Evangelicals, Theosis & Exaltation

Christian bookstores sometimes sell personalized bookmarks listing your name, its meaning, and a Scripture verse that goes along with it. Youth leaders gave these to me often while I was growing up, and they would say something like this: “BRIDGET / Irish: ‘Strength’ / ‘The Lord is my strength and my song.’ ~ Psalm 118:4.” I grew up thinking my given name meant “strength,” which I guess is okay as names go. It wasn’t until I was a pregnant adult in my mid-twenties beginning to research names for my future daughter that I learned the other meanings of my name: “exalted one” or “high goddess.” “Strength” isn’t incorrect, but it is one of the least potent interpretations of the name. Why do the makers of cute personalized Christian bookmarks shy away from describing us Bridgets in more divine terms?

Theosis Phobia

I think it has to do with Western Christianity’s phobia of theosis, also known as deification or divinization. Theosis is the doctrine of men becoming gods or, as the Eastern Orthodox church beautifully puts it, “becoming by grace what God is by nature.” I think it’s safe to say that evangelicals don’t actively believe in theosis. I’ve been a practicing evangelical for the last eleven years and a less active evangelical for six years before that, in which time I’ve been to all kinds of evangelical conferences, retreats, Bible studies, youth camps and festivals, and I have never once heard theosis preached from the pulpit, taught as a lesson or discussed with a small group. None of the evangelical devotional books I’ve read have discussed it, either.

Not only do evangelicals not preach theosis, but when we hear that Mormons believe in a version of it (usually referred to as “exaltation”), we become outright opposed to it. We start arguing that wanting to become a god is sinful, that the notion of becoming “like God” was part of Satan’s temptation of Eve in the garden of Eden (Gen. 3:5). We don’t bother to stop and examine the Bible for ourselves to see whether or not there could be any biblical basis for the doctrine, nor are we aware of the strong history of theosis among Christian writers whom we consider orthodox. As Greg Johnson said in Bridging the Divide, “We react to each other’s theological emphases … and we almost conclude that if, doctrinally speaking, the Mormons are headed east then we had better head west.” (p. 29-30) Theosis has Mormon cooties on it now, so we don’t want it.

Biblical & Historical Basis for Theosis

In my opinion this is unfortunate because, not only is the doctrine of theosis beautiful, it is clearly biblical, was taught by many historic Christian thinkers, and harmonizes well with the traditional Protestant doctrine of sanctification. Latter-day Saints are fond of quoting Psalm 82:6 in support of exaltation (“I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High’”) which was echoed by Christ in John 10:34, but I actually think this is one of the weaker passages since it is clearly idiomatic. Neither the traditional doctrine of theosis nor the LDS doctrine of exaltation teaches that we are gods now. Here are some of the passages which I think provide better support:

2 Peter 1:3-4 ~ His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

Philippians 3:20-21 ~ But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

1 John 3:2 ~ Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

Many early church fathers taught theosis (see the quotes at that link), but my favorite teachings on it come from C. S. Lewis. In the essay “Man or Rabbit?” found in God in the Dock he wrote (Eerdmans, 1970,  p. 112):

The people who keep on asking if they can’t lead a decent life without Christ, don’t know what life is about; if they did they would know that ‘a decent life’ is mere machinery compared with the thing we men are really made for. Morality is indispensable: but the Divine Life, which gives itself to us and which calls us to be gods, intends for us to be re-made. All the rabbit in us is to disappear—the worried, conscientious, ethical rabbit as well as the cowardly and sensual rabbit. We shall bleed and squeal as the handfuls of fur come out; and then, surprisingly, we shall find underneath it all a thing we have never yet imagined: a real Man, an ageless god, a son of God, strong, radiant, wise, beautiful, and drenched in joy.

And in Mere Christianity he also said (Macmillan, 1952, p. 174):

The command “Be ye perfect” is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were “gods” and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him—for we can prevent Him, if we choose—He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, dazzling, radiant, immortal creatures, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to Him perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what he said.

So there is room for traditional Christians to believe in becoming gods. If that’s the case, what’s the difference between what Christians traditionally have believed and what Mormonism teaches now?

Traditional Theosis v. Mormon Exaltation

Here is an excerpt from a mock dialogue in The God Makers by Ed Decker and Dave Hunt which seeks to illustrate the LDS doctrine of exaltation, emphases mine:

“Do you realize the implications of this doctrine as far as you are concerned?”

“I think so. If God became God by obedience to all of the gospel law with the crowning point being the celestial law of marriage, then that’s the only way I can become a god.

“But I thought godhood meant freedom. If I have to do things to become God, am I really free?

“You have got it wrong. It was the Savior who said, ‘If ye continue in my word,’ that is, obey the law, ‘ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ (John 8:31, 32.) So by obedience to law, we learn truths by which we become free—but not free from the law. Can you see that?”

“I think so. I can be a god only if I act like God.

“Exactly right. Can you imagine the state of the universe if imperfect gods were allowed to spawn their imperfections throughout space, if beings who did not have law under their subjection were free to create worlds?

“I guess that would be pretty disastrous. But I’m not sure I see why celestial marriage becomes the crowning apex of this progression. Marriage doesn’t seem directly related to the creation of the universes.”

“Oh, but don’t be limited by your mortal perspective. God himself has declared his own reasons for existing. Remember, he said, ‘For this is my work and my glory. . . .’”

“I see his purpose is ‘to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.’” (Moses 1:39)

Which involves giving birth to spirit children and setting them on the road to exaltation. And if that is to be done, you must have an exalted man and . . .’”

“An exalted woman.”

“Exactly, an exalted man and woman who have been joined together in an eternal marriage. If this man and woman were obedient to all gospel laws except celestial marriage, what would be the result?”

“They still could not be gods. Now I understand. Celestial marriage is the crowning ordinance of the gospel.”

Did I say that was an excerpt from The God Makers? I was just kidding. It comes from the official LDS student manual for the Achieving a Celestial Marriage course (Intellectual Reserve, 1992, p.4-5), and I didn’t get it from evangelical anti-Mormons. I bought it at the Distribution Center under the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Temple Square when I first visited Salt Lake City in 1999. I think the ACM manual is outdated (it was originally published in 1976), but I bring it up because it clearly illustrates the traditional LDS teaching on exaltation and what that entails, and I pretended it was from The God Makers because I think that if an evangelical said, “Mormons believe in becoming gods of their own worlds and giving birth to spirit children with their goddess wives,” he’d be accused of misrepresenting LDS beliefs. But that’s exactly what the ACM manual teaches, in almost those exact words. I’m okay if Mormons want to move away from those teachings, but the church did once teach that, quite recently even.

As I see it, there are two key differences between the LDS teachings on exaltation and the traditional Christian doctrine of theosis:

1) Our different teachings on the nature of God. While some Latter-day Saints seem to be abandoning the notion that God was once a man who had to progress to become God—and if you want to discard that teaching, don’t let me stand in your way—this is one divide that otherwise isn’t going to get any less wide than it is. As Eric commented on the other thread, Mormons essentially believe that God and man are the same species, while evangelicals hold that mankind is God’s creation. This fundamentally changes what each camp thinks it means to “become a god.”

2) Our different teachings on what godhood entails. As the ACMM excerpt demonstrates, in the past Mormons have taught that becoming a god means creating and ruling new worlds and becoming to other souls what God currently is to us. The traditional doctrine of theosis is about being made perfect in Christ; the exact nature of our function in the next life is unclear, but I certainly don’t think it involves being put over our own worlds. It is important to note that both camps believe in being eternally subordinate to the current God. Mormons do not believe in replacing or usurping the current God, that is a poor caricature of their beliefs.

Conclusions

I would like to see more awareness of the traditional Christian doctrine of theosis among evangelicals. While I think the doctrine of sanctification fills a similar role, we shouldn’t be afraid of becoming divine creatures, even creatures that could be called gods. We believe in it already whether we know it or not.

As far as LDS exaltation goes, I think we need to qualify our complaints in light of our disagreements on the nature of God and the future of the human race. Protesting that “Mormons believe in becoming gods!” isn’t just short-sighted and misleading. It’s like bringing a knife to a gun fight. Scratch that, it’s like bringing a floppy balloon sword to a gun fight. I’d rather bring a gun.

I also think that all the “Bridget” bookmarks Christian bookstores sell need to be changed to say: “BRIDGET / Irish: ‘Exalted One’ / ‘We know that when He appears, we shall be like Him.’ ~ 1 John 3:2.” I would buy one of those.

FURTHER READING:

Becoming Like God: An Evangelical Doctrine of Theosis ~ See, I’m not the only evangelical who wants to embrace theosis.

Theosis: Partaking of the Divine Nature ~ An introduction to the Greek Orthodox teachings on theosis. Seth linked to this article in the other thread.

Godhood and Theosis at Mormonism Research Ministry ~ Bill McKeever’s response to LDS attempts to link exaltation to theosis. He’s much more polemical than I am, but essentially makes the same point: they’re different because of the different teachings on the nature of God.

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About Bridget Jack Jeffries

Bridget Jack Jeffries is a graduate student and human resources assistant living in Chicago. She holds a BA in classics from Brigham Young University with a minor in Hebrew and is finishing an MA in American religious history at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. She is a member of the Evangelical Covenant Church and a single mother of two. Her interviews on religion have appeared in *The Washington Post* and *Religion & Ethics Newsweekly.*

281 thoughts on “Evangelicals, Theosis & Exaltation

  1. To quote the pertinent part,

    “When Romans 8:17 speaks of Christians as “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ”, it speaks of an infinitely large inheritance that will take eternity to appropriate. We will never get to the point where we can say we have fully appropriated and received the entirety of our inheritance in Christ. We will always grow in the knowledge and power of God, the God who is infinite and inexhaustible.”

  2. Holy Hannah this looks good! Which just makes me mad (at you, Jack) because it’s going to take me a while to get through this and by then there will be like 50 comments.

    Aaron: “Far more exciting…”? Yeah, I’ll have to read the whole post before I get to that.

  3. I don’t know enough about any of this to add much by way of insight to the discussion, except to say I really liked this post and look forward to reading the comments.

    That is all.

  4. I think that Jack’s analysis is a step toward more Biblical Christianity and away from the narrow interpretation often put out by some Evangelicals. Theosis seems to be a neglected (even vilified) doctrine among some protestants.

    Regardless of whether Mormons believe in different nuances on this doctrine, believe revelations that make the Biblical doctrines clearer, etc. I think it makes sense that we should recognize that the Bible embraces this important doctrine. I think that many Christians ignore it for political reasons, or they are so hung up on the total corruption of mankind that they don’t recognize God’s purposes.

    Whether or not the Evangelical view is more exiting or not, I think Evangelicals AND Mormons agree that we don’t KNOW a whole lot about the afterlife from scripture.

    Mormons may have been much less hindered in their speculation because they haven’t faced the theological inquisition that protestants often face if they stray from their denominational position on certain issues. But Mormons recognize that most of what is said is speculative and incomplete without a full spiritual awareness of the area.

    See for example the clear statements in the Doctrine & Covenants that what has been revealed is only a dim snapshot of reality, but that snapshot gives us reason to hope and corrects the neglect of the doctrine that God can give us ALL that he has:

    D&C 121 states:

    26 God shall give unto you acknowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, that has not been revealed since the world was until now;

    27 Which our forefathers have awaited with anxious expectation to be revealed in the last times, which their minds were pointed to by the angels, as held in reserve for the fulness of their glory;

    28 A time to come in the which nothing shall be withheld, whether there be one God or many gods, they shall be manifest.

    Joseph stated in D&C 76

    But great and marvelous are the works of the Lord, and the mysteries of his kingdom which he showed unto us, which surpass all understanding in glory, and in might, and in dominion. ..
    Neither is man capable to make them known, for they are only to be seen and understood by the power of the Holy Spirit, which God bestows on those who love him, and purify themselves before him;

  5. Aaron ~ Nice to see you again. Did I finally write something you agree with? :)

    Your argument on the traditional view being more overwhelming than the LDS view was an interesting read. I hadn’t even realized there was a debate within Mormonism throughout history on whether God is still progressing or not; I think I’ve more often known Mormons who say that He is, but He knows all that there is to know as far as we’re concerned.

    Now if we could only get more evangelicals to want to embrace theosis, with it being so exciting and all.

    Brian ~ I apologize for the length. I really didn’t see a clean way to break it up into multiple posts, though I thought about it. I hope you like it when you get around to it.

    Katie ~ I’m glad you liked the post, I hope we can have a good discussion on it, too.

    Jared ~ Whether or not the Evangelical view is more exiting or not, I think Evangelicals AND Mormons agree that we don’t KNOW a whole lot about the afterlife from scripture.

    I don’t really mind Mormons becoming more agnostic on their role in the next life if it means abandoning that “giving birth to spirit children” stuff, because holy pass on that, Batman.

    It’s true that neither of us knows a whole lot about what goes on in the next life. However, we do know that there is a Cafe Rio in heaven, and if none of us goes to hell, Jesus will be taking us out to lunch there so we can sort out our doctrinal differences.

  6. I’m not sure you can really say there are “debates” within Mormonism.

    More like different factions who each quietly assume they’re right and the others are wrong. But we’d never argue about it in church. We’re too non-confrontational for that.

  7. Aaron, that’s not a bad take-down on specific quotes from Orson Pratt and Brigham Young. But I don’t see why any Mormon need be limited only to them.

    In my experience, the idea of eternal progression is one area where Mormons have often allowed their imaginations to run wild. So trying to put a “Brighamite” or “Prattite” straitjacket on “Mormon belief” in this area seems a little misguided. Especially considering that most Mormons aren’t really aware of either view. A lot of them aren’t even aware of McConkie’s view.

    I don’t consider myself either Brighamite or Prattite on this subject. I don’t see why other Mormons need feel compelled to affirm their allegiance either.

  8. In one sense of the word, you could say that God progresses as his children progress.

    However at this point what we say about it has so little meaning that its not really worth serious discussion in my opinion. Since we cannot really fathom where God is, or where He is going (if anywhere) its hard to say what progression means to Him. Where is the standard by which you can measure the progression of God to see if he is progressing or not?

    I can’t see how we can say anything meaningful about that.

  9. I hadn’t really thought much about the idea of our Heavenly Father progressing (although I’ve been aware that it’s an issue). What Jared C. said makes sense to me.

    The question kind of reminds me of the mathematical paradox in asking whether there are twice as many integers as there are even numbers. Both numbers are infinite, so the question of whether one is “more infinite” than the other is kind of nonsensical.

  10. In one sense of the word, you could say that God progresses as his children progress.

    This is how I always understood it. In fact, my mission president told me that the more converts we got, the more glory we were adding to our own heads, as well as his head, and Jesus’s head, and Heavenly Father’s head.

    So I’ve always understood that the LDS concept of eternal progression is that God increases in glory through the salvation of His children.

  11. I think the theological starting point for a Mormon always has to be our concept of agency (free will).

    If you truly believe in free will, would that not also entail that God has not yet witnessed every possibility in the universe?

    In a universe without beginning or end, full of limitless possibility, you have to also believe in the limitless potential of human choice, activity, and life. Which suggests (only suggests, mind you) to me that God is still ready to be surprised by us, at least in some sense.

    I’m sure the idea of a God that can be surprised is a bit alarming to many Evangelicals. Their emotional connection with God is premised on Him being absolutely in control, and if He can be surprised, doesn’t that mean He is, in some sense, not in control of the situation?

    Yeah, that’s scary for some.

    But a couple points here. First, I don’t claim this is a necessary conclusion from Mormon notions of agency. It’s just one that I’ve been thinking about. Secondly, human agency has to be mitigated by the idea of omniscience. Even in Mormon theology God has to be aware enough of the universe to carry out His designs.

    One possibility I’ve been thinking about here – there’s a difference between seeing a possibility and actually realizing and experiencing it. Just because you see a possibility does not mean that you therefore know what it’s really like to see it come to fruition. I’m thinking of Alma 11:11-12:

    “And he shall go forth suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind, and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith, He will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people, and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people, according to their infirmities.”

    That suggests to me that the mighty Jehovah himself, guiding the children of Israel in the desert, still had something to learn. And it could only be learned by experience, and not by mere “divine planning.”

    I also wonder… while God may know the possibilities, does He really know exactly what we are going to do, and what we are going to choose?

    I don’t know. But it seems to me that when you posit a God who knows exactly what you are going to do, you’ve pretty-much killed any meaningful sense of the notion of free will.

    This is just my own thinking on the matter. You can get detailed debates on Mormon blogs like “New Cool Thang” on this subject – full of Mormons who disagree with what I’ve just written quite strongly.

    But one observation I’ve found after a few years of dabbling in Mormon-Evangelical dialogue. At the practical level of people, the differences between Mormons and Evangelicals are often more perceived than real.

    But at the theological level – there is a fundamental disagreement. And it’s not ontology, it’s not the canon, it’s not grace vs. works – although all of these are intimately tied up in it.

    The fundamental place where Mormons and Evangelicals seem to part ways is:

    Freedom vs. Security.

    Mormonism pushes freedom. Evangelicalism advocates security.

    Both are very strong and fundamental human yearnings. But both are fundamentally at odds with each other. Any emphasis of freedom automatically seems to diminish security. You can have absolutely free human beings, but only at the expense of the notion that God has your future under control. You can have an absolute assurance of heaven, but only at the expense of any notion of human freedom that isn’t rather “fake” (like Arminian Evangelical attempts to keep free will in the mix).

    Perhaps there is a way around this problem, or maybe my either-or scenario is missing the point. But right now, I haven’t sorted it out. Right now it looks like you can either have security or freedom, but not both. But something else inside tells me that ultimately, it’s not going to be an either-or proposition.

    It’s very much an unformed thought in me. I’m sure it confirms the worst fears of some security-motivated Evangelicals. But them yelling about how my God “is too small” isn’t helping matters.

  12. Katie ~ In fact, my mission president told me that the more converts we got, the more glory we were adding to our own heads, as well as his head, and Jesus’s head, and Heavenly Father’s head.

    Is it the converts that really matter, or is it the sealings? While I always understood that celestial marriage is required for exaltation, I confess that the practice of sealing children to parents did not make much sense to me until a few days ago. Being sealed to your parents is not salvific and no matter how many high-minded platitudes people parrot to me about families being together forever, I can’t conceptualize what the practical difference will be between sealed families and unsealed ones.

    I was discussing that with my husband the other day and he explained to me that sealing children to parents is important because sealing is a God’s power, that God’s power and glory is directly increased by the number of people who are linked to Him through seals.

    I’ve become rather wary of my husband’s takes on LDS doctrine because I think he represents a very conservative & traditional strain of Mormonism—nothing wrong with that, but he doesn’t often line up with bloggernacle regulars on things. Still, perhaps that’s a relevant train of thought on how God progresses in the LDS view?

    Seth ~ Have you heard of open theism? It sounds remarkably similar to your view on God. Some evangelicals consider it heretical, but I don’t. It’s too early to tell how it will play out in the movement, but I could see it becoming a major accepted theological system along with Calvinism and Arminianism.

    I was attracted to open theism, but had to reject it because it seems like the difficulties it tries to answer all come from assuming God is bound by time, and I don’t believe God is bound by time. I always found C. S. Lewis’s chapter on God & time in Mere Christianity to be helpful. The whole chapter is good, but the money part is:

    Another difficulty we get if we believe God to be in time is this. Everyone who believes in God at all believes that He knows what you and I are going to do tomorrow. But if He knows I am going to do so-and-so, how can I be free to do otherwise? Well, here once again, the difficulty comes from thinking that God is progressing along the Time-line like us: the only difference being that He can see ahead and we cannot. Well, if that were true, if God foresaw our acts, it would be very hard to understand how we could be free not to do them. But suppose God is outside and above the Time-line. In that case, what we call “tomorrow” is visible to Him in just the same way as what we call today.” All the days are “Now” for Him. He does not remember you doing things yesterday, He simply sees you doing them: because, though you have lost yesterday, He has not. He does not “foresee” you doing things tomorrow, He simply sees you doing them: because, though tomorrow is not yet there for you, it is for Him. You never supposed that your actions at this moment were any less free because God knows what you are doing. Well, He knows your tomorrow’s actions in just the same way–because He is already in tomorrow and can simply watch you. In a sense, He does not know your action till you have done it: but then the moment at which you have done it is already “Now” for Him.

    I don’t see why that view can’t afford both freedom and security.

    I suppose if you ignore open theism and you don’t think taking God out of time solves the seeming contradiction between free will and foreknowledge, then yes, you could argue that your view affords more freedom than most evangelical views at the cost of security. The ironic part is, I think as far as practice and doctrine goes, evangelical Christianity has more freedom and Mormonism more security. But that could be a bit of a tangent, and I gotta run.

    But them yelling about how my God “is too small” isn’t helping matters.

    Ugh. Did I mention how much I find rhetoric like that not helpful (from either side)?

    BTW I’m a squishy Arminian, in case anyone is following the discussion and wondering.

  13. Did I finally write something you agree with?

    Yes, I admit it!

    I’m not sure you can really say there are “debates” within Mormonism. More like different factions who each quietly assume they’re right and the others are wrong. But we’d never argue about it in church. We’re too non-confrontational for that.

    I totally agree with the spirit of that. I sometimes call them “silent debates”.

    trying to put a “Brighamite” or “Prattite” straitjacket on “Mormon belief” in this area seems a little misguided

    Such categories are provisional but still helpful. If no one else will start naming provisional categories then I will. The issues are too important and open discussion over them needs to be kick-started. There are meaningful Mormon divides over eternal progression, and we need constructive language to talk about it. I’m not content to acquiesce to the general Mormon disinterest in historical and systematic theology, because they still exist regardless of conscious interest in them.

    I don’t consider myself either Brighamite or Prattite on this subject.

    I should eventually add the nuanced LDS open theistic view to the article, but haven’t been very motivated to do that since LDS open theism is limited to LDS academia and a small group of Mormon apologists and thinkers. It’s not a position that bodes very well at the lay level (either in Mormonism or in Evangelicalism), since it depends on too much philosophy.

  14. I don’t believe God is bound by time

    Since Mormon open theists do, I find the following ironic.

    These are from the Pearl of Great Price institute manual.

    Elder Neal A. Maxwell, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, explained: “God does not live in the dimension of time as do we. We are not only hampered by our finiteness (experiential and intellectual), but also by being in the dimension of time. Moreover, God, since ‘all things are present’ with him, is not simply predicting based solely on the past. In ways that are not clear to us, he sees rather than foresees the future, because all things are at once present before him” (Things As They Really Are [1978], 29; see also Alma 40:8; D&C 130:4–7).

    God’s knowledge of spiritual and of human nature enables Him to conclude with certainty as to the actions of any of His children under given conditions; yet that knowledge is not of compelling force upon the creature” (The Articles of Faith, 12th ed., [1924], 191).

    I sent this to a Mormon acquaintance and said, “Maybe you should call the correlation committee and set them straight? :-)”

    He responded,

    Elder Maxwell actually changed his opinion on this – or at least became somewhat non-committal on the subject. See this link about a personal conversation Blake had with Elder Maxwell after that piece you quoted was published. See footnote 30 on page 75 of this article

    Oh the irony. We thank thee oh God for Mormon apologists to help set apostles and prophet straight.

  15. “We thank thee oh God for Mormon apologists to help set apostles and prophet straight.”

    Be polite Aaron. It’s not like your church is any better on this score. But I’d rather not get in a spitting match with you.

    On whether the ivory tower” in Mormonism is going to translate down to the lay level… we’ll see. These things have a way of trickling down.

    I would note that your remarks about a position being on shaky ground because it “depends on too much philosophy” can easily be applied to other ideas – such as the Trinity, for instance.

  16. Aaron, there was a little bit of a discussion on God being out of time over at my blog starting here not long ago. Bookslinger and Rob Perkins (both of whom come by here sometimes) both seemed to be fine with God being out of time. I suppose they don’t adhere to any kind of open theist position then, but they would have to speak for themselves.

  17. The first time I ever heard about God being “outside time” was from my highly orthodox LDS father at age 13. He termed the concept – “the eternal now.” The idea being, I guess, that all things are eternally present before God.

  18. I’m content with a canon and a messy, continual process of self-reformation. That’s something I live with as a Protestant. But that’s part of my very religion.

    Mormonism says that the Spirit does not best illuminate the recordings of dead prophets apart from living prophets to act as oracles and authoritative interpreters and priesthood leaders who dispense the keys of the kingdom, including knowledge. So I hold Mormonism to a higher standard when it comes to the hypocrisy of bottom-up correction in a religion that teaches everyone should abide by the top-down hierarchical dispensing of authority and gifts.

    If Mormons wants to discard 150+ years of tradition and opt for a sola scriptura view of doctrine and authority, please, by all means, do it. Join the mess and stop bragging that you don’t have one.

  19. Seth ~ Yeah, but didn’t your father used to be Lutheran? Maybe he imported the idea.

    Aaron ~ Good point, but FWIW, I don’t think Seth brags about not having a mess.

  20. Even if he personally didn’t (and you’re right, he doesn’t seem to have), he belongs to a religion which institutionally tries to contrast itself with the mess of Protestantism to pitch the need for living oracles. I assume at least a basic degree of loyalty to this institutional practice.

  21. Dad was indifferent to religion in upbringing and largely agnostic throughout adolescence and early college (until he converted of course).

    He actually just arrived at our house for the weekend (visiting the grandkids). Maybe I’ll ask him.

    Cool link on that Open Theism website. There’s a lot of stuff there that I’m looking forward to reading.

  22. Aaron ~ I agree with you. I just appreciate that the LDS regulars here never come at me with the attitude of, “Oh you poor lost feuding Protestants, we have it all figured out and you don’t,” though I’ve gotten that from other LDS folks many times before. I think they’re aware of the discrepancy and that it’s a problem and I try to give credit where credit is due.

    Seth ~ Can you ask your dad why he went to BYU as a non-member while he’s there? I’m curious and I’m sure there was more to it than just that quip about men leaving their women for two years. Hope y’all have a nice weekend.

  23. Aaron said: “So I hold Mormonism to a higher standard when it comes to the hypocrisy of bottom-up correction in a religion that teaches everyone should abide by the top-down hierarchical dispensing of authority and gifts.”

    Mormonism, in principle, has as strong bottom-up element. For example, Mormons nominally are asked to approve their leaders and test their saying against the Spirit. In practice, this bottom up correction doesn’t happen very often. However, from the very beginning of the Church, there were processes and instances on members calling prophets to the carpet on some issues.

    With the growth of the church, that thing has slowly died in practice, but I don’t see any hypocrisy whatsoever in an apologist (or even an apostate) convincing an apostle to chance his view on some theological matter.

  24. Sustaining the leadership seems to be automatic and reflexive, and it doesn’t seem in Mormonism like a kind of realistic mechanism for correcting such things as doctrine over God’s relationship to time. As for testing things against the Spirit, that sounds all good until one realizes that these confirmations are taught to be kept within institutional boundaries.

    The bigger issue is that Mormon tradition and culture, fostered by institutional influences, has essentially given the impression to lay members that it is entirely inappropriate to correct a prophet or apostle over matters of theology. Sure, fringe apologists like Blake Ostler who kick against tradition on important things feel appropriate doing it. He feels like he is God’s theological gift to the leadership since they are too busy doing administrative work. But the common Mormon?

    I have a Mormon friend who sent a soft corrective letter to an LDS apostle over the teaching of salvation by merit from the Conference pulpit, and he was called into the office of his stake president to account for questioning the leadership.

    I have a messy collection of quotes on the issue of authority and continuing revelation here. Bottom line is that Mormons can’t—if they want to be consistent—have their cake and eat it too.

    “JUDGMENT AWAITS CHURCH MEMBERS WHO CRITICIZE BRETHREN [sic]. But it is not of this class particularly that I desire to refer, but to those members of the Church who have entered into the waters of baptism and have made covenants before the Lord that they will observe his laws and respect his priesthood, who have been persuaded, or who are in danger of being persuaded, by such characters. What time, since the organization of the Church, have any of the brethren exercising the Spirit of the Lord, ever taught this people that which was false? When have they ever said unto you that you should do that which was not right; that which would not make you better citizens and better members of the kingdom of God? You cannot, nor can any man, in righteousness, point to the time when any of them have wilfully stated anything that was contrary to the principles of righteousness, or that did not tend to make the people better in every way, that did not build them up in their salvation, temporally as well as spiritually….” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:296-297).

    “Doctrinal interpretation is the province of the First Presidency. The Lord has given that stewardship to them by revelation. No teacher has the right to interpret doctrine for the members of the Church. If Church members would remember that, we could do away with a number of books which have troubled some of our people.”- The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 317. See “The Gospel Teacher and His Message” as found in LDS manual “Charge to Religious Educators,” pp.51-52

    Yeah, I know, for every quote like this you can find another quote by Mormon leaders saying the opposite.

    That’s the problem.

  25. Jared ~ I think Mormonism, in principle, has a strong bottom-up element the same way evangelicals, in principle, have an open canon. The lip service may be there, but it’s never going to happen.

    Well, scratch that, Mormonism could change on this eventually. But right now it’s not the case.

  26. “I just appreciate that the LDS regulars here never come at me with the attitude of, “Oh you poor lost feuding Protestants, we have it all figured out and you don’t,” though I’ve gotten that from other LDS folks many times before.”

    Jack, apparently you haven’t seen me on certain other Evangelical blogs. I feel like Jekyll & Hyde sometimes. Mostly it’s just due to the fact that: 1) I don’t react well to angry people (like many ex-Mormons) and 2) I don’t react well to hypocrisy – which I often see in a lot of Evangelical gripe sessions about Mormonism (the “we’re rationally-based and you’re not” argument being culprit #1).

    I also don’t care much for Evangelicals who do an “end-zone victory dance” every time a Mormon actually mentions a personal misgiving about his religion.

    But yeah, I tend to start responding in-kind when I encounter that attitude online. Not very Christlike of me, I suppose.

  27. If you think your actual religion is fundamentally irrational and incoherent, then you should abandon it instead of surrendering to the notion that all religions are irrational but are somehow worthwhile anyway. Pluralism and postmodernism only feign humility, and they set up the false notion that certainty and confidence necessarily implies arrogance.

    Grey Echols, a Mormon, writes the following in a review of By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus:

    “This is a well written book which manages to not push an ‘anti-Mormon’ agenda. However as an LDS I do not think others should read it. Why? Because it could destroy your faith in the Church. I am not trying to be clever. If you enjoy all of the good things the Church has brought into your life, do you care where it came from? No other Church has so short a history that it can be examined so closely by science. Otherwise we would find that they are all created on the backs of con-artist. I am willing to bet every religion was founded by a fraud. So who cares. Does religion bring us together? Does it bond a nation, a town, a family? If so then let it be. The truth is fleeting, and life is short. If believing in Santa makes children smile then believing in God makes adults smile. When children find out Santa isn’t real, you kill a certain spark you can never get back. When you expose a Church as a fraud, you kill a little spark in all of us.”

    This is an attitude I fear many take. It’s the kind of thinking that says, “Look, even if Mormonism isn’t true, it’s still worth believing, and since you really know, Mr. Evangelical, that your religion isn’t true either, join the club of enjoying our individual preferential religions regardless ultimate correspondence to universal truth.”

    What evangelicals like me want is repentance, and seeing Mormons seemingly step closer to that makes us happy.

    Grace and peace,

    Aaron

  28. Seth, I think I have seen some of your less-charitable exchanges with evangelicals. My favorites are your comments from a few years ago, before you’d started interacting with nicer evangelicals like Todd & Tim… you were really bitter about us back then, huh?

    I don’t really fault you for it because I often find myself wanting to yell at the evangelicals you’re talking to, and besides, I have my own love-hate relationship with Mormonism. Some days I’m genuinely disappointed that it isn’t something I could accept and some days my thoughts start resembling something you’d find on exmormon.org. And if the Mormons I run into on the Internet want to be jerks to me (still happens occasionally), well, let’s just say I’m not friends with JP Holding for nothing. In fact I can probably make fun of bad Mormon arguments much better than he can.

    I only judge you guys based on what you bring here. We all have our frustrations in exchanges with people from other faiths. Besides, pwning people on the Internet is fun!

  29. Jack, don’t apologize for the length—it was fine. And it was really good. That was a pretty funny trick with the Godmakers/manual switch—I was reading it and thinking, “Hmm, Godmakers isn’t all that bad.” (I only had a few quibbles with what you quoted.)

    As for your question in the comments, “Is God progressing?”, I’m sort of agnostic. I don’t comprehend what power/knowledge God has right now, so I don’t know what it would mean to progress. I often think his omnipotence/omniscience is more an issue of practicality than absolutes: he can do all that is necessary to keep the promises he has made, and always knows how to make good promises. Thus, questions like “can God make a rock so big that he can’t lift it?” don’t matter to me. It’s like wondering just how high God can count: at some point, the next-biggest-number isn’t practical.

    I guess another way to say this is that I don’t see God as omnipotent or omniscient (in the most absolute definitions), rather I see him as 100% worthy of my trust, and he will never become more (or less) trustworthy.

    That’s a roundabout way to talk about progression, but I had to get that out before I really answered your question. I believe that all of us can become one with God—one the way Jesus and the Father are one, the way Jesus prayed that we would be. And I think it’s worth pointing out that LDS scriptures don’t use the term “progress” in this context; the relevant verse, D&C 131:4, uses “increase.” So, does God “progress”? I don’t know what that means. Does God “increase”? Yes, every time one of us becomes one with him.

  30. Jack, my dad provided pretty-much an entire Gospel Doctrine lesson’s worth of citations for the “eternal now” concept – which he does assert is a “Mormon doctrine.” Here goes…

    “The past, the present, and the future were and are, with him, one eternal now.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith pg. 220)

    Alma 40:8:

    “Now whether there is more than one time appointed for men to rise it mattereth not; for all do not die at once, and this mattereth not; all is as one day with God, and time only is measured unto men.”

    D&C 130:4, 7:

    “4 In answer to the question – Is not the reckoning of God’s “time, angel’s time, prophet’s time, and man’s time, according to the plante on which they reside?

    7 But they reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord.”

    D&C 84:100:

    “The Lord hath redeemed his people; And Satan is bound and time is no longer. The Lord hath gathered all things in one. The Lord hath brought Zion down from up above. The Lord hath brought up Zion from beneath.”

    D&C 88:110:

    “And so on, until the seventh angel shall sound his trump; and he shall stand forth upon the land and upon the sea, and swear in the name of him who sitteth upon the throne, that there shall be time no longer and Satan shall be bound, that old serpent, who is called the devil, and shall not be loosed for the space of a thousand years.”

    Moses 1:6:

    “…but there is no God beside me, and all things are present with me, for I know them all.”

    Rev. 10:6

    “It would be impossible to exercise faith in him if he was not omniscient.” (Lectures on Faith 4:43)

    D&C 38:2:

    “The same which knoweth all things, for all things are present before mine eyes.”

    D&C 88:44:

    “And they give light to each other in their times and in their seasons, in their minutes, in their hours, in their days, in their weeks, in their months in their years – all these are one year with God, but not with man.”

    Also check out the Topical Guide:

    God, Foreknowledge of
    God, Omniscience of

    He pulled that out of the hat in about 30 minutes.

    Wish I had half that command of the scriptures.

  31. Brian ~ The God Makers thing kind of has a story behind it. While I was never really a follower of Decker, even in my anti-Mormon heyday, some of his trademark arguments and tactics still trickled down to me from other sources. I went through my phase of angrily telling Mormons that their God was a man from another planet who had lots of wives who were always giving birth to spirit babies and there could be billions of these Gods out there in other universes.

    No, the LDS apologists told me, we don’t believe anything like that. That’s all lies.

    So I was a little stunned when I visited Temple Square and was browsing through ACM at the Distribution Center. Sure, it doesn’t caricature things as badly as Decker does, but it talks about endless gods throughout outer space and women giving birth to spirit children.

    I guess I’m just trying to emphasize that in some of the places where anti-Mormons are accused of misrepresenting what the church teaches, they’ve had an awful lot of help from the church itself.

    Seth ~ which he does assert is a “Mormon doctrine.”

    Well, if you want to get technical, I think Greek philosophy had it first.

    I went through that list of scriptures in my own D&C and I see that I highlighted or underlined most of them on my own read-throughs of the LDS scriptures years ago. I even highlighted verses 4 and 7 of D&C 130 but not verses 5 or 6.

    Your dad sounds like an interesting guy. I’ll have to remember some of those next time someone tells me that God is bound by time. You know, I think it was Parley P. Pratt who wrote about God being bound by time in Key to the Science of Theology, and since I initially took the missionary discussions from the local stake missionary who was Pratt’s great, great grandson, he had me read it while I was taking them. Brother Pratt was very big on the idea of time being an eternal law that God is bound by.

    You know, this gets me thinking and playing with the LDS paradigm… if God was once a human bound by time and had to progress to become God, but now He is out of time and has all things before Him, does that mean He has His entire mortal life before Him and is watching it, too?

    And if humans are going to progress and become Gods in a like manner, and eventually be popped out of time, does that mean our future God selves are currently watching us?

    Suddenly I feel like I’m a character in Primer.

  32. Aaron said:

    “If you think your actual religion is fundamentally irrational and incoherent, then you should abandon it instead of surrendering to the notion that all religions are irrational but are somehow worthwhile anyway. ”

    I think all human endeavors have some (even a lot of ) irrationality and incoherence. I think Protestant theology is especially so. Its just not rational to abandon everything that is irrational, you walk away from everything human.

    I disagree with some of the things the Church does or how it operates, I wish it would be different in other ways, but I expect Mormon leaders to be human, real, flawed, etc, because they are human, even if God is guiding and directing them. We may believe in Oracles, and other such notions, but we (should) also believe that these oracles are also errant people as well.

    What I find awfully strange is the idea that the Bible would somehow be exempt from everything that is human and come out inerrant.

    Both Mormons and Protestants should own up to the real fact that they are human religions, run and shaped by human failings. Once I did own up to that, I found that Mormonism may not be less flawed in some ways but Mormonism the more truth-seeking of the two.

  33. To say God is in no way bound by time is, I think, a generalization. While all things may be present before and and he may see everything in an “eternal now” (while sometimes I’ve felt that way waiting for a bus) he is still dealing with a people who are subjected to chronological time and so all of his devices and functions must be set along a chronological stand. This does beg the question, as mentioned above about freewill.

    If we assume that God has all knowledge and is able to see and predict everything we are going to do, then the births he has provided us are either to our condemnation or salvation. Or put simply, he either hates us or loves us, picks his favorites and laughs as the people he’s discarded drown in their own bile and rot in Hell. So since we can assume that our “All loving” God is .. . you know . . . “all loving,” it is safe to assume that our choices have an effect on outcome; otherwise life is pointless, we’d be better off spinning a wheel and seeing where the arrow points. Save us all time and effort.

    So then if our choices actually do matter it means that ultimately the process of time IS an essential factor in God’s dealings. Whatever the plan he must set events in motion in the past to effect our presents and futures. Otherwise what’s the point of prayers? We pray to thank God, and that’s great but we also pray and ask God for his help (as dictated by a few of Jesus’s parabols). And while I’m sure he does have a very clear idea of what we’re going to ask, the process of asking must be important or God would simply have the universe set up in the way he/we needed it and all of our prayers would be useless.

    So is god time-less and able to function away from Chronology? Sure, that’s cool. But he is still forced to deal with us mere mortals who unfortunelty only live in the moments we have.

  34. None of those verses however by themselves solve the issue at hand. Readers must come along and interpret or extract meaning from these verses. Some would call this activity, doing theology, and that whenever we seek to harmonize or combine various texts that speak on a similar topic, to extract some general or universal principle, we are essentially, “doing theology.”

    Eternal (Timelessness) and Eternal (Never Ending Time). The problem with the word Eternal is that it has two historical meanings in discussions about God. Eternal can mean timelessness, that fact that there is no time at all. Eternal can also mean never ending, without beginning or end, but that time exists infinitely in either direction. Latter-day Saints typically mean Eternal in the latter sense and are often not aware of the other meaning. In my view, none of the scriptures cited above necessarily lead to the conclusion that that time does not exist for God, or that God resides in a state of timelessness. It seems to me that timelessness would imply that there is no eternal now. “Eternal Now” seems to make less sense if eternal means timelessness and now refers to a point in time.

    I think these issues are better understood as logical problems. Whether God exists out of time or within time, is a logical problem. The bible narrative demonstrates that, whatever we say about God’s relationship to time, God intervenes in human history, he is active in human time. The question being asked however says “Look, aside from God moving in human history, when God is not moving in history, is he bound by time or not?”

    The question is one of God’s sovereignty or the essentially character of God. In other words, is God bound by anything? For many people, the idea that God is bound by anything, including time, contradicts the notion of a God who is above all things and the creator of all things ex nihilo. Thus, for some, a God who is bound by time is in some respect finite and attaching the modifier finite to God in any respect is nonsensical and hence this claim is dismissed out of hand. But these isuses are directly connected to several other issues.

    Impassibility and Perfection. Some Christian thinkers like Anselm and Aquinas argue that an attribute of God is unchangeableness because he is absolute. Since God is perfect, any change from perfection would be something less than perfect. Thus, God does not change because to change would be to move from a state of perfection to some other state. This has lead some Christian thinkers to describe God as impassive and that unless God is impassive, God is not absolute. Others argue that emotions only make sense within a context of time, surprise being the best example. Does it make sense that God become sad or angry or have any emotion if he knows everything that will happen? Or that he cannot change in any respect? Others point to prayer and argue that if prayers do not change God in the least and he cannot respond his actions in accordance to human prayers then in what sense is prayer really meaningful?

    Knowledge, Sovereignty and Free Will. One side wants to posit that God has all knowledge. Yet, another side argues that if God has all knowledge then free will is a logical impossibility. If God knows what I’m going to do in the future, then am I really free to make choices? Those who ask this question define freedom as “the ability to do otherwise.” Suppose God knows that at t2 I’m going to choose A and not B. Then when I arrive in time at t2, can I choose B? If I choose B then I make God’s knowledge false (a logical impossibility given the attributes of God as perfect), therefore I am logically unable to choose B. I must choose A and I therefore have no freedom. Some propose the solution that God knows everything there is to know, but that human decisions before they are made are unknowable. Therefore, God knows everything that is knowable, but unmade free choices are non-existent. In response, some argue that this means God does not know “everything” and therefore he is still limited in some respect. This often boils down to the classic tension between free will and sovereignty, being played out in the area of God’s knowledge. Some argue that because God chose to create a universe with human beings who have actual free will, that this is a limitation, a limitation that God has chosen.

    Time, Space, and God’s Activities. This is another logical problem, especially raised in the context of LDS notions of an embodied God. For classical Christian theology God is immaterial and this fits with the concept of God existing outside of time. To have form, to have spatial dimensions is to exist in space and time; to require some function of time. Secondly, others argue that even creation to create requires time. To make choices require time. In this sense, it is argued, how can God choose to create? In fact, how can God intervene at all in human activity unless he changes in some respect? Secondly, if God is perfect at t1, why would God choose to create at t2, what could creation add to perfection? In response, others argue that God doesn’t choose to create at some point in time, because God is timeless, he is the Creator by definition eternally. Here too, the argument is whether God can actually do anything, is God simply a static point of perfection from which he cannot deviate?

    As I point out above, some argue that logically there is a problem with omniscience in the classical sense because it bars the notion of real free will and others add that it is less amenable to the problem of evil. Therefore, some LDS thinkers have developed a great aversion to using the omnis and are upset when any other LDS use terms like omniscience or omnipotence, and they want to ban the omnis from all LDS discourse (even though LDS thinkers have used these terms in the past). This might be problematic because LDS scriptures use terms like infinite and eternal and omnipotent. Indeed, Robinson uses these terms because, as he points out, this is the language used in the LDS scriptures. However, others like England, charge Robinson with scriptural literalism. Yet, it is crucial to realize England also points out that he (England) wouldn’t be happy “singing hymns about a most powerful God or a nearly sufficiently intelligent God.” I think this illustrates that the philosophically precise language we might prefer in one respect, might not satisfy us in devotional or worship respects. In addition, it also illustrates that we need to be tolerant to the kinds of context that people use language.

    One of the problems I see is that when this these discussions take place in the context of religious polemics (even within the tradition) we tend to assume or to downplay the diversity of thought in our respective traditions or to pretend that somehow we can’t learn or benefit from learning what has taken place in each others traditions. I think it is important to understand the arguments in traditional Christian history and those that have been raised more recently about these issues. In my experience, many of the logical problems presented are the same whether in LDS discourse or not because of the obvious common connections to the biblical narrative. These various issues are clearly important to both sides and I think charitably understanding the efforts of others, will do much to help improve communication and mutual understanding.

  35. God’s power and glory is directly increased by the number of people who are linked to Him through seals. … Perhaps that’s a relevant train of thought on how God progresses in the LDS view?

    I think this ties in with Brian’s comments about God not necessarily “progressing” (as in, advancing in knowledge or power) but “INCREASING” His glory (whatever glory is??) every time one of His children becomes one with Him. Whether or not this oneness is actually achieved through sealing is obviously debatable, but based on the quotation in the OP from the God Makers–er, Achieving a Celestial Marriage–I’d say it’s a safe bet that it is a commonly-accepted LDS interpretation.

    Taking it a step further, I’ve heard sealing described as the process of linking the entire human family together and then binding us as one with God. So while celestial marriage may be the sealing ordinance that is individually salvific, by sealing children to parents we create a “chain”–and thus everyone in the Kingdom of God is sealed together in unity. So it’s more than just “increasing” God, but also facilitating oneness among His children.

    Or something like that.

    Parenthetically, this God and time stuff is really hurting my head. And Primer = trippiest movie ever.

  36. It should also be recognized that when we talk about the nature of time and God, we need to recognize that the debate isn’t so much over the ontology of God, but over the ontology of time itself.

    God is omnipotent and knows everything there is to know about our reality. I think that’s a statement that would put you in safe standing in both Mormon and Evangelical contexts.

    The question is over the nature of time. One of the “open theism” essays Jack linked to made the point that we aren’t so much arguing over whether God is all-knowing or not, but rather we are arguing over the nature of the reality that He “knows.” What does it mean to know the future? What about the future is even knowable?

  37. Wow, could there possibly an honest Evangelical out there? Amazing! “Protesting that “Mormons believe in becoming gods!” isn’t just short-sighted and misleading… [I]t’s like bringing a floppy balloon sword to a gun fight.”

    One reminder/one comment.

    Reminder. Although the “Preparing for eternal marriage booklet” is published by the church, most Mormon’s recognize that it is not strict canon, e.i., it has no normative value, and no promise of inerrancy. That doesn’t mean it isn’t right or that I don’t believe it’s true, it’s simply a reminder to our Evangelical siblings to not try and disabuse it as though it were our canon. I do thank you, however, for trying to use on of our sources instead of one as misleading as “TGM”, you gain a lot of respect in my eyes.

    Comment. Bridgets 3/12 4:39pm comment seemed to imply that Mormons don’t consider conversion important, and only the temple sealing as important. I think this is a false dichotomy. The sealing means nothing without the conversion. We fully accept the biblical teaching about the joy in heaven over one soul that repents. Yet, for the LDS entering into the sealing ordinance does bring greater glory than baptism. Yet, we see no problem with a parent being even happier with an infant learning how to walk than he was when the child learned how to crawl. There is no walking without crawling.

  38. Aquinas: Thanks for your balancing comments. I rarely see a post by Aaron S. that isn’t so vastly distorted that it takes too much time and energy just to begin the discussion after correcting false assumptions, outright misstatements and triumphal victory dances. Your approach and charity in these discussions are much appreciated. As you point out, Aaron is assuming that evangelical thought is somehow univocal and the notion that LDS have various views somehow counts against Mormons. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Bridget: I have addressed the issue of theosis (or I should say deification) in the last three chapters of vol. 3 of Exploring Mormon Thought. “Theosis” is really a fairly technical term that ought to be reserved for the Eastern Orthodox theologians beginning about the 5th century. What evangelicals teach has little in common with such teachings — and what Aaron calls “robust evangelical theosis” is really not much like it at all.

    I have a chapter discussing why talk of humans being gods, being deified or the like is an ill-fit for Protestant thought in general — including the views of Calvin and Wesley in particular.

    The manual you quote is indeed a parody of Mormon thought — and ill-conceived statement at best. As a mere manual used in a class it has no authority whatsoever — and no one I know has ever used it. However, if you’d like me to find statements of outright rejection of theosis and deification by evangelicals that simply reject the view you take here, I’d be happy to oblige (and by leading evangelical theologians nonetheless).

    If humans and God are essentially different species, as you assert, then I’d like to hear your view on how Jesus was both fully God and fully human at the same time. That is really the nub of all talk of theosis and deification and the basis for the doctrine in the first place.

  39. “God’s power and glory is directly increased by the number of people who are linked to Him through seals. ”

    Is that why I feel more glorified when I add friends on facebook?

  40. Aaron is assuming that evangelical thought is somehow univocal

    Perhaps you missed it when I said,

    “I’m content with a canon and a messy, continual process of self-reformation… Join the mess and stop bragging that you don’t have one.”

    If you have actual distortions you can think of in this conversation, please by all means, name them. Be careful not to equate meaningful generalizations about religious groups with stereotypes.

    Bottom line is that Mormonism regularly brags that it somehow doesn’t suffer from the kind of theological diversity that Protestantism does, so it has more of a burden to demonstrate that it has more theological unity on the most important things. The most important example I can think of is whether God was once possibly a sinner. Two out of three Mormons I video-interview at Temple Square affirm he was possibly once a sinner, one of three disaffirm. That’s a kind of theological diversity any religion should be ashamed over, let alone over the general aloofness over the matter.

    If humans and God are essentially different species, as you assert, then I’d like to hear your view on how Jesus was both fully God and fully human at the same time

    Jesus was/is of two species at the same time, so I don’t see the problem with talking about how each nature is different, other than it being philosophically difficult for people to swallow. It’s something Christians take as mystery.

    Take care,

    Aaron

  41. Don’t tell us in one breath how you embrace “the messiness” and then in the next breath tell us how “ANY” religion ought to be ashamed by certain theological diversities.

    Because I’ve seen plenty of theological diversity in CORE matters in your own religion.

  42. Seth, I assume the big issue is different values systems here that determine what is “core”. Traditional Christianity doesn’t have a diversity of opinions over whether God was once perhaps a sinner, but we do have a diversity over issues concerning the mode of baptism. The former is more important to me than the latter. In Mormonism, the latter seems more important than the former.

    Also, Protestant messiness is a byproduct of a sola scriptura religion. I can at some level embrace that messiness because of our views of authority and scripture. But Mormonism has never been a religion of sola scriptura. So this isn’t an issue of apply double-standards, it’s an issue of expecting religions to live up to their own standards and boasts.

    Take care,

    Aaron

  43. Blake ~ I’ve heard a lot about you, and I’m humbled that you’ve found your way over to one of my little blog posts. I’m pleased to meet you.

    “Theosis” might not be the best term for what I’m advocating, I’ve only used it here because I like it better than “divinization” or “deification,” and “exaltation” is distinctly Mormon. I’m the first to admit that having received my formal education thus far from Mormons, I’m not as adept at traditional Christian theology as I would like to be, but I’m working on it.

    The manual you quote is indeed a parody of Mormon thought — and ill-conceived statement at best. As a mere manual used in a class it has no authority whatsoever — and no one I know has ever used it.

    I’m confused. You think an Institute manual published by Intellectual Reserve, the same legal entity that publishes the Church Handbook of Instructions, is “a parody of Mormon thought”?? Why would the church parody its own doctrine?

    I’ve never said or implied that the book is binding and authoritative on all Mormons, but it does represent a valid strain of thought within Mormonism, perhaps even the predominant strain of thought. While I personally haven’t known any Mormons who took the course (it seems to have been replaced by a new course called “Eternal Marriage” in 2001, 2 years after I bought the manual), I’ve known plenty of Mormons who held to the views I cited.

    However, if you’d like me to find statements of outright rejection of theosis and deification by evangelicals that simply reject the view you take here, I’d be happy to oblige (and by leading evangelical theologians nonetheless).

    I’m sure that you could, but what would be your point? I’ve already stated that I’m advocating for something not commonly accepted by evangelicals, and you of all people should know that no one man or group of men has the authority to dictate evangelical doctrine. Evangelical doctrine is only limited by how you can interpret the Bible and what the evangelical community will accept as orthodox. There’s plenty of room for disagreement within our system.

    If humans and God are essentially different species, as you assert, then I’d like to hear your view on how Jesus was both fully God and fully human at the same time.

    My view is pretty in line with what Christianity has traditionally taught on the hypostatic union.

    I haven’t read your books yet, and I would like to, but I can’t promise to do it in the near future. I have a reading list a mile high as it is.

    I’ll get to other comments later tonight.

  44. Evangelical: Hey Mormons! You think you are in harmonious choir but some of you are really off key, and the songs you sing aren’t at all traditional!

    Mormon: Hey Evangelicals! You are not even a choir at all, but just a bunch of people singing the same old words to totally different tunes!

    Evangelical: “Well you think you sound so good with your new tune, but in fact its just a corruption of true music”

    Mormon: ” I would rather rock-and-roll than stick with the hillbilly music you listen to”

    Evangelicals: “Look, Rock is just hillbilly music mixed with blues and distorted guitars, you should recognize that and come back to traditional forms of music. We may not all be singing the same tune, but at least we don’t corrupt the youth”

    Mormons: “Look, rock and roll ain’t noise pollution.”

    Evangelicals: “Yes it is, but can we at least agree that Johnny Cash kicks ass?”

    Mormons: “Agreed.”

  45. “Why would the church parody its own doctrine?”

    Everyone else is doing it. Why shouldn’t the Church get a piece of the action?

    Aaron, you and I both know I’m not talking about the “mode of baptism.”

    I’m talking about the nature of God Himself. You pull random Christians off the street and just see how many different explanations you get about Trinity Aaron. Just try it. Or try asking about whether God the Father is corporeal Aaron. That would be another good one. Or how about the efficacy of righteous works? Or how about whether Jesus flies around in a UFO? Or how about whether the Koran is equal scripture with the Bible?

    Ask 5 different lay Christians about theology and you’ll get 15 different answers. You guys ain’t exactly shining models of orthodoxy yourselves you know.

    And don’t quote me any of those “irrelevant, apologist, Christian theologians.” I’m just talking about what plain-ole, honest-to-goodness, salt of the earth, every day, main street America, mom-and-pop, Elvis-loving, Left Behind-reading Christians think.

    I mean, that’s how you get down isn’t it Aaron? The scholars DON’T MATTER. The only place I’m allowed to go for an “authentic” look at a religion is the lowest common denominator, isn’t it? After all, if an opponent of a religion wants an accurate look at that religion, it only makes sense to go to the to most low-hanging fruit, right?

    Never mind all that stuff about Church being for imperfect people, and how part of the job of religion is to educate its disciples in the truth – therefore we can expect – even desire – a little bit of ignorance in the ranks. Never mind all that.

    What matters is whether you have something easy to criticize.

    I’m starting to think Blake’s right. You are kinda hard to talk to. Because every time you wade in, we always end up clearing the air of stupid, beside-the-point, crap like this. Thus we never do end up discussing anything that actually matters theologically. To much finger-pointing to have time for that.

  46. Seth, I have never met an evangelical who believes that God the Father is essentially and fundamentally of the human species or is necessarily embodied, or that the Koran is equal to the Bible in terms of inspiration and authority. Nor have I ever met an evangelical Christian who believes God the Father was possibly once a sinner. Whether Jesus flies around in a UFO or whether any given Christian can articulate well the traditional formulations of the Trinity isn’t nearly as important as things like whether God was once possibly a sinner, etc. We each have our own messes, but the degree to which we tolerate certain messes says something about our value system.

    The only place I’m allowed to go for an “authentic” look at a religion is the lowest common denominator, isn’t it?

    No, and please pay closer attention to my view on this. It has a lot of bearing on what I do. My position is that there should be a holistic approach to religions, with a primary focus on influential tradition. Blake, for example, can promote whatever fringe belief he wants, and it matters inasmuch as we’re talking about Blake himself. But when it comes to the “ism” of Mormonism, what matters to me is significant strains of belief of members considered alongside what is taught through institutional channels of influence, keeping in mind the extant oral traditions that the authority structures acquiesce to. All those things matter, especially in any system with checks and balances. When it comes to Mormonism, what I’m interested in is 1) providing helpful generalizations of actual Mormon lay-beliefs to outsiders, 2) engaging those beliefs at a theological and scriptural level, 3) comparing the beliefs with teachings of the religious institution and other significant influences in the religion, 4) calling upon the institutions to be accountable and responsible for institutionally fostered, unrepudiated beliefs 5) calling upon other influences within the religion to be consistent with the self-claims of the authoritative religious institution.

    If you think this more holistic approach makes Mormonism an easy target, then I’m sorry, but maybe that says more about Mormonism than it does about the approach to Mormonism.

    Thus we never do end up discussing anything that actually matters theologically. To much finger-pointing to have time for that.

    I’m the one who started by pointing to material on the main divergent streams of thought within traditional Mormonism regarding eternal progression and deification. The purpose is to help people get a better hold on the issues. And I think it’s more exciting to spend eternity (never ending time) increasing in the knowledge and power of God—the God who always has had all knowledge and power and who never needed to progress in what he already infinitely had.

    I’ve love to talk about that more, and I’m sorry if I hijacked the thread.

    Take care,

    Aaron

  47. Katie ~ And Primer = trippiest movie ever.

    Ever since I saw it I’ve lived in fear of being attacked by my doppelgänger from the future.

    MadChemist ~ Wow, could there possibly an honest Evangelical out there? Amazing!

    There’s plenty of honest evangelicals out there, MC. I’m not sure if you should count me as one of them though. I could just be a very charismatic liar.

    Bridgets 3/12 4:39pm comment seemed to imply that Mormons don’t consider conversion important, and only the temple sealing as important.

    That wasn’t my intention, I get that they’re both important in LDS doctrine. I was just speculating that perhaps it’s the sealing thing that’s directly relevant to God’s progression in LDS thought, and I’m willing to be wrong on that.

    Jared ~ Is that why I feel more glorified when I add friends on facebook?

    LOL! BTW, I don’t think I have you on Facebook. I’m totally gonna look you up now.

    Seth ~ Everyone else is doing it. Why shouldn’t the Church get a piece of the action?

    I really don’t know what you mean by that Seth, but I don’t think the dialogue from ACM was intentional self-parody. Parodies are funny.

    You guys ain’t exactly shining models of orthodoxy yourselves you know.

    I assume most of your post is directed at Aaron, but is this part directed at me as well? If so I’ll only point out that I think very few of the people who post here (LDS or evangelical) are shining models of orthodoxy. I’ve always considered myself unconventional.

  48. Wait a minute, WHAT? Evangelicals believe Jesus flies around in a UFO? That. Is. AWESOME!

    I really don’t know what you mean by that Seth, but I don’t think the dialogue from ACM was intentional self-parody. Parodies are funny.

    Ummm, Jack, intentional or no, let’s not lie. That dialogue? A little bit funny. Seriously, who says, “Can you imagine the state of the universe if imperfect gods were allowed to spawn their imperfections throughout space?” with a straight face? (Then you really *would* have cause to fear the sudden appearance of your evil future doppleganger, because anything–and I mean anything–is possible in THAT kind of a universe.) ;)

  49. Blake, I agree with you that the question of whether humans and God are essentially the same species gets to the core of not only this discussion, but many Evangelical-LDS disagreements. Out of curiosity, is this something that’s been discussed extensively on this blog? I, personally, am somewhat confused on this issue, so if someone knows where there have been such discussions, I’d love to read them…

  50. “I have never met an evangelical who believes that God the Father is essentially and fundamentally of the human species or is necessarily embodied”

    Maybe you need to spend more time with them then – and not just the ones in your Bible-study group or the ones with online ministries. Because I’ve encountered them, even if you haven’t.

    But yeah, probably best for me to drop this line of argument anyway, since it is tangential to the post itself.

  51. Katie ~ Wait a minute, WHAT? Evangelicals believe Jesus flies around in a UFO? That. Is. AWESOME!

    How awesome? Polygamy Jesus awesome, or 4-popped-collars awesome?

    I confess, I found almost the entire Achieving a Celestial Marriage manual to be funny, but I don’t think it was meant to be. And I’m not sure the straight-face test works very well when applied to Mormonism. I mean, who says “The First Presidency has interpreted oral sex as constituting an unnatural, impure or unholy practice” with a straight face? Well, someone did.

  52. Aaron: “Jesus was/is of two species at the same time, so I don’t see the problem with talking about how each nature is different, other than it being philosophically difficult for people to swallow. It’s something Christians take as mystery.”

    You see, Aaron, the problem isn’t mystery or merely being philosophically difficult to swallow. Here is the problem — if I were two species, I would have to have the properties essential to both species as the single person that I am (you call that hypostatic union). The problem is that what is united are logically contradictory natures. One nature (the divine nature) is essentially such that the one who has it is omnipotent, omniscient and, your view, outside of time and beyond change. However, human nature is such that we are essentially limited in power and knowledge and essentially inside of time and subject to change. The problem is that for evangelical thought these are essential to the two distinct natures that can never be joined in one person because they are logically exclusive of each other.

    That is why I asked Bridget how Christ could be two different species. If Christ is the divine species (as construed by evangelical thought), then he is metaphysically unchanging and outside of time altogether. But no one who has a human nature could be outside of time and unchanging altogether. So what is asserted in one breath is denied in the next — or in the very same breath. To say that Jesus has both human and divine natures on such a view amounts to simply denying what one also asserts – that Christ both is and is not outside of time, both is and is not unchanging, both is and is not omnipotent, both is and is not omniscient. How could anyone coherently assert such a thing let alone witness of it?

    What is at issue in the differences between the Mormon view of deification (or exaltation if you wish) and the evangelical view (whatever “theosis in such a tradition could mean) is whether there can be any meaningful assertion when we say that Jesus was both God and man. What you mean by “human” must be denied when you you assert that he is fully divine. To say that a single person is both natures is rather like saying that a bird is actually an amphibian.

    I agree with Bridget that the closest evangelical thought can really come to deification is the doctrine of sanctification. However, there is a vast difference between the two. According to evangelical thought it is our human nature that is sanctified. It doesn’t really touch upon divine nature at all. However, the doctrine of deification (or theosis or becoming gods) means that our human nature is transformed by grace to partake of the divine nature. Since the two natures are so different given evangelical assumptions, the doctrine of sanctification is vastly different than having a divine nature — notwithstanding the clear statement in 2 Peter 1:4.

  53. I’m thinkin’ it’s so awesome, it’s as if Polygamous Jesus was wearing four popped collars.

    Holy shite. (Rhymes with “night,” totally not swearing.) Is that letter for real? FOR REAL??

    Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

    Methinks there’s a reason The Miracle of Forgiveness is on my top ten list of LEAST favorite books of all time.

  54. Jack,

    I’d add Rev. 3:21 to your list of scriptures. Also Romans 8:16-17

    I haven’t read all the previous comments but as far as God progressing, I think it’s right that he progresses through us. “For behold, this is my work and my glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”

    About sealing – a General Authority taught us on my mission that to be sealed to parents is to be sealed to a “right to celestial parentage.” That is, even if your earthly parents did not end up in the celestial kingdom, the chain isn’t broken for you because the ordinance that sealed you to your parents promises those blessings to you as long as you are faithful to Christ.

    My birth father fell away from the LDS church. My mom remarried and everyone always asks me if I was sealed to my step-father. The answer is I do not need to be because when my mom and birth father were sealed and I was born into their marriage, I was immediately promised the blessings that flow from their sealing contingent upon my faithfulness. It doesn’t matter than my parents got a divorce and sealing cancellation – the Lord doesn’t take back a blessing he offers to me just because my parents made some mistakes.

    Does that make sense?

    To live with God in the Celestial Kingdom, we believe that we must be sealed in one chain from Adam to the last man. As long as the ordinance is performed, we have the promise of those blessings.

  55. Jack, thanks again for the link to the “Open Theism” website. Your suspicion was right on. I do seem to have more than a few tendencies toward that view of God. Such a God seems to be quite compatible with Mormonism in many respects and provides some pretty handy answers for the “problem of evil” and the ever-present Mormon concern with preserving human agency.

    There is one significant snag however – is God temporal or not? Does He operate inside or outside of time?

    I just provided a bunch of Mormon sources that seem to say pretty strongly that God is timeless or in some sense, outside time.

    But Open Theism seems to demand a God placed within a temporal reality. How do you get around this and wed Mormonism’s God of the “eternal now” with a God placed within a temporal timeline with absolutely real possibilities?

    Well, me and my wife were brainstorming this and we think we might have a half-baked solution, but then again, we might be full of it too…

  56. Jack, you’re the type of Evangelical I like to be around. You can consider yourself abnormal, I think you’re awesome (Does that mean I like abnormal things?).

    Let me continue on the discussion of the AMC book. Robinson and Millet continually ask our Evangelical siblings to grant us a little bit of charity, considering we’re such a young church. That is, we’ve had 180 years to teach and make authoritative manuals. The AMC manual is relatively new, and relatively unimportant, imo. Many of the current institute manuals are crap, IMO, and I’m told are being re-written with the express commandment not to include quotes willy-nilly from BRM or JFS, just because they sounded authoritative at the time doesn’t make them so. While the conversation may represent a strand within Mormonism, it is a severe disservice to Mormonism in general to reduce the richness and variety of canonical Mormonism to one author’s interpretation, even if they manage to slip it past correlation. I have faith in the canonical process via revelation from Christ, I do not have faith in Institute manuals.

    I’ve seen sever gaffe’s in correlation, most recently the including of the Johanine comma in the special issue on Jesus last April. BTW, I appreciated your paper on the LDS usage of the comma, but I’m not smart enough to figure out how to link to it. :)

  57. Blake ~ I’m not sure I have anything new to add to the discussion of the hypostatic union. As Aaron said, it’s considered a mystery. I concluded a long time ago that all religions have elements to them which seem contradictory or nonsensical to outsiders, so it doesn’t really bother me when mine are pointed out to me. Incidentally, I think God could make a bird-amphibian if He wanted to.

    Tom ~ I had heard before that sealings to parents aren’t broken when said sealings are cleared/canceled due to divorce and/or remarriage, but I’m still not sure if the principle makes much sense to me. Why doesn’t God just offer direct sealing to Himself and leave out the human middle men? Which is kind of how I view the traditional Christian plan of salvation.

    Seth ~ I’m pleased that the open theism site was so helpful to you; you’ve given me plenty to think about that’s been helpful to me, so I’m glad I could return the favor. I’ve only really learned about open theism since I resolved to start learning more about my evangelical identity a few months ago. Guess it’s starting to pay off.

    I agree the open theism folks did a wonderful job on their web site. I’m impressed by how much material there is there and how open they are to interacting with criticism of their work. I wish there was an Arminian web site this thorough and accessible.

    As for reconciling the view with your own understanding of LDS scriptures, hmm… what if it isn’t our timeline that God has before Him? What if He has all possibilities past and future before Him? In other words, what if He’s an interdimensional God?

    I’ll have to think about it some more though, it’s late and that’s all I got.

    MadChemist ~ Normal is overrated.

    I get what you’re saying on the inaccuracy of LDS manuals, I understand that Mormonism is still very much in its infancy and I’m willing to give it room to grow and develop theologically. In fact, I’m hoping it eventually develops into something that looks an awful lot like Protestant Christianity—hey, at least I’m open about that desire.

    Of course, look at things from my point of view: if I can’t go to Temple Square and pick up something that will accurately teach me LDS doctrine, where can I go? I regularly have people denouncing things I learned from the missionary discussions, BYU religion classes and official church manuals as “not doctrine.” It’s rather exhausting.

    Oh, and I’m also married to someone who read the stuff I quoted from ACM and said, “So? What’s the problem with that?” My husband is so, I guess, conservative and traditional in his beliefs, it really does amaze me that he was willing to get married out of the temple.

    I’m glad you liked my paper on the comma. Free HTML lesson for you! Typing:

    <a href=”http://urlhere.com”>Link text here</a>

    Gives you:

    The Johannine Comma and Its Place in LDS Thought

  58. I think the reason for the “it’s not doctrine” line is that you’ve got Mormons who spend a lot of time wrestling with the formalized theology and dealing with its criticisms. Then you have all the other everyday church-going Mormons who don’t go in much for theological inquiry and frankly, don’t care much. The latter are far and away the majority in the LDS Church, and in most any other church, I would argue.

    The question is how you deal with that divide.

    In Protestantism, which emphasizes orthodoxy first and foremost, the solution is to put the thinking class in the leadership posts and charge them with bringing everyone else up to speed theologically.

    In Mormonism, which de-emphasizes orthodoxy and instead pushes orthopraxy (“right practice”), the solution is to place the academically average LDS member in positions of leadership – even all the way to the top. The theologians are not put in charge, but are rather shunted off to a limited corner of Mormon life. A Mormon will typically almost always emphasize personal spiritual life over theological training as desirable qualities in a minister.

    I think this approach is probably the main reason that Mormons can be so careless and unconcerned about the philosophical integrity of their religion. It’s also why it’s taking so freaking long to get Bruce R. McConkie and Joseph F. Smith out of our system, and why it took so long to get Brigham Young out of the system earlier.

    You get someone with a strong vision of Mormonism, like those men, and if it’s serviceable in the day-to-day worship life of the average LDS, the thinking is – why not use them? Even when the theologically trained Mormons point out some problems with the paradigm, it still remains useful for most Mormons, and there just isn’t much sense of urgency about changing it. After all, the main concern is with ethical and spiritual living. Debatably, you don’t need a perfect theology for that.

    Mormon theologians, on the other hand, recognize this emphasis within Mormon life and they don’t want to “kick over the beehive” just to make an esoteric theological argument. Building Zion comes first for Mormons – whether you are theologically minded or not. We’re not going to sabotage that just to score theological points.

  59. Bridget: If you’re fine asserting that the chief difference between our views is that your God can make a perfectly round square and things like bird-amphibians, there isn’t really much that a discussion can accomplish is there? After all, it is rather straightforward nonsense.

    I agree with you to the extent that there are elements of every religion that cannot be explained rationally or that may appear, at first blush, to present inconsistencies — but that is quite different than admitting that the most central belief one adopts is an outright contradiction. That is especially true of a religion that is built upon making coherent sense of the text as its sole authority. Once you’ve given that up, what is left?

    Too often the “mystery” move is made not because we don’t understand, but because what we understand has been shown to be incoherent and therefore impossible. We understand quite enough to know that a thing cannot be both created in some essential respects and also uncreated in all essential respect — just like we understand that a thing cannot be a perfectly round square. We don’t add anything to awe and worship by uttering what we know perfectly well is contradictory nonsense. That “X created a perfectly round square” doesn’t suddenly become a mystery or bergin to make sense simply because we replace “X” with “God.”

  60. Seth: I’ve done several articles and entire books on Open Theism. I am an open theist of sorts — though I reject creatio ex nihilo as non-scriptural and I also affirm a more process view of reality than most open theologians. Click on my name and it will take you to my website where you can find those articles.

  61. Seth ~ Good post on orthodoxy/orthopraxy. I just hope people realize that if I’m not accurately representing LDS doctrine and schools of thought, it isn’t for lack of trying.

    Blake ~ I said that the hypostatic union was seemingly contradictory. I did not agree that it is. You’re dismissing it as a contradiction by comparing it to two things which are completely known and understood by humans, like something that is round v. something that is square, which is a false analogy because Protestant theology holds that the nature of God is not fully knowable. We don’t claim to understand what being “fully God” means or how God works, so we can’t dismiss the idea of God becoming a man even if we hold those to be different species with different attributes.

    I rather think that it’s just as if I were writing a book and I decided to make myself a character in my book. Book-Jack could have all of my abilities and behave exactly like me, she’d exist in the timeline of my book and she’d be fully Jack as far as the characters in my book were concerned, but I’d still be me outside of the book in my own timeline.

    Besides, I’m not sure that you’re thinking abstractly enough on the issue of bird-amphibians and round-squares. If God makes a creature which can shapeshift between being a bird and being an amphibian, wouldn’t people call it a bird-amphibian? (Sorry, I’m a sci-fi lover) And there’s several ways you could have a “round square,” a hologram card which looks like a square from one angle and a circle if you tilt it just slightly, or a 3-D image that looks like a circle to start out with and becomes a square when your vision goes out of focus.

    Don’t ask me if God can make a rock so big that He can’t move it though; that one is nonsense.

  62. Bridget: Forgive me for seeing your (non)response as a cop-out. Here is why. It is like saying: “we don’t know what it is like to be a planet. We cannot understand the vastness of the solar system. Therefore, the assertion that there are 10 planets between the sun and the earth rather than merely two can be coherent.” That of course is bunk. It is true that we don’t understand what it is to be a planet. It doesn’t mean that any assertion we want to make about planets is just an apparent contradiction.

    We know quite enough to know that any being that becomes mortal isn’t timeless. We know quite enough to know that a thing that doesn’t change at all cannot be human. The assertion that the nature of God isn’t known at all leaves you asserting “I worship X” where “X” has absolutely no content so you can fill X with any nonsense you choose. That is a rather vacuous belief.

    Further, your analogy to a book you’re writing doesn’t work well for me. No character is alive. None has free will. None is even ontologically comparable to you in the sense that characters in a book are merely idealized fictions. You’re not merely an idealized fiction are you?

    What justifies your assertion that the contradiction is merely apparent? I’d like to hear how you reconcile what is otherwise a clear contradiction.

  63. Play nice, Blake. I’m here for polite dialogue, not to be told that my beliefs are vacuous bunk and that my best efforts to answer your claims are non-responses and cop-outs.

    It’s entirely conceivable to me that God could put part of Himself into a mortal body while the rest of his nature remains unbound by time. I also believe that if becoming human was the plan from the beginning (as Genesis 3:15 seems to imply) and God exists throughout time, then God didn’t change because every moment of the Incarnation has always been part of who God is. He didn’t become human and then go up into the sky afterward and stop being human; He’s still experiencing every moment of His life as Jesus Christ and always has been and always will be.

    Yes, I’m aware that the book analogy was not perfect in regards to free will, but I still think it holds in most other arenas. “You’re not merely an idealized fiction are you?” Blake, good fiction writers put parts of themselves into their work so that it’s more than mere fiction to them; it’s truth. The Bible says God put part of Himself, His very breath, into man to make him (Gen. 2:7), and I believe it.

    I’m sorry if my answers are inadequate to you, but I’ve only been studying evangelical theology for a few months. Give me as much time to study my own faith as a I have Mormonism and perhaps I’ll be better at this.

    I’m also curious as to why one of the greatest living thinkers in Mormon philosophy is spending so much time responding to a graduate school drop-out with a BA in ancient languages. Do you actually believe I could tell you something about the hypostatic union that you haven’t heard before, or are you just trying to make a point?

  64. I’m here for polite dialogue, not to be told that my beliefs are vacuous bunk and that my best efforts to answer your claims are non-responses and cop-outs.

    Only I get to pull that shit around here.

  65. Bridget: Your points are well-taken. I don’t expect you to respond with a Ph.D dissertation. I just present it because I like to goad people into thinking a little bit deeper than they are willing. Your mystery response is an excuse for not thoughtfully engaging the most important issue in Christianity see I see it . . . an excuse for not engaging an issue that is worthy of serious engagement.

    I happen to believe that Mormonism alone has anything like an adequate response to the otherwise intractable problem of Christology — one that is at once fully scriptural and also coherent. That’s a pretty remarkable achievement.

    It is when folks like Aaron make claims that evangelical thought has a much more powerful view that I just can’t help pointing out that it doesn’t even have a coherent view. If one is going to trumpet how much better evangelical thought is (which you didn’t do), then perhaps one ought to be up to such a challenge.

    You’re the one who brought up theosis and the key differences between evangelicals and Mormons. I think that my foray into Christology explains why Mormons see Christ as the true revelation of not only our full humanity, but also of full divinity in which we share. Our view of Christ is really our view of deification — as it was for early Christian writers. However, I don’t believe that evangelical thought has the resources to give us a coherent view of Christ or of deification. Mormon thought on this issue really is worth engaging.

    However, I apologize for being too strident. I am not putting you down. In fact, I am complimenting you on your grasp of the issues by being willing to engage you in dialogue. I am challenging you . . . as your post challenges us to think more carefully about whether evangelicals are justified in their knee-jerk response to anything a Mormon might think or say.

    It is perhaps inappropriate for me to ask questions for which you are not prepared — and I apologize if I come off as way too insistent. I actually like your post a great deal and it showed much greater promise than someone with two months of exposure to evangelical thought. That is why I was willing to engage in this dialogue with you.

  66. Blake…one of the greatest living thinkers in Mormon philosophy

    God help us all.

  67. Blake ~ I’ve had a front-row seat to exchanges on the Internet between LDS scholars and various critics of Mormonism and people of other faiths since I was 16. They have a tendency to seek out critics who are far below their caliber and argue with them just to belittle them and make a cheap example out of them. I totally approve of the practice—it’s entertaining to watch!—but I just wanted to make sure that wasn’t your intention here.

    So, let me thank you for pushing me to think harder about this issue. I agree that it calls for serious engagement and evangelicals need better answers than just the mystery thing. I feel like I’ve spent most of my adult life learning about LDS theology and history and doctrine though and haven’t had the chance to really study my own faith. At BYU I was friends with Roger Cook and Ken West. I’ve never been friends with someone like William Lane Craig or Paul Owen.

    I’m hoping to go back to graduate school this year at either Trinity Evangelical Divinity School or Multnomah Biblical Seminary and do my MA in Christian history. I don’t think I’ll ever be a theological heavyweight, I’m more hoping to be a Jan Shipps-Craig Blomberg hybrid, but I would like to be someone who comes to SMPT conferences someday and dialogues with Latter-day Saints on these issues, at least on an intermediate-to-advanced level.

    I will certainly make an effort to read your books sometime in the future, probably in graduate school. I’ve long had them in my mind but just haven’t had the time on top of my historical and linguistic studies.

    David ~ Blake has his own Facebook fan group, “Fans of Blake Ostler.” That proves how l33t he is.

    Is there an “Arch-nemeses of Blake Ostler” group? Can I join that group?

  68. Jack,

    Young padawan, you are not a Jedi yet. But fear not. Eventually you must face Blake again. The force will be with you, you will totally kick his trash. At which point, he will have a change of heart and help you throw the reincarnation of Bruce R. McConkie into an nuclear reactor.

    And there will be much rejoicing and cheesy fireside celebrations.

    Now, if only we could find some Ewoks….

