Can a Christian Follow a False Prophet?

When I was in college I went on a field trip to the Scientology Celebrity Centre. This is the kind of thing you do when you go to a Christian college. While I was off meeting Tom Cruise, some other group of students was visiting the local Mormon ward. Our tour guide explained that Scientology is not a religion and that their membership included members of all kinds of faith.

We were on a fact finding trip so all of our questions were only meant to clarify not to challenge. But even if I were allowed to challenge the glassy-eyed young woman I don’t think I could have successfully influenced her to believe that a Christian could not truly call themselves both a Christian and a Scientologist. The two would seem to contain mutually exclusive propositions. The deeper your knowledge of the two became the more in conflict they would appear to be. (for example )

The topic of the security of salvation for Mormons is often brought up when LDS and Evangelicals get together.  Quite frankly it’s often put in these terms by Evangelicals “you’re going to hell”. I don’t wish to debate whether or not Mormons are Christians or pretend to know who exactly is going to hell.  The only thing I know about it is that we all deserve to go there and Christ alone is the judge of what level of belief a person must have to warrant his grace.

But one thing is for sure, false prophets are specifically condemned by nearly every New Testament writer and Jesus himself.  We MUST be on the look out for them and we MUST reject their teachings.  It doesn’t appear to me that a true disciple of Christ can follow a false prophet. At best you could say a person is a failed disciple of Christ.

An immature believer might continue to engage in sin.  But as that person is disciplined and molded into the character of Jesus their transgression will lessen in frequency and severity.  This is the good fruit of a true believer.

Likewise, I think we can expect to see immature believers following after false prophets and bad teachings.  I don’t expect to find the serious elite of Christianity sitting in the pews of the health-and-wealth churches.  But as they investigate the Bible and their own faith with more seriousness, as they learn to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, they will learn to recognize false prophets when they hear them.

So what should we think of a person with a salvation experience who goes on sinning?  Their bad fruit makes me nervous for them.  They certainly are not entering into the Kingdom of Heaven and I don’t know if I can say with any certainty that they ever will. Over 70% of US citizens claim they have a personal relationship with Jesus that is still important to them today.  Clearly there is a difference between saying you have faith in Jesus and actually practicing faith in him.  I simply don’t know if they ever loved Jesus.

I think the same can be said for those who listen to false prophets.  It can be excused as immaturity to some degree. But when those individuals start reaching into leadership positions and serious Biblical study, their inability to understand “sound doctrine” leaves me puzzled at the seriousness of their commitment to Christ.  To be sure, they exhibit a serious commitment to their religious practice and to the false teachings they’ve adopted.  But if they can not abandon those for their first love, I don’t know if I can say they ever loved Jesus.

But a true follower of Jesus will seek after righteousness and truth and strive to abandon both sin and falsehood.  Is a person who goes on sinning a true Christian?  “By their fruits you shall know them.”   Is a person who follows a false prophet a true Christian? “By their fruits you shall know them.”

Now before everyone gets their panties in a bunch.  I don’t think this line of reasoning is necessarily good news for me.  I think the same can be said for rejecting a true prophet.  I think Joseph Smith clearly demonstrated himself to be an abusive, manipulative false prophet.  If he happens to have been a true prophet of Christ (with the longest leash in history), and I reject him and encourage others to reject him, what kind of standing do I have with Jesus? “By their fruits you shall know them.” The last thing you could say about me is that I am a “good Christian”. My actions prove otherwise.

Perhaps there is a third way out.  Do you believe a true follower of Jesus could follow a false prophet or reject a true prophet?

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42 thoughts on “Can a Christian Follow a False Prophet?

  1. Good post!

    It doesn’t appear to me that a true disciple of Christ can follow a false prophet.

    I heartily agree. And I also agree that we can have a lot of patience on immature believers on this point.

    I was talking to a Mormon named Pepe this past Saturday at the local Cinco De mayo who kept pressing me with the question, “Can Mormons be saved? Are Mormons going to hell?” I hate simple answers to this question, but he really wanted a yes or no. I couldn’t give one. All I could say was that Mormons are on their way to hell if they refuse to repent of the idolatry that Mormonism has traditionally taught and fostered.

    Over Mormon individuals we can’t make a infallible, final judgments, but we can make a fallible, provisional, probationary judgment based on fruits.

    It goes the other way too. We can’t make an infallible, final judgment that any given person is positively a saved believer in Christ. But for those who yield the fruits of repentance and regeneration, we can make a fallible, provisional, probationary judgment that they are of the same Spirit, of the same faith, and of the same baptism. And it is that joyful “judgment” that plays a role in the bonding of believers together to fellowship and worship, and to “pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22)

    For these reasons I reject the simplistic notion that we simply can’t know anything about the hearts of others, or that we can’t know with any practical knowledge of degree of certainty that a person is saved. We’re not God, but Jesus did tell us to know trees by their fruits.

    Grace and peace,

    Aaron

  2. If it really is the case that we cannot know the hearts of others, then we should all despair of a lonely, impersonal existence. I don’t think people have thought through the implications of the idea that we cannot know the hearts of others.

    On the larger issue I would point people to 1st John, where John gives us the framework for making provisional judgments over whether individuals (including but not only ourselves) are born of God or born of the devil. He gives two basic parameters, one doctrinal, and the other behavioral.

  3. Tim, lots to agree with here and I’m not going to try to pick things apart. To answer your final question, “Do you believe a true follower of Jesus could follow a false prophet or reject a true prophet?” Yes. I think many people are Christ-like and yet not Christian—and sadly, vice versa. I believe that, in the end, one’s love for others is what matters, while knowledge, prophecies, etc. shall fail, “but charity never faileth.” (1 Cor 13)

    Aaron, thank goodness that we can experience the hearts of others. The implications I worry about, however, rest on the word “know”—or more specifically, on how certainly we can know. Even a small misunderstanding can change things 180 degrees….

    “And it is that joyful “judgment” that plays a role in the bonding of believers together to fellowship and worship….” I’m not seeing how judgment, however provisional one might think it is, is of more value than bonding through service and love. Moreover, while you the judge might be able to view your judgment as provisional, the judged cannot; he only knows that you’ve pushed him away.

  4. Tim — What struck me as I read your post (which you did a good job of, by the way) was how close you come to teaching salvation by works. Maybe not really, but if a Mormon said some of the same things you’re saying but in a different context, we’d be accused of teaching salvation by works.

    An example:

    The only thing I know about it is that we all deserve to go there and Christ alone is the judge of what level of belief a person must have to warrant his grace.

    Mormons are razzed by evangelicals all the time for their talk of worthiness. Is there really any significant difference between the concept of “worthiness” and that of having a “level of belief” that causes that person to “warrant” God’s grace? I think not.

    And:

    So what should we think of a person with a salvation experience who goes on sinning? Their bad fruit makes me nervous for them. They certainly are not entering into the Kingdom of Heaven and I don’t know if I can say with any certainty that they ever will.

    Where’s the grace there? How is this different from the Mormon belief that only those who live righteously will enter the celestial kingdom? I am not disagreeing with your statement. I’m just saying that a Mormon making a similar statement would be roundly criticized for it by many evangelical apologists.

    Also:

    But a true follower of Jesus will seek after righteousness and truth and strive to abandon both sin and falsehood. Is a person who goes on sinning a true Christian? “By their fruits you shall know them.”

    But isn’t it a common evangelical belief that all of us “go on sinning”? Maybe I’m parsing your words too carefully, but it seems to me, again, that Mormons who say basically the same thing are accused of relying on works rather than the blood of Christ to same them.

    What these issues get down to, for me, ultimately is the teaching that caused me to leave evangelicalism (and caused me to not become a member of an evangelical church that I was attending one for about the 10 years before I became LDS). In the evangelical scheme of things, there are two possible outcomes for the afterlife: heaven, which is an eternity of joy and praise, and hell, which is an eternity of unspeakable torment. Although many evangelicals believe there may be degrees of reward and punishment, still the gap between the least rewarding heaven and the least worst punishment is immense. Make a mistake, and you’re literally doomed to an eternity of agony. It’s hard for me to see the grace in that gospel.

  5. Tim asked:

    Perhaps there is a third way out. Do you believe a true follower of Jesus could follow a false prophet or reject a true prophet?

    I’d say yes, although it’s impossible to answer the question first without defining the terms. Basically, though, I believe we’re responsible for following the light we’ve been given, and that’s true whether you’re LDS or not. Also, all of us, even those following a “true prophet,” fall short at times.

