Filling the Gaps in the Divine Game of Telephone

When Protestants attack the LDS prophet model there is often an exchange where LDS point out how the process of compiling the bible is as open to the same failings as the LDS model of venerating the words of prophets and forming scripture.   In the previous post, Tim and Seth (and I) got into an exchange regarding the similarity between the belief that a prophet won’t lead the church astray and the position that the Bible is inerrant.

As I see it, Mormons and Protestants have the same rough model of receiving information from God:

1. God uses spiritual experience or historical events to convey messages to people

2. People (lets call them prophets) have these experiences and witness these events.

3. Prophets speak about these experiences and events.

4. Authors write down what the prophets speak.

5. Scripture is chosen from the available writings of these authors.

6. Interpreters/Preachers explain the scripture.

Even if you believe that the God does reveal things to people and everybody in the process is acting conscientiously, there seems to be editing in every step of the process:

1. A prophet doesn’t always say (or can put into words) everything he feels/thinks. He might not be able to understand all of it.

3. Not everything prophets say is clear because some people are not as smart, analytical or eloquent as others.

4. Not everything every biblical prophet said, (especially Jesus) was written down.

5. Writings could be lost, mis-copied, or left out by compilers of the canon.

6. Not every scripture is considered equally important or worthy of focus by preachers/interpreters.

This editing occurs with regards to every biblical event and every prophet or revelator and is compounded in the Bible because there are so many events, authors and revelators.

I have always had a hard time with trusting this sort of process for a full or final picture of what God is offering people.  Even if everyone is acting with complete honesty and integrity, without a belief that God is intimately involved in every step of the process ( a belief that is not justified by the biblical text) you have to expect significant gaps.

The beauty of the LDS model is that it acknowledges these gaps and has a way of correcting it (at least in principle), i.e. by continuing clarification and revelation from God.

However LDS have not reconciled the real problem because when it comes to modern prophets and scripture, they do not have a principled or consistent way of delineating what makes the cut and should be focused on by the current teachers/interpreters.  Right now it almost comes down to a purely authoritarian/military model of whoever is in charge is in control of the editing.

Protestants deal with the the problem of the mess  in the early stages by arbitrarily eliminating it and leaving everything to the interpreters.  They set the canon as the only (and complete) explanation we have from God. However they have the problem of explaining why the current Bible is not suffering from gaps and has no need of continuing the kludgy cycle of receiving and interpreting messages from God.   I can understand the concept of using past revelation as a benchmark, but postulating that the bible is complete or completely correct seems quite a stretch.  Of course this “solution” simply ignores all of the problems up to stage 5, but it at least gives some common ground to judge various interpretations.

Without some sort of explanation that is more than simply an article of faith, its hard to see where Protestant biblical interpreters and Mormon Prophets/interpreters have the ability to come up with ultimate answers that are more trustworthy than seeking personal experience with God.

So, I am actually looking for answers for myself here and would be interested in what believers have to say:

What would you say to convince me that either the Mormon or the Protestant answer is more trustworthy?

How do you resolve the obvious problems with the chain of communication, and why is that resolution satisfying?

 

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38 thoughts on “Filling the Gaps in the Divine Game of Telephone

  1. “Without some sort of explanation that is more than simply an article of faith, its hard to see where Protestant biblical interpreters and Mormon Prophets/interpreters have the ability to come up with ultimate answers that are more trustworthy than seeking personal experience with God.”

    Yes. This.

    “What would you say to convince me that either the Mormon or the Protestant answer is more trustworthy?

    How do you resolve the obvious problems with the chain of communication, and why is that resolution satisfying?”

    I would say that both questions deal with the desire to shift responsibility for one’s actions to someone else. Now, that’s not a universal desire, but it is a danger that I see in the questions: one might say, “If I do something I think is wrong then I’ll still be okay with God because I’ll just tell him that the prophet/Bible told me to do it—so it’s not really my fault.”

    And it’s not just a desire to shift responsibility for one’s actions, but also to shift responsibility for having a relationship with God. I don’t have to do the hard, scary work of prayer, study, meditation, fasting, and taking a half-blind leap if I can get someone else to do it for me. As we see in Exodus 20:

    When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”

    God can be scary; better to let someone else deal with him.

    ___

    Now, to actually answer your questions. I like both the Mormon and the Protestant approach. So I use both. But my ultimate resolution to the problem of communication is seek God directly. I find that satisfying because it’s the only approach that makes any sense to me 🙂

  2. Thanks Brian,

    I appreciate your thoughts.

    One thing I could point out.

    I think that my questions stem more from the desire to have some stable guidance in finding truth from God rather than to supplant my own responsibility. Only I can decide what i believe, but I am very aware of my own severe limitations. A reliable system of determining working ideas from non-working ones would be a huge help.

  3. Great question in how to take a very broad question. Here is my $.02 for what’s its worth on canon debate, reduce the complex question by simplifying.

    1) The issue isn’t want prophets said or did the issue is what texts do we have existant. Any knowledge that isn’t reflected in a text is irrelevant, its simply lost. So for the purposes of this discussion we are picking between books about prophets / containing prophecy not picking between prophet’s entire body of speech.

    2) How to handle the text in terms of correction between competing version is handled via. lower criticism. So assuming that via. lower criticism I can arrive at a reasonably consistent text move on and treat the results of the lower criticism as a canonical text.

    3) Semi-canons, collections of related prophetic writings, arrive naturally in religions to fill in gaps in canons. So whatever will be canonical must first have been semi-canonical. A religion should reopen the canon only when the membership considers the semi-canon to be of more importance than the canon.

    4) In choosing works from the semi-canon for the canon choose those considered most important and most influential.

    5) Drop books from the canon that the membership for an extended period of time has seen as less important or less relevant, for example protestants dropping the apocryphal books.

    ______

    In terms of the Protestant Canon:
    a) The Catholic OT was those books that were in the semi-Canon: the Septuagint. The later protestant Canon came from removing those books that were part of the Catholic OT that were not part of the Jewish OT.

    b) NT was based on Marcion’s structure (gospels + epistles); contained those books of importance to key components of the proto catholic church; excluding those books hostile to institutional Christianity (i.e. the NT was going to be pro church).

  4. I don’t think anyone in the Protestant tradition is claiming complete knowledge about God can be found in the Bible. so I think you’re extending our argument past its usefulness on that point.

    No doubt you can find blemishes in the Biblical record and transcription process. No doubt you can find blemishes in the LDS Prophetic voice. The difference is how important are they and what sorts of things are they about. Is the death of Judas really as vital to our understanding of God as the Godly-identity of Adam? In practice does the details of Paul’s conversion have as much impact on believers as the Priesthood ban or polygamy?

    No one is really going to pitch a fit because one LDS prophet recommends the KJV and another recommends the ESV. The real problem for the LDS church is that it claims we NEED their interpreter. But their interpreter turns out to be no more reliable than the issue they wish to expose.

  5. Any doctrine of revelation is an article of faith but I think that the Bible is clear that not every revelation or even everything Jesus Said or did is spelled out in the bible. In the same way the Bible is also remarkably blunt that not everything is equally clear and understandable. Historically the Christian Church has been engaged in textual criticism since Origen compiled the Hexapla.

    When you understand that the history of continuing revelation from Marcion to Harold Camping is not all that remarkable, I am not sure what your objections to the Protestant handling of the Bible are. In part because what you are presenting as issues are acknowledged by all except the most ardent King James Onlyist.

  6. My objections to the Protestant handling of the bible is to limit authority to what has been canonized.

    It is similar to saying all that we should consider of the rain is what we were able to capture and save in certain places over a certain period of time.

  7. The problem with limitation is, that if something that is not canon (but should be) would effect the interpretation of something that is, then things that are left out of the canon due to failure to record or other editing are going to skew what you know. If we could sit down with Jesus and he could explain everything to us we might question some of the conclusions we draw from the limited canon we have.

    There has to be some other way, outside the canon, to build trust in what we know or deduce from the canon. And in some sense, it has to be prior and more important than scripture.

  8. The difference is how important are they and what sorts of things are they about.

    I think many of the things in the Bible lead us to think a lot of destructive things about God. The Bible has been used to support or excuse all kinds of injustice slavery and misogyny. Things that many Christians currently askew due to extra-biblical understanding of justice and equality. For most of its history, the protestant treatment of the Bible has added very little to the furtherance of peace and justice as we see it today. Getting things wrong on this point troubles me.

  9. Of course we limit revelation to the canon. It not like any of the “revelations” that have been produced since John has exactly been compelling. Besides Mormons do the same thing with their continuing revelation, you don’t see the LDS accepting anything (including basic church history) that comes from outside their authority structure.

  10. As a Southern Presbyterian I read the apologetic of Slavery by men like Dabney with great sadness. All I can do is thank God for the obedience of Christ confess the racism that continues to exist and admit the fallibility of men.

  11. I don’t know what an extra Biblical understanding of mercy and justice is but if your objection is that there are sinners in the Protestant church you have misunderstood our religion completely.

  12. For most of its history, the protestant treatment of the Bible has added very little to the furtherance of peace and justice as we see it today.

    I might have to summon my inner-Kullervo on this point.

  13. Besides Mormons do the same thing with their continuing revelation, you don’t see the LDS accepting anything (including basic church history) that comes from outside their authority structure.

    I think this is wrong. Mormons have bent their thinking quite a bit toward other viewpoints on many issues.

    But also irrelevant. the limitation of the Mormon scheme does nothing to make me think your way of rolling is correct. I pointed out that they both have (what I consider to be) severe problems.

  14. Once again of course it’s irrelevant. You are looking for the full or final picture of what God is offering people. This is not what the Protestants are looking for, but I can completely understand why you find the canon so unsatisfying.

  15. Jarod —

    The problem with limitation is, that if something that is not canon (but should be) would effect the interpretation of something that is, then things that are left out of the canon due to failure to record or other editing are going to skew what you know. If we could sit down with Jesus and he could explain everything to us we might question some of the conclusions we draw from the limited canon we have.

    There has to be some other way, outside the canon, to build trust in what we know or deduce from the canon. And in some sense, it has to be prior and more important than scripture.

    Wow this is interesting you are essentially going down the road of Protestant / Catholic debate. I think you might like: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/ where these sorts of issues are discussed in tons of detail. I should warn you the CtC is both unfair and unpleasant (Reformed Fundamentalist converts so you end up with the worst problems of debating hard right Calvinists with the worst of debating Catholics) but it is probably the best presentation of the case you seem to be heading towards about the need for an interpretation and an authoritative source to authenticate and interpret the bible.

    And let me say if you want an authoritative bible I think you are right, that you need an authoritative higher authority. I happen to think the Protestant answers to this question are essentially circular arguments. But here is a pretty good short version which is ecumenical (the details are highly specific to Lutheran vs. Reformed) http://bible.org/seriespage/bible-holy-canon-scripture

    But here is the only thing I would add. In my opinion you are conflating 3 very different topics:

    1) What is the canon
    2) What is the final authority
    3) What is the means for biblical interpretation

    Just to give you an idea of how separate those are in principle here are the Orthodox Jewish answers:

    1) The OT
    2) The collection of commentaries and rulings made by all preceding Rabbis on the law that have been widely accepted by the Jewish community at some point previously.
    3) The bible should be interpreted for purposes of allegory in line with literary tradition, for purposes of law in line with legal tradition and mystically in line with mystical tradition. You cannot use insights from one tradition when addressing another.

  16. Gundek —

    Of course we limit revelation to the canon. It not like any of the “revelations” that have been produced since John has exactly been compelling.

    I’m assuming you are dating John last, and for purpose of argument I’ll use it that way. But one of the central doctrines of your denomination is that man must have inner revelation via. the Holy Spirit to rightly interpret scripture. So evidentially this personal revelation, is fundamental. Otherwise the reprobate would be equal to the sanctified in their understanding. So yes you do have a compelling revelation.

    Further via. this process is how the church arrived at the canons and creeds, which come after John. And so for example the Sunday sabbath:

    VII. As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in His Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, He has particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him:[34] which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week: and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week,[35] which, in Scripture, is called the Lord’s Day,[36] and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath.[37]

    is revelation, just revelation to the church not new revelation of scripture. Prophecy in Jarod’s language.

  17. Gundek,

    I am not looking for the full picture of what God has offered, just a method of accepting all that God has to offer and a method of trusting or understanding what I hear God has said to others.

  18. I apologize for putting words in your mouth, I inferred it when you wrote that you have a “hard time with trusting this sort of process for a full or final picture of what God is offering people.”

  19. CD Host,

    In my denomination a distinction is made between the “revelation” and the “inward work of the Holy Spirit” or illumination. So no, Chapter XXI of the Westminster Confession is the work of men and neither prophesy or revelation. The Westminster standards claim to be “the sum and substance of the Doctrine of the Reformed Churches”, not a revelation from God. While I believe the divines were illumined by the Holy Spirit and the results of their work are sound, they were men and prone to error.

  20. Gundek —

    Just to check back since I read an earlier post of yours where you were more specific are you still PCA? I’m asking because me to be less general or more specific. I’m assuming yes and I’m assuming you are not one of those PCA closet Federal Visionaries, please correct me (and you can be vague, I understand the problem) if I am wrong in either assumption. Just trying to pigeonhole you to be able to get to the meat faster.

    ____

    Onto the response:
    Part of the problem as I read this is that you and Jarod are using words like “revelation” and “canon” to mean different things. And part of the problem is that Calvinism’s doctrine regarding revelation are tightly would into his doctrines of election so that is unfixable without creating an artificial language.

    So let me use a hypothetical. Two churches A and B get a brand new copy of the UBS bible (i.e. orignal language) with no theological commentary. Both church A and church B decide to write a creed. Church A has 20 theologians all of whom are elected and regenerated and thus have discernment from the Holy Spirit. Church B has 20 theologians all of whom are reprobate and thus lack discernment from the Holy Spirit. In all other regards those churches are equal. Their theologians have the same levels of natural ability, formal education, native intelligence…

    Church A writes a creed and via. the inner working of the Holy Spirit in its 20 theologians that creed is correct.

    Church B writes a creed and lacking the inner working of the Holy Spirit in their 20 theologians, those theologians depraved nature will cause them to create a creed which is hateful to God and falsely interprets scripture.

    We need some kind of word for the additional information that led Church A to construct a correct creed. What do you want to call it? I would argue that Calvin’s view of the anabaptists is pretty close to my Church B construction, so this is not entirely hypothetical.

    And I would assert that you really believe that it is via. this ongoing process of supernatural intervention that doctrine is constructed. Once you fundamentally assert that giving man in his naturally depraved state a bible is little different than giving it to a chimpanzee at least in terms of him gaining saving knowledge, you don’t really believe the bible is the key component anymore.

    The Mormon side of the debate sounded highly Pelagian to me and I looked it up, and evidentially I wasn’t incorrect in my assessment, though Mormons themselves wouldn’t use that label. For a Pelagain, the process is much simpler, you get the correct set of instructions, you follow them as best you can, God judges your performance. An improvement of the quality of the instructions is genuinely key.

    You all have been dialoguing for several years and I’ve been here a day so its highly presumptuous of me to jump in and say you all are talking about the wrong topics in the wrong way… But it seems to me without an agreed upon language of discussion, the creation of which would naturally expose these more complex rifts, there are just too many axis and hidden assumptions being covered up by people using the same words to mean different things.

  21. gundek,

    Can you explain further the difference between “revelation” and the “inward work of the Holy Spirit”? These are the same concept in Mormonism, so I’m trying to understand where you are coming from by making a distinction.

  22. Actually rereading my post the line bold was terribly poorly written. You actually answered the question in the post above with “illumination”. My objection to “illumination” is that at least as commonly used it is presupposing the Calvinist framework on the same materials. Because once the creed is actually created for church A and church B, illumination doesn’t begin to cover the differences. The members of those respective churches have genuinely different source materials. So I want some word to refer to the “delta” between the information content of the two creeds.

  23. Alex,

    A quick working definition of illumination is the work of the Spirit, giving us the spiritual eyes enabling us to accept the authority of scripture and to work within the covenant community at the interpretation of scripture.

  24. CD

    An interesting set of questions, first yes I am happily a communing member of the PCA and don’t find the Federal Vision(s) particularly compelling. I completely agree that Jared and I are using the same vocabulary with a different dictionary. That’s what keeps me coming back for interesting topics.

    I am not sure that Calvin ties revelation tightly to election, illumination is a different story. The Spirit will go where He goes and cannot be contained despite particular ecclesiastical claims.

    I don’t know of a single word to describe the delta between the theologies developed by churches A and B, but I do think that some of the resulting theologies, not to mention the sources for the theology, will be readily apparent.

    First we must remember that all church councils are prone to error so it is reasonable to assume that errors will be present in both theology A and B. Second the natural man is quite different from a chimpanzee. The chimpanzee was not made in the image and likeness of God. The image was damaged and distorted not destroyed in the fall.

    Besides what you are asking assumes that we can judge the hearts of Groups A and B, ala the Donatist controversy. When people hear the doctrine of election they often incorrectly assume that people who hold to this doctrine also claim the power to infallibly determine who the elect are. This presupposes the correctness of enthusiasts claim to knowing the hearts of men not the doctrine of election.

    Third the source and rule of theology A and B are assumed to be the bible in your example. Remember we are not talking about simple proof texting but a theology developed from the “good and necessary consequence” of the whole council of God. I would contend that this is generally never the case. The Anabaptists enthusiasts deny the sufficiency of scripture by claiming new revelations from the Holy Spirit, while the fundamentalist denies the intellectual requirement for interpreting scripture by demanding precise proof texting.

  25. Hi gundek we are definitely making progress. I had a choice between rearrange your comments or one time referring to something below. I went with the latter

    An interesting set of questions, first yes I am happily a communing member of the PCA and don’t find the Federal Vision(s) particularly compelling.

    OK and I doubt it comes up in this thread, but last big pigeonhole questions:

    Everything not specifically excluded by scripture (ok with commissioning deaconess), complementarian (Wayne Grudem: male headship home and church) or patriarchy (male headship in all spheres)?
    Theistic evolution or 6 day?

    I am not sure that Calvin ties revelation tightly to election, illumination is a different story. The Spirit will go where He goes and cannot be contained despite particular ecclesiastical claims.

    I fully agree revelation occurs freely to the reprobate. They quite often own a bible too. Are you saying that illumination can occur to the reprobate?

    I don’t know of a single word to describe the delta between the theologies developed by churches A and B,

    Are you OK with sticking with the word “delta” as a term for this discussion of the information content that is different between creed A and creed B as a result of illumination that was granted to Church A’s theologians?

    First we must remember that all church councils are prone to error so it is reasonable to assume that errors will be present in both theology A and B.

    I find this statement a bit surprising. Lets take the Apostle’s creed. Are you asserting the apostle’s creed contains less than perfect statement or contains actual error? I understand that knowing it to contain less than perfect statement or knowing it to contain error doesn’t mean you know where those errors are or how to fix them.

    For example I could give you a math proof with a subtle error that shows all integers are equal (1=2=3=4…) obviously there is an error there somewhere but unless you had more training than average you wouldn’t be able to find it.

    Second the natural man is quite different from a chimpanzee. The chimpanzee was not made in the image and likeness of God. The image was damaged and distorted not destroyed in the fall.

    Good point!

    Besides what you are asking assumes that we can judge the hearts of Groups A and B, ala the Donatist controversy.

    Actually no I haven’t used that assumption. Asserting that there exists a definite answer does not imply that I have a mechanism for discovering it. For example, I’m thinking right now of a number between one and one-million. There is a definite answer as to what the correct answer is, you can assert with confidence there is a correct answer, you just have no way of discovering that that correct answer is. So far all I’ve used is that objectively speaking, i.e. from God’s vantage point, there is a difference between groups A and groups B not that it is early detectable.

    Now as an aside, I do believe under reformed assumptions it would be earthly detectable. I do believe in this case you would be able to judge the hearts of groups A and B (at least under reformed assumptions we’ve been working with), but wouldn’t know the state of the individual members. Remember church A constructs a Godly creed and church B constructs one hateful to God because I’ve stacked the deck so heavily.

    So assume X is sanctified, and understands how I stacked the deck. The only thing he doesn’t know is whether A or B got the sanctified theologians. By discernment he should be able to tell whether creed-A or creed-B is more Godly, easily. Now assume that Y is reprobate. He will most likely find A’s creed morally repellent and B’s in keeping with his fallen will. Thus he most likely would also be able to tell, but perhaps is not honest enough to admit his state.

    Now if I split the theologians less drastically. Say there were the same 40 but 35 were sanctified and I broke them 19/1 for A and 16/4 for B that would be more difficult. But here the break was so extreme if discernment means anything at all they must be able to tell the difference.

    but a theology developed from the “good and necessary consequence” of the whole council of God. I would contend that this is generally never the case. The Anabaptists enthusiasts deny the sufficiency of scripture by claiming new revelations from the Holy Spirit, while the fundamentalist denies the intellectual requirement for interpreting scripture by demanding precise proof texting.

    Understood but to my mind what you are doing is giving two examples of the mechanism by which the theologians serve their own will and desires and to reject the rule of God. Because they are intellectually and educationally fully capable of constructing a valid creed, i.e. they are identical to the theologians of church A, were they to do so they would be forced to live under God’s will. Thus by categorical imperative they need a mechanism to inject their will and desires in. You to my mind are giving two examples of mechanism they could choose.

    Have a wonderful 4th!

  26. Jared asked, “How do you resolve the obvious problems with the chain of communication, and why is that resolution satisfying?”

    It’s possible that I’m not understanding the question correctly, but while I thank God for both the prophets who brought us the Bible and the LDS leaders (who are maybe sometimes prophets?), one of the ways that I resolve the problem of the inerrancy of those who communicate God’s words to us is found in First John 2:27: “As for you, the anointing you received from him [Jesus or the Father] remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things . . . remain in him.”

    We have a direct hot line to heaven through the anointing—the Holy Spirit in us. We don’t have to rely completely on the prophets & other leaders (thanks to Jesus’ suffering for us).
    Lazy Christians have troubles getting in tune with the anointing, however. Deep truths come with time spent with the Father through Christ . . . which is FUN time, incidentally!
    Praying in tongues (supernatural languages) helps, too.

  27. CD,

    It is only through illumination and use of the Scripture, prayer, word and sacrament that we can tell the difference between theology A and B. The differences may require careful study and prayer to point out but the work of the Spirit and the intellectual study of the believer is what is called for.

    I do believe that the Apostles Creed is Biblical but I would not give it the status of infallible. I believe that like every Creed or Confession it must be tested against the only true rule of faith. That Apostles Creed as one of the “Three Creeds” has passed the tests of time, but shouldn’t each generation test the traditions of the past in order to truly embrace them.

  28. It is only through illumination and use of the Scripture, prayer, word and sacrament that we can tell the difference between theology A and B. The differences may require careful study and prayer to point out but the work of the Spirit and the intellectual study of the believer is what is called for.

    Really that’s interesting. So you believe the differences would be subtle not easily apparent even in the extreme case where I’m “stacking the deck”. Given that how could a believer ever tell between say my 35 out of 40 where
    A is 19/1
    B is 16/4
    ?? It seems like discernment is a rather ineffectual tool?

    I do believe that the Apostles Creed is Biblical but I would not give it the status of infallible. I believe that like every Creed or Confession it must be tested against the only true rule of faith. That Apostles Creed as one of the “Three Creeds” has passed the tests of time,

    Well true but “test of time” only shows that whatever errors exist are hard to discern. Given that what would be the point of retesting?

    but shouldn’t each generation test the traditions of the past in order to truly embrace them.

    Well I’d say yes, but generally reformed don’t actually want to do that.

    For example I think its pretty clear that the canon is not in specific self authenticating despite the claims to the contrary. Why are the pastorals considered authentic with all their obvious 2nd century material while books we know to be authentic like Shepherd of Hermes, Didache or 1Enoch out?

    Since so much of Mark is essentially reproduced in Matthew (over 90%) is there any good reason for Mark to be in the bible? Would we be better off with some of the other gospels?

    Why use the MT and not the LXX for the base text for Christian OTs? Was Jerome right in this choice or should we have instead followed Augustine’s opinion and saved the constant battle of using the MT while trying to read the NT back into it? And while we are on the subject why should Christianity (Protestant non Anglican) have blindly followed the Hebrew Jewish canon?

    Is trinitarianism really the best representation of scripture or would modalism which is far better attested have been a been the right choice?

    Given the obvious counter evidence provided by the actual history of post reformation Christianity can we now say that scripture is non perspicuous? And if so are there other doctrines derived from the 5 solas that need to be revisited? And if so do we need to revisit the 5 solas?

    Ask those questions and you are out of the fold, PDQ. 🙂

  29. Each of those questions and others should be asked. Obviously we have come to different answers.

  30. Answers are different but its hard to see how many are inevitable. I suppose the question is, does the threat of being set apart from the “fold” influence how you come to your conclusions. Is popularity or solidarity a critical part of choosing your theology?

  31. Ask the Salt Lake PCA congregation how popular they are?

    I am not sure that confessional Presbyterianism is exactly popular. Taken with the fact that church membership has no requirement for subscription to the confession and I don’t see how popularity or solidarity plays an influence. I could be wrong but when you are in a tiny denomination that separated from the larger Main Line over doctrinal issues popularity doesn’t seem to be the draw.

  32. I’m not sure I see such an extended chain of communication from God to the LDS Prophet to us. For members of the LDS Church, when the Prophet speaks in General Conference (held twice annually and broadcast worldwide to the entire church), that is considered the word of the Lord or scripture. That’s a pretty direct line in my view.

    Now, what about the question of whether this is trustworthy? One, if you believe that the LDS Prophet is in fact a prophet, like Moses or any other ancient prophet, that may be enough to trust what he says is true. How do you know if he’s really a true prophet? Pray, and ask God directly. Two, even if you believe he’s a true prophet, you may have questions about something he says, i.e. whether it’s really the word of the Lord. What do you do? Pray, and ask God directly to confirm the Prophet’s words.

    In short, the Prophet will receive revelation for the whole Church, and individual members of the Church can confirm the veracity of that revelation by seeking their own revelation from God in personal prayer.

  33. Thanks, R. That’s very good.
    You said, “Even if you believe he’s a true prophet, you may have questions about something he says, i.e. whether it’s really the word of the Lord. What do you do? Pray, and ask God directly. . . .”

    That’s great. So if I understand you correctly, your prayer acts as a safety mechanism whereby you are less vulnerable to error. It also helps you to keep God first, and the prophet second.
    There are evangelicals who should do that but don’t.

    However, I’ve asked missionaries if they have ever asked God if Joseph Smith was a prophet who made some errors “in the name of Jesus.”
    Apparently most LDS members haven’t asked God that question with full sincerity, because if they did, they would hear God tell them that Joseph did make some errors.

  34. I’m not sure I see such an extended chain of communication from God to the LDS Prophet to us. For members of the LDS Church, when the Prophet speaks in General Conference (held twice annually and broadcast worldwide to the entire church), that is considered the word of the Lord or scripture. That’s a pretty direct line in my view.

    1. God communicates a message
    2. The Prophet perceives and interprets the message
    3. The Prophet communicates a message
    4. The membership of the Church perceives and interprets the message

    That’s not direct at all. And that’s not getting into the possibly indirect ways that God might be transmitting his message to the Prophet.

    You’re conflating the question of whether it should be treated as direct-from-God with whether it actually is direct-from-God.

  35. I agree that with you Kullervo that God’s communication to us through the prophet is not as direct as say, God answering my own personal prayer. In the LDS view, this simply illustrates the two lines of communication from God to man: one through his chosen prophet to the people and one directly to a person through personal prayer.

    An example of the first line of communication (God-Prophet-us) is the Bible itself. God revealed things to Prophets and Apostles, they wrote it down, and now we have the blessing to read those revelations. The second line (God-us)is evident when we pray to God and he answers us directly to give us guidance in our personal/family lives. As I said above, the personal line can also be used to confirm the veracity of something the Prophet says.

    If you’re interested to learn more about what we believe on this, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained it well here http://lds.org/general-conference/2010/10/two-lines-of-communication?lang=eng&query=oaks,+two+lines

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