Answering a Mormon about the Nature of God
Our ministry received a recent email from a searching Mormon we met during our outreach campaign in Provo this summer. The following are excerpts from his email:
"Dear Dave: I have learned that there are many concepts of what we think of god. To a believing Christian I would assume that if you don't acknowledge Christ into your life you will go to hell. Recently, I went to China. I looked at them as a people and contemplated how they would have to spend eternity in hell. They don't know a God named Jesus, but they will be judged by that God they never knew. This concept seems foreign to me in so many ways. I can't believe God would condemn them to hell.
I believe that man has a natural capacity to love, sacrifice, and bond as a family unit. Man has perverted the concept of God to the extent that we really don't know God. It would take multiple lifetimes to understand every concept created. I really believe there is a creator that made heaven and earth. I believe God resides in us as a father and creator. He loves us beyond our capacity to understand his love for us. He truly lives within us. I don't believe our relationship with him resides in any book, stories, building, or gathering. I believe man's love for one another is the only truth that we can grasp in our relationship with God. The still small voice God gives is to feel him through our love for others. I think our relationship with God is that basic." (Stephen)
The following are excerpts in my reply back to Stephen:
Like you, I have a great love and appreciation for the Chinese people and admire their devotion to family. They also have a great love and pride for their culture and family traditions. I have always enjoyed my conversations with them regarding their spiritual life.
It's obvious to me that you have been giving quite a bit of thought about God. I want to let you know that I respect your pursuit in knowing the one true God and sincerely hope that we can have a meaningful exchange of thoughts and ideas.
I vividly recall a scene in the movie, "The Passion of Christ." A brutally beaten Christ appears before Pontius Pilate. Confronted by the unyielding demand from a religious faction, keeping the peace, and the pleas of innocence from his wife, Pilate was in a difficult situation. "What is truth?" Pilate asked aloud. He was not expecting an answer, even though the only answer stood directly before him. I can appreciate Pilate's position.
The pursuit of truth is an age-old question. With competing thoughts, distractions, and influences, it's very hard to find truth in a noisy, fast-paced world. To me, there must be a standard for truth in order to determine what is true or not. To further the conversation based on your email, it seems to me that a good place to start is by asking, "What is the nature of God?"
The Bible says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." (Prov. 9:10) Too often, we think of an angry, unfair God who positions himself as an ultimate authority figure that demands to be feared. But that's not what it really means to fear God. To fear God is to recognize that God is God and we are not. His ways go way beyond our understanding because we cannot fathom His perfect nature.
God's nature is perfection. He never makes mistakes. He is a perfect Judge. This means that God is perfectly objective. He judges based on the standard of perfection. To fear God means that we can't presume to judge others, nor presume how God makes judgments. By doing so, we are trying to be God. Instead, God asks us to trust Him that he is perfectly fair and just.
God's nature also includes love, forgiveness, and mercy. Even though we can't begin to understand or fathom God's nature, he does reveal enough of himself to make us wise unto salvation. One way God reveals himself is through love that is displayed through others. The love of family. The love we have for our neighbor. This all comes from God because God first loved us and he is the author of love. All goodness in this world reveals that God is still active and present in this world. "Wisdom" is received by placing our trust in God's promises. The greatest promise God gives is how we can receive life and wisdom through His Son. God's perfect love gave His Son as the one and only sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sins. His perfect obedience is substituted in place of our lack of obedience. His sacrifice was not meant to make our lives better on earth, but to rescue us from the consequences of a guilty verdict. Since God is perfectly objective -- his judgments based on the standards of holiness and perfection will be fair and just. And the consequences of not being perfect to be in his presence is eternal separation from his presence.
The wisdom unto salvation, or to be rescued from the eternal consequences of sin, is received by trusting in this promise. By faith alone we receive the full benefits of Christ. He simply asks us to believe him and to take him at his Word.
To understand the ways of God is to place our trust in His perfect fairness, perfect love, and his perfect solution for us to be fully worthy and righteous in His sight.
Thank you, Stephen. I look forward to continuing our dialogue together.
Putting a loving face on Christianity https://tilm.org/e-books/putting-a-loving-face-on-christianity/
Three ways to talk about becoming perfect with a Mormon https://tilm.org/blog-post/three-ways-to-talk-about-becoming-perfect-with-mormons/