A brief account of my conversion to “half-Protestantism”

I plan to post more on this but this is a brief response to Ray, who asked about my conversion from atheism to what I call “half-Protestantism” Another way of putting it is this, while I was a Mormon, I felt that the Spirit was representative of God. I lost faith in a personal creator of the universe when I determined that all we know about God is myth, not fact. I recognized the Spirit as a special kind of intuition, but not necessary the source of “truth” only more myth. In this philosophical move, I lost all faith in Mormonism. I think you could call me an atheist because I denied the existence of God, mainly because I did not think that whatever  caused the world was sufficiently definable to be called a “thing”.  In other words, I did not think I believe in God made any sense without a sensible definition of God, and I did not believe that any definition of God I had heard made sense.

In November I accepted that there is a fact that is also the deepest mystery that yielded the world, I accepted this fact as God. I sought to sort out what that meant, including trying to determine if it made sense to call God a “person” or a “father” i.e. whether those sorts of myths meant anything at all in light of science and philosophy. I started thinking about what could be behind the myth of the love of God. I posted this about Mormonism and the love of God and the Mormon approach to theology.

While in this process of coming to terms with how I could sensibly talk about God it dawned on me how unique orthodox Christianity was in concept with regard to virtue, sin, and redemption,and the world. I began to think that if the love of God means anything at all it is a means of escape from the torments we face in the world that came from God. I recognized that it was unquestionably that there were experiences of reconciliation where justified guilt turns to joy in the human mind without rationalization.  When I accepted this as a fact, the same experience happened to me, I felt joy.  At root the joy did not come from a spiritual experience, it was from the real recognition that the guilt that hung over my life was, in reality, somehow redeemed.

In my past religious life, I have experienced such joy in the context of spiritual experiences, but I recognized that the joy I now felt was not a spiritual feeling brought on by prayer, but a simple fact of reality that I had failed to see before.  It was similar to when I first grasped calculus, but in this case it seemed to allow a solution for any problem of the soul.

I consider myself a “half-Protestant” because I accept what the New Testament was talking about as reality, i.e. the fact of Christ. I also believe the New Testament reliably points the mind to this fact.  I am only “half” Protestant because although I am clear on the redemption of the soul, I am still unsure on the other half of the Gospel, i.e. the redemption of the world.

Whatever new light or insight I now have is similar to what I had as an LDS, but I think contemporary LDS teaching does not make the fact of Christ clear to most of its members in a way that they can readily explain it or talk about it.  In this sense I think LDS are just bad Protestants, i.e. they do not clearly repeat the proclamation of the New Testament even though they proclaim it as the Word of God.

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331 thoughts on “A brief account of my conversion to “half-Protestantism”

  1. Hmmm…Jared,

    I found your post interesting. When the missionaries go out to the Christian world, they teach about the Restoration. When they go out to areas that are not Christian, they teach of Christ first rather than the Restoration. I think there is a very good assumptian the Christian world is already very familiar with Christ’s sacrifice.

    I agree the LDS do not focus enough on the redemption by Jesus. Yet, it is the heart of everything we teach.

    In contrast, this is what I didn’t like about the Baptist Church. Nearly all the meetings except Sunday School focused on Christ’s love and redemption for us. And always with an invitation to come forward and accept Christ or come forward and renew the faith. And though I was a strong believer, the message was very elementary and grew old and tired. I do not say this sacrilegiously.

    When I read the New Testament, the Apostles speak of many different aspects of the Gospel. From Church structure, to spiritual gifts, to history and on and on. Like our church, the message of the Redemption is present, but it is hardly the one thing they speak about. If 90% of the talks at General Conference were about Christ’s love and the Redemption, year after year after year, I would probably stop watching.

    I think this simplicity is one of the things which hurt the Protestant Churches too. As people are becoming more educated in first world countries, they need more than the basic message. Now, having said this, our Church is baptizing millions in 3rd world countries. And as a result, there has been a simplification of the doctrine taught at Church. This is disappointing to me because I want more meat not less, but those who are new in the Gospel or struggling need something else.

  2. Jared,
    Thank you for your explaining why you consider yourself “half Protestant”.

    I don’t fully understand what you mean by this:

    “I am still unsure on the other half of the Gospel, i.e. the redemption of the world.”

    Care to explain?

  3. Jared,

    I almost asked the same question Ray did until I came up with a more pressing question, which either you or Ray can answer.

    My question came to mind after you said, “Contemporary LDS teaching does not make the fact of Christ clear to most of its members in a way that they can readily explain it or talk about it.” When I ask LDS missionaries about their relationship with the Lord—like “How did you feel when you first received the Holy Ghost?”—they’re often taken aback a bit, they hesitate. I always think to myself, “I’m glad my fellow evangelicals aren’t here—they would quickly conclude that their hesitation is because they don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus.” What is the reason? Is it because they’re not in the habit of getting personal. Is it because they consider their relationship with Christ sacred? Is it because they are spiritually immature? (Ray is obviously an exception. He’s not uncomfortable getting personal.)

  4. I would surmise that the hesitance comes from the missionaries wariness of people misinterpreting their personal spiritual experiences, or assigning meaning to them that they do not fully accept.

    I also don’t think Mormons equate an experience with the Holy Ghost as an experience of reconciliation.

  5. “In contrast, this is what I didn’t like about the Baptist Church. Nearly all the meetings except Sunday School focused on Christ’s love and redemption for us.”

    Christianity is a contrary religion Ray. Everything from Church structure, to spiritual gifts, to history and on and on is really supposed to be focused on focused on Christ’s love and redemption for us. It sounds like your Baptist Church may have understood that.

  6. “It means that I can’t make any sense of what an afterlife could mean, or what the second coming could mean”

    I wouldn’t worry about that. None of us really know the specifics.

    For us, it’s enough to know that Christ Jesus will handle it. And that we will be in His loving care and protection for eternity.

  7. Jared C, Revelation 19: 11-16? King Jesus stepping back in to the world on a white horse with a sword coming out of this mouth – setting everything right? Get past the imagery and that prophecy rings incredibly true for me.

  8. Jared, thanks for sharing.

    In what ways to LDS not share the fact of Christ to its members and to the public at large? If they don’t share that adequately, what are they sharing?

  9. I have a question, since the description Jared gave was that he was half protestant, and since Ray asked how one could be half protestant. As a result of my brief study of Christian doctrine, I wonder if Mormons share more with Catholics than they do with protestants.

    Why do I think that this may be a possibility? A reliance on authority. More structure within the confines of t heir faith. A belief in salvation in something other than faith alone. The utility of merit within their faith. And others.

    Keep in mind I do not think Mormons are Catholics or vice versa. It seems, though, Mormons consider themselves protestants but I am not sure that they don’t share more with Catholics than they do with protestants.

    So, I wonder if others have thoughts on the issue.

  10. Cowboy:

    I have actually heard Mormons say that before, that they are closer to Catholics than Protestants.

    For me the most obvious similarity is that we both believe in the necessity of a priesthood for living the Christian life. However I think our concepts of priesthood differ greatly. To me the offering of sacrifice is essential to priesthood, whereas I don’t see where Mormon priests ever offer sacrifice in an explicit way. I have heard Mormons speak of offering sacrifices of self-denial and charitable giving and so forth, which of course are good things, but that’s speaking of sacrifice analogously and not literally.

    Other similarities are the rejection of sola scriptura and sola fide (as you noted).

  11. Agellius,

    I don’t know either way. I am just wondering if there is anything to the thought. I am not vested in the answer in any way, but perhaps it better helps understand Mormons if we recognize the associations with the Catholic church as opposed to the protestant church.

  12. “perhaps it better helps understand Mormons if we recognize the associations with the Catholic church as opposed to the protestant church.”

    Or in addition to. : )

  13. Jared C, Revelation 19: 11-16? King Jesus stepping back in to the world on a white horse with a sword coming out of this mouth – setting everything right? Get past the imagery and that prophecy rings incredibly true for me

    These are the sort of images that lead me to “count the cost” more carefully.

  14. Gundek:
    “It sounds like your Baptist Church may have understood that.”

    The core of the Gospel, Christ’s atonement does thread through all the teachings of the LDS Church but I found the focus at the Baptist Church was just basically, “Christ loves you, He died for you, just accept him into your life and you’ll be saved for heaven and receive eternal life”.

    That is ultimately the Christian message and I don’t have anything against it. But, when this is the sum total of what comes across the pulpit every week, as it was at the Baptist Church, it can get to be mundane for long time believers. And I wasn’t even that “long time”.

    What I do like about the LDS Church is this same message is threaded into the talks, as the Apostles did in the Bible, which makes for more interesting preaching, at least to me. At Church, this is a passive approach of the reminder of Christ in our lives vs. the very active reminder of Christ in our lives.

    The intial “push” of understanding Christ and accepting Him and His sacrifice comes to convert LDS members from the missionaries. After you are a member, you don’t hear about it too directly so often. This is both good and bad. It’s good for those who want to hear more about the other aspects of the Gospel but bad, especially, for people who are raised in the Church. I think they miss the big picture some times because the basic Christian message comes to them in a passive way over a long period of time. I am thinking many miss the message because of this approach.

    Now, I realize not all Protestant Chuches are like the Baptist Church I attended. I went to a Lutheran Church with one of my sisters a few years back. The message there was very political in nature but the object of the preacher was to say that people shouldn’t kill each other over world politics. I barely recognized any Christianity in that Sunday meeting at all. Except for the prayers, I wouldn’t have been sure I was listening to a Christian sermon.

  15. Very interesting perspective Ray. I am glad you found a home with the LDS. I find LDS meetings very interesting mainly because you get so many different perspectives on what people think and believe about the Gospel.

  16. Cowboy’
    You asked basically the same thing on the other thread, so I’ll answer it here:

    “Ray, I find the Christian church incredibly deep. What specifically did you find lacking and what ‘meat’ did you want?”

    This would be more depth and details of many of the doctrines casually mentioned in the Bible. I brought up ‘baptism for the dead’, cosmology, the details about the past such as the flood, will the fire be literal in the future, is hell a literal burning, why are we being given a physical body in the future, all the prophecies about the future and all the details and depth about such things.

    All of these things are gospel topics and part of the Bible. Mostly, even in my church important details are often glossed over. In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion, if you really want to learn these things about the Gospel, then you have to study them on your own.

    I think the LDS do a far better job at these types of areas than the Baptists, but I would be wrong to classify all the Protestants as being like the Baptists.

    This is why on the other thread, I’m asking specific questions about certain things, to see how much detail your beliefs encompass.

  17. Gundek,
    LOL, I know you just can’t help it.

    How did he say it?
    “Your friends will let you down and your family will let you down but the Lord, He won’t let you down. Come forward and accept Him.”

    No, I don’t find the love of Christ mundane, but hearing two talks per week for two years with basically the same wording on the subject was a little mundane.

  18. Hi Cal,
    Good to hear from you again!

    ““I’m glad my fellow evangelicals aren’t here—they would quickly conclude that their hesitation is because they don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus.” What is the reason?”

    I think there are two things involved hear. I think the first, is the missionaries were probably surprised by such a question. It’s not a question that usually comes their way. Essentially, you are asking them about a big spiritual experience, of which they may have never had.

    Most of the people raised in the Church don’t seem to have the ‘big’ experience. They have little ones which over time define their beliefs. So, they may not be able to think of a powerful, first time experience with the Holy Ghost.

    I think if you asked them something like, “Tell me what it’s like to feel the Spirit.” I think then you probably wouldn’t have the ‘taken back’ reaction.

  19. Ray, if I may go here: all of those issues miss what’s important. I am being honest when I say it strike me that you are more concerned with knowledge about God rather than a personal relationship with him.

    I am sorry you found your church experience redundant and not stimulating. Did you ever try a different church or do any reading on your own? I ask because Christianity is very rich and all of the questions you ask have been addressed by numerous theologians and scholars.

  20. Slowcowboy, what exactly do *you* mean when you say personal relationship and how does your understanding trace back to the Bible?

  21. Cowboy:
    “Did you ever try a different church or do any reading on your own?”

    While still a Baptist I took a trip to North Carolina and decided to go to a Baptist Church there. It happened to be a Southern Baptist Church. It was creepy and the ‘hell fire’ preaching really turned me away. I never went back.

    I had attended an Orthodox Church a little bit in my teens while being an atheist (since my mother was Orthodox).

    After I became LDS, I had extensive conversations with my friends who were Baptist, C of C and such. I went to the library and checked out a very good book which compared about 15 different churches which gave me a lot of insight.

    So my time before being LDS and shortly after, I wasn’t far into studies because at both the Baptist Church and after being LDS, I was still getting the basics down.

  22. Cowboy:
    “…you are more concerned with knowledge about God rather than a personal relationship with him.”

    I have a personal relationship with God. But because we live on this earth through faith, I don’t know all there is to know about him as I am not a prophet. Much has been written about God by the prophets and that is recorded in the Bible (and other places). To not study and learn about God through his prophets by their writings is to dismiss one of the big avenues God wants us to learn about Him and what He does to help us be more like Him.

    I know of lots of people both in and out of the church who never read anything and rely on the personal relationship. These are usually the people who fall quickly when temptation comes. Having a strong knowledge base is very helpful when living by faith in this world of sin.

  23. Great question, Christian. I am glad you asked. A personal relationship is exactly what it says: an interactive God working in our lives. God is very real, and very much wants to be a part of our lives, and we do that by accepting Him into our hearts in a very real and personal way. God is not some distant power that we can never know or interact with. While we will never know the full extent of his being and power, He can become a part of us and we can know Him, not just about Him. It is a very real thing, this relationship.

    How does this understanding trace back to the Bible? Well, we are told in Revelation 3:20 that whoever opens the door that God is knocking on will find God there, eating and communing with us, just like friends do. Eating a meal together is a sign o friendship and good will. Further, in James 4: 6, we read that as we draw near to God, he comes to us, too. Matthew 28:20 we read that Jesus will be with us till the end of the age. What does it mean to be with us if it does not mean that there is a relationship there?

    John 15:5: Jesus is grafted into us. Phil 2:13: God is working in us. Luke 11:13: God is going to be much more than the loving and responsible earthly father. Hebrews 12:7 we learn that God treats us like sons. (A comparison made numerous times in the Bible, actually.)

    How about some Old Testament?

    Is. 58:2
    Psalm 23:4
    Jer. 31:31-34
    Jer. 29:11
    Zeph. 3:17
    Ps. 86:15
    Prov. 8:17

    And here’s a quote from Augustine: “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.”

    This is list is hardly exhaustive. Its clear God loves us and wants a relationship with us.

    The question is whether you want a relationship with Him or just to know about HIm?

  24. Ray, but your focus on the tangentials speaks to me that you are missing the point of the relationship. If you were most concerned about the relationship, you would not be so concerned about what we think of the fire mentioned in Peter, you would be more concerned about our relationship with Christ.

    You seem to be searching for proof that somehow we don’t know enough or to put yourself above us based on your knowledge of these things. Your drive to compare and learn about our views on these things completely misses the point on what we find most important, yet in your questions you reveal what is most important to you.

    Perhaps I am indeed wrong here, but I happen to believe that what one finds most curious is a reflection of their inner being. Again, I am not saying these things are not important, but they are not the most important thing. I have yet to see you even come close to saying that. You continue to ask questions about knowledge of Biblical prophecy and of literal views on past events. You have not talked about the love of God and how He wants more from us than knowledge, items we can tick off and compare. He wants us.

  25. OK, so Ray, your search of knowledge includes attending a Southern Baptist church ( which you found too fire and brimstone-ish) and an Orthodox Church (when you were a teen and an atheist), and reading a book comparing religions. You also became LDS when you were 20, if I recall.

    I am asking because it helps me understand your background and your Christian experience.

    What, specifically, did you find in the LDS church that was not present in your limited Christian background?

  26. Slowcowboy,

    In my experience, spiritual life in the LDS Church can be significantly more satisfying that in many other churches. Most of the people I baptized as an LDS Missionary joined the church because they found God there. I am sure Ray is no different.

  27. OK, Jared. That may be. I am trying to understand Ray and where he is coming from. Apparently he did find more of God in the LDS church or he wouldn’t have joined. I am not sure he is looking for God, though. I think he wants a god he can put in a box, one that he can master.

    Might I be wrong? Of course, all I can do is base an opinion off of what is presented. What I see presented has been a lot of questions that don’t get to the heart of who God is, at least from my perspective. At the risk of sounding like I am being narrow minded, as you know, I think the Mormon god and the Christian God are very different. I don’t think there is much similar beyond a superficial level. As such, I don’t believe Ray ever wanted to know the Christian God and had his sights set on something he could grasp more readily. That is to say that he wanted a god he could come to know all about but didn’t have to know in a real and personal way.

    Of course, its possible that he never grasped what it means to know God in a real and personal way.

    Having said all of that, I am saddened that he did not find the Christian churches satisfactory. There really is much more to them than what he seems to have gathered, and I hope that he may open up to all of this information and accept Christ.

  28. Cowboy, I’m just baffled by some of your statements. Sorry, but this is going to be a little long.

    You really think there is some real difference from the God I believe in and the God you believe in. That my Christ is different than your Christ. That I worship a false Christ while you worship the real Christ.

    I did attend the Baptist Church for two years and I learned to believe in God there and in the Bible. But my conversion to theism didn’t happen at the LDS Church, it happened in my room when I decided to ask God if he existed early on when I was attending the Baptist Church.

    During my prayer, I asked God if he existed. I felt a little foolish asking such a stupid question but I was determined that if God existed he should in some way reveal it to me. I kept an open mind and did not allow my thoughts to wander. This went on for about 10 minutes but the image of a star field kept coming to mind. I would push this image out of my mind but it would come back again and again. Finally, I just allowed this image to stay there and I asked God again if he was there. Then, in a quiet voice in my head the words came to me which said, “I am here”.

    The communication was unmistakable. God literally spoke to me and I knew he existed. I also felt the confirming warm feeling that usually attends spiritual experiences. This was the first time I had felt anything from God. It was powerful and life changing.

    Now, in all the years since then, God has not put words in my brain like this one time. Never the less, He has communicated with me in various, very powerful ways at times. But most of the time, in not nearly as powerful ways.

    After, I was converted to being LDS, my relationship with God never changed, it only got better. Now, I believe God has a body similar to Jesus’ body, but this in no way changes the relationship that started between me and Heavenly Father that day in December 1977. Nor does it “limit” God; His love, power, knowledge or abilities are the same. The more I know about God and his Creations, the more amazing He is to me. In that regard, I think everyone at this sight believes the same thing about God: unending knowledge, unending love and unending power.

    While you think of God as omnipresent, I think God is connected to every speck of his creation through avenues we do not understand. Our beliefs are so similar in “result”, that to say, I worship something different than you is truly puzzling.

    Statements such as:
    “I think he wants a god he can put in a box, one that he can master.”

    I am dumb struck when I read this type of talk. I don’t know how you could possibly come to this conclusion about the God I love, worship and am devoted to.

    And you said:
    “I am saddened that he did not find the Christian churches satisfactory. There really is much more to them than what he seems to have gathered, and I hope that he may open up to all of this information and accept Christ.”

    I gathered much more information after I became LDS than before. I’m still gathering information by having discussions with you. Again, I ask questions to see what you have to say about God’s words and the experiences of his chosen servants as recorded in the Bible. How and why you view the Bible the way you do, helps me to understand your version of the Gospel better. It helps me to see where we are the same or similar and where we are very different.

    Now, the doctrine of a “relationship” with Christ is important for any and all LDS, but it’s not the only doctrine discussed in the New Testament. I have taken it as a given, that every one at this web site be LDS or Evangelical has a relationship of some type with God. So, why does it bother you that I want to talk about other Gospel topics?

  29. Cowboy:
    “What, specifically, did you find in the LDS church that was not present in your limited Christian background?”

    I don’t consider attending the Baptist Church twice a week for two years as so limited I couldn’t learn what Christianity is, on top of my reading the Bible and discussions with my Christian Church friends.

    There was definitely a good spirit at the American Baptist Church but not at the Southern Baptist Church. I felt the Lord’s presence in many of the meetings at my Baptist Church and I enjoyed being there.
    I soon learned that all Protestant Churches were formed by rebelling against the Catholic Church or by becoming a derivative of an older Protestant Church. This division caused me great concern. When I read the Bible as a Baptist, I understood it like Joseph Smith before I ever heard of Joseph Smith.
    I knew the Bible was the foundation of all the Protestant Churches but in my view, they just didn’t believe in the Bible.

    As an example:
    You say, Noah’s flood was a local event. I say the Bible was not symbolic on the story, the story is literal, and the entire world was flooded as Peter, Moses and Jesus indicated. I think you have allowed bad speculative science to cloud your view of God’s words. Hence, on this issue I would say, you don’t believe the Bible.

    I found this same problem with different doctrines over and over at the Baptist Church but I didn’t find it at the LDS Church. And I still don’t find it today. So, because the LDS Church read and understood the Bible the same way I understood it, I was interested in understanding the LDS Gospel. I had the good fortune of not being indoctrinated by a specific church’s Bible understanding in childhood, so I think I was able to look at the Bible objectively.

  30. “I think he wants a god he can put in a box, one that he can master.”

    I would think twice before presuming you can know what people want with regard to God.

  31. Ray, you said: “You really think there is some real difference from the God I believe in and the God you believe in. That my Christ is different than your Christ. That I worship a false Christ while you worship the real Christ.” Frankly, yes, I do think there is a very real difference in our belief in God, creating a gulf that cannot be reconciled. You start to get into why when you say that you believe God has a human body much like Jesus and that his power somehow emanates through every individual particle out there. This is decidedly different, and I think any objective view of the distinctions would have to acknowledge the significance of the differences.

    You say the the result is so similar that my focus on the difference is puzzling to you. What you don’t point out is that, by definition, your position requires that everything have a little bit of God in it, including us. And as it applies to us, we share not just the spirit but God’s very being, so much so that if we learn to master this enough we can become gods just God is God, in a very literal way. This is so far afield of what Christians believe that the distinction cannot be bridged.

    But to understand that, you have to understand what Christians understand about God, which discussions about whether we believe a literal global flood don’t touch. Such discussions miss on at least two points: Unlike Mormons, we Christians believe we can never be Gods, we can never be like God, at best we share his immortality but we can never become all powerful, all knowing, or even have our essence spread to all of creation. Second, we believe there is only one God, not two or three or millions, as Mormons must concede as possible, even if the only one they say matters is the Father (or Jesus, I am still not sure the Mormon position on that).

    The belief that we can become gods in and of ourselves equal to or similar to God immediately creates a gap so big it cannot be reconciled. Why? Because there is only one God, which is central to the entire Christian faith.

    You have to understand what Christians believe on these points. Again, discussions about the extent of the flood have nothing to do with either of these two points. I’ve seen nothing to suggest you have an interest in understanding these points, let alone a good grasp on these topics.

    Forgive me for reiterating that I see you wanting to put God in a box, in a way that can be explained and grasped. Nothing you wrote above changes that observation. I fully realize that you recognize some mystery there, but by putting a specific, recognizable form on God and saying that his essence and presence reaches through every particle out there is a way to explain God in human terms.

    Now, until you open your eyes to what it is Christians believe about God and Christ, all your efforts are mere curiosities, and you will continue to be baffled on why Christians say we believe in a different God. You won’t ever get it. It will be a source of frustration and will leave a sense of persecution.

    The frustration I cannot help, but I can tell you there is no persecution. We don’t say these things to purposefully alienate you. We say it because we see it plain as day, and we are not going to sacrifice truth. Some may soften the blow or work their way around it by saying that the specific Jesus does not matter, as long as one accepts the spirit. I won’t argue that about the specific Jesus in this post, but I will at least say that it is this spirit that is lost when assumes that God is just like they are, or at least they share enough of God so that they can become just like God is.

    Personally, I won’t tell you that I think our Gods can be reconciled. I don’t see how they can be, unless one is willing to sacrifice all pretense of efforts to become like God and accept His gift as a gift. I don’t see how such a state of mind can be present within the meritorious Mormon system that is based upon the precept of grace after all one can do.

    Ray, does this make any sense? Do you think I am being unfair?

  32. Jared, looking back at your experience as a Mormon and what you now experience, describe the Mormon view of God? You’ve alluded that Mormons don’t describe Christ very well, but in what ways do they fail and what could they do to bridge that gap? How does their understanding of God play into what they talk about God and why they fail?

  33. Jared, looking back at your experience as a Mormon and what you now experience, describe the Mormon view of God?

    Mormons are generally free to come up with their own view of God without the aid/hindrance of systematic theology. Mormons have all kinds of understandings.

    My LDS understanding of God was that God was a mystery described by scripture. The images and accounts in scripture, plus my own experience, were data points to identify the mystery.

    When I was a student at BYU, I was a research assistant for David Paulsen in his analysis of the LDS concept that God has a body, you can check that out here: https://byustudies.byu.edu/showtitle.aspx?title=6342

    I thought social trinitarian view was typical of the standard LDS view of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var2=236

    I think the LDS social-trinitarian view of the Godhead is not inconsistent with the Gospels. The most significant differences in the traditional view of the trinity come into play at a metaphysical level. In my experience, most LDS members have nearly identical view of the Godhead as the average Mainline Christian.

  34. How does their understanding of God play into what they talk about God and why they fail?

    I think that Mormonism suffers not from not having the Gospel, but not having a more accurate way of directing the mind to Christ. Mormons, like most average Christians everywhere, can feel the love of God and their prayers are answered, but they often fail to see the extent and meaning of the love of God in Christ. I have more thoughts on this that I will try to post later.

  35. “In my experience, most LDS members have nearly identical view of the Godhead as the average Mainline Christian.”

    In your experience the average Mainline Christian believes in a godhead composed of three distinct beings?

  36. No, they believe in the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost without any coherent description of how they are one and also separate.

  37. I don’t think most Mormons have a coherent description of how the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one God. There are many varied descriptions, but most are not philosophically coherent, mainly because Mormons can’t articulate their metaphysics.

    My point is that the theological sophistication of average believers is relatively low and there are all kinds of folk theologies. As a missionary, I only very rarely got a description of the Godhead/Trinity that was consistent with a plain reading of the Gospels. The creedal doctrine of the Trinity is much more sophisticated than most people get, and they generally insert their own folk definitions of the terms of the creed, based on their readings of scripture or just common sense.

  38. Sure,

    People approach theology differently, but does it takes a great deal of theological sophistication to discern the differences in the Trinity and Mormon Godhead. Practically speaking it is always going to be easier for someone to express a negative reaction to what they don’t believe than give a systematic explanation for what they do believe.

  39. Jared, I’ll ask gundek’s question this way: do Mormons believe that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one being or three?

    The website “what do Mormons believe” indicates precisely this: “We believe that they are one in purpose and mission and that they are three separate divine beings.”

    Mormon.org says this about the godhead: “The Godhead consists of three separate, distinct individuals—God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost—who are unified in purpose.”

    If the official Mormon website describes the godhead as the three separate individuals then that is likely what they believe. I don’t see that as a question. Its pretty clear.

    So, how does that belief, not the confusion you speak of, affect how they describe Christ? Sure, they can feel the love and all that, but does the belief that the godhead is made up of three distinct and separate beings united in purpose affect how they view the love of Christ and what Christ can do for us, not to forget how He does it?

  40. Cowboy:
    “Ray, does this make any sense? Do you think I am being unfair?”

    Basically, yes. But there’s a big but here…

    When I was describing the God I have a personal relationship with and the “result” being the same, I’m not sure you know what I was referring to.

    See, the NT does not tell us directly God has a body (though it’s heavily alluded) nor does the Bible tell us God is an essence which fills the universe.
    What we actually know, first hand, about God is what we have experienced from Him.

    I’m sure you’ve had the warmth of comfort given you by the Spirit when something very sad happened in your life, I’m sure the Spirit has in one way or another warned you when you were facing temptation and I’m sure you’ve felt the Spirit bear witness to you when you hear things at church which come straight from the Bible.
    These experiences are the “result”. And our “results” with God are similar.

    Moving into theology is another matter completely. For instance, the Trinity says the three persons in the Godhead are “co-equal”. Yet, Christ said, “He that is sent is not greater than he who sends him” and “My Father hath sent me”. Further, Christ said, “My Father is greater than I”. And when Christ appeared to Mary, he forbid her from touching him because he hadn’t yet ascended to “My Father, and your Father and my God and your God”.
    In three instances, Christ makes it clear, he is below his Heavenly Father.
    Additionally, Christ told his disciples ‘He would send the Holy Ghost’, which again makes Christ above the Holy Ghost.

    So, if I have to chose between “Christianity” and “the Bible”, I’m going to chose the Bible because I believe in the Bible.
    Now, I’ve explained the state of man becoming “gods” vs. “God” already vs. a “glorified man”. And I’m going to have to say the Bible is not with you on this one either.

    So, despite, that I think I understand the Bible correctly, which I am sure you feel the same way, I still consider you a Christian anyway and I don’t disparge your relationship with God.

    Do I think you are fair? Yes, because you are being honest and showing the differences in our theology but those differences does not make either one of us evil or of the devil.

  41. Ray, first, I want to say I appreciate that you think I am fair. I try to be. I hope that I always am fair. If I ever go too far afield, I am Ok with being called out.

    Second, I do understand what you mean by ‘result’. But before I begin on discussing that, I want to say that no one here has accused anyone of being evil or of the devil. I have suggested that you are not Christian, but that is not the same as calling you evil, at least in my eyes.

    The trouble is that your result can come from any number of sources. You base it off of a feeling, a sensation. This feeling and sensation cannot be compared because there is no way for me to know what you feel or you know what I feel, yet virtually every faith can lay claim to that sort of experience, even those that deny Jesus entirely. I don’t see that as a good way to make the conclusion that the result is the same therefore we are the same.

    Now, its interesting to note that I wrote this above: “Now, until you open your eyes to what it is Christians believe about God and Christ, all your efforts are mere curiosities, and you will continue to be baffled on why Christians say we believe in a different God. You won’t ever get it. It will be a source of frustration and will leave a sense of persecution.” You ended your post with an accusation that just because we have differences in theology does not mean anyone is evil. You also continue to show little understanding of our position.

    Each and every thing you bring up about the Bible and the Trinity can be explained, and explained very well. There is much written about all of those topics. Have you sought them out and read them? Or do you just poll lay Christians to compare notes with and against?

    I remember you saying you don’t necessarily think we will become gods like God is god, but I also you remember not being sure on that. I remember you saying it is a possibility, but certainly not definite. I have not seen you object to the idea that we have the same essence as God. I have not seen you object to the possibility that we can become like God. The belief is certainly within Mormon history and current culture, even if it is not as prominent as it once was. Or do you deny that Snow’s couplet was ever uttered or what it infers, or taken by the church as an accurate portrayal of what was at least once believed?

    If you wish for me to see that you don’t at all think it is possible for us to become like God, tell me directly it is not possible. Tell me that we are not of the same substance. Tell me that God did not just organize you but created you out of nothing. Deny completely that we can become like God and that we share his essence.

    Even still, there is much more to overcome before our faiths can be reconciled. Similar results don’t mean a thing. And I’ll reiterate that you will never understand why Christians consider you outside of the fold until you understand what it is we believe.

  42. Slowcowboy,

    I think there are several issues here that you need to be clear on because at this point you are confusing me: (1) what Ray believes (2) what you believe (3) what LDS figures have said and (4) the meaning of the doctrine of the Trinity and (5) what is the “truth”.

    I totally agree with him that the result is what matters, not the way he talks about the result. The facts don’t change, no matter how you talk about them, but some ways of talking distract you from the facts. I think what Ray is saying about getting information from God is very important. I don’t think he is talking about a sensation, he is talking about intuitive understanding.

    As far as Ray is concerned, whether or not he is a “Christian” depends on whether (1) what he believes adequately points his mind to (5) the truth. Bringing up what other LDS leaders have said, or even quotes from the Church website don’t really help because I don’t think you have an adequate understanding of how the LDS doctrines compare with the Trinitarian doctrines. If you want to show Ray something that you see but he doesn’t, you have to speak in a way that illuminates rather than confuses.

    You also have to realize that if Ray agreed with what you believe, he still might not have any more of the truth than you have now. Assenting the Trinity doesn’t mean that you have the truth, denying the LDS doctrine of eternal progression doesn’t get you to the truth. Depending on how you conceive of these ideas in your mind will determine whether they point you to the truth.

    I don’t think the Trinity is necessary to point to the truth, in itself, it was designed to eliminate controversy, not illuminate salvation. If you want to use it to point people to the truth you have to carefully explain what “substance” and “being” mean and how “being” differs from “person”, If you don’t carefully explain these terms then you can’t derive the Trinity from a fair reading of the Gospels, and the Trinity is not going to help you see the truth.

    If the official Mormon website describes the godhead as the three separate individuals then that is likely what they believe.

    Don’t you believe that the Trinity contains three distinct individuals?

  43. I agree with Jared that a correct understanding of the Trinity doesn’t really get you closer to salvation.

    Where I think the mistaken LDS notion of the godhead hurts people is in conceiving of God as physical, although that is tied in with their notion of the godhead being three beings rather than one, since three physical beings can’t possibly be one in being except in some analogous way (“in spirit”, “in purpose”, etc.).

    I think it makes a difference whether you conceive of God as physical versus pure spirit, and whether you conceive of him as being of the same nature as yourself but just at a more advanced stage. In fact I have heard advocates for Mormonism arguing exactly that: That the traditional Christian doctrine of God’s nature makes him too remote and difficult to relate to. If that is a fair statement, then it’s equally fair to say that the LDS doctrine of God’s nature might make him too familiar, brings him down too close to our level.

  44. Jared, here is where you and I depart in agreement. I think its not the result that matters, as whether we call it a sensation or an intuitive understanding (purely a matter of subjective semantics), such a sensation or understanding can be claimed in virtually all religions. You would end up with a universalist position, which I reject. It would be that anyone who feels this intuition or sensation arrives at the proper result, no matter the path, no matter the source. Not only that, but such intuition or sensation cannot be verified or compared to ensure arriving at the proper result.

    I disagree with your conclusion that the Trinity was designed to eliminate controversy. That is putting the cart before the horse. It was codified not to eliminate controversy alone, but to state unequivocally what was previously thought to be truth by the orthodox church. Put differently, it was codified to eliminate heresies, heresies that look much like what Mormonism espouses. I happen to think the Trinity is all over the Bible and the Gospels. Why? How many references are there to there being only one God? Its clear Jesus associated himself with God in a way the Jews understood him to be equating himself with God. Its clear the Spirit is part and parcel with God. Understanding it need not have nothing to do with getting into substance, being, and person. All it takes is a simple realization that there is only one God. Once that is accepted, it becomes clearer that Jesus has to be one with God in every way. It becomes clearer that Jesus sends His and God’s spirit out for us.

    If you fail to see that there is only one God, then you cannot the Trinity. If you start wondering about being/person/substance/essence etc. before acknowledging one God, you will end up confused.

    Now, you’ve heard me talk at length about questioning how conversations between Mormons and traditional Christians can be had such that there is no confusion. I still have not found an adequate way to do that except by being direct and not hiding behind vagaries. Until something else specific and tangible is presented, I see that as the best option. Its most honest and does not mislead. While I have no control over how the recipient takes the information, I can only speak about what I know and see. I am not going to sugar coat that. And neither should anyone engaged in a discussion with me.

    I also disagree that the facts don’t change. Certainly, what happened 2000 years ago will never change, but the included facts that are used to support beliefs are radically different. And they lead to different conclusions about who Jesus was and is and what He can do for us, or alternative what we can do for him. Whether you agree or not, you should see now that logically the different and separate view of Jesus between traditional Christians and Mormons lead to different attributes of Jesus and ourselves. The Mormon belief that we are literally Jesus brother and that we may be able to be just like him allows for extremely different ways of living, enough such that the ‘result’ will almost certainly be different.

    Finally, do I think the Trinity contains three distinct individuals. Yes, and No. Certainly not in the way that is described by the LDS. The three “persons” as described in the Trinity are united in far more ways than merely in purpose, which is what Mormons believe. Your question is therefore a bit misleading.

    Now, do you deny that the Mormons believe in three separate and distinct gods united in purpose, or am I somehow misrepresenting that belief? Please describe Mormon belief and be specific and direct.

  45. Agellius, to a certain extent, I would have to agree with you about belief in the Trinity. Must someone have a full and 100% accurate grasp of it to be saved? No, but the problem as it relates to Mormonism is precisely as you describe. Its alternative is not the God that we worship. Therefore, the discussion of the Trinity is a way to illuminate how the Mormon god is completely different from our God and how they cannot be reconciled.

    What’s important to recognize is that there is only one God, not three.

  46. The LDS may call the one God they worship “Godhead” you call that God “Trinity” but I think you are pointing to the same God, even though you both believe God is three persons.

    Mormons acknowledge three persons as God who are God by virtue of the Light of Christ which permeates all things. Trinitarians acknowledge three persons as God, by virtue of their being only one substance. Depending on how the sits in a person’s mind it is not possible to tell if the formulations of God are successful in explaining the unfathomable mystery that is the foundation of either belief.

    I think Agellius’ point is important, some Mormons may not see God as being mysterious enough to recognize things about God that can’t be explained in human terms.

  47. Jared, you continue to ignore the very real and clear definition provided by the LDS church. They are separate beings, united in purpose according to the LDS.

    Do you deny that?

  48. Of course not, but for you to be able to compare the LDS definition and the Trinitarian definition reasonably, you have to explain what “being” means to both traditions. Different words mean different things to different people. Mormons believe their tradition is monotheistic, just like Trinitarians, Both traditions must admit that it is a mystery how Jesus could be God yet still acknowledge only one God. Understanding the difference in the Trinitarian worldview is more important than the difference in wording.

  49. “Depending on how the sits in a person’s mind it is not possible to tell if the formulations of God are successful in explaining the unfathomable mystery that is the foundation of either belief.”

    I don’t buy this. Again, a reference to something akin to universalism, and certainly relativism.

    I do think truth of God is discernible, even if God’s full nature is not comprehensible to us. God is knowable, and there is only one God. If there is only one God, there cannot be such different descriptions of God.

    We’re not talking minor discrepancies, Jared.

  50. Yes, I think Mormons are monotheistic in the Christian sense. Let me put it this way, with Mormons, the single God sits behind the members of the Godhead. The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are beings participate in the same Light of Christ which defines them as part of the single God. You could say that Mormons believe that all people are of the same substance as the members of the Godhead but do not share the same glory.

    Trinitarians accept that there is single God that sits within the persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the persons participate in being God by virtue of being the same substance, which is completely different than the substance of the world.

    But these descriptions are only figurative. Keep in mind that either the Godhead view or the Trinity view cannot be defined as monotheistic in the strictest sense, they merely use special words and mystery to define themselves that way.

  51. slow, I’ve used this illustration more than once here, so others will have to forgive. In all my conversations with Jews and Muslims, its clear to me that they do not see the Trinity as monotheistic. This led me to see the Trinity and Godhead as much more of the same family than before. If you’re going to request honest monotheism, then let’s do that.

  52. “with Mormons, the single God sits behind the members of the Godhead. The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are beings participate in the same Light of Christ which defines them as part of the single God. You could say that Mormons believe that all people are of the same substance as the members of the Godhead but do not share the same glory.”

    And this is supposed to be easier to grasp than the Trinity? : )

  53. “Is the Father greater than the Son?”

    Its a fuzzy questions in Mormonism, I agree. But the man Jesus certainly proclaimed the Father to be greater – especially the synoptic Gospels. Also, Paul’s wording is frequently hierarchical: God the Father and Lord Jesus….

  54. As a Mormon, I’m not sure how you can say that Jesus is less God than the Father – since Jesus proclaims himself God in Mormon scripture, *more explicitly than in the Bible*.

  55. OK, so, the Father is a separate god, Jesus is a separate god, and the Holy Ghost is a separate god. But there is yest another god that you seem to define as the Light of Christ who sits behind these to unite them all into one god. So really, you have at least 4 gods here.

    There are so many problems from this set up Jared. Not least the existence of the Light of Christ as being greater than the other three, and if it is this Light of Christ that the members must participate, and it is this Light that defines them as one god, then it is that Light that is most important. Why bother about the other three?

    I think perhaps a better description of the Mormon view of god is henotheistic. The presence of many gods but the worship of only one, but even that is not clear as I still don’t understand who Mormons worship.

    And no, the Trinitarian view exactly preserves a monotheistic view. There is only one God. That’s precisely what the Trinity says.

  56. saying that 3 is really 1 does not make it so. I respect the intellectual thought that went into the development of the Trinity years ago, (much more than Mormons seem to put into the development of the Godhead) but Its still not the same as 1.

    “The presence of many gods but the worship of only one”

    This would certainly be the ancient Isrealite view.

  57. For the record, I find the Trinity satisfying in a lot of ways. I just don’t think you can claim it as strict monotheism.

  58. Christian, I’ll reiterate that the Trinity precisely describes a single God.

    I also know full well that Jews and Muslims see the existence of more than one god in the Trinity, but I am quite sincere when I reiterate that there is only one God. That is very honest. And that they see or belief as being more than one god hardly defines our belief, does it?

    Now, I also have to be honest and say that it is difficult to grasp this concept of the Trinity. But again, difficulty in understanding and failure to do so is hardly proof that it is incorrect and that we in fact believe in more than one god. Our belief is one God made up of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One God.

  59. Christian:

    No one is saying that 3 is really 1. We’re saying that the 3 and the 1 refer to different things. The 3 is the number of persons, and 1 is the number of gods.

    You can deny that it’s possible for more than one person to share a single nature and substance, but you can’t accuse us of believing that there are 3 gods, because the doctrine quite plainly states that we don’t. If it did, then it wouldn’t be a Trinity because there would be no “nity” involved.

  60. Christian, again, there is only one God. Only one. No others. None. Zip. Zilch.

    One thing that adds to the confusion here, I think, is the translation of the Greek word used to “person”. The original Greek word, as I understand, was hypostasis, which really means the state of or underlying substance of, the very being of something. The western church translated this to “person” which became a description of a humans and a self-conscious being.

    Seeing the 3 parts of the Trinity as the very being of something is very different than seeing the picture of a person. God, then, takes three separate forms of being within the Trinity. This, I think, makes it easier to understand how God, as all powerful, can remain one while taking three forms. All three are still the same God, but God in his wisdom shows himself in three ways, three beings, to reach us. (Still is very much a hard concept, btw, but knowing the genesis of the English word “person” helps put it in a different context.)

  61. Jared said earlier

    “I don’t think the Trinity is necessary to point to the truth, in itself, it was designed to eliminate controversy, not illuminate salvation. If you want to use it to point people to the truth you have to carefully explain what “substance” and “being” mean and how “being” differs from “person”, If you don’t carefully explain these terms then you can’t derive the Trinity from a fair reading of the Gospels, and the Trinity is not going to help you see the truth.”

    And that is just historically and theologically wrong.

    The doctrines of the Trinity came out during the process of illuminating salvation.

    Arius taught that the Son subordinate to the Father and as a creature serves as an intermediary between the uncreated Father and based a Soteriology on his understanding of the Sun as created by and subordinate to the Father.

    Athanasius’ classic “On the Incarnation” explains in the language of salvation the importance of the Son assuming human flesh.

    You really cannot read the third and fourth century writers and not find salvation illuminated. It’s really in the debates with Mormons where the Trinity looses its meaning.

  62. Christian,

    I am pretty comfortable not being a strict monotheist if strict monotheism means we cannot distinguish between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

    I would think from a Trinitarian perspective it would be more vital to insist on the mutual and eternal indwelling of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit distinguished in essential relationship, rather than turning God into a Monad.

  63. G.K. Chesterton on that point:

    “The complex God of the Athanasian Creed may be an enigma for the intellect; but He is far less likely to gather the mystery and cruelty of a Sultan than the lonely god of Omar or Mahomet. The god who is a mere awful unity is not only a king but an Eastern king. The HEART of humanity, especially of European humanity, is certainly much more satisfied by the strange hints and symbols that gather round the Trinitarian idea, the image of a council at which mercy pleads as well as justice, the conception of a sort of liberty and variety existing even in the inmost chamber of the world. For Western religion has always felt keenly the idea “it is not well for man to be alone.” The social instinct asserted itself everywhere as when the Eastern idea of hermits was practically expelled by the Western idea of monks. So even asceticism became brotherly; and the Trappists were sociable even when they were silent. If this love of a living complexity be our test, it is certainly healthier to have the Trinitarian religion than the Unitarian. For to us Trinitarians (if I may say it with reverence)—to us God Himself is a society. It is indeed a fathomless mystery of theology, and even if I were theologian enough to deal with it directly, it would not be relevant to do so here. Suffice it to say here that this triple enigma is as comforting as wine and open as an English fireside; that this thing that bewilders the intellect utterly quiets the heart: but out of the desert, from the dry places and the dreadful suns, come the cruel children of the lonely God; the real Unitarians who with scimitar in hand have laid waste the world. For it is not well for God to be alone.”

  64. Certainly, the Bible is clear that there is only one true God. I also agree with Gregory of Nazianzus that you cannot have the greatness of the One without the Splendor of the Three.

    Mormonism may dismiss the greatness of the One, but Christians cannot sacrifice the splendor of the Three.

  65. Tim,
    Thanks for the link, it helps me to understand your views.

    “Is the Father greater than the Son?

    http://www.gotquestions.org/Father-greater-I.html

    I went here and read the article, and of course there is a big “but” involved.

    I cited three instances where Jesus himself point blank explained his position in the God head. Even as a resurrected being and therefore fully God himself acknowledges he has a God the same as Mary.

    In the link, there is one verse by Paul which seems to say something else. And of course it doesn’t mean that Jesus in equal with his God (in authority). This is another case in which Peter tells us that Paul is “hard to understand” and those who twist Paul’s words do so at the risk of eternal destruction.
    What I gather from the article is an attempt to maintain theology which contradicts the words and meaning of Christ.

    I think either Jesus is a liar or the Christian theology misunderstands Paul. I opt for the second.

    We have to take this one step further. Who knows more Heavenly Father or Jesus?
    According to Jesus, it’s Heavenly Father because only Heavenly Father knows the day and hour of the Second Coming.
    Now, if the entity in the God head who is Jesus doesn’t know when his own Second Coming is, but his Father only, how can we say that Jesus and God are co-equal? Surely, one is above the other in authority.

    So, now, I have brought up a forth witness from Jesus himself all indicating the “co-equal” declaration of the Trinity does not line up with the Bible.

    I am coming to the conclusion that the Christians here believe in ancient “Christian” theology as developed by well meaning uninspired leaders but not the Bible itself. My questions are why can’t you see the authority hierarchy in the Godhead and if you can see it, why continue to believe and promote the obviously flawed Trinity?

  66. Ray, how many gods are there? Be open and honest in your answer. How many references are there to there being only one God?

    I actually think Galatians 3 provides an interesting insight into this question. I also anticipate your response to this verse, but I bring it up to show that Paul clearly thought God is one, even in the context of there being a mediator. As I understand, Mormons tend to think Jesus satisfies this idea of the mediator, arguably that is true, but Paul directly says that God is one.

    What then does Galatians 3 say about this (from the KJV):

    “19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.

    20 Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.”

    Also, the ESV:

    “19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.”

    And why not, the NASB:

    “19 Why the Law then? It was added [ac]because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the [ad]agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made. 20 Now a mediator is not [ae]for one party only; whereas God is only one. ”

    I checked out a number of other translations, and each had the same phrase: “God is one”.

    Surely you are aware of the numerous other places where the Bible says there is only one God. To get around this, you have to add language that is not in the Bible, such as that God is only the god of the Israelites, such as you seem to interpret Deut 4. 3 times between vs. 32 and 40, it is reiterated that there are no other Gods.

    I also know there are those out there who suggest the Israelites actually may have worshipped more than one god. But there is a problem there, especially as it relates to Jesus:

    the Jews at the time of Christ clearly thought there was one God. This is one of the things they sought to kill him for: his claims to the authority of God, his claims of equality with God, his claims to his relationship with God. Contextually and historically, that is terribly important.

    Ray, I don’t expect you to buy into what is being said, but you have to understand that the Bible does not clearly say what you claim it does. In truth, I would state that the better argument, especially given the context and history of Jesus is that the Jews (and Jesus was a Jew) supports the view that there is only one God.

    I have to say that if the Mormon church claims to be a restoration of an earlier church, its claim concerning the existence of more than one god is more applicable to the Israelites who some claim believed in more than one god. But that’s not what it claims to be, is it?

  67. Gundek, you are right to emphasize the existence of the 3. I just want to make it clear that the existence of the One is also vital.

    What tends to happen, and I do it, too, is an over emphasis on one over the other.

  68. Ray, my wife and i are equals in our marriage. If happen to know what I’m getting her for her birthday, and she doesn’t, that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m superior.

  69. The Bible is not clearly monotheistic.The New Testament is not clear about the divinity of Jesus. Thus the existence of competing early Christian movements (who had versus in the Bible to cling onto) and the need for the Trinity to be codified. This isn’t a very controversial line of thinking for a big chunk of the Christian world.

  70. Cowboy,
    In previous discussion concerning the Trinity, I thought we all agreed that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are seperate individuals who are one in a very specific way. According to you and Tim, they are one in essence, meaning they are physically made of the same stuff, whatever ‘essense’ is be it pure thought or some material of which we know nothing about.

    In the LDS view, my view, the three individuals are “one” in many ways except physical make up. I think we agree that these three are one in love, one in purpose, one in unity and so on.

    In your verse in Galations (3:19,20) we have similar wording as Christ in the Gospels where he declares “My Father and I are one”. But what does he mean by this? There is only one place in scripture where this is explained clearly and that is John 17:20-26

    Jesus is praying and wants his disciples to be “one” the same way He and his Father is “one”. From this we learn, just as the disciples are individuals and are to be “one”, Jesus and his Father are individuals and are “one”.

    Any other view than what Jesus explained about being “one” is beyond the scope of the New Testament. It is “adding” to the Bible. Saying God is “One in essense” is adding words which can not be substatiated in the Bible.
    Now, if you want to say the Church Fathers had the authority of God and were on the level of Prophets when they declared all the unscriptural declarations of the Trinity, then you have a case, otherwise, you have theologeons with opinions which can not be backed up by the Bible.

    If the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are three individuals who are capable of independant thought, no matter their physical make up, then you have a situation where they are three Gods. But to turn around and say, “yet, they are not three Gods but one God” defies any type of rational thinking.

    So, it is not 1 God in 3, it is 3 Gods in 1. However, in the three Gods in one structure there is order. I presented the words of Christ in four instances which indicate, the Father is first, the Son is second and the Holy Spirit is third. The three together constitute one God. (I didn’t quote the verses, but if you want them I’ll provide them).

  71. Cowboy, I’ll continue

    You are correct in assuming the Jews at the time of Christ believed in just one God. They did not believe in one God in three either, just one. The Jews at the time of Jesus were in an apostacy situation. They believed many things which just were not true and Jesus challenged them on these false doctrines.

    They had forgotten that it was “the Supreme God of the Gods” which created heaven and earth. You can check Strong’s or any other good lexicon on this. This phrase which has been translated 2,500 times in the OT as simply ‘God’. This is in all the OT verses which say there is only one God. And this is how the ancient Jews translated too leading them to erroneously believe there is “only one God”.

    Further, we are all “gods” as well but without purification or exaltation.

    Jesus in a conversation with some Jews was about to be stoned because he said he was the Son of God. Then Jesus said, “Is it not written in your law, I said, ye are gods?” (see John 10: 34-36)

    Jesus’ argument against those who were about to stone him was this:
    ‘God said believers are gods, so why are you trying to stone me because I said I am the Son of God?’

    But I mentioned there is structure in godhood and the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are the “one God” we will worship even when we are purified exalted gods. I have already explained in detail the difference between a “God” and a “god”. You call it a ‘glorified man’ while we call it what it is, a ‘god’.
    So, yes, there will be billions of “glorified men and women” in the universe but correctly stated, there will be billions of ‘gods’ in the universe.

  72. Tim,
    I appreciate your cleverness.

    There are, of course, big differences in your analogy to marriage and the Godhead. The main one being the “one” God is supposed to know everything, but at least on this one point of the day and hour of the second coming, only one person of the deity knows it exactly.
    For one to know something of such importance and the other doesn’t know, illustrates who is the leader. The leader has not shared the information with those under him.

    And there is a good reason for this. So men, will not reduce the level of Heavenly Father’s authority, power and place in our lives, which is exactly what the Trinity has done.

  73. Christian,

    While I am one of the people who sees a lot of diversity in the early Church, I think the competing Christianity can a little overplayed.

    If the starting point for proto-orthodoxy is a common confession of the Lordship of Christ (in the full Old Testament sense of the word LORD) and that it is proper for the resurrected Lord to be an object of worship, we can easily understand the visceral response to any theology that subverts these as the uniting rule of Faith in a burgeoning Christianity.

    It’s a pretty compelling narrative, the Lordship and worship of Christ as the source of unity for the Church.

  74. Ray, we do NOT believe that the members of the Trinity are “physically” the same essence. We believe they share an essence but it is not in any way physical.

  75. As a disaffected Mormon, my understanding of the difference between Trinity and Godhead was that non-LDS Christians believed God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to be three separate aspects or modes of one being.

    When I learned that was not actually trinitarian but the modalist heresy, I had NO idea what the difference between the Trinity and Godhead was.

    IMO, there is no appreciable difference between Mormonism and traditional Christianity on that aspect. Really, where the difference is is that God is the same “species” as humanity in Mormonism, vs humanity being “creatures” in non-LDS Christianity. It is this that allows for God to be a “glorified man,” for many Mormons to think that we can become gods, and that allows for the possibility of there being more than one god…

    But that is different than saying that Mormons believe Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Ghost are three different gods, which is not accurate.

  76. gundek,

    Absolutely. I think that is definitely a big difference that goes throughout Mormonism and traditional Christianity — but I think that most Mormons would gladly perceive the LDS position to be “better” than the traditional Christian position (e.g., in Christianity, we creatures are something more like pets. In Mormonism, we are eternal divine beings in infancy. The latter is so much more majestic than the former…but I can totally see how if you have this setup, then you’re probably not going to give God his due glory or whatever.)

    But I am scratching my head at so many comments written about the Trinity, when IMO, that is not the angle non-LDS Christians should be going at Mormons from.

    I mean, maybe another difference is that Mormons think the Father has a body of flesh…but I don’t think this is a major difference, because the only thing I could possibly think of as it relates to the Trinity is that Jesus is just the Father in a human body…which again, sounds more like modalism (e.g., gas condensed to a more solid form.)

  77. I think you’re right that Exaltation is a concept that is easier for Mormons to grasp the differences. I like to discuss the Trinity just to make sure that Mormons reject us for what we actually believe and not Modalism.

  78. Andrew,

    I have no doubt that most Mormons perceive the LDS position to be “better” than the traditional Christian position and really like the idea of being an eternally divine being. I am not sure that i agree this idea is more majestic than being especially created by the creator of all things.

  79. Tim,

    I’m OK with that; I’m just saying it seems to me to be a bad tactical move to emphasize the Trinity as something radically different than LDS Godhead based on number of persons. I haven’t seen you specifically doing that, but others seem adamant to point out that, just based on the Godhead, Mormons are polytheists. I can get criticisms of monolatrism (based on the collapse between creature/creator, the idea of eternal progression and exaltation…I think that lots of Mormons would probably make directly monolatrist comments, “yeah, there could be many exalted people as God, but God is our God.”

    in my experience, Mormons get the idea that trinity = modalism because of Christian rejection of the Godhead as tritheism. If someone wants to insist that Mormons believe in tritheism or three gods or whatever, then Mormons will *inevitably* think that the Christian solution is some sort of modalism. As soon as you say the Trinity Shield concept (The Father is not the Son is not the Holy Ghost, but The Father is God; the Son is God; the HG is God), then Mormons will say, “But that’s what we believe too.”

    I mean, sorry to belabor this point. If there is yet another thing I’m not getting about this, then let me know. but IMO, the differences are not in the description of persons, but about different stuff.

    gundek,

    Obviously you disagree about which idea is more majestic — that is part of the reason you’re not a Mormon. But part of the reason why Mormons are not traditional Christians is because they have a lot of stuff about traditional Christianity that they find not as compelling as Mormonism. Maybe you can argue that Mormons don’t understand traditional Christianity well enough (and especially for folks raised in the church like myself, I have to say for me that I had to unlearn a lot of stuff [like Trinity = modalism] before learning the new stuff…), but even when Mormons do understand traditional Christianity, that is not a guarantee that they’ll like it over Mormonism.

    Being created by the creator of all things doesn’t sound all that majestic *to me*. Being a literal son of God sounds more majestic *to me* than being a creature of God that might maybe be adopted into sonship. I get that your mileage may vary…I’m just saying for me. (and I’ll caveat that as an atheist, all of it doesn’t seem realistic, so…there’s that.)

  80. “Being created by the creator of all things doesn’t sound all that majestic *to me*. Being a literal son of God sounds more majestic *to me* than being a creature of God that might maybe be adopted into sonship. I get that your mileage may vary…I’m just saying for me.”

    Andrew, It think you’re on to something really important.

    I’ve heard Muslims put it this way – God with a rear end (and a digestive systenm) is completely irrational.

    Its why the Mormon language around “flesh and bone” makes my head explode. BUT, simply stating that we are the same species is much more powerful to me and without all the theologically sticky details. If we just left it at that, I would be happy.

  81. Andrew, as one of those who you probably put into the category of pushing the Trinity, I am not necessarily out to have Mormons buy into it, I just think it is important they understand it more accurately. Why is that important? Well, to start, fair play. If Mormons insist we portray their faith accurately, ought they not get traditional Christianity right? And of course it is no guarantee that Mormons, upon understanding it better, will flock to traditional Christianity.

    And there is another reason, too: simple accuracy, fair play or not. Its just simply a matter of honesty and completeness.

    I see how you would think they are similar enough so as to be silly to argue over. However, I think the difference gets down to the very identity of God, his relationship with us, and how God approaches us and we approach him. It is a very different thing to come at him as a possible equal than it is solely as us being his creation. And sure, I get that Mormons may find their way more attractive: to an extent, who can blame them? However, that does not mean it is correct, and its worthwhile to make sure they understand the distinction and why.

    Again, whether they end up believing in the Triune God like we do is up to them.

  82. gundek,

    The latter directly follows from the former, in Mormonism. I get that both are totally heretical to traditional Christianity (for collapsing the creature/creator distinction). And I also absolutely will say that I get that certain proposed mechanics for spirit birth are a major turn off for a lot of people, so if a lot off people had to drop one side, it would be any implication that being a “literal son of God” involves some sort of gestation, pregnancy and birth process.

    Christian J,

    I hear those things too, and I also get those…not just from Muslims but from many Mormons. See comment my paragraph above about spirit birth possibly involving any sort of gestation, pregnancy, and birth.

  83. Ray, there is so, so much more in the Bible and the New Testament besides John 17 where God claims to be one and Jesus claims to be God.

    And then if I understand you right, you say that the Jews were apostate, too? So the message was restored but then quickly lost again, not only in the Old World, but the New World, too?

  84. slowcowboy,

    I totally get the desire and need for fair play. But you should be arguing this is a place of similarity, not a place of difference. You should say, “y’all should not reject the trinity, because you actually believe in the basic concept through your Godhead.” And when a Mormon says, “So why do you think we’re not Christian?” Then go into OTHER things. Not the trinity thing.

    Like you yourself say:

    It is a very different thing to come at him as a possible equal than it is solely as us being his creation.

    I get this is a difference. But this is not a difference between Trinity and Godhead. You will not get any further on creature/creator distinction by pounding in differences on Trinity and Godhead, and by emphasizing Trinity vs Godhead, you actually aren’t getting at your real problem — creature/creator distinction.

    Like, you shouldn’t even be doubting whether they believe in the triune god — because they do. That’s what the Godhead is. What you should doubt is whether they believe in the vast and unalterable divide between creator and creature — which Mormons decidedly don’t.

  85. Andrew, the Trinity is central to Christianity, though, and I think to separate the Trinity from the vast and unalterable divide is impossible.

    Think about it: Mormons believe they can become just like God, and inherit the same stuff that Jesus has, which is the same stuff that God has. You can’t discuss God’s nature without addressing the Trinity. You can’t address the vast divide without addressing God’s very nature, which is described as the Trinity. Mormons see their faith in Jesus as hope that they may become quite literally like Jesus because they share the same stuff and if they do the right things can get to where he is. This is one leg of the Trinity tri-pod Traditional Chritians reject the Mormon conclusion based on the nature of Jesus and of us. We believe we cannot become just like Him because we are not of the same stuff.

    It is impossible to avoid this discussion. Do you see why?

    I’ve said before that the identity of Jesus matters. If you get that wrong, everything else to follow will be wrong. Do you understand why?

  86. slowcowboy,

    All I can say is that if you focus on the Trinity as a source of difference with Mormons, you will inevitably reinforce the idea that Christians believe in modalism. You will inevitably author confusion.

    Look, I get that you find Mormon concepts about exaltation and eternal progression to be heresies. But these are *different* issues. Focus on those issues instead of the Trinity. Focus on the creature/creator distinction instead of the Trinity. Focus on the different species/substance/nature issue instead of the Trinity.

    I am saying it is entirely possible to have a discussion on all those other issues without saying, “Well, Mormons believe in three Gods rather than the trinity,” which will inevitably lead Mormons to think Christians believe in modalism.

  87. Andrew, you miss my point, but that’s OK. I don’t see how one can discuss the issues your suggest without the discussion coming back to the Trinity. Reading through these posts, the Trinity discussion came about because I claimed the Mormon God is different from the Christian God, a true statement, not least involving how Mormons believe they share the very essence of God.

    And I see the same conclusion from the creator/creature discussion and the different species/substance/nature issue.

    For what is worth, the first mention specifically of the Trinity came from Jared. Also, I, early on in this discussion, said this:

    “You say the the result is so similar that my focus on the difference is puzzling to you. What you don’t point out is that, by definition, your position requires that everything have a little bit of God in it, including us. And as it applies to us, we share not just the spirit but God’s very being, so much so that if we learn to master this enough we can become gods just God is God, in a very literal way. This is so far afield of what Christians believe that the distinction cannot be bridged.

    But to understand that, you have to understand what Christians understand about God, which discussions about whether we believe a literal global flood don’t touch. Such discussions miss on at least two points: Unlike Mormons, we Christians believe we can never be Gods, we can never be like God, at best we share his immortality but we can never become all powerful, all knowing, or even have our essence spread to all of creation. Second, we believe there is only one God, not two or three or millions, as Mormons must concede as possible, even if the only one they say matters is the Father (or Jesus, I am still not sure the Mormon position on that).”

    There is a reason the Trinity keeps popping up. Its an important issue, one that ultimately defines the very God we are trying to discuss. And its part of the language barrier between Mormons and traditional Christians. The same or similar words are used but the mean very different things.

  88. Cowboy, talk about fair play – Mormons do not think they can become “just like God” or “possibly his equal”. I think you know better.

  89. Christian, no I don’t know better. I believe Ray presented something to the extent that he does not know what exaltation may mean, but I pretty sure that many Mormons, past and present, believe they can be just like God or possibly his equal.

    Of course, getting into this requires a review of previous teachings on the subject, and others have said that’s not wise. But Christian, I hope you do realize that my statement is at least historically true. If current Mormons are moving away from it (as they seem to be doing), so be it.

  90. Its maddening, but Mormon leaders (prophets even) of the past have taught A LOT of things that were never accepted as official. Also some may have gained widespread traction (if unofficial) once, and no longer hold weight. There’s a whole hornets nest of teachings that you can pick up for scrutiny.

    And that’s all fair game as far as I’m concerned, *as a critique of the doctrinal development and teaching in Mormonism.* But to say that its been a well understood, widely taught teaching, on par with any of the proclamations of the past 20 years, not to mention modern Mormon scripture, is to greatly misunderstand the facts of Mormon history. I admit, I don’t even follow Ray’s comments (or most other Mormons who come here), just because that’s not my interest. But, maybe I should.

  91. In spite of the messiness around Mormons teaching, the Latter-day Saints aren’t afraid to elevate
    teaching to scripture. We’ve never done that to the King Follett sermon or any other exaltation
    literature for a reason.

  92. Christian, I would reply that all that may be fine and dandy, but I doubt they would deny the possibility today. And that was the point of my post above that you quote me on. As I understand, they still believe they will fully inherit all that God has. As I understand, they still have not disowned or qualified the Snow Couplet: “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become.”

    Sure, I get the “not-official” thing, but I have a hard time understanding how Mormons can just toss aside thinking that was once clearly a very real part of their teachings. This one apparently even made it into the Encyclopedia of Mormonism under eternal progression.

    Now, if I misrepresent something because of this historical trend of altering historical beliefs, forgive me, but as it pertains to the idea of men becoming like God, all I can really say is that what they have taken away is not necessarily the conclusion, but surety of that conclusion. In other words, the leave it open as a possibility that God the Father may have progressed to get where he is and they may likewise be able to progress to at least the same point. The don’t say yes, that’s what they believe, but they don’t say it is not a possibility.

    If you can point to something that says that don’t think that is a possibility these days, I will willingly check it out.

  93. slowcowboy,

    I think the difference is that even for Mormons who believe that they can become exalted, become as gods, etc., they would never say that they would become God’s equal.

    Believing in eternal progression, exaltation, same species as God, etc., is like saying: “When I grow up, I can be a dad too, but my dad will always be my dad, so I’ll never be at the same level.”

    I understand that for non-LDS Christians, the first part itself is problematic — the very idea that one could grow up and become a dad (or in this case, a god). But in getting caught up about that, you miss the distinction of the second part — we will always have God as God.

    That’s why I conceded earlier that I think that a lot of Mormons who believe in exaltation would make monolatrist statements: “Yeah, there could be other exalted beings, but God is our God, and that is the only God we worship.” But that sort of statement still points out that God is worshipped.

    So yeah, you’re still misrepresenting beliefs and not just because of alteration of history. It’s because you get caught up on what you view as one heresy and miss all the nuances beyond it.

    Again, I get that eternal progression to you is a major heresy. I get that to you, exaltation is a major heresy. But it’s fair for people to call you out on misrepresenting those beliefs. If you want to successfully challenge Mormons here, you have enough to challenge Mormons on without misrepresenting stuff.

  94. Andrew, I understand what you are saying better now. That makes sense, but there are still questions that come to mind surrounding this idea of exaltation. For instance, if we are eternally progressing, do we all progress at the same rate? If not, then it is possible to have someone become literally equal with and maybe even surpass God. And also, can we become equal with where God is now? Can we reach the same level of godhood that God has now? Could that be considered equal with? I don’t know how one might interpret that question, but the point ends up being the same, even if you object to my language.

    The point is that it is apparently possible within Mormonism to become just like God, which can mean many different things. It can mean that God has his own God that he worships. I can mean that this grandfather God has a great grandfather God. And even if there is this time thing going on wherein by way of time and birth order we always admire the ones previous to us, we can still surpass in status our father and our grandfathers.

    I understand Mormons are not likely to look at this question in this way. But I think its a logical necessity that this idea of progression to Godhood includes the possibility.

    And your last paragraph begs the question: what does it mean to misrepresent a Mormon belief that includes a) a history that is discarded or minimized and b) taking beliefs and suggesting logical necessities as possibilities?

    I don’t pretend to be Mormon or to fully understand their beliefs. I won’t pretend to say that I know their beliefs better. If they say they don’t think they can ever reach the level of God the Father, so be it. But that does not mean these questions don’t remain.

  95. slowcowboy,

    I’m fairly sure that in pretty much every interpretation of eternal progression, we don’t progress at the same rate. I will introduce another heresy at this moment — take a deep breath — some theories of eternal progression suppose that God is also still progressing. At the very least, there is an idea that God’s glory and progression increases through his children’s progression (so there is no way for any one of his children to surpass him, because his children’s progression is counted as part of God’s).

    I mean, to go back to the parent child analogy…If I end up having more children than my parents did, does that mean I surpassed them? No, because that means my parents have x number of kids AND y number of grandkids. Their family keeps growing more than my family can grow, because mine is part of theirs.

    Can we reach to a level of progress the same as God is now? That seems to me like asking, “If my dad is 50, can I become 50?” Yes, I could. Does that mean that when I’m 50, I’m equal to God? No. because my dad will be 76, will *still* be my dad, will still have experienced more and know more than me, I’ll still not be too old to be sat aside for a lecture, etc.,

    (This is a crude analogy because it’s not quite as simple as just “growing older” or “having more kids”, but do you get the point? You never surpass your parents because they always *are* your parents.)

    I mean, I think there are still a lot of heretical ideas in what I have just expounded for you to pounce on. I get that. I get how that is very fundamentally different than what the traditional Christian is looking at. But it’s a different criticism than saying you become equal with God. From a Christian perspective, it’s more like: “how dare you believe that you can grow up and become an adult, grow up and become a father, etc., You’re just a dog. A pet. You can never be the owner/master/creator. Your job is to serve the master/creator/owner forever and ever, like a good dog/pet would.”

    It can mean that God has his own God that he worships. I can mean that this grandfather God has a great grandfather God.

    I understand Mormons are not likely to look at this question in this way. But I think its a logical necessity that this idea of progression to Godhood includes the possibility.

    To the contrary, I think that many Mormons who have thought hard on exaltation probably would recognize this. And that’s why, yes, I have conceded several times that some Mormons who believe in this exaltation system would probably make very monolatrist statements (remember, even if there are those other gods…Our God is Our God). Again, I get that part of the heresy. Like, totally spot on criticism of Mormonism from a traditional Christian worldview. You can say it’s turtles all the way up. I know some Mormon transhumanists who run with this idea (e.g.., we are the simulation of a simulation of a simulation of a sufficiently advanced alien species), so I get that’s a great and spot on criticism.

    But notice how we can have this part of the conversation without mentioning Trinity vs Godhead at all? That’s all I’m saying. It’s a different issue.

    And your last paragraph begs the question: what does it mean to misrepresent a Mormon belief that includes a) a history that is discarded or minimized and b) taking beliefs and suggesting logical necessities as possibilities?

    Well, I hope in my comment that I’ve shown that eternal progression, and even a series of exalted beings is not the same thing as saying one is equal to our God, so the answer to this question is: “misrepresenting a Mormon belief means to misunderstand history (whether it has been discarded or minimized) and to misinterpret what the logical necessities or possibilities are of them.”

    In other words, I can concede a whole lot of things…but it doesn’t follow from these things that we are equal with God or that we can be. I mean, I totally concede that there’s a lot of stuff that’s heretical here from Mormon belief as we can agree upon it…so you don’t need to pin misrepresentations on as well.

    Like, if I can convert your criticism to my family analogy (correct me if I’m wrong): You feel that the heresy is that Mormons believe that dad could have a dad, and that there could be other dads out there, and that we can grow up and become dads of our own.

    I think that is an accurate criticism.

    But it doesn’t follow that just because someone believes they could become a dad, or that their own dad has a dad, that that means that they can ever be equal to their own dad. No, they are always a son to their own dad.

  96. Andrew, I think you isolate the dad issue with an issue of time. I can surpass my dad in many ways. I have surpassed both my grandfathers in may ways, even though they will always be before me. While I will always be subject in time to them, ie they came before me, I can, and have done them, do things that surpass what they had done.

    And yes, I do think that parents and grandparents do deserve respect, but that respect is different than one concerning status as humans. The respect is that they were my ancestors and taught me so much, but that does not mean that I cannot do more than they could/can.

    And that is the view that I take. Its more than a matter of timing. Its a matter of work and dedication to a given issue. And so it seems to me that it is possible for someone to more dedicated and a better person/god than his ancestor gods, even if along a space/time continuum they are behind previous ones.

    And while you and I have discussed this apart from the Trinity thus far, all I need, or someone else needs, to do is say, “We can do everything Jesus did and get to inherit everything that he had.” This very natural statement comes when applied to Jesus, who we both say we follow. We are within a discussion of the Trinity.

  97. slowcowboy:

    I can see your distinction between time and accomplishment, and I can see that’s where the analogy gets a little muddled. I can say this: no matter if you perform some accomplishment that your dad or granddad did not do, they are always your dad and granddad (respectively). I know some folks who say, “My parents still treat me like a kid even though I’m a successful adult” and they are a little resentful…but in a sense, they *is* still that gap between parents and children.

    On to the matter of work and dedication…I think that this is only a theoretical possibility, but not a practical possibility. That practically, no human being can possibly be more dedicated/better at things than God. This response can be summed up to your last statement:

    “We can do everything Jesus did and get to inherit everything that he had.”

    No Mormon would say this. Especially not the first part. No Mormon believes we can do everything Jesus did. We cannot atone. We cannot save ourselves or others. We cannot do that. We cannot lead sinless lives. Not even if we are very very careful from day 1. (Here’s another difference between Mormonism and traditional Christianity though. For Mormonism, it is a practical failing…for Christians, it is a failing of nature?)

    But as to the second part…I mean, yeah, that’s Mormon doctrine — that God’s plan is to bring to pass the immortality and the eternal life of man. That God’s plan is to get as many of his children to inherit what he has.

    So, no, if you want to attribute that quotation to Mormons, you are misrepresenting, because of that first part. That’s WHY Jesus is needed. Because exaltation is NOT possible if not for God. Because atonement is NOT possible if not for Jesus.

    The difference between non-LDS Christians and Mormons is this: once someone is saved, what next? For Mormons, the answer looks something like, “Now that Jesus has saved us from death, Jesus wants us to endure to the end to become exalted.”

    For Christians, that answer doesn’t look like that — because there is no exaltation.

