Joseph Smith’s Confusion About Elijah and Elias

Joseph Smith is the founding prophet of Mormonism who claimed to receive new revelation from God in the form of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price. In the Doctrine and Covenants we read:

“After this, Elias appeared, and committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham, saying that in us and our seed all generations after us should be blessed. After this vision had closed, another great and glorious vision burst upon us; for Elijah the prophet, who was taken to heaven without tasting death, stood before us, and said: Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi—testifying that he [Elijah] should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (110:12-14).

Smith is visited by two different individuals in this encounter: Elias followed by Elijah. It was only after the first vision had closed that Elijah appeared before them. Elias and Elijah are presented as two different prophets each with a distinct name throughout the Doctrine and Covenants (27:6-9; 138:45-47). The identification of Elijah is easy. He is the Old Testament prophet who was “taken to heaven without tasting death” in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:11). But who is Elias? Where in the Old Testament does it ever talk about him? Mormons respond by saying that Elias is an unnamed prophet of the Old Testament who was a contemporary of Abraham or another Old Testament prophet under a different name.

To see where the name Elias actually comes from, all we have to do is open a King James Bible. The New Testament translation of the King James only uses the name Elias to refer to Elijah because it is a transliteration of the Greek word for Elijah which is ēlias. On the other hand, the Old Testament translation of the King James only uses Elijah to refer to him. The difference between the two is because each testament was done by a different translation committee and they did not thoroughly check with each other before publishing. But Smith thought that Elijah and Elias were actually two different prophets instead of grasping that Elias is simply the King James’ way of referring to Elijah in the New Testament!

So, which is more likely? Is it more likely that Elias is a different prophet from Elijah who is never mentioned in the Old Testament or that Joseph Smith was confused about the translation inconsistencies of the King James Bible? The King James Bible identifies Elias as Elijah rather than being a distinct prophet from him (Matt 17:10-13; Rom 11:2-4; Jas 5:17). That Smith thought Elijah and Elias were two different prophets is a sad illustration that proves he is not a true prophet of God.


Sunday Meditation – The Blood of Christ

“He offered himself not just to make atonement, but also to sanctify us by the sprinkling of his blood. It is by faith we receive the purifying virtue and influences of the blood of Christ. Faith is the grace whereby we constantly cleave unto him. If the woman who touched his garment in faith obtained virtue from him to heal her issue of blood, shall not those who cleave unto him to heal her issue of blood, shall not those who cleave unto him continually derive virtue from him for the healing of their ongoing spiritual defilements? By faith the lusts and corruptions which might defile us are mortified, subdued, and gradually worked out of our minds. All actual defilements spring from the remainder of defiling lusts working in us. Faith seeks to subdue these by obtaining fresh supplies of the Spirit and grace from Jesus Christ. Faith considers two motives to stir up our utmost diligence to prevent the defilements of sin. First, it seeks to participate in the excellent promises of God. Considering these brings a strong encouragement to the souls of believers to seek after universal purity and holiness (2 Cor. 7:1). Secondly, faith considers the future enjoyments of God in glory, which cannot be ours without our being purified from sin (Heb. 12:14).”

John Owen

Pope Francis on Cohabitation

Pope Francis caused quite a bit of controversy when he gave approval to some cohabitating relationships while saying that many Catholic marriages were invalid. In this article, I would like to explore why he believes these cohabitations are real marriages and the implications of this for papal infallibility. Francis said concerning these cohabitating relationships, “I’ve seen a lot of fidelity in these cohabitations, and I am sure that this is a real marriage, they have the grace of a real marriage because of their fidelity.” In other words, these are real marriages because they are committed to each other even though they have never entered into a covenant relationship or exchanged vows in a marriage ceremony. This is also how he could say that many Catholic marriages are invalid because the relationship has been broken by infidelity.

For Francis, it is fidelity that defines what a marriage is rather than entering into a covenant relationship. But what does the Bible say? Scripture defines marriage as a covenant relationship between one man and one woman: “But you say, ‘Why does he not?’ Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant” (Mal 2:14). She is your wife “by covenant,” not by fidelity alone. In saying that these are real marriages because of their fidelity while saying that marriages marked by infidelity are not real marriages, Francis is going against the historic Catholic teaching on marriage. If Francis is wrong on this, then he is giving approval to the fornication that takes place in these relationships.

So, how is this not a violation of papal infallibility? According to Pastor aeternus, a statement from the pope is only infallible if it fulfills three qualifications: the pope is speaking as the pope rather than giving his personal opinion, it is a matter of faith or morals, and he is defining doctrine to be believed on by the whole church. In these words, he was speaking as the pope and marriage is a matter of morality. But he did not use the technical language of “we define,” “we pronounce,” or “we declare.” But how do Catholics know for certain whether or not a pope is defining doctrine for the church? Is there an infallible list of infallible pronouncements from the pope? And how would you go about proving that this list is itself infallible? Catholics disagree on which statements from the pope are infallible and which are not. And how do we know that we are interpreting these papal documents accurately? Catholics disagree all the time on how canon law should be interpreted.

By embracing papal infallibility to gain epistemological certainty when it comes to what we are to believe and how we are to live, Catholics have just moved the problem one step back. The initial decision to embrace claims to infallibility is not itself infallible. Now instead of debating the meaning of the Bible, we are now debating both the meaning of the Bible and every papal document throughout history. Except with the Bible, we know that everything it says is infallible while not everything the pope says is infallible. This is especially apparent when it comes to the question of “No Salvation Outside the Church.” If what one pope taught as true can be overturned by another later on, does that not undermine the claim to epistemological certainty and overthrow the entire point of papal infallibility in the first place? I urge Catholics to cut out the middleman and embrace the sufficiency of Scripture.

Sunday Meditation – The Inward Frame

“A hypocrite makes no conscience of his thoughts, affections, desires, and lusts. He is not concerned about small oaths, or about rotten speech. What belongs to the new creation he does not care about. A true saint is altered in the inward frame of his soul. There is planted a spring of better thoughts, desires, and aims than in other men. He labours more for the inward frame of heart than for his outward carriage. What he is ashamed to do, he is also ashamed to think. Whatever he desires, he desires to do it with love in his heart. He labours that all good may be truly found in the inward man. A hypocrite never cares for this. His care is for the outward parts only. If his outward behavior is acceptable to others, he has his desire. He lives to the view, to the appearance only.”

Richard Sibbes

A Critique of Moses Stuart’s Incarnational Sonship

Incarnational sonship is the belief that the Son has not eternally existed as the Son, but instead eternally existed as the Logos and only became the Son after the incarnation. His sonship is tied to his incarnation rather than being an eternally existing reality. In this respect, both modalism and incarnational sonship are in agreement that the Son has not existed eternally as the Son. The main argument for this point of view is that Jesus is referred to as the Logos or Word in John 1:1 before the incarnation, but then only referred to as the Son after his incarnation. But this argument is problematic, not only because it is an argument from silence, but also because Jesus is referred to as the Logos after his incarnation in Revelation 19:13: “And the name by which he is called is The Word of God.”

Moses Stuart defended this position in his letters on the eternal generation of the Son in reply to William Miller. While I am in general agreement with Stuart’s historical analysis of eternal generation and Logos Christology, together with that of William Goode, his handling of Scripture when it comes to the eternal sonship of Christ is extremely poor. I will begin first by defending the doctrine of the eternal sonship of Christ from Scripture and then interact with his exegesis or lack thereof.

That the Son existed as the Son before the incarnation is proved by the Father sending his Son into the world:

John 3:17: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

1 John 4:9: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.”

Romans 8:3: “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.”

Galatians 4:4: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law.”

God sent his Son into the world. That means he existed as the Son before he was sent. He did not become the Son because of the sending or after the sending. The sending of the Son takes place before and results in being born of a woman. This is further illustrated in the parable of Luke 20:13: “Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’” As the son of the vineyard owner did not become his son by the sending, so likewise, the Son did not become the Son by his sending.

The book of Hebrews teaches that all things were created by the Son: “But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world” (Heb 1:2). The Father created all things through his Son. But how could God create all things through his Son if the Son did not exist as the Son before the incarnation? Melchizedek has no beginning of days in the book of Genesis analogous to how the Son of God has no beginning of days: “He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever” (Heb 7:3). But if the Son began to exist as the Son of God, would he not then have a beginning of days?

It was Jesus, not merely the Logos, who was pre-existent and delivered Israel out of Egypt: “Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe” (Jude 1:5). It was Christ who was put to the test in Numbers 21 (1 Cor 10:9). The Logos did not become Jesus Christ at his birth, but has eternally existed as Jesus which literally means “God saves.” Proverbs 30:4 teaches that God had a Son before the incarnation: “Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son’s name? Surely you know!” Before the foundation of the world, God chose us in Christ (Eph 1:3-4; 2 Tim 1:9). The Father chose the Messiah before the foundation of the world (1 Pet 1:19-20). Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Tim 1:15).

If the Son has not eternally existed as the Son, then the Father has not eternally existed as the Father. As Tertullian explains:

“A father must needs have a son, in order to be a father; so likewise a son, to be a son, must have a father. It is, however, one thing to have, and another thing to be. For instance, in order to be a husband, I must have a wife; I can never myself be my own wife. In like manner, in order to be a father, I have a son, for I never can be a son to myself; and in order to be a son, I have a father, it being impossible for me ever to be my own father” (Against Praxeas 10).

This is the doctrine of co-relatedness in the Trinity. The three persons of the Trinity are distinguished by their relationship to one another. The Father is the Father precisely because he exists in relationship to the Son and the Son is the Son because he exists in relationship to the Father. One could not exist without the other. That means if it can be proven that the Father existed as the Father before the incarnation, then the Son existed as the Son before the incarnation as well.

The Father gave to his Son a people before the foundation of the world since the giving precedes the coming and many came to Christ before the incarnation (John 6:37-39). The Father has been working from the beginning of creation (John 5:17). The Father consecrated the Son before the incarnation (John 10:36). The Father has determined the future (Acts 1:7). The Father loved the Son before the foundation of the world (John 17:5, 24). The Father created all things (1 Cor 8:6). The Father chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:3-4). The Son was with the Father in the beginning (compare 1 John 1:2 with John 1:1). The Father sent the Son into the world (John 5:36-37; 6:44, 57; 8:16, 18, 42; 12:49; 14:24; 16:28; 17:21, 25; 20:21; 1 John 4:14).

Now let us evaluate the argumentation of Stuart. Concerning Psalm 2:7, Stuart says:

“But if he had been Son from eternity, could it be prophesied that he was yet to be a Son, and to be begotten at a future period?” (122).

But this argument proves too much. If this verse is speaking of the beginning of his sonship, then his sonship did not begin until the time of his resurrection and exaltation since that is how the authors of the New Testament interpret the fulfillment of this prophecy (Acts 13:33; Heb 1:4-5; 5:4-5). But Stuart does not believe that the sonship of Christ began at his resurrection or exaltation, but at his birth. The fulfillment of Psalm 2:7 in the exaltation of Christ is the declaration and proof of his sonship, not the beginning of it. That is why Paul says that he “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Rom 1:4). But he did not become the Son of God by his resurrection, but his resurrection proved him to be who he claimed to be. The gospels are filled with references to Jesus as the Son of God before his resurrection.

Stuart draws a sharp distinction between the Messiah and the Logos when he asks:

“Who then made expiation by suffering for our sins? Surely the Messiah, not the eternal Logos” (134).

But this position is actually the old error of Nestorianism. The answer to the question is both-and, not either-or. The one who made expiation for our sins is both the Messiah and the eternal Logos in one person. If it was not the eternal Logos who suffered for us, then we could not be saved since only a sacrifice of infinite worth could save us from God’s infinite wrath for our sins. His blood is the blood of God (Acts 20:28).

When it comes to Hebrews 1:2 which speaks of the creation of all things through the Son, Stuart argues that the verse should instead be translated as “for whom” rather than “through whom” (135). It is true that the preposition dia can sometimes be translated as “for.” But the problem with this argument is that dia is being used in a genitive construction rather than an accusative one. This is because the relative pronoun hou “whom” which comes after dia is in the genitive case. When dia is used genitivally, it means “through” or “by” rather than “on account of” or “for.” If dia hou means “for whom” rather than “through whom,” then Hebrews 2:10 makes no sense because it uses both the accusative construction dia hon and the genitive dia hou: “For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist.” If dia hou in Hebrews mean “for whom,” then we would need to translate the verse as, “For it was fitting that he, for whom and for whom all things exist” which would be a tautology. Because dia hou in Hebrews 2:10 means “by whom,” it should be translated the same way in Hebrews 1:2. The construction dia hou in the New Testament always carries with it the idea of instrumentality.

But what about all those verses which speak of the sending of the Son into the world? Stuart responds to this argument by saying:

“The Son’s coming into the world, and being sent into the world, relates to his public and prophetic office, and not to his birth” (144).

He argues that John 3:17 is not referring to the incarnation of Christ, but to his “entering upon the duties of” his office as prophet of God as John the Baptist was sent by God in John 1:6: “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John” (143). His argument is that if John 3:17 teaches that the Son is pre-existent, then it would have to follow that John the Baptist was likewise pre-existent because he was sent by God as well. The first thing that should be noted about this line of reasoning is that it is an incredibly dangerous argument to make. This is the exact same argument that is used by adoptionists to argue against the pre-existence of Christ. While Stuart affirms the deity and pre-existence of the Logos, unitarians use the exact same kind of arguments in a more consistent fashion. But there is a key difference between John 1:6 and 3:17 that Stuart does not take into account: the sending of the Son is “into the world” whereas the sending of John is never spoken of in these terms. The same language is used elsewhere in John to describe the incarnation of Christ which is contrasted with him leaving the world: “I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father” (John 16:28). Jesus came from God and would return to God (John 13:3). His coming into the world is parallel to his being born into it: “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world” (John 18:37). Entering into the world is often used to describe birth (John 1:9; 16:21; 1 Tim 6:7). His interpretation of the sending of the Son into the world in John is a novel and forced reading of the text that is not followed by any Johannine scholar that I know of.

Stuart argues that the language of Jesus as God’s Son is only with respect to his human nature as a man because he believes that sonship implies subordination. Therefore, the language of sonship can only be applied to the man Jesus Christ and not to his existence as God. He argues that if Jesus has existed eternally as God’s Son, then he would be eternally subordinate to the Father. But John 5:18 affirms that Jesus as the Son of the Father is equal to him, not subordinate: “But he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” But Stuart interprets this verse as the Jews’ misunderstanding of Jesus rather than an affirmation of equality with the Father (145-146).

But if Jesus as God’s Son only applies to his human nature, then the response Jesus gives in verses 19-23 would not answer the accusation raised against him that he was setting himself up as a rival god to the Father. Jesus does not invoke his humanity as the reason why he is God’s Son, nor does he deny that he is equal with the Father. Rather, he clarifies what it means for him to be God’s Son and explains how his equality with the Father does not create a multiplicity of gods because his will is the same as that of the Father. If John 5:18 is not an affirmation of Jesus’ equality with God, then neither is John 10:33 since these verses are directly parallel to each other: “Because you, being a man, make yourself God.” If these verses represent the Jews’ misinterpretation of Jesus, then they prove too much since John affirms that Jesus is God (John 1:1-3, 18; 5:23; 8:58; 10:30; 12:37-42; 17:5; 20:28). If Jesus is God, how could he not be equal with the Father in nature since there are no gradations in deity?

In attempting to correct the speculative tendencies of some in the early church, Stuart fell off the other side of the horse. It does not logically follow that because Christ is the eternal Son of God that Origen’s concept of eternal generation is true. It was Stuart’s inability to distinguish between eternal generation and eternal sonship that led him to mishandle those verses which affirm the eternal sonship of Christ.

Sunday Meditation – Be Still in Affliction

“No man can tell how the heart of God stands by his hand. God’s hand of mercy may be open to those against whom his heart is set as you see in the rich poor fool, and Dives, in the Gospel. And his hand of severity may lie hard upon those on whom he has set his heart as you may see in Job and Lazarus. And thus you see those gracious, blessed, soul-quieting conclusions about afflictions, that a holy, a prudent silence does include. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.”

“There was a good woman, who, when she was sick, being asked whether she were willing to live or die, answered, ‘Whichever God pleases.’ But, said one that stood by, ‘If God would refer it to you, which would you choose?’ ‘Truly,’ said she, ‘if God would refer it to me, I would even refer it right back to him again.’ This was a soul worth gold.”

Thomas Brooks

Chicken and Egg Problems for Evolutionists

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? This question is known as a causality dilemma which illustrates the impossibility of biological evolution. But this is not the only causality dilemma which exists for the theory of evolution. Here are some others:

Did DNA which produces proteins come first or did proteins come first which are necessary for life?

Did proteins come first or did ribosomes come first which produce proteins and are themselves made up of proteins?

Did DNA come first or did cell membranes come first which are necessary for cellular life?

Did DNA come first or did DNA replication, synthesis, and transcription come first which are necessary for life?

Did DNA come first or did DNA’s ability to repair itself come first?

Did the cell come first or did the nucleus and DNA come first?

Did left-handed amino acids in proteins come first or did right-handed nucleotides in DNA come first?

Did the immune system come first or did life in a world of bacteria and viruses come first?

Did male sexual reproduction come first or did female sexual reproduction come first?

Did blood come first or did blood clotting come first which is necessary for survival?

Did the E. coli bacteria come first or did the bacterial flagellum come first which is irreducibly complex?

Did animals come first or did the eye come first?

Did butterflies come first or did caterpillars and metamorphosis come first which results in butterflies who alone are able to sexually reproduce unlike caterpillars?

Did bees come first or did royal jelly proteins come first which are necessary to make queen bees?

Because both of these could not exist without the other, both of them had to come into existence at roughly the same time. But this requires a creator and atheists do not want to accept the consequences of belief in a personal God. Hence, in an atheist worldview, we are reduced to absurdity and end up fighting against science itself.