Monday, 1 July 2013

In what sense are Men 'gods' or Sons of God? (A part of refuting supposed Mormon 'polytheism')

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Excerpted from Re-vision-ing the Mormon concept of deity, by Blake Ostler

53. Of course it may also be argued that [in late revelations and the King Follet Discourse] Joseph Smith somehow intended to replace the notion of three distinct persons united as one God with the idea that there are simply three Gods.

But I see no evidence in the text that something of that nature was intended. Indeed, it seems much more reasonable to me to assume that Joseph Smith intended later revelations to be bound in the same volume with the earlier revelations and thus contemplated that they would be read in pari materia or in light of one another. [...] What was needed was a clarification that the divine persons are more distinct than the Saints previously understood.

54. It has also been asserted that later Mormon scriptures adopt polytheism straight out. Polytheism is the view that there are a number of deities having distinct spheres of sovereignty. However, such an assertion is not sensitive to the way the word 'God' operates in Mormon scriptures. [...]

56. An 1832 revelation known as the Vision calls humans 'gods' for the first time in Mormon scripture: "as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God." (D&C 76:58). However, this language merely reflects Psalm 82:6: "I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High." This same Psalm was quoted in the gospel of John in response the charge of blasphemy when Christ claims to be the Son of God who is one with the Father. (John 10:30-38) These scriptures probably assert only that humans are gods in the sense that they have been commanded to be holy as God is holy.24
57. The only other scripture that calls humans 'gods' straight out is D&C 132, which states that: "Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue, then shall they be above all things because all things are subject to them. Then shall they be gods because they have power and the angels are subject unto them." (132:20)

This scripture does not entail polytheism because humans are always subordinate to the Father, Son and Holy Ghost and dependent on their relationship with them for their divinity. They are never pictured as separately worthy of worship. The Godhead has communicated to them the attributes of divine power, knowledge and presence Humans, as subordinate 'gods' are not independent rivals for worship in the sense required for polytheism.

Blake Ostler

http://www.smpt.org/docs/ostler_element1-1.html

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In this closely argued essay, Ostler (Mormonism's premier modern theologian outwith the LDS Church Authorities) shows, to my satisfaction, that Mormons are not polytheists any more than mainstream Christians are polytheists (or alternatively, if Mormons are polytheists, then so are all Christians who are Trinitarians and who take seriously that the saved will become Sons of God.)

Ostler shows that the Mormon concept of the Godhead (Father, Son, Holy Ghost) is both coherent and Scriptural/ Biblical (in a way that Classical Trinitarianism is not) - and is indeed formally identical with the 'Social Trinity' theory elucidated and argued by (among others) Reformed Christians such as Cornelius Plantinga - ex President of Calvin Theological Seminary (I presume this implies Plantinga is therefore a Calvinist?).

And in the above passage he shows that by the salvific work of Jesus Christ, Christians are promised divinity as Sons of God - this divinity is to be distinguished from the divinity of the Godhead/ Holy Trinity in the sense that to be a Son of God is to be dependent upon God for this divinity. Thus each Sons of God is NOT a God in his own right but - as being dependent, Sons of God (the future state of Christians, after theosis is complete) are not beings worthy of worship.

Hence (according to Ostler) there is not polytheism in scriptural Mormonism, any more than there is in the most scriptural forms of Reformed Protestantism.