Monday, May 2, 2011

Jesus, the Apostles and the LDS

Murdock Wallis, LDS lawyer extraordinaire, took issue with my previous post arguing that the Apostles are more trustworthy than Muhammad or Joseph Smith:
Joe, You say that Mormonism made Joseph a prophet and that Islam made Muhammad a prophet, with all the fame and glory that such a role entails, and so they had reason to lie and, thus, are less credible than Paul. Obviously, Joseph was not competing with or in contradiction to Paul, However, Christianity made Jesus Christ a god and the son of God, which necessarily involves fame and glory infinitely greater than that of a prophet. Therefore, by your logic, Jesus Christ is infinitely less credible than Joseph or Mohammad.


Oh yes. You mentioned women as well. Well, some people think that Jesus was married.


William E. Phipps, Was Jesus Married? The Distortion of Sexuality in the Christian Tradition (1986)(Phipps is a non-LDS professor of religion and philosophy.)


Ogden Kraut, Jesus Was Married (2003)(Kraut is LDS.)


http://www.jesusdynasty.com/blog/2007/05/01/was-jesus-married/ (non-LDS)


http://www.lightplanet.com/mormons/basic/christ/jesus_married.html (LDS)


Although some 19th Century leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints expressed the opinion that Jesus was married, the Church has no position, one way or the other, as to whether Jesus was married, and members of the Church are free to make up their own minds:
http://en.fairmormon.org/Jesus_Christ/Was_Jesus_married


Similarly, while some 19th Century leaders of the Church expressed the opinion that Jesus had more than one wife, the Church has no position on that either, and members of the Church are free to make up their own minds about that as well:
http://en.fairmormon.org/Jesus_Christ/Was_Jesus_married/Was_Jesus_a_polygamist


For those people, such as myself, who believe that Jesus was married and, in particular, for those, such as myself, who believe that Jesus had multiple wives, your argument that Joseph and Muhammad had the attention of women, would be vastly stronger if applied to Jesus Christ.

Murdock,

First of all, great to hear from you again. I feel like it's been forever! Diving right into the substance of your comment, let me divide it up a little.

(1) Jesus had a motive to lie: 

Right, I think that this is true. The famous trilemma, "Lord, Liar, Lunatic" presupposes that some folks might claim to be God because they're crazy or evil egomaniacs. One need look no further than folks like Charles Manson or David Koresh to see that this is true.

So we don't simply believe Christ was God because He said He was. In fact, in Acts 5, we hear the Pharisee Gamaliel comparing Jesus to two prior false prophets: Theudas, and Judas the Galilean. Both started messianic movements, and both were later proven to be false. There are extra-Biblical references to a popular messianic figure from the same time referred to as "the Egyptian."

What distinguishes Jesus Christ from all of these impostors is that He proves He is who He claims to be. He does this through:
  • seemingly inspired teachings, 
  • a strong command of Scriptures and prophesy, 
  • the ability to make prophesies which later came true (like the destruction of Jerusalem), 
  • countless miracles, observed by the masses, including raising Lazarus from the dead,
  • willingly laying down His life for this Truth (in stark contrast from J. Smith, Jesus doesn't resist arrest or try and fight His way out of it, and rebukes Peter for trying to do so in Mt. 26:52),
  • and most importantly, by coming back from the dead. The reason the Resurrection is central to our faith is that it proves Jesus was telling the Truth. It's a Divine seal of approval upon this person who stood in the place of God. This is certainly the way the Resurrection is depicted in Romans 1:4.
Finally, the test that Gamaliel proposes is whether the Church dies out or not: “For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.” (Acts 5:38-39). Catholicism meets this test. We can show, through Apostolic succession, that this is the same Church founded by the Apostles. The LDS church cannot meet this test, since your own teachings are that there was a global apostasy, and that the Church was destroyed, just like the cults of Theudas and Judas the Galilean. So if a movement is of God, it doesn't get wiped out, and doesn't need a "Prophet of the Restoration."

(2) Evidence for Jesus being married: 

Short answer, there is none. Some folks look at the fact that Jesus was loving towards women, and assume it must have been sexual. Others look at the fact He was loving towards men (like letting John rest his head upon Him at the Last Supper, John 13:25) and assume it must have been homosexual. Both of these are bizarre conclusions that suppose that men can't have non-sexual relationships. If you've got a specific piece of evidence you find compelling, I'll address it. In addition to no evidence suggesting He was married, there is evidence He wasn't. I'll get to that in (4).

(3) Evidence against Jesus being a Polygamist: 

Obviously, everything in (2) applies here as well. And there's a total dearth of evidence. Even FAIR admits that the writings of Celsus that Jedediah M. Grant refers to seem not to exist. But there's a positive case against Christ's alleged polygamy: He taught that if you divorce your wife and marry another, you're committing adultery (Mark 10:11). The logic here is clearly that to attempt a second marriage when you're already married is adultery.

Even from an LDS perspective, I don't see a case for saying Christ was polygamist. D&C 132:4-6 declares plural marriage as a "new and everlasting" covenant, suggesting that under the previous Covenant, polygamy was not permitted. If plural marriage is "new" in 1843, Christ presumably wans't practicing it in A.D. 30, under the prior Covenant. Previously, LDS taught that polygamy was an abomination (Jacob 2:27-28).

Of course, there's also the contradiction between Jacob 2:24 (which condemns David and Solomon for being polygamists) and D&C 132:38-39 (which praises David and Solomon for being polygamists). But it seems (and I may be wrong here) that you'd have to concede that at least the early LDS writings condemn historical polygamy.

(4) Evidence for Jesus being a Celibate: 

First, there's the absolute silence in Scripture about any wife or children of Jesus (despite other references to His Mother, father, and brothers through the New Testament). That's a pretty large omission for all four of the biographies of His Life, the Gospels. Were the wives of Christ absent from the foot of the Cross?  Because they're never mentioned even there.

Second, there's the fact that Christ's public ministry wasn't a very stable life: He said Himself, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Mt. 8:20). This just doesn't sound like the life of a married man.

But most importantly, in Matthew 19:11-12, Jesus says:
“Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”
Christ is clearly giving celibacy for the Kingdom of God as the highest ideal, an ideal attainable only by some. To suggest that He did not or could not meet this ideal Himself would be to suggest someone could be more perfect than Christ, and that He gave advice He couldn't live up to. For me, at least, this settles the case quite conclusively.

The same is true for St. Paul. He says plainly that “It is good for a man not to marry” (1 Corinthians 7:1), and again, “it is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am” (1 Cor. 7:8). Even his rules regulating marriage are given “as a concession, not a command” (1 Cor. 7:7). When Paul says in 1 Timothy 3:2 that a bishop should be husband of one wife, then, he’s not encouraging them to be married (this would be contradictory to his teaching in 1 Corinthians 7, and hypocritical, given that he was an unmarried Apostle). Instead, he’s setting the max at one, so that divorced and remarried men are barred.

Based on Mt. 19 and 1 Cor.7, we can say that either we can do some good which Christ wasn't capable of (by being celibate for the Kingdom), or else Christ was celibate.  Since no one is holier than Christ, we know which one it is.

(5) My original point: 

Anyone making the claims of Christ has something to gain or lose by it, for sure. It would be strange to simply say, “Well, He says He’s God, so He must be…” But the Apostles, who have apparently nothing to gain (and a lot to lose, including their heads) from their testimony, clearly teach that He is God, and did rise from the Grave.

 Had Christ personally written the New Testament about how He was the Son of God, and how He’d done all of these miracles, and there was little corroborating evidence, that’d be very problematic for Christians. Likewise, if the Apostles wrote odes to how great they were for being Apostles, that'd be sketchy. Nothing like that here. Instead, we have nothing in writing from Jesus Himself, and a lot from His eyewitnesses and companions. They say that they saw Him appear after He’d died. They died for this truth rather than renouncing it. I think we have every reason to believe them. We could express it this way:

  • (a) If the Apostles are telling the Truth, then Christ rose from the dead. 
  • (b) If Christ rose from the dead, then He wasn’t a liar or a lunatic; 
  • (c) If Christ is not a liar or a lunatic, then He is who He says He is: the Messiah, the Son of God, the Son of Man, the Prince of Peace, YHWH.

In that same Christ,

Joe

2 comments:

  1. Great post. Your Mormon friend sounds very intelligent. Honestly, it baffles me how many reasonable people continue to believe in Mormonism. I gave it a shot myself when I was younger, but couldn't get past the scientific and historical errors, namely infinite regression and American archeaology. For myself, I am consoled knowing that God cares greatly for all Mormons and I firmly believe we will see many in heaven because of their love of God, even if their theology is made-up.

    ReplyDelete
  2. My mom is a cradle Mormon. She does not comprehend that Mormonism is arianism because in the deepest, most unpublicized recesses of its theology, Christ is merely a created demiurge. Thus, no Holy Trinity. Thus, invalid baptisms, one of the several that require rebaptism when converting to actual bona fide Christianity. Also, the Father is not the universal creator, merely the Father of this corner of the universe. Thus, no monotheism. I could go on. We must pray for them as for ourselves, because we are all deluded by our own sin and the demon. But Christ saves even through that.

    ReplyDelete