The Importance of the Creeds

For the most part, my posts here at the Orthosphere fall into two categories: current affairs on the one hand – politics, economics, public policy, the culture wars, etc. – and on the other philosophical theology. It is not surprising that our site statistics show the latter sort of posts are generally far less popular and interesting to visitors than the former. Only one of my philosophical posts makes it into the top thirty that I have published since the Orthosphere began. It is The Holy Trinity: A Simple Explanation for Children. Though it is fairly recent, it is the fourth most visited post I have published; every day it gets at least a few hits from Google searches, so it is likely to keep rising in the rankings.

Why is that? Why does the Trinity matter to people?

I mean, sure, it’s hard to explain the Trinity, especially to kids, and kids have questions, so there must be lots of Christian parents searching for a good explanation on any given day. But this raises a set of deeper questions. If the Trinity is so hard to explain, why did the Fathers make it so central to the Faith? Why do the creeds take their structures from the Persons of the Trinity? And, what is so important about creeds in the first place? Why can’t we dispense with these troublesome, incomprehensible formulae, and just love God and each other? And, for Heaven’s sake, why should a profession of adherence to the Nicene Creed – it began and remains the baptismal vow – be the threshold and test of Christian faith?

It’s simple, really. If you don’t believe in the Trinity, you can’t believe in the Incarnation, because without at least two Persons in God, there is no way to understand how Jesus could be related to God his Father and also be himself God. If you can’t believe in the Incarnation, you can’t begin to believe that Jesus is God. And if you can’t believe that Jesus is God, you can’t believe that Jesus, as just a Really Nice Guy, has any power either to forgive or atone for our sins. If you can’t believe in the Atonement, you can’t  believe in the Good News of salvation. And that means you can’t be a Christian. In that case, you’re in the same situation as pagans: totally, hopelessly, irremediably screwed.

For moderns, it’s even worse. The ancient pagans at least believed in God, or the gods, and this belief gave them a reason to behave properly, so that they had a good shot at worldly success. Not so for moderns, who have no such reasons; for, they don’t arrive at the question of belief in the Atonement from a position of theism, of any sort, but rather from atheism. Atheism is the default presumption of all moderns. I mean, *no one* believes in Zeus anymore, or Thor. Well, that is to say, my Berkeley neighbours at least pretend to believe in Thor – they gather together in raucous, tuneless worship of him every Thursday evening, anyway, dammit – but the doings of an odd few denizens of the Citizens Republic of Berzerkeley really approach the limit of nothingness anyway, in the wider scheme of social things. Like MoveOn.org, a pet project of one of another neighbour down the street.

Be all that as it may, and allowing for the bewildering array of more or less serious cults out there, moderns are basically atheist. Their first reaction to the Good News, as to anything else that doesn’t obviously and quickly lead either to money or sex is, “show me.” Their skepticism is a jerk of the knee. One can’t blame them, for they came by this attitude honestly, at the knees of their liberated mothers and weak-kneed fathers.

So moderns are doomed in an ontological, soteriological sense, as the pagans were – and that alone can be pretty demoralizing, to be sure, literally “destructive to morals” – and they have no other reason to do what is right, as the pagans did. No need to rehearse the disastrous moral, social and demographic consequences of that nihilism for readers of this blog.

That is why the Creeds are so important. They arrived on the historical scene just as simple, honest credence in the pagan pantheon was waning, with atheism and nihilism the only logical alternative for any but the sternest, most Stoical consciences – i.e., about fifty men in the world, altogether. Without the Creeds, it’s a steep and slippery slope down to atheism and nihilism of the sort that now pervades our culture, and forms its cult. The Creeds kept the West from a complete breakdown of morals, thus of morale - and from the deletion their lack foredooms.

Oh, you can be a believing Christian without the Creeds, no doubt. But if you are at all a reflective sort, and you drop any part of the Nicene Creed – just the sort of thing that reflective people are prone to do – then you are very likely done for, sooner or later.

