Saturday, June 28, 2014

Manti Mess(ages)

I sneaked  down to Manti on Thursday and Friday to visit with the annual pageant Anti-Mormon outreach.  Thursday was spent speaking the whole three hours to about 5 different people in what I think was productive.  Productive is a loose term, but I feel good when people I have made feel sort of misinformed about pretty much everything they believe about Mormonism still like me and shake my hand when we are done.
I have a brochure I created for Manti this year which focuses on several non-LDS scholars' statements around the reality of the Hebrew belief in real plural gods.  It also discusses the mis-translation of John 1:1, which should say "and the Word was a god"(or words to the effect that the Word had the same nature as The God, but is a different member of that class of beings)and how the way most Christians interpret it actually make the verse a modalist or Sabellean heresy.  Finally, it also provides extensive statements by early Christians that people can become gods, with a list of references to the concept in the Bible.  If you would like a copy, send me your email as a comment.  I won't post your address, I will just email you the brochure.  No minimum donation required :-)

Friday night I had several very positive conversations with folks, and I circulated more.  I was speaking with one gentleman from England when some guy name Jason walked up, listened for about 10 minutes or so, then started asking questions but not waiting for answers.
"Didn't Joseph Smith order Gov Boggs killed?"  "Weren't the Mormons stealing land in Missouri, so they were not really victims?"  "Didn't having a standing militia violate federal law?"  "Didn't Joseph print his own money and steal the real currency?"  "Isn't that illegal?"

These questions, and potential exchange, looks easy on the surface.  You think, he is asking a question, he wants an answer.

Truth is, Jason was giving his answer in the form of a question, and did not care to hear my answer or response at all.  He wanted me to answer yes or no, and if I disagreed with his conclusions, he called me deceptive.  He eventually started in with personal insults ("You're a mile wide and an inch deep, aren't you?"), so I said to him I would not talk with ignorant insulting people, and turn away from him.  What was helpful was he did this in front of two other gentlemen whom I had previously had excellent exchanges with, and they were embarrassed by their "Christian Brother's" behavior.  I then apologized for calling the guy stupid, and then gave them the answers to the assertions:
1.  Joseph did not order the Boggs assassination attempt.  No evidence of it.
2.  Porter Rockwell was a suspect, but he calmly stated that if he had wanted him dead, he'd be dead.  A grand jury agreed, and Rockwell was never indicted.  It is commonly believed the would-be assassin was a political rival, though he was never found.
3.  I explained that the LDS had organized a protective force, consistent with the 2nd amendment of the US Constitution, under their right to keep and bear arms for self defense.  However, the US Government refused to intervene, with President Martin Van Buren famously saying to Joseph Smith, to the effect, "Your cause is just, but I cannot help you."  As we know, Joseph prophesied their government would be destroyed, and within 20 years the Whig party was, in fact, completely destroyed.  The Republicans emerged, and the Whigs are now just an historical footnote.
4.  Related to three, the 10th amendment to the US Constitution was the reason Van Buren could not intervene at the time.  After the Civil War the Constitution was amended to allow far more Federal involvement in state issues.  Keeping the peace and administering the domestic affairs of the states were seen as exclusively a state's rights issue at the time, and so Van Buren felt he could not take action.  Having a standing militia, if in a state of insurrection, would have been a violation of federal law.  Arming your people to defend against criminals is not.  There was no violation of federal law, and they did not steal land from anyone.
5.  The great depression of the late 1830's, which was brought on largely because the Gold Standard limited the amount of money which could be printed, thus limiting the velocity or circulation of money to create new capital, brought hundreds of communities around the country to create their own banking societies.  As I mentioned to the guys in Manti, if you have ever seen the movie "It's a Wonderful Life", there is a scene where there is a run on the bank.  Jimmy Stewart has people demanding their money.  He explains that he cannot give it because it is in someone's home, or another person's business, etc.  This is the concept of cash reserve ratios.  If a bank takes in $100, but lends out $95, then if everyone comes in asking for their money, it is not in the bank, it is in assets and out in the community circulating.  In Kirtland, they created a banking society.  They basically issued IOU's to people, which everyone agreed to accept, in exchange for some cash deposits so they could meet the "hard currency" requirements they all would have.  It worked great, until hard currency reserves disappeared.  In 1837, the year the Kirtland Bank failed, the US entered a 5 year depression where nearly half of all banks failed, and many other similar banking societies as Kirtland also failed.  The crazy land price increases collapsed, so the assets underlying the notes disappeared.  Not good for anyone.  Joseph left, but I have seen research which shows eventually all were repaid.  Joseph left Kirtland with his 6-month pregnant wife the first week of January 1838.  It took two months, two winter months, with nearly no money, to get to Missouri.  Far from living a rich life, Joseph and Emma suffered too.
6.  Finally, was it illegal.  Yes, it was.  Joseph paid a $1,000 fine for setting it up.  But it was also common, as the lack of currency was a problem everywhere on the frontier.  It also failed because of the lack of trust and cooperation between members of the Kirtland Safety Society, and under captitalization.

