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.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Mormonism and the Sabbath

Mormonism and the Sabbath
By Sean Killackey
January 24th, 2016

“One man judges one day as above another; another judges one day the same as all others; let each one be fully convinced in his own mind.” – Romans 14:5 NWT

“The Sabbath day is every seventh day. It is a holy day ordained by God for us to rest from our daily labors and worship Him,” says Gospel Principles (p. 13), a Mormon teacher’s manual. And the Encyclopedia of Mormonism comments, “When men and women are willing to work on the Sabbath to increase their wealth, they are breaking the commandments; for money taken in on the Sabbath, if the work is unnecessary, is unclean money,” and, “[Sabbath-breakers] are as rebellious as the children of Israel.” Therefore, the Sabbath is a present and incumbent, even if joyful, responsibility to Mormons. This position, though, is unscriptural.
The Sabbath of course is not evil. Jesus stated, “The Sabbath came into existence for the sake of man,” so follows that the Sabbath would have some practical and spiritual benefit for the observer. (Mark 2:27) Isaiah shows the benefits from proper observances of fasting and the Sabbath to the people of his day: the hungry are fed, the oppressed are freed, and the poor and homeless are helped, and Jehovah promises to bless them all. (Isaiah 56:1-14) So, if this is the case, how can requiring the observance of the Sabbath be unscriptural?
Plainly, the Sabbath is explicitly not incumbent upon Christians. It was not mentioned in the letter given to Christians in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. (Acts 15:23-29) Paul, as shown above, allowed people to choose their own position on whether they will celebrate it. And, while he doesn’t condemn the observance of the Sabbath, he never allows for the impression that it is necessary for Christians. Rather, he points out that it is among those things that are “a shadow of the things to come,” and condemns those that tried to enforce it in his day as trying to “deprive [others]” of “the prize.” To him, such ones were “not holding fast to [Christ].” He made the point they merely had “an appearance of wisdom,” and, while “a self-imposed form of worship,” required observance of the Sabbath actually belongs to “the elementary things of the world,” as does the idea that observance of the Mosaic Law as a whole is necessary. (Colossians 2:16-23) The requirement to observe the Sabbath, unlike the prohibition against murder, incest, fornication and blood, did not continue as part of “the law of faith.” – Romans 3:27-31
The disparity between what Mormons teach and what the Bible does is not on whether the Sabbath itself is good, but on whether it is required. Paul never condemned the Sabbath, for it, like the Law “is fine if one applies it properly.” How can it be applied properly? By recognizing what it stood for, the rest that God’s people can now enter into and enjoy, God’s own Sabbath. (Hebrews 4:4) If you choose to observe it, fine, but do not try to get others to do so.
Yes, while we “do our utmost to enter into that rest,” we do not ‘get burdened down with unnecessary things,’ nor do we ‘subject ourselves to such decrees.’ (Hebrews 4:11; Acts 15:28; Colossians 2:20) By doing so, we observe the greater Sabbath, the one that we must enter into, which is not on a particular day. Mormons, however, make the Sabbath part of God’s commandments. Our “level of salvation” is contingent on our observance of God’s commandments, which include the observance of the Sabbath, in Mormon thought. And a continual profaning of the Sabbath would prohibit one from “the fulnes [sic] of salvation.” This is clearly not what Paul taught.
While praying, contemplating spiritual things, and helping others – central aspects of the Sabbath – are all good, we can do them apart from the Sabbath. Therefore, any justification that could be derived from the command to “not [forsake] our meetings together, as some have the custom” (among others) comes to nothing. (Hebrews 10:25) Of course, Mormons do these activities on other days, as they should,[1] yet the commands and exhortations to do those things cannot be used to justify the required observance of the Sabbath. If it were otherwise, Paul would have been the foremost proponent of the Sabbath.
The Sabbath itself is no better than other days. We gather together, not because it is the Sabbath, but because we are told to. We pray, read and mediate, not because it is the Sabbath (even if we do it on the Sabbath day), but because those things are necessary. We help others, not because it is the Sabbath, but because we should “work what is good toward all.” – Galatians 6:10
The result from their teachings is that Mormons run contrary to God’s inspired word. Whereas they are right to say that we should pray, help others and come together to worship, they are wrong to conflate such things with the Sabbath and to restore other Sabbath day restrictions (for example, against buying or selling or recreation) upon us. The result is only “an appearance of wisdom,” but ‘the fullness of the shadow belongs to Christ.’ Such enforcers forsake (even if unintentionally) “the Head,” Christ.

[1] That is, if there religious services were scriptural. The habits themselves, at least in a general sense, are not wrong, though some of the particular facets of Mormon worship are unscriptural. (The pattern of worshipping God is not wrong, but how it is done is.)