Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Today on the Dividing Line: Jamal Badawi on Muhammad in the Bible, and More
05/31/2011 - James WhiteHad a good time on the program today reviewing comments made a number of years ago by Islamic lecturer and apologist Jamal Badawi regarding the alleged passages in the Bible that prophetically speak about Muhammad. I had been looking for his comments on Isaiah 9:6-7 for quite some time, and finally found them. Then we did a fun contest based upon two other texts Badawi called into service as being relevant to Muhammad (Isaiah 29 and Psalm 12), asking what other religious groups have used these texts in a similar fashion? Then closed out the program with a lengthy discussion with Louis from Canada regarding Ibn Ishaq and early Islamic sources. Don't let the topic dissuade you, we concluded once again demonstrating that "theology matters" and that these are issues we as Christians need to stay focused upon. Here's the program.
The Last Call on Yesterday's DL: "Open Air Atheist"
05/27/2011 - James White
A Monologue on Being of Two Minds as a Christian, Followed by Calls on John 10:34, and from the "OpenAirAtheist"
05/26/2011 - James WhiteI started off with a half hour monologue on being of two minds as a Christian, specifically, the conflict that many of us experience in possessing knowledge of "natural science" and the like, and yet seeking to have a Christian worldview that honors God's revelation and is whole and complete and pleasing to Him. Some folks will find the discussion helpful...some will not. Then we took calls starting at the half hour, talking to two James': James from UK asked about John 10:34 and Jehovah's Witnesses, and then James, the "Open Air Atheist," called, taking up the last portion of the program. Here's the program.
Hot Topic: Creationism
05/25/2011 - Jeff DownsThe topic for the 2011 Summer Institute at Greenville Seminary will be one that you will not want to miss. It will be so hot in South Carolina, you'll want nothing more than to cool off inside the "new" Greenville Seminary building, as you listen to two (cool headed) speakers, address a very hot topic.
On August 1-5, Drs. Jonathan Sarfati and Joseph Pipa will address the topic of creation. Sarfati will be speaking specifically on the scientific data and Dr. Pipa will give an exegetical defense of 6 Day creation, and will offer critiques of alternative positions.
On Monday, August 1, there will be a free lecture titled "Design, Deluge, and Dilemma" by Dr. Sarfati, which will include some Q&A time. For further information click here.
Also, you do not want to miss one of the fathers of the PCA presenting a class on Southern Presbyterian Theology. Dr. Morton H. Smith will teach his Studies in Southern Presbyterian Theology (perhaps for the last time), July 25-19, 2011.
The course is popular because it covers a wide range of topics through the instrumentality of those most interesting and sometimes controversial Southern Presbyterians. Who can resist hearing about Leighton Wilson, the great missionary statesman, or John Girardeau, the Chalmers-like churchman, theologian and pastor to slaves? And, of course, the class features "the great man of the South," James Henley Thornwell. The course will also include Archibald Alexander, John Holt Rice, Robert L. Dabney of Virginia, Benjamin M. Palmer, Robert Webb of Kentucky and many more.
The Battle Belongs to the Lord
05/25/2011 - Jeff DownsWhile Christians are called to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3), many Christians who get involved in apologetics believe (perhaps unconsciously) they can argue someone into the kingdom. A biblical apologist understands that the battle is not his, but is the Lord's, even though the Lord is pleased to use the apologist.
Scott Oliphint reports on, what is certainly an unbiblical approach to apologetics, which to some extent is all to common:
"A STUDENT REPORTED to me recently that he had returned from a conference entitled “Defending the Faith.”When I asked him what the most significant thing about it was, I was surprised at his answer. He said the thing that most caught his attention was one speaker’s comments that went
something like this: “This year our topic is apologetics,1 so you really won’t need to have your Bibles with you.” The comment was not meant to be humorous or flippant; it was simply a statement of fact."
This book, by Scott Oliphint is currently on sale for only $5 and is well worth it if you have not picked up a copy. Not only is this a great buy, but his book Reasons for Faith: Philosophy in the Service of Theology is on sale for only $13.74 (listed at $24.99).
Both of these titled have been mentioned on this blog before, but they are worth mentioning again, and since they are on sale, there is no better time than now.
Today on the Dividing Line: Evangelist Tim Lee on Ergun Caner's "Misstatements," Harold Camping Continues His Attack on the Faith
05/24/2011 - James WhiteStarted off with the revelations coming out of Liberty regarding the "investigation" of Ergun Caner, followed by a brief (well, relatively so) examination of the outrageous behavior of Harold Camping yesterday, and then took calls, mainly on Camping's theology. Here's the program.
Here's the section on Evangelist Tim Lee and his claims that Ergun Caner never lied:
Harold Camping: Unrepentant False Prophet Refuses to Stop Dragging Christ's Name Through the Mud
05/23/2011 - James WhiteWhen someone has been given over for decades to false teaching and arrogant spiritual dictatorship over others, well...we shouldn't be surprised at what is happening as I type these words. I am listening live to Camping's rambling press conference. I cannot possibly express my deep disgust at this man's willingness to continue to drag the Christian faith and the Holy Bible through the mud. He is utterly unrepentant, and now is adding to his condemnation blatant lies. He just told the gathered press that no church today believes that every word of the Bible comes from God. Of course, it is Camping who thinks the words of the Bible are theological play-dough, all there to serve his whims and his next false prophecy. But, will the press differentiate? Will they speak to responsible Christian scholars, believing scholars? No, Camping is truly a plague upon us, not only here in the United States, but all around the world. God have mercy upon us.
"We had all of our dates correct. We had all our proofs correct." "May 21 was a spiritual coming...He has come, in the sense that He now has the world under judgment." Well, I pretty well called that one, sadly. I had a feeling we would be stuck with this foolishness until October 21, 2011. What an amazingly foolish thing: "Well, folks, we only have 153 days to go, but, hey, we aren't going to put up billboards and stuff, we are going to play music and do teaching about how to live as a good Christian." Brilliant. I can't wait to see the video of this.
Now Camping is lying about Greek verbs. I cannot possibly imagine what the press is going to do with this.
Well, folks, I don't know what else to say. The man is an inveterate heretic, unrepentant, and we call all of his followers to repent and abandon this man's wild delusions.
An Open Letter to Harold Camping of Family Radio
05/23/2011 - James WhiteOn Open Letter to Harold Camping of Family Radio
Dear Mr. Camping:
In July of 2009 you and I engaged in a debate on the Iron Sharpens Iron radio program concerning your teaching that the church age had ended and that Christ would return on May 21, 2011. I trust you recall our exchange. I am also aware that you have at least seen my book, Dangerous Airwaves: Harold Camping Refuted and Christ's Church Defended. I have been seeking to warn people about your teachings, sir, for about a decade. I know others have been warning the church about you longer than I.
Mr. Camping I am writing to seek your repentance and the most God-glorifying outcome of the debacle of your failed May 21, 2011 prophecy/teaching. I am not writing to engage in debate with you. The time for debate ended on May 22, 2011. It is now time for you to repent and seek to undo the massive damage you have done, first and foremost, to the cause of Christ.
Let me first list the items you need to repent of, openly and publicly (for you are a public person, and your teachings were disseminated all around the world).
You need to repent of your abuse of the Bible, based upon claims of latter-day opening of understandings no one else has, allegedly, ever had, based upon the horrific misreading of the books of Revelation and Daniel. The Bible is not a code book, Mr. Camping, and it never has been. You have attacked the grammatical/historical means of honoring the intention and meaning of the original authors, and in so doing, have turned the Bible into your own private playground where you, and you alone, set the rules. You decided that certain numbers have certain meanings, and you alone decided which numbers could be added to others. You told your audiences that you were simply teaching the Bible, when you were doing nothing of the sort. Unless you honor the intention of the original authors, which means doing difficult exegetical work, studying languages and backgrounds, you have no business saying you are representing the Bible. This has been your primary error for decades on end, and I know I am not the first minister of the gospel to seek to correct you about this. Your utterly fallacious means of interpretation of the Bible has led to the mockery of the Christian faith all around the world, and you alone must repent for your willful rejection of the correction offered by many to you over the years.
You need to repent of your repeated date-setting, and your twisting of those Scriptures that plainly state that we do not now know, and will never know, the date of the coming of Christ, until it happens. You have been proven wrong multiple times now, and it is time for you to admit that you have been in error every single time you have argued that we can, in fact, know.
You must repent of your many unbiblical teachings, teachings which have grown out of your rebellion against Christ's Church. First and foremost, you must repent of your attack upon the church. You must return to the church (I would suggest the local Christian Reformed Church from which you made your original defection) in repentance and seek to place yourself under their care, repenting for your schism. You must openly and publicly abjure your teaching that Satan rules in the churches, and that all ministers of the gospel since 1988 are, in fact, servants of Satan. You must call all listeners of Family Radio to return to their churches with repentant hearts. You must instruct them to seek to learn to read the Bible aright, to seek to interpret the Bible in light of its original meanings and intention, not as a secret, gnostic code-book.
You must likewise abjure and repent of the other false teachings you have been promulgating, including, but not limited to, such teachings as Jesus having died twice, your new annihilationism teaching, etc. You once held to mainly orthodox views, but, when you refused godly counsel and went out on your own, you planted the seeds of your own destruction, which have now sprouted, over night it seems, into the crop of condemnation you now rightly face.
You must likewise repent of the perversion of the gospel you have been teaching, wherein you have not only removed repentance and faith under the guise of "works" (neither are works, both are the gifts of God to His elect by His Spirit, but remain part and parcel of the gospel call), but you clearly, in these last days, added belief in your own May 21, 2011 teaching to the gospel itself, saying that those who did not believe this teaching would experience eternal torment. You have been preaching a false gospel, Mr. Camping, and you must repent for this.
The time for haggling and debating has passed, Mr. Camping. Your teaching has been disproven, and your only hope is to be found in complete repentance from your false teachings. I fear if you seek to rescue your reputation, you will end your life under the wrath of God. Your unwillingness to listen to counsel has already caused great damage to the cause of Christ. You have one final chance for redemption, sir. Do not remain stiff-necked. Repent and turn from your ways.
Alpha and Omega Ministries
The Suffering Servant, Part 2
05/23/2011 - James White
Where is the Promise of Christ's Coming?
05/23/2011 - Tur8infanOne of the key passages regarding the second coming of Christ is found in 2 Peter 3:1-18 (the entirety of chapter 3 of 2 Peter). First, let me provide you with the text of the chapter, and then my commentary on it.
2 Peter 3:1-18
This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: that ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour: knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying,...Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: but the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
[Click Here to Continue Reading]
The Suffering Servant of Isaiah 52:13-53, Part 1
05/22/2011 - James White
This Does Not Bring God's Wrath, It IS God's Wrath
05/21/2011 - James WhiteAccording to this article, a recent Gallup poll, for the first time, shows a majority (53%) of Americans supporting the legalization of "same-sex marriage," i.e., they support the radical redefinition of marriage (though, of course, the question was not asked in that logical, historical, or moral form). According to the information published in that article, when the question was first asked in 1996, 27% supported the idea. The rapid change in opinion is directly related to the public relations push planned out decades ago by homosexual activists, and fully supported by powerful figures in Hollywood.
The profanation of marriage: many Christians will say, "This will bring the wrath of God." As a general statement, this is true. But I would like to suggest that given the light Western culture as a whole, and the United States in particular, has received, and given our cultural heritage, this will not bring God's wrath, it is God's wrath. In other words, when a culture can fall so far morally at such a precipitous speed, God has surely removed not only His hand of blessing, but His hand of restraint as well. We are being given over, or, maybe more accurately, have been given over, to fulfill the "lusts of the flesh."
You see, Western culture has so demeaned marriage, treated it with such disdain, glorified its destruction, mocked its sanctity, that it is perfectly righteous and proper for God to remove the blessing of marriage from such a culture, and replace it with a profaned, twisted substitute. Just as God causes those who refuse to love the truth to love a lie (2 Thess. 2:10-12), so too it is proper to allow a culture to follow its own rebellion to its proper end. Don't like God's law about marriage? Fine, He will let you fall in love with a shallow, soul-destroying, culture annihilating substitute. He will let you purposefully abuse children by denying them a father or a mother, as if either one can simply be dismissed on a whim. He will let you confuse your children about their gender, resulting in the degradation of every element of the society. Such cultures pass into history, and relatively quickly.
All of this is evidence that the next generation (the article says the large portion of support comes from the young) has been thoroughly indoctrinated in a secular/materialistic mindset that has no foundation for understanding marriage, its God-given character, and its centrality to life and society. My generation has failed, quite honestly, to pass on a robust Christian worldview to our children, in general, and the results are clear, and predictable.
We must keep our lights bright, call for repentance, call sin sin, and wrath wrath, always as redeemed and hell-deserving sinners ourselves, and pray God will pour out repentance upon our land.
Angel Weighs in on #RaptureFail
05/21/2011 - James White
And So...Nothing Happened
05/21/2011 - James WhiteAs of the time of the posting of this article, Harold Camping has been proven a false prophet (again). Why? Because it is now 7pm standard time (yes, I remembered to factor in the daylight savings thing) in Guam, one of the first places on earth to experience the time of the "rapture" that Camping has predicted as a guaranteed biblical truth for years now.* And, according to the US Geological Survey (the clearing house for earthquake information from all over the world), no earthquake 10 or above on the Richter scale has taken place in that time zone...anywhere. Camping said the earthquake would be greater than anything known before, so I figure that's at least a 10, probably more (since he said it would open all the tombs and throw the bodies of the dead out of their graves to be "shamed in God's sight"). So, we begin the documentation,** which will continue through the day, of what some of us have been saying for a very, very long time: Harold Camping is a cult leader, a false teacher, and it is high time his followers finally admit it.
I have thought of some time of writing a lengthy open letter to Camping's followers. I may well do so after the dust has settled, it all depends. I was thinking today about the categories of Camping followers, and I think I would break it down into three groups: 1) the hard-core, unsaved cultists, who love novelty and gnosis, not truth, and if they don't keep following Harold, they will find someone else to follow, but will never follow truth; 2) the unsaved, simple, ignorant who found something compelling in his teachings; and 3) the few Christians who will, we are assured, be restored to truth and abandon his falsehoods. I would have something different to say to each of those groups, to be sure. I would be brief with the first; the second would require a lot of discussion that would be best done in person; and the third simply need to repent and return to their first love.
In any case, I will be glad when this day is over, the case is settled, the controversy over. I do not think my time has been wasted in refuting Camping: the lessons to be learned are many. But there is much else to be doing, and we must get to it.
One of the things we need to be doing is confessing, unashamedly, that Jesus Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and that He will, in fact, return someday. We just need to do it biblically, just the opposite of Harold Camping and his sign-toting followers.
*I thought about using Christmas Island as my example, but after reading the incredibly complex discussion of just what time it is on Christmas Island...I decided not even the Lord could make heads or tails out of that mess, so I stuck with something a bit more...mundane.
** Don't forget to visit www.rapturefail.org to register your "Rapture Fail" as well!
Some Comments on Hawking's Materialism
05/20/2011 - James White
Today on the DL: A Little Camping, A Little Islam, A Little of Everything...
05/19/2011 - James WhiteWide ranging discussion today, but at the end of the show Abdullah Kunde called in to talk about....Harold Camping. Can you believe it? Only on the Dividing Line! Here's the program.
I Remember Mr. Camping
05/18/2011 - James SwanA few days ago Dr. White mentioned some NPR broadcasts commenting on Harold Camping. These brief clips can be found here:
Is The End Nigh? We'll Know Soon Enough
Divining Doomsday: An Old Practice With New Tricks
I've been following the Harold Camping situation closely. In my area, Family Radio has had a large presence. I can never recall a time when there was no Family Radio. It's always been there, same spot on the dial, the same music, the same Mr. Camping. Over the years I'd tune into to Open Forum from time to time. No matter where my theology was at, I could never follow his explanations. Then I eventually embraced Reformed theology. Listening to Mr. Camping then became a bit more interesting because I was told he was a Calvinist. I'd listen in with different ears. Sure, he'd say some Reformed-type of things, but the hermeneutic was... wacky. If Camping was Reformed, it certainly sounded a lot different than R.C. Sproul or John MacArthur.
So here I am now, listening almost exclusively to Family Radio. We all know the hymn O Come O Come Emmanuel. A few weeks back I heard Family Radio play a version with different lyrics about judgment day. The familiar chorus has been altered in this way: "Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel" is now: "May twenty, first, two thousand eleven." Here is the mp3: O Come May 21. It's an unbelievable irony when I stop and think about it. I'm willfully suffering through some of the same music and excessive broadcasts of Harold Camping. Since I'm not certain if Family Radio will continue after this week, the thought of not having Family Radio has produced a slightly melancholic feeling. It's kind of like a store that's always been on the highway, and then one day it's gone. It's not like you cared for the store, but it's something you've always known. Those of you who've moved away from your hometown know what I mean. When you come back, you see the passage of time by what isn't there.
That Family Radio may disappear off the dial is also a blessing. When I think of all the lives Camping has ruined, I'm disheartened. The Reformed community should have tried to pull his plug years ago. But since he often put forth conservative old fashioned religion, many of the Reformed tolerated him. Even churches that I love and respect tolerated Camping and broadcasted their church services on Family Radio. His hermeneutic alone should have provoked Reformed congregations to not associate with him. But, Camping was "conservative" and conservative people sometimes embrace being conservative more than they do proper Biblical hermeneutics. For some, it was more important that Camping spoke against divorce, homosexuality, and worldliness. How does he interpret the Bible? Who cares? This sort of free pass from serious Reformed people always bothered me. Now we're seeing what happens when the importance of correct exegesis is ignored.
Harold Camping Like Rome
05/18/2011 - James WhiteI was listening to Camping's Open Forum program tonight. I was struck by two callers. One called to ask about 1 Corinthians 15:28, "When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all." Camping's reply was that he does not understand this text, his mind is too small for it. So, when someone asks about the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the relationship of Father and Son---i.e., about real theology, the knowledge of God, Camping throws up his hands and admits he hasn't a clue. Then, with a caller only a few minutes later, he claimed that there is nothing in the Bible more clearly testified to with more proofs than his own May 21, 2011 date.
How does this make Camping like Rome? Simple. Rome can tell us all about Mary's physical condition at the birth of Jesus, and about indulgences, and purgatory, and celibate priests, but she cannot tell you about the sovereign decree of God in salvation. In other words, Camping and Rome both illustrate the reality of unbiblical religion: you can't answer the deep questions, the meaningful ones, but you can have terrible certainty about utter irrelevancies. Of course, those irrelevancies are the very keys to your religious system, the things that make you differ from others, but the fact is that false religion can give you absolute certainty about unimportant things, but cannot answer the important questions of faith.
Does the Bible Guarantee Camping's Prediction?
05/18/2011 - Tur8infanHarold Camping has widely asserted that "the Bible guarantees" his prediction regarding the end times. This invites us to us examine his Biblical claims. One large chunk of the basis for Harold Camping's claims with respect to May 21, 2011, is that 2011 is allegedly 7000 years from the flood. Camping's date for the flood is unique and springs from work that he published as "Adam When?" in 1974 (I understand that the book may have undergone some revisions or editions since then, and in the following discussion I am referring to the current version available at his website.)
Adam When? purports to be a book that seeks to uphold the integrity of the Bible, and particularly the infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible. These are noble and right aims. The book quickly goes astray, however.
At page 36, Camping begins a section entitled "Inspired Verbs." While the verbs of the Bible are inspired, Camping treats them as though they represent a code. In short, Camping says that in the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11, whenever the text describes A begetting B and living a set number of years, this should be interpreted as A being just an ancestor of B, with B being born the year of A's death.
There's no Biblical proof for this approach. In other words, Camping cannot point to any passage where the Bible explains that this way of speaking is being used. This is a key point: nowhere in Scripture does it tell us that when it says "A lived so and so years and begat B and lived so and so more years after he begat B and he died," that B was actually born not after the first so and so years, but rather at the very end of A's life. This particular patriarchal generation idea is just something Camping dreamed up.
Moreover, Camping is forced to admit that in certain cases it is clear that this terminology is used of direct father-son relationships. Camping actually provides an exception for those cases in the genealogies where the text says that the father "called [his son's] name [name of the son]."
But this exception is as arbitrary as the rule. Camping does not provide a Scriptural basis for why the expression "called his name" should be a sign of direct father-son relationship that holds water. After all, the term is frequently used to refer to a mother naming her son, or even to neighbors of the grandmother naming a child:
Ruth 4:17 And the women her neighbours gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David.
And, of course, a very old man could name his grandchild born in the year of his death just as easily as neighbors could name their friend's grandchild. So, again, the idea that "called his name" is a special sign of direct father-son relationship is yet another thing that Camping just dreamed up.
What is truly bizarre is that begetting is something that only a father actually does, whereas calling a child's name is something that the mother or even the neighbors of the grandmother can do.
Camping's only answer to this objection is to point to Matthew 1:8 and to allege that Matthew declares that Joram begat Uzziah, although there is not an actual father-son relationship between the two. According to Camping: "Ahazial, Joash, and Amaziah should come between Joram and Uzziah."
Various explanations have been given as to why there are those three apparently missing generations in the Matthew genealogy. What is key about the Matthew genealogy, however, is that it does not purport to provide us with a chronology (i.e. dates). There are no ages or years of life mentioned. Instead, it is providing a lineage, much the way the Ezra 7 lineage does (the Ezra 7 lineage apparently omits 6 generations).
We could speculate about the apparent missing generations (are there really missing generations? have they been omitted because of a curse placed against Ahab? or does Ozias not correspond to Uzziah, but rather to a brother of Ahazial?), but such speculation isn't really necessary.
Why isn't such speculation necessary? Matthew 1's genealogy does not follow the patriarchal generation model that Camping has described. In Matthew 1's genealogy the only "called his name" is - you guessed it - Joseph calling Jesus' name in Matthew 1:25. It would be blasphemous to assert that Joseph was Jesus' biological father.
Thus, we see the arbitrary nature of Camping's pick-and-choose hermeneutic. Camping picks the apparently missing generations of Matthew 1:8 to establish a mere ancestry interpretation of the term "beget," while ignoring the "called his name" in the same genealogy, where such usage undermines Camping's theory.
1) Camping simply dreamed up his unique patriarchal generations theory. The Bible does not tell us that, for example, the following passage should be understood as saying that Jared was born in the year that Mahalaleel died:
And Mahalaleel lived sixty and five years, and begat Jared: and Mahalaleel lived after he begat Jared eight hundred and thirty years, and begat sons and daughters: and all the days of Mahalaleel were eight hundred ninety and five years: and he died.
2) Camping simply dreamed up the "called his name" exception. The Scriptures do not tell us that "called his name" is a special clue that there is direct father-son relationship between the person who called the name of the other person. Indeed, many times it is a woman who calls the name of the child (Genesis 4:25, Genesis 19:37, 1 Chronicles 4:9, 1 Chronicles 7:18) and sometimes it is even the neighbors of the grandmother, as we saw in the case of Obed.
3) Camping appeals selectively to irrelevant texts to make his case. As we noted above, Matthew's genealogy does not provide years, only lineage. Thus, Matthew's genealogy is not especially relevant to the Genesis 5 and 11 genealogies. Moreover, if Matthew's genealogy is relevant, Camping ought also to take into account the fact that "called his name" in Matthew 1:25 refers to Joseph naming Jesus, though Joseph was only the adoptive father of Jesus, much like Pharaoh's daughter was only the adoptive mother of Moses where she "called his name" in Exodus 2:10.
So, to answer the title question of this post, no - the Bible does not guarantee Camping's prediction. Camping's prediction is something that Camping dreamed up and attempted to impose on the Bible. Even if a very generous person would say that the Bible does not unequivocally deny Camping's imposed reading, certainly Camping's claim that "The Bible Guarantees It" falls short.
