Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Does Psalm 82 support the mormon doctrines of a plurality of gods?

That question has been raised on Heart Issues for LDS by a couple of vocal mormon apologists and has been raised by countless other mormons as a defense for the mormon doctrine that the God of the Bible is an exalted human being, who was once a man and progressed to be a god and is one of a multitude of other gods who are at least His equals (since God was once a man who progressed to Godhood, there must of necessity be a greater god than He who created Him.) To try to defend this belief and throw Christians off track, mormons often throw Psalm 82 out and declare that even the Bible itself supports this doctrine. So does it?

Well the obvious answer is no because the Bible is clear that there is only one God, unique and without peer, equal or equivalent. But that answer, while obvious, likely will be unsatisfactory to a mormon, especially one who is better versed in So first let’s look at Psalm 82, not just the parts that a mormon might quote but the entire chapter.

Rescue the Weak and Needy
A Psalm of Asaph.
82:1 God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
2 “How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
4 Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
6 I said, “You are gods,
sons of the Most High, all of you;
7 nevertheless, like men you shall die,
and fall like any prince.”
8 Arise, O God, judge the earth;
for you shall inherit all the nations!

(Psalm 82: 1-8 ESV)

So before digging too deeply, we need to ask the question: what is Psalm 82 all about? Who is speaking, who is the audience, what is the point? The Psalm refers to God as the supreme judge, who in this case is standing in judgment over those who rule over others, and in their rule they are being partial to the wicked and unjust to the weak. They are implored to rescue the weak and needy and are warned that they are destined to die like any other man.

It makes no sense whatsoever that the “gods” spoken of here are other gods like the God of the Bible because they are both unjustly ruling and they are mortal, falling or dying like any other man. That depiction is hardly one that lends itself to the belief that these are other gods.

So that is what I think, but what have the leading minds and scholars through the ages said?

First, from Augustine….

1. This Psalm, like others similarly named, was so entitled either from the name of the man who wrote it, or from the explanation of that same name, so as to refer in meaning to the Synagogue, which Asaph signifies; especially as this is intimated in the first verse. For it begins, “God stood in the synagogue of gods” (ver. 1). Far however be it from us to understand by these Gods the gods of the Gentiles, or idols, or any creature in heaven or earth except men; for a little after this verse the same Psalm relates and explains what Gods it means in whose synagogue God stood, where it says, “I have said, Ye are gods, and ye are all the children of the Most High: but ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.” In the synagogue of these children of the Most High, of whom the same Most High said by the mouth of Isaiah, “I have begotten sons and brought them up, but they despised Me,” stood God. By the synagogue we understand the people of Israel, because synagogue is the word properly used of them, although they were also called the Church. Our congregation, on the contrary, the Apostles never called synagogue, but always Ecclesia; whether for the sake of the distinction, or because there is some difference between a congregation whence the synagogue has its name, and a convocation whence the Church is called Ecclesia: for the word congregation (or flocking together) is used of cattle, and particularly of that kind properly called “flocks,” whereas convocation (or calling together) is more of reasonable creatures, such as men are.…I think then that it is clear in what synagogue of gods God stood.

Augustine, as an early writer around 400 A.D. is one of the most highly regarded writers in the early church days.

Let us look next at Calvin’s introduction. John Calvin is generally esteemed as one of the, if not the, finest theologian to have ever lived. Certainly his thoughts would carry some weight….

As kings, and such as are invested with authority, through the blindness which is produced by pride, generally take to themselves a boundless liberty of action, the Psalmist warns them that they must render an account at the bar of the Supreme Judge, who is exalted above the highest of this world. After he has reminded them of their duty and condition, perceiving that he speaks to such as refuse to receive admonition, he calls upon God to vindicate his character as a righteous judge.

So Calvin also recognizes this as a depiction of unjust and wicked human judges who will be called to account. A couple of possible references to the judges in question are alternately suggested in Chronicles 19:5-7 or 2 Chronicles 29:30, both of which refer to wicked judges. There are a number of places, especially in the psalms, that refer to unrighteous judges, inaccurate weights, etc. as being under condemnation.

How about Matthew Henry, Bible commentator extraordinaire?

This psalm is calculated for the meridian of princes’ courts and courts of justice, not in Israel only, but in other nations; yet it was probably penned primarily for the use of the magistrates of Israel, the great Sanhedrim, and their other elders who were in places of power, and perhaps by David’s direction. This psalm is designed to make kings wise, and "to instruct the judges of the earth’’ (as 2 and 10), to tell them their duty as (2 Sa. 23:3), and to tell them of their faults as 58:1. We have here, I. The dignity of magistracy and its dependence upon God (v. 1). II. The duty of magistrates (v. 3, 4). III. The degeneracy of bad magistrates and the mischief they do (v. 2, 5). IV. Their doom read (v. 6, 7). V. The desire and prayer of all good people that the kingdom of God may be set up more and more (v. 8). Though magistrates may most closely apply this psalm to themselves, yet we may any of us sing it with understanding when we give glory to God, in singing it, as presiding in all public affairs, providing for the protection of injured innocency, and ready to punish the most powerful injustice, and when we comfort ourselves with a belief of his present government and with the hopes of his future judgment.

I could go on, but suffice it to say that without exception throughout the centuries the most respected writers are in unanimity that this Psalm is written as an indictment of the judges who are oppressing the weak and needy. The point is that those humans who sit in judgment and rule over others are themselves subject to death and judgment from the ultimate judge, i.e. God.

If for some reason you reject the idea that these individuals in the assembly written about were the human judges, which I think the context clearly suggests, another possible rendering is that this is the angelic host. We know for certain that there are other beings that surround God, angelic beings that appear in Isaiah’s vision for example. But it is also clear that these angels are created beings and are beneath and subject to God, not other gods. There is not, without the most egregious eisegesis, any way to make this Psalm a support for a plurality of gods. That abominable doctrine is the product of Joseph Smith’s imagination and bears no more resemblance to the God of the Bible than the pagan pantheons of Greek or Norse gods.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Glenn Beck booted

There was a bit of a stir recently when Focus on the Family produced an interview with pundit Glenn Beck regarding his new Christmas book, The Christmas Sweater. A number of Christians protested the perceived endorsement of this book and by proxy Beck's mormonism. In response to the outcry, Focus on the Family printed a retraction and removed the interview. From an article on MormonTimes...

James Dobson's Focus on the Family ministry has pulled from its CitizenLink Web site an article about talk show host Glenn Beck's book "The Christmas Sweater" after some complained that Beck's LDS faith is a "cult" and "false religion" and shouldn't be promoted by a Christian ministry.

When contacted Friday, a Focus on the Family worker at the ministry in Colorado Springs, Colo. confirmed that the article had been pulled at this link and read a prepared statement for callers who had called about the Beck article:

"You are correct to note that Mr. Beck is a member of the Mormon church, and that we did not make mention of this fact in our interview with him. We do recognize the deep theological difference between evangelical theology and Mormon theology, and it would have been prudent for us at least to have pointed out these differences. Because of the confusion, we have removed the interview from CitizenLink."

Beck is predictably outraged....