If on the other hand you do think from time to time about what you believe, as almost everyone does, and if you also agree with the Creeds, then even if you don’t understand exactly what they say, you will be prevented from believing that Jesus is not God – you will then think only, “Jesus is God, and naturally I don’t understand how that works.” You may then avoid concluding that he has therefore no power to save you, so that you are doomed. Believing which, you really are certainly doomed; for believing that God has no power to save you is the one unforgivable sin, the Sin against the Holy Spirit.

Thus the Creeds can help prevent the simple, obedient believer from an intellectual openness to that temptation we all so strongly feel, to utter spiritual and moral collapse, and thus to damnation. And this prevention carves out room, in lives as they are actually lived, for the quotidian piety and devotion that can engender in the heart a deep, concrete faith which can never be captured in words, and never therefore gainsayed by any word or thought at all – so that it can support that unequivocal “yes” of Mary, to which we are all called, and in which alone we agree to our salvation.

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21 thoughts on “The Importance of the Creeds

    • Did you read the post? The only sin God cannot forgive is the Sin against the Holy Spirit, which as a prideful refusal to believe one can be forgiven amounts to a rejection of God’s forgiveness. God is omnipotent, but only to do things that are coherently conceivable. A free creature that is not free – to sin, or to reject salvation – turns out to be one of those things that is not coherently conceivable, like “square circle.”

  1. There’s been a sort of rashy outbreak of modalism in evangelical Protestant circles lately. You probably haven’t heard of it. But, for example, there’s a contemporary Christian music trio called Philips, Craig, and Dean. (I liked their 90′s sound, but I hear it’s changed now.) Unfortunately, it turns out that the church and/or churches they are associated with is/are Modalist. Anyway, I could give other instances, including a local Baptist church here in my town where rumor has it that the church recently hired a modalist pastor. That’s surprising to me, because Baptists have always been very sound on Trinitarianism. But as I said, it’s a sort of outbreak here and there.

    Now, I was thinking in connection with this about why modalism is such a problem for Christian theology, and I came immediately to the same conclusion you come to–namely, that it messes up your Christology instantly and has gigantic implications regarding the atonement as well. I don’t know what modalists even _try_ to do with their Christology. Are they Arians or Socinians? Or is Jesus a mode of God? What in the world would that even mean? I never asked. How could the Father be validating the Son by speaking from heaven at the baptism of Christ and at the Transfiguration if modalism were true? And so on and so forth.

    It’s all very well to say that one may not be completely on board with Greek-origin phrases like “being of one substance,” but when some perhaps understandable discomfort with the higher flights of Chalcedonian metaphysics takes the form of saying, “Being of one…oh, whatever, we all love Jesus, right?” then we have a problem.

    • When I started thinking about this stuff it seemed to me that the Nicene formulas were really rather arbitrary. But they totally aren’t. All the Christological and Trinitarian heresies ruin the Atonement in one way or another. This has the effect of forcing their believers to an implicit disavowal of the Lordship of Jesus, and a rejection of salvation. If they really think about it, anyway. God send they don’t.

      Consubstantiality is the only path between the Scylla of unitarianism and the Charybdis of tritheism, so far as I can see.

      • As a former member of the Church of Christ (Restorationalism), We had our own noncredal creed. It went like this. See if you can follow:

        “Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent.”
        “The church of Jesus Christ on earth is essentially, intentionally, and constitutionally one.”
        “We are Christians only, but not the only Christians.”
        “In essentials, unity; in opinions, liberty; in all things love.”
        “No creed but Christ, no book but the Bible, no law but love, no name but the divine.”

        When I began to ponder these statements, I ceased to be a member of the Restoration movement and went through the Charismatic and then through the Presbyterian Church, which ultimately led me to the Catholic Church. Every Sunday we say the Nicene Creed, and every time I pray the Rosary I say the Apostles Creed. Being able to ponder the meaning of these statements not only builds my faith, but adds the courage I need to be steadfast in it. It is a fortification of the soul.

  2. The breakdown of paganism in the West was not inevitable, as the history of paganism in the East shows. Hinduism is still a going concern, it has a nihilism and social pathologies, no doubt, but they are differently manifested.

    It was the speculations of Ionian philosophers and the Hellenic Enlightenment that led to nihilism in the West. All the errors of 18C Enlightenment existed in Hellenic Enlightenment as well.

    An ingredient in the nihilism of modern West has been the elevation of Personal Choice and corresponding derogation of Traditions. As Dostoevsky wrote, man not only wants to worship, he wants to worship in common. The lack of common worship demoralizes individuals.

    The Eastern paganism is a going concern partly because they still have common worship

    • Well, I think it could be far more plausibly argued that it was the exposure of the common man anywhere in the Greek, Persian or Roman empires to all the cults of all the nations, with their intersections and disagreements, similarities and antinomies, that sapped whole-hearted confidence in any one of them. I mean, when it gets to the point that you can decide whether to worship Adonis or Ba’al or Athena or Serapis or Mithras as a matter of *nothing more than personal aesthetic preference,* it is safe to say that your patrimonial cult – and, by a straightforward generalization, any of the other cults you might find attractive – is a dead letter.

      This vitiation of pagan polytheism in the civilized world was one reason why, even before the birth of Christ, monotheistic and anti-syncretistic Judaism was a subject of intense interest among educated Greeks and Latins, and was the fastest growing religion in the Roman Empire. These god-fearers and Hellenes, as they were called in the NT, were the seed of the Gentile Church.

      • Similar polytheism has not led to erosion of Hindu beliefs in their numerous gods. Absent a culture of skeptical inquiry, the polytheism appears to be pretty stable.

      • True enough. But then, Hinduism says to the skeptical inquirer, “Yes; you are right: there are gods, but in the final analysis, there is only Brahman.” That sort of pulls the rug out from under the Indian Sophist. A nice move!

        Of course, what people generally fail to realize in the West these days is that Christianity and Judaism, and for that matter Islam, constitute exactly the same sort of move with respect to the Greco-Persian skeptical inquirer: “Yes, you are right: there are angels, but in the final analysis, there is only the Supra-Personal Godhead.”

        Skeptical inquirers are fixated always, in ancient Greece as today, on flying spaghetti monsters. They completely mistake the point.

    • ” Hinduism is still a going concern, it has a nihilism and social pathologies, no doubt, but they are differently manifested. ”

      All of Hinduism’s philosophies have moksha, or liberation, as their goal. There is nothing nihilistic about that.

      “The Eastern paganism is a going concern partly because they still have common worship”

      There are some core commonalities throughout all of our philosophies, however, there are major differences as well. That’s why there is no such thing as “the Hindu religion”.

      • “Absent a culture of skeptical inquiry, the polytheism appears to be pretty stable.”

        All of Hinduism’s philosophies have skeptical inquiry as one of the commonalities. Please see here, in an article on a website that this website’s owner has linked to;
        http://peopleofshambhala.com/is-hinduism-rational-part-i/

        Excerpt:

        “The inner sciences were developed through observation, experimentation, critical inquiry and debate, and they should not be confused with religious beliefs of the Judeo-Christian genre. Thus, both outer and inner sciences can be scientific. While the inner sciences have a long history in countries such as India, Tibet and China, they have never rejected the outer sciences, and there has never been a conflict between dharma and science as there has been between Western religion and science.” (pg 71)

  3. If the Nicene Creed is “the threshold and test of Christian faith” one wonders how there could have been any real Christians prior 325 A.D. If the Creeds are the sine qua non of Christianity, then the previous centuries must have had just pre-Christians.

    • Hah! Good joke.

      The creeds go back a long, long way. The Nicene Creed is an elaboration of the Apostle’s Creed, which in turn was a version of the Roman Creed. The Roman Creed was cited by St. Irenaeus (who heard St. Polycarp, who was a student of St. John Evangelist) as a symbolon of Truth, a summation of the main points of the Christian religion. The creeds started out as mnemonic devices for catechumens in the early decades of the Church, whereby they could remember and remind themselves of their faith, and so avoid falling into error. They were integrated into the baptismal vows. In the baptismal rite, the catechumen explicitly repudiates all other devotions, along with his former life of sin (itself a work of devotion to the world, the flesh, and the devil), and explicitly declares his beliefs using the formula of the creed.

      • A joke, yes, but with a serious point.

        As early a date as is sometimes claimed for the Old Roman Creed is hardly a settled matter. Certainly there were various statements of belief written or uttered prior to 341 A.D. Consider and compare, for example, the following modern statement:

        ‘The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith)

        Real questions are who determines what testimonies from the Apostles and Prophets were transmitted faithfully (A is said to have heard from B who is said to have heard from C, etc.), who defines the conditions for being or becoming a Christian, and who gets to define any binding creedal statements. Consider the filioque controversy and the various Protestant confessions. If everyone agreed on the original teachings, their meanings, and application, there would have never been any divisions in Christianity.

      • “If everyone agreed on the original teachings, their meanings, and application, there would have never been any divisions in Christianity.”

        But there have been such divisions from the very start, with the Mandaean disciples of the Forerunner refusing (to this day) to acknowledge Christ, as John himself did. Not to mention the Gnostics and mages such as Simon, who were claiming the Name even during Jesus’ lifetime. It was those early heretics who prompted the early Church to start using baptismal formulae to begin with.

        If Smith were right that all we need is the bare bones of the Gospel narrative, then anyone would be free to just make stuff up – Jesus was a space alien, Jesus was Zeus, whatever – and call their doctrines his teaching.

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  5. There were, indeed, divisions in or departures from Christianity from the very start, as recorded in the New Testament. Paul is clearly facing conflict and opposition. So we agree on that.

    Neither Joseph Smith nor I said, “All we need is the bare bones of the Gospel narrative,” though I think you would agree that we should in all simplicity start there. See, for example, Acts 8:26-40. What we are saying, however, is that there are fundamental principles, doctrines, and patterns. I think we agree on that. The New Testament Church had Christ and the Apostles to teach those principles and doctrines and exemplify those patterns. I believe we agree on that as well.

    The fact that the church felt it necessary to hold councils to decide on basic doctrines centuries after Christ and the Apostles are supposed to have given these doctrines to the world should be a clue that something had gone seriously wrong in the church in those intervening centuries. The fact that those councils carried on their deliberations under the direction of the Roman Emperor and in the fashion and language of the philosophical schools rather than the pattern of the Bible should likewise alert us that something fundamental had changed. The fact that the emphasis had shifted from good works and the testimony of Biblical faith to words now deemed critical and essential but never appearing in the Biblical vocabulary and unintelligible to most laymen then and now, should further alert us to distressing changes then at work. Orthodoxy came to be the province of philosophical adepts.

    In the words of Charles Williams, “A change of method, an assent already in operation, became more marked. She [the Church] suffered, she manipulated, she hierarchized, she intellectualized. All this she had done already, but now she entered upon it as a steady mode of behaviour.” This newly ascendant method and behavior I do not view as an improvement over the New Testament model, but rather as a departure from it.

    Moreover, in is in this period that the uneasy rivalry between church and state, punctuated by periods of intense persecution and violence for religious non-conformity, became a mutual embrace, though still not lacking in periods of intense persecution and religious warfare based on religious non-conformity. That embrace allowed the church to slip easily into the trappings of a worldly kingdom while the state, in turn, could more easily appropriate the church’s machinery and ideology to support its identity and aims.

    • Ah, OK. So, the language and discourse of Magna Graecia circa 325 AD, which had by then involved the Hebrews in its dominions and discourses for more than 600 years, and which was only seven or eight generations removed from Jesus (whose family was still around at the time), and which had been carried on in the technical terms of Greek philosophy since the writing of Philo, John, and Paul in an unbroken succession of masters and students reaching back to the Apostles, many of whom were saints and martyrs, and all of whom were masters both of the Hebrew and the Greek forms of discourse, spoke and wrote both Greek and Hebrew, and who had at their immediate disposal many authoritative texts (e.g., the Gospel to the Hebrews) which are lost to us, are less reliable than the solitary musings of a guy from upstate New York, 1900 years and a world away from the scenes of the Gospel narratives, a monoglot in English, a language that, at the time of the Council of Nicaea, would not even exist for about 1100 years (all of whose technical philosophical and theological terms *derive from the discourse of the Hellenic world, and ergo of the Apostles and the Fathers at Nicea* who had thought, spoken and written in its terms and categories their whole lives), and with access only to the King James Version of the Bible.

      You see the problem, right? On the one hand, St. Athanasius, Bishop Eusebius, St. Irenaeus, the Cappadocians, Origen, St. Clement of Rome, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Clement of Alexandria, etc., and the consistent testimony of the Church, of thousands of saints, doctors and theologians for 2000 years, maintaining its consistency on the major points of christological and Trinitarian doctrine despite the vagaries of historical circumstance and thousands of schisms; on the other, Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith was a remarkable person, to be sure, but there is just no comparison.

      I mean, even if everything you say about the problematic historical predicament of the early Church were the whole truth, please explain how there could ever fail to be a historical situation of the Church that was not problematical in some way. Is Mormonism exempt from historical predicaments? Have its doctrines ever changed or developed? Of course they have! Indeed, don’t the LDS insist that they retain to this day the power to amend doctrine according to the prophetic insights of their leaders?

      Has there been a day of the history of the Mormon religion when it has not been forced by circumstances, like the Church, to elucidate its doctrines more clearly, and to expatiate upon them and their implications? Does this render the latter day doctrines of the Latter Day Saints illegitimate, under the terms of the discourses of the former Latter Day Saints? Of course not. That a religion is forced by circumstances to elucidate its doctrines does not entail that its doctrines, as elucidated, are either false or unfaithful to their patrimony.

      The creeds are indeed couched in the Greek terms of philosophical theology. But none of them in any way contradict the Scriptures. Mormon theology, expressed in modern English terms, does so again and again.

      Take, for example, Smith’s suggestion in the King Follett discourse that God the Father is himself the son of a prior God. It is in flat contradiction to the testimony of the Holy Spirit speaking both through the Prophets of Israel (viz., Isaiah 44:6; cf. Isaiah 43:10, Isaiah 46:9, Exodus 8:10, Deuteronomy 4:39, Deuteronomy 32:39, 2 Samuel 7:22, 1 Kings 8:60, 1 Chronicles 17:20, Isaiah 44:8, on and on) and the Evangelists and Apostles (viz., Mark 12:29, John 5:44, John 17:3, 1 Corinthians 8:6, Galatians 3:20, and Ephesians 4:4-6, etc.). YHWH says throughout the Scriptures, again and again, and quite explicitly, that he is the only God, and that there are no others.

      However corrupted they may or may not have been by the exigencies of their encounter with the cosmopolitan Hellenic world that gave birth to Christianity, the Fathers agreed with the Holy Spirit, the Prophets, the Apostles and the Evangelists about the uniqueness of YHWH. Joseph Smith did not. Which of these two witnesses is more faithful to the Tradition of the Hebrews?

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  7. The touchstone of truth is not whether the speaker is unlearned or a polyglot. How many of the original Biblical writers based their claims of authority on an erudite horizontal transmission of the truth? That is the way of the Scribes and Pharisees. Compare Amos 7:14. The boy Samuel and the young Virgin were hardly favored by God because they belonged to an elite, highly educated, multilingual religious bureaucracy.

    You admit that there are many authoritative texts that are lost to us. What a loss and what an admission. And how do you propose to get back what was lost? Or is it your position that while much was lost, nothing important was ever lost?

    You are assuming incorrectly and without proof that the pre-Nicene Fathers were (1) authoritative, (2) correct, (3) united in their views, and (4) in agreement with the Post-Nicene Fathers, as if the Council of Nicaea had nothing to decide because what it came up with was always and everywhere the unanimously accepted opinion, but one that did not happen to be written in the texts that became to be considered scriptural. History’s winners get to write the accepted history, suppress, distort, or destroy texts they don’t like, vilify their opponents, and canonize whom they will. St. Sabellius anyone? St. Servetus? St. Origen? Theodotus of Byzantium? Paul of Samosata? Arius? Apollinaris of Laodicea? Lucifer Calaritanus? Macedonius I? Eustathius of Sebaste? Nestorius? Noetus of Smyrna? John Philoponus? Marcion? See also Bart D. Ehrman’s The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament.

    After Nicaea it became increasingly common for the Church to crush opposition by any and all means convenient or necessary. A survey of Christian history will show the Trinitarian view has always been contested unless or until the Church simply eliminated opposition. Heresy became The Enemy, and heretics were burned. Again in the words of Charles Williams, “The peacock fans of holy and austere popes drove the ashes of burning men over Christendom. The torch that had set light to the crosses in the Vatican gardens of Nero did not now pass into helpless or hesitating hands.” You see the problem, right?

    Imagine if instead of the Emperor calling a Council, the Leader of The Free World (e.g. Barack Obama) called a Council to unite Christians to make the Free World easier to govern. Imagine that the Council, at the strong urging of the Government, came up with new wording that everyone could agree on (say on marriage) and then exiled any ecclesiastical leaders who dissented. You see any problems? The Orthosphere would explode if Barack Obama did that. Yet that was the precedent Constantine set, which precedent the British monarchy was happy to appeal to in the Reformation. Prior to that was the forged Donation of Constantine, which was once widely considered authentic by the Church. (“Ahi, Costantin, di quanto mal fu matre, / non la tua conversion, ma quella dote / che da te prese il primo ricco patre!”)

    There is not one of the scriptures you quoted I disagree with. Joseph Smith repeatedly affirmed the unity and uniqueness of God. See Alma 11: 44; 2 Nephi 31:21; Mormon 7:7; 3 Nephi 11:27. The King Follett discourse has never been canonized by the LDS, nor is there a definitive text of that discourse. In any event Jesus is clearly the God of the Israel and the Old Testament (right?), yet Jesus clearly claims He has a Father (right?), to whom he prays (Like 22:42), whom he obeys (John 6:38) and resembles in every respect (John 14:9). It is orthodoxy that conflates two different gods, the god of the philosophers (without body, parts, or passions) and the God of the scriptures, while claiming to speak for both.

    What First Century (as opposed to Second or Third Century) Christians believed beyond what we have in the New Testament is open to debate, just as the meaning of the scriptures is open to debate (when not suppressed by the burning of opponents). You have previously quoted approvingly Margaret Barker on other topics. Do you agree with her views in her book The Great Angel: A Study of Israel’s Second God?

    • The touchstone of truth is not whether the speaker is unlearned or a polyglot.

      I didn’t say that it is. It’s just that a man fluent in Greek and Hebrew and Latin, and familiar with their idioms and connotations in the ancient world, as being himself a denizen thereof, is in a far better position than we, or Joseph Smith, to understand and interpret, or even properly to remember, the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles, or for that matter of the Prophets. St. Irenaeus of Lyons heard St. Polycarp, who studied with St. John the Divine, who studied with Jesus. The Fathers are simply far closer to the Origin of the Gospel than we are. Their witness to the character of the faith they had inherited, then, carries far more weight than that of anyone later, or less erudite in its terms and categories and doctrines, or for that matter less saintly.

      If you want to argue that you, or I, or Joseph Smith can know *better* than the bishops at Nicea what the Apostles taught, knock yourself out. I find the idea risible.

      You admit that there are many authoritative texts that are lost to us. What a loss and what an admission. And how do you propose to get back what was lost? Or is it your position that while much was lost, nothing important was ever lost?

      I don’t see why this is such a big admission. It seems certain that many important texts were lost. But they were not lost to the Fathers. That’s one reason why the Fathers are more informed exegetes than we can be.

      A survey of Christian history will show the Trinitarian view has always been contested …

      A survey of human history will show that *every* view has always been contested.

      History’s winners get to write the accepted history, suppress, distort, or destroy texts they don’t like, vilify their opponents, and canonize whom they will.

      If this argument that history’s winners make everything up for their own purposes tendentiously is all there is to it, then we can be sure that if there were ever a Mormon hegemony over the minds of men, it would have done the same thing. That would not, of course, mean that Mormonism was false. But nor would a failure of Mormonism, or orthodoxy, to gain such a hegemony mean that it was true – or false.

      To the extent that the argument to tendentiousness is true, it saps every possible prevalent weltanschauung, and therefore saps all weltanschauungs whatever – including its own. It is tantamount to the sole and autophagous argument of the deconstructionists and critical legal theorists, to whom all texts (including their own) are nothing but instruments of oppression that have no truth value.

      If on the other hand the spread of ideas is not *merely* tendentious, but is due also in part to such considerations as their truth, utility, beauty, and so forth, then the power of victors to set the terms of the discourse is not all there is to intellectual history.

      Either way, the truth or falsity of deconstructionism cannot matter one way or another to intellectual history. So, this argument is a red herring.

      The Orthosphere would indeed explode with outrage if Obama convened an ecumenical council. But if a Christian convert who had conquered the World bearing the Sign of the Cross, ended the persecution of Christians, and established the Faith as the state religion were to do such a thing, we would I think all be rather pleased and hopeful, albeit wary. Far be it from me to suggest that Constantine or his acts were without cost. Nothing is. If there had never been a Constantine, or an establishment of Christianity, there would have been other sorts of costs to pay, and other sorts of sins would have been committed. One way or another, though, the Arian controversy would have had to be settled. Either the Logos is a creature, or he is God. The Church had to decide.

      In any event Jesus is clearly the God of the Israel and the Old Testament (right?), yet Jesus clearly claims He has a Father (right?), to whom he prays (Like 22:42), whom he obeys (John 6:38) and resembles in every respect (John 14:9).

      Well, sure. Prima facie it sure seems as though Jesus and his Father have to be different beings. But then, wait – weren’t you just agreeing vehemently with Scripture when it also says that God is one and unique? Which is it? Never mind whether the discourse of Scripture is in conflict with that of Greek philosophy (it isn’t; that’s rather like thinking that French is in conflict with Sanskrit, or math with music), for it would seem that Scripture is in conflict with Scripture. Is Scripture violating the Law of Noncontradiction?

      No. The Law is that a proposition cannot be both true and untrue in exactly the same way. So, what Scripture must be doing is saying, e.g., that in one way of looking at things – the Personal way – God is three, while in another way of looking at things – the Ontic way – God is one. So likewise for all the other apparent contradictions that catechumens, such as we, discover in Scripture. E.g., again, God is eternal and thus unchanging, and prior to any particular instance of being, so that he is not a body; but he is in time, suffers, and has a body. These seem to contradict each other, until we remember that *all* time and change occur in eternity, as procedures and processions thereof. You *can’t* be in time unless you are in eternity.

      And so forth. I have dealt with lots and lots of these apparent problems in posts here. There are others that will form the matter of future posts. The problems tend to go away when you parse them under the proper categories.

      The King Follett discourse has never been canonized by the LDS, nor is there a definitive text of that discourse.

      The King Follett discourse is not the only place that Smith argues for polytheism. On June 16, 1844 he said in a sermon:

      If Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and John discovered that God the Father of Jesus Christ had a Father, you may suppose that He had a Father also. Where was there ever a son without a father? And where was there ever a father without first being a son? Whenever did a tree or anything spring into existence without a progenitor? And everything comes in this way. Paul says that which is earthly is in the likeness of that which is heavenly, hence if Jesus had a Father, can we not believe that He had a Father also? I despise the idea of being scared to death at such a doctrine, for the Bible is full of it. (TPJS, p. 373)

      Now, maybe that text has not been canonized either. Whether or not it has, is polytheism such as Smith here espouses the doctrine of the LDS, or not?

      As to Margaret Barker: yeah, she’s great. Love that lady. I have never found anything in her exposition of Temple theology that contradicts orthodox theology. Indeed, her great point is that Christian theology *just is* Temple theology. She sees a wonderful continuity of thought, from Isaiah all the way to Nicea and beyond. Fascinating stuff.

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