Monday, February 16, 2009

"You hear the Good Shepherd's voice, and you follow it."

The following is one of my favorite passages (and I have many) from On the Road With Joseph Smith. Richard Bushman implicitly addresses the frequent boast of certain evangelicals that their beliefs are based in reason and evidence, while Latter-day Saint faith rests merely on subjective and irrational "feelings." This August 2005 note to Quincy Newell, a teacher of religious studies at the University of Wyoming, comes in response to an inquiry about having problems believing in the Book of Mormon due to a perceived lack of "corroborative evidence":

I wish I could strike a responsive chord in Christians like you. Mormons wonder why all Christians don't understand that we believe in the Book of Mormon on the basis of a spiritual witness. It is very hard for a Mormon to believe that Christians accept the Bible because of the scholarly evidence confirming the historical accuracy of the work. Surely there are uneducated believers whose convictions are not rooted in academic knowledge. Isn't there some kind of human, existential truth that resonates with one's desires for goodness and divinity? And isn't that ultimately why we read the Bible as a devotional work?

We don't have to read the latest issues of the journals to find out if the book is still true. We stick with it because we find God in its pages—or inspiration, or comfort, or scope. That is what religion is about in my opinion, and it is why I believe the Book of Mormon. I can't really evaluate all the scholarship all the time; while I am waiting for it to settle out, I have to go on living. I need some good to hold on to and to lift me up day by day. The Book of Mormon inspires me, and so I hold on.

Reason is too frail to base a life on. You can be whipped about by all the authorities with no genuine basis for deciding for yourself. I think it is far better to go where goodness lies.

I keep thinking other Christians are in a similar position, but they don't agree. They keep insisting their beliefs are based on reason and evidence. I can't buy that--the resurrection as rational fact? And so I am frankly as perplexed about Christian belief as you are about Mormons. Educated Christians claim to base their belief on reason when I thought faith was the teaching of the scriptures. You hear the Good Shepherd's voice, and you follow it.

...I am a believer and I can't help myself. I couldn't possibly give it up; it is too delicious.

"I think it is far better to go where goodness lies." Amen, Brother Bushman. Amen.


trevor said...

AMEN! i always had a hard time understanding how one maintains a belief in the bible if they deny the efficacy of a spiritual witness.

Jack Meyers said...

Well, I'm an evangelical and my belief in the Bible & Christianity is based on both a spiritual witness and reason and evidence.

We had a good discussion of this recently at LDS & Evangelical Conversations here.

Papa D said...

Amen, both CC and Jack. The spiritual has to be the foundation, imo, but I personally also need an intelligent, thoughtful, reasoned explanation that makes sense to me. The key for me is that it be a "faithful reasoning" - that my experiences not lose to my intellect, but rather that my intellect search to explain my experiences.

Anonymous said...

Its not that Christians totally rely on historical and scientific exploration to decide whether or not the Bible is true. There are many types of people in the world that see the truth through different glasses. Lee Stroble once said when he first became a Christian, it wasn't an emotional appeal or something to that affect. Rather it was after two years of research and realizing he was on the wrong side of the fence and that he had to submit to the truth. My mother is the complete opposite, to her she doesn't care what the scholars have to say. She believes it, and she'll let the scholars do their thing and she does hers. So for some, its both and for others its one of them. So to say "I can't understand why Evangelicals rely on historical facts," is like an Evangelical saying "all Mormons are polygamists."

Despite this, I do believe its important for something that shows it impacted history to beable to back that up through historical means. I fully accept that not everything will be discovered, like Noah's ark, or David and Goliath, but it helps if many of its details are correct (in which many have been found correct, and so far I'm not aware of any findings disproving the Bible).

There needs to be a standard at which to judge a spiritual confirmation, especially for others who maybe like sheep led to the slaughter for something false. Many have claimed visions, dreams, angels talking to them, and right feelings on an issue, but many would also contradict Biblical teachings and claims. David Koresh claimed to be the messiah, so how do we judge such a statement? Simply because he recieved a spiritual confirmation its true? My spiritual confirmation is that hes false, his is true so how do we know? Same goes with Mormonism and Traditional Christianity, you say you have a good feeling, and many traditionalists have a good feeling. However, we teach different things that go beyond the everyday denominational fued, so whose right? Both cannot be right, God cannot be how Traditionalists view him, and how Mormons view him, niether can the Bible, Jesus, or the BoM. This isn't an argument over whose right or wrong here, but rather an appeal to use something beyond what one feels inside one's self for they may be deceived.

Ryan said...


While I agree we must take care about being deceived, appealing to "something beyond what one feels inside" is not safer. As Bushman put it, "You can be whipped about by all the authorities with no genuine basis for deciding for yourself."

The external person (or the person providing the external thing) we appeal to could be deceived or -- even worse -- be actively deceiving us. If anything, being part of a large group of followers leaning on the same external thing only increases that risk.

Case in point: I strongly suspect Koresh -- like Korihor -- was taking the Lord's name in vain in the worst possible way by claiming revelation from God to manipulate his followers, but that's not for me to judge.

Revelations are intensely private and non-transferable experiences. I'm perfectly willing to accept another persons's claim to revelation but that does not make it binding on me or anyone else, though. Even when the prophets speak (Biblical or otherwise) we're supposed to seek confirmation if we have any concerns with what they say.

You should be in the group because you believe as they do, not believe as they do because you [want to] be in the group.

Clean Cut said...

Is my faith entirely based on evidence? No. But is it supported and confirmed by evidence? Yes. My testimony of the Book of Mormon is based primarily on the power of the Holy Ghost--a spiritual witness that comes to me as I read God's words, hear His voice, and am uplifted and inspired day by day.

