The difference between the Mormon and the traditional Christian worldviews. 

By the “world”, I mean absolutely everything. (By “worldview” I mean any consistent way of talking about absolutely everything.)

The traditional Christian contends that there are quite many things that can be said about absolutely everything.

Joseph Smith’s view entails that there is no single way of talking about absolutely everything.

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78 thoughts on “The difference between the Mormon and the traditional Christian worldviews. 

  1. “Joseph Smith’s view entails that there is no single way of talking about absolutely everything.”

    How so?

  2. Joseph Smith’s theology does not have a theory of everything, something that is implied by the traditional creeds. God is stuck in the midst of everything rather than the sole originator of it. In the deepest sense, God the Father is a product of nature and almost nothing is said about the nature that made God happen.

  3. ^ that is the kind of thing Mormons are allowed to say amongst themselves. But the minute an outsider says it, it’s a terrible slander.

  4. Tim:

    That is what I have found myself; I wasn’t accused of slander exactly, but of not knowing what I was talking about, misrepresenting Church teachings, etc.

    I was also told that there is no official teaching on whether God is within or outside nature. When I ventured to suggest that God was dependent on the universe, since he has a physical body and physical bodies can only exist within physical environments and are held together by physical laws, etc., this conclusion was rejected.

    It’s been a while, but I think their argument was that God is absolutely sovereign over *this* universe, but that we don’t know his situation vis-a-vis other possible, prior universes. Also, it was contended that God’s having a physical body does not make him dependent on the laws of physics.

  5. The strange thing about this dichotomy is that Joseph Smith’s view is much closer to that of contemporary secular philosophy.

  6. I think it boils down to traditional Christians thinking creation ex nihilo makes God greater. Or that God cannot conceivably exist at all, if not for this concept being true. In other words, God is not God, if he was created or depended on another being or the universe. I think Mormons simply disagree philosophically.

  7. Mormons reject that the Father is this god that philosophers accepted as the first cause of all things. He is not the source of the law. However Mormons seem to implicitly accept that there is a universal order that comes from un-created nature, although this is almost never discussed.

  8. I agree that that seems to be implied. If God is not the source of all that exists, then he himself has a source, and that source must also be the source of the law which God himself obeys.

  9. I really see a fundamental flaw in the Mormon philosophy on this that can be answered by traditional Christian philosophy. That is a serious hole in Mormon belief that God is subject to something else, something outside of himself. If God is subject to something else, he is not supreme but rather dependent on that something else. That something else existed before there was a god.

  10. I’m not sure how that’s a flaw, though. I mean, of course it’s idolatry because it’s slanderous lies about God. But it’s not internally inconsistent or anything. Mormons don’t really claim that Heavenly Father is supreme in an absolute sense.

  11. I suppose we can disagree on what we describe as a flaw. I see it as an unanswerable aspect of Mormonism, and a troubling aspect at that, and therefore a flaw. What is that source that Mormons have to recognize that God is dependent on and its genesis? A vague acknowledgement of eternal principals is not helpful. It seems those hold the power apart from God, who must have mastered these to become God, but where did they come from, why, and a host of other questions…

    You are right, I think, to suggest it is not inconsistent with anything inside of Mormonism. However, the God of traditional Christianity can answer the questions, and I think the reluctance of Mormons to acknowledge this is indeed a flaw. Of course, the reluctance to recognize the answer is a part of Mormon idolatry.

  12. I don’t claim to completely understand or buy the JS/Mormon view on this, but Blake Ostler makes what I think is the clearest argument for why the Mormon view answers some real problems in traditional Christian view. In “Evil: A Real Problem for Evangelicals”. Even if your just trying to understand why someone would be troubled by the credal God, it’s an informative read.

    http://publications.maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/review/15/1/S00011-5176b2e8ee42912Ostler.pdf

  13. The funny thing about that Ostler review is that both Ostler and Mosser are wrong–or at least not engaging at a very deep level–about each other’s religions. I think that Mormonism is not subject to the problem of evil (due to God’s non-omnipotence), and Mosser’s objections don’t really engage with the whole of Mormon theology. Similarly, Ostler doesn’t really engage Plantinga’s defense correctly. (Although, that said, Mosser may be abusing Plantinga’s defense as well–Plantinga’s defense doesn’t solve the problem of evil and Plantinga has never claimed it does. Plantinga’s defense is merely a defense, i.e., it only demonstrates that the argument from evil does not logically disprove the existence of God.) Moreover, and again, this may really be Mosser’s fault for not making a good enough argument, Ostler doesn’t really engage with Christian thought on theodicy very deeply.

