Thursday, November 3, 2016

My Father

My father died today. He will be sorely missed. While in no joyous spirit (in fact, it seems surreal), this I recall: that he is entrusted to the same One as who was entrusted with the spirit of Christ. Now, Christ has been raised up to glory and will himself raise back the dead, since he has life in himself, given to him by the Father. God, do not delay, but 'yearn for the work of your hands.'

Friday, September 9, 2016

Letter: August 16th, 2016

August 15th, 2016

Dear ,
Recently, I was considering what the most important thing that can be known is, and I arrived at one of two options: (1) that God exists, or (2) God himself. That is, a fact about a person, or the person himself. One is a means to and end, the other is an end in itself. Given that, I asked a question that yields an obvious answer: Which is preferable in the sight of God, that we merely add another proposition about reality to our set of beliefs, or that we form a relationship with Him, as his graciously offers?

Of course, the latter. For, when the Scriptures speak of the restoration of all things, it does not merely say, 'And all will believe that God exists,' or, 'And God will dwell with men in order to make them know that he exists.' Rather it says that, 'God will be all things to everyone,' and, 'God will dwell with men, and he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death, pain or mourning; the former things have passed away.'

Mere factual knowledge does not bring such joy. It is the fullness of joy that we await, being described as that which 'eye has not seen, nor ear heard,' and which 'God has prepare for those who love him.' The former knowledge is easily to imagine; even atheists know what that kind of propositional knowledge would look like. But we can only get a meager glimpse at the coming glorious age, toward which Scriptures have just directed our hope.

And what will it mean to know God, and to thus be known by him? Truly, it is the fulfillment of our lives and the greatest state of affairs. It is not merely going to be subjectively great (as even delusions can feel), but it is going to be objectively great, for we will live forever and enjoy many goods, and, above all else, a relationship with God, the greatest good forever. Our (very good and objective) purpose will satisfied as we perfectly mirror the One in whose image we are created, expressing wondrously creativity, goodness and rationality. Forever we will love Jehovah, the only true God who is love.

Is this not the oneness with him, his Christ and all worshippers that which we hope for? (For what else could possibly be worthwhile if we miss out on it?) Or do we keep ignoring it and becoming distracted by trivial concerns which are of no benefit? I fear that in my own case the latter.

That is why it is good to realize that all else that are goods are inferior goods which cannot stand up on their own as places to lay our heart. Take for instance what is perhaps the second greatest relationship one can have apart from God, namely, marriage, a complete bodily, mental and emotional union. It cannot fill the void left by not having that which we can jointly have with the Most High. For no spouse can replace Jehovah and be a God surrogate. And in the end, marriage is a symbol of the union that Christ has with the Congregation; that is, a still higher union, which is what we yearn for, being as it is the unity between ourselves, all other believers, the Son and Jehovah the Father.

Is any token worth as much as that which it typifies or signifies? Or would you trade something of infinite worth for something of merely finite worth? The sensible answer is plain, yet in practice we might act contrary to it. (I know that I have.) In that case, we would be like a parched man, reading the word "water" written on a piece of paper and thinking that his thirst is now quenched; surely, however, he will perish without water. Likewise, anything other than God, who is revealed to us by Christ, in whom all are being built up as one, is not enough to quench our need for spiritual fellowship; only that which Christ, who said, 'I have true drink, and the one drinking will never get thirsty again,' and, 'Come take life's water free,' has can, for he reveals to us the Father, who blessed forever. Amen.

Beyond full comprehension, Jehovah sits enthroned in glory; above the highest heights and lofty angels, he reigns as the Creator Almighty, enduring forever. Yet from long ago he has said, 'I dwell with the lowly.' Yes, most amazingly, he is interested in us; he cares for us. We can know Jehovah. How awe-inspiring! Let this realization never become mundane or worn out. In stead it must be an exalted lodestar, more sure to us than the north star, more radiant than the sun, and more wondrous that the star-lit heavens. God says, 'Seek my face,' let us respond, 'Seek you face, I will' and praise his holy name, for we are assured that 'the pure in heart will see God's face.' And we can trust him, for there is no one else like him, 'not forsaking those trusting in him.'

Sean Killackey

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Letter: April 16th, 2016

Bellow is a letter I wrote back in April to some of my friends. I figured that I'd post it here for you all.

April 16th, 2016

Dear Friends,
            I was considering the significance of the death and resurrection of Christ recently, and this moved me to write this letter. I hope that you are doing well and enjoy it. There is nothing I want more than this, that your joy might be full on account of the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, and that your confidence in God might keep growing. If I could impart anything toward this end, then I shall be satisfied.
This good news of Christ, his coming, dying and being raised up to the right hand of Majesty, comforts me greatly. It is well attested, as I will go on to relate soon, and it alone is worthwhile. In it my heart rejoices, for I am compelled by the love of God, who, through Christ, reconciles me to himself, though, I was his enemy. Of what virtue shall I speak that Christ lacked? Or of what authority that Jesus did not have as God’s own Son? As a son of Korah said, “O you are the most beautiful of the sons of men and graciousness is upon your lips, and in your splendor and dignity abound!” Yes! he who was so rich became poor so that we who are poor might call on God in spirit and truth.
This good news is vivid in my mind, and its meaning deepens upon reflection; it excels me so much so at this time that I just have to write you, my friends. I must say, as did that son of Korah, “My heart is astir by a goodly matter, my words are about the King, so let my tongue be a skillful scribes stylus.”
Yes, he whose fondness was for the sons of men, he who always rejoices before Jehovah since before the world was, this is he who came for us. God sent his glorious Son to die a death of exceeding shame so that, by that death, we who were clothed in shame and apart from God, might come before the God and see his favor. Who can know this, yet remain silent; who dwells upon it, yet remains unmoved? Truly none, for ‘into all the earth the word has gone out,’ and my heart burns because of this, as did the hearts of those who talked to Christ on the road to Emmaus. Upon that road, Christ explained what the Scriptures said about him, which, if possible, I will try to note in passing in this letter.
Yes, put up with me a little while longer while I go on to express that which exhilarates me so much more than anything else. If only I could move your heart just as mine has been moved then I should be content. And if you find all the more pleasure in Jehovah, what more do I need? Now, let me go on to relate in brief some of the chief facts of the matter that give me the confidence in which I rejoice.
The Scriptures are right to speak of God’s great loyal love, which endures forever. For, in all things God reveals his love, but especially does Jah recommend his love to us in that he sent his Son to die. Even the righteous patriarchs had their errors, as did all of the righteous kings: David, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah and Josiah. So how should we fare any better than them who were not saved by their works were it not for the death and resurrection of Christ? Paul informs us that if Christ had not been raised up, then we are still in our sins and have no hope, but if he was raised up, we are saved. How, then, can we know that Christ was raised up?
Because the tomb was empty, even as the Jews conceded when they said, ‘they came and stole his body.’ And we know that the Apostles were not deceivers; even if they were inclined to be, they wouldn’t risk death and great shame by proclaiming that “for a fact the Lord has been raised up.” However, this very end befell many of them. Additionally, the disciples had appearances of the risen Christ. These were too numerous, occurred to too many people (including non-believers and opposers) at such different times for them to be mere hallucinations; they must have been actual appearances of the resurrected Christ.
However, some try to explain the empty tomb by saying that the body was stolen, not by the disciples, but by thieves. However, this is unlikely on its face, since there were guards there, just as the Jews admitted. Additionally, if the body was stolen, the Jewish leaders would have found this out in order to discredit the followers of Jesus; this they did not do. Others suppose that tomb’s location was lost and the empty tomb was not really Jesus’, but this is not likely, since the women followed to see where Joseph of Arimathea buried him (in one of his own tombs). Further, if the Jews did not know the location of the tomb, they would have said, ‘The empty tomb is not Jesus’ real tomb.’ However, what they said was that ‘his disciples came and stole the body while the guards were sleeping.’ Similarly, while some have supposed that the tomb was not empty, if this was so, the Jews would have said, ‘His tomb is not empty,’ and the Christian response would have been, ‘That is another body.’ But this is not what happened. By these things (and more) we know that that the God of Israel did just as he foretold he would do.
He kept foretelling these things from Eden to Simeon of Jerusalem, who, was told that he would see the Christ of Jehovah before he died. Yes, he spoke in Eden and to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob about a promised offspring. Jacob foretold that Shiloh (he whose right it is) would come through Judah; and Nathan foretold that he’d come through David. Ezekiel and Amos affirmed that, despite the destruction of David’s dynasty, God would fulfill this promise and give the throne to ‘he whose legal right it is.’
As it turned out this is David’s Lord, to whom Jehovah promised great things: that he’d be king-priest like Melchizedek forever, and that all things would be made subject to him. Moses similarly prophecies that a prophet like himself would arise. Daniel also speaks of this great King, who is the “Son of man,” who comes before God to receive a kingdom. This is the one, Gabriel says, who was born to Mary; in Bethlehem, Micah says.
Isaiah, David, Daniel and Jehovah all show that the Messiah would suffer and be crushed for the sins of other, just as Jeremiah affirms when he mentions a new covenant in connection with the doing away of sin, and then he would be raised up to glory. Which is what Jehovah showed would happen to his own Son, when he told Abraham, ‘please offer up Isaac your only son, whom you love so much,’ and Abraham reckoned that God could raise up from the dead.
Yes, this matter is attested to by many witnesses, so that we might be led to Christ. Therefore, we can hold with all confidence to that which was proclaimed since the beginning of the good news, that which Paul believed and which was spoken by the Apostles: “That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised up on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelves, then to James, and then to all of the apostles, then he appeared to upwards of five hundred brothers at one time.”
Additionally, though we see only a hazy reflection upon a metal mirror, we know that, whatever the meaning of God’s promises which have yet to take place, they are yes by means of Christ. This all was done by God, “so that those who live might live no more for themselves, but for him who died for them and was raised up.” And how readily we want to do this!

Sean Killackey

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Was the Fall Good? – Part One

Was the Fall Good? – Part One
By Sean Killackey
March 22nd, 2016
[Updated: April 23rd, 2016]

“Be fruitful and become many, fill the earth and subdue it, and have in subjection [all creation].” – Genesis 1:28 NWT

