Alpha and Omega Ministries, The Christian Apologetics Ministry of James R. White
















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What DID Christ Teach?
A Response to an LDS Tract

 


by James White

You’ve got to give him credit: he’s consistent. Craig Ray, the self-proclaimed President (and sole member) of the "Alpha and Omega Watchdog Committee," has been trying to provide an answer to the evangelical claims of our ministry amongst Mormons for years now. From the first time I received a letter from Craig (with Magic Marker A&O Watchdog Committee letterhead), he’s been doing his best to provide some kind of response to the materials we distribute at the LDS Easter Pageant each year. This year is no exception.

But does Mr. Ray provide a meaningful, biblically-based response? Unfortunately, he does not. Mr. Ray, as dedicated as he may be, is not a student of Scripture. Most of our volunteers recall with amazement the rather loud encounter we had with Craig a number of years back regarding the phrase "the LORD the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts" at Isaiah 44:6. Mr. Ray absolutely and loudly insisted to a group of our volunteers that we clearly see here two persons: the King of Israel, and the King’s redeemer. No amount of explaining the passage had any impact: Craig was sure there were two "gods" mentioned here, and every time I would point out the simple fact that the word LORD means "Yahweh" in Hebrew, and hence the passage reads, "Yahweh, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, Yahweh of hosts," it made no difference. Mr. Ray simply would not see that the passage is talking about the one true God, describing Him as the King and Redeemer of Israel.

In Mr. Ray’s most recent offering, titled "What DID Christ Teach?" we are provided with more examples of a-contextual proof-texting, the use of Bible passages without any concern for the context in which those passages are found. The tract has a picture on the front of the Lord Jesus laying hands upon the head of someone, ostensibly illustrating one of the passages cited inside the tract, Mark 3:14, which reads, "And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach." Many LDS, including Mr. Ray, assume that the KJV’s use of the term "ordain" refers to religious ordination to a priesthood as in Mormonism. The Greek term does not refer, however, to some kind of religious ordination to a priesthood, but simply refers to appointment or choosing. Christ chose His own twelve apostles. This says nothing about ordination to priesthood duties.

Craig begins by observing that the Church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with the Lord Jesus as the chief cornerstone, and he cites Ephesians 2:19-20 as proof. In this he is quite correct, though we must immediately ask, "If the Church is founded upon a foundation of Christ and the apostles, why do you continue to keep laying the foundation over and over again?" Mormonism, with its concept of continuing apostleship (which has produced, so far, about 103 "apostles" since the founding of the LDS church), keeps laying the foundation over and over and over again. How can you build a house if you only lay foundations on top of each other?

Next Craig cites Ephesians 4:11-14, and says that the apostles and prophets were important in bringing about a unity of the faith. Again, this is correct, as far as it goes. However, the passage does not speak of apostles and prophets in the modern LDS sense at all. Paul had no concept of a single prophet, a "First Presidency," a "Council of the Twelve," a "Seventy," and so forth. These are modern innovations of Mormonism.

Then, it is noted that Paul warned against false teachers in Galatians 1:6-8. This is quite true. But Mr. Ray fails to note that false teachers were already in the Church, and even having living Apostles did not keep these false teachers from drawing men away after themselves. Paul likewise warned Timothy that this would happen. Note his words:

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

As we shall see in a moment, it is important to note the specific wording of this passage. Paul does not say that all will depart from the faith (the Greek term is avposth,sontai,, the future form of the word from which we get "to apostatize"). There is no "universal apostasy" in Paul’s writings anywhere. Instead, he says that some will depart from the faith, not all. This will be important in examining the rest of Craig’s claims.

Next we read Mr. Ray say, "Paul want on to charge the saints to hold fast to the truth for he told them that a time would come when sound doctrine would not endure." The reference given is "Tim. 4:3-4." We assume he means 2 Timothy, for he goes on to cite this passage. Note Paul’s words:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; [4] And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

Notice that Paul does not say, "sound doctrine will not endure" as Mr. Ray does. Instead, Paul says that "they will not endure sound doctrine." There is a huge difference. Mormons will not "endure" the sound doctrine that there is only one true God: that doesn’t mean that the truth itself disappears just because they will not "endure" it. Mr. Ray needs to realize that the term translated "endure" in the KJV means "to put up with" (as in the NIV). Paul is saying that men will not put up with sound doctrine, but will instead look for something to replace it. And surely, Mormonism is one of the greatest fulfillments of this very prophecy. Paul says they will turn away from the truth and will turn to myths—myths like Joseph’s Smith’s "God is a man from another planet" theology, or the Book of Mormon, etc. But Paul is not saying that all believers will do this, as we saw above. And in fact, he contrasts these "others" in verses 3 and 4 with Timothy in verse 5:

But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

The KJV translation is not overly clear: the NASB brings out the contrast better:

But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

In contrast with "those" who turn away from the truth, Paul says, "But you," Timothy, stand firm in the faith and the ministry. There will always be, by God’s grace, those Timothy’s who stand firm and do not go along with the crowd. There is simply no universal apostasy here.

The next passage that Mr. Ray attempts to present is from Acts 20:29-30. Here Craig claims, "Paul, upon leaving Ephesus (sic) told the saints that the church there would fall away." But is that what Paul really said? Hardly:

For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. [30] Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.

Paul warns the Ephesians elders of the dangers ahead, but where does he say that the entire church at Ephesus would fall away? He doesn’t. Not a word is said that is even remotely close to such a sweeping conclusion. That this is not the case is brought out in what follows:

Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. [32] And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.

Paul exhorts them to watchfulness—why, if their work is doomed? He commends them to God and the word of His grace, which, Paul says, is able to build them up. Why do this, if in fact what he has just said is that theirs is a lost cause? But, Paul hasn’t told them it is a lost cause, for he has only warned them that the Church will always suffer false teachers and the trials caused by false teaching: he has not uttered a word about a universal apostasy. Instead, he taught just the opposite:

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, [21] Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Notice that Paul teaches that God the Father will receive glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, and that because of the great power that works within Christians (v. 20). Mormonism teaches that the Church did not exist for almost 1700 years. How then, was God the Father being glorified by it, if it didn’t exist?

Then Craig Ray cites 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4, and its reference to a "falling away." Unfortunately, Mr. Ray, like most LDS commentators, does not deal with the fact that Paul does not just talk about the falling away; he says, "for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition." The falling away predicted is connected with the revelation of the man of sin. Has the man of sin been revealed, the anti-Christ who sits in the place of God (v. 4)? In any case, saying there will be a falling away is not the same as saying there will be a universal apostasy. There have always been apostates: hence, there has always been a "falling away." There are former Mormons, too, who have left the fellowship of the Mormon Church. Does that make the Mormon Church apostate? No, it doesn’t. Hence, just because there are defections from the Christian faith, that doesn’t amount to a universal and full apostasy in the Church as a whole.

Next we read, "In foretelling of the falling away of the Church the apostle Peter left the saints with the hope of a restoration when he spoke of a restitution of all things." Then Acts 3:19-21 is cited:

Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; [20] And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.

The problem is, Peter nowhere speaks of a falling away, or an apostasy, anywhere in this sermon. This is a complete misrepresentation of the context of the passage. Peter is preaching to Jews about Christ; he says nothing about the Church falling away. What is more, the "restitution of all things" has to do with the restitution of the Davidic kingdom promises, not with the Church at all. The Church was a mystery hidden from the previous ages, as Paul says (Colossians 1:26-27). This kind of "lets make an assertion without any basis in the context of the passage at all" exegesis continues in the next citation from Revelation 14:6-7, where Mr. Ray tells us that here we find a portrayal of the "restoration of the gospel." Again, this is little more than wishful thinking on his part.

Hence, Mr. Ray fails—utterly—to establish the need for the "restoration" proclaimed by Mormonism. Hence, if the Church would indeed last, as Jesus promised (Matthew 16:18), there is no need for a "restoration" under the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith.


But Mr. Ray continues on to give us some guidelines by which we are supposed to judge which of the churches is the true Church of Jesus Christ. He writes, "What did Christ teach? What Church today teaches of:: (sic)" and then provides a list of beliefs. We shall briefly look at each of these beliefs as they are listed.

  • Mr. Ray claims: "A pre-existence, -Job 38:4-7, Jer. 1:4-5"

But the Bible says: Man is the creation of God, not a pre-existence spirit-being begotten by an exalted man from another planet. Job 38 is talking about angels, not men, and Jeremiah 1 speaks of God’s choosing and ordaining of Jeremiah, not that Jeremiah pre-existed his physical life. Jeremiah makes this plain by paralleling the Hebrew terms ^yTi[.d;y> ("I knew you") and ^yTiv.D;q.hi ("I consecrated you"), so that the one is defined in terms of the other. God is not saying, "You have a spiritual pre-existence during which time I had knowledge of who you were." He is saying that before Jeremiah was born, God chose him and ordained him to the task of a prophet. Hence, no "pre-existence" in either passage, therefore, we must conclude that the real Church would not teach such a false doctrine.

  • Mr. Ray claims: "A Personal God, -Heb 1:1-3, Rom. 6:9-10, Acts 1:9-11"

We confess we don’t know what Mr. Ray means. Certainly God is personal. Does he mean that God has a physical body, as Mormonism teaches? Is limited in time and space? We can’t tell, so we do not wish to offer a response without knowing what his intention is.

  • Mr. Ray claims: "The Divinity of Christ, -John 14:6"

We certainly agree, though we do not in any way believe that the divinity offered by Mormonism to Jesus—one in which He is merely one god amongst many gods, is in any way sufficient. The deity of Christ proclaimed in Scripture is of a completely different order than that presented by Mormonism. The Christ of the Bible is man’s creator, not man’s spirit brother (Colossians 1:15-17, Zechariah 12:1).

Next, Mr. Ray speaks of a physical resurrection, the Lord’s Supper, and baptism by immersion, all issues upon which we have no differences at all.

  • Mr. Ray claims: "Living Prophets, - Eph 4:11-14"

In the context in which Paul offered these words, we certainly agree. Unfortunately, what Paul meant by "prophets" in this passage is a far cry from the LDS concept of a prophet as the leader of the Church.

  • Mr. Ray claims: "Continuous Revelation, - Amos 3:7"

Here we have the citation of an Old Testament passage about the functioning of the nation of Israel that says, "Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets." It’s interesting that Mr. Ray must go to the Old Testament for such a passage. He must, for the New Testament doesn’t contain anything like it. Why? Luke 16:16 and Hebrews 1:1-2 explain:

(Luke 16:16) The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.

(Heb 1:1-2) God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, [2] Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

Luke 16:16 explains that a new era has entered in, and the "prophets" as Amos used the term were only "until John." Since then, the kingdom of God is preached. In the same way, Hebrews 1:1-2 explains that while in the old times God spoke by prophets, now He has spoken by Christ. To go back to the old kind of "prophets" is to go back from the fullness of Christ. And surely this is exactly what we see in Mormonism.

Next Mr. Ray cites the non-original passage in Mark 16:16-18 under the rubric of "Tne (sic) Gifts of the Holy Spirit." If he could perhaps provide us with an actual passage from the canonical Scriptures we could possibly address whatever issue it is he is raising.

  • Mr. Ray claims: "New Scripture Ezk. 37:16-17"

The passage cited nowhere mentions new Scriptures at all. Instead, this is one of the few passages that Mormonism attempts to twist into something upon which to base prophecies of the Book of Mormon. Ignoring the context, and the plain interpretation of the passage provided in the text itself (vs. 18-28), Mr. Ray expands this simple text into a basis for "New Scripture"! The reader is invited to read the passage, and ponder how such a meaning can possibly be derived therefrom.

  • Mr. Ray claims: "Baptism for the Dead, - 1 Cor. 15:29"

This single reference to "baptism for the dead" is hardly an element by which the Church is defined anywhere in Scripture. Whatever Paul is referring to, he is certainly not referring to the LDS concept of baptism for the dead, for the following elements are missing from Paul’s theology that are required to come up with Mr. Ray’s view: 1) temples, 2) priesthoods, 3) the concept that baptism, as an act, is necessary to bring about salvation. Hence, no matter which of the various interpretations of this passage that have been offered by Christian scholars one follows, certainty attaches to this: the LDS viewpoint is not one of the possible options.

  • Mr. Ray claims: "The Gospel Preached to the Dead, - 1 Peter 3:18-18 (sic), 4:6"

Since Mormonism does not understand man’s deadness in sin (Romans 3:10-18, John 6:44, Ephesians 2:1-5, etc.), it is easy to understand how "the dead" could be understood a tad bit too literally. But in either case, the Lord’s descent into the realm of the dead to proclaim (not preach) His victory over the spirits who are in prison (not people) is hardly basis for saying the Church itself is to be marked by an activity nowhere even once mentioned as a part of her mission.

Mr. Ray then mentions "The State of the Soul after the Resurrection," citing 1 Corinthians 15:40-42, but makes no further comment. If he is referring to "levels of heaven" and the like in LDS theology, such concepts are easily refuted from Scripture. But since he doesn’t tell us, we won’t hazard a guess.

  • Mr. Ray claims: "A Lay Clergy?, (sic) – Matt 10:8"

We would invite Mr. Ray to explain to us Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:1-14.


Recently, we overheard Craig Ray speaking to a missionary. Referring to James White's book, Letters to a Mormon Elder, Mr. Ray said, "Go ahead and take it, and then call me, and I'll give you the answers to it." Also, when passing out the tract noted above, Mr. Ray showed a particular passage to someone and said, "This is one of the passages they don't want you to see." We can assure Craig Ray that there is no passage in the Bible that we wish to "hide" from anyone. But if his answers are no more substantive than those presented above, we truly hope he will reconsider his course, and take the time to learn the truth of God's Word that he is so sadly lacking.


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