Monday, November 30, 2009

Historical facts (and speculation) about The General Epistle of James

1. It is possible that James was not originally a letter, but rather that it contains a grouping of collected (and edited) discourses by James. Some scholars have claimed that the Greek in James is too fluent for James himself to have written it. It is possible that the epistle of James that we have was compiled and edited by someone much more fluent in Greek than James, but I feel that the words still belong to James.

2. James is one of the seven Biblical epistles that are referred to as “Catholic Epistles” (The KJV Bible refers to these letters as “General” Epistles). No, this doesn’t mean that they were only written for Catholics. The word Catholic is based on the Greek word “katholikos” which means “universal”, and refers to the fact that these letters were intended for the entire church (and anyone else who might read them).

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Historical meditation on Paul's Epistle to the Galatians

1) Opinions vary as to the date, origin, and destination of this letter, but I will restrict my commentary to the scholarly opinion to which I subscribe. (For those of you who are keeping track, I subscribe to the south Galatian theory.) It is my opinion that Paul wrote this letter from Syrian Antioch to the saints in the central Asian province of Galatia (in what is now Turkey). The Epistle to the Galatians is one of a body of letters that Paul wrote to some of the churches that he had established during his first missionary journey. As for when he wrote this letter, I believe that he wrote it prior to the Jerusalem Conference, which took place in A.D. 49 and is recorded in Acts 15. Galatians is notable because it deals directly with the question of what role (if any) the Mosaic Law should play in the salvation of a gentile convert (or any convert for that matter), and yet Paul neglects to mention the Jerusalem Conference even once. This is telling, because Paul was personally involved in the events immediately leading to the Conference and helped to draft and distribute the ultimate decision of the Apostles and elders of the Church concerning what would be expected of gentile converts in a ritual sense. Here are the basics of the text of the Official Declaration published by the Apostles as a result of the conference (see Acts 15:24-29):

Friday, November 27, 2009

...Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. -------1 Cor. 15:57

Yesterday being Thanksgiving, I thought it would be appropriate to express my gratitude to the Savior, who loved me enough to die for me. I am humbled by his willingness to undergo all things for me, but I am also inspired by the incredible life he led. When I read the scriptures, I marvel at the brilliance of his teachings, and I thank God that he loved us enough to send his Son to Earth to save each of us.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Do Mormons Believe We Are Saved by Grace, or by Works?

In the centuries that have passed between the death of the Apostles and our modern age there has been much debate and disputation over the precise nature and means of our individual and collective salvation. Since the Reformation, this debate has largely taken the form of a question of whether faith (or grace) alone will bring salvation, or if works are necessary as well (or instead), and if so, to what degree? Most often, this has been couched in a sort of Faith VERSUS Works argument in which opposing camps put forward one or the other as competing and opposing routes to salvation.

This argument often centers on the idea that we are saved by the grace of God regardless of our personal actions, and that any notion that we must complete a checklist of works in order to gain admittance to heaven is the worst kind of human arrogance, and a relic of the long-abandoned Law of Moses. This doctrine was a natural reaction by the Protestants of the Reformation to the Catholic assertion that one must receive certain rites, and complete certain performances under the exclusive auspices of the Church in order to gain salvation. The Protestants referred to Paul’s writings as they denounced the notion that salvation depends on empty performances (or as Paul puts it, dead works). Some even went so far as to say that it does not matter what we as individuals do, salvation through the grace of Christ is a free gift to all, saints and sinners alike, regardless of any action or lack thereof on our part. They claimed that, due to our mortal weakness, we are incapable of keeping the commandments, and that keeping them is no longer necessary in any case, because we are all saved through the atonement of Christ. In another view, John Calvin, in his doctrine of predestination and total election, claimed that God has already determined who is saved, and who is not, and that we have no choice in the matter.

As a missionary I talked to many people who tried to draw me into an argument over whether salvation is through faith or through our own works. These people often proceeded from the false assumption that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is a “works church” (as opposed to a church that teaches that salvation comes only through the grace of Christ), and that it was their task to instruct me and my companion on the non-biblical fallacy of our doctrine.

The fact is that the LDS Church is not a “works church,” nor is it entirely a “grace church” in the sense that many evangelical Protestants define both terms today. My answer to the question of which of the competing doctrines of Salvation by Faith alone and Salvation by Works alone (as the world understands them) is the true one is a resounding “neither!"


I have established this blog in order to promote understanding and dialogue where religion is concerned. I also want to encourage people under 30 to stop being afraid of the scriptures and help them to start using them (and loving them) in a way that will help to make their lives better. I will draw from the standard works (canon) of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which consists of The KJV Bible, The Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price). I also make references to various books of history, doctrine, and commentary by authors from across the christian world, as well as addresses given by the General Authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The opinions expressed in this blog are wholly those of the author, and do not represent the official opinions or position of the Church on any matter. In expressing my opinions, I will strive to keep in line with the official doctrine of the Church as much as I can, however I am not perfect in my understanding, and that should not be allowed to reflect on the church in any way.
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