Archive for the ‘IRR’ Category

Robert Boylan is the author of a fairly sophisticated blog entitled “Scriptural Mormonism,” in which he frequently criticizes “Trinitarians,” especially evangelicals. A check of Boylan’s blog shows that I am mentioned in some 14 posts, mostly in the past twelve months or so. I contacted Boylan through Facebook at the beginning of 2016 asking if he would be interested in some dialogue, but he did not respond. Boylan has said plenty in those posts that merits a response, but here I am going to focus on one in which I am not mentioned.

elohimNote: The day after this article was first posted on June 6, Boylan posted three articles on his blog in response. In the first of those blog articles, Boylan suggested that I should “rework the article” in light of his comments.[1] I have therefore done so instead of posting follow-up responses, as I would normally have done. After I posted a revised version of this article on June 8, Boylan posted two additional responses, which shall be mentioned very briefly in the appropriate places. This article, posted on June 9, is thus the third version of the article.


Bokovoy or Boylan?

On May 8, 2016, Boylan posted a piece he titled “David Bokovoy vs. Luke Wilson on the names of God.”[2] Boylan begins as follows:

A couple of years ago, the now-Dr. David E. Bokovoy (PhD, Hebrew Bible [Brandeis]) commented on an article produced by the late Luke Wilson of the Institute for Religious “Research” (anti-Mormons like to use [loosely] the term “research” in the names of their ministries, including Bill McKeever]). The post is no longer online, but I did save it for future use. It contains some interesting material, so I believe it worthwhile to reproduce it here:

Read the rest of this entry »


Glenn Beck – Christian, Mormon, Both?

   Posted by: Joel Groat Tags: ,

Let’s hear it for the wisdom of college freshmen. Seriously. I have 30 of them in my class at Cornerstone University and together we are studying Biblical Hermeneutics and it’s plain to see this class is going to be far from boring. So what is Beck doing in a Hermeneutics class? Helping me make it relevant. After all the class is a study in how to appropriately, accurately and relevantly apply ancient texts from different languages and cultures to the Facebook generation and stay true to what God really meant to say.
So out of the blue I asked my class “How many think Beck should be considered an evangelical Christian?” Only one hand out of 30 went up. I must admit I was surprised and said so. ‘After all,’ I told them, ‘he espouses Christian values, uses Christian terminology and has garnered the support of numerous Christian leaders – why don’t you think he should be considered a Christian?’ Several people answered at once “He’s a Mormon.”
Yes he is, and that doesn’t make him any more fallen or any less likeable than anyone else. But the fact of the matter – that these tuned-in university students got – is that the Mormon Church for its 180 year history has officially, and at times vociferously, rejected all the primary doctrines that define Christianity and set it apart from every other religion in the world.

  • Only one God who has forever existed as a single tri-personal being of Father, Son and Holy Spirit — rejected.
  • God the Father as a personal being who as spirit cannot be bounded by a body or any other space-time limitation (it’s what allows him to be all-powerful, all-knowing and simultaneously everywhere present) — rejected.
  • Jesus Christ who existed prior to his virgin birth as God, the eternal creator and Logos, and who while condescending to become fully human and image the invisible God and make him visible to us, continued to be also completely and fully deity — rejected.
  • The only way we escape the just and eternal consequences of our sin and daily selfish, egocentric choices is to exchange our sinfulness and unrighteousness for the perfect righteousness of Jesus, which God offers to us as a gift, we receive by faith – believing that God out of his goodness and grace will just give to us for the asking — rejected.   For more information has several articles on Mormon-Christian differences.

So does Glenn Beck inspire a return to Christian and conservative values? Yes. Does Glenn Beck use imagery and terminology that resonates with evangelical Christians?  Sure looks that way. Do other Christian leaders seem to be welcoming Glenn Beck as a fellow Christian and expressing a certain level of comfort with how he articulates his personal beliefs and faith? Mmm hmmm.   Does any of that make Glenn Beck a Christian?  Not if we are going to use good hermeneutics and a historical and biblical definition for “Christian.”  Until the LDS Church changes the articulation of its core doctrines and stops rejecting what Christians have affirmed for the past 2000 years, we are all going to have to continue to choose – Mormon or Christian – but not both.

There are certain subjects in Christian theology that tend to attract a lot of attention among evangelical Christians. We love to discuss controversial questions concerning soteriology, the doctrine of salvation (e.g., the perennial debates among Calvinists, Lutherans, and Arminians regarding predestination and election). Of course, discussions about eschatology (the Millennium, the Rapture, 666, etc.) seem to be never-ending. Among those who are interested in apologetics, we have some interest in such essential theological subjects as the nature of God and the deity of Jesus Christ. But ecclesiology–the study of the doctrine of the church–tends to evoke yawns.

C. S. Lewis once wrote that “good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered” (The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1949; New York: Collier, 1980], 50). As with other doctrinal matters, ecclesiology may not seem very important–until you encounter bad ecclesiology. Then the need for good ecclesiology becomes a felt need and not just an abstraction. I first discovered this fact when working through the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who claim to be the only true religion on the earth today. Despite their confident assertions that everything about their religion is Bible-based, the bureaucratic structure of the religion, led by a “governing body” that runs “Jehovah’s organization on earth,” does not fit at all with what we find in the New Testament. Studying Watchtower ecclesiology forced me to think through that the Bible teaches about ecclesiology. One gains a different perspective on ecclesiology when one is confronting a heretical religion than when one is caught up in skirmishes among evangelicals over, for example, congregational polity versus presbyterian (elder-based) polity.

The same principle applies when dealing with the ecclesiology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormons confidently claim that the LDS Church is the only true church on the earth today, and one reason they give in support of this claim is that their religion is supposedly organized in the same way as the New Testament church. Superficially, Mormons can make a plausible-sounding case for this claim: the New Testament church had apostles, and the LDS Church has apostles. Hey, my church doesn’t have apostles! Maybe we’re missing something. The LDS Church has other offices that sound biblical but that your congregation or denomination probably doesn’t have: patriarchs, for instance, or high priests. Do Mormons really have a “restored” church that corresponds in its organization and offices to the church of the New Testament era? I discuss this question in a new article on the website of the Institute for Religious Research. That article, entitled “Church Organization and Apostasy,” is a response to chapter 16 of Gospel Principles, a doctrinal manual that Mormons around the world are studying throughout 2010 and 2011. The thesis of that article will surprise some people: my contention is that the apostles did not have an “organization” to run Christianity in the first century. That is, there was no hierarchical institution that directed the activities of Christian missionaries, evangelists, and other church leaders throughout the world, or that dictated doctrine and policy from the top down. I also show that the offices of the LDS Church have little or no connection to the ministries of Christian leaders in the first century. The article also offers a response to the LDS claim that early Christianity became so corrupt that the church ceased to exist for some seventeen centuries (what they call the Great Apostasy) until Joseph Smith came along. Understanding where these claims go astray biblically will not only help us be prepared to confront the errors in the LDS religion, but they will help us have a better appreciation for what the Lord Jesus Christ intended when he founded his church.

NOTE: This is a special blog entry from Joel B. Groat, the Coordinator for International Ministries for the Institute for Religious Research.


Last year I made mission trips to Madagascar and Mexico—diverse countries with significant common denominators: serious social conflict, sacrificial Christian missionary work and successful Mormon proselytizing. Events in the first category are capturing national headlines, and I’m concerned for good friends in the midst of the fray; but it’s the last two that capture my heart.

You see, my parents are Christian missionaries, and I was raised in Venezuela (in South America). Growing up I witnessed firsthand the sacrifices my parents and other missionary “uncles” and “aunts” made to take the living water of salvation “by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus alone” to people who had never heard. So, you’ll understand why the following quotes from the Mormon magazine, Ensign, struck a nerve. The article talked about how the work of Christian missionaries has aided Mormon proselytizing. Read the rest of this entry »

NOTE: This is a special blog entry from Joel B. Groat, the Coordinator Spanish Language Ministries for the Institute for Religious Research.

One year ago today IRR’s Executive Director and my colleague and friend of 19 years died suddenly, unexpectedly of heart failure. The last time we saw each other he hugged me goodbye—I had just returned from a ministry trip in Mexico and was off to a much needed vacation with my family to visit our daughter in Florida.  Before I was to return home, Luke would be off to a three-week ministry trip in Madagascar.  We jokingly said, “See you in a month,” neither of us dreaming that Luke would be eternally home three days before he was to leave for Madagascar.

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Welcome to The Religious Researcher!

   Posted by: Rob Bowman Tags: ,

The Religious Researcher is the blog of the Institute for Religious Research, a nonprofit, evangelical Christian ministry based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Just one month ago, I had the privilege of starting as IRR’s new executive director. You can read a little about me and the other senior members of our staff here.

Our goal at IRR is to speak and live the truth in love (cf. Eph. 4:15). We live in a culture filled with a dizzying variety of beliefs concerning matters of religion. Refusal or reticence to say what we believe is not an option. IRR’s mission is to contribute cutting-edge resources on religious groups and issues in order to help those who are seeking to find their way through the maze of opinions as well as those who want to be equipped to share their Christian faith with others. This doesn’t mean we think we know it all or that our opinions are infallible–far from it. We see ourselves as disciples (students, learners), sharing with others what we have learned and seeking to learn from others as well. I invite you to join us in this ongoing process.

–Rob Bowman