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Mormonism And Classic Protestantism:


cksalmon

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A difference I perceive between Mormons and Protestants that has a bearing on this discussion I think, is that Mormons see the thrust of God's salvific interaction with us as exaltation, whereas Protestants (at least in this Protestant's view!) see God's work as reconciliation.

Exaltation obviously implies and involves human elevation.

Reconciling people to Himself elevates God because of His unique nature, His longing for us and His ability to save us. It involves God's goodness, mercy, grace, love, forgiveness. Justice too, is clearly seen at the cross of Christ, where justice and love meet to effect our reconciliation with God. All of this elevates God but in no way makes Him a self-serving master.

Bringing glory to Himself and inviting our praise and adoration because of His reconciling involvement with us, reveals God as a personal, loving Father. And as part of His family, we share in His reflected glory, not our own glory.

I think that both Mormons and Protestants see God as bringing us into His family graciously and eternally, but with a different end in view, the main difference being eternal progression as CK noted in his OP.

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This is the sort of blatant caricature I was hoping to avoid, frankly.

Perhaps it was an impossible dream.

CKS

CKS I think many ideas expressed in my post were caricatures also, but they are the caricatures that exist in my mind. I think it is human nature to caricature other's beliefs and sometimes one must voice them in order to have them corrected. I look forward to hearing more from you on this.

Best,

Jd1

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Hi John--

In what sense?

Ex hypothesi, if God is the most uniquely, spectacularly important being in the entire universe, why would his concern for his own Glory diminish him? Per your understanding, would you say that my belief is that God is really more important than he deserves to be? Perhaps he's a megalomaniac and should be more concerned with exalting others than with exalting himself? Perhaps we're just as important as he is, and he should give us our propers?

This is the sort of thing I had in mind when I suggested that Mormonism is focused "manward." You seem to believe that God can only exalt himself by exalting man--or perhaps that he desires to give his glory to man. Classic Protestantism proclaims nearly the opposite: that God will be exalted no matter what.

I as take it, God is not interested in exalting any being other than himself. See, for example, Isaiah 48:11.

Best.

CKS

Let me try this again? If God only wants to exhalt himself, Where is he going to be exhalted too?

He is allready at the highest exhalted state in the universe. How can he do it further. Or did you allready

in yer statement assume that he is exhalted to the highest glory possible now. You keep saying he will

be exhalted? The only ones that are left to be exhalted are us, He is there now.

:P

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Thanks Paloma for the explanation. From my weak theological background, what you are explaining sounds more like an openness view than the classical view CKS seems to be describing. Would CKS agree that God longs for us? Or that he reconciles us to Him exclusively to display his glory?

Obviously, I can't speak for CKS. But I'd be surprised if he didn't view God as longing for us. To me, that seems like straightforward Protestant thought. I've always understood that God created us and redeemed us out of His love and desire for us.

Of course, we Protestants do differ from Mormons in our beliefs about the nature of God. We believe that God is unique, self-sufficient and in no way dependent on us. But I don't think that means He hasn't made Himself vulnerable to all that our God/human interrelationship entails. I think there's lots of biblical evidence for His experiencing pain and joy and longing.

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Let me try this again? If God only wants to exhalt himself, Where is he going to be exhalted too?

He is allready at the highest exhalted state in the universe. How can he do it further. Or did you allready

in yer statement assume that he is exhalted to the highest glory possible now. You keep saying he will

be exhalted? The only ones that are left to be exhalted are us, He is there now.

:P

Classical Christian belief is that God IS exalted. He's the One and Only God. He is and always has been perfect.

When we speak of God being exalted, we speak of an eternal and constant condition. Kind of like the way we may adore someone for being wonderful and every new thing we learn about or experience from that person makes us adore them more or see them as even more exalted, even though the person is wonderful as always. This is an inadequate example because no human is perfect or perfectly wonderful. But God is and always has been in the classical Christian view.

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If I may interject with respect to the orthodox view, I think it would say that God is not a being, he is Being-itself. All the universe is subsumed within God, is a part of him. God is maximally valued (if we can even speak of value at the level of Being-itself) and so cannot increase his actual value. Nor can the world do so. So to speak of him being "exalted" is merely to speak of a relationality that exists within himself, and not to speak of an increase in value. In Trinitarian panentheism, relationality is a necessary attribute of God; that is, he is self-related in a Trinitarian relationship from eternity. The creation of the world merely extends this relatedness to a new category within himself: the world (and humanity).

If God ever seems self-aggrandizing in Reformed theology, it is worth remembering that he is not, strictly speaking, moral. He transcends morality. But as the world is just an extension of himself, by exalting it he exalts himself. Therefore I'd say that the redemption of creation and exaltation of man found in the New Testament is not incompatible with CKSalmon's view that God is entirely interested in self-exaltation. But on the other hand I'd stress that the relatedness within himself suggests that in some sense he is also interested in exalting the "other".

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Where is he going to be "exhalted" too?

:P

In "classical" Christianity (seriously cks, where did you come up with that? :-) there is no "to". We don't think of exalting God as a process through which God has developed, we think of exalting God as the level of regard we place on God. As in...we exalt God in our hearts and minds. It is how we perceive God.

JG

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If God ever seems self-aggrandizing in Reformed theology, it is worth remembering that he is not, strictly speaking, moral. He transcends morality. But as the world is just an extension of himself, by exalting it he exalts himself. Therefore I'd say that the redemption of creation and exaltation of man found in the New Testament is not incompatible with CKSalmon's view that God is entirely interested in self-exaltation. But on the other hand I'd stress that the relatedness within himself suggests that in some sense he is also interested in exalting the "other".

Wow, you have a way with concepts and words, Chris!

That God "transcends morality" is important. He is beyond self-aggrandizement and pride by virtue of His uniqueness. This is where it becomes difficult to wrap our minds around God and I know some Mormons have expressed bafflement and sometimes even ridicule concerning such a Creator God. But we Christians apprehend enough to see God's greatness and His personal loving nature too.

I think God is indeed interested in exalting us, especially if that's the same thing as wanting the best for us. That's goodness and love (to want the best for someone) and God embodies goodness and love.

And the best for us is to recognize who God is and praise Him for it.

I remember reading something by C.S. Lewis so long ago that I don't remember exactly where. But Lewis wrote that we praise God because it exalts and benefits us to do so. When we recognize beauty and goodness, we have to express our appreciation.

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Great explanation, thanks Chris.

But on the other hand I'd stress that the relatedness within himself suggests that in some sense he is also interested in exalting the "other".

That's what seems to be missing from CKS's formulation. It seems that anything else makes God seem selfish. But I guess if you think God transcends morality, rather than embodies it, then no action or intention attributed to Him can be judged on the basis of morality. I can understand that and appreciate it. It seems to be the only way to make sense of such a Deity, that is, recognize that we cannot really make sense of it in human terms. God loves, but in a way different than we love. God is good, but not in the way humans understand good. Am I getting it right? This is Aquinas's insistence that we can only understand God via analogy, not univocally.

Also, the idea of mutual exaltation has much resonance with Mormon thought. If God is supposed to make sense, then that makes sense to me. If God is so different that he is not expected to make sense to us, then CKS's view works.

Paloma,

You say that God was motivated by love for us when he created and redeemed us. Is he also motivated by His glory? This makes sense to me, because as far as I see it, God's love is His glory. It is his glory to exalt mankind because it manifests His love and perfect character.

In earlier explanations, it seems like God's love and God's glory are exclusive motivations. One is other directed and the other is self directed. If you think God's glory is manifested by being other directed, then this is quite similar to the message of Moses 1:39.

Best,

Jd1

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Paloma,

You say that God was motivated by love for us when he created and redeemed us. Is he also motivated by His glory? This makes sense to me, because as far as I see it, God's love is His glory. It is his glory to exalt mankind because it manifests His love and perfect character.

In earlier explanations, it seems like God's love and God's glory are exclusive motivations. One is other directed and the other is self directed. If you think God's glory is manifested by being other directed, then this is quite similar to the message of Moses 1:39.

Best,

Jd1

John, I too am unable to separate God's love and His glory. But then I see all of His attributes as inseparable from His glory, and inseparable from each other.

I do see God as being other-centred, with good reason, I think. For example, we're always being encouraged to be other-centred and we're to be like Him! And Jesus who claimed to reveal the very nature of God, exemplified other-centredness in word and deed.

John, where you and I would likely see things differently is when you say of God: "It is his glory to exalt mankind because it manifests His love and perfect character. "

I probably have more reservations with your statement than I otherwise would, because of the specific meaning Mormons attach to the word "exalt". I'd be comfortable saying "It is his glory to love (or benefit, redeem, consider, etc.) mankind because it manifests his love and perfect character."

I think God does raise us up and elevate us (recognition of His character, along with our redemption and reconciliation do that for us - all impossible without God's goodness and grace) but always within the bounds of our understanding that ultimately God receives the glory, not us except in the sense that we're within the circle of God's glory.

