Saturday, November 22, 2008

Justin Martyr: "Against Trinity"

The Church of Jesus Christ is not a Protestant religion but restored Christianity. We do not claim to be a branch or offshoot of the Catholic Church because if that church is incorrect, then all branches off it are incorrect together. The LDS Church interpret the Bible foretelling a falling away or apostasy of Christ's church (2 Thes. 2: 3). Just like God the Father allowed His Son to be crucified, God also allowed man to desecrate His temple, martyr His Apostles, and destroy His church. But just as Christ was resurrected, so too would God raise His temple, Church, and Holy Word in the last days before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (Dan. 2: 28, 44).

But, the original Church, doctrine, and authority did not disappear immediately after the martyrdom of the Apostles. The LDS Church does not accept the many so-called Orthodox Christian Creeds like the doctrine of the Trinity which was established at the Council of Nicaea in the 325. The LDS Church General Authorities have claimed that LDS Doctrine is more similar to 1st-Century Christian doctrine than 3rd-Century Christian Doctrine.

Other than the New Testament itself, there is a wonderful collection of writings from the earliest Bishops of the Primitive Christian Church. These Early Church Fathers such as Polycarp, Ignatius, and Clement knew the Apostles personally and were appointed to shepherd several local churches. While not scripture, it is fascinating to read through the writing of these Early Church Fathers and identify doctrines such as the 3-degrees of glory, and priesthood organization and hierarchy which are unique to the LDS Church today.

Another example of doctrine by the Early Christian Fathers being more similar to LDS then the Protestant, is concerning God. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, continually refers to Christ as the First-Born of the Father and Church as the Church of the First-Born. LDS recognize that Christ was the first generative spirit-creation of God the Father, since before the beginning in addition to being the Only Begotten Son of God according to the flesh. In addition to the words of Bishop Ignatius, Justin Martyr, also a 1st-Century Christian, also speaks on the nature of the God head. In his debate with the Trypho (a Jew), he is trying to persuade him from the Old Testament that while they believe in the same God, we still need to believe and accept Jesus Christ as God and the Son of God.

So, the question here between LDS and Evangelicals concerning the Trinity as explained in the Nicene Creed is whether God and Christ are the same being or two separate and distinct beings. The LDS belief in the God Head is very similar to the Nicene Creed except on one issue. The Nicene Creed claims that God and the Son are not only "One God", but they are of "One Substance." LDS and other Christian scholars confess that this part of the Nicene Creed on being "One Substance" has no Biblical support and it is the part of the Trinity Doctrine that believers in the Trinity cannot explain. LDS, on the other hand can easily explain how God the Father and God the Son, while separate beings, can constitute one God by understanding their oneness and unity of purpose.

LDS do believe that God the Father, God, the Son Jesus Christ, and God the Holy Ghost are all divine, are all God, and constitute One God in purpose. But we believe that the Father and Son are 3 distinct entities in name, in person, in being, in substance, and in unified will. When Joseph Smith had his First Vision of the Father and the Son, Joseph saw (after Satan gathered darkness and seized his tongue to prevent him from praying) the glory of God as a pillar of light and fire, and in that light he saw 2 distinct personages who were in the appearance of men with glorified and tangible bodies. The same thing that Stephen saw prior to being stoned to death. Stephen looked up into heaven and declared that he "saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God."

