Here’s Hoping for a Solid Debate on the Text Issue

On February 18, James White will debate Thomas Ross on the text issue.  You can learn more about the details of the debate here.  I look forward to the debate for several reasons.  Let me tell you how:

First, my appreciation for James White

I understand if some of my KJVO friends don’t share my enthusiasm for James White.  He has handled some of us pretty roughly over the years.  But I do have an appreciation for Dr. White.  I have had the privilege of meeting him; I have had the opportunity to get to know a fine young man planting a church in Salt Lake out of Apologia Church, and we share several mutual friends.  Despite several significant differences, I believe Dr. White to be a brother in Christ.  That said, here are a couple of things I appreciate about Dr. White.

First, I live and serve the Lord in Utah.  I cannot express the value of Dr. White’s ministry in this state.  For many years, he has traveled to Utah to preach the gospel to the LDS and engage them in debates or discussions.  I have to say that he has set a tremendous example for the way we ought to engage these neighbors.  My good friend, Pastor Jason Wallace, hosts Dr. White almost annually and has held a variety of debates at the University of Utah – including one infamous debate with a nut-wing professor who attempted to get Dr. White to drink antifreeze on stage.  Dr. White has shown a willingness to engage unbelievers from nearly every form of unbelief, but I believe his best work has come from his engagement with the LDS.  I had the privilege of sitting in on a discussion he had with Alma Allred, which I consider to be one of the most important public discussions with a Mormon in the past decade. 

Second, I appreciate Dr. White’s willingness to continue to engage on the text issue.  Yes, I recognize that he wants to defeat the position I hold dear.  But I am grateful that he believes we are still worthy of debate.   

Third, Dr. White believes in presuppositional apologetics, as do I.  I consider this key in the debate with Thomas.  We should take a presuppositional approach to preservation. 

Second, the opportunity to hear a Biblical case for textual criticism

I am excited to hear Dr. White present a presuppositional case for textual criticism.  I have searched the Internet, hoping to find someone who would make the case from Scripture for textual criticism, and so far have come up empty.  Perhaps one of my readers can point me to a book, YouTube video, or website that lays out the case from Scripture for textual criticism, but I have yet to hear one.

Continue reading “Here’s Hoping for a Solid Debate on the Text Issue”

Why the KJV Debate Won’t End Soon

I’ve lived long enough to see a variety of phases of the King James Only controversy.  You might think of it like the phases of the moon.  The debate waxes and wanes.  Fifteen or twenty years ago, the debate really grew legs as online forums and blogs took off.  The debate had raged prior to this through books and papers published by respectable institutions of higher learning.  But the rise of the Internet and the popularity of blogs and forums in the early 2000s brought the debate into the living room.  As a result, there began to be some significant movement in one direction or the other.  Believers who had only seen one side of the issue found themselves woefully unprepared for some of the arguments coming from the other side.  There were casualties on both sides of the issue, though the trend certainly favored the anti-King James Only position. 

But the ultimate result of these online interactions was that both sides became more entrenched against each other.  Like most controversies, the debate ebbs and flows.  The rise of Facebook, Twitter, and (even more so) YouTube expanded the debate, challenging a fresh generation to again examine their assumptions and (in more than a few cases) switch their allegiances.  I have not looked to see if there has been any kind of scientific study to see where the majority have landed.  Anecdotally, I would guess that more have left the KJVO position than have come to it.  Advocates for an eclectic text show a great deal of talent for video production, and people prefer a 15-minute video to a longer, in-depth book or blog post.  But once again, as the debate picks up, parties become more entrenched in their position and more unwilling to listen to the other side.

Nobody should think that the migration has been a one-way street.  I have become good friends with a pastor who recently came to embrace the King James Version, who had before used every other version but the KJV.  The rise of the “Standard Sacred Text” position and Jeff Riddle certainly indicates that the anti-KJV faction isn’t running up the score on the KJVOs (note: I’m not saying that Riddle is KJVO – he isn’t).  I have friends in the ministry who embrace the Critical Text (and many versions as a result), who have also admitted to me that there is a significant shift away from the Critical Text towards the TR and the idea of a settled text. 

So, those who think that we are on the cusp of putting the debate to rest forever should probably rein in their horses.  It can be deceptive to spend hours a day on Twitter, where the debate is pretty one-sided.  Many believers stay off Twitter altogether.  I would say that you really don’t get fair representation of both sides of the issue there.  And the proponents of the Critical Text will have a tough time conveying their message to their targeted audience if they are relying on Twitter to do it. 

Continue reading “Why the KJV Debate Won’t End Soon”

No Shocker: the LDS Church Supports the “Respect for Marriage” Act

On October 21, 2013, Al Mohler told an audience of faculty and students at Brigham Young, “I do not believe that we are going to heaven together, but I do believe we may go to jail together.”  I say this was bold: the faculty and students at BYU can’t conceive of an eternity where they would be anywhere but heaven.  But mainly bold because Mohler suggested that our shared opposition to homosexuality could land us all in jail. 

At the time, Mohler saw the situation correctly.  A few years before this speech, the LDS church provoked the wrath of homosexuals everywhere by supporting California’s 2008 Prop 8 ban on same-sex mirage.  California passed the gay mirage ban, which the courts later overturned.  And all of this happened several years before the 2015 Obergefell Ruling came from the Supreme Court, making gay mirage a sanctioned event in the U.S. 

When the extent of the LDS church’s involvement in the fight for Prop 8 was made known, the rage and fury of radical homosexuals came in like a storm.  And ever since, the LDS church has been doing penance in surprising (and disappointing) ways.  The collapse has been disheartening, to say the least, and the tension among rank-and-file Mormons is palpable.

So, when the LDS church announced their support for the so-called “Respect for Marriage” Act, the shock many felt was entirely uninformed.  It should surprise nobody.  It fits with the trend in the LDS church ever since the Prop 8 battle.  Perhaps it has been a long time in the making – I don’t think so, but I can understand why some, both in the LDS church and outside of it, might have been blindsided.  But the support for this “Disrespect for Marriage” Act fits with their general personality, political posture, doctrinal commitments, and overall culture.  Allow me to explain.

Personal Reasons

The LDS church puts a very high value on “nice.” It is the one virtue that every member holds dear.  LDS church members are legitimately some of the kindest people you will ever meet.  But it would help if you understood this not so much as a product of natural disposition but as a religious commitment.  Of all the sins one might commit in Utah, being mean ranks among the highest.  In Utah culture especially, we encounter a superficial niceness that cloaks (sometimes very thinly) an inward passive-aggressiveness.  According to a recent study, Utah tops the charts for the most confrontational drivers in the nation. 

This cult of niceness explains why you will see more rainbow flags and trans flags and “hate has no home here” and “Black Lives Matter” signs in Utah than in almost any other place.  I could step out my front door in my Ogden neighborhood and see a half dozen rainbow flags.  And this is not unusual.

This religious commitment to “nice” explains why Donald Trump is so unpopular in our state – even though Donald Trump won Utah quite handily.  It explains why Utah Conservatism is so frustratingly moderate.  It explains why pro-life conservatives in our state legislature routinely vote down pro-life legislation.  The LDS believe they are better “Christians” because they support LGBTQ rights. 

This past spring, James Lindsey spoke at an event near me, and I had the privilege of meeting him courtesy of Andrew Badger, then-candidate for U.S. Congress.  Though an outsider and somewhat unfamiliar with Utah, Lindsey pegged one crucial fact.  The reason that rank-and-file Mormons are embracing Wokeness, the reason our Governor announced his preferred pronouns, has nothing to do with political agenda and everything to do with the general demeanor of the LDS church.  The LDS church doesn’t want to be divisive or combative.  On the contrary, they want to accommodate people of all faiths and all lifestyles. 

So, their support of the Defense of Marriage Act shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Political Reasons

The LDS church sees compromise as the path to protecting religious liberty.  When our Utah politicians debate the thorny cultural issues of our time, they will inevitably speak of finding a “Utah solution.”  They pride themselves in finding compromises that satisfy both parties in the culture wars. 

Thus, in 2015, our Legislature produced the famed “Utah Compromise,” which granted equal protection to the LGBTQ+ while at the same time protecting religious liberty.  It was a ground-breaking compromise and became the template for similar non-discrimination laws in other conservative states.  The Utah Compromise was brokered and endorsed by the LDS church itself, which is why the LDS church has, for at least the past seven years, actively lobbied for similar legislation at the federal level. 

