In an online Facebook discussion between evangelicals and Mormons, an evangelical gave a link to my 2014 article on IRR’s website, “The Mormon Doctrine of Becoming Gods: What about the Early Church Fathers?” A Mormon named Christopher took issue with the article, beginning with the following claim:

One of the less impressive arguments Bowman makes in his critical article is in his section of “becoming sons of God”. Obviously this approaches the biblical concept of adoption by/into God. But here Bowman is using a modern interpretation of the term (either deliberately or ignorantly).

This comment was odd because in fact I didn’t offer any “interpretation of the term” adoption, modern or ancient or otherwise. The word adoption appears only once in my article, in a quotation from Irenaeus—who was of course an ancient author and so could not be accused of “using a modern interpretation of the term”! The article also has no section on “becoming sons of God.” The term sons occurs only three times in the article: twice in a quotation from Justin Martyr, and once in my comment on Justin’s statement, in which I said:

Furthermore, according to Justin, we are not already God’s children (as the LDS Church teaches), but may become his sons. What Justin teaches here is incompatible with the LDS doctrine that we were God’s preexistent children in heaven and that we came here to make progress toward “growing up” to become full-fledged Gods like our Heavenly Father.

Instead of engaging what I did say on the subject, Christopher erected a straw man of his own invention in which I supposedly used “a modern interpretation of the term” adoption. Read the rest of this entry »

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As discussed in my previous post here, on April 9 Hank Hanegraaff, the host of the Bible Answer Man radio program and president of the evangelical parachurch ministry Christian Research Institute (CRI), formally joined the Orthodox Church.

In a forthcoming post I hope to delve more deeply into the story of Hanegraaff’s conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy and its implications for CRI and for evangelicalism. Right now, however, I want to explore some of the initial reactions we are seeing to this story and then point to some resources for those who want to learn more about evangelicalism and Eastern Orthodoxy.

 

The Fundamentalist Reaction: “Hanegraaff…Has Left the Biblical Christian Faith”

Some fundamentalists (and I use that term to distinguish them from mainstream evangelicals) have been quick to judge that in leaving Protestantism, Hanegraaff has left the Christian faith. This is precisely what one blogger, Jeff Maples, claimed at the Pulpit and Pen blog. His post was entitled “The Bible Answer Man, Hank Hanegraaff, Leaves the Christian Faith?” The question mark does not imply that Maples thinks Orthodoxy might be Christian. The only question in his mind at the time was whether the story of Hanegraaff defecting to the Orthodox Church was true. According to Maples,

There are numerous reports that Hank Hanegraaff, the well-known talk show host, and evangelical apologist known as “The Bible Answer Man,” has left the biblical Christian faith for Greek Orthodox tradition…. The Orthodox Church is a false expression of Christianity, much like the Roman Catholic Church, that is highly driven by graven images and denies the biblical doctrine of salvation by grace alone through faith alone, and instead, trusts in meritorious works and a sacramental system for salvation.

For Maples and other fundamentalists, it’s as simple as that: Catholics and Orthodox are not Christians because they don’t understand salvation in the same way that evangelical Protestants do. They are supposedly trusting in their works and religious rituals for salvation. Read the rest of this entry »

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On Palm Sunday, April 9, 2017, Hank Hanegraaff formally joined the Orthodox Church. Since 1989 Hanegraaff has been the President of the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and (since ca. 1992) the host of CRI’s Bible Answer Man radio program.[1] Hank, his wife Kathy, and two of their twelve children were inducted by a sacramental rite called chrismation into the Orthodox faith at St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, near where CRI is based. In chrismation, a baptized individual is anointed with oil in order to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.[2]

There was no prior announcement of Hanegraaff’s conversion, although there were rumors he was a catechumen (someone in a formal process leading to conversion). Ironically, the day before his chrismation an evangelical blogger, Jason Engwar at Triablogue, documented evidence from Hanegraaff’s radio broadcasts over the past year that suggested he was moving toward Eastern Orthodoxy.[3] Father Thomas Soroka, an Orthodox priest, first broke the news of Hanegraaff’s chrismation on Facebook.

Although Hanegraaff’s conversion to Orthodoxy is a dramatic development, in a way his theology and religiosity has been in almost constant movement throughout his nearly three decades at CRI. Hanegraaff’s family background was Dutch Reformed and his ministry experience prior to CRI included working with Calvinist pastor and broadcaster D. James Kennedy. When he arrived at CRI he was also a staunch young-earth creationist. Over the years Hanegraaff transitioned to old-earth creationism (which happens to be my position as well) but also passed through two or three forms of eschatology, eventually becoming an advocate for the controversial view known as preterism (which views almost all NT prophecy as fulfilled in the first century). Presumably now that he has become Orthodox he will need to support its traditional eschatology, which is amillennial.

Hanegraaff’s conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy should not be viewed as a mere isolated occurrence. There has been a definite trend for the past few decades of a growing number of American evangelical Protestants converting to either Catholicism or Orthodoxy. As long ago as 1992, the trend of conversions of evangelical clergy to Orthodoxy was noted in a book.[4] I want to suggest some lessons (by no means exhaustive) that need to be learned from this recent turn of events.

