Thursday, July 01, 2010

Jesus: Not Really The Son of God?

Mormons are regularly said to have "another Jesus" than the traditional Jesus of Christianity. I don't find that offensive, even though it is said in the context to attack our beliefs as unBiblical.

But this is a case of "Please don't look too close at our Jesus" by the attackers.

Trinitarian Jesus is not really the son of God, in any meaningful sense of the word "son". Nor is there really a "father".

A son, in the context of a dictionary definition, is:
1. a : a human male offspring especially of human beings
b : a male adopted child
c : a human male descendant

2 capitalized : the second person of the Trinity

3 : a person closely associated with or deriving from a formative agent (as a nation, school, or race) (Webster Online).

The first thing you note is that the second person of the Trinity is not a human male offspring, a male adopted child, or a human male descendant. He is something else.

So they made up a category: A name. Unconnected to anything which could mean an actual relationship.

A typical definition of the trinity follows along these lines:
The three Biblical doctrines that flow directly into the river that is the Trinity are as follows:

1) There is one and only one God, eternal, immutable.

2) There are three eternal Persons described in Scripture - the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. These Persons are never identified with one another - that is, they are carefully differentiated as Persons.

3) The Father, the Son, and the Spirit, are identified as being fully deity---that is, the Bible teaches the Deity of Christ and the Deity of the Holy Spirit. [Alpha & Omega Ministries]

The three persons are not "generated" by any one of the other persons of the Trinity, otherwise there would be a time when "the Father" would cease to be "the Father", because without a son, there can be no father. Arianism was the idea that the Son was a created being. That was the first great heresy of Christian doctrine, and required the Council of Nicea to resolve. This also led to the doctrine of the "two natures" of Jesus, to explain why he could appear to be human and yet be fully God as well. The "filioque" also came out of this, the idea that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, instead of just the Father. The filioque doctrine is largely responsible for the split between the Eastern and Latin Churches in 1054 AD.

For Mormons, God is literally their Father, as he is the father of spirits (Hebrews 12:9), the creator of their pre-existent spirit (Eccl 12:7). Jesus is their brother (Hebrews 2:9-14), the son of God in a literal sense as well.

And let's not forget that Mormons believe we are the "offspring of God", the "genos" of God, springing from the same family line (Acts 17:29).

When John 1:12 tells us we can become the sons of God through accepting him. This, in the context, is the ability to return to God and see him, as John 1:18 notes, having been born IN THIS LIFE of God. So note that Acts, Hebrews and Ecclesiastes are talking about our birth BEFORE this life, John is talking about faith working to salvation in this life and in the future.

Jesus himself notes his deference to the superior position of God to him in that he notes in John 10 that the titles of "god" as used in scripture is actually superior to his title as "son of god" (John 10:33-36), though he was a son before his earthly birth.

So scripture says Jesus and humanity are all sons. It notes he had a superior pre-existence, was always a god himself. So how does a being who was always God,refer to another being as "the only true God"?

Jesus can only be a son if there is something about his relationship that makes him a male offspring or descendant of the father in the same way we are. Otherwise Hebrews 2 is meaningless. So too Hebrews 12.

The false doctrine of monolatry, of not understanding the henotheistic nature of there being multiple real gods has led to the false doctrine of the Trinity. The Father in the Trinity didn't really father anyone or anything related to Jesus. He is co-eternal with Jesus in the relationship of Father-Son. The title 'father' in fact implies existence prior to the son. It is simple word games to say the Father and the Son must be co-existent because the titles would be incorrect. Yet a father provides the source DNA in humans before the child exists.

What does the "Father" in Trinitarian thought provide the "Son" which is essential to his creation as a son?

Nothing. Because the Trinity is one god expressed as three persons, the roles of the Father and the Son may as well have been selected by slot machine. Nothing is unique about the Father or the Son that could not have been reversed prior to the Son's mortal incarnation. It is simply a role of respect: The Son respects the Father in Trinitarianism. He may have lost at "Rock, Paper, Scissors", and therefore is obligated to respect him. But there is nothing unique about the Father's being which could not be entirely demonstrated in the Son's being. Now the holy Spirit, he proceeds from the Father and (for some) the Son, so he is different. So too, the Son is "generated" from the Father, yet in Trinitarian theology the Father cannot be divided from the Son, since they come from the one essence of God, which they mutually share. Yeah, sure this is all the truth about God.

