Tuesday, January 20, 2015

An Obvious Reason

This is in response to the following blogpost by my friend:


Since I am probably one of only a few who read his blog, I don't feel like it is a bad thing for me to respond to his post, nor do I worry that it will cause an internet storm because, chances are, he is the only one who is reading this post. Initially I wasn't going to respond to it, I was just going to allow it to pass under my radar; but I can't sit by idly and watch my friend reason his way out of faith, all the while acknowledging that it may be inevitable (which I have come to peace with).

The main point of this post is this: why do I need Jesus Christ? For that matter, why do I need God? Without sounding too preachy, I want to just say that this question is the fundamental question of Christianity, and I think that the answer has been severely overlooked. So, in my attempt to explain why succinctly, I hope that I do not come off as being self-righteous or boastful.

What He Has Already Done

As I read your post, it struck me that no acknowledgement was made for what Christ had already done for you. Admittedly the statement that you have never really "felt" the atonement in your life was given, but that doesn't mean you can't at least look at what His church has done for you. In a very real sense, the church has provided you with a great deal of training in several areas that are helping you in your success and independence you are now experiencing. Don't believe so? How about an article from the Harvard Business Review detailing how Mormon's have shaped management today, due in large part from their religious training (https://hbr.org/2012/10/how-mormons-have-shaped-modern).

But apart from the success and independent thought (yes, the church taught you that too, and there are a myriad of studies that show religion helps improve critical thinking), the Church has given you a support system throughout your life that has ensured your well-being and safety. You may not have even realized it, but there has always been someone, somewhere, who has cared about your well-being, and it is largely due to the church.

Now you may say that the church is not Christ, but that would be fallacious. He established the church as a means to edify and build up his people. Perhaps a common missionary scripture to illustrate:

19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
 22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
Ephesians 2: 19-22
Clearly the church was put together by Christ for His people. This is really a very concrete example of what Christ has already done.
But what about the intangible things? or in other words those things you are baffled by? In other words, how has the atonement been used in your life already to lift you up? That is very much a personal and deep experience that only you can answer (and apparently you would say that He hasn't done much if anything at all).
Allow me to offer somethings that you may not have considered. The atonement has been very active in your life, and in very profound and subtle ways. Perhaps the most meaningful for you has been your own feelings of doubt and confusion over the matter of God. Your heart wants you to believe, but your mind will not allow it. Such a division comes because of the love the Savior has for you. 
I honestly don't  believe anyone has so much struggle giving up their religion as those within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I say that without meaning to discount the honest trials others have faced when leaving a cherished family faith. But I know that I have never met any religious people whose dissenters are so vehemently torn apart by the parting of their faith than LDS people. Perhaps my evidence is more anecdotal, because I do base it upon my own personal experience; but I would love to see how many ex-Cardinals for Jesus websites are out there.

What He Will Do

Now lets move on to what He will do, and this sort of ties in to the next section. Jesus Christ cannot and will not make you love Him, believe in Him, or even acknowledge what He has done for you (at least not in this life). So what He will do for you is let you continue to live your life in whatsoever way you choose. That may not sound like anything, especially if you don't believe in Him, but it is huge. After all He has done, the constant struggle of ensuring your well-being in the Gospel, whether acknowledged or not, is thrown aside and He allows it.

But on top of that, He will do so much more. If, when you die, you come to the throne of God and ask Him to let you in, He will ask if you are clean. You will say no, I am a filthy rag and unworthy to be even close to your aura, and you will struggle to see how you could ever get yourself clean. You will fain wish the mountains to fall upon you and crush you from existence, because you will realize then that your personal soap is not strong enough, that the power you were taught you had is not enough. 

Then a most wonderful thing will happen: Christ will cleanse you with His powerful soap, and you will be clean. So clean, in fact, that you will be able to stand the presence of God. He will do this without anything in return, without any expectation on His part. And at that point, if you have not repented and come unto Christ, you will be too ashamed to be with him. You will be clean, but you will not want to be.

Does that sound like a wonderful gift? I am not sure, it sounds like a special kind of Hell to me. I cannot fathom wanting to be clean only to turn in shame at what I have done. Hell, for me, is realizing that no matter what, I can't escape this scenario if I don't repent.

Why it Can Only Be Jesus Christ

So why is it that your soap is not enough? I could go on for pages and pages about the cleansing power of Christ and why it had to be him, but I will refrain and instead point you to the Topical Guide of the Scriptures. In place of a lengthy doctrinal discussion, I want to just say a few things about why it had to be Christ and not you nor me who will be cleansing ourselves in Heaven.

Only He knows the Way

First, and unfortunately foremost, I don't have any freaking clue what I need to do to be better, and neither do you, and neither does any other human being on this whole planet. Not really anyways. From a purely agnostic point of view, or even atheist point of view, you can clearly see that man has struggled to define the "right way" or, at least the "not-wrong way". Some even argue that God cannot exist because there is no such thing as evil. But really, can you say that evil does not exist? Can it not be axiomatic in itself? Try telling me that the wrongs man has committed against man can somehow reasonably be construed as acceptable? The tortures, rapes, and murders that have been done, how can these not be evil? Clearly there is something going on about what is good and what is bad, and no man knows what it is. Religions are set up to help define them, but that isn't acceptable.

This is where Christ comes in. He does know what is right and what is wrong. He does know the evil from the bad. Not only does He know these things, He has also experienced all of them through the atonement. Better still, He knows how to overcome all these evils because He has already done so. In sum, Christ knows the good from the evil perfectly because He has experienced all of it perfectly, exquisitely, and in such detail that He bled from every pore because of it. Why can't you or me understand good and evil perfectly? Simply put, you and I aren't strong enough. Period. And I know both of us, and I know we can't handle it (and I don't know anyone who can).

Christ was Given the Authority to Do So

Secondly, Christ was given power from God to do it. No matter how awesome we may be, God has assigned only one person to be the keeper of the Keys of Heaven, and that is Christ. The reasons are tantamount I am sure, such as there needing to be no confusion about who is and isn't right. There is so much more order to the atonement, so much more to do than simply praying to Christ and asking for help, and any missionary knows that. What is the third lesson missionaries give all about? It is about the Gospel of Christ, literally the Good News of Jesus. What is that news? That He has set up a way to return to the Father according to the Father's plan, and every man must follow the ordinances and guidelines established therein.

It is simply untrue that the atonement is a set of fuzzy feelings and simple empowering thoughts that are given to man when they are most down. Indeed, it most likely that those who have entered the strait (and note the word strait, not straight) are going to experience more difficulty than those who don't. No, the atonement is the structure and framework that God has set up to get His children back to Him, not a morphine drip for the soul. Interestingly enough, a major part of this framework is the Church itself, something that has been discussed previously.

Only Christ Wanted to Be the Savior

Finally, it can Only be Christ because only Christ wanted to be it. Marc Phillips didn't step up to the plate, nor did you, nor did anyone else. And what did He sign up for that we all unanimously turned down? Was it suffering? Was it death? Hardly; it was so much more than that. Christ signed up to be the beacon of hope that people can use in their life to make themselves better.

Sure, people change all the time without Christ. People quite smoking, quit watching porn, quit abusing their wives, kids, brothers, sisters, parents, etc. People have the power to change themselves. But honestly, ask yourself, why bother? Don't you see how much changing doesn't make things better? Is the world any better off today than it was yesterday because a 400 pound binge eater lost 250 pounds and now is an inspiration to other to lose weight? Not really, but he does provide hope for others who look at him as a beacon of hope that they too can lose weight.

And that is the crux of why it has to be Jesus Christ, because only Christ can inspire enough hope in the hearts of men to enact sufficient change in the world. The world will not be saved by people taking a directed approach to stop their hollow habits, their empty ways. People will not rally behind a charismatic leader who promises them wealth and riches through hard work and determination (the only true way to change the world). But who will people rally behind? The Savior, He who was so selfless that He suffered and died for us that we might live. 

Christ Gives Hope

Christ's atonement gives Hope, which is what all the other people in the world who enact change in their lives also use. Only Christ, though, gives sufficient hope to make a lasting and meaningful change in our life. What happened after you ran the marathon? Did you keep running them? Did you prove to yourself that you can be a marathon runner and still have time to pursue all your other interests? Of course not, and that is not a worthwhile goal. But Christ gives people hope that they can change, and change for Good.

And my last comment on why His hope is better than any other comes from the spiritual aspect of things. Even though the atonement is more than warm fuzzies, it is not devoid of them either. Coming unto Christ is a profoundly spiritual experience that, yes, gives the warm fuzzies and can bring willpower to do things. The Spirit even has the power to change behaviors. I know this personally as I have seen the power of the Spirit take away my anger. This is a true power, and it is so much more than the trite examples you listed.

Finally... Humility is a Small Portion of Coming to Christ

I want to point out that humility is a small portion of coming to Christ. Ether 12:27 states that He will do miracles in lives of men who are humble, and that is about all it says. God does not require coming unto Christ because it will make you humble, He requires it because it is the only way it makes you clean. Humility is in reality only a necessity to the act, not the outcome itself. Do not believe for a second that you, me, or anyone else you know is sufficiently humble enough to come unto Christ. However, do believe that Humility will come as you learn how to do so.

So, in conclusion, the atonement of Christ is the most powerful force for good in this world of ours, and it is the only way people can return to live with God. It saddens me to see you fall prey to such a duplicitous form of self-assurance. It is so devious to believe that one does not need God after all He has done for you because, let's face it, life is pretty good after you have already reached the first summit. But if you give up now and decide that you never need God in your life, then you will never make the final summit, the one that makes all the rest look like wimpy hills. And that is the real power of man - to summit all obstacles, even if it means getting help. Man is strongest when He stands united, not when he conquers alone.