Removing Greek Philosophy from Christianity

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.

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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.

  1. 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
  2. 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.
  3. No Jew who converted to Christianity ever challenged the Trinity (lack of controversy).
  4. 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)
  5. Jesus is not all-knowing.  Jesus didn’t know “that day or hour” in Mark 13:32.

Bart is an atheist, but an outstanding scholar:

 

Creeds (and the Trinity) in Christianity

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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.

Apostles’ Creed:

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.

Athanasian Creed:

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.

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From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, History of Trinitarian Doctrines:

Very first paragraph:

“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:

A short essay by Blake Ostler:  The Logical Incoherence of Traditional Christianity.

Kerry Shirts always provides fun, enlightening insight:

 

The Godhead, the Trinity, and the Apostasy

Concise summary by Robert Vukich, a long-time LDS scholar and apologist:

“The Trinity is a logical contradiction as opposed to a mystery. A mystery is how god could be self existent, or how there could be an infinite regression of gods, and matter be eternal. Those are mysteries which do not present a contradiction because they rely on something which is not revealed but doesn’t contradict itself.

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By contrast, the Trinity presents a contradiction at every point. The idea of being fully god yet fully a person within that god, and there being three persons, each fully god and having all the essence of god, yet still being one of three is illogical. It is untenably illogical when you realize Jesus is sitting or standing next to god (such as Acts 7:56), who has a physical location. It is logically impossible to say a thing is next to itself. It is not just silly word games which is most of the trinity description, but it is hard fact that any thing cannot logically be next to itself.

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Thus the trinity is not a mystery, it is an illogical word game. It is fully explained once the correct NT understanding is provided, which was there were many gods and many lords, but God the Father and Jesus the Lord are the only ones that matter to us. There is no statement in scripture which requires the oneness of god, as described in the Ancient Near East setting, to mean anything beyond a corporate oneness, which is in fact the way Jesus described his oneness with god. When Jesus quotes from the Shema, he doesn’t include himself in it, he simply cites it.

The trinity is a manmade mess of jumbled words to impress people with just how inscrutable god is, despite it being life eternal to know the only true god AND Jesus whom he sent.”

Yep.  Hardly a mystery.  Entire a contradiction.

Another view from the 3 Mormons!

These guys could be a little clearer in that creedal Christians believe the Trinity is composed of 3 persons whose substance is the same.  LDS Christians believe in absolutely 3 separate beings.

 

Dr. Paulsen is a distinguished scholar who spent a career at BYU.  He defends the LDS understanding of the Godhead:

Brant Gardner discusses the union of these ideas:  monotheism, Messiah, and the Book of Mormon.

Brant discusses the Father God, El; the mother God or spouse of El, Asherah; Jehovah, the preeminent among the Sons of El (the Father God); and other topics in the evolution of gods in Judaism.

The Sons of God were assigned to different nations.  Jehovah was assigned to Israel.  By the 8th and 7th centuries BC Jehovah grew in stature, supplanting El in certain respects, as the Jews developed a proto-monotheism.

 

 

The understanding of the Godhead’s nature was corrupted in the centuries after Jesus’ resurrection.

Jeff Lindsay shares many explanations here, on his blog LDS FAQ.

Fiona Givens provides a history of the Trinity development in her book,  The Christ who Heals: How God Restored the Truth that Saves Us.

She discusses those issues here, contrasting what occurred in the Eastern and Western Christian Churches:

Episode 62: The Christ Who Heals – Fiona Givens

Barry Brickmore shares how the early Saints believed in much that was restored through Joseph Smith: separate Father and Son, deification, creation ex materia (not ex nihilo), and more.

Greek philosophy corrupted the Christian understanding of the Godhead.

 

Read the 1987 Ensign article, “Is the LDS View of God Consistent with the Bible?

Key quotes below:

“When Christianity came into contact with the society in which that habit of mind existed, it modified, it reformed, it elevated, the ideas which it contained and the motives which stimulated it to action; but in its turn it was itself profoundly modified by the habit of mind of those who accepted it.

It was impossible for Greeks, … with an education which penetrated their whole nature, to receive or to retain Christianity in its primitive simplicity.” (The Influence of Greek Ideas on Christianity, New York: Harper & Row, 1957, p. 49.)

As the church entered the third century, many ridiculed Christianity because they regarded it as polytheistic—that is, it had a theology of three Gods: the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

By this time the more sophisticated had rejected polytheistic pagan deities and had become monotheistic, accepting but one God. So the issue for the church was how to make Christian theology accord with respectable opinion.

Tertullian, a lawyer, offered this solution: The true God was composed of immaterial spiritual substance, and though the three personages that comprised the Godhead were distinct, this was only a material manifestation of an invisible God.

As for how three persons could be one, it was explained that the persons were legally conceived entities, “just as a corporation is composed of various people though it is not the people.” (T. Edgar Lyon, Apostasy to Restoration, Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1960, p. 113.)”

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Augustine (354—430 C.E.), also known as St. Augustine, is a fourth century philosopher whose groundbreaking philosophy infused Christian doctrine with Neoplatonism.

Additional quotes from the Ensign about Augustine:

“The unsurpassed intellectual in Christian history was Augustine. He was the one who thoroughly fused the theology of the New Testament with Platonism.

In examining Christian doctrine, Augustine confessed to a strong preconception—a repugnance to the idea that God had a body. (The Confessions, V, x:19–20; VII, 1:1. In Great Books of the Western World, vol. 18, Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1952, pp. 32, 43.)

He acknowledged that he had labored on the thesis of the Trinity for fifteen years without “ever reaching a satisfactory conclusion.” (Hugh Nibley, The World and the Prophets, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954, p. 86.)

Finally he (Augustine) rationalized that if one accepts the Platonic idea that spirit essence is the purest manifestation of reality and that matter is the most corrupt, God must therefore be an immaterial being. He was then able to accept the doctrine of the Trinity. (Confessions, IV, xvi:29, 31; V, x:19–20; VI, iii:4–iv:5; The City of God, VIII, ch. 5–6. In Great Books, vol. 18, pp. 26, 32, 36, 267–69.)

As Plato had done before him, Augustine decided that since God is the ultimate good, he cannot be associated with anything material.

Augustine’s personal theology became that of the Roman Empire and remains an influence in historic Christianity to this day. Such is the basis for traditional Christianity’s teaching on the Trinity—a belief described by modern clerics as a mystery.”

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Listen to LDS scholar’s Blake Ostler‘s “The Attributes of God, Chapter ONE”, Part I and Part II.    A greater focus on the Apostasy:  “The Attributes of God, Chapter TWO.”

Ostler explains our view of the Godhead and our belief in eternal progression.  “As God now is, man may became.”

More from Ostler contrasting LDS and traditional cosmology:

 

Review Robert Vukich’s presentation here:  “Rejecting the False Doctrine of the Trinity.

Robert primarily uses widely respected, authoritative Christian and Jewish scholars to establish these points: 1) The Trinity isn’t biblical.  2) The Trinity was created by Greek philosophers centuries after Jesus.  3)  Multiple Gods are referenced in the scriptures.  4) Traditional monotheism isn’t supported.

 

LDS Truth Claims identifies the Greek influence on the early Church in the form of ex nihilo creation. These videos discuss concepts of impassibility (unemotional) and immutability (unchanging) of God and the Trinity:

 

Truth Restored: Godhead Clarified

Elder Oaks was awesome yesterday.  A few of my thoughts below:

John 17:3:    “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”

What Christians believed in Joseph’s day and for centuries before was not true:  that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were an incomprehensible, unknowable mystery.  According to Elder Oaks, “We believe that the truth about the nature of God and our relationship to him is knowable and is key to everything else in our doctrine.”

Paul references the three members of the Godhead below:

2 Corinthians 13:14:   “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all.”

 

3 separate and distinct beings in the Godhead:

  • God the Father:  Creator and Ruler of the Universe;  Father of our spirits; Author of Plan of Salvation
  • God the Son:  First Begotten in the Spirit and the only Begotten in the Flesh;  Redeemer and Mediator;  He saved us from death by Resurrection and from sin by the Atonement; Jehovah, the Lord God of Israel speaks to and through prophets; God of the whole Earth
  • God the Testator or Witness:  Holy Ghost;  Comforter;  Personage of Spirit; Agent of Personal Revelation; Mission is to testify of the Father and the Son; Guides into all truth

So what, you ask?!

Please contemplate what Joseph restored.  With these truths restored and a clear plan of salvation we have the ultimate road map.  We know who we are, who we can become, we know who makes it all possible, and we know whom and why we worship.

Martin Tanner discusses the Godhead: