Friday, July 1, 2011

Mormons at Your Door: Evangelizing the Missionaries

Yesterday, I talked about some of the basics for what to expect when Mormon missionaries come to the door.  Today, I'm going to take some examples from a real life encounter with Mormon missionaries to show how you can use it as an opportunity to Evangelize them.

On Wednesday, my friends Cary and Meg had invited me to join them at dinner with a couple of Mormon (LDS) missionaries.  During dinner, we talked about their lives and about their mission. Afterwards, we move over to the couch, and got down to the nitty-gritty of the things which unite and divide us.  It really was a blessing to have two missionaries as open to listening as these two men were. I'm not sure if we helped at all, but I think the Holy Spirit was able to use us a bit . In any case, here are the basic arguments we raised; I'd love to hear feedback about how strong or weak you feel each one is.

I . The "Great Apostasy" and Apostolic Succession

Cary went right for this one, because he'd been reading about it, and was genuinely confused by the Mormon position. In a nutshell, here's the LDS position:
Mormonism teaches that not long after Jesus Christ's lifetime, internal rebellions within the early Christian community caused the primitive Christian Church, led by the Twelve Apostles to disappear and be replaced by many factions, each of which had pieces of the truth, but not a fullness. More importantly, this falling away (see 2 Thessalonians 2:3) resulted in a loss of authority, which Mormons call Priesthood. Without proper authority from God, man cannot perform the ordinances of the Church. [...] 
Many of the Apostles and righteous members of Christ’s Church were killed by the wicked, and the priesthood along with Christ’s Church were taken from the earth. Persecution of those who were called Christians began in about the first century by the Roman Empire. Revelation could no longer be received on behalf of the Church, because there was no one authorized by God to receive it, although individuals could and continued to receive inspiration in their personal lives. [...] 
The Restoration, a necessary event after an apostasy, came about through Joseph Smith. In the spring of 1829, while translating the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were visited by heavenly messengers who restored to them the Priesthood, the authority to act in God's name. In 1830, the Church of Christ, as the Mormon Church was originally called, was organized officially. The authority to act in God’s name was restored, as was true doctrine. Latter-day Saints believe there are again Apostles on the earth, and a Prophet who guides the Church of Christ through revelation and the power of the priesthood. 
So in about 95-105 A.D., the Church which Jesus promised wouldn't be overcome by the gates of Hades, death (Matthew 16:17-19), was overcome by the death of the last Apostle, St. John.  But then the Church was restored through Joseph Smith, and it hasn't been wiped out again.

The missionaries explained that the early Church died out because of the wickedness of the people. If Mormons thought Catholics were wicked God-hating apostates, this view would make sense. But that's not the view they take these days.  They tend to think that the early Catholics were God-fearing, but just didn't have the full truth.  In fact, they think that these early Christians (1) more or less recognized which Books were the word of God (the Old and New Testaments), and (2) preserved these Books carefully. The Mormon Joseph Smith Edition of the Bible is based off of the King James Version, which is based off of the early Christian manuscripts. The JSE makes a few minor tweaks, but it's very close to the KJV.

So we're left to believe that there were early Christians trying to follow God, and doing a pretty good job of it (preserving the Bible, going to the death for the faith, and all that), yet who God considered too wicked for the Church to remain with.  If they're too wicked to be trusted with the Church, how can we trust them with the Bible?   We raised a few major points in response to these Apostasy/Restoration claims:

  1. Why was Joseph Smith able to carry on the Church and Jesus wasn't?  Jesus personally founded the New Testament Church in Matthew 16:17-19, and calls it His Church.  Within the Mormon view, God's own Church died out faster than 8-track tapes.  Cary asked why this view didn't elevate Joseph Smith over Jesus.
  2. Doesn't this view leave Mormonism's status in serious question?  If the early Church unwittingly fell into a total Apostasy, who's to say that it hasn't happened again?
  3. The third pope was already in Rome by the death of St. John. Cary mentioned this, but I thought his point was great.  By the time the Apostle John dies, we know from Church history that Peter (who'd died about thirty years before) was succeeded by Popes Linus and Clements. If the papacy was a false Church, and if the rest of the bishops throughout Christendom were phonies, why didn't the Apostle John say anything to condemn them?
  4. Jesus praises the early Church. Not only do we see, from the Book of Acts, a Church which is on fire for Christ and rapidly growing, but even by the end of John's life, the Church is still pleasing God. Just read the praises bestowed in the Book of Revelation, perhaps the last-written Book of the Bible.  In Revelation 1, Jesus tells St. John to deliver specific messages to each of the seven area churches.  And He's got mostly good things to say to the churches in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, and Philadelphia. Sure, the Church, both locally and globally, had / has / will have problems, but Jesus is encouraging these Christians, not denouncing their wickedness.
This last point is important, I think, because it basically disproves the Mormon case for the Great Apostasy.  If, towards the close of the Apostle John's life, there are still worthy men following Christ, men who Jesus Christ Himself announces that He's pleased with, there are surely men to draw the next generation of Church leaders from.  The Mormon claim that these Christians were simply too wicked runs headlong into the praises bestowed by Jesus.

II. Abortion

One area where most Mormons are excellent is morality. The two missionaries we spoke to had no problem denouncing abortion as murder, and saying that even in the tough cases (rape, incest, etc.), there are better options. In fact, they pointed to the numerous social services which the LDS Church provided.   I said, "I thought your church permitted abortion in some circumstances?" and they denied it.  At this point, I read from the official LDS website:
Church leaders have said that some exceptional circumstances may justify an abortion, such as when pregnancy is the result of incest or rape, when the life or health of the mother is judged by competent medical authority to be in serious jeopardy, or when the fetus is known by competent medical authority to have severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth. But even these circumstances do not automatically justify an abortion. Those who face such circumstances should consider abortion only after consulting with their local Church leaders and receiving a confirmation through earnest prayer.
So in fact, while most Mormons are very pro-life, the LDS Church is much less so.  Cary then asked, "Wait, so is murder sometimes okay?"  The two missionaries were clearly unaware that their church taught this, and seemed troubled by it.  One of them speculated that the local church leaders wouldn't permit an abortion, despite what it said, but I don't think he even convinced himself.

III. Disarming Their Best Weapons

Mormon missionaries are apparently trained to fall on a few stock answers: to "pray on it," or "I can feel in my heart it's true" or some similarly non-falsifiable claim. If they're not trained to do this, it's at least the common refrain I've heard from countless Mormons I've talked theology with.  So if you're going to move ahead with a discussion, it's important to take it out of the realm of the subjective and the non-falsifiable. Otherwise, as long as Mormonism "feels right," the person you're talking to will never move towards a fuller Christianity.

In other to move past these fall-backs, we talked about how the LDS think that non-Mormons still have some truth, and that the Holy Spirit still works through these other denominations or churches. They conceded that it wasn't as if all the Catholics and Protestants were acting in bad faith, or that Catholic and Protestants don't pray. So we talked about the phenomenon of a Catholic, a Baptist, and a Mormon each praying, and each walking away thinking that God's telling them different (contradictory) things. We were careful to note that yes, we should pray, and yes, God does communicate to us through prayer, but we explained that as Catholics, we saw prayer alone as fallible, since it's easy to mix up what God's telling us, and what we want God to be telling us.

