Archive for the ‘The Trinity’ Category

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“You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed.”
— 2 Corinthians 11:4 (NLT) 

by Fred W. Anson
It’s the Christmas season. And like most Christmas seasons Mormon Critics will no doubt set online boards aflame with the accusation that Mormons preach and worship another Jesus. Unfortunately, since the allegation is so often made without any supporting evidence it all too often leaves Latter-day Saint scratching their head in wonder. After all, what other Jesus is there than the one that they’ve been taught and know? Thankfully, some Mormon Leaders have had the integrity to speak the truth:

“As a church we have critics, many of them. They say we do not believe in the traditional Christ of Christianity. There is some substance to what they say”
— Gordon Hinckley, “We look to Christ,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 2002, p.90

“It is true that many of the Christian churches worship a different Jesus Christ than is worshiped by the Mormons or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”
— Bernard P. Brockbank, “The Living Christ,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 1977, p.26

That said, here’s a topical reference that will, hopefully, facilitate discussion between the two sides, give Mormon Critics a place to send their Mormon friends for evidence to support this oft used claim, and help Latter-day Saints understand why the Mormon Jesus isn’t the Jesus preached in the Bible. 

Mormon Jesus:  Is God’s first spirit child – that is, Jesus Christ has not always been God.
Where you’ll find it
Jesus Christ is the firstborn spirit son of God.”

(Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual”, p.9, Official LdS Church manual)

The first spirit born to our heavenly parents was Jesus Christ.”
(Gospel Principles [1986 edition], p.9, Official LdS Church manual) 

“Among the spirit children of Elohim, the first-born was and is Jehovah, or Jesus Christ, to whom all others are juniors”
(Joseph F. Smith (Mormon President), Gospel Doctrine, p.70; also cited in “Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual”, 9-10)

“As far as man is concerned, all things center in Christ. He is the Firstborn of the Father. By obedience and devotion to the truth he attained that pinnacle of intelligence which ranked him as a God, as the Lord Omnipotent, while yet in his pre-existent state. As such he became, under the Father, the Creator of this earth and of worlds without number; and he was then chosen to work out the infinite and eternal atonement, to come to this particular earth as the literal Son of the Father, and to put the whole plan of redemption, salvation, and exaltation in operation.”
(Bruce R. McConkie (Mormon Apostle), Mormon Doctrine, p.129; also cited in Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual”, pp.9–10)

“There is no impropriety, therefore, in speaking of Jesus Christ as the Elder Brother of the rest of humankind. That He is by spiritual birth Brother to the rest of us is indicated in Hebrews: “Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17). Let it not be forgotten, however, that He is essentially greater than any or all others, by reason (1) of His seniority as the oldest or firstborn; (2) of His unique status in the flesh as the offspring of a mortal mother and of an immortal, or resurrected and glorified, Father; (3) of His selection and foreordination as the one and only Redeemer and Savior of the race; and (4) of His transcendent sinlessness.

Jesus Christ is not the Father of the spirits who have taken or yet shall take bodies upon this earth, for He is one of them. He is The Son, as they are sons or daughters of Elohim. So far as the stages of eternal progression and attainment have been made known through divine revelation, we are to understand that only resurrected and glorified beings can become parents of spirit offspring. Only such exalted souls have reached maturity in the appointed course of eternal life; and the spirits born to them in the eternal worlds will pass in due sequence through the several stages or estates by which the glorified parents have attained exaltation.”
(“The Father and the Son: A Doctrinal Exposition by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles”, Improvement Era, August 1916; condensed edition reprinted in Ensign, April 2002)

“The Father of Jesus is our Father also. Jesus Himself taught this truth, when He instructed His disciples how to pray: ‘Our Father which art in heaven,’ etc. Jesus, however, is the firstborn among all the sons of God—the first begotten in the spirit, and the only begotten in the flesh. He is our elder brother, and we, like Him, are in the image of God”
(Joseph F. Smith, “Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith”, p. 335)

Biblical Jesus: Has always been God and always will be – that is, He had no beginning and has no end.
Where you’ll find it
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
(John 1:1, KJV)

“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.”
(Revelation 1:8, KJV)

Jesus Tempted In the Desert

Jesus tempted in the desert. According to current Mormon Doctrine these two are brothers. “The Temptation of Christ” by Ary Scheffer (c.1854)

Mormon Jesus: As God’s first spirit child, the Mormon Jesus is the “older brother” with all of God’s other spirit children – which includes you, me, all of humanity, and Lucifer (Satan).
Where you’ll find it
“In the grand council called to ratify the Father’s plan, a great difference arose. The majority, led by the First Born of the Father, our Elder Brother, Jesus the Christ, was ready to accept the plan with all its conditions. The minority, led by Lucifer, a ‘son of the morning,’ feared the isolation and the pains and ills of earth. For them Lucifer proposed that they should be sent to earth, but that provisions should be made by which they would suffer no pain and would not have to make any sacrifices. All of them would be returned with earthly bodies irrespective of their works on earth. This latter plan seemed desirable that one-third of those present favored it, in direct opposition of God’s plan. Lucifer and his followers were thrown out of the council, and as opponents of God’s plan, became the devil and his angels, who strive ever to tempt men to disobey the laws of God.”

(John A. Widtsoe (Mormon Apostle), “Joseph Smith – Seeker After Truth”, pp.156-157

“The importance of not accommodating temptation in the least degree is underlined by the Savior’s example. Did not he recognize the danger when he was on the mountain with his fallen brother, Lucifer, being sorely tempted by that master tempter? [see Matthew 4:1–11.] He could have opened the door and flirted with danger by saying, ‘All right, Satan, I’ll listen to your proposition. I need not succumb, I need not yield, I need not accept – but I’ll listen.’”
(“Pearl of Great Price Student Manual – Religion 327”, chapter entitled, “Moses 1:12 – 23 – Satan Commanded Moses to Worship Him”, Official LdS Church Education System Seminaries and Institute of Religion manual; also see “The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball”, p.163;  and “Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball”, pp.107-108, Official LdS Church manual)

“Our Father said, ‘Whom shall I send?’ (Abraham 3:27). Two of our brothers offered to help. Our oldest brother, Jesus Christ, who was then called Jehovah, said, ‘Here am I, send me’…”
(“Gospel Principles”, pp.17-18 [1997 edition], NOTE: this passage is missing from the current – that is, 2009 – edition, Official LdS Church manual)

“Satan, who was called Lucifer, also came, saying, ‘Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor’ (Moses 4:1).” [1997 and 2009 editions]
(“Gospel Principles”, pp.17-18 [1997 and 2009 editions], Official LdS Church manual)

“After hearing both sons speak, Heavenly Father said, ‘I will send the first.’ (Abraham 3:27).”
(“Gospel Principles” p.15 [2009 edition], Official LdS Church manual)

“The appointment of Jesus to be the Savior of the world was contested by one of the other sons of God. He was called Lucifer, son of the morning. Haughty, ambitious, and covetous of power and glory, this spirit-brother of Jesus desperately tried to become the Savior of mankind.”
(Milton R. Hunter (Mormon Seventy), “The Gospel Through the Ages”, p.15

“According to our teachings, Satan and an army of supporters were cast down to earth from the premortal spirit world. They are spirit brothers of ours, and are real persons having spirit bodies.”
(Joseph F. Merrill (Mormon Apostle), “Conference Report”, April 1941, p.49)

Biblical Jesus:  Is the creator of all –  including you, me, all of humanity, and Lucifer (Satan).
Where you’ll find it
“All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
(
John 1:3, KJV)

“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”
(Colossians 1:16-17, KJV

Mormon Jesus: Is the literal Son of God begotten by an immortal Father – this doctrine compromises the virgin birth.
Where you’ll find it

“Jesus Christ is the only begotten son of God in the flesh.”
(Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual”, p.9, Official LdS Church manual)

“That Child to be born of Mary was begotten of Elohim, the Eternal Father, not in violation of natural law but in accordance with a higher manifestation thereof; and, the offspring from that association of supreme sanctity, celestial Sireship, and pure though mortal maternity, was of right to be called the ‘Son of the Highest.’”
(James E. Talmage (Mormon Apostle), Jesus the Christ, p.81; also cited in “Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual”, pp.9–10)

“We believe absolutely that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, begotten of God, the first-born in the spirit and the only begotten in the flesh; that He is the Son of God just as much as you and I are the sons of our fathers”
(Heber J. Grant (Mormon Prophet), “Analysis of the Articles of Faith,” Millennial Star, January 5, 1922, p.2; also cited in “Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual”, pp.9–10)

“Christ Not Begotten of Holy Ghost… Christ was begotten of God. He was not born without the aid of Man, and that Man was God!”
(Joseph Fielding Smith (Mormon Prophet), Doctrines of Salvation”, 1:18)

“I am bold to say to you… The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaims that Jesus Christ is the Son of God in the most literal sense. The body in which He performed His mission in the flesh was sired by that same Holy Being we worship as God, our Eternal Father. Jesus was not the son of Joseph, nor was He begotten by the Holy Ghost”
(Ezra Taft Benson (Mormon Prophet), “The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson”, p. 7; “Come unto Christ”, p. 4; “Five Marks of the Divinity of Jesus Christ”, Ensign, Dec. 2001, p.8)

1972-family-home-evening

An official LDS Church manual (Family Home Evening Manual, 1972) carried the above illustration showing the figure of a man, woman, and child on page 126. LDS parents are told they should use this to explain to their children “how Jesus was the only begotten Son of God.” Daddy plus Mommy equals you; Heavenly Father plus Mary equals Jesus.

“You all know that your fathers are indeed your fathers and that your mothers are indeed your mothers you all know that don’t you? You cannot deny it. Now, we are told in scriptures that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God in the flesh. Well, now for the benefit of the older ones, how are children begotten? I answer just as Jesus Christ was begotten of his father. The Christian denominations believe that Christ was begotten not of God but of the spirit that overshadowed his mother. This is nonsense. Why will not the world receive the truth? Why will they not believe the Father when he says that Jesus Christ is His only begotten Son? Why will they try to explain this truth away and make mystery of it? …

“Now, little boys and girls, when you are confronted by infidels in the world who know nothing of how Christ was begotten, you can say he was born just as the infidel was begotten and born, so was Christ begotten by his Father, who is also our Father—the Father of our spirits—and he was born of his mother Mary.

“The difference between Jesus Christ and other men is this: Our fathers in the flesh are mortal men, who are subject unto death; but the Father of Jesus Christ in the flesh is the God of Heaven. Therefore Jesus, as he declared, received the power of life from his Father and was never subject unto death but had life in himself as his father had life in himself. Because of this power he overcame death and the grave and became master of the resurrection and the means of salvation to us all.

“Shall we as Latter-day Saints deny the truth and then claim that God made man in his likeness in the beginning? Shall we come under the impression that God possesses the power of creation, and yet did not literally create? He is not without his companion any more than I am without my companion, the mother of my children…

“Now, by and by you will be able to understand this far better than you can today. Some of us grandparents find it difficult to conceive the truth we want to think of something marvelous. We want to try to make it appear that God does not do things in the right way, or that he has another way of doing things than what we know, we must come down to the simple fact that God Almighty was the Father of His Son Jesus Christ. Mary, the virgin girl, who had never known mortal man, was his mother. God by her begot His son Jesus Christ, and He was born into the world with power and intelligence like that of His Father…

“Now, my little friends, I will repeat again in words as simple as I can, and you talk to your parents about it, that God, the Eternal Father is literally the father of Jesus Christ.

“Mary was married to Joseph for time. No man could take her for eternity because she belonged to the Father of her divine Son. In the revelation that has come thru Joseph Smith, we learn that it is the eternal purpose of God that man and woman should be joined together by the power of God here on earth for time and eternity.”
(Joseph F. Smith (Mormon Prophet) at the Box Elder Stake conference of December 20, 1914, as recorded in the Box Elder News”, January 28, 1915; Hoyt W. Brewster, Jr., Doctrine and Covenants Encyclopedia”, p. 398; Messages of the First Presidency” 4:330)

Biblical Jesus: Was born of a virgin via a miraculous conception. Thus God the Son was incarnated, born, and lived as a human being through that miracle without compromising Mary’s virginity in any way.
Where you’ll find it
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost…

Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”
(Matthew 1:18,22-23, KJV)

Mormon Jesus: Is one of three Gods ruling the universe (among other Gods that also exist)
Where you’ll find it
“The Church’s first article of faith states, “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” These three beings make up the Godhead. They preside over this world and all other creations of our Father in Heaven… But where Latter-day Saints differ from other Christian religions is in their belief that God and Jesus Christ are glorified, physical beings and that each member of the Godhead is a separate being.”

(Gospel Topics article on “Godhead”, Official LdS Church website) 

“Latter-day Saints believe in God the Father; his Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost (A of F 1). These three Gods form the Godhead, which holds the keys of power over the universe. Each member of the Godhead is an independent personage, separate and distinct from the other two, the three being in perfect unity and harmony with each other (AF, chap. 2).”
(The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, “Godhead” article, p.552)

“I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and that the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods. If this is in accordance with the New Testament, lo and behold! we have three Gods anyhow, and they are plural: and who can contradict it!”
(“Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith”, p.372; also see History of the Church”, Vol. 6, p. 473) 

Trinity Triangle_edited

The Trinity Triangle: “We believe in the Triune God-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This window uses the Latin Pater, Filius, and Spiritus Sanctus to name the persons in the Trinity. One God and Three Persons is a great mystery of the Church. The window explains that the Persons are not each other, but each is God (Deus).”

Biblical Jesus: Is, and always has been, God eternal.
In Biblical Theology God is one, and only one, eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent Being that consists of three co-omnipresent, co-omniscient, co-omnipresent persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As a form of theological short hand, the term “the Trinity” is used to describe His nature. Jesus Christ is the second person of the Trinity, God the Son. While it would require it’s own article to adequately document the biblical case for the doctrine of the Trinity, here are some key proof texts and expository points for it as a kind of appetizer. If you would like the full meal I recommend “The Biblical Basis of the Doctrine of the Trinity” by Rob Bowman. 

Where you’ll find it
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”

(Genesis 1:26, KJV

– Angels do not create.
– We are not made in the image of angels.
– There is no place in the Old Testament where a leader refers to himself with the term “us.”

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.
(Deuteronomy 6:4, KJV

– In Hebrew: “shmo ishral ieue alei·nu ieue achd”. And the last Hebrew word “achd” means “united one”.

“Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.”
(Psalm 45:6-7, KJV

– This is quoted in Heb. 1:8, “But unto the Son he [God] saith, “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.”

“Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.”
(Isaiah 6:8, KJV

– Notice the juxtaposition of “Whom shall I send” and “who will go for us?” 

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”
(Matthew 28:19, KJV)

– Note that there is one name and three persons.

Jesus-Baptism-Cropped

Apparently John the Baptist was a Freemason (notice the “arm to the square”) and Jesus a modern Mormon (notice the modern baptism grip).

Mormon Jesus: Earned his own salvation.
Where you’ll find it

“Even Christ himself was not perfect at first; he received not a fulness at first, but he received grace for grace, and he continued to receive more and more until he received a fulness”
(Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, p.68. See also Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, p.153)

“God the Eternal Father, the Father of the Firstborn and of all the spirit hosts, as an exalted and glorified Being, having all power and dominion, possessing all knowledge and all truth, personifying and being the embodiment of all godly attributes, did, of his own will, ordain and establish the plan of salvation whereby Christ and all his other spirit children might have power to advance and progress and become like him.

(Bruce R. McConkie (Mormon Apostle), “Bruce R. McConkie: Highlights From His Life & Teachings. (Eborn Books Mormon Classics Series, Volume 6)”, p.354)

“These laws [of salvation], instituted by the father, constitute the gospel of God, which gospel is the plan by which all of his spirit children, Christ included, may gain eternal life.”
(Bruce R. McConkie (Mormon Apostle), “Doctrinal New Testament Commentary”, 2:215) 

“Jesus Christ is the Son of God… He came to earth to work out his own salvation.”
(Bruce R. McConkie (Mormon Apostle), “Doctrinal New Testament Commentary”, 3:238) 

Biblical Jesus: As God, Christ required no salvation.
Where you’ll find it
“And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.”
(
1 John 3:5, KJV)

“For we have not an high priest [that is, Christ] which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”
(
Hebrews 4:15, KJV)

“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him”
(2 Corinthians 5:21, KJV

Mormon Jesus:  Christ came to condemn and exact judgment.
Mormon Jesus: Returned to the earth to preach to the Book of Mormon people and start a separate church for them in America.
Where you’ll find it
In the Book of Mormon Jesus descends from the clouds exacting judgment on the cities that he’s condemned due to their unbelief and sin. He then delivers a sermon (comprised mainly of plagiarized text from Isaiah and Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount narrative) that establishes his church on the American continent before ascending to heaven again in anticipation of establishing his eternal kingdom on earth at the end of the age. 

3 Nephi 9:1-22, Book of Mormon
And it came to pass that there was a voice heard among all the inhabitants of the earth, upon all the face of this land, crying:

Wo, wo, wo unto this people; wo unto the inhabitants of the whole earth except they shall repent; for the devil laugheth, and his angels rejoice, because of the slain of the fair sons and daughters of my people; and it is because of their iniquity and abominations that they are fallen!

Behold, that great city Zarahemla have I burned with fire, and the inhabitants thereof.

And behold, that great city Moroni have I caused to be sunk in the depths of the sea, and the inhabitants thereof to be drowned.

And behold, that great city Moronihah have I covered with earth, and the inhabitants thereof, to hide their iniquities and their abominations from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints shall not come any more unto me against them.

(credit: LDS Church)

Christ appears to the Nephites.

And behold, the city of Gilgal have I caused to be sunk, and the inhabitants thereof to be buried up in the depths of the earth;

Yea, and the city of Onihah and the inhabitants thereof, and the city of Mocum and the inhabitants thereof, and the city of Jerusalem and the inhabitants thereof; and waters have I caused to come up in the stead thereof, to hide their wickedness and abominations from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints shall not come up any more unto me against them.

And behold, the city of Gadiandi, and the city of Gadiomnah, and the city of Jacob, and the city of Gimgimno, all these have I caused to be sunk, and made hills and valleys in the places thereof; and the inhabitants thereof have I buried up in the depths of the earth, to hide their wickedness and abominations from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints should not come up any more unto me against them.

And behold, that great city Jacobugath, which was inhabited by the people of king Jacob, have I caused to be burned with fire because of their sins and their wickedness, which was above all the wickedness of the whole earth, because of their secret murders and combinations; for it was they that did destroy the peace of my people and the government of the land; therefore I did cause them to be burned, to destroy them from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints should not come up unto me any more against them.

And behold, the city of Laman, and the city of Josh, and the city of Gad, and the city of Kishkumen, have I caused to be burned with fire, and the inhabitants thereof, because of their wickedness in casting out the prophets, and stoning those whom I did send to declare unto them concerning their wickedness and their abominations.

And because they did cast them all out, that there were none righteous among them, I did send down fire and destroy them, that their wickedness and abominations might be hid from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints whom I sent among them might not cry unto me from the ground against them.

And many great destructions have I caused to come upon this land, and upon this people, because of their wickedness and their abominations.

O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?

Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me.

Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God. I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are. I was with the Father from the beginning. I am in the Father, and the Father in me; and in me hath the Father glorified his name.”

I came unto my own, and my own received me not. And the scriptures concerning my coming are fulfilled.

And as many as have received me, to them have I given to become the sons of God; and even so will I to as many as shall believe on my name, for behold, by me redemption cometh, and in me is the law of Moses fulfilled.

thesecondcoming_2560x1600

The Mormon view of the second coming. This is separate and distinct from him coming to the Nephites in the Book of Mormon.

I am the light and the life of the world. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.

And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings.

And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.

Behold, I have come unto the world to bring redemption unto the world, to save the world from sin.

Therefore, whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him will I receive, for of such is the kingdom of God. Behold, for such I have laid down my life, and have taken it up again; therefore repent, and come unto me ye ends of the earth, and be saved.”

Biblical Jesus: Came to save, not condemn the world.
Where you’ll find it
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”
(John 3:16-17, KJV)

Biblical Jesus: The physical return of Christ is still to come, there have been no physical returns since His ascension.
Where you’ll find it
“Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”
(Acts 1:11, KJV

“Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.”
(Revelation 1:7, KJV

So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
(Hebrews 9:28, KJV)

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats.
(Matthew 25:31-32, KJV

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
(1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, KJV

“For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.”
(Matthew 16:27, KJV

And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
(Matthew 24:30, KJV

he-atoned-eng-large

The Latter-day Saint version of the atonement

Mormon Jesus: Accomplished the Atonement primarily in the garden of Gethsemane.
Where you’ll find it
“For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.”
(Doctrine & Covenants 19:17-19

“And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body,hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people. And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary.”
(Mosiah 3:7-8)

“Where and under what circumstances was the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God made? Was it on the Cross of Calvary or in the Garden of Gethsemane? It is to the Cross of Christ that most Christians look when centering their attention upon the infinite and eternal atonement. And certainly the sacrifice of our Lord was completed when he was lifted up by men; also, that part of his life and suffering is more dramatic and, perhaps, more soul stirring. But in reality the pain and suffering, the triumph and grandeur, of the atonement took place primarily in Gethsemane”
(Bruce R. McConkie (Mormon Apostle), “Doctrinal New Testament Commentary” 1:774)

“Thankfully, Jesus Christ courageously fulfilled this sacrifice in ancient Jerusalem. There in the quiet isolation of the Garden of Gethsemane, He knelt among the gnarled olive trees, and in some incredible way that none of us can fully comprehend, the Savior took upon Himself the sins of the world”
(M. Russell Ballard (Mormon Apostle), “The Atonement and the Value of One Soul”, Ensign, May 2004, p.85)

“As terrible as Christ’s suffering on the cross was, perhaps it was not as great as His suffering in Gethsemane. When he sweat drops of blood as He bore the weight of all the sins of mankind, the great agony of the Atonement took place”
(Joseph C. Winther, “Because of His Love”, Ensign, April 2002, p.19)

El-Greco-Christ-on-the-cross-2

The biblical version of the atonement. “Christ on the Cross” by El Greco (c.1577 – 1579)

Biblical Jesus: Procured our atonement or redemption specifically by his death on the cross.
Where you’ll find it
“Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
(Matthew 20:28, KJV)

“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.”
(Romans 5:6-10, KJV)

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”
(1 Corinthians 1:18, KJV)

“For I determined not to know any thing among you,save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”
(1 Corinthians 2:2, KJV)

“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”
(1 Corinthians 15:3-4, KJV)

“And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.”
(Ephesians 2:16, KJV)

“And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.”
(Colossians 1:20, KJV)

“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”
(1 Peter 2:24, KJV)

Mormon Jesus: Is never supposed to be directly prayed to.
Where you’ll find it
There need not be any confusion in our minds regarding these important things. It is important that we should know something about the Being whom we worship—the Father, for it is the Father whom we worship. We do not pray to the Son nor to the Holy Ghost; we pray to the Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son, under the influence and guidance of the Holy Ghost.”
(Charles W. Penrose (Mormon Apostle), General Conference, April 1915)

“The Lord Jesus Christ teaches us to pray and covenants that answers will be forthcoming. “Therefore ye must always pray unto the Father in my name,” He declares (3 Ne. 18:19). “Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed” (3 Ne. 18:21).”
(L. Edward Brown (Mormon Seventy) , “Pray unto the Father in My Name”, General Conference, April 1997)

Bloch Christ the Consoler

“Christ the Consoler” by Carl Heinrich Bloch (19th Century)

Biblical Jesus: Receives both worship and prayers.
Where you’ll find it
“For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”
(Romans 10:12-13, KJV)

“If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it”
(John 14:14, ESV)

“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.
(1 John 5:13-15, KJV)

Mormon Jesus: Is only one of many Saviors.
Where you’ll find it
“We are not the only people that the Lord has created. We have brothers and sisters on other earths. They look like us because they, too, are the children of God and were created in his image, for they are also his offspring”

(Joseph Fielding Smith (Mormon President), “Doctrines of Salvation” 1:62)

“Sin is upon every earth that ever was created … Consequently every earth has its redeemer, and every earth has its tempter”
(Brigham Young (Mormon President), “Journal of Discourses Volume 14”, p.71)

Biblical Jesus: Is the one and only Savior.
Where you’ll find it
 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

(John 14:6, KJV)

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
(1 Timothy 2:5, KJV)

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
(Acts 4:12, KJV)

The First Vision

Stained glass depiction of the first vision of Joseph Smith, Jr., completed in 1913 by an unknown artist (Museum of Church History and Art)

Mormon Jesus: Appeared to Joseph Smith, condemned all existing churches, and restored the only true church in what is known as “The First Vision”.
Where you’ll find it
“When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!

My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”

He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time. When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven. When the light had departed, I had no strength; but soon recovering in some degree, I went home.”
(Joseph Smith – History 1:17-20, The Pearl of Great Price

Biblical Jesus: Stated that He alone was true and that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church.
Ignoring the fact that not only is there no evidence that the First Vision ever happened; an abundance of evidence that it was contrived embellished by Joseph Smith over time (see “A Documented History of Joseph Smith’s First Vision”); and the fact that it contradicts the Book of Mormon and the Bible in regard to the nature of God (see “Joseph’s doctrine of the Godhead changed”), it also contradicts the Bible in the following ways:

  1. Christ said that He is true. He never claimed in the Bible that His Church was. He further claimed that the way to the Father was by Him not His Church.
    “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
    (John 14:6, KJV
  2. Christ said that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church:
    “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
    (Matthew 16:18, KJV)
    This contradicts Christ’s words in the First Vision that, “they were all wrong”.
  3. Finally, the Book of Revelation shows Christ working to reform not replace errant churches (see Revelation 2:1-3:22, KJV). 
JST_EDITED

Room in Johnson home where Joseph Smith worked on The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible

Mormon Jesus: Some of Jesus’ statements and acts in scripture must be revised according to Joseph Smith’s revelations.
Mormonism accepts the Gospels and their reports of Jesus’ sayings and miracles. However, Joseph Smith felt that the Bible had been corrupted and that its text was unreliable, so he produced his own version of the Bible (called the Joseph Smith Translation or “JST”). Most of his changes were additions to the text, but in some cases Joseph deleted words and even rewrote Jesus’ sayings and acts to fit his own theology. This was done despite any source, original language manuscript support to justify them. Here are some examples:

“God is spirit” (John 4:24, KJV)
“For unto such hath God promised his spirit” (John 4:26, JST)

“Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.” (Luke 11:52, KJV)

“Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge, the fulness of the scriptures” (Luke 11:52, JST)

“for they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:6, KJV)
“for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.” (Matthew 5:8, JST) 

“Ye are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13, KJV) 
“I give unto you to be the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:15, JST) 

“Ye are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14, KJV) 
“I give unto you to be the light of the world” (Matthew 5:16, JST) 

“When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed” (Matthew 8:10, KJV) 
“And when they that followed him, heard this, they marvelled” (Matthew 8:9, JST) 

“be ye therefore wise as serpents” (Matthew 10:16, KJV) 
“be ye therefore wise servants” (Matthew 10:14, JST) 

mormon-bible-book

“Scriptures” by Grant Heaton

“and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched” (Matthew 13:5–6, KJV)

“and forthwith they sprung up; and when the sun was up, they were scorched, because they had no deepness of earth” (Matthew 13:5, JST) 

“the which when a man hath found, he hideth” (Matthew 13:44, KJV) 
“And when a man hath found a treasure which is hid, he secureth it” (Matthew 13:46, JST) 

“teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:9, KJV)
“teaching the doctrines and the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:8, JST) 

“as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them” (Matthew 18:19, KJV)
 “as touching any thing that they shall ask, that they may not ask amiss, it shall be done for them” (Matthew 18:19, JST) 

“Verily I say unto you, I know you not.” (Matthew 25:12, KJV)
“Verily I say unto you, Ye know me not.” (Matthew 25:11, JST) 

“For unto every one that hath shall be given, . . . but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.” (Matthew 25:29, KJV) 

“For unto every one who hath obtained other talents, shall be given. . . . But from him that hath not obtained other talents, shall be taken away even that which he hath received.” (Matthew 25:29–30, JST) 

“and were all baptized of him” (Mark 1:5, KJV) 
“and many were baptized of him” (Mark 1:4, JST) 

“except they wash, they eat not.” (Mark 7:4, KJV) 
“except they wash their bodies, they eat not.” (Mark 7:4, JST) 

“There shall no sign be given unto this generation.” (Mark 8:12, KJV) 
“There shall no sign be given unto this generation, save the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Mark 8:12, JST) 

“And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ.” (Mark 8:29, JST) 
“And Peter answered and said unto him, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Mark 8:31, JST) 

bible-book-of-mormon-39683-gallery

“The Bible and the Book of Mormon Testify of Christ” by Greg K. Olsen

“for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not” (Luke 8:18, KJV)

“for whosoever receiveth, to him shall be given; and whosoever receiveth not” (Luke 8:18, JST) 

“passed by on the other side.” (Luke 10:32, KJV)

“passed by on the other side of the way; for they desired in their hearts that it might not be known that they had seen him.” (Luke 10:33, JST) 

“we have done that which was our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10, KJV)
“We have done that which was no more than our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10, JST) 

“And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake.” (Luke 21:17, KJV) 
“And ye shall be hated of all the world for my name’s sake.” (Luke 21:16, JST) 

“that he may sift you as wheat” (Luke 22:31, KJV) 
“that he may sift the children of the kingdom as wheat.” (Luke 22:31, JST) 

“and no man receiveth his testimony.” (John 3:32, KJV) 
“and but few men receive his testimony.” (John 3:32, JST) 

“If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.” (John 5:31, KJV) 
“Therefore if I bear witness of myself, yet my witness is true.” (John 5:32, JST) 

“which the Son of man shall give unto you” (John 6:27, KJV) 
“which the Son of Man hath power to give unto you” (John 6:27, JST) 

“Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” (John 8:11, KJV)
“Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. And the woman glorified God from that hour, and believed on his name.” (John 8:11, KJV) 

“ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again?” (John 9:27, KJV) 
“ye did not believe: wherefore would you believe if I should tell you again?” (John 9:27, JST) 

Biblical Jesus: Upheld and affirmed God’s revelation of Himself in scripture as divinely inspired, reliable, and authoritative.
The Bible is clear that claiming inspiration from God and speaking in His voice when God has not authorized it or given you the words to speak makes you are a False Prophet. The Bible gives several tests for a False Prophet that involve testing the content of claimed prophetic utterances against God’s existing revelation of Himself. If there’s a contradiction, then the person speaking isn’t speaking God’s words, or with God’s authority – their source is something other than God. While this principle can be found throughout the Bible, here are some key passages:

“Add thou not unto His words, lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar”
(Proverbs 30:6, KJV)

“If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.

And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the Lord thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.” (Deuteronomy 13:1-5, KJV) 

But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.

And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken?

When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:20-22, KJV) 

“You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take anything from it” (Deuteronomy 4:2, KJV) 

“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this Book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this Book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the Book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the Book of Life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this Book” (Revelation 22:18-19, KJV)

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, KJV)

“The entirety of Your word is truth.” (Psalms 119:160, KJV)

“Every word of God is pure; he is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.” (Proverbs 30:5-6, KJV)

Jesus-1

Credits and bibliography:
Mormonism Research Ministry,
“Temple Square Visitor’s Guide”, p.4
Bill McKeever and Aaron Shafovaloff, Redefining the Virgin Birth: Mormonism on the Natural Conception of Jesus”
Grant Palmer, The Ancient Paths – 2nd Interview with Grant Palmer, Former LDS Institute Director”
Rob Bowman, “The Mormon View of Jesus Christ”
Matt Slick, “Verses showing the plurality of God in the Old and New Testaments”
Michael Davis, “References: Mormon vs Biblical Teachings about Jesus
Thomas E. Sherry and W. Jeffrey Marsh, “Precious Truths Restored: Joseph Smith Translation Changes Not Included in Our Bible”

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Athanasius (circa 293-373AD)

Athanasius (circa 293-373AD)

Introduction: The greatest exposition of the doctrine of the Trinity is the Athanasian Creed. Unfortunately, many modern readers often feel overwhelmed and confused by it. Perhaps this is due to the fact that good modern translations of the creed can be hard to find. The translation below is both modern and breaks the creed into paragraphs by theme – thereby making it more legible and easier to digest. If you will read it slowly, considering each line and paragraph before proceeding to the next one, we suspect that you will find it not only easy to comprehend but will come away with a fuller, richer understanding of the Trinity. Finally, please note that the term “catholic faith” in this translation is correct meaning, “on the whole, according to the whole or in general”, or more simply, “universal”. It is not referring to the Roman Catholic Church – which didn’t appear for hundreds of years, long after this creed was written. — Editor

Whoever desires to be saved should above all hold to the catholic faith.

Anyone who does not keep it whole and unbroken will doubtless perish eternally.

Now this is the catholic faith:

That we worship one God in trinity and the trinity in unity,
neither blending their persons
nor dividing their essence.
For the person of the Father is a distinct person,
the person of the Son is another,
and that of the Holy Spirit still another.
But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one,
their glory equal, their majesty coeternal.

What quality the Father has, the Son has, and the Holy Spirit has.
The Father is uncreated,
the Son is uncreated,
the Holy Spirit is uncreated.

The Father is immeasurable,
the Son is immeasurable,
the Holy Spirit is immeasurable.

The Father is eternal,
the Son is eternal,
the Holy Spirit is eternal.

And yet there are not three eternal beings;
there is but one eternal being.
So too there are not three uncreated or immeasurable beings;
there is but one uncreated and immeasurable being.

Similarly, the Father is almighty,
the Son is almighty,
the Holy Spirit is almighty.
Yet there are not three almighty beings;
there is but one almighty being.

Thus the Father is God,
the Son is God,
the Holy Spirit is God.
Yet there are not three gods;
there is but one God.

Thus the Father is Lord,
the Son is Lord,
the Holy Spirit is Lord.
Yet there are not three lords;
there is but one Lord.

Just as Christian truth compels us
to confess each person individually
as both God and Lord,
so catholic religion forbids us
to say that there are three gods or lords.

The Father was neither made nor created nor begotten from anyone.
The Son was neither made nor created;
he was begotten from the Father alone.
The Holy Spirit was neither made nor created nor begotten;
he proceeds from the Father and the Son.

Accordingly there is one Father, not three fathers;
there is one Son, not three sons;
there is one Holy Spirit, not three holy spirits.

Nothing in this trinity is before or after,
nothing is greater or smaller;
in their entirety the three persons
are coeternal and coequal with each other.

So in everything, as was said earlier,
we must worship their trinity in their unity
and their unity in their trinity.

Anyone then who desires to be saved
should think thus about the trinity.

But it is necessary for eternal salvation
that one also believe in the incarnation
of our Lord Jesus Christ faithfully.

Now this is the true faith:

That we believe and confess
that our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son,
is both God and human, equally.

He is God from the essence of the Father,
begotten before time;
and he is human from the essence of his mother,
born in time;
completely God, completely human,
with a rational soul and human flesh;
equal to the Father as regards divinity,
less than the Father as regards humanity.

Although he is God and human,
yet Christ is not two, but one.
He is one, however,
not by his divinity being turned into flesh,
but by God’s taking humanity to himself.
He is one,
certainly not by the blending of his essence,
but by the unity of his person.
For just as one human is both rational soul and flesh,
so too the one Christ is both God and human.

He suffered for our salvation;
he descended to hell;
he arose from the dead;
he ascended to heaven;
he is seated at the Father’s right hand;
from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

At his coming all people will arise bodily
and give an accounting of their own deeds.
Those who have done good will enter eternal life,
and those who have done evil will enter eternal fire.

This is the catholic faith:
one cannot be saved without believing it firmly and faithfully.

Athanasius_the_Confessor_of_Constantinople_(Menologion_of_Basil_II)

Athanasius the Confessor of Constantinople
(from Menologion of Basileiou an 11th century illuminated byzantine manuscript with 430 miniatures, now in the Vatican library)

BACKGROUND
This creed is named after Athanasius (A.D. 293-373), the champion of orthodoxy against Arian attacks on the doctrine of the trinity. Although Athanasius did not write this creed and it is improperly named after him, the name persists because until the seventeenth century it was commonly ascribed to him. It is not from Greek (Eastern), but from Latin (Western) origin, and is not recognized by the Eastern Orthodox Church today. Apart from the opening and closing sentences, this creed consists of two parts, the first setting forth the orthodox doctrine of the trinity, and the second dealing chiefly with the incarnation and the two-natures doctrine. The translation above was adopted by the CRC Synod of 1988. 

© 1987, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids MI. www.crcna.org. Reprinted with permission.

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
January 2013-March 2014
It’s been an interesting few weeks if you’re a Evangelical Christian in Mormon Studies! For those of you who don’t know well known Utah TV personality, and a former Latter-day Saint who is now a Born Again critic of Mormonism, Shawn McCraney has recently been denounced by many in the Evangelical Christian Mormon Studies community as a heretic and even a cult leader.

Here’s the short, cryptic version of what’s happened so far:

January 9, 2013
Shawn McCraney announces that his new emphasis will be the doctrine and culture of the American Evangelical church rather than Mormonism.
(HOTM #EVC 1: The Price of Truth; http://hotm.tv/episodes/evc/1-the-price-of-truth/ )

Throughout the year of 2013 Mr. McCraney critiques a number of non-essential doctrines such as worship styles, preaching styles, fund raising, etc. He also denounces the doctrines of eternal hell, and the Calvinistic theological system raising the hackles of mainstream orthodox Christians.

January 29, 2014
“Jed” a regular attendee (the group eschews “members” or “membership”) of Shawn McCraney CAMPUS ministry (see http://c-a-m-p-u-s.com/ ) calls into Jason Wallace’s Ancient Paths TV Show and presents a idyllic picture of their group of “Christian Anarchists”. In response Jason Wallace challenges Jed from the Bible and then critiques Shawn McCraney’s lack of accountability.
(The Ancient Paths – The Importance of the Visible Church; currently not internet posted)

February 4, 2014
Mr. McCraney responds to Jason Wallace’s public critique by renouncing all forms of ecclesiological accountability except in regard to finances. Shawn then proceeds to renounce the creedal basis of the doctrine of the Trinity calling it, among other things, “garbage” and derived by committee rather than God.
(HOTM Episode #380: God – Part 1; http://hotm.tv/episode-380-god-part-1/ )

A summation video of these two exchanges can be found here:
(“Wallace/McCraney TV Exchange on Accountability”; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qYfBlQBUNw)

February 11, 2014
Mr. McCraney claims that the doctrine of the Trinity was developed from pagan sources. He then goes on to teach a form of non-sequential modalism and then denies that what he’s just taught is modalism.
(HOTM Episode #381: God – Part 2; http://hotm.tv/episode-381-god-part-2/ )

February 12, 2014
Presbyterian Pastor Jason Wallace gives an overview of Shawn McCraney’s unBiblical behavior and shift from historic Christianity orthodoxy since January 2013. Pastor Wallace explains that, per Shawn’s request, he won’t be addressing Shawn’s new view of God until Mr. McCraney gives the additional details and expands on his beliefs on the next HOTM show – as Shawn as has promised both on the air and in private communication.
(The Ancient Paths – Response to Shawn McCraney’s Teachings; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkFNlhYI8PM )

February 17, 2014
Christian Apologist Rob Sivulka of Courageous Christians United publishes a blog article entitled, “Shawn McCraney is a Heretic and Needs Adult Supervision” becoming the first to formally and publicly label Shawn McCraney a heretic.
(see http://www.courageouschristiansunited.org/blog/Shawn-McCraney-is-a-Heretic-and-Needs-Adult-Supervision-48993 )

The “Heart of the Matter with Shawn McCraney” Facebook page purges all critics of Mr. McCraney from the page.  The page owner Derrick Webster (a key figure in Mr. McCraney’s Alathea Ministries) also blocks those critics  from his personal Facebook profile making communication with him via Facebook impossible (Note: Mr. McCraney doesn’t have a Facebook account).
[In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that this author was one of those who was purged from the page and blocked by Mr. Webster]

February 18, 2014
Instead of delivering “God – Part 3”, as previously stated and promised, Mr. McCraney remains silent for the entire show. The only voices are those of John updating the viewers on the Monson United Kingdom lawsuit, a few critics, and far more supporters praising Shawn for his “bold stand” in the face of adversity.
(HOTM Episode #382: Silence; http://hotm.tv/episode-382-silence/ )

February 19, 2014
Jason Wallace addresses Shawn McCraney’s behavior and lack of accountability to the visible Church. He also addresses the division that Mr. McCraney is creating in the church through his teachings and behavior. At 25-minutes into this show CAMPUS attendee “Jed” calls in again and is unable to respond cogently and Biblically to Pastor Wallace’s questions regarding how CAMPUS is structured, organized, and run relative to Biblical injunctions and models on church structure and practices.
(The Ancient Paths – Response to Shawn McCraney Part 2; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38DNcJLUjbI#t=00h24m59s)

February 20, 2014
Mr. McCraney hosts a meeting that he and his producers dub “Inquisition 2014” which is video streamed over the internet. Mr. McCraney’s critics are dubbed “Accusers”. Local Utah Pastors attending the event include Jason Wallace, Dale Finley, Bryan Hurlbutt, Cory Anderson, Chip Thompson, and others. Also in attendance was Christian Apologist Rob Sivulka and several others with Utah-based ministries.
(INQUISITION 2014 – The term “trinity”; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XS4YzzBjMzk)

The invitation for the February 21, 2014

The invitation for the February 21, 2014 “Open Forum” event at CAMPUS

This event was posted on the internet as an “Open Forum”, but the actual format was a largely passive audience merely observing a highly controlled, staged setting. For example, those that wanted to confront Shawn were told to sign up and sit at the front of the room. These “accusers” were given a combined total of 30 minutes to state their “case”. Further, they were told specifically to only address issues about the the trinity, and were forbidden to bring up any other concerns over any of Shawn’s other controversial teachings and statements (such as accountability, Calvinism, hell, etc). This came as a shock to many in attendance as the “invitation” did not specify such a format, nor limit the topics allowed.

February 21, 2014
Derrick Webster posts the following on the Heart of the Matter With Shawn McCraney Facebook page:

“Message from Shawn McCraney

Dear friends,

As a Christian Ministry dedicated to reflecting the ideals of the King, we want to reiterate that our Facebook page is here to share information relative to the LDS/ Christian debate. We would appreciate it if all the ad hominem attacks were entirely eliminated. When or if any of the comments become venomous or personal our administrator will remove you from participating in this forum. Please remember that we are not “warring against flesh and blood,” but against dark principalities in high places. Speak the truth, but please try to do it in love.”

This story is still unfolding and is far from over. As new developments occur I will add updates to this article as comments.

TonightShawnIsConfronted

Pastor Jason Wallace opens the February 20th “Inquisition 2014” event with a summation of the critic’s case against Shawn McCraney. Please note the “interesting” choice of words in the on-screen captioning.

Coming next: In Part 2 of this series I will present an analysis of the body of evidence as well as the criticism being leveled at Mr. McCraney and explain why I am of the opinion that the criticism and heretic label is justified. I will also present my prayerful hope that Shawn will turn from the heresy of modalism, his unBiblical “Christian Anarchy”, and be restored to a place in the body of Christ where his and his gifts can find their ultimate fulfillment and unique place in God’s purposes and will for this generation.

UPDATES:
February 25, 2014

After having long private discussions with Shawn McCraney, well known and respected Theologian Rob Bowman of the Institute of Religious Research (see http://irr.org/who-we-are ; also see https://irr.org/author/robert-m-bowman-jr ) appears on Heart of the Matter, gives a brief overview of the doctrine of the Trinity and answers questions from Mr. McCraney and his viewers.  The tone and timbre of the show is markedly different than the previous week’s shows.
(Episode 383: Robert M. Bowman Jr. – Director of Research, IRR; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nyvo1riNhZI )

February 26, 2014
Rob Bowman issues the following statement on his Facebook page regarding the week’s events:

As announced yesterday, last night I was a guest on Shawn McCraney’s TV program “Heart of the Matter” to discuss the doctrine of the Trinity. In this post I’m going to review what has happened and give my take on where things stand at the moment.

Shawn is a former Mormon who became “born again” while he was still in the LDS Church. He eventually came out, went to pastoral training school, and began a teaching and evangelistic ministry focused on reaching Mormons. That ministry evolved into an informal church that is rather out of the mainstream of evangelical church practice. He published a book entitled “Born Again Mormon” that was later retitled “I Was a Born Again Mormon.” By all accounts Shawn’s ministry has been unusually successful not merely in drawing people out of Mormonism but in leading them to trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation and to experience the new birth in Christ.

During the past year or so, Shawn has offered up his own views on various doctrinal issues and spoken very critically of various evangelical doctrines and movements. This development came to a head a few weeks ago when he did a couple of programs disparaging the doctrine of the Trinity. Shawn referred to the doctrine as “garbage,” as a man-made doctrine defined as a way of controlling people, and argued that the doctrine is more likely to have originated in paganism from the triads of gods in ancient religions than from the Bible. His alternative explanation at least sounded like a form of modalism, although he insisted it was not.

After discussing the matter with my co-workers at the Institute for Religious Research, I emailed Shawn privately and expressed the desire to meet with him in order to get to know him personally and to discuss doctrine with him. Shawn responded very positively, welcomed the interaction, and we made arrangements. In the meantime, there were some swift and in some cases rather sharp responses to Shawn’s statements online, and this was followed up by a program last Thursday night in which Shawn and some of the local Christian ministry leaders who had criticized Shawn had an unfortunately vitriolic confrontation.

I flew from Grand Rapids to Salt Lake City on Monday and met with Shawn for four hours. We made a very good personal connection, frankly recognizing that we are in temperament and experience radically different kinds of men, and had a good, constructive first discussion of the doctrinal issues. Shawn invited me to be a guest on his program Tuesday night, which I did. We met again today for a few hours and talked some more. I was blessed to have an opportunity to present a solid if brief explanation of the biblical basis of the Trinity and to answer a number of Shawn’s objections in front of his audience. Afterwards I spoke with people in attendance for over an hour, and it appears that the event was helpful.

What was said on last night’s program is of course public knowledge. One thing I said at the end, in response to a caller’s question, is that I consider Shawn a brother in Christ. I stand by that statement, but I also don’t want to be misunderstood. Whether Shawn is a believer, and whether he is a sound teacher, are two different questions. Some of the things Shawn has been teaching are in error, and it is important that he come to see that and make the necessary corrections. As a teacher, he is answerable to God and is held to a stricter standard with regard to what he says than other believers (James 3:1). Some of the things he said can even be fairly labeled as heretical, though he has also said things that contradicted those seemingly heretical statements. My assessment is that Shawn’s theology is confused and otherwise lacking largely because he has never studied Christian theology at a serious level and because, probably in overreaction to the programmed instruction and extrabiblical texts imposed in Mormonism, he has tried to develop his understanding by reading only the Bible. Reading the Bible without studying works on Christian theology has certainly brought Shawn a lot closer to orthodox Christianity than he was as a Mormon, and it’s certainly a far better extreme. It is, however, an extreme that has kept him from benefiting from the wealth of Christian reflection and teaching on God’s word by those who have studied the Bible for centuries before Shawn or I came along. The result is that some of Shawn’s views are at least heterodox (other than the classical, orthodox Christian doctrines). That having been said, I consider him a brother in Christ because I see evidence that God dramatically changed his life, brought him out of Mormonism, and gave him a genuine appreciation of the grace freely bestowed through the gospel. While I don’t know definitively the state of anyone else’s soul, I am inclined to give someone the benefit of the doubt and to accept him as a brother unless forced to conclude otherwise. And I really do think Shawn is a Christian, saved by God’s grace, even though some of his doctrine is seriously flawed.

