I Love Gellies

Mormonism, Evangelicism and Chaos Theory

Trinity vs Monotheism

Hello NChristine:
It’s been a while since I’ve addressed a response directly to you, so I thought I’d give out a special hello. Plus, my post was just too long to include at Jessica’s site, so thought I’d just post it here. Feel free to comment here or there.

I am unaware of FAIR’s use scholarly articles wrt divine council and primitive Israelite religion. Everything I got is from reading I have done of non-Mo biblical scholars. My point was to show that the current Evangelical worldview that their present views on God are equal (or even compatible with) ancient Israelite religion is incorrect.

I hope for the purpose of this discussion, we can say that what the text actually says about itself is more important than anyone’s modern creeds or viewpoints being read back into the text.

In order to posit this, one must essentially say that the OT scriptures present contradictory views of God.

I sense, NChristine, that you hold to the common viewpoint that the OT scriptures cannot contain contradictory views of God. Now I understand that you have interpreted other texts to mean this, but no text actually says this. Are you in agreement with this, or do we need to discuss the difference between how we interpret a text, and what a text actually says? BTW, I’m NOT trying to be condescending, just complete. I am OK if you interpret those other verses to mean that, but I’d hope you recognize that this isn’t a given assumption on both sides of the discussion.

If the overwhelming majority of passages present monotheism, and yet speculative reasoning can interpret a very few verses as implying henotheism/polytheism, then the whole can’t be right.

While most scholars would concede that a majority of verses present strict monotheism, I think it would be incorrect to claim only speculative reasoning to imply henotheism. That is, usually the simplest readings (the ones without a lot of linguistic acrobatics) directly imply henotheism, or a Dualistic God. While I certainly won’t condemn linguistic acrobatics, (I’ve done it before, and will continue to do so), I try not to be dogmatic about my interpretations about them either. But I think the crux of the difference of worldview is found here:

then the whole can’t be right.

I disagree that if Isaiah wasn’t fully correct it couldn’t still be “God-breathed.” FTR, however, the part of strict monotheism that isn’t correct is more of an incomplete rather than a wrong incorrect. That is, Isaiah’s Monotheism doesn’t allow for another person in the Godhead, and the Orthodox, Classical, Trinity does have three Divine Persons in one Ontological God. (If you disagree with this, you need to read up on the difference between Trinity and Modalism), you can also ask Jack if I’m misrepresenting this. Therefore, even by the purely Orthodox model, Isaiah’s strict Monotheism isn’t the most complete viewpoint of God, and when Evangelicals start to claim it is, then they hear the same argument from Jewish apologists that Mormons hear from Evangelical apologists. “Words have meaning, and Monotheism doesn’t include a second person in God.” I won’t be dogmatic about this, but that’s a big problem I see with current Evangelicism. But in any case, I don’t believe something has to be 100% correct in order to be God-breathed. There is no scripture in any of the LDS canon (including the KJV Old or New Testaments) that says it has to be. Again, you may have interpreted other verses to mean this, but I don’t hold that assumption. I don’t believe God gave a wrong viewpoint, rather, the mind that was translating the revelation, the emotions, and the concepts was a human mind, limited by the same problems common to all of us. Have you read Inspiration and Incarnation?

Further, when Paul was wrote II Tim 3:16, while he certainly had OT books in mind, he most certainly didn’t mean the OT as you currently envision it, as it didn’t exist as an entity. You can go to Wikipedia and learn about how and when the OT was assembled. Most striking, is that while individual books were written before Paul’s day, they were kept on scrolls, sometimes scrolls with many books, and sometimes scrolls with single books (if they were long). There is quite a bit of a logical assumption to go from a collection of many scrolls to the edited and revised edition that has SOME of the books in what we today call the Old Testament. So, contextually, one can’t say.
All scripture = The Bible,
Or even
All scripture = The Old Testament.
Because we have no biblical statement of what the canon was. True, we have the acanonical Council of Trent, but you Evangelicals don’t even fully follow that because you reject the apocrypha, for which you earn the title of anathema (accursed).

