Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What Agreement Has the Temple of God with the Temple of Joseph Smith?

I have found myself grieved today. It all started 10 years ago, even though I only found out about it a few years ago. Then it happened again this past weekend. I found myself drawn to this presentation because I care about Mormons. I was one. My mom’s side of the family are still involved heavily in the religion and what I saw in these presentations scared me. Not because he presented very clear biblical ideas, but because he only presented those ideas that are held in common with the Mormons without drawing any distinctions. He failed to define his terms, and that failure could have dire eternal consequences.

As you may have guessed from the title of this post, I sincerely believe that those following the Mormon faith are deceived by a doctrine of demons. An angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:12–15) revealed a different gospel (Galatians 1:6–10) to a boy in New York, and now millions around the world are following his prophecies, writings, and a different Jesus. I used to be one of them.

On his Facebook page, Dr. Ravi Zacharias noted: When asked about my goals
for visiting with the LDS community here, I said that I hope in our discussions we come to a Biblical understanding of who Jesus is. I always want to leave the door open for dialogue and show everyone the love of Christ, and I hope that through the process of interaction, we will arrive at the truth.

I am sorely afraid that did not happen as a result of the two speaking sessions that will live on as the legacy of this visit. While he did use biblical language to describe the things he spoke of, that language is the same language used by the Mormons in the audience. If there was an atheist or a Buddhist in the audience (very doubtful), then they heard about Jesus and redemption (without any call to repent), but the Mormons were affirmed in their beliefs.

In apparent response to some critics, this video was posted on his website the following day.

He says he wants to build bridges, but he made everyone in the audience think they believed in the same Jesus. Later he will have to tell them it is a different Jesus and I built this bridge so I could tell you that you are wrong. This seems deceptive. And what about those Mormons he will never speak to again who heard his message which made no distinctions and did not seek to define terms?

To the Students
The first talk was at BYU to an audience of faculty and students there. You can see the video at this link:
At 36:55, he made the only comment that might even approach a distinction. Mormons believe that Jesus is a created being. Zacharias drew from Isaiah 9 to describe the eternality of the Son of God. The Son is not born, the Son eternally existed. It is the child that is born; the Son is given. I agree. But so might the Mormon in the audience.

I have discussed this point with Mormon missionaries within the last year, as well as one of the local church elders, and they affirmed the eternality of the Son. When I first heard this I was a bit taken aback. As a Mormon, I was taught that Jesus was born of the Heavenly Mother and Father. As a Christian I, and others, reasoned that this means He cannot be eternal. However, the Mormon apologists have devised a way of making Jesus eternal, so that when a Christian approaches a Mormon with this obvious biblical contradiction, they can send the Christian reeling by agreeing that Jesus is eternal. They simply say that He eternally existed in the mind of God or that His spirit always existed, it was just awaiting a body…the body provided by the sexual union of the Heavenly Father and Mother. So, to a Mormon, Jesus is eternal. Zacharias failed to make a meaningful distinction because he did not carefully define his terms. So the Jesus he spoke of and the Jesus in the Mormon’s mind are the same Jesus.

At 49:00 into the video, Zacharias speaks of the unity of worship that “we” will have at the consummation. This is only one example of the multitude of inclusive pronouns he used to describe everyone in his audience. As I will describe in some of the comments below, he also included them in his use of the phrases “the Scriptures,” “the Word of God,” and “His Word” by failing to make any distinctions between the Mormon and Christian conception of these terms.

Given to a Christian audience, his talk would have been a brilliant explanation and defense of the value intrinsic to humanity redeemed by Christ and created in the image of God.

Given to a majority Mormon audience who thinks it is Christian, it was an ecumenical hash that may have lulled many into a slumber.

He said nothing that distinguished the Mormon concept of humanity or God from the Christian view, he only propped up their belief by referring to Jesus and the Father and the Holy Spirit as if the Mormons had the same conception.

