Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Mormonism and Margaret Barker - Part 5


Four of my earliest posts here at AF (11/07 thru 01/08) were part of a series titled: Mormonism and Margaret Barker. This post will be the fifth installment of this series.

Yesterday, I received in the mail volume 56.1 (2017) of the BYU Studies Quarterly journal (see this link for full content). This issue included, "a lightly edited transcript of a lecture delivered by Old Testament scholar Margaret Barker at Brigham Young University on November 9, 2016" (p. 75).

Barker's contribution was titled, "The Lord Is One", which is an interesting one, given the primary content of the lecture—deification/theosis in the Bible. This topic of deification/theosis in the Bible is a common theme in a number of Barker's articles, books, and lectures. In part 3 (link) of my aforementioned series, I contrast some of Barker's reflections on deification/theosis with those within the Mormon paradigm. I concluded that post with:

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.

The edited transcript of Barker's 11/09/16 lecture presents no new material that would give me cause to change any of my previous assessments contained in the first four installments of this series. Though Barker's contributions are always an interesting read (IMO), her unwavering commitment to a number of liberal presuppositions and theories advanced by critics and skeptics of the Bible makes it extremely difficult for me to embrace, and/or endorse, the general thrust of a number of the conclusions she has reached—e.g. Yahweh is not the one true God of Israel, the "Deuteronomists" changed and corrupted the original teachings of the "First Temple Theology", the king of Israel was "the Lord in human form", et al. (See Barker's website for a listing of all of her contributions; a good number of her published papers are available there for free.)

One glaring flaw contained in the edited transcript is her belief that the, "Deuteronomists also denied the ancient belief that the Lord was seen in human form, what the Christians would later call incarnation" (p. 82). She appeals to Deut. 4:12 to support this belief, stating:

The Deuteronomists, however, said that no divine form was seen, even when Moses received the Ten Commandments: “The Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire; you heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice” (Deut. 4:12). (Page 82)

Barker is unable (unwilling?) to harmonize Deut. 4:12 with those numerous verses contained in the Bible which state that God was "seen". Why is it that she cannot accomplish what so many other scholars/theologians have done? I cannot help but think that her liberal presuppositions and theories are at play here.

Complicating Barker's assessment is her enlisting of a number of verses from the Gospel of John which she believes contradicts Deut. 4:12, and the so-called teaching of the Deuteronomists. And yet, it is from the writings of John that one finds the strongest statements that God has not been seen, nor can be seen! (See my previous thread for germane references.)

Anyway, I wanted to bring to the attention of my readers this latest contribution by Barker. I am confident that my future posts concerning the visio Dei or vision of God will expose certain weaknesses in Barker's assessments, and also demonstrate that the verses she finds so contradictory are in fact harmonious.


Grace and peace,

David

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Visio Dei—Vision of God or Beatific Vision: an introduction


The visio Dei or vision of God—also known as the 'Beatific Vision'—is generally understood as the eschatological vision of God that the glorified saints in heaven will be blessed with throughout eternity. The highly regarded, Eastern Orthodox theologian, Vladimir Lossky wrote:

No Christian theologian has ever denied ex-professo that the elect will have a vision of God in the state of final beatitude. This truth is formally attested by the Scriptures: "We shall see him as he is," ὀψόμεθα αὐτὸν καθώς ἐστιν (1 John 3:2). However, it has given rise to different theological developments, all the more so in that the same Scriptures, the same Epistle of St. John (4:12) asserts that, "no one has ever seen God," θεὸν οὐδεὶς πώποτε τεθέαται, and St. Paul states precisely that He cannot be seen (1 Tim. 6:16). (The Vision of God, trans. Asheleigh Moorhouse, 1983, p. 11.)

I hope to explore the issue of "different theological developments" in future posts, so this one will focus on the Scriptural references upon which the concept of the visio Dei is built.

I will start with the words of Jesus Christ who explicitly said: "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8 - ASV).

This promised vision of God to the "pure in heart" seems to have reference to the age after the eschatological return of Jesus, for His apostle, John, wrote:

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2 - KJV)

This eschatological vision of God is mentioned in the book of Revelation, wherein it is written that during the age of the "new heaven and earth", the "servants" of God will, "see His face" (Rev. 22:4 - NAS).

The apostle Paul makes reference to the eschatological vision of God in his first epistle to the Corinthians:

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1 Cor. 13:12 - KJV)

There are also a couple of OT verses which seem to speak of the eschatological vision of God:

And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God... (Job 19:26 - NKJ)

As for me, I shall behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with beholding thy form. (Psa. 17:15 - ASV)

To discern what this future, eschatological vision of God entails, one must balance the aforementioned verses with two classes of verses which seem to lie in stark opposition to each other: verses which relate that God has been seen in our current age, contrasted with those verses which state that God has not been seen, and cannot be seen. Verses of the first class include the following:

And Jehovah appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto Jehovah, who appeared unto him. (Gen. 12:7 - ASV)

And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, Jehovah appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be thou perfect. (Gen. 17:1 - ASV)

And Jehovah appeared unto him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; (Gen. 18:1 - ASV)

And the men turned from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before Jehovah. (Gen. 18:22 - ASV)

And Jehovah appeared unto him, and said, Go not down into Egypt. Dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of. (Gen. 26:2 - ASV)

And Jehovah appeared unto him the same night, and said, I am the God of Abraham thy father. Fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham's sake. (Gen. 26:24 - ASV)

And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for, said he, I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. (Gen. 32:30 - ASV)

And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Beth-el, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, who appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother. (Gen. 35:1 - ASV)

And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram, and blessed him. (Gen. 35:9 - ASV)

And Jacob said unto Joseph, God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me... (Gen. 48:3 - ASV)

Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, Jehovah, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, hath appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt: (Ex. 3:16 - ASV)

That they may believe that Jehovah, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee. (Ex. 4:5 - ASV)

And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am Jehovah: and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, as God Almighty; but by my name Jehovah I was not known to them. (Ex. 6:2, 3 - ASV)

And they saw the God of Israel; and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and as it were the very heaven for clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: and they beheld God, and did eat and drink. (Ex. 24:10, 11 - ASV)

And Jehovah spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. (Ex. 33:11 - ASV)

My servant Moses is not so; he is faithful in all my house: with him will I speak mouth to mouth, even manifestly, and not in dark speeches; and the form of Jehovah shall he behold: (Num. 12:7, 8a - ASV)

They have heard that thou Jehovah art in the midst of this people; for thou Jehovah art seen face to face, and thy cloud standeth over them, and thou goest before them, in a pillar of cloud by day, and in a pillar of fire by night. (Num. 14:14b - ASV)

For Jehovah is righteous; He loveth righteousness: The upright shall behold his face. (Psa. 11:7)

I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; But now mine eye seeth thee: (Job 42:5)

Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of hosts. (Isa. 6:5 - ASV)

Below, are the second class of verses:

And he said, Thou canst not see my face; for man shall not see me and live. (Ex. 33:20)

No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (John 1:18 - NAS)

And the Father who sent Me, He has borne witness of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. (John 5:37 - NAS)

Not that any man has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. (John 6:46 - NAS)

He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords; who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen. (1 Tim. 1:15b, 16 - NAS)

No one has beheld God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:12)

And so, we have before us three classes of verses concerning the vision of God: first, those passages which affirm that God/Jehovah has been seen; second, those which relate that God will be seen; and third, those which state that God cannot be seen.

I suppose some folk will argue that we have before us a contradiction; however, as one who affirms the inerrancy of the Bible, I maintain all the above passages can be harmonized. In fact, they have been competently harmonized by a good number of theologians, though this harmonization has taken on varying forms. In future posts, I hope to explore these differing options (the Lord willing); options which Lossky has described as, "different theological developments".


Grace and peace,

David