Worshiping the Bible

October 1, 2007    By: Geoff J @ 12:02 am   Category: Calvinism,Mormon Culture/Practices,Personal Revelation,Scriptures,Theology

I have long suspected that some of our creedal Christian friends have inadvertently begun worshiping the Bible itself in place of, or at least in addition to, the living God. Recently Aaron Shafovaloff (of the Fluffy Bunny Nice Nice Club) seems to have confirmed that suspicion for me in his case at least.

We were discussing how he knows the Bible is the word of God over at his blog and he kept saying things that made no sense at all to me. I kept asking things like “Did God tell you it is true or not”? And he kept saying things like “No, not in the way Mormonism talks about this “yes” answer.” Well his last comment finally started clearing up this issue for me. Here are some of his quotes:

Geoff, you are only putting more nails into the coffin and are reaffirming over and over again to me that you don’t truly believe in the full inspiration of scripture. If scripture is God’s very word, then it has the very same power that God’s word has. God created and upholds the universe “by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). God says, “let there be…” and there simply is what he commands into being. Paul, who understands the “word of [God’s] power”, draws a parallel between creation and conversion in 2 Corinthians 4:6:

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

In response to me asking “Isn’t God the one telling people the Bible is true through his Holy Spirit?” he said:

Yes, in scripture, which is God’s word, God is “telling” things, and this “telling” is authored by the Holy Spirit himself. Again, Geoff, the real decisive issue here is that you don’t truly believe scripture is God’s very word, his very “telling”. If you did, you wouldn’t be asking questions like this.

In response to my question about if he thought the Bible was somehow personified and separate from God and thus could “magically” speak for itself he said:

So to mock the idea of the power of scripture as God’s very word as mere “magic” or idolatrous is unsettling indeed. It shows you really don’t believe in scripture as God’s very word to begin with, or at least that you don’t believe in the power of God’s word at all, which is probably the deeper root issue related to one’s view of God’s nature.

And when I asked “If God didn’t tell you the Bible is true who did? Are you really saying the Bible is somehow personified and thus somehow independent of God?”, he responded:

I’m saying that the Bible is the personal word of God. God literally “tells” you things in scripture. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) That is literally God’s living, active, personal word.

I must admit that I am blown away by this for some reason. I shouldn’t be because he hasn’t been hiding his feelings on the matter in our discussions. I suppose these notions are so foreign to me that I just couldn’t see them. He really believes the Bible is somehow living. To him it is not a collection of recorded revelations from God to prophets; to him it is, you know, alive. As he said, to him it is living and active.

Wow.

Seriously… Wow.

I can’t for the life of me figure out how his view isn’t textbook idolatry. (No pun intended). I mean, it seems to me that he basically sees the Bible as a living member of the Godhead sitting on his shelf.

I have occasionally cringed to hear Mormons regurgitate lines like “We talk to God through prayer and God talks to us through the scriptures”. I think that is utter poppycock. God talks to us primarily through his Spirit. One of the things he does through his Spirit is confirm the veracity of revelations other people have experienced as recorded in scriptures. But Aaron has taken that concept of “God talks to us through the scriptures” to new and dizzying heights.

So how common is this sort of view of the Bible? Is Aaron’s view considered extreme even among evangelicals or is it the norm? To what degree have you seen something like scripture worship happening in Mormonism?

143 Comments »

  1. Geoff, just in case you didn’t pick it up, I was actually borrowing the language of Hebrews 4:12

    “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

    The word of God isn’t “living and active” in the sense of the words on the page oozing with ink-life. Nor is the Bible a person. Rather, scripture is the word of a personal, living, active God who still is personal, living, and active through his revelatory, written word. Thus, the Bible isn’t a mere “dead book”, as some Mormons have called it, but is literally continuing revealing to those who are exposed to it, changing their hearts. In a sense it could be called continuing revelation. I can truly say that God told me he justifies those who “trusts him who justifies the ungodly” (Romans 4:4-8), and that Jesus “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). I really do believe I am quoting God here, as the scriptures are “God-breathed” and are his very word, even though the scripture also has a merely human author too.

    I have occasionally cringed to hear Mormons regurgitate lines like “We talk to God through prayer and God talks to us through the scriptures”. I think that is utter poppycock. God talks to us primarily through his Spirit. One of the things he does through his Spirit is confirm the veracity of revelations other people have experienced as recorded in scriptures. But Aaron has taken that concept of “God talks to us through the scriptures” to new and dizzying heights.

    As much as I heartily disagree with you, I find this refreshing because a little of what I’ve said seems to be making sense to you and is helping you draw distinctions I’ve long said existed.

    Plenary inspiration” is the norm among evangelicals, and that is what I am simply trying (albeit probably with weaknesses) to articulate.

    As I recommended to you, I would recommend to anyone a short article by John Piper called, “The Morning I Heard the Voice of God“. It’s a great introduction to the evangelical doctrine of inspiration. If you’re going to decide it’s idolatrous, at least do so on the basis of an accurate understanding of the doctrine.

    Appreciating the dialog and praying for the personal word of God to change you like it has changed me,

    Aaron

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — October 1, 2007 @ 12:35 am

  2. Geoffrey,
    There is an assumption made by Aaron et.al. that I simply cannot accept, viz., that the Bible itself is the word of God. For me, the Bible (and all scripture) may well contain the word of God, but it is up to us to figure out what it is. After all, God did not write the Bible nor did he translate it into English.

    Comment by Ronan — October 1, 2007 @ 5:14 am

  3. Aaron S (#1),

    If you want a Mormon to recognize a biblical allusion, it would be best to quote the King James, which in this case says that: “the word of God is quick, and powerful, …”

    Of course the interesting question is what the author of Hebrews intended to convey when he said that the word of God was a “discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart”. I find it hard to believe he was referring to the text alone. The Greek is “logos theos”, which of course is a well known term for the Son of God.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 1, 2007 @ 5:31 am

  4. Since which books to be contained in the Bible were decided on by “men”, while leaving countless others out….Aaron should hope the “men” got it right!

    Comment by Sandee — October 1, 2007 @ 6:07 am

  5. I don’t know any Mormons who call the Bible a dead book.

    It is obviously alive and changing.

    Consider, hundreds of millions of Christians used Bibles with Third Corinthians in them — a practice that only ended in the 1950s. More revered that book than all the Evangelicals that ever lived. Now it is out of the Bible.

    More Christians than not have Bibles with the apocrypha in them, yet show me an Evangelical who accepts it as the word of God and keeps a Bible with them as the primary Bible they study.

    Or take The Pearl or The Shepherd of Hermes — both parts of the original Bible, long gone from it in most.

    The Bible changes so often and so dramatically from time to time that isn’t a dead and fixed book by any means. The amount of change, and the amount of change in the text that

    The real question seems to be whether the Bible speaks independently or whether the Holy Ghost speaks through it. If it is independent speech, then any book that claims that the book itself is true speaks as strongly for itself, and many do.

    But anyway Geoff, you’ve hit the problem. Either they are making a circular argument which that resolves itself to idolatry for the text or at some point they have to acknowledge that the Spirit has a role. If the first, then in the end the claim of authority resolves itself entirely from the book itself and has no weight, being a single witness (even Christ said that if his witness was singular, then it was false).

    If the second, then the principle applies to seeking the truth in general, not merely when evaluating the Bible, something they are trying to be willfully blind to vis a vis the Book of Mormon.

    What is really interesting is to compare the approach to the Koran and the literalistic types who venerate it as the unchanged word of God. They are having problems with the facts that the Koran has changed from early texts (which exist laminated into the walls of Mosques and which are now being recovered), but the logic is very similar. The book itself claims to be the word of God (to be studied in the original language only, the true language God spoke), therefore it is.

    It makes a very powerful comparison.

    \as an aside, interesting article: http://www.scionofzion.com/estbible.htm

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — October 1, 2007 @ 6:12 am

  6. Oops, lost some words at the end of one sentence. “the amount of change [in the books that comprise the Bible] and the amount of change in the text itself that is in print can be amazing. The Bible is in constant change.”

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — October 1, 2007 @ 6:15 am

  7. Geoff, this post made me think of 2 Nephi 33.

    specifically verse 10 although the chapter has more on the theme.
    And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good.

    Near my house there is written on a hill the words, “the bible is the truth.” It seems to me that if that were the case it has the main defect of never saying so. Instead we read that Christ is the way the truth and the life. I think ‘the truth’ is idolatrous, if it said, is true, or contains truth I wouldn’t have a problem with it.

    Comment by madera verde — October 1, 2007 @ 7:15 am

  8. Aaron: Again, Geoff, the real decisive issue here is that you don’t truly believe scripture is God’s very word, his very “telling”.

    I still don’t get why Aaron thinks that Geoff or anyone else should believe that the Bible is literally God’s very word or, indeed, why Aaron himself believes that it is. Because it says it is? Is that it? Or is it because the men who selected what to put into the Bible say it is?

    He finds fault with Geoff’s conceptualization of scripture but he offers no reason why it’s wrong and why the rest of us should believe as he believes.

    Comment by Tom — October 1, 2007 @ 7:24 am

  9. The simple response to Aaron is, what about the Koran? That also says it is the word of God. What makes it different from the Bible?

    You can’t justify the Bible using the Bible…there are too many other holy books making truth claims to do that. There has to be some other authority to draw on.

    Comment by Doug Hudson — October 1, 2007 @ 7:30 am

  10. Near my house there is written on a hill the words, “the bible is the truth.” It seems to me that if that were the case it has the main defect of never saying say. Instead we read that Christ is the way the truth and the life. I think ‘the truth’ is idolatrous, if it said, is true, or contains truth I wouldn’t have a problem with it.

    Jesus himself prayed, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)

    The simple response to Aaron is, what about the Koran? That also says it is the word of God. What makes it different from the Bible? You can’t justify the Bible using the Bible…there are too many other holy books making truth claims to do that. There has to be some other authority to draw on.

    I think it’d be foolish to dismiss internal evidence altogether when considering the alleged authority and inspiration of the Bible. That the Bible claims its own authority and inspiration isn’t irrelevant, for one thing. While external, corroborating evidences is helpful and encourage people to take the Bible seriously, in the end one’s belief in it as the word of God can only come by being convinced by the thing itself. But don’t misread me as saying mere naked claims of authority are alone persuasive.

    By the way, this response of yours doesn’t do much for Mormonism, as Mormonism essentially teaches that the private, internal emotional testimony one receives is self-authenticating and self-evidencing. And plenty of people claim to have similar experiences and claim mutually exclusive conclusions and testimonies. But Mormonism might have something after all. I keep getting overwhelmed by the fact that Acts has myriads of examples of people being told to pray for a private emotional experience to see if the gospel is true. *cough*

    I find it hard to believe he was referring to the text alone [in Hebrews 4:12].

    The term can go both ways depending on the context. In any case, you can’t divorce the Bible from it’s ultimate personal author, so I’d agree with you in principle anyway.

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — October 1, 2007 @ 8:44 am

  11. Much like Doug said, the Book of Mormon also says it is the word of God, as does the D&C.

    I went on a mission to Georgia, and did come across a few people who saw the Bible as infallible. I came across a man who said that if there was a single mistake in spelling, punctuation, or any type of contradiction in the Bible he would stop believing in God and stop being a Christian. I had some ‘ammo’ I could have used, but decided not to.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — October 1, 2007 @ 8:51 am

  12. This sentence is true.

    Well is it?

    Wow. The circularity here is amazing. Any book can claim that it is true. Where does one begin? You read the book, see that the book claims it is true, and simply because of that you believe that it is?

    I’m not claiming that the Bible isn’t true, but that you can know the truth of it for yourself because God is merciful enough to tell you.

    Comment by a random John — October 1, 2007 @ 9:00 am

  13. Random John, you’re simply assuming God didn’t “tell” us things in the Bible as his very word, and that the internal evidence of the Bible doesn’t go beyond mere self-claims. Again, I’m not saying mere naked self-claims are alone persuasive, but ah heck, caricaturing evangelical doctrine seems to be a hobby of some folks here. Who am I to spoil the fun.

    Eric, for a more robust evangelical view of inerrancy I would give this a simple read.

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — October 1, 2007 @ 9:10 am

  14. Aaron,

    It seems to me that you are playing a shell game. On the one hand you are loosely personifying the Bible and saying it defends itself. You say things like “the internal evidence of the Bible doesn’t go beyond mere self-claims” as if the Bible is a power unto itself and can defend itself like some living entity. (Your Argument A)

    But when pressed on that issue you flip flop and say things like “The word of God isn’t “living and active” in the sense of the words on the page oozing with ink-life”. (Your Argument B — which contradicts A)

    So then we get back to attacking the circular reasoning you have used like random John just did you flip back to just using Argument A and claim there are some mysterious “internal evidences” of the Bible that go beyond mere self-claims.

    So focusing on your Argument A for now — what are these mysterious internal evidences? When you say internal I assume you mean they don’t require the Holy Spirit at all right? (The Holy Spirit is external to the ink and paper after all.)

    Comment by Geoff J — October 1, 2007 @ 9:24 am

  15. Caricatures Aaron?

    Because of course, Mormons are not caricatured with their touchy-feely testimonies elsewhere are they?

    I think in both faith traditions the caricatures have basis in reality.

    But if I’m dismissed elsewhere for trying to articulate a more nuanced (and I think intelligent) version of Mormon belief, why should you expect different treatment for trying to be more nuanced about evangelical belief? I’ve already explained why Mormonism is not just “warm feelings.” Yet this explanation seems to have fallen on deaf ears and people are still stubbornly insisting that Mormons are all about cheap emotionalism.

    What’s sauce for the goose Aaron…

    Comment by Seth R. — October 1, 2007 @ 9:24 am

  16. Aaron,
    But what if someone has never read the Bible before and you want to try to help them know that it’s God’s word? What do you tell them?

    Surely you don’t bring up the Bible’s own claims to truthfulness, do you? The Bible’s own claims of truthfulness are 100% irrelevant unless you just assume that it’s true.

    Comment by Tom — October 1, 2007 @ 9:26 am

  17. Aaron,

    I feel your pain. I don’t think anyone here is intentionally caricaturing Evangelical doctrine, but I have enough experience reading other people’s portrayals of Mormon doctrine to understand how it feels. I’m sure we don’t get it right much of the time. I don’t make it over to your blog much, but you come across to me as a sincere and genuinely kind (albeit misguided) person.

    As mostly an observer, it seems that there is a recurring problem that no number of comments exchanged can accurately communicate your position. I see Geoff ask a myriad of questions and you respond and at the end when he does his best to articulate what you’ve expressed as your own view it turns out to be a caricature. Why do you think that is? I am actually curious, that is not rhetorical.

    From Geoff’s summary, it seems that you are specifically denying that God’s communicated anything to you outside of the Bible. So, you have the Bible, it claims to be God-breathed, you investigate and find that it seems to be reliable, so you accept that it is God-breathed as it claims. Is that right? If so, what sorts of investigations did you do into the Bible which convinced you that it should be accepted as God’s very word?

