Shout Out to the Latter Day Saints

If there are any readers, Mormon or otherwise, who fret that serious and sober debate seen in this space in weeks erenow with Mormons over theological questions will dim my high opinion of the LDS Church, I ask you not to fret.

Let me tell you my experience with Mormons.

Once upon a time, my middle son flushed a toy down the toilet, and the toy, with a power far beyond that of ordinary toys, managed not only to clog the pipe running under my front yard, but break the pipe during the attempt to remove it, so that my front tree had to be hewn down as if my the cruel Orcs of Orthanc, and all my yard ripped up and despoiled.

Next, the Home Owners Association sent a legal notice saying we had to restore the lawn to good and proper condition forthwith, or face legal penalties. At this point in time my wallet had moths in it, and echoes, but no money. I could not hire a landscaper no do the work myself.

My wife prayed to her God (I was an atheist at the time) and within the same day, two young men, dressed soberly, and with good manners, approached her and said that they were walking the neighborhood looking for good works to do. At first she thought of turning them away, but then realized they were an answer to prayer.

Since they were conservatively and soberly dressed, and spoke politely, and had a shining of grace and good favor about their faces, I knew at once that they were either Agents of the Machine from the movie THE MATRIX or that they were elders from the Church of Latter Day Saints.

I think their names were Elder Younger and Elder Kidd, but let me not be too droll on that point.

The two Mormon boys helped us that weekend with strenuous manual labor and the next and accepting no payment for their good deed. Nor did they lose their good cheer even for an instant.

(By way of jest, I asked my Christian wife if she would consider converting to the Mormon faith because of this event. She looked at me askance, and wonder why, if her God prompted answered her prayers by sending Mormons, why should she switch from hers to theirs?)

So I LOVE the Mormons. I will always be grateful to the Mormons. I respect the Mormons. The Mormons put their time and effort where their mouth is — and actually act like the Christians I know say we should act.

Dear Mormons, any of you reading these words, let me say I am glad your Church had the guts to stand up to the forces of sexual perversion and abomination in the recent elections in California. The Dark Lord who runs this world will have his vengeance on you for that, but God will protect and sustain you through any trouble.

Rome and Salt Lake City are allies in the Culture Wars. We are allies in the war for the souls of man, and souls of the world. No matter how much we disagree on matters of theology, even on crucial matters, the enemy is Satan. I have not lost sight of that fact, and I pray God I do not lose sight of it.

To be sure, the Roman Catholic Church does not regard your beliefs to be orthodox, nor your baptisms to be valid: if I may say it without offense, I do not consider a Mormon to be Christian any more than I consider a Muslim or Jew or Gnostic. The Christ you propose is too alien to orthodox theology to be considered a mere difference of opinion — your Christ is wholly different from mine.

And having said that, let me hasted to add I would that certain public figures who claim to be Catholic were as half as Christian in word and deed as every Mormon I have ever met.

About John C Wright

John C. Wright is a practicing philosopher, a retired attorney, newspaperman, and newspaper editor, and a published author of science fiction. Once a Houyhnhnm, he was expelled from the august ranks of purely rational beings when he fell in love; but retains an honorary title.
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228 Responses to Shout Out to the Latter Day Saints

  1. Thanks for the shout-out. It is indeed a treacherous world in which believers find themselves. I admire your willingness to address difficult issues.

  2. Baron Korf says:

    A well educated and pious Mormon who is a good friend of my good friend would agree that when a Catholic says “Christian” and a Mormon says “Christian” we are saying two different things.

    • KokoroGnosis says:

      This seems to be the case. My giant honkin’ theology textbooks have prompted some discussion with a coworker of mine, and there is a clear disconnect in terms of theology.

      When it comes to dealing with the world at large, though… I think it’s clear that Mormons are allies.

  3. Zach says:

    Thanks, Mr. Wright. I think most of us are pretty thick skinned; about 40% of the young men wind up as missionaries (I wish it were more) and that helps us appreciate just how odd we are in some ways. I have to say that reading your blog posts has helped me clarify my thinking not only on the specific evils of the age but also on my theology as a Latter-day Saint. So I thank you for that as well.

    And as far as Mormons view Catholicism, I think some of us are unfair and misinterpret our scriptures. The bulk of us, though, are grateful to the Catholic church for preserving the Bible, for its great philosophers, for good, courageous leaders like Pope John Paul II, and for taking marriage so seriously. While we believe that the priesthood authority of Peter was lost at some point, to be restored to Joseph Smith, we also recognize the great good that Catholicism did in keeping the light burning through many dark centuries.

    So thank you for your kind words, and for your kindness to the missionaries. When I was a missionary, it was often a great relief to take off the tie and do work. I’m sure it was a blessing to those young men as well.

  4. Mrmandias says:

    Wait, what? When did you jump on the ‘Mormons aren’t Christians’ bandwagon? I’m deeply disappointed.

    You are too smart a guy to buy the whole ‘different Jesus’ nonsense. If my naturalist atheist friend and I both know a guy, the vast theological difference between his belief that he’s a meat puppet and mine that he’s an embodied eternal soul don’t meant that we don’t know the same guy. Different metaphysical beliefs do not make the one object of those beliefs “wholly different” objects. Metaphysical beliefs aren’t metaphysical realities. Christ is an objective referent, not a subjective set of beliefs. There was only one man born of Mary in Bethlehem in the early Roman Empire who preached a kingdom not of this world. If that’s not the Christ you worship, so much the worse for you.

    You are too smart to believe that Mormonism bears the same relationship to mainstream Christianity as Judaism or Islam do. Anyone who took that view would be in for a shock when they attended Mormon services. Do Rabbis read the Imitation of Christ with profit? Do Muslim preachers, whatever they’re called, jokingly refer to C.S. Lewis as the 13th apostle? Do Satanists (the only contemporary gnostic grouping of which I’m aware) read patristic incarnational writings to improve their understanding of the gospel? Do the mullahs spend a lot of paper, ink, and scholarship trying to justify their deviations from Christian orthodoxy with reference to the pre-Nicene fathers (see here, farms.byu.edu)?

    Like Mormons generally I believe Christ is God and the Son of God, creator of the world, that he , preached in Jerusalem, that he was crucified under Pilate for the remission of the sins of mankind, that He rose from the dead on the 3rd day, that he is the eternal judge of the quick and the dead, our intercessor with the Father, and the only name given whereby men can be saved, worlds without end. Is that a Jewish belief? Is that what the circumcised preach from the minarets of Mecca?

    Why do my business acquaintances look puzzled when they see a nativity on my desk? Because their pastors had told them that Mormons weren’t Christians and they naturally assumed that meant that Mormons weren’t, well, Christians. Why did one of my Mormon friend’s neighbor come over and tell them near tears that she meant no offense and she’d take back the little book of Bible stories she’d given to her kids as a present. My friend couldn’t understand it and after a lot of mutual confusion she finally figured out that the neighbor’s pastor had told her that Mormons worshipped a different Jesus, so naturally the neighbor had assumed that it wasn’t the Jesus in the Bible. Jesus Mendez, itinerant Mexican blacksmith maybe.

    I can understand why y’all want to say that we aren’t Christians or believe in a different Jesus as a kind of rhetorical ploy. But when you say it as a matter of sober fact, you are wrong metaphysically, wrong sociologically, and wrong linguistically.

    Any man who professes love for me and tells me I don’t follow Christ is no lover of me and mine, nor of the truth.

    Read my blog, and get back to me:
    http://www.jrganymede.com/?s=christ
    http://www.jrganymede.com/?s=atonement

    Read this (non-Mormon) essay in First Things, and get back to me:
    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2012/01/mormonism-obsessed-with-christ

    Read what was preached over the pulpit at the last world-wide Mormon conference, and get back to me:
    http://www.lds.org/general-conference/sessions?lang=eng There’s some fine preaching on jihad and the law of Moses you’ll appreciate.

    Read one of the only two official declarations issued by the Mormon First Presidency and Apostles in the last decades:
    http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?locale=0&sourceId=735b862384d20110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&vgnextoid=e1fa5f74db46c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD

    • meat puppet

      What is it with theists and this phrase? To say that consciousness, decisions, and minds arise from the deterministic movements of the QM wave-function is not to say that any of those things don’t exist, any more than “the hand is composed of fingers, palm and thumb” denies the existence of the hand. There’s no puppetry in materialism; what would one be a puppet of?

      • lotdw says:

        True, but also the case that the hand is not privileged as a collection of objects over the thumb; each is a puppet of the other, or all are puppets with no puppeteers. Even the sense in which something “emerges” from something else could just as well be reversed in order and mean the same. Everything is connected but nothing is for the sake of anything else.

        • You extend the analogy beyond its intended purpose, and it breaks down.

          True, but also the case that the hand is not privileged as a collection of objects over the thumb; each is a puppet of the other, or all are puppets with no puppeteers. Even the sense in which something “emerges” from something else could just as well be reversed in order and mean the same.

          That is not so. You can have a thumb with no hand, but no (complete) hand without a thumb. Likewise you can have quarks without mind, but no mind without quarks. Hence the mind emerges from the quarks, but not vice-versa.

          Everything is connected but nothing is for the sake of anything else.

          Again this is a misunderstanding; meaning is embedded in the laws of physics and in the quark movements, but it does not follow that meaning does not exist. We just don’t know how to measure it exactly.

          • lotdw says:

            “That is not so. You can have a thumb with no hand, but no (complete) hand without a thumb. Likewise you can have quarks without mind, but no mind without quarks. Hence the mind emerges from the quarks, but not vice-versa.”

            But that says nothing about whether one is privileged over the other. Is a thumb with no hand BETTER than a (complete) hand in an unqualified sense?

            My statement is about the connection of a collection, in any case, in order to make a point about all such collections being arbitrary in a materialistic universe. It is no response to make a comment comparing a collection to an uncollected item. In your version of materialism, what does it matter whether there are quarks without mind or quarks with mind? And when there are quarks with mind, who is to say that the mind exists for the quarks or the quarks for the mind? Whether one is prior only privileges it, in a value/meaning sense, if prior is assumed to be BETTER. Is bigger always BETTER? But these are just as human and un-materialistic as assumptions as free will is.

            You want to have your cake and eat it too. The point of the term “meat puppets” isn’t that there’s a puppeteer; it’s that we’re NOT the puppeteer.

            • But that says nothing about whether one is privileged over the other. Is a thumb with no hand BETTER than a (complete) hand in an unqualified sense?

              Perhaps I don’t understand what you mean by ‘privileged’. Can you define this term and say why it is important?

              My statement is about the connection of a collection, in any case, in order to make a point about all such collections being arbitrary in a materialistic universe.

              I’m sorry, I do not understand what this means.

              It is no response to make a comment comparing a collection to an uncollected item. In your version of materialism, what does it matter whether there are quarks without mind or quarks with mind? And when there are quarks with mind, who is to say that the mind exists for the quarks or the quarks for the mind?

              Well, this mind says that it matters very much whether it exists or not, thank you. The quarks do not get a vote, except insofar as they make up the mind. So it seems that mind and quarks agree; who else do you propose to consult?

              You want to have your cake and eat it too. The point of the term “meat puppets” isn’t that there’s a puppeteer; it’s that we’re NOT the puppeteer.

              Well, that’s just wrong, then. Of course we are the puppeteers. At the dawn of time it was preordained that you should decide thus-and-so; and you free-willedly made the decision. There is no contradiction. Please note the phrasing of the first part of the sentence: It was preordained that you should decide. It was not preordained that you should do this-and-that, regardless of your will; no, it was preordained that your will should be for this-and-that. That does not invalidate your will, which still exists. It just happens to be predictable in advance, if you had a sufficient understanding of physics. Well, what of that? A theist who believes in an omniscient god cannot well complain of a theory that says his actions are predictable. At the dawn of time your god knew that you would come to exist, and would decide thus-and-so; nevertheless you decided, not your god. In fact, theism is rather more vulnerable to the criticism of puppeteering, because presumably the omniscient god could have tweaked your soul this way instead of that way and thus created a different being to inhabit your body, which would decide differently; materialism contains no such conscious puppet-master.

              The sage Yudkowsky, in this essay, makes the distinction that whatever influences there may have been on your decision – whether the gravitational pull of distant planets, or the moral strictures of your parents – do not make your decision for you; rather they create the you that makes the decision. If Mars had been slightly ahead in its orbit at the time of your birth, or if your father had not told you that men always pay their debts, a different person would stand in your boots – a close sibling, no doubt, but not quite you. He might make a different decision. But both you and he are free-willed beings, deciding in accordance with your own nature.

              • lotdw says:

                Hm. Let me attempt a clear explanation. I will probably fail and be even more confusing (or confused).

                A quick question before I begin, though – in your system, does the future happen because of the past? Or does the past happen because of the future? Or neither – does each cause the other (in some way that does not break the definition of “cause”)?

                On to the explanation. Let’s take an image of the Mona Lisa displayed on a computer screen. What caused this image? Was it the screen itself? Was it the computer as a whole? Was it the computer plus the user? Was it the entire present universe including the image itself? Was it the past plus the present universe? Was it the entirety of time? All can be said to have caused the image.

                Now, and here is the part that is hard for most people to grasp, let’s take the computer plus 500 random molecules of air in the immediate vicinity. This grouping has no set term (we have not given it one because we do not consider it privileged, as a grouping) but it did cause the image as much as any other grouping. Would a similar grouping with 501 or 499 cause it MORE? Or cause it BETTER? Not under a materialist system.

                The problem is that these groupings – and all of our words and concepts which we consider assigned to material things are assigned to such groupings – have no existence in a material sense, even if the items within the groupings might (but we cannot access the items themselves). They are merely descriptions which we have privileged with terms because they are more useful to our minds (subjective rather than objective). The groupings themselves are arbitrary.

                I should note that causation is just one place where such issues crop up, but one relevant to our discussion and one where the issues can be more clearly seen. But materialism denies any objective approach to concepts, meanings, and values (in the sense of Value Theory).

                Well, that’s just wrong, then. Of course we are the puppeteers. At the dawn of time it was preordained that you should decide thus-and-so; and you free-willedly made the decision. There is no contradiction. Please note the phrasing of the first part of the sentence: It was preordained that you should decide. It was not preordained that you should do this-and-that, regardless of your will; no, it was preordained that your will should be for this-and-that. That does not invalidate your will, which still exists.

                In what way is this “free,” if we cannot do anything else? The illusion of free will is not the same thing as free will, even if “the sage Yudkowsky” (whom I find interesting and correct in many things, including his Harry Potter fanfic, but not this) says so. This seems to be a definition of “free” that the complete opposite of the standard definition of “free.” Sure, “black” can be “white” if we define it that way, but it’s not very helpful in a discussion. Freedom is slavery, and all that.

                “It was preordained” is passive avoidance too. Orwell again. Preordain means “To prearrange unalterably in advance.” If your will is so preordained [by invisible subject], how is your will free? Is a control not a control if it happened in the past (again, this depends on how you define and differentiate past/present/future).

                Yudkowsky often gets himself into these problems because he wants to have his cake and eat it too – in this case, keep the positive image associated with traditional free will while abandoning not only the notion but the entire traditional framework.

                In fact, theism is rather more vulnerable to the criticism of puppeteering, because presumably the omniscient god could have tweaked your soul this way instead of that way and thus created a different being to inhabit your body, which would decide differently; materialism contains no such conscious puppet-master.

                To quote from your own link,

                “If it were counterfactually the case that your parents hadn’t raised you to be good, then it would counterfactually be the case that a different person would stand in front of the burning orphanage. It would be a different person who arrived at a different decision. And how can you be anyone other than yourself? Your parents may have helped pluck you out of Platonic person-space to stand in front of the orphanage, but is that the same as controlling the decision of your point in Platonic person-space?”

                God in your example is no different than the parents in the above example. Theism is the exact same on this point. Even more importantly, your assumption is that your example makes us not-free; well, so for your own. And of course this general “theistic” point has nothing to do with Christianity, which has as a tenet that God does not* impinge on our free will, and if he does then Christianity is false, rather than Christianity does not support free will. This is one reason why “theism” is a word no “theist” actually uses.

                * Or cannot. It is a much-debated point in questions of omniscience. Knowledge vs. strict preordination may solve it. Calvinism may or may not believe God impinges on our free will. Again, open issue.

                • A quick question before I begin, though – in your system, does the future happen because of the past? Or does the past happen because of the future? Or neither – does each cause the other (in some way that does not break the definition of “cause”)?

                  Causation runs from past to future through the present; that’s what causation means. You might find interesting the meditations of the sage on timeless physics. Perhaps I could answer the question better if I understood its purpose.

                  On to the explanation. Let’s take an image of the Mona Lisa displayed on a computer screen. What caused this image? Was it the screen itself? Was it the computer as a whole? Was it the computer plus the user? Was it the entire present universe including the image itself? Was it the past plus the present universe? Was it the entirety of time? All can be said to have caused the image.

                  Now, and here is the part that is hard for most people to grasp, let’s take the computer plus 500 random molecules of air in the immediate vicinity. This grouping has no set term (we have not given it one because we do not consider it privileged, as a grouping) but it did cause the image as much as any other grouping. Would a similar grouping with 501 or 499 cause it MORE? Or cause it BETTER? Not under a materialist system.

                  This is a very interesting argument, and perhaps the core of our disagreement. I think I can show that you are mistaken. Your choice of the computer screen is a good one, for it allows us to quantify difference; in particular, if we assume that the screen is an ordinary 1024×768 one, with pixels described by RGB values of 3 integers running from 0 to 255, then we are working with a phase space of roughly 2.3 million dimensions (that is, 1024×768 pixels and three color indices in each), in which distances are well defined merely as the sum-in-quadrature of the distance in each dimension.

                  Now, suppose that you look at a counterfactual history in which the 500 air molecules were displaced, say, one cm upwards, five seconds earlier. I submit that this is really quite unlikely to have any effect on the colors displayed on the computer screen. The probability is not zero, by any means; we can postulate such chains as “this oxygen molecule does not bind to that hemoglobin, thus [long chain of brain-internal chemical stuff] so that the gamer’s finger twitches a millisecond later, the zombie is not shot, and the screen does not display its coagulated blood spattering all over the room”. Nevertheless I say that it is small.

                  Now, in principle we can calculate an expected distance, or a probability distribution for distance, of the screen colours under such displacements; we may vary the time at which the displacement is supposed to have occurred, and also the amount and direction of it. Presumably, the further back in time, the greater the chance of some change occurring on the screen, by simple chaos theory. Integrating over many such possibilities will give us some measure of entanglement, or causality: The correlation between the chosen group of atoms, and the colours on the screen.

                  Now, suppose we did such an exercise for 500 molecules of air in the room; for 500 molecules of silicon in the computer; 500 organic molecules in the gamer’s brain; and 500 molecules of whatever the atmosphere of the third planet of Alpha Centauri consists of. (I note in passing that 500 is an absurdly small number in this context; we probably want moles, or at least some appreciable fraction of a mole. But no matter; the argument is the same if we take 500 trillion molecules – still rather less than a mole, you’ll observe!) It then seems clear that the correlation, the entanglement, however you want to put it, will be very different for these groupings. In the case of the Alpha Centauri molecules, the disturbance has to occur at least 4 years in the past, or it won’t have had time to propagate at lightspeed to reach the room with the computer in it. So the integral over time is zero for four years in which it is clearly nonzero (if perhaps small) for the other groups. That’s an extreme example, but one can do similar things for the other groupings; it seems clear to me that moving bits of a gamer’s brain around has a rather more direct effect than doing similar things to the air he breathes. As for the computer itself, if you were skilled in the art you could manipulate the colours directly by changing the bits in its graphics memory.

                  We find, then, that the 500 air molecules do indeed have a lesser causality entanglement, even integrated over all time, than do the molecules in the gamer’s brain or in the graphics chip; while the molecules over on Alpha Centauri 3 have a lesser effect still. And this is a purely objective, materialistic account of such differences: At no point have we done anything but physical calculations of charges in the computer’s graphics memory, under such-and-such assumptions about the prior history of the universe.

                  So, to answer your question: Yes, the air molecules are indeed less causal than other molecules, and conversely, the brain atoms of the gamer are causally privileged. The distinction is not artificial, it exists right there in the physics. Your assertion that these groupings are arbitrary is simply wrong.

                  In what way is this “free,” if we cannot do anything else?

                  In the same way that you are free to choose what you will, but not to will what you will. You make choices in accordance with your nature, whether that nature is taken to be materialistic or spiritual; you cannot change that nature, and thus you are in some sense unfree. But I opine that this is not a very meaningful sense.

                  You can choose, perhaps, to change your nature: By dint of long practice you may become, let us say, more diligent, or courageous, or whatever. But then, the choice of what parts to change is itself decided by your nature; and at some point you must end this chain. The strange loop does not go on forever. Perhaps it is four levels deep: You can choose to change the way you choose to change the way you choose to change the way you choose to change the way you choose (I think that’s four!), but there it stops. Or perhaps it is four hundred levels deep; or two. But the point remains that it is finite, and materialist or spiritualist alike are slaves to the final level that they can no longer affect.

                  “It was preordained” is passive avoidance too. Orwell again. Preordain means “To prearrange unalterably in advance.” If your will is so preordained [by invisible subject], how is your will free? Is a control not a control if it happened in the past (again, this depends on how you define and differentiate past/present/future).

                  It is free in the sense of being rational, lawful, and unconstrained by threats of violence; free will is, as Mr Wright occasionally points out, a legal or moral concept. It is free in the sense of being causally entangled, as I defined above, primarily although not exclusively with the atoms of your own brain. It is not free in the sense of being unpredictable.

                  “If it were counterfactually the case that your parents hadn’t raised you to be good, then it would counterfactually be the case that a different person would stand in front of the burning orphanage. It would be a different person who arrived at a different decision. And how can you be anyone other than yourself? Your parents may have helped pluck you out of Platonic person-space to stand in front of the orphanage, but is that the same as controlling the decision of your point in Platonic person-space?”

                  God in your example is no different than the parents in the above example. Theism is the exact same on this point.

                  Yes, that is the point I was making.

                  Even more importantly, your assumption is that your example makes us not-free; well, so for your own.

