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Evidence for Your Ears

November 3, 2009

When evidence fails to turn up for the Book of Mormon events and people, sometimes Jesus is quoted:

“Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

When Jesus said this to Thomas, He was speaking of His resurrected body.  Certainly none of us has seen the risen Jesus.  God has not provided evidence for our eyes. However, He has provided evidence for our ears. Consider some of the evidence we can hear: the documentation for the historical Jesus.  It is worth listening to and comparing with the documentation for the Book of Mormon.

Jesus in secular history

The existence of Jesus of Nazareth is a historical fact disputed by almost no reputable scholars today.1 Josephus the Jewish historian speaks of Jesus and His brother James (early 90s AD).  Tacitus the Roman historian writes of “Christus,” mentioning Jesus’ “death by Pontius Pilate” and implying the early Christian preaching of the resurrection (c. 116).  To Christian persecutor Pliny the Younger, Jesus was “Christ” to whom early Christians sang hymns “as to a god” (c. 112 AD).  To Greek satirist Lucian (2nd century), Jesus was “the crucified sage” (The Death of Peregrine 82-83).  To Syrian Mara Bar-Serapion (writing somewhere between 73 and 200 AD), Jesus was the “wise King” of the Jews, whose execution caused their dispersion in 70 AD.

Indeed, the number of non-Christian sources mentioning Jesus within 150 years of His death (nine) equals the number of non-Christian sources mentioning His contemporary Tiberius Caesar.2 And when one throws Christian sources into the same time period, references to Jesus outpace Tiberius by 42 to 10.3

Compare with the number of ancient sources mentioning Lehi, or Nephi, or Mormon.

Jesus in Jewish sources

The empty tomb of Jesus is attested in a backhanded way by Jesus’ opponents among His own people.  Justin Martyr, writing about AD 150, accuses his non-Christian Jewish contemporaries of circulating the rumor that Jesus’ disciples “stole him by night from the tomb.”  Matthew cites the same rumor at an earlier date (28:11-15), as does Tertullian at a later date.  No scholars in the last 200 years, skeptical or otherwise, have accepted the “stolen body” theory — with good reason.  It is unable to explain the resurrection data, such as the sincere-to-the-death belief of the disciples, James, and Paul that the risen Jesus had actually appeared to them.4 Thus, the early “stolen body” accusation is an admission by hostile sources that Jesus’ tomb was, in fact, empty.

Jesus in the sky and ground

The ancient Greek writer Phlegon of Tralles cites (c. 137) a darkness that occurred “at the sixth hour” in the fourth year of the 202d Olympiad.  He describes this as accompanied by “an earthquake” in regions of the Middle East.  It just so happens that the fourth year of the 202d Olympiad is 33 AD—the date scholars believe Jesus was crucified5 (see Matthew 27:45, 51).

Compare with the paucity of substantiation for any events of the BoM—supernatural or otherwise.

Jesus from the eyewitnesses and their eyewitnesses

Of course, the earliest documentation for Jesus is the wide paper (papyrus/vellum) trail left by the New Testament documents.  With resurrection eyewitnesses as writers or sources, they are our earliest sources for Jesus.  Fragments of “hard copies” date to within 150 years of Jesus’ crucifixion and 35-60 years of the writing of the New Testament.  Both their antiquity and their quantity are without parallel among ancient documents:  Some 5,000+ ancient manuscripts survive, plus thousands of quotations contained in lectionaries, church “fathers,” and early translations.

But were the New Testament books really written by the disciples and their close associates?  The evidence just deepens as we follow the paper trail into the next generation of Christians.  Early writers tell us that Clement of Rome (c. 30-100) and Polycarp of Smyrna (c. 69-155), among “many” others, knew the apostles personally.  Polycarp was a Christian from the Smyrnaean church, a persecuted church which Jesus praised as spiritually “rich” around AD 90 (Rev. 2:8-11).  Clement’s famous writing dates just a few years after John recorded Revelation.  Both Clement and Polycarp quote the infant New Testament writings copiously and treat them as authoritative Scripture.

And both corroborate that the apostles believed and preached Jesus’ resurrection.  Anyone with an internet connection can read Clement’s letter to the Corinthians, in which he speaks of the apostles’ “complete certainty caused by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Or one can examine Polycarp’s relatively short letter to the Philippians (c. 110), which speaks of Christ’s resurrection five times.

Or one could read Ignatius of Antioch, who knew Polycarp personally.  On his way to execution (c. 110 AD), Ignatius writes that Jesus was “descended from David, and…of Mary…was truly born…truly persecuted under Pontius Pilate…truly crucified…died, in the sight of beings in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth…also truly raised from the dead….”

Compare this first and second-generation documentary evidence with the lack of documentation for the characters of the Book of Mormon.  Indeed, while there is a “paper trail” of Christian witnesses from the disciples to their disciples and beyond, there is no paper trail for the Book of Mormon characters.  The paper trail begins in the 19th century with Joseph Smith.

Jesus in the earliest oral traditions

But the very earliest witnesses to Jesus come from oral confessions/creeds recorded by Paul and other New Testament writers.  These confessions were apparently preserved in oral form and pre-date even the New Testament books, which are our earliest written sources for Jesus.  Early oral traditions and confessions are widely identified by critical scholars in passages such as Romans 1:3-4, II Timothy 2:8, I Timothy 3:16, Romans 10:9, I Corinthians 11:23ff, Philippians 2:6ff, Luke 24:34, among many others.6

The most famous and arguably most important of these oral traditions is cited by Paul in I Corinthians 15:3ff:

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received,

How that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

And that he was buried,

And that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:

After that, he was seen of over five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain until now, but some are fallen asleep.

After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

Virtually all critical scholars believe the first seven lines of this passage comprise a very early Christian confession recorded by Paul.  (Characteristics such as a parallel style, non-Pauline words, and technical rabbinic terms such as “received” and “delivered,” among other factors, drive this belief.)  Scholars of all varieties commonly date Paul’s reception of this material to within a few years of Jesus’ crucifixion, probably when he visited Peter and James shortly after his conversion (Galatians 1:18-19).7 (Note the prominence of both Cephas/Peter and James in the confession.)  Thus, our documentation of the Christian message springs from the very time of the events themselves and proceeds directly from the eyewitnesses themselves…and this all acknowledged by even liberal and critical scholars.

Even more importantly, the passage offers evidence of the resurrection claims.  Ancient readers were given evidence: They could ask the hundreds of then-living witnesses.  But modern readers are given evidence here, too: We have verification of the first-hand, life-changing beliefs of the apostles…and skeptic James…and persecutor Paul…that they had actually seen the risen Lord. This data is not refuted by even skeptical scholars today.

What explanation can we give for these alleged resurrection appearances?  How do we account for these encounters that changed the disciples from fearful grievers to bold preachers?  That converted the antagonistic James and the violently oppositional Paul?  That were so convincing to the apostles — who knew Jesus, after all — that they died for the belief that He had literally risen and appeared to them?  No naturalistic theory works — not hallucinations (which are not group events, for one thing), not legend (since this is admittedly eyewitness testimony), not visions (as skeptics are not candidates for them).  We are left without a plausible alternative that will explain the historical data—other than a real resurrection.

Compare, if you will, the book of Mormon.  The “eleven witnesses” to the Book of Mormon are not witnesses to the events of the BoM—whether to the appearance of Jesus in the New World or any other part.  Is there any testimony—ancient or modern—that can corroborate the events presented in the BoM?  There is none.

God’s evidence

Reader, are you listening to God?  Or are you trying to discover the truth by feeling your way along?  God will not give visual evidence to many of us, but He has provided evidence for our ears as to what and Who is Truth.  Indeed, where does faith itself come from, according to the New Testament?

Faith cometh by hearing [also translated “report” in the immediate context], and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).

Do you hear God’s report concerning His Son — especially as recorded in His Word?  It alone produces real faith.

References

  1. Habermas, G. (1996). The historical Jesus. Joplin, MO: College Press, p. 27.
  2. Habermas, G. and Licona, M. (2004). The case for the resurrection of Jesus. Grand Rapids: Kregel, pp. 127-128.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Habermas, 1996, p. 227.
  5. Maier, P. (1989). The date of the nativity and the chronology of Jesus’ life., In J. Vardaman (Ed.), Chronos, Kairos, Christos: Nativity and Chronological Studies Presented to Jack Finegan (pp. 113-130). Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns.
  6. Habermas, 1996, pp. 143-170.
  7. Ibid, pp. 153-154.
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24 Comments leave one →
  1. faithoffathers permalink
    November 3, 2009 3:37 pm

    “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:14

    You ask “Reader, are you listening to God?” To me, this really contradicts the point of your article- which is the centrality and importance of the physical and historical proofs of Jesus and the New Testament record. Does God leave us to sift through evidences and arguments from believers and non-believers? Does he expect us to comprehend the nuances of scientific proofs for and against the Bible- plenty of atheists would argue that the “evidence” as they see it is not in favor of the Bible. Why should a person automatically believe you instead of them?

    If if is up to me to sort through the mountains of arguments for and against Christ and the scriptures, then I am also left feeling tossed with every new piece of evidence uncovered over the years. Do I need to understand the classes and quality of evidence or proof? This becomes quite complicated very quickly.

    Your argument not only places every person in the courtroom of expert opinions, but excludes the majority of humanity that have not had the benefit of literacy and access to the corroborative sources you cite. What about the people before the New Testament was compiled? What about those who could not read or who did not have access to the New Testament after it was compiled?

    I disagree with your argument completely. God communicates to every living soul through His Spirit. Each person has access to inspiration and “evidence” more convincing than all historical or scientific data. “His sheep hear His voice,” and I contend that His voice does not communicate through scientific rationale.

    The convert whose foundation is built on such earthly proofs is indeed a weak convert. What did Christ tell Peter? “Blessed art thou…..”

    You are absolutely free to believe what you want. But if a person limits himself or herself to believing only those things which are supported by historical and scientific proof, he/she is hardly a person of faith.

    I have as much intellectual evidence for the BOM as any reasonable person could require. But those evidences possess little converting power- they pale in comparison to its evidences that I have received and experienced through the Spirit of the Lord.

    I strongly believe that the proof you cited is not responsible for the conversion experiences you have had in your life. Evangelical critics seem to switch gears when interacting with LDS- I submit they have different standards for their own religous experience than they require of LDS.

    fof

  2. NChristine permalink
    November 3, 2009 4:27 pm

    Hi FoF,

    I believe you have brought up several objections to the post. Let me briefly summarize what I understand you to say and briefly respond. Please correct me if I have misunderstood anything. 🙂

    Objection #1: This evidence is inconsequential because someone (e.g., an atheist) might not see it as evidence.

    This does nothing to explain away the evidence, however. Just because an atheist might label the box of evidence for Christ’s resurrection as “faith-related” and thus choose not to examine the box’s contents at all, this does not therefore discredit that evidence. In fact, the prophet Isaiah – who prophesied the life, death, and resurrection of Messiah – also prophesied that the “report” about him would not be believed by many (Isaiah 53:1). Neither does the fact that some choose not to look at the Bible’s full box of evidence justify the empty box of evidence for the BoM. If one does not simply expressly choose to ignore the boxes of evidence (which, frankly, atheists do – ever listened to Bart Ehrman on the resurrection?), the difference in evidence between the two books must be explained.

    Objection #2: This evidence is inconsequential because God speaks by feelings – “spiritually discerned.”

    Yes – the “things of the Spirit of God” must be received by the working of the Holy Spirit in the human heart: A “natural man” on his own cannot receive them. But how are the “things of the Spirit of God” communicated in the first place? Look at the previous verse: Paul says “Which things we also speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth.” Thus, the “things of the Spirit of God” were communicated by the apostles (“we”) in words inspired by the Holy Spirit. (For the topic of their “words,” see 1:23 – “Christ crucified” – and 2:2 – “Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”) And it is precisely the words of the apostles (corroborated by many other sources) that were the subject of this post.

    Objection #3: You assume that intellectual arguments were not the initial cause of my (or others’) conversion(s).

    But are you aware that whether or not your assumption is true has absolutely no bearing on the weight of the evidence in question? How I personally was converted does not make the evidence less or more – those are two different issues unrelated to one another.

    Finally, FoF, I notice you did not respond to Romans 10:17, which specifically says that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” The word “hearing” is also translated “report,” which refers in the context to the “report” of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection (see Romans 10:16-17 and Isaiah 53:1ff). So the instigator of true faith is the “report” concerning the death and resurrection of Christ. And where do we find this report? In the Word of God. The other documentation in the post was merely given to show the historicity of that report in the Word of God.

    NChristine

  3. NChristine permalink
    November 3, 2009 4:37 pm

    FoF,

    P.S. — The meaning of “discerned” in I Corinthians 2:14 is as follows. Note how very different all these definitions are from “feelings.”

    from 303 and 2919; properly, to scrutinize, i.e. (by implication) investigate, interrogate, determine:–ask, question, discern, examine, judge, search.

    The above word is derived from the Greek word krino, which means this:

    properly, to distinguish, i.e. decide (mentally or judicially); by implication, to try, condemn, punish:–avenge, conclude, condemn, damn, decree, determine, esteem, judge, go to (sue at the) law, ordain, call in question, sentence to, think.

    “Discernment” is not the same as feelings.

  4. faithoffathers permalink
    November 3, 2009 5:21 pm

    NChristine,

    When did I mention “feelings?” Are you assuming something?

    I don’t recall saying that the evidences were “inconsequential.” I am suggesting that physical/historical evidences are not the core of a true believers source of conviction.

    You mention that atheists often do not “examine” the evidences fully. I submit that you describe 99.9% of BOM critics quite accurately- most have never even read the book in its entirety, yet claim enough authority on the subject to dismiss the claim of those who have read it a hundred times.

    You also refer to an “empty box of evidence for the BoM.” This is simply uninformed or “neglectful” of the information available. I have had countless conversations with BOM critics in which they have conceded significant points about evidences only to forget such evidences and concession within 2 minutes. Despite being shown otherwise, this is the default talking point of critics- “there is no evidence for the BOM.” I have come to believe that there is no information that can convince critics of the truth of the BOM- not dissimilar to those who religiously adhere to the theory of anthropomorphic global warming. Their position is beyond any contradictory data they encounter.

    Can you suggest another interpretation of the verse I quoted- “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

    Can you make that verse support a worldy evidence-based acquisition of the knowledge of God?

    My argument that the source of your conversion (and other EVs) has everything to do with this discussion and the weight of the evidences. If there is a source of truth that is to be weighed more heavily than the physical sources you mention, I would think that would be very central to the question of whether a book of scripture claiming to be from God is true.

    fof

  5. NChristine permalink
    November 3, 2009 9:30 pm

    Hi FoF,

    Are you suggesting that the message and words of the original apostles was “a worldly evidence-based acquisition of the knowledge of God”? This post was primarily focused on the documentation of the message of the apostles.

    When I said that atheists don’t “examine” the evidence, this refers to attempts to avoid the conclusion that Jesus rose from the dead. This does not mean that atheists and others don’t acknowledge key historical facts about Jesus and the early church. The quality and quantity of the evidence forces them to do so. The historical facts about Jesus presented in the post (e.g., Jesus died by crucifixion, Paul and James suddenly converted based upon what they believed to be appearances of the risen Christ, the original disciples sincerely believed that the risen Jesus had literally appeared to them in group situations, etc.) are accepted by virtually all scholars of whatever persuasion, and a large majority also accept the empty tomb as a historical fact (Habermas, G. and M. Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, 2004, Grand Rapids: Kregel). Many seek to avoid the conclusion of the evidence, but they are unable to dispute crucial evidence. Thus, it is a situation extremely different from the BoM.

    Finally, I believe I did explain what I thought I Cor. 2:14 meant (to some degree) in my two comments above. The “discernment” involves scrutinizing, or judging, or concluding, etc., related to the examination of evidence and related to mental and judicial reasoning (see the meaning of the Greek word above). Further, the content being “discerned” involves the words / message of Paul (and presumably the other apostles) – specifically, “Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1:23, 2:2, 2:13).

    The passage does not give us ground to say that an unconverted person (which an investigator is, even in Mormon terms) can “spiritually discern” something. Nor does the passage imply that the person can “discern” by some internal sense different from the meaning of the Greek word “discern” (see meanings above). Nor is the purpose of the “discernment” to determine whether a book or religion or prophet is from God. Finally, the passage does not give anyone leave to “discern” something external to the words and message of the apostles (which is central to I Cor. 1-2).

  6. faithoffathers permalink
    November 4, 2009 8:42 pm

    NChristine,

    My point is not that the apostles primarily used physical evidences to preach their message- in fact the opposite is my argument. The Spirit of God was what convinced people of the truth of the Apostles’ message 2000 years ago. And it is the same today. They certainly at times could have appealed to eye witnesses- but don’t you think this was to get the attention and consideration of those to whom they spoke? Ultimately, it was the Spirit that communicated the truth.

    There are eye-witnesses of encounters with UFOs. Do we have to take their word as truth?

    Bottom line is that the “things of the Spirit of God are spiritually discerned.” I don’t have issue with your definition of the word “discerned.” What this passage means to me is that the things of God are ultimately understood and perceived by the Spirit of God.

    You seem to want to limit “the things of God” to the New Testament. It appears that EVs tend to limit or define down what constitute the “things of God” or the topics on which God will give inspiration and revelation.

    If God will not give a person “discernment to determine whether a book or religion or prophet is from God” as you suggest, how do you know the New Testament is true? You have no way around this question. Intellectual evidences and arguments will not lead a person to “know the New Testament is true.” It simply does not work that way. Again, if a person believes the NT for those reasons, his conviction is shallow and must change with every new piece of evidence.

    The atheists of the world would heartily disagree with you regarding the evidences. There are plenty of folks who would take issue with whether and how the tomb was empty.

    You also seem to limit who can “spiritually discern” the things of God. Are you saying that only those who are converted can spiritually discern things? If so, how does one become converted without the spirit?

