Funny thing this year. My good friend wanted to go down to Manti with me to just watch the conversations I got into. Since our wives are also good friends, we all rode down together, along with his son who had recently returned from his mission.
We wound up speaking to five different individuals or groups of individuals, and my friend and his son filmed it for the heck of it.
The first guy we encountered was a former member of the LDS Church who basically took the view that the Trinity was true, he knew it, so anything LDS was wrong and Joseph Smith was a deceiver. He particularly didn't like the concept that people could become like God, and that there was a Mother in Heaven. As it happened, I had the book by William Dever with me, "Did God Have a Wife", and pointed out to this fellow that Dever, as one of the foremost Biblical archaeologists in the world, concluded the answer to the question was "Yes". Dever himself discovered an ancient artifact with the inscription "To Jehovah and his Asherah", and he walks people through the wealth of evidence that not only did the Hebrews believe God had a wife, but that they had children who were also gods. While I felt the gentleman was a very nice guy and well read about his personal belief system, he acknowledged openly he had no interest and never had read anything about the early beliefs held by the Hebrews or Christians.
He raised what I think is a common misunderstanding by most people about other people's beliefs. We discussed the passage in Acts 17:18 where the understanding of the Greek philosophers on Mars Hill in Athens is stated, in the King James Bible, as: "He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he (Paul)preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection."
The key element here is the word selected by Luke (author of Acts) and probably used by the Philosophers: Daimonian. The word has reference to intermediate gods acting between the real Gods and humanity. Elsewhere in the NT they are always used for evil spirits, but the Greek usage was they were a lesser divinity as well.
The use of the word Daimonian by the philosophers is quite instructive. After being told by Paul about Jesus and the resurrection, they conclude Jesus is a god of lower rank or power than God the Father. In other words, the passage not only doesn't teach anything approaching the concept of the Trinity, but on its own it contradicts it, teaching instead that there are multiple real gods, and Jesus is subordinate to God.
The man I was speaking with replied, "I wouldn't base my faith on that verse." I replied that I never said I did. But I was not making the point clearly enough. I see all these verses as bread crumbs and evidence leading to truth. The guy seemed irritated that he did not have a good response to the obvious conclusion the verse leads one to. Which is why he wouldn't base his faith on it, since it challenges what he currently believes. But the bigger point is that we assume when someone makes a point which we find challenging, we figure we can evade the point by rejecting it as anomalous, and likewise denigrate the opinion of the challenger by asserting it is in fact him who is uninformed about the "big picture". This fellow said several times "No one can know everything." That was his reason for not caring that he was uninformed about the Biblical issues he was preaching against, or for that matter Mormon issues, even as an ex-Mormon.
That conversation ended quite amicably, and I have spoken with him in years past. I just don't see him caring enough to do any research about the topics we discussed because it really would threaten his core concepts about Biblically based doctrines.
I next spoke with a nice kid who was an ex-Mormon from California. He was clearly a very studious kid. However, he had bought into the Evangelical position that baptism can be anything, but especially in the NT it probably ISN'T in water. That is just garbage. I gave him one of my brochures on baptism, and pointed out the examples of early Church Fathers and writers describing in explicit detail that to be "born again" was to be baptized in water and receive the Holy Spirit. We also discussed the root of the Greek word "baptizo", which is "bapto", and means to dip something into a liquid. Think Jesus dipping his bread into the sop at the last supper (John 13:26), or the rich man asking Abraham to send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and help his unbearable thirst (Luke 16:24). Revelation 19:13 is similarly interesting because a garment is dipped or dyed in blood. Note in these root examples, the liquid is identified.
Baptizo is a little different. By default it means to dip in water. We see it used of Jewish ordinances in Mark 7:4 or Luke 11:38. Which means it is highly unlikely that Mark and Luke would just get a wild hare to make it mean anything they want. But chain the touch points together. In Mark 1:5 John the baptizer calls people to repent and be baptized, and then in Mark 1:8 he makes it explicit that he is baptizing with water. But he does so to affirm the default meaning is with water, and Jesus will baptize with the Holy Ghost. But the line in the sand is baptism is in water. We see John 1:25-28 produce the parallel account of John baptizing with water. While there are passages where baptism refers to an immersion in an experience (Mark 10:38) or to baptism of the Holy Ghost (Mk 1:8; Jn 1:33, Acts 1:5; Acts 11:16, etc.). But note the difference: When they baptize in something other than water, they mention the different type of baptismal experience, and even contrast water with Spirit or the something else.
As some of you may have heard me previously mention, the best Greek-English Biblical Lexicon is "A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testamant and Other Early Christian Literature", 3rd Edition, published in 2000 and abbreviate as BDAG for the initials of the various others involved.
BDAG notes on page 164-165 under the entry for Baptizo the following: "2. to use water in a rite for purpose of renewing or establishing a relationship with God, plunge, dip, wash, baptize."
It then lists all of the John the baptizer verses, about 2 dozen, and then lists Jesus' baptismal activities and the use of water baptism as the method of joining the Church after Jesus' death. They include Acts 2:38 and 2:41 and another 2-dozen or so passages.
So we discussed the fact that baptism in Acts 2:38 meant water baptism. Not in his mind. He felt it was just a conversion experience, and no water involved. He had no interest in authoritative sources.
As we were wrapping up, Matt Slick of CARM came over to get into the conversation. I have spoken with Matt in the past, but he either did not remember or chose to ignore the memory. So I posed the question to him as well: Does Acts 2:38 teach baptism provides forgiveness of sins? Without going down all the side paths he tried to go, I kept bringing it back to this question: Do the words mean what is written. For anyone who has forgotten, the context is that after Peter preaches to the Jews at the day of Pentecost, they as Peter and the Apostles this famous question: "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Peter replies: "Acts 2:38: Then Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
Pretty clear passage. So first he tried to explain the passage away as lacking full context. It was incomplete because it did not address if Faith were needed. But the passage does address all those areas of concern, if you read down to verse 46. So I asked him again, does the passage teach baptism can forgive sins. Again, he said no, tried to deflect to later chapters in Acts. He then tried to pull a piece of very poor scholarship out. It is called the "causal eis", because the word "eis" in Greek is translated as the word "for". He asserted it should be translated "because". In modern times this argument has its source in Julius Mantey's Greek grammar. His arguments were thoroughly devasted by Dr. Ralph Marcus, to the point where in his later life, Mantey likewise concluded that the best translation for the passage was "for the remission of sins", leaving exactly nobody who believed the "causal eis". Yet here was Matt Slick trying to pull out this false teaching to support his view. When I noted Mantey himself had recanted such an opinion, I asked him yet again if the passage taught that baptism can lead to the forgiveness of sins. He again said no. At that point I shook his hand, and said "Matt, it's been nice to meet you." I started to leave, he wanted to argue some point, and I just said "I'm good." He retorted "Romans 5:1, why would you not believe God's word? What are you running for?" I said, "I'm not running, its a waste of time." He said, "Yes you are, Romans 5:1, I'm going to prove you wrong, what are you running for?"
I leave it to those who were there to decide if I ran. For my part, I just didn't feel it was leading anywhere. Mr. Slick, for what I think are obvious reasons, refused to provide a cogent justification of his view of Acts 2:38, and had even used a source in his defense which he most certainly must have known was not valid to try and justify his false interpretation of the passage. Maybe he didn't know, I can't know for sure, but he knew exactly who Mantey was, and therefore he should have known of his retraction in regards to this passage. In my opinion this made him a less than honest party in the conversation. You can hear on the video as I walk away him saying to the kid I had started speaking with "That guy's a bully. He's a bully." For the life of me, I don't know how I can be a bully by simply defending my faith, not attacking theirs. And he seems to have forgotten he walked over and engaged me, not the other way around. Unless he feels like it is unfair for me to debate scripture with him because he can't keep up, I am at a loss to know what would constitute me being the bully. Truly, I am sorry if he feels that way.
I will discuss the other conversations in Part 2.