Rather, I think 2 Tim 3:16 should be taken as a general statement. Instead of proof-texting the definition of scripture as the Old Testament, we should look at this as a definition.
“All god-breathed words are scripture, and are useful for doctrine, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness.” I recognize that I’m slightly a-contextualizing myself, because the previous verse has it written “from a child.”, so obviously it is things known before the time of Christ that lead to salvation thru faith in Christ, but as the OT doesn’t clearly teach about salvation through vicarious suffering of an embodied God who is the second person as part of a Triune Godhead, I have a hard time equating the current OT canon with what the author of 2 Tim had in mind. We should note, that irrespective of my prooftexting and interpretation of 2 Tim, it certainly doesn’t say what a lot of Evangelicals wish it said: “The Bible (as I hold it in the 20th Century) is the infallible, sufficient Word of God that teaches everything 100% even about creation, and even when it is translated incorrectly, it is still the word of God.” Book of Gellies, 1:1 You may think I’m being hyperbolic, but I’m not. I fully accept 2 Tim 3:16, but I don’t accept Book of Gellies 1:1.

I hope I have already responded to your question of 2 Peter. I believe the prophecy came in purity. But we have no scriptural promise that prophecies in purity would be written in purity or preserved in purity. I fully believe our society is constantly moving us away from God, making his revelations unclear, without His revelation to constantly clarify, we really do not have a hope of understanding His past revelation if we do not understand His current revelation. That is, we know God won’t lead us astray, but we also know scripture has passed through human hands, when it was written, when it was preserved and copied, and when it was translated. That does mean it wasn’t merely typewritten by the prophet, but rather interpreted from the mind of God to the mind of man, and that type of translation is not isomorphic. (For a defintion of isomorphism, I’m using the mathematical one. Get over it, I’m a nerd who thinks he’s smart!

Even more than arbitrarily dividing between inspired/non-inspired scriptures (or more correct/less correct scriptures), this LDS argument actually says that what is not written is “more inspired” than what is!

Not quite. The LDS position is that of an open canon. While writing something down doesn’t make it less true for LDS, neither does writing something down make it MORE true either. The revelation was true before it was revealed to the prophet, while it was revealed to the prophet, and after it was written and canonized. The question for the LDS is, “If God’s really speaking today, wouldn’t you want to hear what He says?” Too often, for Gellies, the answer is no. I can respect a “Yes if I really trusted He was speaking through your channels” more than a “God said everything He ever intended to 2000 years, and that’s why He stopped talking to men through prophets like He did through the entire history of the Bible.” So much for the “unchanging orthodox God” /end unhelpful jab

While the Bible certainly states nowhere that the worship of God originally came from henotheism, the text CERTAINLY states hints of henotheism where the simplest explanation isn’t a pained apologetic meshing the worldview of one writer with another, but of accepting a multiplicity of divinity that came to create man, “Let us create man in our image after our likeness” rather than, “Thus sayeth YHWH, I shall create man.” (Book of Gellies 2:1). That is why it is often the Angel of the Lord (not just YHWH only), who comes to speak with Abraham, and the Angel of the Lord who kills the firstborn on Passover. Have you read Magaret Barker’s “The great Angel?”

So when LDS adopt “mainstream” biblical scholarship on this matter, they are grabbing on to scholars’ speculations about various passages rather than the actual words themselves.

I hope I’ve made clear that this isn’t the official LDS viewpoint, which is really agnostic, but rather my attempts to make sense of the biblical data, rather than hiding behind either Mormon or Evangelical creeds that FORCE me to interpret the bible in a certain way.

For example, the patriarch Jacob blesses Joseph with the “blessings of the breasts and of the womb” (along with a list of many other blessings). So some extremely wise scholarship realizes that – aha! — “breasts and womb” just maybe could be the name of a goddess! Maybe “Breasts-and-Womb” was a consort of Jacob’s god!…or some such tomfoolery.

Considering how Jacob’s wife stole her father’s idol for good luck and Joseph owning and using a divining cup, I’m not sure how much tomfoolery it is. Let’s read the argument and decide the argument on its merit rather than accept an abiblical creed beforehand and force the interpretation through our predetermined bias, or prejudice. I’ve never heard that explanation before, but I’m not going to reject data just because I don’t like the conclusion. I’ll examine the data, and the assumption before throwing out the conclusion. That’s what it means to be a biblical scholar rather than an Evangelical apologist. (Ever read The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind?)

When LDS latch onto such speculations in order to provide credibility for their own belief in plural gods, they are essentially saying that speculative inferences attempting to read between the lines are more correct or inspired than the recorded scriptures, which positively reject such ideas.

This is not what I’ve done. I merely reject the post-biblical assumptions that you read back into the Bible. You assume “there can’t be contradictions” yet the text says that nowhere. You assume “every author had the same concept of God” yet the text says that nowhere, while the text never says the contrary either, it is up to each individual to judge the Biblical data, and for you to say otherwise is nothing more than setting up your own doctrinal test, which I suspect not even Priesthood of All Believers really grants you to do.

