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Does the Bible Teach Predestination? – James White vs. Darryl Barksdale – Vintage

Does the Bible Teach Predestination?
An Exegetical Debate

Dr. James White vs Mormon Apologist Darryl Barksdale of FAIR

Biographical information for: James White, Th.D.

James White has the great privilege of serving as an elder in the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church. He is also the Director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, a Christian apologetics organization which he co-founded in 1983. He currently works as a Critical Consultant on the New American Standard Bible Update, is an adjunct professor teaching for Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (having taught Systematic Theology, Christology, Apologetics, Greek and Hebrew), and also teaches for Columbia Evangelical Seminary. He is an author, having written more than a dozen books, including such works as Letters to a Mormon Elder, The King James Only Controversy, Is the Mormon My Brother?, Mary—Another Redeemer?, The Roman Catholic Controversy, Grieving: Our Path Back to Peace, God’s Sovereign Grace, Drawn by the Father, and his most recent work, The Forgotten Trinity. He has also contributed to such works as Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible and has written a number of articles for the Christian Research Journal.

James has earned an M.A. from Fuller Theological Seminary, and the Th.M/Th.D degree from Columbia Evangelical Seminary, a non-traditional seminary specializing in providing mentoring-based education. James is currently working on two youth books (one on creation, one on the Bible), and two books on the topic of Scripture—one on Bible translations, the other on the sufficiency of Scripture. He is also the host of the Thursday evening edition of The Voice of Sovereign Grace on WMCA Radio in New York City, and also hosts The Dividing Line, the radio ministry of Alpha and Omega Ministries on KPXQ, 960AM in Phoenix.

Dr. White is a veteran debater, having engaged in twenty-four public, moderated debates against the leading Roman Catholic apologists in the United States. He has extensive experience in evangelizing the LDS people, having led a group of volunteers in passing out tracts and sharing the gospel at the past 29 consecutive General Conferences in Salt Lake City, and at the LDS Easter Pageant in Mesa, Arizona, for the past fifteen years. He has also done numerous radio debates live on the air in Salt Lake City with LDS Apologists.

James is married to Kelli, and has two children, Joshua Daniel and Summer Marie. His hobbies (when all his work allows for it) are weight-lifting, bicycling, chess, and tickling his kids.

James is a churchman. That is, he believes it is God’s will, revealed in Scripture, that the Church of Jesus Christ be the “pillar and foundation of the truth,” and that the highest calling a man can receive is to serve Christ in His Church. Therefore, all of James’ life, including decisions regarding ministry, writing, education and employment, center around his stated desire to glorify Christ through the edification of the people of God gathered in Christ’s Church.


 Biographical Information for Darryl Barksdale:

Darryl L. Barksdale is first and foremost, a disciple of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Secondarily, he is the devoted husband of Tracy, and the father of Jaclyn, Justin, Jenny, Michele, Erica, Aaron, Lindsay, Lauren, and Scott. He is also the President of the Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR), and is an ardent student of the Holy Word of God, Christian History, and the Early Church Fathers. 

Mr. Barksdale claims no special title, and quickly affirms that he is not a scholar. He holds no advanced degrees. He is not published in any mainstream Christian journals. He is not esteemed as one of the intellectual “elite” within the LDS church or elsewhere within Christianity.

He is simply a humble follower of Christ, and a devoted student of Holy Writ.


[Note to all readers: In the following presentation Greek terms are presented using the Greek font designed and developed by Bill Mounce. This font is available for download and installation on your computer system by clicking on the following links: for Windows: download the Mounce font. If you use a Mac, or if the preceding link does not work for you, go to the following URL and download from there: http://www.teknia.com/fonts/grkfnt.html. Please note that this is the newest edition of the Mounce font, dated 10/98. Earlier editions of the font may not display properly in every instance. It may also contain Hebrew words. Click here to download a zip file containing the proper Hebrew font.] 


An Affirmative and Exegetical Presentation

James White

A number of years ago I found myself locked in an intense conversation with a young Mormon man on the sidewalk outside the LDS Temple in Mesa, Arizona. He had asked me initially why I thought there were so many churches, and part of my reply had been that I believed many people do not believe all of Scripture, but instead pick and choose what parts they will, or will not, believe. He did not seem overly impressed, but we continued on, and very soon came to the issue of the gospel of God’s grace. He immediately sensed that I was presenting a very strong view of grace, and asked, “So, are you saying that God saves only by His grace? That we don’t have anything to do with it?” “Yes,” I replied. He looked amazed, and said, “So, you don’t believe in predestination, do you?” Rather than respond immediately, I opened my Bible to Ephesians 1:11, and read it in his hearing: “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (KJV). My LDS friend replied, “So, you are saying.” I stopped him in mid-sentence and re-read the passage. He said, “So, you believe.” I again stopped him, and again re-read the passage. At this point he looked over the top of my Bible, found the passage (outlined in yellow), pointed to it and said, “That passage is wrong, and I feel good saying that.” I closed my Bible, looked at him, and said, “Sir, when you first came up to me, you asked why there were so many different churches. I told you that it was because people will pick and choose what they will and will not believe. Sir, no one has ever given me a better example of that than you.”

Sometime in October of 1998 I entered a chatroom in AOL and engaged Darryl Barksdale in a discussion on the subject of salvation. I was not using my normal screen name at the time. When the issue of predestination came up, I pointed to Ephesians 1:11. At that time Mr. Barksdale offered to give me a “lesson in exegesis.” I gladly accepted the invitation, and we began to look closely at the text itself. Out of that interaction has come this debate on predestination in Scripture.

In keeping with Mr. Barksdale’s kind offer to give me a “lesson in exegesis,” I hope that this debate will, in fact, focus upon just that: the meaningful, fair, scholarly exegesis of the text of Scripture. Indeed, for my part, I shall do all I can to keep the focus where it needs to be. I firmly believe that the close, fair, honest exegesis of the text of the Bible will yield only one truth, and that truth is that God is sovereign in all things, including the matter of salvation, and that He has an elect people, chosen specifically by Him, who are the heirs of eternal life. This is not the teaching of Mormonism, to be sure, nor is it the teaching of a large portion of Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. Yet, the Scriptures are clear.

Ephesians 1

Numerous biblical passages can be cited that plainly teach the divine truth that God predestines men unto salvation. John 6:35-45, Romans 9:10-24, and 2 Timothy 1:8-10 all teach this truth. But I shall focus first upon the classicus locus, Ephesians 1:3-11, for my initial exegetical defense of this divine truth. As space permits, I will then briefly address Romans 9 and John 6. I invite the interested reader to follow along. I shall use as my base text the Nestle-Aland 27th edition of the Greek New Testament. English translations are my own.

Paul begins this tremendous introduction to his letter1 with a word of blessing addressed to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (1:3). All of salvation comes from the Father, its source, and its end. It is the Father who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. Immediately we encounter three vital truths: 1) God is the one who has blessed us (we did not bless ourselves); this is seen in recognizing that oJ eujloghvsa” refers to the Father specifically; 2) that Paul is not speaking of all mankind here, but specifically of the redeemed, for he uses the personal pronoun hJma'” (us) when speaking of the scope of the blessing of the Father; we will see this is continued throughout the text; and 3) the phrase ejn Cristw’ (in Christ) or its equivalent in Him, is central to Paul’s thought. All of salvation takes place only “in Christ.”

Verse 4 is central to our subject: “just as He chose us in Him before the creation of the world so that we should be holy and blameless before Him.”2 Again the Father is in view, for He is the one who chose us (hJma'”, accusative, indicating direct object of “to choose”). This choice is exercised only in Christ (there is no salvation outside of the Son). It is vital to recognize the personal aspect of this choice on the part of God the Father. The passage says that we were chosen by God the Father, not that a mere “plan” was chosen, or a “process” put in place. The choice is personal both in its context (in the Son) and in its object (the elect). Next, the time of this choice by the Father is likewise important: before the creation of the world. This is a choice that is timeless. It was made before we were created,3 and therefore cannot possibly be based upon anything that we ourselves do or “choose.”4 This is sovereignty–free and unlimited.

God does nothing without a purpose. Both the means, and end, are in view. God chooses the elect to the end that they should be “holy and blameless before Him.” God is redeeming for Himself a people, and no power in heaven or earth can stop Him from accomplishing His intention.

Paul continues to expand upon the nature of the Father’s choice: “In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (v. 5). This is the first appearance of the word “predestined” in the text. The exact same term (proorivzw) is used in verse 11 as well. The meaning of the term is not ambiguous, no matter how hard some might try to avoid its impact. It means “to choose beforehand” or “to predestine.”5 In this context, it is unquestionably personal in its object, for again we find hJma'” as the direct object of the action of predestination. This is truly the key element of this debate, for grammatically there is no escape from the plain assertion here made: God the Father predestined us. He did not predestine a plan, He did not merely predestine a general conclusion to all things, but He chose us and predestined us. The “us” of Ephesians 1:5 is the “we” of Ephesians 1:11 and the “elect” of Romans 8:33 and those who are “given” by the Father to the Son in John 6:37.

Often we are asked “upon what basis does God choose one person, and leave another in their sins?” Paul answers in 1:5b-6, “according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace which he freely gave us in the Beloved One.” We note that there is nothing whatsoever here about man doing anything. Instead, we have the good pleasure of God’s will, nothing more. And this is perfectly logical, for, as Paul says, this is to result in the praise of His glorious grace. If salvation were the result of man’s choosing God (rather than God choosing man), then God’s grace would not be the sole and sufficient basis for salvation, and it would not, therefore, be the object of our praise in eternity to come. But Paul here sums it all up for us, indicating that the basis is solely God’s will, and therefore all praise and honor and glory will go to God’s glorious grace, that grace whereby the elect of God are saved, and will persevere into the eternal state. Such a truth is utterly shattering to human pride, and to all systems of works salvation. But it is the truth nonetheless. And note as well: again hJma'” appears, this time as the direct object of the free giving of God’s grace. This is saving grace, efficient grace, that actually accomplishes the salvation of its object. And hence, it is given to the redeemed, to the elect, and they alone. This is no mere “common grace” given to all: this is specific, saving grace. And, as is his constant strain throughout this opening passage of Ephesians, Paul emphasizes once again the fact that this saving grace is only in Christ, here described as “the beloved One.”

Having mentioned Christ, the beloved Son of the Father, Paul goes on to assert that it is in Him alone that we (again the elect, this time found in the first person plural ending of e[comen) have, present tense, redemption through His blood (literally, the redemption), which Paul then re-describes appositively6 as “the forgiveness of our sins.” The standard of God’s forgiveness is said to be “according to the riches of His grace,” which surely means that there is no limitation to the scope, nor power, of Christ’s redeeming blood.7 This grace, verse 8 goes on to say, was “lavished” on us, or “super-abounded” toward us (the now almost ubiquitous hJma'” once again); obviously, it has not so abounded toward all, hence, again, the specificity of Christ’s work of salvation, including His work of atonement, is seen.8

In the next phrases (1:8b-10), Paul explains the centrality of Christ, both in the work of redemption as well as in the revelation of God’s intention, will and purpose. All is summed up in Christ, Paul says. The Father’s will is that everything be done in Christ. This “mystery of His will” He has made known to us (here hJmi’n, dative, because of gnwrivsa”).

We come then, far too quickly, to the eleventh verse, wherein we again see plainly the outcome of our debate: “In Him (that is, in Christ) also we have been claimed as God’s own possession,9 having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the council of His own will.”

Note how this passage functions as a “bookend” to sum up the preceding section:

1) The Father’s work of salvation takes place exclusively in the realm of the Son, “in Him.” It is in Christ that we have “been claimed as God’s own possession,” that is, have received the promised inheritance, though the emphasis is upon the God-ward side of this transaction, not the human side. The concept of “God’s own possession” comes up again in verse 14. The elect are God’s people,”a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14).

2) Those who are God’s people are so because they were “predestined.” Again, no ambiguity exists in the meaning of the term, nor its use in the passage. Mr. Barksdale, in our discussion of this passage in AOL, indicated that he believed that God had predestined a plan in this verse. I pointed out to him that proorisqevnte” is an aorist passive participle, 1st person plural. A “plan” would call for a singular form, not a plural form. Why is it plural? Because is it referring back to “we have been claimed.” The subject of the participle is found in the plural ending of ejklhrwvqhmen. It cannot be a “plan” but is a people, God’s people, the elect, who are here plainly seen to be the object of God’s act of predestination.

3) The basis for God’s choice is again removed from the human realm and placed squarely and inalterably in the divine. God chooses on the basis of His own purpose (not on the basis of what we do). When Paul speaks of God’s purpose, He attaches a clause that describes his God. Literally, it would read, “the all things working according to the council of His will One.” The emphasis in the clause is on ta; pavnta, “all things.” God works all things after the council of His will. Not some things, not most things, but all things. This is true in all aspects of His creation: the God Paul proclaims is sovereign over all things, is in control of all things, and all things exist at His command, and for His purpose. That is why the Psalmist could say, “Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps” (Psalm 135:6).

Paul then applies this eternal truth to his immediate audience, those who were “the first to hope in Christ.” Thanks be to God that He has continued to draw His elect over the ages, so that we living in our present day can likewise join with them in hoping in Christ, and hence resound to the “praise of His glory.” But I hasten to emphasize: His glory is only praised when His complete sovereignty in salvation is plainly seen and proclaimed. Even saving faith in Christ is a gift of God given to the elect.10 Men dare not intrude upon God€s sole glory: and that is exactly what we see in those systems that attempt to place man in control of God, and make God dependent upon man and the puny creatures will in the matter of redemption.

Romans 9

Space will demand a less in-depth look at my other two passages, Romans 9 and John 6. Both, however, will be seen to repeat the same concepts found in Ephesians 1.

The relevance of Romans 9 is obvious upon the most casual reading. It comes on the heels of a passage that again uses the specific term “predestined” of the elect people of God (8:29-33). Paul begins by illustrating God’s electing grace in the patriarchs of the Jewish people, proving, thereby, that the Jews have no basis upon which to complain now that God, in His grace, has chosen to extend His covenant mercies to the Gentiles as well. Paul points to Jacob and Esau (9:10-13) as an example of this: “before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad” God said, “the older will serve the younger.” Why does Paul emphasize that this was said before the birth of the twins, and before they had done anything good or bad? The text is plain: “in order that God’s purpose according to election would stand not on the basis of works, but on the basis of the One calling.” God’s purpose in election will stand, infallibly. The choice of Jacob over Esau was not on the basis of the actions of the twins (indeed, both showed themselves unworthy by their sinful attitudes of any of God’s blessings). Instead, the basis is always found in God, “the One calling.” Because of this, it is written in Scripture, “Jacob I loved, and Esau I hated.”

It is fascinating to note that Paul had obviously heard all the objections against the Gospel many times before. He includes an “imaginary objector” in this section to voice all the common complaints about God’s absolute sovereignty and man’s complete dependence upon Him. Fallen man outside of Christ hates the truth that God is the Potter, we are the clay. The unregenerate heart rebels against such a truth. When we read, “Jacob I loved, Esau I hated,” we say, “that is not fair! That is unjust!” And indeed, Paul immediately voices that objection, and then answers it as well. But before looking at his answer, do remember this: the amazing thing about the statement “Jacob I loved and Esau I hated” is not that God hated Esau: Esau was a sinner, an enemy of God, and God’s wrath abides upon anyone still in their sins. The amazing thing about the statement is “Jacob I loved.” That is grace undeserved.

“What will we say, then? There is no injustice with God, is there?” (v. 14). As soon as sovereignty is seen, man cries foul. Paul’s answer is quick: “May it never be! For he said to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. Therefore it does not depend on the one who wills, neither on the one who runs, but on God, who shows mercy.” The NET translates it, “it does not depend on human desire or exertion, but on the mercy of God.” In either case, the actions and will of man are utterly removed from consideration by Paul’s response. God’s choice is totally free. Mercy and compassion cannot be demanded of the Righteous Judge of all. They must be free. Rather than defending the “freedom of man,” the truly regenerate heart should be jealous for the freedom of God instead.

The Scriptures go on to illustrate this truth in the life of Pharaoh. Paul asserts (9:17) that God raised up Pharaoh for a specific purpose: that God’s name might be proclaimed in all the earth. Again the rebellious heart cries out in complaint, while the believer bows in humble adoration. “May I be used only to bring honor and glory to the name of my God” is the cry of the broken heart. So Paul goes on to press the point home in verse 18, “Therefore He has mercy on whom He wishes; but He likewise hardens whom He wishes.” How much more plainly can it be stated? The context is clearly personal: Pharaoh was a person, as were Jacob and Esau. God shows mercy to individuals, and, likewise, whether we like it or not, He hardens individuals as well. This is predestination, plain and clear.

Of course, immediately the creature rebels and cries out (v. 19), “Why does He still find fault? Who has ever resisted His will?” The clay attempts to demand of the Potter a reason for His actions. The creature climbs onto the throne of the Creator and acts as if he has a right to be there. Make no mistake: this response, natural as it is for the sinful heart, is, itself, a symptom of sin, and is an act of rebellion. As Paul will point out, it is as foolish as a cup demanding its Maker give an account for its size, color, or shape. Cups have no such rights, and neither does the creature, man. Of course, it is just here that I would assert that the LDS faith has no way of even beginning to make sense of what Paul is saying, or how he is about to respond. You see, the God Paul worshipped, the God of Christianity, is the Almighty Maker of all things. He has eternally been God, and anything that exists, anywhere and at any time, does so at His will and command. Joseph Smith proclaimed in the King Follett Funeral Discourse, “We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see.” Hence, Mormonism simply does not have a concept of God that can possibly undertake to make sense out of Paul’s reply. As the NET renders it, “But who indeed are you a mere human being to talk back to God?” More traditionally, “Who are you, O man, to answer back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, Why did you make me like this, will it?” The answer is devastating, but only when, by grace, your heart is “given ears to hear” what it is saying. It is a shattering experience to really come to see yourself as you are: a creature, formed and made by another for His own purposes (not yours!), utterly dependent upon Him. There is no room for pride in such a truth and so the natural man rejects it, and indeed, in my experience, hates it.

Man is the “thing molded.” God is the molder. God is God, man is man. In Mormonism, God and man are of the “same species,” and God is, in fact, an “exalted man,” or as one LDS acquaintance of mine puts it, “a theomorphic man.” Therefore, this passage makes no sense in the LDS context (because, I strongly assert, LDS theology is not biblical theology, but its opposite). For Paul is not saying, “Who are you, yet-to-be-exalted man, to talk back to the already-exalted man?” No, there is no Potter/pot relationship in Mormonism, hence, there is no room for this truth in LDS thinking.

Paul presses onward to his conclusion: “Or does not the Potter have authority over the clay, to make from the same lump of clay one vessel for honorable use, and yet another for common use?” His illustration is striking. Potters have full authority to do with a lump of clay whatever they wish. It is irrational to insist that the potter has to make from one lump of clay all honorable vessels or all common ones. He can do what he wishes. But what bothers us so tremendously here is the obvious fact that we are the vessels formed from clay! And we have no say over the purpose for which we have been made: that is the right of the Potter.

Paul goes on in verses 22-23, “What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath made for destruction, in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy which He prepared beforehand for glory?” Who are these vessels prepared beforehand for glory? The elect of God, the people He has redeemed for His own name’s sake. It is hard to see how Paul could have been any more clear, any more direct in his presentation of the absolute sovereignty of God in election.

John 6

It has been my experience over the years that some people, especially Mormons, have an implicit distrust in “things Pauline.” Hence, it would be good, very briefly, to demonstrate that the Apostle Paul was simply presenting the same truths enunciated by the Lord Himself in the synagogue at Capernaum. Here is the relevant passage, John 6:35-40, 44-45:11

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. The one coming12 to Me will never hunger, and the one believing in Me will never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet you do not believe. All that the Father gives to me will come to Me, and the one coming to Me I will never cast out, for I have come down out of heaven not to do My own will, but the will of the One who sent Me. This is the will of the One who sent Me: that of all that He has given Me I lose none of it, but instead raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone looking on the Son and believing in Him should have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day. . . . No one is able to come to Me unless the Father, who sent Me, draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day. It stands written in the prophets: and they shall all be taught by God. Every one who hears from the Father and learns comes to Me.”

Every word the Lord Jesus speaks is filled with meaning. He introduces Himself as the bread of life, the only true source of spiritual nourishment. Yet, the Jews do not believe. Why? The very incarnate Son of God was standing right in front of them! Why would they not believe? Because, as Jesus explained in John 10:26, they were not of His “sheep.” They were not given to Him by the Father, for all that the Father gives to the Son will, without question, without failure, come to Him. Note that for the Father to be able to give men to the Son we must be talking about the same Father of Ephesians 1 and Romans 9: the sovereign God who is maker and creator of men, not merely an exalted man. He has the sovereign right to give certain men to Christ, but not others. Those who are given come: those who are not do not. The divine order is clear: God’s giving of men to the Son precedes and determines their coming to Christ. First comes the action of God, and then the action of men. God acts, man responds, never the other way around, in the matter of salvation.

The security of the elect is plainly seen in this text: Christ will never cast out the one who has been given to Him by the Father and has come to Him as a result; indeed, it is the very will of the Father that the Lord Jesus lose nothing of all that has been given to Him! What a wonderful promise to realize that the Lord Jesus will never fail to do the Father’s will, and hence, the salvation of God’s people is as sure as the power, purity, and purpose of the very Son of God Himself!

Briefly, the final verses likewise present the utter sovereignty of God in predestination. Jesus makes it clear: No one has the ability to come to Him unless something else happens: the drawing of the Father. Now, many would say, “Well, the Father draws everyone.” That is untrue. The Father draws the elect, including the elect of all nations and tribes and tongues and peoples.13 Even this passage makes this clear, as it is obvious that all who are drawn are also raised up on the last day, a phrase that in John is equivalent to being given eternal life.14 Hence, here we are told that God draws the elect to Christ, and outside of that effectual drawing, there is no person who will come to Christ. Indeed, as Paul said, “there is no God-seeker” (Romans 3:11).

Conclusion

The thesis our debate is clear: does the Bible teach predestination? The answer is obvious: yes, it does. It teaches the specific, personal, individual predestination of the entire body of the elect people of God. God chooses the objects of His mercy and grace, and others He leaves in their sin and rebellion.

It is my hope that my opponent will offer specific, meaningful exegetical responses to these passages, so that the reader can do as Isaiah said long ago: “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn” (Isaiah 8:20).


Notes:

1 I believe the letter to the Ephesians was a circular letter, i.e., meant to be read in all the churches in the Lycus River Valley (cf. Col 4:16).

2 There are a number of punctuation variants in this passage. At this point, I think “in love” would go best with the following phrase, providing the realm in which predestination itself takes place, that being God’s loving purpose. The NASB follows this understanding.

3 I reject the LDS doctrine of pre-existence, and there is nothing in Paul’s theology, or the Bible’s teaching, that presents such a concept. Indeed, in Romans 9:11 Paul speaks of the time before the birth of Jacob and Esau as a time when “they had not done anything good or bad.” It is basic to that passage to see that Paul does not hold the LDS idea of pre-existence.

4 For a discussion of the common use of the term “foreknowledge,” see Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans (NICNT), Eerdmans, 1996, pp. 532-534, John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans Eerdmans, 1997, pp. 315-319, and White, God’s Sovereign Grace, Crowne Publications, 1991, pp. 117-122.

5 See any standard lexical source, such as BAGD (p. 709) or Louw & Nida (pp. 360-361).

6 Syntactically the accusative in simple apposition. This is important since some groups separate redemption and the specific forgiveness of sins.

7 This would involve a denial of the LDS doctrine of “blood atonement,” that concept wherein there are certain “grievous” sins for which the blood of Christ will not atone.

8 I refer here briefly to the biblical teaching on the specific purpose of Christ’s atoning sacrifice: the redemption of the elect. For more on this, seen John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, Eerdmans, 1955.

9 So NET (cf. 1:14); “we were also chosen” (NIV), “obtained an inheritance” (NASB, NRSV).

10 See Colossians 1:3-4, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, Acts 3:16, Hebrews 12:2, Philippians 1:29, Galatians 5:22, Ephesians 2:8-9.

11 For a fuller exposition of John 6:35-45, see my work, Drawn by the Father, Crowne Publications, 1991).

12 Both “coming” and “believing” are present-tense participles. Saving faith is a persevering faith, for it is the gift of God, and it accomplishes what God intends it to accomplish, through grace.

13 John 12:32, Revelation 5:9-10.

14 There is no concept of “eternal lives,” “exaltation,” celestial, terrestrial, and telestial levels of heaven, etc., in John’s writings (nor anywhere in the Christian Scriptures) in the LDS understanding of such terms. Hence, “eternal life” is the highest gift given by God to His people.

Word Count: 4933


Predestination vs. Foreordination in the Preexistence

Darryl L. Barksdale

“By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation. And accordingly, as each has been created for one of other of these ends, we say that he as been predestinated to life or to death.”

John Calvin

What Does ‘Predestination’ Mean?

Before any critical examination of the Biblical support (or lack thereof) for Predestination can occur, it is important to have a clear idea of just what that concept entails. Simply put, it is the belief that God chose those whom He wanted to save before the foundations of the Earth were laid, and the rest He simply “threw away,” for no other reason than that He felt like it.

The concept of Predestination, or “election,” can be traced back to the teachings of Augustine, who said, “The fact is that God gives this gift to those to whom He wishes to give it.”1 Augustine defined who the elect were in this way: “Those who by the divine grace are singled out of that original body of the lost.”2

Richard Grant, in his insightful work Understanding These Other Christians, cites a number of protestant scholars’ views on Predestination. For example, Dr. R. C. Sproul, President of Ligonier Ministries, says:

“When we say that election is unconditional we mean that the original decree of God by which he chooses some people to be saved is not dependent upon some future condition in us that God foresees. There is nothing in us that God could foresee that would induce him to choose us. The only thing he would foresee in the lives of fallen creatures left to themselves would be sin. God chooses us simply according to the good pleasure of his will.”3

Duane Edward Spencer explained that “Christ died to save particular persons who were given Him by the Father in eternity past. His death was, therefore, a one hundred percent success, in that all for whom He died will be saved, and all for whom He did not die will receive “justice” from God when they are cast into Hell.”4

It is not an understatement to say that the doctrine of Predestination forms the backbone of TULIP, which stands for the following reformed doctrines: 

Total Depravity: “Unregenerated man is in absolute bondage to Satan, and wholly incapable of exercising his own will freely to trust in Christ. Salvation, therefore, is dependent upon the work of God who must will to give man life before he can believe in Christ.”5

Unconditional Election: Foreknowledge is “based upon the purpose or plan of God, so that election had no basis in some fancied ‘condition’ on the part of man, but was the result of the free will of the Creator apart from any foreseen ‘work of faith’ in spiritually-dead man.”6

Limited Atonement: “Christ died to save particular persons who were given Him by the Father in eternity past. His death was, therefore, a one hundred percent success, in that all for whom He died will be saved, and all for whom He did not die will receive ‘justice’ from God when they are cast into Hell.”7

Irresistible Grace: “The grace of God cannot be obstructed…the Lord possesses ‘irresistible grace’….Since all dead human spirits are drawn irresistibly to Satan, the god of the dead, and all living human spirits are drawn irresistibly to Jehovah, the God of the living, our Lord simply gives His chosen ones the Spirit of Life! The moment He does so their spiritual polarity is changed. Where they were once ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ and oriented to the devil, now they are made ‘alive in Christ Jesus’ and oriented to God.”8

Perseverance of the Saints: “Since salvation is entirely the work of the Lord, and man has absolutely nothing to do with ‘getting saved’ in the first place, it is obvious that ‘keeping saved’ is also the work of God, apart from any good or bad on the part of His elect. The saints will ‘persevere’ for the simple reason that God promises this, assuring us that He will finish the work He has begun in us!”9

The doctrines of TULIP, most commonly found as part of Calvinism, are countered in the Protestant community by Arminianism, which espouses that man has been endowed with Free Will, or the ability to choose whether to accept Christ or not. It also includes the belief that, contrary to Calvinism’s “once-saved, always saved,” man can fall from grace. Arminianism arose in the late sixteenth century through a Dutch theologian named Jacob Hermann, who expressed serious doubts about the validity of Calvin’s position on Irresistible Grace. Hermann’s followers formed a statement of belief called the Five Points of Arminianism, after the Latin Arminius (Hermann’s last name).

Biblical Teachings Opposed to Predestination

One of the most precious gifts given to man by God is the gift of Free Agency. Even though God foreordained groups of people throughout history for different purposes, as can be seen by His dealings with the ancient Israelites, the restriction of the Levitical Priesthood to a certain tribe, and His later prohibition against the gospel going to the gentiles until after the Ascension, God never took away the free agency of man to accept or reject Him as their God.

The Bible is replete with teachings that once saved, salvation is not assured no matter what, but in fact, individuals stood in jeopardy of losing their salvation if they did not “endure to the end.” Such are the teachings of Paul and John the Revelator, among others. Author Richard Hopkins points out some of the many teachings of the Bible regarding the role of man’s will and free agency in the process of salvation. Much of the following was taken from, or the concepts were adapted from, Hopkins’ Biblical Mormonism.

Predestination assumes that spiritual justification occurs but once in a person’s lifetime. When “saved,” justification cleanses a new believer of his or her past sins, but most will commit additional sin. This new sin will adversely affect a believer’s relationship with their Lord. They no longer stand spotless or blameless before Him, and hence, are no longer in a state that will allow them to know God.10 God is concerned with man’s present status.11

God is patient with repentant believers who are sincerely striving to obey His commandments12 but, like any other past sin, new sins must be forsaken and remitted, or justified. So, although Christ’s act of atonement was accomplished once for all men,13 each man’s need for justification recurs throughout his lifetime.14 The process in which men are repeatedly justified as they repent of new sins until they learn perfect obedience to God is called sanctification, meaning to consecrate or make holy… to dedicate to the Lord.15

While the Bible speaks of sanctification being by the Lord,16 it also indicates that men have a part in it as they exercise their will and moral agency in an effort to maintain a state of holiness.17 Although the Lord provides the means for sanctification, He expects all men to sanctify themselves to Him.18

Paul explained the elements and process of sanctification in Titus 2:11-14 as follows:

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”

The grace of God brings salvation to men through justification for their past sins. This principle teaches men that they must live righteously, repenting and receiving justification anew each time they fall and commit new sin. Men should look forward to salvation as God purifies and redeems them “from ALL iniquity,” until they become “a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”

The dual role of God and man in the sanctification process is illustrated in 1 Thess 4:3-8 (NASB), as follows:

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. Consequently, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.”

This passage clearly places upon men the responsibility of maintaining the state of moral holiness that comes through justification. That is why men are commanded throughout the Bible to repent and endure to the end, even after they have been justified. They are saved while in obedience to God, a state of holiness which they will learn to maintain for longer and longer periods at a time, until they are ready for eternal obedience in the Kingdom of God.

Paul illustrates the relationship between salvation and the sanctification process in 2 Thess 2:13 as follows:

“But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.”

Ultimate salvation is obtained only through the process of sanctification. By this process men are prepared to live with God in His Kingdom eternally. Scripture clearly teaches this principle: “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.”19 The expression “see the Lord” refers to the time when men will be ready to enter the actual presence of God.

Paul taught the same truths to King Agrippa in Acts 26:18. There he announced that Christ had sent him to the Gentiles:

“To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”

Peter teaches this same principle in 1 Peter 1:2. There, addressing believers throughout the world, he describes them as:

“Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.”

This means that men are saved by faith in Christ and numbered among the “elect” (a term that relates to salvation) through sanctification.

These passages also demonstrate that the purpose of sanctification is to learn obedience. To be fully sanctified is to arrive at a state of consistent obedience that, in conjunction with justification for past sins, will allow men to live in perfection with God. Men who have achieved this goal during their life on earth were referred to as “perfect” in the Bible.20 Even though they were not perfect from birth, as Christ was, they learned obedience through the process of sanctification and were justified with respect to their past sins through the grace of Christ.

The scriptures say that men are sanctified by God’s truth,21 through Christ,22 by the Spirit of God,23 through the influence of others,24 by obedience to the ordinances of the gospel, notably baptism,25 and by the word of God and prayer.26 It is clear, therefore, that a mutual effort is necessary to bring men into a state of holiness that will allow them to enter God’s presence, and that that state of holiness may be lost through sin and turning from righteousness.

Predestination vs. Foreordination

The fact that men lived as spirit children of God before the Earth was created is readily apparent not only from many Bible passages, but also from ancient Jewish Rabbinical tradition, Apocryphal sources, and other ancient historians. One of the prime examples of this in the Bible is given to us by the prophet Jeremiah. God, speaking in Jeremiah 1:5, implies that Jeremiah existed before the creation, and that their relationship extended long before birth:

“Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before though camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, AND I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations” (emphasis mine).

Jehovah here clearly tells Jeremiah that he knew him in a permortal existence…that He sanctified Jeremiah, and ordained him a prophet before he came out of the womb.

That this passage speaks of an act requiring an interpersonal relationship is beyond dispute. God ordained Jeremiah a prophet! Please keep in mind that Jeremiah was no stranger to the actual process of ordination, or to what that word meant. Ordination to such a calling, as Jeremiah was most certainly clearly aware, was accomplished by the laying on of hands.27 There is no reason within the boundaries of sound hermeneutics that Jer 1:5 should be interpreted figuratively. The prophet Jeremiah, like all of us, lived with his Heavenly Father as a spirit child for an unknown duration before being born on this earth.

The realization that we lived with God as His spirit children before our sojourn on Earth explains many otherwise mysterious and completely incongruous Biblical teachings, such as Predestination.

First, it solves a great mystery about the origin and nature of the spiritual host referred to in scripture as angels. These servants and messengers of God are none other than the spirits of men, God’s spirit children. The early saints understood this truth and referred to the spirit of Peter as “his angel”28.

The Bible often refers to messengers and ministering spirits by the term “angel”29. As spirit children of God, the spirits of men often act in this capacity to do His bidding30. Angels are usually spirits, but the term can be used to designate physical messengers of God, such as the three who visited Abraham on their way to oversee the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.31

Job 38:7 speaks of the Earth’s cornerstone being laid, “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” The word “sons” in this verse is the Hebrew word ben, which literally means “offspring.” Use of this word confirms that “the sons of God” referred to here were men, described by Paul as the “offspring” of God.32 The term “sons of God” is a reference to the spirits of Men in the preexistence, and this verse tells of their joy at the prospect of Earth’s creation.33

Hebrews 2:7 (quoting Ps 8:5) says of man, “Thou madest him a little lower than the angels.” The word “madest” is not in the Greek text, but is part of the word translated “lower”. Thus it does not imply creation at all. The phrase, “madest him a little lower than the angels” could very possibly mean that men were “taken to” or “transported” to a position below all the angels.34

Men could not have been transported from the home of angels if they had never occupied that realm! The NASB indicates that the phrase “a little” in “a little lower than the angels” (KJB) has temporal significance. The translation there is “Thou hast made him for a little while lower than the angels” (Heb 2:7, NASB, emphasis added). Thus, man’s departure from his heavenly home was viewed in God’s perspective as one of brief duration.

Christ, too, “was made a little lower than the angels,” for the express purpose of “suffering death”, so He could fulfill His mission and be crowned with glory and honor.35 From Adam until the meridian of time, Christ was known to men on Earth as Jehovah, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and He acted in that capacity. Thus, His descent from the circumstances He enjoyed in the preexistence to Earthly life was especially pronounced (as described in Phil 2:5-8).

An understanding of the preexistence gives crystal clarity to Ecclesiastes 12:7 (emphasis added), which states: “Then shall the dust return to the Earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” Certainly that is the intent of all spirits who leave their heavenly home “for a little while” to be in a place “lower than the angels”. The want to return to God, and, if their hope is realized, their end will be greater than their “first estate,” or occupancy in that heavenly realm (see Jude 6). This explains the joy expressed when the foundations of the Earth were laid (Job 38:7). Unfortunately, not all the sons of God have “kept their first estate.”36

Job 38:7 refers to “the morning stars” singing together. The mention of “stars” in this passage is not a reference to distant suns, as astronomers use the term. It refers to a special group of spirits among the “sons of God”. In Numbers 24:17 (NASB), Christ is called a “star”, which “shall come forth from Jacob”, and in Revelations 22:16, Jesus states that He is “the bright and morning star” (NASB: “the bright morning star”). Thus, “the morning stars” mentioned in Job included Christ in His premortal state.

But Job 38:7 speaks of “morning starS” (plural). Though Christ is uniquely designated “the BRIGHT morning star,” there must have been others in that select group. Surprisingly, Isaiah 14:12 (NASB) refers to SATAN as “a star of the morning”. That evil one was once among the select group spoken of by Job. Indeed, the name by which he was first known, Lucifer, means “the shining one.”

That Satan was a “son of God” is clear from Job 1:6 (NASB): “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.” Since it is the same author and the same wording, the term “sons of God” used in this verse must be taken in the same sense as Job used it in chapter 38. The phrase “Satan also came among them” indicates that Satan was also a son of God. It is incongruous to suppose that he was crashing this meeting, especially in light of the extensive and parental conversation God has with him on seeing his arrival (Job 1:7-12).

Psalm 45:7 says of Christ, “Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath annointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.”37 From this verse it is clear that, as spirits, men were capable of making choices and were given free agency to choose evil, as Satan did, or good, as Christ did, and that rewards followed38.

The word “fellows” could not possibly have included God the Father. Only a knowledge of man’s preexistence makes this reference comprehensible. Christ’s “fellows” were His brothers and sisters, the other spirit children of God the Father. “Fellows” literally means “partners, holding with others,” so it may also have had specific reference to “the morning stars” mentioned in Job 38:7.

When one considers the fact of the preexistence of man in light of Predestination, and when we acknowledge the fact that the Greek used for “predestined” also means “foreordained,” we come to a very different conclusion than our Reformed brethren. We learn through this understanding that God knew us before we came to this Earth. He knew what choices we would make, given whatever situation we encountered. With this omniscient foreknowledge, He foreordained us, or called us, to Him and to His Only Begotten Son. Nevertheless, He also respected our free agency, and never took away our ability to reject Him or His Son. He never took away our ability to choose between good and evil.

Origen, one of the early Church Fathers, taught the premortal existence of man, as did the writers of the Apocryphal writings. For example, the Secrets of Enoch states that “all souls are prepared to eternity, before the foundation of the world.39

One could go on and on with ancient Jewish Rabbinical writings and explore Apocryphal literature and find copious examples of the belief in a premortal existence, foreordination, and heavenly councils, but that would be another presentation in and of itself. Suffice it to say, this concept is not a new one, and it was demonstrably lost in the first few centuries after Christ.

Predestination as James White understands it is simply the apostate remnant of a sacred and divine doctrine. The Bible is very clear. God is no respecter of persons. He desires that ALL come unto Him. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall ALL be made alive. Not simply a select few. 


Endnotes:

1 Augustine, Admonition and Grace, Chapt VIII, as quote by Richard G. Grant, Understanding These Other Christians (Salt Lake City, Sounds of Zion, 1998), pg. 121.

2 Ibid, Chapt VII

3 RC Sproul, Chosen By God, p. 156

4 Duane Edward Spencer, TULIP, the Five Points of Calvinism in the Light of Scripture, p.12.

5 Ibid, p. 11

6 Ibid, p. 11-12

7 Ibid, p. 12

8 Ibid, p. 13

9 Ibid, p. 14

10 1 John 2:3-4

11 2 Cor 13:5; Ps. 26:2

12 Rom 2:4; 9:22; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 2:1

13 Heb 9:25-28; 1 Peter 3:18

14 See, e.g. 1 John 1:9

15 See, e.g. Gen 2:3; Exod. 13:2; Lev. 20:26; 27:14-15

16 Jer 1:5; Ezek. 20:12,37:28; John 10:36; 1 Thess 5:23; Jude 1

17 Exod.19:10; Lev 19:2; Deut. 32:51; and Isa 29:23

18 Exod. 19:10; Lev 11:44; Num 20:12; Deut 32:51; Ezek 20:41; 36:23; 1 Peter 1:16

19 Heb 12:14, NASB

20 Gen 6:9; 1 Kings 15:14; 2 Chron 15:17; 2 Kings 20:3; Job 1:1; 2:3; Ps. 37:37; 1 Cor 2:6; Phil 3:15; 2 Tim 3:17

21 John 17:17

22 1 Cor 1:2; Heb 10:10; 13:12

23 1 Cor 6:11

24 1 Cor 7:14

25 Eph 5:25-26

26 1 Tim 4:5

27 Num 27:22-23

28 Acts 12:15

29 e.g. Heb 1:13-14

30 Some act in a similar capacity for Satan – see Rev. 12:7-9

31 Gen 18:1-8

32 Acts 17:28-29

33 Job 38:4-7

34 The context of Hebrews 2:7-8 recalls the act of God placing Adam in the Garden of Eden and giving him dominion over the earth. Thus, when the spirits of men were sent from their heavenly abode to earth, to inhabit fleshly bodies, they were conveyed to a location that is lower than the place where they lived with the other sons and daughters of God.

35 Heb 2:9-10

36 Jude 6

37 That this passage is addressed to Christ is evident from Heb 1:8-9

38 For Satan’s reward, see Rev. 12:9, see also Jude 6 and 2 Peter 2:4

39 2 Enoch 23:5

3735 words


Initial Rebuttal of Darryl Barksdale’s Opening Statement

James White


Debates are meant to focus attention upon a particular issue, and allow a full, fair examination of the arguments for both sides. To facilitate this, a thesis statement is used. In formal debate, any side that goes beyond the topic is penalized, or even disqualified. The reason for this is easy to understand: when faced with overwhelming factual argumentation, many tend to obfuscate by bringing in all sorts of irrelevant issues and arguments. Hence, in proper and meaningful debate, the side that sticks to the issues and presses home the argument wins.

Unfortunately, we are rarely in a position to have debate judges control the content of written debates such as this one. Such an unbiased and fair judge would be most welcome, indeed. But without one, you, the reader, are left to act as judge. You must hold the debaters to the thesis. You must recognize the introduction of irrelevancies, unfair argumentation, ad-hominem, etc. Since the ultimate decision lies with you, only you can make the proper decisions.

The thesis of this debate is simple: does the Bible teach predestination? This was to be an exegetical debate; i.e., one based upon the close examination of the text1 itself. All arguments presented that do not support, or deny, that thesis are, by definition, irrelevant. In my opening statement I provided a presentation based upon three passages of Scripture. It is now my duty to respond to, and rebut, Mr. Barksdale’s presentation in his opening statement. Unfortunately, this is most difficult to do, since Mr. Barksdale did not choose to present any meaningful exegesis of the biblical passages that specifically present the doctrine of predestination. However, he did present a defense of his position based upon the unique LDS doctrine of pre-existence, and we shall take the time to respond to those assertions, as they form the majority of Mr. Barksdale’s argument.

The Reformed Position

Mr. Barksdale began his presentation with a discussion of the Reformed doctrine of predestination. As long as he was quoting others, the presentation is accurate. However, his own summary, offered at the beginning, is woefully lacking, especially when, ignoring the citations he himself offers later, he writes, “Simply put, it is the belief that God chose those whom He wanted to save before the foundations of the Earth were laid, and the rest He simply “threw away,” for no other reason than that He felt like it.” The punishment of those who are left to God’s wrath will be based upon full and complete justice. Indeed, outside of God’s mercy, all people would face that wrath, for it abides upon all unbelievers (John 3:36).

Mr. Barksdale then, unfortunately, entered into a rather lengthy discussion of many other aspects of soteriology (justification, sanctification, eternal security, etc.) based upon, as he indicated, the work of Richard Hopkins in his book, Biblical Mormonism. Unfortunately, I believe Mr. Hopkins’ work to be the single worst example of LDS apologetics, and as a result, Mr. Barksdale’s presentation, too, completely misses the point with great consistency.

Since it is not the topic of the debate, I will simply note that Mr. Barksdale confuses justification and sanctification; he ignores Paul’s lengthy presentation of the grounds of justification, the role of saving faith, the concept of imputation, and the very nature of the righteousness which will avail before a Holy Judge. Falling into the same trap as Rome, Mr. Barksdale makes justification a subjective thing, rather than the forensic imputation of the righteousness of Christ that alone can give us true peace with God (Romans 5:1). This opens up the entire field of works-salvation, etc., and would take us far beyond the thesis statement of this debate.2

Jeremiah 1:5

Only a few passages exist in all of Scripture that can be read in such as way as to support the idea of the pre-existence of human beings prior to birth here on earth. This doctrine, taught in various Gnostic groups in the period of the early church, and found as well in Origen, is unknown to the vast majority of Christians down through the ages, and is much more at home among Greek philosophers than it is with those who find in the Scriptures their source of authority. Plato, for example, believed in the pre-existence of the human soul (and that the Demiurge had created the world out of pre-existing matter). It is ironic that while LDS apologetic writings are filled with assertions that Christian orthodoxy has been “Hellenized,” it is LDS theology that finds itself dependent upon the Greek philosophers, for as we shall now see, there is no basis for this belief in the Scriptures.

When God called Jeremiah to the office of a prophet in Israel, He did so with these words:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
And before you were born I consecrated you;
I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Jeremiah 1:5 (NASB)

Mr. Barksdale makes the following assertions about the passage: 1) This passage “clearly” has Jehovah telling Jeremiah that He (Jehovah) “knew him in a premortal existence.” 2) The passage presents an “actual process of ordination.” 3) “There is no reason within the boundaries of sound hermeneutics that Jer 1:5 should be interpreted figuratively. The prophet Jeremiah, like all of us, lived with His heavenly Father as a spirit child for an unknown duration before being born on this earth.”

Unfortunately, Mr. Barksdale only offers us these claims: he never touches the text itself. We must do so before evaluating the claims made.

Jeremiah 1:5 presents God’s calling of Jeremiah to the prophet office. It presents four actions on the part of God: He formed Jeremiah, He knew Jeremiah, He consecrated Jeremiah, and He appointed Jeremiah a prophet. Mr. Barksdale assumes (without proving his point) certain meanings for each of these terms. But, is he correct?

Yahweh formed (rc’y , yazer) Jeremiah in the womb. rc’y refers to creative activity, much as we see in Psalm 139:13-16, where the Psalmist refers to the time when Yahweh looked upon his “unformed substance” (a term that can refer to the embryo or fetus). This is Jeremiah’s Creator—the one who creates the spirit of man (Zechariah 12:1). Joseph Smith denied to God the power to create the spirit of man. God, in Mormonism, begets the spirits of men in a pre-existence. Note that nowhere does Yahweh say to Jeremiah, “I begat you as a spirit before you were born.” We must remember that in Mormonism, Yahweh is the Son, one of the very spirits of men that Yahweh is said to create in Zechariah 12:1. Hence, in the LDS view, this is merely the spirit-brother of Jeremiah saying to Jeremiah that they knew each other in the pre-existence. But surely that is not what “formed you in the womb” means.

rc’y is one of a group of terms used of God’s creative activity. The best known is )rfbf, bara. This term is used only with God as the subject: only God truly creates.3 The other common synonym is h#&f(f (asah), to make. These terms are used in parallel with each other numerous times, especially with reference to God’s creative activity in Isaiah.

So how would Jeremiah have understood this revelation from God? What is Yahweh saying when He says he “formed” Jeremiah in the womb? Note briefly the semantic range of the term indicated by the following considerations. The term is often used in the Qal participial form and is translated simply as “Creator” as in Isaiah 27:11, or, in the story of the Potter and the clay, it is rendered “Potter” (Jeremiah 18:2-11, especially significant in our context). This is especially striking in two contexts that are directly relevant to the LDS view of God, Isaiah 29:16 and 45:9:

You turn things around! Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay, That what is made would say to its maker, “He did not make me”; Or what is formed say to him who formed it, “He has no understanding”? (29:16)

“Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker — An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’ Or the thing you are making say, ‘He has no hands’? (45:9)

In Isaiah 44:9-12, the term is used of “fashioning” an idol. In Isaiah 45:7, God is described as the one “forming light and creating darkness.” In Psalm 95:5 the “dry land” is “formed” by God. The same use of rc’y is found elsewhere in Jeremiah’s work: 10:16, 33:2, and 51:19. In every single one of these instances rc’y is used of creative activity.

A common element of Hebrew poetry (and Jeremiah 1:5 is poetic in form) is parallelism. By placing phrases and words in parallel, the writer can expand upon the meaning he is communicating. Note the form of the passage:

Temporal Clauses

 

Actions

 

Explanation

 

Before I formed you in the womb

 

I knew you

 

 

before you were born

 

I consecrated you

 

 
 

I have appointed you

 

a prophet to the nations

 

As we can see, the parallel to being “formed in the womb” is “born.” Given the meaning of rc’y in the above passages, and its parallel here, we can see that Yahweh is 1) Jeremiah’s Creator (not his spirit-brother); 2) speaking of the time before Jeremiah came into existence. B. Otzen, writing from a liberal viewpoint far removed from my own, confirms the obvious meaning of the text and the use of rc’y. Speaking of the use of terms with rc’y” that refer to calling and election, Otzen writes in the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament:

If we then compare the passages from the Servant Songs with Jer. 1:5 and Ps. 139:16 (both of which use yasar), we gain the impression that the notion of creation has yet another function in these texts: election actually precedes creation, so that Yahweh’s sovereign elective authority is emphasized. We may also interpret the Servant passages in this sense: just as Jeremiah was “known” and “consecrated” even before being created by Yahweh, so too was the Servant.4

Now the next item to address is Mr. Barksdale’s eisegetical assumption that the statement “I knew you” (K1yt@i(;day;) must mean that Yahweh had intellectual knowledge of the existence of Jeremiah in a pre-mortal existence. We have already seen that the temporal frame of reference is prior to Jeremiah’s creation. Nothing in the text even hints at the idea of a pre-mortal existence. So what does (dayf (yada) mean in this passage?

There are a specific group of passages that bear very directly upon this concept. From the very beginning of the Bible, (dayf carries with it a meaning beyond the mere intellectual knowledge of things. When Adam “knew” Eve, she conceived and bore a son (Genesis 4:1). In Jeremiah 9:6 we find the use of (dayf in the context of people refusing to “know” God, that is, refusing to acknowledge Him and worship Him as God. Obviously, the dimension of “know” here is far beyond mere knowledge of God’s existence: they refuse to enter into relationship with Yahweh. In the same way, in 24:7 Yahweh says, “I will give them a heart to know (t(adalf, qal inf. const.) Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.” Again, (dayf here refers to relational knowledge, not mere intellectual apprehension of a fact. And in 31:34 the effect of the New Covenant is seen in that all who have been given that new heart will know (w1(d;y’, qal imperfect) Him. Hence, the usage is clearly found in Jeremiah. But it exists elsewhere. In Hosea 13:15 the KJV speaks of God “knowing” Israel in the wilderness. The NASB more accurately captures the meaning of (dayf by rendering it, “I cared for you in the wilderness.” The personal aspect of (dayf is again seen.

But most important for our purposes is the parallel use of (dayf in Amos 3:2, where in the KJV we read, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth.” But again the NASB (and NIV) correctly catches the meaning: “You only have I chosen among all the families of the earth.” The concept of sovereign choosing in (dayf ends up coming into the New Testament via the Septuagint’s translation of (dayf as ginwvskw, and then to proginwvskw (Romans 8:29).5

Now, why take the time to demonstrate this element of the meaning of (dayf? Because as we see in the above chart, (dayf is here paralleled with two other terms: to consecrate and to appoint. So, we can put these terms together and see the clear indication of what Yahweh is saying when we see how know can, and does, mean “to choose.” Yahweh chose, consecrated, and appointed Jeremiah as a prophet before Jeremiah came into existence. That is, God, in His sovereign power, determined that Jeremiah would function as His prophet in Israel at a particular time in history. Just as God raised up Pharaoh for His own purposes, so He chose and appointed Jeremiah. There is no need to eisegetically insert the foreign concept of pre-mortal existence into this passage: the eternal God of the Bible is simply informing His servant that He chose and appointed him to the role of prophet before Jeremiah had come into existence. Botterweck, again writing from a liberal perspective far removed from my own, notes many of these same concepts, and writes in TDOT:

We find yd’ in Am. 3:2 as an expression for the special relationship between Yahweh and Israel or election to service. . . . Yahweh entered into a special relationship of selection and election with Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah, and David. . . . In Jer. 1:5, the appointment of Jeremiah to prophetic office is characterized by is characterized by yd’ par. qds hiphil; long before his birth (ys par. ysr), Jeremiah had been chosen as a prophet (5:468).

At this point Mr. Barksdale gives us a tremendous example of eisegesis. He asserts that Yahweh here raises the issue of ordination to a particular calling via the laying on of hands! Mr. Barksdale, limited to the English text, does not seem to realize that the KJV used the term “ordain” in a much more mundane, non-specific sense, merely that of “making” or “appointing.” The Hebrew term used by Yahweh is

Ntanf, the standard term for “to give, set, appoint, make, constitute” etc. 6 It is used a scant thirteen verses later: “Now behold, I have made (Ntanf) you today as a fortified city….” Obviously, God did “ordain” Jeremiah a fortified city. The term simply does not carry the connotation in this passage that Mr. Barksdale inserts into it.7

In conclusion, then, we find that a thorough examination of the text (which Mr. Barksdale did not even attempt to offer) reveals a much different concept than that offered by my opponent. No basis for a “pre-mortal existence” has been found, and none of the three assertions made by Mr. Barksdale can be substantiated by real exegesis of the text.

More on “Pre-Existence”

Mr. Barksdale goes on to make a number of unfounded and undocumented assertions regarding the Bible and the concept of “pre-existence.” Again, while never offering a shred of exegesis, my opponent weaves together a thread of texts, unrelated to one another, with concepts provided to him not by the Bible, but by LDS teachings. Taking as a basis his unsubstantiated (and exegetically contradicted) understanding of Jeremiah 1:5, he posits the entire concept of God’s “spirit children,” and says that this “solves a great mystery about the origin and nature of the spiritual host referred to in scripture as angels. These servants and messengers of God are none other than the spirits of men, God’s spirit children.” What substantiation does Mr. Barksdale offer for this sweeping conclusion? “The early saints understood this truth and referred to the spirit of Peter as ‘his angel.'” He cites a single passage: Acts 12:15, which reads, “They said to her, ‘You are out of your mind!’ But she kept insisting that it was so. They kept saying, ‘It is his angel.'” While the Bible tells us that angels are ministering spirits (Hebrews 1:14), it never says that angels are spirit-children of a theomorphic man in heaven. God creates angels; He does not beget them (Psalm 104:4,

h#&e(& translated by oJ poiw’n in the LXX). They are created as men are created, but the Bible does not confuse them. As Dr. A.T. Robertson points out in reference to Acts 12:15:

It is his angel ( ~W aggelo” estin autou). This was the second alternative of the disciples. It was a popular Jewish belief that each man had a guardian angel. Luke takes no position about it. No scripture teaches it.

The men were not saying that Peter’s spirit was standing outside. Angels had already been involved in rescuing believers (Acts 5:19). The fact is, the New Testament never confuses men and angels the way Mr. Barksdale does.

Having fabricated a context, my opponent then goes to Job 38:7 which speaks of a time when “the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” He notes that “sons” is the Hebrew term

Nb’@ “which literally means ‘offspring.'” Yes, Nb’@ can mean that. However, is Mr. Barksdale suggesting that it can only mean that, and, is he prepared to demonstrate on the basis of this text that it must mean that here? All we are given is his assertion, “The term “sons of God” is a reference to the spirits of Men in the preexistence, and this verse tells of their joy at the prospect of Earth’s creation.” No exegesis is offered in support of this assertion outside of the singular assertion noted above concerning Nb’@. No lexicons are cited, no grammar presented, no context considered. Later a rather interesting assertion will be made concerning the term “star,” but as for any truly meaningful exegesis, we are offered nothing.

But we need not expend a tremendous amount of energy here. Mr. Barksdale provided a number of citations regarding the need to examine context and allow the Scriptures to speak for themselves in his first rebuttal presentation. We both, obviously, feel that the other is violating the canons of sound hermeneutical interpretation. We both believe the other is ignoring context. But, while Mr. Barksdale may assert that I ignore context, I can demonstrate that Mr. Barksdale is the one doing so. And this citation of Job 38 is an excellent example. You see, when you back up and simply read the passage, its import is clear. God is asking Job rhetorical questions. The whole point of each question asked by God in this section is simple: Job can’t answer, because Job wasn’t there. Job has gone too far in his questioning of God, so God puts Job in his place. Job never answers God (though, if the LDS position is correct, he could!), but instead says: “Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You? I lay my hand on my mouth” (40:4). Job knows there are no answers to these questions. They are meant to show him his creatureliness, that he is the pot, God is the Potter.

But it is just this basic, obvious consideration that utterly refutes the LDS use of this passage! For if Job is one of the spirit children of God the Father, did he not exist prior to his birth here on this planet? Is he not one of the very “sons of God” that rejoiced to see the founding of the earth? This shows that Job did not think for a moment that he existed as one of the “sons of God” who are poetically described as rejoicing at the creation. Instead, the meaning, in context, is crystal clear: the passage is not presenting a discussion of pre-existence, the nature of man’s soul, or anything of the kind. Instead, the Lord was quite clear:

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said,
[2] “Who is this that darkens counsel
By words without knowledge?
[3] “Now gird up your loins like a man,
And I will ask you, and you instruct Me!
[4] “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding,

(Job 38:1-4)

The point is that Job wasn’t anywhere when God laid the foundation of the earth. Job did not yet exist. Hence, Job is in no position to question God’s providence. And, therefore, to make such a passage teach pre-existence is to engage in the very act of eisegesis: reading into a text that which would never have crossed the mind of the original writer and audience.

Refocusing

My initial presentation mentioned only briefly the tremendous words of Jesus in John 6:35-45. Mr. Barksdale did not engage in any meaningful rebuttal of my comments on the passage, choosing instead only to cite a secondary source (a Roman Catholic commentary on the passage). So I would like to expand upon my comments, and ask Mr. Barksdale to attempt to demonstrate why the following is in error. But I ask that he do so on the basis of the text. I am well aware that there are those who disagree with my beliefs. We are not debating that. We are supposed to be debating whether the Bible teaches predestination, and that in an exegetical fashion.

First, I would ask my opponent to explain the words of Jesus, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me” (John 6:37). Who are these who are given by the Father to the Son? We know it is not all people, because of other things Jesus says. He tells the Jews (John 8:48) that they do not believe because they are not

ejk tou’ qeou’, they do not “belong” to God or, literally, they are not “from God.” Many invert the order given by Jesus, insisting that your act of believing makes you one of God’s own. Yet, Jesus’ order is the opposite: if you are one of God’s, you will believe. Salvation, biblically, is always God-oriented, not man-oriented. That is, it is God’s work, not man’s work. It focuses upon what God does, not what man does. In the same way, Jesus said to the Jews, “But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep.” Christ’s sheep hear His voice. They believe because they are His sheep. They do not become His sheep by believing. Christ determines the make-up of His flock, not the sheep. In His High Priestly prayer in John 17, Jesus specifically says, “”I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours” (John 17:9). Obviously, each of these passages introduces a distinction between those who are God’s, Christ’s sheep, who are given by the Father to the Son, and the “world” of unbelievers. So, I ask Mr. Barksdale: who are these who are given by the Father to the Son? How is it that Christ can promise that ALL who are so given WILL come to Him, without fail? How does “free agency” fit into such an assertion? Indeed, where does this passage, or any passage, mention “free agency”? Mr. Barksdale speaks of our “free agency” and says that God “never took away our ability to choose between good and evil.” No one claims He did. If Mr. Barksdale would familiarize himself with Reformed literature he would find that man’s sin enslaves him (as Jesus taught, John 8:34), so that there is no “God seeker” (Romans 3:11). Just as the drunkard has no excuse for his actions while drunk before the law, so man is not excused from his guilt simply because he has a sinful nature.

Next, I wish to direct our attention to the will of the Father for the Son in salvation revealed in John 6:39, “this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.” To be raised up on the last day is to receive eternal life. 8 It is the Father’s will for the Son that He be a perfect Savior. It is the Father’s will that the Son lose none of those the Father has given to Him. How can this be, if, in fact, salvation is determined by a cooperative effort between the Savior and the saved? How can the Father expect perfection on the part of the Son if, in fact, the Son’s work of salvation can be thwarted by the mere will of the creature, man? So I ask Mr. Barksdale: who are these who have been given to the Son by the Father? And how can the Father hold the Son accountable for the complete salvation of all who are so given?

Another Important Passage

Briefly, I wish to expand the exegetical basis of my position by pointing out the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 1:9, where the Father is described as the one “who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity” (NASB). We have here a summary of what we found in Ephesians 1 and Romans 8-9. 1) God is the one who saves. 2) The object of His work of salvation is again specific: the same use of the accusative direct object “us” is found here as in Ephesians 1. 3) God is the one who calls. 4) His call to salvation is not based upon our works (

kata; ta; e[rga hJmw’n). 5) The basis of His calling is His own purpose and grace (ijdivan provqesin kai; cavrin, the emphatic use of ijdivan contrasting strongly with the idea that man’s purpose is the deciding factor–compare Romans 9:16). 6) This grace, which brings salvation, was granted to us (again note the personal direct object) not when we decided to make it effective, but “from all eternity,” and again, in only one place: in Christ Jesus. This passage simply re-enforces the lengthier explanation provided by Paul in Romans. He can summarize here simply because Timothy would already well know the truths of the gospel to which Paul refers.

So we can see that the thesis of our debate remains very clearly decided: the Bible does teach predestination. Mr. Barksdale may suggest other passages for consideration. That is fine. The fact remains that to successfully undertake his position, he must deal with these passages and demonstrate that they do not teach predestination. The passages he himself cites regarding the need to allow Scripture to speak for itself should force him to see the necessity of explaining these texts in their own context. I invite him to do so.


Notes:

1 I will gladly use the NASB as my translation of choice, as I am privileged to work as a Critical Consultant on this fine English translation of the Bible.

2 For those who wish to gain an accurate knowledge of the subjects raised outside of the topic by Mr. Barksdale, there are many excellent summaries: Justification by James Buchanon (Banner of Truth, 1991); Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray (Eerdman’s, 1955), R.C. Sproul’s fine works such as Chosen by God, Faith Alone, and Grace Unknown. Likewise, John MacArthur’s works in the field are excellent. I have addressed these issues extensively in print and in debate: God’s Sovereign Grace, Justification by Faith, Drawn by the Father, and The Roman Catholic Controversy all address the broad issues of soteriology. See also the debate with Fr. Mitchell Pacwa on justification (San Diego, 1991), and with Gerry Matatics (Boston College, 1993).

3 Mr. Barksdale provides a very brief, tremendously unbalanced article written against creatio ex nihilo on his website (/http://www.fair-lds.org/Research/Theology/th0103.html) that completely ignores any and all evidence to the contrary, including such works as Thomas Finley’s article in Bibliotheca Sacra “Dimensions of the Hebrew Word for “Create” ()rfbf) (V 148 #592, Oct 91) as well as Paul Copan’s valuable contribution, “Is Creation Ex Nihilo A Post-Biblical Invention?: An Examination of Ferhard May’s Proposal,” Trinity Journal 17NS (1996). No mention is made at all of the fact that )rabf is used only of God, and that the idea of “pre-existing matter” is not a part of the usage of the term at all in the OT.

4 6:263 (1990)

5 The LXX uses ejpivstamai rather than ginwvskw at Jer. 1:5.

6 BDB p. 678, Holladay, pp. 249-250.

7 Mr. Barksdale’s citation of Numbers 27:22-23 regarding the setting apart of Joshua as the leader of Israel by the “laying on of hands” seems to be meant to connect this with the LDS practice of laying on hands to ordain to the priesthood. However, one will search in vain for any laying on of hands in the actual ordination of priests in the Old Testament law, aside, that is, from the laying on of hands on the head of an animal about to be sacrificed.

8 This is seen by noting the parallel use of the phrases ajnasthvsw aujto; ejn th’/ ejscavth/ hJmevra/ and e[ch/ zwh;n aijwvnion in John’s Gospel.

Word Count: 4906



Rebuttal to Mr. White’s Opening Argument

Darryl L. Barksdale

Some time ago, I encountered my esteemed opponent in an AOL chat room, as he has already indicated in his opening statement. Jokingly, I told him that I would be happy to give him a “lesson in exegesis” regarding his claims regarding the Calvinistic doctrine of Predestination. Even though I spoke in jest at the time, little did I know just how extensively I would need to tutor him on this subject.

Mr. White opens his argument, as is frequently his wont to do, with an imaginary encounter with a Mormon “patsy” that allows Mr. White to create an artificially bright shining moment wherein his dazzling brilliance is made clearly known to all. Such situations in Mr. White’s world are almost always fabricated and intentionally one-sided. 1 One has to wonder what White would do if he encountered a Mormon who actually was well-versed in matters of Christian History and textual criticism. I highly doubt he would publish that encounter in any of his articles or books.

One of the most shocking accusations that Mr. White makes in this opening “dialogue” is directed to the fictitious Mormon “patsy” and claims that he (the Mormon) insists on “pick[ing] and choos[ing] what parts [he] will, or will not, believe.” The irony in this statement is that this eisogetical practice is exactly what Mr. White himself engages in. Mr. White does not accept the whole of the Bible’s teaching on salvation. Instead, he demands that we accept his definition and declaration of a “canon within a canon” which can only be considered, according to White, while ignoring the balance of the Bible’s teachings, including those of our Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ. Indeed, in Mr. White’s view, his interpretation is the only one possible or plausible. Everyone else who disagrees with him, whether their arguments are substantive or not, is simply in his view “picking and choosing” from Scripture.

Bible scholar Peter H. Davids, Ph.D., comments on the “canon within a canon” eisogesis in his essay, “Authority, Hermeneutics, and Criticism”:

“We do not believe that one has any real authority if he or she removes material from its context. To snatch a few paragraphs from this chapter and read them out of context of the whole would be to distort their meaning. To look at Paul in isolation from the teaching of Jesus is to distort Paul’s message and thus not to draw from Biblical authority at all.”2

Dr. Davids goes on to articulate very clearly what the real weakness is in Mr. White’s argument for Predestination:

“Hermeneutical discussion assists one in discovering how one is interpreting Scripture and thus what one might be filtering out of Scripture. Interaction with the full world of critical scholarship means that one is looking at Scripture from a variety of angles and traditions, many of which will be different from one’s own. The result will be a tendency to see one’s own blind spots and correct the shortcomings of one’s theology.”3

This, Mr. White has failed miserably to do. Instead of considering the “full world of critical scholarship,” Mr. White insists instead that he, and he alone, is a sufficient “authority” to pronounce any matter of religion “closed” to further discussion or discourse.4 Further evidence of this kind of unjustifiable arrogance can be seen in White’s endnotes, particularly in numbers 4,6, 11, and 12.. where he uses HIMSELF as a primary source to bolster his arguments. This kind of arrogance forms a common thread throughout all of White’s writings. When he cannot find corraborating evidence to prove his point.. he merely quotes himself as a primary source. How convenient. And how unscholarly.

Indeed, the venerable Bible scholar Werner Stenger cautioned against the tendency to be selective with Scripture, and claims that theologians who succumb to the temptation to “pick and choose,” as Mr. White does regarding Predestination, “belong to that group of poor readers who find in texts only what they already know. What echoes back to them from Scripture is the very words that they themselves have shouted into the forest.”5

Stenger quotes Friedrich Nietzsche as demanding that true Biblical exegetes “[read] facts without falsifying them by interpretation, without losing caution, patience, delicacy, in the desire to understand.”6

Finally, Stenger relates what he considers to be the true standard for correct exegesis:

“One prerequisite for [correct exegesis] is to transfer the Biblical texts from their apparent familiarity into an unfamiliar context, one that enables the reader to hear the Bible itself speaking, not merely the echo of his or her own voice. It is only such distance between reader and text that makes it possible to exclude any projections of meaning prompted by one’s own ideas and desires and to open one’s ears to the often alien voice of the text itself.”7

Has White done this? The answer is a resounding ‘No.’

General Refutations

First of all, I believe some boundaries would be useful to establish to facilitate a completely unbiased treatment of White’s exegesis. And since, in reviewing his biography, I see no advanced degrees from any institution of higher education in the field of ancient languages, much less ancient Greek, I respectfully decline to use or accept James White’s English translations, but rather will lean on those of genuine, accepted scholars with legitimate, accredited advanced degrees.

In beginning his presentation, White methodically sets up his straw man…that the Scriptures “plainly teach the divine truth that God predestines men unto Salvation.” If this were so, one would think that there would not be any other belief system in existence within Christianity. Yet such is demonstrably not so, as any Methodist can readily attest.

White’s premise (and the major weakness of his position) is not simply that it is plausible to find a Predestination teaching in Scripture, he actually demands that it is the only way that Scripture can be legitimately interpreted. In making this drastic assertion, White opens himself up to the harshest of scrutiny.. for he has made the job of his opponents.. in this case myself.. infinitely easier. The task that White has dictated for his opponents by his rigid proclamation is not to prove that Predestination is wrong, but simply that other interpretations are hermeneutically possible, or at least legitimately plausible. If such can be accomplished, then White’s claim that his interpretation is the only one possible is fatally flawed, and must be rejected on its face. That having been said, let us begin.

What of Ephesians 1:3-11?

White claims that from Ephesians 1:3 we learn three major tenets.. namely that 1) God is the one who blessed us; 2) that Paul is not speaking of “all mankind” here, but specifically of the redeemed; and 3) that the phrase “in Christ” is central to God’s thought. As to this conclusion, I would find objection only to White’s demand that “us” be interpreted as meaning the elect or redeemed. This assumption demands that the text of Scripture be overlaid with the template of Calvinistic bias in order to be interpreted, which is in direct opposition to the direction provided to us by Davids, Nietzsche, and Stenger, whom I cited earlier.

White proclaims that verse 4 is “central to our subject.” And so it is. But even as it appears to White that it is “central” to his argument, it also poses some interesting questions in its own right. The verse reads, “…just as He chose us in Him before the creation of the world so that we should be holy and blameless before Him.”

This verse, interpreted as White demands, begs the question. If we did not exist before the world was created, how could He “choose us in Him”? How can something that does not exist be “chosen”? According to White’s view, this would be somewhat akin to walking into an art gallery and “choosing” a work of art that had not yet been painted. Without a knowledge of the premortal existence of man and of our pre-Earthly relationship with our Heavenly Father, this is the kind of absurdity that one is reduced to.

White claims that “The passage says that we were chosen by God the Father, not that a mere ‘plan’ was chosen, or a ‘process’ put in place.” Interestingly, that is certainly not how genuine scholars have interpreted this passage. For instance, scholar Rebecca Lyman translates this passage as follows:

“For he has made known to us the mystery of his will according to the purpose which he set forth in him as a plan for the fullness of time…” (Eph 1:9-10, emphasis added)8

Clearly, attempting to set God’s WILL against His plan is nonsensical. Pheme Perkins says, “Those who come to believe in Christ find themselves participating in God’s eternal plan9 Following this line of reasoning poses other problems for White, not the least of which is how to deal with why Paul stated that the Jews who reject Christ will be included in salvation.10

Preexistence Arguments

White then proceeds to declare that because we were chosen “before the creation of the world”, that our salvation “therefore cannot possibly be based on anything that we ourselves do or “choose”. This is sovereignty–free and unlimited.”

One has to legitimately wonder how White can draw the conclusion that “sovereignty” is “free and unlimited” from the fact that we were chosen before the foundation of the world. White certainly doesn’t tell us.

One clue, I suppose, might be found in White’s 3rd endnote wherein he declares, “I reject the LDS doctrine of pre-existence, and there is nothing in Paul’s theology, or the Bible’s teaching, that presents such a concept…”

As for the Bible not teaching of the premortal existence of man, I provided copious references to such in my opening statement, and am very eager to see White’s exegesis of those passages. White himself seems to acknowledge that if the premortal existence of man were a reality, that his own arguments would collapse under their own weight. Therefore, he forms a logical fallacy to hide behind.

Mathematics teaches us a basic construct. If A=B, and if B=C, then A=C. This formula only holds up, however, as long as A=B, or B=C. If either of those are incorrect, the formula is false. One can posit that all dogs are blue. One can further posit that Rover is a dog. One can then, use this formula to say that Rover must be blue. But since the first “leg” of this formula is factually false, the conclusion is as well.

Such is the case with White’s argument. His logic takes the following form:

  • There is no Biblical doctrine of the Preexistence of Man.

  • Predestination requires that Man did not Preexist the Creation.

  • Therefore, Predestination is true.

In this example, White’s first assumption, that there is no Biblical doctrine of the preexistence of man, is fatally flawed. Therefore, his conclusion is also in error.

In his attempted definition of the Greek for “predestined”, White attempts to pull the wool over our eyes a bit to avoid having to address this issue. White is most emphatic about the definition of the Greek proorizo which appears in vs 5 and 11. He says, “The meaning of the term is not ambiguous, no matter how hard some might try to avoid its impact. It means “to choose beforehand” or “predestinate.” (emphasis mine)

Any true linguistic scholar would howl at this statement. As soon as anyone says that there is “no ambiguity” about the meaning or usage of ancient languages (scripts or orthographies), alarm bells should be ringing off the hook somewhere. Someone is trying to “sell” you something. So it is in this instance.

While the definitions mentioned by White are certainly valid definitions, Strong’s also lists “foreordained” as a valid definition. One must wonder why White neglected to mention this possibility? Why was he so selective in his definitions? Since “foreordained” fits the text much better, especially in light of Jeremiah 1:5, one must wonder why White did not include that definition? Very simple. Foreordination assumes the prior existence of man, which is what White does not want the reader to consider.

One can only speculate on how White explains John 9. In this passage, we have an individual born blind. This fact is emphasized several times, including the testimony of his parents that he was, indeed, born blind. Christ’s disciples asked Him a very interesting and instructive question: “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he born blind?” (John 9:2, emphasis mine) White clearly fails to see how an individual could “sin” prior to birth.

It is more than significant that the core of White’s argument, his rejection of the preexistence of man, upon which rests the entirety of the credibility of his argument, is relegated to one footnote which quotes no primary source, no evidence, no authority…other than James himself.

What Does “Predestined” REALLY Mean?

Scholar Markus Barth teaches us that in verse 11 (which White refers to), “The Greek original uses a verb (kleroo) which meant originally to ‘cast a lot,’ or more specifically, ‘to appoint or designate an officer by lot.’ When the procedure of using a lot was forgotten, the world assumed the meaning, ‘to assign something,’ or in the passive, ‘to be in possession.’ Ephesians 1:11 is the only NT passage where this word occurs. Probably because of its ambiguous meaning, but perhaps also due to careless copying, some ancient MSS and the Vetus Itala substitute the better known verb, ‘we have been called.'”11

Far from stating that “The meaning of the term is not ambiguous,” Barth actually directly contradicts White and says that it is ambiguous, and then goes on to say “The complicated problems posed by the present text must be met, and a choice among three possibilities faces the interpreter:”

This is most curious indeed. White asserts that only his definition must be used, and that that definition is “not ambiguous.” Now we have a genuine scholar directly contradicting White’s assertion. Who are we to trust? More importantly, what does this do to White’s argument that the scriptures “plainly teach predestination”, and that only his interpretation is the only plausible possibility?

What White does not seem to comprehend very well is the overall context of this Ephesians passage. Let us consider carefully verses 11-13 for a moment. In this passage, Barth notes that “The congregation of the saints is suddenly no longer described only by the anonymous pronoun “we.” It is not an amorphous mass in which each individual may be exchanged for another; rather it has a structure. Christ is at its head; the apostle and other servants installed by God address it with authority and are its foundation. Thus there is a vertical difference of authority in the Church, and now a differentiation on the horizontal level becomes apparent. A group called “we” is distinct from another group addressed as “you.” Though both participate in the same love, election, and grace of God and are one body, some were first called to constitute god’s people, others were added later.” 12

Quite simply, this passage speaks of the “election” or “calling” of the Jews, and the subsequent addition of the Christians as God’s “chosen people.”

Barth suggests that of the three possible interpretations of this text, one of them is “We were given a share.” Col 1:12, the parallel text to Ephesians 1:11, speaks distinctly of a “part in the share of the saints.” To the notion of “blessing” (1:3) such a distribution fits beautifully. This interpretation leaves room for further additions to the bequeathed property.. as indeed according to 1:14 the Spirit now given is but an “earnest” of the total that is to come. Barth notes that “Ephesians 1:11 can be translated as “We have been made God’s clergy,” and the Christians can be considered a sort of “levitical community.””

Indeed, the third possibility that Barth presents (and which he indicates is the most correct interpretation), is that the proper translation is “We have been appropriated,” or “Claimed as God’s own,” in the same manner as Jehovah told the ancient Israelites in the covenant formula “I will be your God, and you shall be my people”, which points back to the liberation of Israel.

White goes on to embark on a rather tedious sermon of sorts, asserting that there are three “bookend” points come from the Ephesians passage, none of which I disagree with.

The first point raised is that Christ is the center and author of our Salvation, and that outside of Him, there is no other. I agree that salvation is strictly and completely in, and through Christ Jesus. I have no issue with the idea that we do nothing of ourselves that in any way merits salvation, for that is Christ’s and Christ’s alone to effect.

The second point raised, as White articulates it, is that God’s people.. AS a people.. are “possessed by Him,” as He has made known so eloquently regarding the Jews, and then the early Christians. As a people, they were.. and are, His chosen. I find no disagreement in this statement either.

His third statement is equally innocuous, as far as it applies to God’s people as a whole. His purposes will not be frustrated. His will is sovereign.

The point on which White errs is the unBiblical extension of the predestination of a people to the “irresistable grace” of individuals. This is clearly not the case, and cannot be found in scripture.

As Dr. Davids warned, we must not pull passages out of context, lest we completely lose our Biblical authority. Along with his teachings regarding the predestination of groups of people, Paul also teaches us that Christ is the author of eternal salvation to “all them that obey Him”. This statement is clearly conditional and cannot be ignored. It places a requirement of obedience on the believer to gain salvation, which falls squarely outside of the realm of “irresistable grace.”

The ancient Israelites are a perfect example of this principle. As a group, they were “possessed” by the Lord as “His people” in covenant relationship. Inasmuch as they, as individuals, adhered to the laws given them, they as a people were accepted and “predestined” to be God’s people. When they as individuals strayed and were disobedient, God showed His displeasure of them, and His rejection of them because of their behavior. The key to understanding the principle of predestination in the case of the ancient Israelites lies in their covenant relationship with God.

To reject this obvious truth causes numerous problems for Calvinists. For instance, if God predestinated the Israelites, and if they were truly “regenerate”, why did they so often turn from the Lord? Wasn’t it His “will”, being “predestined”, that they follow Him? Was He then powerless to bring to pass His will? Was it truly His will that they apostatize and worship idols, as was their wont to do?

What about the early Christians? If they were “predestined”, why did a general apostasy take place after the ascension of Christ? Why did Christ Himself prophesy of such an apostasy occurring? Why did He not exercise His “sovereign will” to ensure that his elect would not fall away? Why were the very same saints who were “predestined” according to Paul then warned by John on the Isle of Patmos that they were in danger of LOSING their salvation? Was this the will of God, or was God thus powerless to bring about the salvation of this group of people?

The truth is very simple and far more congruent with Scripture. GROUPS of people, in different circumstances, have been predestined to be “God’s Chosen”. However, God in His infinite wisdom and compassion still grants them, as individuals AND as a group.. their free agency to choose who they will serve. For some, it was Satan, even though they had previous been identified as “God’s Elect”. Others quietly and humbly attested that “…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)

Paul affirmed this truth quite clearly when he wrote that our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, “…being made perfect…became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;” (Heb 5:9) Notice that if Paul had meant that individuals were saved no matter what had they had the “happy accident” to be predestined individually for salvation.. he surely does not mention any hint of that here. In fact, he seems to take great pains to contradict such a position.

Replacing the predestination of “God’s Chosen” people and the foreordination of individuals with absolute predestination of individuals poses another interesting question for Mr. White. As noted in Romans 8:29-30, we learn that those who are predestined are called, and the called are then justified, and then glorified. Note that they are called… not bound and gagged under the guise of “irresistable grace”. Matthew 10:1-4 lists those that Christ called to him: Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James, Lebbaeus, Simon, and Judas Iscariot. Following White’s logic, and the concept of “irresistable grace,” one can only assume that Mr. White believes that Judas is in heaven.

The predestination of “God’s Chosen” people, but the “free will” accountability of each individual saint formed the backbone of Paul’s theme throughout his writings. As a people, the Christian saints were “God’s Chosen”, as were the ancient Jews. Individually however, they had their free agency to choose God, or Satan. And as a people, a predestined people at that, they ultimately chose to be reject God, to reject His apostles, and be beguiled by the paganistic wiles of the Greek Hellenistic philosophers, just as Christ and Paul and others had foretold.

John 6

Mr. White, incredulously, attempts to use Christ’s sermon in the synagogue at Capernaum to “prove” his fallacious theory. His “proof” however, falls completely apart in the first two sentences, which Mr. White desperately attempts to rationalize away in his endnotes, using no other authority than his own reasoning. It doesn’t work.

The passage cited by Mr. White is John 6:35-40, which reads:

“And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Mr. White would have us believe that Jesus’ words in verse regarding “all that the Father giveth me” refers to the predestination of the individual. Does it? Is this the only plausible interpretation, as White suggests?

Raymond Brown, in the Anchor Bible, sheds some light on the meaning of this passage (as does the rest of the passage itself, in context): he says:

“The stress in vs. 37 that God destines men to come to Jesus does not in the least attenuate the guilt in vs. 36 for those who do not believe. One might conjecture that the reason that they do not believe is because God has not “given” them to Jesus. Yet it would be unfair to NT thought-patterns to elaborate this as a psychological explanation of the refusal to believe. The NT often gives its explanation on a simplified level wherein all happenings are attributed to divine causality without any sharp distinction between primary and secondary causality. Nor do these verses resolve the disputes about predestination that have been the subject of theological debate since Reformation times. With all John’s insistance on man’s choosing between light and darkness, it would be nonsense to ask if the evangelist believed in human responsibility.” (emphasis mine)13

Christ makes a number of very clear statements here that John captures, which completely oppose the overlay of a Predestination template on this passage. Those who make the choice to come to Christ will never be hungry. Those who make the choice to believe in Him shall never thirst. “Indeed, this is the will of the Father, that EVERYONE who look upon the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life.” (vs. 40) Everyone. All-inclusive. Not some select, exclusive “club.” Everyone.

Conclusion

Mr. White has certainly not disappointed his loyal followers. He has yet once again proffered the same level of scholarship and accuracy for which Evangelical scholars Paul Owens and Carl Mosser observed concerning another paper written by White:

“The article by James White, Of Cities and Swords: The Impossible Task of Mormon Apologetics, was an attempt to introduce evangelicals to LDS apologetics, to the work of FARMS, and, in the process, critique the group. This article failed on all three points. White’s article does not mention a single example of the literature we have presented in this paper. He does not accurately describe the work of FARMS, or of LDS scholarship in general. He gives his readers the mistaken impression that their research is not respected in the broader academic community. We believe that we have demonstrated that this is simply not the case. His attempted critique picks out two of the weakest examples. Not only does he pick weak examples, he does not even give these an adequate critique. This is nothing more than ‘straw man’ argumentation.”

Consider the facts. Mr. White entered this debate with a written agreement that we discuss Predestination from a Biblical perspective only. This was not a Mormon/Non-Mormon debate. This was the debate of a Biblical principle between two opposing apologists. Even Mr. White states at the beginning of his opening statement, “I hope that this debate will, in fact, focus upon… the meaningful, fair, scholarly exegesis of the text of Scripture. Indeed, for my part, I shall do all I can to keep the focus where it needs to be.” (emphasis mine)

White seems to ignore his commitment even in his opening statement, where he takes numerous irrelevant and inappropriate pot-shots at Mormon theology and doctrine, attempts to drag non-canonical Mormon statements into the debate (see his remarks about the King Follett Discourse), and cannot otherwise resist throwing out numerous insults and condemnations of Mormon doctrine in general. One certainly would have hoped that Mr. White would have followed his own injunction at least throughout his own opening statement.

Mr. White has insisted that his interpretation of the text of Scripture is the only plausible interpretation that can be made. I have shown that this is not the case, using scholars such as Markus Barth, Raymond Brown, and others.

Mr. White insists that Predestination cannot refer to God’s Plan for us. I have presented several other scholars who beg to differ with his translation.

Mr. White has denied the reality of the premortal existence of man, without any Scriptural justification whatsoever.

Mr. White has insisted that passages that deal with God’s Chosen people as a whole must apply to the absolute predestination and “irresistible grace” of individuals, denying them any choice in whether they follow Christ or not. I have shown that this is clearly not a biblical concept, and is in contradiction to the statements of both Paul and Christ.

Mr. White demands that the absolute sovereignty of God can only be what HE defines it to be, denying the basic foundational principle that he himself labors so diligently to prove: namely, that God can do whatsoever things He wishes. Even if that means that God wishes to allow us the freedom to choose whether we will follow Him or not.

Mr. White has preached a good sermon. But he has produced very little, if any, substance to back up his claim. Instead, he has intentionally disregarded context, historical background, and correct hermeneutics to force-fit a Reformed theology onto Sacred text which contradicts it in innumerable places. He even managed to be insulting and ill-behaved in the process.


Endnotes:

1 See introduction to Letters to a Mormon Elder, which is the only place in the entire book where the “Elders” are identified as “fictitious”.

2 Peter H. Davids, “Authority, Hermeneutics and Criticism”, New Testament Criticism and Interpretation, David Alan Black and David S. Dockery, Editors (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991) pg. 32.

3 Ibid, pg. 33

4 For instance, in discussions with those of opposing views in the Christianity Online area of America Online, Inc., when asked for citations from valid Biblical scholars to support his assertions, Mr. White has repeatedly demanded that his word alone stand as the final authority against which all matters religious be weighed and determined, and that no other authority other than himself is necessary to consider.

5 Werner Stenger, Introduction to New Testament Exegesis, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), pg. 2.

6 Friedrich Nietzsche, “The AntiChrist”, The Portable Nietzsche, trans. W. Kaufmann (New York: Viking, 1954) pg. 52.

7 Stenger, pg. 2

8 J. Rebecca Lyman, Christology and Cosmology (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), p. 20.

9 Pheme Perkins, Ephesians (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997), p. 38 Emphasis mine.

10 Rom 11:25-32

11 Markus Barth, Ephesians: The Anchor Bible (New York: Doubleday & Co., 1974) pp. 92-113

12 Ibid.

13 Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John I-XII: The Anchor Bible (New York: Doubleday & Co.) p. 276

4965 Words


Second Rebuttal to Darryl Barksdale

James White


This response will come in two parts. First, I will respond to those statements made by Mr. Barksdale that are relevant to our debate. The second portion will respond to the many statements and accusations Mr. Barksdale makes in his first rebuttal that are utterly gratuitous, irrelevant, and hence distracting to the debate itself.

Mr. Barksdale begins his response by citing from various sources regarding the need to engage in proper hermeneutical procedure and to closely observe context. Aside from the citation of the nihilistic atheist Friedrich Nietzsche who coined the phrase, “God is dead,” (a true biblical scholar and resource for guidance in exegetical studies), I find little to disagree with in these statements. Of course, Mr. Barksdale insists that all these statements are relevant to me: however, he somehow forgot to prove his allegations by citations from my writings, hence, his allegations are without merit or weight and must be dismissed in any meaningful debate.

Ephesians 1

Mr. Barksdale failed to respond to the vast majority of the exegesis offered of Ephesians 1 in my opening statement. Here are examples:

When responding to my demonstration that “we” or “us” is the constant grammatical direct object of the verbs describing God’s act of salvation (including “predestine” in 1:5 and 1:11), Mr. Barksdale insists that this requires the assumption of Calvinism, “which is in direct opposition to the direction provided us by Davids, Nietzsche, and Stenger, whom I cited earlier.” Of course, asserting that I am eisegetically inserting such a template of “Calvinism” requires Mr. Barksdale to prove his point, and he does not even try to do so. Unfounded assertions are without weight in a scholarly debate. I believe it is Mr. Barksdale who is engaging in eisegesis. I proved this with reference to Jeremiah 1:5 and Job 38:7, and will give many further examples below.

Next, in responding to the demonstration that God chose us in Christ “before the foundation of the world” (1:4), Barksdale writes, “This verse, interpreted as White demands, begs the question. If we did not exist before the world was created, how could He ‘choose us in Him’? How can something that does not exist be ‘chosen’?” Mr. Barksdale identifies this as an “absurdity.” Yet, later, Mr. Barksdale speaks of God’s “omniscient foreknowledge.” What does “omniscient foreknowledge” mean? We are not told. In any case, Christians have always acknowledged that God knows all things, including the future. If Mr. Barksdale does not believe God knows the future, we should address that assertion. The Bible is very clear on that subject.1 If he does, however, his objection here is meaningless, because we are simply asserting that God chose us before creation itself since He is eternal (i.e., He exists outside of time). Our existence, due to His absolute sovereignty and control over all things (Ephesians 1:11, Daniel 4:34-35, Psalm 135:6, Isaiah 43:13), has been an eternal reality to God. To say that God could not choose us before we existed (which is Barksdale’s position) requires proof from him as well, and we are offered none.

Next, Mr. Barksdale commits a tremendously obvious error of simple logic and research. He cites my assertion that “It is vital to recognize the personal aspect of this choice on the part of God the Father. The passage says that we were chosen by God the Father, not that a mere ‘plan’ was chosen, or a ‘process’ put in place.” I stated this right after saying, “Again the Father is in view, for He is the one who chose us (hJma'”, accusative, indicating direct object of ‘to choose’).” These comments were made while exegeting Ephesians 1:4. How does Mr. Barksdale respond to the simple fact of Greek grammar that “we” is the direct object of the verb “to choose”? When I challenged him on this in the AOL chatroom, he had no response. And, in this debate, he has likewise failed to respond. Instead, he replies as follows:

Interestingly, that is certainly not how genuine scholars have interpreted this passage. For instance, scholar Rebecca Lyman translates this passage as follows:

“For he made known to us the mystery of his will according to the purpose which he set forth in him as a plan for the fullness of time . . .” (Eph 1:9-10, emphasis added).

The careful reader immediately detects the problem: I was talking about Ephesians 1:4. Mr. Barksdale then quotes what he calls a “genuine scholar” talking about….verses 9 and 10! How is it a valid procedure to take my comments on verse 4 and reply with a secondary citation of someone’s comments on verses 9-10? Such is obviously without merit. We are offered no direct exegesis of this passage by Mr. Barksdale. No response is given to the text itself, only a citation from a secondary source that is not even on the same passage I was discussing. Such is hardly worthy of one who continues to offer “tutoring” in how to do “exegesis.”

Hence, it should be emphasized, Mr. Barksdale has not responded to one of the chief elements of this debate. The text is plain. The direct object of the verb proorivzw in Ephesians 1:5 and 1:11 is personal. It is not a plan. This has been proven by the direct citation of the text and the discussion of the accusative case of hJma'”. If Mr. Barksdale cannot refute this information, his position is lost. All other attempts to get around this truth cannot save him. Let’s keep our eye on the ball and not be distracted. He must respond to these facts.

But the errors in his reply do not end here. Under the subtitle “What Does ‘Predestined’ REALLY Mean?” Mr. Barksdale offers us one of the most glaring errors presented in this debate thus far. He attempts to deal with Ephesians 1:11 and my comments regarding this passage. When I introduced the term proorivzw (“predestine”) in my opening statement, I wrote:

This is the first appearance of the word “predestined” in the text. The exact same term (proorivzw) is used in verse 11 as well. The meaning of the term is not ambiguous, no matter how hard some might try to avoid its impact. It means “to choose beforehand” or “to predestine.”

I then provided endnote 5, which reads, “See any standard lexical source, such as BAGD (p. 709) or Louw & Nida (pp. 360-361).” How does Mr. Barksdale respond to this information? He does so by citing Markus Barth’s comments on Ephesians 1:11. Unfortunately, he cites Barth’s comments not on

proorivzw (proorizw) but on klhrovw (klerow), a completely different Greek term. Barth notes that klhrovw appears only once in the New Testament (a fact that should have caused Barksdale to recognize his mistake, since, obviously, “predestined” appears both in 1:5 and 1:11, as well as four other places in the NT!), and is “ambiguous” in meaning. Barksdale comments:

Far from stating that “The meaning of the term is not ambiguous,” Barth actually directly contradicts White and says that it is ambiguous, and then goes on to say “The complicated problems posed by the present text must be met, and a choice among three possibilities faces the interpreter:”

This is most curious indeed. White asserts that only his definition must be used, and that that definition is “not ambiguous.” Now we have a genuine scholar directly contradicting White’s assertion. Who are we to trust? More importantly, what does this do to White’s argument that the scriptures “plainly teach predestination”, and that only his interpretation is the only plausible possibility?

As we can see, Barksdale has erred grievously. Barth does not “directly contradict” me because, of course, Barksdale has confused proorizw with klerow. Hence, he is accusing me of error on the basis of his own inability to deal with the text in a direct manner. Please note that it is not ad-hominem argumentation to point out such errors of fact and citation. Indeed, Mr. Barksdale asks us to consider what this does to my argument that the Scriptures plainly teach predestination. Indeed, what does it do to consider that Mr. Barksdale has failed to even begin to respond to the exegetical issues raised, but has only responded with such fallacious, confused, and erroneous argumentation as this?

But should anyone actually believe that the meaning of the term is unclear, and does not find the standard lexical sources I cited (which go without comment by Barksdale) to be sufficient, I quickly add the comments of K.L. Schmidt in the highly acclaimed TDNT as further confirmation that “genuine scholarship” is not confused on this topic:

This comparatively rare and late word is used in the Gk. Bible only 6 times in the NT in the sense “to foreordain,” “to predestinate.” Since God is eternal and has ordained everything before time, proorivzein is a stronger form of oJrivzein. . . . The omniscient God has determined everything in advance, both persons (emphasis added) and things in salvation history, with Jesus Christ as the goal.2

In attempting to get around the meaning of the text in Ephesians 1, Barksdale asserts,

Quite simply, this passage speaks of the “election” or “calling” of the Jews, and the subsequent addition of the Christians as God’s “chosen people.”

But again, we find Barksdale engaging in eisegesis. Where does he get this from the text? None of the secondary citations he provides says this, and he does not even attempt to deal with the text directly to substantiate his claim. Yet, he uses this unfounded, eisegetical conclusion as the basis of his assertion, “The point on which White errs is the unBiblical (sic) extension of the predestination of people to the “irresistable (sic) grace” of individuals. This is clearly not the case, and cannot be found in scripture.” Again, we are simply given this bare assertion: nothing is connected with the text at all. We are given no exegetical argumentation. Does Barksdale deal with the use of the personal pronoun “we” as the direct object of the verbs describing God’s action of choosing, predestining, glorifying, etc.? No. Does he deal with the fact that the actions of God undertaken in Ephesians 1:3-11 are obviously relevant to individuals and not just groups of people? Just a quick glance at the text shows how there is no connection between Barksdale’s claims and the words of Scripture: verse 4 says that we are to be holy and blameless. Is this not personal? Verse 5 speaks of adoption as sons. Is this not individual? Verse 7 speaks of redemption through His blood. Do not individuals experience redemption? Verse 7 also speaks of forgiveness of sins. Is that not personal? This is a tremendous example of the difference in theology that comes from the Scriptures and a theology that is forced onto the Scriptures.

Mr. Barksdale seems to believe that citing Hebrews 5:9 where Christ is said to be the source of eternal salvation “to all those who obey Him” is somehow a refutation of predestination. The assumption seems to be that by obeying Christ, you gain salvation. Of course, the text can be understood descriptively rather than prescriptively. That is, Christ is the source of eternal salvation; those whom He saves He does perfectly, and they are the ones who obey Him. Obviously, the unregenerate God-hater does not wish to obey Christ or submit to Him. Therefore, the only ones who obey Christ truly are those who are saved. Again, we see the difference between looking at the Gospel in a God-centered way (God saves men perfectly, hence, He changes them and they long to obey Him, and do so) and a man-centered way (God’s work of salvation is dependent upon my obeying Christ, hence making Him able to save me). Taking the advice of the scholars cited by Mr. Barksdale who tell us to take all of Scripture into consideration, I ask a simple question: if salvation is based upon my obedience to God (i.e., if by my obedience I actuate, continue, or complete, the “process” of salvation) rather than my obedience being the result of salvation, then how can God the Father hold God the Son accountable to save all those that are given to Him, and not lose one? If salvation is a cooperative effort, how can the Son possibly fulfil the Father’s will for Him perfectly? I would like to see Mr. Barksdale answer this question.

Next, we are pointed toward the concept of the “covenant” as an important issue, and it surely is. But Mr. Barksdale seems to miss the fact that there is an old covenant and a new covenant. He points to Israel as the covenant people of God and says, “if God predestinated the Israelites, and if they were truly ‘regenerate,’ why did they so often turn from the Lord.” I don’t believe that the Israelites, as a people, were regenerate. The Old Covenant did not guarantee regeneration of the heart. As the writer to the Hebrews pointed out:

(Hebrews 8:6-13) But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. [7] For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. [8] For finding fault with them, He says, “BEHOLD, DAYS ARE COMING, SAYS THE LORD, WHEN I WILL EFFECT A NEW COVENANT WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AND WITH THE HOUSE OF JUDAH; [9] NOT LIKE THE COVENANT WHICH I MADE WITH THEIR FATHERS ON THE DAY WHEN I TOOK THEM BY THE HAND TO LEAD THEM OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT; FOR THEY DID NOT CONTINUE IN MY COVENANT, AND I DID NOT CARE FOR THEM, SAYS THE LORD. [10] “FOR THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR MINDS, AND I WILL WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS. AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. [11] “AND THEY SHALL NOT TEACH EVERYONE HIS FELLOW CITIZEN, AND EVERYONE HIS BROTHER, SAYING, ‘KNOW THE LORD,’ FOR ALL WILL KNOW ME, FROM THE LEAST TO THE GREATEST OF THEM. [12] “FOR I WILL BE MERCIFUL TO THEIR INIQUITIES, AND I WILL REMEMBER THEIR SINS NO MORE.” [13] When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.

The new covenant speaks of a “new heart,” a regenerate heart. Hence, that objection is hardly relevant, since Reformed theologians have never identified Israel as a regenerate people. But he goes on:

What about the early Christians? If they were “predestined”, why did a general apostasy take place after the ascension of Christ? Why did Christ Himself prophesy of such an apostasy occurring? Why did He not exercise His “sovereign will” to ensure that his elect would not fall away? Why were the very same saints who were “predestined” according to Paul then warned by John on the Isle of Patmos that they were in danger of LOSING their salvation? Was this the will of God, or was God thus powerless to bring about the salvation of this group of people?

Again Mr. Barksdale assumes what he has yet to prove. Paul warned that many would arise in the church speaking perverse things (Acts 20:30). But, he just as clearly indicated that these men were not Christians, and that the Church would continue on “to all generations forever and ever” (Eph. 3:21). The Church is meant to fight false teaching throughout the time prior to the coming of Christ. This no more indicates that the Church has failed and disappeared than the existence of splinter groups in Mormonism proves the Salt Lake element is automatically apostate. Barksdale says Christ prophesied that an “apostasy” would take place, but gives no references. Remember: if one person, or a lot of people, commit apostasy, this does not mean that all have done so. God did make sure that His elect did not fall away. Indeed, God’s promise that none He has saved would ever perish is prima facie evidence against the LDS concept of a universal apostasy of the Christian Church. As to the reference to John, again, since no reference is given, no response can be offered. God’s will is to save His people: and He has done so, perfectly, throughout the years, decades, and centuries since the Lord Jesus returned to the Father.

The only other statement made regarding this issue that needs to be responded to is the statement that since Jesus called Judas Iscariot as an apostle that this somehow means I must believe Judas is in heaven. I do not believe this. The calling Mr. Barksdale refers to was a calling to apostleship, not to salvation. Instead, mentioning Judas only proves my point: the Scriptures are plain in teaching Judas was predestined to the role he took (John 6:70-71, 17:12).

John 6

I mentioned in my first rebuttal that the substance of Mr. Barksdale’s response to my presentation drawn from John 6:35-45 was to be found in a single citation of a Roman Catholic commentary. But he did make a common response based upon isolating John 6:40 from its context and turning the entire section on its head. That is, Barksdale refers to the Lord’s statement that “everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life,” and on this basis says, “Everyone. All-inclusive. Not some select, exclusive ‘club.’ Everyone.” Of course everyone who looks receives eternal life. But here again Barksdale violates his own stated position regarding maintaining context and allowing the Scriptures to define themselves. Verse 40 comes after verses 35 through 39. Who are those who come to Christ? Who are those who believe? The elect, those who are given by the Father to the Son. As pointed out in my original presentation (and ignored by Barksdale), coming to Christ follows and is the result of being given by the Father to the Son. “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me” Jesus says (6:37). Grammatically, being given by the Father precedes the coming of the elect to Christ. If one is not given, one will not come! This is exactly what is said in John 6:44, another passage Mr. Barksdale chose to ignore. Hence, it is quite true that “everyone” who looks and believes will have eternal life: but looking and believing are things done only by the elect! Only the elect are “enabled” to do these things (John 6:65). Every one of the elect will look and believe, that is certain. If I were to say, “Everyone with Windows 98 can run this program,” I am not, by that statement, saying that every single individual can run the program. There is a condition. In the same way, “No one is able to come to me unless the Father, who sent Me, draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44). Prior to the elect’s coming and believing must be the giving of the Father, the drawing of the Father.

Barksdale’s Conclusions

Mr. White has insisted that his interpretation of the text of Scripture is the only plausible interpretation that can be made. I have shown that this is not the case, using scholars such as Markus Barth, Raymond Brown, and others.

We have seen that Mr. Barksdale erroneously cited Barth about a term other than the one I used; we have likewise seen that he cited Raymond Brown merely to show Brown doesn’t believe John 6 answers questions on predestination—he did not even cite a single element of exegetical refutation of my assertions.

Mr. White insists that Predestination cannot refer to God’s Plan for us. I have presented several other scholars who beg to differ with his translation.

Barksdale presented no one in his defense: he cited one scholar about verse 11, but left my entire exegesis of 1:4-6 untouched. No one disputes that boulhv can be translated “plan” in verse 11. But that has nothing whatsoever to do with the direct object of proorivzw. Mr. Barksdale could not answer this simple fact of exegesis when we first discussed this in AOL. And nothing has changed. Facts remain facts.

Mr. White has denied the reality of the premortal existence of man, without any Scriptural justification whatsoever.

I presented Romans 9:11 twice in my presentation as evidence against “pre-existence” in the LDS view. Mr. Barksdale ignored my comments, hence, the line, “without any Scriptural justification whatsoever” is simple misrepresentation.

Instead, he has intentionally disregarded context, historical background, and correct hermeneutics to force-fit a Reformed theology onto Sacred text which contradicts it in innumerable places.

I believe it is obvious who has intentionally disregarded context, historical background, and correct hermeneutical procedure. Mr. Barksdale has offered no exegesis that takes into consideration context, and citing secondary sources regarding verses other than the one under discussion is hardly the stuff of “correct hermeneutics.”

Refocus

Before responding to some of the miscellaneous charges included by Mr. Barksdale, I wish to refocus our attention yet once again. The thesis of our debate is, “Does the Bible Teach Predestination?” I have presented a number of passages wherein the text plainly, clearly does this. I have demonstrated grammatically that the object of predestination is plainly personal. I have discussed the meaning of the relevant terms, the forms in which they are found, and the conclusions to be drawn from the text. Darryl Barksdale has, thus far, not offered a single paragraph of exegetical argumentation. He has cited sources as far flung as God-hating atheists like Nietzsche, to conservative Roman Catholics like Brown, but he has so far utterly avoided doing the one thing he so confidently offered to do originally: provide a “lesson in exegesis.” Instead, he has made basic, fundamental errors regarding what terms are being examined, what verses are being discussed, and has, so far, not shown that he is able, or willing, to engage the topic as promised. Unless Darryl Barksdale can present a thorough, fair, scholarly, and accurate exegesis of Ephesians 1:3-11, Romans 9:11ff, and John 6:37ff, he will fail to uphold his side in this debate. He must explain why Paul presents as the direct object of proorivzw the personal pronoun hJma'”. If he cannot deal with this reality, his position is lost. I strongly encourage Mr. Barksdale to focus his attention upon providing a direct, first-hand exegesis of these passages. Do not limit our readers to mere second-hand citations of commentaries any of us could read. Let’s do what we have promised to do: exegete the text. I have upheld my side of that agreement. I call upon Mr. Barksdale to do the same.

A Litany of Errors

I shall be as brief as possible here since, in reality, none of this is relevant to the topic of the debate, outside of the impact it has to consider the amount of improper argumentation and error of fact found in Barksdale’s presentations. I do not enjoy correcting such errors, and the reader may wish to ignore this section and move on with the body of the debate.

    1. I created no “Mormon patsy” (a highly offensive term to begin with) and was not disingenuous in the story I presented at the beginning of my opening statement. It happened just as I said, and I challenge Mr. Barksdale to prove otherwise.
    2. “The irony in this statement is that this eisogetical (sic) practice is exactly what Mr. White himself engages in.” We have already seen documentation that the truth is exactly opposite of this assertion.
    3. “Indeed, in Mr. White’s view, his interpretation is the only one possible or plausible. Everyone else who disagrees with him, whether their arguments are substantive or not, is simply in his view “picking and choosing” from Scripture. . . .Instead of considering the “full world of critical scholarship,” Mr. White insists instead that he, and he alone, is a sufficient “authority” to pronounce any matter of religion “closed” to further discussion or discourse.” An endnote (#4) is attached that says, “For instance, in discussions with those of opposing views in the Christianity Online area of America Online, Inc., when asked for citations from valid Biblical scholars to support his assertions, Mr. White has repeatedly demanded that his word alone stand as the final authority against which all matters religious be weighed and determined, and that no other authority other than himself is necessary to consider.” In response: If what Mr. Barksdale means is that I believe that there is only one consistent interpretation of God’s Word (i.e., that God does not contradict Himself), of course. But that is not what he means, his further comments demonstrate. Barksdale’s assertions are simply unsubstantiated, false ad-hominem argumentation. He cannot produce a single shred of documentation of his outrageous claims. I insist that he either document from my writings such a claim, or withdraw it with an apology.
    4. Barksdale goes on: “Further evidence of this kind of unjustifiable arrogance can be seen in White’s endnotes, particularly in numbers 4,6, 11, and 12..(sic) where he uses HIMSELF as a primary source to bolster his arguments. This kind of arrogance forms a common thread throughout all of White’s writings. When he cannot find corraborating (sic) evidence to prove his point.. (sic) he merely quotes himself as a primary source. How convenient. And how unscholarly.” This is probably one of the most ridiculous assertions I have encountered. First, it is untrue. Look at the endnotes he cites: in #4 I cite numerous primary sources; I merely added a reference to an article I have written on the subject at the end. Barksdale is being dishonest to say I could not find “corraborating (sic) evidence” when the citations are right there. Look at #6: this is a comment on the syntactical function of the phrase, and a comment regarding its importance. Can Barksdale refute the statement? Is he saying that I cannot make comments on Greek syntax? I have taught Greek professionally for a number of years, and am a critical consultant on a major Bible translation. Does he dispute these facts? Look at #11: here I simply refer the reader to a fuller exposition of the text. Does Mr. Barksdale dispute that I have written such a work? What point hinges upon my mere reference to such a work? None at all. The point is not in dispute in the first place. And #12 is a mere comment on the text: does Barksdale deny the information presented? Hence, there is nothing “arrogant” found in any of these endnotes. But let us use this as a test-case for the consistency of Darryl Barksdale€s argumentation. On page 197 of How Wide the Divide? we find an endnote by Dr. Stephen Robinson of Brigham Young University. Dr. Robinson, in endnote #7, cites himself. He refers to his previous book, Are Mormons Christians? Has Mr. Barksdale contacted Robinson concerning this “unscholarly” and “arrogant” action? In the next endnote Robinson refers people to The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, which, of course, he contributed to. Is this “convenient” as well? Over and over again Robinson refers readers to his own works. Is Mr. Barksdale consistent here? Does he condemn Robinson as vociferously? But let€s look further: Warfare in the Book of Mormon is a FARMS production edited by Stephen Ricks and William Hamblin, both of BYU. And again we find numerous endnotes wherein the authors refer readers to other writings by the same authors. Could we find a letter from Mr. Barksdale somewhere in the FARMS offices chiding these LDS scholars for their actions, calling them arrogant and unscholarly? You see, there is nothing “unscholarly” about noting the fact that you have written more extensive discussions of a subject. If Barksdale were a published author, it would be perfectly acceptable for him to refer readers to his works in the manner I did in my presentation. Nowhere did I make a contested point and say, “You need to believe this just because I say so.” To assert otherwise is nothing short of dishonest, for it involves a glowing double-standard.
    5. Barksdale asserts that I “cannot otherwise resist throwing out numerous insults and condemnations of Mormon doctrine in general. One certainly would have hoped that Mr. White would have followed his own injunction at least throughout his own opening statement.” I will allow the reader to decide who has constantly thrown out insults.
    6. Mr. Barksdale concluded his comments by saying, “He even managed to be insulting and ill-behaved in the process.” I will leave it to the reader to determine who has been insulting and ill-behaved. I simply ask that my opening presentation be re-read in the light of the errors I have documented above. Any unbiased person can see the truth of the present situation.


Notes:

1 See Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 1994), pp. 190-193.

2 TDNT, V:456.

Word Count: 4841


Closing Statement

James White 



I wish to thank any reader who has taken the time to read this far through this rather lengthy exchange. It is my hope that you have been benefited by the sections that actually managed to focus upon the topic of the debate: an exegetical discussion of the simple fact that the Bible teaches the doctrine of predestination.

Having reached the concluding comments, I wish to be very focused in making sure that everyone is fully aware of the fundamentals of the debate so that a meaningful and biblically-based decision can be rendered by each reader—not that the truth of this debate is determined by vote or popular opinion, for it is not. Instead, God’s truth judges each of us, and we are each held accountable to that truth, whether it is popular or not. If only a few, or even none, were willing to believe God’s truth, that would only condemn us all as unbelievers. It would not change God’s truth. My presentation has not been designed to convince the person who is not willing to bow before God’s Word and conform himself/herself to that revelation. I can’t help such a person. But, if you wish to know what the Bible teaches, and follow after that truth, I hope you have been benefited.

In my closing statement I wish to do four things: 1) document further errors of fact made by Mr. Barksdale in his second rebuttal; 2) Summarize the biblical evidence on the point of the debate; 3) Offer a word to the LDS reader of this debate; 4) Offer a word to the Evangelical reader of this debate.

Many More Errors

In my previous response I documented the fact that Mr. Barksdale not only uses some rather interesting sources for his arguments (including world-famous nihilistic philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche), but his exegesis is marked by simple, basic errors in research and understanding. I documented that he would often respond to comments on one verse by citing commentary on a completely different passage. In another instance, he criticized me for comments on the meaning of one Greek word by citing a reference about a completely different Greek word. Unfortunately, this kind of mishandling of the most basic elements of the text continues in Mr. Barksdale’s second response. Not only is the biblical text completely misrepresented, but even my own words are made to say something they did not originally say. These errors are significant for any person wishing to weigh our respective presentations on the basis of accuracy and cogency.

Mr. Barksdale attempts to respond to my exegesis of Jeremiah 1:5, but in doing so demonstrates that he has badly misread my words. For example, he writes:

Mr. White claims that “formed” in Jeremiah 1:5 is the “same” as Psalms 139:13-16 and refers to “unformed substance,” which he immediately announces is “a term that can refer to the embryo or fetus.” The term Mr. White is referring to is the Hebrew y’tsar, which literally means “to form,” or “to make.” Nowhere in scripture is it used to denote an embryo or fetus. Mr. White needs to show us some examples in scripture where this term is used in the manner he describes, and thus justify his exegesis.

What I wrote, however, is:

Yahweh formed (rc’y , yazer) Jeremiah in the womb. rc’y refers to creative activity, much as we see in Psalm 139:13-16, where the Psalmist refers to the time when Yahweh looked upon his “unformed substance” (a term that can refer to the embryo or fetus).

The term “same” does not appear in what I wrote; it is obvious that I did not say that rc’y refers to an embryo or fetus, but am referring to Mlego which, of course, any lexical source defines as “embryo, fetus.” In the same way, he completely misreads my comments regarding the same term’s use in Jeremiah 1:5. He begins by denying the obvious: that yatzer is used in parallel with bara in numerous passages, and is part of a group of terms used to refer to creation (just one example: Isaiah 43:1). Then Mr. Barksdale writes, “Is Mr. White seriously suggesting that yatsar is only used in the Bible to refer to creation by God alone? Yup.” He then goes on to disprove this false assertion. I never made the claim, however, that Mr. Barksdale refutes. In fact, any person who read my presentation can see that I said bara is used only of God (see footnote 3), but I never so much as intimated that this is true of any other term. Mr. Barksdale has simply misread my words.

