Book Plunge: Leaving Mormonism

What do I think of Corey Miller and Lynn Wilder’s book published by Kregel publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Leaving Mormonism is a unique work in that four now scholars take a look at Mormonism and why they not only left it, but they came to Christianity. Not all of these people were scholars in the field when they left Mormonism, but they all had a part in it and have now become the scholars. Each one has a chapter about their story and then there is a bonus chapter by Miller and Wilder on why someone should be a Christian theist since many people who abandon Mormonism can abandon theism altogether.

Corey Miller starts out first. His chapter is indeed very philosophical and relies on a lot of the approach one can see from William Lane Craig. There’s a lot of good material in there on the problems also on relying on the inner witness that Mormons speak about. On the other hand, if you’re much more into the Thomist approach and not into the approach from Craig, the other side is good, but not nearly as convincing to you as it could be.

Latayne Scott had the next chapter and this was a fascinating story about being convinced of Mormonism as a child by the missionaries and taking it very seriously. She was a passionate Mormon and then she started dating some guy who wasn’t a Mormon but a Christian and not only that, had read the Book of Mormon before. (Which if you want to evangelize to someone in another religious system, it’s always good to read their holy book.) Normally, I wouldn’t encourage missionary dating, but this time it did work out. Eventually, Scott started seeing problems with Mormonism and those beyond the counter-Mormonism books.

Scott’s story is good and helpful, but after it she goes off into what is a long talk that I really found myself wondering where she was going. There were times also she spoke of a triadic system of reality to show the Trinity, which I did not really get into that part as much. I prefer to always speak of a Trinitarian display instead of a triadic as a triadic system could be polytheistic.

Lynn Wilder had my favorite chapter in the book next, but that could be because of a bias on my part. I’ve known Wilder since her book Unveiling Grace and I got to interview her on my podcast. Wilder’s story in this chapter is a highly abbreviated account of that book and goes into several of the problems in the system of Mormonism and how she has been used to help others get out of Mormonism.

Vince Eccles has the final story. His was different in that he grew up in Mormonism, but a love of science caused him to never really think it was the true path and was a skeptic until becoming a Christian. While some aspects of his chapter are interesting, it doesn’t seem to have as much to do with Mormonism and many times he comes across as if he’s iffy in some ways on major doctrines like the Trinity. I would actually have no problem with anything scientific said in the chapter and there are some good theological insights in it, but I was wondering why much of the material was even there.

Finally, Miller and Wilder come together at the end to give an apologetic for Christian theism. This is an interesting chapter, but if you have read a lot of apologetics material, you won’t find anything new. The chapter is meant to give a basic introduction to the idea. I would have liked to have seen a few more theistic arguments, especially the Thomistic ones, but it was a good one.

I also think I should point out that one problem is every now and then, you would find some typos and grammatical problems in the book. These I think could have been edited out easily. Still, there is a lot of good material and really helps the reader to understand Mormonism and that this isn’t just another form of Christianity.

I would have liked to have seen more on the problems of Mormonism beyond moral ones, such as problems with the Book of Mormon. These show up from time to time, but there is not much investment put to them. It is also pointed out in the book that the internet is causing many to leave Mormonism, but I would have liked to have seen an apologetic for Christianity along those lines since many could say the same about Christianity and as well an idea of what this could mean for the future of the Mormon church.

This is still a very good book and it can be a very gripping one. Chances are you won’t like all the chapters equally, but one account will surely stand out to you. If you want to understand Mormonism and how to reach Mormons, this is a book to get.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Is Polygamy Wrong?

Why should a man not have more than one wife? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I had a friend message me wanting to know my stance on polygamy. After all, doesn’t polygamy show up in the Bible? Jesus Himself never condemned polygamy did He? There seem to be times in the Bible when God endorses polygamy. What’s going on with that?

One case where it’s explicitly stated is in 2 Chronicles 24 with the first three verses.

Joash became king of Judah at the age of seven, and he ruled in Jerusalem for forty years. His mother was Zibiah from the city of Beersheba. He did what was pleasing to the Lord as long as Jehoiada the priest was alive. Jehoiada chose two wives for King Joash, and they bore him sons and daughters.

