The Just Shall Live By Faith – Responding to Mark Cares of TILM

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President Uchtdorf’s article … is just another example of how Mormonism twists Scripture and makes it man-centered. It also illustrates why we need to continue to emphasize with Mormons the wonderful things Jesus has done for them. If they don’t hear it from us, who will they hear it from?
~ Mark Cares – The Just Shall Live by Faith—LDS Style April 22, 2017 ~

There is always a curious and baffling amazement toward those who attempt to misrepresent messages coming from the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In their attempt to prove how LDS Christian teachings are misleading and unbiblical, they appear to miss the heart of the specific message. Mark Cares seemed to have accomplish this in his article The Just Shall Live By Faith – LDS Style.

Cares attempts to question the April 2017 First Presidency Message by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf. This message titled – The Just Shall Live by Faith. In such an attempt to bring into question the heart and spirit of the message Uchtdorf provided: Cares sidesteps and makes false accusations and conclusions. In other words – Mark Cares article is just another example of how modern Evangelical Christians attempt to twist messages and scriptures in order to “Witness” to Mormons and bring them unto Christ.

1 – MISSING THE MARK – ILLUSTRATION AND APPLICATION

The first observation is how Mark Cares appears to miss the illustration and application of President Uchtdorf’s first presidency message. The second observation is how Cares only refers to Galatians 3:11 and not the actual passage of Romans 1:17. A third observation appears to focus more on an evangelical proselytizing mindset where every message ought to be an invitation and alter call to salvation. Instead of focusing on the personal and spiritual application of Uchtdorf’s message, Cares focuses more on his judgmental viewpoint in condemning the message as an attempt to prove how he believes Mormons twist scriptures and makes it man-centered.

President Uchtdorf begins the message by relating a parable of the Rabbi and the Soap Maker:

There is an old Jewish tale about a soap maker who did not believe in God. One day as he was walking with a rabbi, he said, “There is something I cannot understand. We have had religion for thousands of years. But everywhere you look there is evil, corruption, dishonesty, injustice, pain, hunger, and violence. It appears that religion has not improved the world at all. So I ask you, what good is it?”

The rabbi did not answer for a time but continued walking with the soap maker. Eventually they approached a playground where children, covered in dust, were playing in the dirt.

“There is something I don’t understand,” the rabbi said. “Look at those children. We have had soap for thousands of years, and yet those children are filthy. What good is soap?”

The soap maker replied, “But rabbi, it isn’t fair to blame soap for these dirty children. Soap has to be used before it can accomplish its purpose.”

The rabbi smiled and said, “Exactly.”

Another version of this appears in a message given by one Rabbi David Rosen and appeared in the article What Good is Religion on September 5, 2019:

A story is told about a beautiful day on which a rabbi and a soap maker decided to go out for a stroll. They were both enjoying the warm weather when the soap maker abruptly turned to the rabbi and asked, “What good is religion? Religion teaches all these highfalutin’ morals and all these lofty values and ethics, yet look at this world! It’s filled with pain and evil and wickedness. So I ask you, Rabbi, what good is religion?”

The rabbi and the soap maker continued their walk, passing along the way a young boy sitting on the side of the road. The rabbi turned to his friend: “Will you look at that young boy? He’s filthy! And you’re a soap maker, so I ask you, what good is soap? There’s all this soap in the world and that young boy is still filthy!”

The soap maker protested, “How can you say that about soap? You’re a learned man, Rabbi, so surely you understand that soap is good only if it’s used.”

“Aha,” said the rabbi, with a slight grin. “And, so it is with religion. We can teach it, and people can say they’ve learned it, but until they’ve used it and truly understand the meaning of its lessons, the power of its teachings and the weightiness of its laws, then – and only then – can religion make a positive difference in the world.”

Both of these parables provides a moral lesson that requires a personal and spiritual application. Such a literary device is used in the Bible (mainly by Jesus Christ). Matthew 13:10-16 gives us an understanding and idea regarding the use of parables. According to Rabbi Rosen, his use of the parable illustrates a contrast between Religion and Soap. More specific – how religion (and sacred texts of religions) have been used for harm as well as for noble and good reasons. He concludes with this sentiment:

Judaism teaches that its essence is to “love Thy neighbor as Thyself.” But, it is up to its followers, as it is with those who follow all religions, to impart its true and most honorable teachings, and so doing, to sanctify the world by its lofty and holy aspirations and to bring to the world a true path to peace.

