Thursday, July 24, 2014

What do an ex-Christian and an ex-Mormon have in common?

In the last couple of posts I have compared the claims of Mormonism with the claims of orthodox Christianity.  I believe that if you look carefully at both of these religions with an unbiased mind, you will see how they are both built on amazing assumptions, unprovable supernatural claims, and little actual evidence.  Some of my orthodox Christian readers believe that the comparison is inappropriate.  "You are comparing apples to oranges!" one reader wrote.   No, I think not.  But it is obviously very painful for orthodox Christians to have their baseless, supernatural claims placed in the same spotlight with the baseless, supernatural claims of..."the cults".
 
As I was looking into the Mormon claim of ancient Hebrews navigating the high seas in 600 B.C. to land on the shores of North America, I came upon the blog of an ex-Mormon.  I was surprised at how similar our two deconversion stories are.  I have copied some quotes he uses on his blog that I have never heard of before and that are absolutely fantastic.  I will post a link to his blog at the end of this post.
 

"While spiritual insight or faith is one valid measure in spiritual matters, true spiritual insight never directly contradicts valid intellectual insight or facts in the physical world. Faith may go beyond reason, but does not go against it. It never blatantly contradicts the facts which we perceive with our God-given common sense. Faith and fact point in a single direction. Whey they do not, something is seriously wrong…A willingness to accept facts as they exist, and to learn to use them to test the views one holds rather than falling back on subjective experience or rationalizations, is the first step towards discovering genuine truth." (Charles Larson, By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus, pp. 177-178)
         
"A man is accepted into a church for what he believes and he is turned out for what he knows." - Mark Twain
         
"I am surer that my rational nature is from God, than that any book is an expression of his will." - William Ellery Channing
         
"Losing an illusion makes you wiser than finding a truth." - Ludwig Borne


Link to ex-Mormon's website:  Twenty Truths about Mormonism

Are Mormons monitoring the Internet?



I have noticed something very peculiar during my time as
a blogger.  If I post a comment about Baptists, evangelicals, Methodists, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, or Eastern Orthodox, it might be days or even months before a person of that denomination leaves a comment about that particular post.  But every time I write a post that involves the word "Mormon" in the title, I receive a comment from a Mormon usually within 12 hours.  Isn't that odd?

I googled this issue today, and I found this article in the Washington Post, with these interesting excerpts:

Try this. Type “church,” “Old Testament” or even “friend” into Google, and the Web site of the LDS church, the Mormons, pops up near the top of the list.

In the age of the Internet, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has found a way to dominate what is arguably today’s most important information source: the search engine.

It’s all about Mormons controlling their own image, church officials say. They’ve been doing that for a century or more.

...It’s not only the official church (LDS) group that’s got PR chops. This month, an independent Mormon group launched the Mormon Defense League to monitor reporting on the church. The group threatened to confront writers who it believes misrepresent the church.

The Web has boosted the small, American-born faith — but also challenged it, with critics and passionate ex-Mormons competing with church officialdom when the curious head to their search engines.

Image experts and researchers who study how people search the Web have been impressed by the church’s powerful use of the Internet. The site lds.org is the most-visited of any faith group, and Mormon church-wide conferences sometimes rank at the top of Twitter while they’re underway.

Why would a perfect God write such a confusing Holy Book?

Think about it. 

If God is perfect, all-powerful, and all-knowing...why would he write his Word, the Bible, the Christian Holy Book, in such a complicated and confusing manner that his followers would divide into over 30,000 different denominations and sects, each believing that they follow His true teachings?

And not only have God's followers divided into thousands of different sects over His teachings, they have fought long, bloody wars and engaged in intense persecution of one another, causing millions of deaths, injuries and horrible suffering all over the true meaning of a few words written on a few pieces of papyrus almost 2,000 years ago!



If God really and truly "so loved the world"...why on earth would he do such a thing? If God really and truly desires that "all men be saved"...why didn't he give men a very simple, clear Manual for the Christian Faith?


Why did God leave it up to arguing Church Councils to create creeds which clarified his teachings?  Why did the Lutherans have to sit down and write their Confessions to clarify what God really meant to say that no one else had gotten right for the previous 1,500 years?  Why did the Roman Catholics have to clarify what God really meant to say, which is not what the Lutherans said that God meant to say, at the Council of Trent?  And why did the Reformed have to clarify what God really meant to say, that the Lutherans and Roman Catholics did not get right, in their Westminster Confessions?  And then, why did the Baptists have to finally "get it right" in understanding what God really meant to say, that the Lutherans, Roman Catholics, and Reformed got wrong, when they wrote their London Confession of Faith?



Why would a perfect, all-knowing, all powerful God allow his teachings to become such a confusing mess??  This story makes no sense!

Think about it!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

When did the earliest Christians believe that Jesus became the Son of God?

Paul's letter to the church in Rome, a church he did not start, nor had he yet visited, begins with an interesting introduction:



 Paul, a servant[a] of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David[b] according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.


Many New Testament scholars believe that there is an ancient Christian Creed contained within this passage.  Do you see it?  Here it is:

who was descended
    from David[b
      according to the flesh
         and was declared
            to be the Son of God in power
               according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead.

Scholars say that this "creed" or "hymn" contains words and phrases that Paul never uses in any other of his writings.  This indicates, to scholars, that Paul did not write these lines.  They believe that this was an early Christian creed or saying from a time period prior to the 50's, the decade in which Paul wrote his epistles.

If this early creed represents the theology of the earliest Christians, isn't it interesting that these Christians believed that Jesus was declared the Son of God...upon his resurrection!  This is in stark contrast to John's Gospel, most likely written in the 90's, the last of the Gospels to be written, in which the author declares Jesus to be One with God the Father!  And declares that Jesus is as eternal as the Father...Yahweh, the Creator God!
 

 

This is not the only passage in the New Testament that suggests that the earliest Christians believed that Jesus became the "Son of God" at his resurrection.

Acts 13:32-33

32 And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, 33 this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm,

“‘You are my Son,
    today I have begotten you."


How many times does Paul mention the Empty Tomb in his Epistles?

Saint PaulIf you walk up to any Christian on the planet today and ask him why he believes in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and as God Almighty, Ruler of Heaven and Earth, the first answer you will probably get is:  "The tomb was empty!"

If you read through the thirteen epistles written by the Apostle Paul, guess how many times he mentions the Empty Tomb.

Fifty times?  No.
Twenty times?  No.
Ten times?  No.
Three times?  No.
One time?  No.

Paul never mentions anything about an empty tomb!  Isn't that odd?

Why is that? 

I know what the response will be from orthodox Christians:  "Paul wrote the thirteen epistles to address very specific theological issues in established churches; churches whose members already knew the story of the Empty Tomb!  So the fact that the empty tomb is not mentioned in any of Paul's epistles is inconsequential."

Maybe....but maybe not.

Maybe Paul had never heard of the "empty tomb story"!  Maybe that is why he never mentions it!  After all, his epistles are the oldest Christian writings that we have today and they say nothing about an empty tomb.  However, ten to thirty years later the four Gospels are written.  All four Gospels go out of their way to emphasize the incredible importance of the empty tomb.

So isn't it really, really odd that the greatest Christian evangelist and missionary who ever lived would never mention this climactic, supernatural, earth-shattering event in his thirteen epistles?

Hmmm.


Is "Wrong" always wrong...or is it situational?




Those of us who are parents have experienced this scenario many times:  Little Susie comes running up to you crying and says, through her sobs, that her brother, little Johnny, hit her.  When you confront little Johnny about hitting his sister, his response is, "Well, she hit me first!"

So Johnny thinks it is ok to hit his sister if his sister has hit him first.  You obviously disagree, and give them both a time out.  However, you say to your son, "It is never ok to hit your sister, and, boys never hit girls."

There are some "wrongs" that are wrong in our culture and in almost every culture, from the highly educated and civilized cultures of the Western World to the most ignorant, primitive tribes in the Amazon.  Whether this sense of "wrongness" is from human instinct as a means to support the survival of the group or if it is given to us by a Divine Creator, there are some "wrongs" that are always wrong.

One of these wrongs is deliberately killing children.  We do not allow the deliberate killing of children even in war.

Imagine that while sitting in a restaurant or coffee house, you strike up a conversation with someone sitting next to you, and the conversation turns to the wars in the Iraq and Afghanistan.  You both are commiserating about how terrible it is that so many of our soldiers have lost their lives in defense of our beloved country, but then the person says this, "Yea, I think that we should allow our soldiers to shoot anything that moves when they are going through those villages, even women, children, and babies.  Nits make lice."

What would be your reaction?  I hope that you would be horrified by such an immoral, callous comment, and would let this person know how disgusted you are by his thinking.

On another day, you are out in public and join a conversation that is discussing World War II.  One man says the following, "You know we really can't blame the Germans for killing all those Jews.  Of course it wouldn't be right to do such a thing now, but it was a different time and situation then.  Germany was in an economic crises brought on by the Jews.  Harsh times sometimes require harsh measures."

What would you say to this man?  I hope that you would harshly condemn the man for his bigotry and total lack of a decent, moral conscience.  It is never justifiable to deliberately kill innocent men, women, and children.  (And, the Jews were not responsible for Germany's economic problems.)

Let's go back even further in history.

Do you remember the story of King Herod and the slaughter of the innocents?  The wise men had told Herod that they were seeking the King of the Jews.  Herod asked the scribes search the Scriptures to find where the messiah would be born.  They told him Bethlehem.  When the wise men did not return to tell Herod where exactly in Bethlehem he could find this new "Jewish King", Herod sent his soldiers to Bethlehem to kill every infant under the age of two.

So if someone told you that Herod was justified in killing all those babies as it was a "different era", and as King of the Jews, Herod had every right to defend his throne by every means possible, even the slaughter of babies, what would be your response?

I would bet that you would think this person was mentally or at least morally deranged, wouldn't you?  There is never any justification for killing babies.

However, once we go back far enough in history, and we cross the magical red line between the first verse of Matthew in the New Testament, and enter into the Old Testament, then what has always been "wrong" up to this point, suddenly is no longer always wrong; it is only wrong depending on the situation.  Why is that?  It just does not make any sense to me.  How can Christians justify the brutal, barbaric slaughter of thousands if not millions of children and babies in the stories of the Old Testament?


One day Samuel said to Saul, “It was the Lord who told me to anoint you as king of his people, Israel. Now listen to this message from the Lord! This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has declared: I have decided to settle accounts with the nation of Amalek for opposing Israel when they came from Egypt. Now go and completely destroy[a] the entire Amalekite nation—men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys.”  I Samuel 15:1-3


So they made war against Midian, just as the Lord had commanded Moses, and they killed every male. They killed the kings of Midian along with the rest of their slain: Evi and Rekem and Zur and Hur and Reba, the five kings of Midian; they also killed Balaam the son of Beor with the sword. The sons of Israel captured the women of Midian and their little ones; and all their cattle and all their flocks and all their goods they plundered. 10 Then they burned all their cities where they lived and all their camps with fire. 11 They took all the spoil and all the prey, both of man and of beast. 12 They brought the captives and the prey and the spoil to Moses, and to Eleazar the priest and to the congregation of the sons of Israel, to the camp at the plains of Moab, which are by the Jordan opposite Jericho.

13 Moses and Eleazar the priest and all the leaders of the congregation went out to meet them outside the camp. 14 Moses was angry with the officers of the army, the captains of thousands and the captains of hundreds, who had come from service in the war. 15 And Moses said to them, “Have you [c]spared all the women? 16 Behold, these [d]caused the sons of Israel, through the [e]counsel of Balaam, to [f]trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, so the plague was among the congregation of the Lord. 17 Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man [g]intimately. 18 But all the [h]girls who have not known man [i]intimately, [j]spare for yourselves.  Numbers 31:7-17

Massacre Of The Innocents Metal Print By Luca Giordano
 





Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How strong is the orthodox Lutheran's assurance of Salvation?

From the website of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod:

Lutherans believe that faith is created and strengthened not by looking inside of one's self (to one's own faith and/or doubts) but by looking outside of one's self (to God's Word and promises in Christ). Therefore, assurance of salvation is to be sought by looking to God's Word and promises in Christ (which create and strengthen the faith through which one is saved), not by looking inward at the strength or weakness of one's own faith (which creates either pride and false assurance or doubt and lack of assurance). Anxiety regarding doubts, strength of faith and certainty of salvation are signs of faith (however weak it may be), not signs of unbelief, since the unbeliever has no concern or anxiety about doubts, faith or salvation.

So orthodox Lutherans are taught to look outside of oneself for assurance of salvation, not inward towards one's feelings and intuition.  Orthodox Lutherans teach that assurance of salvation is based on the Word of God and the promises of Christ.

If we have solid evidence that Yahweh was an invention of pagan Canaanites; if we have evidence that the Exodus, Passover, Ten Plaguesthe Conquest of Canaan, the Great Kingdoms of David and Solomon never existed; if Jesus claimed to be God and one and the same with his Father, Yahweh, a non-existent Canaanite god; if we have no evidence that Jesus kept his promise to rise from the dead...how can we trust the promises of Jesus and his Word??
 
 

Why Shouldn't I become a Mormon?

Did you know that Joseph Smith was not the only person who saw the angel Moroni?  Mormons say that three other men also saw the angel.  Did you know that eleven men saw the same Golden Tablets that Moroni allegedly gave to Joseph Smith?  And this is not just hearsay, the Mormon Church has the signed affidavits of these men attesting to the truthfulness of their eyewitness testimony of these supernatural events.





So, dear readers, why shouldn't I become a Mormon?

There is more evidence for the supernatural events that occurred 200 years ago, as claimed by the Mormons, than there is evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus 2,000 years ago, as claimed by orthodox Christians.




Monday, July 21, 2014

"The Five Hundred Witnesses could not have all seen the same vision"

In Betania, Venezuela, a woman named Maria Esperanza Medrano de Bianchini received peculiar spiritual powers:  she could tell the future, levitate, and heal the sick.  The Virgin Mary appeared to her several times, starting in March 1976.  The most striking occurrence, on March 25, 1984, involved lots of other people.  After the Catholic mass that morning, a number of people went to enjoy some time outdoors near the local waterfall, and the Virgin Mary appeared above it.  This began a series of visions.  Mary came and went, often visible for five minutes or so, the last time for half an hour.  Among the observers were doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, engineers, and lawyers.  People over the weeks to come started picnicking there.  At times, up to a thousand people observed Mary there, bathed in light and accompanied by the smell of roses  This continued until 1988.  Later, a Jesuit priest, Monsignor Pio Bell Ricardo, who was a professor of psychology at the Central University of Caracas, interviewed 490 people who claimed to have seen Mary there.  They convinced him that Mary had really been at the waterfall.  

                                                      ---Copied from How Jesus Became God

Who had more eyewitnesses: Jesus at his Resurrection or Joseph Smith and his Golden Tablets?


Mormon wagon trains crossing the Mississippi

Most conservative and orthodox Christians would answer the above question with a chuckle and say, "Well Jesus, of course.  Joseph Smith was the only person who allegedly saw an angel named Moroni and saw his Golden Tablets.  Ol' Joe was either hallucinating, crazy, drunk, or a liar!  Mormons have no proof for this tall tale other than Joseph Smith's word."

But, that answer would be incorrect.

Mormons have signed statements from known people living less than 200 years ago who state that they saw the Golden Tablets and some of them swore an oath that they also saw the angel Moroni!

What does Christianity have?

1.  Any signed statements by eyewitnesses?

No.  We have four unsigned letters, by anonymous authors, written 30 to 40 years after the alleged miracle.

                                                                    

2.  We have another Christian convert, Paul, who says that he saw a dead man (Jesus) a couple of years after his alleged resurrection, but Paul never describes the resurrected dead man, and his traveling companion, Luke, in the Book of Acts, quotes Paul as saying that he had only seen a bright light and that his experience was a "heavenly vision".


Sounds to me that the Mormons would win their case in a court of law long before orthodox/fundamentalist Christians would win theirs.


The following is from this Mormon websitehere

It's a common misconception by people outside the church that only Joseph Smith ever saw the golden plates. Their skepticism in believing his story is understandable considering they believe they're only taking his word for it. Luckily, this is not the case. Eleven others we're shown the plates by Joseph, and allowed to handle them. Three of the eleven were blessed to see the Angel Moroni, himself. Below, you will find their written testimony that what they saw is true. These affidavits are published at the beginning of each Book of Mormon. I have also included bios and quotes from them affirming their testimony years after they originally saw them. There were others who had experiences with, or surrounding, the golden plates so I've included their accounts also.
The Three Witnesses

The 3 Witnesses
Testimony of Three Witnesses

Oliver Cowdery

Martin Harris

David Whitmer



The Eight Witnesses

The 8 Witnesses
Testimony of the Eight Witnesses

Christian Whitmer

Hiram Page

Jacob Whitmer

Joseph Smith, SEN.

Peter Whitmer, JUN.

Hyrum Smith

John Whitmer

Samuel H. Smith
Other Historical Accounts and Witnesses

box that held the gold plates
(Actual Box used to hold the plates during the translation.)

Mary Whitmer

Lucy Mack Smith

Emma Smith

Luke Johnson

Alva Beman

Katherine Smith Salisbury

William Smith

Harrison Burgess

Luman Shurtliff

Oliver Granger

Benjamin Brown

Zera Pulsipher

Lucy Harris