncture where one must choose between competing principles. If I face a choice between Jesus and Bruce, I will choose Jesus every time.

That is not fatal for Mormonism. On the contrary, it is after all the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and not the Church of Bruce or Joe. Our faith will be better if we commit to let the core principles of the gospel guide our understanding of peripheral issues. That would make for a stronger church, not the other way around.

Kurt,

I know about sons of perdition. As I explained in the previous post, sons of perdition are not in question. The question is if there is a sin that is unforgivable. Clearly, there are people who will not be forgiven because they do not repent. Why is that? Is it because Jesus does not have the power to redeem or is it because of their chooices? If Jesus has the power to save them then those deniers that repent will be forgiven.

You need to consider the questions that others pose more carefully. If you don't get it because I have been unclear or because you are not used to that line of thinking then ask a question. Making wild guesses about what others may or may not know is not helpful.

Perhaps the reason that denying the Holy Ghost is "unforgivable" is that the only people who do that are the ones who CHOOSE to become sons of perdition. While it might be logically conceivable to IMAGINE Cain or Judas repenting and coming back to Christ, isn't it possible that calling this an "unforgivable sin" might be an acknowledment of the empirical fact that once a person reaches that point they never actually DO come back. So it could be conceiveably forgiveable, but in actuality, it never happens, and thus is "unforgiveable" (because they never repent).

Also, i disagree that "investigating [your} feelings" would amount to a denial of the Holy Ghost. I think most members of the Church would encourage you to investigate all feelings that come to you, those of testimony and those of doubt. Denial of the Holy Ghost, aka the "unforgiveable sin" is not something you can accidentally do by having misgivings or doubts. It is only possible after having the "perfect knowledge" i mentioned, which is more than just a burning in the bosom. I understand a "perfect knowledge" to mean an actual visitation from the Savior, or some equivalent experience.

sorry for the multiple posts...

My point in referencing the "millstone" verses, was to point out that for some sins, the Savior says in effect "even my atonement won't make up for this... it would really have been better for you if you hadn't been born, or if you had died before this happened." If the Atonement could make up for ALL sins, then there would not be any time when he would say this, because everything could be smoothed over by his saving grace. he would say "i know what you did was really rotten, but don't worry, just repent and have faith in me, and i'll take care of it." which IS what he says most of the time. But under certain conditions, He CANNOT take care of it, at least not completely. Yes, that is a limited atonement, but still an infinite one, if that makes any sense. The Atonement can cover any number of lesser offenses, and blot out their effects to the nth degree and the end of time, and thus is infinite and eternal. But it cannot fully compensate for the shedding of innocent blood by those who are accountable. At least that is how I understand it, and to me, that does not diminish the Savior's power or majesty.

I suppose. But isn't it true that with God nothing is impossible?

I know, I know its a cheap move :). That argument can explain everything.

The more serious challenge would be the observation that there are a lot of people that do not repent from all sorts of sins, none of which are unforgivable. The misdeed that is unforgivable is the failure to repent rather than a specific sin.

I find denial of the Holy Ghost difficult to observe. But it appears to me that there are some murderers that look like they repented.

I think the idea is that all those people who committed the "lesser" sins, even if they don't repent in this life, will eventually at some point in the eternities be reconciled to God and enter a kingdom of Glory. Even the murderers. But those who deny the Holy Ghost will never be reconciled to Him, they will always choose darkness over light, forever.

As far as murderers repenting, I'm sure that God takes all circumstances into account, mental capacity, emotional maturity, perceived threats to self or others, etc. But repenting of murder would seem to me to entail more than just being really sorry and promising not to do it anymore. Usually the severity of the repentance has to somewhat approach the severity of the offense, it seems to me.

Christ has the power to forgive murderers after repentance, but perhaps what he is telling us is that someone who values life so little, and goes against every whisper of moral conscience inside him to shed innocent blood could never develop into the kind of being that God is. He might become a mighty and powerful servant or angel, but he would never be able to abide the celestial kingdom, nor would he ever be at peace there should he be admitted.

Yeah, I'm one of those ones who thinks God is easier than we think.

I was thinking about the perfectionism thing last week and what I think is we can't DO everything perfectly, but we can be as nice as possible. I think niceness is the perfection God wants. Hard but not impossible. Becoming old and learning to be patient and nice and the fourth article of faith, may be it. We may be making it too hard.

And Jesus will do the rest.

Hellmut:

in your initial comment you stated that according to Paul, there is no sin that is not covered by the Atonement. I'd submit two passages, both by Paul, which seem to indicate otherwise:

Hebrews 6:4-6, and 10:26

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This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

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