This same sentiment is believed to be that of the Christian as well as the Latter-day Saint Christian. The essence of our faith and trust in God is to impart true and most honorable teachings. Doing as such the desire to bring about lofty and holy aspirations to reach people. Yet, as Christ taught his disciples – people are either open and receptive to such teachings or they are closed off and blinded to the simple truths.

So, what simple truth appears to be missed through the illustration and application of the parable of the Rabbi and the Soap Maker?

2. SPIRITUAL & PERSONAL APPLICATION VS. INTERPRETATION

The synoptic Gospels show that Christ frequently quoted from the Old Testament. Most likely was the Septuagint texts of the day. However, not all of Christ’s teachings focused on scripture alone. He also used (as discussed above) parables to illustrate spiritual and personal applications toward the way one ought to consider living their lives. These teachings and spiritual and personal applications appear to confuse and even anger the religious leaders of First Century Judaism. Sometimes, in our modern times, individuals either rely too heavily on doctrinal interpretation and application of the scriptures – or – too heavy on the spiritual and personal application. There is no harmony between the two.

When it comes to proper interpretation of scripture, we do our due diligence in adhering to the rules of proper Biblical Hermaneutics. This requires the individual to consider the following aspects of any particular text of Holy Writ:

  • Literary context
  • Historical context
  • Social and Cultural Context
  • Immediate context
  • General Context

Such process helps us understand the nature and purpose of the particular scripture. However, unlike interpreting scripture, the process of personal application is more on what the passage means to us individually so that we are able to take necessary action.

Comparing Mark Cares response to the April 2017 First Presidency Message with that of President Uchtdorf’s message we find:

  • Cares approaches this from a doctrinal and theological worldview and interpretation
  • Cares criticizes and dismisses Uchtdorf’s message based on a limited and narrow-worldview
  • Cares uses it as an opportune to twist the message of spiritual and personal application for justification of for his doctrinal interpretation

How does Mark Cares uses a doctrinal interpretation to dismiss Uchtdorf’s spiritual and personal application?

Before looking at his explanation, it would be good to review what the Bible says. In Galatians 3:11, Paul wrote: “But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.”

The context clearly shows that the way a person tries to be “justified by the law” is by trying to keep the commandments. In direct opposition is the faith which trusts that Jesus has redeemed us through his death. The way people are just and thus “live” is by trusting not in what they do, but in what Jesus has done for them. It’s also obvious that when Paul talks about living, he is referring to eternal life. It’s no wonder this teaching has comforted countless people down through the centuries.

President Uchtdorf mentions none of this. There is no mention of Jesus’ death for us. The only time he mentions Jesus in the entire article is when he says men and women of faith “strive to follow the example of their beloved Savior, Jesus Christ.” Nothing about Jesus being our substitute.

Neither does he apply these words to eternal life as Paul does. Instead, he focuses exclusively on earthly life (thus his emphasis on Jesus as their example). He emphasizes that people must live trusting in God’s wisdom—and then act on it. The example he cites of living by faith is that of LDS members helping people in a refugee camp.

Based on this, Mark Cares presents his assumption that Mormonism commonly puts the spotlight on people and their work and not on the work Jesus accomplished for us. With such a thought, he further states that instead of Latter-day Saints finding comfort in the work of Christ it does the opposite. It challenges us. This statement appears to be absent-minded as the truth is: The Work of Christ not only brings comfort and peace into our hearts and minds as Latter-day Saint Christians. It challenges us to live according to the principle and truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Something that Christians may actually find agreement in. Unfortunately, Cares does not appear to agree with such a simple truth.

3. WORDS OF AN OLD TESTAMENT PROPHET IN JEWISH CONTEXT

President Uchtdorf uses Romans 1:17 for his message. Mark Cares quotes and briefly provides a doctrinal explanation for Galatians 3:11. There are two other passages of scripture regarding the nature The Just shall live by faith. First is that of Hebrews 10:38 – Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. The second is actually in the Old Testament and written in Habakkuk 2:4 – Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.

When we carefully read and study President Uchtdorf’s message we find the following statement:

The Apostle Paul, quoting an Old Testament prophet, summarized what it means to be a believer when he wrote, “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17).

Perhaps in this simple statement we understand the difference between a religion that is frail and ineffectual and one that has the power to transform lives.