The scriptures say that “[t]he true God made mankind upright.” (Ecclesiastes 7:29) When Adam was made in the image of God, Eve too was made perfect. They were given one command, to procreate and to subdue the earth. (Genesis 1:28) Further, they were given one prohibition, they were not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad. (Genesis 2:17) They transgressed this single prohibition, which brought sin and death into the world – the Fall. Mormons affirm this, however, instead of regarding this as a negative event, they say that the Fall was a fall upwards toward the goal of eternal progression. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism says, “The Fall was not an accident, not an obstruction to God’s plan, and not a wrong turn in the course of humanity.” Is this teaching biblical?
This positive view depends largely on the plan of salvation, which was authored by God and agreed to by us in our pre-physical existence, and the supposed goal of exaltation, which necessitates the existence of a mortal and sinful world (to test us). The aforementioned work argues that “the Fall was a benefit to mankind. It was part of the Father’s plan, being both foreknown to him and essential to the human family,” and, “[t]he Fall was a necessary step in the eternal progress of mankind.” The purpose the Fall served was two-fold, to bring about a mortal state marred by sin, during which all mankind could come into physical existence and be tested, by enabling Adam and Eve to conceive to procreate, which they supposedly could not do in their pre-Fall state. We will refute these ideas.
Since the doctrines of premortal (or pre-physical) existence and eternal progression are wrong, the positive view lacks a strong foundation and telos. (See here, here and here for information on those teachings.) Because these needs no further elaboration here, we will begin by examining the absurdity of the command to procreate as it exists in the Mormon framework.[1] If I can prove that this command is absurd when viewed in the Mormon frame work, I can show the framework to be false, since Jehovah does not issue absurd commands. This is what we’ll do in this essay. In the second essay, we’ll examine why, despite the good that came about as result of the Fall, the Fall itself was still a wrong turn for humanity, so those who committed that evil act are not worth of the honor Mormons give them. In the third essay, examine what God’s purpose for the earth is, why the Fall was allowed to happen, and why the Fall was not necessary to achieve this purpose. Thus we’ll remove any remaining potential purpose for the Fall. Let’s begin.
Has God ever commanded an intrinsically unkeepable command? No. The idea, then, that he would command Adam and Eve to procreate in a state in which they could not procreate is absurd. When God commanded Israel to enter into Canaan, they were able to do so, which is why, when they did not, God punished them for their revolt. (Numbers 14:20-38) Further proof of God’s reasonableness can be seen in that he allowed the poor to give offerings of less worth that those of the rich; to demand otherwise would be to order something they couldn’t do. And, we recognize, the prohibition of eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad was likewise keepable. We also know that the command to subdue the earth, which was not meant solely for Adam and Eve, was startable by them, because they began to do their share of the work.[2] So why shouldn’t the command to procreate be anything but startable? Yes, all of these commands were intrinsically keepable; so it makes sense that the command to procreate also have been keepable. If it was, the Mormon theory fails. Let us consider some possible objections to this argument.
God gave Israel the Mosaic Law, which is unkeepable. So, what is so incoherent about him commanding the intrinsically unkeepable command to procreate? Nothing was intrinsically unkeepable about the Mosaic Law. Rather, every single command was keepable, but Israel as a people and as individuals chose to disobey it. For example, the command not to commit idolatry was keepable, which is why, when Israel repeatedly disobeyed it, God punished them.[3] (Would God have ever done so if Adam and Eve never procreated?) Thus a disqualifying difference exists between the Law and the procreation command which invalidates it as a counterexample to the notion that God does not command intrinsically unkeepable commands.
What of the commands for offering up sin offerings or to avoid ritual impurity? In the former case, one who didn’t sin would not be able to keep those laws, and in the latter one would undoubtedly transgress even if unintentionally, it simply would not be able to avoid getting ritually impure. Since God them commands things which were not keepable, there is no problem in him commanding an unkeepable command to procreate.[4] This fails, since the commands to offer up sin offerings were not incumbent on a person unless they first committed a sin that required that offering. They can be viewed as contingent commands, commands that are perfectly keepable. Ritual impurity is not sin. And we note that there is no unkeepable command to avoid impurity. If there was, we’d expect to see God command ‘you must not menstruate,’ but all he says is, ‘if you do, you must ritually cleanse yourself, if you don’t you will have sinned.’ Therefore, my argument holds.
What of the command to love Jehovah our God wholly? Or the command to be perfect since Jehovah is. They’re given to imperfect people and are therefore intrinsically unkeepable, so what is unthinkable that God would issue an unkeepable command to procreate? It is worth considering what Jehovah expected when he issued this command. Did he expect it to be fulfilled literally or absolutely? Take the example of David (before he sinned). Jehovah called him “a man agreeable to [my] heart,” but are we to conclude that David never sinned at all, never disobeyed his father or mother at all? (1 Samuel 13:14) Of course not. Yet Jehovah viewed him kindly nonetheless. Similarly, Jesus did not expect the Ephesians to be literally perfect in love or deed. He told them, “[Y]ou have left the love you had at first. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first.” (Revelation 2:4,5) They simply were expected to have the zeal and love that they as imperfect people once obtained to. This was acceptable to God and Christ. We can still accurately call ourselves ‘those who love Jehovah,’ even if we fail him. (Psalm 97:10) Therefore this counterargument fails, but my point stands.
Perhaps the command was not meant to be obeyed until after the Fall; the prerequisite of a mortal state was not in place, so it was not yet applicable to, or incumbent upon Adam and Eve, so not absurd. This counterargument affirms that if it was obligatory when it was issued, it would be absurd and not keepable, and affirms the necessity and goodness of the Fall. The problem with this argument is that, as shown above, the command to subdue the earth was keepable was already incumbent on Adam and Eve, as was the prohibition of eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad, so it seems most reasonable to say that this command was already in effect when issued. Consider the commission that Jesus gave his followers in Acts 1:8, where he said, “But you will receive power when the holy spirit comes upon you, and you will be witnesses of me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the most distant part of the earth.” The conditional aspect that is found in this command is exactly what is missing from the command to procreate. We ought to conclude that the command to procreate was incumbent upon them when it was given, to do otherwise would be ad hoc.
I think the point that the command to procreate is intrinsically unkeepable in the Mormon framework stands. Therefore, given that God doesn’t command the intrinsically unkeepable, yet commanded Adam and Eve to procreate, we must concluded that, any framework which makes this command intrinsically unkeepable is false; this means the unscriptural Mormon position.