A Special Message from Glenn:
The Christmas Sweater is a story about the idea of Christmas as a time for redemption and atonement. Whatever your beliefs about my religion, the concept of religious tolerance is too important to be sacrificed in response to pressure from special interest groups, especially when it means bowing to censorship. I'm humbled and grateful that hundreds of thousands of people from different faiths have read the book and have appreciated its uplifting message for themselves. At a time when the world is so full of fear, despair, and divisions, it is my hope that all of those who believe in a loving and peaceful God would stand together on the universal message of hope and forgiveness.
-glenn

Funny to quote religious tolerance when you are a member of a heretical church that sends tends of thousands of young men around the world to tell Christians that they are members of a "abomination":

19 I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” (Joseph Smith "History" 1:19)

What is the problem with a mormon Christmas book? The Christ child in mormonism is not the same Christ child of the Bible. He is at best a created being and the brother of Satan and at worst is the product of a blasphemous doctrine that God the Father bodily engaged in intercourse with Mary, impregnating her with Jesus. By giving a venue to Glenn Beck, Focus on the Family tacitly legitimized Beck's mormon views of Christ. This stunt is no different than Focus inviting a muslim to talk about their Christmas book, or any other unbeliever.

What is especially troubling is that Focus on the Family, an ostensibly Christian para-church ministry, gave a platform to someone who comes from a faith tradition that is in direct opposition to the Gospel and that is engaged in proselytizing and luring people away from Christianity. Someone at Focus needs to be more discerning and worry less about elections and more about the Gospel.

(HT: Voice of the Sheep)

Baptism

This is the next post replying to my anonymous commenter…the rest of my responses should be more brief than the prior one.

Baptism:

Early Christian churches, practiced baptism of youth (not infants) by immersion by the father of the family. The local congregation had a lay ministry. An early Christian Church has been re-constructed at the Israel Museum, and the above can be verified. The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) continues baptism and a lay ministry as taught by Jesus’ Apostles. Early Christians were persecuted for keeping their practices sacred, and prohibiting non-Christians from witnessing them.

Some of that is true, but that doesn’t mean that mormonism is also true. As I pointed out previously, correcting an error with a greater error is not a restoration! I will agree wholeheartedly that the New Testament model of the church was a lay ministry, but also that the earliest church was not a hierarchical organization but instead small gatherings of believers often in homes, not in meeting houses with basketball courts and satellite links to Salt Lake City. I have posted with some regularity recently on my main blog affirming the lay ministry model (see here) but that affirmation does not necessitate or support mormonism. I also will affirm that paedobaptism, the baptism of infants of believing parents is not a correct practice. Many, many Christians deny infant baptism. On the other hand, baptizing someone because they turn eight is not a correct practice either!

That early Christians hid their “sacred” ceremonies I am not so certain about. They were certainly often in hiding because of persecution. Again, we get no citation so I cannot be sure where that claim comes from. Early Christians were persecuted for many things, but it is an enormous leap to think that the reason they were persecuted, as implied here, is that they were conducting secret mormon temple ceremonies. It is a chicken and egg situation, were they persecuted because they were in hiding or were they in hiding because of persecution? The latter seems far more plausible.

What we have here is an argument that points out some truths, but then makes the assumption that mormonism is the correct prescription for meeting these truths. Getting some aspects of ecclesiology correct doesn’t outweigh gross errors in theology proper.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Is mormonism the true New Testament Christianity?

That is the assertion made in a comment on a previous post. See here. That statement is the beginning of a series of statements made by this anonymous individual, and the audacity and inaccuracy of the claims demands a response. I am going to dissect all of the arguments made in this comment and demonstrate from plain facts and Scripture that they are false. The individual who posted this and also has a couple of blogs is anonymous, so it cannot be ascertained what their background is or where they got their information. The comment starts with this statement:

Mormons Are New Testament Christians, not Creedal Christians

A bold statement, but one with no basis in fact. Obviously I would, as would all Christians, deny that mormonism is the restoration of New Testament Christianity (or that mormonism is any sort of Christianity at all). I want to reiterate and expand on my comments in response to that statement. My original comments are in green.

Nowhere in the NT do we see Christians holding or needing a priesthood, in fact the need for a human priesthood is specifically rejected in the NT especially in Hebrews.

Throughout the book of Hebrews we see Christ as our High Priest. The role of the human priesthood after the order of Aaron has been negated (see my prior post A restoration or a fabrication? for more details on the elimination of the need for a human priesthood) We need no human priests when we have a great High Priest who intercedes for us directly with the Father. The whole notion stems from a misunderstanding of the priesthood under the Old Covenant and the great priesthood of Christ as mediator of the New Covenant.

The idea of mormon temple worship does not appear anywhere in the NT.

The temple is a key to mormon theology and practice, but mormon temple worship doesn't appear anywhere in the New Testament. We do see the early apostles going to the Jewish temple, but there purpose in going there was to preach and teach the Gospel, not to perform the mormon temple ceremonies. The temple ceremonies of mormonism bear no resemblance to New Testament Christian worship or Old Testament temple ordinances. None at all.

The idea of a plurality of gods is specifically and vociferously rejected through the old and new testament.

This sort of goes without saying. The Bible is clear and speaks frequently to the uniqueness of God. The Bible rejects categorically the existence of any other gods, on par with or even vaguely similar to God. The whole of creation includes the Triune God, created angels/demons and humanity. There is not category for other gods, certainly not a god who created the God of the Bible as the doctrine of God being an exalted man would require.

Exaltation is absent.

Exaltation, or the becoming of a god by faithful mormon men, is so foreign to the Bible that it becomes indefensible and frankly unthinkable. See my posts on exaltation Talking 'bout my deification as well as my post on the Biblical doctrine of adoption.

Dietary codes like the word of wisdom are rejected.

This pertains to the mormon "word of wisdom" that prohibit certain foods. See Matthew 15:11-19 and the vision of Peter before going to the house of Cornelius in Acts 10: 9-15. Both of which point to the elimination of dietary laws. The word of wisdom boils down to an external pietistic control mechanism. Humans are not sanctified by observance of dietary laws, and the idea that drinking a cup of tea makes you unworthy to become a god is silly.

An ongoing need for a human prophet is rejected.

See my post here on Hebrews 1: 1-2 and how pointless a prophet is today. The fullness of the revelation of God to man for salvation is contained in the Bible describing the person and work of His Son. What more do we need? What more do we want? When we had the missionaries coming over, this was a stumbling block for them. It seemed they had never gotten beyond "God used to speak through prophets, so shouldn't He today?" without working through the implications of that thought. They never were really able to give a cogent answer as to why we would need a prophet today.

New "revelation" that contradicts the apostles is declared anathema.

Would new revelation completely contradict the original, complete revelation given by Christ? That hardly makes sense and Paul has pretty strong words for those who preach "another gospel" in Galatians 1: 6-9. Completely changing the Gospel is not a restoration, it is a heresy.

The mormon offices of elder and deacon run contrary to the qualification laid out in the NT. The hierarchical, authoritarian nature of the mormon church is contrary to the structure of the NT church.

The structure of the church is not really a structure at all. Mormonism seeks to establish the proper organization on earth, but the church is not an organization at all. It is the people of God in all places and at every time. We gather together but that gathering is not the church. The church is not this program or that leader. It is the elect of God throughout the ages, the Bride of Christ. Mormonism also takes the titles that appear in the New Testament and applies them improperly and with no regard to the qualifications laid out. Think of the missionaries. They all carry the title of "elder" and they are young men of 19-21 years of age. Their age is not in and of itself the issue, but in 1 Timothy 3: 1-13 we see the qualifications laid out for elders and deacons, and it is hard to think that a teenage young man is qualified as being mature in the faith, the husband of one wife and managing his household well. The structure and offices of mormonism are yet another glaring example of the mormon church using Biblical terms, but doing so improperly.

To summarize: the mormon church bears no resemblance to the New Testament church in either doctrine or in practice. Outside of a few superficial similarities in names the form, function and foundations of the mormon church are built on the teachings of the imagination of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, not the teaching of Christ and His apostles. As such, mormons are not New Testament Christians and indeed because of their beliefs are not Christians at all. You cannot say that this person believes A and is a Christian, and that person believes B, which is mutually exclusive from A, and is also a Christian. Christianity is many things, but one thing it certainly can be said to be is a series of propositional truths. Deny those truths and you deny Christ, and as such cannot be a Christian. How can you be "New Testament Christians" when you cannot appeal to the New Testament to support your theology and practice and instead seek to undermine that very document in your later arguments?

There are plenty of issues that modern Christianity is wrestling with and has wrestled with for two thousand years. The writings of Paul speak of false teaching early in the church and we are warned in the Word of a coming falling away (which may or may not be a future or even present event). The Reformation was driven by the false teachings of Rome. We saw false teachings in every century since the cross. We certainly see plenty of false teaching today.

But here is where mormons miss the mark:

Correcting errors with greater errors is not a restoration!

That is the big problem with the "restoration" argument. Change in and of itself is not a correction. In the church, only change that conforms more closely to the Word is a restoration, anything else is just compounding one error with another.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

At peace with God

Hark! the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the new born King,
peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!"


How often have you sung this Christmas hymn? In church it is a Christmas staple, and when I was younger we used to sing it in Christmas programs at school (when we were still allowed to sing Christmas songs and still call it Christmas instead of "the holidays"). But one line in that hymn really stands out to me, God and sinners reconciled. Christmas has become, culturally, all about the giving and receiving. We think about the babe in the manger as God's gift to the world. But I am afraid that we have lost sight of the cross because of the manger. Jesus coming in a miraculous birth to a virgin, in and of itself, accomplished very little other than fulfilling one part of the prophecy. It was at the cross where the Christ child was destined to ascend that the full reality of the gift of God to His people was realized. It was there, on the cross, where He brought peace between God and sinners.

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:19-20)

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Col 1:19-20)


(Emphasis added)

What all of this tells me is the depths to which we once were His enemies. Our separation was so severe, the gulf so unbridgeable that peace between God and His people could only come at a terrible cost, the cost of the life of His Son. We have no peace in this life because we have no peace with God. It was an enmity that our sin has caused and it was a separation that outside of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit we are unaware of. Sure we know something is wrong in the world, but we don't realize that what is wrong with the world is not global warming, or capitalism, or war, or those people over there. What is wrong with the world is us. We were unable and unwilling to make peace with God, so God had to send His beloved Son to make peace with us. Don't buy that Total Depravity stuff? Think we are just generally good people who needed a little nudge in the right direction? Think again...

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:9-11)

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1-3)

So we are all depraved, wicked sinners. But didn't Jesus come to bring peace? Certainly, but not the peace we usually think of.

The peace that Christ brings is not an earthly peace, a time of peace and goodwill. 2000 years of human history have proven that. There are wars, famine, hatred. The world is certainly not a peaceful place by any stretch of the imagination. So what is all of this peace talk about anyway? We read in Isaiah 9:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

We see on the glorious night that Christ was born:

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!" (Luke 2:13-14)

But yet we don't see peace in the world nor should we expect to. The peace that Christ brought is peace with His Father, a peace treaty signed in His blood.

We are cynically called to remember "The reason for the season", but the reason for the season is not the manger, it is the cross. It is not the three wise men, it is the centurion who said: "Truly this was the Son of God!". It is not the adoring shepherds, it is the crowd screaming "Crucify Him!". The reason for the season is that:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (Joh 1:14)

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and by His stripes we are healed. That is reason to celebrate. Not for iPods or gift cards, but the eternal Word condescended to dwell among sinners who hated and rejected Him. But we also read that while we were yet sinners, He came and died for us. Celebrate that on Christmas day, celebrate that God and sinners are reconciled by the cross and because of that we have peace with God for all eternity.

Now that is deserving of a...

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Give Thanks

His Steadfast Love Endures Forever

A Psalm for giving thanks.

100:1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
2 Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

3 Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!

5 For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.


Psalm 100 ESV

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"I have a testimony"

As I figured we would eventually, we got to an impasse with the missionaries tonight. They were very nervous from the get go, and I figure one of their higher ups recommended that they not visit any longer. I was able to pray with them and encourage them to read the Word, instead of relying on their feelings and what the "prophet" tells them. So I don't expect to see them again, and one of the missionaries is getting moved next week. They are off to some easier audiences, but I pray we managed to plant a seed of doubt that God will nurture when they get home from their missions.

On the bright side, I got a new job in a different area so we will be moving in the not too distant future and as soon as we get settled in, we will hop on www.lds.org and request the missionaries bring by a Book of Mormon!

Oops!


Caught again!

The mormon practice of baptism for the dead often is a controversial one, and in the past it has caused a ruckus among the Jewish community because mormons have seen fit to baptize Holocaust victims, who were murdered for being Jewish. Several times in the past, the mormon church has promised to stop baptizing Holocaust survivors only to be caught with Holocaust survivors on their rolls for temple work. Now the Jewish community has broken off talks, figuring that they were wasting their time...

Jewish group wants Mormons to stop proxy baptisms

By DEEPTI HAJELA and JENNIFER DOBNER
Associated Press Writers

NEW YORK (AP) -- Holocaust survivors said Monday they are through trying to negotiate with the Mormon church over posthumous baptisms of Jews killed in Nazi concentration camps, saying the church has repeatedly violated a 13-year-old agreement barring the practice.

Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints say they are making changes to their massive genealogical database that will make it more difficult for names of Holocaust victims to be entered for posthumous baptism by proxy, a rite that has been a common Mormon practice for more than a century.

But Ernest Michel, honorary chairman of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors, said that is not enough. At a news conference in New York City on Monday, he said the church also must "implement a mechanism to undo what you have done."

"Baptism of a Jewish Holocaust victim and then merely removing that name from the database is just not acceptable," said Michel, whose parents died at Auschwitz. He spoke on the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Nazi-incited riots against Jews.

"We ask you to respect us and our Judaism just as we respect your religion," Michel said in a statement released ahead of the news conference. "We ask you to leave our six million Jews, all victims of the Holocaust, alone, they suffered enough."

Michel said talks with Mormon leaders, held as recently as last week, have ended. He said his group will not sue, and that "the only thing left, therefore, is to turn to the court of public opinion."

In 1995, Mormons and Jews inked an agreement to limit the circumstances that allow for the proxy baptisms of Holocaust victims. Ending the practice outright was not part of the agreement and would essentially be asking Mormons to alter their beliefs, church Elder Lance B. Wickman said Monday in an interview with reporters in Salt Lake City.

"We don't think any faith group has the right to ask another to change its doctrines," Wickman said. "If our work for the dead is properly understood ... it should not be a source of friction to anyone. It's merely a freewill offering."


Christians recognize the need to evangelize Jews, no different than any other group. But we also realize that given the history of Jews especially with regards to the Holocaust and the Inquisition (neither of which we perpetrated by Christians). The mormon church could halt the baptism of Holocaust victims by insisting it's members stop adding the names, but given their focus on the un-Biblical practice of proxy baptism for people who had no interest in being mormons in life, it is unlikely that it will ever truly stop. The only consolation I can offer to Jews who had family members die in Auschwitz and Treblinka is that proxy baptism has no basis in Scripture and is nothing more than a show. I doubt that will be much consolation though.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Adventures in eisegesis


As I mentioned several posts ago, I went with the missionaries to the Priesthood session of the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints broadcast. The evening was capped by a presentation by Thomas Monson, the president of the mormon church and the self-proclaimed modern prophet of God. In the second of Paul’s epistles to Timothy, he urges Timothy as a young elder to be sure he is rightly handling the Word of Truth (2 Tim 2:15). Based on what I heard from Thomas Monson, he is hardly on par with Timothy, much less a prophet of the restoration. Take this passage from his priesthood talk as an example, where Monson quotes one of my favorite passages in the Bible, Ezekiel 36:

In this vast throng are priesthood power and the capacity to reach out and share the glorious gospel with others. As has been mentioned, we have the hands to lift others from complacency and inactivity. We have the hearts to serve faithfully in our priesthood callings and thereby inspire others to walk on higher ground and to avoid the swamps of sin which threaten to engulf so many. The worth of souls is indeed great in the sight of God. Ours is the precious privilege, armed with this knowledge, to make a difference in the lives of others. The words found in Ezekiel could well pertain to all of us who follow the Savior in this sacred work:

“A new heart . . . will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you. . . .

“And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

“And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.”
1

How might we merit this promise? What will qualify us to receive this blessing? Is there a guide to follow?

May I suggest three imperatives for our consideration. They apply to the deacon as well as to the high priest. They are within our reach. A kind Heavenly Father will help us in our quest.

First, learn what we should learn.

Second, do what we should do.

And third, be what we should be.

Oh the erroneous assumptions assumed by that statement. Keep in mind that this man is speaking from the “pulpit” or lectern at the mormon General Conference, speaking on priesthood authority to those who also hold a similar, although lower, priesthood authority.

The great error involved in this statement is the very premise of the question: How might we merit this promise? The whole point here, and indeed one of the key, overarching themes of Scripture, is that we cannot merit this change of heart, or seek to impact that change. It is a work of God. Notice the initiator and the recipient throughout the passage in Ezekiel: The repeated use of "I will" indicating God is the initiator of the action and we are seen as the recipient. Nowhere is it stated or even assumed that we have something to do with this sovereign change of heart. Like most of the talks in the "priesthood" session, the emphasis is on human ability with God's help, human worthiness. The focus of Ezekiel 36 is not on man however, but on God. Statements like this demonstrate that Thomas Monson has a minimal grasp of the Scriptures and feels free to misrepresent and reinterpret Scripture as he sees fit.

I wonder if any of the "priesthood" holders looked up Ezekiel 36 and wondered about Monson's interpretation.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

That pesky fellow!


One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." (Luke 23:39-43)


There is probably no figure that causes more trouble to those who buy into doctrines like works salvation or baptismal regeneration quite like the repentant thief on the cross next to Christ. He really confounds those who believe in some version of works based righteousness. We see a man who does nothing to merit paradise, just condemnation, one who is justifiable being punished hanging next to one you merited no such punishment. There are many ways he confounds those who insist on works for all or part of their salvation.

His simple declaration of faith

His faith is simple, it is a faith of one who places his hope on the One who can save him. His hope is in spite of the life he lived up to that point, not because of it. When a Christian is saved, he or she is saved despite the utter sinfulness of their prior life. We are saved not by our litany of good works, we are saved by Christ.

His recognition of his own sin

He sees and realizes his own sins, and Christ's sinlessness. A recognition of sin that must precede salvation. We cannot be saved until we see why we need to be saved. That flies in the face of a faith+works salvation. The image of the thief is little different than the image of the saved Christian. We are that sinner, a lowly criminal hanging next to His King. We bring nothing to our salvation, we add nothing to our justification but the sin that Christ atoned for.

His salvation

His salvation requires no action on his part, only His blessing. Nothing else needs to be done. Indeed I think the reason we see this account is to show us that this thief, like us, is utterly helpless. He cannot get down and go do righteous works to show himself worthy of salvation. All he brings is all God demands: a penitent heart, changed by God, that declares Jesus Christ as Lord. That is all we need, and when we seek to add our works to His work we put the cross to shame and deny the Lord.

Something else I love about this guy: He is anonymous. We have no idea who this guy is or what his name is or what kind of life he lived. He was a thief, we know that and that is about all we know. The conversation is not about him, it is about Christ, about Christ being merciful on an undeserving sinner. In a day when “me, me and me” is the new Trinity, when we wonder what God can do for us, when we seek as much as we ever have to stand insolently before God and claim our reward based on our works and our righteousness , this anonymous thief reminds us all that each of us has a cross we should have faced, but that in the case of redeemed Christian He faced it for us so that we wouldn’t have to.

Whenever you hear someone say that it is our works that save us, remember this lowly thief who brought nothing to the cross but his sin, but today dwells with the Lord in paradise and remember that we can do nothing to save ourselves. That's O.K. though, because Jesus has paid for it all with His blood and that was good enough for this thief and it is good enough for us. Praise God for His mercy and praise God for recording the story of this thief in His Word to set to rest the question of who and what saves us!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

New podcast on mormonism

The Mormonism Research Ministry is re-releasing their podcast, so if you subscribe to podcasts via iTunes or another service you can check them out. It is all quality, Christ honoring and well researched material.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Talking ‘bout my deification

A lot of discussions revolving around mormonism end up wandering off into ancillary issues: Adam-God, the Mountain Meadows massacre, various eccentric oddities in the Book of Mormon (and there are lots of those!) I think that is partly intentional, because it serves to distract from the question at hand. But discussions of those issues, while interesting and some of them are topics I will raise here because they reflect the fundamental errors of mormonism, don’t get at the real core of the problem. Lots of Christian churches teach things that I don’t particularly like. Lots of Christian churches teach things in error (i.e. infant baptism). Some denominations get the Gospel wrong, even though they recognize the proper nature of God, especially as it relates to Christ (i.e. Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy).

But where the proverbial rubber meets the road, where mormonism diverges most radically from Christianity, is in the nature of God and as a corollary the nature of man.

Mormonism teaches that God of the Bible is actually an exalted man (Gospel Principles pg. 9). That means that God is not unique in the universe, not just in “this” universe but in terms of being existence as a whole. Not only is God not unique, but He is created which means that there are other gods like Him and that it would also mean that there was a god who created Him who stands above Him. This stands in opposition to the traditionally held beliefs of Christians of all stripes. One or the other must be false. God cannot be both eternal and uncreated and at the same time an exalted, created being. It is my contention that the Bible reveals to us a God who is like no other being, and that there are no other gods because God is unique and has revealed Himself as such. This is a brief Scriptural case for that position looking at the nature of God, the nature of man and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The nature of God

Who and what is God? I am not asking here about philosophical speculation or what this or that early Christian postulated. What I am talking about is who God has revealed Himself to be in His Word. The Bible is, speaking most broadly, a record of God’s revelation of Himself to man. The God revealed in Scripture is unlike anyone or anything. God has eternally existed in three persons, Father, Son and Spirit and for His own pleasure and glory created the universe. No one made God, He is without cause or creation. A sample of Scripture indicates this truth...

