Saturday, April 22, 2017

What is Wrong With This Talk by RC Sproul?

The subject of his talk is the Reformed doctrine of “justification by faith alone”. In it he gives a fair assessment of both the Catholic as well as the Reformed understanding of the subject. He tells us how Catholics understand it; he tells us how Calvinists and Reformed theologians understand it. But he fails to give us a correct assessment of how the Bible understands it or teaches it.

As we listen to his talk, we find that there is one word that is conspicuously absent from it (and which is central to the biblical doctrine); it is the word repentance! The biblical teaching is all about repentance. Repentance is absolutely pivotal to the biblical doctrine—but totally absent from his. In the Bible repentance takes the center stage:

Matthew 4:

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Matthew 12:

41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.

Mark 6:

12 And they went out, and preached that men should repent.

Luke 5:

32 I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Luke 13:

3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

Luke 15:

7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

Luke 24:

47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

Acts 2:

38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Acts 17:

30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:

Acts 20:

20 And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house,
21 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

Acts 26:

19 Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:
20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

Romans 2:

4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

2 Peter 3:

9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Revelation 2:

5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; …

Revelation 3:

19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

That is how the Bible teaches the subject. The biblical doctrine is never about faith alone, but faith followed by repentance. Strangely however, it finds absolutely no place in his teaching. No mention whatsoever, not even a whisper. Why Calvinists so hate the word repentance, are scared to death of repentance, and want to keep it out of sight and out of mind as much as possible—when it is so pivotal to the biblical doctrine—is for them to answer.

Another interesting question this raises for Calvinists is, What does it mean to repent? They often try to get themselves off the hook when pressed over that issue by saying it means to “change your mind!” But that is not the biblical definition. The biblical definition is to stop sinning. Jesus came, “not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). Likewise, “joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance” (Luke 15:7).

In the Old Testament, the word “repent” is often used to mean to change your mind. When it talks about God “repenting” for example, it means God changing his mind. But in the New Testament context, the word is used to mean to stop sinning. It means to stop doing what is wrong, and start doing what is right. John the Baptist explains how:

Luke 3:

7 Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
8 Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
9 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit [of repentance] is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
10 And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then [to repent]?
11 He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.
12 Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do [to repent]?
13 And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you.
14 And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do [to repent]? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.

The biblical doctrine is that faith must be followed by repentance to bring about justification, sanctification, remission of sins, and salvation; and to “repent” means to stop sinning, and bringing fruits worthy of repentance. It is never faith alone. While it is true that the word “repent” in the Old Testament is often used to mean “change your mind,” the New Testament concept of repentance (meaning to stop sinning) is never absent from the Old Testament either. Isaiah 1:16–20; Jeremiah 7:1–7; Ezekiel 18; 33:1–20; Daniel 4:27 are typical examples.

Another thing that Calvinists like to say is that if you have genuine faith, “works” follows your faith automatically. If it doesn’t, that means that your faith was not genuine! The answer to that is, If works follows faith automatically, why then does the Bible keep telling people to do the works? Why does it keep telling them to repent, to do good, to do what is right, to keep God’s commandments, and to bring forth “fruit worthy of repentance”? Why doesn’t it just tell them to “believe,” and leave it at that?

Another thing that Calvinists say is that “faith” and “repentance” are also gifts of God. You can’t have them unless God gives them to you. You cannot “believe” or “repent” unless God makes you to―which raises the same question again: Why does God keep telling people throughout the Bible to believe, to repent, to exercise faith, to keep God’s commandments, to do what is right, when they can’t unless he makes them to? Reformed and Calvinistic theologians and preachers are full of this kind of false doctrine.

Here is another interesting video I just found by Pastor Jim McClarty, discussing what he calls the “gospel,” but without any reference to repentance:

In it he talks about “imputation,” meaning that when we “believe,” the righteousness of Christ is “imputed” to us as if it were ours, without us needing to do anything else (i.e. without the need for repentance, while still remaining in our sins). That of course is a complete perversion of the gospel. The biblical teaching is that, “Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:3). If the the righteousness of Christ was already “imputed” to them, why would they need to “purify” themselves? And Peter tells us how they “purify themselves”:

2 Peter 1:

5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

In Calvinism repenting, purifying, virtue, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness etc. are swear words! You don’t talk about those things. That is “works!” You are damned if you do. The biblical doctrine, however, is something different. It teaches that faith followed by repentance brings about a remission of our sins. That is the effect of the Atonement. That is how we become “righteous” in the sight of God. But even after that, our work is not done. We have to continue to do what John and Peter say, until we come “unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13).

The gospel of Jesus Christ is all about doing. The Sermon on the Mount is all about doing. The entire ministry of Jesus is about doing. The Old Testament is all about doing. The New Testament is all about doing. Calvinism is all about not doing! It is diametrically the opposite of what is taught by the gospel. It turns the gospel of Jesus Christ on its head.

Faith alone is the doctrine of the devil. It is satanic. It is the very antithesis of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It goes against the very essence of it. Avoid like a plague.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Answering Albert Mohler on the Book of Mormon

I was watching the above video by Albert Mohler in which he speaks in defense of the Bible as the word of God. For the first 15 or 16 minutes he talks about “epistemology,” meaning the theory of knowledge. What does it mean to say that we “know” something? Then in the next 15 minutes he talks in defence of the Bible as the word of God—except that he does not produce much “epistemological” evidence in support of his “knowledge”. He basically says that the Bible is the word of God because it says so, which is not “epistemologically” enlightening to someone who does not share his convictions. After about 30 minutes into the video he starts contrasting the Bible with the Koran and the Book of Mormon—the latter two being examples in his judgment of “false claims” to scripture or revelation. My aim here is not to defend the Koran, but to demonstrate the flaws in his arguments​, against both the Koran as well as the Book of Mormon. At 27:30 minutes into the video he starts with the following comments (emphasis added):

“We can have absolute confidence when we talk about the 66 books of the Old and New Testament, that we identify as the canon, we are talking about these writings that the Apostle Paul testifies concerning when he says, ‘all scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.’ (2 Tim. 3:16) This is an incredible claim, because it is speaking about this word and this word alone. This is not only a positive claim about scripture, it is also a negative claim about any other claimant; any other competitor, any other supposed revelation. Now in our postmodern age this is considered extremely exclusive. This is considered intolerably objective. It is considered even in the claim of some to be essentially arbitrary. But this is not an arbitrary claim, this is a claim with evidence, this is a claim with foundation, this is a claim with reasons. Now I want us to look at some of those reasons today. We claim that this word [Bible] and this word alone is the word of God. We claim that this book [Bible] and this book alone is the enscripturated, written word of God.”

The highlighted bits are his own impositions​. They cannot be logically deduced from the statement of Paul. When Paul says, “All scripture is inspired by God,” he is not referring to the “66 books” of the Bible per se, some of which did not even exist at that time. He is referring to anything that is, can be, or will be legitimately identified as “scripture,” then or at anytime in the future. If the Book of Mormon is indeed a book of scripture, it falls into the same category. It is not a “competitor” to the Bible, or “another claimant,” but part of the same collection. Mohler then continues:

“What about the Koran? What do we say to the Muslim who says, ‘Well we have a book. In fact we have a book that is a successor to your book, a book that actually corrects your book. And this is an enscripturated revelation as well.’ The Koran states concerning itself in surah 10, verse 37, ‘This Koran is not such as can be produced by other than God. On the contrary it is a confirmation of revelation that went before it, and a full explanation of the book wherein there is no doubt from the Lord of the worlds.’ In surah, in this case in 45, verse 2 the Koran states, ‘The revelation of this book is from God, the exalted in power, full of wisdom.’ There is an explicit claim to revelation; there is no doubt about it. How do we compare Paul saying ‘all scripture is inspired by God,’ and then all of a sudden we come over to the Koran, and the Koran says, ‘Only God could have written this?’

“It is not just the Koran, is it; it is the Book of Mormon as well. In the Book of Mormon you will find this claim: ‘And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good. And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye—for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things, notwithstanding my weakness.’ (2 Nephi 33:10-11.) That is a very clear claim to divine revelation and indeed, virtually to verbal revelation. How do we set Paul’s statement, ‘All scripture—speaking of these scriptures [i.e. the Bible]—as inspired by God,’ over against the claims of the Koran, and the claims of the Book of Mormon?

“Let me suggest to you some lines of profitable thinking in this regard. The self-identifying claim of the Koran is that it was a form of dictated revelation given through an illiterate prophet by the name of Muhammad. A part of the supposedly miraculous nature of the dictation of the Koran is that Muhammad did not have the ability to write or to read, nonetheless he was the conduit through which this revelation was given. The entirety of the Koran came through this one prophet. The entirety of the experience involved was his experience. You are talking about a seventh century revelation, the textual history of which we do well understand. You are talking about a book that was basically produced with one man claiming to be the instrument through which it has come.

“In the book of Mormon a parallel. Joseph Smith in the 19th century claimed to have received this revelation through an angel. The revelation coming in a myriad forms and in a complex process that included golden plates, and stones, and special spectacles through which he could look in order to decipher such things, and write what is known as the Book of Mormon. Again, all through this one man, this one prophet, all, at one time, delivered as one book. Compare that to the Bible. The 66 books of the Bible and the Old and New Testaments as we know them were written over several centuries. Multiple authors are involved, multiple contexts and venues of writing. Multiple circumstances, multiple styles, a variety of revelatory forms testified and recorded and recited and called and set forth within this book.”

Here we need to distinguish between the Book of Mormon and the Koran, because they claim to be different kinds of revelations. The Bible is not one book of revelation​, but many. It is a compilation of many different books of scripture or revelation, written by many different prophets​ over a period of many centuries; and interestingly, so is the Book of Mormon. But that is not the case with the Koran. The Koran claims to be a single book of scripture composed by a single prophet; therefore comparing it with the Bible is wrong kind of comparison. If you want to compare the Koran with anything, you would have to compare it with one of the individual books of the Bible, like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, or Moses. When you make that kind of comparison, you will find that the objections that he raises against the Koran would be equally applicable to those individual books of the Bible. He is not comparing like with like.

The Book of Mormon, on the other hand, is something completely different. It does indeed claim to be a book of sacred history, just like the Bible. It claims to be a collection of many sacred books (or abridgements of them), written by many prophets over many centuries, spanning a period of approximately a thousand years. It has all the characteristics that he mentions of the Bible. Joseph Smith merely acted as the inspired translator of it. The fact that Mohler doesn’t believe it to be true history is irrelevant to that consideration. Thus his objections to both the Book of Mormon and the Koran are logically invalid. He continues:

“Do you understand the difference between a book that was validated by the experience of so many, and consistent revelation and consistent experience. Do you understand the difference between a book that was supposedly handed down through one prophet himself simply a passive conduit versus the biblical doctrine of verbal revelation that tell us over time God spoke to his people so that these writings took form as we are told men of old were moved by God to write these words?”

All of these objections are either irrelevant or inapplicable to the Book of Mormon or to the Koran. To the Book of Mormon they are irrelevant; to the Koran they are inapplicable. They do not invalidate either book from being books of scripture and ​a revelation from God. He continues:

“One of the testimonies to the unique status of scripture as the inspired word of God is the coherence and the consistency of the content; this incredible witness to the fact that Israel experienced the Old Testament as it was coming together, and it knew the stories, they could check this experience, the claims made in scripture were verified in the experience of Israel as Israel is living out its status both in obedience and in disobedience as the chosen people of God. The Bible deals with historic claims that were known to those who were alive at the time the claims are made. That is quite different as well. In other words there is attestation to the particular and unique status of scripture as the inspired word of God, because scripture is making claims that is contemporaneous with those who could have said, it didn’t happen that way.”

I don’t see how the Book of Mormon and the Koran are any different in that regard. The Book of Mormon claims to be a sacred history just like the Bible, possessing the same characteristics that he describes. The fact that he doesn’t believe it, is neither here nor there. He is basically saying, “I don’t believe the Book of Mormon is true history, therefore it isn’t.” That is circular reasoning. It is not a valid argument. As far as the Koran is concerned, that is not a “sacred history” at all, nor claims to be. It claims to be a one-time revelation given to one prophet in his lifetime, just like the ones given to any of the individual Old Testament prophets; and it has as much historical connectivity with its own timeframe and people as they do. He continues:

“That is not what happened! But to the contrary, this scripture [the Bible] provides for us proof of its own authenticity, by the fact that it was written over such a long period of time, through so many men moved of God, and received as the word of God by those who even had access to the events and to the persons, in so many cases as the scripture came together. This Bible is also preserved through successive generations, generations in the church and and in the experience of Israel, calamity and danger; danger both to the people of the book and to the book itself.”

All of that is equally true and applicable to the Book of Mormon, no difference. He continues:

“We know the textual history of the Bible. We don’t know everything we would like to know, but we do know this, the more we know about the textual history of the Bible the more verification we find of its status.”

We know even less about the “textual history” of the Book of Mormon; but the “textual history” of the Bible has never convinced anyone that it is the word of God. The opinions of the majority “text critics,” “higher critics,” and ​secular scholars and historians is that it is not. Further down, at 52:30 minutes into the video he makes this comment:

“There are other marks of the authenticity of the word of God [the Bible]; these marks would include its consistency, its coherence, I think one of the most compelling signs of the authenticity of the word of God is its candor. You will not find Mohamed embarrassed in the Koran. Joseph Smith is never humiliated in the Book of Mormon.”

Joseph Smith is the translator of the Book of Mormon; he is not part of the historical narrative of the Book of Mormon that he should be “embarrassed” or “humiliated” in it. Expecting Joseph Smith to be embarrassed or humiliated in the Book of Mormon, would be like expecting King James to be embarrassed or humiliated in the Bible! The Book of Mormon, however, is not the only revelation that Joseph Smith received. He was a great prophet who was commissioned by the Lord to restore God’s true Church on earth, and he received many other revelations in addition to the Book of Mormon which were contemporaneous to his own timeframe. In those revelations he has been reproved by the Lord, when he has erred and needed correction. As far as “consistency” and “coherence” are concerned, both the Book of Mormon as well as the Koran are equally self-consistent and coherent.

As far as Mohammed is concerned, as I said before, he and his work can only be compared with that of the individual prophets in the Bible; and they were not all reproved by God. Moses was, because he did something wrong; David and Solomon were, because they did something wrong; Jonah was, because he did something stupid. But not all of them were. Noah wasn’t; Abraham wasn’t; Isaiah wasn’t; Daniel wasn’t. If Mohammed is not reproved by God in the Koran, maybe that is because he didn’t do anything wrong that needed to be reproved. His claim to be a prophet is not undermined by the fact that he is not reproved by God in the Koran. 

The bottom line is that none of his objections are valid, either against the Book of Mormon, or even against the Koran. He would be far better off spending his time exhorting his congregation to “follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness,” as Paul did (1 Tim. 6:11); or to “add to [their] faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity,” as Peter did (2 Pet. 1:5–7); than to finding fault with other people’s religions. But vain hope! As a Calvinist, there is little chance of him doing that. Calvinism is anti-doing good! In Calvinism if you try to do any good, that is “works,” and you are damned!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Has Jesus Always Been God?

I was watching the above interesting lecture (the second of three Hayward lectures) given by Roger E. Olson in 2005. Roger Olson is an Evangelical theologian, who is also lucky enough not to be a Calvinist! At 47:13 minutes into the video a question is asked by a member of the audience about Mormonism which is not audible in the video; but his answer is, which is as follows:

“… of course they [Mormons] have an open canon; and that is basic to their faith, is that the canon of inspired scripture is wide open—of course not wide open, because it has to be recognized by their Apostles and the President of their Church; but they really want Evangelical Christians and other Christians to recognize them as the fourth branch of Christianity. They really don’t like to be called Mormons anymore. They are Latter-day Saints, and they are playing up their Christian roots and heritage as Christians. So they are inviting people of all different Christian traditions to come to Brigham Young University annually, and to engage with them in dialogue, to listen to their papers, and they listen to our papers, and it is a tough dialogue, very open and very honest.

“They asked me last year at the end of the conference, ‘Well, do you think we are Christians?’ That is a tough one when you are asked that by someone. I said, ‘What do you believe about Jesus Christ, is he God?’ Now the World Council of Churches as you may know requires any denomination that wants to join it to affirm that Jesus Christ is God and Savior. And that is why certain denominations I could name aren’t members of the World Council of Churches—the Unification Church, the Unitarian Universalist churches, and so forth. So even the World Council of Churches says, You have to believe Jesus is God and Savior. Now from there you can interpret it a lot of different ways; but you have to start there with us to be Christians. So I said, ‘What do you believe about Jesus Christ, is he God?’ They said, ‘Yes!’ Oh, Good! Then I said, ‘But has he always been God?’ And they said, ‘No!’ And I said, well that is a problem for me, to think of a God who hasn’t always been God. I am not that open to that kind of radical reconstruction of the whole Christian story, and identification of God, and so forth. So I think they got my message. Though I accept that they may have a relationship with God that is salvific, that is not mine to judge. As a Christian theologian I am not at the place yet where I can call their Church a Christian Church. And they accepted that very graciously, and said we will invite you back for more talks later!”

Unfortunately he has been given wrong advice by his Mormon friends at BYU. Mormon theology is determined by Mormon scripture, not by BYU academics; and Mormon scripture teaches that Jesus Christ is not only God, but eternally so:

Book of Mormon Title page:

… And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.

2 Nephi 26:

12 And as I spake concerning the convincing of the Jews, that Jesus is the very Christ, it must needs be that the Gentiles be convinced also that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God;

Mosiah 3:

5 For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, …

Mosiah 16:

15 Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, who is the very Eternal Father. Amen.

Alma 11:

39 And Amulek said unto him: Yea, he is the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth, and all things which in them are; he is the beginning and the end, the first and the last;

The Book of Mormon affirms and attests to the divinity of Jesus Christ far more clearly, comprehensively and unambiguously than the Bible does. Such explicit attestations in the New Testament are sparse; but not so in the Book of Mormon:

1 Nephi 19:

10 And the God of our fathers, who were led out of Egypt, out of bondage, and also were preserved in the wilderness by him, yea, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, yieldeth himself, according to the words of the angel, as a man, into the hands of wicked men, …

2 Nephi 10:

3 Wherefore, as I said unto you, it must needs be expedient that Christ—for in the last night the angel spake unto me that this should be his name—should come among the Jews, among those who are the more wicked part of the world; and they shall crucify him—for thus it behooveth our God, and there is none other nation on earth that would crucify their God.

Mosiah 7:

27 And because he said unto them that Christ was the God, the Father of all things, and said that he should take upon him the image of man, and it should be the image after which man was created in the beginning; or in other words, he said that man was created after the image of God, and that God should come down among the children of men, and take upon him flesh and blood, and go forth upon the face of the earth

Mosiah 27:

31 Yea, every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess before him. Yea, even at the last day, when all men shall stand to be judged of him, then shall they confess that he is God; then shall they confess, who live without God in the world, that the judgment of an everlasting punishment is just upon them; and they shall quake, and tremble, and shrink beneath the glance of his all-searching eye.

3 Nephi 11:

14 Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.

Either 3:

17 And now, as I, Moroni, said I could not make a full account of these things which are written, therefore it sufficeth me to say that Jesus showed himself unto this man in the spirit, even after the manner and in the likeness of the same body even as he showed himself unto the Nephites.
18 And he ministered unto him even as he ministered unto the Nephites; and all this, that this man might know that he was God, because of the many great works which the Lord had showed unto him.

It is the Bible in fact that refers to Jesus Christ as a created being, and one who had a beginning:

Colossians 1:

15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:

Revelation 3:

14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;

Not only that, but the Bible affirms that Jesus is subordinate to the Father, and makes the Father the God of Jesus Christ:

John 14:

28 Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.

John 20:

17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

Romans 15:

6 That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 11:

31 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not.

Ephesians 1:

2 Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
• • •
17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:

Ephesians 5:

20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;

Colossians 1:

2 To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,

1 Peter 1:

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

In these verses the Trinity is portrayed as three Gods, one of whom is God of the other two, which contradicts the traditional Christian doctrine of the Trinity. In the Bible we have three Gods, one of whom is God over the other two. So it looks like it is the Bible that the Evangelicals have a problem with, not Mormonism.

The folks at BYU don’t know how to answer these guys. They have some way to go before they can do that. One of the mistakes they make is that they always assume the defensive position, and allow the critics to take the initiative. They don’t take the initiative to take the fight into the other side’s turf. Instead of asking Roger Olson (or anybody else) “Do you think we are Christians?” why not go on the offensive, and ask how they justify themselves to be Christians! If the doctrine of the Trinity determines who is and who is not a Christian, and their doctrine of the Trinity turns out to be unbiblical, illogical and false (which it is, as shown here), then perhaps the real question is not whether Mormons are Christians or not, but whether they are Christians or not!

Calvinism in particular is full of theological holes, some of which has already been exposed in my recent blog posts. They can take advantage of that to put them on the defensive. Calvinism is not only unchristian, it is anti-Christian. Biblical Christianity is all about doing good. Calvinism is all about not doing good! In Calvinism, doing good is a sin! Calvinism is about “faith alone”—no works! If you attempt to do “works,” you are dead! Calvinism is the direct opposite of biblical Christianity and the gospel of Jesus Christ. If Mormons don’t know how to put Calvinists on the defensive, they are doing something wrong.

To be able to successfully defeat the critics, the Mormon academics need to equip themselves with two things. First, they need to have a good grasp of traditional Christian theology, which they often don’t. They don’t know its weaknesses or its strengths. It has strengths as well as weaknesses. They can benefit from its strengths, while at the same time exposing its weaknesses. And they won’t be able to do that if they are going to dismiss everything as Greek philosophy (which is what they have done in the past). They also need to familiarize themselves with basic theological terms which they sometimes misunderstand. Secondly, they need to have a good grasp of true Mormon theology as derived directly from Mormon scripture, which they can only do by acquiring an in-depth knowledge of that scripture. Relying on the writings of others like Bruce R. McConkie or Blake Ostler and the like won’t do it.

Another thing that LDS academics can do to defeat their critics is to exploit the divisions that exist among them. The critics are not all united among themselves in their theology. The Baptist churches in the US (who have often been the most vocal critics of Mormonism) are riven with factionalism and theological disagreements among themselves, especially between the “traditionalist” wing and the “Calvinist” wing, with wide variations in between. Paul exploited the divisions that existed between the Pharisees and the Sadducees to his own advantage (Acts 23:6-10), and Mormons can do the same.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

“Who in the World is Dumb Enough to Believe that You Would Be Like God!”

That is the question that Steve Lawson asks in the above sermon at around 45:57 minutes into the video. He is commenting on Genesis 3:5, which is as follows:

Genesis 3:

5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

And adds this comment:

“You say, Who in the world is dumb enough to believe that, that you would be like God?” 

The answer to that is, Apparently God is!

