Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The LDS view of deification and Athanasius

On his outstanding blog, Energetic Procession, Perry Robinson provides a fine assessment of the use of, and interaction with, the Church Father, St. Athanasius, by an LDS apologist. I highly recommend Robinson's post. It is a fine example of how to carefully and thoughtfully read the Church Fathers. (For more on the LDS view of God, see my article, "Mormon Theism, the Traditional Christian Concept of God, and Greek Philosophy: A Critical Analysis" in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 44.4 [December 2001]: 671-95). Robinson writes:
For some time, the Mormons have been availing themselves of material in the Fathers of the Church regarding theosis in order to render their own doctrines more plausible. There is no shortage of LDS blogs and websites that exclaim with glee that the LDS doctrine of exaltation is within the bounds of Christian teaching on the basis of the Orthodox doctrine of theosis....

What I wish to look at here is one of the principle texts brought out by LDS apologists and its argument that Athanasius’ doctrine of theosis is inconsistent with his doctrine of creation ex nihilo. This claim has become quite common among Mormon apologists and it is well suited to demonstrate the coherence and strength of the Orthodox position.

The specific text is a doctoral dissertation by Keith E. Norman entitled, Deification: The Context of Athanasian Soteriology. It is available in both print and electronic form. The dilemma so far as I can tell from Norman’s text is that if we are to be deified, then we cannot be created ex nihilo and vice versa. And this is so because things created ex nihilo can’t become deified since by essence, God enjoys a kind of underived existence or aseity. Humans are therefore radically different or “wholly other” than God, so much so that it is impossible to become what God is by essence. Something cannot both be beginingless and have a begining. Deification would entail a natural and therefore essential change in humanity which is precluded by the doctrine of creation ex nihilo. Without such a change, humans can’t be deified and are left in a mutable metaphysical state apart from salvation. The implication is that the LDS can affirm theosis consistently because they reject the doctrine of creation ex nihilo. Therefore LDS theology stands in superior position to the Athanasian and by extension, the Orthodox teaching on deification.

You can read the whole thing here.

19 comments:

David Waltz said...

Hello Dr. Beckwith,

Thought I would mention that deification has been, and is, one of my favorite areas of study. I have been working on a book that is devoted to this topic and would like to share an abstract from one of its chapters:

== The terminology used to describe the doctrine of deification in the New Testament has many points of contact with the terminology used to describe the relationship between God the Father and God the Son. The terminology used to describe this relationship between God the Father and God the Son has convinced the vast majority of Christians down through the ages of the Church to conclude that because Jesus Christ shares so deeply in the nature and divine life of God, He too must be of the same order of being as God the Father. One must water down the motifs of “image of God”, “Son of God”, “immortality”, “heir”, “kingly rule”, etc. in order to avoid the clear teaching that Jesus Christ truly shares in God the Father’s “divine nature.” If the same terminology used to describe this relationship between God the Father and God the Son is used to describe the relationship between Jesus Christ and God’s adopted Sons, what should are conclusions be?==

As for the Eastern Orthodox view of deification, I have assessed from my studies that the Mormon apologist would be better served if he looked to the Catholic view of deification, rather than the EO, post-Palamas understanding. IMO the post-Palamas distinction between God’s “essence” and His “energies” makes ANY comparisons between the EO and Mormon views impossible.

Grace and peace,

David

Irene said...

David, that is quite remarkable! When is your book coming out?

Acolyte4236 said...

David,

The problem is that the e/e distinction is not post-Palamas. Dyothelite Christology as articulated by Maximus is explicit in making the distinction. Two natures, two wills and two energies in Christ. That's the better part of a thousand years before Palamas. Moreover, a careful reading of the Arian controversy reveals that the concept of energy played a crucial role both for Athanasius as well as the Cappadocians against Eunomius. Michel Barnes book on the Power of God is very helpful as to the pre-Nicene Hippocratic and pre-platonic background of the concept.

TOm said...

Hello Dr. Beckwith (and David, and others now),

I don’t see a whole lot about Perry’s thread here, but you seem to speak approvingly of it and since you just posted your link on 10Nov, perhaps I can discuss this without being “late to the party.”

Rather than getting into the part of Norman’s essay that suggested non-LDS theosis was incompatible with creation ex nihilo, I thought I would address two things I see in Perry’s essay that if true could be somewhat problematic for LDS deification.

