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Rob Bowman

Orthodox Christians Are Atheists

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In recent posts on the Mormon Dialogue and Discussion Board, two Mormons have asserted that orthodox Christians, who believe that God is an immaterial being existing in three persons, are actually atheists:

“The more I think about it, the more I come to realize that trinitarians are closet atheists because God doesn't exist in any real way for them. It's just an abstraction.” BCSpace, Mormon Dialogue and Discussion Board, 5 Aug. 2011.

“An ‘immaterial’ non-existant God who doesn’t have a body is the very definition of Athieism.” Zakuska, Mormon Dialogue and Discussion Board, 22 Sept. 2011.

Are these opinions isolated to a couple of extremists, or are they representative of a significant tradition of Mormon criticism of orthodox Christianity? The latter is in fact the case.

The roots of this line of argument against orthodox Christianity are in Joseph Smith’s teaching. In an undated statement, probably from about 1842 or 1843, Joseph Smith is reported to have said, “That which is without body or parts is nothing. There is no other God in heaven but that God who has flesh and bones” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 2007, 42). Notice that the recent Teachings manual, published by the LDS Church as a curriculum, includes this statement.

Although Joseph Smith did not label orthodox Christians as atheists, his statement did imply that they worship nothing. Very soon thereafter Mormons would expand on Joseph’s criticism and argue that orthodox Christianity is a form of atheism. In 1845, the year after Joseph’s death, the LDS publication Prophet published an article, which B. H. Roberts later attributed to its editor, LDS apostle Parley P. Pratt:

“O sectarianism! O atheism! O annihilation!!! Who can perceive the nice shades of difference between the one and the other? They seem alike all but in name. The atheist has no God. The sectarian has a God without body or parts. Who can define the difference? for our part we do not perceive a difference of a single hair; they both claim to be the negative of all things which exist—and both are equally powerless and unknown.” Quoted in B. H. Roberts, The Mormon Doctrine of Deity (1903; reprint, Bountiful, UT: Horizon, n.d.), 255.

Later that same year a Mormon letter to the editor of Times and Seasons quoted with approval the following statement from Thomas Jefferson:

“To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothing. To say that the human soul, angels, God, are immaterial, is to say they are nothings, or that there is not God, no angels, no soul.” Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, quoted in Times and Seasons, 15 July 1845.

The editorial comment that followed the letter affirmed the legitimacy of Jefferson’s criticism of orthodox Christianity:

“So it seems that the immortal (Thomas Jefferson) was so much of a Saint or Mormon, that God knew he was a (wise man), and raised him up on purpose to prepare the way for breaking to pieces Nebuchadnezzar's image of governments, priests, misrule, confusion and false religion!”

The most influential and in-depth articulation of this criticism came just four years later from LDS apostle Orson Pratt, Parley’s brother. It is a central claim in his 1849 pamphlet, Absurdities of Immaterialism:

IMMATERIALISTS ARE ATHEISTS

There are two classes of Atheists in the world. One class denies the existence of God in the most positive language: the other denies his existence in duration or space. One says, ‘There is no God;’ the other says, ‘God is not here or there, any more than he exists now and then.’ The infidel says, God does not exist anywhere. The Immaterialist says, ‘He exists nowhere.’ The infidel says, There is no such substance as God. The Immaterialist says, There is such a substance as God, but it is ‘without parts.’ The atheist says, There is no such substance as Spirit. The Immaterialist says, ‘A spirit, though he lives and acts, occupies no room, and fills no space, in the same way and in the same manner as matter, not even so much as does the minutest grain of sand.’ The Atheist does not seek to hide his infidelity: but the Immaterialist, whose declared belief amounts to the same thing as the Atheist’s, endeavors to hide his infidelity under the shallow covering of a few words.

…Nothing, and nothing only, is a representative of that which has no relation to space or time—that is, unextended, indivisible, and without parts. Therefore, the Immaterialist is a religious Atheist; he only differs from the other class of Atheists, by clothing an indivisible unextended NOTHING with the powers of a god. One class believes in no God; the other believes that NOTHING is god, and worships it as such. There is no twisting away from this. The most profound philosopher in all the ranks of modern Christianity, cannot extricate the Immaterialists from atheism. He cannot show the least difference between the idea represented by the word nothing, and the idea represented by that which is unextended, indivisible, and without parts, having no relation to space or time. All the philosophers of the universe could not give a better or more correct definition of Nothing. And yet this is the god worshipped by the Church of England—the Methodists—and millions of other atheistical idolators, according to their own definitions, as recorded in their respective articles of faith. An open Atheist is not so dangerous as the Atheist who couches his atheistical doctrines under the head of ‘ARTICLES OF RELIGION.’ The first stands out with open colours, and boldly avows his infidelity; the latter, under the sacred garb of religion, draws into his yawning vortex, the unhappy millions who are persuaded to believe in, and worship an unextended indivisible nothing without parts, deified into a god. A pious Atheist is much more serviceable in building up the kingdom of darkness than one who openly, and without any deception, avows his infidelity….

There is no more absurdity in calling Nothing a substance, and clothing it with Almighty powers, than there is in making a substance out of that which is precisely like nothing, and imagining it to have Almighty powers. Therefore, an immaterial god is a deified Nothing, and all his worshippers are atheistic idolaters.

Orson Pratt, Absurdities of Immaterialism (Liverpool, 1849), 11-12.

A lengthy quotation from the above section of Pratt’s pamphlet was included in James E. Talmage’s extremely popular and influential book The Articles of Faith (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1899), originally as appendix 2:9 (see, e.g., the 1924 ed., 465). Talmage quoted Pratt in support of Talmage’s own statement:

“We affirm that to deny the materiality of God’s person is to deny God; for a thing without parts has no whole, and an immaterial body cannot exist” (1924 ed., 48).

Talmage’s The Articles of Faith, published by the LDS Church, was commissioned by the LDS Church as a doctrinal curriculum. It was therefore indisputably an official publication of the LDS Church, and remained so for nearly a century (see David J. Whittaker, “Articles of Faith,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow, Macmillan, 1992, 69). Pratt’s assessment of orthodox Christians as religious atheists, then, endorsed by Talmage in a book commissioned and published by the LDS Church as a basic doctrinal curriculum textbook, rose to the level of an official doctrinal teaching of the LDS Church, at least for most of the twentieth century. The influence of Talmage’s book and of the specific quotation from Pratt is exemplified in the following Mormon blogger’s article from 2006:

“And although it is not politically correct to point it out, traditional Christianity is a form of atheism for much the same reason. If they do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God literally, they also do not believe that God exists literally. Rather he is an incorporeal God. This point was driven home to me by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost when I was first investigating the Mormon faith during my junior year of high school in 1962. I was profoundly enlightened while reading The Articles of Faith, by James E. Talmage, when I came across this teaching of Orson Pratt in the footnotes to the chapter on the nature of the God-head. To this day, it is one of the most important paragraphs of written English I have ever read…. [gives quotation from Pratt as found in Talmage] Of course, there is little difference between believing there is no God, and believing in a God that is nothing. Do traditional Christians really believe that Jesus is the Son of God? Well… not really. They believe it only in a figurative or poetic sense. Do they really believe that there is a God? Well… not really. They believe in an incorporeal God, or in other words, a God that does not really exist in any meaningful sense of that word. They believe that Jesus is the Son of God only in literary or poetic sense. And they believe in the existence of God only in a mystical, incomprehensible sense.” John W. Redelfs, “There are two classes of atheists in this world,” 19 April 2006.

B. H. Roberts was another influential LDS leader contemporary with Talmage who shared Pratt’s view, as the following quotation demonstrates:

“To assert the immateriality of God as substance, is not only to deny his personality, but his very existence; for an immaterial substance cannot exist. It can have no relation to time or space, no form, no extension, no parts. An immaterial substance is simply no substance at all; it is a contradiction of terms to say a substance is immaterial—it is the description of an infinite vacuum; and the difference between the atheist and the orthodox Christian is one of terms, not of fact; the former says, ‘There is no God;’ the latter in his creed says, ‘God is nothing.’” B. H. Roberts, Outlines of Ecclesiastical History: A Textbook (1893; Classics in Mormon Literature, Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1979), 192. (Roberts then quotes Pratt with approval, 194.)

Twentieth-century Mormon leaders echoed these criticisms of orthodox Christianity. For example, Heber C. Iverson made the following statement at General Conference in 1920:

“....Thomas Jefferson expressed himself in a letter to his distinguished friend, John Adams, in this wise, ‘When we speak of an immaterial existence, we speak of nothing; when we say that God, angels, and the human soul are immaterial, we say there is no God, no angels, no human soul.’ I cannot reason otherwise. At what age of the Christian church this heresy of immaterialism or veiled atheism crept in, I do not know, but heresy it truly is.”—Heber C. Iverson, Conference Report, April 1920, 84.

Iverson’s statement has been quoted recently, for example, by Kerry A. Shirts in his online article, “There Is No Immaterial God in the Bible nor Mormonism” (which also quotes Roberts on the same point with approval).

Bruce R. McConkie, in the now sometimes maligned, sometimes respected reference work Mormon Doctrine, expressed the same opinion:

“…those who profess belief in the sectarian God are in a position at least akin to atheism for their God is defined in effect as an immaterial nothing.” Bruce R. McConkie, “Atheism,” in Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed. (Bookcraft, 1966), 59.

McConkie goes on to quote Orson Pratt’s statement above with approval.

The evidence surveyed here proves that Mormons throughout LDS Church history, beginning a year after Joseph Smith’s death, have repeatedly asserted that the orthodox Christian view of God as immaterial spirit is a form of atheism or tantamount to atheism. The Pratt brothers, Roberts, and Talmage made this a standard, even (through Talmage’s Articles of Faith) official, view of the LDS Church through at least most of the twentieth century.

Edited by Rob Bowman

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EbedLife.png

Rob, per your own tactic which you used with me:

A simple yes or no will suffice:

If you are worshipping something which consists of nothing, do you not worship nothing?

And if what you worship is in fact nothing, is that not by definition atheism?

Rob, The shoe is on the other foot. Fun, huh?

Edit: For the record, I do not believe that my misguided Christian syblings are atheists, not even Rob :D

Edited by ebeddoulos

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I want to get this on the record because Tertullian (the guy that first coined the word "Trinity") Had the same sentiments.

Tertullian : Against Praxeas

Chapter 7. The Son by Being Designated Word and Wisdom, (According to the Imperfection of Human Thought and Language) Liable to Be Deemed a Mere Attribute. He is Shown to Be a Personal BeingThen, therefore, does the Word also Himself assume His own form and glorious garb, His own sound and vocal utterance, when God says, “Let there be light.” Genesis 1:3 This is the perfect nativity of the Word, when He proceeds forth from God— formed by Him first to devise and think out all things under the name of Wisdom— “The Lord created or formed me as the beginning of His ways;” Proverbs 8:22 then afterward begotten, to carry all into effect— “When He prepared the heaven, I was present with Him.” Thus does He make Him equal to Him: for by proceeding from Himself He became His first-begotten Son, because begotten before all things; Colossians 1:15 and His only-begotten also, because alone begotten of God, in a way peculiar to Himself, from the womb of His own heart— even as the Father Himself testifies: “My heart,” says He, “has emitted my most excellent Word.” The Father took pleasure evermore in Him, who equally rejoiced with a reciprocal gladness in the Father's presence: “You are my Son, today have I begotten You;” even before the morning star did I beget You. The Son likewise acknowledges the Father, speaking in His own person, under the name of Wisdom: “The Lord formed Me as the beginning of His ways, with a view to His own works; before all the hills did He beget Me.” For if indeed Wisdom in this passage seems to say that She was created by the Lord with a view to His works, and to accomplish His ways, yet proof is given in another Scripture that “all things were made by the Word, and without Him was there nothing made;” John 1:3 as, again, in another place (it is said), “By His word were the heavens established, and all the powers thereof by His Spirit” — that is to say, by the Spirit (or Divine Nature) which was in the Word: thus is it evident that it is one and the same power which is in one place described under the name of Wisdom, and in another passage under the appellation of the Word, which was initiated for the works of God Proverbs 8:22 which “strengthened the heavens;” “by which all things were made,” John 1:3 “and without which nothing was made.” John 1:3 Nor need we dwell any longer on this point, as if it were not the very Word Himself, who is spoken of under the name both of Wisdom and of Reason, and of the entire Divine Soul and Spirit. He became also the Son of God, and was begotten when He proceeded forth from Him. Do you then, (you ask,) grant that the Word is a certain substance, constructed by the Spirit and the communication of Wisdom? Certainly I do. But you will not allow Him to be really a substantive being, by having a substance of His own; in such a way that He may be regarded as an objective thing and a person, and so be able (as being constituted second to God the Father,) to make two, the Father and the Son, God and the Word. For you will say, what is a word, but a voice and sound of the mouth, and (as the grammarians teach) air when struck against, intelligible to the ear, but for the rest a sort of void, empty, and incorporeal thing. I, on the contrary, contend that nothing empty and void could have come forth from God, seeing that it is not put forth from that which is empty and void; nor could that possibly be devoid of substance which has proceeded from so great a substance, and has produced such mighty substances: for all things which were made through Him, He Himself (personally) made. How could it be, that He Himself is nothing, without whom nothing was made? How could He who is empty have made things which are solid, and He who is void have made things which are full, and He who is incorporeal have made things which have body? For although a thing may sometimes be made different from him by whom it is made, yet nothing can be made by that which is a void and empty thing. Is that Word of God, then, a void and empty thing, which is called the Son, who Himself is designated God? “The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1 It is written, “You shall not take God's name in vain.” Exodus 20:7 This for certain is He “who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” Philippians 2:6 In what form of God? Of course he means in some form, not in none. For who will deny that God is a body, although “God is a Spirit?” John 4:24 For Spirit has a bodily substance of its own kind, in its own form. Now, even if invisible things, whatsoever they be, have both their substance and their form in God, whereby they are visible to God alone, how much more shall that which has been sent forth from His substance not be without substance! Whatever, therefore, was the substance of the Word that I designate a Person, I claim for it the name of Son; and while I recognize the Son, I assert His distinction as second to the Father.

