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(continued from Part 2):
5. God fills the universe.
The relatively modern idea that God fills the universe is probably based on these words spoken by Solomon when he dedicated the temple in Jerusalem : “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?” (1 Kings 8:27; cf. 2 Chronicles 2:6; 6:18). It is true that nothing can restrict God, who is able to go wherever he wills, but that does not mean that he is physically as large as the universe.
“God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him” (Genesis 1:27). In form, then, we look like God and, as we shall see below, when he appears to prophets, they describe him as they would a human being. Man does not fill the universe, so there is no reason to believe that God does.
6. God is invisible.
Two Bible passages say that God is “invisible” (Colossians 1:15-16; 1 Timothy 1:17), but, as we saw in our response to No. 4, the term “invisible” does not mean that God cannot be seen, only that he is not seen, because most mortals do not have the opportunity to see him. But Jesus promised, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God ” (Matthew 5:8). 1 If God cannot be seen, this is an empty promise.
The apostle John wrote that “No man hath seen God at any time” (1 John 4:12) and that “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18). He recorded Jesus’ words, “Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father” (John 6:46; see also John 5:37; 1 Timothy 6:14-16). Luke’s report, however, has Christ saying, “no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him ” (Luke 10:22). Many people saw Christ during his mortal sojourn and others saw him following his resurrection, but to fully see God is impossible unless one is transformed by the Holy Ghost. Hence, Paul wrote, “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost” (1 Corinthians 12:3).
In some Bible passages, God “comes down” to the earth, 2 and he is able to withdraw his presence. The Old Testament frequently notes that God “appeared” to various prophets. 3 The Hebrew term underlying this word means “to make seen,” i.e., to show oneself. During these appearances, the Lord spoke to the prophet and sometimes there was a two-way conversation. There are several examples of prophets having seen the Lord:
• “Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: And they saw the God of Israel : and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand : also they saw God , and did eat and drink” (Exodus 24:9-11).
• “And there was a voice from the firmament that was over their heads . . . And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it. And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about . . . This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord . And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake ” (Ezekiel 1:25-28).
• “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne , high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple . . . Then said I, Woe is me! . . . for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts ” (Isaiah 6:1, 5).
• “ I saw the Lord standing upon the altar: and he said, Smite the lintel of the door, that the posts may shake” (Amos 9:1).
Note that some of these prophets described the Lord as a man in form, sitting or standing, and speaking. On one occasion, the Lord spoke to Moses but did not allow the prophet to see him in his entirety. “And he [Moses] said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory. And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee . . . And he said, Thou canst not see my face : for there shall no man see me, and live. 4 And the Lord said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen ” (Exodus 33:18-23).
Hebrews 11:27 describes Moses’ experience with the Lord at the burning bush, saying, “By faith he forsook Egypt , not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.” From this, we learn that Moses saw him who is usually unseen. And though, on one occasion, Moses saw God’s back parts but not his face, yet we also read that “the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend” (Exodus 33:11).
7. God is a spirit.
In John 4:23-24, Jesus tells the Samaritan woman, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” But does this mean that God does not have a body? We can compare this passage with D&C 93:33-34, “For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy; And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy.” See also D&C 88:15-16, “And the spirit and the body are the soul of man. And the resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the soul.”
In his discussion of the resurrection, the apostle Paul used the term “spiritual” to describe resurrected bodies: “So also is the resurrection of the dead.
It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body ” (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). Elsewhere, he wrote, “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you ” (Romans 8:6-9). Similarly, Jesus told Nicodemus, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God . That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit ” (John 3:5-6).
8. God has no body or parts.
In Luke 24:39, the resurrected Savior tells his disciples, “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.” Since, in the theology of most modern Christian churches, Jesus is God, this clearly indicates that God has a body. Moreover, various Old Testament prophets described the Lord’s body parts. While it is true that some terms denoting parts of the body are used metaphorically in the Bible (“the hand of God,” “by the mouth of God,” etc.), 5 there are times when people actually saw his body parts. We have already noted that Moses saw the Lord’s “back parts,” but was denied the opportunity of seeing his “face” (Exodus 33:18-23). More than 70 Israelite elders saw God atop the mountain and both his “feet” and his “hand” are mentioned (Exodus 24:9-11). Ezekiel wrote that God had “the appearance of a man” sitting on a throne and mentioned “his loins” (Ezekiel 1:25-28). Jeremiah wrote that “the Lord put forth his hand , and touched my mouth” (Jeremiah 1:9).
9. God has no passions.
This is the strangest of all propositions, in view of the fact that God’s passions are frequently mentioned throughout the Bible. We find that he can love, 6 hate, 7 become angry, 8 feel grief, 9 and be jealous. 10 Among the more important passages describing God’s passions are the following:
• “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
• “For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God” (John 16:27).
• “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8).
• “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:16-19).
Partakers of the Divine Nature
Another point that should be made is that mortals can become as God through the atonement of Jesus Christ. This important doctrine was called theosis or apotheosis in Greek, which means “deification” or “divinization.” Though Latter-day Saints have often been ridiculed for this belief, it is attested in the Bible 11 and was one of the most common teachings found in the early Christian church, being taught by such notables as Justin Martyr (born ca. AD 100), 12 Irenaeus of Lyon (born between AD 115 and 125), 13 Tertullian (born ca. AD 160), 14 Cyprian of Carthage (mid-2 nd century AD), 15 Clement of Alexandria (died AD 215), 16 Novation (3 rd century AD), 17 Origen (born AD 185), 18 Maximus the Confessor (ca. AD 580-662), 19 Athanasius of Alexandria (AD 296-373), 20 Cyril of Jerusalem (AD 315-386), 21 Gregory Nazianzen (ca. AD 325-389), 22 John Chrysostom (AD 347-407), 23 Jerome (ca. AD 340-420), 24 Augustine of Hippo (ca. AD 354-371), 25 and the Persian Aphrahat of Syria (4 th century AD). 26
Indeed, theosis is still a prominent doctrine of the Eastern Orthodox churches 27 and is even acknowledged in passing in of the current Roman Catholic catechism, of which paragraph 398 declares, “Created in a state of holiness, man was destined to be fully ‘divinized’ by God in glory.” 28 Paragraph 1265 says that “ Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte ‘a new creature,’ an adopted son of God, who has become a ‘partaker of the divine nature,’ member of Christ and co-heir with him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit.” 29Paragraph 460 reads:
“The Word became flesh to make us ‘partakers of the divine nature’: ‘For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.’ ‘For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.’ “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.”’” 30
In 1998, Jordan Vajda, O.P., a Roman Catholic priest, submitted his master’s thesis to the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley , California . Entitled “‘Partakers of the Divine Nature’: A Comparative Analysis of Patristic and Mormon Doctrines of Divinization,” it was later published (2002) by Brigham Young University ‘s Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies. In his first chapter, Vajda writes, “Members of the LDS Church will discover unmistakable evidence that their fundamental belief about human salvation and potential is not unique nor a Mormon invention. Latin Catholics and Protestants will learn of a doctrine of salvation that, while relatively foreign to their ears, is nevertheless part of the heritage of the undivided Catholic Church of the first millennium. Members of Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches will discover on the American continent an amazing parallel to their own belief that salvation in Christ involves our becoming ‘partakers of the divine nature.’” 31
Ernst W. Benz, a renowned German Protestant theologian, wrote:
“One can think what one wants of this doctrine of progressive deification, but one thing is certain: with this anthropology Joseph Smith is closer to the view of man held by the Ancient Church than the precursors of the Augustinian doctrine of original sin were, who considered the thought of such a substantial connection between God and man as the heresy, par excellence.
We must remember here that for the Ancient Church salvation stood in direct correlation to embodiment. Athanasius, the great Bishop of Alexandria, the head of the Church in all Egypt , summarized the Christian doctrine of salvation in the words, ‘God became man so that we may become God.’ The goal of salvation is deification, and Athanasius invokes in this context the words of Jesus: ‘Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.’” 32
When fourteen-year-old Joseph Smith first saw the Father and the Son in a grove of trees near Palmyra , New York , in the spring of 1820, he asked which of the various churches he should join. “I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight” (Joseph Smith History 1:19). In this paper, we have seen that the Bible supports this allegation.
Near the end of his life, Joseph Smith declared, “It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the character of God; and to know that man, (as Moses) may converse with Him as one man converses with another” ( History of the Church 6:44). If, as Jesus said, eternal life comes by “know[ing] thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3), we cannot hope to attain that greatest of God’s gifts (D&C 14:7; Romans 6:23) without knowing both the Father and the Son.
1 This idea is also found in Hebrews 12:14 and Revelation 22:4. See especially Psalm 17:15, “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness,” evidently in the resurrection.
2 Genesis 11:5-7; Exodus 19:20; Numbers 11:25; 12:5.
3 Genesis 12:7; 17:1; 18:1; 26:2, 24; Exodus 3:16; 4:5; Judges 6:12; 1 Samuel 3:21; 1 Kings 3:5; 9:2; 11:9; Jeremiah 31:3.
4 JST Exodus 33:20 reads, “And he said unto Moses, Thou canst not see my face at this time, lest mine anger be kindled against thee also, and I destroy thee, and thy people; for there shall no man among them see me at this time, and live, for they are exceeding sinful. And no sinful man hath at any time, neither shall there be any sinful man at any time, that shall see my face and live.”
5 For example, the Hebrew idiom “by the hand of” simply denotes something that the individual (whether God or a human being) did, while “by the mouth of” denotes something the individual said.
6 Deuteronomy 23:5; Psalms 11:7; 33:5; 37:28; 87:2; 146:8; Proverbs 3:12 (quoted in Hebrews 12:6); 15:9; 1 Kings 10:9; 2 Chronicles 9:8; 2 Corinthians 9:7; Ephesians 2:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:16; 1 John 4:10-11.
7 Deuteronomy 12:31; 16:22; Psalm 11:5; Malachi 1:2 (quoted in Romans 9:13); 2:16.
8 Exodus 4:14; Numbers 11:1, 10; 12:9; 22:22; 25:3-4; 32:13-14; Deuteronomy 4:25; 7:4; 9:18-19; 13:17; 29:20, 23-24, 27-28; and many more.
9 Genesis 6:6.
10 Exodus 20:5; 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24; 5:9; 6:15; Joshua 24:19; Nahum 1:2.
11 Genesis 3:22-23 (cf. Revelation 2:7); Psalm 82:1, 6-7; John 10:33-36; Romans 8:16-19; 2 Peter 1:2-4; 1 John 3:1-3.
12 Dialogue With Trypho 124.
13 Against Heresies 3.6.1; 4.38.4; 5 preface.
14 Against Praxeas 13; Against Hermogenes 5; Against Marcion 2.25.
15 Treatise 12.2.6.
16 Exhortation to the Heathen 12; The Instructor 1.6, 3.1; Stromata 2.20, 4.23.
17 On the Trinity 15, 20.
18 De Principiis 3.6.1.
19 Chapters on Knowledge 2:25.
20 Four Discourses Against the Arians 1.38-39; On the Incarnation of the Word of God 54.3; Exhortation to the Heathen 1.
21 Catachetical Lectures , Prologue 6.
22 Orations 3.19; 7.22; 30.4.
23 Homilies on Eutropius 2.8; Homilies on Eutropius 2.8; Homily on John 3.2; 14:2; 61.2.
24 Homily on Psalm 81 (82) ; Homily on Psalm 135 (136) .
25 City of God 9.23; Sermons on Selected Lessons 26.3; 31.6; 47.2;, 57.3;; Homilies on the Gospel of John 1.4;; Tractates on the Gospel of According to St. John 21.1, 48.9; Homilies on the First Epistle of John 2.14; Exposition on the Psalms 50.2, 82:4, 97.12; 136.2-3.
26 Demonstrations 17.3-6, 8.
27 For an explanation of the Orthodox belief in theosis, see Archimandrite Christoforos Stavropoulos, Partakers of Divine Nature: An Inspiring Presentation of Man’s Purpose in Life, According to Orthodox Theology , transl. by Rev. Stanley Harakas (Minneapolis: Light and Life, 1976), and Georgios I. Mantzaridis, transl. by Liadain Sherrard, The Deification of Man: Saint GregoryPalamas and Orthodox Tradition (New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1984).
28 Catechism of the Catholic Church (Liguori Publications, 1994), 100.
29 Ibid., 322, citing 2 Corinthians 5:17 and 2 Peter 1:4,
30 Ibid., 116, citing 2 Peter 1:4, St. Irenaeus ( Against the Heresies 3.19.1), and St. Thomas Aquinas ( Opusc . 57:1-4). Other sections of the catechism refer to the divine sonship and divinization of man and our partaking of God’s divine nature (257, 260, 265, 398, 460, 1812, 1988, 1999). Other Catholic publications on the topic are too numerous to list here.
31 Jordan Vajda, “Partakers of the Divine Nature” A Comparative Analysis of Patristic and Mormon Doctrines of Divinization , FARMS Occasional Papers 3 ( Provo , UT : FARMS, 2002), 8 . Alluding to an anti-Mormon book and documentary motion picture entitled “The God Makers,” Vajda wrote that “the Mormons are truly ‘godmakers’: as the doctrine of exaltation explains, the fullness of human salvation means ‘becoming a god.’ Yet what was meant to be a term of ridicule has turned out to be a term of approbation, for the witness of the Greek Fathers of the Church . . . is that they also believed that salvation meant ‘becoming a god.’ It seems that if one’s soteriology cannot accommodate a doctrine of human divinization, then it has at least implicitly, if not explicitly, rejected the heritage of the early Christian church and departed from the faith of first millennium Christianity” (ibid., 56).
32 Ernst W. Benz, “Imagio Dei: Man in the Image of God,” in Truman G. Madsen, Reflections on Mormonism: Judaeo-Christian Parallels (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1978), 392. For other non-Latter-day Saint discussions of deification, see Gerald Bonner, “Augustine’s Conception of Deification,” Journal of Theological Studies 37 (1986): 369-385; P. Deseille, “L’eucharistie et la divinisation des chrétiens selon les Pères de l’Église,” Le Messager orthodoxe 87 (1981): 40-56; Eleuterio F. Fortino, “Sanctification and Deification,” Diakonia (Fordham University) 17 (1982): 192-200; Joseph Frary, “Deification and Human Freedom,” Sobornost (London) 7 (1975): 117-126; Jules Gross, La divinisation du chrétien d’après les pères grecs: contribution historique à la doctrine de la grâce (Paris: J. Gabalda et Cie, 1938); Peter McDonald, “To become Gods: a saintly teaching,” Faith Magazine 30 (1998): 13-17; Jonathan Morse, “Fruits of the Eucharist: Henosis and Theosis,” Diakonia (Fordham University) 17 (1982): 127-142; George M. Schurr, “On the Logic of Ante-Nicene Affirmations of the ‘Deification’ of the Christian,” Anglican Theological Review 51 (1969): 97-105.