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APOL 500

Apologetics Field-Based Activity: Cults Assignment



Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses are two large American Christian cults, that is, they consider themselves to be Christian but differ from orthodox Christianity in its essentials. They will often differ in other ways, but apologetics should focus on the essentials and not on the peripherals. This last apologetics activity, in which you will communicate a simple apologetics argument to a person in a conversation (hopefully someone in the cult or who believes that the cult might be a true version of Christianity), provides you with an opportunity to construct a short argument for orthodox Christianity while noting the significant differences between Christianity and the cult and anticipating possible objections to the argument. Again, you will be sharing that argument “in the field.” Afterwards you will reflect on that activity and what you learned during the planning of your argument and from your conversation.


A template will be used for this assignment. The
Apologetics Field-Based Activity: Cults Template is in three sections. A minimum of two pages is required for the completed assignment. No title page is necessary since this is a template.

The template has three sections:

Argument Construction:

a. You will select a cult and indicate that you are addressing that cult for this assignment.

b. Plan how you hope to address the cult in a conversation. Tip: See Gould, p. 199, “Assignment 11-1: Making Gospel Connections” for a tip on how to begin.

c. Identify at least two to three essential differences and how you would address them.

After this, you are now ready to have your conversation.

The Conversation: This is simply a report on the context of the conversation. Simply insert the appropriate information.

The Reflection:

a. You will describe details about how the conversation went.

b. You will describe the reaction of your conversation partner both during and after the presentation of the argument.

c. You will describe what you might have done differently.

d. You will describe what you feel after the presentation about the strength of the argument.

While you should do research in planning your argument, a formal citation system is not required. Do, however, use quotation marks for any direct quotes with a footnote that follows current Turabian format indicating the source of the quote. The following cults are discussed in the Gould textbook:

· Mormonism

· Jehovah’s Witnesses

If your self-selected argument dealt with one of these cults, then you might want to choose a lesser known Christian cult. For an alternative cult, contact your professor for approval of that alternative.

Note: Your assignment will be checked for originality via the Turnitin plagiarism tool.

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APOL 500

Apologetics Field-Based Activity: Cults Template

Do not change any aspect of this form; and do not delete anything from this form. Instead, just type your content in the spaces provided, below. Before typing your content, you should review the entire document to be sure you understand what is required.

Type your name here:

Instructions for this submission

The purpose of the activity is to provide you with an opportunity to construct a short argument for orthodox Christianity against a cult while anticipating possible objections to that argument and then sharing that argument “in the field.” In the sections provided below, you will insert your constructed argument and possible objections; you will enter the date, time, setting, and short description of the person with whom you share the argument; and a short reflection on the sharing experience.

Construct a short argument for orthodox Christianity against a cult while anticipating possible objections.

Type below the list, the name of the cult that you will be addressing (limit yourself to one of argument):

The following cults are discussed in the Gould textbook.


Jehovah’s Witnesses

If your self-selected argument dealt with one of these cults then you might want to choose a lesser known Christian cult. For an alternative cult, contact your professor for approval of that alternative.

Lay out your argument as you plan to use it in the conversation you will be having.

Anticipate two to three possible objections to your argument and how you would address those objections in a short conversation.

Sharing your argument for orthodox Christianity against a cult.

Identify the time and place in which you had the conversation.

Identify the setting (coffeeshop, online, text, etc. It must, however, be a conversation and not a monologue):

Identify your conversation partner (no names please): unbeliever, believer; uncertain; knowledge level, attitude of partner (antagonistic, interested, doubtful, devil’s advocate).

Reflection in which you describe how the conversation went, the reaction of your conversation partner both during and after the presentation of the argument, what you might have done differently, and how you feel after presentation about the strength of the argument.

Describe details about how the conversation went.

Describe the reaction of your conversation partner both during and after the presentation of the argument.

Describe what you might have done differently.

Describe what you feel after the presentation about the strength of the argument.

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Counterfeit Gospels: Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses

The dawn of the nineteenth century saw Lewis and Clark leading their expedition into the unexplored west of North America (1803–1806) and Napoleon crowning himself emperor of France (1804). Such events signaled a period of rapid change and innovation, including the appearance of new religious movements. With the first publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830, roughly ten years after Napoleon’s death and one year before Alexis de Tocqueville’s historic visit to America, Joseph Smith launched Mormonism (later named the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). Some four decades later, on the heels of the American Civil War and roughly thirty years before the Wright brothers achieved flight, Charles Taze Russell founded the movement now known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses (1870s). Whereas the religions treated in the previous chapter are straightforwardly alternatives to Christianity, both Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormonism are sometimes thought to be expressions of Christianity. Having argued for the truth of traditional Christianity in earlier chapters, our thrust in this chapter is to identify certain of these religions’ key points of departure from Christianity, safeguarding the truth of Christianity from these counterfeit gospels.

As the religious landscape in America continues to change, the immediacy of interreligious dialogue becomes increasingly pronounced. According to the Pew Research Center’s 2015 Religious Landscape Survey, some 1.6 percent of American adults are Mormons (that is, just over 4 million) while 0.8 percent are Jehovah’s Witnesses (that is, roughly 2 million). These are the two largest homegrown religious traditions in America. Add to this the regular practice of both Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses of door-to-door proselytizing, and the importance for Christians thoughtfully to engage the basic differences between these and Christianity is clear. Making the intentional decision to ignore many differences Christians are likely to find surprising and provocative—polygamy, refusal to celebrate birthdays, spirit babies, holy underwear, or disallowance to participate in politics, for example—this chapter focuses on four core differences between Christianity and Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses: Scripture, understanding of God, identity of Jesus Christ, and salvation. Despite important differences of belief between Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, because these groups differ from Christianity in similar ways, we have organized this chapter according to points of disagreement rather than by religion.


According to traditional Christianity, the Bible alone is the holy Word of God given to humankind. That is to say, the Bible is God’s revelation and was given to humankind by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. As 2 Tim 3:16 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness.” Second Peter 1:21 similarly tells us that “no prophecy was ever borne of human impulse; rather, men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (NET). Christians believe the entire Bible to be the very words of God written down by men who were moved by the Holy Spirit. Moreover, Christians are generally agreed that the canon of Scripture is closed—that is, there are to be no additions to or subtractions from the canon.

Christians also believe that the Bible alone is sufficient to know the way of salvation and obedience to God. We therefore do not need anything in addition to the Bible to tell us these things. As 2 Tim 3:15 says, “from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.” The Bible, therefore, is the ultimate and final authority in matters of faith and practice. Since God cannot be mistaken, then the Scriptures as he gave them to us cannot contain mistakes. There is no need for God to provide further revelation in order to “complete” the Bible’s teaching on faith and practice, and any alleged additional revelation from God must agree with the Bible. As the Westminster Confession of Faith summarizes, “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.” This, of course, is an incomplete presentation of what Christians believe regarding Scripture, but it gets on the table key aspects of this belief that conflict with the beliefs of Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Both Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses accept the Bible as the written Word of God, frequently appealing to the Bible in sharing their convictions with others. “The Bible,” according to Jehovah’s Witness teaching, “is a gift from God, one for which we can be truly grateful.” The Bible “is a book to be read, studied, and loved. Show your gratitude for this divine gift by continuing to peer into its contents. As you do so, you will gain a deep appreciation of God’s purpose for mankind.” Likewise, according to their articles of faith, Mormons “believe the Bible to be the word of God.…” Taken at face value, Christians would readily endorse these claims. A closer look, though, reveals important differences.

One important difference involves the sufficiency of Scripture. To complete the above quotation, Mormons “believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.” In fact, the four “standard works” recognized by Mormons as scripture include the Bible (King James Version), the Pearl of Great Price, the Doctrines and Covenants, and the Book of Mormon. As we have seen, Christians believe that in the Bible God has made known everything needed to know the way of salvation and obedience to God. In attributing to extrabiblical works equal status with the Bible, Mormons in effect deny the sufficiency of Scripture. Joseph Smith, in fact, after claiming to have acquired the golden plates containing the text of the Book of Mormon from an angel (allegedly written in “reformed Egyptian” and translated by Smith), said: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” Influential Mormon teacher Bruce McConkie likewise teaches the necessity of adding the Book of Mormon to Scripture.

Jehovah’s Witnesses similarly oppose the sufficiency of Scripture. Freely repudiating traditional Christian interpretations of Scripture, Jehovah’s Witnesses insist that to understand God’s Word, individuals must also follow the teaching of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. Witnesses “must adhere absolutely to the decisions and scriptural understanding of the Society because God has given it this authority over his people.” Indeed, “unless we are in touch with this channel of communication that God is using, we will not progress along the road to life, no matter how much Bible reading we do.”

Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses also diverge from Christian thinking about the integrity of the text of the Bible. While Christians agree that correct translation of the Bible is essential for correct understanding thereof, both Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses take the further step of insisting that today’s Bible is inaccurate or incomplete. While Mormons “believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly,” they also believe the text of the Bible to be corrupted. The Book of Mormon declares, “Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God” (1 Nephi 13:28). Thus the need for further “testament” to God’s Word: to confirm “true” biblical teaching. The loss of “many plain and precious things” from the Bible is expanded upon in various places by key Mormon leaders. Although Jehovah’s Witnesses countenance the King James Version of the Bible, they strongly prefer the New World Translation (NWT), produced in 1950 by their own Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. Ostensibly produced “in an effort to purge the Bible of the many transmission and translation errors believed to have crept in over the centuries,” the NWT is known for its rendering of verses in a manner favorable to Watchtower beliefs when these differ from orthodox Christianity.

It is clear that these rejections of the Bible’s textual integrity each assume the corruption of the biblical text. In addition to the discussion in our earlier chapter on the Bible, we point readers to the extensive literature on textual criticism (that is, the branch of textual studies focusing on confirming the precise original wording of the biblical documents). In short, experts have found the text of the Bible to be astonishingly well preserved, with no variant reading affecting common Christian doctrine. When it comes to the Book of Mormon and the NWT, however, no such confidence is justified. The former, for example, recounts the alleged rise and fall of ancient peoples in present-day North America—yet there is an utter absence of archaeological evidence to support this claim. The latter has been widely dismissed as a legitimate translation of the Bible, with experts criticizing the NWT’s habit of adding words, omitting words, and mistranslating verses in support of preconceived doctrinal positions. Bruce Metzger, longtime professor of Bible at Princeton Theological Seminary and world-renowned expert on biblical manuscripts, for example, demonstrates the inadequacies of the NWT on multiple grounds.

Figure 11.1 Christianity Mormonism Jehovah’s Witnesses

Bible is God’s Word? YES YES YES

Bible is sufficient for knowing way of faith and practice?


Contemporary biblical text hopelessly corrupt?



Given that religions worshipping different deities are no more the same than buses, bicycles, and bulldozers are the same mode of transportation, it is important to note that both Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses deny central elements of Christian belief about God. The worship of God as one being in three persons (i.e., the Trinity) has always been a touchstone of Christian belief, as is evident both in Christian praxis and Christian interpretation of the Bible. To be sure, Christians believe in the existence of only one God (monotheism), and this God is tri-personal; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are distinct persons who share a common being. This entails the rejection of any form of polytheism. Further, Christians believe God to be incorporeal rather than essentially physical. As Jesus says, “God is spirit” (John 4:24), and as spirit God is not limited spatially. God is the creator and sustainer of everything that exists. The Bible is clear about this: God created every existing thing that is not God, and everything continues to exist because of God. Consider the Bible’s opening words: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1). Not only do Christians believe God created the heavens and the earth, the Bible teaches that he did so ex nihilo (Lat., “out of nothing”). Whereas the demiurge in Plato’s classic account of origins utilizes preexisting materials to “create,” Christians affirm God’s creation of all things from absolutely nothing. As Heb 11:3 says, “By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible” (NASB). Christians also believe God is eternal and unchanging. This means God has always been God; there was never a time when God was not God. Psalm 90:2 proclaims, “Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from eternity to eternity, you are God.” Again, this summary is not meant to exhaust Christian belief about God, but it highlights key points of disagreement with Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Both Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness conceptions of God differ significantly from that of Christians. All Jehovah’s Witnesses and many Mormons forthrightly reject belief in God as Trinity. Regarding the doctrine of the Trinity, the Watchtower and Bible Tract Society’s Let God Be True is unequivocal:

God was not the author of this doctrine.… In the year 325 (A.D.) a council of clergymen met at Nice in Asia Minor and confirmed the doctrine. It was later declared to be the doctrine of the religious organization of “Christendom,” and the clergy have ever held to this complicated doctrine. The obvious conclusion, therefore, is that Satan is the originator of the “trinity” doctrine.

Jehovah’s Witnesses elsewhere caricature the Christian doctrine of the Trinity as belief in three gods or as “confusing” and therefore unbelievable. Monotheistic belief just is, one reads, the belief “that God is one Person—a unique, unpartitioned Being who has no equal.” On their view there is only one “Almighty God,” but this is not regarded as incompatible with the existence of lesser gods. This, as we have seen, simply begs the question against Christianity.

For its part, Mormon teaching also denies the Trinity: “Many men say there is one God; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are only one God. I say that is a strange God anyhow—three in one, and one in three! It is a curious organization.… All are to be crammed into one God, according to sectarianism.” In fact, according to Mormon apostle Bruce McConkie, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are actually distinct gods, a notion supported in The Pearl of Great Price alongside a denial of the Christian understanding of creation. Beyond the denial of the Trinity, Mormon teaching also denies God’s eternal and unchanging nature. Joseph Smith taught that God is one of many gods who were once men. “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens!” Smith continues:

I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute this idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see.… It is the first principle of the gospel to know for a certainty the character of God, and to know … that He was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ Himself did.

This is echoed by Brigham Young: “How many Gods there are, I do not know. But there never was a time when there were not Gods and worlds.” Further differences remain, but enough has been said to make clear that the God of Christianity is not the god(s) of Mormonism. In virtue of the fact that they clearly do not worship the God of Christianity, we must conclude that Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses are distinct from Christianity.

Figure 11.2 Christianity Mormonism Jehovah’s Witnesses

Is God tri-personal? YES NO NO

Is monotheism true? YES NO NO

Jesus Christ

“Who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29). Jesus’s question cuts sharply to the heart of matters, for it is the central question all must face. Why? Simply because “the one who has the Son has life. The one who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12; see also John 3:36). Christians echo Peter’s response: “You are the Messiah!” This Christian confession rests upon certain staggering truths about Jesus revealed in the Bible, beginning with the incarnation: that is, the belief that the eternal second person of the Trinity took on flesh (i.e., added to his divine nature a truly human nature). As John explains, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was fully God.… Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory—the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father” (John 1:1, 14 NET). As the fourth-century church father Athanasius noted, “we were the purpose of his embodiment, and for our salvation he so loved human beings as to come to be and appear in a human body.” Jesus Christ is, uniquely, both truly God and truly human; compromising even slightly either his full deity or his full humanity moves one outside of orthodox Christianity. Having been born of the virgin Mary (Luke 1:30–35; 2:6–7), Jesus regularly and intentionally displayed both his divine and human natures. That Jesus understood himself to be God is clear. As noted in chapter 6, he forgives the sins of others (Mark 2:5; Luke 7:47–48) and makes such claims as “The Father and I are one” (John 10:30) and “If you know me, you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him … The one who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:7, 9). That Jesus in each instance claimed to be God is a fact not lost on his hearers (Mark 2:6; John 19:7), who immediately accused Jesus of blasphemously claiming to be God (Mark 2:7; John 8:59).

By denying that Christ, as the incarnate second person of the Trinity, is eternally God, both Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons reject an essential tenet of orthodox Christianity. Staking out a position reminiscent of the fourth-century heretic Arius of Alexandria, Jehovah’s Witnesses explicitly deny the divinity of Jesus: “Thus, Jesus had an existence in heaven before coming to earth. But was it as one of the persons in an almighty, eternal triune Godhead? No, for the Bible plainly states that in his prehuman existence, Jesus was a created spirit being, just as angels were spirit beings created by God. Neither the angels nor Jesus had existed before their creation.” Jesus, in their view, is merely the preeminent of all Jehovah’s creatures (being, in fact, the incarnation of the created archangel Michael). As the Watchtower’s Aid to Bible Understanding explains, “Since Jehovah is eternal and had no beginning … the Word’s being with God from the ‘beginning’ must here refer to the beginning of Jehovah’s creative works.… Thus the Scriptures identify the Word (Jesus in his prehuman existence) as God’s first creation, his firstborn Son … [T]his Son was actually a creature of God. In support of this belief, the NWT alters the text of Col 1:16–20 (adding the word “other” four times) to portray Jesus as part of the created order. This denying of an eternally divine nature to Jesus is fundamentally incompatible with Christian belief.