To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him. Out of heaven he let you hear his voice, that he might discipline you. And on earth he let you see his great fire, and you heard his words out of the midst of the fire. And because he loved your fathers and chose their offspring after them and brought you out of Egypt with his own presence, by his great power, driving out before you nations greater and mightier than yourselves, to bring you in, to give you their land for an inheritance, as it is this day, know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. (Deuteronomy 4:35-39)

Let these words of mine, with which I have pleaded before the LORD, be near to the LORD our God day and night, and may he maintain the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel, as each day requires, that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God; there is no other. (1 Kings 8:59-60)

Therefore you are great, O LORD God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears. (2 Samuel 7:22)

I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:5-6)

The prevailing theme here? That there is no other god but God. Not that there is none like Him in these here parts. There is but one God anywhere and He is unique, without being created. Man is as different from God as the east is from the west. We are created in His image, but we are not like Him in nature because no one, no being, nothing is like Him.

The nature of man

Just as the Bible is clear that God is unique, uncreated, eternal, without beginning or end, perfectly just and loving, sublimely holy, it is also clear that man is anything but. Man is revealed as utterly sinful, lost in sin, an enemy to God by nature.

The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.(Genesis 6:5)

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. (Psalms 51:5)

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23)

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned-- (Romans 5:12)

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.(Ephesians 2:1-3)

Man is many things. Sinful, Imperfect. Prone to wander. But gods in embryo? Capable of progressing into godhood? Certainly not. We are adopted into the family of God. We receive the imputed righteousness of Christ that replaces our iniquity. We never become righteous in and of ourselves. Our only righteousness is that imputed to us through the grace of God by faith in Christ.

The Gospel

The Gospel is marvelously simple and infinitely complex, but what it boils down to is this (and this of course is a very imperfect summary). God who is infinite and eternal created man in His image and for His pleasure. The first man, Adam, willfully rebelled against God by disobeying the clear command to not eat of the fruit. Man was thereby cast out of the Garden, out of the fellowship with God that Adam had enjoyed. That rebellion had the consequence of both physical death and spiritual death, i.e. hell. Despite the rebellion and enmity of man to God, God revealed Himself to His creatures and set about redeeming a people to Himself. That redemptive plan saw it's culmination in the miracle of the virgin birth of Christ. The Son of God lived a perfect life and ministered among man for some time, and was crucified by the Romans under Pontius Pilate with the blessing and encouragement of many of the Jewish leadership. He bore the wrath of God for the sins of His elect on the cross, and died on that same cross. He was buried and then rose again on the third day, appearing to many of His followers and charging them to spread the Gospel. He then ascended into heaven, where He awaits the day of judgment when He will bring His bride, the church, home.

What is missing from the Gospel is any hint that Christ came to enable sinners to become gods, or that it is His intent to see that happen. Jesus Christ came to save sinners, not to make new gods.

The doctrines of mormonism are at odds with Christianity, the revelation of Christ in the Bible in many ways, but nowhere more clearly or tragically than in the misrepresentation of God and man, and in the way that another Gospel is being proclaimed around the world by deceived young men. This is where our focus ought to be first and foremost: declaring Jesus Christ as the only means to save a people who are lost.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Nice Visit

We had the misssionaries over again tonight. My wife made me be quiet and listen, which is really hard for me! Ever heard someone ask "Are you listening or just waiting to talk", I am the "just waiting to talk" kind of person. We did get halfway through a booklet on the plan of salvation, and I let them give their spiel. They are coming back next week and I asked them to think about the person of Christ, who He is. Should be an interesting conversation.
In a comment on my post about the heretical hymn "Praise to the man" , Mormon Heretic claims that a recent article in Christianity Today supports or at least suggests support for the mormon doctrine of exaltation. Here is part of the comment:

The article goes on to quote Athanasius and Irenaeus, as I did in my blog. Some key scriptures it points to regarding deification (or mingling with gods, as the mormon hymn points out) are:

John 10:34
Romans 8:291
John 3:2
Gen 1:26
Gen 3:5
1 John 1:5

Now I freely admit that mormons view of exaltation isn't 100% the same as deification. However, the similarites are striking, enough for me not to worry about this hymn you find so troubling.

Do these verses support mormon exaltation?

How about John 10:34. OK, that one is just silly. This is what John 10:34 says: Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I said, you are gods'? The quote is from Psalm 82:6 but look at the context of the verse by adding in verse 7...

I said, "You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince." (Psalms 82:6-7) Like other men you will die. The "gods" spoken on here are the human judges over Israel, who die like any other man. Then look at the full context of John 10:34:

Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I said, you are gods'? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came--and Scripture cannot be broken-- do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God'? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father." (John 10:34-38)

So what we see is quite contrary to deification. The "gods" spoken of are mere men, magistrates over Israel compared to Christ who IS God. Not only does it not support deification, it also shows that Christ is God.

What about Romans 8:29?

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)

We here we see a different Biblical doctrine being brought forth, the doctrine of adoption ( in conjunction with the doctrines of election and predestination, which are unexplainable in mormon theology). Adoption tells us that by faith we are adopted into the family of God. A child that is adopted into the family is not genetically a family member, but is brought legally into a family. In the same way, we are adopted by God into His family. That doesn't make us gods, but rather brings us into familial fellowship. Look a few verses earlier in Romans 8...

And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:23)

We do not have to be gods to be adopted by God!

Surely 1 John 3:2 must support exaltation? Or does it?

Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)

Why are we like God? Because we will have our own worlds? Because we share his attributes? No, because we will see Him for who He is. That is all it promises, we will see Him as He is whereas now we see through a glass darkly. Again, this speaks of adoption not exaltation.

Genesis 1:26 doesn't even make sense.

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." Genesis 1:26)

We are made in His image, not in His nature. He created us and He is uncreated. We are sinners and He is perfect. He is eternal and we are not. Being made in the image of an eternal, perfect being doesn't make us gods. It makes us creations.

On to Genesis 3:5. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:5)

OK, first you are using something Satan says to support your argument. Second, why are we like God? Because Adam and Eve, who did not know good and evil, now DO know good and evil (they knew they were naked and were ashamed) They are clearly not godlike, they lived and died like anyone else. What they did have however was a knowledge of good and evil, as God does, which doesn't make them like God in nature and in fact led to their death.

Finally 1 John 1:5. I am not sure what you mean by this, I think you referenced the wrong verse because 1 John 1:5 reads: This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5). Not sure how that supports your argument.

Just listing a bunch of verses is not an argument. This is why you need to read the Word completely and in context. Prooftexting is always a dangerous thing. When examined in context and read clearly, none of those verse support exaltation, and in several cases show just the opposite.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Angels of light

Ever had an "Ah-ha!" moment when reading your Bible? We had one last night when doing our daily devotional. We read these and looked at each other and said "Wow!"...

