Answering Greg Trimble’s 51 Questions – Part 4

Trimble, you sly dog.  In my first post I suggested that people would probably be inclined to respond with a list of 51 questions that would cause someone to leave Mormonism.  Sure enough, Runtu put together such a list.  You won’t want to click on it though because it’s much better than your list (and I don’t say that not because he’s no longer a Mormon).

But then I found something.  A list of 50 questions for Mormons that dates back to 2001.  You cranked a prankster.  You wrote your list of questions in response to THAT list.  And then you added one more so that a web search for your list wouldn’t bring up that original list. [stands up and claps] I haven’t learned anything new about Mormonism, but I am learning somethings about you.  You’re crazy like a fox.

I think I’m ready for Part 4. But are you?

Some quick caveats for those that missed my first post..  These answers will be short and to the point. I’m not trying give a complete answer, nor am I trying to convert anyone out of Mormonism.  If I throw in a joke or two it’s to keep things interesting and not a personal attack on Trimble or an attempt to disrespect the Mormon faith.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5


31. The Jews prepare for Elijah’s return every year during passover. On April 3, 1836 Elijah returned to the earth and appeared in the Kirtland temple on the exact day that Jews around the world had prepared an empty chair for Elijah at their Passover meal? Is that a coincidence? [More]

No, of course it wasn’t a coincidence.  It’s not like Joseph Smith knew nothing about modern Judaism.  Less than a month beforehand Joseph and a number of his followers had just wrapped up 7 weeks of Hebrew lessons from a Jewish professor they had hired.  In the “if he were making all of this up” line of questioning is it possible that Joseph was quite intentional about what day Elijah appeared? Of course it is.

What’s NOT a coincidence is that both Elias AND Elijah showed up on at the same time. That’s freakin’ unbelievable. (for those who don’t know what I’m talking about, Elias is just another way to say Elijah). And by unbelievable, I mean I don’t believe it.  Like literally. I literally don’t believe it. And not in the figurative way people use the word literally these days. I mean I actually don’t believe it. Continue reading

Counting the Cost of Discipleship (notes from my underground)

I was looking through my journal and saw some thoughts I wrote down three years ago, I wrote these before sinking into a very dim atheism, this entry was part of my last effort to hang on to the Christianity I had when I was LDS. I think I was grasping at whether it made sense at all to consider ourselves Christian disciples.  Now I realize that it does not make sense to even to attempt Christian discipleship without more than a mere belief that you believe in Christ – a state of grace is necessary. I open them up for discussion to reveal something about how many faithful Mormons see the task of discipleship:

My Journal, September 1, 2012:  Pascal mentions that things are different for Christians now because primitive Christians had to devote themselves to the kingdom of heaven, to forsake all safety and security, in essence, to throw their lives away.  Becoming a Christian was about throwing your life away. It would destroy your career prospects, make you an enemy of the state, risk all of your life and property. It meant a hell of a lot.  What this tells me is that Christianity is simply not for everybody.  We simply cannot expect people to be Christians like this. It’s a very difficult task. But its always marvelous when we do see people approach life with this sort of abandon. Continue reading

Where The Troubles Lie

I was recently asked what kinds of things in practice and in doctrine would the LDS church have to change in order to be accepted in the realm of Christian orthodoxy. I’m not under any delusion that the LDS church is interested in making any of these changes.  But this serves as a reference for how I would categorize Mormon distinctives in comparison to Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox churches. I’m sure there will be some dispute of whether or not the LDS church actually teaches some of these things.  So consider this a list of things that would need to be specifically disavowed since some Mormon somewhere has given me the impression that this is what they have learned from the LDS church. If the LDS church doesn’t teach it, then they would need to do more than remain silent on it, they would need to remove confusion over it.

I’ve placed these items in four categories.

No Compromise, This Must Change

  • God was created or formed and was not always in his present state
  • The difference between God and man is one of degree not kind
  • There is more than one god
  • God the Father has a corporeal body
  • God lived a mortal life before the creation of this world
  • God might have been a sinner
  • As God is, man may become
  • Joseph Smith (or any other mortal) is serving in the role of “Holy Ghost” (a speculative theology I’ve heard a few Mormons opine)
  • Heavenly Mother(s) (another speculative theology)

Should Really Be Reviewed

  • Salvation comes in part from our own works
  • Ordinances are required for salvation
  • “The Miracle of Forgiveness” as recommended reading
  • All references to God in the Old Testament are only references to Jesus
  • Marriage is required for the highest degree of glory
  • Acceptance of The Joseph Smith Translation
  • Canonization of “The Pearl of Great Price” and large portions of “Doctrine & Covenants”
  • Creation ex Materia
  • Belief that no Mormon Prophet has ever led the church astray
  • There are High Priests in the order of Melchizedek other than Jesus
  • The Book of Mormon is an actual history (I may hedge on this one)

Just Different, but Weird

  • Eternal Marriage
  • Canonization of “The Book of Mormon”
  • Temples for making covenants with God (content dependent)
  • Baptism for the dead
  • Sacred undergarments
  • Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods
  • The canon is open and continues to expand (content dependent)

Have Fun

  • Lay clergy
  • Expectation of missionary service
  • Canning
  • King James Bible
  • 19th Century Methodist-style worship services
  • General Conference
  • Leadership determined by longevity
  • Geographically designated worship communities

Would any other non-Mormons disagree with my list and how I’ve ordered these items? Does this clarify our differences?

What Mormons Should Know About Evangelicals

This guest article is written by Eric, a frequent participant here who was raised Evangelical and graduated from an Evangelical college. He has been an active member of the LDS church for a dozen years.

Both online and in the real world, I have heard many Mormons display misunderstanding and/or ignorance of Evangelical Christianity — as well as appreciation for the Christian example that many Evangelicals provide. I hope that my observations here can foster less of the former and more of the latter as participants in both great Christian faith traditions seek to follow the example of their Savior.

Evangelical Christianity is incredibly diverse: If you judge Evangelical Christianity from only a few of its adherents, you’re being too hasty. What many Mormons appreciate about their church is that you can go anywhere in the world and participate in worship and instruction that is very much like what you’re used to. But evangelicalism isn’t like that at all. In both theology and practice, evangelicalism is more diverse than you can imagine.

Within Evangelicalism, you can find churches that have rock bands in worship services, and ones where they sing the same types of hymns that we do (some of then even without pianos); you can find churches with thousands of people who attend each Sunday, and churches that meet in homes or small rented facilities; you can find churches with huge professional staffs, and ones that are run by volunteers; you can find ones that teach a doctrine of “once saved, always saved,” and ones that emphasize the need to, in LDS lingo, endure to the end; you can find churches that prohibit the use of alcohol and those that have more conservative behavior standards than Mormons do, and you can find many that accept moderate drinking and other behaviors as a choice that can be made within the bounds of Christian liberty; you can find churches that are open to the teachings of modern science, and you can find ones that insist the world was created in six 24-hour days; you can find churches where members speak in tongues, and you can find ones that condemn the practice; you can find some that baptize infants, and others that baptize only those past an age of accountability; and the list goes on and on.

Even within a single denomination, you can find diversity. If you’ve known one Southern Baptist, for example, you don’t know them all.

What tie Evangelicals together are beliefs that salvation is found through a personal faith in Jesus Christ and that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. There is still debate over what are the boundaries that define Evangelicalism. It is safe to say, however, that one key characteristic of evangelicals is that they believe the Resurrection was a historical, physical event, something that can’t be said of all Protestants. And while Evangelicals don’t define themselves by their views on sexual morality, one way of distinguishing between evangelicals and many mainline Protestants is that evangelicals nearly always are firm in the position that God intended sex only for married male-female couples.

Evangelicals believe in a personal God: Just because Evangelicals don’t believe that our Heavenly Father is corporeal doesn’t mean they see him as an impersonal force, a “blob” or an impassionate being who can’t relate to humans. For Evangelicals, the fact that Jesus came to Earth as a human and underwent suffering and death is evidence that God can understand everything we could possibly go through.

