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Geocacher

Why Do Most All Christians Reject Any Form Of Preexistence?

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soren: The FAIR LDS Article "Mormonism 201" in Chapter 4 "Preexistence and the Second Estate" already adaquetely answers your above assertions and counters them with reputable scholarly sources, reputable ancient jewish & early christian historical sources, and sound exegesis from the biblical text itself ...

The article is too lengthy for me to have time to respond to upfront, so for now I will limit my answer to just the part about Jeremiah 1:5, which has been the most discussed on this thread, and to your closing points.

In your article, Allen Wyatt is responding to Mormonism 101 by Bill McKeever, a book I have not read. If the article fairly represents the contents of that book, then McKeever made an awful argument, and the position Wyatt responds to is McKeeverâ??s, not mine, as can be seen from the first sentence:

In the case of Jeremiah 1:5, the authors assert that the scripture is a reference to God's foreknowledge, and not to a personal knowledge of humans.

The relevant distinction is not between foreknowledge and personal knowledge. It is between infinite knowledge and contingent knowledge. Infinite knowledge is not only free from time, but it is free from all contingency, for if Godâ??s knowledge were contingent on anything other than God, then His knowledge would be limited by that thing, yet limitation is incompatible with infinity.

I affirm that God had personal knowledge of Jeremiah before Jeremiah existed. A timeless God sees the future not by predicting it from the present state of the world, but because God exists already in the future in the same mode that he exists in the past.

Granting that God has limitless foreknowledge does not preclude a personal knowledge of individual humans, however. McKeever and Johnson do not refute the possibility of such knowledge, instead opting to say (in effect) "No, that can't be it." Such assertions, while they may be comforting to the authors and sufficient in their own estimation, do not preclude the acceptability of the LDS interpretation of the scripture at hand.

Again this is not my position. I am not saying â??No that canâ??t be.â? I am saying â??No, that canâ??t be an exegesis of Jeremiah 1:5.â? I claim that drawing an inference about Jeremiah's existence one way or the other is impossible from the text. You may still believe that Jeremiah existed with God at an earlier time. But if you believe that, you must recognize that you believe it on the basis of LDS teaching, and not by any possible interpretation drawn from the verse itself. That does not prove your belief wrong, but it does makes Jeremiah 1:5 meaningless as evidence.

It is hard to deny the specificity of words used in the Jeremiah passage:

"Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations."

Notice three key words here: knew, sanctified, and ordained. The wording itself indicates that God literally knew Jeremiah and was familiar with his spiritual attitudes and abilities.

This part just repeats the same argument already refuted.

In addition, God sanctified Jeremiah, a description not of foreknowledge but of an actual event with participants present. The process of sanctification, or setting something apart as holy, by definition requires that something (such as Jeremiah himself) be present to be set apart.

â??Setting something apart as holy,â? which is a good translation of the Hebrew verb here, much better than "sanctified," requires only that God have the capacity to choose. Since God has complete knowledge of all future events, he can make decisions about the future which are just and righteous because the are based wholly upon His knowledge, which includes only truth and all truth. (As a side note, it is highly probable, due to the parallelism between the first two verbs, that â??I knewâ? actually means â??I choseâ? - a way the Bible often uses this word, as in Amos 3:2.)

Likewise, the act of ordaining a personâ??in this case a prophetâ??requires that the individual be present.

This argument springs from a misunderstanding of the KJV translation, not from the text of Jeremiah. The Hebrew word translated as â??ordainedâ? does not refer to a ceremony of ordaining someone at all. The word here means â??to give, set, determine, make, or appoint.â? In 1616, when the KJV was written, â??ordainâ? was commonly used to refer to all kinds of judgments and decrees, and that is probably the sense of the Hebrew that the translator of this verse wanted to capture. Since a God who knows the future perfectly can make perfect decrees about the future, it was a good tranlsation at the time. Reading a more restricted sense of the word into the outdated translation is a very forced interpretation.

Then your remakrs:

The whole "It's merely God's Foreknowledge, nothing more!" argument â?¦

Nothing more? Compared to the awesomeness of divine foreknowledge, preexistence is pittance. Here we have a verse that bespeaks the great timelessness of divine knowledge and will and you will reduce this revelation to contingent knowledge dependent upon Man. I could as well characterize your position as â??Itâ??s merely preexistence, nothing more.â?

