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Friday, May 06, 2005

Mormon Christology Q1: Being of God

The first set of questions I have really centers on how Mormon's understand the being of God. I'm going to start by trying to lay out the facts as I understand them:
  • We Evangelicals think that the phrase 'God is Trinity' (meaning one being ontologically, with three distinct persons) best summarizes the meaning of the biblical data.
  • Robinson says "Many Evangelicals would be surprised to learn that Mormons can accept the formula of "one God in three persons." However, we believe that the oneness of these three is not an ontological oneness of being...but a oneness of mind, purpose, power, and intent...The three persons are one God...but [what] is said at Nicea and is rejected by Mormons is that these three persons are ontologically one being" (How Wide the Divide, p 129)
  • one the next page Robinson continues: "Latter-day Saints believe the biblical concept of 'oneness'...is revealed at John 17:21-23, Rom 12:5, 1 Cor 12:12-13, Gal 3:28, etc. where individual disciples can also be 'one' in the Father and Son, or 'one' in Christ, or even 'one' w/ each other in Christ (p 130).
  • then one page further: "Obviously, some Evangelical will tell me that my belief in three separate and distinct beings adding up to one God is illogical and therefore amounts to polytheism. While it may seem illogical that Mormons believe a divine Father, Son and Holy Ghost who are separate and distinct beings still only add up to one God, it is nevertheless what we believe...thus there are three divine persons, but only one Godhead." (p 132).
Ok, so here are my specific questions:

a) it seems to me that Mormons would then interpret the OT concept of "God being one" (cf. Deut 6) as simply the "oneness of mind, purpose, power, and intent" rather than a oneness of "being". Yes? No? Clarify? The overarching impression I get when reading the OT contextually is that God is opposed to other divinities on the basis of their not-being-him, rather than on the basis of their not-being-unified-with-him. How would Mormon's address this?

b) it seems to me that for Mormons, there is this single thing called "godhead" and within that there are three "beings" (where each of these beings is a distinct "person" - Father, Son, Holy Spirit). Yes? No? Clarify? If that is the case, what is the "godhead" if not a "being"?

c) it seems to me that Mormons are saying there is "one being" (God, Godhead) which is simultaneously "three beings" (F, S, HS). Is this what Mormons actually think? To me, this to present a quandry:
  • either it implies a real logical contradiction by saying "1 something" is also "3 of the same somethings" (which the Evangelical doctrine of Trinity avoids by definition)
  • or else "Godhead" is something different than "being" ('being' in the first case is different than 'being' in the second case)
  • or else it devolves into polytheism (many gods)
  • or else it devolves into pantheism (we are all part of the divine being).
Robinson simply seems reluctant to answer. Would someone care to clarify?

d) how is it possible for God to be all-powerful and all-knowing while at the same time existing as more than one being? By definition, it would seem that only one being could truly be all-powerful (unless we are going to redefine omnipotence, or devolve back into pantheism). Can someone explain?

e) regardless of our common vocabularies and Scriptures, it seems to me that at the end of the day Evangelicals and Mormons are fundamentally talking about two very different divine beings here - the Evangelical's "God" seems ontologically different than (and incompatible with!) the Mormon "God." This difference seems such that we cannot both be right; someone must be wrong. Agree? Disagree?

Ok, that's enough for now. Before you respond, please read the ground rules...

50 Comments:

At 5:37 AM, May 07, 2005, Blogger Christian said...

Just an additional comment. I had the following email response this morning, which I will relay anonymously:
---------------------
I think you are off-base. "The overarching impression I get when reading the OT contextually is that God is opposed to other divinities on the basis of their not-being-him" doesn't really fit the textual Elohim (a plural) and the kingship of the gods motif that is laced through the Elohim accounts.

Not to mention, that the traditional Christian God of the first century is very much in accord with the LDS view.

What you should really state is

it seems to me that at the end of the day Hellenic Christians and historical Christians (including Nestorians, Mormons and others) are fundamentally talking about the same being, God the Father, as the King of Heaven. The conflict comes in the Hellenic rejection of the first Christian creed in Acts which includes the definition that God made Jesus the Christ and a conflict over the concept of substance -- a concept and debate alien to the Bible and interjected only some three hundred or so years after Christ by the neoplatonist movement. This difference seems such that we cannot both be right; someone must be wrong, though mindful of John's statements that it does not yet appear what we shall be when we become like Christ it is very possible that none of us should have the certainty of visualization that is usually expressed. If the mature apostle John, after spending forty days in the presence of the risen Christ being tutored by him, and after his visions and knowledge, was not certain, it is impressive just how certain men can be based on grafting on Plato and Greek concepts to the Bible.

Agree or disagree? Are discussions about the substance of God and the nature of the Godhead subject to the logic of mortals, viewed through an Hellenic prism and used to reject the Nestorians, Arians and other historical Christian groups and the original Christian community or not?

 
At 5:58 AM, May 07, 2005, Blogger Christian said...

Now in response to that, a couple of administrative comments here:

1. I really appreciate the fact that this person took the time to respond. Thank you!

2. That said, it's really hard to do much with this because its been largely reframed w/ different language. It would be much more helpful to simply have responded, 'Yes to the assertion of a.1 (oneness of mind), response to a.2: Elohim is pl and we see kingship of gods motif everywhere'.

It will really help me if you can try to address what I'm asking in (more or less) the way that I'm asking it. This is NOT because my way is right or best, but rather because in order to understand what something means, I have to articulate it slightly differently - in an effort to convey what I am hearing and understanding you to mean. So complete restatements in different language put us right back at square one.

3. Along these lines, the whole "philosophy" vs. "language of the Bible" thing just doesn't do anything for me (and Robinson seems to use this a lot). This is not a criticism of you folks. I just believe everyone does philosophy, whether consciously or not. As soon as we to explain what words _mean_ we are philosophizing. Same thing w/ theology - _everyone_ has a theology (what they say about God), even those who aren't Xian or Mormon.

What I mean by all this is that the argument that our Xian understanding is just a 'product of Hellenistic thinking' (philosophy) vs. 'we just use language of the Bible' carries absolutely no weight with me. To be human is to believe that language actually _means_ something, and both Mormons, early Xians, late Xians etc, all mean something. I am interested in understanding what each group actually _means_ when they affirm the biblical data.

I want to know what Mormons mean by what they say, and to say 'we mean what the Bible says' translates as intellectual evasion to someone operating in my worldview. This is not to slam you or even to say you're wrong - I just want you to know where I'm coming from so you can think about how to frame your answers most productively.

I hope that is helpful and doesn't further muddy the waters...

 
At 6:04 AM, May 07, 2005, Blogger Christian said...

Whoops. That last paragraph sounded a tad harsh. What I mean is someone says "I believe God is three in one" and I ask, "what do you mean by that" and they respond by saying the exact same thing over and over, to me that comes across as evading my question. I'm NOT saying the person who posted was trying to do that. I'll stop now. :-)

 
At 7:07 AM, May 08, 2005, Blogger Stephen said...

Of course starting the discussion by stating "Mormons or Christians" does tend to make for harsh framing that LDS are likely to reject and not be willing to work within.

Which is why, in any response I would make, I would refuse to cooperate with your framing. LDS are Christian, as much as Arians, Nestorians, Coptics or the primative Church of 100 A.D.

But to address your arguments.

One has to look at language and decide:

(a) do I follow the Dark Ages "traditions" of the majority? If so, at some point one is led to become either Catholic or Orthodox, rejecting small heresies such as the Baptists, Methodists and Low Church Anglicans.

But, of course, the interpretation of the majority was firmly in grip when the crowd responded to Pilate with "Crucify him" which provides an uncomfortable contrast with the minority viewpoint that he was the Son of God.

(b) one decides that they can, by pure force of intellect, reconstruct the original texts and come to true meaning. Claims to be correct in this require merely that one claim to have a clearer, more forceful intellect than anyone else on the subject -- or at least those one disagrees with.

(c) one agrees with Christ when he promises that he will not leave us without guidance, and follows the Spirit and its witness, in connection with studying it out for oneself.

But most arguments that go "you aren't Christian because your heresy is further away from the council at Nicea and the Roman Catholic Church than my heresy" tend merely to state that most historical Christians, including those who wrote the Clemintine Recognitians, the Gospel of Mark, the Book of Acts and the Pearl, they really aren't Christians because they do not fit within a particular Greek or Hellenic philosophical overlay that changed the entire meaning of the scriptures and that the writer has not brought themselves to expand beyond.

It isn't so much that everyone has a philosophy and therefore philosophy and religion are intermixed, it is that very specific premises of a particular philosophy (neoplatonism) are what led to the creation of the doctrine of the trinity -- a doctrine that quite clearly did not exist a hundred or so years before.

Your rejection of that framing looks like intellectual evasion to many, though it is probably more a result of rigidity in thinking, which you have acknowledged.

Bottom line.

The early historical Christian view nas the LDS Christian view are the same. Many of the criticisms you have of the LDS are similar to those that philosophers and others had of the early Christians (though you are by no means as condencending).

That causes many to conclude that reading the texts in the way that early Christians read the texts, without the presuppositions of Greek philosophy, means that the LDS are as Christian as any Christian group.

The only methods of rejecting that position are methods that require either embraching logic that requires one to become Roman Catholic (and I know those who have done that, some very good people) or to set oneself up as an authority -- either as a scribe (by pure force of intellect) or a prophet (by the gift of the Spirit).

My two bits.

 
At 7:10 AM, May 08, 2005, Blogger Stephen said...

In any case, of course, a dividing line that starts off "Mormons aren't Christians" comes across as both pedantic and insulting. You've just insisted that many Christian sects are't Christian, rejected the early Christian church and insisted that you are either the pinacle of mental accomplishment or a prophet of God (which you appear to disclaim).

Hope that helps you see why some might reject your framing and not feel inclined to discuss the issues with you. You've already implied that you know the answers and that discussion is not going to be fruitful.

 
At 9:15 PM, May 08, 2005, Anonymous Wayne Van De Graaff said...

Hi Christian,
Thank you so much for being interested in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I'm Wayne, an active LDS member. I think it's great that you are trying to learn more about Mormonism and not only that you are looking into it but also that you have posted your interest in your blog.
There is a book called Restoring the Ancient Church by Barry Robert Bickmore that answers all five of your questions on our view of God and the Godhead. Bickmore does a fine job of explaining our beliefs and what early Christianity believed. He is doctrinally accurate with doctrines of the Church referenced to Joseph Smith.
The book is online. Here is the link
http://www.fairlds.org/pubs/restoring/
and here is the chapter on the nature of God,
http://www.fairlds.org/pubs/restoring/chap03.html
Sorry I can't write more at the moment,
Wayne Van De Graaff

 
At 3:13 PM, May 09, 2005, Blogger HP said...

Christian, I am active LDS and believe that you are sincere. Here's a brief response. You should probably know that I am not pretending to explain "official" church policy or dogma and that I am not in a position to do so. Please keep that in mind when responding to my comments.

I should also say that, in my understanding, the LDS church is has more of a henotheistic outlook than a mono-,poly-, or pantheistic one. We don't deny other gods, they just don't really have anything to do with us. Amongst other things, this goes along with my contextual reading of the OT (at least, the 1st temple portion thereof).

"The overarching impression I get when reading the OT contextually is that God is opposed to other divinities on the basis of their not-being-him, rather than on the basis of their not-being-unified-with-him."

I would agree, with a caveat. As stated above, I take a different contextual approach to the OT, so you'll have to keep that in mind. Also, I don't want you to misunderstand my henotheism. I believe that there is one God for this earth. When a Christian, Jew, Muslim, whatever prays to God, they pray to Him. For other earths, whatever that may mean, I don't know and don't care. It doesn't apply to me or my salvation.

The other response to this reminds me of The Last Battle in the Chronicles of Narnia. There was the true believer in whatever Lewis's pretend-Islam was. That person, it turns out, was claimed by Aslan at the end of the book, because they had lived a life approved by Aslan, even if they had never worshipped him in name. Think about the patriarch's in Genesis. The text is Exodus explicitly states that no-one knew the name of God prior to Moses. So Abraham, Jacob, Isaac, Noah, and the others were all worshipping him under some other name. I don't think that the "not-being-him" thing matters to God if what you are doing gets you back to Him.

I haven't answered your question yet though.

"the OT concept of "God being one" (cf. Deut 6) as simply the "oneness of mind, purpose, power, and intent" rather than a oneness of "being". Yes? No? Clarify?"

As I understand it, not really. As I understand it, we are pretty clear on Christ being the God of the OT. He acted under the authority of God the Father and in unity with Him, but Christ seems to be the conduit through which all of God the Father's business is conducted on earth.

"it seems to me that for Mormons, there is this single thing called "godhead" and within that there are three "beings" (where each of these beings is a distinct "person" - Father, Son, Holy Spirit). Yes? No? Clarify? If that is the case, what is the "godhead" if not a "being"?"

I imagine it as more of a quorum or group of beings unified in purpose and understanding. Those beings act as one in Robinson's unificatory sense, yet are separate beings with roles within the quorum. The Holy Ghost tends to be the way in which God communicates with humanity. The Son appears to be the means whereby humanity approaches the Father. The Father seems to be the ultimate guy in charge. All of this is tentative pending further revelation or understanding (the glory of an open canon).

"it implies a real logical contradiction by saying "1 something" is also "3 of the same somethings" (which the Christian doctrine of Trinity avoids by definition)"

I am confused. As I understand it, the Christian doctrine of Trinity avoids this quandary "by definition" literally. You defined it as such and therefore don't have to explain it. I just read the Nicene creed online to confirm this suspicion, but that may not be the best source text. Could you point me to another? In any case, if my understanding of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity is correct, doesn't that just add up to a tautology? How is that any more logical than the LDS approach?

"it seems to me that Mormons are saying there is "one being" (God, Godhead) which is simultaneously "three beings" (F, S, HS). Is this what Mormons actually think?"

If I make the Godhead a divine quorum, then those in the Quorum, when properly authorized, are able to act in the name of God, under the title of God. Hence, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.

"how is it possible for God to be all-powerful and all-knowing while at the same time existing as more than one being? By definition, it would seem that only one being could truly be all-powerful (unless we are going to redefine omnipotence, or devolve back into pantheism). Can someone explain?"

I fail to see how one omnipotent and omniscient being precludes the existence of another. Please explain.

"the Christian "God" seems ontologically different than (and incompatible with!) the Mormon "God.""

I will have to plead ignorance here. I don't understand the doctrine of the Trinity well enough to respond to this (as is likely obvious from the above). Could I suggest another way to judge in place of the theological marginalia of our paths to God? By their fruits ye shall know them, right?

 
At 8:05 PM, May 09, 2005, Blogger Christian said...

Stephen: I'm extremely sorry if you took my comments as pedantic and insulting. That was definitely not my intent, and I tried to be careful and precise, so...I'm not really sure how to proceed from there.

Wayne: Thanks for that link - I will check it out (but its going to take me a bit to get there)

John: I really appreciate your response (both tone and content). I think this will be very helpful for me. I may have some follow up questions, but as I told Wayne, it's going to take me a bit before I can respond - I'm really under the gun w/ finals right now. I WILL work through it, though, because I really want to understand how you view the world. So thanks for your input and your patience...

 
At 8:38 AM, May 11, 2005, Blogger Kaimi said...

Christian,

A few thoughts:

(I'm active LDS, though I'm not a philosopher or theologian by training).

a. We believe that Jehovah, the God in the Old Testament, was Jesus Christ. He acted under the direction of His Father. He created the earth. He was the only God figure that the Old Testament prophets knew.

b. Saying "The Godhead is made up of three beings" is like saying "the family is made up of three people." The Godhead acts together, in perfect unity of purpose. But they are three beings. The term "godhead" refers to the group, as the term "family" would refer to a group of people.

c. Not quite, but it's tricky.

God the Father is God. His Son is Jesus. The Holy Ghost makes up the third member of the Godhead.

Jesus is the Son of God. He is also a God, in a sense -- He weilds the power of God, and shares in God's purpose. However, He is not God, the way that the Father is.

When we deal with "God" in the scriptures, sometimes we're dealing with Jesus, who acts as God the Father's agent and servant throughout much of the scriptures. And sometimes we're dealing with God the Father.

d. I could be wrong, but I believe that our doctrine of omniscience / omnipotence relates to God the Father. It's a little tricky again, because Jesus the Son has perfect harmony of purpose with His Father, and probably shares in God the Father's knowledge.

e. I'm not sure. It seems to me that both Mormons and other Christians have a very hard time describing these concepts. Saying that it all has to add up ignores the centuries of disagreements over these sorts of concepts, which have led to the Orthodox-Catholic split, the Protestant reformation, and other divisions. No group seems to be very good at describing the nature of God; I don't think that Mormons are unique in that respect.

(Also, it's my understanding that the Mormon perception of God is similar in some ways to the Orthodox perception, which I believe differentiates between God's "being" and His "energies." To frame the Mormon view in Orthodox terms, we would say that Christ and the Holy Ghost share perfectly in God's energies, but not in his being. That's not a perfect description of the LDS view, I think, but it's a pretty good approximation, and it can be done using a Christian vocabulary that's a thousand years old).

 
At 9:13 AM, May 11, 2005, Blogger W. Lyle Stamps said...

Hi. I'm LDS, but won't try to answer your question. However, I can suggest a new work to supplement Robinson. Robert Millet has just published, via Eerdmans, a book called "The Christ of the Latter-day Saints."

May I suggest you clarify your request? Are you looking for the belief of the "average" LDS? Or a trained "theologian"? Or a doctrinal authority? The answer is important because the comments you get here will be "average" LDS. Robinson & Millet are as close to LDS "theologians" as you are likely to get. However, none of these first two carry much weight. Only the Prophet/President of the LDS Church & the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles can truly speak to your questions.

http://www.eerdmans.com/shop/product.asp?p_key=0802828760

 
At 12:45 PM, May 11, 2005, Blogger Clark Goble said...

Christian, just to add to the prior comments, I think that given a careful LDS position we'd just say that issues regarding ontological unity aren't dealt with either in the scriptures or even in LDS theology. While most Mormons do the "one heart and mind" response, I think it is perfectly compatible with LDS theology to assert that there is more to the unity than this. Indeed some figures in LDS Theology, such as Orson Pratt, held that there was a unity among the divine persons that was more than what you typically hear LDS saying.

The fact is that LDS simply would say that asking questions from the framework of Greek philosophy avoids the problem of whether Greek absolutism is the proper way to think about the Godhead. Certainly there is nothing in the Bible suggesting that these Greek modes of thought are the best way to conceive of the ancient Hebrew mindset. (Even acknowledge that around the period of Christ there were Hellenized Jews like Philo thinking of the Hebrew notions of God in terms of middle Platonism)

Put an other way I suspect that the LDS perspective is that the figures in the evolution of the doctrine of the Trinity were simply asking questions unanswerable in a clear fashion by the scriptures. That God is One is something all LDS accept. That there are separate persons is also something all LDS accept. To move beyond that one must also move beyond the scriptures. The creeds commit most Christians to a particular way of reading the scriptures. But that is pure tradition and not something entailed by the Bible.

 
At 12:51 PM, May 11, 2005, Blogger Clark Goble said...

Just to add to my above comments, I think that certain trends the last few years in different ways of thinking about the Trinity are much more conducive to the thought of at least some Mormons. For instance the critique of some in postmodern theology do not see the ousia as a static Platonic totality. Rather it is a kind of groundless abyss more in line with the mystic tradition. (I'm here thinking of say Jean-Luc Marion or Kevin Hart for instance)

As I've said many times, I think the main concern of Mormons isn't really the Trinity (although some have bigger problems with it). Rather I think the biggest issues are creation ex nihilo and whether there is an unbridgable ontological difference between God and man. (Pretty much also tied into the notion of creation ex nihilo)

 
At 1:35 PM, May 11, 2005, Blogger HP said...

Curse you Clark for giving a better and more intelligent answer than I did!

 
At 2:01 PM, May 11, 2005, Anonymous Nate Oman said...

To expand on Clark's comments, I think that it is important to realize that when you start pitching theological questions at the level of detail that you are asking them you must realize that there is no single Mormon theology but rather numerous Mormon theologies. To the extent that Mormons affirm doctrinal unity it is a unity that is not expressed in the philosophical categories that you are employing, but is more likely to take the form of narratives and various historical claims about authority. This is not to deny that there is an important tradition of abstract theology in Mormonism, but is secondary, regarded with suspicion by many Mormons, and does not come to agreement on these sorts of questions.

 
At 3:23 PM, May 11, 2005, Blogger john f. said...

Another difficulty you will encounter is that the vast majority of Latter-day Saints, by my observation (I am one of them), believe that God the Father and Jesus Christ each individually have a resurrected body of flesh and bone, as witness by hundreds in the New Testament. Belief in the literal physical resurrection of the flesh permanently alienates Latter-day Saints from Neoplatonic formulations of "the Trinity" in the creeds, which presuppose (based on their particular philosophical foundations) the impossibility of anything physical in the heavenly realm, or in the presence of God, where only ideal forms dwell.

To make things more difficult for your dialogue, the vast majority of Latter-day Saints take this belief straight from the experience of Joseph Smith, who emphatically stated that he saw God the Father and Jesus Christ, as two separate, resurrected beings. As the saying goes, Joseph Smith learned more about the (ontological) nature of God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ than all the treatises of Neoplatonic medieval Christian apology and philosophy had been able to figure out. (This sentiment was repeated again by President Hinckley in the recent world General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when he said "I invite you to read that definition [of the Trinity in the Nicean Creed] and compare it with the statement of the boy Joseph. He simply says that God stood before him and spoke to him. Joseph could see Him and could hear Him. He was in form like a man, a being of substance. Beside Him was the resurrected Lord, a separate being, whom He introduced as His Beloved Son and with whom Joseph also spoke. I submit that in the short time of that remarkable vision Joseph learned more concerning Deity than all of the scholars and clerics of the past." [http://www.lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-520-27,00.html]) In other words, the majority of Latter-day Saints will not engage with you in a discussion of these things in philosophical terms; they will dismiss the medieval rationalizations of Neoplatonic scholar/clerics as the (perhaps well-meaning) efforts of limited human beings trying to make sense of truths that simply had gone lost with the deaths of the last Apostles and the resultant disappearance of priesthood authority and hierarchical revelatory stewardship lines (as prophesied would happen in the New Testament).

Thus, although many Latter-day Saints will be willing and eager to engage you with answers to the specific questions you pose, such as Kaimi above, these alienating differences (which actually mostly flow from the nature of the creeds--their genesis and what they have become) will inhibit much discussion on these issues with "average" Latter-day Saints. Those who have responded to this thread are certainly orthodox in their LDS beliefs, but they are capable of meeting you on your philosophical terms, such as Clark Goble above. That is the exception, however, and not the rule.

 
At 5:45 PM, May 11, 2005, Blogger Silus Grok said...

First off: wonderful, wonderful Q&A... thank you.

Next, I'd like to second Nate's comment and expand: I think you'll find that Mormons have a lot of shared concepts and key points of doctrine — not least of which is authority — but that each of us is expected to connect the dots ourselves, using the tools that are common to our faith. Because of that, you may get differing arguments (read: logic) for just about any given point... and that is one of the problems that anyone who witnesses to Mormons faces.

One of my evangelical friends considers this a form of dishonesty... but what he fails to see is that when he asks me what mormons believe, he is expecting the same answers that he's had before... or he wants me to defend the answers that others have given him — which puts me in an untenable position, and one in which I can often do little more than repeat myself.

Anyway, I should probably answer your questions as best as I can:

a) it seems to me that Mormons would then interpret the OT concept of "God being one" (cf. Deut 6) as simply the "oneness of mind, purpose, power, and intent" rather than a oneness of "being". Yes? No? Clarify?

That is how I interpret it, exactly.

The overarching impression I get when reading the OT contextually is that God is opposed to other divinities on the basis of their not-being-him, rather than on the basis of their not-being-unified-with-him. How would Mormon's address this?

It took me several reads to get what you're asking here, and I'm still not sure if I've read the tea leaves correctly... but it sounds like you're implying that Mormons believe that it was possible for Baal and Jehovah to come to terms with each other. I don't think you'll find a Mormon that believes that Baal or any of the other deities mentioned in the OT were actual beings. Some may believe that they were direct manifestations of the mechanizations of Satan, while others may believe that they were the creations of people looking for meaning in a world they didn't understand. I, personally, find myself somewhere in the middle... I believe that Jehovah has been a part of the human narrative from the beginning, and that most religions out there are more-or-less the result of wayward children trying to teach their own children from memory and tradition, and without authority — all mixed with the occasional designs of evil people who may very well have been in-league with Lucifer.

But what I really see when I read the Old Testament, is a narrative of a loving Father trying to bring up unruly children in a bad neighborhood... I don't think Jehovah is threatened by the other "gods", but is concerned about the behaviors being taught. His efforts to raise His children in righteousness must be informed by the willfulness of His children, and their infantile approach to all things sacred — as is evidenced by their behavior in the wilderness.

I share this because it's an approach that I think many Mormons warm to, and it's an approach that will help you to understand us.

b) it seems to me that for Mormons, there is this single thing called "godhead" and within that there are three "beings" (where each of these beings is a distinct "person" - Father, Son, Holy Spirit). Yes? No? Clarify? If that is the case, what is the "godhead" if not a "being"?

Yes, you're right... but I don't understand how you then draw from that the idea that the godhead, then, must be a being. A container does not become what it contains. For me, the best analogy is one from politics: in the days before mass communication, the king would send out his proclamations via messengers... and as long as the king's seal was on the message, the messenger was treated as the king would be treated — for most intents and purposes, they were the same. My concept of the godhead is that it is a mantle, and that it rests upon The Father, His Son, and the Holy Ghost.

c) it seems to me that Mormons are saying there is "one being" (God, Godhead) which is simultaneously "three beings" (F, S, HS). Is this what Mormons actually think?

I think I answered this in the previous response... it might be more appropriate to say "one office, three office-holders".

d) how is it possible for God to be all-powerful and all-knowing while at the same time existing as more than one being? By definition, it would seem that only one being could truly be all-powerful (unless we are going to redefine omnipotence, or devolve back into pantheism). Can someone explain?

I could approach this question in a couple of ways...

One way would be to use a comparison: a parent's love for one child is not (necessarily) diminished by the addition of other children... love and power are not manifestations of finite resources, but are, rather, manifestations of behavior — either our own towards another or another's toward us.

A second way would be to challenge the math: your definition of omnipotence is exclusionary, in that it is a measure of control of a quantifiable and unreproducible "power"... in other words, God's exclusive possession of power is what makes Him omnipotent.

The problem with this definition of omnipotence is that it negates any human free agency. How so? Well, if you believe in any amount of free agency, then you must afford each person with the power (small as it may be) necessary for them to act for themselves... and since power is finite, then that is power which God does not have, and he is then either not omnipotent or we are not free agents.

Of course, neither of these approaches works exactly, because they do not really address the fulness of the issue of power. The first approach tries to break through a modal view of power, and to rightfully define it as largely a-modal. The second approach addresses apparent short-comings in the question's logic... but doesn't provide any useful insight into the nature of God.

One way to see the failure of these two approaches is to posit a different question: if we had two omnipotent beings, and one wanted to destroy the universe and start over, and the other didn't want that, what would happen? This question appreciates that power is largely a-modal, and doesn't fail in the math department.

This question would allow for a more useful discussion, as Mormons view power differently than many other faiths... namely, we believe that God is omnipotent because anything he _wishes_ to do, He can... so now his power is bounded by the desires of His heart and not by outside measures. Additionally, since we believe that God is righteous and good, then He cannot desire to do evil... so He is powerless in this regard. But then we've opened another can of worms, haven't we?

: )

e) regardless of our common vocabularies and Scriptures, it seems to me that at the end of the day Christians and Mormons are fundamentally talking about two very different divine beings here - the Christian "God" seems ontologically different than (and incompatible with!) the Mormon "God." This difference seems such that we cannot both be right; someone must be wrong. Agree? Disagree?

I think others have already pointed out the problem with this question... so I won't answer it, but will (instead) ask a question that I think might be helpful: a father has two daughters... and each of them have completely different understandings of what kind of person their father is, based on their own experience with him, their own biases, whom they choose to believe (their mom or their grandmother), and so on. Do these daughters have two dads... or just two understandings... God exists outside of my heart and mind, independent of my beliefs. These daughters could not both be right... but they could both be wrong — and what unites them may be more important that what divides them.

 
At 6:47 PM, May 11, 2005, Blogger Clark Goble said...

John, just a note, I don't think the Trinity is strictly neoPlatonic. It is definitely neoPlatonically inspired. But I don't think you'll find most Creedal Christians bothered by Christ having a literal resurrected body. Be careful not to make the mistake of assuming neoPlatonic influence means one can simply treat the creeds as neoPlatonism. Most figures, such as Augustine, made significant changes.

 
At 7:31 PM, May 11, 2005, Blogger john f. said...

Clark, thanks, and I agree that many "average" Christians wouldn't have a problem with the concept of a Jesus Christ with a literal resurrected physical body, and I believe many actually default mentally to such an image. But wouldn't you agree that in doing so, they are engaging in their own literal personal heresy when measured against strict creedal doctrine? That is, a Christian theologian, as opposed to a lay person or "average" Christian, might wink condescendingly at the lay person with such an idea as a Jesus with a literally resurrected physical body while at the same time instructing such lay person in the right way of the creeds, which would necessarily exclude such a possibility on the official doctrinal level, reminding the lay person that only such heretics as "Mormons" believe in something so absurd as anything physical in the celestial realm.

Silus, I very much enjoyed reading your thoughts. I agree that one of the problems that obfuscates LDS concepts of the Godhead in the eyes of other Christians is the (apparently) assumed notion that power, in Heaven, is as much a zero-sum game as it is in the fallen world.

I would also add that, in agreement with Kaimi, if I am not mistaken, Latter-day Saints believe that Jehovah was the God of the OT, and that he is Jesus Christ. Jehovah was the only God that the OT peoples were aware of and he spoke for the Father through the divine investiture of authority. Thus, one can certainly understand why people would see Jehovah becoming the man Jesus Christ as God the Father becoming Jesus Christ. But Latter-day Saints believe, based on latter-day revelation and not on deduction from unclear language in the Bible, that God the Father is a separate being from the Lord Jesus Christ, who as Jehovah spoke in the name of his father in the OT. Even early Book of Mormon prophets such as Abinadi appear to have spoken in these terms, which is consistent with OT usage and belief until the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh and the introduction of his new covenant or New Testament and the additional revelatory insight that brought with it into who Jesus Christ was in relation to his Father in Heaven, to whom he prays and who announces that He is well-pleased upon Jesus' baptism.

 
At 8:10 PM, May 11, 2005, Blogger john f. said...

Oops, in typing quickly, I referred somewhere above to the Nicene Creed but meant to refer to both the Nicene and the Athanasian Creeds.

 
At 9:48 PM, May 11, 2005, Blogger Clark Goble said...

John, the reality of Jesus' literal resurrected body is part of orthodox Christian doctrine. I'm not quite sure why you think otherwise. They deny it for the father, of course. But not Jesus.

 
At 7:48 AM, May 12, 2005, Blogger john f. said...

Clark, are you saying that mainstream Christian theologians believe in an embodied Christ in Heaven?

 
At 8:03 AM, May 12, 2005, Blogger Silus Grok said...

Yeah, Clark... that's what it sounds like you're saying. My understanding was that trinitarians accepted Christ's resurrection as real — but ultimately His body was shed.

(Christian: comments?)

 
At 10:01 AM, May 12, 2005, Anonymous Not Ophelia said...

John C.

I disagree that we are henothesists. Monolatry is a more accurate description, but this might be confusing as we don't believe in the existence of any of the other gods worshipped on this earth.

You might check this out: http://www.theowiki.com/index.php/Henotheism

 
At 11:35 AM, May 12, 2005, Blogger Christian said...

Holy cow folks. It's going to take me a while to catch up on all this, but I do appreciate the feedback and in return I ask for your continued patience - 1 final down, 2 more to go.

(Aside: I got up at 4:30 this morning to prep for a 9 AM test, and silly me, I checked my email and actually read a couple of comments...so what was my mind doing for the next couple of hours while I was trying to study? I kept thinking of questions I'd like to ask my newfound Mormon friends. Not good in finals week! Oh well... :-)

In response to somebody (Clark?): "are you saying that mainstream Christian theologians believe in an embodied Christ in Heaven?"

Yes, we do. We believe the incarnation continues past the ascension for the rest of time. Christ has a glorified body. To say otherwise would lead you down a Docetic or Gnostic path (which IS a very Hellenistic way of thinking).

That's all I have time for right now. I do have an additional question I'd like to ask, but I need to think more first about how to phrase it...

 
At 12:33 PM, May 12, 2005, Anonymous Mormon by upbringing said...

I will describe myself as a semi-practicing Mormon. I continue to attend church, served a mission, etc., but I am not sure about the "divinity" of the LDS church or the accuracy of the self-edited history of the Church. As has been said "History is written by the victors."

That said, I think people have generally described in a fairly accurate manner the teachings which are propounded in Mormon meetings about the nature of God. I'll summarize as follows:

a) The Godhead (F,S,HS) are one in purpose, not in being. In the same fashion as parents can be united in grounding a child, but are different entities.

b) The Godhead is a group of unified individuals whom we know as having "god-like" qualities. The Father, who acts as Chairman of the Board, the Son, the CEO, and the Holy Ghost, the Chief Communications Officer or Secretary. In essence, the Father directs the Son, who carries out the Father's commands and purpose, and the Holy Ghost, who attests to the authority and truthfulness of the Father and the Son.

c) "Godhead" is not a "being". It is as described, a unified group of individuals working towards a common goal. Mormons describe this goal by reference to the scripture in the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price (LDS canon of scripture) which quotes God as telling Moses "For behold, this is my work and my glory - to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man."

d) As stated, omniscience and omnipotence are not believed to be exclusive to one individual. In fact, Mormon theology, as taught in Mormon meetings, is that through the Atonement of Christ, each person may become one with Christ and inherit everything the Father has. This is believed to include all the Father's knowledge, power, wealth, etc., which being infinite can not become less through the sharing.

e) I think the differences between the two perspectives of God come through the "definition" of God contained in the Nicean and Athanasian creeds. If this is the only definition which you accept, then they must be different. While the Athanasian Creed defines "God" as the Father uncreate and incomprehensible, the Son uncreate and incomprehensible, and the Spirit uncreate and incomprehensible, all but One Uncreate and Uncomprehensible, instead it appears a Creed Created Incomprehensible. (No offense intended, but my brain can't get around that, especially given the relative simplicity of most of Christ's teachings on earth.)

As a sidebar philosophical question, and perhaps it relates to the Mormon conception that there may be multiple "Gods", but only God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are important to us, the 10 commandments do not say "There are no other gods but me, and me alone shalt thou worship." but rather "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." Does that imply that we can have other gods, as long as we do not put the desires or expectations of any of those other gods before Him?

 
At 1:33 PM, May 12, 2005, Blogger Christian said...

Q: if "the Godhead is a group of unified individuals whom we know as having 'god-like' qualities" (ie. more than one divine being, where the unity is a oneness in purpose), how is this fundamentally any different from the Hellenistic and pagan conceptions of deities?

What am I missing here?

 
At 1:43 PM, May 12, 2005, Blogger Christian said...

Q2: Can someone flesh out for me how Christians creating a term 'trinity' to explain how they understand God as both three and one amounts to 'going beyond Scripture and using Hellenistic categories', while Mormons using terms like 'henothesism' and 'monolatry' does not amount to the same thing?

I'm asking a serious question here - this is not flame bait - I want to understand how you can be comfortable with the one but not the other.

That's it for now, thanks!

 
At 1:58 PM, May 12, 2005, Blogger Silus Grok said...

It different in that we don't view these entities as vying for more power, prestige, and the like ... or fighting amongst themselves. We worship the Father in the name of the Son, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

I guess we employ a certain disconnect in that we see The Father as "God" in that He is the object of our adoration... and the other two as "god" in that they have god-like power. We do not, however, worship either The Son or the Holy Ghost.

It's really a problem of language... there isn't (in English, at any rate) a mechanism to really delineate them more effectively.

 
At 2:26 PM, May 12, 2005, Blogger Silus Grok said...

About your most recent question... I don't think anyone here thinks there's a problem. In fact (and now I can't find it!) someone said that both of our views of the Godhead are fairly extra-biblical.

 
At 2:36 PM, May 12, 2005, Blogger Christian said...

Silas, so for:

re. Q1 - are you saying that the fundamental difference between the Mormon understanding of "God" and the Greek understanding of "the gods" is that "our divine beings get along and are united in spirit and purpose"?

re. Q2 - are you saying that both Christians AND Mormons do in fact use philosophical categories to describe what they believe the Bible says (and you're ok with that)?

I feel like I must be mis-hearing you.

I'm trying to understand how this jives with the common refrain I am hearing from a lot of Mormons that "we don't get into Hellenstic speculation, we just stick to the plain meaning of the Bible" (my paraphrase)

 
At 3:06 PM, May 12, 2005, Blogger Silus Grok said...

re. Q1 - are you saying that the fundamental difference between the Mormon understanding of "God" and the Greek understanding of "the gods" is that "our divine beings get along and are united in spirit and purpose"?

That's a little simplistic... but yeah:

The Greek Pantheon was filled with a host of major and minor deities, all of whom vied for leverage against the others — and all of whom vied for the respect/fear/worship of the mortals they terrorized. They were snivelling, selfish, mewing brats... human in every respect but their amazing (but not limitless) power.

The Mormon Pantheon/Godhead is comprised of three individuals... who are in such complete agreement as to make their unity practically literal. Of the three, we worship only the Father. The three are omnipotent and live to love and serve mankind.

re. Q2 - are you saying that both Christians AND Mormons do in fact use philosophical categories to describe what they believe the Bible says (and you're okay with that)?

I'm not sure what you mean by "philosophical categories"... but Trinitarians and Mormons do, in fact, come by their understanding of the nature of the Godhead through extra-biblical channels. And yeah: I'm comfortable with at least _our_ channels.

Y'all's channels are little fuzzy.

: )

I'm trying to understand how this jives with the common refrain I am hearing from a lot of Mormons that "we don't get into Hellenstic speculation, we just stick to the plain meaning of the Bible" (my paraphrase)

I can't really address what others mean... I, though, could see myself saying something similar. Our conversation, here, has been very open... but were I pressed for time or feeling set-upon, I'd categorize Trinitarian Christianity's view of the godhead as being overly influenced by Hellenism... and my own view of the godhead as being closer in spirit to the Bible... namely in seeing "oneness" as "unity" and not some strange ontological hoodoo voodoo. A unity which is belied in Christ's use of the term time and again in reference to his relationship with the disciples and other language of separation we find throughout the narrative.

Of course, in phrasing it that way, I'd be side-stepping the more complex issues... but again: that happens on both sides.

___

This could be so much easier if we had different terms for "god-as-the-object-of-our-worship", "god-as-an-omniscient/omnipresent-being", and (perhaps) "god-as-the-holder-of-an-office".

 
At 3:26 PM, May 12, 2005, Blogger chris g said...

For Q2 at 4:43, I think it depends on the range of possible interpretations given to scripture. Connecting dots will always cause one to use their cultural, philosophical, etc associations. I really don't see how one can get around this. An open theology doesn't have much trouble accepting this. The problem comes when one starts assuming that the way the dots get connected is the way things have to be. Without more dots it is just speculation. The difference is the dots one includes. Mormon Christians don't include creedal conclusions. Trinitarian Christians don't include modern revelation.

I don't see how framing views using convenient categories like hellenistic or henotheistic is wrong. When used perjoritively to imply cause and effect, they are misplaced. But, as long as views are based in scripturally plausibility, it is very difficult to separate influence from inspiration, clarification from effect. Of course historical distance does make older conclusions seem more obvious. After all cultural and philosphical identities can't help but be built on history.

(oh I am a believing mormon who takes a more pragmatic, scientific method based view on things)

 
At 3:26 PM, May 12, 2005, Blogger chris g said...

Sorry didn't answer the question. "how Christians creating a term 'trinity' to explain how they understand God as both three and one amounts to 'going beyond Scripture and using Hellenistic categories', while Mormons using terms like 'henothesism' and 'monolatry' does not amount to the same thing?"

It seem like the real difference is the relative importance that must be given to the cornerstone events. The influence of divinity with Joseph's first vision is hard to negate (unless one discounts the event entirely). It forces more detail to a plausible scriptural view. The spiritual influence of the councils also forces more detail to a plausible scriptural view. To be honest, it is hard to separate the relative plausibilities without getting bogged down by error induced by perspective. Thus bible bashing probabilities is fundamentally a waste of time and exercise in rhetorical skills. From a mormon perspective, judgment often gets made by the ease by which these key events are recognized as divine.

 
At 3:28 PM, May 12, 2005, Blogger Clark Goble said...

Christian, you ask, if "the Godhead is a group of unified individuals whom we know as having 'god-like' qualities" (ie. more than one divine being, where the unity is a oneness in purpose), how is this fundamentally any different from the Hellenistic and pagan conceptions of deities?

Just to re-emphasize my earlier comments, while many Mormons limit the unity to purpose, that is not and LDS doctrine. Many significant LDS theologians such as Orson Pratt think that the unity is more than this. (Having said that though many LDS in the 1990's were very intrigued by Cornelius Plantinga's social trinitarianism) My own view is that the unity must be more than agreement in aims and similar ideas.

So in effect your question presupposes that Mormonism has a defined view on this matter when it doesn't.

Having said that though, one can't really answer your question without answering the question of what is the fundamental being of Hellenistic and pagan conceptions of gods? By the time philosophers started asking the question, that is raising the question of being of the gods, they had become radically transformed. They because platonic or stoic daemons, which were more or less qualities existing independent of any actual being. Zeus had become equated to reality itself.

The obvious answer then is that Mormon conception of God differs from the pagan conceptions of God in that God for us is personal and not an impersonal idea or process. Our view is essentially that of an intelligent, embodied actor interacting with humans, just as is described in the Old Testament and in the New Testament.

I'd also ask, that to ask the question of the being of God for a Mormon is to ask the question of the being of Jesus. So let me turn the question around, how is the being of Jesus, an embodied individual, different from the being of pagan gods?

 
At 3:30 PM, May 12, 2005, Blogger Clark Goble said...

Christian, your second question was, Can someone flesh out for me how Christians creating a term 'trinity' to explain how they understand God as both three and one amounts to 'going beyond Scripture and using Hellenistic categories', while Mormons using terms like 'henothesism' and 'monolatry' does not amount to the same thing?

Mormons using such terms are tentative. They consider their views descriptive of a theory. They acknowledge other views. They don't consider the scriptures univocal on the issue. They don't make the ontological beliefs a condition of a proper Christian life. That is all quite different from Creedal Christianity where acceptance of the Trinity theory is required.

 
At 3:44 PM, May 12, 2005, Blogger Clark Goble said...

Just one addition to that last comment - we obviously do reject modalism. But that's not an ontological question but a question of whether the members of the Godhead are persons. I don't consider that last issue an ontological one given the descriptions of the phenomena of seeing two people.

 
At 3:46 PM, May 12, 2005, Blogger Clark Goble said...

John and Silus, Christian answered, but yes, all the major theological figures including Augustine were very emphatic about the reality of Christ's resurrected body. They acknowledge it is different, but the way they describe the differences aren't that different from how Mormons do.

(Sorry for all the posts)

 
At 5:22 PM, May 12, 2005, Blogger Silus Grok said...

Dang. I completely failed to mention that I'm an active latter-day saint. FWIW, my parents aren't LDS.

My apologies... I just noticed your request for us to state our affiliation.

 
At 5:42 PM, May 12, 2005, Anonymous Uncle Jake said...

I have a co-worker who is Orthodox Christian. I will try to get him over here (or his priest), to add some representation.

 
At 5:46 PM, May 12, 2005, Blogger john f. said...

Clark, it was my understanding that Igantius and Augustine, to use your example, made arguments in defense of a literal physical resurrection because of the widespread disbelief among Christians of the day that there could be a literal physical resurrection rather than a symbolic or spiritual resurrection. I also thought that most of the early scholar/clerics were convinced Hellenists and Neoplatonists who believed that God would not or could not corrupt himself through contact with the physical or limit himself through taking the form of a man.

Christian, it's not a matter of the words used--after all, Latter-day Saints who have had philosophical educations are just as willing to use those terms of art as a descriptive means as are Evangelicals or anyone else. Similarly, the complaint you will hear is not that the descriptive terms themselves are extra-biblical; rather, the concerns go to the content of the creeds, their genesis, and use as a tool of exclusion. And all of it really comes back to questions of authority. Why should the creeds have any more authority than the perspective of a boy in 1820? The creeds are just the efforts of committees trying to create an adhesive doctrine, trying to decide how best to restate what they think the New Testament describes with relation to the identity and being of Jesus Christ and his relationship with the Father. They couldn't understand it so they turned to the interpretive modalities available to them: Greek philosophy. What if the aspects of Greek philosophy that the committees and also the scholar/clerics relied on in formulating the creeds are repugnant or alien to the true Gospel of Jesus Christ? Why are the creeds not simply an invention of the committees that created them in the eyes of Trinitarians? What divine authority did the members of the committees have to write the creeds or to include the particular content of the creeds? They seem like an arbitrary cut-off point for who is a Christian and who isn't. Perhaps Jesus doesn't really care if people actually believe that something as convoluted as the Athanasian is an accurate formulation of who he is. But I would hope that he does care that people are excluded and persecuted based on a rejection of such jibberish.

Joseph Smith gets around all of this with his version of who God the Father and Jesus Christ are and their ontological nature by claiming the appropriate authority to make the statement, by declaring that he has seen them in the flesh and that they have revealed many things to him. And, in truth, nothing in what Joseph Smith said about God and Jesus really demands that people quit believing that [s]uch as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father Uncreate, the Son Uncreate, and the Holy Ghost Uncreate. The Father Incomprehensible, the Son Incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost Incomprehensible. The Father Eternal, the Son Eternal, and the Holy Ghost Etneral and yet they are not Three Eternals but One Eternal. As also there are not Three Uncreated, nor Three Incomprehensibles, but One Uncreated, and One Uncomprehensible. So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not Three Almighties but One Almighty. However, for me personally, a return to such after accepting Joseph Smith's version (based on his eye witness account) would be like moving from relative clarity into confusion.

 
At 5:47 PM, May 12, 2005, Blogger john f. said...

Oops, I meant Ignatius.

 
At 6:39 PM, May 12, 2005, Blogger Silus Grok said...

(Aside: Hey, Christian... how are finals going? Here's hoping they're going well! Break a leg, mate!)

 
At 9:31 AM, May 16, 2005, Blogger HP said...

not ophelia,

You're right. Monolatry is a better descriptor. Henotheism was just the word that came to mind.

 
At 4:27 PM, May 16, 2005, Blogger Stephen said...

That is, a Christian theologian, as opposed to a lay person or "average" Christian, might wink condescendingly at the lay person with such an idea as a Jesus with a literally resurrected physical body

That captures very well some criticisms of "common people" that we have preserved from not that long after the crucifiction of Christ. I meet a lot of people, often Monists, who embrace that viewpoint.

Chistian, I didn't mean to say you were being offensive, just that the terms would come across that way. Sorry if I wasn't clearer.

 
At 12:27 AM, June 05, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great reading! An appropriate summary?

"The complexity of the simplicity of God is beyond human comprehension."

God bless ya'll, Ed

 
At 1:34 PM, January 25, 2006, Blogger Aaron Shafovaloff said...

The Omnipotence of Christ - Interview with Rob Sivulka

"Rob Sivulka talks about the all-powerful Christ in contrast to the Christ of Mormonism. While the Christ of the Bible created and upholds absolutely everything, the power of Christ is relativized and cheapened."

http://odeo.com/audio/609423/view

 
At 9:57 PM, June 30, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hope I can help. I am a fifth generation Mormon who has a degree from a Catholic University so I have been exposed to both sides. The traditional christian wants to maintain that there is only one God in order to preserve the Jewish concept of one God. The problem, however, is that there are three persons in the New Testament and so the three persons have to be one God as we can not have three gods as that would contradict Judaism. Ok now for the Mormon point of view. Mormons do not see the Jews as always teaching one God. Sometimes the Jews such in Deuteronomy (forgive spelling) and Isaiah taught only one God but sometimes more than one God (Elohim) is taught. Let us make man in our own image, God is god of gods and Lord of Lords. If Mormons are right why did God seem to contradict himself? The best answer I can give is to link it to father. There are many fathers but you have only one father. Jesus who is Jehovah was the only God involved during the Old Testament so he says I am your only God. He alludes to the father when he speaks in terms of Elohim but when he speaks of Adonai and Jehovah he alone is God. So during the Old Testament he says he alone is God of this world but he does allude that he works with other gods. He is our father in the gospel but there are other fathers. Some Mormons speculate however and it is only quasi doctrine not absolute that Adam has been given by delegation by Jesus and Heavenly Father this planet so in a sense some might argue that Adam is now our only God or leader. It depends on what you mean by God. If you mean Savior than it is Jesus, If you mean father of our spirits it means Heavenly Father if you mean leader or founder of this planet you mean Adam. Every Mormon will not agree with this post. I am just trying to be helpful. May I just say that in my humble opinion the doctrine of the trinity is not really understood by traditional christians, mormons or me but I am in good company. The apostles obviously also did not understand it because they asked Christ to show them the father. If trinitarianism is true and they understood it why did they ask? Jesus's answer is a little nebulous when you match it with other sayings. Sure he says I and the father are one if you have seen me you have seen the father. He also says the father is greater than him. I confess as a Mormon it is also confusing to me. Bless you for trying to be understanding. Peace.

 
At 10:08 PM, June 30, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the trinity was so essential to our salvation why did not Jesus just spell it out in the bible. Maybe there are many reasons one being that it may have been considered blasphemous as he would be saying he is God. That said it seems to me the New Testament says Jesus is separate from God and He is one with God but the New Testament is not absolutly clear as to how he is separate and how he is one. That is why we still have Nestorians, Binatarians, Arians, and there descendants Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Middle Easteran Nestorians, Unitarians, Oneness Pentocostals, Swendenborgs, not to mention that the Orthodox and Catholics do not see the Trinatarian concept exactly the same. The holy Ghost proceeds from the father or the father and the son. Personally I do not think it is essential for our salvation. I really do tire of Evangelicals saying all christians see the trinity is the same. Sorry but that is just not reality today nor was it during the time or the bible or the time of the church fathers but I will grant you the trinitarian concept does seem to be present very early in the church but not sure how early.

 
At 3:11 PM, August 09, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am Mormon went to BYU, served a mission, and attended Mormon seminary. In addition I have a degree from a Catholic University and was required to take Catholic Theology courses. Let me try to explain the Mormon Godhood. In the bible sometimes God (Jehovah or Yahweh) is referred to as singular. This refers to Jesus. This means Jesus is the only God t who directs the affairs of this planet. This stewardship may be turned over to Adam or others, but at the time of the Bible it was given to Jesus. In other places of the Bible God is referenced as being plural or Elohim such as "Let us make man in our own image." This means there are other Gods including God the father in the universe, but they are not directly running the affairs of planet earth. Jesus then is Jehovah and the only God of this planet. He may call others such as Adam to be gods of this earth, but only in a delegation roll. Jesus is still in charge. God the Father and God the Holy Ghost work with Jesus, but Jesus is in charge of the planet. It is like a ship. Jesus is the captain and the only captain we serve, but there is an admiral of the fleet, but he does not directly run the ship.

 
At 5:59 PM, March 14, 2009, Blogger masterymistery said...

Monotheist:
God created every force, potency, strength, power, and capability. God has the power to exercise every power. God is omnipotent.

Polytheist:
Some gods have more or less power than others. Each god has a different power or set of powers. But taken together, all gods have and exercise all powers. Sometimes, gods grant non-gods (eg people) the power to exercise some powers. But ultimately, there are no powers other than those exercised by a god or gods, or by a non-god to whom a god grants the power to exercise powers. In any event it's the power of the giver-god. Taken together, gods represent omnipotence.

Atheist:
There are many forces and powers in the universe, including gravity, the strong force, the weak force, electromagnetism, and others. Taken together, these powers represent all the powers that exist within the universe. There are no powers outside the universe. The universe is omnipotent.

Pantheist:
Everything That Is, has been, will be and could be (ETI) includes all powers and forces. ETI is omnipotent.

masterymistery at cosmic rapture

 

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