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By Five Solas
At my church in Seattle, we’re currently wrapping up a sermon series on Galatians. For those unfamiliar, it’s the ninth book of the New Testament, written as a letter to early Christians living in Galatia in the mid first Century AD. The book is widely agreed by scholars to be an authentic example of the Apostle Paul’s writing.
In it, Paul addresses a controversy that arose in the early Church. Certain people were arguing for a “different gospel” (1:6) wherein Christians were required to adhere to “the law” as revealed in the Old Testament, including circumcision. Notably, even the Apostle Peter (“Cephas”) appears to have been at least briefly persuaded by this grace + works argument (2:12).
Paul is scandalized by this turn of events, arguing in response that God’s grace is unearned and undeserved, to be received by faith (2:16). He argues faith itself is God’s free gift, that this is “the truth of the gospel” (2:5, 14). He shows anger over those who reject this, saying they cannot expect to be saved (1:8, 5:4).
In my own experience, I think how often we resolve controversy by finding positives on each side of an argument and saying—“you’re both right.” Both sides need to compromise a little and resolution is thereby found in a new synthesis. But not here, not for Paul, not when the real Gospel is at stake.
Contrast Paul’s no-quarter approach with that of the late LDS prophet & president, Gordon B. Hinckley, “You bring with you all the good that you have, and let us add to it. That is the principle on which we work.” Because for Paul, any additions to the real Gospel are actually subtractions from grace—negating the work of Christ.
One last thing. If you haven’t read Galatians (or read it in a while)—I’d highly recommend a translation wherein you can readily understand the language. I typically use the English Standard Version (ESV), but I often refer to the Catholic New American Bible as well. The 400+ year-old King James Version included in the LDS “standard works” is itself largely copied from the even earlier work of William Tyndale and is by now quite hard to read and understand, given the ongoing evolution of the English language (the cynic in me sometimes thinks the LDS Church is quite satisfied to keep it this way for its membership).
All thoughts welcome.
In reading a certain pseudepigraphical work today, I learned that the Apostle Paul's frequent athletic metaphors (races, crowns of victory, etc), may have come to him from the writings of the Stoics of his day. The term for this is "agon motif."
Now critics and apologetics can argue over the origin of many Book of Mormon phrases that seem to be of Pauline origin. For example, some of them may be derived from a common source older than Paul. In this case, I wonder if any "agon motif" can be found within the Book of Mormon. As of this moment, I can't think of any.
I’ve been meeting with some missionaries recently and the issue of praying about the restored gospel has come up. I did some extra searches on it and found this article, http://en.fairmormon.org/Biblical_Keys_for_Discerning_True_and_False_Prophets/Tests
It certainly cites some good verses, but many of them don’t even talk about false prophets/teachers at all. It mentions these verses, but doesn't explain how they fit within the context of testing prophets or teachers.
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!
1 John 4:1-3
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
They actually address the issue of how we recognize false prophets, so shouldn’t these verses be some of our primary sources on the issue? What do they mean? How can we apply the principles in these verses to modern questions about truth?
Paul is putting an extreme amount of faith and trust in the reliability of the gospel. He even puts himself, the other apostles and all men under the authority of the gospel he already gave them. He certainly doesn’t act like that gospel would soon be lost. He doesn’t give an out to explain why anyone should trust a “restoration” of the gospel.
The world already had a gospel in the Bible when Smith restored the gospel. Doesn’t the restoration mean the restored gospel is different than the gospel people see just by looking at the Bible? Even if the restored only adds doctrines to the gospel of the Bible, that’s still a different gospel. So why doesn’t the restored gospel fall under Paul’s warning? What was Paul talking about?
John gives an example of how we can recognize a false teacher. In his case, the false teachers were saying Jesus didn’t come in the flesh. That doesn’t mean that’s the extent of the model of testing teachers. There are many different gospels today that teach Jesus came in the flesh, but they can’t all be from God. The general principle in John’s model, just like Paul’s, is to reject a teaching if it doesn’t match the doctrines we already have in scripture.
How do Paul’s and John’s model of testing teachers fit with the LDS keys for discerning true and false prophets?
Have any of you read or heard of the book Galatians for You by Timothy Keller? Here's the amazon link, http://www.amazon.com/Galatians-You-Reading-Feeding-Leading/dp/1908762578/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1398217677&sr=8-1&keywords=galatians+for+you
My Bible study group is almost done reading it and we've really enjoyed it. The book isn't anti-Mormon, but the weekly discussions often reminded me of topics I've discussed with Mormons, so I'd like to hear what you guys think about Galatians and what Paul says about the gospel. I've done a few searches for an LDS interpretation on Galatians, but I haven't found anything that's as in depth as Keller's interpretation of the historical context and Greek language. Are there any comparable LDS books on Galatians that examine the context and Greek from a Mormon point of view?
For example, how do you read 3:3?
2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
What kind of false gospel is Paul arguing against and what kind of true gospel is he arguing for? The implication from this verse seems to be that those who begin by the Spirit should continue by the Spirit. So what does it look like to continue by the Spirit?
On of my favorite parts was Keller's look at chapter 4. Paul's analogy of the 'slave woman and free woman' can be difficult to understand if you're not reading carefully. Notice 4:24-26.
24 Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.
Mount Sinai isn't mentioned in the Bible until Exodus, well after Abraham's time. I can see how it might be easy to read Galatians and think Paul is just arguing against circumcision and dietary laws, but this verse is saying Mount Sinai, the location of the 10 Commandments, is the slavery we should avoid. Paul never makes a distinction between ceremonial laws and the 10 Commandments. He just says we are free from slavery to the law. Chapters 5 and 6 make it clear Paul isn't saying we can ignore the law, but he says our motivation for following the law should be love, thankfulness and gratitude, not enduring to the end or learning heaven.
Anyway, that's enough from me for now. I'd really like to hear how you believe Galatians fits in the LDS doctrine of the Gospel. How is it not a 'different gospel' that Paul warns about in chapter 1?
By Stone holm
There is, in my opinion, a fair number of people who believe the writings of the beloved Apostle Paul were fairly verbose and convoluted, and therefore easily wrested in a manner which could and did lead much of Christianity astray. I doubt that was the Apostles intent. However, did that serve God's purpose? Is it possible that God foreseeing that the Roman Empire would in many ways bastardise any religion which it adopted to inspire its legions allowed Paul's writings to dominate because they could be so easily wrested to fit Greco-Roman philosophy so that while destroying certain precious truth nevertheless see that the lands of the Roman Empire would remain at least nominally Christian? Does that sound too much like an Asimovian novel plot to be true?