    Tim said:

    An immature believer might continue to engage in sin. But as that person is disciplined and molded into the character of Jesus their transgression will lessen in frequency and severity. This is the good fruit of a true believer.

    That’s not a bad definition of “true believer” as I would use the term. Certainly, there are people outside the Church who are becoming more like Jesus, and there are people in the Church who aren’t.

  6. Well to be clear, you should never hear an Evangelical say that there are NO works in our faith. There most certainly are. Our works come after the free gift of salvation. As Dallas Willard says, “grace is opposed to earning not effort”.

    There’s also a trick of semantics that no Evangelical can get around. The acceptance of a gift is a “work” that believers must perform to receive Christ grace. I’m sure there’s some Calvinistic way of expressing it that removes that burden but I don’t really care to strain that distinction out.

    When I mention a “level of belief” what I was getting at was that just a recitation of the “sinners prayer” without true meaning in the heart is something Jesus is going to have to judge.

    When I say that a person who goes on sinning is not entering into the Kingdom of Heaven, I’m speaking of the availability of the Kingdom here and now, not at some point in the future after death. Eternal life begins now. Taking on the very character of Christ is available now.

  7. “If he happens to have been a true prophet of Christ…and I reject him and encourage others to reject him, what kind of standing do I have with Jesus?…The last thing you could say about me is that I am a “good Christian.”

    I disagree. I believe, if the instance above is true, that you were misled. Does that mean that you are burning in Hell for all eternity? Many/most? evangelicals I know would say “Yes.” I am unconvinced.

    “By their fruits ye shall know them.” There are so many ways in which an individual can show good fruit. I disagree that showing “correct belief” is the first and foremost important way for an individual to show fruit. Clarification: I believe that a person must believe that salvation is by grace, through faith, in Jesus Christ alone, that is of primary importance: but questions of just who is a prophet and who is not are secondary.

    You are Evangelical because you were born into an Evangelical family, were taught Evangelical beliefs, went to an Evangelical college, and after your own study and experiences, have adopted Evangelical beliefs for yourself.

    Try to imagine what it would be like to be a 4th or 5th generation LDS/RLDS, or a 10th generation Hindu. If our parents are devout, we are taught that our religions are true in the same way that your parents taught you Evangelicalism was true. I once worked for an Arab Embassy, and my Islamic girlfriend and I discussed this subject often. One day she said to me, “Lisa, everyone is basically the same religion their parents are, because they know if they don’t (join their parent’s religion) they’ll get spanked. ” Excepting those people who are raised without religion at all, I believe there is much truth in this.

    In my opinion, your posts represent a very Evangelical black and white way of looking at everything. “We must reject a false prophet!” Ok, but what if everything you know and have been taught says that he’s a true prophet? What if you’ve never had any reason to doubt or question your religion, and you’re just fine with the way you live your life?

    I guess the Calvinists have an answer for all of this by saying that people are predestined for either heaven or hell, and that some people will go to hell no matter how much they might want to be saved, just because God decided a long time ago that He doesn’t like them, and that they aren’t deserving of His salvation. This god, in my opinion, does not seem like a god who has much love or grace in him.

  8. I don’t see any loop holes in the New Testament for people who’ve grown up in a different faith tradition.

    In fact ALL of the Christians the New Testament was written to had rejected the faith of their fathers and mothers. They were still called to reject false prophets.

    What if you’ve never had any reason to doubt or question your religion, and you’re just fine with the way you live your life?

    EVERYONE should take the time to doubt and question their faith. It is true that I was raised as an Evangelical, but I also took the time to explore whether or not I thought it was true for myself. You’ve done it more than once and changed courses. It’s not impossible.

    Does that mean that you are burning in Hell for all eternity? Many/most? evangelicals I know would say “Yes.” I am unconvinced.

    I was quite careful to not say that a person who goes on sinning (or believing a false prophet) is condemned to hell. MOST Christians I know believe in “once saved always saved”. They more often than not say that a Christian in sin is back-sliding not hell bound.

  9. I guess the Calvinists have an answer for all of this by saying that people are predestined for either heaven or hell, and that some people will go to hell no matter how much they might want to be saved

    Choke. Ahem. No. That is absolutely not Calvinism. God receives into grace all who really want to be saved by the Christ of the Bible. If they aren’t elect, they are left to their total depravity. And totally depraved people will not and cannot joyfully and submissively embrace Jesus Christ for who he is and for the salvation he really offers.

