Monday, November 29, 2004
This is the way I feel about the folks over at the Morg (Mormoninfo.org). They are so liberated from the dreary need to argue or present facts, they feel totally happy to write whatever falls onto their webpages. No need to have them actually tie to history or scholarship. Isn't that sweet!
As usual, they avoid actually quoting the verse they comment upon, so let's start there:
[God's] divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (NIV, 2 Peter 1:3-4)
The words in red are selected because they indicate what gift is being given to the saved. A good place to start with understanding is with the authoritative Greek-English lexicons. The following are brief definitions:
Divine: Greek theios which BDAG describes as "1. Pertaining to that which belongs to the nature or status of deity, divine." So Peter uses the same word in both verse 3 and 4. It is not adopted power, man by nature power or idol power, but by Divine power. So if we then participate in the Divine nature, Peter does not mean semi-divine, idol or man-like nature.
Participate: Greek koinonos which BDAG defines as "1. one who takes part in something, with someone, companion, partner, sharer...b. in something...2 Pt 1:4." It means for example to be an equal partner in a business or committing an act, such as adultery.
Nature: Greek phusis which BDAG defines as "2. the natural character of an entity, natural characteristic/disposition... sharers in the divine nature 2 Pt 1:4".
One of the major blows to the repetitive, unBiblical statement that our nature cannot be like God's is this verse and its specific use of the word koinonos. Participation, as Peter uses this word, means to be a partner or joint participant. The question is joint-participant in what? Divinity or godliness. How do we participate in being divine as a joint partner with God without being ourselves divine? Because the word means a joint-participating partner in the divine nature, and has the historical meaning of an equal partner or participant, it is philosophical double-talk to say God stays divine in this venture, but we do not.
Further, look at the powers which are included: Omniscience (1 Cor 13:12); Judgement, which previously was solely a divine function (Ps 50:4-6, 1 Cor 6:2-3), all things which Christ inherited including glory (Romans 8:16-18), and since Christ received by inheritance His divine name, through which mankind is saved, so shall we receive that name (Heb. 1:4); Dominion and Lordship over all creation (Gen 1:28; Ps 8:3-8; 1 Cor 3:21-23); Sit upon the Throne of God with Christ, being worshipped (Rev 3:21). Receive an eternal crown of glory (1 Peter 5:4).
On the last item, receiving an eternal crown of glory, there is such a basic question to ask of the Morgites that one wonders how they could miss it. How can a created being become eternal? I of course don't believe we are a created being in the sense of the post-Biblical ex-nihilo creation. But even if we were, is Morg arguing that men can become eternal beings? Being eternal means there is no end, ever. So what makes our future any different than the future which God has? Since we are properly called gods as to the nature of our salvation, as even Morg notes on their webpage, if our final existence, power, glory, knowledge and dominion are the same as God and Christ's, what is the difference between an uncreated but eternally lasting being and the created, eternally lasting being who possesses all of the same powers and abilities of God?
Lastly, when did anyone who is not LDS hear taught in their church that they would be as God? Morg only reluctantly acknowledges this to be the final destiny of saved people (I say reluctantly because they repeatedly say there are not multiple real gods and man cannot become like god, but then when confronted with 2 Pet 1:4 must acknowledge that men can be properly called gods, they just lack eternal existence prior to their life on earth).
Saved mankind are properly called gods as to their final state. We boil down to arguing whether part of a human being has eternally existed or not. I will discuss that next. It is the height of hypocrisy to say Mormons are creating false gods, but then acknowledge they actually do correctly describe mankinds final state.
Someday Morg's nephews have some great stories to look forward to. Children love fantasy.
Thursday, November 25, 2004
1. The Bible taught there are many REAL gods and divine beings. For various reasons the language of Isaiah has been abused into a denial of the reality of multiple divine beings. But thanks to the Dead Sea Scrolls (Dt 32:8-9) and the discoveries of the Ugaritic and Ebla texts revealing Hebrew religious origins, there is little doubt about original Hebrew beliefs. Here are the scriptures: 2Chron. 2:5; Ps 82:1, 6; Ps 86:8; Ps. 95:3; Ps 97:7, 9; Ps 135:5; Ps 136:2; Daniel 2:47; Matt 22:43-44; Matt 26:64; Mark 12:36-37; Mark16:9; Luke 22:69-70; John 1:1-2, 18; John 10:30-38; John 17:3, 21-23; 2 Pet 1:4; Acts 2:33; Acts 5:31; Acts 7:55-56; Acts 17:18, 28-29; Romans 8:5-6; Romans 8:14-21, 34; 1 Cor 8:5-6; 1 Cor 13:12; 1 Cor 15:40-58; Eph 1:17, 20; Col 3:1; Hebrews 1:3, 8-9, 13; Heb 8:1; Heb 10:12; Heb 12:2; 1Pet 3:22; 2 Peter 1:3-4; 1 John 3:2; Rev 1:4-6; Rev 3:21; Rev 5:13; Rev 7:10; Gen 1:26; Gen 3:5,21;
By the way, the viciously uninformed anti-Mormon website, Mormoninfo.org, or Morg, acknowledges that early Christians did believe men could become gods. They say : "Even though the Bible never uses this syntax of "gods" for humans in their glorified state, there is nothing unorthodox about speaking about humans becoming "gods"...". Morg then adds this unBiblical caveat: "...so long one keeps in mind a clear distinction between the nature that God has, and the nature we always will have."
Since we have a clear statement of an anti-Mormon group that the LDS conception of becoming gods is not unBiblical, but instead we are fighting about the question of changing ones' nature, let's discuss that now.
2. Early Christians and Jews believed man would have the same NATURE as God. The pre-trinity Christian Fathers taught Christ would change our nature. Here is a lengthy quote by Irenaeus, dating around 180 AD. For those who do math on their fingers and toes, this is about 200 years before the formulation of the doctrine of the trinity as now accepted by western Christianity:
"For we cast blame upon Him, because we have not been made gods from the beginning, but at first merely men, then at length gods; although God has adopted this course out of His pure benevolence, that no one may impute to Him invidiousness or grudgingness. He declares, “I have said, Ye are gods; and ye are all sons of the Highest.”4419 But since we could not sustain the power of divinity, He adds, “But ye shall die like men,” setting forth both truths—the kindness of His free gift, and our weakness, and also that we were possessed of power over ourselves. For after His great kindness He graciously conferred good [upon us], and made men like to Himself, [that is] in their own power; while at the same time by His prescience He knew the infirmity of human beings, and the consequences which would flow from it; but through [His] love and [His] power, He shall overcome the substance of created nature.4420 For it was necessary, at first, that nature should be exhibited; then, after that, that what was mortal should be conquered and swallowed up by immortality, and the corruptible by incorruptibility, and that man should be made after the image and likeness of God, having received the knowledge of good and evil."
(Irenaeus Against Heresies, Book IV, 38:4. The footnote 4420 reads: "That is, that man’s human nature should not prevent him from becoming a partaker of the divine.")
Sorry for the big quote, but this clearly shows the early Christian understanding of men becoming gods like God. It also clearly illustrates that the Morg and other parties who assert orthodoxy because of men not being gods by nature are in fact those liberalizers of the original Christian faith. Morg must demonstrate why we should accept their innovation of the original Christian faith. For my part, I am defending what the Bible says about the destiny of mankind.
I will post a clear discussion of 1 Peter 1:3-4 to show that the text of the New Testament is similarly explicit in discussing the nature and powers of men who become gods.
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
1. In the past 5 years, Rob Sivulka, Jude 3 Missions, Aaron Shafovaloff, Bill McKeever and Pastor Chip all combined have not spoken to as many active LDS members and leaders who were paying attention. Screaming or passing out brochures and CD's turned into instant trash are not the same.
2. It is sad that Richard Mouw felt it necessary to apologize to a bunch of largely uninformed, lying and unChrist-like cry babies who have no concept of real, effective missionary work. There is a reason Mormon converts, at least 60% anyway, stay actively Mormon for life, while the uninformed, inactive "converts" the "missionaries to the mormons" get are back to their NASCAR and Sunday shopping sprees after taught the great 'truths' delivered them. Mr. Mouw did what all the street belchers have never done: he got 2500 Mormons to listen to him make the case for his religious perspective.
3. Anti-Mormons have largely had reason-ectomies, are very self-righteous, hypocritical, and could not read or understand what 1Peter 3:15 means even if it was tatooed in reverse on their foreheads so it was in front of them while they engaged in their primary activity of self-agrandizement. "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, "
Mormon missionaries, by far the most productive missionaries in the world, don't carry protest signs, don't attack other religous traditions, respect the right to assemble of other religions, and disengage teaching people when the people ask them. What do they know? I appreciate the sign carrying because it makes it so easy to identify those either sincere and uneducated about the LDS Church, or those too afraid to actually engage in defending what they think they know.
Rob and Aaron tell people all the time when I try to engage them that I just want to waste their time. This is a lie. I engage people to correct the lies and falsehoods Anti-Mormons teach, and it seems to those who don't really care about the Truth that sharing truth and undoing the anti-Mormon brainwashing is a waste of time. Talk with me at the next conference. I am down there between a couple of sessions, usually Sundays. Then decide if I am a time-wasting crackpot, or an informed LDS convert who frustrates the lies with documentation of the anti-Mormons. It is pretty easy when you speak with me to tell. On the other hand, Aaron, Rob, Mike and the rest are welcome to walk away like they all did in October. It is a free country, but then don't tell people that the Mormons are the ones who won't interact with other faiths' ideas.
How many converts did all your groups get last year? That's what I thought. LDS got 242,000 last year. And those people, did they change their hearts, and their lives? LDS: 120 new stakes and 700 Wards in the past 5 years. Again, that's what I thought, though I honestly wish people of all faiths, including the Mormons, actually lived up to the principles of their faith.
Monday, November 22, 2004
Morg starts by assuming DNA evidence is a negative relative to Mormon truth claims. It is if you are so unschooled in biology or genetics that your idea of advanced study is a video tape from Confused Hope Ministries. But their starting point is false (big surprise). It is like thinking liberals are going to tell you about George Bush without bias. If you have half a brain, you will say "What makes you so smart?" Great question. Let's figure it out.
Morg, what did an original Israelite look like, genetically speaking? Modern Jews have almost no traceable DNA in common. We have practically no samples of any pre-Babylonian captivity Hebrew DNA, and no idea what the genetic makeup of the Lehites were. It is a false and deceptive premise to assert the tools exist to detect DNA among any of the pre-Columbian native Americans when you do not know what to look for, and how extensive the inter-marrying was for the past 2600 years.
Basically, Morg seems to think they have stumbled onto a crime-lab quality tool in the DNA evidence. Yet they are literally taking modern DNA samples without any suspect DNA to compare it too. The only crime is the assault on reason we keep seeing coming from the Morg.
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
Don't get me wrong. People can disagree about the meaning of the symbols used in Ezekiel 37. Indeed, virtually all scholars do. But to say that the LDS position is not likely simply because it might support the LDS position is just circular reasoning.
The work by Keith Meservy attacked by Morg was in fact excellent. It was excellent because it does not rely on an anachronistic interpretation of scripture to be supported by the passage. Read it for yourself at LDS.org under Church Publications, HTML text, the Ensign, Feb 1987, page 4. Instead it brought to light the work of non-LDS scholars on significant archaeological work directly bearing on the passages in question. Indeed, Morg conveniently fails to address the fact that the Revised English Bible, an ecumenical translation work by Protestants and Catholics from the United Kingdom, completed in 1989, incorporated a reading so close to the traditional LDS interpretation, if you did not know it was a non-Mormon's writing, you may think FARMS completed the work themselves.
First, Morg is just ignorant of traditional Jewish/Hebrew usage of sticks. Anyone who has ever attended service at a synagogue knows even today Jews symbolically keep their scriptural scrolls wrapped around a stick. This has its origin in the historical fact that records were kept on sticks, and quickly ran out of space.
This tradition exerted powerful linguistic influence. Granted Morg has shown no propensity to study anything linguistic, so it is probably asking too much of these self-appointed anti-Mormon crusaders to be willing to put down their signs and open a book. Especially a factual book written by real PhD types, not purchased from mail order schools like so many of the "scholars" among the anti-Mormon crowd.
So Meservey correctly cites historical sources showing the Hebrew word etz had a common meaning of writing tablet. That meaning has been largely lost over time, but fortunately was saved from eternal historic banishment by a miraculous archaeological find in Iraq in 1953. Morg's response: silence. Typical Morg sophistry. Don't deal with issues, just explain why your theology must be correct, regardless of historicity. Moses' rod was considered the Word of God, and was also considered a book. Ezekiel specifically describes an etz, which is both a writing tablet and a symbol of the reuniting of Israel and Judah. Both Jerome and Eusebius say it was a book. Not exactly well known LDS scholars.
So here is the translation from the REB:
This word of the LORD came to me 16.’O man, take one leaf of a wooden tablet and write on it, “
OK, we disagree on what is the correct meaning of the passage. The LDS point of view, that these books are the Bible and the Book of Mormon brought together with the gathering of Israel and Judah is a viable, defensible position with at least some ancient support. Look here for a good, fact pact LDS discussion of this: http://www2.ida.net/graphics/shirtail/ezekiel.htm . Certainly there is no certainty for the Morg position. But philosophically that is what Morg is really all about.
Morg does not know and cannot say what is the correct, absolute and unerring meaning of this passage. They just are sure the Mormons are wrong. Frankly, that is a pathetic and empty excuse for faith. If this sounds like a pretty harsh assessment, it is not. It is just the truth. This is why Morg will not engage people who actually are familiar with LDS beliefs or have any depth of scholarship. They prey on the spiritually immature. They attack the sincere LDS who may make a scholarship error, yet have a sincere faith, just as they do in this particular FAQ. They do not present the true story of the LDS faith. Bringing me back to my old saw: If the truth of the LDS Church is so bad, why present slanted falsehoods about it?
Monday, November 01, 2004
Previous reviews of their FAQ's have found them wanting in both scholarship and facts. It seems they are like the young woman who could not explain to her new husband why she had cut the end off the roast. Her mother had taught her to do it. So they asked the mother. Her mother had taught her to do it. So then they asked the grandmother. Well, her mother had always done it that way. So they visited the 95 year old great grandmother to ask her the reason for this carving off of the roast. "Oh that", she said. "My oven wasn't big enough to put the roast in without cutting off the end."
Morg seems to be very gifted at reading what other anti-Mormons have written, but not burdened by the effort of having done much of their own research. At least, not into Mormonism.
Mormons believe this about the Bible:
Article of Faith 8 "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."
Mormons also believe this about the Bible: It contains the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Just like the Book of Mormon.
D&C 42:12 And again, the elders, priests and teachers of this church shall teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, in the which is the fulness of the gospel.
But we also believe:
1 Nephi 13:28 Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God.
How can these be reconciled? I like the words of Bruce Metzger, considered by many the greatest New Testament scholar of our times. Not LDS by the way. In his book, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration (3rd Ed.), Oxford University Press, 1992, page 246, he concludes by giving this advice:
"All known [ ancient copies of Bible books] are to a greater or less extent mixed texts, and even the earliest manuscripts are not free from egregious errors... Occasionally none of the variant readings will commend itself as original, and [the textual critic] will be compelled to choose the reading which he judges to be the least unsatisfactory or to indulge in conjectural emendation. In textual criticism, as in other areas of historical research, one must seek not only to learn what can be known, but also to become aware of what, because of conflicting [ancient Bible texts], cannot be known."
Sounds very much like the LDS 8th Article of Faith. Or this:
The Interpreter's Dictionary Of The Bible (Under "Text, NT") reminds us that:
This also sounds like the 8th Article of Faith, by a group called the Christian Defense Update, which incidentally classifies Mormonism as a non-Christian cult. Under the heading of Bible Contradictions: A Brief Explaination we find their third explanation as follows:
It is safe to say that there is not one sentence in the NT in which the MS tradition is wholly uniform. (This is a secondary source. I have not personally seen this particular citation, but there is no reason to doubt its accuracy. See http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Bible/Text/Mss/
(3) Bad translation. Not all Bibles are good translations. Whenever you translate from one language to another you have the potential for mistranslations. Also some cult groups have bad translations that are slanted to match thier doctrine. The New World Translation of The Holy Scriptures (Jehovah's Witness Version) is a good example of a very bad translation. http://www.cdu.jesusanswers.com/custom.html
But wait, you say, what about all the Josh McDowell "Evidence That Demands a Verdict" type stuff. Five-thousand texts of the New Testament cannot be wrong.
Well, frankly, Bible proponents (and I am one myself) tend to dramatically overstate the evidence because most people do not have the ability to investigate for themselves. Of the 5,000+ manuscripts of the New Testament, no two are identical. None. They have huge areas of general agreement, but there are literally hundreds of thousands of variations between the texts. Most are totally unimportant, because the correct renderings of what the original text said is pretty obvious. But not always.
And that is sort of the problem. There is not one original of any of the Gospels, letters or epistles in anyone's possession today. Not one. The earliest manuscripts are at least 50 years after the original documents were written. It is broadly agreed the earliest fragment of the Bible dates from about 125 A.D. But before anyone puffs their chest out, it contains less than a one complete verse from the Gospel of John, and that is it. The first complete Bible is not to be found until 380 AD. That is over 300 years after the texts were written.
Let's compare that to the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is treated by the LDS Church identically to the way the Bible is treated by Christianity as a whole. Thousands of errors have crept into the published version of the BoM, mainly because of printing errors in the very first edition. This is far fewer than in the Bible texts, but still significant. Fortunately we have about 26% of the original manuscript mostly copied down by Oliver Cowdery. And we have the original Printer's Manuscript, used by the printer. Like the existing ancient manuscripts of the Bible, there is no punctuation in the documents. So the printer gave it his best shot. He also "fixed" some spelling errors, and then for giggles threw in some inadvertant errors to boot.
The LDS Church has tried to restore the text to the translation manuscript copy quality, and so over the years has done over a dozen reprints and re-edits. Since we believe the LDS President is a prophet, seer and revelator, he has authority to do such things. Recently a decade long project to gather all such information was [mostly] completed by Royal Skousen.
Mormons teach the Bible in their Sunday School and Seminary program. In fact, on the four year rotating schedule of scripture study used for LDS Church cirriculum, fully half of the time is spent studying the Old and New Testament. But with a healthy dose of realism that some of the text may be corrupted.
"Oh?", you say. Certain passages are known to be fraudulent. 1 John 5:7-8 was added to find justification to support the non-Biblical doctrine of the trinity. Matt 5:22 had the phrase "without a cause" added to justify anger at a brother. The correct end to Mark 16:9-20 is not at all sure. 2 Peter 3:10 is completely unclear over whether at Christ's coming the works of the earth will be "burned up" or "laid bare". Frankly, that is a pretty significant difference.
There are many such significant doctrines which have been altered because the plain and precious truth has been lost. More pointedly is the loss of fluency and understanding of the grammar of the New Testament. For example, Granville Sharp was a gifted 18th century linguist who discerned a pattern of written speech in Greek which has now come to be called the Granville Sharp rule. So a verse like Rev. 1:6 which the KJV renders as "Hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father". So, is this verse a perfect proof text of the LDS believe that God had a Father? Sharp's rule says that it should be interpreted as an emphasis type of application. So it should properly say "unto God, even his Father".
Is that the only "new" rule? The truth is, since the New Testament is totally composed of copies of texts in a language no one is still natively speaking, we have no idea what the truth is.
The Book of Mormon is also often maligned by Morg for not being perfect. They twist a statement made by Joseph Smith of the value of the Book of Mormon:
I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book. (November 28, 1841.) DHC 4:461.
Notice he said "most correct". Not perfect. The BoM itself acknowledges it will have errors in it, but urges people to be led by the Spirit and not skepticism.
So we can accept any self serving translation of the Bible, or we can do like any rational Christian should do, and accept as the word of God only his accurately translated word. And as to the value of the Book of Mormon or the Bible? They are both necessary and beautiful. But if nearness to original documents and the number of unresolvable errors within the text are the measuring stick, there is no question the Book of Mormon is a superior text.
So this stuffs another body into the Morg.