Steve Noel

A Different God?

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I posted this on another discussion board and thought I would get thoughts here as well. I just read LDS scholar Stephen E. Robinson's "Introduction" in the book How Wide the Divide? (co-authored w/ Evangelical scholar Craig Blomberg). I am very impressed and, in all honesty, convicted by some of what Robinson writes about how Evangelicals have engaged the LDS community. That being said, I find the difference of perspective concerning the nature of God between Evangelicals and Latter-day Saints to be so significant that it is difficult to see how we can be talking about the same God. Robinson states, "We believe that God and humans are the same species of being..." (18). I cannot think of a more significant difference between Evangelicals and Latter-day Saints. For here the most basic of distinctions, the Creator - creature distinction, is erased. Blomberg calls this "the heart of traditional Christianity's disagreement with Mormonism" (96). For a point of comparison here is a representative Evangelical statement from respected Baptist theologian Millard J. Erickson. In his systematic theology book he makes a brief biblical case for the transcendence of God.*** He concludes that this is taught "throughout the Bible" (Christian Theology, 3rd ed., 283). A little later he lists some of the implications of this doctrine of transcendence. Here is the fourth implication Erickson lists,

"There will always be a difference between God and humans. The gap between us is not merely a moral and spiritual disparity that originated with the fall. It is metaphysical, stemming from creation. Even when redeemed and glorified, we will still be renewed human beings. We will never become God. He will always be God and we will always be humans, so that there will always be a divine transcendence. Salvation consists in God's restoring us to what he intended us to be, not elevating us to what he is" (289).

Given that this divide is very wide, would you say that Evangelicals and Latter-day Saints believe in, worship, pray to, etc. the same God?

NOTE: This post is not intended as a debate/argument over which view is correct. That is a worthwhile discussion, but that is not what I'm after here. I will not be arguing for or against your viewpoint.

 

***Erickson explains what he means by transcendence when he writes, "By this we mean that God is separate from and independent of nature and humanity" (282).

Edited by Steve Noel

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Our Father wants to give us all that He has, and wishes for us to be joint heirs with Christ. I don't believe that receiving an inheritance from our Father means that I am His equal, nor our Brother's. I can never be that. I rely on Christ to reconcile me to Father. I can only be exalted through Him. Otherwise I am lost in my sins, past, present, and future. 

From Romans chapter 8, KJV New Testament:

Quote

16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

 18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

 

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16 minutes ago, Eowyn said:

Our Father wants to give us all that He has, and wishes for us to be joint heirs with Christ. I don't believe that receiving an inheritance from our Father means that I am His equal, nor our Brother's. I can never be that. I rely on Christ to reconcile me to Father. I can only be exalted through Him. Otherwise I am lost in my sins, past, present, and future. 

From Romans chapter 8, KJV New Testament:

 

Thank you for your response. I am not sure of what you wanted to convey. Could you clarify? Are you saying that what Dr. Robinson said is not what you believe?

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1 hour ago, Steve Noel said:

Robinson states, "We believe that God and humans are the same species of being..." (18). I cannot think of a more significant difference between Evangelicals and Latter-day Saints. For here the most basic of distinctions, the Creator - creature distinction, is erased.

This conclusion is not all that cut'n'dried.

God is our Creator. Nothing about our theology changes that in the least. Just as my wife and I are the creators of our children, and these children are of the same species, makes no difference in our relationship to them, nor theirs to us, the fact that we and our Father are also of the same species does not change the fact of His superiority compared to us.

He is our Father,  but He is also our God. He is our Creator, but we are His children.

Lehi

Edited by LeSellers

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1 hour ago, Steve Noel said:

Given that this divide is very wide, would you say that Evangelicals and Latter-day Saints believe in, worship, pray to, etc. the same God?

I try to give my Evangelical brothers and sisters the benefit of the doubt. I grant that they are indeed worshiping the true and living God, even if they do not understand him as well as they might. Ignorance per se is no sin; it is the common condition of humanity. I cannot very well condemn my brother for his ignorance when I, too, am in an ignorant state of mortal probation.

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LDS and Nicene Christians have a lot in common in their beliefs:

The Father is 100% divine.
The Son of God, Jesus Christ is 100% divine.  He is the creator of the world, Savior, and Lord.
The Holy Spirit is 100% divine.  He bears witness of the Father and Son, and through Him we are converted.
The Father is not the Son, nor vice verse. Neither of them are the Spirt.
The Father, Son, and Spirit together are 1 God.

The difference comes in:
Mormons believe that the Father, Son, and Spirit are 1 God through unity.
Nicene Christians believe that the Father, Son, and Spirit are 1 God through co-substantance-- God is a separate species than us.

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2 hours ago, Steve Noel said:

Given that this divide is very wide, would you say that Evangelicals and Latter-day Saints believe in, worship, pray to, etc. the same God?

I think it's worth noting that Mormons don't believe we can become equal with God, any more than I think I can ever be truly equal with my own parents.  As I gain experience and progeny and glory--so do they, and so does He.  One does not "catch up" with God, or ever reach a state where one is not subject to Him.

You might also enjoy Teryl and Fiona Givens' The God Who Weeps, wherein they meditate on the implications of the Mormon view of a God who "has set His heart upon us".

As for answering your question directly:  Well, speaking from an LDS perspective (and I don't mean this to sound condescending, I'm just offering a Mormon perspective), I don't think you worship a different God from me, even if I think some of your ideas about Him are inaccurate.  We agree He is an omniscient, virtually omnipotent Being who created all things in the universe, created man, revealed Himself to man as recorded in a book of scripture we both venerate, and seeks to save men from sin and reconcile them to Himself through an atonement worked out by His own Son, a Galilean carpenter who lived two millennia ago.

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2 hours ago, Steve Noel said:

Given that this divide is very wide, would you say that Evangelicals and Latter-day Saints believe in, worship, pray to, etc. the same God?

I think it's worth noting that Mormons don't believe we can become equal with God, any more than I think I can ever be truly equal with my own parents.  As I gain experience and progeny and glory--so do they, and so does He.  One does not "catch up" with God, or ever reach a state where one is not subject to Him.

You might also enjoy Teryl and Fiona Givens' The God Who Weeps, wherein they meditate on the implications of the Mormon view of a God who "has set His heart upon us".

As for answering your question directly:  Well, speaking from an LDS perspective (and I don't mean this to sound condescending, I'm just offering a Mormon perspective), I don't think you worship a different God from me, even if I think some of your ideas about Him are inaccurate.  We agree He is an omniscient, virtually omnipotent Being who created all things in the universe, created man, revealed Himself to man as recorded in a book of scripture we both venerate, and seeks to save men from sin and reconcile them to Himself through an atonement worked out by His own Son, a Galilean carpenter who lived two millennia ago.

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A couple of more thoughts--

*A great official resource on the LDS view on becoming like God is found here: https://www.lds.org/topics/becoming-like-god?lang=eng

*You mentioned that it seemed that Mormons are less about the metaphysical differences between the two views than Evangelicals.  Speaking in VERY broad terms, I would agree with this observation.  Speaking in very broad terms, LDS are in general are very practical people & focused on being a disciple of Christ, rather nailing out metaphysical details and trying to get all the answers right.  Rather, we believe all these details will all be revealed when the time is right, and in the meantime aren't essential to salvation.

*Speaking my own personal thoughts on the matter: there is only One God in the universe.  So by definition we worship the same God- there is no other.  The only difference is how accurate our knowledge is of Him.

Edited by Jane_Doe

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2 hours ago, LeSellers said:

This conclusion is not all that cut'n'dried.

God is our Creator. Nothing about our theology changes that in the least. Just as my wife and I are the creators of our children, and these children are of the same species, makes no difference in our relationship to them, nor theirs to us, the fact that we and our Father are also of the same species does not change the fact of His superiority compared to us.

He is our Father,  but He is also our God. He is our Creator, but we are His children.

Lehi

In another forum I asked this question and an Evangelical named Daniel Woods described really well why the Creator - creature gap is significant to us. He wrote:

"For the Evangelical the divide is infinite. The difference between an infinite being (of which there is only one) and a finite being, is an infinite difference."

I include that just for clarification. I do not want to argue the pros and cons of each view at this time. How would you respond to the question I asked in the OP?

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Just because there is a difference in belief of characteristics it does not change the fact that in each of our hearts we are believing in the same God. The Evangelicals worship the God that sent His only Begotten to be the Savior for all humans - that's the same God we believe in. An Evangelical that diligently strives to obey the commandments will not be cast off at judgment day for failing to believe in the true identity of God.

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2 hours ago, Jane_Doe said:

LDS and Nicene Christians have a lot in common in their beliefs:

The Father is 100% divine.
The Son of God, Jesus Christ is 100% divine.  He is the creator of the world, Savior, and Lord.
The Holy Spirit is 100% divine.  He bears witness of the Father and Son, and through Him we are converted.
The Father is not the Son, nor vice verse. Neither of them are the Spirt.
The Father, Son, and Spirit together are 1 God.