http://www.newadvent...athers/0317.htm

He is expressing the idea that Christ isn't a mere non-existant attribute of Gods imagination (ie immaterial), but an actual Physical emination from an actual Physical God.

Edited by Zakuska

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Wouldn't you turn Joseph's statement around and say, "There is no other God in heaven but that God who does not have flesh and bones"? Don't you believe that a God with flesh and bones cannot exist? So how is that any different from what they're saying? Maybe saying that those who believe in an immaterial God are atheists was inaccurate, but you're applying a double standard here.

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Rob,

Our Lord's authorities in his Church did a fine job in explaining our position. It's just that you are having some trouble correctly understanding what they really meant.

Try this: The God you worship (and yes I am saying you worship God, in some sense) doesn't have any form or substance, as far as you know.

That's a correct statement of your belief, I think.

What our Lord's authorities in his Church are saying is that anything that doesn't have any form or substance is not "real" or "physical" in any sense, even though he could exist as an abstract thought or concept or in some other way than as some real live person or being which can actually be seen and touched.

The fact that we can't see him or touch him in our present state doesn't mean it's not possible to see or touch him, though.

Right now we can't see him, but later we will and know that he is as real as we are, with some real form and substance.

And the fact that you don't believe he doesn't have any form or substance doesn't mean you think he isn't real, either. It just means you don't know that he has form and substance, and yet you worship him anyway.

Edited by Ahab

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The fact that we can't see him or touch him in our present state doesn't mean it's not possible to see or touch him, though.

1 John 3

2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

Also we need to remember that Christ has seen God...

John 6:46

46 Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father.

He intimates here that God has a "shape" that can be physically seen, but that the Pharasees have never seen it but HE has.

John 5:37

37 And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.

Note: For the record, as ebeddoulod I don't think Rob is an Athiest either. I just think that his doctrine is Aitheistic without him even realizing it. Like Christ said to the woman at the well: "Ye know not what ye worship"

Edited by Zakuska

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Ahab,

You're putting a very nice, gentle construction on what LDS Church leaders have said, and I respect your right to do so and to approach this subject in your own way, but I don't think I've misunderstood them at all. Pratt, and those who echoed him, explicitly described orthodox Christians as "atheists." Indeed, Pratt thought we were more dangerous than regular, self-avowed atheists, because, he claimed, we claim to believe in God but are in reality covert atheists.

Rob,

Our Lord's authorities in his Church did a fine job in explaining our position. It's just that you are having some trouble correctly understanding what they really meant.

Try this: The God you worship (and yes I am saying you worship God, in some sense) doesn't have any form or substance, as far as you know.

That's a correct statement of your belief, I think.

What our Lord's authorities in his Church are saying is that anything that doesn't have any form or substance is not "real" or "physical" in any sense, even though he could exist as an abstract thought or concept or in some other way than as some real live person or being which can actually be seen and touched.

The fact that we can't see him or touch him in our present state doesn't mean it's not possible to see or touch him, though.

Right now we can't see him, but later we will and know that he is as real as we are, with some real form and substance.

And the fact that you don't believe he doesn't have any form or substance doesn't mean you think he isn't real, either. It just means you don't know that he has form and substance, and yet you worship him anyway.

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A real researcher would poll a statistically significant sample of Latter-day Saints the world over and ask the question "does a Christian worshipping an immaterial God equal Atheism?"

When the laughter subsided you could count the results.

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Another good question to ask is "does an 1849 polemical essay by Orson Pratt carry the weight of doctrine for Latter-day Saints?"

When the laughter subsided you could count the results.

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Steve,

You wrote:

Wouldn't you turn Joseph's statement around and say, "There is no other God in heaven but that God who does not have flesh and bones"? Don't you believe that a God with flesh and bones cannot exist? So how is that any different from what they're saying? Maybe saying that those who believe in an immaterial God are atheists was inaccurate, but you're applying a double standard here.

Putting words in my mouth, and then declaring, based on those words I never said, that I am applying a double standard, is a rhetorical trick, not a legitimate criticism.

At this point, I'm not even arguing with Pratt and the other Mormon authorities. From their point of view, I don't believe in God. If one accepts Joseph's premise that whatever lacks body or parts is nothing, then Pratt's conclusion that orthodox theism is really a form of atheism follows logically. That is, if Joseph is right, we orthodox Christians not only don't worship God, we don't worship anything because an immaterial spirit is literally nothing.

Of course, I disagree with these men, but I'm not criticizing them for speaking true to their convictions. I'm simply documenting that this is indeed a prevalent criticism of orthodox Christianity that has its roots in Joseph Smith's teaching and that prevailed throughout most of the twentieth century (and is still expressed by some Mormons today).

From my point of view, the Mormon conception of God is false, radically so. They do not believe in the kind of God that is worshiped by orthodox Christians (as well as traditionalist Jews and Muslims). But they are not atheists from my perspective; they are polytheists (believers in many gods). I take a very dim view of Mormon theology, just as Smith, the Pratts, Roberts, Talmage, McConkie, et. al. took a very dim view of orthodox Christian theology. But I don't view Mormonism as a form of atheism; my criticism runs along different lines.

I am not personally offended by the historic Mormon stance toward orthodox Christian theology. I am not personally offended by Mormons who forthrightly express such a stance. I am also not offended by Mormons who take a gentler attitude toward orthodox Christian theology.

I am, however, personally offended by obviously intelligent, educated Mormons with decades in the LDS religion--individuals who should already have known that what I said was true--who accuse me of lying about the traditional Mormon criticism of orthodox Christian theology. You didn't do this, but others did--and there's no excuse for it.

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2 Corinthians 12:2

2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.

So did this man just vanish into thin air and go nowhere? Did he travel into his own mind?

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Putting words in my mouth, and then declaring, based on those words I never said, that I am applying a double standard, is a rhetorical trick, not a legitimate criticism.

That deserves to be repeated. In fact you should use it as part of your signature.

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DaddyG,

You wrote:

A real researcher would poll a statistically significant sample of Latter-day Saints the world over and ask the question "does a Christian worshipping an immaterial God equal Atheism?"

That would be a fine research project for a statistician. I'm not a statistician. Nor did I claim that a particular percentage of Mormons today would make this criticism. What I said was that some, not all, Mormons do make this criticism, and that it is fairly common. If those statements can be criticized, it is for being too weak, as the evidence shows this was a criticism made by Mormon apostles for most of the LDS religion's history.

You wrote:

Another good question to ask is "does an 1849 polemical essay by Orson Pratt carry the weight of doctrine for Latter-day Saints?"

Yes, it does, when it is quoted with approval in a doctrinal curriculum book commissioned and published by the LDS Church--the most widely read and influential doctrinal curriculum book, by far, from the beginning of the twentieth century until probably the 1970s or 1980s.

You wrote:

When the laughter subsided you could count the results.

When you're done making diversionary comments you could try engaging the argument I presented.

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At this point, I'm not even arguing with Pratt and the other Mormon authorities. From their point of view, I don't believe in God. If one accepts Joseph's premise that whatever lacks body or parts is nothing, then Pratt's conclusion that orthodox theism is really a form of atheism follows logically. That is, if Joseph is right, we orthodox Christians not only don't worship God, we don't worship anything because an immaterial spirit is literally nothing.

Well... Satan is an 'immaterial spirit' so you do worship something Rob. 8P

(Sorry I had too)

Thats the distiction. LDS do not beleive that spirits are immaterial. God created them after all so they have to be something as opposed to nothing (ex nihilio and all).

PS. Thanks for all the good Quotes. I'll Stand with Brother Joseph.

Any comments on Tertullian?

Edited by Zakuska

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As much as Rob may wish to make this into a monumental issue, I view it as rather benign and insubstantial. To me, the notion that orthodox Christians may be atheistic, isn't so much an extreme view as it is a unique or perhaps esoteric philosophical perspective voiced almost imperceptibly throughout the 120 or so years since the gospel was restored.

I don't think that anyone is arguing that orthodox Christians can be categories as atheists, but rather that there may be some philosophical similarities in how they view the existence of God. That's all.

I don't happen to share this philosophical view, though I can respect how others may see it that way.

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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Zakuska,

You wrote:

Well... Satan is an 'immaterial spirit' so you do worship something Rob.

Funny comment, but I think you might be mistaken about the LDS doctrine of Satan. I'm pretty sure the standard position is that he has a spirit body but has been denied the opportunity ever to obtain a body of flesh and bones. Statements to the effect that he was denied a body were later interpreted, I think, to mean that he was denied a physical, flesh-and-bones body, but that he did and does have a spirit body.

We can check our sources on this if you like, but it's a tangential issue.

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Wade,

I'm not trying to make this issue into something bigger than it is. Remember, I made an off-hand comment and I was issued a CFR and accused of lying about this. In short, I was not the one who made a federal case out of this question.

That having been said, it is a significant issue. It demonstrates that historically the LDS Church has taken a very critical view indeed of traditional, orthodox Christianity.

As much as Rob may wish to make this into a monumental issue, I view it as rather benign and insubstantial. To me, the notion that orthodox Christians may be atheistic, isn't so much an extreme view as it is a unique or perhaps esoteric philosophical perspective voiced almost imperceptibly throughout the 120 or so years since the gospel was restored.

I don't think that anyone is arguing that orthodox Christians can be categories as atheists, but rather that there may be some philosophical similarities in how they view the existence of God. That's all.

I don't happen to share this philosophical view, though I can respect how others may see it that way.

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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Zakuska,

You wrote:

Funny comment, but I think you might be mistaken about the LDS doctrine of Satan. I'm pretty sure the standard position is that he has a spirit body but has been denied the opportunity ever to obtain a body of flesh and bones. Statements to the effect that he was denied a body were later interpreted, I think, to mean that he was denied a physical, flesh-and-bones body, but that he did and does have a spirit body.

We can check our sources on this if you like, but it's a tangential issue.

No I agree completely with every thing you said right there.

But thats the thing do not Christians beleive that Satan is an 'immaterial spirit being' a Son of the morning infact who fell from heaven, who God creatred, etc. etc. etc. (As do Mormons)

The joke was just my lame attempt at trying to join our two ideas together. To show you that a created being can't really be immaterial. It has to be something or it is the black void of annialation and non-existance.

Edited by Zakuska

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When you're done making diversionary comments you could try engaging the argument I presented.

You missed the point of my statements although humorous they were not diversionary. They were meant to make a point. You claim to research Mormonism and know what we believe. I doubt from your essays and questions you have spent two minutes in a contemporary LDS class or Sacrament meeting. You have yet to observe Mormons in their "natural habitat" discussing things of importance to them.

As much as I enjoy the diversion of apologetics it is a far cry from the day to day worship and belief of Mormons.

Because of this I think many who research our literature, curricula and internet ramblings have a scewed view of our belief systems. You suffer from the same errors that early anthropologists suffered when trying to interpret the writings of ancient cultures. What makes this inexcusable is that you have the living, breathing Church and their contemporary teachings to access.

In stead you choose to take speculative teachings from outdates sources and present them as "what Mormons really believe".

Bad form for someone whose claim is understanding other religions. Good practice for someone who is really engaging in polemics and trying to scare others from learning directly from the source.

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I'm not trying to make this issue into something bigger than it is.

Of course not. You are just using it as a red herring to distract from the fact that your previous OP has been shredded.

This is just a slick move to distance yourself from that lost battle.

Although Joseph Smith did not label orthodox Christians as atheists, his statement did imply that they worship nothing.

