Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Mormonism and Margaret Barker - Part 3

This installment of my MMB series concerns my “third” observation from part 1:

Third - Barker teaches that Israel’s “First Temple” religion believed in and taught the doctrine of deification.

Barker’s view of deification is significantly different than that taught by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In fact, in all my readings on the different views of deification, Barker's is unique. I believe that this uniqueness stems from her views on resurrection and incarnation. The following are some of her thoughts on resurrection:

In temple theology, resurrection was not a post mortem experience. It was theosis, the transformation of a human being into a divine being – which came with the gift of Wisdom; and theosis, described in various ways, was at the heart of temple tradition, together with the belief in a resurrected anointed one, a resurrected Messiah. (Temple Theology – An Introduction, p.23.)

Just as there were two creations, so there were two bodies for each human being. The once described in the second story, formed ‘from the dust of the ground’ (Gen. 2.7) was ‘vastly different’ from the one in the first story, made ‘in the image’ of God (Creation 134). The one from the dust was body, soma, and soul, psuche, man or woman, and by nature mortal. The one ‘after the image’ was incorporeal, neither male nor female and incorruptible. These tow are described elsewhere as the two Adams, the heavenly, ‘made after the image and without part or lot in corruptible or terrestrial substance’, and the earthly one made of clay (All. Int. I.31). When Paul contrasts the physical body and the spiritual body he uses this terminology. The physical body, soma psuchikon, is raised as a spiritual body, soma pneumatikon. In other words, the resurrection body is the body of the first creation, incorporeal, invisible, made after the image and incorruptible (1 Cor. 15.42-50). It is neither male nor female, just as Paul elsewhere described those who are baptized into Christ (Gal. 3.28). (The Revelation of Jesus Christ, pp. 23, 24.)

The Christian resurrection belief was not one of resuscitation, but of rebirth as a child of God. (The Revelation of Jesus Christ, pp. 338, 339.)

What Paul meant by a spiritual body, soma pneumatikon, in contrast to the physical body, soma psuchikon, is best illustrated by comparison with Philo’s account of the Adam…Philo explained the two accounts of creation (Gen. 1.1-2.4a and Gen. 2.4b-3.24) by saying that the first was the creation of the heavenly archetypes and the second of the material world. The earthly Adam, said Philo, was ‘vastly different’ from the man made in the image of God…the man made after the image, the man of Genesis 1, was incorporeal, invisible, neither male nor female, and by nature incorruptible (Creation 134). (The Revelation of Jesus Christ, p. 339.)

Jesus himself says very little about resurrection, but what he does say is revealing. The dead were those who did not follow him: Follow me, he said to a would-be disciple who hesitated, and leave the dead to bury their own dead (Matt. 8:22/Luke 9:60). It is also celar from the answer to the Sadducees that he did not envisage a physical resurrection. They asked about the marital statue of a woman who had had seven husbands and Jesus replied that in heaven there would be no marriage: ‘…They are equal to angels and are sons of God because they are sons of the resurrections’ (Luke 20:36), The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was a God of the living and not of the dead; the patriarchs were alive in his presence…Jesus did no envisage the resurrection as a physical resuscitation in the distant future; it was an angelic state, living in the presence of God. (The Risen Lord, p. 10.)

What the earliest church understood by the resurrection of Jesus was not the resuscitation of a body but the exaltation of the king, the Servant, the Melchizedek priest. (The Risen Lord, p. 23.)

Barker’s views of resurrection, incarnation and deification are intertwined to such an extent that it is impossible to separate any of them from the each other; and one important aspect is an integral ingredient of all three: one experiences resurrection, incarnation and deification in this life.

A careful analysis of Barker’s teachings on first Temple deification offers little (if any) resemblance to deification/exaltation in LDS theology. Not only does deification take place prior to ones death and entrance into heaven, deification has nothing to do with the resurrection of the physical body; which is a non-negotiable element of Latter-day Saint deification/exaltation.

Grace and peace,



Anonymous said...

I haven't had much original thinking on the subject of the LDS faith for many years. There was a time though when I was feeling a bit challenged by some of their claims. However, this was before I saw how far Latter Day Saints can move in the direction of faithlessness in contrast with what I have called Former Day Saints. Without any revelation from the Church with true apostles, Modern Mormons are permitted to believe that entire books of their own biblical canon are virtual uninspired forgeries written for the purpose of covering up the gnostic rehash proclaimed most recently by Margaret Barker, a Methodist with no claims to being a prophet, but whose hellenistic tendencies are as pronounced as any bishop at the Council of Nicea.

Modern Mormons can faithfully believe that entire biblical books have no use except as examples of lies while in a different era, before the Book of Mormon was even available, the Former Day Saints of the Church must be apostate because an emperor converted, called a council to resolve the Arian heresy, and horror of horrors, the Council Fathers opted to believe that the Son was one in substance with the Father in divinity, just as a later Council proclaims He is one in sibstance with us in regards to His humanity.

There are not a lot of original ways for Mormons to accuse the Catholic Church of apostasy. The Protestants did most of that work for them. Even if the Protestants weren't wrong though, this tendency towards Barker and other liberal views toward their own biblical canon is a short path to atheism in my opinion. The early Church never apostasized, but even if it did, the Mormonism which so uncritically embraces faith destroying approaches to it's own biblical will never be my one true church. That is sure.

I have thought the same thing about the apostasy theorists from Mohammed to Joseph Smith and even before that, in biblical times, for several years now. Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. I do not adhere to a naturalistic explanation for the Book of Mormon or the founding of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Eight years ago, I explained why I could remain Catholic and yet be convinced that an angel appeared to Mohammed, or if Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon out of a hat.

It has to do with the story of Balaam. It appears in one of the books which, if people like Barker are to be listened to, would carry little weight. I am hoping that there are still some non-Catholic Christians, maybe even Mormons uninfected with her virus who maintain that every book in their Bible is true.

Here is the link.

>>How could Joseph have known about these authentic aspects of Christianity when his environment could not produce them? How could he have known about such things as chiasmus, the Arabian NHM, the translation of Moses, some of the ancient legends of Abraham in Egypt, etc? It seems to many of us that a "supernatural" element is the only way to explain these questions (and there are many, many more).<<

Rory reasons:

It seems to me that if we were to follow Joseph Smith and the LDS Church on the basis of his supernatural knowledge, we might with just as much reason have followed Balaam of the Old Testament, who in the book of Numbers had been gifted with similar prophetic and contemporary insights without being a "prophet of God". Indeed shortly before his demise, some of the children of Israel "joined himself unto Baal-peor: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel." (Num 25:3). It seems difficult to escape the idea that this same Balaam who dwelt in Peor, was indeed the author and supernatural originator of this false religion which caused Israel to stumble. Among several negative New Testament commentaries upon the religious activities of this "false prophet" with supernatural knowledge includes the following from Moses: "Behold, these (followers of Balaam) caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam to trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord."

The counsel of Balaam was clearly wrong, and yet he was also called, "the man whose eyes are open", "He...which heard the words of God, and knew the knowledge of the most High, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open." (Num 24:15,16). The man was unholy at the same time as he was receiving these inspirations according to St Peter who affirms that even while "the dumb ass spoke against the madness of the prophet", that he was "loving the wages of unrighteousness." (2 Pet 2:15).

The presence of Balaam among the children of Israel makes me hesitate to affirm that the mere presence of supernatural insights in the founding of a religious movement proves its authenticity. This is compounded even more by the fact that there appear to be more than one religion founded upon the supernatural insights of individual prophets.

Finally, there is no evidence for apostasy in my Church of the kind that would necessitate the removal of the lampstand, if God's dealings with Israel in the Old Testament are any guide. And what other guide do I have? Joseph Smith, Mohammmed, The Bab, and Bahaullah could all possibly be post-Apostolic Balaams. I am afraid to trust them.

This is not to accuse any of these "false prophets" of gross personal unholiness. In fact, without St Peter's comments, I have always thought of Balaam as a sympathetic character. He certainly had his weaknesses though, and apparently these led not only to his own downfall but many others. I think there might be reasons why we might correctly be persuaded to have similar "sympathy" for Jos. Smith, Mohammed, etc, and their followers. If it is possible that a false prophet should have been as privileged as was Balaam, why should we propose that it cannot happen again in the New Testament? My problem with the LDS claims for supernatural origins are not that they are without merit. It is that we seem to have a precedent for rejecting the principle which it seems that packy is proposing for authenticating a church.

I hope I have shown why I need more than to be shown that Joseph Smith had knowledge beyond what could be naturally explained. It appears to me that LDS apologists reason on the basis of Joseph Smith's insights that his authority from God cannot be in doubt. Before I could follow Balaam, he needed to prove that Moses had fallen from authority. This was the mistake that some Israelites made, and one which I am wary of making. There really are some very good ways of dealing with all of the Mormon claims about apostasy, Hellenism, and all the rest. In fact, it is almost enough just to see how inadequate is the LDS understanding of Catholic Church history. As I mentioned elsewhere, "Supernatural is not enough."



I am Rory by the way. To be more precise today, I would make a distinction and say that "preternatural" is not enough, for where Satan is involved, his activities are not beyond his nature. But they are beyond ours and can seem to come from God. Some might object that from the text it appears that God was the one who "illuminated" Balaam. In some sense, it can be said that He did. The devil does nothing but what God permits, but that does not mean that God permits us to follow, or at least not without consequences. It certainly shows that the false prophets are not false because they lack knowledge beyond their nature, but because they seek to undermine the visible Bride of Christ on earth, the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

It is of little consequence to the devil if a person acquires natural virtues from a false religion. Better that than a person of less good nature finding faith, hope, and charity through the ordinary means of grace.

In short, the Catholic Church has always been my bulwark against Mormon claims which never examines modern developments. But with the rapid acceptance of faithless academics like Bart Ehrman and Margaret Barker, I would not even need the Catholic Church to dismiss Mormon claims. I could as easily be a totally hellenized (apostate) follower of Valentinus or Marcion if I would listen to Barker.


Anonymous said...

No edit function...On the one hand it delivers me from hours of tweaking. On the other, I fear that an unnecessary sidetracks might arise. If I could rewrite it, I would have left out the expression..."One, Holy, Catholic, etc." That might strike a non-Catholic as a little magesterially presumptious. I would revise it to say that we ought to know, especially given the many biblical warnings, that God permits Satan to inform post apostolic day Balaams to show they have information beyond their abilities. But the purpose is to keep them away from God's the truths and practices of the Apostles and their successors.

Mormons can get away with saying Jospeh Smith couldn't have written the Book of Mormon. I tend to agree. Mormons can get away with saying that since becoming Mormon they have become morally better. I certainly agree. But when they conclude that this proves their church to be true, they could not be more tragically mistaken. My point was that whether or not the false prophet is aware of it, he is an instrument of deception to draw the unwary away from the fulness of the faith.

The rest of the typos stay. I'll try once more to post the link:

David Waltz said...

Hello Rory,

Longtime no chat! What a way to break the ‘silence’ that this thread of mine seems to have promoted—a very thought provoking post my friend. You wrote:

>>There are not a lot of original ways for Mormons to accuse the Catholic Church of apostasy. The Protestants did most of that work for them. Even if the Protestants weren't wrong though, this tendency towards Barker and other liberal views toward their own biblical canon is a short path to atheism in my opinion. The early Church never apostasized, but even if it did, the Mormonism which so uncritically embraces faith destroying approaches to it's own biblical will never be my one true church. That is sure.>>

A couple of important themes found in the Bible have been making an impression on my mind the last few weeks as I have been reading through the writings of Margaret Barker: first, the tension between apostasy and preservation; and second, the numerous warnings concerning deception that ultimately have their origin/s in the being we Christians call SATAN.

Apostasy is a constant, ever-present theme throughout the entire Bible, yet along with this theme is the FACT of preservation—no matter how significant, no matter how deep and/or how long an apostasy may rear its ugly head, one always finds a ‘remnant’ which is preserved by the grace of God. Certainly the theme of preservation creates somewhat of a ‘problem’ for all ‘restorationist’ groups…

As for deception, I think many of us ‘moderns’ have a tendency to underestimate (and at times virtually ignore) the influence that Satan and his spiritual minions bring to bear on minds and hearts of mankind; the “god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not”. Your reflections on Balaam should give pause to all; and perhaps reveals a certain flaw in my approach to religious sects (i.e. my emphasis on commonality)—there is a discernable motif to deception: a combination of truth and falsehood….

Anyway my dear friend in Christ, thanks much for thought provoking post; I can assure you that I am, and shall be, pondering over words for some time.

Grace and peace,


P.S. Thanks for the link to the ZLMB thread—I sincerely miss the substantive and respectful discussions that permeated the early days of ZLMB.

Anonymous said...

Hey Dave,

Thanks for the kind words. I didn't see your post until just now.

Heh. Have you heard the rumors that the Holy Father is about to issue new and more extensive regulations to assure that all dioceses have a qualified exorcist? It is very refreshing if true, to see that Rome is not going to be duped with the naturalist "Christians" into thinking that the activities of the "evil one" in individuals in the Gospels were episodes of epilepsy. (I wonder how Barker explains those narratives?) Side by side with belief in individidual demonic possession follows faith in how revelation shows Satan working more effectively in less spectacular form.


Today's Gospel from St. Luke recounts how Mary and Joseph took diligent care to assure that as his earthly parents, the Son recently born of the Blessed Virgin would not be lacking in regard to the prescriptions called for in the law of Moses. My question for Margaret Barker's proponents would be, did the Holy Family do the right thing or the wrong thing when "they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord", before returning into Galilee. Do followers of Barker think that Joseph and Mary and Jesus were following the "first" or "second temple" law in Luke 2?

My concern is not merely that followers of Barker find themselves at odds with the Catholic Church, which is bad enough. It seems probable to me that they are stumbling headlong into a fullfledged paganism that not only disregards the Pentateuch as authoritative but the Gospels of the New Testament itself which seems not to draw any distinction between first and second temples and assumes the authority of Moses and the law until after the death of Christ.

If Barker's iconoclastic fans do not have a problem with the end of foundational truths hitherto shared by Mormons, Protestants, and Catholics, bully for them. But I don't want to hear them whining if those who hold that the authors of the Gospels can be trusted about the Old Testament deny that Barkerite Mormons are Christian. They may have started out as such and hope to remain so, but they are in my opinion sadly naive to think one can dismiss Moses and the Pentateuch while maintaining the Christ of the Gospels.

Have Barker's LDS friends really counted the cost? Maybe they think they can seem appealing because the can distance themselves from nasty Joshua wiping out the Canaanites. That just might sell in America in the 21st Century. But to sell that with the Christ of the Gospels won't mix.

Anonymous said...

Disclaimer to Mormons:

Until very recently, the Catholic Church conditionally baptized converts from the LDS faith. I don't know why the Church would have considered whether a non-Christian baptism would be considered valid. It seems to me that my church considers Mormons to be Christian, and unless She says otherwise, I affirm it.

For my penance I will say five Mormons are Christians:

Mormons are Christians.
Mormons are Christians.
Mormons are Christians.
Mormons are Christians.
Mormons are Christians.

Disclaimer to Catholics:
Like Catholics, Mormons have to die in a state of grace for their Christianity to have any eternal benefit. Ordinarily grace comes from the Sacraments and initiated in baptism. It doesn't do a Catholic any good to be a Christian without grace either.

I had a 14 hour day to ponder yesterday's post. (I don't have a job where you need to think about the job). As you see, I have arrived at regret for raising this volatile question of whether Mormons should be categorized as Christian, because it could only have distracted from the much fresher and more interesting topic which has been raised.

Mormons are Christian...


Happy New Year!

Christopher Smith said...

Fascinating observations, David. Margaret's views of the resurrection appear more similar to a sort of liberal Christian mysticism than to the Mormon view.

David Waltz said...

Hi Chris,

During my extensive readings of Barker, I have tried to read her without presuppositions (as much as humanly possible), and I have come away from my studies sincerely wondering how/why Latter-day Saints can embrace her teachings, for at their most fundamental level, so much of what she teaches is at odds with basic LDS beliefs.

Kevin Christensen (probably Barker’s most ardent supporter) had the following to say in a thread on MADB that I started to discuss my latest MMD installment:

>>I also see Barker's evidence of deification as being far more broadly based than simply on the Priestly account in Genesis, and editorial decisions. As she says in The Older Testament, she starts with Enoch, follows it to its source (the First Temple), and then searches for other materials that flow from that source. (HERE)>>

I think Kevin has pointed out a very important aspect of Barker’s methodology, namely the foundational nature of the Book of Enoch for so much of her teachings and theories. When one adds Barker’s sharp antithesis between “wisdom literature” and “the Deuteronomists” to the mix, a false dichotomy emerges—one which, despite Kevin’s courageous attempts at synthesis, creates an unbridgeable chasm between her conceptions of “first Temple” religion, and many of the most basic tenants of Mormonism.

But then (and I do not wish to be overly simplistic here), perhaps Mormonism’s view of scripture is such that the individual member of the CoJCoLDS can embrace and/or reject just about anything in terms of their theology; just as long as they are not drinking coffee (Coke is ok [grin]) to help stimulate their intellectual pursuits (arrgh…I tried, but could not resist).

Grace and peace,


bgeorge77 said...


Stumbled on this blog while trying to figure out the Barker puzzle.

Rory, I am certain you know this, but to remind you, our Church HAS stated that Mormon baptisms are not valid. To me, this indicates strongly that they are not Christian.

I do not mean to say they are not good people, I mean to say that their theology cannot be grouped under the heading of "Christian." I am informed on their theology, and while I find it fascinating, for the sake of their souls I cannot pretend that it is true at all.

Rory and Mr Waltz: great discussions here! Thank you.

Thomas said...

As a Mormon by upbringing, Greek Orthodox Theologian by training, and Perennialist by conviction, I have found Margaret Barker to be stimulating, if somewhat repetitive, reading. I agree that Barker's views don't align with the popular Mormon interpretation of their own scriptures and Joseph Smith's teachings. Non-Mormons are often befuddled by Mormonism's lack of theology or even dogmatics and assume that their popular interpretations are Mormon dogmatics. Remember how confused everyone was by Gordon B. Hinckley's denial that Mormonism teaches God was once a man? Popular Mormonism isn't necessarily the teaching of the LDS Church (Moreover, the teachings of the LDS Church are not necessarily the teachings of the LDS Church.) The LDS Church places its emphasis on ethics, not dogmatics, not only lacking a creed, but actively opposing creeds as such (See Joseph Smith's first vision). Thus, this series of blogposts correctly contrasts popular Mormon beliefs and Barker, showing their incompatibility. My own reaction, however, is that Barker's influence on Mormon intellectuals is already causing a reinterpretation of Mormon scripture and Joseph Smith's teachings that will provide more common ground for Mormons and Christians holding patristic views to meet on. Mormons hold their scriptures to be true, but, as any knowledge of Mormon history shows, the popular interpretations of those scriptures shift over time. Mormons call this shift ongoing revelation.