Sunday, June 28, 2009

Left Behind

I have started to read the "Left Behind" series by Tim LaHaye to get a better understanding of the Evangelical belief in the Last Days as well as salvation in general. What has really surprised me so far about the series is what I see as a major false dilemma that the author creates which serves as a basis for the story. In the book, the protagonist, Ray Steele goes to a local everyday denominational Christian church. Ray is an airline pilot and attends church weekly, considers himself a good person, but is not otherwise active and engaged in community service, sharing the gospel, or even studying the scriptures. The author sets Ray Steele to be the quintessential "lukewarm" Christian who will ultimately get left behind to face the "tribulation" after the true believers are taken up to heaven by the "rapture."

In contrast, Ray's wife supposedly begins attending a non-denominational Christian church which teaches the Bible and focuses only on the message of salvation. After Ray's wife acknowledges her sinfulness and receives Christ as her personal Savior, she is anxious for Ray to attend with her and become "saved" also. This urging by Rays' wife immediately starts friction in the marriage. According to the author, despite attending a Christian denominational church, the author seems to expect us to accept that Ray is having a difficult time accepting his own sinfulness and that a church has to be non-denominational to only teach the Bible and teach "salvation"

So, what is the false dilemma? It is difficult for me to accept that just because someone is baptist or methodist that they don't teach the Bible or salvation, or don't accept Christ or don't teach their people to confess their sinfulness. How does this apply to LDS doctrine? While LDS do not believe that mankind are intrinsically depraved because of our physicality. What LDS and the Book of Mormon as well as the Bible teach is that all men have fallen and are lost unless they humble themselves before God, and confess their unworthiness, and accept the grace of Jesus Christ. LDS are taught to pray multiple times a day and always retain a prayer in their heart. As part of each prayer, LDS are instructed to confess their sins and ask for forgiveness. Talking to my many denominational friends, their prayers reflect the same attitude of humility. Therefore, I don't really get the premise by the author that non-denomination churches somehow have a corner on the market on "salvation" or the salvation doctrine and are somehow superior.

That said, is confession of our unworthiness, the only thing that the LDS teach? No. In addition to the message of unworthiness and grace and salvation, LDS also teach that the atonement of Christ is power to overcome the flesh and sin. So, we teach the promise of God that if we come humbly to God and confess our weakness, he will make those weaknesses become strengths. LDS teach a message of repentance and sanctification that God will empower us to overcome our sins and live after the manner of happiness. If this focus on repentance by the grace and power of Christ is not another gospel but the promise of the everlasting covenant to perfect and sanctify and prepare us by the grace of Christ to stand worthily before God having our garments washed white in the blood of Christ.

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