Heidi and Steven

Heidi and Steven

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Scripture

Despite believing in the same Bible, there are many differences between the doctrinal beliefs of the various Christian individuals and groups around the world. In general, these differences are a result of deciding which portions of the Bible to interpret literally. Many people turn to scholars and linguists to interpret the Bible for them but those well-educated individuals also hold differing opinions. This has been the case for hundred of years and is one reason there are so many different churches.

I've just finished reading chapters 2-8 of Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology (see my previous post) about God’s word, scripture, and prophets. The simplest response to these chapters is to say that we agree with nearly everything he says, but that I have something to add to it. Let me first summarize the key points that we agree on (mostly from the chapters 2-3 about the Word of God and the Canon of Scripture):

  • Scripture is God’s word, revealed through authorized servants who were called of God, and recorded that we might benefit from it.
  • Only God can add to scripture, and he does so through prophets. Throughout history, God has followed a pattern of speaking through prophets--men called and ordained of God to teach his word. Though every individual has the right to receive personal revelation for himself, the prophet is the only one authorized to receive revelation for everyone collectively.
  • There have been periods in history when there was no such authorized individual (prophet) on the earth (such as the time period between the Old and New Testaments). When this happened, people needed to rely on what had been revealed and recorded previously.
  • After the death of the apostles in first century there was no longer anyone on earth who was authorized to receive revelation for the entire church/world (those who hold the office of apostle are also prophets).
  • This meant we would need to depend on the scripture previously revealed (the Bible) until God again chose to speak to the world as a whole.

The author of the book notes that “the writing of Scripture primarily occurs in connection with God’s great acts in redemptive history” and concludes that no new scripture will be given until Christ’s second coming. This is where we differ slightly and where I'll add something to the author's points above.

  • We believe that, just as he did anciently, God has again called a prophet and blessed us with additional scripture in preparation for the second coming. The power of the priesthood, the church, and the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ have been restored to the earth (this is the “restitution of all things” spoken of in Acts 3:21 that needs to happen before Christ returns). 

So, rather than turning to scholars, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints get their Biblical interpretation from men they believe to be prophets and apostles of Jesus Christ, just as when doctrinal doubts arose in New Testament times.

Now, this is a big deal. The men who lead the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claim to be apostles and prophets, acting as directed by Christ himself. They are either 1) exactly who they say they are or 2) the false prophets the Lord warned us of in the New Testament. So how do you know? Jesus tells us how in Matthew 7:15-20:

“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”

What are the fruits of what we claim as the restored Church of Jesus Christ? Feel free to look into that yourself and let me know what you find. My initial thoughts led me to general statistics about strong families, quality of life, and humanitarian efforts. Aside from the lives of church members, perhaps the most obvious “fruit” is The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. It is a history written by prophets in the ancient Americas that the Lord brought forth to be a companion to the Bible and as evidence that he had again called a prophet on the earth. I know the Book of Mormon is scripture because I have read and prayed about it and I invite you to do the same. So does the author of Systematic Theology (although by his comments I would be surprised to learn that he himself has read it). On page 69 he says, “Compare the effect these writings have on you with the effect [the Bible] has on you… Is the spiritual effect of these writings on your life positive or negative? How does it compare with the spiritual effect the Bible has on your life?”

In their final addresses, both the first and last prophets to write in the Book of Mormon also extended the same invitation. Nephi urged all readers to “hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good. And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye—for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things, notwithstanding my weakness” (2 Nephi 33:10-11). Moroni said, “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost” (Moroni 10:4).

I can add my testimony to theirs. Those who read the Book of Mormon and pray, honestly seeking to know if it comes from God (and, by extension, that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is led by Christ as it claims, rather than being a big, elaborate sham), will receive an answer. Because each one of us is unique, the manner in which that answer comes may differ, but it will come through the Spirit. In Galatians we learn that, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith” (Gal 5:22). Those are the things that I feel when I read the Book of Mormon or study the words of the modern day apostles, just as when I study the Bible.

