Thinking Out Loud

March 2, 2017

Christians Should Study Mormonism

A reader wrote asking if I’d ever reviewed any books by Denver Snuffer. I get requests to review self-published books all the time, but this time I found the name intriguing and next thing, I was reading a number of articles on his blog. He’s written a number of books, and has an additional website commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. According to my contact, “He was raised baptist and is now an excommunicated Mormon.  He’s a lawyer who is qualified to practice in the Supreme Court.” But it was this article below, which I thought readers here might find interesting.

 

Christians Should Study Mormonism

by Denver Snuffer

Between the death of Christ’s apostles and the Council of Nicaea, Christianity changed dramatically. It is impossible to account for all that happened to cause the changes. Although some of the writings of the Ante-Nicene Fathers (Christian leaders before Nicaea) have been preserved, the records are wholly inadequate to understand everything that happened, and why it happened.

A new religion rarely appears in history. When one does, it presents a unique opportunity for us to study the process.

Religions begin with an inspired leader whose confident vision opens new light and truth into the world. If there is no new vision then the religion won’t survive. But an original, inspired leader is difficult to replicate. Within a short time, the founder’s work is overtaken by others. Their insecurities and fears leave them without the confidence once present at the foundation. Believers donate, and contributions aggregate. A new generation of believers begin to notice the wealth of their movement, and aspiring leaders who would never sacrifice their name, reputation, security and lives are drawn to management, seeking personal benefit from the institution. Bold claims become hollow echoes, and leaders’ insecurity results in defensive and protective steps. Instead of moving forward with inspired new light and truth, the established religion fears and fights against threatened losses.

William James explained the process:

A genuine first-hand experience like this is bound to be a heterodoxy to its witnesses, the prophet appearing as a mere lonely madman. If his doctrine prove contagious enough to spread to any others, it becomes a definite and labeled heresy. But if it then still prove contagious enough to triumph over persecution, it becomes itself an orthodoxy; and when a religion has become an orthodoxy, its day of inwardness is over: the spring is dry; the faithful live at second hand exclusively and stone the prophets in their turn. The new church, in spite of whatever human goodness it may foster, can be henceforth counted on as a staunch ally in every attempt to stifle the spontaneous religious spirit, and to stop all later bubblings of the fountain from which in purer days it drew its own supply of inspiration. Unless, indeed, by adopting new movements of the spirit it can make capital out of them and use them for its selfish corporate designs!” (The Varieties of Religious Experience, being the Gifford Lectures on Natural Religion Delivered at Edinburgh in 1901-1902, Lectures XIV and XV: The Value of Saintlessness.)

Mormonism was founded in 1830 by Joseph Smith who claimed that ten years prior to founding a church he had been visited by God the Father and Jesus Christ. In the intervening years between the first visit and the time a church was organized, Joseph claimed to have been visited by an angelic messenger who delivered to him a new volume of scripture, the Book of Mormon. He claimed to have received revelations before founding the church, and then many more after its organization.

mormon-article-3-2Whether you believe Joseph Smith’s claims or not, he and his followers give a unique opportunity to witness how founding a religion sets in motion a series of predictable events that happen every time a new religion begins. Perhaps the best way to decipher the transition of Christianity from the original Primitive Christianity to its replacement, Historic Christianity, is to study Mormonism. Similar to the way the Primitive Christian church passed away after the death of the apostles, Mormonism has passed away following the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. The same process was at work in both.

Primitive Christianity and Mormonism set out to change the world, and after some initial success, both enjoyed worldly success. Their success diverted attention from saving souls to managing people and property. Paul observed, “the love of money is the root of all evil.” (1 Tim. 6:10.) A new religion is not profitable for the first believers. They are persecuted. They sacrifice their lives and property to follow what they believe to be God’s burden laid on them. Because of their sacrifices, they have faith and know they please God. Without sacrifice, it is impossible to obtain the faith required for salvation. Founders make sacrifices, successors enjoy the fruit of those sacrifices.

In time, the founding gives way to popular approval. John Wesley observed the price that is paid for popular acceptance is the loss of the Spirit.

“It does not appear that these extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were common in the Church for more than two or three centuries. We seldom hear of them after that fatal period when the Emperor Constantine called himself a Christian;… From this time they almost totally ceased;… The Christians had no more of the Spirit of Christ than the other heathens…. This was the real cause why the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were no longer to be found in the Christian Church; because the Christians were turned Heathens again, and had only a dead form left. Churches all come to depend on money for survival.”

Churches, like the men who belong to them, are just as vulnerable to the “love of money” which leads to “all evil.” People can have the gifts of the Spirit, or they can acquire riches in this world, but cannot have both.

Catholicism grew wealthy from the offerings of its members. When it owned most of the European lands and ruled over all people within Roman Catholic boundaries, it was cold, corrupt, violent and cruel. The transition from persecuted minority to dangerous majority took three centuries. With that status the original was lost.

Mormonism has followed the same path and achieved the same end in less than half the time. If a Christian wants to know how Primitive Christianity was lost to apostasy, the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is where it can be found. Mormon beliefs are so unstable that they now “unequivocally condemn” 10 of the first 11 of their church presidents, including Brigham Young, John Taylor and David O. McKay.

In order to progress forward, we must go back. Since we have no way to recover enough information to understand Christianity’s trek from Jerusalem to Rome, Mormonism allows Christians a view into the transition from Nauvoo to Salt Lake. Both paths followed the same tragic topography.


Go Deeper: In a more recent article Denver Snuffer draws a parallel between the time of Irenaeus and the doctrinal path of Mormonism. Check out Christian Apostasy.

March 22, 2015

Good Friday and Easter Sunday Bring Endless Opportunities to Go Off-Message

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:10 am

You’ve got bunnies and you’ve got eggs, but don’t forget the whole “In Your Easter Bonnet” thing. You thought Easter was about the risen Christ? Nope. It’s about hats. And wearing white. This could make the fashions at Royal Ascot look tame. And don’t forget the $500 cash prize. (Guest music artist to be named later, however.) Don’t miss the fun at Lighthouse Full Life Center in Grand Rapids, MI. (Wait, this is in Grand Rapids?)

LighthouseResurrectionSunday-2015

July 14, 2010

Wednesday Link List

We’re back with the links… some of these have been accumulating for a few weeks, and there have been many great posts lately at Christianity Today, which are represented here:

April 12, 2010

Sorting Out Rick Warren’s Invite from John Piper

When I started this blog it was with the determination to be different.   Although it has the usual “about” page, plus an extra one called “Behind the Scenes,” the real mandate to do this is found on a page titled “Life in the Blogosphere” which is no longer available here.

In that page is a list of six or seven things I wanted to do here, and they’re all fairly general one except for one.   It said, “I don’t really get the whole John Piper thing…”   (I’m actually breaking one of my own blog rules by getting into this!)

When I started reading Christian blogs many years ago, and also when I started writing one over two years ago, it seemed like Piper was ubiquitous.  People were searching online for everything the man had ever said; waiting with bated breath for the lasted video upload from Desiring God; tripping over themselves to cut-and-paste his latest take on some hot-button theological (or not so theological) issue from someone else’s blog to their own; and quoting his words in articles and opinion pieces as though they were the Word of God itself.

That continues to this day — it’s no wonder the guy is taking a few months off; who could live with that pressure? — but I’ve since learned to keep my bookmarks and published blogroll more balanced, so I only see a small percentage of what persists from the reformed (or in some cases neo-reformed) sector of the internet.

People often ask, “Who will be the next Billy Graham?”   Honestly, I’m glad that we are living in a time when no single non-Catholic Christian leader speaks for all of us.  (I think it helps direct the focus to Jesus!)   I’m glad that this particular type of leadership role is somewhat fragmented.    There’s some good and bad in this, as I mentioned in my post, Top Trends Affecting Your Church in 2009 over a year ago:

Trend #10: Conflicting Spokesmen — Who will be the next Billy Graham? It probably won’t happen that the future will see the focus on a single individual who speaks for all Christians or all Protestants or all Evangelicals.  Since many key spokespeople disagree on secondary and tertiary issues, it will sometimes appear to that there is a lack of consensus.

You see this most clearly in the present teapot tempest over Piper’s decision to invite Rick Warren to the Desiring God conference.  (Over 40,000 posts and web articles served on this topic to date. Would you like fries with that?)    People who like Piper don’t like Warren.   (I was going to put a qualifying phrase in there to temper the generalization, but decided to let it stand.)    Take Phil Johnson for example:

I can’t think of anyone who would make a finer poster-boy for the pragmatic, spiritually impoverished, gospel-deprived message of modern and postmodern evangelicalism than Rick Warren. He is shallow, pragmatic, and chameleonic. He is a spiritual changeling who will say whatever his audience wants to hear. He wants desperately to be liked and accepted by Muslims, evangelicals, and everyone in between.

Too bad Phil doesn’t tell us what he really thinks.

Some feel that Warren is well-chosen as the man to fill Graham’s shoes in civic affairs such as the inauguration of a President and see him as the spokesman for the Evangelical church.  (A feeling, I might add, that sits better with me than the choice of T. D. Jakes or Joel Osteen.)

But — recent events notwithstanding — Piper’s followers, who are extremely well represented here in blog-land still see him as the man who has the final word on doctrinal matters.   Warren can offer public prayers and say grace at prayer breakfasts, but it’s Piper they really need to give them direction.   So they aren’t quite sure what Piper is up to inviting Warren, though Scot McKnight is one of many who endorses the decision.

Personally, I think I have a good idea what he’s up to; and I think the invitation and the decision to take a sabbatical are better understood when seen in the context of each other.  (The blog, Black Calvinist presents some excellent insights, as well. while blogger Stephen Macasil thought perhaps it was an early April Fool’s prank!)

But here’s my point:

  • 100 years from now it won’t matter

And here’s my other point:

  • 100 days after the conference it won’t matter, either; perhaps even 10 days later

These things preoccupy bloggers — many blogs thrive on controversy and division — and a handful of Christian periodical writers, but they disappear in the dust very quickly.    Plus there’s this, from I Cor. 3: 4, 5, and 7 —

When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I prefer Apollos,” aren’t you acting like those who are not Christians? Who is Apollos, and who is Paul, that we should be the cause of such quarrels? Why, we’re only servants. Through us God caused you to believe. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. The ones who do the planting or watering aren’t important, but God is important because he is the one who makes the seed grow. (NLT)

You would that the upcoming conference will change Christianity forever to read the passion of bloggers and those leaving comments on their blogs.   It won’t.

The world will continue.  This will neither usher in a new reformation nor a new apostasy.  The gospel will continue to be preached in all the world for the witness.   Wait and see.   (What’s that verse in I Cor. say?  Love believes the best.)  Speculation just isn’t helpful at this time.

On the weekend, blogger Tim Challies was interviewed during the final hour of The Drew Marshall show.   I didn’t realize that Tim’s background includes time spent in both Warren-type and Piper-type churches, and the subject of the conference was covered.   The April 10th interview will be posted online on Friday, April 16th and you can catch it here.

Video embed of Piper’s response to the critics.

Photos:  The two were sitting side-by-side at the June, 2009 funeral of Rev. Ralph Winter.  (Christian Post)

No “chameleonic” is not a word.   “Chameleon-like” is what he wanted.

By “neo-reformed” I mean to infer not an extremeism (though this does happen) but rather — largely due to the internet —  people who have been recently swept into Calvinism because of various ‘appeals’ who will later, as they work out the nature of God in scripture, find themselves not tethered to Reform doctrine and will gravitate to some other position.   But there’s also Scot McKnight’s definition.  (And Roger Olson’s supplemental piece.)

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