Saturday, September 10, 2005

Mystifications on Mormonism


I view no unbaptized person as a Christian (which is not to say that God is not free to do so).


For Paul Owen, the criterion is not a credible profession of faith, but baptism.

One striking implication is that, for Dr. Owen, the prerequisite for baptism is that a baptismal candidate not be a Christian. After all, he can only be viewed as a Christian as a result of baptism.

By his own benchmark, Dr. Owen was not a Christian at the time he was baptized. If so, that would explain a lot.


I do not believe that the argument, sure they believe in a Jesus, but not the Jesus, applies to the Mormons. The accusation of preaching “another Jesus” (2 Cor. 11:4) is directed at false teachers who knowingly deny the authority of the apostle Paul, and who intentionally proclaim a different Jesus from the one Paul claimed to have met on the Damascus Road. The Mormons do not intend to worship a Jesus who differs from the apostolic testimony, as Paul’s opponents did. Their intention is to worship the Jesus who spoke through all the apostles. Christian apologists, in their zeal to latch onto a prooftext, have misapplied Paul’s strong words here, and wrongly applied them to Mormons, who intend to affirm what Paul, and all the apostles taught pertaining to Christ, but who misunderstand some of those teachings. That, in itself, is not damnable. I take their claim to have faith in Jesus at face value.


Now he’s equivocating. The false teachers intended to teach a different Jesus than the Jesus taught by Paul, but they didn’t intend to teach a different Jesus from the real Jesus, because they thought they were right and Paul was wrong. They are not denying Jesus, as they understood him, but Paul.

False teachers are either deceivers or self-deceived. And it matters not which is which. For self-deception is just as culpable as deception.

No, most Mormons probably do not intend to worship a false God. Most Baal-worshipers did not intend to worship a false God. But sincerity in error is not exculpatory. To be a faithful Satanist is not equivalent to being a faithful Christian.

In Scripture, idolatry is a cardinal sin. Dr. Owen simply waves that aside. But idolatry presents a mental block and spiritual impediment to true worship precisely because the idol leaves no room for the true God in the devotion of the idolater.

In Mormonism, their commitment to the Mormon canon and the Mormon pantheon takes precedence over the Christian canon and Christian theology. The later is radically reinterpreted in light of the former.

You don’t have to disbelieve in Jesus to be damned. Mere unbelief will suffice.


I do not accept Joseph Smith as a true Prophet. I do not believe that Joseph had the authority to pen Scripture, as did the prophets and apostles of old. I do believe that Joseph can be viewed as a prophet of sorts (something along the lines of Balaam in Numbers 22-24), who experienced a taste of the charismata, and who may have been used to speak a true word of rebuke upon a wordly, divisive church which was gripped by the spirit of revivalism. God used Joseph to speak to the churches, and to expose their shallow versions of the Christian religion. Out of the fragmented confusion of frontier revivalism and evangelism arose a new religion, which took revivalism to its logical conclusion, and implemented the popular primitivist, Anabaptist, Radical Reformation vision in such a manner as to decisively break from the historic fold. When the Church does not bear witness to its Catholicity, when the Faith becomes more of a mechanism of producing converts than maintaining the unity and identity of the visible body, God raises up men and movements to rebuke the worldly church. The Rechabites (Jer. 35) and the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) provide us with comparable models in which to understand God’s purpose in raising up Joseph Smith and the Mormons.


So Dr. Owen doesn’t believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet on par with the canonical prophets, but he does regard him as a prophet sent by God to speak a true word to the church.

That's a transparent example of Dr. Owen’s rampant syncretism.

In addition, Dr. Owen never misses a chance to demonize the Anabaptists. Notice how charitable he is towards the Mormons, making every possible allowance for their good intentions; and how uncharitable he is towards the Anabaptists, making no allowance for their good intentions.

If Dr. Svendsen is Enloe’s great white whale, then the Amish play Moby-Dick to Owen’s Ahab.

Now, we may disagree with some of their answers, but the Anabaptists were asking the right questions. Take Calvin’s position on the Eucharist. This was a classic mediating position. And it suffers from the instability of an intellectual compromise. Even Dabney, Cunningham, and Bavinck regard his position as incoherent.

And that's because Calvin, instead of questioning the traditional framework, was trying to modify it.

By contrast, the Anabaptist didn’t want tradition to prejudge the answer. They were asking themselves, if we’d never heard of Catholicism, and were taking a fresh look at Scripture, how would it appear to us?

That’s a good question. That’s a question we should ask ourselves all the time.

Let’s take another example. One of the traditional dividing-lines between Lutheran and Calvinist iss over the regulative principle; should the presumption be that whatever is not commanded is forbidden? Or whatever is not forbidden is permitted?

Originally, Calvinism took the more restrictive position. And that held until about the 20C. But when a Reformed denomination liberalizes, the faithful will break away and form a new denomination. And when they form a new denomination, that reopens all of the old debates because the new denomination must draft a new set of bylaws.

And you only have to attend an OPC or PCA church to see that, on this issue, most of the Presbos came around to Luther’s view.

And this, I submit, is a sign of maturation. With the advantage of time and hindsight we can reprioritize and put things in perspective. We can see that the Puritan view of worship was rather reactionary.

In his way, Dr. Owen is just as selective, but he’s far more arbitrary. He and Enloe are incapable of such reflection, for they both suffer from the Moby-Dick fixation: “All that most maddens and torments and cakes the brain, all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, Enloe, and Owen, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable, in Moby-Amish-Dick-Svendsen. They piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all their general rage and hate.”


BYU has produced a host of highly skilled Hebraists, NT scholars, Near Eastern specialists, and experts in pertinent fields of ancient history (especially in the study of Gnosticism and Egyptian Christianity).


We’d expect Mormons to focus on early Christian heresies. For that plays into their conspiratorial theory of church history, according to which the primitive Christian kerygma was suppressed and rival “scriptures” were “lost” or destroyed. This is the same line so often peddled by fruit-loops from the Jesus Seminar like Pagels, Crossan, and Ehrman. And it paves the way for Joseph Smith to “restore” the true faith.


  1. We see the same kind of comments from John Morehead when he states "I appreciate the zeal in the countercult for doctrinal orthodoxy in response to heresy. But this zeal is clouding sound thinking and is precluding individuals from considering the merits of a new approach. The heresy-rationalist paradigm is apparently serving more as blinders, rather than as an appropriate tool for understanding and communication. We're so worked up over this issue that I think it's time to take Mel Gibson's advice: we need to eat some fruit or something."

    Criticism and the New Paradigm: Time to Eat Some Fruit or Something (posted 9/6/05).

    Or, "Many evangelicals, particularly in the counter-cult community, identify Satan as the personal agent responsible for the creation of spiritual counterfeits. We might note in response that no biblical text explicitly states either that there are spiritual counterfeits, or that Satan is the creator of such alleged fabrications. Evangelicals have formulated this view based upon inferences drawn from a handful of biblical texts. One that is especially popular in counter-cult literature is 2 Cor. 11:2-4, 13-15. In this passage Paul mentions "another Jesus," a "different Spirit" and a "different gospel" presented by "false apostles" and "deceitful workers" who disguise themselves to look like genuine apostles, just as Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. From this passage the inference is drawn that there are various false prophets and apostles, and that they present a counterfeit form of Christianity under the influence of Satan as the ulimate counterfeiter. This passage, and the concept of counterfeit Christianity, is then applied to "cults" or new religions, particularly new religions arising out of the Christian tradition."
    Why I Don't Believe in "Counterfeit Christianity" (posted 8/22/05).

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