Sunday, March 7, 2010

What's Wrong With Glenn Beck?

If you disagree with him politically I’m sure you would say that everything is wrong with Glenn Beck. I haven’t watched his program consistently. It’s been rather sporadic. But I’ve found that when I do watch him I agree with most of what he says. In fact, in a number of cases I don’t think he’s gone far enough in his analysis of the historic antecedents to our current crises. He is a gifted and passionate speaker capable of trenchant analysis. And clearly, his opponents view him as a dangerous force. He has become a kind of national teacher. I’m sure that Mr. Beck would agree that teachers should be held to a higher account, especially teachers with classes that number in the millions.

One of the things that he stands against is what might be called a Culture of Tolerance. Everyone is so afraid of being viewed as “Intolerant” that we refuse to speak any kind of truth at all because obviously our “truth” may be different from someone else’s “truth” and we don’t want to offend. More than anything, we are terrified of being considered “bigots.” The dictionary defines bigot as “a prejudiced person who is intolerant of any opinions differing from his own.” The heart of bigotry focuses on religion and bigots come in a wide variety of persuasions, both theistic and atheistic.

In my opinion, freedom of religion is the foundation of all other freedoms. I’m proud to be a direct descendent of Roger Williams the founder of Rhode Island and, more importantly, the father of freedom of religion in America. He founded his colony based on freedom of worship, this after he was driven away by the Puritans because of his differing theological beliefs. (He was a Baptist.) One of his friends was a woman named Mary Barrett Dyer. Mary was a Quaker who had the temerity to believe that women should be able to teach the Bible. She insisted on teaching the Bible in Puritan territory. In a paroxysm of “holy intolerance” the good Puritans of Boston hung her. I’m proud to say that Mary is one of my grandmothers. Religious toleration runs in my blood. However, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t confront each other with mutual respect about our differing belief systems. We shouldn’t fear strong disagreement. It is in that spirit that this post is written.

Am I the only theologically conservative Christian who finds Mr. Beck strangely disturbing? Here is my problem. We live in a day of gross inconsistencies in the lives of so many of our leaders. People say one thing and live out another. Whether it is the Treasury Secretary who cheats on his taxes or a “family values” governor who cheats on his wife, inconsistency is the hallmark of our age. With that in mind, Mr. Beck seriously puzzles me. Here is a man who is dedicated to understanding and presenting historic truth about what has happened in our country. He does it fearlessly because he knows how important historic truth really is. What you believe really does matter. So here is a man of intellectual lucidity who has chosen to be a Mormon.

There, I said it. I turned over the rock that no one wants to touch for fear of being called intolerant or bigoted. How dare I do such a thing? Should the fact that Mr. Beck is a Mormon really matter? From what he has said, he is not a Mormon by birth. He was raised a Roman Catholic. When he talks about it at all, he underplays his religion, stating that he and his family just liked the friendliness and family orientation of the Latter Day Saints. They feel at home there. All well and good! I believe in religious freedom. But Mr. Beck is a national teacher who freely quotes the Bible as an authority source. I think we need to hold him to the same standard that he uses on others.

Let me ask you a question. Imagine that Mr. Beck was saying exactly what he is saying now on his various programs, but instead of being a Mormon he was a Scientologist or a Muslim. How would you feel about him then? Wouldn’t your trust of him drop like a stone? Wouldn’t you carefully evaluate every word he said? Though you would agree with him, you would find him constantly disturbing and every time you listened to him you would be asking yourself, “What’s this guy’s real agenda?” So why isn’t that happening with Mr. Beck?

There are several reasons. First, over the past fifty or so years, the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints has spent a great deal of time and treasure to convince American Christians that they are just another Christian denomination. And they’ve been very successful at it. I think today that many evangelical Christians view Mormons in just that way. Second, Mormons are such genuinely nice family oriented people. As opposed to Muslims or Scientologists who often don’t appear to be very nice at all. When we think of Mormons we think of Donny and Marie Osmond. We think of the wonderful Mormon Tabernacle Choir that sings so many great old hymns. And then there’s Glenn Beck himself. Couldn’t you imagine spending an afternoon with him and his family sitting around the pool sharing hamburgers and potato salad? Of course you could. And how about Mitt Romney that square-jawed, good-looking guy? Clearly, he is a straight-talking true family man who could be on track to become the next President. Doesn’t he look Presidential and doesn’t he say all the right things in the most charming manner?

When you think of Scientologists what do you think of? People who are nutty as fruitcakes, who spend untold thousands of dollars to get “clear” with weird lie detectors strapped to their bodies. You think of arrogant little Tom Cruise arguing from his vast Scientology education and jumping on couches. You think of the worst of Hollywood. And when Muslims come to mind…well, we don’t even want to go there.

A long time ago I took a graduate level course in what is called Christian Apologetics. That doesn’t mean learning how to apologize because you’re a Christian. It means knowing how to make a reasoned defense of the faith against those who attack it. Essential to that is understanding what other religions believe. My teacher was a man named Dr. Walter Martin. He is dead now, but while he was alive he was considered one of the greatest cult experts in the world. In our class we spent a lot of time studying Mormonism. Dr. Martin was well known to the Mormons and they disliked him intensely because he was a powerful debater who did not suffer foolishness lightly.

This is not the place to go into all the very strange things that Mormons believe. Just a few points will suffice such as their belief that Jesus and Satan are brothers, or that God the Father (who is a glorified man) came down and physically copulated with the Virgin Mary so that Jesus could be born into a physical body, or that the spirits who followed “brother” Satan were cursed into being born with black skin. (In recent years, because of great political pressure, this belief has been jettisoned, but for many decades from the foundation of their religion, it was an article of faith.) We won’t go into all the fantasies that their scriptures teach about Native American history. Not one archaeological discovery has proven their beliefs to be true. Why bring up the embarrassing issue of a “family” religion that, during its seminal years, was utterly destructive to families because of its belief in polygamy and forced marriage? (Another foundational article of faith that they were forced to disavow, but which is still held sacred by many Mormons.) Why mention the horrendous view Mormon theology teaches about women? In one of their holy books, The Pearl of Great Price, woman is called the shoe on man’s foot as he ascends into Heaven. And all of this is only the beginning.

Where did the Mormon religion come from? A young man named Joseph Smith who was a Freemason and a believer in ceremonial magic was using his magic to try and find buried treasure. In the course of his search he claims to have had a supernatural experience. An angel named Moroni came to him and led him to a set of golden plates. The translation of the writing on those plates led to the Mormon scriptures. Sadly, the plates were lost so they are unavailable for examination.

The truth is that the foundation of Mormonism has much in common with the foundation of Islam. In both it is purported that an angel came to a solitary man and gave him a revelation that the religions of his day were wrong and inadequate and he was to be the founder of a new religion based on “Truth.” Each man was informed that he was God’s uniquely chosen prophet. Both religions rely on strict “works of obedience” in order to achieve eternal salvation. Both paste together their theologies from bits and pieces of the theologies that were dominant at the time of their founding. Both account for the historical Jesus, but utterly demolish His Person and work as presented in the New Testament. On the face of it, Mormonism is no more a Christian denomination than is Islam. The truth is that, based on the reports of eye witnesses, the ceremonies that take place in the Mormon temple have much more in common with Freemasonry and ceremonial magic than in anything found in historic Christianity. In that sense they relate to Scientology. Before he founded his “church,” L. Ron Hubbard was an occultist and ceremonial magician as well. And isn’t it strange that both Scientology and Mormonism are so deeply concerned about activities on other planets?

Now there are those who would say, “All religions are the same. They’re all based on so-called “revelations” that are impossible to prove, so why make an issue of Mormonism? It’s no different than what you call historic Christianity.” There I would disagree. All of orthodox Christianity hinges on one event, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. If that event did not occur in physical reality the whole edifice crumbles to dust. The point of the biblical record is that there were many eye-witnesses to Jesus’ death. And after His resurrection there were hundreds of eye-witnesses who saw Him alive. The experience of His death and resurrection was not limited to a solitary individual. It came to many people and those people were so certain of what they had seen that they were willing to die violent deaths themselves in defense of what they knew to be true. Now, you may call all of that fantasy, but at the very least you must admit that it is vastly different than Joseph Smith or Mohamed talking to an angel.

So Mr. Glenn Beck puzzles me. How can a man of his perspicacity who is so concerned about discovering and understanding the truth of political history, who wants our children to be taught the truth, be willing for his own children to be indoctrinated into the wild fantasies of a cult? And, God help him, I think his children are girls. I can’t believe that if he applied the same passion and scholarship to Mormonism that he wouldn’t run screaming from it. So why hasn’t this happened? Why is there such gross inconsistency and why doesn’t it bother anybody? Shouldn’t the fact that he is a Mormon make me view him with the same caution that I would exercise if he were a Scientologist or a Muslim? If he uses the Bible as though he were a Christian shouldn’t he be held to account? Why does he never use his own “scriptures?”

And I have a larger concern. I’m concerned about the mainstreaming of this cult into the deepest levels of American culture, even into the Christian church itself. Now I don’t think Glenn Beck, Mitt Romney, Donny and Marie and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir are locked in some kind of vicious conspiracy. I think that in their political desperation Christians have become blind. What dominates now is that old philosophy, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. But in the very desperation of that embrace, just exactly what is it that we are accepting and how will it affect our future?

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  1. Well, Coleman, that is the kind of brutal honestly that keeps me in hot water as a preacher, but I am sure proud you were bold enough to speak up. I have exactly the same concerns. As for Glen Beck, I guess it is selective blindness.

  2. The 2005 National Study of Youth and Religion published by UNC-Chapel Hill found that Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) youth (ages 13 to 17) were more likely to exhibit these Christian characteristics than Evangelicals (the next most observant group):

    1. Attend Religious Services weekly
    2. Importance of Religious Faith in shaping daily life – extremely important
    3. Believes in life after death
    4. Does NOT believe in psychics or fortune-tellers
    5. Has taught religious education classes
    6. Has fasted or denied something as spiritual discipline
    7. Sabbath Observance
    8. Shared religious faith with someone not of their faith
    9. Family talks about God, scriptures, prayer daily
    10. Supportiveness of church for parent in trying to raise teen (very supportive)
    11. Church congregation has done an excellent job in helping teens better understand their own sexuality and sexual morality

    . LDS . Evangelical
    1. 71% . . 55%
    2. 52 . . . 28
    3. 76 . . . 62
    4. 100 . . 95
    5. 42 . . . 28
    6. 68 . . . 22
    7. 67 . . . 40
    8. 72 . . . 56
    9. 50 . . . 19
    10 65 . . . 26
    11 84 . . . 35

    So what do you think the motivation is for your apologist professors and some Evangelical preachers to denigrate the Mormon Church by calling it a "cult"? You would think they would be emulating Mormon practices (a creed to believe, a place to belong, a calling to live out, and a hope to hold onto) which were noted by Methodist Rev. Kenda Creasy Dean of the Princeton Theological Seminary, as causing Mormon teenagers to “top the charts” in Christian characteristics. It seems obvious professors and pastors shouldn't be denigrating a church based on First Century Christianity, with high efficacy. The only plausible reason to denigrate Mormons by calling the church a "cult" is for Evangelical pastors to protect their flock (and their livelihood).

  3. Mormons Are New Testament Christians, not Creedal Christians
    The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) is often accused by Evangelical pastors of not believing in the 4th Century Christ and, therefore, not being a Christian religion. This post helps to clarify such misconceptions by examining early Christianity's theology relating to baptism, the Godhead, the deity of Jesus Christ, and His Grace and Atonement.


