The question I am raising here was prompted by a statement made by Dan McClellan on the CARM forum:
I don't believe the gods described in the Hebrew Bible are real, but that is not at all demanded by the debate. It's only demanded by those who would appeal to the Bible as an unassailable witness to metaphysical truth.
I am wondering, first of all, if any other Mormons here agree with this statement. Usually, when Mormons argue that the Hebrew Bible affirms the existence of a multiplicity of gods, they do so because they think this coheres with or supports in some way the LDS doctrine of a plurality of gods. Yet such a line of argument seems to be undermined if one denies the reality or existence of those gods described in the Hebrew Bible. Dan's interest in the Old Testament appears to have nothing to do with agreeing with any doctrine or theology that he finds there, but instead is focused only on critiquing the evangelical belief in the Bible as an authoritative source of truth about God. His point would be no different if his argument was that Noah's flood was a myth or that the Exodus didn't happen. Elsewhere Dan has stated quite clearly that he is not arguing for any correlation between the Hebrew Bible's gods and the gods of LDS theology. So my first question here, for anyone who is interested, is whether you as a Mormon agree with Dan on this point.
My second question is especially for Dan himself, though again I invite others to share their thoughts. Dan has argued that El and Yahweh were originally two separate deities in the ancient Near Eastern culture, deities of non-Israelite peoples, and that somewhere toward the end of the era of the Hebrew Bible the two deities were assimilated to one another or fused into a single deity. Now, consider the implications of this theory along with the claim that the Hebrew Bible affirms the reality of gods that in fact (according to Dan) were not real. The logical implication seems to be that Dan would also not believe in El or Yahweh. After all, they were no different, fundamentally, from the other ANE deities that Dan says were not real. So this leads me to wonder if it would not be accurate to conclude that when Dan says "I don't believe the gods described in the Hebrew Bible are real" that includes El and Yahweh. So Dan, I'm asking if this is correct. I'm also asking what other Mormons here think on this question.
Edited by Rob Bowman, 25 June 2011 - 11:12 AM.