The Church of Anything Goes: Tolerance of the Saints, Fallibility of Prophets, and Salvation by Grace Alone – These Three

Not long ago I wrote a post about Big Tent Mormonism being like a Church of Anything Goes.  After reading several blog posts and interacting a little bit, it seems like a church of anything goes may be just what many want.  Perhaps the only doctrine of such a church might be that one must accept all beliefs and behaviors as equally valid, and that to say anything otherwise is to hate.

I have begun to put together what appears to be the common characteristics of those who put forward such a culture.  And I thought I would introduce them.

Tolerance of the Saints

Tolerance can be a great thing.  And a church of anything goes will need tolerance as a core value.  For such a church culture to exist there must be extreme tolerance for everything – except a lack of tolerance.  Fellow members will need to fully embrace all beliefs and behaviors whatever they might be.

Fallibility of Prophets

The difficult thing about prophets and apostles is that they have a tendency to teach people what they ought to believe and how they ought to behave.  So to forward an anything goes culture the idea of fallible prophets must be kept in mind constantly.  One must bring up things like Mountain Meadows or the priesthood ban at nearly every turn.  Only when the idea that church leaders might all be wrong about everything will a church of anything goes get any real traction.

Salvation by Grace Alone

Yep, God needs to get in on the act as well.  Eventually only a salvation by grace alone will do in such a church.  There must be no conditions whatsoever, except maybe love (i.e. tolerance for any kind of behavior).  The closer one can push grace alone salvation the better.

It is easy to see why such a church would be attractive to many – not a soul would be lost.

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9 Responses to “The Church of Anything Goes: Tolerance of the Saints, Fallibility of Prophets, and Salvation by Grace Alone – These Three”


  1. 1 Allan April 10, 2015 at 11:14 pm

    Nice post. A couple of proposed additions. Perhaps not on the scale of your three pillars, but worthy of note.

    Authenticity. You know, that kind of authenticity that is only understood by those who set aside God’s commands. Because only in forging one’s own path, contrary to the commandments of God, can one be authentic.

    Courage. You know, that kind of courage best exemplified by falling in line with the shifting mores of society, barking at the Lord’s anointed when they contradict the societal shift, and then congratulating each other for being courageous in making known their complaints.

  2. 2 WPM April 11, 2015 at 1:09 am

    I am by nature a ‘type A’ individual who enjoys order, however churches are not places of natural order because they are places of learning and growing (and yes, questioning in order to grow). It was in this context that I received a wonderful piece of advice from an experienced older head – “church is messy”. Once we understand this, then the tension drops. Church is primarily about congregation, not structure. In our dreams we like to think it is like leading a flock of sheep gently into progressively greener pasture, but the reality is much more like herding cats. Our natural Christian desire to keep the flock together so the wolves don’t pick off the weak and wayward is a wonderful thing, but the truth is that every sheep has free-will to decide which path they will take, and how closely they want to be led by the shepherd (hence the analogy of cats). As chaotic as this may appear, Christianity has always been thus, is thus, and will always be thus until Christ returns (despite Paul’s call for order in 1 Corinthians 14:33 – God may not be confused, but a lot of His people are). No amount of wishing it was otherwise, nor progressively punative measures will ever change this.

    While I completely understand the desire of the majority, that all Saints pull in the same direction for the good of all, this will remain an ideal during this era of mortality. The more we try to press people into a box that the anointed prescribe, the worse (not better) it will become. The friction that this causes is almost always worse than the tolerant approach. Let’s also remember that tolerance of other perspectives is assuredly not the same as agreeing with that perspective. I, like you, disagree passionately with the direction that some people are trying to shift church policy and theology, however providing these people are not actively engaging in sinful action, and not setting out to intentionally create schism within the church, allowing them the right to disagree with the majority is preferable to attempting to enforce rigid obedience.

    It is worth remembering that each of us must live according to the commandments of the Lord, and according to their own conscience. One day each of us will be judged according to our attitudes and our actions – and that assuredly includes those who aggitate for change.

    Also, nothing that is currently occurring comes as a surprise to Heavenly Father. It is, and always will be the Church of Christ, and He is more than capable of leading His annointed and sorting out the complex issues that we face now and will increasingly face as the end time draws nearer.

    Your concern that we could end up with an ‘anything goes’ type of church is unfounded at a theological level. The Lord has raised His servants to the positions He wants them to be. Relax – the church is in good hands.

    Finally, I repeat the words shared with me, “church is messy – get used to it.”

  3. 3 Eric Nielson April 11, 2015 at 8:13 am

    Allan,

    Your suggestion are right on the mark as far as I am concerned. Thanks.

  4. 4 Eric Nielson April 11, 2015 at 8:18 am

    WPM,

    I certainly agree that the church is in good hands, and that life is messy. And I am not suggesting that we take away agency. I am trying to understand a line of thinking that I frequently see, and what the results will be.

  5. 5 kmarkp April 11, 2015 at 9:03 am

    Imagine a continuum extending from a proscriptive “cult” on one end to a “world religion” on the other. It seems to me that those three things you mentioned (tolerance, fallibility, and grace) are closer to the “world religions” side. Would you really want the church to be intolerant, the prophets to be infallible, and salvation to be by works alone? Do we not need a balance? And does the balance point (the point along the continuum) have to be the same for every individual?

  6. 6 Sean April 11, 2015 at 9:12 am

    I find your last sentence telling. This is a bit reminiscent of Satan’s plan! Some important distinctions that are worth mentioning: Tolerance is okay in degrees and for human beings, but not necessarily for the church and its doctrine. The church already has a built-in form of tolerance by way of the atonement. But this presupposes that the individuals want to eventually follow God. This includes repentance. It has to. There is no way around it, and to suggest anything different is to deny the atonement.

    Having said that, the church should not accept other doctrines in the name of tolerance. Nor should its members accept other beliefs that are contrary to or oppose church doctrine in the name of tolerance. But we should recognize that, although arguably we may all be on the same path, we are not all at the same POINT along the path. So we should show a measure of tolerance towards our follow brothers and sisters for this. To do otherwise is to focus on the “mote” in our brother’s eye.

    And finally, I find the “messy” notion compelling, and it does help put things in perspective. I prefer to say that life is messy. People are messy. If this is the aspect of the church referred to, then sure, it’s messy. But God’s doctrine is not messy. His principles are not messy. We human beings are the ones who make a mess of things. This is why we do not place our trust in the arm of flesh. But rather, we trust in God and have faith in Christ and in his atonement.

  7. 7 Eric Nielson April 11, 2015 at 9:57 am

    kmarkp,

    You make excellent points. By describing what I see as one end of the spectrum, I am not advocating the opposite side of that spectrum. Tolerance is great, depending on how it is defined. And it should have some limits I think. Potential fallibility of prophets should not mean that they are all wrong about everything collectively. And I certainly do not advocate for works alone. Yes some balance is necessary. Please do not think because I am not comfortable with one end of the spectrum that I advocate the other as an absolute.


  1. 1 Christianity, Unconditional Love, and Absolute Tolerance | Small and Simple Trackback on July 11, 2015 at 8:49 am

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