Sunday, September 06, 2009

Shawn McCraney Burning Heart 2009

Very briefly, Saturday night I attended the annual "Burning Heart 2009" event sponsored by Shawn McCraney. It was held at a pavilion in Salt Lake City's Sugar House Park, and they had a big tent and 6 or 7 small pop-up gazebo style tents around it. I got there at about 7pm, just after their bands had finished playing (I guess, since I wasn't there, but they had two bands and they did not play after I got there). I counted cars and people, and there were approximately 125-150 cars and between 300-400 people. I was speaking with one guy I know, and he said "What do you think? 3,000 people, pretty amazing." I said, "What?". I told him I had done a rough count, and there was about 300 folks at the time, and I figured with people walking around, maybe another 100. No way there was 500 people there, let alone 1,000 or 3,000.

One person remarked to me they found Shawn's preaching to be very weak, since it was focused on negative, anti-other-religious attacks. In his 30 minute or so talk at the end of the event, he mentioned Mormonism and Joseph Smith and Thomas Monson at least 20 times, as well as other leaders like Mary Eddy Baker, Gandhi and others several times. Being against something will only carry you so far.

As if he read my notes on how to preach incompletely, he quoted all of the scriptures I list in a response to a question in my "Shawn McCraney: Still Ducking " blog post. And just as I said they do. For example, he quoted 'Titus 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done', ignoring the rest of the verse. By baptism and the holy ghost he saved us, to maintain good works.

I spoke with his assistant Kevin, with whom I have a good relationship. He asked what I thought of Romans 3:4 Let god be true, and every man a liar. He said it meant the philosophies of men are all lies, and we should only believe the Bible. I said if that were truly the interpretation, we would have to throw out Paul's other letters and the rest of the New Testament, since he would be speaking about the Old Testament. Beyond that, the trinity is completely a man-made construct, and would need to be thrown out. Kevin is a good guy, but he is not willing to engage in an in-depth discussion of the implications of things like archaeology and the Bible, including the now widely, even majority, accepted view by Christian scholars that the Old Testament Hebrew faith was in fact polytheistic in the sense of believing in the existence of multiple real divine beings or gods. Thus LDS beliefs concerning god are conceptually closer to the Biblical teachings than the unknowable "mystery" called the trinity.

I spent quite a bit of time speaking with Russ East, who runs a local Christian radio station. He is a nice guy, ex-LDS, and we discussed at some length the imperative nature of knowing who God is. He believes that we Mormons are basically brainwashed by our belief in Joseph Smith as a prophet into a false belief of who God and Christ are. I told him he could not reject Paul and be a Christian, just as he could not reject Moses or for that matter Joseph Smith or Thomas S. Monson, since Jesus himself said he would reject those who rejected his servants (John 13:20, Mark 6:11). We discussed the possibility of having he and I sit down and talk about some LDS topics, and record it and put it on the air. Since he is very much not into debating style 'gotcha' tactics, I think it could be worthwhile. We will see how that develops. He said he would call me in a few weeks to discuss it.

As I was talking with a guy I know from the dinners the Heart of the Matter audience goes to, Shawn walked by and good naturedly shouted my last name, and smiled. About 20 minutes later I saw him as I was starting to drive off in my car, as he was in his car returning from someplace. So I didn't get to speak with him. But Burning Heart 2009 reaffirmed to me why Heart of the Matter is really nothing more than just a typical, unsustainable attack on Mormonism, because being against something will never get you to Christ. And they are not particularly effective, considering they get an hour of free TV time broadcast in the heart of Mormon country where half of the Mormons are not practicing their faith. If they really were making a difference, they would have thousands of people now. Even if this gathering represented just 5% of all the people Shawn has influenced, which I am certain it does not based on the calls into his show and the number of people who come to this blog, which is the #1 Google search response for Shawn McCraney's name, we are talking at most there are a few thousand people. At most. And they don't last, in terms of their commitment to support such a ministry. That is evident in Shawn's recent appeals for money, and his statements they have raised just a fraction of what he needs.

These people are largely unwilling to submit themselves to God's will, feeling that obeying someone who is in a leadership role in a church organization is equivalent to recognizing them as God. They don't have any kind of grasp of the meaning of scripture.

For their part, Adam's Road seems to recognize this. They played at this event. They have changed their music away from the "attack Mormonism" front to write songs based only on scripture. So while they add their "testimonies" about coming out of Mormonism, I think they have realized that just doesn't sell a lot of records over the long haul. They showed up in a luxurious 40+ foot customized motorhome with their name on it, but nothing about being ex-Mormon. That means some organization with money, probably their music label, has decided to steer them where the money is. And, I would like to add, I enjoyed the couple of songs I heard them play last week on HOTM. Nice lyrics and sweet music. But their theology...well, these guys' comprehension of New Testament doctrine couldn't probably get them undefensively past a conversation of Mark 16:16, let alone Hebrews 5:8-9, 2 Peter 1:4 or John 1:1-18. So I like their music. It is sort of like listening to Michael Jackson's old hits, and not caring about how strange he became. They are separate.


Anonymous said...

Would you be so kind as to explain the part about Old Testament Hebrews being polytheistic?

Bob the Anti-Anti said...

A case where the traditional Hebrew Text of the Old Testament was changed to remove an obvious plurality of gods is found in Deut 32:8-9, in which "sons of the most high" is changed to "sons of Israel". The Dead Sea Scrolls brought this out, and it has always been present in the Greek LXX, but was considered a corruption into Greek...until the DSS were discovered to support the plurality of divine beings.

You can check out Michael Heiser's webpage for starters:
He also was invited, as a non-LDS expert scholar, to expound on the subject in FARMS Review of Books: A couple of great quotes out of this article: "1. The plural "elohim" of Psalm 82:1, 6 are divine beings, not human judges or humans fulfilling any role.

2. The term monotheism is inadequate to describe what it is Israel believed about God and the members of his council. As the text explicitly says, there are other "elohim"."

Other non-LDS scholars whose work is considered impeccable and virtually unassailable in explaining historic Hebrew polytheism include Mark Smith ("The Origins of Biblical Monotheism"), Raphael Patai ("The Hebrew Goddess"); Frank Moore Cross (Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic"); Keel & Uehlinger ("Gods, Goddesses and Images of God"); and Bob Becking, et al ("Only One God? Monotheism in Ancient Israel and the Veneration of the Goddess Asherah"). Still scholarly but more controversial would be Margaret Barker's "The Great Angel"; Penchansky's "Twilight of the Gods"; and William Dever's "Did God Have a Wife?". Each of these texts is elaborately documented. I would start with Smith or Cross, but any of them are excellent.

Anonymous said...

If you're interested in a fairly strong and thorough rebuttal of your stance on ancient Israelite polytheism, follow this link:

Bob the Anti-Anti said...

Thanks for the link. Frankly, the response is beyond weak. With all due respect to Dr. Lane Craig, his style is to brush over the issues he chooses to ignore. Case in Point: Exodus 32:8-9. He quotes the Masoretic text, that text codified by the Jews in the 10th Century AD, 900 years after Christ. That is the point. Christ was seen as a "another God" (Justin Martyr, Dialog with Trypho, 50:1).

Dr. Craig fails to address the fact that the 70 sons issue is actually a non-issue, since the original text, as found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, calls them "sons of god", not "sons of Israel". He is flatly wrong when he says it is not in the Hebrew (see page 191 "The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible", Translated by Martin Abegg, et al, 1999, Harper Books. This is widely available, so easy to check.) The Revised English Bible translates the passage as "sons of god". The NRSV takes creative license and says according to the numbers of the "gods".

Dr. Craig's work on Creation Ex Nihilo has been thoroughly critiqued by LDS philosopher Blake Ostler in FARMS Review 17/2. It is instructive in pointing out a pattern of avoiding dealing with all the evidence to try to make his case.

Lastly, his discussion about Melchizedek as the priest of God Most High is interesting for, again, what he leaves out. See Margaret Barker's excellent and insightful December 2008 paper on the subject at . There are actually several papers on Melchizedek there, so go hungry.

