Ep55-Challenges to Mormon Social Trinitarianism - Of God and Gods Ch 9

Topics Discussed:
• The Problem of the Godhead and Monotheism
• Divine Embodiment and Monotheism
• The Problem of Diminished Divinity
• The Competing Omnipotents Problem
• The Problem of Divine Deception

Show Notes:


“There can be little doubt that the view of the LDS Godhead that I propose differs quite significantly from traditional theology to the extent that it rejects metaphysical monotheism as the conceptual matrix to develop a theology. I submit that this view is more faithful to the scriptures and recognizes the nuances of the word “God” and the divine nature more adequately. I am certainly not claiming that the scriptures spell out these commitments and logical entailments in the way that I have. I am claiming that these basic commitments are all fully scriptural and that the tradition has slighted the senses of “God” that recognize that there is more than one of the kind “divine.”

The Problem of the Godhead and Monotheism

“The primary argument against Mormon beliefs by many conventional Christians is that Mormons are, in reality, polytheists rather than monotheists.”

In Mormonism “they are but one God in three senses: (1) there is only one Father who is the God of all other gods and the fount of divinity for the other divine persons; (2) there is only one divine essence or set of shared properties or qualities that are severally necessary and jointly sufficient to be fully divine; (3) there is only one Godhead consisting of the three fully divine persons joined in indwelling unity as one God.”

Brian Leftow claims that Social Trinitarianism is a violation of “Jewish monotheism.”

“The first question that must be asked is: Which Jewish monotheism?”...“Why isn’t Israelite “monotheism” more relevant?”

“the notion of metaphysical monotheism seems to me to be a paradigm that is imposed on the biblical text but which is rather foreign to it.”

“Given that the divinity of the divine persons arises from their indwelling unity, it follows that any notion of worshipping the Son or Spirit apart from the Father, the one God, is conceptually impossible. The reason that it is conceptually impossible is that the fulness of divinity of the divine persons depends on their perfect agreement and indwelling unity, making it therefore impossible for them to be fully divine without each other...would we worship the father if he was not in this divine unity?

 It is impossible to properly worship a person who is not fully divine.”...why?

“one could not worship the Son without the Father any more than one could drink oxygen that is not joined in molecular unity with hydrogen to create water.”

Effects of christology on this subject

Divine Embodiment and Monotheism

“It seems to me that the concept that the divine persons are embodied, as affirmed in Mormon thought, immediately raises the suspicion that there must be more than one God because each is individuated by spatio-temporal properties in addition to merely relational properties.”

“There are at least three important implications of this view of the divine embodiment.

First, they are persons in a robust sense.”

“Second, they are distinguished by their possession of different spatio-temporally located (in some sense) bodies as well as by their distinct wills and personalities.”

“Third, they can each act through their bodies in a way that is distinct from the other members of the Godhead”

“It seems to me that whether God (in the sense of divine persons) is embodied essentially or simply chooses to become embodied and therefore is embodied only contingently remains an open question in Mormon thought (though God in the sense of the Godhead is essentially noncorporeal except to the extent that the material universe could be considered God’s body by analogy).”

“Aquinas argued that the Father is also potentially embodied. “Whatever the Son can do, so can the Father and Holy Ghost. But the Son was able to become incarnate. Therefore, the Father and the Holy Ghost were able to become incarnate.”

“creedal Christians may believe that Christ's body is retained only in his “human nature” though Christ is fully glorified even in his body. The Mormon belief is similar in that, while the Father and the Son are localized by their bodily presence, their spiritual light or power, authority, and glory are diffused throughout all things in the material universe. They are present to us even though their localized, material bodies are not immediately present.”

The Problem of Diminished Divinity

“Leftow also argues that Social Trinitarian theories generically suffer from the problem of diminished divinity in which the “one God” is properly the Trinity as a whole. Thus, the Trinity as a whole is properly God but the divine persons are not.”

“Leftow undoubtedly would argue that the diminished divinity problem enters the picture in a new way in my view of the Mormon doctrine of the Godhead. He may argue that, in this view, only the Father is properly God because he alone is the fount of divinity and he alone possesses the properties of divinity in himself. Thus, the Son and the Spirit suffer from diminished divinity in comparison to the Father.”

“he concedes that, if a person has certain properties to a certain degree, then that person is fully divine. That is precisely what I propose.”

“Perhaps Leftow would argue that the mutual dependence of the divine persons on each other for their full divinity conflicts with the intuition that “God” must be divine without dependence. It may be argued that God must possess aseity, or have the fulness of a divine nature in and of itself, or it would be possible for God to cease to be God.”

“So how can the Father be of the same “divinity” as the Son and Spirit and at the same time uniquely the “one God” who is incomparably great?”

“There is, of course, a long history of subordinationism based upon numerous scriptural texts which recognize the Son’s subordination to the Father. Nevertheless, Mormons ought to be skittish about adopting any view that renders the Son subordinate in the sense that the Son is somehow less divine than the Father because, like classical Christians, the Mormon scriptures clearly insist that only an “infinite God” will suffice to bring about the atonement (2 Ne. 9:7, Alma 34:10). The notion that the Son is fully God is more central to Mormon scripture than has”

The Competing Omnipotents Problem

“I believe that this supposed problem with omnipotence is quite easily answered given the view of God that I propose here. Necessarily, there cannot be competing omnipotent wills because, if the wills are in competition, they are, by definition in the view that I have proposed, not omnipotent. Further, the divine persons will not compete with one another to achieve competing interests because they are perfectly transparent to one another, knowing each other’s will perfectly. In addition, they are perfectly rational, and it would be irrational to compete with another and cease to agree as one because to do so would result in ceasing to be omnipotent. Thus, the divine persons would see that it is impossible to accomplish any purpose unless they agree.”

“They are like flashlight batteries for each other. They have the capacity to let their light shine only if they are in the presence of a power source. They are a power source that energizes each other such that, when they are united as one, their intrinsic capacity to shine is actuated. The divine persons empower one another; they do not create yet another divine entity.”

What about competing with another logically possible godhead?

“Of course, it is logically possible that the divine persons may disagree with one another.” Expound on that.

“It may also be asked why there are three united from all eternity instead of two—or three million. The answer is that the number of divine persons united from eternity could have been any number, but revelation discloses that the number just happens to be three. Because the choice to be so united is a free choice in a libertarian sense, it is a mistake to seek some answer outside of the will of the divine persons that dictates that they must make that choice.”

“It may also be asked how it is possible for persons to choose from all eternity to be in such a relationship. It seems that there must be at least some temporal moment prior to the time that they chose to be in the divine relationship of indwelling unity. However, it is not true that there must be a time before they freely chose to enter into relationship with each other. It is logically possible that, in each moment of the existence for divine persons, they make such a choice; therefore, it is logically possible that they make that choice in every moment of eternal existence.”

The Problem of Divine Deception

“Dale Tuggy has argued that Social Trinitarianism essentially entails that God is deceptive about his identity. He constructs the analogy of a young girl who is contacted by three men, each of whom presents himself as Fred, her estranged father, although, in reality, none of them is Fred and the three of them arranged among themselves to each contact her from time to time, presenting himself as her father. When the little girl finally meets Fred, she discovers that there are in reality three of them and that none of them is really her father. In essence, there is no Fred. She correctly feels that she has been deceived about who had been contacting her over the years. Her father is really the three of them together somehow. Tuggy argues that ST is like this example”

“The feeling of being deceived appears to me to entail no more than a cultural disconnect in which Tuggy believes that the ancient practices of agency could be construed as deceptive as to the personal identity of the messenger—but only given our own cultural expectations and mores. As such, the argument doesn’t have much punch.”

Talk about Yahweh and Gods identity in the Old Testament.


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