It’s a rainy day

The temperature and humidity are both 79.  I need to go pay for books for school and locker rent at the rec.  The Yankees are currently beating the Red Sox 1-0 (PLUS, I look over and who do I see in a Yankees uniform but Tony Peña).  If I weren’t out of Dr Pepper, I think I’d just hide in my room all day.

I won’t, but I’ve been hiding for a while and catching up on blogs.  Just a couple offerings today:

– Julie D. gives us great comments by John Ryhs-Davies, aka Gimli or Sallah.

– Nate Oman at Times and Seasons asks “Why do non-Mormon accounts of Mormon theology so often seem grotesque?”  I don’t know if I “get” Mormon theology.  Somehow I get the feeling I’m about 5 on a scale of 10 in that area.  I’m afraid I am quite tempted to select explanation #2: “Mormon theology actually is weird.”

Nate does discuss the decision by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that LDS baptisms are invalid.  I know several Mormons who disagree with the reasoning behind the ruling, at least as explained by Fr. Ladaria here.  I wish I knew enough about the sacrament of Baptism and the historical disputes over it to write my own explanation.  Right now I just want to say two things that seem to be overlooked when Mormons disagree with it.  First, the Catholic Church isn’t as universalistic as people generally suggest.  She doesn’t accept every other baptism, period.  In many cases, conditional baptisms must be performed, when the form or matter of a convert’s first baptism is in doubt.  Second, I think the churches’ different understanding of baptism are just as important to this issue as their different understanding of theology.  So there.

Also in that post is a great comment by Mark Butler.  Worth a look.

That’s all for this Random Stuff post.  Oh, but one update: now the Yankees are winning 4-1, and Boston has brought in reliever Kyle Snyder, who was not good enough to pitch for the Royals.

36 Responses to “It’s a rainy day”

  1. Another point to consider is that the Mormon Church doesn’t recognize Catholic baptisms either. When the Vatican’s decision was announced here in Utah there was the predictable outrage until this was pointed out.

  2. Mark Butler says:

    On baptism, the difference is our position is historically consistent. The new position of the Catholic Church is not. Our beliefs are very similar to many dissenters and others who preceded the establishment of the creeds. So if our baptisms are not valid in your church, neither are theirs.

    By way of elaboration on my T&S comment:

    For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
    (1 Cor 12:12)

    Joseph Smith was once asked what the difference was between the Mormons and other Christian denominations. His answer was: “We believe the Bible, and they don’t”. That is an oversimplification, but there is a lot of truth to that statement.

  3. syntaxpunk says:

    Interesting post, Mark. Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t Mormon believe in the Bible “as far as it is translated correctly” (AofF 8)? This brings me to my question about the Joseph Smith Translation (hereafter JST). When I was a member of the LDS church and an avid Institute student (I have a 4-year Institute diploma — not that that makes me an expert in anything), I was – and still am – confused about the role of the JST in LDS dogma and worship. In the standard KJV used in services there are infrequent quotes from the JST interspersed throughout the KJV, but the JST isn’t used. Why? I would think that this would be very useful. I’m not going to go far enough to argue that this is some sort of sureptitious marketing plan by the LDS church to “hide” things from new converts, however, it does look suspicious.

    In response to Joe Smith’s comments about the literal belief of LDS on the Bible, how can you or any other faithful Mormon trust the “apostate” Catholic Church to compile the correct stories, book, parabels, etc. that are acceptable to Mormons? If the Western Church didn’t finalize its canon until 397 AD – a time well past the “great apostasy” – Joseph’s statement isn’t as sturdy as it appears on the surface. That’s just my $.02’s worth this evening. Enjoy the sabbath tomorrow.

  4. Mark Butler says:

    Syntaxpunk,

    The timing of the great apostasy is a matter of some debate. There is evidence in the New Testament that it was underway in some areas long before 100 A.D. (cf. 2 Tim 1:15). My opinion is that it was a gradual process of centuries. It is also worth noting that it is strictly a minority of LDS commentators that think that the Christian church(es) turned into something evil. The majority opinion, including that of the Prophet Joseph Smith himself is that they were good, but that the doctrine had become gradually corrupted, that the institutional Church had a mixed record in some areas, but that there were many followers of righteousness in the churches, and that as institutions they were, by and large, a great blessing to Western civilization. I can provide abundant Latter-day scriptural support for that proposition. The most revelant perhaps is the following:

    And after that ye were blessed then fulfilleth the Father the covenant which he made with Abraham, saying: In thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed—unto the pouring out of the Holy Ghost through me upon the Gentiles, which blessing upon the Gentiles shall make them mighty above all, unto the scattering of my people, O house of Israel.

    And they shall be a scourge unto the people of this land. Nevertheless, when they shall have received the fulness of my gospel, then if they shall harden their hearts against me I will return their iniquities upon their own heads, saith the Father.

    And I will remember the covenant which I have made with my people; and I have covenanted with them that I would gather them together in mine own due time, that I would give unto them again the land of their fathers for their inheritance, which is the land of Jerusalem, which is the promised land unto them forever, saith the Father.
    (3 Ne 20:27-29)

    Compare Romans chapters 9:24-33 and 11:18-36. I quote a small portion of the latter:

    Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:

    For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.

    And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?

    For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
    (Romans 11:18-27)

    So I ask you, has the fulness of the Gentiles come in yet? And how will you know? It is clear that Paul believed in the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah. What about the modern day Romans? Was Paul whistling in the wind? What say ye? When will the prophecies in Isaiah 11 be fulfilled? Or are they partially fulfilled already?

    =======

    So the answer is about collecting the books of the Bible, we believe that the books that we do have were preserved reasonably accurately in the Christian era, accurately enough to retain their status as scripture and for any minor errors to be discovered through inspiration and close reading. In short the apostasy wasn’t like an overnight event, nor did it ever go all the way in the Christian world – there have been many reforms both in and out of the Catholic Church that corrected various errors and brought the general understanding closer to the truth. I believe that, and so did Joseph Smith. Of course many of my favorites are Protestants of one stripe or another. I really admire Abelard, Aquinas, Ockham, Scotus, Calvin, Arminus, and Wesley, among others. I believe they were inspired by degrees to do what they did. It is the doctrine of our Church that they were inspired to do what they did. Joseph Smith believed they were inspired to do what they did. Anyone who believes otherwise is out of harmony with the Latter-day prophets.

    =======

    Now, on the JST. It has never been officially published by the Church because we did not have the manuscript. We understand it primarily as a an emended / revised version where Joseph Smith corrected a few mistakes, clarified a few ambiguities, and inserted some extra details or on occasion whole passages according to the spirit of prophecy and revelation. In general, with the guidance of modern revelation, however, the KJV can be understood quite well as it stands, and remains the canonical version of the Bible in the Church. The most important part about the JST is not the end product, but the process whereby Joseph Smith went through each verse of the Bible one at a time and inquired of the Lord as to the proper understanding of some puzzling passages, leading to a large percentage of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants. The very strong correlation between the doctrines of the Restoration and material that is laid out in the Old and New Testaments is why I can concur with the idea that we take the Bible more seriously and generally speaking more literally than any other church. No hand waving away inconvenient passages for us. Sometimes perhaps we take them a little too seriously.

  5. syntaxpunk says:

    Mark, thanks again for your thorough, insightful responses. I’m afraid at the current time I can’t dedicate the time necessary to respond in a manner that would be sufficient to answer (or at least response to) these excellent questions. Our semester starts tomorrow (I’m an asst. prof. at Michigan State) and this next week will be hell just trying to get adjusted to things…I will, however, get back with you in due time. Thanks for your patience w/ me in this regard. If anyone else out there – from either the Mormon or Catholic perspective – would like to begin to weigh in on these issues, be my guest.

    Mike

  6. John in MN says:

    According to the New Advent page on “baptism”, there is a long history of rejecting baptisms based on a heretical understanding of the Trinity or the sacrament:

    Pope Eugene IV, The Council of Florence, “Exultate Deo,” Nov. 22, 1439

    …because since the principal cause from which baptism has its efficacy is the Holy Trinity, and the instrumental cause is the minister who confers the sacrament exteriorly, then if the act exercised by the minister be expressed, together with the invocation of the Holy Trinity, the sacrament is perfected…

    The minister of this sacrament is the priest, to whom it belongs to baptize, by reason of his office, In case of necessity, however, not only a priest or deacon, but even a layman or woman, nay, even a pagan or heretic can baptize, provided he observes the form used by the Church, and intends to perform what the Church performs.

    This is “only” a papal bull, so it does not carry the weight of infallibility, but it does indicate that the reasoning for rejecting a Mormon baptism is not all that recent. That’s nearly 600 years old. More than 3 times older than the Mormon Church. A JW baptism may have valid form and matter but it is still considered invalid for exactly the same reason. Many sects of pentacostals who believe in the old heresy of modalism are also invalid regardless of the form and matter.

    The only change that occured in the formal proclamation on LDS baptisms was that was had specific clarification. The errors of bishops who did accept LDS baptisms (as was the case when my spouse sought a dispensation for our marriage in the Utah diocese) do not provide evidence of any change.

  7. syntaxpunk says:

    I’m still not convinced about the JST of the KJV of the Bible not being used by the LDS. Consider the following quote from Elder Matthews:

    “Because the translation was published by the RLDS church, some questions have existed as to whether it had been published accurately. However, research in the past few years with the original manuscripts has indicated that the Inspired Version of the Bible, published by the RLDS church, is an accurate representation of the sense of the original manuscripts prepared by Joseph Smith and his scribes. Furthermore, it seems to be increasing in use and acceptance in our church today.” (Robert J. Matthews, “Q&A: Questions and Answers,” New Era, Apr. 1977, p. 46).”

    The 1979 edition of the LDS KJV includes over 1100 references to the JST, so there must be something worthy of being canonized in the JST. I still find this very puzzling….

  8. Mark Butler says:

    I didn’t say it wasn’t used. I said it (technically) was not canonized. None of Joseph Smith’s sermons or discourses are canonized either, but that does not mean we do not make heavy use of them. Some ambiguities aside, I think they are virtual masterpieces, every one. The book Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith is a collection of them.

    The reason, by the way, that the JST will likely never be canonized is that such canonization would create more confusion than such a change would be worth. Most of the JST is a commentary about and emendation to the bible, not a translation per se. i.e. it was done on theological and revelatory basis, not generally speaking due to a familiarity with the original languages.

  9. Mark Butler says:

    The difference on baptism by the way, is that the Catholics penalize the Jehovah’s Witnesses because they do not believe in the Bible, and penalize the Latter-day Saints because we do.

    The Catholic Church has adopted a variety of interpretations that are strictly contradicted by numerous passages of scripture, and then count as heretics anyone who dares take them seriously. For example:

    Psalm 82 (As quoted by Jesus Christ “ye are [lowercase g] gods”, God presides in a council of gods.)
    John 17 (We may become one with God as Jesus Christ and his Father are one)
    Romans 8 (Joint heirship with Christ)
    Philip. 3 (Reception of same type of glorified body as Christ has)
    1 Cor 12 (Body of Christ has many members, which members we are)
    Hebrews 2:11 (Sanctification is distributed)

    In essence, the Catholic intrepretation perverts the whole message of the New Testament, which was to establish a parallel between Christ and his Saints, that we may become like him, and receive every blessing that he has.

  10. Mark Butler says:

    No offense intended of course. Just a radical disagreement of opinion about what the scriptures actually say.

  11. Mark Butler says:

    Please feel free to edit out the last sentence of the 11:02 a.m. comment.

  12. john f. says:

    Mark, because of a cookie, I think you are still seeing a comment that has been deleted. At least, I noticed that your 11:02 a.m. comment disappeared within a few minutes after you posted it and it still does not show up on my screen right now.

  13. Brad says:

    The 11:02 comment went into moderation for a bit, but is back now in a slightly adjusted form.

  14. Seth R. says:

    Just for the record… I have never heard an official representative of the LDS Church use a JST reading of a Bible verse in a sermon or official church publication. The JST lives in an odd sort of cannonical limbo in Mormon practice. It hasn’t been officially pushed as “the true Bible.” But neither are our church authorities discouraging the lay membership from believing that Joseph Smith’s reading is actually the true one. And of course, the JST versions are still right there in the footnotes of the official LDS bible.

    So it seems that the official Church position is currently tacit approval, but not active promotion.

    The opinions of the lay membership are another matter. They, of course, rarely make such distinctions. I’ve found that for the most part, practicing members are of the opinion that: “it’s in the scriptures, so it must be true.” When your typical practicing Mormon is pointed to the existence of the JST renditions (like most mere mortals, we tend to overlook footnotes), they tend to buy-into them wholeheartedly.

    I’d summarize the general opinion of the lay membership as either ignorance, or wholehearted adoption when they know about them.

    This all seems to amount to something less than official cannonization. Yet I think most of the lay membership would definitely consider it cannon, even if our leadership doesn’t feel the need to be explicit about it.

    P.S. The mere fact that Mormon baptisms are not accepted by the RCC doesn’t bother me in the least. We don’t accept theirs either, so it’s only fair. Mormons have made such a point of remaining aloof from all the inter-denominational acceptance stuff going on with other mainline Christian faiths, that it would be a bit silly to complain that we aren’t being granted the perks that go with participation.

    Besides all this tolerance stuff just annoys me anyway. For pity’s sake, take your religion seriously! Do you believe this stuff or not? If you do, don’t act like it doesn’t matter what approach you take to Christianity. I respect the RCC’s refusal to accept Mormon baptisms much more than I respect their willingness to accept Methodist baptisms.

  15. John in MN says:

    The difference on baptism by the way, is that the Catholics penalize the Jehovah’s Witnesses because they do not believe in the Bible, and penalize the Latter-day Saints because we do.

    The Catholic Church has adopted a variety of interpretations that are strictly contradicted by numerous passages of scripture, and then count as heretics anyone who dares take them seriously.

    I think you know as well as I do that we can do a tit-for-tat on scripture (oddly enough, I don’t see how 5 of your 6 scriptures are contradicted by the RCC – quite the contrary, they are foundational to Catholic theology). A JW, while not explicity making the same claim, tried to basically say the same thing by showing me Ecclesiastes 9:5 “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward; but the memory of them is lost.” From the bottom of her heart, she thinks the Bible teaches that there is no human soul. We know better than that, but convincing her otherwise by showing the contradictions elsewhere, as well as revealing the context of this particular book of the Bible, is, to quote the author, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”

    For years, JWs, Mormons, Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, Pentacostals, Mainliners, and other critics have all laid this charge at the RCC – that the scriptures that were canonized more than 1000 years before the first of them ever appeared, were ignored, despite the the millenium of scrupulous study. JS’s quote may sound clever and seem convincing, but it’s dismissive of the fact that there can be sound rationale for the Church’s interpretation of scripture.

  16. John in MN says:

    I respect the RCC’s refusal to accept Mormon baptisms much more than I respect their willingness to accept Methodist baptisms.

    Under what rationale would the RCC reject a Methodist baptism?

  17. Tim says:

    John in MN,

    I don’t want to put words in Seth’s mouth, but I think he is saying he has little or no problem with the RCC rejecting LDS baptisms but he does have difficulties with the acceptance of other non-RCC baptisms (like the Methodists’, for example).

  18. John in MN says:

    Tim – I get that. I still don’t understand his rationale. The reason we don’t baptise Momons does not apply to Methodists.

  19. Mark Butler says:

    From our perspective, conventional Christian orthodoxy is almost hopelessly tied to a Aristotelian metaphyics of divinity, a metaphysics that even the Greek Orthodox could not get to work, causing them to retreat to an anti-metaphysics, a metaphysics of mystery, contradictions that cannot be resolved, even in principle.

    Now I fully appreciate the temporal need to believe in paradoxes. The problem with theological creeds is they often legislate a particular understanding that is at best a introductory approximation to the truth. And the understanding that was legislated in the early Church was based on Aristotelian metaphysics – for example the question of two natures. Tell me why there have to be two natures, instead of say nature spread on a continuum between two points. Why do distinct, countable natures have to be metaphysically fundamental at all? Why does there have to be a trivial one-to-one mapping from scriptural concepts to natural essences? Abelard and Ockham thought the idea of a trivial mapping between words and universals to be ridiculously untenable as a rule, and yet it is precisely that Aristotelian assumption that undergirded Christian theology for nearly a millennium. Where in the scriptures does it give explicit license for Aristotelian absolutism?

    Now Christ has a glorified, resurrected body by which he is able to subdue all things. Now how is it that the Father can subdue all things without such a body, or any kind of body at all? In other words, what was the point in Christ getting a body? What good does it do him? If Christ can do what he does just as well without a body, whence the resurrection, for him or for us?

  20. mike hurcum says:

    The teaching on baptism has never changed although there have been dreadful attempts to alter the meanings of Church doctrine and dogma.
    The Church claims only, no matter what fools say today, anyone may baptize in a case of emergency, but it must be followed by a SOLEMN baptism. The Church also says that the emergency baptism may be done by anyone but they must have in their mind to be in union with the mind of the Church. That is with the Church’s intentions for the recipient of the baptism. That is where the ‘anyone’ who baptizes falls short in my or any catholic’s acceptance of a baptism by those who call us many names, the Whore of Babylon comes to mind. As we cannot know the intentions of a non catholic always follw with a solemn baptism as soon as possible. I would also advise you to read Cyprian of Carthage on Baptism and caution you to remember that Augustine in his recollections admits that Cyprian is right.

  21. steve says:

    Tell me why there have to be two natures, instead of say nature spread on a continuum between two points. Why do distinct, countable natures have to be metaphysically fundamental at all?

    I am by no means a philosopher, but if Christ’s divinity is equal to the Father’s (as scripture tells us), then how can His divine nature exist on a continuum that stretches between divine and human nature without diminishing His divine nature?

  22. Mark Butler says:

    The problems lies completely in the definition (or metaphysics) of nature(s). Mormons do not generally think that divine and human nature are mutually exclusive, or two separate things that overlap, but rather that divine nature is roughly speaking the spiritual perfection of human nature – what God intended in his creation in the first place, but not something that is automatic – we must discipline ourselves, obeying our covenants by sacrifice, yielding to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, until we fulfil the intent of our creation, which is no less than becoming spiritually one with God even as Jesus Christ and his Father are one.

    [I am going to be without Internet access for a few days, by the way, so I won’t be able to respond for a while]

  23. John in MN says:

    From our perspective, conventional Christian orthodoxy is almost hopelessly tied to a Aristotelian metaphyics of divinity, a metaphysics that even the Greek Orthodox could not get to work, causing them to retreat to an anti-metaphysics, a metaphysics of mystery, contradictions that cannot be resolved, even in principle.

    I haven’t got a clue what you are talking about regarding the Greek Orthodox, who do the small “o” “orthodox” understanding of God. But as we’ve seen, you and Dave observe as a discrediting attribute, this connection to Hellenistic philosophy, seems to be a ledge clung to for the purpose of explaining the origin of this mythical apostasy. Could the Lord have had as Aristotle’s greatest purpose in mind to help His Church explain the mysteries of the Trinity? While you may not believe it yourself, it is plausible.

    Now I fully appreciate the temporal need to believe in paradoxes. The problem with theological creeds is they often legislate a particular understanding that is at best a introductory approximation to the truth. And the understanding that was legislated in the early Church was based on Aristotelian metaphysics – for example the question of two natures.