Justin Maryr comments to Trypho Chapter LXI—Wisdom is begotten of the Father, as fire from fire.“
I shall give you another testimony, my friends,” said I, “from the Scriptures, that God begat before all creatures a Beginning,[who was] a certain rational power [proceeding] from Himself, who is called by the Holy Spirit, now the Glory of the Lord, now the Son, again Wisdom, again an Angel, then God, and then Lord and Logos; and on another occasion He calls Himself Captain, when He appeared in human form to Joshua the son of Nave (Nun). For He can be called by all those names, since He ministers to the Father’s will, and since He was begotten of the Father by an act of will; just as we see happening among ourselves: for when we give out some word, we beget the word; yet not by abscission, so as to lessen the word means both the thinking power or reason which produces ideas and the expression of these ideas. When we utter a thought, the utterance of it does not diminish the power of thought in us, though in one sense the thought has gone away from us. [which remains] in us, when we give it out: and just as we see also happening in the case of a fire, which is not lessened when it has kindled [another], but remains the same; and that which has been kindled by it likewise appears to exist by itself, not diminishing that from which it was kindled. The Word of Wisdom, who is Himself this God begotten of the Father of all things, and Word, and Wisdom, and Power, and the Glory of the Begetter.

What do we learn from this? This is speaking about the creation or the spiritual begetting of Christ as the First-Born creation of God the Father who was Jehovah of the Old Testament who appeared to Joshua (in human form). First we lean that Christ was the first spiritual offspring of God the Father before the Creation. Also I will remind the reader that creation is not from nothing, so even though Christ is created, he is also eternal and self-existent. But there was some generative process which organized the Son as God and the Son of God. Something can be both created and eternal because create means to organize and not to conjure out of nothingness.

Additionally, we learn that separating the Son from the Father does not divide or lessen God the Father any more than dividing a fire, or saying a word diminishes the ability of the person who said the word to think of more words. This is a very important argument for Justin to make because according to the Trinity Doctrine, only the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost together constitute the perfect expression of deity. If you separated the Father and the Son, God would cease to be all powerful and merciful, kind, and just. But according to LDS doctrine on the nature of God, God the Father is perfect, all-knowing and all-powerful alone without the other members of the Godhead. The Trinity Doctrine establishes the situation where the Son and Holy Ghost were sent to save, complete, and perfect the Father as much as they were sent to save, complete and perfect man. This is not true. The Son was sent bring man to the Father and by the Holy Ghost, the Father can dwell with us and in us. And, according to Justin, separating the Father and the Son does not diminish from the perfection of either any more than dividing flames would diminish the flame.

Justin Maryr comments to Trypho Chapter LXII.—The words “Let Us make man” agree with the testimony of Proverbs."
And the same sentiment was expressed, my friends, by the word of God [written] by Moses, when it indicated to us, with regard to Him whom it has pointed out, that God speaks in the creation of man with the very same design, in the following words: ‘Let Us make man after our image and likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the heaven, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over all the creeping things that creep on the earth. And God created man: after the image of God did He create him; male and female created He them. And God blessed them, and said, Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and have power over it. And that you may not change the [force of the] words just quoted, and repeat what your teachers assert,—either that God said to Himself, ‘Let Us make,’ just as we, when about to do something, oftentimes say to ourselves, ‘Let us make;’ or that God spoke to the elements, to wit, the earth and other similar substances of which we believe man was formed, ‘Let Us make,’—I shall quote again the words narrated by Moses himself, from which we can indisputably learn that [God] conversed with some one who was numerically distinct from Himself, and also a rational Being. These are the words: ‘And God said, Behold, Adam has become as one of us, to know good and evil.’ In saying, therefore, ‘as one of us,’ [Moses] has declared that [there is a certain] number of persons associated with one another, and that they are at least two. For I would not say that the dogma of that heresy which is said to be among you is true, or that the teachers of it can prove that [God] spoke to angels, or that the human frame was the workmanship of angels. But this Offspring, which was truly brought forth from the Father, was with the Father before all the creatures, and the Father communed with Him; even as the Scripture by Solomon has made clear, that He whom Solomon calls Wisdom, was begotten as a Beginning before all His creatures and as Offspring by God,

So, here we see Justin's interpretation of Genesis were it clearly states that God said, "let us create man in our image." Many Evangelicals have conjured up the theory that the language in use there is some sort of "Royal We" case and its not actually referring to multiple intelligent beings. Interesting that Justin fails to have gotten the email on that but makes the same conclusions the LDS do on this. The clincher is that Justin points out the significance of God and the Son together commenting that after Adam had partaken of the fruit, he had now become like them, knowing good and evil. Justin shows how this comment is unmistakable Biblical proof that the Father and the Son are both God and both divine but separate persons, beings, substances, and intelligences. Jesus Christ is literally the Son of the Living God.


Jeff said...

Thank you for a very detailed historical account of these theological points. I enjoyed reading it.

I do have something to share that you might find interesting, however.

You said "Ignatius ... continually refers to Christ as the First-Born of the Father and Church as the Church of the First-Born" and claimed this to be something in common with LDS belief.

I would agree that Jesus is the "Only Begotten in the flesh", but although it is little known, the term First-Born and Church of the First-Born from an LDS perspective actually apply not to Jesus but to Adam. This derives from Abraham 1:3 where we read of the Priesthood:

"It was conferred upon me from the fathers; it came down from the fathers, from the beginning of time, yea, even from the beginning, or before the foundation of the earth, down to the present time, even the right of the firstborn, or the first man, who is Adam, or first father, through the fathers unto me."

Also, see D&C 88:5,

"Which glory is that of the church of the Firstborn, even of God, the holiest of all, through Jesus Christ his Son—"

So, LDS scripture uses Firstborn in the sense of the very first born of all men, the Father, Adam, not Jesus, the Son.

I would encourage anyone studying the realy Church fathers to study also some of the heresies that didn't make the cut of orthodoxy, such as Bishop Arius of Alexandria, who rejected the Trinity in favor of a theology closer to that of traditional Mormonism. (Although not identical.)

BRoz said...

Thank you for your comment. I do agree that this could be interpreted this way and could relate to Adam in a way as Adam's life as the firstborn is a type of Christ.

However,it is my opinion that the LDS church's and Ignatius' reference to the "Church of the First born" is mainly in reference to Jesus Christ as the spiritual first-born of the Father.

BRoz said...

Father Adam has a very prominent place in Christ's church and will have all keys and authority given back to him before the Second Coming of Chirst where upon Adam will return those keys and the Church to Christ Himself when He comes to reign on Earth as King of kings and Lord of lords during the Millennium.

Jeff said...


Brigham Young once said, in reference to passing the sentinels after this life: "Just wait till you pass Joseph Smith; and after Joseph lets you pass him, you will find Peter; and after you pass the Apostles and many of the Prophets, you will find Abraham, and he will say, 'I have the keys, and except you do thus and so, you cannot pass;' and after a while you come to Jesus; and when you at length meet Father Adam, how strange it will appear to you present notion."

It is true at Adam-Ondi-Ahman that allof the keys will be returned from generation to generation, and dispensation to dispensations back until they are at last given to Adam, and that after this Adam will give them to Christ: But he is not giving them all *back* to Christ, (not "returning" them) but instead passing them on to Jesus Christ who at that time receives his inheritance as "heir to the Kingdom." Prior to this event, Christ never will have held *all* of the keys.

This subordinance of Jesus to Adam in the Priesthood during this "final" Event is also clearly shown in Daniel 7:13, where Jesus comes unto Adam who is seated upon a Throne, and is brought before him, and then in verse 14, Jesus is given "dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed."

In other words, during this Event, Jesus at last attains his own Exaltation and receives all which the Father hath. And in verse 27, the Saints themselves become joint heirs in this kingdom.

I hope you don't mind my side-track here from the main thread, but my point is that Adam is pre-eminent as the First-Born. He is not a mere type of Christ, but rather, Christ is following after Adam's example. I am aware that the mainstream LDS position is in certain points in disagreement with what I have said and quoted, but the line is blurry on exactly where they have decided to change this view--Only with Adam-God theology does it all make sense consistently, but the scripture in Daniel is still interpreted this way according to the Chapter Headings in the standard works, at least.

Back to the main point of the Early Church Fathers, etc, have you read about Bishop Arius at all?

BRoz said...


It seems for a time in Brigham Young's life he was speculated abou what you are talking about comments like you describe have been the basis for the so-called Adam-God theory.

I don't think anyone really understands exactly what BY really intended by this. Unfortunate that we can't ask him. But your conclusions are not LDS doctrine. There are a few quotes where BY makes statements like the one you sight as recorded by BH Roberts in Journal of Discourses, but this opinion was not generally repeated by other leaders of the church and you never hear LDS members give testimony of it. So, I cannot consider it doctrine.

LDS believe that the keys and authority of the gospel will be returned to Adam at Adam-ondi-ahmen and that Adam will turn over those keys to Christ during the Milennium and Christ who will rule and reign as King of kings and Lord of lords.

BRoz said...

About Arius. LDS Doctrine is not Arianism. LDS recognize and proclaim the deity of Jesus Christ as God.

Remember what Justin Martyr says that a fire can kindle another fire equal and seperate to itself without diminishing from the first.

Jeff said...

BRoz, I think you have misunderstood Arianism. It isn't about the Son not being God or being God. It's primarily about whether or not there was once a condition in which the Son had not yet been created, and whether or not the Father and Son are of one "substance."

In other words, its the opposite of Trinitarianism.

Arius did indeed believe that the world was created through the Son, and that the Son existed before the World was formed.

By the way, I am LDS and my beliefs differ from yours, but I believe they have their own consistency within the framework of the church's standard works, etc. As you say on the top of your blog, your views are "unofficial" and "unauthoritative" ... So are mine. But they are both LDS viewpoints.

I don't mean to argue, but it hurts a bit to hear a brother exclude my views (which coincide with Brigham Young's views) as not being what the "LDS believe" ... If Brigham's teachings aren't LDS what are they? They certainly aren't Catholic or Protestant or Jewish. I can understand having doctrinal disagreements, but stating that my views are not LDS is distressing. Combined with the Prop 8 issue, things like this make me teeter on the edge of asking to have my name taken off the records, not because i'm angry, neither was this a big deal, but a lot of feelings of being unwelcome stack up and turn into something more.

I'm sorry... There are obviously a lot of issues behind my sentiment right now and it isn't fair to dump them in your lap.

I will bear my testimony though, I have received witness that Adam is God and I know for a fact that many others in the Church do believe this, they are just hesitant about mentioning it for fear of persecution. I also know that other Church leaders did indeed talk about, write about, and teach about Adam, and that Brigham Young continued to teach these things from 1857 up until 1877 the year of his death, and he became more specific and details in his teachings as time went on. His and other leaders statements on this were published not only in the Journal of Discourses, which I believe was actually edited by George Watt for a large period of time, but in the Millenial Star and a a few other LDS publications of the time. There were even a number of songs about "Adam-God" teachings in the church's Hymn books. I do not say this to declare it right or wrong for you or anyone else, but simply to say that yes it was widely disseminated, for whatever that's worth.

Debs said...

I would like to say THANK YOU for this posting! Whilst I am sat here doing my scripture study I decided to google to see if I could learn any more about the brother of Jared, Mahonri Mariancumer. Your blog was in the top 3 and when I clicked I got so into what you have written that I totally forgot why I was here!! THAT is darn good writing to get MY attention like that!!
You have also answered some other questions for me that have long been sat on the sidewalk!!
I look forward to visiting your blog again and learning a whole lot more from you!! :)
Thanks for sharing this stuff.


BRoz said...

Dear Jeff,

While much truth has been revealed some things are still unclear. In those cases, when it comes to doctrine that is still unclear, I think its the best policy to wait for the LDS leadership to provide clarification on doctrine.

BRoz said...

Dear Jeff,

While much truth has been revealed some things are still unclear. In those cases, when it comes to doctrine that is still unclear, I think its the best policy to wait for the LDS leadership to provide clarification on doctrine.