Christ-Idolatry, Moby, and Mormons

A friend of ours at church gave us a copy of the most recent Relevant Magazine, which contains an interview with Moby. Now I (along with every other person) bought Play. The incessant playing of the songs on that album made me want to own it (one of the few of which that is true). However, Moby’s understanding of Christianity has always been a bit suspect to me, not to mention his ignorant ecclesiology.

I think what the article proves is that Moby is actually a Mormon. You will look in vain for any mention of the cross of Jesus in the interview. You will, instead, find many mentions of living the life Christ wants us to, and doing what Christ told us to. He says, “My understanding in [sic] what it means to be a Christian is to, in our own subjective way, recognize Christ as being God, and recognize our shortcomings and our failings, and try and live according to the teachings of Christ as best we can.” That is the Mormon understanding of being a Christian, not the Christian understanding. Mormons and Moby worship Christ as an idol, because they do not worship Him as He wishes to be worshiped, but as they choose. Whoever attempts to follow Christ on his own initiative and without having been made a new creation is following a Christ made in his own image.

Moby’s Jesus is the typical, American-liberal Jesus: no judging other people for what they believe and do; “born-again” Christians are evil; we shouldn’t “force” anyone to believe what “we” believe.
But most shocking, and really, saddening, is this: “The thing that has always boggled my mind is when someone feels confident that they’re saved. … I don’t even think that you can be a follower of Christ and be assured of your own salvation, because it’s not our place to say that.” Why? Because “You can never be a follower of Christ and be smug and self-satisfied. You can never be a follower of Christ and think that you’re doing a great job.”

Because Moby thinks that “being saved” equals “being a good follower of Christ”, it logically follows that a person cannot be sure that he or she is saved. This is true. But what if that’s not what Christianity is primarily about? Sure, we’re supposed to obey God and follow Christ; but is that what saves us? The answer is clear, at least for Christians who hold salvation by God’s free grace in Christ at the center of everything.

The quote that closes the interview? “And if God made the universe and if God made us and if God made the world, it just makes sense to invite God into our lives and ask Him, ‘You made me-what should I be doing?'” Makes sense, but that’s not Christianity.

Finally, Moby’s is the ecclesiology of every dissatisfied “I follow Christ, but I don’t want to be called a Christian” in America.
This is the arrogance Moby and others (e.g., David Bazan) claim to dislike in the “institutional” Church. Steve Taylor’s words ring true: “They’re [Christians] hypocrites, they’re such a bore; well, come on in, there’s room for one more.” Sure, there’s arrogance and hypocrisy (in American Christianity, especially), but it is a false understanding of the Church to expect Christians to suddenly be perfectly Christ-like. I like it as little as them when other Christians say or do things that reflect badly on Christ (or me!), but what have I done to make the Church look like Christ’s Body? Probably less than I’ve done to make it look like a synagogue of Satan.
If we take Moby as a member of the Church, the question is, will he take us? The old dictum is still true: extra ecclesiam nulla salus, because it’s Christ’s Church and He’s chosen to bring people into His Kingdom through the Church. Outside of Word and Sacrament, there is no Christianity, and there are no Christians.

Timotheos

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2 thoughts on “Christ-Idolatry, Moby, and Mormons

  1. My what arrogrance and my what ignorance was shown in your posting of Moby must be a Mormon. Howver, you do come by your arrogrance honestly for a Luthern. I’m sure that you are aware that Martin Luther referred to the Epistle of James as “so much straw.” He hated the book because it countered his dearly held belief in salvation by grace alone. One wonders how a man who knew full well that he was not a prophet and his writings were stictly the product of his intellect could think that he was far more q;ualified to state the doctrines of the church better than an apostle of the Lord handpicked by the Savior himself. That said, I want you to know that I have the highest respect for Father Luther and the great courage he had to challenge the existing authority of the church and set in motion the Reformation. It always amuses me how so many Christians think they have the authority to say who is a Christian and who isn’t . Then they compound their ignorance by picking and choosing just what parts of the Bible they want to accept and what they ignore. And, finally, they demonstrate an abysmal ignorance of how the doctrines they cherish came about.
    While I know that it is really a useless excercise to try and educated a closed mind, I will, nonetheless, give you a lesson in the devopment of the “salvation by grace alone” doctrine. The doctrine that salvation depends both on God’s grace and man’s good works is very old in Catholic theology. One of the canons at the Council of Trent specifically repudiates the notion of grace alone. To quote from the proceedings of that council: “If anyone saith that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sin for Christ’s sake alone; or , that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified, let him be anathema.” Are we to say, then, that Roman Catholicism is not Christian because it does not subscribe to the doctrine of salvation by grace alone?
    The doctrine of salvation through faith alone, sometimes called solafidianism, is not a bibllical doctrine: there are no instances in the NT of the phrases “grace alone” or “faith alone.” The philospher-theologian Frederick Sontag argues that Jesus himself was interested not in words, and not even in theological dogma, but in action.. For the Jesus in Matthew, he says, “Action is more important than definition.” Even in Paul’s treatment of the doctrine of grace, particularly in Romans and Ephesians, there is a balancing element of works as well. Other NT writers, most notabbly James, make it clear that saving faith can only be recognized through works: “Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”
    The generations immediately following the NT period also recognized the need for both grace and works for salvation. The famous Didache–The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles–which dates back to before A.D. 70, is conspicuous for its moralism and legalism. It is also significant that ” the oldest datable literary document of Christian religion soon after the time of the Apostles”–the letter of Clement of Rome to the Corinthians, written in the last decade of the first century–emphasizes “good works, as it is in the Epistle of James, which may belong to the same time.” The second century document Shepherd of Hermas contains twelve commandments. J.L. Gonzales writes that they “are a summary of the duties of a Chistian, and Hermas affirms that in obeying them there is eternal life.” Even a notable Christian theologian such as F. F. Bruce who contends that Paul taught a doctrine of salvation by grace alone, concurs sadly that the doctrine was not a part of the early Christian church: “The Biblical doctirne of divine grace, God’s favour shown to sinful humanity,..seems almost, in the post-apostolic age, to reappear only with Augustine. Certainly the majority of Christian writers who flourished between the apostles and Augustine do not seem to have grasped what Paul was really getting at…”
    The Eastern Orthodox churches also do not accept solafidianism. Sensing the danger that a “grace alone” position could become “cheap grace” (to borrow an expression from the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer) or “a theologically thin, no-sweat Christianity,” some modern Protestant writers have adopted a similar position, recognizing that works also play a vital role in salvation. Excluding Latter-day Saints from Christianity for their belief in faith and works is absurd. The doctrinal reasons some Christians give for excluding the Latter-day Saints from Christianity make little sense, because many of the doctrines used by traditional Christianity are late developments, reflective of creeds formulated in the fourth and fifth century or developed during the Reformation. By the way, Latter-day Saints most certainly understand that one does “not work their way into heaven.” We absolutely recognize that we only enter by the “grace of God.” We just realize that one must prepare ourselves through living the commandments to the best of our ability and truly repent of our sins to be eligible for that “saving grace.” When we are making a full effort to live a “Christ-centered life” then He can make up the difference as we all fall short of His admonition to “be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
    I realize that how seductive the doctrine of salvation by grace alone is. Isn’t it marvelous how it justifies one’s living the modern lifestyle. Shack up; cheat a little; lie a little; chase after gods of money, power, and influence; and then set back and relax. “What me worry.” I’m saved because I mouthed a few words. How true the old maxim, “talk is cheap,” really is. Have a nice day!

  2. One example from Luther’s vast corpus of writings does not a valid argument make. It’s funny how you call me arrogant for calling Moby a Mormon and go on to defend Mormons for their works-righteousness (not to mention their anti-Trinitarianism–one of the doctrines made up in the fifth century, no doubt).

    I don’t know, maybe you know a whole congregation of Lutherans who act the way you describe, but you obviously haven’t read the Book of Concord (Lutherans subscribe to the whole of that, not the whole of Luther’s writings–see my post below on the Augsburg Confession). See, your whole argument is based on something of which Lutherans have long been accused, but always deny. Our works are necessary; if we do not do good works we are not saved. However, our good works do not save us. That may be hard for you to grasp. Hey, it’s hard for me to grasp.

    I know it probably makes you feel good to feel like you’re “contributing” something to your salvation, but if you think that God wants or needs your filthy rags of works, you should read Isaiah again (64:6); then read Paul again. If you attempt to hold up your good works as worthy of a single scrap of God’s grace, you are like the man who came to the wedding banquet dressed in his own clothes. Anyone who does not wear the clothes provided by the Master will be thrown out “into the outer darkness” (Matthew 22:11-14).

    As for this: “there are no instances in the NT of the phrases ‘grace alone’ or ‘faith alone.'”:
    Read Galatians 2:15-16 again, and Ephesians 2:4:10 again. You are technically correct, the word “alone” does not appear there. But let’s think logically for a second. If it’s by grace and faith, and not by works (Paul’s clear), what else is there? Some third thing that Paul forgot to mention? As for James, here’s the question: do you interpret James in the light of Paul, or Paul in the light of James? Because, on the surface, it appears that one says one thing and one says the opposite. How do you, in your very rational understanding, reconcile them?

    You have a nice day, too.

    Tim

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