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In the Beginning: Creatio Ex Nihilo, Pt. 1

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June 20, 2021 7:30 am

In the Beginning: Creatio Ex Nihilo, Pt. 1

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June 20, 2021 7:30 am

In this episode, the scions of light tackle a topic that an LDS missionary listener named Jeremy asked them to discuss. The doctrine of creation, and whether God created ex materia (from existing materials) or ex nihilo (from nothing), is a key point of departure between Mormonism and Christianity. Here we discuss how it affects other doctrines and practices.

You can read Paul Copan's (Christian) defense of the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo against the claim that it was a later development in church history here.

William Lane Craig's (Christian) article "Creation ex nihilo: Theology and Science" can be read here. His article "Creatio ex nihilo: A Critique of the Mormon Doctrine of Creation" is here.

Blake Ostler's (Mormon) response to Craig and Copan "The Doctrine Of Creation Ex Nihilo Was Created Out Of Nothing: A Response To Copan And Craig" can be read here.

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You're entering Outer Brightness. Hey guys, Michael the ex-Mormon apologist here. We had a special request from one of our fireflies who is currently out serving an LDS mission and asked us to discuss Creation Ex Nilo.

So if you're listening, Jeremy, this is for you. To be honest, when I was a member of the church, I didn't think Creation Ex Nilo versus Creation Ex Materia was that big of a deal. I didn't consider it a make-it-or-break-it doctrine when it came to deciding between Mormonism or Evangelical Christianity. However, in recent years I made friends with another young missionary who convinced me that the distinction is actually pretty important because it trickles down and plays a role in all our theological differences. So without further ado, let's get into it.

Let me ask you a question first here, Matthew. Was Creation Ex Materia a big deal to you as a Latter-day Saint? Did you think Orthodox Christianity was missing out big time by not believing in it? It wasn't something that I thought was a major part of my testimony in my faith, but I found it to be something that I thought was very fascinating and it felt kind of like a piece of hidden knowledge or something that is part of the great apostasy that had been kind of lost over the centuries. So one of the chapters in the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 131, that's kind of where part of this doctrine of creation out of matter rather than out of nothing.

It's kind of partially tied to that. In verse 7 in D&C 131 it says, there is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure and can only be discerned by purer eyes.

We cannot see it, but when our bodies are purified, we shall see that it is all matter. So there's this idea that in LDS thought that everything that exists, whether spirit or material, physical, it's all made of matter. And so I found that kind of interesting to me as an engineering student when I was still preparing for my mission and coming home from my mission, I thought, oh, that's neat. That kind of obeys the laws of thermodynamics because in the laws of thermodynamics you can't create something from nothing and you can't really destroy something.

You can just break things down or combine them and change them in different forms. So it kind of made sense to me in my brain that way. So I thought that kind of was interesting to me in an intellectual fashion. But in terms of my testimony, I don't think that was really a core part of my faith, but I did find it interesting and it kept my attention and it made me think in different ways. And it didn't really make sense to me the idea that God could create something from nothing. So I did kind of feel like Christians were missing the mark when they believed that God created everything from nothing. Yeah, I mean, I was pretty much right there with you where I didn't think it was a big deal, but I did kind of take that first law, right, where it's like matter cannot be destroyed or be created. And I'm like, well, look, we're the more scientific, the more scientifically sound position, the more logical position. So I did kind of take that as we're right and they're wrong, but it's not a make it or break it deal.

It's not something to be horribly ashamed of being wrong about. But what do you think, Paul? Yeah, I think it was something that I kind of held to be important because of what Mormonism teaches about intelligences. And we'll get into that a little bit more later. So without a doctrine of creation ex materia for Mormonism, then a lot of the other theology kind of falls apart.

Yeah, I agree with that. And I think when we get a little bit further into this discussion, we'll see that there's a lot of pieces that just don't fit together so nicely as it sounds when you first start talking about creation ex materia. First, it does sound like a real logical thing, but there's a lot of details that come into it, which we'll get into. Paul, in your opinion, what does a creation done with intelligence that is actually made out of matter, what does that do to God's eternal status? Well, I mean, first of all, it means that God is not the only eternal being, right?

So if you're going to take the Latter-day Saint teaching that before we were born into mortality, we were spirit children of God, and even prior to that, we were autonomous intelligences, then you're basically equating each of us with God, which is exactly what Joseph Smith taught in the King Follett sermon, right? That the mind or the intelligence of man is co-equal or co-eternal with God. And so what that does for God's eternality is, like I said, it means that each and every human being ever born is eternal as well. No beginning, no end, which is something that the Bible, a status that the Bible retains for God alone as having no beginning and no end. But not only that, it also places the universe itself, right?

The created universe, the sun, the moon, the stars, galaxies, it places all of that co-eternal with God as well. So yeah, it's a big deal what that does. Let me just check my notes to see what else I wanted to say on this. Yeah, so there's a book I want to read a little bit from. It's Christian Theology, an Introduction by Alastair McGrath. And he talks a little bit about the development of the doctrine of creation ex nihilo.

And I think it's something interesting to kind of touch on. So let me grab that quote, and I'll give it a quick introduction as well. So I was just kind of brushing up this week on what Latter-day Saints kind of tend to say about creation ex nihilo. And if you go on the Gospel app, is that what it's called?

Gospel Library app, I think is what their app is called now. But if you search for ex nihilo, you don't come up with a whole lot. You come up with a couple of references in the recent Gospel Topics essay on becoming like God, and you come up with a talk called The Creation that Russell M. Nelson gave before he was the president and prophet of the LDS church. And I remember reading that talk, man, maybe 10, 15 years ago. And he talks about he kind of denies the doctrine of creation ex nihilo. And they do that as well in the Gospel Topics essay. And one of the claims that they make is that this is a doctrine that comes to Christianity after the Bible, right? And so the claim is made that the Bible doesn't have a doctrine of creation ex nihilo, and that the doctrine in Christian theology was developed in response to the Gnostics. And so the way that's argued in the Gospel Topics essay is that they refer back to a book on the creation ex nihilo by Gerhard May, who was a German theologian. And he wrote a lengthy book in which he argues just that point, that this doctrine was developed as a reaction to Gnosticism, which is a dualistic theology that early Christianity dealt with.

It's based on platonic thought, which has the universe being eternal. So, Alastair immigration kind of touches on this, he says, he says this, for Gnosticism, in its, in most of its significant forms, a sharp distinction was to be drawn between the God who redeemed humanity from the world, and a somewhat inferior deity often termed the demiurge, who created that world in the first place. The Old Testament was regarded by the Gnostics as dealing with this lesser deity, whereas the New Testament was concerned with the Redeemer God. As such, belief in the God as Creator and in the authority of the Old Testament came to be interlinked at an early stage.

Of the early writers to deal with this theme, Irenaeus of Lyons is of particular importance. A distinct debate centered on the question of creation ex nihilo, out of nothing. It must be remembered that Christianity took root and then expanded in the eastern Mediterranean world of the first and second centuries, which was dominated by various Greek philosophies. The general Greek understanding of the origin of the world could be summarized as follows. God is not to be thought of as having created the world. Rather, God is thought of as an architect, who ordered pre-existent matter. Matter was already present within the universe and did not require to be created.

It needed to be given a definite shape and structure. God was therefore thought of as the one who fashioned the world from this already existing matter. Thus, in one of his dialogues, Timaeus, Plato developed the idea that the world was made out of pre-existent matter, which was fashioned into the present form of the world. This idea was taken up by most Gnostic writers, who were here followed by individual Christian theologians such as Theophilus of Antioch and Justin Martyr. I think it's important to point out that the way this argument goes is that because there were some Christian writers who took up this idea, like Justin Martyr, then the argument goes that, oh, see, the Christians didn't initially believe in creation ex nihilo.

But the point I want to make of this is kind of twofold. One is that the charge that I often heard growing up as a Latter-day Saint or read from some of their most studied theologians, like James E. Talmage and others, B.H. Roberts, is that Christian theology was corrupted by Greek philosophy. And that's why you have the doctrines of the Trinity, the doctrines of creation ex nihilo. But what you see here with this doctrine in particular is that it's actually Latter-day Saint theology with regards to creation that is agreeing with Gnostic thought, that is agreeing with Greek philosophy. So although early Christianity bumped up against that in that Greek culture and reacted to it, it was a reaction to it. It was not an acceptance of Greek philosophy in this case. And the other thing to remember is that just because there were some Christian theologians who may have taken up and believed the doctrine of creation ex materia, like Justin Martyr, it's important to keep in mind that he was also trained in philosophy, in Greek philosophy. So it's not surprising necessarily that he would take that up and believe it. But the doctrine of creation ex nihilo flows from scripture.

And we'll get into that more later. But the doctrine of salvation is a definite truth that it flows from scripture. And so to try to make the argument that well, there were some Christian writers in the second and third century, late second and early third century, who didn't seem to believe in creation ex nihilo, therefore it's not in the Bible. That's akin to saying, well, the doctrine of salvation by grace alone never really came about so explicitly as it did in the Reformation. Therefore, it's not biblical.

Those two things don't follow. The doctrines are either in the Bible or they're not. And I would argue that the doctrine of creation ex nihilo can be found in the Bible, even if some early Christian theologians presented the opposite view.

Yeah, that is really interesting. I like how you said that the earliest church is the one that is, you know, kind of embracing these Gnostic ideas. It almost seems like it's more of a restoration of Gnosticism. And with the the whole Greek philosophy, you know, it's kind of interesting because Paul does say, you know, the message of the cross to the to the Greeks, it's foolishness, right? And that whole gospel message is influenced by creation ex nihilo, you know, so clearly something different was being taught. I mean, they wouldn't have thought it was so foolish if it if it just blended in with all of their philosophies already. Matthew, I saw you mentioned you nodding quite a bit while he was talking.

So I'm guessing you've come up against some of these arguments before. Yeah, I was actually reading an article from the 1989 January Ensign, where they're talking about all the restoration of all the major doctrines through Joseph Smith. And they're saying the exact same things that Paul were saying.

This is written by Donald Q. Cannon, which I'm guessing is George Q. Cannon's son, Larry E. Dahl and John W. Welch. And they were saying those same things that they were saying that original Christianity taught creation from ex materia from something, and Christians later corrupted it through Greek philosophy, let's see, two currents of thought may be largely responsible for the change in traditional Christian doctrine, Gnostic ideas and Greek philosophy, both Gnostics and Greek philosophers taught that only the spirit is pure and that body and matter are corrupt. It was therefore inconceivable for them to believe that material things can proceed from spiritual things. Because of such ideas, ex nihilo creation became a pillar of faith in traditional Christianity. This commonly accepted view of creation was what Joseph Smith challenged as he initiated a return to the view of earlier Christians.

That's the end of that quote. So, yeah, this isn't something that we're just coming up with by talking to Latter-day Saints or something we heard. This is something they actually published in their Ensign, in their official church magazine.

So these are things they've actually said. And what's funny, though, too, is like all you're saying that it's kind of interesting that it's also a little bit of projection, because when you read other creation myths, like you read the Egyptian myths and you read the Greek myths and even Plato and Lucretius, I think his name was, they all believe that creation came out of pre-existing universe or pre-existing chaotic matter. You look at all these different creation myths and I think even the Greek myths, they said that the universe was originally like a river or a sky or something. And so then everything was kind of organized into what it is now. So it's kind of funny that they pin us as being the Gnostics or having this Gnostic view of creation, when you could just as easily point them to ancient Egyptian or ancient Sumerian or ancient Greek ideas of creation.

So it's just kind of funny that it's like the accusation is against us, but you could just as easily use it against them. So yep. Yeah, since we're kind of talking a little bit about Gnosticism, if you think about the Latter Day Saint view of cosmology, right, that there was a council in heaven in which the plan of happiness was presented. And that plan was presented by Jehovah, right, who would come to earth as Jesus Christ, according to Latter Day Saint theology. And then a contrary view or a contrary plan was presented by Lucifer, who would be cast out of heaven and become Satan, according to Latter Day Saint theology. And his contrary plan was that he would ensure that every spirit child of God would return to live with God again.

And he would force them, right. And there was a battle over agency, a war in heaven over free agency. If you think about that, the Gnostics, as I read from Alistair McGrath, the Gnostics believed that there was this demiurge, right, this lower deity that created the evil world. And the Christian Gnostics, Valentinus and others, they equated that demiurge with the God of the Old Testament.

And so the Old Testament was not, the Old Testament God was not the God that they worshiped. And so if you think about, so for Gnostics, there's this dualism, right, there's this eternal battle between good and evil, right. It's not the Christian view that God created man, God created angels, Satan rebelled as an angel, right. It's rather the view that there is this co-equal evil force in continual battle against God. And as I think through Latter Day Saint theology, kind of holistically, right, if you say, okay, everyone who was ever born was an intelligence, an autonomous being before God created them spirit children, and then created them mortal. If that's true, if that's the way things are, then what you have is a Lucifer or a Satan who is co-equal with God. So you're almost back in form to the Gnostic teaching that there's this dualistic, co-eternal battle between good and evil. I don't think a Latter Day Saint theologian could claim that, well, God is all-powerful over Lucifer, if Lucifer is an eternal autonomous being. Yeah, so I'll stop there because I know we'll touch on more of that later, but just wanted to point that out. Yeah, and just to play devil advocate here, I think that a Latter Day Saint probably would say that yes, God has power over Lucifer, maybe, but not over evil as a wider whole in the universe, because there's always going to be somebody in that role, in the Lucifer's role, once he's put away for eternity, like there's still going to be evil.

But yeah, one of the things I want to touch on too, because you said that there's basically this duality, there's always good, there's always evil. And just talking about that question, does creation ex materia do something to God's eternal status? And I think it's very hard to even say that God is eternally God, if everything's created ex materia, because that means that at one point, God was an intelligence, an autonomous intelligence, who had to be formed by a higher being, otherwise he wouldn't exist.

And he had no free agency until it was given to him. And it's hard to say that some sort of being in that form could really be God. So there was a point where he was not God. Do you guys agree with that?

Yeah, I think you're, I think you're spot on there. And when I when I've had this conversation with Latter Day Saints, and asked them, you know, how do you how do you account for how God the Father became God, right, because they're, they're kind of shying away from the teachings of King Follett. They're shying away from the teachings of Joseph Smith in the Sermon in the Grove, where he explicitly taught that the father had a father and so on back and a grandfather and all of that, which you were just kind of talking about, Michael. And the out that they kind of go to now is that, well, maybe God the Father maybe God the Father is the first God to have traversed the path of exaltation, right?

But that doesn't really get you anywhere. Because, you know, you were saying, well, I think they would just say, well, of course, God the Father has power over Lucifer, but he doesn't necessarily have power over evil in the universe, right? Well, if you're going to say that God the Father Elohim is the first to traverse the path of exaltation, what is, you know, what is to stop Lucifer from doing the same, right? They say that he's cast down and that he'll never receive a mortal body. But if, if Elohim figured it out and is the first to do it, why couldn't Lucifer figure it out too?

You see what I mean? So it doesn't really get you anywhere. Another thing too, because I've never actually heard the claim that Elohim was the first to traverse. I've heard that maybe the Father is the first God, but I think the only consistent position to take there is actually the Christian position that the Father was never created and was always God and never had to go through a period of going to an earth. Because the second you say that Elohim went to an earth and had to progress, well, who was tempting him then? Because that says that there had to be an evil being tempting him before there ever was a God. And whose atonement was he using if he was the first to undergo that?

I mean, is that saying that he was completely sinless or I've never heard that before. So that's pretty interesting. Yeah, I don't, I don't know that they go into all that detail. I think they're just trying to, they're trying just to back away from King Follett and the sermon and the grove. But they're also trying to maintain creation ex materia, right? Because Joseph Smith clearly taught that we are all, we were all intelligences. So yeah, I mean, that's why I say it doesn't really get them anywhere because really, it places them almost at the Christian position, right? To say that Elohim is the first God, right? But at the same time, if we are to become like him, it's a pattern that we have to follow, right? So they have to maintain that he followed some type of path that we're going to follow as well as a pattern, right? And they're always quoting Christ as saying, I can do this, I can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father do, and they'll say, Yeah, it's because the Father went through the same, the exact same thing. Right. But then, to get out of the, to get out of the charge of, you know, there being other gods prior to Elohim, that's where they get, that's where they get, that's kind of where they go is, Oh, well, he was the first to do it.

It's a tightrope, for sure. Yeah. For them to be, to be walking on. Matthew, do you have any other thoughts on that?

Yeah, it was a good discussion. I've talked to a lot of Latter-day Saints that have tried to kind of reinterpret the King Paul discourse to try to make it sound like Joseph Smith wasn't really saying that God the Father hadn't always been God, that it was kind of talking more about Jesus and how, you know, when you look at Philippians chapter two, it says that he emptied himself and he took the form of a servant. So they're, they're, they try to use that kind of equation that they're saying, well, it's not talking about God the Father, it's talking about Jesus and how he humiliated himself to become man. It's not like he gave up his deity, but he took the form of a man. So he kind of gave up his exalted status and I'm like, okay, but that's just Christian orthodoxy. That's not what Latter-day Saint prophets and apostles have taught for decades. And I'm like, so you're basically admitting that if that's the case, then the King Paul discourse has been completely misinterpreted by every LDS leader in the past hundred, whatever years.