                  No, no, I don’t say that at all! My point was that deterministic physics and omniscient gods have the same effect on free will. I say that free will exists in both cases. If you say that it doesn’t exist in the case of deterministic physics, then you must say the same for an omniscient god.

                  And of course this general “theistic” point has nothing to do with Christianity, which has as a tenet that God does not* impinge on our free will, and if he does then Christianity is false, rather than Christianity does not support free will. This is one reason why “theism” is a word no “theist” actually uses.

                  It’s true that there’s no consensus within Christianity on this issue, but my point is that whatever conclusion you reach for an omniscient god must apply equally to a deterministic physics. Do you dispute that your god knows in advance what you will write in response to this post? Well then, you have given up on the omniscience; a perfectly reasonable solution to the problem, but I believe it has been declared heretical. (I cannot at the moment recall your denomination, so perhaps it’s not heretical for you. Mormons, for example, don’t believe their god is omniscient, if I understand correctly.) Conversely, do you believe that the god knows, but that you nevertheless choose? Well then, unknowability-in-advance cannot be the defining feature of free will.

                  • Anna says:

                    “Conversely, do you believe that the god knows, but that you nevertheless choose? Well then, unknowability-in-advance cannot be the defining feature of free will.”

                    What if God only knows because he is outside time? What if I posit that God, with his omniscience, cannot know what choice someone will make except by watching them make it? In this case, God’s knowing-ahead-of-time does not come from his greater knowledge of the initial conditions (since those do not determine the choice made), but only because (even in what is to us the past) he has already watched the choice happen (because for him all times are Now). In this conception, God’s “foreknowledge” is more like our knowledge of Abraham Lincoln’s choice to pursue the presidency… an “after the fact” knowledge, even though he has that knowledge from his outside-of-time perspective and therefore contains that knowledge at a time that, for us, is “before the fact”.

                    • You dodge in and out of considering your god as outside of time. If it has the knowledge outside of time, then it is neither “before” nor “after” the fact, because these are timeful relations; so when you say that it is “after-the-fact” knowledge, you have implicitly put your god back into time. In any case, the argument applies equally to a timeless physics.

                  • Anna says:

                    I’m not dodging in and out of considering God as outside of time; I’m dodging in and out of God’s perspective (outside time) and our perspective (inside time), in order to compare them and try to paint a fuller picture of what’s going on.

                    God’s knowledge is not “after the fact” per se, since he is outside time. But God’s knowledge from outside time is like what our “after the fact” knowledge is like, particularly in reference to the dynamic of, say… our knowledge that Booth shot Lincoln in no way contributed to or determined him doing so.

                    I do not see how this argument could be applied to a timeless physics. Physics is not a person; it cannot “know” outcomes. To say that physics determines the outcome means that only one outcome is possible. (From the moment all the particles were in place, there was no possibility that Booth would NOT shoot Lincoln.) … vs. … (Booth had the possibility, the option, of not shooting Lincoln, but God saw from outside time that Booth chose to shoot Lincoln).

                    • I do not see how this argument could be applied to a timeless physics. Physics is not a person; it cannot “know” outcomes. To say that physics determines the outcome means that only one outcome is possible. (From the moment all the particles were in place, there was no possibility that Booth would NOT shoot Lincoln.)

                      Your sentence here has a timeful physics, not a timeless one; “from the moment”, you say, but moments and from-ness are timeful concepts. In timeless physics there is only the fact that Booth shot Lincoln, not a time from which it was determined that he would do so.

                      As for there being only one possible outcome, see above for why this is equally true of a non-materialistic universe. Booth, because he was Booth, could only make one choice; he chose in accordance with his nature and what had been taught to him. A different person could have made a different choice, but only by virtue of being a different person.

      • deiseach says:

        What would one be a puppet of?

        Environmental forces, which both form the strings and are the string-pullers. To quote Jerry Coyne’s article in “USA Today”:

        “(W)e are biological creatures, collections of molecules that must obey the laws of physics. All the success of science rests on the regularity of those laws, which determine the behavior of every molecule in the universe. Those molecules, of course, also make up your brain — the organ that does the “choosing.” And the neurons and molecules in your brain are the product of both your genes and your environment, an environment including the other people we deal with. Memories, for example, are nothing more than structural and chemical changes in your brain cells. Everything that you think, say, or do, must come down to molecules and physics.”

        So we are puppets of the laws of physics, “which determined the behavior of every molecule in the universe”.

        • So we are puppets of the laws of physics, “which determined the behavior of every molecule in the universe”.

          But we are also part of physics; it is not an outside puppet-master who directs us whether we will or no, our will is the laws of physics as they operate inside our brains. Further, a non-materialistic account is equally vulnerable to this criticism; for men do not act randomly. Suppose there were ontologically basic mental objects; suppose that there was some soul or spirit or will that did not consist of quarks and did not follow the laws of physics. Nevertheless it would have to follow some law; between lawfulness and randomness there is no middle ground. Then would you say that we were puppets of the “laws of spirit, which determined the behaviour of every soul”? I think not. But what is the difference?

          Materialism is irrelevant to the question of lawfulness. If a being subject to laws that it cannot break is a puppet, then we are all puppets, materialist and theist alike.

    • Sam Urfer says:

      “Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic [read: Christian] Faith. Which Faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the Catholic [Christian] Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite. So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty. So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created; but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity.
      Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation; that he also believe faithfully the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess; that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God, of the Essence of the Father; begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the Essence of his Mother, born in the world. Perfect God; and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father as touching his Manhood. Who although he is God and Man; yet he is not two, but one Christ. One; not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh; but by assumption of the Manhood into God. One altogether; not by confusion of Essence; but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man; so God and Man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell; rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into heaven, he sitteth on the right hand of the God the Father Almighty, from whence he will come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies; And shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire. This is the Catholic [Christian] Faith; which except a man believe truly and firmly, he cannot be saved.”

      Maybe not an ecumenical statement, but that is one of the minimum standards for what is considered Christian. Accept no substitutes. Though as the good Blogmaster says, that doesn’t mean Mormons aren’t good people, anymore than other non-Christians and indeed better than many Christians.

      • Mrmandias says:

        Who decides on the minimum standards? Does this mean that Arians, for example, weren’t Christian heretics because they weren’t Christians at all? Does this mean that my acquaintances are right to be puzzled by the Nativity on my desk? Like much of political correctness, what you are doing is using language as a form of power here, as a claim to which you want others to conform, not as a description of what is. And nothing about the Nicene creed demonstrates that I worship a ‘different Jesus,’ which is a ridiculous proposition to begin with.

        • Anna says:

          “Does this mean that Arians, for example, weren’t Christian heretics because they weren’t Christians at all?”

          While I don’t know the historical position of the orthodox Church on the validity of Arian baptisms, I would say that the closest thing to modern-day Arians that I know of are the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and their baptisms are also considered invalid by the Catholic church.

        • Rade Hagedorn says:

          In all likelihood Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics would hold Arians to be apostates. For example, in many ways Jehovas Witnesses are similar to Arians and Orthodox Christianity and (from my understanding) Roman Catholicism do not hold their baptisms as valid and do not regard them as Christians.

        • I have studied that period: the Orthodox never once accused or thought the Arians were not Christians. They were heretics. A heretic is a Christian who rejects Church doctrines. Jews and Muslims on the other hand cannot be heretics because they were never baptized Christians.

        • The Ubiquitous says:

          Who decides?

          Those of authority. Who has authority?

          That is the question of modern Christians, just as the problem of induction is the problem of modern philosophy. Both the question of authority and the problem of induction are not so much legitimate qualms as they are engendered by a pre-conceived pathology against a status quo, an insanity which may or may not have had grounds at the time but now is more of a tradition of men, passed on like eye color to your children.

          I submit that Mormons have at least as much authority to call themselves Christian as any Protestant or Unitarian or Evangelical as such use those terms. My corollary: Their claiming doesn’t make the title accurate, which is accurate or not in and of itself no matter what they say. I defer to authority to investigate and make the determination on matters to which I am unlettered to know the answer.

      • Not to start another argument, but here I agree with Mrmandias: that reading would exclude Arians and Ebionites, and other heretics who were indeed Christians, since you cannot be a Christian heretic without being a Christian.

        • The Ubiquitous says:

          Muslims, as per Belloc, are indeed also of a Christian heresy, mentioned as such in The Great Heresies. But that is not how we use “Christian,” either.

          Sir, I politely point out that “Church” as used and capitalized in your first sentence does in fact lead to the impression that there is more than one Church, a declaration refuted by every creed of our own faith, and which Mormons themselves would dispute. Polite alternate formulations exist, my favorite of which is to simply use “faith” in the place of “Church.”

    • Mrmandias says:

      I retract the last line. My apologies.

    • SMM says:

      Dear Mrmandias,

      Have sure enjoyed your comments on Mr. Wright’s Journal for years — knowing you were Mormon. I wish your reply would have been a little more like Zach’s. I may read the links, but when you end, as any good Christian would, with “take your love and stick it,” it kind of takes a little wind out of those sails. No doubt, this close is one that will be regretted by someone who has shown as excellent moral control as you have over the years.

      I applaud Mr. Wright’s shout out! I, too, love Mormons though I choose not to be one. Having grown up and lived my life in highly Mormon areas, I have found them generally to be the finest people imaginable. The ones who aren’t do not take their religeon seriously. As a societal force, the LDS is definitely a stalwart friend, typically moreso than my fellow poorly-catechised Catholics. Furthermore, their upbringing and eschewal of our horrendous post-modern society helps them immensely in the inevitable battles against “the world.” As Mormons who have invited me to many functions probably wish I would become Mormon, I also wish they would become Catholic. This doesn’t diminish my love nor respect for them. Chesterton has a wonderful quote about not wanting to understand others beliefs and then panning them.

      A Mormon friend, who has given me a highlighted Book of Mormon, D&C, etc, has told me that he hopes and expects — much like the communists, the Mohammedans, and the Catholics, etc. — that someday we will all be folded into, in his case, the LDS. Like Gamaliel, with Sts. Peter and John, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, with no evil in my heart (and without the scourging :)), knowing that “if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it, lest perhaps you be found even to fight against God.” (Acts V; 34-39 DR). Truly Providence has plans to make good of all the splits and protestations since Jesus founded “some” Church.

      For my part, Mormon missionaries, assembled by the aforementioned friend, helped me search for a whitetail buck wounded the prior evening near dusk. My “fee” was to listen to an (2nd) installment of their missionary spiel. You can guess by the prior testimony the end results of the lesson, but it was interesting and produced more light than heat in both directions. It was certainly milder than the overtures made at my soul by other denominations in my younger years. One such overture, included an ostensible trip to visit a cave for kids who helped at a big softball tourney. Divided groups were at one point herded into a small side chamber and all lights were extinguished. This was the total darkness (nice literal example I must say) that was implied if we did not accept Jesus? Their form of worship? Who knows? Never have I known the LDS to attempt to take advantage of unformed and unfinished youth in such a manner.

      My 10 y.o. son’s BB team practices in the Stake House gym. His coaches are LDS. Mormons run half the Cub Scout packs in the area, Mormons have improved my temporal life in a multitude of ways.

      I wish them nothing but the best: Which means I hope someday they, and all men of good will, will be welcomed into God’s presence with a “well done, good and faithful servant.”

    • The Inquisition (yes they still exist) has officially decreed that the baptism of Mormons is not valid. Sorry if I offend, but I believe what the Church teaches, even if I have personal reservations. So I climbed on the bandwagon the moment the Holy Office made a ruling. http://www.ewtn.com/library/theology/mormbap1.htm

      If I may quote:

      The formula used by the Mormons might seem at first sight to be a Trinitarian formula. The text states: “Being commissioned by Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (cf. D&C 20:73). The similarities with the formula used by the Catholic Church are at first sight obvious, but in reality they are only apparent. There is not in fact a fundamental doctrinal agreement. There is not a true invocation of the Trinity because the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, according to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are not the three persons in which subsists the one Godhead, but three gods who form one divinity. One is different from the other, even though they exist in perfect harmony (Joseph F. Smith, ed., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith [TPJSI, Salt Lake City: Desert Book, 1976, p. 372). The very word divinity has only a functional, not a substantial content, because the divinity originates when the three gods decided to unite and form the divinity to bring about human salvation (Encyclopaedia of Mormonism [EM], New York: Macmillan, 1992, cf. Vol. 2, p. 552). This divinity and man share the same nature and they are substantially equal. God the Father is an exalted man, native of another planet, who has acquired his divine status through a death similar to that of human beings, the necessary way to divinization (cf. TPJS, pp. 345-346). God the Father has relatives and this is explained by the doctrine of infinite regression of the gods who initially were mortal (cf. TPJS, p. 373). God the Father has a wife, the Heavenly Mother, with whom he shares the responsibility of creation. They procreate sons in the spiritual world. Their firstborn is Jesus Christ, equal to all men, who has acquired his divinity in a pre-mortal existence. Even the Holy Spirit is the son of heavenly parents. The Son and the Holy Spirit were procreated after the beginning of the creation of the world known to us (cf. EM, Vol. 2, p. 961). Four gods are directly responsible for the universe, three of whom have established a covenant and thus form the divinity.

      As is easily seen, to the similarity of titles there does not correspond in any way a doctrinal content which can lead to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. The words Father, Son and Holy Spirit, have for the Mormons a meaning totally different from the Christian meaning. The differences are so great that one cannot even consider that this doctrine is a heresy which emerged out of a false understanding of the Christian doctrine. The teaching of the Mormons has a completely different matrix. We do not find ourselves, therefore, before the case of the validity of Baptism administered by heretics, affirmed already from the first Christian centuries, nor of Baptism conferred in non-Catholic ecclesial communities, as noted in Canon 869 §2.

      • Mrmandias says:

        I’ve read that before. No offense, but your Church is out to lunch on that particular issue. The logic is poor, their grasp of what Mormons believe is poor, their grasp of the LDS operational relationship to Christian teaching is poor. If you feel you must accept it as a matter of authority, then one can excuse it, though not the fact that you feel like you had to repeat the falsehoods when there was no particular need to do so.

        But if you, an otherwise intelligent man, assent to the indefensible of your own free will, I do not excuse it.

        The answer to your question, can you tell me that I’m not Christian and don’t worship the real Christ without giving offense, is no.

        • If the Mormons do not believe what the Inquisition says, then, no, I am not bound in conscience to believe it. As the document says, mere heresy does not make baptisms invalid.

        • Rade Hagedorn says:

          I’m somewhat unclear on this point. My understanding is that the LDS, much like many Protestants, believes that there was a Great Apostacy. An apostate is someone who was once a member of a religion, in this case Christianity, ho is no longer a member of that religion. This is why many Protestants hold that Roman Catholics, and Orthodox Christians when they remember us, are not Christians. Do the LDS have an alternate definition of apostacy?

          Christians understand the person of Jesus Christ as being the truth. That means if you have an utterly different understanding of Jesus Christ as a person then you are embracing a different truth than historical Christianity. I wouldn’t think that this is a controversial statement as the LDS believe that Christianity was significantly corrupted prior to the Nicene Creed. If you honestly never thought that Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians don’t find this to be an incredibly insulting belief (whether the LDS have opted to continue calling Roman Catholic and “Eastern” Orthodox apostates Christians or not) then you are sadly mistaken. So at least we all feel equally insulted.

          • Mrmandias says:

            “Utterly different?” Utterly false. There were not two men at Gethsemane. There were not two on the cross who cried Abba, Father, and gave up the ghost. Two Marys did not find two empty tombs.

            As for the rest, yes, Mormons believe that traditional Christianity lost and/or altered some components of the gospel at some point and also lost the chain of priesthood authority. I realize that this offends some of you who are sincere believers and good people, so I try not to make a point out of it.

            But in any case, I don’t see how that makes you non-Christian, or worshipping some ersatz Jesus.

            • Rade Hagedorn says:

              I’m not particularly offended, as my working assumption is that you are wrong.  My point is that in any religious discussion each side is likely going to make statements or hold beliefs that are offensive to the other party.

              When the LDS claim that there was a great apostasy back in A.D. ~100 they are essentially making the claim that non-LDS are not actually Christians unless the LDS have redefined what apostasy means.

              When I was a kid I regarded myself as a Christian.  I had never been to church, had never been baptized, believed that the Pope was the reigning authority of all Christians, was both a unitarian and a universalist, and believed that Jesus was a great and holy prophet who performed miracles and was born of a young woman who had had sex with her husband Joseph.  I also would have also told you that Mormons were Christians.

              Within Orthodox Christianity you have to have had a valid baptism to be considered a Christian.  A 10 year old Rade might disagree, my atheist brother might disagree, a guy living down the road might disagree, a Muslim might disagree, and you might disagree but all of that has nothing to do with anything.  I posit that no one gets to say that a 2,000 year old Church has its definition wrong or that its definition has been superseded by a general desire for ecumenicism and diversity in a secular society.

              Now clearly the LDS believe that Orthodox Christianity is either apostate, heretical, or schismatic — or a combination of any of the above.  That is fine.  The LDS can even call themselves Christians.  What the LDS can’t do is say that either the Church or me have to call or think of them as Christians because Muslims think they are or that it confuses people when they are told LDS aren’t Christians.

              What is particularly interesting about his whole discussion is that not that long ago Mr. Hutchins was complaining that certain groups who had schismed from the LDS still called themselves Mormons and were popularly called Mormons by non-Mormons.  According to him they were not Mormons and should not be called such as it caused confusion.  The LDS seem terribly concerned about, for lack of a better term, brand confusion.

        • If you can patiently explain it to me, what is the Mormon position on the Trinity? On Christology? One hears many odd rumors, but I have never had a Mormon confirm or deny them. Since the Inquisition got it wrong, what is right?

          • Mrmandias says:

            A difficult question to answer, because Mormons don’t worry about metaphysics much and generally don’t have clear metaphysical or philosophical commitments of the sort y’all are used to. For instance, where you folks have the Nicene Creed, we have the First Article of Faith, which merely states “We believe in God the Eternal Father and in his Son Jesus Christ and in the Holy Ghost.” Y’all are civil law, we’re common law. Y’all are Code Napoleon, we’re Anglo-Saxon muddling through.

            Far from knowing the terms of the Christological debate, for instance, most Mormons don’t even know what the questions are. Ask a Mormon how many natures Christ has and he’d just stare at you. I pride myself on being more savvy about mainstream Christian theology than most Mormons, but when I last started reading about the Christological debates and two natures or one, and two wills or one, and two persons or one, Christokos or Theotokos, and all that, to my own disappointment I found myself saying ‘I don’t know and I don’t care.’ (Though I do kinda feel that Nestorius got a raw deal.)

            It doesn’t help the confusion that to modern Americans ‘being’ and ‘person’ are synonyms, or that most American Christians explain the Trinity in modalistic terms.

            • Patrick says:

              “because Mormons don’t worry about metaphysics much and generally don’t have clear metaphysical or philosophical commitments of the sort y’all are used to”

              Isn’t this because God is a physical, finite being in the Mormon theology? I was under the impression that Mormons don’t really use metaphysics to speculate about God because they expect God to be some-thing, rather than, say, the traditional Christian view of God as immanent and transcendent, etc.

          • John Hutchins says:

            This is going to be long and mostly quotes on the subject.

            Article of Faith 1:
            “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.”

            The Living Christ:

            As we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ two millennia ago, we offer our testimony of the reality of His matchless life and the infinite virtue of His great atoning sacrifice. None other has had so profound an influence upon all who have lived and will yet live upon the earth.

            He was the Great Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Messiah of the New. Under the direction of His Father, He was the creator of the earth. “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). Though sinless, He was baptized to fulfill all righteousness. He “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38), yet was despised for it. His gospel was a message of peace and goodwill. He entreated all to follow His example. He walked the roads of Palestine, healing the sick, causing the blind to see, and raising the dead. He taught the truths of eternity, the reality of our premortal existence, the purpose of our life on earth, and the potential for the sons and daughters of God in the life to come.

            He instituted the sacrament as a reminder of His great atoning sacrifice. He was arrested and condemned on spurious charges, convicted to satisfy a mob, and sentenced to die on Calvary’s cross. He gave His life to atone for the sins of all mankind. His was a great vicarious gift in behalf of all who would ever live upon the earth.

            We solemnly testify that His life, which is central to all human history, neither began in Bethlehem nor concluded on Calvary. He was the Firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Redeemer of the world.

            He rose from the grave to “become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Corinthians 15:20). As Risen Lord, He visited among those He had loved in life. He also ministered among His “other sheep” (John 10:16) in ancient America. In the modern world, He and His Father appeared to the boy Joseph Smith, ushering in the long-promised “dispensation of the fulness of times” (Ephesians 1:10).

            Of the Living Christ, the Prophet Joseph wrote: “His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying:

            “I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father” (D&C 110:3–4).

            Of Him the Prophet also declared: “And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!

            “For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—

            “That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (D&C 76:22–24).

            We declare in words of solemnity that His priesthood and His Church have been restored upon the earth—“built upon the foundation of … apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:20).

            We testify that He will someday return to earth. “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (Isaiah 40:5). He will rule as King of Kings and reign as Lord of Lords, and every knee shall bend and every tongue shall speak in worship before Him. Each of us will stand to be judged of Him according to our works and the desires of our hearts.

            We bear testimony, as His duly ordained Apostles—that Jesus is the Living Christ, the immortal Son of God. He is the great King Immanuel, who stands today on the right hand of His Father. He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son.

            Some selections from the King Follet Discourse; the original is not had, this is from one set of notes, there is a better amalgamation of other notes from other scribes but I can’t find that in a version that is copy and paste-able:

            God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by His power, was to make himself visible,—I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with Him, as one man talks and communes with another.

            The scriptures inform us that Jesus said, as the Father hath power in himself, even so hath the Son power— to do what? Why, what the Father did. The answer is obvious—in a manner to lay down his body and take it up again. Jesus, what are you going to do? To lay down my life as my Father did, and take it up again. Do you believe it? If you do not believe it you do not believe the Bible. The scriptures say it, and I defy all the learning and wisdom and all the combined powers of earth and hell together to refute it. Here, then, is eternal life—to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all gods have done before you, namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you attain to the resurrection of the dead, and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings, and to sit in glory, as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power.

