Archive for the 'Bible' Category



27
Feb
12

Beware of Worshiping Logic

 

A common reaction to many biblical doctrines is that they are not logical and thus need to be modified or otherwise rejected.  One doctrine that is often dismissed in that way is the teaching that God grants eternal life freely to people without basing that on any merit on the people involved.  That just doesn’t make any sense to human reason.

But not only is that what the Bible teaches, it also acknowledges that we won’t be able to understand it logically.  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).  Significantly the Lord says that in the context of his abundantly pardoning us.  Talk about a wide gap.  God’s thoughts are so far beyond us that it is like the distance between heaven and earth.  Obviously, they are not bound by the limitations of human logic.

Paul says the same thing in his letter to the Romans.  “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out”  (Romans 11:33).  Notice the word “unsearchable”.  His judgments and his ways are again far beyond the puny limitations of human logic.   They just don’t make sense to us.

In his love, he gave us a glimpse of his wonderful ways in the Bible.  Even those glimpses, such as the one he gives us when he tells us that he gives people eternal life freely, are so marvelous that they boggle our minds.  But here’s the important point.  Even though we can’t fathom them, we can believe them.  We can believe them, not because we understand them, but because he has revealed them to us.   In fact, we could go even a step further.  If we describe those high truths in such a way that make sense to us, then we have corrupted them.  That explanation can’t be right because the fact is that they are way beyond us.  They are unsearchable.  Period. As one of my college professors use to say:  “You are beginning to understand when you understand that you can’t understand.”

That is why when people respond to biblical teaching with a logical argument I don’t even bother responding. They are using something that doesn’t apply.  We can’t fit God’s great thoughts into our little minds. The argument that it doesn’t make sense is an invalid argument from the get go.

Yes, I know that the teaching that God is one being but three separate and distinct persons doesn’t make sense.  1+1+1=1 is not the math I learned.  But, when it comes to the nature of God that is what he has revealed.  Therefore I believe it.  More than that.  I rejoice in it.  Because that is just another indicator of how truly awesome God is – how he is vastly superior to me. So much so that I can’t understand him.

The flip side of that equation is also important.  When people reject biblical truths because they aren’t logical, they have placed human reason above divine revelation thus making reason and logic a god.  Making logic the standard for accepting truth is just as much an act of idolatry as the worshipping of Baal in the Old Testament.  It is an affront to the Lord and something he hates.

19
Jan
12

Many Plain and Precious Things

Just a word of explanation to those of you who are not LDS.  I didn’t blog this week on the next lesson on the teachings of George Albert Smith because it will not be studied this week in the LDS church.  They only study it on the 2nd and 3rd Sundays of each month.  On other Sundays there is a little more flexibility on what they will study in Relief Society and priesthood quorum meetings.  For example, for this coming Sunday they will be studying one of the General Conference talks from last October – which specific one is decided on by the local leaders.

But each Sunday, in their Sunday School or Gospel Doctrine classes, they will be studying the Book of Mormon.  The focus this Sunday is on 1 Nephi 12 – 14.  This is the section that repeatedly states that “the great and abominable church” has removed “many plain and precious things” from the Bible.

One interesting note has been how the interpretation of the “great and abominable church” has changed over the years.  Years ago, when I first started witnessing to Mormons, it was not uncommon for them to identify it as the Catholic church of the Middle Ages.  This, however, is not how the teacher’s guide for this course interprets it.  It says:  “Emphasize that the great and abominable church is a symbol of apostasy in all its forms.  It is a representation of all false doctrine, false worship, and irreligious attitudes.  It does not represent any specific church in the world today.” (p. 18)

Much more important is the Book of Mormon’s claim that many plain and precious things were taken away from the Bible.  How should we react to that?  We could bring in evidence from the scholarly discipline known as textual criticism to show how faithfully the Bible was passed down from generation to generation.  Especially pertinent is the fact that the vast majority of variants between the various ancient biblical manuscripts consist of additions to the text rather than subtractions from the text.  But, to be honest, even though Christians see textual criticism strongly supporting the faithful transmission of the Bible, in my experience, its findings don’t seem to faze most Mormons.

I think the same can be said for the comparison between the wealth of archaeological evidence supporting the Bible and the dearth of such evidence supporting the Book of Mormon.  Yes, this concerns some Mormons but not that many.  Many haven’t thought about it, and when it is pointed out to them, many shrug it off as unimportant.

The bottom line is that, even though there is strong evidence of the faithful transmission of the Bible, it is still a matter of faith that we believe that today’s Bible faithfully represents the original.  As it is a matter of faith for Mormons to believe that many plain and precious things have been removed from the Bible.  Because of that, I feel that it is more productive to talk about how the book of Mormon does not complement the Bible, but rather contradicts it.

I realize that many Mormons will vehemently protest that last statement.  But for them to say that it doesn’t contradict the Bible would be similar to me saying that my beliefs complement and don’t contradict Mormonism, even while I reject many of Mormonism’s beliefs.  How many of them would sit still as I proclaimed, “I am a Mormon, even though I don’t think Joseph Smith was a prophet, or that the LDS Church was the only true church, or that heaven doesn’t consist of three kingdoms of glory”?  Similarly, we can’t sit still when the Book of Mormon is referred to as another testament of Jesus Christ even though it states that we are saved by grace after all we can do, or that Adam and Eve’s Fall was a blessing, that there was a great apostasy from 100 AD through 1800 AD (Teacher’s guide, p. 16) and on and on.

The messages of the two books are different!  I am so thankful that the Bible tells me that I am saved solely by grace, without works rather than “after all I can do”.  I am so thankful that it promises that there will always be believers and thus the church on earth until Christ returns.  I am even thankful that it shows just what a tragedy the Fall was because that highlights for me that I was spiritually dead and thus my utter inability to please God and my dire need of Jesus doing it all for me.

It is my hope and prayer that many Mormons will stop and think and see the drastic differences between the Book of Mormon and the Bible.  And that they will listen to the Bible rather than the Book of Mormon.

28
Dec
11

The Book of Mormon

 

Starting with the near year, members of the LDS Church will be studying the Book of Mormon in their adult Sunday School classes, aka Gospel Doctrine classes.  This is part of a set four-year curriculum.  You can purchase the teacher’s manual for this class for a few dollars at LDS.org.  Look for the Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual.

The lesson they will be studying this Sunday is entitled, “The Keystone of Our Religion”.  This refers to a statement Joseph Smith made about the Book of Mormon, a statement quoted in the Introduction to the Book of Mormon.  “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”  Sunday’s entire lesson explains and expands on this statement.

Calling it “the most correct of any book on earth” coincides with Mormonism’s low view of the Bible. After all the Book of Mormon itself claims that “many plain and precious things” were taken away from the Bible, (1 Nephi 13:28). Mormonism’s low view of the Bible has even been formalized in its Articles of Faith.  “We believe the Bible is to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.” (8th Article of Faith)

Although many different points could be made, I am going to restrict myself to just a couple.  The first is a reminder to both Mormons and Christians to use the word “scripture” carefully.  When Mormons and Christians talk with each other, confusion can easily arise if they aren’t careful with the term “scripture”. When Christians hear that word, they immediately think of the Bible.  Not so with Mormons.  They think of their four scriptures, only one of which is the Bible.  In fact, it has been my experience that many times the Bible is not what comes to their minds.  That is to be expected if you believe the Bible is faulty.  In fact one LDS manual states that the other scriptures should be given preference. (Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, p.3)

Secondly, I want to highlight how Mormonism’s high view of the Book of Mormon creates a huge divide in belief between Mormons and biblical Christians. I want to highlight that because so many today are claiming that that divide is quite narrow – sometimes almost to the point of being non-existence.  But how can this not create a wide divide?  On the one side you not only have people relying on multiple scriptures, but viewing as faulty the one that the other side holds dear.  On the other side you have people who rely on only one Scripture – who view it as God’s inerrant word and who, in addition, reject any other book claiming to be scripture.  From these two starting points, this divide in belief can only grow greater as individual doctrines are discussed.

The divide between Mormonism and biblical Christianity is huge.  It has been my experience that it is difficult to have any meaningful discussions between the two until that is openly acknowledged.  But once that is acknowledged, often an open and honest comparison of beliefs can be had.

15
Aug
11

ONE WAY OF COMPARING MORMONISM AND THE BIBLE

There are many different ways Mormonism and the Bible can be compared.  One way is looking at how each describes the size of the gap between God and humans and then how that gap is bridged.

Very briefly, Mormonism makes that a relatively small gap.  It does that in two ways.  First it teaches about a God whom humans can understand.  The God of Mormonism was once a man, is now an exalted man, limited by a body – not omnipresence, omniscient, etc.   Secondly, Mormonism has a high view of humans.  We were God’s spirit children; sometimes referred to as gods in embryo.  We have the divine potential to become gods ourselves.  Both of these factors, a God that once was a man and humans that become gods, create a gap between God and humans that is not that great.

The Bible teaches something totally different.  It describes a God that is far beyond human comprehension.  He has no beginning and no end.  He is omnipresence, omniscient, omnipotent, etc.  His very nature of three distinct persons but one being boggles our minds.  Secondly, the Bible speaks in stark terms about the devastation sin has wrought on the human race.  It describes people as blinded by sin, dead in sin, enemies of God.  It says that, “all have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:12)  The result is that the Bible pictures the gap between God and humans as huge.

All this is foundational to the main and pressing question of how this gap can be bridged. Mormonism teaches that bridging this gap depends on the efforts of both God and man – something that it says is possible because the gap is not that big.  “For we know that it is by grace we are saved, after all we can do.”  (2 Nephi 25:23)  This doesn’t even describe a picture of two parties meeting half-way.  Rather this describes humans taking the initiative, doing all they can, expending all their effort to bridge the gap – and then, only after they have exhausted all their resources, does God get involved and help out.

Again the Bible teaches something totally different.  Because the gap between God and man is so huge, it takes divine initiative and divine effort to bridge.  Not only that, but humans couldn’t do anything because they were dead in sin, “they have together become worthless.”  Therefore God did it all.  Jesus came not as a teacher or example to show people what they had to do to save themselves.  Rather he came as a substitute to do it all for us.  He kept all the commandments perfectly and gave us the credit for it.  He died a horrible death as payment for our sins.  He didn’t wait until we had expended all our effort – he didn’t meet us halfway – he came all the way to us and did everything to bridge the gap.  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”  (Ephesians 2:8-9)

To sum it up:  Mormonism puts much of the burden of bridging the gap on humans.  The Bible gives God all the credit for completely bridging the gap himself.  To God be all praise and glory.

19
May
11

Revelation above Reason or Reason above Revelation?

This is a question many haven’t considered, but one that everyone, consciously or unconsciously, has answered.  What takes precedence – what rules supreme:  man’s reason or God’s revelation?  Or to put it another way, what is the ultimate test for truth?  That something agrees with man’s reason (this is logical, this makes sense to me) or that is has been revealed by God (the Bible says)?

Underlying this question is the presupposition that God’s revelation far surpasses man’s reason and his ability to understand it.  That is a presupposition that the Bible itself makes.  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  (Isaiah 55:8-9)  “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out.”  (Romans 11:33)

Therefore we should expect to encounter things – many things – in God’s revelation that boggle our minds.  Things that are far beyond us.  Things that we can’t understand.  Things that we can’t reconcile logically.

This is where the above question comes in.  When we encounter such things are we going to trust God’s revelation over against our reason or are we going to trust on our reason instead of God’s revelation?  This comes into play when witnessing to Mormons because most Mormons’ default position is trusting in their reason above God’s revelation.  All you have to do is look at some of the comments left on the previous few posts to see ample examples of that.

No, it’s not logical that God gives eternal life freely and fully to dead and stinking sinners but that is what he has revealed.  Therefore I believe it.  No, it’s not logical that Jesus is both true man and true God in one person, but that is what God has revealed.  Therefore I believe it.  No, it’s not logical that there is one God comprised of three distinct persons, but that is what God has revealed.  Therefore I believe it.  God’s revelation trumps my reason every time.

But not only do I believe this, I rejoice in this.  Because this shows me how majestic and great my God is.  I personally don’t want a God that I can understand.  No, I want somebody who is so far above me – that is so vastly different from me – that all I can do is stand in awe.  That’s the God of the Bible.   To him be all praise!

02
Nov
10

THE FALL OF ADAM AND EVE

      In the teacher’s manual for “Preparing for Exaltation”, the Sunday school course for 12 and 13 year olds, towards the beginning of the lesson on the fall, this note is made to the teacher.  “The decision of Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit was not a sin, as it is sometimes considered by other Christian churches.  It was a transgression – an act that was formally prohibited but not inherently wrong.” 

     This quote illustrates something that many Mormons and non-Mormons don’t realize, namely, just how different the teachings of Mormonism are from Christianity in most aspects.  It’s not just sometimes that Christian churches consider Adam and Eve’s fall a sin – I have never once heard it described as anything less!    That is how it is always described.

      And I have never heard anybody but a Mormon say that transgressions are not sins.  That’s a pretty hard case to make in light of 1 John 3:4.  “Whosever committeth sin transgresseth also the law, for sin is the transgression of the law.”   It is also difficult not to call Adam’s action a sin in light of Romans 5:18 -20 where it is quite obvious that offence and sin are synonymous.  “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.  For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.  Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound.  But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”

     But what is more striking is how the focus of much of this lesson is on how Adam and Eve did something good at the fall – something that brought us joy.  This lesson teaches that Adam and Eve had no joy before the fall.  The fall brought them joy!   This interpretation is based on 2 Nephi 2:22-25.  Therefore, as this lesson states, “they wisely chose to eat the fruit.”

     There are other aspects to Mormonism’s teaching on the fall that are found in no other church.  For example, Mormonism stresses that Adam and Eve could not have children until they fell.  Or how about this from their Bible Dictionary?  “Before the fall, Adam and Eve had physical bodies but no blood.”

     The main point that I am trying to make is that often Mormons assume that Christians believe similarly as they do on many Bible details and vice versa with Christians.  If there is going to be any rue progress made when talking with each other, both Mormons and Christians alike need to realize how dramatically different each reads the Bible. 

     Adam and Eve’s fall did not bring me any joy.  It only brought sin, death, pain, and condemnation.  When they ate the fruit, they were not wise; they were rebellious.  What they did was “not inherently wrong” it was terribly wrong.  Thank God, as Paul stated in Romans, through the righteousness of Jesus we received the free gift of justification.  My joy comes not from Adam and Eve’s fall, but from Jesus’ complete sacrifice for me.

08
Oct
10

What a difference a “not” makes!

      One of my favorite Bible passages is Romans 4:5.  “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”  The whole context is brimming over with comforting statements reassuring us that God forgives us through faith.  For example, the very next verse says, “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works.”  It is obvious that righteousness without works is Paul’s theme in this section.

      But that is not how Joseph Smith translated it.  His translation, also called the Inspired Version by the LDS Church, translates verse 5 this way.  “But to him that seeketh not to be justified by the law of works, but believeth on him who justifieth not the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”  Besides having no basis for such a translation, it violates Paul’s line of thought.  In the very next chapter, for example, Paul speaks in a similar way about justifying the ungodly when he writes: “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”  (Romans 5:6)

     This is not the only time Joseph Smith did that either.  Another beautiful example of how quick God is to forgive us is seen when the prophet Nathan comes to King David to confront him about his adultery.  After he laid in on the line and also told David that there would be earthly consequences for his sin, we read:  “And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD.  And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.”  (2 Samuel 12:13)  It’s striking how quickly Nathan reassures David of forgiveness. 

     But not according to Joseph Smith.  He translated it, “hath not put away thy sin that thou shalt not die.”  Once again the little word “not” changes the sense completely.  It drains it of comfort for us.  It robs God of great glory.

     A lot of Mormons today shy away from statements like the following what Spencer W. Kimball wrote in his classic book, The Miracle of Forgiveness.  “It depends upon you whether or not you are forgiven, and when.  It could be weeks, it could be years, it could be centuries before that happy day when you have the positive assurance that the Lord has forgiven you.  That depends on your humility, your sincerity, your works, your attitudes.”  I don’t know why they shy away from such statements.  To me, such statements are accurately reflecting the way Joseph Smith translated the Bible. 

     The way Mormonism talks about forgiveness and the way the Bible speaks about it are totally opposite.  I rejoice along with St. Paul that God justifies the ungodly, that to the one who doesn’t work, his faith is credited as righteousness.




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