Then of course, many great figures in Israel’s history had multiple wives. Abraham had his wife and he had his concubine. Jacob had his wives and both of their concubines. Of course, King David who was a man after God’s own heart is quite well known for his multiple wives and who could top all the wives that Solomon had? Heck. God allowed this to happen. 2 Samuel 12 seems quite explicit.

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more.

Yes. See? David had all the wives of Saul and God would have given him even more if it had been too little. Surely God is behind this.

And when we get to the New Testament, we don’t see any explicit condemnations of polygamy. We also see the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. Why would there be so many virgins directly said to be at a wedding? Are they the ones taking part in it?

Let’s take a look at all of this.

Polygamy is really one of those borderline practices in Old Testament Times. Lamech was the first to take two wives and it was seen as an example of how wrong society had become before the flood. What we see in the Old Testament is not so much eliminating it as regulating it. If this is here for now, here’s what we’re going to do about it. The same can be said for the slavery system.

We also see divorce being permitted, but Jesus himself said in Matthew 19 that Moses did that because hearts were hard, but it was not that way from the beginning. While there was even a time in Israel’s history, namely Ezra 10, where divorce was commanded, we know that ultimately, God hates divorce. Divorce was a sad necessity in Ezra 10 to avoid a greater danger. It’s the same way God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, yet sometimes they die.

Well what about king Joash? The high priest specifically gave him two wives. Why is that?

Let’s keep in mind the entire royal family had just been killed and Joash was the lone survivor. It needed to be built up again and thus two wives were chosen. After all, one could be infertile or the children could die young, which was common back then. I find it amazing that if polygamy was something that was so wonderful and it would help repopulate the royal family, why stop with two wives? Why not have a dozen or so? The royal family would get populated again very quickly.

Okay, well what about King David? Didn’t God tell him that he could have even more wives? Well, not really.

You see, God was also quite clear that the Israelites were to stay in the land of Israel and Judah. When David has a census later on he’s quite likely wanting to expand his territory and that’s why judgment comes. Israel was given a land and they were not to take from others. So when Israel and Judah is given to David, are we to say God was ready to give him Egypt and Assyria? No. What is being said is that everything Saul had, including his harem, went to David and David had everything that represented his kingship. It does not mean God would give more wives any more than that he would give more nations.

What about the New Testament? Having multiple virgins at a wedding does not mean the man was marrying all of them. For one thing, that would be a long long wedding night as after a man has his orgasm, it takes him awhile before he can have another one. Second, the virgins were often there to be given an idea of their own wedding. Why were some locked out? They had shamed the bride.

Today, weddings are still major events in the lives of young women. Imagine you’re a young woman who has a wedding and you invite someone to be a bridesmaid and they don’t adequately prepare. They don’t fix their hair or get a good outfit or anything. This person is treating your special day as if it’s no big deal. So do the foolish virgins in this parable. Preparing by having extra oil was not a major inconvenience.

Now some of you might be thinking I’m going to Jesus’s words next, but no. I’m going to go to Paul first. Let’s look at Romans 7.

Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives? For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man.

Now if Paul is saying having relations with another man results in adultery, implicit in that is an understanding that a woman is to have only one husband. Some also see this as a requirement in 1 Tim. 3. That one is much more debated but if it is the idea of one woman for one man in that passage, then we have a statement on how polygamy was viewed.

But now, let’s go to Jesus. The place to go is Matthew 19.

When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

Notice Jesus has two ideas about marriage. First off, he says marriage is male and female. He could have just gone to Genesis 2:24 and said it was a “one flesh” relationship. He doesn’t. He makes sure to include Genesis 1:27 in there and even then only the part about male and female. Then Jesus points to the two becoming one flesh. Once the two are together, the union is complete. There’s no need for more.

A large part of this was a way of stopping a revolving door. You could have a man marry and then divorce his wife and then marry another and then divorce her and then remarry the first. It would be a way of avoiding a restriction on polygamy by using divorce. Fortunately, even OT law dealt with this one.

Jesus even comes down hard. Many times we like to think that the OT God is strict and Jesus is all love. Look at the Sermon on the Mount if you think that. The OT forbade adultery. Jesus says you don’t even look at another man’s wife with lust. Murder was already forbidden. Jesus said don’t hate in your heart. Jesus always raised the moral bar.

Jesus does the same here. Jesus only says divorce is permitted in the case of adultery. We could ask greatly what adultery means. That is for another day, but it’s important to note that even in cases where divorce could be a sad necessity, it is still that. Sad. We should not rejoice that a divorce has taken place even if we think it’s for the best. That means that someone broke a promise along the way to love the other person till death do them part. That’s tragic.

Polygamy could be a real temptation also because, and I’m sure this will be a shock to all the women, men tend to have a really strong desire for sex. (I’m sure every woman reading this is just shocked right now.) Polygamy can devalue women because a man can just say “I’m not getting it from you. I guess I’ll go elsewhere.” It is very easy for women to become objects.

In monogamy, the man and woman have to work together to make sure each person’s needs, including their sexual needs are met. In fact, this isn’t just for the man. In 1 Cor. 7, the man and the woman are both to give each other their conjugal rights. The wife’s body belongs to the man, but the man’s body belongs to the wife.

So what’s the Biblical response? Live your marriage in such a way that extending beyond the borders would be unthinkable. Since the men tend to have the greatest sex drives, I’ll say that for the women, follow the advice one of Allie’s friends told her recently. “You have to keep him interested.” Your man has a desire for you and he wants you. Sex with you is one of the deepest ways that he connects with you and feels accepted and wanted by you.

For the men, control your desires. Don’t treat your wife as an object. Be with her even when it’s not sexual. If you make everything be about sex, then your wife is prone to think that all she’s good for is sex. You didn’t marry an apparatus to give you pleasure, although your wife’s body should definitely give you pleasure. You married a person to be treated like a person.

If a man tends to go beyond the boundaries, it is because of his great appetite and all the women in the world will never be enough. Men instead need to let their desires for their wives be that which is not quenched. Women. Keep in mind that your husband wanting frequent sex is his way of saying “I can’t get enough of you.” There should not be a limit as to how much a man wants his wife and vice-versa. Grow in that love every day.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Answering Thom Stark on the Bible and Homosexuality

What do I think of what Thom Stark has to say on the Bible and homosexuality? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s not a shock that Thom Stark has jumped on the bandwagon with wanting to support homosexual behavior. Now he thinks he has hard questions for Christians. Really? Let’s see what he has.

If you’re a Christian who condemns homosexuality because the Bible condemns it, there are at least five things you must also do before you can condemn it consistently:

Well I guess we’re off to a bad start since I have other grounds for my condemnation, but of course, Stark has this idea that all Christians are the same. But hey, let’s leap into the text.

1) You must also condemn sex between a husband and his menstruating wife (an act condemned on equal footing with adultery, incest, homosexuality, bestiality, witchcraft, and child sacrifice in both Leviticus 18 and Leviticus 20).

On equal footing? Well no. Leviticus 18 doesn’t mention the punishments for certain crimes, but Leviticus 20 does. Leviticus 20 gives incest, homosexuality, bestiality, child sacrifice as leading to death. Witchcraft involves expulsion from the community. The same follows for sleeping with a woman while she’s menstruating since that involves blood and the punishment is being cut off. Homosexuality is right there with the ones that end in death and is thus treated differently. So sorry, point #1 doesn’t really work.

2) You must also acknowledge that, according to God’s laws, polygamy is morally acceptable to God, and is a standard type of “biblical marriage.” It is given tacit approval in the laws of Moses, in Deut 21:15-17, where a man with more than one wife is told that he must treat the children of unfavored wives equally to the children of favored wives. There is 2 Sam 12:8, where Yahweh reminds David that he gave Saul’s wives to him as a gift, and would have given David even more if he had asked. Then in the New Testament, only church elders are told they cannot marry more than one wife (ostensibly because more than one wife is a distraction from caring for the church family), a prohibition that does not apply to any other Christian.

Or being a good Christian, you could remember that this was a practice allowed because of the hardness of the hearts of people, much like divorce was. The NT has several indications about a time where God let some people have a little bit more leeway. But what about 2 Samuel 12:8?

And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more.

Does this mean more wives? No. It refers to wealth period. Would God have given David other houses besides Israel and Judah? Israel was told to not expand their borders. It refers to increasing wealth entirely. It’s a way of saying “Look what all I gave you! Isn’t that enough?!”

3) You must also acknowledge that, according to God’s laws, it is morally acceptable to capture the women of your defeated political enemies and force them to marry you. “When you go out to war against your enemies, and Yahweh your God hands them over to you and you take them captive, suppose you see among the captives a beautiful woman whom you desire and want to marry, and so you bring her home to your house: she shall shave her head, pare her nails, discard her captive’s garb, and shall remain in your house a full month, mourning for her father and mother; after that you may go into her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife” (Deut 21:10-13). That is biblical marriage.

I suppose Thom would have preferred that the women be either killed or left to fend for themselves alone in the ANE. That they were allowed to marry was a way to protect the woman. Is that a different kind of marriage? No. It is still a man-woman marriage. It is a different way to enter into marriage but the reality of marriage as the union of man and a woman is the same.

4) You must also acknowledge that, according to God’s laws, it is morally acceptable to force a rape victim to marry her rapist. “If a man meets a virgin who is not engaged, and forcibly seizes her and lies with her, and they are caught in the act, the man who lay with her shall give fifty shekels of silver to the young woman’s father, and she shall become his wife. Because he violated her he shall not be permitted to divorce her as long as he lives” (Deut 22:28-29). This is biblical marriage.

And Thom again doesn’t realize that this was set in place to protect the woman. In the culture, she would have been shamed and seen as undesirable for marriage by being raped. Forcing her rapist to provide for her for the rest of his life would make him think twice about the activity. The woman would have welcomed the arrangement wanting the man to be punished and making him pay the price for her.

5) You must also acknowledge that, according to God’s laws, it is morally acceptable as a matter of course to own slaves. “As for the male and female slaves whom you may have, it is from the nations around you that you may acquire male and female slaves. You may also acquire them from among the aliens residing with you, and from their families that are with you, who have been born in your land; and they may be your property. You may keep them as a possession for your children after you, for them to inherit as property. These you may treat as slaves, but as for your fellow Israelites, no one shall rule over the other with harshness” (Lev 25:44-46). You must acknowledge that the New Testament orders slaves to obey their masters, even while it tells their masters to treat them kindly. Nowhere does the Bible condemn slavery, and thus, if you wish to continue to condemn homosexuality simply because the Bible says so, you must never condemn slavery again.

Or we could try understanding the way slavery worked in the ANE. Sorry Thom, but you couldn’t just go to Wal-Mart and get a job. You had to work for someone else and the system set up for that was slavery, a way to actually care for the poor. It was nothing like the slavery that we saw in Civil War Times.

We could go on with things you ought to support: genocide, patriarchy, etc. But these five are a good jumping-off point. When you can honestly say 1) that you do not have sex during menstruation and that you excommunicate any fellow Christians who do, 2) that you support a man’s right to marry multiple women, 3) that you support a man’s right to invade a country, kill a woman’s husband or father, and take her as his wife, 4) that you support a rapist’s right to forcibly marry his victim and deny her right to divorce him, and 5) that you support a man’s right to purchase and own human beings as slaves and bequeath them to his children, then you may come to me and tell me that you believe homosexuality is immoral because the Bible tells you so. Until that time, suffer your own hatred in silence.

Ah yes. The hatred card at the end. You see, I took the time to write this post in the middle of stomping around my house talking about how much I hate homosexuals. When I meet other Christians, all we do is gather around and share stories of mean things we did to homosexuals that week. Please excuse me because after this post I have to go to a meeting where we will hold up our Christian flag and continue our prolonged hate of homosexuals.

Yeah Thom. That kind of drivel about hate means I just don’t take you seriously there. You see, believe it or not, hate can be a very good thing.

What?

You see, I take it you don’t support genocide, slavery, or patriarchy. I would wager you hate those things. Do you think that’s a problem? I don’t. I think if something is evil, you should hate it. Even if it isn’t evil, if you think it is, you should hate it.

Meanwhile, it would have been nice of you to explain what these passages mean that you think we should just throw out. It would have also been nice to have seen you touch a passage like Romans 1 and deal with what Paul said. Oh. Maybe next time you can look at the work of Robert Gagnon and comment.

But until then, it’s this kind of handling of the text that I just find completely unpersuasive and banks on people not understanding the historical context.

By the way, telling people to suffer it in silence is a way of saying “Shut up.”

How tolerant of you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters