Saturday, 2 October 2010

The Typical Mormon Apologetic

Last time we discovered that the much vaunted “open canon” of Mormon Scripture is a fiction. Nothing has been added to the corpus of Mormon “revelation” for almost 100 years. We have seen that, in the absence of defining and directive leadership, Mormons are increasingly looking to Para-church organisations to help them develop a Mormon apologetic.

The facility to quote the revelations of Joseph Smith leaves the Mormon with the illusion of continuing revelation but with the reality of a closed canon of Scripture. He doesn’t know how to sit under the authority of Scripture because he dismisses it as second hand, revelation for yesterday.

If you quote Paul, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching...” (2 Tim.3:16) the Mormon response is to say, “Well of course the Bible is useful, but...” In that “but” there is a world of meaning. Mormonism boasts that yesterday’s revelation was for “then” but because Mormons are “led by a prophet” they have revelation that is as fresh and relevant as this morning’s news; but their revelations are considerably staler than yesterday’s breakfast rolls.

For a Mormon the Bible is only reliable “as far as it is translated correctly” (Mormon 8th Article of Faith) so he mustn’t expect it to go very far in affirming his beliefs. Yet there is no prophetic leading except in the most general terms (be nice, keep the faith, etc) and so he can’t demonstrate in the most meaningful way that the claims of his church are true

As a consequence of this strange dichotomy the typical Mormon apologetic is almost entirely refutation rather than exposition because he doesn’t look to the Bible in the way he would look to modern prophets. But then nor does he have modern revelation to expound but increasingly implausible claims by the earliest Mormon leaders to defend.

Exposition:

To expound is to lay open the meaning of; to confirm and prove. In the context of teaching and preaching it means expounding or explaining the truth of scripture.

Refutation:

To refute is the act of refuting or denying something.

There are five steps to the Mormon apologetic:

  1. Critics of our church say...
  2. But they are anti-Mormon
  3. Consequently, there are many misconceptions about the Mormon Church
  4. If you really want to know ask a Mormon
  5. Here is the truth affirmed by Moroni’s promise

Where a Christian would begin with the truth a Mormon starts with the critic; where a Christian would continue with an appeal to biblical authority the Mormon would go on to discrediting the critic; where the Christian would present “many proofs” (Acts 1:3) the Mormon offers a series of uncorroborated assertions; where the Christian expects faith to be based on reasoning from Scripture (Acts 8:35; Luke 24:27), the Mormon appeals to blind faith based on feelings.

Since sound exposition is not in the Mormon’s tool box then a demonstration of sound exposition is important.

  • It makes their refutations look poor by comparison and the stark contrast will give them pause for thought.
  • It demonstrates the strength of Scriptural proofs, many of which will be unfamiliar to the Mormon, and models what it is to put a high value on Scripture.

Mormons will cite isolated Bible verses to “prove” their point but a careful reading around their proof texts will give context and true meaning within the wider context of God’s word and lead to a clear understanding of the truth.

A confidence in and competence with the Bible is essential in witnessing to Mormons and it is important to recognise that almost every issue you will tackle in conversation with a Mormon will have been addressed in its pages as well as in the councils and deliberations of the early Church. More reason, if any were needed, for knowing your Bible and knowing something about the history of the Christian Church.

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