Yes, you speculate too

December 1, 2006    By: Geoff J @ 7:43 pm   Category: Personal Revelation,Theology

There has been some interesting action around these parts while I have been away. It started with some exchanges between Jacob and Mogget about the general subject of theology. Late in one of those threads at Mogget made an interesting comment:

Two points about our info on the post-mortal existence:

If it’s something that is known only by revelation, then let’s admit that it’s so.

If we’re going to speculate about it, then it needs structure and organization.

Now it seems that there are folks that think three kingdoms, and folks that think “many kingdoms.” Interestingly enough, both sides seem to think they have logic, exegesis, and revelation on their side.

So let’s take a step back in the whole process and talk about how to distinguish between competing claims in general before we work on this issue. It would seem that the tough one is competing claims of revelation, no?

Anybody got any ideas? Something reasonably objective?

The point she brings up about competing revelations a difficult but highly important one. One the major eye-openers I have experienced in the last few years is the realization that there is no insider group of always-agreeing “knowers” when it comes to God. Prophets and apostles don’t always agree on doctrine or theology. They didn’t always agree anciently and they don’t always agree now. That was a startling discovery for me. I think it can be a very disconcerting thought. But once one gets past the scary notion that scriptures may sometimes really contradict each other or that prophets and apostles sometimes believe contradictory theological ideas one is led to an important realization — that the only revelations that really matter to each of us on this earth are our own personal revelations.

Why would I say that? Well because personal revelation is the ultimate source of truth for us all. How can we know scriptures come from God?; Only if God himself tells us. How can we know if there is a prophet on the earth now?; Only if God himself tells us. And after God tells us that scriptures really do come through him (to whatever degree that is true) we can then get revelatory confirmation on individual doctrinal and theological concepts. Interestingly, the scriptures also tell us that life eternal is to know God and Jesus Christ. I take that to mean we must have a personal revelatory relationship with God; not just a knowledge about God and Christ through other people’s revelations.

So in answer to Mogget’s question: I don’t think that there is ultimately an objective way to distinguish between competing claims of revelation about God — at least not objective in the public and testable sense that the science guys long for. Knowing God comes from personal communication with God. Knowing which competing claim to revelation is true can only come from turning to the original source of the revelation and getting an answer.

Now admittedly, even if one gets an answer from God on a question about a mystery of the universe it is likely to be a variation of “Go away. I’ll tell you when you’re older”. But God must be source if we are ever to get such answers.

So while we personally seek answers from the source we can experiment with ideas (the study it out in our minds portion of the revelatory experience). We can choose from canonized and uncanonized revelations and try to construct coherent theological models. Of course because there really are competing ideas in and out of the canon some things have to be excised or at least reinterpreted or even minimized to make a coherent theology work. Blake does a good job of it. I think I have a coherent theology I have put together. Others have done some work on it too. But the reality is that in mine or Blake’s or anyone’s theological model it is easy for critics of the model to harp on a few proof texts that had to be reinterpreted or minimized. In so doing they can make a good case against the model (as we have done to to Blake’s and my models here extensively). Such is the nature of this exercise.

Of course the goal of all of this is to comprehend the truth about our lives here on earth and about the ultimate nature of reality. That study of metaphysics has been going on since the dawn of man and there has been no consensus yet. But that doesn’t mean we should quit trying. In fact, it may be that the trying is a large part of our purpose here to begin with.

Now as for the title of this post; here is a thought for you. When it comes to knowledge of and about God there are only two paths people choose: revelation and speculation. If we have not personally had revelatory answers from God then we are betting on somebody else’s claims to such revelation. While betting on someone else’s claims is a tame form of speculation it still can be considered a form of speculation (aka guessing — even if it is educated guessing). This is the borrowed light problem we are occasionally taught about. So yes, you speculate on everything that God hasn’t personally told you. We all do.

That isn’t so bad as a stop-gap, but I think God wants to personally tell us too so we ought to figure out how to get our answers. As Moses said:

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!


  1. I think you’re right. I don’t think there is an objective way to compare competing views except perhaps to the degree that they line up to the scientific or more objective historical record.

    i.e. one can falsify some claims but little beyond that.

    Comment by clark — December 1, 2006 @ 9:52 pm

  2. I have found out from experience that no matter what kind of logic one puts forth, however simple and true it may be, if it doesn’t jive with what one has cosidered to be true from repetative indoctrination, he will call you false or imaginary at best. Very interesting post there Geoff.

    Is it reality we are afraid of? Is it strange to think that maybe the lesser of two ideas might be the correct one? Or even, are we wrong in our conclusions of other peoples ideas based solely on tradition of our fathers which have been passed down from generation to generation.

    I believe the true answer to salvation is before us but we are still looking through the binoculors to try to see waht is already in our laps. The mysteries of why we have competing doctrines in the church leadership stems from our false view that we must believe everything and every idea put forth by the church. Are we not commanded to judge all doctrines in our own minds?

    One last thought. If we ever get a spirit of contention about somebody, their ideas will always seem visionary or “ficticious” in Charater.

    Happy day Geoff!

    Comment by Rob Osborn — December 1, 2006 @ 10:51 pm

  3. So how do you choose between two competing “revelations?” Whoever is the most righteous?

    Comment by Bored in Vernal — December 1, 2006 @ 10:56 pm

  4. Oops, don’t click on my old link–here’s my new one.

    Comment by Bored in Vernal — December 1, 2006 @ 10:57 pm

  5. I’m not sure that I have a problem with competing ideas among our leaders. In some way it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one groping around in the dark. In another way, it’s not very comforting to know that apparently no one knows what is really going on.

    I like your idea, Geoff. I have found that speculation is often a great way to work out ideas and make new discoveries. Even if it’s the next day that they get shredded, that’s learning and working things out too. God does want us to work out our answers.

    As for determining who is right among conflicting existing ideas, I have no idea. One day I side against BRM, the next I’m with him. Ultimately there must be a true harmony in all of these questions but I doubt that any one will be able to find it. If we were supposed to or if it was even so important then God would have given us a more complete, systematized theology. So speculate away I guess.

    Comment by LXX Luthor — December 1, 2006 @ 11:34 pm

  6. While reading this tidbit, something came to mind…

    In the New Testament, we read about the Apostles taking exception to someone, evidently not one of them casting out devils. (this is in Mark 9:0
    38 ¶ And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.
    39 But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.

    Seems that there is more to it than just competing ideas. I may be padding my conclusions a little here, but it certainly fits some of my experiences. Lockstep is expected by some, and speculation is nigh unto apostasy. Others are well aware of this principle. Speaking of the Saints, Joseph Smith said, “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves” (qtd. by John Taylor, in Millennial Star, Nov. 15, 1851, p. 339).

    Seems to me there is some lattitue for speculation. That even Christ allowed for some things to happen that were not quite by the book (was there a book? would it have been a scroll? An Apostles handscroll?)I too was a bit taken aback when I heard that the bretheren go toe to toe over some issues. I guess I always assumed (in an ignorantly hopeful way) that there was nothing but peace and
    harmony every time the bretheren met. I guess I figured all decisions were made by a group of old guys sitting in a room where Jesus appeared to them all at once and layed out this weeks action items.

    I speculate that I am wrong…and will continue to be.

    Comment by Jake — December 2, 2006 @ 12:05 am

  7. I think that it does not yet appear what we shall be.

    As a result, we only approximate, limited by our metaphors and our language.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — December 2, 2006 @ 1:06 pm

  8. Geoff, have you ever read much of Karl Barth and the whole movement of neorthodoxy? That the Bible is only the Word of God as you would experientially encounter Deity.

    In what you are proposing here, would you find points of similarity with Barth?

    I need more of a foundation than the subjectivism of neorthodoxy. Yes, there is speculation in theology on things that are not found in the written text. But my hope is not in that. I find the anchor for my soul by trusting in the viable, credible, authentic, objective testimonies made by Christ and the apostles concerning Scripture.

    Didn’t Christ and the apostles teach the realiability, even inerrancy of Scripture?

    It can be fun to speculate, but how does it provide any objectivity for giving hope for my life?


    Comment by Todd Wood — December 2, 2006 @ 1:59 pm

  9. Todd: Didn’t Christ and the apostles teach the realiability, even inerrancy of Scripture?

    References please? I don’t think they taught any such thing.

    Comment by Jacob — December 2, 2006 @ 2:23 pm

  10. …as the inerrancy of scripture.

    Comment by Jacob — December 2, 2006 @ 2:32 pm

  11. Jacob, so you would concur to the word, reliability?

    I will be back and hopefully a better speller. You know me. I am as slow as a turtle. :)

    Comment by Todd Wood — December 2, 2006 @ 2:57 pm

  12. Todd (and all),

    The reliability of scriptures is the key question I am dealing with here. I emphatically do not believe the scriptures are inerrant. Believing such is tantamount to the kind of “Bible worship” I see in so much of Christianity in my opinion. So when it comes to getting truth from someone like, say, Paul, we are up against several major problems: 1) Discerning what Paul actually said or not (there is real question about the authorship of several of the epistles for instance). 2) Discerning what he really meant (this is where the scholars like our own Mogget come in with their historical-critical studies of the canon). 3) Once we figure out what Paul actually said and what he meant in the historical context of his writing we are left with a huge problem still — we have to figure out if his opinions were accurate on theological details.

    That is the point I am trying to make in this post — that it is not safe to make a blanket assumption that Paul was always right in his opinions any more than it is safe to assume Bruce R. McConkie was always right in his opinions.

    All of that leads us back to one thing — personal revelation.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 2, 2006 @ 8:07 pm

  13. Todd,

    It really depends on what you mean by both reliability and inerrancy. Obviously, debates over Biblical inerrancy have a rich history, so even though I think I have an idea what you mean, I dont want to assume to much about your view. Even without knowing the brand of inerrancy you accept, I’m fairly confident that I have a different view.

    Mormons have a number of reasons to view scripture in a different way than our fellow Christians. First, we believe in continuing revelation, so we are not as invested in the necessity of inerrant scripture for assurance that we know the way of salvation. Second, we believe in a concept of priesthood that removes our dependence on the Bible as the source of authority. Third, the Book or Mormon contains scriptures like this one which admit the possibility of human error being introduced into scripture:

    And if there be faults they be the faults of a man. But behold, we know no fault; nevertheless God knoweth all things; therefore, he that condemneth, let him be aware lest he shall be in danger of hell fire. (Morm 8:17)

    And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ. (Title page of the BofM)

    Fourth, we know that Joseph Smith went back and revised revelations he had previously received based on further light and knowledge he obtained by subsequent revelations. This leads me to understand revelations as being given to people/prophets according to their current capacity, without every revealed truth being explained in its fullness.

    Fifth, Joseph Smith received this revelation giving commentary on 1 Cor 7:14, which states:

    Wherefore, for this cause the apostle wrote unto the church, giving unto them a commandment, not of the Lord, but of himself, that a believer should not be united to an unbeliever; except the law of Moses should be done away among them,

    This sort of thing will be upsetting to most people who believe in Biblical inerrancy, but it fits rather easily into my view of prophets. Not every thing they do or say is inspired or mandated from heaven.

    None of this should be miscontrued. As is stated in the Articles of Faith: “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.” We don’t attack the reliability of the scriptures generally, but we typically hold a less absolute view of reliability/inerrancy than what I am guessing you espouse.


    I love the post. Nice job.

    Comment by Jacob — December 2, 2006 @ 8:37 pm

  14. Geoff, I love this post too. When it comes to revelation vs. speculation, there are other revelations besides the BoM and Bible that we generally dismiss.

    2 Ne 29:12 refers to the BoM and Bible, but goes on to say that God speaks to “all nations of the earth and they shall write it.” Verse 11 even more specifically refers to God speaking to all men throughout the earth.

    Do you think that as LDS we treat our four standard works the way other Christians treat the Bible; i.e., as if they are the only revelations from God?

    I think we all agree that the BoM was written for the benefit of people living in a frontier American context, regardless of the culture and geography of the Lehite people (although it contains vestiges of that culture). The D&C even more specifically addresses frontier Americans in the mid-19th century. Yet these scriptures contain universal truths that we attempt to share with people of all cultures and walks of life.

    Do we agree that the other books of inspired people throughout world history contain direct inspiration from God? As a practical matter, we have more than enough in the four standard works to study and debate (and speculate about). To the extent we consider outside material, we assess it by comparing it to what the standard works say, just as we assess the Bible by comparing it to what the latter-day scriptures say. But maybe we ought to look at some of these other sources of revelation to help explain some of the theological issues we’re constantly discussing.

    I’ve concluded that, in the spirit of Moroni 7, whatever invites people to do good is inspired of God, even if it’s not Christian per se. In turn, this leads me to conclude that the revelations given to other people around the world and throughout history (including our own) contain truth that is adapted to the cultural, educational, and social settings of the people to whom the revelations are given.

    Thus, a Hindu priest can teach his people doctrine and practices that will lead them to do good, to love God, and to serve him–which ultimately leads to exaltation.

    What I think you’re saying, and this is what I believe and have experienced, is that God will also adapt revelation to our individual understanding, if we will seek it. The recorded revelations, both our own and those given to people in other times and places, are merely prompts for us to obtain our own revelation.

    So it doesn’t matter that the scriptures contain errors or inconsistencies, because they were given to specific people in specific circumstances that differed. We can see how messy the D&C itself is, and can only imagine what tortuous paths Paul’s epistles have gone through. What matters is what we obtain from God for ourselves.

    I think this explains why it is so difficult to parse the language of the scriptures to make it completely and perfectly consistent and clear. To be consistent, we’d have to expand this effort to include all the revelation God has revealed, and we’d quickly acknowledge this is an impossible task.

    Better to take what we have as an example of how to approach God for ourselves.

    Is this what you’re getting at?

    Comment by jonathan n — December 3, 2006 @ 12:40 am

  15. While there is no objective, externally verifiable way to test the meaning of the Scriptures, this doesnt mean everyone speculates with their brains hanging out. There are degrees of speculation, including the entire absence of it. And degrees of speculation doesnt entitle people to brand it all “speculation”, and therefore say it is all equal and of the same merit, or lack thereof.

    Setting aside the topic of Soterilogy, allow me to cherry pick an example: Isaiah. Because of the time and effort I have invested in studying this text, I can say with confidence that I understand >95% of the text. That means in commenting upon the text, I can, entirely without speculation, tell you what it means with respect to the message Isaiah intended to convey to the reader. The other ~5%, for a variety of reasons, I am left to speculate on its meaning. And for the other 95%, I can provide intelligent, rigorous, contextual explanations that are supported by a variety of means, none of which result in internal (i.e., within the book itself) or external (i.e., with related period texts-other major and minor prophets-and later prophetic texts) contradictions.

    Now, if someone comes along and says something on that text that disagrees with my reading, that doesnt make my reading “speculation”. And that doesnt impeach my reading. It means we disagree. And if that person is speculating with their brains hanging out, and they arent interested in actually learning what the author intended, because they would rather watch Star Trek reruns than invest time into the text, then that still doesnt make my approach speculative.

    To some degree, we are all speculating. But, there is plenty of opportunity to entirely eliminate speculation and determine the meaning of a text on a great many subjects in the Scriptures. Soteriology is one of those where there is only minutiae left to speculate on, assuming someone is willing to invest the time studying. Ignorance is not a license to speculate freely without consequence.

    Comment by Kurt — December 3, 2006 @ 9:30 am

  16. Jonathan,

    Your comment reminds me of one of my favorite Brigham Young quotes:

    “Mormonism” includes all truth. There is no truth but what belongs to the gospel. (JD 11:371)

    And yes, I think you have what I’m getting at in this post right. Life eternal is to know God and we must do that on a personal level — no one can do it for us.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 3, 2006 @ 9:57 am

  17. Kurt,

    First, can you explain what “their brains hanging out” means? You used it twice in that comment and I can’t tell exactly what it represents to you.

    Second, I agree that not all theological speculation is the same. I never intended to imply that if I did.

    Your comments about Isaiah are interesting. (Out of curiosity, are you in the single author camp when it comes to the Book of Isaiah or the multiple authors camp?) Even if you are correct in your opinions about the authorship, intent, and authors meaning in the Book of Isaiah; how do you know if the opinions contained therein represent actual truth?

    My point is that unless you have personal revelation from God telling you the truth, you are speculating or guessing that the author of Isaiah is right. There is no finding eternal truth without personal revelation from God.

    Also, just because God might confirm that an overall book (say Isaiah or the Bible or the BoM on a macro level) is inspired by him does not mean that God has also revealed that every micro level theological implication is accurate as well. I think this principle applies to all scriptures.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 3, 2006 @ 10:14 am

  18. One thing I really love about President Hinckley and I loved about Elder Mckay (from what I’ve read of him) was that both were quick to say “I don’t know” and “I don’t understand.” when it comes to things like the atonement, the temple, man’s potential, etc. These are the biggest most important concepts within our theology, and these men are willing to allow for a diversity of ideas.

    That doesn’t keep me from thinking about it, as we are also taught that these things are what we must talk, think, and pray about, but it does allow for a certain amount of open mindedness.


    Comment by Matt W. — December 3, 2006 @ 2:08 pm

  19. Geoff,

    Speculating with your brains hanging out would be someone who isnt bothering to invest the time necessary to figure out what they are talking about before they start talking. For example, that last thread about soteriology.

    I am definitely a single author Isaiah guy, and explain why in my comments on that book. As for the relative accuracy of my reading on the text, like I said in my previous comment, I develop readings that are rigorous in that they do not internally contradict themselves or contradict external related texts. That just makes sense.

    Expecting someone to obtain personal revelation over every passage of scripture, verse by verse or chapter by chapter, or whatever increment, just makes no sense to me. God gave us brains to use them, and we are commanded to study these texts, not to read them and seek personal revelation over every possible reading and nuance. Your personal revelation thing seems like it could be used as an excuse to not invest the time in actually studying, like “Hey, why should I bother to read all these commentaries and sift the wheat from the chaff, when the Lord will just reveal the truth to me?” I dont see it that way. I see the Lord expecting people to choose how they spend their time wisely and rewarding them accordingly. If someone spends all their free time watching Star Trek reruns and then thinks the Lord will reveal the meaning of the book of Isaiah to them when they crack it open the first time, sorry that just isnt going to happen, per D&C 9.

    Comment by Kurt — December 3, 2006 @ 4:45 pm

  20. Kurt,

    Based on your definition I haven’t see anyone “speculating with their brains hanging out” around here. I am also unaware of anyone who has been watching Star Trek reruns instead of studying these things out. The very fact that people are participating in these theological and scriptural conversations when they could be doing millions of other things makes it clear that participants here are interested in investing effort into figuring these things out.

    I agree with you that in order to develop a coherent theology we must study the relevant written revelations hard. I thought I made that clear in the post. Sorry if that message did not come through for you as I intended.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 3, 2006 @ 5:17 pm

  21. I believe that while there may be some minor level of diversity in the scriptures and among the prophets, that the consistencies are amazing and inspirig. When one considers the amount of ground covered in the scriptures and theology, and how amitious mormonism is in explaining things, I find the consistency staggering.

    As we unavoidably speculate, there should be some general consensusand consistency in the content. At least I think there should be.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — December 4, 2006 @ 6:56 am

  22. Well, Geoff, when people wonder aloud if Smith and Paul agree with respect to Soterilogy, that is a perfect case of “speculating with their brains hanging out”. Its pretty plain they do agree.

    Given Matt’s pun on “set phasers to dumb” in the last thread, he is clearly well acquainted with all things Trek.

    I didnt say you dont advocate studying. But you do seem to advocate personal revelation for everything all the time, which I dont. You seem to think the only way to surety or confidence is via personal revelation, I dont.

    Comment by Kurt — December 4, 2006 @ 7:09 am

  23. Captain Kurt:

    While I really resent your attitude and tone, I think most of us here agree that revelation is not appropriate for everything all the time.

    This brings to mind a favorite quote from Elder Packer.

    Listen to this sentence if you don’t hear anything else: If we foolishly ask our bishop or branch president or the Lord to make a decision for us, there’s precious little self-reliance in that. Think what it costs every time you have somebody else make a decision for you.

    I think I should mention one other thing, and I hope this won’t be misunderstood. We often find young people who will decide for themselves. Suppose, if you will, that a couple had money available to buy a house. Suppose they had prayed endlessly over whether they should built an Early American style, a ranch style, modern-style architecture, or even a Mediterranean style. Has it ever occurred to you that perhaps the Lord just plain doesn’t care? Let them build what they want to build. It’s their choice. In many things we can do just what we want.

    Now there are some things He cares about very much. If you’re going to build that house, then be honest and pay for the material that goes into it and do a decent job of building it. When you move into it, live righteously in it. Those are the things that count.

    I don’t see a problem with wondering if Joseph Smith and Paul may have had different understandings of some things. We definitely know that Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and President Hinckley have different understandings of some things. How? Look at blacks and the priesthood, or Polygamy, or Adam God, or Evolution. God is still perfecting our understanding.

    I think it is unreasonable to squash a question with answers of “How horrid of you to even ask.” e

    Comment by Matt W. — December 4, 2006 @ 8:10 am

  24. Eric (and Kurt),

    I think we are talking about different degrees of agreement or disagreement here. I think Eric and Kurt are right that scriptures and individual prophets and apostles unanimously agree on the basics of the the gospel (God lives, Jesus is the Christ, all must have faith in Christ and repent, etc.). Perhaps there is even a 90% agreement on theology. But when we start discussing theological details — the last ~10-20% — there have been disagreements. So while Kurt is clearly right that Joseph and Paul surely mostly agreed with each other, it is not at all clear that they held 100% of the same theological/Soteriological opinions. I think that difference is at the heart of this discussion; some of us talking about the details where there may have been disagreement and others are talking about the whole where there was general agreement.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 4, 2006 @ 8:34 am

  25. Kurt, you have yet to say something accurate about the previous thread. The topic of that thread was not “whether Paul and Smith agree on soteriology.” No matter how many times you say it, it doesn’t make it so.

    Comment by Jacob — December 4, 2006 @ 9:22 am

  26. I don’t have much if any disagreement with you here Geoff. I merely mention consistency as a check and balance.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — December 4, 2006 @ 9:48 am

  27. Geoff, when people wonder aloud if Smith and Paul agree with respect to Soterilogy, that is a perfect case of “speculating with their brains hanging out”. Its pretty plain they do agree.

    Really? Can you demonstrate this? In every case?

    Comment by HP — December 4, 2006 @ 2:59 pm

  28. I wonder if we should take at face value, the comments made By Paul to the Saints In Corinth… He wasn’t much of a women’s rights supporter… We of course would not see eye to eye, or at least would find a different way to express roles of men and women in church in our day.

    The problem is, that if we ask for that kind if lattitude, and gain it, I can;t rampage on about the Muslim scriptures and how they fully support the destruction of infidels… DANG IT, I pulpit of wet sand has crumbled, I will have to go find something else to jump on the band wagon about.

    Comment by Jake — December 4, 2006 @ 11:05 pm

  29. Jacob #25, I never said that is what the thread was about. That was part of the discussion in the comments.

    HP, #27, I dont have to demonstrate this “in every case”, attempting to do so would be absurd.

    Jake #28, the comments to the women at Corinth are misconstrued, the JST on that text does a great deal to explain the problem was the women in question coveting, and apparently usurping, the priesthood. Paul was addressing a specific problem.

    Comment by Kurt — December 5, 2006 @ 5:31 am

  30. Geoff,

    First, let me note, I threw the book review of Defining The Word (American Forks: Covenant Communications, 2006) by John A. Tvedtnes on my blog today. When it comes to the inerrancy of the King James Bible, I would embrace the position offered by the translators on their own English translation of the manuscripts.

    As I have studied the historical propositions of Christ and the apostles, it has caused me to place faith in a presupposition that the original autographs of Scripture were inspired and inerrant. Even historical critics like Neil Brunner (a neorthodox theologian) and others would label those O.T. Jews as legalistic—that they actually believed those words were of God. And also, what is doctrinal authority without historical authority?

    I am amazed by how Christ anchors his disciples early on in the reliability of the law and prophets. He compels people to search the Scriptures. And even after His resurrection, He needed to reorient his followers like the two on the road to Emmaus, expounding from the beginning of Moses, all the way through the prophets. Is there any greater proof to the authenticity of the Christ than what is found in the Old Testament? The testimony is even greater than miracles, is it not? “The Scripture cannot be broken.” Remember the mentioning of the iota and yodh? If people don’t want to believe the Old Testament, there is no way they are going to listen to Jesus as He tries to speak to them through the Gospels.

    Think of what the apostle Peter says about the prophets in both his epistles. Notice pharomenoi in II Peter 1:19-21. And in the second epistle, isn’t he comparing the “more sure word of prophecy” to the transfiguration event? Wow. Wow. And at the end of the book, he even speaks confidently of Paul and “all his epistles.”

    What about what Paul says? “That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished.” Isn’t the Scripture able to properly equip me for every future storm and every moral need that I have in life?

    Because of what the Christ and the original apostles have said about reliability of Scripture, I simply trust.

    You can tell that I think Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism by John Shelby Spong is a huge, pious, fraudulent hoax.

    Yes, God has given me tools: my sense perceptions (senses), my mental operations (reason), and my conscience (interpreting what God means by justice and love, etc.). But they are not my final authority. I simply use the tools to investigate my final authority – God, expressed in the three Persons, as revealed in His written, inspired revelation. And may God please help me day by day to not use the tools to support my own subjective opinion against the truth.

    I often hear from religious scholars that man matures where he can reason with God. But I strongly disagree because the man to God relationship is not the same as the man to man relationship.

    In regards to speculation, as a pastor, I seriously and soberly heed the admonitions in I Timothy 1:4, 6:4, II Timothy 2:14, 16, 23; Titus 1:14, and Titus 3:9. Guys, these are the pastoral epistles urging me to be a messenger more than an answer man of my own great insight. In Christian theology, I am called more to renovation than innovation. For what is often touted as new, fresh, and advanced, often is sourced in ideas already proposed in long ago days. I am just thankful that God has provided an objective canon outside my personal reasoning or yours upon which I can joyfully pour over day after day.

    Is most of the Bible just devotional opinion or advice? Jacob seems to touch on some inspired advice from the apostle Paul during those turbulent times that he labels as such. But does this then speak for the entire book of Romans, Galatians, or Ephesians? Hmmmm. I see the impeccable revelation of God in all His majesty, followed by powerful directives coming straight from the Holy Spirit.

    Again, Geoff, thanks for letting me enter into the discussion, today. I do tend to get rather excited about these things.

    Comment by Todd Wood — December 5, 2006 @ 11:26 am

  31. Jacob, my apologies . . . going back to I Cor. 7, I was thinking of an earlier verse.

    Have a good day.

    Comment by Todd Wood — December 6, 2006 @ 11:24 am

  32. Todd: As I have studied the historical propositions of Christ and the apostles, it has caused me to place faith in a presupposition that the original autographs of Scripture were inspired and inerrant.

    I think a lot of LDS would agree with you on that. (I suspect this is the assumption Mogget has been working under too.) I don’t begrudge you or anyone else for believing this, and if I were not Mormon I probably would believe it too. But since I am Mormon and hold certain beliefs about the heavens being open today (for me as well as for modern prophets and apostles) and have some understanding about the process by which modern scriptures have been given to us I don’t believe that the original “autographs of Scriptures” were inerrant. Inspired, yes; inerrant, no way.

    So a surety that scriptures were inspired by God leads us to a great deal of confidence in their general messages — faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, love for God and neighbors, etc. But when it comes to confidence in various theological details people draw from scriptures proof-texting is simply inadequate — even if we figure out what the authors really meant.

    I often hear from religious scholars that man matures where he can reason with God. But I strongly disagree because the man to God relationship is not the same as the man to man relationship.

    I agree with them. I believe we are of the same kind and type as God and as his children we really can reason and counsel with him. Lots of scriptures back this assumption up too, btw.

    I simply use the tools to investigate my final authority – God, expressed in the three Persons, as revealed in His written, inspired revelation.

    To me, this sounds like a variation on the Bible worship thing I find so wrong with much of Christianity. God can speak to us directly and unless we really develop a direct revelatory relationship with him we will never know him. (I mean no offense by that btw. I am only this frank with you because you seem to be very interested in ministering to Mormons at your blog so I figured you could take some straight talk from a Mormon…)

    Comment by Geoff J — December 6, 2006 @ 1:59 pm

  33. Geoff, I yearn for the frankness, that’s one of the reasons why I like Jacob. On my blog, I am highly interested in honest, open discussion over core, heart doctrine. So if you pop over anytime, I don’t consider any of the interaction fruitless. There are a lot of things that LDS and evangelicals are thinking in my neck of the woods, but where no one is publicly interacting. This is sad.

    First, I do believe in an open heaven. I remember when two young LDS missionaries, barely out of high school, came to my house. As I was sharing Scripture one of them quickly corrected me, You believe in a closed heaven whereas we believe it is open.

    I sat there puzzled for a minute. How do I believe in a closed heaven? I believe in the prayer of James 1:5. And without God directly speaking to me, I would be messed up, today. How could I even began to understand the Scripture on my own? And the personal witness of the Holy Spirit to an individual’s heart as described in Romans is precious. Humbly, let me assure you, I feel like I am only on the first page of grasping things.

    I should have found out where the young LDS elders were learning this. At MTC? For me to believe in a closed heaven? Not true. Closed canon? Yes. But is this my idea? Again, I would respectfully ask, what does Christ and the apostles state, not only about reliability/trustworthiness, but also about the sufficiency of Scriptures.

    Personally, I don’t get too excited about selecting singular verses for proof-texting. What about whole book-texting? Religious people are not on a healthy diet if they receive topical messages every Sunday. Anybody can present a topic and then go find a bunch of verses to support it, but what does the book communicate. Opinion is often meaningless. But the prophets, the apostles (claiming to give the very words of God), and the Savior–now that is another story.

    Book-texting is crucial, especially when we get into the topic of how we might defend that we are “the same kind and type as God.” Geoff, wouldn’t you say that how we view God and ourselves is fundamentally connected to our bibliology?

    Comment by Todd Wood — December 7, 2006 @ 11:53 am

  34. Todd: I should have found out where the young LDS elders were learning this. At MTC?

    I think it has to do with a differing definition of what “open heavens” means. That difference is exemplified by this comment of yours: “For me to believe in a closed heaven? Not true. Closed canon? Yes.” This sounds like an outright contradiction to most LDS ears. Perhaps you could explain why you think it is not. If the heavens are open now like they were in the first century A.D. how then can the canon be closed? Surely you don’t think God has nothing more to tell us. Further, how would one know the canon is officially closed by God? Wouldn’t that require a revelation for the world through a prophet? (And if God did give such a revelation to the world through a prophet would that revelation be canonized? Hehe.)

    Again, I would respectfully ask, what does Christ and the apostles state, not only about reliability/trustworthiness, but also about the sufficiency of Scriptures.

    Is this a rhetorical question? I assume you have some verses in mind here…

    What about whole book-texting?

    I’m not sure I know what “book-texting” means. Perhaps you mean something like what I said back in #24? If so then I agree. Scriptures point us very much in the right direction and they are inspired by God. And yes, I do agree that our records of the revelations that others have received before us is fundamentally connected to how we view God and ourselves.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 7, 2006 @ 10:53 pm

  35. Sorry about a late response, Geoff. As the weekend approaches, I am pretty well checked out when it comes to Internet.

    We had a funeral service at the church building this past Saturday. I had the opportunity to meet many new LDS friends. After the memorial service, one sweet grandma mentioned to me out on the front patio, “I am not of the same faith as you; I am LDS. But that is alright because we still believe in the same Bible.”

    I didn’t get into a full blown conversation on bibliology with her Saturday afternoon (not appropriate for the particular moment as we were both thinking of a departed loved one), but her closing statement is an excellent point of discussion. How would LDS agree with me on the fundamental messages, for instance, of John’s Gospel?

    But to address some of your response, to speak of a “closed heaven” is to insinuate that God doesn’t speak to us today. He does. There is no way that I, a finite being, could gain knowledge of God unless He graciously revealed Himself to me.

    There are two main categories of revelation: general and specific. In general revelation, God speaks to anyone, at anytime, and anywhere. For the Psalmist cries out, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where there voice is not heard.” Creation, history, and even our inner consciences (Romans 1-2) continually communicate things about God.

    And in specific revelation, God delivered to particular people a special communication about Himself that mankind needed to know. Every generation has had enough specific revelation to be sufficient for having a true, complete relationship with God (II Timothy 3:16-17, a powerful text for the Scripture’s sufficiency).

    Yet Geoff, more to be revealed (apocalupto) is yet to come. I look forward to the Second Coming of Christ. That is when God in all of His glory and majesty brings to fruition Ephesians 1:10 (the one Greek word, anakephalaiosasthai, of all things, the heavens and the earth, hasn’t happened yet).

    Concerning specific revelation, it is both propositional and personal. God gave me certain propositions (facts) about Himself through the process of inscripturation. Some deny the necessity of propositional truth, embracing only the personal, but this leads to imbalance. And propositional truth is not impersonal. It is through the written Word that the living Word, the person of Jesus Christ speaks to me. I don’t make the ink and pages of the Bible itself a magical charm or some powerful fetish that if I hang around my neck will give me success for the day.

    Again, how can we be accused of believing in a closed heaven when Christian fundamentalists believe so fervently in the truth of John 14:26, 15:26-27, 16:8-11, and 16:14? And Geoff, it is my contention that the direct, personal testimony of the Holy Spirit to Christians’ hearts from the beginning of the Church to this day is foundational for bringing trustworthy witness to the kanon (Greek), the kaneh (Hebrew), the measuring rod for our lives. And nope, I can’t think of any human prophet in Scripture who declared what was to be the complete canon.

    Currently, I have been meticulously and prayerfully combing through the King James Version with Joseph Smith’s “inspired revisions” of the text and explaining this on my blog as we go chapter by chapter. I am helplessly depending upon the guidance from Heaven to help me understand all truth. The more I pray, the more troubled I become by Joseph Smith’s revisions.

    Look what Joseph Smith does in redefining the “Word” in John 1:1. I listened to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir last night triumphantly sing, O Come, All Ye Faithful. The third verse shares, “Yea, Lord, greet Thee, born this happy morning, Jesus, to Thee be all glory giv’n; Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing:” Though Joseph cuts and pastes the Bible to present an alternative interpretation in John 1, Jesus is the final Word. Hebrews 1:1-3 is powerful.

    Geoff, do you consider these revisions by Joseph in John’s Gospel to be moving in the direction of a more advanced inspiration? Thinking of the question just opens a whole pot of questions that I am dying to ask LDS friends. Is Joseph the only inspired reviser? If so, how come he is the only one to have that status? When he did revise paragraphs (correcting alleged mistakes) does that then make a text inerrant? How come no prophet today is making corrections if there is still perceived error in the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts?

    Oh before I forget, looking at an earlier comment of mine, it is not “Neil” but Emil Brunner. That is what happens when I take a quick recall of my memory without consulting my books. The more you read what I write on blogs, the more you will see that I don’t claim new infallible communication, direct from heaven. When it comes to my writing, I need a whole fleet of secretaries to correct all my mistakes. :)

    Comment by Todd Wood — December 11, 2006 @ 3:04 pm

  36. Todd,

    I believe you when you say you believe the heavens remain open. However, can you explain why you believe the canon is closed? Is it just because that is the tradition you prefer or is there some evidence to support that conclusion? I thought you were going to explain that in the last comment but then you didn’t. Do you believe the canon is actually closed or just that there hasn’t been any canonizable (I think I just made that word up…) revelation given since the 1st century A.D.?

    God gave me certain propositions (facts) about Himself through the process of inscripturation.

    “Inscripturation” huh? That sounds like a made up word to me… (sort of like canonizable). Where did it come from and what does it mean?

    Comment by Geoff J — December 11, 2006 @ 5:13 pm

  37. Straight to your question. I am known to be a man of many tangents. That is why I would never make it as a good debater.

    The O.T. canon
    In regards to the OT, I could give you all kinds of info on how the Jewish community looked at the Law, Prophets, and Writings; the early church at the Masoretic Text and Septuagint (the Torah, former prophets, latter prophets, the Kethubim or Hagiographa, the wisdom section, the rolls or Megilloth, and the historical books); the reformers; and even some modern day Protestants on accepting the 39 canonical books of the O.T.

    Yes, the Septuagint contained the Apocrypha, as well as the 1611 King James Version, but I find it remarkable that the New Testament writers frequently quote or allude to the 39 O.T. books. The N.T. authors believed these books to be inspired. A book, inspired of the Holy Spirit, is what makes it canonical. I don’t care what church councils ultimately decide or not. Some early church fathers and latter church councils were screwed up. Some are today. I don’t think the Church is the final mother for deciding what is canonical. The Holy Spirit is the determining Person.

    Some in past history would contend that a book like Ezekiel ought to be included in the Antilegomeno, I would hotly contest “No”. The Spirit of God has been teaching me unbelievable things in that book. (Sidenote – I find it interesting that latter-day texts quote the Bible over and over, but there is only silence where the Bible should have been quoting Alma. Why is it that Alma and Nephi knew John the Baptist by name and not the historical Ezekiel or Jeremiah, etc.?).

    Yet I will admit this about the Apocrypha. Though I don’t believe the Apocryphal books to be of inspired content, they have been helpful to me, especially 1 and 2 Maccabees, when I provided exposition of Daniel 11 to my church family.

    The N.T. canon

    After having been born again by the Spirit of God, the 27 books of the N.T. in further progressive revelation, as well as the 39 from the Old came alive for me. I don’t always understand nor trust perfectly, but I recognize what pointed the way to my spiritual life.

    Geoff, do you have Millet’s book, Getting At The Truth (Deseret, 2004)? I had to chuckle when I read Millet’s initial opening of his answer to the question: How can the Latter-day Saints justify having additional books of scriptures? He wrote, “In a seminar on biblical studies I attended at an eastern university years ago, the instructor emphasized for at least two hours that the word canon—referring, of course, to the biblical books that are generally included in the Judaeo-Christian collection – was the “rule of faith,” the standard against which we measure what is acceptable in belief and practice. He also stated that the canon, if the word meant anything at all, was ‘closed, fixed, set, and established.’ He must have stressed those words at least ten times as he wrote them on the blackboard again and again. At the next session on this topic the instructor seemed a bit uneasy. I remember thinking that something must be wrong. Without warning, he stopped what he was doing, banged his fist on the table, turned to me, and said, “Mr. Millet, will you please explain to this group the Latter-day Saint concept of canon, given your people’s acceptance of the Book of Mormon and other books of scripture beyond the Bible?”

    “Startled, I paused for several seconds, looked up at the blackboard, saw the now very familiar words under canon, and finally answered, ‘Well, I suppose you could say that the Latter-day Saints believe the canon of scripture is open, flexible, and expanding.’ The class then had a really fascinating discussion!” (87-88).

    He inserts later, “Occasionally we hear certain Latter-day Saint teachings described as unbiblical or a particular doctrine as being contradictory to the Bible. Let’s be clear on this matter. The Bible is one of the books within our standard works, and thus our doctrines and practices within our standard works, and thus our doctrines and practices are in harmony with the Bible. There are times, of course, when latter-day revelation provides clarification or enhancement of the intended meaning in the Bible. Additions to the canon is not, however, the same as rejection of the canon. Supplementation is not the same as contradiction” (90).

    Millet’s statement is true in regards to the amazing unity between the Old and New Testaments. But is this an accurate statement in regards to latter-day texts? Then why is Joseph Smith crossing out statements in the biblical text so there is no contradiction?

    Perhaps, Geoff, I might appear very subjective in my rambling answer to you. I really haven’t given you any of my rational lists for (#1) recognizing the canon (Is it authoritative? Prophetic? Authentic? Dynamic? Received by other people of God? Etc. In the N.T., did it have the witness of Christ or the apostles? Etc.) and (#2) why it is closed (other than the words themselves like in II Timothy claim sufficiency for what I need to know now. And even through the trials of this life, I can be brought to a position where I am perfect, entire, lacking nothing. Where I need wisdom, I just ask God. And He has given it to me repeatedly and will continue to do so without having to violate His already written, inspired canon. I trust that God has given me everything that I need to know for my life on this earth. And while I have been studying for years the canonical books, I feel like I am still on the first page in what there is to know within the holy writ.)

    I believe that the Holy Spirit carried men along in writing inspired books. The Spirit testifies to me of their trustworthiness, the sixty-six books, as I continue to pour all my mental acuity into them. Supernaturally, I find myself being sanctified, changed by the Word. No other books do this for me. In my voracious reading of Apocrypha and pseudepigrapha and other religious books, none even come close to the inspired content of the canon.

    So one more thing and I will shut up. You asked for a definition of “inscripturation.” I laughed at my word choice. Perhaps the word is an evangelical invention. I don’t know who is the original source. I was simply thinking of the process, where words put on paper are both divine and human. It is amazing to think about it.

    Comment by Todd Wood — December 12, 2006 @ 1:28 pm

  38. Todd,

    Indeed, you are a man of many tangents. I will be disciplined and refrain from engaging those tangents while the topic at hand is still unresolved. In #33 you made the following statement:

    For me to believe in a closed heaven? Not true. Closed canon? Yes.

    Geoff started pressing you on this statement and I want to jump in on the same riff. You offer the scripture in Timothy as support:

    16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
    17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Tim 3:16-17)

    Firstly, how can you possibly justify using this scripture as a proof text for the sufficiency of the Bible? It is obvious from you #37 that you know full well that the Bible didn’t even exist at the time this statement was made. These verses haven’t prevented you from accepting books of the Bible written after 2 Timothy, so they don’t even support a closed canon in your own view of the canon.

    Secondly, and more importantly, these verses are in strong tension with your point. The statement “all scripture is given by inspiration of God” is a statement that affirms the openess of the canon. Should we not conclude from this that words inspired by God should be considered “scripture.”

    (By the way, we have a scripture about that: “And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation” (D&C 68:4).)

    If God continues to speak from heaven (the open heavens you support) then how can you conclude that the canon is closed? Are God’s words today less useful? less authoritative? less binding? less canonical? This is the fundamental question you have not answered. In Timothy it says “all” scripture is profitable, but it seems you are not willing to give God’s revelations today the status of “scripture.” Why not?

    Comment by Jacob J — December 12, 2006 @ 5:31 pm

  39. Todd,

    In addition to Jacob’s points and questions, I wanted to ask you about this odd statement you just made:

    A book, inspired of the Holy Spirit, is what makes it canonical. I don’t care what church councils ultimately decide or not. Some early church fathers and latter church councils were screwed up. Some are today. I don’t think the Church is the final mother for deciding what is canonical. The Holy Spirit is the determining Person.

    So you are saying that any book inspired of the Holy Spirit is not only scripture but is in fact canonical scripture… Did you really mean to say that? Does this mean that you think that there has not been any book inspired by the Holy Spirit in basically 2000 years? And since you believe the canon is closed, doesn’t it mean that you believe that there cannot be any book inspired by the Holy Spirit ever again? (If there were a book or epistle inspired by the Holy Spirit it would be canonical according to your statement after all.)

    Further, you claimed that the Holy Spirit is the person who decided what would be canonized in the Bible and no one else… how then do you you know the canon is closed? Couldn’t the Holy Spirit decide to add to the canon any time if He is the person who makes such decisions?

    Comment by Geoff J — December 13, 2006 @ 12:23 am

  40. Todd: With respect to the OT, surely you are aware that Jude quotes the Book of Enoch as scripture, fragments of which were found at Qumran. 1 Tim. almost certainly quotes the Testament of Judah, one of the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, to establish a Christian practice of deacons regarding wine. Surely you are aware that there was an entire genre of literature that continued to vie for position and acceptance as “scripture” or more importantly writings that had been inspired by God. Surely you are aware that the Septuagint also included the apocrypha?

    In The NJBC the authors maintain that there was no clear canon of scripture at the time of Christ. After reviewing the data they state “The conclusion that there was no rigidly closed canon in Judaism in the 1st or 2nd centuries AD means that when the church was in its formation period and was using the sacred books of the Jews, there was no closed canon for the church to adopt” [p. 1041] Part of the evidence they present is the existence of Deuterocanonical books in the Qumran scrolls (Dead Sea scrolls). In these scrolls were found parts of three Deuterocanonical texts giving the impression that there was very little distinction between a closed canon and all other texts. They note that both “scriptural” texts and secular texts are included together, with no apparent distinction.

    They also dispel any notion that Jews in Jerusalem had a different canon than Jews elsewhere. “The thesis that the Jews in Alexandria had a different theory of inspiration from the theory shared by the Jews in Jerusalem is gratuitous” [p 1041]

    I add that most scholars have extreme doubts that Paul wrote all of the epistles attributed to him. He did not write 2 Thess., Peter almost certainly did not write 2 Peter. The point is that if you adopt the criteria you do, you will have to re-think very seriously your notion of what constitutes scripture.

    Further, Geoff is quite right. You have no basis for adopting a closed canon if being inspired by the Holy Ghost is the standard. Indeed, if being inspired is the key to constituting scripture then the inspiration you claim to have received is also scripture — and I am sure you consider that blasmphemous.

    Comment by Blake — December 13, 2006 @ 7:28 am

  41. So many questions . . . so little time. :)

    How come no one is answering my questions?

    I will get back with you guys.

    Comment by Todd Wood — December 13, 2006 @ 10:08 am

  42. Todd,

    I can’t speak for everyone, but the reason I am not answering your questions is most of them seemed to be rhetorical, and the rest appeared to me as off-topic. If there is something on-topic I have ignored it is probably because I thought it was rhetorical. Point it out and I’ll take a stab.

    Comment by Jacob J — December 13, 2006 @ 10:39 am

  43. But is this an accurate statement in regards to latter-day texts? Then why is Joseph Smith crossing out statements in the biblical text so there is no contradiction?

    1. Yes, it is an accurate statement.

    2. Please bring forth where Joseph Smith crossed out statements so as to remove contradiction. I know of no such examples.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 13, 2006 @ 10:51 am

  44. Guys, I look again today over these questions and acknowledge the serious validity of each question posed to me . . . and quite frankly, admit that they are tough questions to answer.

    Jacob (#38)

    I justify using II Timothy 3:16-17 for the sufficiency of the Bible because of the principle Paul is declaring. He seems to be looking into the future, Jacob. (Maybe, I should shift you over to Hebrews 1:1-2).

    In II Timothy, Paul writes, pasa graphe theopneustos kai ophelimos (every scripture God-breathed and profitable) pros didaskalian, pros elegmon, pros epanorthosin, pros paideian ten en dikaiosune (for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness).
    (Sidenote – this is criteria that the Holy Spirit gives us for determining what Scripture should carry authoritative rule over our lives. It is 1. God-breathed, 2. profitable by telling us what is wrong, what is right, how to make things right, and how to keep things right.)

    But in verse 37, Paul communicates, “in order fitted may be the man of God, for every good work having been furnished.” He is broadcasting the fact that the written scripture of his day, including all the Old Testament, was enough to equip a man for doing the good work of God. Can a man experience full belief in the Messiah, full redemption, and a full, blessed, mortal life by just reading the Old Testament? Yes, I believe so. Do you believe that Jacob? Do you believe that a Jew living in the first century could be prepared for every trial, every temptation that he would face in the future just by reading and trusting the God-breathed Scripture that was available and accessible to him?

    Jacob writes: Secondly, and more importantly, these verses are in strong tension with your point. The statement “all scripture is given by inspiration of God” is a statement that affirms the openness of the canon. Should we not conclude from this that words inspired by God should be considered “scripture.

    Yes, more God-breathed writings came in undeserved graciousness to mankind during the apostolic era, but that does not detract from the sufficiency of what was already inspired canon. And yes, any graphe characterized by theopneustos is canon. How come modern-day graphe in 2006 (and for the past 150 years or so) by the LDS prophets or apostles, alleged to be theopneustos, is not canonical?

    Jacob writes: If God continues to speak from heaven (the open heavens you support) then how can you conclude that the canon is closed? Are God’s words today less useful? Less authoritative? Less binding? Less canonical? This is the fundamental question you have not answered. In Timothy it says “all” scripture is profitable, but it seems you are not willing to give God’s revelations today the status of “scripture.” Why not?

    Jacob, why do I need more scriptures when the graphe I have in my hands, completed during the apostolic era, answers fully some of the fundamental questions of metaphysical philosophy: How did I get here? What is my purpose in life? And where am I going? “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.”

    And heaven is still open because God through the Holy Spirit illuminates and deepens my faith each day in the answers already provided (completed specific revelation), whereby all I can do is reciprocate in awe and thanksgiving. Reading the holy writ of the 66 canonical books, I am assured a complete cleansing of all my stinking sins; an unbreakable, spiritual union between myself and Christ; and an eternal fellowship directly in the presence of God. I am seated en tois epouraniois (in the heavenlies) in Christ Jesus. And Peter also adds with Paul, “through the full knowledge (epignoseos) of him . . . whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” Talk about Scripture that expresses sufficiency! I am overwhelmed with joy.

    Honestly, Jacob, in my exploration of LDS writings, they constantly seems to bumping me into the corner, by giving me contra rather than additional. If I wasn’t so immersed in any particular book in the Bible, perhaps this wouldn’t be the case.

    Geoff (#39)
    Yes, I really mean to say that the Holy Spirit determines what is the authoritative writings that should rule our lives. Christians, no matter how sincere, don’t determine the canon, they only recognize it when believing the Spirit.

    Yes, I do think that there has not been any book inspired by the Holy Spirit in basically 2000 years. And here is a sincere question. Why is there the need for more?

    To your third question . . . that is a good question. I don’t know. Personally, I believe in a future dispensation (i.e. the Messianic Millennium on the earth, though there is difference of opinion in evangelicalism. Some of my good brothers-in-Christ might differ with me). I can easily imagine words written down, sourced directly from the lips of the King. And yes again, any words coming from God is canonical.

    Your fourth question . . . I have not read in church history how the same Holy Spirit as revealed in specific revelation, the 66 canonical books, overcame any man in the activity of pheromenoi (II Peter 1:21) since the first century apostolic era. When any prophet does claim words that ought to be placed in the canon, I need to understand that we are talking about the same God, and secondly does it contradict the divine messages already recognized.

    Fifth question . . . yes. Why? The Holy Spirit is God.

    Blake (#40)
    1. Yes, I am aware of Jude quoting the Book of Enoch. And I did note many months ago what Holzapfel, Skinner, and Wayment wrote in What Da Vinci Didn’t Know (2006), “Some early Christian authors, Peter and Jude for example, preserve information about other sources known by early Christian writers. Peter and Jude used noncanonical sources when they wrote their general epistles to the saints, thus demonstrating that they had a larger library of texts they considered helpful and inspirational than we have today. For example, the author of Jude quoted briefly from the apocryphal book I Enoch as well as from the Testament of Moses (see Jude 1:9,14). Eventually, both of these writings were excluded form the Hebrew canon and then later from the New Testament canon for legitimate concerns over their authorship and antiquity, but portions of both have been preserved. These sources, although they do not mention Jesus or anything concerning Christianity generally, demonstrate that early Christian authors used a more expanded canon than that which has been preserved today. These sources are mostly of Jewish origin, and some show traces of having been altered by Christian scribes” (pp. 17-18).

    Referring back to an undergrad textbook, D. Edmond Hiebert in Second Peter and Jude: An Expositional Commentary (Greenville: Unusual Publications, 1989) says some things worth considering, “Sometime during the first century B.C. some apocryphal works belonging to the last two centuries B.C. were compiled to form what is known as the Book of Enoch, which is regarded as one of the most remarkable extant examples of Jewish apocryphal literature. It is a composite work of 108 chapters, falling into five divisions or books. Its original language was Semitic, having been written either in Hebrew or Aramaic, probably in both. It was translated into Greek, but known Greek fragments do not cover the entire book. The Ethiopic version of the book shows that it must have been in the Greek Bible that was taken to Abyssinia when that country was Christianized in the fourth century.”

    “The Book of Enoch exerted a strong and widespread influence on the Jewish and early Christian literature. Its popularity among the Jews is indicated by the fact that no fewer than eleven manuscripts of parts of the book have been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. It was highly regarded by several early Christian writers, Barnabas (16:5), Tertullian (Idolatry, 15:6), and Clement of Alexandria (Eccl. proph. 3), who regarded it almost as highly as Scripture. There was a feeling that Jude’s use of the Book of Enoch supported its inspiration. But later when the book fell into disfavor in the Western Church, according to the testimony of Jerome, many questioned the epistle of Jude because of its quotation from the Book of Enoch. By the fourth century the Book of Enoch had largely fallen into disfavor, especially in the Western Church.

    “When Jude wrote, “Enoch . . . prophesied, saying” (Epropheteusen . . . Henoch legon), he clearly accepted that as a historical fact. The prophecy is not recorded in the Old Testament, nor is it mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament. The prophecy, with some variations, is found in the Book of Enoch 1:9. Lenski is technically correct in asserting that “Jude quotes Enoch, not some book.” But were it not for the apocryphal nature of the Book of Enoch, the source of Jude’s quotation would appear to be self-evident. It seems clear that the early Christian writers assumed that the quotation was drawn from the Book of Enoch. But this view does not mean that Jude accepted the Book of Enoch was inspired or approved of all its contents. It simply means that under the leadership and illumination of the Holy Spirit he accepted the statement as true. Blum notes that “the prophecy does not give any startling new information but is simply a general description of the return of the Lord in judgment (cf. Deut. 33:2; Dan. 7:10-14; Zech. 14:5; Matt. 25:31)” (pp. 265-266).

    2. No, I didn’t know I Timothy almost certainly quotes the Testament of Judah. Now you have me curious to your sources.

    3. Blake, what entire genre of literature are you referring to? I do realize that with each inspired book of the Bible coming on to the scene, heretical books have followed the heels in hot pursuit. Just for a little humor, The Gospel of Thomas, states, “Simon Peter said to them: ‘Let Mary go away from us, for women are not worthy of life.’ Jesus said: ‘Lo, I shall lead her, so that I may make her a male, that she too may become a living spirit, resembling you males. For every woman who makes herself a male will enter the kingdom of heaven.” How do you think the Feminist Mormon Housewives would take that? I can only laugh at the ridiculous instruction of this false literature.

    4. Yes, I did know the Septuagint included the apocrypha. I thank God for the Septuagint. Sure, some the apocrypha gives me interesting, helpful history, but the Septuagint (even with some of its corrupt text) persuades me, transforms me. I can hardly explain it. Most in Idaho Falls would say I speak as a fool. But the experience is nonetheless real. And Blake, surely you know, how many times the N.T. writers quote the Old Testament and than how many times the apocrypha?

    5. Blake writes, He did not write 2 Thess. Blake, which scholars have you been listening to in order to make such a bold statement? Robinson over at Claremont? Obviously, II Thess 3:16 confirmed his use of an amanuensis, but to deny him the authorship of the message? Wow. Polycarp, Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Irenaeus, and Clement of Alexandria – I don’t think any of these guys had a problem, though I would allow you to correct me on the stance of any of these early church fathers. And just to throw this in. Did you catch over at Dave’s Mormon Inquiry, the recent review of Cities of God? Despite the endnote, look up what Rodney Stark believed on 2 Thessalonian’s authorship (p. 52). I trust a Bible book that is authentic rather than forgery.

    6. Blake writes, Peter almost certainly did not write 2 Peter. On this particular book, if you had mentioned the debate that has raged throughout church history on this book, I would have agreed. Again, I encourage you to sometime purchase Hiebert’s commentary. He writes, “The authorship of 2 Peter is beset with serious difficulties. It has been the subject of debate down through the centuries, and the debate still continues. The problems involved are notoriously complex; doubt and uncertainty have marked its history more than any other book in the New Testament” (1). But after 20 pages (and covering the disbelief of II Peter 3:15-16) concludes, “Acceptance of the epistle’s claims to Petrine authorship carries with it acceptance of its rightful inclusion in the New Testament canon. This view, while admittedly beset with difficulties, is fully as rational and satisfactory as the other views. It receives the claims of the epistle at face value and eliminates all implications of deception in its personal preferences. These notes fully fit the Apostle Peter. Its acknowledged superiority to all the known pseudo-Petrine literature is a weighty fact in its favor” (19).

    7. Blake writes, You have no basis for adopting a closed canon if being inspired by the Holy Ghost is the standard. Indeed, if being inspired is the key to constituting scripture then the inspiration you claim to have received is also scripture – and I am sure you consider that blasphemous. I simply don’t understand why it is so alarming to say that the canon is the Holy Spirit’s words through human men. When God speaks, it had better be canon, beginning all the way back with the Ten Commandments. Believers have only recognized canon and preserved them through the centuries. And the only inspiration I claim is when I parrot the biblical text as the Holy Spirit gives me understanding. Yes, my scholarly, personal opinions don’t mean squat (pardon the Idahoan expression :) ).

    8. A closing question—Blake, do you treat the Bible as equal authority with other LDS authoritative texts?

    (Sidenote – Blake, I just read your article “The Gospel of Grace in the Writings of John” placed in the book, The Testimony of John the Beloved (1998). Sometime, I would like to engage with it on my blog. Have you published anything else on John’s Gospel?)

    Jacob (#41)
    I really appreciate your short post. I will have to go back and look. A week has gone by and I have forgotten what I asked. By the way, I turned 37 on December 13. Man, I am old. (oops, how is that for a tangent?)

    Matt W. (#42)
    Ok, on my blog this week, I will put up an article entitled “JST on John 2”. When it appears, share with me your thoughts. Fair enough?

    Comment by Todd Wood — December 18, 2006 @ 9:45 am

  45. Todd (#44),

    My apologies in taking so long to respond. As I read your response to my #38, I can’t help but feel that you are bolstering my position with your comments while undermining your own.

    In your analysis of 2 Tim 3:16-17, you say that it gives us “criteria that the Holy Spirit gives us for determining what Scripture should carry authoritative rule over our lives.” I agree with this analysis, but once again point out that what you have described is not a claim of a closed canon. Not even close. Thus, I conclude that even your own analysis of these verses demonstrates that you were wresting the scriptures when you used them as a proof-text for a closed canon.

    You suggested that you might have to shift me over to Heb 1:1-2 as a scriptual claim of a closed canon:

    1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
    2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; (Hebrews 1)

    I honestly believe that without any commentary from me, we should be able to agree that these verses do not claim that the canon is closed. Can we?

    Can a man experience full belief in the Messiah, full redemption, and a full, blessed, mortal life by just reading the Old Testament? Yes, I believe so.

    This argument, again, undermines your own position by arguing against it directly. Here, you argue that even if the currently revealed scripture is sufficient to instruct us in the way of salvation, it does not mean that the canon is closed. I agree. The sufficiency of the scriptures already given does not limit God’s ability to reveal more. But, isn’t this exactly opposite the position you were taking before, that the sufficiency of the scriptures argues for a closed canon?

    Yes, more God-breathed writings came in undeserved graciousness to mankind during the apostolic era, but that does not detract from the sufficiency of what was already inspired canon.

    No, it does not subtract from their sufficiency (as you are using the word), but it does detract from your argument about a closed canon. The Mormon position is that we continue to received “undeserved graciousness” by way of continuing revelation. You have yet to offer any valid argument in favor of a closed canon. You have already shown that scriptural sufficiency does not guarantee a closed canon, so this doesn’t help your position.

    How come modern-day graphe in 2006 (and for the past 150 years or so) by the LDS prophets or apostles, alleged to be theopneustos, is not canonical?

    This is a bit of a tangent, but I will respond since it is a good question. The reason is that our canon is determined by common consent. As I mentioned in #38, we have a scripture which says everything said by the power of the Holy Ghost is to be considered scripture, but how are we to determine what was said under the influence of the spirit. In general, we can tell by having the spirit confirm the words to us individually, but as an institution, the only way is to have the proported revelation put to a vote. (We don’t claim infallibility for our prophets, so the fact that it was said by a prophet is not sufficient to prove it is scripture.) I want to emphasize so that there is no chance of being misunderstood: This vote does not determine whether or not a statement/passage was actually inspired scripture, it only determines whether or not the church as an body will accept it as such (thus making it canonical).

    Jacob, why do I need more scriptures when the graphe I have in my hands?

    Todd, you just argued that the Old Testament is sufficient bring you full redemption, so I turn your own question around on you: Why do you need more scriptures than the Old Testament? The answer seems obvious to me, and it is that I want to know more about God and the universe, even if I already know enough to be saved. You keep implying that they only information you want from God is that which is both necessary and sufficient for salvation. I see no reason to limit God’s revelations in such a way and I welcome everything God is willing to reveal to me, even if it is in addition to what is necessary and sufficient for salvation.

    So, even after your big response, I don’t feel that I am any closer to understanding your claim that the canon is closed while the heavens are open.

    Comment by Jacob — January 1, 2007 @ 3:45 pm

  46. Todd wrote: “And the only inspiration I claim is when I parrot the biblical text as the Holy Spirit gives me understanding.” Since you do far more and claim far more than merely parroting the text, I have reason to doubt that you really believe what you say here. If what you say is true, then you had better stick to parroting the text and leave understanding and interpretation to those who can hear the voice of God. However, I have to wonder what the Holy Spirit does for you. Does he/it read the text to you? Does he say — “this text is true”? — in which case it is not merely parroting the text as you claim.

    Comment by Blake — January 1, 2007 @ 3:58 pm