Saturday, January 26, 2008

Friday, January 25, 2008

The legendary Alexandrian canon

In case some of you are wondering why I haven’t done much posting here lately, one reason is that I’ve been spending some time over at Josh Brisby’s blog, where he’s been debating Jay Dyer.

So I’ve been busy in the combox over there. Paul Manata, as well as S&S, have also been making valuable contributions to the thread.

I’m going to take this occasion to comment on Dyer’s argument for the Orthodox OT canon, which he equates with the Septuagintal canon:

“Palestinian Jews rejected the DB, but the Septuagint, which is the Greek version of the OT composed in the 2nd-3rd century B.C. at Alexandria, Egypt by 70 or 72 Jewish scribes, was used by non-Palestinian Jews. It is a well known fact that the Septuagint (LXX) was both the Bible of the diaspora Jews and the Bible of all the early Christians, as will be proven below. Further, it’s also a fact that the LXX contained the DB, as will also be proven below.”

This argument is both anachronistic and equivocal. The most charitable interpretation is that Dyer is simply ignorant of standard scholarship on the LXX.

However, I’ve also noticed, in my exchanges with him, that he has a habit of ignoring counterevidence. He continues to do this even after he has been corrected on his errors and omissions.

It isn’t possible to simply infer the canon of Diaspora Jews from our copies of the LXX, and this is why:

“No two Septuagint codices contain the same apocrypha, and no uniform Septuagint ‘Bible’ was ever the subject of discussion in the patristic church. In view of these facts the Septuagint codices appear to have been originally intended more as service books than as a defined and normative canon of Scripture,” E. E. Ellis, The Old Testament in Early Christianity (Baker 1992), 34-35.

“As we have seen, manuscripts of anything like the capacity of Codex Alexandrinus were not used in the first centuries of the Christian era, and since, in the second century AD, the Jews seem largely to have discarded the Septuagint…there can be no real doubt that the comprehensive codices of the Septuagint, which start appearing in the fourth century AD, are all of Christian origin,” R. Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church (Eerdmans 1986), 382.

“Nor is there agreement between the codices which of the Apocrypha t include. Codex Vaticanus, Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Alexandrinus all include Tobit, Judith, Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, and integrate them into the body of the Old Testament, rather than appending them at the end; but Codex Vaticanus, unlike the other two, totally excludes the Books of Maccabees. Moreover, all three codices, according to Kenyon, were produced in Egypt, yet the contemporary Christian lists of the biblical books drawn up in Egypt by Athanasius and (very likely) pseudo-Athanasius are much more critical, excluding all apocryphal books from the canon, and putting them in a separate appendix. It seems, therefore, that the codices, with their less strict approach, do not reflect a definite canon so much as variable reading-habits; and the reading-habits would in the nature of the case be those of fourth and fifth-century Christians, which might not agree with those of first-century Jews,” ibid. 383.

“At this point we encounter the Greek Old Testament in the three great codices of the fourth and fifth centuries: Vaticanus, Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus…All exceeded the scope of the Hebrew Bible…In Vaticanus, however, all four of the books of Maccabees are missing and in Sinaiticus, 2 and 3 Macabees, as well as 1 Ezra, Baruch and Letter of Jeremiah—presumably only the result of lacunae in the text. Codex Alexandrinus, approximately one century younger, is, in contrast, much more extensive; it includes the LXX as we know it in Rahlfs’ edition, with all four books of Maccabees and the fourteen Odes appended to Psalms. The Odes also include the Prayer of Manasseh, previously attested only in the Syria Didaskalia and the Apostolic Constitutions,” M. Hengel, The Septuagint as Christian Scripture (Baker 2004), 57-58.

“It should be considered, further, that the Odes (sometimes varied in number), attested from the fifth century in all Greek Psalm manuscripts, contain three New Testament ‘psalms’: the Magnificat, the Benedictus, the Nunc Dimittis from Luke’s birth narrative, and the conclusion of the hymn that begins with the ‘Gloria in Excelsis.’ This underlines the fact that the LXX, although, itself consisting of a collection of Jewish documents, wishes to be a Christian book. The relative openness of the Old Treatment portion of these oldest codices also corresponds to that of its ‘New Testament’: Sinaiticus contains Barnabas and Hermas, Alexandrinus 1 and 2 Clement,” ibid. 59.

Is it Dyer’s position that pre-Christian Jews included The Letter of Barnabas, The Shepherd of Hermas, as well as excerpts from Luke’s Gospel, in their canon of the OT?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

All Things Are Possible

One does not know whether to post Scriptures related to patience or providence. With God all things are possible. I mean, Alpha and Omega Ministries has updated its template and layout!

Dear World

Due to uncertainty in the US economy, the MS Word Paperclip has been forced to seek part-time employment. Rumor has it that Dr. Kavorkian gave him the idea....

Note: I've had this for quite some time - can't remember where from. No infringement of that person's rights are intended. Thanks to that person.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Defining torture

Under ''definition of torture'' the document lists US interrogation techniques such as forced nudity, isolation, sleep deprivation and blindfolding prisoners.

L. Russ Bush, A Race Well Run


Tuesday evening, January 22, 2008, Dr. L. Russ Bush, SEBTS' Academic Vice President and Dean of the Faculty Emeritus, went home to be with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Dr. Bush was loved by us all at SEBTS, and by many others. God used him in a mighty way during his years of service to the Kingdom. We will be forever indebted to him. Please keep his wife and children in your prayers.

We rejoice that now he sees his Savior face to face, and we cherish the time that we had to serve along side of him.

Memorial Service: Sunday, January 27, 2008, at 3pm
Location: Binkley Chapel on the campus of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Gifts: In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made in memory of L. Russ Bush to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary for the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture.

Please mail any gifts to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Attn: Financial Development, PO Box 1889, Wake Forest, NC 27588-1889.

Dr. Mohler has eulogized him today on his blog.

Dr. Bush was also one of my professors, teaching Philosophy of Religion. Marcus David Johnson, a dear friend from long ago, recommended I take Dr. Bush's class. Mark studied under Dr. Bush at SWBTS. I studied with him shortly after his arrival at SEBTS under Dr. Lewis Drummond. Dr. Bush wasn't exactly the most animated person, but underneath, he had a certain dry, though very serious, wit. To this day, I remember his lecture on Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek - long story; perhaps I will tell it another time. I'd be surprised if his other students don't remember that lecture too. He will be greatly missed.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Dear Mr. Bills Can't Get No Respect

Mormons, it seems, have a deep need to be accepted by Christians. We'd be more than happy to accept them as brothers and sisters, if that is, they weren't duplicitous people. Like so many before them and after, they try to play "guilt by association," but in reverse. They play "legitimate by association." If they can associate themselves with Christ, so they seem to reason, this is enough to make them Christians. Such is not the case. In a sense, they remind me of people who want to legalize drugs. They say that they want it for "medicinal" use, but in reality, they're using it to get high. Its “reefer madness” for Mormons.

Today, an op ed appeared in my local paper titled, “Misinformation abounds about Mormons.” The article is from Mr. Wayne Bills, business consultant, a member and lay minister in the LDS Church.

Since this gentleman resides in my community, and there are readers of this blog who live in that community, I am taking the time to respond, for this looks like a response to a letter to the editor I wrote that our local newspaper published. With that in mind.. Normally, I wouldn’t bother placing it on this blog since it isn’t a detailed apologetic, but it is relevant because, (a) the writer proves what many of us have been saying is true, and (b) it is representative of what many folks might encounter in public when meeting Mormons.

Since this article is not online, I have to quote it without a link. I’ll summarize shorter bits in order to take on the main piece near the end. I will endeavor to quote as much as possible, and I will follow Mr. Bills’ order, letting him frame the arguments for us.

Mr. Bills dislikes it that “too many people in our community,” and nation have taken the liberty of telling him what he believes.

The irony here is that he then proceeds in his op. ed. to tell people who differ with him what they believe, and then he has the audacity to tell us what he thinks they should believe and how they act.

He says that people want to “misrepresent” his beliefs.

Unfortunately, he names two “misrepresentations” which, as we shall are not misrepresentations at all.

Mormon is a nickname first used years ago that stuck. Lately, it seems, many people not only misrepresent my beliefs, but they want to use the term “Mormon” in a derogatory fashion, or even in what some have labeled a “bigoted” way.

a. Mr. Bills is a lay minister in the LDS church. He should know that the term is used because the LDS church uses it to describe their own members today.

b. The fact that it has its origins as a nickname is irrelevant to its present usage. Ironically, the original letter that I sent to the newspaper used “LDS” instead of “Mormon” but the newspaper itself changed it to “Mormon,” presumably so readers would better understand what was being said.

c. Perhaps he did not do this due to the word limit imposed by the newspaper, but note that he gives no examples of who has done this. Rather, he simply uses the term “bigoted,” as if this is some sort of emotive appeal.

d. That said, I believe he is referring to the way people refer to Mormonism as a “cult.” This is understandable, since he wishes to be identified as a type of Christian. Of course, the word “cult” has been dumbed down by the media to refer to groups like David Koresh’s followers and others like it, so that the proper usage is generally ignored. This usage congers images of secret societies and suicide pacts. This is, of course, not at all what we in Christian apologetics have in mind. Rather, we have in mind a much older and more proper definition of the term, “that which differs from historic, fundamental doctrine.” The fundamental articles of faith for a Protestant would be basic Theology Proper, Christology, Pneumatology, and a soteriology that included justification by faith alone. Roman Catholics and others would deny the last article. Both groups would rightly construe Mormonism as a “cult,” however, on the basis of the first three articles. Simply put, they cannot give any of us a credible profession of faith.

He then says that too many people have chosen to listen to someone else about what he believes but never asked him.

This is likely true, but if people like, for example, James White, Hank Hannagraaf, or Sandra Tanner have misrepresented his beliefs then he needs to demonstrate that. Later, he will begin trying to correct some of these misrepresentations. More on that below.

He draws a distinction between those who are “passively misinformed” and those who actively try to “spread lies.” It’s worth noting that we are about 1/3 through his article, and he has yet to demonstrate these assertions. So far, he’s all emotion and no documentation.

Apparently there are those who would employ strategies of fear and divisiveness to drive “we – they” wedges between people and groups.

1. What strategies?

2. Truth is divisive.

“We” are right and “they” are to be demeaned and shunned.

Who is “demeaning” and “shunning” Mormons? I don’t recall anybody calling for them to be rounded up and taken to concentration camps, as if they should be sent to the pogroms like Jews in Nazi Germany. Nobody is telling Mormons to sit at the back of the bus. I myself am on record stating that the problem with respect to the presidential campaign isn’t with Mormons for the sake of their Mormons (and I stated this clearly in my letter); rather we are concerned about Romney’s candidacy because he hasn’t come clean about his beliefs while trying to paint himself, like Mr. Bills, as just another sort of Christian. He, like Mr. Bills, recasts certain ideas by redefining terms and investing them with new meanings and then calls himself a “Christian.” That is duplicitous. Mr. Bills makes it sound like we’re trying to excise them from American society. No, we just want them to be honest with us. We’d like men like Mr. Bills to own up to the truth, truth which, I might add, his Mormon ancestors would have had no problem stating clearly.

True Christians everywhere, if they are to be true to their own faith, must take a stand against these “we – they” wedges, and instead seek to apply the teachings of Jesus Christ, which he so beautifully summed up in two great commandments: Love God, and love thy neighbor.

1. Mr. Bills sounds just like an atheist or a person from the theologically liberal tradition out of the 19th and 20th centuries.

2. Exegetically, he hasn’t a leg to stand on. Here’s a sample of Jesus’ own teachings:

a. Matt. 8:6:

Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.

Note that this is written after the so often quoted “judge not that you be not judged” statement. One wonders how, if we are not to judge others at all, how we are to know what is a dog or a pig? “Dog” was a common derogatory term for “Gentile” and the “pig” is an unclean animal. Of course, Jesus does not advocate calling non-believers and Gentiles “dogs,” but he is telling us to judge justly and know the difference between what is right and wrong, true and false, “clean” and “unclean,” etc.

b. Matt. 8:15

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

21"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

Of course, this teaching comes just a few paragraphs after the previous citation.

c. In the text Mr. Bills cited, Jesus is summarizing the two tables of the Decalogue. The first set Israel apart from the nations. Worship of God, the God described in the Bible, whose name is Yahweh, is what is included in “Love God.” Mormons, of course, do not believe that God is Yahweh. He is Elohim, a separate god. Mormons believe in a pantheon of gods. They do not worship the God of the Bible, therefore they do not worship the one true God. Therefore they do not love God at all, using Mr. Bills’ own yardstick.


Acts 8 (New International Version)

20Peter answered: "May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin."

e. 1Timothy 1 (New International Version)

8We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

f. Hebrews 10 (New International Version)

26If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people." 31It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

g. 2 Peter 2 (New International Version)

1But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

4For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; 5if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; 6if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men 8(for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— 9if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment. 10This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority.

Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings; 11yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such beings in the presence of the Lord. 12But these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish.

13They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you. 14With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood! 15They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness. 16But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey—a beast without speech—who spoke with a man's voice and restrained the prophet's madness.

17These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 18For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. 20If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22Of them the proverbs are true: "A dog returns to its vomit," and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud."

h. We need not list all the taunt songs in the Bible. Suffice it to say that Mr. Bills seems to operate with a highly sanitized version of what the Bible teaches, including what Jesus teaches. He has neglected the fact that Jesus did not come to unite just anybody and everybody regardless of what they believed about God. He came to bring a sword between people, to divide them.

3. But if that’s not enough, let’s look at some representative Mormon teachings:

"Both Catholics and Protestants are nothing less than the "whore of Babylon" whom the lord denounces by the mouth of John the Revelator as having corrupted all the earth by their fornications and wickedness." (Pratt, The Seer, p.255)

"And any person who shall be so wicked as to receive a holy ordinance of the gospel from the ministers of any of these apostate churches will be sent down to hell with them, unless they repent of the unholy and impious act." (Orson Pratt, OP-WA, "The Kingdom of God," no.2, p.6)

"...all other churches are entirely destitute of all authority from God; and any person who recieves baptism or the Lord's supper from their hands will highly offend God, for he looks upon them as the most corrupt people." (Orson Pratt, The Seer, pg. 255)

"After the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized, there were only two churches upon the earth. They were known respectively as the Church of the Lamb of God and Babylon. The various organizations which are called churches throughout Christiandom, though differing in their creeds and organizations, have one common orgin. They belong to Babylon." (George Q. Cannon, Gospel Truth, p.324)

I wonder if Mr. Bills is ignorant of what his ecclesiastical superiors have written and stated publicly and of your group's own historical position, or is he simply duplicitous? Are they not representative of Mormonism? Pratt, for example, was one an LDS "apostle."

When we Christians say that Mormons are not Christians, Mr. Bills, we are simply taking your ecclesiastical community at its own word; this is not simply our view over and against your own. We are not "telling you what you believe," we are taking what your own authorities have stated at face value and reminding you of it. If you really think we are "telling you what you believe" perhaps it is because you are ignorant of what those authorities have actually stated.

By the way, Pratt's works are online for all to read here.

As you can plainly see, nothing has been taken out of context, so you can only make this appeal by cutting off the teaching of your own forebears. Since you say “True Christians everywhere should...” we can safely conclude, using your own yardstick, that these individuals were not true Christians. I wonder, what would Gordon Hinckley say about that?

Next he lists what he believes are the two most common myths about what he believes.

1. I’m not a Christian.

2. I don’t believe in the Bible.

He addresses them in reverse order.

One of the basic tenets of my religion clearly states, “We believe the Bible to be the Word of God...” I would guess that every active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (adult and teen) has a personal copy of the King James Bible. We read it in our homes; we teach from it in our services.

1. This response has all the merit of saying, “I read Ladies Home Journal, therefore I am female.”

2. When people say, “Mormons don’t believe in the Bible” they mean that Mormons don’t believe in what the Bible teaches. For a Mormon to say, “I believe the Bible” when seeking to be recognized as a fellow Christian is therefore problematic at best, dishonest at worst.

.3. Notice what Mr. Bills carefully leaves out. More about the meaning of that statement can be found here:

The Bible is not God’s final revelation to humanity, however, and neither is this collection of sacred writings complete. The Bible is not God’s final revelation to humanity, however, and neither is this collection of sacred writings complete. The Bible itself speaks of other authoritative books of scripture including books of Nathan the prophet and of Jehu and Enoch, the prophecy of Ahijah, the visions of Iddo the seer, and even missing epistles of Paul (see 2 Chronicles 9:29; 13:22; 20:34; 1 Corinthians 5:9; Jude 1:14). Other books of Latter-day Saint scripture—the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price—clarify the gospel as taught in the Bible and corroborate the truthfulness of the Biblical witness of Jesus Christ.


"Guided by the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Spirit of the Lord, it is not difficult for one to discern the errors in the Bible. (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 327).


What shall we say then, concerning the Bible's being a sufficient guide? Can we rely upon it in its present known corrupted state, as being a faithful record of God's word? We all know that but a few of the inspired writings have descended to our times,…What few have come down to our day have been mutilated, changed, and corrupted, in such a shameful manner that no two manuscripts agree….Add all this imperfection to the uncertainty of the translation, and who, in his right mind, could, for one moment, suppose the Bible in its present form to be a perfect guide? Who knows that even one verse of the whole Bible has escaped pollution, so as to convey the same sense now that it did in the original?" (Orson Pratt, Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon, p. 47)

4. So, as we can see, Mr. Bills, like Mr. Romney, you told the truth – from a certain perspective, but you left out something important. You also neglected to inform your readers that it’s largely the last two of these ancillary books that form the content of the grid by which the Bible is studied and understood, and you have carefully omitted important information regarding where the Mormon Church actually cashes out on the Bible. You speak with a forked tongue.

Which leads me to another myth, the hurtful claim that I am not a Christian.

One can’t help but notice that this is a common refrain from Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and others. Frankly, I’m just a wee bit tired of hearing this sad song repeated. This statement tries to convey distress; it’s a plea for sympathy. We should, one presumes try to walk in his shoes, as if we have nothing about which to be offended. In reality I am highly offended and “hurt” by his claim to be a Christian. I wonder has he ever bothered to consider how we orthodox Christians feel about these claims?

I grew up believing in God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.

Who denies this? Rather, the issue is what you mean by this.

I went to church regularly.

Christians should go to church, but church attendance does not make you a Christian.

I prayed. I read the Scriptures.

Neither of which make you a Christian any more that eating at McDonald's makes you a Big Mac.

My parents of course did the same. They taught me the basic principles of the Gospel: that Jesus Christ came to earth to atone for my sins to open the door that would one day enable me to return to the presence of God. Doesn’t that sound Christian to you?

Leaving aside the problems with a doctrine of general redemption, yes it does, “from a certain perspective.” The problem, of course, is that those of us that know what Mormonism actually teaches is not the same as what Christianity, and I’m being very broad here to include the Catholics and Orthodox here too, teaches. So, we’re back to the LDS Church taking historical terminology and investing it with new, redefined ideas.

Imagine my surprise to learn, as I got older, that most other Christian denominations claim that I’m not a Christian because my definition of the Trinity isn’t exactly the same as theirs.

1. We’re only taking your own word that we’re not Christians, so the anathema is mutual. See above.

2. Additionally:

Today [the devil] centers his powers on…using [the Bible] to prove such false doctrines as that God is a Spirit or that we are saved by grace alone without works."

Try looking up who said that. So, the difference isn’t just due to your view on the Trinity, at least for us Protestants, and your own theologians have stated that what we affirm is false doctrine.

3. Not exactly the same?

Is our view simply another view alongside of yours? According to you, The Father is an exhalted man. According to you, Jesus is Yahweh. According to you, there is a pantheon of gods, only one of which is due our worship. According to you, the Trinity is composed of three beings.

According to us, the Father is identified as Yahweh. We agree that Jesus is also identified as Yahweh. According to us, there is one and only one God, Yahweh, and He exists as three subsistences, sharing a single essence, ergo a single being.

Which does the Bible teach? The Bible actually says explicitly that the Father is Yahweh in Isaiah 53:6. Are you unaware of the underlying Hebrew? This is also true in Matthew 22:41-45.

So, here we have not merely two differing interpretations of indeterminate weight, such that one is no better than the other. Rather, we have two contradictory readings of the text, and neither is simply a case of competing exegesis. Rather, it's a simple and forthright matter of what the text simply says. You said you believed the Bible. I submit that you do not, and I can’t help but notice you employ a phrase, “not exactly the same” as if the differences are minimal. Sir, we are strict monotheists; you are, by definition, a polytheist. What greater difference could there be? Your Christology is utterly unlike ours, for you make the Son a created being. Your doctrine of God is utterly unlike ours.

To be a Christian is not, “simply defined” as “a believer in and follower of Jesus Christ.” Mormon doctrine does not allow for the granting of personal salvation to those who trust in Christ alone to be reconciled to God.. I’ll walk you through the elementary logic here. You’ve committed a key fallacy: confusing words and concepts by equivocation. Words form and denote concepts. You believe in “Jesus Christ” but your Christology looks nothing like ours and is, in fact, contradictory to ours, and your doctrine of salvation does not resemble what any visible church, not even Rome or the Eastern Orthodox much less Protestant sect, has taught, for the end product is a literal divinization of man, whereby they become gods. That is heresy by any definition of any of the major groups under the broad umbrella of Christianity. Ergo, one of us is not even remotely a Christian. Your forefathers recognized this, as did mine. Why do you not do so?

If differences in denominational doctrines determine the degree of Christianity each Christian faith can claim, then there should be continuing debate among all of them. Are the Baptists more or less Christian than the Lutherans? What about the Methodists, Catholics, Presbyterians, etc? Each of them have different interpretations of certain parts of the Bible, and each have differences in their methods of worship, yet all of them get to claim the title of Christian. Some of them, apparently, even get to tell me that I am not.

1. We do that because Christ would do that too.

2. We do, in fact, debate theology all the time. We do that regularly.

3. However, we draw a distinction between an intramural debate and an extramural debate.

4. You deny fundamental doctrines that are definitional to the most broad usage of the term “Christian” because, for the most part, we draw distinctions between types and levels of error. Also, there is a difference between those doctrines which immediate arise from Scripture’s reading (Trinity, Christology, justification by faith alone) and are primary and those arising by derivation (the exact relationship of the 2 natures; the ordu salutis). To what extent then are can the doctrines in this latter category be considered fundamental?

1. If a doctrine is present and explicit in Scripture it is fundamental and foundational, ergo necessary.

2. The implicit or virtually present doctrine attains a fundamental or normative status when its formulation becomes an issue of debate between orthodox and heterodox Christians.

3. When the heterodox formulation leads to an erroneous and soteriologically dangerous understanding of the explicit and formal or primary doctrines.

5. Varieties of actual fundamental error include three types:

A. Against fundamentals – Direct Error

B. Against fundamentals – Indirect Error

C. Against fundamentals – Beyond the matter

The first is a direct attack. The Socinians directly attacked the Trinity and the divinity of Christ. Many Anabaptists, along with the Catholics attacked justification by faith alone directly. The second would be a doctrine that is subversive of a fundamental. Open theism denies God’s providence by denying infallible future foreknowledge. The attack is indirect, by way of libertarian freedom. Libertarianism itself denies no fundamental if it is construed in relation to prevenient grace, but, in this instance, it is the way it is employed by Open Theists that makes its use an indirect attack on a fundamental, for it is, in Pinnock’s case not only attacking the doctrine of God, but also introducing a post-mortem universalism. The third class involves faith in problematic and curious questions that do not arise from the Word of God plainly, like PPL or “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” or dogmatic statements about supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism, which even Twisse, the supralapsarian at the Westminster Assembly said was probably a question that was better not to have been asked.

Francis Turretin lists five criteria in his Institutes (I.xiv.9):

1. Catholic or universal as necessary to salvation.

2. Necessary to salvation in such a way ignorance of it brings damnation; doubt brings danger; negation of it lead to impiety and heresy.’

3. All the faithful must consent without dissent over interpretation, under pain of Galatians 1:8. This was a restriction on the fundamentals as non-negotiables yet not to the error of excess of the Lutherans, in which all articles were non-negotiable.

4. All dogmas of the faith hark back to them as basic rules of truth are the basis for the analogy of faith.

5. The must be primary fundamentals or principal truths on which all other fundamentals rest and without which salvation would be subverted.

Witsius, in his Exercitationes (II.v.ii) added:

It must be of such nature that neither faith in Christ nor true repentance can exist without it (Heb. 11:6, 12:14). Thus, he adds the doctrine of grace; faith, repentance and conversion. Faith presupposes knowledge and knowledge of Christ is necessary to salvation. (I would add that this is also a denial of the meritocracy of Rome, since justification by faith alone is what he means when he speaks in these terms). This rests on His equality and dignity and identity of substance with the Father. Ergo, the doctrine of Christ, contrary to the Socinians is fundamental. In other words, he works from a teleology of salvation to work out what must be true if that is true. He is deducing his articles from what is known easily to what lies behind them.

6. We draw distinctions between a credible profession of faith and a saving profession of faith. To cite some examples:

In Reformed theology, we draw a distinction between a credible profession of faith and a saving profession of faith. For purposes of church membership, cooperation with other denominational entities, etc., since we cannot know of a certainty who is or isn't saved, we only require a credible profession of faith. A saving profession of faith lies solely between an individual and God.

For example, a Catholic that affirms the current dogmas of
Rome cannot offer a credible profession of faith to a consistent Protestant. But whether a Catholic can offer a saving profession of faith is a different question. The answer varies on a case-by-case basis. It is easier to say who isn't saved than to say who is.
To be a Christian is to be, among other things, a Christian believer. One must believe certain things, and not believe certain other, contrary things. On the one hand, some dogmas are damnable dogmas. On the other hand, the Bible lays out certain saving articles of faith. This is God's criterion, not ours. We did not invent it. By the same token, how God applies that criterion in any individual case is up to God, not to us. We are not the judge, God is the Judge. To take a concrete example, Scripture teaches Sola Fide (faith alone) (Romans; Galatians). An individual is saved by faith in Christ and saved by the sole and sufficient merit of Christ.

However, in Catholic dogma, one is saved by the merit of Christ plus the merit of the saints plus one's own congruent merit. And this results in a divided faith. That is why a Catholic cannot give a consistent Protestant a credible profession of faith. In fairness, Protestants are more prone to give a Catholic church member a pass on the credible profession of faith than they do a Catholic bishop or the Pope or some of their lay apologists, because they very clearly have bought into the full range of Catholic dogmas.

Any of the following creeds/confessions could supply the basis for a credible profession of faith:

1. The Thirty-Nine Articles of the Christian Religion

2. The Formula of Concord

3. The Baptist Faith & Message (any version)(

4. The C&MA statement of faith


5. The JFJ statement of faith (

6. The EFCA statement of faith (

7. The Campus Crusade statement of faith (

8. The AG statement of faith (

These are all broadly evangelical affirmations of faith. Notice, not all are Reformed. Some are Lutheran; some are Arminian. By contrast, Trent or Vatican II does not supply the basis for a credible profession of faith. Still, it is possible for a Catholic to be saved, unlike a Muslim or Mormon or other suchlike.

It’s time to take a more Christian approach. Is it a Christian act to criticize, demean, or in any way undermine the faith of another? Of course not.
Then why do Mormons consider evangelical Christians an object of evangelism? Wouldn’t that be a way of seeking to undermine their faith? Why do they engage in apologetics? Perhaps the problem here is that Mr. Bills has more in common with an atheist than Christ, with liberals than believing Mormons.

Remember the Golden Rule? Let’s all practice that.

Of course the Golden Rule is utterly inapplicable here, for the Golden Rule deals with items like personal offenses, not apologetics or evangelism.. Mr. Bills uses the Golden Rule as a bludgeon with which to deny anyone the right to critique Mormonism, but he can only do so at the expense of excising himself from the ranks of those who practice it by critiquing their beliefs. Notice also that he appears to be defining “demean” as “tell me I’m not a Christian.” In the words of Baby Jane, slightly altered, “But you’re not Blanche, you’re not.”

And for all of us who are Christians, we should take that to the next level by applying the teaching of Christ found in the Book of John: “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another, as I have loved you...”

I agree, but you, sir, are not a member of the covenant community, and this was directed at the members of that community with respect to each other, not to everybody without exception. Certainly, you are entitled to my respect, but it is precisely because I do respect you that I tell you the truth: You do not believe the Bible; you do not love God; and you are not a Christian. The Bible says that God will leave you in your sins and judge you for them all if you do not turn to Christ, the one true God incarnated as a man, fully God, and fully man, not a mode of God’s being, but a person, yet not a separate being, and cast yourself on His mercy by faith alone, rejecting all your works as filthy rags. Place you faith in Christ, the Christ of Christianity, the Christ of the Bible, not the false Christ of Mormonism who is simply antichrist. You and your Mormon brothers and sisters must do this in order to be called “Christians,” and until you do, you will continue to be denied the right to be called sons of God.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

In the Pale Moonlight

HT: James Swan

Just a reminder...

Believe it or not, the Moonies are still with us.

But now, they look just like us.

They've evolved.

And they have a plan.

Lost and Found Report

HT: Justin Taylor

From The Jerusalem Post

A stone seal bearing the name of one of the families who acted as servants in the First Temple and then returned to Jerusalem after being exiled to Babylonia has been uncovered in an archeological excavation in Jerusalem's City of David, a prominent Israeli archeologist said Wednesday.

Photo: Edwin Trebels courtesy of Dr. Eilat Mazar

The 2,500-year-old black stone seal, which has the name "Temech" engraved on it, was found earlier this week amid stratified debris in the excavation under way just outside the Old City walls near the Dung Gate, said archeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar, who is leading the dig.

According to the Book of Nehemiah, the Temech family were servants of the First Temple and were sent into exile to Babylon following its destruction by the Babylonians in 586 BCE.

The family was among those who later returned to Jerusalem, the Bible recounts.

Yeah, that wacky Bible, just full of myths and legends...