Tag Archives: New Testament

Boldly Going Where No One Has Gone Before

I felt like Elder Oaks’ address from General Conference, “Loving Others and Living with Differences,” was fantastic. And heavy. And a little biting, especially if you’re one of those dweebs who doesn’t let their kids play with other kids who aren’t members of the Church.

(I mean, seriously?…)

Dang it. I just lost the “is it I?” game, deep diving into my second General Conference talk. Crap.

I feel like there’s so much in there that I’ll need to “noodle” over, but one of the heaviest parts of Elder Oaks’ talk, in my view, is the discussion about contention. “Contention” can mean a great many things to a great many people, which is what makes discussion about it so slippery. Before we look more into clues that help us see how Elder Oaks’ understands “contention,” let me tell you a story. Continue reading Boldly Going Where No One Has Gone Before

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Tolerating the Weeds

Not Free Willy

My wife and I watched Blackfish a few months ago. Going into it we knew it was about SeaWorld and orca whales and the issues that arise from their captivity, but we didn’t know much more than that. Thinking that our two year-old son might find it interesting to see killer whales, my wife invited him to join us.

“Hey, do you want to watch a show about whales?”

*turns on Blackfish*

(From the television) “…Um, we need someone to respond… the whale just ate one of the trainers…” *ominous music* Continue reading Tolerating the Weeds

Sheepy Wolves and Wolfy Sheep

You can find Part 1 here. This post is really supplementary to that post, and should be read second.

In Part 1, I discussed my surprise at reading the blog of a Latter-day Saint criticizing Elder Russell M. Nelson’s commencement address comments on so-called same-sex marriage. It hurt me in the same way Michael Bay hurt me with his Transformers franchise – in both cases, I felt (perhaps unfairly) that I had been betrayed when certain expectations I had were not fulfilled.

And let me tell you, you can’t even measure that kind of hurt.

Location, Location, Location

The point I tried to really hit home in Part 1 was “This is about expectations.” I’m mixing it up here by emphasizing the other side of the same coin.

This is not about content, at least not directly. For the purposes of this discussion, content doesn’t really matter. It’s all “location, location, location.” Continue reading Sheepy Wolves and Wolfy Sheep

A Harmful Address from General Conference

I like to explore the blogosphere after General Conference ends. I’m interested in the reactions that others have to the words of the Church leaders, men who I consider to be prophets, seers, and revelators. This helps me to think more critically about what I’ve heard, which in turn builds my testimony in what they’ve said.

One particular post caught my eye. A marriage and family therapist, and member of the LDS Church, wrote a post on the Saturday morning session of General Conference, dividing each speaker’s comments into (potentially) three sections:

  • Messages I Found to be Healthy and Uplifting
  • Messages I Found to be Needing of Further Nuance/Discussion
  • Messages I Found to be Harmful

The first two sections aren’t anything special – this blog, for example, is a place where I often add my own nuance and discussion (from my perspective, of course) to the words of prophets. That third section, though, piqued my interest, perhaps because it’s an idea that is so foreign to me – it’s a short walk from “harmful” to “dismissible,” and that concerns me ever so slightly.

In the interest of adding to the dialogue, I’d like to look at the “harmful” portions identified by this blogger in Jeffrey R. Holland’s address. Continue reading A Harmful Address from General Conference

My Thoughts on Today’s Supreme Court Review

Yesterday, you might not have known what was on the Supreme Court’s docket for today.

Today, you know.

You know because you probably have a Facebook account (1 billion of us do, as of October 2012) and your news feed was likely filled up by activists and constitutional “experts” on both sides of the argument, all commenting on news coming out of the Supreme Court.

My Anecdotal Observations of Fellow Latter-day Saints

I’ve written before on the subject of so-called same sex marriage, but I feel like I can contribute to the conversation in one way tonight. I’d like to talk about some of my observations of the LDS community. Certainly I don’t have a good view of all Latter-day Saints, so my observations will be little more than anecdotal. Still, that doesn’t make them invalid. I, at least, think that they’ll be worth considering.

A Diverse Body with An Important Foundation 

We Latter-day Saints are a fairly diverse group of people. You might not think it, getting pop culture hints from “The Book of Mormon” musical and Big Love, but Latter-day Saints are a 14 million member strong group who live all over the earth and have varied levels of activity and belief, and a wide range of personalities, opinions, and mannerisms.

I’ve mused before about what, among such a diverse group of individuals, unites us, and you can read that post for those thoughts. Since then, Elder Robert D. Hales spoke in General Conference about “Being a More Christian Christian”. His criteria for what it means to be Christian (and I think “Christian” here is interchangeable with “Mormon” or “Latter-day Saint”, as will be clear in a moment) is also a fine study about what should be the same among Latter-day Saints. A Latter-day Saint is:

    • Someone who follows the gospel pattern of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end (paragraphs 2 – 4).
    • Someone who believes that God has followed a pattern of calling prophets to teach His children, and that this pattern has continued in our day with Joseph Smith and his successors (paragraph 5).
    • Someone who believes in the Godhead as taught in the scriptures and by modern prophets. This belief regarding the nature of God is at odds with Trinitarian theology (paragraph 6).

There is quite a bit in there that mainstream Christianity would find objectionable, but that should suggest to us that when Elder Hales asks, “With these doctrines as the foundations of our faith, can there be any doubt or disputation that we (Latter-day Saints) are Christian?”, he’s not comparing Latter-day Saints to modern, mainstream, creedal Christianity as much as he’s comparing Latter-day Saints to biblical Christianity.

But that’s a talk for another day and another post.

The point is that Elder Hales highlights a belief in the principle of prophets and a testimony that the leaders of the Mormon Church are the modern-day equivalents of  Peter, Moses, or Paul. That’s not an idle statement to make or believe in. Paul wrote to new church members of his day,

“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone (Ephesians 2:19-20).

Distance from Modern Prophets

Whether or not you’re familiar with the LDS position on the issue of so-called same-sex marriage, consider these posts from some of my Latter-day Saint Facebook friends:

“Hopefully today is the first step towards increasing equality in our nation.”

“Real equality would be government that is not in charge of marriage.”

“taking agency away from a group of people is what satan (sic) wants…..”

And many of them posted graphics, like these:

Posts like these really confuse me. They confuse me because, for example, the leadership of our Church said just today:

Today the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments regarding the definition of marriage in this country.

We firmly support the divinely appointed definition of marriage as the union between a man and a woman because it is the single most important institution for strengthening children, families, and society.

We hope the court will agree, and we look forward to the decision on this important matter.

That’s not even the least of all they’ve said, but it suffices for this post. It’s not difficult for the sincere student to learn more about the LDS position (try here, at Mormons and Gays, which then links to other legitimate sources at the bottom of the page). This position is in direct conflict with many of the sentiments and graphics above.

Something seems off….

A Story with a Moral – Faithful Obedience

I’m reminded of the story of Martin Harris and the lost 116 pages. For those who are unfamiliar with the story, here is a refresher.

Joseph Smith began translating the Book of Mormon plates in the late 1820s. He had a scant education, and enlisted the help of Martin Harris, a local of Palmyra, New York, to act as scribe. Harris’ help was invaluable – not only was Harris a respected member of the community, but he also gave significant resources to help finance the translation and publication of the Book of Mormon.

By the middle of 1828, Joseph had dictated 116 pages to Harris. Unfortunately, Harris’ relationship with his wife was tenuous at the time. Additionally, she was suspicious of Joseph, and opposed to the resources her husband was devoting to Joseph’s cause. Harris asked Joseph if he could take the manuscript home to show his wife. He thought this would help encourage her support and help heal some of their strained relationship.

Joseph asked the Lord if Harris could take the manuscript. The Lord refused. Still, Harris pressured Joseph to ask a second time. Again, the Lord refused. Harris pressured Joseph once more, and the Lord agreed to let him take the manuscript as long as he showed it to only a few specified family members.

