Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The "God Makers" Quiz: Five Quotes on the Divine Potential of Man

It's the "God Makers" quiz time! Many people insist that Mormons aren't Christians because of our doctrines about the divine potential of man - you know, strange doctrines echoing statements like John 10:33-34 ("Ye are gods") or 2 Peter 1 on humans putting on "the divine nature." All shocking stuff that needs to be subtracted ASAP from the scriptures. But until that happens, I'll gladly maintain that Mormons are Christians and that we can be good Christians and still believe such "rubbish."

So, here's the quiz. Which prominent Church leaders issued the following statements?
  1. "Do we cast blame on him [God] because we were not made gods from the beginning, but were at first created merely as men, and then later as gods? Although God has adopted this course out of his pure benevolence, that no one may charge him with discrimination or stinginess, he declares, 'I have said, ye are gods; and all of you are sons of the Most High.' ... For it was necessary at first that nature be exhibited, then after that what was mortal would be conquered and swallowed up in immortality."

  2. "Yea, I say, the Word of God became a man so that you might learn from a man how a man becomes a god."

  3. "The Word was made flesh in order that we might be enabled to be made gods.... Just as the Lord, putting on the body, became a man, so also we men are both deified through his flesh, and henceforth inherit everlasting life."

  4. "He [Christ] became man that we might be made divine."

  5. "But he himself that justifies also deifies, for by justifying he makes sons of God. 'For he has given them power to become the sons of God' [John 1:12] If then we have been made sons of God, we have also been made gods."
I know, this is tough - there are so many crazed Church leaders to choose from. I'll make it simple with a multiple choice format. Which of the following men said one or more of the above statements? There may be more than one answer.
A. Joseph Smith

B. Brigham Young

C. Lorenzo Snow

D. Gordon B. Hinckley

E. Larry King

F. Mitt Romney

G. Saint Irenaeus

H. Saint Clement of Alexandria

I. Saint Athanasius

J. Saint Augustine
Ready with your guess?



If you guessed anyone from A through F, I'm sorry! Larry King? Nice try, but you're still off by a few centuries. The correct answers are G, H, I, and J (details on these quotes are given on my LDS FAQ page on Gods, Mormons, and the Christian doctrine of theosis). These men were all early Christians - men who are accepted by all serious students of early Christianity not only as authentic Christians, but as prominent leaders, indeed, orthodox Christian saints. And like their latter-day peers, they accepted the early Christian doctrine of theosis - the concept that man could become like God.

Shocking stuff, the kind of thing that can get you cast out as a non-Christian cultist these days. But at least it's the best cult ever, as you can see at http://best.cult.ever.com. But as for me and my house, I'm sticking with the best Church ever (http://best.church.ever.com), led by the best Leader ever (http://best.Leader.ever.com)!

Yes, I know that men like Augustine probably did not understand theosis in the same way as Latter-day Saints do today, but we actually don't understand it that way either. By that I mean two things: (1) there is a broad diversity of belief about this doctrine in LDS circles, primarily because (2) we really don't understand much of anything in this area because so very little has been revealed.

A few significant things have been revealed in the scriptures, which do teach about the divine potential of man -- in spite of the protests and howl of the anti-cult crowd who reject anything different than the narrow traditions they have inherited, even when it is something precious from early Christianity lost over the centuries and now restored. For example, Christ's statement in John 10:34 ("Ye are gods...") is consistent with the rest of the Bible and with Latter-day Saint theology. According to the scriptures, we are here on this earth as part of a divine plan that can - if we follow Christ and fully accept his grace - allow us to do the following (quoting passages from the King James version of the Bible):

  • To become heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, being glorified together (Romans 8:14-18)

  • As sons (and daughters) of God, to inherit all things that the Father has (Revelation 21:7)

  • To become one with Christ, as Christ is one with the Father (John 17:20-23)

  • To sit with Christ on His throne (Rev. 3:21)

  • To receive a glorified, immortal body like the body that Christ has (Philip. 3:21)

  • To partake of the divine nature and be given all things pertaining to life and godliness, receiving glory (2 Peter 1:3-4)

  • To be made - in some way - like Christ when He returns (1 John 3:2)

  • To be made kings and priests unto God and his Father (Rev. 1:6)

  • As spirit children of God, to become partakers of his holiness (Heb. 12:9-10)

  • To be exalted by God (1 Peter 5:6)

  • To become perfect, even as our Father in Heaven is perfect (Matt. 5:48)
The beings so described can be termed "gods" with a small "g". Though glorified and exalted, they are always subject unto the Father who we will always worship. Naturally, you may argue that these scriptures can be interpreted in many ways. Mormons aren't the only ones who find evidence for divine potential in the scriptures, as evidence by the other saints cited above.

Another early Christians, Origen, had some similar thoughts. Let me first point out that the Bible bears witness of God the Father who is the "God of gods" (Deut. 10:17) and who said to mortals receiving the law that they are "gods" (Ps. 82:6 and John 10:33-35). But these "gods" are subservient beings, like angels, and are not the source of salvation to us. Thus Paul could say that there are "gods many," but to us there is but one God (1 Cor. 8:5-8), indicating a clear difference between "gods" and "God."

This is similar to Origen's approach, discussed below in a passage sent to me by Eugene Seaich in 1998, used with his permission):
"Men should escape from being men, and hasten to BECOME GODS" (Origen, Commentary on John, 29.27,29).

"Thou shalt resemble Him...having made thee even God to his glory"(Refutations, X.30).

Note that Origen's "gods" are THEOI. Both Clement and John called the Father HO THEOS, "the God" (with the definite article). Origen explains this important grammatical distinction by pointing out that The True God...is "the God" (HO THEOS, with the article), and those who are formed after him are "gods" (THEOI, without the article), "images," as it were, of him, the Prototype (Commentary on John, 7.2).

It is very likely that Lorenzo Snow's famous aphorism, "As man now is God once was; and as God now is, man may be," should also be interpreted in light of this critical distinction between HO THEOS and the other THEOI. President Snow's "God who was once a man" would accordingly belong to the same category as Origen's THEOI, those who have BECOME gods after the Father's Prototype. But his "God who now is" would be HO THEOS, the Prototype himself, or "the God of all other gods" (D&C 121:32), the one who has always been God (Ps. 90:2; D&C 20:12), and to whose eternal likeness all others aspire. Indeed, there can never have been a time when HO THEOS was not God, nor has he ever been anything but what he now is (Mormon 9:19; Moroni 7:22; D&C 20:17).
Hope you all fared well on the quiz.

Wait - the critics are saying "Why hasn't he rolled out som eold, worn C.S. Lewis quotes?" Fooled you. They are coming!

LDS doctrine on this needlessly controversial issue is similar to the teachings of C.S. Lewis, who also understood the divine potential of humans beings. Here is a quote from his book, The Grand Miracle (Ballantine Books, New York, 1970), p. 85 (on the last page of the essay, "Man or Rabbit?" in Chapter 11):
The people who keep on asking if they can't lead a good life without Christ, don't know what life is about; if they did they would know that "a decent life" is mere machinery compared with the thing we men are really made for. Morality is indispensable: but the Divine Life, which gives itself to us and which calls us to be gods, intends for us something in which morality will be swallowed up. We are to be remade. All the rabbit in us will be swallowed up - the worried, conscientious, ethical rabbit as well as the cowardly and sensual rabbit. We shall bleed and squeal as the handfuls of fur come out; and then surprisingly, we shall find underneath it all a thing we have never yet imagined: a real man, an ageless god, a son of God, strong, radiant, wise, beautiful, and drenched in joy. [emphasis mine]
And from the same book, p. 65 (the last page of Chapter 8):
Christ has risen, and so we shall rise. St. Peter for a few seconds walked on the water, and the day will come when there will be a remade universe, infinitely obedient to the will of glorified and obedient men, when we can do all things, when we shall be those gods that we are described as being in Scripture.
Here is a related quote from Lewis's book, Mere Christianity (Collier Books, MacMillan Publ. Co., New York, 1943; paperback edition, 1960; p. 160 - the last paragraph of Chapter 9, "Counting the Cost," in Book IV):
"The command Be ye perfect [Matt. 5:48] is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were "gods" and he is going to make good His words. If we let Him - for we can prevent Him, if we choose - He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what he said."
Where did the highly respected C.S. Lewis get such doctrine? Simple - he was a non-Christian pagan cultist, just like most of the earliest Christians. But he was somehow considered "mainstream" - unlike those who made the sad mistake of joining the Mormon cult. Some cults get treated better than others, that's all I can say.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

