Friday, 26 December 2008

Should You believe in the Trinity - 6

Most Christians who talk to Jehovah’s Witnesses will eventually come across the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society’s [WBTS] booklet “Should You Believe In The Trinity” [abbreviated to “Trinity” from now on.]

As with most WBTS publications, the booklet gives the impression of being a well-produced, scholarly work. It is only as you check it out carefully that the errors begin to come to light. It may not be easy to get a Witness to investigate this publication but we want to give the opportunity to lovingly show some of the faults in it and hope you will be able to do the same with the next one that calls at the door. It is not wise to try to tackle all the arguments at once, concentrate on one at a time.

I have tried to see personally every book that the WBTS refer to. This was not easy at first because the WBTS left out references to page numbers, where and when published etc. Initially, thanks to the British Library I have managed to see most of them. Since completing my research, the WBTS have issued their list of all the original publications.

When you show that a particular quote is not the full one the reply that many Jehovah’s Witnesses have been given is, “Well the writer does say these words and therefore we are not misquoting them.” The answer I give to this is to quote John 3:16 & 17 from the New World Translation, as follows

For God loved the world so much that he gave his only begotten Son, in order that everyone... might... be destroyed.

Is that correct Mr Witness? No? Nevertheless, it is what is written in your Bible. I hope that through this the Witness will begin to see how dishonest it is, by judicial editing, to make any author say the opposite to what he or she actually said.

The “Trinity” booklet weaves a number of themes together but we have tried to break it down to a few main subjects each of which we will look at under the following headings.

A. MAIN WATCHTOWER ARGUMENTS - A summary of their main arguments.

B. PUBLICATIONS QUOTED - A look at the quotations they use, replacing, in bold italic print, anything of interest they have left out.

C. COMMENTS ON THE WATCHTOWER ARGUMENT - Highlighting anything that is wrong or suspect with their argument.

D. ADDED MATERIAL - A concise look at any extra material that will present another point of view.

SECTION 6 - THE HOLY SPIRIT IS GOD’S ACTIVE FORCE

A. MAIN WATCHTOWER ARGUMENTS


The words used for ‘Spirit’ in both the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures, do not indicate that the Holy Spirit is part of the Trinity. The Bible usage indicates a controlled force that Jehovah God uses. Certainly not a person and therefore cannot be part of the Trinity.

B. PUBLICATIONS QUOTED

Page 21. - Triune God, Edmund Fortman, p.9

Although this spirit is often described in personal terms, it seems quite clear that the sacred writers (of the Hebrew Scriptures) never conceived or presented this spirit as a distinct person.

COMMENT

This quote refers to the Old Testament. Later, referring to the New Testament, Fortman adds:

There is another series of texts that strangely suggests that the Holy Spirit is a person, for in these Paul says that the Spirit is, ‘grieved,’ ‘bears witness,’ ‘cries,’ ‘makes intercession,’ and ‘comprehends the thoughts of God.’ ... In all these so many personal acts are attributed in such close parallel to Christ that it is extremely difficult if not impossible to regard the Spirit as merely a divine impersonal force or personification. - p.21.

Page 22. - A Catholic Dictionary, WE.Addis & T.Arnold 1951, p.796

On the whole, the New Testament, like the Old, speaks of the spirit as a divine energy or power... However if we look well to (1 Cor.12:11), we find that the Spirit is distinguished from the gifts of the Spirit, and that personal action is predicated of Him... In the fourth Gospel, however, this personal existence is stated more fully and plainly (ch.xiv).

Page 22. - The Catholic Encyclopaedia, Vol.7, p.409

Nowhere in the Old Testament do we find any clear indication of a Third Person.

COMMENT

This is an honest quote but it is referring to the Old Testament. There follows four pages of evidence to show that in the New Testament the proof is there for us to see.

Page 22. - The New Catholic Encyclopaedia, Vol.14, p.574

The Old Testament clearly does not envisage God’s spirit as a person... God’s spirit is simply God’s power. If it is sometimes represented as being distinct from God, it is because the breath of Yahweh acts exteriorly.

COMMENT

This again is under the Old Testament section. One quote from the New Testament section is:

So clearly does St John see in the Spirit a person who takes Christ’s place in the Church, that he uses a masculine pronoun.

C. COMMENTS ON WATCIITOWER ARGUMENT

The quotes that the WBTS list, may agree that there is not much proof in the Old Testament to show that the Holy Spirit is neither a person nor God. However most go on to say that there is proof of the reality of the person of the Holy Spirit as part of the Godhead in the New Testament. We have listed under ADDED MATERIAL just a few of the major Scriptures.

D. ADDED MATERIAL

Three things are necessary in order to be classed as a person. Intellect, will and emotion.
John 14:26 tells us the Holy Spirit is able to teach. A sign of INTELLECT. 1 Corinthians 12:11 shows the Holy Spirit has a WILL of his own. And Ephesians 4:30 shows the Holy Spirit can be grieved, a sign of EMOTION.

It is clear that Scripture shows that the Holy Spirit is a person. This can be clearly seen by reading John 14:7 & 13-15 in the NWT. Repeatedly the Holy Spirit is a HE. However, does the Bible also show that the Holy Spirit is God?

In Acts 5:3 Ananias lies to the Holy Spirit, but in Acts 5:4 Ananias lied to God.

But when there is a turning to Jehovah, the veil is taken away. Now Jehovah is the Spirit; and where the spirit of Jehovah is, there is freedom. And all of us, while we with unveiled faces reflect like mirrors the glory of Jehovah, are transformed: into the same image from glory to glory, exactly as done by JEHOVAH [THE] SPIRIT. - 2 Cor.3:16-18 {NWT}

The Holy Spirit is not God’s active force as this verse clearly points out. The Holy Spirit is called by the name Jehovah; He is part of the Godhead.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Saudi Arabia Rejects Divorce Plea From 8-Year-Old Girl Married To 58-Year-Old Man

 

Saudi Arabia Rejects Divorce Plea From 8-Year-Old Girl Married To 58-Year-Old Man

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Compass Direct News

The Western World seems to have been fascinated by "the east" forever. Certainly, since the nineteenth century, with its spiritualism, theosophy and varieties of esoteric movements, we have fallen for the notion that the primitive, simple and "peaceful" religions of the east have so much more than the Christianity with which we grew up. These reports from Compass paint a quite different picture. The persecution of Christians across the world, often at the hands of so-called "peaceful" religions, gives the lie to the myth. We should not be completely naive about the deceivingly comforting stories of far, far away.

 

Buddhist clerics and local council officials are holding 13 newly converted Christians captive in a pagoda in a southeastern mountainous district of Bangladesh in an attempt to forcibly return them to Buddhism. A spokesman for the Parbatta Adivasi (Hill Tract) Christian Church told Compass on condition of anonymity that local government council officials in Jorachuri sub-district in Rangamati district, some 300 kilometers (186 miles) southeast of Dhaka, are helping the Buddhist monks to hold the Christians against their will. “The 13 tribal Christians were taken forcefully to a pagoda on Dec. 10 to accept Buddhism against their will,” he said. “They will be kept in a pagoda for 10 days to perform the rituals to be Buddhists – their heads were shaved, and they were given yellow saffron robes to dress in.” Fearing for their lives, the source said, some area Christians have gone into hiding. Mogdhan Union Council Chairman Arun Kanti Chakma, the source said, warned that Christian converts would be ostracized, beaten, or killed. “The chairman threatened to beat the Christians unless they change their faith to Buddhism,” he said. “The chairman also threatened, ‘If you become Christian again, we will not keep you alive.’”

Compass Direct News

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Barbara Kay: Raelians, witches and Christians -- in Quebec there is no difference - Full Comment

George Orwell's 1984 is being lived out in Quebec as a repressive new law mandates that, regardless of their religious affiliations, teachers must teach and students learn the most meaningless pluralism imaginable while parents with strong religious beliefs are ignored as the state takes over their children's spiritual development.

"No religious leaders are solicited for their views in this text, but Françoise David, the radical-feminist leader of the Marxist party Québec Solidaire is “interviewed.” Beside a large picture of Mme. David, benignly smiling, face upwardly tilted in the old Sovietic mode, the question is posed: “What would you say to those adolescents who don’t feel concerned about feminism?” David replies: “[Adolescents] need a feminist analysis in their life.”

Paganism and cults are offered equal status with Christianity. Witches “are women like any other in daily life;” “Technologically [the Raelians] are 25,000 years in advance of us.” And considering that of the 80,000 ethnic aboriginals in Quebec only 700 self-identify with aboriginal spirituality (the vast majority of ethnic aboriginals are Christian), aboriginal spirituality (falsely equated with environmentalism) is accorded hugely disproportionate space and reverence.
In this ERC monoculture, only similarities between religions are permitted, to further the jolly illusion that all religions are merely variations on a single theme of brotherly love."

Barbara Kay: Raelians, witches and Christians -- in Quebec there is no difference - Full Comment

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Sharing Your Faith With Mormons « “PoP cuLTuRe MiX”

(This article first appeared in Southern Baptist Theological Journal, Summer 2005)

.

Christians are supposed to defend the faith (Jude 3), preserve the Gospel’s purity (Gal. 1:6-9; 1 Peter 3:15), test all things (1 Thess. 5:21), and correct those who have doctrinally erred (2 Tim. 4:2). Equally relevant scriptures include Eph. 4:15, which mentions speaking the truth “in love,” and 2 Tim. 2:24-26, which says to correct using “gentleness and respect.”

Unfortunately, these latter two passages often take a backseat to what becomes the overriding aim of witnessing—that is, make sure that someone realizes he is wrong. But this unbiblical approach never results in a person falling to his knees, repenting, and shouting appreciation for being shown the error of his doctrinal ways. Instead, emotional walls go up defensive arguments are launched (no matter how baseless or illogical they may be), and a golden opportunity to show Christ’s love is lost.

Sharing Your Faith With Mormons « “PoP cuLTuRe MiX”

Friday, 12 December 2008

Should You Believe in the Trinity - 5

Most Christians who talk to Jehovah’s Witnesses will eventually come across the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society’s [WBTS] booklet “Should You Believe In The Trinity” [abbreviated to “Trinity” from now on.]

As with most WBTS publications, the booklet gives the impression of being a well-produced, scholarly work. It is only as you check it out carefully that the errors begin to come to light. It may not be easy to get a Witness to investigate this publication but we want to give the opportunity to lovingly show some of the faults in it and hope you will be able to do the same with the next one that calls at the door. It is not wise to try to tackle all the arguments at once, concentrate on one at a time.

I have tried to see personally every book that the WBTS refer to. This was not easy at first because the WBTS left out references to page numbers, where and when published etc. Initially, thanks to the British Library I have managed to see most of them. Since completing my research, the WBTS have issued their list of all the original publicationss.

When you show that a particular quote is not the full one the reply that many Jehovah’s Witnesses have been given is, “Well the writer does say these words and therefore we are not misquoting them.” The answer I give to this is to quote John 3:16 & 17 from the New World Translation, as follows:

For God loved the world so much that he gave his only begotten Son, in order that everyone... might... be destroyed.

Is that correct Mr Witness? No? Nevertheless, it is what is written in your Bible. I hope that through this the Witness will begin to see how dishonest it is, by judicial editing, to make any author say the opposite to what he or she actually said.

The “Trinity” booklet weaves a number of themes together but we have tried to break it down to a few main subjects each of which we will look at under the following headings.

A. MAIN WATCHTOWER ARGUMENTS - A summary of their main arguments.

B. PUBLICATIONS QUOTED - A look at the quotations they use, replacing, in bold italic print, anything of interest they have left out.

C. COMMENTS ON THE WATCHTOWER ARGUMENT - Highlighting anything that is wrong or suspect with their argument.

D. ADDED MATERIAL - A concise look at any extra material that will present another point of view.

SECTION 5 - THE BIBLE’S REVELATION OF GOD AND JESUS

A. MAIN WATCHTOWER ARGUMENTS


The WBTS claim that the Bible teaches the following:

God is one; Jesus was a separate creation; God could not be tempted; the ransom must be a man; only-begotten; Jesus was never considered to be God.

Under a sub-heading they claim that God is always superior to Jesus because:

Jesus is distinguished from God; He is God’s submissive servant; He had limited knowledge; He will continue to be subordinate; and above all Jesus never claimed to be God.

B. PUBLICATIONS QUOTED

Page 12. - Evolution of Trinitarianism, L.L. Paine, p.4

The Old Testament is strictly monotheistic. God is a single personal being. The idea that a trinity is to be found there is utterly without foundation.

COMMENT

This quote is accurate but further on we read,

"... the fourth gospel at once goes back from Christ’s human birth into the eternity of the divine existence and out of God himself by a divine incarnation makes Christ proceed; and this divine nature of Christ, as the eternal Logos of God, is the keynote of the whole Gospel. . the (logos) of God, God of God, derived indeed, but essentially divine". - pp.342/3.

Page 16. - Greek & English Lexicon of the New Testament, E. Robinson, p.508

Only born, only begotten, i.e. an only child... In John’s writings spoken only of o logos, the only begotten Son of God in the highest sense, as alone knowing and revealing the essence of the father.

Page 16. - Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, edited by Gerhard Kittel, p.738

(Mo-no-ge-nes) means ‘of sole descent’ i.e. without brothers or sisters.

COMMENT

The above quote is taken from the section headed usage outside the New Testament. To use this publication honestly the WBTS should quote usage inside the New Testament, as we do below.

In Jn. the Lord is always the Son. Because He alone was God’s Son before the foundation of the world, because the whole love of the Father is for Him alone, because he alone is one with God, because the title God may be ascribed to Him alone, He is the only - begotten Son of God.

Page 16. - Bulletin of John Rylands Library, Vol.50, Spring 1968, No.2, pp.241-261

Yet be that as it may, the fact has to be faced that New Testament research over, say, the last thirty or forty years has been leading an increasing number of reputable New Testament scholars to the conclusion that Jesus himself may not have claimed any of the christological titles which the Gospels ascribe to him, not even the functional designation ‘Christ’, and certainly never believed himself to be God... When therefore, they assigned (Jesus) such honorific titles as Christ, Son of Man, Son of God, and Lord, these were ways of saying not that he was God, but that he did God’s work. - p.251.

C. COMMENTS ON WATCHTOWER ARGUMENT

They make some very strong claims but as we have seen from the few quotes above, they are not always borne out when investigated fully. Under the ADDED MATERIAL heading, we are listing and answering some of the Scriptures mentioned in this section.

D. ADDED MATERIAL

On p.13 the WBTS says,

"That is why nowhere in the Bible is anyone but Jehovah called Almighty. Otherwise, it voids the meaning of the word ‘almighty.’"

However, we only have to read carefully Revelation 1:8 - Jehovah is the Alpha & Omega, the Almighty. Revelation 22:12 & 13 - the one who is coming [Jesus] is the Alpha & Omega and therefore the Almighty. The Alpha & Omega is also the first and the last. Revelation 1:17 & 18 - the first and the last is Jesus because He is the one who was dead and now alive. The first and the last = the Alpha & Omega = the Almighty. Jesus is called by the name Almighty.

On the same page under the sub heading, “Not a Plural God,” the WBTS begin to try to discredit the doctrine of the Trinity by claiming that the fact that “elohim” is plural does not signify more than one person of the Trinity. This by itself is true. However, it also does not deny the understanding of the Christian Trinity either but it does give problems to the WBTS.

The Trinity states that God is one and therefore starting with this fact is not a problem. It also shows though that there are three persons in the Trinity therefore allowing for more than one in the Godhead. However, if the WBTS, as they do, make much of the fact that God is One and One alone, then when they say that Jesus is a lesser God they are the ones who are bringing in a Pagan doctrine to the Biblical revelation.

Several verses are also mentioned in this section, which seek to prove that Jesus is a separate creation from God.

Colossians 1:15 - A Witness reads this verse as Christ is the first one of creation to be born; however it does not say that. If we read verses 15-18, without the notorious “other” that the WBTS have added 4 times, without any justification from the Greek, it is self-evident what these verses mean. Jesus created all things, in the heavens and on earth; He created all authorities and powers; He is before all things; all things hold together in Him; and He is to have first-place in everything. This last phrase clearly sums up that the “first-born” of all creation is to be seen in the sense of the first-born in the OT usage, the Son that was pre-eminent over all.

Revelation 3:14 - once again the WBTS have mistranslated this verse. If you look at the K.I.T., you will see that the literal Greek is “of God” but the NWT is “by God.” When did the Greek change? Added to this we must understand what the Greek word ‘arche’ really means. The WBTS do give it one of its possible meanings; “beginning” but it does not means the first to be begun but the one who is over all the beginning, i.e. “the ruler” or “the source.” So instead of this verse meaning that Jesus is the first to be created it actually means He is the source of all of God’s creation.

Proverbs 8:22 - The Witnesses make this verse say that Jesus is Wisdom and that Jehovah created Jesus at the beginning. However, when you check the Hebrew word used here with the rest of the Old Testament it is never used of created. Secondly, v23 says, “from everlasting I was established” [NASB]. The Hebrew word for everlasting is also used in other places of Jehovah God which the WBTS readily take as showing He had no beginning. The same must be said of Wisdom here. The more correct translation and understanding of verse 22 is that Jehovah possessed wisdom right at the beginning and He has never been without it.

The next two arguments, “Could God Be Tempted,” p.14 and “How much was the Ransom,” p.15, show, as others will later, a lack of understanding as Jesus being both God and man. He could say and experience things as a man but that did not mean to say He was not God.

Only Begotten Son. The WBTS try to make this fit their understanding of Jesus being created. However, the fact is this title more than any other shows that Jesus is God. If Jesus is created He cannot be begotten they are two different actions. In addition, the very life of the one doing the begetting is found in the one begotten. The life of Jehovah is God and that is the life that is begotten into the Son. Hebrews 1:3 helps here too, especially if you read the literal Greek from the KIT. It is not talking about a mirror image but it is talking that out of the person of Jesus the very being of Jehovah shone. Jesus is the exact representation of Jehovah. Does Jehovah look like Jesus? No. It is the inward being of God that was within Jesus and shone out even through His manhood.

The WBTS claim that God is clearly superior to Jesus because Jesus submitted Himself to the Father does not mean He is lesser.

1 Corinthians 15:27, 28 simply says He will submit Himself. What does submit mean? Other uses of the very same word in Ephesians 5 and Luke 2 show that submission does not mean you are lesser or different. It clearly shows that people with the same life can be in submission one to another because this is God’s order. There is order in the family, there is order in the church and there is order in the Godhead.

Finally, in this section the WBTS say that Jesus never claimed to be God. Nevertheless, in both what He said and what He did not say he claimed to be God.

Very clearly in John 20:28, where Thomas calls Jesus, “ho theos”, which according to the WBTS is only used of Jehovah God. Whatever various arguments the Jehovah’s Witness seeks to bring here, in the end the facts are indisputable. Thomas calls Jesus, God, and He accepts that title as true. Not only that but He goes on to commend all those that did not see Him yet believe; believe what? That He is God!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Creative Minority Report: Dictionary Removes Christian Words - A Catholic Blog: Religion, Politics, Current Events, Humor, and more.

 

Many words associated with Christianity have been removed from a children's dictionary in Britain. Come on! Tell me you're surprised.
Oxford University Press has excised words like "aisle," "Saint," "devil," "bishop," and "chapel" from its Junior Dictionary and replaced them with words like "blog," "interdependent" and "celebrity," says
The UK Telegraph.

As something of a dictionary enthusiast (I won't put it stronger than that, although it is something of an obsession actually) and as a sold out Bible-believing Christian I had to share this. The original blog comment is very good (please do look at it) but the subsequent posts are utterly priceless for anyone who truly appreciates the intelligent use of words and the right application of reason, and all done in the best possible taste.

