Thursday, November 30, 2006

Why do Christians argue against Mormonism

A few posts back Jeff G, who is an atheist but someone with some real sympathy with the Mormon Church, wanted to know why Christians sometimes argue against, and in some ways vehemently oppose, Mormonism. Now one answer to all of this might be that Christians care, and care very much, whether or not their beliefs are true. This, of course might explain why Christians are motivated to argue against Calvinism or Arminianism, or Protestantism against Catholicism, or whatever way they disagree about religion.

But is is true that, for example, I am disinclined to get into a Catholic vs. Protestand debate. I considered Catholicism in my early twenties and decided not to become one; however at least with respect to the Catholics I know I was sure that what I agreed with them on was far, far, more important than our disagreements. Given the fact that debating that issue strained some of my closest friendships, I don't feel terribly comfortable getting into the pros and cons of Rome with Catholics. Though I suppose a really easygoing exchange of ideas about Catholicism might be interesting. I subscribe to a C. S. Lewis discussion group that occasionally gets into C v. P issues, which are called the Creed Wars, ,but I've never posted on the subject there.

With Calvinism, I'm a little more motivated, because I really do think that Calvinism undermines confidence in the goodness of God. But I would not want to put Calvinism outside the pale of Christian orthodoxy. I also might show my teeth when religious relativism is brought into Christianity.

With Mormonism, the Mormons present themselves as followers of Christ, but then so did the Gnostics in the early days of Christianity. But when I am told that what man is,God once was, and what God is, man may become, I can't help concluding that what Christians and Mormons are talking about when they are talking about God and Christ are two different things. That would mean that there can be, and no doubt will be more than one god, if there is not more than one already. And to be saved is not to be brought into a right creaturely relationship to God, it is to become a god oneself.

Also IF (and I emphasize if) they are saying that if they have a certain kind of feeling, that the fact do not matter, then that is a cause of concern for me.

Sometimes orthodox Christians say Mormonism is a cult. I'm not sure that phrase means anything anymore. What I will say is that I don't sense the kind of common Christian ground with Mormonism that I have with Calvinists, despite having a strong antipathy toward the doctrine of predestination.

23 comments:

Jeff Downs said...

...I really do think that Calvinism undermines confidence in the goodness of God.

Such silliness (the above), but I'll leave it at that.

jeff g said...

"With Mormonism, the Mormons present themselves as followers of Christ, but then so did the Gnostics in the early days of Christianity."

Doesn't this show that a plurality of christianities only became unacceptable after the neo-platonic creeds were set in place?

"But when I am told that what man is,God once was, and what God is, man may become, I can't help concluding that what Christians and Mormons are talking about when they are talking about God and Christ are two different things."

I don't see how this is all that different from saying that God became a man in Christ, who then became God again, telling everybody else to follow him and be like him.

"That would mean that there can be, and no doubt will be more than one god, if there is not more than one already. And to be saved is not to be brought into a right creaturely relationship to God, it is to become a god oneself."

Mormon's only worship one God, the same God who was Christ's (the only begotten son) father, the same God who created the world, the same God who will always be a father to us all. None of those other Gods ever matter in any way. I don't see the problem.

Mormon's simply take two verses VERY literally:

1) Christ has only done what his father had done before.
2) We are promised (indeed commanded) that we can become like Christ.

I know that one can argue against such interpretations, but they aren't THAT far from the NT.

Clark Goble said...

I think the gnostic parallel fails for the reason that the gnostics often advocated practices that I think many Christians found immoral. (i.e. taking as an implication of the body not being important the idea that all sorts of sexual practices were appropriate)

Yet when you compare Mormons and most conservative Christians on these practical grounds it seems we have a lot in common. Much more than say a theologian like Tillich probably has in common with you. Yet Tillich is somehow more acceptable than Mormons, which just strikes me as a tad odd.

Clark Goble said...

To add, I don't think any Mormon has trouble with disagreements. After all Mormons have as many problems with traditional Christianity as traditional Christianity has with Mormonism. And in the same places typically.

I think what both sides ought be aiming for is a focus on what really divides us and being fair to both sides. And, for the record, I'll fully admit to being critical of unfair presentations of traditional Christianity by Mormons. Often some Mormons will misrepresent traditional theology as they discuss what they consider to be the apostasy.

So I think both sides could, at times, do a better job.

Victor Reppert said...

CG: I think the gnostic parallel fails for the reason that the gnostics often advocated practices that I think many Christians found immoral. (i.e. taking as an implication of the body not being important the idea that all sorts of sexual practices were appropriate)

VR: I think the fundamental doctrinal distortion was a far greater problem than the sexual ethics, at least in the minds of the early Christians who condemned the Gnostics.

I can't help wondering what Joseph Smith and Brigham Young would say to the present-day Mormons who want a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a relation between one man and one woman.

I'm not sure there's a way to explain how "deep" a disagreement is. Me? I feel a greater intellectual accord with Daniel Dennett than I do with Paul Tillich.

slaveofone said...

>> ...I really do think that Calvinism undermines confidence in the goodness of God.

I think this is not strong enough…I would change it to say I really do think Calvinism both destroys the possibility of goodness as well as the possibility to understand what goodness is.”

>> Yet Tillich is somehow more acceptable than Mormons,

I wouldn’t let Tillich within an arm’s length of me…something that I won’t necessarily say about a Mormon.

But on subject...

The issue—and I mean THE issue—is not necessarily Mormonism. It’s Fideism. Most Muslims are Fideists. Most Mormons are Fideists. And Most Christians are Fideists. And I wouldn’t touch any Fideist with a two-foot pole. It just so happens that because Christianity has a visible root in history and evidence to an extent that is lacking in the others, that Christians who are Fideists can hide better behind the facts that hardly influenced their faith to begin with and won’t influence it all that much in the end either. You see that in the appeal to “authority” and in the pursuit of superficial arguments that can make them be happy about what they already believe instead of challenging what they believe (so-called “faith seeking understanding”).

Jason said...

I left a message about theological distinctions in an earlier thread, which I'll probably port up here (since this later thread won't run off the bottom as quickly, and since the topic is being discussed here, too.) But until B-lagg-er catches up with the posting... {wry g}

Jeff G: {{Doesn't this show that a plurality of christianities only became unacceptable after the neo-platonic creeds were set in place?}}

Then the "neo-platonic creeds" were set in place back in the 50s CE, since Paul of Taursus (in writings even hypersceptics tend to agree are actually his) is already vigorously complaining to his congregations about a plurality of Christianities and warning them against such things. Aside from some key charity reported by Jesus in the Synoptic accounts, toward what amounts to 'plural Christianities', I'm pretty sure the textual record post-Paul, both in canon and out, is not at all favorable to pluralities. There is always (at least) one identifiable group complaining about them.


Meanwhile, and as it happens, I think the creeds can be demonstrated _not_ to be neo-Platonic in character. It was Arius and Sabellius who (in different ways, with Arius falling off the horse on the other side in reaction to the Sabellian heresy) were beginning from Greek concepts about the monad and trying to reform the orthodox position. (Though they did also take Scripture seriously and were trying to incorporate scriptural authority for their positions.)

I can attest to this from my own experience, btw; since I regularly run into serious opposition to trinitarian theism from philosophers operating from an Aristotelian/Platonic base and criticising orthodox trinitarianism from that base. Victor's friend Hugh Chandler would be the most recent example; another would be our friend Bill Vallicella.


This has more than a little topical irony, since I recall one common charge from anti-orthodox apologists (including Mormons) being that trinitarianism was invented by the importation of 'pagan' philosophy into the system. Uh, no; historically it's the other way around. (I don't mean 'pagan' pejoratively, btw.)

I'll post the other comment up here as soon as the blogger system catches up.

Jason Pratt

JD Walters said...

slaveofone,

My, you're a prickly one, aren't you? You wouldn't touch this person and that person with a 10-foot pole...

It's true that many uneducated Christians are fideists in the way you mean, but that says nothing about whether or not there is a genuinely rational case to be made for the Christian faith. Historical facts, vital though they are, are just one plank in the apologetic for the reasonableness or truth of Christianity, and they are rather more suggestive than you seem to think they are.

jeff g said...

Jason,

I agree with you about early discomfort with a plurality of christianities. Mormonism, if any thing, is against such pluralities as well.

What my point was aimed more at was that we have no reason to assume that just because one particular christianity emerged triumphant centuries after Christ, if not reason to believe that it was the same as the original christianity as taught by Paul or Jesus.

Jason said...

Jeff G: {{I agree with you about early discomfort with a plurality of christianities. Mormonism, if any thing, is against such pluralities as well.}}

Certainly. Otherwise y'all wouldn't be claiming to be more accurate than we are, theologically. {g!}

{{What my point was aimed more at was that we have no reason to assume that just because one particular christianity emerged triumphant centuries after Christ, if not reason to believe that it was the same as the original christianity as taught by Paul or Jesus.}}

That's a very different kind of claim than "a plurality of christianities only became unacceptable after the neo-platonic creeds were set in place", btw.

Anyway, I can certainly add a 'certainly' to this as well: since in two different ways, it could be legitimately argued that something other than the particular Christianity I represent _did_ emerge triumphant centuries after Christ! At the level of Imperial and military government, varieties of Arianism were the most popular for most of the 4th century; and this position apparently continued on in the military into the 5th century, especially among the troops being commissioned from among the northern people. Thus, after the fall of the Western Empire, and the institution of the feudal nobility, we find the orthodox bishops frantically trying to come up with plans to preserve orthodoxy as house bishops to Arian families.

So yes, just because one or another particular Christianity (whether my own tradition or another; whether in ancient Rome or modern Utah {g}) succeeds in a political/cultural triumph, is not _in itself_ reason to believe that it was the same as the Christianity taught by Paul or Jesus.

This is why there are such things as textual criticism and exegetical hermeunetics.


Meanwhile, I see that Blogger didn't just lag on posting my theological comment in an earlier thread; it seems to have eaten it altogether! {sigh} I overwrote my copy of it, too, in composing another comment. I'll try to reconstruct it later today; and post it here in this thread. (Much like Clark I have a factory to help manage, and in my own case two submittals to try to get out today. So it may be tonight instead... {annoyed sigh} Oh well. I'll try to look for providentiality in the delay. {s!})

Jason Pratt

Rich Knapton said...

Jason: “This has more than a little topical irony, since I recall one common charge from anti-orthodox apologists (including Mormons) being that trinitarianism was invented by the importation of 'pagan' philosophy into the system. Uh, no; historically it's the other way around. (I don't mean 'pagan' pejoratively, btw.)”

The Trinitarianism that is being challenged is the one contained in the Nicene Creed.

In the NT there are approximately seven references to the Father and the Son. There are six references to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. None of these references are couched in terms used by the creed of Nicaea

It was in the second century that conflict broke out between the new religion and Greek philosophers. The Greeks asserted the Christians were atheos or amoral. To show an affinity with Greek philosophy, Church writers began to stress the concept of Logos, found in Judaism and Stoicism, with that of the son of God. The Apologists of the second century tried several formulations by which to express the relationship of the Father and Son. The problem was to do it in such a manner that didn’t destroy the monotheism of the OT. There existed no concept in the NT that unified these three into one.

In the third century developed Monarchianism: God was a monad without distinctions within the unity, and dynamic monachianism which stated Christ was divine by adoption. In Alexandria Platonism heavily influenced Christian theology under Clement and Origen. This is not surprising as Alexandria was the center of Platonic philosophy.

In the fourth century Arianism arose which taught that the Logos was created and not eternal with the Father. He was neither God nor man. Alexander of Alexandria was Arian’s inveterate foe. Constantine ordered a council be formed to bring peace between the two. It came to nothing. Constantine then order a universal council. Three parties developed within the council: those who supported Arian, those who supported Alexander and Athanasius of Alexandria, and the majority of the leaders who wanted to maintain the traditional Logos theology, in its various forms, without taking a strong anti-Arian position. The issue between Alexander and Arian was over the use of two words: homoousios and homoiousios. The first meaning “same substance” and the second meaning “similar substance.” Alexander advocated for the first and Arian for the second.

Alexander got the council to anathematize all those who proclaimed the Father came before the Son and therefore advocated that their substance was similar but not the same. What the council came up with was Jesus Christ begotten of the Father from the substance (ousios), and homoousios (same substance) with the Father. Constantine came up with this last phrase probably at the suggestion of Hosius his theological advisor. Neither ousios or homoousios are part of NT terminology. Their origin was Greek philosophy.

Many were pleased with this as ‘substance’ was general enough to allow others to fit it in with their theology. Even the Arians could live with it. No one changed the creed while the emperor was alive. However, not all liked it. In 362, a council was formed which changed the term “from the same substance (ousios)” to “from the same nature (hypostasis). This did not resolve the issues among the various factions of the Church. It took yet another council to finally settle the issue. What finally developed was that the three members of the Godhead were each of separate natures (hypostasis) with one substance (ousios). Again, all three terms ousios, homoousios and hypostasis were terms derived from Greek philosophy and had no correlates in the NT.

By the way, the terms homoousios and homoiousios used above were spelled the same except for the use of an ‘i’ in homoiousios. The name for ‘i’ was iota. This is the origin of the English saying that it had not changed even one iota (meaning the two things were exact). of 451.

Thus the creed that developed out of the council of Nicaea is very dependent on Greek Philosophical terms for its meaning. None of these terms have any correlation in the NT. Thus the creed can certainly be considered, in part, a new invention brought about by Greek philosophical terms.

Rich

Jason said...

First, a reply to Rich. (I do have the other thing reconstructed, but perhaps I'd better recuse backward in topic. Tomorrow morning for the other thing, then... um, wait, tomorrow's Saturday... could be Monday morning for the other, then, but I'll try to post it up sooner.)

Rich: {{In the NT there are approximately seven references to the Father and the Son. There are six references to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. None of these references are couched in terms used by the creed of Nicaea }}

And we would expect them to be--why? (This only means the NT--and the OT, btw, which also contains some references to two and three Persons of God at a time--is not a systematic theology text. Not exactly news.)


{{It was in the second century that conflict broke out between the new religion and Greek philosophers.}}

Actually, I think I went back to the 1st century with my own reference to conflict between 'the new religion' and Greek philosophy. (i.e., _I_ certainly wasn't saying the conflict was original to the early 4th century.)


{{To show an affinity with Greek philosophy, Church writers began to stress the concept of Logos, found in Judaism and Stoicism, with that of the son of God.}}

You do know that even most sceptical scholars now agree GosJohn is a 1st century text, right? (Even GosLuke starts with a reference to Jesus as the Word--and virtually no one considers it to post-date Acts; the date of which keeps getting pushed back and back as language/terminology studies proceed.)

That doesn't mean the 2nd cent Church writers didn't begin pointing out handy affinities already present in their tradition, connecting this with the Greek notion of Logos, as a method of evangelization (not to say as a way of heading off persecutions). But the Word of God concept was already found in Judaism (and not only in synthesizers such as Philo), and was already connected with Divinity (as well as with Jesus) before the 2nd century.

(In fact I make it a point of hermeunetical recommendation, to always try testing an NT usage of ho logos or cognates as though the reference is to divinity instead of to scripture. It doesn't always work out, but the results can be enlightening at times. In any case, if as Exapologist has recently pointed out, RevJohn can be dated pre-70--which it pretty clearly can, and even on highly sceptical grounds {g}--then the Logos/Christ identification dates back to Pauline times. And that's _very_ definitely 1st cent.)

{{The Apologists of the second century tried several formulations by which to express the relationship of the Father and Son.}}

True--because they were trying to speak in a technical venue about beliefs they already had.

{{There existed no concept in the NT that unified these three into one.}}

This is quite false. There exists no _technical language_ of Greco-Roman disputation in the NT (or none that I know of ever being promoted as such anyway--I could be surprised by a language scholar on this pretty easily {g}), but the testimony was there in the NT to be drawn out by analysis.

To take the easiest and most obvious example: no one (familiar with the textual transmission data) disputes that the Great Commission baptism command was an original part of the GosMatt text, for instance; and practically no one disputes (anymore) that the GosMatt text is a 1st century document. The grammar there isn't even that annoying for a Greek text. {g} It's very straight forward: in the _name_ (not the names) of the Father and of the Son and of the HS; and the (otherwise entirely mundane) Granville-Sharp gramatic rule tells us that the inclusion of the multiple definite articles in reference back to the singular name is important for the author (indeed formal and kerygmatic). It isn't even necessary to add up some difficult contextual math across a discourse, such as in 2 Cor chps 3 and 4 (which again even hypersceptics haven't gotten around to disputing is actually written by Paul of Taursus in the late 50s or early 60s.)

This is completely aside from various OT texts where the grammar contexts involve multiple Jehovahs being one--all of which utterly predate the 1st cent.

Now, it could be claimed, perhaps, that the Christians (from Jesus onward) were picking up Jewish multi-God notions and running badly with them (like with scissors in the Temple {g}); but that's what they _were_ doing in the 1st C, and the evidence (such as it is) points back to canonical Judaism (and postcanonical, too, fwiw.)


{{In the third century developed Monarchianism: God was a monad without distinctions within the unity}}

Already present, though not in that terminology, in the 1st c (and earlier) texts: distinction of Persons, yes, of substance, no.

In any case, please note that if a position _develops_ that involves a correction attempt, it's trying to correct something already existant (or at least perceived to be existant). In this case, Monarchianism was trying to correct the distinction of Persons by appealing to the unity of the substance. (From which developed modalisms such as Sabellianism eventually. Similarly docetism was trying to correct claims of humanity in Christ by appealing only to the deity--not exactly the same as distinctions of Persons in unity of divine substance, btw.)

On the other hand, with adoptionism, people were trying to keep the baseline teaching from conflicting with Greek monadism again, by having Jesus empowered by the monad. (Sort of a proto-Arianism.)

{{In Alexandria Platonism heavily influenced Christian theology under Clement and Origen.}}

True--and the orthodoxy faction had some serious problems with them later, too. It wasn't because they were getting too much of their ideas from canonical scripture, either. {g}

{{In the fourth century Arianism arose which taught that the Logos was created and not eternal with the Father. He was neither God nor man.}}

True--because Arius was appealing to the Greek monad concept (and in fact explicitly to the Platonic Dynad concept) over against the status quo.

To be more precise, he started off appealing to it over against Sabellianism (which was _also_ roundly condemned as a heresy by the orthodoxy faction--and again, not for basing its modalism too _much_ on scriptural data.) Arius thought Alexander was preaching modalism, and became Alexander's inveterate foe first, launching attacks on him. The orthodox councils eventually decided Alexander was teaching orthodox doctrine (_not_ modalism, which they condemned); but Arius had already gone on into a habit of misrepresenting the orthodox faction position as modalism. It was to correct from this, that Arius proposed a distinction of the Persons without a distinction of the substance in God Himself _but_ which required a distinction of the substances between the Son (thus who couldn't _be_ God. Not originally man, either, but still a derivative creation. Ditto the HS, which was supposed to be created by the Dynad, not the Monad.)

{{Three parties developed within the council: those who supported Arian, those who supported Alexander and Athanasius of Alexandria, and the majority of the leaders who wanted to maintain the traditional Logos theology, in its various forms, without taking a strong anti-Arian position.}}

The reason the majority stayed neutral in the dispute at first, was because they weren't sure Alexander _wasn't_ teaching modalism (he did come from Alexandria after all. Unscriptural Greeky things like the modalistic heresy were taught down there. {g})

It also helped his case that Arius really was trying to get _scriptural_ witness on his side, and fought very hard for that--precisely because he knew _that_ was where the victory was going to be won or lost. Ultimately, the duel wasn't about who was being the best Platonist. It was about who could make their case the best from fidelity to scriptural witness. Alexander won partly because he could present testimony to the effect that what he was teaching was _not_ modalism, but _was_ traceable back through the mainstream congregations to the 1st century documents. Arius couldn't establish a line of tradition for his case, but he _could_ argue that the original documents had been misunderstood.

In any case, that which was ratified was recognized to be what the Church had always been teaching in the majority (even if not by that terminology) back to the canon authors. And what was being usually taught since the canon was not modalism, contra Arius. But certainly not his innovation, either, contra Arius. {s}

The poor guy ended up contra-d pretty much all the way around. A very nasty piece of business by everyone involved, including the orthodox faction I'm sorry to say. But they weren't that hateful to each other due to disputes over Platonism. (Ironically, they were being that hateful with each other from accidentally accepting another technical heresy, gnosticism--i.e. get this doctrine right or burn. People act the way those people did when they're scared spitless about something. Is there any sceptic in the whole world who thinks those Christians were scared spitless about getting neo-Platonism or Aristotelianism wrong?! I'd sure like to meet that fellow... {lopsided g})


{{Alexander got the council to anathematize all those who proclaimed the Father came before the Son and therefore advocated that their substance was similar but not the same.}}

That's true enough; but because the anathematized position was agreed to be an innovation and Arius failed to make his case that this was the original meaning and intent of scripture.

When one faction wins by appeal to scripture, over against another faction who is appealing to Platonic Dynadism (Arius explicitly described the Son after the Platonic demiurge: created, finite and not eternal, _in contrast to_ the party actually defending against him)--this, to me, and speaking as someone who _does_ reach trinitarian theism by metaphysics, does _not_ look like a victory for Greek philosophy. {wry g}


{{Constantine came up with this last phrase probably at the suggestion of Hosius his theological advisor. Neither ousios or homoousios [or hypostasis] are part of NT terminology. Their origin was Greek philosophy.}}

That's true. Borrowing technical terms in order to talk more precisely about something already under discussion, though--or even in a common new language context--does not necessarily mean new ideas are being invented and ported over into the old ones. I'm pretty sure the word 'theology' is not actually a part of NT terminology either, for instance--I've even recently seen some clueless website advertisement trying to use this as a fact against theology being Christian! Nevertheless, most people reading the texts do conclude that something we may for our convenience call 'theology' is being discussed in various ways. (Yet not in the categories we ourselves have later come up with to discuss the topics. I'm using a grossly obvious example, of course, in order to illustrate the principle involved.)


{{Thus the creed that developed out of the council of Nicaea is very dependent on Greek Philosophical terms for its meaning. None of these terms have any correlation in the NT.}}

If they had had no ideological correlation with material in the NT (and the OT for that matter), there wouldn't have been so much wrangling over the meaning of the scriptural witness, as well as over continuity between the time of original teaching and the time of the debating.

(And no worries about being zorched for not being faithful to the scriptural witness and its meaning.)

Anyway, I'm pretty sure there are conservative Christians around here who are far more familiar with the controversy than I am--and who will probably bridle at the gnosticism charge... {cough}{g} But still, setting that aside, would y'all say I'm principly on cue about the data of the dispute? (Minus some correction tweaks here and there perhaps?)

Jason Pratt

Rich Knapton said...

My comment:" There existed no concept in the NT that unified these three into one."


Jason: ”This is quite false. … The grammar there isn't even that annoying for a Greek text. {g} It's very straight forward: in the _name_ (not the names) of the Father and of the Son and of the HS; and the (otherwise entirely mundane) Granville-Sharp grammatical rule tells us that the inclusion of the multiple definite articles in reference back to the singular name is important for the author (indeed formal and kerygmatic).”

You misunderstand Granville-Sharp's rule: "When two nouns are in the same case, connected by kai (and), and the first noun is preceded by the definite article (THE) while the second noun is not preceded by the article, the second noun refers to the same person or thing to which the first noun has reference and is a further description of it." Here is the rule as it is found in Curtis Vaughn, and Virtus Gideon, “A Greek Grammar of the New Testament" "If two nouns of the same case are connected by a "kai" (and) and the article (the) is used with both nouns, they refer to different persons or things. If only the first noun has the article, the second noun refers to the same person or thing referred to in the first."

In the King James version the sentence is written, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” I looked up the Greek and it read "eiV to onoma tou PatroV kai tou Uiou kai tou Hagiou PneumatoV." The translation reads: "in the name the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost." According to Granville-Sharp’s rule since Son and Holy Spirit is preceded by ‘the’ (tou) after an ‘and’ (kai) each refers to a separate entity. For it to read as you suggest it would have to read, “in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit”

Already present, though not in that terminology, in the 1st c (and earlier) texts: distinction of Persons, yes, of substance, no.”

If you could provide a reference for “distinction of Persons, yes, of substance, no.” in the 1st c, I would be grateful. You see, if they already had the terminology of distinct persons of one substance there would have been no need to bring in Greek philosophical terms.

As Matthew 28:19 points out, the later writers had the concept of three distinct personages from the NT and the monotheism from the OT. Their problem was to reconcile these two positions. Between the death of the apostles and 325 AD several concept and terminologies were tried out but no agreement could be reached. Agreement could not be reached on the first Church wide attempt in 325. It took two more councils before the right concept and terminology was found. And then it took Greek philosophy to come up with an acceptable concept and terminology that most could agree upon. Remember, he with the most votes gets to define orthodoxy.

Rich

JD Walters said...

"Remember, he with the most votes gets to define orthodoxy."

And let me guess, he with the most wives (i.e. Joseph Smith) gets to define revelation?

Jason said...

Rich again,

{{You misunderstand Granville-Sharp's rule}}

Actually, you have given it exactly as I understood it to be. (Thanks for taking the time to write it out, though!)

{{According to Granville-Sharp’s rule since Son and Holy Spirit is preceded by ‘the’ (tou) after an ‘and’ (kai) each refers to a separate entity.}}

Each refers to a real distinction of _some_ sort, that's true.

{{For it to read as you suggest it would have to read, “in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit”}}

For it to read as an orthodox trinitarian would write it--singularity of substance, distinction of persons--it would be written just as you found it in the Greek: there would be a real multiple distinction in relation to a singular noun.

If, on the other hand, it had read (as you rather oddly thought _I_ would have had it read) "in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit" (which would imply modalism), or else "in the names of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (which would imply cosmological tri-theism, three Independent Facts), then I would _not_ be able to point to it as example of orthodox trinitarian scriptural testimony.

How did you find it? Exactly as I said it would be found: a singular name, with a real distinction of titles: 'eis to onoma'.

{{If you could provide a reference for “distinction of Persons, yes, of substance, no.” in the 1st c, I would be grateful.}}

Already done in the simplest fashion available. I can give others (and _did_ give one far more complex reference example), but they will take a longer time to discuss. (Well, the Jewish Shema might not take longer, and still gives the unity-of-many-in-one notion; but most of the cases would take longer to discuss.)

{{You see, if they already had *the terminology* of distinct persons of one substance...}}

I specifically said (as you yourself reported in my quote): "Already present, *though not in that terminology*". I have said from the beginning they did not have the later terminology, and made specifically sure to say it again in the quote of mine you referenced.

{{You see, if they already had the terminology of distinct persons of one substance there would have been no need to bring in Greek philosophical terms.}}

I agree; and have already said much the same thing myself.

{{As Matthew 28:19 points out, the later writers had the concept of three distinct personages from the NT and the monotheism from the OT.}}

So you _do_ agree, then, that Matt 28:19 includes three distinct personages in one monotheism; which is what I was saying was there. What were you disputing, then, earlier?! (Btw, 'monotheism' is a later term, not found in the NT or the OT per se as I recall. You clearly recognize they were talking about a system of what we would call 'monotheism', though.)

And as I have noted before, the concept of three distinct personages of the same singular deity goes back to the OT. It certainly does not go back to Aristotelianism or Platonism.

I agree, however (and have agreed as much already), that when the post-Apostolic theologians started trying to work out the philosophical implications of this, "several concepts and terminologies were tried out" (as you put it) until an agreement could be reached--the formulations for which, I agree, were not even completed in 325. The basic data they were working _from_, though, was written in (and before) the 1st century CE.

{{And then it took Greek philosophy to come up with an acceptable concept and terminology that most could agree upon.}}

Agreed. But it wasn't invented thereby.


{{Remember, he with the most votes gets to define orthodoxy.}}

To be more precise, the principle at the time was: we need to follow what has most certainly and widely been taught since the day of Jesus (and before!) Obviously, the result of doing this _would_ naturally be a majority vote.

Jason Pratt

Jason said...

Now, going back to paste in the promised comment...

(I thought I had posted this a couple of days ago, but when checking my browser history I found nothing. This means I probably can't blame Blogger for losing the post, though I sure have a memory of writing it, and posting it (and then noticing Blogger was lagging again afterward when I went back to the main thread screen.) Anyway--whatever the weirdness was, evidently it wasn't Blogger's fault. (Maybe I posted to a completely different thread by accident...? If anyone else found it, please tell me.) Meanwhile, I have reconstructed it, with some redrafting.)

For recap purposes: Down in the Victor's thread "Craig's response to the Mormon Objection", Clark Goble wrote (in criticism of William Lane Craig, among other things):

{{But of course Mormons don't claim... to be polytheists either - and further would characterize themselves as theists}}

My reply to this, was:

"[W]hile I would very much like to see a discussion on this, I do wonder whether in the end we're only going to end up back at a similar result as we got from the historical discussion. i.e., it would be admittedly irrational for non-Mormons to consider Mormonism to be theism instead of polytheism, because non-Mormons haven't had the Experience yet; with appeal being made back to the Experience over-against however the logical math might otherwise be tallied up apart from the Experience."

Clark's answer to this was: {{Jason, it seems to me that the monotheist vs. polytheist issue is quite orthagonal to truth claims. That is it is primarily a semantic issue.}}

I would like to think Clark meant by this that such a discussion _wouldn't_ end up back with the result I was expecting. But perhaps that is beside the point. Because I find the claim that monotheism vs. polytheism is _primarily_ a semantic issue, to be frankly astonishing.


A traditional exponent of one of the Big Three Theisms (as I like to call them--Judaism, Christianity, Islam), is advocating at least the following propositions:

1.) There is one and only one Independent Fact of reality. The existence of all reality depends upon (at least) the existence of this foundational base of reality. This position is held in exclusion of infinite ontological regression, and in exclusion of a finite plural number of ontologically equal IFs. (Thus no God/Nature or God/Anti-God cosmological dualism, to take a couple of popular multi-IF positions as examples.)

Obviously, this proposition covers a very wide ideological area. It does however exclude things like tri-theism, with three IFs of distinct substances, not dependent upon each other but upon which the rest of reality (one way or another) depends.

2.) The IF is actively rational, sentient, intelligent, intentive, etc. This is simply the distinction of theism from atheism, which in polysyllabic variations says the other thing.

3.) The evident system of Nature in which we live is not the IF, but is (like everything else in existence) dependent upon the IF for its existence. This is simply the distinction of philosophical supernaturalism from philosophical naturalism.

It is necessary to note and to stress that (2) and (3) are not equivalent categories of claim. They are completely different categories of claim, and one of them does not immediately entail or involve the other. Thus there could easily be (and are, I think, in some technical senses) supernaturalistic atheists, even though as a matter of fact most atheists are philsophical naturalists. And again, there could easily be (and in the world's history has been and still is a very large number of) naturalistic theists, i.e. the pantheists.


'Monotheism' means, then, that there is only one IF and the IF is actively rational. Technically this would include positive pantheists (who would be philosophical naturalists instead of supernaturalists) as well proponents in the Big Three Theisms; but would also include various non-religious supernaturalistic theisms (such as nominal deism) for instance as well as various non-Abrahamic religions.

There _could_ technically be such a thing as a pure monotheism, if no derivative extra-powerful entities existed (whether supernatural to this Nature or not--supernaturalism doesn't require or entail only _two_ 'levels' of reality, btw) that might without gross abuse of language be called or considered gods (little g). For instance, if God created Nature but never created _any_ other sentiences, then there would be no entities at all who could even remotely be considered gods (little g) even by God Himself.

As it happens, though, most monotheisms (especially the religious ones) are not pure monotheisms in either of those senses. Most monotheisms are also henotheisms: a certain number of little-g gods are acknowledged to exist, but they are qualitatively distinct from _the_ God. There is still only one IF. (This henotheistic monotheism includes all traditional forms of the Big Three Theisms, btw: all three traditionally include belief in the existence of angels and devils at the least _as well as_ the IF.)

Orthodox trinitarianism remains monotheistic (the question of its coherency is not what I am discussing right now) by the strong insistence on the singularity of the 'substance' of God, despite the distinction of Persons. (So does modalism, without any real distinction of Persons. A distinction of substance, though, along with the distinction of Persons, would be cosmological tri-theism, not monotheism.)


Polytheism, by contrast to monotheism (including henotheistic monotheism), involves either multiple derivative god-entities without the IF Itself being sentient (either ultimately atheistic or agnostic on that topic); or else involves multiple Independent Facts (such as the cosmological tri-theism just mentioned, or a God/Anti-God cosmological dualism--Nature would be a derivative creation of one or both of these entities.)


Now: it has been my understanding so far, that one of the central teachings of Mormonism is that a human may become _exactly the same sort of thing as God_.

If so, this necessarily involves either one of two positions as corollaries: either multiple IFs are existant (and coming into existence--even though an IF should not be coming into existence from not-IF status, though I will set that aside for now); or else the 'God' being presented for worship (whether we're talking about the Father, the Son, or whatever) is not supposed to be the IF after all. This would nicely get around the multiple IF problem, not only in regard to the F/S/HS themselves but in regard to humans becoming as he/they are: there could, in principle, be any number of superpowerful derivative entities coming into existence. But it means that Mormons are not worshipping or even saying much of anything about the IF--which is very different (not just semantically so {s}) from what the Big Three Theisms are saying.

Either way, by careful distinction of category of belief, Mormonism would in this case be reasonably considered to be polytheism _instead of_ (mono)theism.


Again, if none of the Mormon divinity set (F/S/HS) is actually _the_ IF upon which all reality has, does and ever will depend upon for existence, then Mormonism either entails atheism or agnosticism instead of strict theism; besides which, it means that the worship is of derivative entities (whatever their relationship may be to each other), and thus again we have religious polytheism.


The only way this could be metaphysically avoided, would be for at least one of the Divinities (I suppose it would be the Father, but perhaps it would be the Holy Spirit instead?) to actually be the IF: the ground of all reality. The result certainly wouldn't be orthodox trinitarianism, but it wouldn't strictly be polytheism either; it would be its own kind of henotheism, perhaps of an Arian variety. (This might scuff badly with the common Mormon notion that the Father has a perfect set of human chromosomes in His own intrinsic natural nature, half-or-all-of-which was bequeathed to Jesus in order to create the Son or to give a body to the pre-existent Son; but perhaps there might be ways around it, too. If the HS is the real IF, for instance, then the Father could be a derivative entity of a sort that would naturally have DNA to bequeath to a natural son.)


So, to sum up, as a representative of monotheism, _not_ polytheism: I believe in the existence of one and only one IF, which (or rather Who) is sentient, and Who (incidentally) is supernatural to _everything_ else in reality, including the evident system of Nature we are living within. If I claimed, which I do not, that He had ever been anything other than this, I would be logically invalidating my monotheism (at least in relation to Him--He could not be the real IF in that case); and the same invalidation would be true if I claimed, which I do not, that another IF could come into existence.

As an orthodox trinitarian, I further claim that God is, in His own basic fundamental eternal self-existence, actively self-begetting and self-begotten; and that this distinction involves a consequent real distinction of Persons in the singular substance of God's existence. These Persons, for convenience, I describe as Father and Son (God self-begetting, God self-begotten. This doctrine is not, of itself, the doctrine of the Incarnation, btw.)

As it happens, I also affirm the filioque of Western (instead of Eastern) Orthodoxy (beacuse I think this is how the metaphysical logic adds up--although I stress that I have done no such inferring in this post, only reporting positions), and so I affirm for various reasons that there is a 3rd Person of God (which the EOx do, too, of course), proceeding forth in existence from the joint action of the Father and the Son but still God in the singular eternal substance. (The EOx don't officially accept the procession from the Son as well as from the Father. The highly technical theological argument is not relevant here, though.)


In turn, then: what do you (Clark) believe to be true about God and God's relation to Nature (including humankind)? And/or, what do you find the Mormon Church teaching as authoritative doctrine about this? (I distinguish in advance this category from any teaching that may be being done _accidentally_ by Mormon teachers which, if examined more closely, would not be in keeping with distinctly Mormon doctrine. To take an example from my own side of the aisle, one of the reasons I call the Parsons/Craig debate in favor of Keith by a solid edge, is because Craig looks to be hopping over into bi/tri-theism of some kind, if not into some kind of Arianism, introducing a schism in the substance of the Son and the Father, in order to get around an ethical dilemma being posed by Keith. Though admittedly this may be a misimpression due to inaccurate notetaking by Jeff Lowder. I rather personally doubt that, though--I've seen it happen often enough myself, though not with WLC per se, in similar circumstances.)

If possible, be sure to spend some time explaining how our ideas of God (yours and mine) are primarily semantic. {g} More seriously, this would be a good time to correct any misunderstanding I have of the Mormon position.

Jason Pratt

Rich Knapton said...

Jason: “So you _do_ agree, then, that Matt 28:19 includes three distinct personages in one monotheism.”

No. And neither does Matt 28:19. You made a reference to: ‘name’ in the singular “in the name of” just before the reference to the Father. “The grammar there isn't even that annoying for a Greek text. {g} It's very straight forward: in the _name_ (not the names) of the Father and of the Son and of the HS; and the (otherwise entirely mundane) Granville-Sharp gramatic rule tells us that the inclusion of the multiple definite articles in reference back to the singular name is important for the author.”

The reason the phrase “in the name” was only used once and in the singular is that with tau “in the name” is implied before each of the following name. Thus the implied translation is “"in the name the Father and (in the name) the Son and (in the name) the Holy Ghost." This also explains why the word ‘name’ is used in the singular. It wouldn’t make sense to state: in the names the Father and (in the names) the Son and (in the names) of Holy Spirit. So the phrase “in the name” was used for each person named but was only implied in the last two. Thus, the singular use of ‘name’ does not establish a oneness. Matt 28:19 references three personages but no oneness. Feel free to check this with your Greek grammar.

Rich

Rich Knapton said...

Jason: ”More seriously, this would be a good time to correct any misunderstanding I have of the Mormon position.”

Jason, let me take a stab at this if you don’t mind. In the beginning God (Jehovah) created the heavens and the earth. The only God the House of Israel knew was Jehovah. It was this same Jehovah who came down to earth and became Jesus Christ. So the creator and the savior is one and the same. This is what he meant when he said: “Before Abraham was, I am.” “I am” is a reference to Jehovah (the great I AM). He is stating that he is Jehovah.

The significance of this can be seen in Matt 11: 27 “All things are delivered unto me [Jehovah/Jesus] of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son [Jehovah/Jesus], but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son [Jehovah/Jesus], and he to whomsoever the Son [Jehova/Jesus] will reveal him.”

In other words, no one can know the nature of Jehovah/Jesus unless they know about the Father. This correlates with Isa 1: 3 “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.” Israel never knew the true nature of Jehovah because Jehovah had never revealed the existence of the Father. That is what the second part of Matt 11: 27 means. The existence of the Father can only be revealed by the Son [Jehovah/Jesus]. One of the missions of Jesus was to proclaim to the world the existence of the Father.

With regards to Lorenzo Snow’s comment, that is to be interpreted as existing outside this universe. I see it in terms of M theory. We would bring two membranes together and initiate the creation of a whole new universe. We certainly don’t become gods in this universe. There is only one God, one creator, of this universe and He is Jehovah/Jesus. But he was working under the direction of the Father. This is something like a general contractor working under the direction of the architect.

This, I believe to be the position of the Church. If there is still something unclear about what I wrote, I will be happy to help. This is written so that you might have a better understanding of what the Church believes. I will not, however, argue over the “correctness” of this tenant of the Church.

Rich

Clark Goble said...

To clarify the reason why I think the monotheist vs. polytheist issue is primarily a semantic one is because bother regular Christians and Mormons see multiple persons that are One is a significant sense. This doesn't fit into the normal semantic range of monotheist vs. polytheist. Thus one is either redefining the terms (quibbling over semantics) or simply guilty of a kind of false dichotomy.

If one wished to discuss the content of both religions that's fine. But when the topic is monotheism vs. polytheism then I tend to think that what's discussed is really semantics more than content. At least its been that way in most discussions I've been in.

Rich Knapton said...

Clark makes an excellent point which I left out. While we all believe in three personages Mormons believe they are one not in substance but in purpose. There is an absolute oneness with the Father and the Son. To speak to the Son is to speak to the Father and to speak to the Father is to speak to the Son. Unlike polytheistic religions where each god has a distinct purpose, in Mormon theology, there is but a single purpose, and one God.

Victor Reppert said...

So all the members of the Dallas Cowboys are really one person, because they all one in purpose (beating their opponent)?

Jason said...

Rich first,

RK: {{As Matthew 28:19 points out, the later writers had the concept of three distinct personages from the NT and the monotheism from the OT.}}

JP: “So you _do_ agree, then, that Matt 28:19 includes three distinct personages in one monotheism.” (i.e. I used exactly the same phrasing you did in your description.)

RK: {{No. And neither does Matt 28:19.}}

I’ve been mentioning that the OT’s monotheism involves multiple disintict personages of a singular deity, too; but I’ll leave that aside for the moment.

I see now I missed your qualifier “the later writers”; by which you (apparently?) meant that post-NT writers were not finding monotheism in the NT _but instead_ three distinct personages. This, to put it mildly, seems untenable--that there is no concept of monotheism being stressed in the NT (despite the Shema being used in the Synoptics and in the Jacobin epistle.) But I suppose its absence must be necessary for you to try to make your case: because if the NT was stressing monotheism _and also_ distinct personages, then even if this happened by sheer accident or clumsy stitching of sources or whatever, your case for (later) Christians porting this concept of a combination over from Greek philosophy (or even inventing the combination by use of Greek philosophy to reconcile two very different sets of data, OT and NT) would be in ruins. The data being discussed would still go back to biblical sources (being treated by the disputants and apologists as authoritative testimony, even if they turn to Greek philosophy for helpful analytical tools in their disputes.)

That being said, I do understand now how a Mormon might go from a sheer one-person monotheism in the OT (if that's all that was in the OT) to a distinction of persons _different from_ a one-person montheism in the NT (if the NT didn't identify the persons as one God) as being some kind of progressive revelation.

The main problem with this in regard to your current contention (regarding the invention of orthodoxy supposedly in contrast to the NT), is that even _this_ data would involve no such invention by the post-NT fathers, from Greek philosophy or otherwise. It would just involve a very understandable misunderstanding. (Because people are naturally going to think that three persons who are one entity is a more important and higher thing than three entities cooperating together perfectly well. More on this later.)

{{The reason the phrase “in the name” was only used once and in the singular is that with tau “in the name” is implied before each of the following name.}}

(Actually, Rich means ‘tou’. ‘Tau’ is the name of a letter.)

‘Tou’ and the -ou endings of the nouns involved, are genitive, and so you’re missing an implied English word in your explication: “of”. I’m not sure why you’re omitting this.

Reprinting your explication with the missing (but implied) preposition:

{{Thus the implied translation is "in the name of the Father and (in the name) of the Son and (in the name) of the Holy Ghost." This also explains why the word ‘name’ is used in the singular. It wouldn’t make sense to state: in the names of the Father and (in the names) of the Son and (in the names) of the Holy Spirit. So the phrase “in the name [of]” was used for each person named but was only implied in the last two. Thus, the singular use of ‘name’ does not establish a oneness. Matt 28:19 references three personages but no oneness.}}

Let’s begin with what we agree on first: three distinct Persons are being referenced in Matt 28:19 (F/S/HG). We agree that the Granville-Sharp rule indicates this, due to the use of direct articles for each noun, with each noun (and article) set (after the first one) being connected with the conjunction “kai”.

Furthermore, I will suppose you agree that the case for the three article/noun sets is genitive; and that each of them refers back _as a genitive relation_ to the singular noun “to onama”. (“To” is the article here. The phrase itself is part of a prepositional phrase “eis to onama”, or “in(to) the name”. I say this to distinguish the Greek article “to” from the English preposition “to”, just in case someone thinks I’m trying to translate one as the other.)

The relevant question, though, is whether “baptizontes autous eis to onama” (“baptizing them into the name”) should be applied to each of the subsequent noun sets as though three different names are implied.

I am thinking this is untenable, because of the prepositional use of singular name in the first place, in contextual relation to the verb, _along with_ the genitive forms of the subsequent nouns.

After all, the text is _not_: “eis to onomata ho pate_r kai ho huios” etc., with the nouns in nominative case. So those nouns themselves are not to be considered multiple names. (Note: I’ve put an underscore after the long ‘e’, or eta; it’s different from an epsilon or short ‘e’ elsewhere.)

Nor is the text simply talking about “to onoma tou patros kai tou huiou” etc. “To onoma” isn’t being used as a (nominative) subject here. It’s the (accusative) object of a preposition (eis).

The key phrase is (as I mentioned) that people are being baptized into... something. What are they being baptized into?

By your reading, they would have to be being baptized into the names, not into the name.

This is why ‘name’ would have had to be written plural if multiple names were meant in this situation. (That, or the singular phrase “eis to onoma” could have been repeated for each Person after the “kai”.)

A person could of course be baptized into the plural names of a singular God under modalism. But you and I already agree that if this had been meant, the “kai tou” would not have been used for the Son and the Holy Spirit.

So the author is not talking about baptizing into the (otherwise unknown) names of three Gods, or he would have written “eis to onomata” along with the rest of what we find. And he is not talking about baptizing into the names of three Gods while giving the names, or he would have written “eis to onomata” with the subsequent articular nouns presented as something other than genitive case (nominative I suppose). And he is not talking about baptizing into _only_ the various names of one God, or he would not have used “kai tou” with ‘the Son’ and ‘the Holy Spirit’.

He is talking about baptizing people into the name of something that has three distinct persons. And you recognize that deity is being spoken of here.

(May I add, btw, that in making our respective cases here, we are appealing to grammatic ‘rules’ which were not formalized until long after 1st century texts were written (whether NT or otherwise)? That certainly doesn’t mean what we’re talking about isn’t in the texts, though. We came up with the ‘rules’ by discovering what authors routinely did in texts.)


Since Rich is taking a stab at correcting misunderstandings I have of the Mormon position (which I’m certainly grateful to hear from):

{{In the beginning God (Jehovah) created the heavens and the earth.}}

Meaning you’re talking about the ultimate ground of _all_ reality?--and not about something that was itself created by the ultimate reality (and/or developed up from not being the ultimate ground into being the ultimate ground of _all_ reality.) Right?

{{The only God the House of Israel knew was Jehovah.}}

Well, Israel was only supposed to be loyal to Jehovah. They knew about other gods, but didn’t treat them as being what we would now call ‘ontologically equal’ to Jehovah.

Anyway, trinitarians agree that Israel was only supposed to be loyal to Jehovah; and that only Jehovah should be worshipped.

(This is one of those places where a systematic check of theological use references in the OT would be useful; for although they everywhere insist on only worshipping YHWH, also known as Adonai and El, they also occasionally insist on worshipping multiple persons by those names--as is reflected by their frequent use of the plural Eloi as a reference title for the _singular_ deity.)


{{It was this same Jehovah who came down to earth and became Jesus Christ.}}

I can certainly agree with this as a trinitarian.

{{So the creator and the savior is one and the same.}}

No disagreement here.

{{This is what he meant when he said: “Before Abraham was, I am.” “I am” is a reference to Jehovah (the great I AM).}}

No disagreement here, either.


{{The significance of this can be seen in Matt 11: 27 “All things are delivered unto me [Jehovah/Jesus] of my Father” [...] Israel never knew the true nature of Jehovah because Jehovah had never revealed the existence of the Father.}}

So, the Father is _not_- Jehovah.

Okay, _now_ we have the disagreement. {g}

If the Father is _not_ Jehovah, then of course Jesus could be Jehovah. In which case what you’d be saying is (supplementing descriptions from your original stab {g}): “In the beginning the Son created the heavens and the earth. The only God the House of Israel knew was the Son. It was this same Son who came down to earth and became Jesus Christ. So the creator and the savior is one and the same. This is what he meant when he said: ‘Before Abraham was, I am.’ ‘I am’ is a reference to the Son, YHWH (the great I AM). Jesus, the Son, is stating that he is Jehovah.”

So far, so orthodox (strictly speaking. It doesn’t get in some things, but what it does include _could_ be said under orthodoxy, too.)

Then however, we get to the problem of the Son being YHWH: I AM THAT I AM. Virtually all commentators of every stripe recognize this to be a statement of self-existence.

Either the (clearly pre-existent) Son is self-existent, or he is not. If he is not self-existent, he should not have been using the name YHWH (even if pre-existent to our own reality). If he _is_ self-existent, then what is this Father whom Israel (supposedly) never even knew about?

Sooner or later, you’re either going to run into one of these deities _not_ being self-existent (in which case you’re worshipping something like an angel as well as God--not strictly polytheism, admittedly, but aren’t there injunctions against worshipping created things?); or you're going to end up with all these deities being non-self-existent (in which case you're talking about ontological polytheism, are are only worshipping derivative entities); or you’re going to end up with multiple self-existent facts of distinctly separate essences (which is going to be polytheism of the cosmological dualism variety)--_or_ you’re going to end up with a self-begetting self-begotten self-existent YHWH with (at least) two distinct Persons, Father and Son. Which will be orthodox bi-nitarianism. Either of the first three is going to be hugely something other than primarily a semantic difference with orthodox monotheism, though.


Even though I am inclined to dispute the statement “Jehovah had never revealed the existence of the Father”, I suspect the reply is going to be something like ‘But the Jews changed their own scriptures in the 4th century!--so _now_ of course even their own scriptures refer to YHWH as Father, including as in relation to YHWH as Son!’

If that expectation is accurate, there's no point going to the texts for reference. If that expectation is wrong--then I can come up with quite a few references along this line.


{{With regards to Lorenzo Snow’s comment, that is to be interpreted as existing outside this universe.}}

?? I’ve been out a few days, and I don’t see anything here about Lorenzo Snow. Was that in another thread?


{{There is only one God, one creator, of this universe and He is Jehovah/Jesus. But he was working under the direction of the Father.}}

So the Father _isn’t_ God of this universe? Okay.

This is absolutely _NOT_ a primarily semantic difference, btw.

{{I will not, however, argue over the “correctness” of this tenant of the Church.}}

Fair enough. I just want to get the distinctions in order.


Clark (to whom the question about ‘primarily semantic differences?’ was originally addressed), adds: {{To clarify the reason why I think the monotheist vs. polytheist issue is primarily a semantic one is because bother regular Christians and Mormons see multiple persons that are One is a significant sense.}}

I didn’t see anything about the Son and the Father being “one” in a significant sense, in Rich’s explication; but I can accept 'perfect cooperation' to be a significant sense of some kind.

It ought to be obvious, though, that two persons could be “one” in some kind of ‘significant’ sense, without the difference being primarily semantic. There is more than a primarily semantic quibbling of difference between a contractor and architect being ‘one’, and a husband and wife being ‘one’; or, for that matter, between even a human father and son being ‘one’ compared to either of those. And that’s at what could be considered a merely ‘natural’ level.

Consequently, there is even less of a primarily semantic difference between a claim of distinctly separate persons being one in cooperation, and a claim of persons being one in essence of existence. (The latter would be a tenet of _mono_-theism. The former would be...? At best we're talking about extremely non-semantically different types of 'mono'-theism.)

I think the differences between monotheism and polytheism are primarily _technical_ ones--not just quibbling over words. Apparently Rich does, too, or else he wouldn’t have been charging the orthodox faction with inventing trinitarian theism from Greek philosophy. There’s more than just quibbling at stake in that charge _against_ the orthodox; which means there’s more than just quibbling at stake in the dispute between LDS and orthodox Christianity. How this dispute relates to the claim of polytheism (or could relate to it) I have already gone into, in much detail. But I’ll do it again here in a minute (hopefully more briefly. {s})


I have long suspected--which suspicion is being reflected here--that the chief problem in Mormon/orthodox dialogue, is that two completely different topics are being talked about. _I_ was talking about the ground of _all_ reality (not just this universe.) Rich was talking about... well, I’m still not sure what. The creator of this universe, certainly, but that isn’t necessarily the same thing as being the ground of _all_ reality; and I never saw anything said about even “the Father” being this ground.

If we aren’t talking about the same thing, then by definition we’re looking at something more than just a semantic difference. Moreover, we’re not worshipping the same thing, either. The Son working under the direction of the Father could be something like a general contractor working under the direction of the architect; he could be the same thing as a demiurge/dynad working under the direction of the monad, too (i.e. Arianism. Or Platonism.) Orthodoxy is not the same as the latter, even though we could speak the same way as the latter using the former analogy (so long as we kept the relational differences of the former analogy in mind, _in distinction from_ orthodoxy.)

If Mormons _are not_ talking about the ground of all reality somewhere in your theology, then by necessity you’re talking about some kind of polytheism instead of monotheism--and not the higher (or deeper or more fundamental) kind of polytheism either.

Now, you could perhaps say that orthodox Christians are not being primarily semantic about polytheism and monotheism in our theology, whereas on the other hand Mormon Christians _would_ consider those categories to be primarily semantic in difference in your theology.

But that’s hardly a primarily semantic difference between our theologies, either, is it? {s}


Rich follows up: {{While we all believe in three personages}}

I missed your reference to the HG in your explication, btw. It was, where...? (I did remember to include it in mine... {g})


{{Mormons believe they are one not in substance}}

That’s pretty much what I understood, too.

{{Unlike polytheistic religions where each god has a distinct purpose, in Mormon theology, there is but a single purpose, and one God.}}

Uh... no, you’re talking about three Gods with a single purpose. Not one God.

If you _were_ talking about one God, you’d be talking about them being one in substance or essence or something like that. These three entities are distinctly separate. They are _not_ _one_ God; and the absolute oneness you’re talking about is something less than the absolute oneness of orthodoxy.

(I will add that, like Rich, I am not discussing "correctness" in any of this.)


Regarding Victor’s brief rebuttal attempt: I can anticipate and agree with a rebuttal of ‘No, we never said they were one _person_.’ Perhaps you can say they are one team, on the Dallas Cowboy analogy, though?

A team of Gods, however, is a pantheon. (Just more of a team than the classical Greek pantheon ever was. {g} More like the Greek fates, perhaps.)

The pantheon, though, is polytheism--and not just because each god has a distinct purpose.


Which gets us back to orthodoxy being supposedly invented by borrowing from Greek philosophy. From what I’m picking up in these recent theological explications, what you’re objecting to is the orthodox really insisting on _one_ (multi-personal) entity rather than _three_ personal entities (who just happen to be cooperating together really well and so who can be called ‘one’ by charitable analogy, as if one. But not really. Really three.)

That insistence on three distinct ‘substances’ (over against “one substance” as Rich makes sure to specifically point out in his most recent comment), is why the orthodox think you’re being polytheistic compared to being monotheistic. We really are talking about _one_ entity. You really are talking about _three_ entities (their level of cooperation notwithstanding).

And that is not a primarily semantic difference.


Jason Pratt

Jason said...

Quick addendum:

{{‘Tou’ and the -ou endings of the nouns involved, are genitive}}

It may be noticed that two of the nouns involved, end in -os, not in -ou. This is because Greek grammar is annoying. {g} More technically, it's because the nouns are 3rd declension forms; which in the genitive (as established in non-disputed mundane situations elsewhere) use an -os ending.

Fortunately, when definite articles are present, they don't go through declensions (thus all three articles are 'tou', instead of two of them being 'to' or 'tos' or something like that); which is extremely helpful in parsing out the grammatic meaning of a Greek sentence.

JRP