Accusations Against Christians


California_Drought_Dry_Riverbed_2009There’s quite a litany of accusations against Christians these days, from non-Christians and other Christians alike. Those charges include things such as Christians can’t do art or create good speculative fiction, are greedy and hypocritical and hateful.

Sadly a selection of very visible individuals or groups claiming to be Christians have reinforced some of these ideas–pastors who end up having affairs, televangelists who preach health-and-wealth rather than sacrificial giving, sign-waving funeral crashers who condemn rather than present the good news.

But then there are individuals like the owner of Chick-fil-A who became the brunt of accusations because of his stand for monogamous, heterosexual marriage. He too was accused of being hateful.

Recently, as I was reading Scripture, I realized, we might as well get used to these sorts of recriminations. All the way back in the Old Testament, people proclaiming the truth about God and man’s sinful condition were tarnished with the brush of accusation.

Even Elijah. He prophesied during the reign of one of the most sinful kings Israel would know. Ahab married a pagan and proceeded to lead his people into idolatry like no king before him. He built temples and altars and assigned priests and made sacrifices to these false gods, all the while persecuting those who were faithful to the Lord God who lead them out of Egypt.

As judgment on the nation, God, through the prayer of Elijah, withheld rain from them for over three years. Needless to say, they suffered severe drought and famine. Ahab apparently conducted an extensive search for Elijah, thinking perhaps to force him to beseech God for rain. His search failed because God kept Elijah safe and supplied with food and drink.

When at last God told Elijah to return to Ahab, his first assignment before dealing with the drought was to confront the prophets of Baal. But before he could propose a showdown, Ahab accused him of troubling Israel.

Elijah didn’t let the accusation stand. Rather, he turned it back on Ahab:

He said, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and you have followed the Baals. (1 Kings 18:18)

Of course today such a statement would be seen as further evidence of a hateful, intolerant, unloving attitude.

I think this is why New Testament writers like Paul and Peter were instructing Christians about how to handle things like false accusations and suffering. Peter in his first letter makes a strong case for suffering for the sake of righteousness, not for wrong doing:

and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. (1 Peter 3:16-17 – emphasis added)

In the end, it seems the only thing we as believers in Jesus Christ can do is live godly lives. Earlier Peter said

Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation . . . For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. (1 Peter 2:12, 15)

Hypocrites! Hateful! Greedy! The accusations will come. The key is to silence our critics, not by taking a defensive stand, even though that worked for Elijah, but by exhibiting good behavior with which the accusers cannot argue.

Published in: on November 30, 2012 at 6:54 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , , ,

The Truth About The Star – And Why It Matters


Christmas Eve a bright star shone over a lowly stable–or so all the pictures and videos and Christmas cards would lead us to believe. A busy star, that, because the same legends have it leading the wisemen from wherever they lived in the East to that same ramshackle stable, with a little side trip into Jerusalem.

Even when I was young, I had some serious questions about this popular notion about the Christmas star. First, why did the star lead the wisemen to the wrong place before it led them to the right place? And secondly, if it was so bright, why didn’t other people go see what it was pointing to? I mean, would they ignore such a dramatic heavenly sight?

As it turns out, much of our ideas about the star are legend, not Biblical fact. Take the first point–the idea that the wisemen followed the star from their home in the somewhere East to the wrong place, Jerusalem.

A careful reading of Scripture shows that initially there was no star following. Rather, the magi–another name for astrologers who studied the heavens–saw the star that indicated a king had been born in Judea. They decided to pay homage to this king, so they packed up their caravan and went to the most likely place you’d find the heir to the throne–the capital city.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:1-2)

Upon arrival, of course, they learned that, oops, no heir had been born to Herod, which could only mean one of two things–either a coup would occur overthrowing Herod, which was unlikely since Rome ultimately oversaw who sat on the throne, or the promised Messiah of Scripture had been born. Most Jews, it seems, believed He wouldn’t unseat Herod, but Rome, at least as far as it held jurisdiction in Judea.

Herod checked with the scholars familiar with the prophets. From them he learned that the promised Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, and that’s the information he passed on to the magi, all the while making his own plans to do away with this child that just might be a threat to his own rule.

When the magi packed up and headed out of Jerusalem, that’s when they saw the special star again. They recognized it as the same one they’d seen in the East, and this time it moved in front of them, only to stop when it came to the place where Jesus was–not a manger any longer but a house.

So why didn’t others join the wisemen and follow this star too? I mean, Scripture says “all Jerusalem” was troubled–unnerved, perturbed, perplexed–by what the wisemen had to say. A star, a king, magi come to worship? Wouldn’t “all Jerusalem” then be only too eager to see where that bright star was going? They’d been waiting for generations. Couldn’t this be it???

Well, the thing is, nowhere in Scripture does it say this star was bright. The wisemen saw it and recognized it because they were wise men. They made it their business to study the heavens, to learn the secrets of God.

Here’s what Strong’s Concordance says about the magi:

the name given by the Babylonians (Chaldeans), Medes, Persians, and others, to the wise men, teachers, priests, physicians, astrologers, seers, interpreters of dreams, augers, soothsayers, sorcerers etc.

It’s uncomfortable to think that God spoke to these non-Jews in a way that seems so different from the one He used with the Jews and later with the Church. No sorcery, He said. No divination, no interpreting of omens:

There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. (Deut 18:10-11)

Yet clearly the magi saw in the heavens the proclamation of the birth of God’s Son. This brings to mind a verse in Colossians in which Paul says “… the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation ” (1:23b – emphasis mine).

So what if the star declaring Jesus’s birth wasn’t an isolated incident? What if God, through His omnipotence, put the gospel message out there in any number of ways for men who wished to worship Him?

But that’s speculation on my part. What isn’t speculation is that the star didn’t lead the wisemen to Jerusalem and Scripture says nothing about the star being particularly bright.

And this is important because … ?

For one thing it illustrates how easily we come to believe something we’ve heard over and over and seen time and time again, regardless of its Scriptural underpinnings. For me, the star is a reminder to be cautious. The faddish interpretations of Biblical events just might be built upon a legend, so it’s imperative to examine ideas in light of what Scripture actually says.

Secondly, it shows that even the wisemen needed to verify their findings with Scripture. God didn’t send them an errant sign that inadvertently took them to Jerusalem instead of Bethlehem. No, they made that mistake all by themselves.

Thirdly, if God had wanted the whole area to drop everything and run to see the baby Jesus, I don’t doubt that He would have made the star particularly bright or sent the host of angels to Jerusalem instead of to a handful of shepherds going about their regular duties. In His divine wisdom, though, He chose a small reception party–actually two separate parties by two divergent groups: lowly shepherds and foreigners. The latter were not Jews. They were people from Somewhere Else.

Above all, it seems to me that the star, which apparently the Jews laden with Scripture completely missed, shows that God intended His Son to be the Savior of the world. He was not the political powerhouse the Jews were looking for. He was and is the King available to all who wish to bow the knee, to worship and adore Incarnate God, born to save.

Published in: on November 29, 2012 at 6:39 pm  Comments (3)  
Tags: , , , ,

The Life-Changing, Life-Long Gift


It’s Christmas time! Well, almost. Here in the US, after our Thanksgiving Day, it seems most people turn their attention to Christmas. Music, decorations, and of course, gifts.

Interestingly, the best gift I ever received wasn’t really a gift–not in the sense of someone buying me something special and wrapping it in holiday paper or topping it with a bow. I didn’t receive it on December 25 either. In fact, it isn’t even something you receive. It’s something you do.

I imagine some people might be thinking of various giving activities that would be appropriate at Christmas time. Ways to help the needy, the less fortunate. Ways to bring Christmas to those in convalescent hospitals, to families of prisoners, to prisoners themselves.

These are all wonderful things, and they might well be life-changing to some degree, but the gift I received, or didn’t receive, wasn’t anything like that.

Rather, as I may have mentioned in this space before, I had a principal early in my teaching career at our Christian school, tell the entire staff that we ought to be spending time in the Bible every day since we were teaching the Bible.

Sure, yeah, of course. We all had Bible as our first subject of the day, and why wouldn’t we want to familiarize ourselves with the material we were teaching? It made perfect sense to me.

I also had a teacher friend who became a model for me. Some years earlier she had started the practice of reading through the Bible every year. By the time I discovered this, she’d been through the Bible, like ten times.

Wow! That seemed so . . . formidable, but also desirable. So I started out. I wish I could say it was easy sailing, but it wasn’t. I had starts and stops, frustration, even some boredom where I had to bring my wandering mind back from all the other things on my plate. I had guilt and questions about my motives, but slowly, bit by bit, I had the roots of a habit–a life-long, life-changing habit.

Now, all these years later, I can’t think of one other thing that has made a greater difference in my life. God’s Word simply has revolutionized the way I view the world.

I don’t know that my principal realized what a great gift he was giving. After all, the reasoning behind his statement to us was utilitarian–you can’t teach what you don’t know. But there’s a greater truth there–you can’t live what you don’t know, either. And you also can’t love Who you don’t know.

Simply put, the Bible shows me God.

Day in and day out, I see how God interacted with people in history–how He formed them, loved them, warned them, redeemed them. And oh yes, I see that all those recorded relationships are meant to inform me about my own relationship with God.

No greater gift.

I was reminded of this on Sunday as I was driving home from church. Joni Earkson Tada has a short radio spot that airs on Sunday here in the LA area, and this week she talked about how she and her husband have been reading through the Bible in a year. She challenged her listeners to do the same.

How cool, I thought. Someday someone else is going to look back and say, Joni changed their life because she gave them the greatest, most life-changing gift of all.

The gift, of course, isn’t really the challenge. The gift is the doing. And the continuing to do.

My friend who had read the Bible at least ten times? She’s still at it. She’ll change things up once in a while to keep looking at the text anew. Sometimes she’ll read back to front or in a different version from her norm. But she’s there, day in and day out, meeting with God in the pages of His book.

How could spending that much time with God NOT change a person? What a great gift!

Published in: on November 28, 2012 at 6:17 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , ,

Decision Making


Whether we like it or not, we all need to make decisions of one kind or another. Some choices, like when to get up in the morning or whether to shower before heading out the door, don’t seem like decisions any more because we’ve done them so long they’ve become a habit.

Mixed in with those automatic decisions are hundreds of smaller ones we make without realizing we are. Do I stop three feet behind the car in front of me or seven? Do I wear the blue or the black? Do I have a piece of toast with my cereal or not? Do I stop at the post office on my way to work or after? Do I take a jacket? And on and on.

Besides these daily, almost trivial decisions, are the Big Decisions of Life–who to marry, what school to attend, what job to apply for. Then there are the life changing decisions–will I read God’s Word today? Who should I pray for? How should I pray?

Interestingly, the Old Testament gives us three kings of Israel who model different decision-making styles. First was King David. He repeatedly went to God and asked for specific leading. Should he go up against this army, should he stay in that city? In return, God answered him quite specifically, at one point even giving instructions about setting up an ambush.

David wasn’t perfect. He didn’t ask God about how he should bring the ark into the place he prepared for it, for example, and a man died as a result. But on the whole, as God indicated, David was a man after God’s own heart. Despite his sin with Bathsheba and the resulting death of her husband, God said David’s heart was “wholly devoted to the Lord his God” and that he followed the Lord fully.

1 Samuel 17 tells us “the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day [of his anointing] forward.” David, then, had the Spirit of God and he inquired of God. He remained faithful to God, loving and serving Him to the end.

His son Solomon who took the throne next, encountered God and when given the opportunity to ask for anything he desired, asked for wisdom. God granted that request, but nowhere does Scripture say His Spirit came upon Solomon. He, too, made mistakes, marrying foreign women and setting up places of worship for their gods. When he was confronted, he did not repent as David had, but remained resistant. In summary, he had God’s wisdom, but he relied on himself. As a result of his decisions, he brought God’s displeasure.

The third king is Rehoboam, Solomon’s son. He was confronted with a decision right away–should he lighten the load of servitude on the people as they asked? He had the elders who counseled his father and he asked them what he should do. Yes, lighten the burden, they advised. Apparently Rehoboam didn’t like that answer because he turned around and asked a group of counselors his own age. Be tougher than your father, they said. And that’s the path Rehoboam decided to follow. The result of that decision was civil war.

Three kings. Three methods of decision making:

  • David, filled with God’s Spirit, inquired of God.
  • Solomon, gifted with God’s wisdom, followed the influence of his wives
  • Rehoboam, provided with the counsel of elders, listened to the counselors who told him what he wanted to hear

The most apparent thing in the decision-making process of these kings seems to me to be whether or not they were filled with God’s Spirit.

It’s instructive to look at a fourth king at this point–King Saul. Scripture tells us the Spirit of God also came upon him, though He did not stay. Why? Saul inquired of God, heard what He had to say, then did as he pleased. In practice he behaved more like Rehoboam than like David.

Decision making? I’d say David should be the model. First he had a right relationship with God, and then he more often than not asked God what he was to do. In the end, he trusted and obeyed.

Putting Christ In Christmas?


Call me cynical, but I find the call to put Christ in Christmas to be a suspect cause.

Here in California one city has banned the display of all holiday decorations because of the brouhaha over allowing or not allowing a nativity scene. We’ve had similar confrontations about displaying the Ten Commandments.

I do think there’s a legal issue at stake–the US Constitution guarantees the freedom to express and practice our religious beliefs, but that freedom is slowly being squeezed out of the public arena. The ban on such expression is just one more instance.

And yet, I can’t help but think too many Christians are willing to fall on the wrong sword.

Was Paul beaten because he wanted to put up a manger scene? Was Stephen stoned because he insisted on saying “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy holidays”?

I’m not suggesting we should roll over and go the way of the world just to get along. But I think we too often draw a line in the sand over the symbolic rather than the significant.

First of all, Christ should not be in Christmas only. Christ should be part of our lives, and I don’t think we should approach Christmas in a way that is particularly different from any other day as far as our witness for Christ is concerned. Hanging up a “He is the reason for the season” sign falls short, in my way of thinking, because He is the reason for EVERY season, for every breath I take–or He ought to be.

Then, too, becoming angry at and hateful toward those who disagree and who want to eliminate the religious from Christmas seems to contradict much of the Christmas message. Joy to the world, not anger. Peace on earth, not enmity. Of course, joy and peace come through knowing Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior–no other way. But when Christians treat non-Christians as the enemy, as the ones against whom we are to fight, then we’re missing an opportunity to take them the message of redemption that first manifested to the world in God’s incarnation as a little baby.

If we can no longer put up a symbol of God come down, perhaps we need to think more creatively and see how we can show that message ourselves. When was the last time we served in a soup kitchen or made a blanket for a homeless person? Have we ever volunteered to teach English as a second language or tutor at our local public school . . . for free? Have we encouraged our church leaders to reach out to the needy in our community–families of those in prison, unmarried women who chose to give birth to their babies.

The point is, God did come down. And because of His redemption, each person who believes in Him and accepts the forgiveness He made available through Jesus, is now a Christmas tree ornament, a bright light announcing Emmanuel.

So do we need to fight to keep Christ in Christmas? As long as His followers live for Him, there’s no way anyone can keep Him out of Christmas, or any other day, for that matter.

Published in: on November 26, 2012 at 5:53 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , ,

Show, Don’t Tell


Mike Duran

The old fiction writing adage “Show, don’t tell,” applies to a lot more than crafting novels or short stories.

Experienced writers will tell you that actions paint a character better than any grocery list of description or any clever narrative. Readers will understand the list or the explanation, but they will see and feel the actions. They will also have to wrestle with the meaning and try to understand on their own. Consequently, they will internalize more about a character.

It dawned on me as I read Mike Duran’s recent post about church youth groups that we all behave in this way. Someone can tell us what to believe, for example, but it is more powerful to see another person living out their faith. It’s easier to internalize the truth.

For example, I’ve heard countless sermons about forgiveness, but reading Corrie ten Boom’s experience of forgiving one of her German concentration camp guards showed the truth and power of forgiveness in a way I’ll never forget.

George Muller

In the same way, Elisabeth Elliot showed what it meant not to return evil for evil but to give a blessing instead, and her husband Jim showed what it meant to love someone to the point of laying down your life.

George Müller, the 19th century evangelist who started a number of orphanages, caring for over 10,000 children, because he believed God would provide, showed what living by faith and trusting God for daily provision really looks like.

William Henry Harding said, ‘The world, dull of understanding, has even yet not really grasped the mighty principle upon which he [Müller] acted, but is inclined to think of him merely as a nice old gentleman who loved children, a sort of glorified guardian of the poor, who with the passing of the years may safely be spoken of, in the language of newspaper headlines, as a “prophet of philanthropy.” To describe him thus, however, is to degrade his memory, is to miss the high spiritual aim and the wonderful spiritual lesson of his life. It is because the carnal mind is incapable of apprehending spiritual truth that the world regards the orphan Houses only with the languid interest of mere humanitarianism, and remains oblivious of their extraordinary witness to the faithfulness of God.'[42]

I wonder, then, who the heroes of the faith are for this generation.

We have some good talkers. I mean that seriously. I’ve been blessed to sit under some great preaching. In SoCal Christian radio makes other great pastors or apologists available, so I have heard from time to time men like Alistair Begg, R. C. Sproul, Dr. David Jeremiah, Philip DeCourcy, and Ravi Zacharias.

Others write. My book shelf is crammed with non-fiction from which I’ve been taught. A. W. Tozier, John MacArthur, Philip Yancy, and on and on.

Yet … I can’t help but think none of those speakers or writers would have had much of an impact if I didn’t have people in my life living out the gospel. And heroes of the faith who showed more than they told.

Who today is doing the dramatic things like Corrie ten Boom, Elisabeth Elliot, or George Müller? I can think of one, but I’m sure there are more. I’d love to hear their stories.

Published in: on November 16, 2012 at 5:34 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , ,

Gettin’ To Be THAT Time Of Year


I can feel it coming on. I’ve noticed it more the last few years, but no doubt it’s been part of my makeup for some time. Call it the Fantasy Itch.

Yep, for some reason as the “holiday season”–usually defined here in the US as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day–approaches, I begin to have an urge to snuggle in with one of the great fantasies. In recent years I’ve used the occasion to reread the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, much of the Narnia series, and a couple of Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain books. I even reread the one Harry Potter book I own–which made me realize, I definitely want to visit the library and get a couple more to satisfy this year’s fantasy itch.

The odd thing is, I read fantasy all the time–part of the job now, so to speak. I recently finished Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes, a general market young adult story, and the beginning of a series touted as “ideal for fans of George R. R. Martin and Kristin Cashore.” Then there was Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, another general market YA. Before that was Shannon Hale’s sequel to Princess Academy, Palace of Stone.

Of course I also read all the books the CSFF Blog Tour features and some I judge for contests and others friends send me. With all this speculative fiction coming out of my ears, why would I want to settle down with a fantasy as a special holiday season activity?

I don’t really have an answer. I think I’ve mentioned this propensity before, either here or at Spec Faith, and kindly commenters have tried to help me make sense of it. It’s still a mystery to me.

Somehow, with shorter days and cooler weather (I realize we here in SoCal aren’t allowed by our Eastern friends to say “cold weather” 😆 ), reading becomes a greater pleasure. But more than that, getting lost in a different world, one so rich it feels real, is pure delight.

Which probably explains why I gravitate to certain books–those classics that have a level of worldbuilding that is a grade above most other fantasies.

Some of these more recent fantasies–not the urban kind or the dystopians–seem to me to be a weak imitation of the medieval world, with different countries, and of course some magic or supernatural power. In other words, I don’t feel transported to somewhere else.

Tolkien’s stories, though supposedly happening on “middle earth,” feel Other. Not unfamiliar or strange, mind you. There are familiar things like inns and ponies and roads and a comfortable fire and birthday parties. But peopling this familiar place are hobbits and trolls and dwarfs and orcs and wizards and dragons and elves. What’s more, there are frightening forests and abandoned dwarf mines that once held an entire city and mountains that turn malevolent and secret stairways and deadly marshes. In other words, along with the familiar are places that enchant and intrigue and even frighten.

Harry Potter is similar. Nothing could be more familiar to most of us than a school, though fewer of us have experienced a boarding school, unless you lived in a dorm during college. But mixed in with what seems so normal–homework and tests and boring lectures and athletic contests–is the special world of wizardry with its hierarchy and governance, games and tradition. And history. A dark history in which a wizard utilizing the dark arts ruled.

Ah, yes, I’m definitely ready to settle down with a good fantasy. It’s that time of year!

Discernment 101 Revisited


About the time you think it’s safe to return to the water, it isn’t. So, too, with reading and going to movies and watching TV. Well, pretty much everything related to culture. Western society has largely spurned its Christian underpinnings, requiring those of us who still cling to the Solid Rock to think carefully about what our minds dwell on lest we also get washed away at sea.

Mormonism is one example of this need. Are they a cult or are they Christian? Another is the murky theology of those who are “progressives” or who identify as “emergent.”

A year and a half ago we had the over-hyped discourse Love Wins by Rob Bell with its ideas that there is no hell and all will eventually make their way into God’s presence in the after life.

Before that we had Paul Young’s controversial, rambling theological discourse disguised as fiction, The Shack, which, among other things, cast aspersions on the Bible and suggested universalism.

Now we’re at the threshold of another similar “story,” complete with media hype. Mr. Young has just released Cross Roads and has begun a book tour, complete with book signings, an appearance on The Today Show, and an interview with People magazine.

Have I read this book or know its theological content? I don’t.

I’m also not aware that Mr. Young has re-examined or changed any of his erroneous beliefs peppered throughout The Shack. Consequently, when we see a book on the horizon that may contain ideas contrary to Scripture (most books) and yet purports to be Christian, we as Bible believing followers of Jesus Christ need to keep in mind some basic principles of discernment.

  • The Bible is the ultimate authority of what is True. We need to examine the things we read and hear and see to determine if they are so or if they come from someone’s fabrication of God and His way.
  • Because someone is friendly and encouraging or is a good speaker or is entertaining or . . . ad infinitum, does not increase the likelihood that they are telling the truth.
  • That someone claims Christ is no guarantee their story will reflect Christ truthfully.
  • Christians are admonished to test the spirits to see if these things are so.

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)

  • False teaching abounds which should make Christians more alert, not more reclusive.
  • Legalism is not the same thing as discernment.

What are your thoughts about discernment? What else should be included in a list of basic principles to keep in mind if we are to be discerning about our culture?

You might also want to read the first “Discernment 101” post written three years ago.

The Best Of Men


As the 17th century English adage goes, “The best of men are men at best,” so it should come as no surprise when a remarkable and admirable person does something stupid. That’s the way I look at it anyway.

So when I learned today that Franklin Graham and his much revered father were instrumental in having Mormonism removed from the list of religious cults on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s website, I shook my head. Too bad.

For half a century Billy Graham has stood for one thing–the clear gospel message that all have sinned and come short of God’s glory, and that Jesus died to redeem us from that sin. That’s it. Sermon after sermon, crusade after crusade. He preached the good news night in and night out.

And now, having met with Governor Mitt Romney some weeks before the election, Franklin Graham, according to news reports, promised to do whatever he could to help Mr. Romney’s campaign. And off the cult list came Mormonism.

Ouch.

The fact is, Mormonism belongs on the cult list. One of the worst things coming out of this election–yes, one of the worst!–is this murkiness surrounding Mormonism. Christians need to be clear. Mormons use terms like “son of God” and “atonement” but they mean something very different from what the Bible means by those same terms.

For one thing–and this is something Mormons can’t disguise–this false religion uses extra-Biblical sources to arrive at their beliefs. The Book of Mormon is only one of those. They believe that the leaders of their church also receive utterance which has the same, or more, authority as the Bible–more, because it is more recent. God, they believe, continues to update His revelation.

Mormonism is centered on Jesus Christ and His role as Creator and Redeemer. He is not only the center of Mormon worship, He leads the Church personally through revelation to His prophet (the President of the Church) and by giving the authority to church priesthood-holders to act in His name . . . Mormons wish they had even more scriptures and know that more will be given as they are more worthy to receive them. (excerpt from Mormon Beliefsemphasis mine)

Equally troubling is what Mormons believe about Mankind. We are first spirit born–children of God in a very literal way, offspring of his union with his spirit wives, so when we are born physically we are leaving the father and will one day return to him.

According to Mormon theology, God the Father, Elohim, dwells on a planet with His many spirit wives producing numerous spirit children who await to inhabit physical bodies so that they too may one day ascend to godhood as their parents did. (from “The Mormon Doctrine of Jesus: A Christian Perspective” by Patrick Zukeran, Probe Ministries)

From the Mormon Beliefs website:

For Latter-day Saints, mortal existence is seen in the context of a great sweep of history, from a pre-earth life where the spirits of all mankind lived with Heavenly Father to a future life in His presence where continued growth, learning and improving will take place.

And another explanation from Mormon Beliefs:

Mormon doctrine holds that all people have existed eternally as individual “intelligences,” and then that God the Father created us spiritually, before we came to earth. (emphasis mine)

This idea of Mankind is a contradiction to what the Bible tells us about Creation. It also has major ramifications for what Mormons believe about Jesus. They believe he is simply the first of God’s spirit children. In other words, he is a created being himself.

According to the Mormon view, Jesus is not unique from the rest of mankind. He is simply the firstborn spirit child. The Doctrine and Covenants states, “The difference between Jesus and other offspring of Elohim is one of degree not of kind.”{4} That is why Mormons refer to Jesus as elder brother. (Zukeran)

In addition, Jesus is Jehovah, the one who interacted with man in the events recorded in the Old Testament. Yet he is a distinct person from the Father, not “the fullness of God in bodily form” as Scripture states.

Mormons believe that Jesus Christ has always been a separate person from God the Father. In some ways Christ Himself is our father—He is the creator of the heavens and the earth; He is a father to all those who are born-again; He is one with God the Father in all the attributes of perfection, power, and authority.(Mormon Beliefs – emphasis mine)

In other words, He is not God in the way Christians understand the tri-unity of God the Father, Son, and Spirit.

There’s more, much more. This post barely scratches the surface. But I think it’s enough to illustrate that Mormons believe very differently from Christians on major tenants of the faith.

For a succinct overview of what Mormons believe by an ex-Mormon, visit Recovery from Mormonism.

Published in: on November 13, 2012 at 6:26 pm  Comments (5)  
Tags: , , , ,

More Than A Name


In fantasy from time to time there are characters empowered by their “real” name. Perhaps they need to go on a quest to discover that name or perhaps the one who know it holds magical powers over the person. At any rate, the name is more than just a name.

In a similar way, calling Jesus Christ “Lord” is more than giving Him a particular name or title. Peter says in his first letter “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts” (1 Peter 3:15a). In this context I believe “sanctify” refers to the second meaning of the word listed in the Oxford English Dictionary: “make legitimate or binding.” Some synonyms would be “permit, allow, authorize, legitimize.”

I particularly like the last two because Peter’s command seems so proactive, as if this is something each Christian must do.

Interestingly, and in stark contrast, Jesus tells a group of people following Him that at the judgment there will be people calling Him Lord, Lord, and He’ll say, “I never knew you.”

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ ” (Matt 7:21-23)

How can this be? Doesn’t Paul say in 1 Corinthians something different?

Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed”; and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:3)

In context, what Paul said reinforces what Jesus said. Jesus was pointing out that some people will know who He is and will even identify with Him and claim they are working for Him, but they are not obeying Him.

Paul, in his letter, discussed the work of the Holy Spirit, including the quality of love that is the “more excellent way,” and which just happens to be the command Jesus gave His disciples:
“This I command you, that you love one another” (John 15:17).

Unfortunately, there are many false teachers who distort the truth about Jesus.

Some, such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will call Him the Son of God and even God, but they’ll define those terms in ways that undermine Christ’s true nature. Others who believe they are supposed to hold His feet to the fire of His own promises, order Him around as if He had come to serve them, not as if He is their Lord. Another group believes Jesus is a good example because He was so loving, because He overcame His “dark side.” They miss His deity.

These and other false ideas about who Jesus is affect what a person means by saying He is Lord. It reminds me of the people of Israel calling the golden calf they made by God’s holy name. They could say, Here is your God all they wanted, but their words did not make that idol God.

So too with Jesus. Calling Him Lord takes on meaning only if we know who He is and sanctify Him as Lord in our hearts.

Published in: on November 12, 2012 at 6:52 pm  Comments Off on More Than A Name  
Tags: , ,
%d bloggers like this: