Archive for the ‘Rob Bowman’ Category

A Response to Richard Mouw

BCT-Angel-Moroni5

by Robert M. Bowman Jr.
The May 2016 issue of the Christian periodical First Things (appearing online in April) includes an article Richard Mouw, President Emeritus of Fuller Theological Seminary, entitled “Mormons Approaching Orthodoxy.” As I will document here, the Institute for Religious Research figures largely in Mouw’s article even though he never mentions IRR (or me) by name. As the spokesman for IRR in past efforts by our organization to dialogue with and respond to Professor Mouw, I have a special interest in Mouw’s article and a direct responsibility to offer this response.

The focus of Mouw’s article is on the question of whether Mormonism is still committed to the view of God represented by Lorenzo Snow’s couplet, “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be.” Mouw’s main claim is that the LDS Church is quietly moving away from the notion that God was a mortal man who became exalted to Godhood in a process open to us as well. Mouw recognizes that this doctrine is incompatible with Christianity but insists that Mormons are doing what they can to retire this false doctrine.

If only it were so.

In this article I will be critically reviewing Mouw’s article, correcting the historical record, explaining the issues, summarizing the evidence as it pertains to those issues, and responding to Mouw’s arguments.

MouwInterview

Richard J. Mouw

Richard Mouw: Dialogue with Mormons but Not with Their Evangelical Critics
Mouw begins by giving a brief recitation of the history of the Snow couplet. Joseph Smith’s father had told Snow that he would become “as great as God,” an idea that Snow felt he came to grasp four years later, leading to his formulation of the couplet. He reports that Parley Pratt “not long after that” affirmed that “God, angels and men are all of one species” and that Joseph Smith taught that “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted Man.” (The order here is a little misleading: Snow composed his couplet in 1840, Joseph Smith delivered the sermon quoted in 1844, and Pratt published his book making the quoted statement in 1855.) Mouw admits that this view “denies an essential Jewish and Christian teaching,” namely that God is ontologically unique, a fundamentally different kind of being than humans, and that we will never become the same kind of being as God.

Yet Mouw argues that this doctrine, which he admits was taught by Joseph Smith as well as by Snow and Pratt, need not divide evangelicals and Mormons, because Mormons are at least in the process of abandoning it. As I shall explain, Mouw’s argument blithely ignores facts that have been presented to him and that flatly disprove his claim.

Mouw recounts the history of this controversy as follows:

I’ve been involved for a long time in an Evangelical-Mormon dialogue. When that dialogue began fifteen years ago, we were told by the Mormon participants that the Lorenzo Snow couplet has no canonical status in Mormon theology. I reported that assessment in print, arguing that the apparent denial of any ontological difference between God and man in the Snow couplet need not prevent Evangelical-Mormon dialogue.

Right away, Evangelical “countercult” groups responded in a sharply critical way. One issued a “Statement on Richard Mouw and Evangelical Countercult Ministries,” stating that “the evidence is voluminous that the LDS Church has been continuously teaching the doctrine of eternal progression, as it is commonly known, represented by the King Follett Discourse and the Lorenzo Snow couplet from 1844 right up to the present.” An extensive critique appeared in an essay by Ronald V. Huggins, published in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, “Lorenzo Snow’s Couplet: ‘As Man Now Is, God Once Was; As God Now Is, Man May Be’; ‘No Functioning Place in Present-Day Mormon Doctrine?’ A Response to Richard Mouw.”

Richard J. Mouw Apologizing in the MormonTabernacle

Richard J. Mouw Apologizing in the MormonTabernacle (2004)

This account is rather misleading. Mouw’s original statement denying that the Snow couplet had no canonical status in LDS theology was made in an email in late 2004, following his controversial remarks at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on November 14, 2004. On that occasion, Mouw accused his evangelical brethren of “bearing false witness” against Mormons in the way they characterized Mormon doctrine. In a subsequent email responding to challenges to his criticism, Mouw asserted that evangelicals in countercult ministry had misrepresented Mormonism as teaching “that God was once a human being like us, and we can become gods just like God is now.” Mouw claimed that this idea had “no functioning place in present-day Mormon doctrine.” Huggins responded in the article Mouw mentions, which appeared in the September 2006 issue of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society.1 That periodical, of course, is not published by a “countercult” group, but by the premier academic society of evangelical scholars. Huggins himself was at the time a professor at Salt Lake Theological Seminary and had published two articles on the Book of Mormon in the academic periodicalDialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought.2 Referring to Huggins in the context of a general swipe at evangelical “countercult” groups comes across as an attempt to broad-brush all evangelical criticism of Mouw as unscholarly. It also ignores the fact that many evangelicals engaged in so-called countercult work care about scholarship and that many evangelical scholars are supportive of countercult ministry. For example, Huggins himself has been a member of the board of our organization, the Institute for Religious Research, since before Mouw’s appearance at the Salt Lake Tabernacle.

In an attempt to frame the controversy as one stoked by “countercult” groups, Mouw claims that after his publicly asserting that the idea of man becoming gods just like God is now is not a part of present-day LDS doctrine, “Right away, Evangelical ‘countercult’ groups responded in a sharply critical way.” He then cites the “Statement on Richard Mouw and Evangelical Countercult Ministries.” However, that Statement was issued in April 2013, more than eight years after Mouw’s comment about Mormon doctrine (and more than six years after Huggins’s article). That is hardly “right away.”

Perhaps this is a good place to point out that Mouw made his critical remarks about the evangelical countercult movement without having engaged anyone in that movement in the kind of friendly dialogue he has pursued with Mormon scholars. He made no effort to explain to the evangelicals he criticized what he thought they were doing wrong. Between 2004 and the present he has not pursued such dialogue and has not welcomed overtures from those evangelicals who have expressed a desire to have such dialogue with him.

Talking With The Mormons Front Cover

“Talking with Mormons” by Richard J. Mouw (2012)

The Statement on Richard Mouw and Evangelical Countercult Ministries3 was prompted not by Mouw’s email in 2004 but by his very public campaign in 2012 and early 2013 to promote the notion that Mormonism was moving away from the doctrine of God and man as the same species. In 2012 Mouw published a book entitled Talking with Mormons that criticized the way most evangelicals have viewed Mormonism. That same year and in early 2013 he made some public appearances with LDS scholar Robert Millet in which the two of them discussed some of the subjects addressed in Mouw’s book. In effect, the book and appearances were a public relations campaign to argue that evangelicals should view Mormonism in a more positive way religiously and theologically. In both the book and his public appearances, Mouw expanded on his claim that evangelical “countercult” organizations were misrepresenting Mormon doctrine, especially with regard to the issue of the nature of God.

In early 2013, the Institute for Religious Research reached out to Mouw and attempted to pursue dialogue with him about his critical stance toward countercult ministry. On February 14 of that year I sent to Mouw on behalf of IRR a three-page letter along with a 36-page documentation packet that had been specially prepared to address the comments he had made regarding the LDS doctrine of God and man. Perhaps I might mention that I am a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary (1981), where Mouw later served as president, and I had met with Mouw in his office at Fuller and discussed Mormonism with him in about 2001. After receiving no response to my letter, I sent Mouw a follow-up letter on March 14, which was answered by an email to me from Mouw on April 9. Mouw declined our invitation to dialogue, complaining about a number of things he thought we had said about him. After I responded with an email explaining that we had made none of the statements to which he took offense, Mouw wrote back and admitted that he had indeed confused us with someone else. However, he still chose not to engage us in dialogue or even to respond to the documentation we had provided him.

In the wake of Mouw’s unwillingness to participate in dialogue with evangelicals on the subject of Mormonism whose views he had been criticizing for years, we had a lengthy discussion on the matter at the Evangelical Ministries to New Religions conference in April 2013. EMNR is a consortium of evangelical organizations and researchers who are committed to supporting Christians in mission to people in a variety of new religious movements, including Mormonism. On April 12, 2013, EMNR issued a statement (which I drafted) responding to Mouw. After explaining briefly why we disagreed with Mouw’s comments about Mormonism, the statement concluded as follows:

"Talking Mormon Doctrine" edited by Richard J. Mouw and Robert L. Millet (circa 2015)

“Talking Mormon Doctrine” edited by Richard J. Mouw and Robert L. Millet (2015)

Evangelical Ministries to New Religions applauds Dr. Mouw for his salutary call for Christian civility and his thoughtful engagement in dialogue with Mormon scholars and leaders. At the same time, EMNR respectfully yet strongly disagrees with Dr. Mouw’s generalizations about evangelicals misrepresenting Mormon beliefs and practices, and specifically with his own misrepresentation of the standard LDS doctrine of eternal progression as “folk Mormonism” having no official or functioning place in Mormon belief today. We invite Dr. Mouw to engage evangelical ministries to Mormons in general, and those of us who are part of EMNR in particular, in the same kind of civil dialogue he has rightly championed between evangelicals and Mormons. Furthermore, we encourage Latter-day Saints to engage a wider circle of evangelicals in open and candid dialogue.

Mouw has never taken us up on this invitation.

Ironically, Mouw continues to claim, as he did in his 2012 book, that unnamed evangelical critics of Mormonism disagree with him because they are closed in principle to engaging Mormons in respectful dialogue. Here is how he put it in his book:

Again, there are many evangelicals who are convinced that those of us on the evangelical side who are involved in these dialogues have been duped by the Mormons. Worse than that, they’re convinced that by engaging in friendly—and hopeful—dialogue with representatives of Mormonism, we’re hurting the cause of the gospel…. Promoting the idea of friendly dialogue with Mormons isn’t a popular thing to do.4

In his recent article in First Things, Mouw again criticizes unnamed evangelicals who think dialogue with Mormons is impossible:

At stake in this dispute is a choice between two approaches to Mormon teachings and practice. One is skeptical and presumes that Mormonism is a ­deeply heretical form of Christianity, so much so that dialogue is impossible. The other is more trusting and is willing to entertain the possibility that Mormonism has the resources for theological self-criticism and self-correction, and that dialogue might help in this process.

I do not know of a single evangelical in “countercult” ministry who thinks that dialogue with Mormons is a bad idea, let alone that it is impossible. Indeed, every such evangelical I know seeks opportunities to engage Mormons in dialogue. It seems here that Mouw is using the term “dialogue” as code for something else. Note that Mouw’s comment implies that he disagrees about Mormonism being “deeply heretical.” This implication is confirmed by the title of his article, “Mormons Approaching Orthodoxy.”

President George W. Bush (right) meets with the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during his visit to Salt Lake City. Seated clockwise are: the late Gordon B. Hinckley, President; Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor (obscured); James E. Faust, Second Counselor (obscured), and F. Michael Watson, Executive Secretary.

President George W. Bush (right) meets with the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during a visit to Salt Lake City in 2008. Seated clockwise are: the late Gordon B. Hinckley, President; Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor (obscured); James E. Faust, Second Counselor (obscured), and F. Michael Watson, Executive Secretary.

The Real Issue: What Do Mormons Actually Teach?
Here’s what is really “at stake in this dispute.” It is a choice between accepting what official LDS Church publications and its leading theologians actually teach their members or accepting what Richard Mouw says he thinks is happening based on his conversations with his “Mormon friends” despite the public record of LDS Church teaching.5 Mouw gives lip service to the importance of considering what the LDS Church teaches its own members when he writes, “The test for me is not what Mormons say to me, but what they say to each other.”6 However, he doesn’t actually show that this is the basis on which he has formed his theological judgments about Mormonism. Instead, he repeatedly appeals to the assurances of his Mormon friends, as in the following telling comment:

Mormonism is often portrayed as a self-deification program—and not without some legitimacy, given the popularity of the Lorenzo Snow couplet: “What Man now is, God once was; what God now is, Man may become.” My Mormon friends are quick to point out, however, that this couplet has no official canonical status—indeed, Gordon Hinckley famously told Time magazine that he had no idea what it means to say “As God is, man may become.”7

With all due respect, what Mouw’s Mormon friends told him carries no authority as far as defining what has official or canonical status in Mormonism. Gordon Hinckley’s statement to Time magazine also does not pass what Mouw himself says is the test, which is what Mormons say to each other—not what they say to the secular media.

Yet there is more to the story with regard to Hinckley’s supposed denial of the doctrine. As we explain in a separate article,8 Hinckley did not disavow any understanding of the Snow couplet. We will summarize the issue briefly here. In Hinckley’s 1997 interview, he was asked, “Is this the teaching of the church today, that God the Father was once a man like we are?” Here is what he said:

I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it. I haven’t heard it discussed for a long time in public discourse. I don’t know. I don’t know all the circumstances under which that statement was made. I understand the philosophical background behind it. But I don’t know a lot about it and I don’t know that others know a lot about it.9

In saying that he didn’t “know a lot about it,” Hinckley was admitting implicitly that he did know something about it, while at the same time saying that Mormonism doesn’t provide much in the way of details about God the Father’s life before he became a God. Thus, Hinckley was not suggesting that the doctrine expressed in the Snow couplet was not part of Mormon doctrine. It may not be something the LDS Church emphasized, but it is still part of their belief system.

In his recent First Things article, Mouw interprets Hinckley’s remarks as “signaling a decision on the part of the Mormon leadership to downplay the Snow couplet within the corpus of Mormon teachings about the deity,” suggesting that they are “interested in joining the broad Jewish and Christian consensus that God is ontologically different from man—or at least that Mormons today don’t want to directly contradict that consensus.” Since Hinckley’s comment to Time was made in 1997, we have had nearly twenty years to see if the LDS Church actually has pivoted away from its earlier doctrine. The record of the past twenty years demonstrably contradicts Mouw’s interpretation. Some of the evidence comes from sources surprisingly close to Mouw himself.

