Friday, June 13, 2014

Comparing Saving Schemes

“What must I do to get saved?”

So asked a doomed jailer to the Apostle Paul. (Acts 16:30) Paul’s response was swift and clear:

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will get saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:31)

This response though has been convoluted over the centuries with people proclaiming different Jesuses to believe in. Which Jesus will save you? For instance, over time there have appeared three different Jesuses: the one preached by Paul, one preached by Trinitarianism, and another as proclaimed by Mormonism.

At this point, please consider two words and their meanings: hamartiology and soteriology. “Hamartiology” is the theological term for the study of the doctrine of sin. It derives from the Greek words hamartia, “missing the mark” or “sin,” and logia, “discourse.” Conversely, “soteriology” is the theological term for the study of the doctrine of salvation. It derives from the Greek soterion, “salvation.”

Now a presentation of Biblical (and by extension, Pauline) hamartiology is in order. Succinctly, it is the following: Adam was created as a sinless, perfect soul in the Garden of Eden that he was given. (Genesis 2:7, 8) He transgressed when he ignored divine warnings and joined his wife in stealing a symbol of divine sovereignty, the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad. Consequently, they lost access to the “Tree of Life,” a physical representation of eternal life. By losing eternal life, they died and spread death to their offspring. (Genesis 2:16, 17; 3, 5:5; Romans 5:12, 14) In accords with King David’s words at Psalm 51:5, the passing on of sin from Adam to succeeding generations is a result of the recognized law of heredity. (Job 25:4; Romans 3:23) According to divine justice as expressed in the Law of Moses, soul was to be given for soul. (Exodus 21:23; Leviticus 24:18) Since Adam was created as a sinless soul, another sinless soul had to be given in exchange as a ransom: this ransomer would have to correspond to Adam by being a sinless man. Therefore, the Apostle Paul at 1 Timothy 2:6 used the word literally meaning “corresponding ransom,” antilutron. The ransomer would have to voluntarily surrender what Adam lost by his disobedience in Eden, perfect human life. Nothing more, nothing less is required to avoid upsetting the soteriological balance. Thus, it was Jesus as the second and last Adam who emptied himself of divine glory (Philippians 2:7) to become what Adam lost: a sinless, perfect human life. (1 Corinthians 15:45) This, his sinless perfect human life, he voluntarily surrendered and sacrificed. Thus Biblical hamartiology is seen to be lucid and free of contradiction.

So how does the Mormon and Trinitarian Jesus stack up to the Biblical Jesus? Is one of them identical to the Biblical Jesus? Below is a table comparing all three:

Biblical (Pauline) Hamartiology
Mormon Hamartiology[1]
Trinitarian Hamartiology
Both Adam and Jesus were perfect, sinless humans.
Adam was nonmortal with spirit not blood and unable to reproduce.
Jesus was mortal with blood
and able to reproduce.
Adam was a perfect human.
Jesus was a divine person with his human nature in hypostatic union with his divine nature.
Soteriological scales are balanced.
Soteriological scales are unbalanced.
Soteriological scales are unbalanced.

As seen in the Mormon soteriological scheme, Adam is actually superior to Jesus: thus there is no salvation in this version of him.

Contrarily, Trinitarianism does the opposite, making Jesus superior to Adam. Thus the results are the same: the soteriological scales are unbalanced and deliver no salvation.

Interestingly, Paul also issued warnings that different Jesuses would be promulgated.[2] An example of this is seen at Ephesians 4:14 which states that “we are no longer to be children, tossed back and forth by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching by the trickery of people who craftily carry out their deceitful schemes.” (NET Bible) This has a footnote that says in part:
The point is that the author is concerned about Christians growing into maturity. He is fearful that certain kinds of very cunning people, who are skilled at deceitful scheming, should come in and teach false doctrines which would in turn stunt the growth of the believers.
This cunning, deceitful scheming then was fulfilled first with Trinitarianism and then later with Mormonism, stunting the spiritual and intellectual growth of their adherents and blocking the way to the Biblical Jesus by replacing him with counterfeits.

Fortunately, the true Jesus is still accessible. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in him and explain why in very clear and lucid terms from the Bible.

[1] A Review of the Mormon Canon, Part IV: Mormon hamartiology: a “different gospel”?

[2] Paul was also concerned about his fellow Christians being deceived by “arguments that sound reasonable [πιθανολογία, pithanologia].” (Colossians 2:4) Here a NET Bible footnote insightfully points out “that even though the arguments seem to make sense (sound reasonable), they are in the end false. Paul is not here arguing against the study of philosophy or serious thinking per se, but is arguing against the uncritical adoption of a philosophy that is at odds with a proper view of Christ and the ethics of the Christian life.” (italics added)

Additional reading:
  • Adam and Jesus on scales image from You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth (1982) page 63. Now out-of-print.

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