“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” Revelation 22:18-19
Starting at the Finish Line is a book primarily aimed at helping tenuous or questioning Mormons, those whom the Holy Spirit may be calling to salvation, achieve a solid basis for having full confidence in Holy Scripture and in the gospel of free grace in Christ alone as found there vs. those things the Mormon organization teaches and promotes.
Like most religious systems (including some unfortunately within the purview of Christianity), Mormonism is a religion of a kind of salvation by human works. It is a system that teaches that a person can attain godhood and rule a world of their own after successfully, in this life, jumping through various hoops deemed to be appropriate and sufficient for such a promotion. Nice story, perhaps, if true (or maybe not).
Wallace describes briefly his family’s journey into Mormonism as a youth and then the shock he experienced on discovering that Mormons taught that God was not an eternal, transcendent, immutable, invisible, uncreated being; rather the `god’ of Mormonism was just a regular guy like us who, after successfully jumping all through the appropriate hoops, was promoted to god of this planet which he has since populated (with multiple wives?) and now rules as sovereign in this limited realm. This god has been preceded or accompanied by other regular guys like himself, who having also successfully jumped through all the required hoops, became gods of their particular worlds, part of an infinite regression of gods into an endless past. As a child, Wallace thought that was pretty incredible, downright weird, and even highly undesirable. On hearing this previously undisclosed teaching of Mormon doctrine, he began a long journey from being a true Mormon believer to a cultural Mormon (one not really buying into their teachings while enjoying other aspects of Mormon life) and then eventually a Christian.
Mormonism was founded in the early 19th century when one Joseph Smith, a self-proclaimed prophet who, over time, launched an all-out written and verbal attack on all religions, particularly Christianity and its guiding document, the Holy Bible. Smith’s claim was that all religions (except his of course) were corrupt, teaching perversions and lies as truth and that his newly revealed system was the only true, reliable religious system, a recovery of lost and corrupted truth. He denigrated Holy Scripture as having been grossly corrupted, both in transmission and translation, having become over time highly unreliable and undependable in its teachings and standing in need of someone to help point out the, perhaps few, places it could be trusted. And due to its sad state, according to Smith, Scripture needed updated revelations and supporting documents, things he was only too happy to provide to a credulous following. Being somewhat charismatic and somewhat of a mystic (facts are such inconvenient things), he initially convinced a small number of people to buy into his system. From there Mormonism, still pretending to be a recovery of the pure Christian faith, has tenaciously attempted, with some success, to sink its tentacles into the American religious scene and that of other nations.
In addressing the reliability of Holy Scripture, Wallace examines those texts on the basis of five criterion used to assess historical authenticity: documentary style, reliable transmission, early composition, external corroboration, and the character of the witnesses showing that, concerning Holy Scripture, Christians generally are (or should be) very confident that we have a highly reliable, dependable, authoritative text, well translated into many languages, and one in which millions of man hours have been involved in its dissemination, translation, and study, having a phenomenal wealth of historical support in manuscripts, external attestation, archaeology, etc.
For instance, there are ~ 25,000 partial manuscripts of Scripture extant, including the relatively recent discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls which independently confirm the reliability of the Old Testament manuscripts. Other evidence comes from early historians and archaeology, which continues to uncover important, startling, unexpected confirmations of biblical names, places, and events. In short, there is massive evidence and attestation to the soundness and reliability of Holy Scripture, particularly compared to any other ancient documents or religious texts.
Wallace then addresses the gospel of grace found in Christ, whose perfect merit alone is sufficient for our salvation, nothing else needed or even accepted by God! True salvation is summarized by the five solas (alones) of the Reformation: that salvation is authoritatively taught in Holy Scripture alone and is: received by the divinely granted gift of repentant faith alone, given out of God’s grace alone, because of the perfectly sufficient self-sacrifice of Jesus alone, to the sole glory of God alone. In discussing these things, Wallace compares Scripture vs. Mormon teachings on the Fall, the nature of sin, the perfection required by God in His Law, absolute human inability to keep the law, the need for divine grace, the eternal deity of the God-man Jesus of Nazareth, the helpless status of all humans vis-a-vis God and His requirements, Christ as propitiatory sacrifice vs. simply an example, human merit vs. Christ’s fully sufficient merit, and other major contrasts in the two systems.
All in all, this could be a helpful book for those Mormons who secretly (or otherwise) harbor substantial doubts about what they have been taught in that system, whom God may be calling to His salvation in Christ alone. It may also be somewhat helpful to Christians trying to understand Mormon belief and practice, although there are likely other works which do that better. As noted in other reviews, not being a well-seasoned theologian or Bible scholar, Wallace’s soteriology has not yet been carefully or deeply thought through in the light of the whole canon of Scripture and the best of historical Christian thinkers and is somewhat of a weakness of this work. This book was provided gratis in exchange for a review.