IMHO falls apart when you read reputable scholarly sources, reputable ancient jewish & early christian historical sources, and examine the text itself in exegesis in light of that.

Actually, I read a lot of LDS scholarship. For instance I reacently read Daniel Peterson and Stephen Ricks's Offenders for a Word: How Anti-Mormons Play Word Games to Attack the Latter-day Saints. I look forward to reading Peterson's new book on Mohammed later this week. I am always interested in the sources cited in LDS and other religious scholarship, and have taught myself Greek in order to engage such materials more directly. (I am not content to just take a scholar's word for it.) But for the sake of time, I avoided those subjects in my present response.

You scream "Foreknowledge!", we scream, "Preexistence!", you say it cannot be interpreted as anything other than foreknowledge,

I am not screaming. I am saying that foreknowledge does not imply preexistence. And this is evidently true. With foreknowledge as a given, no implication of preexistence can be deduced from the fact that God knew and chose someone at a given time. Whoâ??s screaming?

we crank out the reputable sources, both historical, scholarly, and otherwise, that highly suggest otherwise.

Nothing you have shown here has actually interacted with the argument I made, although all of it has got my interest. Some of the historical stuff, like Origen and the Gnostics (both of which I already knew about) is certainly worth discussing further.

You suggest that "preexistence" somehow undermines God, â?¦

If you mean eternal preexistence, yes. If you mean a limited term of preexistence, no.

â?¦ regardless of the fact that even though we all came forth from God as Individual Conscious Emanations after his form and essence, sharing the same Spirit and Life-Breath with him (would not that make us a part of His essence that which of his Spirit He breathed into Adam?), that clearly DOES NOT MEAN that we first "existed" merely at conception. That's something you cannot objectively prove, even if your arguments of "foreknowledge" had ground, the idea that we just "poofed" as God-Breathed Spirits at birth.

Are you trying to refute creation ex nihilo or just ridicule it?

The straw man here seems to be your suggesting that if "Preexistence" exists, then God must somehow be dumb and without foreknowledge. That's not even worthy to respond to, IMHO, as it's just downright silly.

No, that is your straw man. I would be interested if you could point were I imply that. I am not suggesting but demonstrating that if God has infinite understanding, which includes foreknowledge, then preexistence cannot follow from Jeremiah 1:5 and other similar verses. Divine foreknowledge does not negate preexistence as such but does negate the supposed implication of preexistence you claim for these texts.

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Mainer,

There is a big difference between God and your mom.

God has created a universe and owns it (including you and your mom).

Your mom was given the privilige of having children. You mom does not own those childern, God does.

Surely there is a difference. The point, however, is that your logica is poor. Non sequitur. You have to prove that absolute creation is necessary for absolute authority...something you have not, nor can do.

PacMan

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Really? How do you explain the existence of Satan? Did God deliberately create imperfect beings so that He would have someone to cast into Hell for His own entertainment? What does that say about a god like that and what sort of judgment would such a god merit?

I think you might be mistaking me for a Calvinist. I'm a Catholic.

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I don't see a reason to bother continueing to debate in this thread further as I clearly adaquetely answered soren's arguments as any third party can clearly see, and yet he/she retorts with basically, "No, that's been debunked! It's really foreknowledge I tell you, foreknowledge! It cannot be interpreted any other way, it's already been debunked!", so, obviously this is one of those back-and-forth endless debates that no matter what you present and how you present it, they always have a dozen potential "alternative explainations" up their sleeves to masquerade around as undeniable fact and as "the only way to interpret it". If soren doesn't trust what the ancient jews and early christians believed in and taught concerning it, and ancient jewish and early christian exegesis (the source I used even quoted Clement of Alexandria, not just Origen) and reputable modern scholars, there's obviously nothing that will. Good day.

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soren,

You made the comment a while back, "

"I have read D&C. The verse you cite is the basis of my whole point. If man was in the beginning with God (and also has a separate existence) God has no authority over him since man's existence is independant of Him."

Your logic is lacking, at best. It's like saying that because my mother gave birth to me, an officer has not authority over me.

Both the officer and my mother derive their authority over me from God, who is my creator. Even created authority derives from the uncreated God, who "removeth kings and setteth up kings." (Dan. 2:31) Thus obeying the authority of my mother and the police reduces to obeying God's.

Authority does NOT come from creation...ask any hired hand. If this is the basis of your logic, then you're in some serious trouble.

Infallibility belongs to God by nature, but "authority," which is His power as it is exercised over others comes through Creation. (That "author" is the root word of "authority" points to this, though admittedly that is a detail of the English and Latin languages.) There is no principle on which God stakes His authority in Holy Scripture more frequently and powerfully than because he is Creator. This is taught all throughout scripture, and Rom. 9 provides particularly challenging examples.

I also think this view of authority is philosophically evident, and if my logic is in question I will tell you were I got the logic from: By reasoning with atheists. "Self-determination" is the central concept that modern philosophy uses as a substitute for God. A good example of this thinking can be seen in Jean-Paul Sartre's play The Flies. In it, Sartre attempts to demonstrate that even if God existed man owes him no fealty. He retells the myth of Orestes, who avenges his father's murder by killing his guilty mother and her lover. Towards the end, Zeus, who obviously represents the Biblical God, warns Orestes not to do violate divine law by committing matricide. Zeus then unfolds the whole of the universe to Orestes, demonstrating his glory and power. Yet Orestes kills her anyway, denying Zeus authority over him with a simple retort: "Because you made me free."

Now, Orestes' assertion really represents Sartre's view of things, and the implied argument is clear on face, but especially to those who have studied Sartre's philosophy: Free will places in man a principle to determine good and evil that by definition is not reliant upon God. The works of freedom are therefore outside of God's dominion. Free will itself, simply by existing, justifies human self-determination as opposed to divine ordinance.

As a Catholic, I answer Sartre in this way: Free will is possessed by man not as an independant power, but is a gift given directly by God by means of a positive action, without which man would not be free. Since God is Himself the underlying principle of freedom, he has judgment over all free action. "You made me free" implies "You made my freedom."

Now, I bet that Latter-day Saints might agree with that argument at first. But further examination quickly shows that LDS creation theology actually undermines the first premise of this defense against atheism while at the same time providing several concepts that only reinforce Sartre's position.

My argument absolutely depends on the statement (itself based on creation ex nihilo) that God gives man freedom by a positive action. By contrast, everything I have ever heard or read about agency in LDS theology views freedom not in terms of positive action, creation, by God, but as non-interference: "God does not force us," "God does not take our freedom away," "Our agency is so sacred that God will not interfere with it." I am as yet unaware of any LDS teaching that attributes freedom to God's positive action. That is why I don't think a Latter-day Saint can finally make the same argument I did. Rather, Sartre's argument gains all the more force against the LDS view, which puts freedom more clearly in the domain of Man.

The same point can be made about intellect as well as free will. Not only is intelligence uncreated, but God chose to form our intellgences because he saw (prior to engaging in creation) that the spirit bodies around him were good. (My source for this is James Talmage, but I can't say quite where. I believe it is early on in Articles of Faith, though I don't have a copy to give an exact quote.) Thus intelligence, will, and even determinate goodness (the very elements of self-determination philosphy) do not originate in God. Couldn't a man simply deny God on that basis? Especially since God's two primary demands upon man, faith and works, are demands upon the intellect and will respectively, things which existed and were good before God even involved himself with them? If the Mormon God appeared to Sartre and made demands, could not Sartre, on the basis of eternal preexistence, respond even more strongly than Orestes: "Because I was already free"?

I was hoping you'd jump back over on the authority thread...

PacMan

I don't know where that thread is now. I'd like to find it and pick it up again, but I predict your response to my claims above will have us both sufficiently occupied on this thread.

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[...]

Also, there is no meaningful scriptural evidence to support it.

Oh how I wish Enoch would have maintained the high regard that it held with the apostles and early Christians. *sigh*

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Oh how I wish Enoch would have maintained the high regard that it held with the apostles and early Christians. *sigh*

What does Enoch say about it?

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What does Enoch say about it?

2 Book of Enoch, Chapter 23

2 And Pravuil told me: 'All the things that I have told thee, we have written. Sit and write all the souls of mankind, however many of them are born, and the places prepared for them to eternity; for all souls are prepared to eternity, before the formation of the world.'

Edited to add (for clarity and honesty):

I'm uncertain what position 2 Enoch (or Slavonic Enoch) held in the church. I know that 1 Enoch was quite influential in the formation of many Christian doctrines/beliefs and is the source that Jude quotes; however, I don't know if 2 Enoch was held in similar regard.

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If this is the case, then it is most cruel and unusual for a God with omniscience to will into existence a being with free will knowing he would turn against God, and then damn him to eternity for going against his will. Again it would have made more sense, to simply will the 'disobedient' being back out of existence. Forget about all that work maintaining the boundaries of hell so all the devils don't break loose! :P<_<

Perhaps hell is a mercy for the wicked? What makes you think they would prefer to... poof never exist over being in hell?

As for the OP pre-existence doesn't work with our philosophy or theology, it's as simple as that. Why do you reject past lives and reincarnation when there's thousands of stories of people realizing their previous lives, and one billion Hindu's adhere to the doctrine?

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2 Book of Enoch, Chapter 23

2 And Pravuil told me: 'All the things that I have told thee, we have written. Sit and write all the souls of mankind, however many of them are born, and the places prepared for them to eternity; for all souls are prepared to eternity, before the formation of the world.'

Edited to add (for clarity and honesty):

I'm uncertain what position 2 Enoch (or Slavonic Enoch) held in the church. I know that 1 Enoch was quite influential in the formation of many Christian doctrines/beliefs and is the source that Jude quotes; however, I don't know if 2 Enoch was held in similar regard.

That's certainly a better text than verses like Jer. 1:5, though you are right that it would be stronger if it were in 1 Enoch. I am a bit curious about what its context might be. Just as it is is stated, Catholic Orthodoxy could still accept it as a statmeent of predestination, although knowledge of context would be necessary before I could really stand on such a claim.

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That's certainly a better text than verses like Jer. 1:5, though you are right that it would be stronger if it were in 1 Enoch. I am a bit curious about what its context might be. Just as it is is stated, Catholic Orthodoxy could still accept it as a statmeent of predestination, although knowledge of context would be necessary before I could really stand on such a claim.

Here's the entire chapter (for context)... it's really short:

AND he was telling me all the works of heaven, earth and sea, and all the elements, their passages and goings, and the thunderings of the thunders, the sun and moon, the goings and changes of the stars, the seasons, years, days, and hours, the risings of the wind, the numbers of the angels, and the formation of their songs, and all human things, the tongue of every human song and life, the commandments, instructions, and sweet-voiced singings, and all things that it is fitting to learn.

2 And Pravuil told me: 'All the things that I have told thee, we have written. Sit and write all the souls of mankind, however many of them are born, and the places prepared for them to eternity; for all souls are prepared to eternity, before the formation of the world.'

3 And all double thirty days and thirty nights, and I wrote out all things exactly, and wrote three hundred and sixty-six books.

Jews interpreted this (and still interpret it [at least those who believe it to be a form of scripture]) to be affirmation for the pre-existence of the soul. If I recall correctly, the Bereshith Rabba talks about G-d speaking with the souls of the righteous (and consulting them) before the creation of the world, and Iâ??m pretty sure the Midrash Kee Tov also speaks of the souls of the righteous being with G-d before the world was created. -- I can try to find the passages/sources if you want (key word: â??tryâ?).

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If we didn't exist before we were on earth, God can certainly cause

us to not exist after we are on earth.

If this is the case, why would God even bother with hell and/or eternal punishment for the wicked at all? It would make most sense to simply cause the wicked people to vanish away (i.e. cease to exist).... :P

That statement simply does not take into account the gravity of Adam's fall from Grace. Read Romans 5: Adam is the Federal Head and because he sinned we all now suffer physical death. That is imputed sin.

The inherited sin is that now all mankind is born with a sin nature. This is inherited from our parents and chains back to Adam. (I realize this goes against Campbellite/LDS doctrine). If eating the fruit from that Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil was only a peccadillo, I might agree with you.

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