  98. But see, if God may have been just like us, that means he once did not have the power to atone, either. That authority was granted him. Its kind of like being a doctor or a lawyer. Most people can’t do the things lawyers and doctors do, but they are granted authority by people, who also had to earn it, to do the things only they can do. I am not sure your distinction holds, then, since it is entirely possible to conceive of the notion of granting authority here.

    Do Mormons believe that? I have no idea, but the idea of progression and inheriting everything Jesus has it is sort of implied that they can get this authority, too. As far as I know, God and Jesus (and for that matter, the Holy Ghost), to Mormons are in charge of this world. Isn’t that how Mormons justify the existence of multiple gods in relation to Deut 4? Don’t they explain the author’s insistence on there being only one God as to really mean there is only one God that matters to the Israelites and that other gods exist that matter to other people? Don’t they use that to pinpoint the Father as OUR God?

    Just to let you know, we could probably go along this line for a long, long time. I have put a lot of thought into this, and I don’t see a way around the claims I have made. I don’t doubt you have considered it as well, but unless there is more to it, and unless Mormons just stop thinking about it, I see my conclusions as based upon logical necessity.

    If we share God’s essence, we can become gods.
    If we can become gods, we are heirs to God’s power and authority.
    If we are heirs to God’s power and authority, we get everything he had.
    If we get everything he had, we get our own people, our own ability to save, and we get our own worlds to rule over.

    Now, unless God holds back in what he gives us as heirs, you may have a stronger argument, but I understand the Mormons to believe God does not withhold anything. Am I wrong?

  99. slowcowboy,

    That’s a good point in terms of granting authority. And then, a lot of this would get into pre-mortal existence talk (e.g., war in Heaven stuff). I think there is a very real sense for Mormons that in the premortal existence, the Father presented the plan of Salvation, and Jesus championed that plan while Lucifer presented an alternative. This certainly gives the impression that it could have gone to either Jesus or Lucifer…I think that a lot of Mormons would point to Jesus and Lucifer as “eldest brothers”, which certainly does raise the possibility that a younger sibling (e.g., one of us) could have been picked for the role.

    And I can see how there’s a lot of heretical ideas wrapped upon that paragraph alone, from a non-LDS POV.

    But the main point would be that in this world, in this universe, Jesus is the Savior.

    As far as Deuteronomy, I don’t think most Mormons would necessarily argue that this way. Like, I don’t think that Mormons would agree that Israelites have an Israelite god and other tribes have other gods…I think all Mormons would say that the Father, Jesus, and Holy Ghost are God of this entire universe. I think that any time any Mormon ever speaks of the possibility of other gods, it is only in the sense of *other universes*. So yeah, the Father, Son and HG are OUR God — but OUR is more than just “Israelites” or “Christians” or “Mormons”…it’s this entire universe.

    Let me skip to your reasoning section near the end:

    If we share God’s essence, we can become gods.
    If we can become gods, we are heirs to God’s power and authority.
    If we are heirs to God’s power and authority, we get everything he had.
    If we get everything he had, we get our own people, our own ability to save, and we get our own worlds to rule over.

    I think the place most Mormons would quibble about is in the statement “everything he had.” Like, i think a lot of people would still say we will have “worlds beyond number” (and yes, we will recreate plans of salvation, and so on)…but these will be for different universes. I think the point is: we do NOT get *this* universe, which is God’s universe…

    Now, unless God holds back in what he gives us as heirs, you may have a stronger argument, but I understand the Mormons to believe God does not withhold anything. Am I wrong?

    We don’t get *this* universe. We aren’t saviors of *this* universe. We aren’t gods of *this* universe. So, maybe that’s something withheld? I don’t see it like that though. I mean, if I have kids, that doesn’t meant that my parents give me their own parenthood…that doesn’t mean I get my brothers and sisters. I am still always my parents’ child. In a sense, that cannot be “ungiven.”

    I think that’s the distinction. Like, I get that you probably find a heresy in the idea of creating worlds without number — I get that. But I think there is a distinction between having worlds without number and then getting everyone God had.

  100. Different universes is hardly a distinction I would be concerned with, and I don’t and have never imagined they would get this world.

    The thing is, though, I have heard Mormons make that very argument about God in Deut 4. I don’t want to assume that all Mormons believe that, but one thing it does is allow them to accept the idea that there is more than one God. Who these other gods might have been to the ancients I have no idea, but God tells them that the only god that matters is Himself. This also is right in line with what you are saying about the father being the father always. Its as if they assert God as saying: “There may be other dad’s out there, but I am your dad and you are going to care only about me as a dad.”

    It makes sense, actually, to use that verse in that way. It does not contradict anything I have brought up and actually supports those claims. I can’t blame them for it.

  101. slowcowboy,

    I think the different universe vs this universe is important to point out that most Mormons would not see it as possible to get to God’s level or surpass — he will always have this universe, and anything we do counts to God. (If God’s goal is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man, then our achieving exaltation increases is a passing of his plans.)

    But outside of that, yeah, I think we are seeing closer. I have said that I totally concede that lots of Mormons will make monolatrist statements like that. So I think that using Deut 4 in that way (“There may be other dads out there, but I am your dad and you are going to care only about me as a dad”) is probably something a Mormon might say.

    And I get that throughout all of that are a whole lot of things that you probably see as heretical.

  102. Andrew, so its a ponzi scheme? I joke there, and no, I don’t want to pursue it. It was a joke.

    But I am not concerned about the universe thing, as ultimately, its all conjecture anyway. I understand Mormonism is moving away from these things.

    Monolarist or henotheist is a good way to describe the Mormon belief.

  103. Some of us had to work today ; )

    The conversation between Andrew and Cowboy dips heavily into speculation which many LDS leaders have also dipped into in decades past. Simply put, we just don’t know that much about it. There is obviously something going to be happening in eternity. We won’t be sitting around on clouds playing harps feeling good about ourselves for billions of years.

    The LDS church has the wisdom to start backing away from speculation which has worked it’s way in as defacto doctrine due to statements made by past Church Leaders. Even though LDS leaders are inspired, they and we are all human and need to clean the doctrinal house from time to time. That’s one of the purposes of inspired leaders.

    Peter and Paul were cleaning the doctrinal house all the time.

    In my studies of Joseph Smith’s revelations, cosmology and the B of M, things which have come to him directly from God, at this time, we have an enormous amount of evidence to valid the source: God. But when we move into areas in which Joseph made comments or speculations based on the things he learned from God, we have a whole bunch of human errors. The difficulty comes in segregating that which has come from God and that which is conjecture based on that which has come from God.

    If we take one example, “Heavenly Mother”, it’s a reasonable assumption based on the premise God is and exalted man like being and is male that she would exist. Yet, we don’t have a single revelation on the subject.
    The Virgin Mary got pregnant. Many short sighted LDS leaders “assumed” there must have been sex involved, but if there was then Mary wouldn’t have been a virgin. So, we know from this example, there are ways God can create like without it being the tradition human method. To assume then that wives of men in the Celestial Kingdom will be eternally pregnant and have children forever is just another short sighted conjecture. We really don’t know how these types of things will work.

    So, rather than make claims that are very far in the realm of speculation, I think it’s better to stick with topics we have information on.

  104. Hi Cowboy,
    I’m addressing two points since they refer directly to me and I gave my summary of the long discussion with Andrew already.

    You said:
    “I believe Ray presented something to the extent that he does not know what exaltation may mean, but I pretty sure that many Mormons, past and present, believe they can be just like God or possibly his equal.”

    I have a rough idea of what “exaltation” means. What I don’t want to do is start expressing conjecture as doctrine. The Bible does teach we will recieve “all that the Father hath” and that we will be “joint-heirs with Christ”.

    I have shown decisively that Christ is below his Father in authority, otherwise they are equal in most all other ways. And we too will be “like” God in many ways, but I don’t know the extent. However, we will NEVER be an equal for Heavenly Father or surpass him in any way and never claim superiorty over him.
    My disagreement on the Trinity come on two fronts. The physical make up (or lack thereof) of God and the authority structure of the God head. I think it practically a heresy to reduce Heavenly Father to equal in authority with the two other members of the Godhead. If I think even Jesus is not the equal in authority with God the Father, then we will never, ever, ever, ever be equal in authority. Did I say ever? Ever!

    You also wrote:
    “Ray, there is so, so much more in the Bible and the New Testament besides John 17 where God claims to be one and Jesus claims to be God.”

    Cowboy, this is the chapter which convinced me the LDS Church taught Bible doctrine. This is the ONLY place in the Bible where Jesus himself explains what he means by being “one with his Father”. Saying they are “one” can mean almost anything, until the authority tells us what it means.

    “And then if I understand you right, you say that the Jews were apostate, too?

    I think you should read John 10 and find out why Jesus said “Ye are gods”. The reasoning is crystal clear. Yes, the Jews were in a state of apostacy. They hadn’t had a prophet in a very long time and without a prophet people quickly stray from truth doctrine. The Hebrews strayed all the time even when they had prophets.

    And you said:
    “So the message was restored but then quickly lost again, not only in the Old World, but the New World, too?”

    After Noah started out in the freshly cleansed earth, how long did it take for people to fall away from the truth?
    Not very long.
    How quickly did the Early Christian Church start to fracture?
    It was fracturing before Peter and Paul were crucified.

    It’s the nature of living by faith. Most people are going to stray. Further more, the Great Apostacy is one of the events which were prophecied in the OT and the NT.

    Christ has always been “knocking at the door”. It’s up to us to open the door and let him in. Few people do it for very long. The result is apostacy.

  105. Ray, no, you have not decisively shown Jesus is below the Father. Sorry.

    And let me get this straight: you believe the apostasy pretty much started before Peter and Paul finished their mission, that its natural for people to fall away from Christ, AND that your leaders once taught with zeal that certain things are absolutely true that you now back away from due to those teachings being too much conjecture. Do I have that correct?

    As to Jesus explaining himself concerning being one with the Father, you may think that is the only place. I don’t. So, are we both right?

  106. Ray, current LDS teaching is not that Jesus us below the Father. In fact, the Father doesn’t make much of an appearance at all in scripture, so you’re really just speculating. Also, the apostasy as taught by the LDS Church is also widely speculative, vague, misunderstood and in many suppositions completely false as to the historical record. Tread lightly.

  107. Andrew:

    You write, “Really, where the difference is is that God is the same “species” as humanity in Mormonism, vs humanity being “creatures” in non-LDS Christianity. It is this that allows for God to be a “glorified man,” for many Mormons to think that we can become gods, and that allows for the possibility of there being more than one god… But that is different than saying that Mormons believe Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Ghost are three different gods, which is not accurate.”

    And yet Mormons do say that they are three different or separate “beings”. If that doesn’t make them three gods, it seems to follow logically that a god must not be a being.

  108. Of course, the NT has enough verses that hint at an early claim of a subordinate Jesus(Mark 10:18 -“Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”), but the LDS Church is much closer to John on this than Mark.

  109. Agellius:

    When Mormons say they are three different “beings”, they are using that to say they are three different “persons”. I think the problem for Mormons in this case is a lack of distinction between terms like “being” or “individual” or “person” — these things would be seen as synonymous. (I mean, now, I have a fuzzy awareness of things like “essence” and “being” as being particular and idiosyncratic concepts in traditional Christianity, but I can’t say that in my Mormon awareness, I am all that familiar with all of that.)

    But I also don’t think this is a uniquely Mormon problem…I mean, I was just looking at an article that absolutely was arguing for the trinity, absolutely arguing against unitarianism (and also had a paragraph arguing against modalism)…and yet they use being, individual, and person interchangeably as well: http://www.gospelway.com/god/persons_godhead.php

    I don’t know what would happen if you clarified Mormons on the working definition of “being” vs “person”…I don’t know that they would disagree that, given the *traditional* understanding of being (which is not the colloquial or Mormon sense in which it is interchangeable with “person”), the Godhead is “three persons within one being”.

  110. Andrew:

    You write, ‘When Mormons say they are three different “beings”, they are using that to say they are three different “persons”. I think the problem for Mormons in this case is a lack of distinction between terms like “being” or “individual” or “person” — these things would be seen as synonymous.’

    If “person” and “being” are synonymous to Mormons, that only strengthens my logical inference. The reason traditional Christians can get away with saying the F, S & HG are three persons who are one in being, is because of the distinction between “person” and “being”. But if there is no distinction between “person” and “being”, then what logical ground is there for saying that they are not three gods?

    Let me try a diagram:

    (3 separate beings) = NOT (3 separate gods)

    Canceling out the “3 separate” on each side of the equal sign we get,

    (beings) = (NOT gods)

    Thus, a god is not a being. In which case, what is a god?

    A god is not a person because if he were, then 3 persons would equal 3 gods.

    A god is not a being because if he were, then 3 beings would equal 3 gods.

    Granted that you have a similar puzzle with regard to the Trinity:

    (3 distinct persons) = NOT (3 distinct gods)

    (distinct persons) = NOT (distinct gods)

    persons = NOT gods

    person = NOT god

    Yet the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God.

    We solve this problem by saying that the three distinct persons are not three distinct beings, but One Being: the Father is the One Being, the Son is the One Being, the Holy Spirit is the One Being. This solution is not available to Mormons since they insist on the F, S & HG being not merely three distinct persons but three SEPARATE BEINGS. Thus, each person can’t be the One Being since each person is his own separate and distinct being.

    As a result, if God is a being, then he must be three beings who are one being.

    Now this really is a contradiction: This is asserting that 3=1, as Mormons accuse traditional Christians of doing with regard to the Trinity — except that with the Trinity, traditional Christians at least can say that the 3 and the 1 refer to different things: 3 is the number of persons = 1 is the number of beings, “person” and “being” not necessarily having a 1-to-1 correlation. Whereas Mormons, who insist that “person” and “being” DO have a 1-to-1 correlation, appear to be saying that 3 beings = 1 being.

    That is, unless a god is not a being. In which case, again, I wonder what a god is.

    As evidence that I’m not misrepresenting LDS belief, in an article posted on the official Church website, Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland writes, ‘We declare it is self-evident from the scriptures that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are separate persons, three divine beings, noting such unequivocal illustrations as the Savior’s great Intercessory Prayer just mentioned, His baptism at the hands of John, the experience on the Mount of Transfiguration, and the martyrdom of Stephen—to name just four.’

    And of the Trinity he writes, ‘In such creeds all three members are separate persons, but they are a single being, the oft-noted “mystery of the trinity.” They are three distinct persons, yet not three Gods but one. All three persons are incomprehensible, yet it is one God who is incomprehensible. [para.] We agree with our critics on at least that point—that such a formulation for divinity is truly incomprehensible.’

    [ https://www.lds.org/general-conference/print/2007/10/the-only-true-god-and-jesus-christ-whom-he-hath-sent?lang=eng&clang=eng ]

    From what I understand so far, I’m really not seeing how the Trinity is harder to comprehend than the LDS notion of the godhead.

  111. Agellius,

    You know, I don’t know if Mormons would say God is a being…I think they would say Jesus is a being, the Father is a being, The HG is a being, but I think that Mormons would say that God is a relationship, a shared office, a shared purpose, or something like that…rather than a being. (per your link from Holland, “We believe these three divine persons constituting a single Godhead are united in purpose, in manner, in testimony, in mission.” — that is, the single Godhead is a representation of a united purpose, manner, testimony, or mission.)

    Saying God is a being would imply to Mormons that God is an individual (because individual, being, person are synonymous to Mormons). And so I don’t think Mormons would say that. Beings are individuals. Jesus, the Father, and the HG are beings; they are individuals, but God is the relationship of the three. God exists not as a person, but as the relationship between Father, Son, and HG. Or maybe as the “purpose” to which all three work, or the “office” that they hold — of which they are united. That is what is “one”.

    In that sense, I think that many Mormons would be confused at the terminology that non-LDS christians use when they say “being” (as a distinct term from individual or person.) As the Holland quote you have exemplifies. But I’m pretty sure that Mormons would not say they think Jesus, the Father, and the HG constitute three Gods, so they would disagree that three beings = three gods. As you say, God is not a being. As Holland says, the Godhead is a union of purpose, manner, testimony, mission.

    (Note, for Elder Holland’s quote…I think that his quote shows that Mormons recognize persons and beings synonymously. So his parallel referencing: “separate persons, three divine beings” is meant to be synonymous rather than making a different comment about beings (e.g., three gods). I am not suggesting that you are misrepresenting…I just think this reinforces my point that Mormons see these terms synonymously. I don’t think you can take Holland’s talk as, “Mormons believe in three gods” even if he emphatically rejects the wording “one being.” Again, I just don’t think Mormons see or use the word “being” in the same way, and do not determine the oneness of god in terms of oneness of being [which strikes them as modalism in the same way collapsing personhood would])

    Interestingly, I think the Holland talk you get at does have a Mormon peculiarity that may be worth discussing…I think that many Mormons would colloquially refer use God as a metonym for the Father. (E.g, the prayer goes “O God, the eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of the Son, Jesus Christ…”) In this sense, they might say, God, Jesus, and the HG. So, while I’m pretty sure Mormons would say the Father, Son, and HG are God…if they just said the word “God,” they might be using that synonymously with the Father.

  112. Andrew:

    You write, “… I think that Mormons would say that God is a relationship, a shared office, a shared purpose, or something like that…rather than a being.”

    I’m interested to know whether the still-faithful Mormons here agree with your definition of “God” as “the relationship between the F, S & HS.”

    Assuming it’s correct, I’m wondering, then, what it means to become “godlike”. Taking it literally, if “God” is a relationship, then “becoming godlike” would mean “becoming like the relationship between the F, S & HS”.

    I suspect it’s more likely that it means becoming like, e.g., God the Father. But, like him in what way? What exactly is he like? He’s not a god since if he were that would mean there were 3 gods. So what is he, i.e. what is his nature?

    My best guess, based on his having the body of a man, is that he’s an exalted man. Since we’re already men, becoming godlike would simply mean becoming exalted. But what does “exalted” mean? (No fair saying that it means “becoming godlike”, since that would be a circular definition. : )

    P.S. I just read in D&C 132:20: “Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.”

    In context, this is evidently referring to people who live righteously in accord with God’s covenant and are married and sealed for eternity, etc. I’m wondering, if these people become gods, why aren’t the F, S & HS gods? Is “gods” being used figuratively here?

  113. Agellius,

    I would also be interested to hear anyone validate or shoot down these things. I think that we are approaching pretty speculative material (especially in the comment I’m writing here), but up to this point, I feel like I haven’t gotten too speculative…but maybe I have an idiosyncratic view, or maybe people who still go to church *in 2014* have a different understanding.

    But anyway: speculation ahoy:

    In my understanding, exaltation, the relationship of Godliness, etc., etc., all tie in with family. When God says, “This is my work and my glory — to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man,” I get a sense that the creation of humanity (and our progress and exaltation) is tied to what Godliness means.

    If I got on the Gospel Principles manual of exaltation (which shouldn’t be esoteric stuff…this would be stuff that the average member would have a lesson on… https://www.lds.org/manual/gospel-principles/chapter-47-exaltation?lang=eng ) there is certainly a lot of vague stuff about exaltation…exaltation is eternal life, yes. It says that exaltation means becoming gods, yes. But it says this:

    They will be united eternally with their righteous family members and will be able to have eternal increase.

    Additionally a requirement of exaltation is to be married for eternity (either in this life or in the next.)

    So, I think a lot of Mormons would tie exaltation and Godhood/Godhead to the entire aspect of creating worlds/universes, creating spirit children, and then raising them to exaltation through plans of salvation.

    Obviously, the mechanics of this are very speculative (like, does the emphasis on heterosexual relationships imply some sort of divine spirit pregnancy???), but I think a lot of people would say it’s tied/close to familial relationships like marriage/parenting. It takes more than one, but there is only one relationship.

    In context, this is evidently referring to people who live righteously in accord with God’s covenant and are married and sealed for eternity, etc. I’m wondering, if these people become gods, why aren’t the F, S & HS gods? Is “gods” being used figuratively here?

    Going off my speculation, I read this like this: to say “they become gods” is like saying, “a man and a woman become a marriage.” or “A husband, wife, and children become a family.” There exist many marriages or many families, but that doesn’t mean your own marriage or your own family is plural. That doesn’t mean you raise other people’s children. That doesn’t mean your children follow other people’s parents. That doesn’t mean that the husband and wife individually are the marriage, or that the husband, wife, and any children are individually the family. “Family” and “marriage” are defined by the relationship between persons. This is the sense I think that “God” is used in Mormonism.

  114. I’m a little confused on the relationship between God and the Godhead in Mormonism. If God is the Godhead, then God cannot be any one of the three members of the Godhead, for a single member then is insufficient to qualify as God. That doesn’t seem to make much sense. If it is a relationship, then no one single person can be God, either.

    If that is how it is viewed in Mormonism then that is enormous pressure to stay within the church. Any spouse becomes disqualified. It would make sense for polygamy to become necessary then, because if a spouse leaves a dedicated Mormon, the dedicated Mormon is unable to reach godhood alone. To preserve the possibility of godhood, it is necessary to find a relationship, and if that requires a spouse/family, I can see how polygamy would fit into that plan.

    Anyway, I don’t want to go down the road of polygamy here. However, the identity of God ends up very important.

  115. slowcowboy,

    I don’t think it’s controversial in Mormonism to say that an unmarried person cannot be exalted, so your second paragraph definitely raises points that would be controversial for most Mormons, in my understanding. I think that’s why the church pushes marriage so much, really pressures singles, etc., (I don’t quite think that’s the reasoning for polygamy, but you’re right that there are definitely very big implications to people leaving the church.)

  116. Yeah, I have no doubt that’s not the justification for polygamy, but it seems to help explain, perhaps, why they cannot abandon it completely. I dunno. I could be completely wrong.

    Anyway, I’d rather focus on the implications of defining God. I’ve said it many times, but how we define God affects almost everything else concerning our relationship with Him and how we live our lives. These things are important.

  117. Hi Cowboy,

    I’m responding to your comment in sections:

    “Ray, no, you have not decisively shown Jesus is below the Father. Sorry.”

    I’ve laid out five levels in which Jesus testified that his Father is the authority above him including a direct statement. These are the very words Jesus said and we know what he meant by them in context they were said. I will add one more.
    Jesus is on the “right hand” of God. This is symbolic to show that next to God, Jesus is number one. This symbolism has been around a long time and is still used today. Jesus also said at judgment his sheep will be on his right hand and the goats will be on the left hand. Again, placement symbolism. I think we can both agree that when we are on the right hand of Jesus that he will still be our authority, likewise Jesus on the right hand of his Father.

    I feel this reasoning is not as strong as the other evidences I have put forth, because today our society has lost the true understanding of many phrases from ancient history, though most scholars are aware of these.

    That you, Cowboy, is not convinced is of no surprise. If you had bothered to look up even one of the references you might realize, I might know what I’m talking about. Now, I have generated not one but six witnesses from Jesus himself that his Father is an authority over him and you deny every single one of them in favor of the men who were not prophets and therefore not authorized to state the true nature of the Godhead. Why? Why don’t you believe the obvious implication of Jesus’ statements?

    And you wrote:
    “And let me get this straight: you believe the apostasy pretty much started before Peter and Paul finished their mission, that its natural for people to fall away from Christ…”

    This is absolutely correct because “straight is the gate and narrow is the way which leads to eternal life and few there be who find it” – Jesus Christ

    I can bring up verses to support that statement and the Great Apostacy, but if you won’t read the verses which support Heavenly Father’s rightful place, then I’m sure you won’t look up the ones on the apostacy either. When you are willing to read them, I get the references for you.

    Additionally,
    “…AND that your leaders once taught with zeal that certain things are absolutely true that you now back away from due to those teachings being too much conjecture. Do I have that correct?”

    If there has not been a revelation on a subject, then a teaching such as Mary’s impregnation becomes an idea of how something is so and sometimes those ideas may not be correct. I already pointed out the problem with a physical relationship removing the very important component that Mary was a virgin. So, if some one teaches something obviously wrong, even with zeal, it needs to be corrected.

    The LDS has lots of leaders and always has. This opens up to opinions which can be brought forth as doctrine, because it was the opinion of a leader, which may not be correct. Then at some point the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve have to “clean up” the difficulties from time to time. We never claimed infallibility, people can make mistakes, even inspired people.

    Should we gather all the doctrines taught by all the Christian Preachers for the last 500 years, with great zeal mind you, and compare which group had more mistakes?

    At my Baptist Church one of the respected leaders put forth an opinion that after death we will all be males in gender. His reasoning was there was not one mention of a female in heaven. God is male and all the angels are male, so therefore there won’t be females in the after life. Now, that’s as big a whopper of a mistake as anything LDS leaders has ever said.
    The irony here was the men were nodding their heads in agreement while the women were appauled. I agreed with the women. There is no heaven if women aren’t there.

    And lastly:
    “As to Jesus explaining himself concerning being one with the Father, you may think that is the only place. I don’t. So, are we both right?”

    Maybe and maybe not. John 17 is the only place I know of in the NT where “being one” is explained. It says nothing of “substance or essence” just unity, purpose and love as being “one”.

    But I am willing to learn. If you have verses which imply something other than the meaning of John 17, I’m willing to study them.

  118. Hi Christian,

    You said:
    “Ray, current LDS teaching is not that Jesus is below the Father. In fact, the Father doesn’t make much of an appearance at all in scripture, so you’re really just speculating.”

    You are right that Heavenly Father doesn’t make much of an appearance in scripture and I will speculate because he his too pure for us to be near. That’s why he sent his son to become our mediator. Jesus declares the Father for my speculative reasons. In those declarations we can learn much about the Father. So, I’m not speculating, I’m putting together information which Jesus has given us. Jesus is equal with Heavenly Father in practically every way, except authority and dominions. That is LDS doctrine as far as I know. If you’ve ever been to the Temple, it becomes very clear very fast who’s in charge. Also, my six points from the NT is much stronger than speculation: it’s powerful evidence.

    “Also, the apostasy as taught by the LDS Church is also widely speculative, vague, misunderstood and in many suppositions completely false as to the historical record. Tread lightly.”

    Thanks for the advise but I respectfully disagree. Peter and Paul both told us it was coming, that “the flock would not be spared”. Nibley has done enough work to show the apostacy did historically occur very early on. The significant fracturing of the Church under control of the Apostles was the first sign. But that is a whole other topic I’d rather not talk about now.

  119. And:
    “Of course, the NT has enough verses that hint at an early claim of a subordinate Jesus(Mark 10:18 -“Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”), but the LDS Church is much closer to John on this than Mark.”

    I had wondered about this verse until it dawned on me one day that when Adam and Eve and creation in it’s perfect state was considered “good” by God. After the Fall of Adam, creation is no longer considered “good”.
    So, even though, Jesus was perfect, sinless and without blemish he was not “good” because he was not in a perfect state. He possessed a a body which was not good by God’s standard. Now, that he is resurrected, he is in a perfect state and therefore “good”.

  120. Cowboy:
    “I’m a little confused on the relationship between God and the Godhead in Mormonism. If God is the Godhead, then God cannot be any one of the three members of the Godhead, for a single member then is insufficient to qualify as God.”

    Heavenly Father is God. He has thus decided to share his authority and power in a special relationship called the Godhead. Jesus and the Holy Spirit have gained their power from Heavenly Father. I do not know if they hold their power independently or not. In any regard, these two are God as well but they do not act without direction from the Father. Jesus made that abundantly clear in his case. Because they do not act independently of Heavenly Father, they have some limits which Heavenly Father does not have. This is one reason Heavenly Father knows the day and hour of the Second Coming by Jesus and the Holy Spirit do not.

    Since Jesus and the HG can not act without Heavenly Father, in casual word use they are used interchangably. Sometimes I will say God and mean Jesus and other times Heavenly Father and other times the Holy Ghost and other times the whole Godhead. This is also done by the prophets in the scriptures.

    Apparently, there is a certain level of criteria which makes one a “god” (little g) and another criteria which makes one a God (big g). Christ and the HG meet the criteria for a God (big G). We will eventually meet the criteria to be a god (little g).

    Ultimately, you can refer to any single member or the whole Godhead as God.

  121. Ray, Don’t assume I have am not familiar with or have not looked up your references. I am and I have. I still think you miss so much of what the New Testament teaches. Your statement that the Jews at the time of Christ were in a state of apostasy is where I throw my hands up and say there is no point is giving you too much detail any more. If you believe the Jews were wrong and apostatized when Jesus was around, nothing I can say to you will change your mind. If you believe the Jews were wrong to believe there is only one God, you will never get the import of Jesus claims.

    Worse, anything that does not fit with your notion of authority and faith can be said to be apostate. This is a huge problem. And the reason I brought up the need to correct your past leaders is that while it may be true that no one in your church ever claimed to be infallible, they have claimed to never lead its members astray. So, if church leaders, including presidents, have preached with zeal certain things that are now being minimized, but its also true they won’t lead folks astray, then there is a problem. Its a problem because it is absolutely true that backing away infers these things may not be accurate (or why would they back off?)

    Further, if it was possible that within 50 years of Jesus’ death folks were going apostate, it is absolutely possible for your church now to be in a state of apostasy. I know full well that you will reject this outright, and perhaps even be offended by this statement. But you cannot deny the logic there.

    As to my comments re the Godhead, I was referring to Andrew’s comments on God needing some sort of relationship.

    One last thought: that Baptist church you attended does not sound like one I would stay at, either. Believe it or not, there are good churches and bad churches within Christianity. Its not like there is a central organization telling each one what to preach each Sunday morning, and sometimes, these people teach wrongly. I encourage you, all the more, then to learn about the Christian faith. Start afresh with the understanding that not every church is equal and that you were fed incorrect teaching. The Christian faith is really very rich and there are answers to each and every question you have presented to us here.

  122. Andrew:

    I’ve been doing a little more browsing on lds.org and came across this by Apostle Boyd K. Packer:

    “Anyone who believes and teaches of God the Father, and accepts the divinity of Christ, and of the Holy Ghost, teaches a plurality of Gods.

    “When the early Apostles were gone, those who assumed the leadership of the Church forsook revelation and relied on reason. The idea of three separate Gods offended them, for it appeared to contravene those scriptures which refer to one God.

    “To reconcile that problem, they took verses here and there and ignored all else that bears on the subject. They tried to stir the three ones together into some mysterious kind of a composite one. They came up with creeds which cannot be squared with the scriptures. And they were left with a philosophy which opposes all we know of creation, of the laws of nature. And that, interestingly enough, defies the very reason upon which they came to depend.”

    Boyd K. Packer, “The Pattern of Our Parentage” [ https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1984/10/the-pattern-of-our-parentage?lang=eng ]

    Two things stand out for me: (1) That the idea of the Father, Son and Hoyl Ghost constitutes a plurality of gods is evidently not opposed to LDS teaching; and (2) Packer thinks it’s pretty lame to try to “stir the three ones together into some mysterious kind of a composite one”.

    By the way Ray also said above, “But to turn around and say, ‘yet, they are not three Gods but one God’ defies any type of rational thinking”, which basically echoes Packer.

    Based on these sources it appears that Mormons make no bones about believing in a plurality of gods, though of course they would say that they only worship one. Do you disagree?

  123. Well, i can’t dispute what Packer actually said then. But I was born and raised after 1984, and I can’t recall in my time of hearing anything quite like that.

    I think the problem is in that last paragraph of yours (and also my own upbringing):

    Based on these sources it appears that Mormons make no bones about believing in a plurality of gods, though of course they would say that they only worship one.

    Like, what does it mean for Mormons to say they only worship one God? To me, that doesn’t mean that Mormons only worship the Father (although Ray seems to be going very far to emphasize that the Father is more than the son and HG, so maybe a lot of Mormons would see things his way???), while recognizing Jesus and HG are other Gods (yet are not worshipped). To me, Mormons absolutely worship Father, Son, and HG…but they still only worship one God.

  124. Agellius,

    Packer is simply pointing out that the Trinity does not reflect what people like Stephen saw when he was stoned. He is taking the vision as a literal reflection of the reality that Jesus was standing on the right hand of God.

    But simply because Mormons take these scriptures literally, does not mean that Mormons worship more than one God (or even that they worship a God different than the Trinity) they just don’t use the Trinitarian explanation.

  125. ‘yet, they are not three Gods but one God’ defies any type of rational thinking”,

    Isn’t this true, and the reason that the Trinity is a mystery

  126. Andrew:

    You write, “Well, i can’t dispute what Packer actually said then. But I was born and raised after 1984, and I can’t recall in my time of hearing anything quite like that.”

    I’m certainly not disputing what you experienced. But it seems to me that the fact that the Church posted his talk on the website shows at least that what he taught doesn’t conflict with Church teaching. Besides which, it’s consonant with how Ray expressed it, so evidently he has learned something like it. And it also harmonizes with Apostle Holland’s statement that they are three separate persons and “three divine beings” (what is a god if not a “divine being”?).

  127. Jared:

    You write, “But simply because Mormons take these scriptures literally, does not mean that Mormons worship more than one God (or even that they worship a God different than the Trinity) they just don’t use the Trinitarian explanation.”

    I’m not arguing with who or what Mormons say they worship. My point was that Andrew denied that Mormons believe in a plurality of gods, and I was pretty sure he was mistaken based on what I’ve read.

    And as a secondary point, referring to “three separate divine beings” as a single “God” presents logical and metaphysical issues every bit as serious as those facing the doctrine of the Trinity.

  128. Mormons are not really using the term God in the same way as it is used in the Nicene Creed. By “God” they mean something a lot closer to “Divine Person.”

  129. And as a secondary point, referring to “three separate divine beings” as a single “God” presents logical and metaphysical issues every bit as serious as those facing the doctrine of the Trinity.

    EXACTLY, Mormons just don’t attempt to explain this mystery with a SINGLE creed.

  130. Jared:

    You write, ‘Mormons are not really using the term God in the same way as it is used in the Nicene Creed. By “God” they mean something a lot closer to “Divine Person.”’

    Except when they use it to refer to THREE divine persons, eh? : )

  131. “It was hard to fathom a Deity of this nature [the Trinity], let alone love him. But even more significant, the great teaching of Paul that we are God’s literal offspring (Acts 17:28–29) is not even taught in traditional Christian theology. Unfortunately, because of this misunderstanding of God’s true nature, millions of our Heavenly Father’s children have failed to understand their true identity.”

    William O. Nelson , “Is the LDS View of God Consistent with the Bible?”, lds.org [ https://www.lds.org/ensign/1987/07/is-the-lds-view-of-god-consistent-with-the-bible?lang=eng ]

    So evidently some Mormons agree that a misunderstanding of God’s true nature can have deleterious effects.

    Of course, whether this suffices to make someone not-a-Christian is another question.

  132. Mormons don’t use the words God consistently, and some prophets deny that we can know anything about God that was not literally revealed.

    Joseph Smith taught that we would not surely know if there are more than one Divine Person except after this life.

  133. I think that Nelson is misreading Paul, but the idea that humans are literally the offspring of God is a very radical difference between traditional Christianity, and Mormonism. Perhaps the most radical. But even this difference is spawned because of the LDS literalistic interpretive rules.

  134. You also should understand that many Mormons believe all theology is essentially speculative unless it is (1) revealed from heaven or is (2) identical to the literal reading of scripture. Theology is simply (only?) the interpretation of ongoing revelation, not an attempt at a systematic explanation.

  135. “But even this difference is spawned because of the LDS literalistic interpretive rules.”

    They take the whole Bible literally except John 6, right? : )

  136. In all of my comments here, I don’t want to give the wrong impression — for example, I think that Mormons would absolutely express opposition to the Trinity, and would say it is different from the Godhead…but from my understanding (and maybe I’m just not representative), it would be because they think the Trinity is modalistic. That to make God 1, it reduces the personalities of the three. I mean, maybe I only speak for myself. (I don’t identify with Ray’s comments, for example…maybe he’s more modal of a Mormon than I was [pun fully intended])

  137. Jared:

    You write “You also should understand that many Mormons believe all theology is essentially speculative unless it is (1) revealed from heaven or is (2) identical to the literal reading of scripture. Theology is simply (only?) the interpretation of ongoing revelation, not an attempt at a systematic explanation.”

    That’s a good explanation, thanks.

  138. I think the Mormon opposition to the Trinity is basically that they don’t recognize the implied dualistic metaphysics that there are two classes of substances God and not-God. Mormons don’t distinguish “spirit” from “matter” like traditional Christians do.

  139. FWIW, if you only read the BoM as an understanding of all that Mormons believe, you’d have more of a Trinitarian God than you’d find in the New Testament.

    In other words, Mormonism is all over the place.

  140. I agree that Mormons don’t recognize the implied dualistic metaphysics. I agree that they don’t recognize Creator/Creature distinction.

    I don’t think that is where the Mormon opposition to the Trinity comes from.

    (that is why, after all, I have been arguing to cowboy that those are separate issues.) The opposition to the trinity comes from a perception that Christians are collapsing God into 1.

    I don’t think Mormons know enough about “being” or “substance” to even begin to oppose the trinity on that angle (e.g,. that God has a different being/substance/essence than we do). That’s theology talk, but most Mormons are not theologians.

  141. @Christian

    Right, there was a development of this during Joseph Smith’s life but it ended pretty abruptly and there was a lot of hesitation to do any sort of traditional theology after Brigham Young and Orson Pratt. Contemporary CES Mormonism is based on Parly Pratt more than almost anything else I have read.

  142. Andrew:

    You write, “I don’t think Mormons know enough about “being” or “substance” to even begin to oppose the trinity on that angle (e.g,. that God has a different being/substance/essence than we do).”

    I don’t know. It’s hard to understand how they can criticize and vehemently deny the doctrine that the F, S & HG are one in being or substance, while professing not to know what those terms mean.

  143. Cowboy,
    I’m sorry about the frustration but please read the following.

    First, maybe I use the term “apostacy” too loosely. I draw my conclusions based on what I read. An apostacy is a falling away from the truth and therefore the Spirit. While many Jews at the time of Christ were not in Apostacy, the Pharisee’s and many others obviously were. The reason for this is they wanted Jesus dead. They hated Jesus. Now, had the Spirit been with the Pharisee’s they would have known, like Peter, that Jesus was the Christ. Therefore, the leadership of the Jews were in apostacy. Now, how can you disagree with this?

    Had the Pharisee’s and Jews in apostacy misunderstood the doctrine of the “Gods” from centuries before? The answer is obviously “yes”. In John 10:31-39, the exchange between Jesus and the “Jews” clearly indicates their belief in “one God only” was dead wrong. And it is Jesus himself which points this out. But again, Jesus was not teaching new doctrine, he was teaching what was known hundreds of years before, in the time of Moses.
    __________________________________________________________________________

    As far as the other Christian churches, I am sure there are many good ones. Ones which have more depth in their teachings, I’m sure exist.
    Here is a question for you, of all the major Evangelical denominations, which ones could you switch too and feel like you are in a good church and which ones would you absolutely stay away from?

  144. Agellius,

    It’s REALLY REALLY REALLY easy to criticize something based on a lack of understanding or even downright misunderstanding of it. I am very surprised that you would think this is hard to understand. In fact, I would say that most people criticize things they do not understand. “I don’t understand this, therefore it sucks.”

    Like, a lot of your quotations of leaders kinda goes like that: “It was hard to fathom a deity of this nature, much less love him…”

    Note that I’m not saying that those folks would probably profess not to know what those terms mean. Rather, they would think they absolutely know what “being” means. Being means “individual” or “person” to them. But being doesn’t mean that to you!

  145. Christian,
    “if you only read the BoM as an understanding of all that Mormons believe, you’d have more of a Trinitarian God than you’d find in the New Testament.

    In other words, Mormonism is all over the place.”

    I’m shaking my head left and right so fast I can’t get these french fries in my mouth!

    Yes, the Father and Son are used interchangably in both the NT and the B of M, but that doesn’t mean “Mormonism is all over the place”.

    There is the distinction of authority I have pointed out recently but otherwise the Father and Son are identical in nature, actions, attitudes, emotions and power. It’s only natural for interchanging of terms for theses two.

    Just remember, the B of M didn’t come by itself. It came with a living Prophet.

  146. Andrew,

    I like your “majestic reasoning of men being created in the image of God vs. just another ‘creature’ and the pun made me chuckle.

    You have a really good understanding of Gospel related things.

    Not to deter the conversation very far off course but why are you an atheist?

  147. Christian (and also Ray, to an extent)

    I actually do think that the BoM is a surprisingly Protestant text (that’s my one misgiving with it…the inhabitants of the BoM don’t seem very Jewish…they don’t even seem early/proto-Christian like NT inhabitants. They seem like Protestants.) But I also think that the BoM isn’t really so much about essential Mormon concepts and doctrine (since those aren’t really found there) as it is about establishing prophetic mantle…in other words…”read this book…it testifies of Christ and agrees with what you already have heard about Christ…but if you agree with this book, then you should agree that Joseph Smith is a prophet, and if you agree with that, then you should agree that he can reveal other stuff that has been lost!”

    Ray,

    Re: being an atheist…I don’t experience God. I don’t feel him. I don’t interact with him. Prayer seems totally useless. And I don’t really think that this universe is the sort of thing that would come from a deity. My experiences and perceptions best make sense to me if I don’t attribute this universe and those perceptions to God.

  148. Jared:
    “but the idea that humans are literally the offspring of God is a very radical difference between traditional Christianity, and Mormonism. Perhaps the most radical. But even this difference is spawned because of the LDS literalistic interpretive rules.”

    I think there is a good reason to take the Bible literally (except the obvious symbolic places). Who were Peter, Paul and John writing? First century ignorant barely educated people compared to us today. How can we possibly think they were writings some symbolicly deep doctrine which the people of that time would have the intellect to understand?

    I have pointed out several lines of reasoning which shows the Jesus was below the Father in authority. How can some theologeons come along a few hundred years later and utterly destroy the intent of those words by creating a mystical Trinity which matches Jesus with his Father? Was the Bible too simple, so they had to create something more difficult?

  149. Hey Andrew,

    Thanks for the info on your atheism. You have a big intellect and from my observations this is a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because we can reason things out but a curse because it can interfere with humility which is needed to feel the Spirit. I hope these words help you some day.

    ” the inhabitants of the BoM don’t seem very Jewish”

    Hmmm… I got the sense they were more like Joseph of Egypt or Daniel who were different than the Jews at the time of Christ. Maybe Protestants emulate attributes of these ancient prophets.

  150. Cowboy:
    “Further, if it was possible that within 50 years of Jesus’ death folks were going apostate, it is absolutely possible for your church now to be in a state of apostasy. I know full well that you will reject this outright, and perhaps even be offended by this statement. But you cannot deny the logic there.”

    I think we can safely say that all churches have an apostacy problem on their hands,including the LDS. If 60% of the LDS church is not active, then you have apostacy problems. The same with the other Christian churches.
    The question is the leadership in apostacy. If the leadership is not in apostacy, those who have left the faith can be like the lost sheep and sought after.
    After the death of the Apostles, the leadership structure of the ancient church fell apart leading to wide spread apostacy.

    Whether you agree or not does that make sense?

  151. After the death of the Apostles, the leadership structure of the ancient church fell apart leading to wide spread apostacy.

    Ray why do you keep criticizing my faith!?!? I thought Mormons didn’t do that sort of thing. Quit tearing other people down.

  152. Ray, starting with the later posts to me:

    You said earlier the apostasy started before Peter and Paul died, but here you say right after they died. Which is it?

    You said some of the Jews, specifically the Pharisees and other leaders, were in apostasy. (is it because they wanted Jesus dead or they believed in only one God? You sort of contradict yourself there.) It is the leaders here who are directly in question. If past leaders have to be corrected, what does that say about them? If they base their opinions off the same assumptions we do now, why should we trust the current ones?

    Its quite the claim to say that the Jews at the time were wrong. And it radically changes ones reading of scripture. Its also rather convenient to toss aside their solid belief in one God to fit with your beliefs of many gods. Anyway, just giving my opinion on the matter. Frankly, just a couple reasons why I don’t see the Mormon claim as credible, and not intended to offended, just to be honest.

    Which churches/denominations are good? Each group has good and bad churches within their ranks. Its a question that’s impossible to answer without knowing about specific, individual congregations. This is not a dodge, but an honest answer. I advise folks when looking for a church to try several. They need to get a feel for the teaching, for the personality of the church. The place to start IS the teaching, because if they are off on that, they will not be properly fed. But if the teaching is OK, then things like music, opportunities for personal growth, resources, etc. all come into play. If a church only preaches one message and that all people will be male in the afterlife, that is a red flag the teaching is off. Had I consulted you 30 years ago, I would tell you to try another church.

    Now, how do you know the teaching is OK? You need to study scripture. You need to consume what other, more mature in the faith, have said about Christ and Christianity.

    Anyway, there is indeed much more the Bible than what you recognize. You’ve stated that the Mormons were able to answer the questions you have about religion and about God. Those answers are already there in the Bible. Each time I read the Bible, I am amazed at how relevant it is to us today. Though they were written to address contemporary issues of the writers, the message still resonates today loud and clear. My small group is reading through Galatians. What are your thoughts on the book of Galatians? I think Paul was very harsh on the churches of Galatia because they fell back into a legal framework of living and lost their faith in Christ.

  153. “Mormons don’t use the words God consistently…”

    Question: is the vagary intentional? I don’t mean to suggest that they are mean spirited and want to keep people guessing, rather I mean that they are able to express a wider variety of meanings without specificity to tie their interpretations to something specific?

    There’s freedom in vagueness, I think. I am not sure that the need “to correct” past leaders is not as much a desire to move away from the specificity they taught than it is to say they were wrong. Rather, it frees them from having to defend the specificity of, for example, the clear teaching that we will become gods just like God is God.

    Traditional Christians have been specific, though. While the specific label “Trinity” was not designated until later, the belief in a tri-une God was present right away. Its interesting that controversy over this idea goes all the way back to the beginning of Christianity. Its not new, and it won’t go away. Its a tough doctrine to grasp, but it is a reflection of the reality of God.

    Do others think Christians bound themselves to something problematic when they utilize the Trinity?

  154. Cowboy writes, “Do others think Christians bound themselves to something problematic when they utilize the Trinity?”

    I think they definitely did. Further, I don’t think they would have done so if they were not utterly convinced that it expressed the truth. Otherwise, why put the burden on themselves of having to constantly explain something so difficult?

  155. This reminds me of something I read on lds.org yesterday, where someone accused the early Church of adopting the Trinity doctrine for the sake of making their beliefs respectable and acceptable to the culture of the time. Seriously? Do they really think the philosophers and theologians of the time were oblivious to the difficulties it would present, and instead thought it would make their lives a bed of roses? Please.

  156. “Maybe Protestants emulate attributes of these ancient prophets.”

    Ray, I happen to think the BoM is a historically dubious, spiritually inspired (I see it as a sort of midrash of the Bible) book from God. But, you cannot mistake the very 19th C. Protestant American flavor of many parts of the book. For example, the versus in Moroni 8 condemning infant baptism. Its very hard to argue that Israelites who migrated to the Western Hemisphere and accepted Christ via prophecy and embodied visitation would have been concerned about a topic that happened to be very relevant to the time and place of Joseph Smith. This is just one obvious example.

    Again, I view the book as inspired, but let’s not be blind. Let’s take the words on the page seriously.

  157. “the belief in a tri-une God was present right away.”

    slowcowboy, A few reasons I push back against this idea:

    1. I don’t imagine the first Jewish Christians as being able to go from one God in the way of the OT and then one day being totally on board with a 3-person, 1-God set up.

    I don’t think you can say that many Jewish leaders of the time wanted to kill Jesus for declaring himself God, and then accept that the first Jewish disciples had no problem with this idea – specifically as a triune idea. It even says that many were offended by his “I am the Bread of Life” language in John 6.

    And not just Jesus, but “who is this Holy Spirit that is now worthy of our worship?”. I realize the spirit of God is an idea in the OT, but not remotely in the same way as Orthodox 4th C. Christians present it.

    2. Messiah or Christ was not really presented as fully Divine for Israelites (I admit there are a variety of perspectives on this). And the NT reflects this in many places – presenting Jesus as inferior to the Father, created by the Father and/or only God after his resurrection.

  158. Christian, that’s precisely what Paul did. And no, not all of them did. Paul constantly battled the Jews. So what? It is clear many Jews did believe, and that the early church grew at a fairly rapid rate.

  159. Christian writes, “I don’t think you can say that many Jewish leaders of the time wanted to kill Jesus for declaring himself God, and then accept that the first Jewish disciples had no problem with this idea – specifically as a triune idea. It even says that many were offended by his “I am the Bread of Life” language in John 6.”

    This tenacious insistence on “one God” is precisely the reason the early Church would insist on God’s being a Trinity rather than a plurality.

  160. “This tenacious insistence on “one God” is precisely the reason the early Church would insist on God’s being a Trinity rather than a plurality.”

    That’s fair enough, but the Trinity was a gentile innovation, not a Jewish Christian one. And its not clear at all that the first Jewish converts understood who Jesus was in the 4th century orthodox way. Gentile Christians using the OT as a guide is very different than ethnic Jews in Jerusalem accepting it whole cloth.

    Its clear that many Jews believed in *something* that made them follow Jesus, but what precisely, is not clear at all from reading the New Testament. Messiah in most cases would not have included divinity, but still be a huge deal if true. And let’s throw the gentiles in there too. We don’t know exactly what they believed either. We know this because of the many references to Jesus and the Father that are not supportive of the Trinity.

    To the church in Rome: The idea that Jesus “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Did Jesus only become God after his resurrection?

    Take Pentecost. What did these men believe they were converting to?

    “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

    It reads like they were converting to a theology that says God made Jesus as Lord and Christ. In other words, not part of the orthodox Trinity.

    And Peter would know right? He’s the one who heard God declare: “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”

    It reads like they were converting to a theology that says God chose Jesus as Son of God. In other words, not part of the orthodox Trinity.

    What about Acts 13:33? ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.” Again with the idea that the Father created Jesus. In other words, not part of the Orthodox Trinity.

    I just happen to believe that Jesus is Divine and pre-existent. But its not neat and tighty and it certainly wasn’t for a long time after He ascended into the clouds.

  161. yeah, the shift from adoptionism (e.g., God picked random man Jesus to be his son) to other Christologies is as simple as going from synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew, Luke) to John….John was probably written the latest of the gospels (probably somewhere between 90 and 100 AD, I’ve heard), but I mean, it’s not THAT far off in time that people were moving away from adoptionism.)

  162. Tim,
    “Ray why do you keep criticizing my faith!?!? I thought Mormons didn’t do that sort of thing. Quit tearing other people down.”

    I know you have faith in Christ. I know you rely upon the Spirit. I’ve even acknowledged you were part of a healing miracle.

    How does my understanding of ancient history tear down your faith?

    I think I explained a little bit about apostacy from my understanding of it. Maybe you can explain to me what you think apostacy is. Then maybe I can understand why you think this is critical of your faith.

  163. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

    That’s certainly what the Johannine community was teaching and believing.

  164. “it’s not THAT far off in time that people were moving away from adoptionism.)”

    Andrew, I think its completely reasonable to believe that the Holy Spirit guided Christians toward a divine, pre-existent view of Jesus – eventually. Its not reasonable to conclude that the very first followers of Jesus and the earliest sources for the NT had a unified understanding of who exactly Jesus was in relation to God. I would expect that to be significant for anyone holding to sola scriptura.

  165. Christian,

    Its not reasonable to conclude that the very first followers of Jesus and the earliest sources for the NT had a unified understanding of who exactly Jesus was in relation to God. I would expect that to be significant for anyone holding to sola scriptura.

    Certainly agreed.

  166. Ray said:

    I know you have faith in Christ. I know you rely upon the Spirit. I’ve even acknowledged you were part of a healing miracle.

    How does my understanding of ancient history tear down your faith?

    I think I explained a little bit about apostacy from my understanding of it. Maybe you can explain to me what you think apostacy is. Then maybe I can understand why you think this is critical of your faith.

    Because your teaching on apostasy says that my church has no authority, that our baptisms and sacraments are invalid and that we lack the fullness of the Gospel. Those are all derogatory statements based on anti-Traditional lies propagated by Mormon Apostles and missionaries.

    I’ve actually got my tongue in my cheek. I’m not actually offended. I do think the the Mormon teaching of a Great Apostasy is derogatory and unfounded but I don’t feel the need to shut down all conversation over it the same way Mormons do when they hear anything questioning Joseph Smith’s credibility.

  167. “That which has been believed everywhere, always and by all…” is not a burden placed on the Protestant Church. So I don’t think the Protestant needs to believe the doctrines of the Trinity were set down dogmatically in the apostolic era.

    For the sake of clarity my thoughts on the beliefs are influenced by reading people like Larry Hurtado and I have found his thesis for the early worship of Jesus and early recognition of Jesus as in some way divine as a pretty good explanation of the evidence.

  168. Christian:

    I want to make sure I understand what point you’re making. Are you saying that because the early Christians were not unanimous in believing in the Trinity from earliest times, therefore it’s fallacious to argue that Mormons are not Christians based on their rejection of the Trinity?

  169. Hi Cowboy, I probably won’t be able to answer in the detail needed to explain everything because that would lead to very long posts, which I know our eyes might glazeover in that type of discussion. So, I’ll be brief as possible.

    “You said earlier the apostasy started before Peter and Paul died, but here you say right after they died. Which is it?”

    Reading Acts, Galatians, Corinthians and especially the letters of John, it’s very clear the earliest Christians were very quick to alter the doctrine taught them by the Apostles. This is a form of falling away, but as long as you have leaders which are still teaching correct doctrine then the “church” as a whole has not fallen away into apostacy. Once those leaders died and left behind no authorized replacements, then the administrating authority is gone. In that regard, the apostacy started when the Apostles died.
    While the Apostles were alive the church was one unit which had to be reigned in on doctrine on a regular basis, which is what we see in the post-Jesus church recorded in the NT. After the Apostles death, the churches divided and operated independently, similar to the C of C does today. There were variations in doctrine but they shared the writings left behind by the Apostles. Eventually, after much struggle and persecution, those who believed in Jesus were united in the 4th century only to divide up again in the 11th century and more in the 16th century and still more in following centuries.
    And why so much division? It’s the doctrine and how one views the scriptures. The priesthood authority prior to the 16th century had a new thought for authority and that was the Bible. This type of authority allows any one to claim they are in a church that was just like Christ’s based on how they understand the Bible (be their understanding right or wrong).

    I don’t think there is anything in the NT which suggests this is what Jesus had in mind when he started his church.

    Yet, there is a seperation here in “apostacy” definitions. There is personal apostacy which includes participating in the ‘ways of the world’, leading lives of sin, there is doctrinal apostacy which teaches things about God or the past which is not so and can impact one’s salvation and there is the important one which is the faultering of faith among mankind which has global effects.

    Knowledge among mankind had been lost after the Apostles. This wasn’t just in Israel, this was in the entire world. In China, America, Europe and everywhere else, knowledge was lost in great measure because the Lord’s Spirit on the earth had diminished greatly. This lasted for over a thousand years.

    When many more people in the 18th century started reading and understanding important principles in the Bible and thereby exercising faith, the Lord’s spirit started among mankind in a bigger way than the previous centuries. And with the gospel restoration, knowledge started flooding the earth because the Lord’s Spirit was back in full measure inspiring people all over the globe, whether they be believers or not. Just the fact, there are people with pure faith on the earth invites the Spirit to be among mankind.
    And consequently, in the prior era of scripture sequestration and political domination that people had less faith and therefore less of the Spirit prevailed upon the earth.

  170. “This is a form of falling away, but as long as you have leaders which are still teaching correct doctrine then the “church” as a whole has not fallen away into apostacy.”

    But this is exactly what you seem to be suggesting within the Mormon church’s very short history. You are backing away from what your leaders taught. You are separating yourself from the teachings of what were once considered inspired leaders.

    Anyway, I appreciate the effort to explain the workings of apostasy.

    It did not happen like that, though, and there is an inference in your position that God is not strong enough to keep his word consistent. Seems rather cruel, too, to allow his message go 1000+ years to be presented incorrectly and mislead many millions of people.

    Further, if it were possible for the message to be lost so soon after Christ, it is possible for it to happen with Smith. (It actually happened twice after Christ, first in Israel and then in the New World after he came to the folks here and the BoM was compiled.) Certainly, you can believe that in these latter times, the message is stronger, but I don’t see that as a strong argument, especially given the shift in LDS priorities in time, including the rewording of the Book of Mormon itself.

    Its interesting to note the historic context in which Smith lived. There was a lot of revival going on at the time, especially in New England. What that reveals though does not show Smith was telling the truth.

  171. “Thomas, upon seeing the resurrected Jesus: “My Lord and my God”

    C’mon cowboy! 😉

    The Gospel of John is absolutely certain that Jesus is God. Of course! My point is that the New Testament has a variety of view points on who Jesus was in relation to God, *Because the text is actually a massive compilation of separate writing, to specific communities of Christians. And regarding the Gospels, they were written from each other and/or source material, based on sayings and oral traditions etc. etc. So, pointing out that the Gospel of John had a view point that closely aligns with later Christian orthodoxy is not saying much in regards to the whole of the NT. IMO.

    “I want to make sure I understand what point you’re making. Are you saying that because the early Christians were not unanimous in believing in the Trinity from earliest times, therefore it’s fallacious to argue that Mormons are not Christians based on their rejection of the Trinity?”

    Agellius,

    I’ve actually attempted to make that point many times in the past, on this blog and in many other places. It mainly stems from my personal interaction and relationship to Jesus and his grace *within Mormonism* that has made me consistently push back against the idea that a uniform acceptance of the finer details of who Jesus is, is required to know him and become his disciple. I happen to believe he is deity, pre existent and has the power to save me from my sins because of his work on the cross and elsewhere. I think that’s enough. BUT, no, that is not the point I’ve been trying to make. I guess my high horse started when cowboy made this comment:

    “Traditional Christians have been specific, though. While the specific label “Trinity” was not designated until later, the belief in a tri-une God was present right away.”

    Essentially, I’m just pushing back against the popular Evangelical idea that the followers of Jesus, in the text of the New Testament had uniform beliefs closely reflecting what later came as the Trinity. Especially in regard to his first Jewish followers, I think this is completely anachronistic. And I take every chance I can to point it out – from the text of the Bible. That is all.

    My motivation is certainly not to try to destroy people’s faith. I have a great appreciation and respect for traditional Christianity and believers who take it seriously. I’m just trying to push back against that same tradition, in favor of a new look at the text and what we know from history. I learn a lot in the process, as people choose to engage.

  172. Cowboy:
    “You are backing away from what your leaders taught. You are separating yourself from the teachings of what were once considered inspired leaders.”

    Not really. The things which have been backed away from had nothing to do with being saved or gaining exhaltation or in any way diminish the gospel message. They are speculations based on what appeared to be sound reasoning at the time to try and explain things we don’t understand.

    This is completely different than false doctrine and apostacy. False doctrine causes one to either sin or impede one’s eternal progression. There are many good Christian people, including you, and other religions which, in my opinion, if had a better understanding of God, the scriptures and the course of the future would grow spiritually at a faster pace.
    ______________________________________________________________

    “Seems rather cruel, too, to allow his message go 1000+ years to be presented incorrectly and mislead many millions of people.”

    Since Adam very few ever possessed the Gospel in it’s fulness. In the Old World in ancient times there were hundreds of millions and billions over the course of time who never heard of Moses, and thus were denied any portion of the gospel. Even in the New World (according to the LDS understanding of ancient America) few understood the Gospel and always worshipped some altered form. God is not cruel just allows people to choose and they mostly make the wrong choice since they don’t have a full inderstanding of faith.

    Now, even during the Apostacy, the Lord had his hand in guiding mankind, perserving the Gospel in some form until the Restoration. I firmly believe Constantine did see a cross in the sky, which caused him to accept Christ on some very rudimentary level. This acceptance probably saved the story of Jesus and the writing of the Apostles from being wiped from the earth.
    There were miracles involved in saving Europe and therefore the basic Christian story from the Islamic invaders. Had those miracles not happened, again Christ’s message would have been totally lost and every piece of parchment with the writings of the Apostles would have been long ago burned.
    Had not good people realized the troubles in the Cathloic Church and rebelled, we would not enjoy the freedom we have today nor would there have been a gospel restoration nor would we live in this time of “increased knowledge” spoken of by Daniel.

    In all these things the hand of God was directly involved. It is not that the basic Christian message was not known: that God sent his Son to redeem mankind, that he was sacrificed for our sins and rose from the dead the third day, conquering death and providing proof that his message of salvation was true. This message was never lost because God did perserve it even during the apostacy period. But the authortiy was lost and a detailed understanding of the things concerning God (as much has been previously declared) was lost. This is what had to be restored.

  173. Cowboy:
    “…if it were possible for the message to be lost so soon after Christ, it is possible for it to happen with Smith.”

    Yes, I agree it is possible but based on the prophecies in the OT & NT, I think the apostacy and restoration were meant to happen. I truly believe mankind has basically 7,000 years on this earth, 6,000 where Satan reigns and 1,000 where Christ reigns, then after a “little season”, and another major war, then Christ will reign forever. Based on this, the apostacy makes perfect sense to me.

    “…especially given the shift in LDS priorities in time, including the rewording of the Book of Mormon itself.”

    Despite the popularity of this idea among anti-Mormons, the “changes” and “rewording” in the B of M is very minimal and just is for clarification purposes. I’m thinking there is less change from the 1830 B of M to now, than the King James to the NIV version of the Bible.

  174. Cowboy,
    Thanks for your insight in church selection but would you find spiritual fulfilment if you started attending say the Greek Orthodox or Catholic Church? Or would there be something lacking?

    “I read the Bible, I am amazed at how relevant it is to us today. Though they were written to address contemporary issues of the writers, the message still resonates today loud and clear. My small group is reading through Galatians. What are your thoughts on the book of Galatians? I think Paul was very harsh on the churches of Galatia because they fell back into a legal framework of living and lost their faith in Christ.”

    I agree the Bible is relevant today. People haven’t changed so much in 2,000 years that the basic message from God will always have meaning and value.

    As per his writings, Paul covers a lot of ground in his epistles touching on many points of doctrine and history. He was definitely calling them to repentance. I often wonder what effect this letter had upon those living back then. Did some heed or did they continue listening to those who changed Paul’s version of the Gospel?

  175. Tim,
    thanks for explaining:

    “Because your teaching on apostasy says that my church has no authority, that our baptisms and sacraments are invalid and that we lack the fullness of the Gospel. Those are all derogatory statements based on anti-Traditional lies propagated by Mormon Apostles and missionaries.”

    And you must feel that LDS baptisms and sacraments are invalid as well?

    “I’ve actually got my tongue in my cheek. I’m not actually offended. I do think the the Mormon teaching of a Great Apostasy is derogatory and unfounded but I don’t feel the need to shut down all conversation over it the same way Mormons do when they hear anything questioning Joseph Smith’s credibility.”

    Well, I’m glad to hear this. It would be difficult for me not to bring up the Apostacy, considering it’s existence is the reason I think there was a need for a Restoration.

    For a very long time, I had conversations with atheists on-line. I would often bring up opposing positions, for the same purpose I bring them up here, to invite larger thinking.
    I would often cite individuals and their work, most of which were not Christian to illustrate that there is something fundamentally inconsistent in their views on particular subjects. The first response was alway a personal attack on the individual I cited as an authority. The atheists almost never would deal with the actual evidence the person produced.

    As far as questioning Joseph’s credibility, I don’t have a problem with it, if it’s based on the merits of his doctrine through the revelations, B of M and such. But getting down in the gutter and dealing with slim accusations which can neither be proven or disproven, then that’s just hate speech and there is little to discuss.

    I thought Solange and I had a good discussion regarding Joseph and the four accounts of the First Vision and the progression of the LDS Godhead. I learned a few things during the conversation and I hope she did too.

  176. Ray, without giving another long post, I’ll simply say that I strongly disagree. I don’t find Mormon leadership and its current reaction to past teachings credible. In fact, its one of the primary reasons why I reject it.

    You ask whether I would find fulfillment in a Catholic or Orthodox church? I think I very well could. I don’t see anything about them that I fully reject, and actually they have a lot of positives and items I find intriguing. I am not opposed to them at all, and could conceivably see myself at one.

    You didn’t give any thoughts on Galatians, just general thoughts on Paul and his writings. I am curious what you think about this particular epistle, written to a group of churches who were abandoning what Paul preached earlier to them. Right off the bat in vs. 6 of Ch. 1 we learn how Paul is astonished to see them abandoning what he had taught them for “another gospel. He later calls them foolish.

    He has some harsh words for those who follow the law, too, calling them cursed, and stating directly: “11But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.” (3: 11). The entire book is about living in faith, not under the law.

    What are you thoughts?

  177. Christian, that is a theory that there may have been a common document from which Matthew, and Luke derived from, and they may have also borrowed from Mark. But John is not considered synoptic and not derivative from Q. But this is a theory, and only a theory.

    The thing is, while the entire Bible, not just the New Testament, was written by different authors for different purposes and audiences, it has a remarkable consistency. One of the consistencies is the existence of only one God. Jesus, in Mark, tells us that the most important commandment is to love the one and only Lord God with all your heart. (See Mark 12:29.) Its all over the Bible, both Old and New Testaments.

    Say what you will about John, but it is clear that, if we take Thomas at his word, then he clearly and unmistakably saw Jesus was God immediately.

    Now, one thing about each of the books of the Bible are also considered inspired, which means each one is true. So, John is just as inspired and true as are the other 3 Gospels, and just as inspired and true as Song of Solomon, or Genesis, or Titus or Jude.

    Do you think the entire Bible was inspired and is true? Am I nuts for thinking they are?

  178. Cowboy, I think you summed up Galatians quite well.

    I’m not sure it was ‘legal’ law they were having trouble with. I think the Galatians were Jewish converts who wanted to include the “law” of Moses in the Gospel Paul taught them.

    Which makes one think. The Galatians were anywhere from 3 to 6 cities of congregations. Probably one per city.
    This is why I asked, did they heed Paul’s letter?

    If not then this part of the early church was in apostacy while Paul was still living.

  179. Ray,

    Paul wrote not to the Jews there but the Gentiles. Certainly the Jadaizers were part of the message but the primary audience was the Gentiles. They were moving away from Paul’s message re faith to a legalistic system. Mosaic or not Paul never stated. Your assertion is a guess and a specific addition to the text not included. Regardless Paul’s specific and direct language makes no distinction.

  180. Cowboy, okay, maybe –

    the Ephesians (4:17) were definitely Gentiles but I think the Galatians were former Jews.

    In Galatians Chapter 3: 10-13, 17 Paul refers to the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses would not mean a thing to former Gentiles, only former Jews. He goes on in verse 24, 25 explaining the “Law” (of Moses) is ‘a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ’.

    I think this is why Paul could be more abrupt with these Jews turned Christian than if they were former Gentiles. They already had a knowledge base which Paul could rely on without driving them out of the Church with his rebuke.

    If you will notice in Ephesians which were Gentiles, Paul makes no reference to Abraham. Abraham wouldn’t mean very much to a Gentile convert. But a Jewish convert, Abraham means a great deal. So, again, I think this is evidence the Galatians in question were former Jews.

    In all of our conversations, Cowboy, I do not wish to argue, but I will call it as I see it. If you still think I’m wrong on this one, I’m sorry, I don’t see how they were not former Jews, at least based on the text in Galatians chapter 3.

  181. Christian:
    “Its very hard to argue that Israelites who migrated to the Western Hemisphere and accepted Christ via prophecy and embodied visitation would have been concerned about a topic that happened to be very relevant to the time and place of Joseph Smith. This is just one obvious example.”

    This topic was the baptism of small children and infants.

    Christian, the B of M was written for our time, and I think anyone who does not know when children should be baptized would find the information useful. The ancient Americans may already have understood baptism age but putting it in the B of M was meant for us.

    Pointing out it being a hot topic in the 19th century therefore suggesting the B of M was written to reflect the issues of the day is a very weak condemnation, despite, your saying the book is inspired. Baptism age is still a relevant issue.

    An issue that is becoming big is the growth of atheism. This was not such an issue in Joseph’s time. Yet, the story of Korihor helps us to deal with atheism. I have literally used Alma’s words in conversation with atheists, now that the hypothesis of dark matter has been put forth to explain why the galaxies don’t just fly apart as gravity can not hold them together.

    The Lord knew these issues were coming in a big way and have been coming since 1830, so they were selected by Mormon to be in the book for that purpose.

  182. Ray, as I’ve told you, too, just calling like I see it. The Church in Galatia was in conflict between Gentiles and Jadaizers. You’ll more in my post I grant Judaizers were addressed. But if you think the letter was solely to Jews you miss so much of the letter. This is just one example of how I say there is so much more in the Bible than you seem to recognize now.

    Paul does not mince words in Galatians. And if you insist it is only Mosaic law he was addressing you prove my point.

    Yes, he used very specific OT references the Jews would have understood. But his conclusion is that the law does not save. He chided Jews and Gentiles alike for following the law. It is in Galatians where we read that there is neither Jew or Gentile in Christ. All are the same under Christ Jesus. And just like Abraham’s faith credited to him righteousness, those who believe are considered Abraham’s seed and receive righteousness just like Abraham.

    This conclusion empowers the Gentiles, to whom Paul was distraught, and is a reminder to the Jews. The rest of letter continues in the same theme. Works don’t matter, faith does. He urged them to come together in Jesus.

    Now, Ray, to conclude that Paul was only talking about Mosaic law is completely putting something there that is not there. His points regarding faith demonstrate that. If he meant Mosaic law was bad but this other was good, don’t you think he would have said so? But that’s not what he says. He says those under the law are under a curse. He calls those foolish who live by the law. He tells us that those under law are slaves but those in faith are free. He tells us that works are nothing to God. What matters is faith working through love.

    But to really get the power of this letter you have to recognize he was not addressing Jews as his primary audience. See ch 5:7-9 and 2:1 and 1:6-9.

    There is much more in this book, including a reference that Paul recognized a dual nature of Jesus. But I’ll end this post by saying that Paul very clearly wrote that righteousness were through the law, Jesus died in vain. And that is precisely what he chided the Galtians for: utilization of the law.

  183. The BoM is pure hogwash and is antithetical to Holy Scripture.
    Baptism is for ALL (ages) because it is God’s work…not ours. It is dependent on God’s promises…not ours…and the Holy Spirit is quite capable of creating faith in an infant. Millions of Christians of been Baptized as infants. ALL the Church Fathers were Baptized as infants and none of them were re-Baptized.

    Romans 6 is a good place for a Mormon to learn what Baptism is all about. One should dump their BoM in the trash for all the good that it does them as far as the Christian faith goes.

    Sometimes the truth is hard. But it must be spoken. Too much is at stake here to let people go on their merry way in a false religion.

  184. This is what a Christian sounds like when proclaiming the faith:
    [audio src="https://theoldadam.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/christian-discipleship1.mp3" /]

    (not that there are not a lot people doing the same thing, of all Christian stripes…this is just especially clear – in light of St. Paul and the Galatians and the strong language that Paul uses when he speaks of “cutting yourselves off from the grace of God”)

    The day a sermon like this is preached in a Mormon building (I won’t dignify it by calling it a ‘church’)…then there will be hope for Mormons.

  185. “Do you think the entire Bible was inspired and is true? Am I nuts for thinking they are?”

    cowboy, I’m going to try to be succinct, because I want to give you an answer and don’t have a ton of time, and may not be back at this blog for a time.

    I think its admirable to believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God – the whole thing. I think its compelling to want to be challenged by scripture and trust in that final authority. You’re not nuts for taking that path IMO. I just don’t see a place in the Bible that requires me to believe every word of the 66 books as inspired. I also think a common problem is that people read and study scripture based on a theological framework ( in your case Protestantism) and assume that your reading of a specific text is the only way to read it. Also, there are clearly books of the Bible that are were intended for a particular audience and that audience is not necessarily us in modern times. That doesn’t mean that we cannot glean knowledge from those same texts, but we have to look at context first. Most Christians (and Mormons) I know look at the Bible as a literal handbook with no idea about the time and place that the words were given in.

    So, in short, I still think the Bible can be authoritative, but not in every sense. Its a guide for me and a spiritual tool, but I rely heavily on God to direct me to the most applicable parts for my life.

    I know that’s convoluted. Its the best I’ve got for now.

  186. Well Cowboy, I think we can agree that the current audience of the book of Galatians is neither Gentile Pagans converted to Christ or Jewish abiders of the Law of Moses converted to Christ.

  187. Mormons would do quite well to read it (the Book of Galatians). All that needs to be done to is change the word “Galatians” ( the first sentence in chapter 3) to ‘Mormons’.

  188. Actually Ray, I have no problem considering myself a Gentile. Don’t know what other Christians think but I am not of Jewish descent, and there doesn’t appear to be any issue with a Gentile Christian in scripture.

    I also have no problem seeing how the message applies to me, and all of us.

  189. Cowboy,
    I was referring to somthing else: 1) Your summary of Galatians and 2) that the audience has changed.

    Toil at church? Don’t look at it that way.

    There is sacrifice being a disciple of Christ. Paul gave up his ideology, his time, applied all his zeal and finally lost his life for the Gospel cause.

    My life is sitting on fluffy pillows by comparison.

  190. “Christian, yet we are told all scripture is God breathed. Does God not always tell us truth?”

    This is a perfect example of what I’m talking about: When Paul (or one of his disciples) wrote this letter, there was no New Testament and what would some day constitute the New Testament canon was not even in the ball park of being established. Some of what we now consider part of the Bible had not even been written yet!

    Obviously, there were writings that early Christians considered scripture, in the build up to the canon, but that also included writings that were not permitted into the final 27 books that we know today. Are the previously accepted scriptures God breathed?

    BTW, this scripture reminds me a lot of the claim by Wilford Woodruff that the Mormon prophet will never lead the Church astray. Its self-refuting.

    What do I do with this verse? I approach scripture with the hope and prayer that God will show me truth in words written by men. When I find it, it becomes scripture to me.

    Of course, I can guess that you believe that its impossible for a sovereign God to not have control of every nook and cranny of a text that you consider from him. But I think this is a false expectation that does not do well against a detailed look at the context and history of what we consider the Bible (not to mention uniquely Mormon scripture). God doesn’t have to prove anything to me, but the Bible does.

  191. Ray,

    I don’t think the audience has changed. It applies to us just as much as it did to the Galatian church.

    “Paul gave up his ideology, his time, applied all his zeal and finally lost his life for the Gospel cause.” Absolutely irrelevant to the message.

  192. Christian, its funny, because I see your position as rather self serving, too. Its easier to dismiss that which you don’t like under the guise of “that should not be scripture” or “that was not written to me” than it is to take it as it is given to us. There are several points within the NT where the authors quote each other, even calling the messages scripture. Its not a stretch to call them all scripture.

  193. Cowboy:
    “I don’t think the audience has changed. It applies to us just as much as it did to the Galatian church.”

    The audience has changed but I agree with you that all scripture applies to us today. That makes three things we agree upon.

    “Paul gave up his ideology, his time, applied all his zeal and finally lost his life for the Gospel cause.” Absolutely irrelevant to the message.

    You had referenced my “toil” in the LDS church. I was pointing out that my “toil” was nothing compared to others like Paul.

  194. Toil for a cause that leads people away from the completed work on the Cross for the ungodly…and into a life of self-focused spiritual ladder climbing, is akin to ushering them (and yourself) into the nether regions.

    Mormonism is a false religion that relies on the work that ‘you do’…ultimately. And therefore there’s no trust in the Living God, Christ Jesus.

    Abandon that stuff as soon as you can.

    I’m speaking to anyone who has been suckered into it, raised into it…or otherwise.

  195. Cowboy & OldAdam,

    I’m reading your posts and think, what are they talking about? I’m getting the idea, you have no idea what being LDS means or what the Lord requires of his disciples. And you know what is required? Full commitment: to love the God with all our heart and to love our fellow man with all our heart.
    When was the last time you aided, visited or in any way comforted the widow or fatherless children? as James (1: 27) tells us this is pure undefiled religion. And faith without works (works meaning discipleship) (see James 2: 24, 26) is dead.

    We are all like Paul in various ways. We are “prisoners” (Paul’s term) of Christ meaning because of our faith we do the things we do to bring the message of salvation to our fellow man.

    And I don’t have any idea about what you, Cowboy, are referring to when we agree the book of Galatians is about faith. The whole gospel is about faith. And you don’t think I live by faith?

    The Lord has revealed few things to me, so in a few things I have pure knowledge, but in most things I live by faith.

    OldAdam:
    “…that leads people away from the completed work on the Cross for the ungodly”

    I can only say you just don’t know what you are talking about. What I learned years ago is every Christian Church thinks they are the ‘true’ church. Only they understand the Bible completely. Therefore, the other guy must be wrong.

    So, while the Evangelicals here are careful not to disagree among themselves for sake of unity against the Mormon enemy, it is very sad, people who have diligent faith must be demonized in order to obtain Christian unity.

  196. “I don’t think the audience has changed. It applies to us just as much as it did to the Galatian church.”

    If we are arguing that part of Christianity is to get circumcised and keep kosher, then I agree that Galatians is speaking to us.

  197. Ray,

    You said, as to what is required: “Full commitment: to love the God with all our heart and to love our fellow man with all our heart.” Do you think the Galatians came to believe, after Paul left and before he wrote them, that God required certain things of them?

    And you being totally honest when you say that it is just to love God and our fellow man? Isn’t it true that Mormonism requires more than that? Something about obedience and pursuing various goals concerning the Temple?

    With those as better context, do you still not understand what it is I am saying?

  198. “Its not a stretch to call them all scripture.”

    There is a difference between canon and scripture historically. You’re basically saying: “whatever we now consider scripture, that is what Paul meant in 2 Tim.” Paul was almost certainly referring to the Hebrew Bible alone.

    I think its important to allow the weight of scripture to challenge us – especially when it challenges our modern worldview and thinking. But there is equal value in investigating the history of the canon, how it came us and who it was originally written for and why. I don’t have to accept Luther’s view of scripture for God to be powerful and legit in my life.

  199. cowboy, Essentially, I could use 2 Tim. as proof that the BoM is “God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness..” Because *I* consider the BoM scripture – and the passage says scripture is all those things right? Roman Catholics could use that passage to argue for the Apocrypha, because *they* consider it scripture and 2 Tim. says scripture is all those things.

    From where do you get your near absolute faith in the Protestant canon?

  200. True, it is important to know the history of the canon. But even there, I don’t see it is a stretch to call it scripture.

    But consider this: if you are talking to directly one of your children and you tell them, “All members of my family must clean their rooms” but another child, to whom you were not directly talking, hears this but dismisses the message because you were not directly talking to him or her.

    Your argument reminds me of a scenario like this. You are suggesting we can dismiss some of the letters because they may not be addressed directly to you. You have to consider that the NT was written all by authorities, those who knew Jesus directly or talked to those who had. They were pretty much the inner circle, all of them.

    Yet, you are willing to ignore some of the messages because they were written to a specific people at a specific time, much like the child who thinks they don’t have to clean their rooms because the parent was speaking to his or her brother when the parent said all “Smiths” must clean their rooms.

    And yes, God can be powerful and legit in your life. God is powerful and legit in the lives of Muslims, too.

  201. I like this quote:

    “All upright sacred books agree on one thing, that they all collectively preach and promote Christ. Likewise, the true criterion for criticizing all books is to see whether they promote Christ or not, since all scripture manifests Christ. Whatever does not teach Christ is not apostolic, even if Peter and Paul should teach it. On the other hand, whatever preaches Christ is apostolic, even if Judas, Annas, Pilate, and Herod should do it!” (LW 35:396)

    (from Luther)

  202. cowboy, to be clear, I would not use the word “dismiss”. I just think some scripture is more useful than others. If you’ve ever taken the book of Numbers seriously, you should empathize with this point. In regard to 2 Tim., I don’t dismiss it at all – in fact I take it serious enough to investigate the history behind it. Seeking to understand scripture in context is not in the ballpark of dismissal. I don’t even dismiss all traditional Protestant readings of scripture – I just remain highly skeptical of them.

    About archaeology and history, I have to say that I don’t think you take those tools very seriously. Especially compared to church tradition. Which is fine. Just admit it: how the canon was assembled and why is of little interest to you. You trust that who ever made the decisions, was inspired by God to do so. If archaeology reveals evidence of canonical variety in the middle ages among Christians, I don’t think it would concern you in the slightest – or at least not change your very Protestant reading of 2 Timothy 3.

    For reference:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muratorian_fragment

  203. Theoldadam,

    I really like that quote. The problem is that inevitably, Protestants will favor tradition over a serious look at the canon using this criteria. Luther likely did, which is why he called the Book of James an epistle of straw. It didn’t meet his own criteria for being a promotion of Christ.

  204. Cowboy, I think it’s dangerous to a persons sincere faith in God to say his majesty and power live and die on the infallibility of the Bible. It’s a house of cards for realz.

  205. Christian, I don’t think archaeology proves a thing. Just to be sure on that point. It has nothing to do with proving the faith, which is by definition faith. However, I do think it makes the spiritual message more credible when the rest of it is credible, too. You may not think this stuff matters, and so be it.

    As to Numbers, yes, it matters as much as the Gospels. Its not as if there is a ranking of books to their relevance and least relevance.

    Earlier, you said this:

    “What do I do with this verse? I approach scripture with the hope and prayer that God will show me truth in words written by men. When I find it, it becomes scripture to me.” While this does not expressly state that you dismiss certain portions of writings as scripture, it certainly infers because the antithesis of not finding the truth is that it is not scripture. It infers that until truth is confirmed, it is not scripture to you.

    Do you not see how this is a self-affirming position, perhaps even more so than taking it all as scripture?

  206. Cowboy,
    Maybe I don’t understand what you are trying to get across.

    “And you being totally honest when you say that it is just to love God and our fellow man? Isn’t it true that Mormonism requires more than that? Something about obedience and pursuing various goals concerning the Temple?”

    “With those as better context, do you still not understand what it is I am saying?”

    The heart of our behavior is the sacrifice Jesus expects us to make. That is why the law of Moses can be summed up in the two great commandments.

    Should we have faith?
    Should we get baptized?
    Should we repent of our sins?
    Should we go to the temple?
    Should we give money to the church?
    I could add many many things.

    Having faith, repenting, getting baptized, going to the temple all fall under the command of loving God.

  207. Ray, the answer is right before you. Its so obvious you take it for granted. But that bit about the Temple, not to mention diet codes, garments, etc. should help you consider the answer and how it related to the Galatians.

  208. The answer?
    What was the question?

    In your church, do the elders annoint with oil and pray for people who are afflicted as in James 5: 14,15?

    The Lord had established all sorts or rituals in times past. The fact there are re-established rituals today should be no surprise to any student of ancient religions.

    Doing rituals such as baptism and the “Lord’s Supper” are just one of several which existed even in the Christian religion. They exist as symbols to remind, teach and help us contemplate spirtual things.

  209. Ah, but Ray, you continue to miss the point. As I said, the answer is something you just take for granted. The question (s), as I presented above:

    “Do you think the Galatians came to believe, after Paul left and before he wrote them, that God required certain things of them?

    And you being totally honest when you say that it is just to love God and our fellow man? Isn’t it true that Mormonism requires more than that? Something about obedience and pursuing various goals concerning the Temple?”

    I’ll ask it this way: does God require certain ritual be completed to be saved?

    What does Galatians say about that question?

  210. Ray,

    Are you sure James is referring to oil as having spiritual, ritual, or symbolic significance? I think oil was a commonly used for medicinal purposes in the ancient world.

  211. Gundek, I’m sure and you should be too since the verse says:

    “…anointing with oil in the name of the Lord…”

    is almost certainly a ritual and not a medical procedure. Also the subject matter around that line are all about doing a work in the name of the Lord.

    And I am sure there are several Christian churches who see it that way too. Why don’t you?

    This must mean you don’t do this ordinance per James’ recommendation.

  212. Cowboy,

    I think Paul speaks for himself. He had already preached the Gospel to the Galatians and was reminding them of some of the things he taught.

    You said:
    “I’ll ask it this way: does God require certain ritual be completed to be saved?

    What does Galatians say about that question?”

    In Gal 3: 27
    “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”

    According to Paul to put on Christ requires baptism, which is a ritual. So, the answer is yes.

    However, the Law of Moses, which the Galatians were defaulting back to, does not actually encourage Faith, but ritual only. Paul was trying to get across that faith is needed to be saved and not rituals of the law only.

    I think you are under the mistaken notion the LDS forsake faith for ritual.

    Ritual has always been a part of the Gospel even back to Adam. If you remember Abraham was partaking of “bread and wine”. You do understand what that was about, I assume. It was the for-runner ritual to the sacrament of the Lord’s supper and probably taken for the same purpose, to remember the sacrifice of the Lord which in Abraham’s time was yet to be.

  213. Is James describing an ordinance? Why wouldn’t you do a medical practice in the name of the Lord? Is he only the Lord of rituals?

    “To understand Mk. 6:13 and Jm. 5:14 we must recall the practice and meaning of anointing with a view to healing in Hellenism and Judaism. Oil is applied a. medicinally to alleviate and cure various sicknesses: Jos. Bell., 1, 657 == Ant., 17, 172; Philo Som., II, 58; Is. 1:6; and Rabbinic examples of the use of oil for sciatic pains, skin afflictions, headaches, wounds etc.”

    Kittel, G., Bromiley, G. W., & Friedrich, G. (Eds.). (1964–). Theological dictionary of the New Testament (electronic ed., Vol. 1, p. 230). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

    “ἀλείφω (aleiphō): vb.; ≡ Str 218; TDNT 1.229—LN 47.14 anoint, pour on, smear oil or ointment on head or body, for health, healing, or even embalming (Mt 6:17; Mk 6:13; 16:1; Lk 7:38, 46; Jn 11:2; 12:3; Jas 5:14+)”

    Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament)

  214. “Is James describing an ordinance? Why wouldn’t you do a medical practice in the name of the Lord? Is he only the Lord of rituals?”

    While oil may help with cuts and bruises it’s not going to help with illness (“sick among you”).

    The Lord is not going to instruct people to apply something which does not work.

    Re-read James, it’s clear the oil is an ordinance.

  215. James instructs the aplication of prayer. Prayer doesn’t work? According to James James it is the prayer of faith that saves, not an ordinance.

    You seem to have a modern western cultural bias against the Hellenist and Jewish medical practices James is refering to for alleviating and curing various sicknesses.

  216. For what it’s worth Ray, the elders in my church anoint people with oil but we see the power in the prayer. There is absolutely nothing to the ordinance or the oil other than it’s symbolic nature. We also continue to wash feet. I’m not aware of the LDS church’s continued practice of that particular ordinance.

  217. Ray, interesting to see you say that Paul says putting on Christ requires baptism. I don’t see that at all in the text.

    Further, what does Paul say about faith? Does he say that one receives the Spirit by doing rituals, or by hearing of faith? Unless you equate faith with ritual, one cannot be saved by ritual.

    Sure, I get that you believe your faith manifests itself through ritual, but I am also sure that is exactly what the Galatians thought when they reintroduced works. And for what it is worth, apparently rituals were dictated by Mosaic law. Mosaic law dictated what form worship was to take, ie, it dictated ritual.

  218. Hey Gundek,

    The “psalms” in James 5: 13 is not referring to the book of Psalms in the OT.

    The word in Greek is “psallo” and means “make melody, sing”.

    So yes, we sing psalms every week.

  219. Hey Tim,

    It’s worth a lot. In my opinon, those who practice what is in the NT are closer to the truth than those who don’t.

    As far as the “washing of feet”, I am not certain about this but I think this is an ordinace which is performed after the passing of the current prophet. The new Church President does this with the Twelve. Again, I am not certain about this but I have heard it talked about through the years.

  220. Ray,

    So if I understand you, James a first century Jew didn’t sing the Psalter?

    Again, I think your modern western cultural bias against the Hellenist and Jewish practices of the NT are keeping you from what is in the NT (Acts 16:25; 1 Cor. 14:26; Col. 3:16; Eph 5:19)?

  221. Tim:
    “but feet washing is not part of your religious practice?”

    Not part of my practice but like I said, I believe this is done among the highest level of leadership in the LDS Church like Christ and the original twelve were the highest level of leadership anciently. I say this because I’ve heard it discussed by members through the decades.

    I am not familiar in the NT where this was done among the congregations at large.

  222. Gundek:
    “So if I understand you, James a first century Jew didn’t sing the Psalter?”

    I don’t know the hymns James sang or was referring to came right out of songs made from the book of Psalms. I do know the early church sang hymns (“psallo” in the Greek) not unlike all churches of today.

    And something I’ve learned from the Brethren about hymns which you may find helpful, as it has been helpful to me:

    When you are being tempted to do wrong then sing your favorite church hymn. And keep singing it until the temptation passes. It tends to break the negative spirit associated with temptation.

  223. Cowboy,
    Galatians and Hebrews have a lot of similarities because of the message Paul was trying to get across, to redirect the Jews turned Christian, that the rituals of the “law of Moses” are not going to save them. He further stressed that it is faith which saves.

    However, just because faith is the most important principle for salvation, it does not mean that other parts of the Gospel are to be ignored. Rituals have always been part of God’s plan and church and always will be. The ritual of Baptism is an absolute must for salvation. Baptism is an outward declaration of an inward commitment to Christ. Further, it is a symbol of the death , burial and resurrection of Christ and the death and burial of our sinful lives with a resurrection as a ‘new’ person in Christ.

    If some one accepts Christ, then they must follow up with discipleship which means ordinances such as the ritual of baptism (as just a start).

    Gal 3: 27 is a direct reference which shows the Galatians were baptized.

    How is it that you can not see that? I can’t believe our two Bibles read that differently.

    Do you think Paul is suggesting there are to be no more rituals? No more Baptizing or partaking of the “Lord’s Supper”?

    So, am I wrong in assuming the Elders in your Church do not anoint with oil when praying for those who are sick?

  224. Ray, See 1 Timothy 5:10

    If you want to know more about he lds practice, it’s my understanding that no one makes a covenant to not reveal the second annointing, its just a cultural habit. Look up Tom Philips on Mormon Stories. His description doesn’t really match the early church practice as described in 1 Timothy.

  225. Gundek,

    Have you ever prayed for some one stricken with some serious affliction, while your hands were on top of their head, and blessed them to be well? And then they got well?

    This takes real faith which is what the NT is all about.

    I don’t think I’m missing too much from the NT. I may not go around quoting from the book of Psalms, but in nearly every post, I am quoting or parapharing from the scriptures which is the same principle as quoting Psalms.

  226. Tim,

    There are many early church practices we do not do today because the role of women in society has changed.
    Paul says women should have there hair covered in church, but how many religions do this?

    I think these things are left over society traditions.

    Widows washing feet in 1 Tim 5: 10 is added with lodging of strangers and helping the afflicted. I don’t think women’s role of washing feet was considered an ordinance. But when Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, it was an ordinance.

    Are you saying that widows washing of the saints’ feet was an ordinance in this verse?

  227. I don’t know Ray, I guess I just don’t get it. If those who practice what is in the NT are closer to the truth than those who don’t as you propose, why reject the Hymnal of the first century and adopt an esoteric first century medicinal use of oil. It’s really not a matter of quoting the Psalter it worship with the Psalter.

  228. Ray:

    “However, just because faith is the most important principle for salvation, it does not mean that other parts of the Gospel are to be ignored.”

    As to salvation, they are to be ignored, which means this: “The ritual of Baptism is an absolute must for salvation,” is absolutely wrong.

    That statement also cannot be reconciled with: “Baptism is an outward declaration of an inward commitment to Christ. Further, it is a symbol of the death , burial and resurrection of Christ and the death and burial of our sinful lives with a resurrection as a ‘new’ person in Christ.” What is inward is inward and a matter of the heart and separate from any outward appearance.

    “Do you think Paul is suggesting there are to be no more rituals? No more Baptizing or partaking of the “Lord’s Supper”?”

    I think Paul is saying those things don’t matter one iota to salvation. Not one bit.

    “How is it that you can not see that? I can’t believe our two Bibles read that differently.” Is not that
    the Bibles read that differently, its what we choose to emphasize. I look at when Paul in Galatians calls them foolish for bringing back rules and laws, etc. and take him at his word when he says those things don’t add a thing to salvation. I don’t see words like that and explain them away by in the next breath saying that rituals are something different.

    “If some one accepts Christ, then they must follow up with discipleship which means ordinances such as the ritual of baptism (as just a start).” No, it means they utilize the fruits of the Spirit Paul outlined in Gal 5: 22-23.

    I’m with Gundek on the oil thing. Further, I think you are using it as a check mark to say you are better than us. Gasp! We don’t use oil! But it is true that it seems you are being very selective which things you describe as worthy of ritual.

  229. Well Cowboy,

    If I come across as “better than you”, then I sincerely apologize.

    I don’t think I’m better than you, just different than you. I am, apparently, more detail oriented than you but that does not mean “better”. But, yes, I am careful to make sure I see the forest and not just the few trees in front of me.

    And I am opinionated about things I believe I know something about. For a number of years, I classified myself as a “young earth creationist” (YEC). As I studied and grew in knowledge both of Joseph’s view and actual science then my opinion changed.

    As one example of Joseph’s cosmology of the universe being extremely old as to have no beginning:

    http://www.space.com/28681-theory-no-big-bang.html

    New theories which are based on better evidence suggest he was right.

    So, my understanding of the Genesis Creation account changed to reflect obvious facts.

    The Creation in Genesis is not about the whole universe as YEC suppose but our small part of it, this earth and heaven around it.

    Restated, Creation didn’t end on the 6th day, just the Creation regarding this earth and this heaven ended on the 6th day.

    Creation is still going on. God is still active. He has bigger plans than we are aware of.

    http://news.yahoo.com/stars-found-forming-milky-ways-outer-edge-083340773.html

    So, Cowboy, as I gather information on a large variety of topics, including details and the big picture in scripture, I’m not afraid to share or change my opinion if better evidence presents itself.

    There is an old saying which says “the devil is in the details”. But actually, “the truth is in the details”.

    So, while you are correct about living by faith and the Spirit, something I have never disagreed with and is something I greatly believe too, many details still matter like baptism.

    Concerning Galatians:

    There is a huge difference in the Law of Moses and the Gospel of Christ regarding rituals. Under Moses, 90% of religious practice is about ritual which takes away from the importance of the other 10%: faith, hope, charity and such.

    Under the Gospel, rituals are a small portion of religious practice (far less than 5%) but enhance and bring remembrance to the other 95%.

    I’m not really concerned if your church uses oil or not. My purpose in asking the question is how do you understand the NT and why. Since you are with Gundek on this one, now I know why as he explained it quite well.

  230. “I don’t think I’m better than you, just different than you. I am, apparently, more detail oriented than you but that does not mean “better”. But, yes, I am careful to make sure I see the forest and not just the few trees in front of me.”

    Ironic. As if I don’t pay attention to the details. Ray, you have no idea what details I consider even though its as if you assume I ignore these little things that you like to focus on.

    Anyway, the trouble is that you put even 5% of your efforts into rituals, not only rituals but works within the church. You also have completely ignored that you HAVE to partake in these rituals if you are to be exalted. Failure to do them results in landing in one of the midlevel heavens where for eternity you get to wonder what it would have been like to be exalted and how if you had only done x, y, or z you could have gotten there, too. It seems like an eternity of regret.

    I see that as being precisely where Paul put the Galatians. There is no question in my mind that the toiling (I use that word very purposefully) required within Mormonism is a new gospel that Paul says is accursed.

    I don’t mean to say you are evil, but the doctrine will lead yo astray.

  231. Cowboy,

    Yes, I see you as a “big picture” kinda person. This is not an insult.
    I have brought up many details on many gospel related subjects and about the only thing you say about them is you don’t agree. That’s just generally broad which has led me to my view of how you think.

    So, if one asks which of all the Protestant Churches is true, a big picture person will say, “all of them” because they teach of Christ. But a detail oriented person will say either one or none of them because they believe different things on different gospel topics.

    “You also have completely ignored that you HAVE to partake in these rituals if you are to be exalted.”

    And that is an important detail. You must be baptized to be exalted. Period. I can quote verse after verse to back up that detail. The rituals themselves show our commitment to God and teach us to be closer to God.

    The LDS Church is not so ritual oriented as you think. Yes, we must be baptized once, we must go to the temple once and we must partake of the Lord’s Supper over and over again to be exalted. But the rituals themselves will not exalt us. Exercising faith, repenting of our sins, relying upon the Lord in all things, and having charity for all, living by the Spirit and being a disciple of Christ: these are the works we will be judged by. “As a man thinketh, so is he.”

    Then by the Grace and Power of God, we can be exalted.

  232. Ray,

    About details: the details lead me to believe all Christian churches that accept the true Christ for who He was and is, is true. But its not really about being a “true church” is about following a true savior. This analysis is extremely detailed, one you have not shown much interest in pursuing.

    Its funny you tell me that I am not detail oriented then point to an important detail I bring up.

    You keep saying that its faith, but you do keep ignoring that you have to do these things if you are to be exalted. So, even if it is the faith that saves you, failure to do those things will prevent you from exaltation.

    Call me crazy, but it seems as if there is something magical in LDS rituals.

    I’ll say it again: I have no doubt that the Galatians were very sincere and would have argued that it is through faith that they did the things they did. I am sure they sincerely believed that what they did would help them in their salvation.

    Now, earlier I mentioned an assumption you have that prevents you from seeing what I see so clearly. That assumption, I think, is that your faith drives you to do these rituals, and therefore they are not works and outside of what Paul is talking about in Galatians. You therefore fail to see them as additional works that are not needed. You don’t need them. All you need is Christ.

    Do you understand that?

  233. Cowboy,
    Long work week and another next week.

    You explained and then asked “Do you understand that?”

    And the answer is yes, which is why I was never baptized when I attended the Baptist Church. I thought at the time, like you said, “All you need is Christ”.

    I think what is missing in that statement is “All”. We need “all” since John tells us Jesus said, “we know him, if we keep his commandments” (1 John 2: 3)

    Jesus tells us in Mark 16: 16 “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved…”

    (Jesus commands us to be baptized).

    And in John 3: 5 he says “Except a man be born of the water and of the Spirit, he can not enter the kingdom of God.”

    “Born of the water” means baptism. And in order to enter heaven one must be baptized, it’s a simple commandment which must be followed to qualify for salvation. Hence, there is no salvation without the “ritual” of baptism.

    Do you understand, baptism is not an option or something nice we do, but is a commandment which must be obeyed to be saved?

  234. God can certainly save apart from Baptism. The thief on the Cross was not Baptized.

    And…God can certainly save by Baptism in the name of the Triune God.

  235. Cowboy,
    I don’t know exactly what the Galatians were doing that Paul thought would lead them astray. But being baptized was not one of them.

    Rituals are part of any religion. Do you pray? Prayer is a ritual. Do you need to pray to be saved? and if so how many times? Do you have to pray at least once to accept Christ? If you never say another prayer after that will you still be saved? Does this one ritual save you?

    You said:
    “Call me crazy, but it seems as if there is something magical in LDS rituals.”

    There is.

    The Apostles of old we given “the keys of the kingdom of heaven”.

    Matthew 16: 19 says
    “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven and whatsoever thou shalt bind of earth shalt be bound in heaven and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

    This “binding power” was restored through Joseph. This “power” is the authority to “bind” on earth so it’s bound in heaven. This includes us to Christ through baptism and eternal binding in marriage to our spouse and to our families through eternal marriage.
    Baptism is a ritual as is marriage. The ritual is just the start of a life long process which has eternal blessings attached.

    These rituals show commitment and are done only once in a lifetime for ourselves. After that, we live by faith, prayer, repentance, spiritual growth and such. The only ordinance ritual that we repeat regularly for ourselves is the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, in remembrance of him as he commanded.

    Jesus said, we are “to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20)

    You Cowboy say “you HAVE to do these things to be saved”, that we “TOIL” in church. Maybe that is what some people outside Church think, like you, but I think more like the Apostle John who said:

    “For this is the love of God that we keep his commandments and his commandments are not grevious” (1 John 5: 3)

    I live the commandments because I want to, not because I “have” to, because I love God, because I receive blessings in doing so. I recognize the love of God in my life, I feel his presence, I receive inspiration often and every once in a while I experience small miracles. And all these things testify to me that God loves me and everyone around me.

  236. OldAdam:
    “The thief on the Cross was not Baptized.”

    The thief on the cross didn’t have an opportunity to be baptized in mortality but probably was done so by proxy (1 Cor 15: 29). All must be baptized to be saved.

  237. Ray,

    I think a Protestant would not make light of the importance of rituals, prayer, baptism, the Lord’s Supper. They would claim that these rituals are integral in the life of the Church and the life of a Christian. Where the Protestant (and the Roman Catholic for that matter) draws the line is the error of making God’s grace inextricably linked to the performance of a ritual. There is a general recognition that the sign of baptism is not an absolute necessity for the new birth to actually take place.

    In this case, and based on of the context of John 3, specifically John 3:3 and 3:6, “born of water” is understood as natural birth and “born of Spirit” is understood as spiritual rebirth. It is also difficult to see a vicarious baptism involved in the thief on the cross’s entry into paradise. Christ insists on an immediate entry into paradise for the thief, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

  238. Ray,

    I agree with Gundek.

    And whether you want to do then or not, and regardless of their frequency, failure to perform your rituals precludes you from reaching the next levels in heaven. It is precisely this element that Paul was addressing, and regardless of what the rituals were, Paul’s message was that those who rely on works of the flesh are cursed.

    If you told me that God would grant you those things you think you are getting regardless of whether you performed the rituals due to your faith, I would be much more forgiving of your desire to perform them. But you HAVE to do them to get those things. That in and of itself presents one of the major problems in Mormonism, and makes Galatians important to you.

  239. Ray, I should add that to even get to the temple to perform said rituals you must be deemed worthy. An interview is performed before a recommend is given to do them. The questions are often about what you may or may not have done. So the rituals are indeed a reflection of what you have done, are they not?

  240. Gundek,

    Entering “Paradise” and gaining exhaltation are two different things doled out at two different times. Many “good” people will go to Paradise after death but not all of those will be saved or exhalted after the Final Judgment.

    If you read 1 Cor 15: 40-42 with an eye of extreme detail you will see there are three levels in the Resurrection: one comparable to the stars, one comparable to the moon and one comparable to the sun in brilliance or glory (and how they relate to each other).

    Going to Paradise after death does not ensure a resurrection comparable to the sun. For that, you must be baptized among other things.

  241. Cowboy,
    “Paul’s message was that those who rely on works of the flesh are cursed.”

    ‘Works of the flesh’ vs. what? Works of the Spirit?

    In your view, you must accept Jesus as savior? or as God? to be saved?
    Then maybe you need to pray to him, at least once in your life? Another, one time have to?
    Then, if you feel the Spirit, you are saved?

    So, you did something. These are “Have to”, wouldn’t you say? The only difference between our opinions is how many “Have to” there must be done and what those “have to” are.

    Paul’s message to the Galatians is “don’t go back to the Law of Moses. It’s not the Gospel of Jesus. It was put in place to help us understand the Gospel of Jesus. The Law of Moses was a school teacher. By going back to the Law of Moses and mixing it in with the Gospel, you are distorting the true Gospel of Jesus. If you do that you are cursed because you are missing the right way. There is a right way to do things and I’ve already taught them to you.”

  242. Ray, its a really weak argument to put prayer as a work on par with becoming temple worthy and then participating in an endowment ceremony.

    These works don’t do a thing to cover our sin, which is what separates us from God and why we need Jesus. Jesus by the way is my savior and my God. And there is no specific prayer need, only recognition of who he is, our inability to make ourselves worthy, and a reliance upon Jesus to make us clean through faith in him.

    Your becoming temple worthy and subsequent rituals, even if done through faith, are your efforts to show yourself worthy. You need a 100% confidence in Christ to save you apart from those efforts. Can you give that?

  243. I think, Cowboy, as we have this discussion, that either I don’t understand you or you don’t understand me or both.

    I am getting the sense you think the LDS must do Temple Ceremonies to be saved. Esoteric doctrine was part of the early Church and as such is part of the big picture of ancient church organization and practices. I’m sure you do not believe this but the evidence in the Bible and in the writings of early Church authors indicate this is the case.

    What I believe you want to do is to “gut” the doctrine taught by the Apostles for a basic stream lined idea of what the ancient gospel practice and beliefs were. However, you are right in one regard and that is everything we do, think and act upon, alone will not save us. Only Christ can save us through his Sacrifice and our acceptance of it. But you are terribly wrong if you think that is all there is to it:

    “there is no specific prayer need, only recognition of who he is, our inability to make ourselves worthy, and a reliance upon Jesus to make us clean through faith in him.”

    You will not be saved if you accept Christ and never say one prayer or repent of any sins or get baptized or love God and your fellow man. Jesus expects a total sacrifice on our part when he said, “No man putting his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

    What I recommend is get away from reading and understanding the Gospel from the Apostle Paul. Peter warned us that Paul was hard to understand. And that misunderstanding him can lead to our destruction (2 Peter 3: 15, 16).
    Read John and the Gospels, James and Acts. These authors write in a fairly straight forward way where there isn’t a lot of misunderstanding of very basic doctrine. There is a relationship with grace, faith and works which Paul was trying to explain to those thinking under different and wrong circumstances. Since we don’t really understand what those circumstance were, determining what Paul was trying to explain, then basing our idea of how the Gospel works on these explanations, is just going to create a host of doctrine that just isn’t so. And these doctrines are in stark contradiction to the rest of the Bible, including the direct words of Jesus himself.

  244. Ray,

    You will have to explain how Paul’s use of the creation narrative (reversing the days of creation 6, 5, 4 in Genesis 1:14–28) in 1 Cor 15:39-41 to show a proper distinction between our current bodies and the post resurrection bodies can be understood as levels in resurrection. Honestly it seems to be an obvious reminder of the God who creates, from nothing, will re-create to immortal perfection and that God’s love is not reactive, but creative.

    I’m also pretty sure that the idea of entering Paradise absent salvation really just doesn’t do justice to the canonical use of the word.

  245. One will enter to be judged (wherever that happens)…but that will be the closest many will ever get to the Kingdom.

    Those who are not in Christ, or who are in a Christ of their own making, or who have decided to take upon themselves the work of justifying themselves…well…they will be on their way to an eternal death.

  246. Ray, another very weak argument, especially since you give great credence to at least two of Paul’s points by creating very important doctrines in your faith from them. You get the levels of heaven and baptism of the dead from Paul. Further, its hardly an excuse to dismiss Paul’s teachings because they may be difficult. That’s just beginning with how weak an argument that is.

    Do I think you get saved from outer darkness by doing these things? Nope. But I do think you have to do them to be exalted, which is the ultimate salvation in Mormon theology. Its what all Mormons strive for, or at least should strive for.

    Of course turning away from sin is vital in salvation. That’s kind of a given. But must one say a specific prayer? Nope.

    What does Jesus expect from us? He expects our hearts, not our works. He expects us to turn our lives toward him, and that is not manifest in any outward work.

    Now, earlier I asked if you have 100% confidence that Christ can save you, fully (ie, you can be exalted and become full heirs of Christ) without any help. Can Jesus save you, 100% and fully, giving everything you hope for, without going through the rituals? If you answer that, yes, he can, do you mean that you can reach the highest levels of salvation based on faith alone?

  247. I’m really shocked to hear a Mormon encourage anyone not to read a substantial portion of the New Testament.

  248. Leaving fourteen out of twenty-seven books in the NT, is a very substantial portion indeed. Even if we were to be pretty conservative in the number of books the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write, due to disagreement by some scholars on the matter, we would still be talking about leaving seven whole books out. That is a big chunk.
    Paul’s letters contain incredibly powerful, life-transforming, God-breathed truth. No way for us to leave them out and not be deprived of spiritual understanding on topics like salvation.
    I cannot agree that Paul’s words contradict in any way what the other books and Jesus’ own words have already established in the other texts on On the contrary.

  249. FWIW, I don’t think that Ray is encouraging people to not read Paul. Rather, I think he is encouraging people to avoid Pauline primacy. (If this is incorrect, then I disagree with him.)

    At some point, one has to reconcile Paul’s arguments for faith in his letters to the saints in Rome and Galatia with “not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven”; Jesus’ parable of the wise man who built his house on the rock; James’s arguments; and Paul’s own counsel on right living, vice lists, and the fruits of the Spirit. Or vice versa. The outcome (or at least the rhetoric) will largely be determined by which frame of reference you start with.

    While certainly overly generalized, I think Evangelicals (and others) have generally reconciled the Gospels/James with Paul, whereas Mormons (and others) have generally reconciled Paul with the Gospels/James.

  250. Many argue that Romans and Galatians have largely been interpreted out of context. As the late Lutheran theologian Krister Stendahl (former dean of the Harvard Divinity School and Lutheran Bishop of Stockholm) put it:

    “[A] doctrine of justification by faith was hammered out by Paul for the very specific and limited
    purpose of defending the rights of Gentile converts to be full and genuine heirs to the promises of God to Israel . . . . In none of [Paul’s] writings does he give us information about what he thought to be proper in these matters for Jewish Christians. . . .

    “We tend to read [Paul] as if his question was: On what grounds, on what terms, are we to be saved? . . . But Paul was chiefly concerned about the relation between Jews and Gentiles—and in the development of this concern he used as one of his arguments the idea of justification by faith. . . . If we read Paul’s answer to the question of how Gentiles become heirs to God’s promises to Israel as if he were responding to Luther’s pangs of conscience, it becomes obvious that we are taking the Pauline answer out of its original context” (Paul among Jews and Gentiles [Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976], 2-3).

  251. Is that really Paul’s question, the relationship between Jew and Gentile? Or is his question what is the sinner’s relationship with a holy God?

    The idea that Paul was addressing Gentiles to the exclusion of Jews would be exigetically hard to defend.

  252. Leading to the next question, if not justification by faith, then justification by what? And exactly witch apostle or Gospel argues for the insufficiency of the cross?

  253. Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

    Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” John 6:28-29

    Paul’s letters on justification by faith only do not contradict either Jesus’ teachings or any other biblical text on the subject.

    Christ’s blood solely makes restitution between redeemed and Redeemer. Once and forever. Once that happens, then the ministry of the Holy Spirit begins in the believer as he begins his work of refinement in us. We do actively participate in that by submitting to his guidance and allowing him to mold us in the image of Christ.
    As Paul says, we are saved to do good works. (But we cannot do enough good to get ourselves saved.)

  254. JT, I agree that I doubt Ray would advocate leaving Paul in a trash bin. However, he certainly does say don’t give him too much credence, because his writings are difficult.

    Others have addressed why Stendahl’s quote is incomplete, and I doubt Stendahl would argue for a system similar to the on that Mormons have set up. Your appeal to authority is misplaced

  255. Paul’s letters on justification by faith only do not contradict either Jesus’ teachings or any other biblical text on the subject.” You’re cherry picking. The words of Jesus do not fit nicely into Paul’s theology. And I don’t find that terribly controversial, since Paul likely never read any of the Gospels as completed works, and which were written by different people of different communities of Christians with different ideas and objectives anyway…

    “And exactly witch apostle or Gospel argues for the insufficiency of the cross?”

    I personally believe in the redeeming work done on the cross, but nowhere in the synoptic gospels is the-cross-as-sufficient spelled out.

    “The idea that Paul was addressing Gentiles to the exclusion of Jews would be exigetically hard to defend.”

    The Jews are already there, if we take chapters 9-11 with any seriousness. Paul’s whole point is – how do you Gentiles become part of chosen Israel? Jesus of course.

  256. gundek, put another way – I think its exegetically hard to argue that Paul was advocating for Jews to give up law observance.

  257. Who is cherry picking what? 1 Thessalonians probably the earliest Pauline or canonical writing doesn’t concern Jew Gentile relations in the least.

    And of course Paul didn’t read the Gospels as a corpus , his letters pre-date at least Luke, John and Matthew, if not all four. I’m hard pressed to find any of the Gospels or epistles arguing for justification through works of the law, including James.

  258. I need you to explain why 1 Thess. being not about Jew Gentile relations contradicts my point.

    And the Gospels don’t have to be a full-on works based justification theology, for them to be more nuanced than the Protestant reading of Paul.

  259. Why must there be nuance when several of Paul’s points are as clear as day? And Jesus’s words as recorded in John are crystal clear, too, as Solantge pointed out. Or do you discount Jesus directly because of the book of John?

  260. Krister Stendahl’s thesis is that Paul is not concerned about salvation, he is concerned with Gentile/Jewish membership in the Church. Stendhal’s thesis cannot account for a book like 1Thes, where judgment and salvation are critical themes and Jew/Gentile issues are absent.

    I don’t think I have ever said the Gospel’s are a full exposition of the doctrines of salvation. To claim they are or that they need to be seems to ignore their genre.

  261. Slowcowboy – Actually, I think my “appeal to authority” was placed quite nicely with the point I was making: “Many argue that Romans and Galatians have largely been interpreted out of context.” Stendahl was considered the godfather of the “New Perspective on Paul,” so I can’t think of a better authority to cite than him. Runners-up would have been E.P. Sanders and N.T. Wright.

    Note that I am not arguing “Look! Stendahl is basically Mormon!” I am quite aware that the Lutheran Bishop of Stockholm did not adopt Mormonism before he died. One does not need to agree with someone on everything before they can agree with them on something. What I am saying is that there is another reasonable, faithful way to interpret Paul, and the Evangelical interpretation (which largely draws upon 16th-century Lutheran and Reformed views) is not representative of all Christians (regardless of whether Mormonism is included in the equation).

  262. Gundek – What part of 1 Thessalonians lays out salvation by grace in any way similar to Romans or Galatians?

    This part?

    Finally, brothers and sisters, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus that, as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God (as, in fact, you are doing), you should do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication; that each one of you knows how to control your own body in holiness and honor, not with lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one wrongs or exploits a brother or sister in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, just as we have already told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness. Therefore whoever rejects this rejects not human authority but God, who also gives his Holy Spirit to you. (NRSV 1Thess 4:1-8)

  263. JT,

    Paul regularly calls believers to a life of holiness, without the prospect of meriting salvation or using good works as an instrument in justification, so yes certainly 1 Thes 4:1-8 would argue against justification by any instrument other than faith. You can also refer to 1:6-10; 5:8-11.

    I a bit perplexed how you see the various new perspectives on Paul providing a positive case for the LDS unique soteriology.

  264. JT, if your point is to show that he exists and presents a different view, fine. If your point is to argue the accuracy of the point, then it is a fallacy.

    I, too, am a bit perplexed. Not only reiterating what Gundek brings forth, but I read 1 Thess. 4-8 as supporting what is in James, etc. A Christian is called to good works and a life of charity. However, all books suggest that faith leads one to those works rather than working towards faith or redemption. See these words, also from 1 Thess:

    “2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly[a] mentioning you in our prayers, 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess 1: 2-3).

  265. “I a bit perplexed how you see the various new perspectives on Paul providing a positive case for the LDS unique soteriology.”

    Why are you and Slowcowboy assuming that that is what I am arguing?

  266. If you think that the New Perspective on Paul rules out justification by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, then either you or I does not understand the New Perspective on Paul.

  267. Gundek – Just so I am understanding correctly, you think the following passages undermine Stendahl & Co.’s thesis? That perhaps they forgot about 1 Thessalonians in their analysis?

    And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place where your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming. (NRSV 1Thess 1:6-10)

    But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing. (NRSV 1Thess 5:8-11)

  268. What, then, are you arguing?

    I think I laid it out pretty clearly in my comment at 11:28am.

  269. Kullervo – I don’t think it rules it out per se, but I do think it challenges assumptions made in traditional Protestant interpretations of Paul. And I do think it is an example that there are other reasonable, faithful ways to understand Paul.

  270. What, that there is another reasonable way to interpret Paul? OK. But then why post what you did at 2:16 pm to Gundek? I think your MO is to use that a pretense to argue that you are correct.

    I can name any number of arguments that are reasonable that are off base nonetheless. In truth, anything that someone believes on faith can be considered reasonable, no? Who after all, can tell them they are wrong?

    Now, again, this guy may have been an authority, but that still does not mean he is right. So, as far as I am concerned you are barking up the wrong tree. Just saying its a reasonable argument means nothing in the end.

  271. No, not Stendahl & Co.’s thesis, Stendahl’s thesis, and no and not simply because he forgot Thessalonians, but an easily demonstrated flaw in “The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West”.

    When discussing the new perspectives on Paul each new conclusion must be examined individually.

  272. Slowcowboy, I think your problem is that you are projecting what you think I, as a Mormon, am probably arguing based on your limited understanding of Mormons and Mormonism (and, it appears, Biblical studies in general).

  273. Gundek – Agreed about treating the new perspectives individually – the “New Perspective” is a diverse world. I still don’t see anything in those passages that undermine Stendahl’s thesis.

  274. JT, I asked you to be specific. You refered me to a post wherein you appear to state that you are making an argument that is reasonable based upon a scholar’s opinion.

    So, don’t be coy; be direct and tell me specifically what it is you are arguing.

    And by playing around and being vague, you demonstrate why I think your tactic is pretense to suggest your take is the right one. I don’t have to be an expert on New Perspectives of Paul to see that.

  275. Slowcowboy – This is getting silly, but here it goes. I’ll bold it and underline it for you.

    Actually, I think my “appeal to authority” was placed quite nicely with the point I was making: “Many argue that Romans and Galatians have largely been interpreted out of context.” Stendahl was considered the godfather of the “New Perspective on Paul,” so I can’t think of a better authority to cite than him. Runners-up would have been E.P. Sanders and N.T. Wright.

    Note that I am not arguing “Look! Stendahl is basically Mormon!” I am quite aware that the Lutheran Bishop of Stockholm did not adopt Mormonism before he died. One does not need to agree with someone on everything before they can agree with them on something. What I am saying is that there is another reasonable, faithful way to interpret Paul, and the Evangelical interpretation (which largely draws upon 16th-century Lutheran and Reformed views) is not representative of all Christians (regardless of whether Mormonism is included in the equation).

    If you are trying to psychoanalyze my motive for bringing the argument up in the first place, I’ll help you out with that as well. The trend of the comments seemed to be that there is only one reasonable and faithful way to interpret Paul and his soteriology: the Evangelical way. My intent was to say “Hold up, guys – it turns out there are other reasonable, faithful ways to approach this, even by non-Mormons – here is an example.” It was not to say that the Evangelical interpretation is precluded from the text alone, nor was it to argue that the Mormon approach is the correct one (even though I clearly think it is), nor was it to argue that Stendahl, Sanders, or Wright are effectively Mormons in their approach. I simply wanted to point out that (newsflash!) there is room for other reasonable, faithful interpretations.

    Btw, were you taught that Mormons are a deceptive, sneaky bunch? You seem to have assumed that in me from the moment I started making comments here.

  276. JT,

    No, I have never thought Mormon’s were deceptive or sneeky, I am just having a hard time getting your Stendahl argument because Stendahl really isn’t arguing against faith in Christ as the sole means of salvation…

    “Once the Messiah had come, and once faith in Him – not faith as a general religious attitude – was available as the decisive ground for salvation, the law had done its duty as a custodian for the Jews, or as a waiting room with strong locks. Hence, it is clear that Paul’s problem is how to explain why there is no reason to impose the Law on the Gentiles, who now, in God’s good Messianic time, have become partakers in the fulfillment of the promises to Abraham.”

    “The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West”

    It’s difficult to understand the usefulness of Stendahl’s perspective on Paul, to someone arguing for justification by another means then faith, when Stendahl has out Luthered Luther, by claiming that there is NO use for the law in the age of the Messiah, not even the commonly held first or second use of the law.

    But we have to ask if Paul’s only concern is with the Gentiles becoming members of the covenant community (in Christ, through faith), then what in sin’s name is Paul talking about wrath of God and obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, in Thessalonians 5?

  277. JT, first, where have I said anything but that you are arguing about the reasonableness of your position? At best, I asked to clarify exactly your point.

    What I do is ask and address the purpose of such an argument. As far as I can tell, the only reason is to open the door for the LDS interpretation.

    And, no, I don’t think you are trying to be dishonest or anything like it. However, I do intend to make sure we are clear on what is being presented. Mormons and Christians often use the same words to mean different things.

    A final point, to be sure I am clear on my tactics and presentation: I am not sure the argument that the existence of a reasonable argument is relevant to a discussion of truth. I granted that it may be a reasonable argument, but reasonable need not be true. What we should be talking about is what Gundek is addressing: the merits of the argument.

    So, if you are going to say that it is reasonable to suggest a misreading of Paul, you need to be ready to discuss the merits of the argument. As Gundek has presented, though, it seems out of place to conclude, as you have done, that the expert has claimed that Paul was misread as addressing something like the relationship between faith and works. The conclusion you make about the expert seems wrong and therefore your reliance on this expert is nothing but an appeal to authority.

    This brings me back to my original point: your use of this guy is nothing but an appeal to authority.

  278. JT said:
    “I don’t think that Ray is encouraging people to not read Paul. Rather, I think he is encouraging people to avoid Pauline primacy.”

    Exactly correct.
    Three of you seem to think I was advocating ripping out half of the NT. I’m sorry if that is what you got out of it.

    I was merely suggesting, read everything but Paul because there in the Gospel is declared in clear simplicity. This is the way I’m sure the Galations, Romans and others first heard it. Then after hearing understanding the Gospel from that perspective, then read Paul’s works. Paul is talking to church members from a base of knowledge which had already been delivered. The mistake of Gospel understanding by reading Paul first without this base leads to the error in doctrine. And even still, Peter warns us that Paul is not easy to understand, so we should respect that warning.

    Yes, I do cite two doctrines from Paul, three levels in the bodily resurrection and proxy baptisms because those references are as plain as day. But this are mentioned in the Gospel of John as Jesus told us he was taking the gospel to those who were dead (and thus would need baptisms done for them) and the Judgment, of which he told us we will be judged by the measure of judgement we have for others and that there are “many mansions in my Father’s house”. If we are simply saved by believing (by faith), then there would not be such specifics discussed by Jesus about the Judgment.

    Paul only eloborates with more detail about certain things and brush strokes other things. If you have a good knowledge by reading the other NT works first then Paul is very easy to understand. Then the appearance of contradictions between Paul and the other NT authors goes away very quickly.

  279. Ray, first, you’ll see that I agree, and never said otherwise, that you don’t think we are to ignore Paul, only that Paul’s works are to be read subservient to the others, that is that Paul is to be read in their context and not first, or perhaps even on their own. There are many problems with this position, but the discussion seems to have moved to Tim’s answering Trimble’s questions, one of which deals with the mansions in a house.

  280. Thanks Cowboy,
    Internet time is very limited for a while.
    I’ll catch up when I can.

  281. Hi Tim,
    Between work and major family trama, I just can’t participate right now. But I will when the pressure eases up.

  282. Thank you Cowboy, you’re one of the good guys.
    The pressure is abating. I hope to be back in a week or two.

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