  69. Bridget: Now I am really embarrassed.

    Seth: Don’t all the Jedi die except Luke who just assumes he is really a Jedi?

  70. I think discussions on the hypostatic union can serve a very important function in Latter-day Saint and Evangelical or Catholic dialogue. I agree that the salient difference in Latter-day Saint notions of deification and classical Christian formulations comes down to the implications that flow from a creatio ex nihilo cosmology. For historical Christian orthodoxy the finite can never become infinite and divine and human are mutually exclusive categories because one is uncreated and one is created. Yet, Christian thinkers are faced with the reality of Christ-God became man and took on flesh. In fact, in historic Christian theology as I understand it, Christ’s human soul and body was created ex nihilo and therefore one could technically say there was a time when Christ’s human nature did not exist. Yet, the New Testament narrative demonstrates that Christ was God and Man and Christian thinkers have grappled with how this could be.

    I’ve had discussions on this point with my Catholic friends and ultimately it ends up being a mystery, but for them a beautiful mystery. Now, perhaps one man’s mystery is another man’s contradiction. I tend to accept that all religions have areas of thought where adherents decide not to think further, or where they are comfortable with not knowing the answers, or where they consider they have reached either the limits of reason, or the limits of their current understanding. Part of interreligious dialogue for me is to discover or uncover those contours, to map out the bounds and limits of thought like a religious cartographer.

    Now, one charitable way of looking at these issues is that many Christian theologians have sought to push the envelope as far as possible, to bring the human and the divine as close as possible, within their framework of creatio ex nihilo. It is under that framework that Christian theologians read the Gospel of John. The spirit and message of the New Testament story is Christ’s redeeming plan to draw us unto him that we may be one with Christ, as Christ is one with the Father, and that we may be one with each other. Yet, from a certain perspective, given those categories, “Christ” should not be possible, but Christ is nonetheless. For those who accept the resurrection, Christ still remains fully God and fully man. Here is where I think there is room for discussion. When Latter-day Saints argue that the human can really become one with the divine often they are told that this simply isn’t possible because of the mutually exclusive categories. However, the hypostatic union claims to say that in Christ the human nature and the divine nature are one in some way (albeit not in a way which violates the mutually exclusive categories. In fact, this is how many Evangelical theologians understand deification-that we will in hypostasis with God). Therefore, if it is possible in some way for Christ, it seems to me that, within the framework of Evangelical thought, it is possible in some way for mankind, even if one must claim mystery for it. Thus, to the degree that man and God will always be separate, then in Christ his human nature and divine nature will always be separate. To the extent that Christ’s human nature and divine nature are one, then God and man are one to the same extent. I hope that might offer a jumping point for further dialogue.

    I’m less optimistic in my ability persuade anyone to abandon a creatio ex nihilo framework once they have adopted it, because it would entail a serious reformulation all subsequent doctrines upon which it is built. To me, it is akin to a Kuhnian revolution. Granted, there are Christian theologies that surprisingly have done so, process theology being a prime example. (And I do think Blake makes a good argument, elsewhere, that Arminianism and Christian theologies, like Open Theism, that emphasize libertarian free will tend to create a kind of space where it gets close to rejecting the implications of creatio ex nihilo without actually rejecting creatio ex nihilo). I’m content if Evangelicals and Latter-day Saints are able to recognize the implications that flow from creatio ex nihilo and seek to charitably understand each other’s position, since both traditions are still seeking to understand God as revealed in the biblical narrative. I do think that if there is one space Latter-day Saints and Evangelicals can better understand each other with regards to deification that space is found inside the mystery of the hypostatic union.

  71. Blake has his own Facebook fan group, “Fans of Blake Ostler.” That proves how l33t he is.

    Yeah, I have heard that’s now being accepted in lieu of the Ph.D. requirement for teaching at graduate schools. “Must have Ph.D. in philosophy, with a specialization in analytic philosophy of religion, or you must have your own Facebook group. MySpace page with M.A. will be considered but not preferred.”

  72. Wow, David. The late Walter Martin, James White, John Weldon and John Ankerberg are all really wishing they had known about that.

    “We don’t need credentials to bash Mormonism—we have Facebook groups!”

    Aquinas, your post looks excellent. I will read it in full after dinner.

  73. Aaron–I think you’re kind of rude.

    Also:
    If you think your actual religion is fundamentally irrational and incoherent, then you should abandon it instead of surrendering to the notion that all religions are irrational but are somehow worthwhile anyway.

    Why? Why is rationality and coherency the deciding factor for remaining in a religion? What if you are a part of a religion and those things are irrelevant to you?

    Bridget – you rock.
    Katie – you rock too.

  74. By the way, I’m tired of people being holier-than-thou and judgmental. And I’m tired of it being Evangelicals always poking sticks at Mormons. Not to add to the persecution complex that Mormons have, but seriously–the attitude of some of the non-regulars around here is not conducive to a discussion between Evangelicals and Mormons.

    Also, I’m tired of then wanting to defend Mormonism, because I am not one.

    I comfort myself, however, by knowing that maybe I am just looking for excuses to show my dedication to the italics cult by quoting other people.

  75. ” Philippians 3:20-21 ~ But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”

    Do Evangelicals believe that you will have a body in Heaven, or that Jesus will have a body?

  76. Todd: Check this out: http://www.bible.ca/d-Jesus-body-now.htm

    I have spoken with many evangelicals who deny that Christ retains a physical body or that he retains the same resurrected body that he was raised with. I have spoken with many evangelicals who deny that his resurrected body was physical in any sense but was merely a spiritual body even in resurrection. However, this latter position is much more common among liberal protestants and Anglicans. In effect, they are like the gnostics who denied also physical resurrection.

  77. I have heard that too, I would ask many evangelicals that question as a missionary and get a variety of answers. The most common one is that Jesus only had a body for a while to show that he was really resurrected but he doesn’t hang out in his body normally.

    I think its pretty confusing to believe Jesus is God, God is not embodied, but Jesus is embodied so I can imagine a lot of diverse views on the subject.

    I generally hear that the evangelical heaven is a spiritual place where we have left our bodies behind.

    This may not be “official” doctrine but a lot of people seem to believe in the 100% spiritual idea more than the body idea. This is often a point where they criticize Mormons, i.e. for believing that God has a body. If Jesus has a body, doesn’t God have a body, even if only through Jesus?

  78. Of course, its all that is said about the afterlife is pretty confusing since we don’t have any real point of reference as to what it will be like. It seems that most of what is said doesn’t have a lot of meaning.

    What is the difference between glorified flesh and spirit in down-to-earth terms? Since we cannot really tell I would argue that debating what we will be is a bit nonsensical.

    Thank goodness Mormons don’t worry too much about getting the language and doctrine precisely correct. . .

  79. When I was a sophomore at BYU, I went to a fireside at which Merrill J. Bateman was speaking. At some point in his talk, he was discussing the importance of the LDS belief in Christ having a resurrected body and he said something like, “The rest of the Christian world doesn’t believe that. They think he threw it away!” My jaw kind of dropped. That was the first I’d heard of other Christians not believing Christ has a body now, and I thought it was poor form for him imply that we all believed that and use other Christians as an example like that, though as interfaith put-downs go it was mild. I’ve attended Nazarene, Presbyterian, Assembly of God and NewFrontiers as church homes over the years and I’ve only ever heard it taught that He has a body now. I think that’s a clearly biblical doctrine.

    Apparently there are other Christians, evangelicals even, who think otherwise, but I’m not sure what the majority think. I’ve only heard it the one way.

    Blake ~ I think glorification is the end result of sanctification. Then again, Protestants do differ on sanctification. Some mash it in with justification, and then there’s entire sanctification/perfection which I’ve never been a big fan of.

  80. I think you’ll find a difference between what many evangelicals are taught or what they “officially” believe and what the typical person in the pew believes. (The same can be true of Mormons, so this isn’t a putdown.) I have found very few evangelicals other than those who have studied theology who don’t give a modalistic explanation of the Trinity, for example, even though that view is as heretical to orthodox Christianity as the LDS view is.

    Most evangelicals I’ve talked to do believe that Jesus has a body. After all, he ascended in bodily form and will return that way, so it only makes sense that he has one now. Whether he will have one for eternity is another matter.

    As far as whether people will have bodies in heaven, I’ve heard mixed answers. Many evangelicals tend to believe that we’ll be bodiless spiritual beings in heaven. But I don’t believe that’s what most evangelicals believe in an official sense. I have heard a fair number of pastors talking about us having perfected bodies in heaven, and my guess is that’s the most common belief that’s officially taught in that regard.

  81. Is there such a thing as “official” Evangelical belief? I mean, there’s not an authoritative hierarchy that says what Evangelical doctrine is or anything.. I was under the impression that there was more like a consensus on some core theological issues and a conventional approach to the rest.

    I think one of Mormons’ biggest failures in engaging in dialogue with other Christians is that Mormons have a hard time understanding that other Christians don’t think of themselves and their religion in the same terms as Mormons do.

  82. It depends on what you mean by “official.” Most denominations have a fairly thorough statement of faith. Just as a semi-random example, here is the statement of the Assemblies of God. It doesn’t answer all questions, but quite a few, and certainly a lot more than the LDS Articles of Faith. And I have no doubt that you’d find consensus within the denomination on many issues that aren’t specified there.

    It also seems clear to me that there’s a consensus among evangelical leaders about what is acceptable to believe and still be considered an evangelical. There are essential beliefs (the Bible is the Word of God, God exists in three Persons and so on) and others that aren’t considered essential (such as whether the Earth was created in seven literal days). There are some pretty clear lines that separate evangelicals from mainline Protestants, even if they aren’t officially official.

  83. Most members of other churches I have met are like average Mormons, not really sharp on all of the fine points of theology and leave that up to somebody up higher, the pastor, the elders, etc. They might give their opinion but would defer to the biblical scholar in their church.

    Mormons are the same way, but they think in terms of priesthood rather than scholarship.

    There seems to be a much more “official” and stringent orthodoxy amongst evangelicals and protestants on some issues than you find in Mormonism. But that is just my impression.

  84. “Evangelical doctrine” is really only limited by the arguments you can make from the Bible and what the evangelical community will accept. There are affiliations like the National Association of Evangelicals, but it’s nothing like the hierarchy in Mormonism. Some form of belief in Bible inerrancy, the five Protestant solas, the resurrection, the Trinity, celebration of the Lord’s supper and emphasis on evangelism are all pretty much required.

    These are some of the major accepted but opposing schools of thought within evangelical Christianity:

    Calvinism v. Arminianism v. Open Theism (on the edge of orthodoxy)
    Annihilationism v. Eternal Torment in Hell
    Paedobaptism v. Believer’s Baptism
    Complementarianism v. Egalitarianism
    Charismatic v. Cessationism

    Eschatology and protology have lots of options, but they’re considered the least essential. I don’t even know my own protology or eschatology yet, and I’m not a hasty buyer.

    As I see it there’s pros and cons to both the evangelical system and the LDS one. I like the freedom and choice of style I get in evangelical Christianity, but I’m a little envious of the level of organization and the ritual in Mormonism.

  85. I like the freedom and choice of style I get in evangelical Christianity, but I’m a little envious of the level of organization and the ritual in Mormonism.

    I don’t know, I guess the grass is always greener. As a Mormon, I like the organization, but feel stifled by it sometimes and often long for a little bit more freedom.

  86. I know. There are attractive things about both, but it’s hard to have both.

    Some days, I get really tired of there being, like, 5 different types of baptism throughout evangelical Christianity. Baptism is one of the things I really wish we would agree on. I genuinely like that the LDS church has one way of doing it that they do for everybody.

    But there’s lots of things I would find stifling about Mormonism.

    We should start a church, Katie. You and me.

  87. “I think one of _____(a) biggest failures in engaging in dialogue with other _____(b) is that _______(a) have a hard time understanding that other ______(b) don’t think of themselves and their religion in the same terms as ______(a) do.” Fixed.

    “I like the freedom and choice of style I get in evangelical Christianity,” I assume you mean the freedom of choice regarding mode of worship and not choice of what to believe. I really don’t know how constraining Evangelical churches are on their members’ beliefs, but I think it’s pretty clear that Mormons are all over the place.

    Another question: without getting too particular, could you say whether basically every combination of the opposing schools of thought exist within Evangelical Christianity? You list 5 categories with 2 (or 3) schools in each; does that mean I could find 48 (3*2^4) different combinations, or do, for example, all Calvinists perform paedobaptism and favor cessationism?

  88. Brian ~ I think that freedom of choice in evangelical Christianity is more than worship style. If you don’t like infant baptism, you can go to a believer’s baptism church. If you think spiritual gifts should be practiced, you can go to a charismatic church. If you think women should be ordained, you can go to an egalitarian church.

    There’s a lot of freedom of thought on those issues in Mormonism, but in the end everyone practices the same. You’re free to privately think women should hold the priesthood, but it’s not like there’s a Mormon church in another neighborhood you can go to where they do, and you’d probably get in trouble for doing a Sunday School lesson on why they should be ordained. You’re free to wish the church were more regularly practicing tongues, but there isn’t an LDS ward somewhere that does. Well, I’ve heard a handful of personal accounts of it happening in more private settings, but I’ve never seen it.

    I get why Mormons would have a hard time appreciating the diversity of practice and belief within evangelical Christianity. I think it’s the fact that LDS practices are all the same that confuses us when we encounter so many different beliefs behind them.

    There are some trends that do tend to go together in evangelical Christianity, but no guarantees. Calvinists do tend to be paedobaptists and cessationists, but that isn’t always the case. Reformed Baptists are Calvinists and usually cessationists but support believer’s baptism, for example. There’s no way of knowing, it really does vary from denomination to denomination.

    It’s a messy system, but what can I say. I’m just not satisfied with what any of the big authority churches are selling.

  89. Jack, done. We’ll start our own church where we get to believe whatever the heck we want and people come from miles around just to bask in our inherent awesomeness. Maybe we could even get a TV gig healing people or something. ;)

    Brian, I think it’s pretty clear that Mormons are all over the place.

    I think you’re right, there is a lot of diversity in beliefs…but I never, EVER knew this until I found the bloggernacle. Given that we’re all counseled to act basically the same (even our physical appearance is in some respects sort of “regulated”) and practice our religion basically the same, our diversity is, I think, is the best-kept secret in Mormonism. Even to Mormons.

    Case in point: I once tried to make this point to a fellow Mo on the Salt Lake Tribune website (NOTE: my one and only time trying to engage someone there; total waste of time) and he got all up in my face saying stuff like: “We are all uniform in our beliefs, and any deviation you have in your beliefs from the truth as it comes from Salt Lake is apostasy.”

    Obviously this is just one guy’s opinion (proving, perhaps, MY point?), but I do think his general sentiment is common. It is my impression that while diversity certainly exists, it is actually frowned upon, at least in the mainstream, modern Church.

  90. The problem in the LDS church is not that highly rigid and orthodox believers exist. The problem is that they are allowed to hog the pulpit.

  91. I think you’re right, there is a lot of diversity in beliefs…but I never, EVER knew this until I found the bloggernacle.

    Even so, most bloggernacclers end up acting the same as everyone else at church or just end up remaining silent, thus giving tacit approval of what is said and done at church. The bottom line is that for all of the diversity of belief out there among Mormons (and it does exist) it makes absolutely no difference in word or deed in any official church capacity whatsoever. For all of the smack that the bloggernacclers talk, there are not half a dozen of them with the gonads to come out and consistently and loudly proclaim what they really think. And if that’s not conformity, I don’t know what is.

    And for all of those people who always pop up and say things like, “Well my ward is different!,” just ask yourself what would happen if an Elder’s Quorum President gave a full lesson on why Prop 8 was stupid? Or what would happen if the Bishop decided to give all Fast Offerings to starving 3rd world children via a reputable charity? Even your supposedly “liberal thinking” ward would suddenly be exposed as only superficially non-confirmist.

    End Rant.

  92. Seth, The problem is that they are allowed to hog the pulpit. Well, yes. And then there’s that.

    David, The bottom line is that for all of the diversity of belief out there among Mormons (and it does exist) it makes absolutely no difference in word or deed in any official church capacity whatsoever.

    Yeah, and then there’s that, too.

    Sometimes I feel like speaking up about a difference in opinion, but I usually refrain (9.65 times out of 10) because I’m pretty sure the social capital I’ll lose really isn’t worth it. I mean, they’ve already relegated me to the nursery. I’m terrified to discover what might come next!! *dun dun dun* ;)

  93. on the “iron-rodders” in the church. I like the way my Grandfather put it:

    “Its your Church as much as anybody else’s, don’t let anybody push you around. ”

    (I don’t let anybody push me around in the nursery)

  94. Katie ~ I’m stuck in the nursery at my church, too. This Sunday I had resolved that I was going to drop back my volunteer time to once every two months instead of monthly because hey, my kid’s only there 2 weeks out of the month anyways. But then the nursery coordinator came up to me and mentioned suggestively that she had put up the sign-ups for the next three months, and that we’d barely had enough people sign up to cover the last three months, and, and… sigh.

    My resolve broke. I signed up for three more months.

    When I move in August, I’m finding a much bigger church. One that lets women be deacons and elders and co-ed Sunday school teachers.

    Jared ~ Jack-Mormons?

    I admit it, this made me chuckle. I’m so easy.

  95. Jack: That answers my questions nicely. (I worded it poorly, but it was really an orthopraxy/doxy question.)

    All: I never knew heterodoxy existed in my church until I left Utah Valley; I’ve noticed it in every ward I’ve been in since. And yes, David Clark, I think to an extent you are right, but only so far. I don’t try to force my beliefs on anyone—at church or on blogs—but I don’t sit quietly in the back corner either (which would be especially hard at times, given my particular callings).

  96. Cub Scouts.

    My husband was in cub scouts two wards ago. He was the worst cub scout leader in the history of the world. He forgot activities 70% of the time, and then mothers would call him, angry. Some of them were scary. Very scary.

    Re: nursery. I’ve always thought God accidentally forgot about me when He was passing out those inherent nurturing skills we women are all supposed to have. I have a hard time getting all shades of excited over other people’s kids.

    Jack, at least you’re racking up brownie points with God for volunteering. I go with a constant grumble, and certainly He’s not too pleased with that.

    BRILLIANT IDEA: In our church, can we make it a rule that only guys can serve in the nursery?

  97. I’m afraid what Seth says is true. At my church I’m pretty sure we only let male workers serve in our nursery if there are female workers present.

    Why did you men have to be such perverts?

    Of course, the funny part is that me and Katie are total perverts and people are still okay with us handling their kids…

  98. Of course, the funny part is that me and Katie are total perverts and people are still okay with us handling their kids…

    Well, Jack, I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that most of the members of my ward haven’t got the slightest inkling of what’s going on inside this twisted little head of mine.

    MWAHAHAHAHAHA!

    (Wait a minute. Maybe if I let on, they’ll release me. Now THERE’S a brilliant idea!)

  99. I volunteered in the Nursery in our new ward for the first 6 months. It was a weird way to get to know the ward—through their kids. I still can’t remember many people’s names except as “Anna’s mom” or “Ben’s dad.”

    Maybe it’s because I have all daughters, but the boys in the Nursery drive me crAzY!! When they’re happy I’m fine, but when they start crying I just have no clue what they want—no clue at all—and frankly, I think they cry waaaay more than the girls.

    Katie: Hate to break it to you, but for the last two years I’ve been publishing a newsletter in your ward detailing the thoughts that go on inside your head. How do I them? Wikipedia.

  100. Jack, LOL. That article about sums it up.

    Brian, I knew the funny looks I’ve been getting at church went way beyond tacit disapproval for my choice of outfit that day…

  101. They’re boys, Brian. They want to pull some hair, climb trees and play in the mud.

    Just kidding, I wouldn’t know what 2-year-old boys want. I don’t even know what 27-year-old boys want.

  102. Wow….

    As I just found this blog ten days ago or so (thanks Jared C and Seth R), I’m still catching up.

    Couple of comments (if I may)

    1) Thank you ! All of you ! I’ve gotten a good dose of humility this morning by reading this.. I needed it.

    2) I think I owe Jared and Seth an apology… on the other blog I obviously came across quite strong. I apologize for that.

    3) As an ex-RC from Europe, I’m still growing in my intellectual / theological understanding of my new-found faith in Christ. So I’m not as well versed / studied as most of you here. So please feel free to correct me at any time.

    I do think open theism has a bit of a problem since it does place God within the boundaries of time. There’s enough in Psalms to contradict that (I’ll look up some verses if needed). So I can’t really accept open theism

    I don’t think Armenianism is necessarily fake as Seth put it on 03/12.
    You can have an absolute assurance of heaven, but only at the expense of any notion of human freedom that isn’t rather “fake” (like Arminian Evangelical attempts to keep free will in the mix).

    I’ve seen enough people that were “Saved” (I like justified better frankly), very active in the Church, in leadership roles, and then walk away. (Bart Ehrman anyone ??) I think there is a choice, in that justification is a gift from God. How does this then rhyme with God’s omniscience ? Dunno… I’ll be the first to admit.

    Finally, I heard “theosis” compared to the protestant notion of “Sanctification”. Would it be more correct to relate it to the concept of “Glorification” ? I understand theosis to happen after death, not during this life. Sanctification is, from what I understand, the process that we go through here on earth as the Spirit indwells us, but we will never be fully perfect through that process. It won’t be until we are glorified after the resurrection. Am I making any sense on that ?

    So I don’t think that the concept of “theosis” (although I do agree with Blake that it’s mainly Eastern) is necessarily that foreign for evangelicals. (Which I’m still not implying I am.. I’ll reply under Jack’s other question on Tradition and Authority) on that one.

    Thanks for the corrections and help in my growth.

    In Him
    Mick

  103. Mick ~ Welcome to the blog! Can’t wait to read your reply on my Tradition & Authority thread and find out more about you. Tim went on hiatus a few weeks ago, so it’s been me all alone with all these Mormons for a while, with occasional comments from my lovely mainline Protestant friend Whitney and my agnostic ex-roommate Laura. And you’ll notice that Kullervo and katyjane are ex-Mormon.

    My point being, whatever you are the diversity will be nice.

    Yes, it may be more correct to say glorification is closer to deification than sanctification, but in my mind glorification is just the end result of sanctification. They’re really the same thing; one is happening in this life and one takes place in the next.

    Of course, what about the Holiness/Christian Perfection movement? I don’t think there are very many proponents of that school of thought today, but I think their form of sanctification is especially close to deification.

  104. I shared your most excellent Blog post over on CARM and they all think you’re a Mormon in cognito. :HUH:

    Theres a HUGE wall to be over come in th EV camp.

  105. Wow, they seem like a really fun bunch over their at CARM.

    Maybe we should have a contest here to determine the REAL Christians from poser Evangelicals.

    As a condemned heretic, I only want to discuss these issues with members of the True flock.

  106. I read those discussions over there and I feel like I’m in an alternate universe of something.

  107. Lanny (my hubby) spent a couple weeks dialoguing with people on CARM about three years ago. I asked him about it just now and he said, “Oh yeah. They’re idiots.”

  108. Wow. Jack that was a great post. Honestly, if you didn’t use a template for “how to write an excellent blog post” you just created one.

    I successfully made it through all of the comments and I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of this web site I created. What shames me is that I had nothing to do with the topic or the discussion. It was great to read as an outsider. As I left for my self-made spiritual discipline I told my wife that I was a little worried about people getting pwnd by Jack. Only a couple of references to l33t speak and contributions by Blake Ostler and Aquinas prove that my fear was unfounded.

    I could tell that people got frustrated with Aaron (ahem SR), but I think his comments were in line and salient. I think if he had posted under a different name there would have been less hostility.

    To the point of the OP:
    I get frustrated when Mormons point to Theosis and say “see Christianity does teach it”. It’s a bait and switch with Mormon Exaltation.

    Likewise I agree that Evangelicals should not fear Theosis. Just because Mormons try to justify their beliefs by presenting a knock-off is no reason to reject the real McCoy. If theosis is sanctification toward glorification I’m on board.

    I am however not sure what to do about all the positive references to Open Theism. :) Please Jack, I am at least trying to be orthodox even if you don’t think it so.

    I LOVE that Jack quoted from a Church Manual bought at Temple Square and people were still willing to say “that’s not what we teach”. Good Lord, the jello just got a little more difficult to nail to the wall. (and as Kullervo will point out, that’s what keeps the jello alive)

  109. /blush

    Well, thanks Tim. I did feel like this post was better than my usual dreck as I was writing it.

    The way evangelicals treat this issue is so frustrating to me. The ESV Study Bible article on Mormonism written by Ron Rhodes was awful all around, but the exaltation part said:

    Exaltation of humans. Mormons believe that humans, like God the Father, can go through a process of exaltation to godhood. But the Bible teaches that the yearning to be godlike led to the fall of mankind (Gen. 3:4ff.). God does not look kindly on humans who pretend to attain to deity (Acts 12:21–23; contrast Acts 14:11–15). God desires humans to humbly recognize that they are his creatures (Gen. 2:7; 5:2; Ps. 95:6–7; 100:3). The state of the redeemed in eternity will be one of glorious immortality, but they will forever remain God’s creatures, adopted as his children (Rom. 8:14–30; 1 Cor. 15:42–57; Rev. 21:3–7). Believers will never become gods.

    Honestly! It’s as if Owen and Mosser’s 1997 paper never happened. Our leaders have their fingers in their ears and our preparation for engaging Mormons on this topic totally sucks.

    Sorry for pointing Seth toward official open theism, but he’s tried to help me with my theological questions even when he disagrees with me, so I see no reason why I shouldn’t return the favor. My Arminianism may be deformed, but I don’t see myself ever embracing open theism. I probably will always feel at least neutral about it.

    I was really surprised when Blake showed up here; he’s never commented here before and I certainly did not think I’d be engaging LDS heavyweights when I wrote this. God knows I’m not ready for that. But yeah, he and Aquinas are perfectly capable of pwning me.

    Several of our regulars are probably capable of pwning me, but I think they hold back ‘cuz they kind of like me…

  110. I’m very late to the conversation too, but I’ve enjoyed the post and the comments very much.

    Jack, I’ve got just a simple question. If some (like you) believe that Christ still has a body, and that Christ is God, why can’t traditional Christians just admit that God has a body?

  111. Clean Cut ~ It’s a nuanced discussion that most Christians aren’t aware of. But I will admit it. God has a body. But the Father and the Holy Spirit do not have bodies. Jesus is the only person in the Trinity with a CLbody.

