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March 27, 2007

Comments

I read the prayer on her blog and either she doesn't understand the words and structure of the English language or she is simply willing to be intellectually dishonest for what she sees as a greater good/higher cause. Hazen's words were clear or should have been clear to all as to meaning and intention and I see no indication that he buys into LDS doctrine. Using that simple and modest prayer as a lever to deny Hazen a job is simply despicable; Jill should pray that Dante was wrong.

Welcome to my world, Greg. What Jill does is too often the way in which the words of others are interpreted in our world. I will spare all my usual examples; I would only ask that everyone take a really good look at how we deal with every issue in our culture. An unwillingness to call a lie a lie until it bites us personally is not admirable.

Nice post Alan. One point of contention: we are not to judge the eternal destiny of others. That's God's call.

Make sure that you read the comment from Greg. Well written.

Thank you for this posting. I had read this blog the other day and as a student of Biola Graduate school I was shocked to see this. I do not know Greg personally, but I do know that he, Ravi, and the others mentioned are firmly committed to the faith.

How easy it is to take quotes out of context and twist them to point a finger at someone. I know, I have done it myself and have seen the fruit of it. I still grieve over that sort of thing.

Blessings,

Also, make sure you read the comments (on the Martin blog) from Francis Beckwith. The quote at the end is appropriate.

JT wrote: "One point of contention: we are not to judge the eternal destiny of others. That's God's call."

Well, it depends on what you mean by "judge." If a person's life demonstrates a complete rejection of the gospel, up until death, it is not inappropriate for someone to exercise discernment and come to a conclusion about their eternal destiny.

The kind of "call" that God makes (in evaluating or "judging" a person) isn't even something we are capable of, so there's no point in telling someone not to do it. My pronouncement (or "judging") isn't going to seal someone's eternal state -- I have no power in that realm. It would be like you telling me to not flap my arms and fly.

Yes, that is precisely my point. We are not qualified to judge the eternal destiny of others. And that is why we shouldn't. I Samuel 16:7.

During Christ's ministry on Earth, Judas looked like the real deal. He drove out demons, taught the Gospel, and was even in charge of finances. But Christ called him a devil. Paul denied Christ thrice with vile oathes and yet Jesus said upon this Rock I will build my church.

"If a person's life demonstrates a complete rejection of the gospel, up until death, it is not inappropriate for someone to exercise discernment and come to a conclusion about their eternal destiny."

Perhaps this person made a sincere private death bed confession. In that case, their conclusion would not only be wrong but slanderous.

No matter how much we think we know about someone, we don't have all of the information.

I once heard a seminary student ask the late Dr. Adrian Rogers if he thought a well known tv evangelist was a Christian.

His answer was appropriate. He said that the only person that he could say for sure was a Christian was himself.

To Paul A: I hate to correct you, but I assume you meant to write Peter was called a demon, not Paul.

And also, Judas was the real deal. He was a real follower of Jesus. He did however turn away from Jesus.

Shane

Hi Shane-
I think you meant JT (I didn't say anything about Paul or Peter or demons). :)

Hi JT,

I'm not an OT expert, but I think if you go back and read that whole chapter of 1 Samuel 16, you'll see this is talking about something entirely different (that is, it's not talking about salvation). There may be other verses that support your position, but that isn't one of them.

Paul may have denied Christ in a moment of weakness, but the whole of his life demonstrates that he was a follower of Christ. I am sympathetic to the view that many appear to be believers but (in the end) really aren't (Matthew 7:22-24), and many who some might think are not believers really are.

Why is it inappropriate for Christians to point out, however, that someone whose life is directed away from God is headed for hell? Are we left with no indication in the Scriptures of what a transformed life looks like?

"Perhaps this person made a sincere private death bed confession. In that case, their conclusion would not only be wrong but slanderous."

Yes, that is why I qualified with "until their dying breath" (though I'm not sure many deathbed confessions happen, or that they are genuine, but that is beside the point). And frankly, I'd rather be wrong in my assessment, and in the process provide a warning to others that are following the same path, than to keep quiet and allow those others to continue on the path toward destruction.

"His answer was appropriate. He said that the only person that he could say for sure was a Christian was himself."

If we are not qualified to discern whether others demonstrate fruit in keeping with true belief, how are we able to discern that for ourselves? Certainly, we have access to our own feelings (that others do not have), but feelings aren't enough. You will know them by their fruit (Matthew 7:19-21).

I would encourage everyone (who is interested) to continue to read that thread and others (dealing with these issue) on the blog. From my perspective, these are important issues.

Paul,
It is good to hear a defence of Biblical truth regarding judging others. We can always take texts out of context, but we would have to ignore entire books such as James and the epistles of John which are very clear about the way a Christian lives, if we were to say one must not judge.

Paul,
It is good to hear a defence of Biblical truth regarding judging others. We can always take texts out of context, but we would have to ignore entire books such as James and the epistles of John which are very clear about the way a Christian lives, if we were to say one must not judge.

Thanks for the tip on this current "controversy". I have left my 2 cents in the comments section of Jill Rische's blog post. It seems to me that many useless controversies (like this one) would be avoided if we started from positive assumptions about others' motives and gave them the benefit of the doubt.

"To Paul A: I hate to correct you, but I assume you meant to write Peter was called a demon, not Paul."

Yes, I did mean to say Peter. My name is JT by the way.

"And also, Judas was the real deal. He was a real follower of Jesus. He did however turn away from Jesus."

How did you come to this conclusion? You would have to know Judas' heart and inner thoughts to be able to make this statement. That was my original point - that we can't know another's man's heart and therefore shouldn't act like we know their eternal destiny.

"I'm not an OT expert, but I think if you go back and read that whole chapter of 1 Samuel 16, you'll see this is talking about something entirely different (that is, it's not talking about salvation). There may be other verses that support your position, but that isn't one of them."

Yes, I realize the chapter is not speaking of salvation. It is however speaking of judging by appearance and that God has an eternal perspective while we only have a temporary and partial one.

"Why is it inappropriate for Christians to point out, however, that someone whose life is directed away from God is headed for hell? Are we left with no indication in the Scriptures of what a transformed life looks like?"

