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 Apostlesâ€™ Creed do Mormons think God finds loathsome or disgusting? Donâ€™t Mormons claim to also believe all the points of the Apostlesâ€™ 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 doesnâ€™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 isnâ€™t problematic in its basic assertions. I could accept it if interpreted carefully except the statement about creatio ex nihilo. What I donâ€™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 Smithâ€™s classic statement which I love:
â€¦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: â€œIf Jesusâ€™ 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 itâ€™s doctrine. In my opinion, itâ€™s really kind of dishonest to piggy back on it when the underlying meanings are different.â€
Falcon has pin-pointed the problem. Some Mormons (primarily Orson Pratt) taught that God had actual sexual relations. It isnâ€™t Mormon doctrine. It isnâ€™t in Mormon scriptures. Just how Christ was conceived is simply something that hasnâ€™t been revealed. Why should we fill in something we donâ€™t know? The creeds attempted to fill in holes in doctrine with philosophical arguments, wrenching scriptures to address issues they donâ€™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 â€” and those attending the councils never claimed that they were. Yet I donâ€™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 donâ€™t believe that God (in this context the Father) had physical relations with Mary (or anyone else). However, even you must accept the proposition: â€œGod impregnated Mary.â€ When stated that way, it can seem offensive. When stated as: â€œin some manner unknown to us, God caused it to be such that Mary became pregnant without human sexual relationsâ€ it sounds less offensive. LDS accept the latter â€” 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 .