We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Eastern Orthodoxy - Is It Really Orthodox?

Both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches consider themselves to be the one true Christian church, both claiming direct apostolic succession, to the earliest church established by Paul. Unlike Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy “is composed of several self-governing ecclesial bodies, each geographically and nationally distinct but theologically unified. Each self-governing (or autocephalous) body, often but not always encompassing a nation, is shepherded by a synod of bishops whose duty, among other things, is to preserve and teach the Apostolic and patristic traditions and related church practices.” (Wikipedia, Orthodox Church). “It is not a monarchy with one all-powerful ruler at the top, but ‘an oligarchy of patriarchs,’ based on the body of bishops and responsible to local or general (ecumenical) church councils. No one patriarch is responsible to any other patriarch; yet all are within the jurisdiction of an ecumenical council of all the churches in communion with the patriarch of Constantinople, who holds the title Ecumenical Patriarch.” (Frank S. Mead, Handbook of Denominations, p.183).

To better understand the nature of Eastern Orthodoxy compared to Roman Catholicism in the way they operate as organizations, Patrick Reardon gives a good explanation:

“A single illustration may serve the purpose. When monks from Rome established their mission in England, centered at Canterbury, near the end of the sixth century, they continued to remain under the immediate jurisdiction of the Roman Pope and their language in worship continued to be Latin. The same pattern attended the missionary work in Gaul, Germany, Scandinavia and elsewhere in the West. Latin was the language of worship in all these churches (until Vatican II in the early 1960’s), and Rome endeavored with varying success to gain and retain appointment of local bishops. By and large the latter is still the case today. Such centralization and uniformity did not characterize the historical development of Eastern Orthodoxy, as we may see in the matter of language. Notwithstanding the dominance of the Greek tongue throughout the Byzantine Empire, there had always been Eastern Christians who worshiped in Syrian, Ethiopian, Coptic and eventually Arabic; so as Orthodox e.g.) missionaries moved northward it was understood from the beginning that the native tongues of the new regions would be the languages used for worship and life of the new congregations. In fact, since these native languages had never previously been written down, the missionaries themselves were obliged to elaborate a new alphabet for them and commenced their literature from scratch. One should keep in mind that between the Slavic mission of 863 and the Alaskan mission of 1793 the Orthodox Church put the Gospel into nearly 3 dozen languages that had never been written down before.” (The History of Orthodox Christianity, pp. 23-24)

This idea of keeping the individual cultures where the Gospel was preached by Eastern Orthodoxy leads to branches known as “Russian Orthodox,” “Greek Orthodox,” etc. There have even been schisms over the centuries based on some doctrinal issues so that there are also sects called Oriental Orthodox (Coptic and Syrian Orthodox, e.g.).

In my articles about Roman Catholicism, I discussed their teaching authority, baptism, sin, purgatory, indulgences, the Eucharist, Marian dogmas, iconography and the saints. For this article about Eastern Orthodoxy, I will address the same issues.

Teaching Authority:
The Eastern Orthodox Church does not have a papacy, and therefore has no papal infallibility. However, they do teach that scripture alone is not sufficient, rather they add to Scripture “Holy Tradition.” Their authority is “the scriptures as interpreted by the seven ecumenical councils of the church. Orthodoxy also relies heavily on the writings of early Greek fathers such as Gregory of Nyssa, John Chrysostom and St. Basil the Great.” (http://www.religionfacts.com/christianity/denominations/orthodoxy.htm)

The seven ecumenical councils are also recognized by Roman Catholics and Protestants, and are as follows: The Council of Nicea, 325,. the Council of Constantinople, 381, the Council of Ephesus, 431, the Council of Chalcedon, 451, the Council of Constantinople II, 553, the Council of Constantinople III, 680, and the Council of Nicea II, 787.

Baptism:
The Orthodox Church teaches that baptism is the initiator of the salvation experience, and they practice baptism by full immersion, never sprinkling; pouring is permitted in extreme circumstances. As with Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy believes baptism is necessary for salvation, that baptism washes away “ancestral sin,” and for this reason baptizes infants.

“Baptism is immediately followed by chrismation and Holy Communion at the next Divine Liturgy, regardless of age. Although baptism is a separate mystery (sacrament) from chrismation, normally when it is said that someone "has been baptized" this is understood to include not only baptism but chrismation as well. In some practices, first communion is also administered at once. The Orthodox Church makes no judgment concerning the efficacy or validity of baptisms performed by other denominations, as regards people who are members of those respective denominations. The precise status and significance of such baptisms has not been revealed by God to the Orthodox Church; however, as a practical matter, they are treated as non-efficacious unless and until the person joins the Orthodox Church. Persons coming to Orthodoxy from other denominations, and who had been baptized with water in the name of the Trinity, are generally not received by holy baptism, but instead through holy chrismation, after which their former baptism is deemed to be efficacious.” (http://orthodoxwiki.org/) (Chrismation is the anointing of oil for the baptism of the Holy Spirit.)

As discussed with Roman Catholicism, according to the Bible only faith is necessary for salvation. Also, the Bible does not say one has to be a member of a particular denomination for baptism to be valid. And, since baptism is a public symbol of a proclamation of faith in Christ, baptizing infants is pointless.

Sin and salvation:
Unlike Catholicism’s teaching of sin being either venial or mortal, the Orthodox Church has a more biblical view. Here is an interesting explanation: “The result of sin, then, was a blurring of the image of God and a barrier between God and man. The situation in which mankind has been ever since is an unnatural, less human state, which ends in the most unnatural aspect: death. Salvation, then, is a process not of justification or legal pardon, but of reestablishing man's communion with God. This process of repairing the unity of human and divine is sometimes called "deification." This term does not mean that humans become gods but that humans join fully with God's divine life.”  (http://www.religionfacts.com/christianity/denominations/orthodoxy.htm)

Purgatory:
The Eastern Orthodox Church does not have a doctrine on purgatory as a place. They do believe in the possibility that the dead can have a change of their situation based on prayers by those living. This, of course, contradicts Hebrews 9:27.

Indulgences:
The Eastern Orthodox Church has never practiced the use of indulgences the way Roman Catholicism has throughout history.

“The Eastern Orthodox Churches believe one can be absolved from sins by the Sacred Mystery of Confession, which in the East is preceded by a period of fasting. Because of differences in the theology of salvation, indulgences for the remission of temporal punishment of sin do not exist in Eastern Orthodoxy, but until the twentieth century there existed in some places a practice of absolution certificates (συγχωροχάρτια – synchorochartia). While some of these certificates were connected with any patriarch's decrees lifting for the living or the dead some serious ecclesiastical penalty, including excommunication, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, with the approval of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, had the sole privilege, because of the expense of maintaining the Holy Places and paying the many taxes levied on them, of distributing such documents in large numbers to pilgrims or sending them elsewhere, sometimes with a blank space for the name of the beneficiary, living or dead, an individual or a whole family, for whom the prayers would be read. Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Dositheos Notaras (1641–1707) wrote: "It is an established custom and ancient tradition, known to all, that the Most Holy Patriarchs give the absolution certificate (συγχωροχάρτιον – synchorochartion) to the faithful people … they have granted them from the beginning and still do." A Russian Orthodox source says that these certificates were in use among Greek Orthodox until the middle of the twentieth century, and were ‘certificates which absolved from sins, which anyone could obtain, often for a specified sum of money. The absolution granted by these papers, according to Christos Yannaras, had no connection with any participation of the faithful in the Mystery of Penance, nor in the Mystery of the Eucharist’. The same source interprets the Western indulgence also as absolution from sin, not as remission of temporal punishment.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indulgence)

While this is much different than the Roman Catholic view, indulgences are still unbiblical.

Eucharist:
Eastern Orthodoxy’s Eucharist is virtually identical to the Roman Catholic Church. They believe, as do Romanists, that the bread and wine literally turn into the body and blood of Christ. Unlike Romanists, Orthodox communicants usually receive both elements.

As with the Roman Church, Orthodoxy claims the Eucharist is a sacrifice of Christ. They teach that, although Christ was sacrificed once, the elements turn into his sacrificed body/blood to be offered to God as a propitiatory sacrifice, and although all the events of sacrifice are not repeated (incarnation, last supper, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension), they are indeed present in the Eucharist. All comments made previously in relation to the Roman Catholic mass are also applicable to Eastern Orthodoxy; the teaching is patently unbiblical and idolatrous.

Mary:
Like Romanism, Orthodoxy adheres to the Third Ecumenical Council in 431, giving the title “Mother of God” to Mary, and, like Rome, uses the title to exalt her. They also believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary in the same manner as Romanists, including the teaching that even her hymen remained intact while giving birth to Jesus.

Again like Romanists, Orthodox Christians revere Mary to the point of idolatry, saying she is to be highly honored. While they reject the doctrine of “Immaculate Conception,” some say she was free from actual sin, some say she never sinned and some say she died sinless. So even without a specific doctrine, it appears that most Orthodox Christians believe Mary was sinless in some fashion.

Eastern Orthodoxy denies the Roman Catholic dogma of the Assumption. However, they have a very similar teaching called the “Dormition” (Mary’s “falling asleep”).

“Eastern Orthodox Christians believe that Mary died a natural death, that her soul was received by Christ upon death, and that her body was resurrected on the third day after her death and that she was taken up into heaven bodily in anticipation of the general resurrection. Her tomb was found empty on the third day. "...Orthodox tradition is clear and unwavering in regard to the central point [of the Dormition]: the Holy Virgin underwent, as did her Son, a physical death, but her body – like His – was afterwards raised from the dead and she was taken up into heaven, in her body as well as in her soul. She has passed beyond death and judgement, and lives wholly in the Age to Come. The Resurrection of the Body ... has in her case been anticipated and is already an accomplished fact. That does not mean, however, that she is dissociated from the rest of humanity and placed in a wholly different category: for we all hope to share one day in that same glory of the Resurrection of the Body which she enjoys even now.”
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assumption_of_Mary)

Review my comments correcting Rome’s teachings about Mary and they can be applied also to Eastern Orthodoxy’s teachings.

Iconography and the Saints:
Even moreso than Rome, Eastern Orthodoxy is heavily into iconography. This is based on the outcome of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, which supported veneration of icons.

“An Orthodox believer does not consider these images of Jesus and the saints the works of men but as manifestations of the heavenly ideal. They are a kind of window between the earthly and the celestial worlds. Through the icons the heavenly beings manifest themselves to the worshiping congregation and unite with it. Thus, it is impossible to understand Orthodox worship apart from icons. In Orthodoxy the idea of image is the key to understanding the ways God with man. Man is created ‘in the image of God’: he carries the icon of God within himself.” (Bruce Shelly, Church History in Plain Language, p. 142) “An Orthodox cherishes and kisses an image of Jesus or Mary or St. Nicholas for much the same reason that he cherishes and kisses a photograph of his mother, his grandfather or Aunt Dot.” (Reardon, The History of Orthodox Christianity, p. 17)

The problem with iconography was discussed in my article on Roman Catholicism; it is idolatry. It is venerating images of what the imagination says Christ and others would look like. While using the imagination to form a likeness of a person may be condoned, a likeness of Christ, who is God incarnate, must not be imagined. Without knowing what he looked like, everyone could have their own ideas and imagine all sorts of images which could be anywhere from sober to blasphemous. The making of an image of God for worship is a violation of the commandment.

As with Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodoxy encourages prayers to the saints.

Summary:
As with the Roman Catholic Church, we have seen that Eastern Orthodoxy practices some of the same unbiblical teachings. They deny the sufficiency of Scripture, teach baptism as necessary for salvation and that baptism itself has salvific value, teach that the dead can be prayed for to improve their condition, and practice a form of indulgences. Additionally, they teach the continual sacrifice of Christ in their Eucharist, exalt Mary as a sinless, perpetual virgin to be venerated, and practice idolatrous iconography and unbiblical prayers to the saints. For these reasons, while not as unbiblical as Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy still must be considered a cultic sect of Christianity.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Cutting the Word Straight

Observing what we see in the biblical text, we then should correctly handle it (2 Tim. 2:15). The participle “correctly handling” (incorrectly translated in the King James Version “rightly dividing”) translates the Greek word orthotomounta. This combines two words that meant “straight” (ortho) and “cut” (tomeo). One writer explains the meaning of this as follows:

Because Paul was a tentmaker, he may have been using an expression that tied in with his trade. When Paul made tents, he used certain patterns. In those days tents were made from the skins of animals in a patchwork sort of design. Every piece would have to be cut and fit together properly. Paul was simply saying, “If one doesn’t cut the pieces right, the whole won’t fit together properly.” It’s the same thing with Scripture. If one doesn’t interpret correctly the different parts, the whole message won’t come through correctly In Bible study and interpretation the Christian should cut it straight. He should be precise…and accurate.

Roy B. Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation. (the writer he cites is John MacArthur)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Mormonism’s “Celestial Marriage” and Baptism for the Dead

Celestial Marriage: This is part of the whole polygamy doctrine. A man must be married in the temple in order to get to celestial glory and his own planet, and the couple must have children.

The issue of celestial marriage began with D&C section 132 where polygamy was first introduced as a doctrine. Ex-Mormon author Ed Decker has a good explanation: “The key to meriting the highest degree of glory within the celestial grouping is the ability to procreate. In each case, it will be one man and as many wives as possible to advance the massive numbers of offspring necessary to people that new man/god’s future world, over which he will be the god. Obviously, he will be very busy raising up his ‘increase.’ Remember that while each woman must be just as pure and worthy as each man, the power and authority and rights of godhood rest with the man, not the woman. One point that might help clarify the situation is that, even today, many single LDS women are sealed to LDS leaders to be their wives in the next stage of eternal progression. Many of them do this in order not to be a servant (unmarried) in the celestial kingdom. It must be a real hardship to have done everything else so perfectly to be awarded a place in the celestial glory, yet fail in that one major area of marriage and have to sit out eternity on the sidelines.” (Complete Handbook on Mormonism, p.129 )

Mormon Bruce R. McConkie goes into much more detail: “Marriages performed in the temples for time and eternity, by virtue of the sealing keys restored by Elijah, are called celestial marriages. The participating parties become husband and wife in this mortal life, and if after their marriage they keep all the terms and conditions of this order of the priesthood, they continue on as husband and wife in the celestial kingdom of God. If the family unit continues, then by virtue of that fact the members of the family have gained eternal life (exaltation), the greatest of all the gifts of God, for by definition exaltation consists in the continuation of the family unit in eternity. Those so inheriting are the sons and daughters of God, the members of his family, those who have made their callings and elections sure, They are joint-heirs with Christ to all that the Father hath, and they receive the fulness of the glory of the Father, becoming gods in their own right. (D. & C. 132; Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 2, pp. 58-99.) Baptism is the gate to the celestial kingdom; celestial marriage is the gate to an exaltation in the highest heaven within the celestial world. (D. & C. 131:1-4.) To gain salvation after baptism it is necessary to keep the commandments of God and endure to the end (2 Ne. 31:17-21); to gain exaltation after celestial marriage the same continued devotion and righteousness is required. Those who have been married in the temples for eternity know that the ceremony itself expressly conditions the receipt of all promised blessings upon the subsequent faithfulness of the husband and wife…. Celestial marriage is a holy and an eternal ordinance; as an order of the priesthood, it has the name the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. Adam was the first one on this earth to enter into this type of union, and it has been the Lord's order in all ages when the fulness of the gospel has been on earth. Its importance in the plan of salvation and exaltation cannot be overestimated. The most important things that any member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ever does in this world are: 1. To marry the right person, in the right place, by the right authority; and 2. To keep the covenant made in connection with this holy and perfect order of matrimony — thus assuring the obedient persons of an inheritance of exaltation in the celestial kingdom.” (Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966], 118.)

Christian response: Scripture makes it plain that God’s intention for marriage is one man and one woman Genesis 2:24), so polygamy on earth or in heaven would be contrary to God’s revealed will. However, Jesus told us that there would not be marriage in heaven (Matthew 22:30), which means there is no such thing as marriage for eternity.

Baptism for the dead. Based on misinterpretation of 1 Cor. 15:29. A week following the dedication of the Kirtland temple, Elijah (based on Malachi 4:5-6) supposedly appeared to Joseph and Oliver in the temple and gave them the keys of sealing power, so that all ordinances for the dead could be validly performed.

Fawn Brodie’s excellent study of Joseph Smith explains what this entails: “The temple mysteries were closely bound up with Joseph's new theories about the nature of heaven and hell. After death, he said, all souls went to the world of spirits...where they remained in a not unpleasant imprisonment until the Judgment Day. Only those who had joined the true church could clamber immediately up the road to godhood. Those who had missed the chance to hear the gospel on earth could be freed from the world of spirits by the good offices of any Mormon. To liberate a dead relative or friend one simply acted as proxy in the ordinances of baptism and ‘sealing.’ In this manner not only relatives but also all the heroic figures of the past could be released from spiritual bondage, and every Mormon was granted the opportunity of going through the oddly exciting temple ritual not once but hundreds of times.” (No Man Knows My History, p.282)

Christian Response: Hebrews 9:27 says quite plainly, “…it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” There is no second chance to hear the gospel and be baptized; once a person dies, he is immediately subject to judgment.

This is my last post highlighting some of the Doctrines of the Mormon church. The issues I have covered should demonstrate conclusively that the LDS faith is not Christian by any means of the word.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mormonism’s Priesthood Fraud

The LDS church claims that on 15 May 1829, John the Baptist conferred the Aaronic Priesthood on Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. Section 13 of D&C is cited as evidence, but this section was not in the original Book of Commandments.

They claim the Melchizedek Priesthood was organized by Peter, James and John, but no date is given. It is absent from the original Book Of Commandments. Joseph Smith said, concerning a conference in 1831, "...the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood was manifested and conferred for the first time upon several of the elders." This is in History of the Church, Vol. 1, pp. 175-176

Supposedly the Melchizedek priesthood was bestowed on Smith and Cowdery by the apostles Peter, James and John. Mormons say that you must hold the Aaronic priesthood before you can hold the Melchizedek priesthood, yet the three cited apostles were definitely never Levitical priests! And we know Melchizedek didn't hold the Levitical priesthood!

Christian response:

The O.T. clearly says that only direct descendants of the tribe of Levi can hold the priesthood (Ex. 28:1, Num. 18:1-7, Lev. 6:19-23, Nehemiah 7:61-65). Most Mormons, including Joseph Smith, claim to be from the house of Ephraim. Ephraim had no right to the priesthood, which would mean most LDS men would be cursed if they tried to usurp the priesthood (Num. 16:1-3, 21 and 1 Kings 13:33-34). Additionally, to be ordained as a Levitical priest, there were certain rituals required that LDS does not perform (Ex. 29:4-27). The need for a Levitical priest was done away with when the temple veil was rent at Jesus' crucifixion.

The Melchizedek priesthood was a priesthood of ONE. It existed before the law was given (Gen.14:18) and after the law ended (Heb.7:11-17). Jesus became that one high priest that presented the final sacrifice, negating the need for further temple priests. At any rate, no where in scripture do dead priests come back to confer the priesthood on another.

As I noted in my article on Melchizedek (http://tinyurl.com/melchizedek), The law of Moses and the priesthood went together. All the people without exception were sinners, subject to the law's condemnation, and were thus in need of a priestly system to mediate between them and God. The Aaronic priesthood was imperfect, but the Melchizedek priesthood was perfect (as implied in Hebrews 7). The announcement of the coming one who would be a priest forever (Ps.110:4) was written midway in the history of the Levitical priest-hood, which could only mean that the existing system was to give way to something better. Jesus came from the non-priestly tribe of Judah, but became a priest forever in the Melchizedek order. There is no indication in the scripture that any other person held this high priesthood.

The Mormon priesthood is a fraud.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mormonism’s Doctrine of Eternal Progression

This is the foundational teaching that affects virtually all other Mormon beliefs. "As man is, God once was; As God is, man may become." Much of the following is borrowed/adapted from Sandra Tanner‘s booklet, The Bible and Mormon Doctrine.

a. Pre-existence of man
(1) Intelligences: Mormons teach that matter has eternally existed, and they don’t really have an explanation as to how this came about. Intelligences were part of this pre-existing matter. Somewhere, somehow, the first man came into existence and, through his works, he became a god. Somewhere along the line he acquired a wife who was his goddess and they produced spirit children. Again, with no real explanation, the Mormon doctrine teaches that this progression has been eternal and in this line came the man who became exalted as a god over this planet.

(2) Spirit Children: All beings of which we know - humans and angels - were all born as spirits to Heavenly Father and his wife, Heavenly Mother. They all lived in the Spirit World, and this is known as the “First Estate.”

(3) War in Heaven: Prior to sending the spirit children to earth to earn their salvation, Heavenly Father wanted a way for them to have atonement for sin. Two of his spirit children, Jesus and Lucifer, had plans that they felt would be proper. Heavenly Father chose the plan by Jesus over that of Lucifer. Lucifer became angry and gathered a following of spirit children and fought a war against Jesus and his supporters. Lucifer and his followers lost the war and were cast out of Heaven with no chance to get a body on earth, so they became the evil forces on earth and will eventually be sent to the second death.

(4) Man reaps what he sowed in pre-existence: Those spirit children who followed Jesus now become born on earth depending on how well they performed for Jesus, and then they can progress through this “Second Estate.” Those spirits who remained neutral, who refused to choose sides between Jesus and Lucifer, were punished by being born on earth with dark skin. Skin color is the way in which we can tell how well people performed in the pre-existence.

b. Earth; Man's second estate:
(1) The Fall of Adam: According to Mormons, Adam was supposed to sin or else he never could have had children, who then would not have had a chance to progress to godhood.

(a) “Adam, our first parent (1 Ne. 5:11), a "son of God" (Moses 6:22), was first placed on earth as an immortal being. … Blood did not flow in Adam's veins, for he was not yet mortal, and blood is an element that pertains exclusively to mortality. … Radical changes were in the offing for man, the earth, and all forms of life when the fall came. In that first edenic day, Adam was still in the presence of God… He had not yet come to that state of mortal probation in which are found the testings and trials requisite to a possible inheritance of eternal life. As yet the full knowledge of good and evil had not been placed before him; and, what was tremendously important in the eternal scheme of things, he could have no children. [my emphasis] But all these conditions, in the providences of the Almighty, were soon to change. According to the foreordained plan, Adam was to fall…. Adam was to introduce mortality and all that attends it, so that the opportunity for eternal progression and perfection might be offered to all the spirit children of the Father. In conformity with the will of the Lord, Adam fell both spiritually and temporally.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966], 268.)

(b) “Adam fell, but he fell in the right direction. He fell toward the goal…. Adam fell, but he fell upward.” (Sterling W. Sill, Deseret News, Church Section, 7/31/65, p. 7, cited by Tanner)

(c) “This was a transgression of the law, but not a sin in the strict sense, for it was something that Adam and Eve had to do!” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.1, p.121, cited by Tanner)

(2) Christ's mission: “It was also necessary because of Adam’s transgression for the Only Begotten Son of the Father to come to redeem the world from Adam’s fall.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.1, p.121, cited by Tanner)

(3) Christ's birth: Christ’s conception was by the way of literal sexual intercourse between the Mormon god and Mary, who he took as his wife. LDS claims she is still a virgin to mortal man because it was the god-man who had relations with her. Christ was then born as any human is born. This is a doctrine which officially the LDS church denies, yet it has been taught by their apostles, prophets and other teachers.

(a) “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaims that Jesus Christ is the Son of God in the most literal sense. The body in which he performed His mission in the flesh was sired by that same Holy Being we worship as God, our Eternal Father. Jesus was not the son of Joseph, nor was He begotten by the Holy Ghost. He is the Son of the Eternal Father.” (Ezra Taft Benson, 13th President of the LDS, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 1988,pp.6-7)

(b) “Christ was begotten by an Immortal Father in the same way that mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers.” “Christ was born into the world as the literal Son of this Holy Being; he was born in the same personal, real, and literal sense that any mortal son is born to a mortal father. There is nothing figurative about his paternity; he was begotten, conceived and born in the normal and natural course of events.” (Bruce McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, pp. 546-7, p742. McConkie was an apostle, a member of the First Council of the Seventy, and a General Authority )

(c) “The birth of the Savior was a natural occurrence unattended with any degree of mysticism, and the Father God was the literal parent of Jesus in the flesh as well as in the spirit.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, 6th LDS President, Religious Truths Defined, p.44)

(4) The Atonement: The LDS teach that the atonement of Christ paid for the sin of Adam and paves the way for our individual atonement by our works. One citation will suffice here, although many more can be brought to bear.

(a) “The atonement of Jesus Christ is of a twofold nature. Because of it, all men are redeemed from mortal death and the grave, and will rise in the resurrection to immortality of the soul. Then again, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel, man will receive remission of individual sins, through the blood of Christ, and will inherit exaltation in the kingdom of God, which is eternal life.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 1, p.123)

(5) Mormon Temple Work: This is where a lot of the works are done for “points” towards exaltation. There are elaborate ceremonies to “endow” members as “Temple Mormons” - qualified to perform baptisms for the dead and to be married for eternity, both of which take place in the temples. In order for exaltation, a Mormon man must have a wife and must be married in the temple. For those who died without hearing the gospel, they can hear it after death while in spirit prison and be baptized by proxy by someone doing the temple works. Without baptism, one cannot enter the celestial kingdom. Temple ceremonies developed mostly from Masonic ceremonies. The ritual required special clothing with Masonic symbols on them. Smith taught that the Masonic ritual was a corruption of the ancient temple ritual and that the Mormons restored it.

c. Spirit Prison (Hell) or Paradise: Upon death all spirits will go to one of these places. Those who have been baptized as Mormons go to Paradise, while all others go to Spirit Prison to repent. The spirits in Paradise preach the gospel to those in Spirit Prison. Those who repent and are vicariously baptized, will then go to Paradise for the first resurrection and into the millennium , while those who remain evil and refuse to repent await the second resurrection to judgment. Joseph Smith stated, “The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us, is to seek after our dead.” (Times and Seasons, Vol.5, p.616).

d. First Resurrection/Millennium: “Two great resurrections await the inhabitants of the earth: one is the first resurrection, the resurrection of life, the resurrection of the just; the other is the second resurrection, the resurrection of the damnation, the resurrection of the unjust…. Those being resurrected with celestial bodies, whose destiny is to inherit a celestial kingdom, will come forth in the morning of the first resurrection. Their graves shall be opened and they shall be caught up to meet the Lord at his Second Coming. They are Christ’s first fruits, and they shall descend with him to reign as kings and priests during the millennial era…. ‘then cometh the redemption of those who are Christ’s at his coming; who have received their part in that prison which is prepared for them, that they might receive the gospel, and be judged according to men in the flesh.’ (D.&C. 88:99). This is the afternoon of the first resurrection; it takes place after our Lord has ushered in the millennium. Those coming forth at that time do so with terrestrial bodies and are thus destined to inherit a terrestrial glory in eternity. (D.&C. 76:71-80.)” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966], p.640.) “The great work of the millennium will be the salvation of the dead, and those who are on the other side will help us, too, by bringing us information…. GENEALOGICAL RECORDS TO BE REVEALED IN MILLENNIUM. Those who will be living here then will be in daily communication with those who have passed through the resurrection, and they will come with this information, this knowledge that we do not have and will give it to those who are in mortality saying, ‘Now go into the temples and do this work; when you get this done, we will bring you other names.’ And in that way every soul who is entitled to a place in the celestial kingdom of God will be ferreted out, and not one soul shall be overlooked. The Lord has not overlooked these things. He has seen the end from the beginning. Every name is recorded.” (Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.2, pp. 166-167)

(1) A particularly odd doctrine is that in order for a Mormon woman to be resurrected she has to be called forth from the grave by her husband, using the new name given to her in their temple wedding. Otherwise, women remain in the grave.

(2) Plural marriage will be restored in the millennium. Polygamy was put on hold by President Wilford Woodruff in 1890, but the doctrine of plural marriage is still very much in force as outlined in Doctrine & Covenants Section 132. This doctrine states that a man must have more than one wife to become like a god in the Celestial Kingdom.

(3) Animal sacrifices will be restored at the beginning of the millennium.

e. Second Resurrection: During the millennium, those who did not go to paradise spent the entire 1000 years in Hell. At the end of the millennium they are resurrected to face judgment. “At the end of the millennium, the second resurrection begins…. These are the ones who have earned telestial bodies, who were wicked and carnal in mortality, and who have suffered the wrath of God in hell ‘until the last resurrection, until the Lord, even Christ the Lamb, shall have finished his work.’ (D.&C. 76:85) Their final destiny is to inherit a telestial glory. (D.& C. 88:102). Finally, in the latter end of the resurrection of damnation, the sons of perdition, those who ‘remain filthy still’ (D.& C. 88:102), shall come forth from their graves.” (Mormon Doctrine, p.640) “Truly he has declared that those who reject his truth shall be damned, but he has not said that when they have paid the penalty of their transgression they shall not come forth from the prison house. But on the other hand, he has said that after they have paid the penalty of their transgression, they shall come forth, and they shall receive their reward.” (Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 2, pp.131-132)

f. Judgment day: On this day, at the end of the millennium, everyone will be judged and it will be determined where they will spend eternity.

g. Eternity. The three levels of heaven idea was developed in 1831. It reflects a universalist view of salvation. “Contrary to the views found in the uninspired teachings and creeds of modern Christendom, there are in eternity kingdoms of glory to which all resurrected persons (except the sons of perdition) will eventually go. These are named: celestial, terrestrial, and telestial - the glory of each being beyond mortal comprehension. (D.&C. 76:1 Cor. 15:39-42; Rev. 21). However, only the celestial kingdom is the kingdom of God where the faithful saints will gain their eternal inheritance. All who fall short of the glory of eternal life will in greater or lesser degree be damned (even though they dwell in a kingdom of glory), for their eternal progress will be limited, and they can never go on to an eternal fullness in the Father’s presence (D.&C. 132:16-17).” ( Mormon Doctrine, p. 420) There is no progression from Kingdom to Kingdom.

(1) Celestial Heaven - the glory of the sun; where true members go. There are actually three levels in the Celestial Kingdom: “Rewards granted individuals in eternity will vary between and within kingdoms. Only those who are sealed in the new and everlasting covenant of marriage and who thereafter keep the terms and conditions of that covenant will attain the highest of three heavens within the celestial kingdom.” (Ibid) Part of this marriage covenant for the highest echelon is procreation. This is what is called “eternal life” in Mormon theology. These people reach “exaltation” and become gods, and will then go to different worlds to go through the whole process all over again. Those Mormons who were not married in the temple are in the two lower levels of the Celestial Kingdom where they still have immortality, but they will be servants and ministers of those who reached exaltation. They will remain unmarried.

(2) Terrestrial Heaven - the glory of the moon; for those who never knew the gospel according to Mormons, but were good people and accepted the gospel while in Spirit Prison. “And again, we saw the terrestrial world,… Behold, these are they who died without the law;… Who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it. These are they who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men…. These are they who receive of the presence of the Son, but not of the fullness of the Father.” (D&C 76:71-78) Those in this kingdom will also remain unmarried and unable to procreate. They will be servants and ministers to those in the Celestial Kingdom.

(3) Telestial Heaven - the glory of the stars; for those who refused the law of God. “Most of the adult people who have lived from the day of Adam to the present time will go to the telestial kingdom…. They will be the endless hosts of people of all ages who have lived after the manner of the world rather than accept the testimony of Jesus; who have been liars and thieves, sorcerers and adulterers, blasphemers and murders …. ‘And they shall be servants of the Most High; but where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end.’ (D.&C. 76:112)” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 778) “Though they attain a kingdom of glory, yet to all eternity they are damned, cannot go where God and Christ are…and are never completely free from the lingering remorse that always follows the loss of opportunity.” (Ibid., p. 235) “Those who live lives of wickedness may also be heirs of salvation, that is, they too shall be redeemed from death and from hell eventually. These, however, must suffer in hell the torments of the damned until they pay the price of their sinning, for the blood of Christ will not cleanse them.” (Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 2, p. 133-134).

(4) Second Death: We have already seen that Satan and his followers were cast out of heaven and didn’t get to go through the second estate, the resurrection and judgment. So for eternity they go to the second death. The other class of people who go to the second death are “Those in this life who gain a perfect knowledge of the divinity of the gospel cause, a knowledge that comes only by revelation from the Holy Ghost, and who then link themselves with Lucifer and come out in open rebellion, also become sons of perdition. Their destiny, following the resurrection, is to be cast out with the devil and his angels, to inherit the same kingdom in a state where ‘their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.’ (D.&C. 76:32-49; 29:27-30...)” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 746) So who are these people? They are ex-Mormons who have rebelled against the Mormon doctrine and left the church.

Christian response to eternal progression.
To begin with, there is only one God and there have never been, nor will there ever be, any more gods (Is. 43:10-11; Is. 44:6). Only God pre-existed before he created man, and God is not married nor did he have spiritual children. Adam and Eve rebelled against God when they chose to disobey Him. They were able to have children before their sin (Gen. 1:28), unlike the Mormon Adam and Eve. The Bible tells us we can do nothing to earn our salvation (Is. 64:6; Eph. 2:8-9), that we must put our faith in Christ to have our sins forgiven. Eternal life is just that and not a state of godhood and procreating. There is no second chance at salvation (Heb. 9:27). And while the Bible teaches that there will be a resurrection and a millennium, there is no marrying in heaven (Matt. 22:30). There is only one level of heaven and only those who have placed their faith in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus for their sins will be saved.

Be Careful About Who Divides the Word

The following is by G. Richard Fisher in his article, The Plight of Ancestral Bondage: Is It Real Deliverance or Just a Radical Delusion, in the July-September issue of Personal Freedom Outreach’s The Quarterly Journal. The article exposes the fraudulent nature of “generational sin” and “deliverance” ministries. While the subject is about the whole fake demon-chasing by the likes of Bob Larson, Neil Anderson, Mark Bubeck, Rebecca Brown, et al, the comments by Fisher are also valid concerning any teachings.

Repeating a falsehood over and over can make it sound like truth. Hitler’s dictum that a lie repeated often enough will begin to sound true applies here. Just who divides the Word and how he divides it really becomes the all-important issue.

The discerning Christian will care who divides the Word for them. He will employ caution and concern when it comes to reading and listening, and will look to those who generally follow good hermeneutics, as well as historical orthodoxy. He will want to put himself under teachers whom he can trust and who hold to the fundamentals of the faith. He will avoid those who ride hobby horses, get off onto tangents, and are sensational for sensationalism’s sake. He will certainly avoid those who boast that they can verbally slap Satan and demons around because Jude 8-11 strongly condemns such conduct. Jude says that such teachers are dreamers who speak evil and speak of what they do not know. He says they are corrupt and totally running under their sinful nature and are like Balaam and Cain.

Christians should avoid these so-called “deliverance ministers” because they are clearly unbiblical, boastful, and spawning uncertainty as well as an unhealthy focus. We are to set our focus on things above - looking unto Jesus (Hebrews 12:2), not looking unto demons. …

It all goes back to who divides the Word and if they do so properly. When someone offers to lead us across a bridge of interpretation, we must be sure we are on the right bridge. Our protection is listening to dependable, historically orthodox teachers who recognize context and the balance of comparing Scripture with Scripture. We should also be praying for God to give us discernment. The commentaries we consult should be safe and sound. They should not smuggle in pagan worldviews and inject things into the text that are not there. Syncretism ends up being the real curse.

It is our responsibility to know where we dine and what we are “eating” and who is doing the serving. Sometimes apologetic ministries are maligned for trying to act as some kind of “Board of Health” for the religious “kitchens” out there. Somebody has to do it. Cutting the Word properly is a biblical mandate and essential to our spiritual health (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mormonism’s Gospel and Salvation

The Gospel

As defined by Bruce McConkie in Mormon Doctrine, “The gospel of Jesus Christ is the plan of salvation. It embraces all of the laws, principles, doctrines, rites, ordinances, acts, powers, authorities, and keys necessary to save and exalt men in the highest heaven hereafter. It is the covenant of salvation which the Lord makes with men on earth.” Notice that their gospel includes many rites and works performed.

When we look to the Bible for the Christian definition of the gospel, what do we find? In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul defines the gospel in verses 3-4 as being, “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures…” And when we look to the Bible as to what rites or works are required we find that the only requirement for salvation is defined plainly in Romans 10:9: “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” As to works, we are also plainly told in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Even Isaiah 64:6 tells us that, “all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” before God.

Salvation

Eternal salvation for the Mormon depends on baptism and obedience to the ordinances and discipline of the church, and upon a life of good works. "The Gospel of Jesus Christ is called the plan of salvation. It is a system of rules by complying with which salvation may be gained." (E.F. Perry, The Scrapbook.) "It embraces all of the laws, principles, doctrines, rites, ordinances, acts, powers, authorities, and keys necessary to save and exalt men in the highest hereafter... It is found only in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints." (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 331-334.)

In the Christian church, salvation is based only on faith in Christ, that one believes He was crucified for our sins and died and was raised from the dead. (John 3:16; Rom. 5:12-6:23; Rom. 10:9; 1 Cor. 15:1-8, et al). The Bible is replete with passages telling us that faith alone saves, and that our works are only evidence of that faith.

As you can readily see from this synopsis, when speaking with a Mormon about the Gospel or salvation, you need to define your words. They use the same words, but they mean something totally different. Their gospel is what Paul warned us against in Galatians 1:6-9, and their mode of salvation has no similarity at all to what Scripture says.

Proof again that Mormons are not Christians.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Mormonism’s God and Jesus

God the Father. According to the LDS, God was once a man just like us, and his father was a man who became a god by doing good works to earn his salvation and exaltation to God. The LDS God, “Elohim” (called “Heavenly Father” in everyday parlance) has a body of flesh and bones and lives near a star called “Kolob.” Heavenly Father also has wives, but the LDS don’t have an established doctrine about this and it becomes quite difficult to pin them down on the subject. All humans are spiritual children of this god, as are Satan and all the demonic realm. (In the pre-existence before coming on earth, Jesus, Satan and the demons, and humans, were brothers and sisters having the same father.)

A teaching the LDS currently deny was Brigham Young’s theology that Adam was God who came to earth with one of his wives, Eve. Although Brigham Young claimed direct revelation from God as a prophet, this is one doctrine that makes it difficult to get acceptance so it has been discarded.

The Bible tells us God is Spirit and not man (Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29; Isa. 31:3; Hos. 11:9). We also know spirits do not have flesh and bone because Jesus specifically stated as much (Luke 24:36-39). And we know from Scripture that God is eternal, having no beginning or end (Ps. 90:2; Ps. 93:2; Isa. 40:28).

Personally, I prefer a God better than me, not one who fell into sin and then worked his way to godhood.

Jesus Christ. Mormons claim they are Christians because they believe in Jesus Christ as their savior. However when we examine the identity of their Jesus, we will see that he is not the Jesus identified in the Bible. One can call a dandelion a rose, but it remains a dandelion nevertheless. So let’s look at the differences:

The Mormon Jesus:
A literal son (spirit-child) of a god and his wife
The elder brother of all spirits born in the pre-existence to Heavenly Father
One of three gods overseeing earth
Atoned only for Adam's transgression, thereby providing the opportunity for us to obtain "eternal life" by our own efforts
The literal spirit brother of Satan
Conceived through sexual intercourse between God and Mary.
His death is not able to cleanse some people of all their sins.

The Biblical/Christian Jesus
Uncreated, eternally existing, unique incarnation of God the son.
Unique Son of God with whom none can be compared.
The Second Person of the Holy Trinity
Atoned for our personal sins, thereby securing "eternal life" for us, once we place our trust in his life, death and resurrection.
No relation to Satan, who himself is a created being - an angel who rebelled against God.
Conceived to a virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus' sacrifice on the cross is able to cleanse every person of all their sins.

At this point we can leave the subject as it is, rather than citing the Bible verses and LDS scripture to prove both these identities because I don’t want to spend the time doing so. The point is, that the two are not the same person. So this means either the historical Christian faith is true or else the LDS faith is true. Both identities cannot be true at the same time - it’s called the law of non-contradiction.

A false god and a false Jesus removes the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from the realm of true Christianity.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Joseph Smith’s “First Vision”

The LDS (or “Mormon”) faith has its foundation on a claim by Joseph Smith that he had a vision from God wherein God stated all existing Christian churches, as well as all historical creeds, were corrupt and an abomination to him. He then told Joseph that he would be the prophet of the restored church. This is known as “The First Vision.” In his vision, Joseph saw God the Father and Jesus together with angels. But how does this compare with the Bible’s teachings?

The Bible says that no one can see God the Father and live to tell about it! (Exodus 33:20. See also John 1:18 and 1 Timothy 6:16) God is a Spirit and invisible (John 4:24; 1 Timothy 1:17). So we can immediately see that this vision was false.

Researchers have found many versions of this “First Vision” in early Mormon writings, including writings by Smith himself, long before the established official version. In these other versions there are differences in how many people appeared as well as who appeared, and in what they said, etc. It is doubtful that Smith had a vision at all, rather it was something he made up many years later to establish his position as prophet.

However, if Smith did indeed have a vision, we know from its content that it could not have been from God. As 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 tells us, Satan can appear as an angel of God to deceive us. And in Matthew 24:5 Jesus tells us that many will claim to be Christ.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Unity Should Be Based On Truth

Many, eager to maintain harmony among God’s people, cannot reconcile contending for the faith with unity. … It becomes obvious that the church has very little purpose if truth is not at the center of all it does. Unity that is not centered in the truth is not unity of the faith, but mere uniformity. Where I live, we have one of the largest military cemeteries in the country. If you were to visit Camp Butler you would not find unity but the essence of uniformity - gravestones in perfect order, grass beautifully mowed, etc. But everyone there is dead. Uniformity is a good description of much of the church today - sociable, active, tolerant, compromising, and spiritually dead. Biblical unity, on the other hand, is a description of a vital faith wrapped around truth.

Gary E. Gilley, This Little Church Had None

Monday, July 5, 2010

Protect the Flock!

The pendulum has swung from a time when people didn’t feel as though they had gone to church unless they had their toes stepped on to a time when to step on people’s toes might mean that they will switch churches. The most popular preacher of our day is a man [Joel Osteen] who knows little theology, is not trained in the Scriptures, does not preach the gospel and ignores large portions of biblical truth. Instead he smiles constantly, tickles his listeners’ ears by telling them God wants them to have a wonderful and prosperous life and shuns any comment on sin or judgment. Yet every weekend over 40,000 people flock to his services and millions tune in via television. This pastor is merely reflective of our times - and he is successful. Preach a biblical message if you like, but if you want a successful ministry (in other words, crowds) you had better give the people what they want.

But what about God’s warning of false teachers and his mandate to contend for the faith? The trendy pastor rides the waves of current fads and philosophy, but the faithful pastor anchors his ministry in the timeless truth of God’s revelation. If our Lord has taken the trouble to warn us that wolves in the form of heretical teachers will attempt to ravish the sheep, we need to take him seriously and keep a constant watch for predators. If God has instructed us to contend earnestly for the faith, we had better strap on our armour and prepare for battle. If we love the people with whom the Lord has entrusted us, we will want to protect them from the danger of wandering from the truth.

Gary E. Gilley, This Little Church Had None

Friday, July 2, 2010

Live the Word

There has been a steady erosion of confidence in Scripture for several decades, cumulating in theological and/or practical elimination of the need for the Bible in our lives. After all, in a society infatuated with success - theological understanding , biblical knowledge, and even righteous living, are no match for fancy buildings, high-powered programs, the finest in entertainment and emotional experiences (no matter what the source). Very few churches grow numerically today because of solid teaching of the Word. That is because very few Christians today see the importance of the Word. To them the Bible is much like a musical concert - there to produce an experience, not to transform their lives. They see no vital connection between Scripture and life. To know God’s truth is not essential to how they want to live their lives; therefore they have no desire or urgency to study the Bible. This leaves a vacuum that is being filled with mysticism, rituals, entertainment and fun, all in the name of Christ.

Gary Gilley, This Little Church Had None

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Jeremiah 29:11: Another Abused Scripture

A friend asked me to look over some work he was doing for a Bible study, and one of the passages used to ostensibly demonstrate God’s care for us was Jeremiah 29:11. If you don’t know the passage, here it is in NKJV:

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” says the Lord, “thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Does this passage apply to the individual person? Absolutely not. The context is God’s discussion about Israel - the passage is about the nation of Israel, not about individual persons.

A question that must be asked is, COULD this passage in a different context apply to the individual? I have to answer, “NO.” I don’t think the Scripture says that God has a specific plan for each individual, other than allowing them to do what they want. And certainly we can’t say that God’s plan is for everyone to avoid evil when we have so many Christians martyred around the world. The only “future” and “hope” all Christians can look forward to is our eventual eternal life with the Lord. But while on earth, I’d say too many people have no hope of any future beyond the day’s survival.

Too often people (usually Calvinists) want to make God out to be nothing more than a puppet-master, with everyone’s lives preplanned from eternity past. Rick Warren, in his Purpose Driven Life, says God chooses when you are going to be born, who you will be born to, what color your hair and eyes will be, and even what you are doing this very moment. Can you imagine someone with congenital defects being told that God wanted him to be that way? What sort of a God is that?!?!?

Scripture does tell us God’s desires for us, but we are given freedom to choose how to live. The Holy Spirit will guide Christians, but they can still ignore him and do wrong anyway. God may lead us, but we don’t have to follow; that’s why we still sin. God does not force himself on anyone.

Now, can we take this passage in conjunction with many other passages from Scripture to demonstrate a principle about God’s attributes? Yes. But we can’t isolate this passage from its context and claim it for ourselves. It has nothing to do with the individual.