'The Life' at Holy Trinity Church Leicester/ Wikimedia Commons

A Defense of Sola Scriptura by: Jordan McDaniel, Biblical Christians and Latter-day Saints Facebook Group, 12/14/16

Original Post:

<< A defense of Sola Scriptura:

The scriptures proclaim that God is truth (Isaiah 65:16, John 3:33, John 7:28, John 8:26, etc.)

The scriptures also proclaim that God does not change (Malachi 3:6, Psalm 102:25-27)

Since God does not change, truth also does not change because God is truth. Therefore, God’s nature and His gospel DO NOT change. They do not need an update. If anyone has a new “revelation” about God’s nature or the gospel but it does not align with scripture (which is all about the unchanging, true God) then it is not to be believed or followed.

So what are we to do about additional LDS doctrines like Jesus and Satan being brothers? Jesus being a created being? God once being a man?

Those doctrines are in direct conflict with what scripture teaches.

Jesus created ALL things including Satan (Colossians 1:16-17, John 1:1-3)

God has always been God (Psalm 90:2, Deuteronomy 32:40, Isaiah 41:4, 1 Timothy  1:17)

Conclusion: These false doctrines are in direct conflict with scripture. Therefore, they are false and should not be believed.

These very doctrines that the LDS church claims to be true “change” what God has said about Himself and revealed about Himself in His word. But God does not change. If He did then truth would change as well.

Therefore, because the LDS church claims that God has changed means that LDS are going against the authority of scripture. The LDS church is false and the Jesus you worship does not exist. He is a false Christ.

Notice that I used the authority of scripture and scripture alone to disprove the LDS church.

Sola Scriptura defended.>>

My Response:

The above essentially makes the following points in defense of Sola Scriptura, or more accurately in opposition to the teachings of Mormonism.

  1. The Scriptures proclaim that God is Truth.
  2. The Scriptures proclaim that God doesn’t change.
  3. Truth is inherently absolute; it does not change.
  4. Therefore God changes neither in nature or revelation.
  5. Latter-day Saints hold different beliefs then Reformed Protestants on various doctrines such as the relationship of Jesus and Satan, the ontological nature of God, and the need for a Restoration.
  6. Because these do not comply with a Reformed Protestants view and interpretation of scripture, Latter-day Saints hold beliefs that effectively “change” or contradict what is stated in scripture, therefore causing God to run contrary to his nature of Truth.
  7. Therefore Latter-day Saints worship a false God/Christ and their Gospel cannot be true.

In my response I will address a few specific verses of scripture and engage in some moderate exegesis. Quite frankly, being an unlearned 18 year-old, such is beyond my ability to do so very extensively. Despite such limitations, I will be providing links to other resources that address such passages or topics by far more qualified scholars than I. Instead, the focus of my response will be more based in breaking the argument down to the fundamental differences that exist in both the Reformed Protestant and Latter-day Saint approach to scripture, and why I personally choose to take the latter option when such are clearly defined. I will include my own personal reasoning and several lapses in reasoning that exist in my friend’s argument that are laid out above. Enjoy!

One of the biggest chasms in belief that exist between Latter-day Saints and their Reformed Protestant neighbors is the role of scripture in the faith, how it is utilized and for what purpose it serves. To any Mormons reading this, an effective and concise summary of the belief in Sola Scriptura (meaning “scripture alone” in Latin) can be seen in the following:

Sola scriptura means that Scripture alone is authoritative for the faith and practice of the Christian. The Bible is complete, authoritative, and true. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). [1]

What this entails is that the Bible alone serves as the final authority in dealing with matters of truth, that it is fully sufficient in doing this, that the essential teachings or doctrines are fully perspicuous or clearly taught, and finally when the need for interpretation arises, scripture best interprets scripture. [2] This teaching is one that most Reformed Protestants would say is fully biblical and clearly taught from the text. Indeed the Westminster Confession of Faith states that, “The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.” [3]

What is essential to acknowledge with this view of the role that scripture holds in Reformed Protestant practice and belief, is that the Bible stands as the paramount and absolute Standard of Truth when it comes to judging or acquiring spiritual knowledge or determining the veracity of various truth claims. Because scripture, as used in 2 Timothy 3:16 is Θεóπνευστος or “God-breathed”, all scripture therefore represents the very Word of God, who being truth, as Jordan demonstrated from scripture above, stands alone as the final Standard of Truth. To most Reformed Protestants, this is a completely rational and obvious thing to do seeing as the Bible (being fully sufficient, authoritative, perspicuous, and self-interpreting) is the complete and final representation of God’s revealed Word to mankind. At no such time may anything be added to scripture even if “by new revelations of the Spirit“. [emphasis added] In essence, the most efficient, reliable, and ultimate epistemological methodology for the Reformed Protestant exists in the Word of God, or in other words, the Bible, and for Latter-day Saints, this is where much of the divide begins.

The Latter-day Saint tradition is distinct in comparison to many Christian faiths in the fact that it proposes an open-canon approach to scripture, continual revelation and an ultimate epistemological methodology which places emphasis on receiving revelation from God directly (most commonly through prayer and study), in matters of verifying truth claims. The LDS canon, similar to Reformed Protestants in containing the Bible, holds three other distinct scriptures not recognized by any other Christian denomination outside of the historical Latter-day Saint Movement; The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, The Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price. On top of that, Latter-day Saints have and continue to have a line of Prophets and Apostles, since the organization of The Church in 1830, that guide and receive revelation directly from God on its behalf. This creates two major distinctions from Reformed Protestants, chiefly that there can and does exist scripture outside of the biblical narrative, and that direct experience-based, revelation from God serves as the Absolute Standard of Truth.

I will here list some of my reasons as a Latter-day Saint for adhering to and believing in the superiority of spiritual experiences as the basis for belief and verifying truth claims, why I do not believe in closed-canon, and why I personally do not adhere to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. As such, I would argue the following:

  1. I agree that Truth is ultimately Absolute and does not change.
  2. I also agree that God is the fullest representation of Truth in existence; He knows all Truth and holds all Truth.
  3. I would argue against what McDaniel implies or defines as “change” in his original assertion. It is both irregularly and unclearly defined and at times has the equal potential to condemn the Reformed Protestant position as much as it does that of the Latter-day Saint.
  4. McDaniel did not defend Sola Scriptura in any way, rather he began with that presupposition and used it to counter Mormon beliefs regarding the nature of God, Christ’s relationship with Satan and the need for a Restoration. His own words best demonstrate this where he concludes, “Notice that I used the authority of scripture and scripture alone to disprove the LDS church.” [emphasis added]
  5. McDaniel ultimately holds a self-defeating position based on the stipulations that he himself sets up in the course of his own argument.

McDaniel referenced several scriptural passages in accordance with his statement that God does not change such as Malachi 3:6 and Psalm 102:25-27. They say respectively,

“For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” -Malachi 3:6


“25 Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands. 26 They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: 27 But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.” –Psalm 102:25-27

In regards to the Malachi pericope, the general context surrounding it directly alludes that the fact that it is serving as a continuation of Malachi 1:2-5 which begins the dialectical correspondence through the Prophet Malachi, held between Israel and the Lord. In this correspondence, the themes of Israel’s relationship with Yahweh, the commandments they are failing to keep in terms of religious observance and social justice, and finally the impending judgment of the Lord are all greatly expounded upon in the prophet’s sharp critique of the nation of Israel. [4] To these, David Kimchi (1160-1235), the medieval Franco-Spanish grammarian and exegete whose commentary had an extensive influence on the Authorized Version of 1611, said related to Malachi 3:6 in that “I change not in My nature, being ever the same both in loving good and hating evil, as in the purpose for which you are selected as My people. Therefore, My judgement is but to purify you for the fulfillment of your destiny.” [5; emphasis added] In this it can be seen that the three unchanging aspects of God are His view on good and evil, His relationship with Israel, and in His final judgement.

As for the pericope in Psalm 102:25-27, it can be seen that the unchanging aspect of God being discussed lies in his immortality and inability to perish away or be ultimately destroyed like the common elements of the earth and the heavens. There is no end to the years of God for he shall always endure, exist and retain his immortality. This is something that Latter-day Saints expressly believe themselves and so, ends up being a dull and inefficient point against their view on the nature of God.

In the passages provided by McDaniel, one can see that the unchanging aspects of God in discussion are expressly: His view and attitude towards good and evil, His covenant relationship with Israel, His justice and judgement, and his immortality. These stand in contrast to his assumption that they refer instead to the ontological nature of God or the nature of revelation. He then argues that:

“Since God does not change, truth also does not change because God is truth. Therefore, God’s nature and His gospel DO NOT change. They do not need an update. If anyone has a new “revelation” about God’s nature or the gospel but it does not align with scripture (which is all about the unchanging, true God) then it is not to be believed or followed.”

It is clear to see that if such a rule is equally applied throughout all time, that the very scriptures and revelations which make up the biblical canon would effectively be rendered unusable as much of them expressly contain details or teachings about the nature of God and His Gospel, not contained previously in scripture. The primary definition in the Oxford Living Dictionary of revelation regards it as “A surprising and previously unknown fact that has been disclosed to others” [6] It would be very impressive and necessary for one arguing such a position to demonstrate just where the details of the account of St. John the Revelator are previously contained in the biblical canon before the Book of Revelations, or instead perhaps the visions of Daniel, of Joseph, of Stephen would suffice. If the requirement of scripture is that it must first align or be corroborated by previous scripture in order to be the de facto Word of God, then much of the Bible (not to mention the later unique doctrines of Trinitarianism, predestination, and the 5 Solas of Calvinism) would be made void. But this double standard isn’t avoided in McDaniel’s address, thereby showing the presupposition in beginning with Sola Scriptura in order to apparently defend or prove Sola Scriptura. This is a clear example of petitio principii or more commonly known as, begging the question. 

For myself, a major reason I hold in rejecting the notion of closed-canon and Sola Scriptura, lies in the previous segment of the Westminster Confession of Faith stating that nothing may be added to scripture even if “by new revelations of the Spirit“. [emphasis added] Personally, I see this is a bold and audacious stance by the Reformed Protestant which is simply not supported biblically. The notion that even God’s Spirit, cannot add to the Word of God in the form of revelation or scripture is imposing a limitation on God that He nowhere in scripture imposes on Himself.

Secondly, if the Bible is the Word of God and the Final and Absolute Standard of Truth as proposed by the Reformed Protestant, then there can be no external means or method to verify the validity of the Bible because doing such would be appealing to a lesser standard of truth to verify a higher one. This is right in accordance with the basis of presuppositional apologetics  in which, “A Christian presuppositionalist presupposes God’s existence and argues from that perspective to show the validity of Christian theism. This position also presupposes the truth of the Christian Scriptures and relies on the validity and power of the gospel to change lives.” [7]  To myself, this appears to exemplify multiple logical fallacies such as begging the question and circular reasoning. Nonetheless it is a position that many Reformed Protestants take, and one that most Latter-day Saints find utterly foreign and untenable.

My argument, which I will address more at length at a later time, is that regardless of one’s respective religious or irreligious worldviews, the most common and fundamental epistemological methodology lies in the ultimate summation of one’s total rational thought and spiritual experiences (or lack thereof). One is not inherently born with a belief in the Bible, it is one that they adopt or come to a belief in through exposure to the Bible, to other’s belief in it and to its respective study. Many undergo acceptance of the Bible as the Word of God and Jesus Christ as the Son of God through a converting or “bornagain” experience, others may couple such with secular evidences such as on historical, archaeological, or logical grounds. Along such lines do Latter-day Saints operate in accordance with passages such as “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.” (John 16:23) and “…behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right…” (Doctrine and Covenants 9:8)

This, in my opinion, is the full extent of what anyone can or really does undergo in this life, regardless of personal beliefs. By following this methodology, one has a basis to move forward in the practice and defense of their faith or belief after accounting for the full extent of their knowledge, reasoning and experiences; provided that they never close themselves off to future knowledge, future rationales and future experiences. Such is what I have done as an individual and as a Latter-day Saint, the worldview I hold being an honest and natural result of what I have experienced and learned in life. I am but an 18 year-old, thus my life is wide-open to future education and experiences; but for the present the sum total of my previous existence leads me to completely believe and identify with Mormonism.
As previously stated, I will provide links to future resources and to responses for the verses or criticisms I did not touch upon for readability’s sake. These will be provided below, just above the list of citations utilized throughout my response. As always I am welcoming and frankly encouraging of any feedback whether in the form of agreement, clarification, or criticism and am open to receiving it through most any format. Jordan McDaniel has graciously allowed himself to be subject to my first attempt at *somewhat* serious apologetics and scriptural exegesis and for that I thank him and welcome his response according to the allowance of his own schedule. -J

Suggested Resources:

Works Cited
  1. https://gotquestions.org/sola-scriptura.html
  2. http://www.equip.org/article/what-is-sola-scriptura/
  3. http://www.theopedia.com/Westminster_Confession_of_Faith
  4. Anderson, Bernhard W. “Malachi’s Plea for Sincere Worship.” Understanding the Old Testament. 3rd ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1975. 487-88. Print.
  5. Hertz, Joseph H. “Sabbath Hagadol- Malachi 3:4-24.” The Pentateuch and Haftorahs: Hebrew Text, English Translation and Commentary. 2nd ed. London: Soncino, 1960. 1005. Print.
  6. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/revelation
  7. https://carm.org/presuppositional-apologetics

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