Are traditional Christians losing their moral compass?

In an interesting post at Patheos, Catholic scholar Francis Beckwith notes a discussion he had with Robert Millet:

” (Robert) told me of a Mormon friend who in conversation with an Evangelical Protestant had asked him whether a Christian who committed adultery would lose his salvation.  The Evangelical answered, “No.” The Mormon followed up with this query, “What if the Christian had murdered someone? Would he then lose his salvation?” The answer, again, was “no.” Then the Mormon asked, “Well, what if he had become a Mormon?” The Evangelical answered, “That’s a good question. I don’t know.” I joked with Bob, “Perhaps your friend should have asked what would be the state of the person’s salvation if he had murdered, or committed adultery with, a Mormon?”

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/returntorome/2012/01/better-to-be-an-adulterer-than-a-mormon-evangelicals-gingrich-and-romney/

While I realize many Christians do not think that a murderer is better than a Mormon, many now do.  We at least can see that many are ready to support a serial adulterer (Gingrich) over a Mormon (Romney).

For those who are focused on the social conservative issues, just how do they embrace Gingrich and hate Romney?  I understand if someone wishes to elect Gingrich because he is a better debater, or lead the Contract with America, etc; but to choose solely because of religion?

It seems to me that America is dying because we swallow camels (murder and adultery), and strain at gnats (Mormonism).

31 thoughts on “Are traditional Christians losing their moral compass?

  1. Ram, if the BoM is true (as we believe it to be) then the USA is quickly moving down that path where the greater part of the people are choosing iniquity of their own free will and choice. And that’s the time the prophets have always warned about, that then the judgements and calamities will come upon us. In the past, I think it was more clear the population was a more virtuous (in all meanings of the word) population who in someways were being ill-served by corrupt leaders. Now the population is actively choosing corrupt leaders, for various reasons, but ultimately they all resort to seeking to gain power and authority.

    If the BoM is true, and you have more and more people increasing railing against God’s word and his people, and doing so with their eyes wide open to their own hypocrisies, as you point out, then it seems the judgements of God are pretty near to coming upon us. I’m not suggesting we as a nation need to elect Romney or God will punish us by a long shot. Nothing of the sort, but a lot of the rational and choices, etc. that people make is exposing something about the moral character of our nation that points to where we are headed. It doesn’t look good.

  2. “America is dying because we swallow camels (murder and adultery), and strain at gnats (Mormonism).”

    On the contrary, America has never been more accepting and welcoming of Mormonism. We are forgetting our history, the Haun’s Mill Massacre, the Mormon War. And just a few decades ago during the Priesthood Ban, we sure weren’t very popular then. Today, we have more prominent, mainstream Mormons than at any time in history, and Romney’s eminent primary election victory is as important a milestone for Mormons as Obama’s was for blacks.

    Fundamentalist Evangelicals belong to a primitive religious mindset which appeals strictly to their own very awkward interpretation of the Bible, and they apply this mindset, not only to Mormons, but to Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists, and all sorts of non-Evangelical, works-based Christian sects like Jehovah’s Witnesses. In other words, everyone is going to hell, except them.

    No reason to take these people seriously, unless you happen to need them to vote in your primary. Otherwise, these people are a joke. They think the real America belongs to them, but it doesn’t. America is not a Christian nation. It is a nation where Christians are welcomed along with everyone else. Evangelicals are simply a very narrow minded subset of American culture. And many self-proclaimed Evangelicals are now much more open minded about these things. Sure you still get this kind of crazy talk from some of the preachers, but I think if you sat down and polled average Evangelicals, you would see a trend towards greater acceptance of diverse views.

  3. “Losing their compass?” Yes, but in the opposite way you state. They are losing their compass by being less narrow minded and dogmatic, with many of them actually voting for a Mormon. They are gradually being “corrupted” by our modern pluralistic and diversity-minded culture. They are listening to the wishy washy theology of Joel Osteen, which says Mormons won’t go to hell after all, instead of being true to the Bible, which clearly states Mormons are going to hell.

    The remarkable thing is that Romney has gotten this far. Would not, could not have happened 10 years ago.

  4. “They are listening to the wishy washy theology of Joel Osteen, which says Mormons won’t go to hell after all, instead of being true to the Bible, which clearly states Mormons are going to hell.”

    Huh. Must have missed that verse.

  5. Ram, perhaps you’re forgetting the Evangelical definition of salvation.

    In the Evangelical paradigm, once you _accept Christ_, you’re saved, no matter what sins you commit afterward, as long as you continine to “accept Christ” as having paid for your sins. The only thing that can “un-save” (Anyone remember “unsave” in the old BASIC programming languge?) you is to “un-accept” or reject Christ.

    Dieing with unrepented sins, even serious ones, does not cancel out one’s salvation in the Evangelical paradigm.

    After all, no one attains perfection before dieing, so in essence, we all have some sort of (very very minor, one hopes) unrepented sins when we exit mortality. The Mormon scripture phrase “spirits of just men made perfect” sort-of illustrates this, that “perfection” is attained after mortality.

    In the eyes of Evangelicals, Mormonism rejects the “real” Christ. Therefore, for a saved Evangelical to embrace Mormonism is to reject Christ, the only thing by which he can lose his salvation. In Evangelical terminology, rejecting Christ and being a reprobate are essentially synonymous, one doesn’t rise to the level of “reprobate” until one rejects Christ.

    We also need to remember that in the Evangelical paradigm and especially in their lexicon, to “keep the commandments” is the same as “works”. Therefore, commandment-keeping never saves one in their paradigm. _Not_ murdering never saves one. _Not_ committing adultery never saves one.

    Therefore, murder versus not-murdering, adultery versus not-committing-adultery does not play into the saved-versus-not-saved question. The only question about salvation is (in their view) “Have you accepted Christ as your Savior?”

    So in that line of reasoning, with that logic, then yes, it would be better to be an adulterer or murderer than Mormon.

  6. Oops, let me edit that last sentence:

    So in that line of reasoning, with that logic, then yes, it would be better to be an adulterer or murderer who has accepted Christ as his Savior than a Mormon who has never committed adultery or murder.

  7. There is a distinction also between being saved and being better. It is better for the person to be saved, but that is not the same as being a better person.

  8. The LDS D&C 132:26 version of this would be to ask: Is it worse for a person’s exaltation to never be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, or to commit sins, transgressions, and all manner of blasphemies short of shedding innocent blood or blasphemy against the Holy Ghost?

  9. There is no confusion here once we accept the axiom that committing murder and adultery are not rejecting Christ; there is a peculiar un-Christian notion among Mormons that obeying Christ and following his teachings is somehow accepting Him.

    Incidentally, “morality” is a secular philosophical notion. The words “moral” and “morality” are not to be found in the Bible.

  10. John Roberts, if that is Christianity then I want no part of it. Faith in Christ is first and fundamental to be sure, but if you don’t follow the commandments and obey Jesus then you are taking His name in vain. You are no better than an unbeliever and nothing more than a “fan boy.”

  11. The problem with several of the comments comes from some wrong concepts. Most evangelicals and other traditional Christians, do not believe in cheap grace. This is why there are evangelical groups that are endorsing Romney over Gingrich.
    That Mitt’s father,George Romney, did not have to deal with his Mormonism when he ran for president in 1967, suggests that the radical evangelicals have gotten a much bigger voice over the last few decades.
    I see it on the same level as the radical Muslims seem to take up all the limelight and the power, because they are louder than the average peaceful believer in Islam.

    My problem isn’t someone voting for Gingrich. My problem is someone voting for Gingrich who professes so strongly to be a Christian that they would never vote for a Mormon but not think twice about a serial adulterer.

    I agree with Chris that we are seeing the decline of the nation. It has become so open minded about so many things that it is allowing its brains to fall out.

    The Book of Mormon showed people that chose wickedness and flattery over the good prophets. We see people choosing people who flatter them, promising them bribes, as well. Whether Democrats or Republicans, we see trillions of dollars being spent to provide everyone something, even if we cannot afford it. For decades, Americans have told Congress to cut the size of government, but do not dare touch their entitlements. And government has done just what they’ve demanded.

    Many seem to want a great debater, a great flatterer, regardless of the many skeletons in the closet. Last night, when Gingrich was asked about his ex-wife’s claims, he attacked the media, and as many in the media stated, “knocked it out of the ball park.” Huh? What I saw was a man who told everyone to focus on the screen with the great Oz on it, and ignore the little man behind the curtain! Sadly, it seems that the myrmidons are going to do exactly that, as they’ve done with the poor choices in presidents they’ve done for years now.

    We can only hope that a decent man, whether Ron Paul, Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney is elected, rather than the great flatterer.

  12. John, are you a Mormon or Evangelical or neither? I’m just curious what angle you’re coming at that statement. I can’t square anything you say with this one, by the Lord himself, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.”

    The only thing I can think is that someone would twist that to mean saying “Lord Lord” actually means “doing stuff” like keeping the commandments and obeying Jesus, and that “doing the will of My Father” actually means saying “Lord, Lord, I’m saved by thy blood and accept thee”. I have to admit that possible interpretation is a little confusing at first, but once I wrap my mind around the fact that when the scriptures say black, they mean white, it all sorta makes sense.

    In any case, I’d rather be a person who tries to follow the pattern of Jesus in being willing to love and serve his fellow man and do his best to ease their burdens, etc. than a person who pats them self on the back because they understand what a True Christian™ really is.

  13. Ram, I’ll agree that most evangelical _leaders_ don’t believe in cheap grace, but in my experience, most of the rank and file does, and a good number of the professional proselytizing evangelists appear to.

    And to listen to those recruiter-type evangelists, those whose preaching is aimed at non-believers (people who haven’t “accepted Christ” yet), and who invite them to “accept Jesus”; well, to listen to those sermons, one would suppose that cheap grace is being preached. Because commandment-keeping is pretty much termed “works”, and “works can’t save”.

    I think a majority of evangelical leaders would say that someone who claims to be a believer and to have accepted Christ, who then _intentionally_ (with forethought and all that) commits adultery and murder, and avoids repentance of same, probably didn’t really accept Christ in the first place. But they’ll also say it’s not one’s place to judge another if they have really and truly accepted Christ. Only Christ and the person know.

    I think it was even Billy Graham who I heard preach that _repentance_ is only required up to the point where one accepts Christ and “gets saved”; and that after one is “saved”, if they commit a sin from that point on, one doesn’t repent per se, one merely calls upon the blood of Christ to remove that sin.

    They seem to preach that there is some kind of permanent stamp or seal on someone who is saved.

    The distinctions also harken back to our differing definitions of salavation. In the evangelical lexicon, salvation is attained in this life, as in “getting saved” is a specific event at a specific point in someone’s life when they accept Christ. In the Mormon lexicon, we have 6 definitions of salvation (as per the talk by Elder Oaks), but the main one we shoot for is exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom, or as the BoM often states “saved in the Kingdom of Heavenly Father.” As opposed to saved in Jesus’ Kingdom (Terrestrial Kingdom as per Sec 76) or the Holy Ghost’s Kingdom (Telestial Kingdom as per Sec 76).

    But yes, all evangelical preachers/leaders that I’ve heard and read call upon their believers to walk a Godly walk after their “getting saved” moment.

  14. John Mansfield: Even if a person doesn’t get “sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise” in this life, they still must undergo that sealing in the next life (pre or post resurrection, I don’t know) in order to attain exaltation.

    If by “never” you meant neither in this life nor in the next life be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, then the 2nd option is better. Because in the 2nd option, the person (or couple) still attains exaltation. Whereas if one is never sealed, neither in this life nor the next, then they don’t get exalted at all.

    But if you meant “never in this life, but they do in the next”, then the first option would be preferrable, as both would attain to exaltation, but those in the 2nd option would have to suffer the buffettings of Satan.

  15. Bookslinger is right that “cheap grace” is an important article of faith for most Evangelicals. Christ’s grace is free, and nothing can take it away, accept denying Christ. Mormons deny Christ because they worship a false Christ, according to Evangelical doctrine. Standing behind Romney, a hell-bound false-Christ worshiper, even to beat anti-Christ Obama, is more than many Evangelicals can take. It’s a terrible dilemma to face. Do the ends justify the means? Should Evangelicals abandon their doctrine to support an anti-Christ, just to beat an even worse anti-Christ?

    Evangelicals who embrace Gingrich are similar to the Jews who freed Barabbas rather than freeing Christ from Pilot. Gingrich, like Barabbas, is a sinner, but far preferable to standing behind the false Messiah that Romney believes in and espouses. For the Jews, Christ was a false Messiah, and according to the Law of Moses, had to die.

    Rame’s insinuation that Evangelicals are being increasingly “tolerant and secular” by embracing Gingrich and his sins, is I believe, incorrect. The tolerant secularist Evangelicals are the ones embracing Romney, not Gingrich. Romney’s gains among Evangelicals represent an alarming erosion of their fundamentalist faith. The true believing Evangelicals would never want their God-ordained, Christian Nation ruled by someone who worships a false Christ. Gingrich is 100 times preferable to Romney.

    The forces of tolerance and secularization may erode faith. But they also erode the primitive and dangerous fundamentalist forces that have led to most of the violence and war throughout the history of mankind.

    Mormons do not do themselves any service by trying to identify with the fundamentalist mindsets of Evangelicals. They are enemies to modern revelation, enemies to eternal progression, enemies to modern prophets and non-Biblical scripture. They condemn Mormons, Muslims, Atheists, Hindus, Buddhists, and most other fellow Christians to eternal hell. What could be more evil than that? While they believe the opposite of what the Scribes and Pharisees believed, ironically, they hold that same, unbending, fundamentalist mindset in their “scripture” that Scribes and Pharisees did, and that blinded them from being able to so the real Christ for who He truly was. And they are likewise unable to see that Romney actually follows real prophets of God.

  16. Nate writes: “Mormons do not do themselves any service by trying to identify with the fundamentalist mindsets of Evangelicals. They are enemies to modern revelation, enemies to eternal progression, enemies to modern prophets and non-Biblical scripture…. While they believe the opposite of what the Scribes and Pharisees believed, ironically, they hold that same, unbending, fundamentalist mindset in their “scripture” that Scribes and Pharisees did, and that blinded them from being able to so the real Christ for who He truly was.”

    Thank you for the ironic soliloquy on the evils of unbearable fundamentalism. Who said Mormons don’t have a sense of humor?

  17. Francis, you got me, I admit. Mormons can be just as unbearable fundamentalists I know. But…Mormons theologically do not accept scriptural or prophetic or papal infallibility, unlike Catholics, Muslims, and Evangelicals. In practice, there are many Mormons who are just as fundamentalist, but theologically, we’ve built in lots more wiggle room than any other major religion:

    Actually, Mormons are the most milk-toast and tolerant of any religion that holds “exclusive” beliefs. Mormons believe hell is temporary, and that all people eventually go to a kingdom of heaven. We believe everyone will get a chance to “accept Christ” in the next life if they didn’t get it here. We believe that we were not “created” but co-eternal with God, on a path of eternal progression. We share this belief with Hindus and Buddhists, who also believe in the eternal nature of the soul, and eternal progression. How different this is from the Catholic/Evangelical construct of a God who creates us from nothing, sets us on a default course for hell under the curse of Adam, and only lets us off the hook if we “accept Christ,” if we are lucky enough to hear that option clearly articulated, and humble enough to accept a Christ who would be cruel enough to create people, simply to stick them under another man’s curse.

  18. Geoff, could you delete my last comment? I was out of line to attack the faith of a guest here at Millennial Star. I get too upset and emotional about this topic because I have “issues” with Evangelicals and I try keep as much distance as possible from Mormonism and Evangelicals to satisfy my own personal conflicted views on the subject.

  19. Bookslinger is right that “cheap grace” is an important article of faith for most Evangelicals.

    I have to disagree. It’s something a lot of naive laity accept but it’s considered heretical to evangelicals. Even a superficial google should illustrate that.

    Would you want Mormon doctrine defined in terms of what many ignorant laity believe? (Which is what a lot of anti-Mormons do)

    I also am uncomfortable saying evangelicals are inherently fundamentalist. Heaven knows there are many who are. But many also aren’t and quite a few I’ve talked with see the typical concerns of fundamentalists (young earth creationism, etc.) to be focused on something other than the gospel.

    I’m really uncomfortable with these sorts of unfair and perhaps overly broad generalizations. Honestly they remind me too much of how many evangelicals have misrepresented our faith. Let’s remember the golden rule in all this.

  20. Nate, in my encounters, I’ve found that Evangelicals (along with Pentecostals) generally do believe in ongoing personal revelation. They sometimes call it “walking in (or with) the Spirit.”

    Famous evangelicals such as Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and Oral Roberts often spoke about “God told me to….” Granted, they don’t claim it rises to the level of new canonized scripture. But it’s modern day revelation none the less.

    Here’s a cool story by Christian minister Beth Moore about being directed by the Lord, on the spot, to be of service to a man in a wheelchair at an airport. I think she comes under the heading of Evangelical, and I much admire this example of “dialogic” (to use a bloggernacle term) revelation.

    http://www.proclaimhisglory.org/html/lesson_with_a_hairbrush.html

    I believe that as far as things like personal revelation, walking in the Spirit, miracles, gifts of the Spirit, etc., Mormons actually have more doctrinal overlap with Evangelicals/Pentecostals than with the more bland types of mainstream denominations such as Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, etc.

    Yeah, we can often /appear/ boring, bland, milque-toast-y like the mainstream protestants, but I don’t see how anyone can read the BoM or D&C and not see the LDS as having a lot of Evangelical/Pentecostal leanings, with all those miracles and gifts of the Spirit. See 2 Nephi 31:13, _very_ Pentecostal there.

  21. Clark, Evangelicals, like Mormons or any other group, are not a monolith.

    Evangelical preachers, or sermons, can be broken down into two major types: outward facing, and inward facing; directed to those who haven’t accepted Christ, or directed to those who already have.

    Yes, “walking the walk” is a big thing in inward-facing sermons. But I just never heard it much, if at all, in outward-facing sermons, where the main thrust is “just accept Christ” and “nothing you can do other than accepting Christ will save you.”

    So, at the end of the day, Evangelicals who damn the Mormons for focusing on works are really on the same page Mormons are, because they go back to their congregations and preach to their “saved” (ie, already believing) adherents to “walk the walk” which is just another way of expressing the Mormon-phrase “keep the commandments.” (So the essence breaks down to “Evs keep the commandments _because_ they’re saved”, versus their accusation that we keep the commandments _in order to be_ saved.)

  22. The cheap grace debate is really a debate over what it means to accept Christ or believe in Christ. I think you’ll find that even what you call the outward facing sermons don’t adopt cheap grace.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying cheap grace isn’t out there. I remember in Lousiana someone had put pamphlets everywhere with a prayer you just had to repeat to be saved. The epitome of cheap grace. However as I said this is a heretical doctrine to evangelicals as even just a brief google on the term will illustrate. Judging evangelicals in terms of it is on par with judging Mormons for over the top comments about caffeine by many members.

  23. Nate, I understand. No need to explain.

    I was just having a little fun.

    However, I do understand your frustrations. You Mormons sometimes have to put up with a lot of crap that some of us don’t encounter. We Catholics, of course, have to put up with a different sort of crap. And Evangelicals sometimes get it worse than either one of us, since their numbers pose a significant threat to secular progressivism.

    Here’s what I think: if you believe something you think is true, you are going to run into people who think it’s false. At that point, you can either exercise virtue or exorcise virtue. I’ve done both! :-)

    Blessings,
    Frank

  24. Perhaps a better way of putting it is that cheap grace is saying all you need is a kind of superficial belief that Jesus is there. True grace requires faith. Now one can debate the whole faith vs. works issue, but I think you find the vast majority of Evangelicals see accepting Christ as something far more profound than mere intellectual assent or especially merely stating acceptance of a phrase.

  25. “there is a peculiar un-Christian notion among Mormons that obeying Christ and following his teachings is somehow accepting Him.”

    Actually, a sincere desire and enduring faithful effort to follow the teachings of Jesus sounds like the very definition of “Lordship” to me. How else would one define it? It seems strange that even Lordship Evangelicals so often argue against it when talking to a Mormon.

  26. Clark, I guess we’ve just encountered different types of Evangelicals in our lives. Or maybe I’m conflating Evangelicals with the Pentecostals I’ve known in the past. In my book they’re closely related.

    Just had an idea, maybe the commandment-keeping part of the inward-facing sermons/teachings is a “gotcha” among Evangelicals, sort of like the expectations that are put upon LDS converts, but aren’t explained to them until after their baptism (and sometimes not until after they get inside the temple.)

  27. Living in Montgomery AL for 16 years, and now in Indianapolis for 10, I meet many evangelicals and pentecostals, etc., along the way.

    I find most do not accept cheap grace. They will say that faith usually means there is an outward expression of the faith by a person living a Christ-like life. I think Mormons believe that (or should) as well.

    That said, some are very inclusive as to who makes a good Christian. I know some evangelicals who consider Billy Graham a bad Christian for allowing Catholics and other sects to be on his programs. And I know several that think Mormons are Christians. Strange Christians, but Christians, nonetheless.

    It is dangerous to lump all into such a broad category. And it isn’t right, nor fair for us to do so, either. We don’t want them to harshly and unfairly judge Mormonism, but then we tend to do that same thing back to them. Instead, we should distinguish between the decent, thinking Christians, and those who are on the war path. Note in the studies, while 1/3 would not vote for a Mormon, we can see that perhaps up to 2/3 would! So that shows a majority may not be as dismissive and hate-filled towards Mormonism as some here suggest.

    Most do not see us as “anti-Christ.” Many just see us as a heretical cult. They do not see us as attacking Christ, but just not being traditional Trinitarians, etc. We’re weird, not dangerous. They just do not want that weirdness to have a chance to grow by us electing a Mormon president.

    Let us judge them fairly. I hope the beam in our eye does not get in the way of helping them remove the mote in their own.

    I see it on the same level as the Islamic issue. Some are dangerous radicals that need to be stopped. Most are peaceful people, just doing the best they can in a rough world.

    Let’s speak out against the radical evangelists, and not the majority. Let’s teach them how things really are, and not how their preachers have mistakenly taught them regarding us. We’re making inroads in these things. It just will take some time.

    That said, we also need to encourage them not to lose their moral compass. After all, they are supposed to be the social conservatives. Many are voting for Newt, not because he’s strong on family values, but because he knows how to put words together in a way that trounces on Pres Obama and the liberal media. But that does not make for a good president.

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