This was explained in my previous post. Please read it again. I guess I just don't understand what is gained by trying to say what another person's eternal destiny is. How is anyone benefited by proclaiming that you know that John Doe went to Heaven or Hell? I can see how someone might be damaged by it, but not benefited. Especially when you consider the fact that you could be wrong.

"Yes, that is why I qualified with "until their dying breath"

I went back and re-read your original post and could not find the phrase "until their dying breath." Please correct me if I missed it.

"I'm not sure many deathbed confessions happen, or that they are genuine"

How could you possibly know this?

"And frankly, I'd rather be wrong in my assessment, and in the process provide a warning to others that are following the same path, than to keep quiet and allow those others to continue on the path toward destruction."

I hope I'm wrong here, but it sounds like you are saying that it's ok to use a lie to point somone toward the truth. Please show me an example of Christ using or endorsing this method.

Wouldn't it be a better idea to present the Gospel and use yourself as an example. Someone that you can speak of with intimate knowledge. That's what I do.

"If we are not qualified to discern whether others demonstrate fruit in keeping with true belief, how are we able to discern that for ourselves? Certainly, we have access to our own feelings (that others do not have), but feelings aren't enough. You will know them by their fruit"

The difference is that you do know your own fruit - you don't know all of the fruit of others. And it's not just feelings that you have access to - it's thoughts and desires and temptations and motivations. You have access to none of that with others. That's a huge difference.

Matthew 20

I went over to the WM blog and read through the Hazen article, subsequent articles, and comments. I'll just say that they seem to be the B-team of blogging perhaps C-team. That little visit make me really appreciate STR.

There is more critical thinking and consideration for sound exegesis in this comment section above then one would find in Jill Rische's ill-conceived charge of blasphemy against Dr. Hazen.

Definitely 'C' team Bill.

"It is however speaking of judging by appearance and that God has an eternal perspective while we only have a temporary and partial one."

I conceded that our vision is not perfect, and we could be mistaken. When someone looks at another's life and makes a discernment about their actions, that is more than the "judging by appearance" seen in the 1Sam passage.

"This was explained in my previous post. Please read it again."

I read your post twice the first time, and didn't get your meaning. Please re-state in another way so I understand your point.

"How is anyone benefited by proclaiming that you know that John Doe went to Heaven or Hell? I can see how someone might be damaged by it, but not benefited. Especially when you consider the fact that you could be wrong."

I gave an example in my last post. If someone asks you "did that staunch atheist go to hell" and you say "I don't know", you give the impression that there is no way to know such a thing, no way to have assurance until we stand before God, that it's one big crap-shoot, and this is false.

What is the damage caused if I am wrong for making such a statement? Your previous post said something about it being slanderous. First, it doesn't fit the legal definition of slander (which is an untruth told by someone knowing it is untrue), and second, the only possible "damage" is to the reputation of a dead person (who doesn't really need a reputation anymore), which (if it's incorrect) won't be heeded by those to whom said reputation matters.

"I went back and re-read your original post and could not find the phrase 'until their dying breath.'"

Sorry - I mis-quoted myself. My original qualification was "up until death".

Re: deathbed confessions, I don't "know" this -- the tone of my sentence was meant to imply conjecture. If I thought I knew it as fact, I would have said, "most deathbed confessions aren't genuine."

"I hope I'm wrong here, but it sounds like you are saying that it's ok to use a lie to point somone toward the truth."

If I make a statement that is untrue, it is not necessarily a lie. If I knew it to be false and said it, then it would be a lie. Saying that the general direction of a person's life puts them on the road to heaven or hell is not a lie or untrue.

"Wouldn't it be a better idea to present the Gospel and use yourself as an example. Someone that you can speak of with intimate knowledge."

Using yourself as an example is a great method, and you should use it. Many people will ask questions, however, including, "is Ghandi in hell?" It's fair to offer them a reasoned response, and it doesn't have to be a flat "Ghandi is in hell". How about: "Ghandi, like you and me, will stand before God and give an account for his moral crimes, and if he ended his life the way he lived it, he will have to pay for his crimes instead of letting the blood of Christ cover them."

By the way, the easiest person to deceive is ourselves. I would frankly rather have an assessment from my wife about the moral quality of my life, than from myself. The problem is we all think we're pretty good, and we're not.

(re: Matthew 20, please tell me what in there you were using to support your point -- I don't follow.)

Sorry for the extra-long post.

If you are admitted to heaven, there may be three kinds of surprises regarding those who were saved:

1) There may be people there you weren't expecting to see.


2)There will be people you thought would be there but are not.


3)There will be people there who might be surprised to see you.

I couldn't agree more. I'm not sure this means we have no way to determine if someone is headed for heaven or not.

"I conceded that our vision is not perfect, and we could be mistaken. When someone looks at another's life and makes a discernment about their actions, that is more than the "judging by appearance" seen in the 1Sam passage."

True, but that statement was not given in a vaccuum. It was in relation to a person who does not have the full picture trying to say what another person's eternal destiny is. We don't know all the facts. We can't say for sure, and so we shouldn't.

"I read your post twice the first time, and didn't get your meaning. Please re-state in another way so I understand your point."

This was my response to your question in my previous post (just below). I'm not sure what you don't understand about it.

"No matter how much we think we know about someone, we don't have all of the information."

"I gave an example in my last post"

Yes, but your example is problematic. You imply that it's ok to judge someone falsely if it can be used to point someone to the truth. I asked for an example of Christ using or endorsing this method.

"If someone asks you "did that staunch atheist go to hell" and you say "I don't know", you give the impression that there is no way to know such a thing, no way to have assurance until we stand before God, that it's one big crap-shoot, and this is false."

It depends on your perspective. If you are referring to yourself, of course there is a way to know. You know whether you are a Christian or not. You do not know, however, if a proclaimed atheist changed his mind at some point and you did not become aware of it. You can have absolute assurance of your own salvation. The same is not true for others. You don't have enough information to make that claim.

By the way, I would never answer that question "I don't know."

"What is the damage caused if I am wrong for making such a statement? Your previous post said something about it being slanderous. First, it doesn't fit the legal definition of slander (which is an untruth told by someone knowing it is untrue)"

I went to Dictionary.com and here are the three difinitions of slander.

1.defamation; calumny: rumors full of slander.
2. a false and defamatory statement or report: a slander against his good name.
3. Law. defamation by oral utterance rather than by writing, pictures, etc.

This was my precise meaning. You have already admitted that you may be wrong in your assessment. In that case, you have made "a slander against his good name."

"the only possible "damage" is to the reputation of a dead person (who doesn't really need a reputation anymore), which (if it's incorrect) won't be heeded by those to whom said reputation matters."

Again, it depends on your perspective. That is true if you have an exclusively earthly perpective. If you have a heavenly perspective, you realize that our lives are eternal. It's not ok to falsely judge someone just because their soul is temporarliy seperated from their body.

"Sorry - I mis-quoted myself."

Wow, that's the first time I've ever heard of that happening. Can you sue yourself?

"Re: deathbed confessions, I don't "know" this -- the tone of my sentence was meant to imply conjecture. If I thought I knew it as fact, I would have said, "most deathbed confessions aren't genuine."

OK, why are you making the implication if you have no way of knowing?

"If I make a statement that is untrue, it is not necessarily a lie. If I knew it to be false and said it, then it would be a lie."

Let me rephrase the point then. It sounds like you are saying that it's ok to use a false judgement to point somone toward the truth. This still doesn't sound right to me. Please show me an example of Christ using or endorsing this method.

"Many people will ask questions, however, including, "is Ghandi in hell?" It's fair to offer them a reasoned response, and it doesn't have to be a flat "Ghandi is in hell". How about: "Ghandi, like you and me, will stand before God and give an account for his moral crimes, and if he ended his life the way he lived it, he will have to pay for his crimes instead of letting the blood of Christ cover them."

I totally agree. Perfect answer. That is the exact way I would answer the question.

What would be wrong is to say is "Ghandi is in Hell." Because we don't know that for sure.

"By the way, the easiest person to deceive is ourselves. I would frankly rather have an assessment from my wife about the moral quality of my life, than from myself."

Well, at least we agreed on something (your previous statement). No one (other than God) knows you better than you know yourself. Does your wife know your secret thought life? Does she know hidden agendas? Your unspoken motivations? You can keep things like that from your wife - not from yourself.

"The problem is we all think we're pretty good, and we're not."

Well, speaking for myself that is absolutely not true. I know when I compare myself to Jesus Christ - I fall woefully short.

I don't think this was true of the apostle Paul either:
I Timothy 1: 15

"Matthew 20, please tell me what in there you were using to support your point -- I don't follow"

Read the study notes in the NIV Study Bible.

The bottom line is that we shouldn't say we know something when we don't - especially if it can hurt someone else. We are not qualified to judge someone else's heart.

Did you notice that the Walter Martin Ministries Blog has removed the ability to add comments? Too many visitors from STR I suppose. Now Jill can post her pieces without any opposition.

I'll preface this by saying I'll do my best to keep it brief and still try to respond to your points, JT. :) I'll also say I think we agree on some of the more important issues (like how to practically respond to a challenge).

"We can't say for sure, and so we shouldn't."

How much certainty is needed? What percentage of assurance do you need to make a claim? We make decisions and statements every day based on knowledge that doesn't come close to 100% certainty, but at a certain point (well short of 100%, IMHO), it is legitimate to say we "know" something.

"No matter how much we think we know about someone, we don't have all of the information."

Again, it doesn't follow (from the fact that we don't have *all* of the information) that we shouldn't make any judgments. We should be charitable and give benefit of the doubt, leaving room for the possibility of error (as in the Ghandi example below), but we *NEVER* have all of the information in *ANY* circumstance, yet it is appropriate for us to make judgments and decisions even with that limited knowledge.

"You imply that it's ok to judge someone falsely if it can be used to point someone to the truth."

I don't think that's what is implied by my statement. I think it's okay to make statements that have the possibility of being false (which really is almost all statements except those that contain logical contradictions), when the speaker/author has valid and sound reasons for making the statement.

I can't give you an example of when Jesus needed to rely on such a "code of conduct" because his knowledge was much closer to omniscience than mine (thus he didn't have to worry about "possibly incorrect statements").

"If you are referring to yourself, of course there is a way to know. You know whether you are a Christian or not."

How would you explain the Matthew 7:21-23 passage then? It sure sounds like a lot of people that fervently believe they are Christians, really aren't. (FYI, I don't really know the full answer to this -- the verse troubles me, though I believe I am a Christian.)

"You can have absolute assurance of your own salvation."

I like to think this is true, and there are verses that support it, but (as I mentioned), the Matthew 7 passage is one that gives me fear.

"The same is not true for others. You don't have enough information to make that claim."

In many (most?) cases, this is probably true. In others, we have enough information (or have been given a theoretical situation, in which there are no "maybes") to make a reasonable determination, even with less-than-fully-complete knowledge.

"3. Law. defamation by oral utterance rather than by writing, pictures, etc."

Defamation is difficult to prove in court, precisely because the accused must be shown to have *known* that the spoken/written statements were false, or at least not have reasonable basis for making the statements.

"You have already admitted that you may be wrong in your assessment. In that case, you have made 'a slander against his good name.'"

No, it is slander if I know it is wrong or don't have good reason for making the statement. If I have good reason, but the statement ends up being false, I'm just mistaken.

"If you have a heavenly perspective, you realize that our lives are eternal."

I don't have a complete picture of heaven, but I doubt when we get there anyone will be concerned about (unknowingly) incorrect statements made on earth.

"Re: deathbed confessions, I don't "know" this -- the tone of my sentence was meant to imply conjecture." "OK, why are you making the implication if you have no way of knowing?"

I made a conjecture, based on my observations and (admittedly limited) understanding of human nature, which is not inappropriate.

"Let me rephrase the point then. It sounds like you are saying that it's ok to use a false judgement to point somone toward the truth."

No, I'm saying it's okay to make a *possibly* false statement, regardless of how that statement is later used.

"What would be wrong is to say is 'Ghandi is in Hell.' Because we don't know that for sure."

I agree. We should always leave room for our error, but I think you would agree that sometimes the margin of error is much smaller than others.

"Does your wife know your secret thought life? Does she know hidden agendas? Your unspoken motivations? You can keep things like that from your wife - not from yourself."

This is true, to a point. I believe it to be exceedingly difficult to be in such an intimate relationship and not have even those hidden things become outwardly evident given enough time. I think there are other facets of a person that are *only* know to a spouse (and God, of course) (that is, not even by the person him/herself), because people can have blindnesses to their own virtues and flaws.

"The problem is we all think we're pretty good, and we're not." "Well, speaking for myself that is absolutely not true."

Then you (and the apostle Paul) are a better man than me. I frequently consider myself to be in a better state than I ought. I just think it is easier for us to wave away our own sin than to see it in the same way Christ sees it.

"Matthew 20" "Read the study notes in the NIV Study Bible."

Sorry if this is me being lazy -- could you just state your point, briefly?

"The bottom line is that we shouldn't say we know something when we don't - especially if it can hurt someone else."

I would say we shouldn't say we know something unless we have good reasons. *Not* saying something *can* be even more "hurtful" in the end.

"How much certainty is needed? What percentage of assurance do you need to make a claim? We make decisions and statements every day based on knowledge that doesn't come close to 100% certainty, but at a certain point (well short of 100%, IMHO), it is legitimate to say we "know" something."

The problem is you can't know. You don't know their heart or their inner thoughts. You don't know if they have committed their life to Christ. Only God and they know. You can get an idea by how they live their life, but you don't know for sure. Since you don't know for sure - why say you do? It's not true. What is the advantage and where is the precedent in scripture?

"Again, it doesn't follow (from the fact that we don't have *all* of the information) that we shouldn't make any judgments. We should be charitable and give benefit of the doubt, leaving room for the possibility of error (as in the Ghandi example below), but we *NEVER* have all of the information in *ANY* circumstance, yet it is appropriate for us to make judgments and decisions even with that limited knowledge."

This is what is known as a staw man argument. Please show me in my posts above where I said we shouldn't make any judgements and I will gladly withdraw the charge.

I said that you shouldn't say that you know someone's eternal destiny when you don't.

"I don't think that's what is implied by my statement. I think it's okay to make statements that have the possibility of being false (which really is almost all statements except those that contain logical contradictions), when the speaker/author has valid and sound reasons for making the statement."

So your point is the statement: -I'd rather be wrong in my assessment, and in the process provide a warning to others that are following the same path - isn't implying that you would rather chance making a false judgement than let someone follow the wrong path? I'm not following. (That's not the only other choice by the way.)

It's ok to make statements that might possibly be false as long as don't pretend to have special knowledge when you don't(you would need special knowledge in order to make that claim) Especially when it is in regard to a person's eternal destiny.

"I can't give you an example of when Jesus needed to rely on such a "code of conduct" because his knowledge was much closer to omniscience than mine (thus he didn't have to worry about "possibly incorrect statements").

My exact quote was: "Please show me an example of Christ using or endorsing this method." But don't limit your search to Christ. I'll accept any example of a person in scripture endorsing false judgements for the sake of truth.

"How would you explain the Matthew 7:21-23 passage then? It sure sounds like a lot of people that fervently believe they are Christians, really aren't. (FYI, I don't really know the full answer to this -- the verse troubles me, though I believe I am a Christian.)"

That statement seems to contradict your earlier statement: "If someone asks you "did that staunch atheist go to hell" and you say "I don't know", you give the impression that there is no way to know such a thing, no way to have assurance until we stand before God, that it's one big crap-shoot, and this is false."

"I like to think this is true, and there are verses that support it, but (as I mentioned), the Matthew 7 passage is one that gives me fear."

One sure way to know that scripture is being misinterpreted is when one verse seems to be contradicting several others. Always interpret what is cloudy in light of what is clear.

"In many (most?) cases, this is probably true. In others, we have enough information (or have been given a theoretical situation, in which there are no "maybes") to make a reasonable determination, even with less-than-fully-complete knowledge."

I have no problem with theoretical situations. In real life, we don't know if someone had a change of heart. You can't ever know that (except for yourself) and that is going to determine their eternal destiny.

"Defamation is difficult to prove in court, precisely because the accused must be shown to have *known* that the spoken/written statements were false, or at least not have reasonable basis for making the statements."

As far as I know, this is not a legal case so the general defintion of the word should suffice.

"No, it is slander if I know it is wrong or don't have good reason for making the statement. If I have good reason, but the statement ends up being false, I'm just mistaken."

Again, this is not a legal case. It's not just a mistake an individual has been falsely judged on insuffient knowledge.

"I don't have a complete picture of heaven, but I doubt when we get there anyone will be concerned about (unknowingly) incorrect statements made on earth."

How did you come to this conclusion? How does that make it right?

"I made a conjecture, based on my observations and (admittedly limited) understanding of human nature, which is not inappropriate."

You implied that there are not many death bed confessions when you have no way of knowing. There are more near death confessions in the Bible (thief on the cross) than there are examples of people trying to use a false judgement to point another to the truth.

"No, I'm saying it's okay to make a *possibly* false statement, regardless of how that statement is later used."

That's true, but your original quote goes much further than that. "frankly, I'd rather be wrong in my assessment, and in the process provide a warning to others that are following the same path"

You say I would RATHER be wrong if it can lead someone in the right path rather than to keep quiet and allow those others to continue on the path toward destruction."

That goes well beyond saying it's ok to make a possibly false statement. It is our job to share the Gospel. Let's let the Holy Spirit do the convicting.

We are saved by faith not works. Ghandi could have lived any life he wanted, repented on his death bed, and gone straight to heaven if he was sincere - and you would have no idea. God will decide if he was sincere not us.

"This is true, to a point. I believe it to be exceedingly difficult to be in such an intimate relationship and not have even those hidden things become outwardly evident given enough time. I think there are other facets of a person that are *only* know to a spouse (and God, of course) (that is, not even by the person him/herself), because people can have blindnesses to their own virtues and flaws."

Yes, but she can not read your mind. I have been married for many many years and yet there are new things I find out about my wife almost every day.

