Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
No Dividing Line: the "Big Announcement" Rescheduled for January 10th
12/31/2007 - James WhiteJust a quick note to say we need some more time to get everything organized and ready for the "big announcement.". Since I will be away the next week we will hopefully have enough time to have everything finalized by the 10th. Make sure to be listening then! So we won't be doing a DL on 1/1. Next DL will be 1/10/08! I will do my best to try to do at least some blogging this week, but it will be difficult due to my schedule.
Top Ten "Christian" Stories of 2007
12/31/2007 - James WhiteI was looking over the top ten stories in the "Christian" world according to CT. Some were probably not even noticed by most in post-evangelicalism, such as the civil war in the Anglican communion over homosexuality. The Robinson ordination was big news, but the resultant fully appropriate reaction by Christians in the denomination hasn't gotten quite as much notice. Persecution is noted in a couple of stories, but not nearly as much as it really should be. I personally don't find the political stories at all relevant from an eternal viewpoint.
But of course what brought me to the list was the 8th story:
8. Francis Beckwith returns to CatholicismI at least agree with the use of the term "returns," for in the weeks that followed one of the main issues that cropped up, at least in my reading and listening, was his repeated assertion that when it came to natural law, grace, the will of man, etc., Beckwith had never left. And so some---ok, very few, but some---have hopefully seen the important lesson in the Beckwith saga: there is a foundational context to the doctrines of the Reformation, a bedrock level of beliefs we might say, that, if missing, leaves one's profession of these doctrines empty and shallow, and more easily abandoned. Combining Rome's doctrines of revelation, grace, and the will of man, with the Reformation's sola gratia and sola fide results in an (all too common) hybrid faith that is internally inconsistent and incapable of serious examination. In other words, again, "Theology matters." When one then surveys the post-evangelical landscape and realizes that a majority of those contained within that huge category have no clue what the real issues were at the Reformation, let alone how those issues remain front and center today, the state of that conglomeration of humanity is all the more clearly seen.
No doubt many Protestants convert to the Roman Catholic Church every day. But most aren't serving as president of the Evangelical Theological Society, as Beckwith was when he returned to the faith in which he was raised.
One story that surely did not make the top ten, and deservedly so, was that I preached both services, and the adult Bible Study class, at PRBC yesterday; AM Bible Study on John 6, moving into the section so grossly abused by Roman Catholics (mentioned Steve Ray's doing so in passing); Sunday AM sermon was on having as our ambition to be pleasing to the Lord, and the evening service was a survey of 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12, all found here.
Why Elijah Did Not Teach in Seminary
12/30/2007 - James WhiteI will be teaching a seminary level class on Islam for the Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary starting in late January here in the Phoenix area. I have been teaching for GGBTS at various of their campuses since 1995. I have taught Greek, Greek Exegesis, Hebrew, Hebrew Exegesis, Systematic Theology, Christology, Philosophy of Religion, Special Studies in Patristics, and a wide variety of apologetics topics. I mention this only to establish that I have some experience, anyway, in the academic spectrum. I know the forces that lead people away from a bold, authoritative proclamation of God's truth in Christianity. But recognizing the forces does not excuse the result.
When Elijah encountered the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18) he did not engage in the "interdisciplinary approach" to relations with the religion of Baal. He obviously had missed the most up-to-date academic discussions on how to handle the situation he faced. He should have studied the devotional practices of the various cultic manifestations of Baal worship. Then he should have scheduled annual meetings, where the faculty of Baal Young University could come visit him and have discussions about all the things they shared in common. He didn't need to worry about what the prophets of Baal said, since that would make him way too "textually oriented." He would do well to see past all that. At least, if I'm understanding Paul Owen correctly, that's the case:
I think what frustrates a lot of people regarding these issues is that too many critics of the Mormon Church get hung up on the language Mormons use to speak of the Trinity, and analyze that entirely in isolation from the actual devotional patterns of Mormon worship. Any open-minded observation of Mormon worship practices, as seen in their hymns, their scriptures (especially the Book of Mormon), and their speech patterns in prayer and praise, make it clear that they ascribe to Jesus Christ the very sort of reverence which the Bible calls for with respect to adoration of the one true God. What sympathetic critics like McDermott and Blomberg are trying to do is, through dialogue, to encourage LDS thinkers and intellectual trend setters to bring their theological language more into conformity to their actual devotional practices.Elijah missed this memo, and started off,
Elijah came near to all the people and said, "How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him." But the people did not answer him a word. (1 Kings 18:21)I don't know about you, but it seems that Elijah did not think there was a middle ground on this matter of God. If many in our modern world are understanding things correctly, Elijah should have encouraged these priests of Baal to consider growing in the consistency of their actual devotional practices and their theological language. And then, maybe, over the decades, they could be moved a little closer to true worship, etc., until, maybe, a few generations down the road, maybe they would become true worshippers of Yahweh! Maybe. Instead, he seems to think that you call false worship idolatry and call idolaters to repentance (1 Kings 18:40 would definitely seem to point that way).
Of course, I find Owen's comments incredible, for many reasons. Owen is a "former Mormon" (though, the fact that he has done more to destroy biblical outreach to Mormons than any other single person in the past decade or so would lead many to wonder just how the term "former" should be understood), and he is well known on this blog (though we haven't mentioned him in quite a while). What is so amazing is that the devotional practice of Mormonism involves the endowment ceremonies of the LDS church, which, as anyone knows, is fully polytheistic in its presentations. I guess Owen would like to re-interpret those, too, but the fact remains that one is left stuttering when one reads his thinking.
Now, I noted Owen's words because they appear on the blog of one writer named Aquinas who, as you can see from the blog article noted above, reads this blog regularly. The entry from which I cited Owen shows great familiarity with the discussions that have taken place on this blog regarding Mormonism as well as Roman Catholicism. One of his statements that struck me is as follows:
As I’ve reflected on the tension with traditional apologetic approaches and more dialogue-centered approaches between Evangelicals and Mormons, I’ve been struck with the text-centered nature of traditional apologetic methodologies.How odd that we would actually take the direct words of the leaders of the LDS Church at face value! I didn't know that writing down what the leaders of Mormonism teach in Conference, etc., means that those words are somehow disconnected from the "devotion" of Mormonism; and how the endowment ceremonies can be separated from the "devotional life" of Mormonism is completely beyond me as well. But in any case, this is the kind of rhetoric that is causing so much confusion in post-evangelicalism and its inability to even tell the difference between the Christian faith and a polytheistic religion.
Just in passing, one of the sharpest Mormons I ever encountered while passing out tracts in Salt Lake City, Alma Allred, was Jason Wallace's guest Wednesday night on the Ancient Paths program. Listen in! Alma even attended a study I did (as I recall) on Galatians 1:6-10 years and years ago here in Phoenix. When I first saw Alma on this video, I went, "Wow, Alma has become one of the Three Nephites!" Of course, while Alma's hair has become snow white, mine is gone, so he wins that contest.
An Interesting Conversation in #prosapologian on a Saturday Afternoon
12/29/2007 - James White···I was working in my office this afternoon, preparing sermons for church tomorrow, when someone with the nick "Muslm" joined our channel. I have taken out some of the channel banter that was not relevant, the joins/parts, etc., so here is the conversation that followed:
[15:15] * Muslm has joined #prosapologian
[15:15] [DrOakley] Hello Muslm.
[15:16] [Muslm] DrOakley, Hi :]
[15:16] [DrOakley] ~yus Surah 4:157
[15:16] [Gutenberg^] Surah 4:157 That they said (in boast), "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Apostle of Allah";- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) know ledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:- (YUS)
[15:16] [DrOakley] So, Muslm...do you believe in the substitution theory relating to Surah 4:157?
[15:17] [Muslm] DrOakley, I preach Islam on DalNet and UnderNet. Debating with other faiths. someone reffered me to you :)
[15:17] [DrOakley] That's nice.
[15:17] [DrOakley] Do you believe in the substitution theory relating to Surah 4:157?
[15:17] [Muslm] DrOakley, Of course; I believe the Quran 100%
[15:17] [DrOakley] But...that's not what I asked you. :-)
[15:18] [Muslm] DrOakley, Quran is Holy and 100% pure as it was downloaded word-to-word. Quran is a Dictated word of God
[15:18] [DrOakley] There are Muslims who say they believe the Qur'an 100% who do not believe in the substitution theory. ...
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Joel Osteen, Stuart Smalley, and the Secret Compared
12/29/2007 - James WhiteLane (a regular in our channel) found this video on YouTube. I don't know who bezel333 is, but I appreciate the work that went into this. It is striking.
Update: Evidently "The Secret" folks complained to YouTube and scuttled this fine video (what do you expect from folks scamming folks like they are?). So here's a link that can take you to the video.
Tradition Glasses, Again! (Brief Update Added)
12/29/2007 - James WhiteI was catching up, as best I can before heading back out on the road soon, with my RSS feeds, and I couldn't help but notice Dave Armstrong, who has decided recently to try his hand at church history, taking a shot at the Athanasius Problem. You see, the great bishop of Alexandria is a constant problem for Roman Catholics who wish to portray the early church as if it thought, spoke, and believed, as modern Rome. There is this really big problem about Athanasius' decades long rejection of council after council, bishop after bishop, in standing for the full and uncompromised deity of Christ. The thinking person realizes that this mindset just does not fit well with modern Roman Catholic theories of papal primacy and the like. In any case, Mr. Armstrong recently published yet another book, this time addressing the subject of church history. I had obtained the e-text version of the work, looked through it, and realized that with my current studies and challenges, going back over all the egregious abuses of the early writers represented by Armstrong was surely not worth my while. Someone else with much more time and interest would find an inexhaustible source of classic Roman Catholic anachronism in this work. But as I noted, I happened upon just one quote in this blog entry while clearing my RSS feed lists. It reads:
They pretend that he taught sola Scriptura, or at any rate, something more closely akin to it than the Catholic "three-legged stool" rule of faith (Bible-Tradition-Church). But Athanasius was a good Catholic. I shall now list ten different areas where St. Athanasius thought very much like a Catholic and very unlike how Protestants approach things. The excerpts are from my book, The Church Fathers Were Catholic: Patristic Evidences for Catholicism (excepting the Deuterocanonical section):So I popped open my edition of Athanasius and read the context, and could not help but chuckle. Here, read it for yourself, and remember, let Athanasius define terms rather than Dave Armstrong, or the conflicts of our century:
. . . inventors of unlawful heresies, who indeed refer to the Scriptures, but do not hold such opinions as the saints have handed down, and receiving them as the traditions of men, err, because they do not rightly know them nor their power. (Festal Letter 2:6)
4. Now those who do not observe the feast, continue such as these even to the present day, feigning indeed and devising names of feasts, but rather introducing days of mourning than of gladness; `For there is no peace to the wicked, saith the Lord.' And as Wisdom saith, `Gladness and joy are taken from their mouth.' Such are the feasts of the wicked. But the wise servants of the Lord, who have truly put on the man which is created in God, have received gospel words, and reckon as a general commandment that given to Timothy, which saith, `Be thou an example to the believers in word, in conversation, in love, in faith, in purity.' So well do they keep the Feast, that even the unbelievers, seeing their order, may say, `God is with them of a truth.' For as he who receives an apostle receives Him who sent him, so he who is a follower of the saints, makes the Lord in every respect his end and aim, even as Paul, being a follower of Him, goes on to say, `As I also of Christ.' For there were first our Saviour's own words, who from the height of His divinity, when conversing with His disciples, said, `Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest to your souls.' Then too when He poured water into a basin, and girded Himself with a towel, and washed His disciples' feet, He said to them, `Know what I have done. Ye call Me Master and Lord, and ye say well, for so I am. If therefore I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another's feet: for I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, ye also should do.'...
5. Oh! my brethren, how shall we admire the loving-kindness of the Saviour? With what power, and with what a trumpet should a man cry out, exalting these His benefits! That not only should we bear His image, but should receive from Him an example and pattern of heavenly conversation; that as He hath begun, we should go on, that suffering, we should not threaten, being reviled, we should not revile again, but should bless them that curse, and in everything commit ourselves to God who judgeth righteously. For those who are thus disposed, and fashion themselves according to the Gospel, will be partakers of Christ, and imitators of apostolic conversation, on account of which they shall be deemed worthy of that praise from him, with which he praised the Corinthians, when he said, `I praise you that in everything ye are mindful of me.' Afterwards, because there were men who used his words, but chose to hear them as suited their lusts, and dare to pervert them, as the followers of Hymenaeus and Alexander, and before them the Sadducees, who as he said, `having made shipwreck of faith,' scoffed at the mystery of the resurrection, he immediately proceeded to say, `And as I have delivered to you traditions, hold them fast.' That means, indeed, that we should think not otherwise than as the teacher has delivered.
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The McLellin Papers Revealed
12/28/2007 - James WhiteBig news in the world of Mormonism as Signature Books has released The William E. McLellin Papers 1854-1880). This major work contains a collection of writings once considered legendary. McLellin was an early convert to Mormonism who left when he saw the major changes in teaching and theology taking place in Joseph Smith. I have ordered the work, but one comment on the work found here caught my attention: "He writes of never hearing the story of Smith’s 'first vision,' the visit by God and Jesus Christ to a young, prayerful Smith in a grove of trees that led to the church’s founding in New York state." I will wish to quote this in full once I receive the work, for this is very telling. I have maintained for years that the version of the First Vision found today is clearly the end result of a very easily challenged process of evolution, and that Joseph Smith was not going about telling the story in the early years of Mormonism. In fact, Smith was still a monotheist, if even a confused one, in those years, and the entire concept of a plurality of Gods did not develop until the mid 1830s, the very time when McLellin left. So I look forward to posting his actual comments on this, as it will just be further evidence that Joseph Smith saw no one in a grove of trees in the spring of 1820, and Smith was surely not a prophet of God.
Who Was One Of The Best Scholars at Trent, And What Did He Think Of The Apocrypha?
12/28/2007 - James SwanFor Roman Catholics, the Council of Trent made the official pronouncement on the canon of Scripture, and in that pronouncement determined the apocrypha was sacred Scripture. What criteria did Trent use to determine which books of the Bible were canonical? Some of the answers I’ve been given are, "Trent did not determine the canon, they simply reaffirmed the canon," and "The Holy Spirit determined the outcome of Trent by His presence among this infallible council."
I’d like to take a look at the second answer. Now, is the Holy Spirit another way of saying “the majority vote”? If so, where does this precedent come from? Does “the majority vote” go against the opinions of the best scholars at the Council of Trent? What if those who were considered some of the best scholars on the canon at the Council of Trent thought the apocryphal books were not Scripture?
There was a group of scholars at the Council of Trent that were considered fairly knowledgeable on this issue. One particular was Cardinal Seripando. The Roman Catholic historian (and expert on Trent) Hubert Jedin explained “he was aligned with the leaders of a minority that was outstanding for its theological scholarship” at the Council of Trent.
Jedin is worth quoting at length:
“[Seripando was] Impressed by the doubts of St. Jerome, Rufinus, and St. John Damascene about the deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament, Seripando favored a distinction in the degrees of authority of the books of the Florentine canon. The highest authority among all the books of the Old Testament must be accorded those which Christ Himself and the apostles quoted in the New Testament, especially the Psalms. But the rule of citation in the New Testament does not indicate the difference of degree in the strict sense of the word, because certain Old Testament books not quoted in the New Testament are equal in authority to those quoted. St. Jerome gives an actual difference in degree of authority when he gives a higher place to those books which are adequate to prove a dogma than to those which are read merely for edification. The former, the protocanonical books, are "libri canonici et authentici"; Tobias, Judith, the Book of Wisdom, the books of Esdras, Ecclesiasticus, the books of the Maccabees, and Baruch are only "canonici et ecclesiastici" and make up the canon morum in contrast to the canon fidei. These, Seripando says in the words of St. Jerome, are suited for the edification of the people, but they are not authentic, that is, not sufficient to prove a dogma. Seripando emphasized that in spite of the Florentine canon the question of a twofold canon was still open and was treated as such by learned men in the Church. Without doubt he was thinking of Cardinal Cajetan, who in his commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews accepted St. Jerome's view which had had supporters throughout the Middle Ages.”
Source: Hubert Jedin, Papal Legate At The Council Of Trent (St Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1947), pp. 270-271.
“For the last time [Seripando] expressed his doubts [to the Council of Trent] about accepting the deuterocanonical books into the canon of faith. Together with the apostolic traditions the so-called apostolic canons were being accepted, and the eighty-fifth canon listed the Book of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) as non-canonical. Now, he said, it would be contradictory to accept, on the one hand, the apostolic traditions as the foundation of faith and, on the other, to directly reject one of them.”
Source: Hubert Jedin, Papal Legate At The Council Of Trent (St Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1947), p. 278.
Jedin also documents a group of excellent scholars that stood against “tradition” as being on the same level of authority as scripture:
“In his opposition to accepting the Florentine canon and the equalization of traditions with Holy Scripture, Seripando did not stand alone. In the particular congregation of March 23, the learned Dominican Bishop Bertano of Fano had already expressed the view that Holy Scripture possessed greater authority than the traditions because the Scriptures were unchangeable; that only offenders against the biblical canon should come under the anathema, not those who deny the principle of tradition; that it would be unfortunate if the Council limited itself to the apostolic canons, because the Protestants would say that the abrogation of some of these traditions was arbitrary and represented an abuse… Another determined opponent of putting traditions on a par with Holy Scripture, as well as the anathema, was the Dominican Nacchianti. The Servite general defended the view that all the evangelical truths were contained in the Bible, and he subscribed to the canon of St. Jerome, as did also Madruzzo and Fonseca on April 1. While Seripando abandoned his view as a lost cause, Madruzzo, the Carmelite general, and the Bishop of Agde stood for the limited canon, and the bishops of Castellamare and Caorle urged the related motion to place the books of Judith, Baruch, and Machabees in the "canon ecclesiae." From all this it is evident that Seripando was by no means alone in his views. In his battle for the canon of St. Jerome and against the anathema and the parity of traditions with Holy Scripture, he was aligned with the leaders of a minority that was outstanding for its theological scholarship.”
Source: Hubert Jedin, Papal Legate At The Council Of Trent (St Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1947), pp. 281-282.
Today on the Dividing Line: Nadir Ahmed: Reviewed and Challenged
12/27/2007 - James WhiteToday I reviewed many of the (at times outrageous) claims of Islamic apologist Nadir Ahmed, the same gentleman who appeared at my church Sunday evening. In the middle of the program I did take one call, however, from our LDS friend Pierre, who wished to discuss the series of articles I have done recenlty on the LDS concept of Jesus as "the only begotten of the Father in the flesh." I concluded the program (it went almost 8 minutes long) with a challenge to Nadir Ahmed to debate two topics, one in which I would defend, one in which he would: I will defend the NT against his allegations of wholesale corruption, and I am challenging him to defend the Qur'an's denial of the crucifixion in Surah 4:157. We will see what develops! Here's the program (free/high quality).
Tradition Glasses Documented Again
12/27/2007 - James WhiteI have been teaching through the Gospels at PRBC for a number of years now, mainly focusing on the Synoptics. But I covered John 5 recently, so I felt it appropriate to cover chapter six as well. In the process of teaching exegetically through the text, I happened to notice that Stephen K. Ray has a book out titled, St. John's Gospel: a Bible Study Guide and Commentary from Ignatius Press. My curiosity was overwhelming. It arrived on Christmas Eve, along with Ben Witherington's commentary on Philemon, Colossians and Ephesians.
Now, I truly was not expecting a serious exegetical commentary from Mr. Ray, so I was not disappointed on that score, anyway. But I was really interested in seeing if Ray at least tries to provide some kind of commentary on the actual flow of the argument in John 6, or if he would just "it's all about the Eucharist" the text and skip right past its actual meaning. True to form, the key transition statement, the entire concept of the sovereign election of God, etc., is passed over without even an acknowledgement of the issues raised. This is all we find:
9. According to verses 37-39, what did Jesus come to do? What is the will of God? How did John previously introduce his readers to the Resurrection (Jn. 2:18-22, Jn 11, and Jn 20; cf. notes on Jn 5, pp. 131-32)? Look ahead at verses 44, 54. How are "heavenly food" and resurrection related?That's it. Nothing more. The thick glasses of human tradition are firmly in place, and the words, and their meaning, filtered out.
I note in passing that I glanced at Witherington's comments on election in Ephesians 1 and found the very same kind of problem there (not surprising, given that Arminians and Roman Catholics, despite their differences, stand hand-in-hand with one another on the issues of grace and the will of man). The witness to individual election, found in the fact that it is we, not Christ, who are the direct objects of God's actions, are passed over through the facile explanation of "corporate election," despite there being not a wit of evidence in the text itself to support the contention. Possibly more on this in a later discussion.
The Ancient Paths - Christ Presbyterian Church
12/26/2007 - James WhiteI was informed today that Jason Wallace of Christ Presbyterian Church in Salt Lake (the man behind all of the debates we did up there over the years) has begun a television program that might be of interest to our readers. In fact, tonight he will have Alma Allred on, a gentleman I have known since sometime in the 1980s as I recall, a well read and articulate Latter-day Saint. I will be most interested in what Alma has to say, especially in light of the fact that the Mormonism he presented to me over two decades ago seems to be fast fading away, and in its place a much warmer, fuzzier, more nebulous, almost gaseous, Mormonism is emerging. In any case, you might wish to check out The Ancient Paths.
Shabir Ally vs. Dave Hunt???
12/26/2007 - James WhiteAccording to the Berean Call website, Dave Hunt will be debating Shabir Ally on February 23rd at 7pm at the All Saints Catholic High School (???) in Whitby, Ontario. The title is "Christianity vs. Islam." Interestingly, this is the third of three debates Hunt is scheduled to do in only 24 hours: the first on Hinduism the night before, the second on atheism at high noon on the 23rd. I wouldn't try such a schedule at my age, which is considerably less than Dave's, simply out of respect for the audience and the requisite time in study I would have to invest to make the debates worthwhile. But I keep forgetting that Dave mastered the entire corpus of the writings of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Bucer, the Westminster Divines, etc., in only a few months, so that must be how he can do this.
I had been informed that someone was trying to arrange such a "debate," but I had hoped one of two things, or both, would happen: 1) Shabir Ally would realize that to engage in this debate would involve a violation of his own stated purposes for debating, and that Mr. Hunt lacks the background and scholarship to provide him with a meaningful debate on the topic; or, 2) Dave Hunt would realize that accepting such a challenge (if the challenge came from others, I have no way of knowing) or offering such a challenge would be utter foolishness, for Dave would take the time to listen to Shabir's presentations and realize that his approach is far outside of Dave's areas of study. Of course, that assumes Dave would take the time to seriously study Shabir's presentations, and I have no reason to believe he would do so, in light of my experiences with him over the past decade. It was also my hope that Hunt would realize that to debate Shabir Ally only proves that his refusal to debate me, despite his on-going crusade against Calvinism, is a purposeful avoidance prompted by his realization that he cannot answer the questions I would pose to him.
I am personally disappointed in Shabir Ally for accepting this challenge. I would say I am disappointed in Dave Hunt as well, but that would require me to have significantly higher expectations than my experience of late would lead me to have.
This Isn't Your Father's Mormonism: The LDS Church is Embarrassed By Its Own Theology (Part 2)
12/26/2007 - James WhiteThe LDS Church answered the next two questions submitted to them with the same words:
Q: If so, does the Church believe that God lives on a planet named Kolob?God does not live on a planet named Kolob. The Book of Abraham indicates that Kolob is the name of the star "nearest unto" God, leading most to believe that it is the star around which the planet upon which Elohim, God the Father, lives.
Q: Where is the planet Kolob? What significance does the planet have to Mormons?
A: 'Kolob' is a term found in ancient records translated by Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith did not provide a full description or explanation of Kolob nor did he assign the idea particular significance in relation to the Church’s core doctrines.
If two things exist, and there be one above the other, there shall be greater things above them; therefore Kolob is the greatest of all the Kokaubeam that thou hast seen, because it is nearest unto me. (3:16)Likewise, Kolob is mentioned in the single most embarrassing portion of LDS Scripture, the "explanations" provided by Smith of various images he inaccurately "restored" from the Egyptian funerary papyri in his possession. This is from Facsimile #2, which likewise is the source of our tract, "Min is Not God," found here. In the explanation of this Egyptian hypocephalus, a common element of funerary documents, Smith wrote:
Fig. 1. Kolob, signifying the first creation, nearest to the celestial, or the residence of God. First in government, the last pertaining to the measurement of time. The measurement according to celestial time, which celestial time signifies one day to a cubit. One day in Kolob is equal to a thousand years according to the measurement of this earth, which is called by the Egyptians Jah-oh-eh.In reality, it was obviously important enough for Smith to include it in what is actually a defense of his alleged prophethood (which is what the Book of Abraham was in its day), and if, in fact, Kolob is the very location of the physical body of the exalted man known to Mormons as Elohim, God the Father, how could this be anything less than very important indeed, a divine truth known only to those who follow Mormonism? Once again, the LDS Church seems to believe these "truths of latter-day revelation" with something less than great joy, to be sure!
Fig. 2. Stands next to Kolob, called by the Egyptians Oliblish, which is the next grand governing creation near to the celestial or the place where God resides; holding the key of power also, pertaining to other planets; as revealed from God to Abraham, as he offered sacrifice upon an altar, which he had built unto the Lord.
Q: Does the Mormon Church believe that God and Mary had physical sex to conceive Jesus?I will not invest time re-posting all the material posted recently documenting the truth on this topic. You can start that series here. Suffice it to say that this response is significantly less than forthcoming, and once again, one must wonder why, if, in fact, latter-day revelation is actually true?
A: The Church does not claim to know how Jesus was conceived but believes the Bible and Book of Mormon references to Jesus being born of the Virgin Mary.
Next, the LDS Church gave the same answer to two questions:
Q: Does the Mormon Church believe Jesus appeared in North America after his crucifixion and resurrection?One of the more accurate, if amazingly brief, responses offered. But it is important to note that there is a strong trend in Mormonism away from the historical view of Joseph Smith (i.e., that the Book of Mormon story took place all across North America) to a much more limited view that allows the Church to abandon the essence of the Smith story: that the Indians, as a whole, are the descendants of the Lamanites, and are hence of Jewish stock. We noted a few weeks ago that the LDS Church had made a statement allowing for the "Lamanite" element of the genetics of the American Indians to be just a small portion of their actual heritage, signalling that Salt Lake well knows the difficulties inherent in their historical beliefs. (continued)
Q: If so, when did this happen? And under what circumstances?
A: The appearance of Jesus in the Western Hemisphere shortly after his resurrection is described in the Book of Mormon. Mormons believe that when Christ told his disciples in the Bible He had other 'sheep' who should receive his message he was referring to those people in the Western Hemisphere.
A Christmas Message to the Followers of Islam
12/25/2007 - James WhiteI would like to take this Christmas morning to speak directly to the growing number of Islamic readers we have here on our blog. I would like to thank you for stopping by and reading what we have to say. We appreciate the opportunity of proclaiming to you the faith of Christianity, a faith that had been proclaimed for hundreds of years prior to the time of Muhammad.
You will recognize these words from the Qur'an:
1. Say: He is Allah the One and Only;Likewise,
2. Allah the Eternal Absolute;
3. He begetteth not nor is He begotten;
4. And there is none like unto Him.
And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary confirming the law that had come before him: We sent him the Gospel: therein was guidance and light and confirmation of the law that had come before him: a guidance and an admonition to those who fear Allah. (Al-Maida, 5:46)You may have even considered the third ayah of Al-Ikhlaas during the Christmas season, for assuredly its background is the Christian belief that Jesus is the Son of God. Of course, Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God eternally, as to His divine existence of the second Person of the Trinity, not in the sense of God having a wife and begetting a son in time. But surely, Al-Ikhlaas is seeking to deny the very heart of the Christian confession of the deity of Jesus Christ. If you read Arabic, you are familiar with this ayah:
لَمْ يَلِدْ وَلَمْ يُولَدْWith this in mind, may I invite you to consider the following Biblical text:
Isaiah 9:6 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. 7 There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.
These words were written seven hundred years before the birth of Christ, and hence 1,300 years before the days of Muhammad. There is surely no question about the validity of this text, for the Great Isaiah Scroll, part of the Dead Sea Scrolls, confirms the text of Isaiah's prophecy. The very wording of the beginning of this prophecy should be understood by every Muslim reader: the Hebrew reads, Wnl'ê-!T;nI !Be... Wnl'ª-dL;yU dl,yå-yKi, or in Arabic, لأَنَّهُ يُولَدُ لَنَا وَلَدٌ وَنُعْطَى ابْنًا. Do you see the significance of this? The very same root term, yld, is used here of the birth of a child, the coming Messiah, the "Son" who is "given," that appears in Al-Ikhlaas' third ayah, which says God does not beget nor is He begotten!
But here is what I wish you to consider. As you can see, the literal Arabic reading of the description of "the law that had come before him" in Surah 5:46 is that it was "between his hands," i.e., what he possessed. But what did Isaa possess in the first century? We know He read from the very prophet Isaiah, for Luke 4:17 tells us: "And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written...." So, if Jesus held this prophecy in His hands, and it describes the coming Messiah as both a child who is born, yld, and a Son who is given, even calling him "Mighty God," and Surah 5:46 tells us that Isaa confirmed, or guaranteed the truthfulness of, that which was between His hands, then does it not follow that you, as a Muslim, cannot believe both Al-Maida and Al-Ikhlaas? Since Al-Ikhlaas contradicts this prophecy from God that preceded it by 1300 years, and since Isaa verified the truthfulness of what is found in Isaiah, how can the Qur'an actually be the revelation of God?
Have you ever considered Jesus' own words, recorded long before Muhammad, in the New Testament? I would invite you to take a fresh look at Jesus. Take the time to read His own words in the New Testament. You will find a very different Jesus than the Isaa of the Qur'an, to be sure!
And A Merry Christmas! The MP3's of the Seattle Debate on the Crucifixion Are Available!
12/24/2007 - James WhiteI am very thankful Rich has managed to get the mp3 audio of the debate with Shabir Ally on the crucifixion uploaded and ready to go! Here is the link. Enjoy and be encouraged!
Joel Osteen and Why Theology Matters, Again
12/24/2007 - James White
I remember well the night the membership of the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church considered my calling to be an elder amongst them. I remember contemplating the qualifications of an elder found in the Pastoral epistles, and, as I believe is proper, trembling at them. I do not believe any elder in his right mind and God-tuned heart can look at those qualifications and not see areas in need of improvement and growth. Thankfully, absolute perfection of sanctification is not the standard of the eldership, and God uses imperfect men in the service of His people.
Yet, He gives standards for a reason. When these standards are ignored, Christ, and His Church, suffer. Not only are the people who are subjected to unqualified elders hurt by the resultant imbalanced or impoverished ministry, but the wider body is hurt when those without the qualifications of eldership pretend to do what they have not been called to do. The world loves to put such men forward, place them in the spotlight, and use them as a means of ridiculing the Christian faith.
Joel Osteen at times seems to me like a deer caught in the headlights. Quiet and purposefully naive, Osteen's wild popularity is truly a testament to the condition of the superficially religious in America. His motivational speaking tickles the ears of the not-really-convicted-of-sin. He purposefully avoids entire vistas of God's truth, resulting in a lopsided, sugary-sweet "gospel" that has next to nothing to do with God's glory or Christ's atonement, and everything to do with self-improvement. It is not even half a gospel---it is no gospel at all, and that is the reason why thousands flock to feed upon it and millions of others watch it on TV. It has no holy God, no divine wrath, no need for atonement, no repentance, no death to self---it is the polar opposite, as it is all about me, me, and me. Osteen excuses this in numerous ways, saying he doesn't want to "beat people down" (i.e., he doesn't want to see their self-righteousness crushed) but wants to lift them up (there is no being lifted up until one has fallen at the feet of the cross). He likewise uses his complete lack of biblical training and knowledge as a shield against the observation that he does not preach the whole counsel of God.
Yet clearly, Osteen is the poster-preacher of post-evangelicalism. You see his face in every airport bookshop, and when the media wishes to get a "Christian" response, the microphone is offered to him. But, because he is not qualified for the position he holds (see Titus 1:9 above for the divine word on the subject), he brings embarrassment to the cause of Christ each time he is given these opportunities. His theological face-plant on the Larry King Show is well known. And yesterday, on Fox News Sunday, Osteen once again demonstrated that there is a reason why the Holy Spirit gifts elders so that they are able to exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict. Here is the exchange:
WALLACE: And what about Mitt Romney? And I've got to ask you the question, because it is a question whether it should be or not in this campaign, is a Mormon a true Christian?Just as the Mormon Church showed itself ashamed of its own theology in its half-responses to Fox News last week, so here Osteen shows himself either willfully ignorant of the most basic aspects of the Christian faith and how they are definitional thereof, or, worse, ashamed of those teachings to the point of being unwilling to look into that camera and say, "No, Mormonism is not Christianity." Of course, that would require him to then give a reason for that statement, and sadly, I have no firm reason for believing he would be capable of doing so, let alone desire to do so. But in any case, the world has once again seen a man praised and lauded in post-evangelicalism appear before their eyes and loudly proclaim, "What we believe doesn't matter. God hasn't spoken with clarity. He doesn't care about His own glory. He just wants you to be happy in your sin!" It truly makes me tremble to think that someday God will judge those who stand before His people and who handle the Word of God. If judgment begins with the house of the Lord....
OSTEEN: Well, in my mind they are. Mitt Romney has said that he believes in Christ as his savior, and that's what I believe, so, you know, I'm not the one to judge the little details of it. So I believe they are.
And so, you know, Mitt Romney seems like a man of character and integrity to me, and I don't think he would - anything would stop me from voting for him if that's what I felt like.
WALLACE: So, for instance, when people start talking about Joseph Smith, the founder of the church, and the golden tablets in upstate New York, and God assumes the shape of a man, do you not get hung up in those theological issues?
OSTEEN: I probably don't get hung up in them because I haven't really studied them or thought about them. And you know, I just try to let God be the judge of that. I mean, I don't know.
I certainly can't say that I agree with everything that I've heard about it, but from what I've heard from Mitt, when he says that Christ is his savior, to me that's a common bond.
Yes, once again, theology matters.
I wanted to add a comment on the presentation of Osteen. If you read the transcript, or listen to the interview, you hear "I don't know if I know exactly" and similiar phraseology often; in fact, he says "I think" forty-two times in this one interview. He does not say "God says" or "Scripture teaches" or "it is written" or any of those "unfriendly" kinds of things. All we get is Osteen's feelings, Osteen's opinions. He does not speak as an ambassador of Christ. There is no authority in his words.
Compare this with the words of this man, a convert to Islam, as he describes his investigation of various religions. He discusses Christianity, and note what he says about the Christians with whom he spoke:
Now, of course, I would wish to point out that this man was in a country where he had the freedom to investigate different religions, a freedom the religion he chose denies when it becomes the majority viewpoint. But beyond that, it is truly sad that the "Christians" with whom this man spoke did not direct him to the authoritative Word of God for his answers. He got Osteened---"feelings" and "I think" and "my opinion," right into...Islam.
---in the defense and confirmation of the gospel
Hark! the Herald Angels Sing: Part Three
12/24/2007 - Colin SmithWe conclude our series of devotions based on the popular hymn Hark! the Herald Angels Sing.
Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
born that man no more may die,
born to raise the sons of earth,
born to give us second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the new born King!"
This verse starts with a couple of allusions to Old Testament passages, namely Isaiah 9 and Malachi 4. The reference to Christ as the "Prince of Peace" is from Isaiah 9:6--a passage familiar to many this time of year. Verse 2 of Isaiah 9 begins: "The people who walk in darkness will see a great light"--perhaps this is partly what Wesley refers to by the line "Light and life to all he brings." More on that in a moment. The chapter continues to describe the work of the Messiah, who will "multiply the nation," "increase their gladness," and "break the yolk of their burden." This One certainly is the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Eternal Father, and the Prince of Peace.
Note also, He is the "heaven-born" Prince of Peace. Jesus was born of Mary, but His origin was not earthly. He is the gift of heaven to men: "For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us." When Mary quizzed Gabriel over his news of her upcoming pregnancy despite her virginity, he simply said that the Holy Spirit will come upon her, and the power of the Most High would overshadow her. This was not a physical union between God the Father and the human Mary; this was an act of God's power by means of the Holy Spirit. Jesus truly was heaven-born, his lowly crib notwithstanding.
"Sun" in "Hail the Sun of Righteousness" is not a typo! This is a direct reference to Malachi 4 which prophesies the judgment of the enemies of God's people and the coming of their Saviour:
"For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze," says the Lord of hosts, "so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing," says the Lord of hosts.
Does Jesus bring "light and life to all"? This seems a very Arminian statement, and certainly can be understood that way. Of course, given Wesley's own theological persuasion, it is possible he intended it that way. However, I believe the term "light and life" here can be understood both in terms of that special revelatory light God bestows upon His elect leading to everlasting life, and also the light of common grace God gives to all men by which they are able to make some sense of the world around them, and hence live productive lives, albeit in self-imposed ignorance of their gracious Benefactor. In Matthew 5:44-46, Jesus exhorts his disciples to love their enemies and pray for their persecutors. In other words, to show grace to them, and not be hardened against them in vengeance. Their example is God the Father, who sends rain upon both those who love Him and those who hate Him. Coupled with the sun He sends to shine on both, I believe this is intended to convey God's blessings, since in an agricultural society, the regularity of rain and sunshine was something greatly to be desired. God does not favor only His people with the provisions of life; He is gracious to all. Christ Himself not only spoke these words, but He lived a life of grace and mercy toward His own, and those who were not His own. Did He not produce wine for everyone at the feast in Cana? Did He not feed all of those with Him with bread and fish in John 6, even though he would identify many of them as unbelievers (6:60-65), and all but the twelve would indeed desert Him by the end of the chapter?
"Mild He lays His glory by; Born that man no more may die." Philippians 2:5-11 teaches us that Jesus did not hold tenaciously to the glory that was His with the Father, but, for our sake, for the sins of His people, He laid aside the glories of heaven and took upon Himself the humility of flesh, and eventually death. "I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do," Jesus prays to the Father in John 17. "Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was." Note that Jesus prays this prior to the cross. It is in the cross that the glory of God is revealed: the sacrificial love of the Father for His people; the obedience of the Son to submit to this final, and most brutal, humiliation. All for the sake of the salvation of His own.
"Born to raise the sons of earth; born to give them second birth." The connection between Christmas and Easter should never be forgotten, because without Easter there is no reason to celebrate Christmas. That the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us is indeed a wonderful thing. But what is most remarkable, and the fact worth celebrating, is why Christ did this. Is was not just so God could experience humanity first hand; it was not to set an example of good behavior; it was not to be a great moral teacher and leader. The reason He came was to die on that cross, having lived a life of willful obedience, and rise from the dead that His people may be truly at peace with God, and receive the promise of heaven.
We who were dead in Adam are raised to new life in Christ. We who were enemies of God are brought near to God and turned into seekers after God. We who were dead in our trespasses and sins have been brought to life by the Holy Spirit who is given to us, giving us faith to proclaim our love for our Saviour. And all of this is because God the Son did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, and for our sake, for the sake of lowly, undeserving God-haters, was born on earth to a young girl in a manger, so that He might become one of us, that He could offer Himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. May the name of our Lord Jesus Christ be praised forever!
May you all have a blessed Christmas, as we join with the angel chorus: "Glory to the new-born King!"
Christmas and End of Year Examination
12/22/2007 - James WhiteI was just chatting with my brothers and sisters in #prosapologian, and I mentioned that at this time of year, as we contemplate the passing of another year, I could not provide better advice than this: that each and every believer should consider the past year in the light of these divine words:
Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. (2 Cor. 5:9)Given my level of understanding of what is pleasing to the Lord, did I live a life that would be considered pleasing in His sight? It matters not what others say, I have but one I must seek to please first and foremost. So, who did I please most? My Lord, or my flesh? When I consider my thoughts, were they centered on Him, His purposes, His glory, His kingdom? Or were they mainly taken up with me, me, and more me? Do I see advancement since 2006? 2001?
Walk as children of light, trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. (Eph 5:8, 10).
Further, how solid is my understanding of what is pleasing to Him? Is my understanding of the very standard to which I should aspire informed more by pop psychology and Christian psycho-babble than it is the inspired oracles of God Himself? And more to the heart of the matter, do I desire to keep "trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord"? Is this my heart's desire? Do I pray for a heart of wisdom so that I may know with ever increasing clarity and accuracy what is, in fact, pleasing to Him, in every situation in my life? In my family, in my work, in my thoughts, my deeds, my words?
Soon the rush of "resolutions" will pass over us. For the Christian, there is no question about the every day resolution: our ambition is to be pleasing to Him. What does that mean for your life in 2008? What does it mean for your life today?
Brown and Fitzmyer vs. Ray
12/22/2007 - James WhiteIn glancing through various sources relevant to the woman of Revelation 12 (historically taken as the people of God in the Old and New Testaments, but becoming Mary as Marian piety developed, especially in the middle ages) in response to Steve Ray's words in his pdf from a few months ago seeking to defend the idea of the idea of a "Queen Mother" assumed bodily into heaven:
Another passage in Scripture provides a window into heaven were we see a Queen Mother giving birth to a royal son. In Revelation 12 we see Mary revealed as Queen of Heaven. Fundamentalists dismiss this passage in various ways (which we will discuss later), but even if one wants to deny it is actually Mary, it is still obvious that the idea of a Queen Mother giving birth to a royal son was not abhorred or condemned in the first century of Christianity—even by the Apostles. This is, for heaven’s sake (no pun intended) part of the Bible. In fact, the book of Revelation was included in the canon of Scripture even though it graphically portrayed a Queen Mother in Heaven.Yeah, those wacky fundamentalists who just "dismiss" the passage! Fundamentalists like...Raymond Brown and J.A. Fitzmyer, editors of the Jerome Biblical Commentary (2:482):
a woman: Most of the ancient commentators identified her with the Church; in the Middle Ages it was widely held that she represented Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Modern exegetes have generally adopted the older interpretation, with certain modifications.
In recent years several Catholics have championed the Marian interpretation. Numerous contextual details, however, are ill-suited to such an explanation. For example, we are scarcely to think that Mary endured the worst of the pains of childbirth (v. 2), that she was pursued into the desert after the birth of her child (6, 13ff.), or, finally, that she was persecuted through her other children (v. 17). The emphasis on the persecution of the woman is really appropriate only if she represents the Church, which is presented throughout the book as oppressed by the forces of evil, yet protected by God. Furthermore, the image of a woman is common in ancient Oriental secular literature as well as in the Bible (e.g., Is 50:1; Jer 50:12) as a symbol for a people, a nation, or a city. It is fitting, then, to see in this woman the People of God, the true Israel of the OT and NT.
(For those not familiar with Roman Catholic scholarship, Brown and Fitzmyer are names at the very top of Rome's NT scholarship list over the past thirty years, both having worked and published at the direction of high level Papal commissions, etc. The Jerome Biblical Commentary is likewise Roman Catholic, so to find it contradicting Ray's surface-level comments on the text is a bit humorous.)
Yesterday on the Dividing Line
12/21/2007 - James WhiteStarted off with a discussion of comments on "Biblical Catholic apologetics" from Catholic Answers Live, then had a brief visit from Mike O'Fallon, then transitioned into a discussion of Muhammad in Islamic piety. Mike O'Fallon informed us that you need to be listening 1/1/08 for a major announcement! Stay tuned! Here's the program (free/high quality).
Read the Gospels Horizontally in 2008
12/20/2007 - Alan KurschnerRecently I cited five good reasons to own a gospel synopsis. The fifth reason was,
Read a synopsis in one year by reading one pericope [a gospel passage] every day! By coincidence, the synopsis has 367 pericopes (That is, all four gospels combined contain 367 units.) And next year is a leap year so if you read one pericope a day for next year, plus one additional day, you will have read all 367 units of all four gospels in a full year. The edition that I recommend for English is the Synopsis of the Four Gospels Edited by Kurt Aland.In 2008, immerse yourself daily in Jesus' words and deeds.
This Isn't Your Father's Mormonism: The LDS Church is Embarrassed By Its Own Theology (Part 1)
12/19/2007 - James WhiteBack when I first started studying Mormonism I encountered a lot of believingMormons. Men and women who actually believed Joseph Smith was a prophet--a real prophet, and that the Book of Mormon was really true, and that the LDS Church had something called Latter-day Revelation which was, well, actually revelation. Evidently, those Mormons are now long gone, at least as far has holding positions of authority in Salt Lake City. I truly wonder where all the Mormons I used to debate in the "Mormon Echo" on the FidoNet BBS system (did I just date myself terribly?) are these days? Because if I were those folks, I would be utterly ashamed of the leadership of my church.
Evidently, Fox News submitted a list of questions to the Mormon Church, asking for clarification, confirmation, or denial, about the very issues that have been filling the blogosphere for a while now, prompted by the Romney candidacy. What an absolutely golden opportunity for the Mormon Church to stand tall, speak the truth as they see it, speak it plainly, and get free publicity in the process! I would love for Fox News to ask me similar questions, even tough ones like, "Do you believe God chooses who will be saved and who will not" or some ringer like that. What a great opportunity to get to proclaim the truth in a context where it is rarely heard!
But, as anyone can see by looking at the result, the Mormon Church did the proverbial face-plant, to my amazement, and surely to the chagrin of any believing Mormon. No wonder their numbers are flat! They have completely lost their direction and their guts at the highest levels! Instead of giving bold, clear answers, the resultant replies were spineless attempts at spin, all posted on the front page of FoxNews.com. Truly amazing!
So I would like to contrast New Mormonism with Old Mormonism, and in the process, hopefully, clarify the issues about which so much unneeded confusion exists. In some instances I will provide direct citations in contrast with the answers provided by New Mormonism. Others involved just silly questions to begin with.
Q: Why do some call the Church a cult?Old Mormonism:
New Mormonism: For the most part, this seems to stem from a lack of understanding about the Church and its core doctrines and beliefs. Under those circumstances it is too easy to label a religion or other organization that is not well-known with an inflammatory term like 'cult.' Famed scholar of religion Martin Marty has said a cult means a church you don't personally happen to like. We don't believe any organization should be subjected to a label that has come to be as pejorative as that one.
"And any person who shall be so wicked as to receive a holy ordinance of the gospel from the ministers of any of these apostate churches will be sent down to hell with them, unless they repent of the unholy and impious act." (Orson Pratt, OP-WA, "The Kingdom of God," no.2, p.6)
"...all other churches are entirely destitute of all authority from God; and any person who recieves baptism or the Lord's supper from their hands will highly offend God, for he looks upon them as the most corrupt people." (Orson Pratt, The Seer, pg. 255)
"...the great apostate church as the anti-christ...This great antichrist...is the church of the devil." (Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine p.40)
"Both Catholics and Protestants are nothing less than the "whore of Babylon" whom the lord denounces by the mouth of John the Revelator as having corrupted all the earth by their fornications and wickedness." (Pratt, The Seer, p.255)
"Brother Taylor has just said that the religions of the day were hatched in hell. The eggs were laid in hell, hatched on its borders, and then kicked on to the earth." (Brigham Young, JD 6:176)
"Evil spirits control much of the so-called religious worship in the world; for instance, the great creeds of Christendom were formulated so as to conform to their whispered promptings." (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p.246)
"After the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized, there were only two churches upon the earth. They were known respectively as the Church of the Lamb of God and Babylon. The various organizations which are called churches throughout Christiandom, though differing in their creeds and organizations, have one common orgin. They belong to Babylon." (George Q. Cannon, Gospel Truth, p.324)
Q: Does the Mormon Church believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God?...
A: Mormons believe Jesus Christ is literally the Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer, who died for the sins of humankind and rose from the dead on the third day with an immortal body. God, the Father, also has an immortal body.
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Today on the Dividing Line
12/18/2007 - James WhiteToday I was joined by Alan Conner, author of Covenant Children Today: Physical or Spiritual? (2007, Reformed Baptist Academic Press). We took many calls on a wide variety of aspects of the subject of baptism. Here's the program (free/high quality).
David King on the Centrality of Preaching and the Gospel
12/18/2007 - James WhiteThis was preached at our conference in Orlando in 2006. Words to ponder.
Yes, Lord willing and Rich learns how to squeeze 36 hours into 24, we will have all of these great presentations available in the near future.
Assumptions and Shallow Arguments: Steve Ray and the Poor State of Catholic Apologetics (#5)
12/17/2007 - James WhiteAs I have looked over my archives I see that almost three months have passed since my last installment in response to Steve Ray's attempt to defend the concept of the Bodily Assumption of Mary from Scripture. Of course, this 30 page pdf, cobbled together from various sources, is only partly on the subject of the Assumption. A large portion is but a shallow attack upon Ray's straw-man rendition of sola scriptura, another example of the very essence of the modern Roman Catholic apologetics movement. As I noted in my last installment, Ray has dismissed my replies, ignoring them completely, dismissing me as irrelevant and unimportant. Which explains, of course, why he wrote the original article! His evident inconsistencies aside, I still wish to finish the lengthy project of response, and in particular, to respond to the attempt to turn a simple incident in the narrative of the life of Solomon into a proof text for the Assumption. Simply presenting the Roman claims in their stark reality is normally enough to convince the thinking reader of the excesses of Roman "interpretation."
Turning again to Ray's article:
Are these Marian dogmas explicitly spelled out in the Bible? No. But ask yourself this: are all Protestant dogmas clearly spelled out in the Bible? No. There is often a double standard thrown in our faces. You Catholics cannot prove your doctrines from the Bible alone! You made them up!This kind of argumentation works well amongst those who have a strong desire to continue to believe in Rome's teachings, but they are next to useless in the apologetic arena (which is why you don't see Steve Ray actually engaging that arena directly, i.e., putting himself in the place of actually debating these issues). Ray continues to assume that his own background, which he admits was itself shallow and filled with ignorance, is the standard "evangelical" viewpoint, and he seems incapable of breaking out of that mold to provide more meaningful responses. Of course, Ray thinks such things as eschatological speculations are actually "Protestant dogmas," and in the circles from which he arose, maybe they were! But such is hardly relevant to a meaningful apologetic.
But good grief, where do they find their favorite doctrine of sola Scriptura explicitly stated in Scripture? We certainly have more warrant for trusting the authority of the Church and the need for Tradition (2 Thess 2:15; 3:6, etc.), than they have to prove their unbiblical doctrine of sola Scriptura. Where do we find their intricate Rapture theologies clearly stated? It is obvious they are not clearly stated because there are as many permutations on that Fundamentalist doctrine as there are heads. Where is the word trinity in the Bible, or where do we see it explicitly stated and explained.Again we can only smile as Ray demonstrates his inability to show meaningful understanding of the positions he denies; what is more, allegedly he was responding to me in this article, so why would he even comment on such things as "intricate 'Rapture' theologies"? ...
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A Response To Steve Ray On "When Footnotes Attack!"
