Through Him All Things Were Made

I wanted to lend some insight into the orthodox notion of the Trinity and the doctrine of creation ex nihilo. Check out this verse.

John 1:3 (New International Version)

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

Pretend that your mouse cursor is Jesus. Now place him in the appropriate box according to John 1:3

Saying that Jesus is in the the group “all things made” creates a paradox because that would require him to have created himself.  So, Jesus fits better into the “uncreated” category. This makes Jesus the uncreated Creator of all things, a self existent being.

This is an attribute of Jesus that John chooses to lead off with in giving us an understanding of who Jesus is.

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101 thoughts on “Through Him All Things Were Made

  1. I don’t see anything at odds with what non-Trinitarians and non-creation ex nihilo Christians would believe. You’re categories themselves indicate that there are “things not made”. You, just as all readers have to do, modify the noun “all things” to refer to “all things made” were “made by him.” This means that there are “things not made by him.”

  2. I’m a bit dense, your last sentence lost me. If my categories in the box are not properly defined, I would defer to the verse itself.

  3. I’m not sure what the point of your posting is. Is it your understanding that Latter-day Saints believe Jesus is a “created” being and thus not “Self-existent”?….You are trying to refute that belief?

    If this is the case I would have to disagree that Mormons believe that Jesus is not “self-existent”. I think it would be more actuate in some sense to state that we believe all of us are “self-existent” or “co-eternal” beings.

    I’m not sure if that helps or makes things worse but I have to go…I’ll check back later.

  4. I don’t see what the argument of the original post has to do with the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity.

    If you interpret the verse to mean that Jesus was the creator of all things (and I don’t know of any other interpretation), then I would assume that the author isn’t including Jesus in “all things.” To assume that is stretching the simple meaning of the words to say something they were never intended to say.

    Here’s an analogy: If you meet me in an art gallery, and I tell you I created everything in the gallery, even if I put the emphasis on “everything,” you don’t assume I’m talking about myself (nor, for that matter, the light bulbs). You would assume I created all the sculptures or paintings or whatever. To assume otherwise would be to stretch the meanings of my words.

    Maybe another way of saying this is that the verse doesn’t address how things came about, but by whom. There’s a paradox involved only if you try to make the words say something the author never intended.

    While I certainly think there are paradoxes (or apparent paradoxes) in scripture, this isn’t one of them.

  5. Of course I place Jesus in the orange “All Things Not Made” box.

    But I should point out Tim – I place you and me in the same orange box. God didn’t make us “out of nothing” either.

  6. Tim,
    These paradoxi are everywhere in philosophy. If you want to know how “All things were made” and are confused by John’s statment please allow me to tel you that all things that exist now in the physical world (were made) once existed in another form, that of spirit. Jesus Christ Created all things (physical creation) he was at the begining and thus did not need to create himself. I think he was, as all things were before the physical, in spirit form when he created “All things.”

    Does that help?
    -D

  7. Yeah, I think this is one of those instances when a litteral interpretation is convenient, even though we know a litteral interpretation of all scripture is not appropriate. It is perfectly reasonable to assume, as eric has above, that the verse in question was written under the assumption that Jesus was the one creating, and therefore exempt from being included in the “all things created” category. Which makes the argument moot.

    Besides, your interpretation still depends on the intended meaning of the english word “made” as it was originally written in Greek. Those of you with strong backgrounds in Greek can help me out here. What was the original word and what was it’s most appropriate meaning? It is certainly possible that there isn’t really a strong case for creatio ex nihilo here (if “made” could reasonably be interpreted as “organized”, in fitting into a more LDS view), much less scriptural proof (oxymoron?) that Jesus is indeed “un-created” by the Father. And by un-created, I mean in the spiritual sense. I believe as Eric does that He (as well as all of us) have always existed, just not in our current form/arrangement/organization.

  8. Well, the Hebrew word “bara” for create in Genesis means “divide” more than it means – “will into existence.”

  9. Is it possible that in some form God the Father was in part responsible for our spiritual creation, kind of like a father is in the birthing of one’s child?

  10. I always figured “create” in the Bible meant in the same sense that an artist “creates” a painting. Never saw much call to assume that create meant “ex nihilo.”

  11. Interesting perspective.

    To me, John is saying that Jesus created all things that were created. John leaves room for existence of things that “have not been made” i.e. that have always existed. For John, Jesus is one of those things. He doesn’t list the other uncreated things.

    However, but didn’t in some sense Jesus was created, wasn’t he? As a Man he was not fully formed from the get-go. The environment had an effect on him, his genetic make-up, the culture, the people around him, his mother, his siblings. They all had free will and their choices must have had some effect on Jesus.

    Did he take that experience and knowledge with him back to heaven?

  12. I should edit before I post…..

    the first sentence of the second paragraph should read:

    “In some sense Jesus was created, wasn’t he?”

  13. I’ll try to answer all of you in this one comment (good luck to me). If I don’t address your specific comment, let me know.

    I checked out the greek word for “made” in my Strong’s Concordance. It primarily means “to cause to be”. So let’s look at this NTV (new Tim version)

    Through him all things were caused to be; without him nothing was caused to be that has been caused to be.

    A secondary definition that Mormons might like better for “made” is “to be assembled”. So the NTV would be:

    Through him all things were assembled; without him nothing was assembled that has been assembled.

    Either way, both of these versions have problems in Mormon doctrine.

    The first one, CAUSED TO BE, is a problem because Mormons believe that nothing was caused to be, everything or everyone is self-existent. This belief makes the verse meaningless and/or false. Jesus shouldn’t be credited with causing anything to be, much less ALL THINGS caused.

    The second version at the face might appeal to Mormons because they’re already using the word “organized”. But this make Jesus the assembler of Heavenly Father. ALL THINGS assembled were assembled by Jesus. Heavenly Father was assembled at some point. Kolob was assembled at some point. Everyone sitting on the counsel of gods was assembled. This verse states that Jesus was ultimately responsible for assembling everything ever assembled. That includes Jesus. Jesus assembled himself.

    It’s not the word “made” that should be called into question as much as “all things”.

    My illustration does indeed set up two categories, things made and things not made. But the verse defines what belongs in those categories.

    ALL THINGS = things made (Through him all things were made)
    Jesus = the maker of things (without him nothing was made)

    When John calls Jesus the Logos. He’s not just setting him up as a painter of the world. He’s setting him up as THE life sustaining principle over everything. THE ultimate source.

    When you start getting into brass tacts of all the scriptures that explain the creation and the nature of God and you have to measure all of your speculations against this verse, creation ex-nihilo and the Trinity start to emerge. Neither doctrine is explicitly stated in John 1, but it does tie your leg down about who Jesus is.

  14. Since it is late and I am still studying for final exams, and because I have temporarily taken my blog down for reconstruction and maintenance and hence can’t link to my lengthy post on “Creatio Ex Nihilo”, I will just quote Blake here in his response to Copan and Craig (I will provide links if anyone is interested in further reading, just let me know):

    John 1.3:

    “…[T]his verse says nothing about the creation of “preexistent matter.” One must assume beforehand that the word create must mean to create ex nihilo in order to arrive at this conclusion, for this verse says only that if something was made, then it was made through the Word. It does not address anything that may not have been made. More important, it does not address how those things were made, its point being through whom the creation was made. Anything that was made was made by Christ. Since the translation one reviews is so critical to interpretation, I will provide another translation: “All things came about through him and without him not one thing came about, which came about.” The question in this case is whether the final phrase which came about is part of this verse or the beginning of the next verse…Of course, the reality of this text is that it does not consciously address the issue of creation ex nihilo at all. It states who accomplished the creation, not how it was done. A person who accepts creation from chaos can easily say that no “thing” came about that is not a result of the Word’s bringing it about but agree that there is a chaos in which no “things” exist prior to their creation as such. Copan and Craig hang their hat on the connotations of the word παντα, meaning “all” in an inclusive sense. They argue that because “all” things that come about are brought about by the Word, there is no possibility of an uncreated reality that has not been brought about by God. However, the final phrase, ‘εγενετο ο’υδε εν ο γεγονεν, translated “nothing made that was made,” limits the scope of the creative power to the order of the created and implies that whatever is not made was not made by him. If it is created, he created it; if it is not, then it is not within the scope of “what is made.”

    And in another place Blake adds:

    ““C&C also argue that John 1:3 supports the idea of creation out of nothing: “All things were made by him; and without him there was not any thing made that was made.” (KJV) C&C assert of this verse: “The implication is that all things (which would include pre-existent matter, if that were applicable to the creative process) exist through God’s agent, who is the originator of everything.” However, this verse says nothing about the creation of “pre-existent matter.” One must assume that the word “create” must mean to create ex nihilo to arrive at this conclusion, for this verse only says that if some thing was made, then it was made through the Word. This verse does not address anything that may not have been made. More importantly, it does not address how those things were made. The point of this verse is not how but through whom the creation was made. Anything that was made was made by Christ. However, since the translation one reviews is so critical to interpretation, I will provide another translation: “All things came about through him and without him not one thing came about, which came about.” The question is whether the final phrase “which came about” is part of this verse, or the beginning of the next verse. As Hubler states:

    ‘The punctuation of [John 1:3] becomes critical to its meaning. Proponents of creatio ex materia could easily qualify the creatures of the Word to that “which came about,” excluding matter. Proponents of creatio ex nihilo could place a period after “not one thing came about” and leave “which came about” to the next sentence. The absence of a determinate tradition of punctuation as New Testament [Greek] leaves room for both interpretations. Neither does creation by word imply ex nihilo (contra Bultmann) as we have seen in Egypt, Philo, and Midrash Rabba, and even in 2 Peter 3:5 where the word functions to organize pre-cosmic matter.’

    Of course, the reality of this text is that it simply does not consciously address the issue of creation ex nihilo. A person who accepts creation from chaos can easily say that there is not any “thing” that came about which is not a result of the Word’s bringing it about, but there is a chaos in which there is not yet any “things” which existed prior to creation.

    [Hubler states]:

    ‘Several New Testament texts have been educed as evidence of creatio ex nihilo. None makes a clear statement which would have been required to establish such an unprecedented position, or which we would need as evidence of such a break with tradition [of creatio ex materia]. None is decisive and each could easily by accepted by a proponent of creatio ex materia.’