I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things. Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God's gospel to you free of charge? I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way. As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia. And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do! And what I do I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. (2 Corinthians 11:1-15)

It is amazing how replete the Scripture is in warnings of false prophets, false teachers, false gospels. They may seem sincere and nice, they will almost certainly not be obvious. It is the subtle lie, the lie that appeals to the sinner's heart that has the greatest chance of deceit. To the great shame of Christianity, we have done such a poor job in training up our people show that they know a lie when they hear it that cults and false religions flourish.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

On leaving mormonism

This should be an interesting conversation on Mormon Coffee. The topic is Leaving the Mormon Church and I expect some really pointed conversation to follow. Should be fun to follow.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Thoughts from the "priesthood" session


I was at the priesthood session of the general conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. If you are not "in the know" with mormonism, twice a year the mormon leadership from Salt Lake City broadcasts two days of talks aimed at the members. The talks are pretty bland stuff, but sometimes they announce new temples and such during conference. On Saturday night there is a special session just for the men and boys who hold the mormon "priesthood". The missionaries we have been evangelizing invited me to come, and I picked that session. As I mentioned in the last post, I hadn't been in a mormon church since we left almost eight years ago.

A few observations from someone who had been to many priesthood sessions before, but now was seeing it through fresh eyes. These are the things that jumped out at me.

1) How little Scripture was used. I guess I never noticed it when I was a member but there was VERY minimal reference even to mormon Scriptures. When Scripture was used, it was thrown out to support a claim the speaker was already making and in some cases, like Monson butchering Ezekiel 36, what they were saying had nothing to do with the Scripture they were quoting.

2) How man centered it was. All of the talks were about ways to be better mormons, to be more worthy, more personally righteous, more effective. It was little more than a two hour self-help seminar. Sin was barely mentioned and it was mentioned only as a barrier to you being the best mormon you could be. No wonder Joel Osteen likes mormonism so much!

3) Thomas Monson is nowhere near the orator that Hinckley was in his prime. Hinckley, even when he was older, was a much better speaker. In the last few years he was slipping, but heck he was 90 something. In his prime though, he was a marvelous speaker. Monson looks lost up there.

4) How sincere and nice the young men sound when they are singing a song that is rank heresy. To the uninitiated, you might think the singing was just wonderful and there is something great about hundreds of young men, with virtually identical suits and haircut, all wearing their missionary tags singing along with the magnificent organ. But when you stop to listen to the words they were singing, you realize that sometimes, perhaps oftentimes, heresy comes in a pleasant looking and sounding package.

If you go to the lds.org webpage you can listen to and soon read the content of the talks, but for some reason the priesthood session material is not listed. I wonder if that is something they are doing now, because there was not a broadcast online of it either for mormons in remote areas. I am currently reading through a talk by the first counselor of the relief society on the temple. Pretty much the same rote stuff you hear every year.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Praise to who?

The song always kind of bugged me, even when we were mormons, but wow let me just say what a visceral impact I had tonight to Praise to the Man. About halfway through the "Priesthood" session of the general conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, they sung that song. Just read the lyrics and then try to reconcille that with it being sung in a church that claims to follow and worship Christ...

Praise to the Man

1. Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah!
Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer.
Blessed to open the last dispensation,
Kings shall extol him, and nations revere.

[Chorus]
Hail to the Prophet, ascended to heaven!
Traitors and tyrants now fight him in vain.
Mingling with Gods, he can plan for his brethren;
Death cannot conquer the hero again.

2. Praise to his mem’ry, he died as a martyr;
Honored and blest be his ever great name!
Long shall his blood, which was shed by assassins,
Plead unto heav’n while the earth lauds his fame.

3. Great is his glory and endless his priesthood.
Ever and ever the keys he will hold.
Faithful and true, he will enter his kingdom,
Crowned in the midst of the prophets of old.

4. Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven;
Earth must atone for the blood of that man.
Wake up the world for the conflict of justice.
Millions shall know “Brother Joseph” again.


Who are they praising? Where is the focus? Who is being exalted and glorified? He will enter "his kingdom"? "Great is his glory"? Don't even get me started on "mingling with Gods"!

More thoughts on the mormon general conference tomorrow. Suffice it to say that the mindset revealed in this song were on full display in Salt Lake City on Saturday night.

This should be interesting...

The missionaries invited me to General Conference. I am planning on going this evening to the Priesthood session. Honestly, as someone who has suffered through the conference in the past, it is not the best proselytizing tool. I hope I get the chance to take some notes and ask some questions, beating on the drum of "why a restored priesthood" again. I noticed that the priesthood session is not broadcast over the internet, which is interesting but after the infamous "wet dreams" talk I sat through a decade ago, I can understand why!

I haven't been in a mormon church since we left all those years ago.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Calling in the cavalry


Had the missionaries over tonight and they brought a regular member with them. He was someone who was a little more well versed in the Bible. The conversation got a little more pointed than normal, especially when speaking to the local member. I am guessing he was a former bishop, because he was fairly well versed in some of the arguments, but as we dug deeper into the priesthood it became pretty clear that he wasn't that familiar with Hebrews and the covenants. He was a little irate with me at times, so I may have overdone it but he was a bit smarmy. I saw him talking for some time with the missionaries outside after our visit, so I am worried that he was warning them to not come back.

I am afraid I was a little heavy handed tonight, a little too quick to come back on every comment. My impulse when I get challenged it to jump on the person with both feet, which isn't the right way to witness of course. I ended up speaking way more to the member than to the missionaries, and I hardly expected to sway the lifelong adult. My hope is to plant the seed of the Gospel in the hearts of these young men so that when they leave their missions they are encouraged to dig deeper into God's Word and see who Christ truly is. We did get a commitment to come back in two weeks, and I really want to give them the chance to talk more so we don't completely spook them. If they don't come back we lose the chance to keep up the dialogue, so I am praying that they will be back. We are due for a switch so I am expecting that the one missionary won't be back but the other one will with a new companion, so we have a chance to talk to a new person.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Very fruitful conversation


We had a great conversation on Tuesday with the mormon missionaries. I used the pamphlet they left the last time to ask a couple of general questions, "The Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ" and then it was on. I asked them right away about the Aaronic priesthood and focused the questions on what the function of the Levitical priesthood was. I got them to agree that the Aaronic priesthood was the restoration of the same priesthood as that held by the Levites, which is important and is pretty clear given that the restoration allegedly came from John the Baptist whose dad was a Levite etc. Once I had gotten their agreement on that (and it is vital to make sure you have agreement on definitions), I asked them if they knew what the function of the Levitical priesthood was in the Old Testament. They didn't really have a good answer, so I explained from the OT what the Levites did. I then took the to the NT and showed them how Christ fulfills the sacrifice for the sins of His sheep and because of that there was no need for the Aaronic priesthood to be restored. Then I took them to Melchizidek and we talked about who he was and how Christ holds that office alone as a High Priest after the order of Melchizidek. Again the central point being that with a High Priest like Christ and a sacrifice as perfect as the one of Christ, what need do we have for a human priesthood and a restored temple? They honestly had no answers for me.

I did get a commitment from them to come back next Tuesday. I hope to make this a more or less weekly thing, we figure that with them moving in and out of this area and splitting with other missionaries we should have the chance to impact 12-15 missionaries a year at least. I don't expect any of them to come to Christ and leave mormonism on their mission, but I do hope to plant a seed that will flourish later on and get some contact info from them so I can stay in touch with these young men. I am hoping that they call for reinforcements so I can meet some members in the area and talk to them. I am sort of considering going on a fast and testimony Sunday so I could get up with an open mike and declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ...

