A case of not willing to listen

Richard Mouw is probably best known for his seven-minute speech at the Mormon Tabernacle a few years ago that preceded a talk by Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias. Using half of his fifteen minutes of fame, Mouw apologized to the Mormons for ill treatment over the years by the Christian community. Meanwhile, his words upstaged the main speaker, as the media led off their broadcasts and articles with Mouw’s apology while relegating Zacharias’ excellent talk to nothing more than an afterthought.

Earlier this year Mouw wrote a reprehensible book called Talking with Mormons. Using this book as a basis, Peggy Fletcher Stack—a Mormon who writes about religion for the Salt Lake Tribuneinterviewed Mouw in the August 2012 Christianity Today magazine (“Quick to Listen”).

The article is filled with misrepresentations. For example, Mouw explains, “One thing that really upsets me is when evangelicals say, ‘We don’t have time for dialogue with Mormons and all the niceties. We have to stand up for the truth and denounce error.’” First of all, who has ever made such a statement? This is certainly a straw man logical fallacy. Christian apologists are generally willing to dialogue. At the same time, their desire is to stand for truth. If Mormons want to allow for the disagreement of ideas and rightly forego personal opinion while correctly defining Mormonism as taught by the LDS leadership, the Christian apologist is more than happy to accommodate. However, the Christian should not allow for “dialogue” where this disagreement is allowed to be nothing more than superficial.

In the article, Mouw continued, “They (Christian apologists) fail to recognize that if we are to be people of the truth, we need to be sure we are criticizing Mormons for what they really believe, lest we commit the serious sin of bearing false witness against our neighbors.” He also insinuates that these Christians “tell (Mormons) what they believe.” The Christian apologists I know don’t just take a Mormon theologian at his/her word about Mormon doctrine. Rather, they go to the primary sources—including the Standard Works, church manuals, and the teachings of leaders in general conference addresses—to define Mormonism. This is not “bearing false witness” since the Mormon theological structure is set up this way. While LDS scholars may disagree with their leaders, their opinions should not be taken as official doctrine, in any stretch of the imagination.

Mouw goes on, saying, “To be concerned about the truth means we ourselves better be sure we are being truthful, to listen to others and really understand before we tell them that they’re wrong.” To this, I reply, “To be concerned about the truth mean that you, Mr. Mouw, better be sure you are being truthful, to listen to what the actual leaders in charge of the church have said in their addresses as apostles and prophets as well as what they write on church web sites and in church manuals before you tell the Christian apologists that they are wrong in their assessment.” Caution needs to be given in bearing false witness against the Christian brethren.

Mouw then insinuates that the “working theology” of Mormonism is somehow different from “previous declarations.” For example, he believes that “the most important development in recent decades has been an increasingly strong emphasis on the substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross.” Such a statement shows a complete naiveté of Mormonism. Just what makes him think that LDS leaders believe that the cross alone is what qualifies a person for the celestial kingdom? Just as recently as the July 2012 Ensign magazine, the church said that “a covenant is a two-way promise, the conditions of which are set by God. When we enter into a covenant with God, we promise to keep those conditions. He promises us certain blessings in return” (“Understanding Our Covenants with God,” 22).

Explaining the covenant of baptism, for example, the article said that “we covenant to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, to always remember Him, and to keep His commandments. We also promise ‘to serve him to the end’ (D&C 20:37; see also Mosiah 18:8–10).” If the covenant is broken on the Mormon’s end, then the covenant will not be kept by God. In other words, God will keep His end of the bargain only if the Mormon keeps his. How can Mouw be accurate when he told Christianity Today, “In the past, (Mormonism) put more emphasis on good works.” Does he even read current LDS manuals and magazines? Or is he merely hearing what he wants from his BYU professor friends?

Unlike the “Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientology, and Hare Krishna,” Mouw believes that Mormonism is not a cult because it does not emphasize “secrecy, duplicity, and a rigid ‘one true church’ mentality.” In his book, Mouw even claims that a group like the Mormons who believe in higher education should not be labeled as a cult. This make-up-a-definition-as-you-go mentality is self-serving. Certainly his view goes against Alan W. Gomes, who is a professor of historical theology at Biola University in California and a graduate of Fuller Seminary (where, until recently, Mouw served as president).

Gomes defines “cult” as “a group of people, which claiming to be Christian, embraces a particular doctrinal system taught by an individual leader, group of leaders, or organization, which (system) denies (either explicitly or implicitly) one or more of the central doctrines of the Christian faith as taught in the sixty-six books of the Bible.” Among these central doctrines are “the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the bodily resurrection, the atoning work of Christ on the cross, and salvation by grace through faith. These doctrines so comprise the essence of the Christian faith that to remove any of them is to make the belief system non-Christian.” Based on Gomes’ analysis, Mormonism most certainly is a cult.

When asked about Mormon Church founder Joseph Smith, Mouw says the character of Smith should not be scrutinized. Rather, a person should consider “the central issue of what Mormons have taught about sin, redemption, and the person and work of Jesus Christ.” While he believes some LDS teachings are “off the charts,” he believes that these doctrines “contain some elements of biblical orthodoxy.” As far as sin, Mormonism teaches that “Adam sinned that men might be.” Mormonism teaches that “redemption” allows for the general resurrection of all humankind but cannot, by the grace of God alone, allow a person into the celestial kingdom without works. And Mormonism teaches that the person and work of Jesus Christ alone is not efficacious for a person to receive exaltation. To the contrary, Mormonism gets it wrong on all accounts involving essential doctrines.

In the article’s last line, Mouw states, “Instead of just criticizing religious movements and their founders, we need to understand their teachings and the communities built around them.” However, it is the teachings of Mormonism that leads to the criticism of this religious movement and its founders, not the other way around. By respectfully disagreeing with our Latter-day Saint friends, Christians want the very best for them. However, pretending that Mormonism is close enough to Christianity is nothing less than damnable for those who are not being properly challenged. Yes, we can have relationships with Latter-day Saints, but not at the high price of allowing these fine folks think that the religion they follow is somehow close enough to the biblical original.

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59 Responses to A case of not willing to listen

  1. Andy Watson says:

    Parkman,

    This distinction between the two is also repeated again John 17:22. In John 17:21 “one” refers to unity among people in the midst of their diversity. Christ prayed for their unity. The way the word “one” is used here is entirely different from the way it is used in John 10:30. Look back at John 14:10. Can I say, “I am Jesus Christ” since I am “in” Jesus and Jesus is “in” me? No! If the oneness that Christ shares with the Father is identical to the oneness that believers have with Christ, then all believers should be able to make these statements by inserting your personal name in the brackets:

    “I [your name] and the Father are one” (John 10:30)
    “Whoever has seen [your name] has seen the Father” (John 14:9)
    “Whatever the Father does, [your name] does likewise” (John 5:19)
    “Whoever does not honor [your name] does not honor the Father who sent him” (John 5:23)
    “All that the Father has is mine [your name” (John 16:15)

    You can certainly see that this exposes a major problem in one’s interpretation if John 17:21 is not understood correctly, which the Mormons and others are most certainly guilty. Again, this particular text must be understood as referring to spiritual union. Union with the Father and Son is obtained and kept up only by the Holy Ghost. Our union with the triune God is spiritual through regeneration or the new birth. Regenerated Christians receive the Holy Spirit at regeneration. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to regenerate and sanctify the believer. Because the triune God cannot be divided or separated, believers have the triune God residing in them. When understood in terms of spiritual union and our sharing in Christ’s human nature, this comes in line with Scripture and proclamations of church councils.

  2. Andy Watson says:

    Parkman,

    Whether you realize it or if you’re just pretending to not be LDS and just giving hypothetical arguments, you are directly giving answers and refutations through the LDS lenses when looking at a text. Your arguments against the doctrine of the Trinity are those of the heretics from the earliest days of the Christian church. It is this refutation of this core Christian doctrine that places Mormons and their counterparts, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, in the same camp together and outside the camp of historical Christianity. This and other reasons are why Mormons are not Christians. The doctrine of the Trinity is the highest revelation of God to His people. This is a doctrine for Christian believers: those who have been regenerated by the Spirit of God and have the triune God living in him or her. This doctrine will never be accepted or embraced in the mind of a rebel sinner who is unconverted that has also seared his or her conscience over to a false spirit such as Mormonism.

    You’re looking at John 17 through the LDS lenses and thinking of the doctrine of exaltation (humans becoming gods). Humankind cannot and will never be deity. God holds exclusive rights and authority on being the sovereign God of the entire universe. He is the Creator. We are His creatures. We have human natures and will so forever. God’s nature, which is eternally holy, pure, undefiled, and never needing to have been regenerated, is not given to human beings now or in the future. That is what makes God who He is and humans who they are.

    Proper biblical interpretation of words do not mean the same thing each and every time in every verse. Context is key. The author of Scripture determines the context – not the reader.

  3. Andy Watson says:

    This distinction between the two is also repeated again John 17:22. In John 17:21 “one” refers to unity among people in the midst of their diversity. Christ prayed for their unity. The way the word “one” is used here is entirely different from the way it is used in John 10:30. Look back at John 14:10. Can I say, “I am Jesus Christ” since I am “in” Jesus and Jesus is “in” me? No. If the oneness that Christ shares with the Father is identical to the oneness that believers have with Christ, then all believers should be able to make these statements by putting inserting their personal name in the brackets:

    “[Your name} and the Father are one" (John 10:30)
    "Whoever has seen [your name] has seen the Father” (John 14:9)
    “Whatever the Father does, [your name] does likewise” (John 5:19)
    “Whoever does not honor [your name] does not honor the Father who sent him” (John 5:23)
    “All that the Father has is [your name]” (John 16:15)

    You can certainly see that this exposes a major problem in one’s interpretation if John 17:21 is not understood correctly, which the Mormons and others are most certainly guilty. Again, this particular text must be understood as referring to spiritual union. Union with the Father and Son is obtained and kept up only by the Holy Ghost. Our union with the triune God is spiritual through regeneration or the new birth. Regenerated Christians receive the Holy Spirit at regeneration. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to regenerate and sanctify the believer. Because the triune God cannot be divided or separated, believers have the triune God residing in them. When understood in terms of spiritual union and our sharing in Christ’s human nature, this comes in line with Scripture and proclamations of church councils.

  4. parkman says:

    Q Andy
    You are taking the same words as taught by God and applying different meanings to them to suit your desire for what they should mean.

    If you insist the definition ‘Trinity” is true that God the Father and Jesus Christ are one physical thingy, then when God said man will be one like the Father and Son, then man will also become the same kind of one physical thingy.

    You can sure come up with some wild ideas because you have to fit God’s teachings into man’s teaching of the definition “Trinity”.

    Of course, you will not agree with me because you have already decided that you can use any definition you want on the parts of God’s teachings that do not agree with your definition known as the trinity.

  5. Mike R says:

    Parkman , you’re sure not listening to what Andy has said . You’re stuck on thinking a word
    ( “one”) has the same meaning every where it is used in the Bible, but the context determines
    how it is to rendered . The bigger problem is that your Leaders have told everyone that they
    have the true trinity, they have taken that term , embraced it ,and then proceeded to reveal
    the true definition because the prophet’s words serve as a guide in scriptural interpretation.
    So we can see what they have said about the God revealed in the Bible , does it line up
    with what Biblical prophets/apostles taught about God , go beyond ? I’ve listed some of these
    Mormon teachings in other posts so anyone can compare . It’s that simple .
    Jesus said to Beware of false prophets in the latter days .
    The Mormon people need to know that they can receive a complete forgiveness and experience
    a relationship with God outside of Mormonism. This can start with a dismissal of the allegiance
    they render to their apostles.

  6. parkman says:

    @ mike
    Open your mind and heart and rethink what you just said.
    “The bigger problem is that your Leaders have told everyone that they
    have the true trinity, they have taken that term, embraced it, and then proceeded to reveal
    the true definition because the prophet’s words serve as a guide in scriptural interpretation.”

    now look at what you said with a few changes and apply it to yourself.

    The bigger problem is that your Leaders have told everyone that they
    have the true trinity, they have taken that term, embraced it, and then proceeded to reveal
    the true definition because you rely on the words of what you think were “true teachers” to serve as a guide in scriptural interpretation.

  7. Mike R says:

    Parkman, My mind and heart have been opened to truth because of the Spirit of Truth
    who directs me to the truth of the scriptures about God . The apostles of Jesus Christ
    taught sufficient truth about God to make it possible for anyone to have faith in Him
    unto eternal life . Unfortuantely false apostles try to re-direct people to embrace a
    view about God/Jesus that is not in accord with the scriptures . Modern day false
    apostles usually to go way beyond what is written in the Bible / Jesus apostles , and
    thus beyond the safe mark –Jacob 4:14 .

    Re-read what I posted above and address that instead of diverting attention away
    from the authoritative statements by Mormon leaders on their trinity , said to be
    the true trinity .

  8. Rick B says:

    Parkman,
    I am pretty sure I have said this before, and if I have not, then I will say it now.
    You really need to stop going on about we listen to our teachers. I cannot speak for others here, But I am pretty sure they will agree from what I have read by them in the past. We all believe Jesus and what He said to us in His Word, His word is the Bible. Hebrews even tells us that God spoke to us in these last Days through His Son.

    Now if someone comes to us and tells us stuff that does not agree with what the Bible says, Even if they claim to be a Christian, IE, Mormon Prophets, Richard Mouw, or anyone else, We view them as a false teachers and prophets and we listen to Paul when he mentions Gal 1;8-9.

    Now if you keep coming back and still talk about us listing to our teachers, then that means your saying we dont listen to Jesus and the Bible as I am saying, this means 1, your bearing false witness, and 2 you need to back up what you say with evidence if your going to accuse us of doing something that we/I claim we are not.

    So if you dont want to bear false witness then get your facts straight. As to the issue of the trinity, Again, it’s not a matter of what people/teachers say about it, we read God saying He is Jesus and Jesus saying He is God and they are claiming to be ONE, Not 3 separate Gods.

    Also If God the Father says, I know of no other Gods, their are none besides me, Then that makes him a liar, if Jesus is a separate God from HIM.

  9. falcon says:

    What we read in Romans is an indictment by the apostle Paul of three classifications of people; the Jew, the moral man and the heathen. The point is that everyone is a sinner and in need of a Savior. After Paul condemns all three, he then comes up with the solution.
    What we have with our Mormon poster Parkman, is a Heathen. In Romans 1:18-22 Paul says about the Heathen,
    “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.”
    By visiting this site, Mormons like Parkman, have had the truth of God made evident to them. However he chooses to reject God for another god. He chooses to reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ for another gospel.
    Paul further writes:
    “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”
    Parkman can’t stand before God and say, “I didn’t know. I was fooled. I thought I was serving you. I even claimed the name of Jesus.” We remember what Jesus said regarding those that made claims like this but didn’t really know Him.
    The worst thing about Mormonism is its rejection of God and our Savior Jesus Christ. But Mormons not only reject God and Jesus, they create a new god. But not only one extra god but millions and billions of gods. They even stake a claim to becoming gods themselves and spin the lie that that’s what their god of this world wants for them.
    Now I don’t expect that Parkman will process a thing that’s been said here.

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