Who God Is: Dismantling the Strawman Argument Fallacy

The views and interpretations of LDS Doctrine in this apologetic essay reflect the understanding of the author and are not necessarily the official views of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Information presented is based upon the writer’s intensive study into this subject and presented for the reader’s thoughtful consideration. The reader is highly encouraged to review the linked information throughout this article for proper consideration in addressing Who God Is

We believe in God the Eternal Father…
~Article of Faith 1 ~

INTRODUCTION

Many doctrinal errors within the recently published book – Crossing the Chasm – Helping Mormons Discover the Bridge to God – published by Truth in Love Ministries begins with the comparison of who God is between Mormonism (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and Christianity. In the first chapter the claim is made:

Mormonism’s concept of a God similar to us narrows the chasm. The biblical teaching of a God completely different from us widens the chasm

Crossing the Chasm: Helping Mormons Discover of the Bridge to God, pg. 24

According to Mark Cares and Jon Leach, this difference lies in the idea that Mormonism teaches God is in degree as opposed to Christianity teaching God is different in essence. The conclusion drawn is supposed to show that the chasm of who God is within the LDS teaching is narrow. In comparing this with Christianity, the chasm is much wider. Because of this, the narrower chasm appears to tragically lead people into thinking they must, with a little help from God, bridge the chasm themselves (pg. 26).

The difference referenced is the presupposed worldview between LDS belief and Christian belief:

Mormons see someone who is similar to them. God is only different in degree. He was human but has progressed further than they have. In a very real way, Mormons view God like small children look at their parents. They believe they will grow and become like him.

Crossing the Chasm: Helping Mormons Discover the Bridge to God, pg. 23

This is based on the couplet Lorenzo Snow coined: As man is God once was. As God now is, man may be. Such teaching encapsulated a sermon of the Prophet Joseph Smith that is now referred to as the King Follett Discourse. Such a teaching is based on the doctrine of Theosis and is well-established through the Ante-Nicene Fathers teaching. This doctrine is maintained to this day within the Orthodox Christian faith and not within the teachings of Roman Catholicism, Modern Christian Evangelical Churches, or Protestant Christianity.

Cares and Leach state that such a worldview is a striking contrast as they lay claim that the Bible describes God as a completely different being. They support this by asserting this difference in essence. Meaning that God is unique, not like any other, and different from Humanity and Angels. They cite Isaiah 45:22: “I am God and there is no other“.

Such a comparison between what Latter-day Saint Christians believe and that of modern Christianity appears to be a straw man logical fallacy:

A straw man fallacy occurs when someone takes another person’s argument or point, distorts it or exaggerates it in some kind of extreme way, and then attacks the extreme distortion, as if that is really the claim the first person is making.

The apparent aim is to allow the reader of the book to conclude with the authors worldview in order to understand how Mormonism distorts the view of who God is. Establishing a straw man argument Cares and Leach proclaim that there are only two ways this chasm is bridged and it is Christianity and not Mormonism that bridges such a chasm:

Religion is all about bridging the chasm. Each religion lays out its own way of accomplishing this feat. However, there are essentially only two ways. One way is to put the burden on humans. In some way and to some degree, it is up to them to cross the chasm. Religions adhering to this pattern only differ by what they prescribe. Some emphasize meditation; others stress good works; still others promote reincarnation.

The other way takes the burden off humans, stating upfront people can’t bridge the chasm. Instead, God must do it for them. This is the amazing message of the Bible and the foundational principle of Christianity. No other sacred book or religion proclaims this wonderful news.

Not even Mormonism

Crossing the Chasm: Helping Mormons Discovery the Bridge to God – Introduction, p. 17

Not only do we appear to have an established straw man fallacy being established. Cares and Leach appear to employ another fallacy known as begging the question:

Begging the Question – petitio principii (also known as: assuming the initial point, assuming the answer, chicken and the egg argument, circulus in probando) Description: Any form of argument where the conclusion is assumed in one of the premises.  Many people use the phrase “begging the question” incorrectly when they use it to mean, “prompts one to ask the question”.  That is NOT the correct usage. Begging the question is a form of circular reasoning.

This is evidenced by the drawing conclusion that Mormonism does not teach a Biblical worldview of who God is and who man is. A conclusion that the book attempts to support the comparison between what Mormonism and Christianity say about this most important topic of crossing the chasm. This is further asserted to help individuals share with {their} Mormon friends the wonderful message of how Christ bridged the chasm for them.

Therefore, this apologetic essay will provide a response to the straw man argument established by the first chapter of Care’s and Leach’s book. The intent is to provide a reasonable response to the comparison of Mormon and Christian teaching of who God is. Such a response will reveiw and respond to the section Mormonisms View of God. The next response focuses on the section The Bible’s View of God. Following up with these two response will be a third focusing on the section Discussing God with Mormons. The latter will focus on how to respond to Christians regarding the discussion of God’s nature and how to properly defend the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ in order to bridge the chasm of misinformation between Christianity and Mormon teaching.

RESPONSE TO MORMONISM’S VIEW OF GOD

HUMAN NATURE AND RELATIONSHIPS

Cares and Leach opens up with the following statement:

…the LDS God is very human. In fact, the predominate aspect emphasized in Mormonism is God’s human body: “His eternal spirit is housed in a tangible body of flesh and bones (see Doctrine and Covenants 130:22)” (Gospel Principles 6). A physical body is often the only characteristic mentioned. They frequently refer to this teaching to prove God has revealed to their prophets the fulness of the Gospel.

Crossing the Chasm: Helping Mormons Discover the Bridge to God, pg. 24

This statement is further supported with quotation from the Prophet Joseph Smith (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, pg 40) and President Henry B. Eyring’s statement from His Spirit to Be with You, pg 86. Along with these two quotes. Cares and Leach also quote from the Doctrine and Covenants Instructors Guide Lesson 50). The latter regards the following statement:

Not only does God have a human body; he also has human relationships. He has a wife. In fact, he must have a wife because having children is an integral aspect of being God.

Crossing the Chasm: Helping Mormons Discover the Bridge to God, pg. 25)

In a lengthy apologetic essay to Biblical Gender Roles this writer explored the The Ontological Nature of God and Biblical Anthropomorphic Descriptors. Another article compares the Second Century Gnostic teaching of God with that of modern Christianity. Regarding the statement concerning the LDS teaching (as presented in Cares and Leach’s book) of Heavenly Parents and Celestial Marriage is this second part response to Bibilical Gender Roles.

Referencing these apologetic essays provides appropriate context to the following claims Cares and Leach make in their assessment of what they define as LDS Teaching and Worldview

  • God possesses an advanced human nature of flesh and bones
  • God is married to an eternal companion
  • Heavenly Parentage unique to LDS teaching
  • Eternal Marriage essential to being God and becoming like God
  • Mormon’s rarely speak of God’s divine attributes
  • Mormon Concept of God is not very personal – being cold and distant

Such assertions (as already responded to through the links provided above) we now move to understand the context of sources used within the book.

Context of Doctrine and Covenants Section 130:22

Quoting from this section – Cares and Leach engaged a pedestrian fallacy known as cherry picking. Such a fallacy means one engages in presenting select evidence in order for a reader to accept the position being presented. Utilizing such a logical fallacy further establishes the straw man argument being employed. This is evidenced by how the authors present their interpretation of passage being quoted. It is further supported by citing the Gospel Principles Manual section concerning God.

Let us first consider the historical context of Doctrine and Covenants Section 130:22. According to the Doctrine and Covenants Scripture Study for Latter-day Saint Families (published 2004 by Deseret Book) – we find the following statement:

Joseph Smith wrote that the information found in D&C 130 was intended to clarify a talk given by Orson Hyde about John 14:23 and the coming of Christ. “At ten A.M. went to meeting. Heard Orson Hyde preach … Alluding to the coming of the Savior, he said, ‘When He shall appear, we shall be like Him, etc. He will appear on a white horse as a warrior, and maybe we shall have some of the same spirit. … It is our privilege to have the Father and Son dwelling in our hearts [John 14:23], ect’

We dined with my sister Sophronia McCleary, when I told Elder Hyde that I was gong to offer some corrections to his sermon this morning. He replied ‘They shall be thankfully received’ “History of the Church, 5:323).

This historical background is supported by John Welch’s essay When Did Joseph Smith Know the Father and the Son Have “Tangible” Bodies? Here is what Welch states:

To best understand these words found in Doctrine and Covenants 130, it helps to consider the context in which these statements were made. The events of that day, April 2, 1843, are reported in detail in the journal kept for Joseph by his scribes, which is now available in the Joseph Smith Papers.2 It was a conference Sunday, and Apostle Orson Hyde had been asked to speak. It may have been something of a homecoming for him. He had arrived back in Nauvoo only four months earlier, on December 7, 1842, “having been away from his family for 967 days and traveling over twenty thousand miles”3 on his famous mission to dedicate the Holy Land for the return of the Jewish people. During his almost-three years away, Orson had missed a season of booming growth and soaring doctrinal developments in Nauvoo.

Another source is the website Gospel Doctrine that goes into the context of D&C Section 130. An additional mistake is made when Cares and Leach references the Doctrine and Covenants Teacher Manual – Religion 324-325, September 2017, Lesson 50; pg. 293-98 . Based on the historical context, the reader is provided information that this particular section appears to correct statements made in Orson Hydes remarks concerning John 14:23, 1 John 3:2, and Revelation 19:11. Such remarks appear to focus more on an eschatological viewpoint regarding Christ’s Second Coming. This appears evident by the following theme:

  • Christ’s glorious return where he appears as a glorified and resurrected being with body of flesh and bone
  • Resurrection of humanity with immortal bodies of flesh and bone
  • Those who are righteous shall be as Christ – Resurrected unto Glorified bodies of Flesh and Bone
  • Christ’s nature and essence (a resurrected and glorified body of flesh and bone) is that of the Father’s very nature itself
  • The glorification and resurrection of a Celestial and Paradasical Earth

Such teachings do appear to be foreign to that of what the Bible teaches. This will be explored in the response to The Bible’s View of God.

What were the specific corrections the Prophet Joseph Smith made regarding Orson Hydes Sermon on April 1, 1843? Under the section Orson Hyde Corrected by the Prophet and The Prophet Expounds the Scriptures and is found at BYU Studies – Further Study Lesson Volume 5, Chapter 17. This source is part of the new Come Follow Me Curriculum for 2021 as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints study the Doctrine and Covenants.

Another historical context involves Section 130 and 131. According to the Come Follow Me manual these two sections are not revelations. Instead, they are notes made by one of Joseph Smith’s secretaries – William Clayton:

You might notice that sections 130–31 read a little differently than other sections in the Doctrine and Covenants. This is because sections 130–31 are based on notes that William Clayton, one of Joseph Smith’s secretaries, kept of things he heard the Prophet teach. As a result, these sections are more like collections of truths rather than cohesive, dictated revelations. Even so, there are some common themes among many of these truths. For example, you might read sections 130–131 with questions like these in mind: What do I learn about God? What do I learn about the life after mortality? How does this knowledge affect my life?

Establishing the historical context of Section 130:22 we now focus on understanding the immediate context. This is accomplished by referring to section 130:1 where we find the following truth:

When the Savior shall appear we shall see him as he is. We shall see that he is a man like ourselves.

The appearance of the Savior is referencing the second advent. This statement is quite consistent with the New Testament Teaching. Not only is this consistent with the New Testament teaching of the Parousia of Christ – it is quite consistent with understanding Christ’s nature as it relates to the image and likeness of God the Father. The nature of Christ being in the image of the Father is expressed in the following passages: John 14:9; 2 Corinthians 4:4, Philippians 2:6, Philippians 3:21; Colossians 1:15; and Hebrews 1:3. These passages refer to Christ as being in the image and likeness of the Father.

Since 1 John 3:2 refers to Christ’s appearance to humanity at his second advent Revelation 22:4 shares that when we stand before the Throne of God and the Lamb (Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ) we shall see his face. Whether this appears to be the face of God or Christ (which may be that we shall see the face of both Christ and the Father since the context of Revelation 22:4 refers to the vision given to John of the throne of God and the Lamb) supports the teaching that when the righteous are resurrected unto eternal life – they shall posses a physical body of flesh and bone as the Savior has. A body that is immortal, glorified, and in the same image and likeness of the Savior and God the Father.

Thus, we see that Section 130 deals with the glorification of man through the resurrection and that humanity – if living in obedience to the commandments and will of the Father as revealed through Jesus Christ – will attain an immortal and glorified body of flesh and bone. Such as we shall see when we not only meet the Savior, we shall also meet our Heavenly Father. We also see that the Earth will be resurrected unto a celestial and paradasical glory as revealed in Revelation and Section 130. Not only that, we learn that we shall maintain social relationships as we have in this life as well. This appears to include marriage and family relationships.

As for the relationship between the Father and Humanity – being fashioned after His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27)? And responding to the charge that God himself is an exalted man relies on understanding Ancient and Medievil Jewish and Christian beliefs. Specific to the Ante-Nicene Fathers. This includes the doctrine of Eternal Progression as part of the teachings restored in these last days.

Based on the presented information – the claim that Latter-day Saints teach that:

  • God is very human and exalted with a physical body
  • God has very real human relationships which includes a Goddess Wife
  • Eternal Marriage is tied with God’s exalted human nature
  • Humanizing God as an exalted being diminishes His eternal attributes
  • Presents a God that is distant, impersonal, cold, and at arms-length

Such teaching is pure conjecture based on logical fallacies employed. While it is established that God the Father is a glorified being possessing of a body of flesh and bone and exalted is not merely a Latter-day Saint teaching. It is substantially supported within Jewish Scholarship, Ante-Nicene Church Father teachings, proper Biblical interpretations of Old and New Testament anthropomorphic descriptors (specifically as it relates to Christ and his relationship to the Father).

MANY GODS

The next section of the book Crossing the Chasm: Helping Mormons Discover the Bridge to God focuses on a revised argument concerning Polytheism. Most Christians today adhere to the doctrine of Monotheism. With this worldview it is presented that the LDS Faith does not hold to a Christian Monotheistic worldview. Instead, it is postulated that Latter-day Saint Christians have long adopted a Polytheistic Worldview. Such a premise is faulty. A thorough study over the years by this writer has brought about the conclusion that Latter-day Saints are more Henotheistic in their belief. Meaning, there is a certain level of acceptance and acknowledgement that there is the possibility that other God’s exist outside of what we traditionally know and understand who God is. However, much like the Christians, we do hold to the acknowledgement and worship toward only one God – the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

Within this thorough study, Biblical, Archaeology pertaining to the Bible, discovery and study of the Ugaritic Texts and Dead Sea Scrolls have actually provided insight and support to the notion of a Divine Counsel and understanding of the various ancient Theophanies revealed within the Old and New Testament Texts. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.

On page 27, under subheading Many Gods the authors Cares and Leach provide this statement:

The couplet quoted at the beginning of this chapter leads to the conclusion that there are many gods. That is accurate. D&C 132:19-20, for example, talks about people receiving exaltation, the LDS term for becoming a god.

The authors further cite Abraham Chapters 4-5 regarding the creation of world. They state that these two passages appear to be a reworking of Genesis 1-2. This is based on their count of Gods being mentioned 47 times. Their conclusion is as follows:

Mormonism’s doctrine of many gods can become another element blurring the way Mormons see God. Even though he is much like them, he is indistinct and impersonal to many

Crossing the Chasm – Helping Mormons Discover the Bridge to God, pgs 27-28

Again, cherry picking and establishing a straw man argument. There is no context offered in reference to what Latter-day Saints actually understand and know to be true. Little commentary on section 132, Abraham 4-5, and using a person’s subjective opinion of her own views on their confusion of God is all that is offered for consideration. Yet, such shallow information brings a pedestrian conclusion that such worldview blurs how Mormons appear to see God. Such is far from the truth.

