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Pre-existence Quiz!

February 25, 2010

How well do you know your past and present Mormon thinkers?

Who said the following?

Our spirits, like the infinite universe we inhabit, always have been and always will be.  Birth and death are not a beginning and an end, they’re simply events, designed by us and our Creator, in a perfect, unending continuum.  We arrive here from our real lives on the Other Side, experience this rough boot camp called life on earth for the further growth of our souls, and then head Home again with greater wisdom and depth than we had before.

1.  Joseph Smith

2.  Brigham Young

3.  Hugh Nibley

4.  Blake Ostler

5.  Stephen Robinson

6.  None of the above

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. February 25, 2010 4:34 am

    6. None of the above.

  2. February 25, 2010 4:29 pm

    I have no clue, but it sounds recent so I would guess Hugh Nibley or Blake Ostler.

  3. February 25, 2010 8:12 pm

    I am like Happy Lost Sheep – don’t have a clue, but my guess would be someone more recent like Ostler.

    On a sidenote: There are numerous messages in this quote which obviously create issues for an orthodox Christian. But one thing that is surprising (especially if the claim is a more recent one) is the claim that the universe “always [has] been and always will be.” While this may have been unchallenged in the past, from a more recent scientific standpoint, it has numerous issues. It flies in the face of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, the Law of Entropy (2nd Law of Thermodynamics), etc. It appears more and more that the teaching of Genesis & Colossians, i.e., the universe had a beginning, is pretty darn accurate.

    Darrell

  4. February 25, 2010 10:15 pm

    Darrell,

    Leaving aside modern scientific debates concerning the origins of the universe, there is a firm consensus among modern biblical scholars that creatio ex nihilo is not found in the Hebrew Bible. Rather, the biblical authors presupposed the common view of the cosmos available in their time(s) and found among every other ancient Near Eastern group: creatio ex materia. As far as Genesis is concerned, I have already conclusively demonstrated this in a seven part series (eight if you include my discussion of source criticism) that begins here:

    http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com/2009/01/creation-in-genesis-1-3-part-1-introduction-and-temporal-clause/

    Best wishes,

    TYD

  5. February 26, 2010 2:36 am

    TYD,

    Thanks for the note.

    There is a swing towards liberalism occuring in biblical scholarship. In fact, it appears that higher criticism is even rearing its ugly head again within the evangelical world. These fights will come and go.

    Nevertheless, I, as well as many other Christians (some who are even scholars – imagine that 🙂 ) believe a firm case can be made from the Bible for creation ex nihilo. As a result, to hold that the verdict has been perfectly settled for ex materia is a vast overstatement.

    In addition, when you add philosphy and science to the mix, ex materia as a position on reality, IMO, becomes even more of a stretch.

    God Bless!

    Darrell

  6. February 26, 2010 2:55 am

    “conclusively” – ?

    Ya haven’t convinced this fundamentalist in Southeastern Idaho, TYD.

    In Hebrews 1, I have been mulling over aionas in verse 2. And of course, this gets me thinking about Hebrews 11:3. I must not be one of those ANE experts because I keep imagining space, time, and matter, etc. And I don’t think this N.T. writer to the Hebrews would fit so well in his persuasive argumentation with some of today’s American Hebrew experts on creatio ex materia. And my wish is that Ostler would embrace the full message (ch. 1-13)of Hebrews with no critique.

  7. The Red Dart permalink
    February 26, 2010 3:17 am

    Darrell,

    Frankly, science has little to do with the Genesis creation stories–no one except fundamentalists would suggest otherwise. Nevertheless, leaving aside modern philosophical and scientific debates concerning the origins of the “universe”–which are far more complex than your comments suggest–it is certainly not a “vast overstatement” that creatio ex materia has received the overwhelming stamp of scholarly consensus for Genesis 1-3 (and the rest of the Hebrew Bible, for that matter) in modern biblical scholarship–and this fact has nothing to do with so-called “liberalism”.

