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Splinter Group Community of Christ Part 5

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever
The Truth Network Radio
October 2, 2020 11:59 am

Splinter Group Community of Christ Part 5

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever

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October 2, 2020 11:59 am

We are in the final week at looking at splinter groups of the “Restoration” of Joseph Smith. This is the largest of all groups (after the LDS Church), which was founded by Smith’s son Joseph III. It is based in Independence, MO and looks more like a liberal Protestant church than anything related to Mormonism. … Continue reading Splinter Group Community of Christ Part 5 →

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Viewpoint on Mormonism, the program that examines the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from a Biblical perspective. Viewpoint on Mormonism is sponsored by Mormonism Research Ministry. Since 1979, Mormonism Research Ministry has been dedicated to equipping the body of Christ with answers regarding the Christian faith in a manner that expresses gentleness and respect. And now, your host for today's Viewpoint on Mormonism. Welcome to this edition of Viewpoint on Mormonism. I'm your host, Bill McKeever, founder and director of Mormonism Research Ministry, and with me today is Eric Johnson, my colleague at MRM. The Community of Christ, formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, founded in 1860, its first president was the son of Joseph Smith, Jr., Joseph Smith III. It's the second largest splinter group within the Restoration movement. I remember we were having a tour given to us by Dwight Heath, who happened to volunteer for the Community of Christ. We were at their building right across from the ground that was dedicated for a temple by Joseph Smith. And I remember asking him the question about salvation.

What does this church believe regarding salvation? And I remember Mr. Heath's answer being quite perplexing. He said something to the effect of, oh, that's too complex. I could never explain it in this short time, which I thought, gee, I can explain what I believe regarding salvation rather quickly. I wonder why he couldn't do the same. I think you ought to be aware of anybody who says that they can't explain the way of salvation.

It's probably could be too complicated, actually. Well, when it comes to the doctrine of God, when you go to their official website, they have this statement. It says, we believe in one living God who meets us in the testimony of Israel is revealed in Jesus Christ and moves through all creation as the Holy Spirit. We affirm the Trinity God, who is the community of three persons, all things that exist. Oh, other being to God, mystery beyond understanding and love beyond imagination.

This God alone is worthy of our worship. One of the things that you're going to see is they don't have a lot of explanations on their website as far as what they do believe and what they do say they believe. I'm going to say it looks very Orthodox.

And I think you're going to see that all the way down. And if you don't know how to maybe interpret what some of the words mean, you might get really confused. Well, when this statement says we affirm the Trinity God, who is a community of three persons, I had dinner with a historian within the community of Christ.

I can't recall his name. I wish I could, but I remember him explaining to me that they do in fact believe the Trinity. And he said that that word is used purposefully and I'm, I'm not quoting him specifically, but that's what he was implying. But yet if the church understands the historical and Orthodox teaching of the Trinity, I find it odd that they don't use similar language that other Christian churches have used to describe the Trinity. Something very simple, such as one God eternally existing in three persons. This definition doesn't really tell me that they believe the Trinity as I understand the Trinity. And as I did my research, I discovered that the Trinity they believe in is more what we call modalistic, an ancient heresy that goes back to the early church where they say that God, Father is the Son is the Holy Spirit. And so I think something that we can learn about when we're talking about an issue such as God, and somebody says, I believe in the Trinity. My question immediately that comes is how do you understand that?

And allowing them to explain. And oftentimes you'll hear a definition that I just gave and I would say, well, that's not quite what the Trinity says. Sibelionism, modalism, those are considered to be heresies of what the Trinity really is. But should we be surprised if let's say a member of the community of Christ who thinks that they believe the Trinity really holds more to a modalistic understanding of the Godhead. It wouldn't shock me at all because how many times have people come to us saying, well, the Book of Mormon teaches the Trinity and they will give certain verses that I would argue sound very Trinitarian in the way it's worded. But if you look closer at what the Book of Mormon is saying, it's not really teaching the Trinity at all. It does say things like the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, which is one God.

But yet in other portions of the Book of Mormon, it gives a more modalistic understanding, which would nullify the assumption that a person might be making. We have more than a dozen articles on different issues related to the Trinity. It's called the biblical doctrine of the Trinity. I highly recommend if you're even a Christian who says, eh, that's a really confusing issue, check this out over at mrm.org slash trinity hyphen index, trinity hyphen index.

And I think there are some articles there that will explain what we're talking about, but it's a very hard issue for a lot of people to try to describe. But if they're not describing the right kind of view of the Trinity, they're not describing the Trinity at all. When it comes to what their website says regarding Jesus Christ, and as you pointed out, some of the things they say sound pretty orthodox based on what they're actually saying, although I think sometimes they're not saying enough to give me a more clear understanding. But on their website, it says, we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, the Word made flesh, the Savior of the world, fully human and fully divine. Now, if a Latter-day Saint was to say this to me, I would probably have them define what they mean by the Son of the living God, because in the LDS Church, they believe that quite literally, that God the Father is the physical Father of the incarnated Jesus Christ. The community of Christ does not hold to that position. But you wouldn't know that just reading this short paragraph.

That's the point I'm trying to make. When it says fully human and fully divine, that's good. Sounds like it comes right out of Philippians chapter two. Yeah, that we call that the hypostatic union, 100% God, 100% man.

So again, sounding good on paper. This paragraph goes on to say, through Jesus's life and ministry, death and resurrection, God reconciles the world and breaks down the walls that divide. Christ is our peace. Now, it's emphasizing the resurrection of Christ. I don't know for sure if they're emphasizing a bodily resurrection from just this paragraph.

If that's the position they hold, I'm going to have to look elsewhere. You would think they could have thrown that in there, if that's what the Church holds to. But then when it comes to the Holy Spirit, what does it say there? We believe in the Holy Spirit, giver of life, holy wisdom, true God. The Spirit moves through and sustains creation, endows the Church for mission, frees the world from sin, injustice and death, and transforms disciples.

Wherever we find love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control, that comes from Galatians chapter five, there the Holy Spirit is working. Now when it comes to sin, and of course that's an important doctrine as well when it comes to the doctrines of the historic Christian Church, according to the Community of Christ website it says, God created us to be agents of love and goodness, yet we misuse our agency individually and collectively. We take the gifts of creation and of self and turn them against God's purposes with tragic results. Sin is the universal condition of separation and alienation from God and one another.

We are in need of divine grace that alone reconciles us with God and one another. Now it would seem from that paragraph that they are believing in a very orthodox teaching that we are justified by faith alone, that it's by God's grace that we are saved. But yet it also teaches that there must be good works as far as where you are going to be assigned in the next life. They hold the three different levels of heaven, but they're not defined the same way as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

And not everybody believes that, because we talked to a local minister and he says, well for me I don't accept three levels. And so again, you're free to believe whatever it is you want to believe, and as far as your interpretation goes, this is what they write about salvation. The gospel is the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. Forgiveness of sin and healing from separation, brokenness, and the power of violence and death.

This healing is for individuals, human societies, and all of creation. This new life is the loving gift of God's grace that becomes ours through faith and repentance. Baptism is how we initially express our commitment to lifelong discipleship. As we yield our lives to Christ and baptism, we enter Christian community, the body of Christ, and have the promise of salvation. We experience salvation through Jesus Christ, but affirm that God's grace has no bounds, and God's love is greater than we can know. As I studied this religion, though, it seems like it's based on goodness.

It comes down to how good you really are. So while they talk about grace, and while the words seem to be very orthodox, it seems like you're more likely to be able to get there, whether you belong to their church or not, based on the good works that you do. Well, there's a section that defines judgment according to the community of Christ, and here's what it says. The living God whom we serve is a God of justice and mercy. God cares about how we treat our neighbors and enemies and how we make use of creation's gifts. It matters supremely to God how we welcome the poor, the stranger, the sick, the imprisoned, and the rejected.

We affirm in Scripture's light that Jesus Christ is advocate and judge of the living and the dead. My question would be, what comes as a result of that judgment? The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would readily say that if you don't meet all the requirements that the Church has laid down, that you will end up in a lower heaven, either the terrestrial or telestial kingdom.

This is not so clear. If the living God whom we serve is a God of justice and mercy, what happens to those who are judged by justice? Where do they go throughout eternity? The LDS Church would have a ready answer for that.

They would never become gods, but they would be put in a lower level. But again, I would say that this paragraph is not as clear as it should be in order to let you know exactly what this organization believes regarding the judgment that is going to come from Christ himself. If you ever get a chance to talk to somebody from the community of Christ, I think we do have a lot of similarities, and I think that can work to our advantage in any kind of an evangelical conversation. But I think we need to ask questions when they say certain terms and ask them, just like we would with the Latter-day Saint. What do you mean when you talk about the Trinity? What do you mean when you talk about grace? What do you mean when you say peace with Christ as our ultimate goal?

These are all questions that I think the person from the community of Christ needs to be able to define for us, because otherwise we might not really be agreeing, but thinking we're agreeing because we're using these same types of terms, that could be a big problem. I wonder what would be an attraction to this church. I can understand if you're a Latter-day Saint and you don't like some of the social positions that the church currently has and you're of a more liberal persuasion. Maybe the community of Christ would be a better fit for you. But even then, the reason you're a Latter-day Saint is because you believe Joseph Smith is a prophet of God. You believe the Book of Mormon is the word of God.

Those two subjects are not all that important if you're a member of the community of Christ. So I'm wondering, what would be the attraction to want to join this organization? And why would you want to be a part of an organization that has so much baggage attached to it? I mean, anything connected to Joseph Smith is going to have baggage, and all of these groups that we have studied for the past several weeks certainly do claim that they are attached or come from the teachings of Joseph Smith, Jr. Thank you for listening. If you would like more information regarding Mormonism Research Ministry, we encourage you to visit our website at www.mrm.org where you can request our free newsletter, Mormonism Researched. We hope you will join us again as we look at another Viewpoint on Mormonism.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-25 00:48:52 / 2024-02-25 00:55:24 / 7

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