Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Buggy Whip Restoration

Imagine this scene if you can. Everyone knows that General Motors is in big trouble. They are desperate for cash and to revitalize their business. So the CEO Rick Wagoner announces they are bringing in a management guru who is going to teach them how to transform their business model. The man walks in and introduces himself as John Yoder, and he kind of sticks out in the room full of tailored business suits because he is wearing Amish homespun overalls, a straw hat and a plain shirt. Mr. Yoder addresses the board of directors and declares that their problems are over. The solution to the domestic automotive industry is simple: go back to manufacturing buggy whips! The problems in the auto industry prove that cars were just a bad idea from the get go, so out with the internal combustion engine and in with horse and buggy. What’s old is new again!

This is kind of a crude analogy of the premise behind mormonism but I think it makes the point. Joseph Smith and his followers promised to restore the church, the New Testament church reflecting the New Covenant in the blood of Christ, by returning to Old Testament, Old Covenant types and shadows. You know what’ll fix the church? Temples. Yeah, and prophets! Throw in some priests! That’s the ticket! That is an undoing of the Gospel and a return to the untenable system of works and obedience righteousness that mankind failed to keep. Mormon leaders say this stuff with a straight face and never get challenged from within except by a few dissidents who are in peril of excommunication because of their questioning of the “prophet”. There are plenty of Biblical references sprinkled throughout mormon doctrine but there is no semblance of the New Testament church, the ascension of Christ as prophet, priest & king, of justification by faith, of propitiation for sins at the cross. Mormonism cannot appeal to the New Testament for its source of theology. It cannot appeal to the New Testament ecclesiology to affirm its hierarchical, authoritarian human “priesthood” driven organization. It cannot even appeal to the New Testament to speak to the nature of God the Father, of His only Begotten Son Jesus Christ or the lostness of sinful man.

All that is left is a polytheistic paganism couched in Biblical terminology. Buggy whips will not save General Motors and a return to the Old Covenant will not reform the very real problems in the church.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Political free speech is un-American?

Tom Hanks is one of America's most beloved actors and directors. He has always struck me as someone apolitical, you just never heard him making inane political comments as so many other Hollywood types feel inclined and empowered to do because they have become rich and famous pretending to be someone else.

But apparently he thinks that only certain free speech is acceptable and by his statements shows himself to be just another one of Hollywood's self-declared cultural prophets. Mr. Hanks recently expressed his opinion of the mormon church and California's Proposition 8 at the premier of Big Love, his show about a polygamous family in Utah.

Tom Hanks, an Executive Producer for HBO’s controversial polygamist series “Big Love,” made his feelings toward the Mormon Church’s involvement in California's Prop 8 (which prohibits gay marriage) very clear at the show’s premiere party on Wednesday night.

“The truth is this takes place in Utah, the truth is these people are some bizarre offshoot of the Mormon Church, and the truth is a lot of Mormons gave a lot of money to the church to make Prop-8 happen,” he told Tarts. “There are a lot of people who feel that is un-American, and I am one of them. I do not like to see any discrimination codified on any piece of paper, any of the 50 states in America, but here's what happens now. A little bit of light can be shed, and people can see who's responsible, and that can motivate the next go around of our self correcting Constitution, and hopefully we can move forward instead of backwards. So let's have faith in not only the American, but Californian, constitutional process.”

Apparently the "constitutional process" doesn't mean that the people should be able to make their will law, but instead means that the courts can feel free and be encouraged to overturn the will of the people, declaring constitutional amendments to be unconstitutional. As I have mentioned before and what should be clear from my writings is that theologically I have no allegiance with mormonism, nor do I consider them suitable allies in any sort of cultural crusades. Mormons, members of the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints" are a lost people group nor different than Muslims or Hindus. "Enemy of my enemy is my friend" doesn't work with the Gospel. We can have no fellowship nor friendship with enemies of the Gospel.

Having said that, the idea that mormons using their own resources to stand up for a cause that they believe strongly in qualifies as "un-American" demonstrates the opinion of someone who is obscenely ignorant. The right to free speech and free religious expression is foundational to our republic. I think the Founding Fathers might have had a comment or two about that...

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

So where do we see that mormons do not have the right, individually or collectively, to express their political will? Where is it un-American? Mr. Hanks has a disturbing and quite dangerous idea of what American Constitutional government is founded upon. His sort of freedom is the same sort of freedom we saw in every totalitarian government that has ever existed. Certain ideas are approved by the elites, and other ideas are considered dangerous and deserving of being suppressed. What he is counting on, the California Supreme Court overturning the will of the people, is an intrusion in the democratic process that is unprecedented.

Bill McKeever from the Mormonism Research Ministry is quoted in the Fox News article and I affirm what he says:

Bill McKeever, a rep for the Mormonism Research Ministry, added, “Personally, I find it un-American to tell people that they shouldn’t vote their conscience. Hanks said he doesn’t ‘like to see any discrimination codified on any piece of paper.’ Considering that just about every law discriminates in some form or another, makes this comment ridiculous. Hanks’ comment shows that he very much believes in discriminating against people with whom he disagrees. I may not agree with Mormon theology, but I certainly defend their right to express their opinion.”

Our differences with mormons does not mean that they do not have the same rights as any other Americans, and as a religious group they have even greater protections under our system of government. We should witness to mormons with the Gospel of Jesus Christ but we should also defend their right to free speech as vociferously as we would any other Americans.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Word of "Wisdom" my foot!

Drinking coffee reduces risk of Alzheimer's: study

STOCKHOLM (AFP) – Middle-aged people who drink moderate amounts of coffee significantly reduce their risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, a study by Finnish and Swedish researchers showed Thursday.

"Middle-aged people who drank between three and five cups of coffee a day lowered their risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease by between 60 and 65 percent later in life," said lead researcher on the project, Miia Kivipelto, a professor at the University of Kuopio in Finland and at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

The study, which was also conducted in cooperation with the National Public Health Institute in Helsinki and which was published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease this month, was based on repeated interviews with 1,409 people in Finland over more than two decades.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Trinity

I kind of fell away from doing this series of responses because I didn’t have time, we haven’t been as focused on mormonism since the missionaries haven’t been over and the individual who posted the initial comment has disappeared (seriously, I wish I had a buck for every bold mormon apologist who posts something to set me straight and then disappears when I call them on it). But I said I was going to do a full response, so by golly I am! The next point had to do with the Trinity, this is a lengthy quote but I need to post the whole thing to be fair. You will not that we find very minimal citation for some pretty strongly declared statements (I love the appeal to agnostic Bart Ehrman!).

The Trinity:

A literal reading of the New Testament points to God and Jesus Christ , His Son , being separate , divine beings , united in purpose. . To whom was Jesus praying in Gethsemane, and Who was speaking to Him and his apostles on the Mount of Transfiguration? The Nicene Creed’s definition of the Trinity was influenced by scribes translating the Greek manuscripts into Latin. The scribes embellished on a passage explaining the Trinity , which is the Catholic and Protestant belief that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The oldest versions of the epistle of 1 John, read: "There are three that bear witness: the Spirit, the water and the blood and these three are one." Scribes later added "the Father, the Word and the Spirit," and it remained in the epistle when it was translated into English for the King James Version, according to Dr. Bart Ehrman, Chairman of the Religion Department at UNC- Chapel Hill. He no longer believes in the Nicene Trinity. . Scholars agree that Early Christians believed in an embodied God; it was neo-Platonist influences that later turned Him into a disembodied Spirit. Harper’s Bible Dictionary entry on the Trinity says “the formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the New Testament.” The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) views the Trinity as three separate divine beings , in accord with the earliest Greek New Testament manuscripts.

Mormonism is very appealing to cultural Christians, people who think they are Christians because of church attendance and because they try to behave in a moral way. They have a rudimentary knowledge of some churchy terms and some of the stories, but their knowledge is shallow and because they are not regenerate believers they never seek to dig into the Word and they surely are not being taught the whole counsel of God in most churches. The trinity is an area where many nominal Christians and culturally conditioned church going unbelievers are vulnerable precisely because it is a heady concept and one that receives so little attention in the church. I suspect that is because a lot of preachers don’t really understand it (which is somewhat understandable) and have never taken the time to really work through it (which is not acceptable).

Mormonism is seductive because it takes some of the great mysteries of God and redefines them into more easily accessible doctrines. Sure they are contrary to Scripture, but they are easy to understand, so go for it! Kind of like the Golden Calf, it is easier for a sinful mind to worship something tangible than to worship the great I AM that you can’t see. The Trinity is a prime example of that because it is a doctrine that gets right to the heart of who God is, His very nature. Obviously anytime a mortal, fallible, sinful human tries to wrap his mind around the infinite, holy, self-existent God of the Bible, he is going to fall woefully short but that doesn’t give us a free pass to create gods in our own image. Unfortunately, the fact that the nature of the Triune God is so hard to grasp in many ways makes it a prime target for heresy, from Arianism to Mormonism to modern day modalism.

The Trinity is not something that is specifically spelled out in the Bible, that much is true. In other words, there is not a verse that gives a dictionary definition or says: There is one God, eternally existing in three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, it is also in no way a result of Greek philosophy, something made up in a church council or the other drivel people cut and paste as a “refutation” of the doctrine of the Triune God. It is a doctrine that is clear when you look at the totality of the Biblical witness, something intertwined in the story line of redemption recorded in the Bible, but like many of the other great truths of the Bible it requires you to read and study and pray. In other words, put in a little effort!

Christ exemplifies the attributes that are unique to God and since the Bible is equally clear that there is but one God, we have a quandary. Either Jesus is not God, or there is more than one God or something else. That "something else" is where we find the Trinity. Jesus is clearly divine, uncreated, self-existing, immortal, in other words He is God in a way that only the God of the Bible can be. So it cannot be that He is not God. The Bible is also unequivocal that there is only one God. Not one God of this world or one God that we know about. In all creation, in all things that ever have or ever will exist, there is only one God. The most heinous of sins is idolatry and worship of other, false gods. So it cannot be that there is more than one God. What then? We are left with Christ, who has all of the attributes of God, who declares Himself to be God and is worshipped by the apostles as God. We also have the Father and the Spirit, who are personal, have all of the attributes of God and are distinct from Christ and from each other. So what does this tell us? It tells us that there is one God, eternally existing in three persons: the Father, the Son and the Spirit. That is the only explanation that makes any sense at all. Lots of things are declared in the Bible that are hard to figure out. How can a sinner be made right with a infinitely holy and just God by the death of one Man? It just is and the fact that it is a tough concept is no reason to feel free to rewrite Scripture and reject what the Word says to make a tough concept easier for us to understand.

That Jesus Christ is God even as He is also man (the hypostatic union) is evident in the pages of Holy Writ. I am not going to try to replicate the volumes of work done by scholars who are better read than I and have done a much better job explaining the Trinity (see additional resources at the bottom of this post), but there are a few basic, fundamental points that show unequivocally that the doctrine of the Trinity is found clearly in the Bible. It is complicated and can be hard to wrap your mind around, but all of the great truths of God are taxing on the limited, selfish and sinful minds of mere mortal humans.

Jesus declares Himself to be divine

Jesus disciples and the NT writers recognized His unique and divine nature

Jesus was worshipped as God and accepted that worship

Jesus is uncreated and eternal, and shares the attributes of God

Pointing out that Jesus interacted in a personal way with the other members of the Trinity does not refute the Trinity, it supports it!

As I said, I don’t want to reinvent the apologetic wheel on the Trinity, so check these resources out for more clarification and deeper explanations.

Additional Resources:

The Forgotten Trinity, James White

The Trinity, CARM


A Brief Definition of the Trinity, Alpha and Omega

Saturday, January 10, 2009

33,000 Protestant Denominations?

Interesting video from James White. A lot of groups who claim that their organization is the "one, true church" organization throw out the "Protestantism has splintered in 33,000 denominations" claim and then suggest that "That is not what Jesus wanted". The implication of course is that unity in Christ must equal conformity to a church organization. Dr. White is specifically dealing with Roman Catholicism here, but it also applies to mormonism and other, smaller groups claiming the mantle of "one, true Church".

It is hardly preferable to have one, authoritarian unBiblical organization with heretical practice and doctrines in place of a bunch of smaller groups that at least get the Gospel right (in some cases) and need work on their ecclesiology. Replacing some minor errors with a bunch of huge ones is not an improvement! Whenever someone starts off with a defense of their organization as being the only true organization, that should be a warning to you that some is awry!

I would say that those Dr. White refutes in this video are correct in one respect. I don't think that the various and sundry competing Protestant denominational organizations are what Christ instituted or the New Testament shows us by example. But until we shed our "my organization is better than you organization" mantra, we will have a hard time seeing the Church as it should be: a simple gathering of Christians, whatever the location, who fellowship, pray, break bread and teach one another.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Great Video!

This is a great little video by James White. Intro music is a little hokey, but otherwise good stuff on the core question: Is mormonism Christian?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Piper, the Pope and the Prophet

Very interesting post on Mormon Coffee comparing the authoritative differences between Protestant Christianity, Catholicism and mormonism. The post, What if Thomas Monson, Pope Benedict XVI, and John Piper began teaching that the practice of homosexuality was morally praiseworthy? , is interesting and really shows the flaws in placing a human authority over the Bible. In the post, Aaron uses the example of homosexuality. If John Piper suddenly started teaching that homosexuality was OK, Christians including Aaron and I who love Piper's ministry, would call him out for teaching something that was not in accord with God's Word. But if Thomas Monson started teaching that, what would mormons be able to do about it? There isn't a recall vote for prophet that I am aware of. They would either have to grit their teeth and go along with it or recognize Monson as the false teacher he is. The third option would be to devolve into what much of Catholicism has, where people claim to be adherents and yet feel free to ignore what the Pope says.

Stray from the authority of the Word, place a human between you and Christ and all manner of mischief follows! The comment string alone should be worth the price of admission!