    Comment by Jacob J — October 1, 2007 @ 9:37 am

  18. Geoff, you misread me. When I said, “the internal evidence of the Bible doesn’t go beyond mere self-claims”, I was pointing to someone else’s false assumption. I definitely believe the internal evidence of the Bible does go beyond self-claims. The Bible doesn’t even have to say “the Bible is true and authoritative” for it to be true or authoritative. I think the real issue is that you just don’t believe the Bible itself can authenticate and evidence its own authority, truth, beauty, and power at the personal hand of God. Until one “sees” that, it’s just foolish.

    Saying that the Holy Spirit isn’t required is silly for two reasons. 1) Because, as I’ve already said, the human heart is so darkened it needs to be enlightened by the Spirit to see God’s word for what it is. A danger here is misunderstanding what I just said is conflating the idea of private internal testimony with illumination of something public. 2) The Holy Spirit authored the scriptures.

    The main internal evidence of scripture is its portrait of Jesus Christ. If that isn’t ultimately compelling then nothing else will be.

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — October 1, 2007 @ 9:38 am

  19. Aaron, you are still simply appealing to the reader’s own internal gut and mental reaction to the “portrait of Jesus” and other stuff in the Bible.

    I see no real distinction between what you are doing and what the Book of Mormon calls for in Moroni 10.

    Comment by Seth R. — October 1, 2007 @ 9:41 am

  20. By the way, the portrait of Jesus Christ found in 3 Nephi is also rather compelling.

    Comment by Seth R. — October 1, 2007 @ 9:42 am

  21. Jacob, I think getting one’s head around any worldview is tough. And please re-read my comment. I didn’t mean to characterize Geoff himself as caricaturing evangelical doctrine, although it does happen sometimes.

    I have to get work done, so I’ll have to revisit the post here later.

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — October 1, 2007 @ 9:46 am

  22. Aaron,

    I think Seth is right. The Book of Mormon meets the criteria spelled out in your comment #18. It is public and it is “God-breathed”. So why don’t you believe it?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 1, 2007 @ 9:54 am

  23. Aaron: I think the real issue is that you just don’t believe the Bible itself can authenticate and evidence its own authority, truth, beauty, and power at the personal hand of God. Until one “sees” that, it’s just foolish.

    Maybe it is just a matter of semantics here. The Bible is ink and paper. God is who reveals the “authority, truth, beauty, and power” of the truths found therein. Do you agree with that statement?

    If you don’t then I can’t see how what you are talking about isn’t idolatry… It is venerating paper and ink in lieu of the living God who inspired the messages.

    Now I suspect the problem stems from something along these lines: For thousands of years people have been reading versions of the Bible and for thousands of years God has been sending his Holy Spirit to testify of the truth of the messages in the Bible. At some point, some Christians started mistaking the independent witness from the Holy Ghost that often attends the reading of the truths in the Bible with the paper and ink itself. In other words, they felt the Spirit and assumed it was emanating directly from the book rather than being an independent witness sent to testify of the truths being taught in the book. As far as I can tell, Aaron is one of those people. He mistakenly thinks the book is the powerful thing and misses the point that the Holy Spirit is an independent witness of truth and that the Bible sans that independent witness from God is simply paper and ink with no independent power of its own. (That is why some people feel nothing when they read it — they reject the presence of the Holy Spirit so it feels like reading any other ancient text to them.)

    Also this “dead book” and “alive book” book becomes a little shell game in itself. The paper and ink are not alive. I hope we all agree on that count. The book itself is dead. But we can figuratively say that the truths taught within scripture can figuratively be alive for us. The problem is that I think Aaron is dangerously blurring that line between figuratively “alive” teachings and literally living ink and paper. God is the literally alive one in this scenario — the book itself is not alive in anything but a poetic sense.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 1, 2007 @ 10:05 am

  24. Aaron (#21):
    Is it “caricaturing evangelical doctrine” when an individual who claimed to be an ordained minister held the Bible in one hand and shook it in my face and proclaimed, “Jesus is the Word. This (Bible) is the Word. THIS is _my_ Jesus. THIS is all _I_ need for salvation. I don’t need another testimony of Christ.”??

    It may not be a graven image, but rather an ENgraven one.

    Comment by mondo cool — October 1, 2007 @ 11:07 am

  25. you’re simply assuming God didn’t “tell” us things in the Bible as his very word,

    Please explain to me the mechanism that you propose for this “telling”. I admit to being a bit lost here. Do you believe that God cannot reveal the truth of any book to you via the Holy Spirit?

    Comment by a random John — October 1, 2007 @ 11:47 am

  26. I think that might be right John.

    It seems to me that Aaron is treating the Bible as some kind a complex Magic 8 Ball. We can ask God any question we want but he is not able or willing to answer us directly — we have to open the Bible to decipher his answer.

    So if evangelical Johnny wants to know if God approves of him proposing marriage to Jenny, he doesn’t go pray about it and wait for direct guidance from the Holy Spirit; rather he breaks open his Bible and looks for signs I guess. I don’t know if full-fledged bibliomancy is popular among evangelicals (opening to random Bible passages to seek answers to specific questions) or how that works for them though… Aaron, perhaps you could set me straight on those sorts of things in your community.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 1, 2007 @ 12:00 pm

  27. Geoff J,

    I do think that you can find answers to some questions in the Bible. In fact I believe you can get answers through inspiration while reading Bible passages that are not at all related to your problem. But in such a case the Bible is simply a tool to put you in the right frame of mind to receive such answers rather than the active source of them.

    What I don’t understand is the reasoning that is used to accept the Bible as the true word of God in the first place.

    There are many other books that claim to be God’s word. Why is one not as good as another? What reason would one have for accepting one and rejecting another? There has to be some impetus for making that leap of faith. And don’t tell me that it is because Jesus is in the Bible. That’s circular.

    Is Aaron proposing a leap of complete faith based on no evidence or spiritual promptings? If so then why leap in the direction of the Bible as opposed to any other holy book from another tradition?

    Comment by a random John — October 1, 2007 @ 12:12 pm

  28. arJ: What I don’t understand is the reasoning that is used to accept the Bible as the true word of God in the first place.

    I’ve pressed Aaron on this a few times now. As far as I can tell, his answer is basically that it is self-evident to anyone who is saved that the Bible is the word of God.

    That answer actually logically works for a Calvinist like Aaron. He believes the saved were saved before they were even created after all. Of course it is always good times to tee off on Calvinism but that is another subject.

    (What I can’t understand is how he can logically justify his missionary efforts as a Calvinist to begin with. If the saved are destined to salvation and the damned destined to damnation it seems to me that any form of missionary work must result in a lack of faith in God being able to live out the fixed future. The whole notion of Calvinism comes off as pernicious nonsense to me… but then again I’m a Mormon and Mormonism is the antithesis of Calvinism in many ways…)

    Comment by Geoff J — October 1, 2007 @ 12:35 pm

  29. BTW — I am not saying it is not painfully circular reasoning even in Calvinism arJ. It is. Basically, the idea seems to be “I know the Bible is the Word of God because I’m saved and the reason I know I’m saved is because it is obvious to me that the Bible is the word of God”.

    If that’s not a sandy foundation for faith I don’t know what would be.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 1, 2007 @ 1:35 pm

  30. BTW2 — I was sorely tempted to link to this picture in the body of the post but I decided that not everyone would find the gag as amusing as I did.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 1, 2007 @ 3:36 pm

  31. Interesting discussion. There is a pattern that appears to occur throughout history. First, some inspired luminary confronts the established priestly and religious orthodoxy and declares a new revelation. The religious orthodoxy is generally aligned with the political powers of its time. It lends its moral “authority” to the state and the state acts as the protector and defender of the faith. The orthodoxy, which regards the new visionaries as a threat to their legitimacy, uses its influence with the state to persecute and destroy the new upstarts. Martyrdom and persecution only result in the further entrenchment of the new order over the old. It’s the “new wine in old bottles” principle.

    Then, as time goes on, the prophets and visionaries of the new movement pass on. Their followers seek to preserve their words in written form for generations to follow. Over the decades and centuries that follow, debate over interpretation of the written word turns into contention. A new orthodoxy and a priestly class has to be established and gain recognition from the state. To preserve the written word, the followers of the original founders have to declare their prophet was the last one and that there will never be another.

    After several generations, a new visionary appears, who challenges the more recently established orthodoxy and it all begins again. We see this in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

    The threat to an established religious orthodoxy is that God might, at some future time, call them to repent. That’s why they supplant living oracles with “The Book.”

    The true power of Mormonism as a faith is its tenet “…we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” The expectation of continuing (and continuous) revelation ensures that it will pose a philosophical challenge to religious orthodoxies based solely in a written text and to the secular governments that support them.

    It’s somewhat ironic to see modern Christians playing the role of modern-day Pharisees to the role of Joseph Smith as a modern-day John the Baptist.

    Comment by Greg West — October 1, 2007 @ 4:02 pm

  32. Geoff, I came over because I thought the discussion involved, “We worship God by using Scripture, His Word.”

    Once again, Aaron is in the ring. I embrace what he is saying fully.

    #30 – Now that does have me laughing, friend. If you leaked this picture to brothers and sisters in my church family, they would make this my wordpress picture of identification!

    Greg W: your very last sentence. I don’t quite understand. Did “that prophet” in John 6, Jesus actually cross out and add words to the O.T. text like Joseph? Was Jesus correcting the Hebrew scrolls or Septuagint translation as well as attacking massive traditional interpretations carried by the Jews?

    I have been called a Pharisee by LDS, so I need a little more clarification. After my recent study in Isaiah 29 and Joseph Smith’s additions, now I can see why some LDS bishops would charge me with the sins of a Pharisee. Share with me more on this.

    Comment by Todd Wood — October 1, 2007 @ 4:43 pm

  33. Todd: I embrace what he is saying fully.

    Great. Perhaps you can help us understand how it isn’t gibberish and self-defeating circular reasoning. I can’t figure out how this position isn’t those things still.

    I’m glad you like the picture. Should I add it to the post? (Maybe I’ll let Aaron make that call…)

    Also — yes, I’m pretty sure Jesus was attacking massive traditional interpretations of existing scriptures as carried by the Jews. Isn’t that an important part of why they wanted to kill him?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 1, 2007 @ 4:51 pm

  34. Yes, they did kill Jesus because he cut right through their interpretations and hypocrisy. But I am asking, “How did Jesus in the N.T. correct tha manuscripts or the Greek translation itself?”

    Did Joseph do something even more radical to the O.T. texts than Jesus? Or would you say they are comparable in how they treated the O.T.?

    And maybe, Geoff, you might want this for another post or another thread.

    Comment by Todd Wood — October 1, 2007 @ 5:04 pm

  35. Todd,

    I think you are taking Greg’s comments in the wrong way. He didn’t “call you a Pharisee” in the way that would sound out of context. His comment describes a cycle of radical reform followed by the establishment of a new orthodoxy. His comment about “modern Christians playing the role of modern-day Pharisees to the role of Joseph Smith as a modern-day John the Baptist” was said in this context to suggest that modern Christians are the new orthodoxy. I don’t think that accusation should cause offense. After all, it could just as easily be reversed to describe Martin Luther as a “John the Baptist” to the Catholic Church which was the orthodoxy at that time. In Mormonism, we have our own established orthodoxy with our own religious revolutionaries. I think it is interesting to see the cycle and see different groups play various roles at different times in history, it doesn’t prove one person is right and the other wrong.

    The interesting thing relative to this thread is the way that the new orthodoxy has a tendancy to try to contain the written scripture. Before the reformation this was often done by making sure only the priests had access to the Bible; the current method seems to be to say that God can no longer reveal his will. The Bible is all there is and all there ever will be. Orthodoxy tends to avoid further revelation which can stir things up and upset the status quo. In this context, it is noteworthy that Mormonism is premised on the idea that God will yet reveal many great and important things. This is one reason we view scripture in a different way than you and Aaron do.

    Your comments about the JST seem out of context and off topic.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 1, 2007 @ 5:40 pm

  36. Todd,

    I am sure you understand that LDS Christians don’t replace the biblical text with the JST (Joseph Smith translation), right? Often the Book of Mormon agrees with the KJV reading rather than with Joseph Smith’s translation, for instance. The JST could be anything from inspired harmonization, prophetic midrash, restored text (though this seems to be in the minority in most cases as far as I have studied them), or any number of other options (or all of them). I personally just go wherever the evidence leads.

    Secondly, if you know much of biblical studies and ancient manuscripts you know that the biblical texts and their contents were more fluid and varying anciently in many respects than fundamentalist Christians today generally recognize, developing in different ways over time (in some cases, long periods of time). This goes for the OT and NT. (Not to mention, by the way, the cannon simply didn’t exist for ancient Jews and the earliest Christians as it does for fundamentalists today.) I am sure Joseph Smith’s translation is, in theory, no more radical than Luke’s or Matthew’s editing and revision of Mark; or the early compilers who redacted 2 Corinthians from several letters. Or the Isaiah “school” that added material to Isaiah’s writings after his death; or the redactors/compilers of the Pentateuch, or the Deuteronomistic History; or any number of other issues/examples.

    Comment by Mike — October 1, 2007 @ 5:56 pm

  37. Aaron Shafovaloff,
    I read The Morning I Heard the Voice of God. I liked it very much.

    As I prayed and mused, suddenly it happened. God said, “Come and see what I have done.”

    When God draws near, hurry ceases. Time slows down.

    There settled over me a wonderful reverence. A palpable peace came down.

    The very words of God were in my head.

    Yes, I believe this happens.

    This is where I get lost:

    “It has increased my love for the Bible as God’s very word, because it was through the Bible that I heard these divine words, and through the Bible I have experiences like this almost every day.”

    This seems to come out of nowhere in the story. Please connect how he “heard these divine words, and through the Bible “.

    What did the Bible have to do with it?

    Are we to assume that he was reading or carrying the Bible when this occurred?

    Can’t one hear God’s words independent of the Bible?

    Comment by Howard — October 1, 2007 @ 6:20 pm

  38. Aaron,

    I have to agree with Howard. In that article Piper is talking about real personal revelation in the same way Mormons use the term. He is not talking about the Bible speaking to him as you have been preaching — he is talking about God speaking to him. (Remember — the Bible isn’t God…)

    Here are some quotes:

    As I prayed and mused, suddenly it happened. God said, “Come and see what I have done.” There was not the slightest doubt in my mind that these were the very words of God. In this very moment. At this very place in the twenty-first century, 2007, God was speaking to me with absolute authority and self-evidencing reality. I paused to let this sink in. There was a sweetness about it. Time seemed to matter little. God was near. He had me in his sights. He had something to say to me. When God draws near, hurry ceases. Time slows down.

    I was being enveloped in the love of his personal communication. The God of the universe was speaking to me.

    Then he said, as clearly as any words have ever come into my mind, “I am awesome in my deeds toward the children of man.”

    Think of it. Marvel at this. Stand in awe of this. The God who keeps watch over the nations, like some people keep watch over cattle or stock markets or construction sites—this God still speaks in the twenty-first century. I heard his very words. He spoke personally to me.

    All of this is similar to what one might hear in a run-of-the-mill Mormon testimony meeting any given first Sunday of the month. How do you see this supporting your argument? It seems like this article undermines your argument and backs the arguments I have been making. What I mean is: it supports the idea that God is the one who speaks to us and teaches us the truth and often does so independently of the scriptures.

    Of course, as Howard noted Piper then suddenly pulls a total 180 and out of nowhere says this bizarre thing:

    It has increased my love for the Bible as God’s very word, because it was through the Bible that I heard these divine words, and through the Bible I have experiences like this almost every day.

    Huh? Is he trying to impress the Bible worshipers out there with this 180 or something? Where are those direct quotes he received via revelation found in the Bible? Is he saying his Bible over on the shelf was chatting with him rather than God during that revelation? This line is totally out of place in his story. It is as if he got a real revelation and then felt guilty about it because it undermines his own theology so rather than accept it for what it was he lamely tried to explain it away and give credit to the Bible for the direct revelation he received from God himself. Why not just glorify the real God instead of trying to give credit to the book over on the shelf? How is a paper idol any better than a wooden idol?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 1, 2007 @ 8:22 pm

  39. Geoff:

    It’s all about process. What Aaron’s position actually expresses is absolute faith in the decisions made by a council of politician-bishops in circa 325 A.D. Thus, faith in the outcome of councils that took place more than two hundred years after the original manuscripts of the New Testament were even written, and by which time there were already very few or perhaps even no extant original manuscripts of the scrolls constituting the New Testament. Instead, there was a collection of copies of copies of copies of copies (all done by hand during different generations) from various and sundry geographical locations from which a council of Catholic bishops selected the books that should be included in the New Testament. In the process dozens (or more) “Gospels”, epistles, briefs, etc. were rejected and not adopted into the Bible. And among those that were adopted, several have since been jettisoned and are now merely apocrypha or not even considered scripture at all. In fact, in order to press his own interpretation of Romans and privilege it above contrary doctrine in James, Martin Luther considered removing James from the New Testament, although in the end he settled for dismissing it as an “epistle full of straw”.

    All of this merely deals with the New Testament. Bringing the Old Testament into the picture adds a host of other problems for someone who claims that God authored the Bible. For one thing, what is Aaron and Todd’s view on the documentary hypothesis?

    Comment by john f. — October 2, 2007 @ 4:47 am

  40. Note that the oldest extant Bible, in compiled, book form, the Codex Sinaiticus dates to circa 350 A.D. and contains The Epistle of Barnabas and The Shepherd of Hermas. It is interesting to contemplate what scrolls, epistles, and briefs individual Christian congregations around the known world from Africa to Turkey, Spain to the Levant (and beyond) during the first 300 years after Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection considered “scripture”, i.e. the word of God. To which of these scrolls and epistles did the sentence in Timothy apply, that “Every God-inspired Scripture is profitable for teaching” (2 Timothy 3:16)? Did this apply to the epistles and scrolls being used in Ethiopian or Egyptian congregations before 325 A.D. that didn’t make it into the canon?

    Aaron and Todd, representing creedal Christians, seem to take the view that the verse in Timothy applies to the entire Bible, to every word written therein. But that statement itself is qualified — it states “every God-inspired Scripture is profitable for teaching”, which raises the question of whether every word in the current Bible is actually “God-inspired”. I am willing to believe it does mean that, although this would be a matter of faith and not something that the Bible itself could “prove” from internal statements. After all, the Song of Solomon, Job, and other such books must raise some eyebrows, even for Evangelicals who have confined themselves (gratuitously, i.e. God nowhere requires this) to a belief in the inerrancy and sufficiency of the Bible as currently composed, right?

    Comment by john f. — October 2, 2007 @ 5:32 am

  41. john f.,
    Yes, I see your point….but the Bible does contain the word of God (as far as it is translated correctly).

    Imagine what it would be like without the other 3 standard works. Wouldn’t we place a lot more importance on the Bible?

    Comment by Howard — October 2, 2007 @ 7:14 am

  42. Yes. My comments were not to bash the Bible. Rather, they were to point out that a belief in Biblical inerrancy and sufficiency is misguided.

    Comment by john f. — October 2, 2007 @ 8:55 am

  43. Jacob, for a Pharisee that would guard scriptural text, I don’t think that is a bad thing, to be a faithful guardian of God’s revelation is crucial. But by the time Jesus arrived on the scene, Pharisees had lost in their hearts love for the Father and were drowning in the pride of their own self-righteousness. Yet if Greg is employing “modern-day Pharisees” in the good sense of freedom defenders for the truth of the text and its continued preservation, I would be honored by such a title.

    Mike writes, I am sure you understand that LDS Christians don’t replace the biblical text with the JST (Joseph Smith translation), right?

    Honestly, friend, this is not clear in my mind at all. Though this is expressed repeatedly in LDS bloggernacle, there are continual voices to the contrary in Church LDS. Neither the modern-day General Authorities nor any of the leading biblical publications by Deseret and others show any clear substantiation to remove my doubts. Repeatedly, in print, the JST is the preferred text for its “inspired correction”. When in doubt on scriptural wording, the JST usually always trumps the biblical text.

    To settle my doubt, what is the prevailing consensus of today’s LDS apostles on the JST? Midrash or more in the category of restored, inspired text? Or do they not express any clear opinion of Joseph’s meticulous correction? Evidently, they do not appear to object when members publish through Deseret in 2006 and 2007, etc. claims for the superiority of JST readings over OT and NT text.

    No, I don’t pray to the Bible. It is God who communes with me through His Word. And when the Word is altered, it can radically alter how I talk back to the Triune God and express worship.

    The compilation of the OT over a long period of time? I agree. But the evolution of individual books through multi layers of fallible redaction? I disagree. And if I disagree, who is the final authority among the theories of the higher critics to set me straight? :) Some of these guys are asking me to demonstrate a lot of faith in their reconstructive theories.

    And also, the idea that ancient Jews didn’t recognize any canon? Though some LDS scholars would assert this, there is no definitive consensus for such a bold claim. Some DSS scholars today, would tell you of distinctions made between Hebrew biblical books and Hebrew apocrypha material in the Qumran settlement.

    Look at Hebrew manuscripts, Samaritan targums, Septuagint data, etc. and nothing is as radical in the variants as what Joseph Smith has produced. And what I have observed in the different perspectives in the Gospel accounts, still, I find what Joseph Smith has done in specifically John’s Gospel to be drastic. I think it is comparing apples and oranges.

    john f, the documentary hypothesis is a sinking ship for people of faith. If we take the Savior’s words seriously in John 5, he is directing the people to look at Moses’ words. But building from the higher critics, what is there left that Moses actually wrote in the O.T.?

    Comment by Todd Wood — October 2, 2007 @ 9:13 am

  44. #42 – Yes, and I do realize that my position is no longer satisfactory to most of Western Christianity, today. The Scriptures are not to be considered sufficient for life’s problems and to be absolutes preserved on paper, sourced in God from heaven – the whole idea is “misguided”, naive, and a whole host of other synonyms to today’s western mindset.

    Comment by Todd Wood — October 2, 2007 @ 9:25 am

  45. Todd:

    Jesus did not write the Gospels, but certainly we still look to them for his Words. Why would we hold Moses to a different standard?

    Comment by Matt W. — October 2, 2007 @ 9:35 am

  46. Todd: Jacob, for a Pharisee that would guard scriptural text, I don’t think that is a bad thing

    It is a problem when they guard traditional and man-made interpretations of scriptures against current revelations from God. That is what they did in the time of Jesus and that is what many try to do today in my opinion (and thus Joseph Smith and his successors are spurned).

    The Scriptures are not to be considered sufficient for life’s problems and to be absolutes preserved on paper, sourced in God from heaven – the whole idea is “misguided”, naive, and a whole host of other synonyms to today’s western mindset.

    Exactly Todd. The scriptures alone are utterly insufficient for life’s problems. Only God himself is sufficient to get us past those. The problem this post is pointing out is that some Christians seem to want to supplant the living, communicating God with the scriptures. I find this approach not only misguided and naive but also idolatrous when taken to the lengths discussed here.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 2, 2007 @ 9:57 am

  47. Todd,

    Maybe when the First Presidency makes the JST the official version of the bible for the Church we can talk more. Until then, it seems your personal experience is just your personal experience and no more. I just don’t understand how various non-Church sponsored personal publications through Deseret Book constitutes authoritative policy concerning the JST–even if written by a general authority. It also seems you still haven’t grasped that often the BofM text often follows the biblical text rather than the JST. Neither should be viewed as spurious (one necessarily “trumping” the other). It could be any of the reasons I have mentioned previously. What would it (if at all possible) take to remove your doubts anyway? Using a non-JST translation? Oh wait, I think that is already the Church’s policy.

    And Todd, I am aware of Hebrew Bible scholarship (and DSS scholarship for that matter). You’re lack of “faith” in biblical scholarship just accentuates the obvious point that evangelicals are willing to approach everything critically except their own faith claims. I am not sure about you, but this is clearly how Aaron (and others) operate. And by the way, what serious scroll scholars were you claiming that postulate that “distinctions [were] made between Hebrew biblical books and Hebrew apocrypha material in the Qumran settlement”? I would like some references and a good summary in your own words of why you make this claim (maybe so this doesn’t become a thread-jack, you could post on your blog-site). How exactly are these “scholars” separating “biblical” books from “apocryphal” books at such a time in history? Are you saying the biblical canon was already set by this time? [[Also, you keep saying LDS scholars say so-and-so; I am only talking about biblical/NT and scrolls scholars (though some scrolls and biblical scholars also happen to be LDS Christians).]] Further, I don’t know of any respectable NT scholars that claim earliest Christians followed a canon that was the same as fundamentalists today. Are you making such a claim?

    I would think that before I have to prove to you what scholarship has already established, maybe you could show me how you reached the conclusion that the earliest Christians and ancient Jews did have a set canon that corresponds to your fundamentalist evangelical faith claims, if you are making such a claim.

    And I hardly feel the need to demonstrate biblical scholarship’s evidence for the Documentary Hypothesis, or lay out the synoptic problem to you, for instance. Although scholars often differ on nuance, I think your lack of faith comes from your non-biblical, relatively modern (c. 19th century), fundamentalist assumptions about what scripture can and cannot be, and not from what the evidences of such views really are. I am unaware of any serious scholars (despite their differences, even if large) who operate under such a view.

    Comment by Mike — October 2, 2007 @ 10:17 am

  48. Todd,

    “No, I don’t pray to the Bible. It is God who communes with me through His Word. And when the Word is altered, it can radically alter how I talk back to the Triune God and express worship.”

    By “His Word” are you referring to the Bible?

    How does God commune with you through His Word?

    You talk back to the Triune God and express worship. Is this prayer?

    Comment by Howard — October 2, 2007 @ 10:44 am

  49. For the record, I like Todd as a general matter and do not consider him a “Pharisee” (not that that was Jacob’s assertion to begin with…). In fact, he’s probably one of the lest Pharasiacal evangelicals I’ve encountered while blogging.

    Just thought I’d throw that out just in case it needed to be said.

    Comment by Seth R. — October 2, 2007 @ 11:13 am

  50. I think our liking Todd is a given around here Seth — but it is never a problem to restate it… (I happen to like Aaron as well if that is not clear)

    Comment by Geoff J — October 2, 2007 @ 11:22 am

  51. Todd said: The compilation of the OT over a long period of time? I agree. But the evolution of individual books through multi layers of fallible redaction? I disagree. And if I disagree, who is the final authority among the theories of the higher critics to set me straight? :) Some of these guys are asking me to demonstrate a lot of faith in their reconstructive theories.

    I suppose that we all started with kind of naive view — thanks goodness we can grow beyond it. I remember the discomfort as a teenager when I concluded that Moses could not possibly have written about his own death in Deuteronomy 34. Why does Mark 16 end at verse 8 in all of the oldest mss.? Who was present at Jesus’s trial to write down what was said? Why is the outlook of Isaiah 1-33 so different from that of 44-55? Why is Isaiah all doom and gloom about the destruction of Israel and suddenly has a hope of returning from the exile which he hasn’t even experienced yet? I don’t think that these questions can be answered honestly on your view.

    Your fundamentalist view of scripture is a problem because I don’t believe that it will withstand even mild questioning and looking. Those at Qumran obviously and clearly had a different canon than the Pharisees in Jerusalem. They regarded the words of the teacher of righteousness as on par with Old Testament and pseudepigraphical writings. I don’t believe you can sustain you claims about a fixed canon before the Septuagint — and you might note, as has been stated above, the Septuagint included the Catholic apocrypha and different versions of Daniel and Esther.

    Moreover, it is obvious that the Masoretic text has been edited and redacted to avoid the plurality of gods and sons of God texts.

    My concern is that when I hear fundamentalist evangelicals speaking about the Bible it is a form of bibliolatry. They worship the text and as Geoff has stated take it to be an idol that is a conduit to God that replaces God’s own living voice.

    Aaron said: I think the real issue is that you just don’t believe the Bible itself can authenticate and evidence its own authority, truth, beauty, and power at the personal hand of God. Until one “sees” that, it’s just foolish.

    Come on, you’re bright enough to see the logical circularity in this kind of “reasoning.”

    Comment by Blake — October 2, 2007 @ 12:11 pm

  52. Good thread, though I winced a bit at some of the terms being tossed around (idolatry, Pharisee) — these are emotionally loaded, to say the least and don’t strike me as terribly polite, helpful, or kind.

    I will comment on the role of the JST, though, since I’m startled at Todd’s assertion of its primacy. Outside of the Book of Moses and Matthew extracts in the Pearl of Great Price, the JST was largely ignored by the LDS Church until the late 1970s, though it was occasionally (if rarely) quoted from in sermons and manuals. This was largely due to the fact that the RLDS Church had the JST manuscripts, and there were questions about the accuracy and completeness of the published editions.

    That shifted a bit in the 1970s, when a small set of selected verses from the JST were put in the footnotes and an appendix of the Church’s KJV Bible editions.

    At the same time, as with the Book of Mormon, academic research on the JST continues. FARMS has published (and I own) a typographic transcript of the actual JST manuscript revisions, with history and details of the effort.

    However, I still find it rare to hear the JST quoted or cited in General Conference, official LDS Church materials and publications, and so on. Note that unlike the JST extracts (Moses, Matthew) in the Pearl of Great Price, none of the rest of the JST has been canonized — and yet we have canonized new scriptures as recently as 1976, and I fully expect The Family: A Proclamation to the World and possibly even The Living Christ to be canonized and added to the LDS scriptures one of these days. I don’t expect that to happen ever with the JST; there are just too many questions about its completeness and its purpose.

    I’m the Gospel Doctrine teacher in our ward; I taught Old Testament last year and am teaching New Testament this year. I make no use of the JST beyond referencing the occasional JST footnote; I make heavy use of the Greek NT (well, as much as I can), and last year I made heavy use of Robert Alter’s OT translations.

    FWIW. ..bruce..

    Comment by bfwebster — October 2, 2007 @ 12:21 pm

  53. A couple of comments. Thanks to Jacob J. for clarifying my comments. He understood my intent. What occurred in the case of John the Baptist and Jesus himself, to some extent, was they came as living revelators to a people who had not had revelation among them for almost four centuries. The Pharisees were the guardians of holy writ. They quoted scripture to try to contradict John and Jesus. Jesus and John called them to repent and believe in their authority.

    For example, they criticized Jesus for teaching on the sabbath. They used the scriptures to reason that no prophet would arise out of Galilee. They expected Elijah to make his appearance and didn’t recognize the signs. That’s why Jesus told them sarcastically to “search the scriptures” because they thought eternal life came from the book. They rejected the living Word who stood before them in favor of the written word.

    This is what modern Christians do and that’s why I compare Joseph Smith to John the Baptist. His message was similar in content: bring forth fruits of repentance because the Messiah’s arrival is near. For the most part modern Christians, the established orthodoxy of our time, rejects the possibility of modern revelation, whether it should come from Joseph Smith or any other person God would choose to send. If God sent anyone as a prophet, they would reject him because of the teachings of the creeds.

    Related to other comments in this thread, the Council of Carthage in 397 is where the current canon of scripture was finalized. However that canon was rejected by the Eastern Orthdox Church and Syrian Church. Even today, these Christian churches as well as the Roman Church accept a different canon used by Protestants.

    It wasn’t until Luther’s logic forced the Roman Church to adopt the policy of Sola Scriptura (around the 14th Century) that the Roman Church abandoned the possibility of future revelation. Luther’s arguments said basically that, since the Pope approved what was scripture and what wasn’t, that made him greater than scripture. That was his point of contention, because Luther felt that all things should be subject to scripture. Before that time, Christians believed that the possibility of future revelation could occur.

    Last of all, there has been mention of the JST here. It is necessary to understand how the LDS people view the Joseph Smith Translation and why it isn’t used as our primary Bible. After the death of the Prophet, the manuscripts went out of the control of the Church. It remained in the Smith family and went into the hands of the RLDS Church.

    Like extra-biblical ancient texts or apocryphal texts, it was impossible to validate the manuscripts of the JST for many years. Eventually, LDS scholars were kindly granted access to the manuscripts. In the early 1980s, when the standard versions of the Bible were published with LDS references, topical guide, and Bible dictionary, many passages from the JST were included as footnotes.

    Perhaps if Joseph Smith had lived to finish and publish the translation, it would have become our standard version, but he was assassinated before that could occur. Non-Mormons should understand that our use of the KJV is the standard. We are fully capable of defending even our most esoteric beliefs using the King James version.

    Comment by Greg West — October 2, 2007 @ 8:21 pm

  54. I would like to briefly get back to one of the original points/questions here with Aaron (and anyone else). I’ve spent a huge portion of my life around Muslims (family and friends). One of the most touching and slightly humorous anecdotes I fondly recall is when a family I’d grown up with (and probably would have ended up marrying their daughter if I was Muslim and not Mormon) nervously gave me a Qur’an in a scene that could have been repeated by a million Mormons nervously trying to give a friend a Book of Mormon. Anyhow, around all these Muslims, both those who have been very introspective and those much more casual about their faith, when I’ve asked them why they believe the Qur’an to be God’s word, the answer is almost a perfect match to the sort of argument I hear Aaron using here. To paraphrase, “it’s just so clear and obvious when I read it”, “only God could have known that”, “no man could have produced this”. I recall one woman on my mission who had converted to Islam, married an Algerian Salafi, and refused to speak to us except around the corner of a wall (so we couldn’t see her out of her newfound Salafi Islamic beliefs regarding modesty) using these same arguments. She had gotten fed up with all the Christian churches she’d spent years investigating and I counted it as a spiritual highlight that she clearly paused and found that we answered many of her doubts about other Christian churches before she resorted back to the “the Qur’an is just so obviously true” line.

    To be fair, these are many of the same arguments a Mormon may use just as well as an Evangelical when talking in some frames of reference, but of course we go beyond them and claim (and I have experienced) the Holy Ghost providing the deeper witness. That’s a crucial difference, one non-Mormons may deride as emotional mumbo jumbo, but it has to at the least be acknowledged as a very different claim as to the source of knowledge. We are in effect saying “God told me it was true” whereas my Muslim family and friends and Evangelicals I have spoken to over the years simply seem to be saying “just read it, it’s soooooo obvious”. So Aaron, or Todd, or any other Evangelicals here, what if anything are you claiming beyond what my Muslim family claims about the Qur’an? I haven’t read anything that sounded like more than this same “it’s obvious” argument in the thread so far. Enlighten me if I’m missing something in what you are claiming here.

    Comment by Non-Arab Arab — October 2, 2007 @ 9:50 pm

  55. What did the Bible have to do with it?

    Are we to assume that he was reading or carrying the Bible when this occurred?

    Howard, Piper was reading/quoting the Bible (>>), which he considers to be God’s very word.

    Near the conclusion he writes:

    If you would like to hear the very same words I heard on the couch in northern Minnesota, read Psalm 66:5-7. That is where I heard them. O how precious is the Bible. It is the very word of God. In it God speaks in the twenty-first century. This is the very voice of God. By this voice, he speaks with absolute truth and personal force. By this voice, he reveals his all-surpassing beauty. By this voice, he reveals the deepest secrets of our hearts. No voice anywhere anytime can reach as deep or lift as high or carry as far as the voice of God that we hear in the Bible.

    One has to read the whole thing to “get it”. If not, folks here might get the impression he was receiving extra-Biblical revelation. But the whole point of the article was that he wasn’t, and that the Bible is God’s personal word, still revealing God’s will or “voice”.

    It seems like this article undermines your argument and backs the arguments I have been making. What I mean is: it supports the idea that God is the one who speaks to us and teaches us the truth and often does so independently of the scriptures.

    Geoff, did you read the entirety of the article?

    That answer actually logically works for a Calvinist like Aaron. He believes the saved were saved before they were even created after all. Of course it is always good times to tee off on Calvinism but that is another subject.

    (What I can’t understand is how he can logically justify his missionary efforts as a Calvinist to begin with. If the saved are destined to salvation and the damned destined to damnation it seems to me that any form of missionary work must result in a lack of faith in God being able to live out the fixed future. The whole notion of Calvinism comes off as pernicious nonsense to me… but then again I’m a Mormon and Mormonism is the antithesis of Calvinism in many ways…)

    This is a gross misunderstanding of Calvinism and its implications, at least in my opinion. God ordained not only the ends but also the means (like missionary work) to those ends. Not doing missionary work would, in Calvinism, show one’s lack of trust in God as having predestined the whole thing, including the accomplishment of his final purposes through evangelism. Calvinism ends up being a huge motivation for missionary work and evangelism (indeed, evangelism is futile if God will not irresistibly conquer and penetrate the totally depraved hearts of men). A massive component of evangelical mission groups is motivated by Calvinistic theology. God is drawing a people to himself and no one can stop him, therefore Christians ultimately have everything to gain by losing their lives in the ministry of sacrificial love and gospel-proclamation even when the world seems to hate them.

    I don’t know if full-fledged bibliomancy is popular among evangelicals (opening to random Bible passages to seek answers to specific questions) or how that works for them though… Aaron, perhaps you could set me straight on those sorts of things in your community.

    That is just silly. I think a good starting point for understanding a robust evangelical view of discerning the will of God is Romans 12:1-2. On this Piper writes, “What Is the Will of God and How Do We Know It?” and “The Renewed Mind and How to Have It“.

    Let me make a suggestion to Geoff and others, and please don’t take this as though I’m trying to be condescending. I mean it constructively. One of the most popular evangelical systematic theology books is by Wayne Grudem. I would get a copy and at least put it on your shelf for reference. Referencing a page or two in it for five minutes might save you from the poppycock of internet discussions that can take two hours. Even better, dedicate some time to reading large portions of it. I have tried valiantly to do this with Mormonism, and not having this kind of resource has been a huge downer. I have resorted to correlated manuals, missionary reference library material, popular literature at Deseret Books, etc. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know Mormonism doesn’t have a systematic theology, and I think that largely (but not only) has to do with the fact that Mormon theology simply hasn’t been thought through like evangelical theology has. And those like Blake who do seem to try to think through and systemize Mormon theology end up abandoning gigantic components of Mormon theological tradition anyway. But I think his efforts are something to be commended and encouraged. That McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine is so popular even still today shows that people are thirsty for a concise guide to Mormon theology, not only to understand its components but also its integrated system. Evangelical theology has been (however false you may think it is) fairly systemized into a somewhat robust theology. Incredibly valuable resources are available like Grudem’s book. Take advantage of this and save yourself some precious time when you’re trying to understand evangelical theology.

    Grace and peace in Christ,

    Aaron

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — October 2, 2007 @ 10:28 pm

  56. Clarification: I don’t actually think McConkie systemizes Mormon theology in his book. Moot point. I hope I haven’t hijacked the discussion from the original topic.

    It’s late… good night!

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — October 2, 2007 @ 10:40 pm

  57. Aaron, how could you “hijack” the discussion when you almost were the discussion?

    Comment by Seth R. — October 3, 2007 @ 8:03 am

  58. Aaron,

    Thanks for the clarification on those quotes Piper “heard from God” coming from Psalms. That does make a lot more sense at least. (I am only familiar with the King James language so the more modern translations he used threw me off.)

    Not doing missionary work would, in Calvinism, show one’s lack of trust in God as having predestined the whole thing

    I still don’t get this. If it is predestined then why would it matter what you did? Destiny marches on with or without you. Why try to steady the ark? If it were not predestined then I could see why you would want to chip in (assuming you have a choice in the matter to begin with of course).

    That is just silly. I think a good starting point for understanding a robust evangelical view of discerning the will of God is Romans 12:1-2.

    Again you are going back the this circular logic. Basically you are saying “we know the Bible is God’s word because the Bible says it is God’s word”. Well the Book of Mormon says it is God’s word too, why don’t you believe it? (I haven’t checked out those articles yet — I am hoping you can come up with a coherent shorter answer to this question about your obvious circular reasoning here.)

    Evangelical theology has been (however false you may think it is) fairly systemized into a somewhat robust theology.

    Defining who is evangelical and who is not seems to be a difficult thing for most evangelicals to do. Am I mistaken in that impression? And since there are a wide range of differing theologies even among “evangelicals” (Calvinists and Arminians co-existing under the same big tent for instance) I am surprised to hear you say that “evangelical theology” is fairly systematized. Are there some definitions somewhere of what qualifies or disqualifies one as an evangelical? For instance, are Methodists evangelicals or not?

    Last — I am hoping for a few summaries from you before I start digging deeply into any evangelical books. I am not really interested in becoming an anti-evangelical (I am more interested in being pro-Christ and pro-Christ’s restored church) so I would be pleased if you could show me that there are coherent short explanations to some of these questions we are discussing — like a non-circular explanation of why you really believe the Bible and a non circular explanation of how “choosing to do” missionary work is coherent if we are all predestined to salvation/damnation before we were born.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 3, 2007 @ 9:10 am

  59. Non-Arab Arab,

    Excellent comments. Thanks for your contribution. I think you have hit the nail on the head. It sounds like the evangelical support to the Bible being true is simply “it’s soooooo obvious”. That is of course the exact sentiment our Muslim friends express about the Qur’an. And of course you are right that there is some of that sentiment in Mormonism about the Bible and Book of Mormon (and modern revelations) as well. But in Mormonism we generally do lean on the independent witness of the Holy Ghost far more than these other traditions do. It puts a premium on personal revelation — but then again so does the Bible itself:

    And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3)

    Life eternal is to know the living God — not just to know some of his words he spoke to other people anciently.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 3, 2007 @ 9:28 am

  60. Geoff,

    I like to think that I’m relatively familiar with Calvinism (and Aaron’s understanding of it, especially)…so perhaps I can jump in here and try to clear things up a bit?

    Romans 9-11 are my favorite chapters to use when discussing Calvinism, because it is about as clearly written as anything I have seen in the Bible, that God “has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.” (Rom. 9:18). Regarding your question about “choosing to do” missionary work, well, the conclusion we can come to as Calvinists, is that since God is sovereign over everything (including salvation), he can choose to “save” anyone at all, even the most obstinant, hard-hearted people out there. This understanding gives us the motivation to go out there and evangelize to as many people as we can, because it is not by our efforts that people are saved, but God’s. If you look at that last sentance on the surface, I’m sure it looks contradictory. But, as Paul wrote in Romans 10:14-15,

    “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”

    Therefore, since salvation does not depend on how “effective” I am at evangelism, but on God who works in people’s hearts, I have all the more boldness to speak to everyone I know about Christ, becuase I have nothing to fear or lose.

    As I am going back and re-reading what I have written, it is perhaps not the best explanation I have ever given, but hopefully it’s enough to get you started…

    Daniel

    Comment by Daniel — October 3, 2007 @ 9:43 am

  61. Daniel: Your view of Romans 9 is a bit off. What is discussed in Rom. 9-11 is corporate salvation of Israel and the body of Christians as a whole as the successors to Israel as God’s covenant people. It has nothing to do with individual salvation – it doesn’t even discuss and never mentions predestination to salvation or damnation for individuals. I would suggest that you become aware of the revolution in Pauline studies caused by the New Perspective on Paul and subsequent developments where these issues have been discussed at great length. The Calvinistic take on Paul is fundamentally misguided.

    Further, on your view god could save everyone, but for some reason chooses to either send or leave some to hell forever in misery and pain. You are free to believe that such a being is “loving,” but I don’t believe that what you mean by love anyone else would recognize as such. The Calvinist god is simply a failure when it comes the God of love taught by Christ.

    Moreover, missionary work is superfluous. God could change anyone’s heart without any missionaries at all. Moreover, if god hasn’t elected the person you are teaching to be saved, then your efforts are vain and were before you did anything at all. If god ordained a person to hell, then it won’t matter what you do since the means are already in place. If god set you up to be the means, it won’t matter what you choose. Look, if you do nothing at all, that was ordained by god. So you can do nothing at all and rest assured that it was god’s plan and all is in divine order. In fact, you can go steal, rape and commit murder and be sure that was also god’s plan both for you and those you kill.

    You can adopt such beliefs if you choose, but I don’t think it is difficult why such views are repugnant and are a contemptible slur to what divine love actually is and seeks to accomplish.

    Aaron: You have stated on your post that I have given up on portions of Mormonism and now you do so here. However, you cannot get away with such slander here. Time to put up or shut up. What do you claim is settled Mormon doctrine that I have given up? I’m waiting.

    Comment by Blake — October 3, 2007 @ 10:21 am

  62. So Blake, how do you reconcile John 14:6 with a loving God? If “no one comes to the father except through [Jesus],” how about those who will never hear of Jesus? Or is this where you jump in and say that there is no hell, hell is simply an evangelical creation? I don’t buy it. Either God is supremely sovereign over everything in creation, or he isn’t worthy of being worshiped. End of story. If God is dependant on man to determine salvation, he isn’t completely sovereign. Either we are undeservedly saved, or we are deservedly condemned. If we are determiners of our own salvation, that implies that there is something we can do OF OUR OWN ACCORD to earn it, which is incredibly unbiblical (see Romans 4:4-5 (not the JST) and 11:6). The fact that God allows any to be saved at all shows his divine love.

    Comment by Daniel — October 3, 2007 @ 10:39 am

  63. Daniel:

    how about those who will never hear of Jesus?

    We are latter-day saints. I think we have this one covered.

    Either we are undeservedly saved, or we are deservedly condemned. If we are determiners of our own salvation, that implies that there is something we can do OF OUR OWN ACCORD to earn it, which is incredibly unbiblical (see Romans 4:4-5 (not the JST) and 11:6). The fact that God allows any to be saved at all shows his divine love.

    If you believe this, then whether I believe or not, or am Hitler, a Satanist, an Atheist, or a person that believes I am saved by works (gasp!) then it doesn’t really matter, as nothing I can do of my own accord matters. Accord to you, athiests and mass murders have just as much chance as “being saved” as you do.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    Just pointing it out…

    Comment by Matt W. — October 3, 2007 @ 10:52 am

  64. Aaron,
    Thank you for clarifying that Piper was reading the Bible. I’ll admit that I did not read to the end of the article. I mistook this experience as personal revelation from the Spirit.

    As Geoff points out, personal revelation is fairly common for (but certainly not limited to) Mormons. It can come as we read the scriptures or completely independent of the scriptures.

    Comment by Howard — October 3, 2007 @ 10:57 am

  65. Well, Matt, that’s the beauty of the gospel…it’s open to anyone, regardless of their past…

    Comment by Daniel — October 3, 2007 @ 11:07 am

  66. Daniel (#60),

    Thanks for chiming in. I don’t think you answered my real question though. My real question is why you would even bother doing missionary work. It is “work” after all and your theology clearly teaches that work has absolutely nothing to do with anyone’s salvations. So why do it? It won’t help you and it won’t help the people you are preaching to. God does 100% of the work when it comes to salvation in Calvinism right? So how is a Calvinist doing missionary work not A) a colossal waste of time and energy, or B) a lack of faith in God’s ability to change hearts and save people without your help, or C) both?

    From my interactions with Calvinists I get the impression they do these good works because it makes them feel more confident that the are “in” with God already. I guess if they sat around fulfilled their carnal desires they might start doubting that God had chosen them to begin with… So it is sort of after the fact works or something. The whole thing seems pretty illogical to me still.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 3, 2007 @ 11:16 am

  67. Daniel (#65) your theology is also open to anyone regardless of their present or their person, from what I can see. Since people have no ability to change whether they are saved, a person who actually wanted to go to hell (It sounds odd, i know) could actually be seen kicking and screaming as God dragged him to heaven, while a pious evangelical minister went to hell, all based on the fact that it’s 100% God.

    In your view, Why does God allow some to not be saved?

    Comment by Matt W. — October 3, 2007 @ 11:28 am

  68. Geoff,

    I understand what you’re saying, but am wondering if you skipped over the part where I referenced Romans 10:14-15. I mean, sure, God is going to do whatever he wants to do, but who’s to say that when I talk to a co-worker about Christ, that that’s not how God chooses to work in his life? As Paul wrote, “how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?” We are the things God uses to spread his word. See 2 Corinthians 5:11-21.

    And to what you say about “after the fact works,” well, I do believe that we will be known by our fruit, not that we can boast about our works, but that God is glorified by them. Sanctification necessarily follows true repentance and justification.

    Comment by Daniel — October 3, 2007 @ 11:30 am

  69. Daniel: Oh come on. John 14:6 means nothing more than that Jesus is the mediator and way to God and unless he had completed his mission no one could come to God. It doesn’t mean that God must cause all persons to come to God through Christ whether they want to or not.

    Comment by Blake — October 3, 2007 @ 11:46 am

  70. Matt (#67), that’s an interesting thought, yet it doesn’t really make sense when you look at it through the lens of scripture. Read Romans 8:5-16. We are “saved” if we have the Spirit of Christ in us, and “those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” (Rom. 8:5b), so really your scenario isn’t very plausible.

    Well, Matt, I honestly don’t know that I can give you a clear answer on your second question. I do not now, nor will I ever, claim to know everything about God and what he chooses to do. The conclusions I’ve come to are based on my understanding of the Bible, and I can only claim to speak as such. Romans 9:18 very clearly says, “God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.” Continuing on, verses 19-24 goes on to give some commentary on this type of question. All I can say is that ultimately everything is done for God’s glory. Looking back, it’s easy to see how the hardening of Pharoh in Egypt was used to glorify God in Israel. Sometimes things aren’t so cut and dry, but through the Bible we can know things about God’s attributes and character, and I believe that everything that happens, happens for his glory, even if I can’t see how with my finite mind.

    Comment by Daniel — October 3, 2007 @ 11:50 am

  71. Daniel: If we are determiners of our own salvation, that implies that there is something we can do OF OUR OWN ACCORD to earn it, which is incredibly unbiblical (see Romans 4:4-5 (not the JST) and 11:6). The fact that God allows any to be saved at all shows his divine love.

    This is just nonsense to me. Do you mean that God doesn’t love those who aren’t saved as your position implies? Do you mean that we somehow merit salvation by freely accepting a free gift? That is just the Arminian/Calvinist debate and frankly the Calvinists just don’t have a leg to stand on in my view. You don’t deny that God sends some to hell — how is that consistent with love? How is that consistent with a desire to save all persons?

    You also ducked my observation that you can do anything you please, kill, rape, etc. and that is God’s will. You can sit back and do nothing knowing that God hasn’t ordained you to be a means to salvation for others. You just conveniently ignore the problems and the old Calvinist canard that God is loving because he saves anyone at all is simply contemptible. If a parent said, “well I fed one of my children and left the others to starve because feeding one is enough to show I’m loving,” we’d still put the parent in jail.

    Geoff’s observation is also quite accurate and telling. The way you express it, Calvinists do missionary work not out of their own love, but merely because God causes them to do so. Calvinists want to get a psychological pump by showing that they are “in” the group of the elect by their works. That puts more emphasis on works and works righteousness than anything in LDS thought.

    Comment by Blake — October 3, 2007 @ 11:55 am

  72. Either God is supremely sovereign over everything in creation, or he isn’t worthy of being worshiped. End of story. If God is dependant on man to determine salvation, he isn’t completely sovereign.

    If I tell a group of people that I’ll give a candy bar to any of them who sing “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” am I any less sovereign than if I give out candy bars to whomever my whims dictate?

    Comment by Tom — October 3, 2007 @ 12:03 pm

  73. Blake: If not through Christ, how do you propose that anyone come to God? Throughout the New Testament, a cursory glance will show you that any access to God is through Christ. For me, I’m going to reference Romans 10:9-10

    “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,: and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”

    Certainly in Romans, it appears as if Christ is a necessary part of salvation, so I repeat my question: if not through Christ, how do you propose that anyone come to God?

    Comment by Daniel — October 3, 2007 @ 12:05 pm

  74. “if not through Christ, how do you propose that anyone come to God?”

    You’re changing the subject. Everyone here believes you can come to God only through Christ and his atonement.

    That still doesn’t prove anything about predestination. We are asking about predestination. Saying you have to reach God through Christ isn’t an answer to that question at all.

    Comment by Seth R. — October 3, 2007 @ 12:16 pm

  75. Tom (#72): Well, I don’t know if it makes you any less sovereign…but this isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison. To make it a true comparison, you would say to the group of people: “I want you to sing “Mary had a little lamb” in a language you do not know…now. If you don’t sing it, you’re going to die; if you do sing it, I’ll give you this candy bar.” Then, because you’re a nice guy, you would give candy bars to some of the people anyway.

    That’s closer, but it’s still not the same story. As sinners on this earth, we do not deserve to know God, even though he created us. God gave us his Law, and we can’t keep it. Because he loves us, he made known to us a righteousness apart from the Law in Christ, and his sacrifice for us. Through Christ (yes Blake, only through Christ), we are justified by God’s grace (if by grace, not by works, Rom. 11:6).

    Blake, your argument would hold water, if the children deserved to be fed of their own accord. A more accurate portrayal would be of children emancipating themselves from their parents and starving to death, and the parents seeking out their children to try to feed them anyway, if possible.

    Comment by Daniel — October 3, 2007 @ 12:23 pm

  76. Seth: everyone here, apparently, but Blake (see post #69)

    Comment by Daniel — October 3, 2007 @ 12:24 pm

  77. Daniel (#68): but who’s to say that when I talk to a co-worker about Christ, that that’s not how God chooses to work in his life?

    Well with predestination a person stranded on a deserted island who is predestined to be saved would be saved no matter what he heard right? So preaching to a co-worker is either pointless in the end or worse showing a lack of faith that God could get the job done without you. Why would you do that “work”?

    As Paul wrote, “how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?”

    That sounds like evidence that Paul doesn’t agree with Calvinists to me. If we take Paul seriously here then God can’t save a that person living on a deserted island without the help of people.

    But here is what I can’t figure out. It seems to me that doing good works is steadying the ark for a Calvinist. In other words, it is showing a lack of faith in the notion that they really have been elected by God to salvation. If one really believed that he was unconditionally elected by God unto salvation the real way to display faith in that election would be to be as wicked and carnal as possible. That would be like saying “God, I trust your unconditional choice of me so much that I am going to live it up now because I know with all my heart that I am “in” with you and saved”. Acting all righteous is like saying “I know you say you saved me but I am not sure still so I will try to act Christlike just to feel more convinced about it all…”

    Obviously this whole notion seems like nonsense but it is exactly where Calvinism (or any system that preaches “eternal security”) logically leads us isn’t it?

    (I know Calvinism bashing is largely off-topic in this thread on Bible worshiping but I find the whole subject so perplexing that I try to use any chance I can to let a Calvinist try to explain how the whole system isn’t utter nonsense.)

    Comment by Geoff J — October 3, 2007 @ 12:25 pm

  78. Daniel, that simply is not what Blake was saying. Read the first sentence again where he says “unless he had completed his mission no one could come to God”. The emphasis in “It doesn’t mean that God must cause all persons to come to God through Christ whether they want to or not” is in the “whether they want to or not” not in the “through Christ” part.

    Daniel, if you don’t have things reconciled in your own mind, that’s fine; I’m sure there are plenty of things that I don’t understand well either. Let’s get back to the question of the Bible, shall we?

    Comment by Kent — October 3, 2007 @ 12:36 pm

  79. Geoff (#77) well, my apologies for continuing this off-topic thing, but it’s kind of a favorite topic of mine also (not that I am claiming to know more than the next guy, just that I enjoy the discussion and the study).

    Now, to cut to the chase: From what you write, it appears as if you do not have a very clear understanding of the evangelical salvation (no offense). You’re right, the notion you wrote of does kind of seem like nonsense. Romans 8 (I mentioned above, in another rebuttal) talks of having the Spirit of Christ, and setting our minds on what the Spirit desires. Necessarily, one who is “saved” will have the Spirit of Christ, and will desire to please God, not test God as you spoke of(see Romans 6:1-2, 15). Read also, Matthew 12:33-35. We are known by our fruit; the fruit necessarily follows the tree being “good,” and is not a “steadying of the ark,” as you said.

    Comment by Daniel — October 3, 2007 @ 12:42 pm

  80. Kent,

    Fair enough if I misunderstood Blake’s comment; my apologies. Either way, I don’t know of any who are “saved” that don’t want to be; read my post #79.

    Comment by Daniel — October 3, 2007 @ 12:45 pm

  81. Yep Daniel, I guess I knew that answer was coming.

    I have to wonder how that answer works in practice for a Calvinist though. Here is an example:

    An evangelical young married man finds himself sorely tempted by a girl who is coming on to him on a business trip; How would he deal with that temptation in his head? Does he think to himself “If I were really saved I wouldn’t find this hot chick tempting at all!” If he did think that, a logical follow up thought would be “But I do find here sorely tempting — therefore I might not be saved after all”. And that leaves him at a choice crossroads. He could think: “If I commit adultery it means I was never saved to begin with, so therefore I choose to resist this temptation to show myself I am saved”. But that is bad logic isn’t it? Based on what you just quoted from the Bible, truly saved men don’t even feel sorely tempted anymore are a result of their saved status. So if he was a logical thinker he would say to himself “But I am sorely tempted right now — I can’t deny that reality in my heart. Therefore, my religion tells me I am not really saved. Therefore I might as well live it up since simply feeling tempted reveals to me that I am going to hell whether I do this or not.”

    Obviously Arminians (and Mormons) don’t have this problem. They would simply concede that salvation can be lost as a result of freely choosing evil.

    So from all this can I conclude the Calvinism (and especially the idea of eternal security) is a bad theological system for anyone who is a logical analytical thinker?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 3, 2007 @ 1:03 pm

  82. Daniel, my #72 was challenging your notion of sovereignty, not trying to make a complete analogy to man’s situation. I think your notion of sovereignty is off.

    If we are determiners of our own salvation, that implies that there is something we can do OF OUR OWN ACCORD to earn it, which is incredibly unbiblical . . .

    But don’t I have to leave Mormonism to be saved? Can’t God save me as a Mormon? Is he not sovereign?

    Could I leave Mormonism, accept your view of the Bible, accept Jesus, and still not be saved? If by taking those actions I do ensure my salvation, then am I not “earning” it by your definition?

    Oh yeah, I forgot: predestination. If I take those actions, it wouldn’t be me choosing them, it would be God choosing them for me. And that makes him great because he could just arbitrarily damn me to Hell forever with the rest of my Mormon friends like I and the rest of my Mormon friends deserve.

    Every time I catch a glimpse of y’all’s theology, I become more and more secure in my Mormon beliefs.

    Comment by Tom — October 3, 2007 @ 1:09 pm

  83. Well Geoff, by your logic, Paul wasn’t saved, either (see Romans 7:14-25), and I would say that a good chunk of the arguments I’ve found for Calvinism have come from Paul’s letters…but it’s interesting that you bring this up, because I have just been listening to a sermon on my iPod (by none other than John Piper…do I sound like Aaron yet?) about hope and perseverance. Only those who persevere will be saved, and it is God who enables them to persevere. So I would argue that if someone “appears to be saved” and yet doesn’t persevere, then he is not saved. Also, I would say that sanctification is a process, and I don’t know of anyone who would claim to have achieved sinlessness. If sinlessness is a prerequisite for salvation, we are all doomed. Which is why a faith in God’s grace (present, and future) is necessary. Just because I mess up and do something stupid, doesn’t mean I’m not repentant. it means I’m human. Now, if there is a pattern of behavior that indicates otherwise, I might begin to question a few things…but just because I sin, doesn’t mean I lose my salvation. As a side note, that is one of the big problems I have with Arminianism: at what point does one commit enough sins to lose his salvation? Is it one? ten? One hundred? I have seen no (reasonable) biblical evidence to support that position…

    Oh, and by the way, I’m an electrical engineer…and I would consider myself a logical, analytical thinker…

    Comment by Daniel — October 3, 2007 @ 1:27 pm

  84. Oh, and not to leave you all hanging, but I’d probably better bust out of here for the time being…perhaps I will return tomorrow, depends on how the work load looks…it has been a pleasure conversing with you

    Daniel

    Comment by Daniel — October 3, 2007 @ 1:30 pm

  85. Before this topic goes down the only road it can go down now, why don’t we start a new thread to deal with Calvinism? Geoff? Jacob?

    Comment by Kent — October 3, 2007 @ 1:33 pm

  86. Daniel: Blake, your argument would hold water, if the children deserved to be fed of their own accord. A more accurate portrayal would be of children emancipating themselves from their parents and starving to death, and the parents seeking out their children to try to feed them anyway, if possible.

    You speak as if the persons who departed from God did so of their own will and therefore when they leave they are responsible for what they do and deserve what they get and God has no duty to save them against their will. That works in Arminian theology. It doesn’t in Calvinism. If they departed from God, it was because God ordained it. So your change of the analogy, which was apropos to begin with, just won’t work. You worship a god who could save all but chooses not to. This same god ordains murder, rape and mayhem as his own will and plan. When Calvinists say that Mormon don’t worship that god, they are right. Thankfully so. The question is: why would any person who grasps even remotely what love is believe such a being is loving?

    Comment by Blake — October 3, 2007 @ 1:34 pm

  87. Daniel: In LDS thought all are saved except those who purposefully put Christ to open shame. Paul is saved. So are you. God loves us that much.

    Comment by Blake — October 3, 2007 @ 1:35 pm

  88. Can I say that while this thread has gotten more than a little long in the tooth, I’ve been quite happy to read what amounts to an honestly cordial but still bluntly honest Mormon-Evangelical exchange. Thanks all. Oh, and would still like to hear an Evangelical respond to my comment #54 (which I realize likely gets lost and buried in a thread that gets this long).

    Comment by Non-Arab Arab — October 3, 2007 @ 2:37 pm

  89. Daniel (#83): Well Geoff, by your logic, Paul wasn’t saved

    Actually, by my logic Paul would have scoffed at Calvinism. But that is sort of the point we are debating here…

    Only those who persevere will be saved

    This statement contradicts Calvinism on several levels. If one must persevere to be saved then 1) Their works really do determine their salvation, and 2) There is no such thing as predestination. The interesting thing I find is that most self-declared Calvinists don’t really believe Calvinism when it comes down to it. They fall back on saying things that only work in Arminianism like you are doing now (as Blake mentioned as well).

    at what point does one commit enough sins to lose his salvation?

    It seems to me that this is something that is between each of us and God, right?

    Kent — I have ripped on Calvinism in the past. I feel kinda bad about starting another thread for that purpose. So since Daniel is willing to discuss the subject here I figure we could run with it now.

    Non-Arab Arab — I agree. And a response to your #54 might even get us back on the subject of Bible worship and whether some evangelicals are guilty of it or not.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 3, 2007 @ 3:03 pm

  90. Calvinism seems like poetic mysticism (like the Cloud of Unknowing) – everywhere and nowhere, something and nothing. It seems to have supra-logic and plausible deniability, so I don’t know you can win or lose an argument based on the use of words. It’s something like Hinduisim, or a new version of the Nicene Creed. There’s plenty of mysticism in the Mormon scriptures, but we back it all up with tangible materiality. Words just seem to get in the way in this discussion – stop being so logical!

    Comment by cadams — October 3, 2007 @ 3:35 pm

  91. On the topics of election, predestination, etc., I discussed in my most recent book a scenario that came from the headlines a few years ago. It is a step beyond the “temptation” scenario Geoff J. posed in post 81.

    Suppose a man committing a robbery kills his victim. He gets the death penalty and, while sitting on Death Row, he makes a confession of faith in Christ. According to most “saved by grace” Christians, this would earn him a place in heaven.

    Let’s also suppose that the person who was murdered was a good person, just days away from resolving to accept Christ. Having failed to make the confession of faith, only because his life was snuffed out prematurely by the robber.

    In the Calvinistic view, one might say that the murderer was elected to grace by God’s foreknowledge and that the victim was rightfully condemned, having never been the recipient of that election, also according to God’s foreknowledge.

    In this situation, the average person says, “Hey, that’s not fair! The murderer gets heaven and the guy he killed burns for eternity?” Predestination can be used to justify doctrines that negate the justice of God. There is a balance of grace, mercy, and justice that has to be addressed.

    Secondly, in the discussion about the Quran and the “feeling” of truth in what one reads. I took it upon myself to read most of the Quran after 9/11 to see what fueled Muslim fanaticism. For the most part, I found it consistent with the Christian teachings of faith, humility, and charity.

    When it discusses those specific topics, you can feel the Holy Ghost’s affirmation of those universal truths. However, there appears to be many man-made inventions in it as well, and one doesn’t feel the Spirit’s confirmation in those.

    In the discussion about feeling the inspiration of God’s voice in the written word, I certainly can understand the fervor the Bible generates. It is a magnificent book of scripture and the beauty of the King James is unrivaled in the English tongue.

    I’ve also read the Louis Segond version in French, and it’s marvelous as well. I’ve tried to make my way through the Luther/German translation, but my German is much too rusty. However, I fail to see how anyone that is imbued with the pure language and doctrine of the Bible can fail to sense the inspiration present in the Book of Mormon. I can only attribute it to having some preexisting bias against the possibility of its truthfulness.

    The key seems to be the willingness to do God’s will once the knowledge comes. If a person asks God, “Is the Book of Mormon true?” with no real intent to believe or commit to follow its precepts, no answer will come.

    Comment by Greg West — October 3, 2007 @ 4:11 pm

  92. Geoff, if you buy Grudem’s Systematic Theology, I will buy Blake’s three volume set so far in print. :)

    Do you have a link where I can buy new ones for the cheapest price?

    I will be back.

    And Bible worship? What is that?

    Comment by Todd Wood — October 3, 2007 @ 8:05 pm

  93. Tood: And Bible worship? What is that?

    You know — It is worshiping the Bible instead of the living communicating God. It is insisting the Bible has authority over God himself today. It is insisting that God must obey creedal interpretations of the Bible. It is insisting the God does not and can not speak to us directly anymore but must only speak to us through the Bible (as if the Bible supplants the Holy Spirit nowadays). It is insisting that the Bible is somehow alive and the the book itself is somehow powerful even in the absence of the independent witness of the Holy Ghost. Bible worship is the type of things Aaron has been defending.

    (For some reason I had assumed you read this post already…)

    Comment by Geoff J — October 3, 2007 @ 8:12 pm

  94. Todd: I’ve read Grudem. There is nothing original there. Just another rehash of Calvinism of the same sorts rehashed ad nauseum. I think a much better theologian is Millard Erickson, but I’ll bet he’s too Arminian for you even though he is much too Calvinist for me.

    Comment by Blake — October 3, 2007 @ 10:36 pm

  95. Geoff, I should have inserted a smiley face after my fourth line in #92. Perhaps an underlying question is this – does the living communicating God still agree with the words that he had the dead prophets right down in ancient times? And if in the affirmative I make that presuppositional faith claim, does that mean I must be charged with worshipping his words in the past apart from him today?

    Blake, my seminary used Erickson for our systematic theology textbook. I am not as Calvinistic as Grudem (more like Erickson), but now Geoff will need to buy both STs. Do you see the twinkle in my eye?

    And if I could, here is interaction with some of the previous comments in the thread . . .

    Matt: Jesus did not write the Gospels, but certainly we still look to them for his Words. Why would we hold Moses to a different standard?

    Jesus claimed, “he [Moses] wrote of me”. Which writings by Moses were available in Jesus’ day? And what about today? The higher critics say, “Pretty much, nada.” I had to laugh when I read the first paragraph on the first page of Craig Harline’s book, Sunday (Doubleday, 2007), he writes, “Trying to find the origins of Sunday, the biblical scholar Eugene Laverdier once observed, is like trying to find the source of a great river. The delta at the end, and the long channel flowing into the delta, are easily recognizable. Yet the farther one moves upstream toward the source of the river, the trickier the going: tributaries multiply, lead astray, or go underground. And when finally located, the humble source may bear so little resemblance to the massive amounts of water downstream that one will surely wonder what the beginning can possibly have to do with the end.” Matt, higher critics would have you believe the same about anything written by Moses.

    Mike: What would it (if at all possible) take to remove your doubts anyway?

    Do any of the GAs, today, in a general conference ever point out where Joseph was wrong in any of his corrections to the biblical text? For my doubts, would it be a good idea to poll all the general authorities with this simple question, “Do you believe the JST to be an ‘inspired revision of the Bible’.” In fact, how could I send this sincere, honest question to all of them.

    And check out this book (http://heartissuesforlds.wordpress.com/2007/07/18/dead-sea-scroll-scholar-on-mormon-fundamentalism/ ): you will like it that the author supports the documentary hypothesis (with his own new twist), but make sure to notice the questions regarding canon.

    Howard, thanks for the questions. 1. Yes, Bible = God’s Word. 2. Jesus is constantly growing my belief in Himself and His gospel work. And to know him is to know the Father. And the Spirit exalts the living Word (Jesus) in my life through the written Word (the Bible). 3. Talking back? Yes, prayer.

    Blake, of course, the Septuigant included apocrypha material. But there is healthy debate over whether ancient Jews of the day accepted the books with equal authority. Nothing ever “hidden” about it. The open debate has always been there. And the Bible is far from a dead voice. There is no literary material on the face of this globe in the last 3,000+ years that even compares to material within a Bible cover. The Spirit used the gospel message of the Bible to create within me new spiritual life. I wouldn’t back down from calling the Bible a living message.

    And yes, I have a presuppositional faith that the Bible is the words of God. And secondly, the older I get and the more I learn, the less I know, and the simpler my faith becomes in God and his written words. Wait till I am on my deathbed. All I will want is simple promises from God’s Word, the Bible, read to me. No, not that any family members will be offering incense to the Bible (I’m chuckling).

    Bruce, it would be fun to chat more.

    Greg, some biblical higher critics in their zealous searching of the Scriptures and having the ancient languages practically memorized, don’t even know if Jesus is even a historical figure or what his main message might have been. Jesus won’t need to accuse them, Moses will. The Jews of Jesus’ day thought they favored written words by Moses, but how deceived they were.

    And Greg, what book have you authored?

    Comment by Todd Wood — October 4, 2007 @ 11:35 am

  96. The scope of Grudem’s book is far wider than discussions relating to Calvinism. Good grief, just take a look at the table of contents. Millard Erickson would be fine too for what I’m aiming at, but he’s more wordy than Grudem.

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — October 4, 2007 @ 12:50 pm

  97. Help me here, please. Why is it we need Grudem’s book or Erickson’s book?

    Comment by mondo cool — October 4, 2007 @ 1:11 pm

  98. Aaron and Todd: The fact is that Grudem has nothing to ameliorate or begin to give a better explanation of the basic problems with Calvinism raised here. One doesn’t need to wade through 5,000 pages of Calvinistic backtracking and word slicing and dicing to see what the problems are and that neither Grudem nor 4 centuries of Calvinism have solved the basic problems that the Calvinistic god is more like a sadistic fiend than a loving Father or even a good friend.

    Comment by Blake — October 4, 2007 @ 2:05 pm

  99. Todd: The Spirit used the gospel message of the Bible to create within me new spiritual life. I wouldn’t back down from calling the Bible a living message.

    Then what is important is the Spirit that creates new life and testimony, not the medium used to create it only. The spirit could have used the words of a good friend or a shining star to the same effect. The scriptures are only one useful medium for the Spirit to reach us — just like Mormons claim. Further, when the Spirit speaks to you, why isn’t that spirit-breathed and scripture as well?

    Comment by Blake — October 4, 2007 @ 2:12 pm

  100. Todd,
    Thank you, I appreciate your response and agree with many of your comments.

    God does speak to us through the scriptures.

    As you know we believe in revelation and I find Geoff’s point compelling:

    “It is insisting the God does not and can not speak to us directly anymore but must only speak to us through the Bible (as if the Bible supplants the Holy Spirit nowadays).”

    Please offer your thoughts on this.

    Comment by Howard — October 4, 2007 @ 2:38 pm

  101. To Todd:

    My books are available at http://www.fyrnewood.com. I’ve authored several books. My most recent one is called A Mormon Answers the Hard Questions Posed by Anti-Mormons.”

    Greg

    Comment by Greg West — October 4, 2007 @ 4:30 pm

  102. No, really. Why do we need Grudem’s book or Erickson’s book? Why are they being offered as something we should read? I thought the argument was that the Bible was sufficient / self-evident? By offering these books, isn’t there the implication (at least) that some of us may need more than the Bible to understand God’s will? When you tell a Mormon “read Grudem’s book,” aren’t you saying that we can’t understand “the point” through the Bible alone; that the Bible is, therefore, NOT self-evident?

    Comment by mondo cool — October 5, 2007 @ 7:48 am

  103. Mondo cool: Good point. Doesn’t saying: “the creeds just clarify the Bible” say that the Bible isn’t clear enough on its own so we need something clearer to draw the lines of what is acceptable to the faith? The Bible isn’t self-evident or self-sufficient and not alone or sola scriptura once we start down the road evangelicals often want to lead us.

    Comment by Blake — October 5, 2007 @ 7:51 am

  104. Mondo, all I am saying is if Geoff wants to understand more of the evangelical Calvinistic conviction, than pick up Grudem, that’s all. Now, besides desiring to pick up Blake’s books, I would like to pick up one or two of Greg’s books for understanding contemporary LDS conviction.

    Bible truths are sufficient. I just bought Grudem’s ST a year ago, and I am finding the Spirit has taught him some of the same fundamental things, sourced in Scripture, he has been teaching me.

    But am I to be charged with worshipping the Bible for saying that Grudem’s words or Erickson’s words are not on equal authority with inspired Scripture?

    What distinguishes Greg and Blake’s books among the Bible for authoritative, inerrant written words to be trusted for faith and practice?

    Howard, I believe that God is well and able to speak through men in future eschatology, but I reject the premise that they will cross out and add words to previous inspired Scripture. The Spirit calls us to test all the messages through his Word. We have established patterns like the Bereans. And they weren’t being sinful Pharisees for doing this.

