In the I-15 Corridor, which side of the divide are you on?

1.  I was recently looking into the Mormon Transhumanist Association, and I came across Roger’s blog, Tired Road Warrior.  Yesterday, Roger highlights a quote in regard to the Mormon and Process Theology View of God.

God in both process theology and Mormonism, then, can be called “all powerful” only if that is taken to mean “having all the power that is possible for one being to have.”  But God is not omnipotent in the traditional sense of actually or even potentially exercising all the power there is.

Such a rejection of classical theism’s view of an omnipotent God requires a new view about the type of influence that God can and does exert in the universe and, even more fundamentally, a new view of the very notion of power itself.  Process theology’s alternative, which is shared by Mormonism in its basic metaphysic is to conceive of power–both power of God and of all other existents–as ‘persuasive only.’

2.  On the other hand, Thomas Schreiner, in his new Galatians Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (2010) throws out a jab:

If we are propounding a view that has never been articulated throughout  the history of the church, we are almost certainly wrong.  If someone thinks he or she has discovered a new doctrine after two thousand years of church history, we can be quite confident that such a person is mistaken.  We are not isolated as believers.  We live in community and hence we learn from brothers and sisters of our day and from believers who have gone before us.

Therefore, we can be quite sure that a doctrine such as open theism is unbiblical.  No branch of the Christian church — whether Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant — has ever endorsed such a theology.  It is not enshrined in any confessional statements, nor has any significant theologian ever espoused such a teaching.  The universal teaching of the church throughout history is a reliable guide that should not be jettisoned” (p. 79).

16 comments

  1. “The universal teaching of the church throughout history is a reliable guide that should not be jettisoned”

    Amen, Amen, and AMEN!

    Dr. Schreiner, of course, earned his Ph.D. at Fuller and now teaches at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. However, when he realizes that the principle he elucidates above applies also to the differences between the teachings of the reformers and the teachings of the Apostolic Tradition that came before, he, if he is really intellectually honest and has the courage of his convictions, must become either RC or Orthodox. (Orthodox, actually, in that, again, what he says applies also in the 11th Century.)

  2. I knew you would say that. But the reformers do pick up on golden threads throughout the church history. And Luther was about reformation of the Church not the Joseph Smith restoration about a God who does not exist.

  3. “I knew you would say that.”

    Of course you did. 😉

    Two problems, with especially Augustine and Anselm, theology in the West begins to go off in deviant directions, directions unknown to the Fathers and thus, we have to believe, to the Apostles themselves. Therefore, IMHO at least, the Reformers at best throw out the baby with the bathwater and, at worst, throw out the baby and keep the bathwater.

    The other, related problem is that the concept of the Great Apostasy is born with the Reformation, thus opening the space, several centuries later, for Joseph Smith and his “restoration” which, indeed, proclaims a god which does not exist.

    I deeply regret that the Reformers and their followers did not turn wholeheartedly to the East instead of trying to reinvent the wheel on their own, something that Joseph Smith and his followers have also done but in ways quite different than the Reformers.

  4. Nothing on the Earth (in the universe, etc.) has ever stood still. Everything is in a constant state of flux, including all religions. We need to consider that the progressive concepts espoused by Alfred North Whitehead (an Anglican), Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (a Jesuit priest), Joseph Smith, and John Widtsoe (both Mormons) deserve serious consideration. What is so troubling about God being persuasive and not coercive? That concept is certainly not at odds with the NT. I don’t feel that a constantly progressing God is problematic either. He is certainly omniscient by comparison to us. And to put God’s goodness as a human goal (both terrestrial and post-terrestrial) certainly shouldn’t be troubling.

    Social philosopher and non-Mormon Richard Rorty like the concept of eternal progression, “presenting God as an aspiration for human development, not something in comparison to which human beings are devalued.”

  5. “….presenting God as an aspiration for human development, not something in comparison to which human beings are devalued.”

    Exactly. This is not a zero-sum game. It is precisely the opposite. If God wins, humanity wins, and vice-versa, in that humanity can only win if God wins. To paraphrase St. Ireneus: the salvation of humanity is the glory of God. However, the possiblity of such development is premised upon the infinity of God. After St. Gregory of Nyssa, Orthodoxy teaches the possibility of infinite deification, but again, this is obviously only possible if the God whose very Life we share, into which we go “from glory to glory” is in fact infinite.

    Otherwise, well, the “god” we are dealing with is really only the caricature presented by Phillip Pullman who, contrary to Pullman’s presentation, may be a really nice guy, the ultimate hero, and the embodiment of wisdom. However, that entity, if he exists, is in no case “God” and, if he is perfectly good, he would not present himself as if he were.

  6. We each have our own perception of God. Pullman (an avowed atheist) has his, Whitehead has his, fundamentalist Christians have theirs, and Catholics have theirs. Even though I not an active member, I prefer the one that Joseph Smith delineated, and Brigham Young and John A. Widtsoe expanded upon. For me, it’s the only one that makes sense in this rapidly evolving scientific world. To me learning is important for everyone, including God. That doesn’t lessen God in my eyes; it makes Him stronger.

    To somehow infer that my concept of God “is in no case ‘God'” is a judgment I can live with.

  7. Okay, Roger, but the problem is, this entity, if he exists, knows himself to be limited. Therefore, to allow himself to be presented as infinite, etc., speaks to his integrity, or lack thereof. That’s part of what Pullman is addressing.

  8. What is theism exactly? Tomas jefferson was a deist. Do mormons teach modalism? If a clean cut lutheran moves to a heavily populated mormon area and is a veteran and a conservative republican and a polite wellspoken rural type guy that would not cause any problem and is germanic/nordic descent will the people at least tolerate him? Thanks. Coastie2

  9. Hi Brian,

    LDS do not teach modalism.

    And yes, LDS in the S.E. Idaho area like those who are clean cut.

  10. Well, Todd, I was last in Idaho Falls in 2001, visiting, among other folks, an African-American woman who was a dear friend from college and something of a spiritual mentor. She is a few years older than I, and there was never anything remotely romantic between us at any time.

    During my visit, she and I were walking into a shopping mall to grab a bite to eat, and I became aware of being stared at. I looked up to see a middle-aged man staring bullets through me with a scowl that surely would have killed me if that were possible. I did not understand this until I remembered that I was accompanied by a black woman. Long story short: I have never experienced anything like this before or since, here in South Carolina or anywhere else.

    However, I hope you are right.

  11. You’re correct, Mormons do not teach modalism, and are theists, not deists (they believe in revelation, both ancient and modern). Although for myself, I feel closer to the deism of Thomas Jefferson.

    As for the racism charge (I currently live in Utah), my parents (who are Mormon) raised me to treat all people with respect and dignity, and hopefully, I taught my children the same. There are kooks everywhere. Hopefully, discrimination of all forms is fading into the past, and that includes in all institutional religions. The diversity in the world is something to be cherished. I live parttime in Africa, and I love and respect the Ugandans I work with.

  12. Thank you for sharing that, Roger.

    My understanding is that, historically, those most radically Mormon, those most likely to disrupt things in Salt Lake City, were sent North to found Idaho Falls and settle SE Idaho and that older attitudes still linger there in ways that are not the case elsewhere, even in Zion.

  13. Among Baptists, the South is more conservative than the North.

    Among LDS, the North is more conservative than the South.

    Yes, Greg, there is a more zealous atmosphere in Idaho than in Utah. In fact, for fictional writings of an LDS apocalypse in America, S.E. Idaho would be the last stronghold. The Alamo.

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