    Such a position on this is why LDS often make the statement that many non-LDS Christians do not believe in revelation. I am left wondering what you believe the role of inspiration and revelation is at all. Help me out?

    If it is not the role of the Spirit to be the source of truth in determining if a record is true and if a person is a prophet, then what is the role of the Spirit? Ultimately, all sources of the testimony of Christ you believe in come from writings of apostles and prophets.

    fof

  7. Stephanie permalink
    November 5, 2009 12:24 am

    fof,

    I hope you don’t mind me interjecting on your conversation with NChristine. 🙂 I was actually thinking about this topic last night when I was reading my devotions. Ephesians 4:17-21:

    17This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,

    18Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:

    19Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

    20But ye have not so learned Christ;

    21If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:

    Apart from Christ man is spiritually ignorant and has a darkened understanding. Even LDS doctrine supports the notion that, apart from Christ, man is on “Satan’s side.” Note the strong wording of Stephen Robinson

    In this life there are only two lords and two sides. We must choose to belong to the One or the other. If we do not choose the One, we will receive the other by default. There is no middle ground, no third alternative. (Believing Christ, p. 60)

    The result is “Christ by choice or Satan by default.” So the notion that a spiritually darkened person would be able to receive spiritual understanding and “discernment” is not supportable. The LDS salvation model that I am most familiar with is that the gift of the Holy Spirit follows conversion and baptism. So, how does the sincere investigator “discern” whether or not the LDS doctrine is true? He is given the Book of Mormon and encouraged to pray to receive a testimony. Yet, without the Holy Spirit the investigator is on “Satan’s side.” This is a dangerous position to place an investigator in and is not the method taught by the NT. The message of the full gospel is Christ and Him crucified, buried, raised from the dead and forever living to make intercession on our behalf–our Redeemer and Savior if we will accept Him and His free gift of righteousness.

    If God will not give a person “discernment to determine whether a book or religion or prophet is from God” as you suggest, how do you know the New Testament is true? You have no way around this question. Intellectual evidences and arguments will not lead a person to “know the New Testament is true.”

    I find this a strange method of obtaining truth and doubt that you use it frequently in other aspects of your life. How do you know that Robbin’s Pathologic Basis of Disease is a factual book? Do you have to pray to receive spiritual discernment over whether or not the content of the book is factual? Of course not. When I read the New Testament I pray that God would reveal to me understanding but not confirmation of its truth. The New Testament is a historical document with extensive manuscript support. As Naomi described in her post, the skeptics of Jesus’ day acknowledged His existence and claims. By some he was mockingly called a “magician,” indicating that there were at least evidences of miracles or that people believed He worked miracles. Of course I don’t have to accept that the miracles described in the New Testament are true. But, can I accept the book as a reasonable historical account? Absolutely. The same case can not be made for the Book of Mormon. The reason that a person needs to pray to receive a spiritual witness for the BoM is that there is no outside evidence.

    Compare for a moment the absolute gravity and importance of the reliability of the New Testament versus the Book of Mormon. I would suggest that you would never prescribe medication or treatments to a patient unless they were scientifically proven to be safe and efficacious. You seem very smart, fof, and I highly doubt that you would go to a health food store and pick up a bottle of supplements, pray over them, and then prescribe them to a patient based upon your spiritual discernment of their usefulness. And yet, in the MOST IMPORTANT aspect of life–your own spirituality–you are willing to base your faith upon spiritual discernment of a text that has not even proven itself to be authentic. The content of the Book of Mormon aside, the text itself is not historical. God does demand faith. But it is NOT blind faith.

    Stephanie

  8. NChristine permalink
    November 5, 2009 5:07 am

    Hi FoF,

    There are plenty of folks who would take issue with whether and how the tomb was empty.

    According to prominent resurrection scholar Gary Habermas, about 75% of all New Testament scholars (a pool which includes atheists, radical liberals, extreme critical scholars, etc.) believe in the historicity of the empty tomb (Habermas and Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, 2004). And the reasons they believe it are more important than numbers:

    1. This occurred in Jerusalem (a fact corroborated by other sources). If the tomb was not empty, it would have been very easy to squelch the infant resurrection belief by pointing out a tomb or producing a body. And no one had greater motive to do this than the power-hungry Jewish leaders or the wary Roman overlords. And if the empty tomb was disproved, note Habermas and Licona, surely it would have been addressed in the copious apologetic writings of Justin Martyr, or Tertullian, or Origen (2nd and 3rd centuries). Or it would surely have been used by the critic Celsus, who wrote against the resurrection in the 2nd century.

    2. The empty tomb is corroborated by enemy witness (e.g., Jewish sources opposed to Christ). Please see the section in this post subtitled “Jesus in Jewish Sources.” In addition to the sources discussed in that section above, other Jewish sources also convey an early acknowledgment of an empty tomb. See the mythical “empty tomb / stolen body” conspiracy story in the Jewish compilation entitled the Toledoth Jeshu.

    3. The fact that all the gospels record women as the first witnesses is compelling evidence that the stories were not concocted. In the first century world — whether Roman or Jewish — women were often lowly regarded. Anyone making up a story without facts would undoubtedly have made the witnesses men — perhaps the strong-minded Peter. Consider one such gem recorded in the Talmud:

    The following are considered incompetent to be witnesses: gamblers with dice, usurers, pigeon breeders, those who deal with the produce of the sabbatic year, and slaves. This is the rule: All evidence that cannot be received from a woman cannot be received from any of the above (Talmud, Rosh Hashannah 1, see p. 40).

    4. The empty tomb is attested by the belief of the disciples and Paul. Christian scholar William Craig Lane notes that “few facts could be more certain” than Paul’s belief in the empty tomb. He continues,

    But the question now presses, how is it historically possible for the apostle Paul to have presupposed so confidently the empty tomb of Jesus if in fact the tomb were not empty? Paul was in Jerusalem six years after the events themselves. The tomb must have been empty by then. But more than that, Peter, James, and the other Christians in Jerusalem with whom Paul spoke must have also accepted that the tomb was found empty at the resurrection. It would have been impossible for the resurrection faith to survive in face of a tomb containing the corpse of Jesus.

