93: Tad Callister Presents a Blueprint Based on Bad Assumptions

Heather, Tom, and Mithryn discuss Tad Callister’s BYU Devotional, “What Is the Blueprint of Christ’s Church?”


What Is the Blueprint of Christ’s Church? – BYU Devotional on January 12, 2014
Tom’s Blog: No Cool Name Blog
Mithryn’s Blog: “Exploring Mormonism”


  1. J. Reuben Clerk

    The primary reason that I find Sunday services so bland is that the subject matter is heavily focused on trying to validate current Church beliefs/practices, rather than making people better persons.

    Reply Mar 25, 2015 @ 15:20:46
  2. Michael McAlpine

    Hello I enjoyed this podcast. However, Tom has overstepped the evidence in his conclusion that John the Baptist was “probably” associated with the Essenes. There is no direct link between John and the Essenes.

    What the podcast demonstrates the use of eisegesis by LDS authorities to prove the biblical nature of Mormonism. Further, the use of isolated verses for the purposes of proof texting leads to a diminishing of understanding as it requires one to put away context (literary, temporal, cultural, linguistic…) and rely on modern revelation in preference to the meaning of the text itself. Yes, I am saying that modern revelation is at odds with the biblical narrative as demonstrated in this podcast.

    Reply Apr 05, 2015 @ 15:38:38
  3. Tom Doggett

    Yep, I agree. I overstepped my bounds. The word I should have used (and possibly meant, though it’s hard to step back into my own head entirely when listening to every word choice after the fact) was “possibly”. In my defense, my mouth sometimes runs ahead of my head while talking and while the words are similar in form there is a big difference between “probably” and “possibly”. Confusion between those two words is pretty much what FAIR arguments often depend on! I shouldn’t have done that. Thank you for catching me on it. :-)

    BUT, I will defend the word “possibly” in this regard. We’re dealing with a very sparsely documented period of history for 1st Century Palestine. Words like “direct link” are difficult to support, since our only sources for the historical John the Baptist are Josephus and the Christian sources that are seeking an apologetic defense for why their savior-hero-deity Jesus began his ministry as one of John’s _disciples._ There isn’t much else for John. If we’re being honest, the historical evidence for John is only slightly stronger than the historical evidence for Jesus himself and as the short-attention-span of the Internet is so fond of informing us that level of evidence is the foundation of the Jesus Myth hypothesis. I don’t follow that hypothesis, and I don’t hold to an unreasonable burden of proof when dealing with ancient history.

    The links between John and the Essene community are found through a similarity in theology and ritual between the two. Both were apocalyptic in viewpoint, both were opponents of the major political/theological parties of the Pharisees and Sadducees, both practiced forms of ritual purity immersion washings (baptisms as later Christians would co-opt it), and both had removed themselves from the main urban centers to seek a life closer to God in the wilderness. That’s a lot of similarity. Is that a “direct connection”? Nope, but you’re not going to find one. There’s not much evidence for other baptizing, apocalyptic Jewish ideologies in the same time and place. But the similarities are enough that it is certainly reasonable to assume that a connection between the two exists, whether both were influenced by similar ideologies or directly.

    Reply Apr 05, 2015 @ 17:00:57
    • Michael McAlpine

      Thanks Tom, I wasn’t meaning to bust your chops. It is easy to get ahead of one’s thoughts. I happened to pick up on it as I am working on a paper that in part deals with the historical John the Baptist.

      Also, while I like listening to these sorts of podcast, one never really knows much about the credentials of the participants. I notice that Mormons who leave read one book by Bart Ehrman or an article by John Crossan and become experts without considering the quite narrow slice of the scholarly continuum represented by these two men.

      Reply Apr 05, 2015 @ 17:35:22
  4. Tom Doggett

    Everyone’s chops should be busted now and then. Keeps us humble, right? :-)

    I _totally_ understand someone reading a book or two and being an “expert”. Reading some Ehrman, Crossan, Sanders, or Wright is better than not reading anything at all, but becoming complacent with that knowledge can lead to some severe foolishness. As I guess is obvious, I despise much of how your average Internet denizen “learns” about the Jesus Myth hypothesis and “knows” that there was no historical figure behind Jesus of Nazareth–often from a YouTube video or (here’s me being somewhat ironic/hypocritical) a podcast. That’s not to say that such a position can’t be held after more study and by professionals (I do respect the now-retired Dr. Price as one professional Mythicist, for instance), but I’ve found that sort of thinking often arises from being comfortable in narrow knowledge.

    My own knowledge is narrower than I’d like. My occupation being a programmer (not a grad student or prof) and being the main breadwinner limits me from getting as wide of knowledge in biblical studies as I would like. I wish my Ancient Greek was better (I still use my Liddell & Scott more than I should), I wish I knew Latin or Coptic Egyptian (I don’t), and I wish I had the time to submit to the JBL and other journals instead of just reading them. That’s probably why I’m being bit of a jerk today (that and General Conference is always a bit of an emotional time for me). My apologies for that. I’m aware that I’m well-read compared to most, but I am (and probably always will be) an arm-chair scholar. I always have more to learn and read and assemble (and thankfully, there is always so much more available). But I do think I’m doing better than most non-professional Mormons/Post-Mormons in this field. But I could be wrong.

    I hope your paper is going well. It’s cool that you’re working on a paper that is incorporating the historical John the Baptist.

    Reply Apr 05, 2015 @ 18:26:10
  5. Michael McAlpine

    Tom, general conference is next week here in New Zealand. I don’t watch online or attend the delayed broadcasts. I figure if something controversial is said, I’ll pick up on it on a blog. Otherwise, I think there is mostly talking but not saying anything.

    I read a great piece on the Prodigal Son by Bailey this last week. it’s great reading. I find it such a tragedy that I spent so much time in the LDS church doing all that reading and never really learning anything. I had a read of the Sunday School lesson on Luke 15 the other day. One’s mind would be benighted by attending that lesson.

    This is the tragedy of Mormonism. It has so much scripture yet it is so little read and understood. I was visiting friends north of Christchurch over the Christmas holidays and went to Sunday School. How frustrating! It was just a scripture chase that took us away from the text on John the Baptist. In the end, no one could be certain that they learned anything from that lesson except self loathing for never really repenting because sinning the same sin in the future makes it like you never repented according to the wife of the recently returned mission president. Haha, now I am being a bit testy.

    However it is my narrative (understanding the NT text free from correlation). I have been reading for four years now, with emphasis on Thomas Torrance. He is dense, but such a fantastic mind. I started in 2011 with John Calvin’s commentaries as I prepared each week for the NT Sunday School class. That left me devastated exposing me to what I was wanting but missing in Mormon scripture study. Lately, I have enjoyed Karl Barth and read him for papers I wrote last year on the Trinity. However, it was Douglas Campbell and his work on Paul that lead me away from Mormonism in 2012. In putting his finger on Paul’s gospel I realised that I was in the wrong place. It was the weak Christology of Mormonism that finally came to me and pushed me out. I had never heard of the other historical problems of Mormonism. I came to realise that Sunday School has to be about scripture chasing. It is a form of catechism. If it was about the study of the given week’s text and meaning, the questions that would arise would be more devastating for the church than anachronisms in the BOM.

    Just to be sure about me. I am a theology student at the university and a Chartered Accountant (Google away readers). I will finish up this phase of study next year with the eye on getting what I need together for a Phd. However, my family left me after I left the church so will have to see how feasible that its. So, I appreciate your wanting to do more but having present limitations. It’s a great hobby in a way that programming could never be.

    Reply Apr 05, 2015 @ 19:02:02
  6. Jordan M.

    Great episode. Similar to Mr. McAlpine, I am an accountant with a hobby in theology and agree with a lot of things he said. This episode seemed less “I’ve read one book by Ehrman” as previous ones have but I agree with Mr. McAlpine’s suggestion to never stop learning about theology once one finds a book that agrees with what they thought.

    I did think this episode did a good job of sticking to the topic at hand instead of devolving into Christian bashing. I can understand and appreciate if people ultimately don’t go the Christian route but continue studying the history of a movement that affected the world greatly. Thanks again and keep up the good work!

    Reply Apr 08, 2015 @ 10:56:22
    • Heather C.

      I don’t know what ya’ll are talking about. One Ehrman book is all you need. It even comes with an “OFFICIAL EXPERT OF BIBLICAL STUDIES” certificate in the back that you fill out once you’ve completed the book. ;^)

      Seriously, though, I can see how we might come across that way in some of our previous podcasts (the priestess-hood ones, specifically) but it’s not intentional. I would say our goal is to point out that what Mormons say about the bible is bunk and that’s it. I think we’d all willingly admit that we know very little about the vast world of biblical scholarship and the history of the Christianity. I think we’d also readily admit (or at least I do) that it’s really hard to not interpret things through the Mormon lens that were affixed to our eyeballs by a lifetime of indoctrination. It took me many conversations with my friend’s dad (a PhD in divinity from Notre Dame) to just get a glimpse of how differently the Christian world interprets/understands the Bible. It was those conversations that convinced me that Mormons shouldn’t be classified with Christians – and I was a believer when that happened. But anyway, valid criticism. But maybe don’t judge us too harshly because I don’t think we’re asserting our knowledge as much as you have interpreted. :^)

      Reply Apr 09, 2015 @ 09:18:20
      • Jordan M.

        Haha, ok ok, maybe I was too harsh but I didn’t mean to be. I think this episode was a vast improvement on treatment of Christianity and I meant it to be a “keep up the good work” sort of thing. I look forward to future episodes that deal with Mormonism vs Christianity through the eyes of atheists.

        Mormon Expression’s new host mentioned a book (I’ll keep it unnamed) that is also popular with the Ex-Mormon-now-atheist crowd as being the one book that FINALLY figured out Jesus when people should understand there are many viewpoints and today’s most popular skeptical voices out there really don’t have many new ideas as the theories on Jesus seem to be recycled every few hundred years and that’s fine.

        That story about realizing that Mormons don’t understand the Bible in the same solar system as Christians is amazing. And as a believer? How much longer from that point until you went full-blown apostate?

        Reply Apr 09, 2015 @ 09:53:01
        • Heather C.

          Over a decade, unfortunately. Even though I understood the difference between Mormons and the wider Christian world, I still saw it through Mormon eyes. I decided we weren’t Christian because we weren’t descended from the body of mainstream Christian history. “The Great Apostasy” meant we didn’t recognize things that are at the heart of the Christian world (like the Nicean Creed). So it would be like me claiming to a Native American even though I’m the product of 19th century European immigration… if that comparison makes any sense. But, I still bought into Mormonism at the time. So I rested their “wrongness” and my “rightness” on the great apostasy. My views matched up with early Mormons – the ones who proudly proclaimed a separation from Christianity. It baffled me when Mormons would get their dander up about it. I’d think, “Why would you WANT to be labeled Christian? They’re the product of man corrupting the truth! You’re undermining the whole idea of the restoration!” I hope I was never arrogant about it. But, given my personality, that’s probably a vain hope. haha.

          Reply Apr 09, 2015 @ 10:08:37
  7. Jimbo

    I really like this podcast. Learned a lot. Shame on Tad Callister.

    Reply Mar 09, 2016 @ 10:52:33

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