In my last article, I explained why I believe that Mormons are not Christians. After posting that article, I received a response from a young lady named Katie who objected to some of the things that I wrote. Katie's response is available in the comment section of the previous article, but let me copy it here to save you the trouble of clicking the link:
I found your blog post to be an interesting read, being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints myself. However, there are some flaws in your argument.
First, as a writer, it is untactful to pick and choose from another article rather than do the original research yourself. I highly recommend any of Mcconkie's work, and you should really quote that rather than another article as it is superfluous. It also takes away some of the credit being given to you as a writer. I have written and been published at the high school and the university level if you have more questions on this.
Secondly, the doctrine of the Atonement is difficult to grasp in any religion. The mere fact that a man so perfect and so good was willing to endure such pain, misery, loneliness, and criticism for me is unfathomable. The church doctrine is that every one will have eternal life but there are different degrees of glory that everyone can obtain. Jesus died so that everyone may be saved by grace, but those with the knowledge of the truth must also be saved by their actions. Those with the knowledge of Jesus Christ and God the Father are held to a different standard than those who never had the opportunity to receive the truth. How would it be fair to hold them to the same standards simply because they were born in an area that did not have the Gospel?
Thirdly, no where in your examples does it explicitly say that Christ did not die for our sins, because he did. Man is not perfect due to the fall of Adam. In order for us to return to Heaven to be with our Heavenly Father, Christ had to atone for the world's sins. This is basic Christian doctrine, and is also basic LDS doctrine.
I highly recommend visiting Mormon.org. Not only are these basic questions answered, but you can also ask the missionaries questions and arrange a meeting. In the future, before you discredit a religion entirely, please do actual research, so that others may have the opportunity to discern the truth from false claims for themselves. Thank you, and have a blessed night!
I wrote a reply to Katie, but it was far too long to be posted in the comment section, so I decided to post it as today's blog post instead. Here is what I wrote back to Katie:
Thank you for taking the time to comment. I appreciate the fact that you place a priority on original source materials, and I would encourage you to continue to prefer those sources.
Your statement about the atonement intrigues me. I was not aware that this doctrine was difficult to understand. To offer someone atonement is literally to offer to make them at one with someone. It is to remove a debt which has separated two people and bring them back into perfect fellowship.
This is the exact manner in which the word "atonement" is used in Scripture, for we find in Isaiah 59:2 that our "iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear." Thus we see that our sins prevent us from being at one with God. They break our fellowship with Him, and something must be done to restore it. Now, in the Old Testament, God established a system of sacrifices to teach us that the payment needed in order to restore fellowship with Him was death. This is what is meant by the statement in Romans 6:23 that "the wages of sin is death." In order to be restored back to God and be at one with Him, we must pay the debt of death that is owed by our sin.
Thankfully, that debt has been paid by Jesus Christ, and we can read about the nature of His payment in Hebrews chapter 10. There God first tells us that the sacrifices of the Old Testament were just an example to remind us of the debt and the payment required. Those sacrifices were not sufficient to actually atone for sins.
"For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins." (Hebrews 10:1-4)
Did you notice that the shortcoming of the Old Testament sacrifices was that they could not make the people offering them perfect? Those sacrifices did not atone for sins, because they could not remove the debt and make us perfectly at one with God. But contrast this with what we read later in the same chapter.
"we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." (Hebrews 10:10-14)
Here we see that Jesus Christ offered His life as a sacrifice, and by his sacrifice, everyone who is sanctified has been "perfected forever." We are also told here that the reason that Christ does not need to make another sacrifice is that His first sacrifice was sufficient to pay our debt "once for all." There is no need of a second sacrifice once Christ's sacrifice has been accepted. This is exactly what we find in the next section of Hebrews chapter 10.
"Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin." (Hebrews 10:15-18)
This is great news! Those who have been sanctified by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ have a witness from the Holy Ghost that God will no longer remember their sins. There iniquities are completely forgiven, and "there is no more offering for sin." But the next passage is even better.
"Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water." (Hebrews 10:19-22)
These verses tell us that Christ's sacrifice did not just provide us with immortality. Rather, it provides us with access into "the holiest." This a reference to the portion of the Old Testament temple where God Himself would descend as a pillar of smoke and accept the sacrifices made by the priests. This area of the temple was separated from the rest of the temple by a veil of thick cloth, and the only one allowed to enter was the high priest when he carried the blood of the sacrifice into the holiest and offer it to God at the ark of the covenant. According to this passage of Hebrews, Christ's sacrifice gives us permission to enter this holy place and be in the very presence of God. Because of His sacrifice, we can be completely washed of our sins and be made at one with God again.
But what about those who do not accept Christ's offer to enter the presence of God through His atonement for our sins? Will they still be forgiven of their sins? This question is also answered by God in Hebrews chapter 10.
"For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." (Hebrews 10:26-31)
Notice the phrase, "there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins." This tells us that Christ's sacrifice is the only means of atonement that is acceptable to God. He offered His Son to pay for our sins and thereby to grant us access to Him once again. If we reject the atonement offered by the sacrifice of Christ, then there is no other means of obtaining eternal life in the presence of our Heavenly Father. Those who do not think that Christ's sacrifice was holy enough to atone for all of their sins have nothing to look forward to but "judgment and fiery indignation." Consider what we find at the close of this chapter.
"Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul." (Hebrews 10:38-39)
Here we see a contrast between two individuals. The first is said to be just or righteous because he has faith that the sacrifice of Christ is sufficient to atone for his sins and restore him to fellowship with his Heavenly Father. The second is identified as one who draws back from this faith. This individual is one who has been presented with the message of Christ's perfect atonement for his sin, but he has found it unpalatable. He concludes that Christ cannot have atoned for his sins, and he draws back from believing what is explained in this chapter. This man is condemned to perdition. But those who believe what is said in this chapter of Hebrews are saved from perdition and granted full atonement for their sins.
This is the doctrine of the atonement as it is taught in the Bible. We could look at dozens of other passages throughout Scripture and find the same doctrine taught over and over and over again. Our sins have separated us from God. Jesus Christ paid the full penalty of sin, and only those who accepts His payment will be given eternal life in the presence of their Heavenly Father. Those who do not accept His payment but rather think that eternal life with the Heavenly Father must be earned through some other means are condemned to perdition.
What is your view of the atonement? Do you believe that Christ's sacrifice is sufficient to make you perfect and that you can obtain eternal life with your Heavenly Father by simply accepting the payment which Christ has already made?
Bill Fortenberry is a Christian philosopher and historian in Birmingham, AL. Bill's work has been cited in several legal journals, and he has appeared as a guest on shows including The Dr. Gina Show, The Michael Hart Show, and Real Science Radio.
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