Thursday, August 28, 2008

My View Of God


I feel that my response to a recent question on my blog deserves it's own post, since it deals with a very important topic to me--my view of God. The question was: "Do Mormon's worship Jesus the same as God? Or do they merely just thank him for his sacrifice?"

I worship Jesus as God AND I thank Him for His sacrifice. I’m unfamiliar with any educated Latter-day Saint who would ever minimize or diminish Jesus in anyway. On the contrary, we worship Him. We love Him. He is our Lord and Master. He has a whole ton of other applicable names, which I could rightfully list and appropriately believe in/on. He is the Shepherd of our Souls. Since He really means everything to us, it should come as no surprise that “we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ…that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins” (2 Nephi 25:20). The Book of Mormon really has an unparalleled focus on the messianic message of the Savior of the world.

I personally feel that what I do know about the Father, I know because I've come to know the Son. After all, he said "if you have seen me, you have seen the Father." I tend to think that means that they are so alike, so one, that I can know the Father better by knowing Christ. I don't think that scripture means that by seeing Jesus, you're also looking physically at our Father in Heaven, as Trinitarians would tend to believe. I just think it means that you can know a lot about a persons dad by looking at their children. Many people could say the same thing about me and my dad. But I'll comment about how I can also believe in Christ as Father in just a minute.

I readily admit that I feel like I know more about Jesus than I do of the Father. We have several paintings hanging up in our house of Jesus, and the scriptures too are a constant reminder of the preeminence that Christ has in my life. There are less physical reminders of my Heavenly Father. But remembering the forgoing statement, that to see Him is to see the Father brings peace to my soul, for to worship one is to worship the other. To glorify Christ brings glory to the Father.

I pray to the Father (my Father in Heaven) in the name of Christ, since Christ taught that we should do so. But I depend on Christ to be reconciled to the Father. So it should also come as no surprise if I tell you that it is Jesus who occupies the majority of my thoughts, as well as my adoration.

The second question was:
"How does Mormonism view the Atonement in light of belief that Jesus is not eternal but created?

"

That's kind of a leading question. I'll start with the beginning, and most important part of it--how we Mormons view the Atonement.

Latter-day Saints view the Atonement as the central act of all history—“the central fact, the crucial foundation, and the chief doctrine of the great and eternal plan of salvation”, as one apostle has put it. This is the source of our doctrine and everything else is secondary. There may be many important things, but none is more important than the infinite and eternal Atonement of Jesus Christ. Everything else pails in comparison. If you don't believe me, just read the The Book of Mormon or the Doctrine and Covenants.

As for the comment about “eternal” and “created”—I really don’t think many Latter-day Saints are going to say they know much about that. Time is measured only by men. For God, eternity is one eternal “now”. So Latter-day Saints really don’t think of Christ in terms like “created” versus “eternal”. Who is to say when “eternity begins” or who can comprehend how far back it stretches? Kind of mind boggling. Like my wedding ring, I can’t perceive a beginning or an end.

We have no narrative about Jesus being "created". This word only comes up when I'm in conversation with critics of the Church. "Created" is a word that never seems to come up with Latter-day Saints themselves. We have a narrative that states that He was with the Father from the beginning—and that’s about the extent of our thoughts. Our focus is more on making and keeping covenants than on theology.

Whether I’m thinking of God as an “office” of some sort, like the Godhead, or whether I’m thinking of each member of the Godhead individually yet fully God, it really matters not, as I believe that they are infinitely more one than they are separate. I believe the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one in almost every conceivable way—except physically. Whether I can explain it or not--they are “one eternal God”. So when I read “God” in the scriptures, or think of making covenants “with God”—I tend to explore all aspects of what that means; I think of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and how interrelated they are. And I reverence and respect and deeply appreciate all three of them in their unified purpose and eternal plan of salvation, as well as their unique roles.

Some confusion might understandably come from not understanding how The Book of Mormon properly teaches of Christ as "the Father", and that “God himself” condescended to come into the world to bring salvation to the world. Trinitarians might be surprised to know that Latter-day Saints also consider Christ as “the Father” in certain regards, just as I can be both a father to my daughters and a son to my dad—but it’s still just me.

Jesus is the Father of our spiritual rebirth, as we are born again and take His name upon us. He is also the Father of this earth, since He created this earth under the direction of His Father. A case could appropriately be made that I have three dads! My earthly father, my Heavenly Father, and Jesus Christ as Father. Likewise a case can be made about Christ being “eternal”, as part of the eternal Godhead, as well as “created” because he was a Son, and the Firstborn. Most Latter-day Saints don’t tend to get caught up in the semantics, which is probably a cause of frustration to many critics of the Church.

I believe the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are distinct beings, and yes, they have their distinct roles. But as I said earlier, they are infinitely more one than they are separate. They are so one in almost every way, that I tend to focus more on their oneness and togetherness than I do on their distinctness and physical separateness.

Hebrews chapter 1, verses 1-10, seem to appropriately explain what I feel in my heart.

42 comments:

Athanasius said...

