A common criticism of Mormonism, especially from the Evangelical crowd, is to quote Numbers 23:19:
God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?
The focus of course is on the phrase “God is not a man”, because it appears to contradict the fundamental LDS notion that God is in fact, in some way, a man. Joseph Smith taught that God is an “exalted man” who “sits enthroned in yonder heavens”. Some Evangelical critics of Mormonism think that in Numbers 23:19 they have found indisputable proof that Mormonism is not biblical.
Of course, the actual focus of Num 23:19 is not on God’s nature as a non-man, but rather on God’s nature as a non-liar. The point being made is that God does not lie the way that men do. It is quite obvious that the author has in mind mortal, fallible men. He does not have in mind every single homo sapien or every single person who is a descendant of Adam and Eve. There are at least three obvious exceptions to the assumption that all “men” lie.
The first are little infants. Infants are “men” yet they do not lie.
The second exception are resurrected, saved, men. It is not conceivable that the “men” who are saved in the Kingdom of Heaven, who dwell in the presence of God (our critics presumably believe that this includes themselves), are going to be liars. They will have been cleansed and sanctified; purified of the desire to do evil. It is possible that one might argue that this type of “man” is not really any longer a “man” because their nature has been changed in some way. Latter-day Saints would respond that this is precisely what has taken place with God the Father. He is a “man” only in the most basic sense, but his nature is not like ours. He is an immortal, sinless, exalted “man”.
The third obvious exception is Jesus Christ. By decree of the Council of Chalcedon, Jesus Christ is “perfect in manhood” and “truly man” and yet he is also “without sin”. This is a creed that all mainstream Christians have accepted. Jesus Christ is a “man” who does not lie (in direct contradiction to the underlying premise of our critic’s interpretation of Num 23:19).
In my recent reading of Galatians (in preparation for the Sunday School class that I teach) I came across these passages:
Gal 1:1 Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father
Gal 1:11-12 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
From these passages it can reasonably be concluded that Jesus Christ is not a man. Yet, our mainstream Christian friends confess that Jesus Christ is a man! The reason I point this particular issue out should be clear. This is the same tactic employed by our critics when they argue that Numbers 23:19 contradicts Mormonism. The key here is to carefully consider what the writer has in mind when he uses the term “man”.