Thursday, June 29, 2017

Book of Mormon "translated" via the use of a brown stone in a hat




It was back in 1987 that I first began a serious, in depth study into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereafter LDS Church or Mormon/s). [For more on my early exploration into the LDS Church, see the opening paragraph of THIS POST.] I began collecting (and reading) hundreds of books, journals, articles, et al., which included the monthly journal, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. At that time, I was able to obtain all the past issues up to 1987, and began a subscription. As I started reading through the issues, one of the many articles that caught my attention was Richard Van Wagoner's and Steven Walker's, "Joseph Smith: 'The Gift of Seeing'" (Vol. 15.2, Summer 1982 - LINK).

Wagoner and Walker examined the extant eyewitness accounts concerning the translation process of the Book of Mormon, and provided the following synopsis of those accounts:

These eyewitness accounts to the translation process must be viewed in proper perspective. Most were given in retrospect and may be clouded by the haze of intervening years. Many were reported second hand, subject to skewing by nonwitnesses. Yet there are persistent parallels among these scattered testimonies. Consensus holds that the "translation" process was accomplished through a single seer stone from the time of the loss of the 116 pages until the completion of the book. Martin Harris's description of interchangeable use of a seer stone with the interpreters, or Urim and Thummim, refers only to the portion of translation he was witness to—the initial 116 pages. The second point of agreement is even more consistent: The plates could not have been used directly in the translation process. The Prophet, his face in a hat to exclude exterior light, would have been unable to view the plates directly even if they had been present during transcription. (Page 53.)

Prior to this detailed article, the common perception of the translation process was much different among the vast majority of Mormons. Artist depictions and written descriptions have Joseph Smith directly using the metal plates and the "Urim and Thummim" at the same time in the translation process. Wagoner and Walker make reference to this dichotomy between the extant accounts and the common Mormon understanding, writing:

The concept of a single seer stone is another problem area, for we have been taught since the Prophet's day that the Urim and Thummim were used. The term itself is problematic. The Book of Mormon does not contain the words "Urim and Thummim." Ammon describes the instrument as "the things . . . called interpreters"—"two stones which were fastened into the two rims of a bow" which were "prepared from the beginning" and "handed down from generation to generation, for the purpose of interpreting languages" (Mosiah 8:13, 28:13-14). Joseph Smith adds in the Pearl of Great Price that "God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book" (Joseph Smith—History 1:35). Furthermore, the Nephite interpreters were not referred to as Urim and Thummim until 1833, when W. W. Phelps first equated the two in the first edition of the Evening and Morning Star: "It was translated by the gift and power of God, by an unlearned man, through the aid of a pair of Interpreters, or spectacles—(known, perhaps in ancient days as Teraphim, or Urim and Thummim)." (Ibid.)

I was soon able to ascertain that Wagoner's and Walker's well researched article had little impact on the vast majority of believing Mormons. Of the literally dozens of LDS missionaries that have contacted me during the subsequent 30 years, it was not until this last year that any of them had knowledge of the single stone in the hat translation process. The same held true with lay Mormons I have met (in person and on message boards). However, this near unanimous consensus understanding started to undergo reductions at the end of 2015, and this due to an article published in the official LDS Church magazine, Ensign. The October, 2015 issue contained a contribution by three LDS scholars— Mark Ashurst-McGee, Robin S. Jensen and Richard E. Turley Jr.—under the title, "Joseph the Seer". [Full issue available online HERE.]

This Ensign article (pp. 48-55) mentions the use of, "at least one other seer stone in translating the Book of Mormon, often placing it into a hat in order to block out light" (p. 51). It also includes a large color photograph of the "chocolate-colored stone", that "has long been associated with Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon translation effort" (p. 53). For the first time in LDS Church history, knowledge of a single stone in a hat translation process had been disseminated amongst the majority of lay Mormons.

But, as important as the Ensign article was/is for Mormon studies, it was my recent purchase and reading of the above pictured book that prompted me to write this post.

Joseph Smith's Seer Stones, by Michael Hubbard MacKay and Nicholas J. Frederick, was published in 2016, through B.Y.U.'s "Religious Studies Center" (LINK). I obtained this book in early May of this year, and read it the very next day. The following is from the back dust-cover of the book:

When the Church released photos of the brown seer stone that was owned and used by Joseph Smith, the news ignited a firestorm of curiosity and controversy. People wanted more information and wondered why they weren't aware of the stone's existence before.

This book discusses the origins of Joseph Smith's seer stones and explores how Joseph used them throughout his life in a way that goes beyond translating the Book of Mormon. I also traces the provenance of the seer stones once they leave his possession.

Joseph Smith's Seer Stones, is a book of 243 pages, and by far the most comprehensive treatment I have yet to read on the topic of Joseph Smith's "seer" stones. It is well written, and easy to read. It references dozens of other important contributions that will provide the more curious investigators with days, if not months, of informative reading. In upcoming posts (the Lord willing), I shall delve into some of those works that I have obtained, and have been researching. Until my next post, I would like to recommend to folk interested in this topic that they look into the following article from BYU Studies, 55.1, pp. 73-93 (also published in 2016):



Grace and peace,

David

32 comments:

David Waltz said...

Earlier today, I discovered two online reviews of Jospeh Smith's Seer Stones: Park Review; Smoot Review.


Grace and peace,

David

Rory said...

In the twenty years that I have corresponded with Latter-day Saints on the internet I have come to have a great esteem for people who have expressed their own respect for Catholics as people. I have always included Salt Lake Mormonism among the few non-Catholic institutions to have a consistent explanation for its own historical place in our times.

In contrast, to paraphrase John Henry Newman from the bottom of this blog site, "Whatever history teaches...if ever there was a safe truth it is this...to be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant." I even tend to think Cardinal Newman does not go far enough in the case of the Protestants. I do not think the historical inconsistencies of a Protestant claim to have the authority to speak for Christ are deep. They are on the surface.

This is not the place for a discussion of my points of view or even Newman's. I only want to make it clear that historically, I have a regard for Mormon claims that is lacking toward Protestants. I can develop this later if there is any interest, but even before seeing this blog post, I had arrived at the place where I agreed with Mormons that Joseph Smith did not conceive of the Book of Mormon alone. But since I cannot deny the truth of the Catholic faith, I am compelled to say that I believe the origins of Mormonism to be the product of one disguised as "an angel of light".

This blog post adds confirmation to my previous beliefs as to the Satanic origins of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This would not mean that it is worse to be Mormon than a convinced "once saved, always saved" unconcerned about personal sanctity. Both are in spiritual peril. It is a clever stroke of the devil when he can make someone behave according to Christian morality while having disdain and repugnance for the revealed truths of The Blessed Trinity.

When a Protestant has doubts about his spiritual authorities, he usually still believes in God. When a Mormon has doubts about his spiritual authorities, it usually illustrates that he never really believed in the true God at all. Atheism is by far the most usual result when a Mormon leaves Mormonism. In consideration of that, from a Catholic perspective, it becomes necessary to ask this question about Mormons. Do we even mean the same thing by the word "God"? This is why I am persuaded that even if Mormons follow the norms of Christian morality to a high degree, the devil has been delighted with the fruits borne out of Joseph Smith's use of "seer stones".

David Waltz said...

Hi Rory,

So good to hear from you again. Thanks much for taking the time to share some of your thoughts on my opening post. From your comments, we read:

==I have always included Salt Lake Mormonism among the few non-Catholic institutions to have a consistent explanation for its own historical place in our times.==

I concur with you on this. However, with that said, I cannot help but think that along with so many other advent type sects that arose in the 19th century (7th-Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Advent Christian Church, et al.), the LDS Church has a certain built-in 'shelf-life'. The fundamental premise behind the existence of such sects was to prepare for the eminent second coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ. As these groups quickly approach 200 years of existence, the notion of eminence sure seems to have lost any tangible value.

==...but even before seeing this blog post, I had arrived at the place where I agreed with Mormons that Joseph Smith did not conceive of the Book of Mormon alone. But since I cannot deny the truth of the Catholic faith, I am compelled to say that I believe the origins of Mormonism to be the product of one disguised as "an angel of light". ==

I think that is the only consistent understanding a devout Catholic can maintain.

