Christian: Is Your View Of Faith Mormon Or Christian?

Back in 1829, Joseph Smith claimed that God appeared to him saying:

Cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things; did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?… Behold, I say unto you that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right, I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you: therefore, you shall feel that it is right. But if it be not right, you shall have no such feelings…¹

This, of course, is the origin of the popular Mormon doctrine of the “burning in the bosom.” As a result of this verse, most of the Mormon missionaries who’ve arrived at my doorstep over the decades have encouraged me to pray to God, asking him to confirm the truth of The Book of Mormon by means of an internal experience of this kind.
What’s fascinating is that last year when I conducted a poll of nearly a hundred Christians at a variety of different events here in the St. Louis area, the majority of those I interviewed ended up describing faith as a kind of subjective feeling or experience. When I discussed this topic on Episode 4, “Is Faith a Feeling,” I mentioned the fact that in my own study of this issue, I wasn’t able to find a single occurrence of the word “feeling” anywhere near the word “faith” in most English Bible translations. Even when I searched for different versions of the verb “to feel,” and substituted alternatives for the word “faith” (such as “faithful,” “belief,” “believer,” etc.), I still couldn’t find a single passage in which “faith” and “feelings” were within 200 words of each other.

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Shane Rosenthal | “The Mormonization of American Christianity” | Sept 7th, 2023


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Posted by Shane Rosenthal | Wednesday, October 18, 2023 | Categorized in Apologetics, Defense of the Faith, HeidelQuotes. Shane Rosenthal. Bookmark the permalink.

About Shane Rosenthal

Shane Rosenthal is the founder and host of The Humble Skeptic podcast. He was one of the creators of the White Horse Inn, which he also hosted from 2019–2021, and he has written articles for various sites and publications, including Modern Reformation, TableTalk, Core Christianity, and others. Shane received an MA in Historical Theology from Westminster Seminary California, and he lives with his family in the greater St. Louis area. Read more about The Humble Skeptic podcast: shanerose.substack.com

17 comments

  1. Thank you for defining the ‘characteristic action’ of people drawn to or held captive by ‘threads’ from Mormonism. I wonder how I can engage with people in bondage to Mormonism and the ‘threads’ of these lies.

    I know a few Christians who escaped J.Smith’s ideas. It seems the shared view of these friends who have been saved by Grace alone through Faith alone in Christ alone is that they trust sola Scriptura. Also I see at work in these friends, who ‘ran away from’ the ideology of Mormonism, WCF III.6 God’s Eternal Decree. Though none of my friends know or quote this Doctrine, they relate that Smith’s ideas were never and are not the truth. When each of them heard the ideas as children they recognized that Mormon information as untruth.

    I have been studying S.M. Baugh’s ‘fun book’, Majesty on High’. In Baugh’s introduction he presents the biblical reality of ‘the last hour’: 1 John 2:18 Children, it is The Last Hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists HAVE APPEARED; from this we know that it is The Last Hour. The ideas of J. Smith and the families that adhere to ‘the book’ are the evidence of ‘the last hour.”

    Without the Truth of God’s Word we are all darkened people in a dark land – easily captured by QIRE (quest for illegitimate religious experience).

    What do you see that helps you engage people held by Mormonism or its threads regarding The Truth: we are saved by Faith alone in Christ alone through Grace alone?
    We trust Sola Scriptura!

    • Catherine, when talking with Mormons, I typically try to contrast the Bible’s emphasis on external/objective evidence with the Book of Mormon’s focus on internal/subjective evidence. I discuss the problem with the subjective approach on recent episodes of my podcast (check out Faith & Experience Part 1 and 2 at humbleskeptic.com). Also, in the Article section of my site, check out, “What is Faith?” and “Why Should We Believe The Bible?” if you’re interested in reading further on this topic.

  2. How would you take Romans 8:16, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”

    This verse was brought up in a Bible study when talking about assurance. It seems to have a similar subjective experience as the Mormon “burning in the bosom.”

    • Good question, Eric. The most important difference between this verse and the Mormon approach is that Paul nowhere suggests that the Spirit bears witness to us through an internal “feeling” of some kind. My own view is that at the level of individual conscience, we rightly apprehend that we have been regenerated and adopted. Apart from God’s grace, when light comes into the world, men typically run away from the light (Jn 3:19-20), so if you find yourself running toward the light (Jn 3:21) that’s evidence of the Spirit’s regenerating work in your life, that he has given you new affections, etc. And since no one can say “Jesus is Lord except in the Holy Spirit” (1Cor 12:3), the fact that we do end up making this confesssion is further evidence of the Spirit’s internal witness.

  3. Faith & Experience podcast Part 1 and 2 are very well done. I appreciated discussion of the roots of the “feelings” emphasis all the way back to Finney and the way it is so central in charismatic churches. Admittedly, the interviews of Christins as to the basis of their faith was very disturbing. Evangelicalism in America is starving for sound doctrine. May God have mercy upon the church in this nation.

  4. With 2023 being the year of J. Gresham Machen in the P&R world with the celebration of “Christianity and Liberalism,” I fear most will have actually read the wrong book. Frankly, his 1925 work “What is Faith” is a much better book for today’s reader. Theological liberalism is not the primary issue in the current P&R context. What Rosenthal posits in this article is rampant. I hope someone will make the effort to republish and promote what is truly Machen’s best work.

    • William, Machen’s book, What is Faith?, is superb, and I’m actually working on a writing project that addresses some of those same concerns applied to our 21st-century context. I released some of the early chapters as a free PDF at humbleskeptic.com. Just head to the Articles section and look for “What is Faith?”

  5. Stepping outside of the Mormon paradigm for a moment, this kind of subjectivism associated with faith is why I find “believers” baptisms among most evangelical congregations difficult to swallow. I’ve read the so-called testimonials printed in congregational worship folders and always find a thread of suddenly “seeing the light” as though it came from a purely internal human source vs. the convicting work of the Holy Spirit.

  6. Shane,
    Thank you for posting Podcasts Part 1 & 2.

    Distinguishing between the internal/subjective ‘experience-based-faith’ ideologies from the external/objective evidence of the biblical reality in God’s true story titled ‘the Holy Bible’, increases my openness to engage our culture. Thank you.

    I understand that a basic ingredient in this engagement involves a mutual friendship that provides opportunities to communicate the distinctions with movement away from the internal/subjective experience to the external/objective evidence. This ‘calling’ requires discernment, speaking the truth, and a commitment of time and resources.

    My question involves the reality of ‘experience’ that I enjoy in the identity God has defined for us who believe by Grace through Faith in Christ – Romans 5-7 – ‘justified sinner’, ‘sanctified saint’, one who ‘is at Peace with God’ as we live in the Newness of Life.

    How do you see ‘experience’ in the life of believers who are i the substance of Christ?

    • Catherine, followers of Christ can certainly have authentic experiences related to their walk with God. I just don’t believe that personal subjective experience is ever presented in Scripture as a way to establish the truth of Christianity (either for oneself or others). A good text to think of along these lines is John 5:31 where Jesus says, “If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true.” If Jesus ALONE bore witness about himself (as the true Messiah), this would simply be an uncorroborated claim, and we’d all be forced to simply take his word for it. This is why I believe he says in that case that his testimony wouldn’t be true. But throughout the Gospels he makes clear that he does not serve as his only witness: Moses testified about him (Jn 5:46-47), The entire OT testifies about him (Jn 5:39), his miracles testify about him (Jn 14:11, Lk 7:22), the disciples who have been with him from the beginning will testify about him (Jn 15:27), etc.

      Recall that according to various OT texts, for a matter to be officially confirmed, it needed to be authenticated by two or three witnesses (which is precisely what we find throughout numerous NT texts, the best example being 1Cor 15 in which Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection are confirmed by numerous living eyewitnesses (1Cor 15:5-8), and by what was written in advance in the Hebrew Scriptures (1Cor 15:3-4).

  7. “The vision for reformed preaching is to bring a comprehensive worldview of what Scripture is presenting in terms of truth. What reformed preaching does is it aims to take all of the Bible into account and it aims to apply that in several different ways.

    Reformed preaching ministers to the whole man. It’s comprehensive, biblical, doctrinal, experiential, and practical.

    First of all, it’s thoroughly biblical. It’s not what man says that counts; it’s what God says
    that counts. So, in reformed preaching you’re repeating and expounding on what God says in his word.

    Secondly, it’s doctrinal. Good reformed preaching always teaches doctrine. It’s always instructing the mind.

    This robust treatment of Reformed experiential preaching by experienced pastor and professor Joel Beeke explores what experiential preaching is, examines sermons by key preachers in history, and shows how experiential preaching can best be done today.

    Thirdly, good reformed preaching is always experiential. As it reaches the heart, it ministers not only to the mind but the heart, the hands, and the feet—which is the fourth aspect of reformed preaching: that it’s practical.

    So you walk away from a sermon saying This is what I have to do, this is how my life has to
    change, or this is the resolution. Reformed preaching ministers to the whole man. It’s comprehensive, biblical, doctrinal, experiential, and practical.”

    The main issue I take with this brief summary
    and explanation is the word “resolution.” This summary appears to make the individual response and the theological outcome the story. Preaching the Word and theological depth and implications do not hinge on our response nor is our response the story. I think the emphasis is a little off in this description. If the Bible is not about us, why would we make it about us? It’s only about us in our connection to Him which can’t be developed if we go back and make it about us. There’s a trap here I fear…

  8. Shane,
    This is a helpful map of Scriptural evidence. I have needed help apologetically.

  9. Catherine-
    You may want to also consider what Luther had to say about the third article of the Apostle’s Creed concerning the work of the Holy Spirit in his Small Catechism:

    “I believe in the Holy Ghost (Spirit); the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting”

    Luther: “What does this mean? I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him; but the Holy Ghost (Spirit) has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church he daily and richly forgives all sins to me and all believers, and will at the last day raise up me and all the dead, and give unto me and all believers in Christ eternal life. This is most certainly true.

  10. Luther is great. Question: What does it mean to say that we have been enlightened (Eph 1:18)? The answer I would give would be to say that he opens our eyes to attend to the truth (i.e., the facts seen by living witnesses and forseen by the prophets). As B.B. Warfield once observed, he doesn’t give us new evidence, but simply changes our affections / regenerates our hearts so that for the first time, we’re actually able to attend to the truth, and respond accordingly.

    • Shane – yes, in fact he elaborates on this point in Question 166 in his catechism, “What did the Holy Ghost (Spirit) work in you when he called you by the Gospel?”

      Answer: By the Gospel the Holy Ghost (Spirit) enlightened me with his gifts, that is, he gave me the saving knowledge of Jesus, my savior, so that I trust and believe, rejoice and take comfort, in him.

      Then Luther provides supportive Biblical references for this: 1 Peter 2:9, 2 Cor. 4:6, 1 Peter 1:8, Rom. 15:13 along with narratives Acts 8:5-8 and Acts 16:25-34

  11. Another concerning heteredoxy that is emerging, which mirrors Mormonism, is Heiser’s views on the so-called divine council with it’s so-called אלהים (Elohim). Unfortunately his work is accepted almost unchallenged at evangelical academia. While I have not read his book, I have dug in a little to these ideas, and there are better interpetations.

    Since many of his followers have that objection – no, not every layperson who opposes a view has to have read the whole library on the issue before calling out doctrine that differs from the faith once delivered.
    I do hope more scholars and pastors do engage seriously with his work to criticize it though, and might do it myself if I end up being one.

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