Genesis 3:

22 And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

So he thinks that God is dumb! Fair enough. I hadn’t expected anything better than that from him. I wonder who else it is that he thinks is dumb, apart from God? Well, you don’t have to wait too long to find out. He continues:

“Oh, first of all the Mormons! …”

They always have to throw a barb or two at the Mormons, don’t they! Well, I have got bad news for him. God and Mormons are not the only ones who are dumb enough to believe that. All the early Christians believed it as well. See this post for lots of quotes and examples. Perhaps the reason why he doesn’t is because he believes in an apostate religion which apostatized a long time ago, and lost the belief that all the early Christians had. I wonder who has been proved to be the dumb guy now, him or God?

Further down he raises the same objection to the Catholic Church, which teaches the same doctrine in the Catechism—oblivious to how pervasive this doctrine was in the early Christian church. Here is a list of their names who taught this doctrine:

Ignatius, Justin, Irenaeus, Theophilus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus, Novatian, Origen, Cyprian, Methodius, Lactantius, Athanasius, Hilary of Poitiers, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory Nazianzen, Basil, Ephraim the Syrian, Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, Hilary of Arles, John Chrysostom, Mark the Ascetic, Aphrahat.

For their teachings see the above link. Were they all wrong, and he is right? If Augustine and Athanasius were wrong, how can Calvinism be right, which uses them as their source of theology? Augustine certainly was wrong about a lot of things; but that was not one of them.

Monday, April 3, 2017

How Calvinists Distort the Bible to Promote their False Doctrines

I was watching the above sermon by John MacArthur, which is the second of a two-part series which he preached at the 2003 National Conference of the Ligonier Ministries. (The first one can be seen here.) The sermons contain many doctrinal and theological errors, as well as scriptural misinterpretations​ that would take too long to discuss at length. I am going to pick one example to comment on, which is his interpretation of what Paul says in his second epistle to Timothy. The passage of scripture is as follows (emphasis added): 

2 Timothy 2:

19 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.
20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.
21 If a man therefore purge himself from these [iniquities], he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.
22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

Here Paul is admonishing Timothy to purge himself of evil, and to follow righteousness, so that he might become a vessel of honor, instead of being a vessel of dishonor. He is advising him that being a vessel of honor is better than being a vessel of dishonor; and he is showing him how he can do that. He is telling him that he can do that by departing from iniquity, and purging himself of evil, and following righteousness. That is how he can be a vessel of honor, instead of being a vessel of dishonor. Paul is advising him to be the first, not the second; and is showing him how

At 34:38 minutes into the video John MacArthur comments on this passage, and turns it on its head! He puts the opposite spin on it. He interprets it to mean that being a vessel of dishonor is the right state to be in, and that we should not aspire to be anything else. This is what he says (emphasis added):

“This idea [of being a vessel of dishonor] is extended in 2 Timothy 2:20 where Paul says, In a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but vessels of wood and earthenware, and some are to honor and some to dishonor. A house has some vessels: gold, silver vessels you serve the food on, that is to honor. It has other vessels that you take the result of eating out in, dishonor, and that is what the clay post were used for. The apostle Paul says, Look, we have the glory of God in a privy pot. That is how low it goes. Don’t overestimate your importance.”

In other words, in his theology being a vessel of dishonor is the right state to be in; don’t attempt to change it! That is what man is intended to be, according to him, and is meant to stay that way. A Calvinist evidently is someone who aspires to be a vessel of dishonor. That is the right place for him to be in. That is how John MacArthur interprets the advice of Paul. Well, if Calvinists think that it is God’s will that they should be vessels of dishonor rather than vessels of honor, who am I to argue. I wouldn’t want to begrudge them all the dishonor they want. And if he further thinks that Luther was a vessel of dishonor (and takes pride in it, which he apparently does), I wouldn’t argue with that either. He can add Calvin to the mix for all I care. But I suggest they don’t call it Christianity—not according to Paul. A Christian according to Paul is someone who aspires to be a vessel of honor, not a vessel of dishonor. They can call that Calvinism—no arguments—just not Christianity, according to Paul.

What I like to know is what kind of people are they who would go and listen to this kind of trash, applaud and make him smile, and go home believing that they have been instructed. Well did Jesus say: “Wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat … and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Mat. 7:13–14.)