Tough Questions Answered

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Why Is the Trinity Important?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

Because it is the best synthesis of all biblical data on the nature of God.  All other views deny or ignore major swaths of Scripture.

For example, on one of our blog posts, there is a thread where Darrell presented numerous passages to a Mormon about the oneness and unity of God.  Instead of dealing with these passages the Mormon writer chose to ignore the passages and continuously point out other passages in the Bible that stress the plurality of God.

In Mormon theology, there are countless gods, and all human beings may one day become gods themselves.  So, of course, Mormons have to dodge and duck all of the passages in the Bible that speak on the oneness of God.  They ignore biblical data in order to accommodate their theology.  Their theology is more important than the data in the Bible.

The Trinity realizes a unity and plurality in God that makes sense of all the biblical data.  There are three persons (plurality) in one nature (unity).

All of the passages that emphasize the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are recognized.  All of the passages that recognize the unity of God are recognized.  Both of these truths are held, and neither is denied.

Is your theology more important than what the Bible actually says?


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Comments

  • ladonnamorrell

    well hello bill,

    i guess you are referring to me :)

    Please explain:

    how did Jesus appear on the right hand side of God?
    Why does He pray to “His Father”, if it is just a part of himself? Isn’t it disingenuous for Jesus to refer to His Father, if it is just an extention of Himself? What does God look like? How can one of the three “natures” have a body? Where does that fit in?

    This is ust too confusing to be true!

  • Wes

    I think of an analogy that I have a body, a mind, and a soul (although some people may not believe in souls). Those parts of me have very different characteristics, but they are all part of me. Do you think that is a strong or weak analogy to the Trinity?

    By the way, I am not trying to match up body/mind/soul to Father/Son/Spirit, just the three components of one entity.

  • http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com Clean Cut

    “In Mormon theology, there are countless gods, and all human beings may one day become gods themselves.”

    But there’s a big difference between gods (by grace) and the One God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) we worship. For us, in terms of our reverence and worship, there is no other God beside Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The fact that we conceive of them as separate individuals does not at all take away from their unity.

    To quote LDS professor Robert Millet, who has dialogued with multiple Evangelical Christians: “We believe that each of the members of the Godhead posses all of the attributes and qualities of godliness in perfection. We believe that the love and unity that exist among the three persons in the Godhead constitute a divine community that is occasionally referred to simply as “God” (see 2 Nephi 31:21; Alma 11:44; Mormon 7:7). In other words, we have no problem speaking of a Mormon monotheism in the sense that we believe in one God, one Godhead, one Trinity, one collection of divine persons who oversee and bless and save the human family.” (“Claiming Christ”, p. 81)

    “Mormons have to dodge and duck all of the passages in the Bible that speak on the oneness of God. They ignore biblical data in order to accommodate their theology. Their theology is more important than the data in the Bible.”

    Obviously you’re entitled to your own opinion, but I simply beg to differ. There is no biblical data with which I, as a believing and practicing Mormon, disagree. Granted, you and I would probably be interpreting those biblical verses through different lenses, but there is no ducking or dodging going on. We believe our theology is self-evident in the Bible as well as the other books in our cannon.

  • http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com Clean Cut

    I unequivocally believe in both the oneness and the threeness of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. I do not, however, subscribe to (nor can I comprehend) the idea that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are ontologically “one Being”. Now, it’s important to me that I properly understand and represent the traditional Christian view of the doctrine of the Trinity. I’ve sincerely tried to learn about what “the Trinity” is (three persons in one Being) and what it is not (ie: Modalism), because I don’t want to misrepresent.

    However, I personally find it hard to believe that a person sitting down to read the Gospels or the Epistles for the very first time without any background in traditional Christian views on the Trinity would come away believing that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are somehow three persons but one Being. And as hard as I personally try, I just can’t wrap my mind around an idea that seems so at odds with what is natural and reasonable and understandable to me.

    Parenthetically, I was recently at a workshop at “Trinity” University in San Antonio and I asked my Episcopalian colleague how she personally conceives of the Trinity, and she admitted that she conceives of them as separate individuals, even though she considers herself “faithful” Episcopalian. I found that both telling and interesting.

    I don’t say this to be disrespectful one bit–just to state that I’m at a hard place with my understanding of the Trinity. I feel like I want to better understand the idea of the triune God, but frustrated because I feel like I shouldn’t have to have a Ph.D in theology to truly understand the in’s and out’s of the Trinity, or to figure out at which point I must just surrender to the idea that the Trinity is a mystery. (Because, when all is said and done, it is still a mystery right? For as Robert Millet asked, how does 1+1+1=1?) “Meaning no irreverance…if we were to invite the Trinity to dinner, how many place settings would I need to set? Three persons are three persons. Three persons cannot be one person, nor can I conceive how three persons can be one being.”

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    Clean Cut,

    Thanks for coming on here and commenting. Millett is an interesting individual to quote. Unfortunately, being simply a BYU professor, he holds no authority and his OPINION about what the LDS church as a whole believes is still simply ONLY THAT… his opinion. Therefore, when he says…

    “We believe that the love and unity that exist among the three persons in the Godhead constitute a divine community that is occasionally referred to simply as “God”.”

    I think it would be more honest for him to say “I believe” because, quite frankly, he cannot speak for what the church as a whole teaches or believes. Millett is doing his best to mainstream the church and I must admit I find some of his tactics rather misleading. For in many instances the things he expresses as official beliefs and teachings of the LDS Church are contradicted by statements from LEADERS OF THE LDS CHURCH.

    Further to this point on the Nature of Christ…

    The LDS Church teaches Jesus Christ is a spirit born son of God the Father and a Heavenly Mother. Therefore, under LDS Theology, there was a time when Jesus Christ/The Lord/Jehovah/Yahweh did not exist as God. Elohim, God the Father, DID EXIST AS A GOD before Jesus Christ. How do you reconcile this teaching with these verses from The Bible which clearly show The Lord/Yahweh/Jesus Christ/Our Savior is the only God who has, was, is, or ever will exist…

    Isaiah 43:3 For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
    43:10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.
    43:11 I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior.
    43:12 I have revealed and saved and proclaimed— I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “that I am God.”
    Isaiah 44:6 This is what the LORD says— Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.
    44:8 You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.
    Isaiah 45:5 I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God.
    45: 18 I am the LORD, and there is no other.
    45: 21 And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me.
    45:22 Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.
    Isaiah 46: 9 I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.
    Deut 6:4 The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
    Mark 12:29 The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one”
    Deut 4: 35 You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other.
    Deut 4:39 Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other.
    Psalms 86:10 For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.

    God Bless!

    Darrell

  • http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com Clean Cut

    Again, no disrespect, but yours is only OPINION as well, but I don’t say that you’re being misleading if you speak in terms of what “Christians” believe rather than what you personally believe. To me that seems kind of petty.

    Nevertheless, what I just quoted is what I personally believe and I only quoted to save me the time of saying the same thing in other words.

    Furthermore, I’ve never had anyone answer how 1+1+1=1 and I’m still equally curious how a traditional Christian would respond to the question of how many place settings you would set if you invited the Trinity to dinner. I’m genuinely curious.

    Now, you write that “under LDS Theology, there was a time when Jesus Christ/The Lord/Jehovah/Yahweh did not exist as God.” I’m afraid it’s not that clear-cut. Because our own Standard Works teach that Jesus is the “Eternal God”, the beginning and the end, “from everlasting to everlasting”. So here we’re talking about our own little LDS “mystery” how Jesus can be the “Eternal God” as well as the literal begotten Son of the Father. (You have the mystery of the Trinity, and we have our mystery of eternality/spirit birth.

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    Clean Cut,

    Thank you for the kind manner in which you choose to discuss this matter. I, as well, mean no disrespect by anything I say. While I disagree with you wholeheartedly, I do respect the way you seek to defend your position. It is refreshing to have an LDS come on the board and converse intelligently and civilly. That has not been the case as of recent. These are tough issues to talk about but we can always do so with respect and kindness.

    The reason I pointed out the fact that Millet is simply a BYU professor is because so many amateur LDS apologists like to quote him as if he is authoritative. I understand “why” they want to quote him… they like what he says. Unfortunately, he holds NO authority to speak for the church and in many cases I find he chooses to obfuscate and twist the teachings of the LDS leaders to fit his own paradigm. If you want to know what the LDS Church teaches officially then one needs to look at the teachings of the church in it’s standard works, statements by it’s leaders and it’s official publications. What Millett says in a book he writes or during a speaking engagement are nothing more than his opinions. As attractive as they might be, until they are included in the items I just mentioned they are not official. Even Millett himself will agree with this. Why not quote the Prophet? Afterall, he speaks for The Lord… not Millett.

    “Furthermore, I’ve never had anyone answer how 1+1+1=1.”

    Great question. I will let Bill share his opinion on this. As for how I would respond… it is pretty simple. The Bible says there is but ONE God. Yet this God has chosen to eternally manifest Himself in the form of 3 persons. God manifested Himself in MANY ways in The Bible… so why can’t He eternally manifest Himself as three?

    1. He appeared as three men to Abraham
    2. A burning bush to Moses
    3. A donkey to Paul
    4. A cloud to the Israelites
    5. A pillar of fire to the Israelites

    Further, He is described as many things…

    1. A door
    2. A strong tower
    3. He is said to have wings
    4. A rock

    Etc, etc, etc.

    Mormons don’t believe that all of these things are God(s)… did God spiritually birth the three men He appeared to Moses as? Of course not. So, if God can manifest Himself in countless ways, why is it hard to believe He can ETERNALLY manifest Himself as 3 persons?

    The Bible says Jehovah/Yahweh is Eternal and has ALWAYS EXISTED as God… there was/is NO GOD BEFORE HIM, NO GOD BESIDES HIM AND WILL BE NO GODS AFTER HIM. Mormonism teaches Yahweh/Jehovah IS NOT THE ONLY GOD and has NOT ETERNALLY EXISTED AS GOD. This is a violation of The Bible. It is not a mystery… it is a flat out violation.

    The trinity teaches both the Oneness of God (which Mormonism violates by stating Christ has NOT always existed as God) and the threeness of God (He has chosen to manifest Himself eternally as 3 persons). This is what The Bible teaches as truth… why not just believe it instead of trying to read something else into it?

    Darrell

  • Bill Pratt

    “how did Jesus appear on the right hand side of God?”

    This was a vision of Stephen had just before he was killed. Why was he killed? Because claiming that Jesus was at the right of God meant that Jesus was equal to God. In fact, Jesus was almost stoned several times during his life for claiming he was God. God the Father appears in visionary form from time to time to his prophets, but he does not have a physical body, whereas Jesus does.

    “Why does He pray to “His Father”, if it is just a part of himself?”

    Jesus, as a human, often prayed to God the Father. As a human, he would pray to God as any other human would. Remember, Jesus has two natures: divine and human.

    “Isn’t it disingenuous for Jesus to refer to His Father, if it is just an extention of Himself?”

    The Father is not an extension of the Son. They are two different persons who interact with each other, but they share the same divine nature.

    “What does God look like?”

    God the Father and Holy Spirit cannot be seen by human eyes, as they actually are. They may choose to use physical forms to provide human eyes with a physical representation, but they are not physical. Only Jesus has a physical body, in his human nature.

    “How can one of the three “natures” have a body? Where does that fit in?”

    One of the three persons, the Son, added on a human nature to his divine nature.

  • Bill Pratt

    One problem with this analogy is that the body and soul separate at death whereas the godhead never separates. Further, the analogy might lead people to believe God has a body, but he is pure Spirit (John 4:24).

    I like the triangle analogy better.

  • Bill Pratt

    Hi Clean Cut,
    I wanted to answer your questions:

    “Furthermore, I’ve never had anyone answer how 1+1+1=1 and I’m still equally curious how a traditional Christian would respond to the question of how many place settings you would set if you invited the Trinity to dinner. I’m genuinely curious.”

    Christians don’t use the analogy of 1+1+1=1. We might say 1X1X1=1, however. That is a better way to look at the Trinity. As far as inviting the Trinity to dinner, since God is Spirit (John 4:24), nobody would be there to eat the meal with you, except for Jesus. As a human, he could show up and chow down, just as he did after his resurrection. As the infinite God of the universe, no dinner table can contain any of the divine nature. The finite cannot contain the infinite. Since the Father and Holy Spirit have not added human natures as the Son has, the best you could hope for is that they would manifest themselves physically somehow, but their manifestations would not be them, as they really are. It’s a representation, but it’s not really them.

    By the way, I have written a couple other posts on the Trinity you should check out. They explain more.

    Hope that helps,
    BP

  • http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com Clean Cut

    Hi Bill. Thanks for your response. That really does help me a lot to understand how you understand this. I appreciate the education.

    I wonder if you might give me a quick tutorial. I don’t find this in the Bible, so could you tell me where talk about the “dual” natures of God comes from? When was this “human nature” and “divine nature” language introduced? Was it around the same time that the idea of the Trinity was expounded upon in the third or fourth centuries as a solution to this “problem” (ie: How God can be both one and three as well as fully human and divine).

  • http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com Clean Cut

    Clearly we’re working from different paradigms here. Let me try to summarize this so far: Jesus, mysteriously the created (unfallen human nature) and the uncreated (Christ’s divine nature) are made one and the created is made uncreate. Does that make sense? The created (Jesus’ human body) can become one with the uncreated, divine nature?

    Or do you say that Christ’s body is forever separate from Christ’s divine essence? If that is the case, I’d be confused, because in some way Christ and his body would be eternally separated by an infinite ontological chasm, and they really can never be “one” ever.

  • Bill Pratt

    The person of the Son (Jesus) possesses two natures: an infinite (divine) and a finite (human). Since a finite nature cannot mix with an inifinite nature (for obvious reasons) the church holds that they must remain separate. However, the church also holds that the two natures are united in the one person of Christ, in some sense.

    This doctrine of the two natures in one person is known as the hypostatic union. Can we completely comprehend how this works? No, because whenever the infinite and finite interact, there is going to be mystery involved. However, the hypostatic union makes an attempt at explaining the fact that Jesus is portrayed as both the eternal God of the universe and as a human born in Bethlehem. Both of these are clearly taught in Scripture.

  • http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com Clean Cut

    “The church holds that they must remain separate. However, the church also holds that the two natures are united in the one person of Christ, in some sense.”

    I’m not going to accuse the traditional Christian “church” of doublespeak here, but I think it’s fair to say that this isn’t the easiest of mental exercises. :) Nevertheless, I’m trying to understand this from another perspective, because my point isn’t to prove that one side is wrong and the other is right. My point in commenting here really was to engage in a mutually respectful dialogue about the nature of God, in the hopes that understanding could increase. Selfishly, I want to learn all I can of truth wherever I can find it. I feel like I’ve gained more understanding personally already, but at the same time I hit a point of frustration because I want to understand and I just can’t quite grasp it.

    This is how my mind works: Christ is God. Christ has a body. Therefore God has a body. (Yes God is Spirit, but he is not merely Spirit.) I can’t conceive of how God can have a body and at the same time be separate from this created body. You say this is a mystery, and I’m fine with that, since as I’ve already acknowledged we Latter-day Saints have our own “mystery”. However, since it is a mystery, I don’t think traditional Christians should be forced to go to such great lengths to preserve this distinction between between the Creator and the created.

    Apparently this is the heart of the disagreement between us. Latter-day Saints maintain that God’s work is to remove the distinctions and barriers between us and to make us what God is. We do not deduce this by philosophical argument; it is flatly stated in the New Testament:

    “…That they all may be one; as thou Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one even as we are one.” (John 17:21-23)

    Please allow me to use the words of “another” to express what I’m trying to say:

    “The strict wall of separation between the human and the divine (“we aren’t really his children; we can’t really be like him”) in my view is not really biblical but, once again, philosophical. It rests on the same objection to the clear sense of Scripture that led to the equally unbiblical doctrine of the two natures in Christ, which was added to historic Christianity by the Council of Chalcedon in A.D. 451. Scripture says that God in Christ became man, that “the Word was made flesh” (Jn 1:14), that “in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his bretheren” (Heb. 2:17).

    “Nevertheless, Greek philosophy, the intellectual fashion of the day, demanded that the divine could not become truly human, and vice versa, since Plato had decreed that the human and the divine were mutually exclusive. So the Council of Chalcedon invented a second nature for Christ, something never stated in the Bible, to satisfy the philosophers by keeping the human and the divine separate in Christ as Plato insisted they must be. According to Chalcedon, Christ’s divine nature never became human, never suffered, never died–the claims of Scripture notwithstanding.

    “Latter-day Saints reject all that. The Word was made flesh. In Christ, God became man. And if the divine can become fully human and then as human be raised up again to be fully God (Phil 2:6-11), then it is established that what is fully human may also be divine–Q.E.D. And by the grace of God we humans can also be raised up to be joint heirs of God with Christ (Rom 8:16-17). Christ is the example of what God finally desires of us and for us. It is God’s intention, through the atonement and the gospel, to make us what Christ is and share with us what Christ has.” (Stephen E. Robinson, “How Wide the Divide?”)

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    Clean Cut,

    Bill will reply a little later I am sure. In the meantime, I want to address a couple of things you mentioned in your post. Again, I appreciate the kind and respectful manner in which you dialogue! :)

    “Apparently this is the heart of the disagreement between us. Latter-day Saints maintain that God’s work is to remove the distinctions and barriers between us and to make us what God is.”

    I agree – the Nature of God and the Nature of Man is at the heart of the disagreement between Christians and Mormons. Ulitimately, one’s beliefs will naturally flow from their understanding of God and man. I have heard it expressed in the past that the most important thing about a man is what they believe about God… I somewhat agree. Mormonism teaches Christ is a spiritually born being and man can become a god while IMO The Bible clearly teaches otherwise. God says over and over again there are no gods before, after or besides Him. No matter how you define the word God (big G/little g – gods by grace or otherwise) you are still saying man can become a God. In addition, teaching Christ was birthed by Elohim means there was a God BEFORE Him – namely Elohim. In additon, one can dig a little further back in LDS teachings and find they have taught that Elohim is simply an exalted man who Himself has a God – this would mean there are MULTIPLE Gods prior to Jehovah/Yahweh.

    IMO, this really boils down to “authority”. If you believe The Bible to be the authoritative word of God then any teachings which contradict it are false. LDS, on the other hand, look to sources OUTSIDE The Bible for the teachings that man can become a God, God was once a Man and Jesus Christ is spiritually born. In LDS culture the BOM and words of the modern day prophets are considered more reliable than The Bible (I can provide multiple quotes from LDS leaders to support this assertion). Therefore, when they approach The Bible they already have their beliefs in hand and are forced to try and make these teachings conform to those of The Bible. Unfortunately, because this is impossible to do it leads to eisegesis. I prefer to approach The Bible as authoritative. I want to garner my beliefs FROM it rather than approaching it with beliefs already in hand. Quite honestly, it was this process which led me out of the LDS church.

    God bless.

    Darrell

  • Wes

    My analogy is intended to show that we believe in a 3-in-1 concept already, not to say that our three natures match up to God’s. This might explain the 1+1+1=1 problem, because our body, mind, and soul make up our complete being.

    This may be an unpopular comment, too, but there will be times when we just can’t understand some theological questions. I think Americans do not like to think they can’t understand something, and it does not mean you should not believe it. If you study quantum physics enough, you will get to a concept you don’t understand, but most people do not stop believing in physics when they find one concept that is beyond their understanding. They will usually say something like, “This is a confusing theory, but apparently it explains some complex data, and I agree with the other principles of physics, so I’ll accept this confusing one.” You don’t stop seeking to understand theology or physics when you get to a tough topic, but there may be some theories that you never understand to your satisfaction. It looks like you (Bill) may have touched on this in one of the other comments.

  • Bill Pratt

    Clean Cut,
    Robinson may dismiss philosophy, but he does so at his own peril. If God is contained within a body, then he cannot be omnipresent, infinite, immanent, immense, non-material, immutable, self-existent, simple, and so on. All of these are attributes of God that are taught in Scripture, but are completely impossible if God is contained in a body.

    That is why the early church rejected this idea. You have to give up way too much of the biblical data to make God have a body.

    The church did not import Plato’s idea of God into Christianity. That is completely false. The church used some of Plato’s ideas about philosophy, but also rejected much of what he had to say. All truth is God’s truth, so wherever the church found truth, it out it to use in explaining God.

    Let me do some quoting of my own, from Norm Geisler:
    “The Greek “gods” of Plato and Aristotle were finite beings: They were limited in their very nature. In fact, they were not gods, since they were not worshiped . . .”

    “Many ancient Greeks believed in creation by God out of some previously existing, eternal “lump of clay.” That is, both God and the “stuff” of the material universe (cosmos) were always there. “Creation” is the eternal process by which God has been continually forming matter, giving shape to the contents of the universe. Plato (c. 427–347 b.c.) held this view of creation out of matter (T, 27ff.). He called matter “the formless” (or “chaos”), while God was the Former (or Demiurgos). Using an eternal world of forms (ideas), God gave shape or structure to the formless mass of stuff called matter. In brief, the Former (God), by means of the forms (ideas that flowed from the Form), formed the formless (matter) into the formed (cosmos). Or, using the Greek words, the Demiurgos, by means of the eidos (ideas), which flowed from the agathos (Good), formed the chaos (formless) into a kosmos (material universe).”

    Finally:
    “There are many things about the traditional Christian view of God that are contrary to Greek thought, including the concept of a Trinity of one essence and three persons. Further, the Greeks never identified their God(s) with their ultimate metaphysical principle. The ultimate in Plato’s system was not God (the Demiurgos), but the Good (the Agathos). Likewise, Aristotle never considered his many unmoved movers to be the object of worship, but simply to be the explanation for movement in the universe. The unique (but not Greek) contribution of Christian thinkers was to identify their ultimate metaphysical principle with the God they worshiped (see Gilson, GP, chapter 1).”

    God bless,
    Bill

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    Bill,

    Thanks for the Geisler quote. I find it interesting how “Many ancient Greeks believed in creation by God out of some previously existing, eternal “lump of clay.”

    LDS like to say Christianity was Hellenized when in fact it appears Mormonism actually has its own ties to the Greeks. For this is EXACTLY what Mormonism teaches…. creation out of pre-existing matter. Very interesting indeed!!

    Daarrell

  • http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com Clean Cut

    “If God is contained within a body, then he cannot be omnipresent, infinite, immanent, immense, non-material, immutable, self-existent, simple, and so on. All of these are attributes of God that are taught in Scripture, but are completely impossible if God is contained in a body.”

    I don’t see why this is believed as an indisputable fact. This seems to me as an error of human understanding, and I just don’t agree. Furthermore, nothing is “impossible” for God.

    Again, I’m not interested in debating this, but it is important that we can learn from each others’ perspectives. I still don’t understand your thoughts about how Christ (who IS God) and who indisputably has a resurrected body can (at the same time) NOT have a body. You can’t be suggesting that his spirit and his body separate, right? Again, this might go back to my confusion on how three completely separate “persons” can be ontologically the same “being”. But for you, how does Christ’s physical body (right now “as we speak”) fit into the ousia/essence/substance/being of God?

    As for my perspective, Latter-day Saints also believe all the “biblical data” and we know God is Spirit (as are we), but he is not MERELY Spirit. Joseph Smith offered the following revelation regarding the members of the Godhead: “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us” (D&C 130:22).

    However, Latter-day Saints do not believe God is confined, or held back, by His body. He has a body, but it does not have Him! While God in the LDS view is not PHYSICALLY present in all things but rather spiritually present, I don’t think this really differs very much from your view in which God’s omnipresence is likewise not a PHYSICAL or MATERIAL presence, but a SPIRITUAL presence.

    “God’s divine, embodied being is the center, not the limit of his power. We believe that a tangible glory or light “proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—the light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne . . . who is in the midst of all things” (D&C 88:11-13). By means of this spirit, God’s power and influence are present at every point of time and space.” –Bruce D. Porter, in First Things article on “Is Mormonism Christian”, http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=6332&var_recherche=mormonism

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    “However, Latter-day Saints do not believe God is confined, or held back, by His body.”

    Not trying to offend by bringing up the Temple. But I do see the need to point out that the teachings within your Temple appear to contradict you. For within the presentation of the endowment, God communicates with people on earth by sending “others” to “go down” and “come back and report” to Him. That does appear to demonstrate a limitation. If God were omnipresent and omniscient He would not need to send “others” to find out what was happening on earth.

    Darrell

  • http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com Clean Cut

    Darrell, no offense taken. I can see why you would think that, but to me that has nothing to do with God’s omniscience or omnipotence. You will recall that the temple ceremony is symbolic. This would be a symbolic or metaphorical way of teaching that God (while he is perfectly able and capable of doing His own work) calls prophets in each dispensation of time to represent him on earth. The temple scene which you refer to must not be taken literally as you suggest, since Peter, James, and John were not even literally called as “apostles” until the meridian of time, when Jesus chose them. (Of course we would argue that they were foreordained anyway, but that’s another issue).

    More to the point, and in a very literal and real sense, we all act on behalf of God as His agents to serve and to bless His children in His place. (“When you have done it unto the least of these you have done it unto me”.)

    Naturally, within the Church, we likewise “return and report” on many of our official duties; order is a godly attribute. But any kind of service to our fellow beings is considered service to God. And I think this has more to do with God knowing that we (his children) learn more and become more by doing things “hands on”, rather than if He gave us everything on a silver platter–there wouldn’t be any growth on our part.

    We are to do what God would have us do, say what He would have us say, and walk where he would walk (if He were physically here). As King Benjamin taught (in the Book of Mormon), “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God”. (Mosiah 2:17). As President Spencer W. Kimball once taught: “The Lord does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other.” )

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    I have heard that explanation before but have never found anything official saying we should only take the cermony symbolically. What parts are to be taken literally and which are we to take symbolically and HOW DO YOU KNOW? Will you literally have to give signs and tokens to enter heaven or is that symbolic as well? How about the creation as it is portrayed – is it symbolic? Why wouldn’t Peter, James and John be able to serve as pe-mortal creatures? As you mentioned they were foreordained. The LDS Church has taught that we did serve in our pre-mortal state and some spirits were more valiant than others?

    Do you have anything OFFICIALLY stating the temple ceremony is only symbolic or is this simply your interpretation? Just curious as I have been given answers all over the board on this one.

    God Bless!!

    Darrell

  • http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com Clean Cut

    Darrell, its impossible that you heard “that explanation before” because I just thought of it! :)
    By any means, your question hardly seems on topic for this post, so I’m hesitant to sidetrack this conversation thread. But to answer your question, I’m sorry to tell you that it’s pretty basic/common knowledge that the temple ceremony is symbolic–everything from the re-enactment of the Fall of Adam and Eve through the crossing of the veil into the Celestial realm. The end.

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    Clean Cut,

    I appreciate your concern about the thread but don’t worry about it being sidetracked. Bill does not mind.

    “I’m sorry to tell you that it’s pretty basic/common knowledge that the temple ceremony is symbolic.”

    Where does this basic knowledge come from? I have never seen an apostle or prophet share this information. Perhaps they have and I am just not aware of it. Can you provide any sources? When I was LDS I did know of people WHO DID NOT take it symbolically. I had a conversation with a Temple President about some of my issues with the temple and he never shared that it was symbolic. He just shrugged his shoulders and told me to have faith.

    Let me point out why I am bringing this up…

    Many times when I have conversations with LDS and point out something from LDS history, say for example, the teaching by prophets in the past that God has many wives, they will jump all over me and accuse me of being misleading or dishonest by claiming this is a teaching of the church. They will say, it is NOT taught in canonized scripture so it in not doctrine of the church (even though IT HAS been taught by prophets and NEVER ONCE denounced). This is happening right this very moment over on Jessica’s blog.

    Yet when I ask you why I should take the teachings of the temple as symbolic you (at least at this point) simply tell me it is COMMON KNOWLEDGE. Well, where in church teachings does it share this common knowledge? If I am wrong to bring up the fact the LDS church has taught that God has more than one wife BECAUSE IT IS NOT IN CANONIZED SCRIPTURE would it not be wrong of me to assume the temple ceremony is symbolic if this has not been shared in some formal fashion by the church?

    God Bless!

    Darrell

  • http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com Clean Cut

    I acknowledge that it can become very frustrating to people on both sides that “what the LDS church teaches” and “what Mormons believe” can often have a wide grey area in between. Asking if one PERSONALLY believes something (on which the scriptures are silent) is akin to speculation. Generally, the Church as an institution stays clear of all speculation, but that doesn’t keep individual members from speculating.

    For example, although “the LDS church” doesn’t teach that “God has more than one wife”, there must be some (how many I don’t know) who believe this is true, as I’m sure there are many members (how many I don’t know) who don’t believe it. It’s just one of those things that isn’t particularly useful, so I, like the LDS Church, don’t teach that it, or say that “all Mormons” believe it. If you said “some Mormons” believe it, than I can’t argue with you, because some people believe some really crazy stuff! People are entitled to their own opinions. Even prophets are entitled to their own opinions.

    Some LDS may believe things more literally than others–and that’s okay. As for the temple, it is most definitely my belief, and very logical, to see the symbolism. I can’t recall that “the Church” has ever told me that I must or must not believe something literally. However, it does teach a lot about symbolism. I think that a lot of things are just common sense. For example, I don’t literally become “Adam” in the temple.

    Furthermore, some parts of the temple ceremony that “some” might believe to be literally necessary to know/do to enter God’s presence have changed through the years (particularly after 1990), so I don’t necessarily believe that I must literally do what I do (or what others at one time did) in the temple in order to enter God’s presence, because those requirements obviously do not change.

    I think that the best way to view the teachings of the temple is that they prepare us and empower us to keep our covenants, and there is safety in keeping our covenants, because they are our lifeline to the Savior. So I have no problem in thinking that those ordinances and covenants are preparing us to pass by the angels that stand as sentinels and enter the presence of the Father. This isn’t even taking into account any difference between “salvation” and “exaltation” in the LDS perspective.

    Now, about God’s body limiting his ability to be omnipresent, I like most the analogy of the sun. While the sun is physically present only in one location (thousands of miles away), it’s power and light and other effects are seen and felt all around us. In away, that serves as a powerful metaphor for God.

    I’m still interested in getting answers to my previous questions. ie: “I still don’t understand your thoughts about how Christ (who IS God) and who indisputably has a resurrected body can (at the same time) NOT have a body. You can’t be suggesting that his spirit and his body separate, right? Again, this might go back to my confusion on how three completely separate “persons” can be ontologically the same “being”. But for you, how does Christ’s physical body (right now “as we speak”) fit into the ousia/essence/substance/being of God?”

  • Bill Pratt

    Hi Clean Cut,
    You asked this question: “I still don’t understand your thoughts about how Christ (who IS God) and who indisputably has a resurrected body can (at the same time) NOT have a body. You can’t be suggesting that his spirit and his body separate, right?”

    We’re right back to the Incarnation again and the two natures of Christ. Christ, as a person, possesses two natures, one of which includes a body. So Christ has a body, period. We are not claiming that Christ has a body and does not have a body. He does have a body because he added a human nature. I don’t think it’s any more complicated than that.

    Any clearer?

    Thanks,
    BP

  • http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com Clean Cut

    “Any clearer?”

    Honestly, not really. Why the terseness? Pour it on me–I’m an open bucket. Although you have to be patient with me since I obviously have not had the training you have and my mind isn’t used to thinking in terms of a “dual nature”. Is this where I ask you to try to more fully explain to me your understanding of the “hypostatic union”?

  • Bill Pratt

    “Now, about God’s body limiting his ability to be omnipresent, I like most the analogy of the sun. While the sun is physically present only in one location (thousands of miles away), it’s power and light and other effects are seen and felt all around us. In away, that serves as a powerful metaphor for God.”

    The sun is a physical object that occupies a certain space in the universe. You can see the light from the sun a great distance, but the sun itself still remains in one place. Therefore, the sun is not omnipresent. Omnipresent means that God is fully present to every electron in the universe equally. By your analogy, the spatially closer you are to sun, the more present it is to you. Christians believe that it does not matter where you are in the universe – God is equally present.

    We know by the theory of relativity that space, time, and matter are all relative. In other words, none of the three can exist without the other because they are all related. Therefore, whatever has a body (matter) must also occupy space and exist in time. If God has a body, then he cannot be immaterial and cannot be eternal (which means “no time”). Your God is trapped in time and space.

    If you have a body, you cannot be infinite either. All physical bodies are finite. Your God is limited in his being.

    If you have a body, you cannot be uncreated, because a body is composed of parts, and anything composed of parts must have been composed by something else. Parts do not assemble themselves. If God has a body, then he must have been created by another. But if that’s the case, then we should be worshiping the other, not God! Your God has not always existed and was created by someone else.

    You give up so much when you claim God has a body!! Why do that? It’s unnecessary.

    Speak to you soon,
    Bill

  • Bill Pratt

    No terseness meant. That’s just how I talk. I honestly enjoy conversing with you, but I’m not one for a lot of pleasantries. I like to get to the point quickly!

  • Bill Pratt

    The Council of Chalcedon summarized the hypostatic union best:

    “We confess that one and the same Christ, Lord, and only-begotten Son, is to be acknowledged in two natures without confusion, change, division, or separation (in duabus naturis inconfuse, immutabiliter, indivise, inseparabiliter). The distinction between natures was never abolished by their union, but rather the character proper to each of the two natures was preserved as they came together in one person (prosopon) and one hypostasis.”

    A summary would be this: one person, two natures, the two natures unmixed, joined but not mixed, not fused, not intermingled, remaining separate, God and man.

    A further point that may help. Christians view God as a one-of-a-kind being. He is infinite in all his attributes, including being. There can only exist one infinite being. All other beings that exist must be finite (limited) and contingent (able to not exist). God can not not exist. He necessarily exists and so he can never go out of existence.

    Christians draw a bright line between God and man. They possess fundamentally different natures. One is infinite, necessary, and uncreated. The other is finite, contingent, and created. So humans can never ever become God. because he is in a class of one.

    Jews, Muslims, and Christians all view God this way. We don’t agree on the Trinity, but we all view God as fundamentally different in his being from man. It seems that Mormons have taken an eraser and blurred that bright line out so that it becomes more difficult to tell God from man. At least, that’s how I see it. What do you think?

  • http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com Clean Cut

    I think that’s a great explanation, Bill. Probably one of the best I’ve been able to get. I feel like a little light bulb came on because of your words to allow me to better see through your eyes. That’s all I could hope for, to gain a glimpse into your perspective and stand in your shoes for a time. THANK YOU!

    Although I personally believe LDS Christians and Traditional Christians have many more similarities in terms of Christian doctrine, clearly, our biggest fundamental difference is that of creatio ex nihilo, and the accompanying “bright line between God and man”. Although I was already aware of the different view of God we share, as you view God as a completely different, one-of-a-kind, species than man, I was able to gain more of an appreciation for this view through your words.

    I can also understand your previously stated concerns about God having a body much better, since this is the paradigm you’re coming from. (And I think I’ll drop the sun analogy, since, as with most analogies, they fail at some level. I’ll stick to the explanation already given, that a tangible glory or light “proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—the light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne . . . who is in the midst of all things” (D&C 88:11-13). This is how I would have to describe God’s power and influence as present at every point of time and space.

    It’s interesting to see that from your perspective you feel that we put more constraints on God, while I feel it’s actually the opposite, how your view places more constraints on Him. It’s just fascinating how we can both feel this way.

    I’m sure you’re aware that I literally believe God is my Father, and thus view myself as his literal spirit son. He’s still “one of a kind” to me as well, since He is God (with all that entails) while I am not. But I see what you’re saying that in your view he’s a completely different kind, or species, from us humans.

    I’m a little concerned about your implication that I believe I can “become God”, but perhaps that’s another conversation. My goal is simply to “arise, and go to my Father” (Luke 15:18). For me, the purpose of the gospel is not so much to get me to heaven as it is to get me back home. It is to return to live with my Father in Heaven–not “become God” (as if I could somehow equal Him or supplant Him!) Some Mormons might assume this, but I sometimes wonder whether more Evangelicals believe this of Mormons more than even some Mormons do.

    I’m also sure you’re aware of the restored narrative of our pre-earth life, which has been compared to Act 1 of a three act play. (Our mortal life would be act 2, and our post-earth life act 3).

    We believe we lived in that heavenly home, as spirit children of heavenly parents, and God the Father presented his plan of salvation/happiness of which coming to earth would be so integral for so many reasons. Jesus, both the Son of God and God the Son would be absolutely key to the plan’s success, and our only hope. We had faith in Him then and we must continue to have faith in Him now.

    I’ve heard it expressed by some evangelicals that our view somehow brings God down or lessens him, while my perspective is quite the opposite–an exalted view of our eternal growth and destiny actually enhances God and His work and His glory.

    Having said that, there is still plenty that we do not know. Latter-day Saints have no definitive answers (although multiple interpretations/theories have been presented) about the “history” of God. And frankly, to me, none of that matters for now. I’m looking forward to learning many more of the mysteries of God once we cross over to the other side of the veil.

    Thank you for the respectful conversation. It’s been an enlightening exercise for me; I’m richer for having participated.

  • http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com Clean Cut

    A little preemptive strike here. I’m afraid my statement about not “becoming God” may be mistaken for disingenuousness by those aware of the King Follet discourse or Lorenzo Snow’s couplet, but that’s not the case at all. I just have a different interpretation of the King Follett discourse than what most people think of at first glace (and even than some LDS have believed/believe about it). This may be more than you even care to hear, but at least I’m erring on the side of full disclosure.

    A more true perspective of the couplet: “As man now is God once was, as God is man may become” can be gained by putting a different slant on it. I see it more in the light of “As man now is, Christ once was, as Christ is, man may become”. In other words, I do not believe God necessarily had a mortal experience exactly like ours, but rather like unto Christ’s mortal experience. Christ never sinned. I do. He is now glorified. He did what he did to allow us to share in all the Father has as “joint heirs” and to partake of the “divine nature”–fully biblical–but I do not believe I will ever become independent of God. I will worship Him forever. Perhaps I will share in his work and power as I pass the eternities (who knows, maybe even organizing planets?), but it will always be as an extension of His power, not of my own. What we may or may not do throughout the eternities is less important than the understanding that we will never be independent of Him.

    I realize I still have a different view of theosis/deification than you must, since I’m not under the constraint of a strict wall of separation as are you. In my view, Christ’s Atonement breaks down that barrier and literally puts us “at one” with God, just as described in John 17. I don’t see how that oneness could be truly possible with such a huge gulf placed between the human and the divine. Christ’s work truly is to make us divine. And in my view this is an enhancement of the greatness of the infinite power of the Atonement.

  • http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com Clean Cut

    You may or may not have seen this statement:

    “We believe that the apostle Peter’s biblical reference to partaking of the divine nature and the apostle Paul’s reference to being ‘joint heirs with Christ’ reflect the intent that children of God should strive to emulate their Heavenly Father in every way. Throughout the eternities, Mormons believe, they will reverence and worship God the Father and Jesus Christ. The goal is not to equal them or to achieve parity with them but to imitate and someday acquire their perfect goodness, love and other divine attributes.”

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,317272,00.html

  • http://www.musingsonmormonism.blogspot.com gloria

    Unfortunately many LDS may have misconceptions about what the trinity actually means. That is a “tri-une” God — 3 distinct persons in one God. I know when I was LDS I thought that christians believed the trinity meant “3 persons one body”.. that was very confusing! Unfortunatey many LDS beleive this today. Misconceptions can be difficult to overcome. I tell my LDS family and friends that the trinity is very much like the “first presidency”… (something that they are familiar with) … there is “one” first presidency, but 1 president and 2 counselors. In the case of the Godhead, there is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. 3 persons, one God. Of course, God the Son is the only one with a physical body. LDS do not adhere to this belief, but it is what the Bible teaches . ( For God is a spirit, John 4:24)
    I hope that the LDS can hopefully overcome these misconceptions, even though they most certainly do not embrace the biblical teachings about the Godhead.

    God bless,
    gloria

  • Bill Pratt

    It’s been a pleasure, Clean Cut. You are an articulate and winsome person. I, too, have learned from your perspective.

    One thing I would like to mention that struck me from your previous comment. You said you’re not interested in the “history” of God, and I take it you mean where and what he came from. I think this is a massive difference between traditional theists (Christians, Muslims, Jews) and Mormons. To us, God has always existed and is the one and only self-existent being. He is eternal. He did not come from anywhere or anyone. He is truly the ultimate being.

    For Mormons, God seems like a local god who is magnificent and special to those of us on earth, but there exist other gods in other locations that have nothing to do with our planet. You said you don’t care to know about these other gods or God’s history, but why? If the God of earth came from a more powerful God, should we not be worshiping that God instead? Wouldn’t the Father of God the Father be the one to worship?

    This is where philosophy comes in. The early church fathers took the revelation of the Bible and the teachings of philosophy and arrived at the understanding of the Christian God. There is no God before him, There can be no other God besides him. He is all there is to worship.

    When I hear you, as a Mormon, claim that there may be other gods out there and our God the Father is only in charge of this world, can you not see how that infinitely minmizes the God of the Bible? You have taken an infinite being (a being of unlimited existence) and made him finite. The God of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims is infinitely larger than the Mormon God. I hope you come away with this understanding.

    As a person seeking the ultimate being to worship, I could never be satisfied with the Mormon God, because I would know there is always something bigger out there. Now this doesn’t necessarily mean we’re right, but you can maybe see why some ex-Mormons who become Christians take a completely different view of God and worship. Our Gods are truly different.

    God bless you,
    Bill

  • Tom

    Go to http://www.lds.org and search for “temple symbolic” and you’ll get a host of articles about the symbolic nature of the temple.

    The Spirit teaches what the symbols mean, and the Spirit teaches when to take thing literally.

    Cheers,
    Tom

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    I will check it out. Although from what I recall there is not a lot of “meat” on LDS.org about the Temple because they won’t discuss specifics of the temple outside the temple.

    What is interesting is how you say “the spirit will teach what is symbolic and what is literal”. Yet in talking with people about the Temple (even the temple president) I found very little agreement about what was symbolic and what was literal. Some would say you definately have to give the signs and tokens to enter the celestial kingdom while others would say it was only symbolic. Why the disagreement if the spirit will teach truth? Is the spirit lying to some people?

    Darrell

  • http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com Clean Cut

    “In my view, Christ’s Atonement breaks down that barrier and literally puts us “at one” with God, just as described in John 17. I don’t see how that oneness could be truly possible with such a huge gulf placed between the human and the divine.”

    Bill, this is just one of those left over/lingering questions that I’d like to understand your view on. That is, how we can be one with God if there is that “bright line” of separation that will always exist between the human and the divine. Thanks!

  • Bill Pratt

    Hi Clean Cut,
    Good to hear from you again. With regard to John 17, Christians have always taken this to mean a unity of love, a unity of obedience to God and His Word, and a united commitment to His will.

    There was never any thoughts of oneness with respect to ontology or being. Christians never believe we could become God, but that we could love what he loves and do what he wants done. That’s what we think Jesus meant by his words in John 17. He wants us to be one in faith, hope, and love.

    Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).

    Hope that helps,
    Bill

  • http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com Clean Cut

    That does help, Bill. But I’m curious how you can concede that John 17 isn’t referring to an ontological oneness, when Christ, in that intercessory prayer, prays that His disciples could be one with Them, as He and His Father were one. My understanding is that the doctrine of the Trinity indeed infers an ontological oneness. Naturally, I do not believe John 17 to be inferring that we are all supposed to become one substance or being–but one in terms of relationship, unity, and love. This is more in line with how I view the Godhead and their oneness.

  • http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com Clean Cut

    No response?

    Next question then. Darrell, you said on April 7, 2009 at 6:52 pm, that “God has chosen to eternally manifest Himself in the form of 3 persons.”

    Isn’t that Modalism?

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    CC,

    Good question. No that is not Modalism. Modalism says that God appears in one Mode at a time. In other words, He puts on the Father mask to appear as the Father. Then at other times He puts on the the Son or the Holy Spirit mask to appear as them. One God appearing in different modes at different times. It is a heresy because it denies what we are taught in the New Testament. The trinity, on the other hand, teaches One God ETERNALLY existing (or ETERNALLY manifesting) as 3 persons.

    Hope that helps.

    I will let Bill address your other question as that was part of your conversation with Him.

    Darrell

  • Bill Pratt

    Sorry I didn’t respond. I thought you were asking a rhetorical question…

    The reason I don’t take John 17 as speaking of ontology is because of the context. It wouldn’t make sense for Jesus to be praying that his disciples be ontologically one being just as Jesus and the Father are ontologically one being. The context points toward a oneness in will, obedience, and love.

  • http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com Clean Cut

    Darrell, thanks for the clarification. I’m pretty confident that I’ve characterized the doctrine of the Trinity properly on my most recent post.

    Bill, I agree with what you’ve said. But what I’m getting it is why don’t you also understand the oneness of God this way? Why must you understand it ontologically or numerically?

    I know Christians can read John 17 to say that the Father Son are to be one, and that is true in the Trinity, they are one being. John 17 also says the church members are to be one. And Christians can understand that as we are to be one body of Christ. But the argument isn’t just that The Father and Son are one in their sphere, and that church members are to be one in their sphere. The argument is that just as the Father and Son are one, we are to be one in exactly the same manner or precisely the same manner. Therefore, John 17:11 and 22 are important. Also verse 21: “that they also may be one in us.” Just as church members are one, but not ontologically one, so the Father and Son are one, but just not numerically.

    As I wrote on my most recent post:
    “Christ prayed in John 17:11 for His disciples “so that they may be one as we are one” (New International Version). The King James version says “that they may be one, as we are.” The New Living Translation puts it like this: “united just as we are”. Obviously, this is not inferring that we are all supposed to become one substance or being–but one in terms of relationship, unity, and love. This is more in line with how I view the unity of the Godhead. Jesus wants us to be one with Him and Father, just as He and His Father are one.”

    Does this clarify why I’m trying to seek further understanding?

    You can read the full context on my post (That They May Be One As We Are One”) here:
    http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com/2009/05/that-they-may-be-one-as-we-are-one.html

  • Bill Pratt

    Clean Cut,
    Responding to your blog post:

    Jews, Christians, and Muslims all agree that God is ontologically one. Mormonism is on the outside staring at 3 1/2 millenia of consistent teaching on the subject. Of course Jews and Muslims don’t like the Trinity, but that is mostly because they don’t believe Jesus is God. If you don’t believe Jesus is God, you have little impetus to agree with the Trinity. In any case, Christians never abandoned the oneness of God handed down by Judaism. Muslims also never abandoned it. It is Mormons who abandoned it. Why, I don’t know.

    It seems to me that Joseph Smith went too far by claiming three gods exist in the godhead. He separated himself from every orthodox Jew, Christian, and Muslim when he did that. Is it possible he is right? Yes. But the arguments for the ontological oneness of God are very strong biblically (again all three major religions agree) and very strong philosophically (as we’ve discussed previously). Mormon doctrine is truly swimming upstream against the overwhelming consensus from the religions inherited from Abraham.

    In that position, you need to have really strong evidence, and I just don’t see it.

    God bless,
    Bill

  • http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com Clean Cut

    Thanks Bill. Let me just say that I’m dealing with the Bible based on what it actually says in John 17. I don’t see any reason why the oneness of God MUST be interpreted as ontologically or numerically. As I stated on my post, I think John 17 makes a very strong case that God’s oneness can be understood exactly how you have described our oneness to God, albeit on a level far more than I can begin to articulate.

    The point is that Christians SHOULD be making a departure from those other religions precisely because we believe Jesus is God. Little wonder why other religions would believe in an ontological oneness of God–for them God is only one (not three!).

    I’m just saying I don’t see evidence in the Bible that the threeness and oneness of God must be an ontological or numerical oneness. You might think that separating Father, Son, and Holy Spirit ontologically goes too far, but I just don’t see it that way.

    I said it before and I’ll say it again. I believe that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, while each their own being, are infinitely more ONE than they are separate. Perhaps it’s true that Mormons tend to over-emphasize their threeness rather than their oneness, which I don’t agree with but perhaps this is born out of a desire to emphasize our unique understanding of the Godhead. On the other hand, it may also be true that Traditional Christians might be forgetting to emphasize the distinct threeness of God, hence the prevalence of Modalism.

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