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The Bible and


Bill “Papa” Lee

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Vance,

I sincerely hope that this thread is not hijacked into a discussion of the merits of using the term cult to describe the LDS religion. I would prefer not to use the term in this context because of the post-Jonestown association of the term with criminally deviant religious groups, of which the contemporary LDS Church clearly is not one. That having been said, evangelicals customarily use the term in a different, purely theological sense to designate religious groups that profess to be true Christianity but that reject historic orthodox Christian theology (e.g., the doctrine of the Trinity). When they use the term in this sense, and when I am asked, I agree that the LDS religion is a "cult" in that sense. But as I said, I don't like that theological use of the term, and came out in print twenty years ago urging evangelicals to avoid it.

So, do you reject all of the books in the bibliography on cults that you provide here, or are there some on the list - despite the disclaimer - that you accept in their use of the term?

Indeed, on your site, you send some very interesting mixed messages that cast some doubt on what you've posted above. This link listing seminars on your site (some of which you give) has a rather interesting and not so flattering seminar on cults - right under seminars on Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses. Coincidence or not-so-subtle association? One wonders. It is especially worth noting that this is all said in the context of describing members of those religions, and not as a general comment on the religion itself.

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I'm afraid you don't know what an ad hominem fallacy is. Labeling a religion as a "cult" according to a particular stipulated definition is not an ad hominem fallacy. Nor is it such a fallacy for a former member of a religion to share their experiences. Try reading this explanation of the ad hominem fallacy.

Actually, the discussion was about ad hom attacks, not fallacies. I do very well understand what ad hom is, especially when there is a section on your site that is not "just" sharing experiences, but a clear attempt to portray both the Church and its members in the worst possible light. It would appear that your site doesn't just criticize the doctrines of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, but instead tries very hard to paint a particular character portrait of members of the Church that is not at all flattering. The site wants the reader to have the impression that Mormons are not really people that anyone should want to associate with. And that is, indeed, an ad hominem attack.

Interestingly enough, it also would appear from your site that when people leave the Church, they suddenly become clear minded, more Christlike, more loving, more peaceful, happier, and a host of other things that members of the Church just don't have (as inferred by the site). Whether it's well poisoning or an ad hom attack, my point stands that your site makes quite a big deal of painting the Church and its members in a very negative light - and not just "criticizing or disagreeing with" our doctrines.

Not so. There is no such board rule here (I just checked).

Well there was at one point, but it seems to no longer be there. I've now provided links.

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Getting back a bit to the concept of fact and faith, and what takes precedence, I find it interesting to note that the goal of the site Rob runs is to attack or tear down the faith of Mormons with "factual evidence" that is supposed to contradict their faith. This kind of effort, it seems to me, would tend to happen if the person attacking placed a great deal of value on the connection of fact and faith, or felt strongly that both were to a great degree inseparable. If Mormons can be led to believe certain facts that are contradictory to their faith, then that faith can be shaken and challenged.

With some people this is successful, yet with many, many Latter-day Saints, such an emphasis on factual evidence as a driver of faith doesn't seem to hit a responsive cord. I can only conclude that EVs such as Rob approach the fact / faith relationship quite differently than Latter-day Saints do. Does this mean that there is indeed a fundamental difference between what Mormons experience as testimony / faith / belief (something that has less need to be bolstered by carefully chosen evidence) and the stronger evidence / faith links that EVs seem to have as part of their belief system?

Perhaps this is the reason why enemies of the Church place such emphasis on providing "evidence" to tear down the Church, while Mormon missionaries stress the importance of spiritual testimony.

And the evidence / faith relationship is indeed a double edged sword, especially when a doctrine such as inerrancy has proved to be so problematic in the structure of that relationship.

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Vance and jwhitlock,

Honest persons asking sincere questions about the bibliography, which I wrote, would have at least acknowledged the following statement that appears at the beginning of that work:

"The purpose of this bibliography is to provide researchers with a reasonably good overview of the most important or influential literature regardless of perspective. Thus, I list books here that I not only do not endorse but with which I strongly disagree."

Enough said.

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jwhitlock,

Let me translate what you are saying and put it in my words from my perspective. Evangelicals like me are critical of the LDS Church's doctrine and claims because we think they are false. We think they are false because we think there is substantial biblical evidence against core distinctive LDS doctrines and substantial historical evidence against core LDS claims. We do indeed think that faith and fact are closely connected, because for us faith is "founded on fact," as John Warwick Montgomery famously put it (in a book entitled Faith Founded on Fact). If the resurrection of Jesus is not a fact, then Christianity is false. If we had strong evidence showing that Jesus ran off to France with Mary Magdalene and founded a secret royal dynastic movement (we don't), then to put faith in Jesus as the risen Son of God would be unwise. This doesn't mean we can prove everything in the Bible or that there are no difficulties, but it is crucial that the core claims of Christianity not be evidently false. I apply the same standard to any and every other religion (not just LDS religion). Muhammad a genuine prophet of God? Nah. I have good evidence that his teachings contradict those of Jesus Christ and of the Bible, and I also have good evidence from the most reliable biographical information available that Muhammad, though a strong leader and probably a sincere visionary, was not actually hearing from God. I don't need to pray and ask Allah if the Qur'an is the word of God: I know it is not simply by testing Muhammad's claim to be a prophet and by reading the Qur'an and comparing it with the Bible. I approach Mormonism in the very same way. When Mormons try to dismiss factual criticisms of their religion by appealing to their spiritual testimony, as you and many others (not all) do, we see this as an attempt to divert attention from the facts.

Getting back a bit to the concept of fact and faith, and what takes precedence, I find it interesting to note that the goal of the site Rob runs is to attack or tear down the faith of Mormons with "factual evidence" that is supposed to contradict their faith. This kind of effort, it seems to me, would tend to happen if the person attacking placed a great deal of value on the connection of fact and faith, or felt strongly that both were to a great degree inseparable. If Mormons can be led to believe certain facts that are contradictory to their faith, then that faith can be shaken and challenged.

With some people this is successful, yet with many, many Latter-day Saints, such an emphasis on factual evidence as a driver of faith doesn't seem to hit a responsive cord. I can only conclude that EVs such as Rob approach the fact / faith relationship quite differently than Latter-day Saints do. Does this mean that there is indeed a fundamental difference between what Mormons experience as testimony / faith / belief (something that has less need to be bolstered by carefully chosen evidence) and the stronger evidence / faith links that EVs seem to have as part of their belief system?

Perhaps this is the reason why enemies of the Church place such emphasis on providing "evidence" to tear down the Church, while Mormon missionaries stress the importance of spiritual testimony.

And the evidence / faith relationship is indeed a double edged sword, especially when a doctrine such as inerrancy has proved to be so problematic in the structure of that relationship.

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Vance and jwhitlock,

Honest persons asking sincere questions about the bibliography, which I wrote, would have at least acknowledged the following statement that appears at the beginning of that work:

"The purpose of this bibliography is to provide researchers with a reasonably good overview of the most important or influential literature regardless of perspective. Thus, I list books here that I not only do not endorse but with which I strongly disagree."

Enough said.

Enough said? What didn't you understand about the bolded part of what I said acknowledging your disclaimer above?

"...or are there some on the list - despite the disclaimer - that you accept in their use of the term?"

Your disclaimer is unclear on whether you disagree with all of the books on that list, or whether you're just listing some books that you disagree with for the sake of being comprehensive.

And with your "honest persons" ad hom shot, I think that my points otherwise about the character attack tone and methods of your web site are confirmed.