But certainly it's faith affirming and interesting, although not imperative, to recognize that the bad grammar of the Book of Mormon is actually good Hebrew, or to be able to identify the rich chiastic structures found throughout the Book of Mormon, or recognize the relationship between King Benjamin's discourse and ancient coronation ceremonies, or to locate Nahom on the Arabian peninsula, or detect the Jaredite influence on Nephite culture, or recognize the significance of the structure and symbolism of apocalyptic literature to our understanding of the Book of Mormon, etc.

But while these examples may be faith affirming, they certainly do not provide the foundation upon which I base my faith. Neal A. Maxwell once noted that God would provide fascinating additions to our understanding:
"There will be a convergence of discoveries (never enough, mind you, to remove the need for faith) to make plain and plausible what the modern prophets have been saying all along…[I] do not expect incontrovertible proof to come in this way…, but neither will the Church be outdone by hostile or pseudo-scholars."

Mormon scholars have assembled quite an impressive array of evidences. Just to name a couple off the top of my head, see Jeff Lindsay's Mormon Answers page, and specifically his Book of Mormon Evidences page. Daniel C. Peterson is another who has corroborated Evidences of the Book of Mormon.

But again, this is not why I believe the Book of Mormon. I believe the Book of Mormon because I "find God in its pages" and because it is indeed "delicious"--just as Bushman said.

Anonymous said...


The thing with inside feelings is simple the heart deceives. The Bible declares that no man's heart is pure...David reveals this clearly as his heart, the one that seeks God's own heart, desires Bathsheba, committing adultery with her and murdering her husband. Muslims feel adamant that Allah has given them the truth and they feel it through God's spirit and miracles. However they deny what even a Mormon would believe of Christ. So what are we to do? They cannot both go hand in hand as truth statements. Like I said, both faith and reason should go hand in hand.
“I'm perfectly willing to accept another persons's claim to revelation but that does not make it binding on me or anyone else, though.”

I agree with what you stated, they are private and not transferable to others. However, I disagree with this quote I took from you. In many cases they are binding… Mormonism claimed that Traditionalists like myself, belong to the apostate church, as mentioned in 1 Nephi. That is a very binding revelation, either I’m a member of a false and lost church or I’m not, I either need to convert to Mormonism for truth or I don’t. Islam had an equally binding revelation, Christians and Jews are wrong, here’s the Qur’an, the Bible cannot be trusted, and Jesus Christ is not the Son of God in any sense; but a mere prophet who did not die on the cross for our sins, but rather was rescued by God. That is binding because if true, both our faiths are false, and we’re probably going to go to hell for our blasphemy. So to state that revelations are not binding on everyone else is a completely false statement, unless you meant something else, in which this needs to be clarified. Also what strikes me most about this quote is that it is an outside authority itself that you are quoting to state that men shouldn’t rely on an outside authority.

Clean Cut:

I don't deny you get a good feeling from reading the BoM. Nor do I doubt you to be inspired and uplifted by it. Muslims claim the same thing and so do many of other faiths. I believe that those who adhere to various faiths are inspired and uplifted or those faiths would vanish. That is the point I'm trying to make, that they cannot all be true faiths because of the many different beliefs contained by all. That is why I seek an external measure and not just what one’s heart tells them. I don't want to get into a debate about the BoM, I'm not interested in that. I could go down the brief list you've provided to back up the BoM and rebuke it all with the research that has been done by many scholars, Mormon included, but what’s the point? You've heard it all before...there is nothing new under the sun that I could say to you. I'm not interested in debating the BoM for a few reasons, most of all, you've already acknowledged that no amount of research could change your mind. So to you, it is an open and closed deal. However, I know your a historian, think of the standards you learned in your history classes that got you your degree, that lend support to events that actually happened as opposed to events that haven’t happened.

In Christ,


Anonymous said...


PS: At the end of what I said to you, I meant the quote you stated from Bushman.

Clean Cut said...

Brooks, you say that there "needs to be a standard at which to judge a spiritual confirmation", so I'm curious if you feel that there is one standard that you feel is acceptable to all. What "standard" do you find acceptable and authoritative?

Furthermore, what standards could convince a non-believer of the reality of the Resurrection of Christ?

Anonymous said...

I believe the standard of truth is the Bible. It provides all the answers of life.I don't deny the testimony of the Holy Spirit as bringing the knowledge of truth either. What I deny is that everyone who claims to be enlightened, see visions, and even the some who claim a witness of the Holy Spirit, are truly receiving something of God(this goes for those in the "Traditionalists" camp). Let me clarify what I mean, I find it hard to believe that God would witness to Traditionalists that he is certain qualities, while witnessing to Mormons that hes completely different qualities, and then yet to others, like Muslims, Buddhists, Hindu's, etc. etc. that hes even something different. I find it hard to believe that God would tell televanglists through the Holy Spirit, which they claim is their guide, would tell them its ok to trick people and take their money. If this is the case... God is a deceiver. Lucky for us he provided his truth.

If your talking about external standards outside the Bible and Holy Spirit, well I challenge everyone to read anything they can on religion, Bible, Christianity, and even other religions. Read what the scholars say, judge their arguments, pray and dwell on it with an open heart, espeically those who are seekers. See, God has operated in human history so there should be some evidences for this. So when the Bible says the Hebrews lived here, we should beable to find evidences of this. When the Bible says the Egyptians, Assyrians, and many others existed, we should see this. We should see evidences of cities listed in the Bible, and we do. I can give you lists upon lists of findings that confirm the Bible. We're still not at the tip of the ice berg either. So all I'm saying is that if a book claims to have taken place in reality, we should expect to find some of its aspects in reality. So when the BoM says in the pages before the actual book begins, that it is a history of the peoples in America (or w/e, I don't have a BoM with me at the moment) we should expect to find real evidences of this. We should see that the Nephites lived in the Americas...or some sort of aspect of this...and we don't. There is no evidence of sematic peoples living in the Ancient Americas. I want to stay clear of the arguments of the realibility of the BoM, you've heard them, you've read them, nothings changed, so theres no reason to get into that here. All I'm advocating is Faith with Reason.

For your last statement about the resurrection, a historical analysis can reveal this, and has.The only reason people don't accept this is pure and simple, preset philosophical and theological ideas. Accepting the reality of the resurrection however doesn't make them a Christian, they have to be willing to give their life to God and turn it from head knowledge to a relationship. If you'd like me to demonstrate how one can find it highly probable that Christ rose I can. I however have three blog entries dealing with a few of the things thrown out their on this subject. It should be the first three entries on my website.

In Christ,

Clean Cut said...

Brooks, please prepare for an extra long response. I just wanted to cover all my bases while I have the time. First off, let me just say that I'm all about “faith with reason”, so we're in agreement there.

To quote from another respected LDS blogger who wrote in response to a caricature of the LDS testimony, “the typical faithful Latter-day Saint has done a lot of soul-searching, studying, and prayer, just as the Book of Mormon teaches us (e.g., the story of Enos and his quest for a testimony, the many references to long study, prayer, and fasting to obtain personal knowledge, and the promise of Moroni 10:3-4 to those who study, ponder, and pray to know of the truth of the Book of Mormon). The LDS testimony is based upon a combination of mental effort such as studying and pondering, coupled with spiritual effort through prayer and listening to the Spirit, in a quest to receive revelation from the Spirit of God to our own spirit to help us understand the things of God.”

Obviously it wouldn't be wise to make the mistake of dismissing the Book of Mormon so easily without taking the time to seriously study the book, let alone to peak at the links which I provided. Those links show that there are indeed many scholarly evidences for the Book of Mormon. Nevertheless, faith is still, and always will be, the language of the scriptures.

Now, a few words about the Bible as “the standard of truth”. You and I could certainly agree to this, but unfortunately that criteria wouldn’t universally work very well for, say, early Christians who never had the Bible. Certainly there was truth before the Bible came into existence. What do you suppose the first Christians used for the standard if they never had “the Bible”?

I should probably allow you to respond before I add more, but I want to be clear about my belief that it has to do with personal revelation/testimony. I'm referring to the kind of revelation that led Peter to declare that Jesus was the Christ, not because "flesh and blood" [or hard evidence, or even the Bible] revealed it to him, but because our Father in Heaven revealed it to him (see Matthew 16:15-17).

If everything in the Bible was really so clear-cut and could simply be proven with logic and reason and academic study, why wouldn't the religious world unequivocally agree with your beliefs? Why isn't everyone a [insert your brand of Christianity here]. Is it simply a matter that a Muslim hasn’t read the Bible as to why they do not convert to Christianity? Surely it is not. Must a Jew simply spend more time in academic study to be able to find out whether or not Jesus was truly the Messiah? Obviously not. And for the same reason not everyone who reads the Book of Mormon recognizes it to be the word of God—faith also plays a role, not evidence and logic alone.

One more obvious problem with relying on the Bible alone as the standard of truth is that so many people interpret the same Bible so very differently—even in good faith. Joseph Smith encountered this as a 14 year old boy growing up in what historians have dubbed "the burned out district" in upstate New York during the Second Great Awakening. Allow me to quote from his personal history:

"My mind at times was greatly excited, the cry and tumult were so great and incessant. The Presbyterians were most decided against the Baptists and Methodists, and used all the powers of both reason and sophistry to prove their errors, or, at least, to make the people think they were in error. On the other hand, the Baptists and Methodists in their turn were equally zealous in endeavoring to establish their own tenets and disprove all others.

"In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?

While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: 'If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.'

"Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.

"At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to “ask of God,” concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture."

Ultimately, doesn’t the Bible imply that God is the ultimate standard of truth? How do we even have the Bible? Because God inspired his prophets to write those words—words that were "God breathed" through revelation. I’ll conclude with the witness of Paul in I Corinthians 2:4-11 (New KJV):

"4 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

6 However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, 8 which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

9 But as it is written:
Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.

10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.

13 These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

I know that's a long passage, but it demonstrates that it's fully biblical for me to say that I know what I know spiritually because it has been revealed to me “through His Spirit”. A spiritual witness. Go figure.

Now can the devil deceive either the heart or the mind? Yes he can. But he cannot deceive both the heart and the mind at the same time. God speaks to both our mind AND our heart to confirm truth. Therefore I can trust in this biblical model of asking God (James 1:5) and receiving by the Spirit through revelation.

So I join with Paul, and also with the prophet Alma, who declared that “I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety? Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me.” (Alma 5:45-46).

Anonymous said...

Clean Cut, I appreciate the length, and in depth response, because it is your time you’ve invested in this very important discussion. Hopefully my response isn’t as long as yours, but since I have plenty of time…6months worth, of hanging out in Afghanistan with nothing to do outside of missions and house keeping, I’ll give you a full response this deserves.

