Last weekend, I read The Continuous Atonement by Brad Wilcox. According to Wikipedia, “Bradley Ray Wilcox is a professor of education at Brigham Young University, the author of several books, and a popular speaker in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” This book rates very high, and came recommended by one of my LDS friends, so I had to give it a good read!
I will write a series of blog entries addressing numerous notes I took while reading it. This first exercise revolves around a series of difficult questions. Mr. Wilcox tells the story of a couple of missionaries who ran into a man who posed a serious challenge to their evangelical efforts. Confused and discouraged, they brought a number of questions to Mr. Wilcox, who worked in the role of missions president. After hearing about their entire experience and questions, he answered, “Now you know why I’m glad I’m a Mormon! Questions like these have baffled many religious people and their leaders for years, but they don’t baffle us.”
What a claim! I decided to take it as a challenge, even though I do not qualify as a ‘religious leader.’ I simply serve the Lord by His Grace, and study God’s Word from time to time. With that said, I list the questions here, along with my answers. By the way, you can find this story along with the questions in the very early part of Chapter 7 of the aforementioned book.
“Could it be true that the story of mankind being in debt to God was simply invented and perpetuated by Christian churches in order to subject people to their norms and get gain? There would be no better way to insure substantial financial donations than to constantly be telling people how in debt they were.”
I have certainly heard the phrase that because we sin, we have a debt with God that can never be paid by our own efforts. Mr. Slick has written an excellent article at CARM explaining why churches often use the term in this context. Only by the blood of Christ can our God wash away our sins, or debt. However, in the ten churches I attended, I have never heard a pastor connect that theology with the need to donate money. I have heard churches preach a 10% tithing rule, which I do not agree with. However, even the LDS church advocates that (from what I understand), so I cannot see them pushing against this approach.
“And why did God require the sacrifices of Jesus? How does that pay any debt? Jesus prayed submissively, ‘not my will but thine’ (Luke 22.42), but why was His inexplicable suffering and horrible death God’s Will? How is anyone supposed to love a God who wills that?”
While God is love, God is also holy and just (Isa 6.3, Rev 4.8, Neh 9.32-33, 2 Thess 1.6). As a Holy God, He must punish law breakers. If He did not, he would not be completely just. The wages of sin, is death. Therefore, everyone who sins deserves to die. (Eze 18.4, Rom 6.23). And no one can justify themselves in the eye of the law by good deeds (Gal 2.16, 21). This makes sense, when you think about it. If someone hits another, the police should arrest him even if he lived a great life before then. Since we as sinners will never fulfill the law, and God does want to save us, He sent his Son to die in our place. (John 3.16). God poured out the wrath of His Holy Justice on His Son in our place. Salvation is now offered freely to those, by Grace, who follow Jesus in Faith (Eph 2.8-9, Gal 3.13, Eph 5.2).
“God is the one who placed Adam and Eve and then allowed Satan to tempt them, so doesn’t that make God partly responsible for the Fall? Why did He blame Adam and Eve?”
This seems like an odd question. Basically, the reader here asserts that God would be in the wrong for allowing any temptation into the world, and that God should not allow people to sin, no matter what. This basically turns people into robots. After all, do you stop sin and temptation at the murder level, the lying level or the thinking level? Do you take away everyone’s free will? If you do, do you truly have love?
I would also point out, God did not cause Adam to sin. Adam made his decision after listening to his wife who, in turn, listened to Satan’s lies. They knew exactly what they were doing, as God made the expectations and consequences quite clear. This is why Adam and Eve took blame for their actions.
And if someone had to suffer to make things right again, why did He send Jesus? Why didn’t God do it Himself?”
Because Jesus is God. In other words, God did exactly what the questioner proposes. (Mat 1.23, Isa 9.6, John 1.1-3)
Mr. Wilcox answers the above questions by pointing to the ‘restoration,’ which refers to how LDS theology teaches that Joseph Smith brought the fullness of the Gospel, restoring precious truths that had somehow been omitted or lost over time. The questions about creation are answered when one understands that we had a pre-mortal existence. The story of the fall is answered when you understand the LDS teaching that Adam and Eve’s decision was actually a ‘wise’ decision with ‘desirable consequences.’ God did not blame or punish us, instead, he ultimately helped them and us with ‘the fall.’ The questions of the need Christ’s atonement are best understood with the added knowledge of ‘eternal laws and the spirit world.’
It moves beyond the scope of my blog to answers all of these theologies here. However, if these topics interest you, I encourage you to purchase a copy of the book to read Mr. Wilcox’s answers to these questions, and his perspective, for yourself. (I do not get any sort of commission of the sales). With that said, I stick by my answers and refute the idea that we need Mr. Smith’s additional revelations to answer these questions. Furthermore, I reject them. As I recently told another friend, when one adds to a truth, it usually changes that truth. And when one changes truth, it rarely continues to maintain its status as… well, truth!