I really like the way Grudem phrases things and I think his comments about the epistle to the Hebrews apply to the Book of Mormon as well. “The majestic glory of Christ shines forth from the pages...so brightly that no believer who reads it seriously should ever want to question its place in the canon.” And, “the words of these books would have been self-attesting; that is, the words would have borne witness to their own divine authorship as Christians read them.”

Now, one last quote from Grudem. He says about the process of deciding what is scripture, “two factors are at work: the activity of the Holy Spirit convincing us as we read Scripture for ourselves, and the historical data that we have available for our consideration.” A witness from the Holy Spirit is certainly the most important way to know that the Book of Mormon is scripture, but I want to address the second factor he mentions just for fun. My next post (when I get around to it) will be about the historical data that supports the Book of Mormon.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Godhead vs Trinity


I recently had the pleasure of reading some chapters of Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne A. Grudem. After a discussion we had one evening, our neighbors lent the book to us so that we could better understand their belief about the Trinity. As an effort to reciprocate and explain my beliefs on this topic as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a familiar context to them, I compiled this commentary to show what my beliefs about the Godhead have in common with this detailed look at the Trinity, as well as where we differ.

For an official summary of the LDS view of the Godhead see the Church’s gospel topics page about it or the Guide to the Scriptures entry. Here is a link to the chapter of Systematic Theology that I'm responding to in case you'd like to read along (the headings of my commentary correspond with those of his chapter 14).

As clarification, when I say Godhead I’m referring to God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit as three separate beings who are perfectly unified in purpose and doctrine. The word Trinity is used to mean God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit as three separate persons and yet who are one being (in some way that we can’t fully comprehend).

As I read, I was not too surprised to note that I agree with nearly all of Grudem’s points that are based in scripture. The places we disagree he is lacking in scripture references to back up the point, bases his ideas on ancient creeds, or prefaces his point with a phrase like, “Now here there is a difficulty” or “this has never fully been defined.” Many of our differences stem from the author breaking from the standard definition of words, while I take those sections of the Bible at face value. To me, separate persons are separate beings, ”begotten” means to father a child, father/son indicates a parent/child relationship, and “created” doesn’t have to mean “brought into existence out of nothing” (you create a painting using canvas and paints).

I typed up every scripture reference Grudem mentions in the chapter and color coded them based on whether or not we agree. Here’s my color key:

I agree with his interpretation
I disagree with his interpretation
He didn’t mention the scripture and it supports my point (or he used the verse in another section but I’m bringing it up again because I got something additional out of it that he didn’t mention)

Black text is a summary of where we agree and comments in green explain points where the LDS view differs from the author’s.

In section A, Grudem uses several scripture references to show how the Trinity is progressively revealed through the Bible. You’ll notice that every reference is black. These verses all talk about the members of the Godhead and I feel like all of section A could be put into section B1 below, where Grudem emphasizes that they are clearly three distinct persons.

A1 -- Old Testament evidence of three persons

Gen 1:26
Gen 3:22
Gen 11:7
Isa 6:8
Psalm 45:6-7
Heb 1:8
Psalm 110:1 (in connection with Matt 22:41-46)
Isa 63:10
Isa 61:1
Mal 3:1-2
Hos 1:7
Isa 48:16
Gen 16:13
Ex 3:2-6
Ex 23:20-22
Num 22:35,38
Judg 2:1-2
Judg 6:11,14
Prov 8:22-31

A2 -- New Testament evidence of three persons

Matt 3:16-17
1 Cor 12:4-6
2 Cor 13:14
Eph 4:4-6
1 Pet 1:2
Jude 1:20-21

In section B, Grudem uses several more scripture references to back up the summary of the Trinity in these three statements:

1. God is three persons
2. Each person is fully God
3. There is one God

B1 -- God is Three [distinct] Persons

For clarity’s sake I would probably phrase this point as “the Godhead consists of three persons” but I agree fully with this section of the chapter (and I don’t have anything against phrasing it the way Grudem does—see my comments below about B3). In addition to the verses listed, he also reuses several scripture references mentioned above.

John 1:1-2
John 17:24
1 John 2:1
Heb 7:25
John 14:26
Rom 8:26-27
Matt 28:19
John 16:7
John 15:26; 16:13-14
John 14:16; 16:7
Rom 8:16
1 Cor 2:10-11
1 Cor 12:11
Acts 16:6-7
Acts 8:29; 13:2
Acts 15:28
Eph 4:30
Luke 4:14
Acts 10:38
Rom 15:13
1 Cor 2:4
2 Cor 3:17

Later on, Grudem concludes that these three distinct persons are just one being. I disagree (see B3). We believe that the three persons in the Godhead are separate beings. The Father and Son both have glorified, perfected bodies. The Holy Ghost is a personage of Spirit. This is perfectly clarified in modern revelation (like D&C 130:22) if you’re willing to accept that (see more about that after C2), but I’ve also compiled some verses to show why I feel the idea is also fairly clear in the Bible. (Nowhere in this chapter does Grudem tell where he got the idea that God the Father has no body so I’ll also bring that up here):

Gen 1:26-27 ”Let us make man in our image.” When Grudem used this verse earlier it was to emphasize the “us” and show that there was clearly more than one person involved in the creation of the earth. I want to emphasize the “in our image” part. Man looks like God, with a head, arms, feet, etc
Matt 3:16-17 Christ’s baptism. The three members of the Godhead manifest themselves from three separate locations.
Acts 7:55-56 The author didn’t address this verse anywhere and I see it as a clear witness of God in bodily form separate from Christ. Stephen very clearly states that he saw Jesus standing on the right hand of God the Father, implying that God is a personage you could stand on the right hand of.
Heb 1:3 God spoke to us through his Son, who is in the “express image of his person” and who “sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Christ looks just like the Father (see also John 14:6-11), and the Father is someone he could sit at the right hand of.
Phil 2:6 Christ is in the form of God
Acts 5:3-4 God is omnipresent through the Spirit

B2 -- Each person is fully God

Again, you’ll notice that I agree with everything here. Though if I were writing the chapter from my perspective I would probably phrase this point as something like “Each person is a God (with full authority to speak for God).” I left duplicate references in this section because he’s using them to make a new point.

John 1:1-4
Gen 1:1
John 20:25-31
Heb 1:3-10
Psalm 102:25
Titus 2:13
Peter 1:1
Rom 9:5
Isa 9:6
Isa 40:3
Matt 3:3
Col 2:9
Matt 28:19
1 Cor 12:4-6
2 Cor 13:14
Eph 4:4-6
1 Pet 1:2
Jude 1:20-21
Acts 5:3-4
1 Cor 3:16
Psalm 139:7-8
1 Cor 2:10-11
John 3:5-7
1 John 3:9

Now, after 65+ passages and nearly ten pages affirming that there are three distinct, divine persons, we disagree with his interpretation of the next point (although not the point itself).

B3 -- There is one God

Grudem says, “The three different persons of the Trinity are one not only in purpose and in agreement on what they think, but they are one in essence…in other words, God is only one being.” This is where we disagree. Grudem lists only eight references to back up this point and, upon reading them all, I am not convinced that any of these verses teaches that the three persons in the Godhead are one being, just that they are unified.

Deut 6:4-5
Ex 15:11
1 Kings 8:60
Isa 45:5-6, 21-22
1 Tim 2:5
1 Cor 8:6
Rom 3:30
James 2:19

My turn. If I were rewriting this section this is how I would use these references and others:

There is one God. The scriptures make it clear that there are two different ways that statement is true--without discounting the evidence we’ve already seen that there are three distinct, divine persons.

1) The members of the Godhead are so perfectly unified that they are one God

John 14:6-10,20-24,31 they are unified and Christ speaks and does the Father’s will
John 10:30 “I and my Father are one”
John 17:21-22 “that they may be one as we are”
John 5:19 “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise”
John 12:44-50
These verses from above can also go here:
Deut 6:4-5 “the Lord our God is one Lord”
Rom 3:30 God is one
James 2:19 “there is one God”

Jesus seems to have spent most of John 14-15 explaining how he, the Father, and we all relate. Places like John 14:20 clarify that when Christ speaks of he and the Father dwelling “in” each other (like in verse 10) he doesn’t mean literally/physically because he uses the same terminology when talking about us. Likewise, in John 17 Christ prays that we might be one like he and the Father are. We aren’t going to be assimilated into the being of God so it is clear that he’s referring to unity rather than a physical oneness.

2) God the Father is God

Although all three are divine beings, the scriptures also make it clear that if we want to speak of only one God (the “God of gods” Deut 10:17, if you will) we are speaking of the Father. I have a hard time figuring out how the first two references listed below back up the point Grudem is trying to make about them being one in essence because these verses seem so perfectly to continue clarifying that they are distinct beings.

1 Tim 2:5 “there is one God, and one mediator between God and men...Christ”
1 Cor 8:6 “to us there is but one God, the Father...and one Lord Jesus Christ”
Eph 4:4-6 “There is one Spirit…one Lord…one God and Father of us all”
John 17:3 “thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent”
2 Tim 4:1
These verses from above can also go here:
Ex 15:11 “who is like thee among the gods” (idol worship)
1 Kings 8:60 “the Lord is God and there is none else”
Isa 45:5-6, 21-22 “there is no God beside me” (idol worship)

All three members of the Godhead may be divine beings, but that does not mean we are confused about how to split our worship between the three, praying sometimes to one and other times to another. “Latter-day Saints pray to God the Father in the name of Jesus Christ. They acknowledge the Father as the ultimate object of their worship, the Son as Lord and Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit as the messenger and revealer of the Father and the Son.” (https://www.lds.org/topics/godhead?lang=eng)

Does saying that we worship the Father mean we think any less of Christ? Certainly not. His role as our Redeemer is essential (and central) to the Father’s plan for our salvation. As I agreed with the author earlier, he is a God. The scriptures assert that he is equal to the Father (Phil 2:6). But Christ himself, our ultimate example, points us to the Father in all he does:

John 20:17 “I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.”
1 Cor 15:28 even Christ is subject to the Father
John 14:28 My Father is greater than I
1 John 2:1 Christ is our advocate with the Father
John 14:6 Christ is the way to the Father
Phil 2:5-11 Christ humbled himself and was perfectly obedient so God exalted him. “That every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
John 12:44-50 “He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me.” Christ speaks and acts for the Father
1 Cor 15:57
1 Pet 1:19-20
John 10:29
John 6:38,40

He instructs us to pray to the Father in his name.

Matt 6:6,8-9 “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven”
Luke 11:2; John 17:1; Matt 26:39 Christ prays to the Father
John 14:13-14 ask in Christ’s name

B4

This is a review of how the three points just mentioned are all taught in scripture, so none should be dismissed. I agree.

B5

Here he discusses how all analogies have shortcomings and addresses several that people have used to attempt to explain the idea of the Trinity as he described it. He specifically says, “it is interesting that Scripture nowhere uses any analogies to teach the doctrine of the Trinity.” My response to that? Because the Trinity is a manmade construct. Someone tried to make things too complicated. We believe that God wants us to understand His nature (see D4 comments). Scripture does use analogies to teach the doctrine of the Godhead (see section E). Grudem continues by saying that the closest thing to an analogy is in the titles of “Father” and “Son” but specifies that this is also flawed because in our human experience those refer to separate beings. I believe that there is no flaw there. Christ and the Father refer to each other as Father and Son, not just as an analogy, but as a fact. Those aren’t simply titles used to help us understand their relationship--it IS their relationship (see comments in C2a).

B6

The intended point here is to show that “God eternally and necessarily exists as a Trinity.” I’m fine with each reference below, but don’t think it adds up to his conclusion.

John 1:3
1 Cor 8:6
Heb 1:2
Gen 1:2
John 17:5,24

He uses the first four references to show that all three persons were present when our world was created, with this I agree. John 17:5,24 says that Christ had glory with the Father before the world was. I also agree with that statement. None of those verses says anything about the state in which God has always existed, simply that Christ had been given glory of the Father at some point before he assisted in the work of the creation.

