Jump to content

James White on Carmenn Massa on Kerry Shirts on Michael Heiser


maklelan

Recommended Posts

James White responds on his blog to a Roman Catholic youngster going by the name Carmenn Massa who apparently criticizes White and his colleagues concerning some other exchange about Jerry Shirts's use of Michael Heiser's scholarship regarding Psalm 82. Massa has been active on some Facebook message boards, and while he has a decent working knowledge of the catechisms and his own dogmas, he's woefully unprepared to engage LDS scholarship directly. I'm not responding here to Massa, though, I'm responding to White, who uses the above-mentioned post to grate on Heiser and the Mormons for their interpretation of Psalm 82. This post will show that James White is demonstrably mistaken in pretty much every corner of his explanation.

He first cites a publication called "Is the Mormon My Brother?". I'll post the whole thing just so you get a feel for where he's going:

I Said You Are Gods

John chapter ten is one of the most beautiful in all of Scripture, for it speaks of the Lord Jesus' relationship to His people in the terms of the Shepherd and His sheep. In the midst of talking about the glorious salvation that belongs to those who know and trust Christ, Jesus asserts that He and the Father are one in their bringing about the final and full salvation of all those who are given by the Father to the Son (vv. 28-30). When the Lord says, "I and the Father are one,"[1] He offends the Jews, who realize that such a claim implies deity. No mere creature can be fully one with the Father in bringing about redemption itself! This prompts the dialogue that concerns us here:

"I and the Father are one." The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, "I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?" The Jews answered Him, "For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God." Jesus answered them, "Has it not been written in your Law, 'I SAID, YOU ARE GODS'? If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God'?" (John 10:30-36)

The use of this passage in LDS literature is widespread. "I said, you are gods" is used to substantiate the idea of a plurality of gods, and men becoming gods. Yet, even a brief review of the passage demonstrates that such is hardly a worthy interpretation, and some of the leading LDS apologists today avoid trying to press the passage that far, and for good reason.[2] The unbelieving Jews seen in this passage, with murder in their hearts, are hardly good candidates for exaltation to godhood. What is more, the Lord Jesus uses the present tense when He says, "You are gods." So, obviously, He is not identifying His attackers as divine beings, worthy of worship by their eventual celestial offspring! What, then, is going on here?

When we allow the text to speak for itself, the meaning comes across clearly. As usual the context is determinative. The Jewish leaders were acting as Jesus' judges. They were accusing Him of blasphemy, of breaking God's law. Their role as judges in this instance is determinative, for the Lord is going to cite a passage about judges from the Old Testament. The Jews make it plain that they understand Jesus' words to contain an implicit claim of equality with God (v. 33). It is at this point that the Lord quotes from Psalm 82:6, which contains the important words, "I said you are gods." But when we go back to the passage from which this is taken (and surely the Jewish leaders would have known the context themselves), we find an important truth:

God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers. How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them out of the hand of the wicked. They do not know nor do they understand; they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. I said, "You are gods, and all of you are sons of the Most High." (Psalm 82:1-6)

Here we have the key to the passage, for this is a psalm of judgment against the rulers of Israel. God takes his stand in His own congregation, that being His own people, Israel. He judges in the midst of the "rulers." The Hebrew term here is "elohim," which could be translated "gods." The NASB however, recognizes that the context indicates who is being discussed, for the next verse reads, "How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked." Who judges unjustly and shows partiality? Human judges, of course, human rulers amongst the people. Hence, the NASB rendering of "elohim" as "rulers." It is important to recognize the use of the term elohim in verse 1, for the very same term appears in verse 6, and is what lies behind Jesus' citation in John 10:34. Before moving on in the text, it should be noted that even at this point recognizing that this passage is talking about unjust human rulers removes this passage from the realm of possible passages to cite in support of a plurality of gods, and certainly, Jesus was not, by citing this passage, calling His accusers true divine beings.

When we get to verse six, we find that God has placed the judges of Israel in a position of being "gods" amongst the people. They were entrusted with the application of God's law. God calls them to vindicate the weak and fatherless and to do justice to the afflicted and destitute (v. 3). This is their task, their duty. But they are failing that duty. They are not acting as proper, godly judges. Verse six, then, begins the pronouncement of judgment. Jesus only cites the beginning of the judgment-which was enough to make His point. But since many today do not immediately know the context the way the Jews did, we need to point it out. The rest of the phrase Jesus quotes is this: "Nevertheless you will die like men and fall like any one of the princes." Such is hardly the terminology one would use of divine and exalted beings! And this explains the use of the present tense verb "You are gods" in John 10:34. Jesus is saying His accusers are, right then, the judges condemned in Psalm 82. And what kind of judges were they? Unrighteous judges, who were judging unjustly. Jesus was calling His accusers false judges, and they well knew it.

That this is the meaning of Jesus' use of the passage is seen by going back to John chapter ten. Jesus refers to these rulers as those "to whom the word of God came." Surely this is an apt description of the rulers who were set to judge in God's place. Once He has made His application, and identified His accusers as false judges, He then asks, "Do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God.'" Here He points to their judgment of blasphemy and contrasts their errant decision with the Father's sanctification and sending of the divine Son. The folly of their false judgment is manifest to all. This is the meaning of the passage, and pressing it to support the idea that men can, after aeons and aeons of evolution, become gods, only shows how far removed the LDS position is from biblical Christianity.

Notes:

1) We should note that this passage is not teaching that the Father is the Son. The doctrine of the Trinity expressly denies the identification of the Father and the Son as one Person. The verb used in this passage is plural; hence, it can literally be translated

Link to comment

If White had bothered to read any of Heiser's scholarship he would know Heiser is trying to argue that an "invisible Yahweh" was viewed in ancient Israel as a direct subordinate to the "visible Yahweh," who was his begetter. Christ is this "invisible Yahweh." He was always there as an "only-begotten."

While I agree with your assesment of the dear Dr's scholarship I think you are wasting your time with it. I have seen this POV from him now for many years and I doubt he will ever change it. At least not in this life. In fact I dont see him ever ceding any point in a debate with any of his adversaries. His pride is too great. But maybe your motive is something else so I will shut up now.

Link to comment

While I agree with your assesment of the dear Dr's scholarship I think you are wasting your time with it. I have seen this POV from him now for many years and I doubt he will ever change it. At least not in this life. In fact I dont see him ever ceding any point in a debate with any of his adversaries. His pride is too great. But maybe your motive is something else so I will shut up now.

I'm doing my masters dissertation (they call the thesis a dissertation in the UK) on a related topic, and so I'm hyper-sensitive at the moment vis-a-vis people who abuse this text. I would have posted it on my blog if I was looking for him to respond. I know he's not going to be willing or able to engage this discussion, but at least others can find some better information than what he's offering.

Link to comment

I'm doing my masters dissertation (they call the thesis a dissertation in the UK) on a related topic, and so I'm hyper-sensitive at the moment vis-a-vis people who abuse this text. I would have posted it on my blog if I was looking for him to respond. I know he's not going to be willing or able to engage this discussion, but at least others can find some better information than what he's offering.

I'm very much interested in your dissertation. Will you make it available? Get FARMS to publish it? wink.gif

Link to comment

Benjamin Uffenheimer, author of Early Prophecy in Israel has an article about the concept of monotheism in ancient Israel and its evolution through the ages. In it he makes the point that the concept did not require a belief that there was only one god, but rather the exclusive worship of one god.

Here is the article in hebrew, in case anyone is interested.

Link to comment
  • 2 weeks later...

Massa has posted a link to his blog post on CARM, although he still can't seem to get my name right:

Note the comment at the end of the article; return to the source, and read Mr. Mclellan's response.

There are two /c/'s in my name, Massa. Also, you make the following statement:

attempt to turn Psalm 82 into a proof-text for Mormon polytheism

As I quite clearly explained to you, (1) Mormons are not polytheists, they're monolatrous (just like you), and (2) I am not trying to prop up Mormonism in any way, shape, or form. I am correcting atrocious exegesis and absolutely nothing more. I will not explain this again, and if you insist on presupposing it again then our conversation is over. Like I said before, if you want to interact with a scholar as a scholar then you have to act like one and not like a child. I'm growing impatient of your reluctance in that area.

Link to comment

I'm doing my masters dissertation (they call the thesis a dissertation in the UK) on a related topic, and so I'm hyper-sensitive at the moment vis-a-vis people who abuse this text. I would have posted it on my blog if I was looking for him to respond. I know he's not going to be willing or able to engage this discussion, but at least others can find some better information than what he's offering.

Where are these "facebook discussion boards"? I didn't even know such boards existed.

Your dismissal of Hebrew for being -- so you claim -- a "dead" language by the time of the Talmud

makes even less sense now that I've seen your definition of a dead language. By all logic, a language

which does not evolve and change should be a language entrenched and static (i.e. preserved); which

makes me wonder why you think the Talmudic writers would not know the Hebrew grammar to the same

level as someone like you who has looked at pagan manuscripts. How does that make any sense?

Link to comment

This is good stuff, Dan. Is Timothy Edwards teaching at Oxford? I wrote to him regarding his Hebrew University MA thesis several months ago and he sent me a copy. Tons of helpful information on the Rabbinic use of Psalm 82.

Any chance you could PM me some of it, I would love to see if I'm on the right track with my theory on why Onkelos renders elohim as dayanim.

Link to comment

Where are these "facebook discussion boards"? I didn't even know such boards existed.

The exchange between Carmenn and Kerry took place on THIS THREAD in the Joseph Smith the Prophet group page on Facebook.

Carmenn is a nice guy, though it took me a while to realize it. Definitely a different approach.

Recently on another board I've been debating with Rocky Hulse, director of the Nauvoo Christian Visitors Center with an "Ed Decker" approach to Mormonism that is absolutely captivating! Malta and "The Book of Mormon"

Link to comment

Carmenn has responded to my response here. The first portion of the response is aimed at trying to wriggle out of his rhetorical pettiness (by calling me "childish" on multiple occasions). I have no interest in trying to respond individually to each of those concerns, as it seems his priority is trying to sound smug and pithy. There can be no real communication when that's the case. The facts are there for the reader to judge.

Carmenn next asserts that James White ought to be given the benefit of the doubt regarding his credentials. There is no doubt, however. His degree comes from an unaccredited institution that is based on the scholarship of another individual with no credentials that teaches virtually exclusively fundamentalist Christian apologetics. That question is not up for debate. James White does not hold a doctorate that anyone in the academic community at all recognizes. You can find the facts here.

Next Carmenn responds to my statement that my original post had nothing to do with Mormonism by quoting from a CARM post from April of this year in which I was engaging the Mormon question. Obviously that post has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on my post on MADB from last month. Carmenn would have you believe it does, which is ridiculous. I get to decide what my intentions are with each discussion I engage, Carmenn, not you. You also misread me:

Mr. McClellan, for the sake of your readers, please be consistent. First you say you attempt to prove Mormon polytheism

I said henotheism, not polytheism. I've explained this several times already. If I have to do so again this discussion is over. Read what I say and respond to what I say, not what you decide I should be saying.

and now you tell me directly that no such thing was on your mind, but that you were simply - in not so many words - allowing Scripture to speak for itself.

Yes, that's exactly what I told you, and I don't appreciate this smarmy "Nu-uh!" from someone who tries so hard to sound like a respectable debater. That was an entirely different discussion. I explained my intentions regarding the current one, and if you insist on trying to define my intentions for me again this conversation is over.

You assert your doctrine is not polytheistic, but I strongly disagree. Not only do you maintain, as a Mormon, to worship Heavenly Father, but you also say you worship Jesus Christ. But Christ is a God entirely distinct from Elohim, for indeed there are three Gods in Mormonism which make up the Triad God [to be distinguished from the Christian Triune God]. This is polytheism. Unless you admit that you fail to give Our Lord complete and total adoration, the same which you give to Heavenly Father, we have no choice but to conclude and declare based on the words of your own apostles, prophets, elders, missionaries, and laity that Mormonism is polytheistic.

I assert to worship one Godhead, which is the stance of the earliest Christians. The doctrine of the Trinity did not exist on this planet until the early fourth century CE, so if you intend to accuse Christ and the early Church fathers of polytheism then go ahead, but don't make the presentistic mistake of retrojecting your orthodoxy into a worldview that had no use for it.

Christianity is not monolatrous by any means, nor is it henotheistic. You say,

Technically speaking, strict monotheism is precluded by the presence of angels and demons and the other celestial creatures which fill your Bible. You

Link to comment

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...