    Early Christian churches, practiced baptism of youth (not infants) by immersion by the father of the family. The local congregation had a lay ministry. An early Christian Church has been re-constructed at the Israel Museum, and the above can be verified. The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) continues baptism and a lay ministry as taught by Jesus’ Apostles. Early Christians were persecuted for keeping their practices sacred, and prohibiting non-Christians from witnessing them.

    The Trinity:

    A literal reading of the New Testament points to God and Jesus Christ , His Son , being separate , divine beings , united in purpose. . To whom was Jesus praying in Gethsemane, and Who was speaking to Him and his apostles on the Mount of Transfiguration? The Nicene Creed’s definition of the Trinity was influenced by scribes translating the Greek manuscripts into Latin. The scribes embellished on a passage explaining the Trinity , which is the Catholic and Protestant belief that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The oldest versions of the epistle of 1 John, read: "There are three that bear witness: the Spirit, the water and the blood and these three are one." Scribes later added "the Father, the Word and the Spirit," and it remained in the epistle when it was translated into English for the King James Version, according to Dr. Bart Ehrman, Chairman of the Religion Department at UNC- Chapel Hill. He no longer believes in the Nicene Trinity. . Scholars agree that Early Christians believed in an embodied God; it was neo-Platonist influences that later turned Him into a disembodied Spirit. For example, it was an emperor (Constantine) . who introduced a term, homousious, which defined the Son as “consubstantial” (one being) with the Father. Neither term or anything like it is in the New Testament. Harper’s Bible Dictionary entry on the Trinity says “the formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the New Testament.” Furthermore, 11 of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were non-Trinitarian Christians The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) views the Trinity as three separate divine beings , in accord with the earliest Greek New Testament manuscripts and the Founders.

  4. The Deity of Jesus Christ

    Mormons hold firmly to the deity of Christ. For members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS), Jesus is not only the Son of God but also God the Son. Evangelical pollster George Barna found in 2001 that while only 33 percent of American Catholics, Lutherans, and Methodists (28 percent of Episcopalians) agreed that Jesus was “without sin”, 70 percent of Mormons believe Jesus was sinless.

    Grace Versus Works

    One Evangelical Christian author wrote of his sudden discovery that his previous beliefs about salvation were very different from those held by the early Christians:
    “If there's any single doctrine that we would expect to find the faithful associates of the apostles teaching, it's the doctrine of salvation by faith alone. After all, that is the cornerstone doctrine of the Reformation. In fact, we frequently say that persons who don't hold to this doctrine aren't really Christians…
    Our problem is that Augustine, Luther, and other Western theologians have convinced us that there's an irreconcilable conflict between salvation based on grace and salvation conditioned on works or obedience. They have used a fallacious form of argumentation known as the "false dilemma," by asserting that there are only two possibilities regarding salvation: it's either (1) a gift from God or (2) it's something we earn by our works.
    The early Christians [and Latter-day Saints!] would have replied that a gift is no less a gift simply because it's conditioned on obedience....
    The early Christians believed that salvation is a gift from God but that God gives His gift to whomever He chooses. And He chooses to give it to those who love and obey him.”
    —David W. Bercot, Will The Real Heretics Please Stand Up: A New Look at Today's Evangelical Church in the Light of Early Christianity, 3rd edition, (Tyler, Texas: Scroll Publishing Company, 1999[1989]), 57, 61–62.

    The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) agrees with the earliest Christians that grace is conditioned upon obedience to Jesus Christ’s commandments.

    The Cross and Christ’s Atonement:

    The Cross became popular as a Christian symbol in the Fifth Century A.D. . Members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) believe a preferable Christian symbol is Christ’s resurrection , not his crucifixion on the Cross. Many Mormon chapels feature paintings of the resurrected Christ or His Second Coming. Furthermore, members of the church believe the atoning sacrifice began in the Garden of Gethsemane and culminated on the cross as Christ took upon him the sins of all mankind.

    Definition of “Christian”: .

    But Mormons don’t term Catholics and Protestants “non-Christian”. They believe Christ’s atonement applies to all mankind. The dictionary definition of a Christian is “of, pertaining to, believing in, or belonging to a religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ”: All of the above denominations are followers of Christ, and consider him divine, and the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament. They all worship the one and only true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and address Him in prayer as prescribed in The Lord’s Prayer. The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) teaches that good Christians of any denomination are able to live with Jesus Christ in the Eternities. Contrary to some other denominations people who don’t believe in “their Jesus” are not consigned to Hell. It’s important to understand the difference between Reformation and Restoration when we consider who might be authentic Christians. . Early Christians had certain rituals which defined a Christian, which members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) continue today. . If members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) embrace early Christian theology, they are likely more “Christian” than their detractors.

  5. Well, it HADDA happen - we finally are gonna haveta seriously disagree to generally disagree(definitely if not definitively).

    Most of our consummate concerns would fall under the heading "What's Right with Glenn Beck?" (and it has nothing to do with any political orientation, either).

    Mind you, we've caught a couple of his shows over the years and (whilst we'd hardly say he's not without interest) he leaves us low and emaciated rather than high and dry.

    The Amurrican penchant for being endlessly diverted from anything even remotely approaching substance has given way for quite some time for media flavors of the month (or year, even decade); they emanate from all avenues and enterprises (but no Starships).

    Mr. Beck strikes us as the latest incarnation who, whatever pulpit and subliminal agenda he's preaching from, emerges less as enlightening and more as an Entertainer.

    He's got his radio show (okay), his teevee forum (no harm, no foul), his books (with plenty of believers) and, glory of validated glories, gets put on the cover of - no, not Rolling Stone - but others of equal exposure.

    So why do we have such serious reservations about him?

    Less the 'selective blindness' of Scott's anchored awareness as more an intuitive yellow light brightly bordering on increasing red.

    It's obvious some religious institutions are accorded the green light while others (the aforementioned (un)Scientology and some its cousin Old Age brethren) are given an ostensible free pass (Mormons) but this has less to do, we'd wager, with overall acceptance than uninterested (lack of) investigative exposure.