Camping Rained Out by Flood
05/17/2011 - Tur8infanOne of the key items in Harold Camping's interpretation that leads him to conclude that 2011 is the last year is that the flood was in 4990 B.C. and that A.D. 2011 is "exactly" 7000 years later. That 7000 years number is important to Camping, because at one point God said to Noah, "For yet seven days, ... and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth" (Genesis 7:4). Moreover, elsewhere Camping has noted that with the Lord one days is as one thousand years, and one thousand years as a day. Thus, Camping concludes that it is 7000 years from Noah's Flood until Judgment Day.
First, this is completely arbitrary. There's nothing about Genesis 7:4 that would lead someone to conclude that does not refer simply to the seven literal days that were fulfilled in the days of Noah. The reference to the earth being destroyed there is a reference to the world being destroyed by a flood, and we have been promised that a global flood will never again destroy the earth (see Genesis 9:13), of which the rainbow is a sign of the covenant.
The arbitrariness of the interpretation can be seen from the full context of the verse itself: "For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth." (Genesis 7:4)
There is no room for 40,000 years in Camping's chronology, so this part of the verse is conveniently ignored. Perhaps a justification is given that when it says "days ... and ... nights" it is not referring to thousands of years - but such an explanation doesn't come from the Bible.
There's another problem, though. The Bible doesn't date the flood to 4990 B.C. Of course, the Bible doesn't give year numbers, the Bible gives genealogies. Those genealogies can be used, to some extent, to reconstruct the history of the Old Testament era.
If one uses those genealogies, however, one will not arrive at 4990 B.C., one will arrive with a number like 2349 B.C., the number that Archbishop Ussher calculated, or 2957 B.C. - the number similarly calculated from the Septuagint translation (incidentally, the former calculation places Creation at 4004 B.C., while the latter places it around 5200 B.C.).
The 4990 B.C. date for the flood is actually something that Camping came up with around 1970 or so, and published in "Adam When?" in 1974. There is an updated version available on Camping's website now. Lord Willing, we will discuss "Adam When?" some more in a future post.
What suffices for this post is to point out that if Camping is right about the flood being 7000 years before the end of the world, then we have well over a 1000 years to go.
One of the Top Ten DL's Ever...Today
05/17/2011 - James WhiteYou never know when a program is going to take off...but this one sure did. Went fifteen minutes long, too, just to get all the calls in. So...started off with the announcement that the Great Evangelical Cover Up continues on with the hiring of Ergun "I was born in Istanbul and trained in jihad and came to the United States in 1979 and debate Muslims in mosques speaking Arabic" Caner as "Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs" at Arlington Baptist College in Texas. One is left wondering if he might teach ethics, too? Then we played this video from YouTube, produced by an insider at Family Radio, and commented on its contents. Then we started taking phone calls, and let me tell you...this turned into one wild ride. Started with Alex, who attempted to object to one of my YouTube videos on the gay agenda. Discovered quickly that secularists have no foundation for moral thought. As we moved on we took calls on losing one's salvation and doing biblical exegesis, theophanies and angelophanies with Pierre, our Mormon caller, how to deal with a gay friend, the atheist worldview, and a final call from another secularist very similar to the opening call with Alex (with a fellow named Sasha). Both the first and last calls illustrate what we are up against in attempting to deal with a secularized younger generation---a generation that will soon be making moral decisions about cloning, the use of stem cells, nuclear weapons, and so much more. God have mercy. Here's the program.
Today's Dividing Line at 3 pm MST
05/17/2011 - Tur8infanThe Dividing Line will be live at a different time than usual today (May 17, 2011): 3 p.m. MST, which is 3 p.m. PDT and 6 p.m EDT.
One Biblical Reason Why Judgment Day is Not on May 21
05/17/2011 - Alan KurschnerThe apostle Paul in his first Thessalonians' correspondence provides a sign-condition that must exist in the world before the day of the Lord's judgment: the ungodly will be saying, "There is peace and security." But look around...it is not the case. The opposite is true today. The ungodly are saying, "There is unrest and insecurity." Therefore, according to the apostle Paul, Jesus cannot come back on May 21 as Harold Camping is predicting.
(1) Now on the topic of times and seasons, brothers and sisters, you have no need for anything to be written to you. (2) For you know quite well that the day of the Lord will come in the same way as a thief in the night. (3) Now when they are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction comes on them, like labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will surely not escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in the darkness for the day to overtake you like a thief would. (1 Thess 5:1–4).By the time of the New Testament era, the two terms for “times” and “seasons” (chronos and kairos) were synonymous, so one should not read into this any temporal distinctions. It is a literary feature called a hendiadys, which is an expression of two words that express a single idea for emphasis (we have similar expressions in our contemporary English, e.g., “nice and easy”). Paul’s statement, “you have no need for anything to be written to you,” indicates two things:
(1) a question arose about the times and seasons of Christ’s return.
(2) they have previously been instructed on this matter (e.g., 2 Thess 2:5).
On a surface level, it is often assumed by interpreters that Paul is rebuffing their question about the timing of the Lord’s coming. For example: “Paul, what day is Jesus coming back? Dear Thessalonian church, I cannot tell you since he is coming back as a secret thief.” This is a careless reading of the context. The Thessalonians are not asking for some specific calendric year-day-hour timing of the Lord’s return. This is a misguided interpretation, for Paul’s answer reveals that they are asking not about a calendric “when” but a conditional “when.” In other words, Paul will answer that Jesus will come when a particular spiritual condition is met in the world.”
He gives the reason why he does not need to write them about the times and seasons: “For you know quite well that the day of the Lord will come in the same way as a thief in the night.” Apparently, Paul had already used this thief simile at the time he planted the Thessalonian church, but they did not grasp the full implications. The thief simile is common in the New Testament concerning Christ’s return (cf. Matt 24:43; Luke 12:39–40; 2 Peter 3:10; Rev 3:3; 16:15 ). We should not erroneously import into this thief image the theological system of imminence. One will look to no avail to find anything in any thief passages that teaches imminence. In addition, interpreters have wrongly read into the thief image meaning “unpredictability,” but verse 4 contradicts this notion. Instead, the image conveys a warning for spiritual readiness. If you are not spiritually ready for Christ's return it will come upon you suddenly, with negative consequences. Obedience eliminates the possibility that our Lord's return will be as a thief to those who are watchful. We belong to Christ, so we are to live with an attitude of expectancy—spiritual watchfulness—not imminence.
In verse 3, Paul teaches that the result of the Lord’s return as a thief to the ungodly will be sudden destruction. He is summarizing the beliefs of unbelievers when he says they will say, “There is peace and security.” He consistently notes a peace and security (albeit a surface-level quality) that will precede the day of the Lord. But this peace and security is illusory, a false security, for unbelievers because unforeseen sudden calamity will come on them just as unexpected labor pains on a pregnant woman (cf. Matt 24:37–39; Luke 21:34–36).
This condition does not exist in the world right now. And for Paul, to cite this condition it must be real, and not some subjective environment. In my futurist eschatology, I believe that an Antichrist figure one day will come on the scene to provide the ungodly with this "peace and security." But that day has not come. Nevertheless, right now, the world is not saying, "There is peace and security." Therefore, judgment day is not coming upon the ungodly until the condition exists. Persecution upon the entire global church will come first before the day of the Lord's wrath when He will punish our wicked persecutors.
Very Short Notice: Camping Discussion on Iron Sharpens Iron in Half an Hour
05/16/2011 - James WhiteChris Arnzen just called and asked me to fill in due to a cancellation to talk about Harold Camping so...why not? I will be on in about half an hour. Here's the link.
Some More Thoughts on Harold Camping and May 21
05/15/2011 - James White
Genesis 19: Sodom and Gomorrah Revisited
05/15/2011 - James WhiteI meant to post this last week, but simply kept forgetting! I filled in for my fellow elder Sunday evening on short notice, and addressed the issue of the meaning of Genesis 19:
Some Thoughts on the End of the World
05/14/2011 - James WhiteCan you imagine what it will be like for Campingites around the world a week from today? Listening to the news, waiting to hear about earthquakes at 6pm all around the world? Maybe saying goodbye to loved ones? Giving away personal items, all the time, wondering….
