Monday, December 7, 2009

More on Baptism for the Dead

So, unbelievably, I haven't posted anything for a couple months shy of a year. This, I think, is unfortunate. Why? Well, silly folk, because I've actually looked in depth at many anti-Mormon arguments, several temple topics and have listened to loads of talks and done quite a bit of reading (with topics surrounding controversies in the early church, onto the Mountain Meadows massacre, and over to the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith).

Well, all that matters is I'm back, and you, my adoring fans need wait no longer!

All right, so with my assumed fame securely in place, let's move on. I re-read my article, "Baptism for the Dead?" and was somewhat troubled by some conclusions I failed to draw.

1 Cor 15:29 asks, "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?" I've recently learned to love the way Paul speaks, just like I've learned to love how confusing Isaiah seems to be. But really, I love how Paul words his epistles.

I suggest you read all of 1 Corinthians 15, just as I hope I can convey that which will compel you to understand: reason.

Up until verse 19, Paul is talking about the resurrection, and specifically the resurrection of Christ. I find verse 19 to actually be the most powerful thus far: "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." (In other words, the believers are up a creek without a paddle if Christ wasn't resurrected, because if He wasn't, then He wasn't the Savior, and their belief would then be blasphemous against God.)

In verse 23 Paul is referring to the order that we'll be resurrected. First Christ, and then Christ's followers (and by "followers," I do not mean the members of a particular religion) at his Second Coming: "But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming." Conceivably afterward will follow the resurrection of the unrighteous. Why? Simply because of the fact that Christ died for all of mankind, promising us all immortality, not just a select elite.

Verse 24: "Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power." So, after Christ is finished resurrecting everyone (which here is referred to as "delivering up the kingdom,") He, Jesus Christ, will remove the governments in each country and establish His rule over the whole Earth. In simple terms, a perfect rule, or government, I suppose, with a perfect ruler.

Verse 25 refers to "enemies," being put "under his feet," and this of course refers to Jesus' wrath upon the wicked of the earth.

Plain and simple, in the words of Paul in verse 26: "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." After being judged, those worthy of it will receive eternal life. That is, will be put back in the presence of God, we having lost that at the time of the Fall, when Adam and Eve were literally sent out of God's presence. This continues on through verse 28, which actually says "And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all." This refers to when Christ has perfected all of His work among us, and God will finally judge us.

This is everything I can conclude with my own, obviously vast, knowledge on the subject, and a straight-through reading of the chapter up until verse 29, which is the subject of so much debate.

OK, time to backtrack. I've recently delved into the volumes of The History of the Church, as written by Joseph Smith and subsequently edited and then approved for release by the First Presidency. In the introduction of the first volume, it says that Joseph Smith, when writing, would often go on long narrations of the character of various people he met, and these were, in the editing process, taken out and moved. Why? Simply because Joseph wrote in a manner called Stream of Consciousness. In this method of writing, one writes as one thinks. It makes for an often convoluted, difficult reading. Add the subject of religious doctrine not heard since Christs' Church in early times and you've got a very difficult read ahead of you.

Now, you may ask, am I digressing, as I often do? No, I'm just letting you know where my brain has been and where yours now is.

Back to Paul and the Corinthians.
Let's look at the entire chapter and it's sections, because oh! how there are sections.

From verses 1 through 20 Paul is talking about the resurrection. From 21 to 28 he's talking about the consequences of the resurrection as they will be. Sweet, sweet consequences.
And then in verse 29, he's back to talking about the resurrection!

Look at it like this, verse 12 is his chastening of the people who deny the resurrection of Christ. After that, he's telling of the consequences of there not being a resurrection of Christ. Check out the verses:
13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:
14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.
16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:
17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.
18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.
19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

He, unknown to those who haven't taken a Philosophy 101 course, is employing a brilliant form of argument.

If you're where my brain is at, then way to be! If not, let's look at it in terms of the words Paul is using. We're going to only notice the words relating to being "asleep." I'll add some italicization for you. This will be fun, I promise!
18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.
20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
Paul, our most beloved letter-writer, is obviously using euphemisms here. Basically, if there is no resurrection (following his reasoning given to those who were denying the resurrection), then those Christian followers aren't just physically dead, but also spiritually dead (spiritually dead here meaning that they cannot return to God's presence) therein referred to as having "perished." Verse 20 is where Paul is giving the Corinthians the good news: Christ was resurrected, and not only that but He was the first, and *key point* not the last to be resurrected.

And now we return to our favourite verse of all verses, verse 29:
29 Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?
Paul's wording is essential to understand to know what he's saying. When I first read this, ages before I wrote my last article, I really had no idea what was going on, and I confess that I was relatively all right with not going to the trouble of trying to understand it. However, and thankfully, people can, and do change.
But I digress.
So, Paul, in typical Tephrochr translation, is quintessentially saying, "If there is no resurrection, what are the people who are performing baptism for the dead doing? Why are they being baptized for people who've died and who aren't going to be resurrected?" Notice my first phrase, "if there is no resurrection," because I'll be using that again, referring to his previous argument.

And it goes on, in verse 30, "And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?" Jeopardy meaning peril, danger, or risking loss. More Teph translations: "If there is no resurrection, why do we put ourselves in danger by falsely believing there is?" Of course I use the word "falsely," because Paul is talking to the Corinthians under the pretense that there is no resurrection, that they have indeed been "found false witnesses of God" (verse 15), risking damnation.

Because there's controversy surrounding verse 31, I'll not touch on it here, simply because it doesn't detract from my explanation.

Here's verse 32, which is quite like verse 30, elaborating more on "standing in jeopardy."
32 If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die." Here he's being ironic, while maintaining his seriousness. In my previous article, I elaborated on what he meant when he said he "fought with beasts at Ephesus," which is that he spoke, by reason and persuasion, with the men at Ephesus. With the knowledge I have about Judaism and how they receive greater and greater understanding of scripture, etc, I conclude that he wasn't just talking with men, but most likely with learned men, like Jesus had. Although, I think since Paul uses the word "fought," it probably wasn't a pleasant experience like Jesus seems to have had. It also would have been done as a missionary would, because Paul was an amazing missionary, and he does those kinds of things. But I digress. Teph's translation? I think so: "If there is no resurrection, why have I reasoned and persuaded learned men at Ephesus of the resurrection?" As for the latter part of that scripture, I think it's obvious. Isaiah mentions something along those lines, talking about how the people at Jerusalem at to be taken captive. The alternative? Eat, drink, and get with the merry-making.

Verse 33 and 34, our final two verses of the night I think, are good ones to conclude on. He returns to chastening those who were denying the resurrection of the Lord.
33 Be not deceived: evil acommunications corrupt good manners.
34 Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your ashame.

Verse 33 in a nutshell? Don't let people trick you into believing lies.
In verse 34 he teaches one my most favourite of doctrines. That which involves ignorance: "some have not the knowledge of God," but because of the epistle which I've just sent you, which you are now reading, "I speak this to your shame." Let me illuminate his words.

Jesus taught in parables so that those who were ready to receive His instruction would be able to, and so that those who weren't quite as ready just got to listen to a nice story. Paul doesn't speak that way. It's easy to understand why. He's building Christ's Church and needs the members to be strong, valiant, and righteous.

In the simplest of terms, he doesn't want them to dilly-dally, he wants them to understand. Indeed, they need to understand. And so do we.

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