            These are the first principles of consolation. How consoling to the mourners when they are called to part with a husband, wife, father, mother, child, or dear relative, to know that, although the earthly tabernacle is laid down and dissolved, they shall rise again to dwell in everlasting burnings in immortal glory, not to sorrow, suffer, or die any more, but they shall be heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. What is it? To inherit the same power, the same glory and the same exaltation, until you arrive at the station of a god, and ascend the throne of eternal power, the same as those who have gone before. What did Jesus do? Why, I do the things I saw my Father do when worlds came rolling into existence. My Father worked out His kingdom with fear and trembling, and I must do the same; and when I get my kingdom, I shall present it to My Father, so that He may obtain kingdom upon kingdom, and it will exalt Him in glory. He will then take a higher exaltation, and I will take His place, and thereby become exalted myself. So that Jesus treads in the tracks of His Father, and inherits what God did before; and God is thus glorified and exalted in the salvation and exaltation of all His children. It is plain beyond disputation, and you thus learn some of the first principles of the gospel, about which so much hath been said.

            When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the gospel—you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave. I suppose I am not allowed to go into an investigation of anything that is not contained in the Bible. If I do, I think there are so many over-wise men here that they would cry “treason” and put me to death.

            (note: two months later Joseph Smith was killed)

            You also might want to look at this sermon by Joseph Smith on the plurality of gods.

        • docrampage says:

          With all due respect, your complaints come across as an appeal to irrational sentiment rather than logic, aping the equally absurd rhetoric from proponents of gay marriage and other progressive agendas. The Catholic (and Evangelical) position on the Christianity of Mormons is not some capricious taunt, excluding Mormons just because they aren’t the right sort; it is a logical conclusion from ancient Christian doctrine and their understanding of Mormon beliefs. They define a Christian as someone who holds to a particular set of beliefs. According to their research, Mormons do not hold to those beliefs. Ergo, Mormons are not Christians.

          You aren’t going to change anyone’s mind by complaining about how unkind this conclusion is because it is a conclusion of logic and evidence, not of social protocol. Your only logical recourse is to (1) persuade them that their current 2,000-year-old criteria need to be revised or (2) persuade them that Mormon theology satisfies their criteria.

          You aren’t going to make headway on either issue by just saying that they have hurt your feelings, nor should you. If the argument for niceness were a legitimate argument, it could equally be used by Jews, Buddhists, and atheists who wanted to be part of the big Christian club –which is clearly absurd.

          • Mrmandias says:

            That’s just an abuse of the language. ‘Christian’ does not in fact generally mean what you want it to mean, and since you should be smart enough to know that, when you use language that way you are engaged in deceit.

            It’s also circular. Your argument that your definition of Christian is the right one is that its your definition of Christian. There’s no there there.

            And nothing about that argument justifies the vile argument that I worship an “utterly different Jesus” anyway.

            • docrampage says:

              “That’s just an abuse of the language. ‘Christian’ does not in fact generally mean what you want it to mean, and since you should be smart enough to know that, when you use language that way you are engaged in deceit.”
              You are the one abusing language; pretending like this is an argument over a word definition when it’s an argument over doctrine. A Christian is someone who follows the teachings of Christ. This disagreement is about what those teachings are, and your attempts to turn Catholic beliefs about those teachings into a personal insult are ridiculous and pathetic.

              “It’s also circular. Your argument that your definition of Christian is the right one is that its your definition of Christian. There’s no there there.”
              I never said anything of the kind. What I said is that Catholics have doctrinal positions about what it means to be a Christian. I didn’t say that having those doctrines made those doctrines correct. In fact I don’t believe that they are correct. I’m not a Catholic.

              “And nothing about that argument justifies the vile argument that I worship an “utterly different Jesus” anyway.”
              Oh, quit being such a silly drama queen. Saying that you worship a different Jesus is just a way of saying that you have different doctrines of who Jesus is –an obviously true statement. And even if it were meant literally, it wouldn’t be “vile”.

              You are trying to make a religious doctrine into a grievous insult so that you can play the oppressed victim and silence the people who disagree with you, not by argument but by shaming them into shutting up. This is a tactic perfected by the amoral Left. What you are doing is no different than accusing people who oppose gay marriage of gay bashing, accusing people who oppose affirmative action of racism, or accusing people who oppose illegal immigration of nativism. It is a despicable rhetorical tactic and you are the one who should be ashamed here, not those who are merely expressing their religious convictions.

              On the other hand, I do note the irony that not too long back, there were some Catholics on this very blog using the very same despicable tactics against Evangelicals that you now seek to deploy against Catholics.

              • Anna says:

                “You are trying to make a religious doctrine into a grievous insult so that you can play the oppressed victim and silence the people who disagree with you, not by argument but by shaming them into shutting up.”

                In fairness, if Mr. Mandias is right, and Mormons are true Christians, then it *is* an injustice for folk to imply otherwise, and he would be right to be offended. This is not merely a matter of abstract technical distinction; this goes to the core of things we all care deeply about. Yes?

                • docrampage says:

                  No, I don’t agree that he would be justified in being offended. A Christian should never be offended at honesty, even if he believes the honest opinion is wrong. You might as well be offended at courage because it is in a mistaken cause or offended at love because the object of the love is unworthy.

                  Just what do Mormons expect Catholics to do about this hyperactive sense of outrage? Change their deeply held beliefs just to avoid being scolded? Would anyone actually consider that a good or a Christian thing to do?

                  There is no source of offense here at all. If a Catholic says that you worship a different Jesus than he does, that means that he worships a different Jesus than you do. The situations are entirely parallel, so if he is giving vile offense to you, he is giving the same vile offense to himself and his coreligionists.

                  Catholics aren’t calling Mormons evil, or accusing them of drinking the blood of Christian children as part of their heathen ceremonies. All that is going on is that Mormons would like Catholics to agree that their doctrines are compatible and Catholics decline to agree. The strongest emotion that any reasonable person should feel at such a gentle opposition is disappointment.

                  • Anna says:

                    “A Christian should never be offended at honesty, even if he believes the honest opinion is wrong.”

                    If some young upstart who has only just met you comes up and arrogantly declares that you do not love your beloved wife because you do not insist that she wear skirts all the time… do you think that you *should* not be offended by him, because he honestly believes what he says? (Not *would* you be offended by him, instead of merely dismissing him as humorous… but would you believe that you had a duty not to be offended by his accusation?)

                    • docrampage says:

                      If some young upstart who has only just met you comes up and arrogantly declares that you do not love your beloved wife because you do not insist that she wear skirts all the time… do you think that you *should* not be offended by him, because he honestly believes what he says?

                      That’s a loaded question. Why would someone I barely know come up and tell me personally that I do not love my wife? It’s hard to imagine a situation where he is not being deliberately impudent. I would take offense at the impudence, not the honesty. If I read a web site where someone expressed his religious view that men who do not force their wives to wear skirts do not love them, I would find the belief peculiar but not take personal offense to it. Why would I?

                      But even without that, your example is twisted. No one has claimed that Mormons do not love God, as your example has someone claiming that I do not love my wife. A better example would be someone on a web site saying that according to his religious conviction, anyone who is not married in a particular church is not really married. The idea that I or any reasonable person would take personal offense at this is simply preposterous.

                  • Mrmandias says:

                    If you are using words in a way that is false given their common usage, you are committing dishonesty, not honesty. May one be offended at dishonest opinions?

      • Mrmandias says:

        Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but I did not realize that the pronouncements of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith are considered to be binding on the conscience of any faithful Catholic. I mean, obviously no individual Catholic has the authority to declare what baptisms are valid and which aren’t. But the reasoning isn’t equally binding, is it? After all, it could be reversed. This isn’t–forgive me if I remember the terminology wrong–a magisterial pronouncement ex cathedra for which no reversal is possible?

    • I rescind the comment and humbly apologize. Your words have convinced me. The Inquisition said only that your baptisms were not valid, not that your Christianity was in doubt. I take it back.

      • DGDDavidson says:

        The one follows the other. If the baptism is invalid, then the people who have received it are not Christians, technically speaking.

        The question remains open, though, as to whether the Congregation has correctly understood Mormon doctrine and drawn its conclusions. I look forward to Mr. Mandias’s comments on that subject.

        • Mrmandias says:

          Maybe that’s part of the disagreement. To me, one would not have to have a valid baptism to be a “Christian” as the term is generally used.

          It’s pretty obvious to me that there are numerous ‘technical Christianities’ to which I don’t belong. That doesn’t upset me, because when people say I don’t meet some precise technical specification, they aren’t calling into question my commitment to Christ or the commitment of our people. Mormons never got ostracised by their neighbors or had mix-ups with nativities or any of that over technical definitions.

          • The Ubiquitous says:

            Catholicism is nothing if not technical. (Cf. Homosexuality “objectively disordered,” and not meaning what those who react to the phrase seem to think it means.)

            • Mrmandias says:

              The problem comes when people use technical vocabulary, or tell themselves that they are, when it can be confused with ordinary or common vocabulary. (Like some evangelicals do when they complain that Mormons are a cult but when called on it explain that they didn’t mean it pejoratively, only as a technical term denoting that we’re not biblical literalists or something).

              I agree that Mormons are not Christians by some technical definitions that some folks hold (they are by mine, naturally ;) ). I assert that saying Mormons are not Christians is deceptive, misleading, or badly confusing in ordinary speech.

              When I was a Mormon missionary, I spent a good deal of time arguing with Muslim immigrants about the status of Christ. It never occurred to them, or me, that I was a non-Christian.

      • Rade Hagedorn says:

        Not being a Roman Catholic I may misunderstand your church’s catechism (817, 818, 2089) but I was under the impression that to be considered a Christian you had to have a valid baptism.

        I do think that too much is made of the discussion of who is really a Christian. It seems to imply that Jesus Christ founded a philosophical school and not a Church.

        At least within Orthodox Christianity you have to have been an Orthodox Christian before you could be considered either an apostate or a heretic. Therefore to me you are not a heretic, but belong to a heretical schismatic church. A member of the LDS is usually not a heretic or apostate but a member of an apostate and heretical church. Unless you are running for political office I’m not really certain why this distinction would be important — and even then it would seem to imply that there is something wrong with, for example, Jews because they can not claim the mantle of “Christianity”.

    • Mary says:

      Muslims will also tell you that they believe in Jesus, just as a prophet.

      Unless you are prepared to assert they are Christians, you must admit that the beliefs about Jesus required to be Christian are somewhat more complex than asserting a belief in him.

      • Mrmandias says:

        Mormons believe in Jesus as God, Son, and Savior. Believe you me, when I interacted with Muslims as an LDS missionary, they did not feel that I was on their side of the divide between them and us Christ worshippers.

  5. Anna says:

    “We are allies in the war for the souls of man, … if I may say it without offense, I do not consider a Mormon to be Christian any more than I consider a Muslim or Jew or Gnostic. ”

    Do you also see Muslims or Jews or Gnostics as allies in the war for the souls of man?

  6. Boggy Man says:

    I actually first found this blog through the recommendation of Nathan Shumate of Cold Fusion Video, himself LDS. I’m sure he’s a busy man, but I wonder if he would like to throw his 2 cents in.

  7. SunEmber382 says:

    As a Mormon, I’ve never been really troubled about not being considered Christian by Catholics, Protestants etc. My view is that if Christ is willing to claim me as one of his sheep*, it doesn’t matter what other people say. If Christ says I am not one of his, then nothing can save me, even if every sect in Christianity agreed to accept Mormons as one of the tribe.

    *I’m not saying that Christ has claimed me, but I try to live my life in the hope that he will.

    • DGDDavidson says:

      Very good. As a Catholic, I am also not offended when Protestants do not consider me Christian. It is a conclusion they derive from their doctrine, not from any bias against me personally.

      I lived in Salt Lake City for a few years and I entirely agree with Mr. Wright’s praise of the Mormons. That little corner of the world is much more sane than most of the rest of the country, and that probably explains why the hardcore lefties I hang out with on a regular basis have such nasty, bigoted things to say against Mormons.

      I only regret that the Mormon missionaries who offered to come by my apartment to discuss their faith with me never showed up. I would have happily let let them preach Mormonism if they would have been willing to listen to me preach Catholicism in turn. In retrospect, it might have been for the best, though, because I would have probably committed some faux pas such as offering them tea or beer.

    • The Ubiquitous says:

      Hear hear!

  8. John Hutchins says:

    “the Roman Catholic Church does not regard your beliefs to be orthodox, nor your baptisms to be valid: if I may say it without offense”

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints does not regard your beliefs to be orthodox, nor your baptism to be valid: if I may say it without offense, I do consider a Catholic to be Christian even though the Christ you propose is so caught up in Neo-Platonic and Aristotelian thought so as to be completely different from the one described in scripture and by those that have seen the risen Lord.

    While Latter-Day Saints and Catholics may disagree quite a bit on the details of Christ both have belief in Christ and, much more importantly, try to follow the teachings of Christ. The true Christians are those that do the will of the Father, not those that cry Lord, Lord. A person can spend their entire life debating the details of Christ but if they do not feed the hungry, take in the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the prisoner, and do the will of God then they have never known Christ and must depart from Him. Being Christian is taking on oneself both the name and mission of Christ which He gave as “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” and if this is what one does and tries to do then no organization on earth has the right to say that one is not a Christian, regardless of belief, for by so doing they are contradicting the words of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Jesus said “By their fruits ye shall know them”, so by saying we act as Christians should you have called us Christian in truer and more forceful terms then the later denial of applying that term to the Latter-Day Saints. That is the way I see it at least so I thank you for the shout out.

    • Mrmandias says:

      You say “completely different” in paragraph 1 and then you point out the commonalities in paragraph 2. One of those paragraphs is wrong.

      It’s the first one.

      • John Hutchins says:

        You are right, the first paragraph should have “wholly” not “completely” based on what I was trying to do. You are also right that neither wholly nor completely is actually accurate, their are more similarities in the details then that.

    • “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints does not regard your beliefs to be orthodox, nor your baptism to be valid: if I may say it without offense, I do consider a Catholic to be Christian even though the Christ you propose is so caught up in Neo-Platonic and Aristotelian thought so as to be completely different from the one described in scripture and by those that have seen the risen Lord.”

      No offense taken on my part. I am not the one here who reacted with shock to find that if you depart too far away from the Mother Church, she no longer calls you a heretic or a prodigal son, but a stranger.

      For the prodigal son to say that his Mother is not a member of the family is slightly absurd, but, of course, if your belief is that we have strayed from the truth and now preach falsehood and absurdity, what else can you say?

      No matter what we think of each others’ doctrinal beliefs, our moral beliefs largely agree, I would rather be in your foxhole during the Culture Wars than sharing it with Nancy Pelosi or Joe Biden or Ted Kennedy, or any other Catholic who serves and worships the selfsame enemy, the Prince of This World, whom you and I both abhor. Give me an honest heretic over a dishonest Pharisee any day, amen.

  9. The Ubiquitous says:

    I admire Mormon persons, and I loathe the Mormon faith. This is a personal failing, but at the core I cannot but dislike the presumption of apostasy without even making the attempt at a solid, historical reason to believe it.

    • Mrmandias says:

      Suit yourself. No skin off our nose.

      • The Ubiquitous says:

        Yes, but how better you would be in the Church God founded! If you flourish in a false religion, how much better with the Real Presence of Christ?

        • The Ubiquitous says:

          I say this with no little amount of self-pity, for I am barely awoken myself, and I say it with some envy, for my manner is not of someone who is fruitful. I know enough, though, to desire the good for everyone, that participation in the visible, historical Body of Christ is by far the ideal.

          His Body bleeds enough that we must weep, but he does not die unless he chooses to. He chose to die only once; he promised that once his Church was established, his Body the Church would never die again. Against the august assurance of Christ are all who profess apostasy.

          What faith can we keep in living the Christ life if we do not keep the faith that the living Christ kept the faith alive?

        • Mrmandias says:

          Even if we accept that Catholics have authority and doctrine that we lack, the answer is not much better and probably worse. For whatever reason, historical or cultural or whatnot, your organizations on the ground here in America do a pretty poor job on the operational level.

          I know some Catholics who are very, very good Catholics and very good Christians, but for someone like me who is fractious and lazy and inclined to do evil, Mormonism is a much better guide to the strait and narrow path.

          • Mrmandias says:

            Let me add that I don’t mean this as a particular proof of the errors of Catholicism or of the rightness of Mormonism. I believe that evangelical Christianity is in error, but I freely admit that they do better at turning around the lives of people who are pretty far gone better than practically any other religious group I know. I would not be displeased if I found out that one of my Mormon brothers who had lapsed into drugs and violence and promiscuity had “found Jesus” in some First Bible Jesus Church of New Hope Fellowship.

            • The Ubiquitous says:

              I agree that Evangelicals show it a lot more.

              I appeal mostly to truth. What faith can we keep in living the Christ life if we do not keep the faith that the living Christ kept the faith alive? If the Church died once, why may it not die again? If we are converted to God on our feelings and subjective experiences, what when these run dry? What of the seeds sown on rocky ground, which subjective experience certainly is if left alone?

              And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.

              • Mrmandias says:

                Good questions.

                What faith can we keep in living the Christ life if we do not keep the faith that the living Christ kept the faith alive?

                Well, hmm. I understand the emotional weight of what you’re saying here, but I don’t see its logical necessity. A common Catholic argument to prove Christ’s divinity is to point to the success and longevity of the Catholic Church that he founded. If you accept that argument, then of course an argument that the original Church failed in some sense is a reason to question Christ’s divinity. But Mormons don’t accept that argument.

                If the Church died once, why may it not die again?

                That’s an extremely good question. In a larger sense, the Mormon belief is that the Church, or the Kingdom, has died and been born again multiple times. We interpret the Bible and the Book of Mormon as both showing multiple times when the body of Christ was set up on this earth through miraculous means and then drifted away or rebelled for one reason or another, requiring a new founding. The implication is that the Church or the Kingdom is a transcendent body that erupts into time and space occasionally but that does not require temporal continuity as part of its fearsome unity, fair as the sun, clear as the moon, terrible as an army with banners.

                So what’s different about the modern Mormon church that makes us immune from this process? The standard Mormon answer is simply that God has said so. In other words, divine fiat. Probing slightly deeper, you’d find that Mormonism preaches that we are living in the Last Days and that Mormonism would indeed fail if it weren’t that the last trump was sounded and the mortal experience came to a close.

                Personally I am sceptical that these are the last days of mortality, so I am also sceptical that the current Mormon church is temporally forever.

                I am not trying to persuade you here, but trying to show you how Mormons can think what they think.

                If we are converted to God on our feelings and subjective experiences, what when these run dry? What of the seeds sown on rocky ground, which subjective experience certainly is if left alone?

                Feelings is the wrong term to use, if by feelings you mean impulse or something like that. It’s certainly ‘subjective’ experience, in that all experience happens to subjects. There is no such thing as objective experience. What I experienced at a couple of different times in my life was clear direct experience, less filtered even than physical sensation, where I had soul to soul contact with the divine.

                What happens to a person who has those experiences and then does nothing is that they wither.

                • The Ubiquitous says:

                  There is no such thing as objective experience? Stop me before I run with it. I don’t think you mean that.

                  • Mrmandias says:

                    What I’m trying to say, probably unfelicitously, is that all experience requires a subject. If there is no one to experience, there is no experience. To me, the phrase “objective experience” has the same kind of meaningless as the phrase “objective opinion.” By definition, an entity that holds an opinion is a being, a subject, not an object.

                    Of course it occurs to me that you may be using subjective and objective in the modern way where they mean fake and real respectively. So an “objective experience” would be the experience of something that has some objective correlate in the real world, while a “subjective experience” would be a hallucination or a delusion. In that sense, I deny that LDS religious experience is subjective experience.

                    • The Ubiquitous says:

                      Ah. Well, that’s a lot better. I hoped you meant something sane, and you did. Not that I expected anything less.

                      We must test our subjective experience — perhaps better called personal experience — must be tested against an authority, which I will instead call external experience. How else can we know we are not talking to ourselves, telling ourselves what we want to hear? Or, if we are talking to a thing supernatural, how do we know it is God and not a demon? Lucifer doesn’t come as the Devil, you know, but as an angel of light.

                    • The Ubiquitous says:

                      Kindly replace “external” with “impersonal.” The idea is not going to your buddy down the street but to some professional who has seen both ingenuity and the genuine.

                    • Mrmandias says:

                      The experience I’m talking about, direct soul sensation of the divine, is self-validating. The kind of scepticism I’d have to have to doubt it would go beyond brain-in-a-vat level scepticism.

                      That said, my experience does have external confirmation. Contemporary Mormon and non-Mormon acquaintances and sources report spiritual or mystical or pentecostal experience that tallies with my own. I also find passages in scripture that resonate.

                    • Oh, absolutely. I see that the nut of the matter is that whether it reveals itself to be a truth-telling thing. I see Mormonism more reveals itself to be a “Yes, it can be reconciled,” telling thing, especially in the context of, “they will be as the angels,” and, “You are Rock,” and the incredible Catholicity of Augustine and other patristic fathers, explaining these away by multiplying entities infinitely, and in such a way which only appears circular to the non-Mormon.

                      Chesterton, ch. 9 of Orthodoxy:

                      I do it because the thing has not merely told this truth or that truth, but has revealed itself as a truth-telling thing. All other philosophies say the things that plainly seem to be true; only this philosophy has again and again said the thing that does not seem to be true, but is true.

                    • Sufficient conviction will reconcile anything.

                    • (For my point on discerning between authorities, and more nesting space, see comment January 29, 2012 at 2:01 am.)

                  • Mrmandias says:

                    I have a hard time seeing the response to what I’ve said in your comment.

  10. Malcolm Smith says:

    I think I can speak for the Anglican church in this regard. We normally regard a baptism as valid if it is Trinitarian. In other words, we would not ask a Roman Catholic or a Baptist to be rebaptized, but would certainly insist on it for a convert from the Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormonism – and if they objected, it would imply they didn’t really understand what they were converting into.
    We would also consider the JWs as heretics, but Mormonism as a completely different religion, as distant from Christianity as Islam. It is a matter of degree. The definition of a religion, or indeed any belief system, is fuzzy around the edges. However, at some point you are going to have to draw a line around a set of common beliefs, and it is those who have been around the longest who are entitled to the name. When you produce a new prophet, a set of new scriptures, which are said to have precedence over the old ones, a completely new set of rituals and eschatology, while denying key details of the most ancient creeds, then you are no longer talking heresy, you are talking a whole new religion.

    • Mrmandias says:

      Call it a new religion if you like, but call it a new Christian religion. Because Christ is the center of our worship and the foundation of our faith.

      • Sam Urfer says:

        But Christ is also central to the Sufi’s teachings, but they are not Christian. It is nothing personal, but the simple fact is that Mormonism is not in line with Christianity as it was handed on by Christ. Christian-like, sure. But not Christian. Words have meaning, absolutely, and the attempt to force Mormonism into the Christian fold is itself an abuse of the power of language.

        • Mrmandias says:

          That’s a false comparison. Sufism does not bear the same relationship to Christ that Mormonism does.

          I put a bunch of links upstream. Read them, and tell me if they sound more like Sufis or Christians to you.

          Words have meaning, and distorting the common meaning of a term to fit a doctrinal dispute is wrong and misleading.

          • Sam Urfer says:

            Yeah, I’ve read what you posted. Your post titled “The Book of Mormon’s Doctrine of Deity” is particularly making my point. The Sufi’s in some manners probably are closer to Christian doctrine than what you present. You guys have an idea of Incarnation, but the idea of what it is that is Incarnated is less Christian than the Sufi conception of Allah.

            • Sam Urfer says:

              Also, your chart is wrong on at least one point. Trinitarians do not ever call Jesus Father, for he is distinct from the Father, as he is the Son. The relation of the Persons is what distinguishes them, so the Son is never confused with the Father.

              http://www.jrganymede.com/2009/07/12/the-book-of-mormons-doctrine-of-deity/

            • Mrmandias says:

              That’s not my post, but I read it, and anyone who read it would be shocked to hear that you thought the author wasn’t Christian. The sub-headings are things like ‘Jesus is God.’

              • Sam Urfer says:

                Saying “Jesus is God” is not all there is to Christianity, there is a matter of continuity with the teachings of Christ. Mormons have as much claim to that as the Muslims do, who insist that Jesus a Muslim! And the doctrine of God displayed in that article, it ain’t Christian. Probably isn’t even monotheistic, which at least the Muslims have going for them.

                It’s not personal. It’s just definitional.

                • Mrmandias says:

                  Even if its not all there is, its a darn good start.

                  I think it would be useful to have a term for people who think Jesus is God, and, in fact, I submit that we already have one. It’s “Christian.”

                  • Sam Urfer says:

                    But that is not how people use the word. I’m sorry you seem so emotionally invested in it, but words have meaning, and Christian doesn’t mean whatever you want it to.

                    • Mrmandias says:

                      I will repeat that in my experience (and heck, even based on stuff like dictionary definitions), people define Christian to mean something like ‘follower of Christ.’ Hence the confusion I’ve experienced from people who had been told that Mormons weren’t Christians when they saw the nativity on my desk.

                      We may just be working with a different basis in our experience of usage, which means that we probably can’t resolve our disagreement except by doing stuff like resorting to a dictionary. Which will obviously satisfy no one. (Websters, 1a — one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ).

                      I will concede that Christian can mean different things given the context. A ‘Christian’ bookstore, for example, is probably an evangelical one that likely will contain little to no Catholic devotional works. It appears to me that ‘christian’ functions as a technical theological or canonical term to the Roman Catholic Church, meaning ‘persons whose baptism we accept as valid.’ I accept that I’m not a Christian in that sense.

                      I will also concede that even in standard usage Mormons are something of a problematic case. We aren’t exactly *not* what people mean when they say Christian but we aren’t exactly what they dod mean either. I wish there were clear, easily understood terms that included all those who follow Christ as God and only Savior of mankind but that couldn’t be confused with the very large group that are distinct from Mormons in having a long historical development, a number of distinct metaphysical commitments, and a closed biblical canon, to which Catholics, Orthodox, and most Protestants belong. There isn’t, but because my Lord is Truth I try to serve him by making the relevant distinctions when I can, using clunky terms like ‘mainstream Christianity’ or ‘creedal Christianity’ or ‘traditional Christians’ on the one hand, and clunky terms like ‘Mormon Christianity’ or ‘radically unorthodox’ on the other. I have a friend who refers to Mormonism as ‘marginal Christianity’ which I think is fair both to his own faith commitments and to the facts on the ground about language usage and Mormonism’s relationship to y’all.

                    • “Which will obviously satisfy no one. (Websters, 1a — one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ).”

                      I am willing to accept the dictionary definition, and to offer my deep apologies and expressions of regret for having ever brought the topic up. I am ashamed. The technical definition of Christian as the subject of a valid baptism has a place only in a legalistic theological discussion, which had no part of the original post.

                      As for our doctrinal differences, I will make a bargain with any follower of Joseph Smith that if he will plea for my salvation on Judgment Day, I will plea for him. Let us together ask that the theological errors of ourselves and others be forgiven and overlooked.

  11. The Ubiquitous says:

    Suppose you came into the room of a man you adored from afar, who all your life have been led to believe enjoys birdhunting and collecting postage stamps. You know you will meet him someday. In preparation for this encounter, you learn as much as you can about his two favorite pursuits, and prepare to give him the tasteful gift of a sheet of rare stamps, unused, which show the waterfowl of the Eastern Seaboard in migration patterns. It is perfect. Operating under this assumption, all your correspondence with him is flavored and interpreted by your gift, and you miss the otherwise obvious clues that show he is instead a fan of the NES game Duck Hunt and has an affection for the manufacture of rubber line-date stamps.

    When you meet and all is revealed, our gracious host accepts your present and loves you all the more for your effort. His relationship with you could not be better. But your relationship with him must basically start from scratch. Just so, our relationship with Christ, which is itself vital even independent of our justification, relies on as true an understanding about Him as we can muster.

    • Mrmandias says:

      A more apt analogy would be where the guy indeed hunts ducks and collects stamps. But to you part of the joy of duckhunting is your appreciation of the biophysics of birds in flight, even down the quantum effects in feathers. You start enthusing about this, and the guy tells you your out to lunch. You’ve been misled by the physics lie. Birds are, in fact, an Aristotelian mixture of earth, air, fire, and water, with enough air and fire to fly.

      *I’ve posted this twice already and it didn’t go through, maybe thrice is the charm.

      • Do not resubmit comments while they are being held for moderation, please.

        • Mrmandias says:

          FYI, your blog software doesn’t notify a user that the comment is being held for moderation. For those of us who are less than ept, it isn’t immediately obvious that the vanishing of our comment means its gone to moderation.

      • The Ubiquitous says:

        If your analogy is apt, I don’t see how. Please explain.

      • The Ubiquitous says:

        After some thought: I think you missed what I was saying. I make the following limited and specific points with this illustration.

        First, this is high-stakes.
        Second, truth matters, even in this life.
        Third, imposing unsupportable subjective preconceptions is a peculiar temptation should a hermeneutic rely totally on subjective revelation, i.e. “bosom burning.”

        Knowing these three qualities as true, we can propose some further points.

        Fourth, to avoid this temptation, we cannot rely on subjective interpretation alone. We must check ourselves against competent authority.
        Fifth, authority must interpret and community must enforce correct teaching.
        Sixth, not only this, but it must be the correct authority must correctly interpreting and the community must correctly enforce teachings.
        Seventh, correctness at the higher levels does not of necessity require correctness at lower levels.
        Eighth, all levels must believe the same points as doctrines of faith, which must be fleshed out.
        Ninth, if there is confusion at the bottom level, we must look to see if there is confusion at the highest level.
        Tenth, if there is consistent confusion at the highest level, it squanders its claim.

        Between the LDS faith and the Church we see that, in practice and on matters of faith, Mormons disagree with each other on points of faith at least as much as Catholics. The curious point to me is that this seems to apply to Mormons who take their faith seriously nonetheless disagree pretty substantially, and this is where Catholics coalesce quite a bit more. But this last point is an aside.

        I would ask to be shown a collection of individuals who share these qualities:

        1. Intelligibility.
        2. Honesty. More specifically, trustworthiness and openness. (cf. Hebrews 11:11.)
        3. Crucially, these authorities must be consistent in expression and content.

        Catholics have Ratzinger and Von Balthasar and Von Hildebrands, each who talks quite a lot like their counterparts from earlier ages, affirming the same truths. We also have Kungs, who are no modern innovation, but it is clear whose side the highest human authorities of our Church consistently affirm.

        Theology, like philosophy, requires definition of terms and clear, open thinking. I say it is only fair to ask this of a claimant to the true faith. It is a Catholic idea because it is a universal idea, found outside the visible Body of Christ. We must look at the highest point of Mormon thought at the highest levels of the organization to see if it is consistent and easily reconcilable with reality.

        For the kicker: You noted earlier something like, “Mormons … generally don’t have clear metaphysical or philosophical commitments of the sort y’all are used to.” If this is a mistaken application of your idea, I will certainly recant, but if the Mormon faith is not disposed to this, to my estimation, and to even a non-Catholic desiring clear thinking, it squanders its claim. “Anglo-saxon muddling,” works well for man’s justice, but it doesn’t work very well for truth claims. Truth, of its nature, cannot be democratized in this manner.

        This is a clear and I think fair case, and I do not think it will scandalize any readers.

  12. Owain_Glyndwr says:

    On the difference between Mormonism and Christianity (or whether they are in fact under the same category), could one of our Mormon friends please explain the doctrine of the Godhead? Is it true that God the Father is described as a physical being, and that the Divine is the result of endless procession? Because even if we do worship the same Christ, I can see the basic doctrines about God being the dividing issue, and one that may indeed require Mormonism being separated from Christianity.

    • This applies more to the thread in general although your question highlights it, and I ask this as a complete outsider, i.e., an atheist.

      But, are you guys serious?

      Their ability to argue technical theology is a hurdle. Their position on the Godhead (I assume that is the Trinity, but I plea ignorance on that) is a divisive issue, but not the fact that it is not they that I am getting drunk in my bar, who smoke (and not just cigarettes) and lay random women, and act every other matter as beasts.

      It seems to me that they, as some here concede, worship the same Christ, and that they are acting on it. And acting on it with a consistency that frankly should be embarassing to others. I would think the most pressing question would be not what their technical theological views are, but what their secret is.

      And, as an aside, the issue of valid baptisms I find confounding. This may be out of ignorance as well, although I was baptized as a runt (although it was of a Lutheran church so some here may not consider that valid – which is ok!). If one were to follow Jesus as a private matter – not of a church – would this be invalid? Would it matter no difference to God even if that person lived an exemplary Christian life?

      I find all this side dressing would be rather distracting to the question of proper living.

      • Lutheran baptisms are valid. Christianity is not a philosophy, that is, not merely an exhortation to live well. It is a living body, a corporate structure extending from earth through purgatory to heaven, whose members both alive and dead are headed by Christ, who is part of the godhead. Christianity is a covenant, like marriage is, and it seeks the salvation of the soul.

        Part of the process of salvation is to be baptized and to follow Christ, that is, to observe His teaching and do them.

        I grant you that doing His will means more than lip-service. The example of the Pharisee who was technically perfect in the law but who was rotten in his heart is held before the eyes of every faithful Christian.

        But, having said that, keep in mind that the one unique quality to Christianity, for good or for ill, is the idea of uniformity of doctrine combined with the notion of a magisterium. Islamic and Buddhists can do theology within their systems, and even utter anathemas against heresy, but they have no Church which can rule definitively on the question.

        Reality is what is it. A is A. It is either the case that God is as the orthodox say, a trinity of three persons sharing one substance, or that He is something else, perhaps as the Arians or Unitarians or Gnostics or Mormons say. We here on Earth are as lovers separated from our beloved — is it wrong for us to think about and dwell on the features of the beloved, and to take umbrage at portraits containing wrong elements? I would be offended if someone drew a mustache on the photo of my wife. Can I not disagree if the eternal God I worship is called non-eternal by another?

        So you are mistaking Christianity for something it is not. Christianity is the Church; the Church is Christianity. It is not an alliance of like minded people, like a gentleman’s club or political party. It is not a philosophy with a moral code, like Stoicism or Objectivism. It is not a mythology with no theology, like classical myths or Norse or Shinto or Egyptian.

        On the other hand, you are right to be scandalized. For us to be debating theological niceties when there are poor to be fed and slaves to be freed and unborn babies to be protected is absurd. I have said as much on many an occasion: that was the point of my original post.

        • The Ubiquitous says:

          Sir, I could not disagree more. It is not absurd. Christianity is not the either-or, it is the both-and. We can and must argue for the Truth as we can and must protest on the street corners as we can and must feed the hungry. (I did all three one weekend at the last 40 Days for Life, now that I think about it, and I am hardly a paragon of virtue.)

          Just as we must not choose between money going to magnificent Churches and going to charity, we must not choose between loving our neighbor who is unborn, our neighbor who is homeless and our neighbor whose solid relationship is with a version of Christ false enough to be even argued to be a different person entirely, our neighbors who do not “get much into metaphysics.” For my money, this means Mormons don’t really think about what they believe.

          • As you like. Feel free to argue with the Mormons that they are not officially Christians. Mrmandias has convinced me that this use of language is misleading to the point of being dishonest, and I have rescinded my comment and apologized for it. They are not a new religion, as the Muslims, but a distortion of an old religion: heretics and not heathens. So I must bow out of this discussion.

            I suggest that after the abortion rate drops, so that Americans are not killing once each four months a number of babies equal to the number of Jews killed by Nazis in all history, will be the time to correct the Mormons on their heretical trinitarianism. There are more Christians being persecuted today to the death in the world than ever before in history. Mormons would be happy to help us ship Bibles to China, would they not? Are they not allies of ours, and not lukewarm allies either?

            Do not both Muslims and Political Correctors yearn to obliterate the Mormons and the Catholics, the Orthodox and Nestorians and Copts and Syriacs and Lutherans and Calvinists and Baptists and Methodists together, along with groups as outre as the Unification Church of Reverend Moon and the First Church of Christ, Scientist, of Mary Baker Eddy? There must be something we have in common — our foes see it.

            You did not ask my advice, but if you had, I would say forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in the name of Christ, that can lightly speak evil of Christ. For he that is not against us is for us.

            • Rade Hagedorn says:

              Mr. Wright

              You have a very ecumenical spirit which is to be commended.

              The challenge of course is determining how much do the details of theology matter and can ecumenicism be corrosive to truth.

              On another blog I have been arguing about how important is it to either know or understand the mechanics of “heaven” and “hell”. My argument is little to almost no import. Speculation about the afterlife may be interesting but really is not the point of the Incarnation.

              That said, if we hold Jesus Christ to be the truth then the person of Jesus Christ is of exceptional import. This is why the Ecumenical Councils (or for Roman Catholics, the early Ecumenical Councils) placed such emphasis on things like the nature of God and the ever virginity of the Theotokos. Correct belief in these things actually matter. How you understand God will impact decisions you make — and ultimately your salvation. If these were not of exceptional import then we would not need Catechization and would accept anyone who made a general statement that th are a follower of Jesus Christ.

              I do think that this is a fruitless discussion because very few people are understanding how heresy and apostasy are technically used by the Church and the term Christian has become so devalued that I have encountered Unitarian Universalists who are atheists but still consider themselves Christians from an ethical and cultural standpoint. Still, I do hope tat you can understand why some people might vigorously disagree with the LDS insisting that they be called Christians when their understanding of Christ is so dissimilar from ours.

            • The Ubiquitous says:

              I will also agree to stop arguing about words, for it harms the listener, as St. Paul says. I am aware that I largely started it this time around, and I can respect Mormons for reacting similarly. I cannot respect the cacophony of opinion within Mormonism about what Mormonism actually teaches. Sane men must reject the rotting falsity of faith divorced from reason, united instead to the watering down that is rationalization. Reason can have any purpose, but rationalization is merely a defense of a prior conviction.

              They’ll say something about Aristotle and Augustine, but the facts remain that Christ died once, promised He would never die again, and a successor to the Apostles who knew this asserted that the Church is His Body. This can probably be rationalized, but only in a circular way.

              • Mrmandias says:

                That bit about the body of Christ is an interesting argument. I’ll have to think about that one. Thanks.

              • Mrmandias says:

                Your argument has two problems. First it assumes that the statement that the Church is his body is wholly non-metaphorical, so that anything that is true about Christ’s actual body is also true about the Church.

                Second, it assumes that the LDS belief in an apostasy means that the Church died. Not so. Like Christ, it only ascended into Heaven to return later. The real Church isn’t merely a temporal organization. It has a supernatural unity through time and space.

            • The Ubiquitous says:

              Ecumenism is not pragmatically ignoring differences for the sake of winning a war. Peter Kreeft, for one, specifically dismisses this approach in his talk on ecumenism. This has failed. You emphasize the Culture War, but this false gospel interprets the end times as now and that the Church may even possibly fail. Our goal is not to win a war against the principalities and powers, for we already know this war will be won.

              Our true task is to be worthy members of the Body of Christ. From here the rest follows, for by this the sortie will be won. More importantly, God will win over souls to his cause. When we fight with serenity, Buddhists will see our selfless passion, for Buddhists are dead to worthy desire. When we surrender wholly to God, Muslims will see us submit to his ordained authority, for Muslims have no Magisterium. When we do not throw ourselves in quixotic desperation, materialists will know not to test God, for they until then they will try. When our families thrive, Mormons will finally know truth.

        • Anna says:

          “For us to be debating theological niceties when there are poor to be fed and slaves to be freed and unborn babies to be protected is absurd.”

          That seems to me akin to those who argue that the Catholic Church should sell any treasures it has and give the money to the poor. It’s a narrow view to say that humans must focus only on the grossest injustices. These must not be neglected; but neither must the higher things, including the study of our Beloved.

          • Parents should not argue in front of children, and neither should Christians argue in front of heathens. The fortress is besieged: the Mormons are stalwart allies. We need not occupy the same chamber in the fortress — our father’s house has many mansions.

            War is here. This is not the time to bring up the ancient enmity between the elves and dwarfs. The orcs with ramp and engine have circumvallated us and are snickering. Let us settle theological differences later, or in private, away from hostile eyes.

            • Anna says:

              Would you say the same if you thought that Mormons, through their errors, lead souls into hell? (This question applies also to Jews and “Muslims who reject Sharia Law”; should we avoid arguing with them in public because they side with us on matters of justice and public decency? Does this apply whether or not they are leading people to be saved, or does it depend on the belief that God is somehow saving them?)

              • Good question. Before I answer, let me ask one in return: would you argue with the Mormons in front of non-Christians who, scandalized by the argument, turn away all from the Church and never seek their salvation, thus condemned to hell? Is there anything that prevents the same argument held under more private and friendly circumstances, where there is little danger or none of putting stumbling blocks in the way of onlookers?

                My answer is no: I would answer the same way. A private conversation with a Mormon may persuade someone who is dissatisfied with his faith, but public conversations are less useful, both because of interruption, and because there is an element of theatrics which afflicts some folk when they speak in public.

                And among those men of good will of other faiths or none who are on the path to Hell, I would still seek as allies against the more open and naked adoration of Hell which is the dominant moral code of the modern day. Such men are not willing partners in evil, they are merely not saved. The enemy — call it Marxism or Progressivism or Nazism or Political Correctness or Materialism or any of its other ever-changing names — is a willing partner in evil.

                • Anna says:

                  The battle lines of the cosmic war are not drawn so clearly in my mind as they are in yours. The Mormons are our allies in the culture wars, yes, and I appreciate that about them. But it may be that the pro-gay-marriage Christian preachers are leading people closer to the truth of the transcendent God than the preaching of the Mormons with their different errors. I see a mix of truth and lies, evil and good, no matter who I am looking at; my enemies on one front are likely my allies on another front.

                  As for public conversation… I can see your point, that there may be the risk of turning away non-believers who watch a theological dispute. But there may also be people (non-participants in the conversation) who need to hear the public witness of the truth being defended. It is tricky, on the internet, to judge the risks and benefits, when you cannot know with certainty who your audience is. I would say that, personally, I often choose to engage in the debate, but to do so with as much gentleness and thoughtful consideration as I can, to minimize the risk of putting anyone off. And, as I grow in maturity, I try more and more to only engage on topics that seem not trivial to me and to listen to whether God is leading me to speak or not.

                  • I suspect you are a gentler soul than I, and can engage in debate with more charity. Not to sound like a pusillanimous modern relativist, but your advice might be good for you and not for me.

                    No intuition, dream, or sign has pointed me toward any such missionary work among the heretics — instead I have had angels and inspirations urging me to the irenic and ecumenical. Take that how you will.

                    As an ex atheist I am painfully aware of how nauseatingly foolish and malign the odium of theologians strikes the non-Christian — namely, it makes the Church and all she teaches seem like nonsense and hypocrisy.

                    In this specific case, as far as I am concerned, MrMandias won the debate with me: I conceded the point and changed my mind, as in good conscience a philosopher must do when he loses a debate.

                    • Anna says:

                      I meant to mention in my last comment, and forgot, that since there does already appear to be a scandalized atheist present, I can see it being good judgment not to continue the dispute in this particular public space.

        • Mrmandias says:

          But, having said that, keep in mind that the one unique quality to Christianity, for good or for ill, is the idea of uniformity of doctrine combined with the notion of a magisterium.

          That doesn’t even make the top 10. The Incarnation, the atonement, the resurrection, the embrace of the suffering and lowly, those are far more unique qualities to Christianity.

          • Pardon the ambiguity, but you have read the inverse of what I meant. I did not say “this quality is the only one Christianity has that none other have” I said “Christianity and none other has this quality.” Whether there are other qualities unique to Christianity aside from what I mention is not mentioned.

        • I wasn’t denying any of that, and I do think yours is a more sensible approach. And I do speak as an outsider, even though I have read the Bible and other similar things. But one can’t help but to notice things like our two leading presidential candidates at the moment. One unimpeachable, one stained through and through. On a thoroughly technical, theological level they may sure be too different, and possibly so thoroughly wrong as to not be capable of inclusion (I cannot be the judge of that). But in public image, and in actual practice (family, charity, and the rest) they, at least to the extent of my knowledge and experience, have the rest licked.

