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January 28, 2021 8:45 pm
I'm prepared to engage women missionaries may not work. Perhaps the book is 101 will help Mormonism 101. Published by Baker at your favorite Christian bookstore .1 examines the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints from a respected viewpoint on Mormonism sponsored by Mormonism research ministry since 1979 Mormonism research ministry has been dedicated to equipping the body of Christ with answers regarding the Christian faith in a manner that expresses gentleness and respect. And now, your host for today's viewpoint on Mormonism hoping you're having a very pleasant Friday. Welcome to this edition of viewpoint on Mormonism on your host Bill McKeever Felder director Mormonism research ministry and with me today is Dr. Rob Bowman, a good friend of ours here at this ministry and I wanted to bring Rob in to discuss this topic of the Trinity based primarily on an article by Dr. Daniel Peterson defending the faith where the disagreement lies that was published in desert retinues of the church.
New section on April 19, 2018. Let's talk about this today. One of the phrases that I hear thrown out by Mormon scholars is social Trinitarian is I remember hearing a scholar, while a Mormon scholar while back using that to prove that Mormons do in fact believe in the Trinity, but he qualified it by using the phrase social Trinitarian is him could you explain to our listeners what that means yes David Paulson is the LDS scholar that I think more than any other, has press this point to claiming that the LDS understanding of the Godhead is comparable to what is called social Trinitarian is the term social. Trinitarianism refers to a particular variety or interpretation of the Orthodox Christian doctrine of the Trinity in which the three persons. The father son and Holy Spirit are understood to be characterized by what people would call distinct centers of consciousness or distinct identities of being very interpersonally and relationally distinct from one another model of the Trinity in this particular interpretation is that the three persons are very much like three human persons in relationship with one another, but then their past that has to be heavily qualified.
So rather than thinking of the three persons as three modes of being or three ways that God is God. They are three genuine persons in relationship with one another relationship of love for one another of mutual respect and knowing and fellowship. Those kinds of things, especially the idea of the Trinity, being a unity of love, of loving relations among persons that is a basic characteristic of social trinitarianism, but Paulson argues that the Mormon concept of the father son and Holy Ghost is somehow a variety of or very similar to social trinitarianism and I want to make it very clear that that is not the case. Christian theologians debate the merits of a social Trinitarian approach to the doctor, the Trinity, but even those who reject it should understand that the Mormon concept of the Godhead is radically different from anything that goes by the name social trinitarianism. So another words because they again define these words in this understanding so differently you couldn't even use that term to say that somehow we have an agreement. That's right, you can't do that Mormon the Mormon concept of the Godhead of the three personages of the father son and Holy Ghost are not legitimately comparable to or comparable to the father, son and Holy Spirit in social Trinitarian thought, they're not even similar but Paulson is not trying to deny this idea of what we would call tritheism with the father is a God the son is a God the Holy Ghost is a God.
Three gods within one Godhead is not denying that when he uses that phrase social trinitarianism. Actually, I think Paulson ends up trying to at least finesse that issue of them being three gods away and doesn't like that formulation so he sunk. He's clearly uncomfortable with it. I think Paulson I need to say this because otherwise I don't think I'm being fair to him. Paulson is I would describe him as taking a revisionist approach to Mormon theology in which she's trying to peel away or removed from Mormon doctrine certain elements of its traditional understanding as taught by Joseph Smith and everybody fell since then in leadership that Paulson finds problematic.
For example, Paulson is not prepared to go along with the idea that the father became a God through some kind of process he wants to say God is just always been God. Well I'm glad he wants to say that, but that's not Mormonism. Even though he's a Mormon theologian what he does as he tries to finesse the way Joseph Smith statements on the matter in order to to pull those out and remove those obstacles to accepting the Mormon conception of God, even after he does that, though he ends up with something that is radically different from social trinitarianism. So even Paulson's view isn't social. Trinitarianism so here again we have a problem you have Mormon scholars in this case, Mr. Paulson, Dr. Paulson taking a position that you have just said doesn't really fall in line with what the church has historically said on this topic of the Godhead, and many times, a lot of these scholars are accepted as representing when they speak and write Mormon teachings, but as you just mentioned he doesn't seem to cancel how serious should we as Christians take statements from people like this when they really do not have the authority to speak for the church. Well yes and not just to clarify something. I think what Peterson says in his article that we discussed in the previous installments hear what he says is pretty accurate as far as what Mormonism teaches, he just doesn't know into the detail necessary to help readers understand the differences accurately but he he says he's not misrepresenting Mormonism.
I think Paulson does. I think Paulson is trying to reshape Mormon theology to be less heretical. It still is heretical is trying to make it less heretical and the other Mormon thinker that does this is Blake Ostler, Blake Ostler and David Paulson are the main advocates of this kind of reformed Mormon conception of Godhead that is different from what Joseph Smith taught different from what Brigham Young and the other LDS presidents down the line, taught what was I don't see Peterson to my knowledge anyway. Going along with that so there is a difference there. And that's kind of interesting to note that even Mormon scholars or theologians disagree among themselves on such basic questions as has God always been God. You think this would be something that would have been nailed down. After almost 2 centuries, but it isn't. You would think so.
However, as you mentioned you got all these mixed messages going out there and you have, for instance, the book of Mormon teaching a Moron I 18 that God was everlasting to everlasting.
That sounds pretty similar to what we read in Psalm 90 verse two yet then you have Joseph Smith coming out later on say we've imagined. And suppose that God was God from all eternity.
I will refute that idea.
Take away the veil so that you may see. So the obvious question for us trying to understand this teaching within the context of Mormonism's will, which Joseph Smith, do we really believe here because it certainly doesn't sound like they are a green on this concept and if in fact there, God became a God at some point in time, and as you mentioned, he's preceded by another God. Further back if in fact a Mormon would say that if they be if they were to become a God that they would never be more powerful in the God that they are now worshiping the one they call Elohim with that also makes sense that Elohim is not as powerful as the God that preceded him going clear back into eternity past well see here we get into another problem in Mormon theology.
It's a problem of their making, not ours. And that is that Mormonism has always had this tension between and in some cases it was a literal argument between those Mormons who maintain that when you become a God, you arrive in you are done you have you have arrived at the top you can't go any higher. You can't be any better, you can't know anymore except you can know what happens in the future as it comes along. But you can't become any more powerful or any greater than you already are. There are those Mormons have taken that position and their other moments of taken the position that know there's always more progress to be made. There's always more power to be gained. There's always more greatness, more glory, more everything to to to progress in and so the gods that preceded us will always be ahead of us, whereas in the other view is when you become a God, you will have arrived at the same stature of power and glory and knowledge and wisdom and everything else that God the father has you have the same attributes the same qualities. Now you'll still be his child. So you won't be over him and maybe in some sense, you won't be equal to him in the authority but you'll be equal to him in power and greatness.
And I think that's the position that the LDS church eventually settled on a you see this in gospel principles.
For example, that you can become like God and the implication is when you when you arrive you have the same characteristics that God hasn't and he's permanently receive those he's permanently attained those and there's nowhere else to go. I mean if you're omnipotent, you're omnipotent right so there's always been that tension in Mormonism and the reason why there's been that tension and we keep need to keep bringing people back to this the reason why there's that tension in Mormonism is that Joseph left behind a legacy of theologically incoherent revelations in which he progressed in his own theology from a monotheist in the book of Mormon and the early revelations in doctrine and covenants to an outright polytheist at the end of the doctrine covenant revelations, and especially in those two sermons in 1844 and so when he died he left behind. This group of revelations that they all had to be accepted by Mormons because they were all from the founding prophet but they don't agree with one another. It took about two generations for the Mormon church to work up a synthesis where they could say yeah we agree with everything that Joseph Smith said, and this is how we put together and it was put together by people like James Talmadge and BH Robertson, Joseph F. Smith. This is what Mormons today, mostly believe is the theology of those early 20th century theologians and church leaders, not the teachings of Joseph Smith that don't even agree within themselves, but they agree with the synthesis that was developed by Talmadge and Roberts and Smith in the early 20th century swim.
Joseph Smith said these things, they had to be accepted because he is a prophet but after he died.
The Mormon said well see how do we put that together with this.
That's what they've done. They try to come up with a synthesis and that's why you see this apparent confusion at the end of Dan Peterson's article while they one God are three gods. The answer has to be both because Joseph Smith said both. But you can't have both of those statements be true without some serious changing of what you mean by God in midsentence we be talking with Dr. Rob Bowman. He is the author of nearly 60 articles and over a dozen books dealing with theological issues, including the Trinity.
If you want to know more of what Rob has written. I encourage you to go to Robert Bowman.net that's his website Robert Bowman.net Rob, thank you for your insight regarding this topic.
You have certainly I'm sure helped a lot of Christians better understand where there more than friends are coming from my pleasure. Thank you for listening you would like new information regarding his research ministry. We encourage you to visit our website www.mrm.org you can request a free newsletter Mormonism research. We hope you join us again as we look at and viewpoint