Thursday, August 26, 2010

"Go therefore"

The following conversation took place between D. L. Moody and a critic:

Critic: “Mr. Moody, I don’t think your approach to evangelism is very effective.”
Moody: “I am certain that it can be improved upon. What method do you use? I would like to learn how to do my work better.”
Critic: “I don’t have any method just now.”
Moody: “Then I will stick to my way for the time being.”

HT: Dr. Lyle Dorsett

Monday, August 23, 2010

Life in the Body

“The very word membership is of Christian origin, but it has been taken over by the world and emptied of all meaning. It must be most emphatically stated that items included in a homogeneous class are almost the reverse of what St. Paul meant. By members he meant that what we should call organs, things, essentially different from, and complementary to, one another. When we describe a man as ‘a member of the Church’ we usually mean nothing Pauline: we mean only that he is a unit—that he is one more specimen of some kind of things as X and Y.

The society into which the Christian is called at baptism is not a collective but a Body. If anyone came to it with the misconception that membership of the Church was membership in a debased modern sense—a massing together of persons as if they were pennies—he would be corrected at the threshold by the discovery that the head of this Body is so unlike the inferior members that they share no predicate with him save by analogy. We are summoned from the outset to combine as creatures with out Creator, as mortals with immortal, as redeemed sinners with sinless Redeemer. His presence, the interaction between him and us, must always be the overwhelmingly dominant factor in the life we are to lead within the Body; and any conception of Christian fellowship which does not mean primarily fellowship with him is out of court. We are all constantly teaching and learning, forgiving and being forgiven, representing Christ to man, and man to Christ. The sacrifice of selfish privacy which is daily demanded of us is daily repaid a hundredfold in the true growth of personality which the life of the Body encourages. Those who are members of one another become as diverse as the hand and the ear. That is why the worldlings are so monotonously alike compared with the almost fantastic variety of the saints. Obedience is the road to freedom, humility the road to pleasure, unity the road to personality.”

C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Friday, August 20, 2010

In Response to the Firestorm about Mormonism...

Let me tell you a brief story:

When I was 14 years old I was part of an irreligious family. My best friend, however, was the son of a Mormon bishop of a ward here in Bakersfield. This is where I first began hearing about Mormonism. He had
a great family and lots of friends who I enjoyed hanging out with at their Friday night dances. However, I also began attending a Protestant Christian church and learning their theology. My friend and the church I was attending were saying very different things. So, over time I picked up copies of several Mormon books and began reading them. I also welcomed visits from Mormon missionaries. I eventually came to be a Protestant Christian, and now a full time pastor.

However, during this phase in which I was trying to learn more about Mormonism and historic Christianity, I began asking questions of the Mormon missionaries. I had heard they taught what Randy is claiming. To their credit, they were very clear as to their beliefs when pushed. I had to scale a bit of a language barrier, but I soon got a better understanding of their beliefs. First, it is true that they believe Heavenly Father is the one supreme God for us. However, if you ask them about that ever important "for us" they will admit there are other gods. This is a variation of polytheism called "henotheism." They also admitted it was true that Heavenly Father was at one point a man and that he has not eternally existed! This is quite different than the historic Christian belief about God. Further, I asked about Jesus being a created being (Now, historic Christianity believes Jesus is 2 natures: human and divine. He was created according to his humanity and eternally existed as the Son of God according to his divinity). They were quick to point out to me that Jesus was not eternally preexistent as God, but was in fact the spiritual offspring of Heavenly Father, along with Lucifer and all of us. I asked why the Protestant, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox churches all teach the opposite. They said it was because the church invented the doctrine of the Trinity and the corresponding doctrine of Jesus as fully man and fully God at the council of Nicea in AD325. They went on to tell me that this is where the church became apostate and why Joseph Smith was chosen to restore true Christianity. (I am not going to take the time to correct this completely ahistorical accounting of Nicea and Chalcedon and the fundamental misunderstanding that they are pushing here as my point is just to get at what they said they believe).

So, I realized that their definition of God was different than historic Christianity. They in fact believe in henotheism, not monotheism. They reject Trinitarianism and the full, eternal divinity of the Son of God and the Holy Spirit. They also believed that all the church was apostate for almost 2000 years, until Joseph Smith was led to the book of Mormon by the Angel Moroni. They told me the Bible is full of errors and is only part of the story. They told me I needed to also read the book of Mormon and find out the history of how the Jews came to America and how Jesus eventually came to them as well. When I asked what happened to all of those less than Native American looking people, I was instructed that they were cursed for sin and thus became Native American in complexion! This is why when Westerners came to the Americas they did not find people who looked like Jews. They went on to tell me that I need to read the book of Mormon and pray to see whether it is true. Protestants believe the Biblical Canon is closed with the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament. Protestants also believe the Bible is true and without error. So, they definitely had a different view of the Bible. Further, their view of history and the accuracy of the book of Mormon rides on the argument Glenn Beck made the other night. He was historically out to lunch! He is welcome to teach whatever he wants on his show. He has freedom of speech. However, we are also welcome to critique his view of history and warn Christians that he has moved from analysis to evangelism for the Mormon cause while disingenuously claiming he is only giving the straight historical story.

This is Mormon theology 101 (if you ask them to define their terms). So the question is, why is it wrong for us to recognize we have different beliefs? Why is it wrong to point out that we believe differently and that we think the other person is wrong? If I believe you are believing in a false god, then I am not loving to leave you in that belief. As a Protestant Christian, I don't believe Jesus came to encourage our idolatry, but to save us from our idolatry! I certainly couldn't claim to be a Protestant and claim it is loving to leave others in idolatry. Someone might say, "who are you to judge? Didn't Jesus hang out with all kinds of sinners?"

Yes, Jesus did hang out with all kinds of sinners! Yes, Jesus did warn us that with the measure we judge, we will also be judged! However, we need to understand those passages. Jesus did harshly judge false religious teachers (see Matthew 23). Jesus also commanded us to judge those who claim to be prophets (see Matthew 7). So, we are supposed to judge truth from error. We are supposed to do so for the sake of seeing all men saved by and delighting in Jesus Christ. We are not supposed to be condescending and holier than thou. However, our modesty is not supposed to fall on the organ of conviction! Our modesty is to fall on the organ of self! We have this completely backwards in our culture, so that now the greatest good is to have strong self-confidence and the greatest sin is to confidently assert that one set of beliefs is true and another is incorrect. Jesus, Paul, and the Apostles did not take this approach. They judged and condemned false teaching. they commanded the church to do the same. However, they loved and were gracious to lost people. They desired to see them saved and recognized that their false religious beliefs were damning (see Paul's desire that the Jews would be saved in Romans 9:1-5, 10:1-3).

I am friends with a man named, Mike Spence. Mike was President of CRA and a Mormon bishop. I talked to Mike about his Mormonism and he never denied we had fundamentally different ideas about God, Jesus, or the Bible. However, we shared the desire to see the unborn live, to see marriage stay between a man and a woman, to see taxes low, and government small. We never had to pretend we had the same views, and I never pretended that I thought Mike was going anywhere but Hell. I wanted to see him saved through the true Jesus. He knew this. He thought I was wrong as well. We were frank about it. Yet, we all had the maturity to move forward together in the political realm where we agreed. My job as a pastor is to teach my congregation sound doctrine and refute those who contradict (Titus 1:9), as Randy was doing on our church blog. My job as a citizen of the USA is to fight for and support just laws, which is why I have worked beside a guy who I would warn my congregation not to follow when it comes to theology.

Now a word from Randy (author of the original post):

Let me tell you how this all started. Years ago, maybe 15, two very nice Mormon missionaries showed up at my door. I started talking to them, and eventually they came in. We talked for a while and they asked if they could come back and teach me about their church. I said yes.

I don't remember which meeting it was (we had several). But at some point they got to Joseph Smith's vision. This is where it got real interesting.

They told me how the angel Moroni appeared to Joseph and told him that all of the Christian churches had become apostate and corrupt, and that their creeds were an abomination, and how he (Joseph) ha been chosen to restore (not reform, an important distinction) the Christian Gospel to the Earth.

This was interesting to me because I was a Christian, and here were these nice young guys telling me (in a nice way) that I was an apostate, and my church was a fraud. Those are serious charges!

What's interesting is that I didn't fire the first shot in this battle - they did! They came to my house to tell me my faith was corrupt, and they had the answer. So the idea of ME picking on Mormons is kind of silly. So silly that part of me wants to say, "They started it".

Well, I take my faith very seriously, and of course I want to believe the correct stuff, like everyone, I suppose. So we discussed it.