==This blog post adds confirmation to my previous beliefs as to the Satanic origins of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This would not mean that it is worse to be Mormon than a convinced "once saved, always saved" unconcerned about personal sanctity. Both are in spiritual peril. It is a clever stroke of the devil when he can make someone behave according to Christian morality while having disdain and repugnance for the revealed truths of The Blessed Trinity.==

You are a bit more generous here than I can be. I think it is important to note that the Catholic Church accepts the baptisms of most those "once saved, always saved" sects, but rejects the baptisms of the LDS Church. [See THIS POST for details.]

A father god who needs a mother god/gods to produce his 'spirit children', is not the God of the Bible or the Catholic Church.

==When a Protestant has doubts about his spiritual authorities, he usually still believes in God. When a Mormon has doubts about his spiritual authorities, it usually illustrates that he never really believed in the true God at all. Atheism is by far the most usual result when a Mormon leaves Mormonism. In consideration of that, from a Catholic perspective, it becomes necessary to ask this question about Mormons. Do we even mean the same thing by the word "God"? This is why I am persuaded that even if Mormons follow the norms of Christian morality to a high degree, the devil has been delighted with the fruits borne out of Joseph Smith's use of "seer stones".==

Excellent points Rory. But let us not forget that much of the 'fruit' borne out by so many today who claim to be Christian sure seems to be the 'fruit' of 'tares' and not 'wheat'...


Grace and peace,

David

Rory said...

With regards to my comment "But since I cannot deny the truth of the Catholic faith, I am compelled to say that I believe the origins of Mormonism to be the product of one disguised as 'an angel of light' David says:

"I think that is the only consistent understanding a devout Catholic can maintain."

I would revise that a little. Most devout Catholics have little acquaintance with Mormonism. They heard enough to think it is bizarre. These tend to gravitate to naturalistic explanations, which in my opinion, fail to give due respect to LDS claims, while failing also to recognize Catholic beliefs that isolated from context, can be caricatured as crazy.

I think Mormons have good reasons to be amazed with the origins of the Book of Mormon, but not good reasons for assuming that the origins are good, and that it follows that the Catholic Church is apostate. There are horrible consequences for assuming that all the devil wants is to make us drink and fornicate.

The devil wants us to hate God like he does. And most Mormons are kind enough to try not to be offensive, but they are also persuaded that the Catholic idea of God is ludicrous. They cannot have respect for an immaterial Spirit who creates out of nothing. They have been persuaded to despise God. Drunks and fornicators don't inherit the kingdom of God, as we both teach, but I am afraid that those who have been persuaded that the Blessed Trinity is absurd are further away still.

TOm said...

Hello Rory and David,
Good to see you discussing Mormonism! I remember at one time being surprised when someone (I think DCP) suggested that the “seer stone in the hat” was not as historically certain as I thought it was. I am sure that it was early in my Mormonism (within first 5-8 years or so) that I leaned toward the “seer stone in the hat” and I thought many of the ZLMB and other message board folks with whom we interacted did as well. So, I was a little surprised to hear, “near unanimous consensus.” Would you say that “near unanimous consensus” should include those “on message boards.”

My main question is, “what do I do?” I have long agreed (and I think said so at least at some time) with Rory that there is too much to the Mormon thing for naturalistic explanations. This means if it is not TRUE it is still supernatural. If it is not true it seems likely it is not of God and thus the supernatural is anti-God or demonic. How do I ascertain this?
My mind is fair at weighing questions. I can weigh political theories or differing explanation for properties of semiconductors. Most of these everyday questions are evaluated by assuming that there are naturalistic explanations and that we live in an ordered universe. But, if as we seem to all agree the origins of Mormonism defy naturalistic explanations, I cannot weight them using these naturalistic tools. Many ideas come to mind.
My answer to this question is as follows. Those with time, energy, and ability can push upon the natural vs. supernatural question, but if the conclusion is “beyond natural,” a God who is “no respecter of persons” simply must (it seems to me) answer faithful prayers so that we can know. Critics of the CoJCoLDS have long condemned the “ask God” method, but it seems quite Biblical to me. If I intend to ask God, I think I am asking God, and I get an answer I think is from God; how am I to determine this is really Satan preventing me from becoming a Catholic?
When Rory said, “But since I cannot deny the truth of the Catholic faith, I am compelled to say that I believe the origins of Mormonism to be the product of one disguised as ‘an angel of light.’” I get it. But, how do you explain the answers to thousands of prayers from thousands of supposedly faithful folks who then became LDS? And what should I do differently?

I might add it seems easier to me to explain Catholicism, Catholic miracles, and Catholic prayers from a LDS perspective than it does to explain the CoJCoLDS from a Catholic perspective. I would have trouble fitting my LDS data into a "Catholicism is God's church" paradigm.

Concerning, “Catholic idea of God is ludicrous.”
I do not think the Catholic individual embraces a ludicrous God. I do think the God of Thomas Aquinas is not the God of the Bible or the God with whom LDS and Catholics INTERACT. My problem is not material or immaterial, Metaphysical Trinity or other 3-in-1, or many other differences. Instead, my problem is impassible or passible, Asiety or lack of Asiety, or some other differences. As a LDS, I say that God the Father like God the Son has a body of flesh and bone, but they are not identical (or limited by) this body. The idea that I am to be in a relationship with God where I love and am loved and God is impassible boarders on ludicrous (and I think is unbiblical).
Charity, TOm

P.S. I have not gotten to writing on LDS salvation for the unevangelized. I have planned and plodded, but I am not sure I am anywhere near getting done, sorry!!!

Rory said...

Hey Tom,

I was wondering when you would show up! Thanks for taking my remarks in the way they were meant, even when they can sound uncomplimentary.

"The idea that I am to be in a relationship with God where I love and am loved and God is impassible boarders on ludicrous (and I think is unbiblical)"

I have thought about this for years now with you in mind Tom. Have you heard of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (continuing revelation fully compatible with apostolic revelation)?

Talk to you soon. So good to "see you". God bless, old friend.

Rory


David Waltz said...

Hi Tom,

So good to hear from you again! In yesterday's post, you wrote:

==I remember at one time being surprised when someone (I think DCP) suggested that the “seer stone in the hat” was not as historically certain as I thought it was. I am sure that it was early in my Mormonism (within first 5-8 years or so) that I leaned toward the “seer stone in the hat” and I thought many of the ZLMB and other message board folks with whom we interacted did as well. So, I was a little surprised to hear, “near unanimous consensus.” Would you say that “near unanimous consensus” should include those “on message boards.”==

I now suspect that the following from my opening post lacks some clarity:

>>Of the literally dozens of LDS missionaries that have contacted me during the subsequent 30 years, it was not until this last year that any of them had knowledge of the single stone in the hat translation process. The same held true with lay Mormons I have met (in person and on message boards). However, this near unanimous consensus understanding started to undergo reductions at the end of 2015>>

The phrase, "lay Mormons I have met (in person and on message boards)" does not inlcude a good number of brief encounters I have had with "internet" [vs. "chapel"] Mormons in message boards and/or forums; but rather, Mormons I have had deeper conversations with.

With that said, I do not remember you and I discussing the translation process of the BoM. If you drop back in, and read this post, I would like to know what persuaded you to accept the 'stone in the hat' translation process over the Urim and Thummim with the plates method.

==My main question is, “what do I do?” I have long agreed (and I think said so at least at some time) with Rory that there is too much to the Mormon thing for naturalistic explanations. This means if it is not TRUE it is still supernatural. If it is not true it seems likely it is not of God and thus the supernatural is anti-God or demonic. How do I ascertain this?==

I side with you and Rory on this important issue—purely 'natural' explanations fall way short of adequately explaining the origins of Mormonism.

==My answer to this question is as follows. Those with time, energy, and ability can push upon the natural vs. supernatural question, but if the conclusion is “beyond natural,” a God who is “no respecter of persons” simply must (it seems to me) answer faithful prayers so that we can know. Critics of the CoJCoLDS have long condemned the “ask God” method, but it seems quite Biblical to me. If I intend to ask God, I think I am asking God, and I get an answer I think is from God; how am I to determine this is really Satan preventing me from becoming a Catholic?==

"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." (James 1:5)

"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." (Matt. 7:7, 8)

Certainly the "ask God" method is Biblical; and I would add, supernatural. With that said, I personally have no idea how at this time how a 'true seeker' can determine if your 'testimony' is from God, and/or if Rory's is from God.

