Friday, 29 June 2007

Scripture, Prophets and Apostasy

A Mormon correspondent recently put the following argument:

A lot of people are keen to express their own opinion on scripture, offer interpretations etc. The problem is, how do we know which one of us correct.

For those who argue what they say is in keeping with the Bible, well welcome to a orld with hundreds of denominations all arguing the same thing yet still disagreeing on interpretation.

Further, for those open minded individuals that accept that looking for truth requires stepping back and examining the facts, how do we know for sure that any particular version of the Bible is sufficiently correct in it' translation to facilitate a definitive answer to the many questions we face (I'm speaking collectively here as we will all be accused of trusting a book that cannot be verified independently).

Finally, even if we overlooked the inherent risk in translation, edition, interpretation, punctuation etc, can anyone honestly claim that they can offer the definitive interpretation of a single passage let alone the entire complex book?

So it is hardly surprising that after 2000 years we find ourselves in a world were 80% of the western population think religion is poppy cock, and 20% believe it in some form but cannot agree between themselves what that form is.

Who can offer a solution to these questions? This is why modern day prophets make absolute sense. The sheer lack of a authoritative figure to guide our interpretation, correcting errors etc is invaluable.

I found that argument quite compelling for years until I realised its fatal flaw. It basically presents two possible positions for the truth seeker. Either you investigate and discover for yourself what is the truth, or you abrogate that responsibility and trust to another man to do it for you. Either you take full responsibility for looking into these things for yourself, determined to go wherever the truth leads, or you complain that it is just too hard and ask someone else to do your thinking for you.

God says in His word, “I love those who love me; and those who diligently seek me will find me” (Prov.8:17 c.f. Matt.7:8)

The argument about wheat and tares is well made (Matt.13:24-30). The fact that there is error doesn’t mean that there is no truth and it seems to me that God intends each one of us to take responsibility and look and seek and find for ourselves. It is our responsibility, it seems to me, to seek that truth “with all our hearts” and not leave it to another to tell us what the truth is. Anyway, we are still making a judgement in choosing to follow a prophet and must, therefore, give an account for our choices.

It seems to me that we would be better finding for ourselves what the Bible has to say rather than looking to someone else to tell us what it says, or ought to say, or once said (I am not here discounting the good help of others. I am simply insisting that no other man can take responsibility for my choices).

Which brings me to my second point, which concerns the Mormon attitude to the word of God, the Bible. I find it curious that Mormons will passionately declare their trust in the Bible but refuse to trust what they see in its pages. They claim that it is open to interpretation and readily give up any attempts at understanding it as a hopeless task. Yet the psalmist declared, “Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path” (Ps.119:105) and, “The words of the LORD are pure words; As silver tried in a furnace on the earth seven times; You, O LORD, will keep them” (Ps.12:6-7) Was he lying?

In the New Testament we find an astonishing and yet encouraging statement:

“This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs and wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (Heb.2:3-4)

Take each clause and study it. You will find each confirmed in history and in the lives of those who seek him.

  1. This salvation was announced by the Lord - (Luke 4:16-21)
  2. Confirmed by those who heard him – (1 John 1:1-5)
  3. God testified to it by signs and wonders and miracles – (Where do we start? Acts!)
  4. And gifts of the Holy Spirit – I can only testify that some 2,000 years later I saw sure and certain evidence of such gifts in church last Sunday morning!

It would seem that God intends us to take his word very seriously, understand it for ourselves, take the testimony of his Son, his Apostles, and his Spirit and act on what we see with our own eyes. I don't think that is asking too much.

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