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Home LDS Writers Correspondence with anti Mormons By Lynn

Correspondence with anti Mormons By Lynn

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Lynn's Correspondence
with
"Anti-Mormon"
Baptist Fundamentalist Preachers

Q. How can He (Lynn) Believe in the Book of Mormon?

Dear Dennis,

I couldn't stomach reading it all, but the bottom line is he starts from a premise you and I can agree with. There is nothing particularly heretical about the doctrines expounded in the Book of Mormon--in fact they're pretty much what one might expect from someone exposed to the "winds of doctrine" that blew through the "burned-over district." (I'm not talking about historical distortions, such as Christ coming to the Americas.) A standard witnessing approach to LDS is to show them how the BOM agrees with Protestant theology and disagrees with current LDS teachings. But, to jump from "I agree with the doctrines taught there" to "Because I agree with the doctrines taught there IT IS THEREFORE DIVINE" is not only the height of myopic egocentrism but a gross sophism (read boneheaded idiocy) as well. Is Gone With the Wind divinely inspired because there really was a burning of Atlanta? Imagine if Civil War reenactors began worshipping that novel asking, "How could Margaret Mitchell have known that?" about historical details contained in GWTW. Would this "pastor" be saying "Yeah, they're right, there must have been a real Scarlet O'Hara!"? (And imagine every time you pointed out that Mitchell lived in Atlanta where the library, etc. had numerous historical sources for her to use, the true believers, as Mormons do, responded irritably: " Well she never read any of those books!")

The point is, presenting GWTW as history, divine or otherwise, is a lie. Ditto in spades the Book of Mormon. If he wants to recommend the BOM as historical fiction, let him go right ahead. He'll only gain a reputation as someone deficient in literary taste. But, presenting the BOM as a new revelation marks him a heretic, anathema. I would personally bar him from the Communion table in my church.

Yours,
Richard



Lynn's Response

Dear Brother Stout,

Lynn Ridenhour here. Thank you for your email. Let me respond to some of your concerns.

First, I want to address (what I understand to be) two underlying themes in your email:

the spirit of sectarianism versus His Lordship, and

the concept of canonization.

Some Prefatory Remarks

To let you know up front “…where I’m coming from,” I’m not the least bit interested in polemics. That is, I’m not interested in winning an argument. I’m only interested in uplifting our Lord & Savior-even in my response. Especially in my response. I think our beloved apostle Paul said it well addressing Timothy, “…I know WHOM I have believed, and am persuaded that HE is able to keep that which I have committed unto him…” (II Tim.1:12) Paul said he knew in WHOM he had believed-not in WHAT he believed.

To say it another way-God is the Truth, the Bible is the truth about the Truth, and one’s theology is the truth about the truth about the Truth. One can know the truth about the Truth and not know the Truth. Our Lord said it this way, “…I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me…” (Jn.14:6)

Ultimate Truth, in other words, is a person, not a doctrine. Doctrine is “…truth about the Truth…” Which is why I firmly believe--my best & only defense is my personal testimony. Like Paul, I too say, “…I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak forth the words of truth and soberness…” (Acts 26:25). Paul, a very learned man in the scriptures, a Pharisee who sat at the feet of Gamaliel, the great teacher of the Law, could have taken another route--the route of apologetics and exegesis before the king. Knowing his life was on the line, Paul chose, however, to bear his personal testimony. “…At midday, O king, I saw…” And Paul proceeds to tell of his wonderful, amazing personal experience with the risen Christ. The king, in his disbelief, said, “…Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad…” (vs.24).

Which proves my point: it is not my job (or agenda) to prove anything to you. That is the duty of the Holy Spirit. Only the Spirit of God can confirm Truth to our hearts. I can only say…there came a moment in my younger years when I knew Jesus Christ was my Savior and my Lord. I KNEW He had died not only for the sins of the world, but for MY SINS as well. I knew He had come into my heart and had transformed my life. I knew He was a Living Lord, not a “book Jesus.” From that moment on, my life changed. My desires changed. As a young person, I was a morphine addict bent on destroying my life. Literally. For a few years I lived in constant sin and degradation. I slept on the streets. One day the Holy Spirit came upon me, cleansed me, and set me free. I was set free from the ravages and cravings of sex, sin, and morphine. My drug addiction went away immediately. I had no withdrawal symptoms. And I had been “shooting up” morphine every four hours for weeks & weeks. If not months. Yes,…

I am indeed a new “creature in Christ…” “…old things have passed away, and all things are become new…” (II Cor.5:17). I have never doubted that experience. I was passive and acted upon. The Hound of Heaven had caught me. I did not initiate change. I was changed. And it happened way back in the early ‘60s. I’ve been clean ever since. Clean for nearly 40 years now. Clean of cigarettes, booz, sex and drugs and the old life style. I could go that route today but the pull is no longer there. From that day forward my utmost desire has been to please the Lord in all that I do and to love Him with all my heart. He truly is My Life-literally. Some day, should I be called upon, I hope and pray that I would have the integrity and courage of soul to literally lay down my life for Him. He did for me. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer, that great and brave German martyr, so eloquently stated, “….When Christ calls a man, He bids him ‘Come and die.…’” In the meantime, by His grace, I will continue to live for Him every day. I truly love Him with all my heart. He’s my first love. My allegiance is to Him.

Really, when all is said and done, about the only thing I REALLY KNOW is what the blind man told the Pharisees who kept berating him: “…one thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see…” (Jn.9:25).

That’s about all I can say too when you come down to it. Polemics pale in the glimpse of His glory. Nevertheless, I will share some of my thoughts regarding your email. First, the matter of…

The Spirit of Sectarianism Vs. His Lordship

I truly believe, you can go to heaven without being a Baptist. I believe there are some Methodists who know the Lord and who have been born again; I believe there are some Lutherans who are born again, even some Catholics. Even some Mormons. My point is-I long to see things from God’s point of view. The Bible tells us to “…be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Rom.12:2). We’re to, in other words, “…put on the mind of Christ…” and to think like God thinks (Gal.3:27).

How does God think?

When He looks down over my city, Kansas City, Missouri, He doesn’t see Baptist churches or Lutheran churches or Catholic churches or Pentecostal churches or Mormon churches. He sees His children. That’s it. God is not “denominational.” We have over 100 denominations in our city but I submit-the Lord recognizes none of them. That is, His Church is built upon the rock of revelation that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt 13). I submit-when the Lord looks down upon any city, He sees His Church-and all who have had a personal revelation that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God, are members of His Church. I’m saying--I want to view His church as the Lord sees His church--based upon a revelation of His Lordship, not doctrinal agreement. Why wait ‘till we all get to heaven to think like God thinks?

I’m also saying-too often we’re divided by doctrine. That ought not be. He who has confessed Jesus Christ as Lord & Savior is my brother in the faith. Fellowship is centered around His Lordship, not doctrine. Again--all who confess Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives, regardless of creed, color, or class, are my brothers and sisters. I like the way C.S. Lewis said it in his classic book “Mere Christianity.” Lewis says, “…it’s not that we Christians disagree; it’s that we disagree on the importance of our disagreements…” How true! Example…

For some of the brethren, it’s very important that we believe in baptismal regeneration before we will fellowship; for others it’s very important that we believe in irresistible grace (the Calvinist point of view of Salvation) before we can fellowship; with others, the will of man (Armenian point of view) plays a crucial role in one’s salvation. With some of us, we embrace the “second blessing” typically known as “the deeper life experience.” Methodists call it sanctification. Others of us do not believe in the second blessing experience. Some of us believe in the “baptism or filling of the Holy Spirit” with the evidence of glossalalia; others of us don’t. Some of us are pre-millennial regarding our views on the Second Coming; some of us are post-millennial; a few of us are amillennial. A few of us think esoteric temple rites have a role to play in the afterlife.

See what I mean? Fellowship too often is based upon doctrine.

Too often I believe the Body of Christ is divided by doctrinal agreement-or disagreement. Which I believe is based upon a false premise-that we must be in doctrinal agreement in order to fellowship. I don’t believe that. I like to put it this way-the fellowship of the saints is not based upon conformity of doctrine but unity of the Spirit (Eph.4:1-6). In other words, the Bible does not teach conformity of doctrine but unity of the Spirit. Or to say it another way--conformity of doctrine is not necessarily unity; neither is unity necessarily conformity of doctrine. I’ve sat through too many Baptist church splits to believe otherwise.

I think today we share too often the same assumptions the Pharisees in the Bible shared. The Pharisees were not wrong in doctrine; they were wrong in assumption. They assumed-if they knew the Word of God, they knew God. Wrong assumption. You can know the Word of God and not know the God who wrote it. Believing the Bible won’t save you. Believing in Jesus Christ in the Bible will save you. In other words, they didn’t nail a book to the tree that awful day. The book won’t bleed. It takes a person to save a person. It takes the spilt blood of Christ to save you. Jesus said an interesting thing to the Pharisees one day. He said…

“…[Ye] search the scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life [but you don’t] and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life…” (Jn.5:39,40)

Interesting. The Pharisees assumed since they knew the scriptures, they knew God. But our Lord told them “…ye THINK ye have eternal life…” Then he concluded, saying in essence, “…but you don’t…” And then those awful words, “…ye will not come to me, that ye might have life…” Truly, one of the saddest passages in all of scripture. The Pharisees were too busy studying the Word to recognize God when He was standing right in front of them. They were too busy studying their scriptures. So God walked off.

The Pharisees didn’t understand-you don’t get life out of the Bible; you get light (Psa.119:115). Life comes from Christ--but they wouldn’t come to Him. They had their scriptures. But you can shine a flashlight on a dead person all day long and it won’t do him one bit of good. He needs a resurrection! He needs life. Then he can see.

In summary--our ultimate goal as Christians is not primarily to be correct in doctrine but to be rightly related to one another and to God. We can be right in our hearts while wrong in our heads. (Of course, the ideal is to be right in our hearts and in our heads.) But our theology can be all screwed up and God will still accept us and minister to us. I’m thinking of the woman who had an issue of blood and who thought if she could but touch the hem of his garment (Matt.9:21), crawling on her hands and knees, she would be healed. Her heart was right while her head was messed up. Who said we had to crawl on our hands and knees before the Lord would heal us?! The Lord knew her heart anyway and responded. He healed her. As one brother put it, “…the Lord can take a crooked stick and draw a straight line…”

I like that. And believe it.

What’s my point in this whole matter? Don’t judge me and call me a “heretic” because our doctrines don’t match. Because the two of us don’t exactly line up scripturally. Don’t ban me from fellowship and the Lord’s table if we don’t agree upon every doctrine. If Jesus Christ is the Lord of your life and if Jesus Christ is the Lord of my life, then we’re commanded to fellowship as brothers in the faith. As said, our fellowship is to be centered around His Lordship, not certain sectarian agreements. Paul and Peter, for instance, were at it all the time. Or so it seemed. They certainly did not agree on matters of doctrine (read Galatians) but they truly knew and adored the same Lord.

Let’s not make the same mistake the Pharisees made-pouring over our scriptures while God is standing unrecognized in our midst.

On to the second matter…

The Concept of Canonization

You write, “…to jump from ‘I agree with the doctrines taught there’ to ‘Because I
agree with the doctrines taught there IT IS THEREFORE DIVINE’ is not only the
height of myopic egocentrism but a gross sophism…”

I think our misunderstanding between us comes from perhaps our understanding of-the concept of canonization. Your understanding (without putting words in your mouth) is-the canon of scripture is based upon a list of God-breathed, inspired writings known as the Old & New Testaments. 66 books. That’s what most theologians refer to as a “closed canon.”

My belief is that the canon is not closed. God’s writings are still an “open canon.” He’s not through. Even John the Beloved said in the last verse of his matchless book:

…And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written…” (Jn.21:25)

I find that statement fascinating. If the Lord wanted to write more inspired books, he could. Even the world could not contain them all. That’s an open canon. Moving on…

Before I point out the two distinctions, (open and closed canon) let me be quick to say-I believe in verbal inspiration, plenary revelation, and inerancy of scripture. I believe the words of Paul, the apostle:

“…All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness…” (II Tim.3:16).