Why would God totally mislead everyone by allowing false things to be recorded in His Word and keeping the real truth a secret for millennia? What a strange view of God!

Um, you are aware that Christ was the fullness of the revelation of the Godhead, right, yet he wasn’t revealed for millennia as well? Or that the name of God wasn’t known by even His most trusted patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob)? It wasn’t until Sinai (according to one author of the Pentateuch, that we learn that the God of the Old Testament’s name was YHWH, a name that we don’t even know how to pronounce any more. In fact, why did God allow his infallible Bible to claim that circumcision, and Passover were to be eternal ordinances. Do Christians do these things today? No. One of their prophets even contradict the Word of God and say circumcision isn’t necessary any more. For shame. /end sounding like Evangelical rant.

Anyone without a theological dog in the fight will admit there are numerous contradictions in the Bible. We believe Paul was authorized to contradict the Law of Moses. We believe Peter was authorized to authoritatively contradict the Law of Moses. We believe it’s more important to know God by the name of Jesus rather than the ineffable, unknown name YHWH. My view is no stranger than yours, and it’ll be good if you recognize there are just as many problems with your view of your faith as there are with my view of mine.

Finally, this whole idea re: Israelite religion is essentially based upon an atheistic worldview, and I don’t see a way around it. If Israelite religion morphed from polytheism to henotheism to monotheism, than that religion is simply the product of evolution. If it is the product of evolution, then it is not real, and God is not real.

That is certainly a plausible philosophy and way of reconciling the data, but is by no means a deal breaker for me or anyone else who’s faith I trust. I don’t believe evolution disproves God, nor do I believe that God doesn’t use evolution. Sociologically He does. We no longer practice slavery, something allowed even under New Testament times, yet I think we all think we’re closer to God because we do not think we “own” other people. I simply reject the assumptions that lead to “believing anything evolves means there is no God.” I think you’ve listened to too many atheists, and they don’t own science, and they don’t own evolution. My God is great enough to exist above evolution.

So LDS are using a “God is not real; He evolved” line of logic in order to prove that “multiple gods actually exist.”

Here’s where your representation of Mormonism has gotten quite incorrect. There are just certain assumptions required of your logic that I don’t make, so you’ll need to be better about expressing those assumptions before I can respond to them.

I’ve posited, that the strict monotheism that many Evangelicals are fond of today doesn’t mesh well with all of the Biblical data. I’m OK with Evangelicals ignoring the parts that don’t fit easily, just so long as they aren’t dogmatic about how right they are because only they are fully biblical, even while they disregard biblical data.

Thus ends my very wordy, and verbose answer to your questions.

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July 2, 2009 - Posted by | Religion |

14 Comments »

  1. Great post!

    Comment by wounny | July 6, 2009 | Reply

  2. Hi PC,

    I feel grieved to see your take on the scriptures. While you covered many things in your post, this seems the most foundational to me. You seem to have adopted an unbelieving attitude about what Jesus and the apostles said about the Word of God. Let me explain what I mean.

    Paul told us that “all Scripture” is God-breathed and profitable for doctrine. What about Isaiah? Is it not profitable for doctrine? If “all Scripture” is profitable for doctrine, then why would Isaiah teach the very opposite of truth when it comes to the nature of God? You referred to Isaiah as “incomplete,” but we are not talking about incompleteness. Isaiah declares there is only one God, and LDS doctrine teaches there are many. These are diametrically opposed – not incomplete!

    As for the OT canon, there can be absolutely no doubt that when Paul referred to “all Scripture,” Isaiah and Genesis were both included. Both books are quoted repeatedly as scripture by Paul and the other NT writers.

    You protested that the Bible never says that the scriptures can’t be contradictory. I don’t think that’s true at all. We are told in II Peter 1:20-21 that OT prophecy is from God. It is not “of any private interpretation.” What does that mean? The meaning is defined for us by the next phrase: “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” The OT prophecies were not just a matter of “private interpretation” — of men speaking their own thoughts to other men. But if the prophecies (such as Isaiah) are a result of God the Holy Spirit moving holy men, then any supposed contradictions between scriptures are assuredly the fault of God. But we are told that “God cannot lie” and that “Thy word is truth” and that “Thy word is very pure.” So how can the God-breathed scriptures, which came about through men who spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, teach diametrically opposite doctrines about God?