BYU Professor Robert L. Millet

BYU Professor Robert L. Millet

Robert Millet: God Was Once a Mortal Being
If Gordon Hinckley was signaling in 1997 that the LDS Church was moving away from the doctrine that God was once a man as taught by Joseph Smith and Lorenzo Snow, Mouw’s LDS friend Robert Millet did not get the message. The very next year Millet and Noel Reynolds, another BYU scholar, published a short book addressing “10 basic issues” including number 6, “What do Latter-day Saints mean when they say that God was once a man?” After quoting approvingly both the King Follett Discourse and the Snow couplet, Millet and Reynolds wrote:

That God was once a mortal being is in no way inconsistent with the fact that he now has all power and all knowledge and possesses every virtue, grace, and godly attribute. He acquired perfection through long periods of growth, development, and progression, “by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation,” as Joseph Smith explained…. Not much has been revealed about this concept beyond the fact that God was once a man and that over a long period of time he gained the knowledge, power, and divine attributes necessary to know all things and have all power…. These doctrines are not clearly stated in the Bible. Mormons believe, however, that this knowledge was once had among the ancients and that it has been restored through modern prophets.10

This is not the only place where Millet has affirmed the doctrine of the King Follett Discourse and the Snow couplet. In his 2005 book A Different Jesus? The Christ of the Latter-day Saints, Millet offered the following comments for the benefit primarily of evangelical readers:

The tougher issue for many Christians to deal with is the accompanying doctrine set forth in the King Follett Sermon and the Lorenzo Snow coupletnamely, that God was once a man. Latter-day scriptures state unequivocally that God is a man, a Man of Holiness (Moses 6:57) who possesses a body of flesh and bones (D&C 130:22). These concepts are clearly a part of the doctrinal restoration. We teach that man is not of a lower order or different species than God. This, of course, makes many of our Christian friends extremely nervous (if not angry), for it appears to them that we are lowering God in the scheme of things and thus attempting to bridge the Creator/creature chasm.11

Mouw definitely knew about this statement from Millet, because Mouw wrote a foreword and afterword to the book! Moreover, in his afterword Mouw acknowledged that Mormonism teaches that we human beings are of the same species as God:

At the heart of our continuing disagreements, I am convinced, are very basic worldview issues. Judaism and Christianity have been united in their insistence that the Creator and the creation—including God’s human creatures—are divided by an unbridgeable “being” gap. God is the “Wholly Other”—eternal and self-sufficient—who is in a realm of existence that is radically distinct from the creation that was brought into being out of nothing by God’s sovereign decree. On this view of things, to confuse the Creator’s being with anything in his creation is to commit the sin of idolatry. Mormons, on the other hand, talk about God and humans as belonging to the same “species.” Inevitably, then, the differences are described, not in terms of an unbridgeable gap of being, but in the language of “more” and “less.”12

Mouw and Millet were obviously working on this book in 2004 (if not before) in order for it to be published in 2005. This means that at the time Mouw spoke at the Salt Lake Tabernacle in November 2004 and shortly thereafter sent out an email claiming that the doctrine epitomized in Snow’s couplet had “no functioning place in present-day Mormon doctrine,” Mouw knew that in fact that doctrine was “clearly a part of the doctrinal restoration,” as Millet put it in his book. Less than a year after Mouw had denied that the doctrine had any functioning place in current Mormon doctrine, a book appeared clearly affirming that very doctrine as part of the Mormon doctrinal restoration, with a foreword and afterword by Mouw himself. Mouw’s own statement that in Mormon belief God and humans are members of the same species clearly presupposes the doctrine that God was once a mortal man like us who then became a God and that we as his children can do the same.

"Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow" official LDS Church manual (circa 2012)

“Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow” official LDS Church manual (2012)

God Was Once a Man: It’s Still Being Taught
The doctrine of eternal progression—that God the Father was once a mortal man, that he became a God, and that we can become Gods like him—has continued to be taught by Mormons right up to the present. In his May 2016 article in First Things, Mouw devotes several paragraphs to explaining why the inclusion of the Snow couplet in the 2012 curriculum manual Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow, part of a series of manuals on the past presidents of the LDS Church, was not necessarily endorsing the first half of the couplet. According to Mouw, the discussion of the couplet in the manual focuses entirely on the second half, neither affirming nor denying the first half. Mouw’s analysis of this particular manual’s treatment of the Snow couplet has some weaknesses, but the bigger point to be made is that this is only one of many publications of the past twelve years in which the LDS Church has reaffirmed the validity of the Snow couplet, the King Follett Discourse, and the traditional LDS doctrine of eternal progression. As I pointed out to Mouw in my first letter to him in 2012:

The 2004 manual Teaching Seminary Preservice Readings Religion 370, 471, and 475 stated that “there are approved and inspired writings that are not in the standard works” that “also are true and should be used along with the scripturesthemselves,” among the five most important of which it says are “the ‘King Follett Sermon’ and the ‘Sermon in the Grove.’” At least eight teaching manuals currently available on LDS.org teach the King Follett Discourse, the Lorenzo Snow couplet, or (in most cases) both, including six manuals published since 2003.13

For example, the LDS curriculum manual Doctrines of the Gospel Teacher Manual (2011), which is still on the official LDS website, states:

What we know about God is limited to what he has chosen to tell us through his prophets. The Prophet Joseph Smith’s first vision in 1820 (see Joseph Smith—History 1:11–20) and the famous King Follett discourse given shortly before Joseph’s martyrdom in 1844 (see Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 343–62) are significant doctrinal teachings on the nature of God. From the beginning of his ministry until its end, the Prophet shared his increasing understanding of his Heavenly Father…. In the King Follett discourse, Joseph Smith declared that the first principle of the gospel consists of knowing the character of God. Joseph taught that God “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” (Teachings, p. 346…).14

In 2014, the LDS Church posted a “Gospel Topics” article on its website with the title “Becoming Like God.” Here is some of what that article stated:

What kind of a being is God?” he asked. Human beings needed to know, he argued, because “if men do not comprehend the character of God they do not comprehend themselves.” In that phrase, the Prophet collapsed the gulf that centuries of confusion had created between God and humanity. Human nature was at its core divine. God “was once as one of us” and “all the spirits that God ever sent into the world” were likewise “susceptible of enlargement.” Joseph Smith preached that long before the world was formed, God found “himself in the midst” of these beings and “saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself” and be “exalted” with Him…. Since that sermon, known as the King Follett discourse, the doctrine that humans can progress to exaltation and godliness has been taught within the Church. Lorenzo Snow, the Church’s fifth President, coined a well-known couplet: “As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be.” Little has been revealed about the first half of this couplet, and consequently little is taught. When asked about this topic, Church President Gordon B. Hinckley told a reporter in 1997, “That gets into some pretty deep theology that we don’t know very much about.” When asked about the belief in humans’ divine potential, President Hinckley responded, “Well, as God is, man may become. We believe in eternal progression. Very strongly.15

The above statement provides a convenient basis for a review of the main points that have been made here:

  • The LDS Church continues to cite approvingly both the King Follett Discourse and the Lorenzo Snow couplet. Mouw’s claim that the Snow couplet or the idea it expresses has “no functioning place in present-day Mormon doctrine” is still false.
  • Joseph Smith is credited with having “collapsed the gulf…between God and humanity” found in traditional (orthodox) Christian theology. The statement here, in attributing that “gulf” to “centuries of confusion,” obviously is approving of and affirming Joseph’s teaching that collapsed that gulf.
  • The LDS Church affirms here that human nature is divine; this is another way of saying that God and humans are the same kind or species of being, albeit at very different stages of development.
  • Hinckley’s point that not much is known about God’s life before becoming God is affirmed. To say that little has been revealed or is taught about this doctrine is not to deny that the doctrine exists. The LDS Church is still committed to teaching that God was once a man like us and became exalted to Godhood, even though it has little more to say about the matter than that.
  • The LDS Church also affirms strongly the doctrine of eternal progression, which includes the idea that human beings can become like God in his essential attributes. God is an exalted man, and we who are mortals can likewise become exalted like him. This doctrine clearly goes outside the boundaries of orthodox theology, according to which redeemed human beings will become like God morally (perfect in love, holiness, etc.) and become immortal but will not become ontologically the same kind of being as God.

Toward the end of his First Things article, Mouw writes:

My own sense is that many in the LDS community, including several of its leaders, recognize that the first half of the Snow couplet, the statement about God having been like man, is incompatible with what they genuinely want to sing about: spiritual reliance on the all-sufficient Savior. They also see that it works against the spiritual outlook they want to nurture in new generations of Mormons. Evangelicals may wish for an explicit denial by the LDS leadership of the first half of the couplet. But it is important to recognize that another option—to be sure, a less stabilizing one theologically—is simply to ignore that first half and focus on the second and potentially more orthodox half in what is affirmed and taught in Mormonism.

Joseph Smith delivering The King Follett Discourse on April 7, 1844 at Spring General Conference.

Joseph Smith delivering The King Follett Discourse on April 7, 1844 at Spring General Conference.

Up to now, what Mouw says is his “sense” conflicts with the direct statements made by the LDS Church’s leaders, curriculum manuals, and official website statements. The LDS Church continues to affirm the validity and truth of the first half of the Snow couplet even while acknowledging that it does not have anything to offer in the way of elaboration or details as to what God the Father’s life was like or what he did prior to attaining Godhood. The problem here is not merely that the LDS Church has yet to repudiate or explicitly deny the first half of the couplet. The problem is that it continues to affirm its validity, as well as the validity of Joseph Smith’s teaching along the same lines in the King Follett Discourse.

Thus, there is simply no basis for thinking that Mormonism is “approaching orthodoxy.” There has been no significant theological change on the controversial issue at hand. At the very time that Richard Mouw began asserting (in 2004) that the idea of God as a former mortal man had no functioning place in contemporary Mormon doctrine, he was working with Mormon theologian Robert Millet getting his book published by a Christian publisher (Eerdmans), and even writing a foreword and afterword to it, that flatly contradicted Mouw’s claim.

Mouw’s claim about the Snow couplet and eternal progression was refuted by Ronald Huggins in his excellent 2006 article. In the ten years that have passed since that time, Mouw has not rebutted Huggins or offered anything along the lines of a scholarly treatment of the subject. Meanwhile, throughout those ten years the LDS Church has repeatedly reaffirmed their belief in the theology set forth in the King Follett Discourse and epitomized in Lorenzo Snow’s couplet. Except for the 2012 manual on Lorenzo Snow, Mouw has yet to comment on any of the documentary evidence that contradicts his claim.

Forced to choose between accepting Mouw’s assurance that the sense he gets from his Mormon friends is that they would like to abandon the doctrine that God was once a man like us or accepting what the LDS Church’s leaders and theologians (including some of Mouw’s friends!) say is their position on the subject, the only reasonable course is to accept what the Mormons themselves say. Mouw may have his reasons for taking the position he does, and he may sincerely think he is doing the right thing. Regardless, the truth is that Mormon doctrine still stands opposed to the orthodox Christian belief that God is ontologically unique and radically different from his creation. Genuine dialogue between evangelicals and Mormons must begin by coming to terms with what each other actually believes.

Richard J. Mouw

Richard J. Mouw

NOTES
1. Ronald V. Huggins, “Lorenzo Snow’s Couplet: ‘As Man Now Is, God Once Was; As God Now Is, Man May Be’; ‘No Functioning Place in Present-Day Mormon Doctrine?’ A Response to Richard Mouw,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 49/3 (Sept. 2006): 549-68.
2. Ronald V. Huggins, “Did the Author of 3 Nephi Know the Gospel of Matthew?” Dialogue 30 (1997): 137-48; “‘Without a Cause’ and ‘Ships of Tarshish’: A Possible Contemporary Source for Two Unexplained Readings from Joseph Smith.” Dialogue 36 (2003): 157-79.
3. The statement is available on IRR’s website: see “Statement on Richard Mouw and Evangelical Countercult Ministries,” Evangelical Ministries to New Religions, 13 April 2013.
4. Richard J. Mouw, Talking with Mormons: An Invitation to Evangelicals (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012), 41.
5. Mouw’s book Talking with Mormons makes references to his Mormon “friends” over twenty times. By contrast, he cites Joseph Smith only twice and has only one or two other references to authoritative LDS sources.
6. Mouw, Talking with Mormons, 41.
7. Ibid., 55.
8. Robert M. Bowman Jr., “Gordon Hinckley, Richard Mouw, and Eternal Progression” (IRR, 2016).
9. This is the full answer in the unedited transcript provided to IRR by the interviewer for Time, Richard N. Ostling, and quoted in Luke P. Wilson and Joel B. Groat, “Dodging and Dissembling Prophet?” (IRR, 1997). See David Van Biema, “Kingdom Come: Salt Lake City was just for starters,” Time, 4 Aug. 1997.10. Robert L. Millet and Noel B. Reynolds, Latter-day Christianity: 10 Basic Issues (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University—FARMS, 1998), chapter 6, emphasis added.
11. Robert L. Millet, A Different Jesus? The Christ of the Latter-day Saints (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 144, emphasis added.
12. Richard J. Mouw, “Afterword,” in ibid., 182, emphasis added.
13. Letter from Robert M. Bowman Jr. to Richard J. Mouw, 14 Feb. 2013.
14.Chapter 3: God the Eternal Father,” in Doctrines of the Gospel Teacher Manual (2011), 7–8.
15.Becoming Like God” (LDS.org, 2014).

The Los Angeles, California LDS Church Temple at Sunset

The Los Angeles, California LDS Church Temple at Sunset

About the author: 
Rob Bowman is the Executive Director of the Institute for Religious Research (IRR). He has been with IRR since 2008 and is IRR’s Executive Director. Previously he served as Manager of Apologetics & Interfaith Evangelism for the North American Mission Board (2006-2008). For ten years Rob taught graduate courses in apologetics, biblical studies, and religion at Luther Rice University (1994-99) and Biola University (2001-2005). He has also worked with other apologetics and discernment ministries, most notably the Christian Research Institute (1984-91), the Atlanta Christian Apologetics Project (1994-99), and Watchman Fellowship in Alabama (1999-2000). Rob has spoken at over a hundred churches and at some three dozen conferences and debates. He has five years of experience hosting call-in radio talk shows focusing on apologetics, including the nationally famous Bible Answer Man show.

Rob Bowman, Executive Director of the Institute for Religious Research

Rob Bowman, Executive Director of the Institute for Religious Research

Rob Bowman earned the M.A. in Biblical Studies and Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, did doctoral studies in Christian Apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary, and earned his Ph.D. in Biblical Studies at South African Theological Seminary. He is the author of roughly 60 articles (e.g., in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Review of Biblical Literature, Christian Research Journal, Moody Monthly, Pastoral Renewal, Mission Frontiers, and Journal of Evangelism and Missions) and 13 books pertaining to apologetics, religion, and biblical theology, including two winners of the Gold Medallion Award, An Unchanging Faith in a Changing World (1997) and Faith Has Its Reasons (2001; 2d ed., 2006). His most recent books are Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ(co-authored with Ed Komoszewski, 2007), which received numerous endorsements from such scholars as Ravi Zacharias and Richard Bauckham, and What Mormons Believe (2012).

Rob and his wife, Cathy, have been married since 1981 and have four children, three of them still living at home.
(source: “Who We Are: The People of IRR and What We Are All About”

This article was originally published on the Institute for Religious Research (IRR) website. It is republished here with the kind permission of the author.

trinity_edited

Joy Stained Glass Studio, “The Trinity”

by Rob Bowman
If you do not believe the doctrine of the Trinity, and favor another view yourself, I am going to give you some free advice. I am going to tell you exactly what you need to do in order to defend your non-Trinitarian position as a superior alternative to the Trinitarian view. I know, this is very generous of me, but in the interests of full disclosure I think it only fair to make this information available to the opponents of the doctrine of the Trinity.

1. Refute one or more of the essential propositions of the doctrine of the Trinity.
In my outline study of the biblical basis of the doctrine of the Trinity, I explain that the doctrine is simply a systematization of six core propositions that are all based directly on the teaching of the Bible:

  1. There is one God (i.e., one proper object of religious devotion).
  2. This one God is a single divine being, called Jehovah or Yahweh in the Old Testament (the LORD).
  3. The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is God, the LORD.
  4. The Son, Jesus Christ, is God, the LORD.
  5. The Holy Spirit is God, the LORD.
  6. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each someone distinct from the other two.

In order to defend an alternative position, you must refute at least one of these premises, or, you must show that all six of these propositions are consistent with another theological position besides the Trinity. I do not think the latter is possible, and in fact I do not know of any non-Trinitarian theology that affirms all six propositions (at least, not without some heavy equivocation). So, for all practical purposes, if you’re going to defend another view in place of the Trinity, you’ll have to refute one of the above premises.

2. Present a clear alternative to the doctrine of the Trinity.
Constantly carping at things about the Trinity that you don’t like, can’t understand, and won’t accept is not enough. You must tell us what we should believe instead. Your position must be specific and cover the same basic issues that are addressed in the doctrine of the Trinity.

3. Identify the religion associated with that alternative to Trinitarian Christianity.
It’s no good telling us that you believe X, Y, and Z instead of the Trinity, if this “alternative” is your own private confection of beliefs. I say this because the true doctrine of God will be held by a community of believers in Jesus Christ—by the church. Theologies do not exist in a vacuum, or in isolation. You are either part of a church that teaches the theology you espouse, or you are picking and choosing what you will believe from others and not committing yourself to a way of life that puts a set of teachings into practice. Jesus Christ said that he would be with his people until the end of the age as they engaged in the work of making disciples, baptizing and teaching them (Matt. 28:19-20). So, what people today are Christ’s people? This question has become acutely relevant in the Internet age, in which many individuals appear to be one-man religions, trolling the Web to attack orthodox Christian beliefs (often loudly and aggressively) but who are unprepared to identify a belief system they accept and a community that represents that belief system.

4. Show that your alternative theology does not suffer from the defects you claim to find in Trinitarianism.
For example:

a. If you criticize the doctrine of the Trinity for developing in the fourth century, identify the religious tradition or movement that predated the fourth century that you think had—and has—the truth.

b. If you criticize the doctrine of the Trinity for its use of extrabiblical language, show that your theology consistently avoids the use of all extrabiblical words. This is much harder than just about all anti-Trinitarians think.

c. If you criticize the doctrine of the Trinity for being influenced by non-Christian philosophy or religion, show that your theology is completely free of such influences. Again, this is easier said than done.

d. If you criticize the doctrine of the Trinity for being difficult to understand, show that your theology is free of anything incoherent, confusing, paradoxical, or mysterious.

5. Demonstrate that your theology explains the full range of biblical information better than the doctrine of the Trinity.
This means showing that your view accounts for a wider range of biblical material, based on sound exegesis of the texts, with a minimum of ad hoc reasoning. In other words, it is not enough to argue that certain textsmight be translated so as to avoid the Trinity, or that other texts need not be interpreted in a Trinitarian fashion. Rather, you must show that your non-Trinitarian view is the best reading of more biblical texts than can be claimed on the Trinitarian side.

Of course, everyone is likely to run into a text or two that is more difficult to cohere with their position, but the right view will have fewer of these difficulties.

Note: All such argumentation will have to contrast the anti-Trinitarian alternative with the doctrine of the Trinity as it is actually taught in serious works of theology, not your own over-simplistic or fractured impression of what the doctrine means.

Good luck!

The Trinity Triangle:

The Trinity Triangle: We believe in the Triune God-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This window uses the Latin Pater, Filius, and Spiritus Sanctus (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) to name the persons in the Trinity. The window explains that the Persons are not (non est) each other, but each is (est) God (Deus).

About the author: 
Rob Bowman is the Executive Director of the Institute for Religious Research (IRR). He has been with IRR since 2008 and is IRR’s Executive Director. Previously he served as Manager of Apologetics & Interfaith Evangelism for the North American Mission Board (2006-2008). For ten years Rob taught graduate courses in apologetics, biblical studies, and religion at Luther Rice University (1994-99) and Biola University (2001-2005). He has also worked with other apologetics and discernment ministries, most notably the Christian Research Institute (1984-91), the Atlanta Christian Apologetics Project (1994-99), and Watchman Fellowship in Alabama (1999-2000). Rob has spoken at over a hundred churches and at some three dozen conferences and debates. He has five years of experience hosting call-in radio talk shows focusing on apologetics, including the nationally famous Bible Answer Man show.

Rob Bowman earned the M.A. in Biblical Studies and Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, did doctoral studies in Christian Apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary, and earned his Ph.D. in Biblical Studies at South African Theological Seminary. He is the author of roughly 60 articles (e.g., in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Review of Biblical Literature, Christian Research Journal, Moody Monthly, Pastoral Renewal, Mission Frontiers, and Journal of Evangelism and Missions) and 13 books pertaining to apologetics, religion, and biblical theology, including two winners of the Gold Medallion Award, An Unchanging Faith in a Changing World (1997) and Faith Has Its Reasons (2001; 2d ed., 2006). His most recent books are Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ (co-authored with Ed Komoszewski, 2007), which received numerous endorsements from such scholars as Ravi Zacharias and Richard Bauckham, and What Mormons Believe (2012).

Rob and his wife, Cathy, have been married since 1981 and have four children, three of them still living at home.
(source: “Who We Are: The People of IRR and What We Are All About”

This article was originally published on the IRR website.
It is reprinted here in accord with IRR’s usage guidelines  and with the author’s expressed permission.

OLGH-Holy-Spirit-Stained-Glass-001-crop

“The Fire of God”, Artist and location unknown

by Robert M. Bowman, Jr.
Shawn McCraney is a former Mormon who identifies himself as a born-again Christian but who denies the doctrine of the Trinity. He has a weekly TV broadcast called Heart of the Matter that airs from Salt Lake City. On the programs that aired April 22 and 29, 2014, he laid out several objections to the Trinitarian view of the Holy Spirit as a person. This article originated as a response to McCraney sent to him the day following the first of those broadcasts by email (to which he has so far not responded).

McCraney’s Doctrine of the Holy Spirit
In his TV lecture, McCraney compared God’s eternal nature of being God, his Logos (Word), and his Pneuma(Spirit) to man’s being body, soul, and spirit. Such an analogy is clearly monarchian: it characterizes God as a single person with three aspects of his being. (Monarchianism, also known as modalism, is the heresy that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are merely three modes or manifestations of a solitary divine Being.) According to McCraney, before the Fall, those three aspects were really difficult to distinguish from one another (even for God?), and likewise man’s three aspects were so fully integrated as one that they could hardly be distinguished. Before the Fall, there was no Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When man fell, God, in order to save us, divided or splintered himself into three, becoming Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (apparently not right away, since on McCraney’s view there was no Son until the Incarnation). In this new, sharp threeness God acted to redeem us in order to restore us to full integration as body-soul-spirit beings in the new birth. All of this sounds very much like monarchianism, but then McCraney threw in the comment that God, his Logos, and his Pneuma had relationships with each other before creation, though what those were McCraney said he doesn’t know. As he has done every time I have heard him, McCraney contradicted himself. God, the Logos, and the Pneuma cannot have relationships with one another if they are simply different aspects of the one God, like a man’s body, soul, and spirit.

Now, the above doctrine was problematic enough, but at least in some of what McCraney said one could optimistically hope that he viewed the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as genuinely distinct, as each someone in relationship with the other two, and therefore as largely orthodox in substance even if he rejects orthodox theological terms. At one point in that broadcast he even referred to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as “three persons,” though only after creation, not before it. However, in his most recent lecture he moved even further away from orthodox, biblical doctrine. The Holy Spirit, he claimed, is simply God’s power or presence, an “it,” just a way of describing God expressing his presence or power. He claimed this to be true in both the Old and New Testaments. Sadly, there is no way this can be salvaged as anything but heretical.

Shawn McCraney on the April 22, 2014 Heart of the Matter broadcast referenced in this article.

The Holy Spirit is the Power of God
McCraney asserted, “The Holy Spirit is the power, the dunamis, of God. Scripture talks about it being the power of God.” Yes, Scripture does talk about the Holy Spirit as the power of God. It also calls God “the power of God” (Luke 22:69) and refers to Christ as “the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:24). Does that make God or Christ impersonal? Of course not. This is a bad argument against the personhood of the Holy Spirit.

Pneuma (“Spirit”) Is Neuter
McCraney also argued—and this was his main point—that pneuma is neuter and that the Greek New Testament uses neuter pronouns in reference to the Holy Spirit. On this basis, McCraney concluded that the Holy Spirit is not a person, because “it’s an it.” Well, if pneuma is neuter and if neuter means “it’s an it,” as he claimed, then McCraney has just proved that God is an it! After all, Jesus said, “God is pneuma” (John 4:24). Notice that this is the second argument he used against the personhood of the Holy Spirit that, if applied consistently, would disprove the personhood of God as well.

McCraney also argued that if translators had simply used impersonal pronouns to translate the neuter pronouns referring to the Spirit (it, its, itself, etc.), “the case for the personality of the Holy Spirit, the person, would largely disappear from Christian belief.” That is true only of the most superficial popular way that contemporary English-speaking Christians try to defend the personhood of the Holy Spirit. The KJV often used neuter pronouns when the Greek pronoun was neuter, and the KJV translators and earliest readers were all Trinitarians. They had no trouble seeing the person of the Holy Spirit in the Bible.

Oddly, McCraney went on immediately to answer his own argument, though he didn’t seem to realize he had done so. He pointed out that languages like Greek commonly assign masculine or feminine gender to nouns that do not denote persons, such as la bicicleta (“the bicycle”) in Spanish. This was apparently his rebuttal to the observation that “Comforter” is masculine in Greek (paraklētos). There’s a problem with that rebuttal, as I will explain below. But his point about nouns having gender is a good observation, but one he did not take far enough. It is also the case that languages can assign “neuter” gender to nouns denoting persons. In German, das Mädchen means “the maiden, the girl,” and obviously denotes a person, yet it is neuter in grammatical form. Similarly, the Greek paidion is grammatically neuter, but it denotes “child,” again referring to a person. Jesus is called a paidion eleven times in the New Testament (Matt. 2:8, 9, 11, 13 [2x], 14, 20 [2x]; Luke 2:17, 27, 40), all in reference to the period of several years after his birth. Matthew uses the neuter pronoun auto (which has nothing to do with cars!) in reference to “the child” Jesus: “Rise, take the child [paidion] and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him” (Matt. 2:13 ESV). Here the ESV uses “him” to translate the Greek pronoun auto (as does the KJV also). Luke uses the same pronoun auto in reference to Jesus as paidion twice (Luke 2:28, 40). Translators use masculine pronouns in English to represent neuter pronouns in Greek if the antecedent of the pronoun refers to a person. It’s as simple as that. The argument that neuter nouns or pronouns prove that the Holy Spirit is not a person is another bad argument.

Shawn McCraney on the April 29, 2014 Heart of the Matter broadcast referenced in this article.

“Holy Spirit” versus “the Holy Spirit”
A third argument McCraney presented was an objection to the use of the definite article “the” in English translations with the title “Holy Spirit.” He asserted that the article is “often added by translators, leading the reader to think that ‘the Holy Spirit’ is referring to a separate person.” Well, there are many places where the Greek has the article in front of the words for “Holy Spirit,” such as Matthew 28:19 (tou hagiou pneumatos), Mark 3:29 (to pneuma to hagion),  John 14:26 (to pneuma to hagion), and quite a few others. (The words tou and to are both forms of the Greek article.) I assume McCraney would agree that the Greek writers of these books were not misleading readers by using the article.

The fact is that Greek uses the article in a different way than English does. We normally use the article in front of what we call titles (the Father, the Messiah, the Lord, the king) but not in front of what we call proper names (Jesus, Peter, Shawn, Rob). Greek doesn’t work that way. Proper names and titles in Greek can occur with or without the article; usage is quite complicated and sometimes little more than a matter of style. The expression “in Christ” in Paul usually does not have the article (en Christō), but of course this doesn’t mean that Christ is something other than a person. And sometimes Paul writes “in the Christ” (en tō Christō), but English versions nearly always omit the article (1 Cor. 15:22; 2 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 1:10, 12, 20).

“Holy Spirit” versus “holy spirit”
McCraney made a big deal of the fact that “Holy Spirit” is never capitalized in the Greek. Apparently, he thinks this is some startling revelation that overturns conventional belief about the Holy Spirit as a person.

