Sunday, October 06, 2013

Book Review: "Believing Christ" by Stephen E. Robinson

I am not a Mormon, but I live in Utah and spend much of my time talking about Christianity with Mormon friends and students at the university. This book was recommended to me many times by many people, usually after discussions regarding the controversy of grace and works, and so I finally got around to reading it.

I can say without exaggeration that this was one of the worst books I have ever read. It was theologically shameful. It was full of platitudes. It was full of the wisdom of man, that devilish wisdom that James warns about which is contrary to the wisdom of God. It was an attempt to relate and compare our relationship with God to our relationship with human beings, ignoring everything the Bible has to say about God's ways being higher than our ways. Reading this book was painful, and I truly pity all those who have read this book and indicated that they liked it.

Plato's probing question "What is righteousness?" is the most important question a person can ask. The Bible is chiefly concerned with this question, and the question of how a person can be righteous before God. Robinson addresses himself to this question in the book, and amazingly describes righteousness as "being relatively righteous compared with the rest of the world" (p. 27)! Throughout the book Robinson never carefully defines what righteousness actually is, and what is required of us by God, but continues to use ambiguous phrases like "better than others", "doing what can reasonably be expected of you", "trying your best", doing what you can", etc. Well, the great question would then be "What can reasonably be expected of you?" Robinson never explains. We are left in the dark, with nothing more than the supposedly good news that we must simply try, and not worry if we fail, because we can repent and try again, and again, and again... for now at least. Robinson continues to inform us that this ambiguous process of failing and yet feeling good about ourselves will one day come to an end when we actually have to do it.

Robinson actually says on page 88-89 and 103-104 that the "aim" of Christ's covenant is to make you independent of Christ Himself. The goal is for you to become self-sufficient so you no longer need Jesus. He is only necessary as a stepping stone for now, but later you will not need Him. Then there will be a little backyard party in heaven for you celebrating your arrival to self-sufficiency. Congratulations! You don't need Jesus anymore! How wonderful. I wish I were making this up. This is blasphemy of the highest kind. One only needs to read the Bible to discover that righteousness can never be obtained through our obedience to the commandments, and that complete trust in Jesus Christ alone is the only way to be righteous before God, both now and forever. There will never be a time when we will not need Jesus. We will never be righteous on our own. Jesus is not a temporary welfare program "for now": He is our everlasting righteousness (Dan. 9:24).

The Parable of the Bicycle confirms the continued emphasis of the book that salvation is a team effort and partnership with Christ; that you and Christ are co-Saviors. You have to do your part, and if you do, then Christ will do His part. Salvation is thus not only conditional on your own works, but is a team effort according to Robinson. If you don't give your little jar of pennies to Christ (which when translated to real life means doing all you can do, and that is no little jar), only then will Christ pay for the rest of the bike. And Robinson states on page 33 that the actual end goal is for you to pay for the bicycle all on your own! What a goal. In the words of Boyd K. Packer:

"The mediator turned then to the debtor. 'If I pay your debt, will you accept me as your creditor?'

'Oh yes, yes,' cried the debtor. 'You save me from prison and show mercy to me.'

'Then,' said the benefactor, 'you will pay the debt to me and I will set the terms. It will not be easy, but it will be possible." (The Mediator)

So the little girl has to pay daddy back after all. Is this a gift or a loan? What if she doesn't pay? Who ultimately is the savior?

On page 36 Robinson defines a covenant as always and only being two-way. This is what Mormons have been taught to believe, even though the very first covenant ever mentioned in the Bible is a one-way covenant without any conditions for creation to fulfill (Genesis 9). In this way the true glory of covenant is nullified, and an endless and impossible two-way covenant is offered, which never can give peace to the individual. Simply face reality: you are failing at the so-called New Covenant of Christ. You don't do your best. You don't do what is reasonably expected of you. The Bible does not speak of the gospel this way. Christ did not come to make a deal or partnership with you, but He came to save you. He came to save sinners by His grace. Simply trust in Him to do all the saving. No one who ever trusts in Christ to save them will hear from God on judgment day: "I'm sorry, you should not have been trusting in Christ so much. You should not have thought He was so good. You should have kept the commandments... more."

All Robinson is essentially saying in this book is that you don’t need to actually obey the commandments of God to be forgiven. You just have to try, and not actually do it (though what is trying? He does not say). All he is actually doing is lowering the standard so the guilty can feel good about themselves rather than admit their guilt. It is the work of the devil to suppress the truth, and to make you feel like you are obedient when you are not. When you feel guilty (because you are guilty), Satan comes along and says "Don't feel guilty. God won't punish you. Besides, you're trying. You aren't perfect, but God doesn't require that. 'All' doesn't really mean all, and 'always' doesn't really mean always. I don't know what God requires, but whatever it is you are okay. Don't give in to your guilty feelings. Trust that you are a good person. Trust that you are going to make it because Christ believes you can do your part." (Who is doing the believing? Are we believing in Christ or is Christ believing in us?) God wants you to trust in Christ, that He saves guilty sinners. God wants you to look away from your own goodness and trust in grace. The truth is, we are all guilty, bad, hell-deserving sinners. In the light of this, the amazing news is that God loves guilty, bad, hell-deserving sinners, and that Christ died to save us freely by grace. There are no conditions of works. Trusting Christ is not a work, but a ceasing to work; a ceasing from thinking you have to be good to be saved, and a believing that Christ will save the ungodly (Romans 4:5), just as He said. This is really good news for those who know the truth, but upsetting news for those who want to pretend that they have personal righteousness.

This book is just another proof that Mormonism is based upon doctrine of devils and not the Word of God. Mormonism draws your attention and hope away from Christ and makes you focus on yourself. Please consider your ways.

"They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace." (Jeremiah 6:14)


Sue Doh Nim said...

I'm LDS and agree that Packer's debtor/creditor analogy falls far short of accurately representing the nature of Christ's offering. It's impossible for any man-made allegory to describe Christ's eternal and unique atonement event. But Eli, isn't your tone a bit too judgmental for the pastor of a church with Anglican origins spawned from the immorality of Henry the 8th? Most of your criticism is aimed at what's not even in the book.

Eli said...

Hi Sue, thanks for commenting.

My criticisms were directly aimed at the contents of this book. It is a dastardly book and worthy of a Jeremiah-style rebuke.

Not sure where you made the connection between our church and the Anglican church. Even so, Henry the 8th has nothing to do with this.


Unknown said...

I read this book and it was wonderful. You need to open your mind and ponder what he is saying,