      • lotdw says:

        “If one were to follow Jesus as a private matter – not of a church – would this be invalid? Would it matter no difference to God even if that person lived an exemplary Christian life? ”

        You’re not really following Jesus if you’re only doing it as a private matter. Jesus Himself gathered believers, evangelized and spoke of “his” church. It’s a peculiarly modern belief that one can be “spiritual, but not religious” about founders of religions, or that one can despise organized religion but love Jesus. A quick look at the Bible shows that dog won’t hunt.

        And there are others who are only concerned with issues like adultery, abortion, & profanity but not with praise of God or going to church, because they consider only the former to be “moral issues.” Again, Christ is quite clear that man should pray and participate in religious rituals like the Eucharist, and morality means nothing more than “what one should do.” Christopher Hitchens had what he thought was a hammerblow argument when he would ask, “Name one moral action a religious believer can do but an atheist can’t.” He claims no one ever successfully answered him, but it seems odd that no one ever said, “Give thanks to God.” Whether this is authentically moral, certainly, is up for discussion; but it is a true divide between religious and non-religious morality.

        • A quick look at the Bible shows that dog won’t hunt.

          A quick look? You realize the thing is slightly longer than Atlas Shrugged, right? Slight joke, har, har. I don’t seem to recall anything direct being said on this. Although it has been ages since I read it.

          • lotdw says:

            You spend a little time in the New Testament, at least, and all of a sudden people are getting baptized and forgiven and there’s presbyters and they’re gathering for the Eucharist and Jesus is talking about his church and Paul is too and…

            I don’t think it’s a missable feature, even if it has been a long time. (I did think your post was funny though.)

    • Mrmandias says:

      Yes, we believe the Father is embodied. In fact, we believe God weeps, farts, scratches himself, and gets green snot stuck in his nose hairs.*

      So do you.

      The doctrines of Mormonism are the Incarnation run riot. It’s everything shocking about the Incarnation (don’t think its shocking? Talk to your Jewish or Muslim or philosopher friends for a bit about) taken to wild excess. You disapprove, which is your privilege. I exult in it.

      *Neither Mormon Christianity nor mainstream Christianity thinks that God does this right now. But if you believe as I do that all times are present to eternity, then it follows that God is now and has always been the babe of Bethlehem with diarrhea, the teenage boy with nocturnal emissions and a strong urge to masturbate, the adult who woke up groggy and vacant-eyed with a little drool slipping out the side of his mouth. God probably has parasites.

      • Sam Urfer says:

        Ya see, that right there is the problem. Christians do believe those things; about the Son. This is why Christ is adored as Santa Nino, the Holy Child, as well as the Crucified One.

        But the Father, is ineffable, non-incarnate, pure act with no change or potentiality. There is no Incarnation of the Father. Some Catholic theologians have called Mary the “Pseudo-Incarnation” of the Holy Spirit due to her espousal, and some have opined that the Catholic Church is in some way the Incarnation of the Spirit. But the Father has no body.

        • Sam Urfer says:

          It’s not so much that I disapprove, as it is not Christian. In Catholic terms, Mormon beliefs about God might not even qualify for the name “God”, in point of fact.

        • Mrmandias says:

          Sure, I’m aware of what your beliefs are. Pointing out that your beliefs differ from mine in some respects does not make mine non-Christian, or my Jesus a different Jesus.

          • Sam Urfer says:

            But your beliefs are so different from Christian beliefs, that the genus is not the same. Monotheism is a vital element of Christianity, as much as Judaism and Islam. Indeed, I have Jewish friends who don’t consider Mormons to be Christians! It isn’t just mainstream snobbery: what people mean by the word “Christian” just doesn’t apply to Mormonism.

            And it might not be a different historical human being we reference, but it is a different Son we are talking about in the Godhead. And that is the difference.

        • John Hutchins says:

          “But the Father, is ineffable, non-incarnate, pure act with no change or potentiality. There is no Incarnation of the Father” and “The Father has no body”

          We both agree that the Bible is the word of God. Perhaps you would like to present your biblical references that back up this statement (and everything about Mary, too if you are up to it) and then I can present biblical references to back up the LDS beliefs. Then perhaps we would have a better idea of which is more in line with what Christ taught.

          • Rade Hagedorn says:

            Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians are not Protestants. We don’t have a Sola Scriptura thing going on. We view the Bible as a part of Sacred Tradition. Believe it or not, everyone agreed with this idea until the 16th century.

            • John Hutchins says:

              I believe John Wycliffe and many heretics would disagree when your assertion that “everyone agreed with this idea until the 16th century.”

              • The Ubiquitous says:

                1. Emphasis on heretics.

                2. What else did Wycliffe teach?

                • John Hutchins says:

                  1. I am so glad to know that the opinion of those that believe differently than you does not matter and that burning them at the stake is justified. If I ever fall into your hands then I would hope you would spare my children from the pyre, but I realize lying to a heretic is acceptable and that no such promise needs to be honored by those that claim to follow Christ, crucified for blasphemy, and have their authority from the original Apostles, most of whom were killed for teaching Jewish Heresies.

                  2. The reading of the Bible, the preaching of it to the common people by those sent out two by two, the doing away of all monasteries and orders of the church, that the priesthood should support themselves, eventually that the papacy was not from God, the (partial) separation of Church and State, and the predestination of the elect. Eventually came to the opinion very much like Sola Scriptura.

          • Sam Urfer says:

            The Fathers are more clear than Scripture, but that’s fine. Some of these guys knew the Scriptural authors, after all:

            Our teacher of these things is Jesus Christ, who also was born for this purpose, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea, in the times of Tiberius Caesar; and that we reasonably worship Him, having learned that He is the Son of the true God Himself, and holding Him in the second place, and the prophetic Spirit in the third, we will prove.” Justin Martyr, First Apology, 13 (A.D. 155).

            “[T]he ever-truthful God, hast fore-ordained, hast revealed beforehand to me, and now hast fulfilled. Wherefore also I praise Thee for all things, I bless Thee, I glorify Thee, along with the everlasting and heavenly Jesus Christ, Thy beloved Son, with whom, to Thee, and the Holy Ghost, be glory both now and to all coming ages. Amen.” Martyrdom of Polycarp 14 (A.D. 157).

            “For God did not stand in need of these [beings], in order to the accomplishing of what He had Himself determined with Himself beforehand should be done, as if He did not possess His own hands. For with Him were always present the Word and Wisdom, the Son and the Spirit, by whom and in whom, freely and spontaneously, He made all things, to whom also He speaks, saying, ‘Let Us make man after Our image and likeness;’ He taking from Himself the substance of the creatures [formed], and the pattern of things made, and the type of all the adornments in the world.” Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 4,20:1 (A.D. 180).

            “And first, they taught us with one consent that God made all things out of nothing; for nothing was coequal with God: but He being His own place, and wanting nothing, and existing before the ages, willed to make man by whom He might be known; for him, therefore, He prepared the world. For he that is created is also needy; but he that is uncreated stands in need of nothing. God, then, having His own Word internal within His own bowels, begat Him, emitting Him along with His own wisdom before all things. He had this Word as a helper in the things that were created by Him, and by Him He made all things. He is called governing principle’ (arche), because He rules, and is Lord of all things fashioned by Him. He, then, being Spirit of God, and governing principle, and wisdom, and power of the highest, came down upon the prophets, and through them spoke of the creation of the world and of all other things. For the prophets were not when the world came into existence, but the wisdom of God which was in Him, and His holy Word which was always present with Him. Wherefore He speaks thus by the prophet Solomon: When He prepared the heavens I was there, and when He appointed the foundations of the earth I was by Him as one brought up with Him.’ And Moses, who lived many years before Solomon, or, rather, the Word of God by him as by an instrument, says, In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.’” Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus, II:10 (c. A.D. 181).

            “In the course of time, then, the Father forsooth was born, and the Father suffered, God Himself, the Lord Almighty, whom in their preaching they declare to be Jesus Christ. We, however, as we indeed always have done and more especially since we have been better instructed by the Paraclete, who leads men indeed into all truth), believe that there is one only God, but under the following dispensation, or oikonomia, as it is called, that this one only God has also a Son, His Word, who proceeded from Himself, by whom all things were made, and without whom nothing was made. Him we believe to have been sent by the Father into the Virgin, and to have been born of her–being both Man and God, the Son of Man and the Son of God, and to have been called by the name of Jesus Christ; we believe Him to have suffered, died, and been buried, according to the Scriptures, and, after He had been raised again by the Father and taken back to heaven, to be sitting at the right hand of the Father, and that He will come to judge the quick and the dead; who sent also from heaven from the Father, according to His own promise, the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete, the sanctifier of the faith of those who believe in the Father, and in the Son, and in the Holy Ghost. That this rule of faith has come down to us from the beginning of the gospel, even before any of the older heretics, much more before Praxeas, a pretender of yesterday, will be apparent both from the lateness of date which marks all heresies, and also from the absolutely novel character of our new-fangled Praxeas.” Tertullian, Against Praxeas, 2 (post A.D. 213).

            “Bear always in mind that this is the rule of faith which I profess; by it I testify that the Father, and the Son, and the Spirit are inseparable from each other, and so will you know in what sense this is said. Now, observe, my assertion is that the Father is one, and the Son one, and the Spirit one, and that They are distinct from Each Other. This statement is taken in a wrong sense by every uneducated as well as every perversely disposed person, as if it predicated a diversity, in such a sense as to imply a separation among the Father, and the Son, and the Spirit. I am, moreover, obliged to say this, when (extolling the Monarchy at the expense of the Economy) they contend for the identity of the Father and Son and Spirit, that it is not by way of diversity that the Son differs from the Father, but by distribution: it is not by division that He is different, but by distinction; because the Father is not the same as the Son, since they differ one from the other in the mode of their being. For the Father is the entire substance, but the Son is a derivation and portion of the whole, as He Himself acknowledges: My Father is greater than I.’ In the Psalm His inferiority is described as being a little lower than the angels.’ Thus the Father is distinct from the Son, being greater than the Son, inasmuch as He who begets is one, and He who is begotten is another; He, too, who sends is one, and He who is sent is another; and He, again, who makes is one, and He through whom the thing is made is another.” Tertullian, Against Praxeas, 9 (post A.D. 213).

            “Happily the Lord Himself employs this expression of the person of the Paraclete, so as to signify not a division or severance, but a disposition (of mutual relations in the Godhead); for He says, I will pray the Father, and He shall send you another Comforter. …even the Spirit of truth,’ thus making the Paraclete distinct from Himself, even as we say that the Son is also distinct from the Father; so that He showed a third degree in the Paraclete, as we believe the second degree is in the Son, by reason of the order observed in the Economy. Besides, does not the very fact that they have the distinct names of Father and San amount to a declaration that they are distinct in personality? For, of course, all things will be what their names represent them to be; and what they are and ever will be, that will they be called; and the distinction indicated by the names does not at all admit of any confusion, because there is none in the things which they designate. “Yes is yes, and no is no; for what is more than these, cometh of evil.” Tertullian, Against Praxeas, 9 (post A.D. 213).

            “[T]he statements made regarding Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are to be understood as transcending all time, all ages, and all eternity. For it is the Trinity alone which exceeds the comprehension not only of temporal but even of eternal intelligence; while other things which are not included in it are to be measured by times and ages.” Origen, First Principles, 4:28 (A.D. 230).

            “”Next, I may reasonably turn to those who divide and cut to pieces and destroy that most sacred doctrine of the Church of God, the Divine Monarchy, making it as it were three powers and partitive subsistences and god-heads three. I am told that some among you who are catechists and teachers of the Divine Word, take the lead in this tenet, who are diametrically opposed, so to speak, to Sabellius’s opinions; for he blasphemously says that the Son is the Father, and the Father the Son, but they in some sort preach three Gods, as dividing the sacred Monad into three subsistences foreign to each other and utterly separate. For it must needs be that with the God of the Universe, the Divine Word is united, and the Holy Ghost must repose and habitate in God; thus in one as in a summit, I mean the God of the Universe, must the Divine Triad be gathered up and brought together. For it is the doctrine of the presumptuous Marcion, to sever and divide the Divine Monarchy into three origins,–a devil’s teaching, not that of Christ’s true disciples and lovers of the Saviour’s lessons, For they know well that a Triad is preached by divine Scripture, but that neither Old Testament nor New preaches three Gods.” Pope Dionysius [regn. 260-268], to Dionysius of Alexandria, fragment in Athanasius’ Nicene Definition 26 (A.D. 262).

            “Equally must one censure those who hold the: Son to be a work, and consider that the Lord has come into being, as one of things which really came to be; whereas the divine oracles witness to a generation suitable to Him and becoming, but not to any fashioning or making. A blasphemy then is it, not ordinary, but even the highest, to say that the Lord is in any sort a handiwork. For if He came to be Son, once He was not; but He was always, if (that is) He be in the Father, as He says Himself, and if the Christ be Word and Wisdom and Power (which, as ye know, divine Scripture says), and these attributes be powers of God. If then the Son came into being, once these attributes were not; consequently there was a time, when God was without them; which is most absurd…
            Neither then may we divide into three Godheads the wonderful and divine Monad; nor disparage with the name of ‘work’ the dignity and exceeding majesty of the Lord; but we must believe in God the Father Almighty, and in Christ Jesus His Son, and in the Holy Ghost, and hold that to the God of the universe the Word is united. For ‘I,’ says He, ‘and the Father are one; ‘and, ‘I in the Father and the Father in Me.’ For thus both the Divine Triad, and the holy preaching of the Monarchy, will be preserved.” Pope Dionysius [regn. 260-268], to Dionysius of Alexandria, fragment in Athanasius’ Nicene Definition 26 (A.D. 262).

            “Now the person in each declares the independent being and subsistence. But divinity is the property of the Father; and whenever the divinity of these three is spoken of as one, testimony is borne that the property of the Father belongs also to the Son and the Spirit: wherefore, if the divinity may be spoken of as one in three persons, the trinity is established, and the unity is not dissevered; and the oneness Which is naturally the Father’s is also acknowledged to be the Son’s and the Spirit’s.” Gregory the Wonderworker (Thaumaturgus), Sectional Confession of Faith, 8 (A.D. 270).

            “For the kingdom of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is one, even as their substance is one and their dominion one. Whence also, with one and the same adoration, we worship the one Deity in three Persons, subsisting without beginning, uncreate, without end, and to which there is no successor. For neither will the Father ever cease to be the Father, nor again the Son to be the Son and King, nor the Holy Ghost to be what in substance and personality He is.” Methodius, Oration on the Palms, 4 (A.D. 305).

            “We believe in one God, the Father almighty,maker of all things, visible and invisible; And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God,begotten from the Father,only-begotten,that is,from the substance of the Father,God from God,light from light,true God from true God,begotten,not made,of one substance with the Father…And in the Holy Spirit.” Creed of Nicea (A.D. 325).

            “Let no one therefore separate the Old from the New Testament; let no one say that the Spirit in the former is one, and in the latter another; since thus he offends against the Holy Ghost Himself, who with the Father and the Son together is honoured, and at the time of Holy Baptism is included with them in the Holy Trinity. For the Only-begotten Son of God said plainly to the Apostles, Go ye, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Our hope is in Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost. We preach not three God; let the Marcionites be silenced; but with the Holy Ghost through One Son, we preach One God. The Faith is indivisible; the worship inseparable. We neither separate the Holy Trinity, like some; nor do we as Sabellius work confusion. But we know according to godliness One Father, who sent His Son to be our Saviour we know One Son, who promised that He would send the Comforter from the Father; we know the Holy Ghost, who spake in the Prophets, and who on the day of Pentecost descended on the Apostles in the form of fiery tongues, here, in Jerusalem, in the Upper Church of the Apostles…” Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, 16:4 (c. A.D. 350).

            “I can see no limit to my venture of speaking concerning God in terms more precise than He Himself has used. He has assigned the Names–Father, Son and Holy Ghost,–which are our information of the Divine nature. Words cannot express or feeling embrace or reason apprehend the re suits of enquiry carried further; all is ineffable, unattainable, incomprehensible. Language is exhausted by the magnitude of the theme, the splendour of its effulgence blinds the gazing eye, the intellect cannot compass its boundless extent…When Israel hears that its God is one, and that no second god is likened, that men may deem him God, to God Who is God’s Son, the revelation means that God the Father and God the Son are One altogether, not by confusion of Person but by unity of substance. For the prophet forbids us, because God the Son is God, to liken Him to some second deity….But I cannot describe Him, Whose pleas for me I cannot describe. As in the revelation that Thy Only-begotten was born of Thee before times eternal, when we cease to struggle with ambiguities of language and difficulties of thought, the one certainty of His birth remains; so I hold fast in my consciousness the truth that Thy Holy Spirit is from Thee and through Him, although I cannot by my intellect comprehend it.” Hilary of Poiters, On the Trinity, 2:5,4:42,12:56 (A.D. 359).

            “[T]hey ought to confess that the Father is God, the Son God, and the Holy Ghost God, as they have been taught by the divine words, and by those who have understood them in their highest sense. Against those who cast it in our teeth that we are Tritheists, let it be answered that we confess one God not in number but in nature. For everything which is called one in number is not one absolutely, nor yet simple in nature; but God is universally confessed to be simple and not composite.” Basil, To the Caesareans, Epistle 8 (A.D. 360).

            “For this Synod of Nicea is in truth a proscription of every heresy. It also upsets those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit, and call Him a Creature. For the Fathers, after speaking of the faith in the Son, straightway added, ‘And we believe in the Holy Ghost,’ in order that by confessing perfectly and fully the faith in the Holy Trinity they might make known the exact form of the Faith of Christ, and the teaching of the Catholic Church. For it is made clear both among you and among all, and no Christian can have a doubtful mind on the point, that our faith is not in the Creature, but in one God, Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible: and in one Lord Jesus Christ His Only-begotten Son, and in one Holy Ghost; one God known in the holy and perfect Trinity, baptized into which, and in it united to the Deity, we believe that we have also inherited the kingdom of the heavens, in Christ Jesus our Lord, hrough whom to the Father be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” Athanasius, To the Bishops in Africa, 11 (A.D. 372).

            “And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father, who together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified.” Epiphanius, Creed (A.D. 374).

            “The Substance of the Trinity is, so to say, a common Essence in that which is distinct, an incomprehensible, ineffable Substance. We hold the distinction, not the confusion of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; a distinction without separation; a distinction without plurality; and thus we believe in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as each existing from and to eternity in this divine and wonderful Mystery: not in two Fathers, nor in two Sons, nor in two Spirits. For there is one God, the Father, of Whom are all things, and we in Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by Whom are all things, and we by Him.’ There is One born of the Father, the Lord Jesus, and therefore He is the Only-begotten. There is also One Holy Spirit,’ as the same Apostle hath said. So we believe, so we read, so we hold. We know the fact of distinction, we know nothing of the hidden mysteries; we pry not into the causes, but keep the outward signs vouchsafed unto us.” Ambrose, On the Christian Faith, 8:92 (A.D. 380).

            “I have very carefully considered this matter in my own mind…but I have been unable to discover any thing on earth with which to compare the nature of the Godhead…I picture to myself an eye, a fountain, a river, as others have done before, to see if the first might be analogous to the Father, the second to the Son, and the third to the Holy Ghost…Again I thought of the sun and a ray and light. But here again there was a fear lest people should get an idea of composition in the Uncompounded Nature, such as there is in the Sun and the things that are in the Sun. And in the second place lest we should give Essence to the Father but deny Personality to the Others, and make Them only Powers of God, existing in Him and not Personal.” Gregory of Nazianen, 5th Oration (31), 31, 32 (A.D. 380).

            “We believe in one God, the Father, almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible; And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten from the Father before all ages, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one substance with the Father, through Whom all things came into existence…And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and life-giver, Who proceeds from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son is together worshipped and together glorified…” Creed of Constantinople (A.D. 381).

            “For neither the centurion nor that poor woman who for twelve years was wasting away with a bloody flux, had believed in the mysteries of the Trinity, for these were revealed to the Apostles after the resurrection of Christ; so that the faith of such as believe in the mystery of the Trinity might have its due preeminence: but it was her singleness of mind and her devotion to her God that met with our Lord’s approval: ‘For she said within herself, If I do but touch his garment, I shall be made whole.’ This is the faith which our Lord said was seldom found. This is the faith which even in the case of those who believe aright is hard to find in perfection. ‘According to your faith, be it done unto you,’ says God. I do not, indeed, like the sound of those words. For if it be done unto me according to my faith, I shall perish. And yet I certainly believe in God the Father, I believe in God the Son, and I believe in God the Holy Ghost. I believe in one God; nevertheless, I would not have it done unto me according to my faith.” Jerome, Against Luciferians, 15 (A.D. 382).

            “But they[ie. Catholics] worship the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, One Godhead; God the Father, God the Son and (do not be angry) God the Holy Ghost, One Nature in Three Personalities, intellectual, perfect, Self-existent, numerically separate, but not separate in Godhead.” Gregory of Nazianzen, Against the Arians and concerning himself, Oration 33:16 (ante A.D. 389).

            “Seest thou that he implies that there is no difference in the gifts of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost? Not confounding the Persons, God forbid! But declaring the equal honor of the Essence. For that which the Spirit bestows, this he saith that God also works; this, that the Son likewise ordains and grants. Yet surely if the one were inferior to the other, or the other to it, he would not have thus set it down nor would this have been his way of consoling the person who was vexed.” John Chrysostom, Homily on 1st Corinthians, 29:4 (c. A.D. 392).

