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Thursday, July 24, 2014

"Starting at the Finish Line" (John B. Wallace)

TITLE: Starting at the Finish Line: The Gospel of Grace for Mormons
AUTHOR: John B. Wallace
PUBLISHER: Long Beach, CA: Pomona Publishing, 2014, (229 pages).

He grew up with a fervent grandmother who led many family members to the Mormon faith. He was well-read in the three LDS standard books, The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Articles of Faith, and The Miracle of Forgiveness, and many more. For more than 20 years, John Wallace lived and learned many things Mormonism, despite having some encounters with Methodist, Baptist, and other evangelical circles. He makes a disclaimer as he writes this book, that he is not anti-Mormon, not disproving the book of Mormon or trying to attack his former faith. What he wants is to defend the gospel of Jesus Christ, Jesus on the Cross, Jesus suffering and dying for our sins, the Bible, and the message of grace in Jesus Christ.

Writing passionately from the position of love, Wallace dedicates a whole section on defending the accuracy and reliability of the Bible. Claiming that the Mormon Church had altered and misguided followers on the nature of the Bible, Wallace tells of the importance of seeing the Bible as the plain and precious Truth. He describes the various authorities, archeology, and evidence that prove the reliability of the New Testament. For the Old Testament, he points out the completed prophecies, Jesus' attestations, reliable transmissions, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and others, to show that the Bible we have today are translated very accurately.

He also points out key differences between Mormon theology and Christianity. Some of the main points include:
  • Exposing the Mormon Church's emphasis on works as a way to salvation
  • Pointing out the tendency of Mormon leaders to manipulate the Bible for their own ends
  • Showing us how the Mormon leaders teach Jesus as a created being, who is not fully God
  • Only with good works can we be "sufficient" in getting to salvation
Wallace also helps us detect subtle differences in LDS theology that are not easily picked up by the general Christian public. His three takeaways for readers are:
  1. The Bible is the Word of God, totally sufficient, trustworthy, and reliable
  2. There is only one Gospel, in Jesus.
  3. Our own works are never sufficient. Only Christ is All-Sufficient.

So What?

This book introduces us to key aspects of Mormon theology that are critically on opposite ends to the truth of the Christian gospel. It takes the knowledge and background of a previous Mormon believer to be able to sieve out and highlight the differences. More importantly, Wallace has passionately laid out his own life in sharing about the power of Christ to deliver him from his previous beliefs. Excitedly, he has written this book not just to share about his own journey from Mormonism to Christianity, but also to explain to us the reasons for his change. While he initially claims that the book is more about the defense of the Christian faith, it is very difficult to avoid confronting key Mormon teachings. Wallace will have a hard time trying to live out his disclaimers, because the very nature of the book requires him to vigorously attack key tenets of Mormonism that contradicts the Bible and the gospel. In fact, it is not possible not to do otherwise as Mormon theology and Christian theology are already very different.

Better to tell the truth than to worry about saying only the politically-correct things. For when it comes to truth telling, one needs to say it as it is, and not mute the truth with pleasantries. A word of caution. This book is to be read more as a personal journey rather than a full doctrinal statement of what each faith is saying. It is only fair if we can do our own homework too. For example, some of the things such as the "dual nature" of a person can be mistaken for dualism, which is also a heresy in itself. Use this book as a way to jiggle our interest and then go find a reputable text on theology to learn more about the things Wallace has said. That way, we will appreciate more of where Wallace is coming from, rather than to second guess his words. Overall, this book is a wonderful story of faith, from someone who has seen Christ and experienced the power of the gospel. Instead of seeing the world from the eyes of Mormonism, Wallace is now seeing Mormonism through the eyes of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as recorded in the Bible. If you are contemplating the Mormon faith, this book is telling you: Think twice before doing so.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Pomona Publishing and Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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