Why Are Creeds an Abomination?

September 9, 2007    By: Blake @ 1:11 pm   Category: Theology

At the “Mormon Coffee” Blog I posted a response to a post about what LDS see as being objectionable with the creeds. The post asks: “My question is, specifically what teachings in the Apostles’ Creed do Mormons think God finds loathsome or disgusting? Don’t Mormons claim to also believe all the points of the Apostles’ Creed?” They pointed out that the Nicene Creed says very little that LDS ought to find objectionable. I posted a response — but I see that my comments are still waiting moderation though several posts that were posted after mine have already been posted. Apparently a well thought out response is objectionable to the blog’s controllers. So I am going to post my response here.

Let me suggest that the problem with creeds is often not their content, but the very assumption of what a creed means. It suggests that one must agree with a particular view in an ongoing debate over doctrine where the difficulty gets filled in by philosophical jargon rather than revelation. It is the notion that if one doesn’t agree on a doctrinal point, then one is ousted from the people of God. Such an assumption violates the most basic premise of Christ: the love command.

Perhaps the Nicene creed isn’t problematic in its basic assertions. I could accept it if interpreted carefully except the statement about creatio ex nihilo. What I don’t accept about the Nicene creed is the right to kill approximately 100,000 Arians within a few days because they disagreed. It was in significant respects really a political document between rival political factions with the Emperor Constantine taking advantage of the conflict to kill his rivals. That is what is abominable about the creeds. Without endorsing it, you might want to look here for a basic summary of the Arian civil war with the Catholic church: http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/arianism.html

To support my reading of why creeds are in fact abominable, I give you Joseph Smith’s classic statement which I love:

…I never thought it was right to call up a man and try him because he erred in doctrine, it looks too much like methodism and not like Latter day Saintism. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be kicked out of their church. I want the liberty of believing as I please, it feels so good not to be tramelled. It dont prove that a man is not a good man, because he errs in doctrine. (8 April 1843 Conference Report by William Clayton)

A guy named Falcon said over at that other blog: “If Jesus’ human conception was the result of a sexual act between god the father and Mary it would be helpful to have that clearly written. So my point is, the early Church found it necessary to clearly articulate and define it’s doctrine. In my opinion, it’s really kind of dishonest to piggy back on it when the underlying meanings are different.”

Falcon has pin-pointed the problem. Some Mormons (primarily Orson Pratt) taught that God had actual sexual relations. It isn’t Mormon doctrine. It isn’t in Mormon scriptures. Just how Christ was conceived is simply something that hasn’t been revealed. Why should we fill in something we don’t know? The creeds attempted to fill in holes in doctrine with philosophical arguments, wrenching scriptures to address issues they don’t address and are very vague on and had to accomplish their goal by political compromise. But why should we give allegiance to such mechanisms? Why should we accept creeds unless somehow we find the reasoning persuasive? The fact is that the creeds have only the authority of the soundness of their reasoning because they are not based on revelation — and those attending the councils never claimed that they were. Yet I don’t find their rationale at all persuasive. They are full of scriptural and logical holes as I read them.

It is better to just leave the holes in our knowledge open until God reveals the answer. I personally don’t believe that God (in this context the Father) had physical relations with Mary (or anyone else). However, even you must accept the proposition: “God impregnated Mary.” When stated that way, it can seem offensive. When stated as: “in some manner unknown to us, God caused it to be such that Mary became pregnant without human sexual relations” it sounds less offensive. LDS accept the latter — but on both of our views the first statement is accurate.

I wanted to add that very often I find that evangelical arguments against LDS simply consist in stating a doctrine in a way that is likely to sound strange and offensive. Is the assertion that Jesus is the brother of Satan somehow less offensive than the statement that God created Satan out of nothing with total knowledge of the all the evil Satan would bring about? I suggest that we all adopt the rule of charity and state our various positions in a way that the other would accept as a fair statement of what they believe. I suggest that evangelicals writing at that other blog often violate this rule based on my reading of their various posts .


  1. Elsewhere, in another classic observation, Joseph Smith explained that the problem is with creeds is that they “set up stakes and bounds to the work of the almighty.” He says, “I want to come up into the presence of God and learn all things, but creeds say, “hitherto thou shalt come and no further.” See Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, page 327.

    It not the content of the creeds, but creeds as such. Plus, I recall that John Welch produced an interesting essay on the proliferation of creeds that has some interesting insights. Though where, eludes me at the moment.

    Kevin Christensen
    Bethel Park, PA

    Comment by Kevin Christensen — September 9, 2007 @ 2:35 pm

  2. Kevin, Welch presented a paper on creeds at a Sperry Symposium a couple of years back. I’m not sure if has been published subsequently.

    Comment by David Grua — September 9, 2007 @ 2:51 pm

  3. Well said Blake. The thing that makes the creeds abominable is not necessarily the vague language they are made up of, but rather the ways they have historically been used as an excuse to break the second great commandment. As Paul put it:

    14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (Gal. 5:14)

    But the specific interpretation of the creeds have been consistently used as excuses for people to exclude, hate, persecute, and even murder their neighbors over the centuries. And since the creeds don’t even claim to fill in the doctrinal gaps with actual revelation they have proven to be abominable indeed.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 9, 2007 @ 4:07 pm

  4. Joseph Smith said, “I believe all that God ever revealed, and I never hear of a man being damned for believing too much; but they are damned for unbelief” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 374). This is very significant, and gives us insight into Joseph’s aversion to the creeds. As was previously posted, Joseph saw the creeds as confining rather than liberating, setting up “stakes and bounds.” Often, rather than describing the faith to outsiders, the creeds were used to to determine who was in and who was out of the faith community, determining “the bounds.” As one who was considered an outcast of the larger faith community because of “believing too much” this would help to understand Joseph’s position.

    Comment by aquinas — September 9, 2007 @ 5:02 pm

  5. I wanted to add that very often I find that evangelical arguments against LDS simply consist in stating a doctrine in a way that is likely to sound strange and offensive.

    So true. I see this time and again, and in many cases it is clear that it is being done intentionally. It is one thing to point out the logical consequences of someone’s belief when those consequences may be problematic. It is quite another to contrive ways to make other people’s beliefs sound outlandish. The latter is a dispicable practice and anyone who engages in it ought to be ashamed of their un-Christ-like tactics.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 9, 2007 @ 5:46 pm

  6. I agree Jacob. Ironically, over-belief in the creeds could be pointed to at the root of such un-Christlike behavior. Anti-Mormons like those a “Mormon Coffee” are sincerely convinced that Mormons are going to be resurrected and shipped off forever to hell unless we denounce Mormonism and become evangelicals like they are. They use that as an excuse to use any and every tactic, no matter how scummy or misleading, to undermine Mormonism. I guess they figure the end justifies the means — even if the means is in direct opposition to the second great commandment. Their bizarre doctrines about Jesus resurrecting 95%+ of the world just to torture them forever based on incorrect beliefs have roots in the original exclusionary purposes of the creeds as discussed in this post.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 9, 2007 @ 5:55 pm

  7. I agree with the issue of having unchangeable creeds, but there is one more important point that has not been addressed thus far:

    When decrying “the creeds”, the Lord did not specify the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed. He simply said creeds. For many Christians, their creeds come from the Westminster Confession – which teaches some truly abominable things.

    Comment by Ray — September 9, 2007 @ 9:28 pm

  8. [Admin note — John’s comments were dropped into moderation]

    John, the problem is that such a belief [that God married Mary] is not taught in the scriptures but is an interpretation of them – yes, by some prophets, but not by all prophets – in fact, not by the majority of the prophets – either anciently or in modern times. I’m not saying it didn’t happen, but to rely on Brigham Young and Orson Pratt (and fourth party accounts), especially, is shaky ground given some of the other things they taught that we no longer accept and teach.

    Also, I am very, very leery of discussions that justify that interpretation based off of our belief that we will create spirit children in the hereafter. We have absolutely no revelation at all detailing exactly how that will happen. None, whatsoever. To assume it will be though sexual intercourse in the same way that we create physical life in this world is a huge stretch, IMO. We don’t know; we haven’t been told; we shouldn’t speculate in those cases; we shouldn’t assume prophets are correct when they speculate without recorded and canonical revelation. Look what that type of speculation did to Bruce R. McConkie and his conclusions regarding the Priesthood ban.

    Comment by Ray — September 9, 2007 @ 10:56 pm

  9. Ray: I’m not saying it didn’t happen

    I am. Anyone who says it did happen looks like a goofball to me. If Orson Pratt gets offended by my opinion he can pick a fight with me in the next life I guess. But since it is a ludicrous idea I imagine he will be pretty sheepish about the whole thing instead.

    I completely agree with you in your skepticism about viviparous spirit birth too. See a posts on that here and here.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 9, 2007 @ 11:03 pm

  10. Geoff,

    I too am saying it didn’t happen. The theory that Mary conceived through sexual relations with God is absolutely preposterous. Unfortunately, I received that teaching — taught as doctrine — in 1994 by a leader in the Church above the level of Stake President.

    Comment by Dan Ellsworth — September 10, 2007 @ 4:32 am

  11. #5 It is quite another to contrive ways to make other people’s beliefs sound outlandish. The latter is a dispicable practice and anyone who engages in it ought to be ashamed of their un-Christ-like tactics.

    #6 I agree Jacob

    #9 Anyone who says it did happen looks like a goofball to me

    I don’t know whether it happened this way either.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — September 10, 2007 @ 5:56 am

  12. I agree that Joseph Smith found creeds to be anathema and contrary to the freedom of conscience necessary to becoming a Spirit-led disciple of Christ. However, as an empirical matter, I have to conclude that we 20th/21st century Mormons are quite creedal. We teach our kids and have them memorize the 13 Articles of faith with the same gusto that our friends of other faiths teach the Apostle’s creed to their children. Equally importantly, there were cases, especially in the early 1990s when certain members (intellectuals, feminists or however they were described) were excommunicated for holding and publishing views contrary to orthodox mormon teaching. While Joseph Smith clamored for the right to believe as he chose and disparaged Creeds, we have excommunicated some of our members for their heterodox views/teachings/doctrines which to my mind implies that we are ourselves creedal with respect to our “core” doctrines that no-one dare contradict on pain of excommunication.

    So here is my question: As a practical matter, what is the difference between the relationship between a Creedal Christian (excuse the term) and the Apostle’s Creed on the one hand and a Mormon and the Articles of Faith (or for that matter, the belief portion of the Temple recommend interview)on the other? I see no practical difference, but stand to be corrected.

    Comment by KenYan — September 10, 2007 @ 8:29 am

  13. I think both Blake and “Aquinas” make good points. I agree with Blake that the primary abomination of the creeds is the “force” they have – often in terms of going beyond scripture. What’s worse is this force lasts well past the original political disturbance that took place.

    However “Aquinas” is right in that often one has to set bounds on what is normative. And clearly Mormons do this. (Think teaching about praying to heavenly mother) I think the big difference though is Mormons tend to get upset only if you are teaching such things not if you believe them. But arguably through LDS history there have been political divides where doctrinal pronouncements were made. The whole Orson Pratt – Brigham Young kerfuffle being an interesting example. Arguably other issues were as much at play as were Pratt’s theological speculations.

    I do think the Church has the right and in fact the duty to try and place some limits on what is taught. Even today, after all of Pres. Hinkley’s work, there are still rather questionable stuff taught and accepted by members as doctrine when it is not. But notice the distinction. Typically (although not always) the issue is in distinguishing between speculation and doctrine. At least in the modern Church. (One can’t help but wonder how Pratt would have been received in the 19th century if he’d made that more clear) This wasn’t the case with the Creeds.

    I also think that any doctrinal pronouncement Mormons make is always open to revision. Just look at many of Brigham Young’s teachings that have been moderated. Yeah he went after Pratt because Pratt didn’t agree with Young on these issues. Today if you teach Young’s position rather than Pratt’s you get in trouble. But that is completely opposite to Creeds which seem to have such a normative position that they can never be revised. And that’s what I primarily see as an abomination. Not their normative role but the placing of the creeds on par with scripture or (arguably) higher than scripture in importance.

    Comment by Clark — September 10, 2007 @ 8:39 am

  14. An example of the problem of creeds was on display five years ago. As you may recall, the United Methodists’ national convention approved a document outlining why the religion of the Latter-day Saints is not compatible with that of the Methodists. It is a nice, clean piece of work that takes five points of doctrine, such “The Nature of God”, “The Meaning of Baptism”, etc., and describes the Methodist doctrine as found in its creeds and contrasts that with Latter-day Saint belief. Sections of the Nicene Creed are quoted to explain some of our heresies.

    The document’s conclusion makes sense: Latter-day Saints are not in harmony with the creeds of Methodism. So those who hold to those creeds reject the restoration. If the rejected restoration is of God, then it can be seen why he may consider such creeds “an abomination in his sight.” They definitively keep people from the fulness of the gospel while claiming to tell people what they need to believe about God.

    Comment by John Mansfield — September 10, 2007 @ 8:43 am

  15. #12, I agree that there are certainly dogmatic elements (and persons) within the Church. However, I don’t think that the Articles of Faith are a very good example. For one, the Articles of Faith don’t contain everything we believe (ex. eternal marriage, temple work), some of which are quite important parts of the Gospel. Moreover, one can be a great Mormon and not believe that the New Jerusalem will be set up on the American continent. I bet you can get through years and years of being a member and this would never even come up. For the most part I think that the dogmatism and creedal limitations come from other members, and not the leadership, who often make certain aspects of the Church’s teachings more limited and certain than they really ought to be. The one place I can think of where really dogmatic adherence to certain beliefs is enforced is the temple recommend interviews (the early question…do you have a testimony of …?). Even then, as John Dehlin points out in his ‘How to Stay in the Church…” presentation, there can be a difference of opinion (without dishonesty) between what the bishopric/presidency member is asking and the answer given by the member. But even the BoM does not figure at all in the TR interview. So that tells me that I do not have to have a testimony of the BoM as a factual matter in order to enter the temple. Maybe I’m stretching it too far, but I think it is an interesting possibility.

    Comment by AHLDuke — September 10, 2007 @ 10:26 am

  16. Just to be clear, I also think, quite strongly, that “it didn’t happen” – but I also believe that, lacking revelation and official statement, I shouldn’t assert unequivocally that it didn’t happen. Doing that, IMO, smacks of nothing more than doing exactly what we are decrying – if “it didn’t happen” becomes a personal creed.

    Comment by Ray — September 10, 2007 @ 10:27 am

  17. Not their normative role but the placing of the creeds on par with scripture or (arguably) higher than scripture in importance.

    Good point Clark.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 10, 2007 @ 10:58 am

  18. Blake,
    I am quite a fan, but I would like to suggest that there is plenty of reason to decry the Council of Nicea without pointing to “Arian wars.”
    My study would suggest that Constantine was motivated in many ways by his role as Emperor and in a few ways by his acceptance of Christ (which may have come as he in response to a dream raised the symbol of the cross in battle and prevailed). James Baker in Apostasy from the Divine Church suggested that Constantine saw within Christianity a superior framework through which to unify the Roman Empire. Resolving the conflicts between Arius, Athanasius, and the larger moderate group seemed necessary to him. Athanasius was only too happy to expend effort to not only develop a creed that was “orthodox,” but to also make said creed sufficiently specific to exclude Arius and his followers from the Church. As on formula or another was propose Athanasius and his followers would observe the Arian reaction. If they were over comfortable, the formula was rejected in order to ensure that formula was found that excluded Arians. This IMO (and it would seem yours) was the abomination of creeds.

    I would however suggest that the Arian wars while perhaps a similar expression of lack of love between men, were much more. As one emperor or another came to power and as one bishop or another gained the ear of the emperor, semi-Arians or “orthodox” were persecuted. In many ways this was a product of the Roman empire and its linkage to Christianity rather than a product of Christianity and its linkage to the Roman empire. The Roman empire had a long history of persecuting this or that, even religion. Christianity had little opportunity to do such things until it became solidly linked with the Roman empire.
    I do not link creeds to murderous enforcement of orthodoxy and I do not think such things are necessary. Creeds throughout history were clearly the establishment of boundaries for the purpose of exclusion without the claims of receiving God’s revelation in the decision. This IMO is sufficient to explain why “creeds are an abomination.” That Roman Emperors and Catholic Bishops killed in the name of orthodoxy is a historical fact, but not a Christian or Catholic core belief. In the name of “the rule of charity and state our various positions in a way that the other would accept as a fair statement of what they believe” I suggest that it best to focus on what all would accept Creeds are rather than some of the more aberrant results from Creeds.

    Charity, TOm

    Comment by TOm — September 10, 2007 @ 12:46 pm

  19. Blake, I already knew that the doctrines of faith we cherish at Berean Baptist Church were an abomination to the local wards, but to say we are violating our love for God and others because of our statements of faith, I am whistling in wonder over that assumption.

    Secondly, I don’t think the creeds you referred to, fill in any of the gaps so that we can now understand the mystery portrayed in biblical revelation. Most of my LDS friends want me to explain the Triune God and they know the creeds don’t explain it to their satisfaction.

    Thirdly, I think many evangelicals would put a question mark over Constantine and his personal motivations. Wasn’t he a supporter of Arian way in the end?

    Comment by Todd Wood — September 10, 2007 @ 2:01 pm

  20. Here is an interesting comment someone sent to me:

    St. Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers, wrote in 360 AD: “It is a thing equally deplorable and dangerous, that there are as many creeds as opinions among men, as many doctrines as inclinations, and as many sources of blasphemy as there are faults among us; because we make creeds arbitrarily, and explain them arbitrarily… The homoousion is rejected, and received, and explained away by successive synods… Every year, nay every month, we make new creeds to describe invisible mysteries. We repent of what we have done, we defend those who change their minds, we anathematize those whom we defended. We condemn either the doctrine of others in ourselves, or our own in that of others; and, reciprocally tearing one another to pieces, we have been the cause of each other’s ruin.” (Ad Constantium Augustum Liber Secundus, 4-5, in Patrologiae Latinae Cursus Completus, 10: 567-68. See also Gibbons in Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter 21). Would Hilary disagree with describing this situation as abominable?

    Comment by Geoff J — September 10, 2007 @ 3:35 pm

  21. I never heard of St Hilary having a problem with the council of Niceae. In fact, it seems he embraced it.


    Comment by SM — September 10, 2007 @ 6:56 pm

  22. I posted a response — but I see that my comments are still waiting moderation though several posts that were posted after mine have already been posted. Apparently a well thought out response is objectionable to the blog’s controllers. So I am going to post my response here.

    First-time blog commenters have to be screened by moderators, but both blog moderators (including myself) have been out of town for about 10 days. It’s up now.

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — September 10, 2007 @ 8:34 pm

  23. Over at Mormon C Aaron has replied to my post — he didn’t want to respond here. So I’m going to respond here. First he complains about the link I posted to get up to speed on the Arian heresy. As I stated in my post, I don’t endorse it, it was informational only (and as far as it goes it’s pretty good). However, the political nature of the creed is obvious to anyone who studies its history.

    Aaron complains:”Blake, you have to deal with how the Nicene Creed functions for evangelical Protestants. Neither Constantine nor the bishops nor any other political or ecclesiastical figures have definitive theological authority over us. The creed states what we believe is profoundly biblical, and so we subscribe to it as a “subordinate standard”—something to be subjected to the written revelation of the God’s word, the Bible. Caricaturing evangelicals as submitting to the Nicene Creed because we believe it is somehow revelatory scripture itself or because we cower at the supposed political authority behind it only muddies the waters and avoids constructive conversation about the real issues.”

    Well Aaron it is precisely because I understand how a creed functions in evangelical circles that I find them loathsome. Evangelicals constantly cry that Mormons aren’t Christians because they don’t subscribe to this and other creeds. Here is the irony. We aren’t Christians because we don’t accept the right formulas laid out at Nicea, Chalcedon, Toledo and so forth. Mormons are most often excluded because it is asserted that we get the idea of the Trinity all wrong. Yet the views of the Trinity are all over the place when explained even by the best evangelical scholars. They usually end up logically embracing modalism with lip service to plurality of persons. When they don’t they adopt a view that often looks at least as polytheistic as anything they accuse Mormons of believing.

    So Mormons get excluded from the “true belief” because they can’t express an outright contradiction clearly. That is how the creeds function among evangelicals in my experience and in my view that more than justifies the conclusion that they are abominable.

    Comment by Blake — September 11, 2007 @ 6:29 pm

  24. Apart from the 13 Articles of Faith, would’nt the Proclamation to the World (the Family thing) and the Living Christ qualify as creeds? I mean the idea of a creed is that a bunch of men get together and sign a document which outlines the doctrine of the church. It’s an accept or adios kind of thing. I mean you can’t disagree with the doctrinal value of those documents when each apostle signs it.

    I see both of those ‘creeds’ in every LDS home I visit in a picture frame in the living room.

    We can argue about who was influenced by the spirit and who was not but it’s the same idea, isn’t it?.

    Comment by tiredmormon — September 11, 2007 @ 8:06 pm

  25. Tiredmormon: If someone disagrees with something in these proclamations, they are not branded as heretics or deemed non-Christian. These statements don’t function as creeds. They functions as testimonies and wise counsel. Do you know anyone who has been excommunicated because they didn’t believe, for instance, that the husband is the head of the home?

    Comment by Blake — September 11, 2007 @ 9:19 pm

  26. Blake,

    No. But aren’t people excommunicated for other points in those statements such as: ‘marriage between a man and a women is ordained of God’ or ‘gender is an essential characteristic’ or ‘mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children’? I mean if an active Mormon were to go out and teach/practice the contrary he/she would be excommunicated just like the violators of the other creeds. Certainly there have been multiple excommunications of gays and feminists. Is my reasoning flawed here?

    Comment by tiredmormon — September 12, 2007 @ 10:12 am

  27. tiredmormon: It seems to me that what you are saying is just not accurate. My friend Kevin Barney accepts the legality of gay marriages openly and remains in very good standing. No one has or will be excommunicated for teaching that mothers don’t have the primary responsibility to nurture their children in many circumstances. There may have been excommunications of gays and feminists, but not because they were gay or feminist. They may be excommunicating for teaching that the brethren are misleading the saints and attacking priesthood authority (which always seems to be the chief problem). But these actions have nothing; repeat, nothing, to do with whether they accept the proclamations.

    Comment by Blake — September 12, 2007 @ 10:22 am

  28. Blake, I actually think tired has a point here.

    I think you really can make a case that the LDS Church has, at least in some sense become increasingly “creedal” during the course of the 20th century. The freewheeling culture of intellectual and spiritual adventure of Joseph Smith’s time is notably absent in today’s Church. Look at the correlation movement that has dominated the LDS Church since the 1960s. Isn’t this sort of a move towards a more rigid and enforced orthodoxy within our faith?

    Comment by Seth R. — September 12, 2007 @ 10:58 am

  29. Wow, is this the same Seth?


    I sure hope Kevin doesn’t get ex’d based on his thoughts…but if he were to marry a gay partner in Canada his time as a card carrying member of the faith would be over.

    Can you really sustain the prophets and priesthood authority in a temple recommend interview if you are not in accord with their doctrinal pronouncements embodied in these proclamations?

    I just don’t understand how you can say that living/thinking/acting contrary to these proclamations is kosher when it has lead to excommunication. They smell of creeds to me. Maybe you can persuade me otherwise?

    Comment by tiredmormon — September 12, 2007 @ 11:06 am

  30. Same one.

    I imagine if I hear from you enough you’ll eventually surprise me too.

    It happens.

    Comment by Seth R. — September 12, 2007 @ 11:30 am

  31. tiredmormon,

    There is a massive difference between believing gay marriage ought to be legalized and entering a gay marriage. Comparing the two is silly in this conversation.

    As Blake’s post points out, yes one can believe a lot of things and still be in full fellowship with the church. The requirements for meriting a temple recommend are mostly related to practices. Can you name anyone who was excommunicated for quietly believing things like ‘marriage between a man and a women is ordained of God’ or ‘gender is an essential characteristic’ or ‘mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children’ were incorrect? I highly doubt it. People get in trouble for openly and aggressively preaching doctrines that are directly contrary to the positions of the leaders of the church. It is the preaching that is the problem, not the believing.

    The creeds are too often used to help people play the role of God and decide who will burn in hell forever for their beliefs. That is indeed abominable.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 12, 2007 @ 11:31 am

  32. tiredmormon: What Geoff said. There is a distinction between belief (which we largely don’t care about) and actions. It is the same in the law. You can believe that sex with children is OK, but you can’t do it under the law.

    Seth: You may be right that the church is more defined in what it’s central beliefs are than in Joseph day, which seems natural to me in any event and not something bad or evil. However, excluding a person from heaven because they have some confusion or wrong beliefs, like evangelicals believe, just seems totally out of line with love to me. None of us can be saved if we must be correct about what fundamental beliefs are and making sure we have ll of the right beliefs about them.

    Comment by Blake — September 12, 2007 @ 12:01 pm

  33. Blake, I don’t understand the parenthesis: “(which we largely don’t care about)”

    Most of the Church LDS in Ammon and Idaho Falls do not place me in full fellowship with them as a “Mormon Christian” because of my doctrinal belief and operating authority not my religious praxis. They do very much care what doctrine I teach in the neighborhood ward boundaries.

    And thinking back to some things on your original post, would this be a fair assessment of your thinking?

    Exclusivism violates Christ’s love.
    Inclusivism embraces it. (And yet do not friends exclude me from the celestial light at this present point in my life?)

    I think the audience for the gospel is inclusive. Doesn’t matter who you are. But the way to salvation is exclusive. This is where many cry foul. “God is too much of a gentleman to send people to hell for their disobedience of faith to the one way of salvation.”

    Comment by Todd Wood — September 12, 2007 @ 2:42 pm

  34. So, you are saying that under the Proclamations that a member can still think whatever they want but cannot act without the threat of being ex’d. But under a creed system any contrary belief brings the threat of hell. Is that right?

    Do you have an example of where, under a creed, that someone was ex’d or anathema’d for mere belief when they took no action? (My quick read through of the posts didn’t turn anything up, but I could have missed something)

    Comment by tiredmormon — September 12, 2007 @ 3:28 pm

  35. One more thang for Cool New Thang,

    Doesn’t Big Bruce R. M. say exactly the opposite of what you suppose in the previous posts in his “Seven Deadly Heresies” talk?

    He says: “There is no salvation in believing a false doctrine.”

    So if the Proclamations are doctrine (which I would think they are) then how can you justify believing something different and gaining salvation under Bruce’s talk? It seems that Bruce has made believing in Mormon creeds essential to salvation.

    Was Bruce wrong? Are you wrong? Or am I wrong?

    Comment by tiredmormon — September 12, 2007 @ 3:36 pm

  36. tiredmormon,

    First, why do I get the feeling you aren’t Mormon at all?

    Second, Mormons are under covenants with God and breaking those covenants with God can do two things: 1. Damage their personal relationship with God; 2. Damage their relationship with God’s restored church on the earth. So talking about Proclamations is missing the key elements with Mormons. We are bound by covenants. There is a GREAT deal of leeway in personal beliefs within the bounds of those covenants. See the Joseph Smith quotes from the post.

    BTW — the Bruce R. McConkie thing you are trying to bait us with is making you just look like a troll to me.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 12, 2007 @ 4:00 pm

  37. Life long member here, mission in South America, YM Pres, EQ, and married in the temple.

    I never mentioned covenants, and funny, neither did Bruce. I mentioned creeds, which seem just like proclamations. I have been overly nice and respectful to try to see your point.

    I really thought we could have a discussion. But instead of addressing my points, you name call, so I am done.

    Comment by tiredmormon — September 12, 2007 @ 5:34 pm

  38. Todd: By we “largely don’t care about” I mean that it isn’t something that will get one excluded from either the Church or the kingdom of heaven. I kindly suggest that if salvation depends on being able to articulate a correct or accurate belief of evangelical doctrines, very few evangelicals will be saved or exalted. In fact, probably only John Calvin and Martin Luther qualify if that is the test.

    Comment by Blake — September 12, 2007 @ 6:00 pm

  39. TiredMormon,

    The proposition that “there is no salvation in believing a false doctrine” is undeniably true. There is also no salvation in eating strawberry ice cream.

    The statement does not imply that “there is no salvation for those that believe a false doctrine”. Such a proposition (by modern lights) would condemn most of the early Latter Day Saints to hell. That is ridiculous.

    Comment by Mark D. — September 12, 2007 @ 6:22 pm

  40. TM: so I am done

    Okey dokey. But a word of advice for your future online forays — the Web is crawling with trolls and those of us who run blogs are always in the look out for trolls in disguise. When you are the new guy at a blog it is always best to tread extremely lightly until you establish a track record lest you set off the troll sensors on your first day.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 12, 2007 @ 6:40 pm

  41. Well Geoff, you were a bit quick on the trigger with tiredmormon and, in my less than definitive judgment, a but impatient with him. Heck, he had a different view and he had a name that describes a lot of us.

    Comment by Blake — September 12, 2007 @ 8:25 pm

  42. This is true Blake. I am admittedly a surly Mormon at times.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 13, 2007 @ 12:00 am

  43. Blake, are you suggesting that you do not see your glorification as part of your salvation? If true, I don’t know how you make this dichotomy between the two (like the dichotomy between belief and action).

    The way to salvation – inclusive
    The way to glorification (or LDS deification) – exclusive

    For my hope, there is no salvation, if it does not involve life-changing glorification. And in my heart hunger to know and follow the way in Scripture. . . I find it all to be spelled out exclusively. Though our postmodern culture laughs at me and says, “You stupid, anti-intellectual fundamentalist. You are a Pharisee and violate what I think how God should love people.” :)

    And on another matter, I can trace in church history a common bond of historical evangelical soteriology and theology from anglican William Wilberforce to Calvinist Whitefield to Methodist Wesley. But as you know, many “evangelicals” today have no desire to follow such roots in regards to the fundamentals of what these men held.

    Today, LDS scholars, can find “evangelical Protestants” who support all kinds of various LDS doctrine. Hey, in fact, there is a church in town with the name “evangelical”, but they might differ more with me than even you.

    But you must admit, this was not always so in America. Nowadays, no one even knows what evangelical means. Evangelical Catholics? Evangelical Mormons? Evangelical postmodernists? Evangelical agnostics? Evangelical atheists? Maybe to be evangelical in America is to love everyone and reject no one’s doctrine or creed.

    Comment by Todd Wood — September 13, 2007 @ 4:06 pm

  44. Todd: My view is that we are saved by grace, sheer and simple, by freely choosing to accept Christ’s free offer of relationship. When we choose to enter into the relationship graciously offered to us, we are justified or put right with God through Christ. At that time, to truly choose to enter into relationship also entails as its fruit the desire to truly know Christ and learn from Him as Master. To do that, we will choose to follow His commandments (which boils down to just one commandment: love one another). We will also choose to be baptized to be identified with him in his life and death, born to newness of life in Him. We will also choose to enter his Father’s kingdom by receiving baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost from those He has authorized to reign in his kingdom.

    So justification is entering into a relationship with Christ through grace. At that moment, because we choose to love Christ by keeping the commandments as a fruit of faith, we are freed from the power of the devil and evil. Being freed from evil is a natural consequence of our love for Christ. Justification means that we have been saved from evil and we trust Christ to deliver us from evil and death if we endure.

    At the moment of entering into this relationship, we commence a journey of growth in the relationship which sanctifies us. It is a matter of ongoing grace, but also depends on our willingness to abide the commandments (the love command). As we grow, we grow toward glorification and exaltation. Christ takes up abode in us so that we live a shared life in each other.

    So justification is a matter of grace. However, we are all judged according to our works. I take this to mean that we receive the natural consequences of openness and loving acceptance in this relationship. Those who refuse to grow in this relationship will receive less glory and less reward because they will refuse to accept the gifts that naturally flow from such a loving relationship. We grow from one glory to another in an ever increasing, upward spiral in mutual glorification — and that is exaltation in Mormon terms.

    Comment by Blake — September 13, 2007 @ 7:27 pm

  45. Blake,

    I like what you wrote about Grace and Faith in your previous post.
    I typically add (originally starting from some short section in some book with a title like Exploring Mormon Thought), is a solid integration of Covenant and the Covenantal community that is untied to Christ. (I am not suggesting you did not have than in mind as you wrote above, but I often make such things more explicit).

    I see this Covenantal understanding as the best way to read Paul and the clear indication of where the “faith alone” folks erred in their view of the scriptures. Misunderstanding Judaism led to a view that Paul was speaking against a form of legalism the reformers saw within Catholicism. Correcting this misunderstanding realigns Biblical exegesis into the proper 1st century Christian framework.
    Furthermore, I find within Noel B. Reynold’s work reason to believe the loss of the Covenantal nature of the Gospel was part of the apostasy. As Christians defined God into terms that made his genuine interaction with us less and less possible, the Covenants became sacraments where Grace was pored out upon their recipients. There is certainly some beauty in Catholic sacraments, but I think there is plenty of reason to believe they are the apostasy form of two way Covenants between God and man.

    Charity, TOm

    Comment by TOm — September 14, 2007 @ 2:09 pm

  46. TOm: Thanks. I agree that the covenantal reading of the New Perspective of Paul is the best way to read Paul. And you are correct to read my comments as having been influenced by the New Perspective scholars and writings on Paul. I also agree that loss of the covenantal reading was a major problem in misunderstanding Paul that was rampant among Protestant evaneglicals.

    Comment by Blake — September 14, 2007 @ 2:33 pm

  47. TOm, how is that Christians define God that make his genuine interaction with us less and less possible. Where do violate the nature of God as connected with John’s Gospel?

    Secondly, could you give me some concrete examples of what man can do that would break a “two way Covenant” depdendent solely on grace? What are the continued demands to keep your covenant with God in tact?

    Comment by Todd Wood — September 14, 2007 @ 5:31 pm

  48. Todd: I can’t speak for TOm, but I believe that he means the view that God is timeless, immutable, impassible, simple and so forth as defined in classical theology of all stripes. If God is timeless, it is very difficult to see how God could respond to us, enter into relations with us and so forth because all of these actions require a temporal interval. If God is immutable it is difficult to see how God could be happy if we enter into relationship in a way he wasn’t before because that requires change. Anyway, I could go on but you get the idea. God is defined in ways that seem more sub-personal than transpersonal and certainly not interpersonal.

    As for a two way covenant based on grace, we can do things that injure our relationship with God. Remember, God can even get angry and cease to strive us. If we violate the law of love in one of the myriad ways outlined for instance in the Ten Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount, then we injure our relationship with God. If we become idolaters by failing to trust him but really putting our trust in material things or armies and the like, then we violate the covenant. The point of the New Perspective on Paul is that we enter the covenant relationship as a matter of grace, but we must abide the terms of the covenant behaviorally or we can fall from covenant fellowship. Anyway, that is what I believe the best scholarship takes Paul to be saying.

    Comment by Blake — September 14, 2007 @ 8:35 pm

  49. Todd,
    Those are HUGE questions that comprise volumes of research. I will attempt to offer some things that might be different from what Blake would offer (did offer, he is faster than I am), but would love to see his response. He will probably be succinct and to the point unlike me.

    TOm, how is that Christians define God that make his genuine interaction with us less and less possible. Where do violate the nature of God as connected with John’s Gospel?

    Todd, I am going to assume that you are a Protestant and not a Catholic. I am quite convinced that the orthodoxy Trinity and two-nature Christology is only a result of the below considerations. Without the issues associated with creation ex nihilo and God’s impassibility (which are linked) the Trinity would not be what it has come to be. While numerous Catholic and Protestant scholars have recognized that God’s impassibility is not the best read of the Bible and it is not particularly conducive to a relationship between God and man (and some scholars even acknowledge that the Bible does not teach ex nihilo creation), their rejection of impassibility IMO undercuts radically the Trinity and two-nature Christology. Two very strong defenses of God’s impassibility as essential to the orthodox understanding of God are:
    Paul L. Gavrilyuk in The Suffering of the Impassible God
    Thomas Weinandy in Does God Suffer

    So in saying that a genuine relationship is difficult, I am referring to God’s impassibility. Blake certainly contributed to some of my thoughts, but what he discovered mostly be looking at philosophy, I found through history.

    At Nicea the lines of demarcation between God and creature were drawn in order to answer the question, “Is Christ God?” One of the important issues was eternal existence. Another was impassibility. At Nicea and the next 3 councils these issues were explored extensively. They decided things about Christ based on: 1)that God was eternal, man was not and 2)God was impassible, man was passible. I disagree in large part with both of these. I do not fully embrace much of the theory of Christianities fall into Greek philosophy, but I think there are elements of truth within this especially for impassibility.

    I believe that God is one and man is separated. Communion is divinity. Christ was and is God as a product of His unity with the Father and the Holy Spirit. We are called to sit on His throne and thus we are called to divinity.

    For the early church however, it was obvious that we were not impassible and it seemed obvious that we were not eternal in any respect. While it was also obvious that the man who walked with the Apostles was not impassible or eternal, this was unacceptable and Christ’s pre-mortal existence AND His impassible divine nature (hypostatically united with His human nature) was postulated and accepted.
    While this was a better solution IMO than Arius’s or Sabellius’s or in some respects Nestorius’s, it was built upon a foundation I believe was extra Biblical. I do not see the Bible saying that God created ex nihilo (that man is eternal is certainly not clear, but there are hints of things like the council in heaven). I certainly do not see the Bible saying that God is He who is impassible. In fact, I think that the Bible makes it radically difficult to believe that God is impassible. The ECF are full of places where excuses are offered to explain away numerous places in the Bible where God appears passible.

    As I mentioned earlier, many Protestant (and some Catholic) scholars are beginning to reject God’s impassibility, but it seems few if any are acknowledging that huge role God’s impassibility had in the first 4 councils. Paul L. Gavrilyuk points to the huge movement towards rejected God’s impassibility, condemns this movement, and then traces the early church’s controversies from the perspective of impassibility. It seems to me that Gavrilyuk allows for some of these issues to continue to exist in tension while rejecting the movement away from impassibility. I would go much father and embrace this from Pelikan:
    Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Volume 1: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600) pp. 22

    In Judaism it was possible simultaneously to ascribe change of purpose to God and to declare that God did not change, without resolving the paradox; for the immutability of God was seen as the trustworthiness of his covenanted relation to his people in the concrete history of his judgment and mercy, rather than as a primarily ontological category. But in the development of the Christian doctrine of God, immutability assumed the status of an axiomatic presupposition for the discussion of other doctrines.

    So God’s immutability is linked to his Covenantal faithfulness in the Jewish culture of Jesus and the apostles, but it came to mean much more.

    Which brings us to the Covenantal aspects of the gospel. This is my summary of the New Perspective on Paul.

    In broad strokes the NPP would say that Paul was not anti-Jew or anti-Law. In fact, Paul’s message was that the old covenant, with its laws and grace was to be replaced with the new covenant with its laws and grace (certainly for the gentiles). The NPP was born of the realization that Jews in Paul’s day embraced grace and its necessity in their salvation.
    There are numerous threads of thought within the NPP. Being a LDS, I like to offer this thread of thought.
    Here are a few passages from a Reformed Scholar Cornelis P. Venema in a Reformed journal. Much latter he will attempt to dismiss the NPSP, but if he fails (and I believe he does) then it would seem there is much strength offered to the Catholic position through the NPSP.

    When I consider the development in recent decades of what is known as the “new perspective on Paul,” I am newly reminded of those graduate school conversations. One of the more striking illustrations of the gap that obtains between contemporary biblical scholarship and the pulpit or pew is the emergence in biblical studies, particularly studies of the epistles of the apostle Paul, of this new view. Whereas in most Protestant churches, especially Lutheran and Reformed churches whose adherence to their confessions is more than a matter of lip service, the teaching of justification by faith alone remains a matter of special emphasis, Pauline scholars in the last several decades have engaged in a process of thorough- going deconstruction of the doctrine. Indeed, so widespread and influential is this new reading of Paul, which calls into question the Reformation’s understanding of the gospel, that it might be regarded as something of a consensus opinion among contemporary Bible scholars.


    However, whatever the gap between academy and pulpit, lectern and pew, this new approach to the interpretation of Paul is so revolutionary and far- reaching in its implications, it seems unlikely that it will not, sooner or later, have a profound affect upon the life and ministry of the church. If the Reformation misunderstood the gospel, as the new view intimates, things cannot go on as before. Not only must this be reflected in a new way of preaching the gospel, but it also has rather obvious implications for the historic division between Protestantism and Catholicism. It will also challenge directly churches whose confessions are the product of, and give summary expression to, the gospel as it was understood at the time of the Reformation.

    Here is the first in Venema’s series of articles from which the above quotes are taken.

    I then go farther and suggest that the CoJCoLDS with is Covenantal emphasis fits the first century “covenantal nomism” rediscovered by Jewish and Christian scholars in the 20th century better than other churches of our day. To my mind the Reformation is seriously shaken because it can be more conclusively argued (not that it was not argued before) that they simply misunderstand the Bible.

    Two further things on this path:
    In Early Christians in Disarray Noel Reynolds suggest that the loss of the Covenantal nature of ordinances was a major factor in the apostasy. When sacraments became increasingly a means for receiving grace rather than making covenants, the divine nature of the church suffered.
    Judgment & Justification In Early Judaism And The Apostle Paul by VanLandingham goes even farther than the NPP. If VanLandingham is correct, the idea that Justification is forensic (which still appears in many of the Protestant formulations of the NPP) is mostly or entirely wrong. Again, to boldly put this in LDS (and really Catholic too) terms, our Justification is about BECOMING. It is Christification, not just forensic righteousness.

    Now, from the above framework let me address your question a little.
    Secondly, could you give me some concrete examples of what man can do that would break a “two way Covenant” depdendent solely on grace? What are the continued demands to keep your covenant with God in tact?

    Election to the Covenant community is by Grace through Faith. Those who are blessed with (Grace) and choose (Free Will) “formed faith” (Augustine’s term, a faith that will move one to action) enter into the Covenant. The maintenance of the Covenant does involve following what Paul calls the “the law of Christ.” This is not easy believism nor is it sola fide. Clearly those who have embraced the New Covenant, still do sin, but the atonement through repentance heals the broken Covenant so that we may continue growing in our relationship with God.
    No Christian should ask God, “Just how obedient?” It evidences a profound misunderstanding of what it is to be in a loving relationship with our redeemer.

    What are “concrete examples” of what Paul means by “the law of Christ.” Scripture could point us to a number of them, but I am not a sola scriptura Christian. Believing as I do that the CoJCoLDS is the fullest manifestations of Christ’s Covenant community, I would suggest that the maintenance of the Covenant is through choosing to follow “the law of Christ” as outlined by the CoJCoLDS. Now as mentioned above, we will fail, but it is our repentance and continued desire to be part of Christ that makes the atonement effective. Another thing that is part of my view and may have been part of what Blake mentioned is that Christ united with us performs the works of Christ through us. There is no cause to brag since we merely choose to accept Christ, but when the Bible says, “Choose ye this day, …” I think it refers to a continual choice.

    I think I will stop here.
    Charity, TOm

    Comment by TOmNossor — September 14, 2007 @ 9:30 pm

  50. Blake,
    Thank you for your comments.
    One of the things that I think I see in them is a separation of Sanctification and Justification. This is an incredibly popular way of reading the Bible and it seems that even some Catholics are beginning to have some of this enter into their thought. Certainly the NPP has this as a component for most of its formulations.
    My biggest problem with this is that I would agree with Protestant scholar McGrath and most Catholics that before the Reformation nobody split Sanctification and Justification.
    For me a formulation of Covenantal Nomism that does not totally incorporate this break looks something like this.
    Upon entering into an interpersonal relationship with God, having the initial experience of/with God that reorients our whole worldview; we can choose to totally commit to God. Our BECOMING may take a while as we are transformed by Christ on the Sanctification/Justification path, but if our choice of Christ is complete then our path however far it is walked in this life or in the next is set.
    What I think is more common is that part of us clings to the world even when we enter into Covenant. Thus as we BECOME through following Christ on the Sanctification/Justification process we say “yes” more completely and give ourselves over to the relationship more.

    Alternatively some LDS would utilize the separation of kingdoms to incorporate this separation.

    Do you lean towards a separation of sanctification and justification or is the path of sanctification/justification (linked as part of becoming) something that you can integrate into NPP understanding?
    Also, I found Vanlandingham’s book to deconstruct the purely forensic nature of justification such that I think both Catholic and Protestant scholars should engage his ideas and move away from the forensic view of “dikaioo.” I assume you are familiar with this debate. Where do your sympathies lie?

    Charity, TOm

    I guess I should also mention that while I see the CoJCoLDS as the “fullest manifestation” of Christ’s Covenant community, this does not mean that non-LDS cannot be in relation and in Covenant with Christ in a salvific way. I believe we should all seek the “fullest manifestation.” But if while not knowing that the CoJCoLDS is this “fullest manifestation,” the Catholic is in relation with Christ, his understanding of the covenent

    Charity, TOm

    Comment by TOmNossor — September 15, 2007 @ 6:06 am

  51. In my last post after my signature are some incomplete thoughts that I almost added to my extraordinarily long post last night. Sorry.
    Charity, TOm

    Comment by TOmNossor — September 15, 2007 @ 6:08 am

  52. Blake and TOm,
    thanks for the responses.

    Can I share with you something humorous? I went through four years of undergraduate work in Bible and then three and half more years of seminary and never once heard the word, “impassibility.” Maybe I was asleep.

    The very first time I heard this word came through Jacob here from NCT in a comment on my archaic beginnings for an HI4LDS blog.

    I don’t accept “impassibility”; and I am glad TOm, you have read Protestant and Catholic scholars who don’t as well. These particular scholars must not hold to creeds as their final authority for “classical theology”.

    As Blake brings up the ten commandments and the sermon on the mount, these both showed me my inability that I can no way measure up to my end of the bargain in a covenant of works. The more I tried fulfilling the Sermon on the Mount, the more I knew inwardly of my heart shortcomings. Though I didn’t know Martin Luther or his doctrine, I can tell you how incredible it was one day to discover forensic righteousness and the great transaction offered by the Lord Jesus Christ. My night turned to day.

    It was the very action of an imputation of Christ’s righteousnes fully by grace through faith to my account that set me on a course of true living works.

    Consider these words by Maud Frazer Jackson:

    “We’re saved by faith, yet faith is one
    With life, like daylight and the sun.

    Unless they flower in our deeds,
    Dead, empty husks are all the creeds.

    To call Christ Lord, but not obey,
    Belies the homage that I pay.”

    Comment by Todd Wood — September 17, 2007 @ 3:56 pm

  53. FYI — My spidey-troll-sense proved to be right again. “tiredmormon” apparently was a DAMU troll after all…

    Comment by Geoff J — September 17, 2007 @ 5:26 pm

  54. Geoff: I don’t know if he’s aDAMU, maybe he’s just having particularly nasty day and spreading that nastiness around as far as he can. However, he doesn’t appear to have the ability to dialog in a civil way. I guess he’s learning like the rest of us.

    Comment by Blake — September 17, 2007 @ 6:57 pm

  55. Todd: The notion of imputed righteousness is rather foreign to Paul. While “justification” has some contact with forensic analogies, its primary meaning is covenantal.

    I guess I’m a bit lost about the commandments. No one claims that we have to love first to be saved. We love because we are loved. However, we are expected to keep the commandments to abide in Christ. Are you saying that Christ laid a burden on you by delivering the Sermon on the Mount? I’m confused by your comments. That said, I am convinced that you are a genuinley decent person who would be a good friend.

    Comment by Blake — September 17, 2007 @ 7:00 pm

  56. Back to the original thought, “why are creeds an abomination?”

    What is a creed? A statement of belief. Check your Latin. “Credo…” means “I believe.” It’s a positive thing. It’s my testimony.

    If as a Catholic I am not allowed to have a creed, because a creed is an abomination, then neither is any other person allowed to have a creed, because all creeds are abominations. Specifically, no LDS can have a creed. Is not the most common LDS creed, or belief, or testimony, the very simple “I believe Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and the Book of Mormon is true”–?

    As a Catholic I believe the points of dogma embraced by the Nicene Creed. I believe there are seven sacraments instituted by Christ for the transmission of grace. I believe the Holy Father is the vicar of Jesus Christ on earth and that Jesus left a teaching authority on earth which is quite alive and well after 2000 years. And I believe all else that the Church which is one, holy, Catholic and apostolic believes and teaches, because that Church is of God, who can neither deceive nor be deceived. Disagree or fail to understand if you choose, it’s a free country, but abomination is in the eyes of the beholder here.

    Do not even the LDS Articles of Faith grant me that right, to believe whatsoever I will? Truly, it will be seen, am I within the grasp of what the LDS term the “great and abominable Church”, thanks be to God, for outside Her there is no salvation!

    Or do you mean something else by “creed”?

    Comment by Loretta — September 19, 2007 @ 4:39 am

  57. Blake, related to the discussion over the Nicene Creed, I’ve posted something asking you to substantiate quite an alarming historical claim you made.



    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — September 19, 2007 @ 9:37 am

  58. Aaron: It is like I said, I will not participate on your blog because you have arrogated to yourself more space and thus refuse to blog on a peer basis. Present your long statement here and I will respond where we are on equal space footing. The Nicene creed was adopted in the midst of a civil war and the creed was used as justification for continuing the war. That is what I was referring to. It is not secret. Check it out yourself.

    Loretta: No one ever said you weren’t allowed to have a creed. You can choose to belong to any organization you want. And no, a simple statement like “I believe Joseph Smith was a prophet” is not a creed. A creed is adopted only when a confusion about doctrine has arisen. The confusion arises because the scriptures are not clear when philosophical distinctions are asked for and so the creeds have been used to fill in the ambiguity. A council of scholars is called upon to resolve the issues. They don’t receive revelation; they come to a political compromise (and the Nicene creed’s reference to ousia or substance was most certainly a political compromise). However, you might like it, an abomination exists when God’s revelations are filled in with philosophical arguments and given authority to exclude those who reject the philosophical distinctions.