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Hi folks:

I'm just going to throw out a proposition I've been mulling over for any discussion it might merit.

Mormonism tends to have a "manward" focus, whereas classical Protestantism tends to have a "Godward" focus.

With very broad brush strokes, I'd defend this proposition as follows:

(1) The Mormon worldview, traditionally, seems to focus intensely on the plan of Eternal Progression--God's gracious plan for elevating those who are worthy, ultimately, to the status of godhood--to be like, albeit inferior to, Himself.

(2) The classical Protestant worldview, traditionally, seems to focus on declaring the utterly unique, unequivocal glory of the single God of all the entire universe.

I surely hope this won't degenerate into an endless discussion of the Trinity.

I'm just throwing it out there. Feel free to disagree vehemently with my assessment, but please do tell why.

Best.

CKS

I think there's something to this. Classical Protestantism, from my perspective, posits God as being completely different from humans; unique, as you put it. Mormonism, on the other hand, has humans and Gods being of the same species, with the same potential. So I'm not totally sure it's a "manward" thing but a different take on what is godly and godlike. Does that make sense?

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If I may interject with respect to the orthodox view, I think it would say that God is not a being, he is Being-itself. All the universe is subsumed within God, is a part of him. God is maximally valued (if we can even speak of value at the level of Being-itself) and so cannot increase his actual value. Nor can the world do so. So to speak of him being "exalted" is merely to speak of a relationality that exists within himself, and not to speak of an increase in value. In Trinitarian panentheism, relationality is a necessary attribute of God; that is, he is self-related in a Trinitarian relationship from eternity. The creation of the world merely extends this relatedness to a new category within himself: the world (and humanity).

Hi Chris--

As far as panentheism is concerned, I think your description is fine. But, I certainly wouldn't characterize it as "the orthodox view." What orthodox Christian tradition would affirm (1) that God is not a being, and (2) that God is not separate from the universe? I'm not suggesting either of those, at any rate.

If God ever seems self-aggrandizing in Reformed theology, it is worth remembering that he is not, strictly speaking, moral. He transcends morality. But as the world is just an extension of himself, by exalting it he exalts himself. Therefore I'd say that the redemption of creation and exaltation of man found in the New Testament is not incompatible with CKSalmon's view that God is entirely interested in self-exaltation. But on the other hand I'd stress that the relatedness within himself suggests that in some sense he is also interested in exalting the "other".

Just for clarification: I'd suggest that God is the ground of morality, not beyond morality. Nor do I see the universe as an extension of God.

Best.

CKS

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As I read through this thread, a reoccurring question that has bothered me over the years keeps popping up again. I understand why, in the Mormon POV, God created man, but I have never understood why, in the Mainstream Christian POV, God created man.

If God is all powerful and totally self-contained, needing no external stimulation, why would He create man? In fact, why would He do anything?

I have been told that God created us to love Him, but why would He need us to love Him, is He lacking something that only we could give Him or something external to Him could give Him? Well, He created us to give Him glory, but what glory is He lacking and why does He need anything to give Him glory that He couldn't give Himself?

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I don't know if I understand what you are saying. But here goes: you claim that 1). Because God is so spectacularly important that 2). Him being concerned with his own glory should not diminish him. I don't see how 2 follows from 1.

Does it follow that if A person is more important than X person than it is justifiable, for A person to be more concerned for himself than X person?

What makes God important? His power? That may make Him important but I just don't see how that makes him worship worthy. Stalin and Hitler had power too. A God with primary concern with his own power and glory makes him resemble these characters more than He resembles one like Jesus, for example. It is God's perfect character that makes him worship worthy in my book. Jesus used His power to bless the lowest of the low out of genuine love. He proclaimed himself "meek" and "lowly" of heart. I think it diminishes God to make Him unlike Christ, and that is what the "classical" view seems to do.

To me it has less to do with the greatness of man, but rather with the greatness of a being who desires to lift lowely creatures like man. Iâ??d like to hear more in depth explanations on the classical view (for example what of the love of God? What of the humility of Christ? Why does God's power make it okay for Him resemble Hitler and Stalin in character? Is it just a matter of, he can kick your trash so you better give him the glory? In particular, why do you find this view of God meaningful and satisfying?). It seems to me like a case of "he who has the most guns wins." Is that so?

Best,

Jd1

These are good questions, John. I will (shortly) attempt to give the answers that have been most illuminating to me.

Best.

