Many within Christendom (and without) are held captive by prejudiced theology. What does this mean? It means that people build for themselves prisons out of their doctrine and then move in and throw away the key. They become trapped by their dogmatism. Some people reside in these prisons because they willfully choose to; others live in them because they do not know there is something better. In either case, both groups are held captive by their prejudices.
This prejudice is most evident in Biblical scholars, many of whom quibble and fight over passages of scripture. Some scriptures are denied, others are taken as allegorical when they should not be, and some are simply ignored. Scholasticism of Christian theology can become such a problem that some Christian theologians even deny the divinity of Christ. Other theologians are faithful. Frederic Farrar was a 19th century English theologian who was, successively, the “Canon of Westminster and Rector of St. Margaret’s, Archdeacon of Westminster and Dean of Canterbury” (Source). He is most famous for his work Life of Christ.
The Bible contains support for what many view as odd LDS doctrines (of course – LDS doctrine includes the Bible), including baptism for the dead and the redemption of the dead. I’ll focus on the redemption of the dead for this example of prejudiced theology.
“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.” (1 Peter 3:18-22).
There is more about this in chapter 4 verse 6: “For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.”
Farrar wrote this about 1 Peter 3 & 4: “St. Peter has one doctrine that is almost peculiar to himself and which is inestimably precious. This doctrine is a much disregarded and indeed, until recent times, half-forgotten article of the Christian Creed. I mean the object of Christ’s descent into Hades. In this truth is involved nothing less than the extension of Christ’s redeeming work to the dead who died before His coming. Had the epistle contained nothing else but this it would at once have been raised above the irreverent charge of being secondhand and commonplace…. Few words of scripture have been so tortured and emptied of their significance as these. Every effort has been made to explain away the plain meaning of this passage. It is one of the most precious passages of scripture and it involves no ambiguity except such as created by the scholasticism of a prejudiced theology. It stands almost alone in scripture. For if language have any meaning this language means that Christ when His spirit descended into the lower world proclaimed the message of salvation to the once impenitent dead.” (As cited by Robert L. Millet in the Mormon Identity podcast, Episode 29; Note: The title of this post is inspired by the quote by Frederic Farrar).
In summary, the verses in 1 Peter 3 and 4 are clear; there is no room for equivocation. So why don’t more people believe the doctrines taught in these verses? First, a lot of people simply have not read them. From my experience talking with a lot of people about the gospel, I found that of the people who read the Bible, most read mainly the New Testament and in the New Testament most only really read the Gospels. There is nothing wrong with reading the Gospels – they are some of the most important of all the scriptures – but they are only a portion of the scriptures. Second, of those who have read and do read the scriptures many read them from their cells of a prejudiced theology. I’m not implying that most willfully disbelieve what they read or that they even construct their own prisons; what I am implying is that many people move into the cells of prejudice that are constructed for them and then never move out because they are comfortable where they are. This means that when they read verses like those in 1 Peter 3 and 4 they do not understand them so most simply ignore them. People have a difficult time perceiving anything that is outside their experience or dogma. It this manner are they captivated by their prejudiced theology. Many are like the spirits in prison whom Christ visited; they are waiting for someone to burst open the prison doors and release them from captivity.
Without hearing and heeding the words of living prophets of Jesus Christ, many have to rely on Biblical scholars for scriptural interpretation. Others will rely on their own interpretations (which can be inspired of God). However, without ongoing revelation by God’s prophets, we will always have a prejudiced theology. I am not implying that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have a monopoly on Truth or that we are never held captive by prejudiced theology but there is nothing as freeing as following the living Prophet. There is nothing as enlightening or liberating as the Spirit of God. If you are trapped in a prison of your prejudices, it is time to listen to and heed the teachings of living Prophets of God.