“Pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Or, Trinity Worshippers Claim Glenn Beck’s Jesus is not the Jesus of the Bible.

Those who are familiar with the Bible will recognize the first part of the title of this post as a quote from the Lord Jesus Christ himself, as recorded in Matthew 5:44. Evangelical creedalists of most denominations would have people believe, however, that Mormons do not read and are not familiar with the Bible and thus are not acquainted with this teaching.

Mormons are praying for Evangelical creedalists.

In case any Mormons have forgotten what Evangelical creedalists think about Mormons, a caustic view has been voiced about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in relation to Focus on the Family’s decision to remove an interview with a popular Mormon, Glenn Beck, from its website. The statements serve as a reminder to Latter-day Saints that the Evangelical creedalist right is spitefully using Mormons for their money and organization to further their political agendas.

According to the Christian Post article, the pastor of some Evangelical creedalist congregation in North Carolina stated that (before caving to such criticism and removing the interview with Glenn Beck) Focus on the Family was using “Mr. Beck’s story as a way to show that hope can be found in God, which is true enough; the problem is that Mr. Beck’s god is not the Triune God of the Bible nor is his Jesus the Jesus of the Bible” (emphasis added). The bolded portion here is truly remarkable considering that the pastor’s own “Triune God” is itself not found in the Bible absent certain prerequisite syllogisms that do not constitute the only way — and thus not the necessary way — of reading the Bible.

This raises the question of whether the Jesus of this Evangelical creedalist pastor is the Jesus of the Bible or the Jesus of the Trinitarian Creeds. Given the fourth century context of the Nicene Creed as the textual source of the Trinity, it would seem accurate to say that this pastor’s Jesus is not the Jesus of the Bible but rather the Jesus of the Creeds. Some Evangelical creedalists of which I am aware have argued that, even absent the creeds, they themselves would have, on their own and without the overlay of Greek philosophy that informed the creation of the creeds and their fourth century context, concluded that God must be a One Substance Trinity (rather than a Godhead consisting of three separate entities who are one in purpose) based on a straightforward reading of the Bible. That they would come to such a conclusion based on a reading of the face of the Bible strains reason, but of course so does belief in the appearance of God the Father and Jesus Christ as two separate beings to Joseph Smith.

Ironically on this point, Latter-day Saints, by contrast, believe more literally in the Jesus of the New Testament who is the Son of God and therefore distinct from his and our Heavenly Father. The first century A.D. context displays no lack of testimonies of disciples of Jesus Christ seeing Christ on the right hand of the Father, for one thing. For example, that Stephen is recorded as having seen Jesus on the right hand of God gives comfort to Latter-day Saints that this belief is not unbiblical, as Evangelical creedalists claim it is:

55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. (Acts 7:55)

Of course, upon such exclamation, the martyr Stephen was stoned by the stalwart residents of Jerusalem for daring to utter a challenge to what they believed was the One God of the Old Testament. One wonders whether the North Carolina pastor would have thrown down his coat with those Jews and thrown stones at that witness of Jesus Christ for contravening the notion of the One God of the Old Testament by testifying to the existence of the Son of God and of seeing him standing separately on the right hand of God the Father.

Although numerous other passages of scripture from the New Testament testify that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and show him as a being separate from God the Father, no passage requires a reading outlining a One Substance Trinity. To the contrary, in his great Intercessory Prayer, Jesus Christ prays to the Father that his disciples may be one with him and with the Father, just as he and the Father are one:

20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (John 17:20-23)

Again, although a One Substance Trinity is one possible reading of Christ’s “oneness” with the Father in some places in the New Testament, particularly when situated in relation to syllogisms attempting coherence with Old Testament severity, such is a creedalist reading informed by centuries of political intrigue and Greek philosophy and is not the only possible reading. The fact that Jesus prays that his disciples will be one with each other and with him and the Father and that he (Jesus) may be in his disciples as the Father is in him suggests that some other meaning of “being one” is intended. Actually, the reading of Latter-day Saints seems more straightforward than the complex One Substance Trinity artifice when viewed from the perspective of this Intercessory Prayer and the stoning of Stephen.

Is Glenn Beck’s Jesus the Jesus of the New Testament or the Jesus of the Creeds? I do not know Glenn Beck but assume that he has a pretty standard Mormon belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior of the world. Assuming that Glenn Beck maintains such a belief, the Evangelical creedalist pastor quoted in the linked article is therefore absolutely correct that Glenn Beck’s Jesus is not the Jesus of the Trinitarian Creeds (“Mr. Beck’s god is not the Triune God”), but then again, neither is the God of the Bible.

Comments

  1. I think we should let these things pass without argument. Let our deeds speak for us as to whether we follow Christ. Perhaps it’s best not even to engage on these things. It only makes us defensive.

    Instead maybe we should spend that same effort on proclaiming Him, and doing his work.

  2. Agreeing 100% with the last paragraph.

  3. John F., the question of what a “One Substance Trinity” is and how exactly it differs from a group of three beings who are entirely one in purpose, traits, character, and knowledge is more difficult than you seem to suggest.

  4. After arguing this point with evangelicals ad nauseum, I agree with Tatiana. We don’t even speak the same language as evangelicals do, and we are never going to make headway on this point.

    I agree wholeheartedly with the suggestion, however, that we ought to keep these issues in mind when it is suggested that we unite with evangelicals on causes such as prop 8. They are, as you say, using us and our money. Let no one be deceived.

  5. JNS, that is correct, but I think the central point John is making (especially as summarized in the concluding paragraph) is spot-on.

    I had a fascinating experience in one of my classes at the Harvard Divinity School. We were asked to write a paper on a conclusion from the Bible that would be disputed by other Christians, so I wrote about the physical, tangible nature of the resurrection and that Jesus, as the resurrected Christ, had maintained such a physical, tangible body after His own resurrection. I used only Bibilical verses (both OT and NT) and passages in my paper, along with observations about the Jewish traditions and beliefs of the time (how the disciples’ reaction to his visitations should help us understand the claim that his resurrection was fundamentally different than anything that had happened previously in their collective history).

    When I got it back after being graded, it had the following notation – to the best of my recollection:

    “A” – “This paper is meticulously documented, and there are no internal inconsistencies. It is well-presented and demonstrates extensive research and sound reasoning.

    On a personal note, I would caution you, however, about the conclusion you have reached. It is incorrect, and asserting its validity will close all doors to you if you choose to pursue a career as a Christian minister.”

    That experience did more to teach me about the power of the creeds to influence Christian thought and belief and perspective and openness than any other experience of my life to that point. We can talk about similarities between definitions of the Trinity / Godhead all we want, but, at the most basic level of definition and description, our Jesus is not their Jesus – and I think we need to acknowledge that even while working for understanding of the unity of partial detail that does exist.

  6. Ray,

    That is a great story. I really agree with the last paragraph. Our Jesus is different. Its more biblical!!!

  7. Ray, the conclusion that non-Mormon Christians generally agree that there was no bodily resurrection or that Jesus didn’t retain a tangible body after the resurrection is problematic. Indeed, many non-Mormon Christians believe just that. For an example, I’d refer you to N. T. Wright’s Resurrection of the Son of God. In that book, Wright defends what he sees as the orthodox Christian position that Jesus Christ was indeed physically resurrected…

  8. While I relish to see Glenn Beck get slapped around…I have to ask once again, why do we try to bed with Protestants? They shake our right hand while with their left hand they stab us in the back. They take our money but throw us out with the garbage.

  9. The even greater irony is that many of the Evangelicals the Church just linked cultural and political pinkies with to protect marriage believe marriage is mortal only and often teach their congregations the LDS are nuts for preaching so.

  10. Antonio Parr says:

    “Our Jesus” vs. “Their Jesus” conversations are always discouraging . . .

    To the best of my ability, I don’t allow the distinction to creep into conversations with our Evangelical friends, because it is a false characterization. We find great harmony on many aspects of Christ’s life (“our Christ”), not so much on others (“my Christ” versus “your Christ”). I try first to identify all of the things that we agree on (strengthening the “our Christ” dialogue), and then try to agree to disagree on the “my Christ” v. “your Christ” differences, always circling back on the common understanding that Christ is the light of the world; the living waters; the bread of life; the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world; etc.

  11. #7 – I agree JNS. I wasn’t trying to say that “all non-Mormon Christians” believe in an incorporeal God; I was addressing the Protestant creeds and their influence on this discussion – as John seemed to be addressing in his post. (I’m not talking about the earlier Catholic creeds, but the Protestant creeds that drove the denominations from which Joseph was trying to choose in the 1800’s – like the Westminster Confession.)

  12. #10 – Antonio, that actually is my focus, as well. I’m just saying we need to accept the differences even as we work on the similarities.

  13. Individual evangelicals may believe in a physical ressurection of Christ, but the institutional evangelical church does not. I know many Baptists who say that the concept of a creedal trinity is silly, yet they still go and hear their peachers preach against Mormonism and our “other Christ”. Hopefully, but doubtfully, this will give Mr. Beck pause…

  14. the institutional evangelical church

    ???

  15. I wonder why Catholics, who clearly oppose LDS theology (for example, they don’t recognize LDS baptism) and whom, when I was a youth, Mormons referred to as “the church of the Devil” and “the great abominable church,” don’t engage in this kind of Mormon bashing? Some Catholic bishops have spoken out against the fury at Mormons unleashed by Prop 8. I just find it interesting that those Evangelicals, with whom LDS share a more symmetrical social and political viewpoint, are more likely to throw Mormons under the bus than Catholics.

  16. SCW, I echo MCQ’s puzzlement and would argue that evangelical churches can certainly be found that teach a physical resurrection of Christ.

    Ray, I think you’re expressing too much certainty that the Protestant creeds don’t accept a physical resurrection for Christ. For example, in the Westminster Confession, which is your prototype, we find:

    This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake; which that He might discharge, He was made under the law, and did perfectly fulfil it; endured most grievous torments immediately in His soul, and most painful sufferings in His body; was crucified, and died, was buried, and remained under the power of death, yet saw no corruption. On the third day He arose from the dead, with the same body in which He suffered, with which also he ascended into heaven, and there sits at the right hand of His Father, making intercession, and shall return, to judge men and angels, at the end of the world.

    How much clearer a statement of a physical, tangible resurrection could we reasonably request?

  17. The point of this, by the way, isn’t to quibble over theological details for their own sake, but simply to point out that we routinely proclaim distinctions between ourselves and other Christians that are at least much harder to pin down than we suggest.

  18. Beck has released the following statement (posted on his website):

    The Christmas Sweater is a story about the idea of Christmas as a time for redemption and atonement. Whatever your beliefs about my religion, the concept of religious tolerance is too important to be sacrificed in response to pressure from special interest groups, especially when it means bowing to censorship. I’m humbled and grateful that hundreds of thousands of people from different faiths have read the book and have appreciated its uplifting message for themselves. At a time when the world is so full of fear, despair, and divisions, it is my hope that all of those who believe in a loving and peaceful God would stand together on the universal message of hope and forgiveness.

    I agree with the message in general, though its difficult for me to take Mr. Beck at his word concerning religious toleration when he’s previously made such disparaging comments about other religions (I’m thinking particularly of his comments to Keith Ellison, the Muslim Congresmman here).

  19. I disagree with Tatiana’s comment #1 that we should just let this debate die. Here’s why: We should have enough integrity of belief to not let others define who we are. Part of the audience to this debate (“Are Mormons Christian?”) is the rest of the world at large, not just Evangelicals. This is a debate that has larger implications for how we are perceived in (north American) culture. So, my vote is that we take a lesson from our Jewish brothers and sisters and not sit back when unfair attacks are lobbed against us. In this vein, I am so heartened by the Church’s more vigorous news and press releases of the past couple of years. It’s incorrect to look at this as a “forgive our enemies” kind of thing – it’s about having enough integrity to set the institutional record straight.

  20. One other reason that this debate needs to continue to be brought to light: All those silly, gullible “always vote Republican” Mormons out there that somehow still think that they are, hand-in-hand with Evangelicals, in the heart of the Republican party. We need to disseminate more of the vitriol like that of Pastor Seger (above) in order for those gullible Mormons to realize that all is not well for them in the Republican Party.

    Phew! Rant over.

  21. MikeInWeHo says:

    When did Evangelicals stop believing in a physical resurrection of Jesus? I thought they held to John 20:27, etc, as literal. Am I missing something here?

  22. MikeInWeHo – I know one very active Evangelical who has looked at me like I have horns [grin] when I’ve discussed a physical resurrection, either of Christ or of humanity at large. It’s just totally foreign to her. I can’t speak for the entire group(s) of course, but just to say that I wasn’t surprised by Ray’s comment.

  23. Hunter, your #19 might be a little more applicable to the present conversation if Glenn Beck were a Republican.

    He is not.

  24. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 22
    True, dat. The Republicans are too far to the left for him!

  25. JNS, every time I have had a conversation with any Protestant about this question (literally hundreds of times in multiple states), I have had them give me a reading that denies the tangible nature of the resurrection as we see it. They speak of his “body” – but they do not speak of a “body of flesh and bones, as tangible as man’s.” Granted, I am talking about “regular members” and not “theologians” or “scholars”, but I have yet to have anyone agree with our description – not one.

    I am very glad to hear that there are those who read and teach it that way, but I just haven’t met any when we actually sit down and discuss it.

  26. Nothing in the post implies that Evangelical creedalists don’t believe in a physical resurrection, does it JNS?

  27. John, I understand JNS’ concern – about my comment.

    JNS, this is not meant to be confrontational or challenging in any way, but will you please provide a few links so I can read what you are referencing? I really would like to read them, since I would love to see others teaching that God has a body of flesh and bones.

  28. Ray, frankly I’m somewhat surprised at the claim that other Christians don’t believe in a literal resurrection. Surely, it’s something that many (but not all) liberal Protestants began to interpret metaphorically in the early twentieth century (along with other Biblical miracles).

    One exception, of course, is the NT Wright book that JNS cites. Wright is one of the most respected Christian theologians alive, an Anglican, and he concludes that Christ did indeed rise bodily from the grave. Further, my own experience, doing work among conservative evangelicals, Baptists and Presbyterians particularly in New York City, runs counter to yours.

    I invite you also to see J. Gresham Machen’s (still considered perhaps the most influential theologian of fundamentalism) book Christianity and Liberalism, pp 42-44, which states that Christ’s body is alive today, Chuck Colson’s The Resurrection Celebration, which is all about a bodily resurrection, and finally, Billy Graham, whom almost nobody would argue has been the most important evangelical of the twentieth century, who stated “The resurrected body of Jesus is the design for our bodies when we are raised from the dead also.” How to be Born Again, 139.

  29. I’m not as concerned with whether or not the LDS church was some how “taken” for a ride in joining Defense of Marriage a coalition (which I think ultimately we were). It’s where the happy socio-political joy ride ends and whether or not the LDS church will be the only one left sitting in car when the moving violation is written.

  30. It’s a wee bit hard to square a literal flesh-and-bone resurrection with the Triune God of the creeds.

    The explanation I’ve heard: Christ took upon Himself the resurrected body of flesh and bone to show His disciples, but it was just for that purpose–not something He would keep forever.

  31. Clay Whipkey says:

    I find it curious the smugness with which Mormons scoff at creeds while they hold doggedly to THE creedal Bible, the KJV itself. If the creedal councils were so corrupt, why do we not have any apocryphal writings in our bible? Why, if we have the benefit of continuous revelation, do we have to be stuck with the archaic language style of the KJV?

    For those who might know, has the church ever conducted a thorough evaluation of apocryphal writings to determine if anything was unfairly cut out? After all, the whole reason the bible (our bible included) looks like it does today is because those councils organized the books to support particular theologies which we proudly reject.

  32. Mark 8: 38
    “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

    I am not suggesting that we engage in arguments with evangelicals and others who believe differently than we do, however we absolutely must stand up for what we know to be true.

  33. Clay Whipkey says:

    BTW, I actually do believe the creedal council’s motives make the common Christian bible suspect, I’m just saying I don’t see where Mormons have a leg to stand on in denouncing creeds but sustaining a creedal bible.

  34. #31 – That is exactly what I have heard – over and over and over again from members of multiple denominations.

    Thanks, matt b. I will take a look at those sources. (Frankly, the Billy Graham quote in isolation can be interpreted in lots of ways, so I will read the entire context of the larger work.) As I said, I would love it if this is a more common belief than my experience would indicate.

  35. Ray, survey data from the GSS shows that, of Americans in general between 1972 and 2006, 60.8% think it is either “very” or “somewhat” likely that life after death will consist of “A life like the one here on earth only better.” The alternative involving a spiritual life without a body is seen as at least equally likely, so your perceptions are not without basis — but your view that belief in, or at least openness toward, a physical resurrection is rare or nonexistent among the American masses is troubled.

    Mark B., this tension suggests that you may not have a complete understanding of the “Triune God of the creeds.” Some creeds explicitly state that Jesus retains his physical body and will return with it to judge the world. Christian writers at the time of the Nicene Creed or the Athanasian creed regularly profess belief in a permanent physical resurrection for Jesus. The creedal God is not necessarily incompatible with such a resurrection, since many of the authors of the creeds believed in resurrection. What is lacking here are the Mormon stereotypes of what other Christians think.

  36. If the creedal councils were so corrupt, why do we not have any apocryphal writings in our bible?

    Because we are free to read them and make our own judgments?

    Why, if we have the benefit of continuous revelation, do we have to be stuck with the archaic language style of the KJV?

    Because we believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly – and the KJV is the one that was used for all the cross-correlation of the Standard Works?

    I don’t care what Bible someone wants to use, but the supplemental materials published by the Church kind of require choosing something and sticking to it. Why reinvent the wheel, when institutionally there is no belief that any of the translations are “correct”?

    That’s my take, anyway.

  37. Clay, yeah, I’ve often pondered the funny fact that we use Athanasius’s New Testament while sometimes vituperating his creed.

  38. JNS, I am only reacting to the specific examples of your last comment in this one, and I am not disputing your conclusion (since I haven’t read the materials matt cited), but I don’t see in the first quote anything that indicates a belief in a state of being that involves having a body of flesh and bones. “Like this life only better” would be read by most people, including Mormons I think, to deal with overall sociality and inter-personal relationships – not as a statement of the nature of our bodies.

    Is there something else in that survey that ties the question and answer to the condition of our bodies?

  39. Ray,
    Without knowing more details of your paper and your professor, it is hard to say why exactly you got an A and were wrong on the issue (this isn’t that uncommon), but I think that reducing it to blind creedal bias of your professor (especially when you are simply wrong about what creedal belief is with regard to Jesus’s resurrection) is a bit over simplistic.