    Happy to oblige. I’ll do my part to spread the word with other Christians, but it won’t help LDS and Christians to get any closer on the nature of God debate between us.

  112. “I’ll do my part to spread the word with other Christians, but it won’t help LDS and Christians to get any closer on the nature of God debate between us.”

    That’s completely understandable, Tim. But at least I can see some rationality here. However, help me out and explain to me how I should understand that a physical, created, yet resurrected body applies to just one of the three divine persons, if those three persons are one being/substance/ousia.

  113. NOW that’s a good question about the Trinity! I’m going to answer in a way that gives the orthodox answer in layman’s terms. I’m going to skip over some of the logical steps to get there just to answer your question as succinctly as possible.

    Part of the confusion that arises in discussions about the Trinity is over the similarities between the words “person” and “body”. It’s also over the confusion over the words “God” and “person”. In our every day lives we use these words interchangeably and that causes some confusion when speaking about the Trinity.

    In a very technical and theological sense, God is not a person. God happens to be made up of three persons. Each of those persons can be referred to as God (thus the use of the word “God” in a personable way). But God as a “substance” is not a person.

    In regards to the Son’s body, its appropriate to say that he owns his body but not that he IS his body.

    Body A and Body B can not be the same body. Multiple physical bodies can not be the same in essence as one another. So because the three persons of the Trinity share the same essence, there can be no more than one body among them.

    There are three ways we come to knowledge. Authority, reason and experience. This answer was derived by taking what we know about God from the Bible and building upon it with reason. I have to point to the laws of logic to say “why” for much of our understanding at this level rather than a specific Bible verse. If the First Vision account is authentic scripture and it contradicts the logical conclusions we have come to about the Trinity, we should take its’ word for it over logic’s.

    It should be noted, I don’t not have theological or philosophical training (as if that’s not obvious). So in all likelihood, I butchered this explanation. If need be, I can get some one with the technical knowledge to precisely explain it. It’s probably already on the internets somewhere.

  114. Tim, I’ll take as many explanations as I can get. I’m not one to stop prematurely in my thinking. :) I found it interesting that we can both agree that at least the logic of the Trinity is ex-biblical.

    Now, I think I followed your explanation that one body cannot be shared by three persons. And that makes sense. Obviously, as a Latter-day Saint, I agree with that. But according to Trinitarian belief, what exactly does the ousia of three persons and one body look like? I hate the image that keeps popping into my head of a three headed Cerberus, and I know that’s obviously not representative of true Trinitarian doctrine. (And it would surly be offensive, as well as untrue, for me to suggest that it was). So, without saying “it’s incomprehensible” or “God’s ways are higher than our ways”–is there any way to explain what this would look like so I can understand this more practically?

  115. Okay, fine. I can’t “look” at it. But how should I “conceptualize” it in my mind?

    On a side note, I’d be curious how many traditional Christians would concede, as Tim, that “God has a body.” Maybe I should hit the streets, a la Aaron S., and make a similar film, but with a different title: “God has a body”. Then I’d get to see better how many Christians would say yes or no, agree or disagree, on such a “core” issue.

  116. A better question would be “Does Jesus have a body?” and perhaps that is your beef with Aaron, the questions aren’t posed accurately.

    I’ll get back to you on your other questions. It will take lengthy response and I don’t have time at the moment.

  117. “In regards to the Son’s body, its appropriate to say that he owns his body but not that he IS his body.”

    Tim, the same thing would be accurate if said about me.

  118. As long as you are entertaining crafty Trinity questions, here are a couple:

    Is having a body an essential part of being Jesus?

    Is having a Jesus in your substance an essential part of being God?

  119. Tim: The problem I’m having with your trinity answer is a bit more basic. “Substance” and “essence” range over a wide semantic field of meanings. For example, in Aristotle’s though an embodied person just is a substance — and two embodied person would be two substances. An embodied person and one essentially incorporeal would not merely be two substances, but two completely different kinds of things.

    What do you mean by “substance”? An essence usually means merely that there are properties of a kind K that are shared in common by members of the same kind that are essential to belong to the kind K. In this sense, an essence is just having those properties definitive of belonging to a natural kind. However, you clearly couldn’t mean that kind of “essence,” since I share the same essence of living things with my dog and the same essence of humanity with you. What do you mean by essence?

    If the Son was embodied, could the Father also become embodied if he so desired (even tho you claim he hasn’t)?

    You say: “Each of those persons can be referred to as God”

    How is that different than there being three gods? Each is (a) god, there are three of them, ergo, there are three gods.

    Clean Cut: Evangelicals William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland use precisely the analogy to Cerberus to explain the meaning of three persons/one God in their view of the Trinity. Their view doesn’t work very well in my view, but they definitely think it is the best analogy.

  120. “Evangelicals William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland use precisely the analogy to Cerberus to explain the meaning of three persons/one God in their view of the Trinity.”

    Wow. Who would have thought. That’s kind of scary. (Wouldn’t all three “persons” then share the same body?)

  121. Cerberus beats the hell out of the three leaf clover analogy .

    My point is, that if Jesus is God, what else is he but the embodied Man who hung out on earth. Without the body he seems to merge into the father.

    If the Word was in the beginning with God and Was God, and then became flesh, it seems in a Trinitarian sense like the Word as Jesus is really the thing that became flesh that came from within God.

    There are just a lot of ways to read that passage. . . guess we have to take a vote on who is right.

  122. Clean Cut said:
    But according to Trinitarian belief, what exactly does the ousia of three persons and one body look like?. . . –is there any way to explain what this would look like so I can understand this more practically?

    First off I want to point you to two resources that you may have already seen, if so, they are for the benefit of the audience.

    First is this diagram. This is the best we can draw up what the Trinity looks like.

    Second is this lecture that I posted previously. THREE GOOD QUESTIONS ABOUT THE TRINITY It’s by an actual expert on the Trinity.

    I want to clarify a little bit about the doctrine of the Trinity being extra-biblical. Reason was used to answer the question “Given what the Bible says about God, what can we deduce about the nature of God.” So it’s not as if some philosophers sat in a room and pondered some deep thoughts and then took a vote on it. The starting point was what does the Bible say about who and what God is. The baseline was 1)that there is one God 2)the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are all separate 3) the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are all called God

    So given those three things, after a great deal of hard thinking to find a logical solution, the answer is that “God is a Trinity”. It’s much easier to say that there are multiple Gods or that Modalism is the answer or a number of other things, but those either contradict scripture or don’t add up logically. The Trinity, very precisely defined, is not illogical. It’s a very rigorous logical solution. It may be wrong, but it is not illogical.

    To answer your question “how does it work?” or “what does it look like?” I don’t know that we have enough information to go off of. I’m not trying to cop out with ‘his ways are higher.’ But reason can’t tell us how my marriage works or what it looks like much less the inner workings of the Trinity. So all we are left with to get that information is authority (scripture) or experience. The Bible doesn’t say much about it and we haven’t met God face to face yet so I would be merely speculating to say much more.

    This is really no different than asking a Mormon to tell me more about Heavenly Mother and how she and Heavenly Father created us. There’s not enough information to say one way or the other. Sometimes all we can say is “I don’t know but I’ll explain what I can as best as I can.”

    Seth ~ I agree, the same is true of me too. I don’t know if the Pratts would have agreed with either of us.

    Blake ~ Like I said, I’m giving a non-technical explanation in layman’s terms. If you would like to be personally connected to Fred Sanders or anyone else at Biola’s Philosophy program I’d be happy to set that up for you. I’m sure you would have a wonderful time talking with them and they’d actually know what the h*ll you’re talking about. Me – my brain muscles are too weak and too uneducated to give you a satisfactory or accurate answer.

    If the Son was embodied, could the Father also become embodied if he so desired (even tho you claim he hasn’t)?

    I believe the Father could not become embodied if the Son is already embodied. He couldn’t do this any more than he could create a square circle (or a universe without a beginning :) )

    You say: “Each of those persons can be referred to as God”

    How is that different than there being three gods? Each is (a) god, there are three of them, ergo, there are three gods.

    Yep. It is no different. But then you’ve got polytheism rather than monotheism (and Kullervo is now happy because someone has mentioned a word that can be associated with Roman Paganism)

    As far as Cerberus, I’ve never heard anyone use that as an analogy, but I don’t doubt you’ve heard it. I suppose it’s not that bad as long as you don’t claim they share one body and you take away the sharp teeth and scary tail.

    I was thinking of making an example of these siamese twins. They don’t actually share one body, but they have two halves of a body that work together as one. This breaks down for a number of reasons.

    I was also thinking of naming the LDS First Presidency as an example. They are all referred to as “President” but they are all individual persons. I think that example looks more like Social Trinitarianism though.

    Jared ~ What were the results of that vote? More of a confirmation than a vote if you listen to anyone other than Dan Brown.

  123. Cerberus is much better than a person with schizophrenia and a collection of three fine hats.

    Seriously. He will eat you.

  124. Tim: Thank you for your patient answers. I am still way confused though. For example, you say: “So it’s not as if some philosophers sat in a room and pondered some deep thoughts and then took a vote on it.”

    Well, yes it is. That is exactly what they did at Nicea. They had other options — like the Arian option that Christ, as Son of God, was truly begotten at some point. That also was part of the biblical teaching. Why did they reject it? In part, the solution was political. In part, it was a concern for a mistaken view of monotheism. In part, it was a concern that Jesus has to be God in every sense that the Father is. However, it wasn’t simply about biblical exegesis as Evs almost always claim. However, there was also an attempt to account for the biblical data.

    Moreover, how do you reconcile the “it wasn’t philosophy” line with this: “So given those three things, after a great deal of hard thinking to find a logical solution, the answer is that “God is a Trinity”.” It was a “logical” deduction — that just is a philosophical conclusion.

    Further, I suggest that it isn’t logical at all. Consider:

    (1) There is exactly one God of one substance.
    (2) The Father is God.
    (3) The Son is God.
    (4) The Father is not identical to the Son.

    The Trinity entails each of these proposition — yet, acceptance of any three of them logically entails denial of the fourth. In fact, acceptance of any 3 of these propositions leads to a well worn heresy. The Trinity is a deeply incoherent view. If it were clearly logical, as you assert, then the oceans of ink spilled explaining how it could possibly make sense would not be necessary.

    You also say: “This is really no different than asking a Mormon to tell me more about Heavenly Mother and how she and Heavenly Father created us.”

    Actually, I believe that it is very different. No one has ever claimed that you aren’t Christian because you don’t understand such things and can’t logically parse these ideas correctly. No one claims that you aren’t saved because u can’t properly elucidate these views. I could give you scores of Evs who say precisely that about the Trinity. Such demands are nonsense (literally).

    I appreciate you answering my questions forthrightly. I cannot even begin to tell you how refreshing that is — and how rare among Evs on the net. May I push you a little on them?

    You say: “I believe the Father could not become embodied if the Son is already embodied. He couldn’t do this any more than he could create a square circle (or a universe without a beginning).”

    I agree that God can’t square a circle or create the uncreated. But what has that got to do with the Father becoming embodied? The former assertions are simply contradictions in first order logic. The assertion: “the Father took upon himself a body” isn’t any kind of contradiction — at least not without further commitment being spelled out like — “the Father is essential noncorporeal”.

    Moreover, why couldn’t both the Father and Son be embodied at the same time? After all, you and I are. Further, if the Father cannot be embodied but the Son can be, isn’t that the strongest possible assertion that the Father and the Son are completely different kinds of beings? That would certainly violate the intent of Nicea that sought to preserve the view that everything the Father is in terms of essential deity, so is the Son. It would be difficult to come up with a more fundamental heresy among traditional theologians.

    I agree that the First Presidency analogy entails something like social Trinitarianism. Is there something wrong with social trinitarianism? It is clearly the view of the Trinity favored by the Orthodox.

    For the Cerberus analogy, look at Craig and Moreland’s book entitled Philosophical Foundations For a Christian Worldview. They use it at Biola. I have critiqued it at length in my 3rd vol.

  125. Well, the Council of Nicea gets none, they are all dead, and were generally ignorant… they still thought the universe revolved around the earth.

  126. Jared, I will be a doctor of law in t-minus one year. I will happily prescribe you my favorite brand of wheat beer. Delicious and nutritious!

  127. Something I’ve been wondering…

    How can the Trinity be a core doctrine for Christian discipleship if it is so incomprehensible that no one can really talk about it? If it is humanly inconceivable, then I’d submit, it cannot be worshiped.

    Heavenly Mother is different. She cannot be comprehended. But she is conceivable.

    What I mean by this is that Mother is simply a matter of lack of information. But when we have that information, it WILL make human sense. And right now, I can imagine any number of perfectly possible ways in which she fits into the divine equation.

    You cannot say the same of the Trinity. No matter how much information we get on that subject, it will never make sense. This is because it’s self-contradictory. It denies exactly the same proposition it affirms.

    We just don’t have any ground to stand on when building a foundation for belief in this area. Sure, God is beyond human understanding. But that doesn’t mean our interface with him can make absolutely no sense and still leave us with a worship life that means anything at all.

  128. Blake, when I mentioned philosophers sitting in room pondering the Trinity, what I meant was that they didn’t come up with the doctrine ex nihilo with nothing but the logic at their disposal. I was trying to indicate that they were first looking at what the Bible had to say about God. Sorry for the confusion.

    Also, you took my words about not understanding Heavenly Mother and misapplied them to the unorthodox rejection of the Trinity. I was not comparing Heavenly Mother to the doctrine of the Trinity. I was comparing Heavenly Mother to a concrete understanding on HOW the Trinity works. There is no test for heresy on that. You compared two different things. A better comparison would be the Trinity as compared to Heavenly Father having a physical body. Rejection of those would be outside the foundational beliefs of our respective faiths.

    I would like to answer your other questions, but it’s late so I’ll get back to you tomorrow.

  129. Tim, Mormons don’t believe in an “Unmoved Mover” who conjured the universe out of nothing.

    So the idea of a God with a body really isn’t much of a logical contradiction for us.

    Move the goalposts back to an uncreated universe and we’ll be talking about a real issue here.

  130. Tim,

    The main problem with the Trinity for me is not that it is not supported by the Bible, but that it is not the ONLY position supported by the bible AND that it ends up being an unfathomable mystery.

    It seems to be more like a philosophical compromise that turned into a dogma than anything that Jesus really cared about.

    Therefore, the most important question seems to me to be, not whether the Trinity is coherent, or even close to accurate, but why it even matters if I get it right. Why should I care about getting these specifics right when Jesus himself is never recorded as making these things crystal clear? What is the biblical case for that? What is the practical case for that?

    Why should I spend one more minute trying to understand the Trinity or even evaluating the doctrine?

  131. Jared, I will be a doctor of law in t-minus one year. I will happily prescribe you my favorite brand of wheat beer. Delicious and nutritious!

    By happy coincidence, I am already a doctor of law.

    Jared, take two Karhus and call me in the morning.

  132. this from Clean Cut:
    However, help me out and explain to me how I should understand that a physical, created, yet resurrected body applies to just one of the three divine persons, if those three persons are one being/substance/ousia.

    and this from Jared:
    Therefore, the most important question seems to me to be, not whether the Trinity is coherent, or even close to accurate, but why it even matters if I get it right. Why should I care about getting these specifics right when Jesus himself is never recorded as making these things crystal clear? What is the biblical case for that? What is the practical case for that?

    are two of the best questions on the trinity that I’ve ever heard…..I’m seeking out someone with greater brainiac powers to fill the need. YOu guys make my head hurt.

    where’s Kullervo for my prescription ??

    GERMIT

  133. Therefore, the most important question seems to me to be, not whether the Trinity is coherent, or even close to accurate, but why it even matters if I get it right.

    YOU don’t have to get it right. I expect your church to get it right though because they have taken on the responsibility to “teach sound doctrine”.

    I don’t think the Trinity would be all that hard for Mormons to swallow if the current version of the First Vision weren’t canonized. Christians have been finding satisfaction with it for quite some time. It’s not like everyone goes to seminary and wrestles with it, they spend their time on much more petty things.

  134. Jared C. said:

    The main problem with the Trinity for me is not that it is not supported by the Bible, but that it is not the ONLY position supported by the bible …

    My viewpoint exactly.

    Tim said:

    I don’t think the Trinity would be all that hard for Mormons to swallow if the current version of the First Vision weren’t canonized.

    I’m not sure how the existence of two bodies rather than one makes the doctrine of the Trinity all that much more hard to swallow. To me, the existence of even one divine body (and, afaik, most of evangelicalism accepts that the Son has a body) makes the doctrine problematic. Or, at the least, I don’t see how the existence of two bodies makes the doctrine more problematic than one body would.

    Tim also said:

    Christians have been finding satisfaction with it [the traditional doctrine of the Trinity] for quite some time.

    My observation is that most Protestants don’t understand the doctrine of the Trinity, so I’m not sure what it means that they’re satisfied with it.

  135. Eric I’m speaking of Protestants who actually take the time to study out the doctrine. The overwhelming majority of seminary graduates are satisfied with it.

    Blake said:

    May I push you a little on them?

    You are ALWAYS more than welcome to push me on anything I say. Just understand what field you’re playing on, don’t expect me to represent Evangelicals the way Plantiga, Moreland or Craig can. If you’re really seeking an answer that you haven’t already heard, they will be a better resource for you. If you just want to bat me around and see what I understand, don’t be a bully (I’m not feeling you are being a bully at moment).

    Also, are you currently reading Dallas Willard’s latest, “Knowing Christ Today”? If not, then please don’t waste your time on my silly little blog. Go read THAT. You, of all Mormons should be digesting and critiquing what he has to say about epistemology.

    The Trinity entails each of these proposition — yet, acceptance of any three of them logically entails denial of the fourth.

    The acceptance of those three propositions only entails a denial of the fourth if you are saying that God is a person. The doctrine states that God is not a person, God is something that has 3 persons. (I’m sure I butchered that)

    If it were clearly logical, as you assert, then the oceans of ink spilled explaining how it could possibly make sense would not be necessary

    I never said the Trinity was CLEARLY logical. It is complex and not the least bit obvious. Similar to calculus. Oceans of ink has been spilled on calculus as well. Just because something is difficult to explain doesn’t make it illogical or untrue. You’ve spilled your own oceans of ink on Mormonism.

    The assertion: “the Father took upon himself a body” isn’t any kind of contradiction — at least not without further commitment being spelled out like — “the Father is essential noncorporeal”.

    I wasn’t saying that the Father couldn’t have taken on a body. I was saying that only one member of the Trinity could take on a body. It could have been the Holy Spirit or the Father. I don’t know of any reason why only the Son could have done it.

    Yes, you and I both have our own bodies. We are not of the same essence as one another. We are of a different essence of each other and of God. Only one body per essence.

    Is there something wrong with social trinitarianism?

    If the LDS church wants to declare that it now teaches and believes in social trinitarianism I will take it. I will also take a ban on abortion after the 12th week. I would say there is nothing wrong with either one of them. They just aren’t complete.

    Would you say that Social Trinitarianism is your understanding of what the LDS scriptures teach?

  136. Maybe, Tim, you could say what you mean by social trinitarianism.

    I would see what I believe as a form of social trinitarianism, but maybe it isn’t according to your definition.

    I, along with most evangelicals, also agree with the teaching of the Apostles’ Creed. But that doesn’t mean we don’t also disagree on some pretty important things.

  137. You are the reason the Nicean Creed was written. It doesn’t take much to get some one to agree with the Apostles Creed.

  138. “The overwhelming majority of seminary graduates are satisfied with it.”

    Puzzling. . . But wait, wouldn’t they be labeled as heretics, and non-christians if they became dissatisfied?

    I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised. Its true that the overwhelming majority of Mormon Bishops are satisfied that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that Jesus and God are not the same substance, go figure.

    The beautiful thing about the Trinity is ultimately you can simply stop thinking about it because it is a mystery by definition. The mystery was a necessary conclusion not because its not possible to know more about the relationship between God and Jesus, but because there was not enough in the Bible to create a dogma about it.

    I think traditional Christians object to the Mormon descriptions of God in part for the same reason they object to Snoop Dog lyrics, i.e. they use far too explicit language.

  139. I think traditional Christians object to the Mormon descriptions of God in part for the same reason they object to Snoop Dog lyrics, i.e. they use far too explicit language.

    well, yeah….and then there’s the underwear thing….

  140. right you are….sorry, my anti rthetoric spun (like cotton :-)
    ) out of control… we’ll have to wait on the mystery of GOD’s underwear

    GERMIT

  141. Hold on Germit- Mormons don’t describe God’s underwear. I suspect he doesn’t wear any.

    Take it as gospel.

  142. Not until there is a vote of all of the bishops, a papal encyclical, or a proclamation from the first presidency. Until then its a speculation.

    I am not stepping out on any limbs.

    Whether God wears underwear is certainly as important as whether he is of the same substance as the Holy Spirit.

    The implications are really far reaching.

  143. Tim: Thanks for your willingness to answer questions and engage them so forthrightly.

    You say: “The acceptance of those three propositions only entails a denial of the fourth if you are saying that God is a person. The doctrine states that God is not a person, God is something that has 3 persons. (I’m sure I butchered that)”

    Well, I agree that the Trinity isn’t a person. However, asserting that the one God Yahweh is not a person is contrary to the way that Yahweh presents himself throughout the OT. Further, this observation just doesn’t solve the problem. First, it misrepresents the one God as understood in Hebrew thought as being something different than a person. Second, you say there is just one God. Fine. But if the Father and the Son are both God and they are not identical, then there are at least 2 Gods since each is God. If you throw in the Holy Ghost we have 3 gods. If we throw in the Trinity as the really only true God, then we have 4 beings that are God and two very different ways of being God.

    If there is only one God (not a person) then it follows that the Father and the Son are not gods since there is only one and since the one God isn’t a person — and they are persons who are not identical to the one God. So we have two different kinds of beings — the one God which is not a person and others who are persons and therefore not gods. So we now have two different kinds of beings and two different ways of being God. Surely something is seriously amiss here.

    Tim: “I never said the Trinity was CLEARLY logical. It is complex and not the least bit obvious. Similar to calculus. Oceans of ink has been spilled on calculus as well. Just because something is difficult to explain doesn’t make it illogical or untrue. You’ve spilled your own oceans of ink on Mormonism.”

    I would say that the Mormon view is CLEARLY logically coherent. It is like saying that three persons belong to one family that loves each other so much they always agree with each other and share everything. That isn’t a difficult concept at all. Further, calculus isn’t difficult to show to be logically coherent — it is just that it applies to so many different applications and equations (an infinite number in fact). They really aren’t comparable to the Trinity which is at the every least of doubtful coherence and, in my view, rather demonstrably incoherent. (In fact, I think I just demonstrated it). It is also doubtful that anything like this view of the Trinity comes close to anything described in the pages of the biblical records.

    Tim: “Yes, you and I both have our own bodies. We are not of the same essence as one another. We are of a different essence of each other and of God. Only one body per essence.”

    I fail to see how what you say even remotely explains why only one divine person could have a body. Further, we actually do share an essence. We both share a human essence since we each have all of the properties essential to be human — but obviously we have at least two different bodies that share such a human essence. What is it about the divine essence that entails that only one divine person could be embodied? Surely it is not that they share the same essence.

    The only possible explanation for such a view that I can imagine is that the divine essence is such that it is exemplified by only one thing, one “person”, or one “being” and that one being is identical to only one divine person who is embodied and that divine person is identical to any other divine person. Ergo, there could only be one embodied person because there is in fact only one divine being which is embodied. But that would squarely contradict the view that the Father and the Son are not identical and appears to me to rather straightforwardly entail modalism. I’m sure that isn’t acceptable to you.

    Tim: “Would you say that Social Trinitarianism is your understanding of what the LDS scriptures teach?”

    Yes. However, there is one very critical difference between the LDS Social Trinity and those who hold that view in the tradition. For LDS the unity of indwelling love among the divine person is necessarily voluntary — it is by agreement. There love for each other is something that they freely choose. In the tradition, the union is an essential or necessary relation that they cannot fail to have and cannot freely choose. They must, of necessity, be one in union. In my view, that means that the divine persons as conceived in the tradition don’t really have other-love for each other since love cannot be coerced or simply necessary. Love must be freely chosen by its very nature. It follows, as I see it, that those in the tradition cannot really provide a description of indwelling love – what they describe is contrary to the nature of love. (The Latin trinity that doesn’t really admit of real distinctions or real relations between the divine persons is simply a form of modalism in my view — and modalism necessarily precludes other-love of the divine persons for one another).

    Let me add that I acknowledge you not a trained theologian or philosopher so to demand or expect that you give answers that are philosophically sophisticated is not fair. You can only explain your views given your best training and understanding. But I would add that the problem seems to be that only a philosopher could even begin to make sense of the Trinity. Surely even non-philosophers can be saved?

  144. Surely even non-philosophers can be saved?

    First and foremost this must be addressed. I’ve never heard ANYONE say that a person must give a philosophically and theologically rich definition of the Trinity to be saved. This is a distortion of the Evangelical view. You harm both of us to describe us this way.

    Don’t hold me to what Fred Phelps says and I won’t hold you to what Warren Jeffs says.

    The tradition of orthodox Christianity is to say that Christian doctrine declares God to be a Trinity. Teachers and institutions that wish to be orthodox must also define God as a Trinity. That is far different than saying a person must pass a theology exam to enter the Kingdom of God.

    As for the rest . . .I think you perfectly illustrate why definitions and words must be used precisely and consistently in this discussion. Your objections appear to come from switching back and forth between definitions of the words “God”, “person” and “substance”.

    Also I believe in terms of the Old Testament, the traditional understanding is that with the exception of a few instances, it is the Father that is interacting with the people of the Old Testament. So it is the person of God the Father.

    Have you not seen someone with philosophical training attempt to answer your questions?

  145. I think Tim’s point is valid, which is (loosely restated)

    If you want to be orthodox you have to be trinitarian but Evangelicals don’t believe that you have to have an orthodox understanding of the trinity to be saved.

    I think this seems to be a consistent position.

    However, I think Blake’s point, i.e. that the Trinity is essentially a philosophical construct is also pretty strong.

    It seems that although salvation may not rest on the backs of philosophers, this version of orthodoxy does, and that seems to call into question the real value of orthodoxy.

    If you have to rely on a philosopher to “bless” your view of God in order for you to worship the “real” God or rely on the “real” Jesus for salvation then its seems like a system that is a bit ridiculous. Seriously, do we trust philosophers on any other point?

    I can see how the Trinity could be used simply to enforce an artificial unity of belief, or rather, to shut down any sorts of questions about God that are engendered by the dearth of information we have about Him from the Bible. But other than that, why should some old traditional notion be the arbiter of whether we are “really” Christian.

    I dare say we would not adopt many other of the council of Nicea’s views on government, freedom, civil rights, law, etc. These are concepts that have been developed since the fourth century into robust and sophisticated concepts that have changed the world for the better.

    Why should a certain philosophical position on the nature of God be any different?

  146. Kullervo: I suspect that I bore you to tears because I raise issues that you would rather not deal with — or simply cannot deal with. Evs tell me that the Trinity is the most essential belief in their belief system and it is a dividing line between those who are and those who are not Christian — yet when we discuss and press the issue, suddenly it’s boring even with salvation on the line!

    But if you’re bored with this discussion, then may a suggest a good video game to keep you occupied?

    Tim: I’m delighted that you don’t believe a person has to be a philosopher to be saved. Does a person have to have a correct understanding of the Trinity to be saved?

    I ask this question because so many Evs make it a reason to reject Mormonism as properly Christian. Do you reject that view? I’m pretty sure that Todd doesn’t.

    See, here is what is confusing me. You say that a person must “define” God as a Trinity to be orthodox (or right-thinking within the scope of the permissible faith). Yet you deny that such definitions involve a “theologically rich definition.” Well, the term very non-biblical terms “substance” and “trinity” are inherently theologically and philosophically rich and complex. As you admit, the conclusion of the trinity as the proper “christian” view of God is a “logical deduction.” That just seems to me to require such philosophical precision.

  147. Hey Kullervo,

    I hope you enjoy being called out for being an obnoxious evangelical as much as I enjoy seeing it.

  148. I think everyone mistakes Kullervo for an evangelical because people used to think evangelicals were nice, like Ned Flanders. Then they met me and they realized that it’s possible to be an evangelical and a huge asshat. So now when Kullervo acts like a huge asshat, they think he’s an evangelical. Weird how that works, eh?

    But if you’re bored with this discussion, then may a suggest a good video game to keep you occupied?

    I recommend an oldie but goodie.

  149. Jack: Come on, get with the program. I suggest Dead Space. It is perfect for a bored person to meditate upon.

  150. Jack: I’m laughing so hard I’m crying. I keep seeing an ass in a hat and I’m just thinking it is even more conceptually difficult for me to grasp than the Trinity.

  151. Jared ~ Seriously, do we trust philosophers on any other point?

    Yeah, but Blake is both a philosopher and a lawyer, so… double ouch.

    Come on, get with the program. I suggest Dead Space. It is perfect for a bored person to meditate upon.

    Blake ~ Dead Space? You mean this Dead Space? (Warning: that’s a Yahtzee review, with Yahtzee language.)

    I’m more of a Saints Row 2 type, where I jack cars and shoot up gang members using avatars that look like Sarah Palin and Barack Obama.

  152. All you people who can actually afford the latest game consoles make me bitter. Playstation 2 is about as cutting edge as I get right now.

    For the record Blake, Kullervo is a former Mormon who toyed with C.S. Lewis for a while, went Anglican briefly, then kept making agnostic noises and we weren’t sure what he was going to do next, during this time, he generally griped and moaned a lot, and then finally became a pagan – where he seems to be somewhat happy for the moment.

    And he’s studying for the bar exam right now (supposedly). So that might be why he’s grumpy.

  153. Seth: Yeah, I know. I read the statement on his website quite some time ago and was quite amused because he came off like a confused zombie to me. Now he’s in love with Aphrodite. For the record, I read about Kullervo’s decision that he didn’t know what he once knew. I view that as kinda like once having had a relationship and finding out he really didn’t.

    I wrote what I did because I can see that Kullervo really would be bored by the Ev and LDS dialog over the validity of the Trinity.

    Kullervo — good luck on the bar. Law school was a heart numbing experience for me too. Maybe sometime you’ll find your heart living again. Good luck in your zombie community.

  154. Kullervo: thanks for the inside track on GOD’s skivvies (very old term); I’m not sure HOW you know what you know, but I’m afraid to go there….I haven’t learned JACK’s secret to bodacious boldness (so far).

    As for being bored, law school has probably done a burned over district on your brain… we pray for your recovery and graduation…or just graduation.

    GERMIT

  155. I’m not understanding the Kullervo = zombie references. I mean, have you seen Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead? Zombies are pretty badass when they’re speedy zombies.

    I haven’t learned JACK’s secret to bodacious boldness (so far).

    I watch a lot of Milla Jovovich flicks.

  156. Blake, watch what you say about Kullervo. He won’t be around for a few weeks, but there is NOTHING like pissing off his wife. ;) Sure, he can be a total ass, but you really don’t want to unleash the person badass enough to marry him.

  157. JACK: ahhh, the secret is out, eh ? I’ll have to check out the Milla chick….if it isn’t “hard R” my wife might let me watch it…provided I buy her a Sean Connery or Colin Firth flick…. or maybe both. Anyway, I’m tired of getting all my boldness cues from Mel Gibson in a kilt and blue face paint….which the history channel told me today is total crap anyway (how deflating….what the *&^^%^**^&^^%%$%$ am I going to do with all my historically inaccurate blue face paint ??)

    BLAKE: don’t be put off by the “boring” reference…Kullervo’s is a special mind….is that put charitably enough, KateyJ ??

  158. “Jared ~ Seriously, do we trust philosophers on any other point?

    Yeah, but Blake is both a philosopher and a lawyer, so… double ouch.”

    Well, I am a lawyer and I have a degree in philosophy, so I definitely understand why we have no reason to trust those types.

  159. Germit ~ Milla Jovovich is one of the few convincing chick action heroes, IMO. While her movies usually suffer plot-wise, if she’s in it the action sequences and martial arts choreography are usually excellent. As for ratings, The Messenger was definitely hard R; the Resident Evil films more medium R, especially the latest one. Ultraviolet was PG-13. If you’re worried about movie content, I enjoy Eric D. Snider’s reviews because, in addition to being hilarious, they have a description at the bottom saying specifically why a movie is rated the way it is.

    I like Bruce Willis, Christian Bale and Jason Statham as male action heroes. I also saw Taken a few weeks ago and was surprised because I didn’t think Aslan (Liam Neeson) would make such a good action hero, but he did.

    You could always rent The Fifth Element, which is PG-13 and has both Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich in it.

    Jared ~ I like you. You make me laugh.

    Now I’ll quit derailing this thread with talk of action movies and video games.

  160. JACK: I’ve seen 5th element and liked it a lot; even the Chris Rock character, which stood out. I’m not a great Bruce Willis fan, but thot “Unbreakable” was pretty good also.

    have a great weekend foks
    GERMIT

  161. Ok, I know I have come here late, but given that I read through the entire series of posts and I am the only Orthodox commentor I think I am entitled to comment.

    Some recommendations.

    Here’s some heavy duty reading to help get clear on the doctrine.

    Michel Barnes, The Power of God: Dunamis in Gregory of Nyssa’s Trinitarian Theology

    David Bradshaw, Aristotle East and West

    Kopecek, A History of Neo-Arianism

    Gavrilyuk, The Suffering of the Impassible God

    Reid, Energies of the Spirit: Trinitarian Models in Eastern Orthodox and Western Theology

    Daniel Keating, The Appropriation of Divine Life in Cyril of Alexandria.

    Turcescu, Gregory of Nyssa and the Concept of Divine Persons

    Gregory Palamas, The Triads

    Maximus the Confessor, On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ

    Richard Cross, The Metaphysics of the Incarnation-Aquinas to Scotus

    Anatolios, Athanasius: The Coherence of his Thought

    Now for some exposition

    If you are going to grasp the Orthodox view of theosis, then you are going to have to get reasonably clear on a few things, not the least of which is the concept of energy. In brief this concept more or less pops up in many forms in the ancient world in diviniation, linguistics-sign making-semiotics-medicine and philosophy. The idea is essentially that there is a sign, activity, manifestation of a power that is not seen, manifested, ec. The difference between the underlying power or essence and the energy is crucial. As Plato puts it in the Republic, there is a difference, though not a separable one between the Cold and Coldness.

    Energies are not cut off or seperable from their essences. They are intrinsically related to their power, as say heat is related to fire. In Orthodox Theology, some of the energies are the plans, blueprints or eternal predestinations of every cread thing. So the plans of what constitutes any organism is an eternal activity of God. These are called the logoi (pronounced low-gee) and all of them exist within the eternal Logos that is Jesus Christ. So the logos of human nature was always in Christ, which is in part the basis for the Orthodox view that Christ always willed to be incarnate apart from the Fall.

    consequently, grace is not alien to human nature. It does not come to it from the “outside”. Our relation to God is primarily internal via the image of God or the logos of our nature. To put it another way, we are made in the image of God, but Jesus IS the image in which we are made. Therefore there isn’t the kind of cleavage between human nature and divine nature. There is no opposition between God and creation and this is clear in say Athanasius’ theology of creation. God’s access to the world is direct and requires no platonic middle man as the arians thought.

    So in the incarnation as well as in theosis, the two natures are not mixed though there is a penetration of energies and these energies via the divine are not alien to nor opposed to human nature. That is, the pagan views (stoic, Platonic, etc. )viewed reality as a conflagaration of opposing powers. So if something became hot, it was because the power and activity(energy) of the hot drove out the activity of the cold. For the Fathers God’s creation is not opposed to him, which is why theosis is possible. Creation ex nihilo isn’t therefore incompatible with theosis. We just don’t assume that to genuinely have the divine energy one has to have it non-derivatively, which is an assumption of the criticism made.

    Further, Christ recapitulates or does over human nature perfectly and freely with two free wills, that choose between and in fact choose different though always good options, as in the Passion. To choose to presere his life was good, since the perpetuation of human existence is something also willed by the Father. Distinction or difference does not imply opposition as it does in hellenistic philosophy. And we are called in the church year, which is the life of christ to “do over” the life of Christ in ourselves, to conform ourselves to his image or icon.

    Some arguments

    Blake thinks the chalcedonian Christology is incoherent. I don’t. He sees the natures as defined by opposing properties, but the Orthodox don’t and so we don’t grant the metaphysical and hellenistic assumptions his arguments need to go through.

    They don’t go through because we don’t think with Plato, Plotinus, etc. that essences are simple or lack plurality in every way. Secondly, we don’t accept the western view of God as actus purus, or pure actuality or be-ing, where being is a verb, not a noun. God in his essence, in and of himself is being and so no coherent proposition can be stated about it in the first place. And this is just to say that there is always more to God than his actions. So his arguments never map the position, since God can’t be mapped since God ad intra isn’t being.

    Further, we don’t think that persons are substances, either in the sense of form or individuality. So positing well known metaphysical problems that have a life of their own of composition and unity really is a non-starter. And its a non-starter because we don’t subscribe to the western view that one uses philosophy to clarify theology. For us, theology reaches down and takes philosophical terms and modifies them, removing their inherent opposition, bursting the old wineskins of the Hellenistic philosophers by using such terms apophatically. This is why Nicea posits no metaphysical content to key terms, like homoousios.

    As for freedom, Blake claims that the “tradition” (like which one would that be?) views the unity of the persons as being beyond the realm of choice and not free. Well if freedom requires the ability to do evil, then sure, but we don’t think it does. God choose to create and he could have chosen not to create, both options were good and not opposed. Moral impeccability isn’t incompatibile with free will where the latter includes choosing between alternatives. the choice of the three persons is a matter of nature, but it is also a matter of free will. Nature doesn’t determine their actions in the Orthodox tradition. Necessity and contingency aren’t even applicable to God ad intra since those terms are only applicable to being and God is beyond being. The freely willed and natural unity of the Trinity is eternal, but it isn’t necessary and it isn’t contingent either. It is unspeakable.

    As for the four propositions proposed, they turn on the old equviocation and confusion of person and nature.

    As for Cerebus, Craig, Moreland, its true that they use that, but its also true that they openly endorse a defective Christology, specifically Apollinarianism, since they identify person with nous or mind. For the Fathers of the councils, nous wasn’t the person. Jesus has a human power of intellect, a power of the soul, but qua person, he isn’t the nous. There is more to being a person than being conscious. Craig and Moreland have left bad Lockian assumptions from contemporary philosophy of mind determine their Christology. So as far as orthodoxy goes, the fact that they use cerebus doesn’t mean much. Their Trinitarian theology is defective because their Christology is also defective.

    As for the claim that the Orthodox view is Social Trinitarianism, this is false. You can read Orthodox theologians all day, across continents and never run into this claim or that view. The locus of modern Social Trinitarianism is Peter van Inwagen’s essay, And Yet They are not Three gods but one God. And Sarah Coakley’s article, Persons in the Social Doctrine of the Trinity, pretty much shows that whatever Social Trinitarians are doing, it isn’t Cappadocian Theology.

    As for theosis in general. lots of ancient philosophies and religions, many unrelated, have a doctrine of deification. And many groups, both before and after the arrival of Joseph Smith have a doctrine of theosis and have a doctirne of contingently existing gods too and claim to be Christian. There doesn’t seem to me to be anything particularly unique in the LDS view on the score.

    Observation. It is interesting to me as an Orthodox Christian that lots of people who aren’t Orthodox want to speak about and speak for the Orthodox, without any imput from…well…the Orthodox. They speak of the doctrines as ancient and so forth without any real interest in being Orthodox.

    As for us, we aren’t interested so much in presenting arguments. Its not that we can’t but what would be the point? I mean, is there any doubt that the churches in Thessaloniki founded by Paul are and have been Orthodox churches since the start? You really don’t need arguments when you just have been existing as the social entity in question from the get-go.

    That’s my story and I am sticking to it. time for a beer.

  162. Nice post Perry. Hope it gets a worthy response.

    Probably not from me. I only followed about half of it. I’ll have to re-read it later and pull out some of the information you packed in there.

    Mormonism has developed primarily in opposition to and interaction with the Western tradition. We never really encountered the Eastern tradition much in our history. So our response is still rather unformulated.

  163. Seth,

    I suppose thats true, but if so, I’d wager a bit more caution is in order on the part of lds apologists before they go romping through our Fathers.

  164. Perry ~ time for a beer.

    Hey now. That’s a Protestant sacrament.

    I enjoyed your comment, Perry. I hope Blake is still lurking and can give you some good interaction.

  165. Prfft! Monks were making beer (and wine) long before Luther was a sparkle in his fathers eye and a twitchin’ in his mamma’s hips.

    I have no doubt that Blake will show up. Of course I banned blake from my blog a while back for personally threatening my family and my job.

    I’d suggest though that the real place to look for serious discussion of this stuff is in the primary texts, serious monographs, both on the Fathers as well as in the history of philosophy. Analytic philosophers have a tendency to repeat problems since history and historical analysis isn’t their strong suit.

  166. Mormonism has developed primarily in opposition to and interaction with the Western tradition. We never really encountered the Eastern tradition much in our history. So our response is still rather unformulated.

    This realization was a big deal for my brother when he first started having serious doubts about the Church. A lot of the Great Apostasy rhetoric seemed to him not really to apply to Orthodox Christianity.

  167. Perry, you might be one of my new favorites. I think this brings the number of beer drinkers on this blog to four. Maybe five if Tim’s in.

  168. Kullervo,

    Yeah, the Orthodox aren’t particularly partial to claims of apostasy either.

    Whitney,

    I am a Newcastle man myself, but I enjoy good French brandy, some good pipe tobacco only in winter when the air is crisp. In general, if you can see through the glass, its not beer but some other yellow substance resembling a bodily fluid.

  169. Whitney,
    I don’t drink anything that taste like horse piss or hot dirt even if I am allowed to.

    Perry,
    If Seth was able to follow half of what you were saying, he’s a far better man than I am. I’m hoping you can answer this question as simply and clearly as possible for the masses.

    LDS like to point to theosis and compare it to their doctrine of exaltation. From my reading, theosis is closer to sanctification and glorification. Which in your opinion is closer to the Orthodox view? Can men become gods? Was God once a man?

  170. Perry: I have written a chapter in the 3rd vol. of Exploring Mormon Thought which critiques the Orthodox view of theosis. You are quite correct that the criticisms of the Western Tradition arising from metaphysical divine simplicity do not apply to the Orthodox view(s) of theosis — primarily since the Orthodox view of divine simplicity is much different.

    However, the notion that we participate in the energies of God and therefore are deified is quite analogous to saying that a marshmellow participates in the nature of a fire when it gets toasted. Hardly. There is nothing really shared that makes the marshmellow like the fire. Analogously, there is really nothing shared that makes us like God or deified in the Orthodox tradition. Theosis is a misnomer in terms of what Orthodox describe about theosis in my view.

    The divine is so different from the human in Orthodox thought that we cannot even speak positively about God but must regard all discourse as highly apophatic — negative statements about what God is not according to the well-established tradition of the Cappadocians. Thus, to assert something about what is shared by God with humans by participating in the divine energies is to contradict the Orthodox view (or non-view) of God. Despite all the talk about being in the likeness and image of God, it seems to me that such terms are entirely vacuous as they are used in the Orthodox tradition — there is no likeness and the image isn’t anything like an image at all.

    I also disagree with your assertion that Orthodox theologians (at least the Cappadocians) are not social trinitarians. A ST is anyone who begins with the plurality of divine persons as basic and then proceeds to explain how there is nevertheless a unity. That is the approach of the Cappadocians. I am well aware of Sarah Coakley’s arguments and I don’t find them to be persusaive at all, especially in the face of response by Plantinga and the late Jaroslav Pelikan.

  171. Perry: “Well if freedom requires the ability to do evil, then sure, but we don’t think it does. God choose to create and he could have chosen not to create, both options were good and not opposed. Moral impeccability isn’t incompatibile with free will where the latter includes choosing between alternatives. the choice of the three persons is a matter of nature, but it is also a matter of free will. Nature doesn’t determine their actions in the Orthodox tradition. Necessity and contingency aren’t even applicable to God ad intra since those terms are only applicable to being and God is beyond being. The freely willed and natural unity of the Trinity is eternal, but it isn’t necessary and it isn’t contingent either. It is unspeakable.”

    Mere “freedom”doesn’t require the ability to do evil. I spider can move its legs this way or that and be free in the sense that you are using it. Rather “moral freedom” requires this ability. The notion that the “choice” of the 3 persons is both by nature and also “free” makes little sense to me — it is like saying I could choose whether to be human. There is no “choice” at all because it is given and fixed prior to any choice and is in fact the condition for having any choices at all. In Orthodox thought, nature and essence are logically prior to will and choice. Thus, it is logically impossible to choose by nature.

    You statement that “nature doesn’t determine their [the divine persons'] action” is based on an equivocation. I suppose that what you mean is that there is no natural causation that determines the divine choices. That is true but irrelevant to the discussion. It is a rather modern use of the term “nature” and it isn’t what is being addressed at all. Rather, the divine persons have the “nature” that they do of necessity and it cannot be changed — not by any choice. What is meant in this discussion by “nature” is not the natural order or natural law or causal determinism, but the essential properties a thing possesses to be the kind of thing it is. The divine nature in Orthodox thought is absolutely immutable and cannot be a matter of choice at all. It is logically prior to any choice a divine person could make since a divine person couldn’t exist without having such a nature. Certainly existence is a logically prior condition to making choices.

  172. Perry: Perhaps you could explain how you take Christ to be both human and also God when God is so different from humans that we cannot address what God is. How could one and the same person be both given such commitments? I not only believe that the two nature theory of Christ is incoherent (and unbiblical) but have given arguments to show it. Perhaps you could interact with those.

    The assertion that “substance” has no metaphysical meaning in the creeds is rather nonsensical in my view — as is the claim that the Cappadocians and others were not influenced by Platonism and neo-Platonism. In fact, that latter is near laughable.

    The use of “substance” at Nicea meant to assert that everything that the Father is in terms of deity, so is Christ. It is a claim of comparison and a denial of identity and that just is a metaphysical claim. Why didn’t they just say that they were “one God” if they wanted to avoid such metaphysical claims and leave it at that?

  173. Tim,

    Did you understand half of what I wrote? ;)

    I would have to know how one is using “sanctification” and “glorification” wouldn’t I? How are you using those terms and in the context of what tradition?

    As I noted above, there are a plurality of views of thesis in the history of thought, some of them say in Marxism which are quite secular. The LDS claims do not establish any kind of continuity with the early church any more than Jehovah’s Witness or Armstrong’s views on deification do. Similarity doesn’t imply correlation.

    For the Orthodox, we can be said to become gods or deified in a specific sense, we participate in partake in the divine energies, which I sketched above. This does not mean that we cease to be contingent beings, that is beings that have a begining, are dependent, etc. Qua essence the Trinity is beginingless.

    The Father and the Spirit never became incarnate and are not composed of “spiritual matter” or anything like that. In fact they are not composed of anything since they transcend being. The Son becomes incarnate of course. This has been the Orthodox teaching since the begining.

    LDS like to point to theosis and compare it to their doctrine of exaltation. From my reading, theosis is closer to sanctification and glorification. Which in your opinion is closer to the Orthodox view? Can men become gods? Was God once a man?

  174. Perry: “Was God once a man?:

    Well, there was the Son of God who became man. Why doesn’t qualify?

  175. Perry: “Of course I banned blake from my blog a while back for personally threatening my family and my job.”

    No Perry, I suggested that perhaps that you would act differently if you knew that I would advise your program advisers of your bad attitudes and frank bigotry toward Mormons. I suggest that we have a civil discussion without that kind of bad attitude. I suspect that we can transcend this kind of bad-blood — but if you bring it, I will bring to light what actually occurred without the inference that somehow I was the one who did something untoward in our conversation. You can ban from your blog whomeover you want (damned be free speech when it comes to blogs). There are no due process or fairness standards for that kind of thing.

    Now I’m over it. I ask you to let go, don’t say the kinds of things you did and let’s learn from our dialogue. Let’s move on.

  176. Perry ~ Of course I banned blake from my blog a while back for personally threatening my family and my job.

    I think it’s bad form to bring up personal history with another commenter like this unless you’re at least going to provide a link to said threats so that we can read and decide for ourselves. Otherwise it’s just he-said/he-said. I searched your blog for Blake’s name using both Google (which usually does search comments) and your blog’s own search feature (which usually doesn’t search comments) to see if I could hunt down this confrontation myself, but came up dry both times.

    On a lighter note, here’s a little something for all you beer drinkers, out of one of my favorite PS2 video games.

  177. I vaguely remember stumbling across this exchange when it happened a couple years ago. All I remember is there were so many big words it would make Perry’s comment above look like Mother Goose in comparison.

  178. Trying to read thru the comments, looks like Perry was the first to “Christianly” suggest suicide to Blake.

  179. Perry,
    I think you’ve over-reacted. The academia does have a vested interest in keeping bigoted idealogues out of it. The types of arguments you put forth as a graduate student in theology will reflect upon your school. If you don’t stand behind your theological arguments while attending a theological grad school, and they don’t stand up to the scrutiny of your professors, is it really wise to be making them?

    Silencing Blake is a action best performed by tyrants like Hitler and Stalin, Perry. Truth doesn’t require silencing the other side, just because you’re afraid that, heaven forbid, you might actually be held accountable for poor scholarly work, even if it is on your “private” blog.

    Thank you YD for posting the link and letting me come to my own conclusion.

  180. TYD ~ Thanks for posting that link. I think I didn’t catch it on my Google search earlier because I searched the “energeticprocession.wordpress.com” and “www.energeticprocession.wordpress.com” domains; I didn’t think to just try “energeticprocession.com,” where it comes up here.

    Now I’ve got to make a moderator-type decision and ask everybody to drop the talk of whether or not Blake threatened Perry. The comment in question can be found here, and Perry’s initial response to it is here. There are plenty of other comments on that thread which are probably relevant to that matter, and I’ll let people go there and sort through them for themselves. That disagreement is over a year and a half old though and I really don’t see any reason to give it more air time here; I’m sure Blake and Perry know how to get ahold of each other in private if they wish to discuss it further.

    If people would like to discuss LDS and Orthodox deification/theosis on this thread, by all means proceed.

    psychochemiker ~ Are you seriously comparing someone to Hitler or Stalin for banning a blog commenter?

    Way over the top, friend.

  181. Jack: Psych’s comment isn’t bout being banned, but the fact that he simply erased several very long posts that i had posted that very substantively dealt with issues we were discussing.

    However, I am not the issue in this discussion. Theosis is — remember? I have suggested that we move on and I meant it. Now if you don’t move on, then i will force down your throat the suicide pill that Perry insulted me with and wished me death.

  182. Pingback: Accountability for your words « Psychochemiker's Blog

  183. Fine, Jack.
    But I don’t think it was over the top, we can talk about it later after you’re settled.

  184. I still think comparing Draconian comment moderation to murderous dictator regimes is pretty over the top.

    And if it makes you feel any better, Blake, I would never refer to Mormonism as a “crass heresy.” That’s simply appalling. Mormonism is an intricate and fascinating heresy at least. If heresies were attractive action film stars, Mormonism would be the Jason Statham of the lot. It’s like a Fabergé heresy; it deserves nothing but the best.

  185. Who had their money on PC for being the first to break “Godwin’s Law”? This blog is 2.5 years old and that’s the first time it’s happened. I guess the ball game is over now.

    I blame Jack and Kullervo (for no reason other than one is like Hitler and the other is like Stalin. You figure out which is which.)

  186. Tim,
    Without a link to Godwin’s law, how am I supposed to figure out what that means? Do you honestly expect me to google something myself?

    Jack,
    With your bleeding heart viewpoint on some issues, I’m not sure if the republican party is willing to take you anymore…

    FTR, I never accused Perry of killing anyone. But deleting someone’s comments just because you don’t like the argument is deeply disturbing to me. I have some material at home, I’ll write about why censuring non-obscene material is so offensive to me tomorrow.

  187. Jack: “I still think comparing Draconian comment moderation to murderous dictator regimes is pretty over the top.”

    Well now, for an Italian Fascist who is a comment moderator this is a natural and healthy attitude. For those of us who made it out of the 40s, Draconian comment moderation is worth starting WWII all over again. Frankly, why insult Hilter and Stalin and Mussolini? What did they ever do to you? And Jack . . . you cannot really be a Fascist unless you speak Italian. Sono veramente sicurissimo che tu non possa parlare nemmeno una parola d’Italiano.

  188. Perry: “I mean, is there any doubt that the churches in Thessaloniki founded by Paul are and have been Orthodox churches since the start? You really don’t need arguments when you just have been existing as the social entity in question from the get-go.”

    Well, I can agree that they were Greek, but I could hardly begin to describe them as “Orthodox” if that means to be anything like the present Orthodox churches in the East. Is there doubt? Are you claiming that there is some evidence of episcopal succession as a basis of continuity in the churches of Thessolonica since the first century? Man, I’d love to see that — especially since Paul (who actually was there in the 1st century) seems to be entirely ignorant of that claim.

  189. Well Blake, I did pick up a little Italian from an episode of Space Ghost’s Cartoon Planet once called “Learning to Talk Italian.” This is what I learned:

    C’e qualcosa che non va, agente?

    Cos e quell odore?

    C’e qualcosa nel bagno

    Vada via che sa di aglio.

    C’e un dottore in casa?

    Ho i cervelli del pollo.

    Guisto.

    O-mi lasce in pace.

    Frocio! Frocio!

    Silenzio!

    Arrivaderci.

    Finito.

    Is that enough to get me into the Italian Fascist club?

    psychochemiker ~ Censoring comments is pretty offensive to me, too. Just not offensive enough to make me compare the offenders to Hitler and Stalin.

  190. Jack: Welcome to the Fascist club. Or should I say, benvenuto alla gente che ama ucidere e contollare gli altri senze avere responsibilita! Not only do you qualify, but today you qualify for our two for one special. You also are hereby initiated into the over-controlling blog moderator club.

  191. Yay, the Italian Fascist club! Blake, you can be the President since you apparently lived through the 40s (I didn’t think you were that old) and I can be Vice-President.

    My newly minted official status as an Italian Fascist aside, I never thought my comment moderation was all that Draconian. In almost a year of running my blog and six months of guest blogging for Tim, I have yet to delete a non-spam comment, and the only edits I’ve made to other people’s comments have been spelling/HTML corrections or notes which I’ve clearly marked and explained.

    I only have two strategies for trouble commenters: (1) disemvowel them, or (2) troll them off the blog myself. Deleting comments has never been my thing.

  192. Tim: FTW!

    btw, what’s the deal with discussions on this thread lately taking like 25 comments for everyone to “drop it” and “move on”?

  193. Jared C,
    I’m going to choose to get offended by that last, racist comment.
    How’d you know of my hispanic heritage?
    Darn you!
    I hate it when white people persecute me.

  194. Well, I am going to choose get even more offended by the rank hypocrisy of denouncing censorship from someone who openly supports the man who burned the press at the Nauvoo Expositor.

    If censorship is good enough for JS, its good enough for me!

  195. Yeah, thanks a lot guys.

    Now Perry will probably never come back. There goes that serious theological discussion…

  196. Let’s hope Perry is as resilient as that bear….

    Although, isn’t Perry orthodox? If he makes regular comments, Tim will have to change the name of the blog.

  197. Kullervo,

    I am touched…kinda. I was out the past few days doing church stuff, time with my family (we had a Zoo day)and other stuff.

    My point in posting here was to add some clarification as to what the Orthodox view in fact was and to suggest some reading material that would help readers here.

    In general to all, my personal claims regarding Blake are easily verified given the conversation that was listed above. To say that a view is heterodox is not per se bigoted. If it is, then the LDS are bigots begining with Smith. By Orthodox standards it is which is why we neither commune with nor pray with the LDS. Of course, we don’t pray with or commune with Protestants or Catholics for the same reason-they’re heterodox. Its strictly business, nothing personal.

    If Blake wishes to leave those comments behind and to pursue an amicable conversaiton, I am willing to do so.

  198. Blake,

    I am sure you have written about it in that book but I generally don’t read non-peer reviewed and non-academically published books. If its not put out by Oxford, ND, Routledge or the like, I just don’t read it. Nothing personal, but most professional philosophers I know do the same. I know you have some peer reviewed articles and I have seen some of that material, but my reading time is limited. I can’t read everything. No one can.

    I have seen what you and others have written elsewhere claiming that there is nothing that really makes us divine in the Orthodox view. This criticism turns on a supposed incompatibility between creation ex nihilo and participation in the divine. But I think your arguments turn on straw men. They also lack sufficient analysis of the notion of energies and this causes them to leave untouched the crucial notion of God as the formal cause of creatures, as well as a host of other notions in Orthodox theology that really get around your objections. This is also true of Norman’s work, which also turns on a now refuted or so I’d argue reading of Athanasius. And of course I think your marshmallow example is a bad one. The example of the Orthodox Fathers of fire and a sword is much better since the heat doesn’t obliterate nature of the metal.

    Likewise, your reading of apophatic theology is misplaced and results in a caricature since the doctrine of the energies is not to be found under the locus of apophatic theology at all. I mean, what exactly do you think an energy is? Perhaps you could explain it to me. So that criticism turns on a strawman too. A serious reading of Dionysius and the Platonic tradition in general on hyperousia would prove helpful to you.

    As I noted above, Orthodox theologians generally do not interact with or are even aware of Social Trinitarianism, unless we wish to gloss Socinian Unitarianism as a precedent, which is implausible. But the vast majority in Orthodox journals and texts aren’t even aware of it because it is a creature of contemporary English speaking analytic philosophy of religion.

    Second, your gloss of what constitutes Social Trinitarianism is too wide and for a whole host of reasons and runs up against some inconvenient facts. First because it ignores the agreement reached between East and West during the latter part of the Arian controversy that they actually meant the same thing even though they employed different terminology. Second, to say that one begins with the persons as basic is rather ambiguous. Begins in the order of discovery or the order of being? If the former, this is true of everyone practically in the Christian tradition. If the latter, the Orthodox think that the persons are beyond being in the first place so that can’t be true. ST is a more specific thesis than the kind of method you proffer above. It is a thesis about the kind of unity that obtains between the plurality of persons. So you’d have to show that the Orthodox articulate the same kind of unity as ST’ers do and we don’t. Besides, there is plenty of scholarly partistic work that presents all kinds of problems for glossing the Cappadocian and Augustinian Triadology in that way. The fault lines lie somewhere else.

    I am do not have at hand either Plantinga or Pelikan’s response, but if the question is one of history, I can’t see how Plantinga could be acting as an expert in the field. And Pelikan while quite reputable in historical theology is rather anemic in philosophical theology. Just look at his two page treatment of the monothelite controversy in his 2nd volume of the Christian Tradition. So just mentioning that they are not convinced isn’t proof that the notion is Cappadocian. Moreover, neither of these two speak for the Orthodox theological community. My own reading of the primary sources as well as contemporary work in the Cappadocians leads me to the conclusion that ST isn’t what the Cappadocians were doing at all.

    The example of the spider regarding freedom is a bad one since anachrids aren’t usually taken to be agents with wills in the first place. Natural or instinctual movements aren’t necessarily examples of freely willed action, at least not usually by libertarians, of which I am one. Though that says nothing about whether freely willed actions could also be natural as well. If the notion of an act being both natural and free makes little sense to you, then I suppose on your view, the deities must not be morally impeccable and hence capable of evil. Is this so? If not, why not? Your objection that nature is prior to personal choice and therefore is incompatible with the notion of free choice is true for agents that have a beginning, but then again, I think God is beginingless. There is nothing incompatible with God being the source of his own actions, the actions being natural and being free, just so long as God is timelessly eternal. And let me be clear, I am not endorsing the notion of simultaneity. Essence could only be logically prior to will if will were first entirely hypostatic, which is denied by the Orthodox doctrine of Dyothelitism. Second, it could only be logically prior if God ad intra was being, which God isn’t. Per Aristotle, there can only be logical ascriptions to things that be.

    I am not interested in modern notions, but mapping and articulating the Orthodox notions and so the former are only relevant to the extent that they map the latter. If they don’t, well too bad for them. It wouldn’t be the first time that people in the past had notions that don’t unprobalamatically translate into a contemporary metaphysical framework. As I noted before, necessity is only applicable to things that be and God is hyperousia and so this is why the Fathers teach that God is beyond contingency and necessity. So again, your assertion that God’s nature is had by him of necessity is applicable to some other view than the Orthodox. Attacking Catholicism isn’t going to help you here. I agree that God is immutable, but there are a few things to note here. We deny God is actus purus and imutability is an apophatic term and so has no metaphysical content. What does “without change” mean? Moreover, a natural and free choice is incompatible with immutability if such a choice were for the worse or lacked impeccability, but that is exactly what I denied. There’s no good reason to think that the two per se are incompatible, unless we are once again assuming that to choose otherwise is to choose contrary to, which is fallacious. If simplicity is one of many energies, then divine choosing otherwise doesn’t imply any incompatibility with immutability. Besides, choosing in line with nature doesn’t entail that the act isn’t free.

    Given the doctrine that God is the formal cause of creatures and all that that entails, as I somewhat sketched above, it isn’t hard to see that I don’t see the kind of disparity between God and creatures that Protestants and Catholics do nor the kind of mutual position that the LDS seem to. While I maintain a strong creator/creation distinction, I affirm contrary to the two other traditions that God has real relations with creatures. So the great difference you posit isn’t obviously problamatic. I could ask you the same question though. How can creatures that are mortal and so “different” ever become immortal like the gods if mortality and immortality cannot be had by the same object without one obliterating the other?

    Orthodox theology never claims that we can’t address what God is simpliciter. The term “nature” usually has a wider denotation for the Orthodox since it includes essence, but a whole lot more. So your question is grounded in some other view than the Orthodox one. As for how one and the same person be both, we’d need to know what a person is, wouldn’t we? What in Orthodox theology and otherwise is a person? What is a person in LDs theology? And what is the difference between an instance of some essence and a person, if any?
    If Chalcedonian Christology is unbiblical, do you think that Christ was deity on earth? If so, do you think deities can suffer death qua deity? If not, why not? When Jesus wills not to go to the cross in the passion, does he will something bad or something good?

    The arguments you give are directed pretty much against Scholastic glosses of the doctrine of the incarnation. I don’t think all of your readings from what I have seen of those Scholastic readings are the best ones. But even if they were, the Orthodox don’t accept them in the first place for various reasons. So your arguments are pretty much a non-starter for the Orthodox. We’re a whole different breed of cat.

    I don’t know how you can maintain that for the Orthodox God is so radically other so as to be unspeakable and then on the other that the Orthodox take “essence” to have positive metaphysical content. The two are incompatible. Pick one. I don’t claim the Cappadocians were uninfluenced by Platonism. Certainly there is influence, but it all depends on what “influence” amounts to. And the Church never accepted everything out of them for that very reason. What they do in critical points though is alter, modify and change it to suit the teaching of the church. The theology of the church comes first and gives content to philosophical terminology and not the other way around as in Catholicism and Protestantism. This is why the Orthodox do not think that doctrine develops.

    Given the status of philosophy at the time, to something like physics today, it is quite understandable why they employed philosophical terminology and concepts, though not without alteration. But articulation and explanation doesn’t entail wholesale adoption. In fact, there is strong evidence admitted by scholars on all sides that that is what took place. What I affirm rather is that theology has an autonomous status for them and that philosophy wasn’t the handmaiden to theology. They had by theologia what philosophy could never give them. Consequently there was an asymetrical relation between the two.

    I agree that the term of homoousia in Nicea meant to affirm that whatever the Father is qua deity that the Son is too. But it doesn’t follow from that that the term was used to connote anything that would fall under the realm of metaphysics since God was believed to be beyond essence and being. So just because I wish to say that whatever the Father is, so is the Son, it doesn’t follow from that that I am claiming to know or to express what they are. This is why the Nicenes rightly baosted that they worshipped “that which we do not know.”

    They didn’t say that they were just “one” since a simple affirmation of unity would still be capable of an Arian reading of an extrinsic relation by choice. This was made clear in the literature of the period as noted by plenty of contemporary academics. It would also be capable of a Modalistic reading form the Marcellians and Sabellians.

    As for Apostolic Succession, I never said anything about being ethnically “Greek.” The empire was quite diverse ethnically, though they surely spoke Greek at Thessaloniki as the lingua franca. I would always describe them as Orthodox since they passed down the faith received through their bishops and liturgy to us. All of the major apostolic sees have lists of their bishops going all the way to the apostles. Most Orthodox Church festivals put them on display or they are on the internet in some cases. Paul founded the Church at Thessaloniki and so he’d be the first in the line and quite cognizant of it. Moreover, Paul teaches in his writings of spiritual power given to rulers in the church through the laying on of his hands.

    The point being, you can go and visit the actual churches founded by the Apostles today. The ones that aren’t destroyed by the Muslims or aren’t Rome for example are still Orthodox. How many LDS churches back to the apostles can you visit?

  199. Perry: “I am sure you have written about it in that book but I generally don’t read non-peer reviewed and non-academically published books. If its not put out by Oxford, ND, Routledge or the like, I just don’t read it.”

    What strikes me most here and in our prior conversation is the sheer arrogance you assume vis a vis others. Perhaps I’m bothered by it because I suffer from it too. I was and remain stunned at your dismissive attitude toward others. What matters isn’t the publisher or the cover — it’s the content. I have rarely seen such prejudiced approach to Mormonism among academics as you displayed and display again here. For what it’s worth. Now let’s move on.

    Note that you assert that somehow I fail to grasp the notion of energies sufficiently to really make contact with Orthodox thought. Well, it is mere assertion. You do that a lot. You must point out what you claim without merely asserting it as you do here and in our prior conversations. I grasp the dynamis of the divine life and unity of which Orthodox speak and that is is the very uncreated divine energy in which we are supposed to participate.

    Now note that I simply picked up on your analogy of a fire and what is warmed by the fire — or the more common analogy in many orthodox works between the sun and what receives life and warmth from it. As you, the notion of creatio ex nihilo entails that the created doesn’t participate in any real sense in the essence or nature of the divine as those terms are used to define what is necessary to be the kind divine. But that is the entire point — the truth is much more modest for Orthodox than claims that persons are gods or really divine in any meaningful sense. Evangelicals have been much more careful — and in my view much more truthful and accurate — than Orthodox.

    The rejection of creation ex nihilo by Mormons makes participation in the divine nature a possible reality.

  200. Perry: “Second, your gloss of what constitutes Social Trinitarianism is too wide and for a whole host of reasons and runs up against some inconvenient facts.”

    What kind of reading do you do in the analytic philosophy of religion? I regard Social Trinitarianism as Cornelius Plantinga, Brian Lefow and even Jaroslav Pelikan have defined it.

    Perry: “ST is a more specific thesis than the kind of method you proffer above. It is a thesis about the kind of unity that obtains between the plurality of persons. So you’d have to show that the Orthodox articulate the same kind of unity as ST’ers do and we don’t. Besides, there is plenty of scholarly partistic work that presents all kinds of problems for glossing the Cappadocian and Augustinian Triadology in that way. The fault lines lie somewhere else.”

    This claim is demonstrably in error. There are numerous different approaches to Social Trinitarianism — group mind, procession relations, perichoretic unity and so forth. What the ST views have in common is not some notion of what unifies the persons, but that the threeness is basic beginning with robust divine persons who are not merely relations or constitutuents and the unity is variously described. Your statement here makes me doubt that you have studied much about ST theories at all.

  201. Perry: “The example of the spider regarding freedom is a bad one since anachrids aren’t usually taken to be agents with wills in the first place.”

    Actually, that was my point. You equated freedom with this kind of random alternatives. I was pointing out the deficiency of your statements about freedom, not giving a definition of a valid view of morally significant and personal free will which is what the divine person don’t and cannot have vis a vis one another given Orthodox assumptions about divine immutability and impeccability.

    Perry: “If the notion of an act being both natural and free makes little sense to you, then I suppose on your view, the deities must not be morally impeccable and hence capable of evil. Is this so?”

    Good catch. I reject impeccability. Personal freedom of the type existing between Thous is incompatible with impeccability. That isn’t to say that I believe that God or Christ actually sinned, but there is nothing from stopping them from sinning if they choose to sin and they are free to so choose. They are free to say no to each other and I regard relationships in which persons are not free to say no to the relationship as subpersonal and impersonal at best. I deal with this issue at length in my second volume.

    Perry: “If simplicity is one of many energies”

    I have no idea what it could mean to say that simplicity is one of the many energies. Certainly one of many isn’t simple and an energy isn’t a mere universal. Perhaps you could enlighten me what you have in mind here.

    Perry: “it isn’t hard to see that I don’t see the kind of disparity between God and creatures that Protestants and Catholics do nor the kind of mutual position that the LDS seem to. While I maintain a strong creator/creation distinction, I affirm contrary to the two other traditions that God has real relations with creatures.”

    Again, I believe this is oversimplifying. You are correct that may Thomistic and Calvinist theologians cannot affirm real relations between creatures and God. That is certainly not true, however, for Molinists, Arminians and Open Theists.

  202. Perry: “I agree that the term of homoousia in Nicea meant to affirm that whatever the Father is qua deity that the Son is too. But it doesn’t follow from that that the term was used to connote anything that would fall under the realm of metaphysics since God was believed to be beyond essence and being.”

    Perry, here is why I see such assertions as self-defeating on their face. The notion of something being beyond essence and beyond being means that we have some metaphysical notions of being, essence and what transcends them. It would be difficult to come up with a more fundamentally metaphysical claim than that. Such claims are a million miles away from scriptural language.

  203. Perry: “All of the major apostolic sees have lists of their bishops going all the way to the apostles. Most Orthodox Church festivals put them on display or they are on the internet in some cases. Paul founded the Church at Thessaloniki and so he’d be the first in the line and quite cognizant of it.”

    This is simply not accurate. Paul never makes a claim about being a bishop and never makes any claims about succession of the episkopos — no NT writer ever does! The lists of bishops begin with Irenaeus nearly 150 years after the fact — and the lists that follow vastly disagree with each other. No historian worth his or her salt takes such list accurately as a representation of real history or what occurred in the first century.

    Perry: “How many LDS churches back to the apostles can you visit?”

    All of them. Peter, James and John restored the priesthood and the apostolic succession (not the succession of bishops) to Joseph Smith.

  204. “I agree that the term of homoousia in Nicea meant to affirm that whatever the Father is qua deity that the Son is too. But it doesn’t follow from that that the term was used to connote anything that would fall under the realm of metaphysics since God was believed to be beyond essence and being. So just because I wish to say that whatever the Father is, so is the Son, it doesn’t follow from that that I am claiming to know or to express what they are. This is why the Nicenes rightly baosted that they worshipped “that which we do not know.””

    Perry, this simply doesn’t make sense to me. Comments like this are why “analytic theology” and defense and explanation of the Trinity (or even the Mormon godhead) are beyond annoying. The sheer intellectual dishonesty of the approach is enough to drive the analytically minded to atheism.

    If you don’t know what they are, how can you say ANYTHING sensible about them beyond what you do know. If scripture is your base, and beyond that is mystery, it seems supremely arrogant to attempt to circumscribe God with the language of philosophy.

    To say something is “beyond the essence of being” is as metaphysical a statement you can make.

    If you strip away the philosophical jargon out of the Nicean discussion you end up with much closer to the Mormon view. i.e. three separate things that are closely related in a way that we can’t really understand.

    This is why, to me, the Trinitarian approach to God is both supremely arrogant and completely unsatisfying. Its dressed up in philosophical language that has no ground in reality, experience, or even any solid ground in scripture. Its extrapolation that in almost any other venue would be considered interesting but still extremely suspect. To consider this the ONLY way to view god that makes any sense is nearly insulting to God. With any objective viewpoint it comes across as simple dogmatic adherence to tradition rather than open-minded pursuit of truth.

    Tradition is fine, don’t get me wrong, but as we all should know, tradition, even when reflecting some deep truth, rarely gives us what we can say is an accurate and precise picture of that truth. Divergence from tradition is often the only way to progress.

    And, dismissing anything because its not peer reviewed and published by some fancy press is a bit silly and pretentious. It smacks of being overly impressed by tradition, prestige, and convention (which is probably partly why you are an Orthodox).

    Final question to those who worship what “that which we do not know”:

    If eternal life is to know God and Jesus (as per John), how will you ever get there by worshiping and concentrating on what you do not (and really can’t) know about them?

  205. Is five posts in a row from the same guy a record on this blog? I guess I might have done that before, but not five long posts. Still, I’ll bet Blake could do better if he really tried.

  206. Kullervo,
    I know we have a great relationship now, so I know you won’t mind me providing a reality check. (J/K). But I’m providing it anyway.

    Perry’s post included approximately 2070 words, while Blakes 5 posts in a row had approximately 1150 words.

  207. I, for one, would like to see a lot more lengthy quotes from scripture and authoritative journal articles, just to break things up a bit.

  208. Jared,

    I don’t know what you mean by “analytic theology.” I know of analytic philosophy and a sub field in metaphysics as philosophy of religion, but of “analytic theology” I don’t know what you refer to. Second, saying that it doesn’t make sense to you doesn’t amount to a reason to think that it is incoherent. I’ve had lots of students see perfectly valid and sound proofs that they didn’t understand. Confessions of your own epistemic limitations isn’t an argument.

    As for intellectual dishonesty, I don’t know what I wrote that youtake as a basis to imply that I was lying or being deceptive. If you wish to make that kind of personal accusation, I suggest you submit some sort of proof or argument. Otherwise its useless rhetoric in the service of frustration.

    Your statement or question, I am not sure which it was, as to how I can say anything about the divine persons beyond what I know fails to be problematic and seems very confused. How can I say anything about anything beyond what I know if itis beyond what I know? If it is beyond what I know, how can I say it as something I know if I don’t know it? What I think you mean to say is how can I say anything meaningful about the persons if they are beyond being? The persons reveal themselves in their energies. Beyond that, nothing can be known and that is the point of revelation, to make know what cannot be known of your own natural abilities. If we could know it without revelation, what would be the point of revelation or divine disclosure?

    Scripture is my base, but Scripture is part of the Church’s tradition and it is therefore to be interpreted and rightly in the context of the church’s tradition. (2 thess 2:15) The Bible as a library of books didn’t fall out of the sky. It was preserved and canonized by the Church. It doesn’t belong to just anyone. Furthermore, the Orthodox have a distinct canon of books, some of which you may not be familiar with, since the LDS accept the Protestant canon (oh the irony!) so that what might not strike you as from the Bible, in fact is.

    Truth and arrogance can cover plenty of the same cases. And that is the great thing about truth, it retains its property of identity regardless of who utters it or their attitudinal dispositions. So it doesn’t matter what strikes you as arrogant, but what is in fact true and truth conducive. A good argument is truth preserving regardless of who utters it. That’s one of the very good reasons we like it

    Further, you seem to be assuming that the language of Scripture is entirely devoid of philosophical content. If this were so, then the disparity between the two that you wish to draw would have standing, but I don’t think that that is so.

    The LDS view of three separate beings or “things” is no less philosophical and so simply vacating the philosophical terms and concepts won’t necessarily imply the LDS view of three separate beings. If it weren’t so, the LDS wouldn’t be using philosophical concepts and arguments to defend the coherence of their view. But they do. QED. In any case, I don’t know anyone in philosophy of religion who thinks that they are “circumscribing” God by language. And if we can’t really understand how the three beings are related, then the LDS claim that they are related via will, agreement and such is also ruled out, because as you say, they are “related in a way that we can’t really understand.”

    If we can’t understand it, then it follows that the LDS can’t understand it via will, agreement, etc. and so their view is ruled out too. Is that what you wish to claim?

    To say that something is beyond being is hardly a claim about the metaphysical status of the thing. Part of the problem is that you are taking language to function in a meaningful sense only in terms of reference. But lots of terms have no referent and are quite meaningful or are at least plausible candidates. Take ethical terms, commands, etc. Perhaps I am doing something other than referring with apophatic language? Moreover, lots of people in the history of thought disagree with you, like Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus with the ancients and people like Locke, Kant, Hume, Wittgenstein among the moderns. So I am unmoved by your bald assertion.

    What is more, it just doesn’t follow that if we reject the Trinitarian position that the LDS position is the default. There are lots of other positions on the historical market, the most pressing at the time was Sabellianism or Modalism. But there are also various forms of Adoptionism available.

    What you are asking is for us to reject the distinction between person and nature and just view persons as more or less instances of natures. If you were to do this, it would set you up for all kinds of problems, not the least of which being determinism in some form or another, a person is just a function of their nature and so is determined by it. But Christologically we will be stuck with a few options. If Christ just is his nature, then he is human, but not divine and so Adoptionism in some form is true. Or Apollinarianism is true, in which case he is not genuinely human. Or Docetism is true, he is fully divine and not human at all. Or Nestorianism is true, he is two natures and two persons or Eutychianism, one person and one nature, a mixture of the two preceding natures. How any of these views of Christ could license the deification of human nature without marginalizing it, diminishing it or obliterating it, is beyond me. God doesn’t hate what he creates for he always creates things very good. Just ask the woman in the red dress.

    Triadologically, it could imply a kind of tritheism, but it in no way follows that the deities will be metaphysical equal, but could also be ranked by a difference of essence, the Father first and greatest, the Son second and the Spirit third since they are different natures. Or if persons are a function of essence or nature, then Modalism is also an option. So it just doesn’t follow that if we reject the distinction between person and nature and with it Trinitarianism, that the LDS view follows as the default position.

    As for Trinitarianism lacking any solid ground in experience, when was the last time you had direct sensible experience of three gods? I seriously doubt you’ve had any.

    As for Scriptural grounding, this depends in large measure as to who is to do the judging as to what Scripture means. For Paul Scripture is good for teaching and rebuke so that the man of God my be fully equipped and “the man of God” in Scripture designates a prophet, priest or some other divinely commissioned person. This is why bishops are the rulers to judge, which is why it was the bishops who determined the formal canon of Scripture in a given locale and then universally. This is why Jesus says that if someone won’t abide by the judgment of the church, they are to be treated as an unbeliever. And why in Acts 15, once the Church in council decided a matter, the case was closed regardless of what any individual thought. So while it may your private judgment that Trinitarianism has no scriptural ground, the Church judges otherwise and Paul says the Church is the pillar and ground of truth. Consequently to judge contrary to the judgment of the church is to become a heretic, for that is what heresy means, “choice” one who chooses otherwise and separates themselves from the society of God’s people.

    Moreover, it seems strange me to me to accept the Church’s judgment as to the canon of say the NT and reject it on the Trinity, especially when the canon of Scripture is a tradition of the Church. Why do you accept that tradition and judgment of the Church on the NT canon but not as to what the NT means? Especially when for example there are no extant manuscripts of the gospels prior to 200-250 that are designated by any apostles’ names. All of those names, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were all added by Church tradition. If there’s an apostasy, by then, why trust their judgment? So I don’t see how you can talk about what is scriptural and reject the Church’s judgment. You are, I would kindly suggest, cutting off the Orthodox branch you are sitting on.

    Materially I’d suggest that it may seem that the Trinity is a philosophical extrapolation, but I think if you look at the liturgical practice of the Church, it just isn’t so. The most ancient rites and prayers of the church are drippingly Trinitartian. If you doubt it, just read them or read say Ignatius of Antioch, who was ordained bishop by both Peter and Paul.

    As for tradition, I suspect we disagree as to what that word means. You seem to use it to connote something like “custom” or a habitual way of doing things. The Orthodox don’t use tradition in this sense when referring to the tradition of the Church. We follow the biblical usage of tradition as teaching and practice handed on from an authorized representative. It wouldn’t matter if Jesus came yesterday. What he gave to the apostles and what they give us is tradition. The job of the Church is to preserve whole and without alteration that tradition and to pass it on. That is what paradosis means, to pass on, as in a baton race.

    So from the Orthodox view, the truth has been given to us by revelation and through the succession of authorized representatives. And this is one reason why Christianity is not per se a religion of reason. It is not a religion that was discovered by human reasoning but one given to us once and for all. It’s a religion of tradition.

    And the reason for this is simple, reason alone never could get you to the truth. The proclaimers of the gospel always asserted that they had by revelation what the philosophers only groped after. There is a reason why the Platonists and others saw the circle as the perfect representation of reason, since its activity was perpetual. It never stops. Got a proof for X? Well, we have a disproof for it. Got a disproof for X? We have a disproof for your disproof and round and round it goes. This is why it is so entirely difficult to come up with something entirely new. The more one studies the history of thought, the more it dawns on one that there is really nothing new under the sun. What’s the difference between Hegel and Plotinus but that the former wrote in German and the latter in Greek? So you speak of progress and I ask, progress to what?

    I didn’t dismiss something because its not published by some fancy press. In fact, peer review is a guard against the ephemeral and superficial. Good publishers have experts in the field who do and are recognized to be doing the better work in their area. They blind review and judge submissions, which is why works published by peer reviewed publishers are better in quality, have a greater reputation and are a more reliable way to get to the truth because the proofs or demonstrations given in such works have to be open to criticism and susceptible to some form of repeatability. This is why it takes work and quality work at that to get published by say Oxford, Cornell, ND, Blackwell, et al. This is why I don’t bother reading non-peer reviewed works. If you don’t think this is a good thing, then I’d suggest you junk everything that people in the last 500 years would call “progress.” Consequently, I am not overly impressed with fancy covers, prestige and convention, just the opposite despite your implicit speculative ad hom about why I am Orthodox . I am impressed by the truth and reliable ways to get it.

    When the Fathers said that they worship that which they do not know, they meant qua essence since the Arian claim was that the essence of God was fully knowable, contrary to Scripture which says that no one has seen God nor can see God. Further they meant a kind of knowledge that transcends propositional knowledge and is something more like knowledge by acquaintance or experience. It is one thing to read a book about how to ride a bike it is quite another to know what its like to ride a bike. It is one thing to know about ideas about God, it is quite another to know God. Reason is fine and knowing about ideas about God can help, but its not the end. As Spock rightly said, logic is not the end of wisdom, it is the beginning of it. (Star Trek 6)

  209. Blake,

    I am well aware of my arrogance. Of course if that is the main fault you find with my character, then you must not know me. My arrogance is irrelevant to the arguments I gave above. So far nothing you wrote has touched them. My personal faults are irrelevant, as are yours.

    My point was not about the cover or the publisher per se, but reading works that are more reliable routes to finding the truth. Peer review is a good method for doing so, which is why I try to restrict myself to such works. Your books might be fantastic or not. In my judgment though, if they are really that good, you should take them to a publisher where fellow philosophers can review and vote on it. If it is good enough, it will get published, if not, then not. Capitalism isn’t just for economics.

    If the claim of worthwhile content were to move me, then it should move you to read lots of works written by critics of the LDS that I dare guess you don’t bother to read. I don’t take Dave Hunt seriously and neither do you, and probably not anything published by Bethany House.

    My approach to peer reviewed works is across the board and has nothing to do whatsoever with the LDS. And I have read a sufficient amount of LDS primary and secondary literature. I seriously doubt your few books are the critical key to the entire theological system, no disrespect meant since you are clearly an intelligent individual. If the LDS materials are that unclear, then you and I have bigger problems. The point being, that I don’t have time to read everything and so I limit myself to peer reviewed works and even then I am rather picky. As I noted before, this is quite a common practice among academics, like it or lump it.

    If you grasp the Orthodox concept of an energy, perhaps you can explain it to me. What is an energy? How is it related to an essence, epistemologically, ethically and metaphysically? Are energies extrinsically related or intrinsically related? Are they inherent or no? Are they suseptible to relation at all? What is the appropriate working theory of properties that is capable of rendering them in a coherent gloss? What is a logos and how is it related to grace? What is grace? And what is the relation of nature to grace? What is human nature?

    Simply using the language of “divine life” and “participating in the energies” doesn’t show me that you grasp the concepts anymore than when Catholic or Protestant critics do so. Hence, my lack of movement here.

    I never said that from an affirmation of creation ex nihilo that there can be no real participation in the divine essence. I think anyone who had a firm grasp on the notion of an energy couldn’t say such a thing. (Hint: Normand doesn’t, that’s for sure.) I only affirmed that by being deified energetically that we don’t become by essence what God is. Why think that participation entails such a thing? The question then is, do the energies participate in any real sense in the essence and what does “real” and “participate” amount to here? If that hasn’t been spelled out then I fail to see how your claim can be substantiated and in fact trades on an ambiguity.

    I wouldn’t know of what you speak concerning evangelicals being much more careful. Perhaps you could flesh that out a bit more. But I find it not a bit ironic that first the Orthodox are said to be examples of deification by LDS apologists, and now we aren’t. Furthermore, it seems to me that you are arbitrarily privileging the LDS view as the only genuine form of deification and I don’t know why you are licensed to do so, especially when so many other views rightly fall under than term. If it weren’t so, then I don’t know why LDS apologists are going through historical sources to show that there is such a concept rightly denoted by that term outside of LDS sources.

    So I agree that Protestants and Catholics and lots of others have a doctrine of deification, they just don’t have the patristic doctrine and neither do the LDS. It also seems to me that you are assuming that on our view that divine properties can only be had in a non-derivative way or an extrinsic way, both of which we deny. The view you gloss looks more like Eunomianism than Cappadocian teaching.

    And I am not clear, perhaps due to ignorance on my part how it follows that if creation ex nihilo is false that deification is possible. Plenty of Greeks denied creation ex nihilo but they didn’t think that humans qua material beings or even in their soul could become what Zeus was. So perhaps you could explain that to me. So I do not see how a denial of creation ex nihilo renders “participation in the divine” a real possibility. Just because the world has existed for every and each moment, how does it follow that we can be essentially and materially/compositionally what the gods are? Even if we are another instance of their kind, how is that participation in their deity? Aren’t they mere particpants too? In fact, why think that the progression of the gods from men to gods was even possible given their opposite properties of mortality and immortality, among others? Plenty of the Greeks for example thought that humans could never be immortal as Zeus was since men by nature were mortal.

    If you follow Plantinga, et al, what I said should be line with their gloss. Moreover, qua representatives, none of them are Orthodox theologians. I am still waiting for an example of Orthodox theologians who openly endorse the project in contemporary analytic philosophy of religion known as ST. And I don’t see how your question about what I read is an argument that shows how my gloss is mistaken.

    Granted there are different approaches to glossing the unity, but all of them deny and fall short of the homoousia unity explicitly taught by the Cappadocians. Their aim is to give a weaker gloss on the unity that gives a more metaphysically robust gloss on the persons. That of itself doesn’t require that they start with the persons. Even the talk of emperichoresis among these analytic philosophers is so horribly sloppy in terms of historical representation of Cappadocian teaching, not to mention the metaphysics of late platonism. None of them are specialists in the metaphysics of ancient philosophy of that of late antiquity.

    It is no great shock to find analytic philosophers goofing up historical concepts since they are notoriously weak in the history of ideas. Again, your mentioning of a “basic beginning” is ambiguous as I noted before. Plenty of positions like Unitartianism start in the same way and the Unitarians aren’t ST.

    Lastly, the entire gloss on “starting with the three” as a distinctive mark of Cappadocian Trinitarianism is quite controversial. Michel Barnes’ De Regnon Reconsiderd as well as Lewis Ayers, The Fundamental Grammar of Augustine’s Trinitarian Theology, render the simple formula an implausible candidate to distinguish Cappadocian and Orthodox Trinitarianism from Augustinian triadology for simple fact that it finds its locus in the work of a 19th century Jesuit. Last I checked, the Jesuits weren’t Orthodox. Your statement here makes me doubt that you have studied much about this area at all.

    I didn’t equate freedom with anything random. Merely giving the alternative possibilities condition and that it doesn’t entail options of opposing moral value doesn’t of itself imply that the choice is “random” and lacks the requisite kind of control. My point was only to bring to light the common fallacious framing of freedom as requiring options of opposing moral value which you seem to adhere to and that grounds your adherence to the incompatibility thesis between impeccability and freedom and that just strikes me as Origenism in Mormon dress.

    Simply asserting that on the Orthodox view the divine persons can’t have free will and morally significant actions isn’t an argument that shows that it is so. So please excuse me while I balk. Moreover, if the Orthodox view is the ST view as you claim, why can’t the actions of the persons be morally praiseworthy and free? On the other hand, if they can’t, then this is good reason for thinking that the Orthodox view isn’t the ST view. Which is it?
    Secondly, maybe you could tell me what the Orthodox view of impeccability and immutability is and why they logically preclude freely willed and morally praiseworthy acts.

    If you do not think that Jesus actually sinned but it was and is an option for him now, when Jesus says in the Passion, “not my will”, that is, he wills not to go to the Cross, which is the Father’s will, was this a sin or not? And since you reject a “two nature theory” in Christology, do you mean to imply that the will is a feature of the person exclusively so that he has one will?

    And if it is possible for the gods to sin, is it possible for them to lie? Why not? And if they can sin and presumably deified persons can as well, then their deification and immortality is not permanent. So are we to say that in the gods there is no darkness and evil so far? And how can such persons be significantly happy if they can live in fear of losing their deified state and starting the whole cycle all over again?

    And lastly, this just seems to accept one horn Mackie’s objection to the Free Will Defense-agents can be free but not impeccable or impeccable but not free. So that one must choose between the theological concept of a permanent state in heaven or the philosophical concept of free will. Do the LDS teach that the gods can lie, sin and do evil and that there might be another fall, particularly here?
    I am not clear on why lacking an alternative to say “no” would imply a lack of another alternative, unless of course you think that there are only two alternatives, the good and the bad, both of which are simple.

    In order to retain their deified status, does the Son always have to say yes to Father when the Father wills something good or no? If not, why not? If not, then are alternative possibilities necessary for free will or no?

    If you are familiar with the Orthodox view of deificaiton, then surely you are familiar with the concept of the divine energies so that saying that simplicity is one of many energies should be quite familiar to you. So please, why not explicate the Orthodox view of the energies and then tell me what it means to say that simplicity is an energy. This is found in many of the standard sources for Orthodox teaching. If you think that an energy isn’t a mere universal, I’d need to know what you think a universal is? What theory do you endorse? Second, if you think its not a mere universal, then you must know what an energy is to know that.

    So what is an energy Blake?

    If you have in fact demonstrated what you claim to have demonstrated regarding the Orthodox doctrine of theosis, then surely you can articulate the core concept upon which that doctrine turns. To compose a refutation, you have to know the view you are refuting, so why should I have to tell you what I have in mind when you have already claimed to know what the Orthodox doctrine is?

    If you don’t know what it is, then I am not sure that your refutations are in fact refuting the Orthodox view. In fact, that’s a good reason for thinking that they don’t.

    Its great news to me that Molinists and Arminians hold that God is the formal cause of creatures. From Bellermine and Arminus all the way up to modern expositors like Flint and Miley, I have never seen them affirm as much. Moreover, none of them affirm that God has real relations with the world where “real relation” as a technical term denotes a dependence relation of God on the world. In fact they all more or less follow the Scotistic or Thomistic gloss via efficient causality or univocity of being. As for Open Theists, their notion of real relations doesn’t include the notion of God as the formal cause of creatures in any case and so isn’t germane. Besides, whatever Open Theism may amount to in the future, as things stand now, they aren’t representative of Classical and historic Protestant theology and represent at best a recent fringe.

    As I noted to Jared, it would come as a great surprise to people from Plato, all the way to Kant and Wittgenstein that to say that something is beyond being is to make an implicit claim about it metaphysically. It is no more plausible than to say that beyond the event horizon of a black hole the laws of physics do not apply and then to claim that one is implicitly giving an explanation of what is and takes place beyond the event horizon in terms of the laws of physics. Far too many great minds disagree with your bald assertion here for me to take it plausiubly. I mean, one of the greatest and most influential passages in Plato’s Republic asserts just what you deny and claim as self defeating and nothing personal, I think you aren’t as sharp as Plato.

    To say that something is beyond being is not in fact to say that we have some metaphsical notion of what transcends being. It is to say rather we have no notion of what that is or could mean. It is to say that something is ineffable. As for saying that we have concepts of being and essence, we have a whole mess of them.

    As far as being a million miles away from the language of Scripture, I beg to differ. Both the OT and the NT give plenty of examples of God as unknowable and unseeable and explicitly so, from Moses lack of vision to Paul’s explicit statement that no one can ever see God. So I just disagree and the Church judges that Scripture does speak in this way.

    I never claimed Paul makes an explicit claim to being a bishop. I said all of the churches directly founded by the Apostles have lists of bishops back TO the apostles. Further, given Scriptural usage, the Apostles were called bishops (Acts 1:20) Every apostle was a bishop, but not every bishop is an apostle. Further, Paul appoints Timothy as a bishop, among others.

    And even if your claim were true about Ireneaus its really not germane. First because Ireneaus only refers to Rome’s line and I spoke of many other churches other than Rome. Second, such lists can be found in part in Clement and other much earlier texts and finds. Third, the authoriship for the four gospels comes through Irenaeus and other Fathers “150 years” later. There are no manuscripts of the gospels prior to 200-250 which have their apostolic designations on them Are you to have me believe that you reject the apostolic authorship of the four gospels too? The NT canon itself takes final form much much later than Ireneaus but you seem to have no trouble accepting that and neither did Joseph Smith since heprays based on James’ instruction regarding wisdom. And if you reject that the NT teaches such, then this seems to undermine the LDS claims to have bishops as having orders derived from apostles since as you claim the NT never taught it. It seems you can only attack my position by refuting your own and that seems to be quite an inconvenience.

    As for what no history takes seriously, then I suspect we are reading different historians. And the value of modern historians depends on their arguments. If their arguments are bad ones, then it doesn’t matter what they take seriously. The same modern historians you allude to that do not take such lists as authentic for the very same reasons reject the authorship of the NT and so it seems you should reject the NT as well. I think their arguments are bad ones in both cases so it doesn’t matter much who they are. Appeals to authority are only so good as the arguments that the authorities put forward. And no historians qua historian worth his salt takes Joseph Smith’s claims regarding his divine appointment seriously either.

    As to how many LDS churches back to the apostles can you visit, do any of them have the bodies of the very apostles in them? Ours do. Sure anyone can claim a vision of apostolic foundation, like Ellen G. White, but proof is quite another thing. Last I checked the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem or any ancient Church in Jerusalem or of the ancient world isn’t an LDS church.

  210. Between the 2 posts that was 5065 words, Perry. Impressive. 2865 for the longer of the two in case anyone’s keeping track.

    Kullervo- how long was Hurd’s post anyway? Pretty sure I missed that one.

  211. Perry:

    Sorry if I screwed up the academic nomenclature, (and we all appreciate good pedantic instruction on that subject so don’t hesitate in the future if I get some jargon wrong)
    By analytic theology, I mean doing theology through use of tools of analytic philosophy, metaphysics, etc. I have read quite a bit of this and its not that I don’t understand it that I don’t like it. The more I understand it the less I like it.

    “If we can’t understand it, then it follows that the LDS can’t understand it via will, agreement, etc. and so their view is ruled out too. Is that what you wish to claim?”

    Yes, LDS “analytical theologians” are generally unsatisfying and annoying too. I really don’t think, when the rubber hits the road, that their analysis has a whole lot more real world content than Trinitarian “theorists”. They are only working with the little they got from Joseph Smith, who only claimed to speak a fraction of what he had seen.

    While its all very interesting to go through and argue concepts of God, at the fringes, i.e. when we are starting to talk about stuff that simply can’t be known, and then making arguments about it, it quickly becomes nonsense to me. I think its far more useful to play xBox or online poker or something more productive like that.

    That said, at least “will” and “agreement” can be explained in human terms and these terms do have meaning to humans, if not philosophers.

    While the bible can be read “philosophically” It doesn’t seem that most of it was intended to be read that way.

    What you are asking is for us to reject the distinction between person and nature and just view persons as more or less instances of natures.

    No, I am suggesting that ultimately we don’t have enough solid information to do that analysis. Scripture, as it is, is not enough to provide a solid ground to have a truly meaningful discussion.

    In fact, peer review is a guard against the ephemeral and superficial.

    yeah, I know nothing like that ever gets published. . .

    To say that something is beyond being is hardly a claim about the metaphysical status of the thing.

    Really? Well in my book, if you are commenting on “being” you are doing metaphysics. For something to be beyond “being” you have to have an entire metaphysics to back it up or it is just jibberish. What you suggest is like saying that when you say something is “beyond material” that you are not saying something about relation to physics.

    Part of the problem is that you are taking language to function in a meaningful sense only in terms of reference.

    No, you are simply assuming that is what I take language to be. Language has all kinds of functions that are not associated with denotation. However, language, in order to be meaningful, has to have some connection to human life, logic and experience. And, the complexity of the logic of language does lead to all kinds of puzzling sounding things when its not. So, when you begin a long, detailed discussion about things that are not only beyond physics, but beyond human logic, it naturally starts to sound irrelevant at best and complete nonsense at worst.

    Perhaps I am doing something other than referring with apophatic language?

    I agree, you are not referring at all, and there is no way to really judge whether apophatic language is accurate without some sort of actual contact with God, and even then, you can only really be as specific as what you get from the source. Even then, the most important things probably can’t be said.

    Moreover, lots of people in the history of thought disagree with you, like Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus with the ancients and people like Locke, Kant, Hume, Wittgenstein among the moderns. So I am unmoved by your bald assertion.

    Its hard to believe you think Hume and Wittgenstein are really on your side in this discussion. And, my assertion was far from bald, it was actually fairly subtle.

  212. I, for one, would like to see a lot more lengthy quotes from scripture and authoritative journal articles, just to break things up a bit.

    You can’t hold everone to James Marshall’s standards.

  213. Jared,

    No need to apologize, I just wanted to be clear on what you were objecting to. I guess I don’t think about using analytic philosophy in the context of explicating theological concepts in terms of like or dislike.

    As for the proposed type of unity that the LDS give for the three gods, my target wasn’t just those who use the tools of professional philosophers but the LDS theological take as well. Three separate beings is still a gloss so if we can’t know how they are united, then we can’t say that they are three separate beings united in agreement and will. If we can’t say how they are united, then we can’t say that they are in fact “separate.”

    As for “real world” content, I am not sure what you mean. I take non-empirical entities to be real too and demonstrations by reason to be just as sold proofs as those done by empirical means, such as in math for example. No one to date has ever sensed a number.
    And given that Paul says that no one can see God, claims that Smith saw God just fall flat.

    If we are arguing about stuff that can’t be known, then knowledge of them is not possible, in which case all we have are opinions, views for which it is impossible to know the truth concerning them. I don’t think I have opinions about this. I think I know. And if you think we can’t know then I don’t see the point of your arguing about it and you’d need to give me an argument to prove that we can’t in fact know about it.

    As for what is practical, all of this stuff is practical since it trickles down to the nether reaches of social and political behavior.

    I am not sure first again how we could know that the three things are united by will and agreement if you’ve already said that we can’t know how they are united. And in “human terms” is rather unclear. And will and agreement are just as complicated and will get us right back into the philosophical labyrinth that you seem to think is unprofitable and impractical. Will and agreement aren’t any more clear than notions of essence and being. Ifyouthink so, just startreading some action theory.

    I think rather that what happens is that people use every day terms and never reflect on what they really amount to. They think they know quite a bit, but in fact, they don’t know very much at all. As Augustine once wrote, I know what time is except when you ask me to explain it.
    Technology and knowledge given to us by others makes it seem that it is really easy to know things, when in fact, it is very, very hard and takes a lot of work.

    I wasn’t claiming that one should read the bible philosophically. Rather I was claiming that the words of the bible aren’t bereft of philosophical content, just as every day terms aren’t either. When the Bible speaks of the virtue or power going out of Christ with the woman with the issue of blood, what does that mean? What is virtue? What does it mean when it says “power?” This doesn’t imply that everything about God and the world is capable of philosophical analysis, but it isn’t completely lacking either.

    If we don’t have enough information to do the analysis, then we can’t say that they are separate beings either. Your proposed agnosticism here cuts both ways. If it rules out Trinitarianism, then it rules out the LDS view too. As for your comments aobut Scripture, I would propose this is why the Fathers teach that one must learn the rule of faith, the traditional reading first and then read the Scriptures. And this is why the apostolic tradition was always prior to and formed the context of Scripture. Scripture is the Church’s book.

    I never claimed that peer review was perfect, but it is certainly better than nothing at all. If you don’t think so, then I suppose you think that the technological progress of the last 500 years could have just as easily happened by chance. I don’t think so.

    Sure to talk about being is to do metaphysics, but to say that something is beyond the limits of metaphysics is not to make a metaphysical claim about what is beyond the limit. The analogy you give with immaterial objects is faulty for in both cases the entities in question “be” and in the case we are discussing, this is not so. So there is no strong analogy here.

    I wasn’t assuming what you took language to be. I worked from the claim that you made that such language wouldn’t be susceptible to some kind of verification, which turns on the concept of reference. I don’t know what else you could possible mean when you wrote about terms not being capable of confirmation.

    I don’t deny that apophatic terms and statements have connection to logic, but logic doesn’t require that I use a term to denote or refer to some object. I can use terms to deny or express a limit or express inadequacy or a whole host of things. And I don’t think that logic is “human” though some humans certainly employ it.

    You write that in apophatic terms there is no way to judge whether the term is accurate without some actual contact with God. How do you propose then to judge whether statements about numbers are accurate since we have no possible contact with numbers? The same goes for moral properties. Are now all moral statements, which aren’t even attempting to be apophatic useless and meaningless too? It seems that you are using some kind of verification principle here that terms have meaning in so far as they are capable of matching up with some experience. This was very popular in the last century of English speaking philosophy, but its pretty much been shown to be largely limited or unworkable.

    I don’t think it is hard to believe that Hume and Wittgenstein are on my side. If you read the Tractatus for example, Wittgenstein speaks of those things that are beyond language, when reality outstrips our language and about which we must be silent. There’s plenty of this stuff in the Investigations too.

    Hume is sufficiently clear that the natures of reality and the nature of reality as a whole is far beyond any possible finding out, which is one of the major reasons why Hume thinks that one cannot know that there are causes in the world, but only contiguous events from which we wrongly infer via custom that there is something that necessarily connects one event to the other. But the springs of nature and even of reason itself is beyond finding out, which is why Hume thinks that metaphysical questions via experience are idle-they go nowhere.

    This does not mean that I am a Nominalist like Hume or Wittgenstien, but only to illustrate the idea that reality can outstrip our concepts, while coming in a variety of forms and flavors is a widely espoused view in the history of philosophy.

    I hope this helps to explain my views a bit more.

  214. I agree with Wittgenstein on this issue. I.e. that what is not connected to the world, can’t be said and is essentially nonsense. That is not to say that things cannot be shown, or known, only that they can’t be known through parsing and extrapolating from the language of the bible.

    Wittgenstein’s Tractatus clearly argues that all this sort of theology is nonsense.

    My argument is not that words can’t capture things about God, nor that the things of God can’t be known (even when they can’t be effectively spoken), only that detailed philosophical analysis based on biblical text is not a good approach, and often leads to nonsense.

    How do you propose then to judge whether statements about numbers are accurate since we have no possible contact with numbers?

    Our use of number is based on complex ways of thinking and logic that is very much connected to the world. The logic of numbers is the logic of the world. We are swimming in numbers.

    Mormon ideas about God are much more tethered to this world than the concepts you are talking about. This is partly what makes them so offensive to other traditions.

  215. Three separate beings is still a gloss so if we can’t know how they are united, then we can’t say that they are three separate beings united in agreement and will. If we can’t say how they are united, then we can’t say that they are in fact “separate.”

    You are right, considering the inconsistent picture of God we get fom scripture, and the very limited information we get there, most of what we say is a gloss.

    We can say they are separate if you trust scripture, because there is no question that that is how they are consistently spoken of throughout scripture. The difficulty is always in explaining how they are the same.

  216. Pingback: Divide? Maybe not so much — Part 2 | Times & Seasons, An Onymous Mormon Blog

  217. It is clarity like the comment of Seth R. on how mormons emphasize orthopraxy over orthodoxy that I keep reading here and other evangelical-mormon blogs.

    I had never heard of Orthopraxy before. I also believe that “right practice” is much more important than having the “right opinion”. I include in right practice my belief that Jesus Christ is my savior.

  218. I was reading an article this morning written by a Protestant, Dallas Willard. In it, he gave one of the best descriptions of exaltation I’ve ever read:

    Rethinking Evangelicalism

    There’s a lot of food for thought in that article; his description of exaltation can be found under the heading “Preparation for the Life to Come.”

  219. For the record, it was Tim who told me (and hundreds of others) about the article. It really is worth a read, even if you’re not an evangelical.

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