==When Rory said, “But since I cannot deny the truth of the Catholic faith, I am compelled to say that I believe the origins of Mormonism to be the product of one disguised as ‘an angel of light.’” I get it. But, how do you explain the answers to thousands of prayers from thousands of supposedly faithful folks who then became LDS? And what should I do differently?==

At this time, I cannot "explain" it.

cont'd

David Waltz said...

cont'd

==I might add it seems easier to me to explain Catholicism, Catholic miracles, and Catholic prayers from a LDS perspective than it does to explain the CoJCoLDS from a Catholic perspective. I would have trouble fitting my LDS data into a "Catholicism is God's church" paradigm.==

I concur.

==P.S. I have not gotten to writing on LDS salvation for the unevangelized. I have planned and plodded, but I am not sure I am anywhere near getting done, sorry!!!==

I am sure you are quite busy. I shall continue to exercise patience...


Grace and peace,

David

Rory said...

Tom
If I intend to ask God, I think I am asking God, and I get an answer I think is from God; how am I to determine this is really Satan preventing me from becoming a Catholic?

Rory
There would be different ways of discerning the spirits depending on the nature of the answers perceived. If the answer came in the form of a memorable emotional experience with an understanding that one must remain firm upon such a foundation of faith, it would be different than if experience came with an understanding that there would be progressive intellectual light. Does the answer come immediately to the intellect? In that event, it would take on the need to correspond with what is known naturally.

Tom
When Rory said, “But since I cannot deny the truth of the Catholic faith, I am compelled to say that I believe the origins of Mormonism to be the product of one disguised as ‘an angel of light.’” I get it. But, how do you explain the answers to thousands of prayers from thousands of supposedly faithful folks who then became LDS?

Rory
I do not believe anyone will be deceived against their will. Or better put, nobody will be judged for being sincerely misinformed. But the Scriptures say that the heart (our will) is deceitful itself. Jesus noted how unique it was for Him when coming upon Nathanael and discovering, an “Israelite in whom there is no guile.” The Gospel tells us that on the Last Day there will be many supposedly faithful folks claiming to have served God to whom our Lord says, “Depart from me”.
Tom
And what should I do differently?

Rory
I cannot know how God will be seen in the Great Judgment to have given those who hate him the opportunity by grace to have loved Him. It is further unfathomable to know how one born into the faith, and who perseveres in it, is drawn moment by moment by a God who wills the salvation of all, while violating the will of none. It would be presumptuous of me to say I became Catholic because I did this or that. I don’t know how it happened. I have firm hope that it will be all to God’s glory if I should persevere, or even if God forbid, I should fall away. All creatures will know that God loved me.
Since I do not know how I became Catholic, I do not know what you should do. You remind me of Nathanael. We should always try to have a simple heart that is free of cunning machinations that are ever serving our own tendencies to turn inward to serve the creature rather than the Creator.

Rory said...

Rory (continued from above)
You might consider that you have received graces that you never recognized as such? Are you troubled like I would be with apparent evidence that Dave has been showing us that makes it seem like Joseph Smith might have been dabbling with “powers of darkness and spiritual wickedness in high places”? Have you been completely satisfied with LDS theories about the Great Apostasy? Has it ever occurred to you that if LDS apologists used the same methods to defend the “Former-day Church” as they have with the Latter-day Church, that it would give evidence that no restoration was even needed? These could be examples of ways that God might be drawing you to Divine Union that will leave you and all creation in awe as it sings these kind of praises: "O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments, and how unsearchable his ways!"
If I can be an instrument of grace, I am happy. But it is God Almighty, transcendent and immanent, who loves you, and who will draw you and your loved ones to Him, by your permission and theirs.

Tom
I might add it seems easier to me to explain Catholicism, Catholic miracles, and Catholic prayers from a LDS perspective than it does to explain the CoJCoLDS from a Catholic perspective. I would have trouble fitting my LDS data into a "Catholicism is God's church" paradigm.

Rory
I would suggest that the Catholic Church has resources to allow souls from every culture and worldview to be able to understand their life’s experiences, mystical phenomena, and even miracles, better as Catholics than before.

Tom
Concerning, “Catholic idea of God is ludicrous.”
I do not think the Catholic individual embraces a ludicrous God. I do think the God of Thomas Aquinas is not the God of the Bible or the God with whom LDS and Catholics INTERACT. My problem is not material or immaterial, Metaphysical Trinity or other 3-in-1, or many other differences. Instead, my problem is impassible or passible, Asiety or lack of Asiety, or some other differences. As a LDS, I say that God the Father like God the Son has a body of flesh and bone, but they are not identical (or limited by) this body. The idea that I am to be in a relationship with God where I love and am loved and God is impassible boarders on ludicrous (and I think is unbiblical).

To be continued...

Rory said...

continuation...

Rory
I do not think we can think God is greater than He is. If God was imaginable to man, He wouldn’t have told Moses that His “name” was “I am that am”. God wants us to know that He is unfathomable, pure existence. That comes first. When the Son came to give the Good News that His Father wants to communicate His Existence, the Divine Nature, to us (stupendous thought!), He knowingly used that same expression when they challenged Him about knowing Abraham. “Before Abraham was, I am.”

“I am that am” is infinitely beyond us. But He has revealed His goodness through creation, and revealed by faith that He wishes us to partake of Himself! And when the Son arrives as a Babe, it is as wonderful, as when He is baptized, as when He is Transfigured, as when He is mocked and scourged, and crucified. The wonder is that God would condescend to become one of us. On Tabor, (yesterday was the Feast of the Transfiguration) He shows forth the glory which would be ordinary to Him even in His Sacred Humanity, and to the Exalted in Heaven, if He did not hide Himself under a veil, as it were, during His life. His whole life is a wonderful diminishing of Himself so that He might be accessible to us.

Jesus is God, and having seen the Son, we see the Father. We see love sacrificing all that rightly belongs to Himself His whole life long. From the manger, to the carpenter shop, to the Cross, to the water and wine that becomes the Bread of Everlasting Life, Himself entirely, His glory is hidden. We are driven to believe by faith that “He is Who is” loves us in a changeless, passionless manner. He knows what we can be in Him. And He cannot fail to love us in our ever present potential for the highest possible good, divinization, fulfilling His will to make us His heirs with His only Son.

Our great God is a “burning furnace of charity”. He redeems us in a manner that so surpasses the requirements of the law that it makes the thoughtful soul gasp in consideration of the lengths to which God will sacrifice Himself for the creature. How can we not praise this great lover of our souls? How can we not devote every moment to Him not only for sake of justice, but from melted and affectionate hearts? How can we not renounce ourselves for Him as He renounced Himself for us?

I can’t speak to the philosophical difficulties of an unchanging God and what love means. I know we are accused of our teachings about God because of an evil desire to mix in Plato or Aristotle or whatever. I only know the Scriptures. I could probably interpret them differently if the Church that Christ founded had been daunted by pagan Rome into sacrificing to the idols. Instead, during the very time of Her greatest glory, when Holy Mother Church was sacrificing unto blood in imitation of their Lord Jesus Christ, so that they too, might glorify the Father, and to pass on the truths they had received from the Apostles, they are accused of Apostasy!

While the Church of God is being built on the rubble of a malicious paganism, they had already lost the priesthood? I find that unbelievable, and that is how I am intellectually satisfied with accepting the interpretations of revelation that proceed from that Church which entered into Council at Nicea shortly after Rome had finally dashed its idols and submitted to the gentle rule of the King of kings.

Rory said...

This post will be a clarification on one of my previous of today wherein I discover myself to have said: "...I do not know how I became Catholic."

This seems susceptible of misunderstanding. What I wished to emphasize by those words was that I can only know the instruments that God used, but I do not know how or why they were effective with me. I believe that God will be glorified and those will experience great wonder who are so happy as to die in God's grace when they see in how many ways God was tenderly and mercifully suspending justice towards us so as to draw us into His love.

From Book Two, ch. 9, of St. Francis de Sales Treatise on the Love of God, he starts with a quote from the prophet Jeremias. "I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore have I drawn thee, taking pity on thee."