CC:

"I do except them as one God in three persons--just not one being."

What does the word "being" mean to you?


"I worship Jesus as God AND I thank Him for His sacrifice."

Which part of the Godhead gave the 10 commandments?


"it really matters not, as I believe that they are infinitely more one than they are separate."

It will matter if one needs to recognize Jesus as the same substance as Father. If the Angel of God that appeared to Sampson's parents would not receive the worship that he deserved being God. All because they did not realize it was God, but were going to worship him as an Angel. I see that it does matter, God wants us to fully recognize his nature and who he is as we worship him. Separating the three into three beings ='s polytheism, which is not the revelation God gave to the Jews. Polytheism, which ='s created gods (just as the Father and the Son are two gods born into this universe as LDS doctrine states), fixates man to created things, giving them divine attributes only worthy of one supreme, eternal, and unborn God, which this is not merely a job title held by three beings.

The Pagan's do not recognize God in his numberless forms of appearance, demonstrating his magnificence; but instead worship the created objects around them. You my friends, as Mormons, do not recognize the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as the Supreme God of these Hebrew people, nor as the Supreme God of us Gentiles, revealed to us by these Hebrews. You recognize him as some job title held by three created beings, born to heavenly parents, and once being men, a created object. My friends, if God is the God of us Trinitarians; which elevate God above created objects and give him the eternal worship he deserves. Mormonism is at a lost, as God is lowered to the same attributes as us created beings. If I am wrong as a Trinitarian, then I'm giving God more power then he deserves. For any God that is created and born does not deserve to be called the Alpha and Omega, Holy, the Almighty, and certainly not the unutterable YHWH.

"Who is to say when “eternity begins” or who can comprehend how far back it stretches?"

Eternity doesn't begin my friend. If it began, it wouldn't be eternal. Therefore if God the Father was born from his heavenly parents 10^1987542395783498573489 years ago, he would not be eternal, just really old.

"I don't think that scripture means that by seeing Jesus, you're also looking physically at our Father in Heaven, as Trinitarians would tend to believe."

Interesting the Scriptures say other wise, 1 Colossians 1:15;A "He is the image of the invisible God"

The Mormon's belief that us Trinitarians lost the "true knowledge of God" after Jesus' death. So my question is, at what point after his death, did us Trinitarian Traditionalists lose this knowledge?

Clean Cut said...

Sorry Athanasius--or "friend". You've come to the wrong place if you're just wanting to argue or debate. I can respect your views as you respectfully share them, but I have no double standard, so I expect my views to be respected as well, not put on trial. This isn't a court or a debate. I didn't post this to prove anyone right or wrong, but simply to communicate my view on God. You are more than welcome to share here your personal views as long as it is respectful and to seek mutual understanding.

Athanasius said...

CC:

"You are more than welcome to share here your personal views as long as it is respectful and to seek mutual understanding."

I have respected your comments and your post. All I merely did is present the Jewish understanding of God in relation to the Christian Traditionalist view of God, which happens to be very different then the Mormon view of God, that clearly a Polytheist view. So when you say Traditionalists are wrong(like you did in your blog post), I'm wanting to know how Traditionalists are wrong when their concept of God would match up to the Jewish understanding of God, for which the knowledge of God came to mankind through. Remember.. the entire New Testament is written by Jews, which means we must interpret these writings from a Jewish perspective.

Clean Cut said...

There is a difference between a belief in a plurality of gods and a belief in polytheism. The question of whether there are multiple gods is not the same as is there more than one source of light, truth, and power in the universe--in short, God alone, whom we worship in spirit and in truth.

Latter-day Saints can believe, along with some of the most orthodox Christians of old, in a plurality of gods, the doctrine of deification of mankind--but we do not worship multiple gods. We're in good company in that respect. We worship the one true God, and we always will. Latter-day Saints are not polytheists. That's fact; not spin. There can be no doubt about it.

Athanasius said...

CC:

The the belief in many gods IS polytheism(the word polytheism literally means many gods). Whether you physically worship them or not, if you believe these gods are existent and living you are a polytheist(there's a difference between saying there are many gods, but none are living and are false, then saying there are many gods and they live or lived). There's a reason why the Hebrews called God the only Living God, its because all other gods are man made deities. The Hebrew's might have glorified certain hero's of old, various types of "Messianic" figures, and prophets such as Moses; but they were never labeled "gods," nor where they worshiped as the pagan's worshiped their gods, nor were any of the hero's deified. The fact that the Mormon Godhead contains three beings, means you worship not a single God (which the word God means "supreme being" not beings, it is a singular noun), but multiple gods. The Godhead sounds no different then the pantheon at Olympus, the only difference is these "three gods" are united for some sort of universal salvation of men and not bickering with each other.

Clean Cut said...

You have much yet to understand. I sense that it would be futile to try and reason with you and convince you to change your stance. It's certainly futile on your part if you expect me to take your word as correct, or to change my stance. So I'll wish you well and leave it at that.

Clean Cut said...

NM, I had finished a response earlier, went to post it, and then lost my internet connection--hence loosing my whole response.