  14. I suppose we can disagree on what we describe as a flaw. I see it as an unanswerable aspect of Mormonism, and a troubling aspect at that, and therefore a flaw.

    Are you really suggesting that unanswerable questions that are troubling are flaws in theology? Because I have some bad news for you as a Christian.

    However, the God of traditional Christianity can answer the questions, and I think the reluctance of Mormons to acknowledge this is indeed a flaw.

    A flaw in Mormon engagement with Christianity, maybe, but not a flaw in the Mormon conception of God.

  15. I get that sense too Kullervo, that there is some poking and nudging going on, instead of a deep dive. But I still think the reality of evil, where it comes from, why God does or not stop it and what that says about God, are all central to the finding out who God is. I favor the Mormon position ( if not 100%) but all sides are compelling IMO.

  16. Kullervoo, that’s a fair point, and one where I recognize there are unanswerable questions within Christianity, as well, at least to the extent that we say something like, “I don’t know, but I have faith that God knows.” Somehow, I feel this is a different response to what the Mormon can answer about God and its faith.

    You bring up that Mormons may be flawed in how they engage with Christianity, and maybe that is precisely what I am talking about. Bear in mind that as a Christian, I have a knowledge of the truth about God, and any thing that describes something different is flawed. So, while conceding that internally, Mormons may be fine, but they address the wrong god and there are answers to questions that cannot point a Mormon believer to the correct, Christian God.

    Ultimately, my point is that the question of the forces outside of God within Mormonism can be answered by looking at our God, the source of all things. There is a power Mormon gods are dependent upon by necessity, and that power can be found in the person of the true God.

    I’ll add that I agree with you that the Mormon God cannot be God if he is dependent on another.

  17. Christian, I agree with you guys that the Ostler article is pretty shallow. I got the feeling that his argument is essentially that a God that damns a lot of people when he has the power to save them is not very good. This is hardly original or persuasive. As to Mosser and Plantinga, I likewise found them not very powerful or accurate.

    Anyway, it would be fair to bring up questions concerning and weaknesses in Christianity, as I would be naïve to think they do not exist.

  18. ” a God that damns a lot of people when he has the power to save them is not very good. This is hardly original or persuasive.”

    I agree its not often phrased in a deep way, but it can be. If there is genuine evil in the world, where does it come from?

  19. Certainly not from God. And God’s inaction to step in does not mean he lacks the ability to step in. I tend to think evil comes from the decision of Adam and Eve to eat the fruit. Its an answer you may not find fulfilling, but it is an adequate answer.

  20. Somehow, I feel this is a different response to what the Mormon can answer about God and its faith.

    The name for that is “special pleading.”

    Bear in mind that as a Christian, I have a knowledge of the truth about God, and any thing that describes something different is flawed. So, while conceding that internally, Mormons may be fine, but they address the wrong god and there are answers to questions that cannot point a Mormon believer to the correct, Christian God.

    Agreed, I’m just not sure I would use the word “flawed” to describe that problem. Just as a matter of connotation. It’s like you’re saying “the flaw in your argument is that you got the wrong answer.” But I’m not going to keep quibbling about semantics since you and I are essentially in agreement about the actual substance of the matter.

  21. The argument from evil essentially states that, given the existence of evil in the world, God cannot be simultaneously (a) all-powerful, (b) all-knowing and (c) all-good.

    Mormonism escapes the argument by conceding that God is not all-powerful. Plantinga’s defense addresses the “cannot.” But I think that the real weakness of the argument from evil is the difficulty in defining “all-good.” We can all sort of agree on definitions of all-powerful and all-knowing, since powerful and knowing are both adjectives with relatively concrete meanings. We know what it means to know a thing and to be able to do a thing, and we’re not likely to have an argument. The issue, however, is with “all-good.”

  22. Honestly, I don’t think of Mormonism as having a problem of evil, but Ostler’s adoption of the Irenaean theodicy to explain the existence of evil has pastoral implications that would mean Job’s friends/interlocutors were correct.

  23. Yeah, Kullervo, I suppose I would simply say that any wrong answer is by definition flawed. I do appreciate that my stating the answer may be flawed is not very helpful in describing the problem, though. Agreed on the quibbling part.

    As to Christian’s question on whether or not evil existed before Adam and Eve, I would have to grant that Lucifer existed before them, as he was the one who tempted them and led them to sin. However, Adam and Eve allowed sin to some to our world as humans, which is an important distinction.

    As to Lucifer, angels are created beings, too. Lucifer, an angel, rebelled against God, something not approved by God. Its not as if God told Lucifer to rebel and go evil on the world. Lucifer, much like Adam and Eve, chose his path, which was against God’s will.

    So did God create evil? No, he did not. And he does not approve of it or condone it. To the contrary, God wants us to be within his will, however because he has given us the ability to choose or choose otherwise, we will not all be in his will. I am not sure a just and loving God could be any other way. Just the same, to deny God’s ability to bring people to him or harden their hearts on his own accord is to deny God’s omnipotence. And I think God does do exactly that in some situations.

    So, I think there is an answer to the question of evil. Whether you find it compelling and correct is something I cannot say. Why God does what he does and why is upon God, not me. But just because I don’t understand everything God does is not an demonstration that there is no answer to the question of evil in the world.

  24. From my reading of 2 Nephi, and discussions with a smart LDS friend Sunday-school teacher, my understanding of current LDS teaching is that God actually wanted mankind (at least proto-humans Adam and Eve) to fall and leave God’s company, because the LDS see worldly suffering and trials (which would thus include being victims of evil) as man’s ‘training ground’ or ‘obstacle course’ to learn and progress and become holy. ‘Opposition in all things’ is necessary, I see. The logical conclusion is that sin and evil is part of God’s plan, as it enables progress and godliness, enables holiness to happen at all. I’m not sure if that’s a general LDS belief, or an individual one, or if I misunderstand. But, to me, the consequence of that view would be completely different worldview, and view of God, from historical Christianity.

  25. Chidi, I think you’ve got it, mostly. Although, I don’t see a “training ground” as that different than, what I’ve heard call, “progressive sanctification.

    “Why does God allow evil?” is a legit question, but a much easier one than, “How was evil created in a universe where nothing was created that God did not create.?”

  26. “Why does God allow evil?” is a legit question, but a much easier one than, “How was evil created in a universe where nothing was created that God did not create.?”

    How so?

  27. How some one can say that “the LDS concede God is not all powerful” is beyond me.
    But can God do anything? Can God commit evil? I think God has established laws which He follows. Anything short of this is sin.
    But Chidi does have it right. One of the very fundamental teachings in the Book of Mormon is God allows a “fallen” existence for the purpose of allowing spiritual growth among mankind.
    How is the Evangelical view different today verses the Evangelical view of 300 years ago on this subject?

  28. How some one can say that “the LDS concede God is not all powerful” is beyond me.

    In this context, “all powerful” means literally able to do any thing. Is Heavenly Father literally able to do any thing? Can he take away free agency? Can he just give mankind immortality and eternal life without the plan of salvation? Can he create intelligences? Can he create something out of nothing? Can he cause his own heavenly father to cease to exist?

    I think God has established laws which He follows.

    Is Heavenly Father subject to any eternal law or principle that has an origin outside of himself?

  29. gundek, with creatio ex materia, God can remain consistently outside of whatever you consider evil. The narrative is clear. He can have all power over that evil and still remain outside it.

    With creatio ex nihilo, we may disagree on what constitutes good or evil, but it doesn’t really matter, because God owns it all. At least at first blush. I know there are good explanations, I just think their harder to come by.

  30. Christian,

    I guess I don’t get it. If God is outside of what I consider evil, on what ground do I judge it as evil? And how does God have power over something and not have responsibility for it?

  31. Latter-day Saint checking in with my personal musings,

    I feel ill-equipped to join the discussion, I only have a couple semesters of freshman philosophy under my belt. (15 years ago). I’ve typed and deleted this comment a couple of times, having digressed into excessive wordiness on pointless diversions.

    I think too much is being made between the division between God and his creation. Is God merely the unmoved mover, the spark at the beginning that started everything, or does he yet hold dominion over the universe? And if he yet holds dominion over the universe is their truly a distinction between God and the universe. (Which I suppose is the question of evil.)

    Jared says, “Joseph Smith’s view entails that there is no single way of talking about absolutely everything.” I disagree for the following reason:

    The cosmology taught or hinted at by Joseph Smith does answer that God holds dominion over all of creation and does so according to his will.

    There exist intelligences which are neither created nor destroyed. “The mind or the intelligence which man possesses is co-equal [co-eternal] with God himself” (King Follet Discourse)

    God engendered from these intelligences sons and daughters, and prepared a plan for them to receive eternal life, the kind of life that he has, through the atonement of Jesus Christ.

    It seems reasonable that this same pattern preceded our relationship with God, and that it will continue following the exaltation of his children.

    If a person considers that in latter-day saint cosmology, any being called a God is united in purpose and understanding, (specifically Heavenly Father, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost, but with the justified supposition that there are countless beings current and future who may all be called gods), and takes this collective group, I think that if you squint a bit you see that thing which traditional Christian philosophy calls God – That to which everything else can trace its cause.

    Postscript:

    I think that I was a little over enthusiast in my post, and glossed over a point which I guess is rather fundamental. I wrote that God cannot create or destroy intelligences, and I believe this. Either you then have to include all such intelligences into that collective group that you call God as I described in the last paragraph, or you cannot trace the cause of everything back to God; which then differs from traditional Christian philosophy.

    So I have question for those with a greater philosophical background:

    Can aspects of God exert less than perfect dominion over the universe?

  32. Michael,

    Thanks for the comments and the participation. I will try to give a substantive response in a day or so.

  33. The fact that God presently sustains the universe and reigns sovereign over it does not in any way blur the distinction between creator and created. On the contrary, it reinforces it.

  34. The cosmology taught or hinted at by Joseph Smith does answer that God holds dominion over all of creation and does so according to his will.

    There exist intelligences which are neither created nor destroyed.

    These two statements are directly contradictory.

  35. Kullervo,

    What do you mean by “God presently sustains the universe and reigns sovereign over it”? Does this mean that God presently sustains the universe as it exists in this moment and then sustains the universe as it exists in the next. Does this mean that the state of God changes from moment to moment?

    With regards to your second comment, Does the omnipotence of God require that he have the power to will his own non-existence or never-existence?

  36. “Does the omnipotence of God require that he have the power to will his own non-existence or never-existence?”

    Another version of the “Can God create a rock so big he cannot carry it” question. Just remember that God won’t act contrary to his character. Could he do it? God is omnipotent, so yes, conceivably, but in doing so he would destroy his own character so he wouldn’t.

    The question is farcical, and unoriginal.

  37. These two statements are directly contradictory.

    The United States holds dominion over Missouri, but it sure didn’t create it (other than its status as a political sub-unit).

    I hold dominion over those who report to me, even though I did not give birth to them.

  38. A broad question, Christian, but quickly:

    A fallen angel who seeks to distort the truth and not allow people to enter eternal communion with God.

  39. And Missouri can declare independence and your subordinates can quit.

    Kind of sounds like . . . SATAN?! (a la Dana Carvey’s church lady)

    But seriously, God doesn’t allow people to quit?

    In any case, this misses the point of the analogies: you don’t have to have created something in order to have power/dominion over it. This is the case for pretty much anything for which the words “dominion” or “power over” apply.

  40. And, JT, you miss the point of the objections:

    You do not have complete dominion over your subordinates, nor does the US have complete dominion over MO (though some might say they have too much…)

    If your subordinates can quit, you no longer have dominion over them and if MO rebels, the US would no longer have dominion over MO. This is in contrast to God who always holds dominion over all of us.

    Does God allow people to quit? I dunno. I’ve said before that I don’t take a strong position on election, but I will take a strong position saying that God will always hold dominion over all of us.

    He’s God, I’m not. If he wants me in the game, no matter how much I want to quit, he’s not taking me out of the lineup. If he doesn’t, I am his to dispose of as he pleases. Either way, I am subject to God’s will and dominion.

    And contrasting that to what I understand the Mormon position on this, God has not always held, and may not always hold, dominion over us. In fact, I understand Mormonism does not believe God holds 100% dominion over us by way of human agency.

  41. In any case, this misses the point of the analogies: you don’t have to have created something in order to have power/dominion over it.

