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Becoming Like God, Pt. 2 (Gospel Topics Essay Series)

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July 11, 2021 1:08 pm

Becoming Like God, Pt. 2 (Gospel Topics Essay Series)

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July 11, 2021 1:08 pm

Hey Fireflies! Welcome to this bonus episode of Outer Brightness: From Mormon to Jesus. The Apostate Paul here. I’m recording a new intro for this episode, because since Matthew the Nuclear Calvinist and I recorded this episode on July 1, the state of affairs has changed. So in this intro, I’m going to provide a quick timeline.

In 2012 or 2013, the LDS Church began publishing Gospel Topics Essays designed to allow church members to learn about difficult topics in LDS Church history and doctrine directly from the Church’s official website, rather than other online sources. These essays have the imprimatur of the First Presidency of the LDS Church and acknowledge the reliance on the work of scholars in crafting the essays.

In the early 2000’s, when I was in the midst of my period of deep questioning and wrestling with my Mormon beliefs—what many call a faith crisis—there were many online apologetics resources, FAIR, SHIELDS, Ask Gramps. I remember that in the discussion boards, if someone posted an article from one of those resources in response to a question, it was often lamented that LDS Church leadership did not put their stamp of approval on those answers. Struggling members wondered if they could trust the apologetic resources. Many surmise that The Gospel Topics Essays were designed to do just that—to inoculate church members against difficult topics.

The relationship of the LDS Church to the essays, however, has been thorny. The essays are not easy to find on the website, and you won’t stumble on them unless you know what you’re looking for. Many who have left over the past 7-8 years have cited the essays as sources that caused them to question their beliefs and noted that when they spoke with local ecclesiastical leaders about the essays and the questions they caused, many local leaders were not even aware of their existence.

On June 23, Fred Anson shared with us that one of the Gospel Topics Essays—the one titled “Becoming Like God”—had disappeared from the LDS Church’s website, but was still available in the Gospel Library app available for mobile devices. Matthew and I had already discussed doing a series of episodes on the essays, so we fast tracked this one. We recorded this episode on July 1st.

At that time, the link for the “Becoming Like God” essay was still on the website:, but it redirected to a different essay titled “Are Mormons Christian?” The disappearance of the “Becoming Like God” essay was widely noted in online ex-Mormon communities, and many were speculating that maybe the LDS Church was seeking to distance itself from the doctrines discussed therein—doctrines which perhaps more than any other LDS doctrines place Mormonism outside the mainstream of orthodox Christian beliefs. The fact that the link redirected to an essay aimed at answering the question “are Mormons Christian?” furthered that speculation.

On Tik-Tok, an ex-Mormon named “Exmo Lex” noted that the Frequently Asked Questions section of the Newsroom section of the LDS Church website expressly denies that Latter-day Saint scripture or doctrine teaches that exalted Mormons will get their own planets, even though LDS leaders have taught that as doctrine for almost two centuries and as recently as 2018, when current LDS prophet and president, Russell M. Nelson taught the traditional LDS doctrine on this point when he said,

"A fourth gift from our Savior is actually a promise—a promise of life everlasting. This does not mean simply living for a really, really, really long time. Everyone will live forever after death, regardless of the kingdom or glory for which they may qualify. Everyone will be resurrected and experience immortality, but eternal life is so much more than a designation of time. Eternal life is the kind and quality of life that Heavenly Father and his beloved Son live. When the Father offers us everlasting life he is saying in essence, “If you choose to follow my Son, if your desire is really to become more like him, then in time you may live as we live and preside over worlds and kingdoms as we do."

It seemed odd that the LDS Church would seemingly be distancing itself from this doctrine, but the LDS Church has repudiated core doctrine and practice before.

Over the weekend of July 3 and 4th, the essay in the mobile app began to disappear for those users whose apps had completed content refreshes. On the website no longer rerouted. It simply became circular, such that if you clicked the link for “Becoming Like God” you landed on another page with a link to “Becoming Like God.” It’s almost as if the LDS Church was trolling and the link became like the “eternity mirrors” in the sealing rooms of their temples.

Then on July 7th, the essay appeared back online. I used’s Wayback Machine to pull a version from May 18th and compared it to the July 7th version to see if edits had been made. The only change was the removal of the original publication date of February 2014.

So for now we close this odd bit of Mormon History still unsure why the essay disappeared for a couple weeks and which declaration of the LDS Church should be taken as doctrine: that made by the LDS Newsroom staff or that made by the current prophet and president of the church.

Even so, Matthew and I read each section of the essay in this episode and discuss it.

Link to “Becoming Like God” Gospel Topics Essay

Link to FAQ’s # 11 & 12

Link to Russell M. Nelson’s 2018 Christmas Devotional Address

Link to referenced podcast episodes about Origen

Cross Reference Radio
Pastor Rick Gaston
Grace To You
John MacArthur
Renewing Your Mind
R.C. Sproul
The Daily Platform
Bob Jones University

You're entering outer brightness.

Hey, Fireflies. This is the second part of a multi-part episode on the LDS Church's Gospel Topics essay titled, Becoming Like God. If you haven't listened to part one, you may wish to go back and do so.

In this part, we're bringing you the next two parts of the essay. How have ideas about divinity shifted over Christian history? And how were ideas about deification introduced to Latter-day Saints?

Sorry, I scrolled down too far. Okay, so I am at how have ideas about divinity shifted over Christian history. Latter-day Saint beliefs would have sounded more familiar to the earliest generations of Christians than they do to many modern Christians. Many church fathers, influential theologians and teachers in early Christianity, spoke approvingly of the idea that humans can become divine. One modern scholar refers to the ubiquity of the doctrine of deification, the teaching that humans could become God in the first centuries after Christ's birth. The church father, Irenaeus, who died about A.D. 202, asserted that Jesus Christ did, through his transcendent love, become what we are, that he might bring us to be what he is himself. Clement of Alexandria, circa A.D. 150 to 215, wrote that, quote, the word of God became man, that thou mayest learn from man how man may become God, close quote.

Basil the Great had also celebrated this prospect, not just, quote, being made like to God, close quote, but quote, highest of all, the being made God, close quote. What exactly the early church fathers meant when they spoke of becoming God is open to interpretation, but it is clear that references to deification became more contested in the late Roman period and were infrequent by the medieval era. The first known objection by a church father to teaching deification came in the fifth century.

By the sixth century, teachings on becoming God appear more limited in scope, as in the definition provided by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, hope I pronounced that correctly, deification, unquote, deification is the attaining of likeness to God and union with him so far as is possible, close quote. Why do these beliefs fade from prominence? Changing perspectives on the creation of the world may have contributed to the gradual shift toward more limited views of human potential. The earliest Jewish and Christian communities on the creation assumed that God had organized the world out of preexisting materials, emphasizing the goodness of God and shaping such a life sustaining order. But the incursion of new philosophical ideas in the second century led to the development of a doctrine that God created the universe ex nihilo, out of nothing. This ultimately became the dominant teaching about the creation within the Christian world. In order to emphasize God's power, many theologians reasoned that nothing could have existed for as long as he had. It became important in Christian circles to assert that God had originally been completely alone. Creation ex nihilo widened the perceived gulf between God and humans. It became less common to teach either that human souls that existed for the world or that they could inherit and develop the attributes of God in their entirety in the future. Gradually, as the depravity of humankind and the immense distance, sorry, the immense distance between creator and creature were increasingly emphasized, the concept of deification faded from Western Christianity, though it remained a central tenet of Eastern Orthodoxy, one of the three major branches of Christianity.

All right. General thoughts on this section, Matthew? There's like a lot of references there that I want to read in depth because they make a lot of claims. That makes a lot of claims.

It's like the entirety of the early church talked about God creating everything from materials, not from nothing. And then there's a reference there and I'm like, okay, I want to read that reference because that's a pretty bold statement there. Well, I can tell you what that reference is, right? Let's see, what's the footnote on that one? One second.

Okay, hold on. 19, where it talks about how creation ex nihilo came, ultimately the dominant teaching. Yep. So the footnote is for information on the second century context that gave birth to creation ex nihilo, see Gerhard May, creation ex nihilo, the doctrine of creation out of nothing and early Christian thought, published in 2004. So that is the book that Latter-day Saints will often reference. That footnote here, being in here, makes me wonder if Blake Ostler wasn't involved in writing this because he references in his various articles that he has written on creation ex nihilo, that book extensively. He critiques William Lane Craig and Paul Copan's chapter in The New Mormon Challenge on creation ex nihilo by reference to that book. It's a single book. It's $94, I think, on Amazon.

So I'm not going to buy it. You can read a good chunk of it on Amazon by looking inside that link that they have there on Amazon. But I linked to a book review of it by Paul Copan, who is a Christian philosopher, in our episode notes for our creation ex nihilo part one. So if listeners want to check that out, you can see what Paul Copan has to say in response to Gerhard May. I think it's a good read.

But you're right. There's a lot of references here to church fathers, and what they may or may not have taught. I think the the kind of equivocation that's provided at the beginning of one of the paragraphs, when they say what exactly the early church fathers meant when they spoke of becoming God is open to interpretation. I would argue that it's not really, if you read the church fathers. So, for example, they cite Basil the Great, and say that he also celebrated this prospect, not just being made like to God, but highest of all being made God. The equivocation that I see in that statement, what exactly the early church fathers meant when they spoke of becoming God is open to interpretation.

It's problematic. Because what they what they would like to do, it seems is slide in there, the pre existence of souls, right? Which is something that the church fathers outside of origin, expressly deny. So I thought it would be interesting to quote from Basil the Great, I have a little bit of a lengthy quote from him.

But I hope it will be instructive. I'm quoting Basil the Great from his homily two. And it's in the complete antonycene, nycene and post nycene church fathers collection, which I have on Kindle. And he's commenting here on the phrase in Genesis one, two, that the earth was invisible and unfinished, or the earth was formless and void, as translated in the KJV. So I'll just go ahead and read what he has to say. It's going to be a little bit lengthy, but I think it'll be instructive as to what the author of this essay has done in trying to present Basil as somebody who is an early proponent of theology that was the same as that of the Latter-day Saints where he's not.

All right. So Basil the Great says, in the few words which have occupied us this morning, we have found such a depth of thought that we despair of penetrating further. If such as the forecourt of the sanctuary, if the portico of the temple is so grand and magnificent, if the splendor of its beauty thus dazzles the eyes of the soul, what will be the Holy of Holies? Who will dare to try to gain access to the innermost shrine?

Who will look into its secrets? To gaze into it is indeed forbidden us. The language is powerless to express what the mind conceives.

However, since there are rewards and most desirable ones reserved by the just judge for the intention alone of doing good, do not let us hesitate to continue our researches. Although we may not attain to the truth, if with the help of the Spirit we do not fall away from the meaning of Holy Scripture, we shall not deserve to be rejected, and with the help of grace we shall contribute to the edification of the Church of God. The earth, says Holy Scripture, was invisible and unfinished. The heavens and the earth were created without distinction. How then is it that the heavens are perfect whilst the earth is still unformed and incomplete? In one word, what was the unfinished condition of the earth?

And for what reason was it invisible? The fertility of the earth is its perfect finishing. Growth of all kinds of plants, the upspringing of tall trees, both productive and sterile flowers, sweet scents and fair colors and all that which a little later at the voice of God came forth from the earth to beautify her, their universal mother. As nothing of all this yet existed, Scripture is right in calling the earth without form. We could also say of the heavens that they were still imperfect and had not received their natural adornment, since at that time they did not shine with the glory of the sun and of the moon and were not crowned by the choirs of the stars. These bodies were not yet created.

Thus you will not diverge from the truth in saying that the heavens also were without form. The earth was invisible for two reasons. It may be because man, the spectator, did not yet exist or because being submerged under the waters which overflowed the surface, it could not be seen, since the waters had not yet been gathered together into their own places where God afterwards collected them and gave them the name of seas. What is invisible? First of all, that which our fleshly eye cannot perceive. Our mind, for example, then that which visible in its nature is hidden by some body which conceals it, like iron in the depths of the earth. It is in this sense because it was hidden under the waters that the earth was still invisible. However, as light did not yet exist and as the earth lay in darkness because of the obscurity of the air above it, it should not astonish us that for this reason scripture calls it invisible."