But of far more concern and import to our debate is the attempt to deal in some fashion with the words of the Lord Jesus at John 6:35-45. There is truly no passage that is so clear, so cogent, so weighty in its teaching of the sovereignty of God in salvation and election than this. And certainly there is no end to the attempts that have been offered to get around the plain teaching it presents. But the text is clear. Jesus explains why men who have seen Him do not believe (6:36). He insists that ALL (not some, not most, but ALL) that the Father gives to Him will come to Him (6:37). Grammatically and syntactically, the act of giving by the Father must precede the coming to the Son. God acts in giving to the Son (election), the elected ones respond by coming infallibly to Christ in faith. Mr. Barksdale’s only way around this simple fact is to leave John completely and go to a disputed passage in Mark 16 which nowhere even attempts to address the relationship between the election of the Father and the response of the elect person. It is this “coming one” that is never cast out (6:37). The Lord goes on to explain the Father’s will for Him (v. 39): that of all that the Father has given to Him (here using the perfect

de,dwke,n rather than the present di,dwsi,n used in 6:37 due to the gathering of the elect into a single whole, seen through the use of the neuter singular pronouns in 6:39), He lose nothing, but raise it up at the last day. He then identifies those who are so given by the Father as those who are coming and believing in Him (6:40). Remember, however, that Jesus has already indicated the relationship between being given and coming: the Father’s action precedes the action of man, and therefore determines it. This is re-iterated in 6:44, where the Lord makes it plain that no man has the ability to come to Him outside of the divine drawing of the Father, a drawing obviously that is limited to the elect, since it likewise results in their being raised up to eternal life. This is directly contradictory to Mr. Barksdale’s assertion that “ANYONE can come to Christ and be saved.” Instead, Jesus taught that “whosoever will” is the key: and since no one will unless enabled by the Father (6:65), only the elect “will” do so.

But most instructive for us is the attempt by Mr. Barksdale to introduce us to a completely new, never before seen “translation” of John 6:39 that, seemingly, removes his difficulties with this passage. He begins with the seemingly obligatory insult: “The text of this passage allows for some other possibilities that Mr. White is loath for our readers to see.” To be honest, I had never seen Mr. Barksdale’s “possibility,” since, as we shall see, it doesn’t exist to anyone who actually engages in exegesis of the text. Here is his assertion:

One of the ways that the Greek word for “given” (didomi) is translated is “made.” Given the context that John provides in verse 40, a more accurate rendering of verse 39 might be as follows:

“And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath made I should lose nothing, but should raise up again at the last day.”

This is certainly consistent with verse 40 and with other similar passages, such as 2 Peter 3:9 and 1 Timothy 2:3-4.

Now, I hope we all remember that Mr. Barksdale rejects any translations I offer, yet, we have here an offered “translation” from him. Surely, if there is merit in his assertion, this would alleviate him from many problems with this passage in John 6. Yet, isn’t it a little strange that he would offer us a translation of a language he does not claim to be able to read? And given that I am not familiar with a single English translation anywhere that renders the passage as Mr. Barksdale, what does it mean that he would go to these lengths? Let’s look at the claim, as it speaks to my opponent’s entire effort to engage in “exegesis” in this debate.

The first assertion to examine is his statement that divdwmi can mean “made.” We are offered no lexical sources for this assertion. Where does it come from? The standard scholarly lexicon, that of Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich and Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 2nd edition, gives reference to a majority of the 446 appearances of divdwmi in the New Testament (75 in the Gospel of John). The vast majority mean “to give.” The only exception is the fifth section under the third definition, which reads, “equivalent to tiqevnai put, place…put money in the bank Lk 19:23; appoint someone…judges Ac 13:20; w. double acc. appoint someone someth….(to be) apostles Eph 4:11….make someone head 1:22″ (p. 193). Here is the only reference to “make” in the entry, and it is obviously not “make” in the sense of “create,” but “make” as in “make someone head” or “place” in a position, a meaning utterly different than that presented by Mr. Barksdale.1 Further, BAGD lists John 6:39 not here, but under the meaning “entrust someone to another’s care,” which is exactly what the Father does: He entrusts His people to the Son’s care for their salvation.

Hence, Mr. Barksdale is in error to say that divdwmi can mean “make” in the sense he then uses it. The word means to give, to entrust, and even when used as an equivalent term to tithemi, still means “to place in a position.” None of these meanings, however, comports with the use made by Barksdale. This is one of the reasons why no English translation produced by scholars translates the passage as he does: the word doesn’t mean what Mr. Barksdale says.

But there is an even more startling problem with Mr. Barksdale’s “translation.” It takes only a moment’s comparison to see the problem: an entire word, moi, the dative singular pronoun translated “to Me” in all English translations, is, quite simply, missing in Mr. Barksdale’s “translation”! That is, all English translations recognize that the passage speaks of the Father giving to someone, and that someone is the Son. “All that the Father gives to Me” is the phrase. “To Me” is completely missing in Barksdale’s “translation.” Where did it go? Look again at his suggested rendering. I will place a line where the term moi should appear:

“And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath made _____ I should lose nothing, but should raise [it] up again at the last day.”

Obviously he can’t include it, since that would result in “which He made to Me,” which is utter nonsense. The presence of moi makes the translation “made” utterly impossible. This is the other reason no English translation renders it this way—no person who can read the language would ever suggest it. The meaning of the word is thereby misrepresented by Barksdale, and the text itself is altered, with an entire word “skipped over” simply because my opponent does not wish to accept the plain teaching of the passage.

Now, we should stop for a moment to reflect upon this situation. The foundation of this debate was to be the exegesis of the text of Scripture. When one side has to change the text of Scripture by skipping over words and mistranslating basic words such as

divdwmi, is this not an indication that the position being presented is unable to remain faithful to the text under consideration? The very first day I challenged Darryl Barksdale on this topic I pointed him to the fundamental structure of the text, and I have not changed my position since then. Yet, we have now seen that not only are his past attempts to respond to the exegesis of Ephesians or Romans marked by a singular inability to interact with the specific texts cited (resulting in his confusion as to what words are being discussed), but now we find him willing to offer his own “translation,” along with the assertion that I am “loath” to allow anyone to consider it, which is in fact a complete mistranslation, based upon an erroneous understanding of one Greek word, and the complete dismissal of another! If Mr. Barksdale’s position is exegetically sound, why can’t he demonstrate it from the text itself?

In response to the citation of 1 Timothy 2:3-4 and 2 Peter 3:9 that follows this attempt to deal with John 6:39, I quote God’s Sovereign Grace, a work I wrote in 1991 (and offered to send to Mr. Barksdale at the commencement of our debate, but he declined):

Q: 2 Peter 3:9 indicates that God does not want anyone to perish. Doesn’t this disprove the doctrine of election?

A: We must always apply sound rules of exegesis to the Scriptures. Peter accepted the Old Testament’s teaching about the nature of God. He knew Psalm 135:6 and 115:3, and the truth that whatever God pleases, He does. And, since we have already seen that repentance is the gift of God, could He not give repentance to anyone He chooses? Finally, the context of the passage must be consulted. 2 Peter is written to the elect, as 2 Peter 1:1 shows. In chapter 3, Peter is explaining the delay of the parousia, that is, the coming of Christ. He explains that Christ will indeed return, and that the delay is in order that God may gather His people. “He is patient with you,” Peter writes to God’s people, “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” The “everyone” is in reference to all of God’s elect. The only reason that you are reading this book nearly 2,000 years later is because God has been patient, giving the world all this time, so that all of God’s elect could be gathered in.

Q: 1 Timothy 2:4 says that God wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. Doesn’t this disprove the concept of election?

A: Again, the entire context of Scripture, as well as of the passage, must be considered. Aside from all the passages that clearly indicate God’s ability to save all men, and bring all men to a knowledge of the truth if He so desired, we again note the context of the passage. Verse five speaks of the mediatorship of Jesus Christ, and, as we saw in our examination of the atonement and intercession of Christ, this work is undertaken in behalf of God’s people. Therefore, the term “men” in verse 5 is limited to the elect of God. As John Owen noted in this regard,What then, I pray? what will be concluded hence? Cannot Christ be a mediator between God and men, but he must be a mediator for all men? Are not the elect men? do not the children partake of flesh and blood? doth not his church consist of men? What reason is there to assert, out of an indefinite proposition, a universal conclusion? Because Christ was a mediator for men (which were true had he been so only for his apostles), shall we conclude therefore he was so for all men? (John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, p. 78.)

The same is to be said for verse 6, where the ransom sacrifice of Christ is mentioned. We have seen that this sacrifice was made in behalf of the people of God, not for each and every individual. Therefore, if verses five and six specifically mention the work of Christ in behalf of the elect, verse four does as well. This fits consistently with the entire teaching of Scripture. “All men” here is the same “all” that are given by the Father to the Son in John 6:37.

Q: Doesn’t the Bible exhort “whosoever will” to come?

A: Yes, it does. The Gospel message is addressed to all men. However, just who “wills” to come? We know that the natural man does not understand the things of the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:14) and that no man seeks after God (Romans 3:11). We also know that the Lord Jesus said that no man is able to come to Him unless the Father draws him. So, outside of God’s initial move in regeneration, no man will “will” to come to Christ.

Q: If God has already chosen who will be saved, why share the gospel, since they will be saved whether we are involved in evangelism or not?

A: This is probably the most common objection that is voiced against the doctrine of election. There is a clear answer, but before getting to that, we should note that the question is not a proper one; that is, our questions should be based upon the teaching of the word of God, not what we can or cannot necessarily understand. Even if we did not have an answer to the question, would this necessarily mean that Ephesians 1:11 does not teach what it obviously teaches?

But, we do have an answer anyway. First, we evangelize to glorify God. We do not go out to “save” anybody, since we are incapable of doing that in the first place. We share the gospel because by so doing, we bring glory to God. If that is all the reason we had, it would be sufficient. But there is more. We know that God has given us a great privilege to be used by Him in His work in this world. He has given to us a blessing to be able to share the gospel with men. God has decreed both the ends and the means. He has decreed to use men in sharing the gospel with His elect. Why has He done so? I do not know. I only know that His Word reveals that it is so. God has not seen fit to give us knowledge of who is, and who is not, His elect. Therefore, we share the gospel with all men, and trust God to honor the proclamation of His message by drawing the elect unto Himself. We can share boldly with all men, knowing that God is powerful to save, and as long as we seek to glorify Him, He will care for us and bless us with His Spirit.

The Matter Concluded

The Bible teaches that God predestines men to salvation through Christ Jesus. It is clear that the elect are known to God, and are chosen on the basis of His own mercy, grace, and will. We have already seen this plainly presented in Ephesians 1, Romans 8-9, and John 6. Try as anyone might, it is a fruitless task to attempt to deny these plain facts. Every effort to overthrow this doctrine has failed, for the Word is too plain, too consistent. Mr. Barksdale could not answer that first day in the AOL chat room why it was that the accusative direct object of “predestine” was the plural personal pronoun, “us.” To this day, he cannot overthrow that simple fact.

Few of those who reject God’s electing grace have any accurate knowledge as to what they are denying. Most react solely out of emotion, not out of thought or study. When one truly begins to consider what it means that “salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9) and that it is “by His doing you are in Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 1:30), certain truths come flooding into the mind. First, that God is truly worthy to be worshipped and praised, since He is truly God (and not man, Hosea 11:9), the Creator, the Potter, in whose hands I am but the clay. The arrogant pride of man is shattered by just a glimpse of the true God, and it is that pride that is so badly crushed by the sovereignty of grace. All grounds of boasting, all reasons for arrogance and pride, are cut off by the gospel of grace. I am no better than any other. I am not “smarter” in that I have “figured it out” while the lost do not. I am not “more righteous” because I somehow “worked the plan” while those in eternal punishment did not. No, there is only one thing that separates me from the sinner undergoing righteous punishment in hell: grace, a five letter word that becomes to the believer life itself. That is why in eternity to come it is grace that will be our song, grace that will be the object of our praise (Ephesians 1:6). And that is why it is that we work out our salvation in fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), for “it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (v. 13). The fear and trembling I have is in recognition of the holiness and awesomeness of the God who is at work within me, doing His good pleasure!

I am under no illusions that the majority of folks will like what I have to say. God’s truth is not a matter of vote or popularity: indeed, truth is rarely very close to popular opinion. And when it comes to telling men and women of the sovereignty of God, and how men are enemies of God, lost sinners utterly without hope (Romans 3:10-18), and that they are completely and totally dependent upon God and His mercy to save them, I well know how the heart as yet to be touched by grace responds to that message. But I boldly proclaim it anyway. Why? Because it is true, and because God will honor His truth. His sheep hear His voice. His people will not be caused to stumble by His Word. The message will get through to the elect, and no power in heaven or earth can stop God from bringing His people into relationship with Himself. Conviction and conversion is God’s work—I am but privileged to be an instrument to bring His truth to His people in His time and in His way.

A Word to LDS Readers

Over the past decade and a half I’ve spoken with literally thousands of LDS people. I well know how very different this message is to your ears. It is truly my hope that you will consider well the teaching of Scripture: that you will recognize that one cannot skip and jump about seeking to find some other passage to explain away the meaning of the one under consideration. Take the time to check out the sources cited, but more importantly, the text itself. Listen to Paul describe election in Ephesians 1, and see if there is, indeed, anything “human” mixed into it. Listen as Jesus says “no man is able to come to Me” in John 6:44, and that “all that the Father gives Me will come to Me” in verse 37. Follow the Golden Chain of Redemption in Romans 8, and see if it is not the work, completely, of a sovereign God.

Mr. Barksdale has accused me of taking “digs” at Mormonism by doing such things as citing Joseph Smith’s own words in the King Follett Discourse. Such are not, of course, digs, anymore than Stephen Robinson or Daniel Peterson are taking “digs” at Mormonism when they, likewise, cite the same words. The simple fact of the matter is, electing grace has no ground in Mormonism simply because there is no corresponding God in Mormonism who could produce it. That is, it is theology proper (the doctrine of God) in Christianity that supports soteriology (the doctrine of salvation). But in Mormonism’s theology, there is no eternal, omnipotent Creator, hence, there is no possibility that a Mormon, assuming the LDS doctrine of God, could understand the concept of sovereign grace. If you believe God is an exalted man, one of our own species, the idea of election, predestination, and even sovereignty, can make no sense to you. I am well aware of this. One might well say, “Then why bother talking to Mormons about such things?” Because, I have seen my God reveal Himself through His Word to LDS people. I’ve seen Him utterly remove the false concepts about His existence, and replace them with the truth of His eternal power and sovereignty. I’ve seen Him open eyes to the depth of sin, and the absolute necessity of grace. That’s my confidence, and it is truly my prayer that you will be the recipient of His grace even this hour.

A Word to My Fellow Evangelical Christians

Years ago I began saying this, and I will say it again: the Gospel is ours to proclaim, not to edit. We have no right to shave off the “rough edges” in the interest of making the Gospel “look better” to our modern, self-absorbed world. We have no business meddling with the very power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). It is the Gospel that changes hearts, and makes those who hate God love Him. It is the only power given to the Church, and we should treat it as precious.

There are many in Evangelicalism who have relegated the discussion of election and predestination to “deep doctrine we don’t need to worry about,” or a topic “upon which good men have differed.” Yet it is definitional, fundamental, and determines the very nature of our theology, our evangelism, our view of the Church, and our apologetic. We are deprived of our foundation and depth in truth when we ignore these topics, or fail to proclaim them, fearing the face of men. The great London Baptist preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, said it in terms granted by divine ability:

There is no attribute of God more comforting to His children than the doctrine of Divine Sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe troubles, they believe that Sovereignty hath ordained their afflictions, that Sovereignty overrules them, and that Sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the children of God ought more earnestly to contend than the dominion of their Master over all creation — the kingship of God over all the works of His own hands — the throne of God, and His right to sit upon that throne.

On the other hand, there is no doctrine more hated by worldlings, no truth of which they have made such a football, as; the great, stupendous, but yet most certain doctrine of the Sovereignty of the infinite Jehovah. Men will allow God to be everywhere except upon His throne. They will allow Him to be in His workshop to fashion worlds and to make stars. They will allow Him to be in His almonry to dispense His alms and bestow His bounties. They will allow Him to sustain the earth and bear up the pillars thereof, or light the lamps of Heaven, or rule the waves of the ever-moving ocean; but when God ascends His throne, His creatures then gnash their teeth; and when we proclaim an enthroned God, and His right to do as He wills with His own, to dispose of His creatures as He thinks well, without consulting them in the matter, then it is that we are hissed and execrated, and then it is that men turn a deaf ear to us, for God on His throne is not the God they love. They love Him anywhere better than they do when He sits with His scepter in His hand and His crown upon His head. But it is God upon the throne that we love to preach. It is God upon His throne whom we trust.2

I ask you to join with me in revealing to our LDS friends the truth about God: who He is, and what He has done in Christ Jesus. They speak often of the Gospel, but have not heard it. They need bold Christians who share in love: love for God, love for His truth, which leads to a love for those who need to hear that truth. We are not loving the LDS people when we give them only half-truths. We show our love most fully when we lay ourselves on the line, absorb the slings and arrows that come from sharing with them, and trust God with the results. Only then are we truly fulfilling Christ’s command to love our neighbor as ourselves.

We shall never be clearly persuaded, as we ought to be, that our salvation flows from the wellspring of God’s free mercy until we come to know his eternal election, which illumines God’s grace by this contrast: that he does not indiscriminately adopt all into the hope of salvation but gives to some what he denies to others. —John Calvin  

May God be glorified as His truth is made known.



Endnotes:

1 For those interested, this usage is even further removed from the use made by Mr. Barksdale: it refers to a double accusative (as in Ephesians 1:22), and there is, of course, no accusative direct object of divdwmi in John 6:39!

2 Sermon delivered May 4, 1856 on Matthew 20:15, The Spurgeon Collection CD-ROM, Ages Software, 1998.

Word Count: 4991


Closing Statement

By Darryl L. Barksdale 

I would like to begin this statement by extending a sincere thanks to my opponent, Mr. James White. He has certainly kept me honest within these proceedings and has shared some valuable insights into the rationale behind his position, for which I am most grateful. I certainly wish him well in life.

My Errors

Let me be brutally honest for a moment. I am not a Greek scholar, and, because of this, I have made several glaring errors in this debate which have proven to be most embarassing. I attribute them solely to the hastiness in which I prepared my responses to Mr. White, and realize in hindsight that I should have spent more time reviewing my responses before I posted them. He is quite justified in correcting me in the areas where I misspoke.

My request to the reader, however, is to carefully examine the bulk of my arguments, especially the numerous arguments that I posed from which Mr. White tiptoed away, and compare them with Holy Writ to see if they are not reflective of the truth. Even if one removes the arguments that contain errors of translation, the remaining arguments are staggering in their cumulative condemnation of the doctrine of the predestination of individuals to salvation or damnation.

From the previous statements and rebuttals of this debate, I would like to present a summary of Mr. White’s main arguments for the position that we are individually predestined to salvation or damnation, and that no other interpretation of Holy Writ is plausible.

A Brief Summary

Ephesians 1:3-11 is used as the mainstay of White’s argument in favor of the predestination of individuals to salvation and damnation.

White asserts that in verse 3, among other things, only the “redeemed” are being addressed because Paul uses the personal pronouns “us” and “we,” and thus this is proof that God the Father predestinates individuals to salvation or damnation.

Besides the obvious fact that we know that Paul did not even write the epistle to the Ephesians, curiously nowhere does Mr. White explain why these very common pronouns should be restricted to the “redeemed,” rather than to those who were the intended audience of the author of this epistle.

This is a logical fallacy called “begging the question.” In other words, the truth of White’s conclusion that this verse teaches the predestination of individuals to salvation or damnation is assumed entirely from the premise that “us” and “we” should be used in an overly restrictive sense.

I suppose if you want to get really technical about it, the entire “us” argument falls apart because it is a syllogistical error of existential fallacy. White is drawing an unwarranted specific conclusion from universal premises… that “us” refers to only the redeemed, when it clearly refers to a much broader and more universal group.

When I addressed this erroneous assumption on White’s part, he sidestepped the real issue and accused me of responding to the fact that “us” was the direct object of the “verbs describing God’s act of salvation.” Apparently Mr. White thought that no one would catch his error. I was not responding to White’s “demonstration that ‘we’ or ‘us’ is the constant grammatical direct object of the verbs describing God’s act of salvation,” but rather to his insistence that “us” and “we” refers ONLY to “the redeemed,” and that his unsubstantianted interpretation in any way proves the idea that individuals are predestined to salvation or damnation.

Mr. White continued his objection with a most interesting statement:

“Of course, asserting that I am eisegetically inserting such a template of “Calvinism” requires Mr. Barksdale to prove his point, and he does not even try to do so. Unfounded assertions are without weight in a scholarly debate.”

I challenged White specifically about his rendering of “us” as to be referring only to the redeemed! What is there on my part to prove? The word is not there! Mr. White has yet to provide any justification for defining “us” and “we” as only the “redeemed” or “elect” from the text itself, and yet claims that I have not proved my point and nor did I try! He has not provided us with even one quote. Not one reference to context to prove his point. Not one cite of any authority agreeing with his exegesis. Not one example of the author using the plural pronoun “us” in reference to only the redeemed or the elect in any other passage.

So, where did he come up with this idea? White explains that the “us” of Ephesians 1:5 is the “we” of Ephesians 1:11 and the “elect” of Romans 8:33 and those who are “given” by the Father to the Son in John 6:37.

Where in the world does Mr. White find justification for this? Is this Mr. White’s idea of proper “exegesis”? Is this how he deals with difficult passages? To simply fabricate a connection between two different passages, clearly written by two different authors to two different audiences years apart? Does he present any exegetical reason why the pronouns in Ephesians 1:5 and 11 are in any way related exegetically to the “elect” in Romans 8:33 and John 6:37? No. Apparently, Mr. White is unwilling, or unable, to deal with the actual text within its proper context.

I would submit to our readers that this is an excellent example of the weakness of Mr. White’s entire argument for predestination. As I originally observed, in order to force-fit the clear, plain text to conform to Calvinistic dogma, one must “add to” the Word of God meanings that are simply not there. One must create a “canon within a canon.” One must twist the purity of God’s Word excruciatingly beyond recognition in order to force it into a Calvinistic paradigm. I do not believe that this was the intent of the original authors.

Mr. White insists that the idea that we are to be holy and blameless, that we are to be adopted as sons, and that we are redeemed through the blood of the savior is “personal,” and is not referring to the collective audience to which the epistle is addressed. Where does the text itself support this? Nowhere. Mr. White never shows us even one instance of where the text clearly teaches this concept as he has presented it.

In the Old Testament, Jehovah laments to the Israelites how long He has waited as a hen to gather them under his wings. According to Mr. White’s exegetical methodology, the Israelites should have been able to rest comfortably, assured of the fact that only one individual was being addressed, because Jehovah directed His lamentation to the pronoun “you.”

Mr. White states that this is a “tremendous example of the differences in theology that comes from the scriptures and a theology that is forced onto the scriptures.” I, for one, would agree. Mr. White’s attempt to force-fit a 6th century paradigm of predestination onto scriptural passages which clearly do not teach them certainly falls into this category.

To summarize, I would ask Mr. White to reflect seriously upon his own statement, “Unfounded assertions are without weight in a scholarly debate,” and to apply that standard of efficacy to his own arguments, for White is clearly preaching a sermon here, not engaging in scholarly exegesis. Nothing more, and nothing less. By his own standard, nearly everything that he has presented that is not supported by solid, documented hermeneutically-sound evidence within the text of this debate must be rejected.

Shooting the Messenger

White has responded consistently to arguments that he cannot answer by attempting to shoot the messenger and hope that no one notices the message or its impact on his arguments.

For instance, he completely ignored a very germane discussion in my opening statement on sanctification and justification and our own actions and the effect they have on our salvation, calling the author of one of my cites “one of the worst” that he has seen. Of course, no justification was ever given for this for this inflammatory and unfounded accusation, and White never mentions this topic or the author he slandered again, nor has he ever bothered to address the very germane issues presented therein, which by themselves destroy the most basic premise of the doctrine of predestination.

When I quoted Werner Stenger, who in turn quoted Nietzche to stress a most pertinent point, White erroneously accused me of quoting Nietzche directly, condemned Nietzche (and me for quoting him), and completely ignored the actual message of the quote, which stated that true Biblical exegetes should “[read] facts without falsifying them by interpretation, without losing caution, patience, delicacy, in the desire to understand.”

Does Mr. White take exception to this message or Stenger’s use of it? If not, then why attack the messenger? If so, what part of this message does Mr. White find to be objectionable, and why? The answers are very simple. By demanding, for instance, that words like “us” be too narrowly interpreted, or that when the Father says that He desires that all be saved He is really only speaking of the elect, White is violating the very principle that Stenger, not just Nietzche, is trying to teach. James White has, throughout this debate, created a “canon within a canon” to justify his doctrine. When the tough questions have come, he has chosen to shoot the messenger instead of addressing the message and has quickly changed the subject.

Arguments Ignored

White has ignored a veritable mountain of arguments that he cannot address.

He has failed to explain to us why Paul stated that the Jews who reject Christ will be included in salvation. Given Mr. White’s view of predestination, I for one would have been most eager to hear his explanation for how this is possible.

Mr. White has failed to articulate for us how it is in any way “just” that one be damned before the foundation of the world, before the stain of “Original Sin” would come upon him, and before an individual even exists. Perhaps a concise definition of “justice” from Mr. White would assist us here. Since individuals do not exist in Mr. White’s view prior to mortality, they have no acts or choices upon which judgment could be based. And if they did not exist prior to mortality, and if God’s judgement to salvation or damnation is based on what they will be when born based on God’s omniscient foreknowledge (though not due to any choice of theirs, for predestination denies Free Will), is not God guilty of creating evil, sinful monsters from the very beginning that have no other purpose than to be damned to the depths of Hell, screaming in agony for eternity? Perhaps Mr. White would explain just how “justice” fits into this scenario.

Mr. White intentionally neglects to include the definition of “foreordained” for the Greek proorizo, even though a considerable number of lexicons list it before “predestined.” And yet he claims that the definition of that term is “without ambiguity.”

Mr. White also fails to address the many citations I presented which pointed to an interpretation of Ephesians 1:3-11 not in an individual sense, but in a collective sense… of collective groups of God’s people, such as the ancient Israelites. In fact, verse 14 uses that very term.. “God’s people.” No, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Mr. White demands that “us” is personal, and refers to individuals as direct objects of God’s will. But the author of Ephesians never hints at this interpretation whatsoever, nor does he use the word “us” in this sense in any other passage. Mr. White never explains this curious phenomenon. He also never explains why he doesn’t seem to want to consider the rest of the book of Ephesians in his discussion of the predestination of individuals to salvation or damnation.

Mr. White rejects the notion that the author of Ephesians is discussing a plan that has been laid for “God’s people,” even though this is exactly what the text clearly states, and several experts that I cited confirm. Mr. White ignores the fact that the text states that we are “predestined” or “foreordained” not that we will, but that we should be saved. Not that we are sons of God, but that we may be adopted as such. Mr. White has never yet explained why a more forceful, distinct, and unambiguous phraseology was not used in this “God-breathed” infallible passage.

White also curiously neglects to explain how we can possibly “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12) if we are predestined to salvation or damnation from before the foundation of the world through no act of our own, through no fault of our own, and are thus powerless to effect that outcome. Perhaps Mr. White would have been kind enough to share with us exactly what “salvation” we can “work out with fear and trembling,” given his position. According to Mr. White, this was all decided long before we suddenly “flared into existence” out of nothing.

White also fails to acknowledge his blunderingly erroneous interpretation of the Jacob and Esau example given in Romans 9, demanding that it be grossly misinterpreted… that is interpreted literally to support his thesis, when any barely literate Biblical scholar knows that the story is figurative, and refers to nations, not individuals.

White also fails to explain anywhere in his treatise the informative statement in Hebrews 5:9, that Christ “is the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey Him.” Isn’t obeying Him something that “man does” that affects his salvation? White insists that nothing we can do will effect our salvation. That has all been decided long before we came into being. So why then can our obedience, or lack of it, affect our salvation and why is this ability even articulated, when according to White it doesn’t exist? White fails to tell us. He also fails to explain where the author of Hebrews restricted this statement to the “elect.”

In one of the most egregious examples of blatant eisegesis in this debate, White dismisses the clear, plain statements of 2 Peter 3:9 and 1 Tim 2:4 that the Father desires all to come unto Him with a spammed answer from another work that he authored that clearly exposes the fallacy of his argument, and which gives us rare insight into the extent of scholarly dishonesty to which White will descend in order to lovingly protect his logical fallacy.

White explains that neither passage of scripture can be interpreted as they stand, and that they must be altered to force-fit Calvinistic theology. In a truly dizzying display of circular logic, White explains that 1 Timothy 2:5 “Speaks of the mediatorship of Jesus Christ, and, as we saw in our examination of the atonement and intercession of Christ, this work is undertaken in behalf of God’s people. Therefore, the term ‘men’ in verse 5 is limited to the elect of God.” Can Mr. White be serious? The only way that this explanation works is to redefine the “us” in Ephesians 1:3 to refer only to the redeemed! Is this Mr. White’s idea of scholarly exegesis? Does White present any evidence from this author to demonstrate that this term is used in this manner in other passages? No. Does White present any hermeneutical evidence whatsoever to justify this gross eisegesis other than that it is necessary to be able to discard this contradictory passage, making his thesis more tenable? Again, no.

Perhaps Mr. White would explain to us why the authors of 2 Peter and 1 Timothy were so mutually incompetent as to somehow neglect stating this most crucial of facts, as was John, apparently in John 6:39,40. Were they not inspired? Was the Bible not “God-breathed”? If so, why then does God need James White to properly “interpret” it for the rest of us by overlaying the clear, plain meaning of the actual text with Mr. White’s assumptions and cherry-picked definitions? Why, if Mr. White is correct, would these authors articulate these sacred concepts using such consistently erroneous and misleading phraseology? In reality, this is yet another instance on Mr. White’s part of begging the question. But that should not surprise us. White’s entire premise is built upon the sandy foundation of logical fallacy.

Fortunately, Evangelical scholarship has distanced itself far from this kind of embarassing eisegesis. A prominent Evangelical reference says this about the two passages in question:

“Timothy 2:3-4 states, ‘God our Saviour… wills (thelei) all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.’ Second Peter 3:9 expresses a similar sentiment: ‘The Lord… does not will (boulomenos) anyone to perish but that everyone might come to repentance.’ It should be emphasized that neither text says that all will be saved regardless of their disposition toward the gospel. In the first text, ‘to come to a knowledge of the truth’ is a formula that means to make a rational decision about the gospel, that is, to respond to the gospel message. The second text similarly relates God’s will to save the all-inclusive ‘anyone’ to the volitional element involved in repentance. Consequently, while these texts tell us that God’s will to save extends to all people, and that he desires to save rather than to condemn, they do not remove the necessary element of the faith-response to the gospel.”1 (emphasis mine)

At this point, I cannot help but hear Mr. White’s own words ringing clearly in my ears. Is this not a “tremendous example of the differences in theology that comes from the scriptures and a theology that is forced onto the scriptures”?

The Preexistence of Man

White rejects the preexistence of man without any justification at all. He simply does. This is the logical fallacy of exclusion. The fallacy of exclusion occurs when evidence which would change the outcome of an inductive argument is excluded from consideration. Mr. White has done this repeatedly in refusing to consider the considerable evidence pointing to the premortal existence of man.

When confronted with the fact that the Lord told Jeremiah that he knew him before he was born, White attempts to wiggle out of the obvious by claiming that other definitions of “know” exist. But do any of them apply to this passage? No. The text is clear. And Mr. White is either unwilling, or unable, to address the text itself in any responsible manner. Either the passage has been badly mistranslated and is in error, or it is very succinct and clear and should be considered in the plainness in which it was written. God knew Jeremiah before he was born. This clearly implies the existence of Jeremiah prior to birth. We are still waiting to hear a plausible explanation using sound hermeneutical principles from White.

White insists that the Bible never hints of a preexistence of man. He dismisses the Sons of God shouting for joy at the creation of the Earth in the book of Job without any merit or reason whatsoever. He admits that the Hebrew for “sons” that I presented was correct. He does not claim that the verse was mistranslated. He does not provide any evidence that I have not correctly interpreted the text. He simply denies it, and demands that I prove that the text means exactly what it already says it does. This is another excellent example of how Mr. White deals with text that he cannot explain away. There were “Sons of God” who were literal offspring, as the passage clearly states, shouting for joy in the premortal realm at the creation of our Earth. Mr. White has yet to deal with this fact.

What of the blind man? In yet another example of an excellent argument ignored for rather obvious reasons, in John 9 we have an individual born blind. This fact is emphasized several times, including the testimony of his parents that he was, indeed, born blind. Christ’s disciples asked Him a very interesting and instructive question: “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2, emphasis mine)

This passage poses a most difficult challenge to Mr. White. According to Mr. White’s view, it is impossible for an individual to “sin” prior to birth, since he simply doesn’t exist. Given this view, it would be interesting to see Mr. White explain why the apostles thought he could sin prior to being born if the premortal existence of man was an unknown concept, and why the Savior, in the midst of a sterling teaching moment, failed to correct their misunderstanding. The Savior had every opportunity here to teach all of us that the man couldn’t have sinned because he didn’t exist prior to birth. But the Savior accepted their premise without flinching, without comment, and most notably, without correction. Mr. White fails to address the enormous implications of this passage in any way whatsoever. He simply pretends the argument was never raised.

White claims that neither the Bible nor the early Christian Church held any concept of the preexistence of man. Once again, he ignores volumes of evidence which contradicts his assertion, and to be honest, he has to. Why? Because if man preexisted this mortal life, the entire predestination heresy would collapse under the weight of its own faulty logic. If the preexistence of man is true, predestination of individuals to salvation or damnation is false.

If premortal man had the ability to choose and to be known by the Father of our Spirits before coming to this Earth, then it makes sense that his calling or foreordination as an adopted Son of God (or not) came as a result of the choices he made in that sphere, rather than from the arbitrary whims of an unjust, tyrannical God. We would then understand that God is indeed who scripture teaches us that He is; a loving, just Heavenly Father.

Contrary to Mr. White’s assertions, belief in the premortal existence of man was very real in the early Christian Church, and continued until 553 AD, when it was extinguished by an edict known as the Anathemas Against Origen, promulgated by the Roman emporer Justinian. The Pope consented to this edict, although under extreme duress. In The Secrets of Enoch in the Apocrypha, Enoch was told that “men were created exactly like the angels, to the intent that they should continue pure and righteous.”2

Josephus noted that the Essenes believed in the soul’s premortal existence, and R. H. Charles describes it as a “prevailing dogma” in later Judaism. The concept of the premortal existence of man was very common to Greek thought, and is given prominence in the Koran.

Most Latter-day Saints would be struck with the clearly familiar ring of the following, taken from The Myths and Legends of Ancient Israel:

“In the beginning of things God the All-Father also created a great number of souls destined one day to inhabit a human body. There is a treasure or storehouse in Heaven where these souls are kept until the moment arrives for each of them to descend upon the earth and be united to ‘mortal coil.’ According to some myths these souls are hidden beneath the throne of All-Father, whilst in other places it is maintained that the souls yet unborn walk freely in the celestial fields in company of the souls of the pious who have already passed through a body. Some souls are spirits sent down upon earth and ordered to inhabit a human body as a punishment for faults committed. For others it is a test and an opportunity to show their strength. In the struggle of the soul, the celestial inmate, against the passions and instincts inherent in matter, the soul has an opportunity to show its worth and remain faithful to its celestial origin or to betray it.”

In 3 Enoch (Hebrew Enoch), Rabbi Ishmael, the recipient of the vision, is shown the spirits of the righteous who are yet to be born.3 He is then enabled to understand a phrase in Isaiah 57:16. The text in the KJV of the Bible states, “The spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made.” But the Enoch text is significantly different: “For the spirit clothes itself before me, and the souls I have made.”4 The interpretation given the passage is that righteous spirits need to be clothed with physical bodies in order to return to the presence of the Holy One.

Space will not allow any further excursions into the writings of the Apocrypha such as Esdras, the Apocalypse of Baruch, 1 and 2 Baruch, or the Early Church. Suffice it to say, Mr. White is wrong when he suggests that the doctrine of the preexistence of man is not presented, at least indirectly, in the Bible. And he is most definitely wrong in suggesting that this doctrine was not present in the early Church.

If we had the time, I would love to see Mr. White address ancient Jewish tradition regarding the Heavenly Councils, and who composed those councils, and what significance they had on Jewish belief. I would love to see his commentary on Psalms 82. I would further love to see Mr. White address the glaring errors he has made elsewhere regarding the “monistic monotheism” of the Jews and the early Christians, and to have him address the outstanding scholarship done by Larry Hurtado and many others on this topic,5 with which I have confronted him previously, and which he has yet to address.

I would also be most eager to see Mr. White explain the Synodal letter of the African Bishops banished to Sardinia from the year 523:

“The question as to the origin of souls, whether they come ex propagine (as offspring or posterity), or whether for every new body a new soul is created (sive novae singulis corporibus fiant), we will pass over in silence. The Holy Scripture does not decide this question, and it should be examined with pre-caution.”6

This passage indicates most clearly that even in the first quarter of the 6th century, the doctrine of a premortal existence of souls was still being held by some, at least, of the Christians and was being actively discussed.

In Summary

Mr. White has the audacity to proclaim that “the Gospel is ours to proclaim, not to edit.” And yet, we have seen throughout the entire debate that all of Mr. White’s arguments rely exclusively on his “creative editing” of Holy Writ to force it to conform to Calvinistic thought. He has used ad-hominem attacks to promote his message. He has shot a number of worthy messengers bearing truth that he simply does not want you to hear. He has used circular arguments and a veritable boatload of logical fallacies. And he has used his personal hatred of Mormons to turn this debate into yet another of his anti-Mormon pulpits. Not to mention self-aggrandizement opportunities.

He has relentlessly and viciously attacked me and insulted me for making several errors of translation, while turning a blind eye to his own glaring mistakes, logical fallacies, and misrepresentations of fact. He deliberately misrepresents LDS theology with blatant, flat-out lies such as “…in Mormonism’s theology, there is no eternal, omnipotent Creator,” when he clearly knows, or should know, that such is not the case. If Mr. White’s position were true, would he have to resort to such invective and personal attacks? Surely not.

Again, I remind our readers that White’s premise (and the major weakness of his position) is not simply that it is plausible to find a predestination teaching in Scripture, he actually demands that the predestination of individuals to salvation or damnation is the only way that Scripture can be legitimately interpreted. The task that White has so arrogantly established for me is not to prove that predestination of individuals to salvation or damnation is wrong, but simply that other interpretations are hermeneutically possible, or at least legitimately plausible. I believe that I have accomplished this many times over. One only has to look at the mountain of arguments that Mr. White carefully avoided to see evidence of this fact.

Has White accomplished his task of showing that the predestination of individuals to salvation or damnation is the only plausible way to interpret Holy Writ? I will leave that up to our readers to decide.

Let me close this most insightful and revealing debate by sharing with you, our readers, the conclusions of a prominent Evangelical reference on the subject of predestination:

“It would be hard to fit together a predestination to judgement and the operation of human free will and our responsibility. The failure to find the salvation offered to humankind by a gracious and loving God seems more wisely assigned to the way men and women ‘reject God’s purpose for themselves’ (Luke 12:30) rather than to a prior, unalterable rejection by God.”7

God is Sovereign, my friends. God is omnipotent. That does not mean that God is a tyrant. Nor does He need to be to measure up to those divine attributes. Our Heavenly Father is a just God. He loves us. He desires that all of us come to Him through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. But He loves us enough to let us decide if we will or not.

He has called us. He stands beckoning. Will we accept His invitation? Our ability to truly answer that fundamental question for ourselves is the greatest gift He could have ever given us. Of this I so testify in His holy name. Amen.


Endnotes

1 Philip H. Towner, “God’s Will”, Elwell’s Dictionary of Evangelical Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Baker Books: Grand Rapids, 1996), p. 822

2 1 Enoch 69:11

3 3 Enoch 43:1

4 3 Enoch 43:3

5 Hurtado, L.W., “What Do We Mean by ‘First-Century Jewish Monotheism’?”, in Lovering, E.H., Jr., ed., Society of Biblical Literature 1993 Seminar Papers, (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1993), pp. 348-368.

6 Charles Joseph Hefele, A History of the Councils of the Church, vol 4, ed. William R. Clark (T&T Clark: Edinburgh, 1895), 125

7 Francis Foulkes, “Predestination”, Elwell’s Dictionary of Evangelical Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Baker Books: Grand Rapids, 1996), p. 629

4964 words

A Discussion of Psalm 82 – Vintage

In April of 1998, James White appeared on radio station KTKK in Salt Lake City, Utah.   One of the callers to the program was Dr. William Hamblin of Brigham Young University.  Dr. Hamblin did not identify himself when he called in, but asked James White concerning the variant reading of Deuteronomy 32:8 in the Dead Sea Scrolls.   After James returned home, Dr. Hamblin contacted him by e-mail.  Below we provide the discussion that has ensued.  The same material can be found at: http://www.shields-research.org/A-O_01.html.   The discussion ended May 29th, 1998, when Dr. Hamblin, in responding to the respectful use of the term “sir,” indicated that it was his intention to “get to” James.  Given certain standards of civil behavior that James has always attempted to follow, the discussion was ended.

Date: Wed, 08 Apr 1998 02:27 EDT
From: “William J. Hamblin” <william_hamblin@byu.edu>
Subject: Some Questions.
To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>

Jim,

In light of our discussion on the radio Sunday night (I was the last caller on Van’s show), I’d like to see your interpretation of Psalm 82.  The following is my translation, upon which you may comment as you like.  I am attempting to be as literal as possible.

1  Elohim stands/presides in the council/assembly (‘adat) of El In the midst of the elohim he governs/passes judgement/enacts laws:

I note that you have claimed the Bible never mentions a council of the gods.  It certainly seems that this is exactly what is being described here.  (see, further, E. T. Mullen. The Assembly of the Gods Harvard Semitic Monographs 24 (1980)).  I pose to you the following question, to which I will give what seems to me to be the obvious answer. What is the council of El?  It is a group of gods/elohim.  Who are these elohim, in the midst of whom elohim stands? They are (in v. 6) the sons of Elyon.  How is the first elohim different from the second elohim?  He presides in the council.  He is the ruler of the other elohim.  Why does the Hebrew use precisely the same word to describe them? Because they are the same.

Then, in verses 2-4, the first elohim gives judgement, condemning the wickedness and unrighteous judgements given by the other elohim.  It continues in verse five.

5  Without knowledge or understanding They wander in darkness [while] all the foundations of the earth are shaken

6  I said: “Elohim you are, Even the sons of ‘Elyon [the Most High], all of you.  Yet like Man [adam] you die And like one of the sharim [rulers/archangels] you fall.”

Notice here that the elohim/gods are precisely the same as the sons of ‘Elyon.  The bene elohim/bene ‘elyon are thus, in fact, simply elohim/gods.  Notice, too that these gods/sons of God become like men, and die.  They become humans.  (Of course, this passage is quoted in John 10:34 by Jesus; it is discussed from and LDS Christian perspective by Daniel Peterson, in “Psalm 82 and John 10 as Witnesses to the Divine Nature of Humankind” forthcoming in a few months.

From an LDS Christian perspective, this all makes perfect sense, since the the sons of God are, just as described here, celestial beings who become human (like Adam), fall, and die.  (In the NT, Christ allows these sons of God to become immortal again, and become like Christ, joint heirs, and one with the Father, but that is another discussion.)

From an evangelical perspective this must all seem like gibberish.  I’d like to know how you explain it.

William J. Hamblin Associate
Professor of History 
 

>Dear Jim,
>
>In light of our discussion on the radio Sunday night (I was the last caller
>on Van’s show), I’d like to see your interpretation of Psalm 82. The
>following is my translation, upon which you may comment as you like. I am
>attempting to be as literal as possible.

Thanks for writing, and I’m very sorry you didn’t identify yourself when you called in. As soon as I saw the textual material in the BHS on Dt. 32, I recalled reading an article on the subject about four years ago. It still amazes me that someone could believe Yahweh is someone other than the Most High. Deut. 32:12 makes it plain. But note just a few examples:

Genesis 14:22 Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have sworn to the LORD
God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth,
 
Psalm 7:17 I will give thanks to the LORD according to His righteousness And
will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.
 
Psalm 9:1 {For the choir director; on Muth-labben. A Psalm of David.} I will give
thanks to the LORD with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. 2 I will be glad
and exult in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.
 
Psalm 21:7 For the king trusts in the LORD, And through the lovingkindness of
the Most High he will not be shaken.

etc. and etc. A verse-by-verse exegesis of Deuteronomy 32 is *completely* disrupted by the insertion of some “other” God into the text, as you suggested on the program.

First, I provide the comments I made on the passage in _Is the Mormon My Brother?_, pp. 156-158:

It is at this point that the Lord quotes from Psalm 82:6, which contains the important words, “I said you are gods.” But when we go back to the passage from which this is taken (and surely the Jewish leaders would have known the context themselves), we find an important truth:

God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers. How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them out of the hand of the wicked. They do not know nor do they understand; they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. I said, “You are gods, and all of you are sons of the Most High.” (Psalm 82:1-6)

Here we have the key to the passage, for this is a psalm of judgment against the rulers of Israel. God takes his stand in His own congregation, that being His own people, Israel. He judges in the midst of the “rulers.” The Hebrew term here is “elohim,” which could be translated “gods.” The NASB however, recognizes that the context indicates who is being discussed, for the next verse reads, “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked.” Who judges unjustly and shows partiality? Human judges, of course, human rulers amongst the people. Hence, the NASB rendering of “elohim” as “rulers.” It is important to recognize the use of the term elohim in verse 1, for the very same term appears in verse 6, and is what lies behind Jesus’ citation in John 10:34. Before moving on in the text, it should be noted that even at this point recognizing that this passage is talking about unjust human rulers removes this passage from the realm of possible passages to cite in support of a plurality of gods, and certainly, Jesus was not, by citing this passage, calling His accusers true divine beings.

When we get to verse six, we find that God has placed the judges of Israel in a position of being “gods” amongst the people. They were entrusted with the application of God’s law. God calls them to vindicate the weak and fatherless and to do justice to the afflicted and destitute (v. 3). This is their task, their duty. But they are failing that duty. They are not acting as proper, godly judges. Verse six, then, begins the pronouncement of judgment. Jesus only cites the beginning of the judgment-which was enough to make His point. But since many today do not immediately know the context the way the Jews did, we need to point it out. The rest of the phrase Jesus quotes is this: “Nevertheless you will die like men and fall like any one of the princes.” Such is hardly the terminology one would use of divine and exalted beings! And this explains the use of the present tense verb “You are gods” in John 10:34. Jesus is saying His accusers are, right then, the judges condemned in Psalm 82. And what kind of judges were they? Unrighteous judges, who were judging unjustly. Jesus was calling His accusers false judges, and they well knew it.

I *thought* I had requested that a copy of the book be sent to you at BYU. Did you not receive a copy? I *know* one was sent to Dan Peterson.

Now, on to your own comments:

>1 Elohim stands/presides in the council/assembly (‘adat) of El
>In the midst of the elohim he governs/passes judgement/enacts laws:

In context, I would say shaphat is here clearly in reference to an act of judgment.

>I note that you have claimed the Bible never mentions a council of the gods.

In the context presented by Joseph Smith and Mormonism, I would repeat the statement.

>It certainly seems that this is exactly what is being described here. (see,
>further, E. T. Mullen. The Assembly of the Gods Harvard Semitic Monographs
>24 (1980)).

Or, the passage is saying that Yahweh, as the one who established the judges of Israel, judges amongst those judges.

>I pose to you the following question, to which I will give what seems to me
>to be the obvious answer.
>What is the council of El? It is a group of gods/elohim.

Given the context (which you skipped), I would say it is the judges of Israel. This can be confirmed by looking at the use of edah in such passages as Numbers 26:9, 31:16, Joshua 22:17, and Psalm 1:5.

>Who are these elohim, in the midst of whom elohim stands? They are (in v.
>6) the sons of Elyon.

Again, if you would allow the context to stand as a unit, the answer to the question is without question:

Psalm 82:2 How long will you judge unjustly And show partiality to the wicked?
Psalm 82:3 Vindicate the weak and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and destitute.
Psalm 82:4 Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.
Psalm 82:5 They do not know nor do they understand; They walk about in darkness; All the foundations of the earth are shaken.
Psalm 82:6 I said, “You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High.
Psalm 82:7 “Nevertheless you will die like men And fall like any one of the princes.”
Psalm 82:8 Arise, O God, judge the earth! For it is You who possesses all the nations.

Yahweh is judging the elohim. What is the content of the judgment? Verses 2 through 7. In verse 2, God brings the charge: unjust judging and partiality to the wicked. You say that this judgment comes upon “(some of?) the other elohim.” Yet, the very verses you skip over demonstrate that these are plainly HUMAN matters. The unjust judgment and partiality toward the wicked are HUMAN actions:

Deuteronomy 1:17 ‘You shall not show partiality [note the phraseology used here, Dr. Hamblin] in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not fear man, for the judgment is God’s. The case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.’

Proverbs 18:5 To show partiality to the wicked is not good, Nor to thrust aside the righteous in judgment.

The judges are commanded to vindicate the weak and fatherless and to do justice to the afflicted and destitute:

Exodus 22:22 “You shall not afflict any widow or orphan.

Job 29:12 Because I delivered the poor who cried for help, And the orphan who had no helper.

Zechariah 7:10 and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.’

These elohim are doing just the opposite. Just how, Dr. Hamblin, do you substantiate the idea that gods other than the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit (in the LDS viewpoint) are somehow held responsible for passing juridicial sentences in Israelite society? Just how are these “gods” supposed to vindicate or do justice on this earth? How are they to rescue the week and needy, or deliver them from the hand of the wicked ones? I wasn’t aware these other “gods” were involved in this world so as to be judged by God as having failed their task. Isn’t it the common belief of Mormons that 1 Corinthians 8:5-6 *does* refer to other divine beings, but that for US there is but one God, and we don’t have “dealings” with these others?

Be that as it may, a fair, contextual exegesis, then, closes the door upon the rather strange (from my view) constructs placed upon the passage by those who absolutely *must* find some way of turning the text of the Old Testament into a polytheistic text. The meaning—if the text is allowed to speak for itself—is rather plain.

>How is the first elohim different from the second elohim? He presides in
>the council. He is the ruler of the other elohim.

The first Elohim is used with a singular verb, nazav, while the second is used with cherev, “in the midst of,” which indicates plurality.

>Why does the Hebrew use precisely the same word to describe them? Because
>they are the same.

Actually, because the Hebrew normally uses the term Elohim of God (do you embrace the distinction between Yahweh and Elohim introduced by the First Presidency?), and the context defines the nature and function of the plural use of elohim in regards to the giving of judgment amongst the people. This is an established use of the term:

Exodus 22:8 “If the thief is not caught, then the owner of the house shall appear before the judges [Hebrew: ha’elohim], to determine whether he laid his hands on his neighbor’s property.

Exodus 22:9 “For every breach of trust, whether it is for ox, for donkey, for sheep, for clothing, or for any lost thing about which one says, ‘This is it,’ the case of both parties shall come before the judges; he whom the judges condemn shall pay double to his neighbor.

>Then, in verses 2-4, the first elohim gives judgement, condemning the
>wickedness and unrighteous judgements given by (some of?) the other elohim.
>It continues in verse five.
>5 Without knowledge or understanding
>They wander in darkness
>[while] all the foundations of the earth are shaken

This would refer to the general degradation and destruction brought upon a culture by unrighteous judges—a result, sadly, we can see all around us in our own nation this day. I am sure you would not disagree with at least that assertion.

>6 I said: “Elohim you are,
>Even the sons of ‘Elyon [the Most High], all of you.
>Yet like Man [adam] you die
>And like one of the sharim [rulers/archangels] you fall.”

No reason for the translation rulers/archangels—-given the judicial/political context already established above, the translation “princes” is just fine.

And, as I established above, the OT identifies YHWH as Elyon.

>Notice here that the elohim/gods are precisely the same as the sons of ‘Elyon.

Yes, the shophtey are given a highly exalted position amongst the people of Israel.

>The bene elohim/bene ‘elyon are thus, in fact, simply elohim/gods.

Rulers, yes. Judges, as clearly established above.

>Notice, too that these gods/sons of God become like men, and die.

Of course, there is nothing in the text even remotely indicating “become like men and die.” They *are* men, and God is simply reminding them that though they have been given an exalted place of rulership amongst His people, they are mere mortals, and will face His judgment. As rulers, they had become infatuated with their authority (another sad reality we can see all around us), and had failed to do their duty. God reminds them that despite their exalted position, they are mortal, and shall die as all men die.

>They
>become humans. (Of course, this passage is quoted in John 10:34 by Jesus;
>it is discussed from and LDS Christian perspective by Daniel Peterson, in
>”Psalm 82 and John 10 as Witnesses to the Divine Nature of Humankind”
>forthcoming in a few months.)

Hopefully the proposed publication will not engage in the same kind of unwarranted leap that is presented here—there is nothing in the text that says “they become humans.”

>From an LDS Christian perspective, this all makes perfect sense, since the
>sons of God are, just as described here, celestial beings who become human
>(like Adam), fall, and die. (In the NT, Christ allows these sons of God to
>become immortal again, and become like Christ, joint heirs, and one with the
>Father, but that is another discussion.)

From the simple perspective of the passage, there is nothing that even begins to suggest or intimate anything about these elohim “becoming human.” By ignoring verses 3 through 5, and the constant use of the terms included therein, you have completely misinterpreted the passage, capping this off with the insertion of a completely foreign concept of “becoming humans” here at the end. No meaningful connection with the text, however, is provided.

>From your evangelical perspective this psalm must all seem like gibberish.
>I’d like to know how you explain it.

I can assure you, Dr. Hamblin, this Psalm is anything but gibberish to anyone who does not embrace a plurality of gods, and who allows the text to speak for itself.

James>>>


At this point there were a few short messages, then this full reply to the above:

Date: Fri, 10 Apr 1998 11:04:53 -0600
From: “William J. Hamblin” <william_hamblin@byu.edu>
Subject: bene elyon are elohim
To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>

Dear James,

JAMES
It still amazes me that someone could believe Yahweh is someone other than the Most High.  Deut. 32:12 makes it plain.  [BILL: It does?]  But note just a few examples:  [Cites: Genesis 14:22; Psalm 7:17; Psalm 9:1; Psalm 21:7]  A verse-by-verse exegesis of Deuteronomy 32 is *completely* disrupted by the insertion of some “other” God into the text, as you suggested on the program.

BILL
I should explain my comments on the radio.  I was trying to read the Hebrew text, listen to you, and think of what I was going to say simultaneously.  I therefore mispoke.  (Radio shows are not a very helpful venue for discussing technical issues like this.)  I realized shortly thereafter that my statement on this matter had been confused, but by then the topic had shifted, so I decided to drop it.

At any rate, my position is as follows.

1- I am, of course, aware that Yahweh is called Elyon in some passages in the OT.  That does not necessarily demonstrate that Elyon and Yahweh must be understood as referring to same figure in Deut. 32:8-9. You, of course, are interpreting from evangelical presuppositions, and insist that the theology of all verses in the Bible must be absolutely consistent with all others.  But to argue that, since Yahweh and Elyon are equated with some texts, he therefore must be equated with Elyon in all texts, is, of course, blatant circular reasoning.  I believe there was historical development (“line upon line”) in the Biblical text and theology, and that, in fact, the OT understanding of God is quite different from the NT (as the rabbis would insist).  You cannot find the Nicene Trinity clearly described in the OT any more clearly than you can find the LDS Godhead–so the argument of your book in that regard cuts both ways.  Be that as it may, I certainly grant that it is possible to interpret this passage as saying that Elyon divided the nations among the bene elohim, and that Elyon/Yahweh’s portion was Israel, and I believe I said so on the radio. (As Paul noted, this interpretation, however, conflicts with the biblical notion that Israel was Michael’s portion, not Yahweh’s, but that’s another matter.)

2- The fact that you are “amaze[d] . . . that someone could believe Yahweh [in Deut 32] is someone other than the Most High” tells us more about you than the argument, since many very intelligent interpreters of the text see it in precisely those terms.  I can provide a bibliography if you are unaware of such studies.  The point is, then, that the text, like many others, is ambiguous, and can be interpreted in several ways.

3- If, as you claim, Deut 32 is attempting to say that Elyon took Israel as his portion, it does so in a very ambiguous and confusing way, which is precisely why latter editors changed the text from bene elohim to bene Yisrael.  If the text so unambiguously says what you claim, why did later editors feel compelled to expunge the offending line, thereby removing the possibility of reading the text as Elyon giving Yahweh a portion?  The text was clearly understood by enough early readers as saying something along those lines that the editors felt compelled to change the text. Furthermore, why would God inerrantly inspire a text in such a dreadfully ambiguous manner?

4- I should note also that, interestingly enough, to the best of my knowledge the phrase bene Yahweh never occurs in the OT.  (Do you know of any?)  If so, it is interesting to ask why?  Why are there bene elim, bene ha-elohim, bene elohim and bene elyon, but–if all of these are simple equivalents for Yahweh–there are no bene Yahweh?

But this was not my real argument.  The radio discussion was sidetracked in a number of directions simultaneously (as usual), preventing a coherent discussion.  The issue I originally tried to raise was, who are the bene elohim/elyon?  This needs to be discussed in the context of the NT use of elyon/hypsistos (LXX Greek for elyon), which we never got to on the radio.  In the NT Christ is called the son of elyon/hypsistos (Lk 1:32, 1:35, 8:28, Mk 5:7), but is never himself called hypsistos (all other passages: Lk 1:76; Acts 7:28, 16:7, Heb 7:1).  Hypsistos is thus, by accident or intention, a unique title for the Father in the NT.  The final interesting passage is Lk 6:35, which reads that the followers of Christ should “love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be the sons of the Most High (huioi hypsistou).”  Notice, then, that in the NT Christ is the son of hypsistos, and so are the followers of Christ.  This parallels Mt 5:9, where the “peacemakers . . . shall be called the sons of God.”   I’m sure you are aware of the many other passages where the saved become sons of God. We can discuss them if you’d like.

Notice, then, what the combination of these texts, with a literal reading of Ps 82, implies the following:
   Christ is the son of the Most High
   his true followers can become the sons of the Most High
   Christ is the son of God
   his true followers can become the sons of God
   Ps 82:6 The sons of the Most High are gods/elohim

When Christ quoted “ye are gods” from Ps. 82:6, he was–in typical rabbinic fashion–giving a scriptural reference. Today we would say, “Read Ps 82:6,” but, since such a reference system had not been developed at the time of Christ, the ancients would simply quote the first line of the passage they were referencing. Christ expected his listeners to know the scripture, and to consider the entire passage, not simply the one line. Christ was certainly aware that the very next phrase of the text he was citing to justify his claim to being the Son of God, explicitly equates the sons of the Most High/bene elyon/huioi hypsistou with the elohim/gods. Which is, of course, precisely what he was claiming: that he, as the Son of God, was one with the Father, i.e. he was elohim/theos. This is precisely what the Jews understood him as saying. There was no ambiguity or confusion. There was no condemnation of anyone as unrighteous judges. Everyone understood the argument and its implications. To me the issue and argument are crystal clear, and all the nonsense about elohim = judges completely distorts the text of Jn 10, and destroys the thrust of Christ’s argument. If we are to take the scripture seriously, we must conclude that sons of the Most High/bene elyon/huioi hypsistou are elohim/gods, and that the true followers of Christ can become sons of the Most High/bene elyon/huioi hypsistou, or in other words, elohim/gods. And this, of course, is the LDS Christian position.

Now, you may not like this theology, and you don’t have to agree with it.  You may perform all the exegetical acrobatics you wish to try to make the text say something else.   But this is the literal sense of the text, and the only interpretation in which Christ’s argument in John 10 makes logical sense.  So, though I readily grant you the right to disagree, I can’t see how you can claim the LDS position on this matter is unbiblical or non-Christian, or that you are letting the text speak for itself, while I am somehow distorting it.

I won’t cite your entire lengthy argument on the judges = elohim, but will make a few comments.  You have a heavy burden of proof to sustain.

1- There is a perfectly good Hebrew word for judge (shaphat).  If Ps 82 meant to condemn wicked judges, why in the world didn’t God inerrantly inspire the psalmist to use the word for judge?  Why all this language about elohim, the council of el, and the bene elyon?
 
2- Your claim that humans have judging functions as described in Ps 82 is quite correct.  I presume, however, that you are also aware that God is the supreme judge, and judgement, is, in fact, ultimately a divine rather than human function, and that mortals will participate in rendering divine judgement at the final judgement (e.g. Mt 19:28, Lk 22:29).
 
3- I quite concur that mortals are condemned for rendering unjust judgement.  This does not demonstrate that elohim can be used as a term to mean judges.

4- I challenge you show me anywhere else in the OT or NT, where the term elohim unequivocally means judge? You attempted to do so as follows:

JAMES
Actually, because the Hebrew normally uses the term Elohim of God (do you embrace the distinction between Yahweh and Elohim introduced by the First Presidency?),  [BILL:  Yes I do, but it cannot be clearly found in the OT, although I believe it can be sustained from the NT, but that is a different matter.]  and the context defines the nature and function of the plural use of elohim in regards to the giving of judgment amongst the people.  This is an established use of the term: [Cite: Exodus 22:8; Exodus 22:9]

BILL
(You should also have added Exodus 21:6, which in the KJV and some other translations says the same type of thing.) 
I’m sorry, but you will simply have to do better than that.  Note, first, that these passages do not say that elohim are shaphat.  Note, second, that there is not a reason in the world to translate elohim in these three passages as judges.  The LXX has theos/god in all three cases, the Vulgate deus, and the NRSV God. Though the NIV uses “judges”, it offers the alternative “God” in a footnote.
 
In fact, the reason ha-elohim is occasionally translated as judges in these three passages is because of the Targum Onkelos, and similar documents.  The problem seems to be that the rabbis didn’t like the literal implications of the phrase ha-elohim = the gods, and so simply changed it in translation to fit their theology, (precisely as you are doing).  At any rate, the text makes perfectly good sense when read literally.  The plaintiffs in a legal case are to appear before God, who will manifest the truth of the case through an unspecified form of revelation or divination.  There is no cogent reason, indeed, no reason at all, to translate elohim here as judges.

So, to conclude, if you want your claim that the word elohim in Ps 82 refers to human judges, I challenge you to show any passage in the OT where elohim is used in such a manner.  Not in translation, please, but based on an exegesis of the original Hebrew.

I suspect you have derived your interpretation, either directly or indirectly, from Calvin’s commentary on Ps 82. The history of the judge-elohim exegesis, however, seems to be older. I have not tracked down the issue fully, but my suspicion is that the tradition of understanding Ps 82 as referring to judges originated with the early rabbis, and may have been, in fact, an attempt to undermine the Christian apologists’ claims that the passage demonstrated the scriptural basis for Christ’s claim to divinity by offering this alternative explanation to the plain meaning of the text. At any rate, it is clear that the earliest Christian writers who discuss this passage concurs with my interpretation, and mention nothing about “judges.”

Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 124
And when I saw that they were perturbed because I said that we are the sons of God, I anticipated their questioning, and said, “Listen, sirs, how the Holy Ghost speaks of this people, saying that they are all sons of the Highest; and how this very Christ will be present in their assembly, rendering judgment to all men.  The words are spoken by David, and are, according to your version of them, thus: ‘God standeth in the congregation of gods; He judgeth among the gods.  How long do ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked?  Judge for the orphan and the poor, and do justice to the humble and needy.  Deliver the needy, and save the poor out of the hand of the wicked.  They know not, neither have they understood; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth shall be shaken.  I said, Ye are gods, and are all children of the Most High.  But ye die like men, and fall like one of the princes.  Arise, O God!  judge the earth, for Thou shalt inherit all nations.’  But in the version of the Seventy it is written, ‘Behold, ye die like men, and fall like one of the princes, in order to manifest the disobedience of men, — I mean of Adam and Eve, — and the fall of one of the princes, i.e., of him who was called the serpent, who fell with a great overthrow, because he deceived Eve.  But as my discourse is not intended to touch on this point, but to prove to you that the Holy Ghost reproaches men because they were made like God, free from suffering and death, provided that they kept His commandments, and were deemed deserving of the name of His sons, and yet they, becoming like Adam and Eve, work out death for themselves; let the interpretation of the Psalm be held just as you wish, yet thereby it is demonstrated that all men are deemed worthy of becoming “gods,” and of having power to become sons of the Highest; and shall be each by himself judged and condemned like Adam and Eve.  Now I have proved at length that Christ is called God.

Irenaeus 3.6
And again: “God stood in the congregation of the gods, He judges among the gods.”  He [here] refers to the Father and the Son, and those who have received the adoption; but these are the Church.  For she is the synagogue of God, which God — that is, the Son Himself — has gathered by Himself.  Of whom He again speaks: “The God of gods, the Lord hath spoken, and hath called the earth.”  Who is meant by God?  He of whom He has said, “God shall come openly, our God, and shall not keep silence; ” that is, the Son, who came manifested to men who said, “I have openly appeared to those who seek Me not.”  But of what gods [does he speak]?  [Of those] to whom He says, “I have said, Ye are gods, and all sons of the Most High.”  To those, no doubt, who have received the grace of the “adoption, by which we cry, Abba Father.”

The rich irony here is that I am in agreement with the early Christians on this matter, while you are following an interpretation which seems to have been developed by rabbinic enemies of the Christian apologists, with whom I am agreeing!

JAMES
I *thought* I had requested that a copy of the book be sent to you at BYU. Did you not receive a copy? I *know* one was sent to Dan Peterson.

BILL
Yes, I got it. Thanks.

JAMES
>I note that you have claimed the Bible never mentions a council of the gods.
In the context presented by Joseph Smith and Mormonism, I would repeat the statement.

BILL
LDS Christians say there is a council of gods/elohim.  The OT says there is a council of gods/elohim.  Evangelicals say there is not a council of gods/elohim.  Which position is most consistent with the OT?

JAMES
>What is the council of El?  It is a group of gods/elohim.  Given the context (which you skipped), I would say it is the judges of Israel.  This can be confirmed by looking at the use of edah in such passages as Numbers 26:9, 31:16, Joshua 22:17, and Psalm 1:5.

BILL
Simply because the term edah/council/assembly is used to refer to human councils, does not mean that the edah of El in the midst of the elohim is a human council/assembly.

JAMES
>Notice, too that these gods/sons of God become like men, and die.

Of course, there is nothing in the text even remotely indicating “become like men and die.”  They *are* men, and God is simply reminding them that though they have been given an exalted place of rulership amongst His people, they are mere mortals, and will face His judgment.  As rulers, they had become infatuated with their authority (another sad reality we can see all around us), and had failed to do their duty.  God reminds them that despite their exalted position, they are mortal, and shall die as all men die.

BILL
You are quite correct I overstated the case.  Let me phrase my interpretation more carefully.  The elohim in the council of el are condemned by God for their wickedness.  Though they are elohim, and thereby should be immortal, they are nonetheless condemned to die “like men.”  You are correct that the text is not explicitly stating that they “become men.”  However, it does state that (normally immortal) elohim will die like (normally mortal) men, which perhaps could be taken to imply some type of transition or “fall,” as is mentioned in the next line.  This, of course, is how Justin understood the text.

JAMES
I can assure you, Dr. Hamblin, this Psalm is anything but gibberish to anyone who does not embrace a plurality of gods, and who allows the text to speak for itself.

BILL
Your claims that you are “allow[ing] the text to speak for itself” demonstrates a lack of exegetical sophistication on your part.  The text never “speaks for itself.”  All texts require interpretation to be understood.  You interpret, I interpret.  We both do so based on a limited knowledge, and a set of unprovable assumptions and paradigms.  But a text can never simply “speak for itself.”  Furthermore, your claim is simply absurd.  It is quite clear that I am interpreting the texts based on the literal sense of the words and phrases (although even this is not letting the text speak for itself”), while you are making unwarranted transformations.

William J. Hamblin
Associate Professor of History


Then there came a number of posts about how busy I was on Long Island, and assuring Dr. Hamblin that I would indeed be replying as time allowed.  I did so on April 24th:

>It still amazes me that someone could believe Yahweh is someone other
>than the Most High. Deut. 32:12 makes it plain. [BILL: It does?] But note
>just a few
>examples: [Cites: Genesis 14:22; Psalm 7:17; Psalm 9:1; Psalm 21:7]
>A verse-by-verse exegesis of Deuteronomy 32 is *completely* disrupted by the
>insertion of some “other” God into the text, as you suggested on the
>program.
>BILL
>I should explain my comments on the radio. I was trying to read the Hebrew
>text, listen to you, and think of what I was going to say simultaneously.

Yes, of course….so was I. Except you knew what you were going to toss my direction, and, as is the nature of radio programs, I didn’t. Thankfully, I grabbed my BHS, not really thinking I’d need it. Providence. 🙂

>I
>therefore mispoke. (Radio shows are not a very helpful venue for discussing
>technical issues like this.) I realized shortly thereafter that my
>statement on this matter had been confused, but by then the topic had
>shifted, so I decided to drop it.

OK.

>At any rate, my position is as follows.
>1- I am, of course, aware that Yahweh is called Elyon in some passages in
>the OT. That does not necessarily demonstrate that Elyon and Yahweh must be
>understood as referring to same figure in Deut. 32:8-9. You, of course, are
>interpreting from evangelical presuppositions, and insist that the theology
>of all verses in the Bible must be absolutely consistent with all others.

Yes, of course. I accept the text as a body of revelation, not disparate, disjointed, self-contradictory pericopes that can be rearranged in any form or fashion we may find pleasing. While many modern “theologians” in liberal Protestantism obtain tenure by engaging in such playful re-arrangement of the divine text, I find many reasons not to do so, the most important being that I believe in Jesus Christ. Since I believe Him to be my risen Lord, I find it necessary to follow in His footsteps regarding His view of the Sacred Text. Having done a fairly thorough examination of His usage of Scripture and His statements concerning it, I am convinced that He was not merely playing rhetorical games when He said the following to the Sadducees:

But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God:

Jesus considered the written word to embody the very speaking of God, holding men accountable to the Scriptures as though God had personally spoken those words directly to them (which, through the written word, He did). This is substantially the same view as that of Paul, who describes the inspired Scriptures as theopneustos, God-breathed, and that of Peter, who said holy men spoke *from* God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

The nature of Scripture gives rise to its consistency. God does not contradict Himself. Hence, one can actually study the text of Scripture profitably—that is, since it is a consistent whole, one can determine its message, and apply what one learns. Liberal theology has inevitably led to the death of the denominations in which it has found a home—they have become religious social clubs, many no longer believing God is active in this world, no longer believing in the resurrection, miracles, or anything else, for that matter. But when one accepts the consistency of God’s Word, one can then “hear” God speaking clearly—not in disparate and contradictory snippets, but in a symphonic unison of truth.

Now, I’d be willing to revise my view of the nature of Scripture if you could demonstrate to me that Jesus taught that the Bible is, in fact, nothing more than a heavily redacted collection of ancient Middle Eastern myths. Having been exposed to a healthy dose of such scholarship in the past, I doubt there is too much “new” out there in defense of such an idea, but feel free to suggest whatever you’d like.

>But to argue that, since Yahweh and Elyon are equated with some texts, he
>therefore must be equated with Elyon in all texts, is, of course, blatant
>circular reasoning.

On a strictly logical basis, that statement is glaringly false. If one’s presupposition is that the text is inherently disjointed, of course—-but if you begin with the presupposition that the text is unified, it is no more circular reasoning than assuming that any author is consistent in his own writings. I truly doubt, Dr. Hamblin, that you would appreciate someone taking one of your books, chopping it up into odd-sized bits, and then beginning the process of “interpretation” by *assuming* that you will contradict yourself on every page, indeed, in almost every paragraph. I would assume you appreciate it when people take the time to let you define your own terms, and give you the benefit of the doubt when it comes to what might appear to be contradictory in your statements. It would, of course, be very, very easy to take even one of your articles and, by applying modern form critical methodology, make you appear to be completely inconsistent and absurd.

Therefore, it is not blatant circular reasoning, but simple contextual reading, that would bring me to say that Elyon is merely another term for Yahweh, and Yahweh is simply another name for Elohim.

In reality, *you* are the one reasoning circularly here. You are assuming something (the *dis*unity of the text) and allowing that presupposition to determine your usage. Yet, how do you prove disunity, since, of course, you cannot logically just presupose it? Most often it is “proven” by pointing to these very types of issues! Of course, only when it comes to studying the Bible can people get away with assuming such things. No one “assumes” disunity in other ancient documents without being challenged on it—but when it comes to the Bible, it’s considered a given anymore.

>I believe there was historical development (“line upon
>line”) in the Biblical text and theology, and that, in fact, the OT
>understanding of God is quite different from the NT (as the rabbis would
>insist).

Historical development is fine, if that means progressive revelation; i.e., that God did not begin His revelation with item 50 on a list of truths about God, but with item 1, then item 2, etc., each building upon the other. But, since you say that the OT “understanding of God is quite different from the NT,” such would not be your meaning. You could amend that to say “the OT revelation of God is not as complete as the NT” and no one would argue the fact. There is, of course, one aspect that is completely the same in both: Yahweh Elohim is the one true and eterna God, period.

>You cannot find the NicaeanTrinity clearly described in the OT any
>more clearly than you can find the LDS Godhead–so the argument of your book
>in that regard cuts both ways.

You seem to misunderstand the argument of my book. I do not recall ever arguing that the Old Testament presents the fullness of the doctrine of the Trinity. Could you direct me to the page where you think I make that claim? In fact, my book is not about the doctrine of the Trinity. It’s about monotheism. It’s about the fundamental truth of the Bible that God is God, and is ontologically completely different than anything else, for He created everything else, and all things are dependent upon Him, while He is dependent upon nothing else. And it contrasts this fundamental truth with the LDS assertion that God is an exalted man. Hence, could you explain how the argument of my book “cuts both ways,” since the argument of my book is that if you are not a monotheist, you are not a Christian? Since I’m a monotheist, how does that argument work against me?

>Be that as it may, I certainly grant that it
>is possible to interpret this passage as saying that Elyon divided the
>nations among the bene elohim, and that Elyon/Yahweh’s portion was Israel,
>and I believe I said so on the radio. (As Paul noted, this interpretation,
>however, conflicts with the biblical notion that Israel was Michael’s
>portion, not Yahweh’s, but that’s another matter.)

I do not have the tape with me, nor did I review it before I left Phoenix, but I do not have any recollection at all of your stating that the passage makes perfect sense seeing Yahweh as the Most High. In fact, I recall the idea that Yahweh is the son of Elyon, a secondary god, who receives as his chelek but one of the nations so divided. But, without the tape here, I will not pursue the issue.

As to Michael, I do not recall ever reading that Israel was given to Michael as chelek. Where might this be found?

>2- The fact that you are “amaze[d] . . . that someone could believe Yahweh
>[in Deut 32] is someone other than the Most High” tells us more about you
>than the argument, since many very intelligent interpreters of the text see
>it in precisely those terms. I can provide a bibliography if you are
>unaware of such studies. The point is, then, that the text, like many
>others, is ambiguous, and can be interpreted in several ways.

Indeed, if one does not believe the Bible’s own testimony to monotheism, one can find in its text pretty much anything one’s heart could desire. All the statement should tell you is that I continue to be amazed at the fulfillment of 2 Peter 3:15-16, issues of “intelligence” being completely irrelevant. There are intelligent people who believe all sorts of silly things—-indeed, the preaching of the cross is to them who are perishing foolishness.

>3- If, as you claim, Deut 32 is attempting to say that Elyon took Israel as
>his portion, it does so in a very ambiguous and confusing way, which is
>precisely why latter editors changed the text from bene elohim to bene
>Yisrael.

Assuming, of course, your own position and the textual reading you have chosen. However, I cannot put a lot of stock in your statements regarding confusion, since you say you are confused as to how a Christian could understand Psalm 82 as well. The passage certainly does not confuse me, anymore than the simple reading of Psalm 82 does.

>If the text so unambiguously says what you claim, why did later
>editors feel compelled to expunge the offending line, thereby removing the
>possibility of reading the text as Elyon giving Yahweh a portion? The text
>was clearly understood by enough early readers as saying something along
>those lines that the editors felt compelled to change the text.

Could you provide the commentary of the alleged redactors that provides you with this certain information as to what they were thinking?

>Furthermore, why would God inerrantly inspire a text in such a dreadfully
>ambiguous manner?

I’m sorry, but such an argument is so circular as to boggle the mind. I don’t believe the passage is the least bit amgibuous, nor do I believe many passages, all of which directly contradict LDS teaching, are ambiguous.

>4- I should note also that, interestingly enough, to the best of my
>knowledge the phrase bene Yahweh never occurs in the OT. (Do you know of
>any?) If so, it is interesting to ask why? Why are there bene elim, bene
>ha-elohim, bene elohim and bene elyon, but–if all of these are simple
>equivalents for Yahweh–there are no bene Yahweh?

I didn’t say they were simple equivalents, of course. I said that Yahweh is Elohim and that there is only one true God in the Old Testament, such terms as Elyon likewise describing that one true God. It is illogical to take that statement and then say that I am making Yahweh a “simple equivalent.” Yahweh is the covenant name of the maker of all things, including Israel. As such, it is more specific than Elohim.

>The issue I originally tried to raise was, who are the bene
>elohim/elyon? This needs to be discussed in the context of the NT use of
>elyon/hypsistos (LXX Greek for elyon), which we never got to on the radio.
>In the NT Christ is called the son of elyon/hypsistos (Lk 1:32, 1:35, 8:28,
>Mk 5:7), but is never himself called hypsistos (all other passages: Lk 1:76;
>Acts 7:28, 16:7, Heb 7:1). Hypsistos is thus, by accident or intention, a
>unique title for the Father in the NT.

I do not believe in accidents in the text of the NT. Be that as it may, since Elyon = Yahweh, and Yahweh is used of Father, Son, and Spirit (despite Van’s protestations to the contrary), we find here more of the reason Christians refused to follow the path of polytheism but instead saw the truth of the Trinity.

>The final interesting passage is Lk
>6:35, which reads that the followers of Christ should “love your enemies,
>and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be
>great, and you will be the sons of the Most High (huioi hypsistou).”

NAB Luke 6:35 “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.

Adding the hoti clause surely indicates the context in which the phrase is being used, “FOR He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.”

>Notice, then, that in the NT Christ is the son of hypsistos, and so are the
>followers of Christ.

Surely Christ is the Son of the Most High in a unique manner, for no one could ever argue that the last passage you cited has any ontological meaning whatsoever. To do so would require one to insist that Christ is only the Son of the Most High as He was kind to ungrateful and evil men, which makes no sense whatsoever. Hence, the bare statement that men and Christ are alike huioi of the Most High is highly misleading at best.

>This parallels Mt 5:9, where the “peacemakers . . .
>shall be called the sons of God.” I’m sure you are aware of the many other
>passages where the saved become sons of God. We can discuss them if you’d
>like.

Matthew 5:9 parallels Luke 6:35, and refers to believers being called children of God as they imitate His behavior and goodness. None of these, however, make men the offspring of an exalted man from another planet, and none of them even begin to suggest that the relationship of Father and Son is limited to a merely moral dimension.

>Notice, then, what the combination of these texts, with a literal reading of
>Ps 82, implies the following:

The literal reading of Psalm 82, as I demonstrated, has nothing to do with your assertions regarding it.

> Christ is the son of the Most High

Ontologically and Messianically.

> his true followers can become the sons of the Most High

In the moral sense of followers of imitators of His goodness.

> Christ is the son of God

Eternally the Son.

> his true followers can become the sons of God

By faith in Jesus Christ (John 1:12).

> Ps 82:6 The sons of the Most High are gods/elohim

As judges of the people of Israel, standing in His place, applying His law.

>When Christ quoted “ye are gods” from Ps. 82:6, he was–in typical rabbinic
>fashion–giving a scriptural reference. Today we would say, “Read Ps 82:6,”
>but, since such a reference system had not been developed at the time of
>Christ, the ancients would simply quote the first line of the passage they
>were referencing. Christ expected his listeners to know the scripture, and
>to consider the entire passage, not simply the one line.

Most definitely….including the verses you have removed from consideration (3 & 4).

>Christ was
>certainly aware that the very next phrase of the text he was citing to
>justify his claim to being the Son of God, explicitly equates the sons of
>the Most High/bene elyon/huioi hypsistou with the elohim/gods. Which is, of
>course, precisely what he was claiming: that he, as the Son of God, was one
>with the Father, i.e. he was elohim/theos. This is precisely what the Jews
>understood him as saying. There was no ambiguity or confusion. There was
>no condemnation of anyone as unrighteous judges. Everyone understood the
>argument and its implications. To me the issue and argument are crystal
>clear, and all the nonsense about elohim = judges completely distorts the
>text of Jn 10, and destroys the thrust of Christ’s argument.

Actually, allowing Psalm 82 to say what it says without removing entire sections that disagree with one’s theories, fits perfectly in the Lord’s use of the passage in John 10. There is no problem with the Lord’s citation of the passage whatsoever, and to miss His own reference to “those unto whom the word of God came” and His condemnation of them as false judges is to merely close one’s eyes to the text. Of course Jesus is claiming deity here…but that came from John 10:30, not from Psalm 82. The citation of Psalm 82 brings condemnation upon them for accusing Him of blasphemy.

>If we are to take the scripture seriously, we must conclude that sons of the
>Most High/bene elyon/huioi hypsistou are elohim/gods, and that the true
>followers of Christ can become sons of the Most High/bene elyon/huioi
>hypsistou, or in other words, elohim/gods. And this, of course, is the LDS
>Christian position.

As we have seen above, this is not taking Scripture seriously at all. It is stringing together disparate passages, ignoring their contexts, ignoring dozens of passages that completely contradict the fundamental assumptions of the argument, and coming to a conclusion that is really only provided to you by your faith in Joseph Smith, not by any meaningful form of exegesis.

>Now, you may not like this theology, and you don’t have to agree with it.
>You may perform all the exegetical acrobatics you wish to try to make the
>text say something else.

The acrobatics are clearly being performed by yourself, Dr. Hamblin, not by me.

>But this is the literal sense of the text, and the
>only interpretation in which Christ’s argument in John 10 makes logical
>sense.

That is completely untrue, and has been shown to be wishful thinking, not exegesis.

>So, though I readily grant you the right to disagree, I can’t see
>how you can claim the LDS position on this matter is unbiblical or
>non-Christian, or that you are letting the text speak for itself, while I am
>somehow distorting it.

Since you have ignored the different uses of the phrases you string together, and have removed them form their contexts, the distortion is very, very clear.

>I won’t cite your entire lengthy argument on the judges = elohim, but will
>make a few comments.

Since that was the substance of my response, I’m very disappointed that I have spent a week receiving notes about how I have failed to “answer” your points, when it is *my* points that are going unanswered.

>You have a heavy burden of proof to sustain.
>1- There is a perfectly good Hebrew word for judge (shaphat). If Ps 82
>meant to condemn wicked judges, why in the world didn’t God inerrantly
>inspire the psalmist to use the word for judge? Why all this language about
>elohim, the council of el, and the bene elyon?

You are ignoring the passages I provided to you that use elohim clearly for judges. Please respond to those passages I cited to you, including: 

Exodus 22:8 “If the thief is not caught, then the owner of the house shall appear before the judges [Hebrew: ha’elohim], to determine whether he laid his hands on his neighbor’s property. 

>2- Your claim that humans have judging functions as described in Ps 82 is
>quite correct. I presume, however, that you are also aware that God is the
>supreme judge, and judgement, is, in fact, ultimately a divine rather than
>human function, and that mortals will participate in rendering divine
>judgement at the final judgement (e.g. Mt 19:28, Lk 22:29).

Not relevant to the issue at hand, nor the plain usage at Exodus 22 or Psalm 82.

>3- I quite concur that mortals are condemned for rendering unjust
>judgement. This does not demonstrate that elohim can be used as a term to
>mean judges.

Such usage is so firmly established as to be beyond discussion.

>4- I challenge you show me anywhere else in the OT or NT, where the term
>elohim unequivocally means judge? You attempted to do so as follows:
>
>JAMES
>Actually, because the Hebrew normally uses the term Elohim of God (do you
>embrace the distinction between Yahweh and Elohim introduced by the First
>Presidency?), [BILL: Yes I do, but it cannot be clearly found in the OT,
>although I believe it can be sustained from the NT, but that is a different
>matter.]

It is a different matter….but it shows that LDS teachings are derived from LDS authority, not biblical exegesis.

>and the context defines the nature and function of the plural use
>of elohim in regards to the giving of judgment amongst the people. This is
>an established use of the term:
>[Cite: Exodus 22:8; Exodus 22:9]
>
>BILL
>(You should also have added Exodus 21:6, which in the KJV and some other
>translations says the same type of thing.)

Possibly, but that is not necessary. The usage at Exodus 22 is plain enough.

>I’m sorry, but you will simply have to do better than that. Note, first,
>that these passages do not say that elohim are shaphat.

Nor, of course, does it need to. Anyone reading the context knows what is going on. The elohim in Exodus 22:9 “condemn” (hiphil of rasha)—and any person familiar with the term knows its legal ramifications, and its connection with shaphat. Note just one passage that again supports the exegesis I provided:

NAB Deuteronomy 1:17 ‘You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not fear man, for the judgment is God’s. The case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.’

This is, of course, the positive of which Psalm 82:2-4 is the negative, even to the point of the condemnation of showing partiality. Psalm 82 uses shaphat of the action of the elohim—-and then, as I showed, limits this to human affairs. You have completely ignored the entire section of my post that demonstrates this I believe beyond any reasonable doubt. Since you seem to have lost this section, I repeat it here, and ask you to respond to it meaningfully:

Again, if you would allow the context to stand as a unit, the answer to the question is without question:

Psalm 82:2 How long will you judge unjustly And show partiality to the wicked?

Psalm 82:3 Vindicate the weak and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and destitute.

Psalm 82:4 Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.

Psalm 82:5 They do not know nor do they understand; They walk about in darkness; All the foundations of the earth are shaken.

Psalm 82:6 I said, “You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High.

Psalm 82:7 “Nevertheless you will die like men And fall like any one of the princes.”

Psalm 82:8 Arise, O God, judge the earth! For it is You who possesses all the nations.

Yahweh is judging the elohim. What is the content of the judgment? Verses 2 through 7. In verse 2, God brings the charge: unjust judging and partiality to the wicked. You say that this judgment comes upon “(some of?) the other elohim.” Yet, the very verses you skip over demonstrate that these are plainly HUMAN matters. The unjust judgment and partiality toward the wicked are HUMAN actions:

Deuteronomy 1:17 ‘You shall not show partiality [note the phraseology used here, Dr. Hamblin] in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not fear man, for the judgment is God’s. The case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.’

Proverbs 18:5 To show partiality to the wicked is not good, Nor to thrust aside the righteous in judgment.

The judges are commanded to vindicate the weak and fatherless and to do justice to the afflicted and destitute:

Exodus 22:22 “You shall not afflict any widow or orphan.

Job 29:12 Because I delivered the poor who cried for help, And the orphan who had no helper.

Zechariah 7:10 and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.’

These elohim are doing just the opposite. Just how, Dr. Hamblin, do you substantiate the idea that gods other than the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit (in the LDS viewpoint) are somehow held responsible for passing juridicial sentences in Israelite society? Just how are these “gods” supposed to vindicate or do justice on this earth? How are they to rescue the week and needy, or deliver them from the hand of the wicked ones? I wasn’t aware these other “gods” were involved in this world so as to be judged by God as having failed their task. Isn’t it the common belief of Mormons that 1 Corinthians 8:5-6 *does* refer to other divine beings, but that for US there is but one God, and we don’t have “dealings” with these others?

Be that as it may, a fair, contextual exegesis, then, closes the door upon the rather strange (from my view) constructs placed upon the passage by those who absolutely *must* find some way of turning the text of the Old Testament into a polytheistic text. The meaning—if the text is allowed to speak for itself—is rather plain.

>Note, second, that
>there is not a reason in the world to translate elohim in these three
>passages as judges.

There is every reason just re-cited as ignored by you in your response.

>In fact, the reason ha-elohim is occasionally translated as judges in these
>three passages is because of the Targum Onkelos, and similar documents. The
>problem seems to be that the rabbis didn’t like the literal implications of
>the phrase ha-elohim = the gods, and so simply changed it in translation to
>fit their theology, (precisely as you are doing).

Or, more logically, the context indicates otherwise. A context you have yet to even attempt to address.

>At any rate, the text makes perfectly good sense when read literally. The
>plaintiffs in a legal case are to appear before God, who will manifest the
>truth of the case through an unspecified form of revelation or divination.
>There is no cogent reason, indeed, no reason at all, to translate elohim
>here as judges.

There is no cogent reason to withhold utter amazement at such confident statements in the face of such obvious error.

>So, to conclude, if you want your claim that the word elohim in Ps 82 refers
>to human judges, I challenge you to show any passage in the OT where elohim
>is used in such a manner. Not in translation, please, but based on an
>exegesis of the original Hebrew.

I have done so—-Exodus 22 and Psalm 82 are so clear, and so compelling, that your unwillingness to see this is highly illustrative of what happens when one accepts an extra-biblical authority as the determining factor in one’s “exegesis.”

>I suspect you have derived your interpretation, either directly or
>indirectly, from Calvin’s commentary on Ps 82.

Not in any way. I’ve not read his comments. My exegesis is derived from the text.

>The rich irony here is that I am in agreement with the early Christians on
>this matter, while you are following an interpretation which seems to have
>been developed by rabbinic enemies of the Christian apologists, with whom I
>am agreeing!

Of course, neither passage from Justin or Irenaeus can logically be used to promote polytheism—though, of course, the context of patristic citations seems to suffer as badly at your hands as the context of Psalm 82.

>>Notice, too that these gods/sons of God become like men, and die.
>
>Of course, there is nothing in the text even remotely indicating “become
>like men and die.” They *are* men, and God is simply reminding them that
>though they have been given an exalted place of rulership amongst His
>people, they are mere mortals, and will face His judgment. As rulers,
>they had become infatuated with their authority (another sad reality we
>can see all around us), and had failed to do their duty. God reminds
>them that despite their exalted position, they are mortal, and shall die
>as all men die.
>You are quite correct I overstated the case. Let me phrase my
>interpretation more carefully.
>The elohim in the council of el are condemned by God for their wickedness.
>Though they are elohim, and thereby should be immortal, they are nonetheless
>condemned to die “like men.” You are correct that the text is not
>explicitly stating that they “become men.” However, it does state that
>(normally immortal) elohim will die like (normally mortal) men, which
>perhaps could be taken to imply some type of transition or “fall,” as is
>mentioned in the next line. This, of course, is how Justin understood the
>text.

Again, the eisegetical approach leads you to miss the most basic sence of the language. These are human judges, and due to their immorality and false judgment, they are condemned by God. The same is true in John 10: were the Jews who were about to stone Jesus elohim, Dr. Hamblin? The verb is present tense—were they, at that time, elohim, or false judges about to stone Jesus having passed a false judgment upon Him? Indeed, are YOU an elohim, Dr. Hamlbin? (Jeremiah 10:11).

>I can assure you, Dr. Hamblin, this Psalm is anything but gibberish to
>anyone who does not embrace a plurality of gods, and who allows the text
>to speak for itself.
>Your claims that you are “allow[ing] the text to speak for itself”
>demonstrates a lack of exegetical sophistication on your part. The text
>never “speaks for itself.” All texts require interpretation to be
>understood. You interpret, I interpret. We both do so based on a limited
>knowledge, and a set of unprovable assumptions and paradigms. But a text
>can never simply “speak for itself.”

Words mean things, Dr. Hamblin. The text *can* speak for itself, and in this case, does so quite admirably. What I meant is clear in the context in which I used it: and your ability to remove words from their context has been established in this very, very long response.

>Furthermore, your claim is simply absurd. It is quite clear that I am
>interpreting the texts based on the literal sense of the words and phrases
>(although even this is not letting the text speak for itself”), while you
>are making unwarranted transformations.

I will gladly let those who read this judge who is guilty of doing that, Dr. Hamblin. I now await a meaningful response to the issue of the two verses in Psalm 82 that you have, thus far, completely ignored (3 & 4).

James>>>


Date: Mon, 27 Apr 1998 17:27:03 -0600
From: “William J. Hamblin” <william_hamblin@byu.edu>
Subject: John 10
To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>

BILL
Before I give you my contextual reading of Ps 82, let’s see if we can resolve a much more straightforward problem. Let’s see if we can agree about the meaning of John 10. If we can’t achieve that, I suspect this entire enterprise is quite hopeless. I believe we should start with John 10 since we can then use Jesus’ reading of the passage as the key to understanding Ps 82. Maybe I’m wrong, but humor me for now. Your discussion John 10 leaves much unclear. Here is your relevant statement:

JAMES
Actually, allowing Psalm 82 to say what it says [that it is a condemnation of human judges] without removing entire sections that disagree with one’s theories, fits perfectly in the Lord’s use of the passage in John 10. There is no problem with the Lord’s citation of the passage whatsoever, and to miss His own reference to “those unto whom the word of God came” and His condemnation of them as false judges is to merely close one’s eyes to the
text. Of course Jesus is claiming deity here…but that came from John 10:30, not from Psalm 82. The citation of Psalm 82 brings condemnation upon them for accusing Him of blasphemy.

BILL
I’m afraid I simply don’t understand your interpretation. There are too many hidden assumptions and too much rhetorical posturing, and not enough close attention to the text. Let’s move through the passage verse by verse
and see if we can get a consensus on the meaning. I’ll cite the RSV. I believe there are no significant ambiguities of translation here, but we can quibble about translation if you’d like.

24 So the Jews gathered round him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

Jesus responds with a brief discourse on the works that he does, and that the Jews are not his sheep or they would “hear my voice” (27) i.e. understand and accept him as the Messiah. Those who accept Jesus will have
eternal life. Jesus concludes saying that “I and the Father are one” (30). The Jewish reaction to this claim culminates in Christ’s citation of Ps 82.

31 The Jews took up stones again to stone him.
32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father;
for which of these do you stone me?”

In OT stoning was punishment for the following offenses:
apostasy (Lev 20:2; Deut 13:11)
worshiping other gods (Deut 17:2-7)
child sacrifice to Molech (Lev 20:2-5)
prophesying in the name of another god (Deut 13:1-5)
blasphemy (Lev 24:14-16)
sorcery/spirit divination (Lev 20:27)
sabbath violation (Num 15:32-36)
disobedience to parents (Deut 21:18-21)
adultery (Deut 22:21-24)
Jesus is ironically asking for which of these offenses is he going to be
stoned. (Note, at various points in the NT, Jesus is accused of blasphemy,
sabbath violation, and sorcery.) The Jews clearly understood the ironic
question:

33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we stone you but for blasphemy; because, you, being a man, make yourself God.” (I would translate this as “make yourself a god,” since theon here as no definite article. Jesus is not making himself *the God*, but *a god*. But this issue is not really relevant to our current discussion.)

Are we agreed so far? Quibbling aside, do you have any major objections to my exegesis to this point? If not, then the crux of the matter is in 34-36.

34 a Jesus answered them,
b “Is it not written in your law,
c ‘I said you are gods’?
35 a If he called them gods
b to whom the word [logos] of God came
c (and scripture cannot be broken),
36 a do you say of him
b whom the Father consecrated [hagiasen = made holy]
c and sent into the world,
d ‘You are blaspheming,’
e because I said,
f ‘I am the Son of God.'”

So, lets go phrase by phrase and see what the passage means.

I think there will be no dispute over 35a-c. Jesus is using “law” (nomos/torah) in its broader sense of the entire Hebrew Bible, rather than just the Pentateuch. The passage, “I said ‘you are gods'” is a quotation of Ps 82:6. Are we agreed so far?

It would seem that the center of the debate is the phrase of 34a-b, “if he called them gods to whom the word of God came.” I think there are only three questions. I will give them, and the possible answers as I understand the matter. If you have other possible questions or answers, please feel free to offer them.

1. Who is the “he” who is calling someone “gods”? (Whoever “he” is, I think “he” is clearly the “I” of 35c = Ps 82:6. Can we agree on that?) The possible identifications I can think of are:
    A. God
    B. David the psalmist
    C. Some other unknown prophetic author of the psalms.

Within the context of Ps 82 (which we can debate in detail later), I personally think that the “I” of 35c and Ps 82:6 can only be God/elohim of 82:1. Thus, God himself is speaking; he is saying to someone, “ye are gods.” Are we agreed on this, or is there some other possible interpretation?

2. Who are the “them” who are being called gods? (I suspect we can agree that “to whom” in 35b refers to the “them” in 35a, right?) I believe that they are the elohim of the adat El (gods of the assembly of El/God) in 82:1. I suspect you would even agree with this interpretation. If I understand you correctly, you think that these elohim are metaphorically referring to unrighteous judges of the assembly of Israel. I understand the text
literally as referring to elohim/gods of the assembly of El. There are several other possible interpretations
    A. The elohim of the adat El (my view)
    B. The prophets of Israel in general, unto whom the word of God came
    C. The people of Israel in general, unto whom the word of God came through
         the prophets
    D. Any other suggestions?

For you, if I have understood correctly, the elohim of Ps 82 are human judges. For me, the elohim of Ps 82 are literally gods/celestial beings/bene elyon. Have I identified the crux of our disagreement here? (Let’s not get off on a tangent now about how I have failed to contextualize Ps 82, etc. etc. I have read your arguments, and I will return to them shortly. For now, lets just try to identify the focus of our disagreement on John 10. At this point, let’s not debate the relative merits of our two interpretations, let’s just try to clearly identify where we agree and disagree.)

3. What, specifically, is the “word of God” which came to the “them” of question 2? I will await your interpretation, but to me it is the phrase “ye are gods.” “I”, God, said to “them” (elohim/judges [your view] or elohim/literal gods [my view]): “ye are gods.” Therefore the “word” of God which came to “them” is the statement, “ye are elohim, even the bene elyon, all of you,” etc. Do you agree, or do you understand it differently?

We can now turn to John 10:36, which I’ll give again:

36 a do you [Jews] say of him [Jesus]
b whom the Father consecrated [hagiasen = made holy]
c and sent into the world,
d ‘You are blaspheming,’
e because I [Jesus] said,
f ‘I am the Son of God.’

As I understand 36a: “do you say of him = do you [Jews] say of him [Jesus]”. 36b-c are thus parenthetical phrases which define “him”/Jesus, which, though very interesting from an LDS perspective, I don’t feel have a bearing on our debate here. If you feel otherwise, let me know.

In 36d, then, the Christ is saying that Jews are saying “you [Jesus] are blaspheming.” I feel that this is quite obvious, and is an allusion back to the express statement of the Jews to that effect in 33. Are we agreed on this?

Thus, in light of all this, I read the argument of Jesus in 35-36 as follows. Jesus in 30 says that “I and the Father are one.” The Jews understand him as blaspheming, and prepare to stone him. Jesus asks them why they are going to stone him. They reply, “because you, being a man, make yourself a god” (33). Now I understand 34-36 as Jesus’ defense of his claim to divinity. He is arguing that his claim to be one with the Father is not blasphemy. What is the argument? As I understand it Jesus is saying that his claim to be one with the Father (i.e a claim to be theos) and the Son of God is not blasphemy, because in Ps 82:6 God calls others (whomever they might be) *precisely* both god and sons of god/elyon: “ye are gods, even the sons of the Most High, all of you.” Now I know that we disagree about who these others are, and, as noted above, I will return to that issue in a later letter. But, no matter who they may, I think the argument being made by Jesus is clear. Do you agree or not?

Now, if my understanding of Jesus’ argument is correct, and if the word elohim in Ps 82 is merely a metaphorical usage for human judges as you claim, then Jesus’ argument is sophistry. He is saying that his claim to be god/son of god in the literal sense of the term is not blasphemous, because in Ps 82, human judges are metaphorically called gods. This is blatant equivocation on Jesus’ part. A metaphorical usage in the Psalms cannot justify the literal usage by Jesus in John 10. I am arguing that whomever Ps 82 might be referring to (and we can discuss the specifics later), they must be ontological gods in some meaningful sense of the word, or Jesus’ defense of his claim of being ontologically god is mere sophistry.

You, apparently disagree with my understanding of Jesus’ argument, and frankly I don’t understand what in the world you are talking about. You claim that “the citation of Psalm 82 brings condemnation [as unrighteous judges] upon them [the Jews] for accusing Him [Jesus] of blasphemy.” I’m sorry, but I simply don’t see this anywhere in this passage. Could you please provide a line by line exegesis, paralleling what I have done here,
to explain why you think Jesus is condemning his accusers as unrighteous judges rather than defending himself against their charge of blasphemy? Where, specifically have I gotten it wrong? (And please, no more rhetorical posturing about how I am stripping everything from context and you are merely letting the text speak for itself. Just evidence and analysis please.)

It seems to me there are only two other possible options for understanding Jesus here: 1- I am wrong, and Jesus is not trying to defend himself against the accusation of blasphemy, but is saying something else, [and every commentary I have read, liberal or conservative, thinks that Jesus is defending himself against the charge of blasphemy] or 2- Jesus really was using sophistic methods common to rabbinic hermeneutics. I’ve seen many people argue #2, but I’ve never seen a published argument against #1. If you have some bibliographic references on that subject, I’d like to see them.

A final note which is not really relevant to the Ps 82/Jn 10 debate. Note that in Jn 10:36f Jesus says that he had said, “I am the Son of God.” In fact he does not explicitly say this in this argument, nor anywhere in the NT. What he says, in verse 30 is “I and the Father are one.” This is somehow meant by Jesus to imply his sonship. What do you make of that?

I personally don’t think that 10:37-38 have any bearing on Jesus’s argument here. Jesus is simply offering a reason for the Jews to believe: that Jesus does the works of the Father. I don’t see this as providing a further
justification in Jesus’s defense against the Jews’ accusation of blasphemy. If you understand it differently, please let me know.

This is how I understand this facet of our debate. Once this is clarified, we can move on to Ps 82.

William J. Hamblin
Associate Professor of History


My response indicates that I am unwilling to allow the removal of verses 3 and 4 from the 82nd Psalm to go unchallenged:

>BILL
>Before I give you my contextual reading of Ps 82, let’s see if we can
>resolve a much more straightforward problem. Let’s see if we can agree
>about the meaning of John 10. If we can’t achieve that, I suspect this
>entire enterprise is quite hopeless. I believe we should start with John 10
>since we can then use Jesus’ reading of the passage as the key to
>understanding Ps 82. Maybe I’m wrong, but humor me for now.

And later:

>This is how I understand this facet of our debate. Once this is clarified,
>we can move on to Ps 82.

Yet, when you contacted me a few weeks ago, you did not ask about John 10—-you gave me what you called a “straightforward” literal interpretation of Psalm 82, and asked me how I understood Psalm 82, not John 10. I provided you with a literal, straightforward interpretation of *all* of Psalm 82 (including verses 3 and 4, which have always been missing from your interpretation of the passage), and thus far, you have not dealt with the heart of my response. Now you seem to wish to shift away from your originally stated reasons for contacting me, that being the meaning of Psalm 82, onto John 10 and Jesus’ disputation with the Jews. However, Psalm 82 existed for hundreds of years prior to the Lord’s use of a section of the passage in that debate. Are you suggesting that we cannot determine the meaning of the passage without reference to John 10? And if your purpose was to find out how Psalm 82 could make sense while embracing monotheism, why can’t we deal with Psalm 82 itself?

So far my exegesis has been, in large part, ignored. I have pointed out the meaning of verses 3 and 4, and you have completely failed to even begin to address this material. I do not feel it would be worthwhile to allow you to skip past such material for reasons that have not even been stated. You established the parameters: what does Psalm 82 mean in its original context (you even mentioned translating the Hebrew). When you are willing to address the response to your original comments, including *all* of those comments (i.e., verses 3 and 4), we can continue. If not, I see no reason to engage in lengthy written correspondence when you can pick and choose what elements of my replies you will or will not deal with. Such would be foolhardy on my part.

James>>>


Dear James,

JAMES
[W]hen you contacted me a few weeks ago, you did not ask about John 10—-you gave me what you called a “straightforward” literal interpretation of Psalm 82, and asked me how I understood Psalm 82, not John 10. I provided you with a literal, straightforward interpretation of *all* of Psalm 82 (including verses 3 and 4, which have always been missing from your interpretation of the passage), and thus far, you have not dealt with the heart of my response. Now you seem to wish to shift away from your originally stated reasons for contacting me, that being the meaning of Psalm 82, onto John 10 and Jesus’ disputation with the Jews. However, Psalm 82 existed for hundreds of years prior to the Lord’s use of a section of the passage in that debate. Are you suggesting that we cannot determine the meaning of the passage without reference to John 10? And if your purpose was to find out how Psalm 82 could make sense while embracing monotheism, why can’t we deal with Psalm 82 itself?

BILL
The actual issue I raised is: who are the bene el/elohim/elyon/son of God. Ps. 82 is simply one example of the use of that term. I believe all examples must be studied together to obtain as full an understanding as
possible. I also personally feel that, for Christians, Christ’s exegesis of Ps. 82 in John 10 should be very important, if not definitive for our own exegesis of Ps. 82. I’m disappointed that you apparently don’t agree. But, if you want to limit the discussion, at this point, to only Ps. 82, I’m perfectly willing. ( I suspect that most readers of this correspondence will see this as the quintessential “when you loose, change the topic” tactics
for which you and many other anti-Mormons are so well known.) I’ll deal with Ps 82 now if you promise to deal with the issues I raised about John 10 when we are done with Ps 82.

JAMES
So far my exegesis has been, in large part, ignored. I have pointed out the meaning of verses 3 and 4, and you have completely failed to even begin to address this material. I do not feel it would be worthwhile to allow you to skip past such material for reasons that have not even been stated. You established the parameters: what does Psalm 82 mean in its original context (you even mentioned translating the Hebrew). When you are willing to address the response to your original comments, including *all* of those comments (i.e., verses 3 and 4), we can continue. If not, I see no reason to engage in lengthy written correspondence when you can pick and choose what elements of my replies you will or will not deal with. Such would be foolhardy on my part.

BILL
(But, obviously, you feel it would be wise on my part to engage in this correspondence “when you can pick and choose what elements of my replies you will or will not deal with.” So be it. Should I make a list of all the
issues I raised which you have conveniently ignored?)

As preliminary background, there seem to be two major schools of interpretations of the elohim/bene elyon in Ps 82. One maintains that the elohim/bene elyon are human judges (either from Israel or from the goyim), who are given the title of elohim because they exercise divine authority when judging. This is your position. The other interpretation is that the elohim/bene elyon are, in fact, celestial beings of some sort. And that the God of Israel is literally judging the gods. This is my position.

Just as background, let’s take a look at a miscellaneous selection of commentaries on Ps 82. I went to the BYU library and randomly selected from the broad range of commentaries. I tried to get famous ones of which I had heard, but I also simply took others randomly from the shelves. I also tried to include a wide range of perspectives, from conservative to liberal, and dates, from the Reformation to the present. Here are the results, organized by relative date.

Calvin (16th century) = judges
Dickson (1655) = judges
Matthew Henry (18th century) = judges
Keil & Delitzsch (1880s?) = judges
Nealle and Littledale (1887) = gives both
Briggs (1907) = judges
Spurgeon (1918) = judges
Soncino (1945) = judges (Rashi) or celestial beings (Ibn Ezra)
Interpreters (1955) = leans to celestial beings, but is uncertain
Beacon (1967) = judges
Eerdmans (1970) = judges
Broadman (1971) = celestial beings
New Century (1972) = celestial beings
Anchor (1970s?) = celestial beings
Cambridge (1977) = celestial beings
Kraus (1978) = celestial beings
New Jerome (1990) = celestial beings
Word (1990) = celestial beings
Expositors (Zondervan, 1991) = celestial beings
Interpretation (1994) = celestial beings
New Interpreters (1996) = celestial beings
Goulden, Psalms of Asaph, (1996) = celestial beings

Notice that, since the early 70s, *all* commentaries I found have interpreted this passage as referring to celestial beings. None accept the judge interpretation, even the conservative ones. I suspect there might be some fundamentalist modern commentaries which may still maintain the judge interpretation, but I couldn’t find any. (If you know of any, please give me the references.) This phenomenon cannot be attributed to liberal/agnostic vs. conservative/believing, since the various post-1970 conservative commentaries I listed above agree with the celestial being interpretation. The reason for this shift is that new archaeological discoveries, especially the Ugaritica, along with linguistic and comparative studies have decisively demonstrated that the language used in the Bible to describe the assembly of the gods and the bene elohim is precisely the same language used by other peoples (especially the Canaanites) to describe the divine assembly of their gods. Have you read E. T. Mullen, _The Assembly ofthe Gods: The Divine Council in Canaanite and Early Hebrew Literature_, (Scholars Press, 1980)? If you have, and disagree with his conclusions, I would like to see a detailed rebuttal of his position. (I’m not expecting you to write it yourself. Just refer me to a source which systematically explains this evidence from your perspective.) If you haven’t, don’t you think you should stop pontificating on what Ps 82 and parallel passages mean until you have?

You have been frequently insinuating in your postings that you feel I have skipped verses 3 and 4 because they disprove my position and because I have no explanation for them. Actually, I skipped them because I felt that the standard explanation for those who view Ps 82 as referring to celestial beings–which I apparently mistakenly assumed you had read–was quite clear on the matter. I’m not going to waste my time writing a point by point
commentary for you, when there are many in existence. Although I disagree with him on some details, I suggest you read Marvin E. Tate, _Word Biblical Commentary, vol 20: Psalms 51-100, (Dallas, Word Books, 1982), pp. 328-341, (a conservative commentary, I believe). I basically concur with his position on vs. 3-4. He also provides a useful bibliography. If you don’t have a copy in your personal library, or available at a nearby public library, I’d be happy to send you a xerox at my expense. If you want one, and request it now, I can mail it today so it will be at your home when you return from New York.

So, there is my explanation for vs. 3-4. It is really simple and straightforward. Hardly worth all your rhetorical posturing on the matter. Now that I have done as you demanded, shall we return to Christ’s exegesis,
instead of squabbling over yours and mine?

William J. Hamblin
Associate Professor of History


>JAMES
>[W]hen you contacted me a few weeks ago, you did not ask about John
>10—-you gave me what you called a “straightforward” literal interpretation
>of Psalm 82, and asked me how I understood Psalm 82, not John 10. I provided
>you with a literal, straightforward interpretation of *all* of Psalm 82
>(including verses 3 and 4, which have always been missing from your
>interpretation of the passage), and thus far, you have not dealt with the
>heart of my response. Now you seem to wish to shift away from your
>originally stated reasons for contacting me, that being the meaning of Psalm
>82, onto John 10 and Jesus’ disputation with the Jews. However, Psalm 82
>existed for hundreds of years prior to the Lord’s use of a section of the
>passage in that debate. Are you suggesting that we cannot determine the
>meaning of the passage without reference to John 10? And if your purpose was
>to find out how Psalm 82 could make sense while embracing monotheism, why
>can’t we deal with Psalm 82 itself?
>
>BILL
>The actual issue I raised is: who are the bene el/elohim/elyon/son of God.
>Ps. 82 is simply one example of the use of that term.

Your words are recorded on both web pages carrying this conversation. I shall not repost them, they are self-evident. You said Psalm 82 must be “gibberish” to someone such as myself, and I have demonstrated it is anything but.

>I believe all
>examples must be studied together to obtain as full an understanding as
>possible. I also personally feel that, for Christians, Christ’s exegesis of
>Ps. 82 in John 10 should be very important, if not definitive for our own
>exegesis of Ps. 82.

Christ did not exegete Psalm 82. He quoted a single verse in reference to His opponents. He never cited verses 1 through 5, nor 7 and 8. Hence, what you are offering is YOUR interpretation of what is going on in John 10, and reading that back as if it were Jesus’ interpretation into Psalm 82, all the while continuing to ignore two major things: 1) the testimony of verses 3 and 4, and 2) the constant witness of the entire OT to the fact that there is only one true God, who has eternally been God.

>I’m disappointed that you apparently don’t agree. But,
>if you want to limit the discussion, at this point, to only Ps. 82, I’m
>perfectly willing. ( I suspect that most readers of this correspondence will
>see this as the quintessential “when you loose, change the topic” tactics
>for which you and many other anti-Mormons are so well known.)

Excuse me, but that is not only rude, it is childish. Such is merely triumphalistic rhetoric. I have not “loosed” anything, Dr. Hamblin. *You* have ignored the immediate context of Psalm 82. *You* have changed the topic away from what you originally presented to me. I could easily say that you are running from Psalm 82 because you are not able to deal with it exegetically, and of course, that’s exactly what I believe. But what makes me differ from you is that I don’t need to intrude that into the conversation the way you seemingly feel you must.

It is amazing that someone of your caliber can so quickly drop to the level of antagonistic ad-hominem as you did here. Rather than dealing with the exegetical issues, you instead begin using emotionally laden and inaccurate terms like “anti-Mormon.” If I were to respond to your contacts with terms like “this is the kind of tactic we expect from you and many other anti-Christians,” you would scream to the highest heavens about how uncharitable we are. Yet, you don’t mind engaging in that kind of tactic yourself. The double-standard is truly striking.

>I’ll deal
>with Ps 82 now if you promise to deal with the issues I raised about John 10
>when we are done with Ps 82.
>
>JAMES
>So far my exegesis has been, in large part, ignored. I have pointed out the
>meaning of verses 3 and 4, and you have completely failed to even begin to
>address this material. I do not feel it would be worthwhile to allow you to
>skip past such material for reasons that have not even been stated. You
>established the parameters: what does Psalm 82 mean in its original context
>(you even mentioned translating the Hebrew). When you are willing to address
>the response to your original comments, including *all* of those comments
>(i.e., verses 3 and 4), we can continue. If not, I see no reason to engage
>in lengthy written correspondence when you can pick and choose what elements
>of my replies you will or will not deal with. Such would be foolhardy on my
>part.

>BILL
>(But, obviously, you feel it would be wise on my part to engage in this
>correspondence “when you can pick and choose what elements of my replies you
>will or will not deal with.” So be it. Should I make a list of all the
>issues I raised which you have conveniently ignored?)

Yes, please do, since I have not ignored any of your issues at all. I responded briefly to the last message because you had skipped over a major portion of my response to you, even when I repeated it a second time. I reject the allegation that I have “conveniently ignored” (another unnecessary ad-hominem comment) anything, but I have documented that you *have* chosen to ignore segments of my replies to you.

>As preliminary background, there seem to be two major schools of
>interpretations of the elohim/bene elyon in Ps 82. One maintains that the
>elohim/bene elyon are human judges (either from Israel or from the goyim),
>who are given the title of elohim because they exercise divine authority
>when judging. This is your position. The other interpretation is that the
>elohim/bene elyon are, in fact, celestial beings of some sort. And that the
>God of Israel is literally judging the gods. This is my position.

Nor is that, or your listing of viewpoints, relevant to the exegetical discussion I *thought* you requested at first, Dr. Hamblin. While it is fascinating to note the degradation of commentaries over the years (I have often commented that especially when it comes to the OT, you have to go back 100 years to find much of worth), I have no intention of citing commentaries as the basis of my exegesis of the passage. I provided you with an exegesis that came from the text itself—-I did not open a single commentary in writing it. My exegesis is both linguistically and contextually consistent, and, it has the added advantage of being consistent with a pan-canonical view of the inspiration of the Scriptures themselves.

>Notice that, since the early 70s, *all* commentaries I found have
>interpreted this passage as referring to celestial beings. None accept the
>judge interpretation, even the conservative ones. I suspect there might be
>some fundamentalist modern commentaries which may still maintain the judge
>interpretation, but I couldn’t find any. (If you know of any, please give
>me the references.)

I have never made such a survey, but would actually be surprised if there were any by major publishers. The currrent climate is not favorable to a methodology of interpretation that would “buck the trends” in regards to OT studies.

>This phenomenon cannot be attributed to liberal/agnostic vs.
>conservative/believing, since the various post-1970 conservative
>commentaries I listed above agree with the celestial being interpretation.

Actually, the entire methodology of OT studies has shifted radically, leading to interpretations that are determined not by exegetical concerns, but by comparative linguistic studies and the fundamental rejection of the uniqueness of biblical literature.

>The reason for this shift is that new archaeological discoveries, especially
>the Ugaritica, along with linguistic and comparative studies have decisively
>demonstrated that the language used in the Bible to describe the assembly of
>the gods and the bene elohim is precisely the same language used by other
>peoples (especially the Canaanites) to describe the divine assembly of their
>gods. Have you read E. T. Mullen, _The Assembly ofthe Gods: The Divine
>Council in Canaanite and Early Hebrew Literature_, (Scholars Press, 1980)?
>If you have, and disagree with his conclusions, I would like to see a
>detailed rebuttal of his position. (I’m not expecting you to write it
>yourself. Just refer me to a source which systematically explains this
>evidence from your perspective.)

Again, this well illustrates the role of unchallenged presuppositions in OT publications. If you have read widely in the field, you know that the idea that such sources are to be taken not only as relevant, but as *determinative,* is almost a watchword. You simply won’t get anywhere without buying into that viewpoint. However, there are many reasons to question the assertion, not the least of which has to do with the fact that it is impossible to think that God would borrow from the pagan practices and concepts of the day to reveal His truth; i.e.,     that the pagan elements of a “council of gods” should, by some magical determination, be taken into the consideration of a text that fundamentally identifies Canaanite ritual and worship as idolatry. Sadly, I have found that in many situations today, the “publish or perish” mentality is far more determinative of what ends up coming out under the guise of “scholarship” than the truth itself.

>If you haven’t, don’t you think you should
>stop pontificating on what Ps 82 and parallel passages mean until you have?

I’ll let such a comment stand as its own refutation. I’m tempted to list works that you may not have read, but such would be to stoop to the same level of rhetoric.

>You have been frequently insinuating in your postings that you feel I have
>skipped verses 3 and 4 because they disprove my position and because I have
>no explanation for them. Actually, I skipped them because I felt that the
>standard explanation for those who view Ps 82 as referring to celestial
>beings–which I apparently mistakenly assumed you had read–was quite clear
>on the matter.

You would never accept such faulty argumentation from me, Dr. Hamblin. If I had consistently ignored a major portion of your presentation and exegesis of a passage, and when forced to address that action, simply said, “Oh, I assumed you had read the standard explanations, so I ignored that,” you’d rightly nail me to the wall. Why you think you can get away with that kind of comment, I do not know (perhaps it is because, obviously, you are writing more for your friends on skinny-l, and the SHIELDS web page, who will, undoubtedly, only cheer you on in whatever you say, no matter whether it is logically relevant or not?).

>I’m not going to waste my time writing a point by point
>commentary for you, when there are many in existence. Although I disagree
>with him on some details, I suggest you read Marvin E. Tate, _Word Biblical
>Commentary, vol 20: Psalms 51-100, (Dallas, Word Books, 1982), pp. 328-341,
>(a conservative commentary, I believe). I basically concur with his
>position on vs. 3-4. He also provides a useful bibliography. If you don’t
>have a copy in your personal library, or available at a nearby public
>library, I’d be happy to send you a xerox at my expense. If you want one,
>and request it now, I can mail it today so it will be at your home when you
>return from New York.

I returned from New York on Monday. As to Tate, my personal library copy will work just fine. Do you wish me to address his comments on verses 3 and 4 as if they were your own? That will be a little tough for two reasons. 1) He has to do what any commentator has to do: he cannot make any meaningful connection between “gods” and the obviously human act of doing justice, so, he focuses upon human judges (336, 340-341). 2) There is no connection, as far as I can see, between his understanding and your own in the sense that he is not, to my knowledge, asserting that these gods are offspring of an exalted man from another planet. Hence, the question I originally asked you remains: please direct me to the statements of the General Authorities of the LDS Church that refer to the role of other “gods” in judging and doing justice here on earth. Who, aside from Elohim and Yahweh, in LDS theology, are charged with such duties? How, in LDS theology, are these “gods” supposed to carry out this charge? And if you refer merely to pre-existant spirit beings who “become” mortal, why are they called “gods” when they have not been exalted? And, I asked this question before as well: are you a god, Dr. Hamblin?

>So, there is my explanation for vs. 3-4. It is really simple and
>straightforward. Hardly worth all your rhetorical posturing on the matter.
>Now that I have done as you demanded, shall we return to Christ’s exegesis,
>instead of squabbling over yours and mine?

I can only guess that what you are saying is that I can take Tate’s position and ask all the questions of it that you have thus far refused to address? If that’s OK, I’ll be glad to do so, but I don’t think that will accomplish a whole lot.

James>>>


On Monday, May 4th, Dr. Hamblin replied:

Dear James,

At 02:39 PM 5/1/98 -0600, you wrote:

>BILL
>The actual issue I raised is: who are the bene el/elohim/elyon/son of God.
>Ps. 82 is simply one example of the use of that term.

JAMES
Your words are recorded on both web pages carrying this conversation. I shall not repost them, they are self-evident. You said Psalm 82 must be “gibberish” to someone such as myself, and I have demonstrated it is
anything but.

BILL
I will quote them: “In light of our discussion on the radio Sunday night, I’d like to see your interpretation of Psalm 82.” Our discussion on the radio was, among other things, about the meaning of the term “sons of god.” That is the overall issue I raised. Ps 82 is merely a subset of that issue, since it is one case where the phrase appears in the OT. I also wrote, “From an evangelical perspective this must all seem like gibberish.” Here is the antecedent of “this.”

Notice here that the elohim/gods are precisely the same as the sons of ‘Elyon. The bene elohim/bene ‘elyon are thus, in fact, simply elohim/gods. Notice, too that these gods/sons of God become like men, and die. They become humans. (Of course, this passage is quoted in John 10:34 by Jesus; it is discussed from and LDS Christian perspective by Daniel Peterson, in “Psalm 82 and John 10 as Witnesses to the Divine Nature of Humankind” forthcoming in a few months. From an LDS Christian perspective, this all makes perfect sense, since the the sons of God are, just as described here, celestial beings who become human (like Adam), fall, and die. (In the NT, Christ allows these sons of God to become immortal again, and become like Christ, joint heirs, and one with the Father, but that is another discussion.)

Thus, I was not saying that Ps 82 was gibberish to you, but that the *literal* interpretation of Ps 82, that the sons of Elyon are gods, is gibberish. You have amply demonstrated, by your unwillingness to deal with the literal meaning of the Psalm, that you do find it gibberish. Thus, you are compelled to revert to metaphorical explanations that gods = judges. But, as I originally stated, the literal reading of this psalm is unacceptable to you.

JAMES
Christ did not exegete Psalm 82. He quoted a single verse in reference to His opponents. He never cited verses 1 through 5, nor 7 and 8.

BILL
I note, for the record, that you are backtracking on your previous position.

I wrote:
When Christ quoted “ye are gods” from Ps. 82:6, he was–in typical rabbinic fashion–giving a scriptural reference. Today we would say, “Read Ps 82:6,” but, since such a reference system had not been developed at the time of
Christ, the ancients would simply quote the first line of the passage they >were referencing. Christ expected his listeners to know the scripture, and to consider the entire passage, not simply the one line.

To which you replied
“Most definitely….including the verses you have removed from consideration (3 & 4).”

So now that you have apparently finally recognized that your original proposed exegesis of John 10 does not work, you are shifting your position, and insisting that Jesus was *not* using standard citation practices of the
first century AD to refer to the passage as a whole by quoting one line of the passage. Which is your position? That “He [Jesus] never cited verses 1 through 5, nor 7 and 8” or that “[Jesus] Most definitely [cited them]….including the verses you have removed from consideration (3 & 4).” And why are you shifting ground?

JAMES
Hence, what you are offering is YOUR interpretation of what is going on in John 10, and reading that back as if it were Jesus’ interpretation into Psalm 82,

BILL
I am doing no such thing. I have provided a line by line exegesis of John 10. You have yet to demonstrate where this exegesis is wrong. If Jesus said what I think he said, it should provide a key to understanding Ps 82.

JAMES
all the while continuing to ignore two major things: 1) the testimony of verses 3 and 4, and 2) the constant witness of the entire OT to the fact that there is only one true God, who has eternally been God.

BILL
Question begging. These issues are not decided in your favor, despite your endless repetition of claims that they are; these issues are precisely what are in dispute. How can your assertion that your case is proven be taken as evidence that your case is proven and therefore needs no proof.

BILL
>I’m disappointed that you apparently don’t agree. But,
>if you want to limit the discussion, at this point, to only Ps. 82, I’m
>perfectly willing. ( I suspect that most readers of this correspondencewill
>see this as the quintessential “when you loose, change the topic” tactics
>for which you and many other anti-Mormons are so well known.)

JAMES
Excuse me, but that is not only rude, it is childish. Such is merely triumphalistic rhetoric.

BILL
I accuse you of changing topics when you begin to “lose” (not “loose”,indeed). This is neither rude, nor childish, it is simply an observation of fact. Notice again, how you are changing the topic from whether or not you have
changed the topic (by refusing to deal with my exegesis of John 10), to claiming I am rude and childish.

JAMES
I have not “loosed” anything, Dr. Hamblin. *You* have ignored the immediate context of Psalm 82. *You* have changed the topic away from what you originally presented to me. I could easily say that you are running from
Psalm 82 because you are not able to deal with it exegetically, and of course, that’s exactly what I believe. But what makes me differ from you is that I don’t need to intrude that into the conversation the way you seemingly feel you must.

BILL
Please, call me Bill. All of your context questions are answered in precisely the letter which you claim I refused to deal with the context.

JAMES
It is amazing that someone of your caliber can so quickly drop to the level of antagonistic ad-hominem as you did here.

BILL
Apparently you don’t understand the ad hominem argument. I said you changed the subject. You manifestly did. I sent you a lengthy post on John 10, you refused to deal with it. You insisted that I deal with Ps 82 instead. I did. It is now your turn to deal with John 10. You apparently won’t. How is this observation an ad hominem? You, on the other hand, say that I am rude and childish. Perhaps so. I have been called far worse before by people who are losing the argument and want to change the subject. But even if I grant my rudeness and childishness (for the sake of argument), what has this got to do with the exegesis of John 10 and Ps 82, or your persistent refusal to answer my exegesis of John 10?

JAMES
Rather than dealing with the exegetical issues, you instead begin usingemotionally laden and inaccurate terms like “anti-Mormon.” If I were to respond to your contacts with terms like “this is the kind of tactic we expect from you and many other anti-Christians,” you would scream to the highest heavens about how uncharitable we are. Yet, you don’t mind engaging in that kind of tactic yourself. The double-standard is truly striking.

BILL
(Note: and I suppose “rude” and “childish” are not emotionally laden?) What is this obsession you have with the term “anti-Mormon?” Why do you care what I call you? I certainly don’t care what you call me. What bearing does it have on the issues under discussion? I feel you are an anti-Mormon. You think I am an anti-Baptist. (Since I consider myself a Christian, I can hardly consider myself an anti-Christian, now can I.) I have never in my life attacked the Baptists. I do not make my living publishing books and pamphlets attacking the Baptists. I have never picketed their meetings. I have never attempted to prevent them from buying land or building buildings. Peterson and Midgley (not Midgely) have made these points quite clearly. If I am anti anything, I am anti-anti-Mormon. Quite frankly, I don’t even know which denomination you belong to, nor what your theology is–though I get the impression you are a five point Calvinist). I don’t care. You may believe and preach what you like. Then, you attack my church and my beliefs. I defend my beliefs. Thus, according to you, I am now anti-Christian, while you are not still not an anti-Mormon. The mere fact that I happen to disagree with your theology, tacitly and privately, somehow makes me an anti-Christian (not even just anti-Baptist (or whatever), or even anti-James White.) My mere refusal to privately assent to your theology makes me anti-something. This may be news to you, James, but 99% or more of the people in the world disagree with your theology. I suspect many Baptists (or whatever) disagree with your theology. Are they all anti-James White? You, on the other hand, can make your living as a professional religious hate-monger, attacking the beliefs of Mormons and Catholics and still not be anti-Mormon or anti-Catholic. This is mindless nonsense. Quite frankly, if you made your living making these same types of attacks against Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims or Jews, I would find this type of behavior it just as disgusting and repulsive as it is when you attack Mormons. But none of this has anything to do arguments, now does it?

JAMES
Yes, please do [list issues James has not dealt with], since I have not ignored any of your issues at all. I responded briefly to the last message because you had skipped over a major portion of my response to you, even when I repeated it a second time. I reject the allegation that I have “conveniently ignored” (another unnecessary ad-hominem comment) anything, but I have documented that you *have* chosen to ignore segments of my replies to you.

BILL
Note again the utter misunderstanding of the term ad hominem. Note, also that I said I preferred to take these issues one at a time. I never claimed I have dealt with all the issues you raise. I can deal with them, but I am not going to spend my entire life writing letters endless to you. Shall we take them one at a time or not. If so, what should be the first issue?

Anyway, here are some of the issues that you have “conveniently ignored,” by which I mean you have failed to deal with the substance of my argument. Your rhetorical posturing will not be confused by any thinking and informed readers for substantive arguments and evidence.
    1- Everything in my recent posting about John 10.

    2- The extensive arguments of Mullen on the _Assembly of the Gods_.

    3- The fact that Baptists (or whatever you are) don’t believe in a council of the gods, even though one is mentioned in the OT.

    4- The fact that there is no linguistic or contextual reason to interpret the word elohim as judge in
Ex 22:8-9. The text makes perfect sense when read as bringing judgement before God.

    5- The fact that humans are called sons of the Most High, Christ is called son of the Most High, and the sons of the Most High are called gods.

    6- These four questions I raised earlier have received no substantive answer (remember, endlessly repeating an unsubstantiated assertion without reference to evidence and analysis does not pass muster as a substantive
response):

    1- There is a perfectly good Hebrew word for judge (shaphat). If Ps 82 meant to condemn wicked judges, why in the world didn’t God inerrantly inspire the psalmist to use the word for judge? Why all this language about elohim, the council of el, and the bene elyon? 

    2- Your claim that humans have judging functions as described in Ps 82 is quite correct. I presume, however, that you are also aware that God is the supreme judge, and judgement, is, in fact, ultimately a divine rather than human function, and that mortals will participate in rendering divine judgement at the final judgement (e.g. Mt 19:28, Lk 22:29).

    3- I quite concur that mortals are condemned for rendering unjust judgement. This does not demonstrate that elohim can be used as a term to mean judges. 

    4- I challenge you show me anywhere else in the OT or NT, where the term elohim unequivocally means judge?

    7- The fact that the earliest Christian exegetes (Justin and Irenaeus) agree with my position on the elohim of Ps 82 and John 10. (I can list many others as well, if you want.) Who is the first Christian exegete who agrees with your position? 

    8- The hermeneutical absurdity of your claim that you are letting the text speak for itself.

I could go on but that’s enough. Like I have said before. We must take these one at a time. I don’t have time to have this discussion degenerate into dozens of separate issues simultaneously. I think we should deal with
John 10 first. But if you don’t like that idea, let’s deal with whatever you want first. But *one* at a time, please.

JAMES
Nor is that, or your listing of viewpoints, relevant to the exegetical discussion I *thought* you requested at first, Dr. Hamblin. While it is fascinating to note the degradation of commentaries over the years (I have often commented that especially when it comes to the OT, you have to go back 100 years to find much of worth),

BILL
I find the discoveries of the last 100 years are fundamental to understanding the text. Note the difference here. To maintain your position you must reject the discoveries and advances of biblical studies of the last 100 years. While I see these last 100 years as confirming Joseph’s restoration of ancient doctrines. Interesting distinction, no?

JAMES
I have never made such a survey, but would actually be surprised if there were any by major publishers. The currrent climate is not favorable to a methodology of interpretation that would “buck the trends” in regards to OT studies.

BILL
This is absurd nonsense. Even if you could argue that Scholars Press (the publishing arm of the SBL) would not publish evangelical studies (which might be true), there are dozens of evangelical publishing houses that
would. Are you claiming that there are no conservative publishing houses in the US? Or just not conservative enough for you? Is the Word series not conservative?

BILL (old)
>The reason for this shift is that new archaeological discoveries,especially
>the Ugaritica, along with linguistic and comparative studies have decisively
>demonstrated that the language used in the Bible to describe the
assembly of
>the gods and the bene elohim is precisely the same language used by other
>peoples (especially the Canaanites) to describe the divine assembly of
their
>gods. Have you read E. T. Mullen, _The Assembly ofthe Gods: The Divine
>Council in Canaanite and Early Hebrew Literature_, (Scholars Press, 1980)?
>If you have, and disagree with his conclusions, I would like to see a
>detailed rebuttal of his position. (I’m not expecting you to write it
>yourself. Just refer me to a source which systematically explains this
>evidence from your perspective.)

JAMES
Again, this well illustrates the role of unchallenged presuppositions in OT publications. If you have read widely in the field, you know that the idea that such sources are to be taken not only as relevant, but as *determinative,* is almost a watchword. You simply won’t get anywhere without buying into that viewpoint.

BILL
None of what you say here, even if true (and it is simply your unsubstantiated opinion), deals with the massive amount of evidence collected by Mullen.

JAMES
However, there are many reasons to question the assertion, not the least of which has to do with the fact that it is impossible to think that God would borrow from the pagan practices and concepts of the day to reveal His truth;
i.e., that the pagan elements of a “council of gods” should, by some magical determination, be taken into the consideration of a text that fundamentally identifies Canaanite ritual and worship as idolatry.

BILL
Here you simply assert what is or is not impossible for God to do or not do based solely on your presuppositions. It is not argument, it is not evidence, it is circular reasoning and bald assertion. Are you going to deal with the evidence or not?

BILL (old)
>You have been frequently insinuating in your postings that you feel I have >skipped verses 3 and 4 because they disprove my position and because I have >no explanation for them. Actually, I skipped them because I felt that the
>standard explanation for those who view Ps 82 as referring to celestial >beings–which I apparently mistakenly assumed you had read–was quite clear >on the matter.

JAMES
You would never accept such faulty argumentation from me, Dr. Hamblin. If I had consistently ignored a major portion of your presentation and exegesis of a passage, and when forced to address that action, simply said, “Oh, I assumed you had read the standard explanations, so I ignored that,” you’d rightly nail me to the wall.

BILL
No I wouldn’t, if you provided me a standard bibliographic reference, and could demonsrate that the overwhelming consensus of modern scholarship, conservative and liberal, on the issue agreed with your position.

JAMES
I returned from New York on Monday. As to Tate, my personal library copy will work just fine. Do you wish me to address his comments on verses 3 and 4 as if they were your own? That will be a little tough for two reasons. 1)
He has to do what any commentator has to do: he cannot make any meaningful connection between “gods” and the obviously human act of doing justice, so, he focuses upon human judges (336, 340-341).

BILL
He does not! He mentions that humans judge unjustly, but the thrust of his argument is that “vv. 3-4 are composed of a set of commands to the gods” and “the contrast [between proper judgement] and the performance of the gods is evident; they have failed to do their duty” (p. 336). On pages 340-41, he references your position, concluding “The interpretation [that Ps 82 refers to human judges] is not well grounded in the exegesis of the texts.” (p.341). He concludes that “it [is] impossible to assume that the ‘gods’ (who are called ‘sons of Elyon’ in v. 6) could be human beings.” (341). Please try to get it right and read the texts clearly. Although he mentions your position, he does so to refute it, not accept it!

Let me lay out this issue in a simple syllogism. Your argument is:
    Some humans judge unjustly
    The beings in Ps 82 judge unjustly
    Therefore, the beings in Ps 82 are humans.

Notice any misplaced middle there? Let’s run a parallel syllogism
    Some Frenchmen judge unjustly
    The beings in Ps 82 judge unjustly
    Therefore the beings in Ps 82 are Frenchmen.

Or another example:
    Some humans have hair
    Dogs have hair
    Therefore, dogs are human

Your argument rests on a logical fallacy of the simplest sort. Just because humans render unjust judgement, it does not follow that all unjust judges must be humans. I hope you can grasp this simple issue so we can move on to other more substantive topics.

JAMES
2) There is no connection, as far as I can see, between his understanding and your own in the sense that he is not, to my knowledge, asserting that these gods are offspring of an exalted man from another planet.

BILL
Did I say there was? Have I argued that this Psalm contains the fulness of the LDS understanding of the Godhead? However, he does say that the elohim are the offspring/sons of Elyon.

JAMES
Hence, the question I originally asked you remains: please direct me to the statements of the General Authorities of the LDS Church that refer to the role of other “gods” in judging and doing justice here on earth. Who, aside from Elohim and Yahweh, in LDS theology, are charged with such duties?

BILL
I already gave you this information. Please pay attention. To quote from a former post, I presume, however, that you are also aware that God is the supreme judge, and judgement, is, in fact, ultimately a divine rather than
human function, and that mortals will participate in rendering divine judgement at the final judgement (e.g. Mt 19:28, Lk 22:29).

JAMES
And, I asked this question before as well: are you a god, Dr. Hamblin?

BILL
No. Are you? I am, however, a son of God? Are you?

JAMES
I can only guess that what you are saying is that I can take Tate’s position and ask all the questions of it that you have thus far refused to address?

BILL
As usual, you guess wrong. I simply offer Tate as a good example of how Ps 82 can be understood as referring to gods rather than human judges.

JAMES
If that’s OK, I’ll be glad to do so, but I don’t think that will accomplish a whole lot.

BILL
Why don’t we take the questions one at a time. You ask one, I’ll answer. Then I’ll ask one, and you answer. And can we please stick to the topic of who are the “sons of God” in the Bible? If we don’t, this entire enterprise is a monumental waste of time. If you don’t want to discuss this issue, we can end this correspondence.

 


My reply, written 5/28/98, is in two parts:

>Thus, I was not saying that Ps 82 was gibberish to you, but that the
>*literal* interpretation of Ps 82, that the sons of Elyon are gods, is
>gibberish. You have amply demonstrated, by your unwillingness to deal with
>the literal meaning of the Psalm, that you do find it gibberish.

I reject, completely, the assertion that you are presenting the “literal” interpretation of Psalm 82. It is not “literal” to rip the Psalm from the context of the entire Old Testament, read a completely foreign idea into it that makes Yahweh a second God to Elohim (the LDS view), all the while ignoring the simple fact that the Psalm is about judgment upon judges who have judged unjustly. This is no more “literal” than the Roman Catholic misuse of John 6 and the words of Jesus about eating His flesh and drinking His blood.

Secondly, I resent, and reject the assertion that I have been “unwilling” to deal with the “literal meaning” of the Psalm. Such is merely triumphalistic rhetoric that has no meaning. It assumes the conclusion of this entire conversation—-and, if you assume your conclusion, why discuss the issue in the first place?

>Thus, you are compelled to revert to metaphorical explanations that gods =
>judges.
>But, as I originally stated, the literal reading of this psalm is
>unacceptable to you.

No, sir, it is the literal reading of the Psalm to keep it as one literary whole. It is the literal reading of the Psalm to recognize that the judgment of verses 6 and 7 comes about due to the sins of the judges in verses 3 and 4. That, sir, is literal reading.

>Christ did not exegete Psalm 82. He quoted a single verse in reference to
>His opponents. He never cited verses 1 through 5, nor 7 and 8.
>I note, for the record, that you are backtracking on your previous position.
>I wrote:
>When Christ quoted “ye are gods” from Ps. 82:6, he was–in typical rabbinic
>fashion–giving a scriptural reference. Today we would say, “Read Ps 82:6,”
>but, since such a reference system had not been developed at the time of
>Christ, the ancients would simply quote the first line of the passage they
>>were referencing. Christ expected his listeners to know the scripture, and
>to consider the entire passage, not simply the one line.
>
>To which you replied
>”Most definitely….including the verses you have removed from consideration
>(3 & 4).”
>
>So now that you have apparently finally recognized that your original
>proposed exegesis of John 10 does not work, you are shifting your position,
>and insisting that Jesus was *not* using standard citation practices of the
>first century AD to refer to the passage as a whole by quoting one line of
>the passage. Which is your position?

Of course, I have not backtracked nor shifted positions. I simply pointed out that Jesus did not exegete the passage in John 10, He cited it. You have confused the fact of His citation of it with the assertion that He is offering an exegesis of the entire Psalm in the brief comments in John 10. No one could possibly claim to “exegete” a passage by making a mere reference to one verse. Such would not be a meaningful use of the term “exegete.”

>That “He [Jesus] never cited verses 1
>through 5, nor 7 and 8″ or that “[Jesus] Most definitely [cited
>them]….including the verses you have removed from consideration (3 & 4).”
>And why are you shifting ground?

I’m not. You are confused.

>JAMES
>Hence, what you are offering is YOUR interpretation of what is going on in
>John 10, and reading that back as if it were Jesus’ interpretation into
>Psalm 82,
>
>BILL
>I am doing no such thing. I have provided a line by line exegesis of John
>10. You have yet to demonstrate where this exegesis is wrong. If Jesus
>said what I think he said, it should provide a key to understanding Ps 82.
Of course, Psalm 82 pre-existed John 10, and I have provided my exegesis of the passage as well.
>JAMES
>all the while continuing to ignore two major things: 1) the testimony of
>verses 3 and 4, and 2) the constant witness of the entire OT to the fact
>that there is only one true God, who has eternally been God.
>
>BILL
>Question begging. These issues are not decided in your favor, despite your
>endless repetition of claims that they are; these issues are precisely what
>are in dispute. How can your assertion that your case is proven be taken as
>evidence that your case is proven and therefore needs no proof.

Of course, you assert that yours is the literal reading above, which is the issue in dispute, but you don’t call *that* “question begging.” It seems to me that the double standard upon which you are functioning is making any kind of meaningful dialogue impossible. Be that as it may, verses 3 and 4 will not go away, no matter how much effort you put into ignoring them.

>BILL
>>I’m disappointed that you apparently don’t agree. But,
>>if you want to limit the discussion, at this point, to only Ps. 82, I’m
>>perfectly willing. ( I suspect that most readers of this correspondence
>will
>>see this as the quintessential “when you loose, change the topic” tactics
>>for which you and many other anti-Mormons are so well known.)
>
>JAMES
>Excuse me, but that is not only rude, it is childish. Such is merely
>triumphalistic rhetoric.
>
>BILL
>I accuse you of changing topics when you begin to “lose” (not “loose”,
>indeed).
>This is neither rude, nor childish, it is simply an observation of fact.

It is not an observation of fact, it is a rude, childish attempt to win “points” by making unnecessary comments that only add emotional impact for your followers, little more. Your refusal to even acknowledge your own slip in behavior is truly reprehensible.

>Notice again, how you are changing the topic from whether or not you have
>changed the topic (by refusing to deal with my exegesis of John 10), to
>claiming I am rude and childish.

Of course, *you* were not changing the topic by bashing “anti-Mormons” and making silly comments about them “losing” the conversation. The childishness of the original comment is beyond dispute.

>JAMES
>It is amazing that someone of your caliber can so quickly drop to the level
>of antagonistic ad-hominem as you did here.
>
>BILL
>Apparently you don’t understand the ad hominem argument.

I well understand the use of ad hominem. I resent the fact that it seems to be the stock-in-trade for BYU professors. Until this round, you had mainly managed to avoid it.

>I said you changed
>the subject. You manifestly did. I sent you a lengthy post on John 10, you
>refused to deal with it. You insisted that I deal with Ps 82 instead. I
>did. It is now your turn to deal with John 10. You apparently won’t. How
>is this observation an ad hominem?

Anyone who has followed this to this point can only be as amazed as I am. I now delete any further attempts on your part to get away from Psalm 82, and move back to the topic:

>Anyway, here are some of the issues that you have “conveniently ignored,” by
>which I mean you have failed to deal with the substance of my argument.
>Your rhetorical posturing will not be confused by any thinking and informed
>readers for substantive arguments and evidence.

[More unnecessary ad-hominem]

>1- Everything in my recent posting about John 10.

As I said, you contacted me about Psalm 82. The record is plain. You have not yet dealt with the important elements of that passage. I believe you are not able to do so, and hence are wishing to change the grounds, all the while accusing *me* of doing that. I have refused to follow your lead.

>2- The extensive arguments of Mullen on the _Assembly of the Gods_.

I don’t find such a meaningful addition to the discussion. I have refused to engage in this kind of “Oh, well, have you read MY scholars” argumentation in e-mail. It is meaningless.

>3- The fact that Baptists (or whatever you are) don’t believe in a council
>of the gods, even though one is mentioned in the OT.

We believe what Psalm 82 says, and again, you assume that which is in dispute to make your point. I think you called that question begging.

>4- The fact that there is no linguistic or contextual reason to interpret
>the word elohim as judge in Ex 22:8-9. The text makes perfect sense when
>read as bringing judgement before God.

There is, of course, *every* reason for so doing, as I have demonstrated.

>5- The fact that humans are called sons of the Most High, Christ is called
>son of the Most High, and the sons of the Most High are called gods.

None of this is in dispute: what it MEANS is, of course, the very issue in dispute. You again seem to assume the very issues that allegedly prompted you to write in the first place.

>6- These four questions I raised earlier have received no substantive answer
>(remember, endlessly repeating an unsubstantiated assertion without
>reference to evidence and analysis does not pass muster as a substantive
>response):

Nor does labeling the responses of your opponent in such a manner make those responses unsubstantiated assertions, etc. I could just as easily call your assertions unsubstantiated….that does not make them so. I am, evidently, at a substantial disadvantage here, since I refuse to engage in such argumentation.

>1- There is a perfectly good Hebrew word for judge (shaphat). If Ps 82 meant
>to condemn wicked judges, why in the world didn’t God inerrantly inspire the
>psalmist to use the word for judge?

Such an argument begs the question, in the real sense of the term. The issue is not “why not use this term” but “what does this term mean in the passage.” I remind you of the Psalm says:

Psalm 82:3 Vindicate the weak and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and destitute. 4 Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.

These elohim are commanded to vindicate the weak and fatherless. That is the role of the Israelite judge, the one “unto whom the word of God came” (John 10:35)

These elohim are commanded to do justice to the afflicted and destitute. That is the role of the Israelite judge, the one “unto whom the word of God came” (John 10:35)

These elohim are commanded to rescue the week and needy. That is the role of the Israelite judge, the one “unto whom the word of God came” (John 10:35).

These elohim are commanded to deliver the weak and needy out of the hand of the wicked. That is the role of the Israelite judge, the one “unto whom the word of God came” (John 10:35).

Leviticus 19:15 ‘You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly.

(Deuteronomy 1:16-17) “Then I charged your judges at that time, saying, ‘Hear the cases between your fellow countrymen, and judge righteously between a man and his fellow countryman, or the alien who is with him. [17] ‘You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not fear man, for the judgment is God’s. The case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.’

(Deuteronomy 16:18-20) “You shall appoint for yourself judges and officers in all your towns which the LORD your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. [19] “You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous. [20] “Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you.

(Deuteronomy 17:9-12) “So you shall come to the Levitical priest or the judge who is in office in those days, and you shall inquire of them and they will declare to you the verdict in the case. [10] “You shall do according to the terms of the verdict which they declare to you from that place which the LORD chooses; and you shall be careful to observe according to all that they teach you. [11] “According to the terms of the law which they teach you, and according to the verdict which they tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside from the word which they declare to you, to the right or the left. [12] “The man who acts presumptuously by not listening to the priest who stands there to serve the LORD your God, nor to the judge, that man shall die; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel.

Therefore, the logic is rather clear:

1. The *exact* same terms are used of the elohim in Psalm 82 as of human judges.

2. The term elohim is without question used of judges in Exodus 22.

3. These elohim are subject to the judgment of God, and are said to be subject to death.

Therefore, given the context in which the elohim are charged with doing what the judges do and the realm in which they are charged with doing it (i.e., the earthly realm), there is nothing obscure about what leads me, and many others, to seeing these elohim as the judges of Israel.

>Why all this language about elohim, the
>council of el, and the bene elyon?

Because God is judging those that He had placed in a tremendously important and authoritative position. There is a biblical concept: to whom much is given, much is required. These men stood in the very place of God. The judgement they delivered was to be seen as being God’s judgment! Such places these men in a position of tremendous responsibility and honor. And, the more responsibility one carries, the greater the judgment when that responsibility is disregarded. They are indeed called sons of the Most High and elohim—-which makes their sin against that great privilege even more devastating (v. 5).

>2- Your claim that humans have judging
>functions as described in Ps 82 is quite correct. I presume, however, that
>you are also aware that God is the supreme judge, and judgement, is, in
>fact, ultimately a divine rather than human function, and that mortals will
>participate in rendering divine judgement at the final judgement (e.g. Mt
>19:28, Lk 22:29).

Of course. That is perfectly consistent with what I have written thus far: that they are commanded to dispense justice and righteousness as the judges of God’s people. They have failed to do so. The verdict is rendered by Yahweh: they have judged unjustly and have shown partiality to the wicked. That means they have been involved in the action of judging here on earth. They are the ones to whom the people of Israel have taken their cases. For a person taking the text literally, this ends the discussion. For the Mormon, who are these “gods”? At first you talked of them becoming gods, but then withdrew that assertion. Are there pre-incarnate spirits? When did the people of Israel take their cases to spirit beings? Who are these “elohim” in LDS theology? Where do they fall in the eternal law of progression?

>3- I quite concur that mortals are condemned for rendering unjust judgement.
>This does not demonstrate that elohim can be used as a term to mean judges.

Well, since verse 2 says that these elohim are condemned for rendering unjust judgment *in the human realm*, the logic is irrefutable, at least, if one takes the passage in its own context.

>4- I challenge you show me anywhere else in the OT or NT, where the term
>elohim unequivocally means judge?

Exodus 22:8-9.

>7- The fact that the earliest Christian exegetes (Justin and Irenaeus) agree
>with my position on the elohim of Ps 82 and John 10. (I can list many
>others as well, if you want.) Who is the first Christian exegete who agrees
>with your position?

As I recall, I disputed your understanding of both, actually. In fact, I don’t recall any of them indicating they believed in a plurality of gods, nor did their interpretation of the passage indicate that they had, in fact, abandoned the heritage of God’s people, that being monotheism. Hence, your question is based upon merely your own assertion that their words are commensurate with your interpretation. That has yet to be determined.

>8- The hermeneutical absurdity of your claim that you are letting the text
>speak for itself.

I will allow the facts to refute your ipse dixit.

>JAMES
>Nor is that, or your listing of viewpoints, relevant to the exegetical
>discussion I *thought* you requested at first, Dr. Hamblin. While it is
>fascinating to note the degradation of commentaries over the years (I have
>often commented that especially when it comes to the OT, you have to go back
>100 years to find much of worth),
>
>BILL
>I find the discoveries of the last 100 years are fundamental to
>understanding the text.

What specific “discoveries” are you referring to? The “discovery” that the Bible is not really inspired? The “discovery” that the Old Testament should be atomized and examined as any other old piece of humanly designed literature? Discoveries of texts are vitally important. The *use* of those texts takes us right back to the presuppositions of the ones doing the using.

>Note the difference here. To maintain your position you must reject the
>discoveries and advances of biblical studies of the last 100 years. While I
>see these last 100 years as confirming Joseph’s restoration of ancient
>doctrines. Interesting distinction, no?

Interesting, and erroneous. I rejected no discoveries or advances. I rejected the enthronement of unbelieving scholarship and the *degradation* of biblical studies. Unless you are prepared to say that it is better to approach the text from the position of unbelief than to allow it to stand as a unitary whole, you seem to be attempting to make points that are irrelevant to what I’ve actually said.

>JAMES
>I have never made such a survey, but would actually be surprised if there
>were any by major publishers. The currrent climate is not favorable to a
>methodology of interpretation that would “buck the trends” in regards to OT
>studies.
>
>BILL
>This is absurd nonsense.

I made that comment over and over again while reading your attempt to come up with swords in the BoM, Dr. Hamblin. But I didn’t think that inserting such comments into any interaction would be overly helpful.

>Even if you could argue that Scholars Press (the
>publishing arm of the SBL) would not publish evangelical studies (which
>might be true), there are dozens of evangelical publishing houses that
>would. Are you claiming that there are no conservative publishing houses in
>the US? Or just not conservative enough for you? Is the Word series not
>conservative?

No, the Word series is not conservative overall; and is much less so in the OT sections (there are a few conservative studies in the NT series). I have no interest in debating the current situation in OT studies. Anyone familiar with them knows what I am referring to.

>BILL (old)
>>The reason for this shift is that new archaeological discoveries,
>especially
>>the Ugaritica, along with linguistic and comparative studies have
>decisively>demonstrated that the language used in the Bible to describe the
>assembly of
>>the gods and the bene elohim is precisely the same language used by other
>>peoples (especially the Canaanites) to describe the divine assembly of
>their
>>gods. Have you read E. T. Mullen, _The Assembly ofthe Gods: The Divine
>>Council in Canaanite and Early Hebrew Literature_, (Scholars Press, 1980)?
>>If you have, and disagree with his conclusions, I would like to see a
>>detailed rebuttal of his position. (I’m not expecting you to write it
>>yourself. Just refer me to a source which systematically explains this
>>evidence from your perspective.)
>
>JAMES
>Again, this well illustrates the role of unchallenged presuppositions in OT
>publications. If you have read widely in the field, you know that the idea
>that such sources are to be taken not only as relevant, but as
>*determinative,* is almost a watchword. You simply won’t get anywhere
>without buying into that viewpoint.
>
>BILL
>None of what you say here, even if true (and it is simply your
>unsubstantiated opinion), deals with the massive amount of evidence
>collected by Mullen.

Which again demonstrates what I said before: there is a vast difference between the use of evidence in a meaningful context and the use of evidence in a context designed to produce certain results. You have to rely upon scholarship that would be just as negative to your claims of inspiration for LDS writings as it is of the Christian Scriptures. You have to rely upon the form-critical perspective that carries particular concepts into its work that are *directly* contrary not only to the use of the OT by the Lord Jesus, but to every use of the OT by all the NT writers. If you choose to go that direction (and your recent posts attacking the consistency of Scripture demonstrate that this is indeed your intention) I can’t stop you, but I have no intention of following you down that path.

>JAMES
>However, there are many reasons to question the assertion, not the least of
>which has to do with the fact that it is impossible to think that God would
>borrow from the pagan practices and concepts of the day to reveal His truth;
>i.e., that the pagan elements of a “council of gods” should, by some magical
>determination, be taken into the consideration of a text that fundamentally
>identifies Canaanite ritual and worship as idolatry.
>
>BILL
>Here you simply assert what is or is not impossible for God to do or not do
>based solely on your presuppositions.

Actually, that’s what you did above when asking why God wouldn’t use the words YOU think He should use to communicate certain concepts. I am not doing that at all. I am making a simple statement: that it is logically inconsistent with the revelation of God in the Bible (and, of course, given the stance you’ve already taken, and the sources you are dedicated to, you can’t deal with that revelation, since there is no meaningful way to even determine what it is, and, from that perspective, there is no unified testimony to the nature or character of God in the OT anyway) to think that God, in giving His revelation through the Psalmist, would borrow from the pagan worldview in the way that is asserted by so many in OT studies today. You have your presuppositions, and I have mine. I believe the assertion is perfectly logical in the light of the consistent condemnation of the very practices that provide the background of the Caananite “council of gods” to which you refer.

>It is not argument, it is not
>evidence, it is circular reasoning and bald assertion. Are you going to
>deal with the evidence or not?
I reject your assertion that only you deal with evidence and anyone who disagrees with you does not.
>BILL (old)
>>You have been frequently insinuating in your postings that you feel I have
>>skipped verses 3 and 4 because they disprove my position and because I have
>>no explanation for them. Actually, I skipped them because I felt that the
>>standard explanation for those who view Ps 82 as referring to celestial
>>beings–which I apparently mistakenly assumed you had read–was quite clear
>>on the matter.
>
>JAMES
>You would never accept such faulty argumentation from me, Dr. Hamblin. If I
>had consistently ignored a major portion of your presentation and exegesis
>of a passage, and when forced to address that action, simply said, “Oh, I
>assumed you had read the standard explanations, so I ignored that,” you’d
>rightly nail me to the wall.
>
>BILL
>No I wouldn’t, if you provided me a standard bibliographic reference, and
>could demonsrate that the overwhelming consensus of modern scholarship,
>conservative and liberal, on the issue agreed with your position.

The overwhelming consensus of modern scholarship….a term I often encounter in the writings of the Jesus Seminar, and find it no more compelling there than I do here. Of course, the “overwhelming consensus of modern scholarship” finds the BoM to be a work of 19th century fiction, too, but that hasn’t seemed to stop you folks at FARMS from thinking otherwise. The “overwhelming consensus of modern scholarship” is inveterately opposed to a number of positions you take, Dr. Hamblin, yet, you don’t seem to bow to that “consensus.” Of course, the “overwhelming consensus of modern scholarship” tells me that I evolved over aeons of time from a single-celled creature, and that same consensus says that the Bible is a mishmash of ancient mythology combined with Graeco-Roman ethical treatises.

[Of course, I could, if I wanted to, say that you are here trying to “change the topic” and, if I wanted to follow your lead, say that you are “losing” so that you are attempting to cover that fact by appealing to some alleged “majority” on a topic.]

>JAMES
>I returned from New York on Monday. As to Tate, my personal library copy
>will work just fine. Do you wish me to address his comments on verses 3 and
>4 as if they were your own? That will be a little tough for two reasons. 1)
>He has to do what any commentator has to do: he cannot make any meaningful
>connection between “gods” and the obviously human act of doing justice, so,
>he focuses upon human judges (336, 340-341).
>
>BILL
>He does not! He mentions that humans judge unjustly, but the thrust of his
>argument is that “vv. 3-4 are composed of a set of commands to the gods” and
>”the contrast [between proper judgement] and the performance of the gods is
>evident; they have failed to do their duty” (p. 336). On pages 340-41, he
>references your position, concluding “The interpretation [that Ps 82 refers
>to human judges] is not well grounded in the exegesis of the texts.” (p.
>341). He concludes that “it [is] impossible to assume that the ‘gods’ (who
>are called ‘sons of Elyon’ in v. 6) could be human beings.” (341). Please
>try to get it right and read the texts clearly. Although he mentions your
>position, he does so to refute it, not accept it!

Well thank you, again, Dr. Hamblin, for completely misrepresenting me, while quoting me at the same time. I said that in discussing the condemnation of the elohim, he focuses upon human judges. It is self evident that I am correct:

“Their commission has been to provide judgment for those who lack the wealth and power to defend themselves in HUMAN SOCIETY (emphasis mine)….The imperative verb “judge” in 3a doubtless means “judge justly,” but it seems to me that it may indicate the need for ELDERS, JUDGES, KINGS, AND OTHER LEADERS (emphasis mine) to actively *intervene* in the interest of powerless people who cannot defend their rights….Yahweh expects JUDGES AND LEADERS (emphasis mine) to protect the marginalized people IN SOCIETY (emphasis mine): the poor, the oppressed, and those without family support.” (p. 336)

Again, there is no meaningful way to apply these terms to your polytheistic deities, and as I said, Tate has no meaningful way to discuss the charges against them outside of human judges, elders, kings, etc. In fact, you have not provided any meaningful application, even from LDS theology (which, as you undoubtedly admit, Tate would not find in the passage), as to how non-incarnate beings of any type can be held accountable by God for judging justly in the Israeli society.

>Let me lay out this issue in a simple syllogism. Your argument is:
> Some humans judge unjustly
> The beings in Ps 82 judge unjustly
> Therefore, the beings in Ps 82 are humans.

< chuckle > No, the proper syllogism is presented above. To recap:

1) Doing justice, vindicating the poor, and not showing partiality, are the commandments given to the judges of Israel who stand in the place of God.

2) In Psalm 82 God judges “elohim” for failing to do these very things in the context of human society.

3) There is no commandment anywhere in Scripture given to anyone but human judges to judge justly.

Therefore, the persons addressed in Psalm 82 are the human judges of Israel.

[Dscussion of straw man argument deleted]

>JAMES
>2) There is no connection, as far as I can see, between his understanding
>and your own in the sense that he is not, to my knowledge, asserting that
>these gods are offspring of an exalted man from another planet.
>
>BILL
>Did I say there was? Have I argued that this Psalm contains the fulness of
>the LDS understanding of the Godhead? However, he does say that the elohim
>are the offspring/sons of Elyon.

The fulness of the LDS understanding of the Godhead? Are you just looking to get a toe in the door, perhaps? Are you not asserting that these elohim are the offspring of an exalted man? If that is the case, then why choose as an example someone who would fundamentally see the Psalm, and its context, differently than you do? Will you then end up having to say that he, too, is simply blind to the “literal” reading of the text when we get around to attempting to find that “fulness” of the LDS doctrine?

>JAMES
>Hence, the question I originally asked you remains: please direct me to the
>statements of the General Authorities of the LDS Church that refer to the
>role of other “gods” in judging and doing justice here on earth. Who, aside
>from Elohim and Yahweh, in LDS theology, are charged with such duties?
>
>BILL
>I already gave you this information. Please pay attention.
Please drop such comments. They are meaningless and distracting.
>To quote from a
>former post, I presume, however, that you are also aware that God is the
>supreme judge, and judgement, is, in fact, ultimately a divine rather than
>human function, and that mortals will participate in rendering divine
>judgement at the final judgement (e.g. Mt 19:28, Lk 22:29).

That is not an answer, Dr. Hamblin. It is not an answer to say “All judgment is ultimately God’s judgment, therefore, non-corporeal beings who have no meaningful connection with Israeli society can be held accountable for rendering justice in that society.” How can God hold these beings accountable for NOT doing justice when we nowhere have a commandment upon which to hold them accountable? Who are these beings, Dr. Hamblin? How are they to vindicate the fatherless or the poor? Please answer this question. I believe there is no logical answer: and I do not appreciate your avoiding the issue while using such terms as “please pay attention.”

>JAMES
>And, I asked this question before as well: are you a god, Dr. Hamblin?
>
>BILL
>No. Are you? I am, however, a son of God? Are you?

No, I am not a god, and will never be one. Jeremiah 10:10-11 closes the door on that idea:

(Jeremiah 10:10-11) But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth quakes, And the nations cannot endure His indignation. [11] Thus you shall say to them, “The gods that did not make the heavens and the earth will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.”

I have been adopted as a son of God by faith in Christ Jesus. So, if humans are not gods, we again come back to the point of Psalm 82, and even of Jesus’ application of this in John 10, since He did not apply the words of Psalm 82:6 to non-corporeal beings, but to humans like you and I. You say you are not a god. Good. The men who were about to stone Jesus were not gods, either, even though Jesus applied the words of Psalm 82:6 to them. See the point?

[This ended the first e-mail.  I continued:]

Now, up to this point, I have avoided the use of commentaries and the like, since 1) you seemed to indicate, by your original e-mail, that you wanted to discuss the topic directly between us, and 2) I feel that the text is in no need to external witnesses as to what it means. In fact, outside of looking at Tate at your insistence, I have not consulted any source outside of the Scriptures themselves in responding to your posts. But, since you have made such a huge issue of what commentators say, I will now break that pattern. I would like to introduce the witness of one of the best sources on the OT, the massive work of Keil and Delitzsch. I provide here the commentary on Psalm 82:

As in Ps. lxxxi., so also in this Psalm (according to the Talmud the Tuesday Psalm of the Temple liturgy, God is introduced as speaking after the manner of the prophets. Ps. lviii. and xciv. are similar, but more especially Isa. iii. 13-15. Asaph the seer beholds how God, reproving, correcting, and threatening, appears against the chiefs of the congregation of His people, who have perverted the splendour of majesty which He has put upon them into tyranny. It is perfectly characteristic of Asaph (Ps. 1., lxxv., lxxxi.) to plunge himself into the contemplation of the divine judgment, and to introduce God as speaking. There is nothing to militate against the Psalm being written by Asaph, David’s cotemporary, except the determination not to allow to the l’Asaph of the inscription its most natural sense. Hupfeld, understanding “angels” by the elohim, as Bleek has done before him, in scribes the Psalm: “God’s judgment upon unjust judges in heaven and upon earth.” But the angels as such are nowhere called elohim in the Old Testament, although they might be so called; and their being judged here on account of unjust judging, Hupfeld himself says, is “an obscure point that is still to he cleared up.” [Note this well, Dr. Hamblin!] An interpretation which, like this, abandons the usage of the language in order to bring into existence a riddle that it cannot solve, condemns itself. At the same time the assertion of Hupfeld (of Knobel, Graf, and others), that in Ex. xxi. 6, xxii. 7 sq., 27,* elohim denotes God Himself, and not directly the authorities of the nation as being His earthly representatives, finds its most forcible refutation in the so-called and mortal elohim of this Psalm (cf. also xlv. 7, lviii. 2).

By reference to this Psalm Jesus proves to the Jews (John x. 34-36) that when He calls Himself the Son of God, He does not blaspheme God, by an argumentatio a minori ad majus. If the Law, so He argues, calls even those gods who are officially invested with this name by a declaration of the divine will promulgated in time (and the Scripture cannot surely, as in general, so also in this instance, be made invalid), then it cannot surely be blasphemy if He calls Himself the Son of God, whom not merely a divine utterance in this present time has called to this or to that worldly office after the image of God, but who with His whole life is ministering to the accomplishment of a work to which the Father had already sanctified Him when He came into the world. In connection with hagiase one is reminded of the fact that those who are called elohim in the Psalm are censured on account of the unholiness of their conduct. The name does not originally belong to them, nor do they show themselves to be morally worthy of it. With hagiase kai apesteilen Jesus contrasts His divine sonship, prior to time, with theirs, which began only in this present time.

Vers. 1-4. God comes forward and makes Himself heard first of all as censuring and admonishing. The “congregation of God” is, as in Num. xxvii. 17, xxxi. 16, Josh. xxii. 16 sq., “the congregation of (the sons of) Israel,” which God has purchased from among the nations (lxxiv. 2), and upon which as its Lawgiver He has set His divine impress. The psalmist and seer sees Elohim standing in this congregation of God. The part Niph. (as in Isa. iii. 13) denotes not so much the suddenness and unpreparedness, as, rather, the statue-like immobility and terrifying designfulness of His appearance. Within the range of the congregation of God this holds good of the elohim. The right over life and death, with which the administration of justice cannot dispense, is a prerogative of God. From the time of Gen. ix. 6, however, He has transferred the execution of this prerogative to mankind, and instituted in mankind an office wielding the sword of justice, which also exists in His theocratic congregation, but here has His positive law as the basis of its continuance and as the rule of its action. Everywhere among men, but here preeminently, those in authority are God’s delegates and the bearers of His image, and therefore as His representatives are also themselves called elohim, “gods” (which the LXX. in Ex. xxi. 6 renders to kriterion theou, and the Targums here, as in Ex. xxii. 7, 8, 27 uniformly, dayanaya). The God who has conferred this exercise of power upon these subordinate elohim, without their resigning it of themselves, now sits in judgment in their midst. Yishpoth of that which takes place before the mind’s eye of the psalmist. How long, He asks, will ye judge unjustly? shaphat aywel is equivalent to asah aywel, Lev. xix. 15, 35….How long will ye accept the countenance of the wicked, i.e. incline to accept, regard, favour the person of the wicked? The music, which here becomes forte, gives intensity to the terrible sternness (das Niederdonnernde) of the divine question, which seeks to bring the “gods” of the earth to their right mind. Then follow admonitions to do that which they have hitherto left undone. They are to cause the benefit of the administration of justice to tend to the advantage of the defenceless, of the destitute, and of the helpless, upon whom God the Law-giver especially keeps His eye….They are words which are frequently repeated in the prophets, foremost in Isaiah (ch. i. 17), with which is enjoined upon those invested with the dignity of the law, and with jurisdiction, justice towards those who cannot and will not themselves obtain their rights by violence.

Vers. 5-7. What now follows in ver. 5 is not a parenthetical assertion of the inefficiency with which the divine correction rebounds from the judges and rulers. In connection with this way of taking ver. 5, the manner in which the divine language is continued in ver. 6 is harsh and unadjusted. God Himself speaks in ver. 5 of the judges, but reluctantly alienated from them; and confident of the futility of all attempts to make them better, He tells them their sentence in vers. 6 sq. The verbs in ver. Sa are designedly without any object: complaint of the widest compass is made over their want of reason and understanding; and yada takes the perfect form in like manner to egnwkasi, noverunt, cf. xiv. 1, Isa. xliv.18. Thus, then, no result is to be expected from the divine admonition: they still go their ways in this state of mental darkness, and that, as the Hithpa. implies, stalking on in carnal security and self-complacency. The commands, however, which they transgress are the foundations (cf. xi. 3), as it were the shafts and pillars (lxxv. 4, cf. Prov. xxix. 4), upon which rests the permanence of all earthly relationships which are appointed by creation and regulated by the Tora. Their transgression makes the land, the earth, to totter physically and morally, and is the prelude of its overthrow. When the celestial Lord of the domain thinks upon this destruction which injustice and tyranny are bringing upon the earth, His wrath kindles, and He reminds the judges and rulers that it is His own free declaratory act which has clothed them with the god-like dignity which they bear. They are actually elohim, but not possessed of the right of self-government; there is a Mast High (elyon) to whom they as sons are responsible. The idea that the appellation elohim, which they have given to themselves, is only sarcastically given back to them in ver. 1 (Ewald, Olshausen), is refuted by ver. 6, according to which they are really elohim by the grace of God. But if their practice is not an Amen to this name, then they shall be divested of the majesty which they have forfeited; they shall be divested of the prerogative of Israel, whose vocation and destiny they have belied. They shall die off c’adam, like common men not rising in any degree above the mass (cf. bene adam, opp. bene ish, iv. 3, xlix. 3); they shall fall like any one (Judg. xvi. 7, Obad. ver. 11) of the princes who in the course of history have been cast down by the judgment of God (Hos. vii. 7). Their divine office will not protect them. For although justitia civilis is far from being the righteousness that avails before God, yet injustitia civilis is in His sight the vilest abomination.

Ver. 8. The poet closes with the prayer for the realization of that which he has beheld in spirit. He implores God Himself to sit in judgment…since judgment is so badly exercised upon the earth. All peoples are indeed His nachalah, He has an hereditary and proprietary right among …The inference drawn from this point backwards, that the Psalm is directed against the possessors of power among the Gentiles, is erroneous. Israel itself, in so far as it acts inconsistently with its theocratic character, belies its sanctified nationality…The judgment over the world is also a judgment over the Israel that is become conformed to the world, and its God-estranged chiefs.

(_Commentary on the Old Testament_, volume 5, 400-404)

You will notice, Dr. Hamblin, that in almost every single particular, I arrived at the same conclusions on the basis of the text itself. This illustrates an important point: I approach the text with the following presuppositions:

1) The text is consistent with itself (immediate context)

2) The text is consistent with the rest of revelation (canonical context)

When those two simple concepts are allowed their place, the results will be the same. However, both concepts are actively *denied* by much of modern scholarship, due to these presuppositions:

1) The text has been altered so often prior to canonization that it is most likely inconsistent with itself in its immediate context.

2) There is no canonical context or consistent revelation in the Old Testament.

This conversation, aside from demonstrating a number of other things, has surely brought out this difference in approach quite clearly.

James>>>


Dear James,

Issue 1. Sir William.
JAMES
No, sir, it is the literal reading of the Psalm to keep it as one literary whole. . . . That, sir, is literal reading.

BILL
I note that I have been “sir-ed.” How gratifying. That must mean I am getting to you.

Issue 2. Keil and Delitzsch
BILL
Your presentation of the material from Keil and Delitzsch is interesting, but irrelevent. I have never disputed that people have attempted to interpret Ps 82 as referring to judges. Indeed, I sent you a list of many additional examples. The problem is, that K&D are about a century old, and do not deal with the archaeological and textual evidence discovered in the past century. What would be useful is to provide a modern source which deals with the Ugaritica, etc., while maintaining the elohim = judges interpretation.

Issue 3. What does literal mean?
JAMES
I reject, completely, the assertion that you are presenting the “literal” interpretation of Psalm 82. . . . Of course, you assert that yours is the literal reading [of Ps. 82] above, which is the issue in dispute, but you don’t call *that* “question begging.” It seems to me that the double standard upon which you are functioning is making any kind of meaningful dialogue impossible.

BILL
I reject, completely, your rejection. Apparently you do not understand the meaning of “literal interpretation.” Ps 82:6 says that the the sons of elyon are elohim. The literal interpretation of this text is that the the sons of elyon are gods. Now, you believe that the elohim are human judges. If the text said the elohim were human judges, and I argued that it really meant the elohim are the sons of elyon, I would not be interpreting the text literally, don’t you agree? You are necessarily interpreting the text metaphorically when you claim that the elohim are judges, not gods. God/gods is the literal meaning of elohim Now this is not to say that you are wrong. Simply that you are not reading the text literally. The metaphorical interpretation might be the correct one (as in Jesus’ parables), but it is not the literal one.

Issue 4. Exegesis or interpretation
JAMES
Of course, I have not backtracked nor shifted positions. I simply pointed out that Jesus did not exegete the passage in John 10, He cited it. You have confused the fact of His citation of it with the assertion that He is offering an exegesis of the entire Psalm in the brief comments in John 10. No one could possibly claim to “exegete” a passage by making a mere reference to one verse. Such would not be a meaningful use of the
term “exegete.” . . . You are confused.

BILL
If using the word “exegesis” to describe Christ’s activity in Jn 10 bothers you, I will withdraw the term and use the word “interpretation.” Will you admit Christ is interpreting 82:6 by his statement in John 10? Is there not an implied meaning to Ps 82:6 which Christ understood by quoting it in John 10? And is that implied meaning not the key to understanding Ps 82:6? I have pointed out my exegesis at great length. You are unwilling to respond to that and explain where I have misunderstood or misrepresented the “plain meaning” of the text.

Issue 5. Totally depraved.
JAMES
It [that James changed the subject] is not an observation of fact, it is a rude, childish attempt to win “points” by making unnecessary comments that only add emotional impact for your followers, little more. Your refusal to even acknowledge your own slip in behavior is truly reprehensible. . . . The childishness of the original comment is beyond dispute.

BILL
I will admit, for the sake of argument, that I am “rude, childish,” and my “behavior is truly reprehensible.” You do not need to mention the fact again. I concede my depravity. Now that that issue is out of the way:
    It does not change the fact that you refuse to deal with John 10.
    It does not change the fact that changing the subject is a standard anti-Mormon ploy.
    It does not change the fact that you are an anti-Mormon.

6. Ad Hominem
JAMES
I well understand the use of ad hominem.

BILL
Well, what is it? Ad hominem does not mean making insulting remarks, as you seem to think. My saying you are an anti-Mormon is not an ad hominem. If I were to say, “you are an anti-Mormon, therefore your views are wrong”, that would be an ad Hominem. Ad hominem is a logical fallacy. It occurs when one argues as follows:
    X is a Mormon
    Mormons are evil
    Therefore, X’s argument is wrong.

It ignores the evidence and analysis of that X presents for his case. Even if X is evil, it does not mean his evidence and analysis are incorrect. This is the ad hominem fallacy. The classic example in the anti-Mormon
world is: “Show me a non-Mormon archaeologist who believes in the Book of Mormon.” The ad hominem is that Mormon archaeologists, *because they are Mormon* cannot present evidence and analysis on this matter. Only non-Mormon views are permissible. In fact, you engage in the ad hominem when you dismiss all the analysis of modern scholars *because* they are [allegedly] liberals.

Issue 7. What are we debating?
JAMES
As I said, you contacted me about Psalm 82. The record is plain. You have not yet dealt with the important elements of that passage. I believe you are not able to do so, and hence are wishing to change the grounds, all the while accusing *me* of doing that. I have refused to follow your lead.

BILL
Let me see here. When I accused you of losing the debate and changing the topic, that was apparently “rude, childish,” and “behavior [which] is truly reprehensible.” However, now that you accuse me of losing and changing the topic, your behavior is, well? But, I am teasing you. How mean. How truly reprehensible. Why, by the way, are you fixating and hyperventilating about what the topic is? I believe that Jesus’ interpretation of Ps 82 can provide a key to understanding that Psalm. I have explained why in detail. You apparently disagree but refuse to explain why. The fact remains, you refuse to deal with John 10. And I will be sending you a full exegesis of Ps 82 in a short while.

Issue 8. Ignoring the evidence.
BILL
I note, for the record, that you refuse to deal with the evidence presented by Mullen in _Assembly of the Gods.

Issue 9. Exodus 22:8-9
JAMES
There is, of course, *every* reason for so doing [translating elohim as judges in Ex 22:8-9], as I have demonstrated.

BILL
One of your letters must have bounced. I recall a great deal of posturing and assertion, but no demonstration. Perhaps you could repost what you feel is your best demonstration on this point. As I said before, the text makes perfect sense if we read elohim as “gods” or God. The accused is brought before God. Some type of unspecified divination or revelation takes place, and God renders judgement. A similar, but more detailed example of what I am talking about can be found in Num. 5:11-28. So, although human judges do judge some cases, in other cases (Num 5:11-28), God himself judges. So, what specific characteristics of Ex 22 necessitate us to read “judges” for “elohim” in these verses? (As I noted, and you ignored, the Latin and Greek translations render elohim as gods.Apparently the earliest Christians disagreed with your interpretation.

Issue 10. Does God judge?
BILL
Do you concur that God is the supreme judge, and is repeatedly described as judging humans?
(See the following passages. Examples can be further multiplied.)
Gen 18:25
Ps 6:7-9
Ps 7:11
Ps 35:24
Ps 43:1
Ps 50:6
Ps 54:1
Ps 58:11
Ps 68:5
Ps 72:2
Ps 75:7
Ps 82:8
Ec 3:17
Jer 21:12, 22:16
Ez 18:30
Rom 2:16
Rom 3:6
Heb 12:23
Heb 13:4


Thus ends the conversation, for, obviously, there is no reason to continue it. The reasons are rather clear:

1)  Dr. Hamblin now admits that it is his goal to “get to” me. I do not engage in protracted correspondence with those who simply seek to “get to” me.  I engaged in this to edify others and defend God’s truth. Evidently Dr. Hamblin’s motivations were different.

2)  The scholarly, contextually sound, textually-based exegesis from the commentary of Keil and Delitzsch was dismissed with prejudice simply due to the fact that it is 100 years old. The fact that Dr. Hamblin is entrenched in the use of non-believing, secularly-oriented standards in the examination of the OT text is beyond doubt demonstrated by this cavalier attitude, and since the glaring differences between the two positions have been fully explained in the preceding dialogue, there is no reason to repeat what has already been written.

3)  The meaning of the term “literal” is too obvious for comment. Any person slightly familiar with exegetical issues knows that the “literal” meaning of a passage is the meaning of that passage as taken in its own context.  Dr. Hamblin continues to beg the question with his replies.

4)  Dr. Hamblin, at first, avoided clear attempts at generating emotional responses. He has chosen to drop this approach, and now begins to introduce such emotionally laden terms as “anti-Mormon” and such purely ad-hominem attacks as “anti-Mormons change the subject” etc. This simply continues the childish comments made earlier—comments that have no place in a scholarly dialogue on important issues regarding the text of Scripture.

5)  Dr. Hamblin provides evidence of issues not in dispute, such as the long list of verses at the end. No one disputes that God is the ultimate judge. But it has become painfully obvious that Dr. Hamblin is incapable of dealing with the fatal flaw of his own exegesis: verses 3 and 4. This is so plain that we need only point it out.  The elohim of Psalm 82 are judged as false judges for their failure to do what only human judges are commanded to do.

So that this thread does not end up falling under the “Nastigrams ‘R Us” (which it will, eventually, do, as the temperature escalates with each round), we here end the dialogue, and leave it to the reader to determine who has dealt with all of Psalm 82 in its own context and who has not.

Additional Note:  Upon posting the final section of this dialogue, I received a number of further e-mails from Dr. Hamblin, accusing me of not posting all of his materials and various and sundry other untruths. In other words, exactly what I predicted was about to happen, did. Anyone who wants to see Dr. Hamblin’s accusations may do so at the following address: http://www.shields-research.org/A-O_01.html.

I would imagine my replies, briefly pointing out his errors, should be posted at that address as well. Suffice it to say that any person reading this page, and then reading that one, will see that it is far better to post only the information relevant to the topic. How anyone can even attempt to follow the actual discussion in light of all the “noise” thrown in is hard to see. And one thing is for certain: anyone who compares the brief summary provided above with Dr. Hamblin’s ad-hominem riddled “appendix” will get yet another example of how some BYU professors handle “debate” situations.

F.A.R.M.S. Strikes Again – Vintage

The evidence continues to pile in. We began exposing the double-standards and downright childish behavior of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (F.A.R.M.S.), now based out of Brigham Young University, many years ago when they first wrote a review of my book, Letters to a Mormon Elder in 1993 (click here for that first response). In that instance, they published a review written by L. Ara Norwood wherein Norwood had used less than honest means to attempt to “get information” regarding the background of the book, including contacting us on his employer’s stationery as a possible means of reprinting the book. We have since learned that they must not have felt Norwood’s attempt was worthwhile, since another review has been published. We have yet to see it, but have been told it is over 200 pages in length.

Then in 1995 I was asked to write an article on the apologetic methodologies of F.A.R.M.S. for the Christian Research Journal (click here to read). The article minced no words and went right to the real issue, and that was not appreciated either by F.A.R.M.S. nor by some evangelicals who, for whatever reasons, seem to believe F.A.R.M.S. to have taken the place of the General Authorities as the governing and defining body of the LDS Church. Yet, F.A.R.M.S. had little response, as the gaffs and errors documented in the article are so clear that it is far easier for them to attempt to attack the messenger than to deal with the message. And that is the standard F.A.R.M.S. response: go ad-hominem and then look utterly shocked when someone points it out. Immediately identify the target of your attacks as an “anti-Mormon,” and do your best to look like the offended party. It is very, very hard not to notice the parallels between F.A.R.M.S. and Catholic Answers!

Then, a few years later, we compiled quite the file of “nastigrams” from some of the principal players in F.A.R.M.S. that again illustrated the kind of behavior that having a graduate degree does nothing about. You can read these for yourself here. [I note that for those brave enough to read through this file, I received another lovely nastigram from Louis Midgley only today, 8/30/00!]

At the same time I engaged William Hamblin, a professor of history at BYU, in a conversation on the subject of Psalm 82/John 10. This conversation is found at here. As the article notes, this conversation began during one of my trips to Long Island for the “Great Debate” series. It really began shortly before this, when I was a guest on the radio in Salt Lake City on the Sunday night of General Conference. One of the callers who identified himself simply as “Bill” was in fact William Hamblin. He had presented an argument based upon a textual variant in the Hebrew of Deuteronomy 32. Made for obscure radio (I’m sure the audience loved the discussion of textual variants in Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia) but was interesting nonetheless. Hamblin then contacted me by e-mail, and thus the discussion began. It extended into late May.

A few items need to be understood right at the start if the rest of this saga is going to make sense and provide a useful insight into the behavior of the leaders of F.A.R.M.S. The beginning of the Hamblin/White discussion coincided with the flood of nastigrams from Peterson, Midgley, etc. Secondly, the discussion was supposed to be on one topic, and the only reason I invested the time into it that I did was due to the fact that, at least at first, Hamblin behaved substantially better than his compatriots. Of course, I doubted that it would last (it didn’t), but it was worth the effort if others would be helped (and they have).

Next, and most importantly, the conversation dragged on over the course of a number of weeks. During that time, small e-mails were exchanged that had absolutely, positively no bearing on the topic of Psalm 82/John 10. For example, the following message is not included on our web page for the obvious reason that it has no bearing on anyone who wishes to understand a written debate between a Mormon and a Christian on the topic of polytheism in the text of the Bible:

Date: Thu, 09 Apr 1998 16:46:21 -0600
From: “William J. Hamblin” <william_hamblin@byu.edu>
Subject: You still don’t get it
To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>
Cc: Paul OWEN <9753633@bute.sms.ed.ac.uk>

>HAMBLIN
>I will not be able to read your entire response carefully until tonight.
>It’s final paper time, so it may be a few days before I respond completely.
>In a first brief overview, your response is most disappointing.  You don’t
>get it.

JAMES
I’ll assume that “you don’t get it” is equal to “you don’t agree with me.”  As to who has presented a solidly biblical exegesis of the passage, well, again, I’ll leave that to others to judge.

BILL
No, James, I mean you don’t get it.  I don’t expect you to agree with me.  Quite the opposite.  But I do hope that you will be able to understand my arguments, and deal with those arguments.  Your response, at this point, has demonstrated that “you don’t get it.”

William J. Hamblin
Associate Professor of History
323 KMB
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602-4446

801-378-6469 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              801-378-6469      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
wh4@email.byu.edu
FAX 801-378-5784

Why is it important to note this? Because our attempt to “stick to the facts” and make the presentation readable for those truly interested in theology and apologetics is now being used to slander us. How can an obvious, honest desire to keep a debate clear and not clutter it be turned against you? Well, let’s see how F.A.R.M.S. has done it again….

A New Book

During the course of the conversation with William Hamblin it was mentioned that Daniel Peterson (who was, at the time, sending me nastigrams) had written an article on the subject of Psalm 82 and John 10. I have, since 1998, asked Daniel Peterson a number of times when this work was going to be ready. It finally appeared in the 2000 release of the book, The Disciple as Scholar: Essays on Scripture and the Ancient World in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson, edited by Stephen D. Ricks, Donald W. Parry, and Andrew H. Hedges (FARMS, 2000). It is titled, “Ye are Gods”: Psalm 82 and John 10 as Witnesses to the Divine Nature of Humankind.” This is not an article. It is a 123 page work with 332 endnotes–obviously many hands played a part in its production. There are many things to be said about this article (Lord willing, I will be able to respond to it in a shorter time period than that which transpired between my hearing of it and my obtaining it, which was over two years). But for now, its dishonest and unnecessary ad-hominem attack on me will suffice to show yet again the true character of the LDS leadership of F.A.R.M.S.

On page 556 appears a paragraph, under the “Notes,” but before the first end note citation, that reads:

I wish to thank my friends and colleagues Professors William J. Hamblin and Stephen D. Ricks for helpful comments on various drafts of this paper. Roger D. Cook, Daniel McKinlay, Stephen D. Ricks, Royal Skousen, John Tvedtnes, and Bryan J. Thomas assisted with important references. While making final adjustments to the essay, I profited from the lengthy and revealing e-mail exchange between Professor Hamblin and a professional anti-Mormon named James White on the interpretation of Psalm 82 that has been posted, completed and unedited, at shields-research.org/A-O_Min.htm (Mr. White has also placed a cropped and vigorously “spin-doctored” version of that exchange at his own web site). Of course, the argument and the conclusions (and any attendant errors of fact or judgment) are mine alone.

Now, someone familiar with the facts of this matter can’t help but see that the middle of this paragraph is nothing but unfounded slander, intended to continue the attempt on the part of F.A.R.M.S. to marginalize those (here myself, but they have done this to dozens of people in many contexts) who they know will never compromise with Mormonism and who continue to see the fruits of their efforts in the conversion of Mormons from darkness to faith in Jesus Christ. But let’s document the error of this assertion.

1) We have addressed the hypocrisy of identifying people as “anti-Mormons.” It is the same tactic used by Roman Catholic apologists when they refer to people as “anti-Catholics,” and Jehovah’s Witnesses when they label someone an “opposer.” It is meant to create an emotional result, nothing more. And if Daniel Peterson cannot address me properly when he knows I have taught professionally for multiple institutions (Grand Canyon University, Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, etc.), and am far more published than he himself is, this only reflects upon him, not upon me.

2) It is obviously the intention of Peterson to directly allege editing on my part when he speaks of the SHIELDS edition as “complete and unedited” and mine as “cropped.” This is a falsehood. There is nothing that passed between myself and William Hamblin on the subject of Psalm 82/John 10 that is not on our website. Nothing he wrote has been edited, removed, “cropped,” or anything else. Nothing I wrote has been edited, improved, or corrected.

3) Such is not the case with the materials on the SHIELDS site. I noted in a brief review of the materials there that not only had errors been made in inserting links into my posts (one that caught my eye, because it is a “pet peeve,” was the spelling of a reference to the Psalter as “Psalms” instead of the proper format, Psalm 11, Psalm 23, etc.) but editing has taken place on Hamblin’s letters, correcting errors that had appeared in the originals. At one point, when Hamblin decided to start behaving in typical F.A.R.M.S. fashion by referring to me as an “anti-Mormon,” he referred to me “loosing” the argument. Of course, he meant “losing.” When I replied, I quoted him directly, and put the misspelled word, “loosing,” in quotes. Someone, either Hamblin himself, or more likely Stan Barker or someone at SHIELDS, decided that didn’t look good (misspelling things while insulting someone is rather embarrassing), so they fixed Hamblin’s error. Such leaves one wondering what other changes would come to light if I were to care enough to invest the effort to do a more careful comparison.

4) The reader is strongly encouraged to read the material that Peterson and Hamblin insist is necessary to include if the debate is to be fully aired. The direct link to the index page that contains all seventy-some odd e-mails is: http://www.shields-research.org/A-O_Min.htm.

A person who takes the time to drag themselves through all the totally unrelated material will discover that a) the entirety of the debate on Psalm 82/John 10 is on our site, and b) that which is not included contains a tremendous amount of material that reflects very poorly on Hamblin. Posting it would surely have gotten some people to the point of accusing us of impropriety!

Any fair-minded person will immediately see one glaring fact: the file on our web page presents the clearest, fairest, most readable presentation of the interchange. The reader is not distracted with messages that say “No, haven’t gotten to a reply yet, I’m busy doing this….” And it is absurd…no, childish, to insist that such materials have to be included for the discussion to be “unedited.”

Finally, as to the charge of “spin-doctoring,” again this can only refer to the insertion of explanatory introductions at the beginning of the file, along the way before e-mails, and at the end of the file. Yet, if one goes to the SHIELDS site, one will find at least one note inserted directly into the text of one of the e-mails! Is this not “spin-doctoring” then? I felt no need to “doctor” anything, since I believe the e-mails speak for themselves.

Conclusion

We are often asked how intelligent, highly-trained people can be deceived by such transparently untrue systems as Mormonism. For most, the answer is simply spiritual deception. But for those who are actively involved in promoting spiritual deception, the answer goes deeper. Even in the midst of writing an article that is specifically heretical, which presents to its readers a false god, a false Christ, and a false gospel, Daniel Peterson has to find a way to take a personal, unwarranted shot at someone he knows he cannot deceive but whose work has been used to deliver many from the very errors he is seeking to promote. There was no reason whatsoever for the inclusion of these words, outside of the furtherance of a cause. That cause is to denigrate and marginalize anyone who refuses to bow to the overwhelming “scholarship” of F.A.R.M.S. and its attempted defenses of the religion of Joseph Smith.

The reader should consider well: if Peterson is unfaithful in handling the little elements of truth, why should anyone assume he is handling the entire topic in a scholarly, let alone fair, manner?

A Study in F.A.R.M.S. Behavior – Vintage

F.A.R.M.S., the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, based out of BYU, is the leading Mormon apologetics organization. They publish numerous works and provide the majority of the current apologetics information used by Mormon missionaries and others.

In 1993 F.A.R.M.S. reviewed my book, Letters to a Mormon Elder in their book, Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 5. The review was written by L. Ara Norwood.

The first section of this file provides the basic text of the first part of my response which appeared in our publication, Pros Apologia, late in 1993. It was my intention to continue my refutation, but other demands put off the completion of the review. In point of fact, there was little response to the issue, and little demand for information on Norwood’s article.

Since that time, Mr. Norwood has contacted me repeatedly, seeking to goad me into finishing my response (see cited letters later in the file). I here provide a brief response to the rest of the review, along with further information that demonstrates the kind of behavior undertaken by the F.A.R.M.S. reviewer, L. Ara Norwood.

And the Other Shoe Fell: Finally

A Review and Rebuttal of L. Ara Norwood’s “Ignoratio Elenchi: The Dialogue that Never Was” (Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 5 (1993) published by F.A.R.M.S.).

It’s not that I didn’t expect it. I knew that Letters to a Mormon Elder was sufficiently different from most works on Mormonism that, eventually, it would draw the attention of someone in the LDS Church. And so it did. I had always wondered who would be the first to respond to it, and how they would approach a book that presents not only a different message than most (there are few unabashedly Reformed works available on Mormonism), but one that does so in a very different, and I think unique, way.

My answer came via a long-time acquaintance in Salt Lake City, Alma Allred. Mr. Allred and I have been corresponding for years, first via the “old fashioned route,” that being through the U.S. Mail, and later by computer. We had met on the sidewalk outside the South Gate of the LDS Temple in Salt Lake during General Conference. Alma posted a section from the review in the 1993 edition of the F.A.R.M.S. (Foundation for Ancient American Research and Mormon Studies) publication Review of Books on the Book of Mormon on the National Mormon Echo, then moderated by Malin Jacobs. As soon as I saw Mr. Allred’s post, I called F.A.R.M.S. and ordered the book (I am a member of F.A.R.M.S., not because I support it’s purpose, but because I wish to stay abreast of developments in LDS methods of defending the Book of Mormon). No one had mentioned that a review was forthcoming, and, as we shall see, though the author of the review had indeed contacted us, he had done so under less than open circumstances.

I was excited that a review had finally been written, and the fact that it was being published by F.A.R.M.S. led me to hope that it would at the very least carry a scholarly tone and content. F.A.R.M.S. is an interesting organization. It is based primarily out of BYU, and presents the writings of most of the conservative scholars of Mormonism, those who seek to find an historical, factual basis for LDS belief in history, philosophy, and science. For years F.A.R.M.S. materials have been heavily slanted toward one writer: Dr. Hugh Nibley of BYU. But a new group of LDS scholars are entering the picture with the passing of the “Niblian Age,” one might say. John Sorenson, Daniel C. Peterson, Stephen Ricks, and William Hamblin all have articles and books appearing under the F.A.R.M.S. label. Most non-professional LDS apologists (that’s about everyone) rely heavily upon Nibley and the F.A.R.M.S. materials as their scholarly “backing.” Though I had never heard of the author of my review, I hoped that I would finally get to hear a well thought-out review of Letters to a Mormon Elder.

Unfortunately, I was quite disappointed a few days later as I put the book down upon my desk, having finished reading the review. I had honestly seen more in-depth, meaningful responses on the National Mormon Echo. True, none had been so long as this (38 pages), but on each of the three topics addressed by L. Ara Norwood, my reviewer, individuals such as Elden Watson, Alma Allred, and Malin Jacobs (all participants on the Mormon Echo, and all referenced by Norwood in his review) had provided what seemed to me to be much more meaningful objections and counter-proposals.

Yet, the review exists, and I must undertake the task of replying to Mr. Norwood. I shall do so in the following manner. First, I shall provide the reader with some interesting background as to how Mr. Norwood proceed ed in reviewing my book and in handling his contacts with myself and Alpha and Omega Ministries. Then I shall address each of the three areas Mr. Norwood chose to address, though not in the same order in which he presented them. I shall begin with the question of Biblical authority, and then move to his critique of the Reformed doctrine of salvation. Then I will take the time to respond rather fully to his critique of my comments on the Book of Mormon, going beyond the level of Mr. Norwood’s article due to the fact that he relied primarily upon the simple citation of LDS scholars such as Sorenson and Hamblin for his demonstration of my alleged errors or ignorance. This necessitates my providing some replies to the works of such men, though, obviously, in brief, and not in full. Finally, as Mr. Norwood’s article was filled with ad-hominem, character assassination, and mind-reading, I will respond to his personal comments in a concluding section.


Mannix, I-Spy, Mission Impossible, and Get Smart

In February of 1993 we received a phone call on our Christian Information System, requesting that we return a call to an 800 number. Rich Pierce, the President of Alpha and Omega Ministries, takes care of the every-day managing of our affairs (i.e., administration), and he returned the call. He spoke with a man with an unusual first name, “Ara.” I was in the office when Rich spoke with this gentleman. Rich reported that this man represented a printing firm in Southern California, and that he had seen the book Letters to a Mormon Elder, and was calling to inquire about the book, our publishing resources, other books we have available, etc. I found this mildly interesting, as I’m always intrigued about those who read my books and how they respond to them. A few days later a package of materials arrived from “Ara,” and Rich filed them away for future reference. We thought nothing more about it.

In early August I read a message posted by Alma Allred in the MORMON Echo. In it he reproduced a paragraph from a review of my book that had been published by F.A.R.M.S. This was the first I had ever heard of the review. No one had contacted me, talked with me, or in any other way solicited my input for the review, though I would certainly have been happy to have cooperated had someone decided to speak with me. I checked with the local LDS bookstores, but none of them had the publication as yet. So, as I subscribe to the F.A.R.M.S. newsletter, I called to see if I could order the book. It seems the gentleman who took my order remembered the call, as I heard about it months later from some friends of his.

Even before the volume itself arrived from F.A.R.M.S., I contacted Sandra Tanner to inquire about the author of the article, L. Ara Norwood. Sandra was familiar with Mr. Norwood, having been the object of his editorial reviews in the past. At this time the name did not ring any bells with me.

As soon as I received the full text of the review, I discovered that a number of participants on the MORMON echo had been part of the research and review process, though without a word being said to me about it. In speaking with those who worked with the author, I discovered some interesting things. First, the initial draft had been written very early in the year, one individual receiving his copy as early as January. I was informed that if I thought the final draft could be described as “nasty,” the initial one would have truly shocked me. I also learned that there had been some discussion about informing me of the review, and the author had decided that such would not be a good idea. Hence the secrecy.

Then, in speaking with one of those who reviewed the article for Norwood, mention was made of the fact that Norwood himself had spoken of having contacted our ministry about publishing my book. At first I couldn’t recall any such contact, and then I remembered the call from the fellow with the strange name back in February. I contacted Rich Pierce and asked him if he still had the information that had been sent from California, and he indicated that he did. I asked him if he could recall the name of the man with whom he had spoken. He remembered that it was unusual, but could not recall the name. I asked him, “Could it have been `Ara.'”? He wasn’t sure. That afternoon Rich tracked down the information, and imagine our surprise to discover a letter, written on his employer’s letterhead, dated February 25th, signed by none other than L. Ara Norwood, the author of the F.A.R.M.S. review, soliciting our business in printing no other book than Letters to a Mormon Elder!

In his letter, Norwood included the following paragraph:

Now, on a related note, you asked me how I became aware of your ministry. I replied that I received a copy of your book, Letters to a Mormon Elder, and that I had read the book. You didn’t seem interested in pursuing that so I didn’t take it any further. But you might be interested in knowing that I am a Mormon elder, and although I am very interested in servicing you as a business man, I also have a personal interest in the material I read. I have no problem whatsoever giving you the very best service possible, in spite of the purpose of your publishing efforts. But I think it is only fair that I give you fair notice of my religious commitments so that you can decide if your working with a Latter-day Saint is an issue. I’ll assume it isn’t unless I hear otherwise.

It certainly struck me as strange, of course, that Mr. Norwood would contact us about printing Letters to a Mormon Elder a month after he had already written a scathing review of it! While he informed us in his letter that he was LDS, he certainly made no mention of the fact that he had not only read the book, but was writing a review of it for a F.A.R.M.S. publication.

So why did Mr. Norwood contact us and seek printing rights for Letters? Before I theorize on that, let me provide one other aspect of this strange saga. When I received the review, I contacted Mr. Norwood, and invited him (as I am want to do) to engage in a public dialogue or debate on the subjects raised in his article. Specifically, I mentioned that I would be appearing on some radio programs in Salt Lake during Conference weekend in October. Would Mr. Norwood be interested in being on these programs with me? No, he wouldn’t. He had, as he put in his reply letter, “bigger fish to fry.”

I appeared on KTKK on Sunday evening of Conference weekend on Martin Tanner’s program, Religion on the Line. Martin had two other guests: Dr. Daniel C. Peterson and Dr. William Hamblin, both of Brigham Young University (apparently they didn’t have bigger fish to fry). Rich and I arrived at the station very early, as I had forgotten the exact time of the program, and everyone who knows me knows how I hate to be late. As the air-conditioning had gone out in the studio, Rich and I stood by the front door, listening to the first hour of Martin’s program on a speaker just outside the door, while attempting to get some of the cool early-evening air into the building. About 45 minutes before we were to go on the air, a car pulled up, and two middle-aged men got out. However, rather than walking into the building, they walked down the driveway and out of sight. I was pretty certain that this was Peterson and Hamblin. A few minutes later a van arrived with two younger men. They walked right past Rich and me and into the building. We had no idea who they were or why they were there. Finally the two older men came back and walked right past us into the building. They went to a back office where they sat talking with the two young men. Eventually they emerged, and Drs. Peterson and Hamblin introduced themselves. The younger men, however, were not introduced.

After the program was over, I stood in the parking lot speaking first with Dr. Hamblin, and then with he and Dr. Peterson. The two younger men stood to my left, listening to the conversation as it went back and forth, occasionally throwing in some comments. Eventually both Rich Pierce (who had remained inside to share the gospel with an employee of the station who had some questions) and Martin Tanner joined us in the parking lot. We spoke for a good hour. Eventually Martin Tanner made an off-hand comment that caught my attention. “Yes,” he said, “and Ara here came all the way from California.” He was referring to one of the two young men who was standing right next to me on my left. I turned to this gentleman and said, “Ara what?” He grinned and said, “Ara Norwood.”

I honestly believe that Mr. Norwood would have allowed me to get in my car and leave without ever introducing himself to me. I can’t imagine writing a review of someone’s book and then standing there in anonymity, listening to a conversation between the author and others. And that after indicating that he would not come on the air, for he had “bigger fish to fry.” Of course, I can understand why Mr. Norwood would be reluctant to introduce himself prior to the program: I would have undoubtedly invited him to be on the program to attempt to give a defense of his article. But there might be another reason for his silence.

It seems that the reason that Mr. Norwood contacted us about Letters to a Mormon Elder even after writing a negative review of it is consistent with his reasons for silently observing me at the radio station. It seems that Mr. Norwood likes to “gather information,” secretly, if need be. I believe that was why he contacted us in February. He was able to ask many questions about our books, our ministry, and our plans for the future. At KTKK he was able to listen to me discussing various issues with the BYU professors. In both instances I believe Mr. Norwood was “digging” so to speak. In speaking with others who have encountered Mr. Norwood, I find this to be a common trait. Of course, this involves Mr. Norwood in using his position at his place of employment to engage in private “research,” but it seems that this is preferable to thinking that Mr. Norwood is so greedy that he would seek to promote a book that he himself says is authored by a man who is “merely an anti-Mormon clone, maintaining the same shape of bigotry and shallowness that inevitably come from the anti-Mormon cookie-cutter that produces such phenomena.”[1]

In either case, it has been at the very least entertaining to follow the saga of how Mr. Norwood approached writing his review of my book. Surely the questionable actions of Mr. Norwood provide no defense against the criticisms he levels in his article. I shall not make the error of thinking that providing this information in any way releases me from my duty to respond to the substantive issues he raises, despite what I may think about how he went about his task. But it surely makes one wonder about the role of honesty in Mr. Norwood’s approach. Some people think I have the tact of a baseball bat, but I think that’s better than being downright sneaky. Better open and honest than secretive and sly.


Sola Scriptura Under Attack–Again

Mr. Norwood begins his 38-page review of Letters to a Mormon Elder with a nearly 4-page introduction in which he questions my honesty[2], misrepresents my beliefs[3], attacks my character[4], wastes space in an effort to take digs at others[5], and engages in little more than pure (and false) ad-hominem[6]. It was less than an auspicious start. He soon moved past this material, however, and moved into the first formal section of his review, that which deals with his objections to the Protestant doctrine of Scripture.

The first obvious error Mr. Norwood makes is that of saying that I am merely putting forward my own interpretation of Scripture as the final and sole authority by which all things, including spiritual experiences, must be tested. I did not do such a thing in the book, nor do I do so in any other venue. Whenever I present an objection against the LDS position, I cite Scripture and provide sound exegesis of the passage itself. Mr. Norwood seems to dismiss the ultimate authority of Scripture over against human feelings, for when discussing my citation of such passages as Proverbs 30:5-6, 13:13, Isaiah 40:8, and Matthew 24:35, he says that I am attempting to equate the phrase “word of God” with my “late twentieth-century interpretation of this sixty-six book Protestant Bible.” Of course this is simply untrue, and it would seem that it would be much better for Mr. Norwood to provide us with an alternative interpretation of the passages cited, one that does a better job interpreting them in their own context and in their own language. But we get no such interpretation. Instead, we get this:

Of course, all this line of reasoning really demonstrates is that–according to Mr. White–since there are not true prophets receiving revelation in his church, there must not be–nay, cannot be–true prophets receiving revelation in any church.

How Mr. Norwood comes to this conclusion is hard to say. In Letters I merely asserted that which the Bible makes plain so often: that since Scripture is God-breathed, it must function as our highest source of authority in all things, including the area of knowledge itself. Our feelings, no matter how strong they may be, must be tested by that which God has already said, and that in Scripture. If there were indeed “true prophets” today, they would speak in accordance with what God has already said in Scripture. That the apostles were so quick to point out the consistency of their preaching of the gospel and the revelation of God in the Old Testament is striking confirmation of the propriety of my position. In the same way, I challenged the LDS reader to compare the teachings of his alleged prophets and apostles against that which was taught by the prophets and apostles of old. If indeed they are led by the Spirit of truth, then their teaching will accord perfectly with that of Paul or John or Peter. If there are contradictions, we can safely conclude that they are not speaking by the same Spirit who carried Christ’s apostles along as they spoke for God (2 Peter 1:20-21). This is the very conclusion to which we come in examining the teachings of the LDS faith in Letters to a Mormon Elder.

  • Norwood, Ignoratio Elenchi: The Dialogue That Never Was in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Volume 5, 1993 (Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies), p. 321.
  • Norwood, p. 317, spends considerable time questioning how I could possibly have spoken with over 1200 LDS missionaries and an equal number of non-missionaries, concluding that it’s simply unbelievable. Of course, Mr. Norwood has never, to my knowledge, stood outside the South Gate of the LDS Temple in Salt Lake during Conference and spoken with groups of anywhere from two to 20, nor has he spent four to six hours a night each night of the Easter Pageant in Mesa, Arizona, passing out tracts and dealing with groups even larger than those in Salt Lake.
  • This is a common element of Norwood’s article, even though he often alleges that it is I who does not understand the LDS position. In attacking Wes Walter’s short foreword to my book, he writes, “Both men truly believe that the arguments presented are utterly devastating to the Mormon position, that all `honest’ Mormons will make a mass exodus from their faith upon reading the book, and that those who choose to remain Mormons are simply biased or less than honest. This world view seems to maintain that logical argument alone wins converts, in contrast with the Latter-day Saint view, which maintains that it is the workings of the Holy Spirit that bring about conversion” (p. 318). It is amazing that Mr. Norwood could read my very strongly Reformed book and make such a statement. Wes Walters was a Presbyterian, and hence neither Wes nor myself would ever think that “logical argument alone wins converts.” Men are dead in sin, and hence must be regenerated before they can understand spiritual things. My book was very plain on this very topic (pages 260-265 in the Bethany House edition). Norwood is simply ignorant of the position espoused by both myself and Wes Walters, though he has no excuse for this. He later mentions reading my posts from the MORMON echo, and if anything is plain from my writings in that venue, I do not hold the position Norwood ascribes to me.
  • In describing the format of my book, Norwood writes, “These fictional letters are written from the perspective of James White, champion of Calvinism, defender of the evangelical reformed version of Protestant Christianity, as he corresponds with a character known as `Elder Hahn’…” (pp. 317-318). Does Mr. Norwood mean this in a complimentary fashion? Hardly, for he later writes, “Having studied the rather lively exchanges between Mr. White and various Latter-day Saints on the MORMON echo, I can quickly discern that the cool, mature, polite character that he portrays himself to be in his book is just that: a character. His postings in the MORMON echo betray his true colors: a desparado who needs to win every argument at any cost, no matter how trivial” (pp. 319-320).
  • It seems that Mr. Norwood loves to multiply footnotes, as if this indicated thoroughness on his part as a researcher and writer. Hence the third footnote of his paper reads, “I was happy to see that the Reverend Walters attached his name to a `foreword’ and not to a “forward,” as he did in Charles Larson’s work on the book of Abraham; see Charles M. Larson,…By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus (Grand Rapids: MI: Institute for Religious Research, 1992), 5″ (p. 318). One has to wonder if Mr. Norwood voted against Dan Quayle.
  • As cited above, Norwood calls me an “anti-Mormon clone” coming from the “anti-Mormon cooker-cutter.” We shall examine these charges below.

Thus the material stood until November of 1995. In a letter of December 20, 1994, Mr. Norwood wrote to me:

I think your decision to not respond to my F.A.R.M.S. review-essay is itself a response of sorts. It tells me and many others who are aware of your involvement with the Book of Mormon that you are not equipped to handle criticism of your work. Even more so, you are not prepared to deal in any serious way with Book of Mormon studies. Thanks for confirming what I already sensed: the Book of Mormon is way over your head, and until you humble yourself and make the Book of Mormon a matter of prayer, you will remain outside the pale of grace and truth, a mere puppet in the great and spacious building that makes a lot of noise but has no foundation.

Then, in a letter dated October 18, 1995, Mr. Norwood wrote:

On Monday the 16th, I happened to tune into the Bible Answer Man radio program. I enjoyed listening to your exchange with that fellow from Catholic Answers (I believe his first name was James.) [Mr. Norwood is referring to my discussion with James Akin of Catholic Answers 10/12, 13, and 16]. I thought you did a pretty good job defending and articulating your respective positions. I actually had started to be somewhat impressed with your savvy — that is until I heard the comment you made about your “Mormon friends.” I believe you said, in effect, “My Mormon friends say the reason they know the Book of Mormon is the Word of God is that the Church tells them it is.” I found your comment rather telling. And then I remembered your book, Letters to a Mormon Elder. And my review cam to mind (which you promised to respond to but never did adequately.) All the things I said in the F.A.R.M.S. review are apparently still very true; you come off sounding rather informed and competent up until the time that you try to deal with Mormon things (at which time you come across like a buffoon.) Why is that, I wonder? Given your Calvinistic mindset, perhaps such things were simply predetermined. But back to your comment on the radio. I just wanted you to know that I know. . . .

This is how the letter ended in the original. Even this would have been insufficient to cause me to take even a few hours to provide Mr. Norwood any further enjoyment of his extremely poor review of my book. However, since I received a request for my response from a Mormon who has never acted in the way Norwood has, and since I had a few hours between major projects (including a book project), I decided to briefly touch on the points that I had intended to spend time on much earlier. Hopefully, with the advent of the World Wide Web and our own home page, this information will be useful to many others.

The most daunting task facing me is the sheer volume of errors of understanding, logic and reason that are packed into the few pages of Mr. Norwood’s review. He attempts to cover so many items that his errors on each make a coherent response somewhat difficult to organize. While frequently claiming that I have misunderstood Mormon theology, it is he who demonstrates a tremendously surface-level familiarity with my own theological beliefs (exacerbated by his refusal to contact me and hence obtain other books I had written that would have cleared up many of his misunderstandings). Hence, it is next to impossible to document all the problems and respond to them each fully, though I am also aware that if I skip over the less important ones, Mr. Norwood will then say I am admitting he was right, at least on those issues. As the saying goes, one can’t win.

On page 322, while still addressing the issue of the Bible, Mr. Norwood attempts to refute the doctrine of sola scriptura and the sole authority of the Bible by reference to the authors of Scripture who did not abide by sola scriptura. Since the doctrine does not speak to the time periods in which Scripture was being written, his objection is rather quaint. All through the article Mr. Norwood attempts to bring in citations from historical or scholarly sources, but only rarely does he manage to do so in context. For example, he cites Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to the Philadelphians 8:2) as if Ignatius’ words were in the least bit relevant to my chapter on the authority of Scripture and a biblical epistemology. Unfortunately, while the citation looks nice, it has no relevance to what I said in my book.

Next Mr. Norwood goes to Hans K€ng for a citation against the Protestant concept of the sufficiency of Scripture. We surely shouldn’t be too surprised that a Roman Catholic would deny the Protestant doctrine, of course, but Norwood concludes with the citation, “the New Testament Scriptures nowhere claim to have fallen directly from heaven; rather they often quite unself-consciously stress their human origin.” Interestingly Norwood agrees with the statement. Peter had a different understanding:

(2 Pet 1:20-21 NIV) Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. [21] For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Norwood then attempts to connect a statement from patristic scholar Robert Grant, giving Irenaeus’ position on the doctrine of God, with his citations from K€ng. Mixing contexts badly, Norwood demonstrates that a patristic scholar he is not. This is followed, as if Norwood is seeking to get as wide a variety of quotes as possible, with a citation from James Charlesworth in which he says God continued speaking after the canonical books were written. Having collected a Roman Catholic, an irrelevant patristic citation, and the ruminations of Charlesworth, we are, I can only suppose, to abandon the sufficiency of Scripture and the doctrine of sola scriptura. What is more, Norwood writes,

Thus, it is hoped that Mr. White is not under the illusion that his assumptions about the inadequacies of prayer, the impotency of God to communicate with man in extrabiblical ways, or the dismissal of all spiritual experiences had by Mormons and others as nothing more than mere “feelings” void of any influence by the Spirit are by any means the consensus of all Christian believers or thinkers.

This is a classic example of straw-man argumentation. I never indicated prayer is inadequate: I said prayer is not the God ordained means of coming to know His truth: His word is that means. I never said God is impotent to communicate with man in any way He wishes: I simply said God was powerful enough to “get it right” the first time in the Scriptures, and He has indicated He does not need to add to what He revealed in Christ. I did not dismiss all spiritual experiences, but insisted that all spiritual experiences must be subject to the God-breathed Scriptures. Mr. Norwood then sounded like a Catholic Answers staffer in presenting the classic argument against sola scriptura:

What Mr. White fails to grasp is the danger inherent in trying to settle all disputes about truth-claims by going to the Bible alone for the answer. If the Bible were perfectly unamibiguous, there would not be numerous Protestant denominations in existence—all different in one way or another, yet all claiming a system of belief derived solely from the Bible.

I refer the reader to my paper, “Catholic Answers: Myth or Reality?” for a full discussion of this very claim, so commonly made by Roman apologists. For now I simply repeat a post I wrote in response to the use of this argument by Roman Catholic apologist James Akin:    
 
   On one point I certainly agree with Mr. Akin: Catholic apologist
   often DO use this argument. But is it a valid argument? Let’s examine
   it. First, and very briefly, it seems to me to be an inconsistent
   argument;  that is, it refutes the position of the one using it. It
   presupposes the idea that if (in the case of Protestantism) the
   Scriptures are meant to be the sole infallible rule of faith for the
   Church, then it must follow that the Scriptures will produce an
   external, visible unity of doctrine on all fronts. As Patrick Madrid
   put it, Presbyterians and Baptists would not be in disagreement about
   infant baptism if the Bible were able to function as the sole rule
   of faith for the Church. I say this is an inconsistent argument
   because the solution offered to us by Rome–namely, the teaching
   Magisterium of the Roman Church, replete with oral tradition and papal
   infallibility–has not brought about the desired unity amongst Roman
   Catholics. I have personally spoken with and corresponded with Roman
   Catholics, individuals actively involved in their parishes, regular
   attendees at Mass, etc., who have held to a WIDE range of beliefs on
   a WIDE range of topics. One need only read the pages of “This Rock”
   magazine to know that you have conflicts with traditionalists over
   every conceivable topic, from the Latin Mass to modernism in Rome.
   I’ve been witness to debates between Catholics on canon laws and
   excommunications and Father Feeney and other items that rival any
   debates I’ve seen amongst Protestants. And I haven’t even gotten
   to the liberals in the Roman fold!  Obviously I don’t need to do
   that, as the point is made. If sola scriptura is disproven by the
   resultant disagreements amongst people outside of Rome, then
   Roman claims regarding the Magisterium are equally disproven by the
   very same argument.

   But my main reason for addressing the common argument made by Roman
   apologists is that it reveals something important about Rome’s vie
   w of man himself. Dr. Cornelius Van Til often commented on the errors
   of Rome regarding their view of man, and how these errors impacted
   every aspect of their theology, and he was quite right. We see an
   illustration right here. Rome’s semi-Pelagianism (I am talking to
   a Roman Catholic right now in another venue who makes Pelagius look
   like a raving Calvinist) leads her to overlook what seems to me to be
   a very fundamental issue. Let me give you an illustration:  Let’s say
   James Akin writes the PERFECT textbook on logic. It is completely
   perspicuous: it is fully illustrated, completely consistent, and it
   provides answers to all the tough questions in plain, understandable
   terminology. It covers all the bases. Now, would it follow, then,
   that every person who consulted this textbook would agree with every
   other person who consulted this textbook on matters of logic?  Well,
   of course not. Some folks might just read one chapter, and not the
   rest. Others might read too quickly, and not really listen to Mr.
   Akin’s fine explanations. Others might have read other
   less-well-written textbooks, and they might import their
   understandings into Mr. Akin’s words, resulting in misunderstandings.
   Most often, people might just lack the mental capacity to follow all
   the arguments, no matter how well they are expressed, and end up
   clueless about the entire subject, despite having read the entire work.
   Now the question I have to ask is this: is there something wrong with
   Mr. Akin’s textbook if it does not produce complete unanimity on
   questions logical?  Is the problem in the textbook or in the people
   using the textbook?  In the real world it is often a combination of
   both: a lack of clarity on the part of the textbook and a problem in
   understanding on the part of the reader. But if the perfect textbook
   existed, would it result in absolute unanimity of opinion?  No,
   because any textbook must be read, interpreted, and understood. Let’s
   say the Bible is perspicuous, in the sense that Westminster said,
   that is, that “those things which are necessary to be known, believed
   and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some
   place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the
   unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means, may attain to a sufficient
   understanding of them.”  Does it follow, then, that there must be a
   unanimity of opinion on, say, infant baptism?  Does the above even say
   that there will be a unanimity of opinion on the very items that “are
   necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation”?  No,
   obviously, it does not. And why?  Because people, sinful people,
   people with agendas, people who want to find something in the Bible
   that isn’t really there, people approach Scripture, and no matter how
   perfect Scripture is, people remain people Now, Roman apologists may
   well say, “See, you’ve proven our point!  You need an infallible
   interpreter to tell you what the Bible says because you are a sinful
   person, and hence you need a sinless, perfect guide to tell you what
   to believe!”  Aside from the fact that such a concept itself is
   absent from Scripture, and is in fact countermanded by Scripture (did
   not the Lord Jesus hold men accountable for what GOD said to THEM in
   SCRIPTURE?), we need to observe that Rome is not solving the problem
   of fallible people. Once Rome “speaks” the fallible person must still
   interpret the supposed infallible interpretation. The element of error
   remains, no matter how much Rome might wish to think it has been
   removed. Indeed, beyond the problem of interpreting the infallible
   interpreter, you still have the fallible decision of following
   Rome’s absolute authority rather than, say, Brooklyn’s, or Salt
   Lake’s, or Mecca’s, or whoever’s. That remains a fallible decision,
   and hence the longing for that “infallible fuzzy” that comes from
   turning your responsibilities over to an “infallible guide” remains
   as unfulfilled as ever. Finally, the argument put forth (plainly
   seen in the arguments used by Karl Keating in Catholicism and
   Fundamentalism
) is even more pernicious, in that it attacks the
   sufficiency of Scripture itself. We are seemingly told that the
   Holy Spirit did such a poor job in producing Scripture that while
   the Psalmist thought it was a lamp to his feet and a light to his
   path, he (the Psalmist) was in fact quite deluded, and was treading very
   dangerously. Instead of the glorious words of God spoken of in
   Psalm 119, we are told that such basic truths as the nature of God,
   including the deity of Christ or the personality of the Holy Spirit,
   cannot be derived solely from Scripture, but require external
   witnesses. And why are we told this?  Well, it is alleged that
   arguments can be made against these doctrines on the basis of
   Scripture passages. Of course, one could argue against ANYTHING if
   one is willing to sacrifice context, language, consistency, etc.
   But are we really to believe the Bible is so self-contradictory
   and unclear that we cannot arrive at the truth through a
   whole-hearted effort at honestly examining the biblical evidence?
   That seems to be what those across the Tiber are trying to tell
   us. But it is obvious that just because the Scriptures can be
   misused it does not follow that they are insufficient to lead
   one to the truth. Such is a flawed argument (no matter how often
   it is repeated). The real reason Rome tells us the Bible is
   insufficient is so that we can be convinced to abandon the
   God-given standard of Scripture while embracing Rome’s ultimate
   authority.

But we hasten on. On page 325 we read, “Mr. White is very much against the idea that prayer can be a means toward learning truth.” No, Mr. White is very much against making prayer the primary means of learning truth, and Mr. White is very much against putting prayer in the place of the Scriptures as God’s primary means of learning truth. There is, of course, a vast difference. Mr. Norwood, having misrepresented my position and book yet again, then cites a number of passages on prayer and laments that they “are not cited even once in his book.”

Next we find a citation from LDS author Richard Anderson regarding the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 (yes, Mr. Norwood was working very hard to find anything relevant to say at this point). Part of Anderson’s quotation says, “Conservatives today search the Bible for answers, but had the apostles done this, they would have required circumcision for the Gentiles, since it is commanded in the Bible.” Unfortunately we see that even Dr. Anderson is unfamiliar with the doctrine of sola scriptura, and what is more, the Apostles did search the Scriptures, and quoted from them in giving their response (Acts 15:15). Norwood closes this section on page 326 with what he says would be my rewrite of the Eighth Article of Faith:

I believe all that God has revealed in my interpretation of the Protestant Bible, I do not believe he is revealing anything at all today, and I do not believe he will ever reveal anything great or important in the future that is not already in my interpretation of the Protestant Bible.

Mr. Norwood did a lot of mind reading in his review, and as with his other attempts, he didn’t do a very good job. Allow me my own rewrite:

I believe all that God has revealed in the God-inspired Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16); I believe that the Scriptures are self-consistent because their author is self-consistent, and hence I believe a full reading of those Scriptures will yield only one consistent teaching and truth; I believe God has spoken with finality in Jesus Christ, and that the old ways of prophets has been eclipsed by the final and full revelation of the Son (Hebrews 1:1-3).

Hopefully the reader can see the large difference between the two presentations.


L. Ara Norwood: Defender of the Book of Mormon

The next section of Mr. Norwood’s review is, seemingly in his mind, the “strongest” section. Almost anything would be stronger than the first section, that is for certain, but here Mr. Norwood feels he is at home, for here he addresses the Book of Mormon. He pulls no punches in saying he feels I am utterly out of my league here. For example, he writes:

I was so appalled at the sophomoric analysis he rendered . . . that I wondered if he had not farmed out the assignment of writing it to someone else . . . and it took the entire book to whole new levels of ineptitude.

One would think that such strong words would be followed with strong arguments and documentation. They are not. I am faulted primarily for not falling all over myself in admiration of the writings of Hugh Nibley, John Sorenson, Stephen Ricks and William Hamblin. Mr. Norwood’s “rebuttal” is tremendously shallow, strained to a tremendous degree, and I feel highly educational.

The first topic addressed has to do with the “testimony” of the Book of Mormon. He misses my entire point with reference to my asking a Mormon, “Would you pray about the Satanic Bible?” The question is obvious in its implications: we do not pray about those things that we know are, by their very nature, untrue and contrary to God’s revelation. This point must be established before anything else can be accomplished, and while Mr. Norwood might be surprised to learn it, I have had more than one LDS person say, “Why, of course I’d pray about it. Why not?”

Mr. Norwood then ignores the fact that I labored hard to present why I believe the Book of Mormon is in error (i.e., it’s opposition to biblical teaching) by asking how I know this; yet, by the next paragraph he gets to his own answer, “Now we get to the heart of the matter; he is of the opinion that the Book of Mormon is opposed to biblical teaching.” Mr. Norwood wastes time getting to this “heart of the matter,” and then wastes time thereafter, engaging in more “mind reading” about what I’d do if it were proven to me that the Bible and the Book of Mormon are consistent. He finally gets around to listing (p. 328) my five reasons for not praying about the Book of Mormon. Interestingly enough, having listed them (they are: 1) The BoM is historically inaccurate, 2) it contains false doctrine, 3) it was given by a false prophet, 4) it has grave textual problems, and 5) is has been edited in thousands of places), he then writes,

Do these “reasons” display enough reason, sound logic, and acuity to justify not following the one formula that would help him ascertain the book’s validity? Let us see. (One would do well to consult the words of Paul to gain an understanding of the limits of the “rational, logical, human reasoning” method when trying to comprehend things of the Spirit; see 1 Corinthians 2:11-14).

I noted in my copy of the article, “Is the BoM’s nature as an alleged historical document a `spiritual thing'”? Surely such topics as false doctrine are spiritual in nature, but the issue of the BoM being historically inaccurate, and the changes in the text of the BoM, are not “spiritual” in nature. You can pray all day long to get a “feeling” that 2 + 2 = 5, and you may well get the feeling, but that won’t change the reality of mathematics. In the same way, you can pray all day long, or all your life, for that matter, in an attempt to get a “feeling” that white Nephites battled dark-skinned Lamanites in this hemisphere and left a written record on golden tablets in a hillside near Joseph Smith’s home, but all the prayer in the world won’t make that a historical reality.

Mr. Norwood seems to smart quite a bit over the statements of Dr. Michael Coe as they first appeared in “Dialogue” back in 1973. He really doesn’t seem to like what Coe had to say, nor does he like the fact that twenty years of research have not changed the truthfulness of his observations from 1973. My citation ended with these words:

The bare facts of the matter are that nothing, absolutely nothing, has ever shown up in any New World excavation which would suggest to the dispassionate observer that the Book of Mormon, as claimed by Joseph Smith, is a historical document relating to the history of the early migrants to our hemisphere.

These words remain true. Let any person pick up the most popular F.A.R.M.S. materials and ask themselves a question: would the argumentation presented herein carry weight with me if I was not already committed to the LDS perspective? The current situation in the world of archaeology clearly indicates the answer, for F.A.R.M.S. has yet to convince the scholarly world—including Christian scholars who believe in the supernatural—that the BoM has anything at all to do with the early history of this hemisphere. The same scholars who will readily admit that the Bible has a great deal to do with the history of Palestine find no reason to believe Joseph Smith’s story. Indeed, the prerequisite of finding in the ruins of Central America anything relevant to Joseph Smith’s story seems to be a pre-commitment to Joseph Smith. And, of course, once you are committed to the prophethood of Joseph Smith, you are reasoning in circles to speak to the issue of his greatest literary work, the BoM.

Mr. Norwood then falls into the common ploy of Hugh Nibley and other Mormon apologists: “Very few, if any, competent scholars today see archaeology as an objective science any more than history is an objective science.” What is this supposed to mean? This is the first step in trying to explain the miserable failure of LDS scholars to find convincing physical evidence of the Nephites and Lamanites. You must “dumb down” the expectations of people so that the weak arguments of LDS apologists will look stronger. So, you state an obvious thing: archaeology is not as objective as, say, chemistry. But then again, who ever said otherwise? This is followed with pure deception on Mr. Norwood’s part. He writes, “To say that absolutely nothing has ever shown up in any New World excavation which might vindicate the Book of Mormon is to make a rather misleading statement.” Neither I, nor Dr. Coe, made such a statement. Dr. Coe said that nothing has turned up that would lead a “dispassionate observer” to believe the BoM AS CLAIMED BY JOSEPH SMITH is an historical record. There is a big difference. First, Mr. Norwood is not a dispassionate observer; he is a desperate defender of Joseph Smith as a prophet. Second, one can well point out that the presentation of the BoM being made by certain F.A.R.M.S. writers today is quite different than that presented by Joseph Smith himself. We will address this in just a moment.

Next we find what is a most common element of F.A.R.M.S. materials: mutual citation. Norwood writes, “To begin with, John Sorenson’s work on the subject certainly gives plausible archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon’s truth claims.” I dispute the very statement, but the point is that F.A.R.M.S. folks like to cite . . . other F.A.R.M.S. folks. It becomes a vicious (and rather small) circle: everybody cites Nibley, who, I am hardly alone in asserting, has never once cared about the contextual accuracy of anything he’s ever cited. But then Sorenson cites Nibley, and Hamblin cites Sorenson, and Peterson and Ricks cite Sorenson and Hamblin and Nibley, and round and round it goes. It sure looks good on paper, but it doesn’t mean a whole lot. It is rather reminiscent of the King James Only advocates who cite each other over and over again: such hardly represents a wide spectrum of the scholarly community.

Next, in an attempt to answer why there is not more support in non-LDS areas for the BoM as a book of history, Norwood says, “After all, how many agnostic or atheistic archaeologists are convinced by evidence that turns up in Middle East excavations which Bible-believing Christians find remarkably confirmatory and faith-promoting.” The error of logic here is astounding. Note how Norwood replaces the historical nature of the BoM with a full-blown belief in Christianity as a result of believing the message of the Bible. If Norwood were to argue correctly, he would have to admit that there is a tremendous amount of testimony to the HISTORICAL NATURE of the Bible, and the fact that the Bible DOES come from the ancient world of Palestine, and that this fact is clearly admitted by all people involved, even by atheists and agnostics. The historical nature of a work is one thing; belief in the religious system presented by that book is another. I can admit the historical nature of many of the Greek works of mythology, but I don’t worship Zeus. In the same way, if there was evidence of the historicity of the BoM, one could say, “Yes, this is a historical document” without saying “and I accept its religious teachings.” The problem for Norwood is, there isn’t any such historical evidence. He is mixing categories, and that badly. Agnostics and atheists have to admit the fact that the Bible has been proven to have come from the context it claims to have come from—their rejection of its teachings does not invalidate the historical data. The BoM can make no such claim, as the context that it provides for itself simply did not exist in Mesoamerica during the time frame claimed by the book itself.

In footnote 22 on page 330, Norwood continues to ply the old excuses for the failure of expedition after expedition into Mesoamerica. We are told that biblical archaeology has been around longer, so we shouldn’t be too surprised that it has more results. Again, it’s not a matter of how much evidence, but of the total lack of any evidence that is the problem. Then Norwood really falls into a problem when he rather glibly asks, “Besides, do the critics expect to see a Nephite roadsign reading, `You are now leaving Zarahemla’?” Well, it sure would be nice! We have similar such items identifying biblical cities, why not the BoM? But what is more, Norwood seems to be avoiding the fact that the view of the BoM most often promoted in F.A.R.M.S. literature is startlingly different than that presented by the early Mormons, and by Joseph Smith himself. In other words, the BoM “as claimed by Joseph Smith” would lead one to believe that one would find such a roadsign. Rather than the extremely limited geography of a John Sorenson, it is obvious the early Mormons believed the BoM story took place all across the United States. Note the words of the Documentary History of the Church, as well as those of Joseph Fielding Smith, regarding the well-known incident of the finding of “Zelph, the White Lamanite.”

On the top of the mound were stones which presented the appearance of three altars having been erected one above the other, according to the ancient order; and the remains of bones were strewn over the surface of the ground. The brethren procured a shovel and a hoe, and removing the earth to the depth of about one foot, discovered the skeleton of a man, almost entire, and between his ribs the stone point of a Lamanitish arrow, which evidently produced his death. Elder Burr Riggs retained the arrow. The contemplation of the scenery around us produced peculiar sensations in our bosoms: and subsequently the visions of the past being opened to my understanding by the Spirit of the Almighty, I discovered that the person whose skeleton was before us was a white Lamanite, a large, thick-set man, and a man of God. His name was Zelph. He was a warrior and chieftain under the great prophet Onandagus, who was known from the Hill Cumorah, or eastern sea to the Rocky mountains. The curse was taken from Zelph, or, at least, in part–one of his thigh bones was broken by a stone flung from a sling, while in battle, years before his death. He was killed in battle by the arrow found among his ribs, during the last great struggle of the Lamanites and Nephites. Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.3, Pg.240 In the Book of Mormon story the Lamanites were constantly crowding the Nephites back towards the north and east. If the battles in which Zelph took part were fought in the country traversed by the Zion’s Camp, then we have every reason to believe from what is written in the Book of Mormon, that the Nephites were forced farther and farther to the north and east until they found themselves in the land of Ripliancum, which both Ether and Mormon declare to us was the land of Ramah or Cumorah, a land of “many waters,” which “by interpretation, is large, or to exceed all.” Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.3, Pg.239

NEPHITE AND JAREDITE WARS IN WESTERN NEW YORK. In the face of this evidence coming from the Prophet Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer, we cannot say that the Nephites and Lamanites did not possess the territory of the United States and that the Hill Cumorah is in Central America. Neither can we say that the great struggle which resulted in the destruction of the Nephites took place in Central America. If Zelph, a righteous man, was fighting under a great prophet-general in the last battles between the Nephites and Lamanites; if that great prophet-general was known from the Rocky Mountains to “the Hill Cumorah or eastern sea,” then some of those battles, and evidently the final battles did take place within the borders of what is now the United States.

If early Mormon leaders could uncover direct physical evidence of the Lamanites and Nephites while out walking, and that with only a shovel and a hoe, why are Mormon archaeologists unable to find Mr. Norwood’s roadsign? This is all the more interesting in light of Mr. Norwood’s own admission on page 331, “Besides, when did the Book of Mormon ever claim to be a viable tool for achaeologists?” Well, the Bible does not make such a claim, though it is such a viable tool, DUE TO ITS HISTORICITY. Why is the BoM not such a viable tool? Well, of course, due to its LACK of historicity.

The bad argumentation continues unabated in the next paragraph (p. 331), where Norwood notes my citation of LDS archaeologists concerning “amateurish and overstated” publications by Mormons on BoM archaeology. He misses the point but takes the opportunity of taking shots at various discredited Christian ministers (producing two more irrelevant footnotes in the process).

Upon citing my assertion that the description of the Nephites and Lamanites provided by Joseph Smith is obviously based upon an Old World paradigm rather than one relevant to the New World, Mr. Norwood retorts, “Is Mr. White trying to say that Nephi and Laman, having come from an `Old World culture,’ would have arrived in Mesoamerica and instantly lost any and all traces of their Old World heritage, and just as instantly adopted their Mesoamerican traditions, mannerisms, and customs in perfect totality?” No, Mr. White is trying to say that the culture of the Book of Mormon—from beginning to end—is vastly different than the culture we now know existed (but Joseph Smith did not) in Mesoamerica and elsewhere during the same time period. Only special pleading allows Mormon apologists to get around this obvious problem. Mr. Norwood assumes the very thing that is disputed: the existence of Nephi, Laman, and their descendants. No, I would not expect such men, had they existed, to have immediately abandoned their culture and customs. I would expect that evidence of their culture and customs, as presented in the BoM, would survive to this day. And that is just where the BoM fails the test.

Upon noting various elements of the material culture of the inhabitants of Mesoamerica during the alleged BoM period that are general knowledge and are yet contrary to the BoM story, Mr. Norwood can only respond with, “How does Mr. White know this? Is he a trained anthropologist? Why does he not back up his claims with references?” No, I am not a trained anthropologist—just as Mr. Norwood is not a trained anthropologist. Dr. Michael Coe is the recognized leader in that field, but Mr. Norwood had no problem dismissing him, I note, hence, it doesn’t seem to matter if one is, or is not, a trained anthropologist. Norwood again engages in the “cite the F.A.R.M.S. guys” syndrome, thinking that just citing his mentors is sufficient to end the issue (it is not). But it is most instructive to note one of Norwood’s citations, as it relates to my radio debate with Dr. Peterson and Dr. Hamblin on KTKK radio in Salt Lake. My opponents brought up the same passage from my book, and confidently asserted that I was just ignorant of the facts, and that the ancient inhabitants of the hemisphere did have swords. Dr. Hamblin, who had recently co-authored a book titled Warfare in the Book of Mormon, gave me a signed copy of the book right there in the studio. It was indeed unfortunate that I had not yet seen the book, as the resulting discussion would have been most interesting.

Hamblin writes an article with Merrill that appears on pages 329 through 351 of the book. The authors struggle mightily to find some parallel in known Mesoamerican culture to the swords described in the BoM. The BoM is mercilessly plain: the book describes Laban’s sword (1 Nephi 4:9) saying, “And I beheld his sword, and I drew it forth from the sheath thereof; and the hilt thereof was of pure gold, and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine, and I saw that the blade thereof was of the most precious steel.” No problem here, for the context is still Old World. But, we read in 2 Nephi 5:14-15 (which moves the context to the New World):

And I, Nephi, did take the sword of Laban, and after the manner of it did make many swords, lest by any means the people who were now called Lamanites should come upon us and destroy us; . . . And I did teach my people to build buildings, and to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance.

Now we have steel-bladed, sheathed swords in the New World, according to the BoM. In fact, we have lots of them, made for defense against the Lamanites. Why do I emphasize this? Well, Hamblin said on the air on KTKK that they have found swords in the New World, but he was engaging in the most egregious re-definition of terms in so doing. As anyone can see by reading Warfare in the Book of Mormon, Hamblin’s means of rescuing Joseph Smith is to attempt to draw a parallel between the clearly Old Word sword of Laban, and hence of the Nephites, with the Aztec “macuahuitl” or “macana.” Hamblin describes it:

The “macuahuitl” was constructed from a long staff or large paddle-shaped piece of wood. Sharp obsidian flakes were fixed into the edges of the wooden blade, giving it a deadly cutting edge.

Here Hamblin tries to tell us that what the BoM is really talking about is a war club with sharp rocks embedded in it! He then has to work very hard to explain how such a club could scalp someone “with the point of his sword,” why the BoM refers to the “hilt” of these swords (the macuahuitl doesn’t have a hilt,) how such a war-club can be “drawn” from a “sheath” (!), how such swords could be spoken of as having been made “bright” (Alma 24:12), and what Nephi was talking about when he said he made their swords after the pattern of Laban’s sword. I simply direct the reader to this chapter: there can be no greater evidence of the strained, twisted, and down-right incredible lengths to which people will go to defend a myth. And, not surprisingly, when Mr. Norwood wishes to take a shot at me about my statement about swords, he cites this very discussion.

The same thing happens when I note the lack of horses, so prominent in the BoM, in the material cultures of the day. Mr. Norwood’s response is, “Mr. White is simply ill-informed.” He footnotes Sorenson’s attempt in his book, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, to provide some basis of horses in the ancient New World. Norwood specifically cites pages 295 through 296 of Sorenson’s book. Does Sorenson help me with my being ill-informed? Hardly. In carefully crafted language Sorenson tries to suggest the possibility that maybe some horses did survive, as there might be a place here or there where a horse bone was found that would date to something near the BoM period. He suggests that the topic of the horse being extinct by the BoM period is not completely closed. But, this is followed with the brave mention of a few representations in art of someone riding a deer, as if this might fill in for the “horse” of the BoM. But he recognizes how lame all of this is in light of the simple fact that horses in the BoM were involved in pulling chariots and hence were involved in warfare. Such language as used in the BoM does not allow us to find much solace in one or two horse bones in a questionable dig, or in a picture of someone riding a deer! Sorenson says, “Thus, we simply do not understand what might have been the nature of the `chariot’ mentioned in the Book of Mormon in connection with `horses.'” I may well be ill-informed, as Mr. Norwood says, but I don’t mind being ill-informed about such wild speculations and strained explanations.

We should remember that Mr. Norwood closes this part of his discussion of my “sophomoric” discussion of the BoM with these words: “. . . the foregoing should be adequate to demonstrate that Mr. White’s approach to historical criticism relative to the Book of Mormon is to select issues he knows little or nothing about, to make broad generalizations without backing them up with documentation of any kind, to fail to research the issues in appropriate works, (!) and then to draw wrong conclusions at each and every turn.” It is obvious that for Mr. Norwood, to know something about the topic is to believe that the F.A.R.M.S. writers are infallible; to research appropriate works is not to read Coe or the general archaeological or anthropological spectrum, but to read F.A.R.M.S. books, and to draw right conclusions at every turn is to buy into the twisted reasoning we have already seen above!

But before we finish this section we need to note Norwood’s attempt to get around the embarrassing question of “coins” in the BoM. Once again we find Joseph Smith attempting to make the New World into the Old Word. In Alma chapter 11 we find a description of the Nephite system of coinage. Orson Pratt, an apostle of the LDS Church, described these as “coins” in the chapter heading that remains in the BoM to this day. There is good reason for Pratt’s terminology: anyone who reads the chapter can see what is being referred to. Yet, BoM apologists have worked overtime, as Norwood’s footnote shows, to try to make these “pieces” of gold, silver, etc., anything but coins. And why is this? Because coins are conspicuous by their absence from the material culture of the New World. The inhabitants of Mesoamerica did not use a coinage system, nor did they find gold and silver nearly as precious as Old World cultures (they preferred jade and cocoa beans, two items that are not to be found in the BoM). Hence, since coins are the most lasting elements of a society (I personally have coins dating back to the time of the BoM from the Old World), the fact that we can’t find any of these items in the New World is a telling objection to the historicity of the BoM account. Norwood’s response does nothing more than repeat the wild attempts to get around this embarrassing mistake.

Next Norwood brushes aside the tremendously important issue of Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews, an issue that B.H. Roberts himself thought was worthy of note (we can only assume Norwood is a better expert on the topic than Roberts was). But most significantly Norwood shoots himself in the foot in his concluding remark: “As to the charge that there are parallels between the two books, yes, there are parallels. Yet, the majority of them are insignificant, especially when compared to the unparallels that exist between the two works.” It is wonderful to see that Mr. Norwood recognizes that the existence of some parallels is negated by the existence of what he calls “unparallels.” While I disagree with the application of this true concept to the View of the Hebrews, I have to point out that Norwood has here capsulized the most telling criticism of the entire effort of F.A.R.M.S. to come up with any kind of meaningful defense of the Book of Mormon in a historical setting: the few, strained, “parallels” that they have produced are more than completely negated by the vast mountain of “unparallels” that any person could note upon the most basic examination of the material cultures of ancient Mesoamerica. The fact that Norwood can see this in other instances, but fails to see how it undermines his entire position on the BoM, is quite telling.

Our writer then transitions into dealing with my assertion that the BoM contains false doctrine, focusing upon my assertion that 2 Nephi 25:23 (and Moroni 10:32) contradict the Bible’s teaching of salvation by grace through faith. Norwood asserts that I misunderstand LDS doctrine at this point (p. 335), but in the process demonstrates that he is more than willing to pick and choose who will define his particular view of LDS doctrine (and anyone who thinks that there is just “one” view has not spoken to very many LDS folks of late). Ignoring the fact that I cited official LDS writings to substantiate my point (pp. 142-143, 269-271 of Letters), Mr. Norwood turns not to a General Authoriy of the LDS Church but to a BYU professor to demonstrate that I don’t understand the proper interpretation of 2 Nephi 25:23. He cites Stephen Robinson’s book, Are Mormons Christians? wherein he says, “The sense is that apart from all we can do, it is ultimately by the grace of Christ that we are saved. This meaning is apparent from the fact that none of us actually does all he can do.” Unfortunately, Norwood ignores the fact that in presenting this problem in the teaching of the BoM, I cited directly from the LDS Bible Dictionary (a little more “official” source than a BYU professor)—though Norwood forgets to mention this to his readers. All Norwood does by ignoring the official explanation and citing Robinson is to point out the contradictory positions taken by the “official” leaders and BYU scholars.

More wasted space is to be found in Norwood’s review of my comments on the modalistic teaching of the BoM in Mosiah 15:1-4. First we find another footnote castigating me for not “tend[ing] to [my] own flock” due to the fact that many Christians unknowingly embrace modalistic concepts of the Trinity. I am well aware that this is the case, and even said in the text that this is a common misconception of untaught persons. But this does not excuse Joseph Smith’s insertion of the concept into the BoM. Without providing anything more than a reference note to some commentary sources, Norwood brushes aside the problem and says, “Again, Mr. White demonstrates a talent for jumping to faulty conclusions after feeble analysis.” My analysis was brief, not feeble; feeble is a better term for Norwood’s reply.

The third reason I gave not to pray about the BoM was that it was given by a false prophet. Having already spent many pages (109-117) on this very topic, I simply noted this and said, “I have already provided my reasons for believing this in our previous correspondence. Smith qualified as a false prophet under both of the tests set forth by the Bible, and therefore a book of “scripture” that he would introduce to the world would not come from God” (p. 144). Norwood pretends otherwise by saying, “This third reason is shamefully incomplete. In a mere three sentences, Mr. White dismisses the Book of Mormon because he dismisses Joseph Smith. This is an example of a priori reasoning; White decides in advance that nothing good can come from Joseph Smith, therefore the Book of Mormon, having come through Joseph Smith, cannot be good.” Anyone who reads the book, however, knows that Norwood is doing nothing but blowing smoke and ignoring what was actually said in the book.

Next Norwood again seems to bank upon his readers not reading the book, for anyone who has would wonder how he could be so dishonest in his misrepresentations. Again beginning with ad hominem argumentation (“Once again, Mr. White is feeding us pablum”), he labors diligently to avoid getting the point of my entire discussion of the textual problems in the BoM. I worked hard to represent a number of the viewpoints on the inspiration and translation of the BoM in my discussion in Letters (pp. 144-149). By mixing up elements of this discussion (citing from three different pages through the use of ellipses) and utterly ignoring the citations provided in the text itself from various LDS sources, Norwood provides us with a completely useless response to the discussion. He provides us with four paragraphs of irrelevant verbiage that does not even begin to address what is written in the book. Yet, he has the intestinal fortitude to conclude his obfuscational activities with the line, “I have to wonder how he can treat a subject so carelessly, come off so confidently, and still maintain a degree of intellectual responsibility.” A mirror might help Mr. Norwood out at this point.

The next reason I gave had to do with the changes in the text of the BoM. Mr. Norwood proves to us that he owns a number of “anti-Mormon” books by providing a 20-line footnote citing similar discussions of such changes in a wide variety of books, and then thinks this is sufficient basis to reiterate his previous comment about “the anti-Mormon cookie cutter.” The fact that there are such changes in the text of the BoM makes the discussion of the topic in books dedicated to an examination of the truth claims of Mormonism a foregone conclusion, of course. Any discussion of the BoM that would not mention such editing would be incomplete.

Norwood uses anachronism to avoid the problems presented by the changes in the BoM at 1 Nephi 11:18, 21-22, saying the addition of the phrase “the Son of” in these passages is a mere clarification “so that the reader would realize it is the second person of the Godhead being referred to, and not the first person of the Godhead.” He ignores the fact that I have already pointed out that Mosiah 15 presents an obviously modalistic view of the godhead that would find no problem with the original reading of these passages; Joseph Smith’s theology evolved radically after this time-period, resulting in the edits. Norwood assumes what he has yet to prove, and again completely misses the point of the significance of the change.

Three entire pages are then dedicated to attempting to rescue Joseph Smith from the problem created by the change at Mosiah 21:28 regarding Benjamin and Mosiah. Obviously I struck a nerve, for Norwood labors hard to come up with some kind of meaningful answer for this change. I leave it to the reader to discover if he is successful or not.

With this we come to the end of Norwood’s comments on the BoM materials in Letters to a Mormon Elder. The reader is reminded of the fact that in the letters sent to me after the publication of his review Mr. Norwood has consistently asserted that I am unable to deal with BoM issues, and that I in fact look like a “buffoon” (letter of 10/18/95) when I attempt to do so. Yet, as the preceding pages illustrate, Mr. Norwood has grievously over-estimated his own prowess as a writer and expert on such things. In fact, it is quite obvious to me that Mr. Norwood is trying desperately to act and look like one of the “big boys,” when in point of fact I have encountered FAR more substantive responses from other LDS who make none of the pretentious claims made by Mr. Norwood. Perhaps he should work a bit more on his materials before he starts calling people “buffoons.”


Norwood on the Gospel

The final section of the review addresses the gospel and the Reformed understanding presented throughout the final chapters of Letters to a Mormon Elder.

As the first section of this response noted, Mr. Norwood did not avail himself of the opportunity of speaking with me prior to the writing of his review of my book. Had he done so, I could have rescued him from many of the problems that plague his review. At the very least I could have sent him copies of my others books, available at the time he wrote his review. Had he had these works, most of the material found in the final section of his review would have either not appeared or it would have taken a very different form. Two of my books, God’s Sovereign Grace and Drawn by the Father, would have been most useful to Mr. Norwood at this point in explaining and defending the Reformed position on the gospel of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.

In point of fact there is little reason to spend much time on Mr. Norwood’s comments here. He has no idea what the Reformed position is; he misrepresents it at every turn; and he showed no interest in really finding out what I believe about these things, as seen in his not referencing, or even obtaining, my books on this very subject. Hence, the vast majority of the criticisms he raises are either irrelevant to the topic, or have been fully answered in my other works (or at times in Letters itself!). Mr. Norwood asks a number of questions in this section, all of which are answered fully in my other works on the topic! While I demonstrated a wide reading of LDS works and cited from a broad spectrum of sources, Mr. Norwood shows no interest in such things, and as a result provides us with little of material substance in the last few pages of his review. [We are at least thankful that Norwood’s comments are a cut above the single worst recent LDS attempt in this area, that being Richard Hopkins’ Biblical Mormonism.] While it would be “easy” to point out error after error and misrepresentation after misrepresentation in this section, we will allow the reader to compare Mr. Norwood’s words with the materials presented in Letters and other works such as Justification by Faith, Drawn by the Father, and God’s Sovereign Grace.

Finally, one could spend (waste?) a great deal of time noting the dozens of snide remarks, insults, and generally childish comments sprinkled throughout Norwood’s review. At times one has to wonder how such things made it past the editors, but then again, this is a F.A.R.M.S. production, and that is the same group that has allowed its very leaders to engage in the very same kind of activity (the famous “Metcalfe is Butthead” incident comes to mind). Hence, in reality, Norwood’s attitude is “par for the course” for F.A.R.M.S., not something unusual. He is merely mimicking the actions of those he is attempting to impress, nothing more.

Around the same time the F.A.R.M.S. review appeared a horrendously inaccurate article appeared in the Roman Catholic magazine “This Rock” titled “The White Man’s Burden.” This article pretended to review a debate between myself and the article’s author, Patrick Madrid. There are many similarities in the attitude and tone of the works of Madrid and Norwood, but there is one major similarity that is most heartening. Anyone who either attended, or listens to the tapes of, the debate between myself and Madrid will find his article unbelievable, and will be forced to wonder why the author had to go to such great lengths to twist the truth. And in the same way, anyone who reads Letters to a Mormon Elder and then reads Mr. Norwood’s review will have to wonder why the leading LDS apologetics organization could not find something more substantive to put in the thirty-six pages dedicated to the book. There might just be a good reason for that . . . .

The Strange Saga of the BYU Correspondence (aka, Nastigrams ‘R Us) – Vintage

If I hadn’t received these notes myself, I’d question their validity.  But, since these very same notes have been posted on the SHIELDS web page (http://shields-research.org/Critics/A-O_01.html), you can verify for yourself that these are indeed the writings of leading LDS scholars Daniel Peterson and Louis Midgely.

Here’s the background:  My son and I spent four hours on KTKK radio in Salt Lake City on the Sunday night of General Conference on April 5th, 1998.  From 5PM to 7PM Van Hale hosted his program, Religion on the Line, and then Richard Hopkins came on and we continued as guests until 9PM, taking calls all the way through.  It was a profitable time.  Toward the end of Van Hale’s show, a caller, who identified himself only as “Bill,” called in and we began talking about Deuteronomy 32:8.  It was a rather technical discussion, and was rather rushed due to time.

Upon returning home, I received the first in a series of posts from Dr. William Hamblin of Brigham Young University, a participating member of FARMS, an author, and, as he informed me, the “Bill” who called in at the end of the radio show.  As the resulting correspondence with Dr. Hamblin did not, originally, take on the strange, harsh tone of what follows, I have included it in a separate page (click here to view that correspondence).   But I very quickly discovered that if you write to a BYU professor, you are writing not only to all interested BYU professors, but really to the entire world, for what you write will end up on the SHIELDS web page.  I’m thankful for the opportunity to post there and help spread God’s truth, but the resulting e-mail messages have been most interesting—and enlightening.

Below you will find the messages of two BYU professors, Dr. Daniel C. Peterson, and Dr. Louis Midgley.  Their attentions were not solicited by me.  They began writing to me as a result of Dr. Hamblin passing around my response to him.  Eventually, as you will see, I stopped even replying to them….which has not, to this date, stopped them from sending me their nastigrams.  Most of these messages arrived while I was ministering on Long Island, NY, and preparing for, or engaging in, a debate with Fr. Mitchell Pacwa on the Papacy (click here for information on that debate). Amazingly, while they are intent upon accusing me of angry words, insults, and the like, anyone reading their notes can see who is doing what.   I am more than happy to allow the reader to judge the motivations, and the words, of both sides.

The first message came from Louis Midgley:

Date: Tue, 14 Apr 1998 00:17:06 -0600
From: “Louis C. Midgley” <midgleyl@burgoyne.com>
To: orthopodeo@aomin.org
Subject: THE QUALITY OF ANTI-MORMON LITERATURE

Dear Jim:

I have been observing and enjoying the exchange you have been having
with Bill Hamblin. And since, in an essay I am about to publish on
anti-Mormonism, I will be quoting (with approval I should add) language
found on page 17 of your IS THE MORMON MY BROTHER? in which you grant
that Latter-day Saints have “have little difficulty demonstrating
inconsistencies and half-truths” in anti-Mormon literature. There are
something like twenty or more lines on that page in which you set the
rhetorical stage for your book, which will, you imply, not be guilty of
the kinds of problems you attribute to those “many who would provide the
strongest denunciations of LDS theology and practice” but who fail to
take seriously what Latter-day Saints write in defense of the Church of
Jesus Christ.

Given the language found on page 17 of your book, I wonder if you
consider any anti-Mormon literature to be of a quality similar to or
approaching your own. And by that I mean is there any other anti-Mormon
literature, other than your own, of course, in which, from your
perspective, the authors have mastered and evaluated the arguments of
those you label “Mormon apologists” or “modern LDS apologists and
scholars”? And if so, which authors could you list as having more or
less been willing to take seriously what Latter-day Saints have been
saying in response to anti-Mormonism?

I trust that you will not be offended but perhaps please to learn that I
take your comments of page 17 or your recent book as an effort on your
part to indicate you (and your book) belong in a category apart from the
run-of-the-mill anti-Mormon book or pamphlet. And your observations, at
least from my perspective, seem to have been intended to indicate that
the reader of your book could expect to find one who has paid the price
and who is therefore both willing but also anxious to have a serious
conversation with Latter-day scholars, where other anti-Mormons have not
done what is necessary to engage in such a conversation.

I am anxious to know if there is an anti-Mormon literature that comes up
to your standards. Would you recommend, as companions to your own work,
say the writings of Walter Martin? If not, who might be in your league?
Or who might come close to your standard? Or should I read what you have
written on page 17 of your book as an attempt to distinguish your
writings in crucial ways from all previous anti-Mormon literature? If
not, then I would assume that you will be anxious to indicate who among
the current stable of anti-Mormons is not guilty of the complaints you
direct against your anti-Mormon associates in your recent book.

I thank you in advance for your efforts to address openly and honestly
the questions I have raised.

Grace and peace,

Louis Midgley


At this time, I was not aware of the SHIELDS page, nor a little inter-BYU list called “skinny-l,” so I wondered how Midgley got hold of the Hamblin correspondence.   I replied:

>I have been observing and enjoying the exchange you have been having
>with Bill Hamblin.

May I ask how you have done this? I’m getting notes from people all over the place, so I assume they are being posted publicly. Where might this be?

>And since, in an essay I am about to publish on
>anti-Mormonism, I will be quoting (with approval I should add) language
>found on page 17 of your IS THE MORMON MY BROTHER? in which you grant
>that Latter-day Saints have “have little difficulty demonstrating
>inconsistencies and half-truths” in anti-Mormon literature. There are
>something like twenty or more lines on that page in which you set the
>rhetorical stage for your book, which will, you imply, not be guilty of
>the kinds of problems you attribute to those “many who would provide the
>strongest denunciations of LDS theology and practice” but who fail to
>take seriously what Latter-day Saints write in defense of the Church of
>Jesus Christ.

Actually, I do hope you do not hack up the quotation when you publish your article. This is what I have with me on my computer system (I am far from home at the moment, and don’t even have a copy of that book with me):

There are many others, however, who have no doubts whatsoever about the LDS faith in general, and Mormons in particular. “It’s a devil-inspired cult” they say, “and that’s all there is to it.” For many, Mormons are simply polygamous cultists, out to destroy the souls of anyone unwary enough to be caught in their clutches. Yet many who would provide the strongest denunciations of LDS theology and practice are the very ones who have done the least work in seriously studying LDS writings, and interacting with LDS viewpoints. Therefore, a large body of literature exists that is based not so much on fair, even-handed study of primary source documentation, but upon a very large dose of emotion and bias. Such literature normally emphasizes the sensational, seeking to arouse the emotions of the reader against the LDS faith. Modern LDS apologists and scholars like to focus upon such literature, often treating it as if it is the “norm” for all Christians, and have little difficulty demonstrating inconsistencies and half-truths, thereby dismissing all efforts at refuting LDS claims and evangelizing the LDS people. But for those who find in Mormonism the very embodiment of evil itself, there is little reason to even ask the question, “Is Mormonism Christian?” And there is even less reason to spend any time at all fairly evaluating the arguments of LDS scholars on the topic.

If *that* is what you are citing, what *I* intended, and the way you are using it, seem to be at odds. The sentence you cite in its original context states, “Modern LDS apologists and scholars like to focus upon such literature, often treating it as if it is the “norm” for all Christians, and have little difficulty demonstrating inconsistencies and half-truths, thereby dismissing all efforts at refuting LDS claims and evangelizing the LDS people.” That is more of a criticism of Peterson and Ricks for _Offenders for a Word_ and other FARMS folks for their “reviews” in RBBoM than it is anything else.

>Given the language found on page 17 of your book, I wonder if you
>consider any anti-Mormon literature to be of a quality similar to or
>approaching your own.

Of course I do. I was referring primarily to non-specialized books and writers, not to those who focus on the field. You can look at the endnotes and if I cite the writer favorably, take your cue from that. I would include the Tanners, Bill McKeever, Wes Walters, etc., as excellent writers on the subject. And, I have publically criticized elements of Ed Decker’s work, and William Schnoebelen (we include articles on our web page on the subject as well).

>And by that I mean is there any other anti-Mormon
>literature, other than your own, of course, in which, from your
>perspective, the authors have mastered and evaluated the arguments of
>those you label “Mormon apologists” or “modern LDS apologists and
>scholars”? And if so, which authors could you list as having more or
>less been willing to take seriously what Latter-day Saints have been
>saying in response to anti-Mormonism?
>
>I trust that you will not be offended but perhaps please to learn that I
>take your comments of page 17 or your recent book as an effort on your
>part to indicate you (and your book) belong in a category apart from the
>run-of-the-mill anti-Mormon book or pamphlet.

I don’t know what a “run-of-the-mill anti-Mormon book” is, and I reject the label “anti-Mormon” to begin with. If you will identify yourself as an anti-Baptist, I’ll let you call me an anti-Mormon. If not, please refrain from doing so.

James>>>


Well, that must have been my first tactical mistake….I mentioned Dan Peterson.   It wasn’t long till this arrived:

 

From: Daniel Peterson <dcp6@email.byu.edu>
Subject: Newspeak
To: orthopodeo@aomin.org
Cc: Skinny-L <SKINNY-L@LISTS.TELEPORT.COM>
Reply-to: Daniel_Peterson@byu.edu
Organization: BYU

Dear Mr. White:

Prof. Midgley shared with me a copy of your e-mail to him. I shall
offer just a few observations:

a) I have never ever, ever, suggested, let alone explicitly said, that
Decker and Ankerberg and Weldon and people like that represent “the
‘norm’ for all Christians.” How could I have done so? As you surely
should have noticed by now, I deny that evangelical Protestantism is
“the ‘norm’ for all Christians.” So I am scarcely likely to grant that
status to the tiny but noisy faction of evangelical anti-Mormons. While
I am at it, though, I have never ever said that the Ankerbergs and the
Weldons and the Schnoebelens and the Deckers were representative, even,
of all critics of the Church of Jesus Christ. Please, if you are going
to read me, read me more carefully. And less inventively.

b) You criticize me and others at FARMS for allegedly concentrating on
the more zany anti-Mormons, while apparently neglecting such reputedly
respectable folk as the Tanners, Bill McKeever, and Wesley Walters. But,
of course, we have critiqued them, too, as you should be aware. (I
understand that we have not dealt with them to your satisfaction, as is,
I suppose, signaled by your use of quotation marks to refer generally to
our “reviews.” But that does not alter the fact that we have responded
to them, as well as to your . . . “books.”)

c) There is absolutely no reason for Dr. Midgley or any Latter-day
Saint I am aware of to describe himself as an “anti-Baptist.” Not a
single one of us makes a living attacking other religions, in any
medium. We don’t have professional disdainers of Baptists, Buddhists,
Muslims, Shintoists, or anybody else. “Anti-Mormons,” however, are
legion, and the term is entirely appropriate to describe them. If,
though, they will find other jobs and give up their radio shows,
television programs, tabloid newspapers, pamphlet presses, lecture
series, book contracts, picket signs, and web sites assaulting my faith,
I will happily, as a quid pro quo, surrender the term “anti-Mormon.”
They can go on preaching their own faith to their hearts’ content, as we
do.

Daniel Peterson


Meanwhile, Louis Midgely was busy as well:

Date: Thu, 16 Apr 1998 01:04:09 -0600
From: “Louis C. Midgley” <midgleyl@burgoyne.com>
Organization: TE ARIKI.
X-Mailer: Mozilla 4.04 [en] (Win95; I)
To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>
CC: skinny <skinny-l@lists.teleport.com>
Subject: “ALL OF BYU” AND OTHER ODD THINGS

Dear Brother Jim:

I have read all of IS THE MORMON MY BROTHER? But before I would
venture more than a preliminary opinion about it, I would have to read
it several more times. But, I must admit, even at the risk of offending
you, it bores me. For one thing, you seem to assume that the JD is
official Mormon doctrine. And you want to make Latter-day Saints
responsible for every opinion of anyone whose words you would like to
use against the Church of Jesus Christ. That is simply not fair. And you
should know it. Are you bound by every statement of every Protestant
preacher? Or every Baptist pastor? Or everyone who happens to teach in a
Bible school, or seminary? Of course, the answer is no. But if I played
your game, I would sort through whatever I could find to locate
something that I would declare you are bound to defend or that is part
of your faith, whether you know it or not. Now I suppose you would
respond to such a silly game by saying that you are bound only by the
Bible. But even there we have different interpretations. You may or may
not think that the Bible sort of interprets itself, with a little help
from the creeds, or you may have some other notion about biblical
interpretation. But you must have some sense that yours is but one of
many possible interpretations of the Bible. But, the fact is I am not
the least interested in your interpretation of the Bible, so please do
not inflict any of that on me, other than try to deal with the problems
you got yourself into with Professor Hamblin. I am not interested in
your interpretation of the Bible because I have my own. And I think that
mine is superior precisely because I do not try to make the Bible fit
the creeds. Nor am I especially interested in trying to make our
scriptures fit some notion held by some Latter-day Saint. The reason is
that I have some notion of what constitutes the canon. And I can sense
when a prophetic charism is present, as can Latter-day Saints most of
the time.

When is your book on the trinity coming out. I phoned Bethany and
whoever answered had no idea that you had a book coming out. They ask
around and looked at their literature and found nothing. Is this book,
which I cannot wait to read, forthcoming this year?

Grace and peace,

lcm


First, my reply to Dr. Peterson:

>Prof. Midgley shared with me a copy of your e-mail to him. I shall offer just a few >observations:

Shall I assume that anything, sent to anyone, at BYU, is sent to ALL BYU staff? 🙂 Given recent e-mail adventures, I think so.

  • >a) I have never ever, ever, suggested, let alone explicitly said, that
  • >Decker and Ankerberg and Weldon and people like that represent “the
  • >’norm’ for all Christians.” How could I have done so? As you surely
  • >should have noticed by now, I deny that evangelical Protestantism is
  • >”the ‘norm’ for all Christians.” So I am scarcely likely to grant that
  • >status to the tiny but noisy faction of evangelical anti-Mormons. While
  • >I am at it, though, I have never ever said that the Ankerbergs and the
  • >Weldons and the Schnoebelens and the Deckers were representative, even,
  • >of all critics of the Church of Jesus Christ. Please, if you are going
  • >to read me, read me more carefully. And less inventively.
  • Since we are talking about *my* sentence, then *my* use is in question—and what *I* meant is defined by the sentence, Dr. Peterson: I spoke of Christians in that sentence as follows:

    Modern LDS apologists and scholars like to focus upon such literature, often treating it as if it is the “norm” for all Christians, and have little difficulty demonstrating inconsistencies and half-truths, thereby dismissing all efforts at refuting LDS claims and evangelizing the LDS people.

    I believe Christians will, if they are serious about their faith and about truth, engage in “refuting LDS claims and evangelizing the LDS people.” That obviously isn’t how you use the word—indeed, I have criticized the redefinition of the term in _Offenders_ as rendering the term utterly meaningless. And hence, as I used the term, I was referring to books such as your own, and works such as that by Richard Hopkins, that are guilty of lumping all evangelical works into a single pile, not discerning the important differences in approach, background, and belief, that they represent.

    As to a tiny group of “noisy” evangelical “anti-Mormons,” I repeat what I said to Professor Midgely: if you will start calling yourself an anti-Baptist, I’ll let you call me an anti-Mormon. If not, I’d suggest honesty would require you to discontinue the use of the term.

  • >b) You criticize me and others at FARMS for allegedly concentrating on
  • >the more zany anti-Mormons, while apparently neglecting such reputedly
  • >respectable folk as the Tanners, Bill McKeever, and Wesley Walters.
  • Really? Where did I do that? Midgely asked me for some folks whose writings I respect, and I listed a few. Please cite the specific place in my post where I said the above. And as one person put it, please try to read my writings a little more closely, and a little less inventively. 🙂 What I wrote was, “That is more of a criticism of Peterson and Ricks for _Offenders for a Word_ and other FARMS folks for their “reviews” in RBBoM than it is anything else.” I hadn’t even gotten to mentioning the Tanners or others at this point, so how you managed to invert my statement and so completely miss the context, I really don’t know.

  • > But,
  • >of course, we have critiqued them, too, as you should be aware. (I
  • >understand that we have not dealt with them to your satisfaction, as is,
  • >I suppose, signaled by your use of quotation marks to refer generally to
  • >our “reviews.” But that does not alter the fact that we have responded
  • >to them, as well as to your . . . “books.”)
  • I used the quotes around “reviews” to indicate that in reality, most of the books you respond to in RBBoM really don’t have much to do with the BoM to begin with, and they are not really reviews, but rebuttals. I have not seen a response to ITMMB from FARMS, and if the fellow from AOL with the screen name LDSApolog is writing the review (as he indicated), I don’t expect it will rise much higher than Norwood’s attempt. At least to my knowledge that fellow hasn’t tried calling (without identifying himself or his purposes) to inquire if his company can print the book in the future.

  • >c) There is absolutely no reason for Dr. Midgley or any Latter-day
  • >Saint I am aware of to describe himself as an “anti-Baptist.” Not a
  • >single one of us makes a living attacking other religions, in any
  • >medium.
  • I see. So disagreement with, and refutation of the claims of, another religious group does not amount to being an “anti.” Very good. Then, since I spend the vast majority of my time presenting the Christian faith in a positive light, and simply provide a refutation of the claims of those groups that pervert the gospel message, I would not, likewise, qualify as an “anti-Mormon.” I’m glad that is worked out, though, Norwood said I came from the “anti-Mormon cookie cutter,” so I guess he might not agree.

  • > We don’t have professional disdainers of Baptists, Buddhists,
  • >Muslims, Shintoists, or anybody else.
  • The long-standing portrayal of the Protestant minister in the endowment ceremony notwithstanding, of course. That would not qualify as “professional.”

  • >”Anti-Mormons,” however, are
  • >legion, and the term is entirely appropriate to describe them. If,
  • >though, they will find other jobs and give up their radio shows,
  • >television programs, tabloid newspapers, pamphlet presses, lecture
  • >series, book contracts, picket signs, and web sites assaulting my faith,
  • >I will happily, as a quid pro quo, surrender the term “anti-Mormon.”
  • >They can go on preaching their own faith to their hearts’ content, as we
  • >do.
  • When you stop telling people that Joseph Smith was told that the Christian faith, embodied in the ancient creeds of the Christian Church, are an “abomination” and those of us who teach those divine truths are in fact “corrupt,” possibly we can talk some more. But it strikes me, sir, that you are operating on a very strong double-standard. I have just as valid a reason to call you an anti-Baptist, or even more, an anti-Christian—-since you deny the very doctrines that *define* the Christian faith. But I do not, simply so as to avoid undue emotional clouding of the issues. So why do you use the term anti-Mormon? When I write on other issues, such as Roman Catholicism, the same issue comes up: they like to use the term “anti-Catholics” but will never call themselves “anti-Protestants.” The hypocrisy is glaring in both cases, is it not?

    Finally, Steve Mayfield told me that you have not read ITMMB. Hence, you have not read my documentation of the teaching of the physical parentage of the Son by the Father in the book. Since you are *specifically* cited from _Offenders_ in the book, as is Dr. Robinson, and refuted by a mountain of statements by the General Authorities, I *do* hope that a *serious* response might someday be forthcoming on that topic.

    James>>>


    Then, my reply to Midgley.  As the reader can see, I was quickly realizing that reasoning with the good Dr. Midgley was not going to go anywhere.  One of the reasons I knew this was that I had corresponded with him, briefly, by snail mail (the USPS) a few years earlier:

    > I have read all of IS THE MORMON MY BROTHER? But before I would
    >venture more than a preliminary opinion about it, I would have to read
    >it several more times. But, I must admit, even at the risk of offending
    >you, it bores me. For one thing, you seem to assume that the JD is
    >official Mormon doctrine. And you want to make Latter-day Saints
    >responsible for every opinion of anyone whose words you would like to
    >use against the Church of Jesus Christ. That is simply not fair.

    Yes, sir, you *do* need to read it again….many times. If you can make a statement like this, you didn’t read it very well at all. I discussed the Journals in the book….how about someone up there responding to what I write, rather than your feelings? I’m truly amazed.

    > When is your book on the trinity coming out. I phoned Bethany and
    >whoever answered had no idea that you had a book coming out. They ask
    >around and looked at their literature and found nothing. Is this book,
    >which I cannot wait to read, forthcoming this year?

    It is scheduled for September/October. I have the cover art sitting right next to me here. I doubt any knowledgeable person at Bethany House would not be familiar with it.

    James>>>


    Dan Peterson replied voluminously, and very quickly:

    Date: Wed, 15 Apr 1998 21:49:58 -0700
    From: Daniel Peterson <dcp6@email.byu.edu>
    Subject: Re: Newspeak
    To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>
    Cc: Skinny-L <SKINNY-L@LISTS.TELEPORT.COM>
    Reply-to: Daniel_Peterson@byu.edu
    Organization: BYU

    Mr. White:

    You write, “Shall I assume that anything, sent to anyone, at BYU, is
    sent to ALL BYU staff? 🙂 Given recent e-mail adventures, I think
    so.”

    As so frequently, you think wrongly.

    You respond, “Since we are talking about *my* sentence, then *my* use is
    in question—and what *I* meant is defined by the sentence, Dr.
    Peterson.”

    But your sentence is about me. And since we are talking about ME, it is
    my thinking that is in question. And what I mean is defined by me, Mr.
    White.

    You continue, “I spoke of Christians in that sentence as follows: Modern
    LDS apologists and scholars like to focus upon such literature, often
    treating it as if it is the “norm” for all Christians,
    and have little difficulty demonstrating inconsistencies and
    half-truths, thereby dismissing all efforts at refuting LDS claims
    and evangelizing the LDS people.”

    You are wrong. I do NOT treat your amusing colleagues as “the ‘norm’
    for all Christians.” The only “norm” for all Christians that I
    recognize is the will and word of God — something I do not confuse with
    the will and word of any anti-Mormon. I do NOT think that, by refuting
    Decker and his cronies, I have refuted all efforts at proving my beliefs
    incorrect. Where do you come up with such stuff?

    You continue, “I believe [conservative Protestant] Christians will, if
    they are serious about their faith and about truth, engage in ‘refuting
    LDS claims and evangelizing
    the LDS people.’ That obviously isn’t how you use the word—indeed, I
    have criticized the redefinition of the term in
    _Offenders_ as rendering the term utterly meaningless.”

    I assume, although you do not say so explicitly, that “the word” to
    which you refer is “Christian.” If so, you clearly misunderstand the
    argument in Offenders for a Word. For, since that book gives an
    explicit meaning and a demonstrable historical semantic range for the
    term “Christian,” it cannot plausibly be argued that the definition of
    the word there — which is not by any reasonable stretch of the
    imagination a redefinition — is, as you assert, “utterly meaningless.”
    Your unfortunate failure to discern meaning in a quite clear definition
    is a curious and interesting phenomenon, but scarcely lethal to it.

    You further write, “And hence, as I used the term, I was referring to
    books such as your own, and works such as that by Richard Hopkins, that
    are guilty of lumping all evangelical works into a single pile, not
    discerning the important differences in approach, background, and
    belief, that they represent.”

    The “differences in approach, background, and belief” in the works I was
    discussing were entirely irrelevant to the issue under consideration. I
    prefer to focus on the question I am dealing with, rather than running
    off on tangents. A consideration of the various kinds of anti-Mormon
    ideologies loose in our cities might well be interesting, but that was
    not the book I was writing.

    “As to a tiny group of ‘noisy’ evangelical ‘anti-Mormons,’ I repeat what
    I said to Professor Midgely: if you will start calling
    yourself an anti-Baptist, I’ll let you call me an anti-Mormon. If not,
    I’d suggest honesty would require you to discontinue the
    use of the term.”

    Yours is a strange use of the term “honesty,” that would require me to
    describe myself as something I am not, or to mischaracterize the works
    of others. Are you meaning to accuse me of writing books against the
    Baptists? Of running an anti-Baptist ministry? Do I have a television
    show in which I denounce fundamentalist Protestantism, or a radio
    program devoted to criticizing the beliefs of the Baptists? Have I ever
    written a pamphlet against the Baptists, or picketed one of their
    meetings? Do I even care one tiny little bit what they are doing or
    what they think, as long as they are not attacking my religious
    beliefs? No. So why should I be considered anti-Baptist any more than
    I am anti-Confucianist? What in the world are you claiming?

    You quote me as follows, “You criticize me and others at FARMS for
    allegedly concentrating on the more zany anti-Mormons, while apparently
    neglecting such reputedly respectable folk as the Tanners, Bill
    McKeever, and Wesley Walters.”

    This statement does not please you, and you respond: “Really? Where did
    I do that? Midgely asked me for some folks whose writings I respect, and
    I listed a few. Please cite the
    specific place in my post where I said the above. And as one person put
    it, please try to read my writings a little more closely,
    and a little less inventively. 🙂 What I wrote was, ‘That is more of a
    criticism of Peterson and Ricks for _Offenders for a
    Word_ and other FARMS folks for their ‘reviews’ in RBBoM than it is
    anything else.’ I hadn’t even gotten to mentioning the
    Tanners or others at this point, so how you managed to invert my
    statement and so completely miss the context, I really don’t
    know.”

    I will explain it. Please try to follow the steps. To refresh your
    memory, this is what you said in your earlier posting:

    Speaking of the “bad” kind of anti-Mormon writing, of which you do not
    approve, you wrote, “Modern LDS apologists and scholars like to focus
    upon such literature, often treating it as if it is
    the ‘norm’ for all Christians. . . . That is . . . a criticism of
    Peterson and Ricks for _Offenders for a Word_ and other FARMS folks for
    their ‘reviews’ in RBBoM.”

    Now, if we “focus” on the bad stuff, we must necessarily do so to the
    exclusion of something else (apparently, to the exclusion of the good
    stuff). That is what “focusing” means. And “to focus on” means very
    much the same thing as “to concentrate on.” Which must mean, in this
    context, that we “concentrate on” the bad stuff, and, necessarily, by
    the very nature of concentrating, avert our attention from the good
    stuff. Moreover, if we claim that the bad stuff is the “norm,” we must
    be excluding the good stuff from being normative. That is what
    “normativity” means.

    How, in a book or a collection of book reviews, does one “focus” or
    “concentrate” on something? By devoting attention to that something,
    and, by that very act, averting attention from — “neglecting,” if you
    will — something else.

    So what is the good stuff that we are failing to concentrate on,
    neglecting to focus on? What is the good stuff that we are treating as
    non-normative, while we mischaracterize the bad stuff as “the norm”?
    You answer that question very helpfully, identifying “the Tanners, Bill
    McKeever, Wes Walters, etc., as excellent writers on the subject.” If
    there is some other body of “good stuff,” in which these people are not
    to be included, kindly tell me what it is.

    So you can see that my reading of your posting was both very close and
    quite non-inventive. Your message very clearly implies that we are
    “concentrating on the more zany anti-Mormons, while . . . neglecting
    such reputedly respectable folk as the Tanners, Bill McKeever, and
    Wesley Walters.”

    You go on to say, “I used the quotes around ‘reviews’ to indicate that
    in reality, most of the books you respond to in RBBoM really don’t have
    much to do with the BoM to begin with, and they are not really reviews,
    but rebuttals.”

    Let me see if I understand this. Since the title of the journal was
    Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, a review published in it of a
    book unrelated to the Book of Mormon would, by reason of its subject
    matter, not really be a book review? By the same reasoning, if a
    Rembrandt turned up, by some chance, in a museum of modern art, would it
    not really be a painting? If, by some computer glitch, a review of a
    book on engineering turned up in the review section of a journal of
    molecular biology, would it thereby cease to be a book review at all?

    I will have to meditate on this new principle.

    By the way, have you not noticed that the Review of Books on the Book of
    Mormon no longer exists under that title? That, in fact, it has been
    the FARMS Review of Books since the beginning of 1996?

    Your distinction between “reviews” and “rebuttals” is a rather arbitrary
    and artificial one. But take it to the Times Literary Supplement or the
    New York Review of Books, and see how far you get with it. I’ll be
    interested to hear how it goes.

    You complain, “I have not seen a response to ITMMB
    from FARMS, and if the fellow from AOL with the screen name LDSApolog is
    writing the review (as he indicated), I don’t expect it will rise much
    higher than Norwood’s attempt.”

    Don’t fret. When we get around to it, we will review your book. And,
    by the way, I don’t know who “LDSApolog” is. And I didn’t expect you to
    like Ara Norwood’s review.

    Next, you trot out your tired old warhorse: “At least to my knowledge
    that fellow hasn’t tried calling (without identifying himself or his
    purposes) to inquire if his company can print the book in the future.”

    This one wasn’t very impressive on its first appearance, and age has not
    improved it.

    You then quote me again: “There is,” I quite rightly pointed out,
    “absolutely no reason for Dr. Midgley or any Latter-day Saint I am aware
    of to describe himself as an ‘anti-Baptist.’ Not a single one of us
    makes a living attacking other religions, in any medium.”

    “I see,” you remark, almost correctly. “So disagreement with, and
    refutation of the claims of, another religious group does not amount to
    being an ‘anti.’ Very good.”

    Well, let’s not feel TOO satisfied. It’s not VERY good, but it’s worth
    a passing grade.

    You are right. Mere disagreement with x does not make you anti-x. I
    disagree with existentialism. But I lose very little sleep over it, and
    only give the subject about sixty seconds’ thought every year or so.
    Thus, it would be ludicrous to describe me as an “anti-existentialist.”
    So, likewise, with literally hundreds of possible positions and
    ideologies. I disagree with — oh, let’s see — Keynesian economics,
    poststructuralism, Sikhism, predeterminism, Freudian psychoanalysis,
    revisionist theories of the Kennedy assassination, and technical
    analysis of the stock market. But since I do not campaign or crusade
    against any of these, it would be very implausible to call me, say, an
    anti-Sikh or an anti-Keynesian.

    You continue, “Then, since I spend the vast majority of my time
    presenting the Christian faith in a positive light, and simply provide a
    refutation of the claims of those groups that [in my opinion] pervert
    the gospel message, I would not, likewise, qualify as an ‘anti-Mormon.'”

    Almost! You almost have it! To the extent that you affirmatively
    present a view, any view, on any subject, you are not “anti-” anything
    else. But to the extent that you oppose something else — this is
    really not very difficult, you know — you are “anti-” that thing.

    “I’m glad that is worked out, though, Norwood said I came from the
    ‘anti-Mormon cookie cutter,’ so I guess he might not agree.”

    Oh, no. I am sure that Mr. Norwood and I agree entirely about your past
    behavior, which has been — at least so far as I have monitored it —
    far more about opposing certain things (e.g. Catholicism and Mormonism)
    than about affirming your own positive beliefs. Quite clearly, you have
    been an anti-Mormon, because you have been against Mormon belief and
    practice. But now that you understand the distinction, perhaps you will
    be able to mend your ways. (I will admit, of course, that, to the
    extent you are merely affirmatively presenting your own beliefs, you are
    of rather little interest to me. You only draw my attention when you
    attack MY beliefs. I am perfectly content to leave you to yours.)

    As I said, “We don’t have professional disdainers of Baptists,
    Buddhists, Muslims, Shintoists, or anybody else.”

    To which you rather irrelevantly reply, “The long-standing portrayal of
    the Protestant minister in the endowment ceremony notwithstanding, of
    course. That would not qualify as ‘professional.'”

    You’re right, of course. It wouldn’t. Unfortunately, for reasons that
    I am sure you know, I will not discuss the ordinances of the temple with
    you. I will simply say that I think you misread the situation there
    even more fundamentally than you misread me. But I will not argue that
    position, and you can dismiss it as you wish.

    Nearing the end of your epistle, you write, “When you stop telling
    people that Joseph Smith was told that the Christian faith, embodied in
    the ancient creeds of the Christian Church, are an ‘abomination’ and
    those of us who teach those divine truths are in fact ‘corrupt,’
    possibly we can talk some more.”