    If “intelligences cannot be created or destroyed,” then God does not really “hold dominion over them and do so according to his will,” because he can neither create nor destroy them.

  42. if MO rebels, the US would no longer have dominion over MO

    I believe this happened once in US history. How did that go down again?

    By your definition, has anything in this world ever had any dominion or power over someone or something? Or are those words meaningless unless applied to God in the very limited sense that you are using?

    He’s God, I’m not. If he wants me in the game, no matter how much I want to quit, he’s not taking me out of the lineup. If he doesn’t, I am his to dispose of as he pleases. Either way, I am subject to God’s will and dominion.

    Great, but why is God’s power over you contingent on God also having created every single part of you?

    And contrasting that to what I understand the Mormon position on this, God has not always held, and may not always hold, dominion over us. In fact, I understand Mormonism does not believe God holds 100% dominion over us by way of human agency.

    It really depends on what you mean by “dominion.” In the Mormon view, ever since God organized the intelligences (into Spirit bodies – which many would argue is when we become conscious beings) He has had power and dominion over us in the sense that parents have power and dominion over their young children. Again, in the Mormon view, God could certainly force us to do what He wants, but He allows us to act for ourselves, knowing that that is the only way we can truly progress.

  43. Kullervo – I guess I just don’t understand why one has to have created something out of nothing or has to have the power to completely obliterate from existence every particle of someone or something in order for them to have power or dominion over that someone or something.

  44. On a related note, Alma 42 in the Book of Mormon is another interesting read on the limits of God’s power. Three times the phrase “if so, God would cease to be God” is used, referring to what would happen if God acted outside the laws of justice. Who created these laws – God or otherwise – is not stated.

  45. Kullervo – I guess I just don’t understand why one has to have created something out of nothing or has to have the power to completely obliterate from existence every particle of someone or something in order for them to have power or dominion over that someone or something.

    If you will to completely obliterate from existence every particle of something but cannot, then you don’t really “hold dominion over it and do so according to your will,” do you?

  46. Simple, if God cannot create an intelligence (person?) he is contingent on the existence of the intelligence (person?) in order to realize his will. God does not have the free will to create, not create, or what to create. According the Ostler God’s free will is further constrained by the requirement to realize “conditions conducive to the growth and advancement of persons like us.”

    Who “persons like us” are is left unsaid.

  47. If you will to completely obliterate from existence every particle of something but cannot, then you don’t really “hold dominion over it and do so according to your will,” do you?

    So again, by this definition, no one on this earth has ever held dominion over anyone or anything.

    From my Mormon perspective this gets into the realm of “can God create an object so big that he can’t move it” – i.e., a nice intellectual exercise but beyond the realm of what God has revealed. We read that God is “all-powerful,” yes, but then we use our own definitions of what “all-powerful” means until we have essentially created God in the image of human reason and imagination.

  48. “So again, by this definition, no one on this earth has ever held dominion over anyone or anything”

    Only if you fail to distinguish between dominion as commanded in Gen 1:28 and the sovereignty of God as described in Romans 8:28.

    “From my Mormon perspective this gets into the realm of “can God create an object so big that he can’t move it” – i.e., a nice intellectual exercise but beyond the realm of what God has revealed”

    God’s act of creation has not been revealed?

  49. God’s act of creation has not been revealed?

    How God carried out that act of creation has not been revealed.

  50. “So again, by this definition, no one on this earth has ever held dominion over anyone or anything.

    From my Mormon perspective this gets into the realm of “can God create an object so big that he can’t move it” – i.e., a nice intellectual exercise but beyond the realm of what God has revealed. We read that God is “all-powerful,” yes, but then we use our own definitions of what “all-powerful” means until we have essentially created God in the image of human reason and imagination.”

    A) We are not God. God is God.
    B) Who here is trying to capture God in the image of human reason and imagination?

  51. slowcowboy wrote:

    “God is omnipotent, so yes, conceivably, but in doing so he would destroy his own character so he wouldn’t.”

    I think that in pretty much every case where the mormon perspective says God will not do something, it comes down to this idea that you have expressed here. Gd would cease to be God.

    God will not abridge the moral agency of man. Both the demands of Justice and Mercy must be satisfied.

    slowcowboy, you called my question about a nuanced understanding of God’s omnipotence farcical and unoriginal. You are correct it is completely unoriginal. When Home Simpson starts to think on it, you are not forging any new paths. But I do think it is an important question in that it invites us to use a more nuanced definition of omnipotence than simply “the ability and freedom to do anything”

    When the Book of Mormon says, “Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God.”

    Does this mean to you that mormons believe in a different type of omnipotence, or just that the mormon understanding of the nature of God means that he won’t because it destroy his own character.

  52. Michael Smith, I don’t believe the Mormon God is omnipotent, for reasons I, Kullervo, and Gundek have explained. In the truest sense of the word, omnipotence means the power to do anything.

    Mormons have a limited God and is therefore not omnipotent. So, to answer your question on whether I think Mormons believe in a different type of omnipotence, I think Mormons have to redefine the term to claim their God is omnipotent.

  53. slowcowboy,

    I still think you are not being sufficiently nuanced with you definition of omnipotence. Does the omnipotence of God mean that he can change the rules of logic? For example, so that the negation of a false conditional statement always results in a true statement, or that a conditional statement is not equivalent to its contrapositive?

    You previously dismissed one of my questions as farcical, long since asked and dismissed, but indulge me with the simple answer that I am overlooking.

    If the definition of omnipotence is simply the ability to do anything, and this is a true description of one of God’s attributes, Can God create a stone that he himself cannot move?

    Or turning to the classic question of evil, Why does God subject people to evil and suffering? It seems either God wants evil and suffering to exist for its own sake or to achieve some other purpose. If God wants evil and suffering to exist for its own sake, then it seems that God himself has the attributes of being evil and sadistic. If it is to achieve some other purpose, then doesn’t the omnipotence of God mean that he has the power to achieve that purpose without evil and suffering. So either God does not have the power to achieve that purpose without evil and suffering, or God creates evil and suffering for its own sake and God has the attributes of being evil and sadistic.

    I propose that the mormon answer to the question is that God has a purpose that cannot be achieved without allowing evil and suffering. In this sense, yes, my mormon understanding of God is that there is something he does not have the power to do. He does not have the power to achieve his purposes without allowing pain, evil, and suffering to occur.

    I absolutely believe that God exercises his omnipotent power and omniscient understanding to prevent every shred of evil and suffering that is not necessary to achieve his purposes.

  54. slowcowboy,

    I’ve read my previous post again after posting. I’m sorry for being so snarky.

    I’d like to here your answer to the immovable stone question. I think that the most logically consistent answer is to understand anything to mean anything possible.

    Omnipotence literally means “all power”. All power =/= power to anything (included impossible things)

    I think that All Power means that God posses any power, dominion, or influence that exists. It means the power to do anything that is possible.

    This is somewhat related to the translated words of John, “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

  55. “So either God does not have the power to achieve that purpose without evil and suffering, or God
    creates evil and suffering for its own sake and God has the attributes of being evil and sadistic.”

    You leave out an option: God allows evil not because he cannot overcome it or lacks the power to do so, but because he has given mankind the ability to choose. His decision to not intervene is not an indication of a lack of power, but rather simply a decision to give us freedom.

    The genesis of evil is not from God, but from us, from Satan, who also had the capacity to choose.

  56. “This is somewhat related to the translated words of John, “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.””

    So, did God make your soul?

  57. So, did God make your soul?

    Yes, of course.

    Now then we play ping-pong with defintions.

    In LDS theology, the soul is defined as the union of the spirit and body.

    The pop culture soul is mostly closely related to the LDS understanding of the spirit of a person. God created the spirit of every person and made them his sons and daughters.

    Part of the spirit and soul is an eternal intelligence. Not much is know about the nature of an intelligence other than it is eternal. I don’t really think an intelligence really fits what is commonly understood to be a soul. I don’t think that there is any evidence that it is sapient, conscious, or can even influence or interact with anything else by itself. (Of course lack evidence is not evidence of lack, I really don’t know what the nature of an intelligence is.)

  58. From slowcowboy – “You leave out an option: God allows evil not because he cannot overcome it or lacks the power to do so, but because he has given mankind the ability to choose. His decision to not intervene is not an indication of a lack of power, but rather simply a decision to give us freedom.”

    I feel like this is dancing around the issue. Either he has the power to do anything (including the impossible) or he can only do that which is possible. If he has the power to do ANYTHING, he has the power to give mankind the freedom to choose while still preventing evil, suffering, and pain. So again, the existence of such things must mean that he wills them specifically to exist for their own sake. Or he lacks the power to grant mankind their ability to choose without also allowing evil and suffering to exist.

  59. I already answered the question, Michael Smith. God cannot do anything contrary to his nature. He cannot lie. He cannot commit sin. He cannot cease to exist. He cannot do something that is contradictory. The question itself is automatically contradictory and self defeating.

    The question of whether God can create a rock so big he cannot lift can be rephrased as such:

    “Is there any way that the God who can make all things can make a rock so big that the God who can lift all things cannot lift it?”

    Its silly, and meaningless, and logically impossible. Ultimately, its a designed as a trap to suggest that God cannot do something. Either he can make a rock so big, but then he can’t lift it. Or he can’t make it at all. Either way, he can’t do something. Its not a question at all: its a trap.

    Its not original because it has been used by many skeptics for quite some time.

  60. “So again, the existence of such things must mean that he wills them specifically to exist for their own sake.”

    No, it doesn’t mean God MUST will them specifically.

  61. slowcowboy,

    Of course it is not an original thought. I’ve never claimed to be a profound or piercing philosopher. I do dislike being luimped in with skeptics. The only reason I brought it up a couple of times is because such a big deal was being made that mormons were limiting what omnipotence meant when the definition is simply and obviously, “The power to do anything.”

    “God cannot do anything contrary to his nature”

    I absolutely agree, and I think that is the general mormon understanding of the meaning of the omnipotence of God as well.

    So I don’t think we are really disagreeing about the meaning of omnipotence, I think the difference is in the understanding of God’s nature.

    Going back to a previous strain of thought then. Is the mormon understanding that the intelligence of man is co-eternal with God a limit on the omnipotence of God? I would argue that this is only a limitation of omnipotence if concurrently it was admitted that God has the power to create a God equal in all respects and co-eternal but separate.

    Specifically, I would say that asking whether something that cannot be created or destroyed can be created or destroyed is nonsensical. A person may argue that such things do not exist, but the existence of such things do not change the character of omnipotence.

  62. >>“So again, the existence of such things must mean that he wills them specifically to exist for their own sake.”

    >No, it doesn’t mean God MUST will them specifically.

    I want to understand your thoughts here. We both know that what you say won’t cause me to change my beliefs, but I do want to understand your viewpoint better, and I don’t know why this is your conclusion.

    If God has both the power to (1) create Men and Angels with free will in a universe that never has or will have evil or suffering, and (2) create Men and Angels with free will in a universe that suffers from evil, suffering, pain, greed, etc., why then does the existence of (2) not imply that God specifically willed such things into existence.

    Again, my mormon solution is that he didn’t will such things into existence. He couldn’t grant free will to Men and Angels without allowing evil, suffering, pain, etc. to exist.

    The neat thing about mormon theology isn’t just that the question of evil is answered by valuing free will over evil and suffering, but that every single individual affirmatively elected to subject themselves to such things.

  63. Michael Smith, I asked this earlier:

    “This is somewhat related to the translated words of John, “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.””

    So, did God make your soul?

    If he did not, then there is another limitation on God’s omnipotence. And there is nothing contradictory about God creating something, including us and our souls.

    The assumption you seem to have is not that God is omnipotent, but that WE are eternal and uncreated. Organized perhaps, but not created. If we are eternal then we share attributes with God that make the traditional understanding of the omnipotence of God difficult to fathom.

    See, I am stating that we can be, and were, created, from nothing. As Gundek indicated above, God spoke and we were created. That’s it, nothing more to it. And if we were created, that really changes your entire equation.

    You have to demonstrate how God did not create us. The Bible is replete with the idea that we are created, as is the world and everything else in it.

  64. >The assumption you seem to have is not that God is omnipotent, but that WE are eternal and uncreated.

    My assumption is that God IS omnipotent, but that there is some part of us that is eternal and uncreated.

    I know that you read my answer when you asked if God created our souls. I think that I answered it without dodging anything.

    The Bible does say that he created us, and I agree with this. He created our bodies, he created our spirit, he has provided the means and has willed that every person that has ever lived will have immortality through the resurrection. But you are correct when you say that I believe that there is some part, somehow, of man is eternal and uncreated.

    Does this contradict the Bible? Well certainly you can interrupt that way, but I think that there are other ways that it can be interpreted that cannot be casually dismissed. For example, what do you consider the soul? Is it similar to the LDS concept of the spirit? If so, where in the Bible does it say that God created the souls of man? (I really don’t know if this issue is addressed, and I haven’t found anything about it, in my short search)

    The closest I have found is that God breathed into Adam the breathe of life. While I personally think that this is the joining of the Spirit and Body (Both created things), I think that it could be interrupted that this Breathe of life, breathed into Adam was not actually created, but either uncreated (since God is merely putting or breathing it in Adam instead of creating it) or a portion of himself (an eternal being and uncreated).

  65. “You have to demonstrate how God did not create us. The Bible is replete with the idea that we are created, as is the world and everything else in it.”

    Are you really asking me to demonstrate that God did not create, what in mormon theology is called, the intelligence of man?

    Easy enough; God said so through a prophet. (You may not consider that a persuasive argument.)

    Or, are you asking me to show that the Bible is compatible with a theology that has a co-eternal intelligences within it?

    Here is my attempt:
    God created our spirits. He created our bodies. He joined them together to form a living soul. That living soul is subject to death, but will live again in the resurrection. God created spirits from intelligences which are uncreated.

    Does any of that contradict the Bible? Or does it merely address the creation of man with greater specificity than the Bible including details that you do not believe to be true?

  66. Michael,

    Just to clarify my position on omnipotence, in explaining God’s omnipotence it is sometimes easier to maintain the connection between God’s character (Good, just, holy etc.), God’s will, and God’s power. Omnipotence can be defined negatively as saying that there is absolutely NO limit on God’s power to execute his will.

    In this case answering the question “Does God have the power to make a rock so big that he cannot lift it?” becomes more of a question about God’s character and will than God’s power. Restating the question in light of all of God’s perfections (attributes) we get a question like this: “Would a perfectly good, just, holy, righteous, all knowing God will to create a rock that is completely outside of his control?”

    So basically I come to the exact opposite conclusion Smith does in Alma 42:15, the works of justice cannot be destroyed because God does not cease to be God.

    On another note, creation is a critical presupposition to the classic “problem of evil” based on an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent God allowing evil to exist. If God does not create either intelligences (persons) or matter (all of material reality) then God simply cannot be held responsible for the existence of evil. Then, the more practical question, becomes does the God who cannot create have a solution for evil or is evil just an ever present reality?

  67. Michael:

    A definition of “omnipotence” that I have heard, which seems to make sense to me (though I’m not a trained philosopher either), is not that he can do anything, but that he is not limited in what he can do by anything outside himself.

  68. Michael:

    You write, “I don’t think that there is any evidence that it is sapient, conscious, or can even influence or interact with anything else by itself.”

    This is something that has never made sense to me. How can something be “an intelligence” without actually being intelligent? The root word of “intelligence” has the meaning “to understand”. How can something which is neither sapient nor conscious have understanding? Wouldn’t an “intelligence” at a bare minimum need to have awareness of something in order to merit that name?

  69. Michael Smith,

    “Easy enough; God said so through a prophet. (You may not consider that a persuasive argument.)” You’re right. Its not persuasive.

    As to the interpretation of giving more specificity, also not persuasive.

    Its interesting to note how you keep pushing nuance and specificity. This sort of begs the question of why such nuance and specificity is necessary.

    JT wrote above, “We read that God is “all-powerful,” yes, but then we use our own definitions of what “all-powerful” means until we have essentially created God in the image of human reason and imagination.” Food for thought considering it is the Mormon who is looking to provide more specificity and nuance such that God can be better understood in human terms…

  70. Much of this discussion has been on the origins of evil and whether God tolerates it. It occurred to me that God promises destruction to the evil throughout the Bible. One who promises to destroy the evil is not one who tolerates it.

  71. A definition of “omnipotence” that I have heard, which seems to make sense to me (though I’m not a trained philosopher either), is not that he can do anything, but that he is not limited in what he can do by anything outside himself.

    Augustine goes into this in the City of God, but God’s omnipotence doesn’t consist of literally being able to do anything, because that would include the ability to cede his omnipotence, which would actually make God less powerful. More properly, God’s omnipotence consists of the ability to do anything he wills, and he only wills things in accordance with his nature.

    So God actually can’t make a burrito so hot that even he can’t eat it.

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