The difference comes in:
Mormons believe that the Father, Son, and Spirit are 1 God through unity.
Nicene Christians believe that the Father, Son, and Spirit are 1 God through co-substantance-- God is a separate species than us.

I appreciate the way you've described the beliefs here. Where would you land on the question in the OP?

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1 hour ago, Just_A_Guy said:

I think it's worth noting that Mormons don't believe we can become equal with God, any more than I think I can ever be truly equal with my own parents.  As I gain experience and progeny and glory--so do they, and so does He.  One does not "catch up" with God, or ever reach a state where one is not subject to Him.

You might also enjoy Teryl and Fiona Givens' The God Who Weeps, wherein they meditate on the implications of the Mormon view of a God who "has set His heart upon us".

As for answering your question directly:  Well, speaking from an LDS perspective (and I don't mean this to sound condescending, I'm just offering a Mormon perspective), I don't think you worship a different God from me, even if I think some of your ideas about Him are inaccurate.  We agree He is an omniscient, virtually omnipotent Being who created all things in the universe, created man, revealed Himself to man as recorded in a book of scripture we both venerate, and seeks to save men from sin and reconcile them to Himself through an atonement worked out by His own Son, a Galilean carpenter who lived two millennia ago.

Thank you for answering the question. You were not condescending at all. I appreciate the tone of your response.

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11 minutes ago, Steve Noel said:

finite being

What makes you think we see God as a finite being?

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10 minutes ago, Eowyn said:

What makes you think we see God as a finite being?

I think the reference to a "finite being" in Daniel's quote was a reference to humans. He was expressing how Evangelicals see the gap between God and humans. 

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5 hours ago, Steve Noel said:


Given that this divide is very wide, would you say that Evangelicals and Latter-day Saints believe in, worship, pray to, etc. the same God?
 

Yes we do.  We just have different understandings of who He is.  Previous posts have already covered some of the differences and similarities.

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13 hours ago, Steve Noel said:
9 hours ago, Steve Noel said:

In another forum I asked this question and an Evangelical named Daniel Woods described really well why the Creator - creature gap is significant to us. He wrote:

"For the Evangelical the divide is infinite. The difference between an infinite being (of which there is only one) and a finite being, is an infinite difference."

I include that just for clarification. I do not want to argue the pros and cons of each view at this time. How would you respond to the question I asked in the OP?

Given that this divide is very wide, would you say that Evangelicals and Latter-day Saints believe in, worship, pray to, etc. the same God?

I believe we do.

The issue, as I see it, is whether our vision of God is what you accept as His character.

As I (and others) have said here, God is infinite, we are not. The fact that we have a higher view of man does not change His position. How is infinity closer to 100,000,000,000 (our view of man) than to 0 (yours)?

Lehi

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10 hours ago, Steve Noel said:

I appreciate the way you've described the beliefs here. Where would you land on the question in the OP?

 

11 hours ago, Jane_Doe said:

*Speaking my own personal thoughts on the matter: there is only One God in the universe.  So by definition we worship the same God- there is no other.  The only difference is how accurate our knowledge is of Him and how well we follow Him.

 

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35 minutes ago, Jane_Doe said:
11 hours ago, Jane_Doe said:

*Speaking my own personal thoughts on the matter: there is only One God in the universe.  So by definition we worship the same God- there is no other.  The only difference is how accurate our knowledge is of Him and how well we follow Him.

 

Ah, sorry. Thanks.

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*************************************************************

I understand what is being said in How Wide the Divide.  And I'd certainly agree from a certain perspective.  But I tend to think of it a different way.  As with most doctrinal differences, I personally tend to think of it as the blind men and the elephant.  We're all blind.  But of course, it is only human nature to believe that we have a bigger portion of the elephant than others.

We believe that His role as "creator" is analogous to parents who create their children.  While we consider it a literal parent-child relationship, I use the word "analogous" because children are only a small level of growth from being like their parents.  We, on the other hand, are much farther away from being like God.  It is no wonder, then, that others who do not share this belief find it impossible to believe.  

Imagine that you'd never seen a fertilized human egg/embryo before and all you knew about reproduction was that a stork came and dropped off a baby on your parents' porch.  What would come to your mind when someone whom you already believed to be a quack told you that this tiny speck will grow to be a human being?  You'd laugh it off and chalk it up to quackery.  It would be absurd and there would be nothing in the world that would convince you otherwise.

Now, what if someone you knew and trusted and felt had a lot of good knowledge to share told you the same thing?  You'd be interested and ask,"How?"  And you'd listen as he described the process -- even as he said, "And we just don't know this or that about it.  But we do know this is what happens."

This is one of those things that you either accept that it came from a true source or it didn't.  There is no real convincing.  It is faith based.  All the Biblical references to parent-child relationships are either literal or they are figurative.

*********************************************************************

Short version: We believe we worship the same God.  You believe we worship a different God.  

Long version: I'm going to make certain assumptions since you mentioned How Wide the Divide. Feel free to correct me.

We both believe God (Jehovah) was a Spirit prior to His earthly ministry.  We both believe that during His Earthly ministry, He was as physical as we are.  We both believe He became a spirit again upon His death (gave up the ghost).  We both believe he regained physical form upon resurrection (a spirit hath not flesh and bones).  We both believe that after his final words (go ye into all the world...) He was taken up into heaven.  

Here's the separation:  When He went into heaven again, you believe He became a spirit again.  We believe he remained in a perfected, sanctified form of a Human body that was similar to what we saw in Earth life.  It was a form that would never see corruption again.

***********************************************************************

You, as many protestants do, believe in a variant of the Trinity.  We believe in the Godhead.  From our perspective, you simply worship Jesus (the Son only).  And that's ok.  From your perspective, they are all the same being so, of course, you worship Jesus.  But it is only through a "blindness" that your earlier ecumenical creeds decided that Jesus was the Father and the Spirit as well.  In our faith, we found that the Father was His own person, as was the Spirit.  It just happened that it was the Son who dealt with man for most of our religious experiences.  Jehovah was the Son, not the Father.  It is no wonder that one who was blinded would think that they were all the same.  Based on what knowledge you have, of course, that makes sense.  

BTW, it is an incomplete thought to say we ONLY worship the Father.  We worship the three together as the Godhead.

So, as Vort said, just because you don't have the whole picture, doesn't mean you worship another God.  It's that you worship the same God that you may not fully understand.

Analogy: I live in Texas.  It is one state where the natives are particularly proud that they are Texans first and Americans second.  I found many who spend their entire lives here don't know much about how things are different in other states.  I mentioned paying state income tax.  A friend had no clue what I was talking about.  If he didn't already have a favorable opinion of me, he'd laugh it off (as if states can levy income taxes - pshaw!).  The thought that a state could levy income taxes was a completely alien concept to him.  As different as that is, are we all citizens of the United States?

The real question is what in this analogy do you consider a Federal Law and which are State Laws?

Edited by Guest

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1 hour ago, Carborendum said:

*************************************************************

I understand what is being said in How Wide the Divide.  And I'd certainly agree from a certain perspective.  But I tend to think of it a different way.  As with most doctrinal differences, I personally tend to think of it as the blind men and the elephant.  We're all blind.  But of course, it is only human nature to believe that we have a bigger portion of the elephant than others.

We believe that His role as "creator" is analogous to parents who create their children.  While we consider it a literal parent-child relationship, I use the word "analogous" because children are only a small level of growth from being like their parents.  We, on the other hand, are much farther away from being like God.  It is no wonder, then, that others who do not share this belief find it impossible to believe.  

Imagine that you'd never seen a fertilized human egg/embryo before and all you knew about reproduction was that a stork came and dropped off a baby on your parents' porch.  What would come to your mind when someone whom you already believed to be a quack told you that this tiny speck will grow to be a human being?  You'd laugh it off and chalk it up to quackery.  It would be absurd and there would be nothing in the world that would convince you otherwise.

Now, what if someone you knew and trusted and felt had a lot of good knowledge to share told you the same thing?  You'd be interested and ask,"How?"  And you'd listen as he described the process -- even as he said, "And we just don't know this or that about it.  But we do know this is what happens."

This is one of those things that you either accept that it came from a true source or it didn't.  There is no real convincing.  It is faith based.  All the Biblical references to parent-child relationships are either literal or they are figurative.

*********************************************************************

Short version: We believe we worship the same God.  You believe we worship a different God.  

Long version: I'm going to make certain assumptions since you mentioned How Wide the Divide. Feel free to correct me.

We both believe God (Jehovah) was a Spirit prior to His earthly ministry.  We both believe that during His Earthly ministry, He was as physical as we are.  We both believe He became a spirit again upon His death (gave up the ghost).  We both believe he regained physical form upon resurrection (a spirit hath not flesh and bones).  We both believe that after his final words (go ye into all the world...) He was taken up into heaven.  

Here's the separation:  When He went into heaven again, you believe He became a spirit again.  We believe he remained in a perfected, sanctified form of a Human body that was similar to what we saw in Earth life.  It was a form that would never see corruption again.

***********************************************************************

You, as many protestants do, believe in a variant of the Trinity.  We believe in the Godhead.  From our perspective, you simply worship Jesus (the Son only).  And that's ok.  From your perspective, they are all the same being so, of course, you worship Jesus.  But it is only through a "blindness" that your earlier ecumenical creeds decided that Jesus was the Father and the Spirit as well.  In our faith, we found that the Father was His own person, as was the Spirit.  It just happened that it was the Son who dealt with man for most of our religious experiences.  Jehovah was the Son, not the Father.  It is no wonder that one who was blinded would think that they were all the same.  Based on what knowledge you have, of course, that makes sense.  

BTW, it is an incomplete thought to say we ONLY worship the Father.  We worship the three together as the Godhead.

So, as Vort said, just because you don't have the whole picture, doesn't mean you worship another God.  It's that you worship the same God that you may not fully understand.

Analogy: I live in Texas.  It is one state where the natives are particularly proud that they are Texans first and Americans second.  I found many who spend their entire lives here don't know much about how things are different in other states.  I mentioned paying state income tax.  A friend had no clue what I was talking about.  If he didn't already have a favorable opinion of me, he'd laugh it off (as if states can levy income taxes - pshaw!).  The thought that a state could levy income taxes was a completely alien concept to him.  As different as that is, are we all citizens of the United States?

The real question is what in this analogy do you consider a Federal Law and which are State Laws?

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. I have posted this on two different forums and thus far pretty much all Latter-day Saints have indicated that we believe in the same God. I suspect that most Evangelicals would say, as you have, that we do not believe in the same God. I believe Stephen Robinson may have diagnosed the source of this difference pretty well in How Wide the Divide? He says this, 

Quote

"ontological framework, while a vital part of our theology, is secondary to the truth of the basic gospel itself, yet Evangelicals and others (including many of our own people) often get this backwards" (19).

Apart from the comment that Evangelicals "get this backwards" I think we would agree. For Evangelicals the nature of God in contrast to the nature of humans is considered primary and essential to the gospel. Therefore, from a Latter-day Saint perspective, we believe in the same God because the difference between us is secondary, while, from an Evangelical perspective, we do not believe in the same God because the difference between is primary.

I did not create this thread to argue for or against either position. I am trying to understand the LDS perspective. That being said, you have made several mistaken claims about Evangelical belief here. I do not want to get into this though at this time. I would encourage you to do your best to make sure you are accurately describing the belief of others. I know how difficult it is and have often done this myself.

Edited by Steve Noel

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1 hour ago, Carborendum said:

...Here's the separation:  When He went into heaven again, you believe He became a spirit again.  We believe he remained in a perfected, sanctified form of a Human body that was similar to what we saw in Earth life.  It was a form that would never see corruption again.

***********************************************************************

You, as many protestants do, believe in a variant of the Trinity.  We believe in the Godhead.  From our perspective, you simply worship Jesus (the Son only).  And that's ok.  From your perspective, they are all the same being so, of course, you worship Jesus.  But it is only through a "blindness" that your earlier ecumenical creeds decided that Jesus was the Father and the Spirit as well.  In our faith, we found that the Father was His own person, as was the Spirit.  It just happened that it was the Son who dealt with man for most of our religious experiences.  Jehovah was the Son, not the Father.  It is no wonder that one who was blinded would think that they were all the same.  Based on what knowledge you have, of course, that makes sense....  

This post is about LDS sharing their beliefs and non-LDS sharing their beliefs, it is not about a certain LDS telling non-LDS what he thinks they believe; which BTW, the bold words above are quite wrong.

M.

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My best friend from high school is a very devout Christian (Nazarene). She and I often have discussions about faith, our reliance on Jesus, scriptures, etc. My hairdresser is  a very devout Christian (Methodist). She and I often have discussions about faith, Jesus, Mormon beliefs, scriptures, etc.  Neither of these friends have ever expressed that I worship a different God. In fact, I honestly think that if you asked them, they would say that I believe in the same God that they do.

The only person who thinks I believe in a different God is my brother. He is very concerned for my life as he believes that Mormons are evil and worship a different Jesus and doesn't believe that Jesus is God. I truly, honestly don't know why he believes that. I've given witness before about Jesus. I also spoke at our mother's funeral where I shared my faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ and how I believe Jesus is my personal Savior and the only way I can be saved.

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