Maximally Perfect in Every Way

In his book The God Question, JP Moreland sets out to give a basic overview of why someone should consider becoming a Christian and what her life should look like in following Jesus.

In his chapter on Worship he states:

Christian philosophers call God a “Maximally Perfect Being.” This sounds pretty heady, but in reality, it is a crucial concept. To see why, think of people who are phenomenally gifted. Now, these folks deserve respect for their attributes, abilities, or whatever. How much respect? They deserve a degree of respect proportionate to their excellence in their area of giftedness, such as intelligence. But these people do not deserve our complete or full respect. Why? Well, if someone more intelligent came on the scene, the new person would deserve more respect. So even if a more intelligent person is not around, we know such a person undoubtedly exists, so we hold back our respect a bit.

A Maximally Perfect Being is one who could not possibly be surpassed in wisdom, mercy, love, power, and so on. God is not the greatest being who happens to exist. He is the greatest being who could possibly exist. The implication should be clear: God is worthy of our complete, full, deepest, total commitment. Worship is the act of giving admiration, respect, affection, honor, reverence, and adoration to God. And given the nature of God, worship should be unreserved and total.

I think his thoughts give a good overview of why Evangelicals are so scandalized by Mormon teachings on the nature of God. To view God as someone who may have once been a man, might have been a sinner, or even someone who is in the process of progressing robs Him of something integral to His character. To the Evangelical ear, Mormonism states that God is not a Maximally Perfect being.

This is part of the reason Evangelicals often ask Mormons why they don’t seek to worship the god of God. We want to give respect and worship to the one who deserves it most. We are seeking out the greatest possible being. If there is one greater than Heavenly Father we want to offer him our praise.

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149 thoughts on “Maximally Perfect in Every Way

  1. I think you address this theological difference perfectly. In fact, this just came up in a conversation with a Mormon friend of mine (he brought up the Nicene Creed). The assumption that God is omnipotent leads Evangelicals to a whole bunch of wrong, albeit logical, conclusions.

    “This is part of the reason Evangelicals often ask Mormons why they don’t seek to worship the god of God. We want to give respect and worship to the one who deserves it most. We are seeking out the greatest possible being. If there is one greater than Heavenly Father we want to offer him our praise.”

    While I am agnostic on the issue of whether our Heavenly Father has a heavenly father, I still believe that your assumption is not necessary: our God and “his God” could be One just as Jesus and our God are One and as Jesus prays that we can be one in them. Thus, searching for a god who is greater than our Heavenly Father may be fruitless.

  2. Also, I’ll just point out as side note that, personally, I find the whole idea of seeking out someone to give my “complete, full, deepest, total…admiration, respect, affection, honor, reverence, and adoration” leaves me feeling rather empty inside. Searching for the alone and downtrodden is fulfilling. “Whatever you did for one of the least of these…” etc.

  3. It is more morally praiseworthy to have never sinned than to have ever sinned.

  4. I like the last paragraph of BrianJ’s first comment.

    We’re back to the challenge of finding God’s view of what’s most important and what’s not so important. The way I look at it, the bottom line question is–as Tim hinted–“Does Mormonism encourage Mormons to worship God?”

    Since the LDS teaches that God is sinless and trustworthy now, that he always will be sinless and trustworthy in the future, that he is able to judge the world, and that he will indeed judge the world through Christ, Mormons have lots of reasons to entrust their lives to God & Christ.

    What basis, then, do evangelicals have to condemn the LDS to non-christian status for suggesting that the Father may have sinned at some point? It’s the trust that matters, don’t you agree? It’s the trust that gives Mormons a right to the priesthood power of Jesus Christ and his eternal life, etc.

  5. I see no inconsistency in saying that God is the epitome of perfection yet still progressing. To use an imperfect mathematical analogy, adding to infinity still yields infinity.

    And I reject some of the assumptions in the original post. For instance, evangelicals believe that Jesus was once a man, yet they seem to have no problem worshiping him. (That’s a good thing, by the way.)

  6. Brian,
    Interesting. It’s seeking after God that inspires me to seek after the downtrodden.

    our God and “his God” could be One just as Jesus and our God are One and as Jesus prays that we can be one in them.

    So when we reach exaltation do you expect that we will receive the same praise that Heavenly Father and Jesus receive? Will we join with them in honor, glory and power just as Jesus and Heavenly Father and Heavenly Grandfather are?

    Cal said

    It’s the trust that matters, don’t you agree?

    No I don’t agree at all. It’s the object of our trust that matters. If someone has equal trust in Kali that you have in Jesus it does them no good. Kali does not have the power to save, only Jesus does.

    If a doctor says “trust me I have a cure” it’s his cure that saves you not your trust.

    The LDS church teaches its members to view God as a less than maximally perfect being. They believe in a different sort of god than orthodox Christians (though they use the same name).

  7. Eric said

    For instance, evangelicals believe that Jesus was once a man, yet they seem to have no problem worshiping him.

    Except we think Jesus was maximally perfect BEFORE he was a man and didn’t need an earthly existence to gain anything he didn’t already have.

  8. Which is more praiseworthy: a superstar athlete who never had to train or practice because he was simply born with certain talents, or a superstar athlete who had to work his butt off to obtain his skills?

    In other words, should we praise someone merely for what they are, or for what they have accomplished?

    If God is truly unable to sin, is he as praiseworthy as a person who is able to sin but never does?

    Just some food for thought.

  9. If Jesus did not become a man he would be lacking that experience. Was he not made more perfect by this? A God who saved his creation seems greater than one who does not.

  10. Tim: “It’s seeking after God that inspires me to seek after the downtrodden.” That’s not quite the opposite of what I was saying. So even though I said it as an aside, I’ll clarify: if the end result of my seeking is that I devote all my heart, mind, and strength to praising God, then that leaves me empty—and I don’t believe God gets anything out of it either. Yes, seeking God is one way that I too am inspired to help the downtrodden (see also: the Moral Influence Model of the Atonement).

    “So when we reach exaltation do you expect that we will receive the same praise that Heavenly Father and Jesus receive? Will we join with them in honor, glory and power…?”

    Why not? D&C 84:38 and Romans 8:17.

    “Except we think Jesus was maximally perfect BEFORE he was a man and didn’t need an earthly existence to gain anything he didn’t already have.”

    A concept we discussed previously on this blog and it became rather clear that it makes no sense.

  11. JamesJames: I don’t have a problem with the logic of your comment, but let me rephrase something you wrote:

    Which is more praiseworthy: a superstar athlete who never had to train or practice because he was simply born with certain talents, or a superstar athlete who had to work his butt off to obtain his skills?

    …to something that I think strikes more to the heart of the matter:

    Which is more praiseworthy: a superstar athlete who actually exists or an even more super-duper superstar athlete who you dreamed up in your mind?

    I’ll take the former.

  12. Is there biblical support for this concept of “Maximally Perfect”? This seems like an extra biblical philosophical construct applied to the text.

    I tend to think that such ideas are the bewitchment of theology by language.

    God may be greater than we can conceive, and if that is the case, we cannot really talk at all about a more perfect being. We don’t know the limits of possible perfection.

  13. Nicely said Brian. There are two aspects to this:

    (1) Is maximal perfection in every way all that praiseworthy if it exists independent of any effort?

    (2) Just because we can dream up what we think maximal perfection is, does that mean God must be so?

    Regarding point #2, it is somewhat like our tendency to turn historic heroes (ie the Founding Fathers, or Joseph Smith) into quasi-superhumans just because it makes us feel better.

  14. Tim said:

    … we think Jesus was maximally perfect BEFORE he was a man and didn’t need an earthly existence to gain anything he didn’t already have.