    In fact, I am unaware of any serious biblical scholar who posits that Genesis 1-3 refers to creatio ex nihilo. Who were you thinking of? Even extremely conservative Christian scholars concede this point (e.g., Bruce Waltke; cf. Richard Bauckhaum’s discussion of 2 Peter 3:5, etc.), and it is definitely accepted by Jewish scholars (e.g., Marc Brettler [Brandeis], Jon Levenson [Harvard], etc.). Additionally, the treatments of Gerhard May (Schöpfung aus dem Nichts; available in English translation now) and James Hubler (Creatio ex Nihilo: Matter, Creation, and the Body in Classical and Christian Philosophy Through Aquinas), among others, have made available for public consumption the basic scholarly consensus regarding the development and origin of creatio ex nihilo (which is ultimately to be placed in the second and third centuries CE).

    On a personal note, I am continually surprised at how little critical thought Evangelicals involved in LDS-Evangelical discussion give to understanding creation in the Genesis narratives–especially given the tremendous weight biblical scholarship lends to the LDS Christian perspective. Even the rare exception(s) of Copan and W. Craig (see their article in The New Mormon Challenge as well as their volume on Creation ex nihilo, published after that article) are terribly inadequate and don’t even come close to engaging the mass of critical evidence against their position(s) concerning creation in Genesis (and the rest of the Bible, for that matter). On a number of occasions I have tried engaging Evangelical Christians involved in LDS-Christian discussion concerning creation in Genesis, and especially in my seven (or really, eight) part series on the subject, but I have received little interaction. In fact, your type of response above is quite typical (and frankly, inadequate).

    Best wishes,

    TYD

  8. The Red Dart permalink
    February 26, 2010 3:23 am

    Todd,

    I don’t recall ever seeing you engage my (many) arguments, so you’ll forgive me if I don’t take seriously the fact that I didn’t convince a self-labeled biblical fundamentalist such as yourself that the Genesis creation stories assume and argue for creatio ex materia.

    Hebrews is another matter entirely (we are actually reading this text in my Greek class right now), but I am sure that you, in turn, wouldn’t be surprised that I don’t think it teaches creatio ex nihilo at all–nor any other biblical text for that matter. But that is a divergence from discussing Genesis 1-3 right now.

    Best,

    TRD

  9. Aaron S permalink
    February 26, 2010 7:43 am

    Number six.

    🙂

  10. Aaron S permalink
    February 26, 2010 7:44 am

    I admit, the first placed I checked was GospeLink.cmo

  11. February 26, 2010 4:36 pm

    TRD or TYD… whichever you are. Are you schizophrenic? 🙂

    Good Morning!

    I only have a few minutes to make some points regarding your last comment. This will be rushed as I have to get to work. Afterall, I have to pay the bills!! 🙂

    1) It is fairly obvious that we approach the Bible from completely different perspectives, and I believe this is likely a result of different worldviews. While you are looking at the Genesis text in isolation, I look at it in light of the totality of God’s Revelation – both specific and general. This leads to my next point.

    2) You said:

    Frankly, science has little to do with the Genesis creation stories–no one except fundamentalists would suggest otherwise.

    This is a strawman. When did I ever say that science has anything to do with the Genesis stories? If I appeared to commicate as much, my apologies. As my first point indicates, I am looking at the totality of God’s specific and general revelation, and as a result, I believe that the idea of eternally exisiting matter is false. It is not supported by the biblical text, nor is it supported by science or philosophy.

    3) I believe it is niave to hold the position that ones scholarship is not influenced by ones worldview. I realize that you believe modern scholarship is untainted by the current liberal wave that exists in Christianity, but we will simply have to disagree on that point. As hard as people may try (myself included), it is literally impossible to step outside of a worldview and view data in a compleletly objective manner. Anyone who claims to do as much is not being honest with themselves.

    4) Your view of scholarship is wholly inconsistent with the faith you hold. In the numerous conversations we have had, you always come back to the point that, “the consensus among all ‘serious’ scholars is ‘x’.” You weld the sword of scholarship as if it is the holy alter at which we should bow.

    My question is, do you formulate all your beliefs based upon what the majority of current scholars believe? If so, why are you a Mormon? For there are virtually no current non-Mormon scholars who hold the Book of Mormon to be anything other than fiction. Given the fact that the BOM, according to the LDS Church, is cornerstone of your faith, I would have to say you lack consistency in your views. You bow down to the alter of scholarship when it suits you and step completely away from it when it doesn’t.

    Don’t get me wrong… personally, I believe scholarship can and does contribute much to the Christian faith. However, I also realize it has its limits. It is most certainly influenced by philosophical and cultural beliefs, and as such, can come back to bite if not used with caution.

    5) Going more specifically into your claims. Even if I were to grant you that Genesis 1 -3 does not specifically teach creation ex nihilo, it still does not lead to creation ex materia from eternal matter – (which was exactly my original point). In order to make the point that matter is eternal, i.e., the universe is eternal, you need to follow up with further argument. Unfortunately, science and philosophy – and I submit the biblical text as a whole as well – simply do not support this view.

    On a sidenote: You cite Gerhard May as to support the idea of ex materia. Tekton cites him as holding that “creation ex nihilo corresponds factually with the Old Testament proclamation about creation” (http://tektonics.org/af/exnihilo.html, accessed 6/26/10: May, Creatio Ex Nihilo: The Doctrine of “Creation Out of Nothing” in Early Christian Thought. Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 1994).

    Gotta get back to work!

    God Bless!

    Darrell

  12. February 26, 2010 5:21 pm

    Darrell,

    To answer your first question: the fact the fact that you (and many others who might be involved in this discussion) believe Genesis and modern science can be harmonized is what prompted by initial comment regarding the relationship (or better: the lack thereof) between those two subjects. Now, I am no scientist, nor am I am philosopher, so I typically avoid those two subjects, especially since they rarely relate directly to the biblical texts anyway. Right now all I am interested in determining what the biblical texts say on their own terms inasmuch as that is possible. Which leads to the following…

    You said: “While you are looking at the Genesis text in isolation, I look at it in light of the totality of God’s Revelation – both specific and general.

    Actually, I am looking at it in its socio-historical and literary contexts. You, however, have assumed a philosophical-theological position of inerrancy which has not been, and cannot be, empirically demonstrated for any text. I simply reject such a notion.

    You said: “I believe it is niave [sic] to hold the position that ones scholarship is not influenced by ones worldview.

    Agreed. I never suggested otherwise.

    You said: “I realize that you believe modern scholarship is untainted by the current liberal wave that exists in Christianity, but we will simply have to disagree on that point.

    Does “liberal” just mean you disagree with a certain conclusion or position? Or does it mean anyone to the “left” of biblical fundamentalists who insist on the inerrancy of the biblical texts (which would be essentially everyone else, including virtually every mainstream biblical scholar)? Or does this mean you disagree with their politics? Or do you have some other definition?

    You said: “Your view of scholarship is wholly inconsistent with the faith you hold.

    Statements like this really make me laugh. You really have no idea what I believe about any number of religio-theological topics. Thanks for the chuckle.

    You said: “You weld the sword of scholarship as if it is the holy alter at which we should bow.

    No. I have provided numerous arguments on my own, and to which I have linked before. I have used the “sword of scholarship” in this instance as a means of grabbing the attentions of others who have failed to consider what biblical scholars are actually saying concerning these issues and the arguments they are putting forward in support of them. I have said it before, and I will say it again to you here, that scholarly consensus isn’t a proof in and of itself; however, it should serve as a serious caution to unproven assumptions and serve as a means of encouraging further research and critical discussion.

    You said: “Even if I were to grant you that Genesis 1 -3 does not specifically teach creation ex nihilo, it still does not lead to creation ex materia from eternal matter – (which was exactly my original point).”

    I have already argued (decisively in my judgment) that Genesis 1-3 both assumes and argues for a position of creatio ex materia. Now, if you accept this position, then on what grounds can you argue that this text ever presupposed creatio ex nihilo? Arguing so would be an obvious case of eisegesis (with a clear agenda driving it, to boot). Nevertheless, if you read my arguments in my series concerning creation in Genesis 1-3, I have provided a number of reasons arguing that the biblical authors assume that the material with which God creates has always been in existence–at the very least, there is never an indication to the contrary. Again this has nothing to do with what modern science or philosophical discussions have to say about the origins of the universe–it is about what the biblical texts say on their own terms and in their own contexts. That’s all I am interested in.

    Best,

    TRD/TYD 🙂

  13. February 26, 2010 8:59 pm

    I have provided a number of reasons arguing that the biblical authors assume that the material with which God creates has always been in existence–at the very least, there is never an indication to the contrary.

    If I grant you, for purposes of discussion, that Gen 1 -3 argues for creation ex materia, it still does not lead to “matter having always been in existence”. To say that Gen 1 – 3 never states that matter hasn’t always been in existence is not an argument. You can’t argue from silence. Doing so allows us to say all sorts of crazy things – perhaps they believed that matter existed on planet krypton and that God got the matter from there. After all, Gen 1-3 never states otherwise!

    In addition, there are numerous places thoughout the Bible which teach that God created all things. “All things,” by definition includes “matter.” Given this fact, it is very reasonable to read Gen 1 -3 (again, granting for purposes of discussion creation ex materia) as God creating the universe from matter that He previously created.

    Further to my point, when we include General Revelation in addition to Specific/Special Revelation, the argument for Eternal Matter as a fact of reality becomes even more far fetched.

    Statements like this really make me laugh. You really have no idea what I believe about any number of religio-theological topics. Thanks for the chuckle.

    Unless you are a Mormon who holds to the view that The Book of Mormon is nothing more than fiction, I think I understand enough to state that your viewpoint on scholarship is inconsistent. You use the sword when it benefits you, but sheath it when it cuts you.

    Darrell

  14. The Red Dart permalink
    February 26, 2010 9:39 pm

    Darrell,

    You said: “To say that Gen 1 – 3 never states that matter hasn’t always been in existence is not an argument. You can’t argue from silence. Doing so allows us to say all sorts of crazy things – perhaps they believed that matter existed on planet krypton and that God got the matter from there. After all, Gen 1-3 never states otherwise! “

    I have already demonstrated by numerous socio-cultural, literary, grammatical, and historical arguments that the authors of Genesis clearly assume and argue for creation from pre-existent matter which God organized and shaped to form the world. Moreover, this view is assumed and argued for throughout the Herbew Bible and the whole of the ancient Near Eastern world–there is no discussion of creatio ex nihilo until hundreds and hundreds of years later. According to Genesis 1-3, matter exists before any act of creation just as God does. There is no indication, implied or expressed, to the contrary. Arguments from silence can be quite significant if there are good reasons to support it. However, there is no substantial argument from silence here given the arguments I have put forward elsewhere and to which I have already referred you to: simply, there is no reason to posit that the authors of Genesis believed “matter” had an origin; rather, in their view, creation starts with both “matter” and God presupposed. What is ironic here is that you accuse me of an argument from silence (without, apparently, having even read what I have said on the subject) and yet you are the one suggesting that we could still reconcile the account with the idea of creatio ex nihilo–clearly on account of your own ideological axe to grind–despite the fact that there is no evidence or indication for this notion in the text whatsoever.

    You also said: “In addition, there are numerous places thoughout the Bible which teach that God created all things. “All things,” by definition includes “matter.” Given this fact, it is very reasonable to read Gen 1 -3 (again, granting for purposes of discussion creation ex materia) as God creating the universe from matter that He previously created.

    First, Genesis never says this, and you never demonstrate why these other texts are relevant for understanding the creation stories in Genesis 1-3 (outside of your unproven philosophical-theological assumptions concerning biblical inerrancy and consistency, a position which I, and virtually all mainstream biblical scholars, do not share) so the argument is already invalid in the context of interreligious dialogue; nor do you demonstrate that creating “all things” includes creating “matter” ex nihilo (see below). Moreover, I already have discussed reasons why it is not possible to read the text of Genesis 1-3 as allowing for a pre-creation creation of matter (talk about an argument from silence!) in the posts I referred you to above. I refer you to them yet again…

    Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that prior to the crystalization of the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo in the second and third centuries CE those scholars, theologians, and philosophers who accepted creatio ex materia (such as Justin Martyr, etc.) didn’t find such phrases as “all things” at all problematic: because creating things didn’t imply creating them from nothing (there is nothing in the word “create” that inherently implies “out of nothing”), but rather making a novel something from that which literally “was not” (i.e., that thing) beforehand (e.g., creating a world from material where a world didn’t exist previously). Again, I refer you to the excellent discussions of Hubler and May, as I don’t have the time or space to flesh this all out in a simple comment for you.

    And by the way, if you were to apply your simplistic logic to other similar statements in the Bible, you would have to come to conclusions I think even you would not accept. For instance, did Caesar really tax “the whole world” as Luke 2:1 literally states? I think not.

    Best wishes,

    TRD

  15. February 26, 2010 10:14 pm

    I have already demonstrated by numerous socio-cultural, literary, grammatical, and historical arguments that the authors of Genesis clearly assume and argue for creation from pre-existent matter which God organized and shaped to form the world.

    You still haven’t established where they believed matter came from… other than to state (at least here) that “they didn’t state” that is has always existed. If I get the time, I may very well read your posts and respond there. But, as far as the information you have shared here, you have basically said nothing more than, “Well, they didn’t state otherwise,” which is nothing more than a faulty argument from silence.

    —————————————–

    In reality, what this really boils down to is our different views on scripture. You view Genesis 1-3 in isolation from the rest of the biblical text, while I am reading it in light of the rest of God’s Word. While you may believe my view to be “unproven” in an empirical sense, it can certainly be supported by numerous philosophical and theologcial arguments based upon the biblical text – much of which is based upon things Christ Himself said.

    For the record, your view of the biblical text cannot be supported empirically either. Nothing from history can be “empirically” tested. Instead, we operate based upon rules of historical analysis… rules which cannot be tested empirically. As a result, your view is just as much a philosophical position as mine. The only difference is I am consistent in my view. You, on the other hand, appear to like the idea of playing the role of critical scholar with other people’s beliefs, but seem unwilling to do it with your own.

    And by the way, if you were to apply your simplistic logic to other similar statements in the Bible, you would have to come to conclusions I think even you would not accept. For instance, did Caesar really tax “the whole world” as Luke 2:1 literally states? I think not.

    Funny! And based upon your logic we can assume the Jews believed green speacemen were going to take over the world in 50 years… afterall, they “didn’t say otherwise.”

    Darrell

  16. February 26, 2010 10:25 pm

    You still haven’t established where they believed matter came from… other than to state (at least here) that “they didn’t state” that is has always existed.

    Reword: You still haven’t established that the Jews believed matter to be eternal. Your argument is that they believed the universe was created from “pre-existing” matter, but it does not establish the fact that they believed matter to be “eternally existent”. As a result, it is reading into the text to say they believed matter to be eternal. To simply say, “Well, they didn’t say matter WASN’T eternal” is an argument from silence.

    Darrell

  17. The Red Dart permalink
    February 26, 2010 10:43 pm

    Darrell,

    You said: “You still haven’t established where they believed matter came from… I may very well read your posts and respond there.

    The authors of Genesis don’t explain where God came from either…but they presume that both God and matter pre-exist the creation of the skies and earth. And yes, if this is actually a subject of importance to you, I suggest you read my entries on the subject (there are eight including the one on source analysis for Genesis 1-3).

    You also said: “The only difference is I am consistent in my view. You, on the other hand, appear to like the idea of playing the role of critical scholar with other people’s beliefs, but seem unwilling to do it with your own.

    As I said before, you really have no idea what I believe on any number of theological-philosophical-historical issues, so your statement is rather hollow to me. (And at any rate, I don’t believe anyone is entirely consistent in what they believe [including you, contra your assertion otherwise].) Moreover, it seems you missed my entire paragraph above concerning the role of scholarship (the point of which I have also reiterated to you on a number of other occasions), so I will repeat it here for you:

    “I have provided numerous arguments on my own, and to which I have linked before. I have used the “sword of scholarship” [i.e., mentioning the consensus of modern biblical scholarship] in this instance as a means of grabbing the attention of others who have failed to consider what biblical scholars are actually saying concerning these issues and the arguments they are putting forward in support of them. I have said it before, and I will say it again to you here, that scholarly consensus isn’t a proof in and of itself; however, it should serve as a serious caution to unproven assumptions and serve as a means of encouraging further research and critical [reflection and] discussion.” [emphasis added to original]

    Finally, you said: “Funny! And based upon your logic we can assume the Jews believed green speacemen were going to take over the world in 50 years… afterall, they “didn’t say otherwise.”

    Besides the fact that you completely dodged the point I made concerning Luke 2:1 (talk about being inconsistent with how you read a text!), this is also quite an uncharitable caricature of my analysis, especially given that you haven’t even read it or engaged any of mymany arguments.

    I think I am done with this conversation Darrell. Feel free to actually engage the evidences and arguments I have presented regarding the subject of creation in Genesis 1-3 on the posts I have referred to above.

    Best wishes,

    TRD

  18. The Red Dart permalink
    February 26, 2010 10:46 pm

    Darrell: re you latest revision to your comment, I suggest you actually read and engage my arguments and those of the scholarly community instead of continually restating your concern about an argument from silence. What is all the more ironic is that your view is really the one that is entirely eisegetical.

    Best,

    TRD

  19. February 27, 2010 2:24 am

    TYD,

    Just a couple of responses to your comments.

    The authors of Genesis don’t explain where God came from either…but they presume that both God and matter pre-exist the creation of the skies and earth.

    The writers of the Old Testament and New Testament go to great lengths to establish that God has always existed. Yet, strangely, the teaching that matter has always existed is absent. In addition, there are numerous passages throughout the Bible which cite that God created all things. As I noted earlier, all things by definition includes matter. As a result, your position that the Bible teaches matter is eternal is simply not supported by the biblical text.

    What is all the more ironic is that your view is really the one that is entirely eisegetical.

    Not so… I can cite numerous passages that support the idea of God creating all, e.g., John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2; and Heb. 11:3. However, there is not one passage that you can cite which says that matter has eternally existed. Consequently, the one performing eisegesis here is you.

    Besides the fact that you completely dodged the point I made concerning Luke 2:1

    It was hardly a dodge; I simply found your comment so condescending and ridiculous as not to warrant a serious response. Nevertheless, since you brought it up again, I will oblige. You seem to be implying that I believe that every verse in the Bible should be taken literally. That is simply not true. There are many verses which should be interpreted figuratively. However, there need to be ample cultural, historical, or textual reasons to merit a figurative interpretation. As I am sure you are well aware, Luke 1:2 happens to be such a verse. What you have never established is why the multitude of verses which speak of God creating all happen to fall into this catergory.

    I think I am done with this conversation Darrell.

    I agree with you… it is probably time for the conversation to come to an end.

    God Bless and have a great night!!

    Darrell

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