Sunday, December 7, 2008

Yes, we believe in the Bible...

To some not of the LDS faith, it may come as a surprise to learn that we believe, revere, and love the Holy Bible. We do have additional scripture, however, including the Book of Mormon; but it supports the Bible, never substituting for it. In fact, we cross-reference from one book of scripture to another because we are persuaded that the greatest commentary on scripture is scripture itself.

Sadly, the Bible is the most misused and misunderstood book ever written. It has been used to justify all manner of impropriety, wickedness, and falsehood. It has been used for centuries to settle disputes of every imaginable kind, even those that the prophets never intended to settle. Indeed, it has been quoted as often by devils as by Saints and, likewise, has served as an instrument of suppression as often as it has served as a source of inspiration.

In reading and commenting on religious blogs of other faiths, I have encountered numerous individuals who state emphatically that their position is based entirely upon the authority of the Bible. Unfortunately for them, however, God is the only source of reputable religious authority. In fact, the Bible itself points away from itself and instead to that final and true authority, God Himself.

For a time, the established Biblical canon ensured doctrinal orthodoxy as the Church began to grow around the 4th century. An overreliance on the canon, however, tends to shut one off from new truths or insights, and may breed spiritual complacency. For example, non-LDS bloggers often state, “Well, because the matter under consideration is not dealt with directly in the Bible, there is no answer, or God doesn’t care how we solve the issue.”

To that I feel compelled to respond: “If the Spirit inspired only the written documents of the first century, does that mean that the same Spirit does not speak today in the church about matters that are of significant concern?” Or: “On what biblical or historical grounds has the inspiration of God been limited to the written documents that the church now calls the Bible?

A knowledge of what the Bible does not claim for itself is important in protecting against its misrepresentations. The following 5 points delineate claims that Bible religions falsely attribute to the Bible, but which the book does not claim for itself:

1) The Bible makes no claim to infallibility. There isn’t one verse within the Bible to sustain this doctrine. In fact, it was in the name of infallibility that Galileo was condemned by the church in Rome for saying that the earth moved around the sun. The idea, it was held, contradicted scriptural passages that spoke of the sun’s rising and setting.

2) The Bible makes no claim to having been supernaturally dictated. Whoever was the first “scholar” to make the terms “the Bible” and “the Word of God” synonymous, did a great disservice to the cause of truth and religion. The term “word of God” is found in scripture hundreds of time, and yet in not one of those instances is it applied to the scriptures.

3) The Bible makes no claim that prophets are infallible. James states that Elijah, one of the greatest Old Testament prophets, was “a man subject to like passions as we are” (James 5:17). Paul corrected Peter (Gal. 2:11-14), and Peter said Paul’s writings were “hard to be understood” (2 Pet. 3:16). Jonah misunderstood his own prophecy (Jonah 4), and Noah occasionally got drunk (Gen. 9:21). Prophets are mortal and, as Joseph Smith taught us, “a prophet was a prophet only when he was acting as such” (TPJS, p.278)

4) The Bible does not claim to have all the answers nor that it is God’s only revelation. Instead, the Bible continually directs its readers to implore the heavens for knowledge and understanding beyond what it contains, and often quotes statements and books that are now lost unto it. In fact, nowhere does the Bible purport to give its readers either authority or commission to preach the Gospel or to perform Gospel ordinances.

What makes us different from most other Christians in the way we read and use the Bible and other scriptures is our belief in continuing revelation. For us, the scriptures are not the ultimate source of knowledge, but what precedes the ultimate source. The ultimate knowledge comes by revelation.” (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Scripture Reading, Revelation, and Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible,” in Plain and Precious Truths Restored, p.2 (emphasis added))

5) The Bible does not claim to be complete nor does it claim that revelation has ceased. As Joseph Smith said, “We have what we have, and the Bible contains what it does contain: but to say that God never said anything more to man than is there recorded, would be saying at once that we have at last received a revelation; for it must require one to advance thus far, because it is nowhere said in that volume by the mouth of God, that He would not, after giving what is there contained, speak again; and if any man has found out for a fact that the Bible contains all that God ever revealed to man he has ascertained it by revelation, other than has been previously written by the prophets and apostles” (History of the Church, 2:18) (emphasis added).

The New Testament church was led by Apostles and prophets and governed by the spirit of revelation. The life-giving force of the Church was the Holy Ghost, not some scriptural record that no member of that church ever read. In fact, the New Testament did not exist until several centuries after the apostasy was complete.

The Bible is a magnificent tool in the hands of God, but it is too often used as a club or a weapon in the hands of men and women. Truly, the more we read and study the Bible and its teachings, the more clearly we see the doctrinal underpinnings of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, of which continual revelation plays a major role.

14 comments:

Tim Malone said...

"The term 'word of God' is found in scripture hundreds of time, and yet in not one of those instances is it applied to the scriptures."

I learned something new. Thank you. That is an awesome concept to ponder. If the "word of God" does not refer to the scriptures, then it must refer to another method of receiving His word. Hmmm...

linda said...

I love the Bible. The first time I studied the Old Testament, I realized that people are the same yesterday, today, forever. Gospel principles don't change, and Satan has been at his job for a LONG time.
I think the Bible is sometimes under appreciated in the LDS faith. It is sometimes seen as out dated and not pertinient to our times. People who believe that couldn't be more wrong. It was by faith that Moses led the people out of Isreal. By the power of the Holy Ghost he was given direction. Although it is a great miricle, it is the same power we can exercise in our lives today as necessary.
I agree completly with the things you have written about the Bible. I am just hoping that the next time the Old Testament comes around in Sunday School I will hear poeple excited to study it, instead of dreading another long year. We need every defense possible in the war on wickedness and the Bible provides further light and knowledge, if you are looking for it.
When Jesus Christs visited the Nephites He (3Nephi 24:7(1-14) asks Nephi to bring the records that he had kept. He looked over them and told him not only to include the words of Samulel the Lamanite but also Malachi(3Nephi24) The Savior quotes Isaiah and says "great are the words of Isaiah" "search his words diligently". These are things found in the Book of Mormon, pointing us to study the Bible.
I believe if in our own faith, we valued the Bible more and didn't dismiss it as much we would have more to discuss with our friends of other faiths. We could also point to the ways the books compliment each other.
It's intersting to know that the Bible has been changed, parts omitted ect. When I study the Bible, if something written is in direct opposition from what I already know to be true, we have great references to help us sort out translation issues.
I always wonder when I come to the end of Revelation 22:19 where it states "..If any man shall take away from the words of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life..." I wonder if someone was altering the words and meanings why they didn't delete that part.
Thanks again Jeremy, made me think....

linda said...

One question, if the scriptures aren't "the word of God" what is?
Linda

Jeremy said...

Thanks for visiting, Tim.

I probably spent 3 hours today on your site reading through your Last Days Essays. Interesting stuff.

ALthough I must say the "Planet X" stuff I linked to off your site was totally new to me. New, but debunked nonetheless.

Jeremy said...

Linda, it is fascinating to note that whenever the term "word of God" is used in the scriptures, it clearly refers to revelation! That is the basis of revealed religion, and the reason why this is the only true "and living" Church on the face of the earth (D&C 1:38).

To quickly answer your question regarding Rev. 22:19, in those verses John is referring to the text before him - the Book of Revelation and its prophecies - and urges no one to change what he has written. This makes sense for many reasons . . . here are a few to ponder.

First, when was the "Bible" compiled? The Bible as a collection of canonized books did not exist when he wrote those lines. In fact, several non-LDS authorities believe that Revelation was not the last book of the Bible to be written, but may have preceded other writings of John himself by a couple of years. Nevertheless, what John wrote is true: no man should change what God has spoken.

Second, similar warnings are found in Duet 4:2 and 12:32. Are we to assume anything written after Moses' day is forbidden? Of course not, or we would risk losing everything in the New Testament, let alone the books of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, etc.

linda said...

Jeremy,
I have been pondering the "word of God" and how it pertains to revelation and the scriptures.
First of all the 8th article of faith states "We believe the bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly. We also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God." Seems to me that the scriptures contain revelation from God, therefore qualify to be called the word of God. I understand that the writings are from men, but it does contain revelation from God and in many cases He directly instructs them on what to write(as opposed to them writing family history, of wars, ect.)

Jeremy said...

Linda, I took the liberty to do a global search of the scriptures at lds.org and search the term "word of God." Take a look at the link below and read a few of the passages that come up:

http://scriptures.lds.org/en/search?search=%22word+of+god%22

The ancient prophets and apostles never referred to a book as "the word of God," simply because there was no book to refer to. Instead, they were always talking about revelation.

The Articles of Faith are a component of the Wentworth Letter written in 1842 by Joseph Smith to "Long" John Wentworth, editor of the Chicago Democrat. It outlined the history of the Latter-day Saint movement up to that time.

Joseph Smith, as well as everyone today (including the LDS Church), refer to the scriptures as the word of God. As you correctly stated, this is because they contain revelations from God.

However, this in no way implies that the books were in any way "supernaturally dictated." In other words, nothing in the Bible indicates that Moses or Paul dictated word-for-word from God's mouth the exact text found therein. Instead, most of what is found in the Bible includes the prophets' or apostle's interpretation of a revelation they had received.

Does this make sense?

linda said...

I don't believe that any revelation has to be "supernaturally dictated". Isn't most revelation a prophets interpretation of what he was told by God?
I aprecaited the search, I also searched the same web site for "srciptures are word of God" I found a few note worthy. Alma 17:2 "...they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God." Also, D&C 68:4 "And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation."

Ususally I'm not very stubborn and would just respectfully agree to disagree, some reason I wasn't letting this go. I felt I wanted to share with you, in the search results you sent me, I received an answer to a long waited prayer I had been waiting for. (totally unrelated to our original topic)
I think its always a good thing to discuss the gospel. You have a gift of doing it without contention which helps you reach poeple in many ways. Keep up the good work!
Respectfully,
Linda

Jeremy said...

Linda, I don't think we disagree at all, we just aren't seeing this on the same level. People do say that the Bible (and the BofM) are the word of God simply because God's revelations to man can be found therein.

However, Bible religions believe that every word of scripture represents literal words from God, meaning that he somehow used the prophet/apostle as a medium and had them write exactly what he was saying. While this may be the case in some instances, on the whole, the Bible was just man's interpretation of the word of God. For example, John was commanded to write what he saw in the great revelation, same with Isaiah and Ezekiel. God gave them the revelation, and then allowed the representative to interpret what he saw.

Hans said...

The fact that scripture is interpretation of what God sent to the prophet makes it all the more important to listen to current prophets to interpret scriptural meaning. Perhaps with this attitude we would not always feel like we have to jump through mental hoops to harmonize our beliefs to something Paul said when it was only his opinion.

Jeremy said...

Great point, Hans. It really is such a blessing to know that we have a prophet today that is authorized to speak on behalf of the Lord.

DeweyOlsen said...
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Anonymous said...

People are human and like the childrens game of telephone, the message gets distorted as the story is retold. In the very beginning after Jesus had risen into heaven, people began to distort the story as it was retold. So, the standard for truth became, the eyewitnesses: the disciples, the prophets. That standard has been carried out in deciding what scripture was truth in the new testament of the Bible. The books compiled were either of eye witnesses or those close to the eye witness. So, even before any council made the decision on its truth, it was the most likely truth available because of its origin. So, to me, anything written about Christ that is not by an eyewitness or a person close to an eyewitness is suspect. Therefore I think the scripture of the Bible is more accurate than anything else. I find it odd that the book of Mormon takes scripture and changes it to fit another's purpose. Why? Was not the eyewitness account good enough? Was that not the best standard for deciding truth? And if Christ was the Son of God and came to earth for us, then why is there need for any other person to do anything else, even prophesy to us? Was Gods own Son sent to earth not good enough for us? We have need of more?

Anonymous said...

Eyewitnesses:disciples and apostles not prophets in my comment