            “Since, then, in the case of those who are regenerate from death to eternal life, it is through the Holy Trinity that the life-giving power is bestowed on those who with faith are deemed worthy of the grace, and in like manner the grace is imperfect, if any one, whichever it be, of the names of the Holy Trinity be omitted in the saving baptism–for the sacrament of regeneration is not completed in the Son and the Father alone without the Spirit: nor is the perfect boon of life imparted to Baptism in the Father and the Spirit, if the name of the Son be suppressed: nor is the grace of that Resurrection accomplished in the Father and the Son, if the Spirit be left out :–for this reason we rest all our hope, and the persuasion of the salvation of our souls, upon the three Persons, recognized by these names; and we believe in the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the Fountain of life, and in the Only-begotten Son of the Father, Who is the Author of life, as saith the Apostle, and in the Holy Spirit of God, concerning Whom the Lord hath spoken, ‘It is the Spirit that quickeneth”. And since on us who have been redeemed from death the grace of immortality is bestowed, as we have said, through faith in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, guided by these we believe that nothing servile, nothing created, nothing unworthy of the majesty of the Father is to be associated in thought with the Holy Trinity; since, I say, our life is one which comes to us by faith in the Holy Trinity, taking its rise from the God of all, flowing through the Son, and working in us by the Holy Spirit.” Gregory of Nyssa, To the City of Sebasteia, Epistle 2 (ante A.D. 394).

            “Having, then, this full assurance, we are baptized as we were commanded, and we believe as we are baptized, and we hold as we believe; so that with one accord our baptism, our faith, and our ascription of praise are to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. But if any one makes mention of two or three Gods, or of three God-heads, let him be accursed. And if any, following the perversion of Arius, says that the Son or the Holy Spirit were produced from things that are not, let him be accursed. But as many as walk by the rule of truth and acknowledge the three Persons, devoutly recognized in Their several properties, and believe that there is one Godhead, one goodness, one rule, one authority and power, and neither make void the supremacy of the Sole-sovereignty, nor fall away into polytheism, nor confound the Persons, nor make up the Holy Trinity of heterogeneous and unlike elements, but in simplicity receive the doctrine of the faith, grounding all their hope of salvation upon the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,–these according to our judgment are of the same mind as we, and with them we also trust to have part in the Lord.” Gregory of Nyssa, To the City of Sebasteia, Epistle 2 (ante A.D. 394).

            “We have said elsewhere that those things are predicated Specially in the Trinity as belonging severally to each person, which are predicated relatively the one to the other, as Father and Son, and the gift of both, the Holy Spirit; for the Father is not the Trinity, nor the Son the Trinity, nor the gift the Trinity: but what whenever each is singly spoken of in respect to themselves, then they are not spoken of as three in the plural number, but one, the Trinity itself, as the Father God, the Son God, and the Holy Spirit God; the Father good, the Son good, and the Holy Spirit good; and the Father omnipotent, the Son omnipotent, and the Holy Spirit omnipotent: yet neither three Gods, nor three goods, nor three omnipotents, but one God, good, omnipotent, the Trinity itself; and whatsoever else is said of them not relatively in respect to each other, but individually in respect to themselves. For they are thus spoken of according to l essence, since in them to be is the same as to be great, as to be good, as to be wise, and whatever else is said of each person individually therein, or of the Trinity itself, in respect to themselves. And that therefore they are called three persons, or three substances, not in order that any difference of essence may be understood, but that we may be able to answer by some one word, should any one ask what three, or what three things? And that there is so great an equality in that Trinity, that not only the Father is not greater than the Son, as regards divinity, but neither are the Father and Son together greater than the Holy Spirit; nor is each individual person, whichever it be of the three, less than the Trinity itself.” Augustine, On the Trinity, 8 Pref (A.D. 416).

            “All those Catholic expounders of the divine Scriptures, both Old and New, whom I have been able to read, who have written before me concerning the Trinity, Who is God, have purposed to teach, according to the Scriptures, this doctrine, that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit intimate a divine unity of one and the same substance in an indivisible equality; and therefore that they are not three Gods, but one God: although the Father hath begotten the Son, and so He who is the Father is not the Son; and the Son is begotten by the Father, and so He who is the Son is not the Father; and the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son, but only the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, Himself also co-equal with the Father and the Son, and pertaining to the unity of the Trinity. Yet not that this Trinity was born of the Virgin Mary, and crucified under Pontius Pilate, buried and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven, but only the Son. Nor, again, that this Trinity descended in the form of a dove upon Jesus when He was baptized; nor that, on the day of Pentecost, after the ascension of the Lord, when there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind,’ the same Trinity sat upon each of them with cloven tongues like as of fire,’ but only the Holy Spirit. Nor yet that this Trinity said from heaven, Thou art my Son,’ whether when He was baptized by John, or when the three disciples were with Him in the mount, or when the voice sounded, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again;’ but that it was a word of the Father only, spoken to the Son; although the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as they are indivisible, so work indivisibly. This is also my faith, since it is the Catholic faith.” Augustine, On the Trinity, I:4,7 (A.D. 416).

            “But after him the schism of Sabellius burst forth out of reaction against the above mentioned heresy, and as he declared that there was no distinction between the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, he impiously confounded, as far as was possible, the Persons, and failed to distinguish the holy and ineffable Trinity. Next after him whom we have mentioned there followed the blasphemy of Arian perversity, which, in order to avoid the appearance of confounding the Sacred Persons, declared that there were different and dissimilar substances in the Trinity.” John Cassian, The Incarnation of Christ, 2 (A.D. 430).

            “In God there is one substance, but three Persons; in Christ two substances, but one Person. In the Trinity, another and another Person, not another and another substance (distinct Persons, not distinct substances)…Because there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, another of the Holy Ghost; but yet there is not another and another nature (distinct natures) but one and the same nature.” Vincent of Lerins, Commonitory for the Antiquity and Universality of the Catholic Faith, 37 (A.D. 434).

            “But although, dearly-beloved, the actual form of the thing done was exceeding wonderful, and undoubtedly in that exultant chorus of all human languages the Majesty of the Holy Spirit was present, yet no one must think that His Divine substance appeared in what was seen with bodily eyes. For His Nature, which is invisible and shared in common with the Father and the Son, showed the character of His gift and work by the outward sign that pleased Him, but kept His essential property within His own Godhead: because human sight can no more perceive the Holy Ghost than it can the Father or the Son. For in the Divine Trinity nothing is unlike or unequal, and all that can be thought concerning Its substance admits of no diversity either in power or glory or eternity. And while in the property of each Person the Father is one, the Son is another, and the Holy Ghost is another, yet the Godhead is not distinct and different; for whilst the Son is the Only begotten of the Father, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and the Son, not in the way that every creature is the creature of the Father and the Son, but as living and having power with Both, and eternally subsisting of That Which is the Father and the Son.” Pope Leo the Great (regn. 440-461), Sermon 77:2 (ante A.D. 461).

            “Or, if any one should perhaps think that this is done out of veneration for the supreme Trinity, neither so is there any objection to immersing the person to be baptized in the water once, since, there being one substance in three subsistences, it cannot be in any way reprehensible to immerse the infant in baptism either thrice or once, seeing that by three immersions the Trinity of persons, and in one the singleness of the Divinity may be denoted.” Pope Gregory the Great (regn. A.D. 590-604), To Leander Bishop of Hispalis, Letter 43 (A.D. 591).

            “These hypostases are within each other, not so that they are confused, but so that they contain one another, in accordance with the word of the Lord: I am in the Father and the Father is in me …We do not say three gods, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. On the contrary, we say only one God, the Holy Trinity, the Son, and the Spirit going back to only one Principle, without composition or confusion, quite unlike the heresy of Sabellius. These Persons are united, not so that they are confused with each other, but so that they are contained within each other. There is between them a circumincession without mixture or confusion, by virtue of which they are neither seperated nor divided in substance, unlike the heresy of Arius. In fact, in a word, the divinity is undivided in the individuals, just as there is only one light in three suns contained within each other, by means of an intimate interprenetration.” John of Damascus, Orthodox Faith, I:8 (A.D. 712).

          • Sam Urfer says:

            To believe in God alone

            150 Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed. As personal adherence to God and assent to his truth, Christian faith differs from our faith in any human person. It is right and just to entrust oneself wholly to God and to believe absolutely what he says. It would be futile and false to place such faith in a creature.

            To believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God

            151 For a Christian, believing in God cannot be separated from believing in the One he sent, his “beloved Son”, in whom the Father is “well pleased”; God tells us to listen to him. The Lord himself said to his disciples: “Believe in God, believe also in me.” We can believe in Jesus Christ because he is himself God, the Word made flesh: “No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.” Because he “has seen the Father”, Jesus Christ is the only one who knows him and can reveal him.

            To believe in the Holy Spirit

            152 One cannot believe in Jesus Christ without sharing in his Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who reveals to men who Jesus is. For “no one can say “Jesus is Lord”, except by the Holy Spirit”, who “searches everything, even the depths of God. . No one comprehends the thoughts of God, except the Spirit of God.” Only God knows God completely: we believe in the Holy Spirit because he is God.

            The Church never ceases to proclaim her faith in one only God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

            CCC, 150-152

            • John Hutchins says:

              I believe that you and Rade Hagedorn have proven my point very effectively with your quote from the CCC (unless you think that the CCC is scripture) and him with the claim that tradition is more important.

              To claim Sacred Tradition and the deposit of the faith is to claim that there is one true (Catholic (in the term of universal or applying to all)) faith. The Bible is part of that faith and it does testify of Christ, and as Christ is the truth then they testify of the truth (John 5:39). Sacred Tradition may contain more but it can not contain less than that portion of the truth that is to be found in the Bible; if the Bible clearly testifies of something not to be found in Sacred Tradition then the Sacred Tradition must have departed from the true faith and if the two contradict then again it is Sacred Tradition and the churches built on that foundation that of necessity must have fallen, not the scriptures. If you wish to claim the New Testament as part of Sacred Tradition then I am willing to let you and what follows must be done in Old Testament, though while the New Testament itself may have been compiled by the Catholics the books were written by the Apostles.

              Since the unifying of Neo-Platonic Monotheism and Catholicism happened after the death of the Apostles and Sacred Tradition can only take logical steps in progression, built off of the firm foundation left by the Apostles and not departing from it or building off of a different foundation, then, of necessity, the doctrine of the trinity must have a firm foundation and be logically obvious based on the scriptures found in the Bible, if it is to be judge as a true development of the faith that all must accept and not a change from the truth by philosophers that converted to Christianity but were unable to accept the God found in scriptures due to their philosophies.

              This then is what I am asking you to prove, where is this foundation for the Neo-Platonic idea of God to be found in the scripture? If it is to be found it must be both in the New and Old Testaments, for they both testify of Christ and of God and there is only one truth. Show me that Sacred Tradition is not the doctrines and philosophies of men mixed with the scriptures by those that could not leave the beliefs of their fathers or the wisdom of the world but is instead the one truth testified of from Adam and Abraham and Moses to John the Apostle.

              If you can not clearly show this foundation then saying that all Christians must believe as you on these subjects is making an unsupported claim, regardless of any philosophical argument on the subject as the basis for faith is the Word of God (being Christ) and the wisdom of God (which is foolishness unto men).

              As I just recently did provide a partial set of the scriptures that testify of the corporeal nature of God and the LDS understanding of Christ, I would be willing to present again that same evidence, expanded in any way you so desire.

              I know that God is our Father in Heaven, the father of our spirits so that we are His children. I know that we are the sons of God and that we shouted for joy in the heavens when the plan where Jesus Christ would be our Savior and Redeemer was presented, the Lamb slain from before the foundations of the world. I know that because of this that though worms destroy this body, yet in the flesh shall I see God. I know that if I rely and build my foundation on the Rock of Israel, I may be go glory to glory until I am transformed so that death and hell will not prevail against me and I may become one with God and Christ and be a joint-heir with all that Father has. I hope to continue to grow in my knowledge of God and of Christ as that is what life eternal is and I will wait upon the Lord, rather then trust in the arm of the flesh. I know that no one (absolutely no one) may enter into except they be born of the water and of the spirit and it is for this reason that the authority to seal on heaven and on earth is used to baptize for the dead who have the gospel preached to them, so that all may be equal before God, and they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. This and so very much more are things found (very clearly) in the Bible.

              • Rade Hagedorn says:

                It is too late to get into this tonight, but let me make a simple correction.

                I did not say that Holy Tradition is superior to the Bible. I said that the Bible is part of Holy Tradition. Holy Tradition is that same faith which Christ taught to the Apostles and which they gave to their disciples, preserved in the whole Church and especially in its leadership through Apostolic Succession.

                This strikes the LDS as difficult to understand I suspect because the LDS find their roots in the Second Great Awakening — a Protestant revival.

                • John Hutchins says:

                  Sorry for misrepresenting what you said, I didn’t mean to. You are right and I should have worded that part differently. I also might have some wording errors elsewhere but I actually think I generally captured what you are saying in what I wrote.

              • Sam Urfer says:

                The Book of Wisdom and the Book of Sirach are good starts. The appropriation of Platonism goes back before Christ, among the Jews. Plato is good, where he is right. The ancient Jews thought he must have read Moses! And this is an area where Jews and Muslims are more like Christians than Mormons are: the use of Plato and friends.

                Your Sola Scriptura axioms are flawed. The people who wrote and compiled the Bible understood it a certain way. That is, Trinitarian and Monotheist, with a transcendent idea of God.

                • John Hutchins says:

                  “The Book of Wisdom and the Book of Sirach”

                  You will have to explain this to me, as I just reread both in English and Portuguese.

                  There are some very nice things in Wisdom about the Savior, how He possessed a knowledge of God and was the Son of God. Also quite a lot of things in Wisdom that are quoted in the New Testament. It also explains that we are the sons of God (again). It has the distinction, found throughout the Bible, that there is both our Lord and Savior and our Father in Heaven and the Holy Spirit, all being distinct and separate beings. It also testifies that our spirits live before they are breathed into our bodies, at least that is the way I read that passage.

                  Sirach is more like Proverbs. I quite liked that it honored Adam and placed him above every living thing of creation when it was talking about the men of God and the history of the faithful.

                  If you were looking for things that actually address what I was asking for I believe there is something in 2 Maccabees, although it might be 1 Maccabees.

                  To me your response is saying that Jews (and Muslims) also departed from the truth, so its all good.

                  “Sola Scriptura axioms are flawed”

                  I wasn’t arguing for Sola Scriptura, I was pointing out that Sacred Tradition can contain quite a bit more then the scriptures, but that it can not contain less or contradict the scriptures.

                  • Sam Urfer says:

                    Wherin the Mormons depart from Plato, they depart from truth, whereas the Muslims and Jews follow truth in recognizing the good in Plato that Christians do. Not that Plato is an ur-truth superior to revelation, but what is true in Plato is true (tautology, cha cha cha), and perfectly compatible with revelation. Just because it is in a pagan writer doesn’t make it wrong. The Wisdom of (pseudo-)Solomon is a straight-up circumcised Plato, and many even thought it was written by the great Platonist Jew Philo himself. If you can’t see that, you might need to brush up on Plato before throwing around anti-Platonist accusations. :)

                    Sirach is also a synthesis of Plato and Moses, though more subtly to be sure. Proverbs, less Plato, more Egyptian and Babylonian thought. Hermetic, let’s call it. ;)

                    • John Hutchins says:

                      Assert what you will, you have not shown it in the slightest, just claimed it. There are certianly lots of influences from the Greeks in both, but Wisdom is by no means circumcised Plato.

                      Philo can not have written Wisdom, the time periods are wrong.

                    • Sam Urfer says:

                      I know that Philo didn’t write Wisdom; that’s why I said “some thought” that he did, because the philosophy fits. It was written much earlier, but in the same climate of Jewish Platonism which Christianity inherited, baptizing it after it had been circumcised. Again I reiterate, if you don’t see it as Platonist, you don’t know Plato from Adam. It’s not so much an argument, as a judgement of facts on the ground. Mormon anti-Platonism is part of your religions un-Christian nature. To be fair, this aberration from Christian teaching has some Protestant precedent, but that was also a problem vis a vis Protestantism (and there are still many solid Protestant Platonists, anyways).

                    • John Hutchins says:

                      So Plato was Christian but those that followed Arianism or Audianism were not Christians?

                    • John Hutchins says:

                      I can throw it right back at you: if you can’t see how Wisdom differs from Platonic thought then you don’t know Plato from Adam. As this peer reviewed article points out there is considerable room for debate on the subject with many ideas found in Wisdom also being found elsewhere in older Jewish scripture that have had no influence from Greek thought, with the author of that paper coming to the conclusion that there is certainly some Hellenistic influences particularly from Plato, but that it is also has significant differences as well. The paper has references to others that take positions that are very different, from no Greek influence to per-socratic influences to a host of other philosophers.

                    • Sam Urfer says:

                      Sure, Plato was often viewed as a Pre-Christian Christian, along with other noble pagans, which makes sense in light of how Plato was received into the OT: http://organizations.oneonta.edu/philosc/papers08/bates.pdf

                      This isn’t evidence that the Great Church Tradition got it wrong; the ancient consistency, aprticular with pre-Christian Scripture, shows how it is a continuous Jeduo-Christian belief. Mormonism is the non-Christian innovation, not St. Augustine.

              • Rade Hagedorn says:

                “To claim Sacred Tradition and the deposit of the faith is to claim that there is one true (Catholic (in the term of universal or applying to all)) faith.”

                Holy Tradition and the Deposit of the Faith are one and the same.

                The term “catholic” as originally used to define the Church (as early as the first decades of the second century) was a definition of quality rather than quantity. Calling the Church catholic means to define how it is, namely, full and complete, all-embracing, and with nothing lacking.

                “The Bible is part of that faith and it does testify of Christ, and as Christ is the truth then they testify of the truth (John 5:39).”

                We are in agreement.  However the Bible should not be read independent of the rest of Holy Tradition.  The term “Bible” seems to cause an unending amount of confusion.  Within the Orthodox Christian Church the “Bible” is read each and every day but there is no one book in a church building that contains all of Scripture.  This is why “Orthodox Bibles” are so rare.  Within the Orthodox Christian Church (which we claim is the self same Church that Jesus Christ founded and that has existed 2,000 years safeguarding the uncorrupted Deposit of the Faith) the books of the Bible are teaching tools and critical elements of Divine Liturgy — not something better or something to be contrasted with Holy Tradition.

                “[If] the Bible clearly testifies of something not to be found in Sacred Tradition then the Sacred Tradition must have departed from the true faith, and if the two contradict then again it is Sacred Tradition and the churches built on that foundation that of necessity must have fallen, not the scriptures.”

                Since the Bible is part of Holy Tradition this entire statement does not make any sense.  This is where faith traditions that have a Protestant understanding of the Bible (which I posit encompasses the LDS church) often bottom out when trying to have a theological discussion with Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics.  This is also the same line of reasoning that atheists and other non-Christians try to employ when they say books of the Bible contradict one another, or that anytime a miracle occurs in the Bible that passage is clearly a fabrication and should be excised if we are to actually understand the “real” events in the Bible — since axiomatically miracles are not real.

                “If you wish to claim the New Testament as part of Sacred Tradition then I am willing to let you”

                I am honestly unsure of what to make of that statement.

                 

                “while the New Testament itself may have been compiled by the Catholics the books were written by the Apostles.”

                The meaning of this statement is unclear to me.  Either you are implying that the Roman Catholic Church compiled the Bible or you are using the term catholic in a most unusual way.  It would be clearer to replace ‘Catholics’ with ‘the Church’ which you might find uncomfortable as you don’t believe that the Church existed at the time or to write ‘early Christians’.  The fact that you capitalize Catholics implies to me that you think the Roman Catholic Church compiled the New Testament which suggests a significant deficit in your understanding of early Church history.

                “Since the unifying of Neo-Platonic Monotheism and Catholicism happened after the death of the Apostles and Sacred Tradition can only take logical steps in progression”

                Assumes facts not in evidence.

                “the doctrine of the trinity must have a firm foundation and be logically obvious based on the scriptures found in the Bible, if it is to be judge as a true development of the faith that all must accept and not a change from the truth by philosophers that converted to Christianity but were unable to accept the God found in scriptures due to their philosophies.”

                This is simply an assertion.  For this to be at all convincing to me you’d need to supply some evidence.  For example (leaving aside whether or not there is such evidence in the Bible) what evidence supports that the doctrine of the Trinity “must have a firm foundation and be logically obvious based on the scriptures found in the Bible.”. Once again I submit that this is an example of a Protestant mindset.

                “Show me that Sacred Tradition is not the doctrines and philosophies of men mixed with the scriptures by those that could not leave the beliefs of their fathers or the wisdom of the world but is instead the one truth testified of from Adam and Abraham and Moses to John the Apostle.”

                I notice that you tend to operate in some form of missionary mode and I assume that you must hold that I do as well.  This is not the case.  Were we having a discussion about Holy Tradition and its validity (which would make you wonder why we would not be having the same discussion about those two aspects of Holy Tradition called the Old and New Testaments) it would be long and involved and I doubt amenable to comboxes — especially in this particular thread.  At any rate, the burden for an assertion that the Deposit of the Faith was corrupted by wayward Greeks would be on you and not me.  I would suggest you wait for Mr. Wright to open such a conversation with a new post where the breadth of the subject might be more delimited.

                “If you can not clearly show this foundation then saying that all Christians must believe as you on these subjects is making an unsupported claim”

                I would suggest that you limit your argumentation to my actual positions.  My position is that the Church has existed uninterrupted for 2,000 years.  For 2,000 years to be considered a Christian you have had to undergone a valid baptism.  LDS baptisms are not considered valid baptisms by the Church.  Therefore LDS are not Christians.

                This reminds me of another blog where the consensus is that marriage is a civil contract and that Christians should embrace the term ‘covenant marriage’ to describe what was traditionally called marriage.

                As I just recently did provide a partial set of the scriptures that testify of the corporeal nature of God and the LDS understanding of Christ, I would be willing to present again that same evidence, expanded in any way you so desire.

                It is commonly understood that people that disagree with you (and I am using ‘you’ in the broad sense of anyone and not you personally) is either (a) ignorant, (b) significantly lacking in requisite intelligence, or (c) evil.  I’d like to add (d) interpret and weigh evidence differently.

                I am not trying to convert you.  I’d appreciate it if you’d at least consider the possibility that I might not fall into categories ‘a’ through ‘c’ as this is how I consider you.  My position is if that someone is maligning the Church or inaccurately assigning doctrine or positions to it I will speak out.  If someone makes a statement that invites an Orthodox Christian viewpoint I will also speak out so that at least a little of what the Church ACTUALLY teaches can get out to people.  If that causes them to visit a priest or read a decent book so-much-the-better.

