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10 years ago  ::  Apr 22, 2008 - 12:30AM #31
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,242
"Some of what you say is insulting and arrogant."

I hear that a lot, usually from other Mormons. 

"So Paul is wrong, was committing blasphemy, and ascribing evil things to God? Paul who had greater access to Jesus than you and I do? "

Sure, though I hope you sense the more liberal sense of the word when I speak of predestination as a "mental blasphemy."  To attribute evil to God is to "mentally blaspheme."  By that, I don't mean that Paul meant to blaspheme.  I'm just comparing bad doctrine to something outrageous.  Men wouldn't think to throw rocks at God but they'll carry around ideas about God that cast God as evil. 

To me, it doesn't matter whether Paul "had greater access to Jesus."  Mormons aren't Catholics.  They don't believe in prophetic or apostolic infallibility.  They believe that God reveals certain things to certain men.  That doesn't mean those same men are walking oracles.  They are as capable of error as anybody else, though one would hope that, with the Spirit, they would be more careful.  According to Genesis, the great patriarch Isaac was fooled into believing his son, Jacob, was his other son, Esau.  You'd think that Isaac, in the process of giving a great patriarchal blessing, would have had it revealed to him that Jacob was pulling a fast one, but Genesis says otherwise.

Mormons get slammed for some of the goofy things reportedly said of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.  Sometimes they try to question whether such things were said, or whether they were reported accurately.  But sooner or later, it becomes necessary to distinguish between those statements which appear to have been inspired by the Spirit and those which were simply ideas being entertained, explored or assumed as true by Church leaders.  Sometimes you can make a "Thus saith the Lord" distinction, but on other occasions, you have to use your own best judgment.  In the end, it matters less what Joseph or Brigham actually said than what I, or the Church as a whole, intend to take from the words of such men.

Protestantism, which rejects Papal authority, has had to decide where to place its confidence.  For many Protestants, that faith is transferred to the Bible, which many Protestants hold up as the "final authority."  Of course, two people can read from the same Bible and come up with differing interpretations - which says something about the role of hermeneutics (the "science" of interpretation).  For many of my Protestant friends, there is such a strong tradition of using the Bible to solve disputes that biblical interpretation has taken on a kind of legalistic tone.  Those same Protestant friends would find it shocking, if not repugnant, to suggest that apostles and prophets of old could have been fallible, ordinary, sometimes racist, sometimes sexist, human beings - whose opinions and inspirations danced between the same set of ears.

If you're going to use the Bible as a law book, if you're going to use it as ammunition with which to blow away a rival, it's neither expedient nor convenient to imagine that your authorities don't always know what they're talking about.  It's a lot easier to assume that every word in the book was dictated by the hand of God.  From God's mouth to the prophet's ear, truth was revealed and written down.  Except the prophets and apostles don't always agree with each other.  Peter, James and John not only wrote in different hands.  They thought differently.  They were a community of real men with real opinions, and it's a lot more realistic to accept them as such.

So, could Paul - who had greater access to Christ - entertain errors?  Sure.  Through a sort of hero worship, half the Bible contains the writings of Paul, whose writings were intended to be taken seriously but who was still a man writing on the cuff to a rough and primitive flock of early Christians.  Paul believed that women should be quiet in the Church.  He believed that women were immodest if they didn't have their hair covered.  He told Philemon to remain in slavery, which indicated that he didn't quite share the revulsion for slavery that we have (where escaping from slavery would be more important).  Paul took a certain manly pride in telling Peter off, when Peter hesitated to eat with the uncircumcised Gentiles in front of his Jewish buddies.  Paul had a running argument with James, who thought "faith without works is dead."  Even Peter made an under-the-radar potshot at Paul when he warned his readers that some of Paul's writings were "hard to be understood" and that if they weren't careful, they'd end up damning themselves.

These were real people with their own set of imperfections.  I don't engage in hero worship, not for Mormon prophets and not for the ones in the New Testament.  I don't even give a complete pass to the prophets of the Book of Mormon.  Jacob, it seems, was something of a racist and elitist.  Nephi was overly ambitious.  On various occasions, both Lehi and Sarai indulged themselves in self-pity and whined about their circumstances.  The Book of Mormon is full of imperfect characters whom most Mormons are incapable of seeing as such because they're engaged in the same hero worship that other Christians reserve for the characters of the New Testament.  Oddly enough, as Gentiles, most Christians (including Mormons) are capable of seeing the flaws in Hebrew prophets - such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, etc.

"This view of Paul's about predestination may indeed be blasphemy. Could it be what you claim Paul meant is indeed NOT what he meant? Why would an inspired apostle blaspheme?"

If it is blasphemy, it's of the type I've described above, the unintentional attribution of evil to God.  If you think that Paul did not mean what the Bible has him saying, you and Joseph Smith have something in common.  To Joseph Smith, it was hard to imagine that somebody like Paul would have gotten something so wrong as predestination, so Joseph Smith set out to write an "Inspired Translation," not unlike your Pastor Russell.  He would read a passage and pray about it.  Sometimes, he felt God had revealed to him the true meaning of the passage, which he would write down as scripture.  Joseph never attributed errors to the original authors.  He believed, instead, that intervening parties - like monks and translators - had mistranslated or intentionally altered the words of scripture.  He believed that this was one reason for the Great Apostasy.
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10 years ago  ::  Apr 22, 2008 - 12:50AM #32
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,242
"The words of Paul are actually the words of Jeremiah the prophet found at Jeremiah 18:1-10, which says:

'The word that occurred to Jeremiah from Jehovah, saying: Rise up, and you must go down to the house of the potter, and there I shall cause you to hear my words.

And I proceeded to go down to the house of the potter, and there he was doing work upon the potter’s wheels. And the vessel that he was making with the clay was spoiled by the potter’s hand, and he turned back and went making it into another vessel, just as it looked right in the eyes of the potter to make.

And the word of Jehovah continued to occur to me, saying: “‘Am I not able to do just like this potter to YOU people, O house of Israel?’ is the utterance of Jehovah. ‘Look! As the clay in the hand of the potter, so YOU are in my hand, O house of Israel. At any moment that I may speak against a nation and against a kingdom to uproot [it] and to pull [it] down and to destroy [it], and that nation actually turns back from its badness against which I spoke, I will also feel regret over the calamity that I had thought to execute upon it. But at any moment that I may speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom to build [it] up and to plant [it], and it actually does what is bad in my eyes by not obeying my voice, I will also feel regret over the good that I said [to myself] to do for its good.’"

So unless Jeremiah was a false prophet and lying, this illustration came not from Paul but Jehovah God himself. So maybe you should correct your views bro."

Nice work, but you missed something.  That Paul could have been quoting from Jeremiah is a valid point.  Well spoken.  But what Paul said and what Jeremiah said are two different things.  Both spoke of the potter and the clay, but if you'll look at the two different contexts, you will see that each was using this allegory for distinctly different purposes.

When Jeremiah spoke of the potter and the clay, he was telling Israel that they were in the Lord's hands.  The Lord was capable of leading them to victory or defeat, of giving them good times or bad, and it was about time they realized that.  They also needed to know that if the Lord put them through a difficult period, it was for his own purposes.  This latter point has less to do with free will than with a greater purpose.  In fact, in life, we don't get to choose everything that happens to us.  Bad things do happen to good people.  People do find themselves in circumstances that are clearly not of their own choosing.

But still, this is not predestination.  As you know, the emphasis of the Old Testament is the salvation of the nation.  We care about Adam and Noah and Abraham, as well as Isaac and Jacob, because they have to do with the lineal descent and succession through which the nation of Israel would eventually be formed.  We care about Moses because he redeemed Israel and brought her out of Egypt.  We care about Joshua because he brought Israel into the promised land.  We care about David because he won the final victories necessary to the establishment of Israel.  We care about Solomon because he built the temple.  We care about a host of prophetic figures - including Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel - because they decried the iniquities of Israel and Judah, and prophesied their destruction and eventual redemption.

The New Testament is all about individual salvation.  Jesus gives his Sermon on the Mount and tells people, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven."  The Christians are noteworthy for their conception of the Kingdom of Heaven/Kingdom of God as "within you" and for their view that the soul is more important than the homeland.  It's not that the Christians didn't look forward to the day when the Jews could reclaim their land.  It's just that the New Testament is focused on more important issues - namely the salvation of the world.  So many of the Old Testament heroes - including Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Samson, Gideon, David, Solomon and Ezra - were national heroes out to save God's people from external threats.  Their version of "salvation" wasn't that different from ours, when we look to the President or the Army or the police.  But when Jesus "saved" the world, "salvation" meant something very different.  It meant forgiveness.  It meant overcoming sin and death.

