Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Owen on Mormonism: A Warning to the Discerning (II)
09/16/2005 - James WhiteBefore continuing our response to Paul Owen's velvet-glove treatment of his former religion, I found it most humorous that he has now complained about being misrepresented in his views of Baptists. If life were not so short, and time precious, it would be enjoyable to go back through just the archives I have kept of his harangues to put together a lengthy selection of his anti-Baptist statements, placed in juxtaposition to his "I'm being misrepresented!" complaint. Actually, a quick search of my own blog for "Paul Owen" would pull up plenty of substantiation. Also, for those interested, I examined, and refuted, Owen's eisegetical attempt to undermine the clear testimony of John 6:37ff to the truth of divine predestination on the Dividing Line today (9/15/05 for those reading at a later date). His completely a-contextual handling of the text is testimony to the over-riding nature of tradition in his thinking. We continue reviewing Owen's commentary on Mormonism:
4. I do not believe that the argument, sure they believe in a Jesus, but not the Jesus, applies to the Mormons. The accusation of preaching “another Jesus” (2 Cor. 11:4) is directed at false teachers who knowingly deny the authority of the apostle Paul, and who intentionally proclaim a different Jesus from the one Paul claimed to have met on the Damascus Road. The Mormons do not intend to worship a Jesus who differs from the apostolic testimony, as Paul’s opponents did. Their intention is to worship the Jesus who spoke through all the apostles. Christian apologists, in their zeal to latch onto a prooftext, have misapplied Paul’s strong words here, and wrongly applied them to Mormons, who intend to affirm what Paul, and all the apostles taught pertaining to Christ, but who misunderstand some of those teachings. That, in itself, is not damnable. I take their claim to have faith in Jesus at face value. The problem is, it is a defective faith, because the Mormons do not affirm the true substance of the faith as it has been summarized in the consensual affirmations of the Church. The problem with the Mormons is not that they do not believe the Bible (many of them do); it is that they do not believe in the testimony of the Church as to the content of the faith once for all committed to the saints (Jude 3). In short, the problem with the Mormons is not that they are not Evangelicals, but that they are not Catholic Christians.
Let's see if we can follow this argument. To preach a false Jesus (2 Cor. 11:4) requires you to have a full and accurate knowledge of Paul's doctrine of Christ; you must intend to deny Paul's authority. Hence, as long as someone does not intend to deny Paul's authority and they do not want to proclaim a false Jesus, they are free from the condemnation of false teaching. Now is it true that Mormon leaders always intend to "affirm what Paul, and all the apostles taught pertaining to Christ"? Is teaching Jesus is the only-begotten of the Father in the flesh, the child of an exalted man, merely "misunderstanding some" of the Apostles' teachings, and is not, in fact, damnable? If that is the case, then Mohammed's representations of Christ would in the Qur'an would fall into the same category, no? How about the Jehovah's Witnesses? Buddhism? Surely the Buddhists are not trying to contradict Paul; and since they have pure motives, their errors must not be damnable. Indeed, it would seem that outside of an apostolic ability to see into the hearts of men, there really isn't anyone who teaches damnable heresy anymore (well, except for Baptists in general, but that's a different issue). So, teach what you will about Christ: as long as your motivations are not to purposefully contradict apostolic teaching, all will be well. You might be a little confused, but it isn't damnable. Isn't that exactly what Jesus Himself said to the Jews? "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am [He], you will die in your sins" (John 8:24) Don't let that "you will die in your sins" part concern you. It's all motivations and intentions. Dr. Owen has settled that for us all.
Now, listen carefully to what comes next, though. See, Mormons believe in the Bible. They may believe many plain and precious truths have been removed and it has been mistranslated and it is only true so far as it is translated correctly and it is not nearly as accurate as the Book of Mormon and should be understood through the lens of the Latter-day Scriptures and prophets and the like, but still, they believe in it (sorta like the Muslims do, I guess); but you see, the problem is not that Mormonism denigrates the Bible and subjects it to their own prophets and their own man-made Scriptures. No, no, you silly Baptistic person you! The Mormons' problem is that they "do not believe in the testimony of the Church as to the content of the faith once for all committed to the saints" and that they are not "Catholic Christians"! Their problem is not that they don't believe the inspired Word of God, it is that they don't accept the creeds of Christendom! There you go! And you wonder why I ask where the emphasis should be put in the phrase "former Mormon."
Now, the next section on Joseph Smith may not resonate with you as much if you have not ever read Smith and his incredible teachings. But if you have, you will understand why I wonder even more in light of the following. When you've been redeemed from a false religion, what could possibly cause you to speak as Owen does about Smith?
5. I do not accept Joseph Smith as a true Prophet. I do not believe that Joseph had the authority to pen Scripture, as did the prophets and apostles of old. I do believe that Joseph can be viewed as a prophet of sorts (something along the lines of Balaam in Numbers 22-24), who experienced a taste of the charismata, and who may have been used to speak a true word of rebuke upon a wordly [sic], divisive church which was gripped by the spirit of revivalism. God used Joseph to speak to the churches, and to expose their shallow versions of the Christian religion. Out of the fragmented confusion of frontier revivalism and evangelism arose a new religion, which took revivalism to its logical conclusion, and implemented the popular primitivist, Anabaptist, Radical Reformation vision in such a manner as to decisively break from the historic fold. When the Church does not bear witness to its Catholicity, when the Faith becomes more of a mechanism of producing converts than maintaining the unity and identity of the visible body, God raises up men and movements to rebuke the worldly church. The Rechabites (Jer. 35) and the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) provide us with comparable models in which to understand God’s purpose in raising up Joseph Smith and the Mormons.
God raised up Joseph Smith "to speak a true word of rebuke upon a worldly, divisive church"? And what was the content of that word? That God is a man? That men are gods? That Jesus is the spirit-brother of Lucifer and we should re-establish priesthoods and temple endowments and all the rest? This was what God intended in raising up Joseph Smith? Note well, folks, that for Owen, Mormonism is simply the logical conclusion of what? "Popular primitivist, Anabaptist, Radical Reformation vision." That's the term he hangs on anyone who does not share is hyper sacramentalism. Nothing new there: throwing around such broad terms as "Anabaptist" has been a common means of painting your adversaries as anti-ecclesiastical radicals for a long time. Lots of folks died under the accusation as well. The normal first victim of its use is rational discourse these days, thankfully.
Joseph Smith was a false prophet. If he had not been murdered, Mormonism would not exist today. If he had lived only a few more years the tangled mess of radically evolving teachings he was producing would be beyond defense or interpretation: as it was, his murder laid the foundation of the religion. But Joseph Smith said nothing to Christ's sheep, and Mormonism is no witness to Owen's proposed "Catholicity." Mormonism is a judgment indeed: upon this nation and the world, and upon those deceived by its false teachings. It is so opposed to the Christian faith that to embrace it is to engage in idolatry to the fullest level. But Owen is so opposed to the "Anabaptists" that he does not mention any of that: Smith speaks words of truth instead. Is it any wonder Paul Owen is the favorite "evangelical scholar" of FARMS (the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies)?