He goes on to say, but the Corruptors of Truth and the editors of the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series suggest that here Basil is talking about the, let me just grab that real quick, they suggest that Basil is here talking about the Manichaeans, but the Corruptors of Truth who incapable of submitting their reason to Holy Scripture distort at will the meaning of the Holy Scriptures, pretend that these words mean matter. For it is matter, they say, which from its nature is without form and invisible, being by the conditions of its existence without quality and without form and figure, the artificer submitting it to the working of his wisdom clothed it with a form, organized it, and thus gave being to the visible world. If matter is uncreated, it has a claim to the same honors as God, since it must be of equal rank with Him."

And that's the, I'm going to stop the quote here, that's the exact charge that we're making, Matthew, about LDS teachings about intelligences, right? So, I'll quote again that part from Basil the Great, if matter is uncreated, it has a claim to the same honors as God, since it must be of equal rank with Him. Is this not the summit of wickedness, that an extreme deformity without quality, without form, shape, ugliness, without configuration, to use their own expression, should enjoy the same prerogatives with Him who is wisdom, power and beauty itself, the creator and demiurge of the universe.

This is not all. If matter is so great as to be capable of being acted on by the whole wisdom of God, it would in a way raise its hypostasis to an equality with the inaccessible power of God, since it would not be able to measure by itself all the extent of the divine intelligence. If it is insufficient for the operations of God, then we will fall into a more absurd blasphemy, since we condemn God for not being able on account of the want of matter to finish His own works.

The poverty of human nature has deceived these reasoners. Each of our crafts is exercised upon some special matter, the art of the smith upon iron, that of the carpenter on wood. In all, there is the subject, the form, and the work which results from the form. Matter is taken from without, art gives the form, and the work is composed at the same time of form and of matter. Such is the idea that they make for themselves of the divine work. The form of the world is due to the wisdom of the supreme artificer. Matter came to the Creator from without, and thus the world results from a double origin. It is received from outside its matter and its essence and from God its form and figure. They thus come to deny that the Mighty God has presided at the formation of the universe and pretend that He has only brought a crowning contribution to a common work, that He has only contributed some small portion to the genesis of beings.

They are incapable from the debasement of their reasonings of raising their glances to the height of truth. Here below, arts are subsequent to matter, introduced into life by the indispensable need of them. Wool existed before weaving made it supply one of nature's imperfections. Wood existed before carpentering took possession of it, and transformed it each day to supply new wants and made us see all the advantages derived therefrom. Giving the ore to the sailor, the winnowing fan to the laborer, the lance to the soldier, but God before all those things which now attract our notice existed, after casting about Him in His mind and determining to bring into being time which had no being, imagined the world such as it ought to be and created matter in harmony with the form which He wished to give it. He assigned to the heavens the nature adapted for the heavens and gave to the earth an essence in accordance with its form. He formed as He wished fire, air, and water, and gave each the essence which the object of its existence required. Finally, He welded all the diverse parts of the universe by links of indissoluble attachment and established between them so perfect a fellowship in harmony that the most distant, in spite of their distance, appeared united in one universal sympathy.

Let those men therefore renounce their fabulous imaginations, who in spite of the weakness of their argument, pretend to measure a power as incomprehensible to man's reason as is unutterable by man's voice. God created the heavens and the earth, but not only half. He created all the heavens and all the earth, creating the essence with the form. He is not an inventor of figures, but the Creator even of the essence of beings. Further, let them tell us how the efficient power of God could deal with the passive nature of matter, the latter furnishing the matter without form, the former possessing the science of the form without matter, both being in need of each other, the Creator in order to display His art, matter in order to cease to be without form and to receive a form. So just wanted to read that.

I know it's long. I hope that the point of it was clear because the essay here quotes Basil the Great as someone who was early presenting a doctrine similar to what the Latter-day Saints believe about the nature of humanity. And yet here in this passage where Basil is commenting on Genesis chapter one, verse two, he makes it very clear in contrast to those who he is critiquing. He does not believe that beings and matter existed co-eternal, co-equal with God as Joseph Smith taught. Any thoughts on that quote, Matthew, or what I've shared here?

Yeah, thanks for sharing that. As you were reading it, it really drives on the message that we were saying earlier that you can't take a quote or even a belief, even if you understand properly what they're saying in that context, you can't take a singular belief in someone's theology and extract it out of the context of the rest of their theology. And so in this section of the Gospel Topics essay, they make the assertion that as people changed from this idea that God created the universe out of material to this change to believe in that God created it out of nothing. That's also when theosis was not emphasized or it was ceased to be taught.

And so they're making this connection that these two are like links basically, which may be the case. But the fact is that we know from early church fathers that there was debate as to creation and even the age of the earth. Some people kind of had more of a longer earth kind of view. So these things weren't set in stone. But to say, oh, yeah, he said that we can become God. So that means basically the early church taught the LDS view of theosis and it's just been phased out over time. That's like a gross abuse of kind of the entire belief system of the early church.

And so we really have to be careful. And I'll be frank and say that a lot of Christians do that kind of thing, too, where, you know, Baptists will pull a quote out of, you know, from an early church father and say, see, they were all Baptists, you know, or, you know, everybody does that. They'll take a quote from an early church father and say, see, they were all Orthodox.

They were all Roman Catholic. But it's like, you know, I don't think you can point to specific denominations saying all the early church fathers were just like that. It's too, there was differences in beliefs and, you know, specifics of theology grew, you know, it became more specific over time. So for them to kind of say, well, they taught just as we do, but it changed over time is, yeah, it's just not correct. And I wanted to bring out to, I wanted to bring up the part where it says that theosis kind of died out over the Roman period, I think it said.

It didn't give it a specific time. But if I wanted to quote from, and they admitted that Eastern Orthodoxy still teaches theosis, you know, that's a major part of their theology today. But I wanted to actually bring up to, that's okay, unless you want to add something else to say about that quote.

