Is having a burning bosom a good test for truth in religion?

Here’s a good post from Biola University professor Clay Jones.

He’s talking about how Mormons embrace Mormonism because of a burning in their bosom. (A subjective feeling) In the quote below, I reproduce the main thrust of the post – which he makes as part of his conversation with some Mormon missionaries. If you ever run into Mormons, this might help you.


I pointed out that the Mormons base the truth of their religion on a subjective personal experience—namely, they base the truth of Mormonism on praying a prayer to ask God whether the Book of Mormon is trustworthy and if they get a warm feeling, which is described in some of their works a “a burning in the bosom,” then they conclude that Mormonism is true. They agreed.

I said that we evangelicals base our faith in historic Christianity on the evidence of Jesus being raised from the dead.

[…]But then I pointed out that the Mormons base their beliefs on a subjective personal experience that has led them to believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet, that historic Christianity is mistaken, that there was a great falling away, that there are many gods, that Mormons one day believe that they are going to become gods (just the males, actually), and that the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods still function today (they didn’t disagree with even one word of this). I explained that you couldn’t get any of these ideas from the New Testament.

He goes to explain why subjective experiences are unreliable for determining truth.

When facing Mormons, and other cults, I also argue against subjectivism. But I supplement that with evidence. For Mormons, I use scientific evidence for the creation of the universe out of nothing. Mormons think that the matter in the universe existed eternally. They don’t accept the Big Bang theory! So you just roll through the scientific advances, show that the cause of the universe was non-physical, eternal, powerful and endowed with free will (to create an effect in time without antecedent conditions), and that’s the end of that.

I think that people in cults like Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christian Science have similar ways of forming their beliefs. They just filter out evidence falsifying their religion. JWs made all kinds of silly predictions about the end of the world that are not true – they’re false prophets, in other words. And Christian Science thinks that Jesus didn’t actually die, which no credentialed historian believes. (Just like Islam)

UPDATE: ECM freaked out at me and he demands that I say that Mormons are my political allies on every issue. I just want to point out that this is true, although Mitt Romney is nothing but a big fat RINO.

30 thoughts on “Is having a burning bosom a good test for truth in religion?”

  1. Actually, feelings are not the only measure of truth for LDS claims. An informed reading of the scriptures along with consideration of all other human knowledge is demanded by the prophet Moroni in the Book of Mormon.

    Mormons who claim it is all about feelings don’t really understand their own religion.

    And incidentally, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had an Evangelical use irrational, emotion-laden appeals on me.

    So it appears that being emotional basket-cases isn’t a particular “Mormon thing” but rather a housekeeping item on the Evangelical to-do list as well.


  2. I would point out that modern science is just as supportive of an eternal multiverse as it is of a finite one.

    What rules out the Big Bang being just a localized event in this particular universe?

    As such, I don’t consider the Big Bang to be sufficient proof of a finite universe. The whole thing could be eternally cyclical in nature.


    1. OK, can you cite any cosmologist who agrees with you that the universe is eternal? What scientific arguments would support the conclusion of an eternal universe (cite peer-reviewed papers)? I am looking for more than your opinion – I want peer-reviewed data or at least a quotation from an experimental scientist who has performed experiments and who agrees with your conclusion.

      Have you got refutations to the standard experimental evidences for the Big Bang theory? (that page is from NASA)

      E.g. – cosmic microwave background radiation measurements from the COBE satellite, red-shifting of light from distant galaxies, Helium/Hydrogen abundance ratios, second law of thermodynamics, etc. Are all of these scientists mistaken or lying?

      How about the famous physicist Stephen Hawking?. He’s not a theist, but he says this:

      The other situation in which singularities are predicted is in the past at the begining of the present expansion of the universe. This led to the abandonment of attempts (mainly by the Russians) to argue that there was a previous contracting phase and a non singular bounce into expansion. Instead almost everyone now believes that the universe, and time itself, had a begining at the Big Bang. This is a discovery far more important than a few miscellaneous unstable particles but not one that has been so well recognized by Nobel prizes.

      The beginning of the universe is the beginning of all space, time, matter and energy. How do you deal with that?


      1. “The beginning of the universe is the beginning of all space, time, matter and energy. How do you deal with that?”

        One thing I have learned — the atheist mind is infinitely slippery. An argument can always be found. Mental escape hatches are built into the very fabric of reality, oh great WK!

        I would skeptically argue that the beginning of the universe may appear to be the beginning of all space, time, matter and energy — but that may just be the way it looks to us, based on our epistemological limitations, need for humility, Creationism of the Big Gap, yadda yadda yadda.