History is not simple, and it is not black and white.  If we believe that all Presidents of the LDS Church are always inspired, then we will always be disappointed.  They were looking for solutions.  At times they felt inspired.  Other times they just did their best.  At all times they were human.  Don't trust humans with your salvation, trust God.  But you still have to work with humans for everything else.

Final point.  I was walking to leave on the road from the food court to the pageant area.  I saw a girl about 10 years old passing out brochures, so I stopped and handed her one of mine.  She looked like she was being baited by a child molester.  I didn't get it at first, and I laughingly said "If you are going to pass out brochures to the Mormons, why don't you take them too?"  She backed away, and a pretty dark haired little girl, also about 10, very nervously said "We have been told not to talk to you."  I said, "What? Why is that, because I can answer your questions?"  She said no, her daddy had said I was not nice to Christians, and they should not speak with me.  She was nervously shaking as she said that, so I said "who is your daddy?"  She replied "Keith Walker."  I said he was with some ministry, and by now three young men in their twenties had walked over, and they said "Evidence Ministries".  I said I would love to talk with her daddy, that it is not true that I am mean to other Christians, and I had even done a short video about her daddy because he had some things wrong about the Mormons.  She said she knew I knew him.  I jokingly said to one of the Christians I had spoken with earlier in the week who was walking by, "Am I mean to Christians?"  Which she just laughed about.  The little girl walked away.

Funny thing is, I literally bumped into Keith Walker earlier in the evening while passing through the crowd.  If I had known he was telling people to be afraid of me, I would had asked him about it.  Next year I will have a friend take a camera, and we will have a conversation.  People can then determine if I am mean to even those anti-Mormons who disparage me personally.  Not that I care what people judge about me.  God knows my heart.  But when one's living is based on attacking other people's faith, maybe telling a story about me is better than getting caught on video.  Maybe I can help change that for Keith.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Classic Endings to Hubris

OK, the recent exchange with the "anonymous" writer I suspect is over.  We just received the following two responses:

