Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Is Mormonism supported by evidence from science, philosophy and history?

This post presents evidence against Mormonism/LDS in three main areas. The first is in the area of science. The second is in the area of philosophy. And the third is in the area of history.

The scientific evidence

First, let’s take a look at what the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, believes about the origin of the universe:

“The elements are eternal. That which had a beggining will surely have an end; take a ring, it is without beggining or end – cut it for a beggining place and at the same time you have an ending place.” (“Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith”, p. 205)

“Now, the word create came from the word baurau which does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize; the same as a man would organize materials and build a ship. Hence, we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos – chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all the glory. Element had an existance from the time he had. The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and re-organized, but not destroyed. They had no beggining, and can have no end.”
(“Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith”, p. 395)

A Mormon scholar named Blake Ostler summarizes the Mormon view in a Mormon theological journal:

“In contrast to the self-sufficient and solitary absolute who creates ex nihilo (out of nothing), the Mormon God did not bring into being the ultimate constituents of the cosmos — neither its fundamental matter nor the space/time matrix which defines it. Hence, unlike the Necessary Being of classical theology who alone could not not exist and on which all else is contingent for existence, the personal God of Mormonism confronts uncreated realities which exist of metaphysical necessity. Such realities include inherently self-directing selves (intelligences), primordial elements (mass/energy), the natural laws which structure reality, and moral principles grounded in the intrinsic value of selves and the requirements for growth and happiness.” (Blake Ostler, “The Mormon Concept of God,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 17 (Summer 1984):65-93)

So, Mormons believe in an eternally existing universe, such that matter was never created out of nothing, and will never be destroyed. But this is at odds with modern cosmology.

The Big Bang cosmology is the most widely accepted cosmology of the day. It is based on several lines of evidence, and is broadly compatible with Genesis. It denies the past eternality of the universe. This peer-reviewed paper in an astrophysics journal explains. (full text here)

Excerpt:

The standard Big Bang model thus describes a universe which is not eternal in the past, but which came into being a finite time ago. Moreover,–and this deserves underscoring–the origin it posits is an absolute origin ex nihilo. For not only all matter and energy, but space and time themselves come into being at the initial cosmological singularity. As Barrow and Tipler emphasize, “At this singularity, space and time came into existence; literally nothing existed before the singularity, so, if the Universe originated at such a singularity, we would truly have a creation ex nihilo.

[...]On such a model the universe originates ex nihilo in the sense that at the initial singularity it is true that There is no earlier space-time point or it is false that Something existed prior to the singularity.

Christian cosmology requires such a creation out of nothing, but this is clearly incompatible with what Mormons believe about the universe. The claims about the universe made by the two religions are in disagreement, and we can test empirically to see who is right, using science.

Philosophical problems

Always Have a Reason contrasts two concepts of God in Mormonism: Monarchotheism and Polytheism. It turns out that although Mormonism is actually a polytheistic religion, like Hinduism. In Mormonism, humans can become God and then be God of their own planet. So there are many Gods in Mormonism, not just one.

Excerpt:

[T]he notion that there are innumerable contingent “primal intelligences” is central to this Mormon concept of god (P+M, 201; Beckwith and Parrish, 101). That there is more than one god is attested in the Pearl of Great Price, particularly Abraham 4-5. This Mormon concept has the gods positioned to move “primal intelligences along the path to godhood” (Beckwith and Parrish, 114). Among these gods are other gods which were once humans, including God the Father. Brigham Young wrote, “our Father in Heaven was begotten on a previous heavenly world by His Father, and again, He was begotten by a still more ancient Father, and so on…” (Brigham Young, The Seer, 132, quoted in Beckwith and Parrish, 106).

[...]The logic of the Mormon polytheistic concept of God entails that there is an infinite number of gods. To see this, it must be noted that each god him/herself was helped on the path to godhood by another god. There is, therefore, an infinite regress of gods, each aided on his/her path to godhood by a previous god. There is no termination in this series. Now because this entails an actually infinite collection of gods, the Mormon polytheistic concept of deity must deal with all the paradoxes which come with actually existing infinities…

The idea of counting up to an actual infinite number of things by addition (it doesn’t matter what kind of thing it is) is problematic. See here.

More:

Finally, it seems polytheistic Mormonism has a difficulty at its heart–namely the infinite regress of deity.

[...]Each god relies upon a former god, which itself relies upon a former god, forever. Certainly, this is an incoherence at the core of this concept of deity, for it provides no explanation for the existence of the gods, nor does it explain the existence of the universe.

Now let’s see the historical evidence against Mormonism.

The historical evidence

J. Warner Wallace explains how the “Book of Abraham”, a part of the Mormon Scriptures, faces historical difficulties.

The Book of Abraham papyri are not as old as claimed:

Mormon prophets and teachers have always maintained that the papyri that was purchased by Joseph Smith was the actual papyri that was created and written by Abraham. In fact, early believers were told that the papyri were the writings of Abraham.

[...]There is little doubt that the earliest of leaders and witnesses believed and maintained that these papyri were, in fact the very scrolls upon which Abraham and Joseph wrote. These papyri were considered to be the original scrolls until they were later recovered in 1966. After discovering the original papyri, scientists, linguists, archeologists and investigators (both Mormon and non-Mormon) examined them and came to agree that the papyri are far too young to have been written by Abraham. They are approximately 1500 to 2000 years too late, dating from anywhere between 500 B.C. (John A. Wilson, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Summer 1968, p. 70.) and 60 A.D. If they papyri had never been discovered, this truth would never have come to light. Today, however, we know the truth, and the truth contradicts the statements of the earliest Mormon leaders and witnesses.

The Book of Abraham papyri do not claim what Joseph Smith said:

In addition to this, the existing papyri simply don’t say anything that would place them in the era related to 2000BC in ancient Egypt. The content of the papyri would at least help verify the dating of the document, even if the content had been transcribed or copied from an earlier document. But the papyri simply tell us about an ancient burial ritual and prayers that are consistent with Egyptian culture in 500BC. Nothing in the papyri hints specifically or exclusively to a time in history in which Abraham would have lived.

So there is a clear difference hear between the Bible and Mormonism, when it comes to historical verification.

Further study

There is a very good podcast featuring J. Warner Wallace that summarizes some other theological problems with Mormonism that I blogged about before. And if you want a nice long PDF to print out and read at lunch (which is what I did with it) you can grab this PDF by Michael Licona, entitled “Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock“.

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Three ways that generosity makes sense in the Christian worldview

I’m planning to be study Philippians today with the woman I am mentoring in apologetics, so I thought I would post something about generosity and sharing.

First, let’s look at a few passages from the Bible that show the importance of sharing generously with others. I also want to emphasize the need to work and to not be a burden to others, and to emphasize that the goal of sharing with others is to build them up.

2 Thessalonians 3:10-11: (Paul speaking)

10 For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.

11 For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies.

Acts 20:32-35: (Paul speaking)

32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

33 I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes.

34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me.

35 In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said,‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

Philippians 4:14-18: (Paul speaking)

14 Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.

15 You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone;

16 for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs.

17 Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.

18 But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.

Luke 21:1-4: (Jesus speaking)

1 And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury.

And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins.

And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them;

for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.”

So in an effort to keep this post small, I’m going to be brief. And practical.

Make as much money as you can

The first point I want to make is that it is impossible to share with anyone else unless you have your own financial house in order. Don’t borrow money. Don’t ask for money.  Study hard things (STEM and useful trades) so that you always have work and are always earning money. In the 2 Thessalonians 3:10-11 passage, we learn that able-bodied people need to be working. That is a practical pre-condition of sharing with others. The more money you make the more you have to share. If you want to advance the gospel and build up others, money is absolutely vital. Don’t study crap subjects in school, don’t take useless jobs, don’t neglect the need to build a gapless resume of increasingly more challenging work, don’t get tied down by worldly goods and recreational dating early – so you can finish your education as much as you can. Be practical – charitable giving doesn’t come from nowhere. It comes from a person who is ordered and disciplined. Unless you are some sort of skilled Christian scholar, don’t be flying all over the world willy-nilly on expensive mission trips, either – there is plenty of work to do right where God planted you. Be a good steward of your money, and the donations of other Christians.

Partnering with others for the gospel

The second point I want to contrast is the giving I prefer with the giving I do not prefer. The giving I prefer is to give to another Christian who I know personally who is involved in ministry that advances the gospel by arguing for the truth of the gospel using apologetics. So, I like to give to groups like Ratio Christi and to Christian scholars who have ministries or who are doing useful degrees. My goal is to spread the gospel in the only way it can be spread – by demonstrating the truth of it using arguments and evidence. I do not give money to anti-poverty groups like World Vision or to unskilled missionaries who just want an extended vacation in order to satisfy some childhood fancy animated by pride and/or vanity. When I give money to another Christian, my goal is to partner with them, not to feel good about myself. I am trying to get something done for the Lord, not to feel better or to make people think I am nice or to “balance the books” with God (which is heretical).