    The majority of scholars accept the empty tomb for compelling reasons.

    You also seem to limit who can “spiritually discern” the things of God. Are you saying that only those who are converted can spiritually discern things?

    The verse most specifically states, “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God.” Jude 1:19 tells us that those who are “natural” do not have the Spirit (in Jude the same Greek word for “natural” is translated “sensual”). Thus, the “natural man” is an unconverted person, as even lds.org seems to say. The word “natural/sensual” comes from the Greek word “psuche,” or “soul,” which literally means “the animal sentient principle only; thus distinguished on the one hand from 4151 [pneuma, or spirit], which is the rational and immortal soul” (Strong’s Concordance).

    In other words, the “natural man” is (1) unconverted, and (2) operating on the “animal sentient principle.” Most certainly an unconverted person can “discern” things, but this is not the same as spiritual discernment. And this type of “discernment” is likely to lead to deception, to which the “natural man” is naturally prone (Jeremiah 17:9). What an extremely dangerous position for someone to be in! Here they are – unconverted, open to deception, unable to discern spiritually…and told to somehow internally discern whether an extrabiblical, contrabiblical doctrine is true. This method is dangerous to one’s eternal soul and is deceptive sand on which to base one’s eternal destiny.

  9. faithoffathers permalink
    November 5, 2009 5:13 pm

    Stephanie and NChristine,

    Thanks for your responses.

    The verses you cited, in my view, in no way contradict what I am saying. If a person is grossly sinful and gives himself to the natural man, he is not going to have the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This is completely different than a person who is sincerely seeking God, reading and hearing the words of prophets, and honestly looking for truth with the intent to follow and accept it once it is found.

    We absolutely believe somebody can be directed and receive inspiration from the Holy Ghost before baptism and conversion. It is after receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost that a person is entitled to always have the Spirit with them.

    As a surgeon, I have read Robbins Pathologic Basis of Disease. Although I believe most of what is in there, I realize our understanding of disease changes, and that the book is nowhere near perfect. In fact, I have used something like this as an example in teaching the need for the Holy Ghost in our search for spiritual truth.

    The lay public enormously over-values and over-estimates the claims of science. They largely do not understand its limitations and faults. I ask myself, do I have direct proof that the principles of biochemistry that I have learned are actually true? In reality, I gloss over the fact that I have next to NO direct proof of those truths- all my information is either from the research of other people and some from my own experiments.

    But considering even my own experience in the lab, I realize that I have never seen an atom or molecule with my naked eyes. The results I have obtained are all indirect, indirect, indirect evidences of those atomic and molecular realities. After a 20 step experiment, I end up with little black dots on a sheet of film, which I interpret as meaning a certain protein is responding to a specific stimulus within a cell. And each of those steps in the experiment were developed and discovered by somebody else. My results are very much removed from the reality within that cell. Does this make any sense?

    In other words, if you ask yourself- what things in life do I have the greatest amount of direct evidence for, I suggest that the answer is the spiritual truths learned through the spirit. That is an avenue that is not reliant on other people. I think this is very under-appreciated.

    I believe that to say a person is converted to Christ through historical evidence is simply untrue. A person may feel somewhat compelled by hearing testimonies from others along with evidences, but the convincing power is through the Holy Ghost. I believe with all my heart that it is the most reliable source of truth in our world.

    To say that you can show that the Bible is true through scientific or historical evidence is just crazy. It can also be demonstrated that the history of the Egyptians is true and valid- after all, we have all that evidence right before our eyes. But that in now way proves that the ancient religion of Egypt is true.

    What percentage of Christians have access (OK, before the internet) to the corroborating evidences you cite? What of all the people who never even had access to the NT? Did they have no chance of having a testimony of Christ and the gospel because they didn’t see the evidences?

    In all honesty, I strongly believe that God intended for the BOM to be accepted the way it is accepted- only through the Holy Ghost. I really think He wants it that way. Again, I have tons of intellectual evidences for the book, but those have come over years and years AFTER the spiritual revelations I received directly from God.

    Why do you think that “the devils also believe and tremble?” They intellectually know facts- they know Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah. They recognize the reality and greatness of God. But that factual knowledge does not translate into faith. Why not? The answer is key to our discussion here. There is something about receiving answers to our prayers, something about seeking humbly, honestly, having to LIVE for the answers from God that results in conversion and righteous desire.

    We could lay out irrefutable scientific evidence for the reality of Christ’s atonement, and I don’t really think it would change the number of people who are truly converted to His gopsel.

    fof

  10. NChristine permalink
    November 5, 2009 5:40 pm

    Hi FoF,

    Thanks — a few responses:

    But considering even my own experience in the lab, I realize that I have never seen an atom or molecule with my naked eyes. The results I have obtained are all indirect, indirect, indirect evidences of those atomic and molecular realities.

    And this is exactly parallel to the evidence for Jesus’ death and resurrection. It is not by firsthand observation such as Thomas had that anyone today believes. Rather, it is by “hearing,” just as you “hear” the evidence of others. And Jesus said, as is quoted in the new post, that those following the original disciples would believe on him “through their word.”

    We absolutely believe somebody can be directed and receive inspiration from the Holy Ghost before baptism and conversion.

    What biblical evidence do you have for this idea? What proof do you have that the “natural man” of I Corinthians 2:14 is not an unconverted one, as the passage and other uses of the word suggest — and as even lds.org suggests? You are not arguing that the unconverted can be led to repentance and faith by the Holy Spirit. Rather, you are arguing that by the Spirit they can discern truth before being born again by the Spirit of God. Paul states that only those who “have the mind of Christ” (later in the passage) are those who can understand the things of God (as 2:14 is discussing). Do the unconverted “have the mind of Christ”?

    Let me ask you this: The Scripture describes the pre-conversion human heart as “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9). How can such a heart be in a proper situation to determine the truth of something — most particularly something that is already refuted by the Word of God? What is commanded of the unconverted in the Scriptures? “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16). Instead, LDS investigators are told to use a Spirit they have no access to, in order to discover a “truth” the Scripture refutes. There may indeed be a spirit that testifies to this “truth,” but according to the Word of God, it cannot be the Spirit of God.

    Why do you think that “the devils also believe and tremble?” They intellectually know facts- they know Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah. They recognize the reality and greatness of God. But that factual knowledge does not translate into faith.

    Yes, this passage shows that one can have intellectual assent to facts and not really be converted. It also shows that faith is built upon correct understanding of truth. James implies that the correct understanding that “God is one” is necessary — but not sufficient. In other words, the passage implies (as many others directly assert) that faith must be built upon truth. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”

  11. faithoffathers permalink
    November 6, 2009 2:26 am

    NChristine,

    Here goes:

    “And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.”Acts 5:32

    “For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say. ” Luke 12:12 The Apostles would learn things from the Spirit they had not known before “that hour”- things apparently not available via historical documents and physical proof.

    “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall deach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” John 14:26

    “TEACH YOU ALL THINGS”

    “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.”

    “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” John 16:13

    “ALL TRUTH….THINGS TO COME.”

    “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Acts 2:37 What was it that pricked their hearts? Why did it not prick their minds or brains?

    “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
    But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. ” 1 Cor 2:11-14

    This is very clearly saying that there are things of God that are only understood and known through the Spirit of God. It is real hard to get a different interpretation from this.

    “Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” 1 Cor 12:3 In other words, a man knows Jesus is Lord only by the Holy Ghost. Says nothing about historical documentation or evidences.

    “Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us.” Hebrews 10:15

    “This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. ” 1 John 5:6

    Sorry for so many citations, but you asked me to “prove” via the scriptures that it is the Spirit that teaches the truth.

    You say “LDS investigators are told to use a Spirit they have no access to, in order to discover a “truth” the Scripture refutes. There may indeed be a spirit that testifies to this “truth,” but according to the Word of God, it cannot be the Spirit of God.”

    What is it that the scirpture refutes? The BOM? Not sure what you are saying here? If so, where is that passage that refutes the BOM?

    I am claiming that the Spirit is the ultimate source of truth. And a person must keep the commandments and “obey” God to have this guidance. And through such guidance, a person can know “the things of God.” “Ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you.”

    From your perspective, how does a person come to know the New Testament is true? How does a person come to know that Jesus was the very Son of God? Simple questions.

    Thanks,

    fof

  12. NChristine permalink
    November 6, 2009 4:37 am

    FoF,

    Thanks – I appreciate you bringing up scripture passages. I don’t see any of them that show the Spirit of God can be used by an unconverted person to determine truth. In the majority of the passages you cited, the promise of the Holy Spirit was given specifically to believers. Also, more than one of the passages you cited shows that the witness of the Holy Spirit will be in agreement with other types of evidence. Note the brief comments on each of the passages you quoted:

    1. “And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.”Acts 5:32

    Peter tells us in this passage that God gives the Holy Ghost is given “to them that obey him.” What category of people is that? In every instance in the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit came upon those who had believed. The Holy Spirit is not promised to those who have not yet believed!

    Secondly, note that the Holy Ghost is not the only witness. Peter says “we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost.” Who is the “we”? Peter and John were talking. Jesus had already told the disciples that they would be his witnesses just a few chapters previous (Acts 1:8). So the Holy Spirit’s witness must agree with the witness of the apostles. The witness of the apostles is recorded in the New Testament.

    2. “For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.” Luke 12:12

    “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” John 14:26

    “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.” John 15:26

    “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” John 16:13

    Note that every single one of these passages promises the Holy Spirit to “you.” Who was the “you”? For Luke 12:12, look at Luke 12:1: “He began to say unto his disciples first of all.” For John 14:26, 15:26, and 16:13, the entire discussion takes place at the last supper with the 12 disciples and Jesus. These passages apply to disciples of Jesus, whether then or now. They do not promise the Holy Spirit’s leading or teaching to unbelievers.

    3. “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Acts 2:37

    FoF: What was it that pricked their hearts? Why did it not prick their minds or brains?

    The word “heart” here is the familiar Greek word kardia, the definition of which includes not just feelings but the mind, as well. Strong’s Concordance defines it thus: “the heart, i.e. (figuratively) the thoughts or feelings (mind); also (by analogy) the middle…” When Jesus spoke of committing adultery in the “heart,” that surely involved mental processes. What about when he said, “Why think ye evil in your hearts?” (Matt. 9:4)? We are commanded to love God with all our “heart, soul, mind and strength.” God does not want us divided people! When He works by His Spirit in conviction, He deals with the whole person – heart, mind, emotions, spirit – everything. And He wants us to respond to Him with all that we are.

    4. “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
    But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. ” 1 Cor 2:11-14

    FoF: This is very clearly saying that there are things of God that are only understood and known through the Spirit of God. It is real hard to get a different interpretation from this.

    I fully agree. But who are the beneficiaries of this spiritual revelation? Not the unconverted! Paul says “we” (believers) have received the “spirit which is of God.” He further emphasizes this by contrasting it with “the spirit of the world.”

    5. “Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” 1 Cor 12:3

    FoF: In other words, a man knows Jesus is Lord only by the Holy Ghost. Says nothing about historical documentation or evidences.

    This verse is describing how one can discern spirits. Paul states this because he is about to discuss spiritual gifts, which could arise from more than one spiritual source. So he points out the marks of an utterance from the Holy Spirit so that believers could spot a counterfeit spirit. If someone says something untrue about Jesus, that would not be inspired by the Holy Ghost. This is very relevant to Mormonism, for there are huge differences between the Jesus which Joseph Smith described and the Jesus presented in the New Testament by the apostles who actually knew Him. According to this verse, then, Joseph Smith’s utterances were not of the Holy Ghost.

    6. “Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us.” Hebrews 10:15

    “This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. ” 1 John 5:6

    These two passages further show that the witness of the Holy Spirit will agree with other types of “witnesses.” In the Hebrews passage, the “witness” of the Holy Ghost is not an intangible impression or thought but rather is the scripture authored by the Holy Spirit. This is clear when one reads the verses that follow:

    “Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before…” [then proceeds to quote Jeremiah 31].

    In the I John passage (two verses later), there are three witnesses “that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.” What is the “water” and the “blood”? While commentators have different ideas on this passage, the most reasonable interpretation seems to be that these refer to what John witnessed flowing from Jesus’ side. In his account of Jesus’ crucifixion, John said this:

    “But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. And he that saw it [John] bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.” John uses his eyewitness account as one of the bases upon which he expects his readers to believe on Christ! And in I John 5:8 (“three that bear witness in earth”), we are told that the Spirit’s witness agrees with the “water, and the blood,” which are the eyewitness proofs John presented to show that Jesus really died as a real man! Thus, the Holy Spirit is not divorced from evidence. He uses evidence. He agrees with evidence. He through the apostle Paul offered evidence of the resurrection (I Cor. 15). He through the apostle John offered evidence of the crucifixion. He provides the evidence of the Word He has spoken through the apostles. He is not at war with evidence.

    FoF: From your perspective, how does a person come to know the New Testament is true? How does a person come to know that Jesus was the very Son of God?

    As to the first question, I am sure it happens in different ways for different people. To some, intellectual evidence is important, while others might be convinced by its power to change others’ lives, its power to change their own, its fulfilled prophecy, etc. Others come to know Jesus through hearing the gospel the original apostles preached, and then once they know Jesus Himself, they trust His Word. I don’t think anyone is the same. Furthermore, I don’t think any one category of understanding truth is sufficient for the multi-faceted human beings God has created us to be. God does not pit our minds against our hearts, or our logic against our emotions and intuition. Sure, we can be divided, but that is not God’s design.

    As to the second question, Jesus said that “no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.” Not one of us deceived, blind, gone-astray sheep could ever come to Christ without a supernatural work of God opening our eyes. But spiritual experiences abound. Paul reminded the Corinthians that they formerly worshiped idols, “even as ye were led.” In other words, some kind of spirit “led” them to idolatry. All kinds of spirits can lead people all kinds of directions. The question is – which spirit is the Holy Spirit? You quoted verses to show that the Holy Spirit will agree with eyewitness testimony (I John 5:9), will provide His witness through the Scripture He has authored (Hebrews 10:15), and will never be involved in presenting a Jesus different from the one preached by the apostles (I Cor. 12:3).

    I, too, apologize for the length, but I think these are mammothly important topics. Please also excuse all the bold and italics. 🙂 I very much want to communicate clearly.

  13. November 7, 2009 6:48 pm

    FOF,

    I have a question. How do you respond to the Muslim who says they have had a spiritual enounter with God, and this encounter has informed them that their faith is true?

    Darrell

  14. faithoffathers permalink
    November 8, 2009 8:42 pm

    Darrell,

    You have heard from LDS before that all groups have varying degrees of truth- some element or principle that is true. All people born and raised in a religion have some degree of loyalty to that religion based simply on tradition. And, each person can receive light and inspiration from God through sincere and humble seeking. My opinion is that these two factors get mixed into the pot when a person asked himself “is my religion true.”

    The difference is that there is a very linear, logical, personal way for every child of God to determine whether the BOM and LDS church is true. You may not believe it, but the mechanism is there for every person. The question of “is the BOM true” is specific and exclusive to an appropriate degree, making it possible (in scientific lingo) to truly isolate the variable in question. And this approach is quite unique.

    I have been asked sarcastically by many evangelicals, “why don’t we investigate whether the sacred writings of other religions are true” in an effort to suggest either that the BOM is irrelavent or not unique. My response to them and you- why then do you single out the BOM and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for criticism among all these religions? Saying that we are leading to people to hell doesn’t cut it, because those other religions you consider non-Christian are also leading people to hell in the EV view.

    Answer your question?

    Thanks.

    fof

  15. November 9, 2009 2:21 am

    FOF,

    Thank you for taking the time to respond. Having been a member of the LDS Church for many years, I can understand much of what you are saying, but have few questions/concerns.

    My response to them and you- why then do you single out the BOM and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for criticism among all these religions?

    Allow me to share my perspective. First, it is incorrect to say that I/we (speaking of the Christian Church as a whole) single out the LDS Church and/or the BOM — as if to say it is the only organization that we believe is incorrect and, as you put it, leading people to hell. There are many Christian outreach organizations and counter-cult ministries that minister to members of other organizations as well (JW, Muslim, etc.). Perhaps you feel singled out simply due to your encounters with those who oppose the LDS Church’s teachings. I can understand how you feel, but please understand there are a whole host of ministries that have nothing to do with the Mormon Church. In fact, some are even more involved/numerous than the outreach ministries to Mormons.

    Personally, at least for right now, my focus is towards the members of the LDS Church. I was a member of the organization for many years and, thus, have a great deal of knowledge about it. I believe God called me out and has given me a heart and a burden for those who are trapped within its grasp. As a result, I am being obedient to His call. However, if He were to call me in a different direction down the road, I would go there in a heart beat.

    As to the LDS method of finding out whether the church is true. As I am sure you are aware, there are people who are members of religions that are diametrically opposed to the Mormon Church who claim that God has told them their faiths are the One True Faith on the face of the earth. Let’s take Islam for example. It is diametrically opposed to Mormonism in numerous areas – including the Nature of Christ. This is the bottom line: if Islam is true, Mormonism is false, and if Mormonism is true, Islam is false. There is no way around this fact.

    Given this, how do you respond to the Muslim who says that Allah has told him Islam is true? Your first answer seems to brush this experience off as: 1) God affirming the good qualities of Islam or 2) An emotional experience tied to tradition or being a member of the religion for a long period of time. As for reason one, it is not logical or rational. Islam teaches that Jesus is not the Savior. Therefore, there is no way Christ/God would tell a Muslim that Islam is the One True Religion. For by doing so God would be telling a lie. As for answer two, what is to stop the Muslim from saying the same thing about your experience telling you Mormonism is true?

    Thanks so much for you time.

    Blessings,

    Darrell

  16. faithoffathers permalink
    November 9, 2009 3:24 pm

    Darrell,

    Point number one- I am saying a subjective person can interpret spiritual confirmation of a single principle (be honest, etc.) as confirmation of the whole religion. Make sense? Add up a few of these confirmations, and a person who may not be too inquisitive or interested lumps it all together as “my religion is true.”

    Point number two- Sure- the same could be claimed about the LDS church. I still feel that the mechanism of determining if the BOM is true is unique among religions- it is specific and exclusive. But in the end, each of us stands accountable to God for our honesty with ourselves and Him.

    What is the alternative you suggest? Historical documentation? Scientific proof? Such a standard is absolute madness- the result is no doubt the salvation of the smartest and most brilliant and damnation of the slow, subgenius, and those not born in a place and time privilidged with access to such information.

    fof

  17. November 10, 2009 4:30 pm

    You know…

    Suppose Jesus actually appeared after his death to a large gathering of Australian bushmen around the time of his death.

    You’d have absolutely no record of it ever happening.

    Why? Because those people didn’t keep any records which have survived.

    But that wouldn’t make it untrue.

    Same problem in the Americas. No surviving records and what records have survived are virtually untranslateable due to the fact that the Spaniards pretty-much wiped out just about every native document they could get their hands on (and that’s not even taking into account what the Lamanites wiped out). Then smallpox wiped out about 80% of the population. And today, you have archeologists scratching their heads over what was obviously a vast and complex civilization, but one which we are incapable of deciphering at present.

    So comparing Book of Mormon and Bible history and archeology is just silly.

    And it also ignores the fact that all this objective information that you like to make noise about does not establish any of your faith claims.

    Not a single one.

    So frankly, I don’t see what your point is.

  18. Stephanie permalink
    November 10, 2009 4:50 pm

    Hey Seth,

    There is a really interesting Nova documentary on the interpretation of Mayan writing. Although their hieroglyphics were long thought to be unable to be interpreted, we now have a better understanding of their writing. Some of their ancient Scriptures can be found here. Note that the “the earliest examples of Maya writing date from the Late Preclassic period (300 BCE to 300 CE).” The Popol Vuh is now recognized to be untainted by European influence and our earliest known example pre-dates previous copies by about 1000 years. It really isn’t fair to say that the people of Mesoamerica left no trace of their history.

    Stephanie

  19. November 10, 2009 6:36 pm

    Funny, because LDS apologists right now are citing the recent discoveries about the Popol Vuh as evidence of Book of Mormon themes in the Mayan culture (not trying to equate the Maya with the Nephites per se, but just identifying local cultural themes). Stuff like the tree of life and all that.

    Not that I find this particularly dispositive or anything. Just interesting.

    But Stephanie, this is a far cry from having the sort of knowledge of Mayan culture necessary to rule out the Book of Mormon events. Archeologists, linguists, and historians aren’t even close to that level of knowledge and will freely admit to being so.

    I never claimed no record. I claimed what is there is not well-understood enough to make the claims that LDS critics would like.

  20. Stephanie permalink
    November 10, 2009 6:44 pm

    Seth, I am well aware of the claims of the Popol Vuh and apologists linking it to the BoM. I believe both FARMs and FAIR have done work connecting the two. I thought the point of Jesus coming to the New World was that there would be a witness of Him in the Old World and one in the Americas. Whatever impact He made over here was so small that it didn’t even make it into the existing historical record? I don’t see this as a legitimate possibility.

  21. November 10, 2009 7:10 pm

    Jesus did preserve a historical record Stephanie.

    It’s called the Book of Mormon.

  22. November 10, 2009 7:31 pm

    FOF,

    Thanks for replying.

    Okay, here is my issue with your system for determing the truth of Mormonism… it leads to mutually exclusive truth claims being able to lay equally valid claim to truth. This violates the law of non-contradiction, and thus, cannot be used as a valid test for the truthfulness of a claim. In addition, it leaves the Mormon in a position where they cannot deny what any other system claims.

    I have had an experience while praying about the BOM that has led me to “know” that it is false, that JS was “not” a prophet, and that the Mormon Church is “not” of God. I know many, many other people who have had this experience as well. As a result, we have mutually exclusive experiences in relation to inquiring about the truthfulness of the BOM/Mormonism. This leads to results which violate the law of non-contradiction, and we both have equally valid claims to the truth.

    Bear in mind that the experience that moves a Mormon to say “I know Mormonism is true” is not unique to Mormonism. I have personally spoken with Protestants, Muslims, and JW’s (as well as others) who make the same claim. In fact, there is a comment on my blog right now by a Muslim challenging everyone to pray to the Creator about Islam and that the Creator will lead them to the truth about it.

    An experience (burning in the bosom) is a condition of a person and is not self-defining. In reality, it is our world-view and the a priori beliefs that we bring to the table when we have the experience that effect how we interpret it. Depending on ones world-view they might intepret an experience to be from God, the devil, or simply heartburn from lunch. Your response to my question about what you would say to a Muslim who claims to have had an experience telling them Islam is true proves my point. Your Mormon worldview leads you to discount this to “God confirming the good qualities of Islam” or “emotion tied to being raised in Islam” despite the Muslim’s claim that it is from God. You can’t deny the experience so you “re-define” what is means and/or what is causing it. At the same time, the Muslim would likely do the same when asked about your experience in relation to Mormonism.

    Truth is a characteristic of a proposition (Mormonism is true/false – the grass is/is not green, etc). Since experience is a condition of a person, is not self-interpreting, is greatly effected by our a priori beliefs/world-view, and leads to results which violate the law of non-contradiction, it cannot be used to determine the characteristic of a propositon.

    Blessings,

    Darrell

  23. November 11, 2009 8:11 pm

    FOF,

    I came heard a comment today which better claifies my above point.

    As I mentioned experiences are not self-interpreting. In and of themselves experiences are not true or false, they don’t come with labels. Instead, they just are. It is the definition and interpretation that we give to them that is true or false. However, this interpretation comes from and through our world-view. As a result, you cannot use an experience as proof for the truth of a world-view because your worldview is what you are using to give the very interpretation of your experience.

    Hopefully that better clarifies my point.

    God Bless!

    Darrell

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