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Elder Holland On Trinitarianism


Scott Lloyd

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In chess, one can't move into check. This has always been the problem with many of the creeds. So many of their aspects contradict not only scripture, but other creeds. Thus, the unpalatable conclusion that the basics are understood, but the whole is not. But then, we needn't follow the creeds slavishly. They merely represent the best thinking of people without revelation.

Holland's most substantive point was that if Christ was working towards perfection and took upon Himself a physical body, and if we're working towards perfection and taking upon ourselves glorified physical bodies, then why would Christ and us (previously spirits) be working away from what God presumably is, a spirit?

John says that when we see God, we would be like Him. If we're physical, spiritual beings (and they aren't mutually exclusive terms in Mormonism), then it makes sense that this is what the Father is, and that Christ and mankind are becoming more like Him, not less.

I've never seen this addressed by mainstream Christians.

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Hi Tom,

First, the last part of the above statement. I too would say that the Bible is not â??univocal.â? I believe that God inspires prophets and prophets write truth. This truth was written in the context of the prophetâ??s life AND most directly to those to whom the prophet was generally writing. IMO the above very strongly supports the view that the Bible is not univocal. I do however think that scripture as a whole is an important source for determining doctrine. As a LDS, I think much is available to me in how I integrate non-univocal messages (all of which are inspired of God). However, for those who reject the authority of the CoJCoLDS, the extra scriptures of the CoJCoLDS, and/or the authority of the Catholic Chruch; I fail to see how the fact that the scriptures are not univocal can be of phenomenal benefit. Why do you place more emphasis upon John than on Mark? What about Paul or James? To me the Bible viewed as a whole is the most clear path for all of us, and I find it especially difficult to see how a non-Catholic / non-LDS Christian can de-emphasize the Bible as a whole in favor of some subset.

I emphasized John above to show that the Nicene view was not without its own logic, and defenders and proponents of the Tinity are bound to go endlessly back and forth for the simple reason that traditional Christianity draws heavily on John, whereas other groups emphasize other portions of the canon. Speaking personally, I don't place more emphasis on John as a source for my Christology, though it does express a metaphysical view of Jesus that I tend to sympathize with more than any other. For the character of Jesus, it's Matthew that I like best. These are just private preferences. I don't see any particular reason to privilege John as a Christological sourcebook, except that it makes sense.

As for using the Bible as a source for determining doctrine, I'd say that that's valid only insofar as it is an accurate record of the disciples' accurate interpretations of actual divine-revelation events. There's lots of room for error there, so I tend to be quite skeptical of scripture as a dogma textbook. I read much of scripture like sacred poetry; even though the fall and the story of Cain and Abel are meant as true histories, I also think that they are meant to speak to human experience at some deeper level. I reject the historical sense, and yet I find much truth in the deeper, poetic sense. In any case, I don't think dogma matters in the eternal run. If God is even remotely fair, he isn't going to judge us by our doctrines at all. Rather, he will judge us by our character. And even then he will be merciful.

If God isn't fair, then we're probably all screwed anyway.

Now, to the question of the Gospel of John as a supporter of homoousia-based divinity (even without co-equality which could be a less than simple philosophical trick in and of itself). Clearly John 1:1 is a point of huge discussion among various Christians. None of us are 1st century Greek speakers. I myself am at an even greater disadvantage as I am not a 21st century Greek speaker/reader. That being said, I am unconvinced that John 1:1 does not support a Social Trinity view. Also, I am unconvinced that the reading of John 1:1 typically advocated by the supporters of an Augustinian Trinity is not simply modalist. And finally, aside for the strong language of John 1:1 and perhaps some other Father and Son one passages, I see nothing that supports homoousia-based (or substance-based) divinity. Nobody is denying that God the Father and God the Son are one. The question that the Bible may not answer is â??How are they one?â??

Which brings me to my final point from John. While I am unaware of where in the Bible John or anyone answer the question, â??How are they one?â? with something like homoousia-based divinity, I do think John offers a few places were God the Father and God the Son are one through unity of purpose and/or loving union.

John 5:18,19; 14:9,23 perhaps could be viewed as saying the Son is the Father, but in context, I think a unity of purpose, actions, plans is a much better read (and if this is denied, these a modalist statements having nothing to do with substance anyway).

And John 17:11 & 22 are IMO the clearest denial of the modalist reading of the John passages just referenced AND the clearest statement in all the Bible to point to when asking, â??How are they one?â? If we humans (or the disciples) are to be one as the Father and Son are one, I cannot see how this can support homoousia-based divinity (unity). And to bring love into this since I think that is a component of the answer to our query, John 4:8 and 16 tell us that â??God is love.â? So, â??God is love;â? God the Father and God the Son are one in that they do the same things, have the same plans, reflect the same glory/divinity AND we are to become one in just the same way.

Let me start by making it quite clear that the modalist view simply is not an option. I don't think it is remotely tenable either here or elsewhere in the Bible.

Now on to John as support for homoousia. I am quite convinced by the attempt of T. H. Tobin to place John 1:1 in the same tradition of speculative Hellenistic Judaism as Philo. I can send you that paper if you like, and it should clear up much of your confusion as to why I think homoousia is a convincing reading of John 1:1. As for your objections regarding Jesus's prayer "that they may be one as we are one," etc., more relevant in that regard is gnostic scholarship that places Christianity-- and especially "redeemer hymns" like the early part of John 1-- in the context of gnostic Jewish baptismal sects. According to Pheme Pekins and a whole range of other scholars, the appropriate background for the hymn in John 1 is a Jewish sect that awaited the coming of a heavenly redeemer to allow our souls to ascend to the divine pleroma. The ultimate unio mystica, if you will. While the remainder of the gospel does not necessarily reflect the same theological perspective as its initial hymn, I see evidence that it does. John pictures God as pleroma, love, spirit, light, and truth. He also speaks of eternal life as gnosis "For this is eternal life: to know God." Presumably the unity of the church on this earth could be a sort of foretaste of the mystical union to come.

On to the term â??Panentheistic:â?

Ostler has lead me to embrace (and David points toward) some "panentheisticâ? characteristics of divinity. From Ostler, I see the loving communion of God to be responsible for emergent properties. This communion of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit enlivens the universe without being identical to the universe (which would of course be pantheism). So distinct individuals who possess certain perfection, communion into the One God. As a communion, this divinity is panentheistic in many of its characteristics/attributes. As you might note (especially if you have read Ostler), the kenotic emptying of the fullness of this communion is critical to understanding the incarnation. Divine persons can CHOOSE to give up aspects of the fullness of communion so that they might experience mortality. I find this view of the incarnation to also be more Biblical than the two-nature view of Chalcedon (necessitated by homoousia-based divinity). How can one person be of two natures?

I think I will close here. I should respond a little more directly to David some time later.

I hope all is well with both of you.

Charity, TOm

So are you saying that "loving communion" is an "it" that is distinct from the three persons and also from the universe, but that pervades the universe? Sounds like an ousia to me, but maybe I'm misunderstanding you.

Best to you and yours,

-Chris

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Hi Cold Steel,

You posted:

>>Holland's most substantive point was that if Christ was working towards perfection and took upon Himself a physical body, and if we're working towards perfection and taking upon ourselves glorified physical bodies, then why would Christ and us (previously spirits) be working away from what God presumably is, a spirit?>>

Me: And yet the BoM clearly states that Jesus Christ was â??one Godâ? with the Father and HG before He â??took upon Himself a physical bodyâ?. Further, the HG is â??one Godâ? with the Father and the Son and has never taken â??upon Himself a physical bodyâ?. And interestingly enough, Apostle Holland stated that Jesus was God during His sojourn here on Earth before His death and resurrection.

>>John says that when we see God, we would be like Him. If we're physical, spiritual beings (and they aren't mutually exclusive terms in Mormonism), then it makes sense that this is what the Father is, and that Christ and mankind are becoming more like Him, not less.

I've never seen this addressed by mainstream Christians.>>

Me: I disagree; the early Church Fathers (and the Bible) do address this with what is known as the â??exchange formulaâ??: Jesus Christ became what we are that we might become what He is; God became man that man might become God; though he was rich, he became poor that we might become rich.

Grace and peace,

David

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Hi CK,

You posted:

>>I'm currently reading through William J. Hill's The Three-Personed God: The Trinity as a Mystery of Salvation (per David's recommendation, actually). In general, I'd say that if there is a single doctrine we Protestants got straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak, it is the doctrine of the Trinity.>>

Me: Sincerely hope you are enjoying the book; it is one of the best single volumes on the subject (IMHO).

Now, as for Protestants and the doctrine of the Trinity, I would say that confessional Protestants remain in the great Catholic tradition on this doctrine; however, it has been my experience that non-confessional Protestants can be (and have been) less consistent on this important doctrine.

Grace and peace,

David

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Hi volvoman--

Is that really what the emperor did?

Interesting then that he himself had little opinion on the matter (or perhaps even leaned toward the Arian side of the argument) and suggested that the matter should never have been brought up in the first place. The council was called because of the manifest possibility of schism, not because Constantine "insisted on a wide and mystical doctrine that would capture the sects of Christianity and allow them to unite under the absolutely incredible babel that the Nicene Creed represents."

I don't find your statement even close to an accurate summary of the actual historical situation.

Whence comes your church history?

Best.

CKS

CKS,

Well, I suppose it might be impossible to really know the mind and will of the Emperor 1,700 years later. However, some historians have suggested that Constantine gathered the fathers at Nicea to prevent schism, to unite the empire and to control the Christians through an attempt to unite the faith under one creed. Now the fact that Constantine was an Arian might have contributed to his sense that this topic should never have been approached. The Council at Nicea didn't support the Arian philosophy. So, as I view it, there is complete consistency in what I have said.

However, as you so rightly state, it is probably hard to know really what the Emperor was thinking. However, I think that it would be safe to say that he wasn't as interested in Christianity as his main thought in calling the council as it was to keep his empire together. Afterall, he was a Roman Emperor....not an apostolic father.

Regards,

Volvoman

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Hello David,

Hope all is well at the beach!

>> I am wondering if you are actually a supporter of the Platonic Paganism associated with â??The ONE,â? associated with immutability, associated with â?¦ that contributed to the Nicene concept of Godâ??s oneness.>>

Me: I think we must be careful here; strictly speaking I would say that â??The ONEâ? of which you speak is associated with Middle and Neo-Platonism. Early on, Christian apologists with training in the Greek philosophical schools identified this â??ONEâ? with God the Father.

I am not well-versed enough to make distinctions between Platonic, Middle Platonic and Neo-Platonic thinking. I was largely jumping off from Chrisâ??s original statement about embracing Platonic Paganism instead of Ugaritic Paganism.

I think Athanasius and Arius both carried into Nicea ideas that were either developed from the Biblical texts (but beyond the Biblical texts) or ideas that were beyond the Biblical texts, flawed, and the product of human overreaching (in interaction with Paganism and Gnosticism). The outcome of Nicea may have been the best solution available to those with such pre-conditions.

And while I would agree that â??ONEâ? was associated with God the Father in some ECF writing, it seems to me that Nicea concluded that Christ could not be other than the â??ONE.â? This embracing of â??ONEâ? and inclusion of Christ within the â??ONEâ? necessitated a oneness of God that was different than perfect loving communion of distinct persons.

Further, the LDS Scriptures clearly speak of this â??ONEâ?, though I would argue in a non-personal sense, as the â??light/power/Spirit/truthâ? of God. It is this â??ONEâ? infinite attribute of God which ultimately defines God as GOD (and not a physical body!).

I, possibly contra to some on this thread, absolutely agree that Godâ??s embodiment is/was not integral to His divinity. As you pointed later in the thread, God the Son was divine pre-embodiment and God the Holy Spirit is divine unembodied.

As I pointed out to Chris though, I see God as â??light/power/Spirit/truthâ? as the emergent panentheistic properties of the one God who is a communion of divine persons. The definition of the term homoousian as much of Christianity has come to use the term (and in the way necessary to deny many LDS acceptance) is largely modalist. It denies much of the distinction necessary within the one God to suggest that God is a communion of persons who love and are loved.

I think we must call the individual divine persons God AND we must call the divine communion of divine persons, â??One God.â? To me this is the language of the Bible and the other LDS scriptures. When you say, â??It is this â??ONEâ?? infinite attribute of God which ultimately defines God as GOD (and not a physical body!),â? I agree. But I also demand that to make sense of the passages I offered from John, and to make sense of the numerous passages where the Father and Son (and Holy Spirit) are distinct; we must not make the ONE God the only part of our definition. God is not merely â??light/power/Spirit/truth.â? He is our loving Father; He is our loving Christ; He is our loving Holy Spirit. God is the communion of these personal beings who love us and each other perfectly.

I suggest that Elder Holland was (and I am) railing against the homoousia-based divinity / unity that denies the distinctiveness necessary to recognize that God is three personal beings with whom we can have interpersonal relationship. It may be correct to view the communion relationship as a single relationship rather than as relationships plural, but IMO the relational nature is necessary.

Knowing some of your views, I think we are closer than some of the neo-modalists who seek to declare LDS Social Trinity views heretical. Seeing Chrisâ??s statement that my panentheistic properties of God are homoousia-based divinity / unity, I suspect he and I are close than we originally supposed (though I still see the need for distinctiveness among the persons and I have not seen him embrace this).

Charity, TOm

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Chris,

Thanks for your continued thoughtful responses. I am going to point to some common ground as we go through more than in my previous response (but I will still find some areas to disagree). I am also going to mince up your response some so I can respond to areas I think are related. I will probably err greatly, but it will not be intentional.

Speaking personally, I don't place more emphasis on John as a source for my Christology, though it does express a metaphysical view of Jesus that I tend to sympathize with more than any other. For the character of Jesus, it's Matthew that I like best. These are just private preferences. I don't see any particular reason to privilege John as a Christological sourcebook, except that it makes sense.

I think you are saying that I have accused you of using John to the exclusion of the rest of the Bible and you have claimed that you didnâ??t do this. Instead, you see within John a place where the â??metaphysical view of Jesusâ? is more clearly illustrated. I am not sure I can see John in this way or relate the truths you see in John to the rest of the Bible, but I like the way you have claimed to use John and the Bible. I am sorry for accusing you of excluding the rest of the Bible in favor of John.

As for using the Bible as a source for determining doctrine, I'd say that that's valid only insofar as it is an accurate record of the disciples' accurate interpretations of actual divine-revelation events. There's lots of room for error there, so I tend to be quite skeptical of scripture as a dogma textbook. I read much of scripture like sacred poetry; even though the fall and the story of Cain and Abel are meant as true histories, I also think that they are meant to speak to human experience at some deeper level. I reject the historical sense, and yet I find much truth in the deeper, poetic sense.

When you say â??lots of room for error there,â? I believe you are saying that there is room for error when we humans try to define dogmas through the exegesis of Biblical texts. I agree with this. I think I agree with much of the above in fact.

That being said, I see only a couple of available sources for doctrine among Protestants. One is personal revelation. God can teach truth to individuals. The other is reason based. Aquinas builds much of his systematic theology from that which â??must beâ? based upon his use of reason. He however acknowledges that things like the Trinity come only because God revealed them.

In any case, I don't think dogma matters in the eternal run. If God is even remotely fair, he isn't going to judge us by our doctrines at all. Rather, he will judge us by our character. And even then he will be merciful.

Wow! I can agree strongly with this. Doctrine matters only to the extent it enhances or inhibits our development of â??character.â? I would suggest that this development is largely associated with our relationship with God. I rail against doctrines that I think (as Elder Holland pointed to from our monk friend) take away God from me.

And I would change the last bit just a little. That which we become (that â??characterâ? we and He develop within us), will rise with us after death. We will come to understand perfectly what lies before us and then choose our eternal path based on what we have become. This is a self-judgment informed by Godâ??s truth. It is certainly Godâ??s judgment, but it is ours too. I suspect their will be those who claimed to love God and realize that living in full communion with Him is beyond what they truly want. I also suspect their will be honest seekers who were somewhat agnostic, but when they KNOW will embrace God fully. These of course are some of my musings.

I emphasized John above to show that the Nicene view was not without its own logic, and defenders and proponents of the Tinity are bound to go endlessly back and forth for the simple reason that traditional Christianity draws heavily on John â?¦

it does express a metaphysical view of Jesus that I tend to sympathize with more than any other. â?¦

Now on to John as support for homoousia. I am quite convinced by the attempt of T. H. Tobin to place John 1:1 in the same tradition of speculative Hellenistic Judaism as Philo. I can send you that paper if you like, and it should clear up much of your confusion as to why I think homoousia is a convincing reading of John 1:1.

I have already offered some of my thoughts on why John is not advocating homoousia-based divinity / unity. I would be very interested in reading Tobinâ??s paper. You can send it to me at this email tr AT dr DOT com. I guess I should refrain from to much more on this until I read Tobin.

Let me start by making it quite clear that the modalist view simply is not an option. I don't think it is remotely tenable either here or elsewhere in the Bible.

The appeal of modalism IMO is that it is a logically consistent framework. I too have problems with the almost schizophrenic behaviors that God (if modalists are correct) engages in throughout much of the New Testament. Again I will need to read Tobin, but in places where the Bible seems to point to â??the Son is the Father;â? I am not sure the Augustinian Trinity necessarily is supported. If the text is read to say â??the Son is the Father,â? that is modalism. If the text is read to say something else, then I think this â??something elseâ? generally does not support Augustinian Trinitarianism.

As for your objections regarding Jesus's prayer "that they may be one as we are one," etc., more relevant in that regard is gnostic scholarship that places Christianity-- and especially "redeemer hymns" like the early part of John 1-- in the context of gnostic Jewish baptismal sects. According to Pheme Pekins and a whole range of other scholars, the appropriate background for the hymn in John 1 is a Jewish sect that awaited the coming of a heavenly redeemer to allow our souls to ascend to the divine pleroma. The ultimate unio mystica, if you will. While the remainder of the gospel does not necessarily reflect the same theological perspective as its initial hymn, I see evidence that it does. John pictures God as pleroma, love, spirit, light, and truth. He also speaks of eternal life as gnosis "For this is eternal life: to know God." Presumably the unity of the church on this earth could be a sort of foretaste of the mystical union to come.

Perhaps I missed the point of the above, but I am not sure the above does not just support what I am saying rather than refute it. Yes, â??the mystical unionâ? is that to which we are called. But we are called to become as Christ is. To be conformed to His image as He is in the image of the Father. We are called to the union that Christ and the Father already enjoy. It was precisely my point that these passages are illustrative of what divinity is because they invite humans into communion.

â??Knowing Godâ? has a distinctive knowledge sense it seems, but I would suggest it should have an intimate acquaintance sense (and not really in the so called Biblical sense as in to know a woman). Knowing God IMO should be about coming into relationship with Him ever more fully. That is life eternal.

So are you saying that "loving communion" is an "it" that is distinct from the three persons and also from the universe, but that pervades the universe? Sounds like an ousia to me, but maybe I'm misunderstanding you.

I think I responded to most of this in my post to David above. I think the oneness of God is the oneness of communion of divine persons. I believe that the omni- attributes of God are emergent properties of the singular communion and are themselves singular. There can only be one omnipotent in the universe. Ostler illustrates this by saying that water has emergent properties that are not possessed by hydrogen or oxygen. That being said, the distinctiveness of the divine persons IMO is essential to their relatedness, their love. So the omni-attributes of divinity are not a product of the distinctiveness of the persons OR of their embodiment; rather the distinctiveness is necessary for the communion and then the One God who is a communion of divine persons possesses the omni-attributes. It could be said that the divine persons share the omni-attributes, but their communion with its common mind, will, purpose, â?¦ makes the word â??shareâ? a weak description.

I do not have a huge problem with the idea that these emerging properties as a product of the one communion could be called an ousia. I just maintain that God the Father loves God the Son in a fully interpersonal (though perfected) sense AND that this is the love He offers us.

I think I will close here. I am suspecting that we certainly have some common ground beyond what I had originally supposed.

Charity, TOm

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Tom,

I sent you a copy of the Tobin paper. David Waltz also requested a copy. In addition to or in lieu of the paper, here are some places on MAD where I've commented on the Tobin paper and what I think are its implications for interpreting John:

http://www.mormonapologetics.org/index.php...entry1208273308

http://www.mormonapologetics.org/index.php...entry1208226273

http://www.mormonapologetics.org/index.php...entry1208226362

http://www.mormonapologetics.org/index.php...entry1208226459

http://www.mormonapologetics.org/index.php...entry1208227118

The last four posts are all from the same thread, titled "Origen on the Anthropomorphic God".

I'd like to just clarify a couple things:

Instead, you see within John a place where the â??metaphysical view of Jesusâ? is more clearly illustrated.

Not really. I'd just say John's metaphysical view of Jesus is something I sympathize with. That doesn't mean that it's necessarily more or less clearly illustrated than elsewhere in the Bible. Again, I don't even see the Christologies of, say, John and Mark as necessarily compatible.

When you say â??lots of room for error there,â? I believe you are saying that there is room for error when we humans try to define dogmas through the exegesis of Biblical texts.

I'm also suggesting that there's lots of room for error to have occurred in the composition and transmission of these texts. I think that the Bible is a human reflection on encounters with the divine. In that sense, it is no less prone to error than when I come and report to you that I had a vision in my bedroom, and proceed to interpret it and draw doctrinal inferences. In other words, I don't think we can treat it any differently than any other religious text, although if the "specialness" of Jesus is confirmed by our experience then the Bible is likely to be a helpful resource for unearthing what the historical Jesus said and did.

That being said, I see only a couple of available sources for doctrine among Protestants. One is personal revelation. God can teach truth to individuals. The other is reason based.

Agreed.

Wow! I can agree strongly with this. Doctrine matters only to the extent it enhances or inhibits our development of â??character.â? I would suggest that this development is largely associated with our relationship with God. I rail against doctrines that I think (as Elder Holland pointed to from our monk friend) take away God from me.

I must admit to some sympathy with the Arminian, anthropomorphic view of God as the jovial abba who just wants us all to be happy. But when I look around me, I see little evidence that that's really who God is. So while I can understand the objection that highly-metaphysical doctrines of God have "taken him away from us", I also bring a certain cynicism to the question that wonders if this loss isn't as inevitable as the loss of Santa Claus or of benevolent government.

Perhaps I missed the point of the above, but I am not sure the above does not just support what I am saying rather than refute it. Yes, â??the mystical unionâ? is that to which we are called. But we are called to become as Christ is. To be conformed to His image as He is in the image of the Father. We are called to the union that Christ and the Father already enjoy. It was precisely my point that these passages are illustrative of what divinity is because they invite humans into communion.

Perhaps we can explore this further after you've read Tobin and commented thereon.

It still feels very odd to speak of panentheism as an "emergent" property of communion between three persons. I don't entirely understand the concept. I'd ask you to expound further, but maybe it's one of those things that can't really be expounded? Like the Trinity. :P

-Chris

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  • 2 weeks later...

Chris,

There is too much here to not say a bit before the thread totally vanishes. I began doing other things while waiting for the paper, and â?¦ sorry.

I have read the paper and reviewed the threads you linked to.

I think I can see how Wisdom Tradition could be linked to John 1 as has been done. There are certainly many points of contact with the use of â??wisdomâ? in Jewish â??wisdomâ? literature and the use of â??logosâ? in John.

I am less sure that the Hellenized Wisdom traditions should be viewed as supportive of a an Hellenized Logos tradition. Does that make sense?

There are also concerns associated with the numerous different ideas in the Wisdom Tradition. Tobin seems to focus on Wisdom is similar / identical to Logos in Philo (an arguably already Hellenized source). Philo also calls Wisdom the wife of God and the mother of the Logos. I am not as familiar with the entire body of Wisdom Traditions, but if one author can speak like Wisdom = Logos AND speak like Wisdom is the mother of Logos, I suspect there is a huge spectrum of Wisdom Tradition.

Now, it seems to me that the importance of this is that Tobin and you believe that the Wisdom Tradition represented by Philo was an accepted seed for the Gospel of John. The Gospel of John is scripture and if it is intended to be understood as part of this tradition, it lends support to a number of ideas. Towards our discussion here, I think the most important idea would be that God the Father communicates / creates / â?¦ through His Logos largely because God the Father is wholly transcendent. This view of the transcendent God requiring / using an intermediary for the purpose of creation (and elevation of mankind to Him BTW) would support various concepts associated with an immaterial (and perhaps impassible/immutable) God. When we see John 1:1 call the logos God, we can know that the divine nature of Christ is similarly immaterial? Thus, John 1 supports the immaterial nature of God and the divine Logos. This lends itself to seeing the Trinity and two-nature Christology. Is that about where you are going?

There is almost no actual use of â??ousia in Tobin or John. Tobin mentions Philo used the word ousia in connection with â??life givingâ? characteristic of the breath of God (most commonly viewed as the spirit). Tobin links this to the Logos. This is however a very small part of Tobinâ??s paper.

I think my strongest concern (or whatever it is that gives BIASED me permission to disagree) is that the Wisdom Tradition was not originally (if I understand correctly) a Hellenized Wisdom Tradition. If as Margaret Barker suggests much of first temple cult Judaism was restored through Christ, John could have been writing in the non-Hellenized Wisdom Tradition which seemed instead to speak of Son(s) of God rather than emanations from the immaterial, impassible, immutable God.

Now, I am not saying that Tobin and you do not have a point. I am not even sure I am qualified to assess the strength and weakness of your point. I am also quite confident that I have read things with less merit than Tobinâ??s paper (regardless of how merit-full or merit-less it is in the eyes of a more qualified critic) that I was willing to call â??interestingâ? toward supporting the LDS paradigm. But, BIASED as I am, I was able to point to things that seemed troubling to me.

I would be interested to know of Davidâ??s view and your assessment of what I said concerning â??where you were going.â?

I will try to offer a little on â??emergent panetheism.â?

â??Emergentâ? here means that the characteristics being referred to are not a sum of the inputs, but rather a product of the communion of the inputs. Hydrogen and Oxygen do not act similar to water, but when combined they have the properties of water.

So the individual persons in the divine community possess characteristics necessary to be in communion. Things like perfect self-giving love. Sinlessness (cleanliness). Rationality. Probably Omni-benevolence. Perhaps a degree of Intelligence (whatever that means when quantified in LDS thought). Separated from the communion (and I think Christ in His incarnation was partially separated), they are extraordinary like Christ was (I lean toward the view that Christ through the Father and Spirit performed miracles and â?¦. This was a communion similar to what we glimpse briefly during our peaks of spirituality, but Christ enjoyed it continually).

But, in communion God possesses emergent properties. Omnipotence, Omniscience, Omni-presence, and â?¦ are exercised by the One God. Emanating from God is light, truth, concurring energy. Perceived by God is all that occurs everywhere simultaneously. These are panetheistic characteristics.

