Can Humans Be Deified?

March 4, 2007    By: Blake @ 6:22 pm   Category: Theology

According to the Eastern Orthodox doctrine of deification, we can have communion with God in the divine life. That is, mere humans can become immortal and incorruptible. In addition, through deification humans share the moral attributes with God including righteousness or goodness, holiness, love and mercy. Thus, these are the attributes of the divine nature that we share and that supposedly justifies the assertion that we share the divine nature, become deified and become gods. There is more to it — including the notion that the divine life enters into us to take up habitation and we share a healed life in Christ.

The problem with this kind of assertion in the creedal tradition that accepts creation ex nihilo is that we cannot reasonably be thought to possess these or any attributes in a divine way. In the tradition, God is not good in the same sense that humans could possibly be good, for God cannot fail to be good. In fact, many theologians maintain that God is the very source and standard of goodness. If God cannot fail to be good, then he has no moral duties because he does not stand under a moral law that could bind him. Even if we take a watered down version of divine goodness and merely hold that God is perfectly good and so cannot do anything evil, we must wonder in what sense God is good that is like human goodness. Humans are morally good because they abide a moral law and do good works. If God cannot possibly do anything evil, then God is not good in this way and saying that “God is good” means something quite different than saying that “this man is good”. So divine goodness is not really comparable to human goodness at all. It is an abuse of language to suggest that humans have the same kind of ethical or moral property of goodness as God because in the conventional tradition of the creeds, God has no moral or ethical goodness at all. Thus, comparing human goodness or holiness or love to divine goodness fails to observe the ontological and qualitative differences between God’s mode of being good and human modes of being good and evil.

On the other hand, we can participate or share the omni-attributes with God in exactly the same attenuated sense as God’s moral attributes. Certainly humans possess some power, though not all power. We can be wise and have knowledge, though we cannot possess all wisdom or all knowledge as God does. We can increase our influence and power beyond our immediate physical presence through instruments and have at least some sense of presence in the world, though admittedly not omnipresence. We can exercise power and knowledge but in human proportion and in a way fitting for humans. It is exactly the same with human goodness. We can only be good in a way that is possible for humans. Yet there is an ontological and qualitative difference between the way that humans can exercise power and have knowledge in comparison to God.

The truth is that we cannot possess any of the attributes of the divine kind if we are essentially created ex nihilo. I may possess goodness, power and knowledge, but in a human rather than a divine way. These are therefore human properties rather than divine properties. Further, it isn’t possible for the created human way of having these properties to be transformed into the uncreated and self-sufficient way in which God has them. If a thing is created, this past fact is an essential fact about it that cannot be changed even by divine power. Not even God can create an uncreated thing. Thus, comparing the human way of having properties like righteousness, knowledge and power to the divine mode amounts to a logical category mistake.

What the doctrine of deification gives, the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo takes away. Thus, what LDS mean by deification will always be different than what those in the tradition mean by theosis or deification. However, I doubt that they can truly mean anything like that we truly become divine or share any divine attributes. But with that admission, the entire notion of deification seems to me to be eviscerated.

43 Comments »

  1. Good points Blake. I think it gets back again to the point that our rejection of creation ex nihilo is perhaps the single most important theological difference we have with creedal Christianity. From that one thing sprouts myriads of other key differences.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 4, 2007 @ 8:02 pm

  2. Yep. Good stuff, Blake.

    Comment by J. Stapley — March 4, 2007 @ 9:19 pm

  3. Yea, one of the most shocking things to me about your exchanges with Beckwith was that he was willing to give up the idea of God being morally praiseworthy. To me, that pretty much eviscerates the concept of God before the idea of deification can even come up.

    Comment by Jacob J — March 5, 2007 @ 12:57 am

  4. Interesting that you would make that comment, Geoff. So what is God’s relationship with materialism and natural law from your perspective?

    And Blake, not only am I on a different wavelength with you on the nature of God, according to your post, I am on a different premise for what constitutes man’s goodness.

    The more I read, the more I seem to gather that the chasms between our faiths are huge. How can biblical scripture even intersect with what you are maintaining here?

    This weekend, I have just emerged from scrutinizing and discussing the latter part of John 3 with the church family. The contrast between Jesus and the greatest prophtet born of women is infinite. This text is included in our authoritative revelation for a reason.

    Comment by Todd Wood — March 5, 2007 @ 10:42 am

  5. Todd,

    How can biblical scripture even intersect with what you are maintaining here?

    I think the post is asking how biblical scripture even intersects with the non-biblical notion of creation ex nihilo, so if you want to say Blake’s comments are out of touch with the Bible, please provide examples. These kind of drive-by accusations with nothing substantive to dig our teeth into don’t really help create a useful discussion.

    Comment by Jacob J — March 5, 2007 @ 12:06 pm

  6. Jacob, ok you have mentioned that I have just popped on with “drive-by accusations with nothing substantive to dig our teeth into.”

    Blake asks, Can Humans Be Deified? This assumes that we are of the same species as God, right?

    I offer the latter part of John 3 for consideration. You don’t think the second half of John 3 has any truth that is pertinent to the discussion at hand over whether mortal humans can cross over to theos.? This is not useful discussion?

    Isn’t it proper to bring in Scripture when we are discussing human deification?

    I am confused, friend.

    Comment by Todd Wood — March 5, 2007 @ 3:00 pm

  7. Todd W.,

    There are several studiously ignored passages in the New Testament where our essential similarity with Jesus Christ is emphasized.

    For example:

    Jn 17:20-23, Rom 8:16-17, Heb 2:10-11, Philip 3:20-21.

    All this distinct species stuff is an invention of the philosophers. Possibly a useful invention, but an invention nonetheless.

    Comment by Mark Butler — March 5, 2007 @ 3:31 pm

  8. Todd: We may be on different wave-lengths, but the scriptures aren’t. The scriptures strongly suggest that humans partake of the divine nature. The scriptural sources of this view are many. Ephesians says that the Father has granted to us “in accord with the riches of his glory to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith … and know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:16-18) Colossians states that: “For in him dwells the whole fulness of the deity bodily, and you share in this fullness in him…” What else could these scriptures mean except that the fulness of deity that dwelt in Christ also dwells in the disciples through Him? The goal of every Christian is to “present everyone perfect in Christ.” (Col. 1:28) Paul says in 2 Corinthians that “all of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory.” (2 Cor. 3:18) So we become the image of Christ, through the “gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Cor. 4:4) Once again we get a form of “exchange formula”: we share the image of the Son, the Son shares the image of the Father, and it follows that we share the image of God.

    In addition, we may be one with the Father and Son as they are one with each other. (John 17:21-24) We are joint heirs with Christ in all that the Father has. (Rom. 8:14-18) Just as Christ, we will “be partakers of God’s holiness.” (Hebrews 12:910) As sons and daughters of God we will receive crowns of glory and all that the Father has. (Rev. 21:7) We will sit on the throne with Christ. (Rev. 3:21) We will receive glorified bodies transformed into the image of Christ. (Phil. 3:21). Moreover, virtually every tradition in Christianity adopts a belief in deification – or at least there are those within these various traditions that make such a claim.

    However, it is doubtful that any of the conventional believers in traditional Christianity can adopt the doctrine of deification given other doctrines that they also adopt about the ontological oneness of God and the nature of salvation. There is a severe tension in Protestant thought because it is essential to the reality of deification that when Christ enters into us we are justified in the sense that we are made righteous “in the inner self” rather than merely being judicially declared righteous when we in fact are not. (Ephesians 3:18) It is not a matter of external declaration only. The notion of justification by extrinsic imputation of righteousness is therefore at odds with the notion of deification.

    Comment by Blake — March 5, 2007 @ 3:58 pm

  9. Todd: the chasm between Jesus and the disciples isn’t infinite (that term doesn’t even appear). There is simply a distinction between the flesh and earthy from below and Christ that came down from above — but note that those who accept Christ are not merely from below. The disciples can be one and receive the very glory that the Son enjoyed with the Father before the world was in its fulness as John 17 makes clear. We are children of God and if children then heirs with Christ in all that the Father has. If we are childen, then we are most certainly of the same species — what else could the reference to Gr. genos mean? We shall be like him when he returns if we are his children. Maybe it would serve to teach that to your church family next time?

    Comment by Blake — March 5, 2007 @ 4:22 pm

  10. Todd,

    The problem with your comment #4 is that it doesn’t bring up anything specific enough to allow me or anyone else to responsibly reply. You bring up the latter part of John 3. What in the latter part of John 3 do you think disagrees with the post? I cannot read your mind. If you bring up something specific, it can be engaged. If you point to the latter part of John 3, we have to guess at what you are thinking when you read John 3, which is not productive.

    Comment by Jacob J — March 5, 2007 @ 4:45 pm

  11. Todd,
    Why set limits on what Christ can do with mankind? Why limit what the atonement can do? Please realize that when we start into these doctrines it is the God and his plan that get us there. Without him, we are quite simply stuck. With him, all things are possible. Thus any increase in our glory through him can only add to his glory. Fear of deification limits the glory of God and thus does him disservice in my view.

    Comment by Doc — March 5, 2007 @ 5:17 pm

  12. Blake, is the only idea of deification that will satisfy you, one where you define goodness? Where nobody possesses goodness more than anyone else? What do you look for in a good doctrine of deification?

    Comment by Brad Haas — March 5, 2007 @ 6:19 pm

  13. Brad: I just don’t know what you mean by a view of deification where I define goodness where everyone is equally good. Since I neither hold such a view of moral goodness nor do the various views that I discussed entail such a view of goodness, I am at a loss as to what you are referring to. Could you expand and explain?

    Comment by Blake — March 5, 2007 @ 6:43 pm

  14. Oh, I meant one where no person defines goodness; it’s a universal law higher than everyone. I was just tossing out ideas. What I’m after is what you look for in a “good” doctrine of deification. You said:

    However, I doubt that they can truly mean anything like that we truly become divine or share any divine attributes. But with that admission, the entire notion of deification seems to me to be eviscerated.

    Ex nihilo admits creatures cannot possess the attributes of their Creator as much as He can. To your mind, must they be able to? Do you find it contrary to reason that partakers in the divine nature, by their finite being, may grow in goodness (or knowledge, etc.) for all eternity but never contain the whole of it? Or do you find it reasonable but just not as attractive?

    I just can’t tell from your post whether you disagree more with your head or your heart, and what you want with each.

    Comment by Brad Haas — March 5, 2007 @ 11:53 pm

  15. Brad: To parktake of the divine nature means that there is a nature in which we share or participate. I have a long paper that defines what a nature is and how it is participated in. However, to make a long and interesting story very short, there is no sense in which we have anything like divine properties or attributes if we are created ex nihilo. Instead, we merely have human properties that are more fully developed. Given that conclusion, there is no sense in which we are deified or become gods; we merely mature as humans.

    Comment by Blake — March 6, 2007 @ 11:17 am

  16. Mark,

    Let me first say, it is good to see you posting again in bloggernacle. And I couldn’t help but notice your last statement on the thread with snarkimus on smurthiness.

    Secondly, I assure you, when our church family approaches John 17 (though it might be another year since we have already spent six months in just the first three chapters of John), we will probably spend up to a dozen weeks in this chapter alone, asking the Spirit to teach us while we scrutinize and discuss the ancient text. The chapter’s worth far surpasses any amount that one could weigh in gold.

    In the past, I have lingered for quite an extensive block of time with the brothers and sisters in Romans 8. It has got to be one of my favorite chapters in Scripture. No condemnation. No fear. No doubt. No discouragement. No separation. All because of union with Christ.

    I can honestly say that my present position in Christ had to be divinely created because of the wicked, antithetical posture that I once held, painfully spelled out in Romans 1-3. The Spirit did not always testify that I was a child of God. And a beautiful outcome of my “glorification” is when “sin” can no longer “dwell in me” neither “evil” be “present with me” (Romans 7).

    But where does it say in Romans 8 that in my glorification, I will be able to raise people from the dead like the Spirit did Christ? Will I be able to “quicken mortal bodies,” “make intercession for the weak with groanings which cannot be uttered,” “make all things work together for good”? Does Romans 8 teach that in my glorification, I will be able to foreknow, to predestinate, to call, to justify, and to glorify others? Will there be mortal humans someday in dire need like I once was and still am, able to proclaim, “If Todd Wood (deified) be for us, who can be against us?”

    No, Mark, there is a huge difference between the majestic non-communicable work of God, expressed through the Father, Son, and Spirit, and what I will be able to do even in my glorification because of God’s electing love in Romans 8. If New Cool Thang wanted to spend the next month in the exalting beauty of God in Romans 8, I would be thrilled.

    Mark writes, All this distinct species stuff is an invention of the philosophers. Possibly a useful invention, but an invention nonetheless.

    This statement is in disconnect to me, Mark. I don’t know much about what the philosophers have said. I have only taken one graduate philosophy class in my entire educational career and have forgotten most of what they said. My passion lies in biblical theology. If they agree with Scripture than fine, they might hold value for me.

    My ideas are chiefly being derived from the text that I delve into each week rather than Plato. If you gave me a test today on what this philosopher believed, I would flunk (unlike you or Blake). Can you sincerely believe this? Let me share just one quick illustration. Didn’t the Catholic authorities at one time accuse Martin Luther of being a Hussite? Luther had to go study for himself over whether he agreed with John Huss or not. Sure enough, it was so. (Out of curiosity, would you confirm this story, Brad H.? And btw, would I be able to come over from time to time and kindly question you on your blog?)

    This communicates to me that the Spirit of God can teach people similar truth though unconnected to one another in relationship. I have a hard time that I have been duped by philosophers, when I am so woefully ignorant of them for a fundamental source. Now if you started quoting philosophers framing worldviews who agreed with Scripture that would get me excited. I would dig that kind of blog.

    Blake, thanks for post #2, laden with tremendous scriptural text. And thanks for post #3, not blowing me off over John 3. Let me get back with you on Jesus “from above” in John 3:31 in contrast to being born “from above” in John 3:3. Deep is the contrast. Blake, I wish you could see this.

    I won’t leave you hanging, but I do need to check out for a few days. A young neighbor friend purposely shot himself in the head. He died yesterday. At this moment, my heart is clinging to God and the gospel revealed in John 3. Often in such excruciating circumstances, God makes His words more than just ink on white pages. He presses His message deeply on the heart.

    And Jacob and Geoff, thanks for letting me drop in from time to time with such jarring theological divide on NCT (would it be presumptuous of me to say that the nature of NCT posts almost invite this?) Yet surely, you are welcome to comment freely on HI4LDS. I won’t jump all over you concerning any of what I perceive to be a lack of mental discipline or logic etiquette.

    Comment by Todd Wood — March 7, 2007 @ 9:51 am

  17. Blake,

    However, to make a long and interesting story very short, there is no sense in which we have anything like divine properties or attributes if we are created ex nihilo. Instead, we merely have human properties that are more fully developed.

    Are you saying ex nihilo creation means that it’s within human nature, entirely absent the grace of God, to love and do good?

    Todd, I’m afraid I can’t confirm or deny that story; I’m nescent of much of the reformers’ lives. To answer your other question, you’re welcome any time.

    Comment by Brad Haas — March 7, 2007 @ 5:33 pm

  18. Brad: I wouldn’t say that it is in human power to do anything absent prevenient grace. I am a concurrentist regarding human and divine action: we subsist and have consciousness at any level only because of the light of God/Christ that quickens us (gives us life) according to D&C 88.

    However, given creatio ex nihilo, everything that we are and do is caused directly by God because in each moment God essentially recreates us in the states that we are in. Creatio ex nihilo entails continuous creation or sustenance in each moment as well as the initial moment of creation and every moment is a creation ex nihilo.

    Comment by Blake — March 8, 2007 @ 7:12 am

  19. OK, Blake, I am back and pecked a few things on my blog this morning.

    To get us thinking yesterday morning, I read your comments #8 and #9 to the church family. And then we spent the rest of the morning scrutinizing John 3:31. The verse provides the first reason why Jesus must increase rather than John. God has not created us in the sense that we are to increase in glory like the Christ. And origins is the first of several reasons for why we will never be on the same par with Christ.

    Late last night, I read some of the commentaries by evangelical men that I quickly offer for your perusal:

    “Just as the one who was before John chronologically precedes him in rank (1:15), so also the one from heaven has rank over all the earth, including John the Baptist” (Craig Keener, 582).

    “Having come from above he is over ‘all,’ i.e., ‘the whole realm of man’ (Brown, 157), whereas those who originate from the earth are purely of earthly kind and can therefore speak only of the earthly plane” (George Beasley-Murray, 53).

    “The ‘earth,’ as distinguished from the ‘world,’ expresses the idea of the particular limitations of our being, without any accessory moral contrast with God. Its opposite is heaven” (B.F. Westcott, 61).

    “Earth and heaven are vastly different realities, and those whose origins are linked with each of these realities are themselves very different. The message is that those who are from the earth can hardly be considered in the same realm of discourse as the one who came from heaven. The authentic messenger or agent from heaven is utterly superior to any and all (panton) earth-oriented persons (3:31), for he has seen and heard the realities of heaven and bears witness to those realities (3:32)” (Gerald Borchert, 193).

    Blake, in thinking of your post #8, I can see the logical arguments in your systematic theology. But will your logic revealed by the schematic selection of the particular verses bow the knee to the overarching biblical theology of each one of these books.

    If you are going to quote with authority from any of ta biblia, does that mean that you believe all that are in these books revealing man’s nature and God’s nature?

    Comment by Todd Wood — March 12, 2007 @ 9:34 am

  20. Blake, have you read through Michael S. Heiser’s paper, “Monotheism, Polytheism, Monolatry, or Henotheism? Toward an Honest (and Orthodox) Assessment of Divine Plurality in the Hebrew Bible”.

    He writes toward the end of his paper. “My own view is that Israel believed in the existence of other gods, but that Yahweh was ‘species unique.’ That is, Yahweh was an elohim, but no other elohim was Yahweh—and never was nor could be. Yahweh was ontologically superior to and distinct from all the other gods. As Isaiah 43:10 and 44:6-8 affirm, Yahweh alone is pre-existent and uncreated. He in fact created all the divine members of the heavenly host. Their life derives from him, not vice versa. By virtue of His ontological superiority, Yahweh alone is sovereign and thus deserving of worship. Interestingly, species uniqueness is the basis for God’s distinction from the other gods in later Jewish writers.”

    Comment by Todd Wood — March 12, 2007 @ 7:32 pm

  21. Todd: I actually had some correspondence with Mike Heiser. He is a very knowledgeable person and a kind one in addition. Perhaps you will be interested in my response to him with particular attention to the discussion of shared genetic unity among the gods and God:

    Mike: Let me begin with an assumption that you bring to the text that is simply unwarranted. It is clear for instance in this kind of statement: “I was dealing with the canonical texts. Archaeological evidence of this kind doesn’t prove that the TEXTS have Yahweh and El as the same – all it proves is that SOMEONE out there in the biblical period possibly held that view – which would be no surprise. Various Yahweh cults operated all over the place, and some could be aberrant with respect to the canonical view. In short, the EXTRA biblical record doesn’t prove something about what the biblical authors believed – we have to get that from what they wrote, and to reverse this interpretive process is flawed thinking. What Smith and others do in this vein is poor logic – “I found this object over here (which no or severely truncated text), so I postulate it meant X to whoever made it, so that must now govern what I think about the canonical corpus.”

    You assume that the text has a single uniform”canonical view” throughout thousands of years, so that for example Christians all meant the same thing regarding the Logos or Wisdom and they all agreed perfectly with the writer of Proverbs and the Psalms which also represent a uniform view. Indeed, the assumption that those responsible for say Psalm 82 or Dt. 32 had a “canonical view” of the text is totally unjustified. What canon? In addition, you assume that the text was not written by anyone with an “aberrant” view even though the epigraphic archaeological evidence shows a variation of views. Such a view cannot be sustained. In this sense, your own assumption controls what the text can say — and it is worse than the assumption (you assume) of evolution regarding the development of Israel’s view(s) of God and gods. So you commit the very same fallacy of letting an unjustified assumption control your exegesis that you charge Smith et al. of making.

    However, your rejection of the archaeological and epigraphic evidence is unjustified twice over. First, such evidence shows that what you call an assumption of evolution of views is not an assumption but a well-supported fact based on evidence of such evolution of beliefs in Israel. As you acknowledge, there were cult centers of various yahwehs and temples of El and Elyon separately in Israel. Thus, when we see evidence of such views in the text we can give it appropriate weight in assessing the text. Second, the texts themselves have been redacted and thus the underlying evolution of views must be detected from texts that were not culled-out in the process. There is evidence, as you well know, of a number of various sources being used and various layers of tradition being formed into something of a narrative with doublets and aporia demonstrating the various layers of tradition. Further, the very similarity between the older Ugaritic views and the more recent (comparatively) Israelite views begs for comparison of a single Most High God (El Elyon) who presides over a son Baal who is nevertheless said to be supreme and the incomparable god among the gods. The very Ugaritic evidence you adduce supports the evolutionary hypothesis to that extent. So the way you approach the text assumes a kind of fundamentalist uniformitarianism that makes no sense in light of the evidence. Despite your willingness to question some evangelical assumptions about the nature of the gods, you still approach the text with the assumptions of a fundamentalist evangelical.

    As you acknowledge (I believe) the terminology we use is defeasible — but it also controls your exegesis (eisegesis). The notion that the Hebrews had any view of “ontology” is somewhat surprising in light of your recognition that terminology can trap us in unwarranted views. So let me comment on your statements about L.S. belief (“Mormon” is an epithet BTW):

    2: L.S. would virtually all agree that the terms monotheism, henotheism, polytheism and monolatry are simply inaccurate and misleading in some respects.

    4.Your view that there is an Israelite view of “godhead” (Greek theotes) is surprising and entirely unwarranted. Where is the term “Godhead” in the Old Testament? Further, L.S. do not claim that the notion of the Godhead is derived from Greek theology. It is a biblical term and it is used commonly among us. We argue that the term “substance” is misleading when speaking of the unity of the Trinity — more on that later.

    5. There is considerable disagreement among L.S. whether we can speak accurately of Yahweh being “birthed” in any literal sense. I personally reject it out of hand. I reject the notion of “olden gods” as well.

    Now let me comment on the issue of genus identity and your claim that there is a “genus unique” claim for Yahweh. What would suffice as evidence of genus relationship for you if the term “sons of God” won’t do it? Further, why is it always bene elohim or bene elyon and never bene Yahweh? Further, L.S. don’t claim that Yahweh is a “created being” so that he is ontologically contingent while Elohim or Elyon is ontologically necessary. Absolutely no L.S. believes that. So you comments on p. 10 regarding “L.S. scholarship” is simply off-base. What we claim is that there is in some sense a filial relationship between Father and Son. Further, no L.S. scholar argues that El is created. I am familiar with the sources you cite — none of them support that claim.

    On pages 18-19 you cite a number of conclusions about the “Godhead” in L.S. thought. However, it is false that there is a rank of glory in the Godhead as L.S. understand it. We reserve the term “Godhead” for the three persons of the traditional trinity. There is no gradation of divinity among them. However, as the stories of multiple heavens (usually seven) demonstrate, there is a gradation of glory of the various heavenly beings who inhabit them. Satan is not part of the Godhead in L.S. thought. So no L.S. would accept either your categorization or argument as an accurate statement of L.S. beliefs on p. 19.

    Now there is such mess in your talk about “same essence” and “ontological equality” that it may take a bit to sort it out. First, sharing the same essence isn’t enough — as you acknowledge all humans share a human essence and all living things share the same essence as living things. What you mean by “essence” is the same “individual essence”, what perhaps the medievals would call a haecceity. Yet the claim that the Son and Spirit share the same individual essence with Yahweh (the Father I suppose) and yet are “other hypostatic selves” is sheer unadulterated nonsense. You state that you consider them to be “other selves” and yet also to be the “same [individual] essence” as the one, unique divine person Yahweh. (p. 19) To say that “they share Yahweh’s essence” doesn’t clarify the matter but makes it worse since you cannot mean a kind essence and you cannot mean an individual essence (since you acknowledge that in some sense they are other than Yahweh). You say that they are “independent but not autonomous”. Here words simply lose any meaning. They both are and are not Yahweh, both separate “personal beings” and yet also identical with Yahweh. This is just a vicious contradiction and incoherence beyond description — literally. To compound this error with the claim that there is continuous, single meaning in the Christian texts regarding Jesus and the Spirit being identical to Yahweh is just compounding the problem.

    You make much of the “incomparability” statements in the Psalms, Dt. and second Isaiah. Well, it is clear that Yahweh was regarded as incomparable to the other gods, supreme and in the sense that he was due devotion and worship, also unique. However, that doesn’t amount to an “ontological” uniqueness. The very term “sons of God” is enough to suggest such a genus relationship. In fact, it is the claim of genus relationship par excellence. You cite Nehemiah 9:6 and Psalm 148:1-5 for the proposition that all elohim are created (formed or organized — ‘asah — in Nehemiah 9). However, what these texts say is that the “hosts” are created — where hosts clearly refers to the sun, moon and stars based on the parallelism of the text. I agree that the Hebrews regarded the sun, moon and stars as sentient beings and that they were formed (I believe on the 4th day as Genesis 1 states); but that doesn’t entail that those higher in the hierarchy of the heavenly councils were also created. The sons of God are never said to be created and there is no theogony story of their creation anywhere in Hebrew literature. Sons of Elyon are different than the “hosts” in this regard. L.S. all agree that there was time when the sum, moon and stars were formed and that there was a time when the hosts of heaven (even angels) were organized and formed (perhaps even birthed). However, there is a part of the sons of God that is not created — though in our present form we are organized and formed.