    Similarly, in his extensive study of the origin of the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo in Christian thought Gerhard May explains why he does not believe that the New Testament texts can be taken to refer to creatio ex nihilo.

    ‘The passages repeatedly quoted as New Testament witnesses for the idea of creatio ex nihilo are Romans 4:17, where Paul says that God ‘calls into being the things that are not’, and Hebrews 11:3 where it says that ‘the visible came forth from the invisible.’ But these formulations fit with the statements in hellenistic Judaism … about creation…out of non-being [i.e., from formless chaos]…’

    May explains that creatio ex nihilo is a metaphysical doctrine that requires conscious formulation, and such an approach was completely foreign to any of the biblical writers:

    ‘The biblical presentation of the Almighty God who created the world … possess for early Christianity an overwhelming self-evidence and was not perceived as a metaphysical problem. This new question first concerned the theologians of the second century, deeply rooted in philosophical thinking, and wanting consciously to understand the truth of Christianity as the truth of philosophy.’ The truth is that these scholars feel that a “rigorous” exegesis is not needed to show that these biblical passages do not address the issue of creatio ex nihilo because it is fairly obvious on the face of such passages that they do not consciously formulate such a metaphysical doctrine…. An approach which resists reading creatio ex nihilo into the text unless it is expressly formulated is especially appropriate where, as we shall see, the earliest Christian philosophers assumed that the doctrine of creation from preexisting chaos was the Christian view. The issue simply had not been addressed or settled prior to the end of the second century when the adoption of a middle-Platonic view of God and matter as a background assumption of discourse made adoption of creatio ex nihilo the only rational doctrine to adopt.”

    —–

    Sorry if this was too long, and in some cases a bit redundant (I was pulling from several sources). Although John 1.1-3 is interesting, we perhaps could also profitably look at Gen.1.1-3 (upon which John appears to pattern his language), and which undoubtedly teaches creation from pre-existing chaos.

    Best wishes,

    TYD

  15. Tim said:

    This verse states that Jesus was ultimately responsible for assembling everything ever assembled. That includes Jesus. Jesus assembled himself.

    You’re taking the phrase “all things” way, way too literally. You might want to check a good Greek lexicon. The Greek word translated here as “all things,” pas, basically means “all” or “everyone” and is extremely common in the New Testament. But there are many cases where it is used much more loosely than you suggest. (Matthew 3:5 is an example. It seems unlikely that literally “all Judea” was baptized.)

    I don’t know how much work you’ve done with foreign languages, but I’ve done quite a bit. I don’t know Greek, but I do know that one of the principles of translation is that you can’t always translate word for word, that you have to look (among other things) at the intent of the speaker. And I just don’t see John’s purpose here as saying one thing or the other about whether Jesus was created or pre-existent. (I believe the latter, by the way.)

    You also didn’t address my analogy in #4. It also gets at the idea that you have to look at the intended meaning as best as you can.

    Tim said:

    When John calls Jesus the Logos. He’s not just setting him up as a painter of the world. He’s setting him up as THE life sustaining principle over everything. THE ultimate source.

    Paul said things similar to that on more than one occasion. I just don’t see what that has to do with the doctrine of the Trinity and ex nihilo creation.

  16. To me the sentence qouted ends up being almost intentionally cryptic. He does nothing to answer any of the questions that the sentence brings up. It cries out for an explanation that is not found in the text. (The starting point of most theological debates)

    I think that if you are going to start drawing conclusions from this sentence that it should be read in context:

    John 1:1-5 (New International Version)
    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

    It seems almost comical to draw ANY cosmological or ontological conclusions from this passage. Let me try to explain why.

    If you wanted to get totally technical (not my recommendation but seems to be the general direction) John was only talking about things that were made on or after “the beginning”. He doesn’t say there was nothing in the beginning, he just says that the Word, who later became flesh, made all things that were made “in the beginning.”

    He doesn’t say what happened before “the beginning” and there is nothing in the text to lead us to assume there was nothing there and there something before the date we call the beginning”.

    We have to assume that things were made after “the beginning” since Jesus became flesh after that point, I was born and all kinds of “things” were made in the process of birth and death. Mountains were formed, lakes were made, clouds were made. He doesn’t say anything about whether the Word just put some laws in motion or whether he He also doesn’t explicitly state that Jesus made all thing that were made after “the beginning”. He also does not say that there could be more things made later, i.e. after the time he was writing.

    We have no idea whether “the beginning” John is talking about the “Big Bang” that seems to be how all matter in the known universe was formed or simply the time “the Word was with God.” We don’t know if the “Word was with God’ before the beginning, or when and where he was prior to that time.

    We can’t assume that “the beginning” was before time, since it assumes time. We have no idea whether John was just talking about 4.5 billion years ago when the earth began to be formed. Obviously John had no clue that the known universe is 13.7 billion years old and, like us, has no capacity to understand how long that is, it might have seemed to him, like me, eternity if he saw it in a vision. He could have been talking about the council of gods as described in Abraham, we have no clue from this text. He also doesn’t say where the Word was or where God was.

    Without definitive answers to at least some of these questions any inference about cosmology from the passage appears mere speculation.

    We also have no idea where John came up with this concept to aid us in our understanding. We don’t know if he had a vision from God specifically explaining creation or if he is simply quoting Genesis.

    Thus, to me, using this passage as some sort of proof against Mormon doctrine is a huge stretch.
    It seems almost too obvious that Mormons can believe both John and Joseph, but must admit they have little clue about the answers to all of the questions that the statements bring up. Joseph, in his equally cryptic and metaphorical statements about creation and eternal nature of personality and spirits gives no detailed explanation and answers few of the hundreds of questions springing from his brief descriptions of creation and eternity.

    If John, or no other Biblical writer spent much time going into any detail on this subject why does it matter so much who is right on this question, or even who is close to being right? It doesn’t seem that the scriptures “explain” much of anything about the process of creation other than it happened and God and the Word did it.

    Overall, my question would be: Wouldn’t God would have explained the process of in detail in the bible if it was (1) possible to explain or (2) at all significant to His general project?

    In practice, does it matter if you believe in ex nihilo creation vs. the existence of some eternal substances?

    I honestly can’t see much difference on any practical level on this point of contention.

  17. Also, Tim said that “Mormons believe that nothing was caused to be, everything or everyone is self-existent.”

    Aside from believing in the fundamental laws of physics and conservation of matter, this is not accurate. Mormons believe in the self-existent nature of God and some elements of human spirits (labeled “Intelligences” in Abraham).

  18. Jared C. said: “In practice, does it matter if you believe in ex nihilo creation vs. the existence of some eternal substances? I honestly can’t see much difference on any practical level on this point of contention.

    That raises exactly the question I was going to ask Tim (and any evangelical lurkers around) this morming.

    This is one of those issues that evangelical apologists frequently pick on LDS for, but what I don’t understand is why, from a practical matter, it makes any difference to the evangelical. If you, dear evangelical, were to wake up tomorrow morning morning and somehow be convinced that creation ex nihilo wasn’t a true doctrine, that you were interpreting the ambiguous biblical teachings on this matter incorrectly, how would that change your relationship with Jesus Christ? I can’t imagine why it would.

    As a practical matter, is there any real difference between creating from nothing and creating from something we might not even be able to perceive if it were in front of us?

  19. This may seem stupid, but…

    It seems to me that the only reason Evangelicals are so committed to ex nihilo creation is that it’s already what they believe and have been taught in church.

    Mormons on the other hand are committed to not-ex-nihilo creation because… it’s already what they believe and have been taught in church.

    In other words, both sides are trying to muster logic and evidence in support of what really is just an a priori dogmatic position. There’s really no room for any convincing to be done, and neither side is really in a very good position to criticize the integrity of the other’s position. I know each side thinks its position is the most logical and reasonable and makes the most theological sense, but that’s only because you decided on the answer–or had the answer decided for you–before you ever went looking for the question.

  20. I think this interesting quote (brought to my attention by Nitsav a while back) by Peter Hayman is relevant:

    “God creates order out of a pre-existing chaos; he does not
    create from nothing. Nearly all recent studies on the origin of the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo have come to the conclusion that this doctrine is not native to Judaism, is nowhere attested in the Hebrew Bible, and probably arose in Christianity in the second century C.E. in the course of its fierce battle with Gnosticism.[5] The one scholar who continues to maintain that the doctrine is native to Judaism, namely Jonathan Goldstein, thinks that it first appears at the end of the first century C.E., but has recently conceded the weakness of his position in the course of debate with David Winston.[6]

    My view is that David Winston is correct to argue that the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo came into Judaism from Christianity and Islam at the beginning of the Middle Ages and that even then it never really succeeded in establishing itself as the accepted Jewish doctrine on creation. Aristotelian views on the eternity of the world were perfectly acceptable in Judaism, as also were neo-platonist views on its emanation out of the One, because creatio ex nihilo could not be demonstrated from the Scriptures. Maimonides (Guide, II.26) concedes that rabbinic texts teach creation out of primordial matter and most commentators, starting with Samuel Ibn Tibbon, the first translator of his work into Hebrew, believe that Maimonides himself privately thought that the world was eternal.[7]″

    –footnotes–

    [5]-See H. F. Weiss, Untersuchungen zur Kosmologie des hellenfstischen und palästinischen
    Judentums (Berlin, 1966); David Winston, ‘The Book of Wisdom’s Theory of Cosmogony’, History of Religions 11
    (1971), pp. 185-202; Georg Schmuttermayr, ‘Schöpfung aus dem Nichts in 2 Makk 7,28?’, BZ 17 (1973), pp. 203-28;
    Gerhard May, Schöpfung aus dem Nichts (Berlin, 1978).

    [6]-‘The Origins of the Doctrine of Creation Ex Nihilo’, JJS 35 (1984), pp. 127-$5; and ‘Creation Ex Nihilo:
    Recantations and Restatements’, JJS 38 (1987), pp. 187-94. Winston defends himself against Goldstein in a reply
    published in JJS 37 (1986), pp. 88-91.

    [7]-See Colene Sirat,4 History of Jewish Philosophy in the Middle, Ages (Cambridge, 1985), pp. 188 ff., 218 ff.

    Source: Peter Hayman, “Monotheism- A Misused Word in Jewish Studies?” (presidential address) Journal of Jewish Studies, Vol. XLII No. 1 (Spring 1991)

    The point is that recent biblical scholarship has effectively demonstrated what the origins of “creatio ex nihilo” are. Even the Jewish Study Bible (by the Jewish Publication Society) takes verses such as Gen. 1.1 as teaching creation from pre-existing chaos.

  21. If you meet me in an art gallery, and I tell you I created everything in the gallery, even if I put the emphasis on “everything,” you don’t assume I’m talking about myself (nor, for that matter, the light bulbs). You would assume I created all the sculptures or paintings or whatever. To assume otherwise would be to stretch the meanings of my words.

    If you stated that everything that could be created was created by you and only by you, then I would start to assume the podiums and light bulbs were made by you. I quite naturally would know that you didn’t mean yourself, because as the creator you would stand outside of your creation.

    In the same way, Jesus stands outside of his creation. The verse states that everything was caused to be and everything owes it’s existence to Jesus. Jesus stands outside of all creation.

    The Greek word translated here as “all things,” pas, basically means “all” or “everyone” and is extremely common in the New Testament. But there are many cases where it is used much more loosely than you suggest. (Matthew 3:5 is an example. It seems unlikely that literally “all Judea” was baptized.)

    We’re not talking about the Gospel of Mark here. This is the first chapter of John. It’s easily the most precise and philosophically dense piece of writing in the entire Bible. John wasn’t just throwing down a stream of consciousness like Paul in Ephesians 1. I think it’s safe to say that he was choosing his words carefully. I’m glad Jared pointed out the context because the context makes it quite clear that John is setting Jesus up as something altogether unique and superior.

    This is one of those issues that evangelical apologists frequently pick on LDS for, but what I don’t understand is why, from a practical matter, it makes any difference to the evangelical.

    The reason we think it makes a difference is because we think the Mormon church is in sin for thinking too little of Jesus. Mormonism is either reducing Jesus to something less than THE one and only true God or raising all of humanity to something similar to him.

  22. It seems to me that the only reason Evangelicals are so committed to ex nihilo creation is that it’s already what they believe and have been taught in church.

    Mormons on the other hand are committed to not-ex-nihilo creation because… it’s already what they believe and have been taught in church.

    I don’t deny that I might be partial to my a priori teaching on creation ex nihilo. But somewhere along the way Christian scholars came up with the idea from their examination of scripture. My intent in bringing it up was to show where the idea begins to form. Just as LDS will direct me to the Book of Abraham to show me that the world was merely organized.

  23. The point is that recent biblical scholarship has effectively demonstrated what the origins of “creatio ex nihilo” are. Even the Jewish Study Bible (by the Jewish Publication Society) takes verses such as Gen. 1.1 as teaching creation from pre-existing chaos.

    I’ll concede my lack of theological training may show up here, but I don’t see that it’s a problem to say that creation ex nihilo came from New Testament teachings. I don’t think the Old Testament really teaches that the Messiah was one with God either.

  24. I don’t deny that I might be partial to my a priori teaching on creation ex nihilo. But somewhere along the way Christian scholars came up with the idea from their examination of scripture. My intent in bringing it up was to show where the idea begins to form. Just as LDS will direct me to the Book of Abraham to show me that the world was merely organized.

    That’s fair. I’m not saying that the discussion is worthless or meaningless, just pointing out one of its inherent limitations. I definitely think it is worthwhile to compare and contrast, to ask why we believe one thing and someone else believes another.

    But we’re treading on flimsy ground when we convince ourselves that our religious beliefs are actually the most logical conclusion from all available raw data.

  25. “Mormonism is either reducing Jesus to something less than THE one and only true God or raising all of humanity to something similar to him.”

    Seems like zero sum thinking to me.

  26. But Mormonism does raise all of humanity to “something similar to him.” It’s not a bad thing–it’s kind of the point.

  27. Kullervo said: “It seems to me that the only reason Evangelicals are so committed to ex nihilo creation is that it’s already what they believe and have been taught in church. Mormons on the other hand are committed to not-ex-nihilo creation because… it’s already what they believe and have been taught in church.

    I agree with you to a certain extent. Basically, I think the Bible itself is inconclusive on the matter. I find neither ex nihilo creation nor ex materia creation clearly contradictory to the Biblical testimony.

    So if I start out believing in creation ex nihilo, I would tend to see the Bible supporting that view. If I start out believing in creation ex materia, I also see support for that view.

    The same goes for views on the Trinity. The Bible doesn’t say anything directly pro or con about the three Persons being of one susbstance. But if I held to that view, I would certainly see strong suggestions of it in the Bible (and the Book of Mormon, for that matter). The same goes for the view that the three Persons are united in purpose (and more) but not substance. While I do think there is more Biblical evidence for the latter view, I don’t find the Bible conclusive on the matter and can see how people in all good faith could come to different conclusions.

    Tim said: “The reason we think it [ex nihilo creation] makes a difference is because we think the Mormon church is in sin for thinking too little of Jesus.

    I really don’t see how it makes a difference. The method God/Jesus used says more about the nature of matter and the universe than it does about the divine nature. To me, and this is the point I think John is making, what matters most is that Jesus was the Creator, and that He (under the direction of his Father) was the one responsible for the development universe as we know it. What the laws of physics involved are doesn’t really seem to affect me all that much.

    Only if I assume that a God who creates from nothing is somehow “more omnipotent” than a God who creates from chaos does it matter, and I don’t make that assumption.

  28. That’s what I meant Kullervo. I think calling upon humanity to become like God is a good thing.

    Tim, it’s not like you have to abandon your sense of humility before God’s perfection to be a Mormon you know.

  29. Well, Mormonism doesn’t necessarily claim that God is omnipotent in some philosophical sense. Mormon God is more like “practically omnipotent, so you’re not wrong if you round it off.”

    “Omnipotence” is just a word invented by human beings anyway, and it conveys a purely theoretical, abstract concept that is also something invented by human beings. The way we conceptualize “omnipotence”–usually leading to logical puzzles like whether God can make a rock so heavy he can’t lift it–may have nothing to do with anything in reality.

  30. Tim,

    To echo some others above, why is it that you think (at least you seem to imply) that if God/Jesus created the universe out of chaos rather than from nothing that it somehow diminishes His omnipotence? With this kind of thinking, we attempt to limit God by forcing his nature into our preconcieved notions of what it means to be omnipotent. Or in other words, what it means to be God. And we thus, through our limiting of Him, diminish him to less than God. Is this paradoxical to anyone else but me?

    BTW, Kullervo,

    You make a valid point, and I concede fully that I interpret the Bible to fit my preconcieved beliefs. I am able to do this, however, precisely because the Bible is so ambiguous on the matter. Anything I say regarding this topic is not to try and convince anyone else that my view is right (since this would be impossible given the text), but to refute the idea that somehow the text disproves my own interpretation of it.

  31. Tim said: “The reason we think it [ex nihilo creation] makes a difference is because we think the Mormon church is in sin for thinking too little of Jesus.”

    Actually you’re putting words in my mouth. By “it” I didn’t mean creation ex nihilo. That is a doctrine that comes out of this verse, but the thing we (or at least me) are so concerned with are Jesus’ special status as THE one and only God, the uncreated creator and the uncaused cause. Creation ex nihilo is not as central to our doctrine as the nature of God.

    Seth (and everyone),
    I think it would be helpful for you to know that anything that even remotely sounds like “we too can be gods” makes Evangelical ears bleed. It’s about the most abominable thing we can imagine hearing. It’s not a nice notion that makes us feel warm fuzzies (like perhaps that we are made in the image of God). To us, it’s an expression that deserves absolute damnation.

  32. I think it would be helpful for you to know that anything that even remotely sounds like “we too can be gods” makes Evangelical ears bleed. It’s about the most abominable thing we can imagine hearing. It’s not a nice notion that makes us feel warm fuzzies (like perhaps that we are made in the image of God). To us, it’s an expression that deserves absolute damnation.

    While I think Mormons should understand this, I still see no reason why they should apologize or back off one whit from this doctrine. But they need to understand that this is a big deal to Evangelicals, no matter how much of a bid deal Mormons don’t think it should be. Mormons need to understand that Evangelicals are never going to think of Mormons as “one of us,” but Mormons also shouldn’t want to be accepted as “one of us” by Evangelicals. Because the whole point of Mormonism is that it offers something completely different. Otherwise, why send missionaries to the US, other than a naked organizational mandate for growth?

    If the issue is understanding and dialogue, this is an issue that should be addressed and discussed.

  33. Because no name should receive praise and adoration expect for God. (anytime, anywhere). Setting ourselves up to be gods takes praise and worship away from THE only one who should ever receive it.

    If a Mormon readily admitted that Joseph Smith is likely to be off somewhere creating his own universe where people are worshiping him as Heavenly Father, they would be uttering the most foul blasphemy we can imagine.

    The Jewish leaders response to Jesus calling himself “I AM” was probably appropriate if Jesus were not who he said he was.

    And I agree with Kullervo, Mormons shouldn’t change their minds about it just because it causes orthodox Christians to be angry. But it very easily identifies WHY orthodox Christians have so much anger over Mormons calling themselves “Christians”.

    [Mormons should change their minds about it because the prophets and the scriptures that tell them exaltation to godhood are false]

  34. I thought I would supply some references and literature (in addition to what I have mentioned above) to anyone who may be interested to do further research on “creatio ex nihilo” :

    1) “Creation and the Persistence of Evil” by Jon D. Levenson [this book is quite affordable]

    2) “Creatio Ex Nihilo: The Doctrine of ‘Creation Out of Nothing’ in Early Christian Thought” by Gerhard May and A. S. Worral [this book can be difficult to obtain for a reasonable price; you could, however, alternatively try this book: “Creatio Ex Nihilo” by Gerhard May, which is usually cheaper]

    3) “Creatio ex Nihilo: Matter, Creation, and the Body in Classical and Christian Philosophy through Aquinas” by James N. Hubler [this book is somewhat difficult to obtain as well since it is a PhD dissertation–I had to order it through Interlibrary Loan, something I realize not everyone has access to]

    I think once you begin doing serious research on this topic you’ll conclude it is not very ambiguous.

  35. “Setting ourselves up to be gods takes praise and worship away from THE only one who should ever receive it.”

    Again, you’re engaging in zero sum thinking – assuming a scare value where more for me means less for Him. This isn’t about us vs. God Tim.

    This is about becoming one with God in a family sort of unity. This kind of scarcity thinking has no real place in a perfected family. My sister won a major modern dance competition a while back. Am I supposed to feel diminished by that?

    Maybe if I felt (as some siblings do) that Mom and Dad’s approval is something scarce that I am competing with my siblings for. But that’s not how heaven works.

    Let’s use another example. Am I supposed to feel threatened if my son eventually becomes a successful businessman, or musician, or whatever? Is he taking away glory that belongs to me?

    Why should God be different? Why is He so threatened by any of us being exalted? Is He really that insecure?

  36. Just for the sake of discussion, let’s go down that rabbit hole of Joseph Smith off somewhere creating worlds and being worshiped.

    Caveat: all of this is purely speculative and just my own thoughts. Keep that in mind.

    You are ignoring the sort of unity that exists in heaven. You already use this unity to explain how you can worship Jesus without committing blasphemy against the Father. Is it diminishing the glory of the Father to direct worship toward the Son? Well, a lot of Muslims think so. But you and I don’t right?

    What makes you so certain that the same sort of unity the Father and the Son share cannot be extended to their other children?

    Under this paradigm – even if Joseph is right now creating worlds and “being worshiped,” who is really being glorified?

    God the Father of course – via His children. He who knows the Son, knows the Father. Why is this not potentially true of all God’s children at some point?

    End of speculation. I don’t really know what Joseph Smith is doing right now, or what he is going to be doing. Neither do I know for sure what any of us will be doing.

    But I do know who my Father is, and I feel He has called us to be something more.

  37. Tim,

    Based on the above comments I have two questions.

    Where in the bible does it say that it is terribly sinful to “think too little” of Jesus.

    Is there anything in the bible that says that God will not:

    1) Allow people to become His children through Christ
    2) Make his children like him by purifying them He is pure?
    3) Inherit His throne?
    4) Allow people to partake in the divine nature?
    5) give some people “all that He has”?

    If not, is putting the title “god” on a being who God has given these gifts really worthy of “absolute damnation” ?

    That attitude seems like a strange sort of prejudice to me. i.e. If you use the wrong words to talk about salvation you will be damned!

  38. I am (with all due respect, of course) having a hard time understanding why evangelicals are so offended by LDS emphasis on our devine potential. I suppose it boils down to one or another conclusion that former church leaders (or possibly LDS friends of the evangelicals in question) came to about the specific nature of this devine status. I can see how someone saying “I am going to be equal with God” would be highly offensive, I would also take offense. But this is not the (admittedly ambiguous) doctrine the LDS teaches, only the misguided (IMO) conclusions of a few or many.

    Tha fact is, we take our cues as much from the Bible as anything ( see Jared C.s questions above), though the Book of Moses certainly put’s a uniquely mormon perspective on things. It is absolutley clear to me from the Bible that we have the potential to be “like” God, for He tell us so. That He, thorugh His grace and mercy, and our willingness, can give us “all that He has”. That’s some pretty powerfull stuff! I might add that the Bible states that the Father “gave” all to the Son, which would imply that before it was given, Christ had much less than the Father, and hence the need to be “given” all. You see what happens when we try to interpret the Bible literally 😉 Going back to our discussion as to the meaning of the word “all”, what do you make of this promise, Tim? It’s not a challenge, I’m just curious.

    The church doesn’t pretend to teach what the nature of our exhaltation of devine status will be, or what sort of relationship will be realized between ourselves and our Father. Simply that the promises will be fulfilled, and we indeed have devine potential. Logical extrapolation of the doctrine would cause one to conclude that it is very likely that some (maybe very, very, few) will one day be creating worlds of their own, being worshipped by their own creation. But even in this most extreme application of the doctrine, I don’t see how that diminishes God in anyway, only glorifies Him further.

    Just my 2 c.

  39. Tim said: “Setting ourselves up to be gods takes praise and worship away from THE only one who should ever receive it.

    How ironic. Of all the controversial doctrines Mormons have, the idea of us becoming godlike is perhaps the most Biblical of all.

    And it seems to me, as has already been said, that, if anything, our become godlike actually adds to our Heavenly Father’s glory without detracting from it one iota.

    This is going to be a very imperfect analogy, but do you know what is making me feel good these days? One of my children is about to graduate from college, and she already has an excellent job lined up for after graduation and is making plans to rent a house, buy a car and do all those things that come with full adulthood. In other words, she is becoming as I am — a responsible adult. I am extremely pleased to see the progress she has made in her life. And does that detract from the love she has for me? Not in the least. Does it detract from who I am as her earthly father? Not in the least. If anything, her progress in life is a way of honoring me and a display of gratitude for the love and grace I have shown her.

    And that’s something like how I think our Heavenly Father feels. Our progress doesn’t diminish him in the least and is in fact something He wants.

    Maybe it’s our critics who are the ones making God and Jesus Christ too small.

  40. frofreak, ever read the King Follett dicsourse? Joseph Smith taught clearly and unambiguously that humans have the potential to become Gods and that God is an exalted man. and not just on the one occasion. And not just Joseph Smith, either. Check out Gospel Principles. It’s in there, unambiguously.

    While it’s not the kind of thing people usually talk about in sacrament meeting–for all kinds of reasons–it has always been affirmed either tacitly or explicitly until Gordon B. Hinckley back-pedaled on Larry King (“I don’t know that we believe that”). And it was disingenuous–he knew very well that plenty of Mormons believe that, even though they don’t talk about it all the time.

    If the doctrine is changing, then you can argue that people don;t believe it anymore.

  41. I still personally believe the King Follett discourse. I agree with Richard Bushman that we, as a Church, tend to get into trouble when we stray too far from the prophet Joseph.

    He may be problematic, but he’s worth sorting out. There’s a lot of richness of belief in the teachings of Joseph Smith, if you’re willing to tough it out, and not let squeamishness distract you from the truth.

  42. Kullervo,

    Thanks for giving me the chance to clarify. When I talk about the teachings concerning our fulfilling our devine potential, I am indeed bound by Josephs teaching as far as they were explicit. That God was once mortal like us, was taught. That we have the potential to be like him, was also clearly taught, and I alluded to this above. These are fundamental to the principle of eternal progression. And the latter, I believe, jives well with what is taught in the Bible.

    Where the teaching is ambiguous, of course, and where much speculation has been thrown about, is in who and what: Who (i.e. how many) is going to able to evolve to a perfected state, yea, even become a God (big G), but more importantly, what will be the nature of our exaltation and our realtionship to and with God, our Father.

    One thing I hear from evangelical friends of mine as well as those online is that it offends them that we are aspiring to be equal to God (God’s in embryo is a common phrase). All I was trying to say is anyone who IS aspiring to be equal to God is kidding themselves, cause it will never happen. And anyone even aspiring to be like God is really on a fools errand, because no one has any idea how such a thing is accomplished. The docrine is indeed ambiguous. It’s not talked about, and with good reason. It falls into the same category as the rapture, a distractor from living in the now, in a way that emulates the example and teachings of Christ.

  43. In just one God, there is righteousness.

    In just one God, there is strength.

    In just one God, there is justification.

    In just one God, shall men glory.

    One beautiful God, friends.

  44. I’m kind of shocked that this is a surprise to you guys. This is absolutely where the rubber meets the road in where we must part ways. We haven’t done you any favors to give you the impression it’s about anything more fundamental than this.

    Again, you’re engaging in zero sum thinking – assuming a scare value where more for me means less for Him. This isn’t about us vs. God Tim.

    Yes I am engaging in zero sum thinking. God alone deserves all glory, power and honor. He describes himself as a jealous God. He can not share what is due to him alone. It is about us vs. God if we are talking about who deserves ultimate glory. If we are seeking any or expect to get any, we are taking from God what only he can receive.

    If not, is putting the title “god” on a being who God has given these gifts really worthy of “absolute damnation” ?

    That attitude seems like a strange sort of prejudice to me. i.e. If you use the wrong words to talk about salvation you will be damned!

    Well to be clear, all sin is worthy of damnation. And it’s not just about using the wrong words. It’s assuming an attitude that you are a god when there are no gods but God.

    This is going to be a very imperfect analogy, . . . .she is becoming as I am — a responsible adult.

    Here’s where your analogy falls apart. I freely give my children all that I have. They may grow some day to have my character, values and possessions. But they will never have my very nature. They can not be me.

    Part of God’s nature is a self-existent being. Created beings can never become non-created. So we may gain a great deal from God as adopted sons and daughters, but we can not ever ever be of the same nature as Him. He alone is a self-existent being. Nothing that ever came to be, came to be apart from Him.

    Under this paradigm – even if Joseph is right now creating worlds and “being worshiped,” who is really being glorified?

    God the Father of course – via His children. He who knows the Son, knows the Father. Why is this not potentially true of all God’s children at some point?

    Really? You know Heavenly Father, but do you know Heavenly Grandfather? When has Heavenly Father directed you or revealed to you Heavenly Grandfather? Too much talk about Heavenly Mother can get you excommunicated. I can’t imagine what would happen if you actually started to give glory and honor to Heavenly Grandmother.

  45. I asked a friend of mine (a philosophy professor) to check out my post and see if I’ve got this right. This is his reply:

    —————————————————————————–

    Good discussion. I think you’ve made a great argument with your disjunction. (technical philosopher talk for “2 box thingy”) The thing I find compelling about it is that you don’t even need the verse to generate it—it’s a synthetic a priori statement. That is, it’s a statement about the world that seems self-evidently true and would therefore be known even prior to an encounter with the text, if one would merely reflect on it.

    Thus, I think the argument is that we come to the text ready to have the question hypothetically settled, “Which kind of existent is Jesus?”

    Your argument is that the most straightforward reading of the passage is that John has taken pains to divide reality in the same way, and thereby imply the answer.

    I think it’s a great argument.

    Further, I don’t find the LDS counter-arguments regarding the plasticity of the word “all” convincing. John seems to cover these exits by using the word “nothing” in the second part of the verse for emphasis. So if “all things” doesn’t LITERALLY mean “all things” in this verse, then the verse doesn’t end up meaning much of anything. Thus, the context seems to dictate an ultimate, universal scope.

