Archive for the ‘theology’ Category

This past week, Mormons throughout the world were studying the subject of atonement in chapter 12 of their doctrinal manual Gospel Principles. I offer a counterpoint in my response to chapter 12, another installment in IRR’s Gospel Principles Scripture Study Guide.

Perhaps one of the most interesting issues pertaining to this subject is the question of what the atonement actually accomplishes. As I argue in my response to Gospel Principles, LDS theology does not view the atonement as actually accomplishing what the word atonement means—namely, reconciliation with God the Father. The atonement in LDS theology does not reconcile us to God; it does not eliminate spiritual death; and it does not even eliminate the debt we owe because of our sin. Instead, as I try to show in that article, LDS theology views the atonement as merely making it possible for us to repay the debt, overcome spiritual death, and become reconciled to the Father by our good works. If you’re a Mormon, you might find my description of LDS doctrine surprising or even shocking. That’s okay—I was rather taken aback myself. Read the article and see for yourself.

Books have an enormous power to shape the way we think and in turn the way we live. Obviously, as a Christian, the books of the Bible are for me both foundational and transformative. Other books, though not inspired or authoritative, have helped me to think about the Bible, its teachings, and its truth claims. I present here a list of books by fifteen different authors. I make no claims here about these being the greatest or most important books of their kind, although in some cases I think this assessment might apply. They happen to have been especially formative for me, either in kindling interest in a certain subject or in reorienting my way of thinking about a subject. I have listed them in roughly the order in which I read them, though my recollection in this regard may not always be correct. Read the rest of this entry »


The Twelve Days of Theology

   Posted by: Rob Bowman Tags: , ,

On the first day of Theology my professor gave to me atonement on an old tree.

On the second day of Theology my professor gave to me two Testaments and atonement on an old tree.

On the third day of Theology my professor gave to me three divine persons, two Testaments, and atonement on an old tree. Read the rest of this entry »

Yesterday—December 18, 2008—the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released a new study confirming what they had reported last year: most Americans, including about half of American evangelical Christians, believe that many religions can lead people to eternal life. Read the rest of this entry »

Once a year, the Evangelical Theological Society and the Society of Biblical Literature hold their annual conventions back to back, usually in the same city. This year ETS met in Providence, Rhode Island, November 19-21, and SBL is meeting in Boston, November 21-24. The Evangelical Philosophical Society, in addition to having sessions at ETS and SBL, also co-sponsors an annual apologetics conference to coincide with ETS; this year it is meeting in Smithfield, Rhode Island, November 20-22.

Attending as much of these meetings as possible has been on the must-do list for me for a few years now. Read the rest of this entry »

This month’s issue of First Things includes an article in which Bruce D. Porter, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Gerald McDermott, a religion professor at Roanoke College, discuss the question, “Is Mormonism Christian?”

Mormons, not surprisingly, consider any negative answer to this question to be an expression of religious bigotry. Who do you think you are, saying that Mormons are not Christians? Mormons certainly profess to be Christians; wouldn’t they know?

In almost every discussion I have with members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this question comes up—and I’m not the one who brings it up. If I’m trying to have a conversation about whether Jesus really did deliver the Sermon on the Mount to the Nephites almost verbatim as it appears in the Gospel of Matthew, I’m likely to hear, “You think we’re not Christians, don’t you?” I encounter many Mormons who bitterly resent anyone who denies that Mormons are Christians. In my experience, Mormons often use this question as a “gotcha” basis for shutting down reasoned discussion of our theological and religious differences. The mainstream media is now following this same lead, with reporters asking evangelical leaders if Mormons are Christians in order to generate an inflammatory headline (“Evangelical Muckety-Muck Says Mormons Are Not Christians”).

On the other hand, admittedly some evangelicals do seem to think that blurting “Mormons are not Christians” is a sufficient, clear, and helpful statement on the matter. More seriously, tracts and articles on the subject often pose this very question and then proceed, without ever defining the term Christian, to argue that Mormons are not Christians based on a litany of doctrinal errors. These resources often have good information, but the way it is presented or framed invites some confusion, as well as polemical exploitation from Mormon apologists. Worse still, some evangelicals accuse Mormons of “posing” or “pretending” to be Christians.

What I propose to do here is to take a fresh look at this question. Read the rest of this entry »

Anti-Trinitarians often argue that the Holy Spirit is “missing” in many biblical passages where one might expect him to be mentioned, if the doctrine of the Trinity is true. For example, they notice that Paul’s salutations usually mention both the Father and the Son but never mention the Holy Spirit (e.g., “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” Rom. 1:7). Jesus once said, “No one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal him” (Matt. 11:27). Why didn’t Jesus mention that the Holy Spirit knew the Father and the Son? When Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not the angels in heaven, nor even the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32), why didn’t Jesus say “but only the Father and the Holy Spirit”? New Testament visions of heaven often include visions of the Father and the Son, but not of the Holy Spirit (for example, Acts 7:55-56). Examples of arguments of this type could easily be multiplied; virtually any text in the Bible that mentions the Father and the Son but not the Holy Spirit could potentially be viewed as grist for this mill.

I addressed this question in a debate with Oneness Pentecostal pastor Robert Sabin back in the early 1990s (see video below). In the rest of this post, I will go into further detail dealing with the specific biblical passages cited by anti-Trinitarians.


Read the rest of this entry »

Although the evidence from the New Testament for the deity of Christ is abundant, many people wonder why Jesus didn’t come out and say explicitly, “I am God.” Opponents of the doctrine of the Trinity often claim that Jesus’ failure to make such an explicit statement is proof that the Trinity is false. Some go further, insisting that the only statement that would satisfy them is if Jesus had said, “I am Almighty God, God the Son, second person of the Trinity.” Of course, since everyone knows there is no such statement by Jesus in the Bible, this objection is a simple way of dismissing the case for the Trinity.

There are several important responses we can make to this objection. Read the rest of this entry »

This is the first post in an occasional series that will appear on this blog, dealing with frequently asked questions (FAQ) about the doctrine of the Trinity. This series will not be providing an overview of the biblical teaching concerning the Trinity. For such an overview, please see my outline study on the Trinity, which cites about a thousand pertinent biblical references. If you have a question on the Trinity not addressed in that outline study and that you would like to see answered here, please email us with your question, and we will consider it for inclusion here. You can find our email address by visiting our ministry’s home page and clicking on “Email” in the upper right corner.

The first question I will address is perhaps one of the most popular objections to the doctrine, even though it does not address the positive evidence for the Trinity in Scripture. Here it is: If belief in the Trinity is essential for salvation, why is the doctrine not clearly or plainly set out, in so many words, in the Bible? Why does the Bible never say “God is a Trinity” or “There are three persons in the one God,” or something equally explicit as an affirmation of the doctrine? And if no such statement is there in the Bible, how can belief in the doctrine be essential for salvation? Read the rest of this entry »

One of the top five objections to the evangelical Christian faith that we hear all the time is posed in the form of a question: What about those who have never heard the gospel? What about the unevangelized? Will all such people automatically go to Hell? Isn’t that unfair? (Okay, that’s four questions, even if they do overlap.)

Well, Michael Patton and I are going to be talking about this question live on Connection Gate, a web-based classroom program created by the folks at Reclaiming the Mind Ministries. You can join us at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time tonight, October 2, 2008. We’ll look at some of the competing theories within Christianity on this subject and look at what the Bible says about it. You can find out how to access this cyberspace classroom here. I hope to see you tonight!

–Rob Bowman