The Old Testament Prophet that is being referenced appears to be Habakkuk. The full context of Habakkuk 2 follows from a prayer this prophet gave. In the King James Study Bible published by Holeman Bible Publishers we read the following footnote regarding Habakkuk 2:4-5 –

The proud Babylonians were just as wicked as Habakkuk supposed. Yet verse 4b says just people such as Habakkuk must exercise faith in God’s goodness despite His use of evil Babylon. This is similar to the answer Job received from God (Job 38-41). God does not have to explain Himself to humans. We must let God be God and trust in His goodness even when we find His ways difficult to understand. This verse conveys the central message of the book. The NT cites it to show how the Christian life from beginning to end is based on faith (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:17; Hebrews 10:38).

All three epistles refer back to Yahweh’s response to the Prophet Habakkuk’s prayer regarding how the Just shall live – by faith. Contrasted to that of those who do not live by faith in God at all. This, even during times of difficulty and trials we may face as Christians.

The Jewish Study Bible, published by the Jewish Publication Society, renders Habakkuk 2:4 as follows: Lo, his spirit within him is puffed up, not upright, But the righteous man is rewarded with life for his fidelity. The commentary for this verse follows:

Often translated, “the righteous one lives (or shall live) by his faith” or “the righteous one shall live through (or is sustained by) his faith.” According to one of the Rabbis in b. Mak. 23b, this saying encapsulates all the commandments. The saying also had an important influence on Christianity, and in particular in the doctrine of justification through faith (Romans 1.17, Galatians 3:11, Hebrews 10:38-39). In its original context the saying is clearly interwoven with the first part of the v. The saying therefore focuses on a person whose life is swollen and crooked. Then the v. moves to the opposite pole, a pious person who keeps his or her trust in the Lord under the dire circumstances described in the book, i.e., when the righteous are asked to wait while those who do not deserve worldly power wield it over them. The text does not identify such persons with nay particular characters, thereby facilitating different identifications and accordingly, diverse readings of the text. Given the general focus in the book on Babylonia and its wickedness, readers may have understood the negative character in the first line as pointing to the King of Babylonia, as an archetypal representative of both the Babylonians empire and any proud people who rely on their own power.

Here, we see the convergence of doctrinal interpretation and personal and spiritual application intersect. Paul relied on the revelation from the Lord to the Old Testament Prophet Habakkuk as an illustration for his theology contrasting the works of the law and the redemption Grace of God through Jesus Christ. Had Mark Cares done due diligence in studying out the Scriptures fully he may have seen how the three passages of the New Testament reflect an old testament teaching.

4. REFLECTIONS OF THE SAME SPIRITUAL TRUTH AND APPLICATION

Whether we understand and learn from what the Prophet Habakkuk, the Apostle Paul, or President Dieter F. Uchtdorf teaches – the same spiritual truth and application remains.

The Just Shall Live by Faith

So, what does this mean? If one were to rely on Mark Cares article (and response to President Uchtdorf’s message) they may find themselves at a loss of understanding. Maybe even confused as to what application is being brought forth. This confusion appears to be summed up in this assessment:

President Uchtdorf mentions none of this. There is no mention of Jesus’ death for us. The only time he mentions Jesus in the entire article is when he says men and women of faith “strive to follow the example of their beloved Savior, Jesus Christ.” Nothing about Jesus being our substitute.

None of this referring to the previous statement Cares offers whilst attempting to explain and define the doctrinal interpretation of Galatians 3:11:

The context clearly shows that the way a person tries to be “justified by the law” is by trying to keep the commandments. In direct opposition is the faith which trusts that Jesus has redeemed us through his death. The way people are just and thus “live” is by trusting not in what they do, but in what Jesus has done for them. It’s also obvious that when Paul talks about living, he is referring to eternal life.

Unfortunately, when we actually take the time to study the four passages (Habakkuk being the primary root passage) we come to understand the opposite of Care’s brief interpretation. One that appears to take away from the heart and purpose of the spiritual and personal application of the message. Simply put, Mark Cares never addresses the question: How shall the Just live by Faith? His concern is more on the criticism that he perceives President Uchtdorf failed to preach Jesus Crucified and Justification in Faith alone toward Christ. This is quite apparent in this statement:

The Bible is clear, everything is about Jesus and His saving work.

While I am not in disagreement that scripture reveals unto us Jesus Christ and the Plan of Salvation. There is also understanding on how we come to apply those scriptures in our lives to live an abundant Christian life.

Religion contrasted with spiritual transformation and maturation

True – the Apostle Paul did preach against the idea of First Century Jewish ideas of living according to the traditions of the Law. However, we come to understand that there was something very specific Paul was teaching against. This is reflected in Romans, Galatians, and Corinthians. What modern evangelical Christians (like Mark Cares) fail to understand is the historical context of these three epistles and the tyranny of the rising sect of Judaizers. This particular sect took a something that was a Jewish tradition (Circumcision) and transformed it into a primary religious ritual and requirement to that of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For instance, Paul himself circumcised his disciple Timothy. Yet he did not do so for another disciple Titus. Thus, when we read the contrast between the law and the Gospel of Grace, we are understanding that Paul is differentiating the religious ritual of circumcision from that of Christ’s salvation on the Cross.

Unfortunately, like Mark Cares stipulated, the doctrine of Sola Fida and Sola Gratia (By faith alone and by Grace Alone) has denounced the New Testament passages and teachings on our responsibility toward obedience to the commandments of Jesus Christ. Such commandments are based on two factors: 1) Our devotion and love toward God and 2) Our devotion, service, and love toward others. In response to one of the disciples questions as to what commandment stands the greatest – Christ responded that these two stand as the greatest and rest upon all the teachings of the Prophets and the Law.

It is, therefore, in this understanding that we find the words of President Uchtdorf bearing the fruit of truth when he says:

Perhaps in this simple statement we understand the difference between a religion that is frail and ineffectual and one that has the power to transform lives.

The difference between a person who has a frail and ineffectual religious perspective and that of one who is spiritually transformed rests on the understanding of faith. See, in Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, and Hebrews 10:38 – this contrast is evident. One’s faith and trust in the religious ceremony and ritual of circumcision produces a weak and frail faith. Such faith leads to suffering and disappointment. However, one’s faith in Jesus Christ brings about hope, peace, wisdom, and power to transform. So much so that the Apostle Paul himself remarks on this power in Romans 12:1-3 –

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

In order for us to present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable unto God as our reasonable service requires that we place our faith in God. Not only our faith in God. Faith in that we are able to follow His will for our lives. Through this, our Heavenly Father deals with us through our individual measure of faith.

Religious rituals and ceremonies do not transform us. Our trust and faith in God is the only key to spiritually transform our lives in order for us to grow in wisdom, strength, and mature. And what better example do we have than that of Jesus Christ himself. His love toward our Heavenly Father. His love toward others.

This is where President Uchtdorf presents and understanding regarding what Faith is. He outlines it as follows:

President Uchtdorf, finally, associates faith with that of soap. Left unused, the soap will not keep us clean. It is only when we take the time to apply the soap do we experience the process of being cleansed. Such an example of this parable is reflecting in what Neil L. Anderson relates in his book The Divine Gift of Forgiveness. Anderson recounts when he was sixteen years of age, his father had awaken him early on a February morning and both set out to retrieve a steer that ended up hit by a vehicle. He shares that after getting the animal and cleaning it up he was filthy from such a task. He shares the following:

I remember clearly the satisfaction of removing my shirt. Peeling off each layer of clothing brought relief. I began washing – first my hands, then my arms to the elbows. It was not the kind of dirt that would disappear quickly. Then I showered, first washing the ears, then the hair, back to the hands and fingernails, and to the hair again. It was some time before I felt satisfied that the cleansing was done.

The Joy of Becoming Clean, pg. 10

Such truth is eloquently stated in what President Uchtdorf shares:

Religion without action is like soap that remains in the box. It may have wondrous potential, but in reality it has little power to make a difference until it fulfills its intended purpose. The restored gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of action. The Church of Jesus Christ teaches true religion as a message of hope, faith, and charity, including helping our fellowmen in spiritual and temporal ways.

We can sit and wish Christ will save us. Maybe even have some belief that he will save us. However, if we do not place trust in the reality that Christ has the power and authority to save us and restore us unto a new way of living life then it has no power and influence in transforming our lives. Such action is reflected throughout the Gospels where the friends of an invalid climbed onto the roof, cut a hole, and lowered the invalid down into the midst of those present (see Luke 5:17-29) Or the woman suffering with an issue of blood stretching forth her hand and grasping the hem of Christ’s clothing (see Matthew 9:20-22; Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:43-48). The Centurion seeking healing for his servant (see Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10). In each of these passages – Christ reflected on the faith of those individuals. Not only was their faith in Christ’s power to heal afforded them an opportunity to receive that which they sought. Their faith rested upon the trust they placed in the reality and power of who Jesus Christ is.

Here is where I see President Uchtdorf message resonates in how Faith requires action. Our faith requires our action in placing our trust in the power and authority of Jesus Christ. It transforms our lives on a day-to-day basis. We grow and mature in our faith as it continues to transform us as we strive to become like Christ. This is where President Uchtdorf instructs us on the powerful transformation our faith has on ourselves, our families, our communities, and the world:

  • Consistent Faith empowers and influences our ability to walk in kindness
  • Consistent Faith empowers us to gain wisdom and understanding
  • Consistent Faith empowers us to experience peace and love
  • Consistent Faith not only empowers us to be better people it influences and encourages others to find hope and blessings through Jesus Christ
  • Consistent Faith manifests and encourages peace among us and those around us
  • Consistent Faith has the power to transform hatred toward love and compassion
  • Consistent Faith has the power to turn enemies into friends

Consistent faith requires us to trust in God and walk according to His will where we are transformed toward a growing and maturing spiritual life. Religious rituals and false religious piety does not empower or transform our lives.

5 – THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH – A SPIRITUAL TRUTH

Let us turn back to what Mark Cares stated in his article:

President Uchtdorf’s article, then, is just another example of how Mormonism twists Scripture and makes it man-centered. It also illustrates why we need to continue to emphasize with Mormons the wonderful things Jesus has done for them. If they don’t hear it from us, who will they hear it from?

After a careful examination of Mark Cares article – we are able to conclude that it is Truth in Love Ministries example of how Mark Cares and other Evangelicals twist scripture and LDS teachings to make it something erroneous. It also illustrates why we need to continue to examine such attempts to evangelize Mormons. Faithful Latter-day Saint Christians do know the emphasis of the wonderful things Jesus Christ has done for each one of us. We hear it through the messages of our faithful Leaders. We read and study it through the scriptures. We experience it through our faith and trust in Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father.

For Latter-day Saints, we stand in agreement to President Uchtdorf when he said that:

The restored gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of action. The Church of Jesus Christ teaches true religion as a message of hope, faith, and charity, including helping our fellowmen in spiritual and temporal ways.

That is our testimony. It is our truth. All one is asked to do is to take the time to study with us and see how we teach spiritual truths that are aligned with what the Bible Teaches. How such truths are able to be applied in each of our lives. Such teachings are meant for us to transform our lives and grow in spirit and truth. To present ourselves as a living sacrifice acceptable unto God. Proving God’s will. This by renewing and transforming our minds daily. All that is required is our faith and trust in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

2 thoughts on “The Just Shall Live By Faith – Responding to Mark Cares of TILM

  1. The word Faith [A Old/ New Covenent word as is with Grace] from my understanding is from the Greek word “pistis” = Allegience, Commitment, Confidence, Dedication, Devotion, Discipleship, Faithfulness, Fidelity, Follower, Loyalty, Obedience,Trust which are action covenant words. And in the Biblical context it is to the person and work of Christ Jesus and His work on our behalf. The Atonement It Is The Central Doctrine, Washimg My Garment/Robe In His Blood, In His Eternal Debt.Grace, He Died To Make Man Holy, It’s Not Just 6 Words To A Song, They Have Eternal Meaning,

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    1. I hear Evangelical Christians use the following expression – “Sometimes it requires one to step out in faith” or, “I stepped out in faith and followed God’s will.” There are other similar statements I have heard over the years. What they are saying is that they acted upon their confidence and trust in God’s will and followed through. Because of this decisive action – they received blessings. Not once have I ever heard a Protestant or Evangelical Christian say that stepping out in faith meant that because they are Saved through Christ’s atonement that all things come to them without any effort or labor on their part. Even still, there is also the phrase, “Walk in Faith”. Stepping out or walking are actions an individual takes.

      A simple understanding of this reminds me of a Roman Catholic Priest said once – “Of course, faith can move mountains. Bring a shovel.” What he referred to is that it takes the smallest amount of faith (Matthew 17:20) for us to place our confidence, our courage, our hope, and our trust in God to where we are able to move “mountains”. We just need to get to work. After all – Faith is trusting in God regarding the unknown (Hebrews 11:1). We place our trust, confidence, and assurance in God and depend on His will be done for us.

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