Monday, 26 November 2007

Mormons and Muslims

Much has been said about the parallels between Mormonism and Islam. A BYU professor has written:

“…there are many important elements of Mormon thought in which we feel closer to the followers of Muhammad than to the contemporary Christian culture in which we have been located since our beginning” (Spencer Palmer quoting BYU Professor Noel Reynolds, Mormons and Muslims, p.8).

The parallels are striking and you can find a list of them here http://www.bible.ca/islam/islamic-mormonism-similarities.htm

Sunday, 25 November 2007

JI Packer and the "Poison" of liberal Anglicanism

The Anglican Church of Canada continues to Haemorrhage bishops as retired Anglican Bishop Malcolm Harding of Manitoba became the second bishop in a week to align himself with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, which takes in most of South America. He followed Bishop Donald Harvey of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, who announced last Friday he would come out of retirement to offer pastoral guidance to conservative Canadian Anglicans.

James I. Packer, Professor of Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, author of "Knowing God" and widely regarded as one of the most important Protestant theologians today, has said the Anglican Church of Canada has been "poisoned" by a liberal theology that "knows nothing of a God who uses [the Bible] to tell us things and knows nothing of sin in the heart and in the head." He said the Church is being ruined by its attempts to "play catch-up with the culture" by adopting whatever "is the in-thing."

Packer explains his position cogently and convincingly on the Anglican Mainstream Blog http://tinyurl.com/yppy6b Well worth a read and very helpful for those interested in understanding what is happening and who want to know who God has preserved who have not bowed the knee to Baal in this increasingly Godless world.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

The Issue of Blood

THE ISSUE OF BLOOD

After the emotion comes the careful reflection. One Jehovah's Witness has died and it might be that refusing blood was a contributing factor. However, is one possible life necessary? Are others going to play 'Russian Roulette' with their lives?

However, there are those who work with former Jehovah Witnesses who urge us not to be hard on the rank and file members of the group. Doug Harris is Director of Reachout Trust, an Evangelical Christian group that has worked with these people for the past 26 years. Doug said:

"We should show nothing but love and compassion for the rank and file members, they are only following what they believe are God's directions to them. Having faith is a food thing; wanting to serve our Creator is something we should applaud. The problem is not with them but with the Leadership."

Doug added, "This family will be feeling really sad and our hearts should go out to them and we should put no further pressures on them because the Society does that enough."

The teaching of the Governing Body of Jehovah Witnesses is that God forbids blood transfusions. That is blasphemy because God does not; indeed the Scriptures they quote having nothing to do with a medical procedure that was not even invented at the time.

The leadership then teachers that they are the only true Christians, disobey them and disobey God; leave the Organisation and you leave behind the only hope of Salvation. This is the pressure that is pout upon each Witness that faces this issue.

Putting words into God's mouth is bad enough but the Organisation itself has double standards. When they wanted to register as a church in Bulgaria they agreed, with a signed document at the Court of Human Rights, with the Government there that they would not teach that its members should not take blood. In that instance they were prepared to compromise on what is said to be God's clear directive.

Double-standards, deceit and cover up are unfortunately the order of the day. Pressure and demands are placed upon its members. Whereas true Christianity is to consist of love, understanding and a clear openness and desire for the best life for its people.

Doug Harris of Reachout Trust finally urged, "Please help these ones as they come to the door to see that they are not in God's Organisation and they are not laying down their lives for Jehovah but rather for men in the Brooklyn Headquarters."

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Time 2 Change Churches!: "Mormo" and the Mormons!

A very good example of what can happen when local churches prove indifferent to the cults. A good read

Time 2 Change Churches!: "Mormo" and the Mormons!

Warren Jeffs and Polygamy

On Nov. 20 Associated Press reported:

"A judge in Utah sentenced a sect leader to two consecutive terms of five years to life in prison for his role in the arranged marriage of teenage cousins. Warren Jeffs, 51, was convicted of two counts of rape as an accomplice for his role in the marriage of a 14-year-old follower and her 19-year-old cousin in 2001. It will be up to the Utah parole board to decide how long he serves. Jeffs is head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, whose members practise polygamy. The Utah parole board's first opportunity to review Jeffs' case comes in 2010, although it could decide to wait longer."


This has been the year of polygamy for Mormonism. Warren Jeffs, the charismatic leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), was finally captured on Monday 28 August 2006 in Las Vegas with his brother and one of his many wives. Jeffs had been on the run since May 2004 after being charged with sexual misconduct for allegedly arranging marriages between minors and older men.

The 10,000 strong FLDS Church is more than a hundred years old and broke away from the Salt Lake Mormon Church when the latter gave up the practice of polygamy officially in 1890. Jeffs is said to have as many as 70 wives, although no one seems really sure of the number. He would claim that his church is being true to “the principle” of polygamy as taught and practised by early Mormon leaders from Joseph Smith, Mormonism’s founder, through to Heber J Grant, Mormonism’s seventh president.

This has spawned a lot of interest in this dark side of Mormonism’s history and teaching. Especially now that he has been declared guilty and sentenced. To read more about this story and its background go to "Truth Restored" in the Reachout Trust Quarterly Newsletter at http://www.reachouttrust.org/articles/quarterly/Quarterly89.pdf

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Jehovah

A few years ago a friend of mine gave me an ornament he had made in the shape of the name of God. It must have been about eight inches long, three inches high and perhaps half an inch deep. The idea was that it should sit on the mantle piece ready for when Jehovah’s Witnesses visit in the hope that it would be the first thing they would spot on entering our sitting room. What a conversation starter! How could they now claim that we do not know or use “the Name”? Well, it worked – after a fashion.

The Witnesses calling on me that summer were charming people and we got along just fine. One of them was intrigued by the name of God sitting above the fire, and we discussed its origins and purpose. I explained that it served as a reminder of the God we serve and as a witness to the fact that we know Him by name. His wonder at the idea that I, a “born-again” Christian, should both know and use the name of God turned to astonishment when, saying that I knew how precious it might be to him, I made him a gift of the Name. This was outside his experience and understanding. A Christian familiar with the name of God? A Christian sensitive enough to know the value of that name to a JW, and generous enough to make a gift of the Name?

I say that it worked after a fashion. What do I mean by that? There is a story told to Jehovah’s Witnesses that tells of the ignorance of Christians regarding the name of God and involving a conspiracy by the church to eradicate “the Name”. While I made my friend wonder at what he had seen and heard, I don’t think I changed his mind regarding the ignorance of Christians or the conspiracy of the church. Since such teaching comes from Headquarters, even in the face of evidence to the contrary, it must be true. Perhaps he thought my efforts at witnessing were all part of the deception. There is no talking to a conspiracy theorist, that much is certain.
Ignorant Christians

On another occassion two Witnesses visited my home with a similar picture of Christians being ignorant of the name of God. I invited them to call on all the Christian friends in my address book (the great majority of whom have nothing to do with Reachout) and ask them if they know the Name. I assured them that my friends did know. They declined my offer declaring that “on the doorstep” they had met Christians who, when told of the name of God, had expressed astonishment at this new knowledge. Ipso facto Christians do not know, much less use the name of God.

Now there are two things to say in response to these claims. First, Jehovah’s Witnesses, of all people, should know that many claim to be Christians, C of E, “Going to the church down the road”, just to get rid of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Anyone who knocks doors as part of their witnessing will know this. I came across it as a Mormon, and I have come across it as a Christian knocking doors (Yes Mr Witness, Christians do knock doors). I can only assume that they take these doorstep confessions of Christian faith at face value because it suits them to come across “Christians” who confirm their deepest suspicions.

Ignorance is no Excuse

The second point concerns another story (I do apologise but as you get older you do tend to accumulate these experiences). Many years ago I worked knocking doors for an insurance company. At one door I was invited in by a man who told me that he was a Jehovah’s Witness and who explained to me that, on the strength of his faith, he wasn’t interested in insurance beyond that required by law. We fell into conversation and he seemed eager to witness to me – a Mormon. I will leave you to speculate about who would lead who into a ditch.

I reached into my pocket for a neat little notebook I carried. On two pages of this notebook I had listed key problems about the history of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I spoke of Beth Sarim, of the claims of Russell for his Studies in the Scriptures, of teachings based on the Great Pyramid, Miracle Wheat, etc. As I smugly related these facts I watched as his face registered horror. He looked at his wife who obviously was a more experienced Witness, and asked if all I had said was true. She confirmed everything and as I looked at his reaction I immediately regretted ever mentioning these things. He was about to go visiting and I had sent him out full of doubts, but with no hope. I had generated much heat, but had shown little light. Even now I cringe to think of how callous I was in my naivety and can only say that I have learned my lesson. This is no way to witness to anyone.

The point can still be made, however. Here was a Jehovah’s Witness who was ignorant of key historical facts from the brief history of his own movement. Does my experience of meeting such a man, who was otherwise obviously faithful in his witnessing, disprove the claims of the Witnesses? Of course it doesn’t. By the same token, the experience of a Jehovah’s Witness on the doorstep of even a genuine Christian who doesn’t know and understand all that they should, doesn’t prove the Witnesses’ claims to general ignorance among Christians. Indeed, I still maintain that Christians know and use the name of God much more routinely than Witnesses care to know or admit. I know because I go to a Christian Church and read Christian books. Sadly, the very evidence that would show this to be true is denied Witnesses, since they are forbidden to read such books or attend such churches.

I am bound to say that one lady who called on me with her daughter told me that when she was last in a Christian Church, before becoming a Witness, she heard no mention of the name of Jehovah. I asked her when she was last in a Church and she confessed that it was when she was thirteen. I don’t mean to be unkind but I am confident that, although I don’t know her age, I doubt if she will see fifty again. What has happened in those intervening years to colour her memory of Church? How often did she attend? How much attention did she pay? What does she remember and what does she imagine she remembers? On such doubtful testimony rests her conviction that Christians do not know the God they profess to serve.

Conspiracy in the Church

One Jehovah’s Witness I know was horrified when I suggested that the use of the word LORD in place of the name Jehovah was a convention and nothing more. He clearly felt that the name was too important to be reduced to a convention. I have some sympathy for his feelings. The name/s of God are crucial to our understanding of who He is and what is our relationship to Him. Why, then, do we not use it as Witnesses say we should, i.e. by pronouncing it each time we come across it? To read the rest of this article go to http://www.reachouttrust.org/articles/jw/jwname2.htm

Monday, 5 November 2007

The New Mind is a Challenge

I have been thinking recently about the idea that the earth might be flat. I mean it isn’t that long ago that it was a commonly believed that if you sailed far enough you would fall off the edge. “Thank goodness,” think the people who propagate this fiction, “that we have come so far since those dark days of religious superstition and ignorance.” Of course, this is all nonsense.

There was a time when people believed the earth was flat but, given the dearth of information in earliest times, that might be forgiven. However, by around 600BC, Pythagoras had come up with the idea of a spherical shape for the earth. By 240 BC Eratosthenes had measured the earth’s circumference. By the time of Jesus it was a commonly accepted view of the world. Soon Ptolemy was to work out the system of longitude and latitude. Knowledge continues to grow and inform as we now see pictures of the earth from space and we continue to learn.

Despite this we regularly hear people trot out the argument that, just the day before last week, people thought the world was flat. It is a useful, if lazy, way to dismiss anything religious as simply a vestige of those dark days when the world was flat, the sun orbited the earth - and God was in his heaven. It is an excuse for dismissing the challenge of faith and caricaturing ‘believers’ of every stamp, but especially Christians, as superstitious throwbacks.

The Bible begs to differ:

"So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, you must live no longer as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of their ignorance..."(Ephesians 4:17-18)

In God’s scheme of things futile thinking is out, understanding and enlightenment is a much-sought-after commodity, and ignorance robs us of life. Christians are not to give in to corrupt thinking and deceitful desires.

"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds;"(Eph. 4:22-23)


It is the mind that is renewed, as Paul pointed out to believers in Rome:

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind"(Romans 12:2)

In this process we become more like our creator as we, put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph.4:24 c.f. Col 3:10).

"Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbour, for we are all members of one body"(4:25)

The problem I see is that some Christians can give the impression that becoming a Christian means never having to think again. Like the popular flat earth fable propagated by sinners trying to avoid God, we can come up with our own myths, legends and misrepresentations of simple facts as well as profound truths. Some I have heard over the years include:

Being told on many occasions by Mormons that the Church of England started because Henry VIII wanted a divorce. This is a gross misrepresentation of complex and profound historical/political facts.

Hearing that Galileo was “thrown into a prison” by the Pope of the day for daring to suggest that the earth wasn’t the centre of the universe and man at the pinnacle of creation. Some people need to research their history.

The suggestion, still popular in some circles, that Jesus was not even an historical figure, let alone the Son of God. Such claims are more to do with wishful thinking than historical data.

You can prove anything from the Bible! Come on give me a break!

As Christians, with new minds, we dare not show ignorance before a world that watches us for excuses to reject God on the basis that Christianity is irrational and unreasonable. Some would have us believe otherwise but Paul wrote about renewed minds, putting off ignorance, enlightened thinking and speaking truth. This makes us like the God who made us and surely this is our hope and desire, that we should be like him. May we be found to be like him today, and grow more to be like him as we review and renew our understanding and knowledge of him and the world he made and died to save.