Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Becoming Gods/Chapter 4

Table of Contents

Response to claims made in "Chapter 4: One God Versus Many Gods"

A FairMormon Analysis of: Becoming Gods: A Closer Look at 21st-Century Mormonism, a work by author: Richard Abanes
Claim Evaluation
Becoming Gods
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Response to claims made in Becoming Gods, "Chapter 4: One God Versus Many Gods"

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Response to claim: 109 - Mormons embrace polytheism—the belief in a plurality of gods

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Mormons embrace polytheism—the belief in a plurality of gods.

Author's sources: Definition of "polytheism" taken from Vergilius Ferm, ed., The Encyclopedia of Religion, p. 774.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Latter-day Saints believe that more than one god can exist, but there is only one that they worship that has to do with this world. They do not "embrace polytheisim."



Response to claim: 112 n25-26 - Mormons redefine monotheism to be the worship of one "primary or supreme god above all other gods"

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Mormons redefine monotheism to be the worship of one "primary or supreme god above all other gods."

Author's sources:
  • The author adds the endnote: "LDS theology recognized that other supreme gods exist for other universes and world. But Mormons contend that we have nothing to do with these gods."
  • John Widtsoe, A Rational Theology, p. 67.
  • Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 11:41.
  • Joseph Smith, Lecture on Faith, Lecture 2, paragraph 2.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Latter-day Saints do not worship multiple gods any more than mainstream Christians do.



Question: Are Mormons polytheists because they don't accept the Nicene Creed?

Latter-day Saints are not polytheists in any reasonable sense of the term that does not also exclude most other Christians who deny the Modalist heresy

Some Christians say Mormons are polytheists because they believe humans can become gods. Is this an accurate characterization of LDS belief? Trying to reduce LDS thought to a simple term or "slogan" in this way distorts LDS doctrine.

Latter-day Saints worship one God

The Saints worship one God. There are no competing divinities in whom they put their trust. LDS scripture contains such language (1 Nephi 13:41, 2 Nephi 31:21, Mosiah 15:1-5, Alma 11:26-37, Mormon 7:7, DC 20:28, Moses 1:20), but it is qualified in somewhat the same way that Creedal Christians have found a way of saying "three"—as in Trinity—and yet also one.

Almost invariably when someone claims Mormons are polytheists, they are not seeking a clear explanation of Mormon thought on the nature of God, but are simply using a word with negative connotations in our religious culture as a club to intimidate or confuse others. Consider, for example, a conversation that Evangelical Christian author Richard Abanes, in his book Becoming Gods (pp. 107-8), claims to have had with a LDS bishop:

Abanes: "Don't you believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost?"
Bishop: "We certainly do, and they are one God."
Abanes: "Don't you believe the Father is a god?"
Bishop: "Yes, of course."
Abanes: "And the Son is a god?"
Bishop: "Yes"
Abanes: "And the Holy Ghost is a god."
Bishop: "Yes"
Abanes: "That's three gods."
Bishop: "No, they're one God."

The author goes on to describe that he felt he had entered some sort of Twilight Zone scenario, and goes on to declare all Mormons "polytheists." Yet, any Latter-day Saint, upon reading the conversation outlined above, would recognize the creation of a simplified version, or "strawman," of LDS belief. One might also seriously consider how an Evangelical Christian would answer these same questions. The reality is certainly more complex than the "strawman" above would lead us to believe.

There really is not a single word that adequately captures LDS thought on the nature of God. Pertinent key technical terminology includes the following:

  • Monotheism (belief that there is only one God)
  • Tritheism (understanding the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost as distinct Gods)
  • Polytheism (worship of, or belief in, more than one God)
  • Henotheism (worship of one God without denying the existence of other Gods; also called Monolatry)
  • Trinitarianism (belief that God consists of three Persons in one substance)
  • Social Trinitarianism (belief that the oneness of the three Persons is not one of substance but is social in nature [e.g., unity of thought, etc.])
  • Modalism (belief that there is only one God that does not exist as three separate Persons but rather manifests itself in three different "modes" [i.e., as Father, Son, or Holy Ghost])

Usually the very same people who are pressing the case that Mormons are polytheists are some stripe of Evangelical Christians who claim to be monotheists. But Trinitarians are not Monotheists by definition (just ask a Jew or Muslim).

The facts that the LDS do not believe the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one in substance, and believe in deification/theosis (that humans may eventually become deified and become partakers in the divine nature), has been used to paint Mormons as polytheists. When we examine the technical terminology above, though, it becomes clear that a key point of demarcation is worship versus acknowledgment of existence. If members of the Church worshiped an extensive pantheon like the Greeks or Romans, then the label would be appropriate. In the context of doctrinal differences over the relationship among the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, however, or the doctrine of deification (which is a profoundly Christian doctrine and not just a Mormon one), use of the word "polytheistic" as a pejorative is both inaccurate and inappropriate.

Instead of using a single-word label, one must actually articulate the belief (using fully-developed sentences or paragraphs). The single-word label that will adequately describe the full breadth of LDS thought on the nature of God has yet to be coined.

Human deification and monotheism

The Bible contains language indicating human beings can put on the divine nature and be called "gods" (see John 10:33, 34; Ps. 82:6, Deut. 10:17, etc.). They are instructed to become one with Jesus just as he is one with his Father. The key point to realize is that any existence of other beings with godly attributes has no effect on who Latter-day Saints worship. According to Jeff Lindsay, a popular LDS online apologist:

We worship God the Father in the name of Jesus Christ - not glorious angels or Abraham or Moses or John the Baptist, no matter how great they may be in the kingdom of heaven as sons of God who have become "like Christ" (1 Jn 3:2). The only reasonable definition of polytheism requires that plural gods be worshiped - but the beings that Christ calls "gods" are not who we worship at all. In terms of worship, we are properly called monotheists.[1]

Additionally, there is abundant evidence of deification being taught by various commonly accepted Christians. If belief in theosis makes one a polytheist, many Christians would have to be so labeled - including such figures as C. S. Lewis and John Calvin. Clearly, this is not the way in which the term "polytheist" is normally used, but critics of the Church are often willing to be inconsistent if the Church can be made to look alien or "unchristian."

"Monotheism" is sufficiently broad to include the kind of oneness enjoyed by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as well as that promised to those who become one with them when fully sanctified.


Response to claim: 114 - Early biblical church quotes used by Mormons to support tritheism only superficially support their position. Upon closer examination, they do not provide this support

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Early biblical church quotes used by Mormons to support tritheism only superficially support their position. Upon closer examination, they do not provide this support.

Author's sources: No source provided.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information

Ironically, it is Nicene trinitarianism which scholars have concluded is not biblical or believed by the early Church.



Question: What were early Christian beliefs on the nature of God?

We do know that Christian orthodoxy before Nicaea was not the Trinitarian creeds now popular

'Subordinationism', it is true, was pre-Nicean orthodoxy.[2]

‘Subordinationism’ is a doctrine which means that Jesus and/or the Holy Ghost are ‘subordinate’ or ‘subject’ to God the Father. In subordinationism, Jesus must be a separate being from the Father, because you can’t be subject to yourself! This was the orthodox position before the Nicean council. Ideas that were once orthodox were later considered unacceptable after the councils altered and added to the doctrine.

Writers who are usually reckoned orthodox but who lived a century or two centuries before the outbreak of the Arian Controversy, such as Irenaeus and Tertullian and Novatian and Justin Martyr, held some views which would later, in the fourth century, have been branded heretical...Irenaeus and Tertullian both believed that God had not always been a Trinity but had at some point put forth the Son and the Spirit so as to be distinct from him. Tertullian, borrowing from Stoicism, believed that God was material (though only of a very refined material, a kind of thinking gas), so that his statement that Father, Son and Spirit were 'of one substance', beautifully orthodox though it sounds, was of a corporeality which would have profoundly shocked Origen, Athanasius and the Cappadocian theologians, had they known of it.[3]

And:

It [subordinationism] is a characteristic tendency in much Christian teaching of the first three centuries, and is a marked feature of such otherwise orthodox Fathers as St. Justin and Origen…Where the doctrine [of the Trinity] was elaborated, as e.g. in the writing of the Apologists, the language remained on the whole indefinite, and, from a later standpoint, was even partly unorthodox. Sometimes it was not free from a certain subordinationism.[4]

Christians whose ideas were completely orthodox earlier would have been considered ‘heretics’

So, Christians whose ideas were completely orthodox earlier would have been considered ‘heretics’ (i.e. going against the accepted doctrine) after the Nicean councils. This seems to be clear evidence that the doctrine was radically changed.

One also notes that Paul and the other New Testament writers would have been likewise ‘unorthodox’. Eusebius, an early Church historian, was even termed "blatantly subordinationist" by a Catholic author.[5]

Even after the Trinitarian ideas were formed, there were three ‘camps’ of believers that understood the matter in very different ways:

If such was the teaching of Athanasius and his allies [i.e. homousis as numerical unity of substance, rather than ‘the same kind of being’ in the three persons of the Godhead] , at least three types of theology found shelter at different times in the anti-Nicean camp. The first, indefinite, on occasion ambiguous on the crucial issues, but on the whole conciliatory, reflects the attitude of the great conservative 'middle party'.... Its positive doctrine is that there are three divine hypostases [i.e. persons], separate in rank and glory but united in harmony of will.[6]

Thus, most believers initially believed that there were three persons with a united will. It was only later that this group was “won over” to Athanasius and his group’s brand of Trinitarianism, which is the basis for today’s understanding in most of Christianity. Indeed, Athanasius and his cadre were decidedly in the minority:

The victory over Arianism achieved at the Council was really a victory snatched by the superior energy and decision of a small minority with the aid of half-hearted allies. The majority did not like the business at all, and strongly disapproved of the introduction into the Creed . . . of new and untraditional and unscriptural terms.[7]

And, there is a noted tendency for some Christian writers to assume that the way they understand the nature of God is the only way in which anyone could have understood it. An evangelical scholar notes:

The view of God worked out in the early [postapostolic] church, the "biblical-classical synthesis," has become so commonplace that even today most conservative [Protestant and Catholic] theologians simply assume that it is the correct scriptural concept of God and thus that any other alleged biblical understanding of God . . . must be rejected. The classical view is so taken for granted that it functions as a preunderstanding that rules out certain interpretations of Scripture that do not "fit" with the conception of what is "appropriate" for God to be like, as derived from Greek metaphysics.[8]


Question: Does the Bible contain also the necessary elements for Trinitarianism?

These elements were new ideas that arrived on the scene after the Bible was written

George A. Lindbeck notes,

In order to argue successfully for the unconditionally and permanence of the ancient Trinitarian Creeds, it is necessary to make a distinction between doctrines, on the one hand, and on the terminology and conceptuality in which they were formulated on the other... Some of the crucial concepts employed by these creeds, such as "substance", "person", and "in two natures" are post-biblical novelties. If these particular notions are essential, the doctrines of these creeds are clearly conditional, dependent on the late Hellenistic milieu.[9]

Note that this author says that many of “the crucial concepts” are “post-biblical novelties”: that is, they are new ideas that arrived on the scene after the Bible was written. If the crucial concepts weren’t around until later, then the doctrine wasn’t around until later either. As the author notes, these ideas arose out of the “Hellenistic milieu”, that is: Greek philosophy.

It is clearly impossible (if one accepts historical evidence as relevant at all) to escape the claim that the later formulations of dogma cannot be reached by a process of deductive logic from the original propositions and must contain an element of novelty...The emergence of the full trinitarian doctrine was not possible without significant modification of previously accepted ideas.[10]

Said David Noel Freedman:

So in many was the Bible remains true to its “primitive” past [by accepting the strongly anthropomorphic understanding of God/Yahweh] and is less compatible with philosophical notions of an abstract being, or ultimate reality or ground of being. Just as there is an important and unbridgeable distance between Yahweh and the gods of Canaan, or those of Mesopotamia or Egypt or Greece or Rome, so there is at least an equal or greater distance from an Aristotelian unmoved mover, or even a Platonic Idea or Ideal. The biblical God is always and uncompromisingly personal: he is above all a person, neither more nor less.[11]

New ideas and concepts were required.

The formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the 4th and 5th centuries is not to be found in the New Testament.[12]

A Catholic encyclopedia notes that Trinitarianism doesn’t really appear until the last 25 years of the 4th century:

Trinitarian discussion, Roman Catholic as well as others, presents a somewhat unsteady silhouette. Two things have happened. There is the recognition on the part of exegetes and Biblical theologians, including a constantly growing number of Roman Catholics, that one should not speak of Trinitarianism in the New Testament without serious qualification. There is also the closely parallel recognition on the part of historians of dogma and systematic theologians that when one does speak of an unqualified Trinitarianism, one has moved from the period of Christian origins to, say, the last quadrant of the 4th century.[13]

"There is no formal doctrine of the Trinity in the New Testament writers"

A Jesuit [Catholic] scholar says this:

There is no formal doctrine of the Trinity in the New Testament writers, if this means an explicit teaching that in one God there are three co-equal divine persons. But the three are there, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and a triadic ground plan is there, and triadic formulas are there...The Biblical witness to God, as we have seen, did not contain any formal or formulated doctrine of the Trinity, any explicit teaching that in one God there are three co-equal divine persons.[14]

The idea of “three” is present: but not as ‘three co-equal divine persons’ that are one being. An idea about the nature of God (or the Godhead) is present, but it is different from that which is taught as Trinitarianism.

Two authors even assert that the Apostle Paul, the four gospels, and Acts have no Trinitarian understanding:

...there is no trinitarian doctrine in the Synoptics or Acts...nowhere do we find any trinitarian doctrine [in the New Testament] of three distinct subjects of divine life and activity in the same God head...These passages [i.e. the Pauline epistles] give no doctrine of the Trinity, but they show that Paul linked together Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They give no trinitarian formula...but they offer material for the later development of trinitarian doctrine...[Paul] has no formal Trinitarian doctrine and no clear-cut realization of a Trinitarian problem…in John there is no trinitarian formula.[15]

And:

This double series of texts manifests Paul's lack of clarity in his conception of the relation of the Spirit to the Son. Paul shares with the Old Testament a more fluid notion of personality than the later theological refinements of nature, substance, and person. His lack of clarity should be respected for what it is and be regarded only as the starting point of the later development.[16]

So, Paul doesn’t even ‘realize’ that there is a ‘Trinitarian problem’. Could this be because for Paul there was no such problem, because the doctrine was unknown to him? It was not an issue in his era, because it was not taught by Jesus or the Apostles, and no one felt the need to reconcile divine revelation with Greek philosophy.

One author asserts that the Trinity is correct, but readily admits that:

The God whom we experience as triune is, in fact, triune. But we cannot read back into the New Testament, much less the Old Testament, the more sophisticated trinitarian theology and doctrine which slowly and often unevenly developed over the course of some fifteen centuries.[17]


Question: Are there new ideas necessary for creedal Trinitarianism?

"The doctrine of God’s immateriality is, at least formally, new"

Robert Casey wrote long ago that “Origen’s development of Clement [of Alexandria’s] thought is characteristically thorough and systematic. He acknowledges that the doctrine of God’s immateriality is, at least formally, new, and asserts that the word asomatos ["no body" in Greek] had been unknown alike to biblical writers and to Christian theologians before his time.”[18] Casey also wrote that “the Christian doctrine of God was becoming inextricably involved in a trinitarian theory, the substance and form of which would have been impossible but for Clement and Origen, whose immaterialist teaching it presupposed.”[19]

Jesuit Roland Teske states that Augustine turned to Manichaeism because he thought that all Christians believed in an anthropomorphic God, which he could not accept on philosophical grounds. Teske reports that Augustine believed that in accepting the Manichee doctrine he was joining a Christian sect which rejected the “anthropomorphic interpretation of the scriptural claim that man was made in the image of God” as taught in Genesis 1:26.[20]

In a footnote to the above statement Teske writes that “prior to Augustine…the Western Church was simply without a concept of God as a spiritual substance.” Augustine apparently believed that the Catholic Church taught that God had a body similar to that of a mortal, and that belief prevented him from seeking truth within the Church.[21] Augustine tells us in another work that it was the preaching of Ambrose of Milan who helped him see that there was another way to view God, which ‘spirituals’ alone could decipher.[22]


Question: What does John 10:30 have to do with Trinitarianism?

John 10:30 was an important scripture in the early debates related to Trinitarianism

One author wrote of it:

[John 10:30] was a key verse in the early Trinitarian controversies. On the one extreme, the onarchians (Sabellians) interpreted it to mean "one person", although the "one" is neuter, not masculine. On the other extreme, the Arians interpreted this text, which was often used against them, in terms of moral unity of will. The Protestant commentator Engel, following Augustine, sums up the Orthodox position: "Through the word "are" Sabellius is refuted; through the word one" so is Arius.." [In the Gospel of] John... all these relationships between Father and Son are described in function of the one's dealings with men. It would be up to the work of later theologians to take this gospel material pertaining to the mission of the Son add extra and draw from it a theology of the inner life of the Trinity.[23]

In Greek, the masculine would be used to indicate a oneness of person or being, and neuter implies a oneness of purpose

Note that “one” in this verse is neuter, not masculine. In Greek, the masculine would be used to indicate a oneness of person or being, and neuter implies a oneness of purpose. So, read literally the verse merely says that Jesus and the Father are one in purpose or will: only a belief in the Trinity at the outset would lead one to read this as a Trinitarian passage. A non-LDS Christian scholar wrote of these verses:

The basic reason for this choice is to be found in John 10:30: “The Father and I are one” (hen). Note that Jesus is not saying, “The Father and I are numerically one” (heis), but uses a term meaning “we are together” (Greek hen, as used again in v.38: “The Father is in me and I am in the Father”). The union of the Father and Son does not blot out the difference and individuality of each. Union rather supposes differentiation. Through love and through reciprocal communion they are one single thing, the one God-love.[24]

Note also that later theologians had to contribute ‘extra’ information to solve the problem. This extra eventually resulted in the Trinitarian formulae of today.


Question: What does 1 John 5:7-8 have to do with Trinitariansim?

These verses are considered to have been added to the Bible text

1 John 5:7-8 reads:

7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

These verses are considered to have been added to the Bible text. Said one conservative reference work:

...the acceptance of this verse [i.e. the Johannine comma: 1 John 5:7-8] as genuine breaks almost every major canon of textual [criticism][25]

The early Christians never referred to these verses in their writings

Historian Paul Johnson notes:

Altogether there are about 4,700 relevant manuscripts, and at least 100,000 quotations or allusions in the early fathers . . .Thus, the Trinitarian texts in the first Epistle of John, which make explicit what other texts merely hint at, originally read simply: 'There are three which bear witness, the spirit and the water and the blood, and the three are one.' This was altered in the fourth century to read: 'There are three which bear witness on earth, the spirit and the water and the blood, and these three are one in Christ Jesus; and there are three who bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word and the Spirit, and these three are one.'[26]

So, the early Christians never referred to these verses in their writings. The verse in the early Greek manuscripts simply says:

There are three which bear witness, the spirit and the water and the blood, and the three are one.

But, in the 4th century, the verse had words added to it to support the ‘new’ orthodox doctrine of the Trinity:

There are three which bear witness on earth, the spirit and the water and the blood, and these three are one in Christ Jesus; and there are three who bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word and the Spirit, and these three are one.

Why is 1 John 5:7–8 still in the Bible, then?

The writer Erasmus noted the problem with these verses in the 1500s, and did not include the addition change in his Greek New Testament:

On the basis of the manuscript evidence available to him, Erasmus had eliminated the passage [1 John 5:7] from his first edition of the Greek New Testament in 1516, but had restored it in later editions, responding to a storm of protest and to further textual evidence that was produced—quite literally produced--in support of the text. Luther's translation of the New Testament into German, being based on the 1516 edition of Erasmus, did not contain the passage. Although the weight of textual evidence against it was seemingly overwhelming, the proof it supplied for the Trinity made an attack on its authenticity seemed to be an attack on the dogma [thus orthodoxy sought to wrongly restore the Johannine Comma].[27]

This author explains that people were outraged that the verse was taken out. Erasmus replied that he would include it if they could show him a single Greek manuscript that contained it. Scholars believe that a forgery was produced, and (good to his word) Erasmus included the change in his next editions. People cared more about what their dogma, creeds, and councils had taught than what the word of God actually said. The above author continues:

The most pertinacious and conservative in various communions were still holding out for the authenticity of the "Johannine Comma" in 1 John 5:7, despite all the textual and patristic evidence [evidence from the Early Christian Fathers before Nicea] against it, but there was an all but unanimous consensus among textual critics that it represented a later interpolation.[28]

Many Bible translations today omit this part of the text, since it is not considered to be authentic

  • New American Bible:So there are three that testify, the Spirit, the water, and the blood, and the three are of one accord.[29]
  • New American Standard Bible:For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.[30]
  • New Revised Standard Version: There are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three agree.[31]


Response to claim: 114 - Mormons worship the Godhead as "one god"

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Mormons worship the Godhead as "one god."

Author's sources: No source provided.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Scripture consistently affirms that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are "one God." This is why Mormons consider them as such. They just do not consider them "one God" in the same sense as Nicene trinitarians like the author.



Response to claim: 115, 379n47-48 - The Trinity is "one of the most important doctrines of the Christian faith" and is at the "heart of the Christian conception of God"

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

The Trinity is "one of the most important doctrines of the Christian faith" and is at the "heart of the Christian conception of God."

Author's sources:
  • Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 226.
  • Stanley Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, p. 99.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Latter-day Saints are trinitarians, just not Nicene trinitarians.

Gospel Topics: "Latter-day Saints Do Not Accept the Creeds of Post–New Testament Christianity"

"Are Mormons Christian?," Gospel Topics on LDS.org:

Latter-day Saints Do Not Accept the Creeds of Post–New Testament Christianity.
Scholars have long acknowledged that the view of God held by the earliest Christians changed dramatically over the course of centuries. Early Christian views of God were more personal, more anthropomorphic, and less abstract than those that emerged later from the creeds written over the next several hundred years. The key ideological shift that began in the second century A.D., after the loss of apostolic authority, resulted from a conceptual merger of Christian doctrine with Greek philosophy.[32]


Question: Does the Nicene Creed define who is Christian, and who is not?

With the Nicene Creed, critics are ironically in the position of using a definition that would exclude all Christians for more than two centuries after Christ from the Christian fold

Some modern Christians wish to apply a "doctrinal exclusion" to declare who is or isn't Christian. Such definitions are generally self-serving, and not very helpful. With the Nicene Creed, critics are ironically in the position of using a definition that would exclude all Christians for more than two centuries after Christ from the Christian fold.

Thus the New Testament itself is far from any doctrine of the Trinity or of a triune God who is three co-equal Persons of One Nature.[33]

The New Testament does not contain the developed doctrine of the Trinity.[34]

There is in them [the Apostolic Fathers], of course, no trinitarian doctrine and no awareness of a trinitarian problem."[35]

The Church had to wait for more than three hundred years for a final synthesis, for not until the Council of Constantinople [AD 381] was the formula of one God existing in three coequal Persons formally ratified.[36]

These passages are succinct summaries. If a critic wishes to justify his or her belief in the creedal Trinity, they must rely on tradition and the creeds of the 4th century, and abandon claims of scriptural or historical support for such a belief in early Christianity, including among the apostles and those they taught.

Since the LDS believe in an apostasy from true doctrine, they see the creedal Trinitarianism—which is an admitted novelty in the centuries after Christ—as evidence of it.


Mormonism does not use the Nicene Creed, and invokes earlier Christian ideas that were overshadowed by Plato

Non-LDS Christian Stephen H. Webb wrote:[37]

Bluntly put, Mormons do not play by the rules of the Nicene Creed. Their theological arguments can look like a form of cheating when, in reality, they are trying to change the way the game is played. Mormonism is like an alternative reality come to life—a counterfactual history of post-Nicene developments of pre-Nicene theology, the ultimate “what if ” theological parlor game.

What if Tertullian had been more successful in his explication of the materiality of the soul? What if the monks of Egypt had won their battle in defense of anthropomorphism? What if Augustine had not read the books of the Platonists? Mormonism invites creedal Christians into a world where everything is slightly but significantly skewed from what they are used to [38]:85

Augustine's views about matter are perhaps less coherent than Joseph Smith's

Non-LDS Christian Stephen H. Webb wrote:[37]

Augustine’s position is actually not as sound as it first appears. If God makes the world out of himself, does it necessarily have all the attributes of the divine? Does it necessarily follow that matter is a substance that equals God’s own power? The problem with Augustine’s position (and the whole of classical theism on this issue) is that he can imagine no middle ground between creating and shaping. From the perspective of classical theism, if God does not create matter out of nothing, then God merely shapes (or adds form to) the matter that is already there, and that means that God is neither infinite nor omnipotent. If matter is too close to God, then God must not have complete mastery over it. Likewise, if matter comes from God, then God must be tainted by it, which means that God shares in its corruptibility. Either way, God would not be God, or at least, God would not be infinite. But what if there is a middle ground? What if matter is one of God’s perfections without the world being divine? If the perfection of matter is already an expression of who God is (indeed, if it is the substance of the Father’s relation to the Son), then matter can come from God without compromising God’s nature. Moreover, God would be neither master nor victim of matter’s nature, since God’s relation to matter would be nothing more than a reiteration of the Father’s relation to the Son.[38]:92–93

Question: Was Nicean Trinitarianism always a key part of Christian belief?

There is abundant evidence that “Trinitarianism”, as now understood by the majority of Protestants and Catholics was not present in the Early Christian Church

Since the Nicene Creed was first adopted in A.D. 325, it seems clear that there were many Christians in the first centuries following the resurrection of Christ who did not use it. Those who oppose calling the Latter-day Saints "Christians" need to explain whether Peter and Paul are "Christians," since they lived and practiced Christianity at a time when there was no Nicene Creed, and no Trinitarianism in the current sense.

Critics may try to argue that the Nicene Creed is merely a statement of Biblical principles, but Bible scholarship is very clear that the Nicene Creed was an innovation.

There is abundant evidence that “Trinitarianism”, as now understood by the majority of Protestants and Catholics was not present in the Early Christian Church.

When we turn to the problem of the doctrine of the Trinity, we are confronted by a peculiarly contradictory situation; On the one hand, the history of Christian theology and of dogma teaches us to regard the dogma of the Trinity as the distinctive element in the Christian Idea of God, that which distinguishes it from the Idea of God in Judaism and in Islam, and indeed, in all forms of rational Theism. Judaism, Islam, and rational Theism are Unitarian. On the other hand, we must honestly admit that the doctrine of the Trinity did not form part of the early Christian—New Testament—message, nor has it ever been a central article of faith in the religious life of the Christian Church as a whole, at any period in its history.[39]


Question: Why was Nicean Trinitarianism introduced at all?

People tried a ‘new’ way of talking about God because of disputes about the nature and mission of Christ

Let us return to the second century, when it was first sensed that the formulations of the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers were not sufficient to describe the nature of the divinity. A new way of doing this was attempted. Thus the so-called Monarchian controversy occurred... In addition to the Modalists (such as Sabellius), for whom Christ and the Holy Spirit were modes in which one Godhead appeared, there the Dynamists or Adoptionists, who conceived of Christ either as a man who was raised up by being adopted by God, or as a man filled with God's power.[40]

Simply put, people tried a ‘new’ way of talking about God because of disputes about the nature and mission of Christ. In the LDS view, this is because the loss of revelation to the Apostles (due to the apostasy) meant that Christianity was divided about key issues. No one had a good way to resolve the questions, and so they turned to the best intellectual tools they had—they merged Christian theology with Greek philosophy.

Father Charles Curran, a Roman Catholic priest, said,

We [the Christians] went through the problem of appropriating the word in the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries with the great trinitarian and Christalogical [check spelling] councils where we finally came to the conclusion of three persons in God and two natures in Jesus. Many people at the time said, ‘Well, you can’t say that because those words aren’t in the scriptures.’ That’s right, they aren’t in the scriptures, they are borrowed from Greek philosophy, but they are the on-going account of the believing community to understand, appropriate and live the word of God in its own circumstances.[41]


Question: What were early Christian beliefs on the nature of God?

We do know that Christian orthodoxy before Nicaea was not the Trinitarian creeds now popular

'Subordinationism', it is true, was pre-Nicean orthodoxy.[42]

‘Subordinationism’ is a doctrine which means that Jesus and/or the Holy Ghost are ‘subordinate’ or ‘subject’ to God the Father. In subordinationism, Jesus must be a separate being from the Father, because you can’t be subject to yourself! This was the orthodox position before the Nicean council. Ideas that were once orthodox were later considered unacceptable after the councils altered and added to the doctrine.

Writers who are usually reckoned orthodox but who lived a century or two centuries before the outbreak of the Arian Controversy, such as Irenaeus and Tertullian and Novatian and Justin Martyr, held some views which would later, in the fourth century, have been branded heretical...Irenaeus and Tertullian both believed that God had not always been a Trinity but had at some point put forth the Son and the Spirit so as to be distinct from him. Tertullian, borrowing from Stoicism, believed that God was material (though only of a very refined material, a kind of thinking gas), so that his statement that Father, Son and Spirit were 'of one substance', beautifully orthodox though it sounds, was of a corporeality which would have profoundly shocked Origen, Athanasius and the Cappadocian theologians, had they known of it.[43]

And:

It [subordinationism] is a characteristic tendency in much Christian teaching of the first three centuries, and is a marked feature of such otherwise orthodox Fathers as St. Justin and Origen…Where the doctrine [of the Trinity] was elaborated, as e.g. in the writing of the Apologists, the language remained on the whole indefinite, and, from a later standpoint, was even partly unorthodox. Sometimes it was not free from a certain subordinationism.[44]

Christians whose ideas were completely orthodox earlier would have been considered ‘heretics’

So, Christians whose ideas were completely orthodox earlier would have been considered ‘heretics’ (i.e. going against the accepted doctrine) after the Nicean councils. This seems to be clear evidence that the doctrine was radically changed.

One also notes that Paul and the other New Testament writers would have been likewise ‘unorthodox’. Eusebius, an early Church historian, was even termed "blatantly subordinationist" by a Catholic author.[45]

Even after the Trinitarian ideas were formed, there were three ‘camps’ of believers that understood the matter in very different ways:

If such was the teaching of Athanasius and his allies [i.e. homousis as numerical unity of substance, rather than ‘the same kind of being’ in the three persons of the Godhead] , at least three types of theology found shelter at different times in the anti-Nicean camp. The first, indefinite, on occasion ambiguous on the crucial issues, but on the whole conciliatory, reflects the attitude of the great conservative 'middle party'.... Its positive doctrine is that there are three divine hypostases [i.e. persons], separate in rank and glory but united in harmony of will.[46]

Thus, most believers initially believed that there were three persons with a united will. It was only later that this group was “won over” to Athanasius and his group’s brand of Trinitarianism, which is the basis for today’s understanding in most of Christianity. Indeed, Athanasius and his cadre were decidedly in the minority:

The victory over Arianism achieved at the Council was really a victory snatched by the superior energy and decision of a small minority with the aid of half-hearted allies. The majority did not like the business at all, and strongly disapproved of the introduction into the Creed . . . of new and untraditional and unscriptural terms.[47]

And, there is a noted tendency for some Christian writers to assume that the way they understand the nature of God is the only way in which anyone could have understood it. An evangelical scholar notes:

The view of God worked out in the early [postapostolic] church, the "biblical-classical synthesis," has become so commonplace that even today most conservative [Protestant and Catholic] theologians simply assume that it is the correct scriptural concept of God and thus that any other alleged biblical understanding of God . . . must be rejected. The classical view is so taken for granted that it functions as a preunderstanding that rules out certain interpretations of Scripture that do not "fit" with the conception of what is "appropriate" for God to be like, as derived from Greek metaphysics.[48]


Response to claim: 130 - The Mormon concept of the "eternality of matter" is a pagan belief

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

The Mormon concept of the "eternality of matter" is a pagan belief.