    Sure, I can certainly accept your characterization on the limitations of a creed. But the Knowledge granted by the Holy Spirit is not a legislation, but a dictation. Aristotelian philosophy indeed helped the Church explain the nature of God. But no creed, no human, not even our Immaculate Queen, who nursed nurtured the third person of the Holy Trinity, and now sits in the flesh next to her son, will ever get her arms around the infinite God.

    Tell me why there have to be two natures, instead of say nature spread on a continuum between two points. Why do distinct, countable natures have to be metaphysically fundamental at all? Why does there have to be a trivial one-to-one mapping from scriptural concepts to natural essences?

    All can be answered quite simply by imparting the fact that the Church has the authority and the responsibility for promulgating the deposit of the Faith. You can ask, “Why this?” and “Why not that?” about Truth, but the virtue of humility should bring one to acceptance even in the absence of answers that may never be revealed in our lifetime.

    Abelard and Ockham thought the idea of a trivial mapping between words and universals to be ridiculously untenable as a rule, and yet it is precisely that Aristotelian assumption that undergirded Christian theology for nearly a millennium.

    Fine for them. But since The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, we have an invitation to contemplate Him. He reaches out to us, and we must respond in kind.

    Where in the scriptures does it give explicit license for Aristotelian absolutism?

    And where does scripture say that scripture is the sole authority? Scripture points to Jesus as the Truth (John 14:6), and the Church is the pillar of Truth (1 Tim 3:15). Therefore, there need not be explicit license for Aristotelian absolutism, or Masonic esotericism for that matter.

    Now Christ has a glorified, resurrected body by which he is able to subdue all things. Now how is it that the Father can subdue all things without such a body, or any kind of body at all?

    Omnipotence.

    In other words, what was the point in Christ getting a body? What good does it do him?

    What’s in it for Him? That’s a very bizarre question. God does not need anything. He is already perfect and cannot improve upon that. He has no need of humans or angels or any part of His creation. What makes God’s love so special is that it has no basis in need.

    If Christ can do what he does just as well without a body, whence the resurrection, for him or for us?

    For us, of course.

  24. steve says:

    Well, I can see this leading down the road of creation ex nihilo vs. the Platonic notion of pre-existence, and I really don’t care to go there (been-there-done-that). If someone else wants to engage in that, be my guest.

    My curiosity is with the notion that the Nicene Creed is non scriptural, and that it can only be, at best, an approximation of the truth. Is this not merely an assumption on your part? Also, the fact that philosophical language has been used to help us understand revelation does not necessitate error. God has given us the gift of both faith AND reason, and expects us to use both.

  25. John in MN says:

    (Warning: During this post, I talk about the “Mormon perspective”. It is not necessarily THE Mormon perspective. I am not an expert on the “Mormon perspective”, and the only impression I have is anecdotal. I take the liberty of presumption so as to not jumble the writing. If any presumption is incorrect, I apologize to all Ladder-Day Saints for the mischaracterization, and please provide the proper characterization.)

    The more I think about it, the more a particular topic seems to be begging for exposure. On comment #19 Mark posed the following thought, which I think exposes the greatest fundamental difference between the Ladder-Day Saints and creedal Christians.

    Now Christ has a glorified, resurrected body by which he is able to subdue all things. Now how is it that the Father can subdue all things without such a body, or any kind of body at all? In other words, what was the point in Christ getting a body? What good does it do him? If Christ can do what he does just as well without a body, whence the resurrection, for him or for us?

    The nature of God and the nature of humanity is truly at the root of this, and since my recent discovery of this blog, this has come up many times. But how does this difference manifest itself? Quite frankly, we look a lot alike. To the secularist, they can’t tell the difference between a Catholic, a Protestant, or a Mormon. Most Catholics probably couldn’t tell the difference between a Mormon service and one at a Fundamentalist (Christian) congregation.

    So where does this divide in our understanding of God show itself? After all, does it really matter, if we’re reading the same Bible, if God is one person or three? Does it matter if God was once a man? Both groups are on a journey to reach Heaven, and both name Jesus as the Savior. With so much in common, where do we part company? Answer: The Incarnation.

    Mormons tend not to use that word much if at all. They know what it means, though, and they do have reverence for it, especially for reasons which we have a common understanding. I will list a few, though there may be more: It was prophesized, it was a promise from God from the beginning of human existence, it was announced by an angel, it brought our Savior into the world, the Christ, the God-man, through a virgin. I think we can all agree on these. But to the creedal Christian, it doesn’t end there. These represent just the beginning.

    Some Christians don’t contemplate the enormity and sublimity of the Incarnation. It’s a shame for them. The gratitude, the humility, and the love that one finds in this mystery are gifts from God, too precious to ignore.

    For the Mormon, though, the Incarnation isn’t anywhere near as remarkable. And this is because this Incarnation is scantly more remarkable than our own incarnation. It is simply part of the natural order of things. (From the Mormon perspective) We all pre-existed, and we all must take human form. There was no infinite condescension and humiliation involved in the Son of God taking human form. In fact, again from the Mormon perspective, it represents for him a step forward. It’s a step that God the Father has already taken himself. And provided one reaches the highest of Heavens, it is the step one’s own spirit children will be taking.

    That is a far cry from the creedal Christian perspective. Such a supernatural even of this magnitude simply cannot be put to words. Athanasius and Aquinas have tried, and thank God for them in aiding our understanding. But mysteries such as these are that which feed eternity.

    I’ll end this by noting a point of commonality between the LDS and Catholics, one not shared by many Protestants (to my knowledge). We both believe the Fall of Adam was indeed a fall forward. The reason from the Catholic perspective is that it brought us the Incarnation.

    From the Catechism:
    http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p122a3p1.htm

    460 The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature”:78 “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.”79 “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.”80 “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.”81
    78 2 Pt 1:4.
    79 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 19, 1: PG 7/1, 939.
    80 St. Athanasius, De inc. 54, 3: PG 25, 192B.
    81 St. Thomas Aquinas, Opusc. 57, 1-4.

    Thus we will have a superior nature, thanks to a loving God, who became flesh and dwelt among us. Hence, the informed Catholic would never ask this question.

    In other words, what was the point in Christ getting a body? What good does it do him?

    Seeing the Incarnation for what it is changes one’s entire outlook on who we are and the character of true charity. Thus, herein lies the gulf between Mormonism and Catholicism.

  26. Mark Butler says:

    John MN, The principle you quote is sufficiently general that we could hardly disagree (although you are not really answering my question). In fact most Latter-Day Saints, including notable scholars such as Blake Ostler, would describe the condescension of the Lord Jesus Christ in very similar terms. I would too, atlthoug I believe there is more to the story, and the New Testament is full of references to it (e.g. Heb 2:11), but that is a little off topic for the moment.

    So of course the Lord Jesus Christ needed to get a body to accomplish his mission. That is not the question – the question is why precisely is Jesus Christ more capable of subduing all things with a body than without? (cf. Philip. 3:21). Now if you simply say that Christ’s body is incidental, then you appear to be contradicting the latter scripture which says that Christ’s body is the working (the means) whereby he is able to subdue all things.

    This appears to be a basic difference between LDS theology and Catholic theology. We (generally speaking) are not theological absolutists in the same sense as most are. We believe that God accomplishes his purposes in the process of time, that he is powerful unto the fulfilling of all of his words, but that he generally cannot snap his fingers and bring the whole world into a saved, eternal state in an instant.

    That means for example that we believe that it is a metaphysical impossibility that mankind should be saved without an infinite and eternal Atonement where the Lord Jesus Christ himself should *suffer*. Further, we generally believe that the Eternal Father himself also suffers / sacrifices, stretches forth his hand all the day long, etc. to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

    Now as we have discussed before, divine aseity is the conventional Christian belief – i.e. that God as God does not suffer, that he doesn’t have any passions. He can demonstrate love all the time, but he does not feel the vicissitudes of love. We find that kind of depiction of God rather on the incomprehensible side, more akin to a statue than a person. The Old Testament describes the passions of God in enormously explicit terms, and along come a group of philosophers who convert the God of the Hebrews into the God of the Philosophers – an abstraction that no one can comprehend. Pythagoras and company worshipped the laws of mathematics. Sometimes the conventional Christian depiction of the Father seems rather similar – a collection of abstractions, or laws of nature, fate / destiny / predestination, without body, parts, or passions.

    Isn’t it conceivable that Jesus Christ came down to explain that God wasn’t like that at all? That rather he was the glorified, loving, and *passioned* ruler of the universe – that we are literally created in his image, not just metaphorically similar? That when we pray we may talk with him as one man speaketh with another?

  27. John in MN says:

    So of course the Lord Jesus Christ needed to get a body to accomplish his mission.

    You are going to have to provide some backing to suggest that Jesus, the Son of God, needed anything at all. The only thing he really needed was to do whatever was necessary to fulfill the will of the Father. And so that’s what he did.

    That is not the question – the question is why precisely is Jesus Christ more capable of subduing all things with a body than without?

    Well, let’s take a look at your Bible verse.

    Here’s the KJV:
    18: (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:
    19: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)
    20: For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
    21: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

    Okay, I can see where you would get that odd interpretation from that verse taken out of context. Let’s look at various Catholic-approved translations. First, the NA version:

    18 For many, as I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ.
    19 Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their “shame.” Their minds are occupied with earthly things.
    20 But our citizenship 13 is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
    21 He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself.

    Here’s the RSV:
    [18] For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, live as enemies of the cross of Christ.
    [19] Their end is destruction, their god is the belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.
    [20] But our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
    [21] who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power which enables him even to subject all things to himself.

    So you can see, especially in the two other versions, Paul is not saying that Jesus needed a body. He is able to subject all to himself because he was granted the power to do so by the Father. And we are granted this same power through baptism. He wasn’t talking about the need of a body, but encourging the faithful that they can overcome their lowly bodies through the graces that come from above.

    You offer a contradiction to argue against the Christian view of God. First you say that the Old Testament “describes the passions of God in enormously explicit terms” and then you say, “Isn’t it conceivable that Jesus Christ came down to explain that God wasn’t like that at all? That rather he was the glorified, loving, and *passioned* ruler of the universe?” Of couse, if they already saw him as that, as the Old Testament suggests, then he came down for nothing.

    He can demonstrate love all the time, but he does not feel the vicissitudes of love. We find that kind of depiction of God rather on the incomprehensible side, more akin to a statue than a person.

    Yes, I know what you mean. I’ve got a few statues that are infinate, create universes, and save their creation by dying for it.

    Now turning away from sarchasm, you are truly seeking at every turn to limit God, but in your view as well as in mine. The Catholic believes that God has a spiritual heart that we cannot comprehend. However we try to offer depictions of the state of His heart, we will never do justice. He does not “feel” the way we do, but in a very mystical way, he does suffer. In saving us, it cost God dearly. However much Jesus suffered in His passion, the Father must have suffered all the more, because it was His own divine will that it be done.

    So while I know you don’t believe in that God, you still are missing the point on the God I know. He most certainly can snap and make it so. Had He done so and not shown us His enormous love from the cross, we wouldn’t have an appreciation for His divine love, demonstrated through His Son at an enormous cost to both Father and Son. We then might be closer to believing in your statue model of God.

  28. Brad says:

    Wow, John. I don’t know why the spam plugin is convinced that you’re a spambot. Sorry about the delays.

  29. Seth R. says:

    For the record, my comment about acceptance or nonacceptance of Methodist vs. Mormon baptisms was directed at the RCC’s historical stance in the broadest sense.

    Is the RCC the official Church of God or not?

    If so, the Methodists are just another apostate group right along with the Mormons. Neither baptism should be recognized.

    I understand that my take on this is likely several decades old. I believe the RCC already had this debate out and decided to move toward a reconcilliation with the general Protestant community. I am not well-versed in the nuances of that debate and discussion. I simply ask: if the Pope is God’s one true representative, where are the Methodists getting the right or authority to Baptise in God’s name?

    My own LDS framework says, “there can be only one.” And the world is thus, starkly divided into the “authorized” and the “unauthorized.” Under this view, a Catholic who is willing to view Methodist ordinances as “just as valid as Catholic ones” is not taking her religion as seriously as I would hope.

    I still respect the desire for Christian reconcilliation. But I would respect a refusal of non-RCC baptisms more. That’s all.

  30. Mark Butler says:

    John MN, it is a staple of Catholic theology that God does not have any passions, that he is absolutely simple, despite being composed of three Persons, that all his properties are identical to each other, and so on. The number of hoops that somebody like Aquinas jumps through to defend this conception is astounding – a pure feat of intellectual legerdemain. Now I admit that many of the aspects of God are indeed paradoxical, but that is because God is infinitely complex, not infinitely simple.

    The type of philosophical reasoning about God that we object to is well demonstrated historically in the following article on the doctrine of divine impassibility:

    Robert D. Culver, “The Impassibility of God: Cyril of Alexandria to Moltmann”, Christian Apologetics Journal, Spring 1998.
    http://www.ses.edu/journal/articles/1.1Culver.pdf

    Now considering that we consider this particular type of theology to be an abomination, it is easy to see why we believe the great apostasy was in progress from relatively early on.

  31. John in MN says:

    Here comes some more spam…

    Seth,

    Let me say that it would have been helpful is the CDF had provided a detailed explanation for their findings. But I assure you, compared to the man formerly known as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, we are all guppies in the pond of theology. With him in charge of the decision, I know it was made with great care, with historical consistency, and without any prejudice against the LDS (and I know this is suspected by many and part of the thought behind the endless questioning of this decision).

    Now I don’t expect you to have the respect or trust I have in the now Pope, but I don’t think there is any evidence that he would gratuitously single-out the Mormons.

    Is the RCC the official Church of God or not?

    If so, the Methodists are just another apostate group right along with the Mormons. Neither baptism should be recognized.

    The reason is two-fold. 1) the state of Methodists and Mormons is very different 2) there is only one Church, “official” or unofficial.

    1) Methodism is, in technical terms, a heresy. But the Church doesn’t use that term as an insult to them, it simply reflects their beliefs in relation to ours. A church, or faith group, can basically be in one of 4 different states. They can be in “communion”, or fully alligned with the Holy See. This would be the case for the 22 rites of the Mother Church. They can be in “schism”, which means they are doctrinally sound and have a full slate of sacraments, but they do not accept the authority of the Holy See. These churches include the Eastern Orthodox, the Coptics, most Armenian churches, the Anglican Catholic Church, most Traditionalist Catholics, and others. Then there are those in “heresy”, which means they are not doctrinally sound, but they still subscribe to the fundamental beliefs, or creeds, of the Church. This would include most of the Protestants. The final category are those who do not subscribe the the fundamental beliefs, which include Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Mormons. They may exhibit defined heresies, but they have begun or drifted outside of the common fundamental beliefs. The Church indeed has a great deal of respect for those who believe in God, but it does have to recognize where every faith group lies in relation to Truth.

    Mormons and Methodists are not the same. They are very distinct differences and those differences are not ignored.

    2) To Mormons, all other faiths are outside of the LDS Church, and therefore have no authority to baptize. The Catholic Church does not view the “one, holy, catholic, and apostalic Church” in that mannor. The universal Church includes those in schism and in heresy. That is irrespective of the religious group’s attitude toward the RCC. Therefore, we simply have a different way of looking at those outside our church than you do. It is simply not an “all or nothing” approach. When it comes to baptism, God did not give the Church exclusive rights to baptize. But it does have the authority to recognize a valid baptism.

    As you see from my comment in #6, anyone can baptize, provided they meet the conditions. That means a Mormon could perform a valid baptism. But since the Mormon intention of baptism is well-defined in intention, it can be assumed that it is invalid. A Mormon would have to ignore their own theology to perform a valid baptism, and it is safe to assume that this doesn’t happen too often.

  32. John in MN says:

    Wow, I’m on the spaminator’s good side!

    Mark, I honestly tell you this, that in the last week I’ve heard talks by Father John Corapi and Father Larry Richards where they speak specifically on the issue of the Father’s sacrifice. In fact, I stole the line, “it cost God dearly” from Fr. Richards. Both men are well-known for boldly proclaiming the Truth. I wish I could link to the transcript of those talks, and maybe I can, given more time. Both acknowledge the doctrine you mentioned, of which I am aware of and heard reiterated last night in a talk from Father Robert Altier (yes, I listen to a lot of “talks”, maybe too many). I will try over the next few days to offer some reconciliation of these two perspectives, but in the mean time, trust that there is nothing wrong or unorthidox with acknowledging that God the Father, who does not and can not suffer in the way we do, is indeed personal, loving, and self-giving, in ways beyond our understanding. “Passions” as I think you use the term, are probably inappropriate to characterize God, but I’d have to see specifics.

  33. Seth R. says:

    Thanks for explaining John. Mostly, I think my own stance simply comes from being a member of a Church that is both more absolutist and more simplistic in its approach than the RCC. The absolutism is a doctrinal issue. The simplisticness simply comes of being a “young religion.”

  34. Brad says:

    Seth, I’d also like to mention that we believe we know where the Church is, but we don’t know where it isn’t. That is, if somebody has been validly baptized, we know that he is a member of the Church – God has worked this grace through the sacrament of Baptism, as He promised. But God can also work through any means He wants, and so someone may be a member of the Body of Christ without us or that person even knowing it, materially if not formally. Lots of Mormons probably are. This is why, in spite of our beliefs about the necessity of baptism, we can’t say definitively that anyone has been damned.

  35. Seth R. says:

    Well, as far as “damned” goes, Mormons say that Cain’s the only case-study of THAT. Mormon “Outer-Darkness” is a pretty exclusive club and it’s pretty hard to qualify for it. We’re not even sure Judas Iscariot or Adolph Hitler made in in there!

    Very, very, very few people qualify for “damnation” under Mormon theology. Of course, we have a layered view of heaven that accomodates this and gives us a lot of leeway between “damnation” and “exhaltation.”

  36. John in MN says:

    Mark, no luck on finding transcripts. But I did find this:

    While the Fathers of the Church are often accused of transforming the living, loving, compassionate, and personal God of the Bible into the static, lifeless, inert, and impersonal God of Greek philosophy, this is clearly false, though there was the occasional misstep. What the early Fathers, such as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Tertullian, and Novatian brought to the long-standing philosophical colloquium concerning the nature of God was not primarily their own philosophical acumen, but their faith in the biblical God.

    In keeping with biblical revelation, as opposed to pagan mythologies, they were concerned with upholding the complete otherness of the one God in relationship to the created order. They accentuated and clarified, against Platonism and Aristotelianism, that God did not merely order or set in motion preexistent matter but that, by His almighty power, He created all out of nothing—creatio ex nihilo. God was then no longer merely at the pinnacle of a hierarchy of being, but His transcendence, as Creator, radically placed Him within a distinct ontological order of His own. As such He was the perfectly good and loving personal God who eternally existed in and of Himself.

    That comes from a long, very well put-together article on Impassibility from Thomas G. Weinandy, who is currently the Executive Director of Secretariat for Doctrine and Pastoral Practices for the USCCB. It’s not exactly what I was looking for to speak of the Father’s “suffering”, especially since he concludes pretty firmly that it doesn’t happen. But it does do justice to the concept of impassibility from the Catholic perspective, certainly showing that our view of God is not, “more akin to a statue than a person.”

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