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« Are Sermons Enough? | Main | Blessing Rather than Punishment »

August 31, 2008


I was discussing something like this with a Mormon once. I said that I believed in Jesus Christ being the son of God because I had examined the evidence and believed that it pointed to truth. He was trying to convince me of the Mormon point of view. He said I should pray about it and look for the "burning in the bosom." I replied "I get a burning in the bosom when I think about pizza. Does that make pizza God's choice for me to have for dinner every night?"

Back in the 60's Jesus Movement, there was a lot of hoopla. You would here evangelists saying things like "Jesus will make you high" etc. The current wave of adrenalin producing assemblies are often times confused with being blessed in the Spirit. Our yawning abyss of fanaticism today produces everything BUT Spirituality. There is no conviction of sin, remorse, repentance, or even trusting in Christ's Atonement as our only grounds of acceptance with God. No Love, just rules & cliche's for the self righteous to abide in.

And Jesus said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.

And how many average Evangelicals cay say, "I had examined the evidence and believed that it pointed to truth"? Just because the average believer accepts the above as the whole sum and truth of religious epistemology does not mean that it is the only view available either in LDS scripture and/or philosophy. There are those of us who have examined the evidence, pro and con, and believe *partly* because of that. That either makes us stupid (for those who claim the evidence is *obviously* contrary to belief) or mistaken (which grants us some degree of intelligence and means the evidence isn't quite so obvious).

CS Lewis has a great treatment of this in Mere Christianity in the first chapter on Faith. He writes: "That is why Faith is such a
necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods 'where they get off,' you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of Faith."

RE: And Jesus said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.

I would like to add to this:

I'm a Christian and not by choice.

>>I'm a Christian and not by choice.>>

Can you elaborate on this please?

>>I'm a Christian and not by choice.>>

Can you elaborate on this please?

I think he's refering to Calvinism.

Unfortunately, I've learned through years of group Bible studies for women that many Christians are all about feelings, too.

Why have a Bible (or even a Book of Mormon) if what we know about God is just what that "burning in the bosom" tells us?

By have a Bible, Book of Mormon, or sin if it is genuinely in God's power to simply save all of us by divine will, thereby eradicating error and giving salvation freely to everyone, not just the elect?

Hi Kevin, Greg Koukl has somewhere a piece written about 10 years ago where he contemplated a similar question. I thought he nailed the answer and I've never forgotten the premise of it and it has helped shape my view/understanding of God. It may not answer you directly, as I sense your question might be rhetorical ;).

I'll try to not oversimplify it and maybe it'll be enough to give someone a tidbit to search STR and find it.

IF God, just bypassed all of the experiences we live through and just programmed the experiences in, they would not be real-it'd be artificial experience. This would indeed be a case of robots programmed to be and do as they were made, these would not be "free moral agents".

[this is me, not GK]
Similarly, in a sense, the Reformed doctrine of predestination gleans from scripture that God did ordain whatsoever comes to pass and that since men are not free to do other than God ordained, then the human freedom that we all experience, and predestination based on God's foreknowledge must be compatible. They are if one rightly defines the terms and understands the creator/creature distinction as well as the contingent relationship the creature has with the creator. One has to know that he is not autonomous to grasp the compatibility of human freedom/predestination.

Brad B


I am interested in having you unpack what you mean by saying man is free but not autonomous, but I am equally interested in adhering to the topic of this post. If there is a way for you to explain Greg's point regarding the illusion of human autonomy as it relates to Mormons choosing based on feelings, then I would appreciate it. Otherwise, as much as I'd like to engage this topic with you, I fear this post would not survive such a seismic shift in direction.

Maybe if you explain your point further we can all see how it relates to the original post...

In line with Sage's request, let me simply restate: there are many of us within Mormonism who have seen the evidence, are very aware of the "problems", and the find the evidence convincing (though not conclusive). That makes us either stupid--for missing the "obvious"--or ignorant--but being aware of the issues and the arguments put forward, doesn't seem to apply.

Let me also repeat (as a few other posters likewise have) that this is not a solely Mormon phenomenon: it happens in Evangelicalism just as much and the ratio of 'feeling believers' (not using that in a derogatory way) and 'thinking believers' is likewise disproportionate.

Hi Kevin,
Why are you a Mormon?

Hi Sage, I think my post was meant to answer the specific question by Kevin [why...if it's within God's power] to say that it really isn't within God's power much the same way that it's not within His power to make square circles.

It a way though, I think the Reformed doctrine of predestination does have much to say as it relates to this topic. The reformers made the point that the emotions are tied to thought and in fact all feelings are preceeded by thought. I couldn't go into this in depth right now, but a simple example would be sufficient to make the point.

Suppose you walked around a corner and saw a big guy mercilessly beating a smaller guy to a pulp. The smaller guy is begging for mercy and not getting it. You might feel anger at the big guy and sorrow and compassion for the little guy. Then another bystander tells you that the little guy raped and killed the big guys young daughter and immediately you feel sorrow for the big guy and hatred for the little guy. Information, intellect, knowledge changed emotions. You'll find this in the scripture "be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind".

Brad B

Hi Kevin,
Last time you were discussing your familiarity with the evidence/problems wrt LDS I left a question (and follow-up) for you.

I wonder if you might answer it now?



That is a tricky question for me at the moment. I'm "taking a break," as it were, as I'm trying to get some things in my life in order that the current culture in the Church has tended to exacerbate for me. I don't know if I'll return, but we'll see.

But LDS doctrine makes sense to me, the evidence and apologetic work (in general; of course there are some exceptions) point to a good possibility of being true, and I have many philosophical issues with traditional Christian doctrine (not to mention that I don't find any of the arguments for God's existence convincing).


Emotion theory is very divided on the matter of thought's relation to emotion and very often, for those who are proponents of your view, they must make recourse to "unconscious" thoughts, which is so far removed from genuine work on the nature of the "unconscious" as to be merely an ad hoc addition to salvage the view. But there are *many* cases where information has little to no effect on emotion, even where patients know and believe nd yet are still 'stuck' in their feelings.


It only occurs in two places: 2 Nephi 22:2, which is quoting Isaiah 12, and Moroni 10:34, both of which seem to be referring to God the Father. It happens to be that 'common wisdom' in the Church tends to say that Jehovah is Christ, but LDS scripture is ambiguous on this point.

For a correction, Joseph claimed to be translating by the gift and power of God, not an "angel".

Hi Kevin,
Thanks for addressing that.

Given especially that Smith was receiving guidance from God Himself, whose name is not Jehovah, is this not problematic?
Is this follow-up I asked a standard challenge and is there a ready answer?

Hi Kevin,
Thanks for being honest about where you are right now. My crisis
of faith lasted for 35 years.
I won't burden you with questions.
One piece of advice though, if you
dedicate yourself to the truth, God will do the rest, He did with me. Let me pray for you. Father,
I ask in Jesus name, that you reveal yourself to Kevin. I know what it's like to be away from You, and I don't wish for Kevin to have to go through that Father. Amen.
God Bless you Kevin

Hi Kevin, I'm inclined to challenge what you've said based admittedly on some presuppositions that I believe are supported by biblical anthropology. If you would, give me a case to consider where information has no effect on emotion. I would hope this is a case of a mentally healthy individual, one representative of the general condition of most human beings. It may prove to be much more involved than this forum can allow for, to search this out, but I believe that the scriptures support this view such that if academic research builds a case against it I would be highly suspect of the motivation behind it.

Brad B


No, I don't think that's a problem. Anymore than I think it's an issue when the same problem shows up in the Biblical text (Exodus 6:3; Psalms 83:18; Isaiah 12:2; Isaiah 26:4). Thus, if we accept the Biblical text as we got it as generally accurate, then the ancient Israelites did, in fact, use Yahweh as a title for God. Otherwise we have four false Biblical verses (at least on this matter)...

Even beyond that, we must remember that the Book of Mormon is a translation: we could focus on the transliterations themselves, which is largely pointless, or the meanings of the terms, which is central to the issue of translation. The presence of "adieu" no more means that the Nephites spoke French than the presence of "Messiah" means they spoke English (rather than its Reformed Egyptian or even Hebrew equivalent). Jehovah was a commonly known designation and way of translating Yahweh, so it is to be expected that Joseph would have used the common terms during his day.

What you need to ask now, however, is how Mosiah (or mosia' [pronounced mo-shee-ah], in its Hebrew spelling) got to be used as a title of a book about a series of divinely called savior of peoples (Mosiah, Alma, and Limhi)... See the decidedly non-Mormon John Sawyer, "What Was a Mosiaʿ?" Vetus Testamentum 15 (1965): 475–486. :oD


I'm thankful for your prayer.


Well, first I would challenge the view that there is some coherently proclaimed "biblical anthropology" that is proposed by all biblical authors. Second, I would challenge the claim that the "renewing of your minds" refers primarily to abstract rational thought and justified true beliefs, as if the regeneration is supposedly about the 'rational faculty.' On both cases, I would be afraid that we are projecting post-biblical categories on biblical writers.

Third, there are plenty of examples: one could simply point to the fact that it sometimes takes people years in therapy to change their feelings towards, say, their parents. You asked for "mentally healthy individual[s]", but I'm afraid they are "representative[s] of the general condition of most human beings" (we *all* have issues that have strong emotional elements that rarely [if ever] get resolved simply by providing true information, and even the rational acceptance of that information). And I'm not even referring to people who suffer depression or have other 'dysfunctions'. Even cognitive-behavioral therapy (currently the most pervasive approach out there) sees information as only one part of a much greater whole (though, unfortunately, they aren't quite aware of how much they are actually expanding in that sense...psychiatrists tend to be incredibly ignorant of their foundations and implications; though, to further expand this parenthetical remark, I would say that current 'analytic philosophy' is in much the same predicament, though that's the phenomenologist in me talking ;o) ).

Anyway, this probably is too expansive for a blog comment section. I'm currently doing some work on emotion theory and if I put together anything worth reading I'll try to remember you (if that would help and if it doesn't sound too presumptuous...).

Hi Kevin, I know from previous blog topics that you reject what you have called something like "the Aristotlian" influence on systematics[if I remember rightly], and I wouldn't even attempt to discuss a topic like biblical anthropology with you with that obstacle as the first hurdle. That point aside, there may be hundreds of scriptures that discuss "man" and give dependable information as part of God's revelation to man. So a biblical anthropology doctrine can be reliable, namely that men are rational moral beings.

I dont think you and I will be able to directly consider the scriptures because of the previously mentioned obstacle, but the renewing of mind scripture is directly speaking of the relationship of information affecting emotions insofar as it relates to santification--becoming more like Jesus. When I use the word emotions, it's in a broad sense which includes it's effect on volition even down to subconsious or what might be called instinctual actions.

Anyway, I clicked to your blog and see that you're academically pursuing what seems to be directly related to this topic. I would be interested in reading your findings when you are finished writing, I'm pretty sure that I'll have a problem, but I will do my best to get your point so that I know the reasons for the view.

Brad B


Sorry I'm slow responding (busy lately). You wrote earlier that God cannot save everyone because that would be analogous to Him making a square circle. I take it this presupposes a free human will - human volition not ultimately determined by God's sovereign control. This would basically render the problem Kevin brought up as one not of divine power but divine prerogative - that God has chosen to create men free in relation to their salvation, and to treat them according to their own choosing without rendering one choice absolutely unavoidable or absolutely impossible. Hence, God does not exercise power to save all because of His prerogative to allow freedom.

Yet this seems to be contrary to the Reformed (Calvinist) position regarding election. I'm still trying to understand the meaning you ascribe to the word autonomy: "One has to know that he is not autonomous to grasp the compatibility of human freedom/predestination." Is man free to believe and be saved, or is his belief determined by God, thus canceling autonomy? I would say man is actually but not ultimately autonomous, free but contingent, volitional and yet dependent.

If man's autonomy is illusory (as it seem you've suggested), how does this pertain to God saving only the elect, or to Mormons taking feelings as evidence for Joseph Smith's authenticity?


As always, I appreciate your candor and consideration to discuss your faith in this setting. I wanted to point out that the conversation in the original post does not mention the person praying for an emotional confirmation of God's word, His existence, His Son Jesus's atonement - nothing specifically related to God Himself. Rather, it prays for God to reveal the authenticity of a human prophet through a burning in the bosom. Paul admonishes us to test the spirits, and to hold fast to whatever is true. I do not see any Biblical authority for praying about prophets that God reveal their validity through an subjective experience. Regarding prophets, this goes against Paul's command to test all things.

Hi Sage, the square circle reference was in regards to God preprogamming experience into the creatures. It would not be real experience. In Kevins post where he asked "B[wh]y have a bible..." he added the phrase "thereby eliminating error", which I took to mean that he meant to save the world of the pain of living through real experiences in compatibilistic freedom. This is what is impossible for God, like true square circles--Him being able to program "real" experiences.

The autonomy question might be easier to discuss in light of Rom. 9's question from Paul--"On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it?"

The creature is not free to be other than who he is nor does he have a right to answer back--he is owned in the truest sense.

Brad B


But He could program the memories and simulated effects of having gone through experiences, giving the indistinguishable appearance of their having been real. For the creature, there might possibly be no practical difference to having developed one's personality through experience and knowing oneself without suspecting oneself to be a divinely instantiated recreation of an experienced soul. Whether the soul would suspect the fabrication, such a thing is certainly within God's ability to instantiate.

Our freedom is limited, and our will functions primarily in response to stimuli. (For example, Jesus stands at the door and knocks, and we must choose whether to let Him come in or to deny Him entry.) Our will can not create ex nihilo, nor alter reality de facto, but can only respond in the moment to what is at hand.

I suppose Kevin was saying that by giving humans freedom, God allows us to use every means at our disposal to ascertain reality - including both the Bible and the "burning in the bosom." The obvious flaw here is that not every source of knowledge is equally reliable. The Bible is infallible due to divine authority, while human prophets are notoriously unreliable.

Hi Sage, there is a logical problem here that I haven't been able to get through. Let me say it this way. If I teach a lower being to "learn", it's one thing. If I just give the same lower being the answer and he doesn't have to struggle himself it is another thing altogether. What I'm saying is illogical, is that God cannot program as you describe AND call that real experience.

I hope I can make this point succinctly. In scenario 1, God does what you proposed above. The creatures relationship to God is not the same as it would be if God set the stage for the creature to learn. Now the difference would be the same as it would be for one to program a robot to act a certain way where he really doesn't even consider an opposing act. How could one construe this as "free"? And, how could one construe this type of being responsible for his actions? Pit that against the scenario where God sets the stage for the creature who He made particularly to experience and learn in that situation and consider the opposit act--REALLY CONSIDER-- thus real responsibility for actions.

It is the difference between real freedom and real responsibility against faux freedom and faux responsibility.

I unfortunately dont have anymore time tonight, because I'm sure there are holes in my analogy, but I do believe what the Bible says about the doctrine of predestination, and I would only want to say that this doctrine is not incompatible with mans freedom to be who God made him to be AND be responsible.

Brad B

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