    I suppose one can argue whether Jesus _needed_ an earthly existence, but it seems pretty clear to me even from an evangelical perspective that Jesus did gain something from it that he wouldn’t have had otherwise.

    And it’s certainly an LDS view that Jesus was perfect in premortal state. Maximally perfect? It depends on the definition, I suppose. To me, the Bible is quite clear that Jesus saw himself as subservient to the Father, not the other way around. Did that make him less than maximally perfect? I wouldn’t say so, but some people might.

  15. What stops us from conceiving of something impossibly perfect or great?

    There is no requirement in the Bible that God be maximally perfect in this conceptual way in order to be God. Why would we ascribe these attributes to God’s greatness when (1) we don’t understand God’s greatness and (2) cannot gain more knowledge of God’s greatness because it beyond our capacity to understand.

  16. Jared C. asked:

    Is there biblical support for this concept of “Maximally Perfect”? This seems like an extra biblical philosophical construct applied to the text.

    The Bible does use the word “omnipotent” (only once, though, in the KJV) to describe God, which suggests some sort of maximality, as does the Book of Mormon. Of course, our Heavenly Father is described as perfect (or complete, depending on the translation) by Jesus.

    I’m not sure what practical difference there is between “perfect” and “maximally perfect.” Whatever difference there is, yeah, I’d agree, that’d be an extrabiblical construct.

  17. Jared: I think the answer to both of your questions comes from how traditional Christianity interpreted the word “omnipotent.” They took that to mean that God not only has every power that exists, but also every power that could ever be conceived of (never mind that some of those powers don’t actually exist).

    This leads to all sorts of false conclusions that are nevertheless logical. For example, God must have the power to create matter (otherwise he is not omnipotent). And other beings had better not have similar powers (otherwise God has competition). Thus, he must have created all matter—and created all other beings as well—ensuring that he’s always “top god” in the universe.

  18. Jared, I’m confused why you asked for the biblical support for maximal perfection and then in your next comment had already come to the conclusion that there is no Biblical support. Did you do research on the concept in those 16 minutes or just assume there is no Biblical support because you couldn’t think of any?

    Jared (and Eric) said

    If Jesus did not become a man he would be lacking that experience. Was he not made more perfect by this?

    an experience is not a necessary attribute of perfection. For example, you in your inner most character are “Jared”. You are perfectly Jared. You can not stop being nor have you ever not been “Jared”. But you haven’t experienced lunch today. At noon, you’ll eat lunch in just the way a “Jared” would but that won’t make you any more or less “Jared”. If you don’t eat lunch you won’t be less of a “Jared”. (but you might be more of a Kullervo) 😉

    Brian, I agree completely with your last paragraph. Except of course for the first sentence.

    Evangelicals believe that God can not create a square circle. Not because he isn’t powerful enough to do it, but because there simply are no such thing as square circles. It’s a category fallacy to even hope for them. Similarly God cannot share omnipotence with another god because there is no such thing as shared omnipotence.

    All of this is kind of pointing to the Ontological Argument for the existence of God, but that’s a major rabbit trail.

  19. James said

    Which is more praiseworthy: a superstar athlete who never had to train or practice because he was simply born with certain talents, or a superstar athlete who had to work his butt off to obtain his skills?

    the concept introduced wasn’t “maximally praiseworthy” it was “maximally perfect”. You switched categories.

  20. Tim,

    The quote that you provided by Moreland is in a chapter about “worship”, and it is all about why God deserves more respect and more devoted worship than any other being in the universe due to his status as “maximally perfect.” So the category is precisely “praiseworthiness”.

    And in regard to Jared eating lunch, that is a far cry from the entire experience of mortality, not to mention saving the world through the most humble and gracious acts ever performed. Mormons would argue that Jesus gained something from that, while Evangelicals would argue he did not.

    Thanks.

  21. Fair enough James.

    And you’re right, Evangelicals do not think Jesus gained anything from his experience in mortality. He learned nothing; his grace, kindness and mercy were not enhanced or increased by it, they were merely on display.

  22. BrianJ, giving his interpretation of an evangelical argument, said:

    For example, God must have the power to create matter (otherwise he is not omnipotent).

    Tim, responding, said:

    I agree completely …

    He also said:

    Evangelicals believe that God can not create a square circle. Not because he isn’t powerful enough to do it, but because there simply are no such thing as square circles.

    Logically, there’s no reason why creating matter out of nothing can’t be the equivalent of squaring a circle. It may be something that’s impossible, even for a supremely divine being.

    Tim also said:

    Similarly God cannot share omnipotence with another god because there is no such thing as shared omnipotence.

    Heavenly Father and Jesus (and, perhaps, I suppose, the Holy Spirit) share omnipotence, at least from an LDS perspective.

    Finally, Tim said:

    All of this is kind of pointing to the Ontological Argument for the existence of God, but that’s a major rabbit trail.

    That’s an understatement.

  23. Tim,

    Do you recognize a difference between empirical knowledge and experiential knowledge? I believe that Christ increased in experiential knowledge because some things can only be known through experience.

    In other words, Christ may have been capable of absolute mercy beforehand, but he didn’t know what it was like *to be* merciful before he had a chance to be merciful.

  24. To be fair, I think James^2 conflated rather than switched categories, borrowing from Aaron’s comment.

    But I think he’s still on the right track, since I think that the perceived need to have a “maximally perfect” God is related to (and possibly comes from) the desire to have a “maximally praiseworthy” God.

  25. “Did you do research on the concept in those 16 minutes or just assume there is no Biblical support because you couldn’t think of any.”

    I did some research, I couldn’t think of any off the bat. Couldn’t find convincing argument from scripture. I researched Anselm’s basis for the concept.

    This guy had some scriptural references. http://paulhelmsdeep.blogspot.com/2010/10/perfect-being-theology.html

    Similarly God cannot share omnipotence with another god because there is no such thing as shared omnipotence.

    Why can we assume there is as state called “Maximally Perfect”. – there are all kinds of philosophical assumptions that are made in order to reach this conclusion.

    One of which is the assumption we can intuit what a God must be like.

  26. Tim said:

    Evangelicals do not think Jesus gained anything from his experience in mortality. He learned nothing; his grace, kindness and mercy were not enhanced or increased by it, they were merely on display.

    There we disagree. Even God (or, perhaps, especially God) is capable of learning.

  27. “… there is no such thing as shared omnipotence.”

    And yet there are such things as shared ousia and co-eternalness?

  28. Tim — A little bit off topic, but … would you say that this concept of “maximal perfection” would be rejected by evangelical open theists? (Or is that an oxymoron?) I’m no expert on open theism, but my understanding is that they hold that God indeed can gain in knowledge, love, wisdom and such qualities.

  29. Interesting.

    I have to say that it seems quite obvious that Christ gained something from his mortal experience. I agree that he did not increase in grace, kindness, mercy, or any other qualities of perfections, except knowledge. As has been stated, some things require experience to understand.
    Example: I can study teaching for the rest of my life, but if I do not enter the classroom and experience what it is to be a teacher I will never have a full knowledge of teaching.
    A great hint that Christ did in fact learn from his experience is in the fact that he never once called himself perfect, but reserved that description for the Father (speaking of only the Bible).

    As to being Maximally Perfect, the real complaint is that it is supposed that LDS doctrine allows for a God who could have sinned at one time in the past. However, the doctrine just as easily allows for a God who never once sinned, just as Christ never once sinned.
    I agree with Jared in that the Evangelical stand requires assumptions about God that we could never truly know. I would add that the LDS stand allows us to admit we just don’t know.

  30. Shematwater says “I have to say that it seems quite obvious that Christ gained something from his mortal experience.” and I agree. He gained a human nature at the incarnation, the single greatest miracle (maybe with the exception of the resurrection) reported in the Bible.

    Did the human nature of Jesus learn from experience? Yes to deny this would be to deny his true humanity. Did this human nature in any way alter or change his divine nature? No.

    The difference between Christ and humanity is that He has (note the present tense as in has today) a divine nature and a human nature. Whereas humanity lacks a divine nature

  31. Coincidentally, I just heard on the radio the following quote from Robert Heinlein’s book Time Enough for Love:

    The most preposterous notion that H. sapiens has ever dreamed up is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of His creatures, can be swayed by their prayers, and becomes petulant if He does not receive flattery.

    I don’t entirely agree, but thank you anyway Mr. Keillor.

  32. Tim said, “We think Jesus was maximally perfect BEFORE he was a man and didn’t need an earthly existence to gain anything he didn’t already have.”

    You mean he didn’t need to die to gain his body, the church?

  33. The church isn’t any more fundamental to the nature of God than than your shirt is to your character.

  34. Tim,

    To my ears this sounds like “God doesn’t care about you.” This theology of God in which his creations don’t enrich his life in any way is quite disconcerting. I doubt that is the message you want to convey, but that is what it looks like.

    I prefer a theology in which I matter to God. I prefer a theology in which God loves me because of who I am, because he values my friendship and companionship. In which he wants me to end up in his Kingdom because he values my presence; because he is happier if I’m there than if I am not there. I prefer a theology in which I matter.

    James

  35. Actually James, God does care about us (John 3:16). What Tim is saying is that God is complete even if we never existed.

    Also, the church will have it’s end, it is not an eternal institution (neither are prophecies or visions).

  36. James said

    I prefer a theology in which I matter to God. I prefer a theology in which God loves me because of who I am, because he values my friendship and companionship. In which he wants me to end up in his Kingdom because he values my presence; because he is happier if I’m there than if I am not there. I prefer a theology in which I matter.

    All of this is 100% true. . . because of who God is!

    God’s church is wonderful. . because of what it expresses about who God is.
    God values your friendship. . . not because of anything you did to deserve it but because of who God is.
    God says you matter. . . because of who God is.

  37. The core of the debate (as my wife likes to point out) is that Mormonism worships eternal principles above God (ie. Heavenly Father is God because He follows eternal principles). Therefore, the maximal thing in existence is the eternal principle, and anyone who follows them perfectly becomes a God.

    This is blasphemy to Evangelicals because God is the ultimate (the maximal) good. God is the author of principles, and gives them force, not the other way around.

    So this conversation has Mormons saying that God is good only inasmuch as He loves us, and that to the extent that He does not love us, He is not really good (and therefore not really God, and on these grounds they disbelieve in the Evangelical God).

    On the other hand, Evangelicals say that God is good. period. And because He is good, He loves us. This is why Evangelicals can say that the church is inconsequential to God and yet God is still good.

  38. From the Evangelical perspective, then, there problem with determining the properties of God by conceiving that which is greatest. If God is the arbiter of good, then there is no necessity that God be maximally good according to our own reckoning. He is maximally good regardless of his attributes. We would find out about what is good by finding out about God, not the other way around.

  39. Yes. God is the standard by which all things good are judged. The word good even comes from the word God.

  40. andrew: “The core of the debate (as my wife likes to point out) is that Mormonism worships eternal principles above God”

    Then your wife likes to point things out in blatantly biased and wrong terms.

    Your stand-in phrase, “Heavenly Father is God because He follows eternal principles,” gets closer to the truth, but even then Mormonism would teach that the converse is also true: “Heavenly Father follows eternal principles because He is God.” Tautology? Yep.

    “On the other hand, Evangelicals say that God is good. period.”

    Only if you refuse to engage in the same hypothetical testing of your theology that you first ask Mormons to do with theirs. Mormons believe that God is good and will never not be good—“period.” It is only a hypothetical question as to what would happen should God choose to do evil.

    Thankfully, there is an Evangelical within our midst who has been willing to engage in this kind of hypothetical thinking {hey Tim, raise your hand!}. When asked some time ago why God deserves our praise, he answered that it is because God created us. When I pressed with the hypothetical of a God who created us but nevertheless was not all that good to us, he responded that God, as Creator, would still merit our praise. (Unfortunately, I could not find the original conversation, only a conversation that references it.)

  41. Tim: “The church isn’t any more fundamental to the nature of God than your shirt is to your character.”

    Just wanted to say that I agree.

  42. Tim: “The church isn’t any more fundamental to the nature of God than your shirt is to your character.”

    I agree with that, too!
    And I agree with Jared’s cute assertion that the church is a reflection of Christ’s character. Ephesians 3:10: “His [God’s] intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.”

    James: “I prefer a theology. . . . in which he [God] wants me to end up in his Kingdom because he values my presence; because he is happier if I’m there than if I am not there. I prefer a theology in which I matter.”

    To which Tim said, “God says you matter . . . because of who God is.”

    And God is maximally unselfish, maximally affectionate, and maximally in love with us!

  43. James: “I prefer a theology. . . . in which he [God] wants me to end up in his Kingdom because he values my presence; because he is happier if I’m there than if I am not there. I prefer a theology in which I matter.”

    There’s something in James’ statement that makes me want to say:

    You are not the point. God should be the center of your theology not you. When we start putting man in the center or our theology that’s when we start down the road of idolatry.

    I’m sure James would agree but I feel like it needs to be said.

  44. Tim,

    Thanks for your thoughts. I think I’ve sort of lead us away from the main point of this blog post (although we’ve probably all had our say on that topic).

    Regarding man not being “the point”, I think we are very much the point in God’s eyes. To me, the ideal friendship is one in which the respective parties selflessly strives for the happiness and glory of the other. So, from our perspective (man) it is all about God, yet from God’s perspective it is all about his children.

    I realize that doesn’t sit well with Evangelicals who believe that God ultimately only cares about God.

  45. James said:

    I realize that doesn’t sit well with Evangelicals who believe that God ultimately only cares about God.

    Which evangelicals are those?

  46. James I’ve never heard anyone EVER say that God only cares about God. Could you source that? It seems a severe distortion of Evangelical thought.

  47. Tim,

    I’ve had several conversations with Evangelicals, mostly Calvinists, who describe God’s plan for mankind as ultimately a plan to bring himself more glory. We (humans) are described as mere instruments — instruments who are very much loved nonetheless (well, the ones God elects to save anyway) — who exist primarily to give God an opportunity to demonstrate his own magnanimity.

    I realize that not all Evangelicals are going to agree with that worldview. But I am not exaggerating or trying to put a negative spin on things. That is exactly how it has been explained to me in various conversations (mostly with hardcore Calvinists at CARM).

    I should probably step back from my comment that “God only cares about God”, and instead say “God primarily cares about God.”

  48. “I prefer a theology. . . . in which he [God] wants me to end up in his Kingdom because he values my presence; because he is happier if I’m there than if I am not there. I prefer a theology in which I matter.”

    Preference makes no difference. It could turn out that we are not worthy of God’s care and we don’t actually matter in any cosmic sense, but somehow he care’s anyway.

  49. saying that God seeks to bring glory to Himself is worlds apart from “God only cares about God.”

  50. I don’t think it’s fair to judge evangelicals by the hard-core Calvinists you find at an “apologetics” discussion board that has anti-Mormon overtones.

    Most of the evangelicals I’ve known wouldn’t disagree with the teaching of Moses 1:39, that God’s work and glory are “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” — and not one who treats humans as pawns in some sort of selfish scheme, but as a supreme being who is the epitome of selfless love.

    At least such has been my experience, and I’m known a lot of evangelicals.

  51. ANDREW

    You got things all wrong. We do not worship the principles. We worship God. But we worship him because he perfectly follows those principles. He did not create everything (for then he would be the true author of all evil) but exists within a natural world where he perfectly conforms to that which is inherently good.

    JAMES

    I agree that a God whose primary focus is us is a God more worthy of worship and respect, and I think that is what you mean when you say you prefer this type of theology.

    TIM

    I cannot source it, but I have had several conversations in which people (mostly evangelicals) have stated that everything God does is for his benefit. He gives laws for the sole purpose of showing us how despicable we are, with no intention of of ever even trying to obey, so that he can have us worship him in his great mercy. His entire purpose for creating the world and mankind was to have a new kind of creature to worship him. These are common themes in almost every conversation I have had with evangelicals.
    I am sorry, but this describes a character who is so conceited that any love he has for us is overshadowed by it. It describes a character whose love for himself surpasses any love he can have for anything else.

    On the other hand, the LDS teach that God gave us laws so that we would know how to progress; that he created this world and mankind because it was the only way for us to become like him. The focus of his attention is not longer on himself, but on us, which makes it so much easier for us to put our focus on him.

  52. Mormonism does see God quite a bit differently. I am still not convinced that the theological points make a lot of practical difference.

    Mormonism may see God as 1 x10^100 times greater than humans and evangelicals may see him as infinitely greater than humans, but because both are unfathomably greater the two group’s dealings with God may not be significantly different.

    I don’t think there is a basis to think God is offended if we get this wrong. but i could be wrong.

  53. Here is a hardcore Calvinist statement about the comfort we receive from God.

    Question 1. What is thy only comfort in life and death? Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.

    You may find this repugnant being the fruit of Reformed theology but it is difficult to see this in representation made about evangelical or Calvinist theology.

    Now maybe the folks at CARM forgot that “the chief end of man”is to “glorify God AND ENJOY HIM FOREVER.” But if you forget the second clause you have a less than complete presentation of what the Calvinists believe. I would be wary of internet Calvinists if your comments accurately represent what they are telling you.

  54. Jared said

    Mormonism may see God as 1 x10^100 times greater than humans and evangelicals may see him as infinitely greater than humans, but because both are unfathomably greater the two group’s dealings with God may not be significantly different.

    Evangelicals see God not as infinitely greater than humans but of a completely different kind. It’s not at all a difference of degree for us.

    I don’t think there is a basis to think God is offended if we get this wrong. but i could be wrong

    Perhaps the confusion between the two isn’t as important as the reason for the confusion.

  55. The problem is that when two individuals are arguing, their positions sound more extreme or out-of-balance than their positions would sound if the individuals were simply stating their overall positions in a neutral environment.

  56. a completely different kind.

    Gundek says that the difference between us and Jesus is that we only have a human nature, and he has both a human and a divine nature.

    But can’t humans also partake in the divine nature, in the Evangelical theology? This is what Mormons believe, i.e. humans are the kinds of things that are able to partake in the divine nature, in that way we are like God, yet the only way we can partake in that nature is through the atonement.

  57. no, we believe we can partake in the glory of God but not his divine nature. This is a key difference between orthodox Christianity and Mormonism.

  58. That’s not how I would interpret 2 Peter 1:4. To me it’s pretty clear that one the promises we’ve been given is the opportunity to partake of (or participate in or share in) the divine nature. It’s a powerful promise, and to water it down misses on the purposes of the gospel.

  59. I see Aaron is here and I watched some of the videos from his mrm blog where he was interviewing people on this question. On my blog I’ve started a series exploring the Hermetic aspects of Mormonism. I hadn’t raised this point on his blog… though I was thinking about it,

    I don’t see any reason there would need to be a maximum god. Lets simplify from an infinite regress to a finite one. Remember spirits exist outside of time so there is no notion for them of past and future, with regard to the universe I don’t see any reason you couldn’t have something like:
    Mortal A, who becomes god A has as his god B
    Mortal B, who becomes god B has as his god C
    Mortal C, who becomes god C has as his god A

    Which is much more keeping with the idea that the Gods are coequal and non competitive; as well as the idea that the universe exist apart from an act of creation. Because creation occurs outside of time, there isn’t some maximal point. And if we live on the same planet as A, B is still our god, and we shouldn’t worship C for the same reason we shouldn’t worship A, who from our earthly perspective was/is/will be a mortal.

  60. Concerning the divine nature, Eric & Jared are absolutely correct and in line with the teaching of charismatic Christian leaders (there are now more charismatic Christians than non-charismatic in the U.S.) and I would bet they are in line with a majority of non-charismatic teachers as well.

  61. andrew —

    On the other hand, Evangelicals say that God is good. period. And because He is good, He loves us.

    Well no, not quite that’s the doctrine of Limited Atonement. Under evangelical theology because God is good he doesn’t cast all of his hateful products of creation and the fall away, but sent his Son to atone for those whom he chooses to elect. The rest are still subject to his wrath not his love.

    John Calvin: “Now a word concerning the reprobate, with whom the apostle is at the same time there concerned. For as Jacob, deserving nothing by good works, is taken into grace, so Esau, as yet undefiled by any crime, is hated [Rom. 9:13]” (Institutes 3.22.11). “And as Esau was deprived of this habitation, the prophet sacredly gathers that he was hated of God, because he had been thus rejected from the holy and elect family, on which the love of God perpetually rests … when Pighius holds that God’s election of grace has no reference to, or connection with, His hatred of the reprobate, I maintain that reference and connection to be a truth. Inasmuch as the just severity of God answers, in equal and common cause, to that free love with which He embraces His elect” (Calvin’s Calvinism [Grandville, MI: RFPA, 1987], pp. 59, 75)

  62. I would be interested in reading the charismatic theologian who claims that “divine nature” in 2 Peter 1:3, 4 is referring to the divine essence instead of the divine character.

    Is Peter referring to an ontological participation with the divine essence, a transformation of humanity into the essence of God, an assumption of the incommunicable attributes, an assumption of divinity? Or is Peter referring to a moral participation in the divine character through the redemptive work of Christ, a restoration of the image and likeness of God, conforming to Chirst’s holiness and righteousness. I believe an exegetical case can be made for the second option.

    We must carefully define what we mean by participation and nature in this passage. Do we mean union and communion with Christ in grace and glory? Or does participation mean that “we are like God”?

  63. Charismatic philosopher JP Moreland is one of the 5 most respected philosophers in all of Evangelicalism. I know for a fact that he would disagree with Cal.

    I don’t think Cal understands the issue well enough to speak on behalf of all charismatic theologians.

  64. CD-Host seems to be introducing some sort of theology in which Neo has been in this Matrix once before.

    I’m not sure where you get the idea that spirits exists outside of time. The question is an open debate among Christians if God is outside of time but I’ve never heard the same said of spirits. (personally I would say that God is clearly in time as we can see him interacting with temporal beings, but until creation started he was timeless Read this for more info).

    There are three little words that would seem to get in the way of your hypothesis: In. The. Beginning.

  65. Tim —

    I’m going to give a bunch of quotes but before I do, entropy is what gives time directionality. You experience yourself as living in a 3 dimensional universe with time moving in a uniform direction, when you not engaging in accelerated motion because you are subject to entropy. Entropy requires the ability to interact with matter to exist.

    Now some quotes:

    _____

    As for in the beginning JS addressed that himself:
    You ask the learned doctors why they say the world ws made out of nothing and they will answer “Doesn’t the Bible say he created the world?” They infer from the word create, that it must have been made out of nothing. Now, the word create came from the word baurau (sic), which does not mean ot create out of nothing, it means to organize the world out of chaos – chaotic matter, which is element and in which dwells all the glory. Element had an existence from the time he (God) had. The pure principles of element which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and reorganized, but not destroyed. They had no beginning and can have no end. – History of the Church 6:308-9

    31For by the power of my Spirit acreated I them; yea, all things both bspiritual and temporal—

    32 First spiritual, secondly temporal, which is the beginning of my work; and again, first temporal, and secondly spiritual, which is the last of my work— (D&C 29:31-2) (which establishes pretty clearly that temporality is not a property of spirit)

    “The spirit of man is not a created being; it existed from eternity, and will exist to eternity” HC 3:387

    D&C 77 incidentally applies this to animals that beasts have spirits and live on an eternal earth

    etc…

  66. Tim,

    I’m curious to know… what do you believe it means when Romans 8:17 states that we can be “joint-heirs (or co-heirs) with Christ and glorified with him (or share in his glory)” and 2 Peter 1:4 saying that we can “be partakers of (or participate in) the divine nature” ?

    Why can’t God share His divine nature? How does it take away from God’s godness? Does God cease to be God if he can endow us with the nature that He has?

    I find myself agreeing more and more with what Jared said somewhere up above that we can’t possibly comprehend God. We may be able to comprehend part of what He is, but I don’t think we can comprehend it all, and to claim we do is to limit God’s ability to, well, be God.

  67. Tim —

    I wanted to break the Mormon response off from the Evangelical response. IMHO what Craig is arguing for in that book is heresy even for an evangelical.

    Time is a property of matter and the universe. God doesn’t have a point in space time. He is not at any particular place anymore than he is at any particular time. Craig doesn’t seem to understand that time is a property of being in the universe.

    Evan assuming that God were in the universe and were limited to being one specific place, for Craig’s idea to be true God would be essentially limited in how fast he could travel in space-time. Remember traveling faster than the speed of light in one frame corresponds with respect to some observers to traveling backwards in time. So unless you want to argue God is actually limited by the speed of light in how fast he travels he can freely move between various “times” with respect to any frame. And I think you would agree arguing that God can’t get from one place to another quickly is blatantly heretical.

    Finally in terms of Craig’s idea that creation altered the nature of God:

    Malachi 3:6: “For I am the Lord, I do not change”
    Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
    James 1:17 “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow”.

    etc…

  68. Jared,

    I should have mentioned that “Οὐσία” [nature/essence] of Chalcedonian Christology is not the same word as “θείας” [nature/character] in 2 Peter.

    I am not exactly sure what Cal is claiming for all of his fellow charismatics but in this case I would need to see “nature” defined to comment further.

  69. CD Host, just because John Calvin’s name has a Calvin in it, doesn’t necessarily mean this Calvin agrees with everything he said.

    Gundek, are you saying that God’s divine essence can be separated from his divine character?

    Tim said, “Charismatic philosopher.” That’s a contradiction in terms.

    I have more to say to Gundek but I have to go to church right now!

  70. Cal —

    Its fine if you don’t agree. The question was what evangelical Christianity teaches. My feeling about Calvin’s philosophy has always been that the bible presents multiple conflicting views of salvation. The most logical consistent theory of atonement and the one most consistent with the most scripture, assuming you put the center of your bible at Romans/John is Calvin’s. It further is the one with the most elevated view of God.

    But it presupposes a vicious God, who except in the most tautological sense is hard to call good at all, far less omnibenevolent. And in practice it tends to encourage human cruelty. I can completely understand why you would reject it. That being said, Andrew was asserting what evangelical Christianity teaches generally, and while the membership is generally Arminian, the movement itself is intellectually Reformed. For at least a very high percentage of its best thinkers God despises most of humanity, it simply isn’t true to assert that in Evangelical Christianity God loves most people.

    Louis F. DeBoer: “The Scriptural position is that God hates sinners and intends to put them in hell where the smoke of their torment will ascend for all eternity. The only sinners that a Holy God can love are his elect in Jesus Christ who are clothed with his righteousness and cleansed by his blood” (Hymns, Heretics and History, p. 119).

    John Murray: “[Divine hatred can] scarcely be reduced to that of not loving or loving less … the evidence would require, to say the least, the thought of disfavour, disapprobation, displeasure. There is also a vehement quality that may not be discounted … We are compelled, therefore, to find in this word a declaration of the sovereign counsel of God as it is concerned with the ultimate destinies of men” (Romans, vol. 2, pp. 22, 24).

    And one of the things that so appealing about the Mormon view of God is that their view of how man and God interact, especially the idea of multiple mortal probations and God’s sincere attempt to aid the spirit in becoming perfect and forming unbreakable bond with a body. Arminianism bordering on (or possibly crossing over into) Pelagianism may be less faithful to Paul but the Mormon God is one that can be called good in a meaningful sense, and this less elevated view of God’s sovereignty does tend to encourage good works, godliness. Further recenter your bible at a different place, and Pelagianism seems more consistent with the overall view of God in the totally of scripture. Center the bible at Deuteronomy and you have Judaism which is essentially Pelagian. Moreover the exact nature of grace ceases to be kind of question the religion is interested in. I actually tend to classify Mormonism as a form of Hermetic Christianity rather than being on the Pelagian–Arminian–Reformed–Hyper-Calvinist scale at all.

  71. No I am not saying that God’s character can be separated from his essence, but his “Οὐσία” [nature/essence] is understood in light of his communicable and incommunicable attributes.

    Read 2 Peter 1:3-11. Becoming partakers in the divine “θείας” [nature/character] and escaping corruption, what are the attributes Peter refers to? Perter promises us that faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love are qualities that are ours and qualities that are increasing.

    What Peter does not do is claim that we will participate or partake in God’s simplicity, aseity, immutability, impassibility, eternity, omnipresence, omnipotence, omniscience, etc. (incommunicable attributes) While faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love (communicable attributes) are “θείας” [nature/character] that Peter says we partake in.

    The problem as I see it is that people have taken the English translation of “θείας” [nature/character] rendered “nature” and assumed that it is referring to the same thing as “Οὐσία” [nature/essence] from the Chalcedonian formula “two natures of Christ”.

  72. Gundek. I agree with what you are saying, in terms of very different words. Just a possible assist, you might want to use slightly more tradition English renderings that capture the distinction you are aiming for:

    θείας = divine nature
    Οὐσία = substance (in this context)

  73. CD- Host, I consider myself an Arminian & I believe Paul was. I agree with Mormonism that we have free agency (choice).
    I don’t know what Pelagianism is.

    Gundek, I’m now closer to understanding what you mean by God’s “incommunicable attributes,” although I don’t understand the terms “simplicity,” “immutability,” “aseity,” and “impassibility.”

    Like you, I don’t see us sharing totally in God’s “omnipresence, omnipotence, or omniscience.” If the LDS does (does it?), then I see true Mormons (ones who believe what the LDS teaches about our Savior) being surprised when they get to heaven, but they’ll still get there—through faith in Christ.

  74. Gundek, this may be off-topic, but I thought of you when I read recently in a book by John Crowder that in the time of Constantine, “church leaders who would not sign the Nicene Creed were persecuted—for the first time, Christians were persecuting their brothers.”
    You may disagree but I found it very significant in light of the fact that Mr. Crowder’s book has a strong anointing on it. He has an unusually advanced revelation of NT truths.

  75. As I understanding it Cal, the LDS either redefine or deny the incommunicable attributes. That’s part of Tim’s point in this post.

  76. GUNDECK

    You say there are two terms that used to denote nature in the scriptures. Now, before I make a comment on 2 Peter 1: 3-11 could you clarify which one Peter actually uses. I am a little confused on this point.

  77. The doctrine of the Atonement makes it pretty clear to me that any being who is subjected to its power is – by definition – maximally perfect.

    Problem solved.

  78. Shematwater — The word used in 2 Peter 1:4 is physis, which refers (in this context) to characteristics or attributes. So when Peter says we participate in the divine nature, he’s saying we take on God’s attributes. (FWIW, while I find this distinction of communicable and incommunicable attributes extrabiblical, I don’t think Peter here is referring to theosis or an LDS-style exaltation or anything like that. The context indicates he’s talking about attributes such as knowledge, love and self-control — through active faith in Jesus Christ, those attributes can become our nature as well. While I believe that God does ultimately pass onto us as his sons and daughters some of his so-called incommunicable attributes, to see that in this section of Scripture is reading something into it that isn’t in the context.)

    The other word discussed above is ousia, which isn’t used in the Bible in referring to the nature of God.

  79. Mormons do believe in a maximally perfect God. And you’re right, if Gods character were progressing he would not be perfect. Many Mormon leaders and scholars have stated this.
    Is it hard to believe that the biological pattern on earth in some ways mimics the eternal spirit?

  80. CD-Host, I think you should read Craig’s book. He confronts all of your objections.

    Cal said
    Tim said, “Charismatic philosopher.” That’s a contradiction in terms.

    That’s funny because I just looked and Oral Roberts University offers philosophy classes.

    You are engaged in philosophy. When you make a statement such as “Mormons are Christians” and seek to back it up, you’re engaged in philosophy. You are a Charismatic Philosopher.

  81. ERIC

    When you say context, are you speaking of the list of attributes as given in the KJV, or are you once again using the original language?

  82. Gundek,

    I think you are misreading 2 Peter.

    Peter doesn’t say anything about how we participate in the divine nature and does not describe the nature of God. He says that we have been given everything we need through the knowledge of Jesus and for that reason he exhorts the reader to “make every effort” to be virtuous so that they will be productive in this knowledge. The exhortation to try to be virtuous is to allow us to see clearly rather than to attempt to be like the “divine nature”

    I would agree that Peter is most likely talking about something different than the Chaldeconian formula considering he didn’t know anything about it.

  83. Tim, the bottom line is that charismatic Christian leaders generally know and teach that Christians share in the divine nature of God (as Eric and Gundek nicely explained it) via reception of the Holy Spirit, who contains/is the nature of God, just as Christ contains/is the nature of God.

    Tim said, “You are engaged in philosophy. When you make a statement such as “Mormons are Christians” and seek to back it up.

    I have backed it up. But you have yet to back up your assertion to the contrary. You were getting closer when you mentioned the v. about blasphemy. I’m waiting patiently.
    (And I’m not trying to win an argument. The world is backwards in comparison to the kingdom of God. In the kingdom, the one who humbly realizes he was wrong and learns something new is the winner. I’ve learned some stuff on this blog. [Thanks for providing it for us, by the way.])

  84. Tim —

    I’m sorry but the book is simply silly in its critique of special relativity. Poincaré proved that Lorentz contraction did not solve the problem it was supposed to solve, it simply did not create a universal speed of light. Lorentz agreed with Poincaré’s critique of his original theory. There was no debate that Lorentz was right, everyone agrees he had a vital insight that essentially broke the dam and allowed everyone to figure the solution to the Michelson Morley experiment’s failure, but his theory doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

    On page 54 he makes the statement, “Lorentzian relativity is admitted by all sides to be empirically equivalent to Einsteinian relativity”.

    a) He’s objecting to time dilation, his problem is with Poincaré not Einstein. Einstein took Poincaré model (essentially, they may have both arrived at the same objection independently) and extended it, not Lorentz’s. Craig (not using these words) is objecting to the Poincaré invariant though attributing it to Einstein. Einstein’s key point is that the Poincaré failed to notice his invariant can be computed with respect to any frame, not just one privileged frame. They both agree on the exact same amount of time dilation.

    b) It is simply not true they are empirically equivalent. That was the whole point of Poincaré’s critique. Lorentz’s theory creates an asymmetry where different means of measuring time don’t match one another. If Lorentz’s original theory were right and Poincaré wrong (which again Lorentz agreed with Poincaré not his own original theory), then different types of clocks would measure time differently in a frame in motion with respect to the aether (i.e. the fixed neutral point). We can test it, and it doesn’t happen. All clocks within a frame agree.

    c) And we don’t have to rely on abstract arguments anymore. The whole reason your old television (where electrons were moving about 1/6th the speed of light) and your GPS (where extremely precise distance/time calculation is vital) work is because of special relativity. And don’t get me started on microchips which make extensive use of general relativity. If Lorentz were right, you would get different answers to these equations then you get and these devices would not work.

    Craig simply does not know what’s he’s talking about, if I want to be charitable.

  85. I believe that I must have done a very poor job of explaining myself. I agree that Peter is not referring to the Chaldeconian formula. In fact he is not using the same language used in the Chaldeconian formula and it is only in the English translations that “nature” is used in 2 Peter 1:4 and the Chaldeconian formula despite having two different meanings.

    Jared asked “But can’t humans also partake in the divine nature, in the Evangelical theology?” The answer is given in 2 Peter 1:4 φύσις φύσεως translated “divine nature” but the “divine nature” in this case is not speaking about the essence or substance of God, as in the Chaldeconian formula “two natures” it is speaking about the the “character or make up of something”.

    Where we disagree is that I believe Peter is specifically referring to how we “partake”, when he says “he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers…” he is refering to the “great and precious promises”. We see this in verse 3 as well, “According as his divine power hath GIVEN unto us all things…”

    I also believe that Peter does describe the nature or character of God faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. Any other reading I am afraid ignores the introduction “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness…” to Peters exhortation.

  86. Cal,

    The question as I have stated is not participation in the “nature”. I am sure that Tim affirms Peter’s point. The question is by “nature” do you mean the substance and essence of God? Or by “nature” do you mean character of God?

    Jared responded to my point that Jesus Christ has “two natures” one human and one divine (referring to the Chaldeconian formula), with the question, “Gundek says that the difference between us and Jesus is that we only have a human nature, and he has both a human and a divine nature.

    But can’t humans also partake in the divine nature, in the Evangelical theology?”

    This question confuses the difference in what Peter is referring to and what the Chaldeconian formula is referring to.

    I am not trying to put words in Tim’s mouth but when Tim denies that evangelicals believe in participation in the divine nature he was only answering the question in regards to the Chaldeconian formula and not 2 Peter.

    It really not that hard. The words in Chaldeconian formula and 2 Peter are not the same. They do not have the same meaning. Don’t take my word for it the Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon is available for free online. I’m sure it’s anointed, you can read it.

  87. Shematwater — I’m basing my understanding of “nature” in 2 Peter 1:4 on my understanding of the Greek and, probably more importantly here, of the context given by the following verses. (Understand, though, that I’m not a Greek scholar nor do I claim to be, and my knowledge of the Greek in this cases is limited to what I’ve read in two independent reference sources.)

    Tim asked me:

    Eric I take it that you accept Gundek’s reflection on 2 Peter 1:4. true?

    Yes, I agree with his interpretation of that verse that he wrote July 10, 2011 at 9:50 am.

    Although I do I believe in some sort of deification (aka exaltation) for believers, I don’t believe that’s what Peter is referring to in that verse. The context suggests to me that he’s talking about what we experience in this lifetime.

  88. Gundek, I think you are dead wrong on 2 Peter.

    Sorry to revisit this but this passage has always been a favorite:

    3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
    5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

    (2 Peter 1 3-9, NIV)

    The promises God has given us are clearly different from the efforts we make to be virtuous. And these human virtues are never said to be attributes of God.

    Those who don’t make the effort to be virtuous are blind and forget the promises and the cleansing of their sins. Peter explains that the knowledge of Jesus is what gives you everything you need, the effort is what makes you fruitful or productive in that knowledge. Peter is clearly not saying “god is this way so be like this” or “this is how we participate in the nature of god” he is saying “be virtuous so you can be productive and enlightened”. The suggestion that the blind person who makes no effort and does not see that he has been forgiven may also have his sins cleanses.

    If God did have the traits listed, he clearly would not be the same as the Maximal God you describe. That God does not have faith, he knows absolutely, he does not persevere, he simply does, He is not godly or pious, he is the object of piety.

    Peter does not describe precisely how we participate in the divine nature, he just identifies the power and means by which we can. The promises Peter refers to are not that God will make us virtuous like him, Peter says we should make our own efforts to virtue so we can take full advantage of the promises.

  89. Jesus Christ did not have faith when he walked the earth as a man? Wouldn’t denying Christ’s faith be denying his humanity?

    Setting aside faith I cannot understand any objection to virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love being attributed of God.

    Sorry I see an indicative “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness…” the promise. Followed by an imperative “For this very reason, make every effort to…” on exactly how to participate in the divine nature.

    I’m sure we will disagree but the call to conform ourselves to Christ comes after to promises of God to accomplish it. Perter is saying “You are saved… Act like it!”

  90. I think the correct interpretation is somewhere between Jared and Gundek.

    Jared, you’re right about the purpose of being virtuous but you’re not really dealing with Gundek’s strongest point, that “nature” here is better translated as character rather than essence. It’s also clear in reading the passage that Peter is talking about something that has/is happening to us now, while living, and not at some future date when we reach exaltation in the celestial kingdom.

    Also a better synonym for “faith” is “trust” rather than “belief”. In which case God clearly can have faith. Knowledge is not the opposite of faith, doubt is.

    The demons have perfect knowledge of God but do not have faith. As opposed to Jesus who also had perfect knowledge, which he used to trust (have faith) in the Father.

  91. I don’t know if there is a huge difference between character and essence when it comes to a deity, but that may reveal my Mormon roots.

    But agree Peter is not talking about essence in the Chaldeconian sense.

    I cannot understand any objection to virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love being attributed of God.

    Mormons have no objection because God’s character is ultimately what qualifies him as God.

    However I don’t think it makes sense to ascribe human virtues to God if he is not in any sense human as Evangelicals believe. Brotherly affection doesn’t make sense when you have no family or peers.

  92. He has phileo with the other members of the Trinity. The same can be said of his ability to agape.

  93. This is also where we have to part ways.

    First, our Lord Jesus has a human nature and we are made in the image and likeness of God. We don’t just believe in a transcendent God but a God that is immanent.

    Second, a demand for univocal language is what fundamentalists generally discover is impossible to meet. God compares himself to inanimate objects, weather, animals etc. He uses language that can be understood by his creation.

    Third we are not the ones ascribing human virtues to God. If the Bible is the word of God ultimately, through Peter, God is revealing who he is, what he has done for us, and what he would have us do in response in a way we can understand.

  94. Gundek said, “The words in Chaldeconian formula and 2 Peter are not the same.”

    I did check that out in my Greek Interlinear. You are right.
    Where in the Bible does the Chalcedonian word occur?

  95. Thanks, Eric!
    (For anyone who wants to know, it’s translated “property” in v. 12, and “wealth” in v. 13. The context is the story of a father dividing his property, which allowed one of his sons to obtain his inheritance early and squander the wealth in wild living [As you all know, it has a happy ending, though!].)

  96. This is part of the reason Evangelicals often ask Mormons why they don’t seek to worship the god of God. We want to give respect and worship to the one who deserves it most. We are seeking out the greatest possible being. If there is one greater than Heavenly Father we want to offer him our praise.

    This is begging the question.

    You are starting with the qualities that you believe your god has and turning around and evaluating everyone else’s gods. You’ve created a rubric for evaluating gods based on what you believe about your god. Of course all other gods will fall short. The test is rigged.

    You don’t even realize you are doing this because it all seems so self-evident to you. You’ve spent your life believing that things like “Omnipotent,” “Omniscient,” “Onmnibenevolent,” and “Uncreated” are necessary qualities for godhood and necessary qualifications for praiseworthiness because they happen to be the way you describe the god that you have grown up praising.

    What if the Omni-Omni characteristics you ascribe to your god do not in fact accurately describe him? What if they don’t describe any god? Or what if they do, but the god(s) they describe do not want or need your praise, worship, or attention? You assume that the One Original Supreme Omni Being would be the appropriate object of worship for human beings merely because your religion teaches you to worship a god that is described like that. But it’s a naked assumption.

    Do you criticize sons for honoring their father when they should be honoring their grandfather instead? Or their great-grandfather? Or why bother honoring any parent at all when Adam is the parent of them all? Shouldn’t you want to only honor the original parent? The logic is just as bad.

  97. I reject the notion that there is such a thing as “maximal perfection” because it views moral quality the wrong way: it assumes that there is something called “perfection” and everything else is somehow a deviation from it. But we have no evidence that this perfect standard exists. Even if you met Jehovah, you couldn’t possibly know that he was perfect, because you would have no frame of reference to distinguish “perfect” from just “exponentially more praiseworthy/virtuous than the next best thing you have ever encountered.”

    I think instead, to the extent that virtue can be quantified, that the potential for virtue is infinite. Virtue is not merely the lack of its opposite, but an affirmative, active principle. A being could always theoretically be more virtuous. But even then, that being walks a tricky line because living or exemplifying a moral virtue involves striking a balance with other moral virtues, so you can in fact be too virtuous if you are virtuous at the expense of another, competing virtue.

    In any case, there is no perfect moral standard, you can’t show me an example of one, and and merely asserting that there is doesn’t make it so.

  98. This is begging the question.

    You are starting with the qualities that you believe your god has and turning around and evaluating everyone else’s gods. You’ve created a rubric for evaluating gods based on what you believe about your god. Of course all other gods will fall short. The test is rigged.

    I know what you are saying. But Mormons approach Evangelicals and tell us they are Christian. So we have some basis in trying to fit what their telling us about God into a Christian framework. This is a point of conflict where our square peg doesn’t fit their round hole.

    I’m not asking a Hindu if Brahman sent his only begotten son to atone for our sins through a sacrificial death.

  99. Tim, that would be more convincing if the Mormons weren’t convinced that you were misreading or misapplying your own “Christian” source material.

  100. Kullervo —

    All excellent points.

    Tim —
    I know what you are saying. But Mormons approach Evangelicals and tell us they are Christian. So we have some basis in trying to fit what their telling us about God into a Christian framework.

    You are defining Christians far too narrowly. The argument that the early Arians had was that higher God’s were to unknowable to man, “There is none other God but Thee, the Inaccessible, the Omnipotent, the Omniscient, the Holy of Holies.” God made himself accessible through a lesser being, a manifestation capable of meaningful interacting with matter, the Logos. And the Logos adopted (sometimes indirectly through the Cristos) Jesus as an earthly prophet.

    Its fair to say Kullervo is violating later Catholic Christianity, not this idea is totally outside of Christian paradigms.

  101. I know what you are saying. But Mormons approach Evangelicals and tell us they are Christian. So we have some basis in trying to fit what their telling us about God into a Christian framework. This is a point of conflict where our square peg doesn’t fit their round hole.

    I’m not asking a Hindu if Brahman sent his only begotten son to atone for our sins through a sacrificial death.

    But that doesn’t alleviate the question-begging.

    And for the record, I have seen this line of thinking used to dismiss polytheism without any further ado on a number of occasions. “Your gods are not The Supreme Being. Humans are meant to worship the Supreme Being. Therefore your gods are deficient.” Sure, my religion, like every other non-Christian religion will fail the test if the test is “do you believe what I believe.”

    I’m not going totally postmodern here–I think there ought to be some way to meaningfully critique judge religious ideas. It’s jsut, the framework you are employing ehre is uncompelling.

    Or are you really just having a conversation about whether Mormon Jesus is the same as Christian Jesus?

  102. Tim’s notions of Christianity would probably eliminate all the Nestorian Christians as well.

    At the supposed time of King Arthur’s fabled “Round Table” – there were more Nestorian Christians in Baghdad alone than there were Christians in the entire British Isles.

  103. Or are you really just having a conversation about whether Mormon Jesus is the same as Christian Jesus?

    yes

  104. yes

    Oh okay. Carry on then.

    But that isn’t necessarily the same discussion as whether a non-maximally-perfect-god is a fit object of worship.

  105. So we have some basis in trying to fit what their telling us about God into a Christian framework.

    What is always been strange to me is the dogmatic reliance on the thought experiments of scholastic philosophers in determining what God “must” be.

    I am always puzzled by the Evangelical who claims only scripture as the standard and then uses theology built upon Plato and Aristotle as the standard of Christianity. The assumptions about God that lead to the maximally perfect surmise are nearly all extra-biblical.

    Even if you were to convince a Mormon that Joseph was a prophet, you are really hard pressed to demonstrate that he should rely on this sort of reasoning.

  106. The law of non-contradiction is true whether Plato, Aristotle or Confucius formalized it and gave it a name. Like math, it wasn’t invented, it was discovered. Yes, I think that God is “limited” by the law of non-contradiction. I think he “must” adhere to it, not because it governs him, but simply because it’s self-evident.

    The Bible gives us limited information about God. We use the tools we have to extrapolate on that information and make reasonable deductions.

    Wasn’t it Joseph Smith who said we should grab on to truth wherever we see it?

    What’s strange to me are Mormons who “want” to reject these Greek influences but don’t live their lives that way. It’s all just rhetoric to “claim” the creeds aren’t reliable. I seriously doubt most Mormons would be hard pressed to accept the laws of logic and reason since all of them at least attempt to let them govern their lives.

    People can wave their hands about all they want and say that these are just thought experiments that may be useful but they aren’t necessarily true or real. At the end of the day they won’t put their money where their mouth is on non-religious issues.

  107. I don’t think anybody is claiming we shouldn’t use logic and reason. Everyone uses the laws of logic and reason to support their positions. But I am not talking about the laws of logic and reason, I am talking about a particular extra-biblical philosophical understanding of metaphysics and God.

    Here is what you are telling Mormons:
    + God is absolutely one, without parts, yet he is three persons. (how this can be is a mystery.)

    + Jesus is completely God, yet he is completely human, and humans are something radically different than God.

    + We can determine some attributes of God by assuming he is the greatest conceivable being that can be conceived. However there is no set standard to judge a being’s greatness, God is not a being, and actually has no true attributes because he is ultimately simple.

    + God is everywhere, yet is completely separate from his creation.

    Etc.

    These are really hard to swallow and seem incoherent based on reason, logic and scripture alone.

  108. And I don’t think Mormons would have any issue would have any issue with any of these if Joseph Smith hadn’t given them some reason to think otherwise.

    Mormonism’s list of unanswered questions and inscrutabilities is equally as long and Mormons are unfazed by them. No one seems the least be concerned about infinite regressions or self-actualizing creations.

  109. People can wave their hands about all they want and say that these are just thought experiments that may be useful but they aren’t necessarily true or real. At the end of the day they won’t put their money where their mouth is on non-religious issues.

    I don’t think people operate based on formal logic almost ever.

  110. Jared’s point, I think, is that you seem perfectly happy with throwing formal logic out the window in the name of religious mystery, but then you turn around in this conversation and insisting that formal logic in fact should apply.

    Why should it apply to x if you do not apply it to y?

  111. No one seems the least be concerned about infinite regressions or self-actualizing creations.

    Neither of those are self contradictory. In fact we see all sorts of examples of infinite regressions and self-actualizing creations in nature.

    1 = 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + 1/16 + ….
    That’s an infinite regression.

  112. So Mormons would dogmatically accept them just like Evangelicals?

    This is like saying Evangelicals would probably believe something different if Plato, Aristotle, Augustine and Aquinas had not been around.

    Totally irrelevant as to whether anybody should define Christianity or God with these concepts.

  113. I’m not throwing out formal logic in favor of mystery. Saying “we don’t know” isn’t the same thing as “this defies logic but I don’t care”.

  114. Seth said, “Tim, that would be more convincing if the Mormons weren’t convinced that you were misreading or misapplying your own “Christian” source material.”

    🙂

  115. Neither of those are self contradictory. In fact we see all sorts of examples of infinite regressions and self-actualizing creations in nature.

    Really? Please provide for me one example, which you can show through scientific means, of an infinite regression and/or a self-actualizing creation in nature. No, your mathematical example is not an example in nature. Unless of course you are fully on board with Platonism and consider numbers to exist in the realm of the forms/ideas. But if that’s the case, you really don’t have any cause to be arguing on this topic.

  116. Tim’s notions of Christianity would probably eliminate all the Nestorian Christians as well.

    To the extent that his arguments hinge on Nicene formulated Trinitarianism they don’t; Nestorians accept Nicea. It’s Chalcedon they don’t accept. I don’t see any arguments here about the divine/human nature of Christ, which would hinge on one’s acceptance of Chalcedon, but I may have missed them.

  117. David —

    Please provide for me one example, which you can show through scientific means, of an infinite regression and/or a self-actualizing creation in nature.

    Sure. That example applies to Zeno’s paradox the arrow 1/2 way to its target then 1/2 way of the remaining distance then 1/2 way again….

    As for self actualizing creation, we see it all the time in any low energy area of space “vacuum state” you have the creation of particles and energy. In fact just a few years ago we got to witness a spectacular example of it happening in a massive way inside a type of star called a hypernova SN 2006gy

  118. CD Host,

    You might want to learn a bit more about philosophy, mathematics, and physics. Your examples are horrendously bad for trying to make your case.

  119. Anyone’s list of unanswered questions is going to be plenty long. When we cannot really fathom or explain the creation of the universe or the workings of the simplest matter, there is no way to explain a personal being that created the universe.

    But why should we make certain incomplete, probably incoherent answers to questions about God the standard of true religion?

  120. because there are certain things from scriptures and/or prophets that we do know. If you don’t think either your scriptures or your prophets are reliable enough to be certain about the things they do say definitively, then I think you’ve made the right choice in being agnostic.

  121. Tim, considering that the entire “catholic” position on infinite regress is a purely artificial and theoretical construct, Zeno works as a perfectly serviceable comparison.

  122. Well David its been a lot of years but I taught Mathematics for UNC, UMN, UCLA. Included in that is things like series and sequences (infinite summation) and introductory analysis (definition of numbers). I’ve taught physicists the differential geometry, using the metric tensor from General Relativity.

    What are your credentials?

  123. Ultimately even when the scriptures are completely reliable, you have to be very cautious about extrapolations.

    When we dealing with maximally perfect theology you are talking about extra-biblical discussions of God. You can believe everything the prophets said and still coherently reject this sort of theology. It seems that if God is silent on many of these assumptions, either they are not sound, or simply not important.

    You don’t have to be agnostic on the subject of who God is either. You might be able to know God, without having any capacity to explain what he is. And all of your attempts at explanation could be nonsense.

  124. If you don’t think either your scriptures or your prophets are reliable enough to be certain about the things they do say definitively, then I think you’ve made the right choice in being agnostic.

    You can never be 100% certain about anything. Evangelicals’ dogged insistence–a naked insistence not demanded by scripture at all and not backed up by anything more than the dogmatic assertion that it is so–that we can in fact be certain about the Bible is a bully smokescreen. And now you’re demanding a false dichotomy: either accept that we can be certain about the Bible or don’t bother with Christianity. It’s ridiculous nonsense.

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