Author's sources: Source not provided.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information

Ironically, it is creatio ex nihilo that was unknown to the Hebrews, and represents borrowing from Greek philosophy.



Question: How did the mainstream Christian view that God created the universe out of nothing originate?

The concept of Creatio ex nihilo appeared suddenly in the latter half of the second century

Mainstream Christianity teaches that God created the universe from nothing (ex nihilo), while Mormons teach that God organized the universe from pre-existing matter. The LDS God is therefore claimed to be "less powerful" than the God of mainstream Christianity, or "unbiblical."

One non-LDS scholar's conclusion is apt:

Creatio ex nihilo appeared suddenly in the latter half of the second century c.e. Not only did creatio ex nihilo lack precedent, it stood in firm opposition to all the philosophical schools of the Greco-Roman world. As we have seen, the doctrine was not forced upon the Christian community by their revealed tradition, either in Biblical texts or the Early Jewish interpretation of them. As we will also see it was not a position attested in the New Testament doctrine or even sub-apostolic writings. It was a position taken by the apologists of the late second century, Tatian and Theophilus, and developed by various ecclesiastical writers thereafter, by Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Origen. Creatio ex nihilo represents an innovation in the interpretive traditions of revelation and cannot be explained merely as a continuation of tradition.[49]

The concept of Creatio ex nihilo is not taught in the Old or New Testaments, or by the early Christian Fathers

Creatio ex nihilo is not taught in the Old or New Testaments, or by the early Christian Fathers, unless one assumes it. The doctrine was a novel idea that altered the beliefs and doctrines of the Jews and early Christians.

The problem of a pre-existent 'something'

The reason why most of modern Christianity demands ex-nihilo creation stems from arguments dealing with the sovereignty of God. If something exists apart from God—i.e., pre-exists the first act of creation, it must be co-eternal with God (and by extension, perhaps co-equal, or potentially co-equal). Likewise, LDS scripture teaches that there exists something which is co-eternal with God and potentially co-equal with God in the Book of Abraham. Is God absolutely transcendent over the material with which he works? Is there only one that pre-exists creation (God) or is there more than one?

The Old Testament makes no direct statement of ex-nihilo creation

The Old Testament makes no direct statement of ex-nihilo creation, and so the creation account is scrutinized for clues. Much of the debate over ex-nihilo creation stems from the first few verses of Genesis. And the controversy starts with the very first word: bereshit. The interpretation of Genesis 1:1 faces two questions. 1) Is Genesis 1:1 an independent sentence or a dependent clause, introducing the first sentence? And 2) What is the relationship of verse 1 to verse 2 (and even the remainder of the creation narrative in Genesis chapter 1)?

The Hebrew word roshit occurs some 50 times in the Old Testament. The vowels in the word indicate that is a construct form - that it means "beginning of" and not just "beginning". Of the other 50 occurrences, 49 of them follow this pattern. The exact same construction with the prefix be- occurs in four other places (Jer. 26:1; 27:1; 28:1; 49:34), and in each instance is generally translated as "In the beginning of the reign of ..." The other instances of roshit follow this construct pattern except for one in Isaiah 46:10, where we read: "I am God ... declaring the end from the beginning." Here there can be little doubt that the word cannot be read as a construct. And this one occurrence is often used to justify reading bereshit in Genesis 1:1 as an absolute and not a construct. To which we respond, is a grammatical error in one location reason to justify an adoption of a similar reading here? Why should we adopt the reading favored by one example over the dozens of alternatives?

If beroshit is a construct state, then verse 1 and verse 2 are both subordinate clauses describing the state of everything at the moment which God begins to create, and the beginning of verse 3 becomes the main clause for the first sentence of the Bible. Read this way, the beginning of the Bible reads:

When God began to create the heavens and the earth (the earth being without form and void, and darkness was on the surface of the deep, and the spirit of God moved upon the surface of the waters), God said, "Let there be light".

The first act of creation then is the command for light to exist. And all the rest - the earth as a desert and a wasteland (terms that imply an absence of both plant and animal life), the darkness, the deep, and so on, all exist prior to that first act of creation - and by definition are pre-existent.

Apart from this passage, there is often discussion over the meaning of the word bara - "to create". The Hebrew term bara itself is rather indifferent to the question of ex-nihilo creation. Often the claim is made that the word is used exclusively of God, but this clearly isn't the case (see for example Ezekiel 21:19). The meaning of bara here is dependent entirely on how we read the rest of the first line of the Old Testament.

In the absence of any Old Testament expressions of ex-nihilo creation, it seems preferable to follow the view that Israelite religion had not developed this theology. Joseph Smith resolved the interpretive crux in Genesis 1:1 in a rather unique fashion. In the Book of Moses, rather than defining creation in absolute terms (either from nothing or from something), he limits the description of creation in Genesis to a particular place and time. Creation is no longer universal:

And it came to pass, that the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 'Behold, I reveal unto you concerning this heaven and this earth; write the words which I speak. ... Yea, in the beginning I created the heaven and the earth upon which thou standest. (Moses 2:1,3)

The New Testament doesn't provide much additional help in resolving the issue

The New Testament doesn't provide much additional help in resolving the issue. It relies heavily on the language of the Old Testament when discussing creation. And the same sorts of ambiguities arise. As James Hubler's Ph.D. dissertation on this very issue noted:

Several New Testament texts have been educed as evidence of creatio ex nihilo. None makes a clear statement which would have been required to establish such an unprecedented position, or which we would need as evidence of such a break with tradition. None is decisive and each could easily be accepted by a proponent of creatio ex materia...The punctuation of [John 1:3] becomes critical to its meaning. Proponents of creatio ex materia could easily qualify the creatures of the Word to that "which came about," excluding matter. Proponents of creatio ex nihilo could place a period after "not one thing came about" and leave "which came about" to the next sentence. The absence of a determinate tradition of punctuation in New Testament [Greek] texts leaves room for both interpretations. Neither does creation by word imply ex nihilo...as we have seen in Egypt, Philo, and Midrash Rabba, and even in 2 Peter 3:5, where the word functions to organize pre-cosmic matter. [50]


Question: What were the early Christian beliefs about the creation?

A belief in ex nihilo creation was not shared by the first Christians

Contrary to the critics' claims, their belief in ex nihilo creation was not shared by the first Christians. The concept of creatio ex nihilo

began to be adumbrated in Christian circles shortly before Galen's time. The first Christian thinker to articulate the rudiments of a doctrine of creatio ex nihilo was the Gnostic theologian Basilides, who flourished in the second quarter of the second century. Basilides worked out an elaborate cosmogony as he sought to think through the implications of Christian teaching in light of the platonic cosmogony. He rejected the analogy of the human maker, the craftsman who carves a piece of wood, as an anthropomorphism that severely limited the power of God. God, unlike mortals, created the world out of ‘non-existing’ matter. He first brought matter into being through the creation of ‘seeds’, and it is this created stuff that is fashioned, according to His will, into the cosmos.[51]

Thus, the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo was first advanced by a Gnostic (a heretical branch of Christianity), and did not appear until more than a century after the birth of Christ.

The idea of God using pre-existing material in creation was accepted by at least some of the early Church Fathers

The idea of God using pre-existing material in creation was accepted by at least some of the early Church Fathers, suggesting that beliefs about the mechanism of creation altered over time, as Greek philosophical ideas intruded on Christian doctrine. Justin Martyr (A.D. 110—165) said:

And we have been taught that He in the beginning did of His goodness, for man's sake, create all things out of unformed matter; and if men by their works show themselves worthy of this His design, they are deemed worthy, and so we have received-of reigning in company with Him, being delivered from corruption and suffering.”[52]

Justin continues elsewhere with such examples as:

  • “by the word of God the whole world was made out of the substance spoken of before by Moses.”[53]
  • [the earth,] “which God made according to the pre-existent form.”[54]
  • “And His Son, who alone is properly called Son, the Word who also was with Him and was begotten before the works, when at first He created and arranged all things by Him, is called Christ, in reference to His being anointed and God's ordering all thing; through Him...”[55]

Justin was not the only Father to reject ex nihilo creation. Clement said in his "Hymn to the Paedagogus":

Out of a confused heap who didst create This ordered sphere, and from the shapeless mass Of matter didst the universe adorn....[56]

And, Blake Ostler comments on 1 Clement:

Clement stated: "Thou . . . didst make manifest the everlasting fabric of the world. Thou, Lord, didst create the earth." The terms used here by Clement are significant. He asserts that God did "make manifest" (ἐϕανεροποίησας) the "everlasting fabric of the world" (Σὺ τὴν ἀέναον του κόσμου σύστασιν). He is referring to an eternal substrate that underlies God's creative activity. Clement is important because he is at the very center of the Christian church as it was then developing. His view assumed that God had created from an eternally existing substrate, creating by "making manifest" what already existed in some form. The lack of argumentation or further elucidation indicates that Clement was not attempting to establish a philosophical position; he was merely maintaining a generally accepted one. However, the fact that such a view was assumed is even more significant than if Clement had argued for it. If he had presented an argument for this view, then we could assume that it was either a contested doctrine or a new view. But because he acknowledged it as obvious, it appears to have been a generally accepted belief in the early Christian church.[57]


Question: How was the doctrine of creation altered to "creatio ex nihilo"?

Some Greek philosophical ideas influenced the change to "creatio ex nihilo"

Non-LDS author Edwin Hatch noted the influence of some Greek philosophical ideas in the change to creatio ex nihilo:

With Basilides [a second century Gnostic philosopher], the conception of matter was raised to a higher plane. The distinction of subject and object was preserved, so that the action of the Transcendent God was still that of creation and not of evolution; but it was "out of that which was not" that He made things to be . . . . The basis of the theory was Platonic, though some of the terms were borrowed from both Aristotle and the Stoics. It became itself the basis for the theory which ultimately prevailed in the Church. The transition appears in Tatian [ca. A.D. 170][58]


Response to claim: 130 - The Mormon concept of "pre-existence of spirits" is a pagan belief

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

The Mormon concept of "pre-existence of spirits" is a pagan belief.

Author's sources: The author claims that this is derived from "pure Greek philosophy."

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information

This is incorrect.



  • Terryl Givens, "When Souls Had Wings: What the Western Tradition Has to teach Us About Pre-Existence," FAIR Conference 2007 off-site

Question: Is the Mormon doctrine of a "premortal existence" pagan, unchristian, or unbiblical, and therefore false?

Some Christians present alternate interpretations of selected scriptures that fit with their preconceived notions concerning where we came from, yet, they cannot really answer where we came from

Without an understanding of where we came from, it is difficult to understand why we are here and where we are going. While the teachings of sectarian critics may not answer these questions, we are fortunate to live in a time when the answers have been fully revealed by prophets, as in times of old.

The assertion made by critics of Mormonism is that those who believe in the Bible cannot believe in life before life. Such an assertion is evidenced through statements such as the following:

  • "…such teachings are perplexing to the Bible-believing Christian…"
  • "Mormons … are hard-pressed to find any biblical support for the very idea of preexistence."
  • "The Word of God certainly does not support the LDS concept that all humans are literal children of God."

One specific critical work issues the challenging statement "Until Mormons can show better proof of humanity's eternal existence, Christians are unable to agree with this extrabiblical teaching."[59]

Such a challenge, of course, should not go unanswered. Such challenges have been answered many times in the past, though those who raise the issue rarely acknowledge or address responses already made.[60]

The pre-mortal existence of Jesus Christ, Savior of the world is abundantly testified to in scripture

The pre-mortal existence of Jesus Christ, Savior of the world is abundantly testified to in scripture, both ancient and modern, and nothing in the chapter at hand gives rise to any question concerning the acceptance of the doctrine of Christ's ante-mortal existence. We will leave it to the reader to ponder whether Christ was not just our spiritual pattern, but also a literal pattern of the path that each of us tread as we make our way from our home with God, through this earth life, and back once more to the eternal realms.


Question: Are Mormons the only ones who believe in the concept of a life before this one?

Many people see this mortal life as nothing more than a temporary way station on some cosmic journey

Many people who are not LDS are entirely comfortable with the concept of a life before this life. Many see this mortal life as nothing more than a temporary way station on some cosmic journey. Consider a small portion of a poem by William Wordsworth:

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy![61]

A common question faced by parents, holding their newborn child for the first time, is where this tiny miracle comes from

The origin of the child's physical body is obvious, but the beginnings of personality evident at the earliest stages of child development are easiest explained through an understanding that our spirits—which make up our personality—do not have their beginnings in the womb. Indeed, they hearken back to an earlier time, as so aptly stated by Wordsworth.

In addition, many within the Christian community are comfortable making reference to our "immortal spirit" or our "eternal spirit." Logic dictates that if something designated as eternal has a beginning, then it is not really eternal. Likewise, if a spirit can be imagined to have a beginning, then it can just as easily be imagined to have an end. To accept the concept of a beginning without an end is just as illogical as thinking that a circle has an endpoint.

As appealing as the concept of a premortal life may be to some, to others the idea smacks of emotionalism, wishful thinking, simplistic superstition, or outright heresy. Common sense ideas, however, often have their roots in deeper doctrinal concepts.


Question: Did the early Christian fathers express a belief in a pre-mortal life?

Many scholars (both LDS and non-LDS) find strong evidence for a belief in premortal life in the writings and teachings of the early Christian fathers

It is certainly true that the LDS are not the only people to believe in a premortal life. In fact, many scholars (both LDS and non-LDS) find strong evidence for a belief in premortal life in the writings and teachings of the early Christian fathers. While these teachings may have been dropped from the rote canon of the church, there is little doubt that they were understood and espoused from the earliest recorded times.

For instance, Clement of Alexandria, commenting on the scriptural passage in Jeremiah 1:5 (which is also addressed more fully in the next section), generalized the doctrine as having universal application. He wrote:

"…the Logos is not to be despised as something new, for even in Jeremiah the Lord says, 'Say not "I am too young," for before I formed thee in the womb I knew thee, and before thou camest forth from thy mother I sanctified thee.' It is possible that in speaking these things the prophet is referring to us, as being known to God as faithful before the foundation of the world."[62]

Another church father that spoke directly to the idea of a premortal existence was Origen of Alexandria (ca. AD 185–254). Writing in the third century, he stated a belief that differences evident among men on earth were attributable to differences in rank and glory attained by those men as premortal angels. According to Origen, God could not be viewed as "no respecter of persons" without such a premortal existence. In fact, if the differences of men on earth were not related in some way to our premortal condition, then God could be viewed as arbitrary, capricious, and unjust. Origen felt that just as there would a judgment after this life, that a sort of judgment had already taken place based on our premortal merit, with the result being the station to which we were appointed in this life. As an example of this concept supported in the Bible, Origen referred to the Old Testament story of Jacob being preferred over Esau. Why was this so? According to Origen, because "we believe that he was even then chosen by God because of merits acquired before this life."[63]

Belief in a premortal life was not confined to various early church fathers. In the course of his writings the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus wrote about the beliefs of the Essenes. He reported they believed "that the souls are immortal, and continue for ever." He further related that the Essenes believed that the souls of men "are united to their bodies as in prisons" and that when the spirits are set free they are "released from a long bondage" and ascend heavenward with great rejoicing.[64]Josephus' description of Essene doctrine has surely taken on greater validity in light of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran. Together these records provide primary evidence that contemporaries of Christ and the apostles believed in a premortal life—a belief that is validated by the Bible itself, as discussed in the following section.

These historical citations are just the tip of the iceberg. Serious students of the topic can find additional information that verifies that ancient Christians and Jews understood and accepted the concept of premortal existence. While knowing that the concept has historical roots does not prove the concept to be true, it certainly counteracts the fallacious claim that the teachings of the LDS on the topic are new, heretical, or dangerous.

Question: What biblical evidence is there for a pre-mortal existence?

Question: Did Jesus and the apostles believe in pre-mortal life?

"Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?"

Note the exchange between Jesus and his disciples recorded in John 9:1–2:

"And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.

"And his disciples asked him, saying Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?"

Was this a rhetorical question on the part of the disciples? No, the question indicated that the disciples thought one possible answer to the blindness of the man was that he had sinned. Since he was born blind—a fact the record indicates that both Jesus and His disciples knew—then the wording of the question indicates that the sinning must have taken place before the birth of the man, by the man himself. How could the man have sinned, resulting in a punishment of being blind at birth, unless he had lived before he was born?

If the concept of a premortal life was in error, then the Master Teacher had a perfect opportunity to correct His students

Jesus' answer is recorded in John 9:3:

"Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him."

Jesus then proceeded to heal the man, foregoing any opportunity to correct the concept of the man having lived before birth. Instead, He acknowledged the concept by saying that the man had not sinned.[65] In the words of one non-LDS scholar:

"The question posed by the disciples explicitly presupposed prenatal existence. It will be also noted that Christ says nothing to dispel or correct the presupposition. Here is incontrovertible support for a doctrine of human preexistence.

"It is perfectly reasonable to surmise on the basis of this episode that Jesus and his followers accepted preexistence and thought so little of it that the question of prenatal sin did not even call for an answer."[66]

There are other scriptures in the Bible that can be used to support the concept of a premortal life. Suffice it to say that for the time being, however, the words of God and Jesus may be sufficient to the task at hand. The critics' charges of taking scripture out of context notwithstanding, there is a reasonable basis for at least recognizing a biblical basis for the doctrine of a preexistence.[67]


Response to claim: 130 - The Mormon concept of "human deification" is a pagan belief

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

The Mormon concept of "human deification" is a pagan belief.

Author's sources: Source not provided.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information

No. In fact, it is quite the opposite when one examines the early Christian views on the subject.



Gospel Topics: "Latter-day Saints see all people as children of God in a full and complete sense"

"Becoming Like God," Gospel Topics on LDS.org:

Latter-day Saints see all people as children of God in a full and complete sense; they consider every person divine in origin, nature, and potential. Each has an eternal core and is “a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents.” Each possesses seeds of divinity and must choose whether to live in harmony or tension with that divinity. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all people may “progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny.” Just as a child can develop the attributes of his or her parents over time, the divine nature that humans inherit can be developed to become like their Heavenly Father's.[68]—(Click here to continue)


Pre-existent Jesus and divinized humanity

Non-LDS Christian Stephen H. Webb wrote:[37]

Mormons go so far as to insist that God was once a man just like us, which can sound confusing, but it is, in a way, the flipside to the belief that we will become, in the afterlife, just like him. There is a grand and cosmic circularity that connects Jesus with humanity, and it never stops rolling, like a dance with countless changing partners and yet everyone always comes around to dancing with him.[38]:88–89

Question: Do Latter-day Saints believe that they will one day 'supplant' God?

A belief in human deification does not mean that the LDS believe that they will worship anyone other than God

Some Christians claim that the doctrine of human deification is unbiblical, false, and arrogant, and that Latter-day Saints believe that they will one day "supplant God".

The first thing we must realize when we study this principle is that

The Father is the one true God. This thing is certain: no one will ever ascend above Him; no one will ever replace Him. Nor will anything ever change the relationship that we, His literal offspring, have with Him. He is Elohim, the Father. He is God. Of Him there is only one. We revere our Father and our God; we worship Him. [69]

A belief in human deification does not mean that the LDS believe their worship is or will be properly directed at anyone but God the Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ.

Said the Church when asked about the doctrine of deification of man:

We believe that the apostle Peter’s biblical reference to partaking of the divine nature and the apostle Paul’s reference to being 'joint heirs with Christ' reflect the intent that children of God should strive to emulate their Heavenly Father in every way. Throughout the eternities, Mormons believe, they will reverence and worship God the Father and Jesus Christ. The goal is not to equal them or to achieve parity with them but to imitate and someday acquire their perfect goodness, love and other divine attributes. [70]

In response, it is proper to cite Origen:

Now it is possible that some may dislike what we have said representing the Father as the one true God, but admitting other beings besides the true God, who have become gods by having a share of God. They may fear that the glory of Him who surpasses all creation may be lowered to the level of those other beings called gods. ... [However], as, then there are many gods, but to us there is but one God the Father, and many Lords, but to us there is one Lord, Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 8:5-6). [71]

To be sure, some may dislike this doctrine, but it is ancient, Biblical, and true.

The doctrine of deification was present in the early Church

Non-LDS church historian Ernst Benz insisted that the doctrine of deification was present in the early Church, and pointed out a potential risk for those who do not understand it:

Now this idea of deification could give rise to a misunderstanding—namely, that it leads to a blasphemous self-aggrandizement of man. If that were the case, then mysticism would, in fact, be the sublimist, most spiritualized form of egoism. But the concept of imago dei, in the Christian understanding of the term, precisely does not aspire to awaken in man a consciousness of his own divinity, but attempts to have him recognize the image of God in his neighbor. Here the powerful words of Jesus in Matthew 25:21-26 are appropriate and connected by the church fathers to imago dei...

Hence, the concept of imago dei does not lead toward self-aggrandizement but rather toward charity as the true and actual form of God's love, for the simple reason that in one's neighbor the image of God, the Lord himself, confronts us. The love of God should be fulfilled in the love toward him in whom God himself is mirrored, in one's neighbor. Thus, in the last analysis, the concept of imago dei is the key to the fundamental law of the gospel—"Thou shalt love . . . God . . . and thy neighbor as thyself" (Luke 10:27)—since one should view one's neighbor with an eye to the image that God has engraven upon him and to the promise that he has given regarding him. [72]


Common misrepresentation: Joseph Smith does not teach polytheism or "supplanting God" with his doctrine of human divination

Non-LDS Christian Stephen H. Webb wrote:[37]

Two corrections of common misrepresentations of Smith’s theology need to be made at this point....[The] [s]econd [is that] even though Smith says that believers will become gods, he also says that

they will be kings and priests to God, a phrase that qualifies his alleged polytheism. Clearly, the faithful are meant to share in the divine power and glory, and thus they too will have mastery over life and death, in the sense of being able to creatively participate in the creation, sustenance, and governance of life. Divine power seems to be the universal constant in this teaching, but it is not so diffuse that it has no source. God’s power will be shared, but it will still be God’s.[38]:96–97

Question: What were the views of early Christians on the deification of man?

A review of Christian history illustrates that this doctrine was and is a common belief of many Christians

Some Christians insist that the doctrine of theosis is unBiblical and unChristian. However, a review of Christian history illustrates that this doctrine was and is a common belief of many Christians.

Irenaeus (ca. AD 115-202)

Saint Irenaeus, who may justly be called the first Biblical theologian among the ancient Christians, was a disciple of the great Polycarp, who was a direct disciple of John the Revelator. [73] Irenaeus is not a heretic or unorthodox in traditional Christian circles, yet he shares a belief in theosis:

While man gradually advances and mounts towards perfection; that is, he approaches the eternal. The eternal is perfect; and this is God. Man has first to come into being, then to progress, and by progressing come to manhood, and having reached manhood to increase, and thus increasing to persevere, and persevering to be glorified, and thus see his Lord. [74]

Like the LDS, Irenaeus did not believe that this belief in any way displaced God, Christ, or the Holy Ghost:

there is none other called God by the Scriptures except the Father of all, and the Son, and those who possess the adoption....Since, therefore, this is sure and stedfast, that no other God or Lord was announced by the Spirit, except Him who, as God, rules over all, together with His Word, and those who receive the Spirit of adoption. [75]

Yet, Irenaeus—whom it would be perverse to exclude from the ranks of orthodox Christians—believed in theosis in terms which agree with LDS thinking on the matter:

We were not made gods at our beginning, but first we were made men, then, in the end, gods. [76]

Also:

How then will any be a god, if he has not first been made a man? How can any be perfect when he has only lately been made man? How immortal, if he has not in his mortal nature obeyed his maker? For one's duty is first to observe the discipline of man and thereafter to share in the glory of God. [77]

And:

Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, of his boundless love, became what we are that he might make us what he himself is.” [78]

And:

But of what gods [does he speak]? [Of those] to whom He says, "I have said, Ye are gods, and all sons of the Most High." To those, no doubt, who have received the grace of the "adoption, by which we cry, Abba Father."” [79]

And, Irenaeus considers the doctrine clearly Biblical, just as the LDS do:

For he who holds, without pride and boasting, the true glory (opinion) regarding created things and the Creator, who is the Almighty God of all, and who has granted existence to all; [such an one, ] continuing in His love and subjection, and giving of thanks, shall also receive from Him the greater glory of promotion, looking forward to the time when he shall become like Him who died for him, for He, too, "was made in the likeness of sinful flesh," to condemn sin, and to cast it, as now a condemned thing, away beyond the flesh, but that He might call man forth into His own likeness, assigning him as [His own] imitator to God, and imposing on him His Father's law, in order that he may see God, and granting him power to receive the Father; [being] the Word of God who dwelt in man, and became the Son of man, that He might accustom man to receive God, and God to dwell in man, according to the good pleasure of the Father. [80]

Further quotes from Irenaeus available here.

Said one Protestant theologian of Irenaeus:

Participation in God was carried so far by Irenaeus as to amount to deification. 'We were not made gods in the beginning,' he says, 'but at first men, then at length gods.' This is not to be understood as mere rhetorical exaggeration on Irenaeus' part. He meant the statement to be taken literally. [81]

Clement of Alexandria (AD 150-215)

Clement, an early Christian leader in Alexandria, also taught the doctrine of deification:

yea, I say, the Word of God became a man so that you might learn from a man how to become a god. [82]

And:

...if one knows himself, he will know God, and knowing God will become like God...His is beauty, true beauty, for it is God, and that man becomes god, since God wills it. So Heraclitus was right when he said, "Men are gods, and gods are men." [83]

Those who have been perfected are given their reward and their honors. They have done with their purification, they have done with the rest of their service, though it be a holy service, with the holy; now they become pure in heart, and because of their close intimacy with the Lord there awaits them a restoration to eternal contemplation; and they have received the title of "gods" since they are destined to be enthroned with the other "gods" who are ranked next below the savior. [84]

Origen (ca. AD 185-251)

And thus the first-born of all creation, who is the first to be with God, and to attract to Himself divinity, is a being of more exalted rank than the other gods beside Him, of whom God is the God, as it is written, "The God of gods, the Lord, hath spoken and called the earth." It was by the offices of the first-born that they became gods, for He drew from God in generous measure that they should be made gods, and He communicated it to them according to His own bounty. The true God, then, is "The God," and those who are formed after Him are gods, images, as it were, of Him the prototype. [85]

The Father, then, is proclaimed as the one true God; but besides the true God are many who become gods by participating in God. </ref>Origen in Bettensen, Henry. The Early Christian Fathers, 324.</ref>

Origen also defined what it means to "participate" in something:

Every one who participates in anything, is unquestionably of one essence and nature with him who is partaker of the same thing. [86]

Justin Martyr (d. ca. AD 163)

Justin the Martyr said in 150 A.D. that he wishes

to prove to you that the Holy Ghost reproaches men because they were made like God, free from suffering and death, provided that they kept His commandments, and were deemed deserving of the name of His sons... in the beginning men were made like God, free from suffering and death, and that they are thus deemed worthy of becoming gods and of having power to become sons of the highest... [87]

Also,

[By Psalm 82] it is demonstrated that all men are deemed worthy of becoming “gods,” and even of having power to become sons of the Highest. [88]

Hippolytus (AD 170-236)

Now in all these acts He offered up, as the first-fruits, His own manhood, in order that thou, when thou art in tribulation, mayest not be disheartened, but, confessing thyself to be a man (of like nature with the Redeemer,) mayest dwell in expectation of also receiving what the Father has granted unto this Son...The Deity (by condescension) does not diminish anything of the dignity of His divine perfection having made you even God unto his glory. [89]

Athanasius

In 347, Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria and participant in the council of Nicea, said:

the Word was made flesh in order that we might be enabled to be made gods....just as the Lord, putting on the body, became a man, so also we men are both deified through His flesh, and henceforth inherit everlasting life...[we are] sons and gods by reason of the word in us. [90]

For as Christ died and was exalted as man, so, as man, is He said to take what, as God, He ever had, that even such a grant of grace might reach to us. For the Word was not impaired in receiving a body, that He should seek to receive a grace, but rather He deified that which He put on, and more than that, gave it graciously to the race of man. [91]

He also states that Christ "became man that we might be made divine." [92]

Augustine (AD 354-430)

Augustine, considered one of the greatest Christian Fathers, said

but He himself that justifies also deifies, for by justifying He makes sons of God. For He has given them power to become the sons of God, (John 1:12). If then we have been made sons of God, we have also been made gods. [93]

Jerome (AD 340-420)

Jerome also described the deification of believers as an act of grace, which matches the LDS understanding precisely:

“I said 'you are gods, all of you sons of the most high.’" let Eunomius hear this, let Arius, who say that the son of God is son in the same way we are. That we are gods is not so by nature, but by grace. “but to as many as receive Him he gave power to becoming sons of God” I made man for that purpose, that from men they may become gods. We are called gods and sons!...[Christ said] "all of you sons of the Most High," it is not possible to be the son of the Most High, unless He Himself is the Most High. I said that all of you would be exalted as I am exalted. [94]

Jerome goes on to say that we should

give thanks to the God of gods. The prophet is referring to those gods of whom it is written: I said ‘you are gods’ and again ‘god arises in the divine assembly’ they who cease to be mere men, abandon the ways of vice an are become perfect, are gods and the sons of the most high... [95]

Modern Christian exegesis

The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology describes "deification" thusly:

Deification (Greek Theosis) is for orthodoxy the goal of every Christian. Man, according to the Bible, is ‘made in the image and likeness of God’...it is possible for man to become like God, to become deified, to become God by grace. This doctrine is based on many passages of both O.T. and N.T. (Psalms 82: (81) .6; 2 Peter 1:4), and it is essentially the teaching both of St. Paul, though he tends to use the language of filial adoption (Romans 8:9-17, Galatians 4:5-7) and the fourth gospel (John 17:21-23). [96]

Joseph Fitzmyer wrote:

The language of 2 Peter is taken up by St. Irenaeus, in his famous phrase, ‘if the Word has been made man, it is so that men may be made gods; (adv. Haer v, pref.), And becomes the standard in Greek theology. In the fourth century St. Athanasius repeats Irenaeus almost word for word, and in the fifth century St. Cyril of Alexandria says that we shall become sons ‘by participation’ (Greek methexis). Deification is the central idea in the spirituality of St. Maximus the confessor, for whom the doctrine is corollary of the incarnation: ‘deification, briefly, is the encompassing and fulfillment of all times and ages’,...and St. Symeon the new theologian at the end of the tenth century writes, ‘he who is God by nature converses with those whom he has made gods by grace, as a friend converses with his friends, face to face...’

Finally, it should be noted that deification does not mean absorption into God, since the deified creature remains itself and distinct. It is the whole human being, body and soul, who is transfigured in the spirit into the likeness of the divine nature, and deification is the goal of every Christian. [97]

According to Christian scholar G.L. Prestige, the ancient Christians “taught that the destiny of man was to become like God, and even to become deified.” [98]

William R. Inge, Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote:

"God became man, that we might become God" was a commonplace of doctrinal theology at least until the time of Augustine, and that "deification holds a very large place in the writings of the fathers...We find it in Irenaeus as well as in Clement, in Athanasius as well in Gregory of Nysee. St. Augustine was no more afraid of deificari in Latin than Origen of apotheosis in Greek...To modern ears the word deification sounds not only strange but arrogant and shocking. [99]

Yet, these "arrogant and shocking" doctrines were clearly held by early Christians!

This view of the early Christians' doctrines is not unique to the Latter-day Saints. Many modern Christian writers have recognized the same doctrines. If some modern Christians do not wish to embrace these ancient doctrines, that is their privilege, but they cannot logically claim that such doctrines are not "Christian." One might fairly ask why modern Christians do not believe that which the ancient Christians insisted upon?


LDS doctrine rejects Neo-Plantonic accretions, but this does not make them automatically false

Non-LDS Christian Stephen H. Webb wrote:[37]

Mormon arguments deserve to be examined on their own grounds for internal consistency and biblical adequacy. Not being Platonic is not equivalent to not being rational. [38]:92

Mormons have "picked up" discarded beliefs of early Christians

Non-LDS Christian Stephen H. Webb wrote:[37]

Perhaps the most complicating factor for creedal dialogue with Latterday Saints is that Mormons, unlike other restorationists, were not content to flunder in suspicion of the way the early Church absorbed Greek metaphysics. Instead, Mormons put the Platonization of Christianity at the heart of their critique of the ossifiation and corruption of Christianity. Something went terribly wrong after the age of the Apostles, they argue, and that something has to do with the theological turn toward a metaphysics of immaterialism. Far from ignoring early church history, then, Mormons are committed to an interrogation of the relationship of theology to philosophy that objects to nearly every development that led to the ecumenical creeds. They do not just raise objections, however. It is as if, as they follow the road orthodox theologians took to the creeds, Mormons pause to pick up the detritus that was jettisoned along the way. Thy recycle these discarded beliefs into a shining, novel creation of their own. [38]:86


Question: Was the Latter-day Saint concept of deification derived from Greek philosophy?

The question of the nature of divine things or of God was never settled by the Greeks

Evangelical Christians claim that the Latter-day Saint idea of "deification" was derived from pagan Greek philosophy. The simple answer to this question is "No." Why? Greek philosophy was an attempt to discover the First Things. What is it that is behind the multiplicity of things we encounter? Some said water, others argued for fire--building on Ionian notions. Still others argued for numbers. In doing this they began to deal with three issues, or what were called the "parts" of philosophy. The first two parts involved theoria (theory), and included two issues: physis (from which we get the word "physical") and logos (from which we get the word "logic"). Put in question form, the Greeks debated about the nature of reality and how we can know, or not know, the answer to this question. The third part of philosophy—praxis (from which we get the word "practical," meaning for the Greek philosophers the question of how, given the limits on our knowledge and what we can know of the nature of things, how ought we to behave?). The question of the nature of divine things or of God was never settled.

Plato is an especially useful instance of what might be called "theoretical atheism" in his physics, while in his practical or moral philosophy he has a rather large place for God as a kind of "noble lie," since believing in divine punishments is a way of controlling children or childish adults—that is, most humans most of the time. It is also true that in Plato's dialogues there are many instances in which a wise saying by one of the participants will draw forth from one of the others expressions such as "oh divine man" or "worthy of being a God" and so forth. This may merely be a way of indicating that wisdom is the highest attainment of human nature, and not anything like theosis (deification) in the sense that word was used by early Christians.

When Latter-day Saints refer to the Hellenizing of Christianity, they are following the lead of Protestant authors who have used that expression. What that label often means, for the Saints, is that the authors of the great ecumenical creeds borrowed categories, which they only half understood, from pagan sources—that is, from Greek philosophy. In doing this they seem to have corrupted both Greek philosophy and Christian faith. This may not have caused the apostasy, but may have instead been a desperate attempt on the part of really passionate believers to sort of issues that were tearing the church to pieces.

For further information, see: Louis Midgley, "Directions That Diverge (Review of The Ancient State: The Rulers and the Ruled)," FARMS Review of Books 11/1 (1999): 27–87. off-site


Question: What Biblical scriptures discuss the doctrine of the deification of man?

Theosis or deification is discussed in the following biblical scriptures

In regard to the Mormon doctrine, non-LDS scholar Ernst W. Benz has observed:

One can think what one wants of this doctrine of progressive deification, but one thing is certain: with this anthropology Joseph Smith is closer to the view of man held by the ancient Church than the precursors of the Augustinian doctrine of original sin. [100]

For more quotes about theosis see: Primary sources:Theosis


Notes

  1. Jeff Lindsay, "If you believe the Father and the Son are separate beings, doesn't that make you polytheistic?" JeffLindsay.com (accessed December 2007). off-site
  2. Henry Bettenson, editor and translator, The Early Christian Fathers:A Selection from the Writings of the Fathers from St. Clement of Rome to St. Athanasius, (Oxford University Press: 1969), 239. ISBN 0192830090.
  3. RPC Hansen, "The Achievement of Orthodoxy in the Fourth Century AD", in Rowan Williams, editor, The Making of Orthodoxy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 151–152.
  4. FL Cross and EA Livingston, editors, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 2nd edition, (London: Oxford University Press, 1974), 1319, 1394.
  5. RL Richard, "Trinity, Holy", in New Catholic Encyclopedia, 15 vols., (New York:McGraw-Hill, 1967) 14:298.
  6. JND Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, rev. ed. (New York: Harper, 1978), 247–248.
  7. IF Bethune-Baker, An Introduction to the Early History of Christian Doctrine, 8th edition, (London: Methuen, 1949), 171. (emphasis added)
  8. John Sanders; cited in Clark Pinnock, Richard Rice, John Sanders, William Hasker, and David Basinger, The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 60.
  9. George A. Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1984), 92.
  10. Maurice Wiles, The Making of Christian Doctrine (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967), 4, 144.
  11. David Noel Freedman, “When God Repents,” in Divine Commitment and Human Obligation: Selected Writings of David Noel Freedman, Volume One: History and Religion (William B. Eerdmans, 1997), 414.
  12. P Achtemeier, editor, Harper's Bible Dictionary (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985), 1099.
  13. RL Richard, "Trinity, Holy", in New Catholic Encyclopedia, 15 vols. (New York:McGraw-Hill, 1967), 14:295.
  14. Edmund J. Fortman, The Triune God: A Historical Study of the Doctrine of the Trinity (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1972), 32, 35.
  15. Edmund J. Fortman, The Triune God: A Historical Study of the Doctrine of the Trinity (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1972), 14,16, 22-23, 29.
  16. J Fitzmyer, Pauline Theology: A Brief Sketch (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey): Prentice-Hall, 1967), 42.
  17. Richard P. McBrian, Catholicism (Minneapolis: Winston Press, 1980), 347.
  18. Robert P. Casey, “Clement of Alexandria and the Beginnings of Christian Platonism,” Harvard Theological Review 18 (1925): 39–101, at page 82, referring to Contra Celsum 7.27, and Commentary on John 13.22.
  19. Ibid., 100.
  20. Roland Teske, S.J., “Divine Immutability in St. Augustine,” Modern Schoolman 63 (1986): 233–249, at page 236–237.
  21. Ibid., 237–238, with notes 25 and 34, citing Confessions 5.10.19 (Pusey translation, page 77).
  22. Ibid., 238–239, quoting De beata vita 1.4.
  23. Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John I–XII (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Co. Inc.), 403, 407.
  24. Leonardo Boff, Trinity and Society, trans. Paul Burns (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis, 1988), 5.
  25. Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible (Chicago, Moody Press, 1968), 370.
  26. Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity (New York: Touchstone, 1976), 26–27. ISBN 684815036.
  27. Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Volume 4 : Reformation of Church and Dogma (1300-1700) (University Of Chicago Press, 1985), 4:346, comments in bracket A1. ISBN 0226653773.
  28. Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Volume 5 : Christian Doctrine and Modern Culture (since 1700) (University Of Chicago Press, 1991), 193. ISBN 0226653803.
  29. Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, The New American Bible (World Bible Publishers, Iowa Falls, 1991), 1363.
  30. New American Standard Bible (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation), 1 John 5:7–8.
  31. New Revised Standard Version (Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America, 1995), 1 John 5:7–8.
  32. "Are Mormons Christian?," Gospel Topics on LDS.org
  33. William J. Hill, The Three-Personed God (Washington DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1982), 27.
  34. New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids MI, Zondervan, 1967), 1:84.
  35. JND Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, revised edition, (New York: Harper, 1978), 95.
  36. Edmund J. Fortman, The Triune God: A Historical Study of the Doctrine of the Trinity (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1972), 44.
  37. 37.0 37.1 37.2 37.3 37.4 37.5 "Webb is Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana. He is a graduate of Wabash College and earned his PhD at the University of Chicago before returning to his alma mater to teach. Born in 1961 he grew up at Englewood Christian Church, an evangelical church. He joined the Disciples of Christ during He was briefly a Lutheran, and on Easter Sunday, 2007, he officially came into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church."
  38. 38.0 38.1 38.2 38.3 38.4 38.5 Stephen H. Webb, "Godbodied: The Matter of the Latter-day Saints (reprint from his book Jesus Christ, Eternal God: Heavenly Flesh and the Metaphysics of Matter (Oxford University Press, 2012)," Brigham Young University Studies 50 no. 3 (2011).
  39. Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of God (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1949), 205.
  40. Kurt Aland, A History of Christianity (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1985), 1:190.
  41. Charles Curran, "Creative Fidelity: Keeping the Religion a Living Tradition," Sunstone 11 (July 1987), 45. off-site Cited in Robert L. Millet, "Joseph Smith and Modern Mormonism: Orthodoxy, Neoorthodoxy, Tension, and Tradition," Brigham Young University Studies 29 no. 3 (1989), footnote 14.
  42. Henry Bettenson, editor and translator, The Early Christian Fathers:A Selection from the Writings of the Fathers from St. Clement of Rome to St. Athanasius, (Oxford University Press: 1969), 239. ISBN 0192830090.
  43. RPC Hansen, "The Achievement of Orthodoxy in the Fourth Century AD", in Rowan Williams, editor, The Making of Orthodoxy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 151–152.
  44. FL Cross and EA Livingston, editors, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 2nd edition, (London: Oxford University Press, 1974), 1319, 1394.
  45. RL Richard, "Trinity, Holy", in New Catholic Encyclopedia, 15 vols., (New York:McGraw-Hill, 1967) 14:298.
  46. JND Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, rev. ed. (New York: Harper, 1978), 247–248.
  47. IF Bethune-Baker, An Introduction to the Early History of Christian Doctrine, 8th edition, (London: Methuen, 1949), 171. (emphasis added)
  48. John Sanders; cited in Clark Pinnock, Richard Rice, John Sanders, William Hasker, and David Basinger, The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 60.
  49. James N. Hubler, "Creatio ex Nihilo: Matter, Creation, and the Body in Classical and Christian Philosophy through Aquinas" (PhD diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1995), 102; cited in Blake T. Ostler, "Out of Nothing: A History of Creation ex Nihilo in Early Christian Thought (review of Review of Paul Copan and William Lane Craig, "Craftsman or Creator? An Examination of the Mormon Doctrine of Creation and a Defense of Creatio ex nihilo," in The New Mormon Challenge: Responding to the Latest Defenses of a Fast-Growing Movement, edited by Beckwith, Mosser, and Owen)," FARMS Review 17/2 (2005): 253–320. off-site
  50. James N. Hubler, "Creatio ex Nihilo: Matter, Creation, and the Body in Classical and Christian Philosophy through Aquinas" (PhD diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1995), 107–8; cited in Blake T. Ostler, "Out of Nothing: A History of Creation ex Nihilo in Early Christian Thought (review of Review of Paul Copan and William Lane Craig, "Craftsman or Creator? An Examination of the Mormon Doctrine of Creation and a Defense of Creatio ex nihilo," in The New Mormon Challenge: Responding to the Latest Defenses of a Fast-Growing Movement, edited by Beckwith, Mosser, and Owen)," FARMS Review 17/2 (2005): 253–320. off-site
  51. Gerhard May, Schoepfung Aus Dem Nichts: Die Entstehung Der Lehre Von Der Creatio Ex Nihilo (Arbeiten Zur Kirchengeschichte, Vol 48) (Walter De Gruyter Inc, 1978), 63-85. ISBN 3110072041; as quoted in Robert Louis Wilken, The Christians as the Romans saw Them (Yale University Press, 2003), 88–89. ISBN 0300098391.
  52. Justin Martyr, "First Apology of Justin," in Chapter 10 Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Philip Schaff (Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886)1:165. ANF ToC off-site This volume
  53. Justin Martyr, "First Apology of Justin," in Chapter 59 Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Philip Schaff (Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886)1:182. ANF ToC off-site This volume
  54. Justin Martyr, "Hortatory to the Greeks," in Chapter 30 Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Philip Schaff (Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886)1:286. ANF ToC off-site This volume
  55. Justin Martyr, "First Apology of Justin," in Chapter 10 Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Philip Schaff (Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886)1:165. ANF ToC off-site This volume
  56. Clement, "Hymn to the Paedagogus," in ? Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Philip Schaff (Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886)2:296. ANF ToC off-site This volume
  57. Blake T. Ostler, "Out of Nothing: A History of Creation ex Nihilo in Early Christian Thought (review of Review of Paul Copan and William Lane Craig, "Craftsman or Creator? An Examination of the Mormon Doctrine of Creation and a Defense of Creatio ex nihilo," in The New Mormon Challenge: Responding to the Latest Defenses of a Fast-Growing Movement, edited by Beckwith, Mosser, and Owen)," FARMS Review 17/2 (2005): 253–320. off-site; citing 1 Clement 60, in J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, ed. J. R. Harmer (1891; repr., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book, 1956), 1:176. Lightfoot translates this text as: "Thou through Thine operations didst make manifest the everlasting fabric of the world" (1:303). See Oscar de Gebhardt and Adolphus Harnack, Patrium Apostolicorum Opera: Clementis Romani (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1876), 1:100.
  58. Edwin Hatch, The Influence of Greek Ideas and Usages upon the Christian Church, 195–196.
  59. Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, Mormonism 101. Examining the Religion of the Latter-day Saints (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000), 68-69. ( Index of claims ) This wiki page was initially prepared as a direct response to the book, though it has since been expanded. (It is interesting to note that McKeever and Johnson presume to speak for the entire panoply of Christianity with all its myriad denominations and sects. Verbiage such as this also accentuates the assumption on the part of the authors that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not Christian.) For a book length discussion of this charge, see Stephen E. Robinson, Are Mormons Christians? (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1993). off-site FairMormon link.
  60. For other treatments of this topic, see relevant discussions in: Richard R. Hopkins Biblical Mormonism (Bountiful, Utah: Horizon Publishers, 1994).;Brent L. Top The Life Before (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988).; Truman G. Madsen in Eternal Man (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1966).; Joseph Fielding Smith in Man, His Origin and Destiny (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1954).; Boyd K. Packer in Our Father's Plan (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1984).; Barry R. Bickmore, Restoring the Ancient Church: Joseph Smith and Early Christianity (Redding, CA: Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, 1999)..
  61. William Wordsworth (1770–1850), Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.
  62. Clement of Alexandria, in Patrologiae… Graeca, 8:321, as cited by Hugh W. Nibley, The World and the Prophets, 3rd edition, (Vol. 3 of Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, Gary P. Gillum, and Don E. Norton (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company; Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1987), 228.
  63. Origen, Peri Archon, in Patrologiae… Graeca 9:230–231, as cited by Hugh W. Nibley, The World and the Prophets, 3rd edition, (Vol. 3 of Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, Gary P. Gillum, and Don E. Norton (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company; Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1987), 230. It is not the purpose here to debate or justify Origen's belief in a judgment before coming to Earth. Instead, this evidence is presented in substantiation of the historical acceptability—indeed, the historical teaching—of the concept of premortal life.
  64. Wars of the Jews, Chapter VIII, 11. translated by William Whiston, A.M., in The Complete Works of Josephus (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1981), 478.
  65. This position is supported by other scriptures in which the apostles reference sinning in a period before birth. In 2 Peter 2:4, Peter references "angels that sinned," and Jude alluded to the same even in Jude 6. Both have reference to the concept of the first estate—or premortal existence—as understood in LDS doctrine.
  66. Quincy Howe, Jr., Reincarnation for the Christian (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1974), 92–93, as quoted by Brent L. Top The Life Before (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988), 30.
  67. It should also be obvious to the astute reader that critics set themselves up to speak for all of Christendom in their exposition of doctrine. This position, in light of the analysis presented in this document from other Christian scholars (both ancient and modern), may be presumptive on their part. If there are other Christian thinkers who disagree with the critics concerning at least the possibility of premortal life, then how is it possible for the authors to speak for Christians as a whole and set those Christians at odds with the LDS position?
  68. "Becoming Like God," Gospel Topics on LDS.org (25 February 2014)
  69. Boyd K. Packer, "The Pattern of Our Parentage," Ensign (November 1984), 69. off-site
  70. Fox News, "21 Questions Answered About Mormon Faith," (18 December 2007). off-site
  71. Origen, Commentary on John, Book II, Chapter 3.
  72. Ernst W. Benz, "Imago Dei: Man in the Image of God," in Truman G. Madsen (editor), Reflections on Mormonism: Judaeo-Christian parallels : papers delivered at the Religious Studies Center symposium, Brigham Young University, March 10-11, 1978 (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center , Brigham Young University and Bookcraft, 1978), 215–216. ISBN 0884943585. Reprinted in Ernst Benz, "Imago dei: Man as the Image of God," FARMS Review 17/1 (2005): 223–254. off-site Note: Benz misunderstands some aspects of LDS doctrine, but his sketch of the relevance of theosis for Christianity in general, and Joseph Smith's implementation of it, is worthwhile.
  73. Henry Bettenson, The Early Christian Fathers: A Selection from the Writings of the Fathers from St. Clement of Rome to St. Athanasius (London: Oxford University Press, 1956),16–17. ISBN 0192830090.
  74. Henry Bettenson, The Early Christian Fathers: A Selection from the Writings of the Fathers from St. Clement of Rome to St. Athanasius (London: Oxford University Press, 1956), 94. ISBN 0192830090.
  75. Irenaeus, "Against Heresies," in Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Philip Schaff (Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886). ANF ToC off-site This volume
  76. Henry Bettenson, The Early Christian Fathers: A Selection from the Writings of the Fathers from St. Clement of Rome to St. Athanasius (London: Oxford University Press, 1956), 94. ISBN 0192830090.
  77. Henry Bettenson, The Early Christian Fathers: A Selection from the Writings of the Fathers from St. Clement of Rome to St. Athanasius (London: Oxford University Press, 1956),95–96. ISBN 0192830090.
  78. Henry Bettenson, The Early Christian Fathers: A Selection from the Writings of the Fathers from St. Clement of Rome to St. Athanasius (London: Oxford University Press, 1956), 106. ISBN 0192830090.; Citing Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 4.38 cp. 4.11.
  79. Irenaeus, "Against Heresies," in Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Philip Schaff (Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886)1:419, chapter 6. ANF ToC off-site This volume
  80. Irenaeus, "Against Heresies," in Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Philip Schaff (Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886)1:450, chapter 6. ANF ToC off-site This volume
  81. Arthur C. McGiffert, A History of Christian Thought, Vol. 1—Early and Eastern: From Jesus to John of Damascus (New York: Scribner's Sons, 1932), 141.
  82. Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Greeks, 1. off-site
  83. Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, 3.1 see also Clement, Stromateis, 23.[citation needed]
  84. Henry Bettenson, The Early Christian Fathers: A Selection from the Writings of the Fathers from St. Clement of Rome to St. Athanasius (London: Oxford University Press, 1956),243–244. ISBN 0192830090.; Stromata 7:10 (55–56).
  85. Origen, Commentary on John, Book II, Chapter 2.
  86. Origin, De Principiis, 4:1:36 in Ante-Nicene Fathers 4:381.
  87. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 124.
  88. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 124.
  89. Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies 10:29-30, in Ante-Nicene Fathers 5:152.
  90. Athanasius, Against the Arians, 1.39, 3.39.
  91. Athanasius, Against the Arians, 1:42, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, 4:330-331.
  92. Athanasius, On the Incarnation, 54.
  93. Augustine, On the Psalms, 50:2.
  94. Jerome, The Homilies of Saint Jerome, 106–107.
  95. Jerome, The Homilies of Saint Jerome, 106–353.
  96. Alan Richardson (editor), The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology (Westminster: John Knox Press, 1983). ISBN 0664213987. (emphasis added).
  97. Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Pauline Theology: a brief sketch (Prentice-Hall, 1967), 42. AISN B0006BQTCQ.
  98. G.L. Prestige, God in Patristic Thought (London Press, 1956), 73.
  99. William Ralph Inge, Christian Mysticism (London, Metheun & Co., 1948[1899]), 13, 356.
  100. Ernst W. Benz, "Imago Dei: Man in the Image of God," in Truman G. Madsen (editor), Reflections on Mormonism: Judaeo-Christian parallels : papers delivered at the Religious Studies Center symposium, Brigham Young University, March 10-11, 1978 (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center , Brigham Young University and Bookcraft, 1978), 215–216. ISBN 0884943585. Reprinted in Ernst Benz, "Imago dei: Man as the Image of God," FARMS Review 17/1 (2005): 223–254. off-siteNote: Benz misunderstands some aspects of LDS doctrine, but his sketch of the relevance of theosis for Christianity in general, and Joseph Smith's implementation of it, is worthwhile.