The Bible, “Bible Bashers,” and Bashing the Bible
by Kevin James Bywater
This week I met with a few Mormon missionaries — actually two missionaries and a young local man who drove them to the meeting (as the missionaries are limited to 17 miles per day with their own car — back to bikes, I should think). My friend, Dustin, was with me. We chatted for about an hour. Our learning experience centered on why they didn’t bring their Bibles, and why they surmised that using logic simply won’t get people to the truth. Perhaps I’ll address the latter issue later; for now, lets focus our attention on why they didn’t bring their Bibles.
Some prefatory comments are in order.
It is common to find Mormons seeking to end a discussion — one in which they are failing to make their case in the face of biblical opposition — by accusing Christians of being “Bible bashers,” and sometimes of being “contentious.”
What is a “Bible basher”? From a Christian perspective, this is a person who holds a strong conviction regarding God’s word and who is willing to put forth a case in support of it. From this perspective, a “Bible basher” may also be someone who too enthusiastically or aggressively does this. From a Mormon perspective, a “Bible basher” is someone who appeals to and uses the Bible too insistently, perhaps in too argumentative a fashion, or who puts forth notable effort to defend the Bible against Mormon attacks. With this in mind, there was a rather surprising occurrence this week.
Nothing More Than Feelings
While we were speaking, one Mormon missionary sought to make his case for feelings as a guide to truth by alluding to the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. I thought it best that we look at the passage in context and asked if they could bring out their Bibles. They responded by noting that they hadn’t brought their Bibles.
What in the world?!, I wondered. They claim to believe in the Bible, and they appeal or allude to the Bible, but they didn’t bring their Bibles with them? Not one of them?!
“Well, why not?” I asked, being rather nonplussed by the fundamental inconsistency of appealing to the Bible, claiming to believe the Bible, and yet not having one to turn to; and on top of that, claiming to be missionaries representing “Christ.”
They explained that they don’t take their Bibles along since, if they don’t have their Bibles, then they can’t respond to the “Bible bashers” they might encounter. They figure that if they don’t have a Bible to hand, they simply can’t argue about it.(Of course, they could still argue about it; but their lack of the prop (the Bible) gives them an opportunity to escape any such conversation.) Not having a Bible among them certainly didn’t stop them from appealing to it, from misconstruing it, and even from being critical of it! This all came off as very self-serving to me.
Bashing the Bible
To add insult to insult, at another point in the conversation, one missionary noted that he believed the Bible taught truth. Good, I thought. “And does it teach any falsehood?” I asked. Both missionaries responded by noting that they indeed did believe that the teaches some falsehoods, and that it also has some contradictions.
“Well,” I noted, “that’s an awfully contentious thing to say,” wanting them to know just how offensive that sounded. After all, they were being critical of God’s holy word. They were on the offensive, aggressively seeking to undermine biblical authority. They were the one’s criticizing another’s faith and convictions. They were implying that my Father in heaven is untrustworthy.
Naturally, upon being accused of being contentious, they immediately began waffling here and there in the hopes of softening their criticisms. But I wasn’t about to let them off very easily. No, they had attacked God’s word and thus his reputation.
“You know what,” I continued, “there are others I regularly encounter who advocate the idea that the Bible teaches errors and that it has contradictions. Any idea who they are?” They sat in silence, perhaps intuiting correctly that it was a rhetorical question. “I’ll tell you,” I said while leaning forward. “They are atheists and Muslims.” I paused for a moment. Then I concluded, “You are on the side of atheists and Muslims in criticizing the word of God.”
As one might expect, they were uncomfortable with the association — as they should be. But I decided to given them an opportunity to justify themselves and their demeaning of the Bible.
“Well, I’m willing to consider your case,” I offered. “So, what contradictions are there in the Bible?”
One missionary was far too willing to offer up what he called “an obvious contradiction.” He went on to refer to the two recollections of Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus in the Book of Acts. (Actually, there are three such accounts in Acts.) He continued by noting that in one account the people with Paul didn’t see anything but they heard a voice, while the other says that they saw something but didn’t hear anything. I simply nodded, knowing full well that this is a rather standard offering in the wet powder of “the Bible has contradictions” arsenal.
I figured it would be best to address this alleged contradiction the following week and permitted the missionary to rest confident with the supposed implications. I asked if we could look at the passages the next time we met and asked if they would be so kind as to bring their Bibles. They agreed.
So, the Mormon missionaries claim to believe in the Bible, claim that it teaches truth, though they also hold that it teaches some falsehoods and has contradictions. Even so, these particular missionaries usually don’t bring their Bibles because they might encounter “Bible bashers.” Strange, isn’t it? They call Christians “Bible bashers” because of our strong convictions about the Bible and our defense of it, while it is the Mormon missionaries who actually bash the Bible.
Reflections (22 August 2013)
Permit me to offer a few quick reflections.
First, I fully expected these young Mormon men to attack the Bible. I was going to let them do so and then seek to show them how shameful it is that they had done so. My point simply is to help them feel the guilt of their guilty actions.
Second, I was not about to let them off with merely asserting that the Bible had contradictions. No, I wanted some examples. They offered one, a rather standard one at that. But the following week came and they were not willing to stand on that alleged contradiction. Rather, perhaps intuiting how vulnerable their position was, they decided to bypass that discussion and move along to other topics.
Third, by putting off our discussion for the second week, my hope was both to arrange for a second meeting and to be able to spend a bit more time with them in order to build some rapport with them. I wanted to find the time to show them my love for Jesus, my confidence in God’s word, and my allegiance to my Savior. And I wanted to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit toward them, fruit that is much more than a mere feeling.
One of the best books for witnessing to Mormons is Reasoning from the Scriptures with Mormons by Ron Rhodes and Marian Bodine. Despite a few flaws here and there, it is a volume that I highly recommend.
For learning how to ask questions and reason carefully with people, I cannot too strongly recommend Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions by Greg Koukl. You should read it soon.
For Further Reading
• Mormonism: A Survey and Biblical Assessment — This is a large-scale survey and assessment of Mormonism, complete with witnessing advice.
• The friendly face of the Mormon Church is a public relations campaign. Yet throughout its history the Mormon Church has attacked Christian churches. Even today The Mormon Church Attacks Christian Churches.
• More specifically on the Mormon Church’s teachings about the nature of God, see Joseph Smith and God as a Monster and Mormonism and Lesser Gods. For an exploration of identity, idolatry, and blasphemy, see, Do Muslims, Mormons, and Christian Worship the Same God?
• Mormons often say that they are Christians, despite radically redefining who and what Jesus is (and thus differing radically from what the Bible teaches). Here I engage in a conversation with a Mormon friend about whether I am a Mormon in order to point up the problems with Mormons claiming to be Christians: I Am a Mormon . . . Aren’t Christians Mormons Too? The same sort of reasoning is used by the Mormon Church when they object to other groups who sometimes use the name “Mormon”: Learning a Lesson from the LDS Newsroom.