Building your rewards in Heaven

The third point I want to make is to emphasize that this is not a pointless exercise. Everyone who is a Christian accepts that reconciliation with God is achieved not by human efforts to be good, but by acknowledging and conforming your life to a free gift that was offered by Jesus Christ. Christ died in order to pay the penalty for every individual person’s rebellion against God the Father. That atoning death is the basis for our reconciliation with God, and our eternal life with him. However, the passage in Philippians makes clear that our experience of Heaven after we have been saved by grace is affected by what we do here and now. So often, what you hear in church is do this, do that, and there is never any rationality to it, no emphasis on long-term planning or wisdom in decision-making. It’s all just ad hoc emotivism. But I am telling you something different today. You have a few years on Earth to understand the example of Christ, to follow him, and share in his sufferings as you imitate his obedience. You better have some sort of plan to produce a return on God’s investment in you, and it has to be a good plan. Not one that makes you feel good, but one that is likely to achieve results. Plan your charitable giving like your life were an episode of Mission Impossible, and focus on outcomes, not feelings. That doesn’t mean that results are the measure of success, because that’s God’s job. But it does mean that you should prefer the Thomas Sowell approach to the Disney Princess approach.

The soul-making theodicy

The fourth point I want to make comes from a discussion with my friend Blake Giunta who runs TreeSearch.org. He reminded me that one of the reasons why God allows evil and suffering in this world is to allow us the opportunity to be active partners with him in demonstrating the love of Christ to others. God’s goal for us is not to make us safe and happy. God’s goal for us is to get us to freely enter into and sustain a relationship with him – a relationship that includes an accurate knowledge of who he is, and a free response of love and obedience to him. With respect to that goal, God is fully justified in permitting all kinds of evil and suffering, which in turn provide opportunities for us to 1) enter in to his plan of love and redemption for others and 2) demonstrate his character to the watching world through our actions as his agents. The situation is identical to what parents do in allowing their children to be hurt while learning – God holds back from annihilating some evil and suffering so that we have an opportunity to step into the breach. This advances our relationships with him through shared purpose and shared experiences. This is fellowship with God – not just reading devotional, pious-sounding bilge, but active partnering and dangerous action in some non-trivial enterprise. Give him your best – the same best you bring to your work or anything else in your life that really matters.

Personal application

By the way, if you’re looking for a good place to send a few bucks, I recommend TreeSearch.org.

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Should Christians “guard their hearts” in relationships? What does that even mean?

Here are my two disagreements with Jonathan’s post on courting that appeared on this blog yesterday.

He writes this:

If you have followed the above procedure and have gotten as far as the relationship stage, I would suggest that there should be an increasingly greater level of commitment as the relationship continues to progress. In my case, I would not terminate a relationship without a very good reason once I have agreed to commit myself to the relationship. Do not take this commitment lightly.

It is important, however, that both parties take care to guard their (and each other’s) hearts, especially during the early days of the relationship, in case the relationship for whatever reason does not work out. This practice ensures that you will both be able to give your heart more completely to your future spouse. If you end up not being the husband of a girl whom you have dated, you want to be able to look that girl’s future husband in the eye and tell him with a clear conscience that you took good care to guard her heart for him.

I would suggest limiting physical contact to holding hands and the occasional hug during the early days of the relationship. Kissing should be reserved for significantly downstream in the relationship, until you have been together for a considerable period of time.

You should also avoid, whenever possible, being left alone together for long periods of time – where temptation may strike you and cause you to fall into sin. Meet together in public places or involve family and friends.

I disagree that the correct interpretation of “guard your heart” (from Proverbs 4:23) means “don’t love someone to the best of your ability until you are sure you won’t get hurt”. The correct thing to do is to love God with everything you have, and then to let that flow to others – especially others you have chosen to court because you see glimpses of who God wants them to be and you want to invest in them to get them there.

Here’s an article from Relevant that makes the point:

Quote:

When it comes to our relationships, I think we’re missing something. Jesus summarizes our highest command as: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).

[...]According to Mark 12:30, Jesus wants us to be all in. And when we love Him with our all, it will help shape our perspective of earthly relationships, romantic and otherwise. When we are totally firm and secure in God’s love for us, we will be less worried about “guarding our hearts” from pain and heartbreak as we relate to others.

Jesus is the greatest example of this. He loved His Father so much He was not afraid of getting hurt by loving others. On the contrary, He died for relationships. Jesus sacrificed everything for love. He did this to restore not only our relationship with Him but our relationships with each other. His body was broken for us—not just His heart. Clearly, Jesus wasn’t afraid of a broken heart, mind or body. What would happen if we had the same perspective?

Relationships are risky business, and there’s no guarantee you won’t end up with a broken heart. But because of Christ’s love, the fear of a broken heart no longer has to be the motivating factor. 1 John 4:18 says: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” We can fulfill the greatest commandment because of God’s perfect example in the flesh.

Christ’s mission was to leave Paradise and sacrifice Himself on the altar of love. Even when it appears Jesus struggles with going through with this plan, He prays: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:42). His whole life was dedicated to making us whole; He loved us with His mind, body, heart and strength so that we might also be able to love wholly.

And here’s another support from Mars Hill Church:

Quote:

The first error we can make is to guard our hearts in such a way that there is no possible way we can get hurt. We keep relationships shallow, people at arm’s length, and anyone from getting to know us at the heart level. The Bible is the most honest book ever written—it makes no claim that if we “guard our heart” we will avoid pain and heartache in this life (1 Peter 1:6–7). It is simply not God’s will for us to be isolated, walled off, and invulnerable.

I have heard the “guard your heart” barrier invoked by Christian women who urge me to read the Bible more and be more spiritual, and it makes me suspect that their sexual history is coming into play – they’ve made poor decisions with non-Christian men and now they are misusing the Bible to refuse good things to good men because of their past experience with bad men. When a woman is on a marriage track with a man, she needs to love him like she’s never been hurt.

I do not think that it is fair for bad men to be trusted MORE than good men. Women need to learn to 1) make better decisions when they choose a man (don’t choose an immoral and irreligious man in order to avoid moral/spiritual judgment and/or abandonment), and 2) to love good men as if they have never been hurt, lest those good men get sick and tired of being distrusted and pushed outside barriers, and move on to someone else.

Men like to be trusted. Men like vulnerability. Men like authenticity. Men like engagement. If we are constantly rebuffed even though we are chaste, we do move on to someone who is more lovable. I don’t think that an unchaste man deserves to have access to trust, vulnerability, authenticity and engagement – but a chaste man does. That’s what he is offering, too.

As long as the couple avoids sexual physical contact, then any break up is going to be far less painful than it would be if there were a physical (especially sexual) component. To love someone well, to build them up, to let them go do amazing things for the Lord – this does not hurt. I am still friends with women I’ve courted who hurt me, but it doesn’t last more than a month or two. Then you’re friends again and the friendship lasts.

My second disagreement with Jonathan is about kissing. For me kissing on the cheek or hand is OK, but kissing on the lips should be reserved for the day of engagement. If the man is on his knees with a ring, and she accepts, he should kiss her on the lips to seal the promise. After that, kissing on the lips is fine with me. But not before.

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Courtship advice for Christians from an influential young Christian apologist

Painting: "Courtship", by Edmund Blair Leighton (1888)

“Courtship”, by Edmund Blair Leighton (1888)

The influential young Christian apologist Jonathan McLatchie has written an article on courtship for Christians, and I have posted it below. I have two disagreements, which I will post in the comments below.

A Christian Man’s Philosophy of God-Honoring Courtship

Wintery Knight asked me to contribute a guest post expressing my views on God-honoring courtship and relationship philosophy. I should state upfront that I have only ever been in one relationship, and thus I cannot claim to have a lot of experience. I have, however, given these matters significant thought as I determine in my own head the sort of woman I am looking for and what a God-honoring relationship should look like. I thought that these ideas may be of value to others, and so I am articulating them here.

What Sort Of Woman Should You Be Looking For?

When searching for a potential spouse, it is important to prioritize the traits that you desire your wife to possess: What characteristics are essential and non-negotiable, and which are not? The most important trait is that the woman be a Christian. Marrying a non-Christian is a recipe for disaster, and sooner or later there is bound to be a resultant train crash. As the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” Your life in Christ ought to form such a core component of your identity that it infiltrates the way you live your life at every level – your conversations, the decisions that you make, the people that you hang out with, the activities that you participate in. To not be able to share such a core part of who you are with your spouse is asking for trouble. A non-believing spouse is, moreover, unlikely to have the same values and standards as you do when it comes to maintaining one’s chastity before marriage. Marriage to a non-believer is also likely to lead to conflict further down the road when you are making decisions about how to raise your kids and what values to instil in them. If you marry someone who shares your faith and values, you could be saving yourself a lot of heartache later down the road.

Although sharing your Christian faith is a non-negotiable, it is not enough. Look not simply for a woman who is merely a “Sunday morning Christian”, but one who has demonstrated spiritual maturity and depth. As 1 Peter 3:3-4 says to women,

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

It is one thing for a woman to say that she is a Christian – anybody can do that. But how does it play out in her life in the real world? How does her faith influence the decisions that she makes? Does she live her life in such a way that reflects her Christianity without her having to mention her faith? Is she perpetually going to the Word of God for sustenance? Does she have a proper understanding of basic theological concepts such as the Trinity? What does her prayer life look like? Seek out a woman who is so deeply immersed in Christ that you have to first seek Him in order to find her.

Ask the girl what she feels God’s calling is for her life. Are you in a position to help her grow more to be like Christ and fulfil God’s will for her life? Are you sufficiently mature spiritually that you are able to teach her and lead her spiritually? Are there areas in which you can learn from her? An answer in the affirmative to these questions suggests that she may be someone you could pursue a relationship with.

Integrity is another essential. You want to know that your wife is trustworthy and that you can count on her to be faithful. Ask people who know her well to give you a character assessment of her.

It is important that a girl whom you are seeking to pursue a relationship with value purity and chastity. You don’t want to be in a relationship with a girl who is going to tempt you to compromise on your Christian principles. You also want your wife to be able to give her heart completely to you. If, however, she has already been sexually active outside of wedlock, she has created a strong emotional bond to someone else, and might find it difficult to give all of her heart entirely to her husband. That all said, past mistakes do happen, and I think there is a place for forgiveness – if the girl is sincerely repentant and acknowledges her past sin.

You should also be cautious of women who have been in many past relationships. If a girl has been in several previous relationships, it is not necessarily a make-or-break factor, but you should nonetheless ask them to provide the reasons of why these relationships did not work out. You don’t want to pursue someone who is a relationship hopper, since that raises questions about their ability to remain faithful and committed to you. Related to this, you should also be wary of women who are emotional pendulums when it comes to their commitment to the relationship. If, having entered a relationship, you are unable to predict a girl’s feelings about you from one day to the next, that is a serious red flag.

A girl’s family should also be an important factor in determining marital compatibility. Remember that you are marrying her family as well. You don’t want to marry into a mean family who don’t appreciate the investment you are putting into their daughter’s or sister’s life.

Finally, a further important characteristic in a godly wife is that she be able to look up to and respect you, and be willing to submit to your leading. You don’t want to be in a relationship with a girl who is going to be trying to seize the reins of the relationship. The responsibility for leading relationships falls on the shoulders of the man, not of the woman. Here are a few Bible verses that instruct a woman to submit to her husband:

Ephesians 5:22-24: “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”

Colossians 3:18: “Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”

1 Peter 3:1-2: “Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.”

If your wife is going to respect you and submit to your leading, be sure that you are a man who is worthy of respect and submission. Be a man who is saturated with Scripture and dedicated to the things of God. Only then will you be able to lead a woman spiritually.

Beginning the Relationship

A relationship consists of several phases, which culminate in the final stage: marriage. The first stage is friendship. I am extremely unlikely to pursue someone for a relationship unless we have been friends for a reasonable period of time first – at least a few weeks or so, depending on how much time you are spending with them. During this time, observe them and evaluate their character, personality, and doctrinal compatibility. Take your time with this. Don’t blindly rush into a relationship with someone without taking the time to carefully evaluate them first. That way, you avoid playing with peoples’ hearts and prevent inevitable hurt as a consequence. Before letting the girl know that you are interested, weigh up the pros and cons; and determine (from your limited interaction) whether there are any significant concerns or obvious reasons why the relationship could fail. If you don’t feel that you could see yourself marrying the girl, do not enter a relationship with them.

There is a limit to how much information you can gather by this means, however, and there will come a time when it becomes necessary to move to phase 2. At this stage, you should let the girl know that you are interested in her. Ideally, you should be prepared to articulate the reasons you have for being interested in her – this shows that your motivation for pursuing her is not simply a desire to be in any generic relationship, but that you have already put significant thought into why this girl in particular is a worthy contender. If she rejects you, respect that and move on. If she expresses an interest, tell her that you would like to spend a few weeks getting to know her better in view of determining whether the relationship should proceed beyond friendship. This allows you to both gauge each other’s suitability without the emotional connection that comes along with being in a relationship (again, minimizing the risk of hurting her). It also allows you to evaluate her at a deeper level than you could in the previous phase. During this stage of the relationship, you should ask each other about your theological views, your past relationships, past sins that need to be confessed, what you both wish to get out of a relationship, how you would like to raise children (e.g. public vs. private vs. home schooling), and so on. Be completely transparent and honest with each other. Be sure that you have all your bases covered, and that there are going to be no unpleasant surprises later down the road after you have already developed an emotional connection.

It is very important that during this time there is a centrality of prayer about the future direction of the relationship. Seek the Lord’s will diligently. Deciding about relationships takes a lot of wisdom, and God has promised us in Scripture that “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).

After a few weeks, discuss with your prospective girlfriend what the way forward should be for your relationship and whether there is a mutual desire to proceed and what you feel God is calling you to.

Guarding Your Hearts and Upholding Chastity

If you have followed the above procedure and have gotten as far as the relationship stage, I would suggest that there should be an increasingly greater level of commitment as the relationship continues to progress. In my case, I would not terminate a relationship without a very good reason once I have agreed to commit myself to the relationship. Do not take this commitment lightly.

It is important, however, that both parties take care to guard their (and each other’s) hearts, especially during the early days of the relationship, in case the relationship for whatever reason does not work out. This practice ensures that you will both be able to give your heart more completely to your future spouse. If you end up not being the husband of a girl whom you have dated, you want to be able to look that girl’s future husband in the eye and tell him with a clear conscience that you took good care to guard her heart for him.

I would suggest limiting physical contact to holding hands and the occasional hug during the early days of the relationship. Kissing should be reserved for significantly downstream in the relationship, until you have been together for a considerable period of time.

You should also avoid, whenever possible, being left alone together for long periods of time – where temptation may strike you and cause you to fall into sin. Meet together in public places or involve family and friends.

Making Christ the Cornerstone of Your Relationship

There is no other cornerstone for a God-honoring relationship besides that of Christ. Meditation upon Scripture and time spent together in prayer should form the bedrock of any relationship. I suggest working through a book of the Bible together, expositing the Scriptures verse by verse. This will inevitably lead to mutual edification and also offers some accountability for regular study of Scripture. I would also recommend working together through some classic Christian writings such as those of the puritans. There is a goldmine of nuggets to be found among such literature.

Conclusion

I trust that some will find the above perspectives of value as they look for a spouse and develop relationships which eventually will lead into marriage. These are only a few short thoughts, and there is much more that could be written on this subject. There will of course be other considerations that are specific to the interests and personality of the individual. For example, I very much enjoy intellectual conversation topics, particularly those relating to science, theology and apologetics. And so I look for someone who is similarly interested in discussing those areas and who can relate to me at an intellectual level.

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Matthew Vines and Michael Brown debate homosexuality and the Bible on Moody radio

The audio of the Matthew Vines vs Michael Brown debate is streamed here on the Moody site.

Details:

Can you be gay and Christian? Matthew Vines says you can and he’s created a viral video and best-selling book defending his view. This Saturday on Up for Debate, Vines joins host Julie Roys to debate author and leading evangelical apologist, Dr. Michael Brown. Is gay monogamy an option for Christians? Is it unloving to reject gay marriage? Listen and join the discussion this Saturday at 8 a.m. Central Time on Up for Debate!

Matthew Vines

Matthew Vines is an advocate for the acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people within Christian communities and in society at large. Living in Wichita, Kansas, Matthew attended Harvard University from 2008 to 2010. He then took a leave of absence in order to research the Bible and homosexuality and work toward LGBT inclusion in the church. In March 2012, Matthew delivered a speech at a church in his hometown about the Bible and homosexuality, calling for acceptance of gay Christians and their marriage relationships. Since then, the video of the speech has been seen more than 500,000 times on YouTube, and it was featured inThe New York Times and The Christian Post. In 2013, Matthew launched The Reformation Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to training LGBT Christians and their allies to reform church teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity. Matthew’s book,God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships, is in stores now.

Dr. Michael Brown

Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. from New York University in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures and is the author of 25 books, most recently Can You Be Gay and Christian? He has served as a visiting or adjunct professor at seven leading seminaries, and contributed to numerous scholarly publications, including the Oxford Dictionary of Jewish Religion and the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament. He hosts the nationally syndicated talk radio program The Line of Fire and the TV show Answering Your Toughest Questions, and he has been active in teaching, preaching, and debating since 1973, committed to seeing a Jesus-based moral and cultural revolution.

Summary key: Julie Roys (JR), Matthew Vines (MV), Michael Brown (MB)

Summary:

Opening speeches:

  • JR: Why should Christians be open to reinterpreting the Bible on homosexuality?
  • MV: Consider the lives and testimonies of gay Christians. Here is my personal story.
  • MV: According to the Bible, a person with same-sex attractions would have to embrace lifelong celibacy. I refuse to do that.
  • MV: There are 6 passages in the Bible that are relevant to the goodness of homosexuality. All are negative.
  • MV: None of these passages address gay relationships that are “long-term” and “faithful” that are based on “commitment” and “love”.
  • JR: You say that it is “damaging” for Christians to disagree with you views, is that true?
  • MV: Yes. One of my friends declared his homosexuality and he did not feel safe to come home. He felt pain because Christians disagreed with him.
  • MV: You cannot ask a person with same-sex attractions to be celibate, it causes too much harm to ask gays to abstain from sexual relationships.
  • JR: Respond to Matthew.
  • MB: The Bible only permits heterosexual sexuality and in every case condemns homosexual acts.
  • MB: Matthew is taking his sexual preferences and activities as given, and reinterpreting the Bible to fit it.
  • MB: Genesis talks about women being made to help men, and to fulfill God’s commandment to procreate and fill the Earth.
  • MB: The Bible speaks about the complementarity of the sexes when talking about how two become one in marriage.
  • MB: I am very sensitive to the stories of people who are gay who experience discrimination as “gay Christians”.
  • MB: You can feel sad for people who have two conflicting commitments, but that doesn’t mean we should redefine what the Bible says.
  • JR: Stop talking, we have a break.

JR takes a caller for the next topic:

  • Caller 1: I had same-sex attractions and I was able to change my sexuality.
  • JR: Matthew, respond to that.
  • MV: Alan Chambers of Exodus International says that 99.9% of people he worked with had not changed their gay orientation.
  • MV: Lifelong celibacy is not acceptable to gays, so the Bible must be reinterpreted to suit gays.
  • MB: Matthew thinks that God himself did not understand the concept of sexual orientation and inadvertently hurt gays because of his lack of knowledge.
  • MB: There is a solution in the Bible for people who cannot be celibate, and that solution is heterosexual marriage
  • MB: If a person is only attracted to pre-teen girls, do we then have to re-write the Bible to affirm that so they won’t be “harmed”?
  • MB: Alan Chambers was speaking for his own group, and his statement does not account for the fact that thousands of people DO change.
  • JR: What about the Jones/Yarhouse study that found that 38% of reparative therapy subjects were successful in changing or chastity?
  • MV: (no response to the question)
  • MV: (to Brown) do you accept that the Bible forces gays to live out lifelong celibacy

Another break, then Brown replies:

  • MB: Yes. But change is possible.
  • MV: Do you know of any Christian who acknowledged that this was the consequence of the Bible’s teaching for gays?
  • MB: Paul’s explanation that the options for ALL Christians are 1) celibacy or 2) heterosexual marriage. For 2000 years.
  • MV: Paul (in Romans 1) is talking about people who are not “long-term”, “faithful” gay relationships.
  • MV: Paul was not aware of “long-term”, “faithful” gay relationships at the time he wrote his prohibitions in Romans 1.
  • JR: How do you know that fixed sexual orientation is true? And that the Biblical authors would written different things if they knew?
  • JR: Are there any references in the first century to “long-term”, “faithful” gay relationships?
  • MB: Yes, in my book I quote prominent historian N. T. Wright who documents that those relationships were known.
  • MB: Matthew’s view requires that God did not know about sexual orientation when ordaining the Bible’s content.
  • MB: Leviticus 18 is for all people, for all time. This was not just for the Jews, this was for everyone.
  • MV: I am not saying that Paul was wrong because he was ignorant.
  • MV: Paul was writing in a context where “long-term”, “faithful” gay relationships were unknown.
  • MV: NT Wright does not cite first century texts, he cites a problematic 4th century text.
  • MV: Absence of 1st-century references to “long-term”, “faithful” gay relationships means that God did not intend to prohibit them.
  • MB: Whenever the Bible speaks about homosexuality, it is opposed to it – Old Testament and New Testament.

Another break, then the conclusion:

  • JR: Respond to the Leviticus prohibition, which prohibits homosexuality for everyone, for all time.
  • MV: It is a universal prohibition on male same-sex intercourse, but it does not apply to Christians.
  • MV: For example, Leviticus prohibits sex during a woman’s menstrual period. And Christians are not bound by that.
  • MV: What is the reason for this prohibition of male-male sex in Leviticus? It’s not affirm the complementarity of the sexual act.
  • MV: The Bible prohibits male-male sex because it is written for a patriarchal culture.
  • MV: In a patriarchal culture, women are viewed as inferior. That’s why the Bible prohibits a man from taking the woman’s role in sex.
  • MB: The prohibition in Leviticus is a universal prohibition against male-male sex, applicable in all times and places.
  • MB: Homosexual sex is a violation of the divine order.
  • MB: We can see already the consequences of normalizing this: gay marriage, and supports for polygamy and polyamory.
  • MV: So the earliest reference there is to a “long-term”, “faithful” gay relationship is a 4th century text.
  • MV: But that gay relationship is not like modern gay relationships.

I have a few comments about Vines’ points below.

My comments:

Even heterosexuals who have not married are called upon to embrace lifelong celibacy. I am in my 30s and am a virgin because I have not married. I wouldn’t seek to reinrepret the Bible to allow premarital sex just because what I am doing is difficult. I would rather just do what the Bible says than reinterpret it to suit me. And it’s just as hard for me to be chaste as it would be for him to be. In short, it’s a character issue. He takes his right to recreational sex as non-negotiable, and reinterprets the Bible to suit. I take the Bible as non-negotiable, and comply with it regardless of whether it seems to make me less happy. With respect to the purposes of God for me in this world, my happiness is expendable. If I don’t find someone to marry, I’m going to be “afflicted” with the lifelong celibacy that Vines seems to think is torture, but let me tell you – God is happy with the contributions I am making for him, and if I have to be chaste through my whole life, I am 100% fine with that. I serve the King. And not the reverse.

Notice that he talks about “long-term” but not permanent relationships, and “faithful” but not exclusive. This is important because the statistics show that gay relationships (depending on whether it is female-female or male-male) are prone to instability and/or infidelity. I just blogged on that recently, with reference to the published research on the subject. Vines is talking about a situation that does not obtain in the real world – according to the data. Gay relationships do not normally value permanence and exclusivity in the way that opposite-sex marriage relationships do, especially where the couple regularly attends church. The divorce rate and infidelity rate for religious couples is far below the rates for gay couples, depending on the sexes involved. Vines is committed to the idea that marriage is about feelings, e.g. – “love”, but that’s not the public purpose of marriage. Marriage is not about love, it’s about complementarity of the sexes and providing for the needs of children. We have published studies like this one showing that there are negative impacts to children who are raised by gay couples, which dovetails with studies showing that children need a mother and that children need a father. We should not normalize any relationship that exposes children to harm. We should prefer to inconvenience adults than to harm children.

Matthew Vines made an argument that Christians have to stop saying that homosexuality is wrong, because it makes gay people feel excluded. I wrote previously about the argument that gay activists use where they say “if you don’t agree with me and celebrate me and affirm me, then I’ll commit suicide”. In that post, I quoted a prominent gay activist who made exactly that argument. I don’t find the threats to self-destruction to be a convincing argument for the truth of the view that gay marriage being the same as heterosexual marriage. In fact, this is confirmed by a recent study which showed that features of gay relationships themselves, and not social disapproval, is to blame for high rates of suicide in the gay community.

Vines seems to want to argue that the context in which the Bible authors were writing did not allow them to address the problem of gays in “long-term”, “faithful” relationships. Well, we have already seen that statistically speaking, those relationships are in the minority. One British study mentioned in the post I linked to above found that only 25% of gay couples were intact after 8 years. The number is 82% for heterosexual marriages, and that doesn’t filter by couples who abstain from premarital sex and who attend church regularly. If you add those two criteria, the number is going to be well above 82% in my opinion. Studies show that premarital chastity and church attendance vastly improve the stability and quality of marriages.

In addition, Vines is trying to argue that 1) the Bible authors were not aware of “long-term”, “faithful” gay relationships and 2) their failure to explicitly disqualify these “long-term”, “stable” gay sexual relationships means that the Bible actually condones them. A friend of mine pointed out that this is a textbook case of the argument from silence, where someone asserts that because something is not explicitly condemned, then it must be OK. Carried through to its logical end, that would mean that things like identity theft are OK, because they are not mentioned explicitly. Brown asserted that there was a blanket prohibition on homosexual acts. He is arguing from what we know. Vines says that “long-term”, “faithful” homosexual relationships are not mentioned, and are therefore OK. He is arguing from what we don’t know. And he is trying to reverse the burden of proof so that he doesn’t have to show evidence for his view. Brown wouldn’t take the bait. The fact of the matter is that no one for the last 2000 years of church history have taken Vines’ view. Every single Christian before Vines, who were closer to Jesus’ teachings than Vines, understood the verses that Brown cited to be providing a blanket prohibition on homosexual sex acts. If Vines wants to claim that the Bible condones what he wants it to condone, he has to produce some positive evidence from the text or from church history or church fathers. He has nothing to support his case that could convince anyone that this is what Christians have believed, and ought to believe.

Finally, if you are looking for another debate, I blogged about a debate between Michael Brown and Eric Smaw. There’s a video and summaries of the opening speeches in that post.

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