Contra Mundum: Athanasius and the LDS on Deification

For some time, the Mormons have been availing themselves of material in the Fathers of the Church regarding theosis in order to render their own doctrines more plausible. There is no shortage of LDS blogs and websites that exclaim with glee that the LDS doctrine of exaltation is within the bounds of Christian teaching on the basis of the Orthodox cut-n-pastedoctrine of theosis. They routinely pelt Protestants as well as Catholics with patristic material maintaining that not only is their view within the corral of Christian orthodoxy, but that they alone possess the true teaching with respect to deification. They then put such claims in the service of motivating their claims of an apostasy after the apostolic age. Of course, such claims are, so far as I have seen not only false and supported by fallacious reasoning, but in many cases the use of Patristic material would make the cut and pasters over at the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society blush. Here I leave an examination of these specific claims by LDS apologists for another time.

What I wish to look at here is one of the principle texts brought out by LDS apologists and its argument thatStAthanasius4 Athanasius’ doctrine of theosis is inconsistent with his doctrine of creation ex nihilo. This claim has become quite common among Mormon apologists and it is well suited to demonstrate the coherence and strength of the Orthodox position.

The specific text is a doctoral dissertation by Keith E. Norman entitled, Deification: The Context of Athanasian Soteriology. It is available in both print and electronic form. The dilemma so far as I can tell from Norman’s text is that if we are to be deified, then we cannot be created ex nihilo and vice versa. And this is so because things created ex nihilo can’t become deified since by essence, God enjoys a kind of underived existence or aseity.  Humans are therefore radically different or “wholly other”  than God, so much so that it is impossible to become what God is by essence. Something cannot both be beginingless and have a begining. Deification would entail a natural and therefore essential change in humanity which is precluded by the doctrine of creation ex nihilo. Without such a change, humans can’t be deified and are left in a mutable metaphysical state apart from salvation. The implication is that the LDS can affirm theosis consistently because they reject the doctrine of creation ex nihilo. Therefore LDS theology stands in superior position to the Athanasian and by extension, the Orthodox teaching on deification.

At the outset it is important to take note of what Norman is conceding. His argument concedes that the LDS view of deification is not isomorphic with the Orthodox and patristic doctrine. He explicitly references texts such as the one below which show that we do not become “gods” in the sense of being what God is by essence as the LDS maintain.

“But these characteristics belong to us, who are originate, and of a created nature. For we too, albeit we cannot become like God in essence, yet by progress in virtue imitate God, the Lord granting us this grace, in the words, ‘Be ye merciful as your Father is merciful:’ ‘be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect .” Letter to the Bishops of Africa, 7. Norman, 47.

Without this concession, his argument against the consistency of Athanasius’ view of deification won’t go through. If this difference is not conceded, on the one hand it will be the case that the LDS view is susceptible to the same dilemma since even though they deny creation ex nihilo, it will still be the case that they do not become what God is by essence. On the other hand if it isn’t a problem for the LDS view, then on the same basis it is not a problem for Athanasius and the Orthodox doctrine. Consequently, the apologetic import of material in Athanasius or other Fathers teaching deification is diminished for the LDS for there is an important and crucial difference between the Orthodox teaching and their own. Given this important disimiilarity, it is much less plausible then that the patristic teaching on deification is evidence of LDS teaching in the New Testament period.

Norman argues that humans be virtue of being created from nothing exist in such a state as to make them essentially aliented from God while at the same time being intentioned to an end that transcends that state.

“The paradox of Athanasian soteriology is that, despite his creaturehood and essential alienation from God, which seems to make communion with Him impossible, man is called to a supernatural destiny.” Norman, 79.

transfiguration2Humans by virtue of being created enjoy no metaphysical overlap with God and this precludes deification. God is totally other than humanity and vice versa. The underlying principle is that two opposite properties cannot be essentially true of the same object. 

“Can a being, whose essence, having come into existence from nothing has nothing essentially in common with a God whose nature is eternal and unchangeable, ‘become God,’ even in a limited sense?”  Norman, 86

This metaphysical gulf is so vast in Norman’s estimation that it has serious epistemological consequences, namely a form of theological agnosticism.

“Ultimately, it is impossible for human nature to have any direct knowledge of God or even his attributes, for man is entirely different from his Maker and exists on a completely different plane of being. Existence in the full sense belongs to God alone, who has ‘necessary being’ while man has only ‘contingent being;’ his existence is totally dependent on the will of Deity.  Thus God is totaliter aliter, since a firm ontological gulf forever separates the Divine from the human, the Creator and the created.” Norman, 77

And because of Athanasius’ endorsement of creation ex nihilo, he must maintain against the Arians that Jesus is the Son of God by nature whereas we become sons of God by participation or by grace.  Because humans are essentially different than God, they can never become deified and therefore remain mutable. Creation ex nihilo squelchs salvation.

“From the standpoint of Athanasius’ ontology, the inescapable conclusion from the foregoing is that theopoiesis, is a contradiction in terms. Only the Son is God by nature, and if he deifies his followers by virtue of that Godhood, they cannot be essentially divine, they remain beings created ‘out of nothing’ and thus always subject, at lest in principle to change and corruption.” Norman 81.

Because humans bear no natural relation to God by virtue of the doctrine of creation ex nihilo, they can never become immutable and impeccable as God is. Any gains made in the work of Christ are tenuous at best since the relationship between God and man can be severed precisely because there is no essential unity between the two. Humans can only bear an extrinsic relation to God, which is insufficient for deification since it entails a significant change in human nature.

“If, as Rolandus insists, communion with Christ remains a relationship of grace and never becomes ‘natural,’ then the superiority claimed by Athanasius of redemption over creation is jeopardized. Man is still changeable by nature; it is still possible for him to be separated from participation in the Godhead.” Norman, 81-82.

“It is important to stress, along with Athanasius, that deification indicates a real advancement and exaltation of our humanity to a divine level of existence. Theopoiesis is no mere poetic expression or metaphor, it means to be made God or a god, in the sense that we reflect His glory and holiness, which is the intent of our being created  κατ εικονα θεού.” Norman, 67.

On the other hand, if Athanasius wishes to maintain deification, this poses a significant problem for his position contra the Arians. Athanasius had argued that the Arians are guilty of idolatry because they placed an intermediary figure that is not equal (and hence not supreme) with the Father. There is some divinity between the creator and creatures. But if Athanasius maintains that humans are in fact made divine, he will have convicted not only the Arians of idolarty but his own position as well.

“Yet in his own soteriology he teaches theopoiesis by grace, which, in effect at least seems to put him in the same camp with the Arians he so vigorously condemns for placing men on a level with God.” Norman, 86.

What is ironic about the case that Norman builds is that the seeds of the thesis’ own undoing are within his text. At a number of points the material he presents provides him with clear and at least implicit lines of development to see that the problems he poses for Athanasius and by extension the Orthodox view of theosis are no problems at all. In sum, if his argument were correct, then it would be logically impossible for Athanasius to affirm that humans are made in the divne image. Here is the kernal of his mistake which I will unpack.

At least as far back as Irenaeus of Lyon there has been a significant connection between the doctrine of the imago dei and that of the Logos. Christ is the eternal image of God whereas humans have been made according to that imageSt Irenaeus of Lyons 3 that is Christ.

For He made man the image of God; and the image of God is the Son, after whose image man was made: and for this cause He appeared in the end of the times that He might show the image (to be) like unto Himself.” Irenaeus, Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 22.

And again,

“And then, again, this Word was manifested when the Word of God was made man, assimilating Himself to man, and man to Himself, so that by means of his resemblance to the Son, man might become precious to the Father. For in times long past, it was said that man was created after the image of God, but it was not [actually] shown; for the Word was as yet invisible, after whose image man was created, Wherefore also he did easily lose the similitude. When, however, the Word of God became flesh, He confirmed both these: for He both showed forth the image truly, since He became Himself what was His image; and He re-established the similitude after a sure manner, by assimilating man to the invisible Father through means of the visible Word.” Against Heresies, 5.16.2

Somewhat dated but still instructive is the work of Jules Gross, The Divinization of the Christian According to the Greek Fathers.

“Now if, for the bishop of Lyon, ‘to be made in the image of God’ is nothing other than ‘to be made in the image of the Son’ incarnate, we can understand how, in the passage from Against Heresies [5.16.1] quoted above, he could see ‘the image of God’ being initially realized in the human body since the human body, according to Irneaus, was formed after the type of the body of the Logos, which had been incarnated from all eternity and was ideally present with the Creator.” 122.

The same outlook is evidenced in the earliest writings of Athanasius as can be seen here in a citation from his On theicon of creation Incarnation,

“And among these, having taken especial pity, above all things on earth, upon the race of men, and having perceived its inability, by virtue of the condition of its origin, to continue in one stay, He gave them a further gift, and He did not barely create man, as He did all the irrational creatures on the earth, but made them after His own image, giving them a portion even of the power of His own Word; so that having as it were a kind of reflexion of the Word, and being made rational, they might be able to abide ever in blessedness, living the true life which belongs to the saints in paradise.” On the Incarnation, 3.

I simply can’t say it better than Khalid Anatolios’ outstanding exposition and so I reproduce it here.

“In this passage, the connection between the term χάρις and the framework of participation may be observed in the convergence of two sets of terminology. Thus χάρις is described in terms of God giving humanity a share in his power, δυναμις. The verb employed is μεταδιδωμι, the correlative of μεταλαμβανω. And the effect of this sharing is that humanity becomes, as it were ‘shadows’ of the Word, another reference to the participation model. But of course, Athanasius elsewhere employs the participation model and vocabulary to speak of the sharing of the whole creation in the beneficent δυναμις of the Word, a sharing which makes the whole world a ‘shadow’ and a reflection of the Word. In humanity, however, the reflection achieves an altogether different level, and it is this qualitative difference that is articulated in terms of humanity being κατ εικονα…Athanasius understands humanity’s being ‘in the image,’ as derivative from the Word’s being the image of the Father. He reserves the term ‘image’ to the Son alone, as a perfect reflection of the Father. Humanity, therefore, is the ‘image of the image.’ Its similarity to God is thus fundamentally articulated as a participation in the Son’s archetypal relationship of similitude to the Father. Athanasius: The Coherence of his Thought, 56

And Norman seems quite aware of this when we writes in a similar vein,

“What Athanasius stresses here [De Syn, 51], against the Arians, is the significance of κατ εικονα as a participation term. Man was formed as the image of the image of God, which is the Logos, and by this means partakes of God. But this is a two edged sword. On the one hand κατ εικονα indicates the contingent nature of man, but on the other it is not a simple resemblance or reproduction of form, but an ontological participation.” Norman, 33.

Compare the above with the gloss from Norman on deification.

“But even more than the language of renewal/restoration, the frequent employment of the word theopoiesis points to the virtual transformation of human nature itself, since God and created humanity, have in essence, nothing in common before they are united by the incarnation.” Norman 61

Quite right then is Anatolios to reject a similar line of thought when he states,

“The fallacy of such an approach being imposed on Athanasius is exposed by the recognition that the ‘either/or’ alternatives in which the question is meant to be answered-either the image belongs to the human structure or it belongs to the ‘grace’ of the relation with God-simply do not exist as exclusive alternatives in Athanasius. It seems wisest, therefore, to dismiss the dichotomy represented by such a question as quite foreign to the perspective of Athanasius’s anthropology, in which the relation to God is constitutive of the human being as such.  There is thus a convergence in Athanasius between ‘inmherent structure’ and ‘relation to God’ which renders fallacious any attempt to analyze his anthropology in terms of a preconceived framework based on a mutually exclusive opposition.” Anatolios, 65.

To say that God and creatures have in essence nothing in common is misleading if not outright false for the essence of humanity is an image of the divine. To put it more directly, the image of God in man is the essence of humanity. It is its logos and this logos or plan, predestination or predetermination is in the one Logos, that is Christ. It doesn’t follow that if the essence of humanity qua logos isn’t the essence of God, that there is no essential or natural overlap between God and humanity. The logos of humanity exists eternally in God in Christ. This fits well with Athanasius’ essence-power distinction.

“Rather, it is articulated in terms of God being ‘outisde’ of creation by his essence and yet present within it by his power. This essence-power distinction in Athanasius seems to  be a distinction between the divine realm in se, encompassing both Father and Son (not to mention the Spirit) and ad extra.  Its point is simply that God’s active agency within creation does not mitigate against his otherness as an agent; God does not become consubstantial with creation through his activity within it. However, in being outside creation by essence, God does not cease to be effective within it, and to effect creation’s participation in his own activity.” Anatolios, 46.

The logos of human nature then is eternal and in God as divine power or as a divine energy. And since God’s power is deity and not less so than the divine essence, the kind of radical separation that Norman wishes to posit simply doesn’t open up. Ironically Norman implicitly recognizes this,

“The first point to be noted is that the doctrine of creation out of nothing was not left in all its radical implications without qualification. In fact, creation is a manifestation of grace, and this is especially true in the case of man.” Norman, 81.

For Athanasius then God’s relation to creation requires no intermediary as Arianism did, as some kind of mid point between creator and creature to bridge the gap. God’s access to creation is direct and unmediated which secures its dependency and denies any claim by creatures to metaphysical, moral or soteriological autonomy. It is all of grace. This is why as far back as Origen, deification is glossed not only terms of human nature, but more narrowly in terms of moral transformation without a loss or obliteration of human nature.

“And if any one were to maintain what is asserted by some (either by those who possess intelligence or who do not, but have misconceived sound reason), that ‘God exists, and we are next to Him,’ I would interpret the word “we,” by using in its stead, “We who act according to reason,’ or rather, ‘We virtuous, who act according to reason.’  For, in our opinion, the same virtue belongs to all the blessed, so that the virtue of man and of God is identical. And therefore we are taught to become ‘perfect,’ as our Father in heaven is perfect.” Contra Celsus 4:29

Divine power is perfectly suited to human nature since human nature is a divine energy. The same thought can be seen in Maximus’ disputation with Pyrrus when he argues that virtues are not external to human nature introduced from the outside and hence supernatural but rather the virtues are natural things. (“It is not as if  the virtues have been newly introduced from the outside, for they inhere in us from creation…” Disputation with Pyrrus, sec.88-95)  Deification is internal, intrinsic and personal. One might say that deification at one level is in the use of divine power.creation of Adam When Athanasius and other Fathers speak of grace transforming nature, this is not to be understood in terms of replacing our nature, but in terms of actualizing it. Grace is not an inhering accident of a substance or individual thing. Consequently, when Athanasius writes that we become deified by grace and participation and that unlike God we cannot be divine on our own, what this means is not that the imago dei is not divine, but that its actualization, the bringing of the divine power or potential to reality can’t be done autonomously. For all have fallen short of the glory of God. To say that we are transformed beyond our nature is not to nullify the imago dei but to see that its actualization goes beyond our capabilities to actualize our own natural potential. That is, transformation beyond “nature” is not the nullifcation of the imago dei but its actualization. So when Athanasius and other Fathers speak of going beyond what Adam had in creation, they mean ot to posit some super-human replacing essence, but the completion of the process according to the image which is in Christ.

So in a very metaphysically robust sense God is not totally other but nearer to us than our own breath. All things in him live, move and have their being for the logos of each creature is the divine being. God then is the formal cause of creatures without any obliteration of creaturely nature since the logos of every creature is a divine power or energy. And this is in part possible because the divine energies are not the same as the divine essence so that being made according to one does not imply partaking of the other. In the other direction, creatures are made according to a logos or image but they are not the logos according to which they are made. So that it is not as if the creatures themselves are eternally existing as deity and so panentheism is precluded as well. (Its nice to have your cake and eat it too.) The Logos then is truely a mediator. This is why Norman’s approving citation of Lot-Bordine is so wrong headed.

“As Lot-Borodine points out, the Nicene definition of the Son as homoousios with the Father would logically preclude the Logos as mediator between God and man.” Norman, 79

Homoousios does not preclude Christ as a mediator between God and man, but rather only precludes certain notions of what consitutes a mediator, most specifically the Arian conception. If Christ is of one essence with the Father, then God’s access to the world is direct and so the Arian mediator is an explanatory dangler and is unecessary. An Arian mediator is a fifth wheel in an Athanasian cosmos. The only reason you’d need the kind of Arian mediator is if creation was in some intrinsic way opposed to God as expressed in the Arian fear that somehow the unchangeable God might fail to be God if he came into contact with formless and therefore changing matter. The point of contention for Athanasius and the Arians was not if Christ was mediator but what it meant for Christ to be the mediator.

In so far as God is underived he can be said to be totally other but that does not imply the kind of metaphysical separation that Norman suggests. He assumes that being other implies alienation and opposition, but difference doesn’t imply opposition or that two things are opposed. If God is different than us, it doesn’t follow we are alienated from God per se. And this is the sense that Athanasius and other Fathers have in mind when they speak of God as being essentially distinct from creatures. Athanasius can escape the counter charge of idolatry in his doctrine of deification for unlike the Arians he does not posit an essence that is metaphysically less than God in the category of the divine.

On the moral plane, God’s aseity or underivedness has great import for the impeccability of the saints. Remember the charge was that if deification is never becomes “natural” then humans are still mutable. But this is confused. Athanasius thinks of deification on two levels, the natural and the personal.

“And thus He, the incorruptible Son of God, being conjoined with all by a like nature, naturally clothed all with incorruption, by the promise of the resurrection. For the actual corruption in death has no longer holding-ground against men, by reason of the Word, which by His one body has come to dwell among them.” On the Incarnation, 9.2

“Wherefore, let us not merely proceed to perform the festal rites, but let us be prepared to draw near to the divine Lamb, and to touch heavenly food. Let us cleanse our hands, let us purify the body. Let us keep our whole mind from guile; not giving up ourselves to excess, and to lusts, but occupying ourselves entirely with our Lord, and with divine doctrines; so that, being altogether pure, we may be able to partake of the Word.” Festal Letter, 5.5.

Deification then admits of degrees. Because man is made in the image and Christ has taken up that image in a hypostatic union, there is a natural deification relative to immortality for all of humanity, which is why there is a general resurrection. Personal deification requiring a response on top of this is also “natural” in that the person actualizes the divine potential according to the image in which they were made. Over time, the character of the individual “gels” and becomes fixed so that the telos of their nature in the imago dei hooks up with and becomes one with their personal use of their natural faculties by divine power. This is why the comment from Origen above is important since he makes clear that the virtue of God and humanity is “identical” and this is so because it is by the same divine power. The saints become fixed in the good and become morally impeccable without a loss of free will for there are an infinite number of divine goods to choose between.

This displays the difference in deification between God and us and why God is deity by nature or essence and we are by paticipation.  God has no begining and we do. Consequently even though God is still the source of his character, this does not imply any dependence or mutability since God never begins to form his character. As Maximus wrote, God never ceases from goods because he never began them.  Since we are created we cannot be deified by essence and consequently from the get-go since we have a begining and therefore theosis or deification requires a personal process. With God, there is no process and with us, there is.

“…and as the Son of Man, He Himself is said after the manner of men to receive what proceeds from Him, because His Body is none other than His, and is a natural recipient of grace, as has been said. For He received it as far as His man’s nature was exalted; which exaltation was its being deified. But such an exaltation the Word Himself always had according to the Father’s Godhead and perfection, which was His.” Contra Arianos, 1.45.

This is why we can never be God by essence since God is beginingless. So on the contrary, it is not the doctrine of creation ex nihilo that motivates the supposed problems that Norman puts forward. Rather it is the doctrine that God is beginingless and is independent. If this is true, then creation ex nihilo is just a hop away since beings other than God will have a begining, on pain of belief in many Gods. Either the LDS need to give up the argument put forward by Norman or they need to give up the belief in many Gods in the above sense. If they select the latter and say that there is only one supreme underived being, then they can have no principled objections to the doctrine of creation ex nihilo since by implication, all other beings will have a begining.

In sum, the argument that the patristic and Orthodox doctrine of deification is inconsistent with other traditional Christian committments such as creation ex nihilo rests on false premises and bad inferences. The doctrine of the imago dei and its relation to Christology shows that the kind of separation envisioned to make that argument go through is precluded. Norman’s argument then rests on a straw man. Athanasius’ theology is sufficiently rich and coherent to ward off the kind of disparity between God and the world to which his theological foes subscribed. By the same token it presents far more of a challenge to LDS theology than its advocates have seemingly grasped.

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77 Responses to Contra Mundum: Athanasius and the LDS on Deification

  1. David Richards says:

    Happy birthday, Perry.

  2. Don Bradley says:

    I once had a similar icon of Athanasius at Nicea as you placed on this post. We got it mail order from a Coptic cathedral in Los Angelas, but I heard the guy who made them died. Do you know where I can buy one like the one shown?

  3. Brad says:

    “Either the LDS need to give up the argument put forward by Norman or they need to give up the belief in many Gods in the above sense. If they select the latter and say that there is only one supreme underived being, then they can have no principled objections to the doctrine of creation ex nihilo since by implication, all other beings will have a begining.”

    I never was clear about where the LDS would land on this particular statement — either from my ignorance of, or perhaps lack of, anything official from the LDS on the subject. In spite of that, it’s been my belief that they don’t believe God to be an “underived being”. God has been described to me by LDS as created and composed of spiritual matter. I have even heard LDS say that there were an endless number of Gods before this one. Have you read something to the contrary? Everything I’ve read on the subejct usually gots dismissed as opinion when I brought up issues (and usually with no correction or direction to look in terms of correcting my erroneous beliefs about the LDS), so I’d love to read something more “canonical” than McConkie and less open to interpretation than the Book of Mormon.

  4. Seth R. says:

    You might try reading Joseph Smith’s “King Follett Discourse” – one of the last sermons he ever gave. Here’s a link for it:

    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/King_Follett_Discourse

    Another key passage of scripture is in the LDS canon, in the Doctrine and Covenants. Read Section 29. The main action on this topic occurs in verses 21-36. Here’s a quick link for you:

    http://scriptures.lds.org/en/dc/93/29#29

    There is a diversity of Mormon belief on whether God the Father was always “God” or whether he progressed to become such. Some hold that he had to progress as we did. Some hold that he served tenure as a “Christ” for a different world. And some hold that God the Father was always “God” and never otherwise. All hold their views to be consistent with the statements of Joseph Smith and with LDS scripture.

    So I would say this is why you are getting evasive answers Brad. There simply is no enforced orthodox position on these particulars within the LDS Church.

    But let’s be clear – none of these views posit a God who is a “created being” in the sense traditional Christians mean that term. Creation ex nihilo is rejected by Mormonism. We posit that both the universe, and human identity is eternal.

    So no matter which model of “God’s past history” within LDS tradition you look at, none of them posit a God who ever didn’t exist. God’s identity is as eternal as anyone’s. So is Christ’s.

    A final point Brad… I’m afraid you just aren’t going to find the “authoritative source” you are looking for. LDS are notorious for a carefree attitude about orthodoxy. We just don’t bother much with it – preferring instead a focus on orthopraxy.

    You might find an article I wrote on navigating LDS sources of doctrine helpful. Here’s the link:

    http://ldstalk.wordpress.com/2009/04/30/navigating-living-waters-helping-our-evangelical-friends-make-sense-of-mormon-doctrine/

  5. Seth R. says:

    My post had about three hyperlinks in it and went into moderation. This post is to see if the hyperlinks were the reason for moderation. Sorry.

  6. Seth,

    So either humans had no begining are not always deities or they are. If the first, then deity means something different between us. Moreover, in what sense could we be said to be “children” if we always existed? Why see “Father” as our source if we existed at each and every moment? If’ were exist forever then I can’t see why he would be a source of our existence.

  7. Seth R. says:

    “So either humans had no beginning are not always deities or they are.”

    You may need to reword this for clarity. Human always existed in some form (what exactly, our scriptures don’t specify). Our divinity is a participatory sort of divinity. Like Christ, we gain our divinity via participation in the mind and will of God the Father.

    As to whether God the Father derives his own divinity in a similar manner, our scriptures and Joseph Smith are either ambiguous or silent.

    Of course we could be “children” even if we always existed.

    Unlike Catholics, we Mormons do not believe that children pop into existence ex nihilo at conception. We believe that spirits await in heaven right now for the chance to live on earth. The union of spirit and body could happen at any time in the procreative process and our Church takes no position on this. But either way, there is nothing ex nihilo about childbirth.

    So I would reject your definition of “children.”

    As to the last, God is the source of our state of existence, but not our absolute existence.

  8. Seth,

    If humans and the gods have no begining, I am not sure why the gods are described in two ways. First, why is the Father called Father is we didn’t come from him but always existed? Second, in what sens is Jesus “begotten” and dependent on the Father since Jesus always existed.

    Next, I am not sure why the gods have deity in an unparticipated way if they do. It seems like if we always exist and they do also that they have their deity in a participated and derivative way. the qualities of deity making aren’t uniquely theirs. So if the gods are holy and we are holy then we both particiapte in a quality of holiness.

    Further, if the gods can have deity from the get-go I am not sure why we can’t if we are both everlasting and have no begining. If we can’t and the gods don’t, I am not sure why we’d think of them as gods and worship them.

  9. Seth R. says:

    Deity isn’t an objective quality you either “have” or “don’t have”. It’s a label we use to describe a position that one has reached or participates in.

    Mormons consider the difference between God and us to be one of degree rather than kind. We reject any ontological difference.

  10. Seth R. says:

    We also reject that the title “Father” has anything to do with ex nihilo creation.

  11. Seth,

    But I am not clear on why you’d call God “father” just because he reached a point that you haven’t or call him “maker” “creator” etc. if he didn’t create you or make you. You exist eternally regardless of choices he makes. And again, I can’t see in what sense Jesus is dependent and begotten from the father if he exists independently of the Father. I mean, why isn’t Jesus Father rather than the Father?

  12. Seth R. says:

    And I fail to see why the word “father” requires a being to be the absolute source of another being.

    That’s not true of me as a father. I’m not the absolute source of my daughter. The material of my body came from the elements, my wife contributed, and a spirit was contributed from somewhere else yet again.

    In no way, am I the “final cause” of my daughter.

    Likewise, God is not the “final cause” of us either.

    I think you are begging the question by insisting that “father” only allow a very specialized philosophical definition of your own choosing.

  13. Seth,

    Let me clarify. I can’t be begging the question since I am asking questions. I am allowing you to spell out what you mean by such terms. In what sense do you ascribe father to God? And why did he get called father and say not Jesus?

    My understanding is that you believe that we and the gods exist everlastingly with no begining and no end. If that is correct, why call one particular set of beings gods, father, creator, etc?

  14. [...] What happens when a Mormon tries to out orthodox the Orthodox? In sum, the argument that the patristic and Orthodox doctrine of deification is inconsistent with [...]

  15. Seth R. says:

    Is there a reason why we shouldn’t?

  16. Brad says:

    Seth,

    I think Perry’s question is appropriate. At the very least, I’m confused. When, as you describe, you become a father through a reproductive act with your wife, you create a child (not out of nothing, but you still create). If we always existed, if “intelligence…was not created or made, neither indeed can be”, how is God aptly described as our creator or father? How does your analogy apply?

    I haven’t had time to read much of the links you posted (maybe the answer is there), but I’ll take a look after awhile.

  17. Seth R. says:

    LDS theology takes the word “create” in the same sense that a painter “creates” a painting. Not out of nothing. But by taking the materials at hand, adds something of himself to it, and through this synergy brings to pass something better.

    We find this to be a more accurate reading of the original Hebrew for the word “create” in the Genesis account.

  18. Seth R. says:

    I don’t think the links I provided you are going to get into much depth.

    If you’re looking for more depth, I would suggest some of Blake Ostler’s work. He is an active Mormon theologian of sorts. He’s a practicing attorney who moonlights in theology on the side. He’s published an ambitious three-volume attempt to tackle the Mormon theology of God’s identity in an organized fashion. He sometimes gets dismissed for not being a full-time Doctorate of theology somewhere. But keep in mind that most Mormons have day jobs – and that includes our thinkers. Very few of us actually have the option of making theology our full-time calling.

    Anyway, all I care about is the strength of an argument. I don’t really care what sort of wrapping paper it comes in. Here’s a series of articles Ostler wrote rebutting arguments made by Protestant theologians William Lane Craig and Paul Copan that deal heavily in the LDS stance on creation ex nihilo and related topics:

    http://www.fairlds.org/New_Mormon_Challenge/index.html

  19. Perry ~ I enjoyed this article. Your critique of Norman seems solid and you were respectful and even-handed with LDS beliefs. This seems to be exactly the sort of interaction that Latter-day Saints have been saying they wish they would get from the rest of the Christian world.

    I hadn’t read anything about Norman before this, and perhaps I owe it to him to read him before making judgment, but your critique of him leaves me shaking my head and reinforces my impression that a lot of LDS arguments against traditional Christian thought systems would not hold up very well if the best thinkers in traditional Christianity actually paid attention to them.

    And on top of that, I think that “Cut-and-Paste It” picture is sweet.

    Sorry for taking longer than anticipated to get back to you; between Halloween and my anniversary, I was busy this weekend.

  20. Seth R. says:

    Interaction with the best minds in Christianity can only benefit us Mormons.

  21. I know. It would help you clear out your crappy arguments and replace them with better ones. :)

  22. Seth,

    So let’s say I am more confused. With the painter analogy, the painting doesn’t exist but its materials do. Then the painter puts them together and the painting exists. But it is my impression and correct if I am wrong, that you think humans were never put together, but always existed. If that is so, its hard for me to see how the analogy of the painter is apt.

  23. Seth R. says:

    We believe that the essentials of objects are eternal and uncreated. But their STATES can and do change.

    So, according to the D&C verses I linked to, the fundamental part of human existence and identity – labeled “intelligence” – is eternal. However, God has acted upon those intelligences and organized them into something higher and better.

  24. Joseph Schmitt says:

    Enter Maximos …..

  25. Seth R. says:

    Progression is infinite in LDS theology – for all beings.

  26. This is a good post. It is good to see the Norman is addressing the issue of deification and he has some good insights into the importance of deification, even if he thinks that there are problems with it as mentioned by Perry.

    From experience, I am realising that deification is the doctrine that really separates the Orthodox from all other religions and confessions. Heresy is really that which denies the possibility of this doctrine. If one thinks that there is a problem with deification, on whatever grounds, then his theology is mistaken at some point. Generally, in western confessions, this is due to the lack of the distinction between essence and energies but can also stems from poor Incarnational and Trinitarian theology.

    I would say that when one understands deification then one sees not only that it is a coherent doctrine in itself, it is also the only doctrine that allows for the existence of creation either in time or eternally. Existence, of all other than God, requires existing in God as God, no other existence is viable without limiting and so denying God, yet without being God in essence, which would deny the created being its own existence.

    Seth

    There seems a rejection in the writings to which you linked to the idea that was is eternal cannot be changing. This idea effectively demolishes much of Mormon thought, if it is true and it underlies most Christian and Platonic theological thinking largely because this idea is well established in its correctness. Can you please explain how Mormons can conceive of the eternal that is changing? Such as a God who progresses. Can you refute the logic that to be changing is to be temporal, i.e. time is inherent in change and change in time, in other words, to say that the eternal is changing is to say that the eternal is temporal thus contradicting oneself?

    Also, how can you see the coexistence of matter with God without limiting God or reducing God to another thing? As soon as we place any spacial limits on God then we also apply temporal limits on God. If God is omnipresent and yet exists with matter then how do you distinguish between them if you do not speak of creation ex nihilo? What sets the conditions of matter eternally to exist to a particular limit or form if it can exist independently of God i.e. how does it have limits even in choas from which God begins to work on it? How do you defend against the idea that something eternally existing must do so to its maximum limits, which must be limitless or exist to minimal limits, which must be to have no presence at all? Otherwise we have the need of something else to which the thing is dependent to define its limits. This dependency is impossible unless the dependent is created ex nihilo. Can you prove otherwise?

    What is also of concern to me is that the comment that ‘interaction with the best minds in Christianity can only benefit us Mormons’, seems to imply that being Mormon is legitimate in itself, on some form of social grounds, and so remains legitimate even if its theology needs improving, rather than seeing Mormonism as a religious movement, such as Islam, that has no legitimacy once its theological basis has been shown wanting and so requiring conversion to another faith. Yes, interaction with the best minds in Christianity is beneficial but it may very likely mean ceasing to be Mormon, unless you are to redefine being Mormon only in some form of tribal or national terms.

  27. Rob G says:

    (Don’t mean to interrupt here, but there is an interesting discussion of divine simplicity going on at Ed Feser’s blog — thought you might be interested but didn’t know how to inform you otherwise. Sorry!)

  28. Seth R. says:

    Patrick,

    I think you’ll find that LDS thought rejects many Platonic assumptions that the rest of the Christian world operates off.

    For us, a static and completed being would be imperfect – since such a being is stagnant and incapable of moving forward.

    However, I don’t think any LDS would claim that God is not sufficient to guarantee his promises. We consider him perfect to carry out his will. But we consider him progressing in one sense:

    He progresses through the increase in glory of his children. LDS scripture reads “This is my work and my glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” His glory is increased through our own increase.

    But no LDS considers God incapable of delivering a true prophecy.

  29. Seth R. says:

    I would also point out that Mormon identity is already “tribal” far more than it is theological. And we always have been from the start.

    We’re closer to Judaism than Christianity in this sense. It’s almost more of an ethnicity, than a theological system of belief. For instance, I – a US citizen – personally hold far more identity allegiance to a Mormon in Nigeria than I do to a Catholic in Boston. Mormon first, foremost, and above all else in terms of identity.

    Mormonism has a theological framework in our scriptures. But beyond that, the whole system is incredibly adaptive. As long as one avoids disrupting the community, one can hold a surprisingly diverse range of theological views within Mormonism. Allegiance matters far more than technical theology and philosophy.

    Subsequently, Mormons focus far more on orthopraxy than orthodoxy. In this sense, we are similar to other “young” religions – including first and second century Christianity.

    In the place of a defined theology, we have a historical narrative, and an identity. This is why scholarship in Mormonism is dominated by historians, not philosophers. We just don’t usually care much about philosophy. History will almost always be of more interest to a Mormon.

    It’s a completely different paradigm from the rest of Christianity.

  30. Seth R. says:

    Final point Patrick…

    Some Mormon scholars are actually positing that God is temporal (other Mormons scholars resist this conclusion). There is presently a lot of excitement in Mormon circles over the writings of Open Theism in other Christian circles. Many Mormon writers see this work as having great possibilities for Mormon theology (we also have an advantage here, since we don’t have to uphold creation ex nihilo).

    So, I’m not willing to completely commit to a temporal God. But I’m sympathetic to the idea and like what it offers.

  31. Seth,

    Thank you for the responses. I am aware of the rejection of the so-called Platonic assumptions. However, these assumptions are not so much assumptions as they are solutions to some very important and profound questions, which Christianity also has to answer and often uses the same answers because they are the only viable solutions to the problems. Apart from saying that these answers are rejected, I have not seen any alternate answers to these problems from Mormons. These answers are necessary from Mormonism if they want there theology to be taken seriously. Please see if you can try to answer my questions directly rather than moving around them. The idea of a simply static God is rejected by Orthodoxy also but this does not change the questions that I raised or the solution of St Athanasius. You will need to go into much more depth here or point to someone who does. I used to think that God could gain by worship or love of His creatures but this idea was quickly put aside when I studied theology because God can be in no way dependent on His Creation for anything. His glory is full without creation otherwise He would again be subject to change and time and not eternal, hence not God. You will need to address this logic.

    As I suspected, Mormonism places family above belief, except in initial stages. This is different to the idea of Mormon first and other identities second, it is a submission of ones understanding of reality to that of their human family first. This is a major problem for all people and the main reason that stops people coming to Christ, which requires a world view committed to faith in, and the Faith of, Christ before anything else. Theological issues matter and theological diversity is a problem because our identity should be based on God and not on human terms. We are commanded in Scripture to be of one mind.

    Orthopraxy is not separable from Orthodoxy and good Orthodox theologians have as their primary concern Orthopraxy in their study of Orthodoxy. There is no lessening of the need for good Orthodox theology with this focus. History is also key to Orthodox Christianity and again this does not diminish the need for good theology. Personally, one of the major reasons for rejecting Mormonism is precisely its understanding of history; it just doesn’t fit historical evidence. Overall, you are not living in a different paradigm but one without a sound theological basis, which, I reason, is thus open to a number of inconsistencies and poor underpinnings for its orthopraxy.

  32. Seth,

    So, you don’t believe in an absolute pre-existence, but one where your constiuents pre-exist? By “intelligence” do you mean a soul or a person or something else? If so, I again can’t see in what sense god is to be called father. May be one who embodies you, but he didn’t create you and he isn’t the source of you. If anything the bits of the universe did it seems.

    I am not sure what Platonic assumptions the LDS reject. They seem to accept the Platonic view of pre-existing matter and that this is fashioned by a kind of super being fashioner. The accept a pre-existence of souls or something very much like it. Sounds pretty Platonic. We could toss in Stoicism in so far as the idea of eternal matter and that even the gods are composed of matter.

    I am not sure how a perfect being entails being static. It just means one only makes perfect choices, one always chooses only a good,but it doesn’t imply that one makes no choices or does nothing.

  33. Seth R. says:

    Unfortunately, I’m really not the best person to dialogue as far you probably want to discuss this. My involvement in philosophy is probably more than you’ll get from your average Mormon. But I’m still purely an amateur. It would have been nice if some of the more competent LDS thinkers I know could have responded to this article. But since they weren’t showing, I figured you’d have to settle for me.

    You might want to try reading some of David L. Paulsen’s stuff. He’s a professor of philosophy at BYU and publishes in numerous theological journals outside of Mormon-interest. Here’s some of his work for a pro-LDS publication:

    http://mi.byu.edu/authors/?authorID=350

    But you can find him in general Christian theological journals as well if you want to do some digging.

    Other past LDS authors you might want to consider are Orson Pratt (from back in the 1800s), B. H. Roberts (early 1900s), Hugh Nibley, Truman Madsen, and Sterling McMurrin, to name a few. You might want to investigate some of their stuff if you’re serious about diving into LDS theology.

    There is an LDS blog that runs fairly detailed discussions about the ins and outs of LDS theology – both speculative and non-speculative.

    You could probably learn a fair bit by browsing their archives. Here’s the link:

    http://www.newcoolthang.com/

    In fact, they seem to be conducting a discussion on the nature of “intelligences” in LDS thought right now that you might find relevant to this post:

    http://www.newcoolthang.com/index.php/2009/11/more-on-the-nature-of-spirits/1521/

    You might also look at stuff published on the FAIR website (a Mormon apologetics website) or by FARMS at BYU. Hope that gives you some resources for grappling with Mormonism, and sorry I’m not better equipped for a detailed philosophical debate.

  34. Seth R. says:

    Multiple hyperlinks in my previous post – it’s in moderation. Just FYI.

  35. Jezz says:

    Perry, while agreeing with your general argument against Seth here, I am a little confused by this line of questioning:

    “So either humans had no begining are not always deities or they are. If the first, then deity means something different between us. Moreover, in what sense could we be said to be “children” if we always existed? Why see “Father” as our source if we existed at each and every moment? If’ were exist forever then I can’t see why he would be a source of our existence.”

    In Orthodox Trinitarian theology, we believe that the God the Father is the source of the Son and the Holy Spirit, and yet both the Son and the Holy Spirit are eternal existed at each and every moment. Your line of questioning above could equally be applied to this relationship: “Why see “Father” as the Son’s source if the Son existed at each and every moment?” So I guess I was wondering if you might explain what you are hoping to refute with this line of questioning which would also end up refuting Orthodox Trinitarian theology? Are you inadvertently cutting off the branch that you are standing on, or am I missing something?

  36. Seth R. says:

    I guess I should interject that Mormons do view Jesus as our exemplar of how to achieve divinity ourselves – via union with the Father (in addition to being our mediator with the Father).

    You might say that Mormonism takes the logic of the Trinity and extends it to every being who becomes divine – offering the union of the Trinity to each and every one of us.

  37. Seth,

    Thanks for the links.

    I couldn’t find much that provides LDS answers to the questions that I raised but it seems at least that some of the questions are being raised in the discussions, even if they don’t seem to be able to answer them. It also seems that LDS scholars are still some way from addressing the challenge at the end of Perry’s post. Engagement with Orthodoxy will be beneficial but a challenge and time for some rigorous self-examination.

  38. Seth R. says:

    I can’t speak definitively for where LDS scholarship is right now. But think I can agree with your main point there. Thanks for the polite engagement.

  39. DavidD says:

    Just to posit one quick response to Jezz: Orthodoxy does not view the Father as the source of the Son’s or the Holy Spirit’s essence, but of their hypostases. I believe this is a profound distinction.

  40. abey says:

    If one can imagine a being, which can said to be the the origin of all origins, from whom comes out seed of all seeds, such that this origin has no time in it,& hence not governed by any time, which has always been a being, having no beginning hence no end & if these statements be given some sort of definition then the only result we can get is a “Nothing”. But then how can that be? because again it is a being. The only answer to that is Mystery. But then again when a human mind cannot contemplate something we call it a Mystery.
    GOD the father has no image or form, at the same time his image & form is in his son called Jesus the Christ, On whose image & likeness is mankind.

  41. Jezz says:

    DavidD, thanks for your response.

    I am not certain that what you are saying is correct. My understanding (which I readily admit may well be in need of correction) of Orthodox Trinitarian theology is different.

    It is commonly heard in comparisons between Orthodox and non-Orthodox (ie, Roman Catholic and their Protestant progeny) that we differ in our approach to the Trinity because they (the non-Orthodox) start with the unity of essence whereas we start with the divine persons. It could be further added that we do not start with just any of the divine persons, but we always start specifically with the Father (which is why the Creed quite deliberately starts with “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty…”). The history of these differences is interesting to study but not of direct relevance to the present discussion; however the basic conclusion is that we as Orthodox consider the person of the Father to the source of everything – including the divine essence. That is why as Orthodox we will say “The first person of the Trinity, God the Father, is the “fountain” of the Godhead” (quoting His Eminence Bishop Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way, p32).

    Let me put this to you another way: If the Father is not the source of the Son’s essence, then what is the source of the Son’s essence? And how can we say that the Son is “of one essence with the Father”?

    Anyway, back to the point at hand: setting aside your comment, I do not quite see how your post addresses the point that I raised. Again, I concede admit that there may be some subtlety in the line of argumentation here that I am not quite comprehending – however, as it stands it seems to me that as Orthodox believers if we ask questions like “Why see “Father” as the Son’s source if the Son existed at each and every moment?” then we are ourselves in the foot, because this is exactly what we believe. There is no logical contradiction in saying that the Father and Son are both eternal, and yet the Father is the source of the Son – which is why I can’t see how this line of questioning could succeed in showing any errors in the Mormon way.

  42. Jezz,

    Because Father denotes source. But if we are eternal like the gods as in at least some presentations of LDS teaching, how can God be my source if I am sourceless?

  43. Seth R. says:

    I just don’t get why God has to be the absolute final “source” of me to qualify as my “Father” Perry.

    I’m not the absolute and final source of my seven year old daughter. But I’m still her dad, right?

  44. Seth,

    If you exist eternally, why call him father since he didn’t make you? He seems to be no more your father than you are his. Maybe brother might be a better term.

    And in some real sense, your daughter finds her source in you. But if your daughter wasn’t born from your genetic material, would she be your daughter? No.

  45. Seth R. says:

    My daughter doesn’t find her essential source in me.

    You see, I simply reject your notion of “fatherhood.” I do not define the word as an essential source. Never have. It’s not what the word means to me.

  46. TOm says:

    Perry,
    I am not sure I would be up to the task of replying to your objections. I would probably need to re-read your post a few times to even identify exactly to what I should respond, but I thought I would ask you a question about your thought.
    The Eastern Orthodox have written a great deal about Theosis. Most Catholic scholars who I see interacting with Theosis adopt some or most of the EO thoughts, but I am not sure such is compatible with Catholic thought (or at least with Aquinas’ thought). Here is a passage from David Bradshaw that I think gets to the heart of this matter:

    David Bradshaw – Aristotle East and West: Metaphysics and the Division of Christendom, pages 255-256:
    Aquinas’ teaching on the beatific vision exhibits with particular clarity the difference separating him from the eastern tradition. The most immediately obvious is that, whereas for the East God is beyond knowing, Aquinas regards Him as the highest intelligible object. Aquinas is aware of this disagreement. In the De Veritate he cites a long string of objections to the possibility of seeing God through His essence, and among them are several drawn from Dionysius and John of Damascus. The most fundamental, which Aquinas attributes to Dionysius, is that “all cognition is of things that are; God, however, is no a being, but is above being; therefore, He cannot be known except by transcendent knowledge, which is divine knowledge.” Aquinas’ reply is worth quoting in full:

    “Dionysius’ argument proceeds from the knowledge had while in this life. This is had from forms in existing creatures, and, consequently, it cannot attain to what is transcendent. Such is not the case, however, of the vision had in heaven. His argument, therefore, is not pertinent to the problem at hand.”

    What for Dionysius had been a limitation inherent to the relation between creature and Creator become for Aquinas one imposed solely by our current ways of knowing. It is worth noting that Aquinas’ position had been considered and rejected by St. Gregory of Nyssa. In his Contra Eunomium Gregory denies that the ousia of God is known even to the angels, precisely in order to insist that this limitation is not due solely to human ways of knowing but is an intrinsic limitation of the creature. Gregory’s writings were not available to Aquinas, however, and even if they had been it is unlikely that Aquinas would have changed his mind. He notes at the beginning of this article of the De Veritate that the denial that God can be seen through His essence had already been judged heretical. This judgment occurred at the University of Paris in 1241, in the rejection of the proposition that “the divine essence will be seen in itself neither by man nor by angel.” In his Commentary on Hebrews Aquinas attributes the rejected view to Eriugena, who in turn (unknown to Aquinas) depended for this point on St. Maximus the Confessor. One could hardly find a more stirring example of the misunderstanding between the two halves of Christendom: a view that Aquinas regards as heretical had, unknown to him, been orthodox in the East since at least the fourth century.

    Bradshaw recognizes that Eastern Christians do not get as specific as Catholics, and he seems to suggest that ultimately Catholics have created a hole out of which they cannot climb.
    So, I am asking the following. Is it the doctrine of God’s incommunicable Essence in combination with His Energies (shared with us in theosis) that makes in your opinion, EO theosis compatible Christianity (properly understood and including creation ex nihilo and …)? Would not Aquinas and the majority of Catholic thinkers who claim that man CAN experience (see) God’s essence not largely fall against the criticism leveled by Norman even in this “see” aspect before even getting to the “partake” aspect (after all Aquinas is outlining what it is to be saved so is demanding that the final state of man include experiences God’s ESSENCE)?

    If Bradshaw is correct about the underlying problems (and I was under the impression that you generally agreed with him that this is problem for Catholic thought), perhaps the Catholic could assert like the EOs that theosis is the partaking of God’s energies and not His essence, but the beautific vision is still the “seeing” of God’s essence. I think that would not align very will with Thomist thought on salvation, but it might be less susceptible to deconstruction. (Perhaps with the divine energies one can see with divine sight across …).

    Now, lest the above makes me appear like I THINK I know what I am talking about, I wish to claim that I am far from certain that I know what I am talking about. Instead, I am presenting what I think might be the case in hopes of learning more and interacting with your criticisms SOME. (That of course will not preclude me from being hard headed, but …).
    Charity, TOm

  47. Brad says:

    Seth,

    Going way back up to our discussion at the top, which seems like miles from here, I read some of the links you provided and I’ve actually gotten even more confused. I’ll try to spell out my frustration below and maybe you can help me understand where I’m wrong or what I’m missing (or even where I could more or less find the information I’m looking for — I’m not opposed to doing some work on my own). In my mind, Mormonism exists as a sort of restoration back to orthodoxy. Joseph Smith prays to God asking which church to join and “…was answered that [he] must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that: they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” (http://scriptures.lds.org/en/js_h/1/js_h/1/19#19) God provides Joseph (and others down the line) several means for understanding correct doctrine (the book of mormon, visions, understanding, the “true meaning and intention” of scripture, etc.).

    So, how is it that there isn’t anything authoritative? What does the restored Mormon doctrine look like? And, how would we know it was doctrine if we saw it? It seems strange to me that orthopraxy could exist without orthodoxy and that either was restored without an authoritative understanding of what was being restored. And it further seems strange to me that what passes as restored doctrine today could be changed later by different church presidents.

    So, color me confused.

  48. Seth R. says:

    Brad,

    Did you read that article I linked you to waay up there on how to weigh the authority of LDS doctrinal sources? I wrote that article myself, and I think that’s probably the best answer I can offer you on what is authoritative and doctrinal in Mormon thought.

    If you’re still confused after reading it, I won’t blame you. Understanding Mormon doctrine is sometimes more of an intuitive thing that comes from living in the religion a long time, than an objective science.

  49. Brad says:

    Seth,

    I read your article (before I posted last) and was left more confused than when I started. What I got out of it, essentially, was that Mormonism shifts and moves based on the private judgement of a number of people and that very little, if anything, is grounded in anything beyond current private judgement that can be “justified” in canonical texts (and on down the line). Mormonism would, then, not actually have any doctrine (per a much better argument given elsewhere on this site regarding sola scriptura). I don’t think that’s what I was *supposed* to get out of it and I don’t think it’s congruent with other things I’ve read about Mormonism, but, nonetheless, that’s right where my mind went.

    So, I’m still left with the idea that Joseph Smith intended to restore something and I’m still left wondering what, exactly, that was and whether or not it will still be that in a few hundred years. It seems well within the realm of possibility that even the metric you provided isn’t doctrinal (or might not be later). How would I know? I wouldn’t think I’d have to live a lifetime as a Mormon to understand what constituted Mormonism (unless it’s all about private experience).

  50. Seth R. says:

    The problem of doctrine is always one of balancing a stable and consistent God with ever-changing humanity.

    So we may state that God does not change, but his words to us may very well be adapted and altered to our context. This is why even advocates of sola scriptura will concede that we have to read – for example – the words of Paul within the historical and cultural context of his time. Not everything in the Bible is advocated to be applied literally to our modern context.

    People change. So God’s interface with them must change as well.

    A second consideration is the need for God to fulfill his promises balanced against his unwillingness to annihilate human free will and force us to comply.

    A Mormon cannot accept the idea that God simply does a mind-meld with a prophet to ensure correct doctrines come forth at all times. It would be a violation of free will. Of course, we do believe that a prophet has reached a point where he shares the mind of God to a profound level. But it cannot be an absolute sharing or you’re talking about the annihilation of any human element at all.

    These are the worries that Mormonism tries to grapple with.

    Look, I’ll level with you – I do not uncritically accept every aspect of my own Church myself. I do not have a full conviction of everything it asserts, and some things I believe in more fully than others.

    I absolutely believe in God. I believe in the need for a reconciliation between God and his children. I believe in eternal human identity and an eternal universe. I believe the Book of Mormon to be of divine origin, and I absolutely believe that Joseph Smith was definitely tapped into something transcendent, even if I haven’t worked out all the details of what that means.

    I do know that I’m OK with uncertainty, and the search for answers. And I’m ready to accept any road signs and indicators God is willing to send me – even if they are not perfect or infallible.

  51. TOm says:

    To Brad on LDS Doctrine and its importance:

    It seems to me that Seth has explained some of why it is hard to know what LDS doctrine is, but your post leads you to believe there is a big problem with the lack of LDS orthodoxy.

    I think your position is:
    If God restored His church through Joseph Smith because non-LDS churches had departed from truth, wouldn’t defining truth clearly and concretely be of radical importance? If such defining is of radical importance isn’t the lack of it within the CoJCoLDS a serious flaw indicating internal inconsistencies from the foundational principles of Mormonism to the living reality of it today?

    I do not believe Joseph Smith ever evidence that he thought a detailed orthodoxy was important. There are statements by him about lifting up other Christians and not seeking to convince them that his theology was true by force of reason or other compulsion. There are stories of Joseph tolerating teaching within the church that he and others considered ridiculous and in error.
    I have long thought that “their creeds are an abomination” was the product of how creeds were used and not what creeds stated. If Mormonism as I conceive of it is a restoration of God’s church, then the practice of deciding upon a particular point of theology via council and then anathematizing those who do not embrace it is the problem with creeds God referred to during His conversation with Joseph Smith.
    Mormonism like early Christianity has a large variety of DIFFERENT theological ideas. For the purpose of interacting with other Christians it is important that we put forth some ideas and dialogue about them. But, if salvation is predicated upon entering into a relationship with a real person who is Jesus Christ our savior, then a correct understanding of how His natures are (or are not) hypostatically united is not particularly important. The CoJCoLDS teaches that God is ready to enter into this relationship with anyone who will seek Him. This is why we send out 19 year old boys to proselytize rather than folks who have read Blake Ostler’s books.

    IMO there are some theological concepts that can hamper ones relationship with God. Joseph Smith said, “I cannot believe in any of the creeds of the different denominations, because they all have some things in them I cannot subscribe to, though all of them have some truth. I want to come up into the presence of God, and learn all things; but the creeds set up stakes, and say, ‘Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further;’ which I cannot subscribe to.”
    Or this from the early church as a monk in Scete was compelled to reject the embodiment of God:
    “We stood up to bless the Lord and to pour out our prayers of thanks to Him. And then amid these prayers the old man became confused, for he sensed that the human image of God which he used to draw before him as he prayed was now gone from his heart. Suddenly he gave way to the bitterest, most abundant tears and sobs. He threw himself on the ground and . . . cried out: ‘Ah the misfortune! They’ve taken my God away from me. I have no one to hold on to, and I don’t know whom to adore or to address.’”

    If God is embodied, if God is passible (truly loving), and if believing God is not embodied or impassible inhibits ones ability to love God, then this falsehood would be among the ones that should IMO not be prescribed by some creed (in this case a false creed since the beginning “if” clause indicates that it is untrue).

    So, theology IMO is quite secondary, but not unimportant. Systematizing of theology and elimination of speculation has the potential to be problematic especially if God is not involved in the systematizing (LDS reject the authority of the Pope and the EC).

    I hope that responds to what I think your concern is.

    I think it is VERY important that LDS do not just dismiss non-LDS Christianity by a LDS yard stick. “The leader of God’s church is a prophet of God. The Pope (or the Patriarch) is not a prophet of God, Catholicism (and Eastern Orthodoxy) are false.” Such is similar IMO to a condemnation of the CoJCoLDS because it lacks a clear orthodoxy.
    Charity, TOm

  52. TOm says:

    On the use of the term “Father” (Perry, I hope my use of Bradshaw receives the scathing critique it deserves before this and my previous post is addressed):

    I guess I like Seth am confused with Perry’s problem.
    Perry says,
    “If you exist eternally, why call him father since he didn’t make you? He seems to be no more your father than you are his. Maybe brother might be a better term.”

    I say,
    “If God the Son exists eternally, why does God the Son call God the Father, ‘Father,’ since he didn’t “ (I cut Perry’s quote here because at this point I do not want to ask about the Father making the Son or making us, just about the term “Father.”)

    Orthodox theology dictates there is one person who is the second person of the Trinity. This person is often called Jesus Christ, or The Son of God, or God the Son, or …
    God the Son calls God the Father, “Father,” and yet God the Son is co-eternal with the Father.

    Why does God the Son use the term “Father” to refer to God the Father? From the answer to that question, I will try to form an answer to the question of why a LDS can acknowledge that a component (not all) of Perry and TOm and Seth is eternal and yet we call God the Father, “Father.”

    The truth is that there are multiple directions in which this answer can go (because LDS thought is not uniform or dogmatic in many ways that are relevant to this answer), but I think the most straight forward (and accurate and concrete) is that LDS call God the Father, “Father” for the same reason God the Son calls God the Father, “Father.” LDS take the New Testament very seriously when it tells us that God the Son is the manifestation of God the Father AND when it tells us that we are to become like God the Son. So in general whatever I would answer as a LDS to this question would apply to God the Son and humans.

    Charity, TOm

  53. Seth,

    I didn’t claim that your daughter has her essential source in you, but she is nonetheless derived from you to some extant, which is why she called you dad.

    Second, in a given language one isn’t able to just make words mean whatever they like apart from established usage.

  54. Tom,

    In the main, Bradshaw and I are of one mind in the main. I don’t recall if he makes the claim that the Orthodox can’t get as specific as Catholics, which is ambiguous at best and I think probably false.

    As for a supposed problems with councils, I suppose then you have a problem with the NT since that is the method the NT endorses.

    As for the citation from the monk, I believe that is from the anthropomorphite controversy, which is hardly evidence of LDS theology in the early church. If anything its evidence of Stoic influence.

    I think your gloss on impassability is confused and a caricature. Even if I endorsed the classical western view, your way of reading it just isn’t fair.Richard Creel’s book, Divine Impassability I think dispenses with these kinds of misinformed readings.

    As for theology, I think we don’t agree on what that is, for theology is primary.

    As for your question regarding the Son, on Trinitarian theology, the Son has his source in the Father, which is why the Father is called such. On the LDS view, is God beginingless and creatures aren’t? If so, then God is fundamentally different and so Norman’s criticism applies to LDS teaching-there’s no real theosis since you can’t become beginingless. On the other hand, if God and you are beginingless, then you don’t have your source in him. Your existence is contiguous so it isn’t clear why the term father would be applied to him.

    Your answer on the Son is unclear. is the Son created out of pre-existing material or no? If yes, then this is Arianism of a sort. If no, then I don’t know why the relation isn’t reversed, the father called son and vice versa. Secondly, the NT material indicates a uniqueness to Jesus being Son that on either of the above views is not possible, unless you think Jesus is the first assembled being and so is unique in that sense of being the first member in a series. But that will again committ you to a form of Arianism.

  55. Seth R. says:

    And where in the established usage of “father” is a meaning that supports your view of absolute origin?

  56. Seth R. says:

    “Creatures” only have a beginning in their states, not their essential existence.

  57. Fr. Dn. Jeremiah says:

    Seth,

    Could you please define the word “father” as you understand it? Perhaps I missed your definition, but I only recall you saying you don’t agree with Perry.

  58. Seth R. says:

    From the dictionary:

    1. a male parent.
    2. a father-in-law, stepfather, or adoptive father.
    3. any male ancestor, esp. the founder of a race, family, or line; progenitor.
    4. a man who exercises paternal care over other persons; paternal protector or provider: a father to the poor.
    5. a person who has originated or established something: the father of modern psychology; the founding fathers.
    6. a precursor, prototype, or early form: The horseless carriage was the father of the modern automobile.
    7. one of the leading men in a city, town, etc.: a scandal involving several of the city fathers.
    8. Chiefly British. the oldest member of a society, profession, etc. Compare dean 1 (def. 3).
    9. a priest.
    10. (initial capital letter) Theology. the Supreme Being and Creator; God.
    11. a title of respect for an elderly man.
    12. the Father, Theology. the first person of the Trinity.
    13. Also called church father. Church History. any of the chief early Christian writers, whose works are the main sources for the history, doctrines, and observances of the church in the early ages.
    14. Ecclesiastical.
    a. (often initial capital letter) a title of reverence, as for church dignitaries, officers of monasteries, monks, confessors, and esp. priests.
    b. a person bearing this title.
    15. fathers, Roman History. conscript fathers.
    –verb (used with object)
    16. to beget.
    17. to be the creator, founder, or author of; originate.
    18. to act as a father toward.
    19. to acknowledge oneself the father of.
    20. to assume as one’s own; take the responsibility of.
    21. to charge with the begetting of.
    –verb (used without object)
    22. to perform the tasks or duties of a male parent; act paternally: Somehow he was able to write a book while fathering.

    Lots of possible meanings in there. Only a few of which require any sort of absolute origin.

  59. Fr. Dn. Jeremiah says:

    Forgive me. I should have been more specific.

    How would you define “Father” in the context of the discussion? What is it about the relationship between (a) God the Father and God the Son and (b) God the Father and human beings, which allows us to call Him Father? You have said you don’t believe God’s Fatherhood entails being the ultimate origin of intelligent beings. What then does it entail?

  60. Seth,

    I haven’t argued for the absolute usage. Again, I have simply pointed out that the usage does entail some form or dependency in origination.

    Second, does this mean you think that the father god has a begining?

    Third, when you speak of “states” as opposed “essences” what exactly does that mean?Does that mean that your particles exist but the assembled individual thing of which they are composed comes into being later or does it mean that the individual object, parts and all exist, but is altered by another as to how it exists?

  61. Seth R. says:

    We believe in something essential to human identity being eternal. It’s not well-defined, but we believe in something uncreated within us.

    God took that and advanced it or organized it into something higher.

    That’s enough to make him “Father” in my book.

  62. TOm says:

    Perry,
    Thank you for your response. I hope to respond to MANY things both here and on the Dr. Bechwith’s blog (initially I didn’t know you were Acolyte, but I figured it out shortly before David called Acolyte, “Perry.”).
    I want to say two things very quickly so you can correct my understanding before I go too far with some of my responses.

    You claimed to agree with Bradshaw in the main. Would that not meant that you think Norman’s criticism of non-LDS deification is valid for Catholic deification just not for EO deification. That was what I saw, and it is the Essence – Energies distinction within EO thought that I think your reasoning relies on to escape from Norman’s critique. (BTW, much of the finer points of these discussions are at the bitter edge of my understanding or beyond, but I’m “givin it all I got” – with a good Scottish accent and some liberality in pronouns)

    Second, you said:
    As for your question regarding the Son, on Trinitarian theology, the Son has his source in the Father, which is why the Father is called such. On the LDS view, is God beginingless and creatures aren’t?

    Does the above mean that you would not say “’the Son’ is beginning-less?” In other words you would say the Son had a beginning.
    Or
    Do you embrace some type of “beginning-less sourcing?”

    I struggle to understand what a “beginning-less source” is and always have. I usually hear “eternal begetting.” Perhaps it is merely a difficulty of time-less-ness.
    Charity, TOm

  63. [...] and the Church Fathers – Is Mormonism Justified? Perry, not in response, has a post on the LDS use of Athanasius to defend one of their most controversial [...]

  64. Jezz says:

    Perry,

    Thanks for clarifying your line of reasoning in your response. Just to summarise: it is not the eternity of the people involved in LDS theology that causes you to question their usage of the title “Father”, but the fact that the Father is not the source of those of whom he is supposedly the Father. Is that a fair summary?

    Assuming that I have summarised that correctly, allow me then to shift to a second objection: In Orthodox theology, we consider Mary to be the Mother of God/Christ. Yet, we also confess that Mary is not the source of the person (hypostasis) of Christ, because He existed eternally before the Theotokos was conceived.

    Is this not a counter-example to the implied contradiction in the above? Doesn’t this show that someone can be another person’s parent, without being their source?

  65. Tom,

    Norman’s criticisms of western Christianity are often malformed and based in caricature. This should be obvious in some of the citations I provided. He’s right about the core problem, but that is nothing new. And it is much more difficult to corner the Catholic position than he presents. Just read some Rahner.

    A Protestant would just read the passages in terms of extrinsic relations of resemblance.

    Yes, the Son is beginingless and is eternally begotten from the Father. So no, the Son does not have a beginning, which would be Arianism.

  66. Jezz,

    It is in part the everlasting existence that is a problem. To be everlasting is to exist at each and every moment. If god isn’t temporally prior to me I fail to see how he can be my source in any sense, especially if we are the same “species.” How is it that god is more progressed than I am if we are the same kind of thing and he didn’t get ahead start?

    Mary is the mother of the Son because his humanity is taken from her and enhypostacized by the divine person of the Son. She hence bears a divine person as any mother would bear a human person in that respect.
    Your objection would only follow on a commitment to Traducianism, which I don’t see a reason why my position entails as much.

  67. TOm, Seth and Jezz,

    To try to add a little to what Perry is saying, it would seem to me that the difference that is made between the Son being co-eternal with the Father and yet having the Father as a source and others being coeternal with “God” and yet not being able to call him Father, comes down to properly understanding the doctrine of the Trinity. In the second case there is a claim for multiple “independent” beings, all of whom are without beginning. The god described by Seth is one of these beings who somehow makes others higher. This is not the case with the Trinity. The Trinity is not a combination of three Gods or independent beings but rather the description of how one God exists that is in three hypostases or persons, each of which is eternal and perfect. The Fathers, with the guidance and the Holy Spirit, have preserved the correct understanding for us in the Nicene-Constantinoplian Creed and with the divinely inspired findings of the later councils against corruptions of this Creed. (Note: From the Orthodox perspective, God gave the Church the Creed, through the Bishops in council, and anathematised those not following it; it is not merely a product of man. The problem is with people not believing the Creed and Joseph Smith makes this worse by effectively denying that we need to follow it.) Back to the point, when we have independent eternal beings then Perry makes the valid point that one cannot be the father of the others without being before them because otherwise each being does not depend on any of the others for its existence and so each lives of its own self without the need of another for its life, including the quality of its life, and so how “high” it is. A father, defined in a way to exclude it being the same as son or friend, couldn’t contribute to this without denying the independence.

    Considering other aspects, how can one be eternal and progress? If I am progressing then I must be getting closer to a goal; yet if I have lived an infinite time and I have not reached this goal then I cannot be said to be getting closer, or at least, such a comment is meaningless. With an eternal being we must accept at any point that they have lived for an infinite time and will continue to do so; not that we should think in terms of time but progress requires this. Thus if a goal is reachable, which allows for the progress, then an eternal being would have already reached this goal thus it would no longer be progressing. This could be said at any moment so it would seem that at eternal being does not progress but either is complete or nothing. Also, how does one limit an eternal being in space? This would be to assume an initial position in some space, which by the way must also eternally exist as another eternal being, but what decides the initial position? If it exists eternally and can move then we cannot define an initial position because this assumes it begins there at some time, which denies it is eternal. If there is no initial position then we cannot define any later position so it must at any moment be in any position, else we could define its position, which can only mean that it exists in all positions or that it cannot move. What determines the initial size of the being? If what it exists in is infinite in all directions then it would be infinitely small in relation to this but then it would be nothing. So what it exists in cannot be infinitely bigger but if we cannot define a limit to how big it is then both beings must be together infinite in size. Hence, we cannot have a spatially limited eternal being. What then distinguishes the space eternal being from the other eternal being if both are infinite and everywhere? How can we have more than one such eternal being?

    These are all questions that need some form of answer. The answers here off the top of my head may be rather weak. The theology of the Orthodox Church answers these things and the answers work. Other theological systems don’t work, they become incoherent at some point leading to contradictions and absurdities, which have a large influence of our understanding of existence and hence eternal life and so the means of obtaining it. The Creed is there to ensure that this theology is properly maintained to ensure that we can live eternally as we should.

  68. Seth R. says:

    If I join a fencing club and am mentored by an instructor the instructor is prior to me in skill and passes it along to me. But we both pre-existed the mentoring. The problem is that you are trying to define the role of “Father” as including being the ground of being for others. This is not a definition I accept and – as TOm notes – it leads to confusing results when talking about Jesus.

    A common Mormon notion I’ve heard with respect to eternal progression is that God progresses through the increase of his creations. He is further glorified and enriched by our successes. We live in a universe of infinite potential. God gains as potentialities become actualitities.

  69. Seth,

    Actually I haven’t tried to define the term. What I have done is taken its every day usage and presented a problem.

    The fencing club example doesn’t work and here is why. If the instructor and I are always members of the club and he hasn’t learned anything before me then it is hard to see how he could instruct you.

    As for the Christian usage of “Father” its just a bald claim that it leads to confusing results when talking about Jesus. I don’t think it does.

    If the father god gains as potentialities become actualities, if we are both everlasting and he doesn’t exist before us, why isn’t this equally true of us? I mean, how did he get to become god before us if there never was a time when we all were not?

    This is the same fundamental problem with saying that he forms our “intelligences”. Why were we in a deficient or lacking state and he wasn’t if we both exist, we both depend on the universe and we are both the same “species?”

    It seems we are autonomous beings like the gods, made of the same stuff and they couldn’t be any more advanced than we. In which case its hard to see how we use properly and truely terms that denote origin, dependence, etc. or even why we worship them.

  70. TOm says:

    I am working on some response (and some real life).
    I wanted to offer this so it will not be too buried in the volume of junk I usually post (not that this is less junk-ish, but it is of surprising – to me – relevance).
    I hope to speak of why the LDS can call God the Father, “Father,” but I also wanted to say:

    Now, I would suggest that within religious vocabulary the use of the term Father is significantly broader than Perry (and Father Patrick – God love you for your title “Father”) wish to demand LDS accept. Problems associated with Christ being Son of God the Father and Christ being our Father exist. Problems with Mary being “Mother of God” and “Our Mother” within Catholic and EO vocabulary exist. Problems with calling Father Patrick “Father” and speaking of the “Holy Father” and the “Early Church Fathers” abound. I think it quite bold to actually make hay out of the LDS use of the term “Heavenly Father.” It reminds me of a common (and weak IMO) polemic about “calling no man ….”

    Charity, TOm

  71. Seth R. says:

    I’m not sure I’d call it “making hay.” All of us are just trying to be theologically and definitionally careful.

    It’s just that we obviously disagree on the definitions.

  72. TOm says:

    Here is what I have so far. I might try to go back and do some specific responses to Father Patrick (I hope Father Patrick is the appropriate title. I am unaware of Catholic’s who would be both called Father and Deacon, but I am probably just VERY confused.

    Perry said:
    I don’t recall if he makes the claim that the Orthodox can’t get as specific as Catholics, which is ambiguous at best and I think probably false.

    TOm:
    It has been a few years since I read Bradshaw. I suspect that was not in his work.

    Perry said:
    As for a supposed problems with councils, I suppose then you have a problem with the NT since that is the method the NT endorses.

    Previously TOm said:
    I have long thought that “their creeds are an abomination” was the product of how creeds were used and not what creeds stated. If Mormonism as I conceive of it is a restoration of God’s church, then the practice of deciding upon a particular point of theology via council and then anathematizing those who do not embrace it is the problem with creeds God referred to during His conversation with Joseph Smith.

    TOm:
    First, in saying that the content of creeds was not the problem I didn’t condemn councils especially what happened in Acts 15. I said that it was deciding upon a particular point of theology in a council and then anathematizing those who …. I also could have added some of the ways Christians treated eachother based on the results of these councils and the creeds they produced.
    Second, Acts 15 included Peter (the head of the church) speaking of the VISION he received in Acts 10. I would suggest that Acts 15 was the acceptance of Peter’s revelation by the other church authorities. This process of revelation to the head of the church followed by acceptance by general authorities (followed by acceptance by the church) is the pattern of the CoJCoLDS and the New Testament Church. When was the last time PUBLIC REVELATION was received and brought forth within a council in your church (or in the Catholic Church)?

    Perry said:
    As for the citation from the monk, I believe that is from the anthropomorphite controversy, which is hardly evidence of LDS theology in the early church. If anything its evidence of Stoic influence.

    TOm:
    Actually LDS embrace the embodiment of God. But I was also showing when IMO theology can become very important. If God is embodied, the sorrow and distance this monk felt from God was an example of an error in theology making loving God more difficult. While I do not believe theology was God’s prime motivation for the restoration, I think theology like this could be a component.

    Perry said:
    I think your gloss on impassability is confused and a caricature. Even if I endorsed the classical western view, your way of reading it just isn’t fair.Richard Creel’s book, Divine Impassability I think dispenses with these kinds of misinformed readings.

    TOm:
    I have read Weinandy and Gavrilyuk (both of whom I think you and have mentioned to eachother) in attempt to become less confused. I have failed. If you think Creel has the potential to “-vince” my ignorance, I will gladly attempt this. If you think my primary problem is that I used “dialectic reasoning” to evaluate what it means for God to be impassible and I must abandon such reasoning, then perhaps Creel will not help. I believe that “either God perceives our love for Him and returns it or He loves in a way that involves no direct contact with us as individuals because He is completely unaffected by what we do, say, feel, ….” I have been unable to see past such a dichotomy.

    Perry said:
    Norman’s criticisms of western Christianity are often malformed and based in caricature. This should be obvious in some of the citations I provided. He’s right about the core problem, but that is nothing new. And it is much more difficult to corner the Catholic position than he presents. Just read some Rahner.

    TOm:
    That Norman is “right about the core problem” suggests to me that his biggest flaw is that he didn’t recognize just how divergent EO and Catholic deification ideas truly are. I find few Catholics or EOs and virtually no Protestants that appreciate this.
    I doubt I am qualified to assess how difficult or easy it is to “corner the Catholic position.” I also think I have been cautioned against reading Rahner to determine what the Catholic position is by Catholics.
    In any case I am far more interested in Creel or the response to Gerard May so Rahner will not be something I will get into any time soon.

    Perry said:
    Yes, the Son is beginingless and is eternally begotten from the Father. So no, the Son does not have a beginning, which would be Arianism.

    TOm:
    Does it surprise you that I scratch my head when I hear something is “beginningless” and yet “begotten.”
    I will try to reproduce my comments on how the Father is Father and … here that I posted on Dr. Beckwith’s board.

    :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

    Perry said:
    If they wish to affirm that God is beginingless, even in terms of being temporally everlasting, then there will be a choice to include us in it or exclude us. If the former, then its hard to see why he’s called “God” and we’re not.

    TOm:
    I would affirm that God was / is beginningless certainly as an intelligence “greater than they all.” Most who have commented on this suggest that God is greater than they all in that He was / is greater than the SUM of all intelligences.
    The plethora of lesser intelligences would than be “subject to enlargement.”
    God the Father would be called our Father for two reasons. First, He would initiate the conditions within which lesser intelligences could advance. Lesser intelligences lacked the ability to advance prior to God providing concurring energy. In my mind a lesser intelligence is like a fully functioning motor that lacks the power to do ANY work outside its own functioning. We possessed a will, but lacked the ability to interact beyond the mere act of willing.
    Second, part of this “condition within which lesser intelligences could advance” is the creation of our spirits. The eternal intelligence is birthed via a “Spirit Birth” analogous to the Spirit being born via an earthly birth. The parents of a human baby do not make or create the child’s spirit, but are nonetheless the baby’s parents. Heavenly Father does not make or create whatever is this “eternal intelligence” but is nonetheless the spirit son or daughter’s Heavenly Father.

    I should mention that most common within LDS thought is that somehow a divine feminine is involved in “Spirit Procreation.” I am unsure of how Ostler encompasses the divine feminine in his thought, but he has not written much about it and declined to specify. I personally am not dogmatically opposed to a divine feminine; I merely demand that she is not part of the Trinity as evidenced by our scriptures (and that it seems Joseph Smith very possibly was not the source of this teaching).

    Joseph Smith said:
    God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. He has power to institute laws to instruct the weaker intelligences, that they may be exalted with himself.

    Perry said:
    Moreoer, the gloss you give won’t explain why we aren’t gods now if we are independently and everlasting existing objects along with the gods. Why call him father at all? Brother perhaps, but not father.

    TOm:
    1. “Divinity as such” is associated with perfected I-Thou love within the divine community
    2. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as a product of His/Their (initial / eternal / …) state were capable of I-Thou love in ways that we were not as a product of our (initial) state, God would eternally exist (as Doctrine and Covenants 29 demand) and we would initial not be god. The Father being the “most intelligent of them all” would necessarily offer something essential to the Son and Holy Spirit so that they could will to be a part of this divine community, but Son and Holy Spirit were the only intelligences able to perfectly will this.
    3. Since “Divinity as such” is associated with perfected I-Thou love within a divine community, once we were given concurring energy and could act on our wills we could progress until we could give and receive perfected I-Thou love. Thus, when scripture says we are to become as Christ is, it really means it!

    I am quite certain the above is not “Christian orthodoxy.” That being said, I am unsure how its flaws are any greater than “that sounds weird and does not jive with what I think God / divinity / eternality / Father / … should be.”
    Perhaps I am just to simple to see this, but I do not.

    :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

    That is enough for now.
    Thanks for your responses.
    I have responded to you on Dr. Beckwith’s board too.

    Charity, TOm

  73. TOm says:

    Seth,
    Ok. I reckon so. Thanks!
    BTW, I hope “making hay” only connotes expending a great deal of energy on a specific point (usually meaning more energy than it warrants so perhaps that is the problem).
    Charity, TOm

  74. Tom,

    I don’t see myself as being inconsistent since I don’t think there are problems associated with calling Mary Theotokos or a priest father such and so. So your point here is based on a premise I do not grant.

    I don’t see a huge difference between Acts 15 and Nicea. This is why the councils themselves often speak of the being “Spirit inspired.” I’d have to know what you meant by “head of the church” to know if I agree with it or not. Moreover, not all visions constitute general revelation.

    I am aware that the LDS think God is corpuscular and embodied. The bad reasoning of a heterodox monk doesn’t imply that if God is immaterial that he can’t be loved properly. Moreover, embodied or not, the LDS unlike the monk, do not think the gods are copuscularly present right now on earth and so the same point would cut against the LDS position since the gods are bodily absent and so cannot be properly loved.

    I think Creel does a fine job for the western tradition. Gavrilyuk is on the right track in so far as impassability doesn’t imply a lack of engagement with suffering, but that it isn’t receptive and is rather a grasping. This has a bunch of purchase with various epistemologies past and present, whether Plato and Aristotle or moderns like Berkley and Kant.
    Even for Aquinas if God is impassible it doesn’t follow that his contact is indirect, quite the opposite.

    Norman’s biggest flaw is that the problem he proposes isn’t a problem for Athanasius and so the argument of his dissertation is a bad one. It’s just not true.
    As for literature on May, you can go hunt through the journals as I did. Nothing personal, I just don’t have the time to go digging through my files in the basement. I used to be able to remember whole pages exactly, now I can only remember where things are. Good luck.

    Yes, the Arians scratched their heads too. And? Pagan’s scratched their heads at the idea that a god can die or that Mary was virgin mother.

    If the father deity exists at each and every moment and we do as well, I see no reason to think he could be greater. Further, if he could self actualize his “intelligence” to something else, I see no reason why we couldn’t.

    On the other hand, if there is this essential difference between us, then Norman’s incompatibility argument applies to your position. Even the notion of community doesn’t rise to the level of a genuine theosis since the latter entails supposedly an essential change or isomorphism. But neither are possible on the view you proffer.

    I am sure Smith said such things, but I see no reason to think it coherent. If he can self actualize then why can’t we? If we are everlasting and qualitatively the same, then how could he be greater? If we aren’t qualitatively the same, then there can be no “genuine” or essential theosis.

    To speak of divinity as such in terms of relation doesn’t help because it leaves untouched the point. Why couldn’t I and others constitute deity as such if we are the same species and everlasting?

    Second, I don’t see why we couldn’t be capable of what they were if we are the same species, unless we were everlastingly defective, which doesn’t speak good news to us now for sure.

    If the father deity could be god initially, then why couldn’t we? Why the need for process? Was he fated to be so?

    I don’t see how the father can be more intelligent if we are all the same kind. But even if that were so, I don’t see how communicating whatever he did in terms of it could constitute communicating something “essential.” If it were, they’d have it already since they are the same essence as he is. If they aren’t of the same kind, then Norman’s criticism comes back again.

    Your third point seems to imply that the father god wasn’t always so.

  75. Jezz says:

    Perry,

    This will probably be my last post as I need to concentrate my efforts elsewhere at the moment.

    However, I don’t quite see how your post answered my objection. I know that Mary is called Theotokos because Christ took His humanity from her. Thus, it is legitimate to call Mary Christ’s Mother and the Mother of God. My point is: given the Mormon belief that the father is in some way responsible for the “incarnation” of the son (I deliberatly choose to use lower case to differentiate the Mormon position from the Orthodox one), doesn’t this fact alone justify the usage of the word “father”, at least in respect of his relation to the son? A form of traducianism, as you say – which, while we may not agree with it, hardly

    Of course, the question could then be legitimately asked, if “the son” is then the father of other children in the same way that “the father” is his father, why is it that we still continue to call him son and not father? And because this process is ongoing and everlasting, we presume that “the father” had his own father – why then is he not called “the son”? If they were to be consistent, shouldn’t all be called “fathers” and all be called “sons”?

    Perhaps these are the questions that you were getting at?

  76. DavidD says:

    The more I read this discussion the more it strikes me that the Mormon “gods” are very much like the “Ancients” (or perhaps the “Ori”) in Stargate – or should that be the other way around? I wonder if any of the creators of Stargate were raised Mormons?

  77. Jezz,
    If the father deity is responsible for the incarnation of the son, then is he only rightly called father after the incarnation but not before? I don’t think that is your view. Rather, your view is that he is rightly called father prior to the populating of the earth.
    I am confused as to your remark concerning traducianism, so please clarify.
    My question is, if someone is prior to me, then it is possible he can have something I lack and can move me to advance. But if he is not prior to me, and we are essentially the same species, then I can’t see how this is possible. I can’t see how he could be greater. Why is it that the father god is god that helps us become spirits? If he is already so, then why couldn’t it be the case that we were so? How could he have something we didn’t if we are both everlasting and the same species?

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