Case closed.

Of course if you can't distinguish between worshiping "something" that in concept cannot exist (or is an obvious abstraction)

and NOT worshiping at all, then you are in sad shape.

But hey, when you need a red herring, any red herring will do, right?

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When you're done making diversionary comments you could try engaging the argument I presented.

This whole thread is a diversionary tactic to avoid engaging the arguments presented in the previous thread.

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This whole thread is a diversionary tactic to avoid engaging the arguments presented in the previous thread.

Thats why I brought the Tertullian text over here too... and wished Rob would comment on it.

Here is the Important Part again...

For you will say, what is a word, but a voice and sound of the mouth, and (as the grammarians teach) air when struck against, intelligible to the ear, but for the rest a sort of void, empty, and incorporeal thing. I, on the contrary, contend that nothing empty and void could have come forth from God, seeing that it is not put forth from that which is empty and void; nor could that possibly be devoid of substance which has proceeded from so great a substance, and has produced such mighty substances: for all things which were made through Him, He Himself (personally) made. How could it be, that He Himself is nothing, without whom nothing was made? How could He who is empty have made things which are solid, and He who is void have made things which are full, and He who is incorporeal have made things which have body? For although a thing may sometimes be made different from him by whom it is made, yet nothing can be made by that which is a void and empty thing. Is that Word of God, then, a void and empty thing, which is called the Son, who Himself is designated God? “The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1 It is written, “You shall not take God's name in vain.” Exodus 20:7 This for certain is He “who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” Philippians 2:6 In what form of God? Of course he means in some form, not in none. For who will deny that God is a body, although “God is a Spirit?” John 4:24 For Spirit has a bodily substance of its own kind, in its own form. Now, even if invisible things, whatsoever they be, have both their substance and their form in God, whereby they are visible to God alone, how much more shall that which has been sent forth from His substance not be without substance! Whatever, therefore, was the substance of the Word that I designate a Person, I claim for it the name of Son; and while I recognize the Son, I assert His distinction as second to the Father.

That sounds just like...

Doctrine and Covenants 131:7

7 There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes

Edited by Zakuska

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Wade,

I'm not trying to make this issue into something bigger than it is. Remember, I made an off-hand comment and I was issued a CFR and accused of lying about this. In short, I was not the one who made a federal case out of this question.

That having been said, it is a significant issue. It demonstrates that historically the LDS Church has taken a very critical view indeed of traditional, orthodox Christianity.

I, personally, I don't view CFR's and reasonable expressions of doubt as somehow making things into a big issue, Such things are mundane aspects of online debate.

However, in my view, mining a few philosophical quotes concerning a specific aspect of certain Christian's belief from the vast stores of Church material, reading things into some of what is quoted, and purporting it as the LDS historical view of traditional and orthodox Christianity, is to make a huge mountain out of a mole hill.

But, to each their own.

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

Edited by wenglund

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Everyone who believes in God understands him differently. Between some people the difference might be slight, between others it might be large, but I think that no one has a completely perfect understanding of God. Anyone who believes in God, no matter how they understand God is obviously not an atheist. Calling traditional Christians atheists is just bizarre.

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In recent posts on the Mormon Dialogue and Discussion Board, two Mormons have asserted that orthodox Christians, who believe that God is an immaterial being existing in three persons, are actually atheists:

“The more I think about it, the more I come to realize that trinitarians are closet atheists because God doesn't exist in any real way for them. It's just an abstraction.” BCSpace, Mormon Dialogue and Discussion Board, 5 Aug. 2011.

“An ‘immaterial’ non-existant God who doesn’t have a body is the very definition of Athieism.” Zakuska, Mormon Dialogue and Discussion Board, 22 Sept. 2011.

Are these opinions isolated to a couple of extremists, or are they representative of a significant tradition of Mormon criticism of orthodox Christianity? The latter is in fact the case.

The idea that trinitarianism is a form of atheism sounds as absurd to me, a Mormon, as it does to you, Rob. But I think it is a rare Mormon, if any, that actually believes that trinitarians are atheist, despite what they might say. It's just an example of name-calling. It's like when evangelicals call Mormonism a cult.

When Mormons say that a trinitarianism is atheist, they don't really mean that in the literal sense. They just mean that they believe the Trinity is an ill-defined paradox. That's not atheism. Atheism is the belief that there is no God or gods, not the malformed belief that there is a God.

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