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Does LDS Doctrine Actually Reject "Creation Ex Nihilo?"


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[Topic: Creation "Ex Nihilo"]
 
I've frequently seen statements to the effect that, in contrast to other Christians, Mormons reject "Creation Ex Nihilo." Sometimes people refer to this when talking about "Mormon cosmology" and the like.
 
(1) What are the actual *doctrinal* underpinnings of the positions that Mormons reject creation ex-nihilo?
 
(2) What is the basis of this "Mormon cosmology," and is it really doctrine?
 
For example, the King Follett discourse is, to my knowledge, not considered "doctrine." And while people may read certain sections of the D&C and Book of Abraham to support their view (that creation was not ex-nihilo), this is an interpretation of scripture, and not itself binding doctrine, since other interpretive schemes exist that seem like they could be consistent with creation ex nihilo (i.e. one can agree that scripture is authoritative without agreeing that a particular interpretation of it is). General authorities may have said we reject ex nihilo, but were they talking as "men" or "prophets," let alone in unison as a First Presidency + Q12? And it seems there are competing views as to what doctrine is contained in the Temple ceremony.
 
Is the rejection of the doctrine of creation "ex nihilo" really just folk tradition, and not doctrine?
 
In your opinion, is the science of the big bang more or less compatible with creation ex nihilo than so-called "Mormon cosmology" (which I would be delighted to discover is actually not doctrine!)? Why or why not?
 
350px-CMB_Timeline300_no_WMAP.jpg
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Cool topic. 

The way you've framed it, I would say that the Mormon Plan of Salvation and Family Proclamation imply a co-eternal nature of man and God. 

If the Big Bang began with a singularity, that allows for the possibility of co-eternality of intelligences, our earliest state of existence, since intelligences are neither spirit or physical. 

But the Big Bang does not imply ex nihilo. Compressed energy is not nothing.

But "never nothing" does not necessitate Mormon co-eternality either. So the BB contradicts ex nihilo, does not necessarily contradict co-eternality, but does not support co-eternality either.

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49 minutes ago, Mormons Talk said:
(1) What are the actual *doctrinal* underpinnings of the positions that Mormons reject creation ex-nihilo?
 
(2) What is the basis of this "Mormon cosmology," and is it really doctrine?
 
For example, the King Follett discourse is, to my knowledge, not considered "doctrine." And while people may read certain sections of the D&C and Book of Abraham to support their view (that creation was not ex-nihilo), this is an interpretation of scripture, and not itself binding doctrine, since other interpretive schemes exist that seem like they could be consistent with creation ex nihilo (i.e. one can agree that scripture is authoritative without agreeing that a particular interpretation of it is). General authorities may have said we reject ex nihilo, but were they talking as "men" or "prophets," let alone in unison as a First Presidency + Q12? And it seems there are competing views as to what doctrine is contained in the Temple ceremony.

The KFD may not be canon, but it is definitely one source.
Also, the endowment.
 

Once again we are back to "does it matter if it's official doctrine"?
Isn't it more important to know if it's true than to know if it's official?

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50 minutes ago, Mormons Talk said:
(1) What are the actual *doctrinal* underpinnings of the positions that Mormons reject creation ex-nihilo?
 
(2) What is the basis of this "Mormon cosmology," and is it really doctrine?

I think one unique aspect of Mormon theology is that given our view of continuing revelation and fallibilism that anything is potentially up for revision. I know some see that as horrible and makes religion untrustworthy. I see it as a huge strength and makes our religion more like science.

To your specific question, the main argument against creation ex nihilo are that either our fundamental soul or at least the stuff out of which it is made is uncreated and thus co-eternal with God. It primarily comes out of the King Follet Discourse and D&C 93:29. Although the Sermon in the Grove and parts of Abraham 3 also are frequently tied to the doctrine.

The theology of creation ex nihilo poses an absolute ontological gap between God and creation. Mormonism has always seen there as being no gap. Creation is much more organization. While a surprising number of things have been contested in Mormon theology over the years, it's interesting that that doctrine never has been.

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For example, the King Follett discourse is, to my knowledge, not considered "doctrine."

It's not considered canon which is a different question from doctrine. It's true that most people when theologizing tend to privilege scripture first (typically with the Old Testament heavily qualified), then Joseph's sermons and finally teachings of other prophets. Yet it's not just the KFD with the doctrine. Further while some parts or at least interpretations of the KFD have come under question through the years the rejection of creation ex nihilo never has. Surprisingly so when you stop and think about it.

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Is the rejection of the doctrine of creation "ex nihilo" really just folk tradition, and not doctrine?

I tend to see folk doctrine as doctrines that arise from unknown or highly questionable sources and often have a rather syncretic nature to them. That is they often seem to be mixing pre-existing folk doctrines of spiritualism, healing with herbs or oils, or other practices in with Mormonism without a clear reason for doing so. In this case it definitely was taught by ever prophet including Joseph without any serious questions of it since its introduction. That doesn't mean there may not be reasons to call it into question in the future but it does suggest that among our doctrines its among the strongest situated.

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In your opinion, is the science of the big bang more or less compatible with creation ex nihilo than so-called "Mormon cosmology" (which I would be delighted to discover is actually not doctrine!)? Why or why not?

The big bang is incomplete. Since the late 1970s physics has been all about inflationary models that postulate a multiverse. String theory and Loop Quantum Gravity are the two main theories attempting to reconcile relativity and quantum mechanics and both include a form of a multiverse. That's not to say a multiverse is empirically supported yet. A big problem with string theory is that it doesn't really make much by way of testable predictions. Yet among physicists both the big bang and the multiverse are typically accepted.

Given the multiverse, there's no incompatibility between the big bang and Mormon cosmology postulated uncreated spirits. 

That's not to say there aren't criticisms people make. But those usually relate to the notion of infinity as it relates to Mormon theology rather than how physics relates to Mormon theology.

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1 hour ago, JLHPROF said:

The KFD may not be canon, but it is definitely one source.
Also, the endowment.
 

Once again we are back to "does it matter if it's official doctrine"?
Isn't it more important to know if it's true than to know if it's official?

Thanks for your response. My thread on whether the temple ceremony is necessarily doctrine was closed, but the first responses indicated a variety of positions as to whether it's doctrine (or what parts are).  So I'm still looking for the doctrine behind the rejection the rejection of creation ex nihilo.

Why? As you say, "Isn't it more important to know if it's true than to know if it's official?"  I agree with you here, but there are ramifications to something being doctrinal or not. First, I feel much less obligation to align my beliefs with non-doctrine than with doctrine.  Second, if the rejection of creation ex nihilo isn't doctrine, then it should be possible for LDS to believe in creation ex nihilo without difficulty, thereby reducing the distance between Mormon belief and traditional Christian belief. Third, LDS people sometimes criticize traditional Christians for believing in creation ex nihilo.  But if its rejection is not actually a doctrine of Mormonism, then perhaps we should soften this criticism. Fourth, some might consider the science of the Big Bang more compatible with creation ex nihilo than with traditional Mormon depictions of creation.  If it's ok for them to believe in creation ex nihilo, perhaps they will have more incentive to stay in the fold, less incentive to leave.

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1 hour ago, clarkgoble said:

To your specific question, the main argument against creation ex nihilo are that either our fundamental soul or at least the stuff out of which it is made is uncreated and thus co-eternal with God. It primarily comes out of the King Follet Discourse and D&C 93:29. Although the Sermon in the Grove and parts of Abraham 3 also are frequently tied to the doctrine.

The theology of creation ex nihilo poses an absolute ontological gap between God and creation. Mormonism has always seen there as being no gap. Creation is much more organization. While a surprising number of things have been contested in Mormon theology over the years, it's interesting that that doctrine never has been.

It's not considered canon which is a different question from doctrine. It's true that most people when theologizing tend to privilege scripture first (typically with the Old Testament heavily qualified), then Joseph's sermons and finally teachings of other prophets. Yet it's not just the KFD with the doctrine. Further while some parts or at least interpretations of the KFD have come under question through the years the rejection of creation ex nihilo never has. Surprisingly so when you stop and think about it..

Thanks, Clark, for the thoughtful response.  If other sources of the doctrine come to mind, please share.  

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17 minutes ago, Mormons Talk said:

 First, I feel much less obligation to align my beliefs with non-doctrine than with doctrine. 

Yeah, I've never had that problem.  :D

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Second, if the rejection of creation ex nihilo isn't doctrine, then it should be possible for LDS to believe in creation ex nihilo without difficulty, thereby reducing the distance between Mormon belief and traditional Christian belief.

A very good reason to accept ex nihilo in my opinion.  Mormonism has spent nearly 200 years trying to rid itself of false sectarian notions and they just won't go away.  They are so deeply ingrained in our Christian culture.  Every time a prophet teaches a doctrine that brings man and God closer together, the false traditions instantly rear their heads.

