Saturday, February 26, 2011

Protestant Experts Declare Protestant Biblical and Theological Knowledge and Belief is Poor.

While looking up something else on the internet I came across an interesting article at The article was entitled "Crisis in America’s Churches: Bible Knowledge at All-Time Low" by Michael J. Vlach, Ph.D. So I'm quoting from that somewhat in this post. It additionally states that the problem isn't unique to the USA.

I'll make some comments in regard these facts after presenting what I feel are the most important points stated.

"A crisis of basic biblical and theological knowledge exists in America’s churches, and church leaders must do all they can to address this growing problem, so say experts monitoring the beliefs of people in Christian churches across the United States.

'The Christian body in America is immersed in a crisis of biblical illiteracy,' warns researcher George Barna. 'How else can you describe matters when most churchgoing adults reject the accuracy of the Bible, reject the existence of Satan, claim that Jesus sinned, see no need to evangelize, believe that good works are one of the keys to persuading God to forgive their sins, and describe their commitment to Christianity as moderate or even less firm?'"
Barna Research Online, “Religious Beliefs Vary Widely by Denomination,”, June 25, 2001.

Vlach also points out that "The most widely known Bible verse among adult and teen believers is 'God helps those who help themselves'—which is not actually in the Bible."

He further points out that less than 10% of Protestants use the Bible, rather than the world view, in making life decisions.

He goes on to state _

"Gary Burge, professor of New Testament at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois... points to research at Wheaton College in which the biblical and theological literacy of incoming freshmen have been monitored. One-third could not identify Matthew as an apostle from a list of New Testament names."
Gary M. Burge, “The Greatest Story Never Read: Recovering biblical literacy in the church”

"Like Burge, George Lindbeck, the famous Yale theologian, has commented on the decreasing knowledge of Scripture from a professor’s perspective.

'When I first arrived at Yale, even those who came from nonreligious backgrounds knew the Bible better than most of those now who come from churchgoing families,' he says."
George A. Lindbeck, “The Church’s Mission to a Postmodern Culture,” Postmodern Theology: Christian Faith in a Pluralist World (San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1989), 45

"This is also the view of theologian and author David Wells. 'I have watched with growing disbelief as the evangelical church has cheerfully plunged into astounding theological illiteracy.'" David F. Wells, No Place for Truth or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 4.

In regard Barna, Vlach states _

"In his study of the beliefs of mainline Protestants (including Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Episcopalians), Barna documented...Only 35% of mainline Protestant church members believe Christ was sinless; 34% believe the Bible is totally accurate; 27% agree that works don’t earn heaven; and 20% believe Satan is real.

Of Baptists (any type) in America, only 34% believe Satan is real. Only 43% believe that works don’t earn heaven. ... Only 55% affirm that Christ was sinless, and 66% hold that the Bible is totally accurate.

Of nondenominational Christian churches, Barna reports that 48% believe Satan is real; 60% say works don’t earn heaven; 63% affirm the sinlessness of Christ; and 70% believe the Bible is totally accurate."
“Religious Beliefs Vary Widely by Denomination.”

Vlach asks, "whatever happened to theology?"

He quotes Burge further _

"'many Christian churches have abandoned serious Bible exposition and theological teaching.'

'Rather than explaining the historical setting of a passage, texts become springboards for devotional reflection,' he notes. 'Biblical passages are taken out of context as the preacher searches for those stories that evoke the responses or attitudes desired.' As a result, 'The heart of a ‘good’ sermon is fast becoming the ‘emotional work’ that can be done in 20 minutes preaching time.'

'That is it in a nutshell,' he says. 'Christian faith is not being built on the firm foundation of hard-won thoughts, ideas, history, or theology. Spirituality is being built on private emotional attachments.'”
Burge, “The Greatest Story Never Read.”

"A third reason for biblical and theological illiteracy today is the tremendous influence unbiblical philosophies and worldviews are having on churchgoers. Liberalism promotes that the Bible is a human construct and not a divine document. In doing so, it continues to assail the traditional ... [Protestant] views of the inerrancy of the Bible, deity of Christ, reality of Satan, substitutionary atonement, and other key doctrines of the ... [Protestant] faith... Postmodernism has convinced many that there are no universal truths."

Vlach also states, "Only 32% of born-again ... [Protestants] still believe in the existence of absolute moral truth."

"Many Christians accept elements of these unbiblical worldviews without even knowing it. Because of this, Barna and Mark Hatch have noted that “we cannot really call the faith of American Christians a Bible-based faith.” George Barna and Mark Hatch, Boiling Point: It Only Takes One Degree (Ventura: Regal, 2001), 187.

"According to Barna and Hatch, Christians today have accepted and combined so many ideas from other worldviews and religions that they have created their own faith system.

But what can church leaders do about this crisis?"

Years ago Protestant church leaders got together to see what they could do about the failing numbers of church goers. They surveyed people to find out what they had against going to church. One of the big reasons people gave as an excuse was that the various religions professing belief in Christ couldn't even agree with each other. To combat this there became a need to water down theology. A new catch phrase was made, "as long as you believe in Christ." This made theology obsolete. It didn't matter what you thought God was, whether you accepted evolution, homosexuality, female ministers or any other anti-Biblical idea. As long as you profess Christ as your Savior you are saved.

So with that belief what does any of this matter? Yet even these Protestant theologians can see that the Protestant religions have become non-religions. For without theology what is Christ? Are we really to believe that all God demands is the knowledge of a name that we are prepared to speak? If so then I know a lot of blasphemers that are going to do really well in heaven. They are constantly confessing the name of Jesus and that he is the Christ. As Christ himself stated the devils know that he is the Christ. And we even have recorded instances in the New Testament books of evil spirits confessing that Jesus is the Christ.

Without theology Jesus Christ is just a name. It is what that name represents that counts. "And this is life eternal that they might know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent," (Jn 17:3) said Christ. So a knowledge of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ is essential. Without theology how can we know them? This coming to know someone takes time and much communication. It requires hearing their ideas and coming to understand why they think that way. We don't just know someone by knowing of them.

In looking at these statistics it is at least reassuring that most have noticed that the Scriptures state that you won't get into heaven without works. Yet I should qualify that to obtain forgiveness of sins doesn't require good works. It does, however, require a person to stop doing bad works (sinning). Protestantism doesn't understand that there is a difference between being saved from the hell we suffer for our sins, and getting into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Protestants themselves produce specials trying to make the Bible more palatable. I have seen them say that the Pharaoh's chariots merely got stuck in the mud, rather than drowning the Egyptians. An absolute nonsense to anyone who knows that chariots were deliberately made light so as to be fast. The Israelites were told to take all the gold they could from the Egyptians and with all their own goods obviously put on wagons, the chariots would have far more chance of making it across the mud.

Yet if their own ministers present this changing of the Bible to diminish God then what would we expect from the members? Also those trying to fit in with evolution, billions of years old earth and other such modern science religious drivel are going to have to sacrifice Biblical accuracy for modern trends.

And these problems have even crept into the LDS church. Fortunately our statistics are far superior to these. Yet there are enough that are attempting to change that. Even among our general authorities we have had those deceived in these areas. It is important that we hold to Scriptural truths and don't discard them for the trends of the world. We must remain truly Christian and not discard our heritage of a real BELIEF IN Christ.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Looking at claims against Joseph Smith's Prophesies.

Prophesying is a difficult thing to do. The biggest problem we face when being told things by God is our interpretations of the things stated. We hear it with our thinking. I remember once being given a revelation where I was even taken out by Christ and shown the answer to a question I had asked. Yet upon returning I interpreted the information incorrectly in part, due to my ignorance in another area. It wasn't until about 8 years later that I realised my error.

I think the greatest classic case of this in Scripture was Caiaphas in regard Christ _

"And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said to them, You know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation doesn't perish. And this he said not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death." John 11:49-53

So had we asked the prophet Caiaphas what the revelation had said, he would say that he was told Christ was to be killed for the sake of everyone; and it was their responsibility to have it done.

Joseph Smith took his revelation that if he lived to be 85 he would see Christ come, to mean that Christ would definitely come at that time, even if he didn't live to be 85.

Yet some prophesies are a case of, "if you do X, Y will happen." I have seen this to be true myself. When I haven't done X, Y didn't happen. However when I did X, Y did happen. The Scriptures contain many such prophesies in instruction format to us all. If we follow what God says certain blessings will come. The tithing and word of wisdom promises being examples of this (Mal 3:10-12, D&C 89:18-21). If we do wrong things then wrong things will happen (not that all wrong comes upon us from our mistakes, as we also suffer for the wrongs of society, the world, our families, friends etc). Yet these all fit in the same prophesy.

"Therefore, you son of man, say to the children of your people, The righteousness of the righteous will not deliver him in the day of his transgression: as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turns from his wickedness; neither shall the righteous be able to live for his righteousness in the day that he sins. When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he has committed, he shall die for it." Ezekiel 33:12-13

In other words if God makes a prophetic promise to a person (or for that matter a people) if they then turn away from him, the promise no longer stands.

And many prophesies Joseph Smith received were of this type that Ezekiel refers to. Promises were made when people were doing the right thing, yet as time progressed they turned away from God, and so the promise became null and void.

Many accusations have been thrown at Joseph Smith claiming that many of his revelations proved to be wrong. While it would be silly to claim that a man who had a prophetic calling thrust upon him with so little time to learn and no one to learn from, made no teething mistakes; let's examine some of these claims taken from Anti-LDS sites online.

"If Joseph Smith was a true prophet from God, then his prophecies should have come to pass. However, there are plenty of cases where they did not. For example, Joseph Smith claimed that before 1891, and before he reached the age of 85, Jesus Christ would return. Well, Joseph Smith did not reach the age of 85 - he was murdered on the 27th of July 1844. And we know that Jesus Christ didn't return before 1891, bringing an end to the present world order."

The statement that Joseph received said that IF he lived to be 85 he would see Christ coming (D&C 130:15). This means that had events been such that Joseph Smith stayed away rather than going back to be murdered his continued life would have changed events that significantly.

"Smith also predicted the demise of the government of the state of Missouri which had displeased him - this never happened." He prophesied that the civil war would not result in the freedom of 'Ham' - this could not happen until the millenium according to Smith. Here again Smith was demonstrating just what a false prophet he was."

As to the then government of Missouri. That political party lost the next election and dissolved soon afterward.

In regard Ham's descendants (which were pre-flood Canaanites) the Bible tells us _

"And he said cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers. And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall swell in the tents of Shem and Canaan shall be his servant." Gen 9:25-27

Note it mentions that of the 3 sons of Noah only Shem and Japheth will have Canaan as servants. So who was Canaan? Only Ham is left of the 3 sons. And why call him Canaan since he was their brother? Surely he would have his children as the same descent as his brothers, wouldn't he? Obviously not. Ham must therefore have married a Canaanite. and why was her race predominant?

And who have been servants more than others of races upon the earth? The negros, is the answer.

Are the negros no longer slaves? Did the Civil war end the slavery of even the negros in the USA? I would argue that negros today, while having much greater freedom generally, are still not in equal situation to whites completely. So I would see that the prophesy of Joseph Smith and Genesis chapter 9 is still valid.

"Smith prophesied in 1832 concerning the American civil war that the British would get involved and the war would extend to all nations. This is just one of his false prophecies concerning the American civil war."

As to the British getting involved in the Civil war. D&C 87:3 doesn't state that Britain will come to the aid of the confederacy. It states that they would be called upon to do so. And they were so called upon. Prophesies must be examined very carefully WITHOUT additions.

It then states that Britain would do the same, as would other nations. This is presenting a tendency toward world wars and large unions would then arise. This happened only around 50 years after the conclusion of the Civil War in 1914. Then only 31 years later we had wars that put almost everyone on earth at war in 1939. Nations were calling upon nations to assist and forming large alliances. Just over 50 years after the Civil War ended "the League of Nations" was formed. After this came the United Nations that we have today. This wasn't done before on anything like the present scale.

Then in verse 4 it goes on to mention the coming problems which aren't upon us just yet (enjoy the peace). Then in verse 5 he mentions the rising of the Lamanites (across the Americas) against the Gentiles, as is prophesied in the Book of Mormon. Then in verse 6 .... well... pray hard and keep close to the Lord.

It should also be remembered that in this prophesy he has predicted the Civil War, what state it would begin in and what it was about.

It is very important to read prophesies carefully rather than a quick scanning. Listenning to prophesy correctly is an art form where we learn from our mistakes. After enough errors we wake up to stop adding our own bits to it. Just listen to the instruction and take it on face value.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Blessed Assurance

I was listening to a song that I was raised on in my Protestant years. The first verse says _

"Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
born of his Spirit, washed in his blood."

It goes on to say _

"This is my story, this is my song,
praising my Savior all the day long."

And the last verse says _

"Perfect submission, all is at rest;
I in my Savior am happy and blessed,
watching and waiting, looking above,
filled with his goodness, lost in his love."

A very optimistic viewpoint with some things that I think are noteworthy.

This person confesses perfect submission. I can't really in all honesty before God claim perfect submission. In some things I am lacking perfect faith. Questions come to mind such as what if God said that being in love wasn't a good idea? Or if he said he didn't want me to marry again until after the resurrection (though he has indicated otherwise - yet the question still is valid)? And what if I married a woman and a week later plural marriage becomes legal again and God asks me to marry another woman right there and then?

The Spirit has asked me to do things years ago that I was embarrassed to do. And in some I failed. Perfect submission is truly a challenge. We want God to guide us, but we wish to steer.

It is also an interesting statement that he has Jesus and this is a foretaste of divine glory. As a church that is what we also teach as a unique doctrine. For we are the only church professing Christ and stating that we will receive the same glory as divinity if we live righteously.

Having tasted the goodness of God I can't say that I'm anything like "filled" with it, unfortunately. Even Jesus Christ is inferior to the Father in that sense. Yet next to our Lord Jesus Christ I also am nothing like "filled" with his goodness, other than the feelings I get from being one with them to some degree, and having the Holy Ghost.

I am truly grateful for the atonement of Christ in my life and the lives of those who have accepted it. It brings peace to my heart that all truly is "at rest" in that sense. I am also grateful for the resurrection being available to all. We should feel confident that we are one with Christ and Heavenly Father.