Most of the above is from Ostler. If you have not read him, I think he would be very interesting.

Charity, TOm

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Incidentally, the full text can be read here. Note that there is at least one typo: the word imminent (about to happen) appears where immanent (working in the world) probably should be.

Maybe 4Truth should start a thread arguing that Elder Holland must be uninspired because of a spelling mistake.

Regards,

Pahoran

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Incidentally, the full text can be read here. Note that there is at least one typo: the word imminent (about to happen) appears where immanent (working in the world) probably should be.

Maybe 4Truth should start a thread arguing that Elder Holland must be uninspired because of a spelling mistake.

Regards,

Pahoran

You and Dan Peterson are the only ones I can think of who appear to type flawless text on first draft.

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Tom,

It think you have correctly understood where I'm going with this. The similarities between Philo and John are sufficiently striking to suggest that what John had in mind was similar to what Philo had in mind. By the way, another first-century document (roughly contemporary with the Gospel of John) that apparently developed from the same Hellenistic Jewish environs as Philo and the fourth gospel is the Odes of Solomon. The Odes are a collection of proto-gnostic or proto-Christian Jewish hymns attributed to Solomon. The Odes use the same kind of language to describe an intermediary figure between the transcendent God and the world; the intermediar(y/ies) is/are variously called Logos, Wisdom, the Holy Spirit, and the Son. Similarly to what you noted about how Philo speaks of Wisdom as the mother of the Logos even though the two are also used interchangeably, the Odes speak of Wisdom as the (virgin) mother of the Son. There is no physical incarnation in the Odes (though in some respects they come very close), but there is a salvific descent. Here the mediator descends and takes up residence in the human heart, where it acts as an interface between the human and the divine. I consider the Odes a step closer to Christianity even than Philo, though I usually prefer to appeal to Philo both because he is more articulate/explicit and because a few evangelical scholars (like Charlesworth) seem to think that the Odes are Christian or have a superficial Christian overlay.

Here's a quote from a very nice online article about the Odes:

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There is as yet no firm development of an incarnationâ??certainly not in "flesh"â??and the Word or Son is probably not yet perceived as a separate entity, only a highlighted aspect of God, an emanation from him that serves a revelatory, mediatorial function, channel of the knowledge which brings salvation to the elect.

But a complex of spiritual attributes, titles and feelings are coalescing around this emanation, drawing the believer's and the Odist's attentions, not away from God himself, but toward a different way of viewing him, although the Odist often bypasses this aspect entirely, keeping the traditional focus directly on the Father and Lord. These parts of God are beginning to assume their own personality, attracting love and worship of their own. They are developing their own spiritual mythology, drawn from older Wisdom speculation and outside influences. The Word as God's voice, Wisdom as his helper and channel of knowledge, the Son as his only-begotten, his representative in the world, are merging into an hypostasis, a stripped-off aspect of God with an identity of its own. Inevitably this process did not stand still, but led to the increasing sense of a separate divine personage. Mystical imagery became historical biography, and the immediate source of salvation passed from God to his Son.

When the evangelists brought Jesus of Nazareth into the light, they gave the Son a face.

http://pages.ca.inter.net/~oblio/supp04.htm

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If you have time and are interested, you might want to check out the whole article; I think it's really very illuminating.

In any case, all of this is not necessarily to say that this is the right or the only way to conceive of the relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But I do think it explains and legitimizes the Church Fathers' anti-anthropomorphic reading of the New Testament. For a first- or second-century intellectual, John's use of the term "logos" to describe the pre-existent Jesus would have summoned up a whole range of Platonic associations. I think this was largely intentional on John's part. Reading the New Testament through this kind of Platonic framework, I suggest, leads quite naturally to something very much like Trinitarianism.

Your description of emergent panentheism is intriguing. I've been intending for some time now to read Ostler's Exploring Mormon Thought series, but haven't gotten to it yet. Is that where I would find his thoughts on emergent panentheism?

Blessings,

-Chris

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