Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The “Foundational Premise” of Mormonism

I was recently pointed to the following interesting series of clips on YouTube. The clips are called “For Catholics: How to Speak With Mormon Missionaries;” and they are posted by, Button36 (Catholic Digital Studio). The presenter in the clips is someone by the name of Vic Scaravilli. The clips are as follows:

Clip 1, Clip 2, Clip 3, Clip 4

First, I would like to thank the presenter for the friendly and amicable way in which he discusses Mormonism. In the clips he basically raises two objections to Mormonism: One is on the LDS doctrine of the Apostasy, and the other is the origin of the biblical canon.

On the subject of the Apostasy, he states that it is the “foundational premise of Mormonism;” and he goes on to say that “that is what the entire religion is based on”. I am afraid he is wrong about that. The Apostasy is neither the “foundational premise” of Mormonism; nor is it what the religion is based on”. The “foundational premise” of Mormonism is the Restoration, not the Apostasy. I am not a Mormon because I believe in the Apostasy; I believe in the Apostasy because I am a Mormon. I am a Mormon because the Spirit of the Lord witnesses to me that it is true. When I read the Book of Mormon, or actively participate in the life of the Church, the Spirit witnesses to me that it is true, and that its leaders are inspired of the Lord, and speak and act by the power of the Holy Ghost. Having determined (independently) that Mormonism is true, I am led to the (inevitable) conclusion that an Apostasy must have occurred for the Restoration to be made necessary; that is how I come to believe in the Apostasy.

Joseph Smith did not start Mormonism from the premise of the Apostasy. He did not say, “Christianity is apostate; therefore let’s start a new religion!” That may be the Protestant position, but it is not the LDS position. Joseph Smith was just 14 years old when he had his First Vision; and he didn’t go to the woods in order to start a new religion. He went there to inquire of the Lord to know which church was right, so that he could know which one to join. It was the Lord who then informed him that none of the church were right (thus implying that there had been an apostasy), and that he should join none of them; and that God would at some future date restore the gospel through him. So the first objection he raises to Mormonism is based on a “false premise” on his part, rather than on the LDS part.

The second objection he raises—that the Catholic Church “compiled” the Bible (implying that no one else has the right to lay claim to it but the Catholic Church)—is absurd. This of course is a very common posture that Catholics adopt towards Christians of other faiths; asserting that the Catholic Church “wrote” the Bible, or “compiled” the Bible, or “gave us” the Bible; thus implying that they have the sole “copyright” to the Bible; and that no one else has the right to lay claim to it except them! The truth is that the Catholic Church neither “wrote,” nor “compiled,” nor “gave us” the Bible. God “gave us” the Bible through His chosen prophets and Apostles. The Bible was written by the Jews! Both the Old and the New Testaments were written by the Jews. The canon of the Old Testament was well known and established among the Jews long before the Catholic Church came along. For the Catholic Church to lay exclusive claim to the Bible, would be like the Jews claiming the exclusive right to the Old Testament!

The New Testament was also written by Jews. Jesus was a Jew. The Apostles were all Jews. That is why the Lord told the Samaritan woman at Jacob's Well, “. . . salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22).

In the early days of the Christian church, it was pretty well established what was true NT scripture and what was not. When we read the writings of the earliest of the Early Church Fathers, we find that they quote quite a bit from New Testament scripture; and there is general consensus among them as to what is true scripture and what is not. The text of the NT that they quote is pretty close to the canon of the NT that we have today. I find the following quote instructive:

Compared to the New Testament, there was very little controversy over the canon of the Old Testament. Hebrew believers recognized God’s messengers, and accepted their writings as inspired of God. There was undeniably some debate in regards to the Old Testament canon. However, by A.D. 250 there was nearly universal agreement on the canon of Hebrew Scripture. The only issue that remained was the Apocrypha…with some debate and discussion continuing today. The vast majority of Hebrew scholars considered the Apocrypha to be good historical and religious documents, but not on the same level as the Hebrew Scriptures.

For the New Testament, the process of the recognition and collection began in the first centuries of the Christian church. Very early on, some of the New Testament books were being recognized. Paul considered Luke’s writings to be as authoritative as the Old Testament (1 Timothy 5:18; see also Deuteronomy 25:4 and Luke 10:7). Peter recognized Paul’s writings as Scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16). Some of the books of the New Testament were being circulated among the churches (Colossians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27). Clement of Rome mentioned at least eight New Testament books (A.D. 95). Ignatius of Antioch acknowledged about seven books (A.D. 115). Polycarp, a disciple of John the Apostle, acknowledged 15 books (A.D. 108). Later, Irenaeus mentioned 21 books (A.D. 185). Hippolytus recognized 22 books (A.D. 170-235). The New Testament books receiving the most controversy were Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 John, and 3 John. The first “canon” was the Muratorian Canon, which was compiled in A.D. 170. The Muratorian Canon included all of the New Testament books except Hebrews, James, and 3 John. In A.D. 363, the Council of Laodicea stated that only the Old Testament (along with the Apocrypha) and the 27 books of the New Testament were to be read in the churches. The Council of Hippo (A.D. 393) and the Council of Carthage (A.D. 397) also affirmed the same 27 books as authoritative. Source.

The fact that disagreements arose among various disparate and fragmented groups in the Christian world later on as to what were true NT scripture; and the Christians eventually converged on what historically had been recognized as true NT scripture; is neither here nor there. The Catholic Church's stance is like someone compiling and publishing the complete works of William Shakespeare; and then claiming that he “wrote Shakespeare,” or “gave us Shakespeare;” and that no one else has the right to lay claim to Shakespeare apart from him!


Anonymous said...

Come on back to Catholic Answers. I have a question for you. (BTW - I was Catholic, became a card-carrying Mormon 1990-1999, and back to the Catholic Church.)



Anonymous said...

Well, however Joe Smith came to believe there was an apostacy is irrelevant. The fact remains that he supposedly was told by God that there was, and started a church on that belief. The premis that there was an apostacy is still the basis of your church. you still haven't supplied the actual accusation of this supposed "apostacy".

Secondly, The bible was written by the first chritians, which were converts FROM JUDAISM.These apostles of Christ were the early Church, which became known as "Catholic" only in the year 104AD, because the Pope at the time recognized that the Church had grown to worldwide status, and was now Catholic-or "Universal". We as Catholics say that the bible was written by catholics only in the sense that we are still the body of believers that Jesus Himself inspired to write the scriptures.

Thirdly, we as christians have NOT come together on what is scripture, since King James took seven books out of the bible that did not suit him. We left them in! Also, the Jews took out some of their scripture after the complete bible was written.

Brother Dan Mac

Anonymous said...

For the record, in the last post King James should be Martin Luther.