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A Reply To Paul Owen

John Weldon responds to Paul Owen


There is little need for me to reply to Paul Owen, but I will do so once more to prevent misunderstandings his comments may generate.

My initial post was not conditioned by a belief that LDS scholarship should not be noted and responded to. If that were all Carl Mosser and Paul Owen were saying, I would have agreed. My response was conditioned by the following factors: 1) FARMS arrogance towards evangelical literature on Mormonism; 2) Mosser and 0wen's unkind and unjustified comments on my book -- ("among the ugliest, most unchristian, and misleading polemics in print"); 3) their dismissal of the Tanners important research in terms of relevance to contemporary Mormon scholarship, as well as their dismissal of Dr. White's article in the Christian Research Journal; and their dismissal of almost all evangelical literature on Mormonism; 4) their belief that current LDS academic endeavors pose a threat to Christianity, and that, at the academic level, evangelicals "are losing the debate with the Mormons"; and 5) that Mormon scholars are capable of "supporting their unique scriptural canon and doctrinal system" in "intellectually plausible ways."

This is what attracted my attention--and we apparently won't agree on these issues.

But I would like to say at the start this does not mean that I'm unappreciative of Mosser and Owens attempts to engage LDS scholarship. To the contrary, I am appreciative and wish them well. I hope that when they attend or speak at LDS conferences, they will find the means to share with attendees that Mormonism offers a different God, a different Christ, and a different gospel than what we find in the Bible.

I hope that when they present the biblical gospel that they will have the pleasure of its bearing genuine fruit.

I also hope their article leads to the scholarly engagement between LDS and evangelicals they call for.

But I also hope that in the midst of this endeavor that issues of eternity will not be sidetracked by scholarly technicalities.

Scholarship, secular or Christian, is important; indeed in many ways it is wonderful and exciting-- but scholarship has pluses and minuses. On the plus side, biblical study has been tremendously enriched and the overall benefits are too numerous to list here. On the negative side, isn't scholarship today often opposed to God and His word? Haven't many Christian students had their faith wrecked by modern scholarship? Any scholarship that ignores God's word or compromises it is not of such great value that we must take its conclusions almost as gospel, as some evangelicals have.

Have not even Christian professors too often been corrupted by their own scholarship, swayed from their foundations by the 'assured results' of higher criticism and theological trends, naturalism and evolutionary speculation (e.g., theistic evolution), liberal or liberation politics, the polemics of conditionalism and universalism, Christian mysticism, process and neotheism, Roman Catholic apologetics, so-called Christian parapsychology, feminism, humanism, Marxism-- the list goes on.

I wonder if Christian scholarship as a whole has taken verses like Matt.11: 25; I Cor. 1:18-21, 26-31; 2:14; 3:18-21; 2 Cor. 10:5; or Col. 2:8 to heart? I'm not at all sure when I see what is coming out of many evangelical universities and seminaries today. But does this bode well for their faculties?

Let me give an example from an article I wrote a while ago: "Mortimer J. Adler is one of the great modern thinkers. He is author of such important books as Ten Philosophical Mistakes, Truth in Religion and How to Think About God; chairman for the Board of Editors for the Encyclopedia Britannica and architect and Editor-in-Chief for the 54-volume The Great Books of the Western World library. This set contains the writings of the most influential and greatest intellects and thinkers in Western history--from Aristotle to Shakespeare.

In Volume 1 of The Great Ideas: A Syntopicon of Great Books of the Western World, Adler points out the crucial importance of the issue of God's existence to the greatest thinkers of the Western World. With the exception of only certain mathematicians and physicists, "all the authors of the great books are represented....In sheer quantity of references, as well as in variety, this is the largest chapter. The reason is obvious. More consequences for thought and action follow from the affirmation or denial of God than from answering any other basic question." Ideas matter; they matter tremendously, especially when ideas impact belief in God. The consequences for individual behavior and the quality of life in society generally hang in the balance.

And here is where we see perhaps the greatest consequence of evolutionary theory--its logical denial of God and the unfortunate results that have generated outward into society from this denial. To think that evolution has no theological consequences is naive. Yet the number of Christian academics, and subsequently laymen, who have compromised with evolution is great.

Phillip E. Johnson, a graduate of Harvard and the University of Chicago and law clerk for Chief Justice Earl Warren of the United States Supreme Court has taught law for over 20 years at U.C. Berkeley. In his critique of naturalism he writes, "One thing that surprised me at first, until I grew accustomed to it, was that many Christian professors, both at religious institutions and at secular universities, were staunch defenders of the evolutionary orthodoxy that I was attacking as a product of metaphysical naturalism. It was easy for me to understand why atheists and agnostics defended naturalistic evolution,....But why were so many Christian academics reluctant to encourage anyone to challenge the scientific claims of the metaphysical naturalists who dominated evolutionary science?....These Christian professors insisted that their belief in 'evolution' was based on evidence. I told them that they were deceiving themselves and that they accepted the current scientific orthodoxy only because they were looking at the evidence through naturalistic spectacles."

And, "Naturalism rules the secular academic world absolutely, which is bad enough. What is far worse is that it rules much of the Christian world as well....it is common for philosophers even at conservative Christian institutions to accept the rules of scientific naturalism, and to accept them for no better reason than the secular world wills it to be so. It is no wonder that the best students from these institutions so often emerge with a naturalistic outlook; that is how they have been taught to think. The domination of naturalistic philosophy in our intellectual institutions has had disastrous consequences for the Christian faith."

"Disastrous consequences for Christian faith"--but from Christian professors influenced by secularism. If the unregenerate cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God, because God's interests are foolishness to them, (1 Cor. 2:14), why is secular biblical scholarship held in such high regard by many evangelicals? Certainly, much of what secular scholars write is useful, but much of it is so biased as to be irrelevant or useless. That holds true in other areas, but it is especially true in theology and biblical studies.

The failure to grant scholarship its due respect all depends on ones perspective as to what is important. Learning and the conclusions one derives from it are two different matters. The word of God is infinitely more important than all the world's scholarship combined. For almost 30 years I have watched the great good that has come from godly scholarship and the great tragedy that has arisen from ungodly scholarship. So, please forgive me if I'm not as impressed with modern scholarship as I should be. Too often it becomes a 'sickness' of pride; indeed, I was kept from Christ for many years because of academic scholarship. There is no love lost between us on that score. When I have a hard enough time accepting even some Christian scholarship, to ask me to accept Mormon scholarship when I already know the outcome is a bit much.

I find Paul Owen's comments largely as he finds mine, mostly irrelevant, although I agree with the central thesis of his original article-that recent LDS scholarship should not be neglected-- however I may disagree with the manner in which it was stated.

I would hope that interested parties would read my full responses before they draw conclusions based on the initial comments of Carl Mosser and Paul Owen or Paul Owen's
rejoinder. (1)

Carl Mosser/Paul Owen and I have quite divergent views about the relevance of Mormon scholarship, at least as far as adequately defending Mormon teachings. Again, this is not to say that evangelical scholars should not be responding to recent LDS scholarship.

When scholarship is pressed in the service of distortion, as LDS scholarship defending Mormonism must be, it is difficult to consider it credible. Again, I quote LDS scholar Karl C. Sandberg, DeWitt Wallace professor of French and Humanities, emeritus, Macalester, College, St. Paul, MN, who noted in "Whither (Mormon) Scholarship?" that there are Mormons who do scholarship in lots of areas, but not in Mormonism: "There are Mormons who do scholarship in all the various disciplines-they play by the same rules as everyone else, they participate in the same dynamics, and they produce the same kind of knowledge. Such is not the case, however, when Mormons do scholarship about Mormonism or directly related subjects... ." If Mormons can see this, why can't evangelicals?

When scholarly endeavor in history, theology, or science allows its own unjustified biases to color its conclusions and to distort and undermine confidence in God's word, I have a problem with that kind of scholarship. Roman Catholic scholar Luke Timothy Johnson was correct when he was quoted as saying in a 1996 Time article (that discussed the Jesus Seminar), "people have no idea how fraudulent people who claim to be scholars can be." At this point I would even find myself agreeing with some of Nibleys condemnations of scholarship, but of course, I can hardly agree with his attacks on the Bible or Christianity or his extensive distortions in defending Mormonism.

The following response will be paragraph by paragraph according to Paul Owen's rejoinder:

Paragraph 1 - According to Paul Owen, "Most of Mr. Weldon's lengthy response is frankly irrelevant; so I will limit the substance of my reply to appendices 1 and 6, with some brief comments on appendix 8..." Again, readers are encouraged to read my entire response to see if they think Paul Owen is correct.

Paragraph 2 -- According to Paul Owen, the essence of my argument is that, "We don't need to refute FARMS scholarship because Mormonism is a false religion. End of argument." This wasn't my argument at all. I believe recent LDS scholarship deserves a response; I just don't believe it has accomplished what Carl Mosser and Paul Owen think it has. It is one thing to say that LDS scholarship needs addressing; it is something else entirely to say it is a genuine threat to Christian faith doctrinally.

Also, what is the point of the little remark in brackets?

Paragraph 3 - First citing me, Paul Owen replies, "'The Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies...publishes literature in defense of Mormonism, especially the Book of Mormon.' This statement is a factual error, not in terms of what is stated, but what goes conspicuously unstated. As Carl Mosser and I have extensively documented, FARMS does far more than simply defend the Book of Mormon: they actively engage in 'Ancient Research.'"

Of course they do! My goodness, if an organization has a name with "ancient research" in its title and it deals extensively with the Book of Mormon, which claims to be an ancient document, why on earth when I need to go out of my way, in an introductory summary statement, to point out what should be obvious? Why would Paul Owen even be concerned with mentioning this point? Clearly, he thinks I am a trying to get away with something, for he says, "Mr. Weldon hides from his readers..." There was no intent to hide anything! Does Paul Owen believe he can read my mind?

Paul Owen fails to address a key issue when he expresses concern that pastors and laymen cannot give substantive replies to FARMS arguments when Christian researchers supposedly have no better response (according to his view of my position) than "Farms scholarship is obviously wrong because we know Mormonism is a false religion." Where did I ever say FARMS arguments should not be addressed? If they are being used apologetically to defend a false religion and hinder others salvation, of course they should be addressed.

But my argument remains true; Mormonism is proven wrong doctrinally and historically apart from anything FARMS has produced or will produce. The basic foundation is already in place to refute FARMS. This does not mean we don't engage them on additional particulars; only that FARMS can be effectively discredited with what we already know about Mormonism. The fact there are respected experts in scholarly fields pertinent to LDS apologetic claims cannot change a disproof of Mormonism.

Paragraph 4 -- As to my claim that FARMS defends Mormonism at the cost of true scholarship and the three examples initially cited, Paul Owen agrees that the response of Dr. White response to Offenders has a some legitimacy, although only in a limited sense. I would disagree with that. "White has pointed out some weaknesses in one FARMS publication...the refutation of some...arguments in one publication by no means refutes LDS scholarship in general." Is there really any doubt that serious defects could be pointed out in any LDS publication seeking to defend Mormonism or to interact with Christianity in light of Mormon truth claims?

Norwood's reviews cannot be dismissed so easily -- if FARMS did not consider him sufficiently qualified to write reviews in its scholarly publication, they would not have accepted his submissions. As to Barksdale, based on reading elsewhere, I was under the assumption he was associated with FARMS, given a reliable source who stated this. After looking into it, I discover Barksdale had no direct affiliation with FARMS, and I stand corrected. Barksdale is the President of the Foundation in Apologetic Information and Research that hosts FARMS speakers, which may be where the original idea of association arose. But these three were only illustrations. In the section on FARMS review of books I cited numerous examples showing that only FARMS ever wins in the game of evaluating Mormonism. That does not disprove their scholarship per se, but it does make one suspicious. And obviously, to critique all the arguments in those reviews would have taken hundreds of pages. But given the time and resources, it certainly could be done

Paragraph 5 - According to Paul Owen, my analysis of Offenders is "sophomoric and rather surface-level." Sophomoric is defined as over confident of knowledge and intelligence, but immature, shallow and uninformed. The point is this: was it to the point? A detailed scholarly analysis was hardly intended. Does the choice to write popularly mean that my arguments are invalid?

Readers should look at this material and decide for themselves whether my analysis was sophomoric, or whether, if briefly, it illustrated Drs. Petersen and Rick's' biases. Paul Owen continues, "He seems to think that the essence of winning an argument is to quote Bible verses, all the while assuming that his opponents ought to agree with the Christian paradigm assumptions he brings to the texts (which paradigm assumptions, I my add, I would wholeheartedly endorse)."

I find this enchanting. Can he read my mind again? How on earth would I assume that non-Christians ought to agree with my Christian assumptions? If I believed quoting Bible verses was all that was necessary to win an argument, that's all I would have done. But again, Paul Owen almost expects miracles in a short response. Apparently, not only do I have to deal with detailed scholarly arguments, I also have to deal with the philosophical assumptions that underlie scholarly arguments.

Paragraph 6 -- I stand by what I wrote. In books to date I have not seriously engaged recent LDS scholarship for various reasons relating to interest, time, and opportunity; but it would be a serious mistake on Paul Owen's part to assume I cannot do this. Or that my conclusions about Mormonism are incorrect because of it.

I stated that Mormon scholarship would never be impressive when it comes to defending the truth claims of Mormonism. I don't believe it ever will be impressive. To really be impressive, given the claims of Mormonism, it would have to prove the truth of Mormonism -- which it cannot do. Paul Owen responds: "The intellectual narrow-mindedness displayed here is astounding." Huh? The definition of narrow-minded is "having or showing a restricted and prejudiced outlook." What this means is that only if I said we should never examine FARMS literature would I be guilty of being narrow-minded. Need I say it again? I'm all for critically examining FARMS literature. To say FARMS claims should never be addressed -- this has never been my position. I agree entirely with Paul Owen that Mormons are the ones "who need to be shown that FARMS scholarship does not establish the historical and theological truth claims of the Mormon religion."

Paragraph 7 -- Re: Paul Owen's comments about belittling, please see the definition of the word and the context in my original response. "Again, the intellectual arrogance displayed here is astounding. Since Mormonism is wrong, therefore, those who defend Mormonism are not intelligent." Paul Owen has again been unkind with what I said, as anyone can see who reads my comments. To say it is not intelligent to defend a falsehood is not to say that the person who does so is unintelligent generally. And, of course there are "10 million perfectly intelligent Mormons who disagree Mormonism is a false religion"-how did I suggest otherwise?

Once again, to have a negative view of LDS apologetics/scholarship hardly means I believe it should not be addressed. It is unimportant and of little value for proving Mormonism-but to imply my comment here means I would reject the approach of St. Paul with the Jews, Irenaeus with the Gnostics, Justin with the pagans, Machen and Warfield with German liberal scholarship, is ludicrous. To state my position as "Weldon would have us refuse to engage [Mormon scholars] on an intellectual level... " is a distortion. To continue with, "and simply declare them unintelligent for defending what is assumed to be untrue" is another distortion. How can I assume the falsehood of Mormonism when it is already established as false? And, again, if Paul Owen thinks defending a falsehood is an intelligent endeavor, he is welcome to his opinion.

Paragraph 8 -- Concerning my "heavy reliance upon the Tanners..." I have no response. If he believes the figures I gave constitute heavy reliance, that's his opinion. I don't disagree entirely with his comments about Metcalfe's anthology, but I don't think they address the issue adequately. Of course liberal Mormon scholarship is not going to get a Mormon into the Christian church -- that is done on a different basis. Nor do I think evangelicals should rely solely upon liberal Mormon research to engage FARMS.

Paragraph 9 -- There is a fair amount of evangelical literature on Mormonism besides the Tanners, Beckwith/Parrish, and Walters. While it is of uneven quality, and not up to the standards of scholarship Paul Owen represents, to say that, "The academic quality of the "research" most evangelicals are putting out there in response to Mormonism is simply pathetic" is too sweeping a generalization. Pathetic is defined as "extremely or pitifully inadequate or ineffective." This just isn't a fair evaluation of much Christian literature on Mormonism. Not dealing with recent LDS scholarship alone doesn't make these books "pathetic."

Paragraph 10 - Paul Owen wrote, "I would like to ask Mr. Weldon a blunt question: How many of Dr. Nibley's books has he actually read? My guess would be: zero."

Guesses can be risky.

I have read, in part, the following books by Dr. Nibley: Mormonism and Christianity (MC); Tinkling Cymbals and Sounding Brass (TCSB); Since Cumorah (SC); An Approach to the Book of Mormon (ABM) (the compilation of) Lehi in the Desert/The World of the Jaredites/There were Jaredites (LD) and The Prophetic Book of Mormon (PBM). I read enough of Dr. Nibley to convince myself that continuing to read him would be pointless.

When Dr. Nibley spends 50 pages trying to prove Ezekiel 37 is a prophecy of the Book of Mormon, 700 pages relegating all LDS/Book of Mormon critics to the status of "tinkling cymbals and sounding brass' (i.e., emptiness and confusion); 1000 pages defending a nonexistent civilization and the Book of Mormon as an ancient text, then I am not very impressed when other scholars say Dr. Nibley is a capable scholar. Forgive me, but I do not think distortion is capable scholarship.

Dr. Nibley's problem is that he uses his great learning in defense of a false religion. He uses it by every means possible, scholarly and unscholarly. But if he took his own advice, he should have used his learning to defend the truth instead of leading thousands astray by his writings on Mormonism. As a Gospel Doctrine teacher in the Mormon church, he is especially culpable.

His learning should have taught him better-to not be so ready to accept a cult that is so anti-Christ, even in the face of the evidence for historic Christianity. But somehow Dr. Nibley's knowledge was not kind to him. In making error and falsehood sound scholarly, he contributes greatly to the overall deception promoted by the Mormon religion. So, when his academic skill is pressed in the service of distortion, why should I be impressed? Why should I trust him or revere his scholarship any more than the conclusions of the Jesus Seminar?

I wonder: if Dr. Nibley were not a Mormon, how would he view his own books? Or, if he were converted to Christian faith, what would he conclude about his scholarship in defense of Mormonism? If mainstream liberal Biblical scholars were converted to Christ overnight, and looked at the data afresh, how would they view their earlier writings and conclusions? We already have a good idea from the instances where this has happened, just as we do with former evolutionists who are now creationists.

Here are some examples of why I do not think Dr. Nibley is a capable scholar when it comes to either defending Mormonism or fairly evaluating Christianity:

In Tinkling Cymbals, he cites Eduard Meyer's Ursprung und Geschichte der Mormonen as illustrating "at length the 'exact identity' of his [Joseph Smiths'] Church both in 'atmosphere' and sundry particulars with that of the early Christians. A 'striking and irrefutable' parallelism supports Mormon claims to revelation; 'with perfect right' they identify themselves with the apostolic church of old." (TC, 11)

Since Meyer was "one of the best informed men who ever lived" and had "complete impartiality" according to Dr. Nibley TC, 10), he couldn't be wrong, could he?

On the one hand, Dr. Nibley claims solid, genuine evidence for his Churches' most important scripture (emphasis is added below): "Joseph Smith's own story of the book's authorship certainly lies far 'outside the usual and familiar,' and we have every right to ask for special proof of it." (PBM, 59) And, "First and foremost, the Book of Mormon preaches the gospel, but it supports its presentation with strong evidence." (PDM, 498) And, "Upon close examination all the many apparent contradictions in the Book of Mormon disappear. It passes the sure test of authenticity with flying colors." (PBM, 67), And finally, "Since it claims to be translated by divine power, the Book of Mormon also claims all the authority -- and responsibility -- of the original text." (PBM 69)

Yet speaking of his Since Cumorah, a defense of the Book of Mormon, "The whole thing may well impress some as disappointingly inconclusive, for we must insist that we have reached no final conclusions, even privately, and that all we can see ahead is more and ever more problems." (SC, xiv) And, "The evidence that will prove or disprove the Book of Mormon does not exist." (SC, xiv) And, "By far the most important area in which the Book of Mormon is to be tested is in the reader's own heart. The challenge of Moroni 10:4 is by no means unscientific..." (ABM, 6)

So, which is it-'special proof 'or 'disappointingly inconclusive' evidence? Do we endorse objective or subjective apologetics? Is the definition of science to incorporate the spiritual realm?

Since Book of Mormon proof is entirely lacking, and disproof is abundant, Dr. Nibley, as a scholar, apparently has to sometimes make it seem like the book has real evidence when he knows better.

When it comes to the Bible and church history, things are not improved: "We are now assured that the three Synoptic Gospels are not the original Evangelion [gospel] at all.... the very 'multiplicity of the Gospels' is adequate evidence that someone has been manipulating the records." (SC, p.26-27)

Dr. Nibley goes on to declare that early Christians "proceeded in the various churches to reinterpret and delete much of the record.... [and] after the damage was done the New Testament went forth" throughout the world. (SC, 26-28)

The Book of Mormon verses Dr. Nibley discusses here are from 1 Nephi 13 which implies that Christ's gospel suffered great distortion at the hands of the early Christians. The book of Mormon corrects the "devilish and abominable" distortions of the "great and abominable" Christian church by e.g., offering a gospel of works, as we documented in Behind the Mask of Mormonism. (See Alma 7:16; Mosiah 5:8-9; 2 Nephi 9:23-24; 3 Nephi 27:14-17,21-22) Unfortunately, the Apostle Paul declares the Mormon gospel of works is under God's curse (Gal.1: 6-9)

In light of this, we can only cite Dr. Nibley on the Book of Mormon elsewhere: "We offer the Book of Mormon to the world in good faith, convinced that it is the truest of books." (ABM, 13) and, "Its one and only merit is truth. Without that merit, it is all that non-believers say it is." (PBM, 86) Given the many damning citations of the Book of Mormon Dr. Nibley cites by non-believers, we have little to respond to.

Regardless, if what Dr. Nibley says about the corruption of the Christian church is true, no one should ever trust Christianity again: "Wherever we look in the ancient world the past has been controlled, but nowhere more rigorously than in the history of the Christian church. The methods of control, wherever we find them, fall under three general heads, which might be described as (a) the invention, (b) the destruction, and (c) the alteration of documents." (MEC, 219)

In Tinkling Cymbals does his 80-page discussion of "36 Rules" on how to write an anti-Mormon book prove anything other than that every Mormon critic is a fraud?

These are only a very few illustrations of why we don't trust the scholarship of Dr. Hugh Nibley. In the forward to the 1952 edition of Lehi in the Desert etc., John A. Widtsoe remarked of Nibley's book, "It has been written also under the inspiration of the Spirit of God."

I think not.

Would that the good Dr. Nibley should listen to his own advice: "An open mind is not a mind devoid of opinions, but one that is willing to change opinions in the face of new evidence." (PBM, 56)

Paragraph 11 -- as to my lack of interaction with the "more formidable LDS scholars and theologians" because not much was said in the book doesn't mean there was no interaction. I was satisfied with what the book discussed in 500 pages and I still am. Yes, it was written for laymen. Yes, the sections were short. If Paul Owen believes this is an excuse, he is welcome to his opinion. With time, funds and interest I could write a book of equal length interacting solely with individuals acceptable to Peterson/Mosser/Owen. But I doubt they would be impressed, since I write for laymen at a sophmoric, surface level, am narrow-minded and intolerant, arrogant, and employ lame arguments.

Of course, if I missed numerous important arguments these Mormon scholars and apologists raised, then the defect is mine -and of course these should be addressed. But one book is only one book and space limits are space limits. To criticize me for not going into sufficient detail with e.g., Dr. Robinson by offering "a detailed interaction with Robinson's arguments" when it would have required a small book isn't quite fair given the scope of material we already wished to address. No author can interact in depth with everyone of importance in a given field. Nevertheless, I stand by what I wrote about Robinson's book and find it confirmed in recent reviews (e.g., see Journal of Christian Apologetics, Vol. 1 No. 2.)

"Excuse me, Brother Weldon, these things need to be demonstrated, not just asserted ... how convenient it is to take the 'Keep It Simple Stupid' approach. That way, whenever someone points out that you have neglected important scholarly arguments against your position you can say that you were more interested in communicating to the "simple layperson."

But isn't it possible we addressed most of the important issues and arguments relative to Mormonism and Christianity for an introductory book?: Mormon origins and the First vision account; the issue of divine revelation and Joseph Smith; Joseph Smith's prophetic status; the issue of new revelation and Scripture; LDS claims to be the only true Church on earth; the LDS priesthoods; LDS claims to be a Christian religion; the LDS view of Christianity, God, the Trinity, Adam as God, Jesus Christ, salvation, grace, the atonement, the nature of man, sin, the Fall, Satan and demons; Mormonism and the occult; the Mormon scriptures; LDS blood atonement, polygamy and racism; changes in the temple ceremony; Smith's so-called 'Inspired Version' of the Bible, etc.

And I have a great deal of respect for the 'simple layperson'. I think my book and response demonstrated more than Paul Owen thinks -- clearly he disagrees, and that is his right. But not everyone agrees with him. To say what I wrote is "irrelevant" is a claim, not a demonstration. I agree that mere assertions have absolutely no evidentiary value.

Christians aren't merely claiming Mormonism is wrong and then refusing to engage FARMS; they have proven Mormonism wrong and nothing FARMS can do will change it. So, who lost the battle?

Paragraph 12 and 13 -- I stand by my comments earlier concerning good and bad scholarship. To say I have no "serious acquaintance with mainstream biblical scholarship" is another attempt to read my mind and my life. On what basis does Paul Owen know this?

To declare of Dr. Ankerberg and myself, "they do not have legitimate doctoral degrees. They have degrees from unaccredited correspondence schools" with all that is implied in those words, communicates a lot of itself. And it is another distortion. Perhaps that's why I am referred to as "Mr. Weldon"or "Brother Weldon"-because, like Dr. Peterson, Paul Owen has such little regard or contempt for my graduate work he cannot bring himself to grant me the courtesy of a "Dr. Weldon." I don't know. But regardless, "unaccredited" isn't necessarily illegitimate. For Paul Owen, apparently, the only legitimate degree is one accredited by the "appropriate" accrediting body, irrespective of the caliber of study. (Luther Rice is accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS), which is listed by the U.S.Department of Education as a recognized accrediting association. LRS operates under the licensure of the State Board of Independent Colleges and Universities, Department of Education, State of Florida. LRS is also listed under "The Best Alternative Programs/Nontraditional Education" in the Comprehensive Guide to the Best Colleges and Universities in the United States, published by the American Council for University Planning and Academic Excellence (ACUPAE). Anyone who wishes may contact LRS at www.LRS.edu to see whether my doctoral degree is legitimate or not. For additional information on Pacific College, see my response to Dr. Peterson at this site, or contact them directly at -0116139-739-8333- in Melbourne, Australia.) Also, how does he think he knows Luther Rice Seminary or Pacific College of Graduate Studies "do not require their students to seriously engage non-evangelical biblical scholarship?" Not to Paul Owen's satisfaction, but is that the issue? (2)

As to my categorization of liberal scholarship as "uninformed," it should have been clear that I did not mean ignorance as to information. Obviously, liberal scholarship is well-informed academically in its fields. But they are not so well-informed when it come to the truth of the Bible, Christian apologetics, the consequences of the assumptions they hold that color their conclusions and determine what will or will not be accepted as possible, and other matters. I wouldn't call most evolutionists informed on the subject of creation science since they deem it unworthy of investigation by their own materialist or rationalistic assumptions. I would hardly call them uninformed about evolutionary literature. In liberal theology I think similar assumptions keep many scholars uninformed about other ways of looking at the data. Regardless, when it comes to biblical credibility, I would take four words of Jesus, "Thy word is truth" (Jn.17:17) over a whole library of non-evangelical biblical scholarship. The first time a liberal Biblical scholar raises himself from the dead, I will sit up and take notice. (Also, please see my original comments concerning Dr. Peterson's criticisms of my degrees.)

The claim is made that my intellectual narrow-mindedness is astounding for alleging that LDS scholarship is not credible for defending the truth claims of Mormonism--and never will be. (6). My intellectual arrogance is also astounding. Yet I seem to be looked down upon with something like arrogance and narrow-mindedness. Arrogant is defined as "full of or proceeding from unwarranted pride; conceited and haughty." Want to see real arrogance? What about the biblical scholars of the Jesus Seminar who toss out at least 82% of the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and throw out the Gospel of John entirely-- based on their scholarship and great learning. They believe only critical scholars have the right to judge NT reliability and call conservative Christians "witch-hunters" and "latter-day inquisitors." No arrogance there. When biblical scholars such as Robert Funk and Roy Hoover write in The Five Gospels (1993, p.2) that, "the Christ creed and dogma... can no longer command the assent of those who have seen the heavens through Galileo's telescope. The old deities and demons were swept from the skies" who doubts they are referring to the God of the Bible? What about the arrogance of purveyors of modern naturalism and scientism who pontificate on the fact of evolution and authoritatively inform the world how creation really happened when this is entirely outside their domain as scientists? What about all the nonsense of "Q" from the International Q Project and the Society of Biblical Literature? I find all this more arrogant than my dismissal of LDS apologetics.

What cannot be forgotten is that Mormonism is a religious system unalterably opposed to the very heart of the Christian gospel. This is been true ever since Mormonism was founded some 170 years ago. Worse, it claims to be Christian, but not just Christian--it claims to be the only true Christianity on earth. As a result, it opposes historic Christianity--even deceptively. Worst of all, it sends people to an eternal hell in the name of the biblical God, Jesus Christ, and the true gospel. I view all this as unpleasant to say the least.

Nibley cites the following Book of Mormon verse in a different context, but I think it is applicable to our present discussion as well: "Whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil,...then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil" (emphasis his, Moroni 7:16-17).

I do agree with Paul Owen that Mormon scholarship is a threat in one sense -- to Mormons and others who believe that Mormon scholarship alone guarantees the truth of its conclusions. But beyond that, I do not see the academic threat that Carl Mosser and Paul Owen believe Mormonism poses for Christianity.

John F. Weldon, Ph.D.

  1. Publishing deadlines required this response be finished in one day; the readers indulgence is requested for inadvertent errors. Back to text.

  2. But even if true, does this mean we personally have never engaged it? Would Paul Owen like to call Dr. Ankerberg and discuss the matter? Has he watched John spend hundreds of hours pouring over scholarly works in preparation for his television programs? Has he watched me spend hundreds of hours in my library doing the same for different reasons?

    My interest in graduate study was primarily to interlock apologetics and comparative religion and secondarily to engage subjects like non-evangelical biblical scholarship. It worked out, even with degrees Paul Owen has little or no respect for. Many of my courses required some familiarity with secular scholarship in various fields, ever since my first M.A. at Simon Greenleaf School of Law, founded by Dr. John Warwick Montgomery-- who, incidentally, would find such comments outrageous if applied to his school. Does he think I receive the M.A. in Christian Apologetics under scholars like Dr. Montgomery, Dr. Harold Lindsell, Dr.Charles Manske, Dr. Rod Rosenbladt, etc by reading only evangelical literature? My M.A. thesis on Buddhism and my dissertation bibliographies shows interaction with widespread scholarly materials for my subjects.

    Incidentally, my library of 10,000 books contains mostly scholarly texts or those written by scholars for popular consumption; the main categories are Bible studies and commentaries; apologetics and theology, religions and cults. Only rarely do I not read at least part of a book I purchase. But I get the feeling that anything I write that is popular and not scholarly will be rejected by Mosser/Owen, including what I write now. Nevertheless, speaking of my library, if what Mosser/Owen say turns out to be correct, I'll eat a page from every book and wash it down with the Book of Mormon. Back to text.