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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Baptists At Your Door

We've had a lot of Jehovah's Witnesses come by our house proselyting, and we have frequent contact with our own LDS missionaries, but something happened last Thursday (March 5, 2015) that we've never had happen: We had some Baptists come tracting at our door!

I (Ryan) served my mission in Texas, so I'm well aware of the mindset among such "born again" religions. I have just never seen them going around proselyting outside of my mission days.

Here's how it happened: We heard a loud knock at our back door, so Amanda went and answered it. When she opened the door, Amanda was greeted by a young blonde man, probably not yet 20, and a little Latino boy scarcely 9. I was on the computer, just sort of listening while they gave their speel to Amanda.

The older boy did all the talking (and he was a loud talker - a strong personality that was clearly well-trained in their door approach). He asked Amanda if we went to a Church.

"Yes," she replied.

"Great, great," he responded enthusiastically, "Which church?"

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," she responded.

"Great, great," he acknowledged again. (I don't know if he knew whether The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the Mormon Church or not. I suspect he may have never heard of it, the Church's proper name, that is.) He then asked Amanda, "How confident are you that when you die you'll go to heaven? 50%? 75%?"

Poor Amanda. She wasn't used to their mindset and the sorts of things they might say and ask. "Umm...85%" Amanda said. (Of course, they're going to tell you that they're 100% sure that they're going to heaven, because they've accepted Jesus into their heart and are "saved").

It wasn't long before we got a knock at the front door. I got off the computer and went to go answer it. Turns out it was more Baptists; they were doing a blitz of the neighborhood and had hit both our back and front doors by mistake. Seeing as how we were double-wammied, I dismissed the front door man-and-child pair, and joined Amanda in the back to give her my support.

I shook hands with the fella and listened to his speel. He asked me that same question about how confident I was about going to heaven when I die.

I said, "Well, that's an interesting question. You see, we don't believe that you go straight to heaven when you die, but you go to a world of spirits and await the resurrection. At that point you will be raised up to a glory depending on your conduct in life."

He didn't know really how to handle that info, but he transitioned well into the next phase of his presentation. He commenced to take me to the scriptures to do the classic born again scripture chain:
  1. Establish that we're sinners and can't save ourselves,
  2. Establish that Christ died to save us,
  3. Conclude that we must therefore except Jesus into our hearts (to be saved).

I knew just where he was going, "Romans chapter three," I said as he was flipping through his Bible. He was a little caught off guard that I knew where he was going, and he quipped a joke to the effect that I should be the one pulling up the scriptures. As mentioned, I knew he was going to Romans 3:23, and he did, which read: "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God".

Then he took us to Romans 6:26: "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." He explained that, since we have all sinned, we were on our way to hell, but that Jesus Christ has died for us to allow us to avoid this fate.

I nodded in agreement. So far, so good.

He then dwelt a little on the nature of a gift. "If I let you have this Bible for $3, would that be a gift? How about $2? How about if I gave it to you if you ran around the block, would that be a gift or would it be conditional?" (Interestingly, they believe in a conditional salvation as well, it's just that their condition is easier and cheaper - just say a prayer - but it is nonetheless a condition. You have to do something to accept Jesus in your heart, even according to them. I didn't press him on this, however, because there wasn't the time).

Then he took us to the ol' Romans 10:9 & 13: "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved," and "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Here he was indicating that the way to get saved was to simply "confess with your mouth." At some point in the conversation, he said that "you could be a murderer" and be forgiven by God with such a simple confession.

"Okay," I halted him for clarification, "Are you saying that we're saved by faith alone?"

"By faith alone," he confirmed.

"Without good works?"

"Yes."

"What about Mark 16:16?" I asked. Then I explained that it says there that, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16, emphasis added). I indicated that we can't ignore this extra condition for salvation - the Savior said it, after all. And Jesus also indicated that water baptism was essential for salvation in John 3:5: "Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." And in Luke chapter 7, he chided the Pharisees for rejecting the "counsel of God" by "being not baptized" (Luke 7:30).

I also went on to explain that Jesus taught in Matthew 7:21, as part of the Sermon on the Mount, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." In other words, I told him, Jesus taught us that a simple confession of the mouth was not sufficient, but that we had to do the will of God (I then linked this back to baptism as the counsel of God in Luke chapter 7).

I then related the situation in Acts 2:38, on the Day of Pentecost, after Peter had converted his listeners. "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" they asked the apostles, after having the beginnings of faith (Acts 2:37). Peter answered: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:38). I then explained from this that, as Peter told his converts, we didn't just have to have faith, but we had to repent, and be baptized, and receive the Holy Ghost.

I then talked to him about how the Gift of the Holy Ghost must be transmitted by the laying on of hands.  I related how Peter and John had traveled all the way to Samaria from Jerusalem in order to confirm (give the gift of the Holy Ghost to) the new members of the Church which Phillip had baptized. Peter and John then accomplished the confirmation by the laying on of hands (see Acts 8:12-17). Why, I asked him, would have it been prudent for Peter and John to travel all that way if the Holy Ghost would just fall on the believers through faith?

I said that the 'believe in your heart' and 'confess with your mouth' should be understood as encompassing the acceptance of all the principles of the Gospel - that in order to accept Christ we had to do what he asked, like getting baptized, etc.

I told him, "If you keep reading further in Romans chapter 10, you will see where it reads, 'and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?' [Romans 10:14-15]. Sent by who?" I asked him. I didn't really wait for an answer; I gave it myself: "Sent by God. An authorized preacher must be actually sent by him, having authority from God. This means prophets."

The young man never acquiesced to the necessity of baptism. He kept trying to say that baptism is something that you can do after you accept Christ and are saved, as though it's something nice that you might want to consider doing. But, using the scriptures already mentioned, I told him that that's not what the scriptures teach.

He then said, "Well, yeah, but if you believe and want to get baptized on Sunday and die on the way to church..."

"So you're saying, what if you believe but die before you can get baptized? Well, the Lord has made provisions for that." I then explained that Paul, in the 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians, was using doctrine to prove to those saints the reality of the resurrection. Then he used the practice of baptism for the dead that they engaged in as evidence for the resurrection. I quoted 1 Corinthians 15:29: "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?" Then I explained, "If a person dies before they can accept baptism, then an authorized person can go and be baptized in their behalf, and it will be as though they had been baptized in their lifetime."

I think he was getting frustrated, because he was hitting dead ends at every turn. At one point, I looked him in the eye and said to him, "Hey, you're doing a great job," to reassure him. He was very good at what he did; he was very friendly, he knew where his selected scriptures were, and was brave to come up to our door like he did. And really, he's still pretty young, and I'm older and have spent a lot of time studying the scriptures, so he couldn't be expected to match me. As I said, I just wanted to reassure him, but Amanda said later that she thought it was condescending.

At the conclusion of it all, he invited us to his church (which was the point of the Baptist Blitz that night), and said that his pastor could talk with me about those things. We said thanks and they went on their way. There was so much that he said that I wished I could have commented on while he was there at the door, like his claim that murderers can be saved, and his statement alluding to a three-in-one trinity. But there just wasn't the time.

The whole time Amanda just stood and observed. It was interesting because she got a taste of what it would have been like to be with me on my mission. (I would have liked having her as a missionary companion, not least of which because she's so beautiful). Amanda asked me afterward, "Were you that good on your mission?"

"No," I confessed. "I was better."

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