Pray for these young men, who I will not name specifically, that God will use our visits to show them the lie of mormonism and that through our interaction I can show them the better way that is found by simple faith in the grace of Christ.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Another visit upcoming

The missionaries called us again and are coming over Tuesday night. I am going to get some pizzas for them because I have been to a number of missionary apartments and they generally live like animals (put a couple of 20 year old guys with no money in and apartment, and it is a wonder they don't turn to cannibalism when the noodles run out!)

My goal for Tuesday night is to dig deeper into the idea of the priesthood, and focus the conversation on the same vein as in the post below. What is the priesthood in the OT, what is the role of Christ, why do we need a new priesthood given the office of Christ? It is a delicate balance because I want them to keep coming back, so I need prayer that I will be firm and bold in declaring Christ but not hostile or confrontational. It is easier with missionaries because we have a soft spot for these young men. I loved going out with them when we were mormons, and having them over for dinner weekly. They for the most part have been spoon fed mormonism since they were small children, and it takes time to unravel the lie while showing them a better way through the Christ of the Bible.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Examining the Book of Abraham

Bill McKeever of the Mormonism Research Ministry put together a very lengthy video debunking the "translation" of the Book of Abraham, a pivotal text in mormon theology. The full video is pretty long and you can watch it here, but there is a shortened version that I like a lot because it very succinctly demonstrates that what mormons carry around in their "scriptures" is not what Smith claimed it to be at all. Watch and enjoy!




Examining Facsimile One from the Book of Abraham from Mormonism Research Ministry on Vimeo.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sober Discourse: Subject/Purpose Statements for Hebrews#links

Sober Discourse: Subject/Purpose Statements for Hebrews#links

For more on the superior priesthood and office of Christ, see this brief outline from my pastor Michael Jones.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A restoration or a fabrication?

A restored priesthood?

Even a cursory glance at mormon teachings will show what a vital part of their mythos the idea of a restored priesthood is. It is one of the, if not the key, declaration of uniqueness and superiority of mormonism over and above orthodox Christianity. If mormons are correct, then every Christian baptism performed is null and void and if they are not correct, then every mormon baptism is illegitimate and they are all individually lost in their sins because they have placed their faith in false teachers and a false gospel.

The story takes us back to the 1800's in Harmony, Pennsylvania on the banks of the Susquehanna River. On May 15, 1829 as Joseph Smith tells it, an angelic visitor appeared to him and his companion Oliver Cowdery and identified himself as John the Baptist. John places his hands upon Joseph and Oliver and gives the the "Aaronic Priesthood". The story is canonized in mormon scripture in the Doctrine & Covenants, Section 13: 1 Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness. Set aside for a moment the idea of the sons of Levi making an offering again after the perfect sacrificial offering of Christ. What Smith is claiming here is startling: a man who was beheaded in the first century appears to these two men in the 1800's, with a body of flesh and bone apparently, and confers on them a priesthood that has been lost for 18 centuries. Later Peter, James and John appeared to Smith and granted them the higher priesthood, known as the Melchizidek priesthood.

The first issue is the nature and the function of the Levitical priesthood, the priesthood of Aaron that Mormonism claims has been restored. The Levites were a particular ethnic group that was set aside for the administration of the temple ordinances, in return for their service they were not given a land holding but were given a portion of the offerings to support themselves. The primary function of the Levitical priests was to administer the temple ordinances, which were primarily to deal with sacrifices. That is important because according to mormonism, young men hold the “Aaronic” priesthood which was restored, but there is no comparison between the Aaronic priesthood of Mormonism and the Levitical priesthood. The Levites were an ethnic tribe and spent most of their time in sacrifice.

The key here is the idea of covenant administration. Under the Old Covenant, the members were national Israel, it was an ethnic membership. The mediator was the High Priest, an office which only one person at a time held. What we know from the book of Hebrews and from Old Testament evidence, primarily the promise of a new and better covenant in the book of Jeremiah chapter 31, is that the new Covenant is different than the old Covenant. Under the old Covenant, human priests offered sacrifice for the sins of the people and also for themselves. Under the New Covenant, there is the perfect and complete sacrifice by and through Christ. That sacrifice for sin is complete and eternal and sufficient, so there is no reason for a system of ongoing sacrifice which was the main function of the Levitical priesthood. In the same respect there is no need for an ongoing prophetic ministry in the sense of receiving new revelation or in a restoration of the temple system. Why have a temple and priests when there are no more sacrifices to be made? Why have a prophet when revelation has been received once and for all in the person and work of Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2)? The prophets of the Old Testament all were pointing in one way or the other to the coming of Christ and His reign, and that has taken place so now the ministry of the believers is to call people to recognize that event and repent. Any new revelation that is allegedly being brought forth is done to the detriment of the Gospel, trying to add to the perfect work of Christ on the cross.

There is no mandate in the Bible for a person who receives revelation to hold any priesthood, or to administer the sacraments or any of the other minor functions associated with the “Aaronic” priesthood in mormonism. There is no sign of the receipt of the Holy Spirit in regeneration being tied to the priesthood. In fact the concept of a continuation of a human priesthood that resembles in any way the OT priesthood is completely absent in the NT.

So in a nutshell the issue is that the “restored” priesthood is a relic of the Old Testament/Old Covenant and has been made obsolete by the cross because the function and role of the human priest as administrator of the sacrifice and mediator between man and God has been replaced by our great High Priest, Jesus Christ. The book of Hebrews is just devastating to the whole foundation of the mormon restored priesthood and modern day prophets. From front to back, it contrast the Old Covenant human priesthood of Aaron with the eternal priesthood of Christ, the perfect mediator of the New Covenant.

Furthermore, the Levitical priesthood that was supposedly restored is restricted to members of that tribe and is further restricted in that only those of a certain age could serve in it: “from thirty years old up to fifty years old, all who can come on duty, to do the work in the tent of meeting.” (Numbers 4:3) Mormons by contrast “ordain” young men in their teens to the Aaronic priesthood.

The priesthood of Melchizidek is held by only one individual, that being Christ Jesus, and there is no mention of this priesthood held by anyone else (other than the man that it is named after in the OT)There is not a hint that Peter, or Paul, or John or any of the Apostles held or claimed to hold or needed to hold some special priesthood.

Ultimately, there are two major issues that confound the mormon priesthood restoration tale: First, the mormon priesthood doesn't resemble in any way the Levitical priesthood and it certainly is not reflective of the priesthood of Melchizidek which is held only by Christ as our mediator and High Priest and second there is no evidence that the apostles held to or saw a need for a specific priesthood that was passed on by the laying on of hands after the mormon model. We don't need to restore something that Christ has made obsolete, and we should not desire to go back to the old system and try to please God outside of Christ.

Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, "See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain." But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. For he finds fault with them when he says: "Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more." In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. (Hebrews 8:1-13)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Interesting conversation

The missionaries came over tonight, we had a very nice conversation. The spiel has changed some since we left, the one missionary was very open up front about the nature of God, etc. The little handouts they give out now even speaks highly of Martin Luther and John Calvin! But the old missionary lesson plan seems to be out of style. A lot of their talking points are still pretty much rote memorization, so when they started in on the party line I tried to switch to personal conversation to break the train and then get back to digging deeper into what they were saying, without spooking them too much. They didn't even try to give us a Book of Mormon.

They did seem to be caught off-guard when I brought up Hebrews 1 telling us that God no longer speaks through prophets. I was trying to not hammer them on stuff, but I was able to give them a good overview of the nature of man, sin, of justification.

I am hoping they will come back so I can engage them in a conversation about the priesthood, why it is not a requirement to be an apostle or elder, why there is no record of any of the early Christians holding it and why the need for a human priesthood has been done away with. That should lead to a conversation on the office of prophet. Pray for these young men and all the young men and women that are out there unknowingly spreading a false gospel.

Prayer needed

We are having the local missionaries over on Saturday night at around 7:00. Please pray for us and for these lost young men. I hope to have a good conversation with them about the fundamentals of their church from a Christian standpoint, not an apostate standpoint.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

What do you mean we aren't Christians?

I was looking for something else on the webpage of talk show host Glenn Beck (who is a mormon) and came across this article:

Glenn not a Christian?

GLENN BECK PROGRAM
BEGIN TRANSCRIPT

GLENN: ABC wanted me to do something on Good Morning America. It was my understanding, but I've been so busy, I haven't been involved in all the details, but it was my understanding that Diane was going to have a conversation with me on Mitt Romney and what was happening with Mitt Romney and what I thought he should say in the speech, but that would be too reasonable. That would be a reasonable conversation to have. Instead when I arrive, Richard Land is there and he is a Southern Baptist and I said, hello, Richard, how are you? And we talked for a few minutes and he was a very pleasant man. We get on the air and Diane Sawyer, I think the first question out of her mouth is, are Mormons Christian? And, of course, his answer is no, they're not which, you know, under two hours sleep I've got to tell you I had a hard time, you know, just smiling and letting it pass, especially since I only had two hours sleep because I had done a Christmas show the night before where I was talking about the real meaning of Christmas being with redemption and about not the birth of the baby, about the empty tomb and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. So I had a little hard -- it was very difficult for me to let that one pass, but I did.

The next question, with about 40 seconds to go, was about the deep doctrinal issues of Mormonism, and I've got to tell you something. I want you to put yourself in my shoes. Mormons, the doctrine is different. However, that's what attracted me to it. For me some of the things in traditional doctrine just doesn't work, but it works for millions of other people and that's great. Happens to work for millions of Mormons the other way. That's great. You know, I'm not going to preach to you, you don't have to preach to me. We'll pray for each other and we'll see each other on the other side hopefully.

Now, imagine, put yourself in this position. Let's say you are in Saudi Arabia where nobody's ever heard of the trinity. You're a Catholic. Nobody's ever heard of the trinity. What, the trinity? What, it's three in one, they're everywhere and nowhere. Jesus is on the cross but he's really God. So God has died but yet he didn't die and how does this -- imagine you've never heard this before. So you've never heard any kind of explanation. So it works. You know what I mean? You've never heard anybody say, no, no, no, wait, wait, wait, you've got to slow down. She asked me two questions about deep doctrine issues and I had in my ear, 40 seconds. Oh, well, hang on. I've got 40 seconds. Let me explain this to you. You can't explain it in 40 seconds. You can't explain anything of deep philosophical viewpoint or deep theological viewpoint. It took me a year of real studying to be able to understand some of the stuff in all of different doctrines, which leads me to this. Nobody really cares. Nobody really cares.


I wonder if the issue is that Mr. Beck can't answer the question or just doesn't want to. Mormon president and "prophet" Gordon Hinckley did a similar thing on Larry King Live when asked about men becoming gods, and he ducked and dodged all around one of the most firmly held mormon beliefs. Well I don't know if we teach that...What do you mean, you are the prophet of the restored church with a direct conduit to Christ. How do you not know this stuff? The answer is that mormons know that discussing this sort of stuff on TV makes it harder for missionaries to get in the door of unsuspecting people. "Hi, we are missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and we would like to tell you how to become gods". That isn't going to get you many invites into the living room.

Mr. Beck raises the same sort of objection we often hear from mormons. How can they say that I am not a Christian, look at all of the Christian appearing stuff that I do. I go to a church with the name of Jesus Christ on the building. I read the Bible. I pray in the name of Jesus. Most mormon, especially the missionaries, trip over themselves to use the name of Christ as often as possible. Isn't that enough? Well no, it is not.

A key passage in the Bible is Matthew 16:13-17.

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 16:13-17)

Simon Peter declares Christ the Son of the living God, in contrast to what other people say about Jesus. It wasn’t like He was unknown or that people did talk about Him, but just talking about Him does not make you a Christian.

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.' (Matthew 7:21-23)

If you don't recognize Christ as God incarnate, God in the flesh who lived a perfect life and atoned for the sins of His sheep on the cross, died, was buried and rose again, and place your trust in Him and depend on faith alone, through grace alone, in Christ alone then you aren't a Christ. Muslim praise the name Jesus Christ, but they aren't Christians and having the name Christ on your church sign and talking about Christmas doesn't make you a Christian.

Adoption

One of the biggest problems with witnessing to mormons is that we are using many of the same words and often even referencing the same Scriptures, but meaning entirely different things. This exposes the lack of Biblical depth that most Christians, including me, have because we have a hard time exposing the context and rebutting what is being said with the entire Biblical record. When we are witnessing to mormons and others who are lost, we need to understand what the Bible says so that when faced with verses out of context we can draw the conversation back to the Bible instead of arguing about what a verse means.

That is nowhere more true that the Biblical doctrine of adoption.

Mormons read in the Scripture that we will become joint heirs with Christ, that we will be called sons of God and immediately connect that to the mormon doctrine of exaltation (i.e. that the most faithful mormon men will become gods and reign over their own planets, just as the God of the Bible is supposed to be an exalted man. It is all a divine pyramid scheme in a way). This is an all too common reaction from mormons who typically view all of Scripture with suspicion, and whenever possible view any doctrine through the lens of mormonism. But it is clear that the Bible tells us that there is but one God, negating the idea of man's exaltation in the mormon sense.

So if the mormon idea of exaltation, of deification of man is not what the Bible is speaking of, what do these verses mean? In a nutshell, they refer to adoption. There are a number of passages that directly deal with adoption in the New Testament...

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:14-17 ESV)

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:4-7)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6)

So what we see in these verses that deal directly with the becoming sons of God, joint heirs with Christ, is that we are not granted this because we are by nature like Christ but because we have been granted that status graciously through adoption.

There is a great sermon by C.J. Mahaney on the topic of adoption that you can listen to here that really gets at the humbling heart of adoption. We are not made God's equals or even like Him in nature. Jesus is not our literal brother. What we receive though is the blessing of renewed familial fellowship with our God through the purchasing power of Christ's blood. Salvation is not merely being saved from hell, it is also being adopted by God, given the glorious benefits of being sons and daughters of God. If we were merely saved from hell, that alone would be worthy of an eternity of gratitude and praise to God, but God is not content merely to save us but also to adopt us, calling us out of the world of sin.

We were once slaves to this world, slaves to sin but when we come to faith in God through His grace, we are no longer slaves, but sons. If you adopt a child, that child is not genetically made like you. They are still different from you in a number of ways, but they are given the same rights as your natural children. God only has one Son, His only begotten who is like Him but we are ushered into His glorious presence through adoption, and that is why the Christian can call God "Father".