Who is God?

By By Travis Currit and By Travis Currit

By Travis Currit

In contrast to many loud and sometimes violent religious conflicts, last Friday a prominent LDS scholar and a Presbyterian pastor debated the nature of God in an organized, mediated and, for the most part, civil debate.

However, this does not mean they were ready to agree with each other. In fact, the radically different worldviews of the two faiths were evident.

The debate, organized by the Christ Presbyterian Church, brought together Jason Wallace, pastor of the Christ Presbyterian Church, and Allen Richardson, a former LDS missionary and author of 1000 Evidences for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

The debate over whether the LDS Church worships the God of the Bible took place in the OSH auditorium and drew a crowd of almost 100 students and staff.

Many students, such as business major Mike Salazar, came to learn. He said debates like this could increase religious understanding “if people come with an open mind, willing to learn, not just locked in a box.”

In his opening statements, Richardson acknowledged that he was not authorized to speak for the LDS Church, but agreed to the debate for the chance to clarify LDS beliefs. He said for members of the LDS Church, God has a body of flesh, is not entirely omnipotent or omniscient and is able to change his mind.

He argued that for the most part, the Bible justifies the LDS concept of God, but that the Bible contradicts itself repeatedly. He quoted numerous scriptures, early Christians and scholarly “hermeneutical exegeses” of the Bible based on the original Hebrew and Greek texts as evidences for the LDS beliefs.

Richardson also said that the Bible has some “questionable conceptions of God,” which he believed to be holdovers from early polytheistic beliefs or the result of mistranslation.

He referred to LDS Church founder Joseph Smith’s writings as clarifying some of these points.

Wallace argued that the God of the Bible is “infinite, holy and sovereign,” and that this God is “scarier, yet more loving, than people imagine.”

Wallace also spoke of the need to be born again and given a new heart through “God’s undeserved grace” as hope for salvation.

Wallace also quoted many scriptures to justify his definition of God. He stressed the need to “take the Bible at face value,” but also to “make sense of all the Bible says, not treat it as a smorgasbord” from which one can pick and choose what one likes.

He disagreed with those who read all biblical passages literally and noted the presence of “hyperbole in biblical language,” as it was written in a “living language full of metaphor.”

The debaters also voiced their respect for the members of other faiths. Richardson noted that Joseph Smith and his family had been Presbyterian, and Wallace said that members of the LDS Church make “great neighbors.”

However, during the question and answer session at the debate’s close, Wallace became more confrontational. He pointedly referred to the biblical God as being “beyond the imagination of Joseph Smith” and asked Richardson whether he had “considered the consequences if his God was a figment of the imagination.”