Mormon Christology Q2: Salvation
More questions for my Mormon friends (apologies if I am less than coherant today). Here's what I'd like to know. How do you view salvation? How is someone saved? What are they saved from? What does Christ actually have to do in this process? Why did he have to die? And why did he have to rise from the dead?
You don't need to answer each and every item individually, but hopefully you see what I'm getting at. Mormons use very similar language to Evangelicals here - Robinson talks about being saved 'by faith' through 'Christ's merit' and 'his substitutionary atonement' (HWTD, 154). But it's seems to me that we might actually mean different things by this. But I'd like to hear how you view it. How does this salvation thing work? How do God's justice and mercy fit together?
In an attempt to make it easier to respond, I'll point out several of our distinctives (meaning those of my particular camp - I'm not claiming to represent all of Christendom here). I am not challenging you to prove me wrong here - I'm really just interested in figuring out where we are similar and where we are different.
- We believe that Adam played a representative role - by his one sin, all men become sinners, simply by virtue of being his descendants, his heirs (Rom 5:12-14).
- So because we are sinners, all men inevitably sin - in other words, we have to be in a right relationship with God before we can actually obey and please him, for whatever is not of faith is sin (Rom 14:23, Heb 11:6).
- So because of our sin (both Adam's and of our own own) we deserve to die - after all, there is no forgiveness of sin w/out the shedding of blood (Heb 10:22), and in our sin we are already dead to God (Eph 2:1). We are incapable of turning to God on our own (Rom 5:12, John 6:44). We're in deep do-do.
- Fortunately, Christ also played a representative role - by his perfect obedience he fulfills our obligation, by his death he accepts our punishment, and so he does everything Adam failed to do, resulting in life (Rom 5:18).
- Now because Christ is also a representative, everything he achieves is available to us - we are united w/ Christ through faith alone, and in this believing we receive his righteousness and he takes all our sinfulness - so God is both just (punishing sins) and justifier (making us righteous) (Rom 3:23-26)
- This faith we have is not our doing, its a gift of God (Eph 2:8-9); it is a faith that is sufficient not by its strength our quality (how faithful it is), but rather by it's object: Christ (who strengthens our faith, even helps our unbelief - Mk 9:24)
- So Christ did not just come to make salvation available - he actually saves sinners (Lk 19:10), not a single one is lost because Christ himself is guarding us (John 17:12), and there is nothing which can separate us from teh love of Christ (Rom 8:38-39)
- So we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone - but it's a faith that will never be alone, it always produces fruit - when faith is truly in Christ, we are inevitably transformed by Christ.
Maybe one of the most important questions is, what does this salvation actually look like? Does it just sort of wipe the slate clean, and then is it up to us to "stay on God's good side"? Or does this salvation actually bring with the obedience it demands? Do the benefits start now, or are they merely future?
There, that ought to give us plenty to chew on for a while... :-)
(And thank you again for your willingness to respond to this stuff - I really do appreciate it. You don't know how nice it is to talk to 'real live people' who are honest about what they think).