Mormon teaching also denies that Christ is eternally God, holding instead that he attained the status of deity before coming to earth. As McConkie explains, “by obedience and devotion to the truth … [Christ] attained that pinnacle of intelligence which ranked Him as a God.” This is to be understood against the background of the Mormon conception of Christ’s “preexistence.” It is held that the Son of God originally (“spiritually”) was born of God the Father in heaven: “Christ is the Firstborn.… All men lived in a pre-existent estate before they were born into this world; all were born in pre-existence as the spirit children of the Father. Christ was the Firstborn Spirit Child, and from that day forward he has had, in all things, the preeminence.” It was then that “Christ, the Word, the Firstborn, had, of course, attained unto the status of Godhood while yet in preexistence.” Not only is Christ’s eternal deity denied, but Mormon belief regarding the physical body of the incarnate Christ bears striking similarity to the Christological heresy known as Apollinarianism. In the teaching of Mormon “prophets,” the spirit called “Christ” came to inhabit a physical body produced for him by a literal sexual union between God the Father and Mary, which undermines the genuine humanity of Jesus. The point is that these views line up remarkably well not with Christian orthodoxy but with Christian heterodoxy. This alone demonstrates both are fundamentally different from traditional Christianity. Differences abound between the Christian doctrine of Christ and that of both Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, but we must turn to our fourth and final core difference regarding the gospel.

Figure 11.3 Christianity Mormonism Jehovah’s Witnesses

Is Jesus the incarnate second person of the Trinity?


Is Jesus a creature? NO YES YES

The Gospel

Do you remember the jailer from the story of Acts 16? Paul and Silas had been thrown into jail for preaching the good news of Jesus Christ. That evening an earthquake opened all the prison doors and released all the prisoners from their chains. Assuming all the prisoners to be escaping, the jailer was just about to kill himself when the apostle Paul intervened. Paul told the jailer that none of the prisoners had fled, and upon seeing that it was true the jailer asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30).

Christians find in the Bible a plain answer to this momentous question. The Bible teaches that humans—every single one of us—are sinful. Early in Genesis we read that Adam disobeyed God. Romans 5:12, 17–18 tells us that as a result of Adam’s sin, death entered the world. We all suffer as a result. The Bible also says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). This means every one of us is sinful, and deep down we all recognize our imperfection against God’s holy standard. For our violation of God’s law, we face the condemnation of God as the holy and righteous Judge—and the deserved penalty is death (Rom 6:23). That is bad news, but the Bible teaches that God loves us even though we are sinful. Indeed, “God proves his own love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8; cf. John 3:16). Jesus Christ died for the purpose of paying our deserved penalty for us; Jesus died to make the salvation of sinners possible. As we have seen (chapter 7), Jesus did not remain dead: he was resurrected (1 Cor 15:3–5)! On this basis anyone—anyone—can be redeemed from their sins, if only they will place their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. That’s the good news that is the gospel!

What surprises many people when they hear what Jesus did for them is that it is a free gift. Ephesians 2:8–9 says, “You are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no man can boast.” This is the good news of Jesus Christ: that when we were dead in our sins (Eph 2:1), he died to save us. We have been offered something we have not and indeed cannot earn. “What must I do to be saved?” The Christian answer is simple: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). “The one who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who rejects the Son will not see life; instead, the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36). Unfortunately, both Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons disagree with the Christian understanding of the gospel.

Whereas the Bible emphasizes that salvation is by grace alone, Mormonism holds that one must do certain other things in addition to placing one’s faith in Jesus to obtain salvation. This includes, for example, being baptized: “And he commandeth all men that they must repent and be baptized in his name, having perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God” (2 Nephi 9:23). Although Christians affirm it as an important step in the Christian life, they deny any salvific necessity to baptism. Joseph Smith, however, insisted, “Many talk of baptism not being essential to salvation; but this kind of teaching would lay the foundation of their damnation. I have the truth, and am at the defiance of the world to contradict me, if they can.” Further, the Book of Mormon avers that “we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23). There is the potential for confusion here, because Eph 2:8 proclaims it is “by grace you have been saved” (NIV). Although similar, the added phrase ending 2 Nephi 25:23 is conspicuous. The ending of Eph 2:8 reads, “this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift”; contrary to Smith and the Book of Mormon, the Bible adds neither baptism nor anything else to the atoning work of Christ as essential for salvation. What is meant by “after all we can do”? “The phrase ‘after all we can do’ teaches that effort is required on our part to receive the fullness of the Lord’s grace and be made worthy to dwell with him.” Ezra Taft Benson, Mormon president from 1985 until his death in 1994, elaborates:

What is meant by “after all we can do”? “After all we can do” includes extending our best effort. “After all we can do” includes living His commandments. “After all we can do”; includes loving our fellowmen and praying for those who regard us as their adversary. “After all we can do” means clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and giving “succor [to] those who stand in need of [our] succor” (Mosiah 4:15)—remembering that what we do unto one of the least of God’s children, we do unto Him.… “After all we can do” means leading chaste, clean, pure lives, being scrupulously honest in all our dealings and treating others the way we would want to be treated.

Christians do affirm the importance of such “good works,” but not as contributions to one’s own salvation. Mormon leader James Faust, however, is unambiguous: “Many people think they need only confess that Jesus is the Christ and then they are saved by grace alone. We cannot be saved by grace alone, ‘for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.’ ” It is clear, then, that Mormon teaching denies the Christian belief in salvation by grace through faith alone.

For their part Jehovah’s Witnesses also deny that salvation is by grace through faith alone. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society’s book You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth presents several “requirements” God makes “of those who want to become subjects of his government,” including learning the “knowledge needed,” exhibiting “righteous conduct,” and being “loyal spokesmen or proclaimers of God’s kingdom.” Later, in a chapter titled “What You Must Do to Live Forever,” the same book reiterates that “more than faith is needed. There must also be works to demonstrate what your true feelings are about Jehovah” in order to gain eternal life. The necessity of these added “requirements” for salvation is restated across Watchtower literature, including, for example, being “associated with God’s channel, his organization,” that is, the Watchtower society. A convert must “persevere in doing God’s will and continue to adhere to all of God’s requirements for the rest of his life. Only then will he be saved to eternal life.” Jehovah’s Witnesses also say that “to have real value in the eyes of our heavenly Father,” one must undergo baptism—indeed, “not just the act of getting baptized, but everything associated with the baptismal arrangement is essential for salvation.” Undergoing baptism, it is held, accrues to one a “good conscience,” and “as long as he maintains that good conscience he is in a saved condition.” Although Witnesses frequently describe salvation as a matter of grace, it is evident they mean something much different than do Christians.

Figure 11.4 Christianity Mormonism Jehovah’s Witnesses

Is salvation by grace alone?


Distinguishing Faiths

Both Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses share certain traits with Christianity, but as we have seen, their rejection of essential tenets of the Christian faith are telltale signs of counterfeits. Such counterfeit faiths are, like the world religions considered in the previous chapter, recognizable alternatives to Christianity. Admittedly, many find it difficult to accept the scandalous Christian belief that salvation is—indeed, can only be—the free gift of God offered to sinners. Surely, they think, sinners must be expected to defray the cost of their salvation! Here it must be remembered what distinguishes Christianity from such “religious ways” to live: we must accept the beauty and brilliance of the Christian gospel! This is the way of grace, the way of accepting that salvation is readily but exclusively found in a relationship with the Jesus of the Bible.

Paul Gould, Travis Dickinson, and Keith Loftin, Stand Firm: Apologetics and the Brilliance of the Gospel (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2018), 183–198.

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