Roman Catholicism

The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) claims to be the one true Church as established by Jesus and His apostles. However, an examination of the doctrines upheld and taught by the RCC demonstrates that it stands in contrast with – and even in opposition to – biblical Christianity. Though not exhaustive, the following overview analyzes and compares some of the core tenets of the Roman Catholic tradition with Scripture.

The Council of Trent

Perhaps one of the most important events in the history of the Roman Catholic Church is the Council of Trent (1545–1563). This gathering sought to counter and respond to the Protestant Reformation. It was at this ecumenical meeting that Rome ultimately anathematized, or condemned, the biblical doctrine of justification:

Canon 9: If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema.1

Canon 14: If anyone says that man is absolved from his sins and justified because he firmly believes that he is absolved and justified, or that no one is truly justified except him who believes himself justified, and that by this faith alone absolution and justification are effected, let him be anathema.2

Canon 24: If anyone says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of its increase, let him be anathema.3

Canon 30: If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out to every repentant sinner, that no debt of temporal punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in purgatory before the gates of heaven can be opened, let him be anathema.4

Canon 33: If anyone says that the Catholic doctrine of justification as set forth by the holy council in the present decree, derogates in some respect from the glory of God or the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, and does not rather illustrate the truth of our faith and no less the glory of God and of Christ Jesus, let him be anathema.5

The Christian will recognize that these condemnations of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone stand in direct contradiction to Scripture and amount to an anathema upon the Gospel itself. Romans 3:20–28, 4:3, 5:1, Galatians 3:1–3, Ephesians 2:8–9 and Colossians 2:13–14 are just a few of the numerous passages that address the various condemnations which Rome set forth at the Council of Trent.

At a glance

Roman Catholicism Biblical Christianity
Salvation “The process of salvation for the Catholic means a Catholic must have faith in Christ and the Roman Catholic Church, participate in the sacraments, take the Eucharist, keep the commandments, perform penance, and do indulgences in order to attain, maintain, and regain salvation as well as reduce the punishment due to him for the sins of which he has already been forgiven.”6

“The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation. ‘Sacramental grace’ is the grace of the Holy Spirit, given by Christ and proper to each sacrament. The Spirit heals and transforms those who receive him by conforming them to the Son of God. The fruit of the sacramental life is that the Spirit of adoption makes the faithful partakers in the divine nature by uniting them in a living union with the only Son, the Savior.”7

As the perfect sacrifice for the sins of men, Christ’s death and resurrection provided salvation for all who would believe. Salvation is the forgiveness of sins and the saving from the wrath and condemnation of God.

Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone (Eph. 2:8-9).

Salvation is a free gift from God to those who believe (trust) in Him (Rom. 1:16; 6:23; Eph. 2:8-9).

Salvation cannot be earned (Rom. 11:6).

Eucharist Teaches transubstantiation: the idea that at the Mass the bread and the wine are transformed into the literal body and blood of Christ (also known as ‘The Real Presence’):

The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: “Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.”8

Because these elements are the presence of Christ Himself, they are worshiped: “In the liturgy of the Mass we express our faith in the real presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine by, among other ways, genuflecting or bowing deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord. ‘The Catholic Church has always offered and still offers to the sacrament of the Eucharist the cult of adoration, not only during Mass, but also outside of it, reserving the consecrated hosts with the utmost care, exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and carrying them in procession.'”9

It is claimed that the Mass is a representation of Christ’s sacrifice. The Catholic Catechism calls this sacrament a “divine sacrifice”10, a “single sacrifice” with Christ’s that is “truly propitiatory”11 and capable of making restitution for sins.12

This sacrament is practiced for those who have already died: “The Eucharistic sacrifice is also offered for the faithful departed who “have died in Christ but are not yet wholly purified,” so that they may be able to enter into the light and peace of Christ.”13

The Lord’s Supper, or Communion, is celebrated in remembrance of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in obedience to His words (Lk. 22:19–20; 1 Cor. 11:23–26).

Jesus Christ was sacrificed only once for the forgiveness of sins of all those who will believe (Heb. 7:26–27, 9:28, 10:10–12). This single sacrifice was sufficient to save for all time those who are being sanctified (Heb. 10:14).

The sacrifice of Christ on the cross is what makes propitiation for the sins of His people (Heb. 2:17; 1 John 2:2).

If a man dies without Christ, there are no works that can be done, either for himself in Purgatory or by those still alive on Earth, that can gain him entry “into the light and peace of Christ” (Heb. 9:27).

Mary Mary was born free from original sin and preserved as such throughout her life: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.”

“The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God “the All-Holy” (Panagia), and celebrate her as ‘free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature.’ By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.”14

Teaches the perpetual virginity of Mary: “The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary’s real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man.In fact, Christ’s birth “did not diminish his mother’s virginal integrity but sanctified it.”and so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the ‘Ever-virgin’.”15

Teaches that, now in Heaven, Mary continues to act as a mediator for the Church: “This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfilment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation …. Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.”16

Scripture clearly teaches that “in Adam all die” (1 Cor. 15:22) and that no man is righteous or without sin (Rom. 3:10–18), with the exception of Christ Himself. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8). If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us (1 John 1:10).” Thus, Mary, like all mankind, was a sinner.

Scripture indicates that the Lord Jesus had brothers and sisters (Matt. 1:24–25, 12:46–47, 13:55; Mark 6:2–3; John 2:12; Acts 1:14; 1 Cor. 9:4–5; Gal. 1:19).

The only One who acts as a mediator between man and God is Jesus Christ. He alone is the high priest (Heb. 5:5, 6) who offered His own blood as an acceptable sacrifice for the sins of those who would believe (Heb. 9:14–15, 10:14).

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” (1 Tim. 2:5–6)

Scripture

Equates Scripture and man-made tradition: “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal.” Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ, who promised to remain with his own ‘always, to the close of the age’.”17

“As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, ‘does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honoured with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.'”18

“‘Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God’ (DV 10) in which, as in a mirror, the pilgrim Church contemplates God, the source of all her riches.”19

Includes the Apocryphal books as part of the inspired canon (considered as part of the Old Testament): “This complete list is called the canon of Scripture. It includes 46 books for the Old Testament (45 if we count Jeremiah and Lamentations as one) and 27 for the New: The Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, Tobit, Judith, Esther, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, the Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Baruch, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zachariah and Malachi.”20

The Bible supports tradition only when it affirms what God has already revealed in His Word and through the teaching of the Apostles (2 Thess. 2:15, 3:6; 1 Cor. 11:2).

When man’s tradition contradicts Scripture (as many of the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church do), then it must be rejected (Mark 7:8–9, Col. 2:8).

“The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit or traditions of men. (2 Tim. 3:15–17, Gal. 1:8–9, 2 Thess. 2:2) Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: (John 6:45, 1 Cor 2:9–12) and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed. (1 Cor. 11:13–14, 1 Cor. 14:26, 40) which are always to be observed (1 Cor. 11:13).”21

Purgatory

Teaches that some men must undergo additional purification after death before being able to enter the kingdom of Heaven:

“All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. the tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire: As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.”22

The idea that men must atone for their own sins, whether in life or death, runs contrary to the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone, and denies the full efficacy of the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ. Christ’s sacrifice achieved the salvation of all who will believe, apart from any work or merit of their own doing.

Purgatory is not a Scriptural concept. Scripture does speak quite clearly, however, about the two possible destinations after one’s death: Heaven or Hell (Matt. 25:31–34).

Indulgences

“An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.” 
”An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin.”Indulgences may be applied to the living or the dead.”23

“Through indulgences the faithful can obtain the remission of temporal punishment resulting from sin for themselves and also for the souls in Purgatory.”24

The teaching of indulgences negates the sufficiency of Christ’s work on the cross. Christ alone has born the punishment for the sins of those who will believe (Rom. 5:1, 9; Eph. 2:8; Isa. 53:4–6).

Penance

A sacrament of reconciliation for sins committed after baptism. Necessary to re-establish a right relationship with God: “Penance is a liturgical action. the elements of the celebration are ordinarily these: a greeting and blessing from the priest, reading the word of God to illuminate the conscience and elicit contrition, and an exhortation to repentance; the confession, which acknowledges sins and makes them known to the priest; the imposition and acceptance of a penance; the priest’s absolution; a prayer of thanksgiving and praise and dismissal with the blessing of the priest.”25

The deeds of men are as filthy rags before God (Isa. 64:6), and thus the Christian can only be reconciled to God by grace through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:24, 5:1, 11:6; Eph. 2:8).

The Papacy

Built upon a misinterpretation of Matt. 16:18, the RCC asserts that the pope is Christ’s representative on earth and the visible successor of Peter:

“Simon Peter holds the first place in the college of the Twelve; Jesus entrusted a unique mission to him. Through a revelation from the Father, Peter had confessed: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Our Lord then declared to him: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” Christ, the “living Stone”, thus assures his Church, built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death. Because of the faith he confessed Peter will remain the unshakable rock of the Church. His mission will be to keep this faith from every lapse and to strengthen his brothers in it.”26

When the pope speaks “ex cathedra,” he “defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, by the Divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter, is possessed of that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed that his Church should be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith or morals, and that therefore such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves and not from the consent of the Church irreformable.”27

The perfect life, death and resurrection of Christ was accomplished in full so that man would no longer require another mortal mediator between himself and God. Sinful man, through Jesus Christ alone, can now approach the throne of God (Heb. 10:19–22, 4:16).

Please see the list of ‘Further Reading’ below for additional discussion of the interpretation of Matt. 16:18.

Further Reading

On Salvation

On the Eucharist

On Mary

On Scripture

On Purgatory

On the Sacraments

On the Papacy

General Resources

Footnotes

  1. Documents of the Council of Trent: Session VI, accessed 16 September 2012, http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/trent06.htm
  2. Documents of the Council of Trent: Session VI, accessed 16 September 2012, http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/trent06.htm
  3. Documents of the Council of Trent: Session VI, accessed 16 September 2012, http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/trent06.htm
  4. Documents of the Council of Trent: Session VI, accessed 16 September 2012, http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/trent06.htm
  5. Documents of the Council of Trent: Session VI, accessed 16 September 2012, http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/trent06.htm
  6. Matt Slick, Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, “Summary of process of salvation in Roman Catholicism.”
  7. Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), Paragraph 1129.
  8. CCC, Paragraph 1376
  9. CCC, Paragraph 1378.
  10. CCC, Paragraph 1068.
  11. CCC, Paragraph 1367.
  12. CCC, Paragraph 1444.
  13. CCC, Paragraph 1371.
  14. CCC, Paragraph 491, 493.
  15. CCC, Paragraph 499–501.
  16. CCC, Paragraph 969.
  17. CCC, Paragraph 80.
  18. CCC, Paragraph 82.
  19. CCC, Paragraph 97.
  20. CCC, Paragraph 120.
  21. Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 1, Paragraph VI.
  22. CCC, Paragraph 1030, 1031.
  23. CCC, Paragraph 1471.
  24. CCC, Paragraph 1498.
  25. CCC, Paragraph 1480.
  26. CCC, Paragraph 552.
  27. Catholic Encyclopedia, “Ex Cathedra,” accessed 15 September 2012, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05677a.htm.

Contemplative Prayer

Contemplative prayer (also referred to as centering prayer, breath prayer, meditation or listening prayer) is one of the most esteemed spiritual disciplines taught in spiritual formation. In both practice and purpose, contemplative prayer stands in contrast with what Scripture teaches about prayer. Practitioners believe that one must clear the mind of outside concerns so that God’s voice may more easily be heard and that one may be united with the “divine spark” within.

Advocates of contemplative prayer believe and teach that it is a necessary practice if one desires to become more like Christ. In claiming this, however, they often appeal to the practices of ancient Roman Catholic mystic monks rather than the Word of God.

Contemplative Prayer is a prayer of silence, an experience of God’s presence as the ground in which our being is rooted, the Source from whom our life emerges at every moment…. Contemplative Prayer is the opening of mind and heart – our whole being – to God, the Ultimate Mystery, beyond thoughts, words and emotions. We open our awareness to God whom we know by faith is within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than choosing – closer than consciousness itself.1

Contemplative prayer, in its simplest form, is prayer in which you still your thoughts and emotions and focus on God Himself. This puts you in a better state to be aware of God’s presence, and it makes you better able to hear God’s voice correcting, guiding, and directing you…. The fundamental idea is simply to enjoy the companionshp of God, stilling your own thoughts so you can listen should God choose to speak. For this reason, contemplative prayer is sometimes referred to as ‘the prayer of silence.’2

At a glance

Contemplative Prayer Biblical Prayer
Practice & Technique Seeks to empty the mind and enter an altered state of consciousness by:

  • repetition of a mantra;3
  • focusing on one’s breathing;
  • contemplating images or icons.4

Instructs one to sit in silence, waiting and listening to hear from God:

“Yet God speaks in many ways. We need to learn to listen for His voice. Normally, His voice is not audible … but I wouldn’t want to exclude that possibility. Who am I to say how God will choose to speak?”5

Prays according to the Scriptures. Micah 7:7; Ps. 4:3; 1 John 5:14, 15

Prays with both spirit and mind, not one or the other. 1 Cor 14:15

Talks to God the Father (Phil. 4:6) through Jesus Christ (John 16:23) in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Understands that what God has revealed in His Word is sufficient; new revelation is unnecessary. 2 Tim. 3:16–17

Objectives Seeks to experience God in an inexplicable way, often describing the believer’s relationship with God in erotic or romantic terms.

“There are many terms that seek to capture this dynamic … they all are attempts to capture the same thing: the movement beyond words to an intimacy that requires no words. This intimacy is the kind that lovers know when they give themselves over to the act of lovemaking.”6

Desires to achieve a “God-consciousness” and a unity with God:

“He [God] wants to bring us further, to a transformation of consciousness, to unity-consciousness, to a full possession of our divinization.”7

[T]he place to which we are going is one in which the knower, the knowing, and that which is known are all one. Awareness alone remains. The one who is aware disappears along with whatever was the object of consciousness. This is what divine union is.”8

Expects to hear from God, usually through an inner voice or prompting:

“Growing intimacy requires that I pay careful attention to the other person. When that other is God, it’s necessary to still my own voice and listen in quietness. Then I can detect the gentle whispers of the Spirit. Too often we fail to hear God speak because we are not attentively listening.”9

Understands that prayer is ultimately a form of worship. It should glorify God alone. John 14:13, 14

Understands that prayer is an act of reverence, approaching the very throne of God to receive mercy and find grace. Heb. 4:16

Acknowledges and humbles oneself before the holy God of the universe. Prayer should affirm God’s sovereignty and majesty. Matt. 6:9

“Everything in prayer revolves around who God is, what God wants, and how God is to be glorified. That is the sum and substance of proper praying.”10

The Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:2–4) offers a model of how Christians ought to pray as it “emphasizes the glory and supremacy of God.”11

Purposes to confess sin and acknowledge our position before God as rebellious sinners (e.g., Dan. 9:5–11; Matt. 6:12): “We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He would give them all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment.”12

Desires to align and submit our will to God’s. Ps. 86:11; Matt. 6:10; John 15:7; John 16:23; 1 John 5:14

“While God communicates to us through the Bible, we respond to Him in prayer.”13

Effects of Contemplative Prayer

As noted in the Spiritual Formation research article, the spiritual disciplines are rooted in unbiblical origins. In his book The Sacred Way, Emergent theologian Tony Jones acknowledges that “Centering Prayer grew out of the reflections and writings of the Desert Fathers.”14 These Desert Fathers, however, did not appear until the third century AD, long after the time of Jesus and His Apostles.

Contemplative prayer presupposes that the Christian must seek outside of Scripture to hear all that God is saying, thus Scripture loses its position as the final, authoritative Word from God. The following quotes are from Dallas Willard and Richard Foster, respectively, who are both leading teachers of contemplative prayer:

Many discussions about hearing God’s voice speak of three points of reference, also called ‘three lights’ that we can consult in determining what God wants us to do. These are circumstances, impressions of the Spirit and passages from the Bible. When these three things point in the same direction, it is suggested that we be sure the direction they point is the one God intends for us.15

Only the Bible as a whole can be treated as the written Word of God…. In any case we must certainly go beyond, though never around, the words of the Bible to find out what God is speaking to us.16

Yet, Scripture itself informs us of its sufficiency (2 Tim. 3:16–17), and of God’s final word and revelation to us in Christ (Heb. 1:1–2).

While one may indeed “hear” from an entity in the spiritual realm, the voices heard, or impressions received, may not always be from God:

There are other ‘spiritual voices,’ too…. Satan … too will speak in our heart once he sees he no longer holds us in his hand. Only if we learn to recognize this voice as well can we … correctly identify and firmly resist him and make him flee from us (1 Pet. 5:9; Eph. 6:11).17

I also want to give a word of precaution. In the silent contemplation of God we are entering deeply into the spiritual realm, and there is such a thing as a supernatural guidance. While the Bible does not give us a lot of information on that, there are various orders of spiritual beings, and some of them are definitely not in cooperation with God and his way! … But for now I want to encourage you to learn and practice prayers of protection.18

The Christian, however, is told to resist the devil (Jas. 4:7). This would necessarily include rejecting any practice which may engage one in direct communication with the Enemy and his servants.

Commonly Misused Verses

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! Ps. 46:10

It is the first half of this verse that is most commonly abused by advocates of contemplative prayer. Psalm 46:10a may also be rendered as “Cease striving and know that I am God…” as it is in the NASB. The context of this verse is one of war and conflict.

“The verb ‘Be still’ (Hebrew, rapah) is used 46 times in the Old Testament with meanings everywhere from describing laziness to ordering relaxation…. In no biblical usage or context does the Hebrew verb enjoin God’s people to meditate or contemplate. Rather, believers are to rest and trust in God.”19 “This is not a contemplative call for reflection but a redemptive call to surrender and to know God personally and intimately before his swift judgment is unleashed (Hab. 2:20; Zeph. 1:7; Zech. 2:13).”20

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. Ps. 62:1

This verse is used by contemplatives to support the practice of silent waiting before the Lord. However, understood in context, this verse offers a picture of submitting oneself to the Lord, trusting in and waiting patiently for Him to act according to His will. “Only to God did [David] look with complete calmness.”21 “Psalm 62 is not a call to unexpressed contemplation, but rather a song of expressed confidence…. The psalmist is not providing an example for retreating into silence. Rather he is telling fellow believers to go to God.”22

Additional Concerns

The “Divine Spark”

Practitioners and teachers of contemplative prayer often maintain that inside all humans there is a “spark of the divine.” Hence, the purpose of contemplative prayer is to become aware of – and connect with – this inner divinity:

Although God lives in the souls of men who are unconscious of Him, how can I say that I have found Him and found myself in Him if I never know Him or think of Him, never take any interest in Him or seek Him or desire His presence in my soul?23

Contemplative prayer is a process of inner transformation, a conversation initiated by God and leading, if we consent, to divine union. One’s way of seeing reality changes in the process. A restructuring of consciousness takes place which empowers one to perceive, relate and respond with increasing sensitivity to the divine presence in, through, and beyond everything that exists.24

This teaching of a “divine spark” existing in all humans contradicts both the biblical doctrine of original sin and the fact that, without Christ, all men are dead in their trespasses and sin (Rom. 3:10–18; 3:23). Pastor Larry DeBruyn teaches:

Absent birth by the Holy Spirit from above, any mystical assumption that the human heart possesses a divine essence, a resident kingdom of God within, does not accord with Jesus’ teaching and is therefore, heretical (Compare Mark 7:14-23.). In order to either “see” or “enter the kingdom of God” a person must be born from above. In his teaching, Jesus spoke of persons entering the kingdom. But He did not speak of a kingdom of God residing in people. The New Birth, the requirement for entering the kingdom of God, comes from without a human soul, not from within it.25

Parallels to Practices of Eastern Religions

While contemplative prayer mirrors the practices of the Desert Fathers, as noted above, it may also be viewed as a “Christianized” version of what is known as Transcendental Meditation (TM). TM has its roots in Hinduism,26 and was brought to the West by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1959.27 Maharishi states:

Through Transcendental Meditation, the mind unfolds its potential for unlimited awareness, transcendental awareness, Unity Consciousness.28

This is strikingly similar to several of the quotations cited above, wherein proponents of contemplative prayer would have the practitioner still himself so as to become more aware of God within.

In their book Finding Grace at the Center, Roman Catholic monks Thomas Keating and Basil Pennington write:

We should not hesitate to take the fruit of the age-old wisdom of the East and “capture” it for Christ. Indeed, those of us who are in ministry should make the necessary effort to acquaint ourselves with as many of these Eastern techniques as possible…. Many Christians who take their prayer life seriously have been greatly helped by Yoga, Zen, TM and similar practices, especially where they have been initiated by reliable teachers and have a solidly developed Christian faith to find inner form and meaning to the resulting experiences.29

Persisting in such practices as transcendental meditation invariably will lead to universalism, as pastor-teacher Ken Silva demonstrates in his article Meditating on Contemplative/Centering Prayer.

Furthermore, Scripture unambiguously instructs the Christian to refrain from pagan practices (Lev. 18:3; Deut. 18:12; 1 Cor. 10:20; Gal. 4:8). The Christian has been called out of the darkness of the sinful world and its man-made religions, and is called instead to be set apart in Christ (1 Pet. 2:9–12; Phil. 3:20).

Further reading

On the Dangers of Contemplative Prayer

On Biblical Prayer

Footnotes

  1. Center for the Contemplative Mind in Society.
  2. Jan Johnson, When the Soul Listens: Finding Rest and Direction in Contemplative Prayer, (NavPress: 1999).
  3. Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation, (InterVarsity Press: 2006), 76.
  4. Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel, (Continuum International Publishing Group: 2002), 45.
  5. Richard Foster, 5 Misconceptions That Hinder Prayer.
  6. Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation, (InterVarsity Press: 2006), 68.
  7. M. Basil Pennington, Centering Prayer: Renewing an Ancient Christian Prayer Form, (Random House Digital: 1982).
  8. Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel, (Continuum International Publishing Group: 2002), 74.
  9. Bruce Demarest, Satisfying Your Soul, Restoring the Heart of Christian Spirituality, (NavPress: 1999), 108-109.
  10. John MacArthur, Steps to Successful Prayer, Part 2.
  11. John MacArthur, Steps to Successful Prayer, Part 4.
  12. Martin Luther, The Small Catechism.
  13. Gary Gilley, Contemplative Prayer
  14. Tony Jones and Phyllis Tickle, The Sacred Way, (Zondervan: 2005), 70.
  15. Dallas Willard, Hearing God, (InterVarsity Press: 1999), 170.
  16. Dallas Willard, Hearing God, (InterVarsity Press: 1999), 167.
  17. Dallas Willard, Hearing God, (InterVarsity Press: 1999), 181.
  18. Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (HarperCollins, 1992), 157.
  19. Larry DeBruyn, Be Still.
  20. Steven J. Lawson, Holman Old Testament Commentary: Ps. 1–75, ed. Max Anders, (B&H Publishing: 2003), 246.
  21. Walvoord, John F., Roy B. Zuck, and Dallas Theological Seminary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, (Victor Books: 1985), vol. 1, 839.
  22. Larry DeBruyn, Should We Wait in Silence?.
  23. Thomas Merton and Sue Monk Kidd, New Seeds of Contemplation, (New Directions Publishing: 2007), 43.
  24. Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel, (Continuum International Publishing Group: 2002), 4.
  25. Larry DeBruyn, The Essence Within: Divinity or Depravity?
  26. Hinduism Worldwide, “Creator of Transcendental Meditation – Maharishi Mahesh Yogi”.
  27. Koppel, Lily. 2008. “Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Spiritual Leader, Dies.” New York Times, February 6.
  28. The Transcendental Meditation Program, accessed 6 June 2012.
  29. Thomas Keating and Basil Pennington, Finding Grace at the Center, (Skylight Paths Publishing: 2007), 31.

Spiritual Formation

Spiritual formation is the process of apparent spiritual development through engaging in a set of behaviors, termed disciplines. Advocates believe these disciplines help shape the character of the practitioner into the likeness of Christ.

Though superficially similar to discipleship, spiritual formation is not merely concerned with biblical exhortation and instruction in orthodox doctrine, but also with the teaching of “many practices that opened [the believer] to the presence and direction of God, and nurtured the character traits of Christ into fruition”.1

The Renovaré website states:

Spiritual formation is a process, but it is also a journey through which we open our hearts to a deeper connection with God. We are not bystanders in our spiritual lives, we are active participants with God, who is ever inviting us into relationship with him.2

History

1974
William Menninger discovers the book, The Cloud of Unknowing:

In 1974, Father William Meninger, a Trappist monk and retreat master at St. Josephs Abbey in Spencer, Mass. found a dusty little book in the abbey library, The Cloud of Unknowing. As he read it he was delighted to discover that this anonymous 14th century book presented contemplative meditation as a teachable, spiritual process enabling the ordinary person to enter and receive a direct experience of union with God.3

Thomas Keating, Basil Pennington and others who were students of Menninger disseminate these teachings.4

1978
Richard Foster writes The Celebration of Discipline.

This book launched spiritual formation into mainstream evangelicalism, and continues to be used today.

In The Celebration of Discipline, Foster shares the practices of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches that originated with the Desert Mothers and Fathers.

The Celebration of Discipline presents spiritual formation as attainable through the “spiritual disciplines.”

These disciplines are seen as a means of growing in spiritual maturity and depth. “In fact, the implication was that without the use of these ancient contemplative methods true ‘spiritual formation’ was not possible.”5

1988
Dallas Willard, a close associate of Richard Foster, writes The Spirit of the Disciplines. This book “reveals how the key to self-transformation resides in the practice of the spiritual disciplines, and how their practice affirms human life to the fullest.”6

The Spirit of the Disciplines is based on Willard’s understanding of Matt. 11:29–30. Willard teaches that the “yoke” spoken of by Jesus in this passage is to attempt to emulate the life of Christ in every way possible. Willard teaches that this emulation occurs through the practice of the disciplines.7 (For a comprehensive teaching on this passage in Matthew, read or listen to Dr. John MacArthur’s sermon, Jesus’ Personal Invitation, Part 2.)

Richard Foster founds Renovaré. This organization seeks “to resource, fuel, model, and advocate more intentional living and spiritual formation among Christians and those wanting a deeper connection with God. A foundational presence in the spiritual formation movement for over 20 years, Renovaré is Christian in commitment, ecumenical in breadth, and international in scope.”8

Present
The ideas presented by Foster and Willard continue to be propagated through the works and teachings of others.

Spiritual formation is a primary teaching found in what has come to be known as the emerging church. Brian McLaren, a key leader in that movement, has acknowledged that both Foster and Willard are considered “key mentors for the emerging church.”9

Spiritual disciplines

According to proponents of spiritual formation, various “spiritual disciplines” must be practiced in order to experience true spiritual growth:

Christian spiritual formation is a God-ordained process that shapes our entire person so that we take on the character and being of Christ himself.

Properly employed…these disciplines help us attain increasing levels of spiritual maturity so that we respond to our life circumstances with the mind of Christ.10

In his book, The Celebration of Discipline, as well as on his Renovaré website, Richard Foster lists these disciplines as:11

meditation
Entering into a “listening silence” in order to “hear God’s voice.” Similar to the meditation of Eastern religions.
prayer
An “interactive conversation” with God. Practiced as contemplative prayer.
fasting
“The voluntary denial of an otherwise normal function for the sake of intense spiritual activity.”
study
“The mind taking on an order conforming to the order of whatever we concentrate upon.”
simplicity
“The joyful unconcern for possessions we experience as we truly ‘seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness’ (Matt 6:33).”
solitude
A “state of mind” for one to be “found by God and freed from competing loyalties.”
submission
Letting “go of the burden of always needing to get our own way.”
service
“A pattern of service as a lifestyle…At the center is found a contentment in hiddenness, indiscriminancy.”
confession
Confession of sin to other professing believers.
worship
“Entering into the supra-natural experience of the Shekanyah, or glory, of God.”
guidance
Learning to “heed the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the teachings of Jesus.” “It is the perception that we have heard the Kol Yahweh, the voice of God.”
celebration
Celebrating God in all facets of life.

