Thursday

Mormons, mormons, everywhere

And not a mean one in sight.

We have 18 Mormon guys on their mission right around the block. 18. That's 9 pairs of "Elder" nomenclatured young men in white short sleeves going door to door for 10 hours a day, 6 days a week. That's 540 man hours of evangelism every week to welcome people into a cult. Think the devil takes a siesta?

Our new neighbors moved in a week ago. He is a structural engineer and is responsible for building the largest Mormon temple in Central America. Right across the street from the toy store. He has built temples in Chile, Venezuela, Panama and Costa Rica. They have 6 children, all daughters, all grown but one, and they are maybe the nicest people we have ever met.

We helped them move in, install their fridge, hoist an entertainment center made of exotic Costa Rican wood up a balcony, made them dinner, broke down boxes, let them use our fridge and freezer, helped them get things around town and let them in on some cultural things specific to Guatemala. We've taken them to the market and the grocery store and chased after their poodle when it got away. And we do all those things because they are human and are our neighbors and needed a little help. And we love them because Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.

They have made us cinnamon rolls and helped install latches on our kids' closets and offered to teach Jenny how to sew and offered to let me borrow his enormous assortment of tools. They offered to baby sit and gave all their boxes to Gladys so she could sell them. They gave us a book on raising kids and complimented me when I practiced my euphonium. They do it because...

Well, I don't know why they do it. It may be because we are human and need help. I do not think it is because they love Christ because they do not believe He is who He says He is. I am almost certain they are not filled with the Holy Spirit and so are not helped by His power and presence. But the reality is that I do not know.

And yet Mormons make the nicest neighbors, don't they?

Go ahead. Tell me they are earning their salvation so they work their butts off. You'd be right. Go ahead and tell me that it's all a veneer and deep down they are just fallen/unregenerate/unsaved/pre-saved/Un-Christian/fill-in-your-moniker. Go ahead and tell me they are faking it.

I'll tell you it seems a lot more real than many Christians I know.

Don't be mistaken - if they believe Mormon doctrine I do not believe they are saved from the wrath and judgment of God. I believe Mormons are wrong. They do not worship the Triune God.

I do. We (the family of believers) do. We are supposed to be filled with the Holy Spirit, God's empowering presence who transforms us and gives us gifts and gives us the very power of God to behave in a manner that matches our faith. To have, as Titus was charged with, sound doctrine and good works.

I see studies on faith in the US and the number of people attending churches is declining. The heart of Christianity has moved from the US to Latin America and Africa and Asia. Whole denominations are actually arguing whether homosexuals should be ordained. We get upset at something in our churches and so we form another church. Do you know there are 34,000 Christian denominations? No cults included. Take the Catholics out and were down to 33,999.

Jesus prayed for us the night of His arrest. He prayed that we would be one as He and the Father are one so that the world might believe in Him. How well do you think we're doing? No wonder people look to churches and say, "You know what, I'll pass"

They see a church who claims to be filled with people who know God and claim that God changed them and yet they look just like everyone else. We have ceased, in large part, to worship God as He is and have neutered ourselves in the process. We who are supposed to be known by our love, kindness, humility, and compassion for the hurting are instead known for our politics, fractures, theological arguments and a general "we're better than you" attitude. I'll be honest when I tell you that I was excited that Mormons were moving in next door instead of missionaries from the States because at least I knew they would be nice. How tragic is that?

And so...I'll end my rant. And ask that if you actually walk the real thing, KEEP DOING IT. Please. Keep being a follower of Christ, filled with His Sprit, representing Him and telling His message to the people you meet. If you are mean and divisive and look down on people - shame on you. Stop it or go worship someone else because the Holy Spirit doesn't act like that and neither should you. And if you are broken and in the process of getting fixed (as I am) them just hold onto the Lord and take it one day at a time. You speak truth by your honesty and the reality of your transformation.

And talk to your Mormon neighbors. They're actually really nice. And have problems just like us. And need the Lord just like us.

59 comments:

Mormons Are Christian said...

The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) is often accused some people of not believing in Christ and, therefore, not being a Christian religion. This post helps to clarify such misconceptions by examining early Christianity's theology relating to baptism, the Godhead, the deity of Jesus Christ and His Atonement.

Baptism:

Early Christian churches, practiced baptism of youth (not infants) by immersion by the father of the family. The local congregation had a lay ministry. An early Christian Church has been re-constructed at the Israel Museum, and the above can be verified. The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) continues baptism and a lay ministry as taught by Jesus’ Apostles. Early Christians were persecuted for keeping their practices sacred, and prohibiting non-Christians from witnessing them.

The Trinity:

A literal reading of the New Testament points to God and Jesus Christ , His Son , being separate , divine beings , united in purpose. . To whom was Jesus praying in Gethsemane, and Who was speaking to Him and his apostles on the Mount of Transfiguration? The Nicene Creed’s definition of the Trinity was influenced by scribes translating the Greek manuscripts into Latin. The scribes embellished on a passage explaining the Trinity , which is the Catholic and Protestant belief that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The oldest versions of the epistle of 1 John, read: "There are three that bear witness: the Spirit, the water and the blood and these three are one." Scribes later added "the Father, the Word and the Spirit," and it remained in the epistle when it was translated into English for the King James Version, according to Dr. Bart Ehrman, Chairman of the Religion Department at UNC- Chapel Hill. He no longer believes in the Nicene Trinity. . Scholars agree that Early Christians believed in an embodied God; it was neo-Platonist influences that later turned Him into a disembodied Spirit. For example, it was an emperor (Constantine) . who introduced a term, homoousious, which defined the Son as “consubstantial” (one being) with the Father. Neither term or anything like it is in the New Testament. Harper’s Bible Dictionary entry on the Trinity says “the formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the New Testament.” Furthermore, 11 of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were non-Trinitarian Christians http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2009/01/richard_price.php The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) views the Trinity as three separate divine beings , in accord with the earliest Greek New Testament manuscripts and the Founders.

Theosis

Divinization, narrowing the space between God and humans, was also part of Early Christian belief. St. Athanasius of Alexandria (Eastern Orthodox) wrote, regarding theosis, "The Son of God became man, that we might become God." Irenaeus wrote in the late 2nd Century: “we have not been made gods from the beginning, but at first merely men, then at length gods” Justin Martyr in mid 2nd Century said: “all men are deemed worthy of becoming ‘gods,’ and of having power to become sons of the Highest” Jerome wrote that God "made man for that purpose, that from men they may become gods." Clement of Alexandria said worthy men "are called by the appellation of gods, being destined to sit on thrones with the other gods that have been first put in their places by the Savior." Origen in reference to 1 Corinthians 8:5-6 said "Now it is possible that some may dislike what we have said representing the Father as the one true God, but admitting other beings besides the true God, who have become gods by having a share of God . . As, then there are many gods, but to us there is but one God the Father, and many Lords, but to us there is one Lord, Jesus Christ.” The Gospel of Thomas (which pre-dates the 4 Gospels, but was considered non-canonical by the Nicene Council) quotes the Savior: "He who will drink from my mouth will become as I am: I myself shall become he, and the things that are hidden will be revealed to him," (Gospel of Thomas 50, 28-30, Nag Hammadi Library in English, J.M.Robinson, 1st ed 1977; 3rd ed. 1988) For further information on this subject, refer to http://NewTestamentTempleRitual.blogspot.com The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) agrees with Early Christian church leaders regarding theosis.

To paraphrase Origin’s thoughts in the words of Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) Apostle, Bruce R. McConkie: "There is and can only be one who is supreme, who is the head and to whom all others are subject". Becoming like God is not saying we will ever be equal to Him, frankly we won't and can't He, and only He, will forever be worshipped by us.

The Deity of Jesus Christ

Mormons hold firmly to the deity of Christ. For members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS), Jesus is not only the Son of God but also God the Son. Evangelical pollster George Barna found in 2001 that while only 33 percent of American Catholics, Lutherans, and Methodists (28 percent of Episcopalians) agreed that Jesus was “without sin”, 70 percent of Mormons believe Jesus was sinless.

The Cross and Christ’s Atonement:

The Cross became popular as a Christian symbol in the Fifth Century A.D. . Members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) believe the proper Christian symbol is Christ’s resurrection , not his crucifixion on the Cross. Many Mormon chapels feature paintings of the resurrected Christ or His Second Coming. Furthermore, members of the church believe the major part of Christ’s atonement occurred in the Garden of Gethsemane as Christ took upon him the sins of all mankind.

Grace Versus Works

One Evangelical Christian author wrote of his sudden discovery that his previous beliefs about salvation were very different from those held by the early Christians:

“If there's any single doctrine that we would expect to find the faithful associates of the apostles teaching, it's the doctrine of salvation by faith alone. After all, that is the cornerstone doctrine of the Reformation. In fact, we frequently say that persons who don't hold to this doctrine aren't really Christians…
Our problem is that Augustine, Luther, and other Western theologians have convinced us that there's an irreconcilable conflict between salvation based on grace and salvation conditioned on works or obedience. They have used a fallacious form of argumentation known as the "false dilemma," by asserting that there are only two possibilities regarding salvation: it's either (1) a gift from God or (2) it's something we earn by our works.
The early Christians [and Latter-day Saints!] would have replied that a gift is no less a gift simply because it's conditioned on obedience....
The early Christians believed that salvation is a gift from God but that God gives His gift to whomever He chooses. And He chooses to give it to those who love and obey him.”
—David W. Bercot, Will The Real Heretics Please Stand Up: A New Look at Today's Evangelical Church in the Light of Early Christianity, 3rd edition, (Tyler, Texas: Scroll Publishing Company, 1999[1989]), 57, 61–62.

The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) agrees with the earliest Christians that grace is conditioned upon obedience to Jesus Christ’s commandments.

Definition of “Christian”: .

But Mormons don’t term Catholics and Protestants “non-Christian”. They believe Christ’s atonement applies to all mankind. The dictionary definition of a Christian is “of, pertaining to, believing in, or belonging to a religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ”: All of the above denominations are followers of Christ, and consider him divine, and the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament. They all worship the one and only true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and address Him in prayer as prescribed in The Lord’s Prayer. It’s important to understand the difference between Reformation and Restoration when we consider who might be authentic Christians. . Early Christians had certain rituals which defined a Christian , which members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) continue today. . If members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) embrace early Christian theology, they are likely more “Christian” than their detractors.

• The Need for a Restoration of the Christian Church:

The founder of the Baptist Church in America, Roger Williams, just prior to leaving the church he established, said this: "There is no regularly constituted church of Christ on earth, nor any person qualified to administer any church ordinances; nor can there be until new apostles are sent by the Great Head of the Church for whose coming I am seeking.” (Picturesque America, p. 502.) Martin Luther had similar thoughts: "Nor can a Christian believer be forced beyond sacred Scriptures,...unless some new and proved revelation should be added; for we are forbidden by divine law to believe except what is proved either through the divine Scriptures or through Manifest revelation." He also wrote: "I have sought nothing beyond reforming the Church in conformity with the Holy Scriptures. The spiritual powers have been not only corrupted by sin, but absolutely destroyed; so that there is now nothing in them but a depraved reason and a will that is the enemy and opponent of God. I simply say that Christianity has ceased to exist among those who should have preserved it." The Lutheran, Baptist and Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) churches recognize an apostasy from early Christianity. The Lutheran and Baptist churches have attempted reform, but Mormonism (and Roger Williams, and perhaps Martin Luther) require inspired restoration, so as to re-establish an unbroken line of authority and apostolic succession.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .* * *

• Christ-Like Lives:

•The 2005 National Study of Youth and Religion published by UNC-Chapel Hill found that Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) youth (ages 13 to 17) were more likely to exhibit these Christian characteristics than Evangelicals (the next most observant group):

1. Attend Religious Services weekly
2. Importance of Religious Faith in shaping daily life – extremely important
3. Believes in life after death
4. Does NOT believe in psychics or fortune-tellers
5. Has taught religious education classes
6. Has fasted or denied something as spiritual discipline
7. Sabbath Observance
8. Shared religious faith with someone not of their faith
9. Family talks about God, scriptures, prayer daily
10. Supportiveness of church for parent in trying to raise teen (very supportive)
11. Church congregation has done an excellent job in helping teens better understand their own sexuality and sexual morality

. LDS . Evangelical
1. 71% . . 55%
2. 52 . . . 28
3. 76 . . . 62
4. 100 . . 95
5. 42 . . . 28
6. 68 . . . 22
7. 67 . . . 40
8. 72 . . . 56
9. 50 . . . 19
10 65 . . . 26
11 84 . . . 35

So what do you think the motivation is for some folks to call the Mormon Church a "cult"? You would think they would be emulating Mormon practices (a creed to believe, a place to belong, a calling to live out, and a hope to hold onto) which were noted by Methodist Rev. Kenda Creasy Dean of the Princeton Theological Seminary, as causing Mormon teenagers to “top the charts” in Christian characteristics. It seems obvious pastors shouldn't be denigrating a church based on First Century Christianity, with high efficacy. The only plausible reason to denigrate Mormons by calling the church a "cult" is for pastors to protect their flock (and their livelihood).

A Baptist minister says the Book of Mormon is consistent with Jesus Christ’s teachings in the New Testament: http://www.centerplace.org/library/bofm/baptistversionofbofm.htm

Thaddeus said...

We Mormons do it because...Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.

Seriously. Our motivation is centered on Jesus Christ of Nazareth, born to the virgin Mary. We just want to emulate Him.

You don't have to believe me, but consider this: "Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Wherefore, by their fruits ye shall know them" (Matthew 7:16,20).

What Do Mormons Believe?

Ian said...

I've never, ever met a Mormon that I didn't like, man. They're some of the nicest people I've ever met. Theological differences aside, I think they generally put a lot of Christians (as we tend to think of them) to shame in terms of behaving like Jesus did. I think the church at large could learn a few things from them, especialy how they foster that sense of authentic community. From my experience, it's pretty genuine, man.

Ian said...

And prepare to be inundated with comments, bro :-)

Brandon and Jenny said...

It is curious to me that the 2 Mormon friends even posted on here. Do you regularly read my blog?

The post wasn't directed at Mormons but at Christians. And yes, I use those terms distinct from one another.

I don't have time to debate right now but I will affirm the fact that Mormon doctrine and Christian doctrine are incompatible. I will also affirm the Trinity as taught in Scripture, and the deity and humanity of the Incarnate Christ as unique in history and eternity.

Have at it, folks.

Clayton said...

Look what you started Brandon. I will comment at length later.

And I know, I AM the worst blogger ever.

Anonymous said...

yes, i will be back as well. mormons are very nice, as are christians and non christians. they are very nice, but, they are not christians. i'm sad about it, because i have many wonderful students who are mormon, but god love em, they aren't saved.

Anonymous said...

I've always also wondered why and how they can be so consistently NICE. they are incredibly nice.

Brandon and Jenny said...

Thaddeus - Thank you for posting here.

I am curious, however, that when you say your motivation is based on Jesus of Nazareth, I wonder what you mean?

I ask this because Jesus claimed He was God eternal, made flesh in the incarnation. Not the literal birthed (procreated) son of the heavenly Father and one of the heavenly mothers, as Mormon theology teaches. When John 3:16 says, "begotten" the meaning is "unique, one of a kind" not birthed. Christ is eternal - He never began - and we cannot become God (or a god) as He is because we had a beginning where as Christ had no beginning.

If you place your faith in a Jesus who is false, are you truly saved?

Are you basing your belief on who Jesus claimed to be or on who other people claim He is?

Thanks again for the post.

Mike Messerli said...

Brandon, you have indeed opened the proverbial "can of worms". there are those in the mormon church whose job is to google "mormon" and deal with us who are bold enough to talk about them. if I ever want to get a lot of comments all I have to do is put "MORMON" in the title and tell the truth about their faith....boy do I get comments from them. I know they don't read my blog, so I also know there are those whose work is to address us who talk about them...it happens every time. You are right on two things- 1. they are nice, and 2. they are sadly lost. I do wish they could see the truth, but they are so sadly deceived. I care deeply for those mormons I meet, but they are very sincere. I guess I would also agree with your point on Christians- oh that we were genuine and loving in our lifestyles as most mormons are. This is a very good post. I will pray for you, you indeed have a big task ahead of you if they have moved into your world. My advice- genuinely love them, pray for them and don't back down from the truth!

Clayton said...

Two questions to our Mormon friends. 1) If you believe that we will all follow the path of our God and become gods, and that our GOd also was at one time a man who became a god, who was the first "God" who started everything? As Paul says on Mars hill, this "unkown" GOD is the God I present to you as true the one who created everything. And 2) Christians, meaning protestants and Catholics, belive as Brandon stated, the Triune God had no beginning and thus always was as He is now, and you belive that God was a man the same as you and I are now, then who can you claim to be Christian as yet worship a fundamentally differnt God than Christians do? It would be like me saying I am a Muslim also because of some lose conection between Alah and YHWY. Mormons believe in and worship a God wholly different from the God of Christianity and thus the God of the bible.

Also in response to some comments below. The percentages of who does what below, and who ascribes to what ideas means nothing to me in terms of salvation. Jesus was constantly critical of those who put forth their deeds of obedience as an end in themselves. He called them whitewashed tombs and a brood of vipers. Yet Christianity is about faith in the sacrifice of Messiah and following him as King, and doing good deeds to show yourself to be a faithful member of GOd's house, not doing good deeds to gain entrance into God's house. In Isaiah it says that our righteous deeds are as filthy rags before the Lord. And to assume that we can do anything to put God in subjection to us, that our "good deeds" would obligate God to bless us is tenuous place to rest, and I pray that you would reconsider your position and throw yourself at the mercy found in the cross and resurrection of the Messiah.

Brandon and Jenny said...

I guess our Mormon visitors are not interested in a discussion.

Mark said...

When I first moved to Phoenix we experienced much of the same hospitality you have described, with families graciously making meals, helping us unpack, etc. They were equally as supportive when it was time to leave, even though I had let them know, as a devout Catholic, there wasn't any chance of conversion. I agree with others' comments that some Mormons are some of the best people you'll meet. We have a lot to learn from their organization and charity.

I'm no relativist, but I would also point out that you're not likely to get anywhere with them by calling them a cult. I run into 'bible christians' all the time who throw those kinds of perjoratives around about Catholics, and the only thing it convinces me of is their ignorance.

Thaddeus said...

I'm sorry for the delay in my response. I was hiking in Goblin Valley all day yesterday.

First, I love the gospel of Jesus Christ and I try to find ways of sharing and clarifying our beliefs in any way I can. I did stumble upon your blog through a search, and I hope you will forgive me for intruding. (We aren't assigned to google "Mormon", it's just my hobby).

We do believe that Jesus Christ existed eternally before His miraculous birth, as the birthright spirit Son of God the Father. We identify the pre-mortal Jesus as Jehovah, who showed himself to Moses and spoke to Isaiah.

We were also eternally existent before birth as spirit children of the Father. (The prayer reads, Our Father, who art in heaven..., not Jesus' Father, who art in heaven...).

The inconsistencies you perceive in Mormonism are between your worldview and ours. Mormonism is perfectly compatible with the Bible, which is our primary source for information about Jesus' life and ministry. If you'd like to discuss these topics with me more fully, please visit my website:

What Do Mormons Believe?

Lastly, I'd like you to respond to the point of my original comment. Do men gather figs of thistles? If Mormonism were equivalent to Satanism, as your original post implied, wouldn't you expect to find fruits of the devil in our demeanor?

I mean, maybe one or two devil-worshipers could convincingly con people into thinking they were good, but an entire church of millions? Where are we getting our figs from?

reuminations said...

I just wanna know who won the "who can do the most for the other" contest?

Brandon and Jenny said...

Thaddeus - thanks again for your comments. Wow. Goblin Valley looks really, really cool. That is absolutely wild. What is that, sandstone? I hope you had a good time.

I've been busy and unable to respond until today. I used the KJV so there would be no debate as to the version of the Bible.

You are right when you say that Mormons bear better fruit than many Christians in generally being more kind and helpful to people. But not all Mormons bear that fruit as not all Christians do.

I say this because behavior does not bring us salvation. Faith does. Eph 2:8, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast." Paul also tells us in 2 Cor 11 that, "13For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 14And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. "

To tell me that people look Christian is not a valid argument due to these verses. The Pharisees appeared righteous. It is our faith in Who Christ Is that makes all the difference.

Regarding the person of Christ:

Bruce McConkie, a Mormon theologian writes this: "God the Father is a perfected, glorified, holy man, an immortal Personage. And Christ was born into the world as the literal Son of this Holy Being; He was born in the same personal, real and literal sense that any mortal son is born to a mortal father. There is nothing figurative about this paternity; He was begotten, conceived, and born in the normal and natural course of events, for He is the Son of God, and that designation means what it says."

This is in direct contradiction to the Bible. God the Father as well as Christ are God Immortal. God the Father and Jesus cannot be 'perfected' because they were from eternity perfect. God cannot change. To be perfected requires a change from worse to better - an utter impossibility with God.

The Mormon book Doctrine and Covenants (93:21) states "The difference between Jesus and other offspring of Elohim is one of degree not of kind"

The Bible says (John 1), "1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2The same was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made."

How could Jesus be the literal, born Son and yet be with God and be God before eternity began? Birth implies beginning and Jesus never began - God cannot begin. To say that the only difference between me (us - humans) and the man John speaks of, through whom "all things were made and without him was not anything made" is only a difference of degree is to elevate ourselves to the status of God. Which is of course what Mormons believe - that we can become god.

You also stated, "Mormonism is perfectly compatible with the Bible, which is our primary source for information about Jesus' life and ministry."

The Bible is not, however, the ultimate, authoritative source for Mormon belief. The holy books of Mormon do not agree with the Bible about who Jesus Christ is and new revelation can be given to the President of the Mormon church to correct falsehoods (such as the position of Blacks).

My point is that all other sources of revelation must bow before the Risen Christ and the Bible as God's revelation to us. Otherwise we can just make up whatever we want and call it a new revelation.

Jesus said, while praying to His Father in John 17:3, "3And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent."

There is only One God - the true God, and eternal life is found in knowing Him, not being kind or friendly. Jesus claimed to be "I AM" - "YAHWEH" who spoke from the burning bush (John 8). How can He claim to be God and say there is only one true God and be telling the truth? Surely you do not think Jesus could lie? The only way is if there is only One God who exits in three persons.

May all Glory be to Him.

Brandon and Jenny said...

Oh, Stephen, they made soup for us when we got home from vacation so, they're one up on us.

Thaddeus said...

Goblin Valley is one of my favorite places on earth. If you ever travel to Utah, I recommend you visit.

I apologize for bringing a contentious tone to your blog. I didn't mean for it to become a battle.

You bring a lot of good points up, and I would happily share my perspective with you on them, but I'm not sure this is the best forum for such a lengthy discussion. A face-to-face chat would be more effective at bringing the Holy Spirit. Will you ask your kind neighbors or the missionaries down the street to address these topics?

I would like to comment on just one thing you mentioned: "The Bible is not, however, the ultimate, authoritative source for Mormon belief."

You are right about this.

The Bible is not the ultimate authority in Mormonism. Neither is the Book of Mormon nor is the Doctrine and Covenants.

God the Father is our ultimate authority.

When missionaries share their message, they invite people to ask God if their teachings are true. And He does answer them.

All the scriptures, including the Bible, are given to testify of God and of Jesus Christ. They are useful tools in the work of God, but God and His authority would still exist and direct the universe even if there were no Bible.

Invite those you teach (as missionaries) to ask God if what you say is true. Then they can learn from Him what is true and not have to rely solely on interpretation of scripture (which can sometimes be manipulated).

Therefore, ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for he that asketh, receiveth; and unto him that knocketh, it shall be opened. 3 Nephi 27:29

Mark said...

Something Thaddeus said struck me as insightful. He mentioned that scripture was not his ultimate authority, but rather, God. As a Catholic, I have to agree with this point. When Christ ascended into heaven, the Bible didn't drop down into the apostles' hands, it was put together over four centuries. It took some cajoling by the Emperor and a Ecumenical Council to codify the scriptures. That canon survived intact until the reformation.

On another note, I ran into some LDS missionaries on the chicken bus between San Pedro las Huertas and Antigua. I invited them to my house for lunch or a drink (!), but I must have scared them off since there have been no sightings!

Mike Messerli said...

Mark,

sorry, I can't resist after reading your words, but your information is NOT correct. You should check your facts before you write. And, if scripture is not inspired and the final authority then you have none at all! You have a problem!

Mark said...

Mike,

If anything I said was erroneous, I welcome your correction.

Point of correction: I never said scripture wasn't inspired, but I did claim it is not the final authority. If scripture claims for itself complete authority and denies the authority of tradition or the Church, I would very much like to know about it.

Mike Messerli said...

Scripture DOES declare itself FINAL authority. That discussion has been done thousands of times, so to quote chapter and verse would not be beneficial at this point. Here is the point- The bible declares VERY clearly that it IS the word of God and that it IS the final authority and IS the FINAL revelation from God ALL focused on Jesus Christ UNTIL he returns. The last book of the bible clearly puts a period at the end of God's revelation. See also Romans 1, Heb. 1, the last chapter of Revelation, and a hundred other scriptures. Every cult I have ever talked to says they have MORE or NEW revelation beyond the word of God. I'm sorry, the bible does NOT leave that option open. So, as much as you might want to believe it, there is NOT a living prophet or a prophet or revelation beyond the last period of the book of Revelation. To claim otherwise is to declare the bible itself a lie. Is that clear enough?

Mark said...

Mike, you asserted that scripture was the 'final authority', I disputed that and asked you for proof, and you've declined to provide it. If it were really so simple, surely you need merely open a reference book and pull out the relevant passages. As it is, I find nothing in Romans 1 or Hebrews 1 or the last chapter of the Apocalypse that claims this authority.

In adult discourse, the burden of proof falls upon he who makes the allegation. If you have based your faith on the aforementioned premise, surely it is worth citing the exact verse rather than vague references to different books of the canon.

Mark

Thaddeus said...

So, I'm curious now. Do you actually believe that the Bible has more authority than God?

Brandon and Jenny said...

I'll let Mike speak for himself. He's a big boy.

Mike Messerli said...

Thad, Are you serious? May I tell you, honestly, that your question is a nonsense question. Do you consider me an idiot? a fool? Come on, how about some HONEST discussion. I gave you several scriptures in my post. Did you not even read what I said? And now you insult me with this question- "Do you actually believe that the Bible has more authority than God?" Do I seem a fool to you? How old are you? Am I talking to a novice in your faith? I have been an active, aggressive student of the bible and its manuscripts for over 45 years, and you ask me this? How about an intelligent question? Do I even need to answer such a question? Let me ask one of you- Is the God of the bible the only God?

My question to you is just as stupid as your question to me. I know the answer, and if you answer it wrong I will be glad to lead you down a long trail of foolishness that I do not have time for, so Thad, to answer your question, here is the answer- The question makes no sense at all. It's illogical. If you want to ask a question, then ask one that has an answer I can give you that you can understand. Now, I know I have been harsh here, but, young man, you avow a knowledge you simply don't have. I hope someday you will find the Jesus of the bible and trust him as savior, but I do not have time for your games unless you are an honest inquirer.

Thaddeus said...

Mike, if my question is illogical, please explain to me why. Do not berate me for asking it.

I still want an answer. Which has more authority? God or the Bible?

Is the question illogical because you equate the Bible with God? Are they one and the same in your view?

I'm not trying to upset you. I'd really like to know what you believe and why this question makes no sense to you.

The question makes perfect sense to me: I believe God the Father is the ultimate authority and that the Bible derives its authority from Him.

James instructed the early Christians to go to God for answers:
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not and it shall be given him. James 1:5

Mike Messerli said...
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Mike Messerli said...
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Mike Messerli said...

Thad, I tried twice to word this just right, but it's much too hard to do in this format. Let me simply ask this- what is your faith? Are you Mormon or some other faith? The answer to that question will tell me how I can help you understand this. If you want to really talk about this I would ask that you share a little about your religious background so I know how to explain this, ok?

Reason? If you are Catholic I would explain it one way, if you are Muslim I would approach it another way, etc.

Mark said...

Mike, tell us simply and directly what you believe, and why. It seems to me that truth need not be 'spun' in any different way.

Thaddeus and I may have very different theological beliefs but we share a desire for the truth and would like your direct and honest answers. Your posts thus far have been long on rhetoric and short on substance.

Mike Messerli said...

Mark and Thad,

You both say you want truth.

The reason I have not gone into detail is that I simply do not have time. To tell you correctly and biblically what I believe and discuss it here would take more time than I have right now, sorry guys, I'm not avoiding you....I simply can't give this the time I would like, but will try to connect with you when I can get past this busy schedule.

Again, I'm not avoiding you, I must simply deal with my real world here first. Thanks for your patience.

Mark said...

Mike,

That's a reasonable answer.

Brandon, I noticed you have previously advanced a similar notion to Mike's, viz., when you wrote, "The Bible is not, however, the ultimate, authoritative source for Mormon belief", which would imply the bible IS the ultimate, authoritative source for your belief.

I'm curious, Brandon, whether I have understood you correctly, and secondly, whether you have time to defend this statement?

No doubt as a missionary here in Guatemala the conversion of souls to your faith is of paramount importance.

Mark

Brandon and Jenny said...

Thaddeus - I've already addressed our discussion (I think) as much as is useful in this forum. So this is directed to Mark. Thanks for both your comments.

An aside: Mike is the most dedicated servant of Christ (and lover of Him) that I know. He works tirelessly to love and serve and minister to the lost and the people of the church. I'm not speaking for him but we do agree.

The question comes down to inspiration (where did we get the Bible) and inerrancy (is the Bible without error). Who wrote the Bible? God or men? Both. Men penned it (wrote the words) inspired by the God the Holy Spirit. The original writings were without error. The translations we have today are so very close that, though not without error, they can indeed be trusted.

You ask whether the Bible is the ultimate source for my belief and I will answer you, "Yes."

1 Tim 3:16 "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,"

We do not call the Bible the word of God by accident. It is God's words to us. It is God's revelation to us. Jesus Christ is the Word, God in the flesh. And the Bible is the record we have of God's revelation to us. I am told in the above verse that the Bible is inspired (Breathed by God) and is useful for doctrine, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness.

Now, let me ask you. How do you go about getting your doctrine? How do you reprove or get reproved? How are you corrected? How are you trained/instructed in righteousness? What is YOUR source?

Would God have given us the Bible for these things if it were not authoritative? When God speaks, as He did and does through the Bible, what authority do His words have? If Jesus says, "Love one another", what part is not authoritative? If that is authoritative, 1 Tim 3:16 says that ALL Scripture has the same authority.

If I say that God is my ultimate authority (and He is) and yet tell Him that his very words to me are NOT also authoritative, I am playing word games and ignoring the very instructions He gave me.

Mark said...

Brandon,

Thanks for your response. 1 Timothy may confirm scripture is inspired, profitable, etc., but this was not the question. In fact, in the two verses preceding the one you referenced, St. Paul refers to apostolic tradition as the basis for Timothy's faith.

If my question was not precise enough, let me clarify. Many Christians would agree that scripture is inspired, etc., but would disagree as to the authority. You and Mike have claimed scripture is the sole and ultimate authority.

1 Timothy does not support your assertion. In fact, I would respond that scripture itself contradicts your claim. For example, St. Paul tells us to practice the traditions he has taught (1 Cor 11:1), and to hold fast to the traditions he taught, whether oral or written (2 Thess 2:15). It is not recorded in scripture what these traditions were (although it is elsewhere), but clearly he had apostolic authority and was binding the Christians to adhere to these laws. This passage alone should make certain that the apostles did not see scripture, much of which had not yet been written, as being the sole authority.

The problem is further compounded when we remember that Christ established a Church and gave to it the power to bind and loose, (Luke 10:16; Matt. 16:18, 18:18), which is a Jewish term that meant the power to teach, legislate and to forgive or bind sins. (It would only make sense that if Christ were leaving, he would delegate His authority to His Church in His absence.)

If scripture is the ultimate authority, there is no need for Christ to delegate his authority to such a Church, further, if he is leaving a complete and infallible canon with full authority, would he not leave it immediately and for the benefit of the first Christians?

In Matt 28:20 we find that we are to obey 'all' that Christ has commanded, as we see in John 20:30; 21:25, not ALL Jesus taught is in Scripture. How do we reconcile this with your assertion?

Finally, we have the problem of there not being a bible, as we know it today (or at least as it was until the 16th century), until the 4th century. Sure, some manuscripts were floating around, some of which were finally included in the canon, but nearly 300 others were considered and rejected. (I am not aware of any scholars rejecting this as historical fact.)

If there were a dissenter on this point, I would merely inquire as to the oldest known complete canon.

The first issue this brings about is how Christians knew what to believe or how to live their lives if there was no bible for several centuries, and if they did have some portion of the new testament, how they went about deciding which was authentic and which was not.

Secondly, if you accept the bible as authoritative, then you implicitly acknowledge the authority of those men who chose which books of the bible to put together. After all, why do you place faith in the Gospel of Matthew but not, say, the so-called Gospel of Judas, or Thomas, or Mary Magdalene? Someone, somewhere made those decisions.

You've raised a great many other good questions, but since this was the original question and you were kind enough to answer it, I'll stick with it before moving on.

Brandon and Jenny said...

Mark - You're Catholic. Roman Catholic. I'm assuming we're going to disagree on a lot. Just know that I'm not angry though I may get passionate at times. I hope to answer your questions with my answers here. Peace to you.

Ok. You believe that the Church (clarify - the Roman Catholic church) has equal authority with the Bible. Am I correct there?

I do not believe that. I believe that the church derives it's authority and submits to God by what He has revealed to us in His word.

This is a post about Mormonism, not Catholic Revelatory authority. My argument is with the LDS claims about Jesus - that He is not co-equal God with the Father and the Spirit. I do hope you believe in the Trinity. I assume you do. They do not and that makes them a cult.

You say "Many Christians would agree that scripture is inspired, etc., but would disagree as to the authority."

Why would God inspire a non-authoritative scripture? What sense does that make. Where do we stop adding authority structures? The Roman Catholic church is full of traditions that are wrong: confession to priests for forgiveness, penance, Mary's non imputation of original sin, selling indulgences, the Inquisition, the Crusades, praying to Mary and the saints, purgatory and the supreme inspired authority of the Pope.

I'm not picking a fight here, just pointing out that tradition cannot be authoritative if it can be changed.

You said, "The first issue this brings about is how Christians knew what to believe or how to live their lives if there was no bible for several centuries, and if they did have some portion of the new testament, how they went about deciding which was authentic and which was not."

The same Sovereign God who inspired the Scriptures led others to recognize which books would compromise the canon. I take it by faith, man. Just like you do the authority of the Papacy. The 39 books of the OT were already being used by those Christians. The letters of the NT were in circulation during that time and being used and they compared the letters to what they knew happened as they talked with those who walked with Christ. Peter accepted Paul's letters as authoritative.

Also, you said, "Secondly, if you accept the bible as authoritative, then you implicitly acknowledge the authority of those men who chose which books of the bible to put together. After all, why do you place faith in the Gospel of Matthew but not, say, the so-called Gospel of Judas, or Thomas, or Mary Magdalene? Someone, somewhere made those decisions."

You are right. Someone did make those decisions. Someone added Judas. Do you put that in the Bible? What about the Maccabees? Someone added those books as well. Where do we stop adding books? Why not add them now?

And I do not place my faith in the book of Matthew I place it in the person and work of the Lord Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity, who became a man and died and rose again as the propitiation for my sins (and everyone else's) and to justify and reconcile me to the Father. I trust Him through His word but even if I didnt' have the Bible I would trust Him anyway because He is God and He alone is my salvation and worthy of praise. I do not put my faith in ANY OTHER thing for salvation except Jesus Christ and what He has done. Nothing. No institution. No works I do. The Person who made me and saved me and loves me and leads me and transforms me day by day - in Him alone do I trust.

The Bible exists in part to maintain the purity of the Gospel. We maintain the same story because the Scripture remains unchanged. We are saved by grace through faith, and that not of ourselves. It is a gift of God that no one may boast. We are saved by grace alone through faith in Christ alone. That is the Gospel I proclaim and will die to keep it's purity. Not trying to be over dramatic, but I mean it.


And please - stop giving the Mormon's more ammo.

Mark said...

Brandon,

I appreciate the sincerity in your reply but you ignored the question. As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm happy to answer all of your subsequent questions, but perhaps one at a time is most prudent if there is to be constructive dialogue.

With all due respect, changing the discussion to what you think I believe, rather than a defense of the argument you've put forward is just a red herring.

That having been said, this is your blog, and I'll respect your wish to keep it on topic. I'm open to dialogue by email or in person any time.

Mark

Thaddeus said...

I can finally see what you folks mean (Brandon, Jenny, and Mike): Because God is the ultimate authority His words written in the Bible carry the same authority.

And I agree with that. This is what I meant when I said the Bible derives its authority from God.

But let me bring the scope back to ground-level reality. Say I read something in the Bible that doesn't make much sense to me. Something like, "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten." Eccl. 9:5

This idea clashes with everything I've ever learned in Sunday School about the afterlife. So how do I reconcile it?

I would certainly begin by cross-referencing it with other scriptures. And when I read about Jesus preaching to the spirits in prison (1 Peter 3:19), this might confuse me all the more. Do dead men have consciousness then, if they can be preached to?

It seems that one contradicts the other, so I have to interpret the truth out of them. Perhaps one is figurative, or one is a poor translation. Should I find all the different verses that deal with death and spirits and whichever side has the majority is true?

Would you deem it inappropriate to ask God in prayer what is right?

This is what I mean by final and ultimate authority. Only God can declare what He meant in His holy scriptures.

Perhaps the real meat of the question is, do you believe God answers prayers?

"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? Matthew 7:11

Brandon and Jenny said...

Mark - Please explain to me how I ignored your question. I was not deflecting regarding what you believe. What you believe is integral to how I answer the question.

I thought I answered your questions. Please be specific as to how I did not.

Ian said...

I think this is pretty cool. I like you Mormon & Catholic guys. (I like Mike & Brando, too.)

Brandon and Jenny said...

Thaddeus - Thank you again for your input. I hope to answer your questions as well.

"Would you deem it inappropriate to ask God in prayer what is right?"

God looks through all our pretenses and knows our heart. To ask Him, "God, please show me your truth, please show me who you are" and to really mean it and then open the Bible and begin to read it, that must be one of the most appropriate things we humans can do. And I invite you to do it.


"Perhaps the real meat of the question is, do you believe God answers prayers?"

Yes I do. If not, God is a liar. He answers prayers, but not always how we thought He would or even should. God is not obligated to do anything for to be obligated requires something (a power, ideal or force) greater than you and there is nothing greater than God. God listens to people because He loves them. The important question to ask is, "To whom am I praying?" Only the God of the Bible is the One True God and to pray to anyone or anything else is to, literally, waste your breath.

I invite you to take the Bible and to read it and compare what it says with other Mormon holy books. Open your heart and your mind to God and ask Him to lead you in the truth. And when there is a disagreement, let all other books submit to the Bible.

And let me know what you find! Please e-mail me if you would like by going to my profile and website. And I will pray for you and await God's answer!

Mark said...

Brandon,

I asked you to prove that scripture claims for itself the authority you assign to it, viz., scripture is the ultimate authority for mankind.

You cited 1 Timothy as proof that scripture is inspired. I agreed, but pointed out that inspired is not the same as 'ultimate authority'.

You responded by asking me many questions about my beliefs.

I agreed to withdraw when you asked me to not 'give the Mormons more ammo' and that this post was about Mormonism. Now you've asked me a follow-up.

Mike responded to my question (as he did to Thaddeus), with arrogance and condescension. You've responded politely, but have not answered. Therefore, the question I posed days ago remains.


Mark

Brandon and Jenny said...

Mark,

If this is a dialog than I would like for you to answer the many questions I have asked you in my responses.

The purpose of communication is to create understanding, not prove my point. I did not ask you questions rhetorically, but in an attempt to clarify, among other things, why you deem my answers non-answers.

Please answer the questions I posed in attempting to answer (via dialog) your questions.

The "stop giving the Mormons more ammo" want meant tongue in cheek. I should have followed it with a smiley.

Thaddeus said...

Brandon and Jenny,

Thank you for your kind response.

I was beginning to worry during this long, convoluted discussion that you and Mike didn't believe that God can speak to us. Or at least that his answers are too unreliable to put any faith in.

Thank you for your advice to pray to the God of the Bible. I will continue doing so.

I invite you to take the Bible and to read it and compare what it says with other Mormon holy books. Open your heart and your mind to God and ask Him to lead you in the truth. And when there is a disagreement, let all other books submit to the God of the Bible.

This is my whole point. God is our ultimate authority, and He is the final source we can go to to resolve such discrepancies.

Near the end of the Book of Mormon you will find a passage that you should agree with (at least if you still believe God answers prayers):

"And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things." Moroni 10:3-5

I invite you to take this challenge. If you are confident the Book of Mormon is false and that the God of the Bible will confirm its fraudulence to you, what do you have to lose?

If He tells you through the Holy Spirit that it is true, what use will it be to dispute any further?

One way or another you will find out, because this is a question that God has an invested interest in. Good luck!

What Do Mormons Believe?

Brandon and Jenny said...

Thaddeus -

Let me ask you something. Do you need to ask God to speak to you in order to make clear that you should not sleep with your girlfriend or get drunk or refuse to forgive a person?

Why not?

Mark said...

Brandon,

You and Mike alleged the scripture was the ultimate (and sole) authority and I challenged that and asked for proof. Mike begged off and you cited one irrelevant verse. I consider the assertion, therefore, unproven.

To demonstrate good will, I’ll answer your questions. For the sake of brevity and clarity I’ve tried to condense your previous comments and keep the relevant components:

B: You believe that the Church (clarify - the Roman Catholic church) has equal authority with the Bible.

M: Yes, authentic tradition is on equal footing with scripture. I would say further that Christ founded the Church, gave it the power to bind and loose, and promised the gates of hell would never prevail against it (Matt 16).

B:I do not believe that. I believe that the church derives it's authority and submits to God by what He has revealed to us in His word.

M: What is your source for this belief? What church do you reference?

B: Why would God inspire a non-authoritative scripture? What sense does that make.

M: This is a strawman. I have denied your claim that scripture is the only, and final authority. That does not mean I claim it has no authority.

B: Where do we stop adding authority structures? The Roman Catholic church is full of traditions that are wrong: confession to priests for forgiveness, penance, Mary's non imputation of original sin, selling indulgences, the Inquisition, the Crusades, praying to Mary and the saints, purgatory and the supreme inspired authority of the Pope.

M. If you want a dialogue on each of those points, I would be happy to oblige. Since they are merely assertions that you have yet to prove, they remain in the same category as your sola scriptura opinion. You would have to first prove these things are false (or true, as it may be), then prove they undermine the authority of the Church. Since scripture is your only authority, that might be tough.

B: I'm not picking a fight here, just pointing out that tradition cannot be authoritative if it can be changed.

M: This is a false premise. You are assuming-but have not proven-that something which changes lacks authority. Do I lack authority over my family because I may change my mind, or because I am a sinner? Non sequitur; no more did the Church fail because Christ chose Judas as an apostle, or for that matter, any of the apostles. Paul corrected Peter, so did the Church fail? Absurd; this represents a terribly incomplete understanding of the Church (and a denial of Christ's promise regarding the indefectibility of the Church).

Further, if you did prove that something which changes loses authority, you would then have to prove the Roman Catholic Church changed essential doctrine. So you’re two very big steps away on this point.

B: The same Sovereign God who inspired the Scriptures led others to recognize which books would compromise the canon. I take it by faith, man. Just like you do the authority of the Papacy. The 39 books of the OT were already being used by those Christians. The letters of the NT were in circulation during that time and being used and they compared the letters to what they knew happened as they talked with those who walked with Christ. Peter accepted Paul's letters as authoritative.

M: If the Roman Catholic church did not codify the canon, who did? What were the names of the men who put together the new testament, when did they do so and where did they get the authority to do so (since all authority is from the bible)?

B: You are right [about someone making decisions as to the canon]. Someone did make those decisions. Someone added Judas. Do you put that in the Bible? What about the Maccabees? Someone added those books as well. Where do we stop adding books? Why not add them now?

M: Since Christ gave the authority to bind and loose to His Church, and the Church chose which writings were inspired, and which were not, I accept the canon promulgated by the Church. I accept it in totality. I do not abridge it or edit it, as the reformers did, simply because I do not like what is therein.

I have a few follow up questions:

I imagine you worship on Sunday, and seek to fulfill God's commandment to keep holy the sabbath on this day. Why not Saturday, which is the day proscribed by God and observed by Jews for all time? If the Roman Church lacked the authority to change observance of the sabbath to Sunday, why not worship on Saturday, as the SDA do?

You mentioned the Trinity earlier, and said adherence to this doctrine is what separates cults form non-cults, but the trinity is not taught in scripture. Why do you believe it? Would you say the Roman Church lacked the authority to declare this doctrine at the Council of Constantinople and at Nicea?

If scripture is the sole and final authority, who has any authority to interpret it? What if you and Mike disagree? How should faithful disciples understand scripture if no one has authority to interpret it for mankind?

Finally, can you find anyone before Luther who believed as you believe? Or would you say that the true faith was lost for the 15 centuries between Christ and the reformers? If so, how would you reconcile this with Christ's promise and the gift of the Holy Spirit as protector?

Zach said...

Mark, I have a question

If the church makes a decree that is contradictory to the teachings of the bible, does that decree override the bible? For an example you can refer to the various traditions Brandon listed which you begged off addressing.

If it does, then is God contradicting himself?

If the church is guided by the bible, doesn't that make the bible the word from which the church derives it's authority?

When the church does things that are contrary to the Word of God, such as allowing people to buy there way into heaven with money or service, then either the church is not acting with the authority of God, or God is contradicting Himself.

As far as your statements that the bible has not been around forever, I fail to see how that proves that the bible is not the FINAL authority. It just proves it wasn't the original authority.

Brandon and Jenny said...

Mark - I'll address your thoughts when I have more time tonight. In the mean time, I'd love to hear what you have to say to Zach.

Mark said...

Zach,

My answers are below:

Z:If the church makes a decree that is contradictory to the teachings of the bible, does that decree override the bible? For an example you can refer to the various traditions Brandon listed which you begged off addressing.

M: No, the Church lacks the authority to issue decrees which are contradictory to the bible. Peter received from Christ not only the power to bind and loose but the keys to the kingdom of heaven (Matt 16:19), but when he taught error it was not binding on the faithful, and he was corrected (Galatians 2:11). We call it the hierarchy of virtues, and it means that although obedience to ecclesial law is normally virtuous (and obligatory), it can never require you to violate a higher law, such as natural or divine law. And, I promise to answer all of Brandon’s questions once he has shown the same courtesy to me as it regards the first question. I think it is only reasonable that we address one question at a time.

Z: If the church is guided by the bible, doesn't that make the bible the word from which the church derives it's authority?

M: No, the Church was the recipient of the deposit of faith, directly from Christ (ibid). Some of the deposit of faith was recorded in scripture, just as some of what Moses received was written down, but much of what was given to the Jews was oral tradition, just as was the case with Christ and his disciples, for as the apostle John records, Christ taught many things that were not recorded (John 20:30).

That teaching is no less authoritative than that of the bible, for that part of the mission Christ gave to the Church was to teach, “Feed my sheep”. (John 21:15-18) Of course, if the bible is all that is necessary, this commandment is superfluous.

Z: When the church does things that are contrary to the Word of God, such as allowing people to buy there way into heaven with money or service, then either the church is not acting with the authority of God, or God is contradicting Himself.

M: No, this would be confusing God with the Church. The Church is the bride of Christ (Matt 9:15). Christ chose Judas even though He knew Judas would betray Him, and Judas’ betrayal didn’t mean the end of the Church. Neither does the Church end when a layman or a cleric or even a Pope errs (as Peter did), because Christ did not promise, nor does the Church teach, that all of her members will be perfect. In fact, Judas was an example to us that the most exalted members of the faith can fail terribly, but the Church survives. Regrettably at times in the history of the Church there have been many examples of this, and yet she has survived (and thrived).

Z: As far as your statements that the bible has not been around forever, I fail to see how that proves that the bible is not the FINAL authority. It just proves it wasn't the original authority.

M: It seems to me that if Christians claim the bible at the sole, ultimate authority, then would not Christ have been negligent to leave His people without any authority for centuries? Of course, we know he did not, and the example the apostles set by immediately electing a replacement for Judas (Acts 1:26) indicates the seriousness with which they took maintaining the sacraments and the apostolic mission which christ emphasized the night before his death when he taught them how to offer the Mass (the new covenenant replacement for the passover meal) when he said, "Do this in commemoration of me" (I Cor. XI, 24, 26) Hardly something a book, even inspired, can fulfill.

Further, what WAS the final authority on earth before the canon was codified? Do non-Catholics really only place authority in the scripture, or is the reality that each denomination has erected it’s own Pope, a man who has the final say on earth for his followers, built their own laws and traditions, with a hierarchy of clerics and administrators and established means by which to judge their members and expel them? The difference between us Catholics and non-Catholics is we embrace and admit it, and claim Christ as the founder. If you neither admit or embrace this ecclesial foundation, you can’t claim Christ as the founder of your church. King Henry, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli or Wesley perhaps, but not Christ who said in the previously referenced passage, “thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Brandon and Jenny said...

Mark - You and I are not probably going to agree here. We both have been taught differently and we hold very strongly what we have been taught. Our beliefs are not without reason and I view you as my brother in Christ, assuming you have put your faith in Him.

I am going to give you my reasons for what I believe about the scriptures. Pick them apart if you want, but I am through debating. I simply don't have the time or energy to do this. I'm not a professional blogger.

If you are looking for a debate, look elsewhere. If you are looking for an explanation, I will give that to you. But I cannot convince you of what you do not want to believe.

Here is what I believe about the Bible. These are my own words:
1. Inspiration
I believe the Word of God (Scripture) to be the literal, God-breathed, verbal words of God penned into human language and being superintended by the Holy Spirit (1 Tim 3:16-17). I believe the Holy Spirit superintended the entirety of Scripture. As 1 Cor. 2:12-13 states, “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words” (NIV). The “words taught by the Spirit” are the words of Scripture.

2. Inerrancy
As the Word is inspired by God, I believe it was also penned in its autographs wholly without error, exactly as God intended it to be recorded. It is inerrant because it is inspired by a perfect God making it fully true. 2 Peter 1:20-21 states, “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (NIV). Scripture, having its origin in God, not man, is true because “God is not a man, that he should lie” (Num 23:19 – NIV) and “God, who cannot lie” (Titus 1:2 – NASB) speaks only what is true.

3. Authority
Scripture has authority because of its inspiration. If the Bible is not inspired as stated above, then it has no more authority than a phone book. The same Word in John 1 which became flesh and through Whom “all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:3 – NIV) carries that same authority to Scripture.

4. Sufficiency
Scripture is sufficient meaning that it is enough for the believer and anyone who desires to know God. 2 Peter 1:3 states that God by “His 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” and also Christ in Matt. 7:7-8 "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (NIV). 2 Tim. 3:16-17 states, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." If we needed something else to be equipped for the good works God has ordained for us (Eph. 2:10) then we would have it. Verse 17 tells us we need nothing else but God and His word, meaning it is sufficient. We need no other revelation. God has given both the saved and the lost all they need.

5. Canonicity
I believe that the Bible we hold in our hands every day is the inspired, authoritative Word of God. The Old Testament has been validated as it was received but also by its use in the New Testament by Christ. Historically speaking, the canon of Scripture was made fairly obvious by what NT texts fit, were true, endured or were authoritative by apostleship. In truth, I must trust by faith in the Holy Spirit that He was capable of guiding the Body of Christ to compile the writings of God into the Bible we have today.


OK. That's what I believe about the Bible. The guys that canonized the Bible were "Catholics" and I trust that the Holy Spirit led them correctly. The authority for Christians before that happened was the OT and the letters that came to be known as the NT.

I have stated in Whom I place my faith and it is in a person. Protestants do not give equal authority to Luther and the Bible. Or any other person, except Christ Himself. You clearly do not understand how Protestant churches work as I surely have misunderstandings about the RC church.

There are entire libraries of books on this topic. This has been a debate for a very long time among men who love God. I doubt you and I will clear it up on my blog.

grace and peace to you -

Brandon and Jenny said...

Hello all! This is the Jenny of Brandon and Jenny. I have been watching this dialog from a distance.

I am going to quote an article that I am reading for my class. It just so happens that I am studying now the evangelical doctrine of Scripture, so this, I believe is especially relevant.

From "The Authority and Inspiration of the Bible" by C. Henry

"In principle, the evangelical believer acknowledges no ultimate authority but the authority of the living God—authoritative even above human reasoning,scientific and theological opinion, ecclesiastical tradition, cultural consensus, empiricall observation, and all else. No book emphasizes as does the Bible that God is the true source and seat of authority. When he speaks of God as supreme authority, the Christian means that he acknowledges as final only the authority of the living God, who has become incarnate in Jesus Christ, man's only Savior and Lord. More specifically, the evangelical believer acknowledges the supreme authority solely of the living God, embodied in Jesus Christ, whom no man can confess as Lord except by the Holy Spirit, the divine communicator and Superintendent of the prophetic-apostolic writings (John 14:26; 2 Tim 3:16). The affirmation of the authority of Scripture represents a determination not to seek the Word of God elsewhere than in the Spirit-inspired, Christ-pledged, and God-intended source of the revelational Word....W.C.G. Proctor does not put the matter too strongly when he writes, "it is through the Bible that Jesus Christ now exercises his divine authority, imparting authoritative truth, issuing authoritative commands, and imposing an authoritative norm by which all the arrangements or statements made by the church must be shaped and corrected."

And to you, friend Thaddeus,

"Without an authoritative Scripture, the church is powerless to overcome not only human unregeneracy but also satanic deception. Where the church no longer lives by the Word of God it is left to its own devices and soon is overtaken by the temptations of Satan and the misery of sin and death. In Eden, Satan displayed his readiness to come as an Angel of light, raising doubt about God's authoritative Word and twisting that Word to his own advantage (Gen 3:1, 4-5). In the wilderness temptation, the Second Adam confronted Satan with what stands written in Deuteronomy (Matt 4:4). When in turn Satan ventured to quote the written Word in the Psalms in a biased way (4:6), Jesus did not respond by resorting to some higher authority, for no appeal transcends Scripture as the authoritative divine Word: rather, he thwarted Satan by twice more facing him with the unchangeable written Word of God (4:7,10)."

I understand that neither of you will agree with what is written here, but I believe it is a logical and helpful presentation of what we as evangelical protestant Christians believe.

Peace out!
Jenny

Thaddeus said...

Thank you, Brandon and Jenny. It is easier to respect your beliefs when they are presented in a clear and kind manner. I am glad to hear that you acknowledge the eternal God as the ultimate authority.

I apologize if my comments have brought about a spirit of contention. I confess that some of my words were reactionary, rather than being motivated by the Spirit of the Lord. Sorry.

I understand now why it is so important to you that you hold strictly to the Bible. Likewise, I hope you understand why Mormons believe in asking God directly for confirmation of truth.

If you would like to explore the Mormon mind any further, please freely ask questions on my website.

Dave said...

Wow, you guys. I just have to say, that was a truly entertaining conversation! Brandon, Jenny and friends: I'm trying to put myself in your position. I'm trying to imagine myself believing in a God that sends the nicest people I've ever met to burn in everlasting hell because they try to follow his commandments, but darn it all, they're off on some particulars of His "unknowable" nature.

I'm having a hard time of it.

Brandon and Jenny said...

Dave - thank you for your comment. I think.

God's nature is not in any way unknowable. Why would you say that?

Chris Pray said...

I know that i'm johnny come lately to the conversation but I felt moved to share my short testimony at the end of this discussion/debate.

I was a member of the LDS church for 22 years. I come from a line of LDS back to one of the wives of Joseph Smith. I was baptized at 8 years old. I was a Deacon, Teacher, Priest, and Elder. I went through 4 years of seminary. I served an "honorable" mission in the Carlsbad California mission. I was a temple worker in the Dallas temple. My wife and I were endowed and "sealed" in the Dallas temple. I was active and in good standing with the church until the day that I submitted my resignation.

I know Brandon and Jenny. They have a very special place in my heart because their life and ministry, and others as well (Clayton and Stephan who have also posted here), that God used to begin to take the scales from my eyes to help me see the truth.

Jesus is the Christ, God in the flesh, who came and absorbed the wrath of God for my sin. It is by grace that I have been saved, through faith in the real and true Jesus Christ. The God and the Jesus that is taught and believed on in the LDS church is not the God of the bible, it is not the real God of the heavens and the Jesus who walked the earth. It is a God created by Joseph Smith.

I have prayed the prayer in Moroni many times, but it was only when I opened my heart and was willing to accept that the answer might be "NO!" that God answered my prayer.

God does answer our prayers and He will lead us to truth. However, we know from the bible that some will be deceived. When we rely solely on "personal revelation", emotional or spiritual experiences, in order to discern the truth of God, we leave ourselves open to deception.

1 John 4 " 1.Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God...6. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error."

There is a spirit of error. It is the one that leads people astray to believe in the Book of Mormon as the word of God and in Joseph Smith as a prophet. He also says that 'We (the original apostles) are of God' and that by comparing the spirit of error to the teachings of the apostles (which are recorded in the bible) we may know the spirit of truth from the spirit of error.

Galatians 1 " 6. I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7. Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 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."

The LDS "gospel", which was brought by "angels" (Moroni) and a "spirit" (the visions and revelations of Joseph Smith), is different than the one that was preached by the apostles of the bible. The LDS "gospel" has perverted the most plain, basic, and precious parts of the Gospel preached by the early apostles and recorded in the bible, namely who God is, who Jesus is, who we are, and how we return to God. It has removed those who are in the LDS church from "him that called you into the grace of Christ". If Satan can keep people doing "good works" or bearing some "fruit", and blind them to the truth of the true Gospel of the real Jesus, he has done his job well.

I am eternally grateful to my sovereign God for opening my mind and my heart, for tearing down the walls that 22 years of following a spirit of error had built up, for taking the scales from my eyes so I could see clearly, and for calling my into the grace of Christ - it is beautiful and sweet.

I invite all my LDS friends and family, to leave the shackles of deception in the LDS church, and embrace completely the freedom and joy of the real good news of the Gospel - That Jesus is God in the flesh, that the commandments are given so that we might have knowledge of our sin, and it is by grace that you are saved.

For anyone who wants to discuss further, please please please email me. chrismpray@gmail.com. For those in the DFW area, I would be happy to discuss face to face; lets get some coffee and talk (just kidding - you can drink hot chocolate) Please. I will also be leading an LDS recover group beginning on April 19th in Allen, TX. Please come, send your friends, send the missionaries, send anyone, come to my house, come to the group, anything. I promise it will be respectful (no "bible bashing") Email me for more details.

Grace and Peace to you.

and thank you Brandon and Jenny, for your life and ministry, I owe you more than you know (and the glory be to God).

Brandon and Jenny said...

Chris - Thank you, dear friend. We love you and your sweet wife and we miss you. I wish so very much we could have witnessed your baptism! To God be the glory indeed!

Katie said...

"And we love them because Christ loved us and gave himself up for us."

Is it not enough to just love people, on your own, independent of Christ? Do Hindus not love their neighbors? What about Jews? What about nonbelievers?

I suppose it's difficult to just openly embrace people when you're told that people who don't believe what you believe are destined to spend eternity in hell. Those people could be Mormons -- or they could be atheists like myself.

Get over yourself. Help people and love people because it's the human thing to do.

Brandon and Jenny said...

Katie - We do love people. That is the point. If I thought that what you beleived would send you to eternal hell, (and I don't...I don't even know you or what you believe), but if I did, wouldn't I really have to hate you to NOT tell you what I perceived as the truth?

I love my Mormon neighbors, not because they are Mormon, but because God loves them, and He loves me. And trying to do that apart from the work of Christ in my life is really difficult because I can be very self-absorbed. I tend to love myself above others. Hence the need for the Holy Spirit's work in my heart.

Does that clear things up for you?

Brandon and Jenny said...

That was Jenny, btw.

Katie,

You said, "Get over yourself. Help people and love people because it's the human thing to do."

I don't know you. I don't know anything about you. But when you tell me this, do you realize that I moved my wife and little children to a third world country to do that very thing? You have no idea what we do. Please be careful making judgments out of ignorance. I'm not trying to stick out my chest here, but we gave up life in the US to move to Guatemala to love and help and serve hurting, needy people just because they exist.

You quoted, (at least in part from another post) 1 John 4. Please, read that verse in context below. You may find it interesting:

"10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

13We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19We love because he first loved us. 20If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

I didn't write that. But that is the kind of love we are supposed to have. And I don't love like that very well. But God does. He loves us so well. And that passage above tells us that we have a problem and that Jesus is the solution to that problem of sin.

We do openly embrace people, just not what they believe. Do you see the difference? God loves (and we love) people, not their beliefs. But their beliefs are what will either put them in a love relationship with God or send them to hell because of their sin. People send themselves to hell by what they believe. I can't change that reality.

Thank you for your comments!