 Anonymous said...
There is an old saying in the south that we say when someone just doesn't get things. That saying is "bless your heart". Bob, bless your heart. Let me ask you a question. Do you want me to bow down to you because of your intelligence and because you will be a "god" someday? Do you want me to tell you how smart you are and that I wish I could be like you? Despite your education, you are a very foolish man when it comes to your knowledge in the Bible and faith.
I could care less how much greek you speak. I could care less about your mormon text that was inspired by a man that has no knowledge of Spiritual matters. What you speak about is of this world and not based on anything Spiritual. You are not knowledgeable in the Bible and I certainly trust what Ryrie says over your blasphemous beliefs because he is grounded in the Spirit. You my friend Bob, are just like the Pharisees Jesus is referring to in the Bible. Read Matthew 23:13-39. Woe unto you Bob.
You are prideful. You will not admit your wrongdoings. You keep mentioning the things I won't answer and I told you that if you were of the Spirit you would understand these things. But you are not, therefore you won't. Why won't you answer me about Galatians 1:8-9. Why won't you answer me about whether or not you sin. Bob, you are a sinner. There is NOTHING you can ever do to save yourself. You are an awful sinner. Works don't save. Not only are you a sinner, but I am too. I am just man enough to admit it because I believe I need Jesus and that He is Lord and that He saved me from my sins. He is all I need because I can't save myself.
You are a man with a hard heart Bob. Despite your claims of being smart, you are nothing but a fool to me. Your education will never impress me. The only thing you can do that will make me respect you is to put aside your heretical mormon texts, the ridiculous and unfulfilled doctrine and covenants, the so-called translated papryi of the book of Abraham, and read the New Testament to teach you about the real Jesus.
You are NOT a Christian. We need to make that clear. I have mentioned there is only one heaven and one hell and the only way to heaven is by accepting the fact that Jesus Christ is Lord, believing that He was raised from the dead, and working out this salvation. You must accept Grace, God's unmerited favor.
Face it Bob, your education is just like the Pharisees. You are to prideful to recognize who Jesus really is and because you have not received His Spirit, you are not able to discern these Spiritual matters. It is really sad. I feel sorry for you. But, I have not stopped praying for you.
I can't help but think that in a couple of weekends, I will be going to Eldorado, TX to visit some family. If you recall, there was a mormon temple built in Eldorado where these men practiced polygamy and married young women. These men were so-called prophets and said they received a "call" from your god. Explain to me, BOB, how these men are not a part of your false faith. Explain to me how they are not following "true mormon texts". Polygamy is in your doctrine and covenants and this is an outright heretical teaching. Warren Jeffs was a prophet, wasn't he? Don't you agree with what he believes because it is ALL in your mormon text?
Because of your educational background, it sounds like you like proof. Your ridiculous explanation regarding how the American Indians did not have any Jewish DNA was just laughable. Get over it Bob. Your religion is a farce and your founding father was a man that needed serious mental help.
You need Jesus. I will continue to pray for you and your hard heart. I really feel sorry for how out of touch with reality you are but anything is possible with God. Remember, the truth hurts, but the truth also sets you free.
6/12/2014 8:09 PM
Anonymous Anonymous said...
And by the way, there are NO modern day prophets. Your prophet within the mormon faith is a phony.
If you need someone else to start up another modern day religion, maybe you can become a pretend prophet yourself and profit from your propheting.
So, it starts off insulting.  Somehow I am a bad person because I refuse to submit to his obvious superior spiritual endowments.  So the obviously denigrating comment that he should "bow down because of [my] intelligence."  Well, if that is what he normally does when he meets people who out work him to understand the Bible, OK, but keep it modest.  I blush easily.

So let's recall that his original charges included that Mormons in general and me in particular don't understand the scriptures, and he cited several which he said supported his position.  He was wrong, and as you can see for yourself, I was able to systematically dismember his position using only the finest academic sources, none of which are LDS.
This has resulted in another insult and illogical appeal to his own authority as the source for religious truth:  "I could care less how much greek (sic) you speak... you are nothing but a fool to me."

So he asks why I won't admit I sin.  I have, many times, including in these posts and responses.  He asserts I claim that we can work our way into heaven.  Sorry to let him know, but I have written extensively on that story line that it is impossible to save ourselves.  We are saved through grace.  It is impossible to be saved without grace from God.  But, we have an obligation to be obedient.  That is the obligation we have as recipients of Christ's grace.  I quoted the definition of grace, (Greek Xaris) as found in the foremost Bible Lexicon, BDAG 3rd edition, and as I put into a response to his statements on May 31, 2014:
 "Almost a technical term in the reciprocity-oriented world dominated by Hellenic influence as well as by the Semitic sense of social obligation expressed in the Hebrew term (checed, Strongs H2617). In the active sense, that which one grants to another, the action of one who volunteers to do something not otherwise obligatory. Especially of the beneficent intention of God. Compare secular writings of xaris to denote beneficent dispensations of the emperor: and of Christ who give (undeserved)to people; (from BDAG, page 1079, entry Xaris, 2 and 2a. These definitions include Eph 1:6ff, Rom 3:24, etc. In other words the commonly used passages to describe the Evangelical understanding of "grace".)
 So the LDS concept of grace coupled with obedience and repentance is the most Biblical approach compared to the practice of other faiths.

Now he asked why I would not respond to Galatians 1:8-9.  I have before, but what the hey, let's do it again. 
8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before ,  so say I now again,  If  any  man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received , let him be accursed. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Trinity Troubles

Kind of a mini-theme at the moment, but discussing the Trinity is highly illustrative of the sheer avoidance followers of the Trinity display.

First, they will attempt to resort to the "historical" reality of the Trinity, and more broadly with the concept of monotheism in the Bible.  Except this approach is logically and factually flawed on at least three levels:

1. Monotheism is not the historic understanding of the Bible or the New Testament in particular.  As Trinitarian Michael Heiser wrote:
Monotheism as it is currently understood means that no other gods exist. This term is
inadequate for describing Israelite religion, but suggesting it be done away with would no doubt cause considerable consternation among certain parts of the academic community, not to mention the interested laity. Henotheism and monolatry, while perhaps better, are inadequate because they do not say enough about what the canonical writer believed. Israel was certainly monolatrous, but that term comments only on what Israel believed about the proper object of worship, not what it believed about Yahweh’s nature and attributes with respect to the other gods.
Likewise, as we have demonstrated in the previous post and abundantly elsewhere, the existence of many real gods is taken as a given.  Jesus and God the Father are immediate examples.  But 1 Cor 8:5-6 or Acts 17:18 ("strange gods", Gk daimonion, a technical term used by the Greeks, here by philosophers to describe the relationship of Jesus to salvation and the resurrection, indicating their perception of Jesus as a second god as described by Paul), or Romans 8:16 make it clear that real, divine beings, plural, do exist and more will exist as mankind is saved.  Jesus himself quotes Ps 82:6 in his preaching in John 10:30-38, referencing the OT teaching that men can become gods.  His argument is only valid if they really do become gods like God, or else he is in fact guilty of blasphemy in his equating of himself with God.

2.  No single scripture or passage can be used to explain the relationship of the heavenly beings ("host of heaven", a phrase firmly built upon the Ugaritic terminology defining the Council of Gods, wherein Elohim presides) or relationship of Jesus and God the Father as being of one substance.  By contrast, passages such as John 17 or Philippians 2:5-9, or especially John 1:1 are all clearly written to explain the relationship of Jesus and God, and from these passages there is no hint of some kind of sharing of essence.

3.  It is impossible to maintain "monotheism" when the early Christian writers explicitly teach the salvation we seek is to become divine ourselves.  Nearly without exception 2 Peter 1:4 is used by every early Christian writer, including the Father of the Trinity Athanasius, to state that men will become gods, just as Jesus was god and became man.

Secondly, the number of scriptures teaching the real existence of multiple real gods are so many as to be overwhelming.  I looked up in a searchable online Strongs Concordance the following: "host/s of heaven"(20+), "Lord of hosts"(285), gods, in a real sense, not idols, (about 10), angel of the Lord, which was often a divine being (64), angel of God (10 times).  Don't forget that Jesus himself is called an angel in Rev 10.
Of course, there is Deut 32:8, 43 where the text was plainly altered to attempt to conceal the fact there are the 70 sons of God, just as in the Ugaritic texts, given authority over the various areas of the Earth, and Jehovah is given Israel as his portion by the Most high God.

The proof of the lack of proof is the insertion of the bogus text of 1 John 5:7-8, which attempts to describe the workings of the Godhead in Trinitarian terms.  Problem is it was added to the Latin text 250 years after John penned the words, and 1500 years later in the Greek.

So I would invite people to throw down their best two or three Trinitarian proof-text verses, and I will interact with them.  But I will require they explain Deut 32:8-9, Ps 82/John 10:30-38 and John 1:1.   No outside commentaries or sources, other than grammatical or lexical sources to accurately explain the text.  I am sick to death of hearing the ignorant phrase "the passage must be examined in the broader context of the entire Bible."  No, not so much.  There was no compiled Bible until the 4th Century.  The OT was much more fluid than it is today as well.  And if we want to go to the "broader context", then Trinitarians can make this really short, because nearly all scholars of all beliefs, Christian, Catholoic, Jewish, Evangelical, atheist or Mormon, acknowledge the context of the Bible is for a form of henotheism, meaning many real gods, but only one to be worshiped, which is monolatry.  Scholars such as Michael Heiser may argue about the nature of those gods in terms of how they came into existence, but there is no doubt the Hebrews and early Christians believed in a plurality of divine, meaning godly, beings.  And we haven't even touched on the fact the Hebrews fully believed that God had a wife.

So send me some passages and be willing to interact a little bit.  It will only hurt your Trinitarian pride.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Retreads On the Godhead

I have been bombarded of late by questions from an anonymous individual who thinks he has discovered the true Christian theology in the traditional doctrine of the Trinity.

There is sort of a natural arrogance in the exuberance of youth, so I am not offended that anonymous thinks I am up in the night.  I probably am about some stuff.  But I am pretty sure about most of the stuff here.

I have written extensively on this blog in the past about issues such as salvation and the nature of God and Jesus and the Spirit.  I have also written extensively about the nature of the Council of the Gods, and the historical fact that the Hebrew faith held as an orthodox view that there were many real gods, yet their God was the only one they worshipped.

This view is explained in great detail by the Evangelical scholar Michael Heiser at his website .  He also has some amazing Youtube videos where he explains issues of ancient Hebrew belief.  I also strongly recommend Mark Smith's The Origins of Biblical Monotheism, William Dever's Did God Have a Wife? (which the answer is "Yes"), Frank Moore Cross' seminal work Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic, the anthology by Becking, et al, Only One God?, Raphael Patai's The Hebrew Godess, Hess' Israelite Religions, or for some light reading on this subject, the excellent abbreviated account by David Penchansky Twilight of the Gods:  Polytheism in the Hebrew Bible.  I happen to own all of these titles and have read them.  None of them are LDS authors.  Their conclusions, which once for Patai and other pioneers were considered left field and perplexing, are now squarely in the mainstream of Biblical scholarship.  Coupled with the continuing archaeological finds and the various libraries of early writers from as long ago as 3,000 B.C., I can assert without fear that the Biblical narrative is far closer to an LDS document than an Evangelical tome.  Everything from the nature of creation, which is now understood to not have been an "ex Nihilo" event (matter out of nothing), but rather that creation occurred using pre-existing materials; to the plurality and existence of real divine beings besides Elohim or Jehova; to the ultimate destiny of man, the very purpose of humanity's creation, is to become like God.

These are Mormon themes, which turn out to be Biblical fundamentals.

The fact is anonymous is well meaning yet ignorant of the Bible's teachings.  When someone such as himself cites John 1:1 as proof that God and Jesus are one and the same being, I know he has neither studied the Biblical text in the original Greek language, nor has he sought out scholars who can correctly explain the text.  He cites Charles Ryrie, an excellent Biblical scholar, for his systematic theology.  Yet Ryrie's work fails to interact with both the historical issues of the Doctrine of the Trinity, or the textual problems of simple interpretations of passages like John 1:1, which he surely knew is not supportive of a Trinitarian view of scripture.

In November 2008 I went into detail on John 1:1.  You can find it here.  The verse describes the Word communing, in contact, in the presence of God, and having also the characteristics of God.  So there are two gods present.  I note there are dozens of translations which bear this out, and that scholars from Daniel Wallace, who teaches at Dallas Theological Seminary like Ryrie, and the Translators Handbook On the Gospel of John both affirm this idea.  Wallace attempts to soften the blow and explain God is the Father in John 1:1, but it still fails to explain why John would say the Word was with God if he really meant the Father, since, by logical deduction, the same nature he is describing of God as the Father would be conveyed to the Word.  You would be forced to conclude that the Word is the Father, if you are asserting God actually is intended to mean the Father.  Neither solution really solves any Trinitarian issues.

On the other hand, the excellent work by Jason BeDuhn, Truth in Translation, dedicates chapter 11, pages 113 to 134 to a thorough discussion of the grammar and theological prejudice found in most translations.  He demonstrates conclusively through examination of the use of "theos" (Gk: god) with both the definite article (ho theos, the god) and the far rarer use of the anarthrous (meaning without the definite article) nominative nouns.  He employs the survey of the topic by Phillip Harner in his 1973 article "Qualitative Anarthrous Predicate Nouns: Mark 15:39 and John 1:1" (Journal Of Biblical Literature, 1973, Vol 92 p. 85).  After summarizing the 53 instances where John uses a predicate nominative construction, he notes Harner's conclusion that 40 of them are "qualitative", and writes: "In most of these cases a translator will be forced to choose wheher to use "the" or "a."  It simply cannot be avoided.  Harner does his best not to directly challenge "Colwell's Rule," but in the final analysis one must do so in order to communicate the qualitative sense Harner argues for to an English-speaking audience." (BeDuhn, pg 121)

Earlier BeDuhn notes:  "In this subject ("nominative") form, the definite article is really indispensable for making the noun definite.  Its absence makes theos quite different than the definite ho theos.  This is fairly clear not only from the distinct forms the word takes, but also from the context in which those distinct forms are used.  John says on the one hand that the Word "was with" ho theos, "God," but on the other hand that the Word "was" theos, "a god."  It is striking, therefore, that most of the translations we are considering take no notice of this careful distinction, and translate the different words as if they were exactly the same." (BeDuhn, pg 115)

The quote from the Translator's Handbook On the Gospel of John, page 8, which is definitive in explaining this as well I just love:
He was the same as God appears in most translations as "the Word was God" (RSV, JB, NAB)  NEB renders by "what God was, the Word was" and Mft "the Logos was divine" [Goodspeed (Gdsp) "the Word was divine"].  Zurcher Bibel (Zur) has "the Word was God," with a footnote indicating that this means the Word possessed a divine nature.
These many differences in translation are due to the Greek sentence structure.  In this type of equation sentence in Greek (A=B) the subject can be distinguished from the predicate by the fact that the subject has the article before it and the predicate does not.  Since "God" does not have the article preceding it, "God" is clearly the predicate and "the Word" is the subject.  This means that "God" is clearly here the equivalent of an adjective, and this fact justifies the rendering he (the Word) was the same as God.  John is not saying that "the Word" was God the Father, but he is affirming that the same divine predication can be made of "the Word" as can be made of God the Father, and so "the Word can be spoken of as God in the same sense."(Underlining in the original, bolding mine.)
This is a stake through the heart of the Trinity.  In every instance where Trinitarians try to make a claim that "theos" is used without the definite article, it is not in the nominative position or it has a clear modifier.  Nothing like the fake, made up Colwell's rule trying to explain away the grammar of John 1:1c.

Here is a clear statement of God and the Word being both divine, having the same characteristics, and yet being totally separate.  The Word cannot be fully God as God is God, and be in association with him (kai theos en pros ton theon, and the word was with god) and there not be two beings present.  Since "theos" is used as an adjective describing the class of beings to which "the Word" belongs, the Mormons are right.

Got that.  The Mormons are right.  It's a scripture thing, not just an opinion thing.

So far from being uninformed or a novice about the true understanding of the doctrine of God in the Bible, I deeply understand it.  I came at it originally as a Trinitarian, btw, since I was raised as a Lutheran.  The doctrine of the Trinity is just wrong.

I will hit more of anonymous' points as time permit.  But I have put five or six hours into this post to make sure I have my documentation correct, and it is just easier for anonymous to spout off uninformed, poorly reasoned talking points he got from someone else than for me to answer them with an original post, when I have responded to most of his questions previously.  If he would take the time to read before he attacks we could have a more focused discussion.  But I don't want to leave the impression that these are somehow new or disturbing concepts.

He is so ignorant of the actual meaning of the text that he doesn't understand that the big sword he thinks he is wielding actually sliced off both of his arms and legs like a Monty Python script.

He can keep saying "It's just a flesh wound, come back I'll bite your legs off," but he has nothing.

The Mormons are right.  [Cue coconuts clapping as we ride off.]