CS Lewis and Ravi Zacharias both say that our world has a big problem with defining things. CS Lewis in "Mere Christianity" says that back in the day, to call someone a "gentleman" ment something very objective that a person was a land owner and possessed a familial coat of arms. Today the term is very much more a subjective term meaning that we "like" the person.
When it comes to Christianity, much of the same problems exist today. CS Lewis suggests we have difficulty defining what it really means to be Christian. This post seeks to list some of the major principles of Christian religion.
Science seeks to answer how the universe works and came to be. Religion asnwers the different questions of who created the universe and why.
1. Who is God? God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Ghost. Godhead = 3 wills, 1 purpose. The importance of distinct wills is that Christ was empowered to do good and be good because He sought the will of the Father (charity) and not His own will (pride). If the Father and Son are the same essense (homoousios), then it destroys the principle being taught.
2. What kind of person is God? Heavenly Father is the God of love. God is not the dieist god who created the Earth and is away in a far country with other concerns or diversions. God is not like the Greek gods of the Iliad that watched over the people fighting and killing each other for sport. God watches over humanity with a parental care. Enoch beheld God weeping over the suffering and wickedness of mankind.
Understanding God's character affects how we treat our fellow man. Roman emperors whatched gladators kill each other in the Colosseum for sport. However, the Christian God healed the sick and taught the lesson of the Good Samaritan.
Understanding the character of God helps us have faith in Him and trust to put our lives into His care and keeping. This is unlike the Elders of Israel who were invited to commune with God in the mountain with Moses and when they saw the storm and fire at the top feared to put their safety in God's hands and told Moses to go up and speak to the Lord for them.
The manifestations of the love of God:
- beauty of creation
- created in his image
- commandments and consequences
- Plan of Salvation
- Gods desires that we return to Him
- way to return revealed to prophets
- Jesus Christ given as the only way
- Atonement: mercy to forgive
- Atonement: power to change
- Priesthood to participate
- Holy Ghost to feel love peace joy
- Prayer, Blessing and Revelation
-God is concerned with the details of our life and not "away in a far country."
-Enoch witnessed God weep over the sin and suffering of mankind.
3. Who are we? We are not animals but spiritual children of Heavenly Father, created in His image. The worth of souls is great. We are to live the Golden Rule and treat each others the way we would want them to treat us. Not treat others the way we were treated. We are not slaves to the flesh but have the power to choose to fast when hungary and choose to forgive when offended.
4. Infinite Atonement. Man for thousands of years has believed in shedding blood of animals, virgins, and infants to appease the gods representing prosperity, safety, and fertility. Going to war and shedding blood for safety prosperity or forgiveness of sin is called Blood Atonement.
Jesus Christ came to Earth and shed His own blood in His Infinite atonement. We no longer have to shed blood for safety or security, health and fertility. Now we must accept Christ's blood and obey His law and commandments. Only the shedding of God's blood could be infinite. Only obedience to Christ's commandments can bring eternal peace, safety, and prosperity.
5. Faith and Works. We are saved by the grace of Christ after all we can do. What is all we can do? All we can do is make use of the means (grace) God has already provided (Alma 60). This doesn't mean we take any steps on our own without the help of Christ. As we cross the bridge from mortality to immortality that spans the chasm of death and hell, Christ builds the bridge plank by plank (grace to grace). But to receive the next plank, we are expected to be standing on the nearest plank with our toes hanging off the end.
We shouldn't ask for seconds when we haven't even finished what Christ has already put on our plate. Elder Maxwell has said the words of the prophets are not a buffet where we pick and choose only that which pleases us. Rather the gospel is a well balanced meal we are are expected to eat the spiritual spinach and leave a clean plate. We are to live by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God and resist being cafeteria Christians.
What good is talking about how seatbelts can save lives if we never wear a seatbelt when we drive our car? Likewise some may go through the motions of religious observation without true intent. So, to have true faith, we worship God in spirit and truth by both talking the right talkband walking the right walk.
6. Welfare and Virtue = pure religion. Religion as a sacred responsibility to help and serve our fellow man. However, what good is it to help our neighbor if we don't help each other live virtue and deal with many of the issues and decisions that are causing the poverty. Welfare without accountability of virtuous living enables and creates dependance and learned helplessness. If government believes in the separation of church and state they should get out of the business of religion. On the other hand, churches need to do their job of both providing welfare and expecting virtue.
7. Charity vs Pride. Charity says that we must Not do as I will but as God wills. Charity is pure love of Christ-for the Father. Christ was empowered to be good and do good by doing His Fathers will. Magic vs priesthood. Magic involves exerting our own will, for good or evil, on the universe. Priesthood involves exerting the will of God on the universe. Even white magic is wrong because our good is not God's good. Consecration to Gods will results in perfection in Christ.
8. Agency: the power to choose the right. Agency is not about being free to choose the wrong. Since the Fall of Adam choosing tbe wrong was all anyone could do. It is only thanks to the commandments and revelations of God that we now know the mind and will of God and can do God's will instead of just following our stomachs. Since the Fall, The fastest and easiest way to hell is to do nothing. Now, because of Christ, we can now do His word and have hope and assurance in His salvation.
I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings. (Old Testament, Jeremiah, Jeremiah 23:21-22)
True Christians do not deny the mercy of the Atonement of Jesus Christ to forgive sin. However, scripture is clear that Christ came to save us from our sins and not in our sins. Christ makes the first move to condescend, redeem and rescue us as we are. But Christ doesn't leave us that way. Christ stands at our doors and knocks. God sends His missionaries to the world to draw all men. But sadly, not all men will be drawn, not all men will hear the voice of the Lord and be raised.
True Christians understand that Christ's atonement also has the power to change our lives. Christ desires to elevate His people to the perfection of our Heavenly Father. In Christ, we can be empowered to change our lives, to return to virtue, and to keep His commandments. Forgiveness is wonderful, but sin still carries its painful consequences. However, through repentance we can finally enjoy the blessings that only come through righteousness and virtue. This is why the true Church if Christ always emphasizes repentance without denying mercy.
10. Revelation. The doctrine, gospel, and truth of Christ is the purist and highest logic. However, God has revealed to us that His ways are not man's ways and God thoughts are higher than man's thoughts. So, while Christians do not deny logic and reason we know that the knowledge of God and a witness of Christ's resurrection can only come by revelation. You cannot prove or disprove God to another. You can only come to know God by experiencing Him. And, you can only know the truth of Christ's teachings by first living them.
God has said he has given us opposition in all things. When it comes to the resurrection of Christ , scriptures like the Book of Mormon, the Restoration, God has always given a reason for belief. God also allows a reason against belief. So, in the end it comes down to our desires to know the truth and our love of God and motivation to ask God to reveal the truth to us by the power of the Holy Ghost.
The final answer is logical, based on good evidence, but is ultimately rests on receiving personal revelation. However, If you don't really want to believe and really devote your life over to Christ and His kingdom then you will find many reasons not to believe.
11. Submission to Priesthood Authority:
Many see the LDS Church and its hierarchy as very threatening. Many don't want a Church with living prophets and local bishops who emphasize repentance over mercy. A living prophet and a local bishop will tell me to DO something I may not want to do. On the other hand, the god in my heart, and the mercy-only Christ my local pastor talks about never or rarely ever asks me to do anything I don't want to do.