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Rob Bowman on the Trinity Part 1

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever
The Truth Network Radio
January 24, 2021 8:36 pm

Rob Bowman on the Trinity Part 1

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever

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January 24, 2021 8:36 pm

Guest Robert Bowman discusses the Trinity in this week’s shows.

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One humanism examines the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints from a biblical viewpoint when Mormonism is sponsored by Mormonism research ministry since 1979 Mormonism research ministry has been dedicated to equipping the body of Christ answers regarding the Christian faith in a manner that expresses gentleness and respect.

And now, your host for today's viewpoint on Mormonism welcome to this additional viewpoint on Mormonism on your host overachiever founder and director Mormonism research ministry with me today is a good friend of ours Rob Bowen Dr. Rob Bowman has his doctoral studies in Christian apologetics at Westminster theological seminary and earned his PhD in biblical studies at the South African theological seminary for 10 years. He was the executive director of the Institute for religious research and the reason why I wanted to have Rob on the show today is because Rob has written a number of articles and even a book dealing with the doctrine of the Trinity. So Rob, welcome to the show. It's good to have you back.

Nice to be with you. You have a lot to offer the Christian community on this subject, Rob, and it was this article that was written by Dr. Daniel Peterson, Dr. Daniel Peterson. We discussed a lot of his defenses of the Mormon faith on past shows, but he is the professor of Islamic studies and Arabic at Brigham Young University and he's kind of that go to apologist many times I have found. He often speaks at the fair conference the foundation for apologetics information research he speaks for them and he's written a number of articles and this is an article that I wanted to discuss with you Rob. It was titled defending the faith where the disagreement lies. It was published in the desert retinues church. New section on April 19, 2018, so it's not a new article but it's not really even a new article for Daniel Peterson when it was posted back in April because he has spoken on or written on the subject in the past has he not that's correct. He did an article in a periodical called element in 2007 in which she talked about this very same subject.

In fact, I think the desert retinues pieces a very short summary of what he'd written in that earlier academic article and he's talked about it. I'm sure on many other occasions. So this is something that he's been interested in and has commented on in the past and what he says in this particular does retinues piece is not timely or connected to some specific event. It's just his summary of what he thinks is really going on between the Orthodox Christians and Mormons on the subject.

What, let's go through is opening lines. He has a very short paragraph that begins this piece and I want to read the first sentence and then ask your opinion whether you agree or disagree with what he says here.

This is what he says when he opens this article defending the faith where the disagreement lies.

He says this a fundamental disagreement between latter-day St. Christianity and mainstream Christianity concerns the doctrine of the Trinity you agree with that statement of sure that is a fundamental disagreement yet. Alright, so he's accurate on that. So he goes on in the next sentence to say both outsiders and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints themselves commonly say Mormons reject the Trinity you agree with that.

Yes, in my experience, that's pretty common.

It may be, you'll find a number of members who will parse that little bit differently and they'll say that they don't accept the doctrine as taught in the Nicene Creed or as traditionally understood or was some other qualification. Along those lines, but yes most people I've talked to in and out of the LDS church have agreed that Mormons don't accept the doctrine and I've noticed too. When I discussed this on the streets or in emails with Latter Day Saints. They tend to reject it as well.

Many times, though on a late level. They probably wouldn't be as specific as that say scholars might be to make sure you understand precisely where they are coming from but I have had average members of the LDS church is flat out denied it and say that anything having to do with that kind of a doctrine is certainly heretical to them but then he goes on. Dr. Peterson goes on in the to say but this isn't quite true. And it's important to be precise about where the actual disagreement lies not when I got to that sentence. I thought oh my, this is going to be one of those articles were if a Christian is reading this and I have to be quite honest with you Rob. I was thinking of Dr. Richard Mall in this particular case, I thought oh my goodness of Dr. Richard Mall, the former president of Fuller which is your old alma mater. Yes, it was to if you read that he would probably be going. See that's what I've been saying all along we are in agreement on a lot of things but I can when you know what Mormon leaders of set on the subject and even what Dr. Peterson is about to say on it.

I think it becomes very, very confusing and I wonder how does an average lady Christian come to grips with these kind of statements of witnesses.

But this isn't quite true. What would you say about that statement. Well yeah it it sets things up for the reader to expect that what's going to follow is going to say well we disagree on some aspects of it, but we agree on more than we disagree or something along those lines, and I think that is basically what Peterson tries to argue in the article, why, why do you think he would want to do that though given the fact that so many of his leaders in the past been very vehement in their condemnation of the Trinity. And usually when they are condemning that they are certainly condemning what has been historically understood regarding that particular doctor why would you want to do this well, there's a long history of leaders of higher stature or status in the religion than Peterson, essentially softening the blow or claiming to believe what traditional Christians believe plus something else or minus something that they think shouldn't of been added or we just explained a little bit differently. We've got more of the truth. We were, you know these kinds of statements are very common in fact a classic case in point would be the articles of faith, which is a part of the LDS Scripture canon called the pearl of great price and it derived from a letter that Joseph Smith had written a believe in the 1840s, in which Joseph had an agenda in ticking off what Mormons believe, which was to make it sound like what they were teaching was for the most part nothing for anybody to get really upset about her to be very concerned about. Yeah, they have their own particular take on certain issues, but all he wanted to make it sound very aboveboard and Christian than normal, almost.

And so he starts off with a very Trinitarian sounding statement in what later becomes known as article faith one. We believe in God the eternal father Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. Well, that sounds like a straightforward affirmation of the doctrine of the Trinity, but there's no doubt Mormons believe in three beings that they call the father son and Holy Ghost. But what is it that they believe about those personages or beings, and how does that compare with what traditional Christianity based on the Bible believes about them that needs to be understood better than what we get from that article. Faith one or from Dan Peterson's article, for example. Okay well let's go on in the next section because he gives the five points and this is what he says traditional mainstream trinitarianism rests upon five propositions. These are the five pieces number one. The father is God. Number two, the sun is God, number three, the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit is God for the father is not the son. The son is not the Holy Ghost and the Holy Ghost is not the father. The point number five. There is one God and only one God. I don't know of too many Trinitarian's that would disagree with those five points so he seems to be representing properly what Christians have historically believed regarding this doctrine. He's not misrepresenting that my opinion, what would you say no. I would agree with you. This is a very traditional looking list of the propositions that are affirmed in the document Trinity. In fact, I have an article on the biblical basis of the document Trinity on the IRR website that begins with setting out a series of propositions that look very much like this.

It's a little bit more detail than what Peterson does here, but it's the same idea. So yes, I think this is a very well done summary of the main planks if you will of the Trinitarian platform. The problem this is test.

We don't understand what any of these say in the same way and that's the problem because in the very next sentence. This is what Dr. Peterson says after listing those five points that you and I both would agree is a pretty good summary he goes on to say both mainstream Christians and Latter Day Saints except all five statements now. That's where I would say wait a minute that's not what I'm reading from LDS leaders. That's certainly not what I'm hearing from LDS lay members and I know it's not fair to judge Mormonism by what you may hear an average members say on the street.

I get that. But when you look at what Mormon leaders have set on the subject. I don't know of too many that would go through that list of five. The way it's worded here in this article and say they agree or accept all five statements yeah the only one of those five statements that Mormonism accepts without equivocation that is without significant changes of meaning would be the fourth. The father is not the son. The son is not the Holy Ghost of the Holy Ghost is not the father. Mormons definitely agree with that statement. Now they understand that statement differently to but they do in fact affirm that statement.

That is something that they believe the other statements I would say they don't, with the possible exception of number one. The father is God, but even there they don't understand that statement the same way we do either and so all of these statements need to be examined in the contexts of what traditional Christianity believes about God, about creation, about existence and with what Mormonism teaches on those things.

This is the big mistake that I think a lot of people make and I don't think it's just Peterson but I think sometimes Christians when they're trying to talk about these things with Mormons also make this mistake of thinking that you can talk about the doctrine of the Trinity without bringing in other aspects of Christian theology we have to know what we mean by God before we can talk about whether the father is God otherwise were just saying words. So here's how I would revise Dr. Peterson.

The sentence you just quoted were he says both mainstream Christians and Latter Day Saints except all five statements know they accept all five sentences, but they mean different things in Mormonism than they do in biblical traditional Christianity there's a difference between a sentence the words that are being articulated and the meanings that those words are being used in the statement or proposition a proposition is not just the words. It's what the words mean and if we'd mean different things by the sentences were not saying the same thing we been talking to Dr. Bowman. Rob has written a number of articles and even a book on the subject of the Trinity and tomorrow are going to continue this conversation and examine some of the points that Dr. Peterson has made. Thank you for listening. If you would like more information regarding his research ministry. We encourage you to visit our website www.mrm.org you can request a free newsletter Mormonism research. We hope you will join us again as we look at another viewpoint is


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