(Does that sound like that mean and nasty Old Testament ogre that the liberals are always raving about?)

The subheading on the chapter is "How the eternal love of God prevents (goes before), our hearts with His inspirations in order that we may love Him." That was that I had in mind when I think it is true to say that "I do not know how I became Catholic". I doubt if I discerned and cannot remember how I was born into a family that practised no religion at all, until 39 years later, I rejoiced to believe I was in the one true church. I believe eternity will show that it was much more than dialogues with an apologist from Catholic Answers, or my readings of the Fathers, or even my prayers for light.

Before the intellect can be engaged, the will has to be softened as tenderly as Jeremias describes in the quote from above. Of course I recall the intellectual side of becoming Catholic, but God's working on my heart was His own work and not mine at all.

St. Francis quotes Jesus' affirmation of His Father's work in our redemption assuring us that "No man can come to me, except the Father, who hath sent me, draw Him."

Speaking of this action the saint writes: "Now this first stirring or motion which God causes in our hearts to incite them to their own good, if effected indeed in us but not by us, for it comes unexpectedly, before we have either thought of it or been able to think of it, "seeing we are not sufficient to think anything towards our salvation of ourselves as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God," who did not only love us before we were, but also to the end that we might be [exist], and might be saints.

As the saint and Jeremias describe it, I do not think I very adequately know at this time how I have come to a strong hope that I have been loved with an everlasting love. Grace is often too subtle to discern the gentle motions that begin to touch the affections of the heart. But one day, if I am saved or not, God will be praised for saving me with my permission, or damning me because I refused my permission. It will be seen and known that His grace was sufficient for me in the day when men are judged by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

TOm said...

Hello again.
I am on a plane. No Internet, but perhaps I can write things.
Rory:
"The idea that I am to be in a relationship with God where I love and am loved and God is impassible borders on ludicrous (and I think is unbiblical)"

I have thought about this for years now with you in mind Tom. Have you heard of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (continuing revelation fully compatible with apostolic revelation)?
TOm:
I find devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus beautiful. I think Catholics and non-Catholics who practice this worship are well served. I could stop here of course, but I do not think that would explain what my thoughts are.
Would it surprise you if I said that the God that I worship is Omnipotent and Omniscient? When you spoke of “creation ex nihilo” and how co-eternals LIMIT God, I could say, “Read this or that, it says God is Omnipotent.” You might respond with aspects of co-eternals that mean God is not omnipotent when He exists within a universe of co-eternals and he can only be omnipotent in such and such a sense if He is completely free and created ex nihilo.
I too have thought about you for many years. I remember the importance you placed upon Creation ex Nihilo. I think I understand why it is important to you. I think I understand why the denial of Creation ex Nihilo has an impact upon God’s omnipotence.
But, what if I just said, “God is ‘omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient; without beginning of days or end of life; and that in him every good gift and every good principle dwell.’” (Lectures on Faith, No. 2.) or “Latter-day Saints believe that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and all-loving, and they pray to Him in the name of Jesus Christ.” (https://www.lds.org/topics/christians?lang=eng). I then tell you that your concerns about your perceived gulf between the God who is omnipotent and the God who creates as LDS claim God creates are well answered.
I do not think the devotional practice of the Sacred Heart of Jesus answers the near universal teaching that God is impassible. He does not suffer when we declare we hate Him. He does not rejoice when we declare we love Him. He is immutable and impassible. I have read Father Thomas Weinandy: Does God Suffer? As Weinandy explain this is the Christian (and Catholic) teaching until the 19th century.

I respond to the DEFECT of God’s passibility by saying that within the Trinity God’s love, joy, and glory is overabundant thus my love or hate does not overwhelm God, but it affects Him. If it did not, I would not be called to “Love as He Loves!” Humans can love selflessly without being impassible, I believe God can too. I will take the defects that come because I think the scriptures teach a passible God. I think the idea that God is impassible and the conflicts this idea created during Christological and other debates are firmly part of historical Christianity. I have been told I do not understand impassibility and immutability, but I see those who embrace a passible God (like I do) as ones who have abandoned Tradition.
This problem has only become bigger for me as I have read and responded to these questions. The “impassible love” God offers in the Catholic Tradition is very problematic for me. He can eternally will the good for all of us. He can set up a system where we are called to repentance and experience joy when we return and difficulties when we rebel, but His “impassible love” does not create an “I Thou” relationship with me. This relationship, I think is Biblical and of astronomical value. Perhaps I have a “failure of imagination,” but I still see embracing an impassible God as a huge loss. I also think few humans worship an impassible God. They speak of Him as impassible when they attempt to glorify God as the greatest conceivable being, but “it is all straw” (when they meet Him) and they generally worship a God who loves. I suggest it is better to confess an impassible God and love a passible God, but it is an inconsistency.
Off the plane now! Will see if I can write some more before I post.
Charity, TOm

TOm said...

Hello David!
You said: With that said, I do not remember you and I discussing the translation process of the BoM. If you drop back in, and read this post, I would like to know what persuaded you to accept the 'stone in the hat' translation process over the Urim and Thummim with the plates method.

TOm:
I do not think we ever discussed it either. I cannot remember exactly how this came to be just part of my LDS thoughts. I think part of it was the church magazines that mentioned it approvingly in the 70’s 80’s and 90’s. I figured if this was discussed in the churches magazine it must be part of our understanding. I think I was made aware of the church magazine references in response to someone claiming the church “hid” this truth.
I am not sure I have big things to say about the rest of your post. I agree that asking of God is a Biblical way of knowing. It is common for non-LDS Catholics and Protestants to claim that “asking God” must not be done because we a deceitful heart. I know I have deceit in my heart, I merely believe God answers prayers from me and those who are better and worse than me.
Charity, TOm

TOm said...

Hello Rory, I will try to respond to much of what you said. Let me start by saying that you evidence that you love God and I am quite confident that you are walking towards Him!
Tom
If I intend to ask God, I think I am asking God, and I get an answer I think is from God; how am I to determine this is really Satan preventing me from becoming a Catholic?

Rory
There would be different ways of discerning the spirits depending on the nature of the answers perceived. If the answer came in the form of a memorable emotional experience with an understanding that one must remain firm upon such a foundation of faith, it would be different than if experience came with an understanding that there would be progressive intellectual light. Does the answer come immediately to the intellect? In that event, it would take on the need to correspond with what is known naturally.
TOm:
I am not sure I completely understand your question. I think there are multiple answer from multiple LDS.
For me I became very concerned that while my intellect pointed me to the CoJCoLDS, it was possible that Satan could be served by providing such “evidence” that convinced me and thus keeping me from … being a Catholic for example. Because of this, I felt pain AND the need to KNOW. I prayed similarly to what missionaries ask (but with more urgency than I had in the past). God responded with His love (removing my pain), the knowledge that I was precisely where I should be (in the front row at the LDS church during sacrament meeting at the time), and the knowledge that my question about true or not true was not answered yet (which was a remarkable bit of knowledge as it seemingly contradicted with the fact that I was where I was supposed by -in a LDS sacrament meeting- and yet I was to know that the answer concerning truth was -wait). Around a month later I had a less spectacular, but still supernatural (by my estimate) experience that communicated to me that the CoJCoLDS was “true.” I have yet to have a reason to question this, but I regularly pray that God guide me towards truth and His will for me.

cont ...

TOm said...

Tom
When Rory said, “But since I cannot deny the truth of the Catholic faith, I am compelled to say that I believe the origins of Mormonism to be the product of one disguised as ‘an angel of light.’” I get it. But, how do you explain the answers to thousands of prayers from thousands of supposedly faithful folks who then became LDS?

Rory
I do not believe anyone will be deceived against their will. Or better put, nobody will be judged for being sincerely misinformed. But the Scriptures say that the heart (our will) is deceitful itself. Jesus noted how unique it was for Him when coming upon Nathanael and discovering, an “Israelite in whom there is no guile.” The Gospel tells us that on the Last Day there will be many supposedly faithful folks claiming to have served God to whom our Lord says, “Depart from me”.
TOm:
It is good that you and I agree that folks are not deceived against their will when they pray to God. Presumably those who are deceived when they prayed to God were deceived because the WANTED to be deceived. In fairness, I think there is much truth to that. That being said, I think it does little to explain what my answers or other LDS answers are the deceptions that we want. And others answers are the truth they want. Again not really an answer.
Also “Depart from me” in Matthew 7:23 is part of a test that most (if not all, myself included) LDS would find quite supportive of LDS truth claims.

It seems to me you are relying on the idea that the answered prayers of LDS, myself included, include a desire to be deceived on the part of those offering the prayers. I doubt there have never been LDS who said the same thing about Catholic prayers, which would leave us just at an impasse. But I do not think such is necessary in a LDS paradigm. I personally think there is room to celebrate sincere religious conviction and even see God’s hand in such within a LDS paradigm even if that conviction is not to the CoJCoLDS. This of course is what I meant when I said, “I might add it seems easier to me to explain Catholicism, Catholic miracles, and Catholic prayers from a LDS perspective than it does to explain the CoJCoLDS from a Catholic perspective. I would have trouble fitting my LDS data into a ‘Catholicism is God's church’ paradigm.”
It is my position that if the origins of the CoJCoLDS are supernatural and reason directs one to this truth, the most reasonable assumption is that it is from God.
The “no salvation outside the Catholic Church” version that would be necessary to make the call to folow Christ heard and heeded by millions of LDS a victory of the devil is a harsh (though historical) view of the Catholic Church. With less absolutist views, God is served by creating faithful LDS.
The “hearts are deceitful” view of LDS answers to prayers, leaves me with difficulties in my view of God and prayers to God. I know there is deceit in my heart. I know I want xyz when I pray for God’s will. I also know that xyz is modified when I hear God and I try (successfully and unsuccessfully) to say, “not my will but thine.” Net-net, the God who demands such absence of “deceit in my heart” is concerning to me. Not to you???
cont...

TOm said...

Rory (continued from above)
You might consider that you have received graces that you never recognized as such? Are you troubled like I would be with apparent evidence that Dave has been showing us that makes it seem like Joseph Smith might have been dabbling with “powers of darkness and spiritual wickedness in high places”? Have you been completely satisfied with LDS theories about the Great Apostasy? Has it ever occurred to you that if LDS apologists used the same methods to defend the “Former-day Church” as they have with the Latter-day Church, that it would give evidence that no restoration was even needed? These could be examples of ways that God might be drawing you to Divine Union that will leave you and all creation in awe as it sings these kind of praises: "O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments, and how unsearchable his ways!"
TOm:
I am certain there have been graces in my life that I have not recognized. But I have had few troubles with the data Dave has shared. Richard Bushman covered it in RSR. I do not think the Catholic Church is what most at Catholic Answers (professional and message board folks claim it is). I am not sure development hoists the weight necessary to get to today’s Catholic Church like Robert Eno or Francis Sullivan seem to believe it does. I think Newman’s conviction to the Catholic Church expressed as “ten thousand problems do not a doubt make” is necessary to be a Catholic. It is true that I also think Newman’s conviction is necessary to be a LDS. As I evaluate all of this, the CoJCoLDS seems more likely. I add to this my testimony. As expressed here, I add to this the idea that the Catholic Church is easier to explain from an LDS perspective.
I am not sure what will or would tip the scales the other way, but I think it would take a lot. Certainly God’s grace if God desires to tip the scales will be necessary.
Are you saying that the line of demarcation between “from God” and “from the Devil” is as simple as looking at things like “seer stones” and concluding that they are demonic? There are anti-Catholics who worship on Sunday and anti-Catholics who celebrate Christmas and Easter who push this argument. And there is Newman’s response to these things offered by both sets of anti-Catholics. So … My position is that this line of argumentation is of little value. I do not see the clarity that those who put forth these arguments see. I can see reasons for what they say, just not strong reasons!
cont...

TOm said...


Rory
I would suggest that the Catholic Church has resources to allow souls from every culture and worldview to be able to understand their life’s experiences, mystical phenomena, and even miracles, better as Catholics than before.
TOm:
I am not sure what you mean. My point is that foundational supernatural LDS events are either supernatural from God or supernatural from the Devil. If from God, this makes Catholic truth claims difficult or impossible. If supernatural and from the Devil, we have two problems, how is the Devil served by LDS who try to love and serve God AND why do LDS receive answers to prayers. Not even Job was presented with supernatural manifestations celebrating Christ’s atonement, death, and resurrections by the devil! Christ’s temptations involved appeals to Christ’s pride, but not an attempt to trick Christ into celebrating the glory of His Father in the “wrong” way. Perhaps God can allow supernatural foundations of false religions and allow folks who try to follow Him to believe they hear His voice calling them to these false religions. But if He does how will we know. I do not deny that the devil can masquerade as an “angel of light,” but if this religion I follow is a product of that how can I know.
I would tend to agree that many answers to prayers offered by faithful believers and miracles in the lives of non-Catholics and/or non-LDS can be fit into a Catholic or LDS framework. It is when those miracles are the foundation of a conflicting religion that I think Catholicism must struggle (and LDS have some struggles here too but less).

Rory, I really love reading what you write. I feel confident that you are moving towards God and He is well pleased. This doesn’t change the fact that I also believe the CoJCoLDS is God’s church.
Charity, TOm

Rory said...

Hi Tom.

Thank you very much for your detailed reply. I am aware of a good and natural modesty against sharing profound interior experiences. You have honored us by placing your "jewels" before us. Thank you again.

I don't want to disagree with you or Dave in such important matters. It is from a desire to be one in spirit with you, now and forever, and in the hope of making Heaven rejoice that I would like to continue the discussion a little longer if you would care to bear with me. I cannot quite believe we have reached an impasse yet.

I think the most important thing I can do at this time is to show how deeply penetrated Catholic spirituality is with creation out of nothing. Reflection on this truth gives rise to profound thoughts about how all of God's creatures, except man and the fallen angels, do the will of God without fail.

To do justice to God, every rational creature must join the good angels and irrational creation in the proclamation of God's praise for His evident goodness. But thanks to be God, fallen man can know God in a perfection that the rest of creation does not need: His abundant mercy towards sinners.

There is a passage from one of our books that the Reformers unfortunately removed from their Bibles. It speaks to what I am asking you to think about above:

"But thou hast mercy upon all, because thou canst do all things, and overlookest the sins of men for the sake of repentance. For thou lovest all things that are, and hatest none of the things which thou hast made: for thou didst not appoint, or make any thing hating it.
And how could any thing endure, if thou wouldst not? or be preserved, if not called by thee. But thou sparest all: because they are thine, O Lord, who lovest souls."
---Wisdom 11:24-27

Our very existence depends upon God's preservation. Every soul belongs to God and not to itself. We belong to God in the most absolute way, if we are created out of nothing and preserved in existence so that we might repent, as Catholics believe.

This thought is vividly reflected in the prayers of the Church. From the collect for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost we read:

"Grant us, O Lord, we beseech thee, the spirit of always thinking what is right; and grant us mercifully the spirit of doing it: that we, who cannot subsist without thee, may live according to thee."

...to be continued.

Rory said...

Creation out of nothing, whatever philosophical problems its detractors may say follows it, is the foundation for a spirituality that is continually reminding its practitioners of the radical way in which we belong to God.

It might at first seem to some like a cold and sterile belief. It seems to you to border upon ludicrous that one could have a relationship with such Transcendence. I was told by one prominent poster at the LDS board that by definition, it is impossible to pray to or otherwise interact with such a God.

I cannot but agree that it is astounding that such a God, infinitely blissful in His own goodness, would will to manifest Himself to us, and further, to sacrifice Himself for us, and wills to adopt us, and to communicate to us His very Being. The thought of this is a continuous source of wonder. Creation out of nothing, whatever its logical problems, yields the fruit of spiritual vitality. It makes the loving heart leap to its Maker, and long to contemplate Him face to face in Heaven, knowing that such a forever could never grow old.

I want to close with a long passage from a great saint, who could be characterized as the doctor of the love of God (of His love for us, and our reciprocal love). This is from St. Francis de Sales' "Treatise on the Love of God", Book Two, ch. 22:

"Behold at length, Theotimus, how God, by a progress full of ineffable sweetness, conducts the soul which he makes leave the Egypt of sin, from love to love, as from mansion to mansion, till he has made her enter into the land of promise, I mean into most holy charity, which to say it one word, is a friendship, and a disinterested love, for by charity we love God for his own sake, by reason of his most sovereignly amiable goodness. But this friendship is a true friendship, being reciprocal, for God has loved eternally all who have loved him, do, or shall love him temporally. It is shown and acknowledged mutually, since God cannot be ignorant of the love we bear him, he himself bestowing it upon us, nor can we be ignorant of his love to us, seeing that he has so published it abroad, and that we acknowledge all the good we have, to be true effects of his benevolence. And in fine we have continual communications with him, who never ceases to speak unto our hearts by inspirations, allurements, and sacred motions; he ceased not to do us good, or give all sorts of testimonies of his most holy affection, having openly revealed unto us all his secrets, as to his confidential friends. And to crown his holy loving intercourse with us, he has made himself our proper food in the most holy Sacrament of the Eucharist; and as for us, we have freedom to treat with him at all times when we please in holy prayer, having our whole life, movement and being not only with him, but in him and by him." (emphasis mine)

Rory

Rory said...

A small correction...

I had intended to edit this: "It makes a loving heart leap" should have read "It makes loving hearts leap." The first reading sounds biographical to me. That was not what I wished. I am thinking of admirable souls who have gained intimacy with God that is open to all who will emulate their virtues.

Also, I realize I mentioned "jewels" above when I should have referred to "pearls".

Rory said...

From a previous post:

"Creation out of nothing, whatever philosophical problems its detractors may say follows it, is the foundation for a spirituality that is continually reminding its practitioners of the radical way in which we belong to God.

It might at first seem to some like a cold and sterile belief. It seems to you [Tom] to border upon ludicrous that one could have a relationship with such Transcendence. I was told by one prominent poster at the LDS board that by definition, it is impossible to pray to or otherwise interact with such a God."

___________________


One of the greatest hindrances to advancing in holiness is, ironically, advancing in holiness. The problem is that no sooner do we accomplish some good for God, than we foolishly take pleasure in ourselves for having done so rather than God who gave the grace for us to do it. Our Heavenly Father has to sometimes be sparing with His gifts, knowing our weakness. Instead of showering us with His gifts and treasures as He would, our good God must first lead us to the remedy to this universal weakness, if it takes a lifetime to do so.

A few verses from tomorrow's epistle (Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost), will show how keenly aware St. Paul was of this problem in himself and in those under his care. From Galatians 5:

"Let us not be made desirous of vain-glory...If a man be overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual, instruct such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted...For if any man think himself to be something, whereas he is nothing, he deceiveth himself."

Perhaps the most difficult truth of the Gospel, not difficult to accept in the mind, but the most difficult to practice, is to believe and behave as though we agree with God and the saints that we are nothing. We are tempted to think we are something special. According to the epistle, we have to know we are ready to steal the glory that belongs to God alone, even if we merely instruct someone overtaken in a fault! As the Apostle warns, whenever we do something good, we must do it with meekness, knowing we are nothing, "considering thyself".

Besides the negative truth of our nothingness, there is the positive truth that God is. He is pure existence who made all things from nothing and who has sovereign rights over everything that He made. By deliberate consideration, by the light of reason and a faith that gropes in dim light, the soul will not comprehend God. But she will gain the wisdom to know the folly of only believing that which can be comprehended. The soul can gain the light to see that the one God, who adopts His true sons and daughters, who are allowed to call Him Father, is also unutterably and incomprehensibly good and adorable.

If by grace, the soul remains in this attitude, (knowing her weakness), she then can be an instrument in God's hands and He can safely grant ever greater favors. The foundation of Catholic spirituality, and of all true humility, is God's "Everythingness" and our nothingness. The Apostle could say that we are nothing because we are creatures whose existence depends every moment upon God. It is a radical thought which cannot be fully accepted without a corresponding conversion of heart.

Here is how the Catholic Church herself teaches the child of God to pray. She imparts to us a spirituality which does not relieve the soul of that war within ourselves that wants to exalt itself. But it gives us a profound sense of the absolute dominion God has over every creature. From the collect from the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, the Church prays:

"Grant us, O lord, we beseech thee, the spirit of thinking always what is right; and grant us mercifully the spirit of doing it: that we, who cannot subsist without thee, may live according to thee."

to be continued...

Rory said...

If I understand it correctly, LDS cosmology proposes subsistence without God. Our "nothingess" would have little basis in reality, either regarding the soul or regarding God. I do not think I have proven that God creates out of nothing. But I hope to have demonstrated a radically different kind of spirituality among undeceived Catholics and undeceived Mormons. Our respective spiritualities necessarily derive from their respective cosmologies.

Now I will be biographical. I have to consider my own weakness. I have to consider how prone my soul is to rise up in vain glory and false pride. Since I struggle so hard against pride when I believe I am nothing, how would it be if I thought I was eternally pre-existent, apart from the one true God who would not/did not create me from nothing? I think I would despair of finding humility. Humility cannot be a mental gymnastic. It has to be true.

Disregarding seer stones and magic, if only because Mormonism ripped the heart out of the foundations of true humility, I would see why the devil would be pleased with it. Mormonism seems inadequate to address the misery with which the soul is afflicted, the same misery that the father of lies is afflicted, the misery and deceit that is corrupt fruit of pride. It seems to me like Satan would hate it when creatures of flesh should take the place once held by himself and the fallen angels in heaven's choir.

How does one attain the highest places in that choir? Through the lowest estimation of oneself. One more citation; it is long but well worth it. This is from a commentary on the Gospel where the publican and the Pharisee go up to the temple to pray, and it speaks to what the devil seeks to do to souls by leading them away from the light of humility and into the darkness of pride:

When this holy Spirit of truth, this divine witness of hearts, takes possession of a soul, what an incomparably stronger light is there in the humility which He imparts, than in that which mere human reason forces on a man! We are bewildered at seeing to what lengths this sentiment of their own misery led the saints; it made them deem themselves inferior to every one; it drove them to act and speak in a way which, in our flippant judgment, outstepped the bounds of both truth and justice! But the Holy Ghost, who guided and ruled them, passed a very different judgment; and it is precisely because of His being the Spirit of all truth and all justice--in other words, because of His being the sanctifying Spirit--that as He willed to raise them to extraordinary holiness, He gave them an extraordinary clearsightedness, both as to what they themselves were, and as to what God is."

(I have been bewildered. I had always thought it kind of difficult when I would read St. Paul saying he was "the chief of sinners". Why would he say that? I am starting to see why He believed it. And why we should all believe, only knowing ourselves, that we are too.)

Satan, the spirit of wickedness, makes his slaves act just the opposite to the divine way. The way he makes them take, is the one he took for himself, from the very beginning; which our Lord thus expresses: 'He stood not in the truth'; (Jn. 8:44) he aimed at being like unto the Most High.' (Is. 14:14). This pride of his succeeded in fixing him, for all eternity, in the hell of absurdity and lie. Therefore, humility is truth; and, as the same Jesus says: 'The truth shall make you free,' (Jn. 8:32) by liberating us from the tyranny of the father of lies, and then having made us free, it makes us holy, it sanctifies us, by uniting us to God, who is living and substantial truth."

The Liturgical Year, by Dom Prosper Gueranger, Vol. 11, pp. 266 and 267, St. Bonaventure Publications, (2000)

Through a cry which rings through both Testaments, I sense that if l would be true to God and to myself, I need more humility. This is why I believe in creation out of nothing.

Rory

Rory said...

There is one comment I made among others that seems so nebulously expressed as to require explanation. It is in this paragraph:

"If I understand it correctly, LDS cosmology proposes subsistence without God. Our "nothingess" would have little basis in reality, either regarding the soul or regarding God. I do not think I have proven that God creates out of nothing. But I hope to have demonstrated a radically different kind of spirituality among undeceived Catholics and undeceived Mormons. Our respective spiritualities necessarily derive from their respective cosmologies."

"Undeceived" Mormons and Catholics doesn't even make sense to me. I should have referred to "consistent" Mormons and Catholics. I am suggesting that affections of the heart, outward acts of reverential piety, and our whole attitude to life in God, are necessarily shaped differently according with our cosmology.

David Waltz said...

Hello Rory,

Thanks much for taking the time to share a few more of your cogent and thoughtful reflections. Though this thread is now well over a month old, I believe that the issues involved have a certain depth and breadth to them which demand further dialogue. I sincerely hope that Tom—and perhaps other Mormons—checks back in and shares some further contemplations with us.

For my part, I would like to share a few of my own musings on the following you wrote:

==Disregarding seer stones and magic, if only because Mormonism ripped the heart out of the foundations of true humility, I would see why the devil would be pleased with it. Mormonism seems inadequate to address the misery with which the soul is afflicted, the same misery that the father of lies is afflicted, the misery and deceit that is corrupt fruit of pride. It seems to me like Satan would hate it when creatures of flesh should take the place once held by himself and the fallen angels in heaven's choir.==

The beauty of the Catholic faith is that it's official theology, concerning the doctrines of anthropology and soteriology, maintains a 'middle-ground' between Pelagianism/Semi-Pelagianism and Calvinism. This 'middle-ground' upholds the clear doctrine of the fallen nature of mankind, as well as the necessity of grace to heal this fallen nature, without falling into the errors of Calvinism which include: "total depravity", "unconditional election", "limited atonement", "irresistible grace" and the impossibility of regenerated souls to 'fall from grace'.

It sure seems that it is much easier for one to fall into the sin of pride if one embraces a theology that deviates from 'middle-ground' espoused by the Catholic faith.


Grace and peace,

David

TOm said...

Hello Rory and David,
I have returned from vacation and resumed some semblance of normal life. I forgot briefly about your post, but I wanted to get back to it. Hope all is well with you. I wrote much of the below weeks ago and didn’t post it. David chatted with me and suggested I post. I will edit and add and … then hopefully post. I have read yours and David’s latest additions.

Rory:
Creation out of nothing, whatever philosophical problems its detractors may say follows it, is the foundation for a spirituality that is continually reminding its practitioners of the radical way in which we belong to God.
TOm:
I attempt to pick up as few “philosophical problems” as I can. It has been a long time, but I am sure my concept of what Ostler says allows for plenty (IMO) of this dependence upon God.
Here is what I said in 2005 on Catholic Answers:
The teachings of the early LDS and the LDS scriptures in my opinion demand that God is unchanging in His omni-benevolence and His commitment to bring about His plan. He is also omnipotent in that it is impossible for a being outside of God to affect Him such that His plan is frustrated. In fact God chooses to be affected by our love, but is not necessarily affected by our love. In addition to this, all principles, powers, wisdoms, knowledge, life, … are totally dependent upon God concurring power. We all move and carry out our wills as a direct result of God’s concurring power.

TOm:
It is my position that while there is a way in which we possess a WILL as part of our being “Eternal Intelligences,” we do not possess the ability to carry out our wills without God’s initial actions and without His continued “concurring power.”
Without God we could have continued as “eternal intelligences” but we could not interact or do anything. I believe God offers us the chance to return to this state which LDS call “Outer Darkness.” While some will choose this, LDS invite (I think all Christians invite) people to choose a life of connection with God.

It is my position that a proper understanding of our relationship to God should not create pride within us. How is it prideful to believe that the essence of TOm is an unconnected eternal intelligence incapable of acting, interacting, recognizing, … anything. The importance of this eternal component is huge, but it is huge because without it God is the author of all of the horrible things I do. He is responsible when I mistreat my sister in our youth, my wife and family today, and all the other evils in the world. I will elaborate on this more later.

Rory:
It might at first seem to some like a cold and sterile belief. It seems to you to border upon ludicrous that one could have a relationship with such Transcendence.
TOm:
The issue is not most forms of “transcendence” and it is not radical dependence upon God either. The issue is that God has been declared to be totally unaffected by anything man does. So transcendent that any meaningful definition of love is absent. God might be the benevolent leader who knows not a single one of his subjects, but merely wills the good for them. But He doesn’t see them or feel them. If I hate God or if I love God, God does not even NOTICE my choice. We are called to love as God loves in the Bible, but the impassible God does not love like a human does and the impassible God does not love like a human should aspire to love.
Cont...

TOm said...

If my brother becomes addicted to heroin, loses his family and job, steals and murders; I do not love him if I am totally unaffected by this. This is not admirable. This is not love. I might offer what we call “tough love.” I might protect my family from him. I might do a lot of positive things, but if I love him, I have concern for him and his choices. I care.
Now, if I become so overwhelmed by his pain I give him money for heroin. Or I withdraw from my family into a depression. Or I …, that is not the highest ideal of human love either. I recognize that the impassible God is never incapacitated by the horrors of human behavior, but there is no logical reason that failure to be incapacitated requires impassibility. Many humans love and have compassion without becoming incapacitated by those who they love who are in pain. Surely it is not hard to believe God could do this even better than humans.

Not TRANCENDENCE, but lack of love. Not lack of willing the good in a general sense for mankind, but lack of willing the good for me because I am known by Him and my free acts are seen by Him.
Cold and sterile is that God is unaffected by my decision to love Him or my decision to hate Him. This is not the God of the Bible.

Cont...

TOm said...

Rory:
I cannot but agree that it is astounding that such a God, infinitely blissful in His own goodness, would will to manifest Himself to us, and further, to sacrifice Himself for us, and wills to adopt us, and to communicate to us His very Being.
TOm:
The God who did this is not the impassible God of Arius and Athanasius and Augustine and Aquinas. Arius was right, Jesus Christ was not impassible. The hypostatic union is necessitated by the mistaken view of God held by these 4th century Christians.
Oh and God is still gloriously happy. How could He be otherwise as He lives and loves in His Triune glory? I merely assert that an addition to or a small detraction from this happiness is my love or hate of Him.

I brought up creation out of nothing not because it means God must be impassible, but because you have expressed your conviction that the LDS rejection of creation ex nihilo is problematic for you. Your “radically dependent upon God” position is IMO in alignment with the “concurring power” position I hold. You seldom argue for “God’s impassibility.” Perhaps you can become a LDS, know that we are radically dependent upon God via His fatherhood and “concurring power.” The rejection of creation ex nihilo means that God didn’t create from a universe absent of anything. His creation either included or neglected eternal intelligences, but it did not happen without their eternal existence. In trade for this, you get to know that God created out of love for these eternal intelligences (instead of out of self-contemplating love for Himself). That is a good trade IMO, but I embrace it because I think it is true not because it is better.

Francis de Sales may well have known God. Not the God Aquinas wrote about, but the God that Aquinas met after which he claimed all his writings were straw. Francis de Sales would be a good LDS, but I do not see him explaining how the IMPASSIBLE God loves. He specifically says “his most holy affection,” the impassible God who exist “a se” is not affected by us. His "willing the good for us" is not affection.

You have offered a reason for embracing a God who creates ex nihilo that I think is well met by a God who is our Father and who continually offers us His concurring power. In conversations long ago, I saw you say that God must create ex nihilo because to create in the presence of co-eternals is to be constrained by co-eternals. To be less powerful. I can accept that there is truth to that. But, I do not think a proper concept of our state before God made us His spirit children is a reason to be prideful. I think you misunderstand just how incapable Ostler has outlined the eternal intelligence.



I will also say, you IMO already love a passible God, as did St. Francis de Sales, as did St. Aquinas, as do I. I think it is better to love a passible God DESPITE the traditions of Catholicism, but it will be a problem I must pick up if I become Catholic. Or you could put it down and become a LDS.
Cont...

TOm said...

Now, I said I would get to how God is responsible for all the evil I do if I am created ex nihilo. There are simple concepts like God created from nothing with total freedom to create in whatever way. God knew perfectly the future. And God created sinful evil people and natural evils too. I think Plantinga addressed this well enough even if it doesn’t feel good all the time. However, Catholic Philosopher Michael Almeida showed that in a world created ex nihilo the inhabitants cannot have Libertarian Free Will. This means that they do not have the power to do OTHER than what they actually do. Compatibilists claim as long as they do what they choose to do, they are free enough, but if all their choices (including EVIL choices) are casually determined from the moment of creation ex nihilo and COULDN’T be different than they are, this means that the being who created ex nihilo causally determined EVERY choice by His creation. In many ways this is just a sophisticated way of claiming with Catholic philosopher Luis de Molina that middle knowledge is absolutely real and God knows all acts of all humans because He possesses infallible “middle knowledge.” Ostler makes a couple of tweaks to Almeida’s philosophical chain, but they both agree that a God who creates ex nihilo cannot create beings with Libertarian Free Will.



