Skip to content

In the Beginning (Part 1): Pre-existence or Creatio Ex Nihilo?

June 6, 2009

In my opinion, one of the most significant differences between Mormonism and traditional Christianity is the LDS doctrine of the pre-existence.  This teaching radically alters a person’s paradigm so that LDS have totally different views than traditional Christians regarding who they are, why they are here, and how they can be reconciled to God.  The LDS understanding of all core doctrines regarding the nature of God, original sin, salvation, etc. flow out of this foundational worldview.

I think any meaningful discussion on doctrinal differences must include an awareness of this radical divergence in our worldviews.  Otherwise it can be confusing trying to figure out what we are talking about. For example, while preparing my post on the topic of original sin (which is now turning into a series of posts), I realized that in order to really address the differences in our views I would need to start with the foundational premise of the pre-existence since it significantly affects the LDS teaching on original sin.

The LDS gospel reference manual, True to the Faith, explains the fall in terms that are completely backwards for someone who does not believe in a pre-existence.  The manual has a section entitled Benefits of the Fall in which the following explanation is given:

“The fall is an integral part of Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation (see 2 Nephi 2:15-16; 9:6)… In addition to introducing physical and spiritual death, it gave us the opportunity to be born on the earth and to learn and progress.” [1]

LDS view this present earth-life as a mortal probation where humans, who previously existed as God’s spirit children in heaven, have an opportunity to learn and progress.

In contrast to the LDS teaching on the pre-existence, the Bible never teaches that human spirits existed previously. Jesus taught that humans were created in this world and did not originate in heaven:

“Ye are from beneath; I am from above; ye are of this world; I am not of this world” (John 8:23).

Paul taught that the natural man was created first, not the spiritual man:

“It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body… that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven… And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption…For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (1 Cor. 15:44-53).

The passage above directly contradicts the teaching that our spirits are immortal or that we pre-existed in a spiritual form prior to coming to earth.  Rather, the passage teaches that the natural body was given to men first and the spiritual body will be given after the resurrection.

In accord with this teaching, the Word of the LORD, speaking through the prophet Zechariah, revealed that God formed our spirits within us:

“The Lord, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him” (Zech. 12:1).

The Hebrew word used for “formeth” in this passage is yaw-tsar’ which is the same word used in Genesis where it says God formed Adam’s body and God formed the animals.  Before Adam’s body was formed it did not exist.  Before the animals were formed they did not exist.  In the same way, using the same word, this passage teaches us that our spirits did not exist before God formed them within our bodies.

In contrast with the LDS teaching that there was a war in heaven and all humans who are on earth made the choice to follow God, the Bible describes this present earth-life as the spiritual war where humans are given the opportunity to choose to follow God or Satan.  The Bible indicates that the demons and angels already made their choices in heaven before humans were created and they are now present in the spiritual realm trying to influence us to their sides.  Now is our time to choose who we will serve.

In the next post we will begin to examine the radical differences in our views of the fall.

1.  True to the Faith, 2004, p. 57.

Advertisements
28 Comments leave one →
  1. psychochemiker permalink
    June 6, 2009 3:31 am

    It is true that LDS believe that there is an overall positive aspect to the fall. We also recognize there are very negative aspects as well. It is also true that LDS believe that the fall was in integral part of Heavenly Father’s plan, and it DOES allow to to learn and progress. What shouldn’t be omitted, however, is the central necessary role Jesus was in saving us and making it possible so that we COULD return to heavenly Father, be saved, and be exalted.
    It is in paragraph 8 that Jessica begins to prooftext. Perhaps I should do a post on proof-texting, and why it just doesn’t work in convincing someone they’re wrong.
    For instance, John 8:23 does not teach, as it was introduced, that “humans were created in this world and did not originate in heaven.” The proof is in the post, the verse says “ye are from beneath…ye are of this world.” Jesus doesn’t say “human spirits weren’t created first in heaven.” And while it is obvious that Jessica believes this, this verse doesn’t explictly state it. In fact, one can understand the scripture differently, and if you really want to understand the Mormon worldview, you gotta understand how we interpret this verse. You can say our interpretation is wrong, but we just don’t accept your authority to condemn us for your “private interpretation.”
    Mormons, like myself, interpret this to mean, “Your current condition is fallen.” The verse doesn’t say, “Your spirits were created fallen” which appears to be Jessica’s viewpoint (please correct me if this is wrong.)
    The same is true with 1 Corinthians 15. A highly parabolic chapter out of which strict theological doctrines are extracted? The purpose of Corinthians isn’t to show “Paul taught that the natural man was created first, not the spiritual man:” but rather the first Adam wasn’t spiritual, and I would guess it was the fallen Adam that wasn’t spiritual. Jessica’s selective quoting removes the context of the verse so that we could know Paul was talking about Adam. Paul doesn’t say anything about the spirit of man originating on earth. It does say the first man is created by the earth, but Genesis teaches us that. Heck, Genesis also teaches us that God placed into man his spirit, the breath of life. Genesis 2:7, so directly from the Bible, we see man’s body came from the earth, and man’s spirit came from God. “7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Perhaps some of you Hebrew speakers out there can enlighten us on how spirit and wind/breath are very similar words.
    Jessica then says that 1 Corinthians contradicts that spirits are immortal or were pre-existent. There is, however, no mention of the spirit not coming from heaven, so at best, the argument should be “Mormons believe something not explicitly stated in the bible” rather than “Mormons believe something contradictory to the bible.” Further, is Jessica suggesting that humans don’t have spirits until they’re resurrected? The context of this chapter is the resurrection and Paul says, we first have an earthly body and then a spiritual body. It would then logically follow, that everyone alive on earth now, since they aren’t resurrected yet don’t have a spirit! That’s not a consistent theology, and makes NO SENSE when compared to Bible verses such as Provers 20:27, Ecclesiastes 3:21, Zechariah 12:1, & 1 Cor 2:11. I suggest that a spiritual body isn’t the same as Mormons understand “a spirit body”, and therefore the conflation of the two by this verse doesn’t help ANYONE to understand the Mormon viewpoint.
    Now in Jessica’s understanding of Zechariah, she is apparently interpreting within as “when God formed the spirit, God created it in the physical body.” But that isn’t precisely what the verse says, now is it? One could, quite honestly interpret this as “The spirit that is within us, God formed it.” Quite frankly, this is a translation issue. I have never heard an Evangelical explain this viewpoint very well to me. That get mad at Mormons for not believing mistranslations are the word of God. Do Evangelicals really believe, that even when the verse is mistranslated and misinterpreted, it is still the word of God? In fact, from the context of the verse, it would be much more likely to assume that the creation of man’s spirit also happened around the creation of the heavens, and the earth, because the scripture brings that in as context. I have no problem with the interpretation that God formed our spirits, all Mormons should concede their agreement. And Mormons can agree that before God formed our spirits, our spirits didn’t exist, but to then assert that our spirits did not exist before God formed them WITHIN OUR BODIES involves certain assumptions that aren’t required from the text.
    To be fair to LDS belief, Jessica should also know that this life is also a spiritual war where humans are given the opportunity to choose to follow God or Satan. It is true that Mormons also believe that there was a spiritual war in heaven, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t choose during this life whom we will serve.

  2. June 6, 2009 2:47 pm

    Although the post did not really discuss the philosophical notion of creatio ex nihilo, nevertheless since it was referenced in the title of the post I thought that I might mention it further here because, in my judgment, this teaching is the biggest philosophical-theological difference between LDS Christianity and those other Christian traditions since the end of the second century who have adopted this understanding of God’s mode of creation.

    I have actually done a series of exegetical posts (about 8 or 9 posts) discussing perhaps the most widely referenced passage in the Bible used to teach creatio ex nihilo: Genesis 1.1. The following link is to my final post that summarizes the evidence and concludes the series of posts on Genesis 1.1 (although, as this post recommends, I suggest that each post in the series be read individually to see the full force of the evidence):

    http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com/2009/04/creation-in-genesis-1-3-part-7-summary-and-conclusion/

    Suffice it to say that I agree with virtually every modern critical biblical scholar (Jewish, Christian, and otherwise) that creatio ex nihilo is nowhere taught in Genesis 1-3–or anywhere in the Hebrew Bible (or the New Testament for that matter). Rather, as most scholars now recognize, the notion of creatio ex nihilo did not finally crystalize until the end of the second century (see Gerhard May’s treatment for a good scholarly introduction).

    Best wishes,

    TYD

  3. tomchik permalink
    June 6, 2009 3:44 pm

    Hi, folks,

    First, FYI, Tom is now “Tomchik” although you’ll still see me as “Tom” on non-wordpress blogs (Jack’s, Faith Promoting Rumor, etc.)

    A few questions:

    1) How do Evangelicals interpret Jeremiah 1:5? I can’t think of any way that God could have known Jeremiah other than that Jeremiah’s spirit existed prior to Jeremiah’s physical body. I suppose it could be talking about the foreknowledge of God, but that’s a controversial topic as well.

    2) It appears that Jesus’s disciples believed in some sort of premortal existence. In John 9, the disciples ask the Master concerning the man born blind: “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?”

    This indicates either A) a belief in premortal existence or B) belief that a person can sin while in the womb.

    —————————-

    Re: Zech. 12:1

    I’ve said elsewhere that the verb “formeth” can be just as appropriately rendered “frameth.” If one thing is framed inside another, both existed prior to the framing. Again, you don’t have to agree with the LDS interpretation, but saying it’s anti-Biblical relies on YOUR INTERPRETATION of the Bible.

    —————————–

    I agree with PC –

    Taken to it’s conclusion, Jessica’s logic on 1 Cor. 15 would mean that none of us have spirits until the resurrection.

    —————————–

    I personally believe the premortal existence is one example of a “plain and precious truth” restored through the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants (although I am unaware of an authoritative LDS source that would back me up on this claim).

    Before you get too upset with me, remember that we DO believe that Jesus Christ created our spirits. We also believe the Bible doesn’t require us to believe our spirits were created at the same time as our physical bodies.

  4. tomchik permalink
    June 6, 2009 3:49 pm

    I should add that in John 9, the Lord didn’t tell the disciples there was no premortal existence (i.e. possibility for the man to sin before birth). He simply said “Neither this man sinned, nor his parents…”

    While Jesus doesn’t explicitly teach the premortal existence in this case, his answer passively acknowledges the possibility that the blind man could have sinned before birth.

  5. June 6, 2009 4:20 pm

    Somehow I knew I would get a visit from The Yellow Dart if I used creation ex nihilo in my title. 🙂

    PC said, It is in paragraph 8 that Jessica begins to prooftext. Perhaps I should do a post on proof-texting… For instance, John 8:23 does not teach, as it was introduced, that “humans were created in this world and did not originate in heaven.” The proof is in the post, the verse says “ye are from beneath…ye are of this world.” Jesus doesn’t say “human spirits weren’t created first in heaven.” And while it is obvious that Jessica believes this, this verse doesn’t explictly state it.

    My definition of prooftexting is the same as the one on Wikipedia:

    Prooftexting is the practice of using decontextualised quotations from a document (often, but not always, a book of the Bible) to establish a proposition. Critics of the technique note that often the document, when read as a whole, may not in fact support the proposition.

    So, let’s look at John 8:23 to see if I pulled a verse out of the context of the book of John to establish a proposition:

    I doubt that anyone who is familiar with the book of John, as a whole, would say I pulled this verse out of context. As you pointed out in your comment, the Bible never teaches the doctrine of the pre-existence. Therefore, it would be prooftexting to try to teach the doctrine of the pre-existence using verses pulled out of John to try to support the doctrine.

    I am confident in using a portion of the book of John to support my assertion that this book contradicts the teaching of the pre-existence and I am happy to provide further reasoning from the book to back this up.

    First of all, the book of John was written to expound upon the unique nature of God’s Son for the purpose that we would come to know Him and believe in Him (John 20:31). The book starts out with the revelation that Jesus is God and that He made all other things. The book says Jesus is the “only begotten Son of God” (John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18) and all other things are made by Him (John 1:3):

    C.S. Lewis expounds upon the difference in meaning between the words begotten and made:

    “We don’t use the words begetting or begotten much in
    modern English, but everyone still knows what they mean.
    To beget is to become the father of: to create is to make.
    And the difference is just this. When you beget, you beget
    something of the same kind as yourself. A man begets human
    babies, a beaver begets little beavers and a bird begets eggs
    which turn into little birds. But when you make, you make
    something of a different kind from yourself. A bird makes a
    nest, a beaver builds a dam, a man makes a wireless set or
    he may make something more like himself than a wireless
    set: say, a statue. If he’s a clever enough carver he may make
    a statue which is very like a man indeed. But, of course, it’s
    not a real man; it only looks like on; : It can’t breathe or think.
    It’s not alive.

    Now that’s the first thing to get clear. What God begets
    is God; just as what man begets is man. What God creates
    is not God; just as what man makes is not man. That is why
    men are not Sons of God in the sense that Christ is.” (from Beyond Personality)

    In the chapter from the book of John that I quoted from, we have Jesus expounding upon His relationship to the Father as completely unique when compared to humanity. In addition to telling the people that they are from beneath and He is from above, he tells them that God is His Father, but not their father (John 8:38-44).

    In this book I’m reading by Piper he points out that “Jesus often referred to God as ‘my Father’ and ‘the Father,’ but he never referred to God as ‘our Father’ except once, when teaching the disciples how they should pray (Matthew 6:9). Once he used the remarkable expression, ‘my Father and your Father…my God and your God’ (John 20:17) [again, to his disciples]. The relationship between God the Father and his eternal Son is utterly unique” (Piper, The Pleasures of God, p. 32).

    If the pre-existence were true, Jesus would have said as much in John 8 when revealing his nature. He would have expounded to them that they were all literally sons and daughters of God in heaven and that he was their spirit brother.

    Did he make this claim? No, quite the opposite. Rather than expounding upon his similarities with mankind, he highlighted the differences. He said “If God were your Father, ye would love me… Ye are of your father the devil” (John 8:42-44). “Ye are from beneath; I am from above” (John 8:23).

    (I will have to respond on the other verses later unless someone else beats me to it)

  6. Stephanie permalink
    June 6, 2009 5:01 pm

    Hi Tom,

    1) How do Evangelicals interpret Jeremiah 1:5? I can’t think of any way that God could have known Jeremiah other than that Jeremiah’s spirit existed prior to Jeremiah’s physical body. I suppose it could be talking about the foreknowledge of God, but that’s a controversial topic as well.

    This is an interesting passage, and one that Paul invokes in Galatians 1:15, “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace.” I don’t want to get into a Calvinism vs. Arminianism debate  but Paul does give the sequence of Salvation in Romans 8, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” Both Paul and Jeremiah were used by God in very public and specific ways. Paul defends his call and qualifications to be an apostle frequently in his letters to the church. It appears that Jeremiah is sharing his testimony of the calling of God. He gives further proof later in the text. God tells him He will be with him and deliver him (v. 8), He will put His words in Jeremiah’s mouth (v. 9). “See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant” (v. 10). It seems reasonable to me that, prior to making such a claim of authority, Jeremiah would have defended his position as a prophet. He was called of God, foreknown by Him.

    Tom, you are absolutely right, getting into the debate of foreknowledge is an exciting and controversial topic. I am more than willing to discuss it at any time. However, I think that wasn’t the topic here. The topic was pre-existence. That is not spoken of in Jeremiah.

    2) It appears that Jesus’s disciples believed in some sort of premortal existence. In John 9, the disciples ask the Master concerning the man born blind: “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?”

    I would disagree on the interpretation of this passage. In reading the text in its context it is clear that the Jews of Jesus’ day believed that physical infirmities were caused by sin. The theological question they were weighing in their mind was not one of pre-mortal existence. This is why they questioned Jesus regarding who had sinned—the man or his parents. If we accepted the general consensus view of the Jews for doctrine we would have many problems indeed! This passage brings to mind the “friends” of Job who chastised him to confess his sin. The affliction of Job was not a result of sin. Jesus had to correct the disciples and Jews in many errors and this was one of them. The purpose of the blind man’s affliction was not a result of sin, “but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:3b). God chose to use this man to display his miraculous power—this is why he was born blind. How this passage is interpreted into a belief in the pre-existence is beyond me. It seems a pretty straight-forward passage to me. Do you have any proof that the disciples believed in a pre-mortal existence besides this passage that teaches that they believed that affliction was caused by a specific sin?

    In the end, I have to agree with psychochemiker, ‘“so at best, the argument should be “Mormons believe something not explicitly stated in the bible” rather than “Mormons believe something contradictory to the bible.”’ I wouldn’t go quite so far as PC, as to say that the doctrine of pre-existence doesn’t contradict the Bible. The Bible is not silent on the events of heaven prior to the creation of the world. Why would God chose to reveal the sin and fall of Lucifer (Isaiah 14; Ezekiel 28), and yet remain silent on the supposed existence of spirit children and their war in heaven?

  7. faithoffathers permalink
    June 6, 2009 5:54 pm

    Jessica,

    Nice quote from Lewis. What are the implications of this concept he discussed to Christ being literally the Son of God?

    I (and LDS) completely agree with Lewis, and your belief that we are not sons and daughters of God in the same way Jesus is. Jesus is the ONLY BEGOTTEN of the Father.

    God the Father Begat Jesus. But He did not beget our bodies. He formed our bodies (Christ did actually).

    You said “If the pre-existence were true, Jesus would have said as much in John 8 when revealing his nature. He would have expounded to them that they were all literally sons and daughters of God in heaven and that he was their spirit brother.”

    Big assumptions. I don’t think anybody can make such a statement. Christ will teach what He feels appropriate to teach, based on the level of understanding of those being taught and His own wisdom.

    William Oscar Emil Oesterley discussed the Hebrew belief in the pre-existence in his book “The Books of the Apocrapha, pages 80-83. The link to the online book is

    http://books.google.com/books?id=2XQuAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA83&lpg=PA83&dq=hebrew+belief+in+the+pre-existence&source=bl&ots=cenXU0Nhns&sig=t8By5m_y_e7ppRzS6llUaNgX-xs&hl=en&ei=KaoqSsnzIqXgsgPr6N3nCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1#PPA81,M1

    Also, simply look at wikipedia on the topic for starters.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pre-existence

    Very interesting topic. Looking at the ancient Hebrew writings on the topic are pretty revealing. Suffice it to say that this doctrine did not originate with Joseph Smith.

    fof

  8. faithoffathers permalink
    June 6, 2009 6:03 pm

    Another interesting discussion on the ancient belief of pre-existence in the Christian church and among the Jews:

    http://www.mormonfortress.com/premort2.html

    fof

  9. tomchik permalink
    June 6, 2009 9:54 pm

    Stephanie,

    If the disciples believed the man’s blindness was a result of sin, when did he commit that sin? Maybe they didn’t know he was born blind?

    All I’m saying (and fof backs me up on this) is that some Jews believed in a premortal existence, and Jesus never taught against that doctrine.

    Regarding Jeremiah, I see your point, but Jeremiah 1 doesn’t rule out the possibility that God knew Jeremiah as a spirit prior to his mortal birth. At best I’d say the Bible is silent on the topic – it doesn’t definitively go one way or the other.

  10. tomchik permalink
    June 6, 2009 10:06 pm

    Jessica,

    John 20:17 seems to weaken your argument. I don’t see how it helps your case. Your quote from Piper seems a bit ridiculous to me. It essentially sayss, “Christ never referred to the Father as OUR FATHER, except when He did.” So which is it? Either He is our Father or not. If it weren’t true, as you and Piper imply, why would Christ say it, even once? Was He joking?

    Is it possible that in John 8 Christ was referring ONLY to the pharisees who obeyed Satan and not God (and thus were the devil’s children). As far as I know, Christ never referred to his disciples as the children of the devil, but does imply they are children of the Father – as in the verses you cite – John 20:17, Matt. 6:9. .

  11. June 6, 2009 10:25 pm

    Hi Tom,

    I think you misunderstood my point. Jesus referred to God as “our Father” only when He was speaking to his disciples. This is consistent with the passages that say God becomes our Father only when we become Jesus’ disciples.

    We become adopted children of God through Christ who is the only begotten of God (Rom. 8:15, Gal. 4:4-5). The Bible never teaches that we are literal children of God before we become adopted children through Christ.

  12. psychochemiker permalink
    June 7, 2009 3:33 am

    John 8 was completely and totally proof-texted, removed from context.

    Immediately preceeding the verse, it is painfully obvious that Jesus is deliniatiing a difference between the Pharisees and himself. He isn’t asked a question about the pre-mortal existence of humans, and He doesn’t claim to answer about the pre-mortal existence of humans. He does delineate between the Pharisees and Himself. The pharisees don’t know Jesus’ Father. Jesus will return to the Father, and the pharisees will die in their sins (implying by contrast, that Jesus doesn’t die in sin~interpretive assumption). But to claim this teaches against pre-mortal existence of human spirits is just wrong.

    Apparently, I do need to do a post on proof-texting. I’ll post a link here once I finish it.

  13. psychochemiker permalink
    June 7, 2009 3:51 am

    Jessica,
    except when the Bible clearly teaches that.
    “We are the offspring of God.” Look up the context of the verse.

    Was Paul talking to saved Christians or Pagan Greeks? Pagan Greeks.
    Did he still call them the offspring of God? Yes.
    Was Paul appealing to a popular belief had among the Greeks? Yes.
    Was this belief that only the saved were adopted offspring of God. No.

    Then how does the statement ” The Bible never teaches that we are literal children of God before we become adopted children through Christ.” have any validity. it doesn’t.

    One can either say there’s a contradiction in the Bible, or there’s many viewpoints, but it won’t do to simply throw-out or ignore out biblical data because it disagrees with our pre-conceived notions that we bring TO the text.

    Tomchik:

    remember that we DO believe that Jesus Christ created our spirits.

    Could you please clarify this a bit. I’m not sure that I’ve ever read or heard this. Usually I’ve understood that the Father is the Father of all our spirits, including Jesus. Jesus was the firstborn, the only perfect spirit, and volunteered to be our Savior on this earth. When Adam was created, God gave him a divine situation, which he lost when he transgressed. Man spiritually fell from God’s presence. Due to the plan of the Father, the Son became the intermediator, the intercessor for mankind, and became our spiritual Father, able to regenerate our spiritual condition so that we could return to our Father, by becoming perfect in Christ.

  14. Stephanie permalink
    June 7, 2009 4:20 am

    Tom,

    “If the disciples believed the man’s blindness was a result of sin, when did he commit that sin? Maybe they didn’t know he was born blind?”

    The disciples clearly knew that he had been born blind because they mention it in their question. The disciples had two possible reasons for the man’s blindness: the man sinned or the parents sinned. It is possible that the disciples thought that he had sinned in the womb, or that God knew he would sin, or that they believed in a pre-existence. I know you must be aware that this would bring up tremendous ramifications if the disciples believed in the pre-existence. Perhaps you are aware that the Hindu beliefs in re-incarnation echo some of the same ideas you are invoking. Are the blessings and hardships that humans experience in this world a result of decisions that they made in a prior world? The question of why God allows human suffering is a weighty one but is addressed in Scripture. I think that the book of Job does the best job of exemplifying God’s purpose in allowing men to suffer. Jesus provided explanation in this passage by proclaiming that sin was not the reason for his blindness. If we approach the passage exegetically it is impossible to find the doctrine of pre-existence here. A person would have to read that back into the passage based upon their own belief system. If the disciples did believe this doctrine, it certainly isn’t ever affirmed by Jesus. The fact that He doesn’t rebuke that doctrine means nothing! He didn’t rebuke belief in space aliens, UFOs, etc. In fact, it only offers further proof that the disciples were NOT referring to the issue of the pre-existence.

    They were asking a basic question: who sinned? It is completely pulling Scripture out of context to try to use this passage to support the doctrine of the pre-existence.

  15. Stephanie permalink
    June 7, 2009 4:21 am

    psychochemiker,

    You said, “Usually I’ve understood that the Father is the Father of all our spirits, including Jesus. Jesus was the firstborn, the only perfect spirit, and volunteered to be our Savior on this earth. When Adam was created, God gave him a divine situation, which he lost when he transgressed. Man spiritually fell from God’s presence. Due to the plan of the Father, the Son became the intermediator, the intercessor for mankind, and became our spiritual Father, able to regenerate our spiritual condition so that we could return to our Father, by becoming perfect in Christ.”

    The problem I have with the LDS doctrine of the pre-existence is that it is unsupportable in Scripture. An uneducated person, without bias or prior religious experience would not be able to discern this doctrine from the Bible. However, they could clearly gather it from the Pearl of Great Price. Therefore, in order to persuade me to believe in this doctrine I would have to accept LDS Scripture. Let me present an example so that you can see the problem with this. If I was reasoning with a practicing Jew and trying to persuade him to become a Christian I would use the Old Testament. It is a document that we both would agree is inspired by God. I would use all of the OT prophecies concerning the Messiah and point out that I believe that the historical Jesus fulfills those prophecies. In the same way, you have additional books that you believe are inspired, but we both accept the Bible. Shouldn’t you be able to use the Bible to persuade me to believe?

  16. psychochemiker permalink
    June 7, 2009 12:48 pm

    That’s fine, Stephanie.
    But I never claimed that all of this came directly from the Bible, nor did I claim I was trying to persuade anyone to believe Mormon beliefs. Nor did I claim that pre-mortal existence was plainly taught in the Bible. This is a common Evangelical strawman argument of Mormonism, and I refuse to play. When Jesus said that man should not live by bread alone but by EVERY word that proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God, I think I’ll decide to use every-word, and not just the ones others are willing to accept. Further, I’m not here to persuade you or anyone else to believe in Mormonism, I’m just here to make sure false facts and false arguments aren’t allowed to exist unrefuted. It is not my job to convince or persuade any person, that job belongs to the Spirit of God. My calling is to stand as a witness of God in all times and in all places, to share my experience.

    Those who have followed our conversations here for any period larger than a month know that neither Mormons nor Evangelicals limit themselves to the Bible. Mormons accept post-biblical revelations that have been canonized by their faith tradition. All Evangelicals, alternately, accept post-biblical creeds to some extent, but at very least in the lens through which they read the Bible, they introduce a “traditional view” that taints their viewpoint. This point is made very clearly by Gerald McDermott, an Evangelical, in “Claiming Christ” a debate between himself and Bob Millet.

