Thursday, February 23, 2006

the problem of god and sacraments. part 1: salvation

this is something that i've prepared for mine and my friend johnny's blog, the mormon left.


This is the first of several posts where I will point out a contradiction that exists in Mormon (and much of traditional Christian) theology between the nature of God and the common understanding of the soteriological value of sacraments. After pointing out the contradiction which exists between the two, I will offer a different understanding of sacraments which has scriptural (and historical) precedence that not only avoids the contradiction, but is also more align with the teachings of Christ.

Put simply, the understanding of God as a supremely loving and moral being is contradictory to the understanding that certain sacraments are necessary for salvation. By this I mean that the statements “God is an absolutely loving being” and “certain rituals are necessary for salvation” cannot both be true. If one claim is true, the other must be false. For ease of discussion I will use baptism as the example of a necessary sacrament, however other rituals such as confirmation, endowment, and temple marriage are equally susceptible to this criticism.

The initial criticism against the notion of an all-loving God and necessary sacraments is the criticism often laid out by Mormon missionaries and apologists. (1) God is all-loving. (2) If 1, then God would want all of humanity to have the possibility of salvation. (3) Throughout the history of humankind, the total number of persons who have not had the opportunity to be baptized far outweighs the total number of persons baptized (or who have had the opportunity to be baptized). (4) Baptism is a necessary sacrament for salvation. Because of 3 and 4, (5) the total number of persons who have no possibility for salvation far outweighs the total number of persons who have the possibility of receiving salvation. Assuming that (6) God has power to choose what is requisite for salvation, then either 1, “God is all-loving,” or 2, “Baptism is a necessary sacrament for salvation,” is a false proposition.

Premises 4 and 6, however, can both be possibly contested. In the next post I will show that while post-mortem sacraments (ie. baptism for the dead) may avoid the initial criticism of God’s love and necessary sacraments, the contradiction between the two still exists.


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