If you understand Aristotle’s views on God, metaphysics, philosophy, and the cosmos you’ll better understand Christianity. Specifically, you’ll better understand the doctrine of the Trinity, why Christians had the false interpretation of the cosmos (geocentric) for 1500 years, and other errors that were incorporated into a Christian world view.
After all, Greek thinking spread into the Roman world when the Romans conquered Greece. Roman leaders had Greek slaves teach them and their kids mathematics, philosophy, astronomy, and all other areas of knowledge.
After Jesus’ resurrection, Christianity spread into a Greek world. One that believed in things just the way Aristotle did centuries before. Eventually, Roman leaders persecuted Christians who believed in ideas contrary to the accepted Greek views.
Jews and Romans labeled Christians polytheists for belief in 2 Gods (Father & Son). This persecution continued on and off until Christians embraces Greek philosophy, defining God and Jesus being one (2 persons, but one being) and of the same substance.
Greek medicine has been largely rejected. So has Greek astronomy. A Greek view on God’s nature has persisted, however.
Aristotle had many brilliant ideas for his day. He debated non-believers and laid out proofs for God’s existence. Aristotle had a theory for nearly everything. He was correct on many things, but mistaken on many others (including theological, medical, and astronomical concepts).
Many of these errors were adopted without reservation by the educated and a very significant institution: the Roman Catholic Church. Nobody at the time conceived the Greeks were wrong. Indeed, these ideas were held up and propagated for centuries. These false ideas — geocentricism, Greek medicine, and others — were not rejected till the Scientific Revolution.
A short 12-minute summary:
From Christian Wheaton College. This is very dry. Joseph Smith makes it much simpler. He saw two resurrected beings.
LDS scholar, Barry Bickmore, discusses the transformation of the Hebrew/Jewish organization into a more Hellenized version of Christianity:
Great podcast! Faith is reasonable. And is a choice.
Abstract: In this article I argue that faith is not only rationally justifiable but also inescapable simply because our decisions regarding ultimate questions must necessarily be made under conditions of objective uncertainty. I review remarks by several prominent thinkers on the subject — both avowed atheists and several writers who have addressed the challenge implicit in issues related to faith and reason. I end my discussion by citing William James, who articulated clearly the choices we must make in addressing these “ultimate questions.”
The Trinity is neither implicit nor explicit in the Bible. Triune, triunity, or similar words and concepts are never mentioned or referenced in the Bible. They’re not Hebrew concepts. They’re completely Greek in nature.
This Christian (not LDS) leader, Joel Hemphill, summarizes this way:
“Scripture, Plato, Aristotle played perhaps equal roles in developing Trinitarian views and Trinitarian doctrine.”
Mr. Hemphill was a pastor for decades before determining in 2005 that the Trinity was not true. Though we don’t agree on his concepts relative to Jesus (Joel feels Jesus isn’t divine), Joel does speak the truth about the Trinity and Greek philosophy.
He continues in the video below:
“It was from these (Greek) foreign sources, not Jesus himself, that the doctrine of the Trinity, the incarnation, and related conceptions grew.
We have also observed that the specific metaphysical vehicle used to express the classical doctrine of the Trinity was a Greek metaphysics that was viable in that time, but no longer makes a great deal of sense to most people today…”
The speaker and the attendees understood the implication: their concept of God was corrupted.
Like LDS people, Unitarians don’t believe in the Trinity. This Unitarian in the video below makes solid points.
In contrast to this speaker, however, LDS folks believe Jehovah was a pre-existent Jesus. Unitarians think God the Father was Jehovah and is/was the only God.
Though we disagree on many points, this person still makes valuable points about the Trinity.
This third video is another Christian (Unitarian) speaker. Again, not a Latter-day Saint. His talk is entitled, “The Five Major Problems With the Trinity.” He provides more detail than the 2nd video above.
Latter-day Saints don’t agree with everything a Unitarian does or we would join their faith. But we can relate and accept their position relative to the Trinity.
Jesus was a Jew who believed as other Jews. Jews didn’t believe in the Trinity. *** speaker quotes Deut 4:35, which LDS people interpret differently – not a declaration of absolutely no other God or deity, but one of greatness – similar to Isaiah 47:8: “besides me (Babylon) there is no other” (fall of Babylon predicted; other cities existed, but Babylon was being praised as great
The Trinity is never explained. A priori assumptions allow for some pulling together here and there, but the Trinity is never explained as a principle.
No Jew who converted to Christianity ever challenged the Trinity (lack of controversy).
God is always addressed using singular personal pronouns (you). God is always spoken of using singular personal pronouns (he). God almost always speaks using singular personal pronouns (except the four “us” texts when God is including others in an action; and when God speaks to angels and heavenly councils)
Jesus is not all-knowing. Jesus didn’t know “that day or hour” in Mark 13:32.
“First, Russell Stevenson interviews Gerrit Dirkmaat about the research he and LaJean Carruth did comparing the shorthand notes of George Watt to some of the speeches in the Journal of Discourses.
The Journal of Discourses have historical and religious value, but Dirkmaat urges members to be careful quoting specific passages and to realize that in most cases, there is no way to know the specific words used.
LaJean Purcell Carruth has an unusual skill: she can read the shorthand of George Watt, the transcriber of the speeches contained in the Journal of Discourses, his private printing venture.
Over the past thirty years, she has learned his distinctive style–the unique upturns and curves he made in his notations. As she transcribed his notes, she noticed that they varied — sometimes greatly — from the printed versions of the same speeches. She wrote a poem about what she noticed:
LaJean expounds on what she has learned about the speaking styles of early religious leaders. They spoke extemporaneously and without notes and were more prone to engage in speculative theology than current leaders.
She emphasizes that Brigham Young was a powerful speaker. He cared about the people, and they knew that he cared about them. When George Watt changed Brigham Young’s words, he changed what Brigham Young said about himself. She feels the real Brigham Young has been lost to us as we view him through his discourses printed in the Journal of Discourses.
In her research, she discovered that the “one drop [of Negro blood]” phrase attributed to Brigham Young by Wilford Woodruff did not exist in the original shorthand transcription of George Watt on a speech relating to the priesthood and temple ban.”
Watt took good notes. The issues are found during the review process. What was published wasn’t identical to what Watt wrote down.
Elder Holland discusses the LDS doctrine of the Godhead here:
Wikipedia lists the many creeds and highlights the important historical ones here.
The creeds evolved over centuries. From the Apostles’ Creed (180 AD) to the Athanasian Creed (500 AD). Latter-day Saints can agree with the early creeds. The later creeds, however, are deeply influenced by the dominant (at the time) Greek philosophy.
The creed in 180 AD is simple and clear. The creed in 500 AD is not clear. Not simple.
Mormons believe in the revealed truth about the Godhead.
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended into hell.
On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite. So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty. So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created; but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity.
Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation; that he also believe faithfully the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess; that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God, of the Substance [Essence] of the Father; begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the Substance [Essence] of his Mother, born in the world. Perfect God; and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father as touching his Manhood. Who although he is God and Man; yet he is not two, but one Christ. One; not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh; but by assumption of the Manhood into God. One altogether; not by confusion of Substance [Essence]; but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man; so God and Man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell; rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into heaven, he sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from whence he will come to judge the living and the dead. At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies; And shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire. This is the catholic faith; which except a man believe truly and firmly, he cannot be saved.
“This supplementary document discusses the history of Trinity theories. Although early Christian theologians speculated in many ways on the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, no one clearly and fully asserted the doctrine of the Trinity as explained at the top of the main entry until around the end of the so-called Arian Controversy. (See 3.2 below and section 3.1 of the supplementary document on unitarianism.)
Nonetheless, proponents of such theories always claim them to be in some sense founded on, or at least illustrated by, biblical texts.”
David Paulsen focuses on the LDS understanding of God. He explains that Origin, Augustine (though reluctantly), early Christians, and Jews that God believed was corporeal. This is not a Trinitarian view.
Blake Ostler has written extensively on this topic. Fortunately, he created easy-to-listen-to podcasts on the topic here:
Let’s start with this series of short, 5-minute videos from Prager University. 21 videos total are available in Prager’s Religion/Philosophy section. Consider subscribing to this YouTube channel.
Dennis Mark Prager is an American conservative and nationally syndicated radio talk show host, columnist, author, and public speaker.
He’s also a believing Jew. Of course, LDS people don’t share all specific beliefs with Dennis. However, we do have much in common. Including most of the following beliefs about God, evil, morality, free will, etc.
Blake Ostler, an LDS attorney and philosopher, shares many of his insights relative to the nature of God in over 20 podcasts found here at “Exploring Mormon Thought”.
One is linked below. Please review all his others. They’re awesome and insightful!
Ostler explains how one can know truth from spiritual experiences:
Alvin Plantinga, perhaps the world’s leading religious philosopher, discusses the position that all religions can’t logically be simultaneously true. Alvin is not LDS.
John Lennox articulates the differences between faiths, especially between the 3 major monotheistic religions.
Judaism believes Jesus died, but didn’t rise. Islam believes Jesus didn’t die. And Christianity believes Jesus both died and rose. 1 of these 3 (or none) is correct. All 3 are not correct.
Thoughtful Ravi discusses why he believes Christianity is the true faith.
Ravi is great in a question-and-answer format:
In my experience, the climate today with strident new atheists makes people who leave faith feel more supported, trendy, and smarter. It’s ridiculous, but seems to be the case.
The atheists arguments are no different (and in many cases worse) than in C.S. Lewis’ day. Yet, most people have no idea.
They usually haven’t gotten to the bottom of things till years into their journey at which time things look pretty bleak.
Classical atheists were sad that God didn’t exist and owned that the outlook was completely miserable. New atheists are strangely glib and sometimes ecstatic in their claim that there’s no God. They seem to forget that — according to all previous atheists — life is bleak and meaningless in the absence of God.
No ultimate meaning, despite finding meaning week to week in subjective and personal choices month to month. New atheism is a pop-cultural phenomenon.
Richard Dawkins (perhaps the most famous atheist in the world today), outside the pop culture, is ridiculed by academics for his poor arguments and avoidance of past obstacles. But your cousin who left faith doesn’t understand any of this. He thinks he’s smarter than you, you dummie!
I have an atheist/agnostic friend who used to be a full-on LDS-hating atheist. Now, after a few years of cooling down, kinda hopes for God, but still rails against the Church. He just can’t let go of his critical interpretations. Most (85%) of our doubts are emotional doubts.
This fellow, William Lane Craig, is a wonderful creedal Christian defender comments on new atheism:
Discussing the most significant cultural challenges to belief in our society:
Short podcast from a review of Andrew Skinner’s new book:
A Compelling Case for Theosis
Abstract: What is theosis? Why does the doctrine of theosis matter? Why did God become man so that man might become God? In his book To Become Like God, Andrew C. Skinner answers these questions with compelling clarity. He provides ample convincing evidence that, far from being a deviation from original Christian beliefs, the doctrine of theosis, or the belief that human beings have the potential to become like God, is central to the Christian faith.
Brilliant insight (as usual) from Blake Ostler:
Topics Discussed: Arguments That Essential Divine Properties Cannot Be Shared with Humans
– Can a Fulness of Divine Power Be Shared?
– Can Divine Sovereignty Be Shared By Humans?
– Are Deified Humans Worthy of Divine Worship?
Latter-day Saints have a unique theology. We believe our Heavenly Father and his Son are separate beings and that they have exalted bodies. We believe we can be like them.
This notion of becoming like God is not new. It’s biblical.
In this Maxwell Institute podcast below, Powell talks about his book, “Irenaeus, Joseph Smith, and God-Making Heresy.”
The idea that humans can become gods appeared in a setting of extreme opposition both for early Mormons like Joseph Smith, and early Christian leaders like Iranaeus.
The principles associated with theosis presented by Jordan Watkins:
Non-Mormon, Margaret Barker, spoke in 2016. Among many other points, Margaret shared that the Deuteronomist editors removed references to the a human-form Heavenly Father visiting Old Testament prophets (after 26:00).
After the first hour, three LDS scholars shared their own insights:
Valuable insights about Solomon’s Temple:
Roger Cook discusses theosis below:
Brett McDonald presents below:
Latter-day Saints believe we are more than creatures. “Ye are Gods” is found in John 10:34 and Psalm 82:6.
Hugh Nibley connected Egyptian rituals with LDS temple rites and ceremonies.
Debate between evangelical James White and two LDS apologists: Van Hale and Tanner Martin.
Science doesn’t answer big questions. The why questions.
However, Science does demonstrate very long odds that all this “just happened by chance.”
Life on this planet in a rare event. That the universe to exist at all is amazing. The four forces. These issues of fine tuning of all variables in our universe — varying any one of which would throw life and the Universe out of existence — provides credibility that God exists in and created the Universe.
Two points from scientific naturalism (atheism):
1. The natural world is all there is.
This claim is consistent logically equivalent to atheism. One can’t logically prove atheism or that the natural world is all there is. How could one prove that there is nothing beyond the natural world, when all they can study is the natural world (and nothing more)?
The only way the naturalists could hold this claim #1 is by faith. But then the naturalists would contradict claim #2. Indeed, claim #1 is internally incoherent.
2. We should only believe what can be scientifically proven.
This second point is far too narrow. In fact, we accept many intuitive truths that can’t be proven.
Can’t prove these truths:
1) Ethics: can’t prove good and evil. 2) Esthetics: can’t prove beauty. 3) Metaphysics: the reality of the past. 4) Science itself has unproveable assumptions: Special Theory of Relativity, one-way velocity of light is assumed to be constant. 5) Mathematics and logic truths: Science presupposes logic and math.
Even statement #2 itself can’t be proven scientifically. Statement #2 is an opinion or statement of philosophy. #2 is self-refuting and cannot be true.
William Lane Craig at his best in under 3 minutes:
Great points in 1.5 minutes:
Less than 2.5 minutes:
Awesome demolition in a little over 5 minutes:
Elder Holland, attending the 50th anniversary celebration of discovering chiasmus in the Book of Mormon, gave this talk on evidence:
John Lennox (see video below) has debated the biggest names among today’s atheists.
Christians should have an evidence base for belief in Christ. John told us of Jesus’ actions so that we might believe.
John 20 : 30-31
30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:
31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
Lennox makes several points from atheist debates:
1) Belief in Christianity is based in evidence — not blind faith. Review John 20: 30-31 again.
2) Atheists claim to not have faith, but Lennox has challenged many atheists this way: “I’m sorry, but I thought you believed your atheism.”
3) Dawkins believes in or has faith in stuff, including his wife. Evidence-based faith is still faith.
4) Traditional Christians don’t believe God was created (Mormons theology involves progression). Dawkins constantly teases, “Who created your Creator?” Lennox says nobody. Dawkins believes the Universe created him. So, Lennox asked Dawkins, “Who created your (Dawkins’) creator?” Still waiting for an answer.
1) We don’t believe in the God of the Gaps.
2) Science and God are compatible and complimentary:
To say you don’t believe in God, but rather you believe in Science is analogous to saying you don’t believe in Henry Ford, but instead you believe in the laws of internal combustion. The God explanation is not the same as the Science explanation. You, obviously, should believe in both.
Why is the kettle boiling? There are 2 explanations: a scientific one about molecules. And a personal agent explanation: it’s boiling because I want a cup of tea.
3) The Law of Gravity describes gravity, but descriptive laws do not create anything. Ever. We don’t even know what what gravity is. However, Steven Hawking and other secular scientists would have you believe laws daily create matter and the entire Universe. Not true.
4) God created the world good. God could have created a perfect world, but none of us would have been in it. A world without hate will have no love. Robotic worlds lack sin and many other problems, but they have no humans. Bringing humans into the world is a risky business. God’s children can grow up and say no. Just like our kids.
Another discussion with John Lennox on faith and reason. Faith of believers. Faith of atheists. What is the evidence? What of blind faith?
Bill Whittle and Andrew Klavan (Christian, former Jew) discuss the limits of Science and atheism.
At the 5:10 mark in the video below, Bill says when someone says “I believe in Science” you immediately know they don’t know what they’re talking about. Science is a tool. Like a hammer. So, when they exclaim, “I believe in Science,” they’re really saying, “I believe in a hammer.”
Science is not a philosophy. It’s not a world view. It’s a method. It’s a series of questions, processes, and procedures to isolate variables and extract something out of nature.
Scientism or Trans-science: popularized by the new atheists, such as Harris, Hitchens, Dawkins, and Dennett. An arrogant belief in objectivism — won’t believe anything other than Science — that itself becomes a religion.
What of Philosophy, Art, Ethics, and other obvious truths we can’t prove?
We can’t understand infinity or eternity. We simply lack the neurons.
Worth 12 minutes of your time.
More from William Lane Craig:
Scientism is not Science. It’s a theory. It’s a philosophy.
The statement itself — one should only believe in what can be scientifically proven — is self-refuting. One can’t prove one should believe this. It’s a philosophy statement or belief — not something that itself can be proven.
Can’t prove these truths:
1) Ethics: can’t prove good and evil. 2) Esthetics: can’t prove beauty. 3) Metaphysics: the reality of the past. 4) Science itself has unprovable assumptions: Special Theory of Relativity, one-way velocity of light is assumed to be constant. 5) Mathematics and logic truths: Science presupposes logic and math.
Fun interchange. William Lane Craig (on the left) is a skilled debater. Too bad he’s not LDS.
Another gem by WLC on God. Now, I don’t agree with all of Craig’s arguments, but the discussion is wonderful.