Anti-Mormonism is not a key focus of Evangelicals: While much of the opposition to Mormonism does come from Evangelicals, outside of the Mormon Corridor our church isn’t something that most of Evangelicals concern themselves with all that much, if at all. In most cases, we aren’t even on their radar. (There are exceptions, however.)

In general, Evangelicals don’t know much about Mormonism, and what they do “know” is likely wrong or incomplete: Visit an Evangelical bookstore, and you’ll find that most of the books that discuss Mormonism do so from an “anti-cult” perspective. They tend to emphasize obscure and/or inflammatory statements made by 19-century leaders (e.g., Jesus was conceived by the Heavenly Father having sex with Mary) or teach beliefs out of context (e.g., Jesus is Satan’s brother). What evangelicals often know about the LDS church (if they know anything significant at all) comes, often indirectly, from such sources. When everyday Evangelicals say incorrect things about Mormon beliefs, it’s usually out of ignorance rather than malice.

Evangelicals have a testimony of Jesus Christ as Savior: Get Evangelicals to talk about their faith, and you’ll hear many of the same things we hear in testimony meetings — gratitude about what the Savior has done for them, an appreciation for the guidance they receive from the Holy Spirit, a firm belief in the Atonement, and so on. They know Jesus lives, just as we do.

Evangelicals use the same Bible as we do: It is true that most American Evangelicals today (as always, there are exceptions) don’t use the King James Version of the Bible. But the modern translations they use have the same books as ours and are generally accurate translations from the best Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts that exist. They don’t take out verses or chapters because they don’t like them. In fact, outside the English- and Spanish-speaking countries, the LDS church typically uses the same translations that other Christians use.

Works do matter: Too many LDS-vs.-Evangelical debates boil down to disagreement over matters of faith and works. And while Evangelicals do emphasize the importance of faith, that doesn’t mean they don’t believe in works. In practical terms, most evangelicals who are active in their churches seek to live good lives, to follow the teachings of Christ, to serve the poor, and so on. Theologically, many of them emphasize the importance of sanctification — following the example of Christ and becoming more like him.

I’m not suggesting there are no differences between evangelicals and Mormon on this issue. But the stereotype of the evangelical being one who says “I can sin all I want because I’ve been saved and am going to heaven anyway” is just that, a stereotype, and represents the type of view that definitely wouldn’t be endorsed from the pulpit.

Just because many Evangelicals have rock music during worship services and pray to God as “you” doesn’t mean they’re irreverent: Read about the musical instruments that were used in the Bible, or about the exuberance of Pentecost (or the opening of the Kirtland temple, for that matter), and you’ll see that the 19th-century American worship style used in the LDS church isn’t the only one that is pleasing to God. Think of the differences as being cultural in nature rather than one stemming from an irreverent attitude.

The same goes for the prevailing (although not universal) evangelical practice of addressing God as “you” rather than “thou.” To many evangelicals, talking to God as “thou” would feel distancing and overly formal, and not recognizing him as someone who can relate to us mortals. It may be worth nothing noting that outside of English-speaking countries, most Mormons speak to God in the same “informal” language that evangelicals do, such as the form of “you” in Spanish. The choice of pronoun has more to do with custom than with reverence.

Most Evangelical pastors are not overpaid: While there are some televangelists who become wealthy through their ministries and other who abuse their positions in the interests of wealth, they are the exception rather than the rule. The pay for most is modest, and they’re generally paid with a salary set as part of an open budgeting process (rather than as a percentage of church collections). For those in larger churches, salary levels are probably comparable to what full-time LDS general authorities earn.

We have many things to be grateful to Evangelicals for: Much of the Biblical scholarship we have today comes to us from Evangelicals and other non-LDS Christians. Many of the hymns in the LDS hymnbook were written by Protestants. Evangelicals engage in much humanitarian work throughout the world (sometimes even in cooperation with Mormons). Evangelicals and Catholics are among the few groups in our country today that continue to teach chastity. Evangelicals have been in the forefront of efforts to protect religious freedom. Overall, evangelicals have been a force for good in our nation and world.

Evangelicals have a strong regard for family: They may not have as many children on the average as we do, but they love them just as much. Most evangelical churches place a strong emphasis on Sunday school and activities for children, just as we do, and many of them do a better job than we do in reaching out to unchurched teenagers. And Evangelicals are concerned about the cultural forces that can be destructive to families, just as we are.

Evangelicals don’t have the complete gospel, but they have quite a bit of it: Joseph Smith once taught: “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.” That is a statement that most evangelicals could agree with. Sit in on an evangelical adult Sunday school class sometime, and you’ll find that many evangelicals deal on a daily basis with the same issues we do — how to live our lives in accordance with Jesus’ teachings, how to understand what God is trying to tell us in the scriptures, how to sense the Holy Spirit guiding us.

I have no desire here to ignore or downplay the differences betweenEvangelical Christians and LDS Christians; they are real, and they are substantial. But we also share a love for Jesus Christ and a gratitude for the Heavenly Father sending his Son to Earth to set an example for us and to die for us. We have much we can learn from each other, but we can do that only if we make efforts to understand each other and to see each other not as people to demonize but as children of our Heavenly Father and who are sincerely, even though possibly mistaken, trying to heed the teachings of Jesus Christ..

Mormons believe in a Mother in Heaven

Since Tim is gone, I thought I would back him up by writing a Tim-Style Post.  i.e. throw out a controversial LDS doctrine in sort of a challenging way and then open it up for comments.

Few Mormon doctrines are more radically paradigm-shifting than the believe in the existence of a Heavenly Mother.

What equally interesting to me is what this particular doctrine tells about how Mormonism works.

I think Evangelicals often stand with open-mouth when they read that those crazy Mormon’s believe such things because they are nowhere to be found in the Bible.  Aside from being a radical shift in understanding of God and Man between Protestants and Mormons, the doctrine also shows a fundamental difference in the way Mormons form their personal theology vs. the way Evangelicals seem to go about it.  This is what I want to explore with this post.  To try to explain to bible-focused (limited?) Evangelicals why Mormons believe in a Mother in Heaven, even when its not in the bible.  For this I am going to have to call on the usual bunch of commentators.

Few people, if any, know the ultimate origin of the idea that we have a Mother in Heaven.  Joseph Smith does not seem to have spoken directly about it in his life and there is no reference in the LDS Canon.

The first time we see it in writing comes from a woman, Eliza R. Snow, in a hymn, “O My Father”  President Kimball acknowledged that “O My Father” was a “doctrinal hymn” and dozens of prophets and apostles have reiterated this idea.

President Lorenzo Snow explained that Eliza Snow got the doctrine from Joseph shortly before he was murdered.

President Spencer W. Kimball in a general conference address:

“When we sing that doctrinal hymn … ‘O My Father,’ we get a sense of the ultimate in maternal modesty, of the restrained, queenly elegance of our Heavenly Mother, and knowing how profoundly our mortal mothers have shaped us here, do we suppose her influence on us as individuals to be less?” (Ensign, May 1978, p. 6.)

The doctrine of the hymn is pretty straightforward, there is a mother in heaven and we will return to live with Her and the Father, and that they together sent people on their mission to earth:

I had learned to call thee Father,
Thru thy Spirit from on high,
But, until the key of knowledge
Was restored, I knew not why.
In the heav’ns are parents single?
No, the thought makes reason stare!
Truth is reason; truth eternal

Tells me I’ve a mother there.
Let me come and dwell with you.
With your mutual approbation
All you sent me forth to do,
Then, at length, when I’ve completed
When I leave this frail existence,
When I lay this mortal by,
Father, Mother, may I meet you
In your royal courts on high?

So there we have it, a revolutionary new way of looking at God and heaven that turns traditional notions on their ear.

Mormons believe it, but I can see the Evangelicals left scratching their heads:

  1. The doctrine is not found in scripture, including Mormon Scripture
  2. The doctrine was not explicitly taught or explained by Joseph Smith (even though it is pretty clear that he was claimed that he originally  taught the doctrine)
  3. It really shifts away from all traditional interpretations of the Bible.

I can see how an Evangelical is probably left dumbfounded:  “You can’t win with those Mormons, how can I teach them correct theology whenthey are going to beleive stuff like this with such slim support or understanding?”

Here we have, in my mind, the genius as well as the vulnerability of  Mormonism. . . our willingness to believe in things that are not in the Bible.  To some Mormons, this doctrine is very uncomfortable.  We sometimes downplay it and even reproach those that make “too much” of it due to the little we “know” about it.  To others, agreeing with Eliza R. Snow, it makes religion make more sense: i.e. “If man is made in the image of God, why wouldn’t there be family in heaven as well as on earth. ”

I think if we can give a good explanation to our Evangelical friends  of why we believe this doctrine, they will be a lot closer to really understanding Mormonism.  (and we might have a clearer way of understanding our own view of how “doctrine” is born).

So Mormons, explain to Evangelicals :

1. Do you believe in a Mother in Heaven? and

2. Why?

3. What is the significance of the doctrine to you, to the Church, and to the world?

Evangelicals, we know you don’t believe it, and we know its not in the Bible, if you try to understand why we believe you may learn a lot about Mormonism in general that will enlighten you on how we do religion in other areas.

Lost in Translation

The Book of Mormon declares that the Bible has been deliberately altered (see 1 Nephi 13:26-28). Mormons will often point to all the different translations of the Bible as proof that it has been changed. You can ask them something like:

  • Does translation always lessen scripture’s value or change its teaching?
  • What about the Book of Mormon? How many translations have been made of it? Is it less reliable in French or German?
  • Does the church put a disclaimer on the Book of Mormon in other languages as they do with the Bible? If not, why not?
  • If professional LDS translators can reliably take the English Book of Mormon into French, why can’t professional translators take the Greek New Testament into English?
  • If the Bible is in such bad shape, which verses are wrong, so I won’t use them?

The last question in this sequence I think is an excellent question.  Some LDS will point to the Joseph Smith translation as a means of finding out which verses in the Bible are wrong.  This begs the question, if those same verses are found (word for word) in the Book of Mormon, are they also wrong? Which is more reliable, the Book of Mormon or the Joseph Smith Translation?

For the record, I think translation does in fact lessen scripture’s meaning.  It’s an inherent problem in translation.  Studying the scriptures in their original languages holds immense value.  But that said, I don’t think any of the major translations of the Bible can be shown to have negligently translated the original language.

Many of the cultural Mormon arguments against the Bible are made out of a ignorance of the translation process.  There’s an understanding that modern English translation are updated from the KJV rather than taken directly from the oldest manuscripts.

Me & Mormons — Part 7

After hearing President Hinckley speak we set up an appointment with Scott, his wife, Elder A and Elder P. It turned out that is was a really good thing that we invested time in getting to know each other on a personal level because our first discussion was not a positive one.

As I had mentioned before, in preparation for meeting with the missionaries I decided it would be a good idea to read the Book of Mormon in its entirety. The missionaries knew I had finished reading it and I think our discussion generally went down hill when they asked me what I thought of it. My impressions of the Book of Mormon were not positive ones. I can’t remember exactly all of the details of how our conversation went but I do remember what I initially thought of the Book of Mormon. So this should give you a flavor for our discussion. (I should also make it clear that the amount of anti-Mormon literature I had read at this point was quite minimal)

I didn’t really encounter anything all that controversial or profoundly new in the Book of Mormon as far as general themes and teachings. It seemed to me to be a generally benign religious tome that didn’t advocate sacrificing babies, drinking goat’s blood or wearing funny underwear. It talked quite a bit about Christ and I’m overall interested in anything anybody has to say about Jesus. There were large portions of Bible repeated word for word throughout. I certainly didn’t mind rereading the Sermon on the Mount in a different context. As I remember the only major things that stood out to me that were practically different from my own faith was that baby baptisms were wrong as well as being a pastor for hire.

I found it to be a terribly difficult book to read. It seemed that some one was trying desperately hard to copy the style of the King James Bible but without any understanding of the grammar that makes it readable and beautiful. I’ve grown up reading just enough of the KJV to know how to understand its lexicon so it wasn’t the genre of the writing that made it difficult as much as how poorly it was executed. The frequent use and misuse of “and it came to pass” seemed like a dead give away that it was someone’s favorite filler that enhanced the Old English feel of the passages. Poor writing is by no means a sin but the Book of Mormon lacked the cohesive readability I’ve come to expect in translations of scripture.

What caught my attention and my objection was that the Book of Mormon claimed to be an actual historical account. Through out the account I came across numerous things that were historically anachronistic for the New World. My wife had been a missionary in Peru and while we were dating I visited her several times. In my travels I began to learn quite a bit about Incan civilization. The Incans were by far the most advanced native people in the New World but according to Book of Mormon the Lamanites and Nephites seemed to have surpassed them by ages. Yet we have no record of them. Their cities and weapons can’t be found nor can we even see their neighboring tribes borrowing their advanced technology from them. (in case anyone wants to clarify it to me, I know that the events of Mormon did not take place in Peru but more than likely in the MesoAmerican area. But comparing the Incans to the Mayans, the Incans were more advanced and the Nephites were more advanced still)

I also found mention of plants and animals that I knew were not part of the American continents until the Spainards arrived. Yet, here they were being actively used by active groups of people only to disappear before the Europeans arrived and leave no historical record behind.

What I believe really sealed my conclusion that the Book of Mormon was in no way a historical account of anything was something Jesus was said to have stated. I read 3rd Nephi 19:4

And it came to pass that on the morrow, when the multitude was gathered together, behold, Nephi and his brother whom he had raised from the dead, whose name was Timothy, and also his son, whose name was Jonas, and also Mathoni, and Mathonihah, his brother, and Kumen, and Kumenonhi, and Jeremiah, and Shemnon, and Jonas, and Zedekiah, and Isaiah—now these were the names of the disciples whom Jesus had chosen—and it came to pass that they went forth and stood in the midst of the multitude.

There was my name, Timothy, in the pages of the Book of Mormon. There’s nothing unusual or novel about me reading my own name in scripture. But of all the names in the Book of Mormon, Timothy, is the one I know something about. The people who came to the New World and were the ancestors of the Lamanites and Nephites were Jewish. Timothy is a Greek name. The Bible takes the time to make sure we know that Timothy was half Jewish and half Greek. Jews who fled Israel before the time of Alexander the Great would not have been naming their children with a Greek name for several hundred years in isolation from Hellenization. They probably wouldn’t have known the name much less used it. I strongly remember stopping and thinking “TIMOTHY! There shouldn’t be any Timothys in this story.”

The other thing that caught me wrong about the Book of Mormon account was the collapse of Christianity. It went against everything I’ve been taught and seen in practice. Whenever Christianity is opposed and persecuted it flourishes. Even today it’s generally agreed that Christianity would not be doing as well as it is in China without Communist oppression. More often than not it flourishes at the center of the place it’s being oppressed. Christians have a remarkable ability to convert their captors. But in the Book of Mormon, the true practicing Christians are rather easily wiped out. That just flies in the face of what I know of Christianity and what God promises (the gates of Hell will NOT prevail against it).

So that summed up a rather contentious discussion. It wasn’t a fight by any means, but it wasn’t a love fest either. I believe we ended the evening all feeling frustrated. I had to walk everyone out of our gated apartment complex. Scott’s wife pretty much disappeared as soon as we opened our front door I’m not sure where she went. As we reached the gate Scott pulled me aside and asked me what was going on. He was so sure that he had seen the Spirit in my wife and I and he couldn’t understand why we seemed to be rejecting their message. I responded that I was interested in investigating any truth claims made by anyone but that I just wasn’t seeing truth here.

Scott said we would talk more but he asked me to take it easy on the missionaries. He said that they were young, didn’t know too much and that I should just let them go through their discussion materials. (I found that ironic given the conversation Scott and I had about people delivering their religious scripts rather than having a conversation). It turned out that the Elder A and Elder P were much more resilient than Scott and would not be easily dissuaded from visiting my home. . . .

Catholic Counter-Arguments

I found these videos on YouTube of a Catholic Apologetics class where they discuss Mormonism (surprised I beat Aquinas to this). I thought it was interesting to get their take on all of these topics. They take their shots at both LDS and Protestants and I acknowledge there are misinformed on a number of LDS beliefs.

Now I know LDS generally consider it bad form to talk about other churches. But I think if LDS missionaries are going to to try to gain converts from Catholic and Protestant churches, it’s reasonable for those churches to prepare their members with counter arguments.


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

You Can’t Trust the Bible

There’s a number of issues about the reliability of the Bible and the accuracy of traditional Christian doctrine that have a way of poking their head out here on this blog. If you’d like a fuller view on Evangelical answers to these questions, you can listen to this lecture series. They do a good job of listing the problems and giving an answer for them. It’s my view that there is great reason to believe that we have the right books in the Bible and that our core doctrines were not based on mere political process.

Why (and how) should I believe the Bible to be the word of God?
Part 1

Part 2

What about all those transmission errors and contradictions in the Bible?

Part 1

Part 2

How did they choose the books that are in the Bible? And didn’t they just vote on it?

Part 1

Part 2

If you’d like to directly download the audio files, you can go here.

For the Bible Told Me So

Wulfstan earlier asked this series of questions. Miraculously, I have time to answer them at least in part.

I am curious about the converstation regarding the Bible and the assertion of its infallibility and authority in all matters pertaining to whether a religion is true or not.

It appears from historical record that “the pope was dethroned and the Bible was enthroned’ by the European reformers of the 16th and 17th centuries. The reformers claimed in different manners that the Roman church was apostate in its teachings and therefore its authority. The reformers then had a need to replace the authority that they had thrown down with the church in order to defend their” new” beliefs. The only available place they could go for a defendable position on this new doctrine was to claim that their new authority came solely from the “Word of God.”

It is interesting to me that when participants are separated from actual events by a significant time, how absolute their position becomes. The early controversies that surrounded these early events of the Protestant reformation are diminished by the fog of forgetfulness.

If your argument today is that every word in the Bible is the true and absolute Word of God and therefore if someone’s belief contradicts the Bible, they and their beliefs are fatally wrong, I ask you from which Bible (what auhority) do you make your claim?

Isn’t it true that there are many Bibles and that they all differ in content and meaning. Even if your current scripture is the result of translation using earlier versions of different text, what then was wrong with those earlier scriptures that they had to be retranslated?

And finally, if today you claim that your authority comes solely from the Bible, it being the word of God, how can you reconcile that you have the truth today when it surely was not the claim by any in the early churches that existed much closer in time and proximity to the Savior and his disciples, that their authority came solely from the Bible?

I think that’s a bit of a “retelling” of the Protestant reformation. It seems to be politically skewed to show Luther and others and wanting to break free from the Catholic church and back-ending Biblical authority as an excuse or tool to do so. It would be my understanding that the Reformers found the Priesthood Authority in the Catholic church to be corrupt as they compared it to the Bible. They already understood the Bible to have more authority than the Pope. As it became clear to them that there was a difference between the two, they attempt to pull the Priesthood back into orthodoxy with the Bible. When it was apparent that it was not going to happen, they were either excommunicated or left the Catholic church and went forward with the authority of the Bible and Christ as the head of the church (as He has always been). Interestingly the Catholic Church eventually adopted most of the Reformer’s key points, so it appears that despite maintaining the priesthood, the Catholic church also found the Biblical authority to be stronger than the practice of their priesthood at the time.

If your argument today is that every word in the Bible is the true and absolute Word of God and therefore if someone’s belief contradicts the Bible, they and their beliefs are fatally wrong, I ask you from which Bible (what auhority) do you make your claim?

I’m not going to deny that there aren’t Protestant Fundamentalist that blindly and ignorantly mandate that every single word in the Bible is absolute in it’s meaning. But that’s not my view and not the view of 95% of Christians I interact with. I believe that the Bible should be taken on it’s own terms. Genre, intent, audience, and context are all as important as the words that make up each verse. That doesn’t mean I’m nuancing the meaning out of the Bible, but it does mean that I think it’s important to know a lot about what surrounds the Bible in order to know what it’s saying and to whom.

Isn’t it true that there are many Bibles and that they all differ in content and meaning. Even if your current scripture is the result of translation using earlier versions of different text, what then was wrong with those earlier scriptures that they had to be retranslated?

No that really isn’t true. Your comments generally seem more educated than to think there are many different Bibles that differ in content and meaning. I’m surprised you asked the question in that way. There are many different translations of the Bible (almost as many as languages in the world) and there are in fact many English translations of the Bible. But they all say the same thing in content and meaning.

There is nothing wrong with the older translations. I think the KJV is a great translation and I use it all the time when I’m talking with people who are over 350 years old. We have newer translations because English is a growing and changing language. We have both archaic and emerging forms of English. New translations are introduced to keep current with our changing language. But these new translations are not based on older English translations, they are always based on the oldest Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew transcripts we can find. If we can find even older transcripts than the ones we currently have we will abandon what we currently have and use the new findings. That is another issue with the KJV, we now have much more reliable transcripts to rely upon. There are now known errors in the KJV (but even those errors are minor in the scope of the whole text).

There are some differences between peer translations. The NIV and the NASB for instance were both translated at about the same time but are worded differently. The NIV was translated phrase-by-phrase, the NASB was translated word-by-word. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. But nobody claims that these English translations are in any way superior to the Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic that they were translated from nor are there are not really any differences in content or meaning between them.

And finally, if today you claim that your authority comes solely from the Bible, it being the word of God, how can you reconcile that you have the truth today when it surely was not the claim by any in the early churches that existed much closer in time and proximity to the Savior and his disciples, that their authority came solely from the Bible?

I think authority doesn’t just come from the Bible (though it has a great deal of authority). I believe that ultimate authority comes from Jesus and the Holy Spirit who are personally interacting with the world and the Church. I also believe that the elders and leadership of my local church have authority (given that their actions conform to the Bible). In addition I think husbands have spiritual authority in their families (though that is a call to submit to the needs of their wives).

Thou Shalt Pray Like This

Have you ever met people who prayed in King James English? It’s kind of funny to me that they think God only listens to a language form that wasn’t invented until 1,000 years after Jesus was born. Clearly Jesus must have been praying the wrong way.

I’m actually fine with people praying in whatever style they are most comfortable with. What really irks me is when people insist that everyone must pray this way. As if this were the true order of prayer. The reason it irks me is that it’s totally false.

We absolutely should have respect and reverence in our hearts as we approach the thrown. But formality is definitely not required. How do I know? Because Jesus said so. Take at look at the Lord’s Prayer in the original language. When Jesus says “Our Father” he uses the word Abba, which is baby talk. It means Daddy.

I’m going to take my cues on how to pray from Jesus over anyone else. If he says we have the privilege to be informal and encourages us to call God “Daddy”, I’m going to take his word for it over any stuffed shirt.


In a post about the King James Only controversy, my co-author, C.John, stated a preference for the KJV by saying:
“I personally appreciate it more. But that’s just me. We are already working with foreign words and concepts that are difficult to translate to the English mindset. Why not use something that makes us step away from common familiarity and encourage us to really delve into the meaning and study and ponder the concepts?”

I was reading last night and came across this same argument (preference) stated for scriptio continua. I did not know this, but apparently until the 5th Century, the Latin transcripts of the Bible included no gaps between the words and used only capital letters. SOBIBLEVERSESUSEDTOLOOKSO METHINGLIKETHIS. As the change was being considered, there were some who opposed the change. A man named Cassian argued that “if a text was slow to offer up its meaning, this encouraged not only healthy meditation but the glorification of God.” I read that and thought. “Hey that’s exactly what C.John said!”

Now, here’s the embarrassing part. I was reading a book about punctuation (so ashamed) that I bought as a romantic gift for my wife (so very very ashamed). It’s actually a really good book. I can’t believe I am promoting a punctuation book, but it’s really funny. It’s called “Eats, Shoots & Leaves“. The author does a fantastic job of pointing out the funny things that happen when punctuation is improperly used and at the same time makes fun of herself for caring so much about punctuation. Go ahead mock me now.