The fact is that ancient Greek manuscripts did not “capitalize” anything. It is true that “Holy Spirit” in the Greek manuscripts was not “capitalized.” Neither was “God,” “Christ,” “Jesus,” or “Father.” For that matter, neither was “Peter,” “Paul,” or “Mary” (sorry, couldn’t resist). Ancient Greek manuscripts were written with all block letters, and later a cursive form developed that used what we call lower-case letters. But in biblical times, there was no upper-case and lower-case lettering system.

Of all of McCraney’s arguments against the personhood of the Holy Spirit, this is the worst. It is so bad that it is embarrassing. If ever an example was needed of the value of a basic education in biblical studies for pastors, this is it.

Explaining the “Difficult Verses”
McCraney suggested that it is only “a few comparative difficult verses in the Gospel of John” that seem to refer to the Holy Spirit as a person, and he stated somewhat disparagingly that “those verses are used over and over again to prove that the Spirit is a person.” Later he suggested these could be explained away as personifications, like wisdom in the poetic passage in Proverbs 8. But Jesus was not speaking in poetry in John 14-16, and the same things that Jesus says about the Spirit in John 14-16 are said about Jesus himself by the same author. For example, the noun paraklētos clearly refers to a person, and Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as “anotherparaklētos” (John 14:16), meaning another besides himself. In his epistle, John—the same author as the Gospel of John, of course—refers explicitly to Jesus Christ as our paraklētos (1 John 2:1). Paraklētos is not a noun that just happens to be masculine but that normally refers to something impersonal, like la bicicleta (“the bicycle”) happens to be feminine. Paraklētos is a personal noun, denoting someone who provides support, assistance, counsel, agency, mediation, or the like. If McCraney wished to claim that the noun doesn’t refer to the Spirit as a person, this would be something he would need to show exegetically from the context, which he has not done.

Moreover, the case for the personhood of the Holy Spirit does not depend on John 14-16 alone. His personhood can be shown from many other parts of the New Testament, especially the Book of Acts. But John 14-16 is in the Bible and must be taken seriously, not shoehorned into a doctrinal system derived from the superficial observation that the Old Testament doesn’t advance a specific doctrine of the personhood of the Holy Spirit. Such an approach denies God the right to unfold his self-revelation in history and in Scripture progressively, as though God should have front-loaded Genesis 1 with a systematic theological exposition.

Is Jesus the Holy Spirit?
McCraney pointed out that Christ and the Spirit are both called Parakletos; both are said to intercede for us (Rom. 8:26, 34), and both are said to have been given to us by God. How these things prove that the Holy Spirit is not a person, I don’t know. If anything they might seem to prove that the Holy Spirit is Jesus. (They don’t. For example, John 14:16 calls the Holy Spirit “another Parakletos,” making it clear that the Holy Spirit is not Jesus but is someone like him.) But McCraney doesn’t (usually) make that claim. At one point, though, McCraney cited 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 and concluded that it means that Jesus is the Spirit. If so, then, by McCraney’s own reasoning, either Jesus is not a person or the Holy Spirit is a person.

Conclusion
Many of McCraney’s arguments against the personhood of the Holy Spirit, if applied consistently, would also “disprove” that God the Father is a person, or that Christ is a person. All of his objections to the orthodox doctrine are based on misunderstandings, some of them egregious.

The tragedy is that these errors could easily have been avoided, if McCraney would have listened to sound teachers and studied these things carefully before publicly teaching on matters he doesn’t understand.

Pentecost CORRECTED

“Pentecost”, Boone Tabernacle Church of God in Christ Kansas City, MO. Artist unknown.

About the Author
Robert M. Bowman Jr. is the Executive Director of the Institute for Religious Research. He has been with IRR since 2008. Previously he served as Manager of Apologetics & Interfaith Evangelism for the North American Mission Board (2006-2008). For ten years Rob taught graduate courses in apologetics, biblical studies, and religion at Luther Rice University (1994-99) and Biola University (2001-2005). He has also worked with other apologetics and discernment ministries, most notably the Christian Research Institute (1984-91), the Atlanta Christian Apologetics Project (1994-99), and Watchman Fellowship in Alabama (1999-2000). Rob has spoken at over a hundred churches and at some three dozen conferences and debates. He has five years of experience hosting call-in radio talk shows focusing on apologetics, including the nationally famous Bible Answer Man show.

Rob Bowman, Executive Director of the Institute for Religious Research

Rob Bowman, Executive Director of the Institute for Religious Research

Rob Bowman earned the M.A. in Biblical Studies and Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, did doctoral studies in Christian Apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary, and earned his Ph.D. in Biblical Studies at South African Theological Seminary. He is the author of roughly 60 articles (e.g., in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Review of Biblical Literature, Christian Research Journal, Moody Monthly, Pastoral Renewal,Mission Frontiers, and Journal of Evangelism and Missions) and 13 books pertaining to apologetics, religion, and biblical theology, including two winners of the Gold Medallion Award, An Unchanging Faith in a Changing World (1997) and Faith Has Its Reasons (2001; 2d ed., 2006). His most recent books are Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ (co-authored with Ed Komoszewski, 2007), which received numerous endorsements from such scholars as Ravi Zacharias and Richard Bauckham, and What Mormons Believe (2012).

Rob and his wife, Cathy, have been married since 1981 and have four children, three of them still living at home.

a_logo© 2015 Institute for Religious Research. All rights reserved

This article was originally published on the Institute for Religious Research website. It is republished here with the express written permission of the author. This article is part of a larger series entitled “Bad Arguments against the Personhood of the Holy Spirit” which we encourage the reader to also consider upon completion of this article.

BACK TO TOP

by Fred W. Anson
April 2014-October 2015
This article continues the running timeline of events surrounding Shawn McCraney’s departure from mainstream Christian orthodoxy into error and heresy which was comprised Part 1 of this series. While the reader is encouraged to read through the previous timeline from the beginning (which can be found by clicking here) to gain a fuller historical context, the events, issues and actions outlined here, I believe, speak for themselves.   

April 22, 2014
After a long hiatus Shawn McCraney resumed teaching on the nature of God.  While prior lectures were primarily on God the Father and Christ, this lecture focused on the Holy Spirit – who Mr. McCraney asserts isn’t a person due to certain gender neutral Greek words that are used in the original languages that our English Bible is translated from.

April 23, 2014
This author leaves the following comments on the YouTube page for this show.  They are promptly hidden from public view by the Heart of the Matter personnel who administrate the page for Mr. McCraney:

First Comment by Fred W. Anson
As the saying goes, “If you point one finger at others you’re just pointing four fingers back at yourself.” 

The posturing quotes that preceded Shawn’s appearance on this show certainly demonstrated that principle given what Shawn taught about the Holy Spirit in this episode.* Those quotes, once again, were:

Chuck Colson
“The greatest friend of truth is time, her greatest enemy is prejudice, and her constant companion humility.”

Goethe
“There is more frightening than active ignorance.”

J.L. Borges
“Truth never penetrates an unwilling mind.”

Now I know for a fact that Charles Colson would most certainly not agree with what Shawn taught about the Holy Spirit tonight or how he’s behaving in his ministry. In fact, having read quite a bit of Colson’s work over the years it’s easy to imagine him telling Shawn that he’s ignorant, confused, and in need of some quality training and discipling before he does any more damage by errantly and heretically teaching Christian doctrine.

And I doubt that even the pantheistic humanist Goethe** or the agnostic humanist Jorge Luis Borges*** would agree with much, if anything, that Shawn taught in this show either. Rather, they would reject it if nothing more than for the fact that his reasoning and logic is so blatantly flawed and fallacious.

Further, Shawn abused every source that he cited in support of his position. I can safely say that every Christian source that Shawn cited in his lecture would tell him that he’s in error, teaching heresy regarding the nature of God, and drawing wrong conclusions based on their work based on his own confirmation bias – or, if you prefer, prejudice.

No, Mr. Craney those of us who are publicly criticizing your work aren’t perfect but neither are we close minded. We’re challenging and denouncing what you’re teaching not out of prejudice or because we’re proud but because what you’re saying simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

So feel free to rally your followers behind manipulative pull quotes if you wish, however, if I were you, I would pay more attention to those four fingers that are pointing back at you – they’re trying to tell you something.

* Shawn taught that the Holy Spirit isn’t a person separate and distinct from God the Father and God the Son.

** See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Wolfgang_von_Goethe

*** See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jorge_Luis_Borges

Second Comment by Fred W. Anson
Shawn’s argument that the Holy Spirit isn’t a person is hardly new. In fact, among other places, it has been addressed and rebutted rather nicely in this article from December 12, 2013:
How Do We Know the Holy Spirit Is a Person?
by Justin Taylor, The Gospel Coalition
One potential argument that the Holy Spirit is a person is to look at the Greek words in John 14:26, 15:26, and 16:13-14. There we see that the antecedent of the masculine ἐκεῖνος (a masculine word for “that person”) is πνεῦμα (a neuter word for “Spirit”). Hence, so the argument goes, the Spirit is a person. Unfortunately, that argument likely doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

A more fruitful approach is first to ask a question almost no one asks: how do we know that the Father is a person? How about the Son?

The answer is that the Bible presents a person as a substance that can do personal and relational things (such as speaking, thinking, feeling, acting). Something that does these personal things in relationship—like God, angels, and human beings—is a person.

How does the Holy Spirit fare up under this criteria?

1. The Spirit teaches and reminds.
John 14:26, “the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

1 Corinthians 2:13, “We impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

2. The Spirit speaks.
Acts 8:29, “the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over and join this chariot.’

Acts 13:2, “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’”

3. The Spirit makes decisions.
Acts 15:28, “it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements.”

4. The Spirit can be grieved.
Ephesians 4:30, “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

5. The Spirit can be outraged.
Hebrews 10:29, “How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has . . . outraged the Spirit of grace?”

6. The Spirit can be lied to.
Acts 5:3, 4, “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit? . . . You have not lied to men but to God‘”

7. The Spirit can forbid or prevent human speech and plans.
Acts 16:6-7, “they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.”

Justin Taylor of The Gospel Coalition

Justin Taylor of The Gospel Coalition

8. The Spirit searches everything and comprehends God’s thoughts.
1 Corinthians 2:10-11, “the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. . . . no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.”

9. The Spirit apportions spiritual gifts.
1 Corinthians 12:11, “the same Spirit . . . apportions [spiritual gifts] to each one individually as he wills.”

10. The Spirit helps us, intercedes for us, and has a mind.
Romans 8:26-27, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

11. The Spirit bears witness to believers about their adoption.
Romans 8:16, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”

12. The Spirit bears witness to Christ.
“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

13. The Spirit glorifies Christ, takes what is Christ, and declares it to believers.
John 16:14, “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
(source = http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2013/12/12/how-do-we-know-the-holy-spirit-is-a-person/)

I’m sure that are equally good – possibly superior – articles on this subject, but this one is short, sweet and to the point. It’s also fully supported by scripture.

I challenge Shawn to address the issues raised in this article on his next show. 

April 25, 2014
Theologian Rob Bowman issues the following 3-part statement on Facebook regarding this episode: 

I watched Shawn McCraney’s broadcast from Tuesday, April 22, in which he laid out several objections to the Trinitarian view of the Holy Spirit as a person. I sent Shawn an email in response the next day. Having not heard from Shawn, and having not received any response from him to my previous efforts to offer constructive criticism, I am sharing here what I said to him in that email. I will present my response in three posts here.

I have been waiting for Shawn’s lecture on the Holy Spirit for weeks, because I fully expected that he would have greater difficulty with the doctrine of the Holy Spirit due to the fact that there is no Incarnation involved. That is, I expected that he would have greater difficulty maintaining some sort of distinction involving the Holy Spirit while rejecting the doctrine of the Trinity. I was correct. Since during the broadcast he explicitly mentioned me as a scholar who might offer him some insight or correction on at least one point he made, I gave him plenty to consider.

Rob Bowman lecturing on the February 25, 2014 Heart of the Matter broadcast

Rob Bowman lecturing on the February 25, 2014 Heart of the Matter broadcast

Let me begin by quoting my summary of his lecture on March 18 (which I posted here on Facebook). Sorry I don’t have a transcript of his remarks, but I think this is a fair summary of what he said then.

“The audio was off for a few minutes, but apparently Shawn compared God’s eternal nature of being God, his Logos (Word), and his Pneuma (Spirit) to man’s being body, soul, and spirit. Such an analogy is clearly monarchian: it characterizes God as a single person with three aspects of his being. According to Shawn, before the Fall, those three aspects were really difficult to distinguish from one another (even for God?), and likewise man’s three aspects were so fully integrated as one that they could hardly be distinguished. Before the Fall, there was no Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When man fell, God, in order to save us, divided or splintered himself into three, becoming Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (apparently not right away, since on Shawn’s view there was no Son until the Incarnation). In this new, sharp threeness God acted to redeem us in order to restore us to full integration as body-soul-spirit beings in the new birth. All of this sounds very much like monarchianism, but then Shawn threw in the comment that God, his Logos, and his Pneuma had relationships with each other before creation, though what those were Shawn said he doesn’t know. As he has done every time I have heard him, Shawn contradicted himself. God, the Logos, and the Pneuma cannot have relationships with one another if they are simply different aspects of the one God, like my body, soul, and spirit (or like they should be!).”

Now, the above doctrine was problematic enough, but at least in some of what Shawn said one could optimistically hope that he viewed the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as genuinely distinct, as each someone in relationship with the other two, and therefore as largely orthodox in substance even if he rejects orthodox theological terms. At one point in that broadcast he even referred to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as “three persons,” though only after creation, not before it. However, in his most recent lecture he moved even further away from orthodox doctrine (and, I emphasize, biblical doctrine, as I shall explain). The Holy Spirit, he claimed, is simply God’s power or presence, an “it,” just a way of describing God expressing his presence or power. He claimed this to be true in both the Old and New Testaments. Sadly, there is no way this can be salvaged as anything but heretical.

Shawn asserted, “The Holy Spirit is the power, the DUNAMIS, of God. Scripture talks about it being the power of God.” Yes, Scripture does talk about the Holy Spirit as the power of God. It also calls God “the power of God” (Luke 22:69) and refers to Christ as “the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:24). Does that make God or Christ impersonal? Of course not. Here is a blog article I wrote on this point:

http://www.religiousresearcher.org/2013/03/19/definition-by-parallelism-bad-arguments-against-the-personhood-of-the-holy-spirit-5/

In my next two posts, I will address the other arguments he presented.
(source = https://www.facebook.com/ApolojediMaster/posts/10202992044018003?stream_ref=10 )

The second of three posts by Rob Bowman
Shawn argued—and this was his main point—that PNEUMA is neuter and that the Greek New Testament uses neuter pronouns in reference to the Holy Spirit. On this basis, Shawn concluded that the Holy Spirit is not a person, because “it’s an it.” Well, if PNEUMA is neuter and if neuter means “it’s an it,” as he claimed, then Shawn has just proved that God is an it! After all, Jesus said, “God is PNEUMA” (John 4:24)! Notice that this is the second argument he used against the personhood of the Holy Spirit that, if applied consistently, would disprove the personhood of God as well. But Shawn went on immediately to answer his own argument, though he didn’t seem to realize he had done so. He pointed out that languages like Greek commonly assign masculine or feminine gender to nouns that do not denote persons, such as _la bicicleta_ (“the bicycle”) in Spanish. This was apparently his rebuttal to the observation that “Comforter” is masculine in Greek (PARAKLETOS). There’s a problem with that rebuttal, as I will explain in my third and last post. But his point about nouns having gender is a good observation, but one he did not take far enough. It is also the case that languages can assign “neuter” gender to nouns denoting persons. In German, _das Mädchen_ means “the maiden, the girl,” and obviously denotes a person, yet it is neuter in grammatical form. Similarly, the Greek PAIDION is grammatically neuter, but it denotes “child,” again referring to a person. Jesus is called a PAIDION eleven times in the New Testament (Matt. 2:8, 9, 11, 13 [2x], 14, 20 [2x]; Luke 2:17, 27, 40), all in reference to the period of several years after his birth. Matthew uses the neuter pronoun auto in reference to “the child” Jesus: “Rise, take the child [PAIDION] and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him” (Matt. 2:13 ESV). Here the ESV uses “him” to translate the Greek pronoun AUTO (as does the KJV also). Luke uses the same pronoun AUTO in reference to Jesus as PAIDION twice (Luke 2:28, 40). Translators use masculine pronouns in English to represents neuter pronouns in Greek if the antecedent of the pronoun refers to a person. It’s as simple as that. Here’s an article I wrote that goes into this subject further:

http://www.religiousresearcher.org/2013/03/14/neuter-pronouns-mean-not-a-person-bad-arguments-against-the-personhood-of-the-holy-spirit-1/
(source = https://www.facebook.com/ApolojediMaster/posts/10202992048538116?stream_ref=10 )

The third of three posts by Rob Bowman
A third argument Shawn presented was an objection to the use of the definite article “the” in English translations with the title “Holy Spirit.” He asserted that the article is “often added by translators, leading the reader to think that ‘the Holy Spirit’ is referring to a separate person.” Well, there are many places where the Greek has the article in front of the words for “Holy Spirit,” such as Matthew 28:19 (TOU hAGIOU PNEUMATOS), Mark 3:29 (TO PNEUMA TO hAGION), John 14:26 (TO PNEUMA TO hAGION), and quite a few others. (TOU and TO are both forms of the Greek article.) I assume Shawn would agree with me that the Greek writers of these books were not misleading readers by using the article. The fact is that Greek uses the article in a different way than English does. We normally use the article in front of what we call titles (the Father, the Messiah, the Lord, the king, etc.) but not in front of what we call proper names (Jesus, Peter, Shawn, Rob). Greek doesn’t work that way. Proper names and titles in Greek can occur with or without the article; usage is quite complicated and sometimes little more than a matter of style. The expression “in Christ” in Paul usually does not have the article (EN CHRISTW), but of course this doesn’t mean that Christ is something other than a person. And sometimes Paul writes “in the Christ” (EN TW CHRISTW), but English versions nearly always omit the article (1 Cor. 15:22; 2 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 1:10, 12, 20).

Shawn also argued that if translators had simply used impersonal pronouns to translate the neuter pronouns referring to the Spirit (it, its, itself, etc.), “the case for the personality of the Holy Spirit, the person, would largely disappear from Christian belief.” That is true only of the most superficial popular way that contemporary English-speaking Christians try to defend the personhood of the Holy Spirit. The KJV often used neuter pronouns when the Greek pronoun was neuter, and the KJV translators and their readers were all Trinitarians. They had no trouble seeing the person of the Holy Spirit in the Bible.

Finally, Shawn suggested that it is only “a few comparative difficult verses in the Gospel of John” that seem to refer to the Holy Spirit as a person, and he stated somewhat disparagingly that “those verses are used over and over again to prove that the Spirit is a person.” Later he suggested these could be explained away as personifications, like wisdom in Proverbs 8. But Jesus was not speaking in poetry in John 14-16, and the same things that Jesus says about the Spirit in John 14-16 are said about Jesus himself in the same book. For example, the noun PARAKLETOS clearly refers to a person, and Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as “another PARAKLETOS” (John 14:16), meaning another besides himself. In his epistle, John – the same author as the Gospel of John, of course – refers explicitly to Jesus Christ as our PARAKLETOS (1 John 2:1). PARAKLETOS is not a noun that just happens to be masculine but that normally refers to something impersonal, like _la bicicleta_ (“the bicycle”) happens to be feminine. PARAKLETOS is a personal noun, denoting someone who provides support, assistance, counsel, agency, mediation, or the like. If Shawn wished to claim that the noun doesn’t refer to the Spirit as a person, this would be something he would need to show exegetically from the context, which he has not done.

Moreover, the case for the personhood of the Holy Spirit does not depend on John 14-16 alone. His personhood can be shown from many other parts of the New Testament, especially the Book of Acts. But John 14-16 is in the Bible and must be taken seriously, not shoehorned into a doctrinal system derived from the superficial observation that the Old Testament doesn’t advance a specific doctrine of the personhood of the Holy Spirit. Such an approach denies God the right to unfold his self-revelation in history and in Scripture progressively, as though God should have front-loaded Genesis 1 with a systematic theological exposition.
(source = https://www.facebook.com/ApolojediMaster/posts/10202992049818148?stream_ref=10 )

Closing Thoughts
Perhaps it should be noted in closing that the doctrine that the Holy Spirit isn’t a person is only held to by Christian Cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Unitarians, Oneness followers, Hebrew Roots, Christadelphians, The Way and other Anti-Trinitarian groups.  This is hardly an encouraging sign for those of us who are hoping and praying that Shawn McCraney will find his way back to Biblical orthodoxy and bring those that he has led astray through such false teaching along with him.

Further, engaging in censorship of critics and those who are trying to help him find that way back is certainly an unwelcome trend – and one that’s odd for someone who has been so free in his condemnation and criticism of the LdS Church for engaging in such tactics with their critics.

We will continue to monitor the situation with Shawn McCraney and will add updates to this article as noteworthy events unfold.

UPDATES
April 29, 2014
Shawn McCraney states emphatically the Holy Spirit isn’t a person separate and distinct from God the Father and God the Son and reiterates his rejection of the Trinity.  Shawn also explains the reasoning behind shutting down the “Heart of the Matter with Shawn McCraney” page on Facebook.   This episode is also unique in that it is the first Heart of the Matter YouTube posting with comments disabled on the page.

Following the broadcast Rob Bowman issues the following response on this Facebook page:

Shawn McCraney (“Heart of the Matter”) concluded his series of lectures against the doctrine of the Trinity a couple of hours ago (though I wouldn’t be surprised if it comes up again). He gave a list of arguments against the personhood of the Holy Spirit. I won’t go through them all right now. However, I will point out that many of Shawn’s arguments against the personhood of the Holy Spirit, if applied consistently, would also “disprove” that God the Father is a person, or that Christ is a person.

(a) Shawn makes a big deal of the fact that “Holy Spirit” is never capitalized in the Greek. Neither is “God,” “Christ,” “Jesus,” or “Father.” For that matter, neither is “Peter,” “Paul,” or “Mary” (sorry, couldn’t resist). Ancient Greek manuscripts were written with all block letters, and later a cursive form developed that used what we call lower-case letters. But in biblical times, there was no upper-case and lower-case lettering system.

(b) Shawn points out that Christ and the Spirit are both called Parakletos; both are said to intercede for us (Rom. 8:26, 34); both are said to have been given to us by God. How these things prove that the Holy Spirit is not a person, I don’t know. If anything they might seem to prove that the Holy Spirit is Jesus. (They don’t. For example, John 14:16 calls the Holy Spirit “ANOTHER Parakletos,” making it clear that the Holy Spirit is not Jesus but is someone like him.) But Shawn doesn’t (usually) make that claim. At one point, though, Shawn cites 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 and concludes that it means that Jesus is the Spirit. If so, then, by Shawn’s own reasoning, either Jesus is not a person or the Holy Spirit is a person.

(c) Shawn repeated his argument from the previous week that the Holy Spirit is called the power of God in Luke 1:35. This is not correct, but if it were, it should be noted that the Bible calls God “the power of God” (Luke 22:69) and refers to Christ as “the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:24). So by Shawn’s reasoning, God and Christ are not persons.

(d) Also last week, Shawn had argued that the Holy Spirit is not a person because the Bible uses a neuter noun, PNEUMA, and neuter pronouns in reference to the Holy Spirit. However, the Bible also uses the neuter noun PAIDION (“child”) and neuter pronouns in reference to Jesus. Jesus is called a PAIDION eleven times in the New Testament (Matt. 2:8, 9, 11, 13 [2x], 14, 20 [2x]; Luke 2:17, 27, 40), all in reference to the period of several years after his birth. Matthew uses the neuter pronoun auto in reference to “the child” Jesus: “Rise, take the child [PAIDION] and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him” (Matt. 2:13 ESV). Here the ESV uses “him” to translate the Greek pronoun AUTO (as does the KJV also). Luke uses the same pronoun AUTO in reference to Jesus as PAIDION twice (Luke 2:28, 40). So once again, by Shawn’s reasoning, Jesus, at least when he was a child, was not a person.

The tragedy is that all of these errors could easily have been avoided, if Shawn would have listened to sound teachers and studied these things carefully before publicly teaching on matters he doesn’t understand.
(source = https://www.facebook.com/ApolojediMaster/posts/10203026200951905?stream_ref=5 )

April 30, 2014
Rob Bowman offers this clarification and response to one of the call-in questions regarding the doctrine of the Trinity that was asked on  the April 29th Heart of the Matter broadcast:

In response to a caller’s question last night about Matthew 28:19, Shawn McCraney resorted to the claim that the fourth-century writer Eusebius supposedly testified to an original form of the text in which Jesus said to baptize disciples “in my name” instead of what we find in all of the Greek manuscripts. Many anti-Trinitarians continue to repeat this claim today, though it is difficult to find contemporary exegetical commentators or textual critics who will support it. Eusebius quotes the triadic phrase in full five times when quoting Matthew 28:19; the one place he doesn’t is simply a paraphrase, not a full quotation. The triadic phrase is found in all Greek manuscripts of Matthew that contain the passage and is attested in several second-century Christian writings. For a critical scholarly refutation of the abuse of Eusebius, see Benjamin Jerome Hubbard, _The Matthean Redaction of a Primitive Apostolic Commissioning: An Exegesis of Matthew 28:16-20_, SBL Dissertation Series 19 (Missoula, MT: Society of Biblical Literature, 1974), 151-75.
(source = https://www.facebook.com/ApolojediMaster/posts/10203029256908302?stream_ref=10 )

May 6, 2014
Prior to his weekly Heart of the Matter lecture Shawn McCraney offers an Anti-Trinitarian critique of Matthew 28:19 claiming that it is a deliberate post-Nicene Trinitarian manuscript corruption that didn’t appear in the original. That verse reads, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (ESV), and is theologically noteworthy as a direct apostolic affirmation of the Trinity by Matthew.  

The lecture that followed is difficult to summarize because it was such a jumble of mixed metaphors and ideas – it was essentially on how no one has the right to judge or criticize the theology of anyone who professes Christ or claim that they’re going to hell as a result of their doctrine or beliefs. He did this by starting with a full whiteboard of different groups (Catholics, Baptists, Pentecostals, Arminians, Calvinists, Seventh-day Adventists, Calvary Chapel, Latter-day Saints, etc.) all boarding the “Jesus Plane” that later crashes killing everyone on board.  

He then asked the following series of open ended questions:

“Who would you say is gonna go to hell?”

“What would determine their entrance into heaven?” 

“Wouldn’t everyone of these active, faithful religionists lay claim to Jesus?”

“What would be the trait that proves that they had faith in Jesus?”

Shawn stated the answer to getting into heaven is through grace by having faith in Christ’s atonement which  manifests itself in one’s life by exhibiting the kind of  Christian love that Christ taught and practiced.

Further, he insists that true Christianity manifests itself in the kind of love that wouldn’t throw or keep others off the Jesus Plane and wouldn’t criticize those that are on it.  He went on to strongly imply that those who who insist on orthodoxy in theology and doctrine are false loving, hard hearted, pride filled, hypocritical, controlling, power hungry Pharisees who have no right to criticize the doctrine of the others on the plane – and are in fact, getting in the way of leading themselves and others to true, saving love.  That is, their hearts aren’t right.

But he then went to say that in coming weeks he will criticize and speak out against those that claim to be Christians but deviate from “what’s right according to the Bible” – like the LdS Church for example.  This assertion was also reiterating during the call-in section of the show.

At the end of his lecture he stated that the majority of those on the “Jesus Plane” are going to hell. But that’s OK because those who go to hell will be OK in the end because hell is much different than what others have taught about it in the past.  He promised to explain this more fully in the weeks to come.

This author is persuaded that much of this lecture was yet another attempt by Shawn to silence his critics – this was more apparent in the tone, timbre, snide comments, and attitudes in the lecture than the content alone.  The reader is encouraged to watch the lecture yourself and determine if the author’s assessment is accurate or not.

Episode 393 White Board_edited

May 9, 2014
Theologian Rob Bowman issues the following statement on Facebook regarding Mr. McCraney’s critique of Matthew 28:19:

On May 6, Shawn McCraney reiterated more emphatically his acceptance of the anti-Trinitarian claim that Matthew 28:19 did not originally say “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” According to this argument, Matthew 28:19 originally said “baptizing them in my name,” and the text was changed by the Trinitarians in the fourth century following the Council of Nicaea in 325. In support, Shawn offered two arguments that are commonly made. The first is that no NT Greek manuscript from prior to Nicaea contains the triadic wording in Matthew 28:19. The second point is that Eusebius of Caesarea often quoted Matthew 28:19 using the words “in my name,” and only began quoting it with the three names after Nicaea. As with most of his other arguments against the Trinity, Shawn is simply repeating arguments commonly made by anti-Trinitarians, especially in this case Unitarians and Oneness Pentecostals.

It is true that no Greek manuscripts prior to Nicaea contain the traditional text of Matthew 28:19. However, that is not as shocking as it sounds, and this fact in no way undermines the reliability of the traditional text. The fact is that we have no extant pre-Nicene Greek manuscripts of Matthew containing Matthew 28:19 at all. We have pre-Nicene Greek papyri fragments covering about a fifth of the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew 28:19 just happens to be one of the passages not among the extant papyri. There is an easy to understand reason why: Matthew 28:19 comes at the very end of the Gospel. Papyrus manuscripts were highly fragile, and it was common for them to be damaged especially at the beginning and end. This is why, for example, there are Greek manuscripts of Matthew that end earlier in Matthew 28, just a few verses from the end: the last page was lost or highly damaged.

ALL of the extant Greek NT manuscripts that have Matthew 28:19 have the traditional wording. There is no exception. The earliest extant Greek manuscripts containing Matthew 28:19 date from the fourth and early fifth centuries. One notable fact about these manuscripts is that they represent three different textual “families” or scribal traditions, conventionally known as the Alexandrian, Byzantine, and Western text types. This includes Sinaiticus (א) and Vaticanus (Alexandrian text type), dated 325-360, Alexandrinus (which, despite its name, is Byzantine in type in the Gospels), dated ca. 375-450, Washingtonianus, another Byzantine text dated about 400, and Bezae, a Western-type text also dated about 400.

We also have manuscripts of the NT in Coptic and Latin containing Matthew 28:19 that date from the fourth century. These manuscripts, especially one of the Coptic texts, attest to an independent scribal tradition of translation from before Nicaea. They confirm that the traditional text of Matthew 28:19 is correct.

If the anti-Trinitarians were right, it would mean that the correct wording of Matthew 28:19 was not preserved in a single ancient manuscript in Greek or in any of the languages into which the NT was translated. That claim requires a conspiracy theory to work, but such a conspiracy theory simply doesn’t fit the facts.

When Eusebius quotes Matthew 28:19 without the three names Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, he also omits the words “baptizing them,” and only sometimes includes the words “in my name.” It is evident from a careful study of his quotations generally that weight should not be put on his exact wording. That there was no conspiracy involved is proved by the fact that Eusebius sometimes uses the full quotation with the three names and sometimes his shorter version even in the same writing!

Finally, Shawn claimed that no one before Nicaea quoted Matthew 28:19 in its traditional form. That was simply false. The traditional form is attested in the Didache (ca. 80-120), Justin Martyr’s First Apology (155-57), and Tertullian’s On Baptism (ca. 200), to name just three texts dating not only before Nicaea but within about a century of the NT writings.

It is very sad to see Shawn repeating such distortions of the facts of Scripture to support his rejection of the Trinity.
(source = https://www.facebook.com/ApolojediMaster/posts/10203090956370750 )

NOTE: As excellent as Mr. Bowman’s statement is on it’s own, the reader is strongly encouraged to use the link to the original post and consider the equally superb comments that others – many whom are Theological Heavyweights – added beneath his statement. I think the reader will find them to be a wealth of wisdom as well as instructive and enlightening.

January 7, 2015
Presbyterian Pastor Jason Wallace gives a superb overview of Shawn McCraney’s slide into heresy, rebellion, and error on his “The Ancient Paths” television show. He very rightly identifies Shawn’s methods and teachings as nothing more than a modern, repackaged form of of Mormon-style Restorationism combined with Christian Gnosticism.

January 21, 2015
Continuing from his last broacast, Jason Wallace examines Shawn McCraney’s new teaching that “Christianity is not a physical reality”. Pastor Wallace identifies this as more evience of the gnosticism that McCraney is now teaching regularly. He shows how Mr. McCraney is now saying that the fundamental problem of the Evangelical church is that it tries to apply an ancient and outdated Bible to the modern world in terms of church and Christian practice. Thus Mr. McCraney is saying the Bible is really the problem and that instead we just need to follow the “Spirit.”

If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s very much akin to Joseph Smith’s stance toward the bible which Lutheran minister Robert N. Hullinger summarized like this:

“In defense of God, Joseph Smith assailed the natural revelation of deism, which excluded the supernatural, and the static revelation of traditional Christianity contained in a closed canon. But to enable revealed religion to overcome natural religion, Smith supported the deistic attack on the Bible’s being complete and errorless. Rejection of the traditional view left him free to pursue special revelation specific to his own cause.”
(Robert N. Hullinger, “Mormon Answer to Skepticism: Why Joseph Smith Wrote the Book of Mormon”, Clayton Publishing House, 1980, p. 150)

Calvin demonstrates how Gnostic dualism works - or doesn't work.

Calvin demonstrates how Gnostic dualism works – or, in this case, doesn’t work.

February 3, 2015
Jason Wallace appears on a special two hour edition of Heart of the Matter that features a moderated debate between he and Shawn McCraney. The event descends into chaos (some later referred to it as “a circus” others “a Soap Opera”) when the moderator allows members of Shawn’s family (his wife and daughter), known instigators (like CAMPUS member Jed), and rank and file Shawnites to confront and denounce Mr. Wallace rather than the type of questions appropriate to a formal debate setting.

Further, the moderator (who is supposed to maintain neutral during debate proceedings) gave a supportive hug to Shawn McCraney’s wife immediately after she had ripped into Jason Wallace and allowed her to whisper something in his ear – all this while the debate was continuing right in front of them. This can hardly be described as neutral behavior. To make matters worse, this “neutral” moderator also made comments (some of them snide) in support of Shawn’s position during the closing moments of the debate. Thus the general consensus of those outside of Shawn’s camp is that Mr. McCraney and his followers acted very inappropriately – even cult-like – during this event.

February 5, 2015
Theologian James White weights in on the debate on his “Radio Free Geneva” broadcast (@04:50-15:27) concluding, “Listening to Shawn McCraney it’s hard to even recognize any more any meaningful element of Christian truth left in his theology. It’s just sad to watch. It really is.”

February 10, 2015
Shawn McCraney takes the entire broadcast to debrief on the February 3rd debate and address what he sees as the key issues that came up. Most surprising is his assertion that the apex of the event were the very things that in the days following most people pointed to as the low points, specifically: Loose cannon, pot stirring, Shawnite Jed asking Jason Wallace if he loved him, and Shawn’s wife and daughter dressing down Jason Wallace before a worldwide audience [@09:10-12:00]. Also surprising is Shawn’s claim that he’s mentally ill [@38:47], that’s he’s proud of it, and that the world would be a better place if it would appreciate mentally ill people (like him) and their unique way of seeing things rather than trying to get them to conform to normalcy [@33:30-41:10].

February 18, 2015
Pastor Jason Wallace is joined by Pastor Curtis Eggelston (of Berean Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Ogden, Utah) on his Ancient Paths television show to debrief on the February 3rd debate and analyze Shawn McCraney’s teachings and practices.

February 19, 2015
Jason Wallace issues the following statement on Facebook in tandem with posting the prior evening’s Ancient Paths broadcast on YouTube:

Last night’s episode of The Ancient Paths is now available on YouTube. Curtis Eggleston and I started our review of what was said in my exchange with Shawn McCraney. The main focus was on Shawn insisting on labeling me a Calvinist. He pushed me to accept the label at “The Inquisition” a year ago, then again in “The Confrontation” two weeks ago. His wife shoved a microphone in my face demanding I answer “yes or no” whether I am a Calvinist. All through “The Confrontation” Calvin and Calvinism were mentioned by Shawn. In Shawn’s show the following week, he described me as having “an absolute allegiance to Calvinism.” Why does Shawn, who hates being labeled, insist on labeling me a Calvinist? Why was I hesitant to embrace his label? I believe if you look at what Shawn has publicly taught about Calvinism, it all makes sense.

First, let me say, I don’t like the label, because it gives the impression I am following John Calvin instead of Jesus. At the same time, though Shawn twists things, the essence of what he insists on calling Calvinism is just biblical Christianity. It was taught by Calvin, but also by Martin Luther and all the Protestant reformers. It was taught by Augustine and a host of others throughout the early church. It is the faith of Jonathan Edwards & George Whitefield (leaders of the Great Awakening), Charles Spurgeon, William Carey (founder of the modern missions movement), David Livingston, and a host of more modern saints.

Shawn dedicated seven shows to Calvinism in 2013. In his show from October 1, 2013, he told a caller. . .

Now let me offset what you’re saying to me with what you believe, which is that God sovereignly creates men and women to burn in Hell. That that is His sovereignty – – that He has them and let’s them live here, but it’s His joy to have them burn in Hell while His other chosen ones get to live in bliss. And He knew that before creating one single person. If you want to follow that God, have at it, but not me.

Shawn cannot reconcile God being love with God knowing people will go to an eternal Hell, so Shawn portrays such a God as a sadistic monster. Dale Finley, an Arminian Baptist pastor, called in to say this is not a Calvinist/Arminian issue, but that Shawn has rejected the God of the Bible in his teaching. Shawn explicitly says he will not follow a sovereign God who sends people to an eternal Hell.

Please be clear, our purpose is not to judge Shawn’s heart, but to respond to his public teaching and speak the truth against his errors. Shawn said at “The Confrontation” that we were arguing over “the color of God’s eyes,” but it is clear the issues are the most fundamental in the faith.

February 24, 2015
Shawn McCraney makes the following statement (@1-minute, 59-seconds) on his Heart of the Matter broadcast:

I called Pastor Jason Wallace last week and asked him a simple question – Are we done? (meaning,“Are we done with all this between us?”).

To my surprise he said that he was going to do a follow-up on the shows where he aired our time together (which I admitted was reasonable) and then added, “then I don’t see any reason to continue.”

I couldn’t help but say, “Praise God” and felt our time together was not in vain . . . that just maybe I could accept Jason as a brother and he might see me as the same – even though we do not agree with one another.

I was really pleased.

I was then informed that last week my brother announced on his program that he in fact going to continue to pursue me on future shows – this time with another Orthodox pastor.

I hope this was incorrect but in the face of it I can say this – and I mean it:

I accept Jason as a brother and think he sincerely believes he is going God’s will.

And I will refrain from ever criticizing Jason or any other brother directly (or in public) but will ardently strive to see them as meaning well. . . and let God be their judge for the good and evil they may do.

I believe in order for subjective Christianity to be seen as viable it has to be lived. And it has to start somewhere.

So there it is.
(Episode 434: The Bible – Part 6, from the official HOTM transcription)

February 25, 2015
Pastor Jason Wallace is again joined by Pastor Curtis Eggelston on his Ancient Paths television program to finish up their debriefing on the February 3rd debate. Among other things, they tackle Jed’s agenda driven, pot stirring, “do you love me?” tactic (and it’s resulting fall out) from the debate head on. The reader will find this at 13-minutes and 10-seconds into the broadcast. Those interested will also find a fuller analysis of Shawnite Jed’s continuing pattern of public manipulation and grandstanding in part 5 of this series.

February 28, 2015
Jason Wallace publishes the following summary assessment of the issues surrounding Shawn McCraney’s movement and teachings:

“McCraney-ism”
by Jason Wallace
Many former Mormons have escaped the institution, but not the mindset of Mormonism. All their lives, they have been fed stories of how bad other churches are. Protestant pastors have been caricatured at the Mormon Miracle Pageant and in endless stories they have heard from their youth. After years of being told all other churches are wrong, many LDS simply add Mormonism to the list of false churches and embrace atheism. They abandon the claims of the LDS church to truth, but they blindly accept all its criticisms of the Bible and other churches as true. They breathe out contempt for Christianity with the old fervor of Brigham Young and Parley Pratt.

Though the vast majority of those who abandon Mormonism try to convince themselves there is no God, some recognize that they cannot escape His reality. They see the foolishness of an atheism that pretends to find meaning and value in a world devoid of purpose. They instead read the Bible and see an explanation for the world before them. Man is capable of greatness and perversity – – Bach and Hitler, DaVinci and Stalin. They discover that the world was created good, but it has been corrupted through sin.

In that same Bible, they find the one who has come to undo the Fall of man and reconcile sinful men to a holy God – – Jesus Christ. They hear His words and recognize their truth. The problem is that all too often, they do not recognize that they still carry with them the prejudices that were inculcated in them from youth. They view the Bible, Jesus, and His church through “Mormon glasses.” It is into this confusion that Shawn McCraney has stepped. He has been the instrument of helping many people see the errors of Mormonism, but in its place he is teaching a Jesus who plays to these prejudices, but is not the Jesus of the Bible.

Shawn McCraney is a passionate and charismatic man. These traits led to him being thrust into public ministry with very little experience. He has publicly stated that he had only attended five Evangelical worship services in his life before being offered an Evangelical television ministry. He had never even been baptized outside the Mormon church. Evangelicalism’s fascination with “star converts” pushed Shawn into the spotlight without proper preparation. His denunciations of Mormonism and promotion of a vague “personal relationship” with Jesus was considered orthodox enough for his promoters.

Over time, Shawn’s theology has become more clear and more developed. He claims all churches are wrong and all their creeds are “heinous.” He claims that the church has been blinded by “the physical” for 1800 years, but now he is helping usher in a new “spiritual” understanding of Christianity. He denounces churches as trying to insert themselves between the believer and God, and denounces pastors as motivated by pride and greed, while being blinded to the Spirit by their “scholarship.”

Despite Shawn’s rejection of many of the trappings of Mormonism, he has kept much of what made it popular in its founding. The early LDS made people feel pious in their contempt of educated pastors. Instead of “theology,” the LDS claimed to offer direct, personal experiences of God. Christianity was presented as a dark chaos of conflicting opinions. Something new was needed that would unite everyone. The Bible was appealed to, but was subject to what they considered the direct witness of the Spirit. This allowed them to ignore what they wanted from the Bible, while using it to attack their critics. In place of “doctrines of men,” the Mormons offered a vague, personal spirituality and a community that did not make the traditional demands upon them. Over time, Mormonism’s demands became much higher, but they were not so high in the beginning.

Many former LDS have a great personal loyalty to Shawn, because he is the one who opened their eyes to the errors of Mormonism. He offers them acceptance and community when they have lost both from the LDS. This loyalty leads them to ignore the hypocrisy of Shawn denouncing others in the harshest terms, but then playing the victim when someone responds. No one was trying to force Shawn to use the term “Trinity.” He took it upon himself to go on television and denounce the doctrine as “heinous” and “garbage.” He claimed it was rooted in “polytheistic paganism.” When I responded by saying that Shawn was teaching “grave error,” Shawn claimed I would kill him if I could and I would burn him at the stake. None of this was true. Rather than admitting that he had attacked the concept of the Trinity, Shawn tried to claim the whole issue was over “the use of an unbiblical term.” Just as the LDS claim never to attack anyone, many of Shawn’s followers see any response to his charges as “attacking Shawn.”

I named this review “McCraney-ism” because Shawn seeks to dismiss everyone who has gone before him as holding to an “-ism” or being an “-ist.” He, on the other hand, rejects all labels. This allows him to savage others’ beliefs, but then claim he is only attacking the “-ism.” When someone challenges his public teachings, he claims they are attacking “his person.” The reality is that Shawn is promoting a system of doctrine, an “-ism,” as much as anyone else.

Shawn has repeatedly tried to hang the label of Calvinist on me. I hold to the doctrines of grace held by Calvin, Luther, and all the Protestant reformers, but I have been hesitant to embrace what Shawn has described as “Calvinism.” He said of the doctrine that he has “not seen a bigger pile of garbage since the King Follett Discourse.” He says “Mormons and Biblical Christians” are united in their rejection of Calvinism’s “insane doctrine.”

I have heard many followers of Shawn say they don’t agree with Shawn on some things, but they aren’t worried because he tells them not to trust him, but check out the Bible for themselves. This sounds good, until you recognize that Shawn mocks and ridicules every pastor who says he’s teaching error. Though he may allow latitude in individual beliefs, he cannot tolerate any public disagreement with him. Critics are accused of “character assassination.” The subtle pressure in such a community is to conform. Would a false teacher invite someone to test them from the Bible? Most have; Brigham Young said in 1873, “I say to the whole world, receive the truth, no matter who presents it to you. Take up the Bible, compare the religion of the Latter-day Saints with it, and see if it will stand the test” (Journal of Discourses 16:46).

Shawn dismisses everyone else’s interpretation of the Bible as the “doctrines of men,” while he is just “sharing” what he sees. This plays to the prejudices of former Mormons and others who feel burned by “traditional” churches, but it is misleading. In a recent episode, Shawn asked, “. . . who do I think I am that I could actually spit in the wind of 1800 years plus of religious tradition and biblical scholars and learned men and women and suggest that they have been misled in the way they have applied the Bible to doing Christian life? I don’t know who I am when it comes to this. I might be crazy. I might be a fool. I might be inspired. I’m not sure. But I can say this is how it comes together for me. This is how when I sit down and read it, this is what speaks to me, and I’m going to be true to that. If I’m crazy, discover that and don’t listen to me, If I’m wrong in spots, you can call me out on it and go on and love me, or you can choose to fight it. But just understand I pray to God that it’s from Him and not Satan, who gives me the perspectives, and sometimes I don’t know . . .” This is disarming on the surface, but if heaven and hell are at stake, would he still be teaching others if he wasn’t convinced what he was saying was true? Shawn claims he’s “wrong 90% of the time,” but that doesn’t stop him from denouncing what the Bible teaches and demonizing churches and pastors. It also doesn’t stop him from demonizing the attempts of his critics to specify those errors.

Shawn claims all his critics care about is doctrine, but he cares about love and people. When I appeared on Heart of the Matter, one of his group asked “how many of you here love me,” I didn’t raise my hand. Since the immediate context was Shawn asking if I counted him as a Christian brother, I understood the question in that context and did not raise my hand since I did not really know the man. This was immediately interpreted in the worst possible light and Shawn later claimed that I choose not to love people. He says he thinks it’s unbiblical, but he “respects” my right to do so. I have tried to make clear that I love my neighbors and even my enemies, but I do not love them in the same way I love those of the household of faith. Love is more than a warm, fuzzy feeling for all people everywhere. I show love even to those who mock everything I stand for, including Shawn. I tried to correct him privately over 7 years ago. I have prayed for him for years. I have repeatedly tried to respond fairly and in love to Shawn’s denunciations. I have tried to speak the truth in love, but all that some of his group can see is hate when any criticisms are offered. Their own hatred of their critics seems to escape them.

What makes others’ interpretation of the Bible better than Shawn’s? The Bible is not unclear, and Shawn stands against the united witness of nearly 2,000 years of Christians on basic issues. Many of these Christians, unlike Shawn, could read the Bible in its original languages. These Christians also allow the Bible to interpret the Bible; they don’t impose a meaning on the texts that allows them to ignore passages that contradict them. They don’t let their conception of the love of God trump clear teachings about the wrath of God. Shawn seems to realize the Bible does not really support some of his new teachings, so he is attacking the inerrancy of the Bible as “crazy.” He is pitting the subjective testimony of the Spirit in you against the objective witness in the Bible. For those who recognized that a burning in their bosom was no assurance of truth, this should be troubling. The Holy Spirit is the author of the Scriptures and cannot contradict them.

Why does all this matter? First, Shawn is presenting a different Jesus. He has stated that the Lake of Fire is in the presence of Jesus, so unless Jesus has some sadistic pleasure in torturing people, sinners must be ultimately reconciled to Him. He ignores that in Revelation 14, those who receive the Mark of the Beast are tormented “in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb, and the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever.” Shawn says he will not follow a God who creates people He knows are going to an eternal Hell. Since this is the only God seen in Scripture by Calvinists, Arminians, Catholics, Orthodox, and practically everyone in church history, this should be seen as a problem. Shawn has taken the truth that God is love and used it to undermine anything that does not fit his idea of love.

The Jesus that Shawn presents is also a failure. His Holy Spirit apparently failed to lead the church into truth until now. His Second Coming in 70 A.D. (according to Shawn) failed to end the curse or to crush the head of the serpent. Shawn leaves open a “third coming,” but says there’s nothing about it in the Bible. Shawn’s Jesus also fails to resurrect our physical bodies, which makes Acts 17 and 1 Corinthians 15 nonsensical.

Second, Shawn is giving false assurance to unbelievers. He tells them if they have a “personal relationship” with Jesus they’re right with Him, and if they’re wrong, Hell is only temporary. Jesus does offer us a personal relationship, but He also warns us of those who draw near to Him with their lips while their hearts are far from Him. Shawn does not answer the warnings in 1 Corinthians 6 and Galatians 5 of those who profess faith but exhibit sins that show their hearts are unchanged. Jesus indwells His people. They are not free from sin in this life, but there are sins from which they are freed. Shawn uses James 2:10 to dismiss the clear teaching of 1 Corinthians 6 and Galatians 5. All sins are worthy of Hell, but there are sins, such as the continued practice of homosexuality, that demonstrate someone has been given over by God to a reprobate mind (Romans 1:24).

Finally, Shawn is robbing Christians of the means God has appointed for their edification. There are churches out there that are no better than the Mormon church, but that does not mean there are none who tremble at God’s Word. As Joseph Smith before him, Shawn tends to paint all churches with the same brush to confuse and frustrate people, so that he can offer an alternative. He plays on the divisions to make people give up on the idea of finding a true church. The irony is that most of these divisions are the work of others like him.

We need more than the community Shawn offers. Shawn says no one can tell someone else they are in sin, because if we’re going to talk righteousness, “you damn well better be righteous.” This is not what Jesus commanded. He established a visible church and said if a professing Christian would not hear it, they were to treated as “a heathen and a tax collector.” This does not mean they are hated, but that they are prayed for and called to repentance. Our Lord, through the Apostle Paul, commands his church to judge a man who married his father’s wife and not to eat with him as a brother in Christ. This was an expression of love that Shawn rejects, and it led to his repentance and restoration.

Many former Mormons tend to view any accountability in the context of how they have been abused. Biblical elders are commanded not to lord themselves over the congregation; they are to be the servants of all. They are warned they will have to give account to God (Hebrews 13:17) for having kept watch over His people.

The Apostle Paul called out Hymenaeus, Alexander the Coppersmith, and a host of others by name for their errors. Shawn is presenting a different Jesus and a different gospel. My plea to you is to be like the Bereans (Acts 17:11) and search the Scriptures for yourself. Brigham Young made the invitation, because he knew most people wouldn’t really test what he was telling them. I plead with you to read the Bible for yourself.

It is not enough to be against Mormonism. It is not enough to substitute new lies for old. It is not enough to claim a personal relationship with Jesus while refusing to do the most basic things he tells us. In the pages of God’s Word, you will find the truths rejected by Joseph Smith and Shawn McCraney, but embraced by countless saints who sealed their faith with their blood. You will find a Jesus far more glorious, and a gospel far more awesome. You will find the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

Thus says the LORD, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16
(source: GospelUtah.org website)

March 10, 2015
On his Heart of the Broadcast (@00:02:45) Shawn McCraney issues the following statement regarding the ongoing charge that he is employing Joseph Smith’s tactics and techniques in his ministry and methods:

There is a small movement afoot that is seeking to categorize me and my beliefs as an offshoot of Mormonism.

These Christian brothers have gone so far as to take Joseph Smith’s claims and assign them to me.

The longer I live the more readily I believe that we will always see and hear and believe what we want to see, and hear and believe, and it takes a real effort to remain in truth.

In any case it seems that this is intended to remove me and what I teach from Christianity by attempting to categorize me as an offshoot of Mormonism rather than an accepted brother in Christ.

I want my assailants to know I love them and will not retaliate – but I do want to quickly make things clear:

The similarities I have with the views of Joseph Smith are not limited to Smith. Anyone who is frustrated with church history, creedal Christianity, or man’s interference into the subjective relationship people have with God through Christ share Smith’s frustration.

Do such frustrations make me a Mormon? Common.

But in the name of clarity I personally renounce Mormonism as a counterfeit gospel.

This includes everything that makes it distinct including its priesthoods, its temples, its extra biblical books, its views on God (or God head) and the ontology of God, its soteriology, its baptisms . . . I mean, I really share nothing with Mormon doctrine and little with their practices.

Turning the tables, I have almost everything in common with Bible believing Christians.

The Good news

Monotheism – One God.

Jesus is God in flesh – the Word uncreated.

The Holy Spirit as God in spirit.

The Bible is His trusted Word.

Jesus is the only way, truth and life.

He is the author AND finisher of the faith.

His death, resurrection, ascension,.

Salvation is by grace through faith.

The importance of love in believers.

But because I disagree with two non-essentials (eternal punishment and the dating of Christ’s return) and one element some claim is an essential (the term and definition of the Trinity) some have tried to literally push me out of Christianity (the faith I embrace and love) and back into a schism of Mormonism (the faith I renounce).

Like I said to the LDS, if you don’t accept my views on eternal punishment PROVE THEM WRONG.

If you don’t agree with my Preterest Stance PROVE THEM WRONG.

Same with the Trinity. But stop the infighting. Accept my apologies, my differences, and try to see what we are doing and why.

I read a poem the other day I think is fitting. It was written by Edwin Markham in 1913 and is titled, “Outwitted.”

“He drew a circle that shut me out –

Heretic! Rebel! A thing to flout.

But Love and I had the wit to win, and

We drew a circle that took him in.”
(Episode 436: Sola Scriptura – Part 2, from the official HOTM transcription)

The exact charges that Mr. McCraney is responding to can be found in this author’s “Dear Michelle” article which states:

I would ask you to stop for a moment, take a deep breath, and think about what Shawn McCraney’s has been saying in both in concept and in words lately:

  • That Christian churches who adhere to historic Christian orthodoxy are wrong.
  • Their creeds are an abomination in God’s sight.
  • Their professors are all corrupt and motivated by things other than the truth.
  • They’re treating Shawn’s communication not only lightly, but with great contempt, even saying it may be of the devil.
  • As a result, there’s prejudice against Shawn among these corrupt, self-interested professors of religion.
  • And that all the above is the cause of a great persecution of Shawn.
  • Further, his circumstances in life are such as to make Shawn of no real consequence in the world.
  • Yet despite all this men of high standing are taking notice sufficient to excite the public mind against him.
  • But Shawn has an inner witness that he can’t deny, lest he offend God and come under condemnation.
  • And so he continues to bring forth new revelations week after week after week.

Sound familiar? Yes, I’ve used Joseph Smith’s 1838 First Vision account as my template in describing Shawn’s basic, recurring message but I’ve done so because the shoe fits. Tell me, is there anything is that list that doesn’t match the themes and principles Shawn has been teaching lately?

Thus I found this assessment particularly astute and to the point:

“… a former Mormon, he is mainly targeting other former Mormons and disaffected Mormons. Without a ‘nod to Joseph,’ he is playing on their ingrained prejudices and leading them into another counterfeit of Biblical Christianity. Mormonism is often categorized as a Christian cult, because it primarily targets those from a Christian background. You don’t see many Mormons trying to evangelize Muslims. Similarly, Shawn is targeting those from a Mormon background. This is why I would loosely call it a Mormon splinter group.”
[Daniel Jason Wallace in the “Evangelicals Discussing Mormonism” Facebook Group.]

Further, have you noticed how Shawn launches pre-emptive strikes against his critics? Joseph Smith did that too didn’t he Michelle?

In fact, essentially wasn’t that the gist of how he responded to your email on the air?  Of course it was couched in terms of how you will be subjected to the same “persecution” that he has if you continue to “seek truth” in the same deaf, stubborn, rebellious, rogue, and obstinate “wild ass” (his description of himself at “Inquisition 2014″) fashion that he has.  Make no mistake about it Michelle, he was only talking to you tangentially – his real audience was his critics. And in the end, didn’t it all seem and sound something like this:

“Our religious principles are before the world ready for the investigation of all men, yet we are aware that all the persecution against our friends has arisen in consequence of calumnies and misconstructions without foundation in truth and righteousness. This we have endured in common with all other religious societies at their first commencement.”
— Joseph Smith, 1836
[History of the Church, vol. 2, p.460; from a letter from Joseph Smith and others to John Thornton and others, July 25, 1836, Kirtland, Ohio, published in Messenger and Advocate, Aug. 1836, p.358.]

Yes, it’s all very “Joseph Smith” isn’t it Michelle? I would ask you to think about that.
(Fred W. Anson, “Dear Michelle”

Given the full body of evidence, please consider the following regarding Mr. McCraney’s response:

  1. He misrepresented the arguments that are being leveled at he and the McCraneyism movement.
  2. He failed to address the substance of those arguments.
  3. His statement, “Jesus is God in flesh – the Word uncreated” is too broad and general to be accepted as fully “orthodox”. As worded, this confession could refer to the heretical modalism that McCraney teaches, a number of other heretical stances on the nature of God, and/or biblically orthodox Christology. In summary, it fails because of its imprecision.
  4. His statement “The Holy Spirit as God in spirit” is skewed to the heretical – especially given the fact that he has taught on the Holy Spirit as an “it” or a “force” rather than a person.
  5. He has never apologized for or renounced the content of his heretical teachings, merely the delivery.
  6. The errors of his teachings have been addressed from the Bible on this website and elsewhere many, many, many times yet he continues to hold to and teach them. The problem isn’t that his error hasn’t been exposed and addressed from the Bible, the problem is that Mr. Craney refuses to listen.

Other all, this statement was the same kind of spin doctored, obfuscation that we see from the LdS Church and other Mormon splinter groups. Further, as noted, Mr. McCraney engaged in the classic Mormon tactic of using Christian terminology but changing the underlying meaning. There is, therefore, no need to withdraw the charge. In fact, Mr. McCraney’s statement actually confirmed it’s validity and veracity.

April 23, 2015
Respected Mormon researcher and critic Bill McKeever offers his assessment of Shawn McCraney and the McCraneyism movement on the The Eternal Planner w/ Rob Rennie radio show. In his assessment he also gives some of the local history that pre-dates Mr. McCraney’s pre-heresy days. This historical perspective may be enlightening to those who were outside of the Evangelical Christian community in Utah (or those who were in it but not “in the know”) while it was occurring.

Shawn McCraney’s October 6th, 2015 response to this critique can be found below.

May 5 – June 2, 2015
Shawn McCraney broadcasts a series of discussions/exchanges/debates on Calvinism with Theologian Matt Slick:

05/05/2015 Episode 444: Matt Slick – Total Inability (aka “Total Depavity”)
05/12/2015 Episode 445: Matt Slick – Unconditional Election
05/19/2015 Episode 446: Matt Slick – Limited Atonement
05/26/2015 Episode 447: Matt Slick – Irresistible Grace
06/02/2015 Episode 448: Matt Slick – Perseverance of the Saints

To deconstruct, analyze, and respond to the fallacious logic and bad arguments by Mr. McCraney would require a whole new series of articles – so we’ll let an excerpt of Brother Thomas’ insightful analysis suffice instead:

Shawn, as usual answered [Slick’s solid presentation] with his mocking exasperation argument where he cites a few random verses out of context and then mostly ends up citing himself as the authority, saying things like, “it doesn’t make sense”, “I don’t see how” while straw-manning various supposed Reformed propositions. I’ve heard his complaints (against the God of the Bible/”the God of Calvinism”) many, many times before–it’s the same old rant. . . . From atheists . . . humanists . . . wiccans . . . feminists . . . militant homosexuals . . . agnostics . . .. pagans . . . universalists . . . Satanists . . . and any number of God-hating, man-exalting unbelievers. “What kind of God sends people He created to Hell?!” is basically it. . . . Which is why I’m not so sure Shawn IS a “brother” in Christ . . . as so many who’ve tried to reach him . . . seem so reticent to clarify. He is a likable, humorous, charismatic guy . . . and I know it is not a small thing to call someone a heretic or, worse, a “wolf” among the flock . . . but I’m beginning to wonder what is the difference between Shawn’s Jesus and the Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness or New Age Jesus? Okay, the details are different . . . but in the end IT’S A DIFFERENT JESUS just the same.

Why do “we” say that Mormons or JW’s or Catholics “aren’t Christian” even though they claim to believe in “Jesus”?

Because they teach a different Jesus than the one shown in the Bible. They have added or detracted from The Word and created a God to suit themselves and thus cannot be considered “of the faith.”

Well, how is what Shawn is doing any different? Not because of his rejection of Reformed theology . . . but because of the leaning aggregate of all his errant assertions: “The doctrine of the Trinity is garbage”, . . . “the 2nd Coming has already happened” . . . “Christianity is totally subjective” . . . “Everyone will ultimately be saved/there is no eternal damnation” . . . “The Bible isn’t really relevant for us today–it was written by and for those prior to 70 A.D.” . . . “you can lose your salvation” and so on. . . .

If God is the author of the Bible, and Jesus is God . . . and Shawn teaches a growing body of doctrines that contradict orthodox Christian belief–at what point is he no longer believing and teaching “Christianity” . . . but something else instead, just as we say the cults and heretics do?

I’ll tell you what “makes sense to me”. . . . It is that he [Shawn McCraney and others who rely on the natural man] who has made an idol of himself and his own reasoning and hates the sovereignty of God, rails and mocks and jeers and wars against God ever still, as such always have and will continue to . . . until He finally puts them down . . . and every knee finally bows and every mouth confesses that HE is Lord . . . not “me”.”
(Brother Thomas, “Matt Slick vs. Shawn McCraney”)

October 6, 2015
On his Heart of the Broadcast (@00:28:46) Shawn McCraney announces that he’s a “committed modalist” verifying and confirming the charges of heresy that resulted in him being publicly challenged and denounced as a heretical teacher in early 2014:

Here is that announcement from the official HOTM transcript of this show:

At this point I will publicly admit that I am a committed modalist but refuse the Trinitarians pejorative that claims I err by “confounding the persons.”

I would reply they err by creating “three persons deserving worship” rather than the one true and living God deserving it alone.

In Smith’s life modalism was a popular alternative to trinitarianism but the differences are not easily observed by most Christians then or even today.

I can’t tell you how many people who are devout followers of Christ who cannot articulate the fundamentals of creedal trinitarianism and who typically, when asked to define their beliefs on the subject describe modalist thinking instead.

Anyway, the main difference between modalists and Trinitarians is Trinitarians label Father, Son and Holy Spirit “persons” and modalists label them all expressions or manifestations of the One God.

In reality, modalists do not deny three in one – they simply do not see the three as individual entities entirely separate from each other.

Also, there are differences between sabellian modalism – which says that the Father became the son and the son became the Holy Spirit and plain modalism which asserts that God manifested Himself in and through the Son and in and through the Holy Spirit.

I am certainly of the later form.

But Love and I had the wit to win, and

We drew a circle that took him in.
(Episode 466: Ontology of God – Part 1, from the official HOTM transcription; bolding and redding added for emphasis)

For those unfamiliar with the heresy of modalism here’s a brief primer:

Modalism, also called Sabellianism, is the unorthodox belief that God is one person who has revealed himself in three forms or modes in contrast to the Trinitarian doctrine where God is one being eternally existing in three persons. According to Modalism, during the incarnation, Jesus was simply God acting in one mode or role, and the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was God acting in a different mode. Thus, God does not exist as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit at the same time. Rather, He is one person and has merely manifested himself in these three modes at various times. Modalism thus denies the basic distinctiveness and coexistence of the three persons of the Trinity.

Modalism was condemned by Tertullian (c. 213, Tertullian Against Praxeas 1, in Ante Nicene Fathers, vol. 3). Also known as Sabellianism, it was condemned as heresy by Dionysius, bishop of Rome (c. 262).” [Note it was formally denounce
(source, Modalism article on Theopedia)

So let’s be clear here: Despite, the spin doctoring, well poisoning, and posturing that he engaged in before and after this announcement, this is the equivalent of Mr. McCraney appearing before a worldwide audience and publicly announcing, “I am a committed Christian heretic”.

But if that wasn’t enough, at the end of the show (@00:47:30) Mr. McCraney proceeded to throw Mormon Research Ministry’s (MRM) Bill McKeever (in particular) and just about every other Utah based ministry and church (generally) under the bus:

Aaron Shafovaloff, Bill McKeever’s colleague at MRM responded to Mr. McCraney via the following YouTube comment – which was immediately deleted:

“He [Shawn McCraney] sets up a straw man for what it means for him to live the virtue of submission, as though that means abandoning all the idiosyncratic ideas of his own for ministry. It’s about being in a community of discipleship and accountability. Shawn should humble himself and participate in a local church with qualified elders. “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” (Proverbs 18:1) Submission to others is a Christian virtue for all believers.

He misrepresents the controversy over “Born Again Mormon” as if whether there are born again Christians within Mormonism. At this point, he arrogantly and mockingly misrepresents Bill McKeever’s concerns. The real controversy was whether such born again Christians should be counseled to leave the LDS Church. Honest and forthright discipleship should encourage any believer to get into a healthy Bible-believing church.

At least in his video, he failed to distinguish his universalism from Rob Bell’s universalism. It’s hard to see why he was refuting McKeever’s description. “I never said that.” But you didn’t have to. The issue wasn’t whether you explicitly aligned yourself, by name, with Rob Bell’s position on hell / universalism. But the issue was whether Bell’s universalism was a fitting analogy for your own.

So much arrogance. Please exit this cult-following and join a healthy local church that unashamedly lives according to the commands of the pastoral epistles for the life of the local church.”

Further, Mr. McCraney’s representation of the historical facts regarding him being challenged, confronted, and corrected regarding the descent into heresy that he started down in 2013 are flat out wrong. This can easily be proven because the “The Trial(s) of Shawn McCraney” series of articles on Beggar’s Bread (of which you’re currently reading Part 4) has been documenting this descent as it has been occurring – that is, in the historical moment and with supporting evidence. One need only start at the beginning of this series and start reading, watching, and listening to see how badly Shawn McCraney’s HOTM episode 466 recitation abused and misrepresented historical reality. Simply put, the body of evidence just doesn’t match Mr. McCraney’s spin doctored, revisionist “facts”.

October 14, 2015
The Ancient Paths publishes a short video composite of Heart of the Matter broadcasts that document Mr. McCraney’s February 2014 radical flip into modalism while simultaneously and aggressively denying it. This lasted until October 2015. For those counting that’s a year and half of self and public denial/deceit:

March 25, 2016
Unaware of the problems with Mr. McCraney’s ministry that started in 2013, the “Christian Utah” podcast schedules Shawn McCraney to appear on the show to discuss Heart of the Matter and CAMPUS. After being brought up to speed by several concerned colleagues and listeners the show’s producer reports his concerns to Shawn and suggests that they discuss them on the show. As he explains to Shawn in an email, “If there was some understanding, this [upcoming interview] would be a great opportunity to clear your name and help people see your ministry through a new light.”

Instead Mr. McCraney simply cancels the interview.

As as a result of these events “Christian Utah” schedules Jason Wallace as a replacement and they spend about half the show discussing the history of Shawn McCraney’s slide into heresy and error and the other half discussing the unique culture of Mormonism (in general) and Utah (in particular) that lends itself to the type of Christian antinomianism taught and practiced by Shawn McCraney as well as so many others in the state.

This show is also a superb primer for those who want to get up to speed quickly on the history of Shawn McCraney in Utah, the Shawnites, and McCraneyism as it stood as of that date. Click here to listen to this show.

May 17, 2016 “So much heresy, so little time!” 
Theologian Matt Slick the founder and director of CARM (The Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry) participates in a free form, ad-hoc debate/dialogue/discussion which is described as follows on the Heart of the Matter website:

Shawn and Matt come together for a dialogue about orthodoxy and Shawn’s refusal to fully embrace it. They see things very differently relative to a number of teachings and doctrines in the Christian faith. Shawn is convinced that modern Christianity has misappropriated the Bible and assigned to it power and authority that was never intended to have from the start of the faith.

He maintains that:
1) The Spirit is primary and preferential in the Christian’s life,
2) The Bible is secondary and referential,
3) Church history is at best tertiary and inferential, and
4) Modern material religion is actually unnecessary and quite inconsequential. Shawn and Matt will compare several Christian topics to see how vital they really are to a person being viewed as a true Christian, to salvation, and to being received in the Body.

It’s hard to summarize something this loose, sloppy, disjointed, and chaotic into a few sentences. That said, the general consensus after it aired was that this event clearly demonstrated how unfit Shawn McCraney is to teach anyone anything.

Plainly stated, every time Shawn spoke during this event it simply demonstrated his incompetence, irrationality, ignorance, pugnaciousness, lack of self control, and, most importantly, inability to engage in sound biblical hermenuetics. As Matt Slick said so well at the 1:34:20 mark, “So much heresy, so little time.”  However, that said, it wasn’t Mike Slick who exposed Shawn McCraney as a heretic in this broadcast, Mr. McCraney did a wonderful job of doing that himself.

In the end this broadcast made it abundantly clear that to watch to Shawn McCraney teach is to see a fool in his folly. If you doubt this simply watch the show.

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