I believe the Bible, love every word it contains, adore its truths, use it as my road map to salvation and believe with all my soul-God wrote it. It’s God-inspired.

But I also believe the early saints looked upon the canon as a Rod of Truth (as a way of measuring inspiration), not as a list of books. In other words, the canon was turned from a rod into a list-man’s wisdom, not God’s. The word “canon” originally meant “rod” not “list.”

We must remember, the concept (canon as a list) became popular around the time of Constantine. A period when the Church became infiltrated with nationalism and worldly teachings. There were three councils that solidified the concept-1) the Council of Hippo, 393 A.D., 2) Third of Carthage, 397 A.D., and 3) Sixth of Carthage, 419 A.D.

I am asking a very fundamental question. Why was the authority to canonize limited to our Apostolic Fathers and to the early Christian scholars; i.e., Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, and Origin? Why limit canon authority to the early prominent Church fathers, Athanasius of Alexandria, Cyril of Jerusalem, Epiphanius of Cyprus, Amphilocius of Asia Minor, and Gregory Nazianzus of Cappadocia, Hilary of France, Rufinus of Italy, and Jerome…etc.?

Why did we put such faith in Church Councils? Was God in a rush? Can we be sure these men heard from heaven? Were they walking in the Spirit at Augustine’s Council of Hippo in 393 AD?

I raise these questions, for when I was studying for the ministry at William Jewell College, a Southern Baptist College in Liberty, MO, very little, if anything, was said of our early church fathers. We skimmed over the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th centuries-critical years. For years as a Baptist minister, I had no idea that for the most part, our early church fathers were a mess! The majority of our church fathers came from a background in philosophy. They wanted to be philosophers and prophets. For example, Justin Martyr (100-165 AD) a platonist philosopher never quite tossed his philosophical mindset overboard. Then there was Clement of Alexandria (150-215), pagan philosopher turned Christian theologian, who taught Origin at the Alexandrian catechetical school. Clement of Alexandria sees in philosophy God’s preparation of the human race for the gospel. “…Philosophy prepares the work that Christ completes,” says Clement.

Origin, Clement’s student, was a thorough-going Hellenist. According to Origin, cultivated Christians really think just like cultivated heathens, so that “…anyone would think either that present-day Christians are philosophers or that philosophers of yore were Christians…” The story of Moses seeing God is for Origin simply “…one of those old wives’ tales…”

And then there was Augustine who for twenty years absolutely refused to accept his mother’s Christianity-the God who might have a body.

Many of our church fathers believed only in a spiritual resurrection, not in Christ literally and physically raising from the dead. And I’ve merely mentioned two or three.

In a nutshell, our early church fathers tried desperately to “paganize” Christianity and/or to “Christianize” paganism. And failed miserably at both. They had yet to recognize that oil and water don’t mix. Never will. Neither does Christianity and philosophy.

Yet these were the men who shaped our present-day canon. They picked out the list.

Well…

I said all that to say this-perhaps turning the canon into a list of books was a product of man’s wisdom. I think it was.

Which brings us to this-if you embrace the canon as a “list” and not as a “rod” for measuring inspiration and Truth when spoken and written, then our paradigms are mutually exclusive. That is not to say-we are both not believers and brothers in the faith. It means our assumptions are at odds. Your statement,

“…to jump from ‘I agree with the doctrines taught there’ to ‘Because I
agree with the doctrines taught there IT IS THEREFORE DIVINE’ is not only the
height of myopic egocentrism but a gross sophism…”

presupposes that I believe in the closed canon (the Words of God are limited to a list of 66 books) when I don’t believe that.

Again, don’t judge me because our presuppositions don’t match. The Bible says, “…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved…” (Acts 16:31).

It doesn’t say-“…believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and match your presuppositions, and thou shalt be saved…”

Well…

I’ve rambled on for long enough. I go back to my original thesis:

I can only really say with certainty--once I was blind but now I can see. I too have seen the Lord.

With Affection,

Lynn Ridenhour

Posted by permission of Sterlin Allan http://www.greaterthings.com/Ridenhour

Last Updated on Monday, 17 May 2010 08:44  

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