Over the last month Beliefnet.com has sponsored an online debate between LDS author Orson Scott Card and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Dr. R. Albert Mohler. As I was reading some of the debate today, one bit from Mr. Card’s argument posted on July 11th caught my attention. While acknowledging that Mormonism and “traditional orthodox Christianity” differ dramatically in their theology, Mr. Card wrote:
“I wish Dr. Mohler would take the tiny, tiny step of saying, not that Mormons are right, but that a person can believe as a Mormon does and still do good works in the name of Christ, that would be acceptable to Christ by that clear, bright standard:
“Even as ye have done it unto the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
To me, Mr. Card’s request of Dr. Mohler seems unfair. If he had asked Dr. Mohler to agree that people who believe as Mormons still do good works which help relieve the suffering of the poor and needy, Dr. Mohler would likely have been willing to take that “tiny, tiny step.” But Mr. Card goes beyond that and asks Dr. Mohler to assent to the claim that those same good works would be acceptable to Christ — in the context of judgment and salvation. This question ties into theology and is a different matter entirely.
Jesus’ words cited by Mr. Card are directed at “those on His right hand” (v. 34), set there by Christ and identified by Him as “the righteous” (v. 37). They didn’t even realize they were serving Him as they went about feeding the hungry and clothing the naked (vv. 37-39). Without getting into an extended exegesis of the Matthew passage surrounding the verse cited by Mr. Card, a commentary note on just the verse he chose says this:
“25:40 the least of these My brethren. Christ’s disciples (10:42; 12:48, 49; 18:14), not the poor and needy in general. The judgment of the nations depends on how they respond to Christians and the gospel (10:40-42), not only because it is through the testimony of Christians that the Gentiles can hear and believe (Rom. 10:14), but also because Christ identifies with His people. Their suffering is His suffering, and compassion shown to them is compassion shown to Him.”
Elsewhere in Scripture God explains the universal condition of unredeemed man:
“but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies; your tongue mutters wickedness…. Their works are works of iniquity, and deeds of violence are in their hands.” (Isaiah 59:1-6)
“We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” (Isaiah 64:6)
“as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands;
no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good, not even one.’ ‘Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.’ ‘The venom of asps is under their lips.’ ‘Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.’ ‘Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.’ ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.'” (Romans 3:10-18)
If the Scripture is true, it’s foolhardy to imagine that our “good works” would be “acceptable to Christ” in the context of salvation. How dare we think that we, whose hands are defiled and whose “righteous deeds” are polluted by our iniquities, will merit — by virtue of our “good works” — a place with the “righteous” at the right of Jesus. Given the clear teachings of the Bible, Dr. Mohler would not be free to take the “tiny, tiny step” requested by Mr. Card. Yes, a person believing as a Mormon may do “good works [from a human perspective] in the name of Christ,” but that’s as far as we can go. For Jesus said,
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23)
Hear the Word of the Lord.
One Door to Salvation by Charles H. Spurgeon.