CKS

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I think there's something to this. Classical Protestantism, from my perspective, posits God as being completely different from humans; unique, as you put it. Mormonism, on the other hand, has humans and Gods being of the same species, with the same potential. So I'm not totally sure it's a "manward" thing but a different take on what is godly and godlike. Does that make sense?

This is one of the foundational differences, and it does have a significant bearing on the perspectives of God in both camps.

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Just for clarification: I'd suggest that God is the ground of morality, not beyond morality. Nor do I see the universe as an extension of God.

To understand the protestant point of view:

Is God the source of all law, both moral and otherwise?

Or is He subject to laws and bounds that transcend Him and His abilities?

I suspect it is the first; however, it may be subject to some additional clarification.

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To understand the protestant point of view:

Is God the source of all law, both moral and otherwise?

Or is He subject to laws and bounds that transcend Him and His abilities?

I suspect it is the first; however, it may be subject to some additional clarification.

Why can't God lie? Is there something stopping Him from lying?

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Why can't God lie? Is there something stopping Him from lying?

This is also one of the main foundational differences between the LDS and protestant concepts of God, and it has significant influence on their respective perspectives.

The LDS understanding of God is that He, intelligence, and matter co-exist eternally in this particular universe. God's role as creator (organizer) is to bring the greatest joy or purpose available to intelligence and matter, so that they can have the same type of life He does. As such, God is bound by the immutable laws governing all things; it is by His righteous adherence to all law that He is God, in that He has power of all things because of that obedience.

As such, LDS understand that the responsibility for our salvation and acceptance of the plan lies with us.

The protestant concept of God is that nothing exists outside of His creation (from nothing) of it. He sets the rules, He is responsible in full for the results.

It is that last statement of God's ultimate responsibility, according to the protestant concept of God, that is the point of disagreement between LDS and protestants about salvation.

From the LDS viewpoint, it is impossible to reconcile a God who is fully responsible for all creation, but is not responsible (or who is arbitrary) in the outcome of salvation for the individuals He has created. From an LDS viewpoint, the concept of responsibility and the co-existence of God, intelligence and matter fit nicely together.

The protestant concept of God as creator of all from nothing needs (from the LDS view) significant theological tweaking to make it work. Hence, the discussion here - and the appreciated input from those on the protestant end.

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Hi Chris--

As far as panentheism is concerned, I think your description is fine. But, I certainly wouldn't characterize it as "the orthodox view." What orthodox Christian tradition would affirm (1) that God is not a being, and (2) that God is not separate from the universe? I'm not suggesting either of those, at any rate.

Just for clarification: I'd suggest that God is the ground of morality, not beyond morality. Nor do I see the universe as an extension of God.

Best.

CKS

Hey CKS,

I apologize for misrepresenting you. In the panentheistic view, also, God is the ground for morality. But as the ground for it he transcends it, wouldn't you agree?

As for your second point, panentheism does suggest that God is separate from the universe. It is not pantheism, in which the universe is God. Panentheism holds that the universe is in God, that it has no existence apart from God, that its existence is grounded in him, that it can be spoken of as derived from his substance (while at the same time separate from his personality/ies), and that it is therefore technically a part of him.

Panentheism in my opinion is the natural conclusion of classical theism. Certainly it has been subscribed to by many respectable theologians in the modern era, from Tillich to Moltmann to even Gustavo Gutierrez. I would also argue that some of the great classical theologians were panentheists, though that tends to be harder to demonstrate since they didn't have the vocabulary to express such metaphysical categories.

Anyway, best to you,

-Chris

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Hey CKS,

I apologize for misrepresenting you. In the panentheistic view, also, God is the ground for morality. But as the ground for it he transcends it, wouldn't you agree?

As for your second point, panentheism does suggest that God is separate from the universe. It is not pantheism, in which the universe is God. Panentheism holds that the universe is in God, that it has no existence apart from God, that its existence is grounded in him, that it can be spoken of as derived from his substance (while at the same time separate from his personality/ies), and that it is therefore technically a part of him.

Panentheism in my opinion is the natural conclusion of classical theism. Certainly it has been subscribed to by many respectable theologians in the modern era, from Tillich to Moltmann to even Gustavo Gutierrez. I would also argue that some of the great classical theologians were panentheists, though that tends to be harder to demonstrate since they didn't have the vocabulary to express such metaphysical categories.

Anyway, best to you,

-Chris

This is why I love this board, I am constantly reminded of just how ignorant I am!!!

