Dialogue with a Mormon


FILE: Huber / DATE: Nov 1997 - Jan 1998 / CONFERENCE: FidoNet RCatholic

CONTENTS: A series of posts between Phil P. and Tom Huber (his words are TH>) who was the moderator of the FidoNet Mormon conference -- we discuss the Mormon concept of God(s), the nature of the true Church, apostles and prophets, and whether there was a "complete apostasy" from the original teachings of Christ and His apostles as the Mormon church alleges. The definitive work on Mormonism from a Catholic perspective is available from Catholic Answers, written by Isaiah Bennett, a former priest who converted to the Mormon church and then returned to the Catholic faith after careful study of the doctrines and beliefs of Mormonism. The 500 plus page book is titled Inside Mormonism: What Mormons Really Believe by Isaiah Bennett (Catholic Answers, 1999).

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Date: 11-30-97 / From: PHIL P. / To: TOM HUBER / Subj: The Mormon Apostasy

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THE MAIN ISSUE: The So-Called "Apostasy" of the Catholic Church

PP> Hey Tom, you wrote a mouthful! I'll be getting back with you in the year 2022 when I get through answering all your questions!

TH> You raised a lot of issues that brought to mind questions...

I will respond to this latest one and work back to answer your previous questions.

I have tried to edit our messages, otherwise they get way too long.

PP> What you need is a paperback copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and take time reading that so you can ask better questions.

TH> I've got one and have perused it. It was the one item that I felt would be most reliable in terms of Catholic dogma, and carrying the "official" copyright and notices suggest that it represents the official thinking on any matter contained therein. The edition I have is the Doubleday Image paperback edition of 1995.

All right. Then go back and read what the Catechism says on divine revelation, on the Papacy and the Magisterium, on Baptism, on the Eucharist and the Sacraments, on the Communion of Saints, etc. These are just some of the issues you have questions about. Please slow down, stop asking so many questions, and read a little more of the Catechism.

Once you have done some study, what I am here to do is answer further questions and provide even more evidence for specific Catholic beliefs from Scripture and the Church Fathers. There is some evidence given in the Catechism as well but that is not its purpose. Its purpose is to teach and explain the Catholic faith in clear language.

I am fully prepared to back up the Catholic (and Orthodox) beliefs that I have listed before with Scripture and most especially the unanimous traditional teaching of the Church. This is what I was primarily calling your attention to: the UNANIMOUS teaching of the first 700 years of Catholic Christianity which refutes the idea that there was any "apostasy" from the teachings of Christ and His Apostles.

Perhaps later we can debate the following (or similar) proposition:

RESOLVED: "The original Church of Christ fell into complete apostasy."

Tom Huber: Yes. P: No.

But I believe we need to deal with one issue at a time, otherwise we are going to get nowhere fast! The main issue it seems between the LDS and Catholics is the issue of the "apostasy" of the early Church, and not specifically such doctrines as infant Baptism, Eucharist, Communion of Saints, the Papacy, etc. While these are important differences between the LDS and Catholics, the main issue it seems to me is the question whether or not there was an immediate "apostasy" from the original Church Christ established. For if there really WERE an "apostasy" in the early Church, then indeed the LDS would be correct that a "restoration" would be necessary and I would need to consider whether Joe Smith and Brigham Young were right! Hee, hee.

TH> What was and is taught is that the Church left the Priesthood and the evidence is right in front of your eyes in your own words. Where are your living prophets, your living apostles? Where is the link with Jesus Christ, on which the Church is built?

TH> President Young, in addressing this issue, said this: "It is said the Priesthood was taken from the Church, but it is not so, the Church went from the Priesthood and continued to travel in the wilderness, turned from the commandments of the Lord, and *instituted other* ordinances (see Galatians 1:6-8; 2 Timothy 1:15; 3 John 1:9-10). These references in the Bible happened during the time of the Apostles, so the Church and those in the Church was already in the process of moving away from the central authority. Paul addressed the Galatians directly, while the epistle to Timothy and John's show that this Apostasy had already started.

I suggest this as the "main issue" since most Protestants agree with us Catholics that there was NO "APOSTASY" of the early Church and indeed at least the first couple of centuries of Christianity preserved the main truths of the Christian faith, as taught by Jesus and His Apostles, and elaborated, clarified and defined in the early Councils and Creeds (such as the Trinity and the nature of God). It is my understanding that the Mormon Church (LDS) denies this so here is where I want to concentrate our debate: (we can debate this formally later if you like)

WHAT IS THE EVIDENCE FOR THE IMMEDIATE APOSTASY OF THE ORIGINAL CHURCH?

Do not answer until you have finished reading the rest of my messages.

THE MORMON CONCEPT OF GOD: How many gods do you have?

Tom, the following might get you angry but I wanted to get this issue on the table for some later discussion. No, I do not believe the Christian (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant) God and the Mormon (LDS) concept of God are the same. So now I am putting you on the defensive concerning the Mormon (LDS) concept of God. You have somewhat put me on the defensive and I will be answering your previous questions and challenges (which were quite numerous) in the following posts.

TH> I have found many interesting things in that work, some of which argue against some of the Catholic dogma expressed in this forum. For instance, para 2789 is found in the middle of the discussion on prayer and specifically in the discussion of "our" Father.

TH> In that paragraph, it makes mention that prayers to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ does "not divide the Godhead, since the Father is its 'source and origin,' ..."

TH> This is literally the LDS teaching on the place of the Father in the Godhead, and yet we find the argument that our (LDS vs Catholic) teachings are distinctly different in every respect.

It is my understanding that Mormons officially teach that by "source and origin" you mean Jesus Christ was CREATED by the Father, they are two separate beings or two Gods, the Father is a resurrected glorified exalted MAN who also had a Father, who had a Father, ad infinitum, although God's "essence" has existed (along with the entire physical universe) from eternity. Evangelical Protestant writer and anti-Mormon critic Francis Beckwith has a whole scholarly book on the subject which discusses the Mormon belief in the "eternity" of the physical universe and the "eternity" of God or gods as a progression of physical being or beings. IOW, according to classic Mormon theology, yes, LDS believe "God" is eternal and "origin and source," since God the Father had a God, who also had a God, who also had a God, ad infinitum.

"God" has always existed since his physical universe has always existed. But "God the Father" is a physical being with "glorified" flesh and bones: an "exalted man" just as we all hope to become Gods ourselves.

"God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man...." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, page 345, all citations from Walter Martin Kingdom of the Cults page 202ff)

"The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man's: the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit..." (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22)

"Each of these Gods, including Jesus Christ and His Father, being in possession of not merely an organized spirit, but a glorious immortal body of flesh and bones..." (Mormon theologian Parley P. Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology, 1965 edition, page 44)

"Remember that God, our heavenly Father, was perhaps once a child, and mortal like we ourselves, and rose step by step in the scale of progress, in the school of advancement; has moved forward and overcome, until He has arrived at the point where He now is" (Apostle Orson Hyde, Journal of Discourses, Volume 1, page 123)

"Mormon prophets have continously taught the sublime truth that God the Eternal Father was once a mortal man who passed through a school of earth life similar to that through which we are now passing. He became God -- an exalted being -- through obedience to the same eternal Gospel truths that we are given opportunity to obey" (from Milton R. Hunter The Gospel Through the Ages, page 104)

The following excerpts are from a sermon of Joseph Smith himself, printed in the Mormon newspaper "Times and Seasons" (August 15, 1844, pages 613-614) and published four months after Smith delivered it at the funeral of Elder King Follet and only two months after Smith's assassination in Carthage, Illinois. The sermon reads as follows:

"I want you all to know God, to be familiar with him...What sort of a being was God in the beginning?

"First, God himself, who sits enthroned in yonder heavens, is a man like unto one of yourselves...if you were to see him today, you would see him in all the person, image and very form as a man....

"I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined that God was God from all eternity. These are incomprehensible ideas to some, but they are the simple and first principles of the gospel, to know for a certainty the character of God, that we may converse with him as one man with another, and that God himself; the Father of us all dwelt on an earth the same as Jesus Christ himself did....

"Here then is eternal life, to know the only wise and true God. You have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves; to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done; by going from a small degree to another, from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you are able to sit in glory as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power...." (Prophet Joseph Smith, from Martin, page 204)

"AS MAN NOW IS, GOD ONCE WAS; AS GOD NOW IS, MAN MAY BECOME."

This last quote is attributed to Lorenzo Snow, one of the early Mormon prophets. Admittedly, all of these quotes are from secondary sources. This is why I asked you for a single resource of Mormon theology since I have heard and read many things, mainly from anti-Mormon sources. I do have Mormons on tape defending and explaining their own beliefs.

I am sorry, Tom, but the above is not Christian theology on the nature of God, neither Catholic, nor Orthodox, nor Protestant. On the teaching that God the Father is "source and origin" of all things, we believe God is the Creator and has created the universe -ex nihilo- (out of nothing) and the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are "consubstantial" from eternity.

The LDS belief on the Godhead is not what Catholic theologians mean, neither in the Creeds nor presently. Please read the rest of para 2789

"....but rather confess that the Son is eternally begotten by him and the Holy Spirit proceeds from him....The Holy Trinity is CONSUBSTANTIAL and indivisible. When we pray to the Father, we adore and glorify him together with the Son and the Holy Spirit."

Consubstantial means the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (the Trinity) are eternally ONE in SUBSTANCE, nature or essence. Three Persons, One God. For a detailed discussion of the Holy Trinity, see paragraphs 232-267. The Trinity is not the subject I want to discuss right now, but rather the main issue of the complete "apostasy" of the original Church.

PP> Many of your questions are muddled and show a lack of understanding of Catholic theology, but that is okay! I don't quite understand Mormon (LDS) teaching so we are on common ground. Hee, hee.

