Mormonism 201 (God the Father): Response to Steve Danderson

Response to Steve Danderson
Rejoinder by Bill McKeever  and Eric Johnson

(Editor’s Note: In order to make this review easier to read, all original quotes from the Mormonism 201 rebuttal are boldfaced and italicized to separate these from the rest of the rejoinder.)

In what may be the most interesting chapter in the entire Mormonism 201 project, Steve Danderson begins his short two-page review like this:

“Bill McKeever first came to the attention of this reviewer about twenty years ago, when he wrote some personal finance books in the genre of those by Harry Browne or Howard Ruff. Sadly, it appears that McKeever’s scholarship has descended since then.”

Showing his apparent lack of ability to do accurate research, Danderson is badly mistaken. Bill has never written any personal finance books. In fact, his only history in personal finance has been trying to balance his checkbook—and his wife says he fails miserably at that! Apparently there is another “Bill McKeever” to whom Danderson references.

After making such a silly error, Danderson then criticizes our opening paragraphs. He says that our“first fallacy is the use of ambiguous terminology. They wish to confuse a differing understanding of who God is with worshipping another god altogether. To understand the tactic used by the authors, consider the city of Cleveland, Ohio. One of the historical black marks against the city was the pollution quite evident in Lake Erie. Cleveland certainly became a different city once the lake was cleaned up. By the reasoning of McKeever and Johnson, one would conclude that Cleveland, Ohio became Cleveland, Tennessee once Lake Erie was cleaned up.”

This analogy makes no sense. Based on physical location, it can be logically shown that Cleveland, Ohio can never be called Cleveland, Tennessee, no matter how many times Lake Erie is cleaned. In fact, you could transport buckets of Lake Erie to Tennessee, yet Cleveland, Tennessee will always be in Tennessee and not in Ohio. In the same way, the Mormon God cannot be equated with the God of Christianity. There is no comparison.

Danderson uses this same analogy in his review of chapter 2 (“Jesus”). Speaking of Jesus, he wrote,“Simply put, just because one group has differing opinions about the traits of a Person than another group, it does not follow that these groups are describing different people. As this reviewer stated in his review of chapter one, stating that the Cleveland, Ohio of today is different from what it was in 1971, does not mean that the 2001 Cleveland, Ohio is really Cleveland, Tennessee.”

It would have been nice if Mr. Danderson would have at least explained the quotes we cite from LDS leaders who seem to disagree with his conclusions. For instance, at the beginning of our chapter on God, we quote 12th LDS President Spencer Kimball who said the God we worship was “created” out of “mortal minds.” Is Mr. Danderson conceding that his God also came about in such a method? In our chapter on Jesus we quote Mormon Apostle Bruce McConkie who accused Christians of worshiping a “mythical Christ.” Does Mr. Danderson also worship a mythical Christ? In a conference message in April 2002, Gordon B. Hinckley said, “As a church we have critics, many of them. They say we do not believe in the traditional Christ of Christianity. There is some substance to what they say.” Is Danderson admitting that he worships a non-traditional Christ? If not, his insistence that our view of God the Father and God the Son are the same is without merit.

Can it be reasonably argued that these three leaders felt confident that the God they worshipped was different than those outside of the LDS Church? LDS leaders have more than once insisted that there is a grave difference between the God of Mormonism and the God of biblical Christianity. It is what we call an apples and oranges analogy. Suppose we described Ronald Reagan as a former president of the United States and later call him a former actor as well. It’s true that we could be referring to the same person, albeit at different stages of the man’s life. However, if we say that Ronald Reagan fixed our plumbing problem in 1983, it is obvious that we are talking about a completely different Ronald Reagan than the man who was serving his first term as president during that same year. In the same way, the Latter-day Saint view of God or Jesus (i.e. brother of Lucifer, not 100 percent God in the flesh, not eternally God, etc.) cannot be viewed the same way as the descriptions given in the Bible.

Danderson then states, “Secondly, the authors beg the question by assuming that doctrines first canonized in the Nicene and related creeds (with which President Kimball profoundly disagreed) were entirely biblical. Leaving aside the truth or falsehood of those creeds, this reviewer has yet to read any biblical text that equates nonbelievers in the creeds with nonbelievers in Christ.”

But Paul contradicted this very idea when he wrote, “For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him” (2 Corinthians 11:4). It is possible to have other gospels for Galatians 1:8-9 says, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”

These are just two biblical texts declaring that an unbiblical view of Christ is the same as saying it’s a wrong view. The creeds mentioned by Danderson, though not scripture themselves, merely state in creedal form what God is like. A creed is biblical only when it correlates with scripture, as scripture does not need to correlate with the creed for the scripture to remain true.

Danderson then writes: “McKeever and Johnson falsely assert, ‘To be sure, historical Christianity has never advocated the belief in a tangible deity.’ Is Jesus not God? Did the Apostles and others not touch Him, after His resurrection?”

Context. Context. Context. That statement is made in the section dealing with God the Father. It is true that Jesus is God, yet He is not the Father. Like many Mormons, Danderson appears to be lacking a basic understanding of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. However, comprehending the basic tenets of this fundamental teaching helps answer many tired arguments. For instance, Mormons will often bring up the baptism of Jesus and how the voice of the Father came from heaven and the Holy Ghost came upon Jesus. The Trinity explains that there are three separate Persons (whos) who make up the one God (what). God, therefore, is one in essence revealed in the three persons of the Godhead. (For further information on the Trinity, may we suggest chapter 3 of our book!)

Danderson then accuses us of ignoring Genesis 1:26-27, a passage that says man was made in God’s image. He asks, “Is it logical to think that man has zero in common with the Creator who chose to make mankind in His image?” Who said that man has “zero in common” with God? The “Imago Dei” clearly shows that humans have plenty in common with God, for truly we are created in His image.

However, why do Danderson and most Mormons feel that this image includes physical bodies? Joseph Smith claimed in his Inspired Version of the Bible that the conversation in Genesis 1:26, 27 took place between God the Father and Jesus. Is Danderson insisting that Jesus had a body at that time? If not, his assumption that the word image refers to physical bodies is meaningless. Mankind has been made in the image of God morally, spiritually, and intellectually. We are different from the rest of creation because of this image, which was tainted at the fall of man. For more on this, see here.

Bringing an ancient atheist argument to the table, Danderson asks whether or not it is possible for God to lie and therefore not tell the truth. “If not, then He is not omnipotent,” he writes in his attempt to show that God, therefore, cannot truly be omnipotent. The answer is quite simple. There are some things God cannot do, including lying or going against His word because this would be in direct conflict with His nature (Numbers 23:19). Bringing up this issue is no different than asking, “Can God make a square  circle?” While such a proposition is meant to stump the Christian, it is pure nonsense because it is a categorical error. After all, by definition a square is made up of four sides while a circle is round. If, all of a sudden, the square became round, it then ceases to be a square and would therefore be called a circle. It is just as meaningless to ask what the color purple smells like. After all, colors don’t smell but are seen. God is a God of logic and cannot go against it.

At the bottom of his review’s second and final page, Danderson appears to quit his paper in mid-stream and concludes like this:

“Recently, one of my graduate school professors permitted me to review a report done by an undergraduate student. Midway down the third page, the professor wrote, ‘I quit! I am not going to correct everything wrong with this paper. It is simply too much work!’ He gave the student a failing grade because, frankly, it was poor work. Sadly, having seen both the failing paper and the efforts of Eric Johnson and Bill McKeever, I must conclude that the failing paper is superior.”

This is the most unique ending to any of the Mormonism 201 rebuttals. Danderson doesn’t deal with the issues we present, but instead he throws his hands up into the air as a sign of apparent frustration. Without providing much for us to rebut, we too shall end our article here.

For other rejoinders to the rebuttals of Mormonism 201, click here.