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Does The Nicene Creed Really Contradict The Bible?


David Waltz

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Hello Kerry,

I have been away from the boards for some 9 days now, due to an extended visit by my 6 year old grandson. Letâ??s just say I was kept very busy doing â??kidâ? stuff! Now that my grandpa duties are fulfilled for now, back to the message board.

Just minutes ago, I listened to the July 15th podcast installment of your Trinity series (#6)â??â??Trinity and Nicene Creeds contradict the Bibleâ?:

http://www.backyardprofessor.com/the_backy...ty-nicene-.html

To be brutally honest my dear friend, I was a bit disappointed. IMHO, you perpetuated some common, long-standing mistakes concerning the Nicene Creedâ??s teaching on the Godhead. It seems that a good portion of your podcast was based on material from Richard Hopkinâ??s Biblical Mormonism (whom you mention, and quote from in the podcast).

Now, the first mistake (and probably the most important one) is summoned up by the following quote from Richardâ??s book (a portion of which you cited):

The Nicene thinkers erred in assuming that the term â??one Godâ? could be referring to only one Being. Hence they tried to force three entirely separate Persons into a single entity. The scriptures require no such feats of consolidation. They teach only that the Three are one God, not that they are on person. The question is not â??How can three persons be one Person?â? but, â??How can three Persons be one God?â? (Page 83 â?? emphasis in the original.)

Richard makes the much too common mistake of equating â??Beingâ? with â??Personâ?, which is the error of what scholars term â??monarchial modalismâ?â??the teaching that the Godhead is comprised of but one, single Person, who manifests Himself in three modes/â?personsâ?.

This is NOT what the Nicene Creed even remotely teaches. The Creed clearly affirms three, separate Persons, and never declares that these three Persons are one Person.

As for whether or not the Nicene Creed contradicts the Bible, I have already devoted an older thread to this topic, expanding the Bible to include the BoM, D&C, and PoGP:

http://www.mormonapologetics.org/index.php?showtopic=13798

Kerry, if you drop in and view this post, I would like to encourage you to read the above thread, and point out any errors and or problems you have with my assessment.

Grace and peace,

David

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The Nicene thinkers erred in assuming that the term â??one Godâ? could be referring to only one Being. Hence they tried to force three entirely separate Persons into a single entity. The scriptures require no such feats of consolidation. They teach only that the Three are one God, not that they are one person. The question is not â??How can three persons be one Person?â? but, â??How can three Persons be one God?â? (Page 83 â?? emphasis in the original.)

Based only on what you quoted from Richard and Kerry, which I quoted from you up above, I don't get the idea that they were equating being with person or teaching that the Trinity suggests that the Godhead is comprised of but one single Person, who manifests Himself in three modes/persons.

I think they were referring to the reasoning many "Trinitarians" now have concerning how those 3 persons are one God in a sense other than the sense that we (LDS) understand it... as if our (LDS) interpretation doesn't agree with the scriptures.

Try asking God why our (LDS) idea isn't in harmony with the scriptures?

What are we (LDS) saying that "Trinitarians" are not saying, that "Trinitarians" believe to be wrong... for some reason?

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Hi Paul,

Thanks for responding to my new thread; you posted:

>>Based only on what you quoted from Richard and Kerry, which I quoted from you up above, I don't get the idea that they were equating being with person or teaching that the Trinity suggests that the Godhead is comprised of but one single Person, who manifests Himself in three modes/persons.>>

Me: Richard stated that the â??Nicene thinkers erred in assuming that the term â??one Godâ?? could be referring to only one Beingâ? and then said:

They teach only that the Three are one God, not that they are one person. The question is not â??How can three persons be one Person?â? but, â??How can three Persons be one God?â?

As I read the quote (and the surrounding context in Richardâ??s book), â??one Beingâ? equals â??one Personâ?; if I have somehow read this incorrectly, then why would Richard ask the questions he asked?

>>I think they were referring to the reasoning many "Trinitarians" now have concerning how those 3 persons are one God in a sense other than the sense that we (LDS) understand it... as if our (LDS) interpretation doesn't agree with the scriptures.

Try asking God why our (LDS) idea isn't in harmony with the scriptures?>>

Me: Depends on which Latter-day Saint you are referring. It has been my personal experience that there is not a single, monolithic teaching on this subject; neither now, nor historically.

>>What are we (LDS) saying that "Trinitarians" are not saying, that "Trinitarians" believe to be wrong... for some reason?>>

Me: If one sticks to the teachings as found in the LDS Quad, as I pointed out in the thread I linked to in my first post, I find very little difference/s.

Grace and peace,

David

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Richard stated that the â??Nicene thinkers erred in assuming that the term â??one Godâ?? could be referring to only one Beingâ? and then said:

As I read the quote (and the surrounding context in Richardâ??s book), â??one Beingâ? equals â??one Personâ?; if I have somehow read this incorrectly, then why would Richard ask the questions he asked?

I can't speak for Richard, and I haven't read what he said in context, but maybe he was referring to what I, myself, have found them referring to when they say something against our (LDS) idea of God's unity???

Maybe?

From my own personal experience I have found that there is something that prevents "Trinitiarians" from believing that the Trinity involves 3 persons who are God and in unity... like we LDS believe 3 persons are God and in unity... and it usually involves a difference in what the Trinitarians are referring to as their idea(s) of what a "being" is, and what a "person" is, and how they're in "unity".

Depends on which Latter-day Saint you are referring. It has been my personal experience that there is not a single, monolithic teaching on this subject; neither now, nor historically.

Heh, just keep this thought in mind for a moment.

If one sticks to the teachings as found in the LDS Quad, as I pointed out in the thread I linked to in my first post, I find very little difference/s.

What you are now referring to is the "single, monolithic teaching on this subject".

Thank you for playing. :P

The Nicene creed teaches homoousia, "one substance".

The LDS church rejects this nonBiblical teaching and accepts the words of Christ as found in John 17:19-23.

If you define what the substance is, correctly, then you would see we're in agreement.

Try thinking that the substance is what makes God truly God. <_<

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I think Richard (in his zeal to bolster and/or defend Mormon claims) often gets a wee bit too close to anti-evangelical in his book for my tastes. Fantastic book (as a resource tool), but at points the spirit of understanding and love is no-where to be found.

My two cents.

As far as the Nicene creed and condratdicting the Bible... I guess it all comes down to what is meant by "one substance."

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The Nicene thinkers erred in assuming that the term â??one Godâ? could be referring to only one Being. Hence they tried to force three entirely separate Persons into a single entity. The scriptures require no such feats of consolidation. They teach only that the Three are one God, not that they are on person. The question is not â??How can three persons be one Person?â? but, â??How can three Persons be one God?â? (Page 83 â?? emphasis in the original.)

Try this:

The Nicene thinkers erred in assuming that the term â??one Godâ? could be referring to only one Being. Hence they tried to force three entirely separate Persons into a single entity.

Here he identifies "one God" with one Being, not with one Person. This understanding is attributed to the Nicene Thinkers.

The scriptures require no such feats of consolidation. They teach only that the Three are one God, not that they are on person.

The scriptures, as opposed to the Nicene Thinkers, teach that the Three(beings/entities?) are one God, not one person(being?).

It does appear that Hopkins used the term "person" with two different meanings in each sentence. It may have been a mistake. Are you sure the quote is accurate?

Sargon

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As far as the Nicene creed and condratdicting the Bible... I guess it all comes down to what is meant by "one substance."

Perhaps you can give us the Biblical reference to homoousia, and we can then look at the context. Otherwise any reference to "one substance" must include the concept that the disciples of Christ will be "one substance" with the Father and Son since Christ promised them that they would be "one with us", "perfect in one".

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Christ has a resurrected body, as well as the Father.

Are we in agreement, since they are "one substance"?

Yes, I think so, but I don't think the "substance" necessarily has anything to do with resurrection.

I think of the substance as the essence of the being of God which defines what God is and is God.

... it's kinda like DNA, if God has such a thing as DNA.

... it's what defines God as a certain kind of being.

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Yes, I think so, but I don't think the "substance" necessarily has anything to do with resurrection.

I think of the substance as the essence of the being of God which defines what God is and is God.

... it's kinda like DNA, if God has such a thing as DNA.

... it's what defines God as a certain kind of being.

And Christ said that we would be one with the Father in the same manner that Christ is one with the Father, perfect in one.

So this mysterious substance will be shared by all of Christ's disciples as well as the Father and Son. Or, we will partially be one substance with the Father, but not all substance, and Christ is also partially "one substance", not sharing the physical attributes of the Father but the same "one substance" (partially) as His disciples.