So, let me summarize. I do not think the existence of an eternal intelligence that cannot act, cannot see, cannot feel, cannot know or experience others, but merely exists; is a strong lure to pride. I think knowing that this eternal intelligence that became God’s child was the reason God created points to God’s love of me in a way that some creation ex nihilo (presumably for the purpose of glorifying the God who created) cannot. The God who creates ex nihilo creates for Himself. The God who creates as I think God creates, creates out of LOVE. Further, knowing that the evil in my life is a product of my choices and I could do otherwise further gives me reason to humbly turn to Christ for my salvation. I am not “totally depraved” as Calvin said it. I am not the subject of infallibile propositions called “middle knowledge” that Molina claimed. Augustine and Aquinas largely embraced (or totally embrace and never rejected) these same positions on human freedom. I freely choose to rebel against God. I did it yesterday and today and probably will sometime in the future. But God loves me anyway. This is what rejecting Creation ex Nihilo means.

Furthermore, God knows me. God does not exist “A Se.” God is not the totally unmoved mover. God experiences my love for Him. He experiences my rebellion against Him. He experiences this because I choose my behavior and He sees it. He responds to my prayers because I freely choose to offer them and my choice caused Him to experience my prayers. When I rebel He is affected negatively by it because He loves me. When I repent He is affected positively by it because He loves me. This is what love is. This is a different problem than “creation ex nihilo.”

Charity, TOm





I think we are far afield of the topic of this thread. I will respond a little more in the other thread. I might even respond to the “first things” article if I find time. I will happily read any responses you have to me. I hope I have made sense and responded to the wonderful things you have written. I do not think I write wonderful things. I do think the arguments (mostly stolen from Ostler) are pretty solid. Of course that might just be pride!

David Waltz said...

Hi Tom,

Thanks much for taking the time to post your thoughtful reflections. Rory is on vacation this week and does not return until Monday. He called me yesterday and said that he does not have access to a computer, so we will have to wait until his return for what I am sure will be some cogent responses to your posts. Until then, I would like to share a few of my own musings. You wrote the following:

==The God who did this is not the impassible God of Arius and Athanasius and Augustine and Aquinas. Arius was right, Jesus Christ was not impassible. The hypostatic union is necessitated by the mistaken view of God held by these 4th century Christians.==

Certainly not the God of Arius who was wholly other than Jesus Christ (pre and post incarnation). With that said, I am not so sure that any of us totally understand "the" Catholic teaching on impassibility. I know for a fact the God of Catholicism is a God who loves; a God who is LOVE. But God's love is a love devoid of any carnality. It is a love in its purest and most absolute form. It is a love that fallen mankind cannot fully appreciate or understand. The words of Paul come to mind, who wrote:

"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)

I only have about 30 minutes of time before V and I head over the river to do our bi-weekly shopping. Have more to say in this thread, but want to quickly comment on the other thread you posted on last night. Will try to get back to this thread later today, the Lord willing.


Grace and peace,

David

TOm said...

Hello David!
Hope your trip across the river was great. I think I will still be able to read and post for a while longer. My family is out of town for another week or so. I formulated a response to what you said here and thought I would put it together.
David:
Certainly not the God of Arius who was wholly other than Jesus Christ (pre and post incarnation). With that said, I am not so sure that any of us totally understand "the" Catholic teaching on impassibility. I know for a fact the God of Catholicism is a God who loves; a God who is LOVE. But God's love is a love devoid of any carnality. It is a love in its purest and most absolute form. It is a love that fallen mankind cannot fully appreciate or understand. The words of Paul come to mind, who wrote:

"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)
TOm:
I introduced talking about Creation ex Nihilo in response to Rory’s pointing to “the Sacred Heart of Jesus.” LDS teach that God is Omnipotent, but long ago Rory explained to me that the possessor of “all power” who creates among co-eternal realities is not as powerful as the one who creates ex nihilo. I see the logic in this. And yet LDS use the term omnipotent!!!

I recognize the important truth present within Catholic teaching that God loves us. That God is love. But, the scholars who I have found made the most compelling case of how one should align God’s love with God’s impassibility present a concept of love that is IMO radically inferior to the highest ideals of human love I have seen in my life and certainly inferior to what I think God’s love is and what I think humans are called to love like.

I am pretty sure you have read both of these books:
Paul L. Gavrilyuk The Suffering of the Impassible God
Thomas Weinandy Does God Suffer
God’s impassibility is a product of what it means to be perfect in Hellenistic thought. This is well stated by Pelikan (who I expect you have read too):


Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Volume 1: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600) pp. 22
In Judaism it was possible simultaneously to ascribe change of purpose to God and to declare that God did not change, without resolving the paradox; for the immutability of God was seen as the trustworthiness of his covenanted relation to his people in the concrete history of his judgment and mercy, rather than as a primarily ontological category. But in the development of the Christian doctrine of God, immutability assumed the status of an axiomatic presupposition for the discussion of other doctrines.

cont...

TOm said...

God who is immutable cannot respond to my love or my hate. God who is immutable does not love like humans love.
I am in no way advocating that God loves in a “carnal” way. As Weinandy explains (when he is outlining why so many Christians have rejected the creedal commitment to impassibility):
“Moltmann exploited the story to argue for a God who suffers in union with those who suffer. In the midst of the Holocaust and hundreds of other contemporary occurrences of horrendous human suffering, this argument, often expressed with passionate sentiment and emotion, continues to win theological adherents. How can God be an immutable, impassible, idle, and indifferent bystander in the midst of such unspeakable suffering? If God is a loving and compassionate God, as He surely is, He must not only be aware of human suffering, but He must also Himself be an “active” victim of such suffering. He, too, must suffer.

This contemporary experience of human suffering, which seemed to demand a passible God, found a ready ally and firm warrant, it appeared, within the biblical revelation of God. The Old Testament seems to give ample proof that He not only is passible but that He also indeed suffers. God revealed Himself to be a personal, loving, and compassionate God who has freely engaged Himself in, and so ensconced Himself within, human history.”


I am advocating a God who is affected by His children. I do not think a God who is affected by His children is a God who is incapacitated by His children’s suffering. Gavrilyuk correctly explains that when a house is burning down you do not want God (or the Fireman) to drop to their knees in tears because He is overcome by the pain He feels in compassion with the inhabitants. But, it is quite easy to say that there are other alternatives for those who reject an impassible God. God who lives within a perfect triune relationship will not be brought to tears by my rebellion or my pain, but that doesn’t mean he will not be affected.

As best I can tell, God’s impassible “love” is a will to the GOOD for His children as defined within “the tradition.” God is an all-knowing benevolent ruler who makes decisions for the benefit of His children. These decisions are made GENERICALLY not due to love and consideration of the individual and the choses the individual makes, the pain the individual feels, the …. The impassible and immutable God exists “A SE” and thus cannot act within an I-Thou relationship with the individual.

I expect to fail to understand all aspects of the divine life. I do not know how God’s perfect knowledge transends laws of information associated with the speed of light. But when I see Arius and Athanasius and every writer who offered us things about Nicea tell me that God is impassible, immutable, and indeed unaffected by humans; I believe they accepted this notion that is not like what the Bible offers of God. When Weinandy and Gavrilyuk tell me why the rejection of this view is so problematic and what I should embrace instead, I again recognize they hold it. I choose the problems Weinandy and Gavrilyuk offer me for many reasons. First, I think God is passible and this is truth. Second, I think the God who loves is FAR more WORSHIP WORTHY than the God who has immutable omniscience. Finally, it is clear to me that the Bible teaches a God who is deeply affected by His children and Greek thought rejected this as silly; I choose the Bible (you know Augustine rejected the Christianity of his mother SAINT Monica because it was too silly/simple/ignorant; then he embraced the Christianity of St. Ambrose).

I suspect things are not quite as simple as I have outlined and you are just the person to show me what I have missed, but so far “see through a glass darkly” is something I accept without having to become a sophisticated Greek thinker.
Charity, TOm