First, it appears that Perry suggests that some of Norman’s criticism of non-LDS Theosis condemns the idea that men can be deified within LDS thought. I am not convinced that I have well grasped Perry’s point, but it seems to me that without defining “divinity as such” within LDS thought, Perry cannot even begin to critique how compatible deification is with LDS eternal intelligence(s) doctrine.
Taking most of my ideas from Blake Ostler, I would suggest that to be divine is to be within the Social Trinity with God the Father as fount of divinity in one sense and the divine community as (for lack of a better word) the fount of divinity in another sense. God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) then invites us to be full members of the divine community and thus to be fully divine.
With this view of “divinity as such” I do not see some type of metaphysical or monotheistic barrier that makes LDS thought internally inconsistent. We may be more tri-theistic than some Augustinian Trinitarians, but we are less so than some bold Social Trinitarians (or many less well informed Christians). We like all Christians cannot perfectly define how God and non-God are similar and different, but unlike most Christians we at least think it is not an essential ontological distinction (that cannot be perfectly elaborated by these Christians).

*

Second, it appears that Perry asserts that LDS misuse the ECF “cut and paste ….” I have no doubt that I have, we do, and …. That being said, I have no doubt that numerous Protestant and Catholics have read their 21st century theology into the words of the ECFs inappropriately and are also guilty.
Concerning this deification issue I would like to suggest a few things that I think are true within the writings of the ECF.

1. No ECF before Athanasius when talking about men becoming gods placed a limit upon the FINAL state of deified man. Until Athanasius and Nicea began to define divinity (and Christ’s divinity) in a very “–ousia” based way, the ECF didn’t hesitate to say that men will become gods as Christ is God. Most of the ECF subordinated Christ to the Father (in some sense), but they spoke of men being what Christ is/was. In the absence of subordinationist language AND –ousia based divinity folks like Athanasius began to speak of the deification of man with some limits placed upon what it was to be deified.

2. Justin Martyr (and probably Clement of Rome) embraced creation ex materia. The doctrine of creation ex nihilo was not part of Christian (or Jewish) thought before Justin Martyr. It would be unfair to say that there were not ambiguous statements that could be viewed as supporting creation ex nihilo, but in general I believe Gerard May made his case well and has not been dealt with adequately. (I also understand you are familiar with Copan & Craig’s presentation as well as Ostler’s response. If I have missed Copan & Craig’s response to Ostler than I apologize, but I understand their post Ostler book on the subject did not interact with him very much).
Cont …

TOm said...

So, I would suggest #1 aligns with LDS thought in that we boldly speak of men becoming gods. While the vast majority of deification language quoted by LDS in the ECF was written by someone who embraced creation ex nihilo, they did not hesitate to boldly declare the men can become gods.
I would suggest that #2 if correct shows an early development (maybe a reasonable development, maybe a God guided development, maybe not quite the theological novum that Gerard May seems to suggest, but a development). This development precipitated future developments over time, but initially many could embrace creation ex nihilo and still embrace a robust deification of man without ontological limits.

The above aligns well with my understanding of what LDS assert concerning our deification. Add to this other things from Ostler such as the idea that God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were/are always divine and we have the potential to become divine and the closeness is enhanced. It is through God’s grace that we become as He is.

It is my opinion that the above use of ECF thought is not outside of what is appropriate AND it is much better than some things that some seem to assert like that Tertullian was an Augustinian Trinitarians or Cyprian was committed to the primacy of Rome.

**********
I hope the above makes sense. Perhaps you do not actually embrace Perry’s thoughts or ??? In any case I thought I would offer a bit of my thoughts here.

Charity, TOm

P.S. I suspect that you are familiar with Ostler’s currently 3 volume Exploring Mormon Thought. Your Dec 2001 article could not have interacted with that and I found myself wishing to claim that you had not accurately captured my thoughts on LDS theology. This is not a condemnation of your article since it is very difficult to deal with a full picture of LDS thought (since few if any exist). Ostler IMO comes closest to this full picture and with perhaps one minor exception I find myself lining up with his understanding. I am wondering if you have read his 3 volumes and what you think.

lojahw said...

LDS theology is so foreign to Christian theology (“as we are, God once was” means that the god who created planet earth was previously a human on another planet), that any comparison of concepts of theosis is extremely problematic.

According to Athanasius, “I and the Father are One,” affirms that Jesus’ nature is the same as the Father’s, whereas “that you may be one as I and the Father are one” describes the analogous oneness of His disciples that is the result of grace. Likewise, Christ is the exact image and representation of God in contrast to humans made in the image of God. The term “image” is the same, but it is used in analogous senses. Therefore, what is true for Christ by nature is true for his disciples in an analogous and partial sense. Below excerpts from Athanasius’ Discourse Against the Arians:

Disc. Arians 3.25.14. ... but they are of things which come to be; and moreover being separate and divided from the only God, and other in nature, and being works, they can neither work what God works, nor, as I said before, when God gives grace, can they give grace with Him.

Disc. Arians 3.25.19. ... when He is God's Word and Wisdom, and we were fashioned out of the earth, and He is by nature and essence Word and true God … and we are made sons through Him by adoption and grace, as partaking of His Spirit … but we by imitation become virtuous and sons:— therefore not that we might become such as He, did He say 'that they may be one as We are;' but that as He, being the Word, is in His own Father, so that we too, taking an examplar and looking at Him, might become one towards each other in concord and oneness of spirit, nor be at variance as the Corinthians, but mind the same thing, as those five thousand in the Acts, who were as one.

Disc. Arians 3.25.20. For like things are naturally one with like; thus all flesh is ranked together in kind ; but the Word is unlike us and like the Father.

Disc. Arians 3.25.21. ... as saying, that in the power of the Father and the Son they may be one, speaking the same things; for without God this is impossible. And this mode of speech also we may find in the divine writings, as 'In God will we do great acts;' and 'In God I shall leap over the wall ;' and 'In You will we tread down our enemies .'

Disc. Arians 3.25.23. In like manner then we too, when the Lord says 'as,' neither become as the Son in the Father, nor as the Father is in the Son. For we become one as the Father and the Son in mind and agreement of spirit, and the Saviour will be as Jonah in the earth; but as the Saviour is not Jonah, nor, as he was swallowed up, so did the Saviour descend into hades, but it is but a parallel, in like manner, if we too become one, as the Son in the Father, we shall not be as the Son, nor equal to Him; for He and we are but parallel.

Blessings.

lojahw said...

I was remiss above in not providing the other half of the LDS dictum: “as God is, we shall become” means that if we are goo Mormons, we too, will become a god, create our own world, and populate it with our “spirit children” given bodies like we now have. That completes the LDS concept of theosis.


Blessings.

David Waltz said...

Hello Perry,

In my referencing of Palamas I did not mean to imply that there were not prior antecedents, but rather, I was acknowledging the significance of his systematic presentation of the essence and energies distinction for EO thought.

There is little question in my mind that certain elements of Middle Platonism were influential in the development of the theological thought of some early Church Fathers—most notable are the utter transcendence and inability to ‘know’ God (in His essence).

Anyway, the point I really wanted to emphasize is that that Mormon apologists do not seem to understand the implications that EED poses, as it pertains to deification, and that the Augustinian/Thomistic ADS offers more points of contact (for the Mormon) than EED.


Grace and peace,

David

Acolyte4236 said...

Tom,

I argued that some of his criticisms didn’t condemn but were inconsistent with the LDS position. I intentionally left deity undefined to allow the LDS to pour into the term whatever they wish, as I think the criticism will still go through one way or the other regardless of most plausible semantic candidates. If the LDS wish to deny that God is beginingless, then they will have to endorse some form of polytheism or seriously attenuate the meaning of the term “god.” If they wish to affirm that God is beginingless, even in terms of being temporally everlasting, then there will be a choice to include us in it or exclude us. If the former, then its hard to see why he’s called “God” and we’re not. If the latter, then Norman’s objection cuts against the LDS position. God is not the same kind of being as we are and so no real theosis is possible for the LDS. If there is some tertium quid here, it’d be interesting to see it. In the main, those seem like the conceptual options-either god is beginingless or he’s not. There’s no third possibility there it seems.

Social Trinitarianism is far from being within the pale of Christian orthodoxy, so even if the LDS position amounted to a form of it, and it isn’t clear that it does, it wouldn’t follow that the LDS position was acceptable. What philosophers toy with is one thing, what the Church professes is quite another matter. Moreover, the divide isn’t between Augustinian Trinitarians and Social Trinitarians. I am not Augustinian, either soteriologically or Triadologically and I reject Social Trinitarianism as does practically any Orthodox cleric or bishop I know who has ever heard of it. The idea that ST represents the Eastern take is pure hogwash in terms of historical theology. Sarah Coakly, among others I think has aptly demonstrated this.

Moreoer, the gloss you give won’t explain why we aren’t gods now if we are independently and everlasting existing objects along with the gods. Why call him father at all? Brother perhaps, but not father.

As for what you think is essential, that is a matter of authority. I know Catholics will not be unhappy with my answer here materially speaking but will agree in principle that the LDS reject the authoritative judgment of the Orthodox Church. So it doesn’t matter that the LDS judge otherwise anymore than if Judaizer’s judged otherwise than the apostolic council in Acts 15. The LDS lack the requisite authority to make such judgments.

If Protestants and Catholics have been anachronistic, I am not sure how that is exculpatory for the LDS being so. Second, I am not Protestant or Catholic, so if they end up being so, what is that to me? I am Orthodox and know that already. And?

Your first point regarding a final end turns on an equivocation. Does final mean a cessation of activity or being what god is by essence? The Orthodox affirm that there is no cessation of progress and activity but deny the second and this goes back as far as one could practically wish. There isn’t any church Father that I know that asserts the second. So earlier fathers saying that we become gods and such has a definite meaning. Once you pour the definite content into it from the authors, it becomes obvious that it is no use to the LDS view.

Acolyte4236 said...

Tom, (cont.)

Athanasius doesn’t deny an eternal subordination of the Son if by that we mean that the Son is generated qua hypostasis from the Father without any inequality of essence. On a few very precise occasions, Athanasius rightly speaks of the Son participating in the Father. This is in line with passages like Eph 1:17.

It really doesn’t matter if Justin taught that the world was created from unformed matter or not. Justin’s idea is clearly derived from Platonism and so isn’t evidence of the LDS church. Second, Justin’s beliefs are only relevant to early Christianity in so far as they reflect the apostolic deposit passed on. Unless the LDS wish to claim Plato’s Timeaus as part of the original apostolic deposit, Justin is clearly deriving this view not from the Apostles but from Platonism. Third, even if it were evidence for early Christian belief, it no more serves as evidence for the LDS claims than the Jehovah’s Witnesses or other sect that posit an apostasy, restoration and deny creation ex nihilo. of which there are not a few. Fourth, there are many other things that Justin testifies to that are inconsistent with LDS theology. If similarity is evidence or justification of LDS claims, then the greater amount of dissimilarity renders it apologetically useless.

For the record, I am unmoved and unimpressed by Craig and Copan as well as Oslter. May’s work is overplayed by LDS apologists to begin with. He is hardly the only professional voice on the matter.

Sure many fathers speak of becoming gods, but that is no more evidence for the lds view than it is for that of the Platonists, Stoics or pagans who also used such language around the same time. We have clear evidence that they existed and no (clear or plausible) evidence that the Mormons did. The question is what they meant by it and when we look at the terminology, it isn’t what the lds mean and so is apologetically useless to the lds case.

Acolyte4236 said...

Tom (con.t)

As for the notion of development, it strikes me as entirely unmotivated by the evidence as well as rather speculative. We’d need evidence that people embraced creation ex nihilo and some supposed older view of deification for which there isn’t clear or even significant evidence, which lacked metaphysical limitation. Second, it is entirely far easier to explain the data in terms of Platonic or Stoic influence on some key thinkers and given the paucity of sources, as even May admits and consequently asserts over and over again, no sure judgment can be made. You can’t get blood from a stone.

Rather I’d offer the following. There is a difference between what can be demonstrated and what has been passed on. The two are not always co-extensive. Given the persecution by the Romans and sheer limitation in documents we do have, and the limited topics and length of discussion in said documents gathering sufficient data to amount to a demonstration here is probably not going to happen. It doesn’t follow from that, that the doctrine of creation ex nihilo wasn’t part of the apostolic deposit and wasn’t passed on. I’d argue that there are cases like this in other areas. And given that we are dealing with a community, whose literature is not functioning like material for geometric proofs, this is what we should expect. Take for example monogamy in the early church. There is no explicit command for it in the NT, but we know that it was one thing that set apart in the leadership of the church Christianity. Or take women taking the Eucharist. There is no command for that either, nor any example of it. And given that I can go to Greece for example to Churches actually founded and still functioning directlyby the Apostles which have been continuously Orthodox and no LDS ones, I find the idea that the LDS existed prior to Justin and that there was some apostasy absolutely fantastic.

What you have written may be consistent with LDS beliefs, but it doesn’t follow that it is true. Plenty of false ideas are internally consistent. Nor does it have any evidentiary value for LDS claims. There's no inference from the evidence to LDS claims.

