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Are Creedalists Christians?

February 16, 2009

MadChemist requested that we talk about the book Are Mormons Christians? by Stephen E. Robinson.  For those who may not be familiar with this book, BYU professor Robinson claims that Christians exclude Mormons from Christianity based on tradition, history, and major and minor doctrinal arguments.  I’d like to cut right to the heart of chapter 7 and our major doctrinal differences regarding the nature of God.  Robinson claims that traditional Christian doctrines on the nature of God were formulated at the Council of Chalcedon and that unbiblical summaries were set forth in the Nicene Creed.  He says LDS prefer to stick to the scriptures themselves rather than unbiblical summaries.  He states,

The unsummarized Bible is fine just as it is; bring forward any creed composed entirely of scriptural passages and the Latter-day Saints will heartily affirm every word (p. 73).

So, let’s put the creeds on the chopping block and discuss the scriptures supporting the statements in them.  By way of reminder, most Evangelical Christians are not necessarily familiar with the creeds and do not consider them authoritative.  Those who are familiar with them, however, believe they were written primarily to defend the doctrine of the deity of Christ from the heresies of Arianism.

The following creed is copied from the Religious Researcher with the scripture citations provided in that blog.  I added links to Bible Gateway for ease in referencing (one click brings up all the scriptures supporting the statement).  I also added some additional scriptures for some of the statements.

The Nicene Creed (381)

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. [Matt. 23:9; Acts 4:24; 17:24; 1 Cor. 8:6a; 2 Cor. 6:18; Heb. 11:3; Rev. 21:22] – also Rom. 1:20; Col. 1:16

And in one Lord, Jesus Christ [1 Cor. 8:6b; 12:4; Eph. 4:5],
the only-begotten Son of God [
John 1:12, 18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9],
begotten of the Father before all ages [
John 1:14, 18; 5:26; 6:57; 17:5; Gal. 4:4],  – also Micah 5:2
God of God [John 1:1, 18; Titus 2:10, 13; 2 Peter 1:1-2], – also Isa. 9:6; I Tim. 3:16
Light of Light [John 1:4-5; Heb. 1:3],

true God of true God [John 1:1, 18; Col. 2:9; 1 John 5:20]

begotten, not made [John 1:14, 18],

being of one substance with the Father [John 1:14; Heb. 1:3] – – also Deut 6:4; Isa. 43:10; Matt. 1:23, Mark 2:5-11, John 1:1, 18, 5:21-23, 8:57-59, 10:28-39, 14:7, 14:9-11, 20:27-29; Rom. 8:9, 9:5; Phil. 2:6, Col. 1:15-19, 2:9; I Tim. 6:14-16; Heb. 3:3-4; I John 5:7, 5:20, Jude 25, Rev 1:8-18, 22:13-16
by whom all things were made [John 1:3, 10; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2, 10];
who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven [
John 13:3; 16:28],
and was incarnate [
John 1:14; Rom. 8:3; 1 John 4:1]
by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary [
Matt. 1:18-25; Luke 1:35],
and was made man [
Phil. 2:6-7],
and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate [
Matt. 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 18-19].
He suffered [
Matt. 16:21 par.; 17:12 par.; Luke 22:15; 24:26, 46; Acts 1:3; 3:18; 1 Pet. 3:18]
and was buried [
Matt. 27:57-66 par.; Acts 13:29; 1 Cor. 15:4],
and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures [
Luke 24:44-46; 1 Cor. 15:5],
and ascended into heaven [
Acts 1:9-11],
and sits at the right hand of the Father [
Mark 14:62; Luke 22:69; Acts 2:33, 34; 5:31; 7:55-56; Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3, 13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Pet. 3:22].
And he shall come again with glory [
Matt. 16:27; Heb. 9:26-28; Titus 2:13; etc.]
to judge both the living and the dead [
Matt. 25:31-46; John 5:22-23, 28-29; Acts 10:42; 17:31; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Thess. 1:7-8; Rev. 2:23];
whose kingdom shall have no end [
Luke 1:33; Eph. 1:19b-21; Heb. 1:8; Rev. 11:15].

And we believe in the Holy Spirit [Matt. 28:19],
the Lord [
2 Cor. 3:16-17]
and Giver of Life [
Ps. 104:30; Ezek. 37:14; John 3:5-8; 6:63; Rom. 8:2, 6, 10-11; 2 Cor. 3:6; Gal. 5:25],
who proceeds from the Father [
John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7],
who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified [
Matt. 28:19; Phil. 3:3; cf. Matt. 12:31-32; Mark 3:29],
who spoke by the prophets [
Acts 1:16; 28:25-27; Heb. 3:7-11; 10:15-17; 1 Pet. 1:11].
And we believe one holy catholic and apostolic church [
Eph. 2:18-22; 3:5-6; 4:4].
We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins [
Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Eph. 4:5],

And we look for the resurrection of the dead [John 5:29; 11:24-25; Acts 4:2; 23:6; 24:15; Rom. 8:11; 1 Cor. 15; etc.],
and the life of the world to come [
Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; 20:34-35; etc.].
Amen.

_________________________________________________________________________________

So, with which of these statements do we agree?  Where do we disagree?  Do the cited scriptures support the statements?  Are the statements on the nature of God really a less accurate reflection of the Bible’s teaching than, say, the following summary?

“We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity.  I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see…I am going to prove it to you by the Bible…God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man… That is the great secret. God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ Himself did; and I will show it from the Bible…and you have got to learn how to be gods yourselves…In the beginning, the head of the Gods called a council of the Gods; and they came together…to create the world and people it. When we begin to learn this way, we begin to learn the only true God, and what kind of a being we have got to worship…Now, I ask all who hear me, why the learned men who are preaching salvation, say that God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing? The reason is, that they are unlearned in the things of God, and have not the gift of the Holy Ghost; they account it blasphemy in any one to contradict their idea. If you tell them that God made the world out of something, they will call you a fool. But I am learned, and know more than all the world put together”  (Joseph Smith, 1844)

Was this summary ever really proven by the Bible?  Would we be able to find as much Biblical support for it as we can for the Nicene Creed?

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50 Comments leave one →
  1. February 16, 2009 3:19 pm

    The question below is just EXCELLENT, so excellent, I’m cynically predicting that it will be dodged , when possible, by our LDS friends….PLEASE prove me stupid…..how’s that for an easy target ??

    Was this summary ever really proven by the Bible? Would we be able to find as much Biblical support for it as we can for the Nicene Creed?

    nice work, Jess

  2. February 16, 2009 4:34 pm

    If I’m not mistaking, that Joseph Smith quote was from the The King Follett Sermon. I read the entire thing a few months ago and seem to remember that JS said a few times that he would prove it by the Bible but I don’t think I ever saw an actual passage quoted or if it was, there was no reference given. I thought it was odd then and I still think it is today.

    Very interesting post.

  3. February 16, 2009 4:36 pm

    I actually have a series of posts on Genesis 1-3 and creation. It can be found here: http://ldskaitabiblia.wordpress.com/category/creation/

    I am currently updating the posts and posting them anew at my new blog here: http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com/author/ldsthoughtkaitabiblia/

    So far I have edited and (re)posted the first four or five segments, and I plan to finish the other parts of the series and post them at my new blog as I have time in the next few weeks.

    Additionally, I have several potentially relevant posts pertaining to the divine council in the Hebrew Bible. They can be found here:

    http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com/2008/12/17/the-divine-council/

    and here:

    http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com/2009/02/02/listen-o-israel-yahweh-is-our-god-yahweh-is-one%E2%80%9D-does-the-bible-teach-radical-monotheism/

    and here:

    http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com/2009/02/14/creation-in-genesis-1-3-part-4-the-heavenly-council/

    For those who are not up-to-date in critical biblical and ancient Near Eastern scholarship, the current consensus among biblical scholars concerning these issues is that creatio ex nihilo is foreign to the Hebrew Bible (and the NT as well, although the New Testament isn’t my focus in school), and that the Hebrew Bible affirms the belief of a divine council of gods in ancient Israel.

    I think it is also worth pointing out that Joseph Smith’s statement is that God the Father once had a mortal experience *just like Jesus Christ,* whom Mormons believe was fully divine before entering mortality. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to clarify the relevant issues (textual, interpretive, etc.) regarding the King Follett Discourse and the Sermon on the Grove here, so I will just recommend Blake Ostler’s second and third volumes of Exploring Mormon Thought to those who are really interested in an informed and current discussion of the relevant issues.

    I am sorry that I don’t have more time to participate in dialogue here (and sorry for posting so many links!), but I am currently very busy with school and work. However, I would be happy to provide more references to important secondary literature on the subjects I have mentioned if persons are interested.

    Best wishes,

    The Yellow Dart

  4. February 16, 2009 5:18 pm

    One thing that struck me reading the Nicene Creed above was –

    Where is “creation ex nihilo?”

    Where is this concept of “one substance?”

    Those are the two main beefs that Mormons have with the rest of Christianity. So where are they in the Nicene Creed? I’m not seeing it.

  5. February 16, 2009 5:20 pm

    Seth,
    I just realized I’m having serious formatting issues with the post – I don’t know what happened. I’m trying to fix it. those statements ARE in there… 🙂

  6. February 16, 2009 5:39 pm

    Okay, I think I fixed it! I guess that section got messed up because I was adding a ton of additional scripture references for my LDS friends. 🙂

  7. February 17, 2009 7:14 am

    OK, I was kinda wondering there.

    That one substance bit is what I would dispute as extra-biblical. The rest seems fairly unobjectionable actually.

    But I’m still not seeing where the Nicene Creed advocates creation ex nihilo. Was that a later addition?

  8. February 17, 2009 1:51 pm

    I don’t think you fixed it. The one substance isn’t there. It is the one substance statement and implied ex-nihilo creation that Mormons would object to.

  9. February 17, 2009 4:12 pm

    No, it says “being of one substance with the father…”

    So it’s up there.

    My understanding is that it is creation ex nihilo and the “one substance” idea that Mormons reject. I don’t see anything else up there objectionable to Mormon doctrine.

  10. February 17, 2009 4:32 pm

    Ahhh, I see it now.

  11. inhimdependent_lds permalink
    February 18, 2009 5:42 pm

    It has always struck me as somewhat puzzling as to why evangelicals (or protestants generally) would even bother defending the creeds at all. Why cry sola scriptura!, sola scriptura! And then defend the creeds?

    The reason of course is that the Biblical data in and of itself does not contain the fine philosophical distinctions that the philosophers wanted made. I would just suggest that if such philosophical distinctions are less clear or less defined in the Bible then maybe God is less concerned about those issues than the adherents to the creeds are.

    The fundamental problem with the creeds is that they changed God from our literal “father” into an abstract philosophical construct. That abstract philosophical construct destroys the sweet and precious relationship of Gods original intent and makes God into a distant abstract “other”. This is why the creeds are an “abomination” in the eyes of God.

    I can’t for the life of me figure out why sola scriptura adherents don’t just jettison the creeds completely- much less defend them.

    In Christ,

    -Tad

  12. February 19, 2009 7:20 pm

    Hey Tad,

    I will defend the creeds in so far as they represent an accurate summary of the Bible’s teaching on the nature of God. According to Seth & Eric’s comments, there are really only 2 issues that LDS have with the creeds: the “one substance” line and the implication of ex nihilo creation.

    I added additional scripture references to the post to address those two objections but so far no one has taken up the challenge of interacting with those scriptures.

    I think it’s interesting that such a deal is made over the creeds and how abominable they are when there are really only 2 objections and one objection is to an implied statement…

    I don’t think the LDS issue is with the creeds at all. I think it’s a red herring so JS could set forth a radically different, totally unbiblical summary.

    I will seek for the ancient paths… (Jer. 18:15)

  13. faithoffathers permalink
    February 19, 2009 8:15 pm

    Jessica,

    None of the scriptures you cited supporting the trinity or “one substance” argument are inconsistent with LDS theology. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one in intent, purpose, feeling, desire. They can be referred to as being “one.” A husband and wife are often referred to as being “one.” Christ was begotten in the express image of the Father. Any of the three can be considered “God.”

    Of course, you like anybody else are free to interpret the verses as you believe, but our interpretation of those verses is at least as reasonable.

    John 17 clearly explains their oneness. Christ prays to the Father that His followers may be “one” as Christ and the Father are “one.” Was He asking that we all become one in substance?

    Also, what of Stephen seeing Christ on the right hand of the Father?

    fof

  14. February 19, 2009 8:20 pm

    interesting points, Jess

    from Fr.Gregg over at Heartfelt Issues

    Regarding the differences, what is most basic, at least logically, is the collapsing of that ole ontological gulf: “spirit is matter”. It reverberates throughout the whole LDS thought-structure.

    compare this with Tad’s quote above:

    The fundamental problem with the creeds is that they changed God from our literal “father” into an abstract philosophical construct. That abstract philosophical construct destroys the sweet and precious relationship of Gods original intent and makes God into a distant abstract “other”. This is why the creeds are an “abomination” in the eyes of God.

    Fr.Gregg’s point is that the LDS cannot sit still for a GOD who is ontoligically different, the “otherness” of GOD….to them, I think this comes across as “Greek” or “hellenized”….. the irony , of course, is that it was the Greeks, among others, who gave the gods bodies….had them mingling with humans sexually….. and who looked and acted quite like humans, and I don’t mean human in the JESUS CHRIST sense of the word. It seeems to Tad, that if it isn’t PHYSICAL, it is just an ABSTRACTION… again, Fr.Gregg’s point , to me, is telling.

  15. inhimdependent_lds permalink
    February 19, 2009 11:18 pm

    Jessica,

    While I am confident that Tad speaks for Tad better than Germit speaks for Tad I do know that Germit means well. : )

    Some of what Germit has said is on track- but I believe it really goes even deeper. While it is true that the creeds facilitated the “collapsing of the ontological gulf” there is a much more profound issue involved here- especially in the eyes of God.

    In Gods eyes we are all FAMILY. We are His literal children and He is our literal Father! What more beautiful, perfect and love filled plan would an all knowing, all perfect, all powerful God of total and complete love desire for himself and others than to fill the universe with his very own children and live with them forever- as FAMILY!! This is soooo beautiful!

    The creeds change man and God from a “family relationship” to a “creator” and “created” existence. That is a BIG difference!!

    In other words…. to God this aint just about doctrine- its personal.

    This is why the creeds are most certainly an “abomination” in His sight.

    You might recall that even Roger Williams was “dissatisfied with the prevailing creeds”- as have been many other good protestant leaders. You might find it interesting to learn why it is that great men like Roger Williams and others like him felt this way- both in his day and today.

    The claim to “defend the creeds in so far as they represent an accurate summary of the Bible’s teaching on the nature of God” is like saying something that doesn’t say anything.

    Could we not all defend the creeds “in so far as” they represent how we see things? And could we not do the same thing with say the back of a box of Froot Loops? Can you not also defend the back of a box of Froot Loops “in so far as” it represents an accurate summary of the Bible’s teaching on the nature of God? You see my point?

    It just seems to me that if “sola scriptura” is really as important as many claim that it is, and if they really believe in sola scriptura that the adherents to it should just kick the creeds to the curb. But that wont happen because too much of their understanding flows out of them.

    -Tad

  16. February 20, 2009 1:35 am

    Greeks had a lot of ideas about what the gods were.

    Traditional Christianity is basically the descendant of Neoplatonists such as Philo. He, like other Neoplatonists, considered God an abstract, intangible “other.” Augustine basically copied him, and we’re off to the races.

  17. GERMIT permalink
    February 20, 2009 2:10 am

    TAD: you wrote

    It just seems to me that if “sola scriptura” is really as important as many claim that it is, and if they really believe in sola scriptura that the adherents to it should just kick the creeds to the curb. But that wont happen because too much of their understanding flows out of them.

    Actually, for all PRACTICAL purposes, the creeds HAVE been kicked to the curb…ask any 50 ev’s off the street what they think of the creeds….most will probably say…..oh, yeah….”Evenflow……..yeah, that ROCKED…dude….” press the point and let them know you DON”T mean the rock group, and watch the eyes glaze over….then ask, dude, do you have even the slightest idea of what’ in them ?? If you think this is an overstatement, then ask some of your ev. friends and compare answers.

    Point being: it really is the scripture behind them that’s the big deal…. now perhaps the ev. conception of GOD is STILL off, that’s why Jess laid it out as a question: whose package REALLY represents GOD”S nature, biblically ??

    Seth: there is always the possibility that something/someone could be ontologically OTHER and NOT be either intangible OR impersonal. These are not mutually exclusive sets. Maybe someone can be immaterial AND personal/relational. Yes , this would mess with many a paradigm.

  18. GERMIT permalink
    February 20, 2009 2:13 am

    PS: about FrGregg’s quote: he was saying that LDS THEOLOGY AND BELIEFS collapse the ontological gulf…..not the creeds, or traditional christianity. And I would agree with him on that point.

  19. inhimdependent_lds permalink
    February 20, 2009 3:23 am

    Germit,

    I think you are right about the response of the 50 ev’s off the street- that is how most of them would respond. But im not so sure that really helps your case. I do not doubt their motives or good intentions- but there is more to it than that. All of which i would love to discuss- but when i have more time perhaps.

    More importantly i want to make clear to you Jessica that while i do find defense of the creeds by sola scriptura adherants problematic in a broad sense i do not mean to imply that that YOU raising the issue here is problematic in a personal or individual sense. That is not what i am trying to say here.

    There was something in Germits last comments that made me think i might be coming across like i had a issue with YOU or the fact that you posted your post at all.

    I have learned that in this strange medium we do not always come across to others in the way we think we do.

    So, just to be safe let me say that i think that your post is a good and worthwhile endeavor. It is a good topic to be discussing and i am grateful for your having raised the issue and giving us all the opportunity to discuss it. Thank-you.

    -In Christ,

    -Tad

  20. February 20, 2009 4:01 am

    germit,

    I agree that if you pull random Christians off the street and ask them about the creeds, you’ll get a lot of blank looks.

    But that doesn’t mean that the content of those documents has not impacted those people and their way of thinking in a “trickle-down” sort of way. The Christian elites are very-much impacted by the creeds in their thinking. They pass it on to the masses via books, sermons, and various other means.

    Even if an Evangelical doesn’t even know what the Nicene Creed is, she has nonetheless been profoundly influenced by it in her theological thinking.

  21. GERMIT permalink
    February 20, 2009 4:30 am

    Seth: interesting post….and really, it’s a worthwhile question to ask: just how ‘creedal” are evangelicals ?? LOL first you’d have to figure out “what IS an evangelical….??” Good luck with that one…not sure I know myself.

    Here’s a thought: IF the creeds really are pretty good summaries of the bible, then you’d get at the same beliefs, over time, by just studying the Bible…. I think that’s where most Ev’s have travelled…. just a crude thot…

    TAD: no offense or umbrage about anything over at this end…but it’s always wise to check…. peace to you and yours.

    GERMIT

  22. February 20, 2009 6:10 am

    I had never heard of any of the creeds until Neil began telling me about the LDS church. I heard about the Nicene Creed and Apostle’s Creed from Mormons. I honestly tried to study out what the Bible said on the subject for myself, and I did nearly reject the Trinity as a result, but came back to it because I really don’t think anyone is offering a better explanation of the biblical data from a sola scriptura standpoint. I’m still not as Trinity-centric as most evangelicals, though what I think of the Trinity is really beyond the scope of this thread.

    Honestly, I find it annoying to hear over and over again that what I believe was merely copied from Greek philosophy. As if key elements of Mormon theology and practice are immune from being seen as the product of 19th century folklore, culture and doctrines.

  23. GERMIT permalink
    February 20, 2009 3:11 pm

    JACK; touche

    As if key elements of Mormon theology and practice are immune from being seen as the product of 19th century folklore, culture and doctrines.

    to say nothing of the prism of Greek mythology: gods with bodies…..gods having sex with the mortals, etx…..

  24. inhimdependent_lds permalink
    February 24, 2009 3:32 am

    I just noticed an error in my post on February 19 at 11:18pm.

    I said “…the creeds facilitated the “collapsing of the ontological gulf”. But what i meant to say and should have said was that the creeds facilitated the creation of the gulf, not the collapsing of it. The exact opposite of what i actually meant.

    Not that it matters much now…. but i just feel better now having corrected it. : )

    -T

  25. February 24, 2009 1:57 pm

    Tad: it seems to me it is precisely that, the ontological gulf, that is perhaps the biggest chasm between us….christian orthodox hold to the incarnation of Christ, but HE, and the Father, and the Holy Spirit still remain “other than” their adopted children, we are not the same “species” and never will be, even though we are changed towards their holiness from “glory to glory”.

    Fr.Gregg’s comment touched on how this is understood very differently withing the lDS. Would you agree ??

  26. inhimdependent_lds permalink
    February 24, 2009 7:14 pm

    Germit,

    I respectfully acknowledge that that is your view. We of course see things differently.

    The “gulf” between us and God is a result of the fall and this fallen world. We were “one” with God before the fall and thanks to the “atONEment” we will be “one” with him again.

    What more perfect or beautiful destiny would an all loving all powerful perfect God of total love desire for himself and his children?

    In all ways and in all times we are commanded to BE like Christ, have the mind of Christ, be “one” with Christ, emulate Christ and his Father to the fullest possible extent. We are also told that we will become “joint heirs” with Christ, inherit all that he has, and that we will be like him. And i could go on and on here.

    Why is it so difficult for some evangelicals to believe that we will and actually can be what he has commanded us to be? It seems as if they are almost saying- “No, God cannot be that good.”, “God cannot be that loving”, “Gods plan for us cannot be that beautiful”, God is surely not that full of love and perfection. No way, its just too good.

    In my opinion mans lack of knowledge of his true nature and his true destiny is one of the greatest victories of the adversary in this world.

    -Tad

  27. inhimdependent_lds permalink
    February 24, 2009 7:25 pm

    Germit,

    who is Fr.Gregg?- i am not seeing what you are asking me if i agree with.

    -T

  28. February 24, 2009 8:28 pm

    Tad: Fr.Gregg is over at Heartfelt issues for LDS….sorry about that , I’m mixing and matching …like my master closet or garage…

    you wrote:
    In my opinion mans lack of knowledge of his true nature and his true destiny is one of the greatest victories of the adversary in this world.

    absolutely agreed

    peace on all who call upon the LAMB
    GERMIT

  29. inhimdependent_lds permalink
    February 24, 2009 8:50 pm

    Germit,

    You are one of the most prolific posters online i know of. I see your comments everywhere. How do you keep up with them all?

    You have the gift of multi-tasking i am sure.

    In Christ,

    -T

  30. February 24, 2009 9:06 pm

    TAD: I am fortunate that , for now at least, my job involves a computer and a fair amount of down time….and thankfully a very strong network filter…for which I’m grateful….so I cant’ gamble or watch porn……what’s left ??? oh, yeah, outreach to Mormons…… I would gladly jump into a back and forth with a JW, but I just don’t think there theology and style meshes well with blogging, at least I don’t think so….

    Appreaciate you posts, and positive attitude….those are not “automatic” in the blogosphere, as you well know.

    May God find us like the lost coins we sometimes are….

    GERMIT

  31. February 24, 2009 9:14 pm

    Tad: you wrote

    Why is it so difficult for some evangelicals to believe that we will and actually can be what he has commanded us to be? It seems as if they are almost saying- “No, God cannot be that good.”, “God cannot be that loving”, “Gods plan for us cannot be that beautiful”, God is surely not that full of love and perfection. No way, its just too good.

    Well, from our perspective it’s not that at all, at least not on THIS issue…it’s more to the point that our becoming GOD’s would not be loving at all….in fact far from it. So it’s not that we won’t accept this as GOD”s lofty plan, it’s that we categorically don’t see this as admirable or lofty, or loving. Again, this is an area where HUMAN analogies fail us, because OF COURSE human parents want their kids to grow up and go farther, do better…love for a parent is to want Johnny or jane to supercede us…..I just don’t think this idea translates well over to God and HIS kids….back to the ontological gulf…

    this probably doesn’t look particularly attracive to you, but thot I’d throw an ev. perspective at you, at least one from GERMIT-ville.

    peace and grace on you and yours
    esp. in these times
    GERMIT

  32. inhimdependent_lds permalink
    February 24, 2009 9:49 pm

    Germits comments: —- it’s more to the point that our becoming GOD’s would not be loving at all….in fact far from it. So it’s not that we won’t accept this as GOD”s lofty plan, it’s that we categorically don’t see this as admirable or lofty, or loving. —-

    Germit, what!?! Please, please, please… think about what you are saying here! What more noble, admirable and pleasing vision or ambition could one have in the eyes of God than to desire to be exactly like Christ?!? How can you say that is not loving or would be far from it!?!?!? How? I REALLY dont get that.

    One gets the sense that some evangelicals are very scared or afraid of God or what God would do to them if He found out that they actually want to be like him. We SHOULD WANT TO BE LIKE HIM!! It is what God wants from us! It pleases him greatly!

    How can you say that you “categorically” dont see this as admirable or lofty or loving!?! I really, really dont get this. Unfortunately, i do see the view you have expressed as extremely prevalent within sectarian Christianity- and that is very sad. I believe God heart aches over this matter.

    If you were sitting one on one with Jesus having a personal conversation with him and you told him that you want to be exactly like him would he somehow chastise you for such unloving and selfish desires??- or embrace you with the greatest joy and love imaginable? Desireing to be like Christ pleases Him very much Germit. It is most certainly admirable, loving and lofty. Please think about it. Please.

    -In Christ,

    -Tad

  33. inhimdependent_lds permalink
    February 24, 2009 9:50 pm

    Jessica,

    sorry about the double post. Please delete one and this post as well as necessary.

    -T

    *** Sorry, I’ve been remiss in my blog duties lately. 🙂 I removed one of the posts, but I’ll leave this one for context for Germit’s comment for future readers. -Jessica

  34. February 24, 2009 9:54 pm

    TAD: I know I hit a nerve when I get the same strong post….twice !! 🙂

    you wrote:

    I believe God heart aches over this matter.

    Areed, and it’s either breaking over your view or mine….

    Let me gather a few thots and reply back , tonight is dinner theatre with the missus….so we’re talking maybe tomorrow day, or THurs…..

    blessings on your passionate head..
    GERMIT

  35. inhimdependent_lds permalink
    February 25, 2009 6:06 am

    Germit,

    I will be very curious to hear your comments on this one.

    -T

  36. MadChemist permalink
    February 27, 2009 3:11 am

    Where have I been?
    I’ve written down the scirptural references and will work through and provide a good response soon, Jessica.
    -MadChemist

  37. MadChemist permalink
    February 27, 2009 4:16 am

    Jessica,
    It is true that MUCH in the Nicean creed, Mormons can agree with. But again, these are times when you have pointed out biblical verses, we have been able to compare, and agree. Therefore, I will only point to the parts that we (I) disagree on.

    God of God, Light of Light
    John 1:1 can be interpreted that Jesus was with God and was God. It doesn’t say “God of God.” I wonder what the reason they added it in the Greek was, but it’s not biblical. None of the scriptures quoted use the phrase or the concept “God of God”. So Mormons can be confused by the phrase, and disagree with the phrase because it is not biblical, even while agreeing with John 1:1,19, Titius 2:10,13; and 2 Peter 1:1-2. In fact, to be certain the only similar statement is “God of gods”, a statement which references the divine council that non-Mormon Old Testmaent scholars are finally converging on, and was mentioned earlier by Seth R. See for example Deut 10:17; Josh 22:22; Psalm 136:2; Daniel 2:47; 11:36. Something similar is true for “Light of Light”. It’s not a biblical phrase, I’m not sure what they mean be it, but I can agree with John 1:4-5, and Heb 1:3 even if I don’t use the term light of light.
    true God of true God.
    Colosians 2:9 doesn’t say the phrase ‘true God of true God’ so I don’t know why it would be included as proof of this phrase. While all Mormons would agree that both the Father and Son are truly God, many (myself included) are confused by the relation implied by “of”. None of the scriptures quoted imply this relationship, and we are still left asking why was it included like it was?
    begotten, not made
    When I read John 1:14 and 18. I couldn’t find the phrase “begotten, not made.” While it is true that verse 18 describes Jesus as the only begotten Son, the distinction between begotten and made is not made in these verses. Why should a non-authoritative council, like Nicea, be able to make a distinction that the New Testament authors did not?
    being of one substance with the Father
    Not one of the verses includes the word substance, so how can one include these verses as a justification for Nicea with a straight face? Substance is simply not a concept that the New Testament authors cared to spend any time on, so why does a non-authoritative council expound on something New Testament authors were silent on? We’ll certainly agree that Jesus has the glory as the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, and that Jesus is the brightness of the Father’s glory, being the express image of his person, but we don’t have to accept the creedal words like “substance”
    Deut 6:4 says God is one, not one substance. In Mark 2, Jesus proclaims himself the Son of Man, and the text implies Jesus was God, but it certainly doesn’t say substance. John 1 doesn’t use substance. Etc. Etc. Etc. Books, thesis, theologies all hang on the Greek philosphy of substance, homoousian, and we just feel it wrong to disqualify us from Christianity because of a term included solely in the creeds, the false philosphies of man, instead of the word of God. You ask me if I believe John 1:1, I saw yes. If you ask me if I believe in the same substance, and I say, why’s the Bible silent on your interpretation. I can accept Romans 8:9, and Heb 3, but I don’t have to accept the creeds describing how these scriptures fit together. Their interpretation, by any Protestant denominations de facto beliefs, are not authoritative, unless it suits the specialized purpose of excluding members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    I don’t disagree with the statement of needing an apostolic church. We certainly believe that any Church that is lead by Jesus will have apostles, and wonder on what leg Protestants stand on, who certianly lack any apostolic authority. Mormons totally accept everything described in Eph 2:18-22, 3:5, and 4:4.

    Where does that lead us? I’ve listed out 22 words in the Nicean creed I disagree with. There are 221 words in the Nicean creeed as quoted in your post. I reject 10% of it. The other 90% was very scripturally sound.
    How bout you Jessica, do you accept every word of the Nicean creed as true? If they were in grade school, and I was the teacher, I would give them an A-. The problem, is that their words have been exalted above the Bible and have been used to interpret them, as evidenced by all of the scriptures that were quoted being viewed through the lens of the Nicean creed instead of vice-versa.

  38. Tom permalink
    February 27, 2009 6:49 pm

    I agree with MadChemist. Use the Bible to interpret the creeds. Not the other way around.

  39. February 28, 2009 1:12 am

    Hey MC,

    Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

    I agree that the phrases you pointed out are not explicitly stated in those exact words in the Bible. However, I disagree with your statement that these summaries are not biblical. Jesus is God of God, true God of true God because the Bible teaches there is only one God (Isa 43:10; 44:6-8) and Jesus is God (John 1:1, 14, 18). I can see your point that the terms are confusing. But then the Trinity IS confusing. I think one of the fundamental differences between us is that I consider that confusion to be part of the AWE that draws me to seek God and to try to understand Him. You believe (I think) that this confusion creates a gap that God never intended between Himself and us. Is that right?

    I’ve spent hours pondering His nature and trying to grapple with how God can be 3 persons, 1 essence. My sense of awe has deepened as I have grappled to understand God and while I certainly don’t claim to have it all figured out, there is one thing I am certain of: the summary at the bottom of my post is not biblical at all.

    The Bible plainly teaches that there is only one God. Yet, the Father is God, Jesus is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. This seeming contradiction can only be resolved by an integration of ALL of the relevant scriptures into the formulation of a view of God that is consistent with what He has revealed even if it is inconsistent in our finite brains.

    To teach the exact opposite, however, – the plurality of gods – is to go against the very clear teaching of scripture that there is only one God.

    There are SO many scriptures involved in formulating a Biblical understanding of the Trinity.

    For any interested readers, one site that lists a whole bunch of them is here:

    http://www.layevangelism.com/qreference/chapter10.htm

    A really good Biblical summary of the Trinity is presented here:

    http://www.irr.org/trinity-outline.html
    ______

    Tad,

    I also wanted to comment on what you said:

    “Why is it so difficult for some evangelicals to believe that we will and actually can be what he has commanded us to be? It seems as if they are almost saying- “No, God cannot be that good.”, “God cannot be that loving”, “Gods plan for us cannot be that beautiful”, God is surely not that full of love and perfection. No way, its just too good.”

    It’s not because of any philosophical reasoning that I believe I will never become a god. It is because the Bible clearly teaches that no one will ever become a god. Isaiah 43:10 says that there will NEVER be any other gods formed. God is the only God and always will be. I don’t understand why LDS pick certain verses, such as Romans 8:17, and then philosophize and reason about how we will be “joint-heirs” with Christ. Romans 8:17 must be interpreted in light of Isaiah 43:10. Otherwise, it’s just proof-texting and pulling verses out of context. The conclusions from this approach are prone to the errors of human reasoning and the corruption of our human hearts/motives rather than a formulation derived from being saturated in the Word of God and considering all the relevant scriptures when forming a doctrine.

  40. Tom permalink
    February 28, 2009 3:20 am

    I don’t think God intended His nature to be confusing. How can we know Him, “the only true God, and Jesus Christ” whom He has sent if their nature is so confusing? (John 14:3)

    Just as we can’t take Romans 8:17 without also considering Isaiah 43:10, we can’t throw out Romans 8:17 because of Isaiah 43:10. Isaiah doesn’t expound on this statement by the Lord, so we can’t be 100% sure what’s intended, especially in light of other statements like Rom. 8:17. For example, when Jesus appears we “shall be like Him.” (1 John 3:2). How can we be like Christ unless we are also like the Father? The Savior commanded us to be perfect “even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48). Furthermore, God revealed to Joseph Smith that “all that [the] Father hath” would be granted to us His righteous children (DC 84:38, see http://scriptures.lds.org).

    Just because the Bible contains two seemingly contradictory ideas doesn’t mean that we can throw out one of them to suit our doctrinal purposes. It is acceptable to say that we don’t understand everything and have our interpretation of the Bible, but it is not fair to say that LDS beliefs can be construed as non-Biblical just because they don’t fit your interpretation.

    Finally, it seems abundantly clear to me from discussions like these that, left to their own devices, men cannot come to a full and proper understanding of the scriptures. Christ’s church was organized with apostles and prophets (Eph. 2, Eph. 4) for the purpose that the members would not be tossed by every wind of doctrine (Eph. 4). As you quoted earlier, the Nicean Creed itself affirms the need for apostolic authority. Yet the majority of modern Christianity claims no apostolic authority. The LDS church does claim direct apostolic authority, with modern day apostles called by Jesus Christ. Just as in the first century Christian church, these modern apostles and prophets provide understanding and clarification on the scriptures that otherwise may seem contradictory.

    We invite all to consider the truths revealed through these modern apostles, particularly those in the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. Truly, the Lord’s ways are higher than man’s ways (Isa. 55) and we must submit ourselves to Him and lean not on our own understanding in interpreting the scriptures, especially when doctrines seem contradictory!

  41. MadChemist permalink
    February 28, 2009 3:52 am

    Jessica, Thank you for your response. For all of the crazy “verbal acrobatics” that Mormons are accused of, this statement really made me laugh, “the phrases you pointed out are not explicitly stated in those exact words in the Bible… I disagree with your statement that these summaries are not biblical.” Statements can be biblical. Interpretations can also be biblical, if they are contained in the Bible. Interpretations that require assumptions not contained in the Bible are by definition non-biblical. That doesn’t automatically equal wrong. But it does mean the onus is on you if you want to prove they should believe it.
    I will not put down Evangelicals or others for having confusing beliefs. Not all Mormon beliefs are non-confusing. And while the data contained in the Bible is confusing (appears confusing) doesn’t mean we should take it as an article of faith that it “MUST BE CONFUSING.” It almost feels like any interpretation on the nature of God is taken in the most stretched and difficult manner to avoid to plain meanings because it may contradict other statements in the Bible. I agree that I’ve never known the AWE of our inability to understand God to be the main reason Mormons are drawn to Him. I guess it’s OK if you are, but at the same time, why imply that others should be? While it’s true that the gap between God and man is something that God never intended (the gap, for LDS, is the fall, which can only be overcome by Jesus’ atonement), that’s not the reason I dislike the confusion. While God has withheld some of the data (Biblically) to prove either the “LDS view” or the “traditional Christian view”, I hear one side exalting the confusion “the sacred mystery” and the other side accepting it without exalting it. Furthermore, whatever one’s views on how the Bible was written (secretarial non-free-will transcribing versus inspired writings), we can certainly agree that the Trinity must be interpreted out of the writings of the Bible, that they aren’t specifically or clearly stated. My assumption, is that, because (God/the biblical authors) didn’t explicitly state it, I don’t have to believe it to be a Christian. I may be wrong, but I’m certainly not disobeying the Bible. Let’s take the other assumption, that is, the data contained in the Bible can be interpreted to create the “classical Trinity”, and that others have to believe it in order to be true Christians. This may be wrong too, but it forces people to accept things not directly included in the Bible, and as such, is set up as a doctrinal test to determine who knows enough about dogma in order to be a ‘saved Christian’. It seems very hypocritical to screech “Saved by grace only” and add to that, “A proper understanding of a theological construct not explictly stated in the Bible called the classical trinity.”
    Jessica, while I respect the struggle you’ve had in attempting to reconcile the biblical data, I hope you don’t feel I’m trying to judge you for being what I consider incorrect. The only time I get upset, is when I hear Evangelicals say, “The Trinity. It’s so clearly taught! You have to believe it in order to be saved!” As long as we recognize that it is a non-binding interpretation, I’m OK with each group thinking it’s right, and the other is wrong, but recognizing that their beliefs are founded on interpretation rather than clear statements.
    Contextually, Jessica, I think you should ask why none of the Biblical authors ever tried to resolve the seeming contradiction. Paul spent a lot of time reconciling the false gospel of the Judaizers, of the Corinthians rejecting the resurrection, etc. Certainly he understood the concept of the Godhead better any Bishop present at Nicea, as did Stephen. Yet for some reason, the Nicean concept of Trinity is raised higher than Paul’s statements and Stephen’s statements. If there are contradictions, Christians who don’t believe in continuing revelation after the Bible must in good faith accept the existence of the contradiction without superceding the Bible with their “logic.”
    “This seeming contradiction can only be resolved by an integration of ALL of the relevant scriptures into the formulation of a view of God that is consistent with what He has revealed even if it is inconsistent in our finite brains.” So, we see inconsistencies in the biblical data which we resolve by producing an understanding of God that is inconsistent to our understanding? This seems circular; we traded one misunderstanding for another, except, instead of relying solely on biblical data, now the misunderstanding is based on non-biblical data. I’m not willing to concede that that is a step forward. Again, I’m not trying to bar your self-identification as a Christians, I’m just trying to make sure that this belief isn’t made a neccesity for Christian identity.

  42. MadChemist permalink
    February 28, 2009 4:05 am

    Nice comment Tom “We can’t jettison scripture just because we don’t undersetand how it fits with others.”

    I will try to post smaller responses in the future. Sometimes I feel so verbose.

  43. Tom permalink
    February 28, 2009 4:31 am

    Jessica,

    I appreciate the honest open treatment you are giving these topics. I wish to address one comment you made:

    “I don’t understand why LDS pick certain verses, such as Romans 8:17, and then philosophize and reason about how we will be “joint-heirs” with Christ.”

    The reason we philosophize about how we will be joint heirs with Christ is because the Bible DIRECTLY states that we will be joint heirs with Christ and because the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that man has potential to become like God. I relish apparent contradictions because they prove that the Lord’s wisdom is much greater than ours and at the surface two verses may seem contradictory (maybe this is similar to how you view the Trinity).

    I believe both Isaiah 43:10 and Romans 8:17. Do you?

  44. February 28, 2009 6:04 am

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for your comments. I wanted to respond to this that you said:

    The reason we philosophize about how we will be joint heirs with Christ is because the Bible DIRECTLY states that we will be joint heirs with Christ and because the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that man has potential to become like God.

    I believe both Isaiah 43:10 and Romans 8:17. Do you?

    When I read Romans 8:17 I understand what it is not saying. I understand, because of Isaiah 43:10 (along with a host of other Bible passages), that I will never become like God in essence. There is only one God, we are His creatures. I understand that I will become like Christ in character, holiness, righteousness, etc. I will be perfect because He has redeemed me by His grace and will one day glorify me. I will be a joint-heir, but not a god. As you pointed out in your statement, the idea that we would become gods was revealed to Joseph Smith. This teaching is not found in scripture. I do not accept Joseph Smith for a huge host of reasons including the fact that his teachings contradict scripture.

  45. Tom permalink
    February 28, 2009 6:27 am

    Joseph Smith’s teachings contradict your interpretation of the scriptures. It is an important distinction. I fully respect your right to your own interpretation of the Bible. The bottom line is – we differ in our interpretation of Rom. 8:17 and the other scriptures I cited previously. And that’s fine. I’m content to have differing interpretations.

  46. February 28, 2009 6:41 am

    Tom,

    I forgot to ask – in what way do you believe Isa. 43:10? You said you believe that verse, but if you believe you will someday be a god I do not understand how you can claim to believe that verse.

  47. MadChemist permalink
    February 28, 2009 2:38 pm

    Jessica,
    While I can accept that you’ve interrpeted biblical phrases to mean what God is “in essence” and what Christ will make you “in character”, you’ve got to recognize that these are abiblical words, that have been philosophically fashioned. You can’t expect us to apply the same abiblical interpretation simply because it’s the only way you can understand it. If the biblical explictly said “God’s essence cannot be communicated” that would be one thing. But the the bible explictly states that we will be “partakers in the divine nature”, Jesus himself approving quotes the Psalm, “Have I not said, ye are gods.” Words like coeternal, consubstantial, incommunicable, etc. are abiblical. And yet, at every turn, we see you interpreting the Bible through these terms, that were added AFTER you believe the canon was closed. Mormons don’t believe the canon was closed. It must remain open in theory and in practice. Therefore, we aren’t subject to the same constraints that you guys (closed canon protestants) are. I’m not trying to say that Mormons don’t interpret the Bible through our own lens, we do, but we at least believe that their is an authoritative purpose for that.

  48. Tom permalink
    February 28, 2009 10:47 pm

    Jessica,

    I thought you’d never ask! Isaiah doesn’t expound on it so we don’t have an authoritative commentary, but I have summarized my best thoughts on the matter. It is one apparent contradiction to which I have given a great deal of thought. I will first give a brief historical context to the doctrine of deification or “theosis”. Then I will examine the Biblical record itself. (For lack of a better historical reference in front of me right now I have summarized much from the Wikipedia entry “Theosis,”). My response is lengthy, but I am trying to convey my worldview as completely as possible.

    The doctrine of deification is not unique to LDS theology. An examination of early Christian theology reveals that this doctrine was accepted by the early Church but was apparently abandoned by Western Christians during the Reformation (see below). “Non-Christian” and “non-Biblical” are NOT appropriate terms to use in condemning the doctrine. Note, however, that the reason Mormons believe the doctrine is not because it was part of early Christian theology – it took a revelation from God to the prophet Joseph Smith to get this doctrine back into western culture! Again, prophets and apostles are CRITICAL to a proper understanding of God’s doctrine (Eph. 4, DC 1, DC 20).

    The noted 2nd century Christian scholar Irenaeus declared, “[T]he Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ…did, through his transcendent love, become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself.” (Against Heresies, Book 5 Preface, http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103500.htm).

    Another significant early Christian, Athanasius (293-373 AD) wrote, “God became man so that man might become God.” (On the Incarnation 54:3, PG 25:192B; interestingly, Athanasius was the first to propose a New Testament canon consisting of our current 27 NT books!) Other Christian writers addressed deification, but suffice it to say that during the Reformation, Catholics and Protestants largely abandoned this doctrine. John Wesley was heavily criticized for his text “Plain Account of Christian Perfection” and most Protestants do not believe in perfection as described by Wesley, nor do they even use terms such as “deification” or “theosis.”

    Now let us examine the Biblical record:

    1. The Hebrew Old Testament text speaks of “Gods” (or “gods” if you prefer). Thus, a strict interpretation of Isa. 43:10 is suspect from the start. Search “God” in the Strong’s concordance – http://www.eliyah.com/lexicon.html. There are many different meanings and contexts that were all rendered in English as “God.” We cannot, therefore, unequivocally assign a meaning to God’s statement in Isa. 43:10.

    2. Mortals can’t comprehend what it means to be God, and therefore we are limited in our capacity to interpret the statement. It is unfair to apply our mortal concept of what it means to be God and say that this verse precludes all of God’s children from ever becoming like Him (especially in light of other scriptures – 1 Jn. 3:2, 2 Peter 1:4, Rev. 3:21, etc – which are sonorous with the idea of humans becoming gods).

    3. A major purpose of scripture is to communicate to humankind their relationship with God, which relationship will always exist, even under LDS doctrine. If we as God’s children become like Him, He is still our Father and our God and we will still worship Him, i.e. I won’t worship myself or someone else. So as it pertains to humankind on the earth, Isaiah 43:10 is exactly true – He is our only God and there will never be another God.

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  2. Critical Look at Creeds: I « Psychochemiker’s Blog

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