Saturday, December 13, 2008

Creation means bring into being, not bring into existence

One major theological difference between Evangelicals and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is on the meaning of creation. Evangelicals interpret the Bible to say that God is eternal and self-existent and that everything in the universe was conjured or came into existence out of nothing. LDS on the other hand understand the Bible to teach that God brought everything in the universe into being. Or that in other words, God formed, organized, and arranged everything both visible and invisible for operation in the Universe. But that element and spirit are, according to universal law, self-existent and eternal and therefore do not need to be brought into existence because those things have always existed. If the LDS view is correct, then what is the Biblical and logical support for the LDS view?

#1 if you believe that God started bringing things into existence at the Beginning out of nothing, then you have to explain how you logically can reject the law of conservation of energy and mass which says that energy and mass are not created nor destroyed but just converted from one form to another.

#2 If you believe that there are no other self-existent things in the universe, then you have to explain how it is that God brought Satan into existence out of nothing. Did God mess up? Did God give a mass murderer a gun knowing full well what Satan would do with it? Rabbi Kushner in his book "Why bad things happen to good people" that you either have to accept that God doesn't care, or that the universe is like a clock and God can't stop it.

#3 LDS on the other hand understand that "to create" or the Hebrew word "bara" in the Bible means to "cut out, form, shape, organize, and arrange" and not to "conjure" from nothing "ex nihlo."

#4 LDS understand that God did create, organize, and arrange all thing in heaven and Earth but from self-existent eternal material. Spirit is an example of purified material that is eternal and has no beginning or end. God is spirit. God is eternal. Therefore spirit is eternal. Spirit is element (ta stoicheia tou kosmou). Joseph Smith taught there is no such thing as immaterial matter and that even spirit is matter, but just more refined.

#5 John 1: 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. To some, John is being very redundant. Is he just saying the same thing 3 times? John uses the verb "ginomai," which means "come into being" 3 times. Here John says that God brought into being all things. And that without God nothing was brought into being, that was brought into being. What this suggests is that not all things needed to be made or brought into being. Some things already existed or are self-existent and eternal.

#6 Evangelicals interpret this to say this should read "and without him was not anything made that exists." Meaning, if it exists at all, that God brought it into existence. But there are 2 big problems with this. First, "ginomai" or "gegonen" does not mean "come into existence". "ginomai" means "come into being." "being" has an entirely different connotation than "existing." I might become something, while still existing before becoming what I became. But if you came into existence, there was nothing before that.

#7 Second, the tense is all wrong. The verb in the Greek is in the 3rd person perfect tense. The word "egeneto" is the Greek word for "made" in the 1st and 2nd use which is in the Aorist tense which suggests a simple occurance (ntgreek). But the last use of the verb "gimomai" or "gegonen" is in the perfect tense which suggests the progress of an action has been completed and the results of the action are continuing on (ntgreek). "exists" is infinitive tense (non-finite) and is considered a verbal noun. Therefore, the Evangelical interpretation is contrary to the Biblical Greek.

#8 Col. 1: 16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, . . . all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. Here the Greek verb for create is "ektisthe" or root "ktizo" means to fabricate, form, or make. Again this is the same as the Hebrew word "bara." And yes, God did arrange all things visible and invisible for operation in this universe. But this does not exclude that other things are eternal and self-existent as God is.

#9 The verb for "consist" is "sunesteken" or root "sunistao" again in the Perfect tense which means "are set together, stands together, recommends, or demonstrates" Consist is again the infinitive tense or a verbal noun. The proper tense would say "And he is before all things, and by him all things were set together" Again, applying the appropriate Perfect tense to the translation suggest that creating involved forming and shaping and not conjuring into existence from nothing.

#10 The idea that God creates by bringing things into being as opposed to bringing things into existence fits with the Biblical description of God as a builder of a house or the potter of clay. Paul says “Heb. 3: 4 For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God.” and “Rom. 9: 21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? “ Isaiah uses similar language, “Isa. 64: 8 But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.”

#11 Yet, another Biblical example that suggests that creation was from pre-existing co-eternal materials is the miracles of Jesus. When the creator made wine at the wedding. Jesus didn't conjure or bring the wine into existence from nothing, but He changed water into wine. Also, when Jesus fed the 5000, He didn't conjure bread and fish but multiplied and expanded the bread and fish that were available.

#12 Why is the eternal nature of matter so important? Because, it means that the soul or spirit that resides in our bodies existed before we were born. The spirits of man came from God and dwelt with God in heaven before coming to Earth and that our spirits did not just come into existence at birth. And what is significant about that? That means that the goal of this life is not just to get back to God. We were with God before. The goal of this life is to be empowered by Christ to become like God. Therefore, the definition of eternal life is not just life with God but life as God lives. This is what it means to know God.

#13 Also, the eternal nature of matter means that the spirit or intelligence of man is self-existent and had no being just as it will have no end. And that our will, which is the essence of existence and which is associated with our mind and intelligence was not given to us but is ours. And this is why the Bible says that God bought us with the price, and that we are His purchased possessions. If God created us from nothing and brought us into existence, God wouldn't have to buy us. But this is why the souls of man are of great worth in the sight of God. While our souls are worthless, in our current fallen state, each of us have infinite potential and the seeds of divinity within us through Christ as children of God. And since Christ has purchased us with the price of His blood, what He expects is that we deliver what is bought and paid for; our whole will, heart, mind, and soul.

#14 In fact Peter warned that false teachers would deny that Christ really purchased us. 2 Pet. 2: 1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them. The emphasis here is not just the denial of the Lord, but that denial of the doctrine that Christ purchased us. In Greek is says “καὶ τὸν ἀγοράσαντα αὐτοὺς δεσπότην ἀρνούμενοι.” or “even denying the Lord purchased them”. The extra “that” changes the emphasis of the statement, the meaning and is unwarranted in the Greek text.

#15 Knowing this, only the LDS can adequately answer the atheists when they demand that Christians explain the existence of evil in the universe. Evil has always existed. Lucifer was not given will but given agency and full opportunity to choose the right. God knew Lucifer would rebel, and gave him every opportunity making him an archangel beside Michael and Gabriel and others. Lucifer rejected God and Christ of his own free will and was cast out of heaven. Lucifer acts of his own free will, and is only permitted to operate for a little season for Gods higher purposes. But Lucifer who became Satan is the Father of lies and not God. God did not bring into existence a defective creation. And we shouldn't say that God didn't know what Lucifer would become.

#16 Finally, some suggest that the belief that God did not bring all things into existence, even co-eternal things, and self-existent things means that the LDS concept of God is inferior. Somehow, God has to do what doesn't have to be done to be God. It is sort of like saying God isn't all powerful if He can't lie and get away with it. God is the sole creator of the universe, but the fact of reality is that there are self-existent things who God is Master and Lord over. And, that the opposite of created is not eternal. Something can be both created and eternal. Things can have pre-existed while still becoming later. If there really was a distinction between things that are eternal and things that are created, then man who is created could never become eternal and receive eternal life.

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