IV. Polygamy and Contradictions

Most people's argument about Mormon's one-time fling with polygamy (what they refer to as "plural marriage") goes something like this: "You used to do polygamy. The Bible says polygamy is bad. You're wrong." That argument is weak.  After all, we see polygamy in the Old Testament, and much of it goes uncondemned by God (we talked about that in the comments here, by the way).  The Mormon answer is that just as the Jews are forbidden to eat pork, but not Christians, it's possible that plural marriage is right or wrong for specific people, given the particular culture and context.

So  here's the approach I took to the question, instead, with a Q&A with the senior of the two missionaries that went something like this:

  • Q: Can God contradict Himself? [I genuinely didn't know the Mormon answer to this, so this wasn't just a set-up].
  • A: No
  • Q: So I can see how God could theoretically say that plural marriage is right for David and not for Solomon, or vice versa, but can God says that plural marriage is both right for Solomon and wrong for Solomon?
  • A: No, that would be a contradiction.
I then read from the Book of Mormon, Jacob 2:24,
Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.
We all agreed that sounded quite clearly like the Book of Mormon was saying that God was condemning David and Solomon's plural marriages as an abomination. Then I read from Doctrines & Covenants 132:38-39
David also received many wives and concubines, and also Solomon and Moses my servants, as also many others of my servants, from the beginning of creation until this time; and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me. 
David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me, by the hand of Nathan, my servant, and others of the prophets who had the keys of this power; and in none of these things did he sin against me save in the case of Uriah and his wife; and, therefore he hath fallen from his exaltation, and received his portion; and he shall not inherit them out of the world, for I gave them unto another, saith the Lord.
Yup, this passage says that not only was David and Solomon's taking of plural wives not an abomination, it was not even a sin; and not only was it not a sin, these women were given to David by God. Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, is the only exception.  At this point, the senior missionary protested that he wasn't a "Scriptorian," and realized it had gotten late and that they had to leave.

A Final Point: The Importance of Charity

While we had, as the above post shows, some obvious points of disagreement, the single most important thing to remember when dealing with Mormons (or anyone) is to do it lovingly.  Name-calling, just telling them they're a "cult," or "not Christian," or anything else, is unhelpful. It might make us feel superior, but if we're genuinely concerned for their spiritual well-being, do for them what you would want done for you.  Would you be convinced by someone simply blowing off your religion?   So be prepared to make a defense of orthodox Christianity, and of Catholicism particularly, but do so with "gentleness and reverence" (1 Peter 3:16).  I can just about guarantee you that the Mormons are so used to being treated poorly by the folks they're meeting door-to-door that a genuine Christian witness done in charity will be a drink of cold water. That doesn't mean you have to compromise the Truth -- quite the opposite. If you truly love someone, you'll want them to be on the right track towards God.

We were fortunate because while Cary and I were pointing out many of the areas on which we disagreed, Megan balanced us out by talking about some of the great things about Mormonism, as well as many of the things we have in common. Her presence meant that there wasn't any "ganging up," and I'm quite thankful she was there. It's important for someone to accentuate the positive for a couple reasons. One, if you come across as simply argumentative, they're going to leave. And two, your goal isn't to just disprove Mormonism. You don't want some poor missionary leaving an atheist.  Rather, it's to show how Catholicism is the fulfillment of those truths which Mormonism has.

That is, Mormons are great at recognizing the importance of Apostolic succession, of a central Church hierarchy, of a leadership guarded by the Holy Spirit, of speaking the Truth in love, and so on. Showing that Catholicism affirms all of these things, without suffering from the many flaws within Mormonism, makes the Church an obvious candidate to look to if a Mormon starts to wonder exactly how his Church can both condemn and condone the murder of unborn children, or claim that God both praises and detests David and Solomon's many wives.

You might find yourself in the position of trying to do both of these things at once: show how we're similar, and show how we're different (and right).  It's a hard balance to strike, and I can nearly guarantee you'll have a strong sense of l'esprit de l'escalier after you say good night.  Certainly, there are a number of things I wish had been said, or said differently.  God understands.  Finally, remember that "One sows and another reaps" (John 4:37).  It's easy to let pride lead you to think you can convert someone, from start to finish, in an hour.  You almost certainly can't. So just do your part, and let God do the rest.

82 comments:

  1. What is the Mormon Interpretation of all those Middle Church passages? I mean they must have a stock reply to that one, since unlike Protestants they don't even pretend that there was any true church for all those middle centuries, right? Do they just counter with that Amos passage?

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  2. My bonus points for "The Great Apostasy":

    * Not only are Jesus' promises meaningless, but with the Mormon version of history, God's providence is seen as *incredibly* impotent.

    * The timeline involved. Why did God wait soooooooooooooooooo long before restoring his Church with Joseph Smith. I mean, seriously, that's a heck of a long time...

    * How can an apostate Church be entrusted to assemble and guard the canon correctly? (An interesting sub-topic here is on what basis the Deutero-canon is accepted)

    * Proof. The burden of proof really is on the Mormons to substantiate their claim. Where is the proof o this great rupture? If what they say is true, you would expect to find evidence in the literary record of the Early Church. Since they affirm the New Testament, where is this rupture between the NT and the Fathers?

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  3. With regards to "Disarming their best weapons", I'd use a modified version of what I ask non-Catholics with regards to final authority:

    If two Mormons pray about a particular issue (e.g. an abortion) and both come to mutually exclusive conclusions, yet both feel in their heart that they're right, are they both right? If not, how is this resolved?

    Ultimately, this can only be solved by objective means, not simply subjective feelings. This thereby demonstrates that the Mormon test for truth is rather faulty.

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  4. Couldn't a protestant say that such a dispute should be resolved by the plain meaning of scripture? And, in a case where scripture is ambiguous, that Christians are free to disagree so long as each position is taken in good faith and with charitable and.christocentric motives?

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  5. Regarding the "Great apostasy" -- I've heard that Mormons believe that the Apostle John never died and is still on earth. (ref http://www.godcontention.org/index.php?qid=118 -- see #7 )

    The Great apostasy becomes a logical fallacy -- in order for the church to have completed a "Total Apostasy", then all members must have apostatized -- if John is still on earth, then the apostasy could never have been total, as there is always at least one faithful member.

    --WF

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  6. HocCogitat,

    they could SAY that, but, if God can't contradict himself, then someone in that situation is wrong, whether they realize it or not. This is precisely why a living authority is needed...to settle such disputes particularly on issues of faith and morals.

    The need for authority is precisely one "truth" LDS has. in my view, they just have found the wrong authority. we all need to pray to find our answers from God and to allow the Spirit to work but we also need to objectively ensure that what we are hearing isn't contradictory to facts and perhaps just what we want to hear.

