What would be a problem?

Guest post

I often ask people of other faiths, “What would be a problem for your belief system?” It is a question that gets to the heart of the matter quickly. For many people, there is nothing that could assail their faith; for many more, they have not even thought of their faith in that way. I ask this question because many will try to assail my faith when nothing would change their minds’ about their own. This seems a bit disingenuous to me.

I once had a friend recommend the movie The Body, with Antonio Banderas. In the movie, a tomb (with a body) in Israel is found that is possibly the burial place of Jesus of Nazareth. The Roman Catholic church dispatches a priest (Banderas) to ascertain if indeed the tomb is that of Jesus. A struggle ensues between Palestinians and the Israeli government to try gain the Vatican’s support; each side wants to use the dead body of Jesus as tool to black mail the largest religious body in the world in order to gain a political advantage.

The film hits on an important point. If Jesus did not rise from the dead then all stripes of Christianity are meaningless. It doesn’t matter if the religion works for you or not, it doesn’t matter if you want it to be true, the whole thing is a fraud.

The “what would be a problem” question is an epistemological one. It shows how an individual gains and uses the knowledge he/she has. I have found that with all religious groups, and especially Mormons, it is important to nail them down to something. I must confess I am frustrated at the lengths to which I see Mormons go in order to bail out their church. It seems as though nothing – not the Book of Abraham, Adam-God, polygamy, historical problems, doctrinal inconsistencies, etc. would be a problem for Mormons. I have seen the arguments presented to defend Mormonism and if they were applied consistently – no prophet, book, or religion could be demonstrated to be untrue.

Faith must me anchored in reality or else it is not true. Merely using the word “religion” does not mean one should use an entirely different lens for understanding truth. If historical sources can demonstrate that the Jewish holocaust did indeed take place then they can demonstrate that Jesus of Nazareth claimed deity (contra the claim of Islam).

So what would be a problem for me as a Protestant? If someone could show me from the Bible and church history/tradition, that Jesus did set up a church who’s authority solely rested in its institutional structure and that God granted absolution solely through the hierarchy of this structure, then that would be a problem. Indeed, any “priesthood” in the primitive, Christian church would be a problem.

Having a faith grounded in truth means that one is open to the possibility that his/her faith is untrue. The object of our faith matters as much as the faith itself. Wanting something to be true does not make it so. A faith without truth is not true faith. What would be a problem for your faith?

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67 Responses to What would be a problem?

  1. Enki says:

    Wikipedia comments upon the remarks made about christ by Tacitus:

    “Some people have suggested that this passage could be a later addition by Christian scribes,[4] No early Christian writers refer to Tacitus even when discussing the subject of Nero and Christian persecution. Tertullian, Lactantius, Sulpicius Severus, Eusebius and Augustine of Hippo make no reference to Tacitus when discussing Christian persecution by Nero, however the Tacitus text itself demonstrates that it may not be such a good resource for Christians to refer to since the text derides Christians and Christianity..[5]

    4)^ however there is little evidence to support that assertion. Stein, Gordon, The American Rationalist, “The Jesus of History: A Reply to Josh McDowell” (1982).
    5)^ See Tertullian, Apologeticum, lost text quoted in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History II.25.4; Lactantius, Of the Manner in Which the Persecutors Died II; Sulpicius Severus, Chronica II.28; Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History II.25.5; Augustine of Hippo, City of God XX.19.3

    An excerpt from the comments by Tacitus:

    “…Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular….”
    ^ a b Tacitus, Annals 15.44, translated by Church and Brodribb.

    Here is a section from the “Testimonium Flavianum” by Flavius Josephus. All sources below are from wikepedia “Josephus on Jesus”.

    “…Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day….”

    from the Greek version of Antiquities of the Jews 18.63-64, translated by William Whiston

    There are some questions as to the authenticity of the text.
    Origen believed that Josephus did not accept or believe jesus as christ.
    Origen, Against Celsus, i:47

    There is an absence of clear references to the Testimonium Flavianum by christian writers and apologists between 100-300 A.D Feldman (1989), p. 431

    The Testimonium Flavianum interupts the general flow of the text of Josephus. The passage before the testimonium flows naturally to the passage after, suggesting that it is an insertion. Jesus by C. Guignebert, University Books, New York, 1956, p. 17

    The Testimonium Flavianum is too christian to be authentic.
    “The problem here is that Josephus’ account is too good to be true, too confessional to be impartial, too Christian to be Jewish.” Three passages stood out: “if it be lawful to call him a man … He was [the] Christ … for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him.” To some these seem directly to address Christological debates of the early 4th century. Consequently, some scholars regard at least these parts of the Testimonium as later interpolations.”
    The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Peasant, John Dominic Crossan

  2. mrgermit says:

    Michael P: you wrote:

    And that (what is really in question), by the way, is the truth of their theology and its application to our salvation. In simple terms, who do we trust more?

    very well said: and the history, or facts around anyones life is only of ultimate relevance, to me, as it relates to this point: ARE THEY TO BE TRUSTED. that’s my bottom line

    again, well said

    PS to all: i’m still trying to figure out Hanson’s goal orpurpose….is it to push us to be more accurate and beware of overstatement ??? I’m going to count to 1 billion and report back……

  3. Enki says:

    You related the following:

    “…One evening, I felt a heaviness that I can only explain felt like a big bolder in my chest. Now, I could have interpreted that feeling as a threat because it was challenging my thoughts about God, Jesus Christ and anything dealing with spiritual matters. Instead of running away from the feeling, I ran to the feeling and assessed and questioned my point-of-view. There is something in the dynamics of the Spirit that’s called “conviction”. It’s not the kind of conviction that relates to how strongly one feels about something. It’s the kind of conviction that says I need to take a closer look at what’s making me feel so uncomfortable….”

    I am not sure what your attempting to describe, but a feeling of heaviness is generally not seen as positive. There is an online description from a visitation of an angel to a jewish family on the day of atonement. Reading that did not give me a positive feeling. But the event described the angel as pressing down very hard on this womans chest as she was sleeping. I don’t understand how that was a positive event.

    Joseph Smith described an attack by some unseen force just prior to his first vision, thats probably the closest I have heard of what you are describing. But these forces are not attributed to the personages he saw in the first vision. Is there any positive descriptions of ‘heaviness’ used in the N.T., O.T. or in any other source to describe something positive? I’m not read up on all there is to know about non-chrisitian religion, but I can only speculate that heaviness is also not generally a description used to describe positive things. There may be references to heaviness to describe feelings of concern or serious reflection on problems of great importance, or causes of sadness. Is that what are you talking about?

  4. Kim says:

    As for me there would be no problem because I dont believe in the flesh nor its religion but In God who Saves who responds who is very real to those who seek Him.
    Faith by Hearing His Word!
    \The Bible Challange, If you have “questions” on the bible being correct or not I say this read the bible cover to cover, no bom no dc, just the bible and pray for God to reveal His word to you. Ask and you shall recieve.Then it will unfold when you read it as it is.
    fear not, the truth will set you free from all confusion and there will be no doubts!

  5. David says:


    I am aware of the possible interpolation into the text of Josephus. However, it is only a part of his writings and to my knowledge the rest is not thrown out by scholarship.

    “The problem here is that Josephus’ account is too good to be true” – that is a biased reason if there ever was one for rejecting a historical source. It is the general reason that the gospels are always dated past A.D. 70. The gospels predict the destruction of the temple (which happened in A.D. 70) and that prediction is seen as “too good to be true” by those with an anti-supernatural bias.

    “the Tacitus text itself demonstrates that it may not be such a good resource for Christians to refer to since the text derides Christians and Christianity.” – this is actually a good reason to accept the text as it does not look like a white-wash job. Disdain for Christians and Christianity generally fits the Roman sentiment towards Christians during that time. The fact that the NT shows the followers of Jesus in a less than perfect light lends credibility to its truthfulness. What, if something is too good to be true it automatically isn’t and if part of something is unflattering we should no use that either?

    I never stated that Ehrman or Crossan (or any other liberal scholar) accepts the testimonies of Tacitus, Josephus, or any other ancient testimony that seems to give a point in Christianity’s favor. I did state that they believed Jesus of Nazareth existed, which they do and which has been called “debatable” here. Also, I see that no one has challenged my claim that if one were to be consistent, one must reject most of what is known of the ancient world if one rejects the existence of Jesus.

    I have to ask – Is everybody here on crazy pills?! We are talking about the mere existence of Jesus! On a blog frequented by Mormons and Evangelicals that should be a slam dunk. What “radical” assertions were made in the article? That Jesus existed and that the Jewish holocaust actually took place? Are all these attacks on objective “facts” really just an attempt to interject pure subjectivity into the dialogue, which would be decent apologetic for Mormon “problems”?

    Enki, if you believe that Jesus of Nazareth actually existed then I have to ask – what is your point? That’s why I asked, “What would be a problem”. So Enki, “What would be a problem?”

  6. falcon says:

    I really have no explanation for what I was feeling nor could I give you a scriptural reference. I would say I was in emotional turmoil because I was searching for some answers to my spiritual dilemma and hadn’t come to a conclusion. I don’t put much stock in “feelings” as a test of truth. Feelings are a by product of our thoughts. I believe that feelings are often times mistaken as manifestations of the Spirit of God, when the feelings are merely the results of a person’s dominate thoughts….which can be manipulated through psychological conditioning or the power of suggestion.
    Also, you happened to mention Joseph Smith, it must be remembered that he was a product of 19th century evangelical revivalism. The area in which he lived was called the “burnt over” district because of the numerous “movements”. I could list the excesses that often accompany revivals which would include, emotionalism. Charles Finney, who would be considered one of the great revival leaders of that time, and in the same geographic area described his own going to the woods experience. He talked about having this flood of liquid love flowing over him. He, however, became a great Biblically based evangelist where as Smith invented his own religion, influenced strongly by the occult, and mixed with Christianity. Smith could provide his followers with “spiritual” experiences and accompanying feelings but this is no proof of truth.
    Mormons are trained and conditioned to flee anytime they feel discomfort associated with questions that arise regarding their faith. That conditioning keeps them in the fold. The whole program is based on feelings. Did you “feel” something when you read the BoM? If you did that means it’s true. If you didn’t just keep trying until you do feel something positive about it. So what if someone gets a “bad” feeling about the BoM. Should they flee from it? This is what Mormons are trained to do when they get those feelings.
    So the whole point of this discussion comes down to “What does a person do, when questions arise about what they believe?”. Of course the questions are going to make someone feel uncomfortable…….emotions follow thoughts. My point has been that I embrace the thoughts and accompanying feelings, I don’t run away from them.

  7. falcon says:

    So I’m a Catholic kid growing up in the 1950s and early 60s and I’m taught two basic undeniable truths: 1) the Catholic Church is God’s one true church and 2) if you leave the Church you’re going to hell. When I began questioning this I got negative feelings. However I pursued it any way. I end up leaving and become an atheist. Five or six years later, my atheist beliefs are challenged…….real discontented feelings. I pursue my questioning any way. More emotional discomfort. I press on. I come to the place where I become Born Again. No great feelings, more like a sense of relief. Again, my point; if we stay away from questioning because it makes us feel uncomfortable and use good feelings as a test for truth, we are doomed to a belief system that keeps us in intellectual and spiritual infancy.
    It may make a Mormon feel uncomfortable when they discover that Joseph Smith had 33 wives, a couple of which were adolecent kids. Discomfort may accompany the discovery that he looked at a rock in a hat to conjure up the BoM. Where do you go with that? When you think about it, it makes you feel uncomfortable. A friend of mine was just speaking with a Mormon convert who absolutely insisted that there was no difference between the Mormon belief in the nature of God and that of Biblical Christianity. This convert was feeling some real discomfort I am sure. Mormons are taught to deny their discomfort and think only happy thoughts because that makes everything about Mormonism true and wonderful. It’s a good way, I must admit, to keep the folks in line……..that and the fear of outer darkness.