Since the disciplines are not defined in Scripture, no concrete, definitive list is available. Consequently, Willard notes that we should not “assume that our particular list will be right for others.”12 This confirms the subjective nature of these practices.

Dangers

Unbiblical origins

Despite assertions that the spiritual disciplines are “God-ordained,”13 they are in fact derived from the practices of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox mystics.14 These practices are contrary to the biblical theology fought for in the Reformation.

Gary Gilley asks:

Do we, as believers in Sola Scriptura, take our marching orders from the written Word, or do we look to the ‘white spaces’ in Scripture to determine how we live?15

In other words, are we to turn to mystical, subjective ascetic practices, or do we rely upon the objective truth of God’s Word?

Bob DeWaay contends:

The Bible nowhere describes an inward journey to explore the realm of the spirit. God chose to reveal the truth about spiritual reality through His ordained, Spirit-inspired, biblical writers.16

Unbiblical view of man’s condition

Spiritual formation teaches that man possesses innate goodness, but that his fallen state of sin is a result of “deprivation” or “spiritual starvation.” Thus, the disciplines help to feed, mature and grow man’s spirituality. In his Spirit of the Disciplines, Dallas Willard states:

The evil that we do in our present condition is a reflection of a weakness caused by spiritual starvation. When Jesus prayed on the cross, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do,” he was not just being generous to his killers; he was expressing the facts of the case. They really did not know what they were doing. As St. Augustine so clearly saw, the deranged condition of humankind is not, at bottom, a positive fact, but a deprivation. It is one that results in vast positive evils, of course, yet depravity is no less a horror because it stems from a deficiency, and people are no less responsible for it and its consequences.17

Rather than having an innate ability for good, Scripture teaches that, due to the Fall, man is innately depraved (Rom. 3:11–18, 23, 5:8; Eph. 2:1) and his heart is wicked (Jer. 17:9).

Invented practices made binding upon Christians

Spiritual disciplines are not commanded in Scripture. To impose practices not commanded in Scripture as necessary for spiritual maturity is to undermine and deny the sufficiency of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16–17).

In spite of the absence of an explicit command in Scripture to practice these disciplines, leaders like Dallas Willard continue to assert their necessity:

The disciplines are activities of mind and body purposefully undertaken, to bring our personality and total being into effective cooperation with the divine order. They enable us more and more to live in a power that is, strictly speaking, beyond us, deriving from the spiritual realm itself, as we “yield ourselves to God, as those that are alive from the dead, and our members as instruments of righteousness unto God,” as Romans 6:13 puts it.

The necessity for such disciplines comes from the very nature of the self in the image of God, discussed earlier. Once the individual has through divine initiative become alive to God and his Kingdom, the extent of integration of his or her total being into that Kingdom order significantly depends upon the individual’s initiative.18

Though Dallas Willard admits that the Bible does not command that these disciplines be followed, he nevertheless argues that they were practiced among members of the early church. Bob DeWaay summarizes Willard’s argument regarding Paul’s silence as being that he “did not write about the spiritual disciplines because everyone was practicing them.”19 He further states:

Spiritual disciplines are man-made, amorphous, and not revealed in the Bible; they assume that one is saved by grace and perfected by works.”20

The Apostle Paul writes against such ascetic practices. In Col. 2:20–23, Paul rebukes the idea of relying on fleshly practices to grow in holiness. Gal. 3:3 reads: “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected in the flesh?”

Though proponents like Richard Foster and Dallas Willard claim that spiritual formation has been practiced since the early days of the church, Foster admits that the term “spiritual formation” did not appear in evangelical vocabulary until he ushered it into the mainstream in the 1970s with The Celebration of Discipline:

By now enough water has gone under the Christian Spiritual Formation bridge that we can give some assessment of where we have come and what yet needs to be done. When I first began writing in the field in the late 70s and early 80s the term “Spiritual Formation” was hardly known, except for highly specialized references in relation to the Catholic orders. Today it is a rare person who has not heard the term. Seminary courses in Spiritual Formation proliferate like baby rabbits. Huge numbers are seeking to become certified as Spiritual Directors to answer the cry of multiplied thousands for spiritual direction. And more.”21

Possibility of real spiritual experiences not from God

Richard Foster himself has offered warnings when it comes to practicing some of the disciplines. In regard to the practice of contemplative prayer, which is a type of meditation, Foster, in his book Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, writes:

I also want to give a word of precaution. In the silent contemplation of God we are entering deeply into the spiritual realm, and there is such a thing as a supernatural guidance. While the Bible does not give us a lot of information on that, there are various orders of spiritual beings, and some of them are definitely not in cooperation with God and his way!….

…But for now I want to encourage you to learn and practice prayers of protection.22

When seeking to “hear from God,” there is no biblical guidance as to how one may determine exactly who or what is communicating. Foster himself notes that not only could one be deceived by Satan, but one may also mistake one’s own imagination or “human voices” for the voice of God.

Learning to distinguish the voice of God…from just human voices within us…comes in much the same way that we learn any other voice. Satan pushes and condemns. God draws and encourages. And we can know the difference.23

Though Foster provides criteria for determining just who or what is speaking, there is no biblical support for the specifications he provides. He implies that God will always speak in a positive manner, yet there are multiple instances in Scripture when God speaks negatively to His people. About Foster’s comments in the above-referenced Be Still DVD, Pastor Larry DeBruyn writes:

Assuming that God speaks Soul to soul today, what if Foster’s paradigm for determining “the voice” were reversed; that the negative voice is God’s, and the positive is Satan’s? It happened that way in the Garden. God warned Adam and Eve that for disobedience to God, “you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17), but Satan reassuringly told Adam and Eve, “You surely shall not die!” (Genesis 3:4). The point is that when engaging meditative spirituality, the contemplator can never be certain who will speak, and as a consequence, the experience can become the spawning ground for myriads of flashy ideas based solely upon, “he heard this,” or “she heard that.” And at that juncture, Christians and the church will have turned aside “to myths” (2 Timothy 4:4).24

Deception is rampant, and unbiblical, mystical practices may offer people an actual spiritual experience, though not one that originates from the true and living God. To ignore the boundaries of Scripture is to open oneself up to danger.