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Two days ago (March 30, 2017) I responded to a short article by Mormon blogger Robert Boylan in which he and his non-Mormon friend Errol Vincent Amey claimed I had quoted Irenaeus out of context. They have now responded in another piece on Boylan’s blog entitled “Bowman shoots…and misses on sola scriptura.” In what follows, I will sometimes refer to Amey and sometimes to Boylan, but it appears that for all intents and purposes Boylan’s post speaks for both of them.

In my article, I stated repeatedly that Irenaeus did not hold to the evangelical Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura, but only that his position was far closer to sola scriptura than to the positions represented by Amey and Boylan: Read the rest of this entry »

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In a Facebook exchange on March 25, 2017, in the group “B.C. and L.D.S. (Biblical Christians and Latter Day Saints)” with a non-Mormon named Errol Vincent Amey, I presented a series of quotations from the church fathers to counter Mr. Amey’s view of Scripture and authority. In brief, Mr. Amey is a follower of David Bercot, who teaches that true Christianity (which just happens in Bercot’s view to correspond to a modern form of Anabaptist Christianity) is to be determined solely on the basis of the consensus teachings of the ante-Nicene church fathers (i.e., the church fathers who wrote prior to the Council of Nicaea in AD 325). Mr. Amey ignored all but one of the quotations, my quotation of Irenaeus in Against Heresies 3.2.1, which he attempted to counter by quoting the next paragraph as well as a later passage (3.2.2; 3.4.1).

The next day, Mr. Amey’s friend Robert Boylan, a Mormon blogger, posted a critique of what he called my “abuse of Irenaeus of Lyons to support sola scriptura.” Mr. Boylan approvingly repeated Mr. Amey’s argument, again mentioning only my one quotation of Against Heresies 3.2.1 and answering it by quoting 3.2.2 and 3.4.1.

Anabaptists and Mormons make somewhat strange bedfellows, though of course they do share some agreements. Both are modern forms of restorationism, which seeks to re-establish the primitive Christianity that was supposedly lost in a massive apostasy that corrupted virtually all of Christianity for well over a millennium. Yet they have radically different views about what a restored Christianity should look like. The one thing on which they agree is that it would not look at all like traditional evangelical Protestantism. It is apparently this point of agreement that unites such persons as Mr. Amey and Mr. Boylan.

Mr. Boylan’s blog post knocks down a straw man of his own creation. I did not claim that Irenaeus held to the evangelical Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura. Read the rest of this entry »

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6
Jan

The Alarming Truths of So-called Anti-Mormonism

   Posted by: Rob Bowman   in Mormonism

False AlarmsDustin Phelps, a Mormon writer on the “Happiness Seekers” website, has written a blog article on “The Alarming Truth about Anti-Mormonism.” Within a few days it had over 30,000 “shares” on social media. In his article, Phelps claims “to expose what anti-Mormonism is and what its objectives really are.” The objective is to make Mormons become atheists:

Anti-Mormonism isn’t just about getting people to lose faith in our Church, it’s about getting people to lose faith in God, in Christ, in revelation, in religion. Once you’ve tasted the sweetest and most perfect form of Christianity, where else will you go when you leave?

Phelps arrives at this conclusion by the following reasoning:

  • “Basically every reason to doubt Mormonism is a good reason to doubt Christianity.”
  • Thus, arguments against Mormonism are really arguments against Christianity.
  • Once people lose faith in Christianity, they become atheists.
  • Therefore, presenting arguments against Mormonism turns Mormons into atheists.

He also restates his argument as follows:

  • Any arguments against Joseph Smith being a prophet also apply to the biblical prophets.
  • Thus, once one accepts arguments against Joseph Smith being a prophet, one has no sources of revelation about Christ and God that one can accept.
  • Therefore, any arguments against Joseph Smith as a prophet lead people to abandon belief in Christ and God.

Let’s look at these arguments, both of which turn on their first premises. Read the rest of this entry »

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Armarna Tablet 290 RecreationIn an attempt to shore up his criticism of my article on the non-Hebraic character of the expression temple of Solomon in the Book of Mormon,[1] LDS apologist Robert Boylan has cited what he claims is an exception to my observation that ancient Israelites and their cultural neighbors named temples for the deity to which they were dedicated, not for their mortal builders. Boylan’s paragraph on the subject has gone through a couple of expansions as his friend Andrew Sargent has kept him apprised of my discussion with him on Facebook about this issue. At last check the new paragraph reads in its entirety as follows:

Bowman is also wrong when it comes to pre-exilic naming conventions of sanctuaries when one examines ancient textual discoveries-from a passage in letter 290 from el Amarna, written by the king of Jerusalem to the Pharaoh, some scholars have concluded that Bet-NIN.IB was also known by the name “Temple of Šulmán.” Letter 74 of the el-Amara letters, the king of Damascus gives an order to assemble in the Temple of Šulmán (Beth-Ninurt/Beth-Shulman (House [Temple] of Shulman) While scholars debate this meaning, there is reference to Uru-salem (Jerusalem) in this text, and Roger Henry in Synchronized Chronology: Rethinking Middle East Antiquity pp.72-5 makes a good argument that the letters may have been 9th Century during the reign of Jehosaphat. If this is the case, Bowman’s argument on shaky grounFurther, Letter 74 of the el-Amara letters, the king of Damascus gives an order to assemble in the Temple of Šulmán (Beth-Ninurt/Beth-Shulman (House [Temple] of Shulman). Bowman’s response to this was a juvenile “LOL” when a friend, Andrew Sargent brought up this issue. But remember, it is me who is disrespectful (more Bowmanian projection, I know).[2]

I did indeed write “LOL” in a Facebook thread when Sargent first quoted Boylan’s new paragraph (at the time a single sentence, I think). While “LOL” is not appropriate in an academic paper or scholarly publication, it is perfectly acceptable in the context of informal discussions on Facebook and is not generally an expression of disrespect, a fact that Boylan surely knows. My “LOL” was not an expression of disrespect for Boylan or Sargent personally, but of genuine amusement at the argument, for reasons that I will be explaining here.

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In a recent online article, I explained that the expression temple of Solomon (using the prepositional phrase of Solomon instead of the possessive form Solomon’s) is not, as LDS scholar Donald Parry had claimed, evidence of an ancient Hebraic original text underlying the Book of Mormon and in fact is evidence against that claim. In that article, I pointed out that the Book of Mormon also uses the more idiomatic English expression Solomon’s temple (in the same verse, 2 Ne. 5:16). I also argued that either expression is both chronologically and culturally anachronistic. At the time Nephi would have been speaking, the temple in Jerusalem would have been the only Jewish temple known to him, and its replacement by a second temple would not have been begun until after his death. More significant still, ancient Israelites and other people in their culture named a temple for the deity to whom it was dedicated (temple of Yahweh, temple of Dagon, temple of Diana, temple of Hercules, etc.), never for its mortal builder. I cited hundreds of texts in support of this point, mostly from the OT, but also from the NT and other ancient Jewish literature. I also discussed one apparent “exception,” where a Hellenistic Jewish author used the expression temple of Solomon in Greek (not Hebrew!) in order to manufacture a contrived etymology of the name of the city Jerusalem.[1]

Earlier today Robert Boylan, who has posted a fairly large number of pieces criticizing my articles on his blog, posted an attack on IRR’s recently announced renovation of the Book of Mormon section of its website.[2] The only article that Boylan mentioned specifically was the article on the expression temple of Solomon. Only one paragraph of 188 words, out of the 955 words of Boylan’s whole article, actually discuss the subject of that expression. Boylan devoted somewhat more of his article (210 words) to another alleged Hebraism in the Book of Mormon (garb of secrecy in Helaman 9:6). For the sake of focus, in this article I will respond only to Boylan’s comments about temple of Solomon, including comments made in an update to the article. If time permits, I will respond to some of his other comments separately.

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New_World_translation_of_the_Holy_Scriptures_2013_editionJehovah’s Witnesses teach that the New Testament originally contained the Hebrew divine name יהוה (YHWH, usually spelled “Yahweh”) or some equivalent form, but that scribes in the second century systematically replaced it with the noun κύριος (kurios, “Lord”) or occasionally θεός (theos, “God”). To correct this alleged problem, they have inserted the name “Jehovah” into the New Testament portion of their official Bible, the New World Translation, some 237 times. The main reason for rejecting this claim is that the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament uniformly attest to the lack of the Tetragrammaton (the technical term for the four-consonant name Yahweh) or any equivalent form except for “Yah” in the expression “Hallelu-Yah” (“Praise Yah”) found four times in Revelation 19:1-6. Jehovah’s Witnesses are forced to defend the implausible conspiracy theory that the second-century church, with no centralized authority or bureaucracy, completely eliminated all occurrences of the name Yahweh in all surviving manuscripts. Not only is this claim highly implausible, there are internal evidences in the New Testament text that confirm the accuracy of the manuscripts.
Here’s one fairly simple example. Consider Ephesians 6:1-9 in the NWT (2013 edition), shown below with expressions using the Greek word for “Lord” in brackets and the English wording emphasized:

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3
Aug

Mormonism’s Road to God: Rituals and Rules

   Posted by: Rob Bowman   in Mormonism

Your Path to Heavenly Father

The July 2016 issue of Friend, a Mormon periodical for teaching children, includes an article entitled “Your Path to Heavenly Father.” The article presents a game to teach children to recognize the “necessary steps” to salvation or to going back to Heavenly Father, and to distinguish those steps from other mundane activities such as biking or reading. Here is the list of “steps to salvation”:

  1. Premortal life
  2. Get a body
  3. Be baptized
  4. Receive the Holy Ghost
  5. Take the sacrament
  6. Keep the commandments
  7. Go to the temple
  8. Be sealed to your husband or wife
  9. Be resurrected

Strikingly, the list says nothing about repenting of one’s sins or putting faith in Jesus Christ as one’s Savior. Instead, the “steps” are all about undergoing rituals and following rules. Read the rest of this entry »

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