12/16/2007 - James Swan
"Swan struck me as a real lightweight, and the above seems to verify my suspicion. He is a 'wanna-be' and it seems like he tries to puff out his chest to look bigger than he actually is."These are recent comments directed towards me from Catholic apologist Steve Ray, simply because I dared question his methodology in a brief entry entitled, "When Footnotes Attack." This entry examined a Martin Luther quote typically used by Roman Catholics, particularly used by Mr. Ray. I've come across this quote at various times over the years, never documented in any helpful way:
"It seems he is a James White wanna-be, though he’s no where near as clever."
"If the world lasts for a long time, it will again be necessary, on account of the many interpretations which are now given to the Scriptures, to receive the decrees of councils, and take refuge in them, in order to preserve the unity of faith." Epis. ad. Zwingli (ap. Balmes, p. 423)" - Martin LutherSteve Ray cites this quote in an article entitled, Ankerberg Aweigh hosted by Catholic Answers, and also referred back to it in his book Crossing the Tiber: Evangelical Protestants Discover the Historical Church on page 45. It is my contention that Steve Ray never actually read this Luther quote in context, and uses it out of context for polemical purposes. Here is not the place to rewrite my entire entry. You can read it for yourself, here.
Mr. Ray took time away from his pilgrimages and promotional work to respond with an eleven page PDF file entitled, "Is the Swan’s Song in Tune?" Now an eleven page response may seem a bit long, but for Mr. Ray, this is only "a few words": "I am not going to get in a spitting contest, don’t have the time nor the inclination to debate someone I’ve never heard of before, but I tend to defend my books so I thought a few words would be appropriate." If my brief entry was so trivial to Mr. Ray, put forth by a "lightweight" "wanna-be," I find it ironic that his eleven page response to me "...will remain permanently on [Ray's] Resources page along with other responses to critics of my works." He begins his response by referring to me as, "some guy named Swan" but then puts me in his list with others with whose critical work he considers on a higher plateau (like Dr. White's). If my concerns over his published works are so trivial, written by "some guy," one would expect him to simply ignore them. Obviously, Mr. Ray is bothered by the issues I raised, enough so that he was compelled to actually treat them with more seriousness than he is claiming.
Some Catholic apologists are capable of putting forth massive replies, clouding an issue with a lot of tedious detail. Indeed, this was the method employed by Steve Ray in his response: if you write enough, throw in a bunch of footnotes, well, that equals a complete refutation. Of course, a lengthy reply can indeed be a thorough refutation, or it can simply be a lot of words and obfuscation seeking to direct one away from the real issues. Mr. Ray's eleven page response falls in the category of the later. I had to sift through Mr. Ray's eleven pages of "a few words," looking for any type of meaningful response to the issues I raised.
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The Spin in Salt Lake City
12/14/2007 - James WhiteI confess, I do not understand it. How a religion can play the "political correctness" game is completely beyond me. Yes, I know--in today's culture, everyone is a victim, everyone is a martyr, and now if you dare even ask let alone answer a question about someone's religious faith, you are being mean-spirited and everyone will demand an apology from you. But let's lay this out simply:
In Mormonism, God the Father, Elohim, begets children in the spiritual pre-existence.Evidently, to follow this reasoning to its final conclusion is forbidden by political correctness, well, unless you are LDS. I noted the 1986 Ensign article discussing this very issue and describing those who do not realize that Jesus and Lucifer were both spiritual offspring of Elohim (and hence spirit-brothers) as being "unacquainted with latter-day revelations" (here's the article on line). Yet, despite all of this, we find the following on the very same LDS website, dated 12/11/07:
In Mormonism, God, men, and angels, are of the same "species."
In Mormonism, Jesus is the first begotten spirit child of Elohim.
In Mormonism, angels "are chosen from among his (Elohim's) offspring and are themselves pressing forward along the course of progression and salvation, all in their respective spheres" (Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 35).
In Mormonism, Satan is a fallen angel.
Therefore, Jesus and Satan are both offspring of Elohim, and therefore....?
SALT LAKE CITY 12 December 2007 Like other Christians, we believe Jesus is the divine Son of God. Satan is a fallen angel.I do not have an ounce of respect for this kind of response, I must confess. This from a religion that proclaims it is in possession of "latter-day revelation" that clarifies so much that is allegedly unclear in non-LDS faiths? This is the religion with a living prophet and living apostles? And all it can come up with is this pure piece of spin? Let's consider this statement put out by the LDS Church.
As the Apostle Paul wrote, God is the Father of all. That means that all beings were created by God and are His spirit children. Christ, however, was the only begotten in the flesh, and we worship Him as the Son of God and the Savior of mankind.
First, what other Christian church believes Jesus is the divine Son of God in the way Mormons do? Who else teaches Elohim lives on a planet that circles a star named Kolob, and that he has a physical body of flesh and bones (no blood), and that he begets spirit children with an entire harem of heavenly wives, who likewise have physical bodies, yet give birth to spirit babies, and that Jesus was the first begotten son of this exalted man from another planet? I'd really like to know who these "other Christians" are. And which of these groups, even if they held all of those views, likewise believe that Jesus was "sired" by Elohim in a physical body, making him the only begotten of the Father "in the flesh"? I think the list is pretty small. And surely the folks in Salt Lake know this, yes? So why speak in these words? Mormonism does not teach what the historic Christian faith has taught about the divine sonship of Jesus, so why pretend otherwise?
Next, yes, Mormons believe Satan is a fallen angel. But, they likewise believe that angels are begotten by the Father, as the statement goes on to say (though, in words that non-Mormons would most likely misunderstand). You see, what is amazing about this statement is that it is actually confirming that Mormons believe Jesus and Lucifer are spirit-brothers. Missed that on first reading? You were meant to. But the statement says that...for Mormons. Mormons know Satan is an angel...one of the offspring of Elohim. Mormons, at least the well read ones, know what "only begotten of the Father in the flesh" means, too. And Mormons know that when this says that God "created" (Mormons deny creatio ex nihilo, so the more normative term in their theology is either beget, when speaking of creatures like angels, or organized, when speaking of physical objects, for the Mormon God cannot create matter, which, in their theology, is eternal) all beings that is an assertion that He is the father of them all, meaning all of mankind, Jesus, our "elder brother" in LDS parlance, and Lucifer as well.
What percentage of those reading this official statement will interpret it exactly backwards? A large percentage, to be sure, and that is what leaves me shaking my head. If you are going to claim to be a representative of God and to possess divine revelation, then show commensurate courage to openly explain, without obfuscation, what it means.
Some of the press can be forgiven---they are pagans. Pagans find theology, even grossly warped theology like Salt Lake's, difficult to follow. A few quick stabs through an online source is enough, right? So some AP reporter, evidently, managed to dig up a copy of The Encyclopedia of Mormonism and opine, "The authoritative Encyclopedia of Mormonism, published in 1992, speaks of Jesus as the son of God and of Satan as a fallen angel, which is a Biblical account." Wow, that's deep. What those words mean in Mormonism, we are not told, of course, but that's enough to make it look like Gov. Huckabee was clueless. And for the vast majority of folks, that's enough.
But others should know better. Conservative talk show host and author Hugh Hewitt, a strong Romney supporter, posted on his blog earlier this week,
Huck asks in this Sunday's New York Times Magazine, "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?"Let me see how this works. You ask a question that is based in truth: Mormons do believe Jesus and Lucifer are both offspring of Elohim, the exalted man from another planet who is God the Father of this planet. You do so in response to someone asking if you think Mormonism is Christian (it isn't). Just how does this have any bearing to asking if the Jews killed Jesus (Acts 4:27-28 seems to answer the question, so why ask it?). And while Roman Catholics do pray to Mary, they do not admit that this is worship, let alone that Mary is a "god." But to ask them this question would be to go against their own definitions, so---is Hewitt suggesting Huckabee's question was based upon falsehood? Will Hugh Hewitt openly acknowledge the truthfulness of the data that I and others have posted on this topic? My recollection was that Hewitt was, at one time, anyway, a Presbyterian elder, either PCUSA or PCA, I do not recall which. He would be doing a great service to clarify the situation, document the historic LDS teaching on this subject, and reiterate why he feels the truth about Mormonism is irrelevant to Mitt Romney's political aspirations.
No word yet on whether the former Arkansas governor asked if the Jews killed Jesus or if Catholics pray to Mary as a god.
Today on the Dividing Line
12/13/2007 - James WhiteToday on the DL I asked for callers, and thankfully, got them. Excellent discussions on Islam, evangelism, and a question on baptism. Here's the program (free/high quality).
Last Installment: Introduction to Islam (#3)
12/13/2007 - James White
Does the LDS Church Teach Lucifer is a Spirit Offspring of Elohim, and Hence the Spirit-Brother of Jesus?
12/12/2007 - James WhiteI am listening to the Today Show with Matt Lauer. He is interviewing Mitt Romney, and Romney has just claimed that the LDS Church has "clarified" a question raised by Huckabee. Evidently Huckabee asked something along the lines of, "Don't Mormons believe the Devil and Jesus are brothers?" NBC then indicated that LDS leaders had "denied" this assertion.
I have documented over the past week the attempts of LDS scholars to hide the common teachings of the leaders of the Latter-day Saints, specifically, the consistent teaching of the General Authorities on the physical parentage of Jesus by the Father, Elohim. These are not even arguable points, to be honest. No one can seriously argue that this has not been the consistent teaching of the LDS Church leadership. But given that our culture does not value the concept of truth, what someone "feels" is the teaching of a group is sufficient, and the consistent teaching over time of a group can be dismissed as a relic of history.
There is likewise little question about this topic, either. Jesus is the first begotten spirit child of the exalted Elohim, a man who lived on another planet and became a god. Lucifer was likewise one of the spirit offspring of Elohim, as are you and I. This makes us all spirit brothers of Jesus, including Lucifer. Hence, it is a true statement that Jesus and Lucifer are spirit brothers. I have not found any statements from the General Authorities "clarifying" this teaching. But I would like to offer the following as evidence of the doctrine in the teachings of the LDS Church, taken again from my book Letters to a Mormon Elder p. 207:
With that understood, let's get to the topic at hand. As we discussed earlier, in current Mormon theology the Father is identified as "Elohim" and the Son, Jesus Christ, is Jehovah. We have already seen that this distinction is anti-Biblical in that it is directly contradictory to what the Bible reveals about God. But it is important to keep this distinction in mind to understand the LDS concept of Christ. [I keep saying "current Mormon theology," Steve, because originally Joseph Smith taught a different concept, and Brigham Young yet another---the "current" belief about Elohim and Jehovah did not develop until early in this century.]...
The "Mormon Jesus" is Elohim's first-born spirit-child in the pre-existence. I have here the pamphlet you gave me when we first met entitled What the Mormons Think of Christ. On pages 6 and 7 we read:
In this conversation our Lord boldly directed the Pharisees to consider the very heart and core of Christianity. Is he really the Son of God, as we are the sons of mortal fathers? Or was he just another religious teacher, of whom there were many among the Jews in that day? Or was he the greatest moral and spiritual teacher of all ages, though not the literal, personal offspring in the flesh of that exalted, personal being who is God our Father?...
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Hark! the Herald Angels Sing: Part Two
12/12/2007 - Colin SmithWe continue our Christmas meditation, based on Charles Wesley's hymn Hark! the Herald Angels Sing.
Christ, by highest heaven adored;
Christ, the everlasting Lord;
late in time behold him come,
offspring of a virgin's womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
hail th' incarnate Deity,
pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the new born King!"
We now turn our attention from the angelic proclamation at the Incarnation, to the humility of the Incarnation. If there is one passage of Scripture I would say more than any other lies behind this verse, it would have to be Philippians 2:5-11:
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Christ, By Highest Heaven Adored
Wesley follows the Apostle Paul's example by first establishing Christ's original exalted state. He is God by nature, the Unique Son of the Father (John 1:18), and beloved of God (Mark 1:11). Wesley makes allusion to Isaiah 9:6 when he refers to Christ as "the everlasting Lord." The phrase in the passage is "Everlasting Father," which should not be taken to confuse the Persons of the Trinity. The Son is not the Father; indeed, in the beginning, the Word simultaneously "was with God" and "was God" (John 1:1). Rather, the best way to understand this phrase is with regard to His role as both the leader and head of His people, just as an earthly father is the head of his household, and in terms of His loving care for His people in providing for their salvation. Unlike one's earthly father, however, Christ is eternal, and His loving care for His people extends into eternity.
Late in Time Behold Him Come
I don't know that I can say with complete certainty what Wesley had in mind with this phrase. I think he is referring to the fact that the Jewish people were in a state of watchfulness and eager anticipation for the Messiah, especially since they had been oppressed and dominated for over 500 years. "How long, O Lord?" was a cry that often went up as the Old Covenant people of God looked forward to their physical redemption. It is also possible, and poetically satisfying, to see this phrase in contrast to the preceding line: the Everlasting Lord comes late in time. In other words, despite Christ being eternal and dwelling in eternity, he condescends to enter into time, to take on the flesh of humanity, to be born flesh-and-blood, and while being totally human, that flesh only obscuring His true deity, never diminishing it. I like this reading of the phrase because it ties neatly back in to Philippians 2:5-11. If you have wondered at the humiliation Christ suffered on the cross, consider where that humiliation began. It was not with the scourging and the crown of thorns, nor with the desertion of His disciples, nor the Garden of Gethsemane, and not even with the washing of His disciples' feet. It was at Bethlehem, where He who was very God "became nothing," taking on the flesh of humanity with all the physical limitations and pains that comes with it. It was walking this earth as a humble servant, in obedience to the will of the Father, knowing that He could call upon angels to exalt Him and to silence His enemies, but instead being obedient to the horrendous death He knew He must undergo for the sake of His people.
Pleased As Man with Man to Dwell
Again, the humiliation Christ suffered He did willingly. His love for fallen humanity was such that He was willing to become a man, to dwell as a man among men, to live a perfect, sinless life; teaching, healing, comforting, and calling His people to Himself. And then, finally, to demonstrate the love of God by giving His own life for the salvation of His people, being both the High Priest offering the perfect sacrifice of propitiation, and also being that very sacrifice Himself.
The Incarnation and the cross are very closely associated. Though He was only a child in a manger in Bethlehem, He knew the divine plan. Philippians 2:5-11 clearly indicates that Christ knew prior to being born exactly what He was doing. The Gospel accounts show that He was fully aware that His mission did not end with healing the sick, gathering His disciples, and planting a church. Jesus Christ was not crucified because He was misunderstood, or wrongly perceived as a threat, though these might have been true in the minds of His accusers. As Peter said in his prayer recorded in Acts 4:27-28, the Jewish and Roman rulers were merely doing what God had preordained should happen. They were instruments in the hands of God to bring about the salvation of His people.
As we consider Christ in the manger this Christmas, let us not forget who He is. The living God took human form. Jesus Christ is not just fully divine, He is fully human, and willingly accepted all that humanity brings with it. As a result, He completely understands our weaknesses, our trials, and our sufferings (Hebrews 4:15). He knows what it is like to be us, and while He lived a sinless life, He can still relate to us. And this was something He did not have to do. God, according to His perfect justice, could have left us to die in our sin. He was not obliged to save us; in fact, He was obliged to condemn us all for our sin. However, He satisfied the demands of His perfect justice and displayed His incomprehensible love for His people, by sending His Son from the realms of glory to the dust of the Middle East.
Stayed tuned for the final installment! :-)
Romney and Mormonism, Dan Barker's Fundamentalist Atheism, on the DL Today
12/11/2007 - James WhiteDiscussed Mitt Romney's speech on religion in politics, playing some segments from it, then listened to Dan Barker of the Freedom from Religion Foundation warning us about the Dangers of Dogma. Here's the program (free/high quality).
Islam's Self-Identification as a Denial of Christian Truths Part 2
12/11/2007 - James White
Carla Strikes Again
12/10/2007 - James WhiteJust in time for that hard-to-please person on your gift list...I mean, hard to please Calvinist on your gift list! I first heard this phrase from my fellow elder at PRBC, but Google tells me he didn't invent it. I have no idea who did, but I sure use it enough, and the Scripture reference, at least, is mine. Any quick review of the landscape of post-evangelicalism will prove the truth of these words, so why not get a few conversations started in the process? Don't forget the other designs in Carla's AOMIN store, including "Theology Matters." You can click here or use the Shop TeamApologian button to the right to visit!
Back At It!
12/10/2007 - James WhiteBack at the ol' homestead, trying to dig out from all the "life" that piles up when you are away. Why do car batteries die at the most inopportune times? And could anyone direct me to the guy who designed the location of the battery in a PT Cruiser? I'd like to whip the guy with a wet noodle.
Anyway, tomorrow on the DL (yes, a live DL!) I would like to talk a bit about the Mitt Romney speech. News flash! 99.9% of all news commentators, 99% of all conservative pundits (including some who should know better), and 98% of all evangelicals do not have a clue what Mormonism teaches, and has taught, on the nature of God. Wow, there's a revelation. That's the kind of insight you can find only here! I did not expect a meaningful primer on LDS theology from Romney, despite the fact that I am completely convinced he is fully aware of the entire spectrum of LDS theology, and how contradictory it is to orthodox Christian beliefs. His family includes General Authorities of the LDS Church, so the idea he is unaware of these things is simply untenable. So exactly what was accomplished by his stating that he believes Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of the world, both phrases with completely unique meanings in LDS theology? Every LDS missionary on his bicycle would tell you that. What is truly sad are the conservative pundits who think this is some revelation, and now all the questions are answered! As I said from the start, the level of conversation Romney's candidacy will produce will be so dismal, so horrific, it should throw a strong light on the utter lack of theological discernment that marks so much of post-evangelicalism today.
On the brighter side, the USofA is not the Holy Land, and God is busy building His church and glorifying Himself by drawing His elect unto Himself all over the world, and getting to meet and fellowship with brothers in the Lord from far away lands has once again reminded me that viewing all of God's work through a lens that sees things in a red/white/blue filter will only lead you to think things are much worse than they actually are! So maybe we can discuss some of that on the DL as well. In any case, it will air at its regular time!
Hark! the Herald Angels Sing: Part One
12/10/2007 - Colin SmithAs December 25th draws ever closer, I would like to begin a brief series of meditations that will, hopefully, conclude on or near Christmas Day. While I would normally advocate very strongly that Scripture alone should be the basis of our meditations, I would like to deviate from that principle and make use of a hymn as the springboard for this series. The hymn I will use, Hark! the Herald Angels Sing is excellently suited to this task. It is packed full of very meaningful theology, and brings to the fore subjects that should be close to our hearts and minds this time of year (and, arguably, all year). (If you are interested in the history of the hymn, a brief Wikipedia entry exists to jumpstart your studies.)
Hark! the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the new-born King;
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!"
Joyful, all ye nations, rise.
Join the triumph of the skies.
With th' angelic hosts proclaim
"Christ is born in Bethlehem!"
Hark! the herald angels sing,
Glory to the new-born King!
We begin with a consideration of the message of the angels proclaimed to the shepherds in Luke 2:10-15, along with the message of the angel to Joseph in Matthew 1:20-23. Historically, the nation of Israel had gone through a period of revelatory darkness. For a period of about 500 years, the voices of the prophets had fallen silent. Within that time, the Jews had been scattered, exposed to (and in some cases been consumed by) foreign culture, and were now an occupied nation under Roman rule. While some happily accepted the limited privileges and protection offered by their Gentile overlords, many took exception to the presence of foreigners in the Promised Land. They would look to a coming Messiah, prophesied about in the Scriptures, that would come and overthrow their oppressors, and lead the scattered nation in a victorious uprising against the Romans to claim back their land and their culture.
It is with this in mind that we approach the text of Scripture (Luke 2:10-15 and Matthew 1:20-23). It should be plain from the text that the message of the angels was not precisely what many had in mind. It was indeed a message of great joy to all the people, and the announcement that a "Saviour" had been born, one who is "Christ [i.e., Messiah], the Lord" would have stirred their hearts enormously. Could this be the one who has come to conquer the barbarians and re-establish David's throne in Jerusalem? Perhaps, in the midst of the excitement, they missed the heart of the message--the very message that Charles Wesley highlights in the first verse of our hymn:
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!
"Peace on Earth" is a popular theme at Christmas, and is normally associated with the idea of the cessation of conflict, brotherly love, Germans and English soldiers playing soccer on Christmas Day during World War I. However, the idea of peace between people was not at all what the angels meant when they proclaimed that a time of peace had come to the earth. What did the angel say to Joseph? That his child's name was to be Jesus ("God Saves"), because "He will save His people from their sins." As Wesley phrased it, "God and sinners reconciled." It is important to note that this is not a mere statement that, because Jesus has come into the world, there is no longer enmity between God and man. Rather, the statement is proclaiming the role of the Saviour: He is the One who will bring peace between sinful men, and God. Note also, the scope of the Saviour's saving activity: "He will save his people from their sins" or, as the NASB translates the Greek of Luke 2:14, "And on earth peace among men with whom He [God] is pleased." This is not a proclamation of amnesty with those who have managed to earn God's favor. No, rather, it is a just and holy God providing a means by which He will save those He has called to eternal life (Acts 13:48).
For the sinner whose heart has been convicted of sin, who is anxious over his standing before God, and who is moved to repentance, this is truly good news. Here is a reason for joining with the angelic triumph and proclaiming "Christ is born in Bethlehem!" Indeed, the Messiah has come; the Saviour--not from oppression, or from poverty, or war, or debt, or sickness, or whatever evils may come upon us in this world--but from sin and its devastating effects. The One has come who alone can pay the only acceptable price to satisfy God's holy justice against sin, and thus make peace between God and man.
And if your heart is broken over your sin, and you have been moved to repentance, then this glorious proclamation is for you!
Stay tuned for Part Two... :-)
The Only Begotten of the Father in the Flesh: Mormonism's Embarrassing Theology (Final)
12/09/2007 - James WhiteTHUS SAYETH THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATIONS
If we assume that a publication copyrighted by the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can be logically called "official," we find a number of statements concerning the literal paternity of Christ in "official" documents written over the last thirty years. For example, from the Family Home Evenings booklet of 1972 we read:
We must come down to the simple fact that God Almighty was the Father of His Son Jesus Christ. Mary, the virgin girl, who had never known mortal man, was his mother. God by her begot his Son Jesus Christ, and he was born into the world with power and intelligence like that of His Father. . . . Now, my little friends, I will repeat again in words as simple as I can, and you talk to your parents about it, that God, the Eternal Father, is literally the father of Jesus Christ. (Joseph F. Smith, Box Elder Stake Conference Dec. 20, 1914 as quoted in Brigham City Box Elder News, 28 Jan. 1915, pp. 1-2).Following this statement the booklet shows an almost stick-figure male identified as "Daddy," and another figure, female, identified as "Mommy." There is a plus between them, with lines leading down to a child figure, marked "You." Right below this we have the following diagram that has "Our Heavenly Father" where "Daddy" was, "Mary" where "Mommy" was, and "Jesus" where "You" was. If such a graphic, meant to be used to explain LDS doctrine to children, is not enough to convince a person of the meaning of this teaching, nothing will be. Remember, this is in an "official" publication. But this is certainly not the only place we can find it. The work, Messages for Exaltation: Eternal Insights from the Book of Mormon, said:
Christ has power over death. Since the Fall of Adam, every person born on earth has had within him the seeds of death. Christ was no exception. He inherited the ability to die from mortal mother, Mary. But he also inherited the ability to live forever from his immortal Father. This power over death was entirely dependent upon Christ's being the literal Son of God. From his immortal, glorified Father he inherited power over death. Thus with a mortal mother and an immortal Father, the sinless Christ could decide for himself whether to live or die. The choice was his. Milton R. Hunter expressed this power in these words: He, Jesus Christ, being literally the Only Begotten Son of God, was endowed with a double portion of divine attributes. He received a comparable proportion of divinity in the spirit world that we received through being spirit children of God, and He was also the offspring of the Eternal Father in mortality-thus He possessed a double portion of God's power.This is exactly in line with the Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual, Religion 231 and 232 (Published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), 1986, p. 22, which states:
C. Only Jesus Christ possessed the qualifications and attributes necessary to perform an infinite atonement. 1. As the Only Begotten Son of God, the Savior inherited the capacity to suffer for the sins of all the children of God.The above referenced Messages for Exaltation also said:
He was willing to make payment because of his great love for mankind, and he was able to make payment because he lived a sinless life and because he was actually, literally, biologically the Son of God in the flesh. Thus he had the power to atone for the spiritual and physical deaths introduced by the Fall of Adam and Eve.Is there not an obvious consistency through all these citations, going all the way back through Talmage to Brigham Young? There certainly is. And this consistency follows through to the modern Encyclopedia of Mormonism as well. For example,
For Latter-day Saints, the paternity of Jesus is not obscure. He was the literal, biological son of an immortal, tangible Father and Mary, a mortal woman (see Virgin Birth). Jesus is the only person born who deserves the title "the Only Begotten Son of God" (John 3:16; Benson, p. 3; see Jesus Christ: Only Begotten in the Flesh). He was not the son of the Holy Ghost; it was only through the Holy Ghost that the power of the Highest overshadowed Mary.Likewise, we also read:
Ancient and modern scriptures use the title Only Begotten to emphasize the divine nature of Jesus Christ. Latter-day Saints recognize Jesus as literally the Only Begotten Son of God the Father in the flesh. . . . This title signifies that Jesus' physical body was the offspring of a mortal mother and of the eternal Father. . . . It is LDS doctrine that Jesus Christ is the child of Mary and God the Father, "not in violation of natural law but in accordance with a higher manifestation thereof" (JC, p. 81).Note the line, "It is LDS doctrine that Jesus Christ is the child of Mary and God the Father." Is this LDS writer trying to "misrepresent" Mormonism? Is he an "eccentric"? And are Chrisitans to be accused of attacking a straw man when they object to this teaching? No, not at all. This is LDS doctrine, pure and simple, as one last citation shows:
The fact of Jesus' being the literal Son of God in the flesh is crucial to the Atonement, which could not have been accomplished by an ordinary man. . . . To complete the Atonement by physical death and resurrection, it was necessary that Jesus be able to lay down his physical body and also be able to take it up again. He could do this only because he had life in himself, which he inherited from God his Father. . . .Christ inherited the ability to die from his mortal mother and the power to resurrect himself from his immortal Father. Dying was for him a voluntary, deliberate act for mankind, made possible only because he was the Only Begotten of the Father.
