Category Archives: Early Christianity

Mormon Fair-Cast 203: Odds are you are Going to be Exalted

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Odds_Are___Exalted_detailAlonzo GaskillMany Latter-day Saints worry whether they’re capable of reaching the celestial kingdom. Are these anxieties born of a sense of unworthiness, or is it that we just don’t think we can “do it all?” Author Alonzo L. Gaskill believes that such pessimism results from misunderstanding God’s great plan of happiness and what it is that the Lord actually requires of us. In this hope-filled book, he reviews the teachings of the scriptures and modern prophets to instill in readers a greater sense of God’s unfailing love and mercy and of His power and desire to exalt His children. Exaltation may be not only possible but probable!

Dr. Alonzo L. Gaskill was reared near Indepence, Missouri, and joined the Church in the fall of 1984. One year later, he served a mission to England. He has attended several schools and universities, earning a master’s degree in theology and a Ph.D. in biblical studies.

He has taught graduate and undergraduate religious education courses at the University of California (at both Berkeley and Santa Cruz) and Idaho State University. He was the director of the LDS institute of religion adjacent to Stanford University, and is an assistant professor of Church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University. He is a frequent presenter at BYU’s Campus Education Week and Know Your Religion seminars.

Dr. Gaskill and his wife, Lori, are the parents of four children and reside in Payson, Utah.

This book is available through the FairMormon Bookstore here.

You may also be interested in his blog here.

The views and opinions expressed in this podcast may not reflect those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or that of FairMormon.

Mormon Fair-Cast 202: Barry R. Bickmore, “Restoring the Ancient Church”

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Barry R. Bickmore Restoring the Ancient Church 2nd EditionBarry R. BickmoreMills Chrenshaw who is the host of the program “Drive Time Live” on K-Talk AM 630 radio in Salt Lake City Utah interviews Barry Robert Bickmore about his book “Restoring the Ancient Church: Joseph Smith and Early Christianity.”  In this interview brother Bickmore relates how the teachings of the early Church are reflected in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

This book meticulously examines the earliest teachings of Christianity and how some of those teachings were modified, abandoned, or forgotten in the centuries following the death of the Apostles. By exploring the writings of early Christian leaders, Dr. Bickmore is able to recover those early teachings while illustrating the significance they played in the theology and Christology of the pristine Christian Church. Most importantly for Latter-day Saints, Dr. Bickmore demonstrates that many of forgotten early Christian teachings were restored through the prophet Joseph Smith.

This 2nd edition is enlarged and revised.  This book is available through the FairMormon bookstore here .

A written review of Barry R. Bickmore’s first edition from a non-LDS perspective is also available at FairMormon here.

This interview was used by permission of Mills Crenshaw and K-TALK radio. The opinions expressed in this interview do not necessarily represent the views of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or of FairMormon.

 

Mormon FAIR-Cast 152: Evidences of the Resurrection

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Was Jesus really resurrected? Or was his resurrection merely a trick, an illusion or the result of an incorrect conclusion drawn by followers who looked in the wrong tomb? In this episode of Religion Today, which originally aired on KSL Radio on March 31, 2013, Martin Tanner discusses evidence for the resurrection and the nature of the resurrection.

This recording was used by permission of KSL Radio and does not necessarily represent the views of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or of FAIR. Listeners will note that the first part of this recording is missing.

Mormon FAIR-Cast 127: Did an Apostasy Actually Occur?

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What is an “apostasy?” Are there any scriptures that say there was an apostasy that required a restoration? Do we know when the apostasy ocurred? Does that matter? In this episode of Religion Today, which originally aired on KSL Radio on August 19, 2012, Martin Tanner responds to claims that an apostasy did not occur.

This recording was used by permission of KSL Radio and does not necessarily represent the views of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or of FAIR. (Listeners will note that the end of the recording is cut off prematurely.)

Mormon FAIR-Cast 125: Deification in LDS and early Christian thought

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Do Mormons believe they will become gods? Is this belief supported in the Bible? Are there other Christian religions that have similar beliefs? In this episode of Religion Today that originally aired on March 27, 2011, Martin Tanner discusses the concept of deification, or theosis, and the way in which it has been discussed in the Bible, by early Christians, and by leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

This recording was used by permission of KSL Radio and does not necessarily represent the views of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or of FAIR.

Mormon FAIR-Cast 124: Controversies Regarding the Nature of Christ

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One of the primary reasons some claim that Mormons are not Christians is because the Mormon view of the trinity differs from that of most modern Christians. Mormons claim that their view of the Godhead is correct and that the view of God as set forth in various creeds, such as that which was proclaimed at the Nicean Council, is a corrupt version of the truth. Some modern Christians counter that the concept of the trinity as believed by most Christians today was already considered doctrine by the time of the Council of Nicea and the council was simply held to address other heresies. So what really happened? Why does the majority view of the nature of Christ differ from the view of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? In this episode of Religion Today, which originally aired on KSL Radio on September 2, 2012, Martin Tanner discusses these issues.

This recording was used by permission of KSL Radio and does not necessarily represent the views of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or of FAIR.

Mormon FAIR-Cast 122: Changes in the Bible

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Is the Bible the complete, inerrant, inspired, infallible word of God? Is it a book that has errors in it now, but that did not have errors in the original? Have changes in the Bible been made? If so, why and what were some of those changes? These questions and others are discussed in this episode of Religion Today, with Martin Tanner, which originally aired on KSL Radio on June 3, 2012.

This recording was used by permission of KSL Radio and does not necessarily represent the views of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or of FAIR.

Note that the first part of this recording has been lost.

Are Mormons Christians? Witherington says no.

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Ben Witherington recently posted the following essay on Patheos: “Why Mormonism is not Christianity– the Issue of Christology.”  It seems a perennial Evangelical claim, that, unfortunately never seems to actually engage Mormon response.

There he gives six reasons why he believes Mormons are not Christians.  While I have enjoyed Professor Witherington’s biblical scholarship, I’m afraid his understanding of Mormonism is inadequate.  I’ll examine each of his six claims. Continue reading

Ben Witherington on Whether Mormons Are Christians

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So, over at Patheos Ben Witherington has a blog post titled “Why Mormonism Is Not Christianity–The Issue of Christology,” which you may read here. I’m familiar with Witherington from his articles in Biblical Archaeology Review (I’m a subscriber), which I generally enjoy. But I suppose it should come as no surprise that I thought this blog post was weak sauce.

In general I didn’t have too much of a problem with his catalog of differences between Evangelical and Mormon thought. It is true that Mormons reject an ontological Trinity (he poisons the well by characterizing this position as “polytheism”); it is true that Mormons believe in an embodied God (I wonder whether he realizes how many people historically he just kicked out of Christianity by making this a standard); guilty as charged on our rejection of biblical inerrancy.

But I was surprised at his lack of historical sense and sophistication. He portrays Mormonism as evolving, which is certainly true, but he is blind to the evolution of thought over the centuries in historical Christianity. He cites the historic policy of the priesthood ban, and while I personally think we deserve to take our lumps over that, he doesn’t seem to be aware that the original Mormon policy was an (unfortunate) importation of Protestant biblical thought into the Church (there is a case where if we had been a little less Christian in the 19th century we would have been better off!). He seems to think we are somehow dissembling by calling our meeting places “churches,” and he notes that we don’t have crosses gracing our buildings, apparently unaware of the largely Puritan, low church origins of our Church. As religious history, I was not impressed by his treatment.

He grants that many Catholics and Orthodox are Christian; I wonder how they feel about this supposed magnanimous judgment on his part. I can’t help but wonder whether Catholics and Orthodox might wonder who appointed him the arbiter of who qualifies to be reckoned a Christian. He also allows that many Mormons would pass the test of being decent and honest and loving human beings. Magnanimous indeed.

Here’s the thing. I know what he’s trying to say, and I actually agree with him. From his Evangelical perspective, being Christian is tantamount to being saved, and most Mormons are not saved according to Evangelical theology. I don’t have a problem with that. What I do have a problem with is his throwing around the word “Christian” without bothering to define it, but just assuming his narrow Evangelical definition. Because out in the real world, that is not the way people understand the word “Christian.”

christianos is a partisan of Christ, just as a Herodian was a partisan of Herod or a Caesarian was a partisan of Caesar. And that is the way the word is understood outside of the Evangelical bubble from within which Witherington is writing. To the person on the street, a Christian is someone who believes in Christ, that he is the Son of God, he lived and died, atoned for the sins of the world, the third day arose again, and dwells in yonder heavens at the right hand of the Father. For most of the world, Christian is a broad generic category of history and culture and belief, not a narrow club for the saved per Evangelical dogma.

Elsewhere I have shared the following (true) story, which illustrates well why simply calling Latter-day Saints non-Christian is inherently misleading. A family with several young daughters used to live in my ward. This family was friendly with a neighbor woman, who would often babysit the girls. As Christmas was approaching, the woman gave each of the girls a Christmas gift, which turned out to be a coloring book featuring Jesus Christ. The girls enjoyed the gift and colored the pictures.

Some time later this woman came to the family’s home, ashen, and apologized profusely for having given their daughters such a gift. It turns out that the woman had just learned at her church that Mormons are not Christian, and therefore she of course assumed that she had committed a grievous faux pas in giving the girls coloring books featuring a deity their family did not believe in.

Now in this story the woman understood the claim that Latter-day Saints are not Christian the same way the vast majority of people would, as meaning that they do not believe in Christ. This is because she naturally applied the public definition of the word to her pastor’s words, not some narrow, undisclosed private definition.

We can see by this story the mischief that results from the semantic legerdemain of calling Latter-day Saints non-Christian. The fact is, they are Christians in the generic sense of the word, even if, from an Evangelical point of view, they are theologically in error and unsaved (i.e., being a Christian is not necessarily tantamount to being right). I personally would have no difficulty with certain shorthand distinctions that would make clear that Mormons neither are nor claim to be creedal or orthodox Christians. But to say they are not Christians at all without such a modifier is to fundamentally misrepresent the nature of their beliefs.

Cross-posted at BCC

Mormon FAIR-Cast 95: The Reality of the Resurrection

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Can people really come back to life? What evidence is there for the resurrection of Christ? In this episode of Religion Today, which originally aired on KSL Radio on April 8, 2012, Martin Tanner discusses the reality of the resurrection and the hope that lies therein for all of us.

This recording was used by permission of KSL Radio and does not necessarily represent the views of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or of FAIR.

Note that the first part of this recording has been lost.