Since Jesus is generated in a way which does not come from either creation or produce existence, being a "Son" is truly the most meaningless use of a word which had, prior to the development of the doctrine of the Trinity, a clear and universally understood meaning. Do we really think all the New Testament authors decided to play word games, and ignore the clear meaning of the word, especially when Paul uses the concept of "heir" in Romans 8 to say our inheritance is identical to that of Jesus', that we are "joint heirs"?

It is true that Mormons have another Jesus. We have Jesus the Son of God, the Biblical Jesus.

We are not confused.

18 comments:

JediMormon said...

Bravo. Yet another enlightening and educational post. You are dead-on with your statement: But this is a case of "Please don't look too close at our Jesus" by the attackers.

One of the things that really surprised me when I began dialogging with anti-Mormons years ago, was their dogged refusal to discuss their belief of Jesus Christ with me. The most common answer I got when I would ask them, was "it's not the Mormon Jesus", or variations thereof. When reminded that I was asking them what I thought he WAS, not what he WASN'T, they would clam up. I finally figured out that the reason they wouldn't discuss Him is because they didn't really know themselves. All they had was rote memorizations from who knows where that didn't make any sense to me. Even my quotes from the Bible to them that made very clear that the "Mormon" Jesus was the Biblical Jesus, were met with accusations of "you don't know the Bible". The best dodge, however, had to the the time when an anti-Mormon told me to stop quoting from the Bible to prove my point, because in his words, "Mormons quoting from the Bible is very offensive to Christians."

Naturally, I gave his request every ounce of seriousness it deserved.

Keep up the good work!

bunker said...

Thanks for the post. Any exciting tales from the manti pageant?

Tony said...

Well done! You had me going through my scriptures and underlining like a mad man. Good to see you posting some more, it's been a while since I've been on here. I'm glad I found this blog as a new convert. I have it to thank for much of my apologetic background, as well as getting to see and know Walker a bit better. Do you have a facebook by any chance, Bob?

Bob said...

Thanks for the kind words Tony. I have a facebook, I think it is just Robert Vukich. Give that a shot. I hope to be a little more active in getting posts out, and I am talking about sharing the posting activities with another person. I am trying to do more videos, but that is difficult because I have to do it right in one take. I need some simple software to edit the videos.

Anyway, thanks again.
Bob

looWho? said...

"It is simple word games to say the Father and the Son must be co-existent because the titles would be incorrect."

This is an oversimplification of the detail. As human beings, we need a frame of reference for understanding the workings of God as they appear in the Bible. I don't understand how you can argue this point when Christianity is based on Jesus being the very Son of God, conceived in the Virgin Mary. "Son" is not an arbitrary term... Jesus was born of human flesh. So, of course he is the son, but endowed with God's perfection and spirit. Therefore, if he is of God, he has always and always will continue to exist, time without end. Frankly, I find the "rock, paper, scissors" comment a bit snide.

Certainly the trinity is not a New Testament teaching. However, the implications of the NT certainly imply a 3-in-1 approach. Therefore, the trinity is an extremely useful tool, adopted into many Christian theologies, to help explain the nature of God as He is described by the New Testament. It is a philosophy that fully acknowledges that God is beyond human comprehension, and allows us to read and reconcile difficult passages in the Bible.

"Since Jesus is generated in a way which does not come from either creation or produce existence, being a "Son" is truly the most meaningless use of a word which had, prior to the development of the doctrine of the Trinity, a clear and universally understood meaning."

I feel like your argument hinges on this statement, and yet I can find no meaning in it.

"It is true that Mormons have another Jesus. We have Jesus the Son of God, the Biblical Jesus."

So this is your closing statement after blasting away at the trinitarian view, but nothing in the argument really clarifies your own viewpoints on the nature of God and Christ--you simply tear down the beliefs of Christians. If you believe that the three are separate and distinct, then how do you reconcile yourself as monotheistic? Even the Book of Mormon has trinitarian overtones:

"And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son—The Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and the Son—And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth."
-Mosiah 15:2-4

Isn't the Son/Father relationship also nullified here? So from where are you drawing this argument and what is it that your faith officially holds to as an alternative to the trinity? Is it only a matter of semantics that distinguishes you from other Christians?

Bob said...

Loo,
How do you do that thing with the shield? That is cool.

Anyway, I have spent plenty of time discussing the Trinity with folks, and specifically the incarnation. Let me mention some of the contradictions which are philosophically insurmountable in the doctrine of the Trinity.

1. The Trinity presents a logical impossibility: A thing cannot be fully itself and something else. The usual response is that the Trinity is simply a description of the mystery contained in scripture, and this describes what is seen in scripture. My response is simple: Not true.

If Jesus is "fully god", and there is only one god, then he cannot be his own son.
Moreover, in describing Jesus specifically to philosophers, the people listening to Paul at Mars Hill in Athens say:""He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign divinities." (This was because he was telling the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.)"(Acts 17:18, NRSV)

The word "divinities" is "daimonion", a plural, and it is a Greek word describing the intermediate gods of lesser degree from the chief gods of Greek mythology. So in explaining Jesus to the trained philosophers, Jesus in his resurrected state is seen as a god subordinate to the chief god. Now that makes sense.

1 Cor 8:5 "If after all there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords)"
The first part of the verse acknowledges there are in fact false gods, or "so-called gods". The second half affirms there are many gods and many lords, then verse 6 says "but to us there is one God, the Father...and one lord, Jesus Christ..."

Again, pretty clear. Jesus himself says of the Father, "the only true god, and Jesus Christ , whom thou has sent" (John 17:3)

Combined with John 1:1, where Jesus is described as having the qualities of God, but being separate from God, and John 1:18, Jesus is the "only begotten god" in the Bosom of the Father. Moreover, John says in the same verse that no man has ever seen God. So if Jesus is the son, he is not God, as no man has ever seen God.

Or is John the Beloved confused about whether Jesus is fully God? I am asking that seriously. Because any supposed inference to the existence of the trinity looks far more plausible in light of the fact that the Hebrews believed there were multiple, real gods. When the Psalms say "worship him, all ye gods" (Ps 97:7), how is that possible for an idol? Are idols capable of worship? Isn't the whole point of Isaiah 44:18:

"They do not comprehend or understand,for their eyes are blind and cannot see; their minds do not discern."

There is no way to reconcile the direct statement that no one has seen God, and then say that Jesus is fully God. It is illogical.

If someone finds the illogic of the trinity comforting, I am fine with that. Worship as you will. But I will vigorously reject it is Biblical. It is not.

Is Jesus described as God in the New Testament? Yes. But that is not because he is THE God, or shares essence with the Father. "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" rings in our ears. Jesus, could not forsake himself. After the resurrection he says "I go to my God and your God, to my Father and your Father". This is the resurrected, perfected Jesus. He is going to God. How can you go to some one you are? It is a logical absurdity.

Those are scriptures, the ultimate evidence. It is direct and specific. What I invariably get are non-specific citations back. Tell me, give me a verse where Jesus and his relationship, or the Holy Spirit and his relationship to God and the Father are in view, and show the Trinity? You can't. I challenge you to engage the evidence of your faith, and present it. I will treat it with respect, but I will also fully engage it.

I truly appreciate your comments.
Bob

Tony said...

//It is a philosophy that fully acknowledges that God is beyond human comprehension, and allows us to read and reconcile difficult passages in the Bible. ////
So, in other words, the Trinity was a Hellenistic philosophical attempt by a Church that wanted to make itself more marketable to the pagans to define something that is undefinable, which in and of itself is a contradiction and self-defeating definition.

Those passages are only difficult because of so many people placing their pre-conceived, non-Biblical notions of creedal trinitarian concepts into the text. There is no contradiction once we truly understand the oneness of the Godhead. Also, not many members or non-members realize that in some cases, the Trinity as defined in some creeds actually agrees with Mormonism, in the sense of the 'ousia' used to describe the 'substance' that the Father shares with the Son as not being that of bodily substance, but that of them sharing all the attributes of Godhood. That being said, the way the creeds define some of those attributes can not be supported by the Biblical text.

Adrian said...

Interesting post, but I do have some points of criticism.
1. Using an English dictionary is rarely, if ever, a good way of examining ancient uses of words. Culture is always attached to words and their meaning, their true meaning.
2. Most biblical authors played what you call "word games". These of course are metaphors. The Church is called the Bride even though I highly doubt that we are in for a celestial wedding ceremony, especially since God is described as being male, and I am a male. Jesus is called the Word, the Way, a Lamb etc. If you look up the these words in the english dictionary then you will once again be left with the impression that the biblical authors were playing word games.
3. The doctrine of the Trinity always includes a hierarchy. This does not mean that there is a difference in value or equality, it is just that the roles are different. Not surprisingly God's nature is complex, just look at the world around you. If you start down low, at the atomic level you find complexity. Move up to the bacteria and the level of complexity sky rockets exponentially. Go up another step to a human and again things get complicated even more. So when you make that leap up to God, you would be justified in expecting a greater degree of complexity.

Also, I think Tony might want to explain a little more in depth what he means by "he Trinity was a Hellenistic philosophical attempt by a Church that wanted to make itself more marketable to the pagans" because as far as I know the Trinity does not fit in with Greek mythology, stoic philosophy, or for that matter the work of Plato and Aristotle, so I'm not sure how the doctrine of the Trinity makes Christianity more marketable to pagans

looWho? said...

Tony,

"So, in other words, the Trinity was a Hellenistic philosophical attempt by a Church that wanted to make itself more marketable to the pagans to define something that is undefinable, which in and of itself is a contradiction and self-defeating definition."

Substitute "Pre-existence" for "Trinity" and "Peruvians" for "pagans" and reread that sentence, marveling at how well it works. There are apparent "contradictions" everywhere, but with God's light the truth shines through. All we have are words provided by the infallible heavenly texts we have, imperfect physical and historical evidences, and the Holy Spirit.

Bob,
In Hebrews 1:8 God the Father is speaking, and refers to his Son as God.
"But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom."

My reference is at Biblehelp.org and on this page: http://www.biblehelp.org/reference_1.htm,
there is a very thorough list of references concerning this subject. However, if you are claiming Henotheism as your shield then it is extremely difficult to argue with you. I, on the other hand, ascribe to the two thousand years of Christian tradition and study that says that there is one God, as stated and restated in Isaiah (plenty of references on aforementioned page). If Jesus is God and The Father is God and the Holy Spirit is endowed with all the powers of God, but there is only one God, then I'd say that a Trinitarian view is really starting to add up.

Don't you think that "logical absurdity" is truly for God to decide? I mean, I can see how from your perspective, being led to believe that there is no overlap in the power of God, that it is hard to wrap your mind around. But I am made from the same stuff as the dirt and plants and yet I breathe and live and have spiritual substance. If God animated the very dirt under our feet and brought me to life, how can you say that His presence on Earth and in Heaven is not logical? To define Him with a fallible human mind is folly, but to use the metaphor of the Trinity to enhance understanding of Him makes sense.

I'll close with the word straight from the horse's mouth:

Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?
-John 14:9

looWho? said...

Oh, two more things, sorry:

The shield is my profile picture... to post one go to your dashboard, then do "Edit Profile." I just posted a link to where the pic was hosted on another website, but I think you can also upload photos from your computer. As a point of interest, it is actually the U.S. Episcopal shield, which is why I picked it out. :)

Secondly, I would still like to hear you address the Book of Mormon references to the 3-in-1 approach that I mentioned at the end of my first post on this topic.

Peace said...

he great commission, Matthew 28:19:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the <> of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.

<> is in the singular (one person) yet it follows by naming 3 persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This singular:plural relationship is a direct reference to what Christians call the "Trinity"

Bob said...

Sorry for the long stretches away. Let me first respond to Peace's comment on the great commission.

Matt 28:19 is cited as evidence for the oneness of God, and then pulled into Trinitarian doctrinal defense, as if it clearly supported that view.

It does not. There are two obvious responses, one doctrinal from the text, the other historical from the manuscripts.

First, doctrinal. The use of the singular "name", followed by three singular nouns, "Father", "Son" and "Holy Spirit", speaks only to the choice of grammar, not about a "Trinity", other than one name is symbolic of the three members of the godhead. Does it refer to a single essence shared without being divided by three persons, each wholly God and yet separate, being nevertheless one God? That is patently not the "logical" conclusion. How about simple oneness, as described in John 17? Much simpler, and therefore, lacking support for the complex interpretation, much more likely. Occam's razor stuff at work here. In other words, the LDS explanation is simpler and more likely from the text, therefore is the most logical selection. No early Christian (pre-Nicene creed) accepts this as definitive support for Trinitarianism, only, at best, a hint toward it. With no other proof, by the way, anywhere in scripture. Certainly Isaiah did not believe in the Trinity.

Secondly, from the manuscript itself. The original text of Matthew is nearly universally held to have been written in Hebrew, then translated into Greek. We see wide, early attestation to this view, including Eusebius, whose textual explanations are very reliable.

That being said, Trinitarians who hang their faith on Matt 28:19 are the equivalent of modern day "King James Only" adherents. Their doctrine hangs on what is at best a tenuous verse, which has completely viable alternative readings.

And let's not forget that many, many writers will harmonize a description of a group with the underlying members of the group. Example: "A team (singular with a plural implication) is (singular verb, CANNOT be a plural 'are') made of Jim, James and Sally (three singular nouns)."

To adamantly contend that such a position is not the possible understanding of the original text is to reach conclusions from facts not in evidence.

In either case, there is no certainty for either explanation. Which actually leads one to be careful in reaching conclusions. But if this was obvious, then why are there absolutely no other places in Matthew where this could be remotely imputed? Instead, we see oneness as apprehended by LDS doctrine, not the Trinity.

Thanks for the comments, and I hope this helps.
Bob

andy said...

Hi Bob, I agree one shouldn't hang one's hat on one verse - it is taking this vs: mt 28:19 along with the whole biblical witness that leads me to affirm the Trinity -although God is beyond the finite to understand, so no, I won't counsel God, but worship what he has revealed. He is beyond you and me, no?

God is one in the biblical witness from the 10 commandments forward - yet there is a plurality of expressions - grammatical and historical. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. .. and the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us. (Jn1) In Isaiah 9:6 we read For unto us a child is born, a son is given ...and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. These scriptures speak to me to be Jesus Godship, yet God is one. The Holy Sprit and Father are also proclaimed as God. So it is this revelation, not that of any man that leads me to this conclusion. Mt 28:19 is not a throw away scripture - it the Great Commission, Jesus final words to us. Should we really ignore this or side line it?

Thanks Bob (peace - andrew)

Anonymous said...

48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.(Matt 5:48)

This is an admonition to grow in Christ, not a commandment to actually be perfect. Jesus is the only truly righteous man to ever live, thus the only perfect person, and the only one who can save. We are not saved by our attempts to be better, we are saved by trusting in the only one truly able to save.

1 ¶ I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,(Eph 4:1)

A vocation is a job, it does not mean that we can be saved by becoming worthy of Christ, because nobody is worthy BUT CHRIST. Being worthy of the vocation mostly likely means to meet the requirements of service, i.e. of a pastor or missionary or witness.

4 Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.(Rev 3:4)

I am not well versed in the book of Revelation, but I do know that God's word is His bond, and it is as perfect as He is, so it is impossible for him to contradict Himself. I can only assume that being worthy of walking in white is not indicative of salvation, but position in the kingdom, but I can say for certain that the only way any person can be "worthy" of heaven, is to trust in Jesus.

handmaiden said...

You do have another Jesus and it's not the one of the Bible. God Bless. handmaiden

Bob said...

You may be interested in reading my earlier blog article and responses on Mormons having the Biblical Jesus.

The other common concept of Jesus has him as a personage within a single God sharing in a single "substance" which is not divided or diminished by the persons of the Godhead.

Unfortunately, the Jesus of the Bible stands next to God (not the personage of the Father) Acts 7:55-56; Jesus is with God in the beginning (not the personage of the father) John 1:1-2; He is in the form of God (not the personage of the father) but not equal to God Phil 2:7; and of course in about 11 instances is sitting next to God (not the Father)in heaven Col 3:1, Acts 2:33, Rom 8:34, Heb 10:12, Mark 16:19.

Sorry, but our Jesus IS the Biblical one. That other Jesus is a figment of some philosopher's mind.

Thanks for the note,
Bob

Anonymous said...

Any rejection of the Trinity is NOT the Biblical Jesus. Compare John 1:1 to your mormon bible. Jesus IS God! I pray that you will understand the truth one of these days and that you will be set free from your bondage. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says that ALL scripture is "God-breathed". Why would we need another "translation" from Josef Smith? Because of this "translation", please explain Galatians 1:8-9 and what the "angel" Moroni represents.

Anonymous said...

Gordon B. does not agree that the Biblical Jesus in the one True Bible that is God-Breathed is the same Jesus for mormons:

http://carm.org/hinckley-says-mormons-believe-different-jesus