                • John Hutchins says:

                  Like I said, my wording wasn’t the best, I went too far in places so that your D, which is what I was trying to get across, was excluded. I will continue to try to be better at not operating in a “missionary mode” when discussing religion.

                  “Since the Bible is part of Holy Tradition”

                  Look up the scripture I referenced. The Old Testament was had previous to Christ and the Apostles. The written part of Sacred Tradition can not contradict those parts that were not written, and since the written part is demonstrably from an ancient date and written by the Apostles (or at the direction of them) it should be more trusted then anything else in matters of dispute.

                  ” The fact that you capitalize Catholics implies to me that you think the Roman Catholic Church compiled the New Testament which suggests a significant deficit in your understanding of early Church history.”

                  No, the fact that I capitalized Catholics means that at that time there was no division in the Catholic church (because the emperor had so declared and killed or exiled any that disagreed) such that both Roman Catholic and Orthodox were Catholic (and they weren’t even any of the divisions at that time to start with), as the Orthodox church and Roman church so claim.

                  The claim is that Mormons are not Christians, and this because our baptism in not valid, and this because we do not believe in the Trinity. Therefore to call us not Christians you must show not only that we do not believe in the Trinity (on that point there should be no contention or surprise) but that we must believe in the Trinity to be Christian (unlike the Arians that were considered to be Christian heretics). This is obviously from your definition of what is considered Christian, not mine. D is what I am trying to show, for if it is D then one is not forced to hold the Trinity and still be Christian.

                  • Rade Hagedorn says:

                    “Since the Bible is part of Holy Tradition”
                    Look up the scripture I referenced. The Old Testament was had previous to Christ and the Apostles. The written part of Sacred Tradition can not contradict those parts that were not written, and since the written part is demonstrably from an ancient date and written by the Apostles

                    Are you talking about John 5:39?  Bringing this up is somewhat ironic in that this references the Septuagint which contains books that the LDS hold to be non-canonical.

                    No, the fact that I capitalized Catholics means that at that time there was no division in the Catholic church (because the emperor had so declared and killed or exiled any that disagreed) such that both Roman Catholic and Orthodox were Catholic (and they weren’t even any of the divisions at that time to start with), as the Orthodox church and Roman church so claim.

                    The correct term then would have been Christians or early Christians.  To write Catholics is simply confusing to no purpose — unless of course your implication was that they were not Christians but I assume such is not the case.

                    Therefore to call us not Christians you must show not only that we do not believe in the Trinity (on that point there should be no contention or surprise) but that we must believe in the Trinity to be Christian

                    No I don’t.  Do you really think that I am a bishop?  If you were to decide to convert to Orthodox Christianity you would first be required to become a catechumen (this usually takes about one year) and then you would be baptized.  I am certain that you have been baptized in the LDS church but you would be baptized again anyways because your baptism would not be considered valid.  If you’d like you can go to a local Orthodox Christian church and ask the priest if LDS (note I try to avoid using Mormon as I was told by a friend of mine that is a member of the LDS that it is considered offensive but based off of this blog I am wondering if that is accurate) are Christians he would say no.  Should the Church begin accepting the validity of LDS baptisms then you and I will find ourselves in agreement.

                    unlike the Arians that were considered to be Christian heretics

                    You realize that neither I nor the Orthodox Christian Church would say that you are either a heretic or an apostate.  To be a heretic you have to be a baptized member of the Church (in this instance the Orthodox Christian Church) who holds (and most often teaches) some belief counter to established dogma.   To be an apostate you have to have once been a baptized member of the Church who has since renounced Christianity.  To be a schismatic you have to be a baptized member of the Church who refuses to submit to Church authority.

                    You are simply not a Christian.  Your church might profess what the Orthodox Christian Church holds to be certain heretical teachings, but that doesn’t make you a heretic.

                    Also, to be clear, the Jehovas Witnesses are modern day arianists and the Church does not hold them to be Christians either.  If an Orthodox Christian were to join the Jehovas Witnesses they would have become an apostate just as if an Orthodox Christian were to become an atheist.

                    • John Hutchins says:

                      “somewhat ironic in that this references the Septuagint which contains books that the LDS hold to be non-canonical.”

                      It would be more accurate to say that the LDS do not hold those books to be canonical currently, not that they are non-canonical, though that might be too fine a distinction. We can use them and do hold that there is much that is true scripture in them but do not currently hold them as part of the canon, but they may end up in the canon at some point if God decides they should.

                      “The correct term then would have been Christians or early Christians.”

                      If you say so, many of the writers from that time refer to themselves as Catholics and being aware that the Orthodox Catholic Church and the Roman Catholic Church both claim to be the Catholic Church from that time period so I thought it the correct term to use. I was not aware that there was any controversy in calling them Catholics.

                      Your response is as honest and as enlightening as the Evangelicals with their talk of cult.

                      In regards to this entire subject and the use of Mormon in relation to the LDS: http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2011/10/the-importance-of-a-name?lang=eng

                  • Rade Hagedorn says:

                    I appreciate your ending this conversation by implying that I am dishonest.

  13. SMM says:

    Amen, Amen.

    Unfortunately the aforementioned Catholics, and the scandal they present, particularly without correction, are a large reason for the hubristic brand sensitivity I am displaying with this comment.

    Then again, much to Mr. Hutchins dismay probably, I consider the fundamentalist Mormons closer to what the true LDS church teaches than the institutional LDS church. I am certain their (FLDS?) clarion cry is that the institutional LDS church is apostate. Does Randall Squared or the good Scandinavian doctor find any mirth in this whole debate? I wish I could.

    • SMM says:

      Sorry this was in reply to JCJW’s comment 1/27/12 @ 11:03.

    • John Hutchins says:

      I could easily respond with things the “true” catholic church teaches.

      The FLDS are a bad example as they make a complete mockery of the revelation that they claim the LDS church isn’t following and ignore completely parts of the Book of Mormon. Eternal marriage that is sealed with the Holy Spirit of Promise that can get transferred from man to man isn’t so very eternal or so very sealed.

      • SMM says:

        I apologize for drawing you out. That is a good an answer as I’m likely to get and can see the rationalization in it for the institutional LDS. Unfortunately, it does not cut muster with me personally. It shows me an evolving doctrine and brings doubt into my mind about the founding fathers of the LDS faith. Was JS just a cipher that he and the founders got this wrong until corrected 4 generations later? Too many similarities with Mohammed and the early Caliphate. That (and Krakauer, not the greatest source) ruined me.

        That being said, as a monotheist, if I were not convinced of Catholicism, I would be Mormon (probably FLDS) or Jewish (Orthodox). Evolving doctrine doesn’t work in my mind. It shows a church of the world, not of revelation. The Catholic church’s recent pusillanimity towards divorce (rampant “annulment”), amongst other things, doesn’t do much to bolster my confidence either. On the gripping hand, the doctrine is still strong, it just isn’t being followed well. “It has been found difficult and left untried.”

        Finally, I echo Mr. Torgersen below. JCJW’s posts over the years have been a boon to me as has most of the commentary. This post quickly deviated from one of praise and thanksgiving to an honorable group of people into scandal. I resemble that remark. I ask those Mormons I may have angered to pray that the Holy Ghost enlighten us all “…that we may be made worthy to receive the promises of Christ.”

        • Anna says:

          “The Catholic church’s recent pusillanimity towards divorce (rampant “annulment”),”

          I suspect the problem is not so often that Catholics are too afraid to stand up for the doctrinal insistence that a sacramental marriage cannot be broken, but that too many Catholics are getting “married” without in fact being sacramentally married.

          • SMM says:

            Dear Anna,

            I have much to agree with your statement. Unfortunately, it comes back to the “branding” spoken of forever-ago in this thread. If one wishes to claim Catholicism they would necessarily want to receive the sacrament of matrimony and know that entails “til death do us part”. If they married outside the faith (e.g. justice of peace) either they willfully spurned a sacramental grace or they were not Catholic. If they were not Catholic and entered the faith after a (e.g. civil) marriage, they need to know upon becoming Catholic their marriage has aquired a sacramental nature. Annulments 100 years ago, worldwide, could be counted on four limbs. The prime reason someone would be classified “never really married (sacramentally),” in that time period, was a later discovery that those wedded were closer in relation than 2nd cousins. Marriage was forever even if there was much sin in the union.

            Marriage is a sacrament that is not conferred by a sacramentally ordained representative of Christ (e.g. Priest) but by the couple themselves. What does this say when they annul their sacrament, let alone when they start a new “do-over”? Serial-polygamy? Doesn’t say much about their learning, nor about the (lack of) teaching by the shepherds. These are scandals that scream much louder than charitable disagreement on a website, as the noble robertjwizard and our host has noted.

            mrMandias has noted that “operationally” Catholics have some major problems. In my pride-laden opinion these could have been diminished significantly with courageous leadership from those with authority resisting the world. Now it looks like a suffering return similar to the tribes of Israel. I thank God for his promise to never leave us.

        • Mrmandias says:

          In defense of us evolvers :) These are offered not by way of argument but because you seem like a thoughtful guy who might be interested in seeing what validity, if any, can lie in an opposing point of view.

          For the most part, the LDS and Catholics concur in seeing revelation as mostly an additive process, where the deposit remains the same but is clarified and added to as time goes on (think ‘development of doctrine’ by Cardinal Newman, that kind of thing). But, we differ from Catholic’s in our greater willingness to change course from past commitments (some might say in our greater willingness to acknowledge the changes of course, but let that go). What are some rationales?

          The most common LDS rationale, I think, would be to argue that as circumstances change, the proper moral posture changes. But to preserve us from antinomianism and sheer cultural descent, the changes need to be authoritatively directed, from God. Take polygamy, for example. The original Christian justifications for much of our marriage morality, including monogamy, had a largely utilitarian justification. Utility changes with time and circumstances. So you might argue that the many sound reasons for monogamy might be temporarily outweighed in a specific location for a few decades because of countervailing liturgical reasons (in the Mormon context, the sense that this modern era in divine history recapitulates the elements of all past eras) or practical reasons (a surfeit of LDS women in a new, unsettled environment). But as time goes on, the liturgical reasons are satisfied, the practical need ends, the practical difficulties grow greater, and the underlying good reasons for monogamy assert themselves, you switch back.

          The second most common LDS argument would be that the distance between us and God as a practical matter is immeasurably great. We are literally incapable of understanding the truth as we are and must be brought to it slowly (in the common LDS phrase, line upon line, precept upon precept). Any earthly revelation is necessarily a crude simplification or even false from the standpoint of heaven. Therefore the object of revelation is to give us guidance that moves us closer to God, while still being close enough to where we are that we can understand it. As where we are changes, revelation needs to change, maybe even in apparent contradiction of past revelation, because some things are now too “far” for most of us to strive for and some are too “close” to be useful. From my perspective, if one took the Catholic strictures on contraception to be 100% true, one could still see some value in relaxing them to prevent the vast majority of one’s membership from adding the sin of rebellion to the sin of contraception. There is some evidence of things like this happening in scripture, in connection with the Mosaic law, e.g. My personal view is that this is the explanation for the LDS church’s own changes on contraception. As regrettable and frustrating as human weakness is, it is also a fact.

          I have some thoughts of my own to add.

          Think of revelation as incarnation, in which we are Mary. There is a divine parent, God. But also a mortal parent, us. The result is necessarily hybrid and does not necessarily partake fully of the perfection, completion, and immutability of heaven. From this point of view, where revelation is a dialogue between man and MAN, we might say that revelation changes simply because we have learned to ask better or different questions. The LDS practice of polygamy, for example, was originally connected with ideas on ‘adoption’ that led us to our current idea of sealing, but the idea of sealing is much more satisfactory given its connection to our ideas on eternal ties to the dead and the activity that will transpire during the Millennium.

          Think of the process of seeking divine guidance and revelation and subsequent obedience as a spiritually beneficial one. That being so, God may not wish to transcribe its scope too much, even if that means oscillations in and out of error in various ways.

          Finally, consider that your own tradition embraces the idea of evolving revelation up until the time of Christ (and the apostles). The difference between us and you isn’t our belief in evolving revelation, I would argue, but the LDS belief that the process is still ongoing. That you happened to be born after the final revelation (after Christ, in your belief, or after Moses, for the Jew, or after Wilford Woodruff(?) for the FLDS) is merely fortuitous.

          • Mrmandias says:

            Circumscribe its scope, not transcribe.

            • SMM says:

              MrMandias,

              Thank you for the thoughtful reply. It gives me much to chew on, particularly the second to last paragraph.

              Your comments also clarified much, to me, in how you explained different meanings of “revelation”, and particularly when those “periods” closed in different examples. I would note the Catholic meaning is slightly different having subcategories of general and private revelation. General revelation ended with the death of St. John, the last surviving apostle. Statements from Church bodies, with authority, cannot contradict general revelation, but only clarify it — much like we believe Christ did with Jewish tradition (Fulfilled it). Many of these clarifications, say in a general council or papal ex cathedra statement, only come out after a certain misconception was damaging to the faithful. The truth value of these clarifications does not come from the piety (or lack thereof) of the body or Pope, but from the promise and authority of Christ and the sacramental nature of the priesthood. This may help clarify my statement above about FLDS or Orthodox Jews. To my knowledge, they do not change their dogma due to worldly pressures or for utilitarian purposes. They rely on God’s charges being unchanging and that if they obediently “do the right” (LDS wristband I used to see)God will bless them for it. That is how Providence works.

              On speaking with my spiritual advisor about personal revelation (really how God speaks to us outside the Church and Scripture), he sent me this quote, “God speaks to you by what happens to you.” Bp. Fulton Sheen

              All interdenominational disagreement eventually comes back to the center, which is authority. Who do you believe? Who is credible? Our host has spoken of this often when others attack his –an eye-witness — testimony. The Sanhedrin asked Christ for his bona fides. I have, what I believe is a credible, if not pious nor courageous, authority. What is happening in the world, whether I (that all-important person) “feel” it to be good or ill, will work to the Good that the Good God has planned for us. Who knows? A general council may declare the Book of Mormon inspired and add it to the canon. We could have Catholic missionaries going two by two …

  14. Owain_Glyndwr says:

    But that isn’t true. When we speak of God, we say that He exits forever, He is the foundation, nay, Reality Itself. The statement “God does not exist” is a perfectly orthodox statement- to say that He has it doesn’t go far enough!
    Yes, God incarnated himself as a human being, but the fact is He was, is and remained the Supreme Being, now and forever. “The Incarnation run riot” isn’t merely a good thing taken further- to believe it would be to utterly destroy the foundations of our beliefs about God, about the One who said “I Am Who I Am.” It would also require a fundamental rethinking of Catholic devotional life.
    I like Mormons, I respect Mormons, but please don’t try and synthesize your beliefs with those of Judaism/Christianity when they simply won’t go together. There is an unbridgeable gulf between our conception of God and your conception of God- and that’s not me being facetious, or attempting to viciously attack Mormonism. It’s a statement of fact, and and don’t see how we’re meant to go on if we continue to ignore the blatantly obvious.
    Sorry if that sounded a bit shirty.

    • Owain_Glyndwr says:

      My post is in reply to Mr Mandias.

    • Mrmandias says:

      I’m not asking Catholics to alter their metaphysics and remain Catholics. What I’m pointing out is that Mormons aren’t engaged in some project of ‘synthesizing’ our beliefs with Christian beliefs. Those *are* our beliefs.

      • Sam Urfer says:

        Okay, that’s fine. But those beliefs do not fall under the heading “Christian,” or “Monotheistic” for that matter. Forget the Trinity, Unitarian ideas of God are equally problematic for a Mormon.

      • Rade Hagedorn says:

        I’m not aware of anyone that believes that Mormons are currently synthesizing their beliefs with Christian beliefs.

        In point of fact Mormons believe that Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics at some point synthesized Christianity with non-Christian beliefs and corrupted the Deposit of Faith given by Jesus Christ. This being so, I’m not certain why any Mormon would be scandalized to find that Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians might think that Joseph Smith and some early Mormons might have synthesized Christianity with their imagination or something else.

        • Mrmandias says:

          That doesn’t scandalize us. When conventional Christians say that we’re heretics by their lights, well, we are.

          That doesn’t require them to effectively tell me that my commitment to Christ is false. That’s where the scandal comes in. I admit that I can be mistaken about a million facts of theology and a billion truths of history. My trust isn’t in my own wisdom, so of I course I’ll admit that. My trust is in Christ. He is my rock. When you deny that, you are impugning the best thing I got going for me. That’s the scandal.

          • Rade Hagedorn says:

            Two blog posts in a day where people attribute to me something I have not written.

            I did not write, and I don’t recall anyone else writing thus far, that your “commitment to Christ is false”. What we have written is that Mormons are not Christians. What we have written is that you do not worship the same God that we do. What we have written is that the Church has existed for 2,000 years and denies the validity of your baptisms — which means that you do not meet our definition of a Christian.

            Aside from a claim that Jesus Christ is God we differ in almost every detail on who and what God is.

            It isn’t intended as an insult to you. It isn’t intended as an insult to the LDS.

            No one thus far has claimed that the LDS are satanists or a cesspool of evil like some Protestants claim of Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians. We simply claim you aren’t Christians. It’s really not that big of a deal, it is simply another example of our overarching heretical thought process.

            • Mrmandias says:

              If Mormons aren’t Christians (i.e, followers of Christ) and if I worship a different God from the real one, then you aren’t just questioning my commitment to Christ, you are denying it.

              • Rade Hagedorn says:

                This is precisely the sort of argument that I dislike.  I have not questioned your commitment to anything.  I don’t know you and wouldn’t be interested in having that argument with you even if we did know one another.

                When I was an atheist (and by the way thought of Mormons as Christians) and didn’t believe God or Jesus Christ existed was I doubting your commitment to what you understood to be Christ?

                If you want my actual attitude both then and now I can offer it.  I assumed then as I assume now that religious people are often devout in their beliefs.  Without a doubt there are some people that use religion purely as a social networking activity or to mask reprehensible behaviors, but I believed and believe that for the most part that is a small minority of believers.

                I have a friend that is a Mormon (though he prefers that I not use that term), a friend that is a Hindu, a friend that is a Muslim, and a brother that is an atheist. As far as I know all of the believers are devout in their beliefs and my brother is staunch in his so-called unbelief.

                I deny that Mohammed was a prophet, that Jesus was a prophet, and that the Koran is the transcribed word of God.  I would even deny that the Allah of Muslims is the same Allah of Arab Christians.  That in no way means that I believe Muslims in general or my friend in specific are not devout or even that they will not be saved.

                The same goes for Mormons.  I deny Joseph Smith was a prophet, that Jesus is the eldest spirit son of God and joined with him to form the Godhead, and that the Book of Mormon is Scripture.  I would even deny that the God of Mormons is the same God of Christians.  That in no way means that I believe Mormons in general or you in specific are not devout or even that they or you will not be saved.

                If a friend were to tell me that he is a prophet and that Jesus Christ was once known as the god Zeus and that along with his parents Cronus and Rhea they formed the Godhead.  Furthermore these gods had been known by many names down through the centuries (originally having been the sole survivors of the prior Big Crunch) and kept creating Christianity only to have philosophers, emperors, and other baddies corrupt the teaching, etc.  I would argue that even though my friend is appropriating the name and person of Jesus Christ and claiming some books of the Bible, supplemented with his own revelations, that he is not worshipping the same Jesus Christ nor the same God that I am.

                Not only does my friend’s revelation in this scenario reimagine Jesus Christ in a radical manner his version of God is radically different from that of Judaisms and Christianty’s understanding of God.  Not only was Judaisms understanding of God incomplete as Christianity avers, but it was corrupted according to my friend’s revelation.  Now I would say my friend is not a Christian.  You might disagree which is absolutely fine.

                The thing is, we don’t have to agree whether or not you are a Christian.  It has absolutely no bearing on anything unless you plan on converting to Roman Catholicism or Orthodox Christianity.  That is unless you are wanting to use such recognition as a battering ram for some form of social or political recognition in which case you are in the same group that now argues ‘marriage’ really means contract and that the religious people should now use the term ‘covenant marriage’ for what they do.

                Finally, would anyone explain to me what apostate and apostasy means to the LDS?  I honestly don’t understand how there could have been a great apostasy in the 1st or 2nd century and yet anyone be Christians other than Mormons.

                • John Hutchins says:

                  “That is unless you are wanting to use such recognition as a battering ram for some form of social or political recognition”

                  I see you doing exactly the opposite of this by saying we are not Christian, just like the Evangelicals with their talk of cult. That is, using the term as a battering ram to deny social and political recognition and to increase persecution.

                  “Finally, would anyone explain to me what apostate and apostasy means to the LDS”

                  Apostate: “members that have changed or ignored cardinal Church teachings.” per Apostate

                  Apostasy: “After the deaths of the Savior and His Apostles, men corrupted the principles of the gospel and made unauthorized changes in Church organization and priesthood ordinances. Because of this widespread apostasy, the Lord withdrew the authority of the priesthood from the earth. ” per Apostasy

                  “During the Great Apostasy, people were without divine direction from living prophets. Many churches were established, but they did not have priesthood power to lead people to the true knowledge of God the Father and Jesus Christ. Parts of the holy scriptures were corrupted or lost, and no one had the authority to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost or perform other priesthood ordinances. ” From Apostasy link, additional information.

                  In the process of what we call the Apostasy, the tangible, personal God described in the Old and New Testaments was replaced by the abstract, incomprehensible deity defined by compromise with the speculative principles of Greek philosophy. The received language of the Bible remained, but the so-called “hidden meanings” of scriptural words were now explained in the vocabulary of a philosophy alien to their origins. In the language of that philosophy, God the Father ceased to be a Father in any but an allegorical sense. He ceased to exist as a comprehensible and compassionate being. And the separate identity of his Only Begotten Son was swallowed up in a philosophical abstraction that attempted to define a common substance and an incomprehensible relationship.

                  These descriptions of a religious philosophy are surely undiplomatic, but I hasten to add that Latter-day Saints do not apply such criticism to the men and women who profess these beliefs. We believe that most religious leaders and followers are sincere believers who love God and understand and serve him to the best of their abilities. We are indebted to the men and women who kept the light of faith and learning alive through the centuries to the present day. We have only to contrast the lesser light that exists among peoples unfamiliar with the names of God and Jesus Christ to realize the great contribution made by Christian teachers through the ages. We honor them as servants of God.

                  From “Apostasy and Restoration” by Elder Oaks.

                  • Rade Hagedorn says:

                    John

                    Thank you for the link. The LDS understanding of apostasy and apostate is not at all like any that I have ever read which undoubtedly causes much confusion. It seems that for Mormons apostasy essentially means heresy, is that correct?

                    Evangelicals use of cult is most often a misappropriation of a sociological term — a general problem that has now brought us the unwieldy term ‘New Religious Movement’. Cult originally meant a new religious movement that emphasizes the new–a new revelation or insight provided by a supernatural power, say, or the rediscovery of an old revelation that had been lost and unknown for many years (and which is, therefore, new to this age). In this the Evangelicals are possibly correct to call the LDS a cult (though whether the LDS are still ‘new’ is open to interpretation) but incorrect to call Roman Catholics a cult. Unfortunately, whether technically correct or not, Evangelicals often don’t care what the definition of cult actually is they just use cult to mean ‘bad’. For most people it appears that cult and evil are now synonyms.

                    As to my using ‘Christian’ as a battering-ram… There is a very strong possibility that the next US President will be a Mormon and if Romney is nominated an even stronger likelihood that I will be voting or him. Roman Catholicism is a greater threat to Orthodox Christianity than the LDS is but I am not stealthily trying to imply that they are not Christians. What I am arguing is that when Person X says that they are a strong supporter of marriage and I ask them what ‘marriage’ means and they respond with, “five year renewable government sanctioned contracts where two people (regardless of gender) pool resources and provide one another power of attorney” I have the right to respond with, that is not the definition of marriage. My saying so does not dissolve their contract nor by necessity imply that it should be dissolved.

                    • John Hutchins says:

                      “It seems that for Mormons apostasy essentially means heresy, is that correct?”

                      With the added, and more important, feature of the loss of authority to perform saving ordinances.

                • Mrmandias says:

                  It seems to me that you are saying you don’t question my commitment to Christ, but that its a different Christ. Some other guy.

                  To me this sounds like a contradiction. I accept that you don’t think it is, but I have to disagree.

                  • Rade Hagedorn says:

                    Essentially yes. Just like if I said that Jesus Christ was an alien like from the film THE HIDDEN. Just because we are both talking about the same historical figure does not mean our understanding of Him is at all the same.

                    • Mrmandias says:

                      The mere fact that we are talking about the same historical figure implies a large area of common understanding.

                      Saying that the LDS belief is equivalent to believing the Christ was a little green man inside a human robot is just a silly smear. You obviously have made no real attempt to understand Mormons.

                    • Rade Hagedorn says:

                      You are just looking for a reason to be offended at this point. First you’ll note I wrote, “just like if I sais” which means if anything I am comparing the Jesus Christ of Orthodox Christianity to “a little green man inside a human being”.

                      Are you actually completely blind to how you are trying to take anything and everything in the worst possible manner so that you may justify your sense of outrage?

                  • Rade Hagedorn says:

                    I should make a note here because you and others here may think that I am Nyarlathotep (I can not believe that Nyarlathotep is actually in my iPad’s dictionary) or something at this point.

                    I am not anti-Mormon.  I think (perhaps incorrectly) that the LDS is not a threat to the truth and is perhaps a better path to salvation than many denominations that I would say are Christian.  This is quite possibly heretical on my part and may demonstrate my serious misunderstanding of theosis.

                    I do however believe that the two best guides to God’s intent for us in this life are Orthodox Christianity or, barring that, Roman Catholicism.

          • Sam Urfer says:

            But which Christ? The second Person of the Trinity, or the Father’s Spirit-Child? This makes a difference whether it is the same Christ.

            This isn’t about you or your commitment to your faith. It’s about being honest as to how different that faith really is.

            • Mrmandias says:

              It’s about being dishonest about how similar they are in operation and in their actual commitment to an actual historical figure. Christ isn’t a metaphysical concoction. He lived and died and resurrected.

  15. The Ubiquitous says:

    One clear-headed, historical objection that hasn’t yet been mentioned:

    Christian has in fact been previously defined as “those who ascribe, without adding, to the Word of God.” Word of God is usually understood to be the same Bible decided by the Church, affirmed by Protestants through their early translations. Yes, including the Apocrypha.

    This was a definition that goes back to reaction against the very first Restorationists who, adding to the Word of God, were considered absurd. Protestants, Evangelicals — free-range Protestants — and the Eucharistic Communions are today’s three branches of Christianity so-defined. (Sects are defined as those adding to the Word of God, cf. Christian Scientists so-called, Adventists, &c. Mormons would be at best a sect, though they’re differing even more radically than the Unitarians on points.)

    Lest it be said that this was anti-Mormon on purpose, for the LDS faith was the an early Restorationist sect, I will say of course. But until these sects there was no need for not much distinction more than between Orthodox and Catholic and Protestant or among Protestants, if we’re talking large-scale patterns, and it seems pretty clear that while Protestants considered Catholics the Whore of Babylon, sects were something worse: Traditions of Con-Men.

    Re: Islam. It started out as a Christian heresy, as I think Mormonism did. As it develops, the distinctiveness will become sharper and will, in fact, be a religion in its own right.

    This definition is creaky, because it doesn’t clearly rule out the absurdities of humbug Modernism, but it is the clear, objective and historical defintion.

    • Mrmandias says:

      The historical evidence that Islam started out as a deviant Christianity is thin, though obviously Christianity was part of the milieu of influences.

      Similarly, the evidence that Mormonism is becoming more separate from traditional Christianity is also thin. A fair assessment is that Mormonism is still very distinct but has moved closer to y’all in some ways. The reasons for this and the degree to which it has happened are complex, but ironically one major culprit is the re-emphasis on the Book of Mormon that occurred during the 1980s. The Book of Mormon is very ‘mere Christianity,’ without many of the distinctive doctrines. Another reason is, like our host points out above, we feel beleaguered by a world which appears hostile to faith and virtue and have found valuable allies in the rest of the Christian world.

      • The Ubiquitous says:

        Milieu of influences strikes me as a good way to understand Mormonism: Protestant assumptions welded to a hierarchy and just-taboo-enough Catholic beliefs, founded on manifest destiny and folk superstitions, its founder loving his country as much as he loved himself and as much as any randy red-blooded boy loves the ladies. What later generations did with it was up to them.

        A milieu of influences case may be made about the Catholic Church, as Mr. Hutchins tries by invoking Augustine, but it is usually done poorly, with little regard to the Church Fathers or the martyrdom of the apostles, except insofar as to deny a connection to their teachings and the only Church who retains most of them. (I falsely conflate the Orthodox and the Catholics, but we’re as close and as mad at each other as brothers.)

  16. Mrmandias says:

    I’ve gleaned one bit of wisdom from my years in interfaith internet polemics. I’ll share it with you.

    He who says A need not say B.

    In other words, just because you are persuaded that A logically entails B, or that A is even *the same thing* as B, doesn’t mean that your brother in another faith tradition agrees with you. So even though he affirms A, it may not be the case that he affirms the horrible, no-good, very bad belief B.

    • The Ubiquitous says:

      Then it is your task to think clearly and discern away B from A. I don’t know much about rarefied reason, but I know this: You may refute logic, the definition of terms, the major premise or the minor premise, but you may not honestly reject the conclusion without rejecting at least one of the above.

      • The Ubiquitous says:

        … without, mind, merely rationalizing.

      • Mrmandias says:

        Surely one should strive to reason correctly, but I believe you are missing the point.

        The point is that these premises–

        1. A implies B, which is a horrible belief
        2. Person X is committed to A.

        –do not logically entail this conclusion–

        3. Person X is committed to B.

        Because humans can err, can have never taken the time to follow out their reasoning to its (to you) logical conclusion, can rationalize (as you point out), can maintain beliefs in a context that implicitly limits or modifies them, or simply can be irrational.

        This is not just for Catholics who are engaged in interfaith discussion. I myself have come a-cropper in arguing with Protestants and Catholics when I made assumptions about what they must believe based on the (to my) logical implications of their stated beliefs, which turned out to be false.

        In fact, I got the point from a Catholic apologist in Comment #53 to this post, http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2007/07/guest-post-the-apostles-creed-and-the-book-of-mormon/

        • The Ubiquitous says:

          Here’s the thing: Mormons can point to a claimant authority, as can Catholics, and this is certainly a good thing — insofar as the entity is trustworthy and what it says is true. Given enough generations, closer approximations to truth are discerned, or at least that is the best point about having intergenerational authority rather than merely intergenerational hierarchy, which preserves only continuity.

          My worry is not that Mormon individuals have a predisposition against thinking clearly. “To err is human,” &c. It is the system of Mormonism, and always this system, where I have been trying to show fault. To be Mormon is to trust this authority, which I cannot. By trust did Abraham go with God, for he was fruitful long after his time (cf. Hebrews 11). God proved just enough that Abraham’s faith was not blind. Whose faith should be?

          Now if to be of the LDS faith is merely to do good works, out preaching two-by-two, persecuted by the lord of this world, you aren’t selling me on anything Catholics don’t have, if they have the faith to do so without obedience to expectation; for that matter, even Legion admitted Christ was Lord. (Mormons are not Legion, per se, so don’t take it that way.) I do not see that the LDS faith offers anything true I don’t already have. What is worse, it has shown no love of learning more truth on its own, so far as I can tell, despite the purported continual revelation. So to swear before man and God my allegiance to it would be the worst blaspheming against the Holy Spirit, which is a sin infinitely unforgivable. It would be a lie.

          Christ is the Way, Truth, and Life — if we love him, we must not merely walk his way through our lives. We must drink the blood of Christ straight, unmixed — as Kreeft says — unbent, without additives or preservatives. We all prefer the banns of God to the ban of God, and the Truth is against lies. I see nothing of truth unfiltered in any Mormon accounts of history I so far read in the last few days. To wit, I must honor Father’s Son, for He wishes I stay with Mother.

          I think I’m running down on steam, especially since Confession, believe-you-me. I won’t prolong this much, and I wish I could unring some of my bells, but such is the folly of men, and great is mine in particular. I’m sorry for every harsh word, and I must wean myself off heat to really know the light. I’ll keep reading, and I wouldn’t mind taking this over to my blog, for I’d rather avoid angering our host.

          • John Hutchins says:

            A higher percentage of LDS have gone to college than any other denomination. We are commanded to “seek learning, even by study, and also by faith”. The church expends vast amounts of its resources on scripture study for high school students, on an excellent university system, and on doctrinal study for all young adults ages 20-30 (called institute). You would have to explain your characterization that “it has shown no love of learning more truth on its own”.

            You should realize that things discussed here are not even the tip of the iceberg of what it is to be LDS. Saying that we don’t do anything the Catholics shouldn’t isn’t telling the whole story, both in what we do and in what the statistics tell us.

            If you wanted to continue this with Mrmandias you should post a like to your blog, which I assume is http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ based on the post.

          • Mrmandias says:

            I don’t think your description of the LDS is correct, but I believe your commitment to truth is. Like C.S. Lewis said in a different context in the Screwtape Letters, even if you are wrong on some points and have embraced error in others, I hope, pray, and believe that your underlying commitment to truth as such will allow God to claim you as His own, no matter how much the Devil protests, on the “specious” grounds that your soul loved the Way, even if you stumbled in it as we all do.

  17. blueshifter says:

    “between lawfulness and randomness there is no middle ground.”

    Is this not the very point at issue? I would argue that there IS a middle ground – three possibilities: (strict) lawfulness, the actions of free wills, and ‘pure’ probabilistic randomness (in a mathematical sense) – probably applying to quantum stuff, and not much else: much that we think of as random (e.g. rolling a die) is really straightforward physical law that seems random since we can’t see all the initial conditions.

    (Of course, free wills do their actions within a *groundwork* of stable law – we can’t fly or breathe water simply by willing it…)

    • You assert that a middle ground exists, but do not say what it consists of. Can you explain what it is, without resorting to circularity? That is, without using such terms as “free will” or “choice”, can you say how something can be neither deterministic nor random? Can you give us a means for recognising it?

  18. John Wright,

    Wow, of all the times to walk away and focus on work and writing…!

    My apologies for being late (very late!) to this thread. I would thank you for your generous assessment and words. I could perhaps quibble with the final bit, about doctrinal differences, but if the space between the Catholic Church and the LDS Church on doctrine is the distance of a few city blocks, the space between both the LDS Church and the Catholic Church, from the Great and Abominable Church — which is the lust and sloth of the world, borne forth by the ego, intellect and vanity of men — is the span of an ocean. To paraphrase Merlin from Boorman’s EXCLABIBUR: the no-god comes to drive out the One God, and it’s a time for men and their sinful ways. Especially (or perhaps indicatively?) in the scientification arts. Where proclaiming belief in Christ or God can sometimes bring forth the White Hand of Saruman, and the Host of Isengard, to your front porch. As Jagi has experienced. As you yourself have experienced. As I have experienced, albeit in lesser form because I am lesser known. (though I did get the cover story of the December 2011 issue of Analog!)

    With the Horde of the World smashing against the Deeping Wall, LDS and Catholic and Protestant of every description cluster along the ramparts of the Hornburg, like Elves and Men and Dwarves. Take away the Horde, and we may have much to bicker about. But so long as the Horde remains, and the ladders of spiritual destruction are continually cast up to the battlements, there is a common cause: the word of The Christ is under perpetual siege! No moment is free from the Adversary’s prying, delving, Gollum-like fingers. Jesus! We hates it, precious! We hates it forever!

    I have occasionally wondered if it wouldn’t be in my professional interest to stay silent on these matters. I have been told more than once that editors and readers alike don’t want or appreciate churchy types carrying on about their churchiness — many scientification editors and fans having long ago fled the halls of Belief, in favor of the urbane and velvet-cushioned confines of what we LDS in our doctrine call The Great and Spacious Building. But I realized it would be impossible. Too much of my belief and philosophy leaks around the edges for me to ever successfully hide them, and it would ultimately be a black mark on my character to do so. In the immortal words of Jean Luc Picard, “If we’re going to be damned, let’s be damned for what we really are.”

    So I salute you, Mr. Wright. I’ve said it before: I admire the courage it’s taken to erect here, in this virtual space, a platform from which you can put forth the twined messages of Faith and Reason in such a way as to prove both provocative and insightful. The Hordes may bash against your wooden gates with crude weapons of black iron, but your trumpet is bright and clear, and it is heard. Long may it sound in the wilderness.

    • Thank you for the compliment, but I think you are seeing a mere bloody-minded contempt for the ignorant, and calling it courage. It does not require courage to ignore the barkings of fools, but it does require a patience and charity that is beyond my unaided power to continue to treat them courteously, and to remind oneself that they are children of God and made in His image.

      • I think you’ve done some remarkable things in the last three years, in terms of stating your cases boldly *and* allowing yourself to be petitioned by a gentler spirit for more charity and less impatience with those who see you as a target, not a person with dignity. Kudos John. And best wishes too.

    • Gah, a small trifle: pardon my gross typo — EXCALIBUR. There now, fixed. And to think Stan Schmidt still buys my stories. He bought another one tonight, in fact. (grin)

  19. Sam Urfer says:

    Actually, I just read this recently. Arians were not always given the courtesy title of “Christian”. From Discourse 1 Against the Arians by St. Athanasius:

    1. Of all other heresies which have departed from the truth it is acknowledged that they have but devised a madness, and their irreligiousness has long since become notorious to all men. For that their authors went out from us, it plainly follows, as the blessed John has written, that they never thought nor now think with us. Wherefore, as says the Saviour, in that they gather not with us, they scatter with the devil, and keep an eye on those who slumber, that, by this second sowing of their own mortal poison, they may have companions in death. But, whereas one heresy, and that the last, which has now risen as harbinger of Antichrist, the Arian, as it is called, considering that other heresies, her elder sisters, have been openly proscribed, in her craft and cunning, affects to array herself in Scripture language , like her father the devil, and is forcing her way back into the Church’s paradise,— that with the pretence of Christianity, her smooth sophistry (for reason she has none) may deceive men into wrong thoughts of Christ—nay, since she has already seduced certain of the foolish, not only to corrupt their ears, but even to take and eat with Eve, till in their ignorance which ensues they think bitter sweet, and admire this loathsome heresy, on this account I have thought it necessary, at your request, to unrip ‘the folds of its breast-plate ,’ and to show the ill savour of its folly. So while those who are far from it may continue to shun it, those whom it has deceived may repent; and, opening the eyes of their heart, may understand that darkness is not light, nor falsehood truth, nor Arianism good; nay, that those who call these men Christians are in great and grievous error, as neither having studied Scripture, nor understanding Christianity at all, and the faith which it contains.

    2. For what have they discovered in this heresy like to the religious Faith, that they vainly talk as if its supporters said no evil? This in truth is to call even Caiaphas a Christian, and to reckon the traitor Judas still among the Apostles, and to say that they who asked Barabbas instead of the Saviour did no evil, and to recommend Hymenæus and Alexander as right-minded men, and as if the Apostle slandered them. But neither can a Christian bear to hear this, nor can he consider the man who dared to say it sane in his understanding. For with them for Christ is Arius, as with the Manichees Manichæus; and for Moses and the other saints they have made the discovery of one Sotades , a man whom even Gentiles laugh at, and of the daughter of Herodias. For of the one has Arius imitated the dissolute and effeminate tone, in writing Thaliæ; on his model; and the other he has rivalled in her dance, reeling and frolicking in his blasphemies against the Saviour; till the victims of his heresy lose their wits and go foolish, and change the Name of the Lord of glory into the likeness of the ‘image of corruptible man ,’ and for Christians come to be called Arians, bearing this badge of their irreligion. For let them not excuse themselves; nor retort their disgrace on those who are not as they, calling Christians after the names of their teachers , that they themselves may appear to have that Name in the same way. Nor let them make a jest of it, when they feel shame at their disgraceful appellation; rather, if they be ashamed, let them hide their faces, or let them recoil from their own irreligion. For never at any time did Christian people take their title from the Bishops among them, but from the Lord, on whom we rest our faith. Thus, though the blessed Apostles have become our teachers, and have ministered the Saviour’s Gospel, yet not from them have we our title, but from Christ we are and are named Christians. But for those who derive the faith which they profess from others, good reason is it they should bear their name, whose property they have become.
    3. Yes surely; while all of us are and are called Christians after Christ, Marcion broached a heresy a long time since and was cast out; and those who continued with him who ejected him remained Christians; but those who followed Marcion were called Christians no more, but henceforth Marcionites. Thus Valentinus also, and Basilides, and Manichæus, and Simon Magus, have imparted their own name to their followers; and some are accosted as Valentinians, or as Basilidians, or as Manichees, or as Simonians; and other, Cataphrygians from Phrygia, and from Novatus Novatians. So too Meletius, when ejected by Peter the Bishop and Martyr, called his party no longer Christians, but Meletians , and so in consequence when Alexander of blessed memory had cast out Arius, those who remained with Alexander, remained Christians; but those who went out with Arius, left the Saviour’s Name to us who were with Alexander, and as to them they were hence-forward denominated Arians. Behold then, after Alexander’s death too, those who communicate with his successor Athanasius, and those with whom the said Athanasius communicates, are instances of the same rule; none of them bear his name, nor is he named from them, but all in like manner, and as is usual, are called Christians. For though we have a succession of teachers and become their disciples, yet, because we are taught by them the things of Christ, we both are, and are called, Christians all the same. But those who follow the heretics, though they have innumerable successors in their heresy, yet anyhow bear the name of him who devised it. Thus, though Arius be dead, and many of his party have succeeded him, yet those who think with him, as being known from Arius, are called Arians. And, what is a remarkable evidence of this, those of the Greeks who even at this time come into the Church, on giving up the superstition of idols, take the name, not of their catechists, but of the Saviour, and begin to be called Christians instead of Greeks: while those of them who go off to the heretics, and again all who from the Church change to this heresy, abandon Christ’s name, and henceforth are called Arians, as no longer holding Christ’s faith, but having inherited Arius’s madness.

    4. How then can they be Christians, who for Christians are Ario-maniacs ? Or how are they of the Catholic Church, who have shaken off the Apostolical faith, and become authors of fresh evils? Who, after abandoning the oracles of divine Scripture, call Arius’s Thaliæ; a new wisdom? And with reason too, for they are announcing a new heresy. And hence a man may marvel, that, whereas many have written many treatises and abundant homilies upon the Old Testament and the New, yet in none of them is a Thalia found; nay nor among the more respectable of the Gentiles, but among those only who sing such strains over their cups, amid cheers and jokes, when men are merry, that the rest may laugh; till this marvellous Arius, taking no grave pattern, and ignorant even of what is respectable, while he stole largely from other heresies, would be original in the ludicrous, with none but Sotades for his rival. For what beseemed him more, when he would dance forth against the Saviour, than to throw his wretched words of irreligion into dissolute and loose metres? That, while ‘a man,’ as Wisdom says, ‘is known from the utterance of his word ,’ so from those numbers should be seen the writer’s effeminate soul and corruption of thought. In truth, that crafty one did not escape detection; but, for all his many writhings to and fro, like the serpent, he did but fall into the error of the Pharisees. They, that they might transgress the Law, pretended to be anxious for the words of the Law, and that they might deny the expected and then present Lord, were hypocritical with God’s name, and were convicted of blaspheming when they said, ‘Why do You, being a man, make Yourself God,’ and sayest, ‘I and the Father are one John 10:30?’ And so too, this counterfeit and Sotadean Arius, feigns to speak of God, introducing Scripture language , but is on all sides recognised as godless Arius, denying the Son, and reckoning Him among the creatures.

  20. Mrmandias says:

    For survivors of this contretemps, here is the often wise Ross Douthat, who says that Mormons are Christian heretics, or heretical Christians, from the mainstream Christian perspective. Which I think is exactly right.

    http://www.jrganymede.com/2012/05/03/papist-apostate-explains-that-mormons-are-christians/

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