[1] By “framework” I mean the teaching that Adam and Eve were unable to procreate in a premortal or Edenic state.

[2] Which, given the fact that Adam is shown naming the animals, we can presume he began. (Genesis 2:19,20) He and his wife probably did many other things in this regard that the Bible passes over.
[3] It was their choice that made the command unkeepable.

[4] I am unsure as to whether any Mormon would bring up this argument, since it seems very weak, but it is worth mentioning in case they do.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

April 14th, 2016

Blog Posts
I've been busy in the last three months, partly because of a new job, partly because I'm learning Russian, so I've had to let the blog take a back seat. I hope to start posting again in August or September, however. In the meantime, I'll repost some old posts, which you might not have seen. I hope that when I come back, you'll come back as well. Thanks.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Mormonism and Pre-physical Existence (Part Two)

Mormonism and Pre-physical Existence – Part Two
By Sean Killackey
February 6th, 2016

“Then God said: “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.”” – Genesis 1:26
As shown in the previous essay (here), the Mormon doctrine of premortal existence is seriously challenged by some of the specific cases that supposedly demonstrate it (for example, Cyrus, Jeremiah and Jesus). In fact, Cyrus’ example, specifically that he did not know God when he was anointed as opposed to the idea that God selects, or foreordains some for special missions on earth, when they exist in heaven, where they all know God, seems to implies that premortality is a false doctrine. Now, we will examine a few supposed general descriptions of premortal existence from which Mormons assert their doctrine is implied. We will examine Genesis 2:4,5, Numbers 16:22, and Ecclesiastes 12:7. Our primary source for Mormon beliefs will be the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.
Genesis 2:4,5 is used to support the notion that “all things, even the earth itself, had a spirit existence before the physical creation,” how? Because that passage (KJV) “says that the Jehovah God made “every plant of the field before it was in this earth, and every herb of the field before it grew.”” The “mystery” that the Book of Mormon elaborates upon and “solves” is: how can God create something before it is on the earth? Moses 3:5 answers, “I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually before they were naturally upon the face of the earth.”
This would be a useful interpretation, perhaps even one that opens up a hidden secret, were it not for the fact that the supposed implication of pre-physical creation arises from a now awkward construction in a translation last revised in 1769. The New International Version, last revised in 2011, renders Genesis 2:4,5 as, “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they created, when the LORD God made the earth and the heavens. Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground.” And the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, last revised in 2013, says, “This is a history of the heavens and the earth in the time they were created, in the day that Jehovah God made earth and heaven. No bush of the field was yet on the earth and no vegetation of the field had begun sprouting, because Jehovah God had no made it rain on the earth and there was no man to cultivate the ground.”
These two translations and along with the English Standard Version, the New American Standard Bible, the Holman Christian Standard Bible, the NET Bible and the International Standard Version among others, give no indication that God made something before it was on the earth. Rather, they all bring out the point that before God made plants on the earth, he made man on that earth;[1] there are not two acts of creation for plant life, one spiritual and the other physical. Just as Adam, who was made from the dust of the earth and had his absolute origin on that physical earth, plants likewise have their absolute origin in the physical realm, the only place where they were created.
Supposedly the doctrine that “[God] made the world, and all men before they were in the flesh,” as found at Moses 6:51 is an implication of Moses calling Jehovah “the God of the spirit of all people [lit. “all flesh”].” (Numbers 16:22) It is not, however, for Jehovah gives to all men their spirit, or the breath of life and has power over our lives; nothing more is implied by calling Jah “the God of the spirit of all people.” Since this is the case, just as there is no explicit support for premortality in Numbers 16:22, there is no implicit support for this verse – none that necessitates the doctrine at the very least.[2] If it did, would it not also imply that he procreated the spirits of animals? (If not, is he the God of their spirits in a different sense?[3] If so, then the Mormon interpretative framework admits that being “the God of the spirit . . .” does not require God to procreate the spirits that he is the God of.)
Ecclesiastes 12:7, which says, “The dust returns to the earth, just as it was, and the spirit returns to the true God who gave it,” is also marshalled for proof that we existed in heaven. God is in heaven, where our spirit, which is supposed to contain our mind, [4]  returns, so it would make sense that, because our spirit was given to our physical body, it must have predated it, and would, therefore, constitute a pre-physical man existing in heaven. This latter statement matches with the Mormon pre-physical premortal life,[5] so that doctrine must be true, right? No, for, as we have already seen, our absolute origin is traced to the earth, so even if the spirit is the location of the mind, it does not prove that we existed pre-physically. If the spirit is the location of our mind, it is never said to contain our mind before its joining with our physical bodies.
We can conclude confidently that the Mormon doctrine of premortality, with its implications that we existed pre-physically, and were literally procreated and can become like God, since he was like us, are all wrong. If they were right, we would be tasked with the impossible task of harmonizing why Christ is from heaven, yet we are not and explaining how a temporal infinite regress is possible.[6] But since such tasks are not possible, we must discount Mormon doctrine, preferring to stick to a biblically harmonious teaching, one that does not imply pre-physical and pre-mortal existence.[7]

[1] Some suppose that the two descriptions of creation contradict each other. They do not, as has been shown elsewhere, so this essay will not address that claim.

[2] Job 12:10 states, “In [Jehovah’s] hand is the life of every living thing [a]nd the spirit of every human.”

[3] True, the scriptures do not explicitly call Jehovah “the God of the spirit of all animals,” but they too are said to have the breath of life, or a spirit in them, and they are created by the same one who made mankind, so are we to say that he is not God over them?
[4] Psalm 146:4 shows that the mind is not in the spirit, for the thoughts perish when the spirit goes out.

[5] Though, even if this was true, it would not imply that God procreated us, or that he existed as we do, or that we can become gods.

[6] Since we were are said to have existed eternally in Mormon thought, this denotes that there has been an infinite number of instants prior to now. However, this is not logically possible (for example, you cannot build an infinite from a finite amount by adding a finite amount, or by multiplying it by a finite amount). That is why it is said that God was atemporal (without time and changeless) “prior to” (or sans) creation, yet temporal (inside of time) subsequent creation.

[7] Some may describe Adam and Eve before they sinned as immortal, but this would be using the weaker definition of immortal (never going to die) vs. the stronger definition of immortal (unable to die). Adam and Eve were already mortal before they sinned in the sense they could have died if they did not eat or breath; they were not self-sustaining beings.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Mormonism and Pre-phyical Existence (Part One)

Mormonism and Pre-physical Existence – Part One
By Sean Killackey
February 3rd, 2016

“Then God said: “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.”” – Genesis 1:26

Mankind, according to Mormonism, “[p]rior to mortal birth . . . existed as men and women in a spirit state.” Before even that, we didn’t even possess any kind of body, but “the intelligence [that now is] dwelling in each person” existed coeternally with God. (Doctrines and Covenants 93:29) Then, once given a spirit body, we became the literal spirit children of Heavenly Father and Mother in Heaven. Further, “[f]rom among those who were noble and great ones in that former world, the Lord selected those to be prophets and rules on the earth.” This is the Mormon doctrine (as articulated in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism and other Mormon sources) that we will refute today.
What is the basis for asserting that we existed prior to our physical existence? Mormons draw upon Jeremiah 1:5 and Isaiah 44:28-45:4, among others, to show that God knew us as persons from before we were physical and therefore assume that we were in existence before our physical birth. However, is it really necessary to assume that Jeremiah and Cyrus existed before their physical births just because God displays foreknowledge concerning such ones? No. Rather, it is clear that, just as God foreknew what these ones would do before they did it, he foreknew that they would come into existence before they existed.
In Cyrus’ case, it is evident that God is not talking about a then already in existence (non-physical) Cyrus just because he talks about him in the present tense in Isaiah 44:28, why?[1] For, while Jehovah calls Cyrus his shepherd, and logically you must exist in order to be or do anything, Cyrus was not actually Jehovah’s shepherd when those words were uttered, and therefore, all that the words indicate is that he had to eventually exist before he was to become Jehovah’s Shepherd. Thus, the use of present tense does not necessitate that Cyrus had a pre-physical existence.
Similarly, while Jehovah speaks in the present tense to Cyrus in Isaiah 45:1,[2] this it does not imply that Cyrus was inexistence before his physical birth, for Jehovah, when referring to events that were yet to happen, speaks in past tense.[3] The purpose of using past tense is obviously to denote the certainty of the things foretold; the use of past tense is figurative.[4] “Says to,” therefore, does not necessitate that the recipient of those words be present when they were spoken any more than figuratively using past tense to describe events necessitates that those events had already happened. Thus, the case of Cyrus is poor justification for the doctrine of premortal life.
And, while Jeremiah 1:15 records Jehovah saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, [a]nd before you were born I sanctified you.[5] I made you a prophet to the nations,” this furnishes no definite proof that Jeremiah had a premortal life. In what way did Jehovah know Jeremiah before his formation? Is it because Jeremiah is eternal, existing first as an eternal intelligence, then as a spirit man, then as a mortal? Or is because God has the ability to foreknow who will be and what will occur? The latter is much more reasonable given the rest of the scriptures (and their silence on the doctrine of premortal existence).
Mormon sources spell out the doctrine clearly, but at best, Mormons can only say that this doctrine is merely implied in the scriptures – a forlorn hope at best, as we have seen so far. Does example of Christ, whose pre-existence is clearly affirmed in the scriptures, might provide a refuge for this doctrine? No; appealing to his example it is rough going, since Christ indicates that his pre-physical existence was unique among men, which made him superior than them; other just didn’t have it.
Jesus, affirming his pre-physical existence, says, “You are from the realms below; I am from the realms above. You are from this world; I am not from this world.” (John 8:23) The question for Mormons is: if Christ, like us, pre-existed spiritually and then came down to the physical realm, why does Christ set us apart from himself? Didn’t we also come from the realms above? Maybe he is not referring to our origins when he says, “You are from the realms below.” Unlikely, for he is obviously referring to his own origin when he says, “I am from the realms above.” Unless he isn’t referring to his own origin, but is speaking figuratively, as if to say, “You are wicked; I am righteous?”  Not possible, for nowhere else does anyone use our place of origin to symbolize whether we are righteousness or wickedness.[6] Further, Jesus says elsewhere, “I have come down from heaven to do, not my own will, but the will of him who sent me,” thus showing that he uses “heaven” and “the realms above” interchangeably to show his literal place of origin. (John 6:38) This is backed up by Paul, who says, “[Christ] is from heaven,” and by the context of John 8:23, a discussion about who Jesus is and whether he is greater than Abraham and the prophet. (1 Corinthian 15:47) Jesus asserts that he has been in existence since before Abraham was. He says, “Most truly I say to you, before Abraham came into existence I have been,” thus showing that he is greater than Abraham because of his pre-existence. – John 8:58
What if Jesus is referring only to Abraham’s physical birth? He might be referring to Abraham’s physical birth (though the words “birth” or “born” are not in the Greek text), yet even then, this would still imply that Abraham’s physical birth was the start of Abraham’s absolute existence, since, earlier on, he referred to his absolute origin.[7] If Jesus was simply contrasting his absolute existence with something less than Abraham’s absolute existence, it would not prove the point that he was greater than Abraham. After all, according to Mormonism, everyone’s absolute existence predates Abraham’s physical existence! (And, if we all were eternal intelligences, no one absolutely predates another.)
To conclude our discussion on the evidence from Jesus, we see that he refers to our place of origin (earth) literally in contrast to his own (superior) place of origin (heaven). He considers these to be absolute places of origin. Therefore, when he says that he existed before Abraham was, he means this absolutely; both facts are fatal blows to the doctrine of premortality.
Commenting on those who come from this world, Paul says, “What is physical is first, and afterward what is spiritual. The first man is from the dust,” and “we have borne the image of the one made of dust.” (1 Corinthians 15:46,49) This is important for it shows that the physical body is first. Therefore, Adam began as a physical being – otherwise Paul would say, “The spiritual body is first, then the physical, then the exalted.” If he wished to do more than “imply” the doctrine of premortality, he had an excellent chance to do so.
Some might object to my assertion that this passage precludes us from having had premortal spiritual bodies, since Christ was once a man and was not physical fist, but spiritual. However, Christ is unique among mankind in this regard (as shown above) and his example should not be used to imply that we might also have been spiritual first even though Paul says otherwise.
Paul shows that Christ is the heavenly one, yet Adam, whose image were bear, the fleshly one! Yet, Mormonism implies that both were spiritual beings; if so, why is one called “heavenly” and the other, “fleshly?” Because, as opposed to the first man, Christ, the second man, originated from heaven;[8] Adam, whom we are like, originated from the dust of the earth.[9]1 Corinthians 15:47
In this essay, we’ve established that the Mormon interpretation of certain proof texts is problematic compared to a more straightforward reading of the text, which denotes nothing more than foreknowledge of things and people yet to be. Further, we have established from the evidence of Jesus and Paul that we are not pre-existent in some premortal spiritual state, but have our origin in this realm, and thus have not always existed. In the next essay, we will examine other proof texts of this Mormon doctrine to see if perhaps those can save it. They will not be able to; the implications of this for Mormons are profound. Their view of purpose, salvation and so forth are destroyed. If it is wrong, though, it is good to discard such beliefs.

[1] “The One saying of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd.’”

[2]“This is what Jehovah says to his anointed one, to Cyrus”

[3] “Whose right hand I have taken hold of . . .”

Some may try to object to my evaluation that the taking hold of Cyrus’ hand was a future event in Isaiah’s day. Assuming that Cyrus was pre-existent, they argue that Jehovah took hold of Cyrus’ hand in that pre-existent state. When Cyrus became Jehovah’s shepherd, Jehovah took hold of his right hand; each expression refers to the same thing, the anointing of Cyrus to accomplish God’s purpose. Therefore, we must see if it is possible for Cyrus to have been anointed before his physical existence. It is not possible.

Let us take the similar example of Jesus, who is the Messiah. If we look, we see many references to him as Christ before he was conceived, or before he was born, yet it is evident that he was not made Christ until he was about thirty years old, when he, the came forth to be baptized and was anointed with the holy spirit, as precisely foretold by Daniel. If we say that Jesus was already the Christ before he was thirty, then the Christ came before the end of the sixty nine weeks of Daniel’s prophecy, and therefore, Jesus can’t be the Christ. Such references to him as such before this time are spoken to denote the certainty his appointment, he was as good the Christ.

Connecting this back to Cyrus, we see that, just as in Jesus’ case, Cyrus was called “shepherd” and “anointed one” prophetically, on account of what he would be.4 He did not begin to fulfill Jehovah’s purpose until he began to subdue nations, therefore, even while alive as a man, he was not always Jehovah’s anointed one, yet Jehovah spoke with the certainty that it would happen (and it did).

If this is not satisfactory, consider Isaiah 45:5, which says, “I [Jehovah] am calling you by your name. I am giving you a name of honor, although you did not know me.” If we assume that the calling of Cyrus as Jehovah’s anointed one occurred in Cyrus’ premortal life, then we would be hard pressed to explain the fact that Jehovah says Cyrus does not know him. But, if we assume that it was in his physical existence that he received his calling, we would not be hard pressed to explain this verse, for Cyrus, before he started subdued kings before him, did not know of God. However, afterward, as is evidenced by his decree in Ezra 1:2-4, knew of Jehovah after assuming his role as Jehovah’s anointed one and shepherd.

If the choosing of Cyrus did not occur in the premortal state, the Mormon teaching respecting premortality is wrong, for they clearly say that “From among those who were noble and great ones in that former world [the premortal state], the Lord selected those to be prophets and rules on the earth.” Unless they argue Cyrus was chosen in his premortal state and yet somehow did not know God – I don’t see how that is possible.

[4] Other examples of this exist in Scripture, such as Jude 14,15. In Enoch’s day, Jehovah had not yet executed judgement against the wicked, yet Enoch speaks of him as having already come.

[5] Or, “set you apart,” that is, for his prophetic commission.

[6] Jesus does use “father” (God or Satan) figuratively, as symbols of whether we are righteous or wicked, as does John. If we are righteous we are from God and he is out Father, but if we are wicked, Satan is our father. His use of “realms below” and “realms above” is not like that in this context.

[7] Jesus’ human nature came into being in the physical realm (“the realms bellow”) and it was not in existence until two thousand years after Abraham’s humanly existence, yet Jesus the person and his absolute existence predates Abraham’s physical birth. Therefore, it must be to his absolute existence that Jesus refers to when he says, “I have been in existence,” which would mean that he refers to Abraham’s existence.

[8] Additionally, while called “man” in this passage, it is clear that Jesus is not literally a man anymore, for he is now “a life-giving spirit.” He is experimentally (according to experience) a man, but not ontologically (according to nature) a man.

[9] Note that Jesus, when he was a man, was also “made of dust,” yet he is not said to be of the dust, but from heaven. Therefore, we see that Paul is talking about absolute origins, meaning that Adam’s absolute origin is earthly.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

"You are a Priest Forever"

“You are a Priest Forever”
By Sean Killackey
January 25th, 2016
[Updated: February 3rd, 2016]

“[H]e has been specifically called by God a high priest according to the manner of Melchizedek.” – Hebrews 5:10 NWT

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is governed by the priesthood,” says Gospel Principles. To them it has always been in existence and is “always associated with God’s work.” The Mormon Priesthood is divided into two categories, the higher Melchizedek Priesthood[1] and the lower Aaronic Priesthood.[2] The latter of which is an appendage to the former. (Ibid, p. 73) It is safe to say that there is no more important a facet of that church than their priesthood. Therefore, the validity of their faith – not the subjective “burning in the bosom,” but their system of beliefs and practices – is contingent on the authenticity of their priesthood.
According to their teachings, the priesthood, while eternal, was not always upon the earth. the lack of faith of Israel in the time of Moses, led to the removal of the Melchizedek Priesthood (for the most part) in Old Testament times; the Aaronic priesthood alone continued. Similarly, following the apostasy of the early church, the “priesthood authority was taken from the earth,” To be restored in the time of Joseph Smith. Let us examine the activities and functions of their priesthood and compare it to what is known biblically of the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods to see if Mormonism is correct. We will start our examination by discussing the Aaronic Priesthood.
Supposedly, “[o]n May 15, 1829, John the Baptist appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery as a resurrected messenger from God and conferred the ancient “Priesthood of Aaron” upon them.” (Encyclopedia of Mormonism) In Doctrine and Covenants 13:1, “John” says, “[the Priesthood of Aaron] holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins.” It, “John” continues, “shall never be taken again from the earth.” Let us scrutinize this claim by keeping in mind two questions. First, was John able to confer this priesthood on another? Second, does the description of the “Priesthood of Aaron” in Doctrine and Covenants match with that of the Bible?
The Encyclopedia of Mormonism correctly notes that John the Baptists was “a descendant of Aaron through both parents and thus a Levite.” His Father, Zechariah, was a righteous priest in those days. (Luke 1:5,6) Therefore, they reckon that John was also a priest, which seems logical, since Aaron passed his office to one of his descendants, and the other priests did so as well.
However, not all of his descendants officiated as priests. The age to begin serving as a priest, while not stated explicitly, was around 25.[3] Five years after this age, we find John preaching baptism in symbol of repentance, which he did for a considerable time afterward until his death, instead of officiating as a priest. John was observing his role as a Nazarite and the promised “Elijah,” the one sent ahead of the Messiah. So, we see that just because his father was a priest, it did not follow that he was – though he certain was eligible to serve as one.
Further, even if he was not a priest, he could not have given the priesthood to another. Perhaps, instead of passing on the priesthood from his own authority or possession, which it is evident he lacked, he passed it on from God, the One who gave it to Aaron through his angel to begin with? That is not a viable solution, for it is still clear, as evidenced by its name, only descendants of Aaron could obtain to that priesthood (only one of which at a time served as High Priest). Certainly, not all Mormons who profess to be of that priesthood are descendants of Aaron.[4]
What of the duties of the so-called (modern) Aaronic Priesthood? “John the Baptist” says that the Aaronic priests minister to angels and preach baptism for the remission of sins, but Jehovah never gave such duties to the actual Aaronic priests. Angels are not ministered to, but are “sent out to minister to those who are going to inherit salvation.” (Hebrews 1:14) There was no baptism in Old Testament times among God’s people, the Molten Sea argument notwithstanding.[5] Priests had various jobs, including teaching the people, judging them, ritually cleansing others and offering incense. They also offered up sacrifices for the people’s sins, leaving no need for them to teach or preform baptism for the people’s sins. This would be a good reason as to why Jehovah never mentioned baptism for that purpose to Moses. Such baptism was preached and practiced (only by John apart from any priestly duties) to prepare the people for the then immediate appearance of the Messiah.
Most damning, however, is the fact that the Aaronic Priesthood has no purpose after the death of Christ, and that purpose which it used to have is not being performed by the Mormons who claim that office. Paul writes that, “[Jesus, i]f he were on earth, . . . would not be a priest, since there are already men who offer the gift according to the law.” The actual sons of Aaron still offered up sacrifices in those days and preformed their legal duties. This, though, was “a typical representation [or antitype] and a shadow of the heavenly things” and would end (Hebrews 8:4,5)
Perhaps, the older duties no longer needed to be performed, but the priesthood itself could still continue in altered form as it does in Mormonism. The natural response to this is: why keep the priesthood if its functions are so radically changed? Would it really be the same priesthood? Further, it is explicitly taught that when Christ came, he did away with the Law covenant, and that its priesthood, which was “weak and ineffective,” was thus “set aside” and replaced by a new one. (Hebrews 7:18) In addition to being weak, the Aaronic Priesthood (and the Mosaic Law which prescribed it) had to be replaced, since the High Priest “in the manner of Melchizedek” (not of Aaron) was not of the tribe of Levi, the only tribe from whence priests could come from.[6]
“For since the priesthood is being changed,”[7] wrote Paul, “it becomes necessary to change the Law as well.” (Hebrews 7:12) If, though, the priesthood remains forever, then it is not changed, so the necessity that Paul sees to change the Law would be nonexistent. Yet, Mormons argue that the Aaronic Priesthood remains forever, since the covenant made to Aaron and his sons was for ‘forever.’ (Deuteronomy 18:5) This is poor justification, since the words “forever” or “always” in Hebrew is not always meant absolutely. For example, a slave who wished to could choose to be his master’s slave “forever.” (Exodus 21:6) If, then, “forever” could be spoken of things with an end, the Aaronic Priesthood could end despite its seemingly everlasting nature.[8] We note, then that these two priesthoods could not continue on forever side by side; the former was abandoned in favor of the superior ne. With this in in mind, let us move on to discuss the Melchizedek Priesthood.[9]
Mormons assert that the Melchizedek priesthood existed before Jesus’ day. To them, “[b]efore [Melchizedek’s] day it was called the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God.” (Doctrine and Covenants 107:2; italics in original). This seems to be scriptural, for Paul says of Melchizedek, “In being fatherless, motherless, without genealogy, having neither a beginning of days nor an end of life, but being made like the Son of God, he remains a priest for all time.” But, what if there is a difference between the priesthood of Melchizedek and the priesthood after the manner of Melchizedek? Then, this supposed continuity would collapse, and the Mormon priesthood with it.
There is a difference between the two. Firstly, Paul simply uses Melchizedek as an antitype. In the scriptures antitypes of Christ or the new covenant bear semblance to what they represent, but are lesser. For example, Jesus is the Prophet like Moses, yet Jesus is worthy of more honor and has more authority that Moses. (Deuteronomy 18:15; Hebrews 3:1-6) Or, take Solomon or David; the pattern still holds, Jesus is like them, only greater. (Luke 11:31) So, the fact that Paul speaks of Melchizedek as being without ancestors or death is merely figurative. The absence of a genealogy and a recorded statement for Melchizedek provided a perfect antitype for Christ, who drew his priesthood no fleshly decent, but from an eternal life. Only Christ, not Melchizedek, who theoretically should still be a priest, can save us completely; therefore, we recognize that the priesthood of Melchizedek is inferior to that of Christ’s and is thus not a part of it. Also, unlike Melchizedek, Jesus does not – and, in fact, cannot – officiate as a priest on earth, so how could Mormon Melchizedek priests be priests while on earth? – Hebrews 8:4
In the end, Mormons do not officiate either priesthood properly, priesthoods they have not proper claim to. The issue comes to this, then: Mormons are part of a church officiated by frauds, pious frauds (in large part) no doubt, yet frauds nonetheless. The question that this produces is: if Israel was not spared even though they kept the (then newly defunct) Law and kept the actual Aaronic priesthood, how could can Mormons be spared?

[1] Jehovah’s Witnesses do not consider there to be such a priesthood. Rather, only Jesus holds that office. A priesthood implies more than one individual holder.

[2] Jehovah’s Witnesses call this the Levitical Priesthood. This term, however, in Mormon thought, refers to the Levites who assisted the actual priests. Therefore, when I refer to the High priest and those who officiated at the altar (as distinct from those Levites who did not descend from Aaron) I will use the term common to Mormons, “Aaronic Priesthood.”
[3] Levites began their service at this age, so it is reasonable to conclude that the same is true of the priests. Further, priests did not have an age of retirement, which the Levites did possess. – Numbers 8:25,26

[4] They are ineligible for this office, since it “depends on fleshly descent” and a now defunct “legal requirement.” Too, it itself is also a defunct facet of that Law. (Hebrews 7:16) You cannot keep the priesthood apart from its legal requirements, because the two are inexorably linked. Additionally, Numbers 3:10 states that any “stranger,” that is, anyone not of Aaron’s family, who came near the tent of meeting was to be executed, thus the importance of the legal requirement of fleshly descent is shown clearly.

[5] Mormons sometimes claim that the molten sea was made for baptism 2 Chronicles 4:6 does say that, “the Sea was for the priest for washing,” but it says nothing about them baptizing themselves or others. Rather, the connection was made to physical and ceremonial cleaning, for in that verse, “the things used for the burnt offering” were to be rinsed just as the priest were to wash.

[6] If the Aaronic Priesthood could have remained after Jesus assumed (not having previously) the office of High Priest (in heaven), the weight of the necessity that Paul says is implicit in Psalm 110:4 is reduced greatly. If, after all, you can change the priesthood, why did Jesus’ become high priest from a different tribe force the removal of the Mosaic Law? – Hebrews 7:12-14

[7] Changed, not in the sense of being altered, but in the sense of being replaced. Similarly, the Mosaic Law is replaced by the law of faith. – Romans 3:27

[8] “Forever” thus denoting something that would otherwise last forever, or something that lasts for a great length of time, but which will end.

[9] While the Bible does not show there to be a priesthood after the order of Melchizedek (rather, only one priest after the order of Melchizedek), we will talk as if such a priesthood is prescribed therein.