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.”

Friday, 19 September 2008

Baptism and the Watchtower Society

Baptism, as with other subjects has changed with ‘new light’ received by the Watchtower Society. Today they practice the opposite of their original belief. Which leads us to ask, “how is it possible that they have always been God’s true messenger?” God never turns a complete circle on any of His teachings, does He?.

1921

Part of the answer to the question of why the elders questioned thoroughly baptismal candidates, often discouraging the nervous ones was as follows:

“Entrance into the body of Christ is not made on the basis of logic or
philosophy, but is made on the basis of faith in Christ Jesus and the
whole-hearted devotion to him. We think by far the better way, the scriptural
way, is for the one who conducts the baptismal service, or the one who gives a
Scriptural talk on such an occasion, to ask merely the simple questions: (1) Do
you believe in Christ Jesus as your Redeemer, and your personal Saviour from sin
and death? (2) Have you presented your heart and life to God, to follow the
indications of his will under the headship of Jesus his Son?” - The Watchtower,
1 February 1921, pp.42/43.
1958

By 1958 the questions had evolved away from trust solely in Jesus:

“It is essential that with the mouth a public declaration of faith be made. Two
questions are therefore asked the candidates: (1) Have you recognized yourself
before Jehovah God as a sinner who needs salvation and have acknowledged to him
that this salvation proceeds from him, the Father, through His Son Jesus Christ?
(2) On the basis of this faith in God and in his provision for salvation have
you dedicated yourself unreservedly to God to do his will henceforth as he
reveals it to you through Jesus Christ and through the Bible under the
enlightening power of the holy spirit?” - The Watchtower, 1 August 1958, p.478.
1973

Further changes in questions took place, and for the first time the need of repentance was mentioned. Notice also the fact that you are a condemned sinner unless you receive salvation.
"... we suggest that you consider the following two questions, which are asked
of candidates for baptism: (1) Have you repented of your sins and turned around,
recognizing yourself before Jehovah God as a condemned sinner who needs
salvation, and have you acknowledged to him that this salvation proceeds from
him, the Father, through his Son Jesus Christ? (2) On the basis of this
faith in God and in his provision for salvation have you dedicated yourself
unreservedly to God to do his will henceforth as he reveals it to you through
Jesus Christ and through the Bible under the enlightening power of the holy
spirit? “- The Watchtower, 1 May 1973, p.280.
1985
Over this period of time, not only were the questions changing and evolving but also whether you actually needed to answer the questions or not. Is baptism simply for someone who has repented and come into the reality of salvation or is there something more? The following quote leaves us in no doubt as to what the Society believe today:

“Decision based on Knowledge... Before reaching this point of baptism, all
candidates have carefully reviewed with the congregation elders the Bible’s
principal doctrines and guidelines for Christian conduct to make sure they
really qualify for baptism... the baptism candidates will be in position to
answer with depth of understanding and heartfelt appreciation two simple
questions... On the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, have you repented of
your sins and dedicated yourself to Jehovah to do his will ?... Do you
understand that your dedication and baptism identify you as one of Jehovah’s
Witnesses in association with God’s spirit-directed organization?” - The
Watchtower, 1 June 1985, p.30.
Questions

The current review of the doctrines and guidelines mentioned above are contained in the Watchtower publication, Organized to Accomplish our Ministry, 1983. They cover some 43 pages of the book and there are no fewer than 130 separate questions!

It is no wonder it takes so long to get baptised and no longer is it based on the outward testimony of what Christ has done in the heart but rather it is the ability to learn and understand, not Bible principles but Watchtower ones.

A look at the questions the candidates are asked today, before they are baptised, compared with the ones from the past, reveals several differences.

• Today there is no mention of Jesus being your personal saviour. Now it is a corporate saviour.

• There is no mention of being a condemned sinner.

• No mention that salvation proceeds from the Father through Jesus. It comes from and through the organisation.

• Indeed amazingly enough there is no mention of the word ‘salvation’ at all.

• Finally there is no mention of dedication to do God’s will. Today it is dedication to serving the organisation

In the Society today entrance into salvation is through logic and philosophy not through a relationship with Jesus Christ. This is a far cry even from their own beginnings, let alone from what evangelical Christians believe the Bible says.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Mormons Restore Temples - But Which Ones?

These temples are costly to build and maintain and demand of Mormons a level of commitment that is exceptional, both in proving worthy to attend and in the sacrifices involved in attending; travel, financial sacrifice, time commitment and physical effort. It is not called temple "work" for nothing. This illustrates a point often overlooked by those who comment only casually on religious issues. Faith is a commitment unlike anything else in life. Of course, there are always those nominal members whose involvement is marginal, but for a great many believers of any persuasion it is a life-defining, heart-felt commitment.


It is worth asking whether our loyalty is wisely placed, our commitment wisely invested. The apostle Paul urged Christians to, "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves" (2 Cor.13:5) Wise advice when your faith will shape profoundly your life and determine your eternity. For that is what Mormon temples are about, time and eternity. Presenting the familiar Mormon view of temples, the official Mormon web site report on this latest temple said:


"The Old and New Testaments include many references to temples. The children of Israel used a portable temple, the tabernacle of Moses, during their journey in the wilderness; later Solomon's temple was built in Jerusalem, and Jesus Himself was found teaching in Herod's temple at a young age..."


Referring to the sacred nature of temples, Elder David Bednar, an apostle for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, says:


"There were particular special ceremonies, rites and sacraments that were administered only in this sacred, set-apart place. That was the purpose of the temples. It provided that supernal special place to be able to perform those sacred rites."


Mormons believe their faith is a restoration of Christ's New Testament Church and therefore build temples just as Christians did in ancient times.


Elder Bednar adds that Mormon temples are primarily places of learning and instruction and likens them to the Lord's university: 'We learn about our relationship with God. We learn about the purposes of our life here upon the earth. Questions such as where did we come from? Why are we here? What happens to us after we die? Those questions are addressed and answered in the instruction that's presented in the temple. We also make promises to live honest, upright and virtuous lives.'" (Emphasis added)


If this is true then Christians should be building temples. Indeed we should put down whatever we are doing and make every effort to become a worthy temple Mormon - no mean feat I assure you. The temple is at the centre of the Mormon faith and the impression is given that temples have always been at the centre of worship for God's people. But did ancient temples fill the role attributed to them by Mormons and did Christians in ancient times build temples?

To read more follow the link

Reachout Trust - LDS Mormon - Mormons Restore Temples - But Which Ones?

Friday, 5 September 2008

The Other Sheep

Are there really two distinct groups, having different futures, as the Watchtower Society would have us believe? They call them the 144,000 or anointed, who are in heaven and the other sheep or great crowd who will be forever on earth.

“And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and
they shall hear My voice; and they shall become one flock with one shepherd.” -
John 10:16
Who is Jesus saying the other sheep are in comparison to - the little flock? John 9:40 shows that Jesus is talking to the Pharisees - who then are the ‘other sheep’? The context clearly shows that the other sheep are the Gentiles. Not only that but that these two groups will become one flock with one shepherd. The teaching of the two separate groups that the Society put forward is not in line with this Scripture. See also Ephesians 2:12-14.

WHERE ARE THE OTHER SHEEP?

This is a vital question for every Jehovah’s Witness and we will answer it by quoting from three of their own publications.

“In order to live through the destruction of that ‘ancient world,’ Noah built
the ark as told by Jehovah God... Accordingly, Noah pictured Jesus Christ, and
his wife pictured the ‘Bride’ of Christ, or, more particularly, the remnant of
that collective “Bride” that still finds itself on earth. The three sons of Noah
and their wives picture those baptized worshipers of Jehovah God who now
associate with the remnant of the ‘bride’ class and who expect to become the
earthly children of the Eternal Father, Jesus Christ, under his millennial
kingdom.” - The Watchtower, 1 November 1974, p.666.

The Society claim that Noah, his wife and children are a picture for us. Noah pictures Jesus Christ, his wife the 144,000 and their children the ‘other sheep.’ But both the 144,000 and the ‘other sheep’ are in the same ark, being saved by the same means and ending up in the same place. There is no two-tier salvation.

“So in this strict Biblical sense Jesus is the ‘mediator’ only for anointed
Christians. The new covenant will terminate with the glorification of the
remnant who are today in the covenant mediated by Christ. The ‘great crowd’ of
‘other sheep’ that is forming today is not in that new covenant. However, by
their associating with the ‘little flock’ of those yet in that covenant they
come under benefits that flow from the new covenant.” - The Watchtower, 1 April
1979, p.31.
“Evidently the new covenant is nearing the end of its operation for the purpose
of producing 144,000 spiritual Israelites who meet God’s approval for being
associated with Jesus Christ in the heavenly kingdom, the ideal government for
mankind. When the last of these approved spiritual Israelites cease to be ‘man’
because of earthly death and a resurrection to a share in the heavenly kingdom,
then the mediatorship of Jesus Christ will cease also. Their inherited sinful
condition in the flesh, which called for a mediator to act between them and the
God of holiness, will be left behind. Like the holy angels of heaven, these
glorified spiritual Israelites will need no mediator between them and Jehovah
God... Today, according to authentic records, there is a ‘great crowd’ of
dedicated, baptized Christians who actively collaborate with the small remnant
of spiritual Israelites... They recognize that they are not spiritual Israelites
in the new covenant mediated by Jesus Christ, nor part of the ‘chosen race, a
royal priesthood, a holy nation’... To keep in relationship with ‘our Saviour,
God,’ the ‘great crowd’ needs to remain united with the remnant of spiritual
Israelites.” - The Watchtower, 15 November 1979, pp.26&27.

The first thing we notice is that the ‘other sheep’ are not in the new covenant. Which covenant are they in then? There are only two and the old has passed away. If they are not in the new covenant then they have no covenant relationship with God at all.

Second, the new covenant and the mediator work of Jesus Christ will cease when the final one of the 144,000 goes to heaven. The Society is increasingly preparing for the fact that the last one of the ‘remnant’ may well die from this life before Jesus sets up His kingdom on earth. If that is the case, how will any of those left know their sins forgiven, as there will be no mediator?

Third, whereas Jesus is not the mediator of the ‘other sheep’ the 144,000 are! This shows how far the WB&TS have attributed the work of Jesus to the 144,000. They become as important if not more important than Jesus to the Jehovah’s Witness alive on earth today.

“Hebrews states that in this spiritual temple the Most Holy is ‘heaven itself,’
the area where the person of God is. (Heb 9:24) Since only the Most Holy is
‘heaven itself,’ then the Holy and the priestly courtyard, as well as their
features, must pertain to things on earth, those things having to do with Jesus
Christ during his ministry on earth and his followers who are ‘partakers of the
heavenly calling.’ ... Consistently, the Holy represents their condition as
spirit-begotten sons of God, with heavenly life in view, and they will attain to
that heavenly reward when their fleshly bodies are laid aside in death...
Revelation 7:9-15 reveals ‘a great crowd’ of other worshipers of Jehovah sharing
in pure worship at the spiritual temple. Those making up this ‘great crowd’ are
not described in terms that identify them as underpriests. So they must be
understood to be standing in what was represented by the courtyard of the
Gentiles, a special feature of the temple as rebuilt by Herod.” - Insight on the
Scriptures
, Vol. 2, p.1081.

As with the symbolism of Noah’s Ark, we find everything messed up in an effort to prove a point. Those of the 144,000 who have died are said to be in the ‘Most Holy’ the place where God is. Those of the 144,000 who are still on earth are said to be in the ‘holy place,’ the area outside the ‘Most Holy.’ Both descriptions are of areas within the Tabernacle. This structure is used for the lessons brought out in Hebrews chapter 9.

The problem this raises for the Society is where do they put the ‘other sheep’. They try to get round it by placing them in courtyard of the Gentiles. The only problem is that this area was never in the Tabernacle only in the temple that Herod rebuilt. Again, the Watchwer shows us that their belief of the ‘great crowd’ is unscriptural. According to the Watchtower’s interpretation of Hebrews 9, the ‘great crowd’ does not exist anywhere just as we saw that they did not fit into either of the covenants.

From the Society's own teachings we see that they do not adhere to Biblical principles but man made concepts that are not according to Scripture.

ARE THE GREAT CROWD ON EARTH?

The Society say 'yes', but let us look at what Scripture has to say.

“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no one could
count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before
the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were
in their hands.” - Revelation 7:9
“And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy art Thou to take the book and break
its seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men
from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. And Thou hast made them to be
a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.’” -
Revelation 5:9,10.

The great crowd are described in Revelation 7:9 as being ‘before the throne’ [Greek: enopinou tou thronou]. The Watchtower says that this means ‘in sight of the throne’ and so they are on earth. Investigation will show this not to betrue.

The Greek phrase "enopinou tou thronou" comes 9 times in Scripture and all are in the book of Revelation, 1:4; 4:5, 6, 10; 7:11; 8:3; 14:3. These Scriptures tell us that the following are ‘before the throne’ - 7 lampstands : golden altar : 7 spirits of God : 24 elders : 4 living creatures : 144,000 : the great crowd.

The Society agree that the first six on the list are all literally before the throne in heaven. [See Then is Finished the Mystery of God pp.14,20,155,211; Aid to Bible Understanding p.1251; Babylon the Great has Fallen p.461.] It is not good biblical exegesis to say that the two other references that refer to the great crowd are not the same as the others and mean literally before the throne in heaven.

Add to this Revelation 5:9,10, which talks about the same people as in Revelation 7:9. Those in chapter 5 are designated as a heavenly people. Those in chapter 7 must be. Those in chapter 5 are seen to priests, those in chapter 7 are also shown to be priests [see v.15]. There is no question from Scripture that the great crowd or ‘other sheep’ are in heaven. Why does the Society say otherwise?

How different, it appears then, is the Biblical picture to the one the Watchtower Society paints.