Friday, March 21, 2008

A response to Sargon

I was looking around on a Mormon Apologetics discussion board and found this post, and saw fit to respond to it.

Mainstream Evangelical Christians believe that no man, including Joseph Smith of course, can view the face of God and live. This belief is based mainly off of one verse in the OT, and a few choice proof-texts in the NT. Rather than engage those specific verses at this time, I wish to point out another facet of the discussion.

LDS often quote OT passages which unambiguously say that certain OT prophets viewed the face of God and survive. To reconcile these seemingly contradictory passages, Evangelicals such as Mr. Slick of CARM have devised a way interpret these OT passages through the lens of the NT.

Mr. Slick of CARM tries to explain the discrepancy this way:

Second, though they are most definitely are occurrences of God being seen in the Old Testament, these are not manifestations of the Father. They are the appearances of the pre-incarnate Christ.

Mr. Slick then continues to list a few places in the OT where God is said to have been seen. However, Mr. Slick offers no further explanation for why his view is justified, other than mentioning that the NT text prohibits God the Father from ever being seen by man. What I wish to point out is an obvious double standard being used by critics of the LDS church.

Mr. Slick, and others, contend that the apparent contradictions in the OT involving theophanies can be properly understood if we use chronologically later revelation and scripture to interpret it. A short afternoon spent in the CARM chat-room with a poster named Neolights reveals that it is an acceptable and common practice used by Evangelical Christians. Mr. Neo assured me that it was perfectly permissible to interpret the OT texts through the lens of the NT. It was also candidly admitted that the OT writers did not have that advantage.

I of course have no qualms with that methodology, in fact I believe it! What irks me however is the double standard. While Evangelical Christians can use later revelation, the NT, to interpret older revelation, the OT, Mormons apparently are not given that privilege. Mr. Slick from CARM and his associates use NT scriptures which they believe teach the Trinity, and interpret the theophany passages in the OT with them. They interpret the passages by suggesting that it is Jesus, not the Father, who is seen in these passages. The immediate context of these passage gives absolutely no hints of this perspective, and the OT authors certainly had no such idea in mind.

Mormons also have the privilege of interpreting both the OT and the NT texts through the lens of modern revelation, whether or not Evangelicals like it. We understand the passages a bit differently then our Evangelical brethren, but our methodology is the same. We use scripture to interpret scripture. Evangelicals need not believe that our scripture is inspired and true in order to understand this right that we share.

We reserve the right to interpret Biblical statements about who can or can't see God by the information provided to us in modern revelation and scripture.

The argument made from OT texts by Evangelicals which suggests that God’s face cannot be seen by virtue of NT passages cannot be upheld without employing a hypocritical double standard, one which has been and should continue to be exposed.



Now I for the most part understand where Sargon is Coming From. He says that Mormons have the same right to understand previous revelations with more current revelation. In principle I understand where he is coming from, because he is correct in that we do the same thing as Christians. However, Christians practice a little thing called "hermeneutics." This is the art and science of biblical interpretation. We, as a rule reconcile, all verses so that there is not a contradiction within the revealed Word of God. Mormons, however, do not do this. Mormons look at the most modern revelation, and then use previous texts to support that revelation and discard any text that does not agree with the modern revelation. Mormons Do not use hermeneutics. Remember that Mormons don't even truly believe that the bible is the infallible word of God, they state that they believe the bible so long as it is correctly translated. So I would suggest asking our Mormon Friends what verses in the bible are incorrect?

Let me sight some examples of this -

James 1:5 - If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

Now a Mormon would look at this and say that Joseph Smith prayed to God, as one who was seeking for truth and asked which church he should join.

As a Christian, I see several problems with this. 1) The context of the Book of James - v.2 tells us that it is to the believers, Those who are saved. Was Joseph Smith saved when he was asking God for Wisdom? I Would argue that he wasn't. He makes no statement of faith, no confession or statement of regeneration. 2) Rom 3:11 says that no one seeks for God. So how is it that Joseph Smith was seeking for God?

So the idea that God answered Joseph because of his plea for wisdom is out of the picture, because the verse doesn't apply to him.

This is the same thing that Christians do to both orthodox beliefs and to Mormon beliefs, Check the doctrine against the bible, and see if it checks out, does it contradict any bible verses?

The Goal here is to strive for correctness. And to be honest, I don't see Mormons doing this with the bible.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I appreciate you letting me know about this post.

In your response to my original comments, you said:

"Mormons look at the most modern revelation, and then use previous texts to support that revelation..."

This is exactly what I was accusing Mr. Slick of doing, to which you admitted is a practice that Evangelical Christins participate when you said:

"In principle I understand where he is coming from, because he is correct in that we do the same thing as Christians."

The second part of your sentence went like this:

"and discard any text that does not agree with the modern revelation."

Where did you get this? Do you have any evidence that the LDS Church has EVER discarded any passage of scripture, simply because it didn't fit our doctrines? I say that you may want to revise that statement.

You argue that Mormons do not employ any serious amount of hermeneutics, to which I say is both true and false. Just like every religious organization, we have students and teachers with extremely diverse degrees of expertise and experience in biblical interpretation. Certainly there are those who are guilty of what you accuse, but that fact certainly doesn't distinguish Mormonism in general from the rest of Christianity. I have encountered countless Christians who in an attempt to defend a elief committed terrible hermeneutical errors.

Mormonism does have it's own class of scholars who are every bit as excellent at biblical hermeneutics as the best that Evangelicals or Catholics have to offer. As an example, I point you to an article written by Kevin Barney. Mr. Barney has no formal training in biblical scholarship, and is a layperson with no position of leadership in the LDS Church. This article is not meant to represent the best in biblical hermeneutics, but it nonetheless demonstrates a basic ability on the part of a regular Mormon apologist to objectively study the scriptures.