  40. Ray #39, as I mentioned, a spiritual life without a body was an explicitly offered alternative.

  41. I should have read all the comments first, since it looks like people are already challenging Ray on his odd claim that Protestants don’t believe in the physical resurrection.

  42. I once debated a couple of students from the Moody Bible Institute, a bastion of conservative evangelical theology. They told me that the theology was that Christ does have a body – he was resurrected with a body and he still has one.

    God does not have a body, but Jesus does. But Jesus is God. As the Athanasian Creed states: “neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance.”

    How this is all so is apparently one of those unexplainable mysteries of God (according to them). I have no idea how widespread that is, but the few works on evangelical theology I have read seem to support that view.

  43. Thanks, everyone. I just spent much of the last hour googling the general topic, and I have been pleased by the results. JNS, your percentage is probably accurate, based on my reading. That’s exciting to realize.

    I guess I simply have been conversing with the minority.

  44. OK, next question – as a follow-up to Ivan’s #44:

    I just spent about 30 minutes reading statements of belief regarding whether God, the Father, has a body of flesh and bones. The results were the exact opposite of whether Jesus has a body of flesh and bone. The vast majority of statements call that belief of ours heretical. As to the physicality of their “body”, they say Jesus does and the Father does not.

    JNS (or others), do you think this distinction is typical – or do you think most Protestants don’t make such a distinction? I really am curious, since my googling time is nowhere near adequate to draw a conclusion – and I haven’t drawn the distinction explicitly in my personal conversations in the past. I have tended to ask if they believe “God” has a body of flesh and bones – not distinguishing between the Father and the Son. Perhaps I have unintentionally conflated the two in my discussions and asked something they weren’t hearing.

  45. Clay, the best answers to your questions are found in Phil Barlow’s wonderful Mormons and the Bible. It’s a really good book about lots of things, including Mormons’ improbably fierce attachment to the KJV.

    (If you can’t find a used copy readily, I’ll bring you mine next time I’m in SLC).

  46. ….standing on the right hand of God. Mark 16:19 says, “When the Lord Jesus had spoken to [the apostles], He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.” So was he sitting or standing? Or what was Stephen vision.

    In Scripture the right hand is a symbol of power and authority. What is the extent of Christ’s authority? Ephesians 1:20-22 says, “[God] seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church.” Christ is the Sovereign of the universe.

  47. Clay Whipkey says:
    If the creedal councils were so corrupt, why do we not have any apocryphal writings in our bible?

    Because we are free to read them and make our own judgments?

    Ray (#37),
    Really? I do not get the general impression that we are free to make our own judgments as to the divinity of apocrypha. For example, if I were to read from the Gospel of Mary – which suggests that Mary Magdelane was an apostle – in a Sunday School class, would that be kosher because I am “teaching from the scriptures”?

    In my opinion, Joseph Smith was well on his way towards accepting some of the Gnostic ideas found in apocryphal writings like Mary (metaphysical musings, hints at extending priesthood to women, etc.) If only he knew they existed. The Standard Works have mostly become locked in since his death. “The Standard Works” == The Canon… plain and simple.

  48. Clay Whipkey says:

    Kris, I’m actually not in SLC. I’m in AZ. I’ll look for that book, though. Thanks for the tip.

  49. Clay, I said “our own judgments” – not what everyone else would accept in a Sunday School class. I know many members who read from the apocrypha, and I don’t know any of them who have been they can’t do so.

  50. The way Glenn Beck spouts off with his right-wing rubbish, I can’t believe he is any kind of Christian. Jesus certainly doesn’t share his attitude.

  51. Clay Whipkey says:

    Ray, we are now talking about two different things. You are talking about reading for interest. I am talking about what we consider scripture (i.e. canon). For all of our chaffing against the creeds and canons, our official record of the ministry of Jesus in the Middle East was decided by creedal councils, not inspiration. The color and shape of the New Testament is far more than a matter of being translated correctly, but moreso a matter of a pretty wide range of Christian sects that either won, compromised, or was extinguished. If all the included books were translated “by the gift and power of the God” you would still be left to deal with the selection process itself.

  52. I understand that, Clay, and I agree.

  53. I shudder to think that anyone is judging our church by the truly dreadful Glenn Beck…however, this is an issue we should stand on with pride but also humility. We do not accept the creedal definition of the godhead. If we can explain to people why we don’t, and do it in a respectful manner — which I think we generally do — we all should benefit greatly. The creedal definition is a roadblock on the road to the truth, is it not?

  54. Do you see John F. when you read the “Son of man standing on the right hand of God” through the lens of Joseph Smith’s first vision, you end up with “Jesus standing separately”. However when you use Mark 16:19 and Ephesians 1:20-22 as comparison text for Stephen’s vision, you end with Jesus neither standing or sitting as an act like jumping, dancing, etc. , but rather His positioning of power and authority. Stephen was not stoned for challenging the monotheistic views of the Jews, but rather for elevating Jesus as God.

    The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God,” (John 10:30-33)

    Therefore if are using (Acts 7:55) as proof text to substantiate the Mormon personages of the Godhood, it is really stretching Stephen’s vision outside of its intended meaning.

  55. Brian that is a very forced conclusion and no, I do not see it as a necessary reading. It is circuitous at best.

  56. To clarify, although your conflation of Mark 16:19 and Ephesians 1:20-22 might function to satisfy you that Jesus neither sits nor stands at the right hand of God the Father, a more straightforward reading (the LDS reading) neither requires this circuitous interpretation (which you need to force the scriptures to fit into your extra-scriptural One-Substance-Trinity framework) nor impedes an understanding that God has positioned Jesus with the powers and authorities to which you allude. Latter-day Saints believe in the latter without having to disbelieve that Jesus Christ is a separate being from our Heavenly Father. It strains reason to think that Stephen would have shared your views and that he would have been waxing poetic with an allusion to a One-Substance-Trinity in Acts 7. Rather, he saw what he saw and described it in real time. It was an excited utterance for which he paid the ultimate price at the hands of former co-religionists who elevated their interpretation of what the Old Testament writings meant with their reference to Israel’s One God above revelations through the Holy Spirit about the nature of God and his Son Jesus Christ.

  57. John F., I think the real issue at debate here isn’t the “One-Substance-Trinity framework,” which is very difficult to distinguish from LDS belief, but rather the question of whether God the Father has a body.

    Brian, judging on his comments here, may be adopting the non-trinitarian position of modalism.

  58. By “very difficult to distinguish,” let me clarify: I mean that LDS accounts of unity in purpose, character, knowledge, moral attributes, and possibly even appearance seem to overlap the range of positions that trinitarians have adopted, specifically falling well within the bounds of “social trinitarianism” and depending on the strength of our conviction regarding these modes of unity possibly encroaching on other accounts, as well. Trinitarians wrestle with the tension of the persons of God being in some sense one while also being in some sense three; Mormons work within the same tension. We do, however, have a quite different vocabulary for discussing it.

  59. JNS, it has been clear from your comments on this thread that your focus in this discussion has been about whether God the Father has a body. Of course I see that as included in the topic of the Trinity but the incentive for this post was the Trinity Worshippers’ conclusions about Glenn Beck’s Jesus not being the Jesus of the Bible.

    Stephen’s vision and Jesus’ Intercessory Prayer are just two of many examples that show that Glenn Beck’s Jesus, assuming he takes a standard LDS interpretation of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior of the world, is indeed the Jesus of the New Testament. Whether the Trinitarian Jesus fits as neatly into that category is a more open question and Brian’s circuitous reasoning provides scant support for the Trinitarian God as the Jesus of the New Testament.

  60. “Stephen was not stoned for challenging the monotheistic views of the Jews, but rather for elevating Jesus as God.”

    But then, to implicate that the Jews were accusing of attacking monotheism, Jesus argues that the scriptures say all men are g-ds. He is arguing that if all are g-ds, then what is the problem with one person claiming what has already been said? One could say, however, that Jesus was obfuscating his unique salvafic role. Therefore, it is better to use Jesus’ confrontation as prooftext of Stephen.

  61. Steve Evans says:

    no need to hyphenate when one is not referring to the Creator, Jettboy.

  62. John F., Brian’s arguments seem odd to me in many ways, but they don’t change the character of Jesus — rather of God. (Most of my comments in this thread have in fact been about Ray’s argument that most non-Mormon Christians think that Jesus didn’t have a physical resurrection, not about God the Father.) Accepting the framing of the Trinity having a fundamentally different Jesus from that in Mormon thought seems strategically unwise and fundamentally unhelpful — I just don’t think there’s any sound basis for thinking this is so. Our understanding of Jesus seems pretty compatible with that of many of the Christian creeds.

  63. No need to hyphenate even if one is referring to the Creator.

  64. Banned Commenter says:

    For those who might know, has the church ever conducted a thorough evaluation of apocryphal writings to determine if anything was unfairly cut out? After all, the whole reason the bible (our bible included) looks like it does today is because those councils organized the books to support particular theologies which we proudly reject.

    Clay Whipkey, this question was pretty well settled in 1833 with the receipt of D&C 91. No, the church has never done what you propose, because the Lord told Joseph Smith that the Apocrypha need not be “translated” (i.e., reviewed and corrected by Joseph Smith as part of the JST). As Ray suggests, each member is free to make his own judgments — if he reads with the Spirit he will “obtain benefit therefrom”; if he does not have the Spirit, he “cannot be benefited.”

  65. Banned, it’s most likely that the D&C 91 revelation was about the “Apocrypha” used in Catholic but not Protestant Bibles — this was the common usage in the 19th century. Such texts as the Gospel of Mary Magdalene were probably not included in the content of the revelation.

  66. Banned Commenter says:

    67 — ??? Do you mean to say that the principle of D&C 91 doesn’t apply to whatever specific apocrypha Clay Whipkey is talking about?

  67. I think JNS is making the argument that the word “Apocrypha” only relates to a limited but unnamed body of texts that he is arguing would not include newly discovered texts.

  68. Banned Commenter says:

    Okay. I understand that, but I don’t understand why he thinks the same principle wouldn’t apply to all apocrypha(if that is in fact what he does think). I know of no expectation that new scripture will be given to the church through non-church channels, so there seems to be little point in the church’s “conducting a thorough evaluation” (CW’s original comment) of such newly discovered texts, and I don’t see why the D&C’s instruction on how readers of such texts (whether known at the time of Joseph Smith or not) wouldn’t be applicable. I won’t argue further, however.

  69. Banned, I agree with your view on this point.

  70. 1. I continue to reject the notion that the concept of the Trinity is a divine mystery that is beyond our ability to grasp, but that I’m going to Hell for not believing what no one can understand. Screw that and the horse it rode in on.

    2. I continue to reject the notion that the Council of Nicea was an environment through which the will of God or the nature of God could be remotely approximated. A bunch of patriarchs fighting it out in a building surrounded by monks yelling slogans and shaking sticks at each other until the non-Christian Constantine walked in and told them what the outcome would be, and the penalty for not signing on to it. This was a purely political exercise which produced a political outcome shrouded in the trappings of a theological resolution. Screw this and the horse it rode in on as well.

    3. The closest the Bible has come to teaching the Trinity was Jerome’s fraudulent Johannine Comma. To find the Trinity in the Bible, you’ve got to drag it in there on your own through your preconceptions, because it’s just not there.

    4. I don’t see any point in trying to convince someone steeped in these Creeds of anything doctrinal. Just love them. Jesus does.

  71. Clay Whipkey says:

    BC,
    D&C 91 is talking specifically about the Apocrypha from the Old Testament. I’m thinking more along the lines of the Nag Hammadi Library discovered in 1945, but which contained texts that were contemporary with the creedal gospels. The Gnostic texts were rejected by the councils, but Mormons have already declared the councils to be corrupt. This would at least create a possibility that some of the rejected texts should have been considered scripture (not a matter of “new scripture”).

    I see plenty of evidence indicating that the church would be inclined to at least investigate it, beginning with interest in things like the Kinderhook Plates, Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Mark Hoffman forgeries.

    If the church wants to say its all bunk, that’s fine. I am only saying that if Mormons are going to cling to the ultimate creedal bible, maybe they might recognize they don’t have much of a high horse from which to denounce creeds as they often do.

  72. Banned and John F., I think the D&C 91:4-6 statements are probably useful ideas about how to approach any religious text whatsoever. The material from D&C 91:1 and the rest of the first half of the section, in my view, can’t be equally warranted for Apocrypha other than the Old Testament material that Catholics use and Protestants don’t:

    There are many things contained therein that are true, and it is mostly translated correctly…

    I would feel very uncomfortable about claims that this statement applies to any apocryphal text whatsoever.

  73. Banned Commenter says:

    I don’t know anyone in the church — including me — who “wants to say it’s all bunk.” I remember an Ensign article from back around 1980 (I’m too lazy at the moment to search for it) that discussed Nag Hammadi and said something like “Latter-day Saints are like geiger counters, able to detect the remnants of truth in an empty shell.” That echoes D&C 91 for me.

    I don’t know quite who is this “they” of whom you speak. Are you not one of us? The “they” that I am a part of acknowledges the truth (and some error) in the KJV, doesn’t have a “high horse,” and doesn’t particular “denounce creeds,” at least not “often.” You pile strawman upon strawman.

  74. Clay,

    Mormons do not denounce all creeds. It’s not like because we denounce the Creedal concept of God we have to also denounce the creedal nature of KJV.

    But we do acknowledge up front many areas where the creedal nature of the bible was wrong or twisted.

  75. I am gone for Christmas break. And I come back to see that John f. is fired up and full of Christmas cheer.

    (And just when I was hoping that Deseret would start placing some of my written materials on the same shelf with Glenn Beck here in the Corridor. Btw, I read through much of his latest Christmas book. Nice tip to Huntsman at the end.)

  76. RE #75
    The article BC mentions is called “Background For the Testaments and is found Here.

  77. Listen, in the speech prior to the vision, Stephen is defending himself against the charges of blasphemy. He is preaching to the court that the God in whom he believes is the same God of Israel. “The glory of our God appeared to Abraham”. Note the“our God”. He answers the charges that Christianity is not heresy, it is fulfillment. It is not something new that destroys something old. It is something new that fulfills something old. And so he is explaining that he believes in the same God of Abraham, and he defines God in the same terms to them in the court.

    He then charges them with their ever unwillingness to submit to God throughout history and finally the murder of the righteous one and all His prophets. By the time he is done with his defense, his accusers are the ones on trial being accused of blasphemy and murder they are in a frenzy.

    Now, doesn’t it seem odd that after arguing his “I believe in the same God” defense he would then gaze into the heavens and see Jesus standing, this is where you had added your choice word “separate” from the Father. Doing so would nullify his defense and give just reason for his accusers to drag him off and stone him, which they did but not justly. Instead he cries out “standing on the right hand of God”. His hearers were pricked to the heart that this Jesus they murdered was standing in position of power and authority on the “right hand of God”. Where as he he answers for them the long withstanding puzzle of David’s psalm: “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool”. Making his accusers the real enemies of God.

    So you see then, the vision wasn’t given to show Jesus having flesh and bone, or standing separately in body or spirit, but a continuation of Stephen’s defense he had started and laid out from the beginning. And now his charges strengthened with a heavenly indictment of their sin (Jesus not sitting but standing)and they knew they were guilty. This is why they dragged Stephen out and stoned him.

    “And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.”

  78. Brian, I can’t tell what argument you’re defending. Do you think that Jesus is a manifestation of a unitary God, or that Jesus is not a God at all?

  79. Comments are closed over where I was thinking to drop this.

    Anyway, Brad piqued my interest so I went out and found a free copy of that Fenella Cannell item:

    http://www.echols.info/THE-CHRISTIANITY-OF-ANTHROPOLOGY.pdf

  80. JNS – My issue is how John F finds comfort in story of Stephen for Mormons to authenticate their two separate beings theology yet misses the whole point of Stephen’s defense in his trial with his accusers. As a result he grasps and hums doctrine unrelated to the context of the vision when he concludes “the martyr Stephen was stoned by the stalwart residents of Jerusalem for daring to utter a challenge to what they believed was the One God of the Old Testament.

    As I tried to explain earlier the vision wasn’t given to Stephen as some great proclamation about monotheistic doctrine. It was rather Stephen looking and seeing the court doors swing wide open and his star witness standing there to testify that his testimony was true – They were murderers! It’s the greatest defense anyone could hope and it all starts back in verse 1: “Then said the high priest, Are these things so?” Jesus showed up at the trial and because of this his accusers knew they were damned. It’s a beautiful story and you defense lawyers should love it. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords shows up to defend you. God bless Stephen and God Bless You.

    Thanks for listening.

  81. Brian, I agree with you that the vindication of Jesus and by extension Stephen is exactly the point of the vision. I share what I take to be your discomfort for using narratives intended to make a specific point for other purposes that may not be intended or consistent with the author’s vision. And I also agree that we can’t really reach many Christological conclusions from this.

  82. huh…. “I share what I take to be your discomfort for using narratives intended to make a specific point for other purposes that may not be intended or consistent with the author’s vision.”

    Leaving aside the current example, and just focusing on that statement broadly.

    So we can no longer liken the scriptures unto ourselves? Unless it fits within the vision of the author at the time they wrote it of course.

    Is there a footnote I’m missing somewhere that explains just what is consistent with the authors vision and how I might be able to apply the particular scripture I’m reading?

  83. Sam, I see your “liken the scriptures unto ourselves” and raise you a “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” (2 Peter 1:20) But let’s not have a contest of proof texts, right?

    I think we ought to read the scriptures in ways that help the best understandings we can develop of the original ideas speak to our contemporary concerns. So, there are two aspects here. We probably ought to try to ground our interpretations in the best reading of authorial intent that we can construct, while nonetheless acknowledging that such readings are always partial and problematic. Even though we will never get there, grounding ourselves in this kind of intent keeps us wrestling with the actual insights of Peter, Paul, Jesus, Nephi, Joseph Smith, etc. — it keeps us from constructing a purely solipsistic faith. Then, we should seek ways of translating those ideas that are faithful to the author’s insights but that also useful for us. That way, we get the Nephi thing and the Peter thing, but it does mean that we have to be careful about how we extrapolate meanings.

  84. The book, “How Wide the Divide” highlights the fact that LDS and evangelicals often are NOT speaking the same language. Breaking down the “language barrier” so that meaningful dialogue can happen, it is written by both an evangelical and LDS scholar in conversation. a worthwhile read.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,434 other followers