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January 07, 2008

Comments

Most LDS folk I have talked too would blow off your citations with the comment "So long as they correctly translated"

Thank you for your insightful post. However, I have a problem with your tests of truth: #1. Do they teach the truth about God as revealed in the Bible? #2. Do they teach the true Gospel as revealed in the Bible?

Where does either the Mosaic or Pauline witness say that the true teaching about God or the Gospel is found only in written format only? The Deuteronomy text you quote seems to be contrasting authentic oral traditions with inauthentic teachings. According to the reputable Protestant reference, Eerdmans Bible Dictionary [edited by Allen C. Myers, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1987 (from Bijbelse Encyclopedie, ed. W.H. Gispen, Kampen, Netherlands, 1975), 1014], the oral Torah was regarded as equal in authority to the written Hebrew Scriptures, and was believed to have been given to Moses on Mt. Sinai.

Likewise, I don't find any place where the New Testament limits the Gospel tradition to the written text. Saint Paul himself says, "So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter." (2 Thess 2:15). And, "The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." (2 Timothy 2:2). Aren't you, then, introducing an extra-biblical tradition? If so, can you cite a patrimony to this tradtion before, say, the 16th Century?

Mark, let me simply ask you this: If an LDS teaching contradicts the teaching of the Bible, can it be true?

No, for LDS teaching to be true it should not contradict Scripture which is the written and authoritative Word of God.

However, I find the implication that the *only* source of revelation is the inspired text is, itself, contrary to Scripture. I accept, however, that that is a denominational difference which probably does not need rehashing.

Christians do not believe that the Bible is the only revelation of God but it is the standard by which we measure all the others.....(i.e. others can not contradict it.) So natural revelation and personal words from the Lord that are not covered in the Bible for example, are possible.

As a Mormon I was interested to read your first sentence. I've never argued that, so I am curious if you could cite who you are talking about.

Hi, Will--thanks for commenting. I dialogued with Mormon missionaries every week for about a year and a half in my home--about 15-18 different people during that time--so I could get more firsthand knowledge of what Mormons believe, and they often said this to me. I've heard it in various other places, as well (online religion forums, etc.), but what prompted me to address it yesterday was when I heard it again here in a blog comment:

http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2007/12/are-mormons-chr.html#comment-96006772

(I expanded my response to him into this post.)

A comment from the same post referred to by Amy:

> Are Mormons Christians?
>
> Here is a question that I find
> similar: Do Christians and
> Muslims worship the same God?
>
> Then perhaps the next question
> is, are Muslims Christians? Or
> perhaps, do Mormons and
> Christians worship the same God?

One thing is for certain from a monotheistic viewpoint: Muslims and Christians (or Mormons and Christians) do not worship *different* Gods. There is only one God, so phrases such as, "different Gods" are not logically sensible terms to the monotheist.

The question we should be concerned with is whether Muslims (or Mormons) worship God at all. Perhaps what they worship is really a non-God idol posing as The Real Thing.

Ok, I've heard that test applied to Joseph Smith now that I think about it more, but what was foreign to me is the idea that the members of the church are the only "fruit" by which the prophet is judged. I wouldn't disagree that the way good members live is a fruit, but I think their are other works of a prophet to consider.

I think most Mormons would also consider the Book of Mormon, a translation of ancient scriptures by Joseph Smith, to be a part of the test for example -- so we would challenge people to read the Book of Mormon and then decide if it were a good or bad "fruit" based on a prayerful study.

The point is that we want people to judge for themselves, tasting the fruit themselves, rather than accepting someone else's word for whether the fruit tastes good or not.

Also, as far as the further tests you presented, I see Joseph Smith passing these tests as well. I believe that the Book of Mormon does not contradict teachings in the Bible, but that it complements them. It might surprise some to know that my family has been reading out of the Old Testament every night this year (King James version).

> ... we would challenge people to
> read the Book of Mormon and then
> decide if it were a good or bad
> "fruit" based on a prayerful
> study.

A "prayerful study" is not necessary to conclude that the Book of Mormon is bad fruit. One only needs to observe that the Book of Mormon is in direct contradiction to the Bible on many, many points. See http://www.irr.org/mit/bombible.html
for just a few of them.

Why put reason before personal revelation?

Let me expand on that: Why put man's imperfect ability to reason as a higher priority than relying on answers to a prayer from God about whether something is true or not?

Because sometimes "personal revelation" is the result of wishful thinking, or eating too much pizza, or mental illness, or what have you.

God commands us to use reason.
"Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good." 1 Thess 5:21

Personal revelation has to be tested (requiring the use of our reason) against what God has already revealed. If it contradicts, then you have no revelation from God.

If you throw reason to the wind, you can -- and people do -- believe in just about any silly thing, based on a "personal revelation." In other words, how do you know that the answer to your prayers is actually from God? It needs to be tested.

Prayerful consideration is not a bad thing, and is the right thing to do in many circumstances. But it's useless when you already know that the thing being considered contradicts what God has already revealed.

(Will, I'm going to answer your question in terms of the process of discovering truth about God so you can see why I place the Bible above experience--leaving aside for now the question of whether or not Mormonism, specifically, is true, so that we can focus on the question of process.)

>>Why put man's imperfect ability to reason as a higher priority than relying on answers to a prayer from God about whether something is true or not?

Because God has already answered those prayers by providing us with an unchangeable, objective standard of truth--His Word. The trouble with subjective experiences is that people can be deluded--particularly a person who isn't yet a Christian (who, as 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, "does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.")

So if a person is not a Christian (even if he thinks he is) and he prays to a false god, what guarantee is there that he will find spiritual truth? It's likely he would convince himself of something false. Even worse, if he sets aside the Bible (the truth God lovingly gave us) in order to place another kind of answer above it, he's in danger of God's wrath, including delusions. Speaking of the end times, 2 Thessalonians 2:11 says, "They did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness." (There's nothing more wicked than worshipping a false god.)

That passage is speaking specifically of the end times, but if, in the future, God will delude people (as part of His judgment against them) into believing something false because they set aside the truth he's already given, it's quite possible He would do the same today. We need to be careful to take His words seriously, to love them, to embrace them, and to judge everything else by them. If a person turns aside from the Bible and looks to himself (his feelings) for truth, he opens himself up to judgment and delusions.

This is why both the Deuteronomy and Galatians passages call us back to an external standard. We're never told in the Bible to look inward for confirmation. Our human sinfulness would lead us astray almost immediately without an objective anchor.

We turn to the Bible for that anchor because it's made up of "the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim 3:15-17). The Bible is all we need to have the wisdom to know where true salvation lies.

If a new book offers its own, new test by which to test itself...can you see the problem there? If the new book is false, then its own test will lead you astray, even if it gives some sort of result. You would have to know the book is true before it would be safe for you to submit to its test, but that's the very thing you're trying to determine in the first place!

This is not to say that finding the truth--being joined to the true and living Christ--doesn't bless us with a subjective experience of God's presence, nor is it to say that our prayers aren't valuable. God is real, and we know fellowship with Him. But the pattern of Scripture is that we ought to govern our hearts with our minds--renewing our minds (so that we can know the will of God--Romans 12) and then testing the spirits and revelations we encounter (with the help of the Holy Spirit who illuminates Scripture) against the unchanging truth we have already gratefully received.

Regarding the Mormon urging one to "prayerfully consider" if the book of Mormon is true (I've had this approach taken with me by Mormon missionaries as well).

I'd like to add an additional serious problem with this approach. There is no record of the NT apostles nor their associates EVER asking or urging any unbeliever to "prayerfully consider" if the Scriptures or the gospel or any apostolic apologetic preaching were true. They expected the evidence presented and appeals and commands they preached to be accepted or rejected on the facts. The apostles would never have expected unsaved people to pray to God for enlightenment as to the veracity of either Scriptures or apostolic proclamations. In fact, their preaching often spoke of God's wrath and displeasure being directed right at those very people and the urging was to repent, not to pray for some inner enlightenment or assurance of the veracity of the claims.

Such an idea would have been viewed as absurd: One doesn't urge God's arch-enemies to pray to God for inner intuitive assurance that the Scriptures are true (as if they were on a friendly basis with God). The only "prayer" certain to be received by the offended Deity in that case is the one which sues for peace on God's terms, the genuine cry for mercy and salvation, which God graciously pours out.

>>Why put reason before personal revelation?...Let me expand on that: Why put man's imperfect ability to reason as a higher priority than relying on answers to a prayer from God about whether something is true or not?

Will,

My friend Paul Scott Pruett once said, "If we reject reason in relation to biblical revelation, then the very words of God become nothing but unprocessed photons striking the retina."

The point here being that, if you're dealing with meaning, you can't escape the use of reason (do you want me to reason to an answer to your question, or just ask God?).

There are also serious (and to me obvious) liabilities to what you propose. What if I had said, "I earnestly prayed for God to reveal the truth to me, and He showed me that actually the Ba'hai faith is correct"? How would you respond to my claim? I'm assuming you would disagree with such a statement. If so, how would you seek to disabuse or dissuade me of it?