  8. mrgermit says:

    Falcon: EXCELLENT POINT here:

    my point; if we stay away from questioning because it makes us feel uncomfortable and use good feelings as a test for truth, we are doomed to a belief system that keeps us in intellectual and spiritual infancy.

    this is a huge reason why MANY (some would say 3 out of 4) christian kids who are serious about GOD and church flame out in college….there’s was not a mature faith to begin with: too much youth group crap that was “feelin’ good about my Jesus….” and not enough tackling the tough issues, which WILL crop up, for anyone, really. and crop up they do, then crash and …….

    again, well said


  9. falcon says:


    The idea of questioning has a lot to do with how a person develops their identity. There is a term “identity foreclosure”. It is commitment without exploration. This is not good! A foreclosed adolescent has not experimented with different options but simply has committed themselves to the goals, values, and lifestyles of others-usually their parents, but sometimes to a cult or extremist group. The resuling personality tends to be rigid, intolerant, dogmatic and defensive. Someone who has “identity achievement” has explored realistic options, and made choices and committed themselves to pursuing them. People (kids) who struggle with choices, experience what’s called a “moratorium”. It’s exploration with a delay in commitment to personal choices. This delay is very common and I would say healthy.
    Some Amish sects have something called “rumspringa” which roughly translated means “running around”. It’s the time where the Amish parents loosen control and allow their kids some freedom. At the end of the period, the kids are expected to choose if they want to join the church. I’m guessing, however, if you don’t sign-up for the program at the end of the fling, you’re out in the cold.
    I’m a hobby parent, having only one child whom my wife and I adopted when we were forty. Maybe being older, I had gainned a little wisdom. I did a couple of things. Number one, I cult proofed her. I made sure she was well aware of the tactics and techniques cults use to suck kids in. It worked since she would often come to me and say “OK dad, what’s the deal with this group?” I also made sure that she knew there was a basic eight or nine things that Biblical Christians have as a basic doctrine and everything else was someone’s opinion. My wife insisted that our daughter go through confirmation class at the local Lutheran church and get confirmed. I was OK with it and rather enjoyed it when she went to the pastor and said “You and my dad don’t say the same thing about XYZ.” The pastor, far from getting upset, got a chuckle out of it. I remember one time around Easter when we were heading some place in the car and she says, “Well you know dad, Jesus is technically dead.” I joked, “Out of the car you heretic.” We then had a long discussion on Jesus’ glorified body.
    My point is, if people are all uptight about religious matters, they stiffle their kids development and what the kid ends up with is a recitation of the parents’ belief system with no real committment to it.

  10. Enki says:

    I’m not christian and not mormon. I was raised LDS but I left. I tried some christian churches but they pretty much seemed the same to me. There are significant differences in doctrine thats for sure, but I honestly didn’t see much difference in the basics. I went to several meetings of an atheist organization and a former pastor gave some sermon expressing his doubts that Jesus ever existed. I wish I had taken notes, but it was quite impressive, impressive enough for me to doubt if jesus even existed. Its not crazy, its quite reasonable.

    I once just accepted that LDS faith is true, I was raised with it, it was second nature to me at one point. If I can question that, I can question almost anything. There probably is more to the larger christianity, but I am still not sure of a lot of things.

  11. mrgermit says:

    Falcon: sounds like you did a great job as a “hobby dad” whatever that is. I think one fundamental thing you accomplished with your daughter was staying very involved without controlling everything…..that’s a tough balance, because the stakes are so high..

    So many kids grow up with mommy and daddy’s faith….not a problem for a nine year old, but a nineteen year old at a secular college is another story. Meanwhile youth group is all about hanging out, having clean fun, and lightweight instruction….though no one is calling it that…..we’re just making it age appropriate…..

    interesting that many of the same areas that the LDS attack are the same areas that the secular left, or ultra-liberals like to attack…..no accident that this is often, not always, the pool that Ralph quotes from…. so a rigorous defense against one group often helps with another.

    hope your daughter and entire family are able to keep the faith flame lit as we walk, creep, into old age.

  12. David says:

    ” . . . so a rigorous defense against one group often helps with another.”


  13. faithoffathers says:


    You said:

    “Mormons are taught to deny their discomfort and think only happy thoughts because that makes everything about Mormonism true and wonderful. It’s a good way, I must admit, to keep the folks in line……..that and the fear of outer darkness.”

    This, like so many of your statements are textbook inflammatory rhetoric, and it is often difficult to take you seriously. This is unfortunate because you obviously feel strongly about your faith, and I think it would be interesting to truly engage you in conversation. You are in essence engaging in playground name-calling. Simply from a methodological standpoint, I think you would convince people more effectively of your thoughts and convictions without such rhetoric. It just seems so politician-like with the talking point mentality.

    Why the persistent reference to mormons who shutter at truth and run from questions? You have several who blog here and other sites who are well versed in LDS history and doctrine and still believe. I have noticed this in your posts. When somebody refutes a point you make, you very often jump back into “lump them all together” mode. Is it easier to criticize such weak, pathetic abstract people instead of straight-forward, linear exchanges with real LDS people here?

    I don’t feel particularly desirous to prove wrong those none-LDS Christians who don’t know their religion. (actually, I don’t really want to prove anybody wrong about their religion). So why do you go after those LDS who in your opinion don’t know their religion? Why not deal with those who do?

    Don’t mean to be too confrontational. I enjoyed reading about the rearing of falcon junior.

    Your point is a good one about teaching kids. Those of us who have strong opinions/beliefs, etc have to be careful not to be overbearing!


  14. Martin_from_Brisbane says:

    Its a little off-topic, but some of the posts above were tackling the historicity (or otherwise) of the NT. I guess it comes on-topic if it falls into the “what would be a problem” category.

    I’m inclined to believe the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) pre-date AD70. Perhaps John does as well, though I think his Gospel was compiled toward the end of his life in the late 1st Century or early 2nd Century. I’ll call the following evidences;

    1 Though the destruction of the Temple is foreseen, its not actually described. I’m of the opinion that this event was of monumental importance to the early Christian movement, so it should have figured more prominently if the Gospels post-dated AD70. A modern day equivalent would be reading a book on National Security in North America – if it didn’t mention 9/11, we can be pretty confident that it wasn’t written after the event. I know that some will argue that the Temple Destruction was not described because the Gospels were a retrojection, but if this were the case, why not labour the “prophesies” to the point of “I told you so”? When I read the Gospels I see a sense of foreboding of what will happen, but the particulars are obscure and the “I told you so” factor is too under-played to be of any value to a propagandist.

    2 There are plenty of textual evidences for first-hand experience (John’s account of what went on in the courts at Jesus’ trial in particular) and pre-Temple-destruction authorship. My favourite is Matt 23:16-22. Here, Jesus is describing an abuse of the Temple System (which is not a surprise) and he offers a strategy for a remedy within the framework of Temple Worship, which Matthew describes in some detail. This begs the question; why would Matthew go to all the trouble of describing a remedy, in detail, for a system that was already defunct if the Temple had already been destroyed?

    I tend to believe that much of the Gospel-writing effort occurred in the lead-up to the Jewish rebellion and subsequent annihilation of the Temple System by the Romans. If this were the case, then the NT would repeat of the pattern of the OT in the years leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in 597 (?) BC. Perhaps this was the response to the Jews when they saw trouble charging over the hill – “quick, write everything down because we might not be around to witness to these events to our children and their children’s children”.

    Of course the Epistles are another matter. If my timeline is roughly OK, then many of the Epistles pre-date the Gospels. For instance, there’s a good case for dating Romans to 49-52 AD.

    (PS I’ll need to check my notes for some of the exact dates above, so any corrections would be welcome).

  15. falcon says:

    “hobby parents” are parents who only have one child. I guess my wife and I would be the poster couple for “helecopter parents” also. Those, of course, are parents that “hover” over their children. I always told my daughter if she wanted to rebel she should come to me and I would put together a “rebellion package” for her. That way she could go a little nuts and not do any serious damage to herself.
    My daughter is a recent college graduate but when she was in high school she had a fairly close friend that was a Mormon. The Mormon friend had deep roots in the program and I could see what was coming. I sat my daughter down and taught her the differences between Mormonism and Biblical Christianity and gave her Mormonism 101 regarding the history of the religion. I also talked extensively about the psychological and emotional techniques and tactics that Mormons use to seduce the unsuspecting “prospect” into the religion.
    The whole process made my daughter strong in her faith and at the same time taught her a lot about the process of seduction which had a dual benefit regarding relationships with the opposite sex. The whole point here is that I think we encouraged questioning and finding evidence and looking deeper into an issue rather than simply accepting the surface level explanations. This whole idea of running away from an issue because it makes one feel uncomfortable really annoys me. What fun is that? Dr. Walter Martin used to say, “Question everything. Even what I tell you.” This is really important when it comes to “spiritual” feelings and experiences. To attribute “feelings” as coming from God is about as dangerous as it gets when it comes to things of the spirit/Spirit. This is very seductive because it makes a person think they are super spiritual when in reality they are just on a head trip. In the case of Mormons, it leads them to deny the reality of the solid evidence against Joseph Smith and the BoM that is before them. They prayed about it and got a feeling and now the questioning must stop and any reality to the contrary must be denied. A very good picture of mind control and manipulation driven by fear.

  16. Ralph says:

    For those who are discussing the ‘proof’ of whether Jesus was a real person or not, I stunbled across this website by accident today –


    If you follow the pages it gives historical accounts by non-Christian people (including His enemies) about the life of Jesus, thus proving that He was a real, historical person.

    An interesting thing stated in there is that the only evidences we have of Alexander the Great being an historical figure are written at the earliest 400 years after his death but he is still considered to be a real person. Then it states that most of the written evidences of Jesus were written after His death as well, but much closer to it than Alexander’s, so there should be no problem accepting these as evidence.

    I know we all (or most here) believe in Jesus as a real historical figure, but I thought this might interest some of you who like this stuff.

  17. shematwater says:

    Sorry, but I have not read all the posts, just putting im my thoughts.

    There are several things that, if proven wrong, would destroy any credible faith of many of the LDS church. First would be Christ’s Body. Others include the scientific theory of the Big Bang, evolution, Joseph Smith’s vision, the Book of Mormon (Historical Records) and others. There are so many things that if one was proven false all the rest would be false.

    However, there has not been anything to disprove these things. There have been attepmts, but none truly succeed. The writer of the article says “I must confess I am frustrated at the lengths to which I see Mormons go in order to bail out their church. It seems as though nothing – not the Book of Abraham, Adam-God, polygamy, historical problems, doctrinal inconsistencies, etc. would be a problem for Mormons.” Yet, not one of these points has ever been truly proven wrong. Please, I would love to have another thread, (a new one, as I am new to the site) discussing these points.

    As I say, there are several things that could destroy the LDS faith if proven false, but no one, as yet, has done so. What I find frustrating is people claiming it has, and the lengths they will go to try and prove the church wrong.

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