A friend of mine Noé Correa, wrote the following on what the Bible teaches regarding who/what God is according to the Bible looking purely at what the text itself teaches. These remarks were part of a Facebook conversation in which I have not reproduced the comments to which Noé is responding particularly because I find his words suitable by themselves.
Many Bible passages have been quoted with a Creedal reading of the text. Also, many scholars were quoted with no actual engagement with the text. Please let me explain how I (and perhaps others) understand my biblical LDS beliefs. First, correct me if I am wrong, but the trinitarian concept being discussed here (this isn’t the only concept), is that there is one being who is God (YHWH), who consists of three persons: the Father, the Son/Word, and the Holy Spirit. Am I correct? By this definition all references to the God of Israel or God of the New Testament must include Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If we are trying to define our beliefs biblically then it is necessary that we be able to locate that belief in at least one passage in the Bible. You see, we can all do scriptural gymnastics but if no one author or person ever said that the one ontological God (YHWH) is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, then we can see why it is not considered biblical to LDS. The statement was made several times that the Bible says there is only one God (ontologically) with no biblical citation. I am quite aware of passages regarding the idea of “one God” but find the lack of any citations as an attempt to not address the context. I (we) are more than willing to look at those passages in context. I hope that makes sense.
Where Trinitarians understand “one God” in an ontological sense (one being) we understand it in a functional sense (one in purpose). An official LDS statement on the relationship between the Father and the Son says the following:
“…in all His dealings with the human family Jesus the Son has represented and yet represents Elohim His Father in power and authority. This is true of Christ in His preexistent, antemortal, or unembodied state, in the which He was known as Jehovah; also during His embodiment in the flesh; and during His labors as a disembodied spirit in the realm of the dead; and since that period in His resurrected state. To the Jews He said, “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30; see also John 17:11, 22); yet He declared, “My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28), and further, “I am come in my Father’s name” (John 5:43; see also John 10:25). The same truth was declared by Christ Himself to the Nephites (see 3 Ne. 20:35; 3 Ne. 28:10), and has been reaffirmed by revelation in the present dispensation (D&C 50:43). Thus the Father placed His name upon the Son; and Jesus Christ spoke and ministered in and through the Father’s name; and so far as power, authority, and godship are concerned His words and acts were and are those of the Father.” (https://www.lds.org/ensign/2002/04/the-father-and-the-son?lang=eng)
“Name” in this sense signifies authority. We believe this concept of what we call Divine Investiture (representation) is consistent with the Bible (John 14:9-10). The Son represents and speaks for the Father (being one in purpose) as “God with us” (Matt 1:23). John states that “No one has ever seen God; the only-begotten God [μονογενὴς θεὸς], who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (John 1:18). I hope you don’t consider John to be a “polytheist” because he identifies two Gods. No, he is actually describing their functional unity. In fact polytheism is a late term, identifying the belief and worship of different gods in different ways. LDS doctrine has nothing to do with. We don’t worship the Father on one day in one way and the Son the next day in another way. No, we worship the Father through the Son (John 14:6; Matt 10:40). So there is no need for the term “polytheism.” How about Bible theism?
This also means that we believe that even as YHWH, the Son represented the Father. We don’t believe that John’s statement that the Only-begotten God reveals God the Father began in the first century, which brings us to Hebrews 1:1-2 (quoted in the above thread). The author clearly states that God (someone distinct and not identified as YHWH/Lord) spoke “in many ways” to the fathers by the prophets. We can see this throughout the OT and there is no need to support it. We believe the principal of these “many ways” was through YHWH the Son. Consistent with Hebrews 1:2, in his mortal ministry, Jesus was the only way God the Father communicated his will: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Not even the Spirit was present until Jesus left: “for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). By stating that God has strictly spoken now through the Son, are you suggesting that the Son did nothing before incarnation? You may say no but that is exactly what is being implied.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained Hebrews 1:1-2 in this way:
“Christ proclaims the gospel of the Father. In the ultimate sense the word of salvation comes from the Father. Said Paul, God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son. [Hebrews 1:1]
The Father sent the prophets; they represented him; and they spoke his word. When Jesus quoted the Old Testament prophets to the Nephites, he attributed their words to the Father.
Though the revelations came from the Son, yet in the ultimate sense the truths taught were those of the Father. We are also aware of many instances in which Jesus, acting by divine investiture of authority, speaks in the first person as though he were the Father. Thus Jesus said: My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. [John 7:16–17]”
(“Our Relationship With The Lord” Elder Bruce R. McConkie BY Speech on March 2, 1982).
Therefore, Jesus can speak about the Temple being his Father’s because everything is the Father’s. This actually brings up another issue. It was not Jesus’ practice to identify the Father as the Lord/ YHWH of the OT. All titles that Jesus used for this Father are never attributed to YHWH in the OT. YHWH is the father of Israel because he chose them, and that’s it (Deut 14:1-2; 32:6; Isa 63:16). Then again, Jesus is also the father of all believers (Matt 9:22). I find it very important to see how divine titles were used. If Jesus is repeatedly called YHWH from the OT and the Father never is, that means something.
I’m glad Acts 3:13 was mentioned but it was never properly addressed. The word Luke uses to identify Jesus is not “son” but παῖς, commonly translated as servant. The identity of the servant of the “God of Abraham…” (and the noun itself) is actually taken from LXX Isaiah 43:10 which is very different than the Hebrew:
“‘Be my witnesses and I also am a witness,’ says the Lord God, ‘and the servant [παῖς] whom I have chosen so that you might know and believe and understand that I Am. Before me there is no other god and with me there is none”
(γένεσθέ μοι μάρτυρες κἀγὼ μάρτυς λέγει κύριος ὁ θεός καὶ ὁ παῖς ὃν ἐξελεξάμην ἵνα γνῶτε καὶ πιστεύσητε καὶ συνῆτε ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι ἔμπροσθέν μου οὐκ ἐγένετο ἄλλος θεὸς καὶ μετ᾽ ἐμὲ οὐκ ἔσται).
I quoted the whole passage because it is important to note that the YHWH of Isaiah is consistently identified as Jesus throughout the NT, not the Father. In case you missed it, the Lord God calls himself a witness and the chosen servant. Luke understood this to mean Jesus. The Son as YHWH would send himself as Jesus the servant.
Now Acts 5:30: not only does this passage clearly identify the Father as the God who raised the divine Jesus (hence not the same ontological God) but there is more about who raised and who was raised in the book of Acts. Here’s one example, Acts 2:32-36. In a sermon, Peter identifies the divine Jesus and the divine Holy Spirit as distinct from God the Father (vv 32-33) with no mention of ontological unity. It was God who raised and exalted Jesus (two beings). Peter then quotes Psalm 110, which speaks about YHWH and “my Lord” (v 34-35). Often missed is what Peter does next. He says: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (v 36). Peter has exegeted Psalm 110 beautifully. Where did Peter get the titles “Lord and Christ”? Psalm 110:1 mentions both YHWH and the kingly lord who was the Christ (the anointed one). Therefore, God made the Son both YHWH and Christ. Peter said it. I imagine you don’t like this but it explains why in the Gospels when Jesus asks who did David call Lord, “Lord” is always anarthrous in Greek, pointing to YHWH in the previously quoted passage: εἶπεν κύριος τῷ κυρίῳ μου (Matt 22:44); εἰ οὖν Δαυὶδ καλεῖ αὐτὸν κύριον πῶς υἱὸς αὐτοῦ ἐστιν (22:45). This also explains why whenever Psalm 110:1 is applied directly to Jesus and the Father YHWH/Lord is always changed to something else or left out of the quote entirely (Matt 26:64; Heb 1:3; 8:1; etc).
I have no issue with Acts 5:3-4 calling the Spirit “God” (or describing their functional unity) but I find nothing that suggests He is YHWH or “one God” ontologically with the Father and the Son. It’s just not there. The explanatory phrase/title “Spirit of God” or “Spirit of the YHWH” does not suggest that the Spirit is YHWH. If you are a “servant of the Lord” does that mean you believe you are also the Lord himself? I don’t believe you do. If you believe all references to the “Spirit of God”/“Spirit of the YHWH” are about ontological oneness then there are many passages in the OT that may be difficult for you:
“Then the Spirit of God clothed Zechariah… and he stood above the people, and said to them, “Thus says God, ‘Why do you break the commandments of YHWH, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken YHWH, he has forsaken you.’”” (2 Chron 24:20)
Here, the Spirit of God was standing above the people as He quoted God who Himself was speaking about YHWH (third person). I count three who are clearly three ontologically distinct divinities. There is no ontological one-being implied. In fact, at one point Genesis 19:24 was quoted stating that there was one YHWH in heaven and another YHWH on earth. Actually, the author is simply being emphatic. Aside from that, Deuteronomy 6:4 was quoted on another comment stating that YHWH is one, but that’s exactly what we LDS believe. You believe YHWH is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; i.e. “YHWH is three.” So, your interpretation of Genesis 19:24 contradicts your quotation of Deuteronomy 6:4.
Let’s look at the “no other god” and “alone” language in Deutero-Isaiah. (I use this term for clarification and suggest no textual presupposition). Just start reading from the beginning of Deutero-Isaiah (Isa 40), or perhaps from Isaiah 37 just to see the battle between YHWH God and the false idol gods. As subsequent chapters in Isaiah will state, there is no (false idol) god before or after YHWH. No false idol god was with him during creation; he was alone in that sense. Context is everything. If you are trying to argue that YHWH, who is/are Father, Son, Holy Spirit, was/were alone then I would like to see any one passage of scripture that states it. John, on the other hand, identifies the Father as the God in Genesis 1:1 (not YHWH from Gen 2) and clearly distinguishes Him from the God with whom He was in the beginning (John 1:1; τὸν θεόν καὶ θεὸς). Translate this passage however you would like but you have to explain why the second θεός is anarthrous. Of course, we already saw how John 1:18 identifies two: God the Father and the Only-begotten God.
In addition, Hebrews 1:2-3 does not say that the Father and Son are/were one ontological being during creation. No. God (ontologically distinct) created the world through the Son. That means (just like John says) before/during creation God was an ontologically distinct being from his Son. Let’s continue. The author says that the Son was an exact imprint/copy of God’s being (χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ). If there is a being identified as God (the Father) and He as an exact imprint of His being (the Son), I count two beings. You can read this passage however you would like but you would have to explain why the author of Hebrews did not say “He is the radiance of the glory of God and [is one being with him].” No, he is clearly the χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ.
There was a statement along the lines of, how can Jesus be eternal and also changing, attempting to critique LDS beliefs. Well, YHWH/Jesus is from everlasting to everlasting (Psa 90:2). He should be because he is symbolically in the Father’s bosom (ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς; John 1:18). Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8). However, we do not decide what that means to best fit our theology. How did the Bible authors explain it? According to scripture, this unchanging divine Son existed in the beggining (ὑπάρχω) in the “form of God” (ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ) and shared equality with God (εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ; Phillip 2:6). There would be no need to have the same form or equality with God if you both (or three) are all the same ontological God. Nonetheless, the Son was divine and distinct from God. No ontological oneness implied. This same Divine Being, who was with and like God, took on the form of humanity and died (vv 7-8). This same Divine Being was then highly exalted by God (v 9). God is clearly a being distinct from this Divine Being. Is this too much “change” for you? Not for us. The Son did this all and remained eternal. Then Paul explains it all for us: “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (vv 10-11). As you know, Paul is quoting Isaiah 45:23. The Lord here then is YHWH. Therefore, the Divine Being who was with God (the Father), in His form and equal to Him, was YHWH/Jesus before whom we will bow “to the glory of God the Father.”
Now, when the NT refers to “one God” it is always speaking of the Father (John 17:3; 1 Cor 8:6; Eph 4:6; 1 Tim 2:5). This simply reiterates the Father’s preeminence. You suggest that means for LDS that Jesus and the Spirit must be false gods. I’m sorry, but I find no biblical support for that reading. Jesus as a resurrected divine and glorious being clearly states that He has a God who is ontologically distinct from Himself: “my God and your God” (John 20:17). Thomas later recognizes Jesus as his Lord and God (v 28). There is no mention of false gods or polytheism, strictly truth. The God of God the Son is the Father: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever… therefore God, your God, has anointed you” (Heb 1:8-9). In case you don’t believe this is in the OT, read the text without a creedal lens and ask yourself who is speaking and about whom is it being spoken:
“‘And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us…’ says the LORD of hosts” (Mal 1:9)
More importantly, how did NT authors read the OT.
In Deuteronomy 6:4, YHWH our Elohim is said to be one. Paul understood this to mean that YHWH was the one Jesus through whom all is done. In addition, he understood Elohim to be a tiltle/role (held by YHWH) that represents the one Father from whom everything originates (1 Cor 8:6). In case you didn’t catch that, Jesus is the one YHWH (YHWH isn’t three). Elohim, identified in the OT as YHWH’s role with Israel (YHWH the Elohim of Israel), represented the one Father. Paul understood YHWH’s role as YHWH our Elohim to be in representation of the Father. That’s exactly what LDS believe.
In Mark, Jesus calls the Father “God,” quoting Psalm 22:1: “…My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” (15:34). Mark did this after having attributed the salvation of YHWH from LXX Psalm 22:8, to Jesus: “…save yourself [σῶσον σεαυτὸν], descending from the cross …Others he saved [ἔσωσεν], he is not able to save himself [ἑαυτὸν . . . σῶσαι]” (Mark 15:30-31).
We can go on and on but only one more. John the Revelator makes an allusion to Isaiah 60:19. Who does John identify as God and who is the Lamb for him?:
LXX Isaiah 60:19
“…the Lord shall be to you an everlasting light [κύριος φῶς αἰώνιον; יְהוָה לְאֹור עֹולָם] and God [shall be] your glory [ὁ θεὸς δόξα σου; וֵאלֹהַיִךְ לְתִפְאַרְתֵּֽךְ].”
“…for the glory of God gave it light [δόξα τοῦ θεοῦ ἐφώτισεν αὐτήν] and the Lamb [is] its lamp [ὁ λύχνος αὐτῆς τὸ ἀρνίον].”
The NT repeatedly distinguished Jesus as YHWH in the OT from the person of God the Father. Once again, we find no passage stating that God (YHWH) is/are ontologically the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
I think Noé has done an outstanding job of not only showing what the Bible itself does teach and the Nature and oneness of God in the Bible, but additionally shows that LDS theology is teaching exactly what the Bible teaches.
I hope to have more to share on this in the near future and to show more from the Scriptures how the Gospel as taught by Mormons is drawn exactly from what is in the Bible and represents the Truth of what Prophets and Apostles of old taught about God.