But that’s not Biblical!


Another common objection I have encountered in my dialogs with some who visit my essays can be summed up in the phrase, “But that’s not Biblical!” Similar to those who don’t understand what Mormons mean when we refer to our testimony, this common complaint also never ceases to amaze me. They just don’t get it.

I wrote in a previous essay about why the LDS personal testimony means so much more than most Christian apologists admit. I got to thinking about it and decided that I was giving them too much credit. Maybe they really do understand what our testimonies represent and it worries them because they don’t have that certainty.

People mock what they don’t understand. Some of our Christian evangelist friends are apparently no different. They claim that we base our religious convictions on mere feelings to draw attention away from the fact that the testimony is not in the feelings but in the knowledge revealed directly to our spirits in answer to prayer.

The Bible as the last word

Likewise, I think I have been much too lenient in dialogs with my visitors when they respond that my point is invalid because it cannot be found in the Bible. I always have to stop and remind myself of how important this foundation is to them. It’s all they have and they are conditioned to discard anything not in there.

I shouldn’t be surprised when this point comes up again and again when discussing the doctrines of the LDS Church with those not of our faith. Just as we Latter-day Saints can always return to the safety of our personal testimonies, they fall back to the idea of the completeness and infallibility of the Bible as their last safety net.

But after a year or more of reading the same responses to some of my basic essays about our unique revealed doctrines, the claim that we don’t understand the truth on some doctrine because it’s not in the Bible is beginning to wear a little thin. This essay is intended to make it clear that yes, we have much more than the Bible.

We have new scriptures

If you want to discuss doctrines with members of the LDS faith, it would be very helpful to understand right away that we’re going to throw all kinds of things at you that you’ve never heard of. We’ve got new stuff and that’s a big part of our religion. We do not base our doctrines solely on what is found in the Bible.

I understand that this can be discomforting, especially when we tell you that some of the very basic doctrines of salvation are erroneously taught in most Christian churches today because they are based solely on the Bible. That can be difficult to accept if you’ve believed all your life that the Bible is the last word on the truth.

One of the primary messages that the LDS Church has been declaring to the world for the last 180 years is that God has revealed new scriptures that clarify and bring light to some of the obscure teachings of the Bible. Many of the doctrines found there have been misinterpreted because of books that have been lost or taken out.

A Bible, a Bible

So strongly do some feel threatened by the idea of additional scripture that they become extremely defensive. They adamantly announce that since they accept the Bible as the word of God that they cannot accept the Book of Mormon. The Lord saw these individuals who think the Bible contains all and pronounced them fools.

“And because my words shall hiss forth—many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible. But thus saith the Lord God: O fools, they shall have a Bible; and it shall proceed forth from the Jews, mine ancient covenant people.” (2 Nephi 29:3-4)

“Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews? Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written.” (2 Nephi 29:6, 10)

So much more to offer

Just as I concluded while on my mission, I’ve decided once again that there are just some individuals who will never accept the idea of modern revelation to prophets and apostles. I have met many thousands of good Christian people who have been conditioned to believe that religion can be found solely in the words in the Bible.

Why do they limit themselves when there is so much more available if they only would open their eyes, soften their hearts and entertain the possibility that God could reveal his will to man again in our day and age through men that he called as prophets and apostles to lead his church in these last days before he returns again?

On more than one occasion someone has taken offense at my assertion that we have so much more to offer the world than what can be found in Christianity as taught in the world today. It’s so true! That’s the heart of our message. We offer more revelation and direction from God than what you have received already.

Modern prophets and revelation

I guess it has been that way from the beginning of the restoration. This has been the primary objection to our message by those who are opposed to the work of the Lord in the last days. A living prophet who speaks for the Lord and brings forth modern scripture just really upsets so much of their tradition and their comfort.

It is a marvelous thing that God would call a prophet from among the uneducated as to the things of this world. Joseph Smith had not studied theology and did not know what the doctors of religion in his day were struggling with. All he knew is that they could not agree with each other about how to interpret the Bible.

That has not changed in our day. There are so many denominations that interpret the Bible differently. Even among the same churches there are disagreements on basic and fundamental concepts that every LDS primary child understands clearly. We have this unity in our church because God has revealed it to a living prophet.

Summary and conclusion

It saddens me to realize that there are many otherwise good followers of Christ who will not entertain the idea that God could call a prophet in our day and bring forth scripture through that prophet for our benefit. They will not accept the idea that God speaks to man again and that the Bible does not contain all of his words.

The idea that the Bible is complete and infallible is ludicrous to me. Anybody who has studied how we got our Bible knows that it is simply a collection of books and letters put together by man. God did not place the limiting constraints on his word that man did when he compiled the Bible. The Bible is simply not complete.

The Bible is also not the last authority of what God has to say about something. It is silly to think that everything that God wanted us to know is found in the Bible. I am so grateful to have the Book of Mormon and the canonized revelations to the prophet Joseph Smith that we have in the Doctrine and Covenants and elsewhere.

————————————————-

For more information, see these FAIR Wiki articles:

1. Bible completeness
2. Open canon vs. closed canon
3. Adding to the Bible
4. Bible inerrancy
5. Lost scripture

13 Responses

  1. Tim, the most ironic aspect of this whole discussion is that almost all of the truly unique teachings of Mormonism don’t come from the Book of Mormon. Rather, they come from the Bible. Most non-Mormon-Christians go bonkers when I tell them that, but it’s true.

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  2. “It is important to underscore here the way in which the Mormon restoration of these ancient offices and practices resulted in a very significant departure from the classical Protestant understanding of religious authority. The subtlety of the issues at stake here is often missed by us Evangelicals, with the result that we typically get sidetracked in our efforts to understand our basic disagreements with Mormon thought. We often proceed as if the central authority issue to debate with Mormons has to do with the question of which authoritative texts ought to guide us in understanding the basic issues of life. We Evangelicals accept the Bible alone as our infallible guide while, we point out, the Latter-day Saints add another set of writings, those that comprise the Book of Mormon, along with the records of additional Church teachings to the canon- we classic Protestants are people of the Book while Mormons are people of the Books.This way of getting at the nature of our differences really does not take us very far into exploring some of our basic disagreements. What we also need to see is that in restoring some features of Old Testament Israel, Mormonism has also restored the kinds of authority patterns that guided the life of Israel. The old Testament people of God were not a people of the Book as such- mainly because for most of their history, there was no completed Book. Ancient Israel was guided by an open canon and the leadership of the prophets. And it is precisely this pattern of communal authority that Mormonism restored. Evangelicals may insist that Mormonism has too many books. But the proper Mormon response is that even these Books are not enough to give authoritative guidance to the present-day community of the faithful.The books themselves are products of a prophetic office, an office that has been reinstituted in these latter days. People fail to discern the full will of God if they do not live their lives in the anticipation that they will receive new revealed teachings under the authority of the living prophets.”-Richard Mouw, “What does God think about America?” BYU Studies, 43:4 (2004):10-11.

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  3. A prophet! A prophet! We had prophets and we don’t need them anymore! We have our pastors, evangelists, preachers, teachers, ministers, priests, popes who all READ from the Bible…we don’t need someone who receives revelation from God. Besides….it’s not like He actually talks to us anymore…we have the Bible…that’s all we need.

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  4. If the Spirit inspired only the written documents of the first century, does that mean that the same Spirit does not speak today in the church about matters that are of significant concern?On what biblical or historical grounds has the inspiration of God been limited to the written documents that the Christendom now calls scripture?Elder Oaks said: “What makes us different from most other Christians in the way we read and use the Bible and other scriptures is our belief in continuing revelation. For us, the scriptures are not the ultimate source of knowledge, but what precedes the ultimate source. The ultimate knowledge comes by revelation.”

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  5. I think its a great opportunity for dialogue face-to-face but agree, that this barrier is frustrating in writing.I enjoy understanding what the not-in-the-Bible line of reasoning means to people when they explain the extent to which Christ’s ministry was extra-Biblical for those of his day. I think that many people have had deep experiences with the divinity of the Bible that goes beyond the authenticity of it, but they do not know how to express it outside of the authenticity paradigm.

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  6. Quandmeme: Very well put. I do think that people feel strongly about the Bible, and I think that is a genuine experience, what we would call a testimony, but they don’t know how to express that other than fall back on evangelical notions of Biblical completeness and infallibility.

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  7. I think we forget too often that Protestantism is built explicitly on the repudiation of the Catholic claim to “Priesthood authority” and the Protestant fathers’ sincere and honorable realization that they personally did not hold such authority. If God’s authority was not vested in man at that time (and we agree it wasn’t), their only option as they broke from Catholicism was to turn to a different source for authority – and the only “legitimate” option available to them was “the word of God”. The only “word of God” available to them was the Bible. If the only authority available to them was the Bible, it became inevitable that the Bible eventually would come to be seen as infallible – even though not one single Protestant father believed it was crystal clear as to meaning. That’s the true irony of Protestantism – that people who had no other option than to invest authority in the Bible couldn’t agree on what that authority said, thus creating nearly innumerable offshoots and leading to multitudinous translations. When Joseph claimed to have received personal Priesthood authority, that was blasphemous enough – but when he also undermined the exclusive authority of the Bible, he LITERALLY cut all their claims of legitimacy out from under them and, in very personal terms to them, said their entire religious foundation was illegitimate. Sure, he said (and we say) that “there is much good in all religions” – but that’s small comfort to those who have invested their heart and soul into a system that is being called inadequate and ultimately not efficacious. Fwiw, I believe we should be MUCH more understanding of this core dilemma – and the reason why they rejected and reject the very idea of a Restoration so vehemently. Taking our rejection of their creeds as “abominable”, our core rejection of their very authority foundation alone is enough to make me hesitant to condemn them for their reaction. I’m just not sure how I would have reacted in their place. To me, it’s kind of a “cast the first stone” thing. Also, we need to realize that the stance they took was absolutely and totally necessary at the time – and that the Restoration would have been impossible without that foundation. I LOVE Elder Uchtdorf’s talk, “Faith of Our Fathers”. I thought it was stunningly beautiful, especially coming from a first generation convert to the Church – and I thought his message was profound.

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  8. It seems to me as an Evangelical, that the Mormons here (including Tim) have misunderstood/misrepresented Protestantism. While Protestants do typically affirm that the Bible is complete and sufficient, the main problem we have with Mormonism is not that it has more scripture, or further clarifying contemporary revelation, but that it blatantly contradicts Christianity. To suppose that God may have revealed additional scripture is not so scandalous, to my way of thinking, as to say that the new scriptures contradict the old scripture.Again, to say that Jesus came to America is relatively not that big a deal. To say that out of one side of His mouth He told us salvation is by grace alone and, out of the other, that we earn our salvation, why that IS a big deal.LDS people are very concerned, I’ve noticed, that Evangelicals do not misrepresent them. When the shoe is on the other foot, I request, you extend the same courtesy to us. Thank you and shalom out.

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  9. You’re absolutely correct that folks ought not create straw man arguments out of protestantism. However, consider that the 5 Solas include Sola Scriptura, meaning that the Bible is the only acceptable word of God. These Mormon folks are correct in saying that protestants cannot accept the Book of Mormon or current revelation.You also mention the reliance on Sola Gratia as fundamental, but that idea can be traced back to the Council of Trent in direct opposition to the Catholic doctrine of merit. Jesus never did utter Sola Gratia and the biblical verses which identify the belief contradict others which talk about merit or good works. Both Solas are protestant inventions which Mormons do not accept.

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  10. Evangelical, I just can’t fail to point out (and to agree with Euripides) that it’s a bit ironic that in your post stating that the “Mormons here” [all] misunderstand or misrepresent protestant beliefs you turn around and misunderstand/misrepresent LDS beliefs.Seeing a contradiction in grace and works is misunderstanding the LDS view of it. There is no “doublespeak” on the parts of LDS prophets. It’s like scoffing at those of us who respond to the common question in psychology, “Is it nature or nurture?” by saying “Yes.”I don’t have anything else to add; Euripides answered you quite well.

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  11. Hi Tim,There is much truth in your article. Very Insightful!If you get the opportunity, would you please pray for the requests on our main page?May God bless you & your family,Mark, Lynn, Brooke & Carley Seayhttp://www.LighthousePrayerLine.orgps- please consider following our blog -or- atlease link to us with one of our free blue buttons (top sidebar @ LighthousePrayerLine.org).

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  12. “To say that out of one side of His mouth He told us salvation is by grace alone and, out of the other, that we earn our salvation, why that IS a big deal.”But then we enter the round robin of debate about grace and works. James said “grace without works is dead.” John said that “the great and the small would be judged by their works” etc. etc. and really, if that’s not the case, then why have it in the Bible…more than once…by three or more different Apostles? Wouldn’t having it in there more than once really justify our position that a person has to work out their salvation “with fear and trembling before God”? Many of us who were Protestants and Catholics before becoming “mormon” understand where they come from and even more so when you take into account the history of each of the Protestant Churches and their entwinement with Catholic church in the past.

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  13. Just so there is no confusion, Mormons do believe in being saved by grace. Besides the teachings in the Bible which affirm this, the Book of Mormon teaches “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved” (2 Nephi 10:24). We also believe that we must actually choose to follow the Savior’s teachings (it must be more than a passive desire). These decisions to act more like Him are empowered by Him (which is an aspect of His grace). In other words, I’m saying that we believe in Ephesians 2:8-10.I for one have felt His power help me to act more like Him. It was the Book of Mormon that first helped me to understand how to access His power to improve. This is one more reason why I believe the Book of Mormon is true, because it has helped me come to know the power of Christ for myself.

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