I have a close friend who has been married for over 20 years. His wife was a Sunday School teacher and the picture of Christian virtue. One day she pulled up stakes and took off on him. Leaving the children behind for a life of infidelity and partying. He had no a clue it was coming.

"Then you (and the apostle Paul) are a better man than me. I frequently consider myself to be in a better state than I ought. I just think it is easier for us to wave away our own sin than to see it in the same way Christ sees it."

It doesn't have anything to do with anyone being any better than anyone else. Your original statement was: "The problem is we all think we're pretty good, and we're not."

This is just factually not true. There are lots of examples in the Bible of men who did not think they were pretty good.

Sorry if this is me being lazy -- could you just state your point, briefly?

It is a parable of workers being hired in the 11th hour and being paid the same wage as those who worked all day.

"I would say we shouldn't say we know something unless we have good reasons."

I agree and we don't have a good reason to say what someone's eternal destiny is because we are saved by faith not works. It is true that we are saved by the kind of faith that produces works, but we don't know what all those works are or if the person ever had faith in the beginning.

"*Not* saying something *can* be even more "hurtful" in the end."

Let's say you tell me that my mother went to Hell because you didn't see the fruit of the spirit mainifested in her life. I say that I did see lots of fruit and that she had a life-time committment to Christ.

None of us knows for sure because we don't know her heart. But you have hurt your relationship with me and possibly others who are unsaved in my family.

There are so many other alternatives. The Gospel is an offense in itself, let's not add undue offense to it.

Unfortunately for those of us who attended this even that Jill is speaking of the nightmare continues to live on. Craig may in deed be orthodox, and we all know Ravi Z is. However they were persuaded to come and speak, where compromise of the Gospel took place. Mormons look at this event to justify their position in Christianity. The truth is Mormonism is no where near Christianity. I do know that the prayer and comments by Richard Mouw were not representative of Evangelical Christianity.

Andy,

If Mormonism is "no where near Christianity," then what is it near? Hinduism? Is it more Jainist than Christian? Regardless of what you feel are errors in our view of God and Christ, do you feel they are *so* alien to traditional orthodox Christianity (whatever that is) that they are "no where near" it?

Andy,

Jill's specific charge against Craig is that his actions and words constitute blasphemy. This literally means that she believes Craig has insulted God or claimed to be God. She apparently knows this by stating things like..."The biblical position on any alliance with Mormons is clear:"...and then citing 2 COR 6 as her proof-text.

Why Jill thinks this (1) verse constitutes the totality of the biblical position and why she thinks Craig's actions constitue an "alliance" remain mysteries of her mind that I hope she addresses shortly. As STR blog reader 'Paul' has pointed out at Jill's blog ..."2 COR 6 may apply, but why it does has not been explained" (paraphrase)

Francis Beckwith has urged Jill to get her hand dirty and actually construct an argument to support her position as well.

And it appears for the time being maybe she is researching this issue further.

In the meantime Andy - Can you please state specifically what you believe the Gospel is, and how Craig Hazen compromised it on Nov 14, 2004?

Thanks,
John

Sure I will respond in kind.

Kevin- first quoting Gordon Hinckly Mormons believe in a different Jesus. Here is a quote from John Macarthur that sums it up well. ..... I would never deliberately equivocate on the truth or do anything that might lend credence to Mormonism. I'm convinced (as are all who understand Scripture accurately) that Mormonism is a false religion, generated by Satan. It is a damnable heresy, and in the words of Paul, "a different gospel," under God's anathema."
Enough said

John I am not sure what you are getting at. What is the Gospel? The Gospel is Christ and Him Crucified for those that will Repent and Trust in Him alone to save them from the wrath of God which abides on all people. I was not supporting all that Jill had to say, what I am saying is that there was a compromise of the Gospel at the event. By this I mean that Mouw apologized to the Mormons calling those who would share the Gosepl Anti-Mormon. In addition the prayer that was offered put Joseph Smith along the lines of Solomon which is clearly not the case since Joseph's prophecies have failed him and his followers.

That was simply my point that there is this blurring of the lines that Mormons desire so they can call themselves Christian, they do not believe in the Christ of the Bible. And Craig Hazen said it best on STR that it is a religion made by Satan.

Andy,

Thanks for your reply. You wrote:..."there is this blurring of the lines that Mormons desire so they can call themselves Christian, they do not believe in the Christ of the Bible."

Agreed. Craig Hazen has also stated something similar. And I think it is critical that we recognize who is doing the blurring here - the Mormons! We can't expect non-Christians to have Christian theology. And therein lies the rub.

In describing the Ravi Zacharias Gospel presentation at that Nov 14th event Craig wrote...."In my view the rank-and-file Mormons would not have found anything controversial in it. However, those LDS who had a more finely-tuned sense of theology (very rare among Mormons, even in their leadership) would have recognized some pointed challenges on sin, salvation, the nature of God, and the state of the human heart. Almost everyone in the audience clapped even when Ravi mentioned the Trinity -- except for the BYU professors who knew it was not in concert with LDS teaching and sat more stoically at that point." (Ref: His report http://www.cephas-library.com/ecumenical/craig_hazens_report.html)

It has also been my experience that 90% of the Mormon missionaries that knock on my door do not understand the fundamental differences between their theology and orthodox, traditional Christianity. In fact my wife and I usually have to remind them it was Joseph Smith that threw down the gauntlet - so to speak - by declaring "all the denominations are an abomination!"

So my first question is - Is it necessarily a bad thing that our Mormon friends now have a desire to re-visit and re-think this charge of Joseph Smith's? I'm not suggesting we allow reconciliation without the necessary changes to their theology, but that the desire to change is exactly the thing we should be thankful for!

Consider this analogy.....in order to get the Mormons off of their ship - which is going down - we must sail our ship next to theirs so that they may board. Right now many Mormons are lined up ready to board our ship, with their false theology in hand. While I agree we must not allow them to board with those bags, I don't think it is necessary to sail away either.

In this analogy, there are some risks as there always is with evangelism. Will the gospel survive if we stumble?!....by allowing our Mormon friends to intiate 'boarding proceedings' with their false theology in hand? We know the gospel will survive because it is God's sovereign will that it will survive! God's elect will be saved even if you and I and Craig Hazen drop the ball. God will use someone else to accomplish evangelism and His purpose of salvation. Now, I don't want Him to use someone else.....I want Him to use me.... so I want be faithful to doing His work His way. I just don't see where Craig Hazen has been unfaithful....much less insulted God by virtue of participating in this event. Especially when there are other passages in God's word, dealing specifically with evangelism, that indicate we have to change the approach of evangelism to fit the culture and the audience (not the message - the tactics!)

And if it isn't necessarily a bad thing that the Mormons desire to see themselves as Christians - in the traditional sense - how did Craig's actions and words help them blur the lines? Certainly it can't be by just the mere fact that he met with them? You indicate that Craig equivocated Joseph Smith with Solomon in the closing prayer. But is that really what happened here?....

"Our Heavenly Father, our Great King, our Sovereign Creator and Merciful Judge, Solomon asked for wisdom and you gave in abundance. Your servant James taught us that God will give wisdom generously to all who ask him for this precious gift. The Mormon Scriptures tell us that Joseph Smith Jr. likewise sought wisdom at a crucial time in his life. No one in this room should ever fear asking you, oh Gracious Father, for wisdom."

Respectfully, I think you are missing Craig's nuanced approach that Greg is referring to in this post at the opening. Did you notice that Craig says "Solomon asked for wisdom and received in abundance? (from God)...and that Joseph Smith (notice the qualifier).." as we are told by the 'Mormon Scriptures' asked for wisdom". So if we take Craig words at face value, he is affirming the truth of the bible with his comments of Solomon and merely stating (correctly) the position of Mormons. Did Joseph Smith ask for wisdom? Sure he did. Do I think he recieved it? I think his prayer was answered, but I don't think it was answered by God!

So again - what clear biblical position has Craig violated here? If you don't agree with Jill's charge of blasphemy and merely think Craig exercised bad judgement, can you tell me of any other evangelist(s) who have had such an impact on LDS leadership in the last decade? It's easy to criticize a man's tactics, because they are not the way you would do things. Maybe you would do things a little different. Maybe safer..... (going back to the boat analogy) maybe you would keep our ship far enough away that these pesky Mormons can't jump ship and land on our boat with their false theology in tow....send life rafts or something safer. But can we claim with certainty, with a clear biblical mandate (as Jill is claiming) that Craig is violating God's will in evangelism? I don't think we can, but I'm willing to listen if you see this differently.

Regards,
John

John,

Nicely put, I am not sure if you think I am in disagreement with you. I was not affirming Jill's statement of Blasphemy. In fact I believe Craig was persuaded to be there, and what Craig said on the radio show was probably what he really believes. If you live in Utah, there is an issue we face here and that is the continually contending for Orthodox Christianity. I merely mentioned it because we should be very "aware" of the perceptions and the way Mormons spin things to achieve their goal of becoming "just another denomination". I live in Utah I was at the Tabernacle, I witnessed it first hand and I brought Mormon friends with me. So to make sure I am clear, I am not accusing Craig of any sin. I believe the Mormons and their "Christian friends" used Ravi and Craig to suit their own agendas. I am simply saying we should be mindful of the interpretation of those who are seeped in darkness of our actions.

Andy -

Thanks for you reply.

You wrote:
"I am simply saying we should be mindful of the interpretation of those who are seeped in darkness of our actions."

I could not agree with you more my friend. This is an excellent point. I have experienced this first hand.

My wife and I live in Southern California, in a suburb that is primarily populated by traditional, reformed Christians. It's not that the majority of the population is reformed Christians, it's just that we're the largest demographic at 33%. So when a Mormon missionary knocks on the door in my neighborhood, he's got a 1 in 3 chance of evangelizing to "one of the abominable denomiations".

Over the past 2 years we have entertained (3) different sets of Mormon missionaries at our home for no more then a period of (6) weeks. I say no more then (6) weeks, because it takes about (6) meetings before they are either "transferred" to another ward, or no longer seem to return our phone calls. In otherwords, my wife and I have noticed that they start off interpreting our kindness and hospitality as a kind of pseudo-agreement with their theology....but the more in depth the discussions go to sin and the surety of judgement upon our death....the more the light bulb goes on (this is the Lord's part - no doubt) and they realize how different their theology really is! (we confront them with all of the teachings of LDS past and present!)

So I understand this is not an exact parrallel, but the Mormon missionaries that knock on my door, think they are using my family for their purposes...for the propogation of Joseph Smith's gospel...but they're the one's who end up leaving with their theology in knots and the gospel fresh in their memories.

I think we can view Craig's tactics in a similar way. While I am not claiming to understand the spiritual battle on your front better then you do from Southern Calif., I do think there is a time and place to be be "sly like a fox and gentle as a dove". My question for you Andy as someone who was there on Nov. 14, 2004 is: Do you think Craig and Ravi struck that balance?

Regards,
John

Forgive me, but what do we do to encourage our being viewed as "just another denomination"? Wanting to be understood as Christian--since Christ is the very center of our theology and worship--is not the same as wanting to be "just" another denomination.

What is wrong with calling us, say, "heretical Christians" or even "apostate Christians"? To deny us Christian status when Christ is so central to our theology is simply ludicrous.

Kevin,

When you use the word "Christ" who are you referring to? Are you suggesting that LDS scriptures and the bible do not contradict one another on who Christ is?

Thanks,
John

Kevin wrote: "What is wrong with calling us, say, "heretical Christians" or even "apostate Christians"?...

Let's not confuse the charge here. Joseph Smith layed down "the gauntlet" so to speak. He initiated the break. He called all other denominations an abomination and declared the church since the time of the apostles was in apostasy...and that it took God some 1800 years to correct that apostasy.

Among other things, it promotes confusion and hampers clear communication to pretend you mean the samething when you write "Jesus Christ" as I do. I don't think blurring the lines helps either of us. Let's be clear about the differences. Respectful? - most definetely...but that can't happen unless those differences are clear.

Regards,
John

You'll find similar 'confusions' with Evangelicals--debates on whether God is within or outside of time, differences in how the two-nature theory is viewed, even differences in relation to the Trinity (i.e. social Trinitarianism). But let's look at the similarities: we believe that Christ was born in Bethlehem, in a manger, born of Mary, started his ministry at around age 30, performed miracles in Judea, died for our sins, rose from the dead, is the only being through which salvation can come, ascended to heaven to sit on God's right hand, will come again. Hence my confusion when someone says that we are "nowhere near" Christianity: we share *a lot* more than most think. It is when we focus *exclusively* on the differences that "respect" does not happen (especially when most of the differences that come up are dogmas that are not official doctrines of the Church, unessential and potentially false).

By all means, let's find 'clarity,' but not by focusing on only the differences.

Kevin,

Perhaps I misunderstood Andy's comments, but I think he was saying that compared to other ways in which traditional denominational lines of Christianity are drawn, Mormonism is no where near Christianity. If my neighbor down the street subscribes to a view of eschatology that makes him think Christ is coming back next Tuesday, and another neighbor (4) doors down thinks sprinkling is the way to do baptism and my other neighbor across the street thinks Christ is both the son of father god and the spirit brother of satan, we can plainly see which view has more severe consequences.

The important things in the bible are repeated and stated many times and many ways. The nature of God is one of those things. If we are wrong about God's nature, it is not for lack of clarity in the bible. While I agree with you that the Trinity is a difficult thing to conceptualize, that doesn't mean it isn't taught in scripture. Because it is complex doesn't mean it isn't in there.

And by the way, I can see your point of contention about the "no where near Christianity" comment, although I think you misunderstood Andy. (I'm sure he'll be along shortly to correct our misunderstandings.)

You wrote:
"It is when we focus *exclusively* on the differences that "respect" does not happen (especially when most of the differences that come up are dogmas that are not official doctrines of the Church, unessential and potentially false)."

Now in support of this you wrote about somethings at the beginning of your post that I would consider both essential and non-essential doctorines. And being clear - our view of God is an essential doctorine. God cannot be both the Being as revealed through Jesus Christ AND the being as described in the Mormon scriptures. To hold that view is to violate the law of non-contradiction. God cannot be both the eternal Logos and also have been a created man as we are today. From our view of God many other things follow.

Further, if Christianity is potentially true, then it is potentially false. Christianity is potentially false as it rides on a historical event - the resurrection. I don't think we can draw the same parrallel to Mormonism. What sets Mormonism apart, the missionaries tell me, is that I can pray and ask God for wisdom and "I will know the BOM is true" in my heart....by the "burning of my bosom". There is no objective, external, falsifiable test for a religion that claims such a thing..... "Our religious text is true, because I prayed and God revealed to me that it was true." Now how did god reveal such a thing?.....did he literally transplant the thought into your head, such that his thoughts are now your thoughts? It's kind of hard for me to argue with God isn't it?!

What if I prayed about the BOM and God told me it's the work of the devil? Who's right Kevin? Are we forever lost on this sea of relativity, or do you think there is some objective test that could settle the issue?

Respectfully,
John

John,

This is a reply to your 9:52 am response..
Again thank you for your well articulated reply. My wife and I saw Ravi the night before at the University of Utah, and we both agree he was phenomenal. Ravi speaks over 97% of his audience because of his brilliance and firm grasp of the Gospel, theology and fallen humanity. As an opinion of ours, and a few other folks we spoke (and we could be wrong) that Ravi was more subdued and yet spoke at even a higher level if that is possible. Most people just did not understand what he was saying. I admit his presentation on the Trinity was superb. The problem was for both Craig and Ravi, was there was this non confrontational false "love" theme that was perpetuated by Mouw's comment as well as Greg Johnson’s statements. I believe one of the mistakes made was for the speakers to understand what the purpose of the event truly was. I will tell you plainly that I believe about the motive of this at a later point. As an Evangelism Ministry we are continually confronted by Mormons who justify their beliefs through this event, and false dialogues that Greg Johnson continues to participate in. Many have pleaded with Greg Johnson about his “dialogues” and these type of confusing events.

We must understand as you stated in your post that the Mormons do in fact have an agenda, their agenda is to convert "Christians" to Mormonism. The best way for them to accomplish this is by using unsuspecting Christians to help them blur the distinction between Biblical Christianity and their belief system. Over 80% of Mormon converts claimed to be another denomination at some point. This again reaffirms my point that we should be very wary of how the Mormons use our public interactions with them to suit the goal of the Mormon Kingdom building. Finally I see your point on the issue of what Craig was trying to accomplish, and agree with you. The spin on the event and the aftermath are what I am most concerned about. Listen if a Mormon can reinterpret scripture than we must be very clear and concise with them. They believe the writings of CS Lewis support their theology, how is that for reader response!

I would just assume to not have to go through yet another layer of untruth with Mormons about the “common ground” between Mormons and Christians, because there is none, everything is different. As you alluded to in your post, I spend my time with Missionaries and other Mormons untying the knots of deceit and lies they have been told, and exploring truth. I pray that God would allow the conversation to get to the exposed heart so that God can use it to redeem the reward that is due Him.

Kevin,

I think it is right to address your question. Who is a Christian? Who is a Mormon? The definition of these terms are done within the context of the organization. If I said I believed in Fred Flintstone and that he was God, and then called myself Mormon would I be wrong? Yes of course I would. To be a Mormon and please correct me here if you would like I need to ascribe to.... Elohim as the Father, Jesus Christ as a separate son only together in purpose, Joseph Smith as a prophet, Baptism by one with the right priesthood, The Book of Mormon as true and my experience in reading it etc. etc. Once I have been baptized as a Mormon and subscribe to the theology, I can call myself a Mormon. However Mormons define what Mormon is. I am certainly not Mormon because I deny that Joseph Smith was a prophet and I believe the Book of Mormon to be a work of fiction. Now if I went around calling myself a Mormon you would correct me I hope.... ok that being the case lets look at 2000 years of Christianity. What are the majors. The Trinity God, Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit One God three persons, Jesus Christ being fully God and fully man, Salvation by Grace alone through faith, and the inerrancy and inspiration of the Bible. My Charismatic brothers and I can disagree on things like "gifts" but essentially we hold to the same "core" and can readily call each other Christian.

