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Religions Blog
“The Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible”
is a motto that has been around Grace Brethren circles for a long time. While I am conscious of the historical context that gave rise to it – the Grace Brethren group broke off from the Ashland Brethren group in large part because of the perceived weak view the latter had regarding the authority of Scriptures – I now realize that this can also be a narrow way to define one’s principal beliefs.

That the Bible is central to everything we believe as Christians is undeniable, but contrary to Islam and Mormonism, to cite just two, we do not seek to place our religious writings in an exalted pedestal requiring a level of veneration almost akin to adoration. Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church, ascribed to the Book of Mormon a status achieved by no other religious book in the world. It is the most complete, the final authority from God. Muhammad, naturally, also claimed the same about the Koran.

We, Christians, on the other hand, claim that Jesus Christ is the final revelation of God. The author of Hebrews said that in these last days God spoke “in” His Son, not simply “by” or “through.” (Hebrews 1:1-2). Hmmm. Jesus was the walking billboard of God. If for some reason we didn’t have the Bible, God’s ultimate revelation to mankind would still be intact because it lived, breathed, walked and talked among the likes of us. The Christian view permits no quasi-divine status to the Holy Book. We are biblio-centric but never bibliolaters.

Since the claim has been made that the Book of Mormon is the crown of God’s revelation to mankind, then it is reasonable to say that the book will be a bullet-proof case of precision and order, completely insulated from the perils that plague a merely human book or a religious book of less worth (as all others would be, according to Joseph Smith).

But when you apply that test, the Book of Mormon is found wanting. Willfully short of perfection.

Let’s forget the unusual circumstances in which the book was supposed to have been found. Let’s forget the cunning and conniving that seemed to be present during the so-called “translation” from the gold plates. Let’s forget that “Reformed Egyptian” is not even a language any linguist anywhere has ever recognized that it exists. Let’s forget all of that and go to narratives in the book itself.

According to the Book of Mormon, the American Indians are direct descendants from the Hebrews, who immigrated to the New World; but this is contrary to every anthropologist or archaeologist (non-affiliated with the Mormon Church). Even some scientists from Brigham Young university have expressed doubt whether the traditional view espoused in the Book of Mormon can be maintained.

The whole geography of the book appears to be a fiction (not a single town listed in the Book of Mormon has been found — even traces of them– by archaeologists). One is left with only faith in something that the prophet and a few of his followers said about the origin of the book.

Though many Mormons claim that the Smithsonian Institutions have used their book in their research, this has been patently denied by this institution, as you can read here.

The chronology of the book is also off. According to Joseph Smith, the first group of Semites arrived in North and South America between 3,000 and 2,000 B.C., but Archaeology shows conclusively that  western hemisphere was populated at least as far back as 10,000 B.C. by east Asian peoples who migrated across the Bering Strait. For a summary of this argument, go here.

I could go on and on but suffice it to say that even some Mormon scholars have expressed doubt about the overall geography present in the Book of Mormons. Some of them have proposed what is called the “limited geography” theory, but this presents even more challenges to someone who believes the Book of Mormon is the culmination of God’s revelation to mankind. For a detailed analysis of the limited geography theory, go here. Warning: it is somewhat technical…

I am not buying any of it, and if you want to hear more, please join us this Sunday at Grace Church. As I compared the understanding we Christians have about the Bible with how Mormons view the Book of Mormons, I was once again reminded of how radically different our approach is. Christ could never compete for a place of prominence, even against the Bible. Though I like the motto that places emphasis on Scriptures, I for one would rather live by this motto: “Christ alone, all of Him, and nothing but Him.”

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

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Care2Share Blog
Two stories jumped out at me this week, if for no other reason than because they couldn’t be more alike and yet more unlike at the same time. They have an element of surprise, involve a rare find, and come with mysterious overtones. But the way they were handled couldn’t be more opposite.

In Gaza a lone fisherman gets the scare of his life when his net catches what appeared to be a person with extended arms. It turned out to be a 2,500-year-old bronze statue of the Greek god Apollo, which after the initial shock was brought ashore by the fisherman and his many cousins. In California a young couple walking their dog on their property discovers a cache of rare coins from the 1800’s which could bring them as much as $10M. Yes, that is not a typo.

As you can see, both finds have the potential of generating a lot of money to their lucky finders, but while the folks from California immediately put the coins into the hands of a renowned numismatic firm, the amateur guys with the statue hauled it away and kept it hidden “for safe keeping,” releasing only photographs of the ancient god who must now be protesting the abrupt change to his habitat.

Even though the coins will by nature generate a lot more cash, in terms of strategy, we can only guess which of these two sets of people is having more success marketing their product…

These two stories reminded me of Jesus’ statements in Matthew 5:

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16).

Obviously, there is a huge difference between our stories and Jesus’ lesson here, but here is the analogy: We, who call ourselves followers of Christ, came upon the greatest find of all but for whatever reason have hauled it away and kept it hidden, like the fisherman did, while competing finds can always count on the services of the best experts to advertise them.

It is still a mystery to me why Christians tend to be so shy about sharing the message of hope in Christ with others. Jesus said that He came “to seek and save those who are lost,” so it stands to reason that if we are His followers, we should want to enthusiastically join him in His mission. But is this what we see among so-called Christ-followers today? From where I sit, it would appear that many of Christ-followers live literally by the saying “finder’s keepers,” as if they didn’t care at all about the fate of Christ’s other friends, but there is still time for us to radically change that.

This Sunday we start a new series at Grace Church called “Care2Share.” For seven weeks I will be sharing some simple but powerful ideas which will help all of us connect with Christ’s other friends who are not yet part of His fold. This is a series for everyone, whether you call yourself a believer or not. We will walk you step-by-step into a new life that gets the light from under the bowl into the highways and byways of this world. You will not want to miss it.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade