Having His Cake and Eating It Too: Matt Slick

Matt Slick of CARM leads the battle charge against the LDS notion of the spiritual experience as a basis for belief and commitment. Slick says the following on his website:

Mormons believe that if you read the Book of Mormon and then pray and ask God whether or not it is true, you will receive a testimony from the Holy Spirit verifying its truth. If it is true, then Joseph Smith is true and so is Mormonism. Many Mormons claim to have this testimony.

First of all, God never says to pray about truth. He says to search the Scriptures to find truth (Acts 17:11; 2 Tim. 3:16).

So, what the Mormon is doing is unbiblical.

Second, it doesn’t matter what you feel. If what you feel contradicts the Bible, then what you feel is wrong.

http://www.carm.org/lds/ldsresponse.htm

Now, Latter-day Saints are certainly interested in understanding the scriptures. We dig through them constantly, being continually urged on by our leaders to read the scriptures every day. If something we believe seems to contradict the bible, we don’t throw our hands in the air and simply claim that our personal spiritual experience trumps it. We work on ways to resolve the issue, and sometimes our personal experiences can be wrong if they contradict the scriptures, including the bible.

By reading Slick’s words above one would think that Slick puts no stock at all in the impressions and feelings that one feels when he is in communication with the Spirit. It is unambiguously declared that “it doesn’t matter what you feel.” Strangely enough, however, Slick himself declares elsewhere that his “testimony” is based on an experience that he had with God that sounds quite different from the sentiment that he expressed above:

As I concluded my prayer, I became aware that someone “other” was there. Someone else was in the room with us and His attention was focused on me. This someone was not a member of that congregation. But I felt His presence dawning like a sunrise. This person was making Himself known to me in my heart. I somehow knew it was God. It was the Holy Spirit. He came to me slowly, gently, and then in a sudden movement, His Holiness overshadowed me with greatness and I became incapacitated. It was indescribable. He permeated my heart, mind, and soul. He washed over me in a burst of holiness and I was utterly undone. His incredibly deep purity shone upon my soul and I was instantaneously made aware of my utter sinfulness before a Holy and Righteous God. It was a supernatural experience of profound and utter depth. It wasn’t emotionalism. It wasn’t being psyched-out. It was God. I was in the presence of God Himself. I was in the presence of Perfect Holiness….and I knew it!!!

…It was wonderful and I felt my heart enveloped and lifted by Him.

http://carm.org/matt-slicks-testimony

I don’t post this excerpt of Slick’s testimony in an attempt to belittle his spiritual experiences. I only wish to point out that what Slick believes and what he says might not square up. I respect his spiritual experience, and I think it is a sound basis for belief and commitment. Unfortunately, Slick and his evangelical colleagues don’t offer the same respect for LDS testimonies.

Note that Slick describes his experience with phrases like “I felt”, “like a sunrise”, “I somehow knew”, “my heart, mind, and soul”, “made aware”, “supernatural experience”, and finally “I knew it!!!” These attempts to describe the indescribable sound very similar to the struggle that LDS have in describing their own experiences. We use very similar phrases, including the familiar “burning in the bosom” expression. Later in the account Slick seems to unquestioningly accept the event as being a true experience, one that guided the course of his life from then on. There is no talk of searching the bible to see if what he experienced was biblical. One wonders if Slick would have abandoned his belief in the experience had he later been persuaded that the Church he was attending taught falsehoods.

One more thing needs to be mentioned about this account. Slick is aware that what he is describing might actually sound a bit strange to the ears of his disciples who so often hear him denounce the LDS testimony experience. He tries to make up for this peculiarity by claiming, “It wasn’t emotionalism. It wasn’t being psyched-out. It was God.” But, we are tempted to ask the obvious questions. How does he know that he wasn’t “psyched-out?” How does he know that it wasn’t “emotionalism?” I don’t demand any answer to that, although Slick and his colleagues demand it of us.

Again, I respect Slick’s spiritual experience. But then again, one is tempted to give Slick a dose of his own medicine…

…it doesn’t matter what you feel.” -Matt Slick, founder of CARM

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5 comments on “Having His Cake and Eating It Too: Matt Slick

  1. Seanpko says:

    Hi there! As someone who has heard Matt Slick talk about both his view of Mormonism (specifically, it’s alleged subjectivity) and his views concerning his testimony, I though it necessary to share my thoughts. Matt Slick, as you say, believes that Mormons tend to trust the words and teachings of Joseph Smith regardless of the evidences against them. He has on many occasions said that praying over the book of Mormon for example will not lead to objective results; He does not like the idea of having faith based on a “burning in your bosom.”

    As you pointed out Matt’s personal testimony is subjective as well. He doesn’t hide this fact however. The opening line of his testimony is “I have hesitated in writing my testimony because of the events surrounding my conversion.” Any time the subject is brought up, Matt always points out how it was a personal experience and that it alone does not prove Christianity by any objective means. While it did bring him to God, he has stated that such personal experiences can in fact be irrational and lead people to believe something false. Seeing as he was about 17 when this happened, one can understand why he didn’t necessarily seek an objective source of information to establish Christianity’s validity (I actually don’t know if he did or didn’t though). It wasn’t until a while later that he (as many Christians have) found the many evidences that corroborated his faith. Even so, prior to that he was not believing in something despite contrary evidence. The quote “It doesn’t matter what you feel” coincides with his view that “The truth is independent of our desires.” He wasn’t trying to say that our feelings have no place in matters of faith, but rather they can’t supersede facts or reality itself.

    Now, if I may ask, have you contacted Matt to let him know that you posted this article pertaining to him? Or that you have posted parts of his testimony in an attempt to display inconsistencies on his part? In Matthew 18 scripture commands believers to respectfully confront those who are in sin (or in this case have allegedly inconsistent theological beliefs and duplicity). If you have already contacted Matt about this article then I applaud you. If you have not, then let me simply point out that he should have the right to defend himself here, especially, if you have misrepresented him (I’m not saying you intentionally did or didn’t do this by the way).

    -Sean

  2. James says:

    Hi Sean. I’m glad you commented.

    Like all other Christian denominations, the vast majority of our adherents don’t spend inordinate amounts of time investigating the details of every criticism and defense of Joseph Smith. Like the vast majority of all Christians, most LDS have a simple but profound faith Jesus, and are just trying to live as Jesus asked them to. Not everyone has a knack for continual scholarship.

    When it comes to investigating the claims of anti-mormons, we take them seriously. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. Some arguments of the critics stick, while most don’t. I, and most Mormons, do in fact spend time investigating anti-mormon attacks. We usually find that they are lacking in substance.

    Why do you believe God presented himself to Slick on that day? Did God provide Slick with such a glorious experience so that Slick could go home and try to figure out if what had happened was really God? If so, why, in the experience, did God provide the assurance to Slick that it really was God he was experiencing?

    Apparently God did not believe that 17 was too young for someone who KNOW something, and to have learned it by
    spiritual means. I also believe that 14 wasn’t too young for God to appear to Joseph Smith.

    You wrote:
    “Matt always points out how it was a personal experience and that it alone does not prove Christianity by any objective means.”

    I agree. It doesn’t prove it by obective means…to anyone else but Slick. Slick knew however, and God knew that he knew, and Slick knew that God knew that he knew. Slick, and Joseph, are as Paul who said to the King, “Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision. ”

    Does such an experience eradicate the need for further investigation? Of course not. But once you have had this experience the lens through which you see the world has changed. In fact, the lens IS the experience you had with God. Everything else is understood in light of the magnificent knowledge you have learned by the Spirit of God.

    This was the case for Slick. He says:
    “Out of nowhere had come repentance and an insatiable appetite for His Word and prayer. I began to devour the Bible, reading it four to six hours every day. I would listen to Christian radio constantly and I would attend church six nights a week. I would read Bible commentaries and devotionals at work, or at home in the bath, in bed, even while walking. I absolutely could not get enough.”

    His entire life was changed by something that “came out of nowhere.” What is more, because of spiritual, personal, and sometimes emotional experiences Slick was driven to reject Mormonism before ever even investigating it’s claims. His mind was made up before he even started. He says:

    “This quote angered me terribly. I couldn’t believe that anyone would be so arrogant as to boast he had done more to keep a church together than even Jesus had. To me, this was unfathomable and blasphemous. When I found out that the founder of Mormonism had uttered that boast, I had to find out who this person was and what he stood for.”

    My point is this -and I would be surprised if Slick disagreed- a profound spiritual experience is certainly an acceptable basis for belief and commitment. It becomes the lens through which all other experiences are filtered. Further investigation is important, but takes a backseat to direct communication with God. Who could disagree with that?

    As for Mormons in particular, we certainly do not feel that the balance of evidence is against us. In fact, apart from our personal testimonies, we believe it is definitely for us.

    I doubt very much that Slick would care to address my comments. He has far too many detractors to worry himself with some guy with a blog. In fact, he has an entire website set up for that. He is certainly welcome to participate in any discussion that resumes on this issue within this blog post. I don’t however feel the need to contact him about this. He after all, is the one who went on the attack. I am only playing defense.

    Regarding the scriptural injunction to correct our wayward brethren, according to Slick I’m not even a Christian, not even a ‘brother’ as you referred to in Matt 18.

    • Casey says:

      Sean

      I have written to CARM several times about various issues with the BOM or the LDS church in general. What I have noticed is that when they run into difficulty they will either try and change the direction of the discussion or simply not reply. As you say Matt Slick is pretty busy and my bet is he would not respond.

  3. jr says:

    Bill McKeever says the same thing: do not pray about the Book of Mormon. But McKeever asks his followers to pray about if sending him (McKeever) money is the right thing to do to support his “ministry” (read: attacks) to the Mormons. He wants people to “feel” right about sending him money.
    The EV’s say do not believe in feelings, the heart is deceitful, and so forth, then turn around and contradict themselves.
    I

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