    Now for a very important point. I can match every one of the “incomparability statements” you cite about Yahweh in the OT with identical or similar claims of incomparability either for or by human kings in other ANE texts. The human king claims to be qualitatively superior to his subjects in various texts — even into the Roman texts. Yet the king is not claiming an ontological distinction, but a distinction of power, authority and political priority. So your claim that there is necessarily a claim of ontological uniqueness is unwarranted.

    I also don’t find your exegesis of John 10 to be convincing — though it is miles beyond where most evangelicals are willing to go. I agree that in Psalm 82 Elohim/Elyon is addressing the council of gods; however, in John 10 the statement “ye are gods” is not addressed to the council of gods. It is addressed to those who were with Jesus (as the Greek fairly clearly compels”). Jesus is saying that he can claim to be the Son of God because there are other sons of God who are human. He is not claiming that a son of God must be ontologically unique, as you claim, because that would eviscerate his argument. He is both human and divine — not just a divine Son of God. So he is equating the categories of divine and human and claiming that the scriptures warrant his claim to be the Son of God (not “equal to” God as in John 8) and the Jews cannot dispute him based on scriptural warrant. There is one glaring fact that you fail to account for in your exegesis of John 10: “Ye are gods” is quoted from Psalm 82 rather than “you are all sons of Elyon” as your argument requires. I agree that Jesus expected “the Jews” to make the connection — connecting the dots that claiming to be the Son of God is warranted because “ye are gods” is true and it is nothing you can reject.

    Well, I’ve gone on too long already. Perhaps this is at least a good start. I have more, but at least this is a good start.

    Comment by Blake — March 12, 2007 @ 8:45 pm

  22. Given Western culture and background, the idea of a plurality of gods per se is almost an oxymoron, if not a grammatical error. I prefer the term ‘divine person’.

    So if one means by deification the process of glorifying multiple persons to be equivalent to the Western conception of God (i.e. absolute, singular, omnipotent, beyond time), I would say that is a virtually incomprehensible suggestion that nothing short of universe multiplication will cure.

    But if one means rather the process of sanctifying persons by degrees until they become clothed with divine glory comparable to a ministering angel that makes much more sense. Who disputes the plurality of angels? And if they do not, why should they dispute the plurality of divine persons, unless such persons are held to have such absolute or incomprehensible characteristics that they can hardly be conceived to be held be persons at all? (And rather placed safely in trust with the god of the philosophers).

    Comment by Mark Butler — March 13, 2007 @ 10:58 pm

  23. Good points Mark.

    Comment by Jacob J — March 14, 2007 @ 11:57 am

  24. Well Mark, there is the small trifle that the OT is rife with references to sons of God who are called gods and the small matter of Jesus saying, “ye are gods.” Why give up something so well attested? If there is going to be ground given, it ought to be given by those who refuse to read and see. Indeed, the article by Mike Heiser that Todd points to in #20 is well worth the read and it shows how badly the tradition has mangled the biblical view of the gods in the council of the gods.

    Comment by Blake — March 14, 2007 @ 2:34 pm

  25. Blake,

    I think those scriptures are right of course. I just think that the usage is inconsistent and confusing. We have dozens of scriptures that talk about the one true and living God and then we have several others that explicitly pluralize it in one way or another.

    In one case we are talking about persons, in the other case (in Christianity at least) a group of persons. And as soon as you add the doctrine of exaltation, that group expands to a relatively arbitrary size. But the scriptures that refer to God in near absolute terms, e.g. “all power in heaven and in earth” cannot apply to a single divine person by themselves if there are more than one without contradiction. However, it easily applies to the group of them together, whether that group be the Trinity or a larger group of joint heirs with Christ.

    References to God in the singular absolute sense far outnumber plural references, so I tend to always read the term to refer to what is essentially a corporation, whether of three members only (i.e. the Trinity) as in conventional theology or of a larger group of exalted persons.

    However, I think instinctively most everyone is allergic to the idea of dealing with an abstraction like that, and they pick one member of the Trinity they are most comfortable with and refer to him almost exclusively. But if they use the term ‘God’ I have to guess who they are talking about. Heavenly Father? Jesus Christ? Both? Either?

    (apologies for the length)

    Comment by Mark Butler — March 14, 2007 @ 8:07 pm

  26. Guys, I am headed off to Turkey today and shifting my theological gears from speaking to Mormon friends to Muslim friends.

    I still need to work my way through some of the things that you are asserting, so wait till I get back in the US. But before we get into latter parts of John’s Gospel, I would ask that you take a serious look at the beginning parts of the book and how it deals with the Lord’s uniqueness and creative ability.

    My friend emailed this to me yesterday,

    “Have been writing lesson plans for our current unit on religious relativism. Here is a taste:

    “Suppose, while walking down a sidewalk, you come upon a man focusing intently upon a cup on the ground at his side. Standing perpendicular to the cup, his legs are bent at the knees and his feet are spread slightly apart. He is lifting his arms over his head and aiming his hands, like a magician doing a trick, at the cup on the ground. His fingers are spread apart and trembling, while his gaze is transfixed upon the cup. After watching him for a moment, his curious behavior inspires you to ask an obvious question, “What are you doing?”

    “Without averting his eyes from the cup, he whispers a quiet response: “Shhhh! I am changing the water in this cup into whiskey.”

    “You stare incredulously for a moment, shifting your gaze from him to the cup on the ground. After a pause, you nod, and walk away. The thought that goes through your mind is rather obvious: The man is either a drunk or a nut, but in either case, he is not right in the head.

    “Can anyone explain where this illustration is going relative to the concept of religious relativism?”

    So . . . I will catch back up with you in a couple of weeks, Blake, Mark, and Jacob.

    Comment by Todd Wood — March 16, 2007 @ 8:04 am

  27. Todd W.,

    Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone here can see the relevance of what you posted to the topic under discussion. (Not that I am a model of clarity myself.)

    Comment by Mark Butler — March 17, 2007 @ 9:37 am

  28. I’m back, Mark. I will try to zero in more succinctly from my #26.

    Give me some time to chew over you and Blake’s comments, and I will try to interact more directly.

    Have a good weekend.