Theologically, Shawn’s thinking on the Trinity appears muddled. It is probably in flux, perhaps even more so after our discussions, which may be a step in the right direction. He has agreed that he needs to retract publicly and specifically some egregious critical remarks he made in recent weeks on the subject. His explanations at times seemed modalistic, but as we talked he backed away from those explanations, in particular his description of the Logos (Word) as one of many manifestations of God. Shawn rejects the eternal Sonship of Christ, preferring the formulation of the eternal Word. In this regard he is similar to Walter Martin, but unlike Martin, Shawn is uncomfortable designating the Word as a person. For that matter, he is uncomfortable using the term “persons” at all in reference to God, because of its association in Mormonism with physical human beings. Again, his own background and his focus on reaching Mormons have in his case led to some difficulty in coming to terms with orthodox Christian doctrine. This is a problem that I hope can be overcome as our dialogue continues. Meanwhile, at some point I do plan to make available in written form some responses to specific issues raised by Shawn regarding the Trinity, not to attack him personally but to provide substantive responses for the benefit of Shawn and others. I should mention that I have already told Shawn that I expected to do this, and he was supportive of me doing so.

I would appreciate the prayers of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ for what follows. Please pray that Shawn will have constructive meetings with local Christian leaders, including some that have been legitimately concerned about his teachings, and that they will develop respect and trust. Please pray that future discussions between Shawn and me will be fruitful. Please also pray that Shawn will be successful going forward in acknowledging past errors and in developing a sound understanding of the theology of Scripture. All of this will be a process; it will not happen overnight. Please pray with me that everyone involved will listen to one another, be gracious and patient with one another, and be willing to learn and to change and even to repent where needed. And if you have some concerns or grievances with regards to anything I have said, please feel free to come to me with them.
(source: https://www.facebook.com/ApolojediMaster/posts/10202633850543390 )

March 4, 2014
Theologian James White weighs in on recent events surrounding the Shawn McCraney situation in general and Inquisition 2014 in particular. He also addresses the email from him that Shawn presented as an example of how other pastors are trying to threaten and control him on the February 11th Heart of the Matter “God Part 2” broadcast (see http://hotm.tv/episode-381-god-part-2/) presenting a very different version of the back story and context surrounding what was said and why it was said the way it was. This analysis starts at 38:00 into the show. (“Ukraine, Hyper-Calvinism, David Allen, Shawn McCraney, and More!”)

Shawn McCraney continues his discourse on the nature of God focusing on Christ as “Light”. He also addresses his recent meetings with Rob Bowman as well as some of the criticism that he had been receiving from local Pastors and others.

In response to the broadcast Rob Bowman issues the following statement immediately afterwards:

“This post and thread is for my fellow evangelical Christians. If you are not an evangelical, while I value your friendship, this thread is not for you.

Tonight on his TV program “Heart of the Matter” Shawn McCraney quoted a Facebook post of mine as follows:

“My assessment is that Shawn’s theology is confused and otherwise lacking largely because he has never studied Christian theology at a serious level and because, probably in overreaction to the programmed instruction and extrabiblical texts imposed in Mormonism, he has tried to develop his understanding by reading only the Bible.”

Shawn’s quotation stopped at that point, and his subsequent comments gave the impression that I was criticizing Shawn for not being open to what he characterizes as “man-made” doctrines or theology. But here is what I said next:

“Reading the Bible without studying works on Christian theology has certainly brought Shawn a lot closer to orthodox Christianity than he was as a Mormon, and it’s certainly a far better extreme. It is, however, an extreme that has kept him from benefiting from the wealth of Christian reflection and teaching on God’s word by those who have studied the Bible for centuries before Shawn or I came along.”

You see, the issue is not “man-made” doctrines versus the Bible as the sole authority; the issue is whether it is wise to ignore what can be learned about the Bible from teachers who have devoted their lives to pursuing its truth and sharing what they have found with the rest of the body of Christ. Christians in the twenty-first century are not meant to study the Bible in isolation from other believers, as if they were living on an island and the Bible was the only book available. The Bible itself says that God has given teachers to the church as a needed, important part of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11). To ignore those teachers, and even to dismiss them as irrelevant in one’s study of the Bible, is to go against the Bible itself.

Of course, all of us who are teachers are fallible and our doctrinal understandings can be mistaken. But this is just as true of Shawn as it is of anyone else. In this regard the choice is not between man-made doctrine and the pure doctrine of the word of God. Rather, it is a choice between the doctrine of one man who thinks he can do it on his own and the doctrine of many men who listen to and learn from each other and from those who have gone before them in the pursuit of understanding the word of God.

In a way, Shawn’s position is even less tenable, because he inconsistently appeals to theologians and intellectuals when it suits his purpose. He justifies his refusal to read serious works of Christian theology while seeing nothing wrong with citing the opinions and interpretations of Walter Martin or John MacArthur or even the Emphatic Diaglott if they happen to agree with his own views. In his attack on the Trinity a few weeks ago, Shawn read a string of quotations that I was able to determine he got from an online article published by a Watchtower splinter group that denies that Jesus is God. I privately challenged him for using that article. Tonight he claimed that he thinks it is fine to read books that critique Mormonism but not to read books that teach Christian theology. But is it all right to read articles that attack Christian theology? I was hoping he would understand the inconsistency of his stance on this question, but he seems to be further entrenched in that position.

I will post something separately on Shawn’s lecture on John 8:12 (I don’t know if that will be tonight or tomorrow). Here I simply need to make it clear that I do not see tonight’s program as representing a step in the right direction.

Shawn, I assume this post will be brought to your attention. I still appreciate your graciousness toward me last week, but I must also remind you that I gave you fair and friendly warning that I would be responding publicly to your teaching when I found it to be unsound—and you said you understood and respected that. Well, here we go. A little knowledge about the biblical languages and doctrinal subjects, garnered haphazardly from questionable sources, used inconsistently to support what you have already think you know, is not a good thing. It is not “loving the Lord your God with all your mind.” As a teacher, you, like I, will be held to a stricter judgment (James 3:1). Let some of us help you. Set aside your planned series of lectures on the nature of God for now. Pursue a sound, well-informed understanding of what Scripture teaches through the God-given ministry of other teachers. Refocus your ministry on what you do so well: reaching out to lost, confused Mormons with the wonderful gift of the new birth through faith in Jesus Christ alone.”
(source = https://www.facebook.com/ApolojediMaster/posts/10202669824562718 )

Rob Bowman, Director of Research, Institute for Religious Research

Rob Bowman, Director of Research, Institute for Religious Research

March 5, 2014
As promised, Rob Bowman directly addresses the points in Mr. McCraney’s previous night’s lecture on God via the following Facebook post:

“On March 4, 2014, Shawn McCraney gave a lecture (I’m not sure what else to call it) on his TV show Heart of the Matter on the “ontology” of God, apparently a continuation of a series of lectures he is doing giving his own alternative to the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. I’d like to share a few observations in response to some things he said. There is more that could be said, but this is all I have time to address for now.

First, let’s be clear that when the Bible speaks of God as “light” or “fire,” this is symbolic language. I think Shawn would agree; at one point he acknowledged that God is not fire in the sense of the combustion of oxygen. It’s important to be clear on this point because sometimes Shawn uses this language as if it is somehow directly denotative of the “ontology” (his term) of God, a description of God’s being or nature. It isn’t. It is figurative language, used to express specific truths about God in his relation to us and our world. So when John says, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5), this is not a statement of ontology or metaphysical description of God, but an affirmation that God is morally perfect—pure holiness, goodness, truthfulness, and love—totally devoid of sin or evil. Read the next few verses and this becomes obvious: to “walk in darkness” means to live in lies and sin (1 John 1:6-7). The statement that “our God is a consuming fire” (Deut. 4:24, quoted in Heb. 12:29) was a warning that God, who had revealed himself in the wilderness and at Sinai in terrifying fire, would judge his people in righteous wrath if they chose to rebel against their covenant with him (see Deut. 5:24-26; Heb. 12:25-28).

Perhaps the closest the Bible comes to making a statement of the form “God is…” that describes his being per se is Jesus’ statement, “God is spirit” (John 4:24; “a spirit,” KJV). Although the derivation of _pneuma_ has to do with moving air (breath, wind, etc.), in the Bible it generally loses this physical sense and refers to nonphysical, incorporeal beings like angels (Heb. 1:7) and God. In context Jesus was saying that the time of God being known and worshiped through special, sacred places at specific locations was coming to an end: God would be worshiped “in spirit and truth.” (In this regard Mormonism, with its temples that are supposedly indispensable to fully experience God’s presence and blessing, are a step backwards spiritually and covenantally.)

Another “God is” statement that Shawn mentioned in passing, but set aside, was John’s affirmation that “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). It’s too bad he didn’t spend some time on this statement. Unlike the descriptions of God as light and fire, to say that God is love is not figurative or metaphorical. It tells us that love is absolutely essential to God’s being. As Christians have reflected on this idea, they have realized that this idea makes perfect sense in the context of the doctrine of the Trinity. The three persons love one another eternally, so that indeed love is very much of the essence of God. The Bible supports this understanding. For example, Jesus said in his long prayer in John 17 that the Father loved him “before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). This cannot be fairly or plausibly interpreted as proleptic, i.e., as meaning that God anticipated loving Jesus before Jesus came to exist. We know this is not what Jesus means, because at the beginning of the prayer that he had lived in glory alongside the Father before the world was, and he asked the Father to restore him to that glory (17:5). Thus, the Father and the Son (or the Word; it doesn’t matter) have existed distinct from one another since before creation, and the Father has loved the Son all along.

Shawn spent most of the lecture developing verbal connections between Jesus’ statement in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world,” and various other texts, notably Genesis 1:1-5, John 1:1-5, and 2 Peter 1:19. To be frank, I’m not sure how his treatment of these passages clarified his view of the preincarnate Logos. Some of what he said was fine, some of it was not; in some instances I was unclear as to the significance he was deriving from these various texts.

Shawn made an interesting comment regarding John 8:12. He pointed out that the Jewish leaders did not react to Jesus’ statement as if it were blasphemous. Their criticism was that Jesus was testifying to himself and therefore they considered his claim invalid (v. 13). That’s a good observation, but what Shawn thought was the significance of this observation was unclear to me. Looking at the passage historically, Jesus’ statement probably could have been interpreted by the Jews as something less than a claim to deity; they might have thought that Jesus was simply claiming to be the Messiah as the instrument of God’s “light” to the world. For example, they might have understood Jesus to be claiming that he exercised the function of the Servant of the Lord in Isaiah; that Servant is described more than once as a “light to the nations” (Isa. 42:6; 49:6; cf. 51:4; 60:3). This is in fact correct; however, only upon reflection concerning all that Jesus said and did would it be understood that he was “the light” to the nations or the world because he was God incarnate.

To understand Jesus’ function as the light of the world to be an indication of his deity in no way resolves the question of whether God is triune. Jesus was not the divine light/fire corked in a bottle of flesh. He was the Son sent from the Father into the world to be the light of life and truth (John 5:23; 6:38-40; 8:12-18; 9:5; 12:46; 16:27-28; Rom. 8:3; Gal. 4:4; 1 John 4:14). Again, the language of light is figurative, indicating that Jesus’ mission was to bring the light of truth and life to the world. He could do this because he was himself God, perfect in truth, the source of all light and knowledge. The New Testament presents this truth in a consistent context of distinguishing Jesus Christ the Son of God from the one called God the Father.”
(source = https://www.facebook.com/ApolojediMaster/posts/10202675490424361?stream_ref=10 )

March 6, 2014
James White offers a lengthy deconstruction of Shawn McCraney’s teachings on the Trinity in general and the Athanasian Creed in particular.   Mr. White looking directly into the camera and addressing Shawn McCraney directly Mr. White states that Mr. McCraney is uninformed and ignorant on both.  This contents begins 5:24 into the broadcast. (“A Little About Brewton-Parker; the Athanasian Creed; the Flaming Toilet of Death”

March 11, 2014
On his Dividing Line broadcast (starting at 1:05:00) James White deconstructs, analyzes and exposes Shawn McCraney’s “God Part 3” lecture for what it is:  Modalism.  He also states that the reports that he’s getting from the pastors he’s contacted in Utah regarding the situation, “aren’t encouraging.”

On the Heart of the Matter broadcast Shawn McCraney suggests that the reason friction has arisen between he and his critics comes down to a difference of worldviews and personality. He suggests that the latter is manifested in his “Artistic” versus the critic’s “Linear” thinking and approach to the Bible. (Episode 385: Christian Artists)

March 12, 2014
Rob Bowman releases the following article in response to Shawn’s broadcast from the previous evening:

“Shawn McCraney is a former Mormon who became a “born-again” Christian and eventually left Mormonism, received some ministry training through Calvary Chapel, and launched his own ministry in Salt Lake City to evangelize Mormons. In the past few weeks Shawn has gone public on his television show denouncing the term Trinity as “garbage” and explaining his own doctrine of God in ways that have been confused at best. I flew out to Utah to meet with Shawn, had very friendly and enjoyable conversations with him, and appeared on Shawn’s show Heart of the Matter. I also posted a few messages on Facebook regarding the controversy.

On March 11, 2014, Shawn McCraney’s lecture on his TV show was a critical response to his critics, whom he characterized as scholars, theologians, and apologists who impose their exclusively “linear thinking” on the church to rule, control, and dominate. There is a “teachable moment” here because the issues that Shawn’s argument raises have relevance beyond the specific controversy over his teaching.

Shawn professes to value knowledge and the contributions of scholars, but he describes himself as a “Christian artist” who views Christianity in an artistic way that the linear-thinking scholars simply cannot appreciate. But if an “artistic” thinking person can appreciate the “linear” thinking of scholars, why cannot scholars likewise appreciate the “artistic” thinking of people like Shawn? I think they can. But just as people who profess to be scholars can and sometimes do make egregious mistakes, self-described artists who profess to see the world in a fresh and unpredictable way might be fooling themselves. The “Christian artist” label does not excuse Shawn or anyone else from the responsibility of speaking faithfully to the truth. The charge that someone is teaching erroneous doctrine cannot be answered by merely asserting artistic license.

Early in his lecture Shawn asked, “Just how different can a believer be in personality and worldview and still be considered a Christian?” By “worldview” Shawn apparently means the way in which a person views the world, either logically or artistically, although I didn’t catch a definition of the term. The answer to his question, if I understood it correctly, is that believers can be quite different in many ways and still be considered Christians. However, that isn’t the real question here, is it? No one is suggesting that people who are artistic or storytelling or relational or physical in their personal makeup and orientation rather than logical or scholarly cannot be Christians. Most Christians are not intellectually oriented. Believe it or not, we intellectuals noticed that a long time ago. One of the first Christian intellectuals himself commented on that fact, in a passage that Shawn quoted (1 Cor. 1:18-23). Really, we do understand this. That’s not the problem. No, the problem is the content of Shawn’s doctrinal teaching, which at best is unsound and at worst, in the estimation of at least some observers, is heretical. This concern about his teaching is either justified or it is not. How do we tell? Like it or not, we must try to think clearly about the question.

Shawn himself engages in “linear thinking” when he feels comfortable doing so. His lectures are just that, lectures. He has a point he wishes to make, and he presents reasons to support the conclusion he hopes his listeners will accept. Shawn cites the Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible, appeals to biblical scholars and theologians when he thinks they support his views, and formulates objections to statements made by his critics. He is actually much more capable of engaging in such logical, rational thinking than perhaps people realize and engages in such reasoning far more often than his self-description as a Christian artist would suggest. The appeal to his supposed artistic personality is itself presented as an argument: the logicians are wrong because they overgeneralize from their own experience and preference and don’t recognize that there are different yet equally valid ways of thinking. Which reminds me of the famous observation that there are two kinds of people in the world—those who think there are two kinds of people in the world and those who don’t. (Sorry.) When Shawn argues, for example, that the Bible presents truth in a grand narrative rather than in a systematic theology, he is presenting an argument based on the very kind of logical, linear thinking he complains is being used against him. That argument is either a sound argument or it is not. The value of the argument can be judged only on the basis of its factual support and logical validity; its value is not aesthetic, creative, artistic, emotive, or relational.

It’s really a matter of the right tool for the job. If we want to stir people’s emotions, touch people’s feelings, or appeal to their intuitive sense, we use art – music, story, drama, soaring speech, visual displays, and so forth. If we want to inform people’s minds, then we present facts in a reasoned manner. If we want to explain a text of the Bible, then we use skills relevant to reading and interpreting texts. This doesn’t mean ignoring non-linear elements of biblical texts. It doesn’t mean running roughshod over symbolic language, emotive appeals by the biblical speakers and writers, or forcing the Bible into overly simplistic and rigid philosophical systems. Sound reading of the Bible appreciates the power of its narratives and the color of its poetry. But the Bible also presents didactic material that calls for careful, reasoned thinking about the subject matter. The epistle to the Romans is a theological treatise, not an Easter drama.

According to Shawn, logic and linear thinking came from the Greeks. I’ve heard this one before. Friends, logic came from God, not from the Greeks. Logic, order, rationality, reason, and coherence are all reflections of the nature of God, just as much as beauty, joy, creativity, and artistry. The Greeks did not invent logic; they came up with a formal system for recognizing and teaching logic.

Shawn emphasizes, fairly enough, that knowledge has value only in the context of love. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1b). Amen. Knowledge without love makes people prideful. A person who claims to know God but is devoid of love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4:7-8). Shawn feels that some of his critics have been long on knowledge, or at least in claims to knowledge, but short on love. Perhaps he is right. Yet Shawn also seeks to refute his critics with arguments. Again, perhaps he is right. But there are two issues here: (1) Is Shawn’s doctrine biblically sound? (2) If it isn’t biblically sound, can this point be made in love? It would help if these two questions were kept distinct.

I wish Shawn would discuss whether the category of “heresy” is ever a valid category. If a teacher claims that Jesus did not rise from the dead, is it inappropriate to label this teaching as heresy? Are there any heretics? Shawn says, quite correctly, that Christians should tolerate different views on nonessentials. But what are the essentials and how does one know if something is an essential or not? This is a reasonable question and it requires a reasonable answer, grounded on the teaching of Scripture. Shawn insists that he believes the whole Bible, accepts everything it teaches, and that therefore he should be accepted as a Christian. I view Shawn as a Christian, albeit one whose doctrine is in serious question, but his reasoning here is quite flawed. Jehovah’s Witnesses also insist they believe the whole Bible, accept everything it teaches, and that they are Christians. Is that good enough? Shawn would say, I’m guessing, that they are not really Christians because they deny that Jesus Christ is God. If so, then Shawn is acknowledging the legitimacy of using doctrine to test the claims of those who present themselves as teachers of God’s word. And I assume that Shawn does not think he is being unloving for excluding Mormon teaching from his new television network. Why not? Obviously, he is “imposing” a doctrinal test here, and rightly so. Then is it necessarily unloving or wrong for Christians to express the opinion that Shawn’s denial of the doctrine of the Trinity might be heretical? The question is a valid one, however we answer it.”
(Bowman, Rob, “Shawn McCraney On The Linear Thinking of His Theological Critics”)

March 18, 2014
Drawing from the figure of the cross which somehow transforms into an “X”, which somehow transforms into 3 triangles, (the audio was off for a few minutes while he was developing this concept on the whiteboard) which then somehow comes to represents not just God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) but man (body, soul, spirit). He then uses these figures to develop a new model of two sets of intersecting triangles (one  set for, and one set for man) that he claims represents how God has engaged Himself in the creation, salvation, and sanctification of human kind.  He claims that this Spirit and Bible revealed “artistic” model is just as valid and should be taken just as seriously as any systematic theology from scholars. (Episode 386: It All Starts With “X”)

As Rob Bowman points out in his post-broadcast response to Shawn, what Mr. McCraney has just taught is clearly heresy.  Here is that response:

“Once again I watched Shawn McCraney on his show “Heart of the Matter” tonight. His doctrinal explanation of the nature of God was very disappointing. 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!).

In response to a caller, Shawn asserted that Jesus was not himself the “I am”; the “I am” was God fully indwelling him. Jesus is the flesh; God is the divine being dwelling in or housed in the flesh. Yet Shawn also wants to say that Jesus is God. This same incoherence is common in one wing of Oneness Pentecostal theology. Biblically and in orthodox Christian doctrine, Jesus is not simply the flesh; rather, Jesus is the *person* who is both God and man, the eternal Logos-Son who assumed full human nature. True, he was not called “Jesus” before the Incarnation, but that really misses the point: the person we call Jesus was in existence from eternity past, not as a separate entity or being (let alone one in a “spirit body” as Shawn described, perhaps conflating his criticisms of the Trinity and Mormon doctrine), but as a distinct person who was one God with the Father (and the Holy Spirit) (John 1:1-3; 13:1, 3; 16:28; 17:5, 24).

Shawn asserted that he doesn’t like the term Trinity and doesn’t like saying there were three persons before creation. Apparently saying there are three persons now is fine (at one point Shawn said this himself). If so, then the term “person” is not itself the problem; the problem is substantive, not merely semantic. But if God was once not three persons and now he is three persons, then the fundamental nature of God has changed. That implication creates all sorts of theological mischief. This is not comparable to God becoming a man, in which God’s nature remains the same but he assumes human nature (the union of two natures in the one person); Shawn’s idea amounts to God changing the divine nature.

I was hoping that Shawn would move closer to the position he continues to cite in his defense, the “eternal Word” form of Trinitarianism espoused by Walter Martin. That at least would still be orthodox. Instead, in my estimation he has if anything moved further away from it, though he continues to make statements that do not fit neatly into the monarchian or modalist system. Without making any judgment about Shawn as a believer or Christian, and with the hope that he may still change or correct what he has been teaching, I regretfully think that at present what he is articulating about the doctrine of God is heresy.

This isn’t the only problem. At the end, in response to another caller, Shawn affirmed universal reconciliation, a doctrine that is really a form of universalism under a different name. Although Shawn claimed this wasn’t universal salvation, he referred the caller to the website tentmaker.org, which clearly teaches universal salvation. “The Bible, correctly translated teaches Jesus Christ, the Chosen One of our heavenly Father will save the whole world.” The website also appears to endorse the idea that the devil and his fallen angels will also eventually be saved, but apparently not in this age. Shawn seemingly didn’t agree with that view, but he wasn’t completely clear on the issue. In any case, universal salvation is also heresy.”
(see https://www.facebook.com/ApolojediMaster/posts/10202754135350435?stream_ref=10)

March 25, 2014
Shawn begins what he promises will be a multi-part series on the Holy Spirit.  Without going into too much detail he claims that both the LdS Church and Trinitarian Churches are in error and not teaching what the Bible does regarding the Holy Spirit.  He promises to offer a truly Biblical perspective on the Holy Spirit in the coming weeks that the viewers may find completely new and different.

March  27, 2014
Theologian Rob Bowman issues two statements regarding the March 25th Heart of the Matter lecture. The first states:

“I was busy Tuesday night when Shawn McCraney did his weekly TV show “Heart of the Matter,” and this is my first opportunity to comment.

Shawn spent some time discussing Hebrews 13:8, arguing that it could not have been true about Christ until his resurrection. Before that, he was changing — becoming flesh, dying, and rising from the dead.  Makes sense, right?

Well. Hebrews 13:8 reads, “Jesus Christ is the same [hO AUTOS] yesterday and today and forever.” There is only *one* other verse in the New Testament in which someone is said to be hO AUTOS, “the same.” That’s Hebrews 1:12, part of a quotation in 1:10-12 from Psalm 102:25-27 (101:26-28 in the Greek Septuagint):

“And,
‘You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment,
like a robe you will roll them up,
like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same [hO AUTOS],
and your years will have no end.'”
(Heb. 1:10-12 ESV)

In the context of Hebrews 1, this is one of a series of OT [Old Testament] quotations that the author says show the Son (Jesus Christ) to be superior to the angels (vv. 4-13). Thus, Hebrews 1:12 is referring to the “Son” (v. 2) as being the one who is “the same” (hO AUTOS). And it does not mean that he is the same only now that he has died and risen from the dead, but that he is the one who made the world and who remains unchanged even as the universe itself wears out (vv. 10-11).

These two affirmations about the Son, Jesus Christ, come near the beginning and the end of the book of Hebrews. They function like a set of bookends. Once this is understood, Hebrews 13:8 clearly must be taken as an affirmation that Jesus Christ is the unchanging Creator, the one absolutely dependable and reliable Reality in a world of constant change and uncertainty. Notice that this is affirmed of the Son (1:1-2, 10-12) and of Jesus Christ (13:8). The Son is eternal, the Maker of all things. That’s who Jesus Christ is.”
(source = https://www.facebook.com/ApolojediMaster/posts/10202807297279450 )

And the second statement explains:

“On Tuesday night’s “Heart of the Matter,” Shawn McCraney claimed that “one of our modern-day theologians” told him that in Trinitarian theology the Father and the Son have the same kind of relationship as an earthly father and son.

I’m pretty sure he was referring to me. (Shawn hasn’t talked to a lot of theologians.)

For the record, what I told Shawn was that Trinitarian theology regards the designations “Father” and “Son” for the first two persons of the Trinity, given to us in the New Testament, as meaning that the relationship between the First and Second Persons is *analogous* to the relationship between an earthly father and son. I was quite clear that it was *not* the “same” relationship. Of course, I was also clear that God the Father did not sire or procreate God the Son, as in Mormonism. Trinitarianism denies that the Son owes his existence to a procreative or generative act of the Father. The Son is eternal, absolute deity. He never came into existence at all. He did not “become” the Father’s “Son” in the same way, or even a similar way, as an earthly son becomes his father’s son, because God the Son never “became” the Son. He has always been God the Son.

I confess to being rather unhappy to hear Shawn make this statement. This isn’t the first time he has appealed to something I said out of context for his own purposes (though in this instance he did not mention me by name). It makes it seem that he was listening for things he could find objectionable or for things he could use to defend his view, rather than listening in order to learn something.”
(source = https://www.facebook.com/ApolojediMaster/posts/10202807394081870 )

March 28, 2014
Rob Bowman issues the following general statement regarding Shawn McCraney’s continuing anti-Trinitarianism:

“Shawn McCraney constantly argues against the Trinitarian view of Jesus by pointing out that Jesus wasn’t called Jesus until he became a human being. Before that, Shawn argues, he wasn’t Jesus, or the Christ, or the Son; he was just God, the Word. But the NT refers to the preincarnate person in question by all three of those designations. It is true that the Word received the name Jesus in history at his birth, but the person called “Jesus” existed and was active in creation and history prior to his incarnation.

1. Jesus: The preincarnate Word is called Jesus in the best reading of Jude 5: “Now I desire to remind you, though you are fully informed, that Jesus [most versions say, “the Lord”], who once for all saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.” Many of the earliest manuscripts actually say “Jesus” instead of “the Lord” in verse 5, and this is most likely the original reading. Ed Komoszewski and I give three reasons for this conclusion in our book  “Putting Jesus in His Place”, 98-99.

2. Christ: Paul referred to the preincarnate Word as “Christ” twice in 1 Corinthians 10: ““For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ…. We must not put Christ [many versions have “the Lord” here] to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents” (1 Cor. 10:4, 9). In the first reference to Christ, there is no textual difficulty. In the second, there is significant debate, but the reading “Christ” is probably correct. See endnote 6 on page 312 of  “Putting Jesus in His Place”. For comments on the whole passage in context, see page 95.

3. Son: The preincarnate Word is called the “Son” in several passages of the NT, including Colossians 1:12-20 and Hebrews 1:1-3, both of which speak of the Son as active in the creation of the world. On this point, see especially chapter 15 of  “Putting Jesus in His Place”.’
(source = https://www.facebook.com/ApolojediMaster/posts/10202812378726483 )

This timeline of events is continued here
(please click on the work “here” above)