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The New Mormon Challenge is edited by Francis J Beckwith, Carl Mosser, Paul Owen (Zondervan).


The Mormon faith is an example of a truly ludicrous religion being so divorced from reality that it seems to be a cult. Whatever one thinks of Mormonism's truth claims, it shows that a false religion can have immense power over its people and be immune to refutation and disproof. If Mormonism has one million devotees that is the same as some other religion having ten million for Mormonism's devotees live eat and drink their faith more than you would see any other faith doing.


The book, The New Mormon Challenge, seeks to give scholarly reasons why this faith is not only untrue but implausible.


We are looking at how the Christian and Mormon views of God differ. For Christians God is the source of all and is goodness itself. For Mormons, God is not able to make anything from nothing but is merely the designer of all. God is not in all creation but is a man in his own space and time with superhuman powers. For Christians, God is just good. For Mormons, he had to become good.


Did God create and use nothing at all to do so?


A core Mormon teaching is that anything creating something where there is nothing to make it from is false. Mormons think God did not create all things. The matter comprising the universe just exists as a brute fact and there is no creator. God himself is part of all that and he shapes the universe with his power. He does not call it into existence. Creation is too often seen as God starting things off in the past but in fact the doctrine is not about that so much as something called creatio continua. Creation is not an event in the past and is happening now. God continually creates. Making something and keeping it in existence is creation right now.


The book says that Colossians 1:16,17 is saying that all things were created in and through Christ which is saying that God's involvement will things being made is comprehensive. The text talks about visible and invisible just to be sure that that there are no exceptions. "Not only this, but Christ is before all things. The implication is that there was a state of being in which Christ existed and the universe did not." The book says that before means Christ is the one the creation needs to exist and Christ has primacy over it for he keeps it in existence. So if his power was taken away the whole universe will turn back into nothing.


The book points to how the Jewish Encyclopedia is clear that most Jewish thinkers take the start of Genesis which says God made the heavens and the earth to mean God made all things out of nothing. The Mormons responded by trying to treat the Hebrew word for create as meaning something else. They did that by looking at how the word came about - the etymology. But, "modern linguists and exegetes have repeatedly shown that using etymology to establish word meanings is misguided." It tells us that the word nice comes from the Latin word for ignorant! Indeed the practice ignores how many things are nicknamed. Gay means happy but that is not what it means today. It is a nickname for affirming homosexuality as a good thing.


The book quotes R K Harrison as saying that creation from nothing is definitely in Genesis 1, that "it is certainly implicit in the narrative." It makes God the source of all. The book tells us later that the Christian "doctrine of creation assumes that God's word alone is what brings the universe about - not simply God's word acting on previously existing matter." It then quotes Psalm 33 as saying that the word of the Lord or God's breath is what made all things. Supporting texts that say that only God did not need a maker or source are given as Nehemiah 9:6, Job 41:11, Psalm 102:25; Hebrews 11:3 and Revelation 1:8.


The New Mormon Challenge admits that the notion that the past and the universe must have had a start is unproven. It answers the arguments of St Thomas Aquinas. It goes, "Aquinas thought to evade the implications of this position for the finitude of the past by asserting that the temporal series of past events is merely potentially, but not actually, infinite. But this claim is plainly false, for in order to be potentially infinite, the past would have to be finite but growing in a backward direction, which is absurd. Moreover, Ostler overlooks the fact, pointed out by Kretzmann, whom he cites, that Aquinas did in fact accept these arguments as probability arguments for the finitude of the past, even if he thought they fell short of absolute proof."


Comment: Good. But it does argue based on the notion that God is sovereign as in being in control, "An infinite regress of sovereigns would mean that no sovereign in the series would ever be the sufficient condition for the authority passed on to the sovereign who follows him." The logic is that authority can only come from a God who is the origin of all things and who alone needs to exist.


The New Mormon Handbook: What is creation? We know it is making something not out of anything but maybe it becomes clearer if we list what it is not. The book does that.


The New Mormon Challenge: The doctrine of creation assumes that God’s word alone is what brings the universe about—not simply God’s word acting on previously existing matter. Psalm 33 declares that it was simply “by the word of the Lord [tô logô tou kyriou]” and “the breath of his mouth” that “the heavens were made”; he “spoke” or “commanded,” and it was “created/established [ektisthêsen]” (6, 9).105 There are simply no preexisting conditions to which God is subject; it is God’s commanding word that brings creation into being. As Bruce Waltke states, the Old Testament does not present an “eternal dualism” of God and primordial matter.


Comment: Interesting! This is not creating at all but using magic words!


Against the notion that God is just a big magician, the book says,


Corresponding to the mythological conception of deity is the magical character of the pagan cultus. Magic is an art whose purpose is to move occult powers to act in a desired manner. It utilizes means which are automatically efficient, irrespective of the will of the gods…The power of magic transcends the gods: they themselves employ it, for they too are in need of this almighty instrument which is independent of them and their will. The gods are great magicians, and there are even skilled specialists in this art among them." So in creating, "God does not employ magic but simply issues his decree."

Comment: It is strange that turning an acorn into an oak in seconds is magic and turning nothing into something is not. Magic on the acorn is less magic than using nothing to make something. "God does not employ magic but simply issues his decree" is messing with words. Commanding something to appear and it appearing when no power is used is magic. Magic uses magic words and so it assumes you can command things to happen.


The New Mormon Challenge: In the Bible God uses the image of fire when he comes down at Sinai. This is to tell people that there must be no images. Nobody wants to make images of fire and worship them. This implies a rejection of the magical belief that magic somehow can make an image the actual god or goddess. Magic in The New Mormon Challenge is a way of bypassing the gods and controlling even them!

Against the Mormon doctrine that create in the Bible does not imply that God makes anything out of nothing The New Mormon Challenge says:


The Jewish Encyclopedia says that the etymological meaning of the verb (“create”) is ‘to cut out and [to] put into shape’ [fashion], and thus presupposes the use of material.” He* then extrapolates the theological point that God’s creation involved a fashioning “out of pre-existent material.” He adds later: “The etymology of the verb ‘create’ implies creation from pre-existing materials.” Modern linguists and exegetes have repeatedly shown that using etymology to establish word meaning is misguided.


*The writer of the Encyclopedia article Claus Westermann agrees: Genesis 1:1 does not refer to “the beginning of something, but simply The Beginning. Everything began with God.”


Another Old Testament scholar, R. K. Harrison, asserts that while creatio ex nihilo was “too abstract for the [Hebrew] mind to entertain” and is not stated explicitly in Genesis 1, “it is certainly implicit in the narrative.” 


John 1:3 unambiguously states that all things—that is, “the material world”—came into being through the Word. The implication is that all things (which would include preexistent matter, if that were applicable to the creative process) exist through God’s agent, who is the originator of everything. This is borne out by the fact that though the Word was (ên), the creation came to be (egeneto). Raymond Brown comments: “Thus the material world has been created by God and is good.”My comment on this is that creation from nothing is only clear in Christianity. That is suspect. Why would God wait until Jesus to preach such a doctrine? It is a core doctrine and why would God not explain it to the Jews? Judaism and Christianity are supposed to be the same religion with the latter being the valid update of Judaism. That cannot be with such glaring "continuity errors".

The New Mormon Challenge: 2 Peter 3:5, which speaks of God creating “from water” and “by water.” If matter were not itself created ex nihilo by God, then there would be something over which he lacked power, which contradicts his omnipotence.


Comment: Why not read the verse as denying creation from nothing? Is it hinting that all things were made from water?

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