    Comment by Todd Wood — March 29, 2007 @ 5:50 pm

  29. Hi,

    I have just finished John 3. And what you propose, Mark and Blake, in this thread is foreign to what I would pick up in these initial chapters of John’s Gospel. The words and the work presented thus far give me so many indicators that I am not even close to being in the same ballpark with the Lord Jesus Christ. And would it be fair to let these beginning chapters be the foundation of interpretation for when I approach John 10 and John 17? Blake brings out the term “fundamentalist uniformitarianism”, would he make his term synonymous with “analogy of faith”?

    Mark, you keep bringing up the god of the philosophers. You must enlighten me. Which Greek philosophers have laid down the fundamentals for traditional Christian theism?

    Blake, in post #21, paragraph 11 is interesting. Do you have a paper where I can read of your interaction of the name Yahweh in connection with the Father and the Son or servant in OT biblical data?

    And btw, can you further explain “haecceity”?

    Comment by Todd Wood — April 5, 2007 @ 10:25 am

  30. Todd W.,

    The problem is that the conventional Christian orthodoxy contains a list of propositions about God that contradict the biblical record in favor of an abstraction developed by Greek philosophers centuries before Christ.

    No neutral observer could read the Old Testament and conclude that God was timeless, apathetic, devoid of feeling or passion, and free of any sort of relationship with his own children.

    Despite reams of evidence to the contrary by the fourth century the Christian conception of God had little to do with the scriptural evidence and virtually everything to do with the abstraction of Aristotle.

    Of course the really interesting question is why the Protestants in their zeal to reform actually made things worse, dumping every gleam of medieval theological progress for hyper-sovereignty, hyper-determinism and hyper-depravity. A couple of steps forward and ten back. Not sola scriptura but rather sola Augustina.

    Comment by Mark Butler — April 5, 2007 @ 10:38 pm

  31. Hi Mark, let me offer sincere questions, void of rhetorical flourish.

    Could you please substantiate more of your declarations? I missed Greek philosophy B.C. 101 in seminary. So Aristotle is the culprit? Exactly what are his propositions about God? I would be interested in some links. Others?

    Are the Greek philosophers in agreement or are there sundry definitions of deity?

    Is the Westminster Confession your source for concluding that God was timeless, apathetic, devoid of feeling or passion, and free of any sort of relationship with his own children?

    Are you seeing a direct correlation between “an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present, all-sovereign God” with “hyper-sovereignty, hyper-determinism, and hyper-depravity”? If one believes the first phrase, logically must he believe the second clause?

    Have a good Easter, Mark.

    Comment by Todd Wood — April 6, 2007 @ 8:44 am

  32. Todd W.,

    I cannot do justice to that many questions at once unfortunately.

    With regard to the first question, the responsible individuals are the doctors of the Church (Ambrose, Augustine, et al.) who prioritized the neo-Platonic abstraction of God (static, ideal, simple, timeless, immutable, impassive) above God as actually described in the scriptures.

    Fortunately these days there is a pretty healthy debate about that issue. Scholars like Clark Pinnock, Gregory Boyd, and John Sanders have written extensively on the subject in favor of the “open view” of God and a number of others have written contrary works.

    Here is a decent (if a bit pejorative) description of the debate over divine impassibility from a proponent of classical theism:

    http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/articles/impassib.htm

    Of course it must be said that his contrary argument is a non sequitur. Divine passibility does not require God to be weak and vacilliating, just that he actually have an emotional relationship with his own children, something an immutable abstraction is incapable of, unable of being affected by anything outside itself.

    Comment by Mark Butler — April 6, 2007 @ 9:30 pm

  33. Todd,

    I missed Greek philosophy B.C. 101 in seminary.

    That is unfortunate, because even a 101 level understanding of Greek philosophy can be very useful (or rather, that is all I have by way of formal training in philosophy, and I find it useful). All this talk about Christianity being influenced by Greek philosophy will probably never mean much until you spend some time studying some of the relevant Greek philosophy on its own terms.

    Here is a decent introduction you might find helpful as a starting place http://www.iep.utm.edu/g/god-west.htm.

    Aristotle was obviously a very important influence on Christianity, but there is no one “culprit,” and certainly, if Greek philosophy did taint Christian theology, it should be blamed on the Christians who merged Greek philosophy with their theology (like Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas) rather than on the Greek philosophers (like Aristotle).

    Let me offer a few examples so that we will have a better chance of connecting on this. Aquinas, in his “Five Ways” says the following:

    In the world that we sense, we find that efficient causes come in series. We do not, and cannot, find that something is its own efficient cause — for, if something were its own efficient cause, it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. But the series of efficient causes cannot possibly go back to infinity. In all such series of causes, a first thing causes one or more intermediaries, and the intermediaries cause the last thing; when a cause is taken out of this series, so is its effect. Therefore, if there were no first efficient cause, there would be no last or intermediary efficient causes. If the series of efficient causes went back to infinity, however, there would be no first efficient cause and, hence, no last or intermediary causes. But there obviously are such causes. We must therefore posit a first efficient cause, which everyone understands to be God.

    Now, the first thing you will notice if you bone up on Aristotle, is that Aquinas is stealing this argument directly from Aristotle. The “first efficient cause” here is remarkably like Aristotle’s “unmoved mover” or “prime mover.” Even his use of the term “efficient cause” comes from Aristotle’s breakdown of causation into four types (material, formal, efficient, final). This is what I mean when I say that the early church fathers were influenced by Greek philosophy. This definition of God as the “first efficient cause” is central to Aquinas’ Cosmological argument for the existence of God.

    The second thing to notice is that when Aquinas defines God as the “first efficient cause,” he is putting the philosophical framework ahead of the Biblical one. He is defining God in terms of a philosophical argument.

    This leads well into a second example. Anselm said to God:

    Now we believe that you are something than which nothing greater can be thought. (Proslogion, Chapter 2)

    This is commonly restated as the idea that God is the greatest conceivable being. This idea is central to Anselm’s Ontological argument for the existence of God. This idea of God as the greatest conceivable became the basis for Anselm’s entire thinking on the attributes of God. He says things like this:

    What then are you, Lord God, that than which nothing greater can be thought? But what are you if not that which is the greatest of all things, who alone exists through himself, who made everything else from nothing? For whatever is not this, is less than what can be thought. But this cannot be thought about you. For what good is lacking to the supreme good, through which every good thing is? And so, you are just, truthful, happy, and whatever it is better to be than not to be.

    Notice, he is not reasoning on the scriptures to understand who God is, he is deducing God’s attributes from his starting point of God being the greatest conceivable being. He goes on to argue that God is omnipotent, impassible, etc. because it is better to be those things than not to be those things.

    This leads into a third example, which is the idea of divine simplicity. Simplicity was an important concept in Greek philosophy. The church fathers had to spin up divine simplicity into something slightly different than what it was in Greek philosophy under Plotinus, but they kept hold of the basic idea. Read at least the introductory paragraph and the short section 1. of this page on divine simplicity. Now, a guy like me reads this kind of thing and wonders why we are basing a bunch of theology on the idea of divine simplicity when it is found nowhere in God’s revelations of himself to his people. All the many divine attributes that we argue about around here (like divine timelessness for example, which was argued for by Augustine in his Confessions) are deduced by these church fathers from the starting point of God being the greatest conceivable being and ultimately simple, and other such starting points which have roots in Greek philosophy rather than the Bible.

    Hopefully that helps.

    Comment by Jacob J — April 7, 2007 @ 12:59 am

  34. Mark and Jacob, thanks.

    I will read through these links in hopes of some better connection.

    After looking them over, I will be back.

    Quick question. If it is alright for me to ask, how would you interpret this quote?

    Comment by Todd Wood — April 9, 2007 @ 10:00 am

  35. Jacob, I must say. You are the very first to introduce me to Plotinus. And from what I have read so far, I don’t like the guy.

    I can see some connection through the philosophical muck, but the Greek clouds are pretty much dark. Thank God for the Scriptures.

    Mark, in a footnote, Wolterstorff is trying to trap me with his logic . . . if you don’t believe in impassibility, then you must reject that God is unchangeable or eternal.

    Yet there are two attributes of God, I hold side-by-side each other: God is love, God does not change. How do you explain those two logically.

    In the doctrine of salvation, I believe (1) In His love, God graciously elects some to salvation. (2) Christ died on the cross for everyone’s sin (universal atonement). So can these two truths be friends?

    Guys, from what links you have sent me, would you say that LDS theology reflects no aspects of Greek philosophy or metaphysics?

    Comment by Todd Wood — April 10, 2007 @ 11:20 am

  36. Todd,

    Greek thought is diverse enough that of course LDS theology agrees with some thinkers in some respects. No one is criticizing classic theism for an incidental similarity with Greek philosophy, but rather for being stuck on prominent propositions derived therefrom that are enormously foreign and contradictory to the basic attributes of God as described in the scriptures.

    Unless such extra-scriptural propositions can be shown to be necessary pre-requisites for rational thought, they should hardly be allowed to rise to the level of articles of faith. And yet that is exactly what appears has happened.

    The LDS generally believe that God is unchangeable in his faithfulness and fidelity, not that he is incapable of changing his emotional state from one monent to the next, or taking action in response to human contingencies (such as the Fall), or moving from place to place, etc.

    Applying a strict constraint of immutability seems rather to imply that God is not a person at all, but rather a singular abstraction somewhere between an iron pillar and a soft glow.

    Comment by Mark D. — April 10, 2007 @ 12:32 pm

  37. Mark D, I am currently reading Brad Brase’s book, Why Would Anyone Join the Mormon Church, that I picked up at my local Walmart. I have a hard time believing your second statement with this volume sitting hot on the shelf for the masses.

    He highlights almost all the biblical verses that Blake and Mark B. have presented to me earlier in this thread, while exploring none of the verses that would give me indicators of a God completely different in nature, to where I can not be deified as God is.

    Mark D., I am accused of believing propositions rooted in Greek philosophy rather than Scripture, but which of the local bishops or the apostles or the prophet (who condemn me) in the corridor is teaching line upon line, precept upon precept through a biblical book? This is all ironic. I am not the person in the corridor, praising unbelieving Greek philosophers. My only affinity to Augustine is where he shows love for the God of Scripture, not his analytical reasonings.

    Brad Brase writes, “Latter-day Saints are not ashamed of their unphilosophical belief in a loving, personal Heavenly Father . . . Latter-day Saints do not believe that God is some abstract or metaphysical essence or power. They believe He is a very real person. Likewise, He is more than our Creator, as we are more than His creatures. He is the literal Father of our spirits and we are His children (John 20:17; Romans 8:16; Hebrews 12:9).

    Wait a minute. I don’t believe that God is a very real Person?

    And when Brad quotes verses, I am wondering how much time he gives to the full biblical exposition of any one of those books (John, Romans, or Hebrews) on the nature of God. In any one of them, I see supremacy of Christ over His creatures who are rebellious and fallen. Thank the Father that His Son can give spiritual life, where we can’t and never will.

    So getting back to immutability, I do believe that “God is unchangeable in his faithfulness and fidelity”. I believe the reason we saw the descriptions of His “repenting” in Exodus with His people is because of His immutable love. You see that Exodus story further unfolding in Psalms. This passage should not obscure or diminish the fact that God is all-knowing.

    Mark would you say an all-powerful God with no variableness is completely compatible with Him being all-loving?

    Also, does God display immutable wrath?

    Comment by Todd Wood — April 10, 2007 @ 1:57 pm

  38. Todd,

    I am the same Mark as earlier in this thread. There is another Mark Butler who posts as “Mark B.” on several other LDS web logs with whom I have occasionally been confused, so I changed my handle to “Mark D.”, after my middle initial.

    I am certainly not going to tell you what you can and can’t believe. However, explaining why I or others cannot understand why you or others believe as you believe is another story.

    “Immutable” is not a scriptural term, but a philosophical and technical term of art. Immutability is such a strict metaphysical constraint that I do not see how any living being can be said to be immutable in virtually any (let alone every) respect.

    I mentioned earlier that the scriptural evidence has been well covered by evangelical scholars such as John Sanders, Clark Pinnock, and Gregory Boyd, to some considerable controversy of course. One of the scriptures they quote ought to be a classic with regard to understanding the nature of prophecy:

    At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.

    And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.
    (Jer 18:7-10)

    That is one of several scriptures that describe the Lord changing his mind. Immutable beings cannot change anything by definition.

    Compare Ex 32:14; 33:1-3,14; Deut 9:13-29; 1 Sam 2:27-31; 1 Kings 21:21-29; 1 Chron 21:15; 2 Chron 12:5-8; Jer 26:2-3,19; Jonah 3:10; etc. I pulled that list from pp. 82-85 of Gregory Boyd’s God of the Possible: A Biblical Introduction to the Open View of God.

    Comment by Mark D. — April 10, 2007 @ 6:08 pm

  39. Todd: Don’t be upset that others would suggest that the God you implicitly accept is not really a person. When I would explain the LDS view of a theomorphic God to Catholics in Italy, they would almost always say “yeah, I’ve always believed that.” However, such a thing cannot be accepted consistently with the Augustian and Thomist strains of Catholic theology and when I pointed that out they invariably said they didn’t believe that — even though their priests did.

    So when you speak of God’s immutablity in faithfulness, I accept that you in fact believe that. However, I have a hard time believing that you don’t mean a lot more than any LDS would accept — like God is immutable in his complete divinity and omniscience and omnipotence as well. So when Jesus was both human and God he was also omniscient and omnipotent in some respect — and impeccable. God is immutable in the divine nature and doesn’t change at all in his (its) feelings and emotional life and so forth. Just how that can be squared with the things said about Jesus in the bible is the challenge of traditional thought.

    Comment by Blake — April 10, 2007 @ 6:55 pm

  40. Blake, I have spent time with my wife in Italy, from Rome to the gorgeous chinque terre (sp?), five little villages on the coast.

    Catholics who studied Scriptural texts speak of a mysterious God. Catholics who didn’t, had other views.

    Comment by Todd Wood — April 11, 2007 @ 11:22 am

  41. Todd,

    I am accused of believing propositions rooted in Greek philosophy rather than Scripture, but which of the local bishops or the apostles or the prophet (who condemn me) in the corridor is teaching line upon line, precept upon precept through a biblical book?

    I don’t think anyone is condemning you here, certainly I am not. I can tell you are a sincere and believing Christian, which means we have more in common than I do with most of my good friends at work. I am not in a position to condemn anyone.

    In answer to your last question of #35, I think it is apparent that many ideas with origins in Greek philosophy are alive and well in LDS theology. If you are paying attention you will have noticed that those issues are debated here frequently amongst believing Mormons. Many teachings of Bruce R. McConkie (not the man, mind you) come under criticism here precisely because they seem to be a return to conceptions of God that many of us feel Joseph Smith rejected. We derive a lot of theology from our roots in Protestantism, and we have a large contingent in our church who grew up as members of that tradition, so yes, there is plenty of Greek thought that exists in the minds of various Mormons.

    In answer to your question in #34 (which Mark already said something about), we often use the words omnipotent, omniscient, and even omnipresent because they have become part of the religious discourse. As we are often criticized for by Protestants, we generally mean something less metaphysically strict by those terms than do our Christian brothers and sisters. For example, many who participate here believe God is omniscient, meaning that he knows everything that can be known, but hasten to add that the future does not yet exist and will be decided by freely made choices such that it cannot be known. That is not necessarily the view of Elder Scott (I don’t frankly know his view on this issue), but it is an example of the fact that these words need a lot of unpacking before they can be construed to represent a specific view about the nature of God. In point of fact, many others in the bloggernacle use the same word (omniscient) and believe that God does know the future.

    Wait a minute. I don’t believe that God is a very real Person?

    The question, of course, depends on what it means to be a person. I don’t know what you believe, so I can’t comment on that. But generally, the strategy in classic theology has been to redefine the word “person” until it could fit with a certain idea about the nature of God. I believe this is an abuse of language, since the word person derives its meaning from our interaction with other people. I don’t see God can be described as a “person” if it is logically impossible for there to be two such beings (one of the problems that led to the concept of the Trinity if I am not mistaken). I don’t see how God can be a person if he does not have emotions. I don’t see how God can be a person if he does not live in time where he can interact with us as people do.

    Comment by Jacob J — April 11, 2007 @ 1:33 pm

  42. Todd W.,

    I apologize if I have offended you. I do not contest the fact that classic theism considers God to be a person, nor do I accuse anyone of believing that He is not. I am just trying to explain the theological difficulty with the proposition of divine immutability.

    There are scholars in many traditions who have long concluded that God is beyond human understanding, and so we shouldn’t let apparent contradictions of this sort bother us. Traditionally, however, the LDS have felt otherwise.

    Comment by Mark D. — April 11, 2007 @ 5:13 pm

  43. Jacob and Mark D., coming back here today, I appreciate your thoughtfulness in this discussion. Judgment is real. I was once under terrifying divine judgment because of my sin, but faith in the work of Christ changed everything.

    I do believe the faith of orthodox, traditional Christianity holds in judgment anything heterodox on the nature of God. Likewise, traditional LDS doctrine carries the same threads of judgment. Of course, I wouldn’t expect anything otherwise.

    For the past week, because of Mark B.’s assertions of Christians being deceived by neo-platonic philosophy, I am hoping to see how substantial or conclusive this verdict ought to be.

    So, can a person studying biblical scripture come to these conclusions?

    1) Man can never reach to the level where God is essentially.

    2) God never changes in essential properties.

    3) And where we don’t understand, where we throw up our hands and cry in worship, “There are attributes of God which are incomprehensible”, would this be any different from emotional reactions surfacing in biblical characters from Job to the apostle Paul.

    And for any of the guys here at NCT, this very thread (I am certainly not shutting off my brain in the conversation) has provoked me to pick up a book several years old for reading.

    The Holy Trinity: In Scripture, History, Theology, and Worship (P & R Publishing, 2004) by Robert Letham

    Anybody read this book? I am very curious.

    I just read the introduction.

    Here are some teaser quotes that have me pondering for the moment:

    “Part of the problem for the ordinary Christian may be that in its debates and struggles, the ancient church was forced to use extrabiblical terms to defend biblical concepts.”

    “Biblical language could not resolve the issue, for the conflict was over the meaning of biblical language in the first place.”

    “Opposition to the orthodox doctrine has often tended to come from those who stress the Bible at the expense of the teachings of the church. These people forget that the church was forced to use extrabiblical language becasuse biblical language itself was open to a variety of interpretations–some faithful, others not.”

    Hmmmm. (1) I think a sincere belief in a Triune God in Scripture can originate without the use of extrabiblical Greek language . . . (2) in reading Scripture, one can arrive at the fact that God is different then me . . . and for instance, to share one contrast — I change (from condemned sinner to child of God with full rights of adoption); God doesn’t change/has never changed in Who God essentially is (except for the incarnation, which is just as mysterious as the truths that Jesus is distinct from the Father and yet there is one God).

    Mark Butler, in this book when I arrive at the section on Augustine, I will be interested if the author connects Augustine with Plato. In the introduction, the author has warned about Augustine’s modalism (which if Augustine’s modalism is proven fact, I would resist as well and try to break free of such doctrinal shackles.)

    Thanks for letting me pop on NCT, today.

    Comment by Todd Wood — April 16, 2007 @ 1:21 pm

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