Ep20-The Attributes Of God Ch 14 - A Mormon Christology (Part 1)

This weeks episode goes over the unique Mormon aspects of Christology. We lay the ground work for solving the conventional problems of Christology by examining the nature of the relationship between God the Father and Christ.

Topics Discussed:
• Distinctive Doctrines of Mormon Scripture
• A Modified Kenotic Theory of Christology

Show Notes:


“Mormonism’s distinctive understanding of God derives from its commitment that Jesus the Christ is the preeminent revelation both of what God is and what humans are. Mormonism takes Jesus as the model of what it means to be truly and fully human and truly and fully divine.”

“Insuperable problems for Christology are created by the conventional belief which posits an ontological dichotomy between the Creator and the created which can never be bridged no matter how much progress humans make. Mormonism’s belief that Godhood and humanity form a continuum—that divinity is fully mature humanity—allows it to avoid the most intractable logical problems confronting Christology.”

“Mormon scripture develops a Christology beginning with the Book of Mormon, at least in seed, which follows an identifiable trajectory through the Nauvoo period. I think that it is fair to say that the distinctive Mormon view of God is a result of its understanding that Jesus of Nazareth is a revelation of the nature of both God and man.”

Distinctive Doctrines of Mormon Scripture

“1. Christ is the God of the Old Testament, Yahweh. The individual divine person who took on himself flesh is identical to Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament.”

Is this possibly due to a trinitarian early view of Joseph Smith?

“2. Only an infinite god can atone for sins.”

“3. The Son as God is capable of greater suffering than mere mortals.”

“4. God condescends to become mortal.”

“5. Christ is divine because of his relation of unity with the father.”

“6. Humans become divine in the same way as Christ.”

“7. Human/divine nature is uncreated.”

“A Modified Kenotic Theory of Christology”

“A new form of kenosis theory seems to emerge in Mormon scripture which I shall refer to as the “modified kenosis theory of Christology.” This new view shares the concept with the radical theory that Christ did not possess the “fullness” of the divine properties at the time he initiated his mortal experience.”

“Christ possessed some of the essential properties of divinity to a relative or potential degree, including knowledge, power and immanence. As Jesus matured in his humanity through the indwelling grace of the Father, he also grew and matured in the divine attributes.”

“Mormon scriptures assume a view of perfection that some divine properties are subject to growth from grace to grace. The notion of perfection is that of “relative perfection” as defined by Hartshorne, which allows that God may grow in some respects. There is no upper limit to happiness, no maximum of experience conceived as dynamic interaction with all realities. In contrast, the classic theology conceived of perfection as an absolute upper limit and as total independence from the created order.”

“The implication of these revelations is that divinity is communicable to humans. Humans share in the divine glory by being suffused with God’s spirit or light. Humans participate in divine status contingently. Human apotheosis consists of growing in God’s glory or light until a person is one with God. ”

“humans are gods through divine grace—by receiving God’s very image into their beings through accepting God’s free offer of grace as the source of their life force.”

“Because the Son’s divinity arises from his relationship with the Father, a Mormon Christology also necessarily implies a particular view of the Godhead. In particular, the Mormon scriptures always define Christology by defining the relationship between the Father and the Son. Indeed, a kenotic theory is possible only if the persons of the Godhead are truly distinct in just the way Mormonism teaches. The relationship between the divine persons in Mormon thought may be defined as follows:

(1) Distinct persons. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are three distinct divine persons who are one Godhead by virtue of oneness of indwelling unity of presence, glory, and oneness of mind, purpose, power and intent. Each of the three divine persons is a distinct person in the fullest modern sense of the word, having distinct cognitive and conative personality. Because each of these capacities requires a distinct consciousness, each divine person is a distinct center of self-consciousness.

(2) Loving dependence and ontological independence. The Son and the Holy Ghost are subordinate to the Father and dependent on their relationship of indwelling unity and love with the Father for their divinity—that is, the Father is the source or fount of divinity of the Son and Holy Ghost. If the oneness of the Son and/or Holy Ghost with the Father should cease, then so would their divinity. However, the Son and Holy Ghost do not depend upon the Father for their existence as individuals, and thus each of the divine persons has de re ontologically necessary existence. Further, although the Father does not depend for his divine status on the Son or Holy Ghost, nevertheless, it is inconceivable that the Father should be God in isolation from them because God is literally the love of the divine persons for “each other.

(3) Divinity. Godhood or the divine nature is the immutable set of essential properties necessary to be divine. There is only one Godhood or divine essence in this sense. Each of the distinct divine persons shares this set of great-making properties which are severally necessary and jointly sufficient for their possessor to be divine. Each of the divine persons has this essence though none is simply identical with it.

(4) Indwelling unity. The unity of the divine persons falls short of identity but is much more intimate than merely belonging to the same class of individuals. There are distinct divine persons, but hardly separated or independent divine persons. In the divine life there is no alienation, isolation, insulation, secretiveness or aloneness. The divine persons exist in a unity that includes loving, interpenetrating awareness of another who is also “in” one’s self. The divine persons somehow spiritually extend their personal presence to dwell in each other and thus become “one” “in” each other. Thus, the divine persons as one Godhead logically cannot experience the alienation and separation that characterize human existence.

(5) Monotheism. These scriptures present a form of monotheism in the sense that it is appropriate “to use the designator “God” to refer to the Godhead as one emergent unity on a new level of existence and a different level of logical categories. The unity is so complete that each of the distinct divine persons has the same mind in the sense that what one divine person knows, all know as one; what one divine person wills, all will as one. The unity is so profound that there is only one power governing the universe instead of three, for what one divine person does, all do as one. There is a single state of affairs brought about by the divine persons acting as one almighty agency. Because the properties of all-encompassing power, knowledge and presence arise from and in dependence on the relationship of divine unity, it logically follows necessarily that the distinct divine persons cannot exercise power in isolation from one another. Therefore, it follows that there is necessarily only one sovereign of the universe.

(6) Apotheosis. Humans may share the same divinity as the divine persons through grace by becoming one with the divine persons in the same sense that they are one with each other. However, humans are eternally subordinate to and dependent upon their relationship of loving unity with the divine persons for their status as “gods.” By acting as one with the Godhead, deified humans will share fully in the “godly attributes” of knowledge, power and glory of God.”

Somewhat akin to Social Trinitarianism...."emergent trinity"

“This view of the one God as an emergent social trinity requires a radical revision of some common assumptions about the Mormon concept of God.”


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