    What we feel is infinitely more insidious and nefarious in its nurturing is how anyone with any kind of notoriety immediately gains credence as some kind of authority on and about issues nothing in their background (and especially evidence of actual exposure) prepares them to hold forth from.

    Whether it's former governors who abdicate their elected responsibility because their evident charisma guarantees a wider (and far more lucrative) forum to bank on and bellow from or New York congressman whose financial piccadillos STILL aren't worthy of rebuke from the House of certain Speakers, there's a societal symptom of epic ostrich-ism whose heads in the sands are legion.

    Your personal ancestral pedigree is quite an honorable one from which rightful pride is a virtue (not vice) so you're one of the few species not yet extinct whose poles of perspective aren't filled with Rice Krispies.

    We're less inclined to view Mr. Beck the authoritative insight you are - which is fine.

    We're simply infinitely more suspicious because his blind spots are so brilliantly apparent.

    The medium may not be the message yet, in this case, the message from this medium causes us not applause but acute anxiety.

    The defining difference between you and him (or others of similar ilk) is you've enough courage and curiosity by the evidence of your actions to broaden the exposed base of your knowledge and information ... whereas they are seemingly content soaking in the adulation of those who've cheerfully abdicated their own ability to decisively discern in favor of those they have more fun sheepishly following.

    (Oh, and Coleman, Equalizing Avatar that thou art, do us favor, willya, re Muslims: GO THERE. Nothing you'd offer would be far from our own perspective).

    But we obsess as we digress ...

  6. Let the firestorm begin.

    I appreciate the post from "Mormons are Christian." Unfortunately, I don't have time to respond to it in detail. I'm traveling for the next several days. BTW, that's why there will be a delay in getting responses posted. When I established this blog I didn't screen posts. One morning I found porn posted on it so now I have to screen.

    One of the first rules of dealing with a cult is to realize that you are walking into a sort of Alice in Wonderland reality. Like Humpty Dumpty, for cultists words mean exactly what they want them to mean nothing more and nothing less. This is what makes it so confusing. Cultists use terms from the Bible and historic Christianity that make them sound as though they are in agreement with foundational Christian doctrine. If you don't understand the baseline of their beliefs you'll get lost in their woods. And that is where they want you to remain. For instance, the deity of Jesus. Of course, Mormons believe in it. But it is the Jesus of Joseph Smith, not of the New Testament.

    Remember what St. Paul wrote in Galatians 1:6-9. "I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed."

    That different "gospel" which isn't a gospel is always the same. It is a "gospel" of works in order to achieve salvation. "Here is what you must do to work your way to Heaven." That "gospel" always breeds fear and guilt and it allows a few people to control many. There are thousands and thousands of ex-Mormons who have written about this in excruciating detail.

    Take note that "Mormons for Christ" wriggles in a dozen different directions attacking the idea that Mormonism isn't a cult and that it is a wonderful Christian denomination more true in word and deed than any other. The one thing he or she doesn't do (and I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that it is a "he." How many female Mormon apologists are there?) is defend the foundational weirdness of Mormonism. It's their foundational beliefs that make them into a cult, not the statements of those who shine the light on them. I would love to hear this individual respond to just the few beliefs I listed. Until that happens all the rest of his statements mean nothing.

    Anyway, more to come....

  7. Well, Gordon, I hope to God's good Grace that I am not an "Equalizing Avatar." I'm not exactly sure what you are saying, but there are thousands of people railing against Muslims. Unfortunately, they are an easy target. Why should we give Mormonism a pass to focus on them? In my estimation, one of the greatest sins of American Christianity is that it's no longer concerned about truth. All it cares about is being "nice." Nice is killing us. Because we aren't concerned about truth, the Church's moral authority has disintegrated leaving us open to the smug criticisms of cultists. So much of our preaching has become gutless pap and our lives are suffering desperately for it.

  8. BTW, sorry to refer to "Mormons are Christian" as "Mormons for Christ." Clearly, that isn't the case. It's been a hurried morning. Off to the airport.

  9. What is the old quip? Numbers don’t lie, but liars use numbers? The figures used by “Mormons are Christians” prove very little. Let’s walk through these issues.
    First, attending Church regularly, even weekly, doesn’t mean that you are a Christian. As they say, going into a garage doesn’t make you a car. Many people attend regularly because that’s what they’ve been told to do by their parents since they were old enough to think. Evangelicals say that God has no grandchildren. Each person must believe for himself. Parents hope their children think properly, but they know that their children must come to belief by themselves. Mormon children are (ultimately) taught that God is a grandchild, and they are encouraged NOT think for themselves when it comes to belief in the LDS. Given that indoctrination, I’m rather surprised that the figures given are so low for the Mormon kids.

    But the key issue here is still truth. I’m betting that Muslims rate better than Mormons in regard to #1. Yet Mormons would definitely consider Muslims to be a false religion. Regular attendance with those who teach error is worse than useless.

    Thus for #2, while religious belief should shape life, if that belief is error, the believer is shaping his life the wrong way. And make no mistake about it the LDS believe that “other” Christians are doing just that. Publicly they may say otherwise, but that’s sure not what Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, et al state in their writings. I’ve read them.

    Belief in life after death is great, but if you don’t have the truth, then the life you will live after death will be perdition. Thus, if the LDS are wrong and Creedal Christianity is right, all 76% of the Mormons will go to hell, while however many of the 62% of the Evangelicals who believe and trust in the Biblical Jesus will go to Heaven.

    The thing about psychics and fortune tellers is interesting. Frankly, I’ve lived among Evangelicals all my life… literally thousands of them. And I’ve never met one who believes in either. As I recall, a court in upstate New York convicted Joseph Smith of fraudulently practicing some of that.

    #5 is not so impressive given that Paul said that not many should be teachers. The LDS process of the priesthood insures high numbers here. Seems like I recall that it’s mostly the men who teach in the LDS, so the % that are women must be teaching little children. But again, if 100% teach doctrines that are only the views of men, then that teaching is in vain. Didn’t god allegedly tell Smith that all the doctrines of Christian denominations were merely the doctrines of men?

    Fasting is a good thing. But fasting and self-denial mean little if they are done hypocritically or in devotion to “another Jesus.” Better to feast always, than fast to the wrong Lord.
    Sabbath observance is important. The writer of Hebrews says don’t avoid it. But if you worship the wrong god, you are wasting your time whether you worship in a stake house, a mosque, a temple or a church.

    We should share our faith. Christianity was intended to be a missionary religion. But if the faith you share is a denial of the Jesus who died for your sins, then you are His enemy and in the judgment He will not give you a gold star just because you went on a mission for 2 years.

    Families should talk about what they believe, but if that belief is a doctrine of demons, then family time is damnation for them. This also relates to supporting teens. Kudos to the LDS for their teachings on sexuality. Unfortunately, in perdition, God will hand out no rewards for being straight.

    Jesus well pointed out that the Pharisees of his day were very zealous…especially as regarded their “offspring.” But, he noted that they made such “children” more damnable than themselves. I’m one of those professors mentioned, and when I taught my students about the LDS I was quick to say that we should be impressed by their zeal. I encouraged my students to emulate them in that regard. But sincerity and zeal mean nothing if you teach error.

  10. The Trinity:
    The Mormon apologist needs to take a vacation from UNC-Chapel Hill. Are we supposed to be impressed that a head of a State school’s religion department is not a Trinitarian? I’m impressed that he considers himself a non-Trinitarian Christian. As for the signers of the Declaration, who made them more authorities than the fathers at Nicaea? The “scholars” he appeals to are likewise conveniently the ones that say things he likes—namely liberal Protestants and Catholics who have abandoned the Creeds AND the Scriptures. And he misrepresents the early church fathers. They clearly taught that Jesus was the “embodied” God the Son. Tell me, Mormon apologist, which early Church Father ever taught an embodied Father?

    All that talk about the interpolation in 1 John is misdirection. You certainly don’t need that verse to find the concepts that make up the Trinity in the NT. But wait, isn’t that verse in the KJV that Brigham Young said was inspired? Didn’t he say that if the Bible needed to be retranslated he would have done it? And he didn’t? Of course Joseph Smith DID come up with a markedly different “translation” of the Bible, but, hey why should Brigham have given that any support when the copyright was held, not by the LDS, but the Re-organized Mormons in Missouri and Nauvoo!

    It is almost humorous to read the poster argue so stoutly for the embodiment of the Father and the Son. Notice the discussion strangely stopped there. He avoided mentioning the Holy Spirit! That’s because the Mormon view of the Holy Spirit is that he is a personage of spirit, not embodied! So all that trash talk about the Nicene views about the Father (no one denied hat the Son was embodied through the Incarnation) could also be laid to the feet of the LDS in regard to the Spirit.

    Notice also that the poster mentions that the NT clearly teaches that the Father and Son are distinct, then, by silence implies that that means that they were both embodied. No Nicene denied that they were distinct. But they agreed with the Scripture when it says that “No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18). Of course, Joseph Smith’s vision (at least in some of his “accounts”) claimed that he had seen the embodied God the Father. Amazingly, though none of the holy prophets in either Testament made such a claim, we are asked to believe that this young Joe Smith did. Well…he said he was young when it happened, but he never claimed it when he was young.

    The poster claims that the key Trinitarian term, “homousious” (sic.) isn’t in the Scripture. True, nor is “homoousios” found there. But the term simply means “same” essence.” But John 1 clearly does teach that view. There we read: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” What this verse teaches is that the Logos was distinct in person from “the God” (ho theos), but He was one in nature with Him. In John, “the God” always refers to the Father. What you cannot find in the Scripture, certainly not on the Mount of Transfiguration, is an embodied Father speaking to the disciples. It was only a voice, not a “personage of flesh and bones” as the LDS teach.
    The Deity of Jesus Christ:

    More misdirection occurs when the poster speaks of the deity of Jesus Christ. The deity of Christ to which the LDS hold firmly is not true deity at all, but only exalted humanity. As the Prophet L. Snow clearly taught: As we are, God once was; as God is we can be. That kind of deity is attained. It is not transcendent. It means nothing more than that a human being has passed through a process which resulted in his being considered divine…a god who can now procreated other human spirits, place them in bodies, and observe them go through the process by which they can become gods in their own right and start the circuit all over again. In true Christianity, the Father had no Father. The Son always existed. There was no heavenly mother…and so on, as Mormon’s believe. John 1 teaches otherwise.

  11. It is interesting that when anti-Mormon apologists speak about how grossly different they are from the Bible, we are said to “denigrate” Mormons. That’s hypocritical, insofar as that is exactly what the LDS does with regard to “Creedal” Christians. The alleged seminal revelation to Smith was that all existing denominations were wrong. All that “brotherly” talk by “Mormons are Christians” is nothing more than a front to get real Christians to let down their guard. Remember that most converts to cults come from naïve Christians who believe they are being befriended by “caring Christians.”

    Mormons aren’t Christian. Consider the Mormon apologist’s comments on doctrine.
    Mormons Are New Testament Christians, not Creedal Christians:

    Mormons are neither creedal nor New Testament Christians. The poster here plays the tired old game of trying to get people to assume that the Creeds aren’t in harmony with the text of Scripture. They know that many Protestants have an aversion to “Papal” authoritarianism and will associate the Councils of the Church with that. I wonder how the same Christians would respond the hierarchical structure and function of the LDS?

    I can tell you that the fathers who went to those great councils were human like everyone, but they took their tasks seriously. Not all the councils of the Churches were in accord with the Scriptures, but most of the early ones were. It just happens that the 4th century Christ is also the NT Christ. Evangelical scholars have analyzed the great ecumenical councils and accept most of them based on a comparison with the Scriptures. If you are going to accept an argument from authority, at least accept the authority of your own pastor and the seminaries he attended until you are convinced otherwise by the evidence. Space alone keeps me from further analyzing this for you, since I taught the history of Christian Doctrine for over a decade.

    And by the way, don’t be impressed about the implied argument that the Creeds were “Johnny come lately” (4th Century). That sounds rather shallow when spoke by someone whose religious claims of being “authentic New Testament Christianity” began in the early 19th century.

    The statement about Baptism is very confusing. Are we to be impressed with the Israel Museum’s view of early Christianity? First, New Testament baptism was not a private ritual. John’s disciples and the Pharisees observed Jesus and His disciples baptizing (John 3). Why do the Mormons make it a secret practice?

    Creedal Christians baptize variously. It is true that the NT does not mention the baptism of infants. Neither does NT specifically exclude such. The parallel OT sign of regeneration—circumcision—was given to infants after Abraham. Water baptism pictures the Spirit’s cleansing of the conscience (1 Peter 3:21). Whether the symbol is given to confessing Christians or to their children, the main point to remember is that it counts for nothing if the baptized person does not confess Jesus as his Savior and Lord.

    Even if it could be proven that baptism in the NT was by immersion, Immersion is not specifically mandated. Sometimes it is thought to be mandated by the very word used. Clearly in classical Greek it involved immersion. However the NT wass not written in Attic Greek but Koine (common), and the denotative meaning of the key term, “bapto,” in Hebrews 9:10 clearly is not limited to cleansings by immersion. Baptize as you wish.
    What the New Testament does require is baptism in the name of Jesus (and the Father, Son and Holy Spirit—Matt. 28). The name of Jesus stands for the person who walked the earth and taught in Israel. Unfortunately the Mormons baptize in the name of someone with the name Jesus, who was a figment of Joseph Smith’s imagination.

  12. Grace Versus Works:

    The operative word here is “conditioned.” Actually, behind the LDS position here is Joseph Smith’s antagonism to Calvinism. I’m not a Calvinist either, but that’s really not the issue. Paul clearly taught that salvation is “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5). True, Paul also teaches that it is the purpose of salvation for believers to do good works. James teaches that our knowledge of the salvation of professing Christians is shown by their works. That is even true in regard to our knowledge of our own salvation, which we must work out in fear and trembling.

    Jesus’ teaching may at times appear at variance with this. Jesus calls upon the rich young man to go sell his goods and give to the poor and he will have eternal life. But that’s because riches were what that man trusted in. Before he could have ever sold them and the money away, he would have had to trust in God to provide the security that he placed in those riches. As Paul points out, faith, such as Abrahams, logically precedes works. It is sometimes said, that man is not saved by doing good works. Neither is he is kept saved by doing good works. But the saved man does good works. And all that is a horse of a different wheel base from saying that our salvation is mediated by works.

    The Cross and Christ’s Atonement:

    The historical point at which the cross became a popular symbol is hardly important. More misdirection. Jesus’ focus was upon His atoning work on the Cross. Jesus speaks of following Him in terms of “taking up your cross and following me.” I can understand why the Cross isn’t as important all that important to Mormons, because the atonement which they think He bought there is not the same as that taught in the New Testament. To the LDS, the Atonement of the Cross was simply the physical salvation of mankind. As Mormon theologian B. McConkie says, general salvation—that attained through Christ by faith alone—is only a guarantee of a bodily resurrection. Spiritual salvation (eternal life) comes by practicing the “gospel law.” That is the standard for righteousness required of them by the LDS leadership. And that includes not only the standard of righteousness found in the Scripture, but also that found…as Brigham would have said…in every sermon [Mormon prophets] ever preached. All of which he considered Scripture.

    There is utterly no basis in the Bible for the view of the LDS theologian B. McConkie and our poster that the atonement of Jesus began in the Garden. If you are going to be expansive like that, then why not go all the way back to the decision in eternity of the Son to die on the Cross? And forget making an appeal to the drops like blood that Christ shed in the Garden. They were not blood, only “like” (“Hosei”) blood. Additionally there is considerable question about the genuineness of that verse. Check out the footnotes on it in your Bible.
    The short of it is that the LDS teach that a person only achieves eternal life by going beyond Christ’s death (and what it accomplished) through good works.

    Meaning of “Christian”:
    Again, more smoke and mirrors. Why didn’t our poster mention all the very harsh words that their prophets have said about those who are not LDS? To them we may not be “non-Christians,” but we are “gentiles” who substitute our own doctrines for those of God. At best we will only attain servant positions under the LDS in the Resurrection. The members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) embrace doctrines antithetical to these of the Scripture and the early church. Thus they are no more deserving of the name Christian than are “Christian Scientists,” or any other religion that has spun off Christianity over the centuries. Though their theology can be worded so that it sounds something like Christianity, it is a completely different religion.

  13. I will close with a story.

    Back when I was teaching Bible and theology at the Moody Bible Institute, there came a day when I felt chagrinned that I had no contact with non-Christians. Each day I left my Christian family and went in my Christian car pool to my Christian school, and taught my Christian students until it was time to go back with my Christian car pool to my Christian family. On weekends it was no better. I taught at my Christian Church. So I prayed to my heavenly father that I needed to have some contact with non-Christians. Guess what happened the next day? As I was sweeping my Christian sidewalk these two young men rode up my driveway on their bicycles and said they wanted to talk. I said to God, “That’s not what I was asking for.” ……..I know…..I taught logic and know all about post hoc reasoning…but it was an interesting coincidence.

    Being unprepared I asked them to come back in a week. They said, “Four?” I said, “Fine.” In the intervening time I got my hands on the works of Gerald and Sandra Tanner, LC Scott, W. Martin and others. By the time they returned I had learned a considerable amount about Mormon history and doctrine. Considerably more than they had.

    The first meeting did not go well. The older of the two, who said he was nearing the end of his 2 year mission, was in charge. He began by asking me if it wouldn’t be good to have a living prophet in the world today. I responded, “No.” Rather taken back he said, “Why not?” I could have said that prophets are generally a rather rough bunch…the kind that, when invited to tea, bring locusts and honey. But instead I told him that since I believed that God had already revealed all there was we needed to know, another prophet didn’t seem necessary. From there we went into John’s upper room discourse where Jesus promises His disciples that they will know all the truth and pass it on. I said that that was accomplished and it was called the New Testament. After a while the older elder got frustrated and banished me to perdition…though using traditional Christian terminology for that place.
    The younger elder was put out with him for doing so. This was not in the missionary handbook. Remanding people to perdition was not the task or right of a priest on his level. And after all, wasn’t it reserved for Judas and the Tanners? Apparently the younger one saw me as “recoverable.”

  14. He returned the next week with an even newer elder in tow. I invited them upstairs to my study where my desk was piled high with the work of the Tanners. I looked out the window and didn’t even turn around to look at their wide eyes. Instead I said, “You know, I’m very convinced of the truth of my much so that I am not concerned about considering any book written against it.” I paused…and turning around to face them I said, “And I’m sure that you feel the same way about your LDS beliefs.” If a ghost could be “embodied,” they were the very picture of it. “Sure” came from them in as many syllables as would impress a country singer.

    After an hour the young men acknowledged that they had no answers for the questions I was asking, but said that they would speak to their Bishop and get back to me. I told them, “Great.” But as they rose to leave I added, “Oh, by the way. I’ve heard that if you ask questions like these that they will not allow you to come back to my house.”

    They were as good as their word. During the next week the younger one called and asked if he could come back in a week and a half with the Bishop. Apparently the older of the two had been given responsibilities elsewhere. I did ask if I could bring a friend, and they graciously allowed it. So I asked Dr. Rennie Showers, who did his Masters thesis at Dallas Seminary on Mormon theology.

    I happened to be reading a chapter by the Tanners called “The Arm of Flesh.” It was a lengthy study of how the LDS are willing to undercut their own previous prophets when it is convenient. You know….Brigham Young insists that polygamy is absolutely necessary to advancement to the Godhead, but In the face of the US Army, according to a later prophet, W. Woodruff, God changed his. Anyway, I prayed that God would break the “Arm of flesh,” when they came.

    The day arrived and I opened the door to shake the hand of the Bishop. He offered me his left. His right was in a cast He said he was playing football with is son and (just the day I prayed) he fell on it and it broke. Again, I said, “Lord, that’s not what I was asking for.” Still more “post hoc”?

    We divided up. I took the young elder and Rennie took the Bishop. Now there is no kinder, gentler Christian man then Dr. Showers. But after a short while, the Bishop cut off the conversations and, with his young elder in tow, took their leave. Every after, even at different locations in my town, I would watch the elders going from the neighbor on one side to the one on the other side. Kept skipping me.

    If the LDS are right, I’m expecting a cell next to the Tanners in perdition. But “I know Whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep which I’ve committed to Him against that day.”

    I wish no one a cell in perdition. But, as Chesterton is alleged to have said, “Hell is God’s final tribute to man’s free will”…in this case choosing a false prophet named Joseph Smith, Jr.

  15. It is necessary to make very clear that all of the above comments refuting "Mormons are Christian" are not from Coleman Luck III but were written by one of the finest apologetic minds in the world today, my uncle William F. Luck. My father's brother. I posted them for him. They are not my writing, although I utterly and completely agree with them, they were written by my Uncle Bill.

  16. Coleman, Old Son, that 'equalizing avatar' bit was as clumsily ineffective an optimistic ode as we've ever (forgive the phrase) channeled, so please place it on permanent ignore.

    And to specifically clarify somewhat, it's not the general 'railing against Muslims' (or even Mormons) that ignited our original comment - merely the unfortunate tendency for any and every religious (or even allegedly spiritual) group to automatically assume theirs is the always the ultimate declaration of whatever manifestation their deity has deigned to appear in/or as.

    Your assessment one of contemporary American Christianity's greatest sins is it's no longer concerned with the truth is something that could be grafted onto well-nigh many of those gatherings we've alluded to above.

    Still, there's always Hope - and when someone has an honest desire to communicate and expand their exposure so as to encompass others outside their comfortable enclave - your prayer to connect with non-Christians is an excellent example - it proves there are those whose foundation of faith isn't alleged but actual because they're secure enough in it not to feel threatened or intimidated by others outside it.

    As to that, move over 'cause now we've got a tale to share 'round this cyber-campfire:

    There once was a BBC series called "The Long Search" (available on DVD, tho not quite as intact as when it was originally broadcast over PBS in the late 70s).

    In it, English theatre director Ronald Eyre went on a world-wide, two-year odyssey visiting and talking with noted individuals on behalf of their particular faith (be it the Protestant Spirit in America, Orthordox Christianity in Rumania, Judiasm in Israel, Taosism and Buddhism, religion in Indonesia, Islam, African religions, Hinduism, Catholicism and even the notorious counter-culture specifically focused on Northern California.

    Now, Mr. Eyre was remarkably upfront from the opening episode re his own religious/spiritual orientation - he didn't have any. While not exactly the 'born-again athiest' Gore Vidal describes himself as, Mr. Eyre nonetheless approached each encounter with a beguiling curiosity about and openness toward whatever that fellow human was advocating.

    By the time the 12th and final "Loose Ends" tying up segment came around - with Mr. Eyre cosily chatting in his inviting English apartment - he was equally candid in saying he was gonna dash those expectations and disappoint anyone who thought the entire enterprise was going to be neatly tied up so everyone could go away feeling validated.

    Did he have any 'answers' as to which was best?

    Or was he following the advice he received from Jacob Needleman (during our favorite segment in San Francisco) and learning to "deepen the questions"?

    Let's put it this way: you're a walking affirmative advertisement for the virtue of Mr. Needleman's philosophy.

  17. Given the societal (and religious) symptoms you've articulated given the rampant resistance to, and fearful avoidance of, various truths that would set us free, this beggars the brilliantly-belated query:

    What's your view of 'Political Correctness' and its accompanying tar-full of too-too convenient feathers?

  18. I define political correctness as trying to be inoffensive by conforming to ideas of inoffensiveness that are fashionable in order to be accepted by some elite group. It is narcissism masquerading as concern for others. Of course, most of the time we use the term mockingly to describe a whole set of pompous hypocritical values. Political correctness has become a "straw man" that is easy to attack without really attacking anyone. Such attacks have become fashionable and, in a weird way, are now themselves politically correct. Which shows how utterly ridiculous modern discourse has become.

    As a Christian I am called to care for others and place them ahead of myself. Obviously, a very high standard. At the least this means that I should do my best not to needlessly offend or hurt someone. Beyond that, I should work for their betterment. There are times when working for someone's betterment means telling them something that they will dislike very much. Nevertheless, if I care for them the obligation remains. For instance, the idea that there is a hell and that people are going there unless they repent of their sins and receive God's forgiveness in Jesus Christ is both highly offensive and the ultimate in political incorrectness. Yet, that doesn't mean it isn't true. Though you say it with tears in your eyes, there are many who are going to hate you for it. That's why just being a devout Christian will soon become the ultimate offense.

  19. Though I'm coming late to this discussion, it's been fascinating. But the one thing that struck me about the statistics which Mormons Are Christians posted is that all the points are about the mere forms and practices of a religious affiliation and not the content.

    Additionally, regarding the Scriptures in affirming the unity of Father and Son -- Jesus himself said so. In John 10:30. Since he says this and is immediately threatened with stoning for blasphemy, and yet he reiterates it, I would say that Jesus is being downright stubborn about the point. I have always liked Dorothy L. Sayers' supposition that when he reaffirmed "I am one with the Father" that he did so using Hebrew to articulate the "I am" part, further horrifying his listeners with his insistance on the unity (since that is, after all, the Name of God, which the Jews, in honoring it, never spoke in the Hebrew language).

    Thus, the matter of the unity of Father and Son being a late "invention" of the early Church? Not so much.

  20. I hope that “Defending Mormons” is still here. I don’t agree with your doctrinal framework, but the comprehensiveness and vigor of your defense is intriguing. I’d like to know more about your background, and your motivations and processes in developing this defense.
    I find it odd and courageous (maybe “oddly courageous?” …. eeeehmmm …. No) that you are willing to make a reasoned stance in front in this forum – “wheew it’s a tough crowd out there tonight!” From what I’ve read throughout this blog I would say that this is a pretty high powered group of apologists. Many are articulate, insightful, and have a strong doctrinal framework that allows them to quickly categorize your arguments and submit honed and pointed refutations. I mean, yes, there are also those that I think are a little too fond of using the double adjectivial listing form of description (I just made that up) as well as over leveraging bi-polar contrastizaion using silver dollar nomenclature (made that up too!), and all within a labored grammatical structure of that reminds me of Tolkien channeling O. Henry. Never the less this is a formidable group, you gotta admit. So…. Why?
    On the whole you presented your arguments in a coherent and organized fashion. For the most part you stayed away from vacuous pontification (aaaahhhhh… Warning… Redundancy alert!!! ) On the whole you presented your facts, and with a few exceptions you generally stayed away from speculation. To be fair you did indulge a bit here and there. Also, its commendable that you didn’t play the Christian version of the “Race Card,” that is the, “Judge Not” trump card. But there were also, in my opinion, incongruous sections – like the stats. (buckle in – Impending overly intellectual description dead ahead) It seemed that you were trying to present a paraphrased static analogue of the fruits of the spirit which are by nature relationship based and dynamic (warned ya). Both sides of this debate are at fault for this error. Its like performing a exegetic examination of rules of golf in order to definitively prove that the systematic and sequential nature of the game is “fun.”
    I’ve found that it is often difficult to truly understand a given position without proper exegesis (understanding the author’s intent). For example: Matthew’s use of Isaiah 53:4 indicates that he is “referring to Physical healing as part of Jesus’s Earthly ministry not as part of the atonement. Peter, conversely, saw the ”healing” as being a metaphor and referring to the healing of our sin sickness” (Dr. Gordon Fee, The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospels). So, understanding the author’s circumstances is essential if we are to be effective. “You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there." – Yogi Berra.

    So, I’m back to … why? Why here? Why now? Obviously, there is more here than meets the eye (LOL … oh man, I’m on a roll). But I for one am intrigued by you. I would like to hear more about you, your story, and how / why you put together this defense. I suspect that we’ll all learn much from your story (including you) that may allow us both to be more effective in our conversation.

  21. (continued) Now this is Coleman’s blog, so ya’ll hush now! I don’t know what he considers appropriate? But if he would allow it, or even put this conversation somewhere else on the site, I’d like to hear how Defending Mormons came to their / his / her faith? The stilted nature of emails and blogs makes it difficult to really interact, and drill down in key areas when we hear them. So, maybe we could take it a step at a time? Start with how you came to know God. Tell it as a story man. This is not the place for “just the facts, maam.” I want to hear your heart. Don’t be afraid of being poetic to help you describe what was going on inside your head and heart at key times. The Psalmists help us understand emotion and experience with abstraction and poetry. I’m good with that and encourage it as a descriptive tool. But be honest in the telling. I don’t know Coleman (although, I’m pretty sure we’ve met once), but from what I can see here, he seems to be honest in his views and positions. He screens the posts (as he should), and I doubt that he’ll allow anyone to flame you personally for your story. I think you’re safe, but remain anonymous. Remember we’re just a bunch of blog lurkers and it can’t really hurt to tell your story (that’s “giving your testimony” in fundamentalist speak – I’m fluent as I are one).

    So, again… a little background profile for context, and then your salvation story from your heart. Afterward we’ll go from there. Looking forward to hearing about you.