Tragically, Harris lost the 116 pages of the manuscript. They were never recovered, and Joseph was commanded not to re-translate those pages (the thieves who had stolen them had changed the words so that, were Joseph to re-translate, the two versions would not agree – see Doctrine and Covenants 10).

The Lord, with his omniscient foresight, had prepared for this loss. He told Nephi, one of the primary authors of the Book of Mormon, to make two sets of records covering the same time period.

And the reason for making two sets of records? Nephi didn’t have a clue. He tells us,

“Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not.

“But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men” (see 1 Nephi 9).

Mormon, who almost 1,000 years later would be inspired to include Nephi’s record in concert with his abridgment, would write,

“And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me. And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will” (see Words of Mormon 1:3-7).

Joseph continued to translate, but from this additional record instead of the material he’d previously translated. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has said,

“We got back more than we lost. And it was known from the beginning that it would be so.”

For more on that story, you can also read my post, “God’s Divine Backup Plan”.

Some Principles to Follow

Often when we hear this story, we focus on Martin Harris and Joseph Smith. There’s nothing wrong with this – there’s an important lesson to be learned from them. But I’d like to focus on two different individuals. I’d like to focus on Nephi and Mormon, and particularly Nephi.

Nephi, as we saw, was commanded to make a second record detailing the same period he’d just covered. Keep in mind that this is an age before copy-and-paste, before xerox, before the printing press. Nephi was making records on metal plates while traveling as a nomad through uninhabited Arabia and (likely) South America. That would have been extremely arduous and tedious. Yet he did it.

Nephi did this, all without (as far as we know) ever knowing why. He never received any indication of what the Lord’s “wise purpose” was, what fruit would be born from his laborious seed planting. Not even Mormon, who spent his life protecting and abridging these records, ever knew the end from the beginning in regards to these records. Yet they obeyed. And because they obeyed, we have the Book of Mormon today, complete with the powerful testimony of early Nephite prophets.

What’s the connection for Latter-day Saints to same-sex marriage?

In 1995, then president Gordon B. Hinckley presented “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”. It highlighted the vital family values that our Church stands for, and called for members and citizens to support measures aimed at upholding the traditional family unit. This proclamation reads, in part,

“We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children….

“We warn that… the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.

We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.

When Prop 8 was prepared as a ballot measure, the First Presidency, led by current president Thomas S. Monson, sent a letter to California congregations. It encouraged Latter-day Saints to do all that they could to support the measure. It read,

“Preserving Traditional Marriage and Strengthening Families:

“In March 2000 California voters overwhelmingly approved a state law providing that “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” The California Supreme Court recently reversed this vote of the people. On November 4, 2008, Californians will vote on a proposed amendment to the California state constitution that will now restore the March 2000 definition of marriage approved by the voters.

“The Church’s teachings and position on this moral issue are unequivocal. Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, and the formation of families is central to the Creator’s plan for His children. Children are entitled to be born within this bond of marriage.

“A broad-based coalition of churches and other organizations placed the proposed amendment on the ballot. The Church will participate with this coalition in seeking its passage. Local Church leaders will provide information about how you may become involved in this important cause.

We ask that you do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman. Our best efforts are required to preserve the sacred institution of marriage.

Regardless of the other issues at work here – and make no mistake, this is a highly complex and controversial issue – the Church leaders have been very clear about what is expected of faithful Latter-day Saints. After that, the decision is ours to decide which way we face.

The choice is, of course, ours to make. But let’s make no mistake about what’s happening when we follow personal whims, lean on political correctness, or disregard prophetic counsel. Perhaps President Brigham Young said it best:

“You cannot destroy the appointment of a prophet of God, but you can cut the thread that binds you to the prophet of God, and sink yourselves to hell.”

Stand with the prophets, even if you don’t understand why. You may never understand – we learn that much from Nephi and Mormon – but you can have faith that the Lord knows what he’s doing.

A Response to “Biblical” Criticism of Spiritual Witnesses Part 10

Go back to Part 1.

1 John 5

In TBC’s third volley, there is more wresting of the scriptures (it’s like they can’t help themselves). They write,

“The Apostle John reaffirms these principles by stating, “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater. . .” (1 John 5:9). He goes on to identify “the witness of God” to be that which he was writing, New Testament Scripture! The pressing importance of this discussion is also included in his narrative. It is only when feelings and predispositions give way to God’s objective written revelation, the Bible, that the truth about eternal life can be positively known.

” “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in
His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God
hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of
the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life. . .” (1 John 5:11-13).”

1 John 5:9

What does John say about confirming truth?

Like Isaiah, John does not say that the only source of truth is the New Testament or the Bible (the Bible was not even compiled in his day!). He does not say that we must subjugate personal revelation from the Holy Ghost. Instead, he says the Spirit bears witness of truth, and if we believe the witness of man, surely we should believe the witness of God. He says,

“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….

“If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son” (1 John 5:6,9).

The “this” of “this is the witness” does not refer to the New Testament, or even to the book of 1 John. Two other translations of 1 John 5:9 make this clear.

  • NIV: We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son.
  • NLT: Since we believe human testimony, surely we can believe the greater testimony that comes from God. And God has testified about his Son.

These verses show that the “this” is simply a reference to what the witness of God is – that Jesus is his Son.

And as verse 6 states, this truth is borne witness of by the Spirit.

Clues from the Context, Again, Again

1 John 5:9 is part of a wonderful close that John gives to his book of 1 John. Let’s look at some contextual clues so that we can appreciate the theme that runs through the chapter. We’ll be looking most closely at verses 6-13.

Yet this will be somewhat more involved than when we looked at Jeremiah because of something called the johannine comma.

The Johannine Comma

In this part of 1 John there is a portion of scripture that isn’t found in any manuscript before the 5th to 7th century. Most scholars believe that Erasmus of Rotterdam inserted it himself, likely to give more credence to the doctrine of the Trinity (which, mind you, was not incorporated into the ancient church until 360 AD, at the Council of Constantinople).

Did you get that? This portion of scripture was not written by John, but was added to the Bible long after his death. The affected verses, with the johannine comma in bold, reads,

“For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

“And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one” (1 John 5:7-8).

Why is this important to bring up now? This text is right in the middle of John’s closing words, and is important when considering the meaning of the passage as a whole.

John’s Closing Statement

John desperately wants us to believe in Jesus Christ, and thereby inherit eternal life. In fact, that is the very reason that he wrote 1 John, that we “may believe on the name of the Son of God” (vs. 13).

How do Spirit, water, and blood relate to Jesus Christ, and to salvation? We’re taught,

“Inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory;

For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified (Moses 6:59-60).

Being born again, of water and of the Spirit (see John 3:5), and being sanctified by the atonement and blood of Jesus Christ, is the only way to eternal life. How important this is to make known to the world! Lehi writes,

“Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of  grace and truth.

“Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.

“Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah (2 Nephi 2:6-8).

That’s why both the Father and the Holy Ghost bear record of this truth, as John tells us below. John himself also bears that same witness, for it is only though Jesus Christ that we can be born again and receive eternal life.

Without the johannine comma, let’s read 1 John 5:6-13, which has absolutely nothing to do with the sufficiency of the Bible. John says,

“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.

“For there are three that bear record,

“The Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

“If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.

“He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.

“And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

“He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.

“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”

A Response to “Biblical” Criticism of Spiritual Witnesses Part 9

Go back to Part 1.

2 Peter 1:16-21

Remember TBC’s second volley? They write,

“Is there any absolute way to know the truth? Yes!… It is also highly informative to note that though Peter received direct revelation from both the Father and the Son, he emphatically declared the Bible to be “. . .a more sure word of prophecy. . .” (2 Peter 1:16-21).”

Clues from the Context, Again

When Peter speaks of “a more sure word of prophecy”, what is his intent? Let’s look at some contextual clues. Earlier in the chapter, Peter makes his intent clear. He says,

“For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ….

“Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall” (2 Peter 1:8, 10).

As any good minister, Peter wants those he teaches to be saved through Jesus Christ, and he is going to accomplish this (also as any good minster) by preaching about the Savior.

But he wants to head off a concern he expects from his listeners. Is Christianity just a fancy trick? He tells them,

“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:16).

If they were not following cunningly devised fables, from where did their testimony come? Peter continues that their testimony is based on their eyewitness accounts (including at the baptism of the Savior and on the Mount of Transfiguration) and the words of the prophets, found in the scriptures, which we should also heed.

But is his intent to promote the written prophecies above personal revelation, or modern revelation, as TBC suggests? No! Look at how Peter continues.

“Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.

For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost (2 Peter 1:20-21).

Because scripture is given by the Holy Ghost, it must be interpreted by the Holy Ghost. This includes inspired teachers like Peter, and this is why Peter is so concerned about false teachers in the next chapter who “deny the Lord that bought them” and “with feigned words make merchandise” of parishioners (2 Peter 2:1, 3).

TBC would like us to believe that when Peter says “a more sure word of prophecy” he means the Bible, the closed cannon that most Christians believe it to be today. What evidence do they have to substantiate this? In short, nothing.

As shown above, the scriptures are a vital part of our testimony, and they must be interpreted through revelation from the Holy Ghost, for they were given by the power of God through the Holy Ghost.

A Response to “Biblical” Criticism of Spiritual Witnesses Part 8

Go back to Part 1.

The Authority of the Word of God

TBC’s second volley continues the trend of wresting the scriptures. They write,

“Is there any absolute way to know the truth? Yes! The prophet Isaiah has said, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). Here the only reliable testimony is identified as the written Word of God. That certainly explains why the Apostle Paul commanded his readers to study the Bible, the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).”

The Circular Argument

Can you see the problem with their argument? I’ll give you another chance. TBC argues,

“Is there any absolute way to know the truth? Yes! The prophet Isaiah has said, “To the law and to the testimony….” Here the only reliable testimony is identified as the written Word of God.”

Do you see it? I’ll give you some more help.

  • Christian – “The Bible is the Word of God!”
  • Non-Christian – “How do you know?”
  • Christian – “Because it says in the Bible that the Bible is the Word of God!”
  • Non-Christian – “?”

Anything? Maybe it would help to see things from a different perspective.

  • Mormon – “The Book of Mormon is the Word of God!”
  • Christian – “How do you know?”
  • Mormon – “Because it says in the Book of Mormon that the Book of Mormon is the Word of God!”
  • Christian – “Oh! I want to be baptized!” 😉

See it now?

This is an unfortunately frequent, and horribly circular, argument used by mainstream Christians. One Latter-day Saint, speaking of how many Christians today practice what could be referred to as “Bibliolatry”, said, “The Bible is not the object of our faith; it is one of the sources of our faith.” This “Bible Worship” at the center of Christianity may be why mainstream Christians cling so tightly to this fallacious argument.

Unless we can first know whether or not the Bible is true, we cannot know if anything it says it true, including that it is God’s word.

So how do we know that the Bible is true? What can confirm the truthfulness of God’s word?

Certainly we have physical evidence to  support the people and places of the scriptures. We can find evidence that Moses lived and wrote what the Bible says he did. Yet this does not prove that what he wrote was true. We can find evidence of the historical Jesus, but how can we know that Jesus is the Son of God?

Only God can confirm his word, and he has chosen to do this through the Holy Ghost. Matthew writes,

“When Jesus came into the coasts of Cæsarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

“And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

“He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

“And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

“And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven (Matthew 16:13-17).

Isaiah 8:20

What does Isaiah say about confirming truth?

He does not say that the only source of truth is the Bible (the Bible was not even compiled in his day!). He does not say that the only way to confirm truth is to see whether or not it is in accordance with other revealed scripture. Much like Paul in Galatians, Isaiah is only saying that God is consistent, and that, for example, the truth he reveals in the New Testament will be according to what he revealed in the Old Testament. He says,

“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20).

For Latter-day Saints, what God revealed in the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, and the Doctrine and Covenants is according to what was revealed in the Bible. Silly, misinformed Christians may contradict this claim, but obviously we would have to investigate these objections on a case by case basis, and it’s not my purpose to do so here.

Clearly, Isaiah does not help TBC’s argument in this case.

2 Timothy 2:15

What does Paul teach Timothy about confirming truth?

He does not really teach anything about confirming truth. He doesn’t really teach anything about studying the scriptures, either, as TBC suggests. Instead, he teaches about using the scriptures. Paul says,

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

The last phrase, “rightly dividing,” could be translated, “setting forth without perversion, distortion”. It’s unfortunate TBC does not heed Paul’s counsel, and set forth the truth without perverting it or distorting it.

Clearly, Paul does not help TBC’s argument in this case.

A Response to “Biblical” Criticism of Spiritual Witnesses Part 7

Go back to Part 1.

Jeremiah 17:9

The first wave in TBC’s attack comes in the form of a twisted Jeremiah 17:9:

“A basic Bible fact is Jeremiah 17:9. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. . .” Therefore, it may be concluded that even a burning conviction or “testimony” is totally untrustworthy. Tragically, even many “answers to prayer” fall under this description when based primarily on feelings.”

Whew, I hardly know where to start.

Clues from the Context

When Jeremiah speaks of the heart, to what is he referring? Let’s look at some contextual clues. Earlier in that chapter Jeremiah teaches,

“Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord…

“Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is” (Jeremiah 17:5,7).

Jeremiah contrasts those who trust in man with those who trust in God. One’s heart departs from the Lord, and one’s “heart” is with him. Of the heart of he who “maketh flesh his arm”, Jeremiah then teaches,

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

He then promises that

“I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:10).

Clearly, the heart is related to where we put our hope or trust. What else can we learn from the context?

Throughout the chapter Jeremiah uses the word “heart” four times, and each time as a symbol for innermost desires. Clearly, “heart” here is not a symbol for “feelings”, or even for revelation from the Holy Ghost. Our heart is a symbol for our innermost desires, and those who put their trust in God will find that he will test and try their hearts so that they become purified and centered in him.

There is a fantastic sermon here, but it has nothing to do with revelation. As such, we cannot draw the conclusion that TBC draws, that testimonies or answers to prayer connected to emotions are “totally untrustworthy”.

Heart – Our Innermost Desires

Surely this must be some fringe Mormon interpretation, right?

Not at all. From the Bible Tools page for Jeremiah 17:9, we get a similar interpretation. John Ritenbaugh teaches,

“A person breaks the second commandment when he exalts himself against God by trusting in his own or another’s reasoning and lives that way rather than the way God ordained and commanded.  Too often, the heart is easily led to satisfy its own desires rather than follow revealed knowledge. But God faithfully searches and tests our hearts to rid us of all idolatries so we will follow His way as closely as possible.

He continues,

Human nature, the law of sin within us, is always seeking to pull us again into the defilement of sin, seeking to destroy our hope of sharing life with the holy God. That is why God counsels us in Proverbs 4:23 to keep — that is, guard, preserve, and maintain — our heart. It is very easy to become defiled by lapsing back to old habits…. The normal human mind deceitfully convinces each person that they are good and love God, men, and law. But the reality is just the opposite: It is at war with God and men, and hates God’s holy, righteous, and spiritual law. It loves itself and its desires far more than anything else. It is this deceitful, self-centered enmity that exerts constant influence, pulling us into the defilement of sin.

This kind of legitimate commentary is, of course, just the tip of the iceberg.

More from the Scriptures

And what do other scriptures teach about the heart? I’ll offer just two references from a myriad examples.

Paul tells us,

“For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10).

And the Savior himself promised that

“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God (Matthew 5:8).

The heart is not condemned in scripture. Just the opposite, it plays a key role in our salvation.