Saturday, December 29, 2012

Teaching Charity and Virtue

I had an interesting conversation with a female pastor of a local Baptist Church. She was attending to a family member in the hospital. She joked that her Baptist Church was little more liberal leaning than most.

We got into a brief conversation about why the LDS Church sends it's missionaries to evangelize other Christians. I explained that while many Christians express faith in Christ, many don't live their faith and sin still has very painful individual and social consequences. LDS missionaries serve as social and spiritual therapists in the community, inspiring others to a return to virtue and to attend to essential daily spiritual habits like reading scriptures and praying.

We discussed how the reality that in spite of the atonement of Christ, sin still leaves its mark, so-to-speak. She recounted picking up a sharp object as a child, that her mother warned her not to touch; cutting her arm, and living with that scar the rest of her life. I commented how Jesus Christ still wears the marks of our sins upon himself.

While this pastor described herself as spiritually liberal, she confessed being strongly politically conservative and having supported Gov Romney for president. I told her that this last election posed a significant spiritual choice to the American people. I told her that I felt the choice between Obama and Romney was a choice between continued bailouts versus real repentance and change.

When we give or accept a bailout, we are reenforcing and enabling the dysfunctional behavior. Whether its GM, or banks or individuals; bailouts don't help change the behavior that got them into their predicament in the first place. When Mitt Romney worked for Bain capital, he worked to save failing and bankrupt companies, not by bailing them out, but by restructuring them, cutting away the bad and saving the good. Romney continued this strategy in saving the Salt Lake Olympics and in Massachusetts.

I told my new Baptist Pastor friend that Romney's attitude about restructuring was a direct parallel to reflection of LDS understanding of repentance and Christ's atonement. I then asked her if she thought many Christians were spiritual liberals who viewed Christ's atonement as more of an Obama-style bailout vs. an opportunity for Romney-style restructuring.

My overall impression of this brief conversation is that regardless of creed or denomination, our Constitutional government requires its churches to teach virtue. Charity (do's) and Virtue ( don'ts) are the essence of pure religion. The reason for religion and the promise of a judgement and reward in heaven is for the purpose of teaching and reenforcing virtuous behavior. Unfortunately we have too many in this country who have been taught to believe without been taught virtue and our families and our nation are suffering the terrible consequences.

My recommendation for any Christian Church is to follow the direction of Paul in 1 Cor 5:11. There Paul directs the church to take care to not administer the Lord's Supper to those who are unworthy. Paul says that if any man be guilty of sexual sin, abuse, coveting, idolatry, fraud, and drunkenness, that they not be permitted to break bread with the Saints. You don't have to be perfect to attend church and partake of the Lords Supper, but Christ's people should live up to a certain standard. This higher standard creates a community of safety and unity.

On the other hand, permitting unrepentant sinners to go through the motions of religious observance without expectations is damaging to the soul of the sinner and the community. Accordingly the Bible is clear about upholding the Lords system where the Bishop can receive confession and verify ritual purity just like the priests in the Old Testament.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Is the Atonement of Christ a Bailout?

This last US Presidential election posed a philosophical and spiritual choice to the American voter. Gov. Romney of Massachusetts ran on a record of restructuring. Conversely, Obama like Bush, ran on a record of continued bailouts

While Romney worked for Bain Capital, he worked to save failing companies. Instead of just throwing money at a failing company, Romney identified profitable and unprofitable parts of a business, he cut the unprofitable parts away and kept the good parts. Thus, in saving the company, the business returned to long-term health, productivity, and profitability. Romney did the same thing during the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics and while Governor of Massachusetts where he balanced the State budget, insured everyone in the state, and had the lowest unemployment and best schools in the nation.

Bush and Obama have been employing a different strategy. By just printing more money in a failing economy, there is no real change. When the economy, or General Motors, or an individual welfare recipient gets bailed out with QE-style bailout money, there is no motivation to change or restructure or repent. Thus the person receiving the bailout just continues with the same failed behavior that got them into their current situation.

I wonder how many Christians consider Christ's atonement to be more of an Obama-style bailout vs. a Romney-style restructuring? Unfortunately, some people's view of Christ's sacrifice tends to be more bailout-minded with little expectation to change, repent and improve.