I listened to two NPR reports on Camping's prophecy today, and it was truly disheartening to listen to these folks. One lady had been about to enroll in medical college, but did not, so that she could warn people about "Judgment Day." Another man had left wife and children behind, as they did not "believe." A couple, the woman expecting their second child in June, were interviewed. They had given up everything, and had just enough money to make it till May 21. After that…well, they will be destitute. The New York Post just reported on a man who squandered his $140,000 life's savings to buy advertisements in the New York area promoting the May 21 prophecy. Can you imagine the chuckles of all those going to work on Monday the 23rd as they pass those advertisements? Thanks, Mr. Camping.
Well, are you ready? Even those living in a pretty sheltered world are starting to hear about May 21 now. The date is met with chuckles and smiles by most. Another end times prophet, more reason to question those nutty Christians. Atheists are planning Rapture Parties. Documentaries will be made about what happens on May 22nd. Disappointed followers will be looked at closely. Concerns, quite valid concerns, exist about some choosing to depart this world forcibly should they live to see May 22nd. Some of Camping's callers have been calling to ask about euthanizing their pets before May 21, and an atheist group has set up a pet rescue program where, for only $135, they will come get your dog or cat after you are raptured (the offer is good for ten years!).
I have thought a good deal about the whole thing lately, being one of those who have sought to expose Camping over the past decade. One thing is for sure, no one will be able to accuse me of having ignored the issue. It has never been a prime focus, it has never been a top priority, but there are few major ministries who have been "on target" with Camping's false teachings any longer than we have. My debate with him left no questions in the minds of any who were willing to listen, but, of course, that's the problem. Campingites are an odd bunch.
Now, I firmly believe Jesus is coming again. He could come today, He could even come on the 21st---no one on earth, even a false prophet, can keep Jesus from coming back for His bride. But He is not coming back only for Campingites (and they have surely added belief in May 21 as part of what one must believe to be saved). Every time some maverick like Camping decides to go off the reservation and promote a prophecy like this, scorn is brought on all of us who believe Jesus is coming again. The mockery factor will be quite high come Monday the 23rd.
I do not know what Camping is going to do on Monday the 23rd. He has closed every door on his options. He has said the Bible guarantees it. There is no plan B. This is it, plain and simple, no question marks after May 21, 2011? or the like to fall back on. I have thought he might spiritualize it, like Miller did back in 1844 or so, but he has really not left that option open either. He could always claim a blown calculation (we provided him with examples of errors in his numbers last year, in fact), but that would leave him without much credibility as a number-cruncher, and his system is nothing if it isn't based on number-crunching. Will he even show up on Open Forum on Monday? I mean, at 89 years of age, you'd think retirement would all of a sudden become a very viable option.
I can't imagine what a Monday, May 23rd, 2011 Open Forum broadcast would be like, however. Can you imagine the calls? Not only the mockery from unbelievers, but the anger from his own followers? It would probably be the highest rated program ever, to be sure. Their servers would melt down on the Internet side. But that would be temporary, and one can surely predict the collapse of Family Radio as a result of Camping's second major prophetic failure. One would hope, at least, that finally he would be removed and taken off the air so as to deceive no more. But, you would have thought that would have happened back in 1994. It didn't. There is always an audience for false prophets.
And of course there is the issue of what Campingites will do in the future. Let's be brutally honest: Campingites are, in the main, very odd people. As a whole they reject authority. They tend to be loners who do not like being around others. That's why they bought his attack on the church so easily. Many will not want to repent of their following a false prophet, embracing false doctrine, and attacking Christ's church. And I should emphasize this, that is exactly what must be demanded of any and every follower of Harold Camping after the May 21 date passes---repentance. If they show up at your church, be warned! They have engaged in sinful slander of Christ's church and the gospel, and they should be exhorted to repent and confess their errors before being given, over a period of time, access to the fellowship of believers once again. They should be watched carefully by elders to see if they have truly repented or whether they are just putting on a show so that they can once again bring their odd views and beliefs into the church.
At the same time, some of these folks will be absolutely positively devastated when their clock shows them it is May 22nd and the sun will rise in a matter of hours. They will have nothing left, and, given that Camping lied to them and said "the Bible guarantees it," many, many will abandon all belief in the Bible as Scripture. Atheist groups will be touting former Campingites who "saw the light" in the coming months. Remember that in the years after the failed 1975 prophecy of Jehovah's Witnesses, about a million people left the Watchtower. But, they did not join any other religious organization. They became the religiously abused, the burned out, the "don't talk to me about that stuff" crowd. And while I doubt Camping has that many followers, there will still be a large number who will throw it all away, saying the Bible is not worthy to be believed, all because Camping twisted it and distorted it and lied to his followers. He will have much to answer for on the real judgment day, which, at age 89, is very close at hand for him.
So once again, many thanks, Harold Camping. You will once again make the Bible, the Gospel, and the cross, a mockery, all because of your insatiable pride and arrogance. This time, the Lord allowed you to fall into more rank heresy in the process, but still, you say enough "right things" to bring mockery and disrepute upon all who hold the Bible to be the Word of God. Your followers will stand to condemn you on judgment day, to be sure, but more importantly, God well knows how many of us have tried to reason with you, tried to show you the error of your ways. You refused, and now the time is coming for judgment indeed. May 21st is judgment day after all: for Harold Camping, for Family Radio, and for all who have followed Camping into heresy and error.
It is Prime Riding Time in the Sonoran Desert
05/14/2011 - James WhiteI can feel the heat coming on. My outside thermometer reads 102.4 right now. Supposed to have a nice cool down on Monday through Wednesday, but still, the desert summer is knocking on my door. As it was, I got up at 3:45am to ride this morning, and that will become all the more necessary over the next four months as the over night temperatures inexorably rise...and rise...and rise. But for now, it is perfect riding weather. Hardly a cloud in the sky, dry as the proverbial bone as well. So, over the past two weeks I've logged 370 miles, a little below my average of late (650 the preceding three weeks before that---2,612 since I got back on the bike after my heart procedure on February 15), mainly due to last Saturday's South Mountain Time Trial. In any case, I've been hitting the hills, working hard to get to my personal goals by June 13th (the end of my 2010/2011 riding year). Right now I am pretty well on schedule for 8,750 miles (2,450 miles farther than ever before , and 3,330 miles farther than just last year) and 300,000 ft. of ascent (climbing), a solid double last year's number. I am still too big and heavy to ascend with the rocketmen (and don't expect to get much lighter, as I've already managed to drop below 10% body fat), and too chicken to descend with the crazy guys (I like my skin and limbs right where they are, thank you), but as I close in on 50 years of age, I really don't concern myself too much with that. I compete with myself, push myself, set goals for myself. I don't live to ride, I ride to live, as they say...and to study!
This morning as I enjoyed the gorgeous Sonoran desert on an 80 mile ride, climbing over 3,000 ft., I listened to three debates featuring my good brother Michael Brown (two on Jewish issues, one on homosexuality). I finished those off, and moved on to the next volume of Ibn Ishaq's life of Muhammad before getting back to the house. Yes, eclectic listening tastes, to be sure, but that's when I do Dividing Line prep, sermon prep, book research, you name it. I can't remember what I'm supposed to get at the grocery store anymore, but, if it is about debates, books, etc., it still sticks in my aging brain. When that stops happening, I will have to re-evaluate things! But as it is, I continue to rejoice in having a sport that pushes me to the limits but, at the same time, gives me uninterrupted study time to do what I do. You can't beat that combination!
It won't be long till the monsoons start here, and once again I will be able to catch some incredible sunrise photos as I ride. I'm looking forward to it, for as long as the Lord gives me the strength and ability to press on.
Today on the Dividing Line: Dr. Michael Brown and A Queer Thing Happened to America
05/12/2011 - James WhiteMy sincere thanks to my good friend and brother, Michael Brown, for giving us over an hour of his time today to discuss his new book, A Queer Thing Happened to America, which is available in our Amazon bookstore, here. Please take the time to listen to this interview and consider the issues it raises. This is one of the most important cultural issues of our day, and we dare not ignore it. Here's the program.
Today on the Dividing Line: A Truly Lopsided Debate
05/09/2011 - James WhiteI was left without words a dozen times as I listened to Michael Brown dismantle Dr. Eric Smaw (Dr. Smaw assisted in the dismantling) in a recent (April 21) debate on the redefinition of marriage. Spent the whole hour listening to the rebuttals and cross examination today on the program. Don't forget that Dr. Brown will be joining me on Thursday afternoon, so be with us live as we discuss his new book, A Queer Thing Happened to America. Here's the program.
Jimmy Akin: The Immaculate Conception has to be Read into Luke 1:28
05/09/2011 - James SwanRoman Catholic Apologetics never ceases to amaze. For years I've read through (or listened to) explanations of Luke 1:28 (And coming in, he said to her, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you"). A typical Roman Catholic explanation would hold the Greek word kecharitomene means an "indication of an unparalleled grace given by God to our Lady: She was conceived without the defect of original sin" [New Catholic Answer Bible, Insert R-1]. Or take Karl Keating's explanation from Catholicism and Fundamentalism:
The newer translations leave out something the Greek conveys, something the older translation conveys, which is that this grace (and the core of the word kecharitomene is charis, after all) is at once permanent and of a singular kind. The Greek indicates a perfection of grace. A perfection must be perfect not only intensively, but extensively. The grace Mary enjoyed must not only have been as "full" or strong or complete as possible at any given time, but it must have extended over the whole of her life, from conception. That is, she must have been in a state of sanctifying grace from the first moment of her existence to have been called "full of grace" or to have been filled with divine favor in a singular way. This is just what the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception holds... (p.269)
Or, consider Patrick Madrid's comments from the December, 1991 This Rock Article,"Ark of the New Covenant":
Look first at two passages in Luke 1. In verse 28, the angel Gabriel greets Mary as "kecharitomene" ("full of grace" or "highly favored"). This is a recognition of her sinless state. In verse 42 Elizabeth greets Mary as "blessed among women." The original import of this phrase is lost in English translation. Since neither the Hebrew nor Aramaic languages have superlatives best, highest, tallest, holiest), a speaker of those languages would have say (sic), "You are tall among men" or "You are wealthy among men" to mean "You are the tallest" or "You are the wealthiest." Elizabeth's words mean Mary was the holiest of all women.
Recently I heard a fascinating explanation of Luke 1:28 on Catholic Answers live:
In this short mp3 clip, Akin translates kecharitomene as "lady who has been graced." He explains the word means she has been graced by God in the past which continues to the present. Akin says, "That's a passage that many people have thought echoes, um, the immaculate conception because certainly Mary's immaculate conception was something that happened, she's a woman, and it happened to her in the past, namely at the very beginning of her life, and it continues to effect her in the present, because she's still immaculate as a result of that."
Now this alone appears to be the typical Roman Catholic answer on Luke 1:28. Akin though goes on to state that this type of understanding is consistent with what the Greek word means, but it's not something the word kecharitomene requires: "This is a Greek term that you could use in that exact grammatical formation for someone else who wasn't immaculately conceived and the sentence would still make sense." He then gives the example of using the term of Mary's grandmother. But next was the real gem in Akin's answer. At the end of the clip, he states, "This is something where I said previously, we need the additional source of information from tradition and we need the guidance of the magisterium to be able to put these pieces together."
This is a frank admission that the text does not plainly support the Roman Catholic interpretation and needs to be supplemented by another ultimate authority. For all of Keating's appeals to hidden meaning from the Greek, and for Madrid's "The original import of this phrase is lost in English translation," we now have Jimmy Akin finally admitting that the immaculate conception has to be read into the text.
Guessing About God: Mormonism's Inability to Resist the Onslaught of Modernistic Skepticism (Part 10--Final Installment!)
05/09/2011 - James White
One aspect of that scriptural heritage that Christianity cannot shake is the identification of several divine beings as gods (Gen 6:2, 4; Deut 32:43 [LXX, 4QDeut-q]; Ps 29:1; 89:7; Ps 97:7, among dozens of others). There are even divine beings called the sons of God. Other literature is in agreement. In the Dead Sea Scrolls angels are repeatedly called gods (אלים). Even rabbinic and Christian literature recognizes the existence of other gods.
The modern notion of monotheism largely has more to do with philosophy than religion or the Bible, but in religious arenas it rests on the traditional decoupling of divine beings from the “god” taxonomy. Although the Bible makes reference to other gods, the ontological transcendence of God is so absolute that people just find it acceptable to consider him the only God. Mormonism, of course, has much the same approach. God will always be the highest God for humanity, and so Mormons largely consider themselves monotheistic. They worship one God. Ask a traditional Christian about the “sons of God” and the other divine beings in the Bible and they’ll respond, “Oh, they’re just angels,” or “they’re just subordinate/contingent/created beings.” Ask a Mormon about divinized human beings and they’ll point out that they will always have God above them. For Latter-day Saints, there is one God. Don’t Mormons believe that God is not the absolute highest God, though? Don’t they believe he had a God, too? Many of them do, although it’s not a notion to which they are bound. Additionally, according to the Bible—or at least the original version of portions of it—Yahweh was also not the highest God. The Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls show in Deut 32:8–9 that Yahweh was considered one of the sons of El, also known as Elyon. It states that Elyon divided the nations according to the number of the “sons of God.” Elyon gave Israel to Yahweh. It wasn’t until around the beginning of the monarchy that Yahweh was conflated with El.
We come now to the main reason I titled this series as I did. You see, Mormonism’s foundations are clear for us all to see. Joseph Fielding Smith put it bluntly when he said Smith “was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground” (Doctrines of Salvation 1:188). Smith’s view of divine revelation, his claim of near constant latter-day revelation, and the resultant books of “scripture” he produced, tell us much about his viewpoints. And one thing is obvious: he wasn’t a German rationalistic liberal. He did not embrace the foundational principles of liberal theologians or simply destructive critics who took over just about every theological institution in Europe long ago, and who predominate, especially in Old Testament departments, in schools of theology in the United States. There is no evidence that his “inspired translation” of the Old Testament is based upon accepting rationalistic viewpoints such as the JEDP theory---just the opposite, his alterations, scattered as they are, show only a naïve “prophetic” impulse (how else do you explain finding an extra chapter of Genesis that is all about…you!?), not the sharp knife of the modern critic that begins with the assumption that these books are but the end result of a long process of unguided, natural historical processes. I do not think Smith would have understood the words of Gerhard Von Rad who, in commenting on a text in Deuteronomy 26, opined, “Deuteronomy is, after all, not the work of a lawgiver, but a collection of cultic and legal materials which are in part very heterogeneous and which have scarcely been brought into agreement with each other” (Von Rad, Deuteronomy: A Commentary, 1966, p. 158). Smith seriously believed he was “translating” the very handwritten records of Abraham when he was actually looking at Egyptian funerary documents from around the first century, so there is little reason to count him amongst the followers of modern destructive critics.
To understand McClellan’s assertions here, one must embrace a particular (and very popular) view of the Tanakh in particular that is fundamentally skeptical and unbelieving in its origins and practice. For those unfamiliar with the background, allow me to briefly summarize. Most Christians look at the Bible as a single volume with different chapters. But, of course, that is not an accurate perception. The Bible came to us over a long period of time through the hands of many different authors, as many as 40 in the Old Testament, less than a dozen in the New. Conservatives view the process in the Old Testament as taking about a thousand years, less-conservatives about six hundred. Some of the books of the Old Testament are anonymous in their authorship, others are not. If you embrace modern principles of skeptical criticism, you do not look at the Old Testament as a whole; you do not even look at the individual books as singular units. Instead, you are free to atomize the text, that is, cut it up into parts, and set these parts at odds with one another. Hence, some theorize that these documents are the end results of long periods of evolutionary editing (redaction) with all sorts of different sources providing the initial compilations, that are then edited over time. So, you might have one writer initially emphasizing one element or view, say, a priestly view; then another writer presents a different view, and he might be identified by his use of certain terminology, say, his use of the divine name Yahweh, or his non-use thereof, etc. Some of the sources used might be pagan in origin; sometimes the biblical writers are assumed to have been, well, quite dull and dim-witted, to be perfectly honesty with you, borrowing haphazardly from this or that, resulting in a poorly constructed compilation of contradictory views. But even this, then, goes through redaction, or editing, over time, where later writers, sensing these problems, attempt to correct them by editing and changing the text. ...
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Dividing Line Day Change: Moving to Monday
05/08/2011 - James WhiteGoing to have our regular Tuesday DL on Monday, regular time (11am MST). And don't forget that on Thursday the 12th we will be joined by Dr. Michael Brown.
Will You Waste Your Life? A Compilation (Including a Sermon from PRBC)
05/07/2011 - James White
Yesterday on the Dividing Line: Analysis of Minnesota Representative's Comments
05/06/2011 - James WhiteI took the first portion of the program to analyze the comments made by Minnesota Representative Steve Simon that have become widely distributed over the last few days. Then I began playing some portions of the recent debate between Dr. Smaw and Dr. Michael Brown. Here's the program. Here, also, is the video of the first portion of the program:
Guessing About God: Mormonism's Inability to Resist the Onslaught of Modernistic Skepticism (Part 9)
05/06/2011 - James WhiteThis is the ninth in a series of replies I am providing to a blog article (linked numerous times before) by Daniel McClellan. This has grown to proportions I never expected when I first decided to respond to it, but it remains my hope that it has value for those dealing with the new generation of Mormon apologists.
Christianity, in all the manifestations of which I am aware, accepts the existence of angels, demons, cherubim, seraphim, and all kinds of divine beings. From an etymological point of view, Christianity is absolutely not monotheistic.
It is hard to take this kind of argumentation seriously. While various forms of “theism” can be discussed when examining, say, the gods of the Assyrians or Moabites, for example, and one can speak of monotheism, henotheism, polytheism, etc., the meaning of my use of monotheism, and the meaning of the Christian faith in asserting one true and eternal God, unique and self-sufficient, is clear and unambiguous, and McClellan’s pointing to created spiritual beings that are not eternal, are not unique, and are not self-sufficient, is a red-herring of monumental proportions. Christianity has always asserted of God divine attributes that are not attributed to angels, so to even attempt to go down this road is to engage in mere obfuscation and word-play. But note as well, what Christians believe about angelic beings is not what Mormons believe about them either! So only the most easily confused will find this kind of argumentation compelling.
It believes in numerous divine beings. A divine being is and always has been, by very definition, a god.
Really? “By definition”? Whose definition? Surely not the definition Christians use in their own self-definitions, that’s for certain. So observe this form of argumentation: Mormons are Christians because we use a different definition of God than Christians have ever used! An angel may be called “a divine being” in the sense of “a being of supernatural origin or character,” but that does not mean the angel is a god! This kind of argumentation, as I noted above, is hard to take overly seriously.
We may argue that one is higher than, and rules absolutely over the others, but this is monarchism, not monotheism, and it erases the lines of distinction between James’ Christianity and Mormonism.
Here is clear evidence that Mr. McClellan has not even begun to attempt to engage my actual argument, nor does he intend to. He has to shift the grounds. The line of distinction between Mormonism and Christianity is found not in angels or the like, it is found in what is positively taught about the nature of God. For Christians, God has eternally been God; He is unchanging, all-powerful, the Creator of all that exists, anywhere, at any time. He is not dependent upon the creation, but transcendent, immutable, omnipotent, unique. Re-read the discussion, provided the LDS leadership itself, of how Elohim came to be a god provided earlier in this series; the LDS god is not unique, for many have followed the path to exaltation before him, and will do so after him (including, I would think, in his own hopes, Mr. McClellan, unless he no longer believes in exaltation to godhood); the LDS god is not the creator of all things, but only the organizer of things relevant to either this planet, or this universe, depending upon what Mormon you are talking to; the LDS god has progressed in the past, and may still be progressing in the present, again depending on who you are talking to or reading. The distinction is plain, obvious, and beyond disputation, and noting the existence of angels as created beings in no way, shape, or form, logically “erases the lines of distinction” between Christianity and Mormonism.
Let’s not commit the etymological fallacy, though. Monotheism is a descriptive term, and it was coined in describing Christianity at a certain time and place. Specifically, it was coined by a 17th century Cambridge Platonist to define his own conceptualization of Christianity, and specifically his conceptualization of Christianity over and against philosophical materialism, which he characterized as atheistic. The term “monotheism” was thus developed to define Platonic Christianity as antithetical to atheism, which included pantheism and several other -isms not considered atheistic by today’s standard. Interestingly, this Platonist (Henry More, by the way) actually explained that the “mono-” in “monotheism” could accommodate more than one divine being.
Let’s say Mr. McClellan’s assertions regarding the history of the term “monotheism” are correct. They would also be irrelevant to my usage of the term. He has here committed a common linguistic fallacy, one often committed in biblical eisegesis as well. The meaning of the term, as I used it, is plain from the context of my usage. It is a standard scholarly usage, one you will find over and over again in scholarly literature. I recently read through a work by well known New Testament scholar Larry Hurtado, and he used the term over and over again, often in the context of the monotheism of Second Temple Judaism. [Hurtado has recently commented on all sorts of monotheisms, even "pagan monotheism," here, but ironically, stops short of commenting on Christian monotheism per se, only speaking of the most primitive church's monotheism---in any case, the many uses of the term in Hurtado prove the point: the term is defined by usage and context, not by its alleged origin.] One will find many others likewise using the term in such contexts, such as Bauckham, Wright, etc. I had intended to invest time in providing numerous examples, but have chosen not to simply for time’s sake. It is not a disputable point (for anyone serious about the subject anyway). The point is that my use of monotheism had a clear meaning, and the meaning used by Henry More is, of course, utterly irrelevant to that which I presented. My use is in the historic, and biblical, context of the assertion of the utterly unique character of the one true God, creator of all things.
This definition is a far cry from American Evangelicalism, and it arguably doesn’t exclude Mormonism, but the reason this definition doesn’t help James’ position is the same reason no other characterization of Christianity as monotheistic over and against Mormonism will help: Christianity is based on the Bible, and the Bible as a whole is not monotheistic, according to James’ definition (which appears to align with the etymological notion).
Of course the Bible is monotheistic by my definition, for, as we saw above, the red herring of angelic beings, who are, by nature, created, is not relevant to the real theological divide between Christianity and Mormonism: the uniqueness, eternality, and utter “other-ness” of God. The Mormon presents to us an exalted man, with men, angels, and God, all existing in the same continuum, with men being “gods in embryo.” This is a fundamental denial of the Creator/creature distinction that cannot be expunged from Christianity merely to allow an 19th century religious group to feel better about itself in today’s post-modern world.
Christianity putatively derives its theology and ideology from the Old and New Testaments. That scriptural heritage will stay with it and will influence it no matter what renegotiations take place between those texts and modern expediencies and ideologies.
This is a very interesting section. First, as I quoted earlier, Apostle LeGrand Richards said plainly that Mormonism does not derive its doctrines from the Bible, but from modern day revelation. Would it follow then that Mormonism is not Christianity, given this observation? Next, the use of the term “putatively” is interesting. Much of what is called Christianity today has abandoned the only sound foundation of its faith, that being the θεόπνευστος Scriptures. For them, sola scriptura has been abandoned in favor of…a myriad of sources and traditions. But surely, for true Christianity, the Scriptures are our source of theology and doctrine. I am uncertain exactly what Mr. McClellan has in mind about “renegotiations,” but given what comes later, I think we can guess what he is thinking.
[continued and concluded in the next and final installment]
05/05/2011 - Alan Kurschnerhttp://triablogue.blogspot.com/2011/05/mars-hell.html
Guessing About God: Mormonism's Inability to Resist the Onslaught of Modernistic Skepticism (Part 8)
05/04/2011 - James WhiteI here continue my response to Daniel McClellan’s April 8th article.
I’ll now turn to his actual argument. I’m going to largely avoid addressing specific claims about Mormon beliefs that are brought up by James with varying degrees of accuracy only for shock value. Such rhetoric really doesn’t make a real point and doesn’t merit a response.
Mr. McClellan’s words contain a thinly veiled accusation of dishonesty, coupled with a claim to be able to read my mind and judge my motivations. This provides a convenient means of escaping doing the real work that must be undertaken by a Mormon apologist, that is, explaining how the unique, definitional elements of Mormon teaching can, by any stretch of the imagination, be called “Christian.” Let’s look at what I said specifically:
There is nothing overly controversial about my statements at the beginning of this video, and unless Mr. McClellan is dismissing the King Follett Discourse, the most commonly cited section of Smith’s teachings in all of the writings of modern LDS Church leaders (I have been told that he actually says the teaching found therein is not binding on Mormons, though I have not even begun looking at his replies as yet---if so, then such a radical position would prove my point about the departure of modern Mormons from the Mormon orthodoxy of only a few decades ago), then there is nothing remarkable, let alone dishonest, in what I said here. And since my citations do clearly communicate to Christian people the very non-Christian nature of LDS teaching, one would think that Mr. McClellan would focus his defense here. But this is not the way of the modern LDS apologist. They have discovered there is no way to shoe-horn Mormonism into orthodox Christian faith. It is just too foreign. So, what you do is you don’t even try: you attack the orthodox Christian faith, seek to undermine its essence (by attacking the clarity, perspicuity and consistency of Scripture, combined with an anti-orthodox reading of historical sources, both relating to ancient Israelite religion, as well as the teachings of the patristic period), and as a result, expanding “Christian” so that it becomes so wide (and, in fact, meaningless), that you can fit Mormonism into the resultant name.
So, the reason a Christian would find “shock value” in the citations I gave is because…it is shocking that anyone would attempt to say that a religion that produces such statements is, in fact, Christian.
Make a video talking about a 6,000 year-old earth, a talking donkey, and a flying man who brings people back from the dead and ask someone not living in a culture that is saturated with those traditions if they think it’s weird. They will think it’s very weird, just as many agnostics, atheists, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and even Christians in America today think certain aspects of Christianity are very weird. Will James feel defeated? No. He’s very aware of the fallacy of that kind of rhetoric when someone else is doing it.
Mr. McClellan’s rhetoric here contains a simple category error. He is comparing apples with oranges. My citations were of orthodox LDS sources making orthodox LDS claims. I did not have to put them in any kind of odd or misleading context. Their “shock value” flows from the fact that Christians know what Christian teaching sounds like, and Mormonism is not Christian teaching. I did not say, “Oh, look, Mormonism is weird.” I said Mormonism is not Christianity. The world’s dislike of supernaturalism or the existence of miracles or divine revelation is hardly a parallel to the fact that Christianity can be defined, and its definition excludes Mormonism.
James states that Christianity is monotheistic and that Mormonism is polytheistic. In fact, he states that it’s the most polytheistic religion he’s ever heard of. He quotes Joseph Smith’s King Follett Discourse in support of this. For the sake of argument, I will allow this characterization of Mormonism.
I.e., I have accurately summarized the teachings of Joseph Smith, the founder of the LDS faith. In fact, I have written an entire book doing just this, bending over backwards to carefully, and fairly, define the theological and doctrinal distinctives of Mormonism (Is the Mormon My Brother?). I spent chapters seeking to allow Mormonism to speak to its own beliefs. But it seems that today what was taught by Joseph Smith, or what even has been the consistent teaching of the General Authorities over many decades, is no longer the highest authority in Mormonism. But if Oxford trained men now presume to speak to what is and what is not Mormonism, can anyone really define the faith any longer? And doesn’t this prove my point about the radical change in methodology represented by this new generation of LDS apologists? One is truly left to wonder whether Mormonism can survive such a radical change in its own self-understanding.
However, I must disagree that Christianity is monotheistic, at least in a way that materially distinguishes it from Mormonism.
Note the fulfillment of the prediction made earlier: rather than defending Joseph Smith’s positive statements, McClellan seeks to modify Christianity’s own self-understanding. That is, every creedal statement of the Christian faith down through the ages has started with the reality that there is only one true God, creator and maker of all things. These words have meaning. The God of Christianity is not an exalted man from another planet; the God of Christianity did not become a god by obedience to law, via the power of priesthood, etc. The God of Christianity (not just evangelicalism, but of all of the branches of “Christendom”) is self-sufficient, eternal, uncreated, unique. The God of Joseph Smith is…none of that. So, it seems that Mr. McClellan is engaging in a bit of misdirection, for while he will attempt to introduce lesser beings as “divine” and appeal to the conflict between Judaism and the polytheistic/henotheistic religions that surrounded it, the fact is that the religion he is seeking to grant “Christian” definition to is not merely asserting the existence of angelic beings, spiritual beings, or anything of the kind. Smith’s teachings are clear and understandable: he taught about a God who had once been a man, who had progressed to the status of godhood. Angelic beings, created by God, are not deities, they are not self-sufficient, eternal, unlimited. As we will see, Mr. McClellan even has to attempt to redefine the theological usage of “monotheism” to find some way of making Mormonism fit into a wildly distorted, unbiblical, and a-historical definition of Christianity.
Let me “materially distinguish” the monotheism of biblical and historic Christianity from Mormonism, plainly and directly: the God of the Bible has eternally been deity; He did not progress to the status of deity by obedience to laws and principles; He has never worshipped a god that was a god prior to Him, and upon which He depended for His own exaltation to godhood; nothing that exists, anywhere, at any time, in any universe, exists outside of the creative power of the one God Christians worship. He is eternal, unchanging, and absolute. None of these positive assertions can be made of the Mormon deity as defined by Smith and as taught by the General Authorities of the LDS Church, and the negative denials are all directly relevant to the uniquely non-Christian nature of Smith’s (and Young’s) teachings about the Mormon deity.
Osama bin Laden, and Calls, on Today's Dividing Line
05/03/2011 - James WhiteStarted off doing what, well, as far as I can see, very, very few people have been doing since the strike against Bin Laden's compound: reminding folks, by reading directly from his own pen, what motivated and powered the most wanted man in the world. Then we started with calls on textual criticism, Bible translations, and the soteriological intent of John 6:39. Here's the program.
Also, announced at the end of the program that a week from Thursday (May 12), Dr. Michael Brown will join me to discuss his new book, A Queer Thing Happened to America, available in our Amazon bookstore. Don't miss this important conversation!
Guessing About God: Mormonism's Inability to Resist the Onslaught of Modernistic Skepticism (Part 7)
05/02/2011 - James WhiteI continue my response to Daniel McClellan's blog post, found here. Please note that with this article I am breaking from the order of Mr. McClellan's article. I will seek to respond to the material skipped in the next installment. I sincerely apologize for the sheer length of this single segment, but I am truly attempting to transcend the normal fodder one finds in "blog wars" and provide something of value to a wider audience, while at the same time showing Mr. McClellan his due respect. I hope to invest as much time in the discussion of Deuteronomy 32, but as this has already consumed far more time than I have to invest, I will have to be brief in the rest of my comments.
Paul states in 1 Cor 8:5 that there are many that are called gods in heaven and on earth and immediately qualifies the statement by saying, “indeed, there are many gods and many lords.” He continues, “but for us there is one God, the Father, from which comes all, and to whom we belong.” Notice he states that there are indeed many gods, but “for us there is one God.”
The history of the a-contextual and eisegetical reading of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 8:5-6 in Mormon history is long indeed, and the story continues to be written by Mr. McClellan. It goes back to Joseph Smith’s first misunderstanding of the text, enshrined amidst the many other amazing things he said about the text of the Bible (things that you do not find most Oxford trained LDS apologists bringing up very often). Note his use of the text from 1843:
The Doctrine of the Godhead...
There is much said about God and the Godhead. The scriptures say there are Gods many and Lords many, but to us there is but one living and true God, and the heaven of heavens could not contain him; for he took the liberty to go into other heavens. The teachers of the day say that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God, and they are all in one body and one God. Jesus prayed that those that the Father had given him out of the world might be made one in them, as they were one [one in spirit, in mind, in purpose]. If I were to testify that the Christian world were wrong on this point, my testimony would be true.
Peter and Stephen testify that they saw the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God. Any person that had seen the heavens opened knows that there are three personages in the heavens who hold the keys of power, and one presides over all.
If any man attempts to refute what I am about to say, after I have made it plain, let him beware. (TPJS 311-312, 1843).
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