Jeremiah's point is that Israel is in the Lord's hands.

That's a very different message from Paul's.
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10 years ago  ::  Apr 22, 2008 - 1:58AM #33
moksha8088
Posts: 5,277
[QUOTE]
So, could Paul - who had greater access to Christ - entertain errors?
[/QUOTE]

Should we assume a metaphorical rather than a literal meaning to this use of the word "access"?
Cry Heaven and let loose the Penguins of Peace
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10 years ago  ::  Apr 22, 2008 - 2:04AM #34
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,242
PAUL'S VERSION OF THE POTTER AND THE CLAY

1I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,

2That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.

Translation: Boy, am I sad.  But why?

3For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:

4Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;

5Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

Translation: Paul loves his Jewish brothers so much, he almost wishes he weren't a Christian, because of this wedge that has developed between his people and Christ.  He has great respect and admiration for his Jewish brethren and it hurts to see this great divide.

6Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:

7Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.

8That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

Note: Here is where Paul begins to sort things out in his mind.  He is rationalizing in the most generic sense.  He is trying to make sense of the fact that God's chosen people have rejected Christ, forcing him to choose between his people and his savior.  Paul's first comment is that it's "not as though the word of God hath tkaen none effect."  Paul then says, "They are not all Israel which are of Israel."  He says that not all of Abraham's seed are the "children," meaning the children of the covenant, "but , in Isaac shall thy seed be called."  Abraham had two sons: Ishmael and Isaac.  Ishmael was actually older than Isaac, making him "firstborn."  But Ishmael was the son of the maid, a woman who became Abraham's concubine.  Isaac was the son of Abraham's wife, making him the heir.  But notice how that decision precedes the birth of these two children.  What separates them is not their actions but something decided before they were born.

9For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son.

10And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;

11(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)

Boom.  There it is.  Do you see it?  Do you want to see it?  It was "the word of promise."  Prophecy had already decreed their status.  As the Muslims say, "It was written."  Paul is very plain here.  "For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not works, but of him that calleth."

Paul's point is plainly this: God has already decided who stands where.  Paul points to Ishmael and Isaac as examples of God's "election," something decided "not of works but of him that calleth."

12It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.

13As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

Boom, boom.  It was already decided that the elder would serve the younger.  It wasn't something left up to their respective work histories.  These guys didn't earn their lot in life.  God decided that before they were even born.

14What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.

Notice how Paul has already anticipated our moral judgement.  "Is there any unrighteousness with God?"  He's asking us straight up: Do you think God is unfair?  His response is that God cannot be unfair.  He's God.

15For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

16So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

Can the passage be any clearer?  Forget about whether you like what it says or not.  What does it appear to say?  What is the most obvious, uninflected, unspun black-and-white message here?  What do you think Paul is getting at when he quotes God, through Moses, as saying, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy?"  When it comes to God's mercy and compassion, it's "not of him that willeth, nor him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy." 

Translation: God decides who to love, who to hate and who to forgive.  Period.

17For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.

18Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

Joseph Smith would have fed this passage through a filter.  He, in fact, translated the passage in Exodus as God allowing Pharaoh to harden his own heart.  But that's not what the passage said.  It's what Joseph Smith felt it must have said in the original, because to read it otherwise was to attribute evil to God.  To Joseph Smith, it was blasphemous to imagine that God would treat somebody this way.  God is morally perfect.  He is all loving.  He doesn't wish any of his children to fall from grace.  He would never cause anyone to sin.  He would certainly not harden someone's heart just to "shew my power in thee," that his "anem might be declared throughout all the earth." 

Joseph Smith attributed such language - and dark motives - to negligent and sometimes conspiring translators.

But if you're not Joseph Smith, and you're one of those Protestants who reads the Bible like a law book, you have to let the words mean what they appear to mean.  Some passages are obviously meant to be read figuratively, such as when Christ speaks of gouging out offending eyes and cutting off offending hands.  But there's nothing figurative about this passage.  God has mercy "on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth."

19Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?

Boom, boom, boom.  There it is again in black and white.  Paul has anticipated the most obvious objection: How can he then find fault with someone?  Who can resist his will?  Paul has anticipated the most basic moral objection to predestination, which is that if men lack free will, they can't be held accountable, especially when God has decided, in advance, what they will do.

20Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

Here is Paul's reply: Who are you to judge God?  If God has made you a certain way, who are you to complain?

21Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

And here is how Paul is using the "pottery and the clay" analogy.  He is not saying, as Jeremiah did, that Israel is in his hands.  He is not warning them to submit to his will or encouraging them to have faith, because he's got them in his hands.  Paul is telling his hearers that the potter is always justified in whatever he chooses to do with his own clay.  If he wants to "make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour" that's his business.

Translation: God can save or damn whoever he wants, and he can do it in advance.
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10 years ago  ::  Apr 22, 2008 - 2:08AM #35
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,242
22What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:

23And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,

24Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

Here, Paul softens it up a little.  He still speaks of God "willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known," but adds the possibility that he's already "endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction."  That's a shift.  Earlier on, he took a harder line.  Whether he was speaking of Ishmael and Isaac or Esau and Jacob, Paul was arguing that God could predestine one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor.  It's God who gets to decide what to do with his own clay.  But here, Paul slides in that little phrase, "endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction."  This suggests that the damned deserved what they got.

But then, in the next verse, he's back to talking about God's foreordained purpose, "that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory."  It's a hard doctrine that Paul is serving up, and though he's slipped in some possible justification based on merit, he doesn't elaborate in that direction.  Instead, he quickly goes back to talking about the theme of deciding whom to save and whom to damn.

And now, he's finally bringing the point home.  He's not speaking of whom he's judged, observed, evaluated, or approved, but who he's "called."

25As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.

26And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.

As Paul sees it, God had already decided, well in advance, that these people would be saved. 

27Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved:

28For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.

29And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.

Here's Paul offering the corollary.  If God could call a people who were not his people, he could also decide in advance to cut loose a people who had been called his people.

30What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.

31But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.

Here is the kicker, and the very reason Paul is musing on this very subject.  "The Gentiles which followed not after righteousness have attained righteousness" while "Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness."  How can that be?  Paul says the Gentiles have attained to righteousness, "even the righteousness which is of faith."

32Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;

33As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

And here is where Israel stumbles, "Because they sought it not by faith."

Personally, I'm not sure Paul's argument stands.  He starts out saying that God can call and elect whomever he wants, reserving one vessel to honor and another to dishonor.  He compares us to clay and says we have no right to judge what the potter does with us, that if God wants to show mercy or compassion, he can; if he wants to harden our hearts, he can.  It's his call, particularly if he wants to show what he can do.  But by the end of the chapter, he's talking in terms of a great irony - that Israel, which sought righteousness, failed to obtain it, while the Gentiles, who didn't seek righteousness, obtained it.  How can that be?  Paul says the Gentiles sought it through faith while the Jews "sought it not by faith." 

But isn't this a judgment?  Isn't this a judgment based on actions?

Not necessarily.  Paul's point, earlier on, was that God can harden whom he will.  And in the case of Israel, there's a lack of faith because God has hardened their hearts.  Does this make God unjust?  Not according to Paul, who can make one lump of clay unto honor and another unto dishonor.  God had already decided in advance - just as he did in preferring Isaac over Ishmael and Jacob over Esau - that he would call the Gentiles to be his people and leave the Jews to languish, except for a remnant.

It's getting late, so I'll hit the sack before writing more.  But I think this chapter speaks for itself.  Paul did, in fact, believe in predestination, and did so as a way of explaining how God could find mercy on the Gentiles while turning his back on the Jews.  But Paul wasn't completely sold on his own argument, because he also wants to argue that the Jews did it to themselves by not exercising faith.

I reject Paul's argument.  Even if Paul saw Jesus on the Road to Damascus, that wouldn't make Paul immune from mistakes.  In this case, he's trying to make sense of how the Jews could reject Christ when the Jews had so much more going for them than the Gentiles.  How could the Chosen People of God not see in Jesus what the Gentiles could clearly see?  Paul comforted himself in imagining that God had planned this all along, and that you can't blame God, because God is God.  He can do what he wants.

Mormons typically interpret this passage by replacing predestination with foreordination.  Predestination assigns salvation and damnation to people before they've had any chance to choose what they're going to do.  Foreordination says that people are reserved certain blessings and opportunities, which are available to them but only if they're worthy.  Certain paths maybe held in reserve, to allow a person to obtain a certain blessing, but unless that person keeps the commandments, follows the Spirit and otherwise reaches for that blessing, it will not be forced upon them. 

For most Mormons, if it comes down to a question of blaspheming God (through bad dogma) or blaming the translator, they'll bag the translator.  That's safer.  It preserves faith in scripture, faith in the prophet or apostle speaking, and it allows a little bit of interpretation to smooth out the kinks left in an ancient passage.

For me, such parsing is unnecessary.  While it may offend some, I have no problem seeing the flaws in scripture.  I'd rather forgive the ancient writers their imperfections than whitewash the scripture so that I can't see what's obviously right there before my very eyes.  People ask me, from time to time, how anyone can have faith in an imperfect book of scripture.  My answer is that inspiration is not a transcription from on high.  It's a personal discovery of some spiritual truth, by somebody who lived in a certain day and time, and who had flaws of their own. 

When, for example, I read Numbers 31, I don't make up some excuse for genocide.  I don't say the Midianites deserved it and that the Israelites had good reason to kill every man, and every woman who had been with a man, while saving the virgins for themselves.  I consider it what it appears to be, which is a genocide justified by attributing it to God.  This is stuff I know about.  Look at the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Spanish Conquest, the Hundred Years War, the War of the Roses, the "troubles" in Northern Ireland, the Salem Witch Trials.  Look at what people did to the Mormons.  Look at what some Mormons did at Mountain Meadows. 

I don't try to justify Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo or Mountain Meadows.  This stuff happens.  If I justify it, I'm tainting myself.  As I see it, it's not my job to justify scripture.  It's my job to study it and learn from it.  Sometimes I'm inclined to "go and do thou likewise."  Sometimes, I'm left to exclaim, "Never again!"
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10 years ago  ::  Apr 22, 2008 - 9:46AM #36
Maurices5000
Posts: 11
Bill, I appreciate the time you've taken to read and reply to my post. I'm at work so I'll reply as soon as i have an opportunity.

Jesse, the Holy Scriptures say: " Do not fabricate against your fellowman anything bad, when he is dwelling in a sense of security with you.  Do not quarrel with a man WITHOUT CAUSE, if he has rendered no bad to you. " Proverbs 3:29, 30.

Romans 12:18 also says: "If possible, as far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men."

There is a difference between being PEACEFUL and being PEACEABLE. A peaceABLE person PURSUES peace or PROMOTES peace.  Bro, you are doing neither one.

All of us are guests of BeliefNet. All I'm trying to do is have a constructive conversation with Mormons interested in answering my questions. You are clearly not doing that. All i said what that you can keep your negative attitude to yourself. All the other stuff, is from your own head.

Is it NOT a reasonable thing to ask of another Christian to be able to have a PEACEFUL CONTRUCTIVE conversation with another Christian?

Best wishes dude!
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10 years ago  ::  Apr 22, 2008 - 10:58PM #37
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,242
I don't want to get in the middle of a conflict between two other people.  I just want to say how much I appreciate both these guys, even if they've gotten off to a rough start as pen pals. 

Maurice, you're relatively new to this forum so let me tell you that Jesse sometimes rubs folks the wrong way (we've even gone at it from time to time) but he's a decent guy, somebody you'd probably like under different circumstances.  He's usually the first to remind us all to keep a sense of perspective and to seek the high road of productive discourse.  His bark is clearly worse than his bite.  Almost everybody who has ever grumbled from an exchange with him has later chuckled from one of his comments, which are generally genial, witty and warmhearted.

I hope the two of you get a chance to work out your differences because I think you'd both enjoy the resulting dialogue.  This forum is not monolithic.  It is full of characters, including yours truly.  We don't always get along.  Sometimes we enjoy not getting along, but most of the time, it's more like a family dispute than anything else.

I have a few people on this forum who think I'm the antichrist, but even they and I sometimes agree, and on more than one occasion, we've managed to laugh together.  That may or may not be your experience here, but give it some time.  You may be pleasantly surprised.
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10 years ago  ::  Apr 22, 2008 - 11:48PM #38
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,242
[QUOTE=Maurices5000;446399]Now my question is does your Church teach that this verse is flawed or mistranslated? Does your Church offer an explanation of this Scripture aside from what you have provided?[/QUOTE]

Offhand, I don't think Joseph Smith lived long enough to attempt an inspired translation of Romans 9.  He did, however, offer alternate versions of Exodus 4:21, 7: 3, 13; 9: 12; 10: 1, 20, 27; 11: 10; 14: 4, 8, 17 and Deuteronomy 2:30. 

Ex. 4:21 And the Lord said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: and I will prosper thee; but Pharaoh will harden his heart, and he will not let the people go.

Ex. 7: 3 And Pharaoh will harden his heart, as I said unto thee; and thou shalt multiply my signs . . .

Ex. 7: 13 And Pharaoh hardened his heart . . .

Ex. 9: 12 And Pharaoh hardened his heart . . .

Ex. 10: 1 . . . for he hath hardened his heart, and the hearts of his servants, therefore I will show these my signs before him;.

Ex. 10: 20 But Pharaoh hardened his heart . . .

Ex. 14: 4 And Pharaoh will harden his heart . . .

Ex. 14: 8 And Pharaoh hardened his heart, and he pursued . . .

Ex. 14: 17 And I say unto thee the hearts of the Egyptians shall be hardened, and they . . .

There's no Inspired Translation coverage for Romans 9 except for verse 18, which looks like this:

18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. 

I wouldn't worry too much that Joseph Smith didn't offer an alternative version dealing with the KJV statement that God had hardened Pharaoh's heart.  Efforts at producing an inspired translation were not consistent.  Joseph Smith turned to the project as often as he could, but since he already had a lot on his plate, it was catch as catch can.  With the alternate accounts in Exodus, it's clear that Joseph Smith would have offered the softer view - that God ALLOWED Pharaoh to remain hardened in his heart - rather than the harsher view that exists in the KJV.

Mind you, Mormons get slammed just for imagining that the KJV Bible - which they like more than any other - could have some rough spots in translation.  If he were here, I've no doubt Joseph Smith would have preferred to think of this as an imperfect translation rather than an error that originated with Paul, or to which Paul was subject because of what was written in his own scriptures.  The Church, like Joseph Smith, would prefer to honor Paul and blame the translator.  I have no compelling reason to do so.  Reading the entire chapter, it appears utterly clear to me that Paul was willing to justify God, even if his reasoning involves an odd assertion inolving predestination.

In this respect, I'm out of sorts with most Mormons, not because I wish to be an apologist but precisely because I refuse to engage in apologetics - whether it's Mormon apologetics or Paul's apologetics.  I'm not frightened by the idea that something in the Bible could be wrong.  If anything, I find my own stance healthier.  Even if Paul met Christ on the Road to Damascus, I fail to see how that would make Paul infallible.  While the book of Acts records a few appearances, they're to instruct Paul to "go here, do this," et cetera.  I don't remember any passages where Paul is musing over an issue and Christ shows up to teach him Sunday school.

I rather like the idea that people in biblical times also struggled with theological issues.  I realize that it complicates the picture to imagine that Paul could have written something in error, but whose idea was it to turn his letters into scripture?  The New Testament isn't a monolith.  It's an artifact reflecting a community whose members may have agreed on the big stuff but who also had their disagreements.
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10 years ago  ::  Apr 23, 2008 - 1:35AM #39
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,242
"29. What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?"

When I look at a passage like this, I am not overwhelmed by any sense that Paul was clarifying the predestinationist drift of his previous comments.  In fact, I find the above passage frighteningly clear and predestinationist in tone.  Let's really take it apart.

What if God
desiring to show his wrath
and to make known his power
has endured with much patience
vessels of wrath prepared for destruction
in order to make known the riches of his glory
for vessels ofmercy
which he has prepared beforehand for glory
even us whom he has called
not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

Oh my.  You're reading the part where God "has endured with much patience," a comment suggesting that the damned have gotten what they deserved.  I'm looking at the next line, "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction."  Imagine all the bad guys of the Bible, including the Pharaoh God would eventually ruin.  We'd like to think that they got theirs after God had "endured with much patience" their sorry character and choices.  But Paul is calling these "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction."  Prepared for destruction?  Groomed for damnation?  That doesn't sound like bad people getting theirs.  It sounds like God putting up with bad people whom he has already "prepared for destruction."

And why has God endured them?  Why has God deemed them "vessels of wath prepared for destruction?"

Paul says it's "in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy."  In other words, God needed somebody to slap around.  He needed to "make nown the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy."  But it gets worse.  These "vessels of mercy" are those he has "prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom he has called."

This isn't a case of God responding to good with good and evil with evil.  It's a case of God "calling" his "vessels of mercy" which he has "prepared beforehand for glory."  It's equally a case of God enduring with patience his "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction."  That's clearly the language of predestination.

"Notice he concludes:

30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written,“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.

Upon reading these scriptures it does suggest that they had a choice. "

Let's take another look at this passage, parsing it again for clarity:

What shall we say then?
That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it,
that is, a righteousness that is by faith;
but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness
did not succeed in reaching that law.
Why?
Because they did not pursue it by faith
but as if it were based on works.
They have stumbled over the stumbling stone.
As it is written,
They have stumbled over the stumbling stone,
as it is written,
Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling,
and a rock of offense;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.

This isn't observation, then reaction.  It's more of a twist on Paul's dichotomy of faith and works, as fed through a predestinationist angle.  Israel seeks righteousness and loses it while the Gentiles don't seek righteousness and gain it.  How?  Israel is relying on works.  The Gentiles are relyng on faith.  Look at the structure of those two choices.  Works are about what you have done.  Faith is about what God will do.  The former involves the individual gaining or losing salvation on the basis of individual effort.  The latter involves God's will - you know, vessels of mercy prepared beforehand and vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.

"Now it could be the Paul used obscure wording. Or maybe he did say just what he meant. Kind of like when we are explaining a hard subject we hope or  assume that people don't think we "Really mean we want to KILL the boy."  So some scriptures may be interpreted as supporting predestination but it may not necessarily be what he is saying."

If it were an obscure passage, like the ones in Exodus, where Joseph Smith rewrote "God hardened Pharaoh's heart" to "Pharaoh hardened his heart," that would be an easier claim.  But given that this is a chapter-long argument, it's harder to claim a misrendering of a word or two.  Why, for example, does Paul bring up Isaac and Jacob if not to show predestination at work?  Isaac was the heir, not by means of any works he had performed, but because God had prepared him to be such before he was born.  Likewise, "Jacob have I loved but Esau have I hated" was presented as another indication of a divine will at work before either child could have performed any works.  It was determined, before they were born, that the elder would serve the younger.

It wasn't of works (past behavior) but of faith (a promise determined in advance by the will of God).  Paul is arguing this as the best explanation for why God chose the Gentiles over the Jews, what to him and other Jews would be an unlikely occurrence given the cultural differences between the groups.

"It is obvious that Paul was not trying to explain that God was somehow INJUST. But rather that he was just. He was further trying to show how it is that the Jews, his brothers, lost the hope to Gentiles."

Paul was definitely trying to justify God.  He even asks whether God can be called unjust.  But he asks that question precisely because he's suggesting that God has prepared beforehand vessels of mercy as well as vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.  He anticipates that any sensible person will consider it unjust for God to judge those "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction" because no man can withstand God.  But his argument is not that they deserved it because they blew it.  It's that God, as the potter, can do whatever he wants with the clay.  So what if he decides to use some clay to show his glory while using other clay to show his wrath?  That's God's business.  Who are we to judge God?

To me, this attempt at justifying God - by attributing to him a motive that is anything but noble - is an unintended blasphemy.  It may be Paul's attempt to understand something bothering him (like the Jewish rejection of Jesus's claims as messiah) but if he weren't "St. Paul" writing as a biblical authority, his arguments would be shredded as barbaric.
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10 years ago  ::  Apr 23, 2008 - 9:31AM #40
Maurices5000
Posts: 11
Thanks for your reply Bill. I've read only part of it so far. Please be patient with me. A group of exgays are going camping this weekend--starting Friday and a lot of changes are being made. So, I'm doing a lot of last minute shopping to prepare. It is 7 hrs away and in the mountains so... I need to make sure all is right. But be assured that i will reply as soon as i get a chance.

Thanks for the explanation of Jesse. I know we are all human, but some of us, some times are just antagonists. It is good to know that Jesse isn't so. So thanks for the explanation.

I have one quick question while i thinking about this. Do Mormons fall into the "KJV ONLY" crowd? Do you use other versions of the Bible?

Best wishes.
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