  17. Stephanie permalink
    June 7, 2009 1:49 pm

    Psychochemiker,

    I wasn’t trying to create a strawman argument….and don’t really see how I’ve created one. I’m not aware of Gerald McDermott or Bob Millet. Neither of them have any influence on what I believe. It is one thing for you to claim that evangelicals like myself use post-biblical creeds as a guide for doctrine. Its a totally other thing to prove that is the case and to show me doctrines that I believe that aren’t in the Bible. I consider myself a Biblicist and, although I am a fallible creature, I try as best as I can to line up my beliefs with Scripture. Since you don’t know me 🙂 how can you assume that I cling to post-biblical creeds. You said that “all Evangelicals” do. Are you sure about me? What kind of “traditional view” are you referring to? I believe in interpreting the Bible through the literal, grammatical, historical lens….I don’t belong to the Catholic church where Scripture is interpreted for me.

    Thanks for the dialogue!

  18. psychochemiker permalink
    June 7, 2009 3:53 pm

    Stephanie,
    I’ll write a post at my blog about what McDermott wrote. Basically the point is, this false statement about the text speaking without historical baggage. You interpret the text evertime you read it. You read into it your own worldview that has been taught to you, as an Evangelical, as a Westerner, as a person born in the 21th century. It is actually impossible to divorce an interpretation from an interpreter, and so even if you did reject all creeds that were held by some of your other Evangelical friends (nicea, trent, etc. etc. etc), you still use interpretations that belong to someone else. You didn’t sit down and read the Bible in a vacuum, you read the Bible in the cluttered worldview. The same is true for every other human alive.

    You can test whether or not you’re really creedless for the first creed here. There’s 10% of the creed that isn’t explicitly biblical. If you believe the 10% is binding you are defacto creedal, because summaries aren’t allowed to introduce material not found in the work.

  19. psychochemiker permalink
    June 7, 2009 10:08 pm

    A post on proof-texting.
    Look forward to new posts in the series on “Critical Look at Creeds.” And a uncategorized post on Gerald McDermott, tradition, and extra-canonical worldviews.

  20. tomchik permalink
    June 7, 2009 10:32 pm

    PC –

    Perhaps I’m over-interpreting Mosiah 3:8 which describes Jesus Christ as the “Creator of all things from the beginning.” Or John 1:3, “Without him was not anything made that was made.”

    At best, the LDS view on the origin of our spirits is hazy. Let me know what sources you’ve found on the topic.

    Tom

  21. Stephanie permalink
    June 7, 2009 10:43 pm

    Psychochemiker,

    Thank you for your detailed post. I am somewhat confused about your association with creeds and Evangelicalism. Have the Evangelical churches you’ve attended (if any) or the Evangelicals that you have known ascribed to creeds? To be honest with you, except for when I was doing some grad studies in Bible and theology I had never even read the creeds before. After reading them I found them to somewhat summarize what I do believe, so I suppose that in that respect they could be used as a succinct statement of faith. Your blog post caused me to want to re-read the Nicene creed to assess how closely my beliefs lie with this historical document. I think that the first statement, “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible” could be altered in light of John 1:3. Speaking of Jesus the Apostle John writes, “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” I think that the act of creation could be ascribed to both Jesus and to God. Clearly Genesis 1:1 describes God created the heavens and earth. Further in the creed the statement is made, “I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins.” I believe that baptism should follow regeneration but is not in and of itself a cleansing act. The thief on the cross was never allowed the opportunity to be baptized and yet Jesus told him He would see him that day in paradise.

    So, I hope that answers your question as far as assessing what I believe in relation to the creeds. Personally, I am having a little bit of a hard time understanding the connection that you are making with Evangelicalism and the creeds. It would be easier to defend myself if I knew what you are accusing me of :-). Can you please point out my errors in Biblical understanding as influenced by the creeds? I find it hard to believe that the creeds have a greater influence on my interpretation of the Bible than the Scriptures of the LDS church do on your interpretation of the Bible.

    BTW, thank you for the courteous tone of your posts. 🙂

  22. June 7, 2009 10:51 pm

    Tom,

    I totally agree with you if you take the position that Jesus Christ created our spirits. In addition to the verses you cited, Col 1:16 very clearly teaches this. “For by Him [Jesus] were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible [i.e. our spirits]… all things were created by Him, and for Him, and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist.”

    PC,

    I understand “offspring” of God to be referring to God’s role as Creator. He is the Father of mankind in the sense that He created us. As we both agree, the Bible does not teach the pre-existence so there is no Biblical support for the doctrine. We could probably go back and forth about whether or not I am prooftexting John 8 depending on our idea of what prooftexting means. I believe the context of John clearly contradicts the revelation of the pre-existence. The context of the book is Jesus revealing Himself to be the unique Son of God.

    I would be interested to hear how you interpret John 1:12-13, Rom. 8:15, Eph. 1:5, and Gal. 4:5-7. If we are literal children of God, why does the Bible teach that we must receive Christ in order to become adopted children of God?

  23. faithoffathers permalink
    June 7, 2009 11:51 pm

    Sorry to butt in, but:

    LDS doctrine is clear on who created, or formed, our spirits and who created, or formed our physical bodies.

    The book of Moses states:

    “And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten; and mine Only Begotten is and shall be the Savior, for he is full of grace and truth; but there is no God beside me, and all things are present with me, for I know them all.” Moses 1:6

    Later in the exchange between the Father and Moses, we read:

    “And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew. For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth…..

    And I, the Lord God, formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul, the first flesh upon the earth, the first man also; nevertheless, all things were before created; but spiritually were they created and made according to my word.” Moses 3:5-7

    Although we know little about the actual process, we do know that it was the Father who organized our spirits. We also know that the earth and our physical bodies were created by the Son, Jesus Christ, under the direction of the Father.

    This brings up an interesting concept about spiritual birth. God is the Father of our first spiritual birth- we are His spirit offspring.

    Christ is the Father of our second spiritual birth- He is the Father of our salvation through His atonement. It is in this sense that we can consider Him our spiritual Father- it is ONLY through Him that we are spiritually reborn.

    fof

  24. psychochemiker permalink
    June 8, 2009 1:37 am

    Tomm I agree with FoF’s explanation, but I will attempt to find some more rigorous defense of my understanding. The Book of Moses is difficult, bcz, historically, Lord God has been interpreted in the Old Testament as referring to Jesus, but obviously from the context, this is directly the Father. This unclear language is certainly a weakness in Mormon thought.

    Stephanie, glad you enjoyed the post, but I’m overjoyed that it was thought provoking. When I served my mission in Germany, if the people I tried talking to didn’t want to learn about our Church, I tried to enthuse them to go back to their own and learn more about their own church.

    Jessica. “If we are literal children of God, why does the Bible teach that we must receive Christ in order to become adopted children of God?”
    Being fallen, we’ve lost that birthright. We are fallen and need redemption in order to regain our previous status. God still wants all of us to return, but now that we’re fallen, we must be brought back by Jesus’ infinite and eternal atonement, and the only way that happens is if we accept the free gift of grace that He offers to us and enter into the convenant relationship of Baptism, which is how one becomes an adopted child of Christ.

    I’ll look at those scriptures and try to get back to you soon.

  25. psychochemiker permalink
    June 8, 2009 3:05 am

    Dear Stephanie, I would hate to think that I’m making false statements about Evangelicism. Most of my assumptions are based on those I’ve met, both in real life and online, and from my reading of Evangelical authors. Several authors have tried to have dialogues and debates with Mormons. One person is Gerald McDermott, who wrote the book Claiming Christ. I’ve included some of his comments, as well as my reaction here. And I invite you to read what he wrote, and decide whether or not that Evangelical beliefs use creeds.

    I am somewhat confused about your association with creeds and Evangelicalism. Have the Evangelical churches you’ve attended (if any) or the Evangelicals that you have known ascribed to creeds?

    Whenever I attend a Church of my friends who are Baptist or Evangelical, I have heard traditional creedal language. Most people I’ve met who attack Mormonism, do so on our rejection of creeds and creedal language. When I point out how sincerely I accept the biblical language they often insist I also accept the creedal language as well. One exception I would like to make on that is Jessica openly stating she didn’t care if I accepted the creedal language of “One Substance” as long as I accepted the fully Biblical statements about Christ’s unity with the Father, which I do. And Stephanie, I think your comment would stand as a good part of the discussion and Evangelical viewpoint over at my blog :). I would love to learn that I am wrong about this…

  26. Stephanie permalink
    June 8, 2009 4:43 am

    Thanks PC,

    I just need to re-assert categorically that, while historical, the creeds are not a valuable part of my walk with Christ. I don’t read them (except for studying Christian history). I don’t use them for doctrine. I’m not sure about your experiences with other Evangelicals, but most of the ones that I am acquainted with know less about the creeds than myself. Further, I am not aware of any Evangelical friends who use them for doctrine! I have a similar distaste for some who will cling to “statements of faith” made by various churches throughout the ages. While it is possible that these articles can be useful for summarizing a faith, I don’t use them for MY doctrine. I find myself challenged daily by reading the Bible alone. There is PLENTY in there for doctrine, without having to refer to extra-Biblical resources. I feel that each passage should be read in its context, understood in a normal, literal sense, and should be made applicable to life! “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb 4:12).

Trackbacks

  1. In the Beginning (Part 2): Sin or No Sin? « I Love Mormons
  2. Book of Mormon Analysis – Part 2 « I Love Mormons

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: