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Does LDS Doctrine Actually Reject "Creation Ex Nihilo?"


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The OP poses a fascinating question, which I've just been pondering today. And then I happened to find this thread...

When it comes to the Mormon position on creation ex nihilo, some things are indisputable: D&C 93 says "the elements are eternal." The creation narratives for this earth given in the Book of Abraham and in the temple have the earth being created from pre-existing material. Joseph Smith definitely taught against creation ex nihilo in the King Follett Discourse and elsewhere. And subsequent Latter-day Saint thinkers have pretty much uniformly rejected creation ex nihilo.

Taking the above as given, I think there is still room to ask whether the binding sources--scripture and ordinances--actually require a rejection of creation ex nihilo. While there can be no question that Joseph Smith rejected it, I think it actually is questionable whether the scriptures and the temple endowment do so.

Let's take D&C 93. When D&C 93 says "the elements are eternal," it's not at all clear that by "eternal" it means "beginningless as well as endless." In context, the idea that the "elements are eternal" is linked with the idea that spirit and element will (in the resurrection) be "inseparably connected"--something that pertains to an eternal future, not to an eternal past. And when D&C 93 wants to say that "intelligence" is past-eternal, it's pretty unambiguous: "intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created nor made, neither indeed can be." If D&C 93 intends to say that matter is beginningless, this could easily have been spelled out in such unambiguous terms. It's not. The only thing that's clear from what D&C 93 says about the elements is that they have no end, not that they have no beginning.

Next let's take the creation accounts in the Book of Abraham and the temple. Both portray creation from pre-existing material. But both pertain solely to this earth and say only that this earth was created from pre-existing material, a fact that tells us literally nothing about where matter came from in the first place. I doubt there are any Christian theologians proposing creation ex nihilo who think that this earth was creation out of nothing. Rather, the belief appears to be that the universe was created out of nothing, and, later, the earth was formed from the materials already in the universe. Nothing in either the Book of Abraham or the temple has bearing on whether the universe as a whole was formed from pre-existed materials or created ex nihilo.

Do Mormons reject creation ex nihilo? Yes. Pretty roundly!

Do Mormons have to reject an ultimate creation ex nihilo (i.e., the divine creation of the universe from nothing)? If so, such a rejection would have to be required by something other than the temple ceremony nor the revelations provided in the scriptures.

Don

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57 minutes ago, DonBradley said:

The OP poses a fascinating question, which I've just been pondering today. And then I happened to find this thread...

When it comes to the Mormon position on creation ex nihilo, some things are indisputable: D&C 93 says "the elements are eternal." The creation narratives for this earth given in the Book of Abraham and in the temple have the earth being created from pre-existing material. Joseph Smith definitely taught against creation ex nihilo in the King Follett Discourse and elsewhere. And subsequent Latter-day Saint thinkers have pretty much uniformly rejected creation ex nihilo.

Taking the above as given, I think there is still room to ask whether the binding sources--scripture and ordinances--actually require a rejection of creation ex nihilo. While there can be no question that Joseph Smith rejected it, I think it actually is questionable whether the scriptures and the temple endowment do so.

Let's take D&C 93. When D&C 93 says "the elements are eternal," it's not at all clear that by "eternal" it means "beginningless as well as endless." In context, the idea that the "elements are eternal" is linked with the idea that spirit and element will (in the resurrection) be "inseparably connected"--something that pertains to an eternal future, not to an eternal past. And when D&C 93 wants to say that "intelligence" is past-eternal, it's pretty unambiguous: "intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created nor made, neither indeed can be." If D&C 93 intends to say that matter is beginningless, this could easily have been spelled out in such unambiguous terms. It's not. The only thing that's clear from what D&C 93 says about the elements is that they have no end, not that they have no beginning.

Next let's take the creation accounts in the Book of Abraham and the temple. Both portray creation from pre-existing material. But both pertain solely to this earth and say only that this earth was created from pre-existing material, a fact that tells us literally nothing about where matter came from in the first place. I doubt there are any Christian theologians proposing creation ex nihilo who think that this earth was creation out of nothing. Rather, the belief appears to be that the universe was created out of nothing, and, later, the earth was formed from the materials already in the universe. Nothing in either the Book of Abraham or the temple has bearing on whether the universe as a whole was formed from pre-existed materials or created ex nihilo.

