Analysis of Paul's Jesus Just As Evangelicals Critique the Jesus of Joseph Smith
Mainstream evangelicals do believe that Satan can impose an imposter Christ and did so in the religion of Mormonism.
If they are open to that, why are they not open to the question of whether Paul unwittingly doing likewise?
Let's review the common analysis by evangelicals of Mormonism, and then ask them why not apply similar reasoning to the Jesus of Paul.
We will also see what critiques that evangelicals evidently self-consciously omit: the criteria in Matthew 24:4-5, 24-27 where a false Christ saying "I am Jesus" in the wilderness is specifically identified as an imposter by Our Lord. Even when evangelical brothers cite Matthew 24 against Mormonism, they use a crippled analysis that would not cause us to think of Paul's experience.
For example, in the article "Does the LDS Have A Different Jesus?", the author cites Matthew 24 to support rejecting Mormonism as that of "another Jesus" (implicitly an imposter), and then makes the point that one is not a Christian just because you say you believe in Jesus Christ. But the only parallels drawn from Matthew 24 is that Smith had "signs and wonders" (casting out demons) and came in "Jesus' name" just as Jesus warned the false Jesus-Christs would have:
Jesus warned, "For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect" (Matthew 24:24). Any wrong Christ is to have the mark of a deceiver.
Christians look on with dismay. How can any religion redefine God, redefine Jesus Christ, and redefine the gospel and then claim to be Christian?
God warns about those who bring the doctrines of another Jesus. Does the LDS faith pass the test of Scripture? No.
When a faith claims to know Jesus, does that make it be Christianity? [No.]
Who is the original Jesus? Every false religion tries to diminish Jesus Christ. Jesus is under examination, but if you dissolve a painting it is not worth much. And if you chip down Jesus Christ, He is not worth much.
Who is Jesus? To every eternity-bound soul, anything else should pale in comparison to this question. Walter Martin, an expert on the cults, often commented that the name "Jesus" is the union card of the cults. Everyone has a Jesus but are they Christians? If you don’t know where the goal posts are, how are you going to get in the game?
As you can see, just using 2 of the criteria from Matthew 24 has not proven enough to stop Mormonism in its tracks.
Yet, even so, if evangelicals can rely upon just those 2 criteria to fault Mormonism, then why cannot evangelicals apply those 2 criteria to Paul's Jesus? For Paul said what proved he was an apostle of the true Jesus were "signs and wonders" and not an appointment heard by two witnesses. Thus, so far Paul is no better than Joseph Smith in his credentials.
What is good for the goose must be good for the gander. These evangelicals, if they insist the truncated criteria taken from Matthew 24 are enough to battle Mormonism, then why do you still follow Paul?
Sadly, please note this Christian author just quoted does not apply the wildernesses or universality criteria of Matthew 24 to Smith's experience. Yet, Smith claims his very first spiritual experience was meeting Jesus who came down on a "beam of light" in the "wilderness," and then this Jesus referred to himself as the "crucified" one and by the name of Jesus. So those two additional criteria from Matthew 24 to identify an imposter Jesus -- he comes in the wilderness and is not universally seen -- were screaming for application to refute Mormonism. Alas, they were not employed by this evangelical author in the above article.
Another Critic Of Mormonism Overlooks Paul Falls Under Same Criticism
Another Christian article critical of Mormonism says that Mormonism teaches another God even though it claims to be followers of Jesus Christ. In How Christians Should View the Book of Mormon, we read that Smith violates Deut 13:1-3 and thus must be a false prophet:
Further,Deuteronomy 13:1-3 says that "if a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, ‘Let us follow other gods’ (gods you have not known) ‘and let us worship them,’ you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul." Did Joseph Smith lead his followers to other gods? Yes.
Joseph Smith was a polytheist. History of the Church 6:474 records Smith stating, "I wish to declare I have always and in all congregations when I have preached on the subject of the Deity, it has been the plurality of Gods." Joseph Smith declared that "God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens!" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 345). This is clearly not the biblical God
But that same passage of Deut 13:1-3 says a false prophet is one who "seduces you from following the Law." That is not quoted by the Mormon critic, but that passage in full equally invalidates Paul.
Furthermore, Paul too had a polytheistic view because Paul teaches Jesus replaced Yahweh as God. In Romans 7:1-7 read with Titus 2:13, Paul taught Jesus was another God distinct from the God Yahweh who supposedly died at the cross inside of Jesus but Yahweh did not resurrect with Jesus, or else the Law with God's wife (Israel) would revive. But the death of Jesus represented the "end of the Law," as Jesus' death effectuated the death of the "husband" who gave Israel its law -- Yahweh. Similarly, in Hebrews 9:15-17 (attributed by many to Paul), we are told the New Testament would not come into existence as long as the "testator" who gave it - Yahweh -- lives, but as long as He is dead, the New Testament can come into existence and continue. With that backgound, when Paul says Jesus is now "God" (Titus 2:13), we realize he means that in place of the God once married to God's people -- Yahweh, Paul now betrothes God's people to only one husband - Jesus: "I have espoused you to one husband," Paul tells the Corinthians , "that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ" (2 Cor. 11:2). See our articles Paul Claims the God of Sinai is Dead and Titus 2:13 & The Granville Sharp Rule.
Hence, according to Paul, Jesus does not begin as "God," but the Father in Jesus dies at the Cross. When the "husband" of God's people died at the cross by means of Jesus' death, this dissolved the Law between the wife (Israel) and Yahweh. According to Paul, this is why the Law supposedly no longer applies. But when Jesus resurrected, Paul implies that the Law remains dead because a new husband -- "Christ" -- is the one to whom Paul now marries us to. The old God no longer lives, for if He lived, then the Law would revive and the New Testament would not come into existence, but because He / Yahweh is dead forever, the Law is dead, and as long as the "testator" (Yahweh) remains dead, the New Testament stays in existence. Many Christian scholars who have read Romans 7 have seen Paul's point -- and communicate the truth obliquely to one another about what it signifies and they tell each other that they prefer Paul did not write it like this -- but the implication is clear: the Death of Yahweh at the cross.
So how does Paul's views about multiple Gods differ from Joseph Smith's similar view?
Mormonism's 'Test by Feelings' Is Scrutinized
Another Christian article tests Mormonism by words of Jesus that equally disqualify Paul, but their attention is not drawn to Paul as an equally important problem. Please also note that Matthew 24 is used next in only a cursory way. In How Mormons Discern Prophets & Revelation, we read:
When a person claims to be a prophet from God (such as Joseph Smith) or claims that a revelation is from God (such as the Book of Mormon), how do we determine whether these claims are true or false? How do we distinguish those who are truly inspired by God from those who are not?
Mormonism claims that the way to discern prophets and revelation is to pray for a feeling - burning in the bosom - as a direct revelation from the Holy Spirit.
Moroni 10:4,5 - The way to "know the truth of all things" (especially whether or not the records in the Book of Mormon are true) is to "ask God" and "he will manifest the truth of it unto you by the power of the Holy Spirit."
But what "manifestation" should people look for? How can people recognize when the Holy Spirit is telling them a teaching is true?
Doctrine and Covenants 9:8,9 - God says, "...you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that yourbosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. But if it is not right you shall have no such feelings..."
Doctrine and Covenants 121:26 - "God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost..."
Mormon missionaries everywhere use this method to convince investigators that the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, and the Mormon Church are true.
They say to read the Book of Mormon ("study it out in your mind"), then pray about it ("ask God if it is right"), and God will manifest the truth by giving you a "burning in the bosom." Note that this is expressly called a "feeling" - you will feel a sense of assurance that the teaching is true. You should accept this as the power of the Holy Spirit manifesting the truth to you.
As a result, every Mormon believes that the Holy Spirit has given him a personal revelation that Mormonism is true. This is called "his own personal testimony." They repeatedly say, "I certainly know and testify to you that this is true." In other words, they had this feeling - a burning in the bosom - which they believe was the Holy Spirit giving them a personal revelation.
This explains why Mormons do not reject Mormonism, even when they are shown obvious contradictions between it and the Bible. As one Mormon "elder" said to me, "Evidence means nothing to me."
Although they claim to believe the Bible is from God, their faith is not based on the Bible. It is based on the belief that God has personally and directly revealed to them that Mormonism is true. So, if the Bible disagrees Mormonism, then something must be wrong with the Bible (or with their understanding). But they refuse to reject Mormonism, because they believe God has personally told them it is true.
But is this really the way that God has given for people to distinguish truth from error?
The Bible warns of the danger of being deceived by prophets and revelations that claim to be from God when they are not.
Matthew 7:15,21-23 - Beware of false prophets. They come in disguise. Many will claim to prophesy in Jesus' name, but He will reject them.
Matthew 24:4,5,11 - False prophets, even false Christs, will arise and deceive many.
Acts 20:29,30 - Savage wolves will come, speaking perverse things, to draw disciples away.
2 Corinthians 11:13-15 - False apostles work deceit, pretending to be apostles of Christ, when they are not.
2 Timothy 3:13 - Imposters will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.
2 Peter 2:1-3 - There will be false teachers today, as there were false prophets in the past. They speak deceptive words, so many will follow their destructive ways.
1 John 4:1 - Test the prophets, because many false prophets have gone into the world.
Revelation 2:2 - Jesus approved those who tested false apostles and found them liars.
Note carefully: The whole Mormon system depends on the validity of the method they use to recognize true prophets and revelation. But God's word warns us to put these concepts to the test. We must examine the assumptions upon which Mormon faith is based. If they have accepted a faulty means of identifying truth, then their faith cannot be true.
Can we really know that we have the truth, because we pray to God and receive a feeling in our bosom? If not, then every Mormon has been deceived, as these passages describe. And likewise, no investigator should accept the Mormon method of distinguishing truth from error, until he is sure it is valid. Otherwise, he too will be deceived, as in the passages above.
In the same vein, Mormon's official website encourages us to adopt Mormonism by applying Paul's teaching which is to follow the Spirit, and not the "wisdom of the world." In an article entitled "Personal Revelation: The Teaching and Example of the Spirit" (Oct. 2007) written by a member of the Quorum of the LDS church (its highest body), he writes:
How do we know the Father and the Son for ourselves? By personal revelation. Personal revelation is the way Heavenly Father helps us know Him and His Son, learn and live the gospel, endure to the end in righteousness, and qualify for eternal life—to return back into Their presence.
How is this done? By spiritual experiences (signs and wonders of feelings of the spirit?)
You may ask, “How do we seek personal revelation?” Paul counseled the Saints to rely on the Spirit rather than the wisdom of the world.3 To obtain that Spirit, we begin with prayer. President Lorenzo Snow had studied the gospel for several years before joining the Church. But he did not receive a witness until two or three weeks after his baptism when he retired in secret prayer. “The Spirit of God descended upon me,” he said. “O, the joy and happiness I felt, [for] I then received a perfect knowledge that God lives, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and of the restoration of the holy Priesthood, and the fulness of the Gospel.”4
Prophecy is routine among Mormons:
For all of us, our personal revelations reflect the pattern of revelation received by prophets, as recounted in the scriptures. Adam and Eve called upon the name of the Lord and received personal revelation, including knowledge of the Savior.6 Enoch, Abraham, and Moses sought for the welfare of their people and were given marvelous revelations recorded in the Pearl of Great Price.7 Elijah’s personal revelation came through the still, small voice;8 Daniel’s came in a dream.9 Peter’s personal revelation gave him a testimony that Jesus is the Christ.10 Lehi and Nephi received revelations about the Savior and the plan of salvation, and virtually all of the Bible and Book of Mormon prophets received revelations to warn, teach, strengthen, and comfort them and their people.11 After much prayer in the temple, President Spencer W. Kimball received the revelation on the priesthood.12 And after praying about providing temple blessings to more members of the Church, President Hinckley received revelation about the building of smaller temples.13
If this is the answer of Mormonism -- that personal prophecy is commonplace -- and this is how Mormonism knows it is valid, and this is diluted from the meaning in the Holy Bible (predictions of a specific future event must come true - see Deut. 18:26-31), what are we bringing to the table to answer that? Paul, who seemed to utter commands from God and issue prophecy at a whim -- none of which came true.