To speak of becoming what God is by grace is in this context vaccuous since those terms remain undefined. If you think the gods have no beginning and you do have one, then Norman’s criticisms again come to bear, since opposite properties cannot be substantially true of the same object. If not, then I can't see why they deserve the title of gods, father and such.

TOm said...

Lojahw,
I suggested in my post that Athanasius was a turning point in Christianity. That before Athanasius wrote there were no Christians (when talking about deification) who limited the final (final, not initial) state of deified man. Then Athanasius and others after him did limit the final state of deified man. I also acknowledge that the overwhelming majority of deification statements gleaned from Athanasius and other ECF are offered by folks who embrace creation ex nihilo. With those two statements I suggest there is a case to be made that a stronger form of deification became a weaker form of deification within Christianity. It however would also be true that there were very few if any ECF who spoke of deification with the added LDS component that God did not create ex nihilo. I would be interested in knowing if I was incorrect when I say, “no ECF when talking about deification before Athanasius limited the FINAL state of deified man?”

I will respond directly to a few of your comments. You said:
LDS theology is so foreign to Christian theology (“as we are, God once was” means that the god who created planet earth was previously a human on another planet), that any comparison of concepts of theosis is extremely problematic.


Ostler does not embrace the above statement as you intend it and I agree with him. All Christians must acknowledge that God was once a man and is now divine, … when “God” in the previous sentence refers to God the Son. I believe that the most clear way of reading LDS scriptures and the King Follet Discourse is that they refer to an embodiment of God the Father similar too (and likely preceding) God the Son’s embodiment. LDS scripture does not speak of a time when God was not divine and I believe to assert that there is such a time is difficult to reconcile with what scripture does say.
Now, I will not deny that past LDS leaders (after Joseph Smith) have taught that God the Father was once not God. I will not deny that many LDS surely believe such a thing. I will just say that I think the KFD is best read differently than this and I do not embrace such an idea. So, when I ask, “Do the ECF support my view of deification?” I do not include this aspect of LDS thought in my query of the ECF. I do not know what position Norman holds, but I do agree with Ostler here.
cont ...

TOm said...

Lojahw said:
According to Athanasius, “I and the Father are One,” affirms that Jesus’ nature is the same as the Father’s, whereas “that you may be one as I and the Father are one” describes the analogous oneness of His disciples that is the result of grace.


I believe you are generally correct in your view of Athanasius. This is inline with the above where “limited deification” language begins with Athanasius.

Athanasius was NOT a sola scriptura Christian (nor am I and neither are Catholics / EOs). I believe that Athanasius is INTRODUCING something into the Biblical text above. One could argue that monotheism requires this introduction, but I do not think Biblical monotheism requires this at all. So, my point is that we both accept the Bible and I do not think Athanasius is providing a compelling read of the Bible above. I reject the authority of Athanasius and you reject the authority of the CoJCoLDS. In this area, we only have what the Bible states. It does not make the distinction between HOW the Father and Son are one verse HOW we are to become one with eachother and the Father and the Son. The Bible merely tells us that the Father and the Son are one and in one passage after stating just that it claims that we are to be one. Either there is a very faulty parallelism here in the Bible or the Bible is trying to tell us that we can be one as the Father and Son are one.

Similarly yours and Athanasius divorcing of IMAGE in its two contexts is imparted upon the Bible not evident in the Bible.

Similarly, Daniel Keating (in Deification and Grace) suggests that the exchange formula means one thing when it claims that Jesus Christ became/partook/participates in what we are and another when it says we are to become/partake/participate in what He is.

All three of these constructions suggest to me that at one point in time the educated Christians wrote boldly about how we were to become what Christ is and that now the educated non-LDS Christians always qualify these statements. Why do we not see such qualification before Athanasius?

Charity, TOm

TOm said...

Perry,
Thanks again for your response. I will try to offer my thoughts.

Perry said:
If they wish to affirm that God is beginingless, even in terms of being temporally everlasting, then there will be a choice to include us in it or exclude us. If the former, then its hard to see why he’s called “God” and we’re not.

TOm:
I would affirm that God was / is beginningless certainly as an intelligence “greater than they all.” Most who have commented on this suggest that God is greater than they all in that He was / is greater than the SUM of all intelligences.
The plethora of lesser intelligences would than be “subject to enlargement.”
God the Father would be called our Father for two reasons. First, He would initiate the conditions within which lesser intelligences could advance. Lesser intelligences lacked the ability to advance prior to God providing concurring energy. In my mind a lesser intelligence is like a fully functioning motor that lacks the power to do ANY work outside its own functioning. We possessed a will, but lacked the ability to interact beyond the mere act of willing.
Second, part of this “condition within which lesser intelligences could advance” is the creation of our spirits. The eternal intelligence is birthed via a “Spirit Birth” analogous to the Spirit being born via an earthly birth. The parents of a human baby do not make or create the child’s spirit, but are nonetheless the baby’s parents. Heavenly Father does not make or create whatever is this “eternal intelligence” but is nonetheless the spirit son or daughter’s Heavenly Father.

I should mention that most common within LDS thought is that somehow a divine feminine is involved in “Spirit Procreation.” I am unsure of how Ostler encompasses the divine feminine in his thought, but he has not written much about it and declined to specify. I personally am not dogmatically opposed to a divine feminine; I merely demand that she is not part of the Trinity as evidenced by our scriptures (and that it seems Joseph Smith very possibly was not the source of this teaching).

Joseph Smith said:
God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. He has power to institute laws to instruct the weaker intelligences, that they may be exalted with himself.


Now, I would suggest that within religious vocabulary the use of the term Father is significantly broader than Perry (and Father Patrick – God love you for your title “Father”) wish to demand LDS accept. Problems associated with Christ being Son of God the Father and Father of all mankind exist. Problems with Mary being “Mother of God” and “Our Mother” within Catholic and EO vocabulary exist. Problems with calling Father Patrick “Father” and speaking of the “Holy Father” and the “Early Church Fathers” abound. I think it quite bold to actually make hay out of the LDS use of the term “Heavenly Father.”

Perry said:
Social Trinitarianism is far from being within the pale of Christian orthodoxy, so even if the LDS position amounted to a form of it, and it isn’t clear that it does, it wouldn’t follow that the LDS position was acceptable.

TOm:
In general, I am not arguing that the CoJCoLDS be “within the pale of Christian orthodoxy.” If we are internally inconsistent, I think that is a problem. I personally believe that such inconsistencies would need to mount pretty high before it reached the point were I would need to reject “dialectic reasoning” to the extent I think it is necessary to do so within non-LDS traditions, but I generally see for my concept of LDS theology only the problems that are directly reflected in non-LDS theology (like were did God come from?).
cont ...

TOm said...

Perry said:
Moreoer, the gloss you give won’t explain why we aren’t gods now if we are independently and everlasting existing objects along with the gods. Why call him father at all? Brother perhaps, but not father.

TOm:
1. “Divinity as such” is associated with perfected I-Thou love within the divine community
2. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as a product of His/Their (initial / eternal / …) state were capable of I-Thou love in ways that we were not as a product of our (initial) state, God would eternally exist (as Doctrine and Covenants 29 demand) and we would initial not be god. The Father being the “most intelligent of them all” would necessarily offer something essential to the Son and Holy Spirit so that they could will to be a part of this divine community, but Son and Holy Spirit were the only intelligences able to perfectly will this.
3. Since “Divinity as such” is associated with perfected I-Thou love within a divine community, once we were given concurring energy and could act on our wills we could progress until we could give and receive perfected I-Thou love. Thus, when scripture says we are to become as Christ is, it really means it!


I am quite certain the above is not “Christian orthodoxy.” That being said, I am unsure how its flaws are any greater than “that sounds weird and does not jive with what I think God / divinity / eternality / Father / … should be.”
Perhaps I am just to simple to see this, but I do not.


Perry said:
As for what you think is essential, that is a matter of authority.

TOm:
Agreed. If (as Bradshaw suggested in his book Aristotle East and West: Metaphysics and the Division of Christendom) Norman is correct that creation ex nihilo and Catholic (not EO) deification is internally inconsistent, then there is a problem with the theology not withstanding the authority. If as you have stated (and I cannot see) LDS theology is internally inconsistent, then there is a problem with the theology not withstanding the authority.
Who has God’s authority is a separate matter.
I believe the Peterine authority didn’t pass to Linus AND that it did pass to Joseph Smith. You likely reject the idea of Peterine authority in its Catholic manifestations too. But this is a conversation for another thread.

Perry said:
Does final mean a cessation of activity or being what god is by essence?

TOm:
My purpose in phrasing is that there are no boundaries established within the statement, “men can become gods” when this statement (and similar ones) are offered before Athanasius.
I reject that there is a static perfection or cessation of activity; so, no, this is not what I mean.

Perry said:
Justin’s idea is clearly derived from Platonism and so isn’t evidence of the LDS church.

TOm:
Justin actually says that the Platonic philosophers were correct in that they recognized creation was ex materia. He claims he is speaking Christian (and Jewish) truth that aligns with Platonism.
May attempts to show that the Bible (Old and New Testament) are best read as not speaking of creation ex nihilo and in some cases speaking of Creation ex Materia. I cannot separate my biases from my judgment (nobody can perfectly), but I think May makes a good case. And remember, May embraces creation ex nihilo, he just claims it is a developed truth that was not evident in the Bible and pre-second century folks.

That Justin Martyr, Clement of Rome, and others believed the Bible taught creation ex materia and didn’t teach creation ex nihilo is evidence that the way the CoJCoLDS reads the Bible (and the clear teachings of later purported revelation) is ancient and reasonable. This is all the more noteworthy in that these purported revelations came through an individual who didn’t read Gerard May or ….
cont ...

TOm said...

Perry said:
Third, even if it were evidence for early Christian belief, it no more serves as evidence for the LDS claims than the Jehovah’s Witnesses or other sect that posit an apostasy, restoration and deny creation ex nihilo. of which there are not a few.

TOm:
There are few non-LDS religions that reject creation ex nihilo. I am aware of none in Joseph Smith environment. I do not believe the JWs reject creation ex nihilo. I think there are some Jewish Kabbalists who reject CeN and some Open Theists, but I would suggest there are few AND that they do not claim to have received revelation.
Still, how do these others impact me?

Perry said:
Fourth, there are many other things that Justin testifies to that are inconsistent with LDS theology. If similarity is evidence or justification of LDS claims, then the greater amount of dissimilarity renders it apologetically useless.

TOm:
I am sympathetic to this point. I do not think Justin asserts volumes that are problematic for Mormonism, but I also do not think Justin is more that an early in the apostasy witness for Christianity.

Perry said:
For the record, I am unmoved and unimpressed by Craig and Copan as well as Oslter. May’s work is overplayed by LDS apologists to begin with. He is hardly the only professional voice on the matter.

TOm:
I have yet to see much interaction with May or Ostler. Do you have a “professional voice” in mind that would interact with May or Ostler? I would be interested in reading such a source.

Perry said:
We’d need evidence that people embraced creation ex nihilo and some supposed older view of deification for which there isn’t clear or even significant evidence, which lacked metaphysical limitation.

TOm:
It is clear to me that ECF before Athanasius saw little need to qualify what it meant to “become gods.” This was a frequently discussed aspect of Christianity, but totally absent is the type of powerful need to qualify “become gods.”
I am sure you and I could frame eachother’s arguments as “an argument from absence,” but however framed, when pre-Athanasius ECF spoke of deification they didn’t feel the need to make sure they are not advocating the men become what literally what Christ is.

Perry said:
What you have written may be consistent with LDS beliefs, but it doesn’t follow that it is true. Plenty of false ideas are internally consistent. Nor does it have any evidentiary value for LDS claims. There's no inference from the evidence to LDS claims.

TOm:
Against a criticism that LDS concepts of deification (like Catholic concepts of deification) are internally inconsistent, I am after, “What you have written may be consistent with LDS beliefs, but it doesn’t follow that it is true. Plenty of false ideas are internally consistent.”
I do not believe there is ZERO apologetic value in the witness of the ECFs possible development in thought, but I will acknowledge that I do not offer proof that the CoJCoLDS is a restoration of ancient Christianity.

Thanks again for posting. I really would like to know who I should read that will deal with the ideas put forth by May.

Charity, TOm

Acolyte4236 said...

Tom,

In your response to Lojahw, you suggest that Athanasius is a turning point. First, I think this is at best an argument from silence and seems to turn on an equivocation. You write that prior writers didn’t limit theosis in terms of becoming what God is by essence. Suppose this is true, but it is only so if by this is meant that they didn’t speak to the issue one way or the other. It is not as if they maintained essential change and then Athanasius alters it. Furthermore, if you hold that God is beginingless, then you too limit theosis, so there isn’t a question of a limited theosis or unlimited theosis.

Secondly, Irenaeus makes the same explicit gloss that Athanasius does and he sufficiently further back to render your argument that there was some unaltered form of theosis highly implausible. Irenaues denies that we become deity by essence.

Furthermore, we’d need some evidence that there was some earlier view that permitted us to become God by essence rather than a proposed incompatibility with creation ex nihilo. Otherwise its either speculative or question begging. As I have shown the motivation for that supposed problem isn’t that God creates ex nihilo but that God is beginingless. If you affirm that, then you would only be arguing for a view of theosis that falsifies LDS teaching concerning this supposed stronger view of theosis.
Also, I am not clear on why the view of deification that I sketched as found in Athanasius and other Orthodox Fathers is “weaker.” This seems to beg the question.

It is true that Ostler does think that God is temporally beginingless, but it is also true that he attempts to deploy Norman’s argument. I can’t see how that can consistently be done. Part of the problem from where I am sitting is that there seems to be no definitive teaching from the living lds prophets on the nature of the gods to make an argument one way or another concerning the Orthodox doctrine of theosis.

The material in John 16-17 about how we may become one as the Father and Son are is not as problematic as you make it out to be. For they are also one energetically and specifically in the economia. Consequently it is quite possible for Christians to participate in that energetic or deification by divine energies in the economia. The problem is in thinking of deity strictly and solely in terms of essence. But the energies are fully deity as well.

Acolyte4236 said...

Tom,

I can’t see if we are everlasting like God how he could be superior to us. I can’t see how an advance would be possible. To say that lesser beings lacked the power or ability to progress I think begs the question. Why are they lesser in the first place? And if he is beginingless, then Norman’s criticism falls through, creation ex nihilo or no creation ex nihilo.
I am not demanding that the LDS accept any notion of father, beyond the notion that seems common to all of a dependence relation. I can’t see how such beings are dependent on one another. I can see given that they are corpuscular how they are dependent on their parts, but not on each other.
As for problems with the term theotokos, I don’t know of any so you are going to have to spell that out. To speak of divinity as such in terms of relation doesn’t help because it leaves untouched the point. Why couldn’t I and others constitute deity as such if we are the same species and everlasting?
Second, I don’t see why we couldn’t be capable of what they were if we are the same species, unless we were everlastingly defective, which doesn’t speak good news to us now for sure.
If the father deity could be god initially, then why couldn’t we? Why the need for process? Was he fated to be so?
I don’t see how the father can be more intelligent if we are all the same kind. But even if that were so, I don’t see how communicating whatever he did in terms of it could constitute communicating something “essential.” If it were, they’d have it already since they are the same essence as he is. If they aren’t of the same kind, then Norman’s criticism comes back again.
Your third point seems to imply that the father god wasn’t always so.
As for Bradshaw, the problem from the Orthodox point of view with Catholicism and theosis isn’t motivated by creation ex nihilo and Bradshaw doesn’t argue that it is. Rather it is motivated by their view of simplicity.
Yes I am aware of what Justin says concerning Platonism. I don’t think I have biases, but a perspective and presuppositions. In any case, an affirmation of creation from pre-existing matter in Justin isn’t evidence of LDS teaching in a prior period. Its evidence that Justin has been doing his morning devotions out of the Timeaus.

Acolyte4236 said...

Tom, (cont.)

If Clement and others taught such an idea, it doesn’t follow that way that the LDS read the bible is reasonable. The coherence and plausibility of the idea stands on its own. Second, you think that Justin and Clement got a good number of things wrong so it doesn’t follow that if they taught something else you happen to agree with that it is reasonable. And as to its antiquity that is rather hollow since many ideas can be shown to be ancient in that way. The way Dan Brown reads the data can be shown to be “ancient” since many of the Gnostics read it in the same way.
Moreover, such reasoning cuts against the LDS in a host of positions where the apostolic fathers and apologists read the bible pretty much the way traditional Christians do on baptism, the eucharist, the divinity of Christ, etc.

And it isn’t noteworthy that the ideas come from someone uneducated. In fact, they are quite consistent. The idea of corpuscular deities and an everlasting world were part of the beliefs of the everday uneducated pagan because they lacked the ability to think more clearly. They though in materialistic terms. Its no great wonder that Smith did as well. He isn’t the only person in that period to do so.

There are a variety of groups in and from the 19th century that deny either creation ex nihilo or other doctrines along with Smith. And yes, the JW’s think that Jehovah lives in the Pleiades constellation. They think of God in a corpusclar way and the universe formed out of pre-existing matter.

If persons prior to Athanasius say little need to qualify it, all we can say is that they saw little need to do so. It doesn’t follow that they took the view you are proposing and wouldn’t qualify it. And as I noted Ireneaus does so. They did in fact feel the need to differentiate it from pagan conceptions of theopoesis.