Panentheism

Panentheism (from Greek πᾶν (p
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I would also agree, in a general sense. This core difference is why Protestants (or mainstream Christians in general, really) really get shocked at statements like Moses 1:39--

"39 For behold, this is my work and my gloryâ??to bring to pass the immortality and eternal elife of man."

It seems all backwards and troubling, at least to this evangelical Protestant.

I don't understand why that is backwards? As a convert to Mormonism with a Christian background, I loved that scripture.

Does it not evoke the same desire and hope that Mormons and Christians all have - eternal life?

(I note that you wrote "elife" - is that to incorporate eternal message boards into the equation?) :P

What I would say is that for discussions like this, it is useful, maybe necessary, to carefully define your terms as you can be speaking past each other without even realizing it. I had no clue, for example, that even a general concept like "eternal life" can mean different things to people of different faiths. The same is true with terms like "exaltation". That is a very specific state of being, according to LDS (as far as I understand it) and is not at all the same concept that Protestant Christians have when using it. Likewise even words like "glory"; hence the negative connotations that may be attached to some of the doctrinal interpretations.

The stake missionary who was teaching me (new member discussions) eagerly showed me verses in Alma (Book of Mormon) that mentioned being "born again" and told me it meant exactly the same thing as in EV Protestantism (except "better", he said, as it references being born again, again!)

We use the same words, to be sure, but the concepts are vastly different. To find the common ground and the great divide/s, I think you have to do a lot of translation and interpretation. What I have found is that, surprisingly to many, there is more agreement of general concepts than people realize.

The differences lie in the interpretation.

That's why I like to look at the general beliefs and find the common ground. There is more acreage there than you might think.

In my travels through various Christian denominations, fwiw, I have found that an emphasis on "glory" and "eternal praise" comes especially from EV groups. And sometimes some denoms can seem very far apart from each other, never mind other faiths. It seems that each group chooses to focus on certain concepts that come to define them; thus, you have a "Coles Notes" idea of what each denom is about (i.e., EV - "born again"; Pentecostal - "tongues"; Trinitarian/Unitarian - self-evident, etc). The differences may seem enormous and irreconcilable but most, it seems, come down to focus and interpretation and we can lose sight of what we have in common (belief in God, love of family, longing for eternal life, desire to worship, etc).

What I would say about the comments in the OP and responses is that decidedly, the worship concepts defined by Protestants are not seen by them as negative and directed towards a flawed God. However, that is obviously how they come across to some non-Protestants. To me, this is more about people being on a different page than about the God whom Protestants worship being flawed by having the basest of human tendencies. Of course if He were that way, even Protestants would not want to worship Him. (!) So the answer is, He is not like that and we must delve deeper to understand each other better.

I really appreciate the attempts to encapsulate the concepts in two short sentences. I'm not sure if that simplicity can bridge the divide. But it could be fun trying.

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Hey CKS,

I apologize for misrepresenting you. In the panentheistic view, also, God is the ground for morality. But as the ground for it he transcends it, wouldn't you agree?

As for your second point, panentheism does suggest that God is separate from the universe. It is not pantheism, in which the universe is God. Panentheism holds that the universe is in God, that it has no existence apart from God, that its existence is grounded in him, that it can be spoken of as derived from his substance (while at the same time separate from his personality/ies), and that it is therefore technically a part of him.

Hi Chris--

Yeah, I'm familiar with the distinction. My problems with panentheism are underlined in your post above. If one merely means that God indwells all things, no problem. And obviously I agree that the universe has no existence with God's providential maintenance. But, I'd be leery of tying that providential maintenance to anything remotely suggesting a necessary material overlap. (Even if that necessity only flows in one direction: Godwards down.) To my mind, the "ontological gulf" between Creator and creation must be maintained and is not sufficiently maintained (in fact, is contraindicated) by the notion that the universe derives from God's "substance" and is "a part of him."

I suppose if one wanted to affirm a sort of generic, watered-down, Christian-friendly panentheism (or parse the term much differently than one's philosophical peers--as does the Greek Orthodox tradition), we might be able to make it work.

Panentheism in my opinion is the natural conclusion of classical theism.

Well, but it manifestly isn't the conclusion of classical theism that the universe is derived from God's substance, as you suggested above. That just won't work in traditional Christianity. I not aware of any traditionally-Christian faith traditions that have concluded as much--for examples, not Catholicism, not Greek Orthodoxy, and certainly not classical Protestantism.

At any rate, my best to you, Chris.

CKS

PS.

But as the ground for it he transcends it, wouldn't you agree?

Yes and no. Not in the sense that I believe you're suggesting.

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