You ask me to not focus on the differences, however other than the fact that we are both fallen humans, and potentially some worldly commonalities are religions are diametrically opposed. Mormons have a different Jesus, a different plan of salvation, a different way to that salvation, a different God who was created, a different beginning, a different understanding of the Bible and deny its inerrancy and inspiration, a different understanding of being Born-Again, a different understanding of Church. There is nothing that is similar. Sohelp me understand the "common ground" you speak of. You can put whatever name you would like in a title but beyond a means to market the church it has no validation against 2000 years of standards being set. Muslims believe Christ was a prophet of God are they Christian? Certainly Not. To deny the true nature of Christ is denying who he is, what he came for, what he did, what he will do and the ability to be saved by Him for His Glory.

John makes a great argument, people who use the "God told me" phrase lack the ability to be refuted, and you can always come up with a subjective counter to any argument. Kevin I will submit this as potential common ground, one of us is wrong or we are both wrong but we both cannot be right. If Mormonism is correct then what happens to those that follow the Bible only? If the Bible is right then Mormonism is wrong and Mormons will spend an eternity in the Lake of Fire. That alone is enough for me to contend with you about the faith. God does want any to perish but all to come to true repentance in Jesus Christ our Lord. I pray that my words came across with my intent, to be truthful yet respectful, it is hard under these circumstances to convey that, but please know that is my motive.

Andy,

You are obviously drawing on many experiences as someone who lives this stuff where the "road meets the rubber" - so to speak - in "Mormon country USA". I have great respect for you in doing the work you do for His Glory and share in your prayer that He will put us in conversations that get to the exposed heart....conversations where we get to introduce Christ to a humble repentent heart.

As someone of your experience is certainly aware, we may not get to Christ in every conversation. And I can understand where this public event with traditional orthodox Christian leaders, could be used as one more excuse by our less theologically adept Mormon friends that they are in the "right boat".

Putting myself in your shoes, if the next set of mormon missionaries that came to my door cited the Nov 14, 2004 event as a reason they "really are Christians", I guess my first parry would be to show them Craig Hazen's comment about Mormonism being from the devil. I mean how would they explain that?

I'm sure in the past (3) years, you've developed even better tactics for answering this mis-guided interpretation of that event. In a way I understand your frustration with having to deal with "yet another" rabbit trail reason in defense of Mormonism....frustration in the fact that they have taken an evening aimed at waking them up to the dire spiritual reality and consequences of their sin and used it as "yet another" reason for false comfort. Not that this is an emotionally satisfying statement, but I think this frustration we feel sheds some light on how God must feel....

"and (they) exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man" (Ref: Rom 1:23)

Keep heart my friend!! As John Mark Reynolds likes to say: "Christians are always losing (in the culture)...just to a new group of people every hundred years or so"

And God still makes a way..."because He that is in us is stronger then he that is in the world." (paraphrase)

Later,
John

Agreed John, thank you again for your reply. One thing, the event's mission was not necessarily to wake up Mormons to the truth, although that may be why Ravi and Craig signed up because they believed that to be the premise. I encourage anyone to look at this event from the point of who started this idea, why and what they were trying to accomplish. These questions have been answered already and that has been a public conversation in the past, and I am not sure it is fruitful to have it here again.
Grace and Peace,
Andy

"Nothing that is similar"? Where are the differences in what I've already provided? I did not mention soteriology except to the degree that Christ is central to both of our messages, a fact that we both agree on (though the mechanics are in dispute). Do you not agree that Christ was born in Bethlehem? That he started his ministry at age 30? That he performed miracles? What, do we disagree on the words "born," "Bethlehem," "ministry," "30," and "miracles"? You are being intentionally polemical! It is such silly exagerations that abound in Evangelical circles that makes me despair the possibility of ever coming to mutual understanding (though not mutual agreement).

You speak about lies and deceptions, yet the so-called "counter-cult" are lying about us every day. *That* was part of the reason Greg pushed for the Tabernacle event to happen and *that* is the reason behind Mouw's comment. I've been active in LDS apologetics for over 7 years and I've never come accross an Evangelical critique of Mormonism that gets our doctrines right (often with egregious errors)! They make assumptions that we do not make, accept as doctrinal and binding things that we don't, they misrepresent the words of our prophets, they pick and choose the things they quote for shock value, not with a desire to "speak the truth" (let alone with "love"; you speak of feigned love, try reading the works of Walter Martin or James White!). Don't feign interest in our souls and telling us the 'truth' when you don't even care enough to put out the effort to genuinely understand us rather than assuming that *anything* that disrupts Mormonism is ok (not you in particular, but your counter-cult cottage industry). I don't think that Mormonism is without reproach or that we do not have our fair share of theological difficulties, but Evangelical critiques so far have been far off the mark (even _The New Mormon Challenge_, which often amounted to little more than cutting and pasting of the authors' past works, with few exceptions [particularly thinking of Moreland and Craig's responses]).

You speak of a Mormon agenda and our ability to 'twist' things to fulfill it? What of the many Evangelical responses that speak of that meeting as a "miracle" that God has wrought, a "front line attack" against Mormonism in our very own Tabernacle, etc. As far as I'm concerned, speaking as a Mormon, that event was an attempt to develop mutual understanding and create peace between what have been, till now, 'warring' factions. Yes, it has been taken differently by different people, but so what! That happens on everything: even the death of a loved one, after one has prayed so fervently that they will live, can be interpreted as "God's will" and a defeat in battle can be seen similarly. For some, nothing can deter them from accepting everything as that which God wishes to put them through for their own learning, edification, and for the glory of God.

Now, if you (or anyone else) wishes to discuss these matters *with the intent to come to mutual understanding* (as I know I have my own misconceptions about Evangelicals), feel free to email me (metatron99 at hotmail dot com). Don't come to convince me, but come to understand me and my Church. Otherwise, don't waste your breath and my time.

Kevin,

I will email you.

Andy

Hello All,

As a graduate of the M.A. in Christian Apologetics program at Biola University I have posted an open letter of support for Dr. Hazen at http://www.prudentmusings.com/apologetics/support-for-dr-craig-hazen/

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