It is not always easy to determine the teachings of the LDS faith. However, if one uses the resources that are available, the task is quite possible. And when it comes to the physical, literal parentage of Jesus Christ, the consistent teaching of the General Authorities of the LDS faith is without question. If LDS apologists like Daniel Peterson, Stephen Ricks, and Stephen Robinson, wish to identify this teaching as merely a matter of speculation, they are certainly free to do so (though at the cost of consistency). I certainly would not wish to be pressed into defending a doctrine such as this one! To call it "blasphemous" is to understate the issue. We should not forget, however, the words of Bruce R. McConkie, written to BYU professor Eugene England:
It is not in your province to set in order the Church or to determine what its doctrines shall be. . . . This means, among other things, that it is my province to teach to the Church what the doctrine is. You do not have a divine commission to correct me or any of the Brethren. The Lord does not operate that way. If I lead the Church astray, that is my responsibility, but the fact still remains that I am the one appointed with all the rest involved so to do. The appointment is not given to the faculty at Brigham Young University or to any of the members of the Church.
But it strikes me that it would be rather easy for these men to disprove the doctrine: cite a consistent denial of the alleged "misrepresentation" on the part of critics of the LDS faith from the very same sources I have used. The simple fact is, they can't, since no such denial exists.
The moral of the story is just this: there are good and bad apologetic works in the Christian community, and there are good and bad apologetic works in the LDS community, too. Normally, the bad Christian books come from those who simply don't do their homework. In the case of Mormonism, however, it is hard to say that leading LDS scholars didn't do their homework. Some other force seems to be in operation here.
Some More Video from our Recording Work This Week
12/08/2007 - James WhiteWe have wrapped up recording a total of thirty two segments of video, twenty one of which are specifically for Iran, eleven others for other venues (all on the topic of Islam). The folks at the studio were kind enough to convert one of the first specifically Islam-related programs to a video format I can post on YouTube, and so I will post it in three segments, beginning below.
By the way, I discovered recently that GodTube completely deleted all of my videos and my entire account without notification. When I wrote and asked why they did this, I received little meaningful response, other than, "Sorry!" I had not been using them of late anyway, as their process time for an uploaded video was often over twelve hours, sometimes more than a full day. But, that also means that the blog archives are now filled with dead video links. I really do not have time to recreate those videos, if I did not keep the original files, but if I can find a spare moment I will try to repost at least some of the videos I had posted on GodTube. I wish the folks at GodTube well, but it is quite clear to me that their technology/hardware elements are far, far below standard.
The Lord's Blessings
12/07/2007 - James WhiteWhen I came to Nashville a few days ago to record these programs, I expected to do a grand total of twenty programs. That, at least, was our plan. When we finish shooting tomorrow, Lord willing, I will have done thirty two. After the first four I went "solo," and my translator will be coming back in January to record the translation of the material I am recording now (this works better for both of us and allows for a much better end product too). We also recorded a whole series for translation into Arabic (or other languages) on the subject of Islam. The folks here have been fantastic, and the quality of the production is very, very high. I hope to be able to post some more video tomorrow. We thought we had transferred the clips to my jump drive, but for some reason the transfer did not work.
These videos are intended to be satellite broadcast in Iran, and the Arabic videos in many other countries. I can only say I am deeply thankful for the opportunity to provide this teaching in this context, and surely hope and pray that the Lord will use these videos to the benefit of God's people for years to come. I am truly humbled to have this opportunity, and only pray that should more opportunities arise, I will be able to share my meagre knowledge and abilities.
I am very thankful for the prayers of God's people during this week. As the week has gone on I have felt better each day. In fact, I have developed a rapport with the crew, and I have enjoyed noting that my presentations have sparked theological discussions, even in the control room! I have now delivered lectures on a wide range of topics, including inspiration, canonization, all sorts of textual issues, allegations of corruption, the gnostic gospels, the Epistle of Barnabas, Trinitarian topics, and a wide range of Islamic subjects. We have truly covered a vast amount of information!
Meanwhile, back at the offices, a pretty wild night! Our cameras recorded a lightning strike that knocked out power near our offices. Note that in the first image it is dark outside, and then in the very next second, the lightning is seen reflecting off of the wet sidewalks. My daughter works nearby and she reported hearing it, and how a customer reported seeing a bright blue bolt nearby. Power was knocked out throughout the area. Rich and Rob (a new member of our fellowship who has been helping us greatly with electrical work at the offices) had to go down to do some repairs in the rain. It is wonderful to have faithful brethren back there in Phoenix taking care of things while I am so far away! I surely could not do any of the things I do if it were not for Rich and all the others that assist us in keeping the ministry going! Please continue to pray for us!
The Only Begotten of the Father in the Flesh: Mormonism's Embarrassing Theology (#5)
12/07/2007 - James WhiteMORE AUTHORITIES TESTIFY
One of the strongest sources we can turn to regarding this doctrine is the official pronouncement titled, "The Father and The Son: A Doctrinal Exposition by the First Presidency and the Twelve." Under the subtitle, "Father as Literal Parent," we find these words:
Scriptures embodying the ordinary signification-literally that of Parent-are too numerous and specific to require citation. The purport of these scriptures is to the effect that God the Eternal Father, whom we designate by the exalted name-title "Elohim," is the literal Parent of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and of the spirits of the human race.Please take notice of the fact that this doctrinal exposition by the leadership of the LDS Church says that the Eternal Father, Elohim, is the "literal parent of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," as well as the parent of the spirits of the human race. How did God beget our spirits? With our "heavenly Mother," as we have seen earlier. So how, then, did Elohim become the literal parent of Jesus Christ? The answer is obvious. Later the same exposition states:
Jesus Christ is the Son of Elohim both as spiritual and bodily offspring; that is to say, Elohim is literally the Father of the spirit of Jesus Christ and also of the body in which Jesus Christ performed His mission in the flesh, and which body died on the cross and was afterward taken up by the process of resurrection, and is now the immortalized tabernacle of the eternal spirit of our Lord and Savior. No extended explanation of the title "Son of God" as applied to Jesus Christ appears necessary.In light of all that has come before, we can understand why this document says that "no extended explanation" of the title Son of God "appears necessary." It wasn't, until modern LDS concluded that such a doctrine is simply indefensible, and began backpedaling very quickly from it.
Another LDS Apostle, contemporary with Talmage, was Melvin Ballard. He is another witness as to how widely this teaching was disseminated:
One of the great questions that I have referred to that the world is concerned about, and is in confusion over, is as to whether or not his was a virgin birth, a birth wherein divine power interceded. Joseph Smith made it perfectly clear that Jesus Christ told the absolute truth, as did those who testify concerning him, the Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, wherein he is declared to be the very Son of God. And if God the Eternal Father is not the real Father of Jesus Christ, then are we in confusion; then is he not in reality the Son of God. But we declare that he is the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh.How much plainer can it be expressed? Ballard speaks of the necessity of the Spirit being involved, so that Mary could stand the presence of the "Highest." Ballard knows that some would say this degrades the Father. How does he respond to this charge? By saying that sexual activity, the power of creation itself, this "holy and divine function," is a good thing, and is "retained by the Father of us all." Ballard says God "exercised" that function, but in the process, did not "degrade himself, nor debauch his daughter." If this doctrine is all metaphorical, why the constant reference to sexual activity? The answer is obvious: it is plainly the intention of this LDS leader to assert that God the Father physically begat the body of Jesus Christ. There is no other possibility.
Mary told the story most beautifully when she said that an angel of the Lord came to her and told her that she had found favor in the sight of God, and had come to be worthy of the fulfilment of the promises heretofore made, to become the virgin mother of the Redeemer of the world. She afterwards, referring to the event, said: "God hath done wonderful things unto me." "And the Holy Ghost came upon her," is the story, "and she came into the presence of the highest." No man or woman can live in mortality and survive the presence of the Highest except by the sustaining power of the Holy Ghost. So it came upon her to prepare her for admittance into the divine presence, and the power of the Highest, who is the Father, was present, and overshadowed her, and the holy Child that was born of her was called the Son of God.
Men who deny this, or who think that it degrades our Father, have no true conception of the sacredness of the most marvelous power with which God has endowed mortal men-the power of creation. Even though that power may be abused and may become a mere harp of pleasure to the wicked, nevertheless it is the most sacred and holy and divine function with which God has endowed man. Made holy, it is retained by the Father of us all, and in his exercise of that great and marvelous creative power and function, he did not debase himself, degrade himself, nor debauch his daughter. Thus Christ became the literal Son of a divine Father, and no one else was worthy to be his father.
Apostle Marion G. Romney is yet another who taught this doctrine plainly, and that in the General Conference of the LDS Church:
Now who is Jesus Christ, and how could he bring about the resurrection when no other man nor all men put together could do so? The Scriptures respond to these questions. They make it clear that the spirit person Jesus Christ-as are the spirits of all men-is the Son of God, our Eternal Father. In this respect he is like all other men. He differs from all other men, however, by reason of the fact that men's bodies are begotten of mortal men and are, therefore, subject to death, being descendants and inheritors from Adam, while Christ's physical body was begotten of God, our Heavenly Father-an immortal being not subject to death. Christ, therefore, inherited from his Father the faculty to live on indefinitely. CR1975Apr:123-24In an earlier Conference (1967), Henry D. Taylor had spoken to the same, seemingly very common, belief:
Having been begotten of an immortal sire, Jesus possessed as a heritage the power to withstand death indefinitely. He literally and really gave up his life. It was not taken from him.Another Conference address example is provided by Hugh B. Brown in 1962:
The answer is found in the fact that of all the sons of God, only Christ could qualify, because he was the only sinless man who ever walked the earth. Furthermore, he was the First Begotten, the eldest of the sons of God in the spirit, and the Only Begotten in the flesh, and therefore the only one who possessed the full powers of Godhood and manhood.Mormon Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith provided one of the more common passages cited concerning the paternity of Christ:
CHRIST NOT BEGOTTEN OF HOLY GHOST. I believe firmly that Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son of God in the flesh. He taught this doctrine to his disciples. He did not teach them that He was the Son of the Holy Ghost, but the Son of the Father. . . . Christ was begotten of God. He was not born without the aid of Man, and that Man was God!As President of the Quorum of the Twelve, Ezra Taft Benson made the following statement:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaims that Jesus Christ is the Son of God in the most literal sense. The body in which He performed His mission in the flesh was sired by that same Holy Being we worship as God, our Eternal Father. Jesus was not the son of Joseph nor was He begotten by the Holy Ghost. He is the son of the Eternal Father!Robert A. Rees served as bishop of the Los Angeles First Ward. He gave a sacrament meeting talk on April 29th, 1990, and provided an article to Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought that is found in the Winter, 1991 issue. It is titled, "Bearing Our Crosses Gracefully: Sex and the Single Mormon." His words demonstrate how widespread is this belief. In it we find the following:
Mormons differ from other Christians in our literal belief that we are begotten of God spiritually and that Christ was begotten of him physically. Paul says in Acts that we are God's offspring (17:28-29). We believe that our spiritual conception was sexual just as we believe that Christ's mortal conception was. Elucidating the latter, James E. Talmage says, "That child to be born of Mary was begotten of Elohim the Eternal Father, not in violation of natural law, but in accordance with a higher manifestation thereof" (1986, 81).We have seen that the idea that this doctrine is a mere speculation on the part of a few LDS leaders of the last century is about as accurate as saying the Chicago Bulls have won a couple of basketball games over the past few years or that Michael Jordan is a so-so player. But remember Robinson's assertion that this doctrine has not "appeared in official church publications" during his lifetime. Is this the case? Let's find out.
(continued---though we have surely already provided more than sufficient documentation to refute Millet's statements already!)
Book Review: Williams' Hebrew Syntax, 3rd ed.
12/06/2007 - Alan KurschnerJohn Beckman, who is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell and a PhD student at Harvard has recently revised and expanded Ronald Williams' Hebrew grammar into a 3rd edition previously titled, Hebrew Syntax: An Outline. This is the grammar that I used when I studied Hebrew syntax with Douglas Stuart who requires his students to learn all 598 Hebrew syntactical categories during the course of a semester!
Beckman expanded the definitions of the grammatical terms as well as expanding the Biblical examples (now there are at least two examples for every category). Further,in the footnotes he directs the reader to additional literature of five Hebrew grammars: Joüon, Gesenius, Waltke, Arnold, Merwe et al.
For the intermediate Hebrew student, (1) this work provides all known Hebrew categories and (2) should serve to help the student be aware of the syntactical possibilities that a single (or combination) of a nominal, verbal, or particle can function as, including the syntax of clauses which is the last section of the book. In short, this grammar is a good place to begin before referencing your more dense Hebrew grammars.
Seeking to Provide Teaching to our Brothers and Sisters in Iran
12/05/2007 - James WhiteI mentioned a few days ago that I am working this week on recording many hours of apologetics videos for satellite broadcasting in Iran. I asked this morning if I might get a brief clip from what we had done on the first day, and the folks were very kind to provide me with just that! I have to confess, this is some of the hardest work I have ever done. I am not used to moving from camera to camera, trying to avoid using colloquialisms and idiomatic phrases, etc. Very challenging indeed! So please continue to pray for me as I seek to take full advantage of this opportunity to bless God's people in other lands. I may even get to record some specific programs on Islam for the Arabic folks at the recording studios, we will see. Pray for my health, as I have not felt well this week, and am very fatigued.
The Only Begotten of the Father in the Flesh: Mormonism's Embarrassing Theology (#4)
12/05/2007 - James WhiteBut of all LDS authorities, Apostle Bruce R. McConkie provides the clearest, most pointed affirmations of this doctrine. In his book, Mormon Doctrine, in defining the phrase, "Only Begotten Son," he wrote,
These name-titles all signify that our Lord is the only Son of the Father in the flesh. Each of the words is to be understood literally. Only means only; Begotten means begotten; and Son means son. Christ was begotten by an Immortal Father in the same way that mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers.What does "the same way that mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers" mean? McConkie has no hesitation:
God the Father is a perfected, glorified, holy Man, an immortal Personage. And Christ was born into the world as the literal Son of this Holy Being; he was born in the same personal, real, and literal sense that any mortal son is born to a mortal father. There is nothing figurative about his paternity; he was begotten, conceived and born in the normal and natural course of events, for he is the Son of God, and that designation means what it says."There is nothing figurative about his paternity" we are told. McConkie is no nineteenth century leader-he passed away in 1985! But these are just the beginning of the passages in which this Mormon leader taught-with the force of doctrine itself-this concept. I quote from The Promised Messiah:
The great God, the Eternal Elohim, the Father of us all, . . . in his love, mercy, and grace condescended to step down from his Almighty throne, to step down to a lesser and benighted state, as it were, and become the Father of a Son "after the manner of the flesh." . . . This then is the condescension of God-that a God should beget a man; that an Immortal Parent should father a mortal Son; that the Creator of all things from the beginning should step down from his high state of exaltation and be, for a moment, like one of the creatures of his creating. . . .We have spoken plainly of our Lord's conception in the womb of Mary; in reality the plain assertions are found in the revealed word, and we have but certified that the words mean what they say and cannot be spiritualized away. And as it is with reference to our Lord's mother, so it is as pertaining to his Father. The scriptures say that Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son. The problem is that the intellectually led ministry and laity of the day assume, as Satan leads them to do, that a name-title of this sort is simply figurative and does not have the same literal meaning as when the words are spoken in ordinary conversation. Perhaps again the best service we can render, on the issue here involved, is somehow to get the message across that words mean what they say, and that if Christ is the Only Begotten of the Father, it means just that.It seems impossible to me that anyone could miss McConkie's point. How else could he possibly state it? If he is not teaching this doctrine, he is doing everything in his power to confuse and mislead the reader, that's for certain! The reader should note: nowhere do any of these General Authorities say, "Now, this is merely my speculation on the topic-it's just an opinion which you can take or leave." As much as some professors at BYU might wish otherwise, these men meant what they said. Listen to how McConkie put it:
Some words scarcely need definition. They are on every tongue and are spoken by every voice. The very existence of intelligent beings presupposes and requires their constant use. Two such words are father and son. Their meaning is known to all, and to define them is but to repeat them. Thus: A son is a son is a son, and a father is a father is a father. I am the son of my father and the father of my sons. They are my sons because they were begotten by me, were conceived by their mother, and came forth from her womb to breathe the breath of mortal life, to dwell for a time and a season among other mortal men.
And so it is with the Eternal Father and the mortal birth of the Eternal Son. The Father is a Father is a Father; he is not a spirit essence or nothingness to which the name Father is figuratively applied. And the Son is a Son is a Son; he is not some transient emanation from a divine essence, but a literal, living offspring of an actual Father. God is the Father; Christ is the Son. The one begat the other. Mary provided the womb from which the Spirit Jehovah came forth, tabernacles in clay, as all men are, to dwell among his fellow spirits whose births were brought to pass in like manner. There is no need to spiritualize away the plain meaning of the scriptures. There is nothing figurative or hidden or beyond comprehension in our Lord's coming into mortality. He is the Son of God in the same sense and way that we are the sons of mortal fathers. It is just that simple. Christ was born of Mary. He is the Son of God-the Only begotten of the Father.
And so, in the final analysis, it is the faithful saints, those who have testimonies of the truth and divinity of this great latter-day work, who declare our Lord's generation to the world. Their testimony is that Mary's son is God's son; that he was conceived and begotten in the normal way...This is their testimony as to his generation.This doctrine is not just found in one or two of McConkie's works. No, it is a doctrine that is found throughout the considerable literature he produced.
Again the answer is perfect. There is a power beyond man's. When God is involved, he uses his minister, the Holy Ghost, to overshadow the future mother and to carry her away in the Spirit. She shall conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and God himself shall be the sire. It is his Son of whom Gabriel is speaking. A son is begotten by a father: whether on earth or in heaven it is the same.
I will not multiply examples, but instead draw from McConkie's Doctrinal New Testament Commentary for my last citations. One does not normally fill doctrinal commentaries with mere speculations or opinions. Hence, these words should carry much weight:
The express image of his person] What more need be said? God the Eternal Father is the Father; the Son of God is the Son. A father is a father, and a son is a son. The Father begets; the Son is begotten; they are Parent and Child; Sire and Son look alike, so much so that they are the express image of each other's persons. The substance composing the body of one is identical in appearance to that composing the body of the other. What could be plainer? . . . Begotten means begotten; it means Christ's mortal body was procreated by an Eternal Sire; it means God is the Father of Christ, "after the manner of the flesh."The phrase "Eternal Sire" does not lend itself very well to metaphorical interpretation, especially in the way McConkie consistently uses it. One thing is for certain: this General Authority believed this doctrine, taught it, and never once identified it as a "speculation."
The Only Begotten of the Father in the Flesh: Mormonism's Embarrassing Theology (#3)
12/04/2007 - James WhiteTHE TWENTIETH CENTURY
Two LDS authorities figure prominently in teaching the literal physical parentage of Jesus Christ by the Father in the twentieth century, James Talmage and Bruce R. McConkie. We will look at their statements first, and then provide other confirmatory proclamations by other LDS leaders. Finally, we will look at books published by the LDS Church that also contain and promulgate this doctrine, and we will finish by looking at the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.
James Talmage addressed the paternity of Christ at the April General Conference in 1915. Note especially his use of the term "Sire" of God the Father:
We belong to the Church of Jesus Christ, and much has been said concerning His proprietorship, His mastership, in the Church, the Church that bears His name. I take it to be a plain and simple principle that we cannot worship intelligently, and therefore acceptably unto the Lord, unless we know something of the attributes and of the will of Him whom we profess to worship. The relationship of the Christ to the Eternal Father has been set forth in such plainness that I do not think any wayfaring man amongst us can fail to understand. We recognize in Jesus Christ the Son of the Eternal Father, both in spirit and in body. There is no other meaning to attach to that expression, as used by the Eternal Father Himself-"Mine Only Begotten Son." Christ combined within His own person and nature the attributes of His mortal mother, and just as truly the attributes of His immortal Sire. By that fixed and inexorable law of nature, that every living organism shall follow after his kind, Jesus the Christ had the power to die, for He was the offspring of a mortal woman; and He had the power to withstand death indefinitely, for He was the son of an immortal Father. This simplicity of doctrine has shocked many, but the truth is frequently shocking just because of its simplicity and consequent grandeur. We must know something of the attributes of the Eternal Father, that we may the more fully comprehend His relationship to His Only Begotten Son.Note well the words of this General Authority of the LDS Church, for many LDS today continue to believe as he did. Jesus Christ had the power to die, he claims, because he was the son of a mortal mother, Mary. But, he had the power to withstand death, and take up his life again, because he was the son of an "immortal Sire." Talmage admits this doctrine "shocks" many. First, Talmage, an authority of the Church, calls it "doctrine," not "speculation." He would seemingly be in a better position to know than modern LDS scholars who are not even authorities in the Church. Second, in reference to it being "shocking," why would it be, if, in fact, it is merely a "reinterpretation" of the virgin birth, and is not to be taken literally? So here have a twentieth century General Authority preaching in the General Conference-hardly a "rare" nineteenth century "opinion."
Talmage's book, Jesus the Christ, likewise refers to this belief often. We noted in an earlier chapter that Jesus the Christ has been published by the LDS Church itself in various of its editions. It is a widely read, generally accepted work that is considered completely "orthodox." Yet, it also plainly teaches the very doctrine under discussion. For example, the same thought presented above regarding Christ possessing the attributes of both man and God is seen in this quotation:
As the Only Begotten of the Father and therefore the only Being born to earth possessing in their fulness the attributes of both Godhood and manhood; . . . What other man has lived with power to withstand death, over whom death could not prevail except through his own submission? Yet Jesus Christ could not be slain until His "hour had come," and that, the hour in which He voluntarily surrendered His life, and permitted His own decease through an act of will. Born of a mortal mother He inherited the capacity to die; begotten by an immortal Sire He possessed as a heritage the power to withstand death indefinitely. . . . Only such a One could conquer death; in none but Jesus the Christ was realized this requisite condition of a Redeemer of the world.Probably the most often cited passage on this topic also comes from the pen of Talmage:
That Child to be born of Mary was begotten of Elohim, the Eternal Father, not in violation of natural law, but in accordance with a higher manifestation thereof; and, the offspring from that association of supreme sanctity, celestial Sireship, and pure though mortal maternity, was of right to be called the "Son of the Highest." In His nature would be combined the powers of Godhood with the capacity and possibilities of mortality; and this through the ordinary operation of the fundamental law of heredity, declared of God, demonstrated by science, and admitted by philosophy, that living beings shall propagate-after their kind. The Child Jesus was to inherit the physical, mental, and Spiritual traits, tendencies, and powers that characterized His parents - one immortal and glorified - God, the other human - woman.LDS apologists will forgive us if we simply believe what we are told by those with the authority to define LDS teaching. Since it is LDS leaders who use terms like "celestial Sireship" and "fundamental laws of heredity," we can hardly accept the charge of "misrepresentation" when we allow these words to have their normal meaning.
Talmage returned to this same emphasis, and the reality of God the Father being the Son's "immortal Sire," later in Jesus the Christ:
For this cause was Jesus the Father's Beloved Son-that He was ready to lay down His life for the sake of the sheep. . . . A natural effect of His immortal origin, as the earth-born Son of an immortal Sire, was that He was immune to death except as He surrendered thereto. The life of Jesus the Christ could not be taken save as He willed and allowed. The power to lay down His life was inherent in Himself, as was the power to take up His slain body in an immortalized state.I have personally had many LDS priesthood holders-individuals who are widely read in LDS materials and books-affirm this teaching, and the reason for it, that is here presented by Talmage. To identify this doctrine as "mere speculation" and "opinion" is to completely ignore mountains of clear teaching by duly appointed leaders.
Greetings from Nashville
12/03/2007 - James WhiteI had about 15 hours at home between trips to and from St. Louis and now I am here in Nashville. I had a great time with Pastor Van Lee and the brothers and sisters at Covenant of Grace Church in St. Charles. This was my fifth consecutive year with them on the first weekend in December. I spoke on Islam. Did a quick flight home, repacked, and I have just arrived here in Nashville.
I would request your prayers for the rest of this week. I will be recording many hours of video presentations that will be live translated into Farsi for satellite broadcast in Iran. The Christian church in Iran has requested apologetics information so that they can give an answer for the hope that is within them (what a challenge to the rest of us who have so much more freedom and yet so often ignore that command!), and I am honored to have been asked to speak on the issue of the inspiration, canonization, and transmission of the text of the Bible. Your prayers would be greatly appreciated, for it is my sincere desire that these videos encourage and strengthen our fellow believers in Iran, grounding them in the truth of God's Word.
Of course, this also means that unless the other brothers of Team Apologian don't have articles to share...things will be very, very quiet here! My days will be pretty well invested in this work, to be sure. I am going to try to get the next in the LDS series posted this week, maybe even tomorrow, but I have to put first things first, and opportunities like this do not come along every day.
Last Thursday on the Dividing Line
12/03/2007 - James WhiteSince I left early Friday morning, no one put up the links to the program from last Thursday! So, as I have but a few moments before heading back to the airport to head out yet again (please pray for the ministry being done this week), let me note that I took some time to address a very long, but very error-plagued article written by a Roman Catholic attorney that was posted last week during the first half of the program, and then took calls after that. Here's the program (free/high quality).