Sunday, July 05, 2009

The Book of Mormon 13/18

The BOM is like the Bible in some ways. The New Testament addresses theological issues the people were dealing with in the first century. They were dealing with the issue of eating meat sacrificed to idols, whether gentile converts had to be circumcised, etc. The BOM does the same thing. It addresses theological issues people were dealing with in the 19th century. The two major rival churches where Joseph Smith grew up were the Methodists and the Presbyterians--one group believing in predestination and the other putting a strong emphasis on free will.

In Alma 31, the author talks about the Zoramites who separated themselves from the Nephites. They were bad people, "perverting the ways of the Lord" (Alma 31:1). The author of Alma gives us what is essentially a statement of beliefs of the Zoramites that included: "we believe that thou art God, and we believe that thou art holy, and that thou wast a spirit, and that thou art a spirit, and that thou wilt be a spirit forever," and that "thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell" (Alma 31:15,17). Some of the beliefs it explicitly says are in error, but it doesn't say they are all in error, so I went to Yahoo Answers and asked about it.

The Mormons who answered said all of the beliefs of the Zoramites mentioned were in error. God is not a spirit. He has a body of flesh and bone. The Mormon view seems to be an outright denial of John 4:24, which says that God is a spirit. I've heard some Mormons reconcile John 4:24 with their view by saying God is both flesh and spirit.

Some of them said they do believe in predestination (they prefer to say "foreordination"), but the Zoramites were mistaken to think they were foreordained to salvation and everybody else wasn't.

A few of them made a distinction between "foreordination" and "predestination," and they thought passages such as Romans 8:29-30 and Ephesians 1:5 and 11 are talking about foreordination rather than predestination. The difference is that predestination means you're chosen for salvation regardless of how you live your life, which removes the principle of moral agency, whereas foreordination is conditioned on our faithfulness.

This view seems to be contrary to what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:27-31:
But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise...that no man should boast before God. By his doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and the righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, that, just as it is written, "Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord."
The reason boasting is excluded is because it is by God's doing that we are in Christ, not our own doing. If our being chosen depended on our doing, then we'd have something to boast about. As Paul also said in Romans 4:2, "If Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about." In Romans 3, Paul says that "all have sinned," and that they are "justified as a gift by his grace," through faith, and because of this, Paul says, "Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law" (Romans 3:23-28).

It is also contrary to what Paul said in Romans 9:11-18:
For though the twins [Jacob and Esau] were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God's purpose according to his choice might stand, not because of works, but because of him who calls, it was said to her, "The older will serve the younger."
That raises the question of whether there is any injustice with God, which Paul answers by quoting where God said to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." Then Paul said, "So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy."

Part 14


At 7/06/2009 12:22 PM , Blogger Paul said...

I heard R.C. Sproul say that one of the things that pushed him over the edge to Calvinism is Romans 9:14. After making those troubling predestinarian sounding statements about Jacob and Esau, Paul asks the rhetorical question, "What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God?"

If Paul is actually teaching the Arminian position, then from whence comes the objection? The objection comes exactly because he is teaching the Reformed view, and that view has always elicited just such response from its critics.

Additionally, after asking this question Paul could have easily cleared up any wrongheaded "Calvinist" notions by bringing in some discussion of the interplay between God's will and ours, or how God is really just looking down the corridor of time to see that we are electable material. He does not do this. Instead, he offers statements that are, perhaps, even more troubling for the Arminian.

For He says to Moses, "I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION." So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH." So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.

Paul is either teaching Reformed theology or he is a bad communicator.

At 7/06/2009 4:26 PM , Blogger Sam said...

I've been thinking recently about writing a series of blogs on the book of Romans. What I was going to do is go through each hypothetical objection Paul raises to see what we could infer from the nature of the objections. What light do they shed on what he is trying to communicate? Because unless we interpret Paul correction, the objections won't make sense.

At 7/06/2009 4:47 PM , Blogger Paul said...

That would be different.

I've got a series of excerpts from Scripture I once compiled that are extremely friendly to the Reformed view. It occurred to me that if they were equivocal and we had misunderstood them, then the Holy Spirit was not being very clear with us. It also occurred to me that I could rework each passage to make it more clearly Arminian, and that if I did so that it would be an acceptable paraphrase. I was doing all this for the sake of an Arminian I was debating and even she was squeamish about the paraphrases. I thought about posting it, but it seems irreverent.


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