Right?

Again, do we agree?

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And Christ said that we would be one with the Father in the same manner that He is one with the Father, perfect in one. So this mysterious "stuff" will be shared by all of Christ's disciples as well as the Father and Son.

Again, do we agree?

Maybe yes, maybe no. I'm not sure.

You seem to be looking at the "substance" as something we don't have already, while I think we've already got it... even though we are not perfected yet.

I believe we are literally the children of God... so the "substance" of God is a part of our eternal nature.

I think what our Lord and our Father want is for us to be perfected and united with them.

Do you agree?

... and were we both talking about the same exact thing?

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Maybe yes, maybe no. I'm not sure.

You seem to be looking at the "substance" as something we don't have already, while I think we've already got it... even though we are not perfected yet.

We agree. We are in the Image of the Father and His children.

I believe we are literally the children of God... so the "substance" of God is a part of our eternal nature.

I think what our Lord and our Father want is for us to be perfected and united with them.

Do you agree?

... and were we both talking about the same exact thing?

And all of this is taught in the Nicene Creed.

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I'm glad we agee on that, cdowis.

Now if we can just agree on everything else while agreeing with God we will both be united with them. :P

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Hi Kerry--

Comments on the podcast David has highlighted:

Kerry: "The Trinity, of course, is based on a heresy embraced by the Council of Nicea."

Opinion. You're quite entitled to it, but it isn't fact, as you know.

Kerry: "They [the orthodox defenders at Nicea] wanted to show how vastly superior their own intellect was as opposed to everyone else."

Frankly, I find this bit of projected psycho-analysis unsupported in the historical record. This seems an inflammatory comment with no basis in the historical record. Or, if it does find such a basis, I'd like to see evidence of it, rather than the statement itself sans supporting documentation.

On political maneuvering: Of course, the Arian-leaning Constantius banished Athanasius, the great defender of Nicea's formulation. The political maneuvering was manifestly not one-sided. To suggest or imply otherwise is, to my mind, simplistic and misleading. Arianism flourished for another fifty years after Nicea.

Kerry: "Orthodoxy is just the most successful heresy. None of it's accurate, none of it's correct. Orthodoxy didn't get it right, either."

I could as easily state that neither Smith nor any of his LDS theological heirs "got it right." This would seem to be opinion based on prior commitments, rather than an obvious statement of fact.

On Constantine's suggestion of "homoousious": Hosius, the Spanish bishop of C

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Hi cdowis,

You posted:

>>The Nicene creed teaches homoousia, "one substance".>>

Me: In the thread I linked to, I pointed out that that homoousis is better rendered as â??same substance/natureâ?. I also pointed out the Symbol from the Chalcedon Council of 451 states that our Lord Jesus Christ was homoousiov with humanity/mankind.

Now, just as all of mankind shares in one nature (i.e. 100% human nature) all the persons of the Godhead share in one divine nature (i.e. 100% God nature).

Concerning â??one Godâ? as found in the Scriptures, the following quote is a gem:

28. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one God] They are one in essence, in purpose, in spirit, in attributes, in power, and glory, but they are, nevertheless, three personages. (Smith, Hyrum M., and Janne M. Sjodahl, Doctrine and Covenants Commentary, Salt Lake City, Utah: Desert Book Company, 1954, page 103.)

Note the â??one in essenceâ?.

Grace and peace,

David

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Hi Tanyan,

You wrote:

>>Father/Son/Holy Ghost all Have The Same GOD Nature/Essence.>>

Me: The above is exactly as I understand the essential relationship between the 3 members of the Godhead; and this can be summed up in one word: homoousios.

The following quote I posted from Bruce R. McConkie in another thread need to be repeated:

Three glorious persons comprise the Godhead or supreme presidency of the universe. They are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Each one possesses the same divine nature, knows all things, and has all power. Each one has the same character, the same perfections and the same attributes. In Christ, Paul says, "dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." (Colossians 2:9.) Because of this perfect unity, they are spoken of as being one God. "Hear, O Israel," Moses proclaimed, "the Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might." (Deuteronomy 6:4-5.) This unity and oneness is the perfect pattern for all who seek salvation for salvation consists in being one with the Lord our God. Thus Jesus prayed for all true believers, "that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us." (John 17:21.)â?¦ In the ultimate and final sense of the word, the Father is the Creator of all things. That he used the Son and others to perform many of the creative acts, delegating to them his creative powers, does not make these others creators in their own right, independent of him. He is the source of all creative power, and he simply chooses others to act for him in many of his creative enterprises. (Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, pp. 58, 63 â?? bold emphasis mine.)

Grace and peace,

David

P.S. Still working on my book; it is a slow and sometimes painful process! :P

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I don't understand why a thread devoted to discussing the Nicene Creed, doesn't contain the Nicene Creed. Here it is:

The Nicene Creed

We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And we believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. And we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

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Hello Sargon,

You posted:

>>It does appear that Hopkins used the term "person" with two different meanings in each sentence. It may have been a mistake. Are you sure the quote is accurate?>>

Me: I own the book, and typed the original quote from it. Went back and re-checked the quote; it is accurate, including capitalization and the italics.

Grace and peace,

David

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Hi CKS,

You wrote:

>>I'd suggest, at a minimum, that you peruse:

Thomas V. Morris, Our Idea of God: An Introduction to Philosophical Theology (Downers Grove, Il: IVP, 1991), chapter nine.

Morris, "Rationality and the Christian Revelation," in Anselmian Explorations (Notre Dame, In.: Universit of Notre Dame Press, 1987), pp. 213-241; as well as The Logic of God Incarnate (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1986).

and

Micael Peterson, William Hasker, Bruce Reichenbach, and David Basinger, Reason and Religious Belief (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), chapter fourteen.>>

Me: I have read all the above except Morrisâ?? essay in Anselmian Explorations. I really do not want to sound like I am nit-picking, but personally, I think there are some better options for one who is exploring the complex issues involved in and with Trinitarianism. I own literally dozens of works on the Trinity, but my top two are:

William J. Hill, The Three-Personed God (1982).

Robert Letham, The Holy Trinity (2004).

I place these two at the top for some very important reasons, they both explore the historical development, varying forms, theological and philosophical aspects of Trinitarianism.

>>I also note here that, in your musings on the Trinity, you have neglected two of the greats: America's own Jonathan Edwards (see here) and Thomas Aquinas (see here).

Any self-respecting American theologian simply must deal with Edwards, at least. At least IMHO.>>

Me: I â??discoveredâ? Edwards' above linked essay back in the mid-80â??s when I purchased a somewhat obscure work titled, Treatise On Grace & other posthumously published writings including Observation on the Trinity (edited by Paul Helm). Not only is your linked essay in the book, but also Edwardsâ?? â??Observation Concerning The Scripture Economy of the Trinity, and Covenant Of Redemptionâ?. These two essays should be of great interest to Calvinists, yet very few Calvinists have actually read them! Interestingly enough, Edwards clearly departs from some of Calvinâ??s innovations concerning the Trinity, and leans towards a more â??Easternâ? (Orthodox) view.

Later on, I found certain aspects of Edwardsâ?? Trinitarianism in one no less than John Henry Newman. In his rather large treatment, â??Causes Of The Rise And Successes Of Arianismâ?, he devotes section 5 to â??The Principatus of the Fatherâ?. These entire essay is a must read IMHO, especially section 5. I have the essay in The Works of Cardinal Newman â?? Tracts Theological and Ecclesiastical, but have also found the essay online here:

http://www.newmanreader.org/works/tracts/arianism/index.html

Anyway, I have probably rambled on a bit too longâ?¦

Grace and peace,

David

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Me: I have read all the above except Morrisâ?? essay in Anselmian Explorations. I really do not want to sound like I am nit-picking, but personally, I think there are some better options for one who is exploring the complex issues involved in and with Trinitarianism.

...

William J. Hill, The Three-Personed God (1982).

Robert Letham, The Holy Trinity (2004).

Hi David--

I'm sure there are much better books.

I was responding (with those sources) specifically to Kerry's charge: "See, unless the Father and the Son were literally and mechanically separated individuals, it's inconceivable that they would not share the same knowledge." I've found Morris helpful in this particular regard.

Per your suggestion, however, I've just purchased the Hill and Letham books. Thanks for the tip.

Best.

CKS

PS. On Edwards's “Observation Concerning The Scripture Economy of the Trinity, and Covenant Of Redemption," I'm hoping that's in my two-volume collected works (I'm not at home right now), but I don't recall seeing it.

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