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Sargon

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Please help me understand how there is room for the Trinity in these verses from Hebrews chapter 1. I have no doubt that there will be an explanation, and probably a good one, so I am curious to hear it.

The whole chapter is full of great material, but I will start with only one small phrase...

4 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

5 For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?

To my feeble LDS intellect these verses clearly teach that Jesus was "made", that he "obtained", and that he moved from a position of not being to being "begotten" and "a Son".

Does this not stand in opposition to the immutable Christ who is eternally begotten of the Father?

Looking forward to a great discussion.

Sargon

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Please help me understand how there is room for the Trinity in these verses from Hebrews chapter 1. I have no doubt that there will be an explanation, and probably a good one, so I am curious to hear it.

The whole chapter is full of great material, but I will start with only one small phrase...

To my feeble LDS intellect these verses clearly teach that Jesus was "made", that he "obtained", and that he moved from a position of not being to being "begotten" and "a Son".

Does this not stand in opposition to the immutable Christ who is eternally begotten of the Father?

Looking forward to a great discussion.

Sargon

-Stephen saw Christ "on the right hand of God" in an open vision. He saw 2 seperate beings there, unless a person can be on the right hand of themself.

-Christ prayed to the Father often; was he talking to Himself?

-Christ asked His Father that the disciples would be one with them, even as they were one. Did he want them to become one substance?

-Christ said he was ascending to His Father. If he was already resurrected, why would he ascend to Himself?

-Jesus told Mary not to touch Him until he had gone to the Father. Was there some physical change he still had to undergo after the resurrection, thus he ascended to Himself?

-Jesus is an eternal, embodied, resurrected being with tangible flesh and bone, he ate food and drank, but God is supposedly without body, parts or passions. Why?

etc. etc.

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-Stephen saw Christ "on the right hand of God" in an open vision. He saw 2 seperate beings there, unless a person can be on the right hand of themself.

-Christ prayed to the Father often; was he talking to Himself?

-Christ asked His Father that the disciples would be one with them, even as they were one. Did he want them to become one substance?

-Christ said he was ascending to His Father. If he was already resurrected, why would he ascend to Himself?

-Jesus told Mary not to touch Him until he had gone to the Father. Was there some physical change he still had to undergo after the resurrection, thus he ascended to Himself?

-Jesus is an eternal, embodied, resurrected being with tangible flesh and bone, he ate food and drank, but God is supposedly without body, parts or passions. Why?

etc. etc.

Those are great points LoaP, and there are many more as you know. Instead of making long lists, I often think it best to tackle one at a time, that way nothing is overlooked. I hope our Trinitarian friends are willingly to discuss Hebrews 1 with us.

Sargon

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Those are great points LoaP, and there are many more as you know. Instead of making long lists, I often think it best to tackle one at a time, that way nothing is overlooked. I hope our Trinitarian friends are willingly to discuss Hebrews 1 with us.

Sargon

Hebrews 1 it is, then.

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Before this thread gets going and other trinitarian believers respond, let me make sure I understand your point of view in regards to the nature of God thing.

My belief of Mormonism before last week was that it was polytheistic because Mormons get hung up on things like

-Christ prayed to the Father often; was he talking to Himself?

-Christ said he was ascending to His Father. If he was already resurrected, why would he ascend to Himself?

and my thought of Mormons is that HF is "a G-d" and Jesus is "a G-d", so that's at least 2 G-ds.

I was corrected and told that in D&C 20:28 (??) and in the 1st Vision where JS saw HF and Jesus, I misunderstood and Mormons believe in only ONE G-d.

It took a long time to give Mormons the benefit that they are monotheistic. Before this thread gets going, I wouldn't mind getting some clarification so the LDS and trinitarians that post don't speak past themselves... :P LOL

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Before this thread gets going and other trinitarian believers respond, let me make sure I understand your point of view in regards to the nature of God thing.

My belief of Mormonism before last week was that it was polytheistic because Mormons get hung up on things like

and my thought of Mormons is that HF is "a G-d" and Jesus is "a G-d", so that's at least 2 G-ds.

I was corrected and told that in D&C 20:28 (??) and in the 1st Vision where JS saw HF and Jesus, I misunderstood and Mormons believe in only ONE G-d.

It took a long time to give Mormons the benefit that they are monotheistic. Before this thread gets going, I wouldn't mind getting some clarification so the LDS and trinitarians that post don't speak past themselves... :P LOL

Well Blue, from my perspective both explanations are correct.

Trinitarians believe in three separate persons who constitute one Being...God.

LDS believe in three separate persons who constitute three separate Beings....God.

I think it is appropriate to refer to each individual Being as God, since each acts in perfect union with the other two. So yes, we believe in three gods, but essentially they are only one God, since their is no discord amongst them. Thats the best I can do for now.

Sargon

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Hello Sargon,

Your new thread looks quite promisingâ?¦

You posted:

>>To my feeble LDS intellect these verses clearly teach that Jesus was "made", that he "obtained", and that he moved from a position of not being to being "begotten" and "a Son".

Does this not stand in opposition to the immutable Christ who is eternally begotten of the Father?

Looking forward to a great discussion.>>

Me: There is quite a bit of background that must be explored to correctly understand what the author of Hebrews is attempting to convey; and first and foremost is the passage from Psalms 2 that was quoted. Before I quote the passage from Psalms 2 (I will be using the ASV), keep in mind that it is LDS doctrine that the Jehovah of the OT was the pre-incarnate Jesus.

Why do the nations rage, And the peoples meditate a vain thing? he kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against Jehovah, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bonds asunder, And cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens will laugh: The Lord will have them in derision. Then will he speak unto them in his wrath, And vex them in his sore displeasure: Yet I have set my king Upon my holy hill of Zion. I will tell of the decree: Jehovah said unto me, Thou art my son; This day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I will give thee the nations for thine inheritance, And the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. (Psalm 2:1-9 ASV)

The Jewish Study Bible (ed. Berlin and Brettler â?? 2004) states: â??Most scholars classify this psalm as a royal psalm and connect it to other psalms concerning kingsâ? (p. 1285). Keeping 2 Sam. 7:14 in mind, the language concerning the sonship/begetting of the king is clearly adoptive, and is directly related to the kingâ??s â??anointingâ? (see also Ps. 45:6, 7).

Now, when we move to the NT usage of the passage, the anointing and adoptive nature of the Psalms cannot be ignored; as such, I would argue that Heb. 1:5,6 is not referring to the intra-personal Trinitarian relationship between God the Father and God the Son; but rather, to the Messianic role of kingship that God the Son assumed in His grand condescension. Christâ??s ministry earthly ministry, and His resurrection to the â??right-hand of Godâ? speak to His Messianic anointing/ enthronement as Israelâ??s promised prophet/priest/king (see also Acts 13:33).

Grace and peace,

David

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-Stephen saw Christ "on the right hand of God" in an open vision. He saw 2 seperate beings there, unless a person can be on the right hand of themself.

Stephen saw two beings? Where does it say that? Seeing Christ on the right hand of the Father does not imply that the Father was there in the vision. "On the right hand" means with power, investiture, glory, approbation., etc. as opposed to "on the left hand" meaning "in reprobation." Consider Hebrews 1:13: "Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?" I don't imagine anyone think that this verse prophesies Christ propping his feet up on Judas and Satan. Clearly the footstool is figurative, and so there is no reason to demand that the "right hand" be literal here or in Acts. When Stephen saw Jesus on the right hand of God, that means he saw Jesus crowned in the Glory of the Father (and the Father, by the way, is not Jesus himself). No problem for Trinitarians here.

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Soren, Thanks for your thoughts. I have seen that explanation and I think it is correct only when describing the anything-but-physical status of someone in respect to the Father, as in the other examples you give. However in this case Stephen actually sees something in a vision. By definition of a vision Stephen saw Christ on the right hand of God. Is it likely that as he was in the process of being persecuted and about to be stoned to death he paused to describe his vision in strictly symbolic terms, instead of the spontaneous and honest outcry described in the scriptures?

Thanks for the reply David. I think your explanation was very fine.

However concerning verse 4 you did not offer any remarks. Here it is again:

4 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

From an LDS perspective, it is sound doctrine to describe Christ as being "made so much better than the angels". By his righteousness, he was able to ascend to godhood, something which the angels mentioned perhaps were not able to do. Therefore he has obtained an inheritance. What this all implies is that there was a time when Christ was not "so much better than the angels", when he had not yet "by inheritance obtained" his status as God the Son. The verbs "made" and "obtained" describe a flow of events, in which Christ is changing.

But I wonder how this verse fits within the context of the Trinity. Angels are not fellow men in that theology, but are created heavenly beings who by nature are inferior to God the Son, who has presumably always been God the Son and has never not been God the Son. Why would the author of Hebrews even dare to describe Jesus as "made" and having "obtained" if it were not possible, as according to Trinity theology, that he could ever not be what he is now? I see room for a possible explanation involving the need to clarify that Jesus is not an angel, but is God. However that still doesn't explain how he is the immutable God of the Trinity and at the same time was "made" and "obtained" his current status.

Thanks in advance.

Sargon

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I think these verses shouldn't be over looked either...

Heb. 5: 9

9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;

Heb. 9: 11

11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;

Its intresting that his ressurected body is why he is made an high priest for us. Do Gods get ressurected bodies?

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Soren,

Stephen saw two beings? Where does it say that? Seeing Christ on the right hand of the Father does not imply that the Father was there in the vision. "On the right hand" means with power, investiture, glory, approbation., etc. as opposed to "on the left hand" meaning "in reprobation." Consider Hebrews 1:13: "Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?" I don't imagine anyone think that this verse prophesies Christ propping his feet up on Judas and Satan. Clearly the footstool is figurative, and so there is no reason to demand that the "right hand" be literal here or in Acts. When Stephen saw Jesus on the right hand of God, that means he saw Jesus crowned in the Glory of the Father (and the Father, by the way, is not Jesus himself). No problem for Trinitarians here.

Certainly when you obfuscate the issue, you render it completely and reprehensibly incoherent! Now, you can believe whatever you will, but let us not wrest the scriptures with disingenuousness.

55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,

56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

Here's the problem: When you proof-text the scripture it's easy to overlook, but verse 55 is very clear that "on the right hand" is a reference....having seen the glory of God. There are explicitly 2 things being seen, the "glory" of God (quite like the sun which cannot be seen, but only its self-emanating glory and brightness, which we'll further dissect in moment), and the Son of Man...hence, the "and." Now, in comparison to Hebrews, Acts does not make metaphoric references to any sort of inheritance. "Sitting" at one's side or in one's throne is not mentioned at all. In fact, there are not any other metaphoric inheritances ever spoken of in the scriptures that uses this construction! Why? Because of the two objects being considered, the statement "on the right hand" is clearly, if not exclusively, directional because of the two objects present in the narrative.

More devestating to your thesis is what the original Greek says. In 55, there's no mention of the "glory of God" anyway, but speaks specifically and directly as to having seen "God." The term translated "glory" is meant much more metaphysically. In other words, the "magnificence," "majesty," or "excellence" of God. God was clearly there, and he didn't just send His glory. Thus, "on the right hand" 1) has two references, and 2) has every charactic as being directional, while lacking in the metaphoric "inheritance" interpretation.

Cheers,

PacMan

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Soren, Thanks for your thoughts. I have seen that explanation and I think it is correct only when describing the anything-but-physical status of someone in respect to the Father, as in the other examples you give. However in this case Stephen actually sees something in a vision. By definition of a vision Stephen saw Christ on the right hand of God.

A vision can be symbolic and still be a vision. For instance, the Father and the Son are clearly seen together is in Revelation 5, which describes a real vision that John really saw. Yet in it, Christ appears physically as a lamb. Even the vision itself is figurative.

Is it likely that as he was in the process of being persecuted and about to be stoned to death he paused to describe his vision in strictly symbolic terms, instead of the spontaneous and honest outcry described in the scriptures?

I don't think there is anything dishonest about figurative language. I suppose from the context of Stephen's oration that he was speaking in a condition of divine inspiration, so he said whatever God wanted. "I see Jesus on the right hand of God" is an important message for those who are stoning Stephen for his belief in Christ. I don't see why a revelation about the Father having a body fits that context, whereas Christ's status as inheritor of the Kingdom is a fitting capstone to Stephen's prior testimony about the history of God's covenants with man.

However concerning verse 4 you did not offer any remarks. Here it is again:

From an LDS perspective, it is sound doctrine to describe Christ as being "made so much better than the angels". By his righteousness, he was able to ascend to godhood, something which the angels mentioned perhaps were not able to do. Therefore he has obtained an inheritance. What this all implies is that there was a time when Christ was not "so much better than the angels", when he had not yet "by inheritance obtained" his status as God the Son. The verbs "made" and "obtained" describe a flow of events, in which Christ is changing.

But I wonder how this verse fits within the context of the Trinity. Angels are not fellow men in that theology, but are created heavenly beings who by nature are inferior to God the Son, who has presumably always been God the Son and has never not been God the Son. Why would the author of Hebrews even dare to describe Jesus as "made" and having "obtained" if it were not possible, as according to Trinity theology, that he could ever not be what he is now? I see room for a possible explanation involving the need to clarify that Jesus is not an angel, but is God. However that still doesn't explain how he is the immutable God of the Trinity and at the same time was "made" and "obtained" his current status.

The first distinction that a Catholic makes in answer to this excellent question is that Christ has two natures: a divine one and a human one. According to his divine nature, Jesus has existed with God from all eternity as an equal. The classic proof text is the ever-so-controversial John 1:1, though really all of the verses that speak of Christ's prexistence or identify him as Jehovah are important.

Yet when Christ became a man, when the Word became flesh, the infinte God turned into a baby, and from thence, as a man, he "increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man." (Luke 2:52) It is important to note that Christ did not simply take on a body or put on flesh the way we put on a suit. He literally joined his distinct divine nature to a distinct human one. Because a human nature is lesser than the divine, this lowered him in glory outwardly, but not absolutely. Hence Paul writes:

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:5-11)

(Note that the KJV rendering of 2:6 is better translated as "thought not equality with God as something to be grasped at.")

What is most strange about this teaching is that Christ as a man rises in glory, although as God he never ceases to possess that glory, which as a man a he aquires. One reason is that a man has honor by virtue of his life and deeds, whereas God has honor just by existing. The key is to understand that by rising in glory Christ is not gaining something he lacked before, since he was already God, but using a different mode, a human mode, to possess the same glory.

On a side note, the dual nature of Christ is the basis for the Catholic Church's theology of theosis, as might be deduced from what I have already said.

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More devestating to your thesis is what the original Greek says. In 55, there's no mention of the "glory of God" anyway, but speaks specifically and directly as to having seen "God."

"No mention"? My Greek Bible says Stephen eiden doxan tou Theou, that is "saw the glory of God."

Now the word for Glory, doxa, has a bunch of different senses like most Greek words. Here are some:

1. opinion, judgment, view

2. opinion, estimate, whether good or bad concerning someone

3. splendour, brightness

4. a most glorious condition, most exalted state

Because of the two objects being considered, the statement "on the right hand" is clearly, if not exclusively, directional because of the two objects present in the narrative.

and

The term translated "glory" is meant much more metaphysically. In other words, the "magnificence," "majesty," or "excellence" of God. God was clearly there, and he didn't just send His glory. Thus, "on the right hand" 1) has two references, and 2) has every charactic as being directional, while lacking in the metaphoric "inheritance" interpretation.

If the doxa of God is metaphysical, how can you use it as a place reference?

Is your argument this:

A. Because Stephen saw Jesus physically and because Jesus was with something else, that something else was also physical.

B. Because doxa is not physical, then the physcial thing that Stephen saw must have been the physical source of the doxa, hence, the Father.

If that is indeed your argument, I think I can respond, but I want to be sure I've got you right.

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A vision can be symbolic and still be a vision. For instance, the Father and the Son are clearly seen together is in Revelation 5, which describes a real vision that John really saw. Yet in it, Christ appears physically as a lamb. Even the vision itself is figurative.

Soren,

Thanks for the response. I'm glad you reminded us of Rev 5. You are correct in suggesting that visions can be symbolic I think. However I find it interesting and noteworthy that even in a vision that is classified as symbolic, God the Father and God the Son are described as physical beings, no matter in what form. I know of no vision in which God the Father or God the Son are described as metaphysical essences that the viewer was not able to see. Not even in John's figurative vision.

As in the case of Stephen, he exclaimed that he [saw] Christ on the right hand of the Father. Cleary he saw that, and did not describe something he did not see. Your suggestion that what Stephen literally saw was but a symbolic expression of God and nothing more causes me to think of two things. 1) The vision of John in which he saw Christ as a lamb should be accurately described as figurative 2) There seems to be nothing figurative about Stephen's dream, but perhaps symbolic. The image of Lamb is quite figurative, but the image of God sitting on a throne is very, very common in the scriptures.

I expect an argument (only because of past experience) that explains that God the Father is seen in vision as a man only because that is the only way for man to see him, otherwise it would not be a vision, but that is not God's true form. Unfortunately I find that argument to be contrary to common sense. But, I will not set a straw man, because this may not be your argument at all.

QUOTE

Is it likely that as he was in the process of being persecuted and about to be stoned to death he paused to describe his vision in strictly symbolic terms, instead of the spontaneous and honest outcry described in the scriptures?

I don't think there is anything dishonest about figurative language.

I'm sorry I didn't mean to imply that being figurative or symbolic or dishonest. I only meant that Stephen left no clues telling us that he was being symbolic in his description. It does not seem probable that Stephen described something he saw in symbolic terms, in the situation he was in.

I suppose from the context of Stephen's oration that he was speaking in a condition of divine inspiration, so he said whatever God wanted.

It is of course possible. It is possible that Stephen actually saw nothing, but God made him say that anyway. It is possible that Stephen saw something entirely different, but that God made him say that anyway. It is possible, but is not apparent from the text.

"I see Jesus on the right hand of God" is an important message for those who are stoning Stephen for his belief in Christ. I don't see why a revelation about the Father having a body fits that context, whereas Christ's status as inheritor of the Kingdom is a fitting capstone to Stephen's prior testimony about the history of God's covenants with man.

That is an excellent point. No doubt Stephen's message to his captors was that Christ is in the heavens and is divine, not that God the Father possesses a body. That being said, shall we ignore the other messages we can learn from the vision?

What is most strange about this teaching is that Christ as a man rises in glory, although as God he never ceases to possess that glory, which as a man a he aquires.

I understand this to be central message of the rest of your post. In your belief, the verbs in Heb 1 describing Christ as being "made" and as having "obtained" are in reference to his human nature, not his divine nature. From our perspective that doctrine is completely derived from philosophical pandering by the ECFs. We simply do not find it in the scriptures, unless we are trying to find it, in which case we can find anything we want. I don't intend to sound combative, but respectfully rejecting. You further illustrate the terrible differences we have in our understanding of the relationship of man to God with this statement:

One reason is that a man has honor by virtue of his life and deeds, whereas God has honor just by existing. The key is to understand that by rising in glory Christ is not gaining something he lacked before, since he was already God, but using a different mode, a human mode, to possess the same glory.

I think this debate can never move forward until we agree on the nature and relationship of God and man.

Thanks again for the response.

Sargon

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Soren:

Now the word for Glory, doxa, has a bunch of different senses like most Greek words. Here are some:

This is true. What I find in Alan Segal's book Paul the Convert, is that the Glory is based on Ezekiel's vision of the One like the Son of Man figure who is in human form. And Paul, using the current day Jewish Merkhavah Mysticism of his day utilized Ezekiel's principle of the Glory to show that our human transformations coincide with Christ's transformation from his human status, to His Divine status as a MAN exalted. Segal's Jewishness, I believe, helps him see things in an interesting light. I made a podcast on this yesterday and uploaded it today.

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Soren,

"No mention"? My Greek Bible says Stephen eiden doxan tou Theou, that is "saw the glory of God."

I think itâ??s obvious that I qualified that, in significant detail.

If the doxa of God is metaphysical, how can you use it as a place reference?

Exactly! God was there! His â??gloryâ? didnâ??t just, show up without him. This is the point that the Greek doesnâ??t support. It (His glory) showed up with cause, and the cause is because God is unimaginably glorious. Else, I would be very interested in what Godâ??s â??gloryâ?? is, separate from him, yet still observable as a non-metaphysical object.

Is your argument this:

A. Because Stephen saw Jesus physically and because Jesus was with something else, that something else was also physical.

B. Because doxa is not physical, then the physcial thing that Stephen saw must have been the physical source of the doxa, hence, the Father.

A is not correct (although I believe it to be true, it is not within the context provable).

It is this:

A: The glory of God was seen (meaning God himself)

AND

B: Jesus was present, separate and individual from A

C: â??Standing on the right hand of Godâ? given both textual and immediate contexts are explicitly directional. It comes after referencing Godâ??s brilliance and majesty, obviously present because God himself was.

One more thought: â??Jesus standing on the right hand of God,â? MUST be directional, because the associated verb is, â??saw.â? You cannot see such a metaphor, without all its implications which were simply not present. That inarguably demonstrates Godâ??s present, separate and detached from Christâ??s.

e=mc2

What my argument is, is simply that the synonyms for "glory" express doxa as a metaphysical entity, not a physical object. It seems orthodox Christianity twists this glory as being present, separate from God himself. Such, simply doesn't make sense.

Cheers,

PacMan

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Hi Sargon,

I think the most common response from Western Trinitarians has been that Jesus was "made" or "begotten" from God's own being before the creation of time itself, so that for all intents and purposes Jesus is "eternally begotten". In other words, from a temporal perspective he has always been, but he is not a "necessary being" in the philosophical sense.

-CK

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Pacman:

What my argument is, is simply that the synonyms for "glory" express doxa as a metaphysical entity, not a physical object. It seems orthodox Christianity twists this glory as being present, separate from God himself. Such, simply doesn't make sense.

Actually, Alan Segal (in his book Paul the Convert ) makes just the precise opposite case. The Glory was a man, i.e., God the Father. A separate entity from the Logos as well as from the One like a Son of Man. Son of Man was precisely that...... a Son of the Glory! An interesting situational I must admit. The Glory (Hebrew Kavod) is not a metaphysical entity, but entirely a physical entity manifesting, at least in Ezekiel's vision, as a living man. So Segal's exegesis proposes........ :P

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Hi Sargon,

I think the most common response from Western Trinitarians has been that Jesus was "made" or "begotten" from God's own being before the creation of time itself, so that for all intents and purposes Jesus is "eternally begotten". In other words, from a temporal perspective he has always been, but he is not a "necessary being" in the philosophical sense.

-CK

I don't know how this fits into the discussion...if you'd mind pointing it out, I'd appreciate it (and that's not said smuggly).

e=mc2

The Glory was a man, i.e., God the Father. A separate entity from the Logos as well as from the One like a Son of Man. Son of Man was precisely that...... a Son of the Glory! An interesting situational I must admit. The Glory (Hebrew Kavod) is not a metaphysical entity, but entirely a physical entity manifesting, at least in Ezekiel's vision, as a living man.

So, what's your proposition (following the logic of Segal) for: "the glory of God?" Is this relational, being Christ as the Son (glory) of God, or definitional of an 'office,' or the person that encompasses the title of God--that being the Father?' Does this give greater credence, then, to the glory rather than the title of God?

PacMan

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Thanks for the response. I'm glad you reminded us of Rev 5. You are correct in suggesting that visions can be symbolic I think. However I find it interesting and noteworthy that even in a vision that is classified as symbolic, God the Father and God the Son are described as physical beings, no matter in what form. I know of no vision in which God the Father or God the Son are described as metaphysical essences that the viewer was not able to see. Not even in John's figurative vision.

John also describes Christ as a lion and a bud comming out of a tree. Do you think he saw all of those in the vision as well?

I wonder If John has ever seen Narnia. Just how does a sheep manage to get a book open with no opposible thumbs?

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I don't know how this fits into the discussion...if you'd mind pointing it out, I'd appreciate it (and that's not said smuggly).

It goes to the issue raised in the OP. Q: how does one reconcile Jesus' apparently having a beginning with his co-eternality according to Trinitarianism? A: Jesus's beginning is extra-temporal, so that he is eternal from a temporal perspective.

-CK

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Soren,

Thanks for the response. I'm glad you reminded us of Rev 5. You are correct in suggesting that visions can be symbolic I think. However I find it interesting and noteworthy that even in a vision that is classified as symbolic, God the Father and God the Son are described as physical beings, no matter in what form.

The nature of a vision is that it represents something by visible means, whether that thing is by nature visible or not. Since only material forms are properly visible, any vision of God (in the sense of vision that we have been discussing) will be of a material form.

I know of no vision in which God the Father or God the Son are described as metaphysical essences that the viewer was not able to see. Not even in John's figurative vision.

But any vision of God has to be figurative because John himself wirtes: "No man hath seen God at any time." (1 John 4:12)

As in the case of Stephen, he exclaimed that he [saw] Christ on the right hand of the Father. Cleary he saw that, and did not describe something he did not see. Your suggestion that what Stephen literally saw was but a symbolic expression of God and nothing more causes me to think of two things. 1) The vision of John in which he saw Christ as a lamb should be accurately described as figurative 2) There seems to be nothing figurative about Stephen's dream, but perhaps symbolic. The image of Lamb is quite figurative, but the image of God sitting on a throne is very, very common in the scriptures.

I expect an argument (only because of past experience) that explains that God the Father is seen in vision as a man only because that is the only way for man to see him, otherwise it would not be a vision, but that is not God's true form. Unfortunately I find that argument to be contrary to common sense. But, I will not set a straw man, because this may not be your argument at all.

Given that I just made this very argument, it is not a straw man but a correct view of my position. I would however add one point: In seeing the glory of God, Stephen did experience something real, and I think metaphysical. Pacman has argued that because "glory" is a metaphysical thing, the physical image seen must have been the Father's body. While I think that's a stretch, he hits on something very right: It wasn't just a pure symbol. In my Catholic thinking, heaven itself is the vision of God, the "Beatific Vision" as our theologians call it. By this, we do not mean a physical experience, but a mental one, an act of pure intelligence and love without reliance on bodily acts. and I suppose that Stephen knew the nature of God as he died, and that his vision did reveal it to him.

Like Stephen, we will also see God's body, the body of Christ, and be able to touch it, knwoing that it is the body of God. That will not, however, be our only way of knowing him, or our greatest. "A symbolic vision of God and nothing more" is actually very far from my view of this verse.

I'm sorry I didn't mean to imply that being figurative or symbolic or dishonest. I only meant that Stephen left no clues telling us that he was being symbolic in his description.

Stephen gave us one clue that I find very powerful. Acts 7:59-60 reads, "And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep." As with verse 56, this verse points to an interpretation of the vision that is very much centered on Christ himself. Acts was written by Luke, who also recorded this of Christ on the cross: "And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost." (Luke 23:46) I find a comparison between Christ's death in Luke and Stephen's death in Acts very deep and moving: Jesus dies commending his spirit to the Father, and Stephen dies commending his spirit to Jesus.

Now, I am full aware that prayer to Christ is not part of Mormon spirituality, but only prayer to the Father in Jesus' name. I usually pray in that manner as well, but I do not hesitate to submit Acts 7:59 as a proof text in favor of another form of prayer: Stephen prays to Christ; he does so while full of the Holy Spirit; he goes to heaven. If the LDS view of this passage were true, that Chrsit was seen with the Father, and that the Father was greater than Christ (according to the understanding most Mormons have expressed to me), I do not see how Stephen would have been moved to pray to Christ after such a vision. I think he would have prayed only to the Father per the LDS model. But a vision of Christ alone, standing on the right hand of God moved Stephen to pray to Christ himself just as Christ had prayed to the Father at the moment of his own death. This verse is absolutely delightful to one who knows about the Trinity.

It does not seem probable that Stephen described something he saw in symbolic terms, in the situation he was in. It is of course possible. It is possible that Stephen actually saw nothing, but God made him say that anyway. It is possible that Stephen saw something entirely different, but that God made him say that anyway. It is possible, but is not apparent from the text.

As an apologist, I claim only the benefit of the doubt, just as I grant the benefit of the doubt to other faiths. Probability is not a factor in faith, but reasonability is, and I think I have given a reasonable account. Furthermore, symbolic terms are a common part of language. We ourselves speak in figures all the time, and the figurative language used by Stephen is idiomatic in scripture.

It is always important in theology to distinguish belief from proof. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn't slip up on this distinction from time to time. For instance, I believe that Is. 6:6-7 is a figurative representation of Purgatory. It is entirely reasonable for someone else to disagree with that, so it would be silly of me to throw forth the text in "proof" of my position. Rather, I must submit that my interpretation as an interpretation and not as proof. On the other hand, I think that John 8:58 proves that Jesus is Jehovah. That is a tricky subject, but ultimately, I don't think it is a theory. The text really does prove that, and I will promote it as proof without hesitation.

That is an excellent point. No doubt Stephen's message to his captors was that Christ is in the heavens and is divine, not that God the Father possesses a body. That being said, shall we ignore the other messages we can learn from the vision?

No, indeed. I would have to sacrifice my reading of Is. 6:6-7 if I thought that. As it happens, I think that defining God as a physical entity adds nothing to the gospel, but is at odds with other parts of scripture that are also inspired by God. That is why I have no inclination to accept the common LDS view of this verse.

I understand this to be central message of the rest of your post. In your belief, the verbs in Heb 1 describing Christ as being "made" and as having "obtained" are in reference to his human nature, not his divine nature. From our perspective that doctrine is completely derived from philosophical pandering by the ECFs.

Who are the ECFs? If you mean the Church Councils or the Father, they never said anything that angered the philosophers more. A single person with two natures? Aristotle would spin in his grave! The terminology may come from philosophy, but the assertions do not. Not at all.

We simply do not find it in the scriptures, unless we are trying to find it, in which case we can find anything we want.

We can find anything we want in scripture if our only objective is to find individual supporting passages. When the whole of scripture is allowed to weigh in, if every verse is given its voice, then it is impossible to read anything we want into it. Were it otherwise, there would be no way to put confidence in scripture.

I think this debate can never move forward until we agree on the nature and relationship of God and man.

Thank you for the response - for your clear thoughts and your kind manner of expressing disagreement.

God bless you.

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Stephen gave us one clue that I find very powerful. Acts 7:59-60 reads, "And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep." As with verse 56, this verse points to an interpretation of the vision that is very much centered on Christ himself. Acts was written by Luke, who also recorded this of Christ on the cross: "And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost." (Luke 23:46) I find a comparison between Christ's death in Luke and Stephen's death in Acts very deep and moving: Jesus dies commending his spirit to the Father, and Stephen dies commending his spirit to Jesus.

Now, I am full aware that prayer to Christ is not part of Mormon spirituality, but only prayer to the Father in Jesus' name. I usually pray in that manner as well, but I do not hesitate to submit Acts 7:59 as a proof text in favor of another form of prayer: Stephen prays to Christ; he does so while full of the Holy Spirit; he goes to heaven. If the LDS view of this passage were true, that Chrsit was seen with the Father, and that the Father was greater than Christ (according to the understanding most Mormons have expressed to me), I do not see how Stephen would have been moved to pray to Christ after such a vision. I think he would have prayed only to the Father per the LDS model. But a vision of Christ alone, standing on the right hand of God moved Stephen to pray to Christ himself just as Christ had prayed to the Father at the moment of his own death. This verse is absolutely delightful to one who knows about the Trinity.

Actually the fact that Stephen prays to Christ in this instance does not prove anything about the correct manner of prayer or the nature of the Godhead. A simular thing occured in the Book of Mormon:
(3 Nephi 19:17-22) "And it came to pass that when they had all knelt down upon the earth, he commanded his disciples that they should pray.

And behold, they began to pray; and they did pray unto Jesus, calling him their Lord and their God.

And it came to pass that Jesus departed out of the midst of them, and went a little way off from them and abowed himself to the earth, and he said: Father, I thank thee that thou hast given the Holy Ghost unto these whom I have chosen; and it is because of their belief in me that I have chosen them out of the world.

Father, I pray thee that thou wilt give the Holy Ghost unto all them that shall believe in their words.

Father, thou hast given them the Holy Ghost because they believe in me; and thou seest that they believe in me because thou hearest them, and they pray unto me; and they pray unto me because I am with them."

So you see that they prayed to Jesus because He was with them. Jesus is our mediator and so if we were to see God and Jesus as Stephen did, it is entirely appropriate to address our petitions to Jesus. In fact in the First Vision Joseph Smith saw God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. The only thing the Father said was: "This is my beloved Son. Hear Him." And Joseph's question was answered by Jesus Christ not the Father. He is the one through whom all revelation comes, but when He (Christ) is not with us or in our presence then we are to ask the Father in His name. Also does not the fact that Christ cried out to His Father on the cross indicate that they are seperate individuals? When He states in other scriptures that "my Father is greater than I" or "I do the things that I have seen my Father do" or "Not my will but thine be done" does not all this indicate that they are indeed two beings? How can God have two wills?

You also made the following statement:

We can find anything we want in scripture if our only objective is to find individual supporting passages. When the whole of scripture is allowed to weigh in, if every verse is given its voice, then it is impossible to read anything we want into it. Were it otherwise, there would be no way to put confidence in scripture.
I agree and that is the problem of using "proof texts" to try to prove a position. But I also say that it takes revelation to understand revelation. The Church was never meant to be guided by a book. Not the Bible or for that matter any of the standard works alone, it was to be guided by the voice of living prophets and apostles. God is the source of all truth and therefore if He does not reveal it by the power of the Holy Ghost to living witnesses then it is useless. We could argue over passages of scripture until doomsday and still never arrive at the truth with God revealing to us the truth of these things. The good thing about the scriptures and the Bible in particular is that it does show how God has dealt with His children in the past. Through visions, revelations, angels, with prophets seers and revelators, with apostles and priesthood authority. All of these things were not only an abberation of the past but were intended for our time as well.
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