    Comment by Todd Wood — October 5, 2007 @ 8:41 am

  105. Todd,

    I’m not really in the dark about Calvinistic “convictions” — I know Calvinists can be pretty zealous. I just don’t think Calvinism is remotely coherent. There are lots of really basic questions that we have asked about Calvinism in this thread alone that no one can give a coherent answer to. That is a major problem. If the only thing you can say to some straight forward questions about the coherence of your theology is “go read this 500 page book” then you you know there is a problem.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 5, 2007 @ 8:49 am

  106. “…I believe that God is well and able to speak through men in future eschatology, but I reject the premise that they will cross out and add words to previous inspired Scripture.”

    What is your take on Matthew and Luke’s editing and revising of Mark?

    Comment by Mike — October 5, 2007 @ 9:18 am

  107. Todd,
    Thanks for your response.

    “The Spirit calls us to test all the messages through his Word.”

    Moroni 10: 3-5:
    3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
    4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
    5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

    This is where we seem to differ. We call upon the Spirit to test the scriptures.

    Part of the Introduction reads:

    We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true. Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost. (See Moroni 10: 3-5.)

    Those who gain this divine witness from the Holy Spirit will also come to know by the same power that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, that Joseph Smith is his revelator and prophet in these last days, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom once again established on the earth, preparatory to the second coming of the Messiah.

    Todd and Aaron,
    I invite you both to call upon the Spirit to test the scriptures.

    Comment by Howard — October 5, 2007 @ 9:22 am

  108. Howard, I do call on the Spirit and continually. I pray to the Spirit for such matters. But I have never listened to one prayer by a GA directly publicly addressing the Spirit like this in the audience of today’s contemporary audience.

    O Spirit of God, we cry on you today to grant to us the truth that we desperately need for our lives. Show us the truth in Scriptures and what is right.

    Geoff, a big problem often is just time constraint. And for systematic theologies, don’t start on page one, look for topics of interest to you that could provide a summary theme that you desire. And to be only fair, I read and read LDS books and am still trying to finding simple summaries that every LDS would agree upon. :)

    Comment by Todd Wood — October 5, 2007 @ 9:38 am

  109. Mike, I don’t believe that Matthew and Luke had to correct Mark.

    But thinking of redacting – isn’t a rule of thumb among some biblical criticism that the older reading is more close to the original? Not the later editing/revising/redacting?

    Comment by Todd Wood — October 5, 2007 @ 9:43 am

  110. Todd,

    Since there is no church-wide systematic theology in Mormonism you won’t find one. But there are coherent theologies and coherent answers to theological questions in Mormonism. I can’t find those at all in Calvinism despite the systematic theologies described. As I said, most self-professed Calvinists I have met actually end up backing down from the claims of Calvinism when the obvious logical inconsistencies in it are pointed out. (You have done this yourself at this very blog).

    Comment by Geoff J — October 5, 2007 @ 9:44 am

  111. Todd: But thinking of redacting – isn’t a rule of thumb among some biblical criticism that the older reading is more close to the original? Not the later editing/revising/redacting?

    Right. So by that logic Mark is more correct than Luke and Matthew. Further, we would/should conclude that the authors of Luke and Matthew “crossed out and added words to previous inspired Scripture” — the very thing you claim to reject. I think that is Mike’s point here.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 5, 2007 @ 9:47 am

  112. Todd Wood (#104):

    What distinguishes Greg and Blake’s books among the Bible for authoritative, inerrant written words to be trusted for faith and practice?

    I’m not sure that either Greg or Blake have claimed their writings as authoritative, inerrant written words to be trusted for faith and practice. I’m sure they would agree that they are still a little shy of canonization.

    Therefore, no, you are not to be charged with worshipping the Bible for saying that Grudem’s words or Erickson’s words are not on equal authority with inspired Scripture. I think the charge of Bible Worship is valid for those who reject any working of Deity outside of the Bible.

    Comment by mondo cool — October 5, 2007 @ 9:51 am

  113. Yes, my friend, I am definitely an inconsistent Calvinist and thus marked by Calvinist, Arminian, and LDS friends as illogical.

    But I quickly point out that when the Spirit leads me in the Scripture, I am in a vast ocean. I am often dwarfed by what I can understand by my human logic alone. But the Spirit never contradicts divine logic. And the Scriptures are divine logic unveiled to man in unparalleled beauty.

    Comment by Todd Wood — October 5, 2007 @ 9:58 am

  114. #111 – I was thinking of similarities to the JST editing and revising of the gospels. But Geoff, you won’t find me disbelieving the BoM or the JST because of underlying principles of higher criticism. Most reject the originality of Mark because of Q. I just shake my head over all this.

    Comment by Todd Wood — October 5, 2007 @ 10:04 am

  115. Todd Wood (#113):

    But I quickly point out that when the Spirit leads me in the Scripture, I am in a vast ocean. I am often dwarfed by what I can understand by my human logic alone. But the Spirit never contradicts divine logic. And the Scriptures are divine logic unveiled to man in unparalleled beauty.

    I find complete agreement with this statement.

    The Scriptures are reliable guides. The Spirit does the same thing for me in all Scripture. What I have felt from my study of the Bible, I have also felt in my study of the Book of Mormon, D&C, and PGP – which, BTW, makes it difficult to reject them. For, in doing so, I must reject the Bible, also.

    Comment by mondo cool — October 5, 2007 @ 10:09 am

  116. “Most reject the originality of Mark because of Q.”

    What?

    Comment by Mike — October 5, 2007 @ 10:52 am

  117. Todd,
    We do not pray directly to the Spirit we pray to the Father in the name of the Son.

    As you read the Book of Mormon, ponder it in your heart and kneel in sincere prayer to the Father in the name of the Son asking tell Him if these things are not true.

    If you ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

    Comment by Howard — October 5, 2007 @ 10:57 am

  118. Todd: The fact that you reject any change or update to scripture is seriously challenged by the fact that New Testament writers consistently changed and created midrashic and haggagic readings of Old Testament passages. It is clear that both Matthew and Luke did the same with Mark (called Q). So if you reject that those who take older scriptures and restate them, change them, add revelations to them, you’ve pretty much got to reject the Bible too. Of course we could also discuss the letters attributed to Paul that weren’t written by him, who really wrote the gospels of Matthew and John and so forth.

    Comment by Blake — October 5, 2007 @ 11:47 am

  119. Pardon me for chiming in, but this topic has troubled me for some time. Specifically, whereas many evangelicals (Calvinists et al.) rely on the inerrant word of God in the Bible, the LDS continually refer to “the Spirit” telling them in an inerrant way that scripture is “true.” This is the basis of LDS “testimony.”

    But in the same way you ask what tells the believer that the Bible is “true”, what, may I ask tells you that “the Spirit” you are feeling is “true?”

    For instance, Howard, you give us Moroni’s challenge, which relies fundamentally on “the Holy Ghost” manifesting the truth of the BoM. Suppose someone has tried that repeatedly over many years, and has not received such a manifestation? How can a person trust the “inerrancy” of spiritual feelings? Must we just take it for granted that “the Spirit” is self-evident?

    Comment by Dan G. — October 6, 2007 @ 7:35 pm

  120. Dan G.: LDS continually refer to “the Spirit” telling them in an inerrant way that scripture is “true.”

    I don’t think this is quite accurate. LDS do tend to rely on a witness from the Holy Spirit as a foundation for their faith in the truth of the Bible. But that is not the same as saying relying on the Holy Spirit is “an inerrant way” of knowing scriptures are true. Receiving personal revelation has all sorts of potential weaknesses. But if God is not able to speak to us now why should we believe he used to be powerful enough to speak to prophets thousands of years ago? If we can’t trust our personal experiences with God himself then why should we believe there is a God at all?

    As far as I can tell, many creedal Christians rely almost entirely on tradition the foundation of their faith. This is admittedly not unique to creedal Christians — it happens with Mormons at times too. But I think the Mormon focus on attaining “a testimony” makes it less common among LDS.

    As I have mentioned before, in Mormonism we believe all people can and ought to be “prophets” over their own stewardships. (Elder Packer supported this notion nicely today in his conference talk). This is the idea that Moses was getting at for the members of the true church too:

    29 And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the LORD’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them! (Num. 11: 29)

    Comment by Geoff J — October 6, 2007 @ 9:05 pm

  121. Dan,
    Good questions.

    “…what, may I ask tells you that “the Spirit” you are feeling is “true?”

    People experience the “feeling” of the Spirit in different ways, but the “feeling(s) are repeatable. So, at first you “test” these feelings. Begin with your faith by praying for the presence of the Holy Spirit and the absense of other spirits. Now, which way are these “feelings” taking you? Towards good or evil, light or darkness?

    “Suppose someone has tried that repeatedly over many years, and has not received such a manifestation?”

    This would be a first in my experience. Moroni’s challenge is effective. The Book of Mormon converts and that is why we pose Moroni’s challenge. It simply requires one to sincerly pray while they read.

    Anyone can easily do it and know for themselves.

    Comment by Howard — October 6, 2007 @ 9:11 pm

  122. Dan G: Suppose someone has tried that repeatedly over many years, and has not received such a manifestation? How can a person trust the “inerrancy” of spiritual feelings?

    I’m not sure how these questions work together. If they receive no manifestations then there are no spiritual feelings to trust or mistrust.

    I have met people who say they can’t seem to get any answers from God to their prayers. I suppose what to do at that point is a personal choice. One could conclude that there is no God and just become and atheist. But if that doesn’t feel like the right thing to do the next thing to investigate why it doesn’t feel right. Ultimately we are all responsible for our own souls.

    12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. (Philip. 2: 12)

    If we lack of a personal relationship with God (as in we can’t get any response to any prayers) then we need to decide if that is a problem with our own spiritual ears or if there just is no God and all those people who claim to hear from him are delusional.

    BTW — see this post on where to start with personal revelation and this whole category on the subject of personal revelation.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 6, 2007 @ 9:37 pm

  123. Guys, just jumping in again on this sunny afternoon in Idaho after Conference weekend. I apologize for sometimes my lack of good spelling and sentence structure.

    Mike asks the question “what?” and Blake refers to Mark as Q. Guys, isn’t there a little more variety among the origins of higher criticism in the discussion of their prestigious Q? I don’t often make it a habit of sticking my head in the rats nest of biblical criticism (higher not the lower) and their answers to the “Synoptic problem,” but I do know enough about the rise of rationalism (18th century) to get a good dose of Ur-evangelium (Lessing), the nine gospels coming from an Aramaic original (Eichorn), the fragment theory (Schleiermacher), oral theory (Geiseler) and Mark being the most direct representation of the evangelic presentation, the interdependence theory (Driesbach – Mark was the epitomizer of Matthew, Luke was earlier than Mark) or (Lachman – priority of Mark with Matthew and Luke taken from it), and the documentary theory.

    Doesn’t it go like this? Matthew and Mark agree together against Luke. Luke and Mark agree together against Matthew. But Matthew and Luke are never against Mark; they just provide more narrative. Conclusion: Mark must be prior.

    But it use to be in ancient times that Q was the source postulated to explain stuff from Matthew and Luke that is not in Mark. Right? Q . . . a collection of the sayings of Jesus. Mark was the basis, while using Q as supplementary material. Q . . . the Antioch source. This dominated in the late 19th century. Remember how Streeter just made everything up?

    Where once Mark was ignored (ironic), it suddenly was catapulted to the top among the biblical critics: the proportion of Mark reproduced in other gospels, the primary order, the supposed literary characteristics, the greater historical candor, and least explicit in accounts, etc.

    But then think of the form criticism that arose from the documentary foundation (Gunkle, Bultmann) the demythologization, literary types, the setting in life, transmission history, redaction history, etc. This is why I am not much of a fan for the Word Biblical Commentary series.

    I just can’t imagine other literature going through such intense source analysis, redaction, etc. How many other books go through such nonsense? All these forms and types such as paradigms, tales, legends have no external evidence to compare with — it’s very subjective. It ignores the fact that Christ was greater than the community – “He taught as no other man taught.” Yet all these eyewitness accounts are misleading; they are lies if we believe form criticism.

    And then there is the redaction criticism in looking at the historical setting of life: 1) Jesus 2) the church (form critics) and 3) the evangelists (redactive critics).

    Howard, most higher critics acting as biblical scholars would not be encouraging friends to you and Mondo Cool for promoting the reliability of scriptures and your sincere appeal in #117; and behind your back they would probably let escape some of their intellectual smirks. It’s sad, really.

    Blake, as a conservative the only thing about Mark’s Gospel that I would concede is a short ending. But this does not impede my firm conviction in biblical inerrancy and God’s preservation of the written words He inspires. I don’t care how much higher critics would charge me with the idea that I worship the Bible. The real problem is that they don’t like the God I worship.

    And in pondering #118, I do try to seriously consider in our church book studies (like in Romans, now John’s Gospel) the prolific quoting from the O.T., especially Isaiah, Psalms, and the Pentateuch. There is continuity and discontinuity, but nothing like what I am oberving in the meshing of latter-day scripture with biblical scripture. I have only begun my studies in comparing JST and latter-day scripture with the biblical text, but again friend . . . I see apples and oranges when we really get down to nitty gritty detail.

    Comment by Todd Wood — October 8, 2007 @ 12:31 pm

  124. Todd,
    Most higher critics acting as biblical scholars who resort to intellectual smirks behind someone’s back would probably having a great deal of difficulty connecting with the Spirit.

    Comment by Howard — October 8, 2007 @ 1:07 pm

  125. You are right on that, friend.

    They do it to fundamentalists all the time.

    Comment by Todd Wood — October 8, 2007 @ 1:29 pm

  126. Todd,
    Well, I guess that’s what happens when one allows intellectual pursuits to trump spiritual pursuits.

    Comment by Howard — October 8, 2007 @ 2:19 pm

  127. Todd: I don’t think you understand what is being asserted. The notion of a Q document as the underlying source of Jesus’s saying in Matthew and Luke in addition to Mark is not a reason for doubt the gospels. I don’t claim that Mark = Q (and I don’t know anyone who does). I’m not sure what your point about Q is — but it isn’t reason to doubt anything as far as I can tell. As you say, the hypothesis of Q is merely a sayings source. It seems almost certain that there was such a source.

    The problem is that Matthew wasn’t written by the apostle Matthew. John wasn’t written by John. It is demonstrable that Matthew and Luke altered Mark’s texts and that they rely on Mark. I’ll post more on biblical inerrancy, but frankly, the notion that Matt. and Luke change OT scriptures, expand, misquote and change Mark is not really in serious doubt by any scholar that doesn’t have an ax to grind. I’ll write more on inerrancy later — but that’s enough to show that anyone who adopts such inerrancy simply refuses to see the text as it is and insists on something that none of the biblical writers insisted on.

    Comment by Blake — October 8, 2007 @ 4:14 pm

  128. Blake,

    I don’t claim that Mark = Q (and I don’t know anyone who does).

    If it helps, Todd is reacting to this statement from 118:

    It is clear that both Matthew and Luke did the same with Mark (called Q).

    I don’t think you meant to say that Mark is called Q, but the comment reads that way.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 8, 2007 @ 5:50 pm

  129. Jacob: You’re right, to the uninitiated that comment does justify Todd’s assertion. But to one familiar with the theory of Q, it would be clear that I meant that what Matthew and Luke share that is not in common with Mark is called Q.

    Comment by Blake — October 9, 2007 @ 6:23 am

  130. Shafovaloff has hit on a grain of truth. And some things that he says about the Bible are also applicable to the Book of Mormon.

    I also believe that the Bible and the Book of Mormon are somehow “living” in and of themselves.

    Not the physical paper and ink, but somehow the spirit embodied or created by that paper and ink is alive and active.

    Heb 4:12, For the word of God is quick (alive, not “fast”), and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

    Paul gives living attributes to scripture too.

    One of the major names that Christ uses is “The Word.” That indicates that there is some kind of power in words, in and of themselves.

    Text has spirit. The spirit of the words/text of scripture literally jumps off the page and enters into you if you let it. I first experienced this while reading the scriptures in English, but the concept of what was happening didn’t sink in until the experience was repeated while reading the Spanish scriptures.

    The scriptures can become somewhat of a seer-stone, in that the Holy Ghost reveals to you not just the meaning of what is written, but the underlying meanings, and what is written “between the lines.”

    And… this comes from a GA, H. Bryan Richards I believe, “if the answers we seek are not in the scriptures, reading the scriptures puts us in a position where we can receive the answer.”

    Scriptures are voices that cry out from the dust.

    The Lord (in the D&C) and LDS prophets themselves have stated that we treat the Book of Mormon too lightly and are under condemnation because of it.

    Physical copies of the scriptures are a lightening rod for revelation, miracles, and Godly intervention. I gave some copies of the Book of Mormon to a friend to keep in her car, and that night, a stranger came up to her at McDonald’s and asked if she was Mormon, and when she answered, he asked for a Book of Mormon. I have dozens of stories of being spiritually guided to places where people wanted the Book of Mormon in their native language.

    I started believing the Bible 10 years before I found the true church. The Bible prepared me for the fullness that I was to receive later. I believe Shafovaloff and other Christians are entirely justified in their “love affair” with the Bible. I still have my first Bible that I bought on my own, a Jerusalem Bible.

    I’m afraid I have to give props to Shafovaloff on this one. Oh how I wish we Mormons loved, regarded, respected, venerated, distributed, promulgated, preached, studied, read, and memorized the Book of Mormon and the Bible as much as devout Christians of other faiths do the Bible.

    Comment by Bookslinger — October 17, 2007 @ 8:01 pm

  131. I also believe that the Bible and the Book of Mormon are somehow “living” in and of themselves… Text has spirit… I’m afraid I have to give props to Shafovaloff on this one.

    Then I’m afraid I think you’re off your rocker too Bookslinger. (Of course I mean that in the best possible way…)

    Respecting revelations to other people is one thing, but worshiping them is going way, way too far.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 17, 2007 @ 8:32 pm

  132. Geoff: If you mean worshipping in a literal sense, then no, neither Shafovaloff nor I are not talking about that kind of worship. (And just for the record, I don’t agree with him on all his points.)

    However, if you’re using the word “worship” as hyperbole or exaggeration, then yes, Shafovaloff worships the Bible, and I worship the Bible and the three other LDS standard works.

    I bet some snide smart-alecky Nephites said to their prophets along the way “Man, you guys sure do worship those plates of Nephi.”

    Having a love affair with the scriptures is not a bad thing. I believe our modern propehts have even used the term “love affair with the scriptures.” I think President Benson also used the phrase “drink deeply from the scriptures.”

    I think President Benson’s “Flood the Earth” talk illustrated that he worshipped (figuratively speaking) the Book of Mormon.

    I think your problem with proper reverence and awe towards the scriptures might be partly due to your snide choice of words. To not have a proper sense of respect and awe towards the scriptures is, in my opinion, off kilter.

    That sense of awe and respect is what motivated Martin Harris to mortgage or sell part of his farm to pay the $5,000 for the printing of the Book of Mormon. It’s what motivated those two girls to risk life and limb to recover the pages of the Book of Commandments (the D&C back then) when the mob destroyed the printing shop. It’s what motivated Parley Pratt to read the Book of Mormon through in one sitting.

    My dad’s side of the family is Jewish. I’m of the Tribe of Judah. The Bible is the story of my people, and that’s part of the reason I love it.

    One of the duties of the Holy Ghost is to quicken people or make them alive spiritually. I think he makes the words of scriptures alive in a similar vein when people read them. I have felt that quickening often while reading the scriptures, including while reading the Bible years before finding the Book of Mormon.

    The “spirit of the words” describing the visit of the Savior in 3rd Nephi is the same “spirit of the words” that is often found in the Bible. You’re missing out if you haven’t tasted of that spirit.

    Mr. Shafovaloff (if you read this), fortunately Geoff J’s attitude and level of respect for the Bible is not universal within the LDS church.

    Comment by Bookslinger — October 17, 2007 @ 9:03 pm

  133. Bookslinger: However, if you’re using the word “worship” as hyperbole or exaggeration, then yes, Shafovaloff worships the Bible, and I worship the Bible and the three other LDS standard works.

    Dude, I sincerely hope you aren’t as close to scripture worship as Aaron is. In my opinion he has crossed well into idolatrous territory.

    We are not talking about “loving” the scriptures here. We aren’t talking about “drinking deeply” from the scriptures. We are talking about personifying the revelations and insisting that God cannot (or at least will not) speak to humans anymore directly through his spirit or through angels or through visitations.

    President Benson was no idolater. He didn’t worship the book of Mormon. In this post I am not talking about some namby pamby version of the word worship — I’m talking about worship. That is what I see some people like Aaron doing. The closer we get to that the close we get to idolatry.

    Now as for awe and respect for scriptures — I have awe and respect for God. The fact that he spoke to people and we have records of it helps my awe and respect for God increase. But I don’t need to turn my scriptures into idols to have awe and respect for God.

    The Bible is the story of my people, and that’s part of the reason I love it.

    Great — I love the Bible too. I just don’t worship it in lieu of the living God. I hope that is true for you too.

    I think he makes the words of scriptures alive in a similar vein when people read them.

    I agree — but this is not unique to canonized scriptures. The Holy Ghost testifies of all truths and especially of the most important and saving truths no matter where they are found on earth.

    The “spirit of the words”

    This saying is figurative, not literal. The Holy Spirit will lead us to all truth and thankfully the scriptures are chock full of truth so the Spirit often testifies of those truths. But if the spirit is not present the scriptures themselves will have no power to change the hearts of people. I think you are conflating the scriptures with the Holy Spirit that often accompanies the reading of them.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 17, 2007 @ 10:02 pm

  134. Bookslinger: If you mean worshipping in a literal sense, then no, neither Shafovaloff nor I are not talking about that kind of worship.

    What makes you qualified to speak for Aaron? Have you spent a ton of time at his various anti-Mormon sites and now feel like you know his inner thoughts or something? I think Aaron is literally worshiping the Bible. I don’t know if you do so as well yet.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 17, 2007 @ 10:18 pm

  135. Bookslinger: I think Geoff is right on this one. Aaron makes the Bible into the source of a living relationship. The problem is that Aaron refuses to listen to the living, speaking God and instead relies on the Bible as the personified deity. That is idolatry by any measure — and in fact is worse than idolatry in the sens that it also distorts God’s past words.

    I also agree with Geoff that Aaron is an anti-Mormon in the worst sense of the word. Where is the web-site set up by Mormons dedicated to ridiculing and rejecting at all costs and without measure what fundamentalist evangelicals like Aaron believe? His antics on his web-site, deleting and controlling what Mormons say to distort the presentation of ideas, is beneath contempt in my view.

    Comment by Blake — October 18, 2007 @ 8:37 am

  136. Blake and Geoff J:

    I was not attempting to address Aaron S’s anti-mormonism, or his beliefs that God does not reveal things directly to individuals any more, or his circular/recursive logic in how he “knows” the Bible to be true.

    The point I want to limit my response to is whether the canonized scriptures are “alive” and “active” and have some kind of “spirit” with a small “s” built into them. And I have to give the devil his due, so to speak, and agree with Aaron on that point. The statement that scriptures somehow have a living spirit (with small s) is more literal than figurative. Our own Book of Mormon prophets allude to the same thing, though not in the same words that Aaron and others have fixated on.

    We believe that it is incorrect for him to disbelieve the other pathways (aside from the scriptures) for God to reveal things to men both individually and collectively. And his web site antics are laughable. And his explanation of how he knows the Bible to be true seems logically flawed.

    But in my opinion, it’s not that he elevates the Bible too high, it’s that he doesn’t give the Godhead enough credit directly. He errs in thinking that the Bible is the sole pathyway of revelation.

    Why do you guys really care what he says? And why do you contend with him? If he’s that bad on his own web sites, have you ever heard the saying that if you wrestle with pigs you’re going to get dirty?

    I was just breezing through ldsblogs.org and noticed the title here, and found you picking on someone over an individual point in which I think his side actually has some merit, regardless of how messed up his overall views are.

    I think Aaron and many mainstream religionists today are in pretty much the same boat as the pharisees at the time of the Lord’s earthly ministry. Those who venerated the old scriptures/prophets, had outward shows of veneration and obedience, but didn’t really get the gist of what was taught in them, to the point that they rejected the prophet (the Savior himself) who was sent to them.

    My opinion is that mainstream Christendom of our day has much in common with the Pharisee’s of the Lord’s time.

    And one needs to pick one’s battles. Ask yourself if people are really taking him seriously, and need you to set them straight. And are you responding in a manner that the observers will respect? Do people need you to save them from Aaron?

    Of course Aaron’s beliefs about the Bible as revelation vis-a-vis current revelation from God are incorrect (according to our beliefs), because he doesn’t have the correct (according to our beliefs) picture or overall picture of who the members of the Godhead are, their nature, their goal, or what they do.

    His putting the Bible supreme is not idolatry, it’s merely his ignorance that “fresh” revelation is not readily available. When he does (at some point in the future) come to a realization of who and what the members of the Godhead are, and how they operate, his respect for the Bible needn’t diminish, but his worship and awe of Heavenly Father and Jesus will increase.

    I’d also like to humbly remind you about reviling towards the revilers. Aaron, like me, you and all of us, will come to judgement for thoughts, words, and deeds. And we’ll all have to make adjustments, offer apologies, and reap consequences of our actions on Earth. When the day comes (whether it be in this life, in the spirit world, in the millennium, or at the final judgement), and hopefully sooner than later, that he does come to a full realization of the truth try not to gloat and say “told ya so.”

    Sometimes, by opposing so strongly we only serve to make our debate opponents more firmly entrenched. Our polemics may in fact hinder our debate opponents’ progress towards the truth if we are not careful.

    One reminder to me of the nature of scriptures seeming to have a living spirit is that I notice a difference in my spirituality when I read the scriptures daily. And if I read twice daily (1st thing in morning, and last thing at night) then there is an additional boost.

    Comment by Bookslinger — October 20, 2007 @ 12:37 am

  137. Bookslinger,

    Obnoxious much? Coming around here to tell me who I can or can’t try to have dialogue with could hardly be more annoying. You know nothing of the ongoing exchanges and personal conversations I’ve had with Aaron. I want to understand what makes guys like Aaron tick so I have discussions with him. We tend to be very honest with each other but have learned some things from each other in the process. If you don’t like that dialogue don’t read it.

    Now to be perfectly blunt — it is obvious that you showed up on this thread and spouted off without understanding the context of this conversation at all. Next time do your homework (or at least read the thread) before jumping in with long-winded and sanctimonious comments. It just made you come off looking foolish and pompous in this case. If this is the best you have to offer then don’t expect to go unmoderated in the future.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 20, 2007 @ 9:02 am

  138. Easy Geoff. Bookslinger actually makes some thoughtful points. He is right that a soft heart gets much further than a quick tongue.

    Comment by Blake — October 20, 2007 @ 11:30 am

  139. Meh. I think he is mostly trying to cover his tracks for boorishly barging in on a thread where he had no idea what we were really talking about and making all kinds of arrogant and condescending comments. Rather than saying “Mea culpa, I should have done a little reading before pompously and inaccurately calling y’all to repentance” he instead came back with more accusations and weak defenses of the notion of scripture worship. If he wants to earn some respect he ought to learn to swallow his pride on occasion rather than pretend he never made a buffoon of himself in the first place.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 20, 2007 @ 1:16 pm

  140. God love ya Geoff.

    Comment by Kent — October 20, 2007 @ 1:35 pm

  141. See my HI4LDS post: it is bibliolatry discussion time again.

    Comment by Todd Wood — November 16, 2007 @ 10:26 pm

  142. The frustrating thing is, I made it through all the comments but never got a direct answer to the question non-arab arab posed in #54 about what makes the Bible take precedence over other books which claim to be God-breathed.

    Further, I am really glad bookslinger showed up,. Though he clearly didn’t read the entire exchange, or didn’t grasp the length of Aaron’s approach to the Bible (which actually curtails living revelation, as the letter killeth but spirit giveth life) he did make me remember how awesome the scriptures are. (Not that Geoff et al don’t love the scriptures).

    At any rate, I wish #54 was answered.

    To me, bibliolatry is summed up by the concept that everything must pass through the Bible in order to be validated as truth. To me, the Bible is set up instead of the Spirit of God, taking precedence over it, and thus being “worshiped,” or venerated and looked to, above the living God.

    Comment by BHodges — December 17, 2008 @ 10:01 am

  143. LDS are commonly criticized by evangelicals because our article of faith which states, ‘We believe the Bible to be the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly’.

    One thing I have heard critics of the LDS church say is that , “If they don’t like what they Bible says, the will just say that it is a bad translation.”

    However, LDS arguments don’t usually stem from saying that the Bible was translated wrong, it is usually that we say they are INTERPRETING the text wrong.

    I always remember those few verses of Joseph actually changing what the text says (Pharoah hardened his own heart.) But usually interpreting is the issue.

    Recently, in my presenting the first verse of Genesis, I have come to realize that translation really is a big part of it too.

    Two 7 minute videos discussing the first and second words of the Bible.

    It is impressive how much small translation concepts can affect huge areas in doctrine.

    These are things that most people don’t know about. They read the verse as is and make or keep their assumptions.

    6 Ex Materia – The Bible: Bereishit

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqLXfWjw-lQ

    7 Ex Materia – The Bible: Bara’

    http://youtu.be/EzIbLUPKgfY

    -Stephen Michael Purdy

    Comment by Stephen Michael Purdy — March 25, 2012 @ 9:25 pm

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