Tag Archives: Apostasy

“This is for the Record”

Geez Cousin you are super into this whole thing.”

I had posted a link to Kate Kelly’s excommunication letter, released by Ordain Women, on Facebook. I thought that it provided an interesting counter to some of the claims that Kelly has made about the process she has gone through. It wasn’t the first time I’d posted or written about the recent controversy, either: Continue reading “This is for the Record”

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Camp. With Girls.

I didn’t have many close Mormon friends in high school. There were a few of us, of course – California is no Utah, but neither is it the Eastern U.S. – but us Latter-day Saints didn’t really hang out in the same circles.

This is by no means a lament – I had wonderful friends, inside and outside the Church, and I’m all the better for them. Being part of a diverse crowd, however, did give me the chance to see how other churches did things. Continue reading Camp. With Girls.

Sugar and Spice and RIGHTEOUS FURY!!!

Kate Kelly published a commentary on her upcoming disciplinary council. I’d like to comment on that commentary, and I decided the best way to do that was within the text itself. You can find it below, along with my thoughts.

I feel sad, because it sounds like Kelly’s resolved to leaving the Church, and using this as a catalyst to maintain media attention for however long her 15 minutes lasts. Too bad. Continue reading Sugar and Spice and RIGHTEOUS FURY!!!

#livingauthentically

Kate Kelly was informed on June 8 that there will be a disciplinary council trying her for apostasy. Holy Bloggernacle explosion!

Holy Kate Kelly, Batman

For my part, I’m saddened by this, just as I would be saddened by any person being potentially deprived of the blessings of Church membership. Neylan McBaine expresses that sentiment quite perfectly, I think. I’ve read her post a number of times, and there’s really nothing I would object to or add my own nuance to. Because of that, I really encourage you to read her post.

Still, I wonder if McBaine’s tears are in vain. Continue reading #livingauthentically

My Thoughts on Today’s Supreme Court Review

Yesterday, you might not have known what was on the Supreme Court’s docket for today.

Today, you know.

You know because you probably have a Facebook account (1 billion of us do, as of October 2012) and your news feed was likely filled up by activists and constitutional “experts” on both sides of the argument, all commenting on news coming out of the Supreme Court.

My Anecdotal Observations of Fellow Latter-day Saints

I’ve written before on the subject of so-called same sex marriage, but I feel like I can contribute to the conversation in one way tonight. I’d like to talk about some of my observations of the LDS community. Certainly I don’t have a good view of all Latter-day Saints, so my observations will be little more than anecdotal. Still, that doesn’t make them invalid. I, at least, think that they’ll be worth considering.

A Diverse Body with An Important Foundation 

We Latter-day Saints are a fairly diverse group of people. You might not think it, getting pop culture hints from “The Book of Mormon” musical and Big Love, but Latter-day Saints are a 14 million member strong group who live all over the earth and have varied levels of activity and belief, and a wide range of personalities, opinions, and mannerisms.

I’ve mused before about what, among such a diverse group of individuals, unites us, and you can read that post for those thoughts. Since then, Elder Robert D. Hales spoke in General Conference about “Being a More Christian Christian”. His criteria for what it means to be Christian (and I think “Christian” here is interchangeable with “Mormon” or “Latter-day Saint”, as will be clear in a moment) is also a fine study about what should be the same among Latter-day Saints. A Latter-day Saint is:

    • Someone who follows the gospel pattern of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end (paragraphs 2 – 4).
    • Someone who believes that God has followed a pattern of calling prophets to teach His children, and that this pattern has continued in our day with Joseph Smith and his successors (paragraph 5).
    • Someone who believes in the Godhead as taught in the scriptures and by modern prophets. This belief regarding the nature of God is at odds with Trinitarian theology (paragraph 6).

There is quite a bit in there that mainstream Christianity would find objectionable, but that should suggest to us that when Elder Hales asks, “With these doctrines as the foundations of our faith, can there be any doubt or disputation that we (Latter-day Saints) are Christian?”, he’s not comparing Latter-day Saints to modern, mainstream, creedal Christianity as much as he’s comparing Latter-day Saints to biblical Christianity.

But that’s a talk for another day and another post.

The point is that Elder Hales highlights a belief in the principle of prophets and a testimony that the leaders of the Mormon Church are the modern-day equivalents of  Peter, Moses, or Paul. That’s not an idle statement to make or believe in. Paul wrote to new church members of his day,

“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone (Ephesians 2:19-20).

Distance from Modern Prophets

Whether or not you’re familiar with the LDS position on the issue of so-called same-sex marriage, consider these posts from some of my Latter-day Saint Facebook friends:

“Hopefully today is the first step towards increasing equality in our nation.”

“Real equality would be government that is not in charge of marriage.”

“taking agency away from a group of people is what satan (sic) wants…..”

And many of them posted graphics, like these:

Posts like these really confuse me. They confuse me because, for example, the leadership of our Church said just today:

Today the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments regarding the definition of marriage in this country.

We firmly support the divinely appointed definition of marriage as the union between a man and a woman because it is the single most important institution for strengthening children, families, and society.

We hope the court will agree, and we look forward to the decision on this important matter.

That’s not even the least of all they’ve said, but it suffices for this post. It’s not difficult for the sincere student to learn more about the LDS position (try here, at Mormons and Gays, which then links to other legitimate sources at the bottom of the page). This position is in direct conflict with many of the sentiments and graphics above.

Something seems off….

A Story with a Moral – Faithful Obedience

I’m reminded of the story of Martin Harris and the lost 116 pages. For those who are unfamiliar with the story, here is a refresher.

Joseph Smith began translating the Book of Mormon plates in the late 1820s. He had a scant education, and enlisted the help of Martin Harris, a local of Palmyra, New York, to act as scribe. Harris’ help was invaluable – not only was Harris a respected member of the community, but he also gave significant resources to help finance the translation and publication of the Book of Mormon.

By the middle of 1828, Joseph had dictated 116 pages to Harris. Unfortunately, Harris’ relationship with his wife was tenuous at the time. Additionally, she was suspicious of Joseph, and opposed to the resources her husband was devoting to Joseph’s cause. Harris asked Joseph if he could take the manuscript home to show his wife. He thought this would help encourage her support and help heal some of their strained relationship.

Joseph asked the Lord if Harris could take the manuscript. The Lord refused. Still, Harris pressured Joseph to ask a second time. Again, the Lord refused. Harris pressured Joseph once more, and the Lord agreed to let him take the manuscript as long as he showed it to only a few specified family members.

Tragically, Harris lost the 116 pages of the manuscript. They were never recovered, and Joseph was commanded not to re-translate those pages (the thieves who had stolen them had changed the words so that, were Joseph to re-translate, the two versions would not agree – see Doctrine and Covenants 10).

The Lord, with his omniscient foresight, had prepared for this loss. He told Nephi, one of the primary authors of the Book of Mormon, to make two sets of records covering the same time period.

And the reason for making two sets of records? Nephi didn’t have a clue. He tells us,

“Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not.

“But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men” (see 1 Nephi 9).

Mormon, who almost 1,000 years later would be inspired to include Nephi’s record in concert with his abridgment, would write,

“And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me. And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will” (see Words of Mormon 1:3-7).

Joseph continued to translate, but from this additional record instead of the material he’d previously translated. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has said,

“We got back more than we lost. And it was known from the beginning that it would be so.”

For more on that story, you can also read my post, “God’s Divine Backup Plan”.

Some Principles to Follow

Often when we hear this story, we focus on Martin Harris and Joseph Smith. There’s nothing wrong with this – there’s an important lesson to be learned from them. But I’d like to focus on two different individuals. I’d like to focus on Nephi and Mormon, and particularly Nephi.

Nephi, as we saw, was commanded to make a second record detailing the same period he’d just covered. Keep in mind that this is an age before copy-and-paste, before xerox, before the printing press. Nephi was making records on metal plates while traveling as a nomad through uninhabited Arabia and (likely) South America. That would have been extremely arduous and tedious. Yet he did it.

Nephi did this, all without (as far as we know) ever knowing why. He never received any indication of what the Lord’s “wise purpose” was, what fruit would be born from his laborious seed planting. Not even Mormon, who spent his life protecting and abridging these records, ever knew the end from the beginning in regards to these records. Yet they obeyed. And because they obeyed, we have the Book of Mormon today, complete with the powerful testimony of early Nephite prophets.

What’s the connection for Latter-day Saints to same-sex marriage?

In 1995, then president Gordon B. Hinckley presented “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”. It highlighted the vital family values that our Church stands for, and called for members and citizens to support measures aimed at upholding the traditional family unit. This proclamation reads, in part,

“We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children….

“We warn that… the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.

We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.

When Prop 8 was prepared as a ballot measure, the First Presidency, led by current president Thomas S. Monson, sent a letter to California congregations. It encouraged Latter-day Saints to do all that they could to support the measure. It read,

“Preserving Traditional Marriage and Strengthening Families:

“In March 2000 California voters overwhelmingly approved a state law providing that “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” The California Supreme Court recently reversed this vote of the people. On November 4, 2008, Californians will vote on a proposed amendment to the California state constitution that will now restore the March 2000 definition of marriage approved by the voters.

“The Church’s teachings and position on this moral issue are unequivocal. Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, and the formation of families is central to the Creator’s plan for His children. Children are entitled to be born within this bond of marriage.

“A broad-based coalition of churches and other organizations placed the proposed amendment on the ballot. The Church will participate with this coalition in seeking its passage. Local Church leaders will provide information about how you may become involved in this important cause.

We ask that you do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman. Our best efforts are required to preserve the sacred institution of marriage.

Regardless of the other issues at work here – and make no mistake, this is a highly complex and controversial issue – the Church leaders have been very clear about what is expected of faithful Latter-day Saints. After that, the decision is ours to decide which way we face.

The choice is, of course, ours to make. But let’s make no mistake about what’s happening when we follow personal whims, lean on political correctness, or disregard prophetic counsel. Perhaps President Brigham Young said it best:

“You cannot destroy the appointment of a prophet of God, but you can cut the thread that binds you to the prophet of God, and sink yourselves to hell.”

Stand with the prophets, even if you don’t understand why. You may never understand – we learn that much from Nephi and Mormon – but you can have faith that the Lord knows what he’s doing.

“God Has No Body” Part 6.2

Find Part 1 here.

In Part 6.1, I included the clarification that Latter-day Saints share this belief concerning God’s unchanging nature. I cited the Lectures on Faith and a scripture from the Book of Mormon. This also strengthened the premise that God’s unchanging nature does not include a prohibition against physical change.

The argument can be adjusted as follows:

  1. Many Biblical verses, along with LDS scriptures and LDS leaders, teach that God has always existed, and is unchangeable
  2. Jesus assumed an earthly body only after being born of Mary in the meridian of time
  3. Many Biblical verses, along with LDS scriptures and LDS leaders, clarify that God being unchangeable does not preclude him from changing physically.  Instead, “unchanging” helps define his interactions with his children.
  4. Thus, physical change is not prohibited by the scriptural meaning of God’s unchangeable nature (1) (2) (3)
  5. Thus, God could exist as spirit even though the Son took on human form

Premise 4 and 5

This section is in regards to premise 4 of the original argument, and premise 5 of this new formulation of the argument.

While the responses to anthropomorphites’ objections we’ve looked at in Part 4 and Part 5 have both been inductive, this argument is perhaps the best example (of the three) of the weaknesses born of inductive arguments.

The conclusion can only be formulated as it is in the fifth statement, i.e. conditionally (“could”). The first three premises could very well be true; in fact, most Latter-day Saints would agree with them. The issue is that they do not lead to the conclusion. Because Jesus did not always have a body does not infer that he would immediately shed that body to regain his incorporeality. In fact, he could very well have kept that resurrected body until this very day. The argument that incorporealists should be making is one regarding why the Savior would shed his resurrected body. This argument from unchangeableness is nothing more than a distraction.

Again, this is the big issue with this argument. It’s purpose, I assume, is to dispel attention from the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If the Savior retains his resurrected body, then God must be corporeal. Yet being unchangeable does not have anything to do with having a physical body – that is what is being argued by the third premise, which is supported by Latter-day Saint theology (see Part 6.1).

Conclusion

Because the premises of the argument lead so weakly to the conclusion, the argument should be adjusted to at least clarify the issue described above. It can be adjusted as follows:

  1. Many Biblical verses, along with LDS scriptures and LDS leaders, teach that God has always existed, and is unchangeable
  2. Jesus assumed an earthly body only after being born of Mary in the meridian of time
  3. Many Biblical verses, along with LDS scriptures and LDS leaders, clarify that God being unchangeable does not preclude him from changing physically.  Instead, “unchanging” helps define his interactions with his children.
  4. Thus, physical change is not prohibited by the scriptural meaning of God’s unchangeable nature (1) (2) (3)
  5. Thus, as far as this argument is concerned, it is equally likely that God could exist as spirit or as an embodied deity; no determination can be made since there is no support given regarding why the Son might or might not have shed his physical body after his ascension.

Arguments considering the question raised by this revised conclusion will not be treated here, but may be covered later.

“God Has No Body” Part 6.1

Find Part 1 here.

Those who argue that God has a corporeal body often point to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If the Savior so diligently endeavored to show that he had been resurrected, why would he so quickly shed that physical body? The argument responding to this objection goes something like this:

  1. Many Biblical verses say that God has always existed, and is unchangeable
  2. Jesus assumed an earthly body only after being born of Mary in the meridian of time
  3. Thus, this body must not be part of God’s unchangeable nature (1) (2)
  4. Thus, God could exist as spirit even though the Son took on human form

Being “Unchangeable” is Important

Joseph Smith, the first president and founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, taught in his Lectures on Faith that it was vital to understand the character of God in order to exercise faith in Him. The third of six characteristics he defined was unchangeableness.  Joseph said,

“From the foregoing testimonies [in scripture] we learn the following things respecting the character of God… that he changes not, neither is there variableness with him; but that he is the same from everlasting to everlasting, being the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever; and that his course is one eternal round, without variation.”

Joseph then went on to explain why it was vital for men to believe that God held this characteristic:

“But it is equally as necessary that men should have the idea that he is a God who changes not, in order to have faith in him, as it is to have the idea that he is gracious and long-suffering; for without the idea of unchangeableness in the character of the Deity, doubt would take the place of faith. But with the idea that he changes not, faith lays hold upon the excellencies in his character with unshaken confidence, believing he is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever, and that his course is one eternal round.”

Obviously, Latter-day Saints not only believe that God is unchangeable, but that it is essential we know this in order to exercise faith in him.

What is “Unchangeable”?

This argument could benefit from an expansion of what it means to be unchangeable. Physical change is not prohibited, it is claimed, by being unchangeable (premise 3). The evidence provided is the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ. Yet while this is good evidence, there are many more scriptures in both the Bible and LDS scriptures that teach more about what it means to be unchangeable.

For example, in 2 Nephi 27:23, Nephi quotes (and effectively endorses) Isaiah, who quoted the Lord:

“For behold, I am God; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and I work not among the children of men save it be according to their faith.”

In working with his children, God does not favor some above others.  He is willing to work miracles in all of our lives as long as we have faith in him.

Considering these two sections, the argument can be adjusted as follows:

  1. Many Biblical verses, along with LDS scriptures and LDS leaders, teach that God has always existed, and is unchangeable
  2. Jesus assumed an earthly body only after being born of Mary in the meridian of time
  3. Many Biblical verses, along with LDS scriptures and LDS leaders, teach that God being unchangeable does not preclude him from changing physically, but rather helps define his interactions with his children.
  4. Thus, physical change is not prohibited by the scriptural meaning of God’s unchangeable nature (1) (2) (3)
  5. Thus, God could exist as spirit even though the Son took on human form

Continued at Part 6.2.

“God Has No Body” Part 5.1

Find Part 1 here.

Those who argue that God has a corporeal body often refer to multiple scripture references in the Bible which describe God’s body, parts, and passions. God has a human-like form in visions; he has arms, eyes, ears, and hands; and he is moved to anger, sadness, and repentance. Anthropomorphites’ claim that these references, or at least some of these references, are literal. The argument responding to this objection goes something like this:

  1. The Biblical verse Psalms 91:4 speaks of God as having “wings” and “feathers”
  2. The passage as a whole also contains references to God as a refuge, a fortress, a shield, a buckler, and a habitation; and references to the speaker as being delivered from the “snare of the fowler,” “noisome pestilence,” and flying arrows
  3. The passage references are clearly metaphorical representations used to describe both various powers of God and various needs of man
  4. Thus, the references to God’s wings and feathers are metaphorical representations of his love and concern (1) (2) (3)
  5. Numerous Biblical passages describe God as having eyes (Ezra 5:51 Samuel 26:21, 24Jeremiah 52:2), or arms (Isaiah 53:151:9), or other parts, etc.
  6. These passages are clearly metaphorical representations used to symbolize God’s power and knowledge
  7. Thus, all descriptions of God found in the Bible that refer to tangible, anthropomorphic qualities are metaphoric (4) (5) (6)
  8. Thus, God does not have any tangible qualities, including a physical body (7)
  9. Thus, God is incorporeal (8)

The Seventh Premise

This argument makes a big jump at the seventh premise, claiming from the existence of some metaphorical passages that all passages must be metaphorical. This is a clear fallacy, or in other words, this argument breaks certain logical rules which render the conclusion invalid. This then becomes a serious problem that is detrimental to this argument’s conclusion (i.e. God is incorporeal).

The fallacy in this argument is one of false emphasis, specifically the fallacy of composition. This fallacy occurs when one infers something is true of the whole when it is true of some of its parts:

  • A spark plug is lightweight, and therefore a car must be lightweight as well.
  • Atoms (which humans are made up of) are invisible, and therefore humans must be invisible as well.

Both cases are clearly ludicrous. Cars are heavy, and humans are visible. We can all see that just because something is true of the parts does not mean that it is true of the whole.

The argument up to the seventh premise is fairly sound. There are many metaphorical references to God in the Bible. And just like a spark plug is not the only lightweight car part, the reference to God’s “wings” is not the only metaphorical reference – God does not have wings, and many of the references to his eyes or arms (including the ones above) are also metaphorical. Yet to conclude that all references to God are metaphorical because some references to God are metaphorical is where the argument turns sour. God may be incorporeal, as most Christians claim, but it cannot be proved or evidenced by this argument.

While we may not be able to know for sure exactly which references are metaphorical and which references are literal, anthropomorphites need only provide one example of a scripture that can reasonably be taken literally to challenge the assumption that all references are metaphorical. I include two examples below which could reasonably be taken literally.

  • In Exodus 33, the Lord invites Moses to behold his glory. For his own purpose, the Lord tells Moses that he will cover his eyes while he passes, but will remove his hand in time for Moses to see his “back parts” (Exodus 33:23). What metaphorical interpretation could Christians give for these”back parts”?
  • Many prophets have seen visions of a corporeal deity other than Jesus Christ. Stephen, for example, saw the Savior standing on the right hand of God before he was martyred by the Jews (Acts 7:55-56). In this case also, there is no metaphorical interpretation. It gives more evidence against Trinitian ideas than for incorporeality.
  • There are other examples of scriptures which can be reasonably interpreted literally here.

Conclusion

Because the argument rises or falls on premise 7, it needs to be adjusted to correct for the fallacy of composition. It can be adjusted as follows:

  1. The Biblical verse Psalms 91:4 speaks of God as having “wings” and “feathers”
  2. The passage as a whole also contains references to God as a refuge, a fortress, a shield and buckler, and a habitation; and references to the speaker as being delivered from a “snare of the fowler,” “noisome pestilence,” and flying arrows
  3. The passage references are clearly metaphorical representations used to describe both various powers of God and various needs of man
  4. Thus, the references to God’s wings and feathers are metaphorical representations of his love and concern (1) (2) (3)
  5. Numerous Biblical passages describe God as having eyes (Ezra 5:5; 1 Samuel 26:21, 24; Jeremiah 52:), or arms (Isaiah 53:1; 51:9), etc.
  6. These passages are clearly metaphorical representations used to symbolize God’s power and knowledge
  7. Thus, while we can safely assume then that many Biblical passages are metaphorical, it would be fallacious to assume from only this evidence that all descriptions of God found in the Bible that refer to tangible, anthropomorphic qualities are metaphoric (4) (5) (6)
  8. Thus, we cannot conclude that God does not have any tangible qualities, including a physical body (7)
  9. Thus, we can conclude that if these scriptures can be taken literally, God is corporeal (7) (8)

It is important to note that this argument is inductive. We can only make a conclusion that is conditional (“if…”). Still, this new argument is conditional only because some may argue (however badly) that all scriptures should be considered as metaphorical. Because no argument is set in stone, and others may challenge this new seventh, eighth, and ninth premise, the conclusion is uncertain. Yet, as the conclusion says, if as many as one scripture can be taken literally, then it is certain that God is corporeal.

That is a much stronger conclusion, and a powerful bit of evidence in favor of the anthropomorphites’ claim that God is embodied.

“God Has No Body” Part 4.4

Find Part 1 here.

In Part 4.1, I challenged the first premise. The premise originally stated that the purpose of Genesis 1 was to differentiate man from the animals. I argued that this was incorrect, or at the very least incomplete. Rather, the purpose of Genesis 1-3 is to teach us about the character of God, and Genesis 1 specifically teaches us that he is omnipotent and logical. The consequence is that we should not be looking for implied differences between God and man.

In Part 4.2, I challenged the second premise. The premise originally stated that the difference between man and animal was a rational soul. I argued that the veracity of this claim is more or less irrelevant, for the idea is philosophical, not scriptural. Thus, we should not put faith in it the same way we would put faith in Biblical teachings. As a side note, I showed that this was a good example of how Christianity was influenced by Greek philosophy, or Hellenized.

In Part 4.3, I challenged the third premise. This premise originally concluded that the image of God found in man was a rational soul. It was weakened by the changes made to premises 1 and 2, and was forced to be changed to include the caveat that such ideas were philosophical. I further argued (with the assistance of FAIR when it came to the Hebrew language of the original text) that when looking at the context of the verses, it was clear that it was far more likely that “image” referred to a physical, corporeal body than to a rational soul.

The argument can be adjusted as follows:

  1. The purpose of the Creation story is to teach man about the character of God, and Genesis 1 showcases God’s almighty power and pragmatism
  2. The traditional philosophical difference between man and animal is a rational soul, but the scriptures do not support this idea; on the contrary, it originates with the pagan philosopher Aristotle, who lived 300 years before Christ.
  3. Thus, philosophy, and not scripture, suggests that instead of a physical body (which animals also have), the image of God found in man is their rational soul (which animals do not have); alternately, scripture suggests that image refers to a physical, corporeal likeness.
  4. Thus, when Genesis 1:26 speaks of man being made in God’s image, it is unlikely that such a reference is to a rational soul.  Rather, it is much more likely that the reference, while not excluding a rational soul, is to a physical, corporeal body (1) (2) (3)
  5. Thus, if God’s “image” refers to a physical body, God is corporeal (4)

Conclusion

Having investigated all the claims made in the original argument, it is clear that the foundational statements that led to the conclusion that God may be incorporeal were erroneous. This adjusted argument is much more accurate. Consequently (and ironically), it leads instead to a conclusion that God may be corporeal rather than incorporeal.

It is important to note that this argument is still inductive. We can only make a conclusion that is conditional (“if…”). Still, it is conditional for a much different reason than the original argument. The original argument was conditional because it was so narrow. Genesis 1:26 could refer to a rational soul, but God could still be corporeal. The scripture didn’t say enough one way or the other.

This new argument is conditional only because some may argue (however badly) that the only similarity between man and God is a rational soul. Because no argument is set in stone, and others may challenge the fourth premise above, the conclusion is uncertain. Yet, as the conclusion says, if God’s “image” truly refers to a physical body, then it is certain that he is corporeal.

That is a much stronger conclusion, and a powerful bit of evidence in favor of the anthropomorphites’ claim that God is embodied.

“God Has No Body” Part 4.3

Find Part 1 here.

In Part 4.1, I challenged the first premise. The premise originally stated that the purpose of Genesis 1 was to differentiate man from the animals. I argued that this was incorrect, or at the very least incomplete. Rather, the purpose of Genesis 1-3 is to teach us about the character of God, and Genesis 1 specifically teaches us that he is omnipotent and logical. The consequence is that we should not be looking for implied differences between God and man.

In Part 4.2, I challenged the second premise. The premise originally stated that the difference between man and animal was a rational soul. I argued that the veracity of this claim is more or less irrelevant, for the idea is philosophical, not scriptural. Thus, we should not put faith in it the same way we would put faith in Biblical teachings. As a side note, I showed that this was a good example of how Christianity was influenced by Greek philosophy, or Hellenized.

The argument can be adjusted as follows:

  1. The purpose of the Creation story is to teach man about the character of God, and Genesis 1 showcases God’s almighty power and pragmatism
  2. The traditional philosophical difference between man and animal is a rational soul, but the scriptures do not support this idea; on the contrary, it originates with the pagan philosopher Aristotle, who lived 300 years before Christ.
  3. Thus, philosophy, and not scripture, suggests that instead of a physical body (which animals also have), the image of God found in man is their rational soul (which animals do not have) (2)
  4. Thus, when Genesis 1:26 speaks of man being made in God’s image, it does not refer to a physical, tangible body (3)
  5. Thus, God may be incorporeal (4)

The Third Premise

Because premise 3 is affected by both premises before it, changing premise 1 and 2 also requires that we adjust premise 3 so that it logically follows. While we can still claim that the “image” of God found in man is a rational soul, and this is the reference made by the author in Genesis 1:26, it must be admitted that this idea is not scriptural. This idea, on the contrary, is philosophical.

This weakens the premise substantially, and consequently weakens the entire argument as well. And yet it is appropriate to challenge this premise in another way. I’ve claimed that the scriptures are silent on this issue of a rational soul. What do the scriptures have to say, then, about this matter of “image”?

For this discussion, because I am no Hebrew scholar, I take my comments from FAIR’s response to this same premise. It is paraphrased, if not mostly copied directly, from them.

“And God said, Let us make man in our image [Hebrew tselem], after our likeness [Hebrew demuth]”. Christians claim that this should be interpreted figuratively, in the sense that humans have “rational souls,” which set us apart from the animals. However, just a few chapters later the author of Genesis repeats “God created man, in the likeness [Hebrew demuth] of God made he him” and then adds some interesting commentary about the birth of Adam’s son Seth: “And Adam lived an hundred thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness [Hebrew demuth], after his image [Hebrew tselem]; and called his name Seth” (Genesis 5:1-3).

Adam was created in God’s image and likeness, and one of Adam’s sons had Adam’s image and likeness. Exactly the same words were used to describe both scenarios by the same prophetic author only one verse apart; thus, the words must have been used in the same way, and to describe the same things. Either Adam looked like God (as Seth looked like Adam), or Seth was the only one of Adam’s sons who possessed a “rational soul,” being the son made in his image.

If there is a good reason to interpret one passage in one way, and the other in another way, the critics must provide it.  As it stands, I can see none.

The argument can be adjusted as follows:

  1. The purpose of the Creation story is to teach man about the character of God, and Genesis 1 showcases God’s almighty power and pragmatism
  2. The traditional philosophical difference between man and animal is a rational soul, but the scriptures do not support this idea; on the contrary, it originates with the pagan philosopher Aristotle, who lived 300 years before Christ.
  3. Thus, philosophy, and not scripture, suggests that instead of a physical body (which animals also have), the image of God found in man is their rational soul (which animals do not have); alternately, scripture suggests that image refers to a physical, corporeal likeness.
  4. Thus, when Genesis 1:26 speaks of man being made in God’s image, it is unlikely that such a reference is to a rational soul.  Rather, it is much more likely that (even if a rational soul is included) the reference is to a physical, corporeal body (1) (2) (3)
  5. Thus, if God’s “image” refers to a physical body, God is corporeal (4)

Continued at Part 4.4.