I can only add that when your culture and history is being systematically removed from the dictionary that dreadful chimera multiculturalism has gone too far and turned from inclusiveness to appeasement.

Creative Minority Report: Dictionary Removes Christian Words - A Catholic Blog: Religion, Politics, Current Events, Humor, and more.

Friday, 5 December 2008

The Joseph Smith Papers

With its usual modesty and demonstrating its typical self-effacing character the Mormon Church has announced the publication of The Joseph Smith Papers. Aimed at scholars and “serious students of the life of Joseph Smith”, it draws on some 6,000 documents taken mainly from the archives of the Mormon Church but also from the Re-organised Church (The Community of Christ) and some private collections. The aim is to produce a definitive, scholarly edition of Joseph Smith’s papers in approximately thirty volumes produced at a rate of two volumes a year at just under $50 a volume.

Did someone say hubris? One wonders how many Mormons, let alone non-Mormons, will actually end up with a set. If you’re determined to own a set yourself it will likely take you fifteen years to complete it, although they hope to speed up production. Certainly, for the average Christian what you meet on the doorstep will not change. The story of Joseph Smith as presented by missionaries and shared by the typical Mormon will be the same.

There is extensive information on the josephsmithpapers.org web site including a very interesting FAQ section. Of course, FAQ’s are not always genuine FAQ’s but are often simply questions devised by the publishers as a device for presenting a positive apologetic for their work and/or to anticipate difficult questions and head them off at the pass. Some of their questions and answers raise further questions and doubts in this writers mind.

A very apposite FAQ is addressed, i.e. can the LDS church expect to maintain scholarly credibility while publishing its own works? Their answer, in brief, is wait and see and an appeal to trustworthy scholarship. We are led to believe that the published collection will be exhaustive. This is difficult to judge of course since this project is entirely a church project and the vast majority of sources are exclusively held in notoriously inaccessible church facilities in SLC.

We are promised a high level of scholarship and they go to great lengths to point out endorsements from respected independent institutions such as The National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). However, since such endorsements come from institutions concerned principally with methodology and organising principles and given the Mormon Church’s history of hiding documents (remember their denial for years of the existence of different accounts of the so-called First Vision), and the discriminating nature and doctrine-driven character of official Mormon history (remember Boyd K Packer’s assertion that not all scholarship is “helpful”) one might be forgiven for having doubts.

Two things stand out for me. The first is that these papers will serve the same purpose for the average Mormon and Mormon missionary as the encyclopaedic collection of works produced by the late Hugh Nibley. It was said of Nibley’s often dense and impenetrable writings that most Mormons didn’t read Nibley, it was enough for them to know that he was there. In the same way, we will no doubt find Mormons citing the Joseph Smith Papers to “prove” that their church has nothing to hide without actually going to the trouble of finding out whether their naive claim actually stands up.

For the Christian this highlights the constant need to be determined not to be easily impressed. The fact of thirty volumes, the apparent level of scholarship involved, the endorsement of academic institutions do not together in any way prove the claim to integrity and veracity, much less the claim of Mormonism to be “restored Christianity”.

Secondly, there is an irony in the fact that the original claim of Mormonism is that, in the absence of prophets, the inevitable obfuscation of apostasy followed upon man’s having to fall back on scholarship and his own wit in doing the best he can to arrive at the truth of his Christian faith. Prophets, it is claimed, have restored the truth, shone the light of revelation where there was only darkness and brought understanding where there was confusion.

Traditionally, Mormons have been urged to trust their Prophets over against anything as prosaic as scholarship, Christian or secular. Having a hotline to God historically divided learning for Mormons into two categories: the flawed learning of the world and the thoroughly reliable learning of Mormon “knowing”. The world and its scholarship, it is insisted, has never “understood” Mormonism and the church has to continuously correct misconceptions but “when the prophet speaks all debate is ended”.

Mormon-watchers will have observed however that, in recent years, it is Mormon “Para-church” organisations like FAIR and FARMS and Mormon educational establishments like BYU and the Neil A Maxwell Institute that are making the running in defending Mormonism against critics, in developing and teaching Mormon theology. While the Mormon leadership does occasionally issue statements aimed at clarifying issues that come up in the press etc. and make policy announcements they seldom engage meaningfully with any major issues of traditional Mormon teaching and theology. FAIR and FARMS, etc. on the other hand, are consistently engaged in producing apologetics, refutations, sturdy defences and counter arguments in response to church critics and in simply explaining the faith.

As this foray by the Mormon Church from the world of special revelation and blind faith into the conventional but disciplined world of scholarship becomes normative it is inevitable that a) more and more Mormon history and controversy will come under the spotlight and b) the Mormon Church’s ability to live up to its claims of scholarly integrity and theological verity will be tested. They will be found wanting.

See also: http://www.religionnewsblog.com/23004/joseph-smith

Friday, 28 November 2008

Should You Believe in the Trinity? - 4

Most Christians who talk to Jehovah’s Witnesses will eventually come across the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society’s [WBTS] booklet “Should You Believe In The Trinity” [abbreviated to “Trinity” from now on.]

As with most WBTS publications, the booklet gives the impression of being a well-produced, scholarly work. It is only as you check it out carefully that the errors begin to come to light. It may not be easy to get a Witness to investigate this publication but we want to give the opportunity to lovingly show some of the faults in it and hope you will be able to do the same with the next one that calls at the door. It is not wise to try to tackle all the arguments at once, concentrate on one at a time.

I have tried to see personally every book that the WBTS refer to. This was not easy at first because the WBTS left out references to page numbers, where and when published etc. Initially, thanks to the British Library I have managed to see most of them. Since completing my research, the WBTS have issued their list of all the original publicationss.

When you show that a particular quote is not the full one the reply that many Jehovah’s Witnesses have been given is, “Well the writer does say these words and therefore we are not misquoting them.” The answer I give to this is to quote John 3:16 & 17 from the New World Translation, as follows:

For God loved the world so much that he gave his only begotten Son, in order that everyone... might... be destroyed.

Is that correct Mr Witness? No? Nevertheless, it is what is written in your Bible. I hope that through this the Witness will begin to see how dishonest it is, by judicial editing, to make any author say the opposite to what he or she actually said.

The “Trinity” booklet weaves a number of themes together but we have tried to break it down to a few main subjects each of which we will look at under the following headings.

A. MAIN WATCHTOWER ARGUMENTS - A summary of their main arguments.

B. PUBLICATIONS QUOTED - A look at the quotations they use, replacing, in bold italic print, anything of interest they have left out.

C. COMMENTS ON THE WATCHTOWER ARGUMENT - Highlighting anything that is wrong or suspect with their argument.

D. ADDED MATERIAL - A concise look at any extra material that will present another point of view.

SECTION 4 - DEVELOPMENT OF THIS PAGAN DOCTRINE

A. MAIN WATCHTOWER ARGUMENTS

The doctrine of the Trinity is of Pagan origin, influenced by the Babylonians, Greeks, etc. Not until the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. were there any foundations for the assertion that Christ was of the same substance as God. The Council of Constantinople in 381 agreed to this doctrine and also lifted the Holy Spirit to the same level as the Father and Jesus. The doctrine was more fully defined by Athanasius.

B. PUBLICATIONS QUOTED

Page 8. - The Early Church, Henry Chadwick, p.125

Constantine, like his father, worshipped the Unconquered Sun; But if his conversion should not be interpreted as an inward experience of grace, neither was it a cynical act of Machiavellian cunning. It was a military matter. His comprehension of Christian doctrine was never very clear, but he was sure that victory in battle lay in the gift of the God of the Christians.

Page 8. - The Encyclopaedia Americana, 1977, Vol.27, p.117

It is probably a mistake to assume that the doctrine resulted from the intrusion of Greek metaphysics or philosophy into Christian thought; for the data upon which the doctrine rests, and also its earliest attempts at formulation, are much older than the church’s encounter with Greek philosophy. The earliest development of the doctrine may in fact be viewed as an attempt to preserve the balance between the various statements of Scripture, or their implications, without yielding to views which, though logical enough, would have destroyed or abandoned important areas of Christian belief... The full development of Trinitarianism took place in the West, in the Scholasticism of the Middle Ages, when an explanation was undertaken in terms of philosophy and psychology. - pp.116/1l7

Page 9. - A Dictionary of Religious Knowledge, Rev. L Abbott, 1875, p.944

The one (Christians) sees in it f the trinity in pagan religions) an evidence that God has ‘diffused and perpetuated the evidence of this doctrine throughout successive periods of time,’ while their opponents conclude that it is a corruption borrowed from the heathen religions, and ingrafted on the Christian faith.

Page 9. - Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol.12, p.458

Although the notion of a divine Triad or Trinity is characteristic of the Christian religion, it is by no means peculiar to it. In Indian religion, e.g. we meet with the trinitarian group of Brahma, Siva, and Visnu; and in Egyptian religion with the trinitarian group of Osiris, Isis, and Horus... Nor is it only in historical religions that we find God viewed as a Trinity. One recalls in particular the Neo-Platonic view of the Supreme or Ultimate Reality,” which is “triadically represented. What lends a special character to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity is its close association with the distinctive Christian view of divine incarnation. In other religions and religious philosophies we meet with the idea of divine incarnation, but it may be claimed that nowhere is the union of God and man so concrete and definite, and so universal in its import, as the Christian religion.

C. COMMENTS ON THE WATCHTOWER ARGUMENT.

There are a number of quotations here, which are “red herrings.” Some people may feel that the Trinity had its roots in paganism and of course are at liberty to say so. However, the proof of this statement would be that the Trinity was not seen until the 4th-century but we have shown in the previous section that this is not true.

In “Trinity,” the WBTS present a page of coloured photos to show us that the concept of the Trinity was in all other religions and that Christianity took it from them. However, who was there first? Although Christianity is New Testament, its roots are in the God of the Jews, who created all men to start with. If the doctrine of the Trinity is correct, it did not come into existence in the First Century A.D. but in the first day of creation, i.e. before all the other religions. In other words, the other religions copied the Trinity from ‘Christianity’ not the other way round.

D. ADDED MATERIAL

Many would agree with the WBTS that Constantine was not the greatest Christian but we must not put the blame on him for something he did not do. The events leading up to the Council of Nicea and the development of the Trinity Doctrine take on a very different meaning when viewed as follows.

The council held at Antioch in the early weeks of 325 furnishes a much more overt and instructive example of synod creed-making prior to Nicea. This gathering of 59 Bishops... took advantage of their meeting together to condemn the Arian heresy and to publish a fulldress declaration of their own position. Possibly they were aware of Constantine’s determination himself to settle a controversy which was leaving a festering sore in the Church’s body, and wanted to anticipate by a fait accompli any chance there might be of the imperial decision going the wrong way. - Early Christian Creeds, J.N.D.Kelly, p.208

COMMENT

The Council at Antioch took place in January 325 and Nicea was in June. Whereas Constantine did have a hand in day to day running the above shows that the Bishops knew they needed to make a statement of faith and were prepared to do so.

If Trinitarian creeds are rare, the Trinitarian pattern which was to dominate all later creeds was already part and parcel of the Christian tradition of doctrine. - Ibid, p.23.

COMMENT

Why didn’t Nicea proclaim Trinity and indeed what was the purpose of Nicea? The answer to both these questions is that in 318 Anus began to explain who he understood Christ to be

He knew that before Origen’s time the great theologians of the Church had all believed that the Trinity had come into being when God the Father brought forth his Word and his spirit. - Creeds, Councils & Christ, G.Bray, p.106.

The result of all this was Arianism, the belief that Jesus was a divine creature who had entered the human race. Its spiritist power lay in the attractiveness of having a saviour who was like us (as a creature) yet more powerful. - Ibid.

COMMENT

The problem posed was about the person of Christ and therefore that was the question addressed. The question of the Holy Spirit was addressed at a later council in 451, here they said of Him;

Who with the Father and Son together is worshipped and glorified.

What we see from this is that although the facts that the WBTS quote are overall true, the order of events that they deduce from them is clearly in dispute.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Going rate to kill pastor: $250

Hindu extremist groups are offering money, food and alcohol to anyone who murders Christians and destroys their homes.

The violence is nothing new in Orissa, India, where India's Communist Party estimates that more than 500 Christians have been killed by Hindu mobs in Orissa since late August, 12 times more than official government claims of only 40 homicides.

But now the stakes are even higher – and pastors have a bounty on their heads.

Read More:

Going rate to kill pastor: $250

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

SPORTSbyBROOKS » Pole Dancing Mormons Make Push For Olympics

Pole Dancing Mormons? This is no joke - although it is - sort of - although it isn't if you know what I mean. When I was a Mormon all we had was barn dances is all I am saying.

SPORTSbyBROOKS » Pole Dancing Mormons Make Push For Olympics

Friday, 21 November 2008

Mormons Today

The original vision and claim of Mormonism was that:

“After his death, Jesus continued to lead his Church by revelation to his apostles and prophets...They taught the truth and recorded these teachings in the scriptures. In this way, the truths about the plan of God were taught clearly without confusion.

Because of the wickedness of the people, the apostles and many of the righteous Church members were killed. The Lord took the priesthood authority and his Church from the earth. There was no longer a church on earth directed by revelation. Because men relied on human wisdom to understand the scriptures, many plain and simple truths were lost.

The [Mormon] Church is led today by a prophet and twelve apostles. The Lord has called these men in our day just as he did in Bible times. They receive revelation from God and have his priesthood authority...We follow the guidance and direction the Lord gives us through them”
(Mormon Missionary Discussion 3, 1986, pp.4, 6, 12)

Consequently Mormons like to think of their church as operating as described by the following quotes:

"It was the Lord Himself who installed prophets in this modern Church. ... This, too, has He done for the successors to the Prophet Joseph, even down to our present wonderful and humble leader. He, too, is inspired of God. He, too, is a revelator. He, too, is the voice of the Almighty to the saints of this day." (Editorial, Church News, September 26, p. 12, 1981)

"Words of Our Living Prophets — In addition to these four books of scripture, the inspired words of our living prophets become scripture to us. Their words come to us through conferences, Church publications, and instructions to local priesthood leaders. 'We believe all that God has revealed, all that he does now reveal, and we believe that he will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God' (Articles of Faith 1:9)." (Gospel Principles, p. 55, 1992)

“There are those who would assume that with the printing and binding of these sacred records that would be the ‘end of the prophets’. But again we testify to you that revelation continues and that the vaults and files of the Church contain these revelations which come month to month and day to day. We testify also that there is, since 1830 when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organised, and will continue to be, so long as time shall last, a prophet, recognised of God and his people, who will continue to interpret the mind and will of the Lord” (“Revelation: The Word of the Lord to His Prophets,” Spencer W Kimball, Ensign, May 1977, 78).

"Today I would like to address [a] major doctrine which characterizes our faith but which causes concern to some, namely the bold assertion that God continues to speak His word and reveal His truth, revelations which mandate an open canon of scripture... I testify that Thomas S. Monson is God’s prophet, a modern apostle with the keys of the kingdom in his hands, a man upon whom I personally have seen the mantle fall. I testify that the presence of such authorized, prophetic voices and ongoing canonized revelations have been at the heart of the Christian message whenever the authorized ministry of Christ has been on the earth. I testify that such a ministry is on the earth again, and it is found in this, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." (Jeffrey R Holland, April 2008 Conference)

A. However, there has been no written prophecy since:

1978 – Declaration on Negroes and the priesthood. NB not a canonised revelation

1918 – Joseph F Smith’s vision of Jesus’ visit to the dead while his body lay in the tomb; (D&C 138)

1890 – Declaration on polygamy. NB not a revelation.

1847 – Brigham Young’s revelation at Winter Quarters regarding the organisation of the saints; D&C 136

1844 – An account of the “martyrdom” of Joseph and Hyrum Smith; D&C 135 NB not a revelation

1843 – Four revelations regarding (1) how to distinguish angels (D&C 129);( 2) eternal marriage (D&C 132); (3) Three degrees of glory (D&C 131); (4) The Second Coming, the celestial earth and the law of eternal progression (D&C 130)

It seems, then, that 1847 saw the last church-developing revelation in the Mormon Church. That is a gap of 153 years. Inevitably a Mormon will mention the 1978 revelation on Priesthood and indeed the Doctrine and Covenants contains a ‘Declaration’ to the effect that such a revelation had been received - but no canonised revelation. This is also the case with the infamous 1890 Declaration on polygamy, reversing a so-called eternal principle; A Declaration but no canonised revelation. Where is the revelation in the Mormon Church? Even if we were to be generous and allow that these declarations are revelation we still have 136 revelations from 1830 - 1847 and then 5 from 1847 - 2000. Not a “Thus saith the Lord”, not a “Hearken, O ye elders of my church”, not a peep from “the voice of him who dwells on high” for 153 years.

I suggest that revelation died with Joseph Smith and the Mormon Church has followed the classic pattern for all organisations, i.e. the Visionary stage, the Organisational stage and the Management stage. The result has been that Mormonism is becoming more conservative and satisfies itself with safe declarations of moral rectitude and expressions of conservative values. There is no revelation in the Mormon Church; but then there never was.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Should You Believe in the Trinity? - 3

Most Christians who talk to Jehovah’s Witnesses will eventually come across the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society’s [WBTS] booklet “Should You Believe In The Trinity” [abbreviated to “Trinity” from now on.]

As with most WBTS publications, the booklet gives the impression of being a well-produced, scholarly work. It is only as you check it out carefully that the errors begin to come to light. It may not be easy to get a Witness to investigate this publication but we want to give the opportunity to lovingly show some of the faults in it and hope you will be able to do the same with the next one that calls at the door. It is not wise to try to tackle all the arguments at once, concentrate on one at a time.

When you show that a particular quote is not the full one the reply that many Jehovah’s Witnesses have been given is, “Well the writer does say these words and therefore we are not misquoting them.” The answer I give to this is to quote John 3:16 & 17 from the New World Translation, as follows:

For God loved the world so much that he gave his only begotten Son, in order
that everyone... might... be destroyed.

Is that correct Mr Witness? No? Nevertheless, it is what is written in your Bible. I hope that through this the Witness will begin to see how dishonest it is, by judicial editing, to make any author say the opposite to what he or she actually said.

The “Trinity” booklet weaves a number of themes together but we have tried to break it down to a few main subjects each of which we will look at under the following headings.

A. MAIN WATCHTOWER ARGUMENTS - A summary of their main arguments.

B. PUBLICATIONS QUOTED - A look at the quotations they use, replacing, in bold italic print, anything of interest they have left out.

C. COMMENTS ON THE WATCHTOWER ARGUMENT - Highlighting anything that is wrong or suspect with their argument.

D. ADDED MATERIAL - A concise look at any extra material that will present another point of view.

SECTION 3- THE TRINITY WAS NOT TAUGHT IN THE EARLY CHURCH

A. MAIN WATCHTOWER ARGUMENTS

Page 7. - Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol.12, p.461
The transition from the Trinity of experience to the Trinity of dogma is describable in other terms as the transition from the economic or dispensational Trinity... to the essential, immanent, or ontological Trinity... At first the Christian faith was not Trinitarian in the strictly ontological reference. It was not so in the apostolic and sub—apostolic ages, as reflected in the New Testament and other early Christian writings.

COMMENT

Ontology is a branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being. Ontological here has to do with the Trinity being written down to prove the existence of what they had believed in all along.
Page 7. - New Catholic Encyclopaedia Vol.14, p.299

From what we have seen thus far, the impression could arise that the Trinitarian dogma is in the last analysis a late 4th-century invention. In a sense, this is true; but it implies an extremely strict interpretation of the key words Trinitarian and dogma. The formulation ‘one God in three Persons’ was not solidly established, certainly not fully assimilated into Christian life and it profession of faith, prior to the end of the 4th century. But it is precisely this formulation that has first claim to the title the Trinitarian dogma. Among the Apostolic Fathers, there had been nothing even remotely approaching such a mentality or perspective; among the 2nd-century Apologists, little more than a focusing of the problem as that of plurality within the unique Godhead. Not before Tertullian and Origen, early in the century following, had an attempt been made to solve the problem...

COMMENT

Next, the WBTS cite several small quotes from early Church Fathers strung together by their own comments. In the original text no reference is given as to where the quotes come from but they have revealed their sources in the list recently released. It is of interest that the WBTS do not quote direct from the writings of the Church Fathers, even though there are many volumes to choose from, but from a book by Alvan Lamson [see comment of this work under the next quote]. This is not good scholarship because in the actual writings there are clear examples that all the men mentioned believed other than what is said of them. To get a fair picture we have reprinted the whole passage as it stands from “Trinity” and then added in [ ] quotes that come from the direct writings of the Early Church Fathers.

The ante-Nicene Fathers were acknowledged to have been leading religious teachers in the early centuries after Christ’s birth. What they taught is of interest.

Justyn Martyr, who died about 165 C.E., called the prehuman Jesus a created angel who is ‘other than the God who made all things.’ He said that Jesus was inferior to God and ‘never did anything except what the Creator... willed him to do or say.’ [... God, the Father... and the Son... and the prophetic Spirit, we worship and adore... - The Ante Nicene Fathers, Wm.B.Eerdman, Vol.1, p.164.]

Irenaeus, who died about 200 C.E., said that the prehuman Jesus had a separate existence from God and was inferior to him. He showed that Jesus is not equal to the ‘One true and only God,’ who is ‘supreme over all, and besides whom there is no other.’ [Jesus Christ was not mere man, begotten from Joseph in the ordinary course of nature, but was very God, begotten of the Father most high, and very man, born of the virgin. - Ibid, p.448.]

Clement of Alexandria, who died about 215 C.E., called Jesus in his prehuman existence ‘a creature’ but called God ‘the uncreated and imperishable and the only true God.’ He said that the Son ‘is next to the only omnipotent Father’ but not equal to him. [I understand nothing else than the Holy Trinity to be meant; for the third is the Holy Spirit, and the Son is the second, by whom all things were made according to the will of the Father. - Ibid, Vol.2, p.468.]

Tertullian, who died about 230 G.E., taught the supremacy of God. He observed: ‘The Father is different from the Son (another), as he is greater; as he who begets is different from his who is sent.’ He also said: ‘There was a time when the Son was not ... Before all things, God was alone.’ [Him (Jesus Christ) we believe to have been sent by the Father into the virgin, and to have been born of her - being both man and God, the Son of man and the Son of God... one cannot believe in One Only God in any other way than by saying that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are the very selfsame person. As if in this way also one were not All, in that All are One, by unity (that is) of substance; while the mystery of the dispensation is still guarded, which distributes the Unity into a Trinity, placing in their order the three persons - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost... - Ibid, Vol.3, p.598.]

Hippolytus, who died about 235 C.E., said that God is ‘the one God, the first and the only One, the Maker and Lord of all,’ who ‘had nothing co-equal (of equal age) with him... But he was One, alone by himself; who willing it, called into being what had no being before,’ such as the created prehuman Jesus. [God, subsisting alone, and having nothing contemporaneous with Himself, determined to create the world... Beside Him there was nothing; but He, while existing alone, yet existed in plurality... If, then, the Word was with God, and was also God, what follows? Would one say that he speaks of two Gods? I shall not indeed speak of two Gods, but of one; of two persons however, and a third economy (disposition), viz., the grace of the Holy Ghost. For the Father indeed is One, but there are two Persons, because there is also the Son; and then there is the third, the Holy Spirit... whosoever omitted any one of these, failed in glorifying God perfectly. For it is through this Trinity (triados) that the Father 15 glorified. For the Father willed, the Son did, the Spirit manifested. The whole Scriptures, then, proclaim this truth. - Ibid, Vol.5, p.228.]

Origen, who died about 250 C.E., said that ‘the Father and Son are two substances . . . two things as to their essence,’ and that “compared with the Father, [the Son] is a very small light.’ [Moreover, nothing in the Trinity can be called greater or less, since the foundation of divinity alone contains all things by His word and reason... Having made these declarations the Unity of the father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit... - Ibid, Vol.4, p.255.]

Page 7. - The Church of the First Three Centuries, Alvan Lamson, pp.56/57

The modern popular doctrine of the Trinity derives no support from the language of Justyn Martyr: and this observation may be extended to all the ante-Nicene Fathers; that is, to all Christian writers for three centuries after the birth of Christ. It is true, they speak of the Father, Son and... the Holy Spirit, but not as co-equal, not as one numerical essence, not as Three in One, in any sense not admitted by Trinitarians. The very reverse is the fact.

COMMENT

This quote is accurate but Alvan Lamson was himself a Unitarian and so he would want to ignore all the evidence we have presented above and under ADDED MATERIAL as much as the WBTS does.

C. COMMENTS ON WATCHTOWER ARGUMENT

The only comment we can really make is that the evidence does not support the WBTS’s argument. They have quoted what someone said the early church Fathers said not the actual writings, which clearly show that each, believed in the Deity of Christ and to one degree or another the concept of the Trinity.

However, as Robert Bowman points out we need to understand a little about these men too. Most of the works were not written as “straight theology” but to give a reasoned argument about the Christian faith to the pagans around them.

Justin Martyr is regarded as an ‘apologist’ in that he gave effective answers against some of the popular misconceptions of Christianity in the second century, but he is not regarded as a theologian... [Clement’s] work is valued for some genuine insights, as a whole it has not been taken seriously since about the fourth century. Origen was in fact labelled a heretic, (though not for his views on the Trinity).” Why You Should Believe In The Trinity, p.28.

D. ADDED MATERIAL

Below we show several further fully documented quotes from early church Fathers proving the teaching of the Trinity in the first three centuries.

IGNATIUS

There is then one God and Father, and not two or three... And there is also one Son, God the Word... And God the Word was born as men... - The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Wm B Eerdmans, Vol.1, p.116.

THEOPHILUS

In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries are types of the Trinity, of God, and His Word and His wisdom. - Ibid, Vol.2, pp.100/101

COMMENT

This is earliest use of the word “Trinity” rerecorded but a footnote suggests that the way it is used shows that it was already in accepted use.

TERTULLIAN

What need would there be of the gospel, which is the substance of the New Covenant, laying down (as it does) that the Law and the Prophets lasted until John the Baptist, if thence forward the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are not believed in as Three, and as making One Only God. - Ibid, Vol.3, p.627

We have been taught that He proceeds forth from God, and in that procession He is generated; so that He is the Son of God, and is called God from unity of substance with God. For God, too, is a Spirit. Even when the ray is shot from the sun, it is still part of the parent mass; the sun will still be in the ray, because it is a ray of sun — there is no division of substance, but merely an extension. Thus Christ is Spirit of Spirit, and God of God, as light of light is kindled. The material matrix remains entire and unimpaired, though you derive from it any number of shoots possessed of its qualities; so, too, that which has come forth out of God is at once God and the Son of God, and the two are one. In this way also, as He is Spirit of Spirit and God of God, He is made a second in manner of existence — in position, not in nature; and He did not withdraw from the original source, but went forth. This ray of God, then as it was always foretold in ancient times, descending into a certain virgin, and made flesh in her womb, is in His birth God and man united. - Ante-Nicene Christian Library, Vol.11, pp.92/93.

ORIGEN

Nevertheless it seems proper to inquire what is the reason why he who is regenerated by God unto salvation has to do both with Father and Son and Holy Spirit and does not obtain salvation unless with the co—operation of the entire Trinity. - The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Wm B Eerdmans, Vol.4, p.253.
Wherefore we have always held that God is the Father of His only—begotten Son, who was born indeed of Him, and derives from Him what He is, but without any beginning, not only such as may be measured by any divisions of time, but even that which the mind alone can contemplate within itself, or behold, so to speak, with the naked powers of the understanding. And therefore we must believe that Wisdom was generated before any beginning that can be wither comprehended or expressed. - Ante-Nicene Christian Library, Vol.10, pp.19.
Let him, then, who assigns a beginning to the Word or Wisdom of God, take care that he be not guilty of impiety against the unbegotten Father Himself, seeing he denies that He had always been a Father, and had generated the Word, and had possessed wisdom in all preceding periods, whether they be called times or ages, or anything else that can be so entitled. - Ante-Nicene Christian Library, Vol.10, pp.20.
And that you may understand that the omnipotence of Father and Son is one and the same, as God and the Lord are one and the same with the Father, listen to the manner in which John speaks in the Apocalypse: “Thus saith the Lord God, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty”. For who else was “He which is to some” than Christ? And as no one ought to be offended, seeing God is the Father, that the Saviour is also God; so also, since the Father is called omnipotent, no one sought to be offended that the Son of God is also called omnipotent. - Ante-Nicene Christian Library, Vol.10, pp.29.

DIONYSIUS

For it is essential that the Divine Word should be united to the God of all, and that the Holy Spirit should abide and dwell in God; and this the Divine Trinity should be reduced and gathered into one, as if into a certain head — that is, into the omnipotent God of all. - The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Wm B Eerdmans, Vol.7, p.365.

IRENAEUS

But the Son, eternally co-existing with the Father, from of old, yea, from the beginning, always reveals the Father to Angels, Archangels, Powers, Virtues, and all to whom He wills that God should be revealed. - Ante-Nicene Christian Library, Vol.5, pp. 239.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Anti-Mormon: The Mormon N-Word w/Are Mormons ANTI-Christian? VIDEO « How2BecomeAChristian.info BLOG

"Far too many Mormons automatically assume that Christians who wish to challenge LDS presuppositions are somehow motivated by hate. Such an assumption seems to be borne more out of laziness on the part of the accuser rather than the result of critical thinking skills. It is easy to accuse someone of hatred; after all, that word gets a lot of mileage in our dumbed-down culture. The intellectually indolent person somehow feels no need to evaluate what has been said once he has successfully assassinated a person’s character. However, when Mormons flippantly throw down the hate card, they certainly run the risk of bearing false witness."

Anti-Mormon: The Mormon N-Word w/Are Mormons ANTI-Christian? VIDEO « How2BecomeAChristian.info BLOG

Friday, 31 October 2008

Should You Believe in the Trinity? - 2

Most Christians who talk to Jehovah’s Witnesses will eventually come across the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society’s [WBTS] booklet “Should You Believe In The Trinity” [abbreviated to “Trinity” from now on.]

As with most WBTS publications, the booklet gives the impression of being a well-produced, scholarly work. It is only as you check it out carefully that the errors begin to come to light. It may not be easy to get a Witness to investigate this publication but we want to give the opportunity to lovingly show some of the faults in it and hope you will be able to do the same with the next one that calls at the door. It is not wise to try to tackle all the arguments at once, concentrate on one at a time.

When you show that a particular quote is not the full one the reply that many Jehovah’s Witnesses have been given is, “Well the writer does say these words and therefore we are not misquoting them.” The answer I give to this is to quote John 3:16 & 17 from the New World Translation, as follows:

For God loved the world so much that he gave his only begotten Son, in order
that everyone... might... be destroyed.

Is that correct Mr Witness? No? Nevertheless, it is what is written in your Bible. I hope that through this the Witness will begin to see how dishonest it is, by judicial editing, to make any author say the opposite to what he or she actually said.

The “Trinity” booklet weaves a number of themes together but we have tried to break it down to a few main subjects each of which we will look at under the following headings.

A. MAIN WATCHTOWER ARGUMENTS - A summary of their main arguments.

B. PUBLICATIONS QUOTED - A look at the quotations they use, replacing, in bold italic print, anything of interest they have left out.

C. COMMENTS ON THE WATCHTOWER ARGUMENT - Highlighting anything that is wrong or suspect with their argument.

D. ADDED MATERIAL - A concise look at any extra material that will present another point of view.

SECTION 2 - THE TRINITY IS NOT TAUGHT IN THE BIBLE

A. MAIN WATCHTOWER ARGUMENTS

The word trinity does not appear within the Bible. The quotes show that the idea of the trinity is not even in the New Testament let alone the Old.

B. PUBLICATIONS QUOTED

Page 5. - The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, I. V.P., Part 3, p.1597

The word Trinity is not found in the Bible, and though used by Tertullian in the last decade of the 2nd century, it did not find a place formally in the theology of the church till the 4th century. It is, however, the distinctive and all-comprehensive doctrine of the Christian faith... Although Scripture does not give us a formulated doctrine of the Trinity, it contains all the elements out of which theology has constructed the doctrine. The teaching of Christ bears testimony to the true personality of each of the distinctions within the Godhead... The necessity to formulate the doctrine was thrust upon the church by forces from without, and it was, in particular, its faith in the deity of Christ and the necessity to defend it, that first compelled the church to face the duty of formulating a full doctrine of the Trinity... - pp.1597/8.

Page 5. - New Catholic Encyclopaedia, Vol.14, p.304

The 4th century articulation of the triadic mystery is at least implicitly the word of God, hence part of the Christian credo. On the other hand, it is not, as already seen directly and immediately word of God. And today, it is becoming more and more recognized that the direct and immediate word of God, the Biblical message speaks for itself, should be the heart and substance of the communication both in preaching and in catechises.

Page 5. - The Catholic Encyclopaedia, Vol.15, p.47

In scripture there is as yet no single term by which the Three Divine Persons are denoted together. The word trias (tri’as) (of which the Latin trinitas is a translation) is first found in Theophilus of Antioch about A.D. 180... Shortly afterwards it appears in its Latin form of trinitas in Tertullian.

COMMENT

This quotation is correct but gives no problem to believing the doctrine of the trinity.

Page 6. - The Encyclopaedia of Religion, Vol.15, p.54

Theologians today are in agreement that the Hebrew Bible does not contain a doctrine of the Trinity. While it is incontestable that the doctrine cannot be established on Scriptural evidence alone, its origins may legitimately be sought in the Bible, not in the sense of ‘proof-texting’ or of finding metaphysical principles, but because the Bible is the authoritative record of God’s redemptive relationship with humanity. What the scriptures narrate as the activity of God among us, which is confessed in creeds and celebrated in liturgy, is the wellspring of later trinitarian doctrine.

Page 6. - The New Catholic Encyclopaedia, Vol.14, p.306

The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is not taught in the O(ld) T(estament). In many places of the O.T., however, expressions are used in which some of the Fathers of the Church saw references or foreshadowings of the Trinity... The revelation of the truth of the triune life of God was first made in the NT...

Page 6. -The Triune God, Edmond Fortman

COMMENT

The quote begins on p.xv of the Introduction and then misses out some 18 pages before concluding on p.9 of chapter 1.

The Old Testament... tells us nothing explicitly or by necessary implication of a Triune God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit... There is no evidence that any sacred writer even suspected the existence of a (Trinity) within the Godhead... Even to see in (the “Old Testament”) suggestions or foreshadowings or ‘veiled signs’ of the trinity of persons, is to go beyond the words and intent of the sacred writers. Perhaps it can be said that some of these writings... did provide a climate in which the plurality within the Godhead was conceivable to Jesus. However, these writers definitely do give us words that the New Testament uses to express the trinity of persons... - pp. xv-9.

Page 6. - The Triune God, Edmond Fortman

COMMENT

This quote starts in the middle of the last Forman quote above but does not finish until 24 pages later! Much of course has been left out.

If we take the New Testament writers together they tell us there is only one God, the creator and lord of the universe, who is the Father of Jesus. They call Jesus the Son of God, Messiah, Lord, Saviour, Word, Wisdom. They assign Him the divine functions of creation, salvation, judgement. Sometimes they call Him God explicitly. They do not speak as fully and clearly of the Holy Spirit as they do the Son, but at times they co-ordinate Him with the Father and the Son and put Him on a level with them as far as divinity and personality are concerned. They give us in their writings a triadic ground plan and triadic formulas... They give us not formal or formulated doctrine of the Trinity, no explicit teaching that in one God there are three co-equal divine persons. But they do give us an elemental trinitarianism, the data from which such a formal doctrine of the Triune God may be formulated... The Holy Spirit is usually presented in the Synoptics and in the Acts as a divine force or power. But in a few passages the sacred writers leave a vivid impression that for them He was someone distinct from both Father and Son with a distinct personal existence. In both Synoptics and the Acts there are traces of the triadic pattern of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The clearest expression of this pattern is found in the baptismal formula where Matthew presents the three together as at once a triad and a unity. But nowhere do we find any trinitarian doctrine of three distinct subjects of divine life and activity in the same Godhead. pp.xv-15.

Page 6 - The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol.X, p.126

Neither the word Trinity not the explicit doctrine appears in the New Testament... The earliest Christians, however, had to cope with the implications... Thus, the New Testament established the basis for the doctrine of the Trinity.

Page 6. - A Short History of Christian Doctrine, Bernhard Lohse, p.39

As far as the New Testament is concerned, one does not find in it an actual doctrine of the Trinity... In other passages of the New Testament the predicate ‘God’ is without a doubt applied to Christ. With these affirmations, which for Jewish monotheism were utterly offensive, Christians expressed their faith that it was not merely some heavenly being which encountered them in Jesus Christ but God himself...

Page 6. - New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol.2, p.84

The New Testament does not contain the developed doctrine of the Trinity. ‘ The Bible lacks the express declaration that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are of equal essence’ (said Protestant theologian Karl Barth)... All this underlines the point that primitive Christianity did not have an explicit doctrine of the Trinity such as was subsequently elaborated in the creeds of the early church.

One may perhaps say that there is indeed no developed doctrine of the Trinity in the NT, but that the writers, particularly in the later strata, thought in trinitarian forms.
- Vol.2, p.516.

Page 6. - Origin and Evolution of Religion, E. Washburn Hopkins, p.336

The beginning of the doctrine of the trinity appears already in John (c.100). To Jesus and Paul the doctrine of the trinity was apparently unknown, at any rate, they say nothing about it... But the first Christian theology was given in the words ‘I and my father are one’ and the plain faith of the early church members who were not doctrinaires was just this and nothing more. Jesus is God. - pp.336 & 338.

C. COMMENTS ON THE WATCHTOWER ARGUMENT.

About the only comment we can make is that their case is far from proven. Whereas many of the quotes say something about the explicit doctrine of the Trinity not being seen in the New Testament most when completed also show that the doctrine is there in one form or another.

D. ADDED MATERIAL

It is not important to find the word trinity in the Bible. What is important is that the meaning of the word trinity is found in the New Testament. The word trinity describes a relationship in which the Father is God, Jesus is God and the Holy Spirit is God. That teaching is found in the Scriptures as the following selection of verses indicate. Further teaching on this important subject can be found in other publications of REACHOUT TRUST.

Zechariah 12:1 in the NWT shows us three things,

1. Jehovah is ‘THE ONE’.

2. Jehovah THE ONE stretches out the heavens etc.

3. Jehovah THE ONE formed the spirit of man.

However Zechariah 12:10 with John 19:34-37 shows us that THE ONE Zechariah is talking about is JESUS.

Again Hebrews 1:10 and John 1:3 show us that JESUS is THE ONE who created heaven and earth.

Moreover, Colossians 1:16 & 17 show us that JESUS is THE ONE who created the spirit of man.

We discover that the “family name” reserved for God, Jehovah, is also given in Scripture to Jesus. Scripture therefore shows at least two persons in the Godhead.

However, when we compare Exodus 17:7, Psalm 95:8 and Hebrews 3:7-11 we find that this same “family name” is also given to the HOLY SPIRIT. Genesis 1:1-3 & Psalm 104:30 show the HOLY SPIRIT as the CREATOR. In addition, Job 33:4 shows the HOLY SPIRIT making man and breathing into him.

Summarizing this teaching in the simplest form we can say:

The FATHER is neither the SON nor the HOLY SPIRIT but He is God.

The SON is neither the FATHER nor the HOLY SPIRIT but He is God.

The HOLY SPIRIT is neither the FATHER nor the SON but He is God.

Friday, 24 October 2008

BYU yanks diploma for ex-Mormon calendar-maker - USATODAY.com

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Brigham Young University has yanked the diploma of a man who created a calendar featuring shirtless Mormon missionaries and was later excommunicated from the church.

Chad Hardy of Las Vegas attended graduation ceremonies Aug. 15 after finishing up his last four units of study online in June. But on July 13, in between completing his studies and the graduation ceremony, he was excommunicated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

There is a lesson here for all those who want to understand what Mormonism is all about. Some have argued that BYU is a Mormon Church-owned school and, therefore, since Hardy knew and signed up to the rules of conduct, he only has himself to blame. Problem is he hasn't been "active" as a Mormon for six years, according to some reports. His lack of any meaningful involvement in the Mormon Church seemed to be no bar to his gaining entry on a BYU course so we have to conclude that faithfulness to the code, or lack of it, is not the real issue. The issue is publicity. It always seems to be with these things. Its not that he broke the code, he had already done that, but that he broke the code so publicly and the Mormon Church values its squeaky clean image more than anything.

Being that he paid for his course, worked for and gained a commendable pass it seems outrageously small-minded and spiteful to deny him what he paid and worked for. But image is more important than your diploma, more important than your future career, indeed more important than the truth judging by the increasingly strange and disingenuous nature of Mormon apologetics these days. You can't fight such paranoia it seems, although he seems determined to do just that and I, for one, wish him well of it. Someone has to knock sense into these blind zealots.

BYU yanks diploma for ex-Mormon calendar-maker - USATODAY.com

Friday, 17 October 2008

Should You Believe in the Trinity?

Many Christians, while talking to Jehovah’s Witnesses, are asked to look at the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society’s [WBTS] booklet “Should You Believe In The Trinity” [abbreviated to “Trinity” from now on.]

As with most WBTS publications, the booklet gives the impression of being a well-produced, scholarly work. It is only as you check it out carefully that the errors begin to come to light. It may not be easy to get a Witness to investigate this publication but we want to give the opportunity to lovingly show some of the faults in it and hope you will be able to do the same with the next one that asks you to read it. It is not wise to try to tackle all the arguments at once, concentrate on one at a time.

I have tried to personally see every book that the WBTS refer to. This was not easy at first because the WBTS left out references to page numbers, where and when published etc. Initially, thanks to the British Library I managed to see most of them. Since completing my research, the WBTS have issued their list of all the original publicationss.

When you show that a particular quote is not the full one the reply that many Jehovah’s Witnesses will give is, “Well the writer does say these words and therefore we are not misquoting them.” The answer I give to this is to quote John 3:16 & 17 from the New World Translation, as follows:
"For God loved the world so much that he gave his only begotten Son, in order
that everyone... might... be destroyed."

Is that correct Mr Witness? No? Nevertheless, it is what is written in your Bible. I hope that through this the Witness will begin to see how dishonest it is, by judicial editing, to make any author say the opposite to what he or she actually said.

The “Trinity” booklet weaves a number of themes together but we have tried to break it down to a few main sections, each of which we will look at under the following headings.

A. MAIN WATCHTOWER ARGUMENTS - A summary of their main arguments.

B. PUBLICATIONS QUOTED - A look at many of the quotations they use.

C. COMMENTS ON THE WATCHTOWER ARGUMENT - Highlighting anything that is wrong or suspect with their argument.

D. ADDED MATERIAL - A concise look at any extra material that will present another point of view.

Setting it out like this, we hope, that at a glance, you will be able to grasp the WBTS argument and be able to give a clear and concise answer as to what you believe the truth to be.

Remember you are not out to win an argument but to share the truth and give the Holy Spirit opportunity to work in the life of the Jehovah’s Witness. Be cool, calm and collected and allow the Lord to use you!

Today we are posting the first section and will add the others in future posts.

SECTION 1- THE TRINITY IS BEYOND REASON

A. MAIN WATCHTOWER ARGUMENTS

The definition of the Trinity is hard to follow, confusing and contrary to normal reason. They
conclude therefore that because it is beyond human reason and because God is not a God of confusion, the Trinity cannot exist.

B. PUBLICATIONS QUOTED

The original words from “Trinity” are in normal print and words or qualifying sentences omitted from the quote are in bold/italic print. We have added the full reference of the edition of the cited book so that a careful check can be made to see that we are not misquoting. Any comments made are in a separate paragraph clearly marked COMMENT. The page number refers to the page in “Trinity” where you can find the quote.

Page 4. -The Encyclopaedia Americana, Vol.27, p.16

It is held that although the doctrine is beyond the grasp of human reason, it is, like many of the formulations of physical science, not contrary to reason, and may be apprehended (though it may not be comprehended) by the human mind.

Page 4. - A Dictionary of Religious Knowledge, Rev.L.Abbott, 1875, p.944

It is certain, however, that from the apostolic times they paid worship to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, addressed them their prayers, and included them in their doxologies. It was not till the beginning of the fourth century that the question began to be elaborately discussed how this practice, and the experience out of which it sprung, should be formed into a doctrine, and reconciled with the belief of the Church in one God... Precisely what that doctrine is, or rather precisely how it is to be explained, Trinitarians are not agreed among themselves... It is not possible for human intellect to comprehend fully the divine nature. The Bible represents God to us as Father, Son and Holy Ghost. It represents them equally entitled to our highest reverence, affection, and allegiance. It attributes to all the same divine qualities. It even uses these titles at times interchangeably.

Page 4. - What Are They Saying About The Trinity? - Joseph Bracken

Priests who with considerable effort learned... the Trinity during their seminary years naturally hesitated to present it to their people from the pulpit, even on Trinity Sunday Why should one bore people with something that in the end they wouldn’t properly understand anyway?... The Trinity is a matter of formal belief, but it has little or no [effect] in day-to-day Christian life and worship.

COMMENT

It is very clear that if you seek to approach the Trinity purely from a humanistic viewpoint it is beyond our understanding. This type of quote only proves that some people find the Trinity confusing not that the doctrine itself is.

Page 4. - Christianity and the World Religions - Hans Kung, p.113

Even well informed Muslims simply cannot follow, as the Jews thus far have likewise failed to grasp, the idea of the Trinity. The distinctions made by the doctrine of the Trinity between one God and three hypostases do not satisfy Muslims, who are confused, rather than enlightened, by theological terms derived from Syriac, Greek, and Latin. Muslims find it all a word game... why should anyone want to add anything to the notion of God’s oneness and uniqueness that can only dilute or nullify that oneness and uniqueness?”

COMMENT

This quote is correct but Kung explains just seven pages later,

"How should we understand the doctrine of the Trinity for the purposes of dialogue with Judaism and Islam (a test case for every Christian theologian)? Here, in summary fashion, is my answer... Jesus Christ... the ambassador, Messiah, word of the eternal God in human form... From the biblical standpoint, the Holy Spirit is God Himself..." pp.120/1

Page 4. - The Catholic Encyclopaedia, Vol.15, p.47

A dogma so mysterious presupposes a Divine revelation. When the fact of revelation, understood in its full sense as the Speech of God to man, is no longer admitted, the rejection of the doctrine follows as a necessary consequence.

COMMENT

What is interesting about continuing this quote is that it concludes that the only way to reject the Trinity is to reject God’s revelation of it to man. The WBTS are shutting off its members from the revelation of the very God they claim to serve.

Page 4. - Theological Dictionary - Rahner & Vorgimler, p.470

The Trinity looms in outline in the OT as a mystery ready for the disclosure... The NT witnesses to the divinity of Jesus Christ... is aware of the divinity of the Holy Ghost... The Trinity is a mystery... in the strict sense ... which could not be known without revelation, and even after revelation cannot become wholly intelligible. pp.469/70.

C. COMMENTS ON THE WATCHTOWER ARGUMENT

The WBTS try to lay the foundation that the Trinity is confusing and therefore not of God. However, whereas a number of the quotes they make do talk about confusion they also show that the Trinity exists and that with true revelation from Jehovah God we can see and accept its reality.

The other strand of their argument is that the Trinity is beyond human reason and therefore cannot be true. Is not God Himself beyond human reason? We cannot understand the eternal Almighty God with our finite minds. However, because we cannot understand the eternal God does that mean He does not exist? For God to be truly God He must be beyond our human reason - there is nothing wrong with that.

D. ADDED MATERIAL

The Bible is the revelation of this God who is beyond reason. His ways are not our ways, He is much higher than us - Isaiah 55:8-9. Jesus revealed God to us, John 1:14, and the Holy Spirit is sent to reveal both the Father and Son to us, John 16:13-15. Indeed as we read earlier the revelation of God transcends human reasoning and goes into the heart - 1 Corinthians 2:9, 10, 14; 2 Corinthians 3:5-18.The Trinity is indeed beyond human reason [in the mind] but it is not beyond God revelation [in the spirit].

Friday, 10 October 2008

Moroni's Empty Promise

An early Mormon leader stated:

“The Bible has been robbed of its plainness; many sacred books having been lost, others rejected by the Romish (sic) Church, and what few we have left, were copied and re-copied so many times, that it is admitted that almost every verse has been corrupted and mutilated to that degree that scarcely any two of them read alike” (Orson Pratt, The Seer, P.2 Jan.1854)

Based on such pronouncements, it is commonly, though mistakenly, believed among Mormons that our modern Bible is 'a translation of a translation of a translation...etc.' that in the process of transmission it has “passed through profane hands” and been interfered with by “corrupt priests” with no recourse to early documents. If this were the case it becomes immediately obvious why the Mormon is not encouraged to put a great deal of trust in the Bible.

If I were to suggest that, notwithstanding such perceived problems, I had prayed about the Bible and 'believed' it to be 100% reliable a Mormon might reasonably question my judgement and demand more objective evidence. Why should the way I 'feel' about the Bible satisfy anyone’s honest questions? Why shouldn't people be suspicious if I refused to address the issues and concerns that may be raised by Mormons about translation and transmission and offered my impressions instead of honest and thoughtful answers?

Such answers are amply provided today by comprehensive Bible scholarship of course and a Christian is not short of evidence to justify our trust in the Bible and need not fall back on feelings. And yet Mormons expect people to do exactly that. Questions are asked, concerns raised, clear and objective evidence counter to Mormon claims presented and yet the Mormon answer is Moroni's promise:

“Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”
(Moroni 10:3-5)


As though prayer can make clear discrepancies in Mormon teaching go away, as though it makes wrong right, falsehood true or truth false.

One of the most wrongheaded ideas about the Christian faith is that it is purely subjective, i.e. that spiritual truth is nothing like objective truth. Nothing could be further from the truth! The Christian story is the story of God acting in history, and the evidence of God's acting in history can be observed just as can any other events of history. The Bible positively encourages us to look at historical evidence as part of our 'investigation' of the Christian faith.

Mormonism, on the other hand, discourages such investigation, asking us to ignore historical, archaeological evidence that militates against Mormon claims, and instead simply rely on feelings. It begins by claiming to be a record of God's dealings with the ancient peoples of America, naming cities, coins, animals, people, wars etc. then offers absolutely no evidence, such as we find for the Bible, for any of its claims.

Far from proving anything, Moroni's promise becomes a form of emotional blackmail, putting the burden of proof on the person investigating Mormon claims instead of where it should be, on the church that makes these claims. If the Mormon says that the Book of Mormon is a reliable witness the onus is squarely on the Mormon to answer honest questions, offer reasonable arguments, and otherwise encourage further investigations.

The Bible story is not entirely dependent on historical evidence and God “speaks” in many ways to people’s hearts and minds. However, God has spoken and acted in history and it is reasonable to expect that historical activity to be apparent even if some would offer different explanations for the attendant historical events.

There is a Jerusalem, even if some don’t believe God’s Son died there for our sins; there is a Jewish nation, even if some deny their role as God’s people; the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD, even if some people question the biblical explanation for its destruction; a widow’s mite may be seen today; the type of coin Jesus took to illustrate his lesson that people should “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” is a reality and ample evidence exists for the many character’s populating the Bible story..

Christianity presents compelling historical evidence for the Christian faith and challenges people to consider seriously what the facts point to (Ro.5:20) Mormonism, on the other hand, claims to be based in historical events but asks people to believe historical accounts when there is not an item of historical data to believe in. Faith, in biblical terms, is trust but, while Christianity has presents people with something in which to trust, Mormonism asks people to trust in how they feel about something for which there is no evidence.

Moroni’s promise is an empty promise because it is a challenge from someone who never existed to pray about something that never happened in places never built to people who never lived as recorded in a book that is completely fictional.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Features | SignOnSanDiego.com | The San Diego Union-Tribune -- Apocalypse soon

I don't know how many 'ends' there have been but this small list, interesting though it is, could be added to many time over by regular readers of this blog. No one seems to mind that Scripture makes it clear that "concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only" (Mat.24:36) These are interesting examples and this story a worthy addition to the long list of those who insist they know what neither the angels of heaven nor even the Lord of Glory knows:

"The end is near?

Looking back at some 20th-century predictions:

1914: Jehovah's Witnesses say this is the doomsday year, followed by a series of later dates. In the 1990s, Jehovah's Witnesses quietly abandon a prediction that people alive in 1914 would live to see the Second Coming of Christ.

1919: Meteorologist Albert Porta predicts six planets will come together on Dec. 19, creating a cataclysmic event that would explode the Earth.

1936: Famed psychic Edgar Cayce picks this year for a disaster that will end the world as we know it.

1988: Hal Lindsey, in his best-selling book, “The Late Great Planet Earth,” predicts the Rapture will happen during this year. Former NASA engineer Edgar C. Whisenant pins it down to between Sept. 11 and Sept. 13. Unbowed, Lindsey still predicts these are the end times. Whisenant died in 2001.

1994: Radio evangelist Harold Camping tells listeners the end will come that September."

Features | SignOnSanDiego.com | The San Diego Union-Tribune -- Apocalypse soon

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Blaugmenting Your Christian Worldview: Almost Done

How about this for a group study. I cam across this blog whose stated aim is to buck the trend for Jesus:

"I hate the statistic that informs us that 75% of high school students will walk away from their faith shortly after leaving high school. I plan our studies with the intent of lowering that statistic with each student that comes in. My goals include:

  • removing intellectual excuses people give for claiming Christianity is false
  • removing students in these studies from the pond that pseudo-Christian movements fish from (Groups like the Watchtower & Mormonism normally convert Christians into their movements. Not these students!)
  • helping students develop spiritual disciplines (prayer, reading and studying the Bible, memorization, sharing our faith)."

Maybe this will inspire others to start such a group. His book choice for the group, Ron Rhode's "Reasoning from the Scriptures with Jehovah's Witnesses" is an excellent choice and no small challenge - but it goes to show it can be done. I like his plans for the future too.

Blaugmenting Your Christian Worldview: Almost Done

Friday, 26 September 2008

Proposition 8, Mormons and John Donne

California is in the middle of a constitutional battle over the issue of same-sex marriage, with liberals asserting that they have every right to do as they please in this matter without let or hindrance and conservatives insisting that everyone has the right to do it their way. The liberal argument is a familiar one – the greatest degree of freedom (read licence) with the least amount of interference from any particular (read religious) viewpoint. The conservative argument is as familiar – the greatest degree of responsibility for the greatest number of people to create the widest possible security for society by maintaining the Christian foundations on which that society was established.

I am not a resident of California, neither am I American so my interest in this issue has been what you might call concern from a distance. As a Christian of the conservative variety my sympathies lie with those who wish to strengthen Christian values. What has caught my attention, however, is the way the argument is made on the liberal side and I think it illustrates a fundamental and dangerous flaw in the thinking of those arguing the liberal cause.

The case, as I understand it, is that there are those who wish to enter into law the right of individuals to marry, if they choose, someone of the same gender. Opposed to this are those who wish to enter into law something called proposition 8, a fourteen word amendment to the state constitution to include the words, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” On a blog entitled Daily Mendacity it is argued that the Mormons, who are busy advocating proposition 8, are trying to change the constitution to reflect Mormon doctrine. The writer goes on to argue:

“To be very clear - if a gay couple weds in the United Church of Christ it does not affect Mormon doctrine in any way.But they are determined to use our state constitutions to prevent the UCC from following their beliefs.”

Reachout is not a political organisation and comment on political issues is not our remit. However, the thing that has caught my attention is not a political or religious so much as a philosophical problem, and one that shows up the inherent weakness of every liberal argument I have ever heard.

No Man is an Island

First there is the notion that “believers” of any stripe must not be allowed to bring their faith informed views into the public square where all the great issues are debated, while those with no particular faith may bring forward any idea that suits them however it is informed or arrived at. It amounts to insisting that a person must vote with their conscience so long as their conscience isn’t informed in church, in which case – what? It is a view that has people of a liberal bent free to lobby, canvas and promote while those of a religious bent are denied the same privilege. It appears that “One nation under God” cannot countenance the views of those who trust the God under which that nation prospers.

Then there is the idea that what people in one part of society do need not have an effect on what those elsewhere in society experience. But, surely, that is what the liberal is complaining about, i.e. if the conservative argument holds sway it will impact others because whatever is passed into law is binding on everyone. John Donne famously wrote:

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind... and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

The naked truth is that, whether liberal or conservative, any view that holds sway over such an important issue will impact everyone. When people debate such things they are not arguing over private morality, or any individual group’s rights but over what sort of society everyone wishes to live in. All have an interest and perhaps one of the great complaints in the political arena today is that not enough people engage with the issues that potentially impact them. Those who do so engage will inevitably find people of like mind and work together to an end common to those of that particular view. It is not a question of whether that view should be heard but whether it is heard and found to be compelling enough to influence others.

If the conservative view wins then the consequences are perhaps more immediate and obvious in that the law will immediately have a proscribing effect. But if the liberal view prevails, while the effect on a wider society may not be as immediate, make no mistake it will prove as far-reaching and ultimately more insidious, its influence being felt by many more people than the island of liberalism envisioned by the blogger. Ideas know no borders and “the madness of crowds” is contagious.

Totalitarians Need Not Apply

The blogger goes on to wave at us the usual bogeyman of religious totalitarianism:

“What the church is doing is within the law, but I think that it also shows how vulnerable we have become to a theocracy as oppressive as those Islamic Republics we claim to deplore and how little regard we have for human rights when religions enter the mix.”

The irony here is that the human rights which he is so anxious to protect are founded on Christian values and, far from being ancillary to the main business of life, religion is integral to people’s lives as well as to the communities in which they live. It is not a question of whether religion is permitted a place but whether it takes its place in a way that recognises the high values common to a democratic society. He propagates a popular bias that highlights religion as the totalitarian threat we should concern ourselves with when history teaches us that totalitarianism is the product of wrong thinking not particularly religious thinking. As though to prove the point the great totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century, surely the bloodiest century in history, were secular. Whether an ideology wins adherents and wields influence depends on how society engages with ideas, religious or secular, and it is quite wrong and misleading to suggest that secular thought is somehow better than religious.

Conclusion

Mormons, Baptists, Presbyterians etc, are not inhabitants of individual island communities, for each is part of the continent. In the same way, liberals do not inhabit islands of private morality in which they can do as they please with no thought for the consequences on a wider society. Of course, it is the ambition of liberals to spread the message of liberalism as much as any other ideologues and by any means. The conservative, the Christian wishes to be heard above the cacophony in the marketplace of ideas while the liberal wishes to dictate who is allowed a voice in the public square before the argument begins. Totalitarianism indeed! It was once considered a virtue to declare, “I don’t agree with what you say but I will defend your right to say it”. This is no longer the case as the liberal declares, “I don’t agree with what you say and I will go to any lengths to deny you the right to say it.”