In the Temple of Baal
The speech at the Tabernacle (the large meeting house on Temple Square) was preceded by several other speakers who tried to make some form of distinction between Mormons and Evangelicals, but there was a simple statement of doctrinal differences. You can watch the speeches at this link:

Well into his talk, I picked up what I think he believed was a distinction he was making. I believe he was trying to affirm that the Bible, containing the 66 books, was the only authoritative source. However, he never says that. He leaves that to the listener to think about. Unless you knew both doctrines, I doubt you would ever pick up on what he was trying to do. Again, by using the same terminology the Mormons use without any distinctions, there is no real difference in the mind of the Mormon.

At 1:14:00 he talks about the Transfiguration and links it to Peter’s words in 2 Peter 1:19–21. He emphasizes that Peter saw and experienced this event. He appeals to the words of the prophets and the movement of the Holy Spirit in recording the words.  “God’s Word is truth.” The Mormon hears this and thinks that the same has happened in the modern times; God spoke through, and continues to speak through, modern prophets to reveal the “Word of God.” As Zacharias speaks of “the Scriptures,” the Mormon mind does not think of the plural coming from many writers in one book, but the four different books that their prophets have delivered to them from their god. Every time he refers to God, His Word, or the Scriptures, the Mormon hears his words in non-distinguishing agreement. As before, I can’t imagine my mother disagreeing with anything he said—she just understands his words to mean something he doesn’t intend them to mean. It is not because they are speaking different languages, but because they are using two different dictionaries.

At 1:32:45 Zacharias exclaims, “Young people, if you are a young man or woman here, don’t underestimate your value in commitment to Christ. Take the mind that God has given you and give it to Him as an expression of your worship. He will make you an instrument of His truth and for His glory.”

This quote will wind up on a plaque sold at Deseret Books and used on the Mormon social media sites and publications to encourage their youth to follow Christ. But it is a different Christ, and they follow him to Hell.

At 1:38:15 we hear, “If there is just one application you take away tonight, can I urge you to open the Scriptures and make it a commitment to read the Gospel of John. Just take the Scriptures; read the Gospel of John. Stay with the Word! Stay with the Word, because that is what turned the heart of a nation back under young Josiah; that is what turned David’s heart and that’s why he said what he did in his psalms when he says, you know, Your Word is truth, is a lamp and a light, and how the Scriptures cannot be broken.’ Paul says to Timothy to bathe in those Scriptures that he learned as a little boy.”

The Christian hearer opens the dictionary in his mind to s.v., Scriptures: the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments inspired by God and the final and sole infallible authority for the Christian.

The Mormon open her mental dictionary to s.v., Scriptures: the four books delivered by prophets, ancient and modern, including The Bible (insofar as it is correctly translated and interpreted by the General Authorities), The Book of Mormon (the most perfect book ever written), The Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price . . . and any other teachings of the modern prophets.

When I heard this line, I shuddered . . . literally. (1:47:00) “God can turn the tide in America. You pray; I’ll pray. The day will come a few years from now when we’ll look back and say, ‘Did you ever imagine something like this could happen?” But it has to begin with your heart and mine. So before you go tonight and before you go to bed, get onto your bedside and ask the Lord to make you right with Him. That’s where it begins.”

The Mormon will be praying to a false god who has no power, a lord who cannot be Master. What good will those prayers do him?

The following is an article posted in the RZIM website. Rather than exhaustively analyzing the talks he gave, I will use this as a way to point out my concerns. The italicized portions are from the article and my comments in normal face and inset. I am sure I could write a book on this topic (if I haven’t, already), but I hope this will help you to see my concerns.

Ravi Zacharias at the Mormon Tabernacle: God’s Word Must Be Central; Redemption Comes Before Righteousness

Dr. Zacharias Challenged Diverse Audiences at the Mormon Tabernacle and Brigham Young University to Read the Scriptures and Understand True Freedom
A diverse crowd of around 3,000 people attended Saturday’s gathering at the Mormon Tabernacle.
Saturday night at the Mormon Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Christian apologist and author Dr. Ravi Zacharias spoke to an audience of around 3,000 people on “Lessons from History, Building a Nation Under God.” He read from 2 Kings 21-22 and examined King Manasseh, who led the Israelites to practice child sacrifice. Of Manasseh and other demagogues he suggested, “It is possible for one person to lead millions into untold evil.” Zacharias contrasted Manasseh’s destructive reign with the leadership of King Josiah, who upon hearing the Book of the Law, tore his clothes in repentance and instructed it to be read aloud before the nation.
“We must build our lives upon things that are eternal,” said Zacharias. “Stay with the Word because the Word of God is what turned the heart of a nation around.”

Any Mormon hearing this will equate his phrase “Word of God” with their Scriptures; The Bible, The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. While Zacharias means the Bible alone, that is not what the Mormon’s hear. They are encouraged to find verses of truth from their prophets Alma and Brigham Joseph Smith . . . in the Scriptures.

He observed that if we are to impact society, “Our hearts need to be transformed…. We need a new birth,” and continued, “Only Jesus can give you the power to change. Has your heart been redeemed by Christ?”

Every Mormon would agree with this statement, but they mean something totally different within their theological system. They agree hearts are transformed and redeemed by Jesus. The problem is they know a different Jesus. Every baptized Mormon believes they have been redeemed by Christ.

“Redemption is prior to righteousness. You cannot be righteous until you are first redeemed,” Zacharias emphasized. 

No Mormon would disagree.

“That is where it begins,” he said. “We will never change the outside until we are changed within. Then the world will see the beauty of Christ and follow Him. If we who claim to follow Christ do not have the Word of God, why point the finger outside?”

You have probably heard Glenn Beck tell you how important the “atonement” is to his salvation. But he is a Mormon and has an entirely different understanding of what the atonement is and what it accomplished. The Mormon’s think they have the Word of God. In fact, they think they have a fuller and richer and purer Word of God than Zacharias claims.

Zacharias asked the diverse audience a series of questions and challenged them to make the personal reading of scripture a priority. “Do you know what life’s purpose is? That you may have communion with the living God, your Maker,” he said, and continued by highlighting the sufficiency of Jesus Christ in salvation. “Do you have the Son? We are complete in Him.”

Again, no Mormon would disagree with this statement, they just believe they get to become gods on top of that. They believe Jesus is infinitely important in their salvation. The subtle difference is so obscure to the average Mormon that they will not get it. The average evangelical in the audience won’t know that the Mormon thinks differently and won’t know to ask. 

Zacharias first spoke at the Mormon Tabernacle on November 14, 2004. “It was a historic moment, as the last time an evangelical Christian had spoken there was in 1899 when D.L. Moody spoke,” he recalled, and expressed gratitude for the return invitation. “I am truly honored and privileged to stand behind this pulpit and I do not take it lightly.”

I was greatly disappointed by this first event, as well. Zacharias made no clear distinctions and constantly referred to the audience with common plural pronouns (e.g., we, our) that would make them think they were included in his views. While he was careful to describe Jesus biblically, he failed to make any distinctions that were significant.

Christian singer and songwriter Fernando Ortega provided the music for the gathering at the Tabernacle, and his selections included “I Will Sing of My Redeemer” and “Give Me Jesus.”

And every Mormon could “amen” him heartily. They offered their worship to God/god alongside one another without explanation. Mr. Ortega invited the Mormons into the communion of the saints to worship the One True God without telling them he doesn’t believe their God exists (if indeed he believes Mormons are not Christians, you couldn’t tell that from his statements at the piano). He deceived them into thinking they were worshipping the same God. To invite those who do not worship in spirit and truth into worship alongside the saints is to invite a profane thing to the throne of God.

Representing the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He praised Dr. Zacharias for his “uncompromised witness of the divine and powerful use of the Word of God,” and called him “a dear and special friend.”

This actually came before Zacharias spoke, so I am not sure why it is placed after the above comments. Placed here, it seems to be saying that Elder Holland was praising the use of the Bible in the message (Mormons don’t have sermons). Elder Holland’s use of the phrase “Word of God” makes my point for me. He knows Zacharias rejects what he believes are all of the words of his god, but he is pleased to use Zacharias to prop up the façade and claim that Mormons are Christians, too.

Holland explained that “No joint ecumenical statement of any kind is being attempted here” and acknowledged that “there are doctrinal differences,” but emphasized that “We are witnessing a diminution of religious expression that is unprecedented in Western culture and certainly in American culture” and “the very least we can do is know and understand each other better than we do.”

If the goal was to understand one another better, it would seem that those doctrinal differences would have been plainly presented with respect and clarity. Rather, the differences were glossed over and plural pronouns were used that constantly propped up and embellished the façade of union in Christ. Evangelicals have “doctrinal differences” with Lutherans; we have fundamental theological differences with Mormons. There is no union between the temple of God and the temple of Satan (2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1). By not making any statement of distinction, the ecumenical statement was loud and clear.

On Friday, January 17, Dr. Zacharias spoke to an open forum of about 400 students and faculty at Brigham Young University in Provo on the topic of “What Does It Mean To Be Human?” as part of BYU’s “Faith, Family, and Society” lecture series.

As I noted above, throughout this presentation, Zacharias used the inclusive pronoun “we” to refer to himself and the audience, connecting the word “Christian” to his comments. I humbly suggest that this is an error of immense consequence—an error that will leave the students and others in the audience believing there is really no distinction and that they are Christians, too.

“I want to give you the Christian answer to this question of what it means to be human and remind you how important it is that we understand how critical these definitions are,” said Zacharias, lamenting that “the great loss in our time as been the loss of definitions – of good, evil, humanity, sacredness of sexuality, family, and home.”

Starting the discussion with the “Christian” answer and then never making any meaningful distinction affirms the Mormon in believing they, too, have the Christian answer that Zacharias has. After all, he is speaking from “the Scriptures.”

“If we don’t understand life’s purpose, then all other questions become just footnotes,” said Zacharias, emphasizing that “the intrinsic value of human life comes from being created by God in his image,” and that “ultimate freedom comes from knowing what Jesus Christ has done for you.”

And every Mormon agreed . . . with no distinctions.

Zacharias opened by reading from Psalm 8 and explained that being created in God’s image gives us essential worth, particularity in relationships, and a reflective splendor. He continued by reading from Philippians 2, saying the incarnation of Jesus Christ gives us “the absoluteness of the moral law and the supremacy of love.”

And every Mormon agreed . . . with no distinctions.

Zacharias was introduced by Dean Brent L. Top, BYU’s Dean of Religious Education. “We are pleased to have one of the great defenders of the Christian faith and one of leading apologists of our time,” he told the audience. “Dr. Zacharias is a great defender of the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as the union of a man and woman, religious liberty, justice, and the common good.”

And every Mormon agreed . . . with no distinctions.

Zacharias’s local host was Standing Together, a network of evangelical congregations along the Wasatch Front aiming to “work together in a united way to advance the message of God’s love to the people of Utah and our communities.” Standing Together’s President, Rev. Gregory Johnson, was very pleased with both events. “The Mormon and evangelical communities were given a wonderful gift by Ravi Zacharias at the Mormon Tabernacle and BYU, the gift of courage to reach out to others with different beliefs and to engage each other with gentleness and respect as we seek together to know the Truth,” he said.

And every Mormon agreed . . . with no distinctions.

The complete programs at Brigham Young University on January 17 and the Mormon Tabernacle on January 18 were streamed live, and both video recordings are available here.

I know this may sound odd, but I am so grieved by this event. If one of my Mormon relatives were in the audience, and they may have been, I am afraid that they heard nothing that would call them out of the dark cult they are trapped in.

Can the Holy Spirit use the words spoken to raise a doubt in their minds? Surely.

Can an evangelical friend or neighbor engage a Mormon who heard the message and help them see the differences? Surely.

But what about the majority who won’t have that followup conversation and who were emboldened and affirmed in their belief that they are Christians, just like that kind and gracious man who came and spoke to us to build bridges of dialog? And those who will listen online?

All I can do is direct my grief into prayer and trust in the Triune God to help me boldly speak as I ought to speak to proclaim the mystery of the gospel . . . with clear distinction.

I hope my mom wasn't listening.

No comments:

Post a Comment