Do Mormons reject creation ex nihilo? Yes. Pretty roundly!

Do Mormons have to reject an ultimate creation ex nihilo (i.e., the divine creation of the universe from nothing)? If so, such a rejection would have to be required by something other than the temple ceremony nor the revelations provided in the scriptures.

Don

Hey Don - really great to see you here!

The question remains though- what do we gain from ex nihilo?

Getting to sit at the sectarian table at lunch?  Can an ex nihilo God be immanent enough to be our Father?  To me being just a little transcendent is like being just a little.... well you get the idea.

You are one or the other - there is no blending transcendence and immanence...... or am I wrong?

This whole idea comes out of the Greeks especially Parmenides and the Roman Lucretius - "ex nihilo nihil fit"- "From nothing, nothing comes"  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nothing_comes_from_nothing

So the belief was that nothing could come from nothing, neither could anything return to nothing, therefore to be, is to be eternal. 

Obviously Christianity didn't agree with that- but in my opinion, the arguments for ex nihilo are pretty weak, as is most of sectarian Christian philosophy.

But I understand opinions vary on that. ;)

Anyway- great to see you!!

 

Edited by mfbukowski
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On 5/13/2017 at 1:59 PM, 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?

JS rejected it as far as this solar system goes. I can't say he rejected with respect to the Universe, but even if one believes the Big Bang theory, it is not creation Ex Nihilo, since it does not theorize that the universe came from nothing, but rather from a singularity packed with matter/energy. i no longer have a lot of confidence in the Big Bang theory as a theory which explains the origins of the whole universe.

Quote

(2) What is the basis of this "Mormon cosmology," and is it really doctrine?

I consider it to be doctrine that our solar system was not created Ex Nihilo, and I believe Genesis 1 supports that where it says that the earth was created when the spirit of God passed over "the waters." It never says the waters were created or created from nothing....

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9 hours ago, DonBradley said:

The OP poses a fascinating question, which I've just been pondering today. And then I happened to find this thread...

When it comes to the Mormon position on creation ex nihilo, some things are indisputable: D&C 93 says "the elements are eternal." The creation narratives for this earth given in the Book of Abraham and in the temple have the earth being created from pre-existing material. Joseph Smith definitely taught against creation ex nihilo in the King Follett Discourse and elsewhere. And subsequent Latter-day Saint thinkers have pretty much uniformly rejected creation ex nihilo.

Taking the above as given, I think there is still room to ask whether the binding sources--scripture and ordinances--actually require a rejection of creation ex nihilo. While there can be no question that Joseph Smith rejected it, I think it actually is questionable whether the scriptures and the temple endowment do so.

Let's take D&C 93. When D&C 93 says "the elements are eternal," it's not at all clear that by "eternal" it means "beginningless as well as endless." In context, the idea that the "elements are eternal" is linked with the idea that spirit and element will (in the resurrection) be "inseparably connected"--something that pertains to an eternal future, not to an eternal past. And when D&C 93 wants to say that "intelligence" is past-eternal, it's pretty unambiguous: "intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created nor made, neither indeed can be." If D&C 93 intends to say that matter is beginningless, this could easily have been spelled out in such unambiguous terms. It's not. The only thing that's clear from what D&C 93 says about the elements is that they have no end, not that they have no beginning.

Next let's take the creation accounts in the Book of Abraham and the temple. Both portray creation from pre-existing material. But both pertain solely to this earth and say only that this earth was created from pre-existing material, a fact that tells us literally nothing about where matter came from in the first place. I doubt there are any Christian theologians proposing creation ex nihilo who think that this earth was creation out of nothing. Rather, the belief appears to be that the universe was created out of nothing, and, later, the earth was formed from the materials already in the universe. Nothing in either the Book of Abraham or the temple has bearing on whether the universe as a whole was formed from pre-existed materials or created ex nihilo.

Do Mormons reject creation ex nihilo? Yes. Pretty roundly!

Do Mormons have to reject an ultimate creation ex nihilo (i.e., the divine creation of the universe from nothing)? If so, such a rejection would have to be required by something other than the temple ceremony nor the revelations provided in the scriptures.

Don

Matter is eternal in a "closed" system. So if the universe we know is in some kind of closed dimension, then matter will never disappear absent some outside force - there's that law of the conservation of energy.

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Our universe is a closed system as far as we  can tell. Matter as we know it will eventually, in about 100,000 Trillion Trillion Trillion Trillion Trillion years, breaks down to a uniform mass of various sub-nuclear bits of matter. Total energy is still there but no work can be accomplished.

SEE https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_death_of_the_universe

Edited by thesometimesaint
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On 5/15/2017 at 8:01 PM, 3DOP said:

Yes. It is some thing that is not made out of matter.

 

On 5/15/2017 at 9:01 PM, Darren10 said:

Immaterial, yo. :)

 

Interesting!  This little exchangelet reminds me that there is something called "concept".  It is an immaterial thing that is held in the mind of an intelligence, but otherwise does not manifest.  What is its true nature?  Does it really exist?  Liberty.  Justice.  Love.  Faith.  None of these exist, but they are nonetheless things.  Like Thursday.

Thought-provoking.

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18 minutes ago, thesometimesaint said:

Matter as we know it will eventually, in about 100,000 Trillion Trillion Trillion Trillion Trillion years, breaks down to a uniform mass of various sub-nuclear bits of matter. Total energy is still there but no work can be accomplished.

That is one hypothesis anyway. 

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5 hours ago, RevTestament said:

 

I consider it to be doctrine that our solar system was not created Ex Nihilo, and I believe Genesis 1 supports that where it says that the earth was created when the spirit of God passed over "the waters." It never says the waters were created or created from nothing....

In fact if you actually read Genesis word by word and take it literally it is difficult to think that in any way what is happening is "ex nihilo" creation.

God does not snap his fingers and there is the earth- from nothing.  It is not even remotely like that in Genesis.

It describes a step by step process of organization- with intervention where required.  He hovers over the waters and causes them to do things- separate, gather the earth in one place, the land in another- it is a process almost like cleaning the house, moving from one thing to the other and putting them in order,  He "gathers" the elements and then gives the process a name.  He "separates" light and darkness and then "calls" the evening and morning the "first day" etc.

It's not unlike building a house-

"I separate this area from that one, and put a wall here.  And this space I will call the living room, and the other I will call the dining room.  And I see that it is good"

Then actually look at verse 11:

Quote

 

11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

12 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

13 And the evening and the morning were the third day.

Notice that the EARTH- not God- produces vegetation and plants, and God simply approves it

And then verse 24:

Quote

24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.

25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

So it is a cooperative venture between the land itself and God which brings forth the animals

One could almost read these verses as being totally compatible with evolution in a guided way.

And then of course it becomes clear that man is a special creation, directly attended by the Father himself and is almost a training moment for others

Quote

 

26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

 

 

 

In short, I do not see how anyone could even have thought for a moment that the earth was created "ex nihilo" when you actually read the scriptures

But of course that is because the idea did not come from the scriptures but from Greek philosophy.

To me, it is clear as day and night and everyone should see that it is good. ;)

 

Edited by mfbukowski
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2 hours ago, pogi said:

That is one hypothesis anyway. 

Write that one down so we can check it out when the time comes. :)

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11 hours ago, Stargazer said:

 

 

Interesting!  This little exchangelet reminds me that there is something called "concept".  It is an immaterial thing that is held in the mind of an intelligence, but otherwise does not manifest.  What is its true nature?  Does it really exist?  Liberty.  Justice.  Love.  Faith.  None of these exist, but they are nonetheless things.  Like Thursday.

Thought-provoking.

And to me what is interesting is that the immaterial is subject to the material. Thoughts, feelings, etc. cannot exist without something material. In LDS doctrine, perfection is achieved only through an eternal joining of the physical with the spiritual. Within traditional Christian thought, "spiritual" existence of God is "immaterial" and thus it seems LDS doctrine sort of took traditional Christian thought to another level in that the physical (material) must join with the spiritual (immaterial) to be perfect as "[our] Father which is in heaven is perfect".

Edited by Darren10
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2 hours ago, Darren10 said:

And to me what is interesting is that the immaterial is subject to the material. Thoughts, feelings, etc. cannot exist without something material. In LDS doctrine, perfection is achieved only through an eternal joining of the physical with the spiritual. Within traditional Christian thought, "spiritual" existence of God is "immaterial" and thus it seems LDS doctrine sort of took traditional Christian thought to another level in that the physical (material) must join with the spiritual (immaterial) to be perfect as "[our] Father which is in heaven is perfect".

To me, the ideal vocabulary would be to even stop thinking and using words like material and immaterial as if they are categories to be joined together.

It was thinking that they were ever separated that was the problem.  "Human nature" for example is not "part" human and "part" divine and Christ did not have two natures made of a spiritual nature and a material or carnal human nature- he only had ONE nature as all creatures do.

A dog's nature is to be a dog.  An elephant's nature is to be an elephant, which includes being a herd animal which is highly intelligent and social, and has phenomenal hearing etc.

The nature of a human is to be, like Christ, to have the potential to become like God an Christ are.  There's one nature that can become divine.

It's kind of like the nature of a caterpillar which includes the nature to become a butterfly.  No one would say a butterfly has "two natures"- one as a caterpillar and the other as a butterfly- "both" are never separated.

That is why it is said that the "spirit and body are the soul of man"- there is no separation  (DC 88:15)  And we know that spirit is matter "more refined".  There is no need for dualism- it just confuses the issue

When I speak about Cartesian Dualism that is precisely the kind of thinking we need to get rid of.

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/dualism/

So when I debated about whether or not "Thursday" was a thing,  this is what was behind that.  "Thursday" is simply a made up arbitrary word assigned as part of how we humans divide up days in English.

If every English word is a "thing" then I suppose Thursday is also a thing. So are all translations of "Thursday" into French and German different or the same things?  How do we know that?   What if aliens land and they have a different time reckoning say into periods of 14 or 17 days?   Will Thursday stop being a thing?

 How about "was"- is that a thing? ;)  It also is a time category indicating the past

Are concepts different than ideas?  How are concepts not just words or phrases or theories?

If you want to call them that fine- but to me that just makes it all more confusing than it needs to be.  Now we need a metaphysical category for immaterial things like "Was" and "Thursday" and the idea of "Ideas" itself

Suddenly we are Platonists and can turn the immaterial concept of flesh into the immaterial concept of bread because they have the same substance as immaterial things.

As we say in LA, no bueno.

Thoughts and feelings are not material things interacting with material things- how odd!

They are simply reactions to language and experience within your soul which includes body and mind as an elephant includes hearing and intelligence.

Thoughts and feelings are a soul interacting with the environment and people.  No thoughts without a brain, of course, unless I suppose you are a spirit.  

But one could argue that that is just still a case of energy reacting to other energy.   Plasma waves or something like that.

The distinctions are just words- at the bottom line I suppose it's plasma all the way down. ;)

But we will never know that in this life anyway so why make it complicated??

 

 

Edited by mfbukowski
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12 hours ago, Stargazer said:

 

 

Interesting!  This little exchangelet reminds me that there is something called "concept".  It is an immaterial thing that is held in the mind of an intelligence, but otherwise does not manifest.  What is its true nature?  Does it really exist?  Liberty.  Justice.  Love.  Faith.  None of these exist, but they are nonetheless things.  Like Thursday.

Thought-provoking.

As a scientist think for a minute how thought provoking that really is or is not.

Is it even possible?  Or is it a linguistic confusion caused by the mere words themselves?  And 1500 years of mumbo-jumbo medieval philosophy and the extensions thereof?

It's not like it's your fault- you are not a philosopher, so I am asking you scientifically to explain it and see how it fits with Occam's razor and the methods of scientific investigation.

How is this alleged immaterial thing "held" in the "mind" of an "intelligence"?  You have just manufactured 1) a thing 2) which is immaterial when we know that everything is matter which is 3) somehow "held" as perhaps like a cup holds water? 4) in a "mind" which is I suppose also proposed to be immaterial, of an 5) "intelligence" which 6) "does not manifest"

But that's not all!! Then you have the concept of "true nature" (7) as opposed to false nature presumably which raises the question how could one test the truth or falsity of that "nature".  And then we have (8) that old favorite "existence" which now makes you wonder if Love exists.  Really??

You have never loved someone? ;) 

And does faith "exist"?   I would say that the whole conglomeration represented requires a lot of faith, thereby proving faith's existence.

But you know for sure that Thursday is a "Thing".   Should we make that number 9?

In that little quote you have 9 different metaphysical theories represented interacting with each other :)

How do you propose to justify all 9 of those metaphysical theories in a coherent fashion which explains precisely how they interact? ;)

Hey you know I love your stuff and ultimately we are of course on the same side, but I am just pointing out how "thought provoking" that jumble of words/things/concepts/theories really are, so don't be too mad, ok?  :unsure:

Edited by mfbukowski
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19 hours ago, Darren10 said:

And to me what is interesting is that the immaterial is subject to the material. Thoughts, feelings, etc. cannot exist without something material. In LDS doctrine, perfection is achieved only through an eternal joining of the physical with the spiritual. Within traditional Christian thought, "spiritual" existence of God is "immaterial" and thus it seems LDS doctrine sort of took traditional Christian thought to another level in that the physical (material) must join with the spiritual (immaterial) to be perfect as "[our] Father which is in heaven is perfect".

While by the time of the major creeds Christianity had become largely platonic in metaphysics with the "innovation" of creation ex nihilo transforming it a fair bit, prior to that there were many materialists. Tertullian is the obvious example but Paul certainly quotes many Stoics. So when spritual is talked about people assume it's immaterial but the major view in the 1st century was Stoicism not Platonism. And for Stoics spirit was a fire-like fluid. Their view of the aether was that this fire-like spiritual fluid permeated all things in the universe.

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9 hours ago, mikegriffith1 said:

The first thing we need to understand is that the ancient Christians did not believe in ex nihilo. That doctrine came later. And, yes, Mormon doctrine rejects ex nihilo.

Arguably ex Nihilo was present among at least part of Jewery when I-II Maccabees were composed

Edited by USU78
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1 hour ago, USU78 said:

Arguably ex Nihilo was present among at least part of Jewery when I-II Maccabees were composed

Copland and Craig's arguments against Mormons on the doctrine mention this but even they note it's controversial. I find the Maccabee claim pretty dubious although the Gamaliel argument where he says that the void and chaos were created is stronger. But that doesn't say how they were created. The problem Copland and Craig have is that the platonists proper also saw creation of everything as proceeding from the One. What they have to do is distinguish claims of creation such that they aren't emanation. Unfortunately it's that distinction they never take up.

I'd check out Copland and Craig as they are worth reading but keep that distinction in mind. Blake wrote a direct response to Craig as well that is definitely worth reading. Although Blake doesn't address the extra-canonical arguments he does address the 2 Macc claim. Again though the problem is taking later technical language and applying it achronistically to earlier text. The idea of being from non-being in artisanal productions is old going back at least to Plato in the Sophist. So 2 Maccabees is better seen as being out of non-being the way a sculptor makes something present that wasn't there before.

 

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6 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

While by the time of the major creeds Christianity had become largely platonic in metaphysics with the "innovation" of creation ex nihilo transforming it a fair bit, prior to that there were many materialists. Tertullian is the obvious example but Paul certainly quotes many Stoics. So when spritual is talked about people assume it's immaterial but the major view in the 1st century was Stoicism not Platonism. And for Stoics spirit was a fire-like fluid. Their view of the aether was that this fire-like spiritual fluid permeated all things in the universe.

"And for Stoics spirit was a fire-like fluid. Their view of the aether was that this fire-like spiritual fluid permeated all things in the universe."

Sounds like my wife. :)

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On 5/21/2017 at 5:22 PM, clarkgoble said:

 Again though the problem is taking later technical language and applying it achronistically to earlier text. The idea of being from non-being in artisanal productions is old going back at least to Plato in the Sophist. So 2 Maccabees is better seen as being out of non-being the way a sculptor makes something present that wasn't there before.

Pretty much agree but I have no problem going after old arguments any more than I have problems going after old science.  As I see it, if it's a bad argument it's a bad argument. 

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