C -- Errors come from denying any of the three summary statements addressed in Section B

C1 -- Modalism denies that there are three persons

John 10:30 “I and the Father are one”
John 14:9 “He who has seen me has seen the Father”

Modalism is the idea that God is one person who takes on the different roles of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit at different times. The author declares that people get this false idea from overemphasizing scriptures like the two listed above. I agree with him that in the context of so many of the previously listed references it is clearly wrong. The author specifically says John 10:30 “seems to mean that Jesus and the Father are one in purpose.” I agree wholeheartedly and wonder why he decides to apply that interpretation to that specific scripture and not to all the others that speak of their oneness (as we do).

C2a -- Arianism denies the full deity of the Son and the Holy Spirit

Arianism was the idea that Christ was a creation of God and therefore not fully divine (the Nicene Creed of 325 AD was formulated to redefine Christianity to exclude Arians). Since there was an entire point already about the divinity of Christ, in this section the author mostly addresses the “false” idea of Christ being “created” of God. Before I dive into this I want to make it clear that I am not Arian in my belief. I do believe that Christ is just as divine as the Father is. I also don’t believe that Christ was simply created out of nothing. That being said, here’s my response to what I found to be the most amusing section of this chapter.

John 1:14

John 3:16,18
1 John 4:9
Col 1:15

The author lists off the references above as the reason for the Arian belief that Christ was a creation of the Father (and therefore not equal to Him). The first three refer to Christ as God’s “only begotten” Son and Colossians calls him the “first-born of all creation.”

Although I don’t really have an issue with using the word created here, I do agree with the author that Christ was not simply created out of nothing, but that he was “begotten” of the Father. Where we differ is that I use the dictionary definition of “begotten” which refers to the father’s role in conceiving a child. The author rejects that definition because it doesn’t work with the nature of the Trinity as he just described it, but he admits that he does not know how to define it otherwise (which effectively means he’s dismissing what those verses say and trumping Scripture with teachings from ancient creeds).

It took me several times of reading through this section for me to realize that the author was saying that he does not believe Christ is actually the son of God (though I should have realized this was coming back when he first stated the belief that they were the same being). I think it took a while to sink in because this key difference means that we take so much of the Bible more literally than the author, including what I have always felt to be the thesis of the Bible: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

We believe that Jesus Christ is literally God’s son. As human beings we are made up of two parts: a spirit and a physical body. God is the father of our spirits. All of us, including Christ, lived with our Father in Heaven as his spirit children before coming to earth to gain a physical body.

Heb 12:9 “Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?”
Job 38:4-7 all the sons of God shouted for joy when the earth was created
Jer 1:5 God knew us before we were born
Acts 17:27-29 “we are the offspring of God”
Rom 8:16-17 as children of God we are joint-heirs with Christ
John 20:17 “I ascend unto my Father, and your Father”

Christ was the firstborn of Heavenly Father’s spirit children.

Col 1:15 Christ is the “firstborn of every creature”
Heb 1:6 “he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world”
Heb 12:23 the church of the firstborn
Rev 3:14

Christ progressed much more than the rest of us in the pre-earth life and was chosen to fill the role of the Savior in our Father’s plan for our growth. It is clear that he progressed to the point where he was perfectly unified with God and was glorified by him in time to create the earth under His direction. He was then conceived on earth by the power of God, making him the only begotten in the flesh. Thus, God was his father in every sense of the word.

Luke 1:35; Matt 1:20 conception of Jesus
John 1:14 he had the glory of the only begotten of the Father
John 3:16,18 God gave his only begotten Son and we must believe on him
1 John 4:9-10 God sent his only begotten Son to save us from our sins

There are hundreds more verses where Christ is declared to be God’s son by prophets, apostles, and even God and Christ themselves. Here I’ll bring up just a few more references to consider:

Prov 8:22-31 (22-25) Wisdom (Christ) was brought forth before the time of creation. The author even brought this section up, calling it “a difficulty” because it doesn’t quite jive with the Trinity theory that God/Christ/the Holy Spirit have always been/interacted a certain way.
Gen 1:1 “In the beginning” means something that was true before the world was made. This does not have to mean Christ was always a God as the author interprets it.
Heb 1:3-10 The Father made his firstbegotten a God and put him above the angels.
John 17:5,24 Christ had glory with the Father before the world was
Luke 2:49 “wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?”
Matt 3:17 “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”
John 5:19 “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise”
John 17:1 “Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee”
John 20:17 “I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.”

After this the author moves into a history of the creeds of the fourth and fifth centuries. He talks of a dispute about a word meaning Christ was “of the same nature” as the Father or simply of “similar nature.” My thought is that as father and son they’ve got the same spiritual DNA so I agree with the author. I suppose this was so critical for them because it’s an important distinction if you want to declare them the same being.

C2b, c, d, and e address the false ideas of Subordinationism and Adoptionism and then go on to give a history of the Creeds that formulated the doctrine of the Trinity.

John 15:26; 16:7
Phil 2:9-11
Rev 5:12-14

I have some thoughts about those ancient Creeds and everything that went into the formulation of the “doctrine of the Trinity” that this author treats almost as if it were scripture. After reading the chapters on Scripture I found that the author and I agree on most of these thoughts so my next post will address that. All I will say here is that a prophet called of God (Adam, Abraham, Moses, etc) is the only one who is authorized to receive revelation for the entire church. When the disputes arose leading up to the Council of Nicea there was no prophet on the earth. The authority to receive revelation for the church as a whole was lost when the apostles were killed. I commend the church members of that time period for doing the best they could to understand the Bible. It was a nice idea for all the scholars and theologians of the day to get together and try to piece together the Lord’s teachings. Most of them probably had good intentions and good ideas, but they were not prophets. The interpretations, ideas, and “doctrine” decided upon in the councils of Nicea, Constantinople, Chalcedon, etc were the ideas of men and thus, susceptible to the errors of men.

C3 -- Tritheism denies that there is only one God

The author says “this view would result in confusion in the minds of believers. There would be no absolute worship or loyalty or devotion to one true God. We would wonder to which God we should give our ultimate allegiance.” I disagree, because the Bible very clearly instructs us how to view the three members of the Godhead. Even the author admits, “perhaps many evangelicals today unintentionally tend toward tritheistic views...recognizing the distinct personhood of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but seldom being aware of the unity of God as one undivided being.” I believe people tend towards that idea because it is the truth, it is also what the Bible teaches. We don’t wonder who we worship because they are perfectly unified.

That being said, I still call myself monotheistic. I only pray to one God. The Bible teaches that we can know that there is more than one god and still be monotheistic.

1 Cor 8:5-6 “there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) but to us there is but one God, the Father.”

If someone wants to get nit-picky about word definitions then we may technically be henotheistic (kind of--that word was originally intended to describe the worship of a god who was restricted to a specific geographical area).

D1 -- The persons have different functions

John 1:3
Col 1:6
Ps 33:6,9
1 Cor 8:6
Heb 1:2
Gen 1:2
John 3:16
Gal 4:4
Eph 1:9-10
John 6:38
Heb 10:5-7
John 14:26
John 16:7
John 15:26
John 3:5-8
Rom 8:13; 15:16
1 Pet 1:2
Acts 1:8
1 Cor 12:7-11
1 Cor 15:28

D2 -- They always existed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (they’ve always had separate roles)

Eph 3:14-15
John 1:1-5, 14, 18; 17:14
Phil 2:5-11
Eph 1:3-4
Rom 8:29
1 Pet 1:2
John 3:16
John 3:17
Gal 4:4
John 1:3
1 Cor 8:6
Heb 1:2
Prov 8:22-31

D3

Here the author spends four pages explaining imperfect diagrams and analogies to help people think about how the three persons relate to the one being in the Trinity.

D4

The author explains here that we can never completely understand the Trinity. He says we can understand the three points but “what we cannot understand fully is how to fit together these distinct biblical teachings.” I disagree. Note the lack of scripture to back that statement up. I believe he can’t understand how to fit the pieces together because he’s working off of some false assumptions. It’s like getting almost finished with a Sudoku but being unable to complete it because somewhere along the line you put in a wrong number. It’s not unsolvable, you just need to back up or start from scratch with what you know is true--what scripture says and not just how it has been interpreted before (by you or by a creed 1600+ years ago). I feel that if you move beyond false assumptions and read what Scripture says on this topic then it does fit together. I believe God wants us to know and understand Him, just as any loving father wants his children to come to know and love him in return.

John 17:3 “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”
Matt 22:37 It is hard to love someone you cannot comprehend

In my experience, the “mystery” aspect of the Trinity theory naturally leads many people who want to comprehend God’s nature to the modalism idea, our idea, or no idea how to think about God. For example, some friends in my youth described the Trinity to me as Modalism and it wasn’t until I read this chapter that I learned they were wrong. It is not too surprising to me that they would confuse the two, because the Trinity does teach that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one being. On the other hand, my sister-in-law said that when she joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints she felt like our view of the Godhead was basically the same as what she’d been raised to believe the Trinity was. In contrast, I met several people while I was teaching in Spain who said that the doctrine of the Trinity left them confused about how to think about God at all.

E -- Application

Here are the analogies the author couldn’t find earlier (B5) because he was looking for an analogy to describe an idea constructed by man, not God.

He talks about the unity of marriage:
Gen 1:27; 2:24
1 Cor 6:16-20
Eph 5:31
1 Cor 11:3

The unity of the Church:
1 Cor 12:12, 14-26

And being all united with Christ:
Eph 2:16; 3:8-10
Rev 7:9
Rom 11:33-36
Eph 5:31-32
Phil 2:10-11

I especially like the points he makes about the last couple references. We’ll have “unity with the Son of God himself. Yet in all this we never lose our individual identity… Eventually [we’ll all] partake of this unity of purpose.”

Christ is our ultimate example. He has achieved perfect unity with the Father and become an heir to all the blessings and happiness the Father has. Our goal is to strive to be like Christ and keep the commandments so we will eventually become like our Heavenly Father as well.

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One final note in case you wondered if the Joseph Smith Translation affected the scripture references in this chapter. Of all the references listed, the only one where I’d prefer to use the JST is John 1:1-4. But I left that reference black because, though I think the JST is more clear, I don’t have any issues with how the author has interpreted the original verses either.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Ancestors I Admire

After reading through hundreds of pages of histories I have begun to compile short life summaries for  each of my ancestors. My goal is that my children can feel like they know these people a little bit, even if they don't have time (or desires) to read through entire life histories. I think it is beneficial for everyone to know a little about the men and women who raised the men and women who raised them.

This is a slightly belated birthday post in honor of my third great grandfather, Niels Rasmus Petersen, who was born on June 2, 1858 in Denmark. His parents, Rasmus Petersen and Ane Kirstine Christensen were married on February 18, 1852 in Tystrup, Soro County, Denmark and within ten years they had six children: Peter, Christen, Maren Kirstine (died as an infant), Niels, Ane Margrethe, and Ole. They raised their children in the Lutheran church.


 In 1873 Ane Kirstine heard about Mormonism from her good friend Ane Hansen, who had joined the church with her husband five years earlier. The two women had many discussions about the church as they helped each other with housework and their youngest children played together (Ole Petersen later married Ane Hansen’s daughter Sophia in Utah). Ane Kirstine was attracted to the Church and gained a testimony right away. She labored diligently with her husband Rasmus that he might also see the light, but he was opposed to the new religion at first. He was fearful of the consequences of joining this unpopular belief. But because of the strength of her convictions, Ane Kirstine continued to help her husband and pray that the rest of her family would accept the gospel message. Eventually she succeeded in getting Rasmus to kneel with her in prayer. His fears and prejudices were removed and the light of the gospel began to grow in his heart. The three older boys—Peter, Christen, and Niels—were working on separate farms and living away from home at that time, but they heard the gospel at approximately the same time and each had his own experiences that led to gaining a testimony. Here is Niels’ experience as shared in a testimony meeting many years later:

“Mother seemed to feel the truth of it almost at once, but did not say much to the rest of the family. Later she became quite ill and one evening Father talked to me about her condition. He said, "Niels, I think your mother wants to become a Mormon." I was at the age when I wanted everyone to think well of me and my family so I could take my place socially with my companions. I knew the stigma attached to Mormonism and felt it was too much to have that shame come on me. A heavy weight seemed to fall on me and my spirit darkened with a feeling of sadness and foreboding. Still I was willing to be led and shown the right way. I went to the stables where I chopped the straw for the cows. I closed the door and knelt down in the straw and prayed. I asked the Lord to take my mother's desire to be a Mormon away from her, but if it was right and the truth, to give all of my family the knowledge of it and the courage to accept it. When I arose from my prayer I felt a weight of darkness leave me and a feeling of peace and happiness took its place. It was only a short time until the entire family joined the church. Never since that day have I ever doubted the truthfulness of the gospel.” [Some members of the family reported that Niels also heard a voice say three times, “It is true.”]

Rasmus, Ane Kirstine, and their two youngest children were baptized on February 6, 1874. The three older boys were baptized on March 26th of the same year. Almost immediately the Petersen home became the headquarters for the missionaries serving in that area. Sister Petersen tenderly cared for the young elders and would provide and prepare for them the best she had. The family frequently talked of going to join the saints in Zion [Utah]. In June 1876, Christen (age 21) and Ole (age 13) immigrated to Utah. Truly Ane Kirstine’s testimony and love for the gospel was very strong to send her children to a strange land.

Niels Rasmus Petersen, age 21
Soon after being baptized, Peter and Niels were called on missions. Peter served for four years in Copenhagen and presided over four different branches during his mission. Niels (age 17) served in Copenhagen for a year and then was reassigned to the island of Bornholm, near Sweden. He served as a missionary from November 1875 to June 1880 and experienced the same type of conditions that many early missionaries did. He had to sleep in hay and straw many nights and one time he and his companion had to go without food or drink for two days before a kind soul gave them some dry bread. He faced lots of opposition throughout his mission but said the persecution helped them as it made stronger ties between the investigators and members. He became president of the Bornholm branch at age 18 and during his five year mission he helped bring many members into the church, including a financially well-to-do family by the name of Hansen. They had a daughter, Jensine, of whom Niels was as fond as a respectable missionary could be.

Jensine Caroline Hansen
 In order to get the necessary means for himself, his wife and only daughter to emigrate, Rasmus had to sell all he owned under the hammer of the auctioneer. They immigrated to Utah in 1877 where they arrived nearly penniless. They lived in Manti for several years and then were some of the early settlers of Ferron in Emery County. For the first few years they had a hard time getting along as crops were not very good. It must have been a trying time to leave a comfortable home and a good living in their native country and arrive in a strange land without money, acquaintances, or a knowledge of the language, but Rasmus was never heard to complain or regret having left these things for the gospel’s sake.

Niels also immigrated to Utah when he finished his mission and the Petersen family was together for the first time in six years. As he got off the train in Salt Lake, many of the saints he had baptized were there to greet him, including the Hansens and their daughter Jensine. Their budding romance bloomed and Niels and Jensine Hansen were married in the Endowment House in October 1880. They lived in Manti for the rest of their lives and spent their time serving others in the church. Niels was the bishop of a Manti ward for 19 years.

Ane Kirstine was happy that Peter and Niels had served as missionaries in their youth and had a great desire to see all her sons serve missions. After her death in 1886 her dream was realized as her other two sons returned to fill missions in their native land. Rasmus lived to see all his children married in the House of the Lord to good and faithful companions. He lived a good life and, through all the trials of moving to a new and strange country and never learning the language so he could be sure of what was being said, he always remained faithful to his testimony of the gospel.