Acts 7:55-56 and Mormonism
By John Finton
“But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven,
and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God.
And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened,
and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”
I. Introduction. Mormons believe that God has a body like ours: “The Father
has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also . . .” (D&C
130:22). It is not uncommon for the typical Mormon to try to support this
teaching from the Bible. I suppose they do this because they would like to
think their doctrines are Biblically based. In order for them to use the Bible as
a means of support, they have to treat certain passages as either a
mistranslation, or reinterpret them, (e.g., John 4:24 with Luke 24:39; cf. the
JST--this is dealt with at http://faithandreasonforum.com “Mormonism and John
4:24”). Another tactic of the Mormon is to relegate key passages to a place of
obscurity (e.g., Exodus 33:20; John 1:18; 6:46; Col 1:15; 1 Tim 1:17; 6:16;
1 John 4:12). The Bible does not support the teaching that God has a body.
The following is a demonstration of how the typical Mormon approaches
Scripture as opposed to the historical Christian approach as it relates to this
II. The Mormon View. These two verses are often used by Mormons as a
proof text to demonstrate that God has a body and that God the father and
Jesus are two separate beings. Thus, in their view, God (in a body like ours)
is seated on a thrown and Jesus is standing next to Him. They understand the
passage to be completely literal. The Mormon website
(http://allaboutmormons.com) demonstrates their approach to Scripture:
Some mistakenly read scripture like Exodus 33:20, John 1:18, and
John 6:46 and suppose that human beings cannot see God. While
Mormons certainly respect those whose ideas differ from our own, we feel
that it is important to consider the Bible as a whole and not to cherry-pick
isolated scriptures to support a pre-conceived notion.
In reality, there are many Bible passages that support the idea that
human beings can see God. In the Old Testament times, Moses and
others saw God (Exodus 24:9-11, 33:23), in fact, Moses even spoke
to God face to face (Exodus 33:11). The New Testament also teaches
that human beings can see God. Clearly many saw Jesus Christ, who is
God the Son, both before and after His resurrection. Acts 7:55-56
describes Stephen’s vision of God the Father as well.
Mormon View of Visions. It is important to point out that Mormons hold to
a different meaning of the term “vision” than that of the historic Christian
church. According to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism
In LDS doctrine visions are perceptions, aided by the Spirit, of something
invisible to human beings. The things disclosed are viewed as part of
general reality. This process is according to natural law and is not
“supernatural,” in the usual sense of that term. It is analogous to the
fact that some physical real phenomena, such as X rays and atomic
particles, are not discerned by the ordinary sense but may be detected
by scientific instruments. In the case of visions, the instrument is the
person, and the mechanism of observation is faith aided by the Spirit of
III. The Historic Christian View. There are two ways Act 7:55-56 have been
understood by the historic Christian church. Many under-standing that since
God cannot be seen that what is taking place is a vision (the normal sense).
Others say that Stephen is permitted to see God’s glory, not in a vision, but in
reality. “Although Scripture asserts that no one is able to see God and live,
God’s glory has often been revealed to man (compare Ps. 63:2; Isa. 6:1; John
12:41)” (Kistemaker, “Acts,” NTC, 278).
Christian View of Visions. Conservative evangelicals define “vision” as
“experiences similar to dreams through which supernatural insight or awareness
is given by revelation. The difference between a dream and a vision is that
dreams occur only during sleep, while visions can happen while a person is
awake (Dan. 10:7)” (Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 1088). A dream is
defined as “a state of mind in which images, thoughts, and impressions pass
through the mind of a person who is sleeping” (Ibid, 310). The definition of
“vision” from Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English
Language (1597) is: “an experience, generally regarded as beneficent or
meaningful, in which a personage, thing, or event appears vividly or credibly to
the mind, although not actually present, under the influence of a divine or
other spiritual agency or condition: a vision of the Apocalypse” (emphasis
mine). The same definition is found in The Random House Dictionary of the
English Language. Thus Mormonism presents a different definition than that of
mainstream Christianity as well as normal English usage. Their definition is
unique to Mormonism alone. This practice is not uncommon with Mormonism.
Their definitions of the atonement, God, salvation, eternal life, heaven, etc. are
Based on normal usage, visions are not real, just as dreams are not
real. Revelation 1:13-16 is an example of a vision. I do not think Mormons
believe this vision of Jesus (the son of man) is real, or else the pictures of Jesus
found in their literature and wards do not display this same image of Him.
Visions are imagery with symbolic significance.
IV. Reasons Why the Mormon View is Unacceptable.
A. Analogy of Faith. This is a principle of hermeneutics that is basically
the same as what our “allaboutmormons” friend stated above: “it is important
to consider the Bible as a whole and not to cherry-pick isolated scriptures to
support a pre-conceived notion.” This principle declares that Scripture cannot
contradict itself. Obscure or disputed passages of Scripture should be
interpreted in light of the clear passages. Since all Scripture is in agreement,
when one passage appears to contradict another, they need to be harmonized.
The Mormon understanding of Acts 7:55-56 does not harmonize with other
Scripture. For example:
Scripture is clear that “No one has seen God at any time . . .” (John
1:18; 1 John 4:12), nor can He be seen (1 Tim 6:16). God is invisible (Col
1:15; 1 Tim 1:17). God is Spirit (John 4:24) a spirit does not have flesh and
blood (Luke 24:39). Two verses that appear to be contradictory are:
“And the Lord spoke unto Moses face to face, as a man speaks unto his
friend” (Ex 33:11), and “You cannot see my face; for there shall no man
see me, and live” (Ex 33:20).
If the Bible contradicted itself, then it would be an untrustworthy witness
and useless for anything. However, there is no contradiction here. One of the
two verses must not be taken in a literal fashion. Out of necessity, the Mormon
must give a different sense to Exodus 33:20 rather than 33:11. For, in their
view, God was literally seen by Moses, Stephen, and Joseph Smith: “We believe
that a mortal man cannot look upon God without perishing, unless God permits
Himself to be seen through the power of His Holy Spirit (Moses 1:11)”
(http://www.allaboutmormons). The above statement seems to be out of
harmony with D&C 130:22 which declares that “The Father has a body of flesh
and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also . . . .” Is God’s body as tangible
as man’s or not? The “allaboutmormons” website also states, “Clearly many
saw Jesus Christ, who is God the Son, both before and after His resurrection.”
Were all who saw Jesus aided by the power of the Holy Spirit? Moses 1:11 and
D&C 130:22 seem to contradict each other as well as the Bible.
The historic Christian church (as well as Judaism) has consistently sees
a non-literal sense to the phrase “face to face” in Exodus 33:11. The reason
for this is, as pointed out above, no one has seen God, nor can He be seen--He
is invisible, etc. So then, how is the phrase “face to face” to be understood?
By looking at the context, it is seen in 33:9 that God’s presence was
represented by a pillar of cloud. When Moses entered the tent, God descended
to the entrance of the tent as a pillar of cloud. There is no indication that God
appeared to Moses in human form. What is meant by the phrase “face to face”,
in this context, is that God spoke directly to Moses. God did not use dark
sayings, or visions and dreams, but spoke to Moses on an intimate level “as a
man speaks unto his friend” (cf. Deut 34:10). In Duet. 5:4 God spoke
directly to the people “face to face in the mountain out of the midst of the
fire” (cf. Ex 19:18). In this passage, God’s presence is represented by fire and
smoke. There is no indication that God took on human form when He spoke to
the people. This is made abundantly clear from Deut. 4:15-16:
Take careful heed to yourselves, for you saw no form when the Lord
spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, lest you act corruptly
and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of any figure: the
likeness of male or female . . .
John Calvin (1500-64) commenting on Deut 4:12-18 points out that there
is no contradiction between the appearances of God to man (theophanies) and
the prohibition to represent God in a visible image:
The solution is twofold: first, that although God may have invested
Himself in certain forms for the purpose of manifesting Himself, this must be
accounted as a peculiar circumstance, and not be taken as a general rule;
secondly, that the visions shown to the patriarchs were testimonies of His
invisible glory, rather to elevate men’s minds to things above than to keep
them entangled amongst earthly elements. …Hence we may conclude that all
those who seek for God in a visible figure, not only decline, but actually revolt,
from the true study of piety (Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses
Arranged in the Form of A Harmony, 2:120).
One way the Mormons answer Joseph Smith’s seeing God is by using
Matt. 5:8: “Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God.” Again we
have a contradiction, if we take the seeing God literally in this passage. Thus,
the seeing God must be seen (understood, perceived) with a different sense
than that of the seeing with the eyes. In Matt. 13:14, Mark 4:12, Acts 28:26
the same Greek word for “see” is translated as “perceive” and parallel to
“understand.” Since God is invisible, and cannot be seen, the sense here must
be that the pure in heart will perceive and understand God. That is, they will
know Him and have a true relationship with Him (cf. John 17:3; 1 Cor 13:12).
For all true believers, this is both a present as well as a future reality that will
continue to grow throughout eternity.
This concept of “seeing God” is further illustrated from Hebrew 11:27.
Here it is said of Moses, “. . . he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.”
The “seeing” is from the same Greek word as above. Moses’ endurance is a
demonstration of his steadfast faith in the midst of trials. The “seeing Him
who is invisible” is explained “as though he had not to do with men, but only
with God, ever before his eyes by faith, though invisible to the bodily eye (Rom
1:20; 1 Tim 1:17; 6:16) (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, “Hebrews,”
Commentary on the Whole Bible, 2:474). (Cf. Psalm 16:8; 2 Cor 4:16-18).
Some say the reference to seeing God is the encounter at the burning
bush (Ex 3:2-4). According to Hughes (A Commentary on the Epistle to the
Hebrews, also quoting F. F. Bruce, 500) “There is, however, little justification
for such a connection. ‘. . . this need not be taken as a specific allusion to the
burning bush, but to the fact that Moses paid more attention to the Invisible
King of kings than to the king of Egypt. If faith is “a conviction of things not
seen” [Heb 11:1], it is first and foremost a conviction regarding the unseen
God, as has been emphasized already in the affirmation that he who comes to
God must believe that He is [and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently
seek him] (11:6).”
B. Accommodation of Revelation. There are many passages
throughout the Bible that speak of God with human attributes. He is said to
have a face (Gen. 4:14; Num. 6:25; Ex. 33:11); eyes and ears (2 Chron.
7:15); an arm (Job 40:9); a hand (Ex. 3:20); nostrils (Ex. 15:8); a mouth (2
Sam 22:9). It is not uncommon for the average Mormon to take passages like
these literal and use them as proof texts to demonstrate that God has a body
like ours (as is demonstrated from the “allaboutmormons” website). It would
be a massive undertaking to deal with every Scripture that gives God some kind
of human attribute. It is more efficient to display the rules of interpretation
that apply to these situations. Besides the analogy of faith mentioned above,
the principle of Accommodation of Revelation is also important to our
understanding of Scripture.
Accommodation or condescension is a basic principle underlying all
of God’s revelation to man. It means that God speaks to us in a form that is
suited to the capacity of the hearer, like a father addressing a small child or a
teacher with a young pupil. There are two aspects of accommodation:
1. Anthropomorphism. The above references are figures of speech
known as anthropomorphism. The anthropomorphic and metaphorical use of
terms relative to God is a literary device to convey His concern and association
with man. A good book on hermeneutics (the science of interpreting the Bible)
“It is a well-considered design that the Holy Scripture speaks of God as
of a being resembling man, and ascribes to Him a face, eyes, ears, mouth,
hands, feet and the sense of smell and hearing. This is done out of
consideration for man’s power of comprehension; and the same is the case
when the Bible represents God as loving or hating, as jealous, angry, glad, or
filled with regret, dispositions which apply to God not per affectum but per
effectum. They show us that God is not coldly indifferent to loyalty or disloyalty
on the part of man, but notices them well”(Ramm, Protestant Biblical
Interpretation, 100-01). Ramm further states:
“The interpreter who is aware of this anthropomorphic character of the
divine revelation will not be guilty of grotesque forms of literal exegesis. More
than one unlettered person and cultist has taken the anthropomorphisms of
Scripture literally and has so thought of God as possessing a body” (Ibid, 101).
Because this approach to interpreting the Bible is critical to understanding
a great many passages of Scripture, I quote Charnock’s (writing in the 1600s)
detailed explanation (The Existence and Attributes of God, 1:188-89):
God being desirous to make himself know to man, whom he created for
his glory, humbles, as it were, his own nature to such representations as may
suit and assist the capacity of the creature; since by the condition of our
nature nothing erects a notion of itself in our understanding, but as it is
conducted in by our sense. God hath served himself of those things which are
most exposed to our sense, most obvious to our understandings, to give us
some acquaintance with his own nature, and those things which otherwise we
were not capable of having any notion of. As our souls are linked with our
bodies, so our knowledge is linked with our sense; that we can scarce imagine
anything, at first, but under a corporeal form and figure, till we come, by great
attention to the object, to make, by the help of reason, a separation of the
spiritual substance from the corporeal fancy, and consider it in its own nature.
We are not able to conceive a spirit, without some kind of resemblance to
something below it, nor understand the actions of a spirit, without considering
the operations of a human body in its several members. As the glories of
another life are signified to us by the pleasures of this; so the nature of God,
by a gracious condescension to our capacities, is signified to us by a likeness
to our own. The more familiar the things are to us which God uses to this
purpose, the more proper they are to teach us what he intended by them.
All such representations are to signify the acts of God, as they bear some
likeness to those which we perform by those members he ascribes to himself.
So that those members ascribed to him rather note his visible operations to us,
than his invisible nature; and signify that God doth some works like to those
which men do by the assistance of those organs of their bodies. So the wisdom
of God is called his eye, because he knows that with his mind which we see with
our eyes. The efficiency of God is called his hand and arm; because as we act
with our hands, so doth God with his power. The divine efficacies are signified:--by his eyes and ears, we understand his omniscience; by his face, the
manifestation of his favor; by his mouth, the revelation of his will; by his
nostrils, the acceptation of our prayers; by his bowels, the tenderness of his
compassion; by his heart, the sincerity of his affections; by his hand, the
strength of his power; by his feet, the ubiquity of his presence. And in this, he
intends instruction and comfort: by his eyes, he signifies his watchfulness over
us; by his ears, his readiness to hear the cries of the oppressed; by his arm, his
power--an arm to destroy his enemies, and an arm to relieve his people. All
those are attributed to God to signify divine actions, which he doth without
bodily organs as we do with them.
2. Analogy by the use of metaphor. This is the second aspect of
accommodation. For example Jesus calls Himself a door (John 10:9), a
shepherd (John 10:11), a vine (John 15:1), a roadway (John 14:6), a loaf of
bread (John 6:51). God is said to have wings and feathers (Psalm 17:8; 36:7;
91:4). These are all to be under-stood metaphorically, not literally.
Words should be understood in their literal sense unless such
interpretation involves a manifest contradiction (as seen above) or absurdity.
For example, it would be absurd to say that Jesus was made out of bread or
that He was a loaf of bread. If God cannot be seen, and another passage
seems to indicate that He was seen, then there must be figurative language
taking place—other-wise there is an outright contradiction. Charnock’s (Ibid,
1:190) explanation is appropriate here as well:
Therefore, we must not conceive of the visible Deity according to the
letter of such expressions, but the true intent of them. Though the
Scripture speaks of his eye and arm, yet it denies them to be “arms of
flesh” (Job 10:4; 2 Chron 32:8). We must not conceive of God according
to the letter, but the design of the metaphor. When we hear things
described by metaphorical expressions, for the clearing them up to our
fancy, we conceive not of them that garb, but remove the veil by an act
of our reason. When Christ is called a sun, a vine, bread, is any so stupid
as to conceive him to be a vine with material branches, and clusters, or
be of the same nature with a loaf? But the things designed by such
metaphors are obvious to the conception of a mean understanding. If we
would conceive God to have a body like man, because he describes
himself so, we may conceit him to be like a bird, because he is mentioned
with wings (Ps 36:7); or like a lion, or leopard, because he likens himself
to them in the acts of his strength and fury (Hos 13:7, 8). He is called
a rock, a horn, fire, to note his strength and wrath; if any be so stupid as
to think God to be really such, they would make him not only a man but
worse than a monster.
V. Other Considerations
1. Theophany/Christophany. There are several places in the Old
Testament where God does appear in human form (ex., Gen. 18:1-33; 32:24-30). These appearances are called theophanies. Theophanies are different in
nature from visions and anthropomorphic metaphors. Many consider “the angel
of the Lord” (mentioned over fifty times in the OT) to be either a theophany or
christaphany. A christophany is an appearance of Christ in the OT. While there
are no indisputable christophanies in the OT, every theophany wherein God
takes human form foreshadows the incarnation where God takes on human
form of a man to live among us as Emmanuel, “God with us” (Matt 1:23). A
theophany is a temporary and spatial manifestation of God. Not only are the
human appearances of God considered theophanies but also the burning bush
(Ex 3:2-6), the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire (Ex 13:21-22) as well. It is
certain that God can make a visible manifestation of Himself in any form
whether human or nonhuman. However, the substance of God is not seen in
these appearances. As Charnock (Ibid, 1:185) makes clear, “Sometimes a
representation is made to the inward sense and imagination, as Micaiah (1
kings 22:19) and to Isaiah (6:1); but they saw not the essence of God, but
some images and figures of him proportional to their sense or imagination. .
. . This only signifies a fuller and clearer manifestation of God by some
representations offered to the bodily sense, or rather to the inward spirit.” A
more concise statement of the above is stated by Erickson (Christian Theology,
There are, of course, numerous passages which suggest that God has
physical features such as hands or feet. How are we to regard these
references? It seems most helpful to treat them as anthropomorphisms,
attempts to express the truth about God through human analogies. There
are also cases where God appeared in physical form, particularly in the
Old Testament. These should be understood as theophanies, or
temporary manifestations of God. It seems best to take the clear
statements about the spirituality and invisibility of God at face value andinterpret the anthropomorphisms and theophanies in the light of
them. Indeed, Jesus himself clearly indicated that a spirit does not have
flesh and bones (Luke 24:39).
A theophany is to be distinguished from the permanent manifestation of
God in Jesus Christ, called the Incarnation. The Incarnation in historic
Christianity is that Jesus the eternal Word of God took on full humanity and
lived a truly human life (Phil 2:5-8). Jesus did not experience a loss of his
divine nature in any way but continued to be fully God. Thus Jesus Christ is
both fully divine and fully human.
At this stage in the discussion it needs to be pointed out that the LDS
Jesus Christ is quite different than that of the historic Christian church. In
Mormonism, Jesus is the first spirit born—the product of relations between god
and one of his goddesses—who all used to be people from another world.
Jesus is also the literal spirit brother of Satan and of each of us. Jesus’ human
existence is by means of a sexual union between Mary and the heavenly Father.
The website www.mrm.org/jesus-of-mormonism says the following
concerning Mormon doctrine on Jesus:
Mormon theology makes a distinction between Elohim and Jehovah. LDS
leaders have claimed that these are the names of two separate Gods.
Sixth president Joseph F. Smith stated, “Among the spirit children of
Elohim, the first-born was and is Jehovah, or Jesus Christ, to whom all
others are juniors” (Gospel Doctrine, 70). . . .On literally hundreds of
occasions, the words “Yahweh” [or Jehovah] and “Elohim” are used
together to demonstrate that Jehovah is Elohim (See Gen. 2:4-22; Deut.
4:1; Judges 5:3; 1 Samuel 2:30). These words are used together as
“Lord our God,” Lord my God,” “Lord his God,” and Lord thy God.” Even
Joseph Smith in his Inspired Version of the Bible (also known as the
Joseph Smith Translation) translated 1 Kings 8:60 as “The Lord is God”
or “Jehovah is Elohim.” (See also Exodus 34:14 in the JST).
The “allaboutmormons” website stated, “The New Testament also teaches
that human beings can see God. Clearly many saw Jesus Christ, who is God the
Son, both before and after His resurrection.” This statement is used as proof
that God the Father has a body and that He can be seen. Apparently, Mormons
have a different under-standing of the Incarnation than that of true Christianity.
Such statements demonstrate the difficulty in addressing Mormons. To fully
address the Jesus of Mormons and the Jesus of historic Christianity would
involve a whole other paper. That Mormons and Christians differ so much on
Jesus (as well as God, salvation, etc., etc) is one of the major reasons why
Mormons are not Christian in any sense of the word. Mormons also have a
completely different interpretation of passages like John 1:18, 6:46; Heb 1:1-3
and John 14:7-11 and many more.
2. The Glory of God. What about the glory of God, can it be seen?
There are specific examples where the glory of God was seen. Examples
include the cloud and the fire, already mentioned, and the vision of God granted
to Moses (Ex 33:18ff; 34:5ff) in the form of a tangible theophany. The
Israelites saw His glory (Deut 5:24). Ezekiel saw “the appearance of the
brightness of the glory of the Lord” (Ezek 1:28). The Zondervan Pictorial
Encyclopedia of the Bible (2:732) points out that the Judaism did not conceive
of God as having human characteristics from the physical manifestations of
Attention is often drawn to the somewhat physical way in which God’s
glory is mentioned in the OT. . . . Too much stress can be laid on this
evidence, as to say that the God of the Hebrews was a physical being.
As Ezekiel described the glory of God, he was describing something he
saw in a vision. The vision would have tangible form—it cannot be
otherwise—because it is not an abstract idea but a concrete revelation.
This does not mean that something physical was present. To the
Hebrews, in any case, God was not an absolute abstraction, but one with
whom they could have contact, and anthropomorphic terms were
inevitable. The Hebrews did not, however, view Him as human, or
earthly in shape and motion. Taking the Scripture as a whole, such
physical conceptions are balanced out by the ethical ideas that attach to
God’s glory. . . . God’s glory is God Himself, and as such He cannot be
represented by any human image; nor does He need any such image to
glorify Him—in fact, in so representing Him we dishonor Him. Israel
insulted God’s glory when it created images of Him (Isa 42:8; 48:11).
Calvin says, “As often as any form is assigned to God, His glory is
corrupted by an impious lie.”
Thus it is possible that Stephen saw a manifestation of the glory of God
as opposed to a vision. However, it is certain that Stephen was the only person
permitted to see it, or else the people would not have responded in the way
they did (Acts 7:57).
3. On the right hand of God. This is figurative or anthropomorphic
language, symbolizing honor, power, and authority given to Christ as a reward
for his fully accomplished mediatorial work (cf. Heb 1:3; 10:11-12; also see Ps.
110:1; Matt. 26:64; Mark 14:62; Acts 2:33; 5:31; 7:55, 56; Eph. 1:20; Col.
3:1; Heb. 8:1; 12:2; 1 Pet. 3:22). MacArthur (MacArthur Bible Commentary,
1836) says, “It is also the position of subordination, implying that the Son is
under the authority of the Father (cf. 1 Cor. 15:27, 28). This depicts a
victorious Savior, not a defeated martyr.” His sitting implies the completion of
His atoning work. God Himself is also spoken of as standing at the right hand
of David (Ps 16:8; Acts 2:25). Obviously, God did not literally stand at the
right hand of David. The phrase only indicates that God was supporting David
as His chosen king.
4. Throne. Although the word “throne” is not used in this passage, it is
certainly pictured by the phrase “on the right hand.” According to Revelation
3:21, Jesus promised all true believers that they will sit down with Him in His
throne: “To him that overcomes will I grant to sit down with me in my throne,
even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” First
John 5:4-5 makes it clear that the concept of an overcomer is something that
is true of all believers: “For whatsoever is born of God overcomes the world:
and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith. Who is he that
overcomes the world, but he that believeth Jesus is the Son of God?” (cf. Rev
2:7). I doubt that Mormons understand the throne spoken of here to be a
literal throne. If so, does it mean the saved will take turns sitting on this
throne, since it would have to be a mighty big throne for all the believers to sit
on it all at once with Jesus! The throne here only means that we will share the
privilege and authority that Christ enjoys as the saved reign with Him (1:6;
Matt 19:28; Luke 22:29, 30).
The concept of God sitting on a throne is seen throughout the book of
Revelation. However, it should not be pressed to mean that God sits on a literal
throne. The idea is not that of a piece of furniture, but a symbol of sovereign
rule and authority (7:15; 11:19; 16:17, 18; cf. Is 6:1). In Revelation 2:13,
Pergamum is said to be located “where the throne of Satan is.” I do not think
that anyone believes that Satan had a literal throne in this place. Most explain
this as a statement to the stronghold Satan had in controlling the life and
culture of the city—it was the seat of satanic power.
The “allaboutmormons” website stated that “some mistakenly read
scripture . . . .” This some includes all of mainstream Christianity. In fact, the
anthropomorphic interpretation of Scripture as it relates to God has been the
view of the historic Christian church as well as all of Judaism.
The Mormon answer to this may be that the Christian church has been in
a state of apostasy until Joseph Smith came. This apostasy would have to
include historic Judaism. For Judaism has also always taken an
anthropomorphic interpretation of Scriptures.
There is, however, no evidence that the church has been in a state of
apostasy for almost 2000 years. But even if that were true, the
anthropomorphic interpretation of Scripture is based on taking the clear
statements that God is Spirit, He is invisible, and cannot be seen at face value.
It is not a valid accusation to say that mainstream Christianity “cherry picks
isolated scriptures to support a pre-conceived notion.” That God is invisible and
cannot be seen (John 1:18, 6:46; Col 1:15; 1 Tim 1:17, 6:16; 1 John 4:12)
that God is Spirit (John 4:24) and a spirit does not have flesh and bone (Luke
24:39) are not in any sense isolated. If there even is such a thing as “isolated
scripture,” the above Scriptures are not a good example.
So who really is basing their interpretation on pre-conceived notions?
The above has demonstrated that true Christianity does indeed take the Bible
as a whole. It is in fact the Mormons that are interpreting Scripture with a pre-conceived notion. In order for the Mormons to make their interpretation work,
they have to redefine the concept of what a vision is, and disregard what they
call “isolated scriptures.” It appears that Mormons either disregard the rules
of interpretation (hermeneutics) or bend them to fit their belief system.
Because the Bible is the authoritative Word of God, there are no contradictions.
If there appears to be a contradiction, then one or both of the passages has
been misunderstood. The two passages can be harmonized. This is done by
applying the rules of interpretation. Thus, if a Mormon wants to reject the
above interpretation, he would need to demonstrate that the above rules are
either invalid or misused. How has the historic Christian church misapplied its
hermeneutics? This is important because the way Mormons approach to
scripture, and the way true Christianity interprets Scripture are miles apart.
A great many portions of Scripture are at stake.
Although it is certain that many Mormons will cling tenaciously to their
belief no matter what evidence can be brought against it, it is my hope that in
reading this paper that many will come to a true under-standing of the true
nature of God and be truly saved. For as Charnock (The Existence and
Attributes of God, 1:193-94) so clearly tells us:
To make any corporeal representation of God is unworthy of God. It is
a disgrace to his nature. Whosoever thinks a carnal corruptible image to
be fit for a representation of God, renders God no better than a carnal
and a corporeal being. It is a kind of debasing an angel, who is a spiritual
nature, to represent him in a bodily shape, who is far removed from any
fleshliness as heaven from earth; much more to degrade the glory of the
divine nature to the lineaments of a man. The whole stock of images is
a lie of God (Jer. 10:8, 14); a doctrine of vanities and falsehood; it
represents him in a false garb to the world, and sinks his glory into that
of a corruptible creature (Rom. 1:18-25). It impairs the reverence of
God in the minds of men, and by degrees may debase man’s
apprehension of God, and be a means to make them believe he is such
a one as themselves; and that not being free from the figure, he is not
also free from the imperfections of the bodies (Rom. 1:22). Corporeal
images of God were the fruits of base imaginations of him; and as they
sprung from them, so they contribute to a greater corruption of the
notions of the divine nature . . . . As men debased God by this, so God
debased men for this; he degraded the Israelites into captivity, under the
worst of their enemies, and punished the heathens with spiritual
judgments, as uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts (Rom.
1:24); which is repeated in other expressions (1:26, 27), as a meet
recompense for the disgracing the spiritual nature of God. Had God been
like to men, they had not offended in it; but I mention this, to show a
probable reason of those base lusts which are in the midst of us, that
have scarce been exceeded by any nation, viz, the unworthy and
unscriptural conceits of God, which are as much debasing of him as
material images were when they were more rife in the world; and may
be as well the cause of spiritual judgment upon men, as worshipping
molten and carved images were the case of the same upon the heathen.
©2009 by John Finton