Thursday, October 9, 2008
God is Three. God is One. And We Can Be One With God.
I've learned a lot from my blogging interactions with people not of our faith, as well as from my recent reading of "How Wide The Divide?" by Craig Blomberg (an Evangelical scholar) and Stephen Robinson (a Mormon scholar). One of the biggest things I realized, and it's simply huge, is that the Latter-day Saints are unique in their understanding that we are of the same essence or species of God. Evangelical Christians believe we are a different species from God, who "chose at some point to make creatures distinct from himself--human beings--with the capacity to have a personal realationship with him" (Blomberg).
Thus, Stephen Robinson writes: "The real sticking point is not what the LDS think of Christ and his gospel, but rather the different ontological frame or view of the nature of the universe into which Mormons fit the gospel. For Latter-day Saints also believe in the literal fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of humanity. We believe that God and humans are the same species of being and that all men and women were his spiritual offspring in a premortal existence. The main purpose of the gospel of Christ is therefore not so much to get us to heaven as it is to get us home."
If people don't understand this, then no wonder why we don't understand each other or we talk past each other. No wonder why other Christians would be confused that we believe we can become like God. For us, we are literally His children and therefore want to grow up to be like Him. We have the seeds of divinity in us. But for them, we'll always be different than God. Because Plato and Greek philosophy said that the "created" must always be separate from the "Creator", or the divine separate from the non-divine, the common thought that went into the councils and creeds was how to reconcile the fact that Christ was divine but also became a created man on earth.
We may believe in the same New Testament teachings of Jesus, but we definitely believe differently about the nature of God. I happen to like our understanding of God much more. :) I would find it hard to have faith in a mysterious and undefinable God that created "human beings" and put them on earth as if we're some kind of pet in a zoo or fish in a fish bowl, yet capable of having some kind of "relationship" with God--our owner or creator. I have faith in God and relate to Him and love Him as my Father in Heaven, who I lived with before I came to earth and wants me to return back to Him, but having grown from my experience here. So this is a fundamental difference, and I believe it's key to mutual understanding.
Incidentally, isn't it interesting that both "sides" can read the same bible and yet come away with such a different concept of God? Yet we each feel adamant that our interpretation is fully biblical. To quote Robinson again: "We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in God's Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. We accept the biblical doctrine that God is three and that God is also one, but we reject the post-New Testament attempts to explain how these two truths are to be reconciled."
It has been helpful for me to think of the "Trinity" (three persons in one being) as a solution to this "problem", that people saw that the scriptures talk of "one eternal God", and yet also that not only the Father was God, but Christ was God and fully divine, as well as the Holy Spirit. It seems that the Trinity was simply a solution for people who were afraid that worshipping three Gods, when the scriptures also clearly say that they are, or there is, "one God", would be polytheism. But Latter-day Saints also recognize the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost as one "God"--or the Godhead--without feeling there is a polytheism problem. Since all three of them are united as one in practically every way (except physically), we have no problem in thinking of them as "one eternal God" in three persons.
We even take it one step further and really believe that the Bible means what is says when Christ prays to His Father for his disciples, that "they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us" (John 17:21). What mercy and blessed grace indeed! Through the atonement of Christ, He will make us divine and change our natures so that we can be at one again with God, just as Christ is one with God. Yes, the word gospel means good news, and this is most definitely "good news"! What a testament to the power of the atonement of Jesus Christ!