Further reading

On Richard Foster

On Dallas Willard

On sola scriptura

General resources

Footnotes

  1. Bruce Demarest, Satisfy Your Soul: Restoring the Heart of Christian Spirituality (NavPress, 1999), 24.
  2. http://www.renovare.us/SPIRITUALRENEWAL/WhyBecomeLikeJesus/Whatisspiritualformation/tabid/2572/Default.aspx, accessed 16 May 2012.
  3. ContemplativePrayer.net.
  4. Gary Gilley, Spiritual Formation. Dr. Gary Gilley is pastor of Southern View Chapel in Springfield, IL.
  5. Gary Gilley, Spiritual Formation.
  6. http://store.renovare.us/p-27-the-spirit-of-the-disciplines.aspx, accessed 16 May 2012.
  7. Bob DeWaay, The Dangers of Spiritual Formation and Spiritual Disciplines. Bob DeWaay is a Christian apologist and founder of Critical Issues Commentary.
  8. http://www.renovare.us/WHOWEARE/WhatisRenovaré/tabid/2475/Default.aspx, accessed 16 May 2012.
  9. Brian McLaren, “The Emergent Mystique,” Christianity Today, November 2004.
  10. Richard J. Foster and Gayle D. Beebe, Longing for God: Seven Paths of Christian Devotion (InterVarsity Press, 2009), 15, 16.
  11. All quotations within these definitions are from http://www.renovare.us/SPIRITUALRENEWAL/PracticingLikeJesus/WhyPracticeLikeJesus/tabid/2518/Default.aspx and linked pages, accessed 16 May 2012.
  12. Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines, 157.
  13. Richard Foster, Renovaré Newsletter, http://www.renovare.us/ViewNewsLetter/tabid/2404/Default.aspx?ID=71, May 2003.
  14. Gary Gilley, Spiritual Formation.
  15. Gary Gilley, Spiritual Formation.
  16. Bob DeWaay, Richard Foster – Celebration of Deception.
  17. Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines, (HarperCollins, 1990), 63–64.
  18. Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines, (HarperCollins, 1990), 68.
  19. Bob DeWaay, The Dangers of Spiritual Formation and Spiritual Disciplines.
  20. Bob DeWaay, The Dangers of Spiritual Formation and Spiritual Disciplines.
  21. Richard Foster, Spiritual Formation: A Pastoral Letter.
  22. Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (HarperCollins, 1992), 157.
  23. Richard Foster, Be Still, Fear of Silence (DVD © Twentieth Fox Home Entertainment LLC, 2006). Transcript courtesy of Larry DeBruyn, Who Goes There?
  24. Larry DeBruyn, Who Goes There?

Mormonism

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more commonly known as the Mormon Church, was established by Joseph Smith on 6 April 1830. Mormons believe that, until this time, the true gospel had been perverted and lost. Consequently, Joseph Smith was called upon by God to restore the true church.

At a glance

Mormonism Christianity
Trinity Father, Son and Holy Ghost are three separate gods. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 370

“As with any man, there was a time when God the Father was childless, when he had not yet begun the procreation of his spirit family. Consequently, the Godhead as we know it did not exist; there was no Son of God and no Holy Ghost.” Rodney Turner, “The Doctrine of the Firstborn and Only Begotten,” in The Pearl of Great Price: Revelations from God

There is only one God. Isa. 44:6, 8; 45:5

He has eternally existed. Ps. 90:2

He exists in three distinct persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Matt. 28:19

In the unity of the Godhead, there are three persons of one substance, power and eternity: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

Monotheism “Mormonism is simultaneously monotheistic, tritheistic, and polytheistic. There is but one God, yet there is a Godhead of three, and beyond them, ‘gods many, and lords many’ (1 Cor. 8:5). But regardless of the multiplicity of personages bearing divine titles, they are one in that priesthood which governs throughout the eternities. Unlike the carnal gods of mythical Olympus, they are not competing against one another for status and dominion.” Rodney Turner, “The Doctrine of the Firstborn and Only Begotten,” in The Pearl of Great Price: Revelations from God

There is only one God. No god existed before the One True God, and none shall exist after Him. Deut. 6:4; Isa. 43:10, 44:6; 45:5, 18, 21-22; 46:9; John 17:3

God the Father God the Father was once a man with a physical body.

“The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s…” Doctrine and Covenants, 130:22

“God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man.” Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 345

God the Father resides near the planet Kolob. Abr. 3:2–18

“He [Eternal Father] revealed to Abraham that his throne is near Kolob, the great governing star of our universe.” Joseph Fielding Smith, Man: His Origin and Destiny, p. 537

The first person of the Trinity, God the Father was never a man. Num. 23:19, John 4:24

God the Father has eternally existed (Ps. 90:2) and is immutable in His nature. Mal. 3:6; Jas. 3:6

Jesus A created being and the spirit-brother of Lucifer. The Gospel Through the Ages, 15

As a created being and fellow spirit child of God, Jesus is the elder brother of all men. Gospel Principles, 11, 17, 18

The second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, was not created and has eternally existed. John 8:58; Heb. 13:8

Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man, God in human flesh. John 1:1-4, 14; 1 Tim. 3:16

Jesus Christ is also the Creator of the universe. Col. 1:15-17

Holy Spirit The third member of the Mormon godhead. The LDS Bible Dictionary equates the terms, “Holy Spirit” and “Holy Ghost,” yet other sources describe the two as distinct from one another.

“The gift [of the Holy Ghost] can come only after proper and authorized baptism, and is conferred by the laying on of hands, as in Acts 8:12–25 and Moroni 2:1–3. The gift of the Holy Ghost is the right to have, whenever one is worthy, the companionship of the Holy Ghost.” LDS Bible Dictionary

The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity and thus He has eternally existed and is fully God. Heb. 9:14

The Holy Spirit bears witness to Jesus Christ. John 15:26

He convicts the world of sin. John 16:7-9

The Holy Spirit indwells believers at conversion. Rom. 8:9-14

Speaking with the authority of the Father, the Holy Spirit guides believers in truth. John 16:13-14

Satan The second born, literal son of Heavenly Father (Elohim) and Heavenly Mother, Lucifer (Satan) is the spirit brother of Jesus Christ.

When the head of the gods called a council, it is said that Jesus came up with a better plan of salvation than did his brother, Lucifer. Gospel Principles, Chapter 3

A created being, a fallen angel, who rebelled against God, incurring His judgment. Being cast out of Heaven, Satan took many angels with him. Luke 10:18; Matt. 25:41; Rev. 12:3–4

Satan is the “father of lies.” John 8:44

He first introduced sin to humanity with the temptation of Eve in the Garden of Eden. Gen. 3:1-15

Satan is the enemy of both God and man. Isa. 14:13, 14; Matt. 4:1-11; Rev. 12:9, 10

Satan has been defeated by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and at the final judgment, he will be cast for eternity into the lake of fire. Rom. 16:20; Rev. 20:10

Scripture Four books are recognized as scripture: the King James Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Gospel Principles, Chapter 10 The Bible alone is the inspired, inerrant, authoritative Word of God. 2 Tim. 3:16-17
Man All men “were sons and daughters of heavenly parents,” existing as spirit children of the Father. As “spirit children of God,” men may work on earth to “develop His divine qualities.” Gospel Principles, Chapter 2

Men and women may become heavenly parents and create spirit children just like the Father. Doctrines and Covenants 132:19-20

Mormons will one day become gods:

“As man now is, God once was; as God is now man may be.” The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow

“Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.” Doctrines and Covenants 132:20

Man was created by God on the sixth day. Gen. 1:26–27

Due to man’s disobedience to God in the Garden of Eden, every man is born dead in sin. Every man, unless redeemed by Jesus Christ, lives in rebellion to God. Rom. 3:11-18

Atonement In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus sweat great drops of blood for the sins of men, and on the cross, his work was finished. This work allows for all persons on earth to be resurrected. The blood of Jesus, however, was not sufficient to cover all of man’s sins.

“man may commit certain grievous sins–according to his light and knowledge–that will place him beyond the reach of the atoning blood of Christ. If then he would be saved, he must make sacrifice of his own life to atone–so far as in his power lies–for that sin, for the blood of Christ alone under certain circumstances will not avail…. Joseph Smith taught that there were certain sins so grievous that men may commit, that they will place the transgressors beyond the power of the atonement of Christ. If these offenses are committed, then the blood of Christ will not cleanse them from their sins even though they repent.” Doctrines of Salvation 1:134, 135

Man, being born dead in trespasses and sins, cannot atone for himself. Eph. 2:1; Rom. 5:8, 3:10-11

God in his infinite love sent Jesus to suffer and die as a substitute to bear the wrath and punishment of God in the place of those who believe. 1 John 4:10; 1 Pet. 3:18; 1 Pet 2:24

The blood of Christ was the perfect and acceptable sacrifice to God for the sins of all who will believe. Rom. 5:9; Heb. 10:14

With the resurrection of Christ, God demonstrated that He accepted this sacrifice. It is through the atonement that man is reconciled to God. Rom. 5:10

Salvation The death and resurrection of Christ allows for universal resurrection. To attain heaven, man must earn his own way.

“For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” 2 Nephi 25:23

As the perfect sacrifice for the sins of men, Christ’s death and resurrection provided salvation for all who would believe.

Through repentance and faith in Christ, man may be forgiven of his sins and saved from the righteous wrath and condemnation of God. Both repentance and faith are good gifts from God. Acts 11:18; Eph. 2:8-9

Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. Eph. 2:8-9

Salvation is a free gift from God to those who believe in Him. Rom. 1:16; 6:23; Eph. 2:8-9

Salvation cannot be earned. Rom. 11:6

Heaven & Hell Most people will attain to one of three kingdoms of heaven: Celestial, Terrestrial or Telestial. Doctrines and Covenants 88:16-24

Those cast into Hell are there for a time. Most will eventually enter into the Telestial Kingdom. Mormon Doctrine, 349-350

Eternal life is synonymous with godhood and populating other worlds.

“The Father has promised us that through our faithfulness we shall be blessed with the fulness of his kingdom. In other words we will have the privilege of becoming like him. To become like him we must have all the powers of godhood; thus a man and his wife when glorified will have spirit children who eventually will go on an earth like this one we are on and pass through the same kind of experiences, being subject to mortal conditions, and if faithful, then they also will receive the fulness of exaltation and partake of the same blessings. There is no end to this development; it will go on forever. We will become gods and have jurisdiction over worlds, and these worlds will be peopled by our own offspring. We will have an endless eternity for this.” Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., Doctrines of Salvation

Those who are saved by Jesus Christ will be resurrected to eternal life. Those who are not saved by faith in Christ will be raised to eternal punishment. Matt. 25:31-46; 2 Thess. 1:7-10

Further reading

On the scriptures

On Jesus Christ

On basic doctrine

General resources