In short, I watched the video you linked to and found it interesting indeed, but most certainly interesting for a different reason than you.

I can see why you'd think the critic has a point. I understand where he's coming from, but I've already explored both sides. Certainly everyone is entitled to their own opinion. It just turns out that his is wrong.

You know, it's a delicate balance in trying to defend the truth without getting defensive. Yet I do believe it's possible. And I seek the gift of not getting offended when clearly offense can so easily be taken. Frankly, I'm surprised that you linked to that at all. Any thorough research, unbiased searching, would lead to a better understanding.

I don't think it comes as any surprise that critics love to hate Joseph Smith. He is a lightening rod in religion. And I'm not going to lie to you and say that he was even close to perfection, but I also cannot shy away from my solid conviction born of the Spirit that he truly was a prophet of God. I suppose that must just ruffle evangelical feathers like nothing else. But it's true, nonetheless. I really don't feel the need to go into apologetics. I'm simply saying that there's always another way of looking at things, perhaps in a more positive light.

And lest there be any misunderstanding of my convictions, I cannot deny, nor shy away from my knowledge--my testimony--that the revelations which came through Joseph Smith come of God, for I have felt God's voice while reading them. I refer specifically to those published in the LDS scripture, Doctrine and Covenants. Critics can dismiss my belief in the "right" God, but I know in Whom I have trusted.

Furthermore, The Book of Mormon is powerful proof that Joseph was a prophet. It's not a work of fiction. It is a work of God. It is true. It has blessed my life beyond measure. But Joseph was only the messenger--not the message. I deeply believe this Latter-day work to be true.

I echo the following words of the prophet Joseph: "The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done."

My blog is a place for my voice. I'm not here to offend, debate, tear down, or criticize. I'm here to share what I know in my mind and in my heart. I haven't been "deceived", I don't have a hidden agenda, there is no "cover-up" going on. There is a marvelous work and a wonder going on. I wish more people could see the marvel of it, instead of just wonder about it. God knows there's much to wonder about. But my faith is solid, and has a firm foundation.

I respect other faiths. I respect all people of other faiths. When I speak, I try to speak humbly, out of gratitude for the great light and knowledge that has been restored and revealed in the Latter-days, and not out of pride. I don't have all the answers, but I do not vacillate in my conviction that truth is truth. And truth will prevail.

Clean Cut said...

I wonder how many Traditional Christians are under the impression that they share the same view of God as did the Jews. My understanding is that the Jewish faith believes in one God, and that God cannot be subdivided into different persons, such as the Trinity. But I am no expert in what others believe in God. I only know for a certainty my own thoughts about God.

My thoughts are that the Jews missed the mark when they failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. And Jesus came to teach the true nature of the Godhead, and of His relationship to His Father in Heaven--our Father in Heaven. Throughout the years, after the death of the apostles, men (without priesthood/apostolic authority) tried to reason amongst themselves about that which the writers of the scriptures apparently didn't feel the need to elaborate on in the first place--the nature of God. I suppose they felt it was self-evident, from Jesus' words.

Apparently, the post-biblical councils felt the need to elaborate upon God, feeling the scriptures were insufficient on their own. They came up with a god that seems to me to be incomprehensible--a god without body, parts, or passions. I cannot believe in such a god.

I quote Stephen Robinson: "If by 'the doctrine of the Trinity' one means the New Testament teaching that there is a Father, a Son, and a Holy Ghost, all three of whom are fully divine, then Latter-day Saints believe in the doctrine of the Trinity. It is as simple as that. The Latter-day Saints’ first article of faith, written by Joseph Smith in 1842, states, “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost”.

"Baptisms in the Church are performed “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (see D&C 20:73). The prayer of blessing on the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is addressed to God the Eternal Father in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, to the end that those who partake may have his Spirit to be with them (see D&C 20:77-79). Latter-day Saints thoroughly agree with the biblical doctrine of the threefold nature of the Godhead and of the divinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

"However, if by 'the doctrine of the Trinity' one means the doctrine formulated by the councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon and elaborated upon by subsequent theologians and councils–that God is three coequal persons in one substance or essence–then Latter-day Saints do not believe it. They do not believe it, because it is not biblical."

I personally think this is one of the reasons that God the Father and the Son both had to visit Joseph Smith that spring morning in 1820. It had never been done like that before, but perhaps They felt the need to remove doubt, once and for all, about the true nature of the Godhead. The picture, at the top of this post, seems to say more than a thousand words. Joseph learned more about God in that instance than all the theologians throughout the post-biblical centuries combined.

That visitation either happened, or it did not. He was either a prophet, or he was not. He saw what he saw, or he did not. But all my experiences, all my answered prayers, all my deepest spiritual impressions leads to the conviction that two heavenly beings appeared--God the Father and the Son. They spoke to him. The Father introduced His Son with the words: "This is my Beloved Son; Hear Him!”

I've been to the sacred grove, but I didn't need to go there in person to feel the joy that fills my soul as I reflect on this. It was the most remarkable and important moment in history since the Resurrection of Jesus the Christ. And I have a witness that it is true.