    The articles of faith are not a creed. There was no council. There was no dispute about doctrine. There was never an effort to exclude those who don’t accept them from the body of the Saints — unlike the Arians who were immediately excommunicated and many of those who refused to accept the Nicene creed were murdered. Arius himself was murdered. The creed was adopted in the midst of a civil war and was used to justify war. That is abominable in my book.

    Comment by Blake — September 19, 2007 @ 10:40 am

  59. Blake, it wouldn’t take you an 80-page dissertation to support your historical claim, specifically regarding Constantine using the creed to kill approximately 100,000 Arians “within a few days.” Are simply you conceding that you cannot support your specific claim? If it isn’t a secret, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a credible citation. Others certainly have tried and have failed to find it. (>>)

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — September 19, 2007 @ 11:22 am

  60. By the way, Blake, you’re welcome to write your long response out here. I don’t mind an inter-blog discussion on this. If you have actual substantiation for your specific claim (that I am calling you to account for), then go for it.

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — September 19, 2007 @ 11:30 am

  61. If someone has doubts that make her/him unable to answer the belief questions on the TR interview ‘correctly,’ that person can clearly be ‘ousted’ by not having a current TR. Ousted in the sense of released from a calling, not able to attend or participate in temple sealings or baptisms, etc. I don’t see how this isn’t exactly what you mention in your original post :

    “It is the notion that if one doesn’t agree on a doctrinal point, then one is ousted from the people of God. Such an assumption violates the most basic premise of Christ: the love command.”

    Comment by anonymous — September 19, 2007 @ 12:25 pm

  62. anonymous,

    Being released from an assignment in the church or having the privilege of entering the temple suspended is a far cry from being ousted from the church.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 19, 2007 @ 12:32 pm

  63. anonymous: You fail to distinguish between belonging to a faith community and full participation in the blessings of that community. I would have expected better. Further, there is a large difference between conduct and belief. I know personally of many who express doubts on questions in the TR interview who attend the temple.

    Aaron: Let’s say you’re right and I simply withdraw the “few days.” Does it make a difference how many days it took? Does it make it less abominable? I can’t see how. Are you going to suggest that excommunicating those who disagreed and murdering many of them was somehow justified. Come on.

    Comment by Blake — September 19, 2007 @ 1:20 pm

  64. Blake, no one ever argued here that murdering Arians was right, and no one even argued that the historic creed themselves granted such.

    So far it just sounds like you’re saying, “Well, even if I’m wrong then my other point still stands.” You’re not actually conceding that you were wrong. Until you do, I’m still going to ask for some substantiation. And withdrawing the “few days” qualifier isn’t sufficient, because you also need to substantiate (or withdraw) the claim that Constantine used the creed as an excuse to kill approximately 100,000 Arians between 325 and 337.

    Still waiting,


    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — September 19, 2007 @ 2:10 pm

  65. Geoff J- It’s not that far a cry- I imagine those who have had this experience feel very much like they are being ‘ousted,’ and that many others choose to keep quiet about doubts and say the ‘right’ answers in order to keep from feeling ousted. I’d guess it would be extremely awkward for a priesthood holder to explain to his child, family and fellow ward members that he isn’t ‘allowed’ to baptize his own child, even if he’s otherwise ‘worthy.’ Or why someone is released from a high-profile calling and not given another one. People would assume you are having a ‘WoW problem,’using pOrn, or worse. Should someone who told by a bishop that he/she is jeopardizing his/her eternal family by not holding a recommend feel like they are being ‘ousted’ from the community? ‘Cause I’d assume they would

    Blake- could you distinguish for me then? It seems that someone in the above position is being tacitly told they shouldn’t bother belonging unless they either a. ‘believe’ the creed or b. are willing to say they do in an interview. But you bring up a good point- I’ve heard of lots of people who don’t say all ‘yes’es or ‘no’s and still get a recommend, but it’s all very subjective, yes? One wouldn’t know going in what the thresholds are.

    Comment by anonymous — September 19, 2007 @ 2:16 pm

  66. Blake, I’ve never heard of the Arian Civil War and would be interested in knowing where to find out more about it. Googling “Arian Civil War” produced only two hits, one of which was your post. The Wikipedia entries on Arian or Heresy or Nicene Creed say nothing about it at all. Right now, I don’t even have any proof the Arian Civil War even existed as such.

    What’s up?

    Comment by Seth R. — September 19, 2007 @ 2:36 pm

  67. Seth,

    To quote an acquaintance:

    Many of the barbarian tribes north of the Roman Empire were Arians. As the Empire was falling apart at the end of the fifth century and the Dark Ages were commenced, Barbarian Arian tribes flooded south into what used to be the Empire. The last Roman Emperor Romulous Augustulous abdicated in 476 and the Arian Barbarian Odoacer took his place. In the centuries that followed there would be battles between Arian and Catholic peoples, some of which would lead to a considerable number of deaths on both sides. But that hardly has anything to do with Constantine now with the Council of Nicea.

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — September 19, 2007 @ 2:44 pm

  68. Yeah, I got the part where the Germanic tribes converted to an Arian form of Christianity. But I’m still not seeing an “Arian Civil War.”

    Comment by Seth R. — September 19, 2007 @ 2:53 pm

  69. Aaron: Why between 325 and 337? I’m glad to know that you don’t approve of murder to enforce creeds. I should not have said “within a few weeks.” It was meant as hyperbole but it was obviously misleading without further info. However, what I have in mind is: (1) Constantine’s efforts to consolidate his power thru the use of Christianity and the creeds; (2) Constantine’s war against Licinius in 323-24 primarily based on Licinius’ refusal to align with the Christian trinitarians and the following battles which led to the alliances with the pro-Trinitarian factions, (3) the Catholic legacy of genocide against the Cathars and Valdesians based primarily upon their refusal to accept creeds, among them the Nicene and Chalcedon creeds, and (4) the murder of Arius and several of his followers.

    Anonymous: You’re still not getting it. No one is excluded from the church if they don’t have a temple recommend. You can’t go to stake dances unless you agree to abide by certain standards — that doesn’t make the stake dance interview a creed.

    Comment by Blake — September 19, 2007 @ 5:52 pm

  70. Actually, Blake, I think you are the one not getting ‘it’- what I’m talking about, but that is okay. Agreeing to standards (of behavior) IS NOT what I’m talking about- what if you had to say you had a testimony of Afterglow to attend the dance? (And I’ve never heard of a ‘stake dance interview’???)

    Apparently I’m not going where you want to with this- but as far as I can tell, this isn’t your post. So I’ll wait for Geoff’s response before I start to feel to unwelcome. Though maybe I was kidding myself to think that he would be interested in my theory that our current TR questions could be seen as a creed that has consequences if not adhered to. Frankly, I’m surprised that ya’ll don’t see not being allowed to exercise the priesthood, etc. as such a minor part of belonging to the church.

    Comment by anonymous — September 19, 2007 @ 6:57 pm

  71. Anonymous: I get the comparison you’re trying to make. I just don’t buy it. One must affirm certain beliefs such as belief in the Father, Son and Holy Ghost and the restoration of the gospel and also adhere to certain behavioral standards to go to the temple. OK, there is some similarity. But I think you’ll agree that the temple recommend questions aren’t like a creed in other crucial respects. The temple questions are not about questions on which the scriptures are vague and a council must clarify the issue. The doctrines behind the temple questions are not about philosophical distinctions and debated issues. There is no vote on the issue and exclusion of those who disagree based upon their own reading of the Mormon scriptures. Further, the temple questions are about progressing in religious knowledge and priesthood. I certainly don’t object to the practice of, say, the Catholic church to insisting that all of its priests agree to abide by certain vows and evince a belief in the Trinity and the Holy Catholic Church.What I find “abominable” is suggesting that someone is not a Christian if they disagree with the philosophical distinction being made. So there is some similarity between creeds and temple questions — they both address a standard of belief. However, they are also so different that to make the comparison without noting these crucial differences seems to me to be misleading.

    Comment by Blake — September 19, 2007 @ 7:26 pm

  72. Blake, was the “approximately 100,000” hyperbole too? If not, do you have some credible book reference for your claim?

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — September 19, 2007 @ 8:16 pm

  73. anonymous,

    …but as far as I can tell, this isn’t your post.

    In point of fact, this is Blake’s post. Perhaps you meant blog, not post?

    Though maybe I was kidding myself to think that he would be interested in my theory…

    I don’t see why you would feel unwelcome since both Geoff and Blake have engaged your comment. The fact that they challenged your assertion (that the TR interview is a creed) is no reason to mope. Don’t expect everyone to agree with you just because you expressed an opinion. Having your opinion challenged and defending it is the whole point.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 19, 2007 @ 8:18 pm

  74. Aaron: Nope, it understates the number of people killed over the course of time in wars motivated by wiping out the heretics because they don’t accept the creeds.

    Comment by Blake — September 19, 2007 @ 8:28 pm

  75. Thanks for the clarification- I couldn’t find Blake’s name as the author of this post, nor on the list of authors of this blog. I can see that I’m sort of barking up the wrong tree here, but thanks for letting me visit.

    Comment by anonymous — September 19, 2007 @ 8:30 pm

  76. Blake, you are extremely slippery. “In the course of time” sounds like a lot broader time span than you initially spoke of. Let me remind you what you originally said:

    “What I don’t accept about the Nicene creed is the right to kill approximately 100,000 Arians within a few days because they disagreed. It was really a political document between rival political factions with the Emperor Constantine taking advantage of the conflict to kill his rivals.”

    You have apparently withdrawn your phrase, “within a few days”, but you nonetheless associated the murder of “approximately 100,000 Arians” with “Emperor Constantine” and the use the “Nicene creed”. That was hardly generalized to “creeds” in general or the vague span of “over the course of time”.

    You still have to substantiate the murder of “approximately 100,000 Arians” due to Emperor Constantine taking advantage of the Nicene Creed. I think it is becoming increasingly clear that you have made your historical claims in an irresponsible manner and are avoiding having to substantiate the specifics.

    Still waiting,


    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — September 20, 2007 @ 7:39 am

  77. And this really matters to Aaron, Blake, because if 100,000 Arians died that saddles the creed with too much blood and politics. But 10,000 or 20,000 Arians … that can be ignored. After all, what’s a few thousand Arians compared to such a useful (if opaque) creedal statement?

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read people like Aaron criticize the Book of Mormon because it depicts poor Laban — one man — losing his head to facilitate Nephi getting his hands on the plates of brass. But a few thousand Arians aren’t a problem?

    So what’s the lesson to draw here: That Evangelicals are comfortable killing those they classify as heretics, as long as we’re talking about tens of thousands rather than hundreds of thousands? Or that they habitually exempt themselves from the criticisms they direct at others?

    Comment by Dave — September 20, 2007 @ 5:33 pm

  78. Aaron: Check out the death totals in Constantine’s war with Licinius and then write back and tell me that is OK. I’ll be waiting.

    Comment by Blake — September 20, 2007 @ 7:14 pm

  79. Blake, was that a religiously motivated war or a politically motivated war?

    Comment by Seth R. — September 21, 2007 @ 7:25 am

  80. Seth,

    I think the whole point here is that by that time there was no difference. The “religious” documents like the creeds were largely created and sanctioned to attain political goals. I believe the point of this post is that say that such actual greedy and power-grabbing purposes behind the creation of the creeds is largely what God finds abominable about them — not to mention the fact that he never inspired them to begin with.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 21, 2007 @ 8:40 am

  81. Aaron: Check out the death totals in Constantine’s war with Licinius and then write back and tell me that is OK. I’ll be waiting.

    Blake, I never endorsed any of the killing, even of one person. But you still have yet to substantiate the number you gave, a number you attributed to Constantine’s exploitation of the Nicene Creed. So far you have only been able to point to an event before the Nicene Creed. You’re changing your tune.

    Still waiting,


    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — September 21, 2007 @ 9:31 am

  82. Aaron,

    Blake already admitted that he used hyperbole with his “100,000 Arians within a few days” comment. What more are you hoping for?

    Comment by Geoff J — September 21, 2007 @ 9:43 am

  83. Geoff, unless I’ve missed something, you’re overstating the case. He claimed the phrase “within a few days” was hyperbole, not the 100,000 number, and he still has to account for attributing that number to Constantine’s exploitation of the Nicene Creed. That’s why I gave the dates of 325 to 337 AD, and that’s why I’m still waiting.

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — September 21, 2007 @ 10:11 am

  84. Aaron: That’s why I gave the dates of 325 to 337 AD, and that’s why I’m still waiting.

    Ok, so you are pointing to the years between the signing of the Nicene creed (325) and the death of Constantine (337). It seems to me that Blake was not saying that the signing of the creed was the specific problem, but rather that the creeds represented political documents that were held up as excuses to fight and kill political enemies in the name of God and orthodoxy.

    The civil war with Licinius that Blake just mentioned occurred in 324 so he clearly is not positing the dates you are tenaciously trying to hold him to here.

    I don’t know how many Arians were killed in those wars of the 4th century. I haven’t seen any sourced numbers at all. Do you have any numbers or sources that say 100,000 is false? If so how many Arians were really killed in the name of orthodoxy?

    Comment by Geoff J — September 21, 2007 @ 11:21 am

  85. Forgive my intrusion, but 1 Arian is one to many to be killed over such quibbles in theology. Who cares what the actual number was.

    Comment by Doc — September 21, 2007 @ 11:23 am

  86. (That was sort of my point Doc… you’re stealing my punchline!)

    Comment by Geoff J — September 21, 2007 @ 11:34 am

  87. BTW — I’m not trying to paint the Arians as innocent victims here either. They killed many thousands of non-Arian Christians too and surely did so in the name of orthodoxy as well.

    The real point is that neither group were God’s people with a divine pipeline to God, and neither group had prophets or apostles leading them. So the fact that one side of this political dispute won out is certainly no reason for us to accept their politically-motivated documents (the creeds) as guides to the metaphysical truths of the universe and about God or to use them as the true and binding method to understand the scriptures.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 21, 2007 @ 11:40 am

  88. Geoff, let me remind you what Blake said, with emphasis added:

    “What I don’t accept about the Nicene creed is the right to kill approximately 100,000 Arians within a few days because they disagreed. It was really a political document between rival political factions with the Emperor Constantine taking advantage of the conflict to kill his rivals.”

    You are explaining this specificity of his comment away by over-generalizing it. This doesn’t take into account what Blake actually said. He attributed the death of 100,000 to the exploitation of the Nicene creed (not merely creeds in general) by “the Emperor Constantine” (not merely people or leaders in general).

    Of course “1 Arian is one too many to be killed over such quibbles in theology”, but I’m not one to say that Blake should have the unchecked freedom to make irresponsible, outrageous historical claims. His audacious, unsubstantiated claims seriously impact how serious I and other evangelicals can take him as a dialogue partner.

    I’d love to dive into the nature of the creeds and how they should or should not function, but for now I’m asking for Blake to demonstrate that he doesn’t feel like he can say so-and-so killed 100,000 people using this-and-that creed as an excuse… and assume his preposterous, passing remarks can go unchecked.

    Still waiting,


    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — September 21, 2007 @ 12:20 pm

  89. Aaron: I have done more than required by charity to explain to you what I was referring to. I have challenged you to look at the history and how the creed functioned to legitimate war and slaughter. Yes, it was Constantine who had Licinius and his followers in Milan killed and massacred because they would not support the Trinitarians. If you don’t want to look at the facts, fine. But don’t come in here all self-righteous and make demands that have been met and you simply refuse to see the point. Once again I ask, how many Arians did Constantine kill in his campaign against Licinius?

    Comment by Blake — September 21, 2007 @ 1:08 pm

  90. Seth: It was both a religious and political war. That is the whole point. Constantine was using the political process of the creedal council to consolidate his political position and it was Constantine who united the political and religious realms as one.

    Comment by Blake — September 21, 2007 @ 1:11 pm

  91. Aaron,

    If I may, it seems to me that, instead of honestly addressing the fundamental idea of Blake’s post, you’ve created this strawman tangent. If you have no response, if you have no justification for your adherence to a creed which was born out of political engines, just say as much. There is no need to go on a too-long witch hunt over a non-essential point. You do nothing but undermine your own status as a decent “dialog partner” by failing to actually engage in that dialog you hold so dear. Are you after truth, or are you after Blake?

    Comment by Undeterred — September 21, 2007 @ 3:27 pm

  92. I’m afraid I’m with Undeterred on this one Aaron. It’s starting to look like you are on a witch hunt. If your goal was to catch Blake in a hyperbole then you accomplished it when he conceded that he was using hyperbole. Congratulations — mission accomplished. That specific comment is no longer “unchecked”.

    If your goal is to try to hold Blake to some ridiculous scholarly standard for a spur of the moment comment originally made at an anti-Mormon(ism) blog (which ended up becoming a post here) then you are just beginning to look silly with all this “still waiting” nonsense. On top of all that — you seem to be tenaciously avoiding his real point in the comment/post in order to zero in on one hyperbole he used. How exactly do you think that approach will win you debate points, let alone converts to evangelical theology?

    Comment by Geoff J — September 21, 2007 @ 4:13 pm

  93. Blake, I think we can agree that using religious creeds to justify primarily political agendas is probably “abominable.”

    Now what remains is to show that there is something inherent in the idea of a creed, as such, that encourages such subjugation of the true Gospel to the priestcraft of corrupt politicians under the cloak of piety.

    Hyperbole (pronounced /haɪˈpɝbÉ™li/ or “hy-PER-buh-lee”; “HY-per-bowl” is a mispronunciation) is a figure of speech in which statements are exaggerated. It may be used to evoke strong feelings or to create a strong impression, and is not meant to be taken literally.

    Definition of hyperbole:

    Hyperbole is used to create emphasis. It is often used in poetry and is a literary device as well as a referendum.

    Some examples include:

    * “He has a brain the size of a pea.”
    * “I could eat a horse.”
    * “I’ve heard that a million times.”
    * “She is a hundred feet tall.”

    I’m not really all that keen to keep harassing Blake much further over this, but it seems to me that whatever he was doing in the original passage, it wasn’t “hyperbole.” The statement seemed to be meant to be taken seriously. And I did take it seriously and literally when I first read it. I read it just like I think he intended it to be read.

    I also admit to wondering what Blake was doing quoting and linking to a website like that. Seems like bad form to me.

    I’m not one of those people who hold to the idea that there is no stick too ugly to beat a creedal Christian with.

    That’s all I have to say about that.

    Comment by Seth R. — September 21, 2007 @ 9:28 pm

  94. Seth R,

    There are some valid points in your comment, but it could stand to be less patronizing (that last part is known as an “understatement” but I will forgo telling you how to pronounce it).

    Now what remains is to show that there is something inherent in the idea of a creed, as such, that encourages such subjugation of the true Gospel to the priestcraft of corrupt politicians under the cloak of piety.

    Why does that remain to be shown? The idea that the creeds are an abomination comes from Joseph Smith’s statement in his history that God told him the creeds of the sects he was enquiring about were abominations in God’s sight. It was not a statement about creeds, per se, but about those specific creeds. Consequently, I don’t think your assertion above is correct. It is not required that there is anything inherent in creeds, as such, that is abominable.

    In order to explain the statement of Joseph Smith, what needs to be shown is that those specific creeds were an abomination in God’s sight, and several people have made comments doing exactly that. I won’t bother to repeat in detail what has already been said, but there have been some substantive examples given: their questionable doctrine (#7), their being put on par or even higher than scripture (#13), that they set up stakes as to what God can reveal and replace revelation with philosophy (see post and #1 and #18), the fact that their central purpose has been one of exclusion (#6, #18), their historical role leading to persecution and execution of people who did not accept them (see post), their use in the present day in claiming that Mormons are not Christians because we do not subscribe to them (#23).

    Comment by Jacob J — September 21, 2007 @ 10:56 pm

  95. Seth: When I link to a web-site and say that it gives some background “without endorsing it,” that means it calls for caution but suggest that it has some valid information. That it does.

    Apparently you have failed to see the numbers that were killed in the war between Licinius and Constantine. It is a simple matter of history. You can look it up. I didn’t overstate the numbers put to death because they were deemed Arians. But what is important that I wanted to point is that those who adopted the creed felt like they had the right to kill those who disagreed. They did it not only immediately in murdering Arius and a number of his close followers, but also over years. What is so difficult to grasp about that?

    As for your mind reading about what I intended despite my clear statements on this blog, at least on this one I don’t need to engage in mind reading (unlike you) because it is my own mind. Forgive me if I regard myself as the world’s premiere authority on that issue.

    Comment by Blake — September 21, 2007 @ 11:09 pm

  96. Hyperbole (pronounced /haɪˈpɝbəli/ or “hy-PER-buh-lee”; “HY-per-bowl” is a mispronunciation)

    Seth, this part of your comment makes you come off as a real doofus (pronounced “doo-fiss” or “doo-fuss”; “doo-foos” is a mispronunciation)

    Comment by Geoff J — September 21, 2007 @ 11:20 pm

  97. Jacob, I think your last paragraph is an excellent recap of the discussion, but even so, doesn’t Seth point to something worth adding to the mix regardless of how one may parse his comment?

    It seems to me that when God adds the bit about how they draw near to him with their lips but their hearts are far from him; how they have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof, and so forth, that he might be pointing to the problem of priestcraft as it relates to the use and abuse of creeds.

    Comment by Jack — September 22, 2007 @ 6:27 am

  98. Jack: I think that you are exactly right. But we must ask what priestcraft is. It is precisely using one’s calling and authority as a means for personal gain and exercise of unrighteous dominion. That is what I suggest Constantine did with the creeds and his use of the church for political consolidation of power. The creed also becomes a way of excluding because one doesn’t get the doctrine right. However, I’d like to meet the person who doesn’t hold at least one doctrine that just won’t work. How many evangelicals could parse the Trinity in a way that avoids both modalism and tritheism and appropriately states the common ousia or substance shared by the divine persons? I’ve never met one yet. And yet that becomes the criteria for saying who is really “Christian.” By that creedal standard there are no Christians because everyone errs in doctrine.

    Comment by Blake — September 22, 2007 @ 6:38 am

  99. Aaron: It is incumbent on you at this point to acknowledge the war with Licinius and how it was religiously motivated for political ends. Since that is what I was referring to regarding my claim of how Constantine used the creeds, albeit with hyperbole, I simply ask you to acknowledge that Constantine used the creed to consolidate his political authority and to justify the war with Licinius. I also ask you to tell me now how many were killed in the ongoing wars between Constantine and his rival factions with Licinius and others.

    I’ve also read your blog over at the other site. Let me say for the record — at least have the guts to accurately represent what I state. You haven’t mentioned the war with Licinius once notwithstanding my very forthright clarification as to what I was referring to. You haven’t acknowledged that Constantine waged war because his opponents in the Licinian faction rejected Christianity as Constantine defined it. You can read more about it here: http://www.roman-emperors.org/licinius.htm

    However, let me make this concession. There was a lot more going on between Licinius and Constantine than just a dispute over Christianity and the right of bishops to meet to formulate their creeds. It was, however, a major impetus of the civil war between Licinius and Constantine. I must admit that I am stunned that when I refer to a civil war many don’t know that there was a civil war involving the establishment of Christianity where Constantine was victorious in battle over his main rival and brother-in-law Licinius. It is the first of the religiously motivated wars initiated in the name of Christianity (at least ostensible Christianity since it is unclear whether Constantine was genuinely Christian or merely politically motivated). In addition, Constantine seems to have waffled between the Arians and the Trinitarians even after the creed at Nicea was adopted.

    Comment by Blake — September 22, 2007 @ 7:08 am

  100. Seth: I also admit to wondering what Blake was doing quoting and linking to a website like that. Seems like bad form to me.

    This part of your comment baffles me as well. This entire post is responding to comments made at an anti-Mormon(ism) web site fer cryin’ out loud! So what if Blake quotes a historical synopsis found at an anti-theism web site? What’s the significant difference in this case? They are both anti-our-religion in the end. If the historical synopsis is basically accurate why is it bad form to mention it?

    Comment by Geoff J — September 22, 2007 @ 7:39 am

  101. Jack (#97),

    As for Seth adding something worth discussing, I agree and that was the first thing I said in #94.

    As an explanation of why the creeds are an abomination, JS-H 1:19 first talks about “those professors” being corrupt, and then it says:

    they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof

    That description seems to exactly fit many of the complaints I summarized. Putting philosphical speculations on par with scripture is precisely “teaching for doctrine the commandments of men.” They “deny the power thereof” because they reject continuing revelation. Creeds have the form of revelation, they are made to be as binding as revelation, but their adherents reject the existence of continuing revelation.

    This is another important point that both KenYan (#12) and tiredmormon (#24) seem to be missing. In the quote above, God did not say that statements of belief in general are anathema. Both the Articles of Faith and the Proclamation (examples given by those commenters) were written by modern prophets. This is entirely different than the creeds under discussion.

    So, I think that the points I summarized in #94 fit very well with Joseph’s statement about the creeds and they definitely highlight the use and abuse of creeds historically. I still don’t see how Joseph’s statement can be construed to be a statement against creeds per se.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 22, 2007 @ 9:39 am

  102. Jacob: Agreed.

    Comment by Blake — September 22, 2007 @ 10:30 am

  103. “It is better to just leave the holes in our knowledge open until God reveals the answer.”

    Nephi agrees:

    2 Nephi 28:31
    Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost.

    Comment by Howard — September 22, 2007 @ 11:03 am

  104. Geoff, if you’re deliberately trying to alienate the people in your corner, keep it up. You’re doing a smashing job.

    Comment by Seth R. — September 22, 2007 @ 3:11 pm

  105. You know what? Forget I posted that. Delete it if you want. I’m having a hard time responding civilly to this response. I’m done with this post.

    Comment by Seth R. — September 22, 2007 @ 3:13 pm

  106. Hehe. I thought it was a funny snark Seth… Apparently you disagree. Sorry about that.

    I was a bit bewildered by your pedantic-sounding pronunciation guide though — have you ever met anyone who actually pronounced the word hyperbole as “hyper-bowl”?

    Comment by Geoff J — September 22, 2007 @ 3:46 pm

  107. Look I just cut-and-pasted the damn thing from an online dictionary. Sorry I missed that little snippet.

    Comment by Seth R. — September 22, 2007 @ 3:48 pm

  108. Seth,

    That is hilarious. I take back the second half of my first sentence in #94. Hopefully no hard feelings.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 22, 2007 @ 3:55 pm

  109. Ahh… That part of your comment suddenly makes a lot more sense…

    Comment by Geoff J — September 22, 2007 @ 3:56 pm

  110. Alright. Hah, hah. I’ll remove Geoff’s effigy from my fireplace now.

    Comment by Seth R. — September 22, 2007 @ 4:19 pm

  111. Over at that other site I asked Falcon why creeds are necessary if all they do is represent the scriptures? Aren’t the scriptures then sufficient? Why wouldn’t the scriptures be enough?

    Here is Aaron’s incomprehensible (to me at least) answer: “Short answer: Because of fallen human hearts and minds, not any inherent defect in scripture.”

    How does that answer the question? So the scriptures cannot quite make it clear enough to fallen humans but the creeds can? Then how did all those fallen humans come up with the creeds in the first place? If the scriptures could be understood enough by these fallen humans who wrote the creeds, then either they had the capacity to understand the scriptures or they didn’t. If they could understand the scriptures though fallen, then the “short answer” is simply self-defeating and quite obviously false. However, if they couldn’t understand the scriptures because they are fallen (as the “short answer” assumes) then they have no business writing creeds — and certainly no business telling the rest of us what “right thinking or belief” is.

    Comment by Blake — September 22, 2007 @ 7:16 pm

  112. I was baffled by his response to that as well Blake. I can only assume he meant “yes, the scriptures are insufficient alone and that is why we need these creeds”. But I don’t even think Aaron claims the creeds are inspired so that position seems incoherent to me.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 22, 2007 @ 8:21 pm

  113. I wouldn’t expect Aaron to respond intelligently or cogently any time soon. He deleted several relevant posts that offended his personal theological views that I posted at his blog. He clearly is into misleading his readers, which is why I suspect he hasn’t updated his post or engaged you here Blake.

    Also Blake, I can’t wait to read your third book. I really love reading your scholarship. I originally found your first volume on my mission in CA when my Ward Mission Leader Brian (who also was a philosophy major at a major University in NYC; he said he also knew you) introduced your material to me. I sincerely thank you for your work.

    Best wishes.

    Comment by Mike — September 25, 2007 @ 10:35 am

  114. Nice story-telling, Mike. You would have been welcome on the blog if you would have been willing to get back on topic and stop the attempts at hijacking threads.

    I’m posting a final response to Blake on Friday. It has become clear that he has not only refused to substantiate the specificity of his original claims but he has also dug a deeper hole for himself by making other untenable claims.

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — September 27, 2007 @ 12:27 am

  115. Aaron,

    You need to get more specific and you really ought to answer Blake’s question. In your research, how many Arians were killed under Constantine’s rule? He has asked several times now.

    His position appears to be that 100,000+ Arians were killed. If you could credibly show that number to be false then you might have more to ding Blake on. Right now all you can call him on was the “in a few days”. That’s an anemic charge — especially in light of the fact that he already conceded that point.

    Blake’s connecting the killing of Arians to the Nicene Creed works overall since his claim seems to be that the Nicene Creed is basically a document that is symptomatic of the political maneuvering and war-mongering that was happening at the time. So if you are claiming he is making other untenable claims you really need to be specific yourself.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 27, 2007 @ 12:57 am

  116. Aaron,

    Stop the story telling?? You’re the one hiding the posts and preventing the real story from being made obvious! What do you have to hide? Let people read my posts and your responses, and then decide for themselves whether it was relevant. In fact, you actually even said that you would have kept my posts, but deleted them simply because (according to your understanding) I didn’t answer “directly” one of your questions. Your bullying tactics are sad and laughable.

    The real story, however, is that your first attempt to silence me was when you threatened to delete my posts because you would not “tolerate” my “ultra-liberal” views of scripture on your blog. Even Seth R. saw this, and it would have been even more obvious had you let your “red” comments explaining your reasons for snipping my comments in the first place stand. However, all of my posts were relevant to others comments and to the topic on hand, and especially my engagement with you. My four (maybe five?) line comment that we need to take into account the compositional history of the book of Deut. and the Deut. agenda (YHWH worship alone and only in one place) is hardly a thread-jack when the the very text you are quoting comes from that book (Duet. 32). Not everyone is willing to proof-text as you do. Some of us look into the historical context. Let’s face the reality that (at best) you deleted my posts because I was unwilling to give a “yes” or “no” answer to one of your questions, not because I was thread-jacking (for instance, when I brought up your obvious misreading of the biblical texts as saying creation Ex Nihilo, I suggested we go to another thread to discuss it). However, as I said before, the compositional history of Deut. is inextricably linked to understanding the book; that is hardly a thread-jack when the very verses under contention come from that book. Please stop your story telling. Maybe you should let others see instead of hiding the exchange and misleading your readers. However, since my arguments (and also biblical scholarship in general) clearly undermines your post and fundamentalist evangelical theology in general, I am (now) unsurprised that you would look for an excuse to delete my posts.

    Are you honestly saying you would have kept my posts if I would have answered “yes” or “no” to the bible being “full” of the teaching that God has a Father above him? (Actually, you did in fact say that you would have kept my posts, so that is clear, thus admitting implicitly their relevance to the post and previous comments.) If that is it, then you truly have abused your power as moderator and again mislead your readers and misrepresented me. Figuring out whether the biblical texts support a plurality of gods should be the first step! And besides, I already had said on another post that I disagree with your reading of the KFD (and the Sermon on the Grove for that matter), and that your reading is based on a faulty underlying text. I wouldn’t give you a clear answer because I believe you were simply asking the wrong question. I don’t accept gods “above” the Father. Is that all you were looking for? But then again, I don’t think Joseph taught that either (as you seem to understand him). So you and I simply disagree on a foundational point–i.e., the proper reading of Joseph’s sermons. So how could I have answered your question when you and I don’t even agree on what Joseph said? Secondly, I did say that even if he had taught such a view, that it is in theory no problem to me (or any LDS Christian) as I do not accept inerrancy from Joseph’s sermons, I don’t believe they count as scripture binding on the Church, and I believe he can be wrong and can speculate as any human does. His being a prophet simply doesn’t make him omniscient or perfect. So I did indeed answer the very question of the post!–Am I “scared” or “weak-minded” over the Father having a Father? No! Is it too uncomfortable a question to answer as you directly asked me? No! I even said that as you well know. (And, as I said above, I don’t accept the Father having a god “above” him anyway, and I don’t read Joseph Smith the same way you do.)

    But more to the point, it appears you simply deleted my posts because you were looking for an excuse to, as they undermine your cause and appeal to the “common” audience you have said you are trying to appeal to and, apparently, also looking to mislead. Please, stop your story telling. Either put my posts and our exchange back up or live with the shame and the responsibility of bearing false witness.

    Comment by Mike — September 27, 2007 @ 5:56 am

  117. Aaron: You have amply demonstrated that you refuse to participate in a dialog of common decency and fairness. That is why I refuse to participate on your forum. I have provided links, given explanations of what I was referring to and you continue to say “still waiting.” You’re like a man at the bus stop who refuses to board the buses that and then blames the bus drivers because they didn’t pull quite close enough to the curb for you.

    Further, your treatment of Mike is inexcusable. I ask again, how many did Constantine kill in his wars in an attempt to consolidate his political authority – a part of which was to attempt to use Nicea as a means to define his power base? Are you going to respond or incessantly state: you still haven’t responded?

    Moreover, your grandstanding is really an attempt to raise a red herring. The creeds are useless. If they merely summarize the scriptures (they don’t), then let’s talk about scriptures and forget the summarization without authority or revelation. If they go beyond scripture (they most assuredly do) to clarify what the scriptures just weren’t clear enough about without the philosophical distinctions made by the councils, then let’s admit that it is really a philosophical debate and discussion. However, if that is the case, where do those who adopt the creeds get off saying that philosophical arguments are won by the most votes of the bishops? That’s the real issue — that creeds have no authority but act as authoritative texts to define the true and orthodox faith. Address the real issue and swallow your red herring if you can stomach it.

    Comment by Blake — September 27, 2007 @ 7:14 am

  118. Mike, you’re not going to have a forum on our blog if you’re just going to keep trying to hijack posts. Not directly answering questions by moderators just excasperated the point that you weren’t welcome. We tolerate a lot of off-topic comments but you apparently felt like you could push the limits without reigning it back in to the original topic. You would have been welcome to challenge our straightforward reading of the Sermon in the Grove, as it was directly related to the post’s topic. Whether Smith had to be inerrant wasn’t the issue, and that had already been clarified.

    The real story, however, is that your first attempt to silence me was when you threatened to delete my posts because you would not “tolerate” my “ultra-liberal” views of scripture on your blog.

    More story-telling. I told you I wasn’t going to “entertain” your views on this in the thread. Then I had to threaten to delete your posts because you simply wouldn’t get back on topic. If we simply didn’t entertain “ultra-liberal” views at all we’d be deleting a lot more posts.

    Blake, I don’t know how many he killed, but I have the distinct impression you don’t have the slightest clue either. So far it seems like you’re trying as hard as you can to avoid having to substantiate your earlier claims, especially that Constantine killed 100,000 by exploiting the Nicene Creed. I know this much: That’s a lie, and you haven’t been able to come up with a shred of evidence to support it. You are the one who gave the 100,000 figure and you are the one who won’t retract it. The burden of proof is still on you.

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — September 27, 2007 @ 10:33 am

  119. Aaron,

    You have failed to explain why my views (i.e., actual biblical scholarship) weren’t relevant to the post and the comments that had preceded mine (and especially my engagement with you regarding Deut. 32). As I said, my comment was four or five lines long, and hardly a thread-jack. Again, I repeat, if the historical context does not matter, and if establishing whether or not ancient Israelites “entertained” views of a plurality of gods, then how can an intelligent discussion even begin to address the issues of your post? Can you answer these two questions directly (or should your comments avoiding direct questions simply be deleted)? I have asked them numerous times. My subsequent comments that you took offense with and claim were the real reason my former comments were deleted because they were “off topic,” were simply in defense of allowing my viewpoint to stand and be addressed fairly. You simply abused your moderator position to threaten my relevant posts (as implicitly admitted by you) to avoid direct historical investigation and intelligent debate, and ultimately present me unfairly as being off topic. This is simply pathetic. Until you let the comments stand and let others see for themselves, or address the issues I ask above, it is clear you are simply hiding and/or avoiding the real issues.

    Further, my subsequent comments that you claim were so off-topic, as stated in my previous post, did reply to direct questions and issues you asked me in addition to asking the questions I have listed in the previous paragraph. As I had said on another thread on your blog-site, and as I repeated above, I view your reading of the sermons of Joseph Smith as incorrect and based on a faulty underlying text. Your question toward me was, therefore, simply unanswerable in “yes” or “no” form. Again, you simply misrepresent me and the conversation that took place. Please, stop the story telling, and deal with the issues I have raised in this post and my previous one.

    Comment by Mike — September 27, 2007 @ 11:25 am

  120. Mike, from 1) whether, as Joseph Smith taught, the Bible is full of the teaching of the Father having a Father to 2) whether Heiser’s paper teaches a polytheism that is compatible with or supportive of Mormonism to 3) what definitions behind terms Heiser uses (like behind “gods”) to 4) whether “elohim” always refers to the Mormon idea of gods with a nature identical to the Father’s to 5) whether Deuteronomy 32 applied the term “elohim” to demons to 6) whether we should even trust that passage in question because of the compositional history of the larger text … is too off topic. I tried to reign it back in, but you refused. The Israelites “entertained” a lot of bad theology, but the Old Testament itself never promotes the Father having a Father, and instead of directly dealing with that issue you aimed for keeping the thread off-topic even when asked to return to the original topic. I simply decided a person like you is not going to have a platform on our blog if he brazenly won’t play by the rules, even when explicitly asked to. Our rules, our blog. In a discussion over whether the Book of Mormon, for example, teaches a plurality of gods, we hopefully neither would let the conversation veer off onto the topic of North American archeology, Mayan beliefs, the details of the authorship of the Book of Mormon, etc. First, you deal with the text as we have it. In another context you can delve into the issue of authorship.

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — September 27, 2007 @ 12:21 pm

  121. And I find it interesting that you apparently don’t even believe that the Old Testament or Joseph Smith taught the Father had a Father. Hence, no matter the compositional history of Deuteronomy or Isaiah you would have concluded the same. This doesn’t give me much sympathy for the stubborn refusal to not veer the conversation onto questions of authorship / textual history.

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — September 27, 2007 @ 12:31 pm

  122. Soooo, how about you both ignore each other for a while? :)

    Comment by Kent — September 27, 2007 @ 12:36 pm

  123. Speaking of retraction, I need to retract something.

    I said, “That’s a lie”, but that’s too strong. While I think Blake’s original claims were irresponsible and untenable, I don’t have any way of knowing if he originally gave them as an outright lie. I simply don’t know what he was really thinking in his heart. My apologies over that.

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — September 27, 2007 @ 3:07 pm

  124. Aaron said:

    “In a discussion over whether the Book of Mormon, for example, teaches a plurality of gods, we hopefully neither would let the conversation veer off onto the topic of North American archeology, Mayan beliefs, the details of the authorship of the Book of Mormon, etc. First, you deal with the text as we have it. In another context you can delve into the issue of authorship.”

    I would hope, Aaron, if those issues ever became relevant to the Book of Mormon’s views on God we would most definitely discuss them. Secondly, the text is inextricably linked to its context and compositional history. I can’t even comprehend your last sentence, though it is beginning to make sense why fundamentalist evangelical theology cannot square with unwashed history. Are you suggesting the “text as we have it” can really be so completely divorced from its compositional history and the historical context which created it and the reasons for which it was made by its author(s)? Yes, or no? Is this too painful a question to answer simply and directly?

    All you have done is asserted that my comments were “off-topic” and avoided my DIRECT questions that substantiate that they were indeed relevant to the post and comments made. That seems to be typical form for you. Avoid establishing whether or not my comments were actually irrelevant to what the post and previous comments (including your own) had said. Further, why were all my RELEVANT comments deleted and not only the (supposedly) “unrelated” ones? Why were others (apparently) “off-topic” posts not also deleted, including your own (which generated much of the discussion)? And why was my comment in response to you on another thread (“Men on a Mission”) conveniently deleted? I will let the reader who sees this discussion decide for himself who here is being honest or telling stories.

    You also said:

    “And I find it interesting that you apparently don’t even believe that the Old Testament or Joseph Smith taught the Father had a Father. Hence, no matter the compositional history of Deuteronomy or Isaiah you would have concluded the same. This doesn’t give me much sympathy for the stubborn refusal to not veer the conversation onto questions of authorship / textual history.”

    Simply, this goes back to another question I already asked and you have yet AGAIN left unanswered: if the bible teaches, as it most certainly does, that there is a plurality of gods, is that not completely relevant to your post? Yes, or no? Is this too painful a question to answer directly? Also, because there is at least one school of thought within Mormonism that has said what you are asserting, at least establishing this point is utterly relevant, my personal beliefs notwithstanding. Moreover, since you are rigid in your understanding of what you believe Joseph Smith said, I have to engage you at your level–and debating whether the biblical texts confirm a plurality of gods is the route I chose to try first (not to mention AGAIN I had said on a previous post that I disagree with the view you presented concerning Joseph’s views on God, and that the KFD text as usually cited by fundamentalist evangelicals is based on a faulty underlying text). Further it was OTHERS who gave proof texts of the bible and initiated such a conversation. Are you really claiming that understanding this biblical issue (regarding the plurality of gods) is unrelated to your post, my personal beliefs notwithstanding? Yes, or no? Is this again too hard a question to answer directly,, yes or no?

    Aaron said:

    “6) whether we should even trust that passage in question because of the compositional history of the larger text”

    When did I ever call into “trust” the passage? I was merely trying to find out what it meant to its original composer and audience. Whether you can “trust” the passage is your own personal issue.

    I think it is sufficiently clear to the readers here what the “story” is now. Best wishes.

    Comment by Mike — September 27, 2007 @ 3:30 pm

  125. Are you suggesting the “text as we have it” can really be so completely divorced from its compositional history and the historical context which created it and the reasons for which it was made by its author(s)?

    Mike, hypothetically granting that the OT text was significantly distorted beyond its original message, that wouldn’t change the fact that it says something now and has a message, even if it’s different than what it used to be before manipulation. Of course context is important for understanding a text, but attacking the historical integrity of a text can go beyond considering what is necessary to understanding the text as we have it today. The documentary hypothesis / JEDP theory is a huge can of worms that wasn’t necessary in the thread for determining whether the Bible teaches God the Father has a Father, which is what the original post was about (and what I wanted the conversation to return to).

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — September 27, 2007 @ 4:37 pm

  126. Aaron,

    I have looked at your thread (somewhat) recently. It hardly seems any more on topic than our discussion. In fact, some of your own posts are asking and furthering completely non-relevant issues. Your inability to see your own double standard is strikingly obvious.

    I think I can let our conversation here stand as it is. Your avoidance of my questions speaks loud enough for itself (maybe your posts should just be deleted? :P ). I think the readers here can understand the full “story” now.

    And by the way, I never claimed that Deut. was “distorted beyond its original message.” Statements such as these are simply misleading (I think both before and after the various redactions of Deut. it affirms a plurality of gods; although I do believe the archeological evidence and biblical texts do show changing views in Israel throughout its history). Because unwashed biblical studies do not square with your own personal understanding of scripture (very much a modern notion derived from 19th CE reactions to higher biblical criticism) is your own issue. I was simply discussing the compositional history and purposes and other historical events that surrounded the passages that were under discussion (many, including Deut. 32.17 were brought up by others, such as yourself). Just because it destroys its integrity according to your fundamentalist assumptions regarding the nature of scripture, hardly makes my posts irrelevant. If anything it just goes to show why you really deleted the posts.

    Best wishes.

    Comment by Mike — September 27, 2007 @ 5:07 pm

  127. And I point out also that I never felt I was “attacking” the texts in question. That is your personal view based on your personal understanding of scripture also.

    Again, best wishes.

    Comment by Mike — September 27, 2007 @ 5:10 pm

  128. Aaron: The notion that the compositional history of the Old Testament is not relevant to a discussion of gods and the Father of gods (or even the Father of the Father) not only begs the question, it misses the entire point! Joseph Smith was talking about the text before it was messed with by some “old Jew” (his words, not mine). He was claiming precisely that there was a redactional history of the text and that his view was the original view before it was redacted and edited. To miss that fact is to misunderstand Joseph altogether.

    As you know I don’t believe that Joseph taught that the Father had a Father — and it seems to me that my arguments are persuasive enough that you are not justified in just assuming you got him right (even if it is acknowledged that Mormons have traditionally read him that way).

    Moreover, God had a Father if we speak of God the Son. So it isn’t the case that a being isn’t God if that being has a Father! Moreover, you have got to deal with the fact that the text of Psalm 82, 89, Dt. 32 and so forth (there are a lot more) still support a plurality of gods who are God’s very sons — the same kind and species as that term could only mean within the ancient Near Eastern melieu from which the texts derive.

    So saying that Mike’s comments are off topic seems to me to really be saying — “I don’t want folks on my site exposed to critical biblical scholarship and and higher criticism.” But that just won’t wash in a competent and responsible conversation. At least you have found someone else to attack.

    Comment by Blake — September 27, 2007 @ 7:17 pm

  129. Joseph Smith was talking about the text before it was messed with by some “old Jew” (his words, not mine).

    Specifically, he said that when referring to Genesis 1:1. It’s hardly warranted to say that characterizes the whole sermon. Perhaps there is more, but the only other time in the sermon I can think of where he appeals to esoteric knowledge is his having “translat[ed] the papyrus which is now in my house.” Outside of that, Smith repeatedly quotes from the Bible in an attempt to support his positions, and thinks men are fools for rejecting his doctrines given the evidence available in the Bible. All things considered, he didn’t think his positions were dependent on finding the pre-redaction meaning of the Old or New Testament.

    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — September 30, 2007 @ 4:21 pm

  130. Aaron: Yes, it characterizes his entire sermon about the plurality of gods. He derived his view about the Head God based upon his inspired insight into how it originally referred to a Head God who organized the gods in council before the world was. In fact, the entire sermon revolves around this central notion. He stated that the Bible read one way before it was redacted, and another after. The fact that he was open to a redactional reading is also characteristic of his entire biblical approach.

    But let’s not forget what we’re really talking about. You deleted posts because they brought up the views of higher criticism and more recent insight into the meaning of texts based upon Assyriology. That is what I find inexcusable. The approach to reading the scriptures as having been redacted to avoid such a pluralistic reading of “sons of God” and changing it to “children of Israel” is obvious in the Masoretic text. The question is why you felt somehow justified in deleting these posts. It is why I refuse to participate on your site — your dictatorship there ain’t benevolent how evermuch you wish to see it as such.

    Comment by Blake — September 30, 2007 @ 6:55 pm

  131. Blake, upon reading Smith’s sermon one can clearly see that Smith’s argument depends on an overly simplistic rendering of elohim. Also, you’re ignoring Smith’s larger usage in the sermon of passages in the New Testament as we have them today in the KJV. If you asked Joseph Smith then, “Can your main points be compellingly demonstrated from the KJV text as we have it today?”, I doubt he would say, “Oh no, no, it stands or falls on being able to demonstrate a history of content-warping redaction.” It was Smith who appealed to the KJV of John 5:19 to make the main point in question.

    Given our original topic, if one can’t show from the KJV text itself that the Bible supports the Father having a Father (a reading of Smith I stand by), they don’t have any business on the thread veering onto Assyriology and the compositional history of the OT.

    Tell you what. I think Gordon B. Hinckley would be glad to clarify this issue of the Father having a Father for us (and also whether the Bible is full of it). Why don’t we just ask the Lord’s anointed beacon of doctrinal clarity? Maybe after all we don’t need the wisdom of fringe Mormon apologists to save us from the hopeless ambiguity of priesthood leadership?

    Watching Conference, eagerly awaiting the next burst of doctrinal clarity to shine on upon us,


    Comment by Aaron Shafovaloff — September 30, 2007 @ 7:32 pm

  132. How does that answer the question? So the scriptures cannot quite make it clear enough to fallen humans but the creeds can? Then how did all those fallen humans come up with the creeds in the first place? If the scriptures could be understood enough by these fallen humans who wrote the creeds, then either they had the capacity to understand the scriptures or they didn’t. If they could understand the scriptures though fallen, then the “short answer” is simply self-defeating and quite obviously false. However, if they couldn’t understand the scriptures because they are fallen (as the “short answer” assumes) then they have no business writing creeds — and certainly no business telling the rest of us what “right thinking or belief” is.

    I’ve wondered about that. Hoped to find a response in the thread rather than the bickering.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — October 7, 2007 @ 8:28 am

  133. Perhaps the problem with creeds is that they concretely define what God never intended to define concretely. I would point you to a comment from the recent sessions of conference:

    “How do we know the Father and the Son for ourselves? By personal revelation.” Elder Hale.

    Could it be that the purpose of the Church is not to tell us everything there is to know about God, but to show us where and how to go about discovering additional truths? A creed does exactly as Joseph Smith said, it defines the limit to belief. Think about what the Church holds as doctrine concerning the nature and form of God. Compared to other Christian denominations I don’t feel the LDS have an overwhelming addition to the body of knowledge. What has been revealed about God is miniscule compared to what we have yet to learn. Perhaps this additional knowledge is to be gained individually through the pursuit of a personal relationship with our Father in Heaven.

    Comment by Patrick — October 14, 2007 @ 5:51 pm

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