    You cited the progressive revelation of God (e.g., Christ) in response to my question “Why would God totally mislead everyone by allowing false things to be recorded in His Word and keeping the real truth a secret for millennia?” But I was not speaking of matters of progressive revelation, in which God revealed more and more of Himself in fuller and fuller revelations. I was speaking of the idea that God would allow complete lies about His nature to be recorded in His Word! This idea essentially charges God with lying.

    Finally, a note about the idea that maybe the Bible was originally correct but has been hopelessly corrupted and not preserved: Jesus Christ used an Old Testament that was written long before His time. He quoted from David’s writings (attributing them to David, and not a later redactor!) and regarded David’s words as scripture even though David lived 1,000 years before Jesus’ time! He quoted from Moses’ writings (attributing them to Moses by name) and regarded them as scripture even though Moses lived 1,500 years before Jesus’ time. The apostles quoted from the Septuagint, using a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. Indeed, Paul once made a whole theological argument based upon the singular or plural of one word (Galatians 3:16)! Jesus and the apostles maintained an attitude of trust in authoritative scriptures, regardless of centuries of transmission or the translation from one language to another. In positing that the scriptures are hopelessly corrupt because of transmission or translation, one must take a different stance than Jesus and the apostles did.

    PC, to be honest, you spent a lot of this post complaining about evangelicals, presenting caricatures of what they believe, and using disrespectful language (i.e., “Gellies”). You spent very little interacting with the Word of God, and when you did, you admitted to “a-contextualizing” it. I truly care about you – not just because I am commanded to, but also because I truly like you. 🙂 I will be praying that you will confront the Scripture with your beliefs and let it (the Scripture) shape them.

    Comment by NChristine | July 8, 2009 | Reply

  3. NChristine:

    Could you please explain your logic.
    This is what I’m hearing from you, and I can’t make sense of it.

    1. Isaiah teaches strict single-person Monotheism,
    2. “Orthodoxy” teaches classical trinity, three persons, one ontological being, God in three persons.
    3. A complete “orthodox” understanding of God has three persons.
    4. Isaiah doesn’t have an orthodox understanding of God.
    5. Isaiah isn’t incomplete,

    These points are contradictory. Points 3&4 contradict point 5.

    Please help me understand your viewpoint better.

    Comment by psychochemiker | July 8, 2009 | Reply

  4. Yes, NChristine,

    You will have to be more clear about how you reconcile Isaiah’s strict monotheism with your current view of the Trinity. Isaiah can’t be “orthodox” by your standards without acknowledging the trinity in some fashion. Or can he?

    -Awaiting further clarification

    Comment by Tom | July 8, 2009 | Reply

  5. I don’t mean to barge in on this and I’m sure NChristine will have more to add, but the whole reason the doctrine of the Trinity developed was to faithfully explain the revelation that the one true God who had revealed Himself to the Jewish people as YHWH – had a Son! This was the shocking revelation of NT times. The doctrine of the Trinity was formed in order to faithfully interpret the revelation that God’s Son, a separate person from the Father is fully God and, according to all of Biblical revelation, there is only one true God.

    Comment by Jessica | July 8, 2009 | Reply

    • Jessica,
      Your insight is very welcome.

      That’s kind of what I was getting at. Isaiah doesn’t give us a complete understanding of God by either the LDS or Evangelical viewpoints. There’s more than one person in the strict Monotheistic God Isaiah was preaching.

      Thanks for coming.
      Thank you also for your post on spiritual highs and lows.

      Comment by psychochemiker | July 9, 2009 | Reply

  6. So Isaiah’s description of God is not the current orthodox trinitarian view because that was a revalation of the NT dispensation?

    Comment by Tom | July 9, 2009 | Reply

  7. Yes, I do believe that God has progressively revealed Himself to humanity. However, the revelation in the NT was not without foretelling from the OT. Isaiah had given many specific, detailed prophecies about Jesus. Tons of Jews have become believers in Yeshua by reading Isaiah’s Messianic prophecies. And the Trinity is not without foretelling. Isaiah is the one that told us the Messiah would be called “the mighty God” and “the everlasting Father” (9:6), and this in the context of Isaiah’s teaching that there is only one true God.

    Now if someone could show me some foretelling that the one true God would morph into a pantheon of Gods…

    Comment by Jessica | July 9, 2009 | Reply

    • Jessica,
      I certainly agree that there were premonitions and prophecies that Jesus’ life stand as witnesses of Him fulfilling. But, there certainly wasn’t any talk to a three-personed God. By today’s standards, Isaiah was incomplete. I’m not saying that today’s standards are correct, by the way, I just think most of us have agreed to use today’s standards to judge the Book of Mormon, and if that, to be fair we must also treat the Bible the same way.

      But [the Biblical view of] God morphed out of a pantheon and not into a Pantheon. I believe Isaiah was inspired, and he needed to teach more of a Unified character of God’s being. However, it appears obvious from the context, they he was doing this as polemic against those who believed in a more multiplicity in God [and their is united multiplicity in God].

      My only point, was to show that the strict monotheism of Isaiah isn’t in line with Orthodox Trinitarianism, and it must be softened a bit in order for Trinitarians to also affirm Isaiah. I’m OK with you’ll doing it. Obviously Mormons do the same thing. You all may do it to a lesser extent, but certainly it is the same form. That’s all.

      Comment by psychochemiker | July 9, 2009 | Reply

  8. I don’t feel that I am “softening” Isaiah at all. I completely affirm the monotheism of Isaiah. Isaiah’s monotheism includes a foretelling of the later revelation of Triunity, which is not a contradiction with monotheism. The Trinity is the only doctrine which equally embraces both the separateness of persons in the Godhead and the monotheistic teaching that there is only one divine Being. To emphasize the separateness of persons and deny monotheism is to affirm polytheism. To emphasize monotheism and reject the separateness of persons is to affirm modalism. The Trinity is the only doctrine that remains faithful to all of the revelations that God has given of Himself. The separateness of persons accounts for all the places where we see interaction between the Father, Spirit, and Son. The unity of one divine nature/Being accounts for all the passages that say there is only one God.

    While I agree with you that Isaiah’s inspired teachings were against polytheism, you seem to be saying that polytheism was the correct view. I agree that polytheism has been a popular belief since ancient times. I disagree that it’s the revelation God has given of Himself. What saith the prophets and apostles that He has sent? While we don’t agree on which prophets God has sent, we do agree on the ones prior to 1805 at least. And they were in agreement that there is only one true God.

    Comment by Jessica | July 9, 2009 | Reply

  9. Hi PC and Tom,

    You asked me about my logic re: Isaiah and monotheism. I agree with Jessica completely. However, I wasn’t attempting to discuss the nature of God in my comment. 🙂 Rather, I was backing up to what seems to me a much more foundational point: bibliology (the study of the Bible) rather than theology proper (the study of God). If we don’t have a proper view of the revelation being discussed, then it is much less likely we will come to a correct conclusion about what it says. The writer of Hebrews says of the ancient unbelieving Israelites, “the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it” (Heb. 4:2). So if we don’t believe God’s Word, then it will not profit us.

    But what are we supposed to believe about the Bible? How should we view it? As I began to describe above, there are a great many passages in the NT that shed light on how Jesus and the apostles viewed and treated the Word of God — including the transmitted, and in some cases translated, copies of Scripture they used. There are many other passages that show the NT writers’ inspired viewpoint on each others’ writings (Peter re: Paul’s writings, Paul re: Luke’s writings, etc.). Other passages show what the early church and the NT writers believed about the OT writings. And then there are the OT writers’ viewpoints on earlier OT writings (e.g., David’s view of the 500-year-old Law in Psalm 19 and Psalm 119). There are a great many passages relevant to the issue of how the Bible should be viewed…that is, how we should believe it and what we should believe about it.

    PC, since you are apparently the type of guy who will pick up Augustine if a friend encourages you to, then I am wondering if you would be the type of guy to take up another challenge. I would encourage you to develop a biblical bibliology — that is, an understanding of the Bible based upon the many passages that discuss the Scriptures, particularly Jesus’ and the apostles’ treatment of them. I would love to dig up a bunch of references to start off the search, though I am sure you could come up with many yourself. What do you think?

    Comment by NChristine | July 9, 2009 | Reply

  10. […] God, Jesus Christ, LDS, Mormonism, The Trinity at 4:43 am by Jessica My conversation on Psychochemiker’s post on the Trinity made me think of a hypothetical question that I would like to ask my non-LDS Christian friends. (My […]

    Pingback by The Progressive Revelation of Our Triune God « I Love Mormons | July 9, 2009 | Reply

  11. If only more people would read this!

    Comment by Carlton Lester | May 27, 2010 | Reply

  12. If only more than 99 people would hear this..

    Comment by Alexander Crawford | May 31, 2010 | Reply


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