Sunday, July 19, 2015

Review of " The Inevitable Apostasy and the Promised Restoration"

As you can see on the right hand side of my blog under "blogs I recommend", there is one that is written in Latin. Its author is my friend Scott Dodge, a Roman Catholic Deacon who is a former member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His blog is similar to mine, in that he talks about various theological topics as well as political and other topics. If you enjoy my blog, you will certainly enjoy his. Although he and I disagree theologically, I admire his his writing as well as his uncompromising religiosity in a world that is becoming more relativistic by the day.

In his post titled "The acknowledged differences of Mormonism" he talks about what could be defined as the most critical idea in Mormonism: The idea that the church that Jesus of Nazareth established in the 1st century fell away from the things he originally taught and that the church was not on the earth until the early nineteenth century when it was restored through the ministry of the Prophet Joseph Smith. He writes "Of course the Mormon belief in The Great Apostasy presumes almost utter ignorance of the early Church Fathers, especially the so-called Apostolic Fathers, men such as Polycarp of Smyrna, Ignatius of Antioch, Clement of Rome, Papias of Hieropolis, not to mention documents like the Didaché and the Shepherd of Hermas, as well as Ireneaus of Lyons, Justin Martyr, etc. It also requires a fairly superficial reading of several of St Paul's letters."

Given the accusation, it seems that he has not read a book that I  just recently finished entitled "The Inevitable Apostasy and the Promised Restoration" by Tad R. Callister. Just by way of background, Bro. Callister is an attorney by profession and wrote the classic work known as "The Infinite Atonement". He has served as a Bishop, Stake President, Mission President, 2nd Quorum of the Seventy, Presidency of the Seventy, and is the current Sunday School General President. Along with Terryl Givens and Blake Ostler, Bro. Callister is one of the best theologians in the LDS Church and I personally hope that he is called to the Quorum of the Twelve in the upcoming General Conference .

As stated earlier, it seems that many Christians believe that the LDS faith is ignorant of Christianity in the centuries following the ascension of Jesus of Nazareth. Bro. Callister puts that to wrest in this volume. For the most part, Bro. Callister uses the 10 volume work known as the Ante-Nicene Fathers (the fathers who were before the first nicene council) to build his argument that the church fell away and was restored in modern times. Ironically, he uses all the men who are before mentioned by Scott, as well as Tertullian, who was one of the great church fathers.

In the book, you can tell that Bro. Callister is a lawyer rather than a philosopher. He cites the evidence, makes a few brief comments, and then moves on to his next point. Unfortunately, this leaves some of his arguments underdeveloped the reader wanting more. The book is about 400 pages, but if the arguments were developed more it could be double that size.

Bro. Callister makes a list of thirteen points of evidences that show that there was an apostasy and a restoration. The evidences I found most compelling were the idea of the pre-mortal existence as taught by the early fathers (especially Origen), the idea that in the early church there was no idea of original sin, and also that that many Catholic scholars today admit that they do not have a direct descent in priesthood authority from the ancient apostles.

I would like to expound on just one point if I may. It has to do with the idea of a pre-mortal existence. In philosophy the term theodicy as termed by Leibniz asks the question of why would a perfect, just, and holy being allow evil to happen in the world to good and honest people. The answer to the question has been debated by philosophers throughout the ages, but it has a rather simple answer. before we came to Earth, we knew that such would be the case and we accepted the terms. Truth be told, we have no right to complain about the evil in the world because we knew that such would be the case. Our objective should be to lessen the amount of evil present in the world, knowing that our Lord will come again and destroy all evil when the time is right. However, without the idea of a pre-mortal existence present in out lives, we are left to ourselves to ask the question of why evil exists in the world. Origen, an early church father, boldly taught this doctrine. And what was his fate? The church will not recognize him as a Saint, because he taught this and other doctrines that the Catholic Church now condemns. 

On the idea of original sin and infant baptism, Bro. Callister makes it clear that this idea was invented later after the ascension of Christ and was not present in the early church. He makes his point by quoting Tertullian who said "The delay of baptism is preferable; principally, however, in the case of little children." Quite a statement, and probably for that reason (along with a few others I admit), Tertullian is also not canonized as a Saint. Oh well. You are a saint in my book Tertullian.

The book is well written, insightful, and gives the reader a desire to want to know more about the ancient church as compared to the modern church. For this reason I will be purchasing the ten volume set of the Ante-Nicene Fathers in late August. Since the Apostasy is a doctrine that is not addresssed enough in our sacrament meetings, Sunday School lessons, and priesthood/relief society meetings, I would highly recommend Bro. Callister's book. If you loved the Infinite Atonement, then you you will love The Inevitable Apostasy and the Promised Restoration. 4 out of 5 stars.