What I want to know is how is it that all the theologians know this information is out there and still fight against these ideas?

Stephen said...

Interesting, isn't it?

Mormanity said...

Don't forget that recently one Roman Catholic priest, in his graduate studies of theology, examined the ancient doctrine of theosis and realized that the Latter-day Saints had something. He investigated the Church, became convinced of the reality of the Restoration, and converted.

I refer to the work of Father (now "Brother") Jordan Vajda, OP, "Partakers of the Divine Nature": A Comparative Analysis of the Patristic and Mormon Doctrines of Divinization, master's thesis, Graduate Theological Union at the University of California, Berkeley, 1998, republished under the same title as Occasional Paper No. 3 by the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (Provo, Utah, 2002). Awesome stuff.

But since he converted, the critics maintain that he is no longer an objective scholar and his views can be dismissed as biased Mormon views. Go figure.

Jon said...

What is amazing to me is how selective some mainstream Christians can be with regard to Romans 8:14-18. Usually heirs inherit everything don't they? So if Christ inherits everything the Father has, including glory, power, knowledge, etc., then we, as joint-heirs, should inherit the same things, right?

It seems that some want to put a whole bunch of qualifications on Paul's statement: "Well, we inherit a lot, but not THOSE things, of course!" Why not? If we only inherit some things but not others, then calling us "joint-heirs with Christ" is inaccurate.

If it is true what had been said in earlier posts, that, for the faithful, when God judges us, he judges Christ in our stead, it seems that we ought to get the same reward as he. Otherwise, this is a poor model for the Atonement indeed.

NM said...

I don't think it is at all to do with being selective with Scripture; because, don't forget: I could say the same about the LDS church ;)

...instead, it's about reading the Bible in its entirety (maybe) and getting things into their proper context. Rah, rah, rah...

=)

And no, I don't think the Mormon cult should be treated any better than us who belong to the Reformed cult...we're all in this together; sorry.

Russell said...

NM:

Do share this "context" of which you speak. But please, as I would say to anyone who answers an open-ended question, please keep it snappy.

Ender's Girl said...

I just wanted to pop in and say that I found your blog a few weeks ago and I'm really enjoying it. This was my favorite post so far!

Kathleen said...

The phrase that came to mind as I read this post was "an inconvenient truth"...whether or not I agree it's a truth ;).

Russell said...

Kathleen:

I don't quite understand your post. Are you suggesting that the fact Mormons are Christians makes for an inconvenient truth? Or that we aren't? Please clarify.

Kathleen said...

No, Russell. What I meant was that if the doctrine of people becoming "gods" is indeed a Scriptural truth, it is very inconvenient for mainstream Christians. Why? Because they don't teach that, as far as I know. It would be very uncomfortable for them to say it's a Biblical doctrine that Mormons accept and they don't. And Mormons--as we all know--aren't Christians (that's what they say anyway)...

Mormanity said...

Thanks, NM.

But, uh, I can't help but be a little worried by that strange chant to a pagan Egyptian God: "Rah, rah, rah". Is there something you're not telling us?

In Wisconsinese, it translates to something like "Go Packers, Packers, Packers!"

NM said...

HAHAHA!!

Jeff, that's exactly what I thought as soon as I pressed the 'publish your comment' button!

Peter said...

Men becoming gods is exactly what I got when I read the New Testament without any prior LDS influence. I was amazed, to say the least.

Connor said...

Great post, Jeff! This stuff fascinates me.

Anonymous said...

The great truth that has been continually expressed by both Jewish and Christian visionaries is that the knowledge of the mysteries of God and the Divine Plan begins with the knowledge of ourselves as the Prodigal Sons of our Heavenly Father. It is for this reason that the second-century Church Father Clement of Alexandria said that it is “…the greatest of all lessons to know one's self. For if one knows himself, he will know God; and knowing God, he will be made like God… and that man becomes God, since God so wills”. In his treaties on The Soul and the Resurrection, St Gregory writes that “the Resurrection is no other thing than 'the re-constitution of our nature in its original form’”, and states that there will come a time “…when the complete whole of our race shall have been perfected from the first man to the last”. This statement should provoke great thought in the reader who is under the misconception that our Heavenly Father would destroy or forever cut off one of his sons or daughters who are lost in this world. If the whole of our race will one day be perfected from the first man to the last, then there are many grave misconceptions on the part of believers today.

The reason these great truths are no longer the focus of the modern church is best captured in the words of A. Powell Davies: “Biblical scholars”, he writes, ”were not disturbed by what they found in the Dead Sea Scrolls because they had known all along that the origin of Christianity was not what was commonly supposed to have been” (quoted by Millar Burrows in More Light on the Dead Sea Scrolls). What Davies was referring to was the fact that the Church of Constantine so altered the focus of the teachings of the New Covenant, that what we call Christianity today has its doctrinal legacy of birth in the fourth century, and has little in common with the religion that the Son of God revealed to man at the beginning of our Common Era.

Darion Alexander said...

Thanks for the post Jeff. I had the occasion to discuss this once with a number of pastors who really believed that our destiny if we make it Heaven, is to sing praises to God for Eternity and play golden harps. And those of the Mormon persuasion would, like many other denominations, religions, etc, would be swimming in a lake of fire and brimstone for an eternity. I told one, that I would be very bored singing praises for an eternity and would probably take a dip in the lake, just for something new to do.....he didn't quite get that one.

SteSmo said...

Jeff, this is some great stuff. I have often said that the so called Ante-Nicene Fathers would have greatly enjoyed the Prophet Joseph Smith's King Follett Discourse, as he was basically just teaching - by revelation - what they themselves taught 1800 years before. Joseph Smith was truely a revolutionary spiritual teacher in antebellum America and history. Let's see someone, some learned minister of the Gospel perhapse, match that sermon!

To Anonymous 3:02 Nov,6th:

Well said. I agree completely. There are a lot of misconceptions today, thanks to The Great Apostasy and our own natural pride and learning, about God's nature, his character, figure, etc. and our purpose in life.

To darion alexander:

I had something of a similar event happen to me a few weeks ago. Last conference I had the *ahem* pleasure *ahem* of having a civilized, thoughtful and profound discussion with a gentleman who was holding a sign reading "Mormons are going to Hell" and "Repent and read the Bible". He insisted that I worshipped a different Jesus, the "Mormon" Jesus. I told he that I absolutelty worshipped a different Jesus. He looked a bit surprised that I would respond in such a way. I then explained that the Jesus I worshipped not only had all the power and authority of our Father in Heaven, but that he would likewise impart that power (i.e. godliness) onto me if I am faithful to Him. Needless to say, he quickly changed the subject.

Just remember what Dr. Nibley said,

"We need more anti-Mormon books, they keep us on our toes."

Darion Alexander said...

I love the "You worship a different Jesus!" signs, they are so...thoughtful. I mean here are these people telling us that we are going to hell. Firstly, they don't even describe what Gehenna really is, except for the usual fire and brimstone tactic? Some of them don't even know the word, gehenna. I mean really.
Secondly, who are they to tell me that I am going to hell. By the same Bible they use to accuse us that Joseph Smith is a false prophet and the there is no mention of the word "mormon" or "lehi" in the Bible, nor is there a verse in there that says that Mormons are going to hell. So where do they get such a basis for their accusations? I mean really.

Lastly, we are all sons and daughters of a Heavenly Father, why treat each other so? Does the Bible that so many profess as the Word of God, teach us to be spiteful and mean to each other? I didn't think so.

Anonymous said...

It is interesting to read the context of the Psalm that Jesus quoted from that we "are all gods" (Psalm 82:1,6,7). In context, these 'gods' are ignorant, and they will 'die like mere men; [they] will fall like every other ruler." In context, these gods sound a lot like ordinary people to me.

Were this the only 'small' issue dividing Mormon doctrine from mainstream Christian theology maybe we could be little 'gods' together but more substantive issues exist.

Interestingly Jesus also compares us to 'angels' in Matthew 22:30 which makes for interesting arguments as well.

Lars said...

SteSmo: hilarious. I love it. I've always wondered why critics think God is somehow incapable of making us like him.

This issue has come up a lot recently in relation to a Mormon running for president. (No political endorsements intended...) One comment I saw: "Mitt Romney thinks he's going to be a god someday. He [and by extension, all Mormons] is too power-hungry to be president."

Here's an allegory I've been mulling over for a while. When I was a young boy, I was told that I might be a father someday. My thoughts at the time? "I can't wait! That means I will be the boss!" Power-hungry? Yes, but frankly that's beside the point-- my own personal faults did not change the fact that I did indeed have the seeds of fatherhood within me.

Nor was my statement that I would be "the boss" entirely accurate. In the first place, this title belongs to my wife. ;) Secondly, fatherhood is not about having power over someone. Last and most importantly, it also does not change the place of honor my own father holds in my life. He will always be my father and I will never feel like I somehow have authority over him, or even equal to him.

I hope that those not of the Mormon faith do not look at our belief in the divine potential of man as some statement of lust for power. I can see how it might be interpreted that way, and reminders of how we must present our message with humility are always appropriate, but perhaps they can look at it from a different point of view and see a completely different message.

Peter said...

Personally I don't see a problem with being equal to my father. Yes, I will always be his son but that doesn't mean I don't want to be equal with him. I think my dad would be happy to be equal with me. Obviously there is still a father/ son relationship but I see no problem with being equal, after all we are all created equal.

Anonymous said...

Lars, said:


"I hope that those not of the Mormon faith do not look at our belief in the divine potential of man as some statement of lust for power."

But they do. That is one of the biggest disinformation from other religions about the LDS Church, even when it has been explained over and over again. We are children and hope to become like our Heavenly Father.

Anonymous said...

Isaiah 45
18 For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.

19 I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain: I the LORD speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.

20 Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations: they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save.

21 Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.

22 Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.

The Lords Word is clear, there is ONE God. We are human and are not God. I pray that you find the truth.

David said...

A couple quick thoughts:

In our day when it seems to be so important to fight over and prove what religious denominations are "mainsteam" Christians -- as if the mainstream was ever important -- I like to quote the one person NOBODY can dispute was Christian: Jesus Christ.

He Himself identified who was "christian" with these few & simple words: "A new commandment I give unto you that ye love one another as I have loved you; that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."

It's curious to me why so many self-confessed christians are trying to tear down what makes us happy? After all, by their own doctrine, we are saved: We've accepted Christ as our personal Lord and Savior -- and we live it better than most!

For example, when someone says, "He's a good Christian," what do they mean? Are they not making a statement about the goodness of the life that person leads? As an old mission companion used to say: "If I joined church x,y,z, I wouldn't have to try as hard to be good!" Not that Mormons have a monopoly on good christian living, but when their living reflects the way they're taught, Mormons certainly pass Christ's test.

Anonymous said...

What does Christian mean? I can't say that I know anymore with all the wrangling that surrounds it...

All i care for is to follow Christ.

"The Lords Word is clear, there is ONE God. We are human and are not God. I pray that you find the truth."

Did you read the passages you provided?
He's saying who formed the earth and who saves. He's not talking about who can or can't become one.