I have no doubt that many Mormons study their faith diligently, and invest much time into it. That can be said about many in a wide range of faiths as well. However, I believe it’s about the method of study, and how one mixes their study with personal biases. Now everyone’s biased with something, but its how you deal with it. Right now I’m currently reading a book about the resurrection by Atheist New Testament scholar Gerd Ludemann, to gain his perspective about this event. I like his counter to Christian theologians such as Karl Baarth and a few others that claim we don’t have to count on the resurrection as being received as a historical event. I believe this to be completely false, for it was an event in time and space and the apostles went to the death believing this. Many Liberal theologians claim that it doesn’t matter if the resurrection happened in reality its about the beauty of it or the very idea. I disagree with these theologians because I believe in a real resurrection and I believe it is this event that set the spark of Christianity (I still hold to it being a beautiful loving action of God). I believe without this true and real event that our experiences with God, through the salvation work of Christ, are not real. So, to keep myself from being too biased, I read these other scholars, pitting their arguments against Christian scholars, confirming each other’s studies, and to see in general what the other side says. In many cases, it’s the philosophical and theological barriers scholars erect that prevent them from believing.

You state, “Those links show that there are indeed many scholarly evidences for the Book of Mormon. Nevertheless, faith is still, and always will be, the language of the scriptures.” I’ve been to most these sites before, I’ve been to FARMs, I’ve read good portions of the BoM, and I have a copy of Doctrines and Covenants as well as the Journal of Discourses, so I’m not ignorant on the issues. I find that most of these sites cling to an outer fringe of scholarship (if they aren’t using Mormon scholarship) that is not widely accepted. For one instance of this, Jeff Lindsey tries to formulate the argument against the Smithsonian letter that there are scholars who believe old world peoples traveled here besides the Vikings and Far East peoples that are the ancestors of the Native Americans. I’ve studied the diffusion of people in geography, as well as Ancient American History, I’ve taken World History/World Civilization courses and I’ve done research into this on my own time (because of my interest in Mormonism) and there is not many scholars outside of Mormonism who’d defend this position, because there is just no evidence for this sort of diffusion. Now for the sake of the argument, I’ll grant that perhaps there was a little old world contact with the Americas, as some scholars like to believe. This does not mean the BoM is true in what it records, nor does it give the BoM any props or potential of being true, and here’s why. For the BoM to be true, one needs evidence for a thriving old world culture dwelling in the Americas for thousands of years. Not just new world cultures with some small similarities with old world cultures, that happens naturally in trade or by sheer chance; but an actual old world civilization, being Hebrew, thriving in the Americas during 500Bcish to 400ADish. That we most certainly do not have evidence for, which leads me to my next point, Mormons cannot just simply rely on pointing out that there was a small chance that some trade could have happened between the two hemispheres, and expect that to lend proof for the BoM. That would be like saying the world actually was part of the United States, because there is evidence that American culture permeates all over the world. This would be false for obvious reasons. The BoM goes beyond just trade and culture diffusion, and flat out states that an actual old world culture dwelled in the Americas for a thousand years or so.

“Certainly there was truth before the Bible came into existence. What do you suppose the first Christians used for the standard if they never had ‘he Bible?’” That’s not entirely true, the first Christians had the Old Testament, which was used as a guide. Also, the letters and teachings of the apostles, in which they compared to earlier revelations they received from the apostles as well as to the Old Testament. So if an apostle came about teaching a different gospel then what they received, they would have no excuse to accept that probably false gospel. That guide had to be there in the beginning because almost from the get go of the early Christian church, cults had already begun to spread. Such as Gnosticism and Jewish Christians trying to maintain Jewish rules. Which is one reason why the letters of the church began to come about, to combat these beliefs, and to encourage those to not accept anything that wasn’t accepted in the first years of that church.

“I'm referring to the kind of revelation that led Peter to declare that Jesus was the Christ”
I do not disagree that God revealed this to Peter; I think you misunderstood what I was saying. I do not believe that there are no revelations from God to man. What I think we should do with those revelations is set them on the standard that we have, the Bible, the guide to weeding out false prophets, false teachers, and false teachings and gospels. Peter in that situation needed no standard of truth of that revelation because he gave it to the truth himself, Jesus, God in the flesh. Which then became the confirming source of Peter’s statement. Paul, an apostle even stated that you should even test what I have stated with what you received early on. Why? Because what he and the other apostles handed down to the churches early on was the truth of the events that took place leading to the spread of Christianity, which is part of the formula in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7. Thus, the early church had a guide to base future teachings off of, which is also coupled with the Old Testament scriptures. God may have revealed Christ’s identity to Peter, but it is his eyewitness of the resurrected Lord that led him to the full understanding of this belief. Remember, before the apostles laid eyes on the risen Savior, they were in doubt. This is why Christians should steer away from Liberal theologians who claim that the resurrection is figurative and not a reality. It is a real event in time and space, and if it isn’t we should not be discussing it, its pointless.

“If everything in the Bible was really so clear-cut and could simply be proven with logic and reason and academic study, why wouldn't the religious world unequivocally agree with your beliefs?”

I’ve already sort of stated this; personal philosophies and theologies harden peoples hearts to the real message. If I go into the study of the Bible with the notion that miracles can’t happen, or that it has been changed by Christians and if it doesn’t agree with the Qur’an, its false; then I’m simply not going to believe what it says, unless I open up my mind a bit. Also interpretations can be skewed, for instance when a Mormon reads the word “Jehovah” in the Old Testament you think of it differently then a Traditional Christian would. If a Hindu reads the words “born again”, it’s different then Christianity’s “born again.” So one must get into the head of the culture writing this book to understand some of its meanings. I don’t disagree with what your saying, it is about faith, I can believe firmly that Christ died and rose again, and that God was behind this miracle and that it is a real historical event…but if I don’t want to give my life to Christ, its not going to save me. So that’s not what I’m arguing (remember I take faith and reason), however what I’m saying is there has to be an outside judge that’s tangible to men, that allows them to put faith in the right thing; if I have faith that the sun is a tennis ball in the sky, that doesn’t make it so. I can be presented with the reasons as to why it isn’t a tennis ball in the sky, then its up to me to make that decision by either putting faith in this new found information, or keeping my faith in my false reality. Same with Christianity, I have faith that its not true, cause I don’t believe in miracles. If I’m presented with the evidence of the resurrection, in which the only probable answer is the resurrection itself verses the other competing theories, I then have a choice to believe or not to believe. So I don’t disagree with what your saying about putting in faith, I just believe there’s a tangible method of figure out if your faith is in the right belief or not.

“Why isn't everyone a [insert your brand of Christianity here].”
My brand of Christianity is one who believes that Christ is God in the flesh (not the Mormon view of God) that he died for our sins and is the only way to heaven, those who adhere to this probably will not differ much in Biblical interpretation (in fact I know they won’t as I know many from various denominations that do not differ much).

“One more obvious problem with relying on the Bible alone as the standard of truth is that so many people interpret the same Bible so very differently—even in good faith.”

And to this, I’d fully agree. What are we to make of this…. thousands of Christian denominations, many with differing beliefs, all claiming to have the right one. Well first off, it’s not as complex as that…. I’d say the biggest divisions come with the separation of Catholicism, Protestantism, and the Eastern churches. Inside Protestantism you have two major divisions, Calvinists and Arminianists. Most of the Protestant denominations base their views off of one of those two schools of divine foreknowledge. If you notice though, the division between Protestant denominations really don’t differ that much (unless of course your looking at the more Liberal denominations). We all view God as the same, Jesus as the same, and the Bible as the same. I’ve been in Bible studies with people that have been raised in various denominations, and usually there’s no issue to contend with when one states something about a scripture passage. Now that’s not to say people inside a certain denomination don’t believe their denomination is correct and everyone else is in error. Some Baptist denominations have over the years stated that if you’re not Baptist you are not truly saved. This is where the Bible comes into play, I don’t remember Jesus saying Baptist or Hell your pick. Over the past, probably twenty years, the differences have grown in a different area, Liberal Christianity and Fundamentalists or Conservative Christianity. Conservatives usually take the standard view your used to Clean Cut, the Bible is inspired word of God, error free. God is alive, miracles happen and the stories in the Bible are true unless stated as a parable or whatever. Liberals usually go the opposite, the Bible isn’t inspired, its full of errors, God may or may not exist, Jesus’ resurrection may or may not of happened, Jesus may or may not of existed, the stories in the Bible are probably just myths from Hebrew culture, many God given laws should be reinterpreted, and the list can go on and on. In fighting between these two views have caused rifts in denominations, like the Episcopalian Church, the Methodist Church, and the Presbyterian Church. These three denominations have definitely been in struggle over these issues. So over many denominations, like I said, most hold the same views, its usually over just divine foreknowledge, or Liberal and Conservative views of the Bible.

“but it demonstrates that it's fully biblical for me to say that I know what I know spiritually because it has been revealed to me “through His Spirit”. A spiritual witness. Go figure.”

I don’t deny this, remember, I stated my mother doesn’t care what the scholars say…it’s all real to her. It is also not what I’m arguing, what I’m arguing is just because you get a good feeling, or what you perceive to be a vision or revelation from God, doesn’t make it so, thus we need a standard to base this off of. If you stated that you just received a vision that God is about to judge the world in about five-minutes, so repent, what am I to do with that? Well easy if there’s an outside standard to judge this sort of thing. Biblically speaking God said “no man will know the hour nor the time,” and through out the scriptures it paints the rapture and such as a surprise visit and action. So the chances are God wouldn’t give a five-minute warning like that, especially since he’s given a 2000year warning. Also, the Bible says that if a prophecy that is stated doesn’t happen, that man is a false prophet. So when that five minutes is up, and nothing happened, you’re probably a false prophet. Now if God did not provide those simple truths, I couldn’t rightfully draw a conclusion that God did not speak to you; but because he did provide that standard I can now draw that conclusion. So all I’m arguing is that there has to be a standard that has to be interpreted a certain way, to give mankind a standard that we can use to know and understand God’s true message for us.

“Now can the devil deceive either the heart or the mind? Yes he can. But he cannot deceive both the heart and the mind at the same time.”

Who says he can’t deceive both heart and mind at the same time? If he’s tricked you into believing God doesn’t exist he’s won both your mind and your heart.

“Therefore I can trust in this biblical model of asking God (James 1:5) and receiving by the Spirit through revelation.” I don’t disagree with James 1:5 and what it states. However, if you were meaning that to say that God gives you this knowledge of him by revelation and a personal witness of the Holy Spirit, alone. I would disagree, unless you mean this revelation as historical facts, scientific facts, and things like that. Here’s what I mean… I believe God will answer that statement in James 1:5, but how he does so with people differs. Some people will pick up a Bible, and believe right away and receive the Holy Spirit. Some may see a vision or have a dream or hear the voice of God talking to them and then believe, thus receiving the Holy Spirit. However, some may have God speaking to them in academia and logical arguments, believing through their studies and thus receiving the Holy Spirit. However, I have a feeling my whole point is being overlooked, I never once denied the importance of the Holy Spirit or the importance of faith. I believe the Holy Spirit is the final confirmation in letting one know their belief is true and that our faith is put into the right agency. What I’m looking for is the external method in which allows us to know we aren’t just acting on our personal feelings that feel so real they must be external forces, or we aren’t acting under the will of an evil spirit that is disguised as light tricking us, causing us to firmly believe that what we believe is true. So the question is, how do you know it’s the Holy Spirit and not a deceiving spirit providing you affirmation in Mormonism?

In Christ,


Anonymous said...

PS I think I topped your response haha

Clean Cut said...

You sure did. :)

Brooks, your question is a valid question: "How do you know it’s the Holy Spirit and not a deceiving spirit providing you affirmation in Mormonism?"

Your comments also seem to strike at the heart of the universal tension that exists between balancing the academic and the religious, as well as between "the seemingly incompatible views of the believing Mormon in the unbelieving world"--as one writer put it.

In answering the question, I would just have to say that I've felt the difference.

Whether or not my years of empirical experience are satisfactory for you, Brooks, is not for me to say. But then again, my job isn't really to remove all the tensions for you.

In my view, my faith does not contradict the scriptures. It probably contradicts your interpretation of scripture and might even be repulsive to you, but my understanding is completely in harmony with the Bible and also with the indwelling Holy Sprit, which I emphasized above.

Candidly, there are some things on which I'm willing to be patient for God to provide answers where questions may exist. But I surly don't abandon all that I DO know simply because there are some things I do not know, or because there are "messy" issues in Church history.

I think that it's really best that I tend to focus my time and energy on my personal Christian discipleship and being "born again", rather than, say, the precise location of the Nephite civilization. I seek after that "mighty change of heart" that comes by living the doctrine of Christ and following in his footsteps (as imperfectly as I surly do)--the heart of the gospel--rather than preoccupying myself with the precise location of Kolob or any other number of outlying issues.

Now, you've already stated previously that you do not like Mormonism. I don't blame you, because you're not a believing Mormon. Things can appear quite differently from the outside looking in than from the inside looking out. But that's who I am at my core. So while I don't personally struggle with the question, I acknowledge that my answer might not be sufficient for you, and I apologize for that.

In short, I know what I know because I've felt and experienced the contrast.

..."You hear the Good Shepherds voice and you follow it"...

Clean Cut said...

PS: Just for the record, I also believe that "Christ is God in the flesh" and "that he died for our sins and is the only way to heaven". That's not only Biblical, but it's fully stressed in the Book of Mormon.

Anonymous said...

Clean Cut, I appreciate your heart felt, straight to the emotional core of your beliefs, statement. I would agree there is this tension of how much one should balance, I took a comparative religions philosophy class once, and the instructor stated, “Reason should always trump faith.” The examples he gave were simple and to an extent made sense, many claim a faith in a vision, a dream, or something else telling them to do evil acts. Many claim visions and dreams all the time and create religions that are in total contradiction with each other. His examples made sense, but I sort of sought common ground and suggested they should go hand in hand. Your not going to be able to put in reasonable terms a true God experience.

What difference is this feeling? I mean how do you know there’s a difference? Perhaps it’s an internal excited feeling you have because of the great respect you have towards the Mormon Church. I’ve felt very excited moments in my life, enlisting into the Army, Christmas morning, happiness of seeing my family after months of being away, the excitement of a movie I’ve been dying to see, and the list can go on and on. So I guess what I’m asking is what sort of feeling is this, and how is it different then excitement, or confirmation in any other situation? When I was in high school, before I got extremely interested in studying the scholarly aspects of Christianity, I was witnessing to a fellow employee. Since I did not know of the scholarly aspects I just went from the “amazing internal feelings,” I had for the faith. However, what struck me as interesting was when he said, “So, I get that before a game day when I play football” (he was a college ball player and football was his life). He described an intense feeling of excitement when he won a specific game, or when he enters the stadium. There’s no way in the universe I could argue with that, for I have no idea the feelings he felt when he entered the stadium. So I began to realize, just merely pointing to the internal feelings of faith I had was not merely enough to cause a stir in people. Internal feelings of excitement can come from anything, especially important life interests and activities, like the birth of a child. Who am I to argue this feeling is any different? You can’t, it may be different for you, but how could you be the judge that his excitement of football is a different level of excitement or internal admiration then you feel for Mormonism? I don’t necessarily believe the Holy Spirit confirms through an internal good feeling. As I said before, I think it varies from person to person…I do know one thing though, for this very reason God has to provide a measure to judge that these feelings are put into good true things verses things that aren’t so important…like football.

“In my view, my faith does not contradict the scriptures. It probably contradicts your interpretation of scripture and might even be repulsive to you, but my understanding is completely in harmony with the Bible and also with the indwelling Holy Sprit, which I emphasized above.”

No you’re right in your view, but is it the right view? How do we judge which view is right? For instance, it wouldn’t contradict the scriptures to say “Jesus wants me to pluck my right eye out to prevent me from sinning.” How does one get around that? Well the basics of Biblical interpretation prefer you use other scripture to clarify a difficult passage. Another message is analyzing the scriptures from the mindset of those writing them. So knowing that its not Jewish to self mutilate, that Jesus teaches loving yourself (in a healthy way), and his constant use of parables and figurative language, its clear that this is merely a picture painting statement describing the seriousness of sin and its consequences. Now, looking at this from the understanding coming from God, who is truth, would it be reasonable to conclude he wouldn’t some how provide some sort of guideline to make understanding the scriptures a universal? I mean, lets be serious anyone can read the Bible and come up with some sort of crazy view…. many have done it. Does that mean God will accept their view, just because it’s being taught from the Bible? Think of the other Christian cults besides Mormonism that read the same book yet come up with contradicting views from Traditional Christianity and even Mormonism. So how does one judge that their view of interpreting the scriptures is correct? More specifically, how do you know your glasses you use to interpret the scriptures are correct? What standard besides Joseph Smith, or a Mormon prophet can you use to judge that they are correct?

“But I surly don't abandon all that I DO know simply because there are some things I do not know, or because there are "messy" issues in Church history.”

I wouldn’t expect you to abandon your faith, especially considering how important it is for you, you haven’t reached a level of disappointment, confusion, or doubt to abandon it, and I’m not saying you would either or that you would even want to. So I wouldn’t expect you to leave it on an account to what I’m saying, especially considering you’ve heard all the arguments before.

“I think that it's really best that I tend to focus my time and energy on my personal Christian discipleship and being "born again", rather than, say, the precise location of the Nephite civilization”

I agree with you here to an extent. God isn’t going to judge me based on the fact that I happened to know that archaeological digs support various Old Testament cities and their locations, that the various nations in the Bible really did exist, or that Romans really did execute people via the cross and the chances of survival are slim to none. With that being said, where I’d disagree with you, and its not a disagreement but rather pushing what you’ve stated, the focus of being born again, to not just merely in the name Jesus, or what he’s done, but rather to what the first believers held what the name and who Jesus is, and what they held he did. To me, and this is just the vibe I get, Mormons don’t put a strong emphasis on Jesus’ nature or that it matters that you hold this view. Now I understand how Mormons view God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, but from discussions with Mormons I’ve had, I get the impression that well… that’s all find and dandy that you believe God is this and I believe God is that, and I believe Jesus is this and you believe Jesus is that, but it doesn’t matter, I still hold him as a savior so isn’t that what counts? The question is, is that what it only counts as? Now stay with me here, is it possible God may get offended if someone gets his nature mixed up and consider him lesser then what he really is; the same with Jesus? Now I understand Mormons consider God to be this great being and perhaps the greatest being…but look at the differences between the Judeo-Christian concepts of God and the Mormon concept, and let me know if you think there’s a difference both theologically and philosophically.

I want to leave you with some scripture and some Biblical idea’s to sort of understand where I’m coming from and why its important to not just rely on the feeling but to actually have an external standard to sort of judge and make sure your feelings are invested in truth and not just because you believe its right. First, Matthew 7:21-22, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?” So we know not all who firmly believe they were doing the will of Christ, and perhaps even doing some miracles in Christ’s name, are going to be accepted into heaven. Another example is the confidence the Jewish elders had that they were doing the will of the Father, because they were practicing the Law, but as John 8:44 points out, Jesus judged them as following Satan. The Old Testament fathers used the proofs of God’s actions with Israel, such as the exodus, as a method to know that their deity, YHWH, was the God of the universe (1 Chronicles 16:12, Isaiah 46:9 and many other examples). The early Christian fathers sometimes used the scriptures and reason to point out their beliefs and how Jesus was the savior, rather then merely pointing out they believed this cause something told them internally (Acts 17:2, 18:4,19). Also you have Paul’s psuedo debate with the philosophers of Athens later in Acts 17, where he most certainly did not use personal feelings, confirmations, or visions to back up his claims, he would have been laughed at if this was the case (especially considering the various schools of philosophical thought that existed back then). This is obvious in the early Christian creeds found through out the New Testament, that point to Jesus’ resurrection as a fact seen by the disciples, 500 witnesses, James, and finally Paul. None of the early creeds state we believe this because we feel it, and you should to. Rather, it’s we saw this, and not just us twelve, but many, so believe it because it was a real event occurring in time and space, and if you do not believe I can provide you with a list of names of witnesses that saw these events. So the early Christians did not just rely on internal feelings or confirmations that they were correct (that’s not to say they didn’t preach the gospel and some felt the Holy Spirit and did not need facts or reason); but the Apostles did not hesitate to back up their internal feelings with facts and reason when asked or if the situation were to arise.

“PS: Just for the record, I also believe that ‘Christ is God in the flesh’ and "that he died for our sins and is the only way to heaven.’”
I recognize that you believe this…but it’s the definition of the terms used that make Traditional Christianity and Mormonism different. Just as the title and name “Jesus” “Christ” and “Messiah” have a different definition when used by a Muslim than it does when used by a Christian.

In Christ,


Clean Cut said...

Brooks, I'd be curious to have you describe how YOU feel the Spirit.

Anonymous said...

Clean Cut, I wouldn’t say one feels the Holy Spirit in every emotional high, so if one is excited for a church service, or just excited in general I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that its always the Holy Spirit (nor would I dismiss it as not being the Holy Spirit). First off, the Bible never states one will feel a certain emotion when the Holy Spirit dwells in you once you accept Christ as Lord and Savior (other then the joy of course of being saved). When I do feel the Holy Spirit, it’s through a conviction of sin or a choice I have to make between sin and not sinning (obviously leaning me towards doing the right thing). The Holy Spirit may give me insight, like witnessing or bringing up the gospel to someone at a certain time. It may inspire me during prayer by revealing things I need to pray for or do. So I wouldn’t go far to say it’s always some sort of emotional feeling. Now, that’s not to say that it hasn’t and doesn’t give me extreme joy, like during my baptism. The joy I felt on that day was unbelievable, I could not put into words. So to sum up “how I feel the Spirit,” I’d say most of the time its not emotional…it’s just there dwelling inside me. When I do feel it its conviction for sinning or to sort of guide me from sin, guidance in a situation, like what I should pray for, or should I speak to this fellow about Christ? It has also guided me in situations where I sort of feel someone is speaking, well not the gospel or right teaching. So it guides me and keeps me from the wolves. Finally, if its felt during an emotional high, its usually during an extreme meditation on God, maybe a great worship service where I laid my feelings out to God, or a joyous occasion such as my baptism and acceptance of Christ.

In Christ,

Clean Cut said...

Thanks for taking the time to share those thoughts, Brooks. I think you did an admirable job. Describing the language of the Spirit is one of the hardest things to do--akin to describing what salt tastes like.

I agree that there is a huge difference between the Spirit and emotionalism. I too would not describe it as an "excitement", but rather "a still, small voice" (1 Kings 19:12) that is more often felt than heard. Those feelings come differently to different people, but a good indication is the fruit of the Spirit described in Galatians 5:22-23: "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance".

While this Comforter and Guide is a great blessing, it definitely comes in various degrees depending on our readiness to receive it and the situation we're in. There are times when the Spirit has worked through me in a very subtle way, and than other times in my life where I was completely overwhelmed--like it was just all-consuming--filling me with such light and joy.

However imperfectly we describe the language of the Spirit, there is no denying the fact that it is real, and truly one of the greatest blessings we can receive from our Father in Heaven while in mortality.

Anonymous said...

Your welcome…it is as you have stated, very difficult to put into words. I read the link, and as you probably know or could figure out, I’ve listened and conversed with Mormons many times, especially on the net (not a lot of missionaries come to my part of town cause its more rural), so I know Mormons have these sorts of feelings and emotions inside them pointing them to the BoM. Which is why I believe we should analyze this from the outside. Internal feelings are difficult to really gauge and measure. We can’t see who is giving us these internal feelings so one of us could very well be getting false messages. Even the prophet who wrote the words in that link acknowledges the possibility of one being deceived on the spiritual level, “Avoid like a plague those who claim that some great spiritual experience authorizes them to challenge the constituted priesthood authority in the Church. Do not be unsettled if you cannot explain every insinuation of the apostate or every challenge from the enemies who attack the Lord’s church. And we now face a tidal wave of that. In due time you will be able to confound the wicked and inspire the honest in heart.” So as we both can fully believe people are deceived…. in this case he likens it to those who challenge the Mormon Church. Now this automatically lumps me into the receiving the false spirit club, because I “challenge the constituted priesthood authority,” because I do not believe they are constituted by God, thus their words are meaningless to me spiritual wise in the sense that they don’t help my walk with God because I don’t believe they are prophets (it isn’t meaningless to me in the sense that it allows me to see where Mormonism stands on views or how they view theology or this and that). Now, I can’t lump you into this category because I’m not too sure you hold to this prophets view, in fact I’d be willing to bet (if I was a gambling man) that you don’t hold to this view and would accept that Traditionalists, even when denying Mormonism as a legit church, can still have the Spirit and will probably go to at least one of the levels of heaven in the Mormon view. I say this because it appears you write like this, and if your writing honestly, it would appear you don’t hold to this prophet’s view, or that you hold to a modified view of what this prophet stated.
With that being said let me reinstate what I said, I in no way lump you into that category, unless you state that you believe as this prophet does, that those outside of Mormonism who criticize and attack the church, and take it a step further labeling it as a cult and a false belief, have a deceiving spirit (I would like to hear your view on this by the way since I have seen it in sources that are core Mormon dogma). So with that being said let me move on…. so this prophet believes those who attack the church are apostate and have a false spirit, so we know this false spirit can present itself, even in a Mormon’s view, as a good and wholesome spirit. Now how does he gauge what is a false spirit? He states those who criticize and attack the church and ignore the priesthood have this false spirit. So if this prophet’s words are true, I have a false and deceiving spirit, but how can we tell someone has a false spirit? What measure can we use to determine this, after all simply stating “you have a false spirit” doesn’t make it so? This goes for both ends, Traditionalists can’t honestly say Mormons have a false spirit and vice versa (now both sides can do this cause they do, but there needs to be proof as to why a side can take this view). Now I presume that to prevent such a mix up, God would want to put in some proofs, something tangible and available for all men to recognize a false spirit. So I agree with this Mormon prophet, there are those who have a deceiving spirit, making it feel as if they are right in belief, that there is a way to measure and see this (though our views differ on the measuring device), and that there is only one truth from this Spirit (whether it is Mormon of Traditionalists, they both cannot be right). So, essentially this boils down to, who has the right spirit and how do we measure this spirit accurately? As I pointed out, we both cannot have the same spirit, for the Spirit tells ME in conviction the Mormon, the Muslim, the Jehovah’s Witness, and etc. etc. concept of God is false, and so is their teachings. We all differ to the point of being irreconcilable to being equally true. So what I’m proposing is more then just relying on a spirit or internal feeling to back up ones belief (since the spirit can deceive to the point of feeling like a true conviction from the Holy Spirit itself), but taking it a step further and examining what the actual content the Spirit is leading us to (I’m using this generically to mean either the evil spirit or the Holy Spirit). I think examining the truth claims of the content is the best accurate way to measure which spirit is false and which one is true, since in this case like many others, one may believe honestly they’re belief is correct and God leads them there with a spirit, when in reality it cannot be because of the content. As I pointed out before, the apostles were not afraid to take to the stand and defend the convictions of the Holy Spirit and their beliefs with tangible and verifiable truths, like to the Jews using the scriptures, and to the Gentiles their own philosophical ideas and as a result souls were saved.

In Christ,

Clean Cut said...

Brooks, it's been a few years and I was reminded of this conversation. It would be interesting to have this again now, since my views have evolved over time.

I pretty much recognize that all people claiming to "know the truth" through the spirit are probably feeling similar feelings. I have come to recognize that even absolute truth is evaluated subjectively. I used to think my feelings were proof of "truth", but really those feelings are confirming what works for me. What works for you and I might be different. So now days I don't focus so much on truth claims and instead I focus on goodness and allowing all people in every tradition to seek that according to their own conscience and supporting them in whatever journey they may be on.

There may very well be multiple paths to get to the top of the mountain.