    God Bless

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  7. You are assuming that we have a way to settle all those questions. Why can't there be some questions about which we don't have clear revelation? Even Catholics have theological disputes about which they admit to having no revelation, protestants say the same thing.

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  8. can you name me one on faith and morals that is unsettled by the RCC?

    I'd be interested to research what the RCC DOES say on the issue

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  9. What about whether the thomists or augustinians are right on one of their several disputes (eg regarding dualism) or the molinists or thomists on the nature of time or whether a particular circumstance justifies using nfp, etc, etc.

    To say these aren't "faith and morals" questions just commits the "no true scotsman fallacy".

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  10. Defender of Faith said..
    The Church of the Latter Day Saints is based on a hoax. Joseph Smith was one of the many false prophets, the Bible warned the Christians.
    It is very shallow and unsatisfactory for a Christian to pick just a few "discrepancies" with the "Mormons", when the whole building is condemned

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  11. Please correct me if I'm wrong or missed something

    on NFP and reasons to use it, the Catechism clearly states the two fold purpose that the marital act has (creative and unitive), and because the reasons for the decision to use NFP can be wide and varied the Church is not going to outline every possible combination of reasons with an accept/deny stamp...

    at some point (as with the reasons for charity or other works) the responsibility with the heart of the believer. This is why both faith and works are important, just using NFP without any faith would be just as problematic as having faith but purposely failing to obey morality (and thus your own faith) because it is inconvenient or against your wishes

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  12. Yes, but it is ultimately a matter of conscience. In other words, the revelation is unclear as applied to particular circumstances and Catholics are free to disagree so long as they do so in good faith.

    In other words, this is the same model protestants use to diffuse the problem of unclear revelation.

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  13. Indeed all of the myriad things left to individual conscience are open questions of "faith and morals" in catholicism

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  14. So... To get back to the original point: what's the big deal about non Catholics having open questions if Catholics do to?

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  15. No, I think you can objectively say that some "reasons" would be wrong and others right but that the Church is not going to delve into minutia in this way in the same way that the Church didn't proclaim something as heretical until it required it. If one particular loophole is found in NFP, proclaimed, and posed a danger to a majority of the flock's spiritual wellness, I am certain it would be addressed.

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  16. The point is not about nfp in particular anyway! Unless you are going to claim the church leaves no issue to individual conscience, I win this point. And you didn't even address theother theological disputes within catholicism I expressly noted

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  17. Are you claiming that the deposit of faith answers all questions? No question is left open?

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  18. HocCogitat and Cary (scredsoxfan2),

    I'm inclined to think that the truth is somewhere between the two positions you've staked out. The image of Church leadership within Scripture is that of a shepherd: Jesus compares Himself to the Good Shepherd (John 10:11-18), calls Peter His Shepherd (John 10:1-10, and says He'll give us shepherds after His own heart (Jeremiah 3:15).

    A shepherd doesn't stop his sheep from grazing completely -- he doesn't order them to march, single-file, in a straight line. But he does prevent them from wandering too far off, particularly where it's dangerous.

    Likewise, the Church permits theological speculation in a great many areas, like HocCogitat suggests, but She can always step in and resolve disputes, and pull Her sheep back from getting caught in dangerous theological brambles.

    So it's not true that Catholics and Protestants are in the same boat. Without earthly leadership, we're like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36; 1 Kings 22:17). But we do have a shepherd, not a religious dictator.

    HocCogitat, if I can get back to your original question, you asked:
    Couldn't a protestant say that such a dispute should be resolved by the plain meaning of scripture? And, in a case where scripture is ambiguous, that Christians are free to disagree so long as each position is taken in good faith and with charitable and.christocentric motives?

    Like Cary initially said, this is easily said than done. Try using merely the "plain meaning" of Scripture to prove the Trinity to someone who denies it and you'll see what I mean. Or for that matter, look at the Eucharist. There's no question that the plain meaning of Scripture supports the Catholic position. "This IS My Body" (Mt. 26:26), "My Flesh IS real Food and My Blood IS real drink" (John 6:55), etc.

    Protestants imagine that despite Jesus' use of the word "real" to indicate that this wasn't a metaphor, it still is.

    Should we say, then, that the doctrine of the Eucharist doesn't matter? Of course not. Either it's really and truly Jesus Christ, or it's an idol. There's no middle ground. And Jesus Himself identifies it as central to salvation: "Unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:53-54).

    Left to their own devices, Protestants have failed to agree upon the Trinity, the nature and the importance of Baptism, the nature and the importance Eucharist, how we're saved, what the Church looks like, whether membership in the Church is necessary to salvation or a sign of your damnation, etc., etc. I don't doubt that most of the participants involved are well-meaning, and genuinely seeking out that elusive "plain meaning." But after five hundred years of Protestantism, we're actually further from having even a shared basic understanding of Christianity than we were at the time of the Reformation.

    In Christ,

    Joe.

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  19. There are many within the LDS faith who have answered these questions in a much deeper format than a blog or an unschooled missionary could ever hope to do. Missionaries are really there to gather the low-hanging fruit in many ways (that's my own opinion, not church doctrine). However, Brigham Young University has been involved in apologetic work for decades, and there are also independent groups who gather scholarly apologetic info in defense of the LDS positions, namely fairlds,org.

    On that note, I would like to suggest some reading about the topics covered in the last two posts. These articles are intended for a Mormon audience that wants to educate itself on how to answer the questions you have presented. I have many close Catholic friends (I live in Utah now, but was raised in Las Vegas), and if I was asked questions which were obviously more insightful and scholarly than normal (like the ones here) I would re-read the articles in these links before sharing my reply. With that introduction. . .

    This link is a paper which covers the LDS view that an apostasy is both scriptural and historically consistent. I think you will be surprised that we rely on plenty more than just Amos (missionaries are given just 2 weeks in the training center unless they are learning a foreign language, then it is 2 months - hardly enough time to give them more than the basics in scriptural proofs):

    http://www.fairlds.org/pubs/ApostasyRestoration.pdf

    Regarding the Apostolic Fathers and succession, here is an article from a church magazine:

    http://library.lds.org/nxt/gateway.dll/Magazines/Ensign/1976.htm/ensign%20august%201976.htm/clement%20ignatius%20and%20polycarp%20three%20bishops%20between%20the%20apostles%20and%20apostasy%20.htm?fn=document-frame.htm&f=templates&2.0

    For more, see the BYU publication here:

    http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=42

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  20. i'll have to get back to you on the other one since I dont have time to write an essay right now. are you suggesting that the Church needs to decide every question on every issue infallibly and with only one possible interpretation or meaning?

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  21. Kirkland Group,

    Any chance you could distill what you think are the strongest points? Those three links amount to quite a bit of reading to try and find answers to these particular questions/concerns.

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  22. another question i have that maybe you could direct me to an answer on is why persecution of the apostles points to the apostasy but persecution of Mormons is said to be proof of the truth of LDS?

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  23. Hey HocCogitat,

    Joe covered the main points I would have given in response to your answer. However, there's just one aspect I'd like to underscore:

    What is non-negotiable and where is diversity of belief allowed? More importantly, *who* decides what falls into each category? What happens if there's a disagreement even as to what falls into which category?

    (I think this is one of the reasons why the whole Rob Bell "Love wins" thing has caused such a stir)

    The issues regarding the Trinity, Baptism, Eucharist etc. aren't really what you could call "insignificant", but if one *were* to make that claim, on what objective basis could it be made?

    God bless,

    Restless Pilgrim.

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  24. I don't really have much to add to this. I just wanted to say how grateful I'm for how you (Joe) reminded everyone to be kind and loving about it all. Because no matter what side of the line you fall on, ultimately the reason you want to have the discussion is to share the greatest gift you've been given. Being mean or rude about it all doesn't convey that message with the potential to close them off entirely.

    Jennae

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  25. Joe - Good question. The first article is not too long, and it makes some solid points in just the first 2 pages. If you can only find the time to read a smaller portion, that would be my recommendation. The point it makes is that there are many instances where the Apostles pointed to a falling away (apostasia in greek) that was happening.

    Scredsoxfan2 - I'm not sure I have an article to give you that would answer that question, but I think the logical answer is that it shows that Satan persecutes Christ's true disciples. He wants few things more than to blind people and lead them away from paths that would let them know the truth about God and what he desires from us. Satan persecuted the early apostles - and through wickedness overcame them and the church in our belief - and he tried the same thing in the last days when Joseph Smith was called to restore the truth. This follows a pattern we see throughout the Bible, especially the Old Testament; as soon as the people had the wicked cleansed from their midst, their temple rebuilt, were saved from captivity, etc., they went right back to their evil ways and within a short time were threatened with destruction again. But this time it was different. People had many pieces of the truth, but the fulness would not be restored as it had been in the past until it could be restored and never again taken from the earth. It happened in a special place that was governed by special principles (freedom and liberty), and even then the adversary almost succeeded in snuffing it out. Joseph and his brother were murdered by a mob, church members were murdered and driven from their homes into a wilderness, and only by relative distance from mobs and armies in America did it get enough breathing room to survive.

    If you would like to see what one of the LDS Church's modern Apostles has to say about the Apostolic calling he possesses, see this Youtube video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yBtE5QbcDbU

    I think it would be quite beneficial for those seeking to have a conversation with Mormons about Apostolic succession to actually see and hear from someone who we believe is a modern Apostle of Jesus Christ. Let me know what you think about it.

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  26. Joe (and I think this should really respond to all of you on this subject):

    I thank you for acknowledging that Catholics do not have an unambiguous answer to all questions, just like Protestants obviously don't.

    As to the argument you made against Protestantism: Would it be fair to reformulate your argument as follws?:

    1) If Protestantism is true, then God has left us in ambiguity as to certain very important doctrines (among them the nature of the Eucharist, etc.)
    2) God would not leave us in ambiguity as to very important doctrines.
    3) Therefore, Protestantism is not true.

    If so, I will admit that this is a valid and perhaps even sound argument. But its premises are not self evident and you provide no support for them.

    The key premise is (2). And, ok, I see where you would get off assuming this from a basic understanding of God's goodness and salvation history. But, then again, any Christian has to admit that he left the entire world for millennia before Christ without an infallible interpreter, so can we be so sure (2) is true? I think it is a toss up.

    Well, what about number (1). I think this moves too fast. Catholics often make claims like Joe hints at that if Catholicism is wrong about the Eucharist, all Catholics are going to hell for idolatry. This, surely, is not true. For surely this is an innocent mistake. Is Cardinal Newman in hell for his pre-Catholic Eucharistic adoration? I surely think such innocent mistakes are forgiven. And, really, it is like this for most disagreements between Catholics and Protestants, they seem very important, but, really, one could argue that they are mere "high theology". That they are not really all that important. That what is important is nothing more than recognizing the reality of sin and our need for a savior. That are our efforts to understand God more scientifically than we need to are NOT very important. If so, (1) is false.

    So, I think the argument is pretty good, but doesn't establish the case for Catholicism in and of itself.

    PS--Many Catholics seem to assume that there is no "plain meaning of scripture". I disagree. So does Catholic Philosopher Robert Koons, who says (in an essay you all would probably like very much):

    "Some Roman Catholics claim that the Scriptures, like any text, need an authoritative
    interpreter. I think this claim is too broad. There are context-free meanings. These
    context-free meanings are sufficient to fix the central doctrines of the Gospel.
    (Moreover,
    the idea that every text requires an authoritative interpreter would apply with equal force
    to papal and conciliar writings. Indeed, it would seem to apply to oral pronouncements as
    well, leading to a vicious infinite regress.)"

    In good faith, I'll admit that he goes on, to formulate something of Joe's argument...

    "However, the context-independent meanings of the Scriptures are not in fact sufficient to settle all doctrinal disputes that must be
    settled (including the question of which doctrines are essential and which are not). This
    is confirmed by the testimony of history, including Lutheran history. If the Scriptures
    were perspicuous comprehensively, there would be only one major sola scriptura
    denomination, instead of hundreds." http://homepage.mac.com/francis.beckwith/KoonsCaseforCatholicism2007.pdf

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  27. I would even admit each premise is 60% likely to be true. But that means the conclusion is only 36% likely, since the premises are independent.

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  28. Hi Joe!

    Rocco Palma (Whispers in the Loggia) just tweeted about this post! He included a link
    http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/blogsfaithblog/52116595-180/writes-church-catholics-heschmeyer.html.csp

    Thanks again for your excellent scholarship and for showing how to apply the teachings of the Church to life today.

    Blessings,

    Sister Lynn

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  29. Sister Lynn,

    That's awesome! I really enjoy his Whispers in the Loggia. By the way, I did a post on you and my aunt Jane a while back, and the great work you're doing for people with celiac disease. I can't remember if I ever showed you: http://catholicdefense.blogspot.com/2009/10/eucharist-for-those-suffering-from.html?m=0

    It's nothing much, but you deserve some recognition for the good work you do. In Christ,

    Joe

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  30. Speaking of which, this blog is exploding. I just looked and it has more hits today than all of July 2010, and it's not that close. At this pace I'd say "watch out google" if it weren't technically google itself. Looking forward to telling my grandkids I read the famous Joe when his readership was in the teens.

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  31. I'm sooooooo sorry if what I post has been covered by others.

    1. To state that missionaries have zero gospel training or a seminary is false. Although it's not extensive "training" church youth do spend 4 yrs learning about our 4 canons of scripture. Note: In these seminaries we are not taught about doctrines of other churchs so as to prepare to "bash" them over doctrine. But as to the reasons these missionaries are there is not because they got a "good feeling" or that there are "good fruits". Mormonism follows most closely 1-3rd century Chrisianity than does any other christian church that lost a lot of truths during the times of the creeds.

    2. Scriptural interpretation is not just set aside for those within the Catholic Church. What you interpret in Amos may be different from us but many religions dicker over scriptural interpretation and proof is in that the Bible has created literally 1000's of christian churchs in the world. Sorry Amos does not fit your interpretation of the Apostacy but that is not the only one we use. There are many in the NT that testify that an apostacy was going to happen and that it was beginning as early as 100 yrs after Christs crucifiction.

    3. Holes in Mormon theology and history. Who doesn't have a past? Wouldn't the inquisitions disqualify the Catholic Church from being Christs church? Wouldn't the Salem witch trials disqualify Protestants? I say no. Men have done bad things in the name of God that were not God's idea. Some of Mormonisms past is bad (Mountain Meadows) other like polygamy is a doctrine people do not understand becuase they don't study it within Momonism but from the outside. So let's not play the "contradictions" as in Jacob 2:24 vs. D&C 132:38-39(You forgot vs. 30 which does condone polygamy if God so choses. It's funny how you condem the missionaries for using Amos for not reading the whole thing in context yet you omit the context and teaching in Jacob to falsly prove a point that Mormons are hypocrites, yet don't move on through vs. 30.

    When it comes to religion its not about proof but ALWAYS about faith within each of us.

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  32. Great post! Definitely don't want to miss this discussion but don't have time to read it all.

    One interesting point is that skimming over these comments, none of the LDS on the previous thread have chimed in. Either they are too busy at the moment, or they're confirming the point that they get uncomfortable when "intellectual" arguments are brought up.

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  33. Warren Carroll makes a very good case that John wrote Revelation first (from a vision while in exile in Patmos), the epistles, then the gospel of John (tradition says written in Ephesus).

    When the chair of the history department of Columbia and founder of Christendom College speaks, I listen.

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  34. Nick said, "One interesting point is that skimming over these comments, none of the LDS on the previous thread have chimed in. Either they are too busy at the moment, or they're confirming the point that they get uncomfortable when "intellectual" arguments are brought up."
    I can't speak for others, but my responses to the previous thread were restricted to clarifying/correcting things that were posted about Mormonism. I have no desire to engage in "dueling scriptures", so to speak. In this thread, I haven't seen too many glaring inaccuracies that need correcting, so I haven't felt the need to chime in.

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  35. Hoc Cogitat: It really doesn't matter "what some Catholics say" the final authority is the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. There are Catholics who think women should be priests, that abortion is ok in some circumstances, that birth control is ok (I've met all three)and so on and so on, but that doesn't mean that these things haven't been defined by the Church, it just means that some Catholics either don't know what the Magisterium has said, or they don't care, they just want to believe what they believe. In that case they are not very good Catholics.

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  36. By the way I came here via the pulp.it, Your blog is posted on there. Maybe that's why your visitors have increased.

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  37. Joe

    Wow! You made the Salt Lake Tribune. Peggy Fletcher Stack is a major columnist. Not that I like her.

    http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/blogsfaithblog/52116595-180/writes-church-catholics-heschmeyer.html.csp

    Murdock

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  38. I have this big tile of St. Francis hanging on my door. I'm usually a little short with missionaries (Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses etc.). Ok, sometimes downright rude.
    I had a friend who was a Jehovah's Witness who did eventually return to the Church in part because of some conversations she had with a "nice little old lady" about Trent, the apocrypha and apostolic succession.
    Conversion does and can happen. Thanks for the reminder of our duty to approach these folks with charity.

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  39. As a Mormon who writes a great deal about my church, I just wanted to offer a few thoughts. First, thank you for advising people not to call us cults or whatever. Name-calling is not only childish, but it chases away the Spirit and shuts down the heart.

    Secondly, you should be aware that Mormons are taught that a mere intellectualism is not the way to God. They're taught not to debate because, again, that chases away the Spirit. That doesn't mean we don't study on our own or in classes, but we don't debate. Faith is not based on intellectualism, even when knowledge can be found there, but through the promptings of the Holy Ghost. The Bible says to learn by faith, not argumentation. Jesus regularly deflected attempts at intellectual arguments.

    I've seen a few people here who suggest praying for truth doesn't work. The Bible says it does. James 1:5 promises us God will tell us if we ask. Jesus admonished us to pray. Me? I believe God keeps His promises and that if he says he will give me answers, then He will also figure out how to make me recognize those answers as being from Him. I trust God and it baffles me when I'm attacked on that issue.

    A final point is that when missionaries come to my door from another religion or I'm invited to meet with a person of another faith to learn about their faith, I don't use that opportunity to try to convert them or argue. I recently toured a Mormon historical site owned by a break-away faith. I politely asked the guide questions about his faith only to learn, not to argue. I didn't challenge his answers. If he came to my historical site, I would expect he would act the same way. When our missionaries come to you, they are taught not to debate, but to teach. If you just want to argue, go on the internet. When you're talking to a missionary, treat it as a learning opportunity, as I do. You'll be surprised at how much work the Holy Ghost can do when you operate in a polite manner and care enough to learn about other faiths without the need to debate.

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  40. Mormon missionaries are not the place to expect the best doctrinal defense the LDS Church has to offer. They are merely 19-24 year old boys. Their job is to announce the Restoration of Christ’s Church – not to present detailed or airtight doctrinal arguments. So yes – a skilled Catholic apologist can prevail against a Mormon missionary in a debate. But this does not mean that the LDS Church does not have more sophisticated arguments and defenses available to it.

    Your interpretation of Matthew 16:17-19 is based on two misreadings of the scripture passage here. Let’s look at the passage:

    17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
    18 “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
    19 “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”

    First off, the “rock” spoken of in this passage is not the Catholic Church. In fact, it isn’t the Mormon Church, or the complete “Body of Christ” (like Evangelicals claim), or any “church” at all.

    The “rock” refers to revelation from God. You see this in verse 17 where Christ refers to the witness of the spirit which “revealed” Peter’s realization that Jesus was the Christ. The topic of discussion in this scripture passage is set up as being revelation itself. That’s the subject that “this rock” in verse 18 refers to. Revelation, not the Church.

    As for the “gates of Hades”, you’re misreading this imagery.

    Gates are passive. They sit on their hinges and resist either people going IN, or people GOING out. That’s all they do. But you claim that these gates are spoken of here actively defeating (or not defeating) Christ’s Church.

    This imagery makes no sense. Gates resist entry or exit. They do not simply jump off their hinges and go stomping across the countryside to beat the tar out of churches. This is a rather silly reading of the passage.

    But take it back to the REAL topic of this scripture passage – the revelation spoken of in verse 17, and the passage makes sense. The scriptures here are saying that the REVELATION of Jesus Christ and his Atonement will save the captive dead. The gates of Hades will not be able to either keep the captive dead IN, or keep Jesus Christ OUT. It has nothing to do with the Church being defeated.

    Mormon missionaries are not the place to look for detailed doctrinal defense. They are basically the heralds at the front of the royal procession. Their job is to proclaim the arrival of the royal dignitaries – not to present a detailed explanation. So just because you “win” in an exchange with the LDS missionaries – do not think that you have really refuted Mormonism itself. We have much better arguments than what the missionaries usually have.

    I have some responses to your other points listed. But that should probably be saved for later. I don’t want to bog my response down with two much material. One topic at a time for now.

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  41. I wouldn't mind publishing a bit of your information on a Mormon Apologetics board to see the issues raised there, but I do not want to see a flood of people raining down on your blog either. I wouldn't mind simply discussing the points, as a Mormon with great respect for both the Roman Catholic Church and my friends who do such a wonderful job representing that institution.

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  42. I'm just interested:

    How old are you? What sort of theological training have you had?

    How old were these Mormon missionaries? How much formal theological training have they had?

    What was their true purpose in serving this mission?

    The point is, that at 19-23 or so, they have not had much theological training. They are not in the mission field to have deep theological debates. They are there to present our beliefs in a very basic way, in case you are interested. To give you a Book of Mormon to read, and to talk about how our church got started, and the BASICS of what we believe.

    I would be willing to bet that what they came away with after talking to you is, to report to the mission president that your house has a big "keep away" on it.

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  43. Seth,

    I see a number of problems with your reading of the passage in Matt 16.

    1. If in fact this is what Christ taught his apostles, wouldn't it make sense that at least one church father within one generation of the apostles would have interpreted it as such--particularly since, in your view, it is seminal to the Gospel message? If the apostles failed to hand off this most basic doctrine of the faith to those in their immediate presence, the failure was immediate, the apostles themselves inept and the Spirit of Christ impotent in His Church. I can grant you the Mormon apostasy theory but still not get to your rendering of the passage based simply upon its total absence in the first 3 centuries of the Church.

    2. The gates as passive seems reasonable if the word gates was meant to be literal. However, from the language Christ is using it is clear that he is speaking metaphorically. If we use the idea of the "gate" to represent the strength/might of a city (something his audience would recognize), then the passage makes sense--particularly in light of the rest of the N.T. and Early Church writings (your reading does make sense if all we have is the passage, but we don't. Eisegesis portends all kinds of error). Further, the direct language surrounding the word isn't passive: "prevail" and "against". The pronoun "it" refers to that which Christ built "the Church". You don't build confessions, you build churches (things). If it was the confession (granting confession = rock), we would expect it to read, "On this rock the gates of hell will not prevail against and I will build my Church on it." It does not read this way, nor does the Mormon church pretend it does either.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

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  44. Can God contradict Himself?

    Depends. Are you contradicting yourself when you forbid your 12 year-old to drive, but hand the keys to your 18 year-old?

    No? Well then, no, God does not contradict Himself, even when he commands something in one case that is forbidden in others.

    For example, He was pretty specific when he told Moses, "Thou shalt not kill." But he was equally specific when he told Saul, through the prophet Samuel, (see 1 Sam.17) to "utterly destroy" Amalek - men, women, children, and animals - and Saul got into pretty serious trouble with God for sparing some of the animals.

    The answer to the polygamy issue is the same, and can be found in Jacob 2:30, where the prophet says, basically, "If I have a specific reason for doing so, ("raise up seed" is the reason listed) then I will command plural marriage, at all other times, it's an abomination."

    WRT the apparent contradiction between Jacob 2:24 and D&C 132:38-39, remember that text, without context, is only pretext. In Jacob, the context is against plural marriage, and the prophet is using the wives taken by David and Solomon without divine imprimatur as examples where plural marriage is wrong. In the D&C, the prophet is explaining why, for a short time, plural marriage will be allowed, and is using the wives that were given to David and Solomon as examples where plural marriage is right.

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  45. First off, the “rock” spoken of in this passage is not the Catholic Church. In fact, it isn’t the Mormon Church, or the complete “Body of Christ” (like Evangelicals claim), or any “church” at all.

    The “rock” refers to revelation from God. You see this in verse 17 where Christ refers to the witness of the spirit which “revealed” Peter’s realization that Jesus was the Christ. The topic of discussion in this scripture passage is set up as being revelation itself. That’s the subject that “this rock” in verse 18 refers to. Revelation, not the Church.


    Of course it's not the Church -- it's what the Church is built on, namely the Rock, who is Peter. And we know it's Peter because that's what he's called, Rock. What sense does it make to call him revelation?

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  46. For example, He was pretty specific when he told Moses, "Thou shalt not kill."

    That's "You shall not murder."

    The reason the KJV says "kill" is because at the time, "kill" meant "murder." This is why David "slew" Goliath rather than killed him.

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  47. I've really enjoyed all of these comments so far. I've read each one, but haven't had a chance to respond to them yet. I've been pleased that it's been something of a two-sided conversation, and I think it's been charitable and respectful so far. Let's keep it up.

    And jefepolitic62, please, feel free to add it to the Mormon Apologetics board. I may not be able to respond to everyone right away, but I'll do what I can.

    In Christ,

    Joe

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  48. They sit on their hinges and resist either people going IN, or people GOING out. That’s all they do. But you claim that these gates are spoken of here actively defeating (or not defeating) Christ’s Church.

    It wasn't us who said that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church. (If you claim it's revelation -- well, the metaphor's the same there.)

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  49. marycatelli said >>Of course it's not the Church -- it's what the Church is built on, namely the Rock, who is Peter. And we know it's Peter because that's what he's called, Rock. What sense does it make to call him revelation?<<

    The Church was built on The Rock, which is revelation from God to His church, and Peter was the rock, the REVELATOR, thru whom God would speak to His church. One was Petros, one was Petra, and I can't remember which was which, but one was the big rock (revelation) and the other was the small rock (revelator).

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  50. @marycatelli:

    In the matter of Saul dispatching every man woman and child of Amalek, what is your opinion: was it "kill" or "murder" or "slay"?

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  51. http://www.mormondialogue.org/topic/54845-questions-to-be-answered/

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  52. Lindalds,

    For a good read on the subject (that considers the greek and syriac) , I suggest this article.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

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  53. Terrie and others,

    I think there is some confusion about the idea of discussing theological topics. What Mormons are saying is something different from what Catholics are saying.

    Catholics are not saying to trample upon a Mormon with theological arguments, but rather have something to actually discuss and bring up facts and reasonable bits of info when presenting a case. Praying is important, as is asking God for Light, but this is "insufficient" as a testimony because anyone of any religion can argue such. Truth is, I as a Catholic followed those same steps Mormons suggest, and I believe it's only confirmed and strengthened my choice for Catholicism. Mormons and Protestants and such are utterly shocked to hear I and other Catholics have regularly prayed and read the Bible as the basis for us being Catholic since it's a testimony that directly conflicts with the 'expected results'.

    From the Catholic point of view, sending someone out ill equipped to discuss theology is a disaster waiting to happen. This is not the same as the call for all Catholics to share their faith in their life, but this is not to be confused with Church-sponsored and trained missionaries. This is why I see it confusing and inappropriate to confer the title "elder" on a mere 19 year old child with no life experience (i.e. wisdom from age) or formal theological training.

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  54. Seth,

    I'd like to make a quick comment about your post. The claims Catholics make are not meant to be arguments that can stump an inexperienced missionary, but rather what we believe is the superior argument, and thus can be presented to even the most experienced and knowledgeable Mormon.

    The main point I'd focus upon regarding the main thrust of your argument is whether you believe the Church can go utterly apostate. If you say no, then there goes the Great Apostasy claim - the foundation of the LDS Church, according to a famous LDS theologian. If you say yes, then that puts you in the dubious position of claiming Jesus was in essence a failure, as well as no principled basis for saying the "Restored Church" couldn't (or hasn't yet) go apostate as well. From the Catholic perspective, your exegesis of Matthew 16 misses the forest for the trees - Jesus is building His Church on a Rock, whatever you want "Rock" to be, it's undeniable the foundation Jesus is building on is "rock-solid" (and thus cannot go apostate).

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  55. Brent Stubbs. You asked for citations to early Christian sources supporting my reading on this scripture passage. So here are a couple:

    In Lectures on John chapter xxi:19-25, Augustine writes:

    "For petra (rock) is not derived from Peter, but Peter from petra; just as Christ is not called so from the Christian, but the Christian from Christ. For on this very account the Lord said, "On this rock will I build my Church," because Peter had said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. On this rock, therefore, He said, which thou hast confessed, I will build my Church. For the Rock (Petra) was Christ;3 and on this foundation was Peter himself also built."


    In Expositions of Pslams xli:3--

    "3. But now there was read in the Gospel, how the Lord Jesus Christ in the wilderness was being tempted of the devil. Christ entirely was tempted of the devil. For in Christ thou wast being tempted, because Christ of thee had for Himself flesh, of Himself for thee salvation; of thee for Himself death, of Himself for thee life; of thee for Himself revilings, of Himself for thee honours; therefore of thee for Himself temptation, of Himself for thee victory. If in Him tempted we have been, in Him we overcome the devil.…"On the Rock Thou hast exalted me." Now therefore here we perceive who is crying from the ends of the earth. Let us call to mind the Gospel: "Upon this Rock I will build My Church." Therefore She crieth from the ends of the earth, whom He hath willed to be builded upon a Rock. But in order that the Church might be builded upon the Rock, who was made the Rock? Hear Paul saying: "But the Rock was Christ." On Him therefore builded we have been. For this reason that Rock whereon we have been builded, first hath been smitten with winds, flood, rain, when Christ of the devil was being tempted. Behold on what firmness He hath willed to stablish thee. With reason our voice is not in vain, but is hearkened unto: for on great hope we have been set: "On the Rock Thou hast exalted me."…

    In The Homilies of St. John Chrysostom: Matthew XV: 21, 22--

    "3. What then saith Christ? "Thou art Simon, the son of Jonas; thou shalt be called Cephas." "Thus since thou hast proclaimed my Father, I too name him that begat thee;" all but saying, "As thou art son of Jonas, even so am I of my Father." Else it were superfluous to say, "Thou art Son of Jonas;" but since he had said, "Son of God," to point out that He is so Son of God, as the other son of Jonas, of the same substance with Him that begat Him, therefore He added this, "And I say unto thee, Thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church;" that is, on the faith of his confession. Hereby He signifies that many were now on the point of believing, and raises his spirit, and makes him a shepherd. "And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." "And if not against it, much more not against me. So be not troubled because thou art shortly to hear that I shall be betrayed and crucified."

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  56. Seth,

    I'm familiar with those quotations. The rock being Peter and his confession is completely compatible with Catholicism. For some quotes from St. John Chrysostom go here. I was asking for quotations from the Church Fathers regarding your interpretations of the "gates".

    For a discussion of the Petrine office, I recommend this article. I also recommend this article.

    Peace in Christ,

    Brent

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  57. What is (or should be) the entire focus or center for the Christian life?

    Jesus Christ.

    So, to me, it would make no sense to make a mortal, sinful person (even though that person is one of Jesus', as we all (here) are.)

    So, the Rock is the confession of faith that Peter spoke. And even that confession of faith was a gift of God (Blessed are you Simon Peter for flesh and blood have not revealed this to you, but my Father in Heaven")

    Does this invalidate the Body and Blood of our dear Lord Jesus in the Lord's Supper?

    NO!

    Jesus said that it IS his body, it IS his blood... "do this...".

    When we "do this", when we attach His promises to the bread and the wine (His Word)...then He is there, in it...working His will in the life of the person receiving it.

    That's the Lutheran take.

    Thanks.

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  58. Sorry for misunderstanding Brent.

    So, if I understand you correctly, interpreting the rock as not only Peter, but ALSO the confession that Peter made, is consistent with Catholic thought?

    If so, we may have little disagreement on that particular part of the passage.

    I'll see about the other stuff you requested.

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  59. The Church was built on The Rock, which is revelation from God to His church, and Peter was the rock, the REVELATOR, thru whom God would speak to His church. One was Petros, one was Petra, and I can't remember which was which, but one was the big rock (revelation) and the other was the small rock (revelator).

    Except that Jesus did not speak Greek. He spoke Aramic. And the actual term was "Kephas" -- Rock -- which is transliterated as Peter for the name because Petra is a girl's name, but is the same for both.

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  60. If Jesus had much of an education he probably would have spoken Greek as well as Aramaic. Lots of people in Israel at that time spoke both.

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  61. From the Catholic point of view, sending someone out ill equipped to discuss theology is a disaster waiting to happen.

    How true. The aim is to attempt to be all things to all men in hope of saving at least some of them.

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  62. If Jesus had much of an education he probably would have spoken Greek as well as Aramaic. Lots of people in Israel at that time spoke both.

    Even if true -- so what?

    "Kephas." In John, we are explicitly told it was Kephas and is only transliterated Peter.

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  63. So, to me, it would make no sense to make a mortal, sinful person (even though that person is one of Jesus', as we all (here) are.)

    This is why no Scripture is a matter of personal interpretation.

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  64. Agreed. Scripture interprets Scripture.

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  65. Seth R,

    Yes, St. Peter and his faith--his confession--can both be understood as the rock (hope you will read the articles I referenced).

    Even more, Peter's confession points to his particular teaching role in the Church, a message that is reinforced by Christ asking him over and over to "feed his sheep", praying that his "faith would not fail him", his dogmatic interpretation the O.T. in Acts 2:17, and what he does in Acts 15:

    "The apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter. After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, (this is important since they were all seated) “Brethren, you know that [fn] in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us…”

    Peace to you on your journey

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  66. theoldadam,

    If Scripture interprets Scripture, which scripture should I start with in interpreting the rest of it? That decision, ipso facto, proves that interpretation must require an agent outside of the text since there is nothing in the scripture that is a sufficient cause for determining the interpretative starting point of the rest of Scripture.

    To posit anything otherwise is to suggest an infinite regress of causes, since one can always think of another scripture to start from when one posits any particular scripture that should serve as the starting point of interpretation. (one can think of another interpretation for that matter)

    Nonetheless, I can agree that exegesis requires considering all of Scripture, but interpretation is a human activity, and the truth something we comprehend "with all the saints" (Eph 3:18) in the Church that is the "ground and pillar of truth" (1 Tim 3:15).

    Peace

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  67. theoldadam,

    So, to me, it would make no sense to make a mortal, sinful person (even though that person is one of Jesus', as we all (here) are.)

    1. How is this scripture interpreting scripture? ("to me")

    2. God uses the foolish things of men to confound the wise. Jesus built his O.T. people on the patriarchs. "I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob...". He changed Abram's name and he changed Simon's name as well. Not a coincidence.

    In Christ,

    Brent

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  68. Brent,

    Start with Christ. And then, end with Christ. And in the middle....Christ.

    So the gospel ought be the grid through which everything else can be understood.

    If you pull the gospel out of the text (the forgiveness of sins and love for sinners), then I believe that Scripture is properly interpreted.

    The law (that which we do) has already been tried and we were (are) failures at it. God knows this about us, and that is why He sent us a Savior.

    That, I believe, is the proper way to interpret Scripture. Law/Gospel. The law to convict of sins and expose our need of a Savior...and then the gospel, the free gift of Christ Jesus for our forgiveness and justification.

    Thanks.

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  69. @theoldadam

    It makes sense that faith under those paramater would not require works. In fact, I'm shocked you're certain it requires faith, with the ability to interpret away the meaning of scriptures. Wouldn't Christ be that much more valuable if it didn't even require faith? Why limit God's ability and infinite love... Seems to be the next step, one that Rob Bell seems to come to in his most recent book.


    Brock

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  70. Brock,

    God is the One who makes those decisions.

    He has decided to make faith the goal.

    "What is it to do the works of the Father" (they asked Jesus), Jesus replied, "...believe in the one whom the Father has sent."

    God gives us faith as a gift. He gives that which He commands.

    That's pretty gracious!

    But not everyone hears the gospel message and so not everyone receives faith.

    This is a mystery which we won't ever resolve down here.

    Me thinks.

    Thanks, Brock.

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  71. If you pull the gospel out of the text (the forgiveness of sins and love for sinners), then I believe that Scripture is properly interpreted.

    How can you know that?

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  72. It was kind of fun for me to read this blog, because I have been in those missionaries shoes many times before. At the beginning of my mission it ended about the same way, by me getting stumped by my lack of knowledge, but toward the end of my mission I could carry on a much better conversation. Since we as missionaries are taught to teach the basic foundational beliefs, and considering that we are only 19-23 in age, that is probably plenty of material to get good at teaching. We are even advised to avoid going far beyond the basic lessons, because then we start to focus on trying to "prove" our beliefs scripturally, instead of trying to gain a testimony through the Holy Spirit, which is the only source of testimony (see my next paragraph). If you feel that you need more than that, you need to visit something like fairlds.org, because these guys address more in depth apologetics, although it is not an official church source.

    I think it is interesting that you focus so much on the fallibility of prayer, and following the Holy Spirit, because according to 1 Cor. 12:3 that is the only source of testimony. While I agree that we cannot rely on prayer alone, I think it is pretty clear that we can never have a knowledge of anything, including the divinity of Christ, without personal revelation. Seems to me that you are "Disarming" God's "Best Weapon."

    1 Cor. 12:3-
    Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

    By the way, your contradictory scriptures on polygamy is really a misuse of scripture by avoiding context. That really wasn't fair to the missionaries. The rest of the Book of Mormon scripture is as
    follows.

    Jacob 2:30 For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.

    This is saying that there are times that God will give his people more than one wife, if there is a purpose like to "raise up seed." The Doctrine and Covenants say that their sin was not in polygamy, it was only in taking wives that were not given them by God, and mentions specifically the case of David. It does not say that Solomon didn't do a similar thing.

    Well, thank so much for being so nice to the missionaries, it sometimes ends with hurt feelings, and just mean things being said to missionaries. The last section on the importance of Charity is great, thank you. And I hope you are being as open minded as you want those missionaries to be.

    Brad

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  73. marycatelli,

    Because the Bible tells me so.

    The Bible tells me that Jesus loves me(us) and forgives me(us).

    The Holy Spirit creates faith in that Word.

    There is power in the gospel Word (Romans 1 :16).


    If there were no Bible, we would still know it because that Word gets spoken to people and creates faith. As St. Paul said, "Faith comes by hearing".

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  74. theoldadam,

    But faith requires something more than just intellectual assent.

    I read in the Bible--the Gospel--about faith without works, of action motivated by belief. Abraham did this by faith, Noah did this by faith, Rachel did this by faith...No one just said, "I believe".

    If I believe it is raining, I will get an umbrella. If I don't get an umbrella, I get wet and (apparently) I didn't really believe it was raining.

    A burning in your bosom isn't a good ground for knowledge or faith. Both require a concrete grounding in reality. If not, God would have simply declared the good news from a dirigible. "See"..."Believe".

    He didn't. He came into time/space as a someone like you and me and died, brutally. We must also die. It can get brutal, but that's life.

    Peace,

    Brent

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  75. Brent,

    Agreed.

    We Lutherans do not believe that 'faith' is intellectual assent.

    We believe it is a living, active trust, given to us by God, and fostered by God through the hearing of His Word and through the Sacraments.

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  76. theoldadam,

    Good. Then can we stop all the poetry and agree to agree that "living" and "active" imply works of some kind, a participation with the grace of Christ given ordinarily through the Sacraments?

    Reading through this thread and other threads made me think you were trying on purpose to be obscurant. This last comment makes sense and is consonant with Catholic teaching. Thank you.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

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  77. I've seen a few people here who suggest praying for truth doesn't work. The Bible says it does. James 1:5 promises us God will tell us if we ask. Jesus admonished us to pray. Me? I believe God keeps His promises and that if he says he will give me answers, then He will also figure out how to make me recognize those answers as being from Him. I trust God and it baffles me when I'm attacked on that issue.

    So -- do you also hold that everyone who disagrees with you obviously did it wrong?

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  78. Because the Bible tells me so.

    The Bible tells me that Jesus loves me(us) and forgives me(us).

    The Holy Spirit creates faith in that Word.

    There is power in the gospel Word (Romans 1 :16).


    Only if you got the right Bible. Besides, where does the Bible tell you that those two are the important things so you can ignore everything else in it? It seems to me to say the exact opposite.

    If there were no Bible, we would still know it because that Word gets spoken to people and creates faith. As St. Paul said, "Faith comes by hearing".

    I'm glad you admit the effectiveness of the Sacred Tradition.

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  79. @marycatelli, In KJV Gen. 4:8 "...Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him." I would call that version of slew murder.

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  80. And in modern English, if you murder someone, you also killed him.

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  81. Este blog é uma representação exata de competências. Eu gosto da sua recomendação. Um grande conceito que reflete os pensamentos do escritor. Consultoria RH

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  82. well, i have seen of a documentary. either in discovery channel or history channel.
    that mormons founder has lied,cheated, and made his own bible supposedly made by "moses" that he interpreted from an Egyptian tablet he bought.
    i forgot the whole story but its in the video.

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