According to LDS belief, Christ's Atonement allows the believer grace and power for real repentance and real change. Christ's sacrifice is about becoming a new person, born-again, and through Christ being made a more profitable servant.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Essence of True Christianity

"What think ye of Christ? whose son is he?" (New Testament, Matthew, Chapter 22:42)

Christ Himself posed the most fundamental question upon which all existence depends. This question, which all mankind must answer, will be the basis upon which all will be judged. How we answer this question reveals what kind of person we want to be, and will become.

"Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" (New Testament, 1 John, Chapter 5:5)

Jesus Christ is not just a great teacher or prophet but also our Savior and Redeemer. None of us are worthy to return into the presence of God. Therefore, all of us must accept Christ as our Savior. Jesus Christ did not just live an exemplary life, but paid the price of the sins of His people when He shed blood from every pore in the Garden of Gethsemane and died on Calvary's Cross.

However, it is important to also understand that Christ is God the Son and a distinct and separate person from God the Father. The reason is that Christ condescends to our level and receives us as we are. But, we can't just stay there. The purpose of Christ is to then save us from our sins and not in our sins and empower us to repent and elevate our behavior to one day be worthy to enjoy fellowship with the Father.

"O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." (New Testament, Matthew, Chapter 26:39)

Satan's doctrine is "do as you will". Satan entices his followers fooling them into thinking then that of they follow him they can do whatever they want. However, there are several problems are that 1. We don't know what we want or will want. 2. What we want can be easily manipulated 3. Wanting something without power is like a child sitting at a piano wanting to play a concerto without having practiced. 4. Satan has no creative power and can only enslave. Therefore, in Satan's pyramid, his followers only find a place as a slave within the system. There is only room for one at the top.

Christ knows what we really want and promises us that if we will trust him to give our lives over to Him. Jesus Christ promises to make more of us than we could ever make of ourselves. Christ can give us creative power and therefore there is infinite room at the top as we can preside over our own creation as God presides over us.

"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." (New Testament, James, Chapter 1:27)

Christians disciples are dedicated to following the example of Christ. During Christ's ministry He healed the sick, fed the hungry, and comforted the infirm. Therefore, true disciples of Christ are devoted to charitable service especially to the vulnerable.

Additionally, while no one is perfect, true Christians believe in maintaining a high standard of morality. The Church of Christ creates a safe community as members strive to live up to gospel standards.

"But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat." (New Testament, 1 Corinthians, Chapter 5:11)

Again, while no one in this life is perfect. Those that accept the justifying grace of Christ also receive His sanctifying grace and are empowered to live up to a higher standard of morality. This is why Christ's followers are called Saints or 'Sancts'. The Church of Christ creates a community of caring, safety, trust, and unity by living up to standards of honesty, purity, integrity, and sobriety.

"In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground;"(Old Testament, Genesis, Chapter 3:19)

The gospel of Christ is a gospel of work. While we are to help those in need, being needy is to be the exception and not the rule. Christians are to save themselves from misfortune by avoiding sin, and being hardworking, industrious, productive, and self-sufficient.

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. (New Testament, Matthew, Chapter 7:12)

The Law of Moses taught "an eye for an eye". Many people apply this thinking as justification for treating others as poorly as they have been treated. This happens with the cycle of abuse in families and in the work place when we say, "that's how it was for me when I started; it's only fair". However, Christ taught that if we didn't like our treatment then we should break the cycle of abuse and treat others how we would have liked to have been treated.

"Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." (New Testament, Acts, Chapter 2:41-42)

Christian disciples participated in two ritual ordinances that reinforced their belief. When a believer accepted the Christian doctrine, he entered into baptism by immersion. Water baptism serves as a powerful symbolic gesture that marks a believers commitment to his new faith.

Secondly, the Christ Himself instituted the Lord's Supper which involves the ritual breaking of bread. This Sacrament serves as a continual reminder and reaffirmation of the believers faith. For these reasons, Water baptism and Communion serve as indispensable aspects of true Christian observance.