Can the LDS Church be true? What about a sandwich?

 

In an on-line discussion this evening I stated that I believed the LDS Church was true. An ex-Mormon responded that I would quickly tire of him telling me that his sandwich was true. Another said I was an arrogant @%$.

I told this first fellow that his sandwich might be good, bad, average, gross, or extraordinary. But we don’t usually characterize things like sandwiches, apples, or bubblegum as true. True relates to something being valid, actual, based in reality, etc. So, sandwiches can’t be true. But churches, certain principles, and other discernible things can be true (or false).

I told the 2nd fellow — who called me an arrogant @%$ — that we don’t have to agree. We don’t have to agree on politics, sports, our interpretation of Science, or religion. But it is possible that my religious views are correct without my being arrogant or a jerk. Just as it’s possible my views on sports may be based in fact, and therefore I might be correct in my views on that topic. It simply isn’t true that to hold beliefs others disagree with makes you a bad or arrogant individual. One simply must look at the merits of the beliefs. Are they true beliefs? Based in fact?

I didn’t say people from the South Pole are always bad. That would make me a jerk and perhaps an @%$. Instead, I made a religious claim. I have many reasons for believing the way I do. He doesn’t. Fine. Our difference of opinion makes neither him nor me a jerk. We simply disagree. You’ll have to trust me that I was trying to be nice, thoughtful, and persuasive — and not arrogant — in a spirited discussion.

So, unlike claiming a sandwich is true, it is completely rational to say that the LDS Church is true. After all, I believe Joseph saw angels, had plates, translated the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God, and restored the Gospel.

I shared w/ these critics a few synonyms for true (see below) that make the expression easier to handle in many cases. I personally don’t prefer the one-sentence answer: “The Church is true,” though the sentence itself is true. We might want to mix in other words such as accurate history, what really happened to Joseph and the witnesses, etc.

true
tro͞o/
adjective
  1. 1.
    in accordance with fact or reality.
    “a true story”
    synonyms: correct, accurate, right, verifiable, in accordance with the facts, what actually/really happened, well documented, the case, so; More

  2. accurate or exact.
    “it was a true depiction”
    synonyms: accurate, true to life, faithful, telling it like it is, fact-based, realistic, close, lifelike

    “a true reflection of life in the 50s”

The Restoration of the (Melchizedek) Priesthood

Another great BYU speech.

A. William Lund, former Assistant Historian of the Church, gave this speech in 1951 at BYU. Brother Lund worked at and was associated with the Church Historians Office from 1908 till his death in 1971.

When Brother Lund came to work at the Historian’s Office there were many veteran members of the Church who personally recalled experiences in Nauvoo and early Utah. He enjoyed talking with them, as well as visitors who streamed past his desk for more than the next sixty years.

This link shares more about the extraordinary life of A. William Lund: https://www.lds.org/ensign/1971/03/in-memoriam-a-william-lund-18861971?lang=eng

The Restoration of the Priesthood

When were the four Gospels written?

Dr. Darrell Bock, one of the world’s leading historical Jesus scholars, answers questions about when the Gospels were written.

Who wrote the Gospels:

J. Warner Wallace describes the evidence for the early dating of the Gospels. Why is this issue important to those who are examining the claims of Christianity? How does early dating contribute to the reliability of the Gospel authors as eyewitnesses? What other problem does early dating resolve?

Jim Wallace explains that the Gospels’ differences shouldn’t be a problem.  Apparent contradictions in witness testimony is expected.  Identical accounts are not normal.

Jim Wallace explains the New Testament Chain of Custody — how the  original evidence of the New Testament was preserved.

Who are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John?

Matthew:  apostle, tax collector, wrote to the Jews

Mark:  younger than other apostles, his mother was a prominent follower,  likely a teenager when Jesus was in Jerusalem, traveled with the Apostle Paul, later traveled and stayed with Peter when Peter was imprisoned in Rome, known as Peter’s Greek interpreter (Peter, as a fisherman, many not have known Greek fluently); Mark reflects Peter’s interests in spreading the Gospel among the Gentiles

Luke:  didn’t know Jesus personally, but was taught by Paul; left his job of physician and traveled with Paul; though not himself an eyewitness, he spoke to many eyewitnesses (says so at the start of his Gospel)

John: one of the Apostles; probably read the other Gospels before he wrote his own Gospel; wrote to members of the Church who already knew about Jesus;

 

https://www.lds.org/new-era/2007/01/who-are-matthew-mark-luke-and-john?lang=eng

The New Testament: 1st oral, then written

William Lane Craig explains that the Gospels were likely written at nearly the same time as Paul’s epistles (1 Corinthians 15 was penned in 55 AD).   The Book of Acts occurred in mid AD 60s (before James died and temple was destroyed in 70 AD).  Luke was written before Acts by the same author around 57 AD.  Mark’s Gospel was used by Luke, putting Mark even earlier.

The Gospels were spread orally before they were written.  But, because all those writing the Gospels were so closely connected to the events (not 30 years had passed since Jesus’ death), the authors were not writing oral traditions.  Instead, the 4 Gospel writers were doing oral histories — actually asking the many still-living eyewitnesses what had happened.  2 writers were apostles themselves, Matthew and John) and had witnessed many things first hand.

Jewish children were taught at home, school, and in the synagogue to memorize massive amounts of faithful information.  Memorization and faithful transmission was prioritized.  Jesus’ disciples surely utilized this skill.  No legend.  No mythology.  No telephone game.

Reliability of the Gospels: direct vs. indirect evidence

About a week ago a fellow stated that there’s not a shred of evidence that Jesus lived.  When I laid out a general case to this overconfident skeptic, he insisted he was still correct.  After all, he said, there’s no direct evidence for Jesus.

 

I told fellow that, unfortunately, nobody live blogged the resurrection, took selfies w/ the Apostles, or otherwise documented the events in real time.

I explained, however, that the life of Jesus consists of some of the best attested events we have from the entire Greco-Roman world.  4 biographies (Gospels) record major life events & Paul (and a few others) wrote letters and provided additional witnesses of Jesus.

Initially, eyewitnesses passed on the events orally with great precision.  Jews (now Jewish Christians) were practiced in memorizing scriptures.  The teachings of Jesus were put to memory with little difficulty.

Later, within a few decades of Jesus’ death, the eyewitnesses’ accounts were recorded into the Gospels.  It’s incredible to have something so close to the actual events.

Historians rarely have documents so close the actual events, as they do with the early New Testament manuscripts.

Later Church fathers in the 1st and 2nd centuries — Polycarp, Papias, & others — reported knowing the Gospel writers.  The four Gospel writers are:  Matthew (apostle & writer for Hebrew audience), Mark (non-apostle, Greek interpreter for Peter), Luke (non-apostle, Paul’s representative), and John (apostle).

So, based on what many others wrote, we know those Gospel writers were actual people. Of course, Paul wrote letters while he still lived.

So, no shred of evidence for Jesus?  We’ve got an embarrassment of riches when it comes to historical witnesses — direct and indirect — of Jesus!

I thought this homicide detective, J. Warner Wallace, below explains why it’s extremely reasonable to believe that Jesus lived and that the Gospels are true.  

Wallace explains that  if you lack direct testimony (an eyewitness) — a very common phenomenon — you build a case on circumstantial evidence.  Virtually all his cases are won without direct evidence or eyewitnesses.

Judges instruct jurors that direct and indirect evidence are neither entitled to greater weight than the other.

Another concern of this homicide detective: witnesses lie.  They just do.   So, you test eyewitnesses to ensure they’re trustworthy.

Test witnesses:  1) Was witness there at the crime scene?  2) Can detective corroborate witness’ presence at the scene?  3) Is witness consistent over time?  4)  Is witness biased?   Judge instructs that we must trust witness if these 4 points are confirmed.

Watch and enjoy!

This principle of witnesses also applies to the 11+ witnesses in our dispensation.   Do they pass the above test?  With flying colors, they do!

Richard Bauckman discusses his book,  “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony.”

Joseph Smith and the Recovery of Eternal Man

God is our father. More than an essence. He has a form and a body, though his influence is everywhere. God’s corporeality (having a body) was taught until the 4th and 5th centuries. We aren’t depraved creatures. We weren’t created out of nothing. Creedal statements about a triune deity were incorrect. These and other truths were restored. Joseph’s views are absolutely revolutionary when you consider what Christians believe(d).

“Joseph Smith returned modern Christianity to its origins.”

 

Critiques of agnostic Bart Ehrman: by evangelical Christian John Warwick Montgomery

Bart Ehrman is a widely known scholar of the New Testament.  He’s also made lots of money from producing many controversial and NY Times-bestselling books.   I’ve seen and checked out his books on CD at my local library.   I’ll share critiques of four of Ehrman’s recent books below.

In some discussions — if Jesus lived — I agree with Dr. Ehrman.   Virtually every historian, atheist and believing scholar, understands Jesus of Nazareth lived.  In other discussions — the New Testament was forged, for example, — I don’t agree with his interpretations.

John Warwick Montgomery is a believing Christian who criticizes Ehrman’s views on Jesus and his recent books “.  Montgomery explains that the New Testament writers are who they say they are, and that Jesus is who He said He was.

As a believing Latter-day Saint, I have certain disagreements with both sides in this debate.  That is, Montgomery defends classical Christianity and is an evangelical.  And Ehrman is an atheist.  But in this debate I agree almost completely with Dr. Montgomery, and appreciate his defense of early Christianity and the manuscripts.

Historian and Christian scholar, John Warwick Montgomery, reviews Bible critic Bart Ehrman’s book Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why.

Historian and Christian scholar, John Warwick Montgomery, critiques Bible critic Bart Ehrman’s book How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee.

Historian and Christian scholar John Warwick Montgomery responds to atheist Bart Ehrman’s book Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior. This video is part of the John Warwick Montgomery vs Bart Ehrman playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list…

Jesus: mythical or literal figure?

LDS Perspectives Podcast completes another fantastic interview:   The Historical Jesus – Thomas Wayment

Virtually all scholars of the ancient world believe Jesus lived.  Only a very small fraction of scholars believe in a mythical figure.   The leader of the mythical Jesus movement is fringe scholar Richard Carrier.

The video below shows Bart Ehrman — himself an agnostic, but a highly esteemed scholar of the New Testament and ancient world — explaining that Jesus lived.  Bart says that anyone who claims otherwise looks foolish.

Richard Dawkins — perhaps the most vocal atheist alive today and author of “The God Delusion” — admitted that Jesus lived in a debate w/ John Lennox.  Originally in his book, Dawkins fibbed, was somehow confused, or was trying to sell more books & hurt the Christian cause.  That is, Dawkins said Jesus wasn’t historic.

In a public debate (view below), however, John Lennox called Dawkins out on that false position that Jesus never actually lived.  Awkwardly and reluctantly, Dawkins changed his position and said that Jesus did in fact live.

This young fellow in the video below is a Muslim convert to Christianity who shared that many noted the life of Jesus and his followers outside the accounts found in the Bible.

Those that believe in a mythical Jesus usually mention supposed similarities between Jesus’ resurrection claims and Osiris myths.  The two lives, deaths, and afterlives — Jesus’ and Osiris’ — are hardly similar upon close inspection.

The mythicists claim that Jews copied the Egyptian myths and created a resurrection story that resembled that of Osiris.  Nope.  Didn’t happen.  Not even close.  Modern mythicists are awful scholars making unsupported claims.

Watch Richard Bauckman discuss his book,  “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony. ”

Consider watching the below video about Josephus’ Jesus writings.   Josephus lived from 37-100 AD and was a Roman-Jewish historian.  His 21-volume Antiquities of the Jews recounts the history of the world from a Jewish perspective for a Roman audience.

These works provide valuable insight into first century Judaism and the background of early Christianity.

“Doer of baffling deeds…. On the 3rd day He appeared to them alive.”  A few lines in Josephus’ writings are controversial, and may have been added by later scribes.  Yet, most scholars agree that Josephus penned several lines, mentioning Jesus.

More on Josephus’ Jesus writings here.

Cold case Christianity’s take on support for Jesus’ life from sources outside the Bible: