“YHWH” and “Elohim” in LDS and J-DUB Misunderstandings

The LDS Church teaches that “Elohim” properly refers to Heavenly Father, and that “Jehovah” refers to Jesus. While Mormons believe that both Elohim and Jehovah are “united in purpose”, Mormonism claims that “Elohim” and “Jehovah” are actually two separate exalted beings. This is significant, because it would mean that there are actually numerous “gods”—more than just one! But Christians claim that Jehovah (Or Yahweh) and Elohim are the same being, the One True God, who is uncreated and unchanging. Christianity teaches that there only ever has been and will be One Creator God. If Christians are correct, then the notion of eternal progression and exaltation are abominable and idolatrous. The idea that the Father and Son progressed to their current position is a blasphemous claim to the Christian! Therefore, the true nature of Jehovah and Elohim is a significant question! So what does the Bible teach? Does the Bible indicate that Elohim and Jehovah are two different gods “united in purpose”? Or does Scripture teach that Jehovah and Elohim are different names for the same being?

This is an update to an old post from my free blog from many yearn ago. It deals with certain aspects of Mormon’s and Jehovah’s Witness’s understanding of a “bifurcation” (of sorts). Enjoy, I may re-edit this in the weeks coming. This edit is a shortening of the older debate (which itself references an even older discussion. I am thinking this was the late 90’s or early 2000s):

TRINITY

I recommend a book that will assist you in your understanding of Bart Ehrman, it is entitled, Misquoting Truth: A Guide to the Fallacies of Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus.  Learning possibility aside, you believe that YHWH represents Jesus, and Elohim represents Heavenly Father, right?  I will elucidate with an old debate:

You Jeff, are not arguing against me when I speak of sex in heaven, you are speaking or arguing against personalities further up the LDS-chain of command than yourself (I have posted this before):

Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.2, p.48:

The Father has promised us that through our faithfulness we shall be blessed with the fulness of his kingdom. In other words we will have the privilege of becoming like him. To become like him we must have all the powers of godhood; thus a man and his wife when glorified will have spirit children who eventually will go on an earth like this one we are on and pass through the same kind of experiences, being subject to mortal conditions, and if faithful, then they also will receive the fulness of exaltation and partake of the same blessings. There is no end to this development; it will go on forever. We will become gods and have jurisdiction over worlds, and these worlds will be peopled by our own offspring.  We will have an endless eternity for this.

An endless eternity of celestial sex is what that last sentence meant.  Okay, I will leave you to argue with your ex-president in an LDS book Doctrines of Salvation

How many Jesus’ are there??  Lets do a little Bible study in Genesis.  I will post some scripture from Genesis 18 and 19.  The pink highlights are what we are going to read (pink is for Jehovah’s Witnesses, green is for Mormons I will now have to add a bit of green to these verses as I can use them with LDS).

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So again, with your understanding of who Elohim and YHWH is, as before, your theology is less fit for what the bible displays as clearly Trinitarian.  How can Jesus be three people, and then also speak to Himself in heaven while on earth?  I mean, you say YHWH is Jesus, orthodox Christianity says this is one name for God (1x1x1=1), Elohim is another.

No Christian doctrine depends on the longer version of the 1 John:7-8.  It never has, and Ehrman doesn’t reject the Trinity for this verse either.  He does so because he is a philosophical naturalist.  Matthew 28:19-20 states the concept of one God (“in name,” GK singular) expressed in three persons (“of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”) just as clearly as those words in 1 John.

According to you Jesus is “a” God, as well as other “persons before Heavenly Father as well as after Heavenly Father.  However, the Old Testament states:

  • “See now that I, I am He, and there is no God besides Me” (Deuteronomy 32:39 NASB)
  • “Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after me” (Isaiah 43:10 NASB)
  • “Is there any God besides Me, or is there any other Rock? I know of none” (Isaiah 44:8 NASB)
  • “I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides Me there is no God” (Isaiah 45:5 NASB)

However, Heavenly Father’s parents on another earth may themselves not have achieved exultation, whereas a person who at one time (on another planet in the myriad of Mormon worlds with possible gods that inhabit them) could have owned a brothel, but later was sealed in a temple ceremony and repented of his way may be an even more powerful God than Heavenly Father.  Odd.

Just in case people here do not understand what Bot is doing, he is arguing against one infinite God and arguing for an infinite amount of finite Gods.

DIETY OF CHRIST

According to LDS theology, Jesus did not exist at one point in history at least until Heavenly Father had a bit of foreplay with one of his wives and maybe a martini or two (Brigham Young was the only distributor of alcohol in Utah for some time he’s exulted, right?) and a long night of hot – steamywell, you get the point, Jesus was born.  This is not the belief of any Christian, the apostles, the church fathers, and the like.  Only LDS believe this, not the church even for the first 100 years believed this, as the Scriptures make clear.  Jesus created the space/time continuum, he was not pre-dated by DNA, matter, gods, or the like. 

Heavenly Father didn’t create the eye, or the pancreas, these predate Heavenly Father, and were passed on to him via his parents “sexing it up.”  And the DNA for eyes and pancreas’s were passed to them via an act of sex, and so on ad-infinitum.

Jesus and Heavenly Father were born into a cosmos that enforced its natural laws (both physical and moral) on Jesus and Heavenly Father, whereas these forces were created by God and didn’t pre-date God.  The former is not deity, the later is.

IRR has a good short article where they answer the following:

  • The Hebrew word elohim is grammatically a plural form, and in a couple hundred occurrences in the Old Testament does mean “gods.” However, about 2,600 times elohim functions as a singular noun. We know this for four reasons

Also, LDS struggle with the following a tad:

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One of the best books I have read on the topic of the Trinity is by an ex-Oneness Pentecostal, Robert Bowman,

The rest of this book will be concerned with the biblical material relating to the Trinity, considering the arguments advanced by JWs to show that it is unbiblical.

We begin with the biblical teaching that there is one God. The JWs affirm that monotheism is the biblical teaching (p. 12), citing several Scriptures in support (p. 13). And trinitarians could not agree more. There is only one God, and this God is one. The oneness of God is the first plank in the trinitarian platform. For this reason I would agree with the booklet’s argument that the plural form elohim for God in the Old Testament cannot be evidence of the Trinity (pp. 13-14).

The Trinity and the Oneness of God

But two problems need attention. First, JWs claim that the Bible’s affirmations of monotheism mean “that God is one Person—a unique, unpartitioned Being who has no equal” (p. 13). As has already been explained, trinitarians do not regard the three persons as “partitions” of God, or the Son and Spirit as beings outside God yet equal to him. Indeed, if “person” is defined to mean an individual per­sonal being, then trinitarians will agree that in that sense “God is one Person.” Thus, in arguing as if these truths contradicted the Trinity, the JWs show they have mis­construed the doctrine. In fact, that God is one “Person” in this sense does not prove that he is not also three “persons” in the sense meant by trinitarians.

Second, biblical monotheism does not simply mean that the being of the Almighty God is one being. That is true enough, but the Bible also teaches simply that there is one God. The Bible is quite emphatic on this point, repeating it often in both the Old Testament (Deut. 4:35, 39; 32:39; 2 Sam. 22:32; Isa. 37:20; 43:10; 44:6-8; 45:5, 14, 21-22; 46:9) and the New Testament (Rom. 3:30; 16:27; 1 Cor. 8:4, 6; Gal. 3:20; Eph. 4:6; 1 Tim. 1:17; 2:5; James 2:19; Jude 25). And the very meaning of the word monotheism is the belief in one God.

It is therefore important to note that the JWs flatly deny this most basic of biblical teachings. Although they admit that there is only one Almighty God, they claim that there are, in addition to that God, and not counting the many false gods worshiped by idolaters, many creatures rightly recognized in the Bible as “gods” in the sense of “mighty ones” (p. 28). These “gods” include Jesus Christ, angels, human judges, and Satan. The JWs take this position to justify allowing the Bible to call Jesus “a god” without honoring him as Jehovah God.

The question must therefore be asked whether Wit­nesses can escape the charge that they are polytheists (be­lievers in many gods). The usual reply is that while they believe there are many gods, they worship only one God, Jehovah. But this belief is not monotheism, either. The usual term for the belief that there are many gods but only one who is to be worshiped is heno theism.

The more important question, of course, is whether the Bible supports the JWs’ view. The explicit, direct state­ments of the Bible that there is only one God (cited above) cannot fairly be interpreted to mean that there are many gods but only one who is almighty, or only one who is to be worshiped, or only one who is named Jehovah. There is only one Almighty God Jehovah, and he alone is to be worshiped—but the Bible also states flatly that he is the only God.

More precisely, the Bible says that there is only one true God (John 17:3; see also 2 Chron. 15:3; Jer. 10:10; 1 Thess. 1:9; 1 John 5:20), in contrast to all other gods, false gods, who are not gods at all (Deut. 32:21; 1 Sam. 12:21; Ps. 96:5; Isa. 37:19; 41:23-24, 29; Jer. 2:11; 5:7; 16:20; 1 Cor. 8:4; 10:19-20). There are, then, two categories of “gods”: true Gods (of which there is only one, Jehovah) and false gods (of which there are unfortunately many).

The JWs, however, in agreement with most anti­trinitarian groups today that claim to believe in the Bible, cannot agree that there is only one true God, despite the Bible’s saying so in just those words, because then they would have to admit that Jesus is that God. Therefore, they appeal to a few isolated texts in the Bible that they claim honor creatures with the title gods without implying that they are false gods. We must next consider these texts briefly.

Are Angels Gods?

There are two kinds of creatures that the JWs claim are honored as gods in Scripture—angels and men. We begin with angels. The usual prooftext in support of this claim is Psalm 8:5, which the NWT renders, “You also proceeded to make him [man] a little less than godlike ones.” The word translated “godlike ones” here is elohim, the usual word for “God,” but (because plural) also translatable as “gods.” Since Hebrews 2:7 quotes this verse as saying, “You made him a little lower than angels” (NWT), the Witnesses con­clude that Psalm 8:5 is calling angels “gods.”

There are numerous objections to this line of reasoning, only some of which can be mentioned here. First, it is questionable that in its original context elohim in Psalm 8:5 should be understood to refer to angels and translated “gods” or “godlike ones.” This is because in context this psalm is speaking of man’s place in creation in terms that closely parallel Genesis 1. Psalm 8:3 speaks of the creation of the heavens, moon, and stars (cf. Gen. 1:1, 8, 16). Verse 4 asks how God can consider man significant when com­pared with the grandeur of creation. The answer given is that man rules over creation—over the inhabitants of the land, sky, and sea (vv. 6-8; cf. Gen. 1:26-28). What links this question and answer in Psalm 8 is the statement that God made man “a little lower than elohim,” which parallels in thought the Genesis statement that man was created “in the image of elohim,” that is, in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). This makes it quite reasonable to conclude that in its own context Psalm 8:5 is meant to be understood as saying that man is a little lower than God, not angels.

If this view is correct, why does Hebrews 2:7 have the word angels rather than God? The simple answer is that the author of Hebrews was quoting from the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Old Testament prepared by Jewish scholars and in common use in the first century. The fact that the writer of Hebrews quoted the Septuagint does not imply that the Septuagint rendering he quoted was a literal or accurate word-for-word translation of the Hebrew text (after all, “angels” is certainly not a literal translation of “gods”). Rather, Hebrews 2:7 is a paraphrase of Psalm 8:5 that, while introducing a new understanding of it, does not contradict it. Psalm 8 says that the son of man (meaning mankind) was made a little lower than God; Hebrews 2 says that the Son of Man (meaning Christ) was made a little lower than the angels. The psalm speaks of man’s exalted status, while Hebrews speaks of Christ’s temporary hum­bling. Since the angels are, of course, lower than God, and since Christ’s humbled status was that of a man, what Hebrews says does not contradict Psalm 8:5, though it does go beyond it.

It must be admitted that this is not the only way of reading Hebrews 2:7 and Psalm 8:5. It is just possible that Hebrews 2:7 does implicitly understand Psalm 8:5 to be calling angels “gods.” If this were correct, it would not mean that angels were truly gods. It might then be argued that the point of Psalm 8:5 was that man was made just a little lower than the spiritual creatures so often wrongly worshiped by men as gods. This would fit the context of Hebrews 2:7 also, since from Hebrews 1:5 through the end of chapter 2 the author argues for the superiority of the Son over angels. That is, Hebrews might be taken to imply that even God’s angels can be idolized if they are wrongly ex­alted or worshiped as gods (which some early heretics were doing [cf. Col. 2:18]).

Moreover, this interpretation would also fit Hebrews 1:6, which quotes Psalm 97:7 as saying that all of God’s angels should worship the Son. Psalm 97:7 in Hebrew is a com­mand to the “gods” (identified in the immediate context as idols) to worship Jehovah. Thus, Hebrews 1:6 testifies at once both to the fact that angels, if they are considered gods at all, are false gods, and that Jesus Christ is worshiped by angels as Jehovah the true God.

There are other reasons for denying that angels are truly gods in a positive sense. The Bible flatly states that demonic spirits are not gods (1 Cor. 10:20; Gal. 4:8). Since demons are just as much spirits, and presumably are just as much “mighty ones” (though wicked) as the holy angels, it fol­lows that angels cannot be gods by virtue of their being “mighty ones. “

Furthermore, the translation of elohim in Psalm 8:5 as “godlike ones” runs into the problem of contradicting the Bible, which flatly and repeatedly states that none are like God (Exod. 8:10; 9:14; 15:11; 2 Sam. 7:22; 1 Kings 8:23; 1 Chron. 17:20; Ps. 86:8; Isa. 40:18, 25; 44:7; 46:5, 9; Jer. 10:6-7; Mic. 7:18), though creatures may reflect God’s moral qualities (Rom. 8:29; Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10; 2 Peter 1:4; 1 John 3:2).

Finally, even if angels were gods in some positive sense, that would not explain in what sense Jesus Christ is called “God,” since he is not an angel—he is God’s Son (Heb. 1:4-5); is worshiped by all the angels (Heb. 1:6); is the God who reigns, not a spirit messenger (Heb. 1:7-9); and is the Lord who created everything, not an angel created to serve (Heb. 1:10-13).

Before leaving this question, it should be noted in passing that Satan is called “the god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4 Niv), but clearly in the sense of a false god, one who is wrongly allowed to usurp the place of the true God in the present age. That is the point of 2 Corinthians 4:4, not that Satan is a mighty one.

Are Mighty Men Gods?

The Witnesses claim that not only mighty angels, but also mighty men, are called “gods” in Scripture in rec­ognition of their might. This claim, however, is open to even more difficult objections than the claim that angels are gods.

The Bible explicitly denies that powerful men, such as kings and dictators and military leaders, are gods (Ezek. 28:2, 9; see also Isa. 31:3; 2 Thess. 2:4). In fact, frequently in Scripture “man” and “God” are used as opposite catego­ries, parallel with “flesh” and “spirit” (Num. 23:19; Isa. 31:3; Hos. 11:9; Matt. 19:26; John 10:33; Acts 12:22; 1 Cor. 14:2). In this light, texts that are alleged to call men “gods” in a positive sense ought to be studied carefully and alterna­tive interpretations followed where context permits.

The usual text cited in this connection, as in the JW booklet, is Psalm 82:6, “I said, you are gods,” which is quoted by Jesus in John 10:34. This verse has commonly been interpreted (by trinitarians as well as antitrinitarians, though with different conclusions drawn) to be calling Isra­elite judges “gods” by virtue of their honorable office of representing God to the people in judgment. Assuming this interpretation to be correct, the verse would not then be saying that judges really are gods in the sense of “mighty ones.” Rather, it would simply be saying that as judges in Israel they represented God. This representative sense of “gods” would then have to be distinguished from a qualita­tive sense, in which creatures are called “gods” as a description of the kind of beings they are.

There are good reasons, however, to think that the Isra­elite judges are being called “gods” not to honor them but to expose them as false gods. This may be seen best by a close reading of the entire psalm.

In Psalm 82:1 Jehovah God is spoken of by the psalmist in the third person: “God takes His stand He judges” (NAss). The psalmist says, “God [elohimi takes his stand in the assembly of God [el]; he judges in the midst of the gods [elohimr (my translation). Here we are confronted with two elohim: God, and the judges, called by the psalmist “gods.”

In verses 2-5 God’s judgment against the Israelite judges is pronounced. They are unjust, show partiality to the wicked, allow the wicked to abuse the poor and helpless, and by their unjust judgment are destroying the founda­tions of life on earth.

Then in verse 6 we read, “I said, ‘You are gods….‘” This is a reference back to the psalmist’s calling the judges “gods” in verse 1: “He judges in the midst of the gods.” The succeeding lines make clear that although the psalmist referred to the wicked judges as “gods,” they were not really gods at all and proved themselves not up to the task of being gods. This is made clear in two ways.

First, the second line of verse 6 adds, “And all of you are sons of the Most High.” What can this mean? The similar expression “sons of God” is used in the Old Testament only of angels (Gen. 6:2, 4; Job 1:6; 2:1), unless one interprets Genesis 6:1-4 to be speaking of a godly line of men. The Israelite judges were neither angels nor godly men. Hosea 1:10 speaks prophetically of Gentiles becoming “sons of the living God,” but this has reference to Gentiles becoming Christians and thus adopted children of God (Rom. 9:26). The judges were not Christians, either. The easiest, if not only, explanation is that they are called “sons of the Most High” in irony. That is, the psalmist calls them “sons of the Most High” not because they really were, but because they thought of themselves as such, and to show up that attitude as ridiculous (see a similar use of irony by Paul in 1 Cor. 4:8). If this is correct, it would imply that they were also called “gods” in irony. Thus the thought would be that these human judges thought of themselves as gods, immortal beings with the power of life and death.

The next lines, in Psalm 82:7, confirm such an inter­pretation: the judges are told that they are ordinary men who will die. The clear implication is that though they seemed to rule over the life and death of their fellow Isra­elites, they were no more gods than anyone else, because—like even the greatest of men—they will die.

Then, in verse 8, the psalmist addresses God in the sec­ond person, “Arise, 0 God, judge the earth!” (NASB). In other words, the judges have proved themselves to be false gods; now let the true God come and judge the world in righteousness.

This way of reading Psalm 82 does not conflict with or undermine Christ’s argument in John 10:34-36. When he says, “If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came” (John 10:35 NASB), nothing in the text demands that the “gods” be anything but false gods. Jesus’ argu­ment may be paraphrased and expanded as follows:

Is it not written in the Law which you call your own, “I said, `You are gods”? The psalmist, whom you regard as one of your own, and yourselves as worthy successors to him, called those wicked judges, against whom the word of God came in judgment, “gods.” And yet the Scripture cannot be broken; it must have some fulfillment. Therefore these worthless judges must have been called “gods” for a reason, to point to some worthy human judge who is rightly called God. Now the Father has witnessed to my holy calling and sent me into the world to fulfill everything he has purposed. That being so, how can you, who claim to follow in the tradition of the psalmist, possibly be justified in rejecting the fulfillment of his words by accusing me of blasphemy for calling myself the Son of God? How can you escape being associated with those wicked judges who judged unjustly by your unjust judgment of me?

By this interpretation, Jesus is saying that what the Isra­elite judges were called in irony and condemnation, he is in reality and in holiness; he does what they could not do and is what they could not be. This kind of positive fulfillment in Christ contrasted with a human failure in the Old Testa­ment occurs elsewhere in the New Testament, notably the contrast between the sinner Adam and the righteous Christ (Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:21-22, 45).

To summarize, the judges called “gods” in Psalm 82 could not have been really gods, because the Bible denies that mighty or authoritative men are gods. If they are called “gods” in a positive sense, it is strictly a figurative expres­sion for their standing in God’s place in judging his people. But more likely they are called “gods” in irony, to expose them as wicked judges who were completely inadequate to the task of exercising divine judgment. However one inter­prets Psalm 82, then, there is no basis for teaching that there are creatures who may be described qualitatively as gods.

We conclude, then, that the biblical statements that there is only one God are not contradicted or modified one bit by the prooftexts cited by JWs to prove that creatures may be honored as gods. There is one Creator, and all else is created; one Eternal, and all else temporal; one Sovereign Lord, and all else undeserving servants; one God, and all else worshipers. Anything else is a denial of biblical monotheism.

Robert M. Bowman, Why You Should Believe In The Trinity: An Answer to Jehovah’s Witnesses (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1997), 49-58.

WAYNE GRUDEM:

An In-Depth four-part-series on the Trinity in Christian theology.

Is The Christmas Tree A Pagan Symbol?

(Video Description from YT Channel) Bobby unpacks the history of the Christmas Tree and whether it has pagan roots or not.

To begin this two part series we are looking at if the Bible forbids Christmas or Christmas customs.

This video looks at the history of Christmas and argues there is no evidence it comes from paganism.

(Video Description from YT Channel) Is Christmas pagan? Many Christians celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25, even though Jesus was almost certainly not born on December 25. Since pagan groups in the ancient world had celebrations that coincided with the Christian celebration of the birth of Christ, are Christians who celebrate Christmas today engaging in pagan activities? In this video, Marie Wood discusses the issue. Merry Christmas!

(Video Description from YT Channel) In this video I discuss the origin of the Christmas tree. Some think it’s condemned by the Bible, in Jeremiah 10:3-5. Others think it’s a Pagan idol. There were Pagan cultures that kept tree branches in their homes during the Winter Solstice, including the Egyptians, Druids, Romans (who also celebrated Saturnalia) and Vikings around the time of Christmas. Martin Luther kept a Christmas tree in his home. The Germans brought it to America. Americans at first protested against it, but if afterwards became popular. [Editor’s Note: A decent channel, but do not agree with all his presentations – to be clear]

The above were short presentations… below is an excellent, more in-depth interview detailing Greek Myths and other topics:

  • Is Christmas pagan? Was Christianity based on pagan celebrations on December 25? In this interview, I talk with Dr. Louis Markos, expert on Greek and Roman mythology.

See Dr. Markos’ book: The Myth Made Fact: Reading Greek and Roman Mythology through Christian Eyes

Old J-Dub Documentaries – Jeremiah Films

A documentary recounting the history of the Watchtower Society and explaining the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Includes testimonies by former Witnesses.

The movie that has stirred up so much interest in Watchtower history and controversial flip-flops in doctrine. Includes interviews and testimonies of ex-JWs and JW elders. Many JWs have watched this and left the organization. 1986

The Distinctive Traits Of Cults ~ Anthony Hoekema

Anthony A. Hoekema (1913-1988) was a Christian theologian of the Dutch Reformed tradition who served as professor of Systematic theology at Calvin Theological Seminary for twenty-one years.

Hoekema was born in the Netherlands but immigrated to the United States in 1923. He attended Calvin College (A.B.), the University of Michigan (M.A.), Calvin Theological Seminary (Th.B.) and Princeton Theological Seminary (Th.D., 1953). After pastoring several Christian Reformed churches (1944-56), he became Associate Professor of Bible at Calvin College (1956-58). From 1958 to 1979, when he retired, he was Professor of Systematic Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

(BTW, Hoekema was an Amillennialist. I do not personally hold this position. Likewise, this position has very little impact on the whole of these “traits” of aberrant beliefs… if any. A good 9-minute challenge to a main portion of his “Kingdom” view is HERE.)


  • Anthony A. Hoekema, The Four Major Cults: Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, Seventh-Day Adventism (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1963), 377-388.Hoekema four major cults - book 330

[p.377>] THE DISTINCTIVE TRAITS OF THE CULT

In setting forth what I believe to be the distinctive traits of the cult, I do not wish to give the impression that not the slightest trace of these characteristics is to be found in the churches. If we are honest with ourselves, we shall find vestiges of these characteristics in the churches too. I venture to affirm, however, that [p.378>] the traits which will now be described are so uniquely character­istic of the cult that any group in which they play a leading role can no longer be recognized as belonging to the true church of Jesus Christ.

(1) An Extra-Scriptural Source of Authority. As the first of these distinctive traits of the cult, I instance the presence of an extra-Scriptural source of authority. Hutten aptly calls this trait “a Bible in the left hand.” Recalling the ordination of a Sweden-borgian minister, who held a Bible in his right hand and one of Swedenborg’s books in his left, Hutten observes that every cult has such a “Bible in the left hand,” which actually supersedes the Bible in the right hand. It should be added here that the cults face a kind of dilemma with respect to the question of authority. Since, in distinction from non-Christian religions, they claim to be Christian groups, they must somehow appeal to the authority of the Bible. Yet in order to justify their peculiar doctrines they must either correct Scripture, reinterpret Scripture, or add other sources of authority to Scripture. Their attitude toward Scrip­ture is therefore always an ambivalent one: a mixture of apparent subjection to its authority and of arbitrary manipulation of its teachings.

That this matter of ultimate authority is of determinative im­portance in evaluating the cults has already been implied by the inclusion of a section on “Source of Authority” in the discussion of each of the cults treated in this volume. It was found that every cult discussed did, indeed, find its ultimate ground of authority in some extra-Scriptural source. Mormons, it was seen, consider the Bible to be full of errors and in dire need of supplementary ma­terial; hence their ultimate source of authority is found not in the Bible, but in the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price. If there should be a contradiction between what is taught in the Bible and what is taught in these. supplementary sacred books, it is the teachings of the latter which are determinative for Latter-day Saints (see above, pp. 18-30), For Christian Scientists, the final source of authority is Mrs. Eddy’s Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures; although the Bible is read at their Sunday services, it is Science and Health which determines how the Bible is to be understood (see above, pp. 182-86). Though Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that the only basis for their teachings is the Bible, it has been seen that their New World Translation is a biased rendering of the Scriptures [p.379>] into which they have smuggled many of their own heretical teach­ings, that their method of using Scripture is to find passages which seem to support their view and to ignore passages which fail to provide such support, and that they insist that the Bible may only be understood as it is interpreted by the leaders of the Watchtower Society (see above, pp. 237-48).

The reader is reminded of the discussion found on pages 30-33, above, where it was pointed out that the Bible itself condemns the attempt to supplement it with any additional source of authority. These “Bibles in the left hand” are never innocent appendages to Scripture; they always overmaster and overshadow the truth of Scripture. Whenever a cult raises a book or a set of books to the level of Scripture, it does violence to the Word of God. God is no longer allowed to speak as He does in the Bible; He may now speak only as the sect deems proper. Thus the Word of God is brought under the yoke of man.

The claim of the cults to have a source of revelation beyond the Scriptures – for that is what these “Bibles in the left hand” really amount to — is a claim which places them outside the pale of Christian churches. It may be added, by way of warning, that whenever a denomination of Christendom gives so much venera­tion to a human teacher or group of teachers that he or they are thought to be virtually infallible, it is in this respect mani­festing a trait of the cult! People in the Corinthian Church who said that they belonged to Paul, Apollos, or Cephas were rebuked by Paul as being carnally minded; they were told, instead, that Paul, Apollos, and Cephas belonged to them! (I Cor. 3:21-23). Christians today who might be tempted to say that they belong to, say, Calvin or Luther, should learn from this passage that the Biblical way of expressing our relationship to human leaders is this: they (the human leaders) belong to us, but we belong to Christ. If these leaders belong to us, their writings may never be considered superior in authority to the Word of God. Sola Scriptura must remain the motto of every truly Protestant Church!

(2) The Denial of Justification by Grace Alone. A second distinctive trait of the cult is the denial of the doctrine of justifi­cation by grace alone. Grace is no longer considered the free gift of God to the unworthy sinner, but a reward which has been earned by the faithful keeping of various conditions and requirements. Hutten, in fact, calls this trait the most basic character- [p.380>] istic of the cult. The Reformation, he contends, asserted the principle of solo gratia: man is saved by grace alone. Salvation, the Reformers taught, does not depend on any human or ecclesias­tical co-operation with God. The concept gratia implies that salvation is given freely by God apart from any conditions which man may fulfill or which the church may make available. Even those responses to the Gospel which take place in man through the working of God’s Spirit — his faith, his conversion, his works, and his walk — are not meritorious, since they are all the fruits of God’s grace. Precisely because salvation is all of grace, it can never be a ground for Pharisaic pride but must always move us to deep humility and gratitude.

This demand for humility, however, goes against the grain of human nature. Man wants to be his own lord and master. This is especially so in the matter of his salvation. He shrinks from taking the leap of faith — a leap in which he must trust wholly in God for his salvation. He prefers to take his future destiny into his own hands; he does not wish to surrender this destiny to a strange, unknown power. This fundamental human drive, Hutten continues, is the real root of the cult’s protest against the church. The basic antithesis of the cult to the church is therefore the cult’s antipathy toward the central message of the Reformation: the message of justification by grace alone and by faith alone (.cola gratia, solo fide). Though there are variations in the degree to which the different cults reject this doctrine, they all do reject it. As a matter of fact, Hutten adds, the church must always be on its guard against slipping into this cultic manner of thinking about the way of salvation. Only when the church has completely conquered this cultic tendency within its own borders, will it have the strength to oppose the cult on this point.

It will not be difficult to show that the trait described above is found in the cults we have studied. Mormons, as has been seen, reject the doctrine of justification by faith as a pernicious doctrine which has exercised an influence for evil in the church. They further teach that individual salvation (entrance into one of the three Mormon heavens) is to be merited by man through his own acts, and that one can only become eligible for the highest degree of salvation by keeping the commandments of the Lord in all things (see above, pp. 59-62). Christian Scientists decisively reject justification by grace alone; for them, salvation from sin is accomplished when one ceases to sin, or when one stops believing that there is such a thing as sin — on either interpretation salva‑ [p.381>] tion is achieved by human works and not by the grace of God (see above, p. 212, and compare pp. 209-12). Though Jeho­vah’s Witnesses claim that salvation is of grace and that all credit for salvation belongs to Jehovah (see above, p. 283), a careful study of their writings will reveal that they, too, reject justification by grace. In the case of the 144,000, man saves himself by exer­cising faith, repentance, and dedication to Christ (functions in which he is said not to be dependent on God), by showing himself worthy of being selected as a member of the anointed class, and by carrying out his dedication to Jehovah faithfully until death (see above, pp. 282-83; compare pp. 279-83). In the case of the other sheep, these, without having had their natures renewed, are able to exercise faith in Christ, to dedicate their lives to him, and to remain faithful to the end — this faithfulness to be revealed chiefly by diligent witnessing (see above, pp. 283-85). After the millennium has begun, these other sheep, whether as survivors of Armageddon or as resurrected beings, are to be judged on the basis of their obedience to Jehovah during the millennium. If they continue to obey God during Satan’s final battle, they will be “justified,” that is, given the right to perfect life on the new earth — this “justification,” however, is based not on faith, but on works. As far as others are concerned, billions of those who, though sincere in their belief, lacked an opportunity to learn of righteousness from God will be raised during the millennium, will be instructed in God’s law, and will receive everlasting life on the new earth if they now obey God’s commandments.

It is clear, therefore, that these three cults definitely and deliber­ately reject the doctrine of justification by grace alone. Though they may speak of the grace of God, their theologies have no room for grace in the real sense of the word. For, as the Bible says, “If it [the remnant according to the election of grace] is [saved] by grace, it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace” (Rom. 11:6). Note also the severe judgment leveled by Paul against this position in Galatians 5:4, “Ye are severed from Christ, ye who would be justified by the law; ye are fallen away from grace.” Crystal clear is Titus 3:5: “Not by works done in righteousness which we did ourselves, but according to [p.382>] his mercy he saved us….” By taking the position sketched above, therefore, the cults deny one of the cardinal teachings of Scripture.

(3) The Devaluation of Christ. In the third place, all cults are guilty of a devaluation of Christ. Hutten points out that, since the cult has assumed a determinative role in the distribution of salvation, the result is bound to be a minimizing of Christ as the only Mediator. This, he adds, does not need to mean a com­plete denial of Christ’s mission and work; it may express itself simply in a shifting of emphasis. We shall see this tendency revealing itself in a twofold way: in a devaluation of the Person of Christ and in a depreciation of His work. The latter is par­ticularly characteristic of the cult; since salvation for the cult is not determined by the grace of God revealed at the cross of Christ, that cross is robbed of its unique soteriological significance.

Let us see how this trait can be found in the cults we have studied. Mormons teach that Jesus Christ was the firstborn of the spirit-children of Elohim; since, however, all men are spirit-children of Elohim, it is evident that the difference between Christ and men (even, for that matter, between Christ and Satan) is one of degree but not one of kind (see above, pp. 53-54). Christ is considered by Mormons not to be equal to the Father; he shared with other pre-existent spirits like Adam and Joseph Smith the task of “creating” this earth, and his incarnation is not unique, for other gods before him were incarnated on other earths (see above, p. 54). In fact, Christ’s incarnation was only illustrative of what happens to every man who perfectly fulfills all the ordinances of the Gospel: he, too, was once a pre-existent spirit, is now incarnate, and will some day be a god (see above, pp. 54, 61-62, 72). As far as the work of Christ is concerned, Mormons affirm that the atoning death of Christ was necessary to deliver all men from death, and did provide for all the right to be raised from the dead (see above, pp. 57-58). As was just observed, however, Christ’s atonement does not provide individual salvation for man since this is to be merited by man’s own acts; thus the Mormon Christ does not save in the full sense of the word but only gives man an opportunity to save himself (see above, pp. 58-61).

According to Christian Science, Jesus was not God but only a man, whereas Christ is the name for a certain divine idea: the idea that sickness and sin can be healed through Christian Science (see above, pp. 200-202). Jesus was therefore simply a man who demonstrated a divine idea. So unimportant, in fact, is Jesus in [p.383>] Christian Science that Mrs. Eddy could say that if such a person as Jesus had never existed, it would make no difference to her! (see above, p. 203). As far as the work of Jesus is concerned, Christian Scientists deny that he atoned for our sins by shedding his blood on the cross — after all, since sin has no real existence, why does it need to be atoned for? Jesus’ work was rather that of demonstrating the truth of Christian Science and of setting us an example of the kind of life we must live. Even this example, however, is not uniquely distinguished from that of the apostles (see above, pp. 207-9).

What Jehovah’s Witnesses do with the person of Christ is well known: he was, for them, not equal to Jehovah, but the first crea­ture of Jehovah. In his prehuman state he was a created angel; during his stay on earth he was nothing more than a man; and after his stay on earth he was again nothing higher than a created angel, though now endowed with immortality. In none of these three stages, therefore, was or is Christ equal to Jehovah (see above, pp. 270-76). As regards the work of Christ, the Witnesses teach that Christ did lay down his human life for his people as a ransom. By means of this ransom Christ redeemed man from inherited sin and from the prospect of eternal death as a result of that sin (see above, pp. 276-77); his ransom pro­vides a resurrection from the dead for all except certain classes of people (see above, p. 317). Christ did not, however, earn the right to everlasting life in heaven for the 144,000 since he earned only a perfect human life with its rights and earthly prospects; the 144,000 must themselves earn the right to heavenly life by sacrificing their earthly prospects (see above, p. 283). As for those who will spend eternity on the new earth, they, as we saw, will receive this blessing only if they have obeyed Jehovah’s commandments during the millennium. Neither the 144,000 nor those who will inhabit the new earth, therefore, are really saved by the work of Christ; Christ’s ransom has only served the purpose of enabling them to earn their future blessedness, either in heaven or on earth, by their own achievements.

It is quite clear, therefore, that the cults leave us with a Christ who is not the Christ. Neither in his person nor in his work is the Christ of the cult the Christ of the Bible. For the cultist, it is not really Christ who saves but man who must save himself. This position, however, cuts the very heart out of the Bible: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16). The words of Paul to the Galatians, directed against those who in that day taught that one was saved partly [p.384>] through faith in Christ and partly through performing certain works of the law, are equally applicable to the cults of our day: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema” (Gal. 1:8).

(4) The Group as the Exclusive Community of the Saved. A fourth distinctive trait of the cult is that it absolutizes itself as the exclusive community of the saved. Hutten points out that the anti-ecclesiastical polemic which is so characteristic of the cult is but the converse side of its own self-justification. Since the cult is convinced that it is the only true community of God’s people, it must try to show that the church is either an apostate organization or an actual instrument of the devil. There is among the cults no appreciation for the Biblical doctrine of the “one holy catholic Church” — that is, of the universal church of Christ, composed of Christ’s true people of all the ages and from all the nations. Every cult says, “We alone are the people of God.” The cult, so to speak, takes God by the arm, insisting that His evaluation of people must agree with its own.

Let us see how this trait is found in the cults we have studied. Mormons contend that the church of Jesus Christ was in a state of apostasy until God revealed Himself to Joseph Smith in 1820; when Smith and Oliver Cowdery received the Aaronic and Mel­chizedek priesthoods from heavenly messengers in 1829 and 1830, the Restoration of the Church took place. The Mormon Church is therefore the only true church — because it alone has the Priest­hood of the Almighty, and it alone since the time of Christ has received and may still receive divine revelation. One of the early apostles of the Mormon Church claimed that non-Mormon churches have no right to call themselves Christian since Christ has nothing to do with them, and a recent Mormon writer has said that there is no salvation outside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (see above, pp. 62-64). It may be noted that the possibility of salvation for those who died in ignorance of Mormon teaching only confirms the point under discussion since such people can be saved only if Mormons have been baptized for them (see above, pp. 64-66).

Christian Science also claims to be the only true church. Since Mrs. Eddy is said to have received the final revelation of the divine principle of scientific mental healing, and since Science and Health is said to be the voice of truth uncontaminated by [p.385>] human hypotheses, it follows that, according to them, no group outside of Christian Science has or knows the truth (see above, pp. 183, 212-13). Though individual Christian Scientists may express appreciation for other Christian groups, it is clear from the statements just alluded to that the views of all other churches about the Bible and the way of salvation must officially be con­sidered basically erroneous while Christian Science is held to be unerring and divine (see above, p. 184).

In Jehovah-Witness ecclesiology we reach the ultimate in bigotry. It is said by them that Jehovah’s Witnesses alone are God’s true people and that all others, without exception, are fol­lowers of the devil. The Watchtower Society is now the only instrument or channel whereby Jehovah teaches His people on earth (see above, p. 247). The “great whore” of Revelation 17 is organized religion, Christian as well as heathen. The visible part of the devil’s organization on earth includes all of Christen­dom, Protestant as well as Roman Catholic. The religious clergy are, in fact, the direct link between mankind and the demons (see above, pp. 285-86). At Armageddon all of earth’s inhabitants except Jehovah’s Witnesses will be wiped out of existence (see above, p. 311). Only Jehovah’s Witnesses, therefore, will survive Armageddon; during the millennium non-Witnesses who are raised from the dead will be given an opportunity to save themselves in response to the preaching and teaching of the princes, prominent among whom will be those who occupied leading positions with the New World Society on earth (see above, pp. 318-21).

Whenever a group takes the position that it is the only com­munity of the saved, however, it violates an important aspect of Scripture teaching. Christ Himself warned against this type of bigotry when his disciples said to Him, “Master, we saw one casting out demons in thy name, and we forbade him, because he followeth not with us.” Jesus replied, “Forbid him not; for he that is not against you is for you” (Lk. 9:49, 50). We should therefore remember that whenever a denomination slips into a kind of thinking similar to that described above, it reveals a tendency toward cultic behavior.

(5) The Group’s Central Role in Eschatology. The last dis­tinctive trait of the cult I would like to mention is this: the cult plays a central role in the eschatological climax of history. The cult is convinced that it has been called into existence by God for the purpose of filling in some gap in the truth which has been neglected by the ordinary churches. The birth of the cult thus marks the final climax of sacred history, the beginning of the [p.386>] latter days.    Eschatology thus plays a determinative role in the

theology of the cult: it becomes the arena in which the glorifica­tion of the cult will complete itself. The cult is therefore the mes­senger and way-preparer for the imminent return of Christ; it is God’s partner in the drama of the end-time; it is the ark of safety for the coming flood; it is the instrument of divine judgment on un­believers; it shall finally triumph in the sight of all the world as the group particularly favored by God.

This type of procedure Hutten calls a cultic perversion of Biblical eschatology. Whenever the cult has developed an escha­tology, he continues, it places itself in the very center of it. The drama of the last things thus becomes the means whereby the cult is glorified and all its enemies are overwhelmingly defeated. Though the cult may now be small and insignificant, when the final climax of history arrives, it will receive from God the place of honor it deserves as a reward for its faithfulness to His com­mandments. The antithesis between God and Satan which has run through history will in the last days reach its climax as an antithesis between the cult and the rest of mankind, particularly the church.

As we attempt now to see how this trait is revealed in the cults we have studied, we must first make an important exception. Because of the absence of a real historical dimension in Christian Science, the latter has no general eschatology; hence it cannot be precisely fitted into the category just described. Christian Science denies that there will be a literal Second Coming of Christ, a gen­eral resurrection, a final judgment, and a new earth (see above, pp. 219-21). Though there is a kind of individual eschatology in this system, there is no general eschatology in the sense of a final, dramatic climax of history. Yet Christian Scientists do manifest a trace of the characteristic in question, since Mrs. Eddy con­tended more than once that what the Bible calls the Second Com­ing of Jesus Christ actually coincided with the rise of Christian Science (see above, p. 219). By statements such as these Mrs. Eddy did, in a sense, place Christian Science in the center of eschatology.

[p.387>] It will not be difficult to show the presence of the trait under discussion in the other two cults being considered. Mormons very definitely place themselves in the center of the eschatological drama, giving themselves a position of special privilege in it. The Mormons, God’s “Latter-day Saints,” consider themselves the bearers of the Restored Gospel – the Gospel which must now be proclaimed by them to all the world as God’s last word to man­kind (see above, pp. 62-64). Before Christ returns, there will be a series of gatherings. Ephraim or the Ephraimites must be gathered first to prepare the way for the rest of the tribes of Israel when the time comes for them to be gathered to Zion. Since most Mormons today are said to be Ephraimites, it is ob­vious that the gathering of Ephraim is going on at the present time. Ephraim is being gathered to Zion, the gathering-place on the

North American continent. The “lost ten tribes” will later be gathered to Zion, where they will receive “crowning blessings” from Ephraim – that is, from the Mormons. During the mil­lennium Christ will rule over the Mormon Zion as well as over Jerusalem in Palestine (see above, pp. 67-69). At this time Mormons on earth will be joined by a heavenly group, the City of Enoch (see above, p. 69). Also during the millennium Mor­mons will preach to non-Mormons who are still alive, and will be baptized for the dead who have lived from the beginning of time (see above, p. 70). In the final state Mormons who have fully kept the commandments of the Gospel will enjoy the highest grade of blessedness in the celestial kingdom; non-Mormons can enter the celestial kingdom only if Mormons have been baptized for them (see above, pp. 66, 72-73). Most non-Mormons, however, will spend eternity in one of the two lower kingdoms, the terrestrial or the telestial (see above, pp. 73-74).

Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that the kingdom of God was not established until A.D. 1914, that this kingdom is now the ruling part of God’s universal organization, and that this kingdom is comprised of Jesus Christ and those members of the 144,000 who are now in heaven (see above, pp. 295-97). These heavenly members of the anointed class (who were, for the most part, Jehovah’s Witnesses on earth) not only rule with Christ now, but are actually changed from human beings to divine beings (see above, p. 304). Between 1918 and the Battle of Armageddon, a judgment of the nations is taking place, in which all those who do not accept the Jehovah-Witness message and who show no kindness to its bearers are doomed to destruction at Armageddon [p.388>] – a destruction from which there will be no reawakening (see above, pp. 306-7). The Battle of Armageddon will therefore be a stupendous victory for Jehovah’s Witnesses, who will be the only survivors of this worldwide catastrophe (see above, p. 311). Armageddon survivors will have a favored position on the renewed earth during the millennium; many of them will be made princes (see above, pp. 311, 314, 318). Jehovah’s Wit­nesses who have died before Armageddon will have the privilege of being raised from the dead before the rest of earth’s inhabi­tants. Those who were active in the New World Society before the millennium will take a leading part in instructing newly-resurrected people in the laws of Jehovah (see above, pp. 318-­19). For Jehovah’s Witnesses, therefore, the climactic anti­thesis of history will be that between God’s true people, the Wit­nesses, and all others, including the churches of Christendom.

Whenever a religious group places itself in the center of the eschatological drama, it makes itself guilty of spiritual pride. Over­looking its own shortcomings and sins, it magnifies the sins of others. It blandly assumes that because of its own superior worthiness it has become God’s special favorite. When Christ came across a similar kind of pride among the Jewish leaders of His day, He rebuked it in no uncertain terms: “I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast forth into the outer darkness. . .” (Mt. 8:11, 12).