TH> Which is why maybe it is proper for me, rather than non-members, to represent what we teach and believe. The common ground is natural, since in many instances we use distinctly different terms, and the term that I may use may seem foreign to you in the way I use it. While "words do have meanings" they don't have the same meaning for all people. Thus, when you make any statement, I have to look at it and see if I *think* I understand what you are saying. Only after I am sure that I know what you are saying, can I begin to see if there really is a difference.

All I can say to the above is: READ THE CATECHISM CAREFULLY.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church spells out the beliefs of Catholics in clear language. The Catechism is what the Church teaches officially. I have asked for a single source for Mormon (LDS) theology and you have said there is none. If there is no source, how do you know what you believe and how can I find out what you believe? I mean, besides simply asking you what you believe, I want to know if there is a source I can rely upon to teach accurately (and clearly) the Mormon faith.

THE UNANIMOUS TEACHING OF THE EARLY CHURCH : Were the Fathers Deluded?

PP> As for my statement that if Joseph Smith were correct then the Church Fathers were deluded, I base this on the following observations -- The Church Fathers (let's say the first 700 years of early Christianity) believed almost unanimously in these Catholic (and Orthodox) items --

TH> Hardly. The New Testament showed a number of decisive factors in the Church. Paul even went so far as to declare that he was glad he didn't baptize some of them... He was disgusted with what they were saying and doing and wanted no part of them. A later epistle showed some improvement, though the second letter to the same group (the Corinthians) still indicates that Paul was calling them back to the faith from which they'd wandered.

TH> This indicates that even during the time of Paul, there were those that were drifting into heresy.

You totally missed the point of my statements. This has nothing to do with the thrust of my argument. I never claimed that heretics did not exist. I never claimed that nobody "wandered from the faith."

If you read any Church history at all, you will find that was indeed WHY the Councils were called, and the Creeds were written, to deal with heresy and those who wandered from the true faith. But the true faith WAS indeed preserved and ALWAYS has been preserved and this is proven by the consistency and unanimity in the early Church. There was not nor can there be a complete "apostasy" from the true faith of Christ.

What I am claiming (and am prepared now to give you some evidence) is that the first 700 years of Christianity shows a consistency of doctrine and practice in the items I have listed that are believed today by both Catholics and Orthodox. We'll begin with the first item: Baptism.

Remember: I am not asking what YOU think the Bible teaches but what indeed the Church taught for the first 700 years of Christianity.

PP> (1) infant Baptism and the regenerative powers of the Sacrament (in other words, we are "born again" at Baptism: John 3:3,5)

TH> Infant Baptism is not found in the Bible. This appears to be a new doctrine established as part of the trend of the Church away from God (presuming, of course, that one feels the Bible is complete unto itself).

TH> Going a bit further on just this one point of demarcation of Catholicism away from the Bible (which we will assume for a moment, establishes all points of doctrine)

Tom, this has nothing to do with my statement that the first 700 years of Christianity taught infant Baptism and that we are "born again" at Baptism. What you are giving me is the standard Baptist rap that "infant Baptism is not found in the Bible." If you are talking the New Testament, then whole households were baptised and this would include children if any were present. If you talking the Old Testament, there is the parallel between circumcision (which was given to infants) and the "circumcision of Christ" (which is Baptism, see Col 2:11-13) which parallel even most Protestants accept. The idea of "believer baptism only" is a recent product of Baptist (and Anabaptist) tradition.

I am not arguing for Sola Scriptura here (I may have confused you with my challenge to others) and the Catholic Church has never taught or believed the Bible is the sole infallible authority for doctrine.

Again, what I am arguing is the Church Fathers were indeed consistent and UNANIMOUS on the nature of the Sacrament, that it was regenerative and should be given to infants. This DISPROVES the notion that there was any "apostasy" from the true teachings of Christ and His Apostles.

Either that or the Fathers "all got it wrong." I say that is nonsense.

TH> In another place you or another explained (suggested) that the nature of regeneration (i.e., regenerative powers) has to do with the resurrection, perfecting the person.

That was Michael Brazier (I believe) and he may not have been clear. What is meant is that we are not completely sanctified (made holy) until after death since most of us die with some attachments to sin. To enter heaven one must be perfect (Matt 5:48; 1 Thess 5:23; Heb 12:14; Eph 5:27; Rev 21:27; etc) so complete sanctification is necessary.

Regeneration (being "born again" which is distinct from sanctification) occurs at Baptism and the Church Fathers were UNANIMOUS that John 3:3,5 (cf. Titus 3:5; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom 6:3ff; Gal 3:27; 1 Pet 3:21; etc) indeed referred to the Sacrament. There are no exceptions. I will give you the evidence in a 5-part post which I have u/l before.

Also, regeneration does not refer to the resurrection, that would be "glorification" which would include the body (Phil 3:21; 1 Cor 15:40ff).

TH> The nature of being "born again" has more to do with a person's attitude than with any outward sign (such as water baptism). It implies a total state of repentance in which the sinner forever turns their back on the sin from which they are repenting. Their very nature is changed in their heart.

TH> Thus, baptism, as a sacrament, has no outward evidence that it is regenerative at the time it is received. All evidence suggests that it is merely the beginning of a long journey that will eventually lead to (total) salvation that includes both faith and works.

TH> Needless to say, I do not find Biblical evidence of the Catholic (as you have represented it) belief in the regenerative nature of the sacrament of baptism. But I find plenty of evidence that it is not only necessary, but a first step among many.

Much of this I can agree with: that repentance and Baptism are necessary and a first step in the path to total salvation (Phil 2:12f). Agreed.

But you misunderstood the thrust of my statements. The question is not whether you find Biblical evidence for something, but what was the teaching of the first 700 years of Christianity. This teaching can be objectively checked. We still have the documents of those Fathers.

I have claimed it was consistent and unanimous and this DISPROVES that there was any apostasy from the teaching of Christ, the Apostles, and the original Church -- called the "Catholic Church" from 110 AD forward.

We do not deny the importance of repentance in the Catholic Church and in fact have a whole Sacrament for that purpose (called Confession or the Sacrament of Penance/Reconciliation: 1 John 1:7ff; John 20:21ff).

But the idea that "born again" refers to a "person's attitude" is a novelty in Church history. Nobody believed that for 1,500 years until the later Anabaptists, Baptists, and Puritans and those who denied any sacramental efficacy in Baptism. Joseph Smith and the Mormon Church picked up on that tradition. Are you going to claim they got the belief as a direct revelation from God? If so, that is simply a claim with absolutely no evidence to support that claim. Catholics have evidence to support their claims -- see the following posts for some of that.

The rest of your comments and previous messages would take me centuries to answer. Much is ground that has been covered before dozens of times by myself and others. For now I will upload my famous 12-part "Catholic Bashing" series that dates back to August 1995 in Open_Bible.

I would like to debate one main issue with you:

WHAT IS THE EVIDENCE FOR THE IMMEDIATE APOSTASY OF THE ORIGINAL CHURCH?

Do the early Church Fathers give any evidence for such an apostasy?

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Date: 12-07-97 / From: PHIL P. / To: TOM HUBER / Subj: Mormon Questions

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MORMONS (LDS) AND CATHOLICS IN DIALOGUE : Volume 50

PUBLIC REVELATION: Is it Continuing? Where are your Prophets today?

TH> What was and is taught is that the Church left the Priesthood and the evidence is right in front of your eyes in your own words. Where are your living prophets, your living apostles? Where is the link with Jesus Christ, on which the Church is built? .....

TH> For me, the lack of a living prophet was a major problem in the churches I knew about as an adolescent. It was one of the very earliest things in the LDS religion that attracted my attention.

TH> The Heavens are *not* closed and God is not dead or journeying to some far distant place.

Tom, I said I would respond to your previous questions so here are some of my answers. We need to start defining our terms, otherwise there will be some confusion. Hope you received "The Mormon Apostasy" parts 1-5 which dealt initially with the Mormon concept of "apostasy," the Mormon concept of "God" (what I have gathered from secondary sources), and how Catholics teach when a person is "born again" (at Baptism).

I am still interested in a formal debate on the so-called "apostasy" of the early Church and what is the evidence for that. I will let you set out the case for the Mormon (LDS) belief in this "apostasy" and have you defend this from the Bible and the early Church. We can use the previous format I mentioned with opening statements (3 posts, 100 lines each), rebuttal to opening (2 posts), response to rebuttal (2 posts), cross-examination (5 questions each and answers), etc. Let me know.

Hope you take time also to read my "Catholic Bashing" series, 1-12.

PP> I call them private revelation since (according to Catholic definition) all "public revelation" ceased with the death of the last Apostle.

TH> So they are not "private" in the sense of being of a private and personal nature. Is it a rejection of anything that does not have a _C_atholic source?

This is a confused question. You need to start reading the Catechism and formulate your questions based on that source. No, we do not reject anything that is non-Catholic just because it is a non-Catholic source.

See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 50-73 for more.

PP> The only public revelation (binding on the whole Church) is that revealed by Jesus Christ and His Apostles, whether oral or written.

TH> Interesting. So if you accepted the idea and concept that the heavens are closed and God has gone off somewhere else -- and as ludicrous as *that* sounds, it almost appears that you are saying that God cannot or will not, as if we could dictate to God would he would/could or would/could not do, provide further revelation -- then He would/will not reveal anything else, because there is no more revelation. The scriptures are not so closed, are they? If so, how and where does it say that this is the case?

Public revelation ceased with the death of the original Apostles.

All Catholics, all Orthodox, and all Protestants have believed this for the 2000-year history of the Church. Yes, it is implied in the Bible (Jude 3 comes to mind) but especially taught by the early Fathers.

While there is some evidence for a belief in "prophetic utterances" in St. Ignatius of Antioch (for example), there is no evidence that these "private revelations" were binding on the whole Church of Christ.

The "sacred Deposit of faith" (1 Tim 6:20f; 2 Tim 1:13f; 2:2; Jude 3; 1 Thess 2:13; 2 Thess 2:15; 1 Peter 1:25; etc) is what is to be taught, guarded and proclaimed by the Apostles and passed on to their successors the Bishops. That is what is binding on the whole Church -- which is exactly what the evidence shows us, not only from Scripture but from the testimony of the early Fathers (St. Ignatius, St. Irenaeus, etc).

The dispute between Catholics and Protestants is not whether there is any continuing revelations from Prophets, but whether the Bible alone is the only source of public revelation and sole infallible authority.

APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION vs. CONTINUING REVELATION THROUGH A PROPHET

PP> (3) the Church as a visible institution with the three-fold ministry of Bishop, Priest, and Deacon

TH> Totally non-Biblical. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians instructs that all parts of the body are necessary and that one part cannot say to the other that it has no need. He goes on, in his pleas for unity, to say that the church is built on a foundation... a foundation of prophets and apostles, with Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone. In another passage, he speaks that all the offices in which men serve, are given until ("till") there is a unity of the faith.

TH> I have to wonder if the Ephesians were not the forerunners to the Catholic dogma expressed here, and thus, Paul wrote to them, correcting them on their misunderstanding... If so, Paul's instructions were ignored.

As to the Mormon (LDS) belief, there is no evidence for a continuing "office" of "Prophet" in the early Church (neither in the Bible nor in the early Fathers). Notice the texts you mention speak of "apostles" and "prophetS" (plural, Eph 2:20; 3:5; 4:11) as a "FOUNDATION" not a single Prophet or a succession of Prophets who are Presidents of the Church as Seer and Revelator (which is the LDS belief), while St. Paul's pastoral epistles to Timothy and Titus speak of Bishops (or Elders) and Deacons as the true offices that are continuing in the Church as rulers to safeguard the original Apostolic doctrine (1 Tim 1:3ff; 3:1ff; 4:6,11ff; 5:17; 2 Tim 1:13f; 2:2; 4:2ff; Titus 1:3-9; 2:1,15; 3:1ff).

The "foundation" was laid by the Apostles (Eph 2:19ff; Matt 10:2ff; with Peter having the primacy, 16:18f) and the Old and New Testament Prophets (Eph 3:3ff; Luke 24:25ff; Heb 1:1ff; 2 Pet 1:19ff; etc). You cannot lay ANOTHER "foundation" of Apostles and Prophets, Christ being the "Chief Cornerstone" (cf. 1 Peter 2:4ff), but only teach the ORIGINAL Deposit.

The historic understanding of the early Church is this was done through an Apostolic succession of Bishops (later called the "Magisterium" or teaching authority) who are the true teachers and leaders in the visible Church with a three-fold ministry of Bishop, Priest (Elder or Presbyter) and Deacon. This "pattern" shows up immediately in the letters of St. Ignatius of Antioch (110 AD, see below) and there was simply no time for an "apostasy" from the "Biblical model." I need to deal with such texts as Eph 4:11ff; 1 Cor 12; 14:3ff separately and the evidence for the Catholic and Orthodox doctrine of Apostolic Succession (see below).

Unlike the Mormon (LDS) belief, the Pope is not a Prophet but one of the Bishops, the successor to St. Peter, and there is good evidence from the Bible, the Fathers and the Councils for the primacy of Peter and the authority of the Bishop of Rome. I have complete books on this topic.

STUDIES ON THE EARLY PAPACY by John Chapman

THE PRIMITIVE CHURCH AND THE SEE OF PETER by Luke Rivington

DOCUMENTS ILLUSTRATING PAPAL AUTHORITY AD 96-454 by Edward Giles

THE CHURCH AND INFALLIBILITY : A Reply to the Abridged "Salmon" by B.C. Butler

Chapman and Rivington are converts from Anglicanism; Giles is an Anglican writer who objectively lays out the evidence; and Butler is responding to the anti-Catholic Anglican George Salmon. I also have the Orthodox work The Primacy of Peter by John Meyendorff. A new book is JESUS, PETER AND THE KEYS by Scott Butler et al (1996).

These contain all the evidence any open-minded person would require.

And no, there is no objective evidence (aside from the subjective feelings of the LDS) that either Joseph Smith or Brigham Young were true prophets of God. That is a subject that we could discuss in great detail in our formal debate on the so-called "apostasy" of the Church.

Private revelations (including those of Joseph Smith) must be tested (notice St. Paul in 1 Cor 14:29ff where even NT "prophets" were tested) and the correct method for testing has always been conformity to the ORIGINAL public revelation, Scripture and the traditional teaching of the Church (called "Sacred Tradition"). I have a ton of documentation from the Fathers for this method of testing what is the true faith.

Our "direct link" to Jesus Christ has always been by obeying the original Church He established, not by obedience to any series of NT Prophets giving further revelations. This original Church, called the "Catholic Church" from the earliest centuries, has historical continuity through her doctrine, her liturgy, and Apostolic succession of Bishops that can be traced back to the first century and Christ's own Apostles.

There is no evidence for the Mormon belief in an "apostasy" and thus there is no need or reason for the Mormon belief in a "restoration." Again, if you want to lay out the case in our formal debate, go ahead.

ARE THE HEAVENS "CLOSED" ? WHERE IS GOD WHEN WE NEED HIM MOST?

TH> Interesting. So if you accepted the idea and concept that the heavens are closed and God has gone off somewhere else -- then He would/will not reveal anything else, because there is no more revelation. The scriptures are not so closed, are they? If so, how and where does it say that this is the case?

TH> This also raises several other questions:

TH> By any chance does your church teach somewhere, that God spends only part of His time with the earth? And that He does other things when He is not taking an active interest or part in our lives?

TH> By any chance, does your church teach that God does not bother to answer prayers? Or do you pray *to* God? I know that the Catholics offer prayers to Mary and the Saints for intercession on their and others' behalf. Do you not also pray directly to God and receive answers from Him?

TH> But even more so, why are the heavens closed? What basis (authority) do you have it that God should _not_ reveal anything further to man? Is there no need? From the condition of the world, there sure *looks* like a need... We aren't going anywhere very fast on our own. And our past history is full of atrocities, many of them conducted in the name of religion, including various aspects of Catholicism.

God is alive and well, answers prayer, and is in sovereign control of His universe. I do not know what you mean by the "heavens are closed" idea -- your objections have nothing to do with the fact that all public revelation has ceased with the death of the Apostles and any further revelation (called "private revelation") is not binding, but must be tested by Sacred Scripture and the Sacred Tradition of the Church.

Public revelation has ceased but heaven is wide open, although you may have to spend a few centuries in Purgatory but that is another debate! As for Scripture evidence for the "close of public revelation" --

"In many and various ways God spoke of OLD to our fathers by the PROPHETS; but in these last days he HAS SPOKEN TO US by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world...." (Hebrews 1:1-2 RSV)

"...how the mystery was made known to me by REVELATION, as I have written briefly. When you read this you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has NOW BEEN REVEALED to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit...." (Ephesians 3:3-5)

"...I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for THE FAITH WHICH WAS ONCE FOR ALL DELIVERED TO THE SAINTS." (Jude 3)

While these texts are not explicit, they do tell us the following points from which we can conclude the "close of public revelation" --

(1) God spoke BEFORE by the prophets but he has FINALLY spoken to us by His Son, the Word of God, our Great High Priest and Apostle and Prophet (John 1:1ff; Heb 3:1; 4:12-14; Luke 1:76; 24:19,44; etc)

(2) St. Paul has made known the revelation of Christ through His apostles and prophets, who are called the "foundation" (Eph 2:20)

(3) The "foundation" was therefore laid and "the faith" was "ONCE FOR ALL" delivered (handed or passed down) to the Saints (the Church)

The mission of the Church is not to "add" to this revelation or faith which was "once for all delivered" but to guard, teach, clarify and define the original teaching of Christ and His Apostles (Matt 28:18-20), which has always been the job of the Apostles' successors, the Bishops.

TH> The question that keeps rearing its ugly head is why the current thinking cannot find itself in the same state of affairs as the declared heretical thinking of the, say, Gnostics?

TH> Since the only reference that *I* have is the Bible for judging the Catholic teachings, if they are not in line with what is expressed in the Bible, then where, aside from God, can one turn for *Divine* (revealed) guidance?

All of these types of questions are answered by simply reading what the early Church believed in the first centuries of Christianity, the Church Fathers such as St. Ignatius, St. Irenaeus, St. Augustine, etc.

Again, while there is NO evidence for FURTHER public revelation spoken by a series of Prophets as "Presidents" of the early Church, there is OVERWHELMING evidence for the first Bishops of the Church being the direct successors to the Apostles (Apostolic Succession) who are to guard, teach, and clarify the ORIGINAL revelation of Jesus Christ.

See the following posts for the biblical and historical evidence.

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Date: 12-13-97 / From: PHIL P. / To: TOM HUBER / Subj: How many gods are there?

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THE PANDORA'S BOX OF MORMONISM : How many Gods are in there?

TH> Don't worry about that. Phil's problem is that he's opened Pandora's box and walked in laughing. Interestingly, I didn't notice any "hee hee's" from him in his last series of posts.

TH> What he's opened up is very serious business and most people are wise enough to stay away from it for the simple reason that it is very easy to illustrate with Biblical scripture

Dude, I am serious about discussing what you really believe and would like to focus on the Mormon (LDS) belief in the complete "apostasy" (and subsequent "restoration") and am willing to debate you formally. Post your opening statement, 3 posts of 100 lines each on the Apostasy.

There are Biblical texts and statements from the early Fathers that show there were heretics and false teachers in the Church (for example, 1, 2, 3 John, 1 and 2 Timothy, 2 Peter, Acts 20, St. Irenaeus, etc) but NOTHING that demonstrates a complete "apostasy" from the true faith of Christ, His Apostles and the original Church (Matt 16:18f).

The very fact there is such a thing as "heresy" means what is ORTHODOX (or correct doctrine) must always be KNOWN in the Church, just as we cannot call anything "evil" unless there is a standard of "goodness."

There is no evidence the true "Priesthood" was ever lost and indeed the true Priesthood (not only of all believers, 1 Peter 2:5,9 but the ministerial and sacrificial Priesthood) is found in the Catholic Church (and always has been). The Fathers of the first 700 years of Christianity support that abundantly as well. There was no Apostasy.

If you really believe there was, lay out your case in 300 lines.

TH> He drug out *almost* every statement on the teaching (out of context, which doesn't help his case at all). So, of the volumes of teachings, including the standard works (the Scriptures), he managed to focus on just one aspect of God, but that is far from what all we believe on with respect to the Father.

TH> Now, if that one minuscule part about God is *all* that separates us from believing in the same God and Father of us all, and in the same Lord Jesus Christ, then there is indeed no unity in the faith, for there is rank division on all the matters surrounding the belief in God in Christianity.

TH> The other aspect is that the door that he has opened cannot possibly be understood without first understanding four points: the nature of man, the nature of God, the nature of the Godhead (Trinity), and the nature of exaltation (being raised to a oneness state with the Father and Jesus Christ). Once those aspects of LDS doctrine are understood, two things happen: 1 - the nature of God in some pre-creation state doesn't matter, and 2 - God is still God, always has been, and always will be.

As I explained before, I believe the main issue between Catholics and LDS is the Mormon (LDS) belief in the so-called "apostasy" of the Church and not such teachings as the Trinity, the Sacraments, the Papacy, etc.

Your understanding of the nature of God (at least from what I have read in anti-Mormon books) contradicts the Creeds and is not compatible with what is believed by Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants on the Trinity.

And it is important to state again what I have documented (so far)....

According to Mormon (LDS) theology (which you have not denied yet)

(1) "God the Father" has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man's

(2) "God the Father" was once a man as we are now and "became God" through a process of "exaltation"

(3) "God the Father" was therefore not always God, but himself had a God, who had a God, who had a God, who had a God, ad infinitum

(4) We hope to become Gods ourselves through this "exaltation" process

I would ask one question: Just how many Gods do you believe in?

Once you postulate the idea that "God the Father" was not always God but "became God" through "exaltation" you have an infinite regress of Gods and cannot even explain the existence of the physical universe.

That is the subject of a recent book by Evangelical anti-Mormon critic Francis Beckwith (if I remember correctly).

[ NOTE: Reformed Baptist apologist James R. White has written probably the best modern refutation of the Mormon concept of God(s) in his book titled Is The Mormon My Brother? (Bethany House, 1997) ]

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Date: 12-16-97 / From: PHIL P. / To: TOM HUBER / Subj: Apologies Accepted

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MORMONS (LDS) AND CATHOLICS IN DIALOGUE : Volume 5000, Section 200.1234

TH> I don't know how many of you read my messages or not, and I really do not care if you do or do not. They are public (in this forum) and as such, anyone can read them that wants to. This is not to say that you have permission to cross-post them elsewhere, you do not.

Heck, I read every one of your messages and have a lot of them savedfrom the past two months. You are a most interesting person since you are a living breathing Mormon LDS person, and those folks rarely (if ever) show up here. It is fun to see some non-Catholics in here.

I noticed your invitation for me to participate in the MORMON echo but since I am no expert in your doctrine, I prefer to stay here and discuss the Catholic teachings you have problems with....don't apologize for what seems like "Catholic bashing" -- that is okay for you to disagree.

Thanks for stating your respectful disagreements. That's why I am here.

TH> At any rate, I would like to offer an apology to all Catholics in this forum, including P

NO NEED TO APOLOGIZE. I ENJOY THIS DISCUSSION AND I HOPE TO CONTINUE.

We shall cut down on the discussion of Mormon doctrine and stick with my explanation and defense of Catholic teaching (both from the Bible and the Fathers). And we need to do this one issue at a time.

Your recent posts will require my responses in the following areas --

(1) The evidence AGAINST the so-called "Apostasy" of the early Church

(2) The Catholic dogma of the Trinity (e.g. from the Catechism)

(3) The Catholic understanding of the nature of the visible Church (without continuing revelations from "Prophets" and "Apostles")

(4) Further defense of the Catholic understanding of Baptism

These I shall discuss with you in this order, defend the Catholic teaching and give the evidence for each, and try to keep the content of your arguments with a minimal quoting from your recent posts. Look for another series of posts in the next couple of days.

TH> Phil has addressed the LDS claim of an Apostasy and has asked for evidence. In the process of discussing other matters, he posted a number of items that I consider Catholic "oddities" with regard to dogma.

Yes, I typed a message online and listed several Catholic teachings that were believed by the Fathers of the first 700 years of Christianity. These consisted of the following nine Catholic (and Orthodox) items -- (1) (infant) Baptism (2) Eucharist (3) visible Church (4) Priesthood (5) seven Sacraments (6) intercession of Saints (7) Marian privileges (8) Sacred Tradition (9) primacy of Rome (Papacy)

BTW, the Orthodox agree with us on ALL NINE of these, including the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, although they have a slightly different understanding of that "primacy" -- for the evidence see the work by Orthodox scholar Fr. John Meyendorff The Primacy of Peter (1992), and the books I have listed from Chapman, Rivington, and Butler et al.

I am fully aware that Mormons (and most Protestants in general) disagree with our Biblical defenses of all these Catholic teachings and dogmas.

My main point was that the first 700 years of Christianity (meaning the Fathers, Bishops, and Saints of the early Church) BELIEVED and DEFENDED ALL of these teachings as TRUE, were CONSISTENT with them, held them with a near UNANIMITY, believed that they were BIBLICAL teachings (they interpreted the Bible as Catholics would today), and claimed to receive them as HANDED DOWN from the ORIGINAL Church, the very Church founded by Jesus Christ, taught by His Apostles and guarded by their successors, the first Bishops.

To demonstrate this, I shall go in depth with the Sacrament of Baptism.

I think what you need is a good history of Christianity and a decent knowledge of the character of some of the Fathers, Bishops, and Saints. They were quite conservative and not prone to "innovations" -- much less to a complete "apostasy" from the true faith (which never happened).

I would recommend the 3-volume set The Faith of the Early Fathers by William Jurgens but I realize you don't have the time (or money) to invest in such a set. That would be a good start, however.

I am currently delving into the 38-volume set of the Fathers put out by the Protestant publisher Eerdmans, and a large Catholic edition of the Fathers published in the 1960's to which I recently got access.

Happy Holidays, dude.

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Date: 01-03-98 / From: PHIL P. / To: TOM HUBER / Subj: Formal Debate

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WHAT IS THE EVIDENCE FOR THE APOSTASY? Who and Where are the Apostates?

PP> Yes, I think Tom is a good guy but is really misinformed on Church history. When one actually reads the statements of the Fathers, especially the early Fathers such as Clement, Ignatius, Irenaeus, there is absolutely no evidence for the "general apostasy." Period.

TH> That's because they were already in an apostate state, Phil. You see, once the "church" decided to do away with the offices of Apostle and Prophet, they became apostate.

Begging the question. I asked you several times : what is the EVIDENCE for the "general apostasy" ? Do the Fathers give ANY evidence that they made things up? Or that they contradicted themselves or the Apostles? Or that they were NOT following the very teachings of Christ and His Apostles handed down to them, to their successors the first Bishops, and to the Church of the first few centuries? Read some history.

Tom, you have got to remember that you would not even HAVE a Bible were it not for the Catholic Church. We canonized and preserved Scripture and have been reading the text in our Liturgy for almost 2,000 years.

It makes no sense that the disciples of the Apostles (the early Fathers who I quoted such as Clement, Ignatius, Irenaeus) who had the books of Scripture and the Apostolic preaching "ringing in their ears" would contradict, distort or deny what the Apostles taught them on the true nature of the visible Church. There is absolutely NO evidence for that.

In fact, they claimed the exact opposite -- that they were VERY careful to preserve the true faith as handed down to them by the Apostles and the very churches founded by the Apostles, which faith is identical in substance with the Catholic faith on the nature of the Church.

All you have given me for "evidence" boils down to two statements --

(1) The Fathers disagree with YOUR interpretations of Scripture texts

(2) The Fathers disagree with LDS theology (Duh, I already knew that!)

From these two statements you have concluded there must have been a "general apostasy" -- what I would still call a "COMPLETE apostasy." But again, that is completely begging the question, you are already assuming what you want to prove. We need evidence for a "Apostasy."

And here's why this must be called a "COMPLETE apostasy" --

The ENTIRE Catholic Church immediately after the time of Christ and His Apostles, meaning ALL Bishops, ALL Saints, ALL Martyrs, ALL Confessors of the Christian faith clearly DENIED these LDS (Mormon) beliefs --

(1) continuing revelations from "Prophets" and "Apostles" (as offices)

(2) that God the Father has a body of flesh and bones and was once a MAN

(3) that there are in fact MANY Gods and we can become Gods ourselves

BTW, I saw your posts in Fido MORMON and we obviously totally disagree on the interpretations you are putting on Eph 4, John 17, 1 Cor 8:4ff. My main point is that there is NO EVIDENCE that ANYONE believed the above (3) until Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and 19th century Mormons.

That is strong evidence that the Mormon church is WRONG about the true nature of the Church, have MISinterpreted such texts as Eph 4, and the claims of a so-called "Apostasy" are groundless and without foundation.

And the statements of the Fathers, the successors of the Apostles, prove the Catholic Church is RIGHT on the nature of the visible Church, the meaning of the Sacraments, and the (9) items I have listed before.

If we did a formal debate on the Apostasy as I suggested, it would make things a lot easier and cut down the number of posts. Right now I have about 20 posts from you from last month and I will try to address those posts later with minimal quoting. I am wondering if you received my note from 12/16/97 -- I will re-post it again just in case.

Whether you like it or not, Tom, what we are doing is called "debate."

What I wanted to do is use a format and organize our discussions.

P

END OF DIALOGUE WITH TOM HUBER, Moderator of FidoNet Mormon


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