Thursday, July 9, 2009

Discussion with the Backyard Professor

As I’ve been looking over Michael Hesier’s works, I found myself amazed once again at the total mutilation by Mormon apologists of excellent biblical and historical studies. Kerry Shirts is among the predominant mutilators in this area. Kerry adores Hesier’s work on the Council of the gods, because it seems to fit Mormonism’s doctrine of the Plurality of gods. I’ve got news for you, folks…it doesn’t. Not in the slightest. Kerry would have us assume that Hesier promotes the plurality of gods as Mormonism understands it. However, as we dig deeper into Hesier’s research, the opposite is in fact true. I encourage, as an introduction, a reading of Hesier’s “You've Seen One Elohim, You've Seen Them All? A Critique of Mormonism's Use of Psalm 82” for both Mormon and Christian alike. David E. Bokovoy wrote a response to Hesier’s critique, which was followed up by the last word from Hesier. You can find this at the BYU website. That said, it should be quite clear Hesier’s research does not bring us to the Mormon conclusion of the gods. Joseph Smith never taught what accurate biblical and historical research shows, neither does the whole Mormon Church. So at this time I invite Kerry to close his eyes and scroll down until he thinks he’s reached the end, since Truth does not play a role in his work. For anyone else serious about this study, continue reading.

First, let’s take a look at a little something from Norman Geisler, B.A, M.A., Th.B., and Ph.D in religion,

“What is more, Romans 1 affirms that monotheism preceded animism and polytheism, affirming that "what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities -- his eternal power and divine nature -- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator -- who is for ever praised" (Rom. 1:19-25)…” (Primitive Monotheism)

He goes on to say,

“Contrary to popular belief, the primitive religions of Africa unanimously reveal an explicit monotheism. The noted authority on African religions, John S. Mbiti wrote of the 300 traditional religions, "In all these societies, without a single exception, people have a notion of God as the Supreme Being."6 This is true of other primitive religions as well, many of which have a High God or Sky God which reflects a basic monotheism.” (Ibid)

Let it be said here that in Mormonism there is no Supreme Being. Elohim was a man who worshiped his god. Eventually he got glorified. His god was once a man who became glorified, etc, etc, etc. McConkie tells us that the…

“plurality of gods exist . . . there is an infinite number of holy personages, drawn from worlds without number, who have passed on to exaltation and are thus gods." (Mormon Doctrine, (Salt Lake: Bookcraft, 1991), 576-577)

“It is the first principle of the gospel to know for a certainty the character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did; and I will show it from the Bible.” (Smith, HC 6:305)

"God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens . . . We have imagined that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea and take away the veil, so that you may see," (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345).

"Here, then, is eternal life--to know the only wise and true God. And you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves--to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done--by going from a small degree to another, from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you are able to sit in glory as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power." (Josepj Smith, The King Follet Discourse)

Obviously, from the “Prophet’s” own mouth, the God of this earth is not the Supreme God. So who exactly is this Supreme God in Mormonism? The Mormons don’t know. And if they do, let them declare his name. Their doctrine goes against reason and logic. The law of motion, for instance, alone refutes such a claim. Newton said an object that is not moving will not move until a net force acts upon it. It, motion, is the actuality of a potential. For something to be moved from the potential to the actual is by something in the state of actuality. .... I.E - Fire is actually hot. Wood is potentially hot. Fire makes wood actually hot. The world is actually in motion, and it therefore must be put into motion by something that is actually in motion. Something that puts something else into motion must likewise be put into motion, and that thing must be put into motion, etc. Obviously this cant go on forever, because this means there is not a first mover. Without the First Mover, no other mover can move, because they themselves are being moved.

Bishop Winchester once wrote in 723-24AD, concerning the polytheistic heathens,

"Whence or by whom or when was the first god or goddess begotten? Do they believe that gods and goddesses still beget other gods and goddesses? If they do not, when did this cease and why? If they do, the number of gods must be infinite. In such a case who is the most powerful among these different gods? Surely no mortal can know. Yet men must take care not to offend this god who is more powerful than the rest." (The Correspondence of St. Boniface)

Christendom has never gotten an answer from Mormonism concerning this particular issue, and I doubt Kerry will – or can – give such an answer.

