Thursday, October 16, 2008

Talking ‘bout my deification

A lot of discussions revolving around mormonism end up wandering off into ancillary issues: Adam-God, the Mountain Meadows massacre, various eccentric oddities in the Book of Mormon (and there are lots of those!) I think that is partly intentional, because it serves to distract from the question at hand. But discussions of those issues, while interesting and some of them are topics I will raise here because they reflect the fundamental errors of mormonism, don’t get at the real core of the problem. Lots of Christian churches teach things that I don’t particularly like. Lots of Christian churches teach things in error (i.e. infant baptism). Some denominations get the Gospel wrong, even though they recognize the proper nature of God, especially as it relates to Christ (i.e. Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy).

But where the proverbial rubber meets the road, where mormonism diverges most radically from Christianity, is in the nature of God and as a corollary the nature of man.

Mormonism teaches that God of the Bible is actually an exalted man (Gospel Principles pg. 9). That means that God is not unique in the universe, not just in “this” universe but in terms of being existence as a whole. Not only is God not unique, but He is created which means that there are other gods like Him and that it would also mean that there was a god who created Him who stands above Him. This stands in opposition to the traditionally held beliefs of Christians of all stripes. One or the other must be false. God cannot be both eternal and uncreated and at the same time an exalted, created being. It is my contention that the Bible reveals to us a God who is like no other being, and that there are no other gods because God is unique and has revealed Himself as such. This is a brief Scriptural case for that position looking at the nature of God, the nature of man and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The nature of God

Who and what is God? I am not asking here about philosophical speculation or what this or that early Christian postulated. What I am talking about is who God has revealed Himself to be in His Word. The Bible is, speaking most broadly, a record of God’s revelation of Himself to man. The God revealed in Scripture is unlike anyone or anything. God has eternally existed in three persons, Father, Son and Spirit and for His own pleasure and glory created the universe. No one made God, He is without cause or creation. A sample of Scripture indicates this truth...

To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him. Out of heaven he let you hear his voice, that he might discipline you. And on earth he let you see his great fire, and you heard his words out of the midst of the fire. And because he loved your fathers and chose their offspring after them and brought you out of Egypt with his own presence, by his great power, driving out before you nations greater and mightier than yourselves, to bring you in, to give you their land for an inheritance, as it is this day, know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. (Deuteronomy 4:35-39)

Let these words of mine, with which I have pleaded before the LORD, be near to the LORD our God day and night, and may he maintain the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel, as each day requires, that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God; there is no other. (1 Kings 8:59-60)

Therefore you are great, O LORD God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears. (2 Samuel 7:22)

I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:5-6)

The prevailing theme here? That there is no other god but God. Not that there is none like Him in these here parts. There is but one God anywhere and He is unique, without being created. Man is as different from God as the east is from the west. We are created in His image, but we are not like Him in nature because no one, no being, nothing is like Him.

The nature of man

Just as the Bible is clear that God is unique, uncreated, eternal, without beginning or end, perfectly just and loving, sublimely holy, it is also clear that man is anything but. Man is revealed as utterly sinful, lost in sin, an enemy to God by nature.

The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.(Genesis 6:5)

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. (Psalms 51:5)

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23)

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned-- (Romans 5:12)

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.(Ephesians 2:1-3)

Man is many things. Sinful, Imperfect. Prone to wander. But gods in embryo? Capable of progressing into godhood? Certainly not. We are adopted into the family of God. We receive the imputed righteousness of Christ that replaces our iniquity. We never become righteous in and of ourselves. Our only righteousness is that imputed to us through the grace of God by faith in Christ.

The Gospel

The Gospel is marvelously simple and infinitely complex, but what it boils down to is this (and this of course is a very imperfect summary). God who is infinite and eternal created man in His image and for His pleasure. The first man, Adam, willfully rebelled against God by disobeying the clear command to not eat of the fruit. Man was thereby cast out of the Garden, out of the fellowship with God that Adam had enjoyed. That rebellion had the consequence of both physical death and spiritual death, i.e. hell. Despite the rebellion and enmity of man to God, God revealed Himself to His creatures and set about redeeming a people to Himself. That redemptive plan saw it's culmination in the miracle of the virgin birth of Christ. The Son of God lived a perfect life and ministered among man for some time, and was crucified by the Romans under Pontius Pilate with the blessing and encouragement of many of the Jewish leadership. He bore the wrath of God for the sins of His elect on the cross, and died on that same cross. He was buried and then rose again on the third day, appearing to many of His followers and charging them to spread the Gospel. He then ascended into heaven, where He awaits the day of judgment when He will bring His bride, the church, home.

What is missing from the Gospel is any hint that Christ came to enable sinners to become gods, or that it is His intent to see that happen. Jesus Christ came to save sinners, not to make new gods.

The doctrines of mormonism are at odds with Christianity, the revelation of Christ in the Bible in many ways, but nowhere more clearly or tragically than in the misrepresentation of God and man, and in the way that another Gospel is being proclaimed around the world by deceived young men. This is where our focus ought to be first and foremost: declaring Jesus Christ as the only means to save a people who are lost.

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