Sally said...

Amen!

Thanks for your testimony, CC.

Athanasius said...

CC:

"You have much yet to understand."

You've got to be kidding me. If this is about the whole Polytheist thing, you may want to go to the Greek language on this(for which the word came). "Poly" means many, "theist" means deity or god(it derives from the Greek word theos). Here's Oxford's definition of "Polytheist-Polytheism is the belief that there is more than one deity." Mormonism believes in more then one deity, therefore they are Polytheistic.
1. Polytheism means belief in more then one deity.
2. Mormonism holds that God is three distinct "deities" united for a cause.
3. Mormon's thus believe in many living deities.
4. Therefore Mormonism is Polytheistic.

"I wonder how many Traditional Christians are under the impression that they share the same view of God as did the Jews."

I'm thinking you should read Jewish theology... in particular the Israeli Orthodox Jewish Theologian, Pinchas Lapide. He wrote a book entitled "Jewish Monotheism and Christian Trinitarian Doctrine," where he discusses the unity of God. Granted he doesn't accept the "Trinity" as a doctrine(because hes not Christian), but he does lay a great foundation that makes the Trinity possible, fully accepting and embracing Christians as fellow Monotheists fulfilling God's purpose. Many Jews have acknowledged the "Trinity", hence the first roughly 5 years or so of Christianity which was solely Jewish. They linked Jesus as the same substance as God the Father and the Holy Spirit(Hence why they were persecuted firstly by the Jewish religious ruling body). Last but not least there is a sect of Judaism called "Messianic Jews" which hold Jesus as the "God Messiah."

"Apparently, the post-biblical councils felt the need to elaborate upon God, feeling the scriptures were insufficient on their own."

The Church council your referring to was put into place to defend positions and beliefs that were already established, against a growing popular belief that Jesus is not divine. Prior to the Council of Nicea(which I'm assuming your referring to, since this is really the major player in the nature of God debate), it was held that Jesus was divine and not a different being then the Father. If you don't believe me, take a look into Logos Christology and Modelism; which where the early attempts, after the apostles, to create an explanation of the nature of God and Jesus. They never once deny Jesus as being anything different then the being God. The Traditionalist view is the original view projected by the apostles. God from God, same substance, and the invisible image of God.

"without priesthood/apostolic authority"

Which the LDS church does not have, considering the priests of the LDS church are not from the Tribe of Levi.

"They came up with a god that seems to me to be incomprehensible--a god without body, parts, or passions. I cannot believe in such a god."

While your looking into Jewish theology, you may want to run this by them too and see what they say. God has no body friend, he is Spirit. Hence why Jesus is the image of the invisible God. A god with a physical body conceived inside a womb equals a created being. A god like this is not worthy to be worshiped, for there is one eternal Living God who is not created, who is the Beginning and the End, and who is the I AM. If your worshiping a god who has a body and who was born, your not worshiping the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob, but something else. If your god is fully comprehensible, then your not worshiping God, for the very definition of "God"(not god) is the greatest possible being to be conceived. This goes back even to the early Greek philosophers, which had no issues accepting an incomprehensible one who created all things.

You did not answer this question from earlier, but what does the word being mean to you?

Clean Cut said...

Ridicule, derision, subterfuge. I'm not interested Athanasius.

Athanasius said...

CC:

How did I ridicule you. You claimed Traditionalists are wrong in their interpretation, all I've done is follow suit, claiming Mormon doctrine is wrong. The difference is I did not appeal to my own writers like you did, but went straight to the source of God's revelation to mankind, the Jews.

NM said...

CC,

I, like you, do not mean to cause offence. I think the trouble with talking about religious issues is such that we ascribe much of our identity to it: we are what we believe =)

Personally, I found having a blog (which I started 7/8 years ago) in order to gather my own thoughts, especially at a time when I began to have serious doubts about Christianity, especially with how it interacts with philosophical thought in existentialism and other post-modern theories. The added bonus of blog-keeping is that personal thoughts are open to public scrutiny. Such criticisms, in my mind, has helped refine my thoughts to what it is now...

I resonate with you when you say, "but I do not vacillate in my conviction that truth is truth. And truth will prevail.". This is a good position to be in - that no matter how we feel, or even how we may want to feel, truth exists objectively and our task is to understand it, align ourselves to it and submit to it =)

It may also be worth saying: 'thank you' because you are using this space and your time to interact to others who hold a different 'truth' than you do...

The reason why I looked to Mr. McCraney (and I don't know too much about him) is that I thought he was previously a LDS. In fact, he probably shares the same credentials as you when he considered himself to be LDS =) Again, I only pointed to him because he'd be quite knowledgable - well, probably more so than I who has never been a LDS.

So, do you think that everything that he was saying in that 'short' clip was untrue? Is it simply spin?

Clean Cut said...

There's a big difference in respectfully and humbly seeking to share one's own beliefs which work for them, and/or being condescending while knit-picking and criticizing another's beliefs. Do you see me doing the former or the latter?

Clean Cut said...

NM, I felt that the only "truth" expressed in that video was that there have been changes to The Book of Mormon. He happens to be completely wrong about what those changes were, including this myth that Joseph Smith somehow needed to change The Book of Mormon to make a "new" view of God fit with a previous Trinitarian view of God. That just isn’t the case, and there's no proof for that accusation either. On the contrary, Joseph Smith saw God the Father and the Son standing before him long before he ever translated The Book of Mormon. I’m not buying the "spin" of a critic with an agenda about problems/contradictions in doctrine in The Book of Mormon. That book has God's fingerprints all over it.

PS: You can learn more about the actual changes to The Book of Mormon here.

NM said...

Thanks CC. I'll have a muse at that link.

Athanasius said...

CC:

There is nothing knit-picky about setting up a case for one's dogma. You said the Traditionalist view is wrong and I want to know how it's wrong. All I've done is gone off of the Hebrew "God experience", which did not change in the New Testament(check out Larry Hurtado's book, "How on Earth Did Jesus become a God"). The Jew's persecuted the early Christian's because they put Jesus on the same level of worship as God the Father. The difference is, the Jewish concept of God isn't a pantheon(like the Mormon concept of three deities holding an office), but an eternal being and Jesus was his image; thus making Jesus the same being, but a different person of God(which is not an office but a being).

"Do you see me doing the former or the latter?"

No, instead you made a claim(which is condescending to those who have that belief), "Traditionalists are wrong," without backing it up. The problem is, I'm asking you to defend that claim (since its my belief system your now trampling on) but you won't. You don't show me how or where the Christian's went wrong in their belief of God. What evidence is there for this? Instead you give me your personal feelings, which I already know what they are, and you give me a couple of Mormon quotes.

Clean Cut said...

Evidence, smevidence. I didn't "make the case" traditionalists are wrong, I made the case for my own beliefs about God. I was answering questions about my own faith, explaining what I believe in. I don't need to give evidence for my own faith. And I don't need to argue against anyone else's beliefs. It doesn't really concern me. Don't get so defensive.

Athanasius said...

CC:

"I didn't "make the case" traditionalists are wrong"

That's what I said, you just stated that we were wrong.

"I made the case for my own beliefs about God."

In which your case comes from a guy 1800 years after the fact, saying all of Christianity is wrong.

"And I don't need to argue against anyone else's beliefs. It doesn't really concern me."

Your right YOU don't need to argue, Mormonism seems to take an universalist position. So it was kinda pointless for Joseph Smith to come along anyways and to call Christianity apostate.

Clean Cut said...

Clearly I do not share the Traditionalist view of the Trinity, but I've never argued that you are wrong. I have no interest in arguing or debating. I recognize that the Trinity is one of the most cherished beliefs in Traditional Orthodoxy. I actually have been trying to learn more about it and seek understanding, even mutual understanding. I've never gone on "attack mode".

For those who are interested in sincere conversation and dialogue and not theological warfare, I'll always be interested.

Now that I think about it, I actually do have a sincere question. I'd like to better under how Traditionalists can believe that God does not have a body, yet believe that Christ has a resurrected body. Wouldn't the Father also share the same essence or substance, or body? Jesus, as God, is worshipped as God, and yet we know he has a resurrected body. This is indisputable Christian doctrine.

Athanasius said...

CC:

"Wouldn't the Father also share the same essence or substance, or body? Jesus, as God, is worshipped as God, and yet we know he has a resurrected body."

Can I see your mind or your soul Clean Cut? No, but they are still part of your being.

Clean Cut said...

I'm trying, but I still don't quite understand how traditionalists understand this. No, I can't physically see your mind or soul--I see your physical body. That was my question. There is no doubt that Jesus' body could be felt and seen. God has a body.

Luke 24:39: "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have."

Clean Cut said...

Again, my intent here is not to try to argue, debate, set a trap, or prove a point, as I so often feel is the case from Evangelicals towards the Latter-day Saints. I'm actually trying to understand how Traditionalists understand their own views. I'm willing to listen and learn. We have the same Bible, but because I grew up in a non-Traditional Christian church, I'm behind in my understanding of trinitarian questions/answers. So I thought I'd ask the question here on my blog since I was the one who thought of the question.

Athanasius said...

CC:

Your right in saying "Jesus has a body" because he does. Once again he's the image of the invisible God. What part of Invisible God leads you to believe God has a body?

Athanasius said...

CC:

What scriptures in the Bible does Mormon theology base their concept of God having a physical body like man? Also read John 4:44.

Clean Cut said...

Perhaps you can better help me understand Trinitarian belief. Doesn’t the Trinity mean that God is three coequal persons in one substance or essence? I was under the impression that Trinitarian belief holds that God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are simply different manifestations of the same physical being, the same physical person, and the same physical God. I may really be showing my ignorance here, and that's why I ask questions to better understand, but is this correct?

Specifically, I wanted to understand that if Jesus has a resurrected body, which we both believe he does, wouldn't that same body be shared by God the Father, according to Trinitarian belief? Perhaps I'm just not understanding the Trinity properly, but can you at least understand my question? For example, I could use an education about where Trinitarians believe God the Father was the whole time Jesus was on the earth, so that I'm not under the impression that Jesus simply had a split personality or something to that effect.

My belief that God has a body is based on a revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 130:22, which says that "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."

Obviously our bodies are not perfected and glorified like theirs are, but nevertheless, they both have a body, however gloried. The First Vision of Joseph Smith is also proof that although the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one in purpose and also most every other way, they are not physically one being. In other words, they are distinct individuals united as the Godhead, or as one Book of Mormon prophet said: "one Eternal God" (Alma 11:44). My belief about the nature of God is pretty clear cut, pretty simple to me.

I don't expect you to share in my belief. That's beside the point, anyway. I’m not here to prove that my belief in God is better or truer than your belief in God. I’m asking the question (to you or any other Trinitarian) so that I can better understand Trinitarian belief. Most evangelicals I've encountered only want to argue and debate. I simply want to have a respectful conversation. The “winner” in this kind of format consists of anyone who comes away with mutual understanding. I admit that the concept of the Trinity is not so easily comprehendible to me. I'll try hard to be respectful and not put words in your mouth. But to my understanding, the Trinitarian Christ and the Father are one being, if I'm not mistaken. So if Christ has a body, wouldn't the Father also have/share the same body? I'm just trying to better understand Trinitarian belief.

Clean Cut said...

You listed John 4:44, but I’m assuming you meant John 4:24: “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth”. If that is what you are referring to, Latter-day Saints do not dispute this passage at all, unless it is interpreted as limiting God to being merely, or only, a spirit. Even Trinitarians believe that Christ, as God, has a resurrected body, in addition to having a spirit.

Athanasius said...

CC:

"I was under the impression that Trinitarian belief holds that God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are simply different manifestations of the same physical being"

They are, but not in the sense your talking about. What your referring to is Modelism; which is one being one person and this being puts on a "mask" or Jesus when he was the incarnate, and a mask of the Father when he's doing something the Father does (I don't remember if they included the Holy Spirit in the Modelism model or not). In Modelism the Father and Son do not co-exist, however one could easily see the problems that would create from a scriptural point of view.


"Specifically, I wanted to understand that if Jesus has a resurrected body, which we both believe he does, wouldn't that same body be shared by God the Father, according to Trinitarian belief?"

The Father wouldn't share the same body for the reason that Jesus is a separate person from the Father(we would point to all the scriptures where Jesus is operating separately from the Father). A perfect example of this is in Genesis when the two angels are destroying Sodom, one of those angels is at least God. In one key verse (19:24)it says, "Then the LORD rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah--from the LORD out of the heavens." So the Lord was still in heaven (the Father and the Spirit) and the Lord was yet on the ground (perhaps an Old Testament manifestation of Jesus). Theologians theorize the Old Testament "Angels of God" was actually Jesus, and these are called Christophanies (Angels of God would be the burning bush, the cloud, the Angel wrestling with Jacob, the Angel talking Sampson's parents). This uses the idea that no man has seen the Father as the Bible states, and that Jesus is the image of the invisible God. So if this is the case, Jesus would be the person that is God who does indeed reveal God's glory.


"My belief that God has a body is based on a revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 130:22, which says that "the Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s;"

In which we'd reject that revelation because it contradicts the Bible's description of God(no offense). The Father is unseen, the Son is his image, and the Holy Spirit is indeed the Spirit of God, just as you or I have a soul. This Spirit is shared by both Jesus and the Father, where our soul is not shared by anyone but ourselves(because we are one being one person). Evidence for this is a couple of New Testament verses, one in Act's that says "The the Spirit of Jesus wouldn't allow them to" (Acts 16:7 Philippians 1:19 makes a reference like this). So under these two verses and possibly a couple more, Jesus' Spirit is clearly seen operating separately from Jesus. In Trinitarian thought it's easy to explain, Jesus' Spirit is the Holy Spirit like the Father's, because they are one being.

" The First Vision of Joseph Smith is also proof"

This is key right here, Joseph Smith said he saw this. The thing with revelation's from God is you must have some sort of authority to judge what is a true revelation and what isn't. Muhammad said he had a revelation from God (through the Angel Gabriel) so why not accept his? Or the revelation the Jehovah witnesses received, David Koresh, or Jim Jones. The list could go on and on and this list all has different descriptions of God that would not match each other, Christianity, or Mormonism thus they cannot all be right. God is either a Triune God or He's not(like the Muslim's hold He's one being one person), He's either three person's holding an office or He's three person's in one being. He cannot be both, someone's revelation has to be wrong. So what authority should we base a right or wrong revelation on so that we are not accepting all revelations including false ones?

"I admit that the concept of the Trinity is not so easily comprehendible to me."

Many of those who believe in the Trinity do not easily grasp it. I don't think anyone, even the smartest of Theologians have a spectacular analogy of the Trinity, which makes it even harder to attempt to explain. However it does make sense, for human beings are a triune being(I'm not saying we are gods for we are created in God's image and not His image like Jesus). We have a body, mind, and soul. Our soul, once linked with God's Spirit, when one receives the true knowledge of Christ, is now at war within himself. The mind, the body, and the soul are all us. Yet they operate independently of each other, and operate in unity together. Their separate operation is limited because we are limited in our human bodies. When we bang our hand it hurts our body and we say "my hand hurts," when we come up with an idea in our mind, we say "My idea is this" and when referencing our soul's we say "My soul." Of course once we die our soul's will be put in the front and who knows how our own personal trinities will interact. However, I want to emphasize, this does not make us gods for we are created and not begotten and there is only one living God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God's trinity operates on a different level then us for the simple reason that He is an eternal being that is the greatest being, creator of the universe; thus He is far more complex then anyone could know. My goodness, the Jews didn't even want to pronounce the name they used for Him the Tetragrammaton.


"So if Christ has a body, wouldn't the Father also have/share the same body?"

Let me help you define being and person.

Being is- what makes something what it is, in this case God.

Person is- what makes someone who they are (Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and The Father).

They are person's that do operate on their own; but since they are fully God, they will never be at odds but always unified. Just as your mind and body are unified (sometimes our mind's seem to do what they want like in school but we are imperfect). Where the Mormon dogma differs is that they are three beings, their own personalities, that hold an office with the title "God."

"Even Trinitarians believe that Christ, as God, has a resurrected body, in addition to having a spirit."

The difference is we hold Christ share's the same Spirit as the Father, which is the Holy Spirit.

Anonymous said...

tee-hee, you guys are funny.

Kelli W. said...

Athanasius, Thank you for sharing your beliefs and knowledge on the Trinity. This last post was honestly like a breath of fresh air. Somehow the tension was gone and you seemed to be kindly and sincerely sharing what you believe and love. I enjoyed learning from you since I too, as CC commented earlier do not really understand the doctrine of the Trinity and would love to understand your beliefs better. I sincerely hope this kind of exchange will continue here. I'll ask my own questions later if that's okay with you?
Thanks for hanging in there!

athiest said...

It is funny.
Everyone take turns saying this to eachother.

"God can't be comprehended, but you are wrong"

and then this...

"The prophets my mommy taught me to believe in are right, but all others are wrong"

Athanasius said...

Kelli:

Sure, but responses will probably come slow as I will be getting more and more busy.

Athanasius said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Athanasius said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Athanasius said...

Kelli:

My email is icxcnika.08@gmail.com

Clean Cut said...

Thank you, athansius, for your time and respectful articulation of the Trinity. I'm sorry I've been too busy to respond back sooner. I did a little read up on modalism, and then came back to re-read your comment. I guess I'm still a little confused about how one being can have three different persons.

Athanasius said...

CC:

"I guess I'm still a little confused about how one being can have three different persons."

Remember we're dealing with an eternal God. A God who transcends time and space; one who is uncreated and always existing. The trinity would not make sense if God was the Mormon Godhead, or any other created being. I think Philippians 2:6 makes perfect sense with this, "who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God." Now in the Greek, the word used for "form" is "Morphe" which literally means "external appearance." So Jesus is the external appearance of God. Which would make sense if God is invisible yet man has seen him. Under a Mormon interpretation this would not make sense (unless you could provide an accurate Mormon view on this verse that would fit in context). If God the Father has a body just as Jesus does, whose the invisible God that is referenced, and who is Jesus an appearance of?

Now the Trinity makes perfect sense in my mind, however, as it does make sense to me as the Holy Spirit has revealed its qualities to me, I still find it hard to articulate. I think many theologians would as well, and could only provide inadequate analogies to show. But we are dealing with the eternal living God of the universe, so I fully expect him to be fully incomprehensible. Which would make perfect sense as to why He would need a "form" to appear to man to reveal a revelation. For God cannot reveal himself to man in his gloried form, for as God said to Moses(Exodus 33:20), "'But,' he said, 'you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.'"

Clean Cut said...

I'm excited to say that I just purchased the book "How Wide the Divide?: A Mormon & an Evangelical in Conversation". I'm hoping to gain a better understanding as to how Evangelicals view their beliefs, including the Trinity. I personally took classes from Stephen Robinson, so I know he's very capable of articulating LDS belief toward Evangelicals. I'm not as familiar with Craig Blomberg, but he is a recognized Evangelical scholar.

PS: Athanasius, I'm sure you're curious as to how Latter-day Saints would interpret the scriptures you referred to about how "no man can see God and live" and also about God being the "invisible God". I think Jeff Lindsay does a good job of representing mainstream "Mormon" understanding into both of those questions here. At least it's about how I understand the verses.

Athanasius said...