Divine Counsel and Theophanies

As previously referenced, and an excerpt provided, this writer provided the following in response to Biblical Gender Roles regarding God and the Divine Council:

The Supreme, Sovereign, and Divine Council

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have long held the belief that the Godhead is comprised of three separate and distinct personages. The Father and Son possess resurrected, glorified bodies of flesh and bone. The Holy Spirit is a personage of spirit.

Through Jesus Christ, the only begotten of God in the flesh, we worship the Father as the absolute sovereign and supreme being. We accept Jesus Christ as not only the Savior and redeemer of fallen humanity, we recognize him as mediator and the only means by which salvation is given. It is through the power and gift of the Holy Spirit are we able to find comfort, guidance, inspiration, and personal revelation.

The doctrine of a divine council is nothing new. It is a restored revelation based on ancient origins and theophanies recorded throughout ancient cultures of the Hebraic, Sumarian, and Canaanite peoples. Much scholarly work continues to enlighten us on the nature of this divine and supreme council.

An LDS Perspective on Why God’s Identification as Male is the Key to Understanding Life’s Meaning

And yes, there is a plethora of academic and scholarly sources concerning this subject matter. Much of this information has developed over the course of two major archaeological findings that have long since changed scholarly worldview of Ancient Judaism, Biblical Interpretation of Old Testament Passages, and shifting in changing how one comes to view the nature of God. These two discoveries are that of the Ugaritic Texts discovered in 1928 by a French Archaeologist. The other involved the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 19 when the first seven scrolls were discovered. Additional scrolls continued to be discovered between 1947 and 1956 where there is an estimated 960 fragment scrolls that have been discovered. Both discoveries shape how we come to view, interpret, and understand the Hebrew text of the Old Testament. Specifically pertaining to the nature of who God is.

Unfortunate, most modern Christian believers continue to hold to the sectarian belief that Ancient Hebraic and Jews maintained and held to an established doctrine of Monotheism. Such that this appears to be carried over into the interpretation and understanding of the New Testament Texts as it relates to the nature of Christ and the Father. Despite these archaeological, and subsequent scholarly and academic studies, findings: Supposed Biblical Christian doctrine of God clashes with astounding evidence that disproves such notion.

The main premise that clashes is the idea that Ancient Israel held to an established monotheistic view of God. Ancient Near Eastern studies (based on Archaeology and translation of the Ugaritic Texts and Dead Sea Scrolls) provide a different worldview. One more closely to that of present LDS thought and teaching.

For instance, in her introduction to The Triumph of Elohim – from Yahwisms to Judaisms, Diana Vikander Edelmann shares this:

Monotheism does not appear to have sprung up, full-blown, overnight. The emergence of various forms of monotheistic Judaisms by the 2nd Century B.C.E, as described by Josephus, would seem to be the culmination of a long process that began during the Persian empire as inclusive monotheism and evolved slowly into exclusive monotheism during the Hellenistic period.

pg. 19
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Prior to the Hellenistic period of Jewish History there was the idea of a pantheon of Gods which includes the nature and worship of a Goddess. The Hellenistic period appeared to begin after the death of Alexander the Great (cir 323 B.C.E) and appeared to have ended at the time of Cleopatra’s death and incorporation of Egypt into the Roman Empire (cir 30 B.C.E). During this time, the Hebrew texts of Ancient Israel were translated into Greek. This text is known as the LXX or the Septuagint.

The importance of understanding such historical background plays in how one approaches and understands the interpretation of certain Biblical Passages concerning the nature of God, the theophanies described in the Old Testament, and the nature of the divine counsel revealed in the Old Testament. Despite the influence of the Masoretes and their translation of the Old Testament. This translation appeared to have been completed around 1000 CE and is the basis for our modern-day English Translation of the Old Testament. Difference between the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint (and as revealed through the Ugaritic Texts and Dead Sea Scrolls) is quite significant.

Masoretic text was written by Jewish Scholars. These individuals held to the exclusive monotheistic doctrine. Because of this worldview, when they happened upon those passages within the more ancient texts (like that of the Septuagint) where it expressed teachings contrary to monotheism – they changed such texts to reflect a more modern rendering of monotheism. Along with the conflicting views included the Royal Couple.

In his essay (as it appears in The Triumph of Elohim: From Yahwisms to Judaisms edited by Diana Vikander Edelman) – Lowell K. Handy remarks the following:

The Biblical texts do not provide large amounts of pantheon mythology that would elucidate the theology of those who believed in the array of divinities and certainly do not themselves intend to reflect the piety of the Judahites who believed in the pantheon. Thus, it appears that the personal piety of the Judahites within the sphere of a pantheon theology necessarily eludes the modern scholar. However, the Ugaritic texts have presented the modern scholar with a pantheon and the manner in which these deities were seen to have interacted. This same pantheon structure can be seen in those biblical texts that reflect Judahite religious thought. This allows a certain amount of reconstruction of the theological vision of pantheon in ancient Judah, if not an understanding of the personal piety of that time and place.

The Appearance of Pantheon in Judah – Lowell K. Handy, pg. 32

Handy further references Mark Smith’s 1984 article and the notation of the Ugaritic narrative and how it reflected a representation of the behavior of the gods, a four-tiered pantheon. Based on this information, Handy provides a suggestion that there is reasonableness of believing that the pantheon of Judah had a similar four-tiered structure. He further appears to stipulate that there appears some semblance of such structure maintained within the Biblical text. Not only, according to Handy, Judahite scholars of the time but also among the general populace. Handy breakdowns this four-tiered pantheon as follows. The first, and highest, appear to be a Divine and Royal Couple:

At Ugarit, this was El and Asherah, who together constituted a divine ruling pair. They owned the heavens and the earth and so were entitled to appoint and establish the various rulers of their cosmic world. They did these things together, as a unit. … At Ugarit, El was the highest king of a series of deities who were kings over various aspects of the universe, while Asherah was neither a “fertility goddess” nor a “mother goddess” but the divine Queen Mother, with both authority and power.

Ibd, pg 34-33

Handy goes on and provides the next three tier-levels of the pantheon. Each level being subordinate to those above. The second tier appear to be deities afforded authority and rule over respectively of the cosmos. These particular deities, according to Handy, appear to reflect within the mythological of famous Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Near Eastern religious thought. One particular deity that most Christians may find familiarity with is Baal. Another is that of YAHWEH. Below these are those known as craft deities. And the final tier of this pantheon appear to be the messengers.

This brings us to the mention of the creation account of Abraham 4-5. Since the archaeological discoveries of the Ugartic Texts and Dead Sea Scrolls we are exposed to the reality of a pantheon or divine council. Referencing this an article posted at Pearl of Great Price Central expounds upon the implication of the difference between the Genesis Creation accounts (for there are actually two different versions) and that of the Book of Abraham:

According to the Book of Abraham, then, God the Father did indeed work with a council, of which Jesus Christ and other “noble and great” pre-mortal intelligences or “souls”/“spirits” (v. 23) were members. The polytheistic divine councils of the ancient Near East might well be echoes of the conception of the divine council portrayed in the Book of Abraham. To be sure, while there are striking similarities between the Book of Abraham and other ancient texts that feature a divine council, there are also notable differences. What is important for the Book of Abraham is that the text broadly (and even in some specific instances of language) shares a similar ancient conception of a heavenly hierarchy or council of divine beings.6

The Divine Council – Book of Abraham Insight #18

This is further expounded upon by Stephen Smoot’s article Council, Chaos, & Creation in the Book of Abraham. In this article, Smoot provides the following understanding:

Although this important motif is often missed by modern readers whose theological lenses frequently predispose them to see only strict monotheism in the Bible, the scriptural depiction of God dwelling in the midst of an assembly of other divine beings is essential to recognize in order to have a proper, nuanced, and complete understanding of the nature of deity. When read with the proper hermeneutical tools, it becomes clear that this teaching not only appears in multiple places in the Hebrew Bible, but also in other Latter-day Saint scriptural works, including the Book of Abraham. The biblical depiction of the divine council, as summarized succinctly by Stephen A. Geller, portrays God “seated among the assembly of divine beings, who are sometimes . . . called bene ‘el(im) (‘the sons of gods’) [and] kedoshim (‘holy ones’), among other terms.” The Prophet Joseph Smith definitively taught this concept in 1844.

“The head God called together the Gods and sat in grand council to bring forth the world. The grand councilors sat at the head in yonder heavens and contemplated the creation of the worlds which were created at the time. . . . In the beginning, the head of the Gods called a council of the Gods; and they came together and concocted [prepared] a plan to create the world and people it.

Smoot further expounds upon this thought as follows:

Many passages from the Hebrew Bible demonstrate the presence of a divine plurality. The textbook example from the Hebrew Bible is Psalm 82, which Michael S. Heiser uses as his primary text to assert that “it is not difficult to demonstrate that the He-brew Bible assumes and affirms the existence of other gods.”10 This psalm vividly depicts God (ʾĕlōhîm) in his place “in the divine council [ba-ʾădat ʾēl]; in the midst of the gods [bĕ-qereb ʾĕlōhîm] he holds judgment” (Psalm 82:1 NRSV).11 After reprimanding these gods for neglecting their duty to protect the vulnerable of humanity, God affirms the divine nature of the members of the council while simultaneously issuing a dire threat should they persist in their malfeasance. “I say, ‘You are gods [ʾĕlōhîm], children of the most high [bĕnê ʾelyôn], all of you; nevertheless, you shall die like mortals, and fall like any prince” (Psalm 82:6–7 NRSV).

This appears to coincide with Lowell K. Handy’s assessment of a tiered pantheon in Early Judaism. Such a tiered pantheon appears to be reflective in Abraham 4-5 and the reference of Gods and the creation of the World. Not only does this refer to the creation of the cosmos and the Earth, it specifically appears to focus on the nature and creation of humanity. Again, providing an excerpt from a previous apologetic article An LDS Perspective on Why God’s Identification as Male is the Key to Understanding Life’s Meaning

Creation of Humanity

The first passage we want to address is that of Genesis 1:26-27. I also want to include the passage of Genesis 2:7, 18-24. There is a difference between Genesis 1:26-27 and Genesis 2:7, 18-24. This is because the accounts seem to be from two different sources. According to the Jewish Study Bible, the following comments are observed regarding Genesis 1:26-27: 

The plural construction (Let Us…) most likely reflects a setting in the divine council (cf. 1 Kings 22:19-22; Isa. 6; Job chs 1-2): God the King announces the proposed course of action to His cabinet of subordinate deities, though He alone retains the power of decision. The midrash manifests considerable uneasiness with God’s proposal to create something so capable of evil as human beings are. Playing on Ps. 1:6, one midrash reports that God told his ministering angels only of “the way of the righteous” and hid them “the way of the wicked” (Gen. Rab. 8:4). Another one reports that while the angels were debating the proposal among themselves, God took the matter in hand. “Why are you debating?” He asked them. “Man has already been created!” (Gen. Rab. 8:5). 

The commentary continues with this observation: 

…humankind has a different origin and a different character. In the ancient Near East, the king was often said to be the “image” of the god and thus to act with divine authority. So here, the creation of humanity in God’s image and likeness carries with it a commission to rule over the animal kingdom (1.26b, 28b; cf. PS. 8:4-9). 

The Jewish commentary of Genesis 1:26-27 appears to show that God created both, male and female, after his own image and likeness. This is something that we find disagreeable with the article at Biblical Gender Roles. However, let us continue the consideration of what aspect image and likeness humanity was created after.

In an extant, and modern discovery of one of the missing texts of the Old Testament, we have a more condensed version of the Genesis account. Taken from R. H. Charles interpretation of the Ethiopic language of Ge’ez, the Book of Jubiless has this to say: And after all this He created MAN, a man and a woman created He them. This passage does not specify image and likeness as that of Genesis 1:26. However, it does reflect that man and woman were created in a collective sense.

It is not until we get to Jubilees 3 that we gain some interesting insights on the nature of man and woman’s creation:

And the Lord said unto us: “It is not good that the man should be alone: let us make a helpmeet for him:” And the Lord our God caused a deep sleep to fall upon him, and he slept, and He took for the woman one rib from amongst his ribs, and this rib was the origin of woman from amongst his ribs, and he built up the flesh in its stead, and built the woman. And He awaked Adam out of his sleep and on awaking he rose on the sixth day, and He brought her to him, and he knew her, and said unto her: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; and she will be called my wife [Hebrew ishah] because she was taken from her husband [Hebrew: ish]

Modern Christians may excuse the nature of the Book of Jubilees as not being part of the canonicity of scripture, however, it was well known among first century Christians and very well may have been part of some ancient canon of scripture. It became lost and was only discovered when the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.

Regardless of one’s view on the Book of Jubiless, it does provide some insight that the Book of Genesis does not provide. Namely that it refers to a marriage ceremony by God himself between man and woman. It also provides insight in that woman was created in the same manner as Adam was from the dust of the ground. With one exception, God took a rib from Adam and created woman around that rib.

The creation of man and woman is solely not a Biblical account. Prior to the creation (as rendered in Genesis 1:26-27 and Genesis 2:4-25), we have a more ancient Sumarian creation story that describes the God Enki and the Goddess Ninhursag-ki dwelt in paradise:

‘Enki and Ninhursag’ is perhaps one of the most difficult Mesopotamian myth for Judeo-Christian Westerners to understand, because it stands as the opposite of the myth of Adam and Eve in Paradise found in the Old Testament Bible. Indeed, ‘ the literature created by the Sumerians left its deep imprint on the Hebrews, and one of the thrilling aspects of reconstructing and translating Sumerian belles-lettres consists in tracing resemblances and parallels between Sumerian and Biblical motifs. To be sure, Sumerians could not have influenced the Hebrews directly, for they had ceased to exist long before the Hebrew people came into existence. But there is little doubt that the Sumerians deeply influenced the Canaanites, who preceded the Hebrews in the land later known as Palestine’ (Kramer, 1981:142). Some comparisons with the Bible paradise story: 1) the idea of a divine paradise, the garden of gods, is of Sumerian origin, and it was Dilmun, the land of immortals situated in southwestern Persia. It is the same Dilmun that, later, the Babylonians, the Semitic people who conquered the Sumerians, located their home of the immortals. There is a good indication that the Biblical paradise, which is described as a garden planted eastward in Eden, from whose waters flow the four world rivers including the Tigris and the Euphrates, may have been originally identical with Dilmun; 2) the watering of Dilmun by Enki and the Sun god Utu with fresh water brought up from the earth is suggestive of the Biblical ‘ But there went up a mist from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground’ (Genesis 2:6); 3) the birth of goddesses without pain or travail illuminates the background of the curse against Eve that it shall be her lot to conceive and bear children in sorrow; 4) Enki’s greed to eat the eight sacred plants which gave birth to the Vegetal World resonates the eating of the Forbidden Fruit by Adam and Eve, and 6) most remarkably, this myth provides na explanation for one of the most puzzling motifs in the Biblical paradise story – the famous passage describing the fashioning of Eve, the mother of all living, from the rib of Adam. Why a rib instead of another organ to fashion the woman whose name Eve means according to the Bible, ‘she who makes live’? If we look at the Sumerian myth, we see that when Enki gets ill, cursed by Ninhursag, one of his body parts that start dying is the rib. The Sumerian word for rib is ‘ti’ . To heal each o Enki’s dying body parts, Ninhursag gives birth to eight goddesses. The goddess created for the healing of Enki’s rib is called ‘Nin-ti’, ‘the lady of the rib’. But the Sumerian word ‘ti’ also means ‘to make live’. The name ‘Nin-ti’ may therefore mean ‘the lady who makes live’ as well as ‘the lady of the rib’. Thus, a very ancient literary pun was carried over and perpetuated in the Bible, but without its original meaning, because the Hebrew word for ‘rib’ and that for ‘who makes live’ have nothing in common. Moreover, it is Ninhursag who gives her life essence to heal Enki, who is then reborn from her (Kramer, 1981:143-144).

There is scholarship regarding the commonalities and parallels between the Ancient Near Eastern creation stories and that contained with the Bible. All of these creation stories have variant understandings. Despite the variant’s of the stories, the point is that all creation stories match up with the understanding that God (or Gods) created man from the dust of the ground in His image and likeness, and then realized Man is not meant to be alone and therefore fashioned woman from man and in the image and likeness. 

The question is, what do we mean by image and likeness? The Bible Study Tools has an excellent article that presents varying degrees of thought concerning the understanding of Image and Likeness regarding man’s creation. None of which substantiates the Biblical Gender Roles main assumption concerning the creation of woman.

In another lost book – the Book of Jasher, we read the same type of account that we find in Genesis 2:4-25, with some slight variations within the text.

And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness, and God created man in his own image. And God formed man from the ground, and blow into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul endowed with speech. And the Lord said, it is not good for man to be alone; I will make unto him a helpmeet. And the Lord caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept, and he took away one of his ribs, and he built flesh upon it, and formed it and brought it to Adam, and Adam awoke from his sleep, and behold a woman was standing before him. And he said, This is bone of my bones and it shall be called woman, for this has been taken from man; and Adam called her name Eve, for she was the mother of all living. And God blessed them and call their names Adam and Eve in the day that he created them. 

Again, while the text of Genesis 1:26-27, Genesis 2:4 – 25, and the book of Jubilees and Jasher share the same understanding, both conclude that God created both man and woman. The Hebrew for create is Bara and it means to create, shape, form. This is consistent in reviewing the different variants of the Creation accounts and how men and women were created. In addition, we understand that humanity was fashioned after the image and likeness of God. This is direct correlation to God’s physical, spiritual, and characteristic attributes.

Not only were men and women fashioned after God’s own divine likeness and image. They were brought together under the divine marriage of God (which we will explore in the other main point). Suffice it to say, the Bible does clarify that man and woman were created after God’s divine image and likeness.

This brings us to the next point of observation within the article at Biblical Gender Roles. Namely, the understanding of God’s ontological nature as revealed in scripture.

However, it will be remiss if we did not move forward into the New Testament to Paul’s epistle to the Colassae Church. In there, Paul describes the nature of Creation as being completed by Christ himself. We know Christ existed with the Father as the Gospel of John mentions the term Logos and how this Logos became flesh (cf, John Chapter 1). In that passage, it compliments the doctrinal truth that Christ (Logos) made all things through the Power and authority of God the Father. 

The Apostle Paul writes: 

Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell…(Colossians 1:15-19). 

While there is much pertaining to our next observation, what we learn in this passage (and that of the Gospel of Joh) is this:

1) Christ pre-existed and was with the Father before the Creation of the Earth and the creation of Humanity. 

And, 

2) Christ is the active person that has created all things – under the direction and will of the Father.

In fact, what we will see in our next point is that Christ will hand over all that he has to the Father. The most significant point is the use of image of the invisible God. We know that Paul encountered the resurrected Christ. We also know that upon Christ’s resurrection, he showed himself unto his disciples. He possessed a body that is resurrected and glorified. This is important to follow because it will set the foundation going into our next main observation regarding the ontological nature of God, the Father.

Since Christ was resurrected with a body of flesh and bones, and that he ascended into heaven with flesh and bones, we conclude that Paul is referring to the nature of Christ’s physical image being in that same image and likeness of the Father.

Elsewhere, we see this in relation to our own resurrected bodies: 

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

In our resurrection (which the Biblical text distinguishes two different resurrections) we will come to see Christ in His Image and Glory and that our own resurrected bodies will be in like manner – when Christ appears, we will see him and be like him – resurrected with a body of flesh and bone. This is not including just men. It is including women for they will also possess a resurrected body of flesh and bone as that of Christ has.

Where this is going is that the pre-incarnate Christ, through the direction of the Father, created all things including humanity – men and women by fashioning them after the image and likeness of – God. Christ was only a spiritual being without a body as tangible as man. So, he had to fashion humanities body after the image and likeness of the Father.

Understanding the deeper significance and meaning brings us closer to answering the question of Why am I here? While addressing the false understanding of the article at Biblical Gender Roles on God’s nature and masculinity. 

Within the creation of humanity, there were specific gender roles defined between man and woman. These roles were first defined in the Garden of Eden under the marriage ceremony God anointed. The other gender role involved human sexuality: Go therefore and be fruitful and multiply the earth. This included the authority of humanity (both man and woman) to work together in having dominion over all of God’s creation. This may also be an allegory toward the doctrine of theosis and human potential toward progression into divinity (which will be explored under the main observation point of the wedding ceremony itself).

One thing is clear, the roles became more defined when Adam and Eve transgressed the law of partaking of the forbidden fruit. No, they did not transgress the law by thinking they shall become like God. In fact, when you read the account in Genesis Chapter 3, God does say, Behold man has become LIKE ONE OF US to know good and evil. Humanity (Adam and Eve) were banished from the Garden of Eden so as to not partake of the fruit of the Tree of Life and live forever.

Once out of the Garden of Eden, God declared that Man will be the patriarch, and the woman will be under his protection and authority, yet both were to still have dominion over the Earth, and were still required to multiply and replenish the earth. Through them, humanity sprung up. In this context, we see the gender roles defined in the marriage relationship.

Concerning the teaching of a Divine Heavenly Mother, Celestial Marriage that is eternal – this writer published a second part lengthy apologetic essay titled Part Two: An LDS Perspective on Why God’s Identification as Male Is the Key to Understanding Life’s Meaning. The reader is encouraged to take time reading through this specific article as it deals with the nature of Motherhood, divine marriage, symbolism, and the gender role of women.

RESPONSE TO THE BIBLE’S VIEW OF GOD

Unlike previous publications that attempt to expose Mormon teachings as heresy and unbiblical. Cares and Leach appear to take a more contemporary approach. In this section of their book it appears the reader is introduced to the Biblical View of God’s attributes as part of understanding who God is. The authors briefly cite and summarize three Biblical Passages: Psalm 139, Matthew 10:29-31, and Romans 8:28. The premise drawn upon is that the Bibles view of God shows a more caring and loving deity that desires an intimate and personal relationship. This being compared to the established assumption that Mormon’s hold a view where God is not personal, caring, loving, or desiring a intimate and personal relationship with humanity.

Citing Psalm 139 – the reader is informed of the following assessment:

The fact that God is everywhere gave David comfort; God would be guiding him and holding him during every moment of his life

Crossing the Chasm: Helping Mormons Discover the Bridge to God – pg 28-29

Citing Matthew 10:29-31 – the reader is informed how this passage reflects the omniscience of God toward comforting the disciples. And citing Romans 8:28, the reader is informed that this speaks to God’s nature of being all-powerful and all-wise shows his care and guidance toward those who have faith in Him.

The conclusion drawn is that because the chasm is wide God is still caring toward humanity. Desires salvation of humanity. Provides inspiration and wise counsel toward those who have placed their trust and faith in Him, and all through His love for humanity by giving of his beloved son Jesus Christ. So, where is the difference between the chasm of LDS Teaching on who God is and the supposed Biblical teaching of who God is? It appears the authors attempt to provide a comparative difference between the chasm of Mormon teaching and that of Christian teaching on God’s nature is lacking adequate support.

The reality is that Latter-day Saints do not hold a view where God is distant, at arms-length, and cold. The opposite is true. As Cares and Leach assess – Our Heavenly Father does care for our well-being. Celeste Davis writes that our greatest barrier toward a relationship with God is based on our sense of unworthiness to have a relationship with him:

I think the biggest barrier to our connection to God is feeling unworthy of that connection.

This is based on her understanding of the parable of the prodigal son. Another brief article shares that we are empowered to develop a deep and enriching intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father through three disciplines:

  • Daily Prayer
  • Reading, studying, and applying the scriptures daily
  • Serving others

This teaching of God’s desire toward an intimate and personal relationship is evident in the Teachings of Presidents of the Church: John Taylor. In Chapter 16 – Strengthening our Relationship with God we read the following excerpt:


God is our Father and He cherishes a paternal regard for us.

Our religion … does not set up God as some austere being that we cannot approach, but it tells us he is our Father, and that we are his children, and that he cherishes in his bosom a paternal regard for us; and we have experienced something of the feelings that exist between father and son, mother and daughter, parents and children.5

How does God feel towards the human family? He feels that they are his children. What, all? Yes, the white, the black, the red, the Jew, the gentile, the heathen, the Christian, and all classes and grades of men. He feels interested in all. He has done so from the beginning and will continue to do so to the end. He will do all that lies in his power for the benefit, blessing, and exaltation of the human family, both in time and eternity.6

We are all the children of God. He is our Father and has a right to direct us, not only us, but has a perfect right to direct and control the affairs of all the human family that exist upon the face of the earth for they are all his offspring.7

The object that God has in view is to benefit mankind as much as lies in His power. We talk sometimes about moving heaven and earth but God has moved heaven and earth for the accomplishment of that object. … God desires our welfare, and He has instituted laws for that purpose. He has introduced the everlasting Gospel for that purpose; and He has restored the Holy Priesthood that existed anciently, together with all the principles, blessings, powers, rites, ordinances, and privileges that have graced the earth from the commencement of time.8

If we understand ourselves correctly, we must look upon ourselves as eternal beings, and upon God as our Father, for we have been taught when we pray to say, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” [See Matthew 6:9.] “We have fathers in the flesh, and we do them reverence, how much more shall we be in subjection to the Father of Spirits and live.” [See Hebrews 12:9.] I need not enter into any proof in relation to this, for it is well understood by the saints that God is the father of our spirits, and that when we go back into his presence, we shall know him, as we have known our earthly parents. We are taught to approach him as we would an earthly parent to ask of him such blessings as we need; and he has said “if a son ask bread of his father shall he give him a stone, or if he ask for fish, a scorpion. If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him.” [See Matthew 7:9–11.]9

What we read here appears consistent with the assessment of Cares and Leach and not different and unbiblical. Neither does this appear to add to any confusion or blur any understanding of who God is. Where the authors attempt to find disagreement, one actually uncovers harmony between how Mormon’s see who God is as that with who Christians see who God is. The only difference appears to be within the doctrinal construct of Godhead versus Trinity. Even then, a careful and thoughtful proper study of the Biblical text reveals that the doctrine construct of the Godhead is Biblical over the doctrinal construct of the Trinity.

SHATTERING THE FALSE CONCLUSION OF THE STRAW MAN FALLACY

Cares and Leach concludes that Mormonism teaches a God of human nature who is distant while maintaining a supposed Biblical integrity that God is superