Thursday, April 13, 2017

Has Jesus Always Been God?

I was watching the above interesting lecture (the second of three Hayward lectures) given by Roger E. Olson in 2005. Roger Olson is an Evangelical theologian, who is also lucky enough not to be a Calvinist! At 47:13 minutes into the video a question is asked by a member of the audience about Mormonism which is not audible in the video; but his answer is, which is as follows:

“… of course they [Mormons] have an open canon; and that is basic to their faith, is that the canon of inspired scripture is wide open—of course not wide open, because it has to be recognized by their Apostles and the President of their Church; but they really want Evangelical Christians and other Christians to recognize them as the fourth branch of Christianity. They really don’t like to be called Mormons anymore. They are Latter-day Saints, and they are playing up their Christian roots and heritage as Christians. So they are inviting people of all different Christian traditions to come to Brigham Young University annually, and to engage with them in dialogue, to listen to their papers, and they listen to our papers, and it is a tough dialogue, very open and very honest.

“They asked me last year at the end of the conference, ‘Well, do you think we are Christians?’ That is a tough one when you are asked that by someone. I said, ‘What do you believe about Jesus Christ, is he God?’ Now the World Council of Churches as you may know requires any denomination that wants to join it to affirm that Jesus Christ is God and Savior. And that is why certain denominations I could name aren’t members of the World Council of Churches—the Unification Church, the Unitarian Universalist churches, and so forth. So even the World Council of Churches says, You have to believe Jesus is God and Savior. Now from there you can interpret it a lot of different ways; but you have to start there with us to be Christians. So I said, ‘What do you believe about Jesus Christ, is he God?’ They said, ‘Yes!’ Oh, Good! Then I said, ‘But has he always been God?’ And they said, ‘No!’ And I said, well that is a problem for me, to think of a God who hasn’t always been God. I am not that open to that kind of radical reconstruction of the whole Christian story, and identification of God, and so forth. So I think they got my message. Though I accept that they may have a relationship with God that is salvific, that is not mine to judge. As a Christian theologian I am not at the place yet where I can call their Church a Christian Church. And they accepted that very graciously, and said we will invite you back for more talks later!”

Unfortunately he has been given wrong advice by his Mormon friends at BYU. Mormon theology is determined by Mormon scripture, not by BYU academics; and Mormon scripture teaches that Jesus Christ is not only God, but eternally so:

Book of Mormon Title page:

… And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.

2 Nephi 26:

12 And as I spake concerning the convincing of the Jews, that Jesus is the very Christ, it must needs be that the Gentiles be convinced also that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God;

Mosiah 3:

5 For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, …

Mosiah 16:

15 Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, who is the very Eternal Father. Amen.

Alma 11:

39 And Amulek said unto him: Yea, he is the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth, and all things which in them are; he is the beginning and the end, the first and the last;

The Book of Mormon affirms and attests to the divinity of Jesus Christ far more clearly, comprehensively and unambiguously than the Bible does. Such explicit attestations in the New Testament are sparse; but not so in the Book of Mormon:

1 Nephi 19:

10 And the God of our fathers, who were led out of Egypt, out of bondage, and also were preserved in the wilderness by him, yea, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, yieldeth himself, according to the words of the angel, as a man, into the hands of wicked men, …

2 Nephi 10:

3 Wherefore, as I said unto you, it must needs be expedient that Christ—for in the last night the angel spake unto me that this should be his name—should come among the Jews, among those who are the more wicked part of the world; and they shall crucify him—for thus it behooveth our God, and there is none other nation on earth that would crucify their God.

Mosiah 7:

27 And because he said unto them that Christ was the God, the Father of all things, and said that he should take upon him the image of man, and it should be the image after which man was created in the beginning; or in other words, he said that man was created after the image of God, and that God should come down among the children of men, and take upon him flesh and blood, and go forth upon the face of the earth

Mosiah 27:

31 Yea, every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess before him. Yea, even at the last day, when all men shall stand to be judged of him, then shall they confess that he is God; then shall they confess, who live without God in the world, that the judgment of an everlasting punishment is just upon them; and they shall quake, and tremble, and shrink beneath the glance of his all-searching eye.

3 Nephi 11:

14 Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.

Either 3:

17 And now, as I, Moroni, said I could not make a full account of these things which are written, therefore it sufficeth me to say that Jesus showed himself unto this man in the spirit, even after the manner and in the likeness of the same body even as he showed himself unto the Nephites.
18 And he ministered unto him even as he ministered unto the Nephites; and all this, that this man might know that he was God, because of the many great works which the Lord had showed unto him.

It is the Bible in fact that refers to Jesus Christ as a created being, and one who had a beginning:

Colossians 1:

15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:

Revelation 3:

14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;

Not only that, but the Bible affirms that Jesus is subordinate to the Father, and makes the Father the God of Jesus Christ:

John 14:

28 Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.

John 20:

17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

Romans 15:

6 That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 11:

31 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not.

Ephesians 1:

2 Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
• • •
17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:

Ephesians 5:

20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;

Colossians 1:

2 To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,

1 Peter 1:

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

In these verses the Trinity is portrayed as three Gods, one of whom is God of the other two, which contradicts the traditional Christian doctrine of the Trinity. In the Bible we have three Gods, one of whom is God over the other two. So it looks like it is the Bible that the Evangelicals have a problem with, not Mormonism.

The folks at BYU don’t know how to answer these guys. They have some way to go before they can do that. One of the mistakes they make is that they always assume the defensive position, and allow the critics to take the initiative. They don’t take the initiative to take the fight into the other side’s turf. Instead of asking Roger Olson (or anybody else) “Do you think we are Christians?” why not go on the offensive, and ask how they justify themselves to be Christians! If the doctrine of the Trinity determines who is and who is not a Christian, and their doctrine of the Trinity turns out to be unbiblical, illogical and false (which it is, as shown here), then perhaps the real question is not whether Mormons are Christians or not, but whether they are Christians or not!

Calvinism in particular is full of theological holes, some of which has already been exposed in my recent blog posts. They can take advantage of that to put them on the defensive. Calvinism is not only unchristian, it is anti-Christian. Biblical Christianity is all about doing good. Calvinism is all about not doing good! In Calvinism, doing good is a sin! Calvinism is about “faith alone”—no works! If you attempt to do “works,” you are dead! Calvinism is the direct opposite of biblical Christianity and the gospel of Jesus Christ. If Mormons don’t know how to put Calvinists on the defensive, they are doing something wrong.

To be able to successfully defeat the critics, the Mormon academics need to equip themselves with two things. First, they need to have a good grasp of traditional Christian theology, which they often don’t. They don’t know its weaknesses or its strengths. It has strengths as well as weaknesses. They can benefit from its strengths, while at the same time exposing its weaknesses. And they won’t be able to do that if they are going to dismiss everything as Greek philosophy (which is what they have done in the past). They also need to familiarize themselves with basic theological terms which they sometimes misunderstand. Secondly, they need to have a good grasp of true Mormon theology as derived directly from Mormon scripture, which they can only do by acquiring an in-depth knowledge of that scripture. Relying on the writings of others like Bruce R. McConkie or Blake Ostler and the like won’t do it.

Another thing that LDS academics can do to defeat their critics is to exploit the divisions that exist among them. The critics are not all united among themselves in their theology. The Baptist churches in the US (who have often been the most vocal critics of Mormonism) are riven with factionalism and theological disagreements among themselves, especially between the “traditionalist” wing and the “Calvinist” wing, with wide variations in between. Paul exploited the divisions that existed between the Pharisees and the Sadducees to his own advantage (Acts 23:6-10), and Mormons can do the same.

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