I appreciate the link, but Dr. Lane's response is actually too weak to be realistically considered helpful, in my opinion. He would have to actually deal with the evidence against Biblical Monotheism as original, which he does not.

John said...

Oh I think it is clever the way you pick and choose what will be on your sight. You must be moved by what I said to you. But that is typical of a mormon to cherry pick what proves you think proves you are right. open your eyes man you are blinded by your feelings


Bob the Anti-Anti said...

Ok, John boy, you have the stage. Tell me what topic you want me to address? Be detailed. On condition: You have to respond to it. For all I know, you have your PhD in Biblical archaeology, so feel free to play to your strengths. But point out where you think I have dodged. Since I specifically responded to the Dr. Craig material, I am anxiously waiting for your critique of what I appear to be ducking. I think dialog is helpful, and examining issues is to be embraced, because, at the end of the day,


Are you willing to change your mind, or in the blog of your mind do you just ignore content you find objectionable, or do you search with an honest heart to know what is true? As a convert to Mormonism, I can guarantee you I have an open mind, but it is filled with lots of research, so I don't believe folks like Dr. Craig, or Hugh Nibley, without checking their sources. Dr. Craig's presentation is demonstrably incorrect and weak, and unsupportable from independent sources, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls. So man-up here, and stop being a critic and get into the conversation. You can steer this, if you really feel I am doing it an injustice.

You have the floor.

Walker said...

"Oh I think it is clever the way you pick and choose what will be on your sight...But that is typical of a mormon to cherry pick what proves you think proves you are right."

What a load of nonsense. Technically, if we are going to be intellectually honest, everyone cherry-picks to support their bias. The interesting thing is, however, that Joseph Smith taught there was a divine council of gods, with the Father at the head in the mid-1800s. About a century later, ancient texts containing such doctrine are discovered and revolutionize scholarship in Old Testament and early Israelite studies. Coincidence is rather hard to swallow. But Bob did a fine job of critiquing the article as well as providing plenty of respected non-LDS scholarship. I discuss this same issue in a recent letter I wrote to a local pastor. I posted it here:
It is under the section "The Divine Council."

"open your eyes man you are blinded by your feelings"

What an arrogant, intellectually shallow response.

Walker said...

Relating to the whole "Burning Heart" ordeal, I find it strange that our personal testimonies are dismissed so often by other Christians. Personal experience is the best way to obtain knowledge. I don't see how anyone can argue with this. Hence, it was number one on my list of reasons for my belief dedicated to my agnostic friend. Other posts and evidences will follow:

Anonymous said...

You seem to be obsessed with Shawn Mccraney. I wonder why this is. You should watch all of his shows. You will be enlightened.

Anonymous said...


Are you "the Bob" from South Jordan?

Walker said...

"I wonder why this is."

I wonder why Shawn is obsessed with Mormons.

"You should watch all of his shows."

You just said Bob seemed "obsessed." Obviously, he watches the shows.

"You will be enlightened."

Well, with intellectual heavyweights such as Adam's Road as guests, who wouldn't be?

Anonymous said...

"I wonder why Shawn is obsessed with Mormons."

Shawn has actually told people why he does his show. He gets this question all the time. I think what he is doing is great. He is showing people the truth about the Mormon church so that they can be freed from the lies and bondage that they are in and find faith and freedom in Christ.

In the eyes of God, Joseph Smith committed a very serious sin. It says it best in Deuteronomy 18:

But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.

Let me write that last bit again:

Are you understanding this Latter Day Saints?!? That is God's wrath. Joseph lied in God's name and he was destroyed for it.

"You just said Bob seemed "obsessed." Obviously, he watches the shows."

On the contrary, it's obvious he doesn't watch all the shows because if did, he would realize the truth about his faith and leave it.

"Well, with intellectual heavyweights such as Adam's Road as guests, who wouldn't be?"

Wow, you are pretty arrogant. They are very talented musicians. I think you are jealous. Maybe the day when you and Bob come out of the closet and leave Mormonism, you can be on his show and bless him with your divine presence.

Walker said...

"He is showing people the truth about the Mormon church"

Hence, Bob's "obsession" with Shawn. He is hoping to free people from Shawn's "lies and bondage."

"Are you understanding this Latter Day Saints?!?"

I love the extra ?s. Gets the point across so much more...

"he would realize the truth about his faith and leave it"

Well, if that isn't evidence, I don't know what is.

"Wow, you are pretty arrogant."


"They are very talented musicians."

And that makes them intellectual heavyweights how?

"I think you are jealous"

Appeal to my motive all you like.

"Maybe the day when you and Bob come out of the closet and leave Mormonism"

So, I have to go gay to leave Mormonism? No thanks.

"be on his show and bless him with your divine presence"

Actually, I think it would be better if Shawn let Bob on his show NOW and go head-to-head. Don't you?

Anonymous said...

"Thanks for the link. Frankly, the response is beyond weak. With all due respect to Dr. Lane Craig, his style is to brush over the issues he chooses to ignore."

Kind of like you do, Bob?

Anonymous said...

"Maybe the day when you and Bob come out of the closet and leave Mormonism"

"So, I have to go gay to leave Mormonism? No thanks."

Only you would think that that statement meant becoming gay. Read it again and think harder.

Walker said...

"Only you would think that that statement meant becoming gay."

And only you would actually think that I thought that is what you meant.

"Read it again and think harder."

Or be more careful with your word choices.

Anonymous said...

"Only you would think that that statement meant becoming gay."

"And only you would actually think that I thought that is what you meant."

Your comebacks just keep getting better and better ...

Walker said...

"Your comebacks just keep getting better and better ..."

When I have something of substance to respond to, they will. Right now, I'm just dealing with how "dishonest" and "deceived" I am as a Mormon, which has nothing to do with the information I've presented.

Jon said...

I am curious about the divine council that Bob is talking about, because there was a verse in the Bible that I had always wondered about. It was in the New Testament, and spoke about "rulers in heavenly realms." I always wondered what it meant. Possibly this is connected to divine council?

What I do not understand is how this makes Israelites polytheistic. Even if there are other "gods", they still believe in one supreme God. Who rules over the others. That is who they worship.

The first scholar that Bob mentions certainly takes this viewpoint.

Michael Sheiser states, "Yahweh is inherently distinct and superior to all other gods. Yahweh is an elohim (a god), but no other elohim (gods) are Yahweh." -excerpt from chapter "What is an elohim?"

Do you agree with Michael's statement Bob? It seems that you reach a different conclusion than your source Michael Sheiser.

Bob the Anti-Anti said...

I agree with almost everything Heiser says. I think in particular the view there are other "gods" is particularly ground breaking, and the way he puts it into context, that Yahweh is unique among the gods, is not necessarily too different from LDS views. Since we believe Jesus is unique, being divine BEFORE his incarnation. I think that point gets minimized at times in the discussion of the LDS view of theosis of divinization of humanity.

In his article in the FARMS Review of Books, Heiser lists a series of points which he asserts are agreeable to LDS and probably objectionable to tradition Christians, and then he lists additional points he says would probably be objectionable to the LDS. In the end, I have very few problems with all of his assertions. Certainly his nuanced presentation and assertion of the existence of other REAL gods, regardless of the primacy and uniqueness of Yahweh among those gods, places his views far closer to LDS beliefs than those of Shawn McCraney, Bill McKeever, Aaron Shaf or Ravi Zacharias.

We also need some caution at letting archeology be interpreted too precisely as the way things really were. While that is repeated incessantly now by traditional Christians as the evidence swings hard over to the polytheistic nature of original Hebrew beliefs, there were years in the 20th Century when archeology seemed to strongly support things like historic monotheism, the reality of the battle of Jericho and other issues now broadly shown to be in error.

I think the evidence of the acceptance of the existence of multiple real gods, of the future of saved beings to be like God is all over in the Bible, and the work of folks like Margaret Barker has sort of blazed the trail to make that understanding obvious. I think in about 30 years the academic world will have completely moved to embrace the evidence and have cast off the theological bias which prevails among traditional Christians. This will force change, but the Catholics and Protestants will find a way to embrace what is original to the Bible. They can meet us on that ground, waiting for them.

I hope this makes sense. Thanks,