Continue reading “No Shocker: the LDS Church Supports the “Respect for Marriage” Act”

Some Thoughts on the Trump Question

I’m writing this in advance of the expected Trump announcement, knowing that things can change rapidly and some of what is said here may be irrelevant after tonight. Whether we are pro-Trump, anti-Trump, wish he would a grip, or think he is the problem in the GOP, we definitely will have to deal with Trump. Someone needs to have a conversation with him. But since I am not a likely candidate, I will take a different tack. We need to have a conversation about Trump. Consider this my humble contribution.

Continue reading “Some Thoughts on the Trump Question”

Did Paul Shame His Neighbor?

In a previous post, I wrote a fairly mild piece on the issue of shaming one’s neighbor.  That article was in response to a small, hardly noticed episode of Facebook shaming that affected people known to me.  The article was met with a rather bland kind of enthusiasm, rife with atta-boys and way-to-goes.  I hardly noticed any opposition, though I was made aware of some through the ever-vigilant eye of my lovely wife, who can sniff when someone doesn’t like me from several miles away.  Since there seems to be one mildly serious point of opposition to what I have written, I thought I would use this space to answer it.  So, here goes.

The protest runs something like this: didn’t Paul shame Peter when he was engaged in public sin?  Wouldn’t that be grounds for shaming others who are in public sin? 

Ah yes, the ole’ “if-it-was-good-enough-for-Paul-its-good-enough-for-me” argument.  Well, yes, I suppose we might consider dealing with that question.  Actually, I can think – off the top of my formerly hairy head – of quite a few examples in the New Testament when one of the Biblical writers started naming names.  Of the New Testament name-namers, Paul is probably the most prominent.  In addition to Peter (Galatians 2:6-16), Paul called out Barnabas (Galatians 2:13), Demas (2 Timothy 4:10), and even two women, Euodias and Syntyche (Philippians 4:2). John called out Diotrephes, who loved to have the preeminence (3 John 1:9).  Peter called out Simon Magus, who (he perceived) was in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity (Acts 8:18-23). If these apostles called out public sin publicly, why wouldn’t we?  Don’t they set an example for us to follow?

Continue reading “Did Paul Shame His Neighbor?”

On Shaming Your Neighbor

Late Thursday night last week as I was about to fall asleep, my wife showed me a post that my friend Pastor Courtney Lewis had on Facebook.  We could tell from what was said that he had posted engagement pictures from a young couple, and had chastised them for holding hands in their pictures.  Pastor Lewis led off his commentary on the picture with a quote from I Corinthians 7:1-2, which says,

Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

By the time my wife showed me the post, Pastor Lewis had taken the pictures down, but left the post up.  My wife began reading some of the more than 500 comments on the post. Suffice it to say, we were horrified, both by the comments that were being made and by the use of a couple’s engagement pictures to make a point about purity.

When I had a few moments on Friday morning, I took a look at the post for myself.  By this time, the post had more than 650 comments, many of which I would characterize as flaming.  I scrolled through the comments to get a feel for what people were saying, and then I started typing a message to Pastor Lewis to ask him to remove the post altogether.  As I was typing the message, I saw that he in fact had removed the post and replaced it with another.  You can read the replacement post here.

In the second post, Pastor Lewis doubled down on the couple he used as an example, naming both the young man and his brother and expressing his disagreement with the engagement pictures each young man had published.  In particular, Pastor Lewis pointed out that the older brother had posted similar pictures, and that since nobody opposed him for it, now the younger brothers thought it was okay.  Pastor Lewis also took to task larger churches with more influence who could speak out on this.  He didn’t name the larger churches he had in mind.  I can only think of one larger church that he might be thinking of, but I won’t speculate about whether he thought they should have been the one to shame these couples. 

I absolutely agree with the standard Pastor Lewis holds.  My wife and I did not so much as hold hands until we met at the altar on our wedding day.  We have taught this same standard in our church and to our children, and we would not approve if they went against it.  Because many of the vitriolic comments Pastor Lewis received focused on the standard itself, I made the choice to support him on the standard, and to publicly express my concern for the way many had responded.

Later that afternoon, I received a call from a pastor friend who had read my comment and wanted to know if I also supported the tactic Pastor Lewis used to make his point.  He made it abundantly clear to me that he agrees with the standard – several of his children have married, and they followed that standard as well.  But he was concerned about the tactic of publicly shaming a young couple, using their engagement pictures.  After hem-hawing around for a minute, I had to agree.  The tactic was wrong.  I was disgusted by it from the moment my wife brought it to my attention.  My pastor-friend (who mainly knows Pastor Lewis through Facebook), pointed out that my comment left it unclear where I stood on the tactic.  I agreed with him.

Later that evening, I typed a second comment, in which I expressed my agreement with the standard and my disagreement with the tactic.  I commented that, if one of my own children were to publish engagement pictures that went against our standards, I would hope that the first response would be to pray for them, and the second to contact me to see if there is a problem and what can be done to help.  I would hope that the first response would not be to publicly shame them.  Far too often, when a young person does something wrong, we trample them under foot rather than address the problem Scripturally. 

I sent Pastor Lewis a message prior to posting my comment, and I offered to discuss any disagreement with him.  He replied fairly quickly with a simple “No” to my offer for a discussion.  I posted my comment, went to bed, and the next morning, I had a message from Pastor Lewis that assured me of his friendship despite our disagreement.  I didn’t think much of the reassurance until another friend contacted me to ask why I took my comment down.  Since I didn’t take it down, I asked Pastor Lewis if he did.  He told me, “Yes.  Feel free to post it on your account.”  Thus, this rather lengthy post.

Before I wade into the issue here, let me make a few preliminary points. 

Continue reading “On Shaming Your Neighbor”

Why I’m Not Leaving Facebook. Yet.

I think we can apply the familiar maxim to Facebook: don’t take Facebook too seriously – Facebook already takes itself too seriously.  Over the past few months, I have given a lot of thought to my involvement with Facebook, and particularly to the question of whether I should stay or leave.  In frustration, I have threatened to leave and urged others to consider doing the same.  I have opened accounts with Parler and with MeWe.  I haven’t opened anything with Gaab, but that’s only because… well, I just haven’t. I have raged against the censorship, against the glaring double-standard, against the obvious bias of the medium.  I have chuckled wryly (that is a thing, you know) as I scrolled through old posts of mine to see shadow-ban screens covering select posts.  My favorite warning screen, which appears on several of my more recent posts, warns of inappropriate or explicit content.  I found myself trying to remember what it was I posted that Facebook might consider to be “partial nudity.”  If you are curious, just scroll through my old posts. You’ll be shocked to discover what passes for sexually explicit content these days. 

The big question is, do I stay or do I go. Ultimately, I have decided to stay for now.  And since I like to get a little mileage out of these decisions, I thought I would share my thoughts on it with you, the reading audience.  Notice that I said “reading” audience, not the “glancing” audience or the “skimming” audience.  How ‘bout we slow down that scrolling, swiping, and/or surfing for a minute so you can see for yourself.

Here are five reasons why I’m not leaving Facebook YET, followed by a few rules for my fellow rebels who stay with me.  I’m not leaving Facebook…

Because I don’t have to.

And you can’t make me.  Neener, neener, neener.  So there.

Continue reading “Why I’m Not Leaving Facebook. Yet.”

What I Learned About Martin Luther King, Jr.

For most of my life, I had been taught certain things about Martin Luther King, Jr. – specifically that he was a communist and an adulterer. Looking back, I wasn’t confident that my sources told me the truth or that those characterizations painted an honest picture of King.  

I decided to study the life of Dr. Martin Luther King for myself. As part of my study, I listened to the audiobook version of Joseph Rosenbloom’s Redemption: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Last 31 Hours. I also read one of King’s earliest biographies, Let the Trumpet Sound, by Stephen B. Oates.

In hindsight, a better choice would have been one of David Garrow’s three biographies of King. Oates’ biography is thorough enough. Questions have been raised about plagiarism in his book, but that has more to do with the “gotcha” culture of acadamia than any legitimate problem with citations in his material. Oates answers these charges here, for reference. I got the overall impression that Oates was a bit too enamored with King to tackle some of the controversy surrounding his life. Nonetheless, I am glad I read this biography since it gave me a better perspective of King’s life and legacy.

When I finished those two books, I checked out from the library two documentaries about King’s life. The better documentary came from The History Channel and featured Tom Brokaw. The footage in that film included some of the most important events in King’s life. I enjoyed watching video of the things I read about in King’s biography.  

What follows is a rundown of the things I took away from my research. I know that we have little tolerance for wordy online articles, but I hope you will “endure to the end!” Perhaps this article will help you better understand one of the truly iconic characters in American history.

He was a great man.

No man is without his flaws, and King had some glaring shortcomings. But King is worthy of honor, and I am glad to celebrate him. 

By design, some men rise above the crowd. Martin Luther King, Jr was one such man. He would have been famous and wildly successful at whatever he attempted. He was a driven man; he had tremendous talent; he had a magnetic personality. The fact that he possessed so many marks of greatness makes it all the more remarkable that he dedicated his life to the civil rights movement. King did not launch the civil rights movement. Men like W.E.B DuBois and others fought for black people’s rights for many years before MLK came along. King drew our attention to the movement, put it in the national spotlight, and forced America to take note. It was the sheer force of his personality, his presence, that caught America’s attention.

He was a brilliant man.

He entered college while still fifteen years old and earned a Ph.D. when he was twenty-five. He wrote his thesis on “A Comparison of the Conceptions of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman.” He studied nearly all the great philosophers and almost all the Great Books. He wrote at least four books in his lifetime, the first while still in his twenties. He was conversant in all the great thinkers of Western Civilization, often quoting these philosophers in his sermons. He had a grasp on the nuances of the philosophies that influence our modern era. He knew these philosophies well enough that he could discuss them at length and explain his disagreements.   

He was one of the last great orators.

It has been said that Martin Luther King was one of the last orators to use the grand style properly. I do not believe there has been a man with more natural oratorical skill since King died. 

Continue reading “What I Learned About Martin Luther King, Jr.”

Let the Healing Begin!

Spoiler alert: I don’t think Antifa was behind the assault on the U.S. Capital.  I think it was Trump supporters.  No doubt there were some bad actors there.  On the same day, January 6th, a Trump rally was held at the Utah State Capital.  At that rally, both QAnon and the Proud Boys showed up in full force.  Agitators are on the rise in our country, fueled by a growing sense of frustration and discontent. 

Caution: bad language throughout

I don’t excuse what happened, and I don’t deny it.  I think President Trump bears some of the blame; I don’t think he carries all of the blame.  I don’t think he gets a pass; I don’t give his opponents a pass.  I think we are in a real mess right now, and I don’t see relief on the horizon.

Sorry if that feels too gloomy for you.  Generally speaking, I am an optimistic person.  But in this case, we need to face reality.  We see a rising tension in our country that threatens to explode at any moment.

Immediately after the media projected Joe Biden the winner of the Presidential election, newspapers from Australia to Arizona ran the same headline, almost verbatim: “A Time to Heal”  The message was clear: a Biden presidency can bring healing to our nation.  I find it uncanny the way the news media can present the same story in almost the same words across the board.  I have often wondered whether there is a central agency that provides all the mainstream media with the verbiage for their news reports.  Perhaps if we could find that agency, we could make TV news watchable again.

The left believes that with the removal of Donald Trump, we can experience healing in our nation.  The tension in Washington is all his fault, after all.  He is a dictator, a tyrant, unhinged, a rogue, a Russian agent, Putin’s pawn.  He colluded with Russia.  He stole the 2016 election.  He is bad for democracy.  He sought a quid pro quo with Ukraine.  He is the problem.

And Joe Biden can bring healing to our land.

Continue reading “Let the Healing Begin!”

Where To?

My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace. I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war. (Psalm 120:6-7)

No Christian should rejoice at what we saw Wednesday.  No matter which side is responsible for the things that happened at our nation’s capital, whether Antifa or MAGA, we should all be concerned.  I doubt we will know the truth of the matter for a while.  We are watching our republic implode at this very moment.  And it ain’t pretty.

Continue reading “Where To?”