Now, never, not even a little bit, did they mention the stuff I wrote about. It may have been in later lessons, but I never got that far. They kept insisting that I go "kneel and pray" and ask God to confirm the truth of the Book of Mormon. If I did that, they assured me I would get some kind of confirmation.

Well, I'm a "primary sources" kind of guy, so I never did that. I believe what I believe about Christianity because of what God revealed to us in the Bible, not because of any subjective "feeling" I may or may not have. Feelings can be deceptive, and I wasn't willing to hang an eternity in Hell on some arbitrary quiver in my liver. I want objective truth, not subjective feelings.

They left, but I continued my investigation. That is where I got the information I wrote about.

Several of the LDS folks have encouraged all of us to go to the Mormon church's website. Well, when I went through this, there was no Internet so I had to use books.

It may interest you to know I have a rather large collection of LDS theology books for a non-Mormon. I own all of the Standard Works (Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price and Doctrine and Covenants). I also have copies of most, if not all of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young's sermons. They were written down verbatim for posterity since they were preaching in the role of prophet, and their words were considered to be equal to or greater than the scriptures. I also own Doctrines of Salvation by Joseph Fielding Smith (I believe, it's been a while) and Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R. McConkie. There are also various other books and LDS publications in my library as well.

Everything that I said about Mormon theology in that blog is 100% true. It is all taken directly from the LDS church's own publications and the sermons and writings of their prophets. You are welcome to buy these books, they are all on Amazon (another thing which didn't exist when I started this journey. I had to go to an actual LDS bookstore to get my copies) and do the research yourselves.

Now this isn't Mormonism 101, in that the Missionaries don't jump right in with Jesus and Satan are brothers. Obviously this wouldn't sit well with the nice little Baptist lady they are talking to. But it IS their theology. By the time a church member gets their temple recommend and goes through the endowment ceremony they are hip to this stuff. In fact, there's even a short play they watch in the temple that takes place in the Garden of Eden where the whole Jesus/Satan thing is acted out. Jesus, the firstborn of Heavenly Father wants to play nice and Lucifer wants to be the bad guy and force folks to believe, etc, etc. But it's in there.

The idea of God being a former man? That's legit, too. I quoted the guy who said it. The 5th president of the church. "As man is,God once was. As God is, man may become". I didn't just make this stuff up. The Mormon church teaches that there are many gods, although there is only one that we on Earth have anything to do with. This god, was once a man, and through his faithfulness to Mormonism, he was granted godhood. He now lives in heaven, with all of the wives he had when he was a man (this is why polygamy was a big part of early Mormonism) and that he was sealed to in the temple. Their new job is to procreate forever, creating spirit babies to send down to their planet and inhabit bodies so the cycle of eternal progression can continue (endless celestial sex, no?). This is actual Mormon doctrine, folks. Again, I got this from their own books, and prophets.

Now, I'm sure that really "hacked some people off" as Beck is fond of saying. So, do I hate Mormons? No. I don't. I have many Mormon friends and I love them dearly. They know what I believe, and I know what they believe. We have had this very discussion face to face and no blood was shed (don't get me started on the Mormon doctrine of blood atonement).

So if I don't hate Mormons, why would I write such things?

Because there is such a thing as "truth", and Mormonism isn't it. The LDS church whether out of ignorance or malicious intent is deceiving people. This isn't the kind of deception that leads to a better seat at the ball game. It leads to an eternity in Hell. That's a big deal to me. Not only that, but the Mormon church is carrying this false gospel to the doorstep, and now into the living rooms of Christians across this country every single day. Day after day they peel off the weak and suck them into their system of false beliefs. The Mormons are the ones attacking the Christian church in a massive way, not the other way around.

It is my job, as an elder (little e) in the church to protect the flock against wolves. I am commanded to do so in the Bible.

I wrote that post for publication on my church's blog, to protect the flock in my care and warn them about Glenn Beck's sudden departure into a Mormon worldview. That's my job.

Mormonism is very deceptive. As you can read above Mormons use many of the same words Christians use, but when you peel back the layers of the onion you find out they are defining them differently. This is what makes it so dangerous. Christians are fooled by the language into thinking that they are talking about the same Jesus, God, Etc. When in fact, they are not the same at all.

If you dig, they will eventually come out with it but they want very badly to be thought of as just another denomination of Christianity.

Up until yesterday, I was a big Glenn Beck fan. Sure I knew he was Mormon, but I agreed with him on a lot of the political issues, and never really heard him teaching any Mormon doctrine, so I was cool with it. That all changed yesterday when he spent an entire hour laying out the Mormon version of the history of North America. At that point, I had to speak against it because politics are fun, but hell is serious.

Thanks to all the LDS folks who gave their opinions here. But I did notice that other than the issue of the authorship of the BoM, not one person challenged a single point I made with a specific rebuttal. Please do!

You could also tell me where I got it wrong in this post as well.

Or, if you prefer, we can cut right to the chase with some simple yes or no questions:

The Bible teaches that there is only one God and that there were none before Him and will be none after Him, and that He is eternally self-existent having no beginning, and no end. Do Mormons believe this? Not "one god for this planet" or "one god that we have anything to do with" but one God, period. Forever and everywhere.

Do Mormons believe (as I stated) that Jesus is the firstborn of Heavenly Father and Mother and that Lucifer is His younger sibling? That's pretty straightforward, isn't it?

You see, if you get the person and work of Christ wrong, then you get the Gospel wrong. If you get the gospel wrong, then you are damned. So this is pretty important stuff. We can't both be right. One of us is believing a false Gospel.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Glenn Beck's Mormon Infomercial

The following is a post from Randy Lovegreen, an elder of Sovereign Grace Church:

Glenn Beck is a popular guy. His show on Fox News is one of the highest rated shows on cable news. Millions of people watch him every day. More importantly, many Christians watch him every day. Most know that he is a Mormon, as he is open about his LDS faith on his show. Most don’t care.

Should we?

Well, until the show which aired on August 18th, 2010, I didn’t. Sure, I knew he was a member of the Mormon church, but other than a few language oddities such as his constant reference to “Heavenly Father” and his consistent use of the phrase “the scriptures” instead of the Bible, I never really saw much LDS theology in his show.

That all changed yesterday.

Now, my point in writing this isn’t to go out of my way to pick a fight with the Mormon Church, but my role as an Elder in a Christian church compels me to defend the flock against wolves, and in this case, Beck has crossed the line into “wolfdom.” Because so many Christians watch and enjoy his show, including many in my own church, I was forced to offer a response.

The premise of his August 18th show was this:

“The Native Americans were descended from an ancient civilization that existed on this continent in pre-historic and Biblical times. This civilization, had large cities and a very advanced culture, including a writing system and higher religious thought”

Beck went so far as to say, “The ancient Indians actually had religious writings which were a proto-Hebrew Bible”. He also offered the “fact” that the Native Americans were descended from the Jews.

He went on to cite various “scholars”, “experts” and “archaeologists” who support this claim.

Not only that, but he mentioned a “shocking DVD”, a documentary, that tells us the true story, a story that has been covered up by mainstream science for political reasons. He even gave the web address for the DVD he was talking about. If history is any indication, he just made those filmmakers very wealthy.

This is powerful stuff. Where have I heard this before?

These are the beliefs held by the Mormon Church, and written about by Joseph Smith in the Book of Mormon.

What Beck didn’t mention in his show, and what caused me to speak out, was the fact that he presented this as if it were settled scientific fact. He also failed to mention that every single one of his experts, scholars and archaeologists were Mormon apologists.

Rick Stout, the filmmaker that produced the DVD, screens his films at - wait for it - The LDS Film Festival.

Beck also failed to mention that the 19th Century scientists he referenced with regard to the “Block Hebrew” writing found on this continent have been thoroughly debunked, and not one single scientific body accepts their thesis. Not only that, but there is not one shred of evidence that there were “cities as large as Los Angeles, Boston or London” on this continent in pre-historic times as Beck claims.

So what? Why does it matter if he teaches this, or Christians buy into this?

Here’s why.

The entire Mormon belief system is built on the idea that one of the twelve tribes of Israel came to North America in the years before Christ. They settled here, and developed these “advanced civilizations”. Because of this, Christ, when He finished his work with the Apostles, actually came to America to share the “gospel” with this lost tribe. This visit, along with the “true gospel,” was recorded on golden tablets, which laid buried until the angel Moroni told Joseph Smith where to find them. The reason for the angel’s revelation? Christianity had become apostate, and all of their creeds were corrupt, and all of their followers were deceived. Therefore, it fell to Smith not to “reform” the Christian church, but to “restore” it.

So are Mormons Christian, or not?

Well, they claim to be. In fact, Beck claims to be. But lets compare what they believe with orthodox Christianity on three key issues.

On God:

The orthodox Christian view is that there is one God, Creator of all things, holy, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in a loving unity of three equally divine Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Having limitless knowledge and sovereign power, God has graciously purposed from eternity to redeem a people for Himself and to make all things new for His own glory.

The Mormon view is that there is one god FOR THIS PLANET, and that this god is but one of many, many gods who are each overseeing their own planet. The Mormon god is not eternally self-existent, but is nothing more than a man, who through “eternal progression” achieved godhood and was rewarded with a planet of his own. The Mormons believe that they may one day become gods themselves, get their own planet, and spend eternity having endless celestial sex with their many wives for the purpose of populating their planet with future gods. The fifth president of the LDS church, Lorenzo Snow famously said, “As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become.”

On Jesus:

The orthodox Christian view is that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, fully God and fully man, one Person in two natures. Jesus, Israel’s promised Messiah, was conceived through the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He lived a sinless life, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, arose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father as our High Priest and Advocate.

The Mormon view is that Jesus is not eternally self existent, but that he is the first of the children of the Mormon god. They also believe that Satan was the second of this god’s children, making Jesus and Lucifer spirit brothers. In Mormon theology, Jesus was created, and is not in fact, divine.

The Bible:

The orthodox Christian view is that God has spoken in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, through the words of human authors. As the verbally inspired Word of God, the Bible is without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for salvation, and the ultimate authority by which every realm of human knowledge and endeavor should be judged. Therefore, it is to be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises.

The Mormon view is that the Bible is the Word of God in so far as it is translated correctly. The Mormons also believe that the Bible is only ONE of the several ways that God has spoken to his people. Included with the Bible is the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. These four books are known to the LDS church as the “Standard Works”. The Mormons also believe that God has spoken, and continues to speak today through his prophet. Where the pronouncements of the prophet contradict the writings in their scriptures, they hold to the teachings of the prophet.

It is clear from looking at just these three issues that Mormonism and Christianity are incompatible. If you don’t believe in the God of the Bible, you don’t believe in God at all. If you get Jesus wrong, you miss the Gospel completely. Mormonism is particularly insidious because it SOUNDS so much like Christianity. Remember, we may use the same words, but we are using different dictionaries.

This is why Glenn Beck’s stealth Mormon apologetics are so dangerous. No doubt thousands of Christians will order that DVD. Many will believe what they say, and will do so without realizing that not only is it scientifically inaccurate, but it is laying the groundwork for a false Gospel.

Beck is using his show to break the ice for Mormon theology, and promoting a worldview that supports the beliefs of his church. His hour long infomercial for Mormon history only makes it easier for those well groomed young men on bicycles to strike up a conversation, and lead folks astray.

We must all be praying for Mr. Beck. We must pray that God would open his eyes to the truth, and change his heart so he might see the glorious Gospel of Grace.

Beck wields enormous influence in the conservative Christian community, therefore, it is important that we are aware of the origins of the things he is teaching as “fact”.

On this same show, Beck spent five minutes talking about how Satan is a deceiver, and how he uses subtle lies to subvert the truth and lead people astray. Irony.

As Christians, we must constantly be on guard against anything which may seek to corrupt our faith. This includes charming conservative talk show hosts, even if they are on Fox News.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Nothing in my Hands

"The gate of Mercy is opened, and over the door it is written, ‘This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.‘ Between that word ‘save’ and the next word ‘sinners,’ there is no adjective. It does not say, ‘penitent sinners,’ ‘awakened sinners,’ ‘sensible sinners,’ ‘grieving sinners’ or ‘alarmed sinners.’ No, it only says, ‘sinners.’ And I know this, that when I come, I come to Christ today, for I feel it is as much a necessity of my life to come to the cross of Christ today as it was to come ten years ago—when I come to him, I dare not come as a conscious sinner or an awakened sinner, but I have to come still as a sinner with nothing in my hands.”

C.H. Spurgeon

Monday, August 2, 2010

Tell Me Something New, Devil!

"When I awoke last night, the Devil came and wanted to debate with me; he rebuked and reproached me, arguing that I was a sinner. To this I replied: 'Tell me something new, Devil! I already knew that perfectly well; I have committed many a solid and real sin. Indeed there must be good honest sins–not fabricated and invented ones–for God to forgive for His beloved Son’s sake, who took all my sins upon Him so that now the sins I have committed are no longer mine but belong to Christ.'"

Martin Luther