        Remember: atheism is not based on what is real, but on what the atheist wants to be real. A lot like leftist thought, come to think of it. It is based on wishful thinking.

        Right now I am imagining a universe that consists of a giant bar of soap, and our cosmos is a mere bubble on it — like the grass of the field, it rises for a day, and then it is gone. And, as a grand unifying theory, life arose on the scum formed on the bubble!

        You wouldn’t want to rob anyone of their right-to-wish, would you, WK?


  3. I’ve done a lot of reading about Mormonism, but I haven’t had very many conversations with Mormons. I would love to, but (ironically) none have ever come to my door.

    P.S. “…although Mitt Romney is nothing but a big fat RINO” = LOL!


  4. Hawking is merely talking about the beginning of our localized space-time universe. He is not talking about all that is. You have misread Hawking for theological purposes.

    Here is a quote from Brian Greene, one of the world’s leading physicists, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning “The Elegant Universe” commenting on the Big Bang:

    “A common misconception is that the big ban provides a theory of cosmic origins. It doesn’t. The big bang is a theory… that delineates cosmic evolution from a split second after whatever happened to bring the universe into existence, but it says nothing at all about time zero itself. And since, according to the big bang theory, the bang is what is supposed to have happened at the beginning, the big bang leaves out the bang. It tells us nothing about what banged, why it banged, how it banged, or, frankly, whether it ever really banged at all.”

    Brian Greene, “The Fabric of the Cosmos” pp. 273.

    As such, “Big Bang Theory” is not an explanation of the origins of the universe. But merely a description of what has happened from a fixed point. It says absolutely zip about what came before that fixed point.

    Thus, when you start talking about what came BEFORE the supposed “bang” – as you are – we can do nothing but speculate.

    You are perfectly free to state there was nothing prior to the bang besides God. But this is merely bare theological assertion. The physics do not prove this claim. I am equally at liberty to state that there was stuff besides God in existence prior to the bang.

    Another problem you’re going to run into in modern physics however – I was watching this on an episode of Nova a couple years ago. Physicists have encountered a problem. Given the mass of the matter in the observed universe, gravity ought to be the dominant force in the universe. But it is not. The math doesn’t work. We’re missing a LOT of gravity that ought to be there, but isn’t. Were did it go?

    Well, modern astrophysicists think it’s leaking out of our dimension of reality into another. Here we get into the weirdness of String Theory (which nobody really gets), and the theory that there are actually dozens, if not hundreds of dimensions beyond our own four dimensions of time and space.

    Are you really competent to scientifically declare what is going on out there?

    I don’t think any of us are.

    So I would be very careful about declaring modern physics as support for your theological claims.


    1. What Greene is saying in the quote that you cited AGREES WITH ME. There is no known PHYSICAL explanation for the origin of the universe – theory is about the evolution of the universe – it doesn’t explain the cause, because there is no possible physical cause. You have to appeal to a non-physical, eternal cause – a SUPERNATURAL cause – that brings the entire physical universe and time itself into being. That supernatural cause is the Creator God.

      Not also that Brian Greene is a a string theorist. There is no experimental evidence for string theory. None. So don’t think that theoretical speculations can refute multiple lines of mutually reinforcing evidence from NASA showing an absolute beginning of time, space, matter and energy. NASA puts space shuttles on the moon. Brian Greene writes books. Space shuttles. Books. See the difference?

      There is no experimental evidence of anything existing causally prior to the Big Bang. You can speculate, but you don’t have any experimental data to support it. Causally prior to the Big Bang, there was no space, matter, time or energy. That is what we know from the theory, and the observations confirm the theory. Everything exploded into being from a singularity (a mathematical point) that had ZERO VOLUME. I.e. – nothing. Matter came into being out of nothing.

      If I’m wrong, please cite the experimental evidence. If you can’t, the Hawking and NASA’s point stands – all the matter in the physical universe came into being out of absolute nothing (no space even) at t=0. That contradicts Mormon cosmology, and it falsifies Mormonism (as well as Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.).


        1. OK, you get the last word. Thanks. I just want to say that Mormons ROCKED on the Prop 8 issue in California. I approve and appreciate what y’all did to defend marriage.


          1. Thanks for the vote of appreciation.

            The aftermath has been kind of like riding your motorcycle through a swarm of bees. But I imagine we Mormons will weather it. We usually do.


      1. I also find it rather ironic that you asked me to cite a respected peer-reviewed scholar, and when I did, you immediately claimed he was the wrong KIND of scholar.

        Tell you what – how about you provide me with a published empirical study that proves there wasn’t anything besides God before the bang. Can you do that?

        Once you are able to do that, I will consider providing you with an empirical study proving that there was stuff besides God prior to the bang.


        1. Nice try reversing the burden of proof, but I’m not biting.

          We have to decide TODAY what’s true based on what we can see with scientific observations and repeatable experiments. What we know is that all the physical stuff in the universe appeared out of a zero-volume singularity 14 billion years ago. Time began at the big bang. All the matter in THIS universe appeared out of nothing at a certain time in the past – it was not eternal. That’s enough to falsify any claim that matter existed eternally.

          Brian Greene speculates about string theory – that is not the same as the COBE satellite measuring the cosmic background radiation at 2.7 degrees Kelvin, which conforms to a prediction made by the Big Bang theory. Make a prediction, run an experiment, record observations, confirm/disconfirm/modify theory. Repeat. It’s science.


          1. Doesn’t matter whether you bite or not, you still have it.

            You can’t point to stuff that happened after the bang and state that it says anything whatever about how things were before the bang. Not unless you are purely guessing.

            So maybe string theorists are just hypothesizing. But so are you.


          2. OK, you get the last word. We’ll agree to disagree. I think the rule is we collect all the data we have and decide, and don’t go to speculations. Go with what you see. That’s my rule anyway. Decide based on what you can see with your own eyes.


  5. Wintery Knight,

    FYI, the quote you give from Hawking (and Penrose) is from 1970. Hawking repudiated that claim, and no longer claims time began at the Big Bang. He stated such in “A Brief History in Time.” [One wonders by Dr. Craig continues to quote the old statement…]

    Whenever I see theists quote it, I cringe a bit inside.

    Further, I understand Stenger uses quantum tunneling to claim the eternality possibility. However this is far, FAR outside of my league, so I shall leave it to the reader to search out on their own. (Besides, God: The Failed Hypothesis is not peer-reviewed, so I am not sure it qualifies for what you want. *wink* )

    The kalam cosmological argument commits the category error fallacy, so I do not find it strongly persuasive, even under its own terms.

    But I’m not Mormon, so maybe it would have a stronger effect upon Mormons than non-theists.


    1. Hi, the quote is from 1996.

      Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose, The Nature of Space and Time, The Isaac Newton Institute Series of Lectures (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1996).

      My understanding is that this is reiterated in his 2001 book, as well. Don’t have the ref, but just trust me.

      Stenger had a debate with Craig, and he lost. And the reason why he lost is because he appeals to a gratuitous and unprovable and unproven assumptuion that this universe exists in a quantum vaccuum. But there is no way of establishing that fact experimentally, it’s just a speculation based on the need to maintain Stenger’s faith-commitment to naturalism.

      Also, watch Craig’s follow up lecture at UC Boulder when Stenger is in the audience.

      You can’t win this argument without speculating about unobservables. That’s what atheists are left with at this point. Unobservable quantum vaccuum. Unobservable multiverse. Unobservable aliens that created life. Unobservable Cambrian era precursor fossils.


  6. uh, what exactly in this post implies Wintery Knight doesn’t love his neighbors if they are Mormons? You can disagree and love at the same time you know.


    1. The word “cult” (which he uses to describe Mormons and a few other religious groups) is generally not considered a term of endearment. Don’t wish to argue the point. Just calling it as I see it.


  7. Wintery Knight,

    You are correct, it is from the 1996 Book. (page 20 if anyone is interested. Thanks Google reader.). Gave me a chance to refresh my memory of Hawking.

    Hawking does not hold to a singularity, but rather time moving around a globe. There is a finite amount, but no boundary or edges. (He eloquently states, “You can go around the earth, but not fall off the edge.) He indicates there is a beginning to what he calls “real time” but not necessarily to “imaginary time.”

    See here where Hawking describes his position.

    So I was incorrect. Yet your statement, “There was a beginning to ALL space, time, matter and energy.” would not be what Dr. Hawking says, either.

    Wintery Knight: You can’t win this argument without speculating about unobservables.
    Well, that is a problem, both for theists and non-theists alike. I could delve much deeper on this problem, but I fear I have led a tangent far too long as it is. I just wanted to remark where you were correct (and I was wrong).


  8. Theists are allowed to assert unobservables because they do not limit their assertions or their thinking to what is demonstrable by the rules of finite, man-made science. Persons who posit that the material universe is all there is — most atheists — are stuck with the limitations of the scientific method.

    Remember — Reality is Bigger than it Appears™


    1. Problem Richard:

      You don’t have to be an atheist to find String Theory compelling.

      Mormons find all sorts of possibilities in this territory. And we find it consistent with God.


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