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19 minutes ago, Glenn101 said:

Abraham 3:24 is another source that rejects creation ex nihilo:

"24 And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;"

Glenn

A direct reference to the temple endowment.
Unsurprising since the creation accounts in scripture (Genesis/Moses and Abraham) are both records of their endowments.  That is unless we think Moses and Abraham travelled in time...

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25 minutes ago, Mormons Talk said:

But if its rejection is not actually a doctrine of Mormonism, then perhaps we should soften this criticism.

We can dislike the theology regardless of whether Mormonism takes a position. There's lots of theology from late antiquity and the medieval era I criticize that the church doesn't really take a stance on. The fact none of those theologies really have much by way of scriptural merit is a big part.

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1 hour ago, clarkgoble said:

We can dislike the theology regardless of whether Mormonism takes a position. There's lots of theology from late antiquity and the medieval era I criticize that the church doesn't really take a stance on. The fact none of those theologies really have much by way of scriptural merit is a big part.

True, but the other side of the coin is that we might really like theologies that Mormonism takes no position on.

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1 hour ago, JLHPROF said:

A direct reference to the temple endowment.
Unsurprising since the creation accounts in scripture (Genesis/Moses and Abraham) are both records of their endowments.  That is unless we think Moses and Abraham travelled in time...

Hmmm...you're free to have that interpretation, but I've never interpreted it like that (or heard others interpret it like that).  Not that I'm an expert in the Pearl of Great Price, but while your interpretation may be viable, I don't think it's the exclusive one (for instance, I've always thought they were receiving visions of the past).

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1 minute ago, Mormons Talk said:

Hmmm...you're free to have that interpretation, but I've never interpreted it like that (or heard others interpret it like that).  Not that I'm an expert in the Pearl of Great Price, but while your interpretation may be viable, I don't think it's the exclusive one (for instance, I've always thought they were receiving visions of the past).

They received visions and instruction concerning the creation from God.
The chapter headings from Abraham:

  • 3. Abraham learns about the sun, moon, and stars by means of the Urim and Thummim—The Lord reveals to him the eternal nature of spirits—He learns of pre-earth life, foreordination, the Creation, the choosing of a Redeemer, and the second estate of man.
  • 4. The Gods plan the creation of the earth and all life thereon—Their plans for the six days of creation are set forth.
  • 5. The Gods finish Their planning of the creation of all things—They bring to pass the Creation according to Their plans—Adam names every living creature.

Sound familiar?

Joseph Smith specifically identified the Patriarchal priesthood ordinances of the temple with Abraham, Abraham who sought the blessings of the fathers.  That's no coincidence.



 

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2 hours ago, USU78 said:

If the Big Bang = Creatio ex Nihilo, what was it that went "Bang!"?

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7 hours ago, Mormons Talk said:
[Topic: Creation "Ex Nihilo"]
 
I've frequently seen statements to the effect that, in contrast to other Christians, Mormons reject "Creation Ex Nihilo." Sometimes people refer to this when talking about "Mormon cosmology" and the like.
 
(1) What are the actual *doctrinal* underpinnings of the positions that Mormons reject creation ex-nihilo?
 
(2) What is the basis of this "Mormon cosmology," and is it really doctrine?
 
For example, the King Follett discourse is, to my knowledge, not considered "doctrine." And while people may read certain sections of the D&C and Book of Abraham to support their view (that creation was not ex-nihilo), this is an interpretation of scripture, and not itself binding doctrine, since other interpretive schemes exist that seem like they could be consistent with creation ex nihilo (i.e. one can agree that scripture is authoritative without agreeing that a particular interpretation of it is). General authorities may have said we reject ex nihilo, but were they talking as "men" or "prophets," let alone in unison as a First Presidency + Q12? And it seems there are competing views as to what doctrine is contained in the Temple ceremony.
 
Is the rejection of the doctrine of creation "ex nihilo" really just folk tradition, and not doctrine?
 
In your opinion, is the science of the big bang more or less compatible with creation ex nihilo than so-called "Mormon cosmology" (which I would be delighted to discover is actually not doctrine!)? Why or why not?
 
350px-CMB_Timeline300_no_WMAP.jpg

No way do we believe in ex nihilo

In order for ex nihilo to work God is not an organizer which means he is incapable of being immanent

Only an immanent God can be our Father, hear and answer prayers, and interact with his children

The temple is the only evidence needed scripturally to do away with ex nihilo

Is the temple doctrine?

Duh.

Think about successive big bangs if you must.  That and multiverse theories are far more compatible with King Follette than ex nilhilo

Some people don't get it and want a scientific explanation for spiritual cosmology which I find ridiculous- and had you been endowed before 1990 everyone would know that Adam and Eve are a metaphor, BUT if you MUST be literal about everything and pretend it is science, just think in terms of successive generations of Gods- compatible with King Follette and their children with multiple "eternities" each within his own time sphere, dimension or whatever.  I mean how are we all supposed to get a universe unless there are multiple universes?

Seems pretty straightforward to me.

Edited by mfbukowski
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3 hours ago, USU78 said:

If the Big Bang = Creatio ex Nihilo, what was it that went "Bang!"?

And Hume put an end to the "first cause" argument -- which is another good reason to throw it out and keep what we have. ;)

 

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1 hour ago, carbon dioxide said:

If something can be made from nothing, then something can go back to nothing.

 

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5 hours ago, Mormons Talk said:

True, but the other side of the coin is that we might really like theologies that Mormonism takes no position on.

THE TEMPLE???????????????????

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Mormons Talk:

By the way I am an ordinance worker- it is definitely Eloheim.  Listen carefully or watch the ASL version where each speaker is shown by name.

Now we better drop it.

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1 hour ago, mfbukowski said:

No way do we believe in ex nihilo

In order for ex nihilo to work God is not an organizer which means he is incapable of being immanent

Only an immanent God can be our Father, hear and answer prayers, and interact with his children

The temple is the only evidence needed scripturally to do away with ex nihilo

Is the temple doctrine?

Duh.

Think about successive big bangs if you must.  That and multiverse theories are far more compatible with King Follette than ex nilhilo

Some people don't get it and want a scientific explanation for spiritual cosmology which I find ridiculous- and had you been endowed before 1990 everyone would know that Adam and Eve are a metaphor, BUT if you MUST be literal about everything and pretend it is science, just think in terms of successive generations of Gods- compatible with King Follette and their children with multiple "eternities" each within his own time sphere, dimension or whatever.  I mean how are we all supposed to get a universe unless there are multiple universes?

Seems pretty straightforward to me.

Some say God cannot. Others say God can. Transcendency and Immanency are joined in the theory of Jesus. It is just harder to believe if we are made out of nothing. Justice and mercy kiss when a greater chasm (Creator and creature) is bridged. The finite is received into the Infiinite. All things are made one.

I concede that Mormons who deny that God is so capable make the gap disappear...but so do those who believe that the Uncreated God can and did join Himself to us. I can't be leaning on David Hume for questions like this. Surely we are invited to go beyond philosophy. Immanence with Creatio ex Nihilo is admittedly incredible (humanly speaking), stupendous, seemingly crazy. But I am thinking that maybe we need more faith and less logic that supposes to limit the creativity of God.

Hey Mark...I don't want to get all fired up about this. But you know that my bunch believes that we can receive God Himself as Bread. One can imagine wrongly that we don't (or can't) believe in Immanence. But we obviously believe God is with us intimately. You could as easily say we disbelieve Ex Nihilo. But we do so believe. Obviously, we yield neither the one truth for the other, whatever the philosophers have to say about it. We insist upon God Transcendent and God Immanent.

If you are even correct, will your God be angry at us for thinking He is so capable? What father is not a little pleased with a child who overestimates his father's greatness?  Is it so terrible to think Our Father can confound faithless philosophers?

Rory

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LDS scripture and teaching seem to rule out ex nihilo unless it is hidden behind other truths in a way we will not fond outside direct revelation.

Using the "what is official doctrine" game to toss out anything that disagrees with your desire to believe something is an old and venerable tradition but it is unlikely to lead to any new discoveries. With enough scissors and glue applied to the scriptures and the words of the prophets I could justify the sale of indulgences and argue that Xenu really did show up to Earth long ago with a ship full of thetans.

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9 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

We can dislike the theology regardless of whether Mormonism takes a position. There's lots of theology from late antiquity and the medieval era I criticize that the church doesn't really take a stance on. The fact none of those theologies really have much by way of scriptural merit is a big part.

That observation is key, since there is in fact no Scriptural support for creatio ex nihilo or for a god who is the only uncaused cause (prime mover), the only necessary being.  In fact the fundamental basis of modern Judeo-Christian-Muslim theology comes from Greek philosophy rather than from the Bible.  The two cannot coexist, and that is the reason for the Great Apostasy and for the Restoration of All Things.

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