And he said, yeah, probably. So, you know, it's like, you, you've either got to throw your leaders under the bus to, to accept Christian orthodoxy or you go full in, full in, but then at that point you've got serious issues. So it's kind of a, it's a tricky situation. Yeah. And the other challenge there, Matthew, is that if they're going to take that road, they basically have to pretend that Joseph Smith didn't preach the sermon in the Grove a few weeks later in which he more explicitly said, there's a father God and a grandfather God and on back in an unending chain.

Yeah. So speaking of tricky situations, You're listening to outer brightness, a podcast for post-Mormons who are drawn by God to walk with Jesus rather than turn away. Outer brightness, outer brightness, outer brightness.

There's no weeping and wailing and mashing of teeth here, except when Michael's hanger that is, hanger that is, hanger that is. We were all born and raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, more commonly referred to as the Mormon faith. All of us have left that religion and have been drawn to faith in Jesus Christ based on biblical teachings. The name of our podcast, outer brightness, reflects John 1, 9, which calls Jesus the true light, which gives light to everyone. We have found life beyond Mormonism to be brighter than we were told it would be. And the light we have is not our own.

It comes to us from without, thus outer brightness. Our purpose is to share our journeys of faith and what God has done in drawing us to his son. We have conversations about all aspects of that transition, the fears, challenges, joys, and everything in between.

We're glad you found us and we hope you'll stick around. One of the things Latter-day Saints are really enthusiastic about is to go around saying that we are literal children of God. In fact, I remember teaching countless lessons as a missionary to new investigators and this would be one of the very first things that I would try to tell them is we are literally God's children and he cares about us.

So I'm going to kind of ask you this first, Matthew, but kind of in regards to everything else that we've talked about as far as being intelligent and being formed out of that intelligence, is it really possible for us to be literal children of God? Well, you have to start off with how do you define who God is or what it means to be God. And it seems like that's where we start off with completely different definitions as Bible-believing Christians versus Latter-day Saints. So it seems like, I'm trying to remember how I would have defined it as a Latter-day Saint. A God is basically someone who is an exalted, celestialized being. And so this being has achieved exaltation, they've achieved the fullness of salvation.

And there are, Bruce Omerkonk, he said in his Mormon doctrine, he said there's an infinite number of these exalted beings. And so when you think about it that way, by their own definition, you could create a God, I suppose. But when you define it in the historical Orthodox Christian position that God is eternal, is the only being that has self-existence within himself, is unchanging.

He's independent. He doesn't require anything for sustenance or for existence. Then there's no way you can create a God because God is uncreated. So if you were to try to create a God, it by definition would not be God because God by definition is uncreated. So I think it really just depends on how you define your terms in terms of what you think God is. And I think since we base our beliefs on what God has said in his word, that there's no God before or after him, that you cannot create a God, there's no God that's like him. There are gods, Elohim or sons of God that are in terms of heavenly beings, heavenly entities, but they're more like spiritual created beings that are subservient to God. But in terms of who God is and what he's like, he says that he doesn't know anyone that's even close to who he is. This is Isaiah chapters 44 through 46 in particular. So yeah, I think I've kind of run around in circles, but yeah, it basically depends on how you define what God is.

So in that sense, I think by our definition, we can't be literal children of God, because if we are literal offsprings of God, we would be little gods, but since gods can't be created, then that's just not possible. Yeah, yeah. Really good feedback on that. What do you think, Paul? Yeah, I think Matthew's spot on. The challenge to a Latter-day Saint is specifically Joseph Smith's statement in the King Phala sermon, that the mind of the intelligence or the mind of man is co-equal or co-eternal with God. There's various ways that Latter-day Saint theologians and scholars have tried to define what Joseph Smith and what LDS scripture means by intelligence, whether it's from the King Phala sermon or from the book of Abraham chapter three. Book of Abraham chapter three seems to present intelligences, plural, as autonomous entities. I saw the noble and great ones is what the book of Abraham says.

And just as an aside there, my patriarchal blessing says I was one of those noble and great ones prior to coming here and that I was instrumental in casting Lucifer from heaven. So Latter-day Saint theology definitely seems to consider intelligences as maybe akin to spirits in some ways. But when you have this idea that matter, there's no, what's the DNC passage you quoted Matthew earlier?

There's no immaterial matter. When you have that idea combined with this idea of intelligence, I don't follow those Latter-day Saint thinkers who have tried to define intelligence as an amorphous mass of eternal matter from which spirit children were created. I don't know what that would mean on Latter-day Saint cosmology. And I think most Latter-day Saints, when they think of what their doctrine and teaching is on us being literal children, is that we're literal spirit offspring. What the mechanism is for that isn't quite clear, especially if Elohim is an exalted physical being.

So I think, Matt, I think Michael, you've raised this point in a prior episode. How does a physical being create a spirit being? How does a physical couple, a mother and a father, God, create a spiritual being? So yeah, the whole idea of us being literal children of God, I don't know where that comes from.

I would love to hear a Latter-day Saint theologian explain that mechanism to me, taking into account everything that's taught about intelligences. Yeah, I think the only thing that comes to my mind is, I think it's in the Acts where Paul is quoting the poet saying, even as your own poets have said, we are the offspring, you are the offspring of God. And offspring is typically a pretty strong word for literal children. It doesn't actually come out and say it.

And that's the only place I can think of. And I've raised this a number of times in articles and probably here on the podcast where it doesn't make sense for two physical beings to create a spiritual offspring. And it doesn't make sense that that offspring already existed before you even created them. I mean, that's basically, if they're eternal and Mormonism is true, that means that if I were to go to the celestial kingdom somehow, which is pretty unlikely, that my spirit children already exist in some form, even though I've not been sealed or any of that.

Which means that they cannot possibly have both, you know, like any given person, they cannot have both the father and the mother's DNA in it, because there's freedom of choice and you don't know who's going to get hooked up with who. So how can they be spirit children? Now on that note, one thing that did come to my mind, and this is just putting on my Mormon hat again, but when we create children on earth, we are using pre-existent materials. You know, our genes are forming another child, but those genes are inside of us. It's not something outside of us that we are creating to be literal children.

So I do think it's very illogical and it's very, I think it's very I think it's very problematic to come out and say that we are literal children of God because really not just can we not say that we're literally his children, but the other thing is it doesn't even seem right to say that we're his children, because we've always existed, we're eternal, and I'm thinking that means that we're equal with God, wouldn't you say? Yeah, it is interesting that it's kind of giving a different definition of what it means to be a child. It's like kind of like how LDS believe that our spirit bodies pre-exist, our physical bodies, our physical forms. So they're taking a spiritual entity and basically clothing it with flesh, and now you're now you're their parent, and it's kind of the same thing with God the Father being our spiritual parent. He's taking pre-existing intelligences and reforming them, reshaping them into spiritual bodies, and now he's their parent. So it's kind of like a totally different idea of what it means to be a parent. It's like taking something that already exists, like adding something to it or reshaping it or changing it, and then it's something new now, and that's how you're the parent. So it's a strange, when you think about it that way, it kind of makes sense in their own logic and the internal logic it kind of makes sense, but when you look at it from the outside it's kind of weird. Yeah, so it's kind of like when I take some fruits and apple juice and blend them together and make a smoothie, and I'm that smoothie's parent, and then I drink it. It's kind of kind of twisted when you think about it, huh? Yeah, I haven't thought about it that way. Yeah, I'm never going to be able to eat a home-cooked meal again now that I know that that's my offspring. So when you say you're going to drop the kids off at the pool, it's literal.

Anyways, moving on. Okay, I'm going to throw this question to you first, Matthew. Kind of on the problem of evil, if God can only rearrange pre-existing material, can he truly eradicate evil?

Yeah, I don't think he can. It goes back to what Paul was saying at the beginning of the discussion for the radio segment, is that if God created, if God didn't create from nothing, that people already existed. And I've actually heard LDS use this argument. They say that God, in Christianity, God is complicit in evil because he creates us from nothing. And so since evil exists, he is accountable for creating evil. But in their view, or in some LDS's view, since we existed as intelligences and we have free will and free will can't be stopped and God gives us free will and protects that free will, well, God is completely hands off. He has no complicity in evil existing. So they would say that that takes care of the problem of God being of being accountable for evil or why evil exists, which is called the Odyssey.

But then you get into what Paul was saying earlier about this. It is a very Gnostic idea that evil and good are just things that always exist, and that they're just constantly combating each other. And there's no real clear winner, even if God wins, then there still has to be opposition in all things. So evil still must exist. And if you believe it's one eternal round, where we are supposed to become celestialized beings, and we have our wives, and we have spirit children, and they are to fill our creations, our worlds, then yeah, I don't think evil ever can or will be defeated.

It's something that just will continually exist for eternity. All right. Do you agree with that, Paul?

I do. Yeah, strongly. And to maybe try to put a finer point on it, trying to think how to phrase this. So Matthew was describing this idea or this challenge that Latter-day Saints make, right, that God is somehow complicit in evil if he creates ex nihilo. But I don't think Mormons are really off the horn of that dilemma.

And here's why. According to Mormon cosmology, God's plan presupposed that we would fall and that we would need a savior. So according to Mormon teachings, God foreknew that evil would be a part of this mortal probation that we're part of. And he created this world or fashioned this world or organized this world anyway. So they're right on the horns of that dilemma as well, because he knew evil would exist here, even if evil exists as a force that he cannot completely eradicate in the universe because he's not the ultimate creator of the universe.

He created a world in which he knew evil would thrive and abound and he created it anyway. So yeah, they don't get off the horns of that dilemma at all. Yeah, I agree.

They really don't. I was looking at this verse and in 2 Nephi chapter 2 and kind of something Matthew said stuck out where there has to be an opposition in all things in Mormon doctrine. So it's really here in 2 Nephi chapter 2 verse 13 in the Book of Mormon says, If you shall say there is no law, you shall also say there is no sin. If you shall say there is no sin, you shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness, there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness, there be no punishment nor misery.

And if these things are not, there is no God. So basically just this one statement here, if there is no sin, there is no righteousness. And that means that their God could not exist autonomously by himself without the forces of evil and sin being there because there is no righteousness if there is no sin. And if there is no sin, wickedness, and punishment, there is no God.

I mean it explicitly says that right there. And so our view is a completely a different God than what their worldview can even fathom because our God does exist completely free of any need for evil to exist. So it's not just that God created evil or created the world knowing that we would choose evil but that the LDS God actually needs that evil to exist. It's a need that he has whereas the Christian God does not have any needs whatsoever.

I'll just add quickly to that. Maybe they would say that that is speaking specifically of this mortal probation. Maybe they don't think that in an eternal sense that God requires evil to exist.

I don't know. I'm just thinking of ways of how they might respond to that. Yeah, although it does still say there's no God. So it brings it up to that level even if it's not directly talking about the eternal nature. So I think it still can be applied to that.

I don't think they can really sidestep it. Okay, Paul, Latter-day Saints sometimes say that if we are created ex nihilo then God predetermines whether we will be sinners or saints. First off, does formation of intelligence sidestep this issue? And second, in your opinion, is Calvinism a logical byproduct of ex nihilo?

All right, so two questions there. Does formation of intelligence sidestep this issue? No, because like I was saying before, on Mormon cosmology God still foreknew that sin would enter the world. Presumably he also knew the mechanism by which sin would enter the world. If one believes the Book of Mormon he brought about the mechanism by which sin entered the world by placing two contrary commandments before Adam and Eve, which could not both be kept. So no, it doesn't sidestep the issue. And then the second part of the question, in my opinion, is Calvinism a logical byproduct of creation ex nihilo?

No, no, I don't think so. Many, an Armenian theologian would strongly disagree that creation ex nihilo results in Calvinism. They would argue that, a classical Armenian theologian would argue that God creates beings and that he chose to create beings, that he freely chose to create beings in his image with free will. And by giving them free will, he freely chooses to limit himself with regards to forcing them to do one thing or another, whether that is to sin or to choose to believe in Jesus Christ. So yeah, no, creation ex nihilo does not necessarily result in, my mouth hasn't worked all day today, does not necessarily result in Calvinism.

Okay. So one of the points that I mentioned that I have an LDS friend, we talk quite often, and he's really big into creation ex materia, and he's strongly of the opinion, and I think a lot of Latter-day Saints are, that if you embrace ex nihilo, then you've got to embrace Calvinism too, if you want to stay consistent. And his reasoning is that yes, God gave, may have given agency to whatever he creates, the freedom of choice, but in creating us, he's given us already our tendencies to either be, you know, wicked or good or obedient or not trusting of God.

I mean, do you think that there's any truth to that or is that not a valid point? No, it's not a valid point because even on Calvinism, as I understand it from my many conversations with my friend Matthew, even on Calvinism, Adam was created an empty vessel who had free will to choose good or evil, but was also innocent and did not know good or evil. So no, it doesn't necessarily lead to Calvinism because even on Calvinism, God is powerful enough to create a being who is an empty vessel. It seems like they're trying to equate Calvinism with just hard determinism, which depending on how you define it, I think Calvinism is on a certain spectrum of determinism in the sense that if you define determinism as God knows everything that's going to happen. So even classical Christian theists would be somewhere on the deterministic spectrum. It would only be really open theists that could be able to say, God doesn't know exactly what's going to happen. He knows all possible possibilities or contingencies, but he doesn't know exactly which will come to pass. So even Armenians and Calvinists, we believe that God knows what's going to happen from the beginning to the end. So it seems like they're trying to say that, well, if God creates everything out of nothing, that God is a hard determinist, that we're just going to do exactly everything that we were made to do. And we have no other decision but to do what we're programmed to do kind of a thing as if we don't have a will of our own.

That's what it sounds like for me, from my perspective. So I don't think that's really a Calvinist, Arminian or any other kind of view. It seems kind of a misunderstanding of these various views because they don't believe that we're just hard determinists, which in other words means we're puppets. We're puppets without a will of our own. So even Calvinists do believe that we have a will of our own. It's just that our will, the fallen nature of man, our will is a slave to sin, which is what Jesus said.

He says you're a slave to sin. But we still choose. We still choose to sin. We still choose to indulge in our sins because that's our nature.

And God has to change our hearts so that our nature is changed so that we will, that we will yearn after righteousness and after God and come to him in faith. So I don't know, just some thoughts I had on that. Okay, so that's your rebuttal to Paul.

I was hoping for like a debate here, but okay. No, no, not to Paul. I was I was everybody.

Paul did great. Okay, well, if if there's any Latter-day Saints listening in, you just heard from a real-life Calvinist that that does not necessarily mean that Calvinism is true just because God creates out of nothing. So, and they heard from a real-life Calminian. Oh wow. So you're, isn't there another word for for something that's in between the two? I mean, there's like three-pointers, four-pointers, emeraldians, there's all kinds. Yeah.

Okay. Let me just push back on it on a Latter-day Saint that that makes that claim. So Michael, you and I have talked on on the phone before about my experience going to a classically Arminian seminary and studying under two theology professors who had both studied at Princeton Theological Seminary back before it went very liberal. And so they they were trained in Presbyterian theology. And so they they understood well Reformed theology from the from the more kind of Calvinistic side of things. And they they taught us Arminian theology, and they taught it taught it to us in contrast with Calvinists theology, but they did so in a very charitable way.

And, you know, we've pointed it out many times, but I think it's worth repeating. Latter-day Saints will often charge that Christians are so divided and and I mean it Joseph Smith even did it, you know, in his writings about the first is his first vision, you know that that there's just pretended unity, right? But that's not been my experience at all studying for for an advanced degree in biblical studies at a Christian seminary. It's not been you know, there were with me studying in those classes. There were Calvinists who were attending that seminary because it was close to where they live and they wanted to get a higher level of either biblical studies or theological studies education as they prepared for ministry.

And I never experienced animosity in those classes between students or between students and professors. I saw Christian love and respect and a willingness to dialogue with one another. And so that's been my experience on the Christian side. And I just like to to challenge Latter-day Saints with regards to Calvinism to have a have that charitable attitude. Don't don't buy into the oh, it makes you robots or it makes you puppets kind of cheap barbs that people toss out there because although all those really equate to or they're akin to some of the cheap barbs that that like the new atheists throw at Christians, right? You believe in a sky God, a sky daddy, you know that that's what you sound like when you're when you're throwing out the puppet or the robot charge.

So that's just my challenge to Latter-day Saints. All right. That's great. Send us an email at outer brightness at We hope to hear from you soon. Music for the Outer Brightness Podcast is graciously provided by the talented Breanna Flournoy and by Adams Road. Learn more about Adams Road by visiting their ministry page at

Stay bright, Flyer Flies. The word made fresh, the risen Son. Heaven and earth will pass away, but the word of the Lord endures forever. All of this world is in decay, but the word of our God through ages remains. Lord, you promised that we, as your church, would remain upon this rock and the gates of hell will not prevail against us.

Cause you have power to keep your word unspoiled in purity. Heaven and earth will pass away, but the word of the Lord endures forever. All of this world is in decay, but the word of our God through ages remains. As the rain falls down from heaven and waters the earth, bringing it life.

So the word that goes out from your mouth will not return empty, but does what you desire. Lord, we hear your word and believe in you. Heaven and earth will pass away, but the word of the Lord endures forever. All of this world is in decay, but the word of our God through ages remains. The word of God remains.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-02 01:15:45 / 2023-11-02 01:34:44 / 19

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