    You misunderstand. I have really very little interest in talking with
    you. If you would leave my beliefs alone, I would gladly leave you to
    your circle of friends and acquaintances in Arizona.

    You misunderstand. I have never told anybody that “the Christian faith
    . . . are an abomination.” Since I am a Christian, I could never say
    any such thing. Nor do I think that the Christian faith, as such, of my
    Lutheran extended family is an abomination. Nor do I think that the
    faith of my Catholic friends is an abomination. I don’t even think that
    YOUR faith is an abomination.

    I do think that the creeds, to the extent that they blind people to the
    truth revealed to prophets ancient and modern, are an abomination.
    Primarily, I think that because God said so, and I am hesitant to
    challenge him on it.

    You misunderstand when you imply that I think you corrupt. You may or
    may not be. I haven’t thought about it. That would be a matter for
    your wife, or perhaps for the legal authorities to look into. Do I
    think your theological beliefs have been corrupted by various
    extra-divine influences? Certainly. And I regret it very much. But do
    not equivocate between that kind of corruption and moral corruption.
    They are quite distinct.

    You write on: “But it strikes me, sir, that you are operating on a very
    strong double-standard.”

    Wrong.

    “I have just as valid a reason to call you an anti-Baptist, or even
    more, an anti-Christian—-since you deny the very doctrines that
    *define* [my particular view of] the Christian faith.”

    Wrong. I also deny the cardinal doctrines of Jainism. But I am not
    anti-Jain. I can’t recall ever having met one. I have never written a
    pamphlet against them, or picketed a Jainist meeting, or denounced them
    on the radio. Surely you can understand this not-overly-subtle concept?

    “But I do not, simply so as to avoid undue emotional clouding of the
    issues.”

    That is very kind of you.

    “So why do you use the term anti-Mormon?”

    Because it is precisely accurate.

    “When I write on other issues, such as Roman Catholicism, the same issue
    comes up: they like to use the term “anti-Catholics” but
    will never call themselves ‘anti-Protestants.'”

    You see? THEY understand.

    “The hypocrisy is glaring in both cases, is it not?”

    No. It is not. The Catholics are precisely right. They are NOT
    anti-Protestant, at least to the extent that they are simply preaching
    their doctrines. And even when they are defending their doctrines
    against your attacks — as opposed to going after your beliefs — they
    are not being anti-Protestant. I understand them quite well, and only
    marvel that you apparently cannot.

    “Finally, Steve Mayfield told me that you have not read ITMMB.”

    Quite correct, although I have skimmed through portions of it.

    “Hence, you have not read my documentation of the teaching
    of the physical parentage of the Son by the Father in the book. Since
    you are *specifically* cited from _Offenders_ in the book, as is Dr.
    Robinson, and refuted by a mountain of statements by the General
    Authorities, I *do* hope that a *serious* response might someday be
    forthcoming on that topic.”

    It might well be. Someday. I have a lot of things to do. One of the
    portions of the book that I have skimmed is that wherein you attempt to
    refute me. As I say, it was a cursory glance. Maybe your arguments
    will appear more solid after a careful reading. As it is, I think you
    rather missed my point. And you certainly did on the question of
    deification. Ah well. I’ll just have to buck up my spirits and live
    with it.

    Daniel Peterson


    The reader will notice the tremendous escalation in the “sarcasm factor” that fills Dr. Peterson’s post.  The arrogance that fills this kind of post is evident in much that is produced by FARMS as well. And, scarcely two hours later, Dr. Midgley fired back:

    Date: Wed, 15 Apr 1998 23:53:01 -0600
    From: “Louis C. Midgley” <midgleyl@burgoyne.com>
    Organization: TE ARIKI.
    X-Mailer: Mozilla 4.04 [en] (Win95; I)
    To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>, skinny <skinny-l@lists.teleport.com>
    Subject: ANTI-MORMONISM

    Dear Brother Jim:

    I did not write to you to pick a fight. And I am not responding to
    your letter now in an effort to do so. I appreciate your response to my
    modest inquiries. What I would like is some additional clarifications.

    But before I get to my additional questions and observation, I must
    point out that I do not intend to strike some deal with you on the use
    of the label “anti-Mormon.” Nor do I think that you can legislate on how
    or whether I use that label. You may, of course, reject that label if
    that is your desire. But from my perspective, it fits you and your work.
    Just look at your recent book. You proclaim that people like me are not
    your brothers. Instead of asking whether the Church of Jesus Christ is
    like a faction of Christians who identify themselves as evangelicals or
    whatever the proper designation happens to be, you personalize the issue
    by asking IS THE MORMON MY BROTHER? The assumption is that you somehow
    get to determine who is or is not authentically Christian. Be that as it
    may, you leave no doubt about the answer to the question the title of
    your book asks. From my perspective we are all children of a common
    Father, though currently we may be more or less alienated in various
    ways from him. But you want to insist that your God–the real God–is
    not my God, hence that I am not your brother. Now, I ask myself, why
    would an otherwise intelligent person want to fashion set forth such a
    stance? The answer must be that you are against or opposed to my faith,
    and my faith so irritates you that it makes us less than the children of
    a common Father.

    Now before getting up in arms over the label “anti-Mormon,” I
    suggest that you consult the entry under “anti” in a dictionary. This
    prefix simply means “against” or “opposed to.” If you are not against or
    opposed to the Church of Jesus Christ, to the faith of Latter-day
    Saints, to the Book of Mormon, to the prophetic truth claims of Joseph
    Smith, then have I entirely misunderstood you. But I am confident that I
    have not misunderstood you. Are you for all of these things? Or are you
    simply disinterested or neutral? It seems to me to be entirely
    reasonable to say that you are against my faith, and hence anti-Mormon.
    Perhaps you could explain exactly why you do not like being known as
    anti-Mormon.

    On the other hand, I have little interest in Baptist things, and
    little knowledge of them. I have never published a word about Baptist
    religiosity. I have not been critical of Baptists. I have not attacked
    their faith. And I certainly do not make my living operating a tax
    exempt public foundation dedicated to attacking the faith of anyone,
    including Ratana, Ringatu, Jews, Roman Catholics, or anyone else for
    that matter.

    Now if, for what ever reason, you do not like being identified as an
    anti-Mormon, what label would you suggest for people like you? I think I
    understand the desire of some to avoid the label anti-Mormon. In what
    are essentially political disputes, where truth is not the issue, and
    where every effort is made to manipulate an audience with slogans, one
    can expect enemies of the Church of Jesus Christ to try to avoid
    negative labels. And, of course, critics of my faith always just love
    the Mormon people, it is just the faith that they detest.

    In my initial letter, I was not, as you suggest, hacking up that
    paragraph oddly entitled “How Can Anyone Really Wonder?” that appears on
    page seventeen of your recent book. I merely tried to quote sufficiently
    from that paragraph so that you would be able to see immediately what
    portion of your book had led me to raise some questions with you. In
    your response, you quote the entire paragraph. In my forthcoming essay I
    will quote virtually this entire paragraph.

    I have been trying to figure out what the language found in this
    paragraph means. What you have now told me is that what you intended to
    say is actually somewhat different from what you actually wrote. Instead
    of addressing the bulk of the paragraph (about twenty lines), you focus
    on what appears to be a sub-text constituting, as you say, “more a
    criticism of Peterson and Ricks…and other FARMS folks for their
    ‘reviews’ in RBBOFM than it is anything else.” I trust that you realize
    that you do not mention any essays published by FARMS. How is the reader
    supposed to figure out what you were getting at? I will grant that what
    you may have intended was a criticism of OFFENDERS FOR A WORD, and the
    various essays responding to anti-Mormon literature published by FARMS.
    If that was really your intent, then you wrote very carelessly. Instead
    of offering substantive criticisms of anything published by FARMS, you
    seem to be saying that Latter-day Saints have had an easy time
    responding to much or most of the literature critical of their faith.
    Hence, I prefer to think that what your language must mean, if it means
    anything, is that Latter-day Saints have been able to respond to much or
    most anti-Mormon literature for exactly the reasons you set forth. Of
    course, you claim that Latter-day Saints see as typical the kind of
    literature to which they have responded. Well, why not? The question is:
    is there any anti-Mormon literature of any substance to which we have
    not responded? If there is such a literature, in addition, of course, to
    your own book, please let us know about it so that we can examine it.

    Your point seems to be, if there is a point, that your book will
    offer a criticism of Mormon things that is superior to the stuff that
    Latter-day Saints have previously been able to deal with rather easily,
    which they take to be the norm among anti-Mormon literature. But you do
    not present either evidence or argument supporting the notion that
    Latter-day Saints brush aside all anti-Mormon literature on the
    assumption that it is all the same. Even a glance at the journal
    Professor Peterson edits will show you that we distinguish between the
    very bizarre stuff and the somewhat less irresponsible stuff. And also
    please notice that you only cite OFFENDERS FOR A WORD, and a recent
    video and never mention a single additional response to any anti-Mormon
    literature by a Latter-day Saint scholar in that note on page seventeen
    of your book. Please explain exactly how the reader to know that for the
    most part your remarks were intended by you to be critical of essays
    published by FARMS? That is, that your point was not really that most or
    much anti-Mormon literature is of such a low quality that Latter-day
    Saints have been able to deal with it easily? I assumed that you cited
    Professor Peterson’s book and the video as evidence of how easy it has
    been for Latter-day Saints to deal with the typical criticisms of their
    faith. If I am wrong about this, how is a reader to tell that your
    having cited OFFENDERS FOR A WORD was a criticism of that book?

    I will grant that you may have intended that paragraph on page
    seventeen to be a criticism of what has been published by FARMS and a
    criticism of OFFENDERS FOR A WORD, but I am at a loss to know how the
    reader is supposed to figure that out. I assumed that you were a more
    thoughtful person and a more careful writer than your explanation
    indicates. Or have I missed something?

    Given what appears on page seventeen of your book, I wondered
    whether you might think that all anti-Mormon literature (or whatever you
    may want to call it), until you came along with your book, has been such
    that Latter-day Saints, if they bothered, could easily deal with it. I
    assumed that you were claiming that, unlike previous anti-Mormons, you
    have paid the price and hence can enter into a real conversation with
    Latter-day Saints, since you have mastered our literature. I am, I must
    admit, somewhat pleased with your clarification. But what you have
    written, since you apparently see a number of other critics of the
    Church of Jesus Christ as worthy colleagues in your endeavors, raises
    some additional questions. For instance, you indicate that you are fond
    of the “Tanners. Bill McKeever, Wes Walters, etc.” And you direct me the
    notes in your book for additional indications of those anti-Mormon
    writers who you think have done at least satisfactory or perhaps even
    commendable work.

    In addition, you indicate that you were “referring primarily to
    non-specialized books and writers” in your seemingly critical comments
    on page seventeen of your book in which you seem quite critical of
    anti-Mormon writers and their literature, but “not on those who focus on
    the field,” whatever that may mean. Please explain what you are getting
    at? I am not sure what field you have in mind. Latter-day Saints? Or is
    the field somehow the countercult world? I wonder whether you have in
    mind countercultists generally–are they the vulnerable ones? Or is it
    those who focus their attacks on the field, meaning on Latter-day
    Saints? I would appreciate a clarification.

    As I have indicated, I do not wish to pick a fight with you–I am
    merely somewhat puzzled by your explanations. Why? One reason is that
    the work of the Tanners, Walters and McKeever has not stood up well to
    careful inspection. You may disagree, but from our perspective the
    Tanners are just modestly better than Ed Decker. Nor is the work of
    Charles Larson and the few others you cite in your notes for your book
    all that impressive. Among those whose work has been shown to be badly
    flawed are a number of those who you have suggested that I should
    identify by glancing at the notes for your book. Please ask yourself if
    it has been any more difficult for Latter-day Saint scholars to identify
    flaws in Charles Larson’s book than the stuff written by Bill
    Schnoebelen, Dean Helland, Ed Decker, Mr. Weldon and Ankerberg, or any
    of the others dealt with in essays published by FARMS?

    In addition, if that paragraph on page seventeen of your book was
    primarily intended as a criticism of Dan Peterson (and others who may
    have published responses to attacks on the Church of Jesus Christ) for
    not confronting and effectively answering those you consider the really
    big names in anti-Mormonism (or whatever you wish to call it), let me
    remind you of the names of those that Peterson dealt with in OFFENDERS
    FOR A WORD. These include Walter Martin, Gordon Lewis, Josh McDowell,
    Robert McKay, Bob Larson, William Irving, Dave Hunt, Dean Helland,
    Gordon Fraser, Bill McKeever, Bob and Gretchen Passantino, John L.
    Smith, James Spencer, Wally Tope, James Walker, Wesley Walters, the
    Tanners, Floyd McElveen, Charles Sackett, Peter Bartley, Dave Breese,
    Thelma Geer and others. Did Peterson miss anyone important, I wonder,
    other than you?

    And if you will glance at the anti-Mormon works you cite, you will
    notice that four or five of the six or seven names you include in your
    notes have been handled rather easily by Latter-day Saints. So I doubt
    that you were trying to say that Latter-day Saints always pick the wrong
    targets among their various critics–that they aim too low. It is
    difficult not to aim low, given what it out there. And, from our point
    of view, we have to deal with all the odd stuff out there, since
    evangelicals, to whom most of this literature is aimed, cannot tell the
    bad stuff from the really, really bad stuff. When you claim that “modern
    LDS apologists and scholars like to focus on such literature [where you
    clearly have identified the work of cranks who can and have been easily
    answered by pointing out, among other things, inconsistencies and
    half-truths and various other problems], often treating it as the norm,
    and have,” as you admit, “little difficulty…dismissing all efforts at
    refuting LDS claims and evangelizing LDS people,” you might be on to
    something important. But notice your equivocation. “Often,” but now
    always, treating “it”–the stuff written by cranks–as the norm. Which
    evangelical critics of the Church of Jesus Christ have not shown to be
    full of inconsistencies, half-truths, logical blunders, and so forth,
    and who seem to us to be driven by anger and resentment? There are some
    evangelical who are responsible, and I suspect that Professor Peterson
    would even publish their work. FARMS and BYU STUDIES has published
    Massimo Introvigne. That may not mean anything to you, since Introvigne
    is a Roman Catholic. If I am wrong about this matter, then please
    identify the responsible evangelical authors and their books so that we
    can begin to give them the needed close attention. I will immediately
    pass your list on to Dan Peterson so that work can begin on those
    authors and their works. We are, as a matter of fact, looking for a
    literature that stands above the rather dismal run-of-the-mill
    anti-Mormon literature that you yourself have criticized on page
    seventeen of your book.

    I ask specifically for your opinion of Walter Martin. You must be
    familiar with the praise this fellow still gets from people in the
    countercult industry. Do you consider him among those that Latter-day
    Saints overlook? Is his MAZE OF MORMONISM or his chapter on the Church
    of Jesus Christ in his KINGDOM OF THE CULTS within the category of
    criticism that you consider superior? Would you cite Martin with
    approval on much of anything? Do you include Martin along with Bill
    McKeever, Charles Larson, Wes Walters, and the Tanners, as outstanding
    examples of critics of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Did McKeever (and
    Kurt Van Gorden) do a good job of updating and revising Martin’s
    opinions on Mormon things in the most recent edition of the KINGDOM OF
    THE CULTS? You seem to like McKeever’s work, what about his work in
    bringing Martin’s criticisms of Mormon things up to date?

    I am looking forward to further clarification on the issues I have
    raised. And I thank you in advance for your response. I assume that you
    will not object if I share this letter with a few other interested
    parties. And I trust that you will not be offended if one or more others
    feels inclined to express their opinions. FYI, Skinny is not extensive,
    nor is it a BYU list, as you assumed. The fellow who operates it lives
    in Portland, Oregon. There are Latter-day Saint scholars (your
    apologists, I suppose) in places other than Provo, Utah.

    Grace and Peace,

    Louis Midgley


    At this point I knew Dr. Midgley was pushing his limits, having corresponded with him before.  I knew the “other shoe would fall” before long.  It only took an hour or so, actually:

    Date: Thu, 16 Apr 1998 00:47:14 -0600
    From: “Louis C. Midgley” <midgleyl@burgoyne.com>
    Organization: TE ARIKI.
    X-Mailer: Mozilla 4.04 [en] (Win95; I)
    To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>
    CC: skinny <skinny-l@lists.teleport.com>
    Subject: GETTING MIDGLEY’S NAME RIGHT

    Dear Brother White:

    Right after I had sent my response to your recent letter, in came
    your response to Professor Peterson, and his reply. I enjoyed reading
    both, except when I noticed your habit of being just a tad bit
    discourteous. I have in mind your unfortunate habit of garbling my name.
    Midgley is not all that difficult. But neither is anti-Mormon, as I
    think both Professor Peterson and I have pointed out.

    Professor Peterson (and others) seem to know you as anti-Mormon and
    anti-Catholic. Without knowing anything about your attacks on Catholics,
    I must say that I feel some sympathy for them. And I can even sense some
    of their frustration when they find themselves being attacked and their
    faith attacked by one who cannot or simply will not see that he is
    anti-Catholic. But others who have given you even less attention that
    Professor Peterson and me may not realize that you have been down in the
    gutter–so to speak–with the strange KJV-only types. Now I wonder if
    you are anti-Ratana (a Maori Christian church). If not, why not? Well,
    let me explain. You know and hence presumably care not a bit about a
    Maori Christian church. You may not have even heard of the Maori. Good.
    I am sure that they are thankful for your neglect. But the point is that
    you are not anti-Ratana precisely because you know nothing about the
    Ratana and hence could not care less. That is exactly the way I feel
    about the Baptist faith or faiths, or about the various evangelicalisms
    that have become popular recently. I smile when I see that some of those
    on the margins of contemporary Protestant evangelicalism claim that
    their ideology is the only authentic, historic, trinitarian, biblical
    Christian faith. I do not mind evangelical believing whatever it is that
    they want to believe, but I find it odd that they claim the right to
    determine whether others can have their own opinions on such matters.

    Now, if you had not guessed, one reason for asking about Walter
    Martin is that he did not exclude Roman Catholics from authentic
    Christianity. You, I assume do. Do you then also exclude Walter Martin
    from authentic, biblical Christianity on the grounds that he made a
    terrible mistake about who are real Christians or what is biblical
    Christianity?

    And then there is your friend, or at least one you feel is
    competent, that is, Bill McKeever, editing and updating an essay on
    Mormon things and including within it the absurd Spalding explanation of
    the Book of Mormon. Well, I assume that McKeever and his associates
    could have removed that bit of nonsense, if they had (1) courage, (2)
    honesty, (3) any understanding of the issues. So much for the good,
    rather than the bad, anti-Mormons.

    Now I must admit that I had determined before I wrote to you that I
    would not pick a fight with you. But your response to Professor Peterson
    has softened my resolve. Please, no more nonsense about not being an
    anti-Mormon or insulting language about others not being able to read
    what you write carefully. I think that if you will look again at that
    paragraph on page seventeen of your recent book, and then examine your
    explanation of what you intended to say, you will see that you have done
    poor job of interpreting your own text. And please do not try to tell me
    that you get to determine what you meant on page seventeen by reference
    to what you now claim were your intentions. It is a mistake to confuse
    intention with meaning.

    Grace and peace,

    Louis Midgley


    My reply to Dr. Peterson was very short, very simple, and was intended to communicate the basic truth that I had no intention of playing school-yard games with him.  I don’t have that kind of time:

    >Ah well. I’ll just have to buck up my spirits and live
    >with it.
    >
    >
    >Daniel Peterson

    I’ve only a few times received a post that took so much time to completely twist every syllable I had written. And the little arrogance meter over on the right hand of my screen is now completely broken. I have no idea how to get it fixed….but I know when not to give credibility to such silliness and spend my time on worthwhile pursuits. You have fully substantiated that subtitle in the CRI Journal article: Farms Out of Control.

    James>>>


    I tried one last time with Midgley, though I ended the note with an indication that I realized that there was nothing more I could do for him:

    > But before I get to my additional questions and observation, I must
    >point out that I do not intend to strike some deal with you on the use
    >of the label “anti-Mormon.” Nor do I think that you can legislate on how
    >or whether I use that label.

    Of course not. It is quite evident that you, and Dr. Peterson, are intent upon using it, whether it is glaringly hypocritical to do so or not. I can’t stop you, but I can point out the blindness you show toward the topic, and many others will benefit from the demonstration. If LDS scholars are unable to see this basic issue and how they are prejudiced beyond logic regarding it, how much easier is it to explain their willingness to embrace the wildest theories creating entire societies in Meso-America?

    >You may, of course, reject that label if
    >that is your desire. But from my perspective, it fits you and your work.

    OK, that’s fine. Then please don’t complain when others say Mormonism is anti-Christian on the very same grounds. I’d appreciate at least some level of consistency there.

    >Just look at your recent book. You proclaim that people like me are not
    >your brothers. Instead of asking whether the Church of Jesus Christ is
    >like a faction of Christians who identify themselves as evangelicals or
    >whatever the proper designation happens to be, you personalize the issue
    >by asking IS THE MORMON MY BROTHER?

    Actually, the book fully explains the issue….I’m more than slightly amazed at how little you seem to have understood it, when so many others have understood it without the slightest problem. The issue is that we worship different gods—-period. The book could not have made the point any more clearly than it did. (BTW, I don’t title the books. That’s done at the publisher).

    >The assumption is that you somehow
    >get to determine who is or is not authentically Christian.

    No, the assumption, seemingly rejected by LDS in general, is that what is means to be a real Christian *can* be answered, and that fully, without reference to Joseph Smith or “latter-day revelation.” If we worship different gods, and Christians have never worshipped *your* god before, then it follows, logically, that Mormonism is as Christian as I am Mormon—and I’m no Mormon.

    >Be that as it
    >may, you leave no doubt about the answer to the question the title of
    >your book asks. From my perspective we are all children of a common
    >Father, though currently we may be more or less alienated in various
    >ways from him. But you want to insist that your God–the real God–is
    >not my God, hence that I am not your brother.

    And I substantiated that insistence rather fully. So far, no one to my knowledge has even attempted to interact in print with the biblical argumentation presented on monotheism.

    >Now, I ask myself, why
    >would an otherwise intelligent person want to fashion set forth such a
    >stance? The answer must be that you are against or opposed to my faith,
    >and my faith so irritates you that it makes us less than the children of
    >a common Father.

    As the book said, idolatry is a dangerous sin. I guess, using your argument, Moses was an “anti-Baalite,” right? I mean, he had people KILLED for believing in Baal! So, by believing in absolute truth, so that one says that denials of that truth are in *error,* I must be “anti-untruth.” OK, I guess that follows, right?

    > Now before getting up in arms over the label “anti-Mormon,” I
    >suggest that you consult the entry under “anti” in a dictionary. This
    >prefix simply means “against” or “opposed to.” If you are not against or
    >opposed to the Church of Jesus Christ, to the faith of Latter-day
    >Saints, to the Book of Mormon, to the prophetic truth claims of Joseph
    >Smith, then have I entirely misunderstood you.

    OK, then you are an anti-Baptist. That’s fine. As I said, as long as you are consistent in identifying yourself that way, that’s OK. It’s just that we need to be consistent. If I’m an anti-Mormon, anti-Catholic, anti-JW, anti-Muslim, anti-Hindu, etc. and etc. and etc. (because I believe Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, I must be opposed to all systems that would say otherwise), then you are likewise anti-Baptist. Again, just a simple matter of logic.

    > On the other hand, I have little interest in Baptist things, and
    >little knowledge of them. I have never published a word about Baptist
    >religiosity. I have not been critical of Baptists. I have not attacked
    >their faith. And I certainly do not make my living operating a tax
    >exempt public foundation dedicated to attacking the faith of anyone,
    >including Ratana, Ringatu, Jews, Roman Catholics, or anyone else for
    >that matter.

    If you embrace Joseph Smith, you are anti-Baptist. His beliefs are directly opposed mine, and he identified my God as a “monster” and my beliefs as an abomination. It is almost amusing (if it were not so serious, and sad), to watch LDS scholars swing wildly between internal contradictions in their beliefs at this point, with one hand agreeing that my beliefs are an “abomination,” but with the other saying you are not opposed to them. If you aren’t, you should be ashamed of yourself, taking an attitude of indifference toward something God says is an abomination!

    > Now if, for what ever reason, you do not like being identified as an
    >anti-Mormon, what label would you suggest for people like you?

    If you read my book, you know that I refer to LDS apologists. I refer to Roman Catholic apologists when writing on that topic. How about “Protestant apologists” or something like that? My faith is not defined by YOURs, sir. I respond to YOUR claims because they impact MINE. See the importance in that?

    > I have been trying to figure out what the language found in this
    >paragraph means. What you have now told me is that what you intended to
    >say is actually somewhat different from what you actually wrote.

    Of course not. I said you had badly misread the passage.

    >Instead
    >of addressing the bulk of the paragraph (about twenty lines), you focus
    >on what appears to be a sub-text constituting, as you say, “more a
    >criticism of Peterson and Ricks…and other FARMS folks for their
    >’reviews’ in RBBOFM than it is anything else.” I trust that you realize
    >that you do not mention any essays published by FARMS.

    < sigh >

    >How is the reader
    >supposed to figure out what you were getting at?

    Well, don’t be too offended, but no one else has had a problem getting the point of the entire paragraph.

    >I will grant that what
    >you may have intended was a criticism of OFFENDERS FOR A WORD, and the
    >various essays responding to anti-Mormon literature published by FARMS.

    I really don’t have the inclination to play word games with you, sir. The intention of the paragraph is simple, straightforward, and can only be missed by someone who either wants to miss it, or is attempting to find something to pick at, rather than dealing with the thesis of the book. There is good literature responding to Mormonism, and there is bad literature responding to Mormonism. When someone responds to the bad, and makes it appear that they have, by so doing, vindicated their position, they are engaging in deceptive behavior. And when someone writes poor literature about Mormonism, they only help Mormonism’s defenders to keep up the appearance of a vital apologetic. It’s really that simple.

    > Given what appears on page seventeen of your book, I wondered
    >whether you might think that all anti-Mormon literature (or whatever you
    >may want to call it), until you came along with your book, has been such
    >that Latter-day Saints, if they bothered, could easily deal with it.

    I’m afraid I can be of no assitance to you beyond this point, sir. Such a question can only be identified as “absurd,” and I don’t really have any desire to engage in absurd correspondence. I will allow my book to speak to those who are prepared to hear it, and I knew when I wrote it that some, no matter how clearly I wrote, would find a way of missing the point.

    James>>>


    Seemingly, Dr. Peterson did not like my brief response.  Rather quickly this came back.  Note the title he chose for his message:

    Date: Thu, 16 Apr 1998 17:49:54 -0700
    From: Daniel Peterson <dcp6@email.byu.edu>
    Subject: Mr. Charm
    To: orthopodeo@aomin.org
    Cc: Skinny-L <SKINNY-L@LISTS.TELEPORT.COM>
    Reply-to: Daniel_Peterson@byu.edu
    Organization: BYU

    Mr. White:

    Thank you for withdrawing from the exchange; I was worried that this was
    going to cost me a lot of time. Backed into a corner, eh? Beating an
    ungraceful retreat?

    I’m sorry you broke your arrogance meter. Was it a gift from your
    mother?

    I really don’t understand why you feel the need to be so hostile.
    Perhaps you should add a contact sport to your cycling, so that you can
    work out your aggressions in a more socially acceptable manner. I have
    always told people that you were relatively polite when we met on the
    radio some years ago, and several have assured me that such polite and
    unaggressive behavior must have been an aberration. I guess they were
    right, and your reputation is not unearned.

    Too bad. I have had respectful interchanges with several critics of my
    faith. But you don’t seem capable of such things. You have evidently
    chosen the right career.

    Daniel Peterson


    Take careful note of the tactics being used here: Dr. Peterson has been about as impolite and aggressive as one can be in the preceding posts.  He has used sarcasm and insult in almost every paragraph, yet, when I choose not to respond in kind, what does he do?  He accuses me of the very things he has been doing himself.  Throw in a little school-yard taunting, and one is amazed to realize that such messages are being written by one of the leading LDS scholars at Brigham Young University, a man who has often criticized Christians for their attitudes in dealing with Mormonism.  My response was brief and to the point:

    >Mr. White:
    >
    >
    >Thank you for withdrawing from the exchange; I was worried that this was
    >going to cost me a lot of time. Backed into a corner, eh? Beating an
    >ungraceful retreat?

    Do remember, Dr. Peterson, that since you have been passing around my posts to others, your own posts, including this wondrous example of FARMS mentality, will be archived and readily available to anyone who wishes a glimpse into the world of LDS apologetics.

    James>>>


    His responses only got more shrill:

    Date: Fri, 17 Apr 1998 12:42:49 -0700
    From: Daniel Peterson <dcp6@email.byu.edu>
    Subject: [Fwd: Re: Mr. Charm]
    To: orthopodeo@aomin.org
    Cc: Skinny-L <SKINNY-L@LISTS.TELEPORT.COM>
    Reply-to: Daniel_Peterson@byu.edu
    Organization: BYU

    Mr. White:

    You seem to think you have me. “Do remember, Dr. Peterson,” you write,
    “that since you have been passing around my posts to others, your own
    posts, including this wondrous example of FARMS mentality, will be
    archived and readily available to anyone who wishes a glimpse into the
    world of LDS apologetics[?].”

    Go ahead. I am puzzled that you do not seem to see how unpleasantly YOU
    come across. My lengthy post to you contained arguments and serious
    positions, however cheekily expressed. For you to respond merely by
    denouncing my arrogance and silliness and pronouncing me not worth your
    time was, among other things, (a) not a cogent counterargument, (b)
    disrespectful, (c) uncharitable, and (d) exactly what I expected from
    you.

    I am quite capable of having a calm and well-tempered exchange. I have,
    as I say, had pleasant and respectful conversations with numerous people
    of other faiths, including several who are overtly critical of my
    beliefs. If you would like to do so, please shelve the hostility.
    Please cut the tendency to assume that your opponent is acting in bad
    faith, or from evil motives.

    Perhaps you do not recognize how alienating your hyper-confrontational
    style is, and how personal you tend to make the dispute between
    Latter-day Saints and evangelicals. Perhaps you do not realize — oh,
    but surely you must! — how off-putting your aggressiveness is, and how
    (for many of us) it gets in the way of the message that, I presume, you
    sincerely want to preach. Sensing that you would react badly, I tweaked
    you. I was having fun. (You know, teasing somebody who responds in
    satisfying ways to such teasing.) It was perhaps wrong for me to do so,
    but you reacted precisely as I had anticipated.

    It still appears to me that you fled a discussion when you realized that
    you were in a corner. Quite seriously, quite sincerely, that is how it
    appears to me. Leaving aside the question of my viciousness and my
    depravity, it seems so. Perhaps I am wrong, although I think not. But
    if I am wrong, it would be fitting — certainly it would be the act of a
    disciple of Christ — to correct me, not to assault me. Others had
    predicted that you would withdraw from the discussion. They are people
    who have followed your career somewhat, and they described it as your
    modus operandi whenever you seem to be losing control. (I am told that
    it happened at Temple Square earlier this month, when you were presented
    with evidence to which you had, in their view and in mine, no cogent
    answer.) You may despise me all you like, but your actions truly seem
    to me to be as I have characterized them, and as others had foretold.

    Yet others, however — and I am merely passing on what they told me —
    predicted that your ego would never allow me to have the last word.
    Which, I admit, worried me, because I really don’t have the time to get
    into a lengthy and quite futile e-mail catfight, especially with someone
    who evidently cannot even grant that I am a decent human being. And now
    that their prediction also seems to be coming true, I am worried again.
    (Attacking Mormonism may well be an important component of your
    employment; defending the gospel of Jesus Christ is something I do in
    spare moments.)

    What, by the way, is the “FARMS mentality”? Are you into faulty
    generalizations and stereotyping? FARMS did not write my posting to
    you. I wrote it. I am not FARMS, and FARMS is not Daniel Peterson.
    FARMS is a number of people, with widely varying styles, personalities,
    and approaches. There is no more a “FARMS mentality” than there is a
    “Jewish mentality” or a “black mentality.” Latter-day Saints are
    individuals, as are Jews and blacks. As are fundamentalist and
    evangelical Protestants. (I know, because some are nasty and
    unpleasant, and some are very nice.) If generalizations like this
    really are permitted, there seems no principled ground on which you
    could criticize me for taking Ed Decker as the “norm” for anti-Mormonism
    — if, indeed, I had ever thought to do so stupid a thing.

    Daniel Peterson


    Then, right on the heels of this lovely missive, comes another:

    Date: Fri, 17 Apr 1998 13:05:45 -0700
    From: Daniel Peterson <dcp6@email.byu.edu>
    Subject: Re: Mr. Charm
    To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>
    Cc: Skinny-L <SKINNY-L@LISTS.TELEPORT.COM>
    Reply-to: Daniel_Peterson@byu.edu
    Organization: BYU

    Mr. White:

    Going through my e-mail, I came across a posting containing the
    following, from someone who has been monitoring our exchange:

    “By the Bye, never have I seen such arrogant rhetorical ranting with
    absolutely no substance behind it as in the White letters.
    Absolutely astonishing!”

    I share it with you not to hurt your feelings, nor to make you angry
    (although I am certain that it will, since you seem to be in a state of
    almost perpetual anger anyhow), and not as evidence that my estimate of
    you is true, but as an indication that I am not the only person out here
    in cyberland who views you in this way.

    Daniel Peterson


    Evidently, Dr. Peterson was not getting the idea that I had no intention of playing this game with him.  I tried one more time:

  • You seem to think you have me. “Do remember, Dr. Peterson,” you write,
  • “that since you have been passing around my posts to others, your own
  • posts, including this wondrous example of FARMS mentality, will be
  • archived and readily available to anyone who wishes a glimpse into the
  • world of LDS apologetics[?].”
  • Go ahead. I am puzzled that you do not seem to see how unpleasantly YOU
  • come across.
  • No, sir, I believe it is the other way around. And I’m more than glad to let others judge that. I have no interest in you continuing to provide me with further examples of this kind of school-yard behavior. If you wish to continue writing long e-mails (while complaining about wasting your time), I won’t stop you, but don’t expect any replies.

    James>>>


    Seemingly, asking him to stop has the exact opposite impact.  In fact, he now began to forward nastigrams to me that he had actually written to other people!  This kind of behavior is tremendously rude and childish, but as of the date of this writing, it still hasn’t stopped!  Here comes the first example of the “I’ll send White something nasty I’ve written about him to someone else”:

    Date: Sat, 18 Apr 1998 08:02:38 -0700
    From: Daniel Peterson <dcp6@email.byu.edu>
    Subject: Re: SKINNY: [Fwd: Re: Mr. Charm]
    To: skinny-l@teleport.com
    Cc: orthopodeo@aomin.org
    Reply-to: Daniel_Peterson@byu.edu
    Organization: BYU

    Malin:

    Thanks for the comments. I agree with what you say, and actually had
    some of those things in mind as I wrote. I know that James White quite
    literally believes me to be vicious and depraved. (That is the first
    element in TULIP, after all.) And I’m sure, since I am unregenerate,
    that he believes me to be acting in bad faith.

    The question then arises, Why does he bother to argue with Mormons at
    all? If we are all depraved and dishonest, we’ll never accept or
    recognize the truth. And those who will, are fated to do so regardless
    of whether White evangelizes them or not. Of course, it is impossible
    to act practically, in everyday life, on the basis of predeterministic
    assumptions. You have to act as if you are free, even if you are
    convinced that you are not. So White is, I suppose, simply fated to
    evangelize Mormons and Catholics, and to be nasty and insulting. It all
    seems utterly pointless.

    It also seems, to me at least, quite unsuited to a free and democratic
    society. Why should a population largely depraved and vicious be
    allowed to vote? Should the Saved EVER treat the depraved and vicious
    multitude politely or respectfully, even in a town council meeting or a
    PTA gathering or on a Little League committee? Why? Shouldn’t people
    like James White move to the Balkans, their natural home?

    dcp


    I ignored that one, but the hits kept coming:

    Date: Sat, 18 Apr 1998 07:50:05 -0700
    From: Daniel Peterson <dcp6@email.byu.edu>
    Subject: Being a Christian Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry?
    To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>
    Cc: Skinny-L <SKINNY-L@LISTS.TELEPORT.COM>
    Reply-to: Daniel_Peterson@byu.edu
    Organization: BYU
    X-Mailer: Mozilla 3.04 (Macintosh; I; PPC)

    Mr. White:

    “School-yard behavior”? You’re the same sweet and Christian fellow as
    ever! I have offered you a civil conversation, but I take it that is
    not the kind of thing that interests you. I have offered you serious
    arguments and considered positions, but it seems THOSE sorts of things
    frighten you off (even on the rather minor issues we were discussing).
    You seem to prefer the kind of correspondence with a “Mormon elder”
    where you get to write both sides.

    Please post the exchange. I plan to do so.

    Daniel Peterson


    The term “obsession” begins to take on new meaning as the unsolicited, and unwanted messages pile up:

    Date: Mon, 20 Apr 1998 18:51:24 -0700
    From: Daniel Peterson <dcp6@email.byu.edu>
    Subject: On James White as a Christian Paradigm
    To: orthopodeo@aomin.org
    Cc: Skinny-L <SKINNY-L@LISTS.TELEPORT.COM>
    Reply-to: Daniel_Peterson@byu.edu
    Organization: BYU

    Mr. White:

    You wrote the following to some fellow or other, and I was privileged to
    see it: “I’ve gotten messages from people who teach at BYU that sounded
    like they were written by someone on an 8th grade playground.”

    I assume you are referring to me. You outdo yourself! I had heard it
    said that you have a vicious temper, that you ignore the issues when
    they don’t go your way, and that you frequently mischaracterize your
    opponents in demonstrably inaccurate and remarkably uncharitable ways.
    But I had never personally experienced it. Thank you for remedying that
    gap in my personal history.

    Daniel Peterson


    That one got ignored, too.  Did that stop Dr. Peterson from his campaign?  No, it didn’t.  Instead, more “let’s make sure I send this note I wrote to Louis Midgley to White so that he knows I’m insulting him again” posts arrived:

    Date: Wed, 22 Apr 1998 16:59:33 -0700
    From: Daniel Peterson <dcp6@email.byu.edu>
    Subject: (John) Calvin and (Thomas) Hobbes
    To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>
    Cc: Skinny-L <SKINNY-L@LISTS.TELEPORT.COM>
    Reply-to: Daniel_Peterson@byu.edu
    Organization: BYU

    Lou:

    Mr. White was a bit less obnoxious in this last communication. I wonder
    why? Perhaps he realizes that he overdid it in his previous few
    postings. Probably not, though. Self-scrutiny does not seem to be one
    of his strengths. Did you notice that he is still going on with his
    silly generalizations about “the attitudes of FARMS and BYU professors
    in general”? He really does seem to be incorrigible. But then, what
    incentive does he have to change? He is one of the world’s winners, and
    there seems little reason for him to be held to the rules (e.g., of
    evidence and logic, let alone of civility) that bind the terminally
    depraved masses.

    He ought, though, to try to see things from our perspective. He is far
    more brilliant than we are. He is a far better person than we are —
    noble and courageous where we are craven, a model of mature manhood to
    be universally emulated (as his recent notes have strongly hinted),
    forthright and bold where we are sniveling and dishonest, inevitably
    victorious where we merely manage to stumble pathetically from defeat to
    ignominious defeat. Furthermore, as if all of his enviable natural
    qualities were not enough, he enjoys supernatural advantages as well:
    God loves him, and has predestined him to paradise, whereas God hates
    us, holds us like loathsome insects over a fire, patiently but happily
    waiting to plunge us into the flame, and, in fact, quite justly
    condemned us to hell before we were even born.

    Mr. White ought to pity us — although, on second thought, God evidently
    doesn’t, so perhaps he shouldn’t either. But at least he could indulge
    our sad little attempts to enjoy ourselves before we commence upon our
    foredoomed eternity of torture and agony.

    Incidently, hearing that Mr. White is debating the Catholics rather
    warms me up to the Church of Rome.

    dcp


    Enough is enough, so I tried the direct approach:

    >Lou:
    >
    >
    >Mr. White was a bit less obnoxious in this last communication. I wonder
    >why? Perhaps he realizes that he overdid it in his previous few
    >postings. Probably not, though. Self-scrutiny does not seem to be one
    >of his strengths.

    Please, it is considered childish and rude to continue to send messages to those who have shown clearly that they do not desire such communication. As I have said, you have communicated your viewpoint clearly. I need no further examples of your expertise at ad-hominem argumentation. I will gladly post all your lovely messages when I return from speaking.

    James>>>


    Even the direct approach has no impact upon a person on a crusade:

    Date: Wed, 29 Apr 1998 06:40:51 -0700
    From: Daniel Peterson <dcp6@email.byu.edu>
    Subject: Re: (John) Calvin and (Thomas) Hobbes
    To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>
    Cc: Skinny-L <SKINNY-L@LISTS.TELEPORT.COM>
    Reply-to: Daniel_Peterson@byu.edu
    Organization: BYU

    Mr. White:

    Thank you for your latest note. It was, as usual, a model of
    graciousness and the Christian spirit. My tardiness in acknowledging it
    comes only from my having been out of the state and away from my e-mail.

    You say you plan to post our exchange. Good. You may be interested to
    know that your self-revealing messages to me — naturally including
    their forthright refusal to have a real dialogue with a Latter-day Saint
    on legitimate issues and their resort instead to unembarrassed evasion,
    personal insults, and ad hominem attacks — have already been posted for
    some time.

    Daniel Peterson


    Now, as anyone can see, Dr. Peterson was never interested in a “real dialogue” with anyone, let alone me.  What I have refused to engage in is not a dialogue, but a spitting contest.  The fact that Peterson is intent upon sending me second-hand posts containing glaring insults and swipes, all the while accusing me of being mean-spirited, is so self-evident that it makes one wonder about the pride he shows in knowing that these posts would be made available on our web page and on the SHIELDS page (which just happens to be operated by a group of men I knew well when a regular on the old “MORMON Echo” back in the days of BBS’s; two of the three men who run the page have engaged in the very same kind of emotionally-laden ad-hominem argumentation provided here by Dr. Peterson). He may not understand what I meant by “FARMS mentality,” but other folks do.

    Now, Louis Midgley, likewise, did not give up his writing.  I return to his missives.  I had indicated to him with my last response that I did not feel I could be of any more assistance to him.  That didn’t stop him, however:

    Date: Fri, 17 Apr 1998 08:40:44 -0600
    From: “Louis C. Midgley” <midgleyl@burgoyne.com>
    Organization: TE ARIKI.
    X-Mailer: Mozilla 4.04 [en] (Win95; I)
    To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>
    CC: skinny <skinny-l@lists.teleport.com>
    Subject: MODERN LDS APOLOGIST…HAVE LITTLE DIFFICULTY DEMONSTRATING…

    Dear Brother White:

    Once again I must insist that I do not wish to pick a fight with
    you. I did not write to you to engage in some unseemly, insulting
    quarrel. I wrote to you to get some information–that is all. The
    controversy over the nice little shorthand label “anti-Mormon” was your
    doing. Unfortunately I took the bait.

    What I requested, if I remember correctly, were a few clarifications
    on one paragraph in your IS THE MORMON MY BROTHER? Even in my request
    for clarification you saw signs of my having hacked up your words and
    then later of having misinterpreted them. The fact is that all I want is
    your opinion about your words, so that I can be confident I understand
    your language the way you do.

    In order to see if I understand you correctly, I will paraphrase
    what I think you are trying to say in the paragraph on page seventeen of
    your recent book. You seem to me to be saying something like the
    following: modern Latter-day Saint scholars and apologists have little
    difficulty demonstrating inconsistencies and half-truths in the
    literature written by critics of their faith. Now why do you think that
    this is so? Well, at least for many critics of the faith of Latter-day
    Saints, those they like to call “Mormons” are simply polygamous cultists
    who are out to destroy the souls of anyone unwary enough to be caught in
    their clutches. Yet, it turns out, many of these critics of the faith of
    Latter-day Saints who would provide the strongest denunciations of the
    beliefs and practices of Latter-day Saints are the very ones who have
    done the least work in seriously studying LDS writings and they have
    also not interacted with LDS viewpoints. The result is that a large body
    of literature exists that is not based upon a fair, even-handed study of
    primary source documentation but is, instead, based upon a very large
    dose of emotion and bias. The resulting literature normally (that is,
    regularly, usually) emphasizes the sensational, seeking to arouse the
    emotions of the reader against the LDS faith.

    I believe that something very much like this is found in that
    paragraph on page seventeen of your recent book. In addition, you
    acknowledge that many of these incompetent critics of the faith of the
    faith of Latter-day Saints still maintain that the Church of Jesus
    Christ of Latter-day Saints is a devil-inspired cult and that is about
    all there is to it. For such people the question of interacting with
    genuine LDS points of view simply does not arise. Why? For those who
    find in what they call “Mormonism” the embodiment of evil itself, there
    is little reason to even ask if the Church of Jesus Christ is Christian.
    There is even less reason to spend time fairly evaluating the arguments
    put forth by Latter-day Saint scholars.

    You add one small caveat to this rather grim picture of the
    literature produced by emotional, sensationalizing and incompetent
    critics of the faith of Latter-day Saints. You claim that contemporary,
    I believe you say “apologists and scholars,” Latter-day Saints, who have
    little difficulty demonstrating inconsistencies and half-truths in the
    literature critical of their faith that you have just negatively
    characterized, like to focus on such dismal literature and that they
    often treat it as if it were the norm for all of the critical literature
    produced by those claiming to represent the true, historic, biblical,
    trinitarian version of Christianity. At this point you attach a note to
    a recent LDS video and to Professor Peterson’s book, presumably to
    indicate how Latter-day Saints easily deal with the bad literature
    produced by critics of their faith.

    That is all I see in that paragraph. I see nothing critical of
    anything published by FARMS. In fact, FARMS is not mentioned. And I see
    nothing that indicates that there is a good literature–a competent
    literature by critics of the faith of Latter-day Saints–in this
    paragraph. This is the reason I asked you if you see yourself as the
    only author to do the job right or whether you think that there is a
    body of competent criticism of LDS faith. And I also asked you to
    indicate who might have written this competent literature, if such
    exists in your estimation. You have more or less responded to these
    questions. If I understand you correctly, you think that there is a
    competent literature and you indicated three authors who have presumably
    helped produce it. And you suggested that I inspect the notes to your
    book for additional names.

    Now I have tried to point out that Latter-day Saints do not take
    Decker and Schnoebelen as the norm among their critics. We are what
    might be called equal opportunity critics of what we call anti-Mormon
    literature or whatever you might wish to call it. It seems to me, and I
    believe I am entirely correct on this matter, that we have dealt with
    virtually all of the even remotely significant authors of criticisms of
    our faith, including you. And so it turns out that your remark about how
    we take the really bad stuff as the norm is simply not true. We do not
    focus just on the really bad stuff, but we deal with all of our critics.
    If I am wrong about this, you can easily correct me by naming the
    significant, less incompetent authors whose works we have neglected.

    Now I have just one other tiny little point to make. I suppose I
    will agree to you describing me, in our correspondence and for purposes
    of conversation only, however, as “anti-Baptist,” if you will allow me
    the courtesy of using the nice little shorthand label “anti-Mormon” in
    our correspondence as an easy way of saying something like “critics of
    the faith of Latter-day Saints.” And I might add that I did not attempt
    to deal with or even characterize the general thesis or IS THE MORMON MY
    BROTHER? I merely cited one tiny thing that makes the book, for me at
    leas, boring. So I will just ignore all that stuff about my not
    understanding what you were up to in that book. I see all that abusive
    rhetoric as just your way of picking a fight and thus seeming scoring
    some points.

    Finally, I am interested in your relationship with, that is, your
    opinion of, the work of Walter Martin. Please address this question. Do
    you include Martin among those who did competent work or is he one of
    those we Latter-day Saints see as the norm for criticisms of our faith?
    This is a simple question. It should not be hard for you to express an
    opinion on Walter Martin’s work. Why am I interested in Martin? I am
    writing an essay on his work. There are several reasons I would like to
    know what you think of Martin. One is that he was not, as you obviously
    are, anti-Catholic (ops, critical of Roman Catholicism because it is not
    Christian, or however you would put it). This is a way of trying to find
    out whether people are competent and Christian who disagree with you on
    your stand on Roman Catholicism. In addition, Martin always advanced the
    old Spalding theory to explain the Book of Mormon. But the Tanners, who
    you seem to think are competent, strongly disagreed with Martin on this
    important issue. Where do you stand on this issue and on the conflict
    among your associates on this issue.

    Please remember that I am not trying to pick a fight with you. All I
    would like is clarification on some matters. If I have not paraphrased
    your stance on page seventeen of you book, please do not insult me, but
    just adjust what I have written so that it reflect exactly what you
    intended to say. I will accept anything you say about your intentions in
    that paragraph, since you are the only authority on this matter. I
    appreciate your responding to my importunings and I thank you in advance
    for dealing with what is contained in this letter.


    It was becoming self-evident that this conversation was going nowhere, either, so I tried to make it clear:


    > Once again I must insist that I do not wish to pick a fight with
    >you. I did not write to you to engage in some unseemly, insulting
    >quarrel. I wrote to you to get some information–that is all. The
    >controversy over the nice little shorthand label “anti-Mormon” was your
    >doing. Unfortunately I took the bait.

    Bait assumes I wished to draw you into the conversation. To be honest, ever since you wrote a few years ago about the “plan of salvation” being Joseph Smith’s idea, I haven’t had any desire at all to have further interchange, I assure you. And I shall end this one now. Thanks for writing.

    James>>>


    Dr. Midgley’s true feelings finally broke through:

    Date: Wed, 22 Apr 1998 07:22:17 -0600
    From: “Louis C. Midgley” <midgleyl@burgoyne.com>
    Organization: TE ARIKI.
    X-Mailer: Mozilla 4.04 [en] (Win95; I)
    To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>
    CC: skinny <skinny-l@lists.teleport.com>
    Subject: WHAT HAPPENED TO THE SWEET REASONABLENESS?

    Dear Brother White:

    I must admit that I have enjoyed your messages to me and to others
    as well. I kind of enjoy seeing an anti-Mormon self-destruct. Yes,
    anti-Mormon. After all you are against, remember that is the meaning of
    that prefix, the faith of Latter-day Saints. I believe that you publish
    books attacking the Church of Jesus Christ, you come to the General
    Conferences of the Church of Jesus Christ and pass out literature and
    engage in conversations attempting to lure Latter-day Saints into
    abandoning their faith for your particular brand of Protestant
    religiosity, you make your living at least in part engaging in these and
    other similar and related activities. That would seem to qualify you as
    a card-carrying anti-Mormon, would it not?

    I must admit that I was somewhat stunned and also very amused to get
    something from you in which you claimed, if I remember correctly, that
    you are not anti-Mormon. I do not believe you offered an alternative
    label to describe your business. However, you were willing to accept the
    label, if I would agree to be known as anti-Baptist, even though I have
    never made my living creating or spreading anti-Baptist propaganda, have
    never written anything attacking any brand of Baptist ideology and so
    forth and so on.

    Now what has brought you to mind is that right now I am looking at
    the page-proofs to my essay entitled “Anti-Mormonism and the Newfangled
    Countercult Culture.” And I mention and quote you on pages six and seven
    of this essay. I quote the bulk of that paragraph on page seventeen of
    your recent anti-Mormon book, the meaning of which we have been more or
    less discussing. By that I mean that I have been discussing the meaning
    of that passage and you have been opining about your intentions. And it
    turns out that your opining is not supported by what is found in that
    paragraph in your book. That much seems obvious. Be that as it may, I
    have described you as “one of the more gifted among the current crop of
    anti-Mormons.” I am tempted to change this to read “one of the more
    belligerent (or pugnacious) among the current crop of anti-Mormons.”

    But the fact is that you appear to be brighter than the average
    anti-Mormon. So I must give you that much credit. But you are also one
    of the nastier anti-Mormons that it has been my displeasure to
    encounter. And I find that others share my opinion. I wonder if you
    could supply the name of a single Latter-day Saint with whom you have
    corresponded who has not found you just plain nasty. I would be willing
    to provide you with a list of those Latter-day Saints who have indicated
    to me that they have found corresponding with you unpleasant. In person,
    Professor Peterson tells me, you seemed at least not enirely unpleasant.

    The unpleasantness seems to come more often in correspondence where
    it turns out you end up typically throwing what amounts to a fit when
    you get corned. You end up blasting away with insults and then fall
    silent. I cannot believe that you do not regret firing back what amount
    to thoughtless replies to those you consider your enemies. In fact, I am
    confident that you are bright enough to know when you are in
    intellectual trouble. In this regard it will be interesting to see if
    you respond to Professor Hamblin. But you have seem to have such a dose
    of pride that you simply cannot ever even appear to concede a thing or
    ever to back down.

    I suggest that you try admitting when someone has gotten the best of
    you. Merely because you are or imagine that you are regenerated does not
    mean that you automatically win every debate. I have wondered if you are
    attacking and insulting others because lurking behind your posture of
    certainty there may be a kind of cosmic uncertainty that you need
    desperately to drive away by blasting others. In the large sense this
    might explain your anti-Catholic and anti-Mormon endeavors. But it also
    might explain you lack of civility in correspondence. By the way, is it
    true that Professor Blomberg has a special message on his telephone
    answering machine just for you?

    I am, of course, expecting to hear from you. I will, I must admit,
    be disappointed if you have not only suddenly fallen silent but remain
    silent. But, on the other hand, if you really were to fall silent, that
    is, cease attacking my faith, then I would be very pleased. And I think
    that God would also be pleased if such were to happen.

    Grace and peace,

    Louis Midgley


    The terms “taunting” and “goading” accurately describe this kind of behavior.  For me, I will allow such statements to stand on their own.  It would be silly of me to respond to such personal attacks by dredging up the names of those who could give witness either in my defense, or in support of anyone who would point to the out-of-control antics of some at BYU.  Personally, I think these messages speak far more clearly than anything I could ever say.  I replied to Midgley:

    >Dear Brother White:
    >
    > I must admit that I have enjoyed your messages to me and to others
    >as well. I kind of enjoy seeing an anti-Mormon self-destruct.

    Thanks for writing, Dr. Midgley. I think I’ve made it fairly plain that I have no interest in the continued provision of evidence concerning the attitudes of FARMS and BYU professors in general. I’m not sure why you and Dr. Peterson feel such a drive to continue providing these gems, but I assure you, I have more than enough to convince the even semi-unbiased observer. Thanks for writing, but you really don’t need to continue to do so. As I’ve informed everyone up there, I’m busy preaching, teaching, and debating here in the New York City area. Last evening we had a tremendous time debating the Papacy against Dr. Mitchell Pacwa, and I yet have eight more speaking engagements before I head home on Monday. I note with great humor your reference to my “falling silent.” I can only guess that BYU doesn’t keep you folks very busy. As for me, I really am glad to have work that keeps me quite absorbed.

    James>>>


    At this point I included a note about attaching future nastigrams.  Much to my chagrin, Dr. Midgley took that as an open invitation to continue sending me nastigrams.   Dr. Peterson sent me one more note and finally got the clear idea that I had no intention of giving in to his taunts.  But Dr. Midgley decided that he now had the right to have anything he writes posted here.  I never considered that possibility, but, I should have.  Sorry, Dr. Midgley….you’ll have to post your nastigrams elsewhere.  What has already been provided is more than sufficient to give anyone who is interested a unique insight into BYU apologetics.

    James White

    Addendum:

    As amazing as it is, months after making it very clear that I had no intention of joining in the “fun,” Dr. Midgely, without the slighest bit of provocation, fired off the following note in mid-June. 

    Date: Mon, 15 Jun 1998 09:54:58 -0600
    From: “Louis C. Midgley” <midgleyl@burgoyne.com>
    To: James White <orthopodeo@aomin.org>
    Cc: skinny <skinny-l@lists.teleport.com>
    Subject: JIMMY WHITE’S FAILURE TO REPLY

    Dear Jim:

    I am astonished and just a little disappointed that I have not
    heard heard a single word from you concerning my brief mention of
    your opining in the essay I recently published. It can be
    accessed at
    http://www.farmsresearch.com/frob/frobv10_1/midgley.htm or
    through the SHIELDS web site.

    Certainly one with your rather obvious passion for controversy
    will not let this opportunity to ventilate pass you by. Or have
    you finally noticed that you have not served your interests well
    by pouring out venom on those you obviously consider your
    enemies? I trust that you now regret posting the first portions
    of the correspondence you had with Professors Hamblin and
    Peterson, and perhaps even my little exchange with you.

    Grace and peach

    lcm

    “Amazing” is about the only word that works.