Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ex-Mormon Leonard's Eternal Insecurity About Authorial Intent

At the weekly gathering at Village Inn of the Shawn McCraney "Heart of the Matter" post-show studio audience, about 12 or so folks showed up last night. One fellow I have met before named Leonard was there. I was sitting at the far east end of the table, and Leonard walked over to ask me how it was that I would knowingly violate the sacrament covenant each week. I noted that the sacrament prayers don't say that we will never sin, but rather that as we kept the commandments and took upon ourselves the name of Jesus, we would have his Spirit. Leonard first asserted that we did covenant to not sin, and so I started to quote the blessing on the bread, and Leonard joined in, but with the confusion, I recognized I stumbled so I turned to the BoM and got the text of the prayer in front of me. Leonard said "I know the prayer, I had to memorize it verbatim," to which I replied "Then you have forgotten it verbatim, because you got it wrong." We then read the actual prayer, and he acknowledge that the text doesn't require one not to sin, but then he asserted that the LDS god is like a yoyo, since his Spirit comes and goes based on our personal obedience. I told him that was very much a scriptural position.

Leonard is of the opinion that once one is saved, one cannot lose their salvation. Therefore it is impossible for someone to lose the Spirit, or be condemned to hell, after becoming a born again Christian.

I turned to Hebrews 10:26-29 to demonstrate the New Testament does in fact teach that we can be saved and then lose our salvation. Here is the relevant text:

26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
28 He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:
29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?
Notice in verse 26 the author of Hebrews says "after we have received the knowledge of the truth", there is no more sacrifice.

I asked Leonard what sacrifice is that in reference to. He said "you know", and I said "Christ?", and he said "of course". I asked if there was any sacrifices after Christ's atoning sacrifice. He said I was missing the "authorial intent". He said there was no additional sacrifices, but that the verse is about unsaved people, not saved people.

Here is why this is important. If it is about unsaved people, the false doctrine of eternal salvation being assured by a single act of a sinner accepting Christ is not threatened. But I pointed out the author of Hebrews uses the word "we". Not thee or you. He includes himself.

If the author of Hebrews includes himself as someone who could "willfully sin" to the point of troddening the sacrifice of Christ under foot, then manifestly someone filled with the Spirit (since scripture is "god breathed")and "saved" by any standard, could lose their salvation. Thus this passage demolishes the concept of eternal security as taught by Evangelicals.

Back to the story.

Leonard said "How many times does it say "we" and mean the unsaved? You don't understand the authorial intent." I had my computer with me, so I said, "Let's check". I then did the search, and it turns out in Hebrews 10, the word "we" is used 5 times spread across four verses. I told him "5 times". He said he meant in the whole Bible.

What? In the whole Bible? Doesn't that violate even the most basic of Biblical interpretation principles? I said the context mattered, let's read how the author of Hebrews uses the word.

Leonard said I wouldn't understand the authorial intent, and he walked off saying "this is such an old conversation", to which I said "Come on, you're losing the argument so you are leaving." He walked off, and I read the four verses with the folks sitting by me, and they agreed.

"We" means "us" in Hebrews chapter 10, according to the context, and not "them".

Which is why Leonard walked away with his two kids. His explanation is manifestly false if one actually reads the text of the Bible.

Authorial Intent is the equivalent of arguing that one's personal theories are more important than the text of the Bible itself, and it is what allows a person to ignore changing their beliefs when confronted by passages which contradict personal theories.

For Leonard, "Authorial Intent" is only to be applied if the Truth conflicts with his personal hobby. In this case, the "Author" is Leonard.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Shawn McCraney, Stefan Dennis, Adams Road and False Doctrine

People will fall for almost anything, I have found. I am not limiting that to religious truth, but since that is the point of my blog here, let's follow that road.

I wrote a few weeks ago about a young man and his wife who appeared on Shawn McCraney's weekly fantasy program, Heart of the ****** (This was for Robert V.'s benefit. No, it is not related to sex.) Heart of the Matter.

He commented this week, and you can see his remarks here. He invited anyone who cares to see his support on his facebook page, which I did. His assertion is that all the support needed to make the case that the Apostles did not continue doing ordinances in the Jerusalem temple after the death of Christ could be found there.

Not so much, really.

He wrote in an email to me:

"It is well known that you had to be a literal blood descendant of Aaron to hold the priesthood in Old Testament times. This is backed up by the OT and you may also ask any Jew or Jewish Scholor to confirm this."

Let me publish my response with just a few minor changes to improve readibility:

This is just flatly false. Sorry, but God had originally intended to have everyone hold the priesthood (Ex 19:6). We have multiple examples of non-Aaronic priests who are recognized as authentic. Moses' father-in-Law Jethro is everywhere called "Jethro, the priest of Median". And then there is Melchizedek, who even Abraham paid tithes to. His place in Hebrew history is limited in scripture, but huge in impact, and is cited as part of the reason Jesus' atonement was effective. Please read if you get a chance.

I just read through your notes on Facebook. My heart truly aches for your misunderstanding of both the Gospel, but especially issues such as the role of the priesthood. Likewise, your statement about the Holy Ghost being God, and quoting John 4:24 that "god is a spirit" is a little sad. You should have learned in your extensive research that not only is John 4:24 a mistranslation if rendered "god is a spirit", (as it should read "god is spirit"), but the very sense is describing a single attribute of God which is also ascribed to men, that is having a nature which is spiritual. John 4:24 in no way means God lacks a physical nature, since this contradicts the meaning of Gen 1:26-27; 3:8,10. Unless God walks without legs and has a voice without a throat and head.

A couple of easy questions:

How many real priesthoods are described in the Bible?

What priesthood do Christians hold (Rev 1:6, 5:10, 20:6; 1Peter 2:5, 9)?

Was the Aaronic priesthood ever the priesthood of Royalty?

What is the role of a priest?

Why do we need to be priests if we have direct communion with God and Christ?

What was the role of the Temple to Messianic theology? (Unfair, because this is actually a huge question.) What priesthood do Christian "kings and priests" hold(Rev 1:6; Rev 5:10)?

What lineage was required to be a Melchizedek priest, i.e., what is the position of royalty required, and through what line must it come, to hold the Melchizedek priesthood?

Melchizedek is called a priest to the Most High God. Was this an Aaronic priesthood office?

Is mankind now perfect? If not, then why has the non-LDS Christian world done away with the offices of Apostle and prophet? Why eliminate those offices, but keep pastors teachers and evangelists? (Eph. 4:11-14) If there were no more prophets after Christ, as is falsely interpreted from Hebrews 1:1-2, then why are there so many holders of the office of prophet in the New Testament, not just people who are experiencing the gift of prophecy?

As a convert, I truly know what it means to be born again. I guess I would give you the homework assignment to read Romans, especially chapters 5-10. And be prepared to explain how "grace only" fits with Hebrews 5:8-9 as to how one is not just saved (as according to Romans 5:18 everyone is saved, believer and non-believer alike), but how one "retains" salvation, according to the Bible. Because if you can "fall from grace" (Gal. 5:4), then there is something you must do to NOT fall from grace.

The problem I find with the attacks on LDS beliefs by folks like Shawn McCraney, Adam's Road band members and Stefan Dennis is they just are so limited and unfair in their perspective of Biblical doctrine.

I flatly reject the idea that a person can, as Lynn Wilder said of her husband, just read the New Testament and come away realizing Mormonism is false. I reject that because I am where I am largely because I had the opposite experience. I saw LDS doctrine everywhere. We see there are other real divine beings, gods, discussed and believed everywhere (John 1:1, Acts 7:55-56; John 10:35; Rev 3:21; Hebrews 1; nearly anyplace mankind is described as "sons of god"). I found exaltation everywhere in the NT. I realized there were apostles and prophets intended to stay in the Church until as long as the true Church was on the face of the Earth. Eph 4:11-14; 1 Cor 12-13. I find 1 Cor 12-13 particularly compelling because we have Paul teaching, without any confusing language, that having prophets in the Church is the way it is until perfection comes. The things which will remain are Faith, Hope and Charity, meaning the apostles and prophets WILL be done away, but not until that point in time.

Lastly, the idea of revelation is everywhere in the Bible. Not Just James 1:5, but literally dozens of times in the Bible we are told to seek out with our heart to find truth. In fact, Paul notes that the reason some folks don't know the truth is they have hardened their hearts until they are past feeling (Eph 4:18-18).

The Bible is demonstrably NOT perfect in the sense of no contradictions, weak translations or mis-translations. That is easily demonstrated. When you ask a Christian why do you believe the Bible is the word of God, as two BYU professors did to anti-Mormon James White, you initially get this illogical circular reasoning which says because it says it is. Just like the Koran or any of several other books, including the Book of Mormon. Then when they realize the illogic of their position, they will say that the Spirit testifies it is true. Just like the Book of Mormon.

I have used this example a lot as anti-Mormons attack the Book of Mormon on the basis of a lack of documented archeological finds supporting it. I pose this question: Is it better to have no proof contradicting your claims, but also nothing supporting your claims, or, from a logical point of view, is it better to have a book with some archeological support, but also explicit archeological proof contradicting it? I would think the first option is better, which of course is the case with the Book of Mormon. The second case is the Bible. While non-LDS Christians love to wave their "archeological proof" at Mormons like some kind of testament to the reality of the resurrection (which it is not), they generally are unaware that there is probably not a single Biblical archeologist who accepts the Biblical record without reservations, especially the content prior to the time of Jeremiah. As I have mentioned before, the scientific proof against the Biblical stories about Jericho and Ai (Joshua 6-7)is overwhelming. No archeologist I am aware of, believes the story of Jericho or Ai happened as outlined in the Bible, based on Carbon 14 proof found at the site and the archeological findings on site, with the exception of Bryant Wood, who literally has no support in the archeological community for his position.

So, is it better to be waiting for proof to support the reality of your position, OR, is it better to have scientists saying your book is documentably false even if it gets some geographic details correct? I don't think this is all that hard to figure out.

Adam's Road, Stefan Dennis and the Wilder's all leapt without an intellectual net. Their positions are about as supportable as sandcastles at the beach made at low tide. Thank goodness for the Holy Spirit's presence in the LDS Church to keep the vast majority of members from the confusion so evident in their positions.