CC:

I read the links you provided. It gives an explanation that could be used by evangelicals; but then adds somethings that makes them solely a LDS answer. I do believe God was seen; but not in his glorified form, unless Mormons are willing to accept God physically being a cloud, an angel, a bush, as well as a man. I believe God the Father is "invisible" as well as the Holy Spirit. I believe Jesus is the image of the Father and His Spirit is the Holy Spirit, which is God's Spirit. I believe Jesus made Old Testament appearances that included the bush (I am), God walking in the garden of eden, Jacob wrestling with God, as well as any other appearances such as that. I do not think any man can see God, and Moses is probably the only one who almost did (as he saw his back). However, that would be a far outcry from the "Father" Joseph Smith saw.

I also have to make note on his quoting of Colossians 1:15. He puts it in a context that sounds like Jesus is like us, a created image. The problem with that, and you'll notice he leaves off the first section of that verse, but rather Jesus IS the image of God. There's a key theological difference in those terms. Men are created images, Jesus IS the image, and probably the image that men were created physically to resemble. I also wouldn't be so bold to claim that God or Jesus flat out looks like a man. The descriptions of Jesus' pre-carnate form (based off of Daniel 7's Son of Man) looks nothing like a man physically. But rather, as Daniel puts it, one resembling a man. The same with Revelation's Jesus. They resemble men, but they are far from men. Also one has to ask, does that make us Jesus' brothers? Also why didn't the Father lay his life down? Also who is the Father in the Old Testament? I've heard it said Joseph Smith said Jehovah is Jesus, so what name does the Father go by in the Old Testament?

Clean Cut said...

Athanasius, I’m wanting to understand one more thing. You said that Jesus is the IMAGE of God, but to me he isn't only the image of God, but he is God (John 1:1) and he has a body of flesh and bone as stated in Luke--he ate and drank. For me, it’s not any more of a stretch to think of God the Father also having a body, and still being God. I believe Christ has a body, and yet remains God, and the Holy Spirit does not have a body, and is God, so it’s about equally a stretch to think of God the Father having also having a body, like His Son, as it would be to believe He is just a Spirit, like the Holy Ghost.

Some early Christians argued that Christ only appeared to look like he had a body—like an illusion. This is Docetism (from the Greek “to appear”), and it was rejected not only by Luke but also by John: "And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world."(1 John 4:3). Without downplaying the flesh of Christ--a created body--how can a created body be part of the uncreated Trinity?

Elder Ballard said...

An area of misunderstanding among some of our friends in Christianity is that they refer to us as “polytheists,” meaning that we believe in a plurality of Gods. Much misunderstanding would be avoided if they understood that we worship only one Godhead, consisting of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. We believe that the biblical record teaches that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are separate persons. When the Savior was baptized, the Father spoke His approval from heaven, and the Holy Ghost was witnessed to be present by the sign of a dove (see Matt. 3:16–17). Likewise the Bible records the prayers of Jesus Christ to our Father in Heaven, a separate being (see John 17:3). We believe this doctrine is taught in the Bible despite what the creeds of other Christian denominations may teach. Such creeds were created hundreds of years after Christ’s mortal ministry through the processes of debate and compromise, often at the expense of biblical truths. The falling away from the teachings of Jesus Christ resulted in the Apostasy, which made the restoration of the gospel essential. This is a subject to be studied by all; the various Christian creeds were born through church councils and other efforts to define the true nature of God and His Son, Jesus Christ. Through revelations to modern prophets, we now know God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost and our true relationship to each one of them.

There is another related dimension of the scriptures that causes discomfort for many traditional Christians regarding this whole matter. We believe our Father in Heaven has promised His faithful sons and daughters “all things”—even that those worthy of exaltation in the celestial kingdom will be as “gods, even the sons of God” and that “these shall dwell in the presence of God and His Christ forever and ever” (see D&C 76:55, 58, 62). Although we do not know the full detail of these promises or what is fully meant by being “gods, even the sons of God,” we do accept these promises as revealed doctrine. Yet notwithstanding these promises, we say that for us there is indeed no other object of worship than God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

Building Bridges Of Understanding

jared w said...

I have been talking to some Born Again Christians who have become a reliable source for me.

Recently I've come to understand what they believe God's nature to be. I am very interested to have another perspective and I'd like it, athanasius, if you'd share your thoughts on my new understanding.

Here it is...

First as a Latter-day Saint, I believe that God is like us, or rather, we are like Him. God is literally the father of our souls. We are His offspring and are currently en route to possibly becoming like Him. The phrase, “I am a child of God” could not be more literal.

I want to interject here that I already know that you believe this to be false doctrine. I won't need you to tell me that. What I do want from you is to tell me if this next part is accurate.

Protestant Christians do not see God this way. Just as man is a different species from ants, God is a different species from man. His spirit, mind, body and personality do not translate to human concepts of spirit, mind, body and personality. Human qualities do not apply to Him. He is three in one because that’s the way He is. It doesn’t have to relate in any way to what humans are like. A question like, "Where does God keep His body when He is not Jesus" is irrelevant because the asker is thinking in human terms of body and soul. God is not like a human so the same concepts don't apply. Inherent in this understanding is the fact that we are not His children. More accurately stated, we are not God's offspring.

Please let me know if I have correctly described the protestant understanding of God. If this is truly your understanding of God, it clears up a lot of the argument for me.