Did The Church Fall Away?

Post Author: Darrell

One of the foundational teachings of Mormonism is that shortly after the death of the Apostles, the bulk of mankind rejected the teachings of Christ and the Apostles, and the world fell away from the plain and precious truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  As a result, the Church and the authority to act in God’s name were taken from the earth, and the world entered into a period known as the Great Apostasy.  It was not until God’s appearance to Joseph Smith in 1820, and his subsequent call to be a Prophet, that the Fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and God’s Church were once again restored to the earth.  Today, this fullness is known and taught only in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. 

During my last few years as a Mormon, I struggled with this teaching as I came to realize that it does not line up with what Christ promised us.  In Matthew 16:18, Christ says, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”   Mormonism teaches that with the restoration of the Gospel, Temples have been reestablished upon the earth.  Within these Temples, Mormons perform various Ordinances that are believed to be binding not only on earth, but also in heaven.  Two of these Ordinances are known as Baptism for the Dead and Endowment for the Dead.  They are performed vicariously for and in behalf of individuals who did not receive them in this life. 

LDS doctrine teaches that when a person who is either an unfaithful Mormon or a non-Mormon dies, they go to a place known as Spirit Prison.  According to LDS.org, Spirit Prison is another name for Hell or Hades.[1]  It is contrasted with Paradise, the place where righteous Mormons go upon their death.  Those who reside in Spirit Prison have the opportunity to hear the teachings of the LDS Gospel.  If they accept them and their Temple Work (Ordinances of Baptism and Endowment) has been performed vicariously on their behalf, they can leave Hell and enter Paradise.[2]

This is where I found the LDS teaching to be problematic, for what does this mean for those individuals who lived and died during the Great Apostasy?  If Christ’s Church was really taken from the earth, and it was not restored until after Joseph Smith, what, according to Mormonism, has happened to all those individuals who lived and died during the period of the Great Apostasy?  Well, the reality of the fact is that they are in Hell.  Even if they accepted Christ, believed in Him, and strove to live by His teachings, they are still in Hell.  It is not until their Temple Work has been done that they can be released from Hell.   Even worse is the fact that the Temple Work for the majority of the Earth’s past population has not been done and will not be done for many years to come because we do not have their names.  Our records don’t go back that far. 

In my opinion, this teaching does not line up at all with Christ’s promise.  He told us that the Gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church He established.  However, if LDS teaching is true, the Gates of Hell are prevailing against Christ’s Church and have been doing so since shortly after Christ’s ascension.  His Church was taken from the earth and those who lived lives seeking Him and living by His commandments are suffering in Hell as a result.  Not only is this teaching demeaning to the power of God, it also makes a complete mockery of Christ’s redeeming work.  He came to earth to unite humanity with divinity, bridging the gap between fallen mankind and the Creator of all.  However, according to Mormonism, many of those who have sought to follow Him are suffering in Hell for no other reason than they were born at the wrong time.

To be fair to Mormons, I must submit that Christ’s promise does not present a problem to their teachings alone.  Those who hold to strong fundamentalist Protestantism also encounter problems when comparing their beliefs to Christ’s promise.  I have spoken to many Protestants who believe that one cannot be a “faithful Catholic” or a “faithful Eastern Orthodox Christian” and still be saved.  They believe that the teachings of both of these great Churches are a corruption of what Christ taught and that if one holds to their teachings they are “non-Christian.”  However, the truth is that many of the core teachings of these Churches date back to the earliest times in Christianity, so if they are corruptions, they are corruptions that instilled themselves in the Church from virtually the very beginning of Christendom.  For example, the teaching that the Eucharist contains the Real Presence of Christ was a fundamental teaching of the Church from around the year 100, and the veneration of Mary can be dated to at least the middle 100’s.  By default then, stating that those who hold these beliefs are non-Christian is to state that the Church, from the earliest of times, apostatized in some of its key doctrines very early and remained that way until after the reformation.  Therefore, at its heart, this is to believe that the Gates of Hell prevailed against the Church for nearly 1500 years, dooming those who held to its key teachings to Hell.  Do we really believe that?

Think about it. 

 [1]http://classic.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?index=8&locale=0&sourceId=a5352f2324d98010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&vgnextoid=bbd508f54922d010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD.  Accessed 7/18/011.

53 thoughts on “Did The Church Fall Away?”

  1. In 2011 world population will reach 7 billion (vs. 3 billion in 1960). There are now approximately 2.2 billion Christians. Some of them believe that 4.8 billion people face eternal hell because they do not accept Jesus.

    Concepts of afterlife vary between religions and among divisions of each faith. Not all Christians agree on what happens after this life, nor do all Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, or other believers. Rebirth, resurrection, purgatory, universalism, and oblivion are other possibilities…none of which can be proven.

    Mystics of all faiths have more in common than the followers of their orthodox religions. True mystics realize that eternal life is here and now; it does not begin after mortal death. The age of Earth is said to be 4.5 billion years, of the Universe 13.7 billion, yet few humans live to be 100. Relatively, this lifetime is a mere speck.

    Scriptures are subject to interpretation; people often choose what is most beneficial for them.


  2. An objective observer looking at Christianity from the outside and who was aware of the “gates hell not prevailing” quote might be forgiven for assuming the gates of hell had indeed prevailed since Christianity does appear to be divided against itself. Closer inspection, though, reveals that the cacophony exists for the most past in the west.

    The western arguments involve on the one side, the Roman Catholic Church, which insists that it is the One, True, Catholic and Apostolic Church and the sole Ark of Salvation versus on the other side the arguments from the Reformers and Restorationists who make similar claims. The assertion that the Church could not possibly have been in error for fifteen hundred years is, I think, the Roman Catholic response to the criticisms that a) it apostatized in its doctrines; and b) that it’s “unbiblical.”

    The dismal religious history of the west is nothing to do with the Eastern Orthodox Church, which has never need reforming and has never apostatized and which rejects the idea of “development of doctrine,” which idea has been actualized inside the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant and Restorationist movements.

    And if the definition of “mystic” is somebody that believes eternal life is here and now then I suppose it might reasonably be suggested that all faithful Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians are mystics since they share the belief that salvation is by grace and takes the form of a process that begins here on earth (as opposed to understanding salvation as an event followed by a relatively short wait before passing on to the real deal).

  3. Billy, as coauthor of this blog, what is your take on this post? Would be curious your opinion, since its a pro-Orthodox and at best critical of Evangelical piece, which seems odd on an Evangelical-authored blog…

  4. Hi Brad,
    My goal with this blog has always been to represent the views of orthodox, traditional Christianity, as defined in the creeds and councils of the first five centuries of the church. In my mind, those define the essential beliefs of Christianity. I understand Darell to be questioning some of the positions taken by some of the reformers of the 16th century. I have no issue with these kinds of questions, as I consider them to be within the boundaries of orthodox Christianity.

    Having said all that, are there specific statements from the post that you would like my opinion on? I know Darrell would welcome different points of view, including mine!

  5. The Orthodox really believe this to be true (from the Synodikon of Orthodoxy): “This is the faith of the Apostles; this is the faith of the Fathers; this is the faith of the Orthodox; this faith that has established the universe.”

    If you really immerse yourself in the earliest Christian literature, especially the ante-Nicaean period, I think you’ll find that the Orthodox Faith is indeed the Faith of the Apostles – the same Faith of the Apostolic Fathers, and the earliest Christians in each fundamental respect – life, worship and belief.

    But a real experience of Orthodoxy can only be found in immersion. Take a period like Lent and immerse yourself through all the services of the season (there are a lot of them). That doesn’t mean you have to convert, it just means you’ll have a path to a much deeper understanding of the Faith today – something you can never get from books.

  6. Hi Brad,
    My goal with this blog has always been to represent the views of orthodox, traditional Christianity, as defined in the creeds and councils of the first five centuries of the church. In my mind, those define the essential beliefs of Christianity. I understand Darell to be questioning some of the positions taken by some of the reformers of the 16th century. I have no issue with these kinds of questions, as I consider them to be within the boundaries of orthodox Christianity.

    Having said all that, are there specific statements from the post that you would like my opinion on? I know Darrell would welcome different points of view, including mine!

  7. Sure, comment on all of it. Do u agree with Darrell’s viewpoints in general, or not? If yes, then what about Protestantism, as opposed to Orthodoxy? I don’t believe u can believe in both to be correct, because of the very different beliefs they hold. U couldn’t worship in both, if u didn’t believe both to be true, could u? So which is right?

  8. In a nutshell, I think that any church that upholds the creeds and councils of the first five centuries is a true Christian church. My understanding of the eastern orthodox churches, in general, is that they do uphold those creeds and councils, so I would say that they are a true Christian church.

    Even a true church, however, could be in error about many non-essential doctrines. I would say that the Roman Catholic church is a true church which errs on some doctrines. Since eastern orthodox churches appear to hold many of the same positions as the Roman Catholic church, I would assume that they are also in error about some doctrines, although I must admit I could be wrong about that, as I have not studied the eastern orthodox church very much.

  9. So take salvation, for example. I would consider that to be a pretty essential doctrine. The SBC says salvation is by grace through faith, and is not a “lifelong process”, as the EO church would say (which has been briefly referencer in the replies on this post). Now it can’t be both ways (I.e. lifelong and not lifelong at the same time). So then, doesn’t a determination have to be made as to which is correct, so one knows whether they’re following the “correct” essential doctrine or not? So my question to you is: how do you know which is correct, since both EO and SBC would claim to be following “correct” doctrine? Its a pretty big deal that probably, in my opinion, involves more than just saying to follow councils and creeds, as you have to determine WHO is following it, don’t you?

  10. So take salvation, for example. I would consider that to be a pretty essential doctrine. The SBC says salvation is by grace through faith, and is not a “lifelong process”, as the EO church would say (which has been briefly referencer in the replies on this post). Now it can’t be both ways (I.e. lifelong and not lifelong at the same time). So then, doesn’t a determination have to be made as to which is correct, so one knows whether they’re following the “correct” essential doctrine or not? So my question to you is: how do you know which is correct, since both EO and SBC would claim to be following “correct” doctrine? Its a pretty big deal that probably, in my opinion, involves more than just saying to follow councils and creeds, as you have to determine WHO is following it, don’t you?

  11. The discussion of Salvation between a Protestant and an EO can be a tricky subject, because for the most part, I don’t think the two traditions define it, or the nature of the atonement, the same way. The model for salvation for the Orthodox is not a courtroom, it is a hosptial. They do not subscribe to the idea of substitutionary atonement. Christ’s incarnation was to unite human nature with the divine nature. It was not for the purpose of satisfying God’s wrath, allowing Him to punish somebody because He was angry.

    Sin,to the EO, is seen as something that God is seeking to heal us from. As a result, Salvation is not simply hell avoidance or a change of legal classification, i.e., being declared righteous or having righteousness imputed. Instead, it is a literal transformation of the individual and becoming one with the Holy Trinity. Salvation is a healing of the disease of sin. It is literally theosis.

    Salvation from the EO perspective has a past, present, and a future reality. There is a saying:

    “I have been saved, I am being saved, and, Lord have mercy, I will be saved at the last day.”

    Here are a couple of websites that might help.



  12. Mormons are fond of saying that either the Catholic Church is correct or the Mormon Church is correct, and that it hinges on this issue. I in a limited way agree, but only out of logical necessity. You might as well say that water is either wet or it is not.

  13. I know what the EO believe about salvation, I just don’t believe it to be correct. Thus my question to Billy, as to what to do when an essential doctrine, such as salvation, is in dispute between EO and, say, the SBC, because they both can’t be right. Billy, one of them CANT be following the original teachings as intended, because they are dramatically different, but would you call both “Christian”? Where then is your dividing line?

  14. Brad is absolutely right. I conclude that he thinks in the same way that I do so I applaud the clarity of his thought processes. 🙂

  15. (I am re-posting this as a fresh comment because the replies are getting too far to the right and are virtually unreadable)

    Mick and Brad,

    I understand where you are both coming from, and, to a certain extent, I agree with you. The only caution I would offer, which was what I was getting at in my comment to Brad, is that we have to make sure we are comparing apples to apples (which I don’t think is happening in the dichotomy Brad has set up). Most of the time, when EV’s and EO’s/RC’s talk about salvation, they are not talking about the same thing. EV’s are generally referring to one aspect of salvation – Justification. However, EO’s (and Catholics from what I understand) are not simply referring to that aspect of salvation. Instead, they are focusing on the whole process – what Protestants sometimes refer to as Regeneration, Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification. This salvation process to Protestants also has a lifelong aspect to it – Sanctification is something that takes place over time and Glorification is something that will come in the future. So, it is not incorrect to say that the Salvation process to the Protestant has past, present, and future aspects as well. The breakdown in conversation between the EO/RC and the Protestant really occurs when comparing the overall process of salvation (as RC/EO’s often do) with the concept of Justification (from the Protestant perspective). Another aspect that can complicate the conversation is the idea of “once saved/always saved.” Not all Protestants hold to this, but to those who do, it can further complicate the picture. Obviously, there is much more to this (the hospital model as compared to the Juridical model), but I just want to make sure we are talking about the same thing – I don’t think we are.

  16. I don’t think Brad is setting up a dichotomy. It seems to me that Brad has an understanding of salvation and he’s pointing out to Bill (Billy?) that his (Brad’s) understanding of salvation is very different from the Eastern Orthodox understanding. I declare that I am an Eastern Orthodox Christian. My jurisdiction is the Orthodox Church in America. This means that Brad and I have opposing beliefs here. So Brad cannot in conscience declare that he is Orthodox and I cannot in conscience declare that I am heterodox. Brad and I both clearly see that we disagree and openly acknowledge that this is so.

    But Bill not only continually uses the word “Christianity” in his writing without ever defining what he means by it, he has now in this thread stated that his “goal with this blog has always been to represent the views of orthodox, traditional Christianity, as defined in the creeds and councils of the first five centuries of the church.”

    What kind of smorgasbord Christianity is this, then? I guess it’s an approach Bill has made up? He’s certainly free to do so but the question Brad is asking is where is Bill’s dividing line? Does Bill agree with Brad here? Or does Bill agree with the Eastern Orthodox Church?

    Tough questions so far unanswered.

  17. Mick,

    Brad has most certainly setup a dichotomy.

    di·chot·o·my: A division or contrast between two things that are or are represented as being opposed or entirely different.

    He is contrasting the EO concept of salvation with the SBC Concept of salvation. Don’t get me wrong – I am not saying that it is a false dichotomy. All I am saying is that we need to make sure we define what we are talking about. I often find that this contrast is actually between Justification, which is only PART of the salvation process as defined by the SBC, with the entire Salvation process as layed out by the EO. That is an inaccurate comparison. If we are going to talk about the salvation process, and contrast and compare the EO idea with the SBC idea, we need to make sure we are talking about the entire process as layed out by the SBC. When we do that, we will still find differences, but they are not as dramatic.

    That’s my two cents worth! And that, plus $5.00, will get you a small coffee at Starbucks!

    As for Billy’s opinion… well, we will have to wait to hear from him.

  18. Brad,
    The understanding of how exactly Christ’s death and resurrection heals the rift between God and man is not, in my opinion, an essential doctrine. It is not mentioned in the early creeds and councils and is still debated heavily among Protestants even today. I believe that the Reformers’ understanding of the atonement as legal and substitutionary makes a lot of sense and I would agree with them. I would not say that someone who does not agree with legal, substitutionary atonement is not Christian. As long as they believe that Christ had to die and be raised for man and God to be reconciled, we are on common Christian ground.

  19. Bill, please,
    A straight answer to a straight question.
    Is salvation a process or an event?

  20. Mick,

    While I was LDS, I heard this comment a few times. Generally, the lay people who offer it are not even aware of the Eastern Orthodox or Oriental Orthodox. It is just a flippant comment that is used to reinforce how the LDS Church has to be true (since the Catholic Church just can’t be true – in their mindset that is).

    Interestingly enough, LDS Scholars who are knowledgeable of the EO Church have attempted to use their teachings to reinforce some LDS Doctrines, e.g., theosis. They have researched the history of the Church and use some of the writings of the ante-nicene Fathers in an attempt to justify LDS theosis. The only problem is, and this has been addressed by EO writers, they are not talking about the same thing. They selectively mine for quotes and teachings, but then take them out of context and use them to justify a heresy – not unlike what has happened in Christianity since the beginning. Can anyone say Arius????

  21. I think this is a rather prudent way of putting things: atonement is not a theory but an event. The patristic period has a variety of what one might call metaphors for understanding this. Two books that may be of interest are the Patristic Doctrine of Redemption by Turner and Christus Victor by Aulen. Yes, Aulen’s book is an oversimplification but well worth reading.

    I disagree with your overall point about the creeds and councils: it is really an anachronism to try to read Chalecdon without understanding the concept of theosis and especially the theology of the Incarnation in Cyril and the Cappadocians. In particular, the doctrine of theosis is inescapable in the Christological statement of the Council. Of course the same ideas are present in Irenaeus and Athanasius, and wind up latent in the Nicaean creed, etc. Similarly, you really can’t understand the Only Begotten from the Justinian era without a grasp of Christus Victor. In fact, I’m trying to think of something that relates to atonement in the early creeds where the statement implicitly accommodates penal substitutionary atonement and I can’t off the top of my head.

    There are some serious difficulties maintaining the penal substitution view if you really care about the teachings of the Church in the first 5 centuries – first, penal substitution is essentially absent from the early Christian literature, apologetics, or theology, and to the extent that one finds embryonic expression of something that might be understood in this way, it still doesn’t get anywhere close to a transactional, point in time soteriology. That very much raises the question as to whether the post-Reformation Evangelical movement is preaching the Gospel expounded in the Scriptures and preached by the Apostles. As much as I’d like to say yes, I’ve become personally convinced it does not.

    Of course this is just my opinion and worth what you paid for it in and of itself – not trying to start a debate. Perhaps the referenced texts will be helpful for your readers.

  22. Mick,

    Would you say that from the EO perspective, salvation could be described as both an event (we enter into a relationship with God based upon our faith) and a process (we must continue in that relationship, working out our salvation with fear and trambling)?

    Based on my reading and discussion, I would think that is an accurate way to describe it. Even the mantra, “I have been saved, I’m being saved, and, Lord have mercy, I will be saved at the last day.” carries an implication of it being both and event and a process.

    Matthew Gallatin did a podcast that illustrates, in my mind, this idea. He used the story of Abraham as as a backdrop to describe the salvation process. Abraham’s initial decleration of belief caused him to enter into a relationship with God (he entered into salvation). This is a type of our entering into a relationship with God through expressing faith in Christ. However, as James tells us, Abraham’s faith was perfected based upon action that he later took (many, many years later) when he was willing to offer his son on the altar. This is a type of the process we must go through while walking in a relationship with Christ. Matthew said that one of the mistakes he thinks many people make is describing salvation as a “thing” that we receive (either at a point in time or at some future date after completeing a process). Instead, he says salvation is a relationship that we walk in with Christ. Thus, in my mind, it does have an event aspect to it (we enter into that relationship at some point in time), but also has a process aspect to it (we must walk with Christ throughout our life).

  23. Stranger,

    Thank you for the book recommendations. I have been reading some of the Patristics (really just started in the last few months). Athanasius’ “On the Incarnation” was wonderful, and, you are correct, in that there was not even a hint of Penal Substitutionary Atonement in it.

  24. On the Incarnation is really foundational, I wish everyone interested in Christianity started with it as a theological reflection on Christ. If I may be so bold as to suggest another book, heavily centered on the theology of Irenaeus, that you may find very useful – Fr. John Behr’s The Mystery of Christ. Behr is really in a class by himself and his take on the idea of recapitulation in Christ is important.

    Btw, very sorry if my previous post came off negative or critical of another confession. That was not my intent.

  25. Mick,
    I think that salvation starts in a moment, when a person trusts Christ, and then continues on from there through sanctification and glorification. I hope that’s a clear answer.

  26. The only reason I can think of to include the idea of salvation being in part an event is to make it easier upon the Evangelical converts who are stuck in that mindset. I think Gallatin posits the idea of “I was saved, I am being saved, I will be saved” as does Scott Hahn who is a former Calvinist that converted to Roman Catholicism and who is hailed as a great scholar, speaker and all–round Catholic apologetics whiz kid. He and Gallatin sound very alike on this issue.

    If salvation is in any way an event, though, i.e. there was a point at which I was saved, when was it? Was it at my baptism? Or was it at my confirmation? Or was it at my chrismation? And what exactly happened at that event? Did I receive something from God? Or was there a change in my relationship with God? And if the gaining or receiving of my salvation was an event, can it be forfeited or lost? I suppose Roman Catholics can “lose their salvation” (if it’s an event) since Catholicism brings to the table the doctrine of mortal sins.

    I’m uneasy about thinking of salvation as an event – even as a partial event – for myself, at least. My religious history is a little complicated in this regard and if I were to attempt to think of salvation as an event I’d be really hard pushed to say exactly when that event occurred. It’s therefore much easier for me to think of salvation as theosis – as gradually drawing closer to God. I accept the teaching of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the disciplines and aids it provides that help me to repent. Lord have mercy.

    But for Western Non–Catholics salvation is an event – and it takes place at different times and in different ways for different people. Hence everybody has his or her own “story” or “testimony” and is able to “testify” and/or “witness.” It seems to me that if salvation is an event in the life of an individual then after it takes place all that is left for the (chosen) individual to do is to tell his or her story and witness to others – hence the emphasis on the “Great Commission” amongst people that believe in this kind of salvation. No great surprise there.

    If salvation is an event – or even in part an event – what actually happens? I guess it’s at this point that the discussion turns to the idea of “justification” or of “being justified before God.”
    What does that mean? Plenty of handy Bible verses to reference, here, but if I understand the thinking correctly it means that there has been some sort of change of status or change in the relationship between a certain individual and God. Salvation as an event is always necessarily an individual thing so it’s impossible to prove and equally impossible to state with any certainty that it’s incorrect. And since salvation as an event is always necessarily an individual thing I don’t see how whatever happened between Abraham and God – or, indeed anybody else and God – can validly be used to draw any general conclusion.

    The understanding of the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church is that salvation is a process and that the process takes place within the Church, which is the Ark of Salvation. Catholics and Orthodox Christians understand that they are saved in community. It’s within the Church community that they partake of the sacraments and work out their salvation. For them, salvation involves a gradual and far from easy process of drawing nearer to God through prayer, fasting, almsgiving, battling the passions, and partaking in the sacramental life of the Church. Western Non–Catholics would, I guess, see this kind of understanding as salvation by works.

    So it seems to me that these contrasting beliefs have significantly different impacts.

  27. Thanks for the thoughts Mick. I can understand where you are coming from. As for the “I was saved, I’m being saved, and, Lord have Mercy, I will be saved at the last day.” comment, I can’t say with whom it originated. It sounds like it has been around for a while though. I remember when Bishop Mark was here that he even referenced it during the Lenten retreat and made some comments on it. I think it certainly has a foothold in Orthodoxy.

    God Bless!


  28. Mick,
    I think there are plenty of passages in Paul’s letters that talk about salvation as justification and I think that John Calvin gave us all a lot to think about when it comes to justification.

    For me, trying to remember when I first trusted Christ is irrelevant. The question I ask myself is, “Right now, am I trusting Christ and what he did for me for my salvation?” If I can answer “yes” then I have a subjective certainty that I will spend eternity with God.

    Prayer, fasting, almsgiving – these are all things that determine my rewards right now and in heaven. As one theologian said, all our cups will be full in heaven, but some of us will hoist mugs, and others thimbles.

    This position stresses both my faith in Christ as saving me and it stresses my obedience of Christ in determining how I will enjoy the Kingdom of God.

  29. Hi Bill

    I think anyone who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ and confess that He is the Savior will be saved. As simple as that. Post that he has to live a sin free life. If a saved person sin, he need to feel sorry and ask the Lord for forgiveness, directly to HIM. In India most of the “churches” have lost its identity. The “church” does every thing that a non-Christian does. From idolatry to child-abuse. If the head of the “church” over looks such grave acts, I believe the entire “church” is to be blamed. The shepherd’s job is to look after his sheep. If they go astray then it is the shepherd’s fault.
    So I believe the so called “church” has gone too far and has become an instrument of the devil and has no connection to Christ. The truth is – many sheep would go to heaven, but seriously doubt if the shepherds would

  30. Matthew 16:18, “and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”

    And what are the gates of Hades? If they were some metaphor for the evil or forces of Satan then your point stands. When I was an Evangelical I would read this verse and had this mental image of an army of demons charging out of Hades and the church never being defeated no matter what. But that’s demonstrably not what the term Gates of Hades means. Satan is never described as being in control of Hades or having any form of power there, not even once. Instead we are informed that Jesus has the keys to Hades (Revelations 1:18), and that Satan is in charge of the world (2 Corinthians 4:4). If Jesus wanted to say that the church would never be defeated, he would have said the world would never beat the church, not Hades.

  31. Anonymous,

    I don’t view the Gates of Hades metaphorically. I view them as the literal power to keep people INSIDE Hades. These Gates were locked prior to Christ. . . mankind lacked the power to come out of Hades prior to Christ. Through His incarnation, life, death, and resurrection, He unlocked the Gates of Hades by uniting humanity to divinity, conquering death, establishing His Church, and endowing it with His power. Christ then told us these Gates would never prevail against the Church. The Church would always have the power to overcome Hades and the gates would never again hold us captive. The problem with Mormon teaching is that its doctrine of the Great Apostasy contradicts this teaching because under Mormon doctrine, there have been and are many righteous and God seeking Christians who are in Hades at this very moment for no other reason than they were born during the Apostasy. Not only have many of these people been in Hades for hundreds and hundreds of years, they will remain there unless and until their Temple Work is done. Therefore, I don’t see how one can say, under Mormon Doctrine, that the Gates of Hades – the power to keep people trapped INSIDE Hades – has not prevailed against the Church. Try telling that to the Christains suffering in Hades because they Church *failed* to remain on the earth and provide them the proper Temple Ordinances.

  32. Darrel

    I’m impressed with your argument. It’s a lot more articulate than most evangelicals I come across and it’s clear you’ve thought this through carefully. I agree entirely with your definition of what the gates of Hades represent, and I’m glad to see you’ve worked it out.

    There’s one question that came to my mind when pondering on this: Does Christs promise only apply to true Christianity, whoever that might reside with, or does it apply to heretical groups also? I submit that groups that have that have apostatized from the truth significantly can’t expect Christ’s promises to apply to them. You don’t believe that Mormons or JWs or SDAs have the ability to get their people out of Hades, and I look at Nicene Christianity the same way. So If heretical groups can’t get their people out of hades, that doesn’t compromise Christs promise in Matthew 16:18 in any way, because it was only given to true church(s) in the first place.

    So when you say that if Mormonism is true than many “righteous and God seeking Christians” are in Hades, you are quite correct. But being righteous and God-seeking isn’t the qualification for true belief- it’s having the right doctrine and authority. I am sure that there were many righteous and God-seeking Christians in groups you call heretical who you believe are now in Hades too. Many Jews who were followers of the Pharisees or Sadducees in Jesus say were righteous and God-seeking, but how much do you suppose that helped them when they died?

    You say that on Mormon doctrine, the power to keep people trapped inside Hades would have prevailed against the church during the Great Apostasy. If on Mormonism there was a group of true Christianity during that time that wasn’t able to get its people out of Hades, I would agree with you- but that is not what Mormonism is proposing at all. Rather, we are saying that there were no true churches who could even qualify to receive the Power Jesus promised in Matthew 16:18. In my mind, as long as any true (which for me means Mormon) church existing post resurrection has been able to get its people out of Hades when it tried (which I believe is the case), then Jesus promise that “The gates of hades will not prevail against [the church]” is fulfilled.

  33. Anonymous,

    Thanks for the compliment. Just to clarify something though. . . I am not Evangelical. I am Eastern Orthodox.

    The trouble I see with your reasoning is that it ignores the whole purpose of the Church. The Church was put on earth to SAVE.

    “For God so loved the WORLD. . .”

    “God desires ALL to be saved. . .”

    Given this, when righteous, God fearing, Jesus seeking and loving Christians are sent to Hades for 2000+ years simply because the Church FAILED at its mission and had to be taken from the earth, yes, the Gates of Hades have prevailed against the Church.

  34. Anonymous,

    Thanks for the compliment. Just to clarify something though. . . I am not Evangelical. I am Eastern Orthodox.

    The trouble I see with your reasoning is that it ignores the whole purpose of the Church. The Church was put on earth to SAVE.

    “For God so loved the WORLD. . .”

    “God desires ALL to be saved. . .”

    Over the last 2000 years, there have been plenty of people who have believed in Christ, loved Him, and sought to follow Him. Yet Mormonism would have us believe these people have suffered in Hades. The Church’s mission was to save these people from this torture, but it FAILED. In this case, the Gates of Hades
    have prevailed against the Church because the Church has been powerless to overcome Hades for these people. They have been trapped and suffering. This is completely contrary to what Christ taught and is a completely unignorable problem with LDS Theology.

  35. I’m posting at the top because my reply was to far squashed to the right.

    Darrel, I’m not sure that you’re actually dealing with the argument I made. Your reply looks to me that you’re just repeating what you said earlier without actually interacting with my claims in any way. So Instead of just repeating my opinion, how about I ask a few questions and you answer as best you can:

    1. Do you agree that Christs promise in Matthew 16:18 is his granting to the Church the power to rescue its people from Hades?

    2. Do you think it is unreasonable for me to believe that this power was never meant for heretical and apostate forms of Christianity? If so, why?

    3. Do you think it is unreasonable for me to believe that if there were a period post resurrection where there were no true non-apostate forms of Christianity, then their inability to rescue their people from hades would not necessarily be a breaking of Christs promise because it was simply never meant for them? If so, why?

    4. Given that there are no instances in the Mormon story where a true non-apostate form of Christianity existing post-resurrection was unable to get its people out of Hades, why should I think of Christs promise as a failure?

  36. Anonymous,

    I apologize if I did not make myself clearer. Let me see if I can explain better.

    The underlying assumption to each of your bullet point questions is that the reason people who lived during the Apostasy are suffering in Hades is *not* because the Church failed to remain on the earth, but is rather because the people who lived during this time were heretical. However, this begs the questions 1) That their beliefs were heretical; and 2) That if the truth WERE available to them, they would not have accepted it. In addition, it ignores one of Mormonism’s central teachings, i.e., that the Keys to the Kingdom of God are given to the Church and are dispensed through proper ORDINANCES that were unavailable for these people.

    In Mormonism, the key to avoiding Hades is not necessarily 100% right belief. Truth be told, Mormonism is a fairly non-dogmatic belief system. Looking at the baptismal interview questions and the Temple Recommend Questions we can see that they don’t cover a wide range of dogmatic beliefs. Instead, they are more centered around acceptance of Christ as Savior, righteous living, acceptance of the truth of the Restoration, and acceptance of Church Authority. . . the goal being to get people to follow Christ, live a righteous life, accept Church authority, and then get into the Temple to receive the proper *ORDINANCES* necessary for salvation. This is what salvation in Mormonism entails: Accepting Christ, living a righteous life, accepting Church authority, and having the correct Ordinances performed.

    Looking at each of these points and applying them to the Apostasy, we can see that it would be quite arrogant, and in reality impossible, to say that no one living during the apostasy accepted Christ and tried to follow Him by living a righteous life. There is absolutely NO way to say this. In addition, it would be the epitomy of Begging-the-Question to say that no one during the apostasy would have accepted Church authority and had the necessary Ordinances performed had they been available to them.

    So, what does that leave? Why are these people in Hades? Well, the only reason that is left is that they are in Hades because the Church FAILED to remain on the earth. Because of its failure the authority was not there for these people to accept and the Ordinances necessary for Salvation were unavailable. Therefore, it is quite correct to say that the Gates of Hades have prevailed against the Church, because they have kept God fearing, Christ loving and seeking Christians in Hades for hundreds and hundreds of years for no other reason than the fact that the Church failed at its mission.

    God bless!

  37. Darrel
    I’ve been a bit busy for the past week, sorry for the delay.
    Once again, I really think you’re not actually dealing with the claims I am making. It’s almost like your talking right past me. You certainly didn’t answer my questions I put to you.

    The claim you spend most of your post developing
    “it would be the epitomy of Begging-the-Question to say that no one during the apostasy would have accepted Church authority and had the necessary Ordinances performed had they been available to them.”
    Is something I completely agree with and not something I have ever tried to dispute with you.
    “Therefore, it is quite correct to say that the Gates of Hades have prevailed against the Church, because they have kept God fearing, Christ loving and seeking Christians in Hades for hundreds and hundreds of years for no other reason than the fact that the Church failed at its mission.”

    I do believe that God fearing, Christ loving and seeking Christians have been stuck in hades because they believed in a heretical form of Christianity for no other reason than the church failed. How on earth you can interpret this as a failure of Christ’s promise that any TRUE, NON-APOSTATE form of Christianity will always be able to get its people out of Hades is beyond me.

    So if you don’t mind, perhaps you could try again and actually deal with my claims rather than reinforcing claims you made that I’ve never disputed with you. If you could please answer the questions I put to you before

    2. Do you think it is unreasonable for me to believe that this power was never meant for heretical and apostate forms of Christianity? If so, why?

    3. Do you think it is unreasonable for me to believe that if there were a period post resurrection where there were no true non-apostate forms of Christianity, then their inability to rescue their people from Hades would not necessarily be a breaking of Christs promise because it was simply never meant for them? If so, why?

  38. Anonymous,

    I’m sorry if you think I am talking past you, but, I’m not. My comments deal directly with the underlying *assumption* that your questions make, i.e., that the reason the people who are suffering in Hades are there is because they believed in a heretical form of Christianity. However, as I have pointed out, and you have failed to address, that simply cannot be presumed to be true. The more correct way to view this is that the reason people are suffering in Hades is BECAUSE THE CHURCH FAILED TO REMAIN ON THE EARTH AND TO PROVIDE THE PROPER POWER/ORDINACES TO PEOPLE WHO WOULD OTHERWISE HAVE ACCEPTED THEM. In other words, the Church failed in its mission. No matter how much you try to make it *the heretics fault*, it isn’t. It’s the Church’s fault.

    To answer your questions directly:

    1) Yes
    2) No

    3) I think it is incorrect to presume the truth of your “if” statement, so *that* is what my entire response to you is dealing with. As I have pointed out, *if* there are no true forms of Christianity on the earth with the power to save those who desire to follow Christ from entering into and suffering in Hades, *then* the Church has failed in it’s mission and has violated Christ’s promise. Given this fact, everything that follows from the “if” proposition is meaningless. Going further in the hypothetical proposal doesn’t make sense. I can ask all kinds of insane “if” statements, but if the “if condition” is ludicrous, they don’t much matter.

    4) See 3

    God bless!


  39. Darrell:

    To say there was no Apostasy implies that God intended for the “Apostolic Age” to be as short-lived as it was. Yet this goes against every grain of logic in my brain. Paul in Ephesians taught that the church was built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets, with Christ as the cornerstone, in order to keep members from being “carried about by every wind of doctrine”. Man’s tendency to deviate from the path of truth is exactly why God’s pattern throughout history has been to reveal his will and doctrine through prophets–as seen in the Bible. When there weren’t prophets on the earth, it was because the people had rejected (and often killed) them. To say humans can successfully “go it alone”, and keep the doctrine pure and uncorrupted, gives them WAY too much credit–as proven by the way doctrine changes when no prophet was around. Think about how quickly the Israelites turned to idol worship after Moses was away for a bit. Think about the confused and divided state of the Jews during Jesus’ earthly ministry, considering there had been no known prophet since Malachi 400 years prior. So it’s not strange at all that doctrines like Mary veneration and transubstantiation crept into the church so quickly, it’s the nature of fallen man.

    Mattias was chosen by revelation to replace Judas because the foundation was supposed to continue. Other new Apostles, like Paul, are also mentioned. But the NT also clearly shows that Satan was staging an offense from both within and without the church, and because enough people heeded him, he was extremely successful. The Epistles portray the Apostles working overtime to keep false doctrine out of the church, the gravity of which really hits home in Acts 20:29 where Paul prophesies that grievous wolves would enter in, “not sparing the flock”. The intensity of the persecution from outside the church is portrayed by how Peter, Paul, and others were constantly fleeing for their lives. And we know they were all eventually killed or banished. I assure you none of this was God’s will. God’s will was to continue the firm foundation through Apostolic succession, but he was bound as always to honor man’s gift of free agency.

    Even though the foundation of the church had collapsed, there were obviously still good people on the earth. Your claim that such will suffer in hell until their vicarious ordinances are complete is not correct. D&C 19 teaches that Jesus suffered for all that “they might not suffer if they would repent.” But those who don’t accept his sacrifice must suffer for their own sins. The same section, however, says their suffering is finite, i.e. they suffer for the sins they committed and no more. The mainstream Christian doctrine (formed during the Apostasy) that the “unsaved”, whether they sinned a little or a lot, suffer in the flames of hell for all eternity is unfathomably ridiculous, and would be the absolute antithesis of justice. So those who lived during the apostasy who made the effort to be good and repent will obviously suffer very little if at all, and once they receive the gospel we know they are filled with joy and the anticipation of receiving their saving ordinances. I might add that without the Mormon doctrine of salvation of the dead there is no justice because it would mean God didn’t give all his children the same chance at salvation. And this doctrine is Biblical! Peter once mentions baptism for the dead, and twice mentions that Jesus preached to the spirits in prison. Do you really think Joseph Smith could have randomly come up with such an indispensable and beautiful doctrine, then it just happens to be supported by the Bible?

    If history has proven anything, it’s that man can’t agree on how to interpret the Bible. Catholics debated it in their councils regarding God’s nature, etc, yet as is typical of a bunch of humans with different opinions that try to reach a consensus, they got so mired in semantics that the end result was often undecipherable–such as the wording of the Trinity doctrine. Disagreements on the minutiae of the wording of such creeds was a major factor in the 2 Catholic schisms. Is this God’s method of establishing true doctrine, as taught in the Bible? Is it even minutely possible to arrive at pure, unadulterated truth this way? And we can’t say that they used revelation because as per catholic.com, “public revelation”, or revelation for the entire church body, ceased with the Apostles.

    Contrast that with Joseph Smith’s first vision–in an instant all the rhetoric became meaningless when Joseph learned for himself that God wasn’t a formless spirit, but our true Father who formed us in his image. Later revelations truly put the puzzle pieces together. He learned that questions like how to be saved, what to do about original sin, etc were the WRONG questions–the right question was “what is the purpose of our life on earth?” The answer was that our true purpose here was simply to learn and grow. Other churches may say “we believe that learning is important too” but at the same time they say the Fall was not part of God’s plan. But think about it–how much would we really learn about choosing good over evil without the opposition brought on by the Fall? It would be like trying to build muscle without resistance. Think about how much you have learned while navigating your fallen self in a fallen world. And the inconceivable notion that God is punishing us for no other reason than that Adam and Eve sinned, again calls his justice strongly into question.

    Thanks to Joseph Smith we know that the concept of God as our Father is not just allegorical but literal–we truly are all part of the same heavenly family. As such, God is not made of some incomprehensible physical “substance” or “essence” that he somehow mysteriously shares with Jesus. Rather as his offspring we are made of the same substance (Acts 17:19), and when we gain immortal bodies as Jesus did through the resurrection we will be the same physically (and no need for the incomprehensible doctrine of hypostatic union–turns out Christ doesn’t have to walk around with two natures). We also know that “the glory of God is intelligence, in other words, light and truth”, and that as his children we are his heirs and co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16-17). So how do we inherit his glory? Through learning! Both here on earth, then if we gain our exaltation we will continue to learn and progress together as families in heaven. Is it that hard to fathom that we can learn all there is to learn? On the contrary, when you consider the idea of living in God’s presence, and the endlessness of eternity, it’s unfathomable to think that it wouldn’t happen.

    Do you think it’s a coincidence that the same guy who claimed to be called as a prophet of God to restore the fullness of the Gospel is the same guy who actually made sense of Christianity, providing a meaning and purpose for all our earthly trials and experiences? Of course in the context of many doctrines and traditions that became so deeply entrenched during the Apostasy, they sound weird and heretical. But if you can accept that the Apostasy was a reality, you can start fresh–and with the help of the spirit, you can find out for yourself that it is true–as I most certainly did.

  40. Drew,

    Thanks for your comments. Lots to respond to, but for purpose of brevity, I am going to stick to just a couple of things for now.

    First, I think you may be misunderstanding Apostolic Age/Authority from an Eastern Orthodox perspective. Contrary to your claim, we don’t believe that Apostolic Authority died with the original 12 Apostles. From our perspective, the Apostles gave authority to the Presbytery, and it is the Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, together as Conciliar Bodies, who stand in place of the Apostles to this day. This understanding is not new. In fact, it was shared by Saint Igantius in 105 AD. Ignatius was a disciple of the Apostle John and sat at his feet, learning directly from him.

    “And do reverence them [Deacons] as Christ Jesus, of whose place they are the keepers, even as the bishop is the representative of the Father of all things, and the presbyters are the sanhedrin of God, and assembly of the apostles of Christ.” – Epistle to the Trallians, Chapter 2, Circa 105 AD

    “See that ye follow the bishop, even as Christ Jesus does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles.” — Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, Chapter 8, Circa 105 AD

    Given this understanding, it is incorrect to say that Apostolic Authority was lost and the Church was left to “go it alone.”

    Second, I am curious as to your understanding of what the word “substance” means. Would you mind sharing that? The reason I ask is that you claim that we believe the Father and Son to be one “uncomprehensible physical substance.”

    Those are good places for a discussion to start.

    I look forward to chatting with you.

    Have a blessed day!


  41. Darrell:
    Thanks for your reply. What I was referring to when I said that man was left to “go it alone”, was revelation for the body of the church–which as taught by most of the Christian world, ceased with the apostles. While I agree this did happen, I definitely don’t agree that it was God’s will. If revelation were meant to be “complete”, why did God continuously call prophets throughout the entire span of the Bible era? Did they need it more than we do? If revelation were meant to stop, why didn’t God just reveal the Gospel to a prophet at the beginning of humanity, then call it good? The reason why he didn’t do it that way is because he knew that without a continued stream of revelation, humans stray. Their philosophies and ideas inevitably get mixed in with the truths of the Gospel. The written word gets misinterpreted, with people emphasizing scriptures that best match their views. Another reason why continued revelation is needed is because people and situations change. For example, the law of Moses was only meant for a certain people at a certain time. The situation now in the last days is very different, and revelation is needed now more than ever.

    Bishops were a part of the church in the NT times too, and they held the keys and inspiration to shepherd the smaller subsets of members they were called to preside over. The Apostles, on the other hand, held the keys to preside over and receive revelation for the entire church. If an Apostle passed his authority to a Bishop, that person would then be an Apostle. Peter became the rock, or leader of the church, when Jesus bestowed the keys of the kingdom upon him (Matt 16:18). If he had passed those keys on to someone else before he was martyred, that person would have been the new “rock”. Jesus obviously set up this order in the church for a reason.

    It was in similar orderly fashion that Matthias was chosen by revelation to replace Judas and to receive the keys to act as the new Apostle (Acts 1:15-26). For hypothetical purposes let’s say that the Apostles weren’t mercilessly hunted down and destroyed. In such a case there is absolutely every reason to believe that the Apostles would have continued this same method of replacement each time an Apostle died (or fell due to transgression like in Judas’ case). But the reality of it was that the persecution only intensified; and as the Apostles were imprisoned, killed, or banished, it became impossible to choose and ordain successors to the apostleship.

    Satan knew he could do the most damage by targeting Peter and the Apostles because killing them would destroy the foundation (Eph 2:19-20). After they were gone, Bishops and other leaders would have done their best to carry on–but without revelation and the power to bind in heaven what was bound on earth, it was only a matter of time. Knowing that false doctrine was already beating at the doors, the crumbling of the foundation of Apostles and Prophets allowed those winds of corrupt doctrine (Eph 4:11-14) to infiltrate the structure.

    And it didn’t take long–for example the Didache (written somewhere around the 1st or 2nd century) states that baptism could be performed by sprinkling if there wasn’t enough water–thus beginning the destruction of the beautiful symbolism of being buried with Christ by baptism into death, that as he rose from the dead we too “should walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4, Col 2:12). If there was no sufficient body of water at the moment, Baptism could wait until one was available! Otherwise it becomes something other than baptism (Greek for immersion). The sublime symbolism of the Last Supper also suffered a mighty blow the first time someone decided to take literally scriptures like “take; eat, this is my body”, and “drink ye all of it…for this is my blood..”. The true purpose of the sacrament (as we call it) is to remember Christ’s sacrifice, and within that context to take stock of our lives and renew our covenant to follow him. For this ordinance to help us grow and learn (our real purpose for experiencing mortality), there is absolutely no need for transubstantiation!

    Another doctrine that suffered in the absence of revelation was the nature of God. We all know that following the death of the Apostles, various theories cropped up on God’s nature. Each theory had scriptures to back it up, and each seemed to contradict other scriptures–which is exactly why scripture is not up to “private interpretation” (1 Peter 1:20). The concept that eventually won out was the Trinity, which is said to be a mystery that must be taken on faith–which I would be fully willing to do if it came directly from a prophet or apostle. But we know it came from a group of men who could only resort to discussion and debate because revelation for the body of the church had ceased long ago. To me, the resulting doctrine comes across as an attempt to use semantics to reconcile the existence of three divine beings without losing the status of “monotheistic”. Did the Apostles have this hangup about monotheism? Scriptures like 1 Cor 8:5-6, 1 Tim 2:5, John 17:3, Eph 4:5-6 show they didn’t, because each mentions “one God”, then separately references one Lord, or mediator. So Christ clearly wasn’t included in the term “one God”. If they believed in the Trinity, they would have said something like “there is one God– God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit”. Yes Christ was divine, but no he doesn’t form part of the “one God the Father”–which references the fact that we have ONE Father in Heaven, and only to him do we pray (and no need to pray to intercessors, which only detracts from our relationship with our Father). The Father’s oneness with the Son was clearly a unity of purpose (John 17). My reference to “substance” was a result of various explanations I had read on the Trinity that said their oneness was based on a shared divine substance, or essence. So clearly (or not so clearly) it is this different substance that sets them apart from us, and makes them “one”–although the Bible never mentions a thing about substance. It does, however reference God’s knowledge many, many, times–which we believe is the true essence behind his divine glory. REALLY sorry about the length…thanks

  42. Darrell,
    I find you statements about your experience with the Lds Church, and your interet in the Eastern Orthodox faith interesting. I have a somewhat familiar experience. Can you please send me a private email so we can have an “offline” discussion?

  43. Drew,
    Thanks for getting back to me. Sorry it took me so long to respond. I have been very busy at work and have actually cut back on my blogging and Facebooking quite a bit.

    It appears that most of your points stem from your understanding that the Church “fell away”, which was really the entire point of my original post. I believe this is a presupposition that is without foundation and in utter contradiction to Christ’s words.

    Given this, your points, from my perspective, are pretty much moot. I believe that Christ’s promise stands. . . the Church has never fallen away and, as a result, man has never been left to “go it alone”. The theology as codified by the Church in, among many other things, the Seven Ecumenical Councils *are* the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This direction and guidance is given to us to reject or to follow. . . the choice is ours.

    Thanks for addressing my question about your understanding of “substance”, but I am curious, what do you understand this to “mean”? When the Nicene Fathers said Christ is “of one essence/susbtance with the Father” what do you believe they “meant”? You obviously reject it, so given your rejection, I assume you understand what they meant. You wouldn’t reject something offhanded without understanding what it is you are rejecting.

  44. Darrell:
    My whole point has been that the only way to keep doctrine stable and unshifting is through continued revelation. This is the key to the “rock” symbolism in the New Testament, which includes your Matt 16:18 reference. Think of the rock foundation of prophets and apostles (Ephesians 2 and 4), with Christ as the “cornerstone”—which through revelation, keeps man from being “carried about by every wind of doctrine”. Think of the man who built his house upon a rock, which didn’t wash away in the storms because it was built on this foundation. Think of Peter getting a name that meant “rock”–not because he was a particularly stable man (he often behaved to the contrary), but because he was chosen as the key receiver of revelation, through whom Christ would lead the church. Without this foundation of revelation, the “gates of hell” can certainly prevail.

    So why didn’t God thwart the opposition against the church and protect this foundation he had built, allowing the continued apostolic succession that had started with Matthias, Paul, and others? The answer is free agency–which,
    coupled with a mortal body, is essential to our learning and development here on earth. If God forced us to choose the right he would be defeating the purpose of our earthly sojourn because he knows we don’t learn through force. He allows the people to choose to accept gifts like revelation. If they choose to kill the prophets and apostles, God waits until the world is again ready, then restores the gospel again–as had occurred in other prior dispensations when the people rejected and/or killed the prophets. In our dispensation it took a nation founded on religious freedom to finally provide fertile ground in which to plant the seed of restored truth. Any other time or place and the seed would not have survived, let alone flourish. It’s no coincidence that the restoration started a few decades after the birth of our nation.

    The mainstream Christian belief is that revelation ceased because it was “complete”. But it’s way too convenient to say that revelation’s planned “completion” just happened to coincide with the time the apostles were falling to their attackers. And why would God suddenly decide to change the pattern he had followed since the dawn of man? And could he have chosen a worse time to declare revelation complete, when the church was in a crisis of impending apostasy, which the apostles were working night and day to thwart?
    There are many scriptures pointing to this. First is 2 Thes 2:3, in which Paul dispels an apostate belief among the Thessalonians that the return of Christ was “at hand”. He wrote, “let no man deceive you, for that day shall not come except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.” Paul knew there would be a falling away, and his writings confirm that it was already occurring. Take Acts 20:29-30, where Paul warns that wolves would enter in, “not sparing the flock”, and that “men would arise, speaking perverse things”. This was a major crisis–one that was grave enough that for three years Paul warned of it “every night and day with tears” (v 31). How about 2 Tim 4:2-4, where Paul counsels
    Timothy to focus on preaching because the time would come when “they will not endure sound doctrine…and they shall turn away their ears from the truth”. Or 2 Tim 1:15 where Paul says “all they in Asia be turned away from me.” Or Galatians 1:6-7 where Paul says “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ, unto another gospel.” To deny that the apostles were facing a real threat of apostasy is to deny one of the running themes of the New Testament.

    You asked what I thought the Nicene fathers meant by Christ and the Father being of one substance/essence. My answer is that because the whole discussion on substance started up long after revelation had ceased, I steer clear of it. The Christian Fathers were clearly wise, but it’s no secret that they often differed greatly in their views, which is why they had to debate in councils in order to establish doctrine. I was struck by something I read last week by Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky, who expressed the Eastern Orthodox view that the Church Fathers don’t always have to agree with each other—rather the doctrine is
    determined by a consensus of what they DO agree on. This is exactly the kind of shaky ground one would expect in the absence of the rock of revelation. Clearly the Fathers were doing their best with what they had, but their writings show that their interpretation of Christian doctrine and scripture was
    influenced by philosophies of man. Doctrines involving the “substance” question led to some of the most heated debates, which didn’t always end in consensus but rather schism.

    Centuries later, the Reformers did their best to correct the errors that had resulted from
    those earlier councils. And maybe to a certain extent they were inspired to stir up the winds of change that would set the stage for a future restoration, but it wasn’t yet time. The lack of revelation in the Reformation was evident in their inability to agree on Bible interpretation, also the fact that they retained many of the doctrines that had been formed in the same councils that established the doctrines they rejected. Other groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses saw the need for a restoration, rejecting all the doctrinal baggage of the existing Christian churches and “letting the Bible speak for itself”. However by their own
    admission they weren’t called as prophets to restore the gospel so once again the
    result is an imperfect Bible interpretation by imperfect mortals.

    So history has proven time and again that in the absence of the rock of revelation, doctrine shifts. This is a result of the “flesh and blood” that Christ contrasted with revelation in Matt 16:17, which led up to his rock analogy in verse 18. It is my testimony that God has again rebuilt the foundation of prophets and apostles, restoring the fullness of the gospel. You mentioned that you left the church because of its history—but history is always messy, because mortality is messy! The important thing is that the true gospel remained firm on its foundation despite the violent storms of opposition from within and without. It’s easy to get hung up on history if the big picture of the gospel isn’t grasped. But once it clicks (as it eventually did for me), history becomes a tiny little anthill compared to a Mount Everest of truth. It’s a silly analogy, but those who gravitate to the anthill will be too distracted by what is crawling up their legs to notice the grandeur of the mountain before them 🙂

  45. Darrell:
    your question to me on substance prompted me to dig deeper into the topic. But looking up the key words, what stood out most was that it kept leading me back to Greek philosophy. From what I read, the EOC and other Christian apologists
    acknowledged the big influence these philosophies had on the Fathers’ thinking, but claimed that they were able to “rebuild solidarity through the Councils”. Despite that claim, the creeds openly use Greek philosophical terms like hypostasis, homoousios, and ousia to define the Trinity, Christology, etc. Even “substance” and “essence” themselves were Greek metaphysical topics. Apologists claim that the meanings of such words evolved or were adapted for Christian use, but many definitions remained largely the same—for example Neoplatonists defined “hypostasis” as an “underlying substance” that can be shared between beings, or entities. This sounds just like the Trinity doctrine, yet there is no dispute that “hypostasis” originated in pagan philosophy. For the Fathers to think they could somehow adapt these philosophical terms to Christianity without corrupting doctrine was a huge delusion. We know that many Christians were
    uncomfortable with this marriage of religion and philosophy; but in the absence of a prophet, the “consensus” would have swayed to the side of those with the most influence and eloquence. One thing I can say for sure is that if the foundation of apostles and prophets had continued, metaphysical philosophy would NEVER have infiltrated Christian doctrine in any way. The fact that it did can only be a fulfillment of Paul’s prophetic warning to Timothy (2 Tim 4:2-4)—“they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers (philosophers?), having itching ears…and they shall turn away their ears from the truth…”

    It’s the end result of this shifting doctrine that is most frustrating. The notion of a Heavenly Father, the “father of our spirits” (Heb 12:9) who created us in his image, was replaced by a formless, immaterial God (Plato’s dualism dictated
    that matter is evil and spirit is good) whose nature and image was nothing like ours. At some point it no longer made sense that Christ was resurrected—since how could a divine member of the Trinity have a material body? So they had to devise the un-Biblical doctrine of the “hypostatic” union that defined a Christ with both a divine and a human nature. Suddenly Christ’s resurrection was no longer a triumph over death (Rom 6:8-9), but a metaphysical union of the immaterial divine with the human that allowed him to “empathize” with humans. This would make the purpose and nature of our resurrection something entirely distinct from Christ’s, despite verses like 1 Cor 15:20-23 that indicate our resurrection is the same as Christ’s.

    These ideas became so deeply ingrained over the centuries (spilling over into Protestantism) that when the true nature of God was restored by revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith, it seemed foreign and heretical. In light of the facts, isn’t it just so ironic that it’s why we’re labeled non-Christian? Especially since it makes infinitely more sense? Isn’t it so much more logical, and frankly a relief to be able to say that Christ’s resurrection was simply a reunion of his spirit and body, making him an immortal physical being like his Father (which would explain how in Acts 7:55, Stephen saw Jesus standing on the right hand of the Father)? And by accomplishing this, he paved the way for us to fulfill the exact same destiny. “(He) shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body” (Phil 3:21). Isn’t it so much simpler to say that as offspring (Acts 17:28-29) of our Heavenly Father, we are truly (not allegorically) part of the same heavenly family? “And as children, then heirs, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Rom 8:17). As Christ himself said, “…but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God” (John 20:17). The father-son relationship of God the Father and Jesus Christ is one of the most profound themes of the New Testament, but in the face of entirely unnecessary metaphysical debates on who was co-eternal, who proceeded from whom, who shared substance with whom (debates that led to massive schisms), the real meaning and beauty is spoiled.

    Darrel you said in one of your posts that you thought the EOC was the “closest” to the original Christianity. This to me sounds like you acknowledge that doctrine changed, so you settled for “close” instead of absolute truth. To me that’s
    like accepting that 2+2 could equal something close to 4. I testify to you that an absolute truth does exist like it did in Christ’s time and in other prior dispensations, because when built upon Christ’s rock foundation of revelation there is no error or shifting over time. To say revelation through Prophets/Apostles is essential to the true church is a foregone conclusion. If Christians followed the Biblical pattern they would be seeking a prophet, however we know from scripture that the notion of a contemporary prophet is often too hard for mortals to accept. Christ even told us how to distinguish
    between a true and false prophet (indicating the future would include both), when he said “ye shall know them by their fruits”. Applying this formula to Joseph Smith, the odds that he could have come up with everything he did without God’s direction is unfathomable. I’m especially amazed at how the truths he learned “line upon line” over decades all fit together perfectly in the end, none of which were complete without the others. For example, early principles like God’s nature (first vision) and the necessity of the fall (2 Nephi 2) integrated perfectly with later principles like our pre-existence, eternal progression, eternal marriage, and “the glory of God is intelligence”. The best part is that a coherent gospel–one that gave a very reasonable and beautiful explanation of
    our identity, purpose, and potential–was there to be found under all the man-made innovations—thus legitimizing Christianity, and finally giving me a good reason not to settle for agnosticism.

  46. Drew,

    The reason I asked you about your understanding of “substance” and “person” is because I generally find Mormons don’t understand those terms and how they have been used in the Ancient Church’s Christology. You haven’t really shared what your understanding is, so I can’t say for sure whether you understand them correctly or not. However, some of the things you have said lead me to believe that your understanding is incorrect. In my experience, when a correct understanding of the terms is reached, most Mormons really don’t have much of an issue with them. Instead, it is the caricature propagated by the LDS Church that they really have a problem with. Unfortunately, this caricature is based more on an ancient Christian heresy known as Modalism than it is on the historic Christian understanding.

    When we say that God is “three Persons and one Essence”, we are actually saying – using the ancient terms – God is “three Hypostases” and “one Ousia”. The term Ousia has been translated into English using the terms “being”, “essence”, and “nature”. I believe the use of the term “being” leads to some confusion and misunderstanding. God being one “ousia” does *not* mean that the Holy Trinity is literally one physical or non physical being. . . as if they are a three headed dog as I have heard some LDS jokingly say. Perish the thought!

    The best way to understand the Christological use of the term “Ousia” is to consider how this term was used by the Fathers to describe Christ’s relation to humanity. When describing the Person of Christ, they said that He is one ousia (Homoousios) with the Father and the Holy Spirit as God and one ousia (Homoousios) with humanity as man. Think about that for a second. . . Christ is one “ousia” with the Father and the Spirit as God *in the exact same way* that He is one “ousia” with us (humanity) as human. That being the case, do we consider Christ to be one with us physically? Are he and we one multi-headed being? Of course not!

    So, how is He one with us? He is one with us because He shares in the *HUMAN NATURE* with us. We are human and He is human. He is fully human just like us! However, He is still a SEPARATE PERSON from each of us. This is precisely how Christ is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. He one “ousia” with the other members of the Holy Trinity in that He is *of the same nature* as them. They are God and He is God. Yet, they are three unique Persons (hypostases) just as you, me, and Christ are separate persons.

    As for your questions and comments regarding Greek Philosophy. . . I’ve had this discussion numerous times, so I understand the LDS claim. Nevertheless, I find several issues with it. First, the claim I based upon the classic use of the “genetic” fallacy, for you are claiming that ancient Christian Christology is corrupt because it is codified using terms that have Greek philosophical etymology. However, you have failed to explain precisely *why* this etymology renders their use corrupting. Furthermore, you have failed to deal with the historical fact that Christ chose to come to earth in the midst of a completely Hellenized world. Judaism had been thoroughly Hellenized since the 3rd century BC. When this fact and its full ramifications are fully engaged, Mormonism’s conspiracy theory reading of history is honestly left thoroughly wanting. Second, you have really placed your head in the proverbial sand, because you have completely ignored the philosophical basis upon which your own faith has been codified. Mormonism was born and its theology was codified based upon the philosophical foundations of scholasticism and the enlightenment. This fact shines through in many, many respects. We even see it in your very own claim that LDS theology is “logical” and “reasonable” (although, quite frankly, I completely disagree with you on both fronts). Truth be told *all* theology – no matter where or when it is codified – is based upon the prevailing philosophy of the time. Philosophy itself is not evil. . it is morally neutral. How philosophy is used is really the key. It can be used for good or bad. Which brings me to my final point. . . the real discussion that needs to be had here is not what the etymology of the terms of ones theology are, but whether or not the theology itself is true. That is why I was asking you what your UNDERSTANDING of the terms “ousia” and “hypostases” is. Unfortunately, you have really failed to engage me on this. I’d love to continue the discussion should you choose to do so.

    God bless!

  47. Darrell: Thanks for your explanation on the Trinity, it was actually clearer than many I’ve read. I agree many Mormons probably don’t understand its mechanics, sometimes confusing it with Modalism, etc. But it’s no secret that their lack of motivation to learn about the Trinity is because they doubt its origin—which I guess is the big question: did it come from Man or God? One thing I’ve noticed about the Fathers’ writings is that they often delved into doctrinal areas that went beyond what God had ever felt necessary to reveal—and WAY beyond what they could ever reasonably figure out on their own. So why couldn’t they be content with just preserving the plain truths of the gospel as taught by Christ and the Apostles? Take for instance this quote from Wikipedia: “Trinitarianism affirms that the Son is “begotten” (or “generated”) of the Father and that the Spirit “proceeds” from the Father, but the Father is “neither begotten nor proceeds”. The argument over whether the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, or from the Father and the Son, was one of the catalysts of the Great Schism.” So how did the Fathers come up with this? We know it goes beyond what the Bible teaches, and we could rule out revelation since it ceased with the Apostles–and God would never reveal conflicting data that resulted in schism. We can rule out that
    Trinitarianism was just “always there”, since it was unheard of until proposed by Tertullian in 200AD—and at the time he was considered heretical for it (and for other beliefs like traducianism). So what does that leave? Well to me it seems that the Fathers considered it their “philosophical duty” to leave no stone unturned in figuring out the mysteries of the universe. But even worse is that philosophy, especially the metaphysical approach that was popular at that time, involved a high degree of speculation—speculation that is very apparent
    in the Fathers’ writings, and explains why they so often disagreed with each other. The danger this approach poses to gospel truth is obvious, yet the following quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10226a.htm) suggests that it was key in forming doctrines like the Trinity: “Pre Christian philosophy failed to arrive at precise metaphysical determinations of the notions of substance and person. This defect was corrected in part by Origen, Clement, and Athanasius, and
    in part by their successors, the scholastics, the impulse in both cases being given to philosophical definition by the requirements of the theological speculation concerning the Blessed Trinity.” Honestly it boggles my mind that anyone would ever condone any amount of theological speculation in the development of Christian doctrine—but I guess it was all they could do since they couldn’t deny that it happened. But there is no question that it opened the doors for corruption of doctrine.

    The other factor to consider is whether or not any of the prevailing philosophies of the day steered the Fathers’ speculation in a certain direction. I’ve been reading about strong evidences of the Judeo-Christian belief in an anthropomorphic God, which is supported by the many Biblical references to God’s corporeity. This belief seemed to dwindle after the Apostles died…did philosophy influence this shift? It definitely influenced Augustine, who in Confessions Book 7 attributed his conception of God as incorporeal substance to Neoplatonism. We know it influenced Origen, as per this quote from “Homilies on Genesis”: “The Jews indeed, but also some of our own people, supposed that God should be
    understood as a man; that is, adorned with human members and human appearance.
    But the philosophers despise these stories as fabulous and formed in the likeness of poetic fictions”. The concept of an immaterial, formless God was a hallmark of Greek philosophy; the idea of a corporeal God was utterly repugnant to them. This rejection of anything material in the “metaphysical” world caused the resurrection to be one of the most hotly debated doctrines. In “On the Psalms” Augustine wrote, “Nothing has been attacked with the same pertinacious, contentious contradiction, in the Christian faith, as the resurrection of the flesh. …many Gentile philosophers have…written that the soul is immortal: when they come to the resurrection of the flesh…they most openly deny it, declaring it to be absolutely impossible that this earthly flesh can ascend to Heaven.” This attitude is apparent in the Greeks’ skeptical reaction to the resurrection doctrine in Acts 17, and is what prompted Paul’s heartfelt defense of the resurrection in 1 Cor 15. The
    anti-resurrection stance of the Sadducees and Samaritans has also been attributed to Jewish Hellenization (which you mentioned)—granted, the Jews had lost the rock of revelation centuries prior, so doctrinal corruption was to be expected. We know the debate on Christ’s resurrection was finally quelled by defining him as a metaphysical union of the divine and the human—but the great speculative leaps required to form that doctrine are evident; including the fact that disagreement on its details led to a pre-Great Schism, i.e. the
    split-off of the Oriental Orthodox church.

    There is simply too much evidence to deny that the post-Apostolic gravitation toward
    an immaterial, formless God was driven by the influence of Greek philosophy. The ONLY reason why God was forced into the immaterial “substance/essence” framework is because it was a fundamental Greek metaphysical concept (and these are far from just LDS “conspiracy theories”–I got most of my info from Wikipedia and other non-LDS websites). But once the Apostles had been martyred, they were no longer around to counter those with “itching ears” (2 Tim 4:2-4)
    who were lured by these “fables” of Hellenistic philosophy. We know that others continued the struggle against those who “having swerved…turned aside to vain jangling [(i.e. idle talk, quarreling) 1 Tim 1:6]”, but once the rock foundation had crumbled, it was only a question of time before the prophesied structural shifting would begin. Once you acknowledge that human reason and speculation introduced error, it’s not much of a leap to conclude that God’s pattern of revelation to a prophet was the only way to restore the truth. When the Father and the Son called Joseph Smith as the prophet of The Restoration, Joseph said he saw “two personages, whose light and glory defied all
    description”. They spoke to him “face to face” as God had to Jacob (Gen 32:30), and to Moses—“as a man speaketh unto his friend” (Ex 33:11). Even in the first moments of The Restoration, the darkness was beginning to dissipate.

  48. Right! There was no “Great Apostacy” and therefore no loss of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. You should join the Church Christ established! It really is as simple as that.

  49. The SBC says salvation is by grace through faith, and is not a “lifelong process”, as the EO church would say (which has been briefly referencer in the replies on this post). Now it can’t be both ways (I.e. lifelong and not lifelong at the same time).

    Of course is can, and Scripture treats it as such for those of effectual, true obedient faith, declaring Not by works of
    righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; (Titus 3:5-6)


    And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. (Romans 13:11)

    For just as a new convert is made “accepted in the Beloved,” on His account, and made “to sit with Him in heaven” (Eph. 2:6) yet he is being saved from himself practically as he lives out that saving faith, Christ working in Him to will and to do His good pleasure, and he awaits the realization of the purchased possession, that of full salvation, that of being with Christ and being made life Him.

    Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3)

  50. So then, doesn’t a determination have to be made as to which is correct, so one knows whether they’re following the “correct” essential doctrine or not?

    A fundamental question, with the answer being how did souls come to hold certain men and writings of God as being so even before their was a church, and sometimes even in dissent from those who sat in the seat of Moses?

    Seeing this is how the church began then it seems instructive for the church (which does not impugn the validity or authority of the magisterial office, but negates the the novel and unScriptural premise of ensured perpetual magisterial infallibility, which is unseen and unecessary in Scripture).

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