Friday, February 26, 2010

Arianism and Jehovah's Witnesses

Arianism, as it is called, was first promulgated by Arius, Presbyter of Alexandria, in the Fourth century AD. In his motivation to understand the nature of God Arius began with the Gnostic assumptions common to his time and place. One of the common assumptions of Gnosticism is that God, Who is spirit, is utterly holy but the material creation is utterly unholy. Gnostics held that these two could not come into direct contact. Therefore, when God wanted a “savior” for the world His solution was an “emanation” from Himself, that was sufficiently distant from Him that is wasn’t Him, but His emanation, that made contact with the unholy world. This Gnostic assumption therefore required that Jesus could not be fully God. He must therefore be a created god.

This view, minus the Gnostic assumptions, is held today by two modern cults, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and all their splinter groups, and The Way International.

Arianism was one reaction to the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. Another heresy in the theological stew of that time was the Sabellian, or modalist, view of the Three in One nature of God. The Trinity is a mystery and therefore generates attempts to solve the mystery. The Sabellians concluded that the Three Persons were simply three manifestations of One Person. At one time God is the Father, at another time He is the Son, and at another He is the Spirit. But this heresy says that God is not three Persons simultaneously. Modalism is held today by the United Pentecostals and is commonly called the "Jesus Only" doctrine. This is a denial of the Unity of God in favor of the Oneness of God. The Arians were at the other end by denying the Oneness of God in favor of the three. The Son and Holy Spirit were held by many Arians to be lesser deities, and hence, they ceased to be monotheistic.

The Trinity was the view of God held by the vast majority of believers since the time of the Apostles. Various heresies came along to challenge orthodoxy but did not have the staying power of truth itself. When Arianism came on the scene it was quite successful in capturing the belief of many people.

It also came at a time when a new Roman Emperor, Constantine, was trying to unify his empire and religious division was one of the large problems he wanted resolved. This set the stage for some great theological debates between Arius and Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria. At different times Arius was in the ascendancy and had the favor of Constantine who sent Athanasius into exile. At another time it was the reverse. It finally came to the Church Council at Nicaea and the Nicene Creed adopted in 325 AD. This creed rejected Arianism and affirmed the Trinitarian orthodoxy.

Arianism divided the Church for half a century. After its defeat at the Nicene Council it faded in influence. Today the Jehovah’s Witnesses are the chief proponents of the Arian view that Jesus is a created, or lesser, god. The Way International goes further than either Arius or the Watchtower Society. They hold that Jesus did not pre-exist his earthly life, nor do they affirm the lesser deity of Jesus.

The Bible is clear that Jesus is fully God with the Father and Holy Spirit. Nothing could be more explicit than John 1:1, which says, “In the beginning was the Word (Jesus existing eternally with the Father in eternity past) and the Word was with God (the Father and Holy Spirit, two Persons of the Trinity, and showing plurality of Persons in the Godhead) and the Word was God (deity, of the same divine substance with the Father).”

Friday, February 19, 2010

Book of Mormon Contradicts Bible

Joseph Smith called the Book of Mormon “the most correct of any book on earth” (Introduction to the Book of Mormon). That means it is superior in its accuracy to the Bible, according to the LDS church. When confronted with a contradiction between the Bible and the Book of Mormon a Latter-day Saint will prefer the Book of Mormon. However, there is one contradiction that Mormons recognize but try to justify. That pertains to the place of Jesus’ birth. Was he born in Bethlehem? Or, in Jerusalem? Christians and the Bible agree that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. History corroborates this as well.

Micah 5:2 says, “But thou Bethlehem Ephrata, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”

In the Book of Mormon, Alma 7:10 says, “And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel…”
This is a clear contradiction between the Bible and the Book of Mormon. Mormons will try to say that Bethlehem, just five miles from Jerusalem, is “in the land of” Jerusalem, a major city. But the Bible calls Bethlehem “in the land of Judah,” not the land of Jerusalem. Jerusalem, too, was “in the land of“ Judah.

Matthew 2:1-8 describes the meeting between Herod and the Wise Men from the East. Herod, upon hearing that the Messiah, the “King” of Israel, was born asked religious leaders where this was to occur. He was told “Bethlehem, in the land of Judah” (vs. 6).

In this same passage you have both Jerusalem and Bethlehem mentioned. There is no confusion or mixing of the locale as if to generalize the location. They are discussed as different places in the context of Jesus’ birth. It is very specific. The question for a Mormon is which is he going to believe? The Mormon will most likely believe the Book of Mormon because he has been taught that the Bible has been tampered with and is not fully reliable. However, in this case the Bible is the valid record because of Old Testament prophecy that specifically identified Bethlehem as the Messiah’s birthplace, not Jerusalem.

In a historically Christian nation where we all sing the words “O little town of Bethlehem” from the Silent Night Christmas carol the sense of contradiction is abundantly obvious.