  10. “God receives into grace all who really want to be saved by the Christ of the Bible.” You mean, Christ as He is defined by Bible thumping Calvinists. You can go ahead and believe in a guy who had one of his opponents tortured to death and burned at the stake. Say what you will about Joseph Smith, on his worst day he was never like that, it is proven what kind of a man Calvin was.

  11. I’m sorry Aaron. That didn’t sound nice. I promised myself if I posted again on this blog, I was going to be mellow. I guess it lasted all of thirty seconds.
    Really though, the way I have written about Calvinism is the way I see it. My husband also believes that Calvinism turns true Christianity on its ear. The very idea of an “elect” means that, although no one is worthy of salvation, God has decided that some just aren’t worth bothering to save. You can’t tell me that the millions of devout Mormons out there don’t love Jesus. All that running around fulfilling callings, researching their geneaologies and being baptized for their dead relatives–who would do that if they didn’t want to be “saved.” (I know that Mormons and Evangelicals make a distinction between salvation and exhaltation.) Who would do that if they didn’t think Jesus wanted them to, if they didn’t think that it was the way to please Him? Yeah, I know what you’re going to say, you’re going to give me some quotes from the Bible. But, although I read Bible stories on my own, in church I learned more about the Book of Mormon or the Doctrine and Covenants. I was never taught to look to the Bible for everything. And while I do believe in it as God’s word and the best place to go if you want to know how to live your life, I don’t consider myself to be enslaved to it. I refuse to allow people to sit there and quote Bible verses at me, and expect me to live my life just like they say the Bible says it has to be lived. Been there, done that, almost wrecked my life.
    I was reading in “Rough Stone Rolling” where Joseph Smith’s father (I believe it was his father) believed that, if Jesus was powerful to save, then He was powerful enough to save ALL. Now, I’m not saying that everyone is going to be saved, but I really do not believe in the Calvinistic idea of the elect.
    Total depravity? Do you have children? Do you remember the day you brought your child home from the hospital, what he or she looked like lying there in their crib? I just don’t buy it. I believe that, after the age of accountability, everyone will choose to sin, and no one will be able to earn salvation, but the idea of TD I am not swallowing.
    One last thing. Calvin was not God. He was a man who had an opinion about God based on the scriptures he studied and the writings of the Church fathers he had available to him. Time was I thought he was ok, until I read what he had done to one of his opponents; now I can’t stand him.

  12. I’m going to nip the Calvinist discussions in the bud. Not the point of the post or the blog. Take it elsewhere please.

  13. Tim said:

    “I think the same can be said for those who listen to false prophets. It can be excused as immaturity to some degree. But when those individuals start reaching into leadership positions and serious Biblical study, their inability to understand “sound doctrine” leaves me puzzled at the seriousness of their commitment to Christ. To be sure, they exhibit a serious commitment to their religious practice and to the false teachings they’ve adopted. But if they can not abandon those for their first love, I don’t know if I can say they ever loved Jesus.”

    . . .

    “I’m going to nip the Calvinist discussions in the bud. Not the point of the post or the blog. ”

    Unless you consider Calvin a “false prophet” and a commitment to Calvism a commitment to false teaching on par with your feeling about JS.

    “By their fruits you shall know them.”

    I don’t think this had anything to do with doctrine and interpretation. . .

    “fruits” does not seem equivalent to your understanding of theology.

  14. I suppose that it comes down what you consider to be the standard for true or false prophecy. It isn’t just behavior; because, as you have noted, we are all sinners. It isn’t just doctrine; because, as you have noted, correct doctrine isn’t paramount and, as is obvious from this discussion, it exists in the eye of the beholder in this fallen world. Not to say that those aren’t important, but they obviously aren’t clinchers.

    If I had to set a standard, I would say it is probably John 7:17 or something like it. I, not speaking as a Mormon, but speaking as me, would also likely say that the answer can vary for the individual over time.

    Aaron,
    I can’t deal with you today. I just want to state for the record that I categorically disagree with all of your characterizations of Mormon belief (and most of your characterizations of Evangelical belief). I certainly don’t understand you as motivated by love, grace, or peace. Mormons aren’t idolatrous (at least, they aren’t more or less idolatrous that Evangelicals) and I certainly don’t believe that Joseph Smith is a false or fallen prophet.

  15. I think unrepentant behavior is an most definitely an issue.

    I think false prophecies are another identifier.

    Lastly, we should be looking for “another Gospel”.

  16. I would tend to agree about unrepentant behavior, but then again we all sin, even though we have repented. That one seems more strictly between a person and God directly.

    False prophecies are harder. For instance, Ezekiel prophecied that Nabcuhadnezzar would conquer Tyre. When he didn’t, Ezekiel received a prophecy saying that Nabuchadnezzar would conquer Egypt. When that didn’t happen, Ezekiel shut up about it. Does any of that make him a false prophet in our estimation today?

    “Another Gospel” is an interesting point. Since the Gospels that we have appear to postdate Paul’s writing, how are we to know that he didn’t have one of those in mind? How can we know that we aren’t using that to justify our likes and dislikes instead of basing our likes and dislikes on scripture? Also, I’d be very interested in all the implications of the Greek phrase being translated that way.

  17. Tim,

    I think John raises a good point. I too am curious as to your answer concerning Ezekiel’s prophecy (Ezk. 26)? Or what about Isaiah (38.1-6), or Elisha (2 Kings 3, esp. v. 13-27)?

    TYD

  18. Tim,
    As I said, I think that the best test is John 7:17. Beyond that, I don’t know that there are meaningful ways to identify false prophets. Certainly there are interpreters of the Bible of whom I approve personally and those of whom I don’t, but, short of someone cause obvious harm to another, I don’t feel qualified to insist that my approval is anything but that. So, while I may think that Warren Jeffs or Fred Phelps is a false prophet (or, at least, a very bad person using the Gospel to support their very-bad-personhood), I accept that some people may actually get closer to God through some of the things they teach (in some way that I don’t quite understand). In judging false prophets we all grade on a scale, I think.

  19. If all you’re going to point to is John 7:17, that leaves every man to do what is right in his own eyes. You’re basically saying that’s cool with you because it may bring them closer to God in some way. That leads to such nonsense you might as well be a Unitarian. Hardly the clear light and path brought to us by God’s one true prophet, Thomas Monson.

    Dart, thanks for the references. Concerning Hezekiah, the passage shows that prayer has the ability to change God’s mind. The prophesy and the change of prophesy are practically mentioned in the same breath.

    The large and miraculous measure of Elisha’s prophesy was fulfilled. The very fact that the writer chose to include a portion that was unfulfilled points to the fact that it wasn’t a scandal. If Elisha prophesy had to be so completely fulfilled to validate his prophetic status, the Israelites should have stoned him as the Law commands.

    Concerning Ezekiel, It’s never been pointed out to me before, so I’ll look into it. I’m willing to concede that Ezekiel may be a false prophet.

  20. My archaeological study bible says Nebuchadnezzar attacked Egypt in 569 BC. As with Elisha’s prophesy the bulk of the prophesy was fulfilled, Egypt was no longer a world power. I suppose we could quibble about the amount of plunder seized from Tyre and Egypt. If you have evidence to contradict any of that, I’m willing to listen.

    Just curious, my your estimation, did Joseph Smith ever say anything that could be considered a false prophesy? Particularly under the same standard you’re holding Ezekiel and Elisha to.

  21. You might also check out this article at Tekton, Tim: On the Tyre Prophecy of Ezekiel.

    I don’t mean to denigrate the Deuteronomy test for false prophets, but prophecy is such a fickle creature that I, for one, find it difficult to use it to convict false prophets. I also find it difficult to use it apologetically as proof of the faith. Only very specific, very unlikely predictions of the future can be useful in convincing unbelievers that something supernatural was going on. Most of the “prophecies” in the Bible are not of that nature, or even Joseph Smith’s prophecies for that matter.

    And I think that what passages like Isaiah 38:1-6 show is that even when a prophet makes a very firm, seemingly unconditional prediction of a future event, prayer has the potential to effectively change God’s mind so that the initial prophecy is never carried out. So even if an LDS prophet today predicts something specific like “President Obama will be assassinated before the end of his first term,” and that doesn’t happen, we still don’t know he’s a false prophet. For all we know, fervent prayer on the part of Obama and his family and church members changed God’s mind about carrying out the prophecy.

    I’m much more likely to look to false teaching as an indicator for false prophets than false prophecy.

  22. Tim, there isn’t anything internal to the Bible or the archaeological record to indicate that Nebbie was successful in Egypt. He certainly didn’t establish the sort of control that the Assyrians did earlier or that the Persians would later. While he likely attacked Egypt, the invasion (of which we have precious little evidence) appears to have been a flop.

    Regarding Joseph Smith and prophecy, I don’t know of any, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there. The problem with prophecy is that it is open to multiple interpretations and multiple fulfillments. So Jesus can say “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” regarding the Jewish leaders of his day and Joseph Smith can say that it also applies to the Protestant leaders of his day. Who is to say that either reading is wrong (aside from God, I suppose)? Paul can talk about “another Gospel” and you can apply it to the Book of Mormon (I assume that’s what you were up to a few comments ago); who are we to say that you’re wrong (although I think you are)? Prophecy and its fulfillment is in the eye of the beholder; like I said, we grade on a curve for those whom we like.

    In any case, because I like my prophets and I like my prophecy, I tend to see the missed prophecy that I find as being parallel to Jonah’s prophecy of the destruction of Nineveh. He prophesied it, but misunderstood the prophecy. He thought it was a binding promise of God; God saw it as a means of motivating the Ninevites to get their act together. Telling God what we think he should do (or should have done) does tend to leave us sitting under barren trees complaining about gourds.

    Finally, regarding the false prophecy standard in Deuteronomy (stone them false prophets), it doesn’t appear that Deuteronomy was ever widely used as law (at least, not outside of Josiah’s reign). And it is just as well as a lot of the prophets would have been killed (as you noted). Consider Christ: how many of his prophecies were fulfilled in his lifetime? By the standards of Deuteronomy, he probably should have been killed. The case with any “false” prophecy is that if you wait long enough, you will almost always find a piece of history to fit it. Just ask devotees of Nostradamus…

  23. For what it’s worth, my three evidences against a false prophet were not formed around my impression of Joseph Smith. I think they are three things the Bible indicates as a way to identify a false prophet.

  24. “I don’t see any loop holes in the New Testament for people who’ve grown up in a different faith tradition.”

    I have to just say at this point – so what?

    The Bible doesn’t tell you how to change the oil in your car. It doesn’t tell you what to think about euthenasia, and it doesn’t help much with telling us what exactly we’re going to be doing in heaven.

    You’re talking to Mormons here. The argument – “it’s not in the Bible” is kind of a non-starter.

  25. To be blunt, I’ve been reluctant to comment. By dumping on JS, the post seems disingenuous for a blog that purports to encourage dialogue between two similar but different religious traditions. My suspicions were confirmed when commenter Lisa pointed out that JS looks pretty damn good vs. some of the protestant reformers, and we’re pretty much told not to go there. I’ll note that both early protestant reformers and JS were under pressures that no one here can imagine, which reminds me of the refrain from Jesus: For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:2

    Moreover, I’m finding it difficult to entertain the question posed. True prophets bring people to Christ. False prophets drive them away.

    For background, I pretty much reject all rigid belief systems as the antithesis of faith. All I know is I am LDS and among the saved having received a personal knowledge there will be a final judgment and an assurance Jesus will shield me from it, His gift freely given, not in any way earned on my part. And in no way do I promote that nonsensical salvation can fall short of exaltation like some LDS.

    For the record, I believe some of the protestant reformers were prophets. The LDS church couldn’t exist without the reformation. I consider some modern people in and out of my LDS tradition as prophets. But I also I believe there are and have been false prophets throughout Christendom, including within the LDS church. This often gets me in trouble with my co-religionists, but there’s a reason Jesus warned us about false prophets. G-d gave me a brain and I choose to use it. Again, true prophets bring people to Christ. False prophets drive them away.

  26. I’m much more likely to look to false teaching as an indicator for false prophets than false prophecy.

    Jack, I guess I’m wondering how this is easier to pin down than false prophecy? Because my experience is that people make diametrically-opposing truth-with-a-capital-“T” claims using the same scriptures as “proof.”

    I mean, part of Mormonism’s fundamental paradigm is that a prophet can come along and reveal new truth/clarify old statements…and, to many Mormons anyway, new revelation trumps old.

    I’m just finding it difficult to know how a person is supposed to sort through it all.

  27. Tim asked: “Do you believe a true follower of Jesus could follow a false prophet or reject a true prophet?”

    I can’t imagine that it matters at all who else you follow if you actually follow Jesus. . . does it?

    It seems that you have to first analyze how you follow Jesus rather than how you follow anybody else.

    If you are following Jesus its seems his grace would be sufficient to overcome the deficiencies of whomever else you follow. Otherwise we are back to a theological/denominational test for salvation.

    Am I right?

  28. Steve,

    I stepped in on the John Calvin discussion because it’s a enormous rabbit trail. I’m quite open to a discussion on Calvinism and John Calvin but I didn’t want it in this particular post.

    Also, Joseph Smith baggage is not typically an item of discussion on this blog. So throwing in John Calvin’s out of no where was what I was objecting to. It seems when Aaron shows his face, people what to rip into him in any way they can despite how it might derail the discussion.

    By dumping on JS, the post seems disingenuous for a blog that purports to encourage dialogue between two similar but different religious traditions.

    I really wasn’t dumping on JS. That is my opinion of him. I didn’t / don’t get into the long list of reasons I think that way about him. THAT would be dumping on him.

    If people have to tip toe around their beliefs about something as core to the discussion as their thoughts on JS, it will be nothing but a tea party. Would you like another crumpet? We can have an open dialogue and still passionately disagree.

    If you want to suggest that John Calvin is a false prophet, and that Aaron is a dweeb for taking up with him, have at it. I’m just asking that we don’t turn this comment section into a debate on the merits of Calvinism. It’s all just a diversion from the main question: Would a true follower of Jesus also follow a false prophet?

  29. Jared said
    If you are following Jesus its seems his grace would be sufficient to overcome the deficiencies of whomever else you follow. Otherwise we are back to a theological/denominational test for salvation.

    Well what does it truly mean to “follow” Jesus? Based on what you’re saying, you think it’s reasonable that someone could follow Mohammed and Jesus at the same time. At some point the two conflict.

    Jesus calls his followers to allow him to be their master (for you can not have two). I think it absolutely matters who else you follow.

    Would it matter to you if Joseph Smith was a false prophet? If you showed me that my pastor was a false prophet it would be a big deal to me.

  30. Katie: I can’t tell you what the Spirit “feels like,” but I can tell you that much of my faith is based on my own experiences: Certain sources of truth have proven themselves to me at different times (e.g., a prayer that was answered in a clear way so now I have great confidence in the value of prayer). I’m not looking for the Spirit to manifest at every moment or in every thing. fwiw.

    (sorry, I think that might come across as preachy or…something.)

  31. Tim,
    I guess that I read too much CS Lewis growing up. His muslim who was, unbeknownst to himself, living an Aslan life makes sense to me. If my God is THE God, I would like to think that he would be open to good people all the world over (and jerks like me, too 🙂 ). If the doctrine gets you to God, I’m interested in it no matter what the source; does that make sense?

    Of course, that just sends us down the rabbit hole again, I suppose. All I can say is that I got some of my best insight into Christian faith listening to a Buddhist discuss the meaning of faith for him. It seems wrong to dismiss those insights or those people just because we don’t happen to believe in the Buddha.

  32. Also, I’m the one who’s always mentioning the Calvinism. I’m happy to back off that talking point in the interest of your sanity.

  33. “Well what does it truly mean to “follow” Jesus? , . .
    Jesus calls his followers to allow him to be their master (for you can not have two). I think it absolutely matters who else you follow.”

    I agree to a point, however, we all follow more than one man. We have all kinds of leaders in our lives. We have all kinds of teachers, and those whose ideas shape our worldview. Ultimately it comes down to degrees of commitment to each leader/master.

    The real question seems to be who is on the top of the list. . .

    Jesus is not the ONLY one you follow, the only person who shapes your ideas about God. Even “pure” Bible believers invite a whole host of people into the group of those who they follow as well as Jesus. (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, etc. )

  34. The Bible tells us to “test all spirits” and they are going to compare what a “prophet” is saying to biblical truths — if it doesn’t jive with biblical truths then we can rest assured that man/woman is a false prophet. As beleivers we need to be like the bereans who searched the scriptures and really wanted to make sure what they were being taught matched up with God’s word.

    Great blog!
    Gloria
    former mormon now sold out for Christ!

  35. at some point I would question a person’s devotion to Christ and/or their path of discipleship. My level of questioning would depend on their level of commitment to what their horoscope says.

    I suppose I would say they are an immature Christian.

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