Ep21-The Attributes Of God Ch 14 - A Mormon Christology (Part 2)

This is the last episode covering Vol 1: The Attributes of God. Last week we laid out the unique Mormon commitments of a Christology and this week we see if it can hold up to scrutiny. We discuss how the Mormon view dissolves many of the issues in conventional Christology, but has its own set of challenges. Enjoy!

Topics Discussed:
• God's Necessary Existence
• The Necessity of Condescension and Kenosis
• Are Divinity and Humanity Compossible in Christ?
• Time Indexed Properties of Divinity
• Was Jesus Truly Human
• The Problems of Identity
• Was It Possible for Jesus to Sin?
• Could Yahweh Be God If He Could Learn from Suffering?

Show Notes

God’s Necessary Existence

“Doctrine and Covenants section 93 seems to contemplate that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost as individuals each have de re ontologically necessary existence—that is, it is their nature to exist and they individually cannot fail to exist. The Father is the source of light and truth which is communicated to the Son through the Spirit of Truth (D&C 93:8, 26–27). God’s attribute of intelligence, or “light of truth was not created or made, neither indeed can be” (D&C 93:29). By strict implication it follows that the divine persons must themselves have such ontologically necessary existence.”

“Because the divine persons are perfectly rational beings, it follows that they will always freely choose to relate to one another and sustain the loving relationship in existence. It would be irrational to reject the greatest good possible which consists of the loving relationship of indwelling intimacy among the divine persons. Therefore, it is certain that they will freely choose to love one another as one God. It is logically possible that the Godhead may fail to exist if the divine persons freely choose to cease loving one another; but it is not practically possible. ”

“The divine attributes of governing power over and knowledge of all things cannot be possessed outside the complete unity which characterizes the relationship between the community of divine persons.”

“It is the community, collective or divine persons-as-one-God, who necessarily agree as one, that has the ultimate authority and power.”

“God as a community of divine persons is the greatest conceivable love. Their united love gives rise to an incommensurable joy. Further, this loving relationship has been extended to mere mortals. This love gives rise to life and glory on a new level of supreme existence which proceeds from God’s presence to fill the immensity of space as light from the sun fills the solar system (D&C 88:6–13). This light which proceeds from the one God’s presence is the source of all biological life and of the natural laws which govern all things (D&C 88:16–36). Thus, there can be no rivals to the one God because in this sense God comprehends all reality within the scope of his governing power, knowledge and love. The divine persons as- one-God enjoy life on a level of existence different from individuals. Though humans also have necessary existence, the level of existence of the Godhead is vastly different. The power, knowledge, and compassion of the one God are supreme.”

The Necessity of Condescension and Kenosis

“The Godhead could unitedly decide that one of the divine persons must become human to provide atonement and salvation for humans. The only reason for leaving the Godhead is thus an overriding love for mere humans. This view of God thus entails an implicit kenotic Christology.”

“It seems to me that the following notion of “a fullness of divinity” is implicit in the Mormon understanding of divine nature:
(P1) Any being that acts upon and is acted upon by all reality immediately is fully divine.”

“The basic theological assumption underlying (P1) is that any being that perfectly participates in the spirit, light, glory or intelligence which “proceeds forth from God’s presence to fill the immensity of space” possesses the same experience—the same mind—as God the Father.”

Are Divinity and Humanity Compossible in Christ?

“The classical question posed by the Christian view that God became a man also confronts the Mormon view: Is Jesus the Christ truly human and truly divine? How can Jesus of Nazareth be identical with God the Son if Jesus is limited in power while it is admitted that the Son of God is maximally powerful, if Jesus is limited in knowledge and the Son of God maximally knowing?”

“Jesus revealed something of human nature when he said: “Ye are gods” (John 10:34). To be fully human is to approach divinity. It is for this reason that “when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure” (Moro. 7:48). The resurrected Christ is the perfect union of human and divine. He asked the Nephites: “What manner of men ought ye to be?” His answer was simple: “Verily, I say unto you, even as I am” (3 Ne. 27:27). His perfection is not something that is impossible for humans to realize; it is what we are if we are fully human: “Therefore, I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect” (3 Ne. 12:48).”

What is essential to humanity/divinity? To what degree must these attributes be possessed? “ Now take this list of “essential human properties” and compare it with the properties possessed by a three-day-old baby:”

“In the conventional view, divinity and humanity are necessarily two separate and logically distinct natures. The properties of humanity are not compossible with divinity because the ontological status of God is completely different and other than the ontological status of humans. In the Mormon view, however, divinity and humanity are constituted of the same nature. God has the same ontological status as humans for both are, in their individual essences, uncreated and backwardly eternal. God is not different in kind from humans but differs in that he fully actualizes the divine-making properties which are possessed only in potentiality by humans.”

Time-Indexed Properties of Divinity

“A time- indexed property is a property that, once possessed, is always possessed; it must be possessed thereafter by virtue of past necessity. Further, some attributes are such that they are immutable by their very nature and cannot be given up or modified. Such immutable attributes include divine simplicity, timelessness, pure actuality, immutability and having the property of being the Creator of the world.”

“For example, Orson Pratt responded to the Reverend F. Austin’s assertion that God is timeless: “God and all of his magnificent works are limited in duration and time. It could not be otherwise.”19 B. H. Roberts responded to the Reverend Van Der Donckt’s claim that God is not temporal by asserting that, in taking Jesus Christ as the revelation of the nature of God, there is necessarily a “succession of time with God—a before and after; here is being and becoming.”20 If the Son became a man at a given temporal time as the modified kenotic theory suggests, then a notion of temporality and process in the divine life is inescapable.”

“Mormonism rejects the notion of creatio ex nihilo and asserts that God created by organizing a cosmos out of chaos, by organizing preexisting potentialities into realities. It seems to me that this mode of creation is not radically different from human creation. Humans may bring into existence a new piece of art, a new invention, anything made by humans, by organizing materials. All human creativity involves organizing preexisting elements in novel ways. Humans are fully cocreators with God in the sense that their free acts contribute something noble to the world that God could not bring about unilaterally. ”

Was Jesus Truly Human?

“It may also be objected that Jesus was not truly human, for if Jesus possessed the property of being “potentially omnipotent,” then it may be that he could after all exercise omnipotence simply by willing to do so. If Christ were potentially omnipotent, then this could be taken to mean that he could become actually omnipotent at will, for I can possess a power without exercising it.”

“Now it must be admitted that there is a severe danger in Mormonism of a docetic Christ—not in the sense that he does not truly suffer but in the sense that he is not truly limited in power and knowledge.”

“How could Jesus truly experience the limitations of humanity if he were all-knowing and all-powerful?”

“If Jesus’ possession of the fullness of divine properties is dependent on the will of the Father, then Jesus cannot exercise omnipotence at will. Rather, the realization of the potentiality is dependent on Jesus doing the Father’s will. Thus, the miracles are not wrought in virtue of Jesus’ own divine power, but based upon his faith in the Father and the Father’s power bringing about the miracle. ”

Merely human vs fully human

son of God vs Son of God

Talk about Jesus' suffering vs human suffering

The Problems of Identity

“How can Jesus be the same being with God the Son when they do not have any properties in common?”

“However, the kenotic model, if placed in a Mormon framework, does provide an adequate criteria of continuity of identity so that we can assert that Jesus is the same being as the preexistent Christ. ”

Was It Possible for Jesus to Sin?

“If Jesus possessed the property of perfect goodness in the same respect that God is perfectly good, then it seems inconsistent to say that Jesus truly could sin, for it seems incompatible with the divine nature to permit sin in any sense. However, the notion of moral perfection underlying this objection assumes the doctrine of essential predication pursuant to which God is understood to possess any property which he possesses necessarily.”

“The proper response to the problem of divine goodness is to deny the doctrine of essential predication with respect to the divine status of the individual divine persons. In other words, Jesus refrained from sinning not because it was logically impossible for him to do so, but because he freely decided not to sin even though he was free in the libertarian sense to do so.25 But such a response may seem to make trust in divine goodness precarious. Though God has not done any evil thing yet, it is still logically possible that he will do so. Nevertheless, I think that trust in God is possible only because we recognize that God is truly free and could sin, but we trust that he will not do so.”

Could Yahweh Be God If He Could Learn from Suffering?

“The kenotic Christology assumed in Mormon scripture poses a problem not faced by conventional thought because it asserts that Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament who became flesh as Jesus of Nazareth, did not know all that it was possible to know. For example, Yahweh did not know what it was to suffer prior to his mortality. And yet he was recognized as very God. ”

This can be resolved if we define omniscience in a way analogous to omnipotence: person R is all-knowing at a time t if and only if R knows all things that it is possible for a person having R’s attributes to know at t. If this definition of omniscience is acceptable, then Yahweh need not possess experiential knowledge if such knowledge is contrary to the attributes he possesses.”

“(P2) It is impossible that alienation, abandonment and isolation are experienced genuinely by the Son as part of the Son’s immediate experience of all realities.”

Needed to gain experiential knowledge. Rose smell and computer example again.

“Jesus is deserving of praise, respect and even worship, but not because he stayed aloof from human limitations, not because he succeeded in refraining from sinning because it was logically impossible to sin, and not because he is unaffected by our pains and sufferings. Rather, he is deserving precisely because he could have sinned but freely chose not to; he could have avoided the pain but freely chose to experience it first hand so that he could be our Savior.”

“John Hick suggests that humans must confront a life outside the obvious glory and power of God so that they can freely choose to enter into relationship with God. A genuine relationship cannot be created out of nothing nor can it be coerced. Rather, a genuine relationship must be entered freely. A relationship cannot simply be created because then it is not the result of such a free choice.27 Similarly, if the Son existed eternally in relation with the Father, there is no time at which the Son can choose to “enter into” the relationship—for at any given time the decision to enter into the relationship is already made.”

“Further, Hick suggests that a moral character which is forged through a process of making real decisions in concrete situations is more genuine, more valuable than a virtue which is simply created ex nihilo or simply exists ab initio from all eternity. This condition would seem to hold for the Son as well as for humans.”

“It was genuinely possible in Mormon thought that Jesus might choose not to drink of that “bitter cup” which had been placed before him. ”

“Once Christ gave up a fullness of his divine status, he could not regain it simply by desiring to once again be fully divine. Otherwise, Jesus would not have been truly human. If he could have overcome the Roman legions simply by desiring to once again become all-powerful, then he was in fact all-powerful throughout his entire mortal experience. There would have been no real test because he could have called off the test at any time. Instead, Jesus was totally dependent on the Father for his glory and divine status once he freely decided to give it up.”

“The Son divested himself of the divine glory which arises from his immanent relationship to the world, but this relationship to the world is not essential for possessing the divine properties in potentiality. By distinguishing the divine nature or essence from the external relations of God to the world, it is possible to say that Jesus retained divine properties while divesting himself of the fullness of the divine glory. It is thus possible in the modified kenotic view expressed in Mormon scripture to affirm that God the Son became fully human but retained his essential divinity.


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