  46. It’s not talked about, and with good reason. It falls into the same category as the rapture, a distractor from living in the now, in a way that emulates the example and teachings of Christ.

    Maybe the specific useless details like “will I be able to have orcs the world I make when I’m like Heavenly Father” and “what color are the trees in the Kolob system” are distractions, but I strongly disagree with you when you say that mankind’s divine potential is a distraction. I can point you t dozens of sources that say that fully understanding our divine potential is the key to ultimately receiving eternal life.

  47. But does understanding your potential necessitate that you know how it is going to come about? Or is it more about understanding what sort of stock you come from, and what capacity and strength knowing that gives you as a mortal man to overcome the challenges of life, and return home from whence we came? I think thinking all the time about how or when you will be exhalted is a major distractor. But I find great value in the pursuit of the latter. You may think I am splitting hairs here, but I see a clear distinction.

  48. “Part of God’s nature is a self-existent being. Created beings can never become non-created.”

    Philosophical logic games that don’t mean much to me Tim. This whole “created vs. uncreated” dichotomy in the universe is purely a philosophical creation. It is not demanded by the Bible. The idea of God being, in some sense or another, contingent on something else is not a threatening idea to me. I do not understand why it is so threatening to you.

    “Really? You know Heavenly Father, but do you know Heavenly Grandfather? When has Heavenly Father directed you or revealed to you Heavenly Grandfather? Too much talk about Heavenly Mother can get you excommunicated. I can’t imagine what would happen if you actually started to give glory and honor to Heavenly Grandmother.”

    It’s not a matter of much concern to me Tim. If God had his own Father, then they are indeed united and of one heart and mind to such extent that I don’t think it matters which one you worship. To worship one, is to worship the other.

    That said, our covenant relationship is not with Heavenly Grandfather (if there is one – not a clear conclusion of Mormon doctrine), but with Heavenly Father. He is our concern and the object of our worship. The idea that He is a part of a larger universe is not upsetting to me.

    Let’s be clear though. Our God is infinite. Worlds without end or number. He is not presiding over a finite number of planets (to borrow a term from Stargate – he is not a “local system lord”). Infinity can be filled with an infinite number of infinite sets.

  49. Tim said:

    “The first one [of Tim’s New Translations], CAUSED TO BE, is a problem because Mormons believe that nothing was caused to be, everything or everyone is self-existent. This belief makes the verse meaningless and/or false. Jesus shouldn’t be credited with causing anything to be, much less ALL THINGS caused.”

    And later: “Nothing that ever came to be, came to be apart from Him.”

    I think Blake’s warning to Copan and Craig is here very appropriate:

    “I begin with a caution: we must protect against the unwarranted assumption that the very use of the word “create” [or, in Tim’s case, its functional equivalent “cause to be”] means “creation out [or “cause to be {out}”] of absolute nothing.” As Stanley L. Jaki, a Catholic priest of the Benedictine Order, stated:

    ‘The caution which is in order about taking the [Hebrew] verb bara in the sense of creation out of nothing is no less needed in reference to the [English] word creation. Nothing is more natural, and unadvised, at the same time, than to use the word as if it has always denoted creation out of nothing. In its basic etymological origin the word creation meant the purely natural process of growing or of making something to grow. This should be obvious by a mere recall of the [Latin] verb crescere. The crescent moon [derived from crescere] is not creating but merely growing. The expression ex nihilo or de nihilo had to be fastened, from around 200 A.D. on, by Christian theologians on the verb creare to convey unmistakably a process, strict creation, which only God can perform. Only through the long-standing use of those very Latin expressions, creare ex nihilo and creatio ex nihilo, could the English words to create and creation take on the meaning which excludes pre-existing matter.’ [2]

    This caution is significant. In fact, look at the very title C&C adopt for their article which assumes that the term “Creator” must mean creation ex nihilo. However, a person who organizes materials in a completely new way is a creator. For example, God “created the earth” by organizing the existing matter available in the proto-solar system whether he organized eternally existing matter or previously created that matter ex nihilo. Certainly, a painter is properly said to be the creator of a painting and a craftsman is a creator of, say, a new chest that had never before existed, even though they use existing materials to create them. Indeed, I will argue that God created all that is made, and there is not anything made that he has not created. I will show that this is precisely the sense in which God is said to create in the earliest Christian texts. However, organizing in a new way all that is made does not mean that materials were not used in the new creation.”

    –Note–

    [2]-Stanley L. Jaki, Genesis 1 Through the Ages (Royal Oak, Mich.: Real View Books, 1998), 5-6.

    Blake expands:

    “Hubler comments: “The verse’s [here Hubler is referring to Rom. 4.17, but the general information of the following quote appears quite applicable and relevant to our discussion of Jn.1.1-3 here] ‘non-existent’ need not be understood in an absolute sense of non-being. Me onta refers to the previous non-existence of those things which are now brought into existence. There is no direct reference to the absence or presence of a material cause.” [58] In other words, the Greek text suggests the view that God has brought about a thing which did not exist as that thing before it was created. For example, this use of me onta is consistent with the assertion that “God called forth the earth when before that the earth did not exist.” However, the fact that the earth did not exist before it was created as the earth does not address the type of material that was used to make the earth.

    –Note–

    [58]- Hubler, Creatio ex Nihilo, 109.

    Blake goes on:

    “Note also that Romans 4:17 uses the negative me referring to merely relative non-being and not to absolute nothing as required by the doctrine of creation ex nihilo. At this point it is important to understand a bit about the ancient concept of matter in the Greek speaking world. We must distinguish between relative non-being (Greek me onta) and absolute nothing (Greek ex ouk onta). Platonic philosophy, both neo-Platonism and Middle Platonism, posited the existence of an eternal material substratum that was, nevertheless, so removed from the One ground of Being that it was often said to not have “real” existence. As Goldstein observed: “Platonists called pre-existent matter ‘the non-existent’.” [59] This relative non-existence is indicated by the Greek negative me, meaning “not” or “non-“, in relation to the word for existence or being, ontos. [60] When the early Christian theologians speak of creation that denies that there was any material state prior to creation, however, they use the Greek negation ouk, meaning “not in any way or mode.” As Henry Chadwick explained the usage in Philo’s Stromata: “In each case the phrase he employs is ek me ontos, not ex ouk ontos; that is to say, it is not made from that which is absolutely non-existent, but from relative non-being or unformed matter, so shadowy and vague that it cannot be said to have the status of “being,” which is imparted to it by the shaping hand of the Creator.” [61] Edwin Hatch explained that for Platonists: “God was regarded as being outside the world. The world was in its origin only potential being (to me on).” [62] He explained more fully:

    The [Platonic] dualistic hypothesis assumed a co-existence of matter and God. The assumption was more frequently tacit than explicit…. There was a universal belief that beneath the qualities of all existing things lay a substratum or substance on which they were grafted, and which gave to each thing its unity. But the conception of the nature of this substance varied from that of gross and tangible material to that of empty and formless space…. It was sometimes conceived as a vast shapeless but plastic mass, to which the Creator gave form, partly by moulding it as a potter moulds clay, partly by combining various elements as a builder combines his materials in the construction of a house. [63]

    Aristotle wrote that things are created from “that which is not” in de Generatione Animalium (B5, 741 b 22 f): “For generation is from non-existence into being, and corruption from being back into non-existence.” Here Aristotle says that things are generated “from non-existence (tou me ontos)” and pass back into “non-existence (to me on)” when they decay. He is using the phrase “from non-existence” in a sense of relative non-being where “things” do not yet exist, but only a formless substratum which has the potentiality or capacity to receive a definite form. This substratum is not absolutely nothing, but not yet a thing. It is “no-thing.” Thus, to say that God called to existence that which “does not exist,” as in Romans 4:17, actually assumes a preexisting substrate which God organizes into a thing that exists by impressing form upon it.

    –Notes–

    [59] Jonathan Goldstein, “The Origins of the Doctrine of Creation Ex Nihilo,” Journal of Jewish Studies 38 (1987), 187-94.

    [60]- Francis Young, “Creation Ex Nihilo,” 146.

    [61]- Henry Chadwick, Early Christian Thought (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966), 46-47. See also, Keith Norman, “Ex Nihilo,” 300-308.

    [62]- Edwin Hatch, The Influence of Greek Ideas on Christianity (Gloucester: Peter Smith, 1970), 178.

    [63]- Ibid., 194-95.

    Blake’s full article (I have been quoting mainly from section 1) can be read here:

    http://www.fairlds.org/New_Mormon_Challenge/index.html

    I highly recommend it for all to read.

    Best wishes,

    TYD

  50. Philosophical logic games that don’t mean much to me Tim. This whole “created vs. uncreated” dichotomy in the universe is purely a philosophical creation.

    I could not agree more. Logic games are interesting and all, but there’s no guarantee that they actually correlate to reality in any meaningful way.

  51. Kullervo said: “ Mormons need to understand that Evangelicals are never going to think of Mormons as ‘one of us,’ but Mormons also shouldn’t want to be accepted as ‘one of us’ by Evangelicals. Because the whole point of Mormonism is that it offers something completely different.

    I agree.

    But what some of us would like is to have our perspective understood rather than distorted into something that becomes the target of a straw-man argument.

    But then it seems like no matter how we engage in discussions like this one, the evangelicals keep on coming back with their restatements of LDS doctrine that aren’t LDS doctrine at all, or they falsely infer things like that we don’t see Jesus Christ as the creator or that we don’t view him very highly.

    And to use this discussion as an example, I don’t see any of the LDS in this discussion stating that he/she believes Jesus Christ is a created being. There is nothing in the LDS scriptures to suggest that Jesus is a created being — they are extremely clear that He existed in “the beginning” and was the creator of all things. (Colossians 1:15-17 is stronger than John 1:3 on this.) Yet the point of the initial post seems to be that somehow we believe Jesus Christ was a created being.

    There’s nothing I’ve been able to find in LDS teaching, and believe me I have looked, to suggest that Jesus is anything less than fully divine. So I find it frustrating to get involved in these conversations where I’m told, in effect, “this is what you believe” when it isn’t.

    Ultimately, what I end up seeing here is a philosophical difference over, not as Tim would suggest, the nature of God, but of the nature of humanity. I think we all agree, per what Paul wrote in his letter to the Colossians, that Jesus Christ was the creator of the universe, the central figure in all of history. Where we fundamentally disagree is that we LDS see divine potential in humankind and evangelicals don’t. For Mormons, that divine potential doesn’t diminish God in the least, but for evangelicals (or Tim, at least, if I understand him right) that belief is akin to blasphemy.

    At least that’s where I see this discussion boiling down to.

    (A final parenthetical note: If I were to go back in this conversation, I probably wouldn’t have written #4 as I did. My problem with the original post was over how the verse was being used, not the conclusion that Jesus Christ was not a created being.)

  52. Tim,

    From your comments, I think you share a very common misconstruction of the Mormon belief regarding exaltation.

    Your attack of the doctrine seems to be focused on the idea that LDS think to much of themselves, I think this is mistaken understanding.

    You seem to think that Mormons believe they are “setting ourselves up for adoration and praise” this is not the case, Mormons have the same problem with people setting themselves up as gods, LDS belief is totally opposed to that.

    The actual LDS belief is that GOD gives his children His throne, which allows them to act as creators of new creation. It is a gift from God, not some honor they take upon ourselves (lest they boast in themselves). So, what i the problem if God is giving the gift, and it turns out that the package had a lot of stuff you didn’t expect? Is there anything in the bible that rules that out?

    The obvious counter from a LDS perspective is that Evangelicals don’t take God’s promises of giving his children “all” that he has seriously, or don’t think God has the power or inclination to give his children as much as Mormons believe He will. If we played the same game we could complain that you were “in sin” by refusing to acknowledge how much God has to offer those that he saves.

    I say this not to make this “attack” but hopefully to show you that the attack regarding human conceit doesn’t really make sense if you have a correct understanding of the doctrine.

  53. Is it possible that everyone is reading this too literally? “All things were made” could mean ‘all things on Earth’ or ‘all things organic’ or whatever.

    Let’s say I’m barbecuing (or rather, making Kullervo barbecue :)). And let’s say that we’re making chicken, pork, and steaks on the grill. After we’re done cooking, I could say that all things were cooked. All of the things that we intended to cook were cooked. I certainly wouldn’t mean that we had cooked everything–our kids, the grass, the slides outside. I would mean that I cooked everything that I intended to cook was cooked.

    Even taking into account “without him nothing was made that has been made. ”
    If we’re using our own grill, I could easily say that no meat was ever made that has been made on our grill.

    But that’s just post-modern me talking. 🙂 I also don’t think that John 3:16 means that Jesus is the only way to God, but that’s for another thread, and probably not for this forum anyway.

  54. Actually Katyjane,

    Not everyone is reading this too literally. Many of us have been trying to argue precisely what you have stated. That a literal reading of this verse is not necessary, and that only through a literal reading can you come to the conclusion that it is a proof to a particular view on God’s nature…

    But good point, and I agree 😉 The same argument could be made in regards to John 1:1’s use of the word beginning. Beginning of what? The words “all” and “beginning” in these instances must correspond to a specific intended meaning by the author, or in the case of “beginning”, to an actual moment in linear time. But is impossible for us to know for sure what those intended meanings were/are. All we have is inferrence to go on, and that is hardly proof.

  55. Katyjane, #56, I agree. #31 about the idea that “We too can become Gods” “…It’s about the most abominable thing we can imagine hearing…To us, it’s an expression that deserves absolute damnation.”
    I must admit that I’m stuck in the middle on this one. On the one hand, at no time in my entire life have I ever believed I could become a God, and I have absolutely no desire to start believing that way. RLDS are taught from birth that this is absolutely, completely, wrong. However, RLDS are also taught belief in the Pre-existence. I’ve always believed in the pre-existence. It was maybe over a decade after I converted when I first found out–by accident- that Evangelicals didn’t believe in the pre-existence. I was quite surprised. It is only through these discussions on this blog that I can (kind of) understand why Ev’s object to the LDS beliefs. However, I must say that, even if you had come to me at that time in my life when I was at my most fervently Evangelical, right after I had had my “born again” experience, etc, and you had expressed to me the opinion in #31, in my heart I would have felt that, “I agree with you-to a point. You are right that it’s wrong to believe that we can become God’s, but I think that you’re being way too hard on the LDS.” To say that holding such a belief is “the most abominable thing imaginable, and that it deserves absolute damnation.”— I will never be able to agree with Evangelicals on that one, ever. While I am not inclined to believe in Eternal progression, I find the LDS explanations of their position totally acceptable. In my opinion, their arguments make sense, it’s just not what I believe.

  56. “Part of God’s nature is a self-existent being. Created beings can never become non-created.”

    Philosophical logic games that don’t mean much to me Tim.

    Making a self-evident statement is hardly a logic game.

    But then it seems like no matter how we engage in discussions like this one, the evangelicals keep on coming back with their restatements of LDS doctrine that aren’t LDS doctrine at all, or they falsely infer things like that we don’t see Jesus Christ as the creator or that we don’t view him very highly.

    Ironic that you misstate what I said. I didn’t say that LDS don’t view Jesus as the creator. I stated that they do not view him as the only uncreated Creator. I did not state that LDS do not view Jesus highly. I stated that they do not view him highly enough. I did not state that LDS do not view Jesus as divine. I said they do not view him as the only divine .

    Ultimately, what I end up seeing here is a philosophical difference over, not as Tim would suggest, the nature of God, but of the nature of humanity.

    The nature of God and the nature of man, seem to be wrapped into each other here. We can’t separate the discussions when one side sees God’s divine nature as unique and the other doesn’t. From the orthodox understanding the divine nature of God can not be shared, so to say that man has a divine potential necessarily reduces the definition of “divine”.

    Not everyone is reading this too literally. Many of us have been trying to argue precisely what you have stated. That a literal reading of this verse is not necessary, and that only through a literal reading can you come to the conclusion that it is a proof to a particular view on God’s nature…

    Everything about the first chapter of John indicates that the author was speaking precisely and that he chose all of his words carefully.

    Why should we instead assume that Joseph Smith was being literal when he made the King Follett Discourse? Perhaps he was being metaphorical. Perhaps everything he said was just poetic and none of it should be believed literally. Particularly when a more recent Prophet states that he isn’t even sure the church teaches exaltation unto godhood.

    Like most discussions here, this comes down to believing a straight forward reading of Joseph Smith over a straight forward reading of the Bible. This isn’t really an attempt to prove that I’m right and you’re wrong as it is to explain the orthodox view point. To get you to change your mind about any number of Mormon doctrines starts and stops with showing that Joseph Smith was a false prophet.

  57. It is NOT a self-evident statement Tim.

    It’s not even close to a self-evident statement.

    Maybe you should tell me why the idea of the created-uncreated dichotomy is so “self-evident.” Because I don’t think I’m a complete idiot – and it’s not self-evident to me. To me it seems like you’ve set up an artificial logical scheme, and are now making assertions based on it.

    And it is not straightforward reading of the Bible vs. Joseph Smith.

    The Bible simply isn’t as straightforward on this as you are claiming it is.

  58. I said: “But then it seems like no matter how we engage in discussions like this one, the evangelicals keep on coming back with their restatements of LDS doctrine that aren’t LDS doctrine at all, or they falsely infer things like that we don’t see Jesus Christ as the creator or that we don’t view him very highly.

    To which Tim said: “Ironic that you misstate what I said. I didn’t say that LDS don’t view Jesus as the creator. I stated that they do not view him as the only uncreated Creator. I did not state that LDS do not view Jesus highly. I stated that they do not view him highly enough. I did not state that LDS do not view Jesus as divine. I said they do not view him as the only divine.

    I’m not convinced I necessarily said what you said I did, but I certainly have no desire to mischaracterize what anyone else said. In any case, how accurate your characterizations of LDS belief are depends partly on how the words are defined.

    Seth said to Tim: “The Bible simply isn’t as straightforward on this as you are claiming it is.

    On that I agree. It just isn’t. You (Tim) are starting out with some different philosophical presuppositions than many of us LDS are, and so it’s natural you might come to some different conclusions. Kind of like what Kullervo said.

    Tim said: “Particularly when a more recent Prophet states that he isn’t even sure the church teaches exaltation unto godhood.

    Which recent prophet was that? And when?

  59. To me it seems like you’ve set up an artificial logical scheme, and are now making assertions based on it.

    I agree.

  60. I imagine Tim is bringing up Hinckley’s remarks in Time Magazine.

    Although honestly, relying on a news interview for definitive statements on Church doctrine seems a bit silly to me.

  61. Really? It seems obvious that a news interview with a religious leader would be taken as such.

  62. I guess I see your point Kullervo. Let me rephrase that and say it’s not where your average Mormon would expect to see definitive doctrine being made. Media savvy as Pres. Hinckley was said to be, we Mormons are not used to having a public dialogue with the “outside world.” We’d expect to hear such clarifications at General Conference, and not in a magazine article.

  63. Although he hasn’t confirmed it, I was thinking Tim was referring to the Time magazine interview. But Tim’s paraphrase of what President Hinckley said was so far off the mark that it makes me wonder.

    Here’s what Tim said:

    Particularly when a more recent Prophet states that he isn’t even sure the church teaches exaltation unto godhood.

    Here’s the transcript of the relevant portion of the interview:

    Q: Just another related question that comes up is the statements in the King Follett discourse by the Prophet.

    A: Yeah

    Q: … about that, God the Father was once a man as we were. This is something that Christian writers are always addressing. Is this the teaching of the church today, that God the Father was once a man like we are?

    A: I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it. I haven’t heard it discussed for a long time in public discourse. I don’t know. I don’t know all the circumstances under which that statement was made. I understand the philosophical background behind it. But I don’t know a lot about it and I don’t know that others know a lot about it.

    To express some hesitation about the teaching “that God the Father was once a man like we are” is not the same thing as hesitating about “exaltation unto godhood,” which is clearly and unequivocally church teaching if by “godhood” one means being “like God.” (The phrase “exaltation unto godhood” appears nowhere on the church’s extensive web site, which includes nearly all the church’s official instructional materials.)

    President Hinckley has received a lot of flak for his answer, but I don’t think it was that far off the mark. But that’s a whole other topic.

  64. It is NOT a self-evident statement Tim.

    It’s not even close to a self-evident statement.

    Maybe you should tell me why the idea of the created-uncreated dichotomy is so “self-evident.”

    “Created beings can never become non-created.” That is a self-evident statement. What may not be self-evident is whether or not God is created or uncreated and whether or not we are created or uncreated. But that statement is as self evident as “Non-black things are not black”.

    Just because I made a logical statement doesn’t by any means mean the conversation is over. My premises have to be verified. But the statement is none-the-less self evident. It’s the basic law of non-contradiction.

    which is clearly and unequivocally church teaching if by “godhood” one means being “like God.”

    This still begs the question; why are you taking the phrase “like God” so literally?

  65. ““Created beings can never become non-created.” That is a self-evident statement. What may not be self-evident is whether or not God is created or uncreated and whether or not we are created or uncreated. But that statement is as self evident as “Non-black things are not black”.”

    I agree with that statement – as far as it goes. But yes, the premises have not yet been established.

  66. “This still begs the question; why are you taking the phrase “like God” so literally?”

    Why aren’t you tim? Just because you have some philosophy expert back up your view that John 1:3 is written in a way that, as he put it “seems to dictate an ultimate, universal scope,” doesn’t convince me anymore than our arguments about the literality of the word “all” convinces you. So why can you take “all” and “nothing” and such literally, yet be suprised that we take “like God” literally. You can make as many logical or philosophical arguments you want about how the context makes the meaning “clear”, but in the end, we are both interpreting flawed human texts, written in flawed human language, through the lens of flawed human understanding. Do any of us really have any more ground to stand on then the other, other than our own faith? Not that I can tell.

  67. And the short answer to the question is, of course, modern revalation. But that is for another topic.

  68. but in the end, we are both interpreting flawed human texts, written in flawed human language, through the lens of flawed human understanding. Do any of us really have any more ground to stand on then the other, other than our own faith?

    Sure we do. There are experts on ancient languages that can study out the text and interpret what the author was trying to convey. We can also investigate reality with every other discipline available to us and see which faith best lines up with reality. (history, philosophy, science, art, etc.)

    Just saying “modern revelation” doesn’t clear anything up. How do you know the modern revelation is any more reliable than the ancient revelation? How do you know the “modern revelation” is revelation at all. You’re measuring it against something. If you’re not, and you don’t think it’s important for reality to have any bearing on faith, then you have something that’s not even blind faith. It’s obtuse faith.

  69. Tim said:

    “There are experts on ancient languages that can study out the text and interpret what the author was trying to convey. We can also investigate reality with every other discipline available to us and see which faith best lines up with reality. (history, philosophy, science, art, etc.)”

    I don’t know if you were making this statement, Tim, in reference and support for the philosophical notion of creatio ex nihilo (and, for the record, I am certainly not against studying out issues using every available means of truth at all); but, at the risk of being redundant, I shall again restate that the majority position in biblical and ANE scholarship today is that creatio ex nihilo is nowhere attested in the bible, and doesn’t appear until the end of the second century. Furthermore, even if Jn. 1. 1-3 were taken in support of creatio ex nihilo (which I have no doubts that it does not support that creatio ex nihilo) there are still far more passages which clearly support creatio ex materia, and which fit perfectly within the dominant and ubiquitous ANE view(s) of creation out of pre-existing material.

  70. I said:
    … “exaltation unto godhood,” which is clearly and unequivocally church teaching if by “godhood” one means being “like God.” …

    To wish Tim said:
    This still begs the question; why are you taking the phrase “like God” so literally?

    Why shouldn’t I?

    Do I know exactly what the phrase means? No. But when read even just the Biblical testimony that we will be like Christ, that we will become joint-heirs with Christ, that we will share in the divine nature, that we will sit with Christ on his throne, etc., I understand that to mean that, yes, we will be very much like Christ.

    To me, the idea that we will be “like God” is much more clearly in the Bible than are doctrines such as creation ex nihilo and the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, neither of which is explicitly taught anywhere in the Scriptures.

  71. Well Tim,

    Modern revelation is certainly measured against ancient revelation. When ancient revelation is clear on something as foundational as the nature of God, modern revalation cannot go contrary to that and still be true, provided you already believe the ancient revaltion to be true. But we are not talking about something that is clear in ancient revelation, but something that is arguable and ambiguous. In cases like this, modern revalation has more value than ancient revelation, because the dead prophet cannot return to clarify what he meant. A modern prophet, however, can interpret the ancient scripture through revelation. Hence the saying, a modern prophet is worth more than a dead one.

    So it isn’t really a question of which is more reliable than the other. If they both come from God, then they are equally reliable. But that doesn’t mean they will be equally clear or complete. I can believe that John received true revelation, but that either he wasn’t clear when he wrote it (flawed scripture) or we may not be intereting it correctly (flawed interetation). Modern revelation is subject to the same types of errors, don’t get me wrong. But the historical record is much more complete, and much more is available in regards to clarification of doctrinal topics. JS may have spoke about a particualr subject 100 times of which we have record, whereas we may have only 1 or a few intances from John. And in the case of a living prophet, he can be asked to clarify in real time if there is confusion. So the intent of the speaker/author becomes clearer, increasing the likelihood of an accurate interpretation.

    How do I know modern revelation is revelation at all? Well, how do you know ancient revelation is revelation at all? There is nothing in the study of the history, science, art, cultural practices, favorite foods, yearbook dedications, etc. of traditional christianity that proves that the teachings of the New Testament are from anyone but the authors themselves (and even then it is sometimes questionable). To know that they are from God, well, that takes faith, and a whole lot of it. For you to insist otherwise is somewhat obtuse itself.

  72. Perfect revelation – either in spoken or written form – is a logical impossibility. Even if you posit a perfect God, the revelation still is channeled through imperfect human mediums. Thus the revelation MUST always be imperfect in some degree – however slight or however momentous.

  73. Unless you are a Muslim,

    The Koran is considered the perfect, unadulterated Word of God, co-eternal with him.

  74. Yeah, but a lot of evangelicals (that I have known, not in anyway implying that it is a majority view) view the bible in the same way. Or a very similar way, anyway.

  75. Yellow Dart said:
    I shall again restate that the majority position in biblical and ANE scholarship today is that creatio ex nihilo is nowhere attested in the bible, and doesn’t appear until the end of the second century.

    And do you put equal value on what they think of the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham? Why or why not?

    Seth said:
    Yeah, I mean… who do you believe? John or Genesis? And why?
    Well, if I thought there was a conflict, I would pick John over Genesis in this case.

    The first chapter of Genesis is written in a a poetic form. The first chapter of John is written to answer the top philosophers of the day. It’s wording is precise. In addition, ancient Greek is a much more precise and technical language than ancient Hebrew.

    Who do you believe? The Book of Abraham or the Gospel of John? Why?

    Eric said
    But when read even just the Biblical testimony that we will be like Christ, that we will become joint-heirs with Christ, that we will share in the divine nature

    PLEASE tell me where the Bible says we will share the divine nature. That will help us in this conversation immensely.

    Frofreak said:
    Yeah, but a lot of evangelicals (that I have known, not in anyway implying that it is a majority view) view the bible in the same way. Or a very similar way, anyway.

    Yeah, and no Mormon has ever tried to saddle me with upholding a Muslim view of inerrancy.

  76. Jared C,

    Only in the Arabic language is the Quran considered the perfect word of God. If the Quran is translated into any other language besides Arabic, it is not looked upon as perfect. Just something I learned when I worked for my Arab and Muslim Embassy.

  77. “Who do you believe? The Book of Abraham or the Gospel of John? Why?”

    If I thought there was a conflict, I would pick Abraham. Because it personally resonates with me on a spiritual and intellectual level, and it does not contradict the accepted evidence I have available.

    Of course, I don’t think there is a conflict, but…

  78. Jared C,
    Actually, I’ve thought about it, and I need to clarify. If translated into any other language besides Arabic, the Quran is not considered to be the “Word of God” at all. Every Muslim, no matter what country they’re from, everyone has to learn the Quran in Arabic. I guess the mosques in the individual countries preach sermons in their own languages, but the Quran is always read in Arabic.

  79. Tim said: “PLEASE tell me where the Bible says we will share the divine nature. That will help us in this conversation immensely.

    Certainly, but I would point out first that I am not trying to “prove” anything by a single verse. I’m not a big fan of proof-texting, and I’d be the first to say that any scriptural reference I alluded to above is more than likely inconclusive in itself.

    I suspect you knew the answer to the question when you asked it, but the reference is to 1 Peter 1:4. The key word in the verse can translated several different ways; here are three:

    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. (NIV)

    Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (KJV)

    Through these, he has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature, after escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire. (NAB)

    I’m fully aware that this verse in context isn’t fully on target in this discussion, and that it’s referring primarily to something that takes place in the believer on this side of the veil. So if that’s the argument you were going to use, I’ve saved you the time.

    For what it’s worth, the best article I’ve found on the Biblical witness for humans becoming godlike isn’t from an LDS source, but an Orthodox Christian one. I found this article fascinating:

    Theosis: Partaking of the Divine Nature

    I am not claiming that the LDS concept of exaltation and the Orthodox concept of deification are the same. But there are some striking similarities. And if I were writing a Bible-based defense of the LDS doctrine, the verses that the Orthodox writer of the above article used are the ones I would use as well.

  80. Though it doesn’t use “divine nature” I think Revelation 3:20-21 is a more explicit explanation of the doctrine:

    “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.”

    I am interested to understand how Evangelicals understand this passage. It seems to be perhaps the most concise description of the Mormon view of exaltation in all of scripture, but certainly lends itself to more than one interpretation.

  81. Tim said:

    “And do you put equal value on what they think of the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham? Why or why not?”

    I think, Tim, you have clearly misunderstood the intention, as well as forgotten the context, of what I originally said.

    However, let me begin by stating clearly: I don’t care if you disagree with me (or the academic consensus for that matter), but at least deal responsibly with the relevant literature and arguments against your own position if you are going to appeal to “experts in ancient languages” or scholarship for validation while publicly criticizing another persons’ position (and especially if your own position is the minority position, as happens to be your case as pertains to “creatio ex nihilo”)!

    Many LDS scholars are highly trained in technical fields pertaining to ANE and biblical studies and are continually treating critical scholarship pertaining to the BofM and BofA at length. However, in contrast, I don’t see very many fundamentalist evangelicals at all going to top-notch schools (e.g., Harvard, UChicago, Johns Hopkins, etc.) specializing in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures and dealing seriously and responsibly with such basis issues in biblical studies as the Documentary Hypothesis or Deuteronomistic History (and other issues of source criticism), the divine council and related notions which militate against their onto-theological claims, and numerous other issues critical of their own positions (including the consensus against “creatio ex nihilo”). Yet they are the ones who are constantly attempting to critique Mormonism while often trying to appeal to “experts in ancient languages” in the process as though we have all the problems and as though their religious views and the biblical texts are so obviously secure and validated. Puh-lease.

    Moreover, the context of my comments were specifically in regards to your statement as follows:

    “There are experts on ancient languages that can study out the text and interpret what the author was trying to convey. We can also investigate reality with every other discipline available to us and see which faith best lines up with reality. (history, philosophy, science, art, etc.)”

    I am all for using all available means for discerning truth, as I said above. But, importantly, the LDS religious tradition is not at the sole mercy of the findings of trained scholars and human brain power. However, such appears to be the case and a serious problem for anyone whose authoritative sources of faith and doctrine are based entirely on (supposedly “inerrant”) ancient texts without the possibility of equally authoritative revelation today.

    It simply seems to me that your reply is nothing more than a cop-out or dodge–a simple failure to deal with the arguments and evidences I (and others) have presented or referenced to above, as well as the voluminous and rigorous scholarship that is and has been available for quite a number of years on this very topic, and of which you, unfortunately, seem unaware.

  82. I’m not sure I’d call Tim a “fundamentalist” Yellow Dart.

    Leaving aside for a moment the question of how much Tim has or has not read, is it really useful to rag on him for not having done the intensive legwork in ancient languages and scriptural scholarship that some have?

    I haven’t done that legwork. Neither have most worshipers. I’m just not comfortable in trying to shut down dialogue just because people haven’t read the same books I have. Maybe this isn’t what you meant, but it just sounds like you’re asking people to remain silent until they’ve done a degree of research that is beyond the reach of most people with paying day jobs.

  83. Seth,

    1) I was simply under the assumption that Tim affirms such biblical fundamentalist positions as biblical inerrancy. If I am wrong, then my apologies.

    2) Further, I understand your second concern. However, when one publicly criticizes another’s position while appealing to scholarship and “experts on ancient languages” to validate ones view, I expect such an individual to be familiar with the scholarship which disagrees with their position (especially when it is a minority position)–and especially when it has been consistently brought to their attention. To fail to do so “shuts down dialogue” in my opinion.

    But I certainly don’t intend to “shut down dialogue” by any means; and I certainly don’t expect everyone to read everything on an issue before they are allowed to discuss it (that would exclude pretty much everyone, including myself); however, if persons are interested in publicly debating or analyzing others’ religious views then it seems inevitable and worthwhile that they sincerely attempt to familiarize themselves with their opponents strongest position(s) as much as is possible.

    Trying to learn about another’s position is different then publicly arguing against another’s position.

    In any event, why stay where the conversation was 10 or 20 or 200 years ago?

  84. Eric,

    Thanks for pointing out that verse and for appropriately referring to its context.

    Thanks too for pointing out that article. I think it’s important to point out that the article itself says that what they are talking about is what Protestants refer to as “holiness” and “santification”. I do in fact believe that we can share in God’s holiness. This is a considerably different concept than exaltation. As much as this article argues for theosis, it could easily be turned into an argument against exaltation (if the author so chose to make it such).

    As the article mentions:
    Orthodox theologians have been careful to distinguish between God’s essence and His energies.

    The LDS response I would guess would be, “well why can’t God share his essence. He promised ‘all things'”.

    Yellow Dart,
    To say that there are not Evangelicals going to top notch schools is a pretty wide assertion. I could not even begin to start to list Evangelical scholars and their credentials.

    However, such appears to be the case and a serious problem for anyone whose authoritative sources of faith and doctrine are based entirely on (supposedly “inerrant”) ancient texts without the possibility of equally authoritative revelation today.

    I honestly don’t understand how modern revelation removes the threat of liberal scholarship. That’s a non-sequitor. Because a man claiming to be a prophet “says so” isn’t really scholarly argument.

    It simply seems to me that your reply is nothing more than a cop-out or dodge–a simple failure to deal with the arguments and evidences

    Perhaps it was a cop-out. But my point was that you don’t seem to be confined to the majority opinion on a number of issues. Textual experts will find disagreement with a number of truth claims the LDS church makes from both the Bible and other Mormon scriptures. You’re quick to point out where my tradition disagrees with a majority opinion, but for some reason seem to be blind to many many many numerous places the majority scholarly opinion disagrees with Mormonism.

    You’re playing with a double edged sword.

    For what’s it worth, I would say I believe in “inerrancy” in principle, but the nuance I would have to add to it and/or the extreme understandings of inerrancy that you might try to make me defend make me think it’s better to hold to “infallibilty” in this context.

    Also, as long as you’re just copy and pasting Blake Ostler, I don’t really feel it’s productive to copy and paste William Lane Craig in response. They can talk on their own, they don’t need us to reconstruct their conversations.

  85. Tim,

    Please re-read what I actually said. I never said that there were no “evangelicals” going to “top notch” schools, or that there are no “evangelical scholars” with quality credentials–far from it. I said there are “very few” “fundamentalist evangelicals”–big difference. For instance, I enjoy reading the scholarly works of evangelical scholars such as Larry Hurtado, Bruce Metzger, etc.; however, these individuals are hardly fundamentalist evangelicals.

    You said:

    “I honestly don’t understand how modern revelation removes the threat of liberal scholarship. That’s a non-sequitor. Because a man claiming to be a prophet “says so” isn’t really scholarly argument.”

    Again my point has not been understood. My point is that modern authoritative revelation (such as D&C 93, which speaks to the issue of “creatio ex nihilo”) within the LDS tradition prevents LDS faith claims from simply being at the sole mercy of the latest findings and interpretations of modern scholars (or “experts on ancient languages”). But since evangelicals lack such an additional authoritative avenue for interpretation, why are their peculiar readings of biblical texts in any way binding, particularly when they disagree with the scholarly consensus? Shouldn’t they just be following the best scholarship?

    You further said:

    “But my point was that you don’t seem to be confined to the majority opinion on a number of issues. Textual experts will find disagreement with a number of truth claims the LDS church makes from both the Bible and other Mormon scriptures. You’re quick to point out where my tradition disagrees with a majority opinion, but for some reason seem to be blind to many many many numerous places the majority scholarly opinion disagrees with Mormonism.”

    This is mere bravado Tim. Blind? Are you kidding me? I am well aware that the majority of the human world (scholars included) does not place religious faith in the Book of Mormon and the LDS Church. Let me yet again remind you that *you* began an argument here in defense of “creatio ex nihilo”, contra the LDS position; had I posted on a topic in which I was arguing for the minority opinion on a subject (or even if I was just creating a post in which I was disagreeing with another person) I would try to deal, within the best of my ability, as respectfully and responsibly as possible with the relevant literature that disagrees with my viewpoint (and definitely if it had been brought to my attention on several occasions). As I said above:

    “I don’t care if you disagree with me (or the academic consensus for that matter!), but at least deal responsibly with the relevant literature and arguments against your own position if you are going to appeal to “experts in ancient languages” or scholarship for validation while publicly criticizing another persons’ position (and especially if your own position is the minority position, as happens to be your case as pertains to “creatio ex nihilo”)!”

    This only seems fair and respectful to me.
    —-

    Since you still seem to be saying you would like to still engage this issue of “creatio ex nihilo”, but are unhappy with long quotations from Ostler, I will be happy to summarize and exegete the biblical passages in my own words; the only reason I did not do so before was because, as I said, I am in the middle of finals week. But tomorrow that’s over! So…

    I’ll be back! 🙂 And I am excited for Genesis 1.1 (since that is where I intend to start). Maybe you should open a new thread so it doesn’t get buried here, or maybe I shall write it as a post and you can place it on your blog.

    Best wishes,

    TYD

  86. “Yeah, and no Mormon has ever tried to saddle me with upholding a Muslim view of inerrancy.”

    Come on Tim, I thought it was a given that I wasn’t including you in the evangelicals I was referring to. Even though I am still a little uncertain about the particular views you have on the innerancy of the Bible, I’m pretty sure it isn’t like what was described for Islam towards the Koran. But you seem to imply that the veiw that the Bible is innerant and infallible isn’t prevalent among evangelicals, and that is laughable. Have you never gone door to door in the bible belt asking people what they thought about the Bible? I have. And from my experience, there is a substantial subset of evangelical Christians who view the Bible as the exact, Holy, infallible word of God, straight from His mouth, EXACTLY as he would have given it to us if he had penned it with His own hand.

    I’m not trying to saddle you with defending this position, not if you don’t hold it. I was simply stating that it isn’t just a muslim view toward scripture.

  87. BTW, I like the new avatars you gave us pictureless guys. Easier to distiguish in the recent comments. 8D

  88. I didn’t say that you were holding me to the Muslim view, but I think others have in the past. And I’m well aware that there are Christians who hold the Muslim view. But Christian inerrancy is not the same thing as the Muslim view (even though some Baptist in the Deep South think that it is)

    Inerrancy and infallibility are two different views of how to view scripture.

    The avatars are all a product of WordPress.com. Wish I could take credit.

  89. Tim,

    Thanks for the links, it clears things up a bit. I was not aware of the difference in usage of those two terms. Since neither is really used in discussing LDS doctrine, it seems the distinction has evaded me until now 😉

  90. I indicated above that I was going to provide an analysis of Genesis 1.1 in relation to the subject of creatio ex nihilo. I have started a series of posts on the subject on my blog recently. I have already posted the first three segments in the series. I have several more installments in the works, I just don’t want to post them too quickly. At any rate, feel free to comment if you’d like.

    Best wishes,

    The Yellow Dart

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