The Continuous Atonement by Brad Wilcox
Recently, 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 continue my series of blog entries addressing numerous notes I took while reading it. Today, I wish to a huge variance between Christian and LDS doctrine regarding ‘the fall.’
Most people know the story of Genesis. In the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve broke God’s direction, eating from the Tree of Good and Evil. This resulted in the first sin. Death and the fall resulted, the effects of which we all struggle with to this day. The LDS theology has a different viewpoint. The following quotes come from Chapter 3 of The Continuous Atonement.
“For Latter-day Saints, God is all powerful and all knowing. Our father in Heaven has always known that we would grow and progress best in a telestial world rather than in a garden paradise. He knew Adam and Eve would not be able to bear and effectively raise children until they gained knowledge. God knew death was a necessary part of our eternal progression, and sin would be an inevitable result of being out of His presence with no memory of Him. He knew earth life would not be the end, but one more step in the right direction.”
“Their fall wasn’t down. Rather, as I have heard it expressed, they fell ‘forward.'”
“The fall was designed – complete with all the accompanying misery and pain – to ultimately bring us freedom and happiness.”
The above highlights one of the larger differences between traditional Christian theology and the relatively new viewpoint brought forth by Mr. Smith and other LDS leaders. The LDS theology teaches that we had a pre mortal existence, where we started a journey to better ourselves. The ultimate goal of this long trek is nothing less than become gods ourselves, where we would have our own planets to populate with our own people. ( LDS website source )
Despite assertions from LDS teachers that the Bible backs these claims and that ‘early Christians’ believed the same, those who have done a cursory study of either will find a very different story. As always, I look to God’s Word. After all, plenty of people claiming the Christian titled believed in many wrong things in the early days. Jesus warned about them and Paul spoke out against them. The fact that any number of groups believed wrongly does not prove the validity of a theology. We must test those claims against God’s Word.
For convenience, I have pulled a few scripture quotes from this CARM article.
- God was not exalted. He has always been God. “Before the mountains were born, or you gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.” (Psalm 90:2).
- We cannot become gods. “You are My witnesses,” declares the Lord, “And My servant whom I have chosen, in order that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me.” (Isaiah 43:10).
- There are no other gods. “‘Do not tremble and do not be afraid. Have I not long since announced it to you and declared it? And you are My witnesses. Is there any God besides Me, or is there any other Rock? I know of none.’” (Isaiah 44:8).
I wish to focus on the first verse. The term “everlasting to everlasting”, similar to the term “Alpha and Omega” (Rev 1.8) are terms used to describe God only. While we do see the term ‘gods’ (lower case, plural) used in several occasions, they always refer to false gods that have no true existence (Gal 4.8, Isa 37.19, Jer 2.11). You never see this term used on anyone else outside of God in the Bible… until you read LDS theology.
D&C 132 really brings home this line of thinking. When I first read it, I nearly passed out.
19 “And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them—Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; and if it be after the first resurrection, in the next resurrection; and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths” …”and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.
20 Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have call power, and the angels are subject unto them.
21 Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye abide my law ye cannot attain to this glory.”
I edited this down a bit for brevity, but feel free to read the entire passage. The endgame of the trek of ‘eternal progression’ leads to godhood. As a modern believer, I rarely run around calling things ‘heresy’, ‘cultist’ or ‘damnable.’ However, if anything qualified for those terms, this type of teaching certainly qualifies. Also, I could not help but add verse 21 here, and it furthers underlines my assertions in earlier blog entries that the LDS theology focuses a lot on works.
The Bible teaches that exaltation will take place. We will exalt God for all of eternity out of our love and devotion to Him. He exalts us by the blood of His Son to rule and spend eternity at His side. No where does the Bible teach us that we can exalt ourselves through some ‘eternal progression’ process. In fact, whenever we try to increase our holiness, worthiness, etc by our own strength and works, we fail. The Bible condemns such vain attempts. Phil 1.6 says “being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” and Phil 2.13 says “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”
And all I can say to that is “Amen.”