Let’s get back to Geisler. He continues,

“Outside the Bible, the oldest records come from Ebla in Syria. And they reveal a clear monotheism declaring: "Lord of heaven and earth: the earth was not, you created it, the light of day was not, you created it, the morning light you had not [yet] made exist." This lucid statement of monotheism from such early tablets is an evident sign of early monotheism. It alone should lay to rest the idea of an evolved and late monotheism.” (Ibid)

But contrary to history and logic, Mormonism declares that multiples gods formed the worlds and the cosmos. To sum it up, Geisler says that “there is every evidence to believe that monotheism was the first religion.” (Ibid)

Hesier, in “The Divine Council”, tells us,

“Despite the facts that popular Israelite religion *may* have understood Yahweh as having a wife (Asherah; Hess), it **cannot be sustained that the religion of the prophets and biblical writers contained this element or that the idea was permissible**.” (emphasis mine)

This disproves already the Mormon claim that God has a wife, a Heavenly Mother. But Kerry will refrain from giving us that information, since he’ll be eaten up by his own praised scholar. In fact I think it’s insulting the way Kerry uses Hesier for his own devices.

Let Hesier be Hesier,

“In the divine council in Israelite religion, Yahweh was the supreme authority over a divine bureaucracy that included a second tier of lesser elohim (the bene elim, bene elohim, or the bene ha elohim), and a third tier of mal’akim (angels).” (Ibid)

What have I always said? Yahweh Himself is the ultimate Supreme Being and Authority over all the gods! He is their Creator, the First Mover, the one true God.

Hesier continues,

“In the book of Job some members of the council apparently have a mediatory role with respect to human beings…The vice regent slot in the Israelite council represents the most significant difference between Israel’s council and all others. In Israelite religion, this position of authority was not filled by another god, but by Yahweh himself in another form. This “hypostasis” of Yahweh was the same essence as Yahweh but a distinct, second person.” (Ibid)

This is clearly a bolstering piece of evidence for the Deity of Christ as on par with the Father, yet another fact Mormons deny. In Mormonism Yahweh, (or Jehovah) is Jesus Christ only, not God the Father. Hesier and other scholars all know and proclaim that Yahweh is indeed the God worshiped by the Hebrews. In Mormon thought, El – or its plural counterpart Elohim – is the name of the Father.

But Hesier says, “…Yahweh, the God of Israel, is identified with both El and Baal.” (The Concept of a Godhead in Israelite Religion)

But Mormons don’t truly view Our Lord as Yahweh, but instead as a lesser god. McConkie reminds us,

“I shall express the views of the Brethren, of the prophets and apostles of old, and of all those who understand and are in tune with the Holy Spirit.... Everyone who is sound spiritually and who has the guidance of the Holy Spirit will believe my words and follow my counsel.... We worship the Father and him only and no one else. We do not worship the Son and we do not worship the Holy Ghost. I know perfectly well what the Scriptures say about worshipping Christ and Jehovah, but they are speaking in an entirely different sense -the sense of standing in awe and being reverentially grateful to him who has redeemed us. Worship in the true and saving sense is reserved for God the first, the Creator” (Bruce McConkie, "Our Relationship with the Lord," 2 March 1982).

There is no adoration paid to Jesus Christ – but only to the Father. If Christ is Yahweh, He deserves all the adoration man can give. But Mormons fail in this area.

Moving on, Hesier writes,

“Many scholars have concluded that the presence of a divine council in the Hebrew Bible means that Israel’s religion was at one time polytheistic (there are many gods) or henotheistic (there are many gods, but one is preferred) and only later evolved to monotheism. Polytheism and monolatrous henotheism both presume “species sameness” among the gods. Henotheism in particular assumes the possibility of a power struggle for supremacy in the council, where the supreme authority could be displaced if another god defeats or outwits him. This does not reflect orthodox Israelite religious belief.” (The Divine Council)

Mormonism teaches that all men become gods, and will inherit their own worlds, powers, and so on:

"Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them," (D&C 132:20).

Hesier continues,

“The biblical data indicate that orthodox Israelite religion never considered Yahweh as one among equals or near equals. The biblical writers refer exclusively to Yahweh as “the God” (ha elohim; I Kings 18:39) when that term occurs with respect to a singular entity. Yahweh is the “true God” (elohim emet; Jer 10:10). The assertion points to the belief that, while Yahweh was an elohim, he was qualitatively unique among the elohim. The primary distinguishing characteristic of Yahweh from any other elohim was his pre-existence and creation of all things (Is 45:18), including the “host of heaven” (Ps 33:6; 148:1-5; cf. Neh 9:6), language that at times clearly refers to the other divine beings…Yahweh’s utter uniqueness to all other elohim is monotheism on ancient Semitic terms, and orthodox Israelite religion reflects this at all stages.” (Ibid)

Contrary to what Kerry wants us to believe, Hesier is giving us a clearer picture. Kerry foolishly wants us to believe – as does Satan who gave Smith his inspiration – that all the gods are of the same equal essence and substance. He calls them not ‘gods’, but ‘Gods’, implicitly stating what I just described. The fact is we’ve already seen, as Hesier agrees with me, that only Yahweh Elohim is the Supreme God, and the rest simply gods. But who then are the gods?

Let’s allow Hesier to answer for us,

“The lesser elohim are not merely idols. Deuteronomy 32:17, when understood against a broad view of Deuteronomy’s statements about gods and idols, nullifies this explanation: “They sacrificed to demons (sedim) who are not God (eloah; a singular noun), to gods (elohim) they did not know; new gods that had come along recently, whom your fathers had not reverenced. If the lesser elohim are demons, their existence cannot be denied. One psalmist (Ps 97:7), while mocking the lifeless idols, demands that the lesser elohim worship Yahweh, a puzzling command if there were no such entities.” (Ibid)

The gods are demons; at least, some of them are. The gods in the heavenly council are not Gods as we would understand the term. They cannot create nor act in supremacy over creation, since they are in all fact created beings themselves, created by the un-created Being, Jehovah God Himself. Neither does the biblical text implicitly or explicitly say that these gods know all and see all, but rather show numerous times how they are subject to Yahweh and worship Him alone as the One Supreme God.

Why then does Elohim demand that we worship Him alone? After all, He is one of millions of gods in Mormonism. Why doesn’t He, like His other brother-Gods, worship the Supreme Being, the First Mover that set Him into motion, and why does He not reveal to us who the First Mover is? Or are we sure Elohim is not some rebel god, an enemy of the Supreme Being?

The passage in Isaiah where God says, “Before me no god was formed, neither shall there be after me,” would be more clearly understood to read, “Before me no God was formed, neither shall there be Gods after me.” God makes it all too clear that there will never be any gods of His essence, substance, and authority. He alone is the only One who is Sovereign, and while He calls His ministers ‘gods’, He is clear that they are not Gods. They are gods, but not Gods. Divine because He caused them to be so, and pronounced over them, “I have CALLED you gods…” but they are not worthy of adoration, nor infinite as He is infinite. They had a beginning; He didn’t. They worship Him; He worships no one.

Kerry Shirts also makes use of the Dead Sea Scrolls to support his Mormon doctrine on the gods,

"Here is the newest info on the Dead Sea Scrolls that I think will astonish a lot of you. I found it very enlightening. Not the idiot in the video, but the information he shares - GRIN! It's my new series on the Dead Sea Scrolls and Deification of Humans and the Council of the Gods. It is the top row of videos, but Number one is the next row down and all the way to the left. THey post them backwards for some reason, sigh...... anyway it's in 6 parts and I shall video link them as replies so you can watch one right after another. Just click on the video response for the next one in the series." (Shirts)

I reply thus.

Using the Dead Sea Scrolls to supposedly substantiate the religious beliefs of Mormonism has its fallacies. First, according to Mormonism itself, God's true religion is not truly established upon the earth unless His prophet is there. The Essenes, the keepers and writers of the Scrolls [excluding the biblical texts], did not have God's prophet over them. Among their beliefs and practices, they did many countless ceremonial baptisms for a single individual, which of course the Mormon church doesn't do. Secondly, it's futile to cite non-orthodox sources to substantiate so-called "orthodox" teachings [in this case, the so-called deification of mankind according to the Mormon doctrine]. Orthodox Judaism had their primitive theosis, further developed by ancient Christendom - but this is distinct from apotheosis. How do we know apotheosis isn't in ancient Judaic thought? Because in Isaiah God says there are no Gods like Him, none that are His equal, of His essence or nature or substance. The contrast is found when in the same book when Babylon says, "I am, and there is none else beside me." (Is. 47:8,10). This doesnt mean there are no other cities, but that there are no other cities that are Babylon, either in name, size, power, influence, etc. Likewise, with God, though there be many that are CALLED gods [i.e., Satan, who is the god of this world], they are not ontologically one with El Elyon Yahweh Elohim. Thus when Moses' face shone with glorification, it is not the glorification as found in apotheosis, for this would make Moses ontologically one with God - even as the Pharohs were thought to be the god Osiris after death. Rather, this shows how Moses experienced theosis, a Union with God, a theosis-glorification. This is the same formula for all the OT and Christian saints who have obtained heaven. Fletcher-Lewis seemingly does not draw this distinction, but patristic scholars do. I think it is safe to assume Fletcher-Lewis is not a patristic scholar.

Another thing. I must admit I haven't read in-depth into Fletcher-Lewis' works, but from what I have read it seems to me he is arguing for apotheosis, a view which neither Orthodox Judaism according to Moses, nor the holy fathers of Christendom ever advocated. His interpretation of the biblical glorifications of human beings does not accuratly state the doctrine of glorification as understood by Israel or the Church. Even Mormons do not even regard the works of men who deny the historic validity of the BoM, even showing how the book has no historic validity. In fact, they have excommunicated quite a few BYU professors who, stumbling upon this truth, revealed this in their writings. So why should Christians be expected to believe the findings of men such as Fletcher-Lewis, who attempts to interpret the biblical theosis passages in light of a much later break-away sect from Judaism? In their context, this sect, the Essenes, believed and practiced quite a few things which were contrary to the historic Judaic faith, even though they have at the same time incorrporated many true elements of the same Faith into their religion.

In an attempt to prove the deification of man as taught by Mormonism, Mormons must attempt to prove out of the Bible and the historic Judaic thought, and out of the early Christian thought to make their claims seem at least important enough. But the truth is, no such "facts" exist for the Mormons on this issue. All throughout the Scriptures and Moses' Judaism, through the early Church, we find man's deification in the sense of theosis, not apotheosis. Looking at the sources of break-away sects does more damage to the Mormon view than good.

Let’s stop it here for now, since we have much more to cover. But in closing, let me just ask: If Mormonism’s concept of the gods is incorrect, what is the Christian concept?

Christians see these divine beings as simply that: divine beings. They are marvelous creations of God, but they are not Gods, as Kerry would have us believe. As Christians, we become gods too, but not in the same way that God is God. I encourage the reading of St. Thomas Aquinas concerning this subject, and “Ye Are Gods” by Fr. Michael Azkoul for an Orthodox belief. These explain the Western/Eastern doctrine of Theosis. From OrthodoxWiki:

“Theosis ("deification," "divinization") is the process of a worshiper becoming free of hamártía ("missing the mark"), being united with God, beginning in this life and later consummated in bodily resurrection. For Orthodox Christians, Théōsis (see 2 Pet. 1:4) is salvation. Théōsis assumes that humans from the beginning are made to share in the Life or Nature of the all-Holy Trinity. Therefore, an infant or an adult worshiper is saved from the state of unholiness (hamartía — which is not to be confused with hamártēma “sin”) for participation in the Life (zōé, not simply bíos) of the Trinity — which is everlasting.
This is not to be confused with the heretical (apothéōsis) - "Deification in God’s Essence", which is imparticipable.”

Mormonism preaches apotheosis, but Christendom theosis. In fact, the same source takes pains to specify that,

“The doctrine of theosis or deification in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints differs significantly from the theosis of Orthodox Christianity. The Mormons' belief differs with the Orthodox belief in deification because the Latter-Day Saints believe that the core being of each individual, the "intelligence" which existed before becoming a spirit son or daughter, is uncreated or eternal. Orthodox deification always acknowledges a timeless Creator versus a finite creature who has been glorified by the grace of God. The Mormons are clear promoters of henotheism, and the Church Fathers have absolutely no commonality with their view.”

The Second Response is found in video format here:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

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