You also don't see this approach advocated at all in Scripture (OT and NT, that is). Rather, you see, for example, Paul going to the synagogues and *reasoning* with those there to convince them that Jesus was the Messiah. In fact, this is a good example; the Jews stood in relation to Christianity in something of the same way LDS see Christians standing in relation to Mormonism (in other words, Christians see Christianity as the fulfillment of Judaism, whereas LDS see the latter-day revelation of Joseph Smith as the fulfillment of Christianity). Why did Paul never use the method every single one of your missionaries use when evangelizing? Why didn't Peter? Don't you find it curious that the method you're recommending is never found, either descriptively or prescriptively, in similar circumstances in Scripture?

> Are Mormons Christians?
>
> Here is a question that I find
> similar: Do Christians and
> Muslims worship the same God?
>
> Then perhaps the next question
> is, are Muslims Christians? Or
> perhaps, do Mormons and
> Christians worship the same God?

That would have been me commenting.

Mike said: "One thing is for certain from a monotheistic viewpoint: Muslims and Christians (or Mormons and Christians) do not worship *different* Gods. There is only one God, so phrases such as, "different Gods" are not logically sensible terms to the monotheist."

I hope that the phrase "different gods" was logical in the sense that I meant it.

Granted there is one God, Muslims and Christian both believe this, (I am not convinced that this is the LDS view) but do the nature, character and atributes of this one god correspond? If not, we can speak of gods in the sense of mutually exclusive attributes while still not presuming multiple gods.

In relation to the comment above about the Bible not asking us to "prayerfully consider" truths, I would be quick to point out the Biblical verse that in essence inspired Joseph Smith to pray to God for knowledge:

"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him" (James 1:5).

John himself speaks of the "Spirit of truth" that will "guide us into all truth" and that "whatsoever [we] shall *hear*, that shall we speak" (John 16:13). In his first espistle he speaks of the "anointing" that we receive such that "[we] need not that any man teach [us]" (1 John 2:27).

Matthew reports of Simon learning of Christ's divinity not through a book or through man, but directly through the "Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 16:17).

Of course we are supposed to ask God for understanding! Of course we are to pray to him for help and guidance as we try to hold on to the truth! To say otherwise is to deny God's important role in our search for truth through the Spirit.

I would also be quick to point out that sola scriptura is an extra-Biblical concept without any grounding in the Biblical text itself. There is no indication at all that authoritative revelation is supposed to cease, nor is there any indication that the Biblical text as presently constituted is somehow inerrant.

Sola Scriptura means that the Bible is the standard by which we judge revelation.
2Ti 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: The Greek word theopneustos translated is given by the inspiration of God would be literally translated God breathed. Sounds like Paul thought Bible was authoratative and by extension inerrant.

Anonymous,

Paul's writings here are directed toward Timothy. They are for him to read. To conclude that this verse applies to everyone would be extra-biblical.

When the verse is taken in context we see that Paul is talking about those scriptures which Timothy "knew from his infancy." Most of the New Testament had not been written yet when Timothy was an infant or child, and none had been placed on the canon of what was Scripture until long after Timothy's life. Paul is talking about the Old Testament here. The most this verse can prove, using only the Bible, is that all Old Testament scripture is inspired and profitable.

The verse says that Scripture is profitable for doctrine. It is very profitable. However, it doesn't say that Scripture contains everything that Christians need to believe.

Paul's reference to Scripture is only part of what he is telling Timothy. In context, Paul tells Timothy to continue in what he has learned from whom he had learned it AND from what he has learned from the Scriptures of his childhood. Timothy was taught by Paul. Paul tells Timothy to continue in what he had learned because Paul knows that Timothy learned from him and because Timothy is educated in Scripture.

Nowhere in the Bible, when it is taken in context, does it claim itself to be inspired or the only rule of Faith.

>>Paul is talking about the Old Testament here. The most this verse can prove, using only the Bible, is that all Old Testament scripture is inspired and profitable.

Actually, he's making a claim about what *Scripture* is, not what the Old Testament is. He's talking about "all Scripture," that is, everything that falls into the category of Scripture. That means that later writings that we recognize as belonging to this category would have the same description applied to them. (And since he's giving a definition here, this wouldn't just be true for Timothy; it's true for everyone.)

I know that raises other questions (e.g., how do we recognize Scripture), but I wanted to clear up the claim Paul is actually making here.

The fact remains that, whatever else you accept in addition to the Bible, if a doctrine contradicts what we have in the Bible, it can't be true (unless the Bible has been altered, and that's the next question we would need to ask, as I mentioned).

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