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jwhitlock,

Let me translate what you are saying and put it in my words from my perspective. Evangelicals like me are critical of the LDS Church's doctrine and claims because we think they are false. We think they are false because we think there is substantial biblical evidence against core distinctive LDS doctrines and substantial historical evidence against core LDS claims. We do indeed think that faith and fact are closely connected, because for us faith is "founded on fact," as John Warwick Montgomery famously put it (in a book entitled Faith Founded on Fact). If the resurrection of Jesus is not a fact, then Christianity is false. If we had strong evidence showing that Jesus ran off to France with Mary Magdalene and founded a secret royal dynastic movement (we don't), then to put faith in Jesus as the risen Son of God would be unwise. This doesn't mean we can prove everything in the Bible or that there are no difficulties, but it is crucial that the core claims of Christianity not be evidently false. I apply the same standard to any and every other religion (not just LDS religion). Muhammad a genuine prophet of God? Nah. I have good evidence that his teachings contradict those of Jesus Christ and of the Bible, and I also have good evidence from the most reliable biographical information available that Muhammad, though a strong leader and probably a sincere visionary, was not actually hearing from God. I don't need to pray and ask Allah if the Qur'an is the word of God: I know it is not simply by testing Muhammad's claim to be a prophet and by reading the Qur'an and comparing it with the Bible. I approach Mormonism in the very same way. When Mormons try to dismiss factual criticisms of their religion by appealing to their spiritual testimony, as you and many others (not all) do, we see this as an attempt to divert attention from the facts.

What you term as "fact" or "strong evidence" is, at the very best, subjective and selective. As I noted before on this thread, the conclusions you come to are based on your foundational biases, which are influenced by orthodox / traditional Christianity. I have also noted that we all selectively interpret evidence according to our foundational biases; the central question then becomes whose foundational biases are correct.

Both you and I can provide piles of evidence that we accept as fact proving the other side wrong. For instance, you continue to see "cult" as having a use in describing Mormons to a certain extent; LDS authors have, from my point of view, successfully refuted that point of view. I view much of the work of the Maxwell Institute and FAIR as containing excellent factual evidence supporting Mormon claims and reject the context and interpretation of evidence you provide on your website contradicting our claims. You do just the opposite, and your site also adds a healthy dose of well poisoning and ad hom attack to bolster the claims you make against us.

The nature of debate based on claimed factual evidence is simply that the person who can debate the best "wins". It's less about substance, because both sides either reject the evidence or the context / conclusions made from that evidence of the other as being invalid. A perusal of your site readily (to me, at least) and clearly shows how flawed and narrow your methodology is in attacking the Church and its members. I don't have a problem reading it because I recognize that there is much evidence missing - and it is missing because it does not support the conclusions you want to draw. I also recognize, from experience, the way sites like yours put "evidence" together in order to lead a person to a predetermined conclusion.

This part of the discussion remains interesting to me because of the emphasis anti-Mormon sites - yours and others - place on carefully selected and interpreted "facts and evidence" as a means to attacking LDS faith. Again, I believe that this is at least partially due to what you have reiterated above - that evidence and faith are inseparable. It is not enough to have faith in the word of the Bible alone that a person named Jesus lived and was the Savior; it seems to be absolutely necessary to have outside corroborating evidence in order for that faith to be valid.

By extrapolation, then, it seems to me that you think that you only need to amass a wealth of "contradictory evidence" to disprove the faith of Latter-day Saints. Yet because Mormons place less emphasis on corroborating evidence, and more emphasis on spiritual witness, the methodology you use is only partially effective. The rest of us recognize the omissions, the leading conclusions, the lack of context, the presuppositional biases and all of the other baggage that invalidates anti-Mormon contradictory evidence in our minds.

What you see as an attempt to divert you from the facts is, in reality, a rejection of much of what you're presenting as truly factual. We see your dismissal of spiritual witness as missing the mark when it comes to what the scriptures say about understanding truth. We also see your emphasis on non-spiritual evidence being necessary to faith as relying on the arm of flesh, and not on the arm of God. In the end, it won't matter who debated the best; it will matter what God really was doing all this time. I personally find that having a strong spiritual foundation of faith as my primary motivator to be the best guide as to what is correct - especially since human beings will invariably take the same piece of factual evidence and draw widely differing conclusions from them, something that is the weak point in a philosophy based primarily on evidence as the driver of faith.

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Vance and jwhitlock,

Honest persons asking sincere questions about the bibliography, which I wrote, would have at least acknowledged the following statement that appears at the beginning of that work:

"The purpose of this bibliography is to provide researchers with a reasonably good overview of the most important or influential literature regardless of perspective. Thus, I list books here that I not only do not endorse but with which I strongly disagree."

Enough said.

Ah, yes a very nice statement indeed, BUT since you made NO effort to specify which you disagree with, we are left with the distinct impression that deep down you accept ALL of them as agreeable because you identified ALL of them as "Evangelical".

BUT you clearly made my point for me. YOU identified them as "Evangelical", They are clearly "anti-Mormon", and they do call us a "cult" in the pejorative sense, which is the exact the point I made and which you called "baseless" in post #149. :P

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Oh, I like Rob. I don't agree with him always, but I like him. His criticisms are more informed than most. I am rather surprised at his rather simplistic dismissal of the BoM witnesses and embrace of the New Testament witnesses, but I assume it is because he has spent more time with the NT and not with the BoM witnesses.

Here...but go to his site and see who he quotes, and then dismisses it by saying it was not his comments. But you are correct to a degree, compared to "the board not to be named", he is a very pleasant fellow.

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Pa Pa,

Your comments make a carefully calculated comparison between elements of the Bible for which we would generally not expect to find historical or archaeological evidence (although, surprisingly, for some of it we do have some evidence), ignoring in some cases alternative orthodox explanations of the biblical texts, and elements of the Book of Mormon for which some Mormons claim to have evidence, again ignoring contrary claims by other Mormons.

By the way, the discipline of biblical archaeology, as a scientifically-based, academic, discipline, is less than two centuries old. The first serious archaeologists in the modern sense of that term worked in the second half of the nineteenth century.

You asserted that I ignored the fact that other people claimed to see the gold plates. I did not ignore that fact. I have in fact acknowledged that there may well have been some gold-looking metallic plates. My working assumption is that such plates probably did exist.

The Emperor Constantine

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"Cult" as used by the Evangelicals is a derogatory and abusive term intended to smear and insult the Churches or religions they don't like, such as the Mormons or JWs. It is not used in a purely "theological" sense as you suggest.

Double Ditto... :P

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jwhitlock,

I incorrectly assumed that "despite the disclaimer" referred to my disclaimer in an earlier post about the use of the term cult. In that regard, I made a mistake. However, there is still a serious problem with your post. In point of fact, I had already told you what my view was of the use of the term cult. Therefore, you didn't need to ask if I accept what some of the books in my bibliography say about the use of the term. The answer is, of course I do--since I am the author of one of the books! But in any case, I agree in substance with those authors who use the term cult in the theological sense, although I would prefer not to use in that sense, as I have already explained. I also have no problem with those authors who use the term cult to denote criminally or sociologically deviant groups (e.g., Jonestown, Scientology). So if you are familiar with a particular book on the list and wonder how my view compares with that book's use of the term, you already had an answer.

Enough said? What didn't you understand about the bolded part of what I said acknowledging your disclaimer above?

"...or are there some on the list - despite the disclaimer - that you accept in their use of the term?"

Your disclaimer is unclear on whether you disagree with all of the books on that list, or whether you're just listing some books that you disagree with for the sake of being comprehensive.

And with your "honest persons" ad hom shot, I think that my points otherwise about the character attack tone and methods of your web site are confirmed.

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jwhitlock,

Let me translate what you are saying and put it in my words from my perspective. Evangelicals like me are critical of the LDS Church's doctrine and claims because we think they are false. We think they are false because we think there is substantial biblical evidence against core distinctive LDS doctrines and substantial historical evidence against core LDS claims. We do indeed think that faith and fact are closely connected, because for us faith is "founded on fact," as John Warwick Montgomery famously put it (in a book entitled Faith Founded on Fact). If the resurrection of Jesus is not a fact, then Christianity is false.

The word

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jwhitlock,

You wrote:

What you term as "fact" or "strong evidence" is, at the very best, subjective and selective.

Please provide a specific example.

You wrote:

Both you and I can provide piles of evidence that we accept as fact proving the other side wrong. For instance, you continue to see "cult" as having a use in describing Mormons to a certain extent; LDS authors have, from my point of view, successfully refuted that point of view.

This is ridiculous. I could care less about the term cult; you are the one who wants to inject it into the discussion. My view is that Mormonism is at serious variance with the orthodox Christian theology articulated, for example, in the early creeds and reaffirmed in the historic evangelical Protestant confessions. That is the substance of my view. You cannot plausibly disagree with the substance of this claim, since your religion officially agrees with it--while maintaining that "orthodox Christian theology" is actually apostate.

You wrote:

I view much of the work of the Maxwell Institute and FAIR as containing excellent factual evidence supporting Mormon claims and reject the context and interpretation of evidence you provide on your website contradicting our claims.

Naturally, but I respectfully disagree. How about we focus our discussion on these substantive issues and leave behind diversionary complaints about terminology that other people use and that I don't? If you're serious about thinking that the Maxwell Institute and FAIR provide "excellent factual evidence supporting Mormon claims," then perhaps you will be so kind as to engage the arguments in some of my articles that directly respond to various apologetic arguments of the Maxwell Institute and FAIR. Here are some examples:

Joseph Smith's Missouri Temple Prophecy. A lengthy paper that considers one by one all of the many explanations that LDS apologists have given for the apparent failure of Joseph's prophecy in D&C 84.

Did the Young Joseph Smith Study the Bible? Response to the popular LDS apologetic argument that Joseph was too ignorant of the Bible to have used it in the Book of Mormon.

Alleged Early References to the First Vision. Five articles examining the four alleged earliest (pre-1832) references to the First Vision. I wrote to FAIR and to Jeff Lindsay inviting them to respond to these articles and never heard back.

"Did Not Our Heart Burn within Us?" Luke 24:32 and the Mormon Testimony. The title is self-explanatory; the article engages the use of this verse as exemplified by official LDS publications, FAIR, and others.

Does Belief in a Closed Canon Elevate the Bible above God? How Mormon Apologists Misrepresent Floyd Filson. Response to John Tvedtnes, Dan Peterson, Jeff Lindsay, Kerry Shirts, and others on this point.

Amos 8:11-12 and the LDS Doctrines of Apostasy and Restoration. Title is self-explanatory.

A Tale of Two Scrolls: Jeremiah's Replacement Scroll and Mormon "Restoration" of Scripture. On Jeremiah 36 and Joseph Smith's handling of the problem of the lost 116 pages.

You wrote:

You do just the opposite, and your site also adds a healthy dose of well poisoning and ad hom attack to bolster the claims you make against us.

Interesting mixed metaphor. So far, the only "example" of such well-poisoning or ad hominem is the fact that we have a bibliography that lists books that classify the LDS religion as a "cult" in the theological sense. That's hardly a "healthy dose" of the alleged poison.

You wrote:

The nature of debate based on claimed factual evidence is simply that the person who can debate the best "wins". It's less about substance, because both sides either reject the evidence or the context / conclusions made from that evidence of the other as being invalid.

Just how would one go about making the discussion about "substance," other than addressing the evidence or arguments that the other side presents? Are you saying that it is impossible to have a reasoned discussion about the facts?

You wrote:

A perusal of your site readily (to me, at least) and clearly shows how flawed and narrow your methodology is in attacking the Church and its members. I don't have a problem reading it because I recognize that there is much evidence missing - and it is missing because it does not support the conclusions you want to draw.

I welcome specific examples of "evidence missing" that the articles I listed above fail to mention because they don't support my conclusions.

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5) I began to question the life and teachings of Jesus. How do we know Jesus wasn't just as bad as any modern cult leader? The Jesus of John's Gospel comes across as extremely narcissistic. Jesus did not return in "this generation" as he said he would.

Bowman has been asked to address this before.

His response, as far as I can tell, is;

. . .

Chirp chirp.

. . .

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I'm a quick read at 250-300 words a minute. It would take me 20 minutes just to read the article. Yet you digested it and formulated a thoughtful response within 13 minutes after I posted the link. Regurgitating the subject scriptures, and replying with its a big fail is impressive. You obviously didn't read the article as it does indeed address this. I'll move on to a more serious dialogue.

Sorry, but that article is a big FAIL. It isn't addressing the problem at all.

Matt 24:29

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I'm a quick read at 250-300 words a minute. It would take me 20 minutes just to read the article. Yet you digested it and formulated a thoughtful response within 13 minutes after I posted the link. Regurgitating the subject scriptures, and replying with its a big fail is impressive. You obviously didn't read the article as it does indeed address this. I'll move on to a more serious dialogue.

Well, since I KNEW that I was talking about verses found in Matt 24, and the article SPECIFICALLY is discussing Matt 23:29-39, it wasn't hard to scan the rest of the article looking for reference to Matt 24, which there were none.

So, tell me, did the article address the concerns expressed?

Answer: No.

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Vance,

The short answer is that Jesus did not predict that he would return in "this generation." He said that the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed in "this generation." "All these things" in Matthew 24:34 and Mark 13:30 refers to the events leading up to and including the destruction of the Jerusalem temple. The language in Matthew 24:29-30 and Mark 13:24-26 is apocalyptic imagery expressing the Son of Man's "coming" in cosmic judgment against Jerusalem, not a literal prediction of phenomena involving the sun, moon, and stars at his Second Coming (which remains future). Luke 21:20-24 makes it explicit that the destruction of the temple will mark, not the end of the age, but the beginning of an indefinitely long period called "the times of the Gentiles" during which Jerusalem was to be trampled under foot by Gentile powers.

For one of the best defenses of this interpretation, see the commentary on Matthew by R. T. France in the NICNT series. This interpretation is enjoying increased support among NT scholars (N. T. Wright is another notable example).

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Vance,

The short answer is that Jesus did not predict that he would return in "this generation." He said that the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed in "this generation." "All these things" in Matthew 24:34 and Mark 13:30 refers to the events leading up to and including the destruction of the Jerusalem temple. The language in Matthew 24:29-30 and Mark 13:24-26 is apocalyptic imagery expressing the Son of Man's "coming" in cosmic judgment against Jerusalem, not a literal prediction of phenomena involving the sun, moon, and stars at his Second Coming (which remains future). Luke 21:20-24 makes it explicit that the destruction of the temple will mark, not the end of the age, but the beginning of an indefinitely long period called "the times of the Gentiles" during which Jerusalem was to be trampled under foot by Gentile powers.

For one of the best defenses of this interpretation, see the commentary on Matthew by R. T. France in the NICNT series. This interpretation is enjoying increased support among NT scholars (N. T. Wright is another notable example).

So, those verses don't mean what they say? That is the defense?

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Well, since I KNEW that I was talking about verses found in Matt 24, and the article SPECIFICALLY is discussing Matt 23:29-39, it wasn't hard to scan the rest of the article looking for reference to Matt 24, which there were none.

You just confirmed that you didn't read it. The opening identifies Matt. 24 as the subject matter. It then deals with Matthew 23:29-39 to provide context to explain Matt 24, which is quoted, but not cited at the end.

I have no interest in discussing your take-aways from a quick glance. Take care.

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You just confirmed that you didn't read it. The opening identifies Matt. 24 as the subject matter. It then deals with Matthew 23:29-39 to provide context to explain Matt 24, which is quoted, but not cited at the end.

I have no interest in discussing your take-aways from a quick glance. Take care.

I saw that quote but I didn't recognize it as being Matt 24:34 because it was missing the important part.

You know the part that says "This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled."

Strange how the author would AVOID that part.

So, the claim is that "this generation shall not pass" doesn't apply to "And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory" because it is used elsewhere in reference to other predictions?

WOW!!! I am overwhelmed by such logic and reason.

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My view is that Mormonism is at serious variance with the orthodox Christian theology articulated, for example, in the early creeds and reaffirmed in the historic evangelical Protestant confessions. That is the substance of my view. You cannot plausibly disagree with the substance of this claim, since your religion officially agrees with it--while maintaining that "orthodox Christian theology" is actually apostate.

That is an entirely valid statement. Who would want to argue with that! :P

The catch is that we also believe that "orthodox Christian theology" is also "at serious variance" with the Bible; whereas Mormonism conforms to it.

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