Okay. I wanted to bring up Aquinas, because he's a 13th century, I think theologian. He was like one of the doctors of the, of the Roman Catholic Church. So he's like one of the main theologians of their of their church.

Let me see where did that quote go? I have assumed a theologia. So it's first part of the second part of this summa theologia. And it's question 112, the cause of grace.

And so kind of what what it's kind of a question and answer. Thomas Aquinas doesn't assume us as kind of like he brings up objections and response to them. And so objection one of this article one is talking about whether God alone is a cause of grace objection one, he writes, it would seem that God alone is not the cause of grace, for it is written in john 117, grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. Now, by the name of Jesus Christ is understood not merely divine nature, assuming but the created nature, talk about the human nature, assume, therefore, a creature may be the cause of grace. So he's, he's kind of like, there's, he's bringing up this objection, that only the divine is the cause of grace, not just the, you know, and not the human nature, because Jesus is both divine and human. So why can't the human nature also be the cause of grace?

So he responds, he says, I answer that nothing can act beyond its species, since the cause must always be more powerful than its effect. Now, the gift of grace surpasses every capability of created nature, since it is nothing short of a partaking of the divine nature, which exceeds every other nature. And thus, it is impossible that any creature should cause grace, for it is as necessary that God alone should deify, bestowing a partaking of the divine nature by a participative likeness, as it is impossible that anything safe fire shouldn't kindle a scene that quote. So he's, he's saying a lot of stuff here, it's basically saying that the creature can't give grace, because the creature is the effect.

No, God is the cause. So just as a fire causes something to start on fire, and not the opposite, you know, you can't can't have grace from the creature, because the creature is the effect. And so God is the only source of the cause of grace. And he says, for it is as necessary that God alone should deify, bestowing a partaking of the divine nature by a participative likeness, as it is impossible that anything safe fire should kindle. So even here, St. Thomas Aquinas is saying that God does deify and makes us partakers of the divine nature.

So So this idea that theosis was completely, you know, it was completely removed, you know, from the Western Church, after the Roman period, it's just not true. Because that's well into the medieval period that he's talking about this. And, and it's, it's, it's the, I think the language changed a little bit in the West, it wasn't really talking about becoming like God or becoming gods, it's more about adoption, you know, it's more speaking about adoption and becoming partakers of the divine nature.

But it's essentially talking about the same thing. And then in the Reformation period, it's a lot of it is adoption and sanctification. But it's this idea that, yeah, we're partaking of the divine nature, you know, God is transforming us become making us like Christ. And so it's not that it was lost, you know, it's just that the language to explain the doctrine is kind of changed over time. And a lot of a lot of the saints quickly jump on me when I say that, and they say, Well, see, they change what the early church taught, if the language changed, that means the doctor changed.

And it's like, well, no, I don't think so. I mean, look at scientists, you know, like, scientists, a lot of times they have to develop new terms to be more specific to explain something that's already well understood, you know, to to, not that they don't understand how the thing might work exactly, although that does change over time. But a lot of times they use different terms to explain the same thing. And so that's what theologians are doing. They're not they're not coming with something brand new, like, or changing what's taught in its essence, they're just trying to add more specificity and more, more clarity to what was already kind of taught. And so when they talk about grace and means of grace, and these are essentially talking about the same thing is that God, you know, God changes us and transforms us to become children of God.

Yeah, yeah, really good point. I liked what you said about the point you made about Aquinas and, and that that the teaching of theosis properly understood, continued even in the Western Church. One of the things that this section of the essay does is it kind of introduces this kind of approach and rhetoric that Latter Day Saints have used for a long time now, which is, you know, to accuse the early church of falling into apostasy by way of adopting Greek philosophy.

And this section makes that charge pretty explicitly. So one thing that I would caution Latter Day Saint thinkers and scholars there on, you know, as if I have some authority to caution them, I'm just noting something that I've noticed as I as I left the Latter Day Saint faith and started studying for myself, I did recognize before I left this kind of rhetorical device that Latter Day Saints use. James E. Talmadge uses it in the great apostasy, his book, The Great Apostasy, which is all about this idea that Greek philosophy tainted the Christian church.

So one of the things that I would that I would would caution though, as we quoted pretty extensively earlier, we talked pretty extensively earlier about Origen. And we talked about his philosophical education. Yes, he's considered one of the most important Christian writers, especially of the early period, the early first few centuries. But there are ideas of his, which largely come from his interaction with Greek philosophy and his attempt to systematize and synthesize his two types of learning, right, from the scripture and from philosophy, that his teachings on intelligences and the existence of souls come. And, you know, he also goes on to talk about the earth and the moon and the stars and the sun all also having spirits like humans do. So, you know, that's that's out of Greek philosophy as well. And so what I'm what I'm trying to point out here is that that charge that, oh, Christian theology fell or Christian thinkers and teachers fell into apostasy as a result of imbibing from the bottle of Greek philosophy. That's a sword that cuts both ways because some of the really integral fundamental aspects of what this essay is saying about human nature come from that integration of Greek philosophy. And in one of the paragraphs, that's footnote 18 for those listeners who want to look it up in the essay, they cite the line says the earliest Jewish and Christian commentaries on the creation assumed that God had organized the world out of preexisting materials, emphasizing the goodness of God and shaping such a life sustaining order.

Footnote 18. When you look up footnote 18, they cite to the second century church father, Justin Martyr, who said, quote, We have been taught that he in the beginning, he in the beginning did of his goodness for man's sake, create all things out of unformed matter. That's in Justin's first apology cited in Roberts and Donaldson, Antonycene Fathers, 165. So I'll make the point again, Justin Martyr was a trained Greek philosopher. Much of the things that he discusses and writes about are coming out of that understanding that he has from Greek philosophy. So it's a double edged sword to try to say Greek philosophy got its clutches into Christian theology and made it go awry, which is the normal Latter-day Saint claim. Because like I said before, a lot of the things that Latter-day Saints believe come from that interaction with Greek philosophy come from the Gnostics, the Manicheans. And so, you know, are there church fathers who, to more of an extent than others, imbibed at the bottle of Greek philosophy?

Absolutely there are. They were trained in it. That was their education.

So they thought like Greek philosophers. Are there early church fathers who had backgrounds in groups that were considered heretical like the Manicheans with Augustine, for example. And some of that thought that from earlier in their lives seeps into their thinking later as Christians, yes, that happens.

Does it mean that the church fell away completely into apostasy? No, it does not. Does it make it incumbent on us if we're going to cite church fathers to support our beliefs, as Matthew was saying earlier, to not rip things out of context and try to understand a person's whole theology? Yes, it makes it incumbent upon us to do so. Yeah, that's great. Thanks for sharing that.

Yeah. And it seems like from what I understand is like a lot of the early church fathers, they didn't see Greek philosophy as like, oh, here's this brand new thing I can inject into Christianity and change it. It's more like I have Christianity here. This this tradition, this faith is passed down by the, you know, by our forefathers.

How can I use the tools that I've learned as a philosopher to defend the faith? You know, like a lot of most of the early church writings were defending faith against Gnostics or against, you know, against pagans, against, you know, other religious groups and the heretics, you know, the areas and the stories and all these other people that came along. So they didn't see it wasn't seen as something that was changing the faith.

And I think if they were, people would have really put a lot of pushback on them, if they were changing it so drastically, that wasn't even the same Christianity anymore. It's more like they're using philosophical arguments to support what they believed. And I see that a lot in Aquinas, too. It's like, I read a lot of, you know, I've been starting to read his Summa Theologiae, the very first part, because it talks about God and the divine simplicity of God.

And it's not and it's like, yeah, someone reading that will say, well, that's garbage. You know, you can't find that in the Bible, but but you have to understand that he's taking like what the Bible teaches already and saying, Okay, here's, here's my philosophical arguments that that even, you know, that support and buttress what scripture teaches and to explain why it makes sense. And I think that's valid, you know, as long as you start off with what does the Bible teach and what, you know, and then you can say, Okay, well, here's why it makes sense, you know, at least, you know, to me, that seems like it's an okay way to do it. But the way the way you go wrong is you say, Okay, I'm just going to reject the Bible. And I'm going to start off with my own ideas. And I'm going to come up with my own conclusions based on philosophy as to what God is. That's where that's where it's really dangerous. And we also have to understand that philosophy is not infallible, you know, only God's, you know, God's revelation is infallible.

So if the fuse in its proper place, it's can be useful. But yeah, that's not what the early fathers are doing. They weren't inventing any religion. Yeah, absolutely.

Really good. Really good thoughts there. I think it's also important to contextualize the lives of these early church fathers.

And I'll do that quickly by by way of referring back to origin. As we mentioned, he was a very well trained Greek philosopher, who also put a very high emphasis on the revelation of God in the Old Testament and the New Testament. And, but he was during the decent persecution of the church, he was tortured horribly. And they didn't kill him, they would torture him, but they wanted to keep him alive because they thought, here is this great defender of the Christian faith. And by they I mean the Romans, the Roman authorities, here's this great defender of the Christian faith. He's well respected among them.

And he's well respected among our philosophers, because of his training. If we can get him to recant the faith through torture, it will be a big win for us. Now, why were they trying to achieve a win by torturing origin? Because Christianity was viewed as a disruptor to the Roman peace, the Pax Romana, right. And so they, throughout the history of the Roman Empire, in those early centuries of the church as it's kind of gaining ground, there were various horrible persecutions by the Roman authorities of Christians. And then, you know, you would have some good emperors who wouldn't persecute Christians, and then you would have another emperor who would decide to persecute Christians. And so you contextualize origin's life, right.

Part of the arguments that Justin Martyr, especially in later origin, are making with regards to Greek philosophy is that they're trying to argue that, actually, what we have in the deposit of the faith in the Old Testament is the revelation of the one true God, and that everything that Plato and others of Greek philosophy understood actually came from Moses first. Those are the arguments that they're trying to make. And they're making that argument to try to say, hey, we're not really trying to disrupt the Pax Romana, right. We want to coexist here with you, and we want you to understand what we're trying to say here. So what I mean by contextualize is understand that they're under the sword, one, and also they're trying to make peace with those who are critiquing them, those who are putting them to the sword. So it's important to contextualize all of that early church history when you're talking about and trying to understand what the early church fathers are saying, who they're interacting with in their dialogues and the things that they're writing and why.

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We're glad you found us, and we hope you'll stick around. All right, so that brings us to the next section, unless you get some more comments on that last section, Matthew. All right, so the next section is, how were ideas about deification introduced to Latter-day Saints? The earliest Latter-day Saints came from a society dominated by English-speaking Protestants, most of whom accepted both ex nihilo creation and the Westminster Confession's definition of God as a being, quote, without body parts or passions, end quote.

They likely knew little or nothing about the diversity of Christian beliefs in the first centuries after Jesus Christ's ministry or about early Christian writings on deification. But revelations received by Joseph Smith diverged from the prevailing ideas of the time and taught doctrine that, for some, reopened debates on the nature of God, creation, and humankind. Early revelations to Joseph Smith taught that humans are created in the image of God and that God cares intimately for His children. In the Book of Mormon, a prophet saw the finger of the Lord and was astonished to learn that human physical forms were truly made in the image of God. In another early revelation, Enoch, who, quote, walked with God, end quote, in the Bible, witnessed God weeping over his creations.

When Enoch asked, how is it that thou canst weep? He learned that God's compassion towards human suffering is integral to his love. Joseph Smith also learned that God desires that his children receive the same kind of exalted existence of which he partakes. As God declared, this is my work and my glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. In 1832, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon experienced a vision of the afterlife. In the vision, they learned that the just and unjust alike would receive immortality through a universal resurrection, but only those who overcome by faith and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise would receive the fullness of God's glory and be God's, even the sons of God. Another revelation soon confirmed that the saints shall be filled with his glory and receive their inheritance and be made equal with him.

Latter-day Saints use the term exaltation to describe the glorious reward of receiving one's full inheritance as a child of Heavenly Father, which is available through the atonement of Christ by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. This striking view of each human's potential future was accompanied by revealed teachings on humanity's past. As Joseph Smith continued to receive revelations, he learned that the light or intelligence at the core of each human soul was not created or made, neither indeed can be. God is the Father of each human spirit and because only spirit and element inseparably connected receive a fullness of joy, he presented a plan for humans to receive physical bodies and progress through their mortal experience toward a fullness of joy.

Earthly birth, then, is not the beginning of an individual's life. Man was also in the beginning with God. Likewise, Joseph Smith taught that the material world has eternal roots fully repudiating the concept of creation ex nihilo.

Earth, water, etc. all these had their existence in an elementary state from eternity, said Smith in an 1839 sermon. God organized the universe out of existing elements. Joseph Smith continued to receive revelation on the themes of divine nature and exaltation during the last two years of his life. In a revelation recorded in July of 1843 that linked exaltation with eternal marriage, the Lord declared that those who keep covenants including the covenant of eternal marriage will inherit all the heights and depths. Then, says the revelation, shall they be gods because they have no end, they will receive a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. The following April feeling he was never quote never in a nearer relationship to God than at the present time end quote, Joseph Smith spoke about the nature of God and the future of humankind to the saints who had gathered for a general church conference.

He used the occasion in part to reflect upon the death of a church member named King Follett who had died unexpectedly a month earlier. When he rose to speak the wind was blowing so Joseph asked his listeners to give him their profound attention and to pray that the Lord may strengthen my lungs and stay the winds until my message has been delivered. What kind of a being is God?

he asked. Human beings needed to know he argued because quote if men do not comprehend the character of God they do not comprehend themselves end quote. In that phrase the prophet collapsed the gulf that centuries of confusion had created between God and humanity.

Human nature was at its core divine. God was at God was as one of us and all the spirits that God ever sent into the world were likewise susceptible of enlargement according to Joseph Smith. He preached that long before the world was formed God found himself in the midst of these beings and saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself and be exalted with him. Joseph told the assembled saints you have got to learn how to be a God yourself. In order to do that the saints needed to learn godliness or to be more like God. The process would be ongoing and would require patience, faith, continuing repentance, and obedience to the commandments of the gospel and reliance on Christ. Like ascending a ladder individuals needed to learn the first principles of the gospel and continue beyond the limits of mortal knowledge until they could learn the last principles of the gospel when the time came. Joseph Smith said quote it is not all to be comprehended in this world it will take a long time after the grave to understand the whole end quote. That was the last time the prophet spoke in general conference three months later a mob stormed Carthage jail and martyred him and his brother Hiram. Matthew thoughts on this section? I have a lot of thoughts uh just it's a long article so um yeah so I want to start by even just the first sentence uh well overall I'll give my overall thoughts I mean it's pretty it's pretty accurate what I remember being taught about you know in terms of king fall discourse and uh in terms of enoch um and um the finger of god being made note to the brother of jared right in the book of mormon so yeah that that's that that's consistent with what I remember being taught as latter-day saint um I want to go back to the beginning like I said the first sentence so it's it's correct when it says it here um the earliest latter-day saints came from a society dominated by english-speaking protestants most of whom accepted both ex nihilo creation and the westminster confessions definition of god as being without body parts or passions so there there's a long patristic tradition and there's a lot a lot of understanding in western christianity not just in the reformation but you know even in the medieval catholic tradition about this idea that god is without body parts or passions and but as a latter-day saint we never talked about or studied what that actually means we kind of just read that and thought it means like oh god's just like nothing you know like he doesn't have a body he doesn't have parts he doesn't have passion so he's like he's like nothing but there's really there's there's a reason why they said that there that god is without body parts or passions um he's without body you know he's a god of spirit and so he's unlimited in this in space you know like humans we're limited so our spirit is limited inside our body but god and spirit is you know without bounds so god doesn't have any kind of body he doesn't have a head he doesn't have legs whatever uh i think that's pretty easy to understand the parts are passions part is really difficult for other day saints to understand they just don't know what that means they they i kind of understood it to mean that parts is just the same thing as body you know like maybe body was the whole parts are the parts of the body like a hand and a foot but parts saying god is not parts is to say that god is completely simple and it means that whatever is in god is god and that's something that's that i've been studying recently that that i really find fascinating so when we talk about god we can speak and we can attribute attributes or adjectives to god like god is merciful or you know like god god he acts mercifully or god loves or things like that but not only that but god is mercy he is love he is justice and so when we say this about god he actually is these things but at the same time god is not a combination of a bunch of different things you know it's not like you take a giant bucket and you throw in justice you throw in mercy throw in love you throw in compassion throw in perfection all that stuff and then you get god that's you know the the the church never thought that's what it means you know partialism patrick yeah it's partialism exactly so and and i use this argument in one of the lds discussion groups i said can you get to an infinite god by adding finite parts you know could you keep adding finite parts and they eventually become infinite and someone and a lot of people try to use mathematics and stuff like that and they said well you can have an infinite series and i'm like well yeah exactly that has to be without end but you can never really reach that end you know like when you end an infinite series at any particular point it's just a really big number it's not infinite you know infinite has to be either infinite is infinite you know um you can't add enough finites to actually arrive at a point where it's infinite because if you try to chop off that infinite series at any point it's not infinite it has to keep going but that's not possible so when they saw when they were understanding who god is they're saying well god is he's always been infinite you know you're either infinite or you're not you can't you can't make something finite into infinite and so when they say god's without parts they're saying god is simple and he's he's not made of parts like a car you know like if you're trying to make a car like a like a jeep you have to take the tires you have to take the axles and take the transmission and the engine block and the radiator and all these parts and you construct them and form them and put them together and then you get a car so the sum is greater than its parts and without those parts the car is not a car well god's not the same way you know god is not made up of parts that when you fit them all together you get god whether physically or metaphorically or metaphysically like god's attributes god is just god he's just simply god and it's hard for us to understand but but i think it's i think it's valid and it's there's a long tradition and understanding of that in the western church and when we say god is without passions it doesn't mean god doesn't have any emotions god certainly does have emotions and we see you know throughout the old new testaments that god demonstrates these emotions to man but at the same time a passion is something that that is a result of an external stimulus is kind of how i've heard it explained to me is that you know when we see somebody who's in pain our we our emotions are changed and affected by that and we have an external response to that or if something is disgusting or evil we have a change in our in our affections and how we respond to that but god being someone who doesn't change and who knows all things past present future who's seen everything he he doesn't change his emotions from moment to moment you know and he doesn't he's not a capricious god and he doesn't doesn't flip-flop a lot so he always hates evil he always loves good so those are just two examples of how god has an eternal hatred of sin and an eternal love for his people and for you know for god's son and so that's that's why christians say without body parts or passions and i think if if latter-day saints were to really study these things out apart from the body part they might they might be more amenable to understanding why christians say that god is without body parts or passions because i didn't i had no idea what what that meant as latter-day saint but as the more i studied it i'm like okay yeah it actually kind of makes sense if you can tie it to scripture and so just to summarily dismiss you know hundreds of years of theologians and discussing this and reading scripture and understanding it and to just say well it makes no sense whatever you know that's kind of the attitude i get from a lot of other saints that's the attitude i had as a latter-day saint like oh that's stupid why would anybody believe that it's it's very dismissive and kind of disrespectful so i want to talk a little about that because it quotes the westminster confession and uh and uh the the confession i subscribe to is the grand the grandson of the westminster confession so i feel like i had to defend it a little bit so that's what i want to talk about that yeah really good i'm glad you brought that up i uh you know sitting in in the mtc uh what 25 years ago now um 24 25 years ago now and reading through talmadge's book the great apostasy uh pretty sure he talks about uh bringing so that's the one where he's talking about uh this whole body parts and passions uh piece from the from the westminster confession of faith and i you know i talked earlier about theocentric theology and anthropocentric theology and how latter-day saints come to a way of thinking about theology that is anthropocentric that is human-centered they come by it naturally because of of of what uh lds theology is um and uh i remember reading that i think as you you said as well and being like body body parts my arms my god is without arms legs you know and and passions human passions right so like you know i i brought my anthropocentric theology to try even trying to understand that passage from the westminster confession of faith and what it's saying about god right and i had a completely wrong view as you just described of what that's actually what the what the christian theologians who wrote that and use that are actually saying about the nature of god so um i i really resonate with with uh your um desire for latter-day saints to engage christian theology and christian understandings of theology in ways that are charitable not in ways that are polemical which which they kind of come to naturally as well um really try to really try to understand what it is your those who you who you're dialoguing with mean when they say things um one of the one thing i kind of wanted to hone in on in this section uh well there's a few but um the first one is uh there's this line that says uh it's referring to doctrine and covenants uh section 132 and it quotes from it says they shall be shall they then shall they be gods because they have no end and that they will receive a continuation of the seeds forever and ever uh what does that mean a continuation of the seeds matthew what was your understanding as a latter-day saint that that meant yeah i thought that meant that just as we are god's spiritual children and he created us you know we when we become gods um it says then shall they be gods because they have no end so when we become gods we will continue seed just like god created us and how all the details of how that works like you know if you would also need to create a savior to save your children you know and then the process continues on and on and on you know some people a lot of people go to that conclusion but it's not explicit but i think that's kind of the natural logical you know follow up to that yeah i think you're right um i i did a search in the gospel the lds gospel library app that i have on my phone to try to see what uh church leaders lds church leaders have taught about what that means um there wasn't a whole lot there were about four general conference addresses um all of which uh were in relation to uh human procreative powers being kind of analogous to divine procreative powers um and that and so that then the idea here is that only those who are exalted in lds theology to godhood have that continuation of being able to have procreative powers in the hereafter so i think that when you start talking about that topic uh latter-day saints can get a little squeamish maybe i'm not sure why it is part of their theology um and it's something that they actually according to this essay it's something that actually should ennoble them according to the essay about what their potential is but they become a little squeamish about it um and we'll we'll touch on that a little bit later in the in the essay but i wanted to uh note that this citation to doctrine and covenants 132 verses 19 to 20 um i wanted to full quote the full verse 20 which says uh then shall they be gods uh and this is talking about um a couple a man who marries a wife uh under the new and everlasting covenant and it's sealed upon them by the holy spirit of promise and it's the marriage is performed by someone who has priesthood authority those are the verses kind of leading up to it um that then they shall be gods because they shall have no end therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting because they continue then shall they be above all because all things are subject unto them then shall they be gods because they have all power and the angels are subject unto them so a couple of things first of all what you were talking about matthew with you can't just add infinite uh attributes to something that is finite and end up with an infinite but that is what this passage seems to want to do um you know they're going to be everlasting to everlasting because they continue um but i wanted to ask the question um it says they'll be gods because the angels are subject to them who who are these angels that are going to be subject to um latter-day saints who are exalted yeah i uh i kind of had this idea that it was people who received celestial glory but didn't receive exaltation that's kind of how i thought of it like yeah yeah right on the nose i don't i don't know if it's uh if that's exactly explicitly said but i think it's heavily implied especially from dnc 76 yeah so um yeah i'm gonna i think it is uh explicitly stated uh at least um by the uh prophet joseph smith as quoted in uh the teachings of the prophet joseph smith um he said gods have an ascendancy over the angels who are ministering servants in the resurrection some are raised to be angels other are raised others are raised to become gods these things are revealed in the most holy places in a temple prepared for that purpose many of the sects cry out quote oh i have the testimony of jesus i have the spirit of god but away with joe smith he says he is a prophet but there are no there to be no prophets or revelations in the last days end quote stop sir the revelator says that the testimony of jesus is the spirit of prophecy so by your own mouth you are condemned but to the text why gather the people together in this place for the same purpose that jesus wanted to gather the jews to receive the ordinances the blessings and the glories that god has in store for his saints i will now ask this assembly and all the saints if you will now build this house and receive the ordinances and blessings which god has in store for you or will you not build unto the lord this this house and let him pass by and bestow these blessings upon another people so uh joseph smith taught pretty explicitly that yeah that some people will be raised to be angels to serve those who are exalted as gods yeah and there's i knew someone i won't say who but who's lds who's really urging their spouse to take them to the temple because he said i don't want to go to the social kingdom and just be an angel you know i i want to get to the highest level and i have there was i don't remember who it was but it was like an ad like an advertisement i guess you could say or i don't even say but like kind of like a uh a pr kind of thing from the elias church where someone says you know i want the best thing available to me the lds missionaries talked to me and they said you know they offered me that i could become like god and that's what i wanted you know i wanted to become like him so there's this kind of there's this appeal to a lot of lottery saints to become you know to to become just exactly like god is i forgot why i made that point but there's something you said that reminded me of that yeah it was the the whole uh that there would be some angels who would be resurrected angel people who would be resurrected angels rather than gods um yeah so the other the other um statement from this section of the essay i wanted to comment on says like ascending a ladder individuals need to learn the first principles of the gospel and continue beyond the limits of mortal knowledge until they could learn the last principles of the gospel when the time came it is not to not all to be comprehended in this world joseph said it will take a long time after the grave to understand the whole so um a couple of comments here earlier in the section they had uh quoted joseph smith as saying if men do not comprehend the nature of god they do not comprehend themselves um and then they make the claim in that phrase the prophet collapsed the gulf that centuries of confusion had created between god and humanity so they're saying that joseph smith collapsed the creator creature distinction that we talked about earlier on but then they go on to say that it's like ascending a ladder and it's going to take forever in the eternities to really get there um one i want to refer our listeners back to um if you haven't listened to it and if you have go back and listen to it again uh our episode becoming perfect which is a response to book of mormon central i think that's a really critical uh episode to go listen to when thinking about this topic um but the statement that it's going to take a really long time after the grave to understand the whole kind of uh it demonstrates that the gulf actually exists right because we recognize and joseph smith's listeners recognize and joseph smith realized that his listeners recognized that man there's this real difference between me and god how you're saying i can become god and he's like well it'll take a while people it's gonna take a good long time even after the grave for that to happen um so it's just it's kind of self-defeating the whole argument of oh the the the distinction has collapsed yeah that's a good that's a good point um uh there's another point that you said that i thought was interesting uh lost it um yeah and like so when you look in church history too you know you kind of see a similar you see some you see interesting trends that happen you know like baptism early on in the church was related to permission of sins so you had people that would see baptism as like kind of like a get into heaven free card like they would wait as long as possible to get baptized because they're like hey if i get baptized right on my deathbed you know i'll get all my sins forgiven and then i'll get into heaven right so there's a lot of people that did that and um so like when you see you know when you see in catholic theology in the you know early medieval catholic theology they really focused a lot of penance and you know like you know works really started to grow in terms of its importance and so then you have this idea of purgatory that starts to develop because yeah they saw a similar gap they're like well god's perfect and if i'm going to become like christ that's you know how is that going to happen and so um they developed this idea of purgatory that there would be a time you know like uh where you would be purging you know purgation of your sins so you could become perfect and actually endure god's presence and it would be kind of like a burning fire they point it to passages like first corinthians three and you know that and then you had this practice of like well you don't want your ancestors to survive centuries and millennia in purgatory right so if you say so many prayers to mary or if you like candles or do so many good works that'll release them from purgatory for so many years and um and then by the time of the reformation there were these you know there was a gross abuse of uh of indulgences that grew that even the catholic church recognized was an abuse um where you could pay money and then you could get somebody out of purgatory for so many millennia or whatever and so that was used to fund the building of st peter's basilica in the vatican and that really upset a lot of people and that kind of was one of the big you know uh kind of spark that started the reformation so you see it you see like a lot of trends you know like where an idea kind of grows over time and then there's a response to it so like you said you know um joseph smith and those who followed him saw this this gap between us and god so how do how do we get from us to god is it through grace you know like can god just change us miraculously like can you just glorify us by his power well no we have to obey these laws and ordinances and gradually go up the ladder you know by our own efforts and repentance and eternities and eventually we'll get there you know that's that's the one like drop of hope it's like well as long as you're doing your best and you try eventually you'll get there but you really have no guarantee of that you know that you're that what you're doing now even is good enough so that when you get to the other side you can continue going because maybe you didn't do good enough here and then when you get to the other side you're like oh well sorry you know like you're you're stuck in the terrestrial kingdom i guess you know i don't know that's just a lot of thoughts i had on that part yeah that's good all right let's go on to uh the next section we thank you for tuning into this episode of the outer brightness podcast we'd love to hear from you please visit the outer brightness podcast page on facebook feel free to send us a message there with comments or questions by clicking send a message at the top of the page and we would appreciate it if you give the page a like we also have an outer brightness group on facebook where you can join and interact with us and others as we discuss the podcast past episodes and suggestions for future episodes etc you can also send us an email at outer brightness at we hope to hear from you soon you can subscribe to the outer brightness podcast on apple podcasts cast box google podcasts pocketcast podbean spotify and stitcher also you can check out our new youtube channel and if you like it be sure to lay hands on that subscribe button and confirm it if you like what you hear please give us a rating and review wherever you listen and help spread the word you can also connect with michael the x mormon apologist at from water to where he blogs and sometimes paul and matthew do as well music for the outer brightness podcast is graciously provided by the talented brianna florinoi and by adams road learn more about adams road by visiting their ministry page at adams road stay bright flyer flies lord to whom shall we go you have the words of eternal life and we have believed and have come to know that you are the holy one of god the word made french the risen son heaven and earth will pass away but the word of the lord endures forever where 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 because you have power to keep your word unspoiled in purity heaven and earth will pass away but the word of the lord endures forever where all of this world is in decay but the word of our god through ages remains bringing it lord we hear your word and believe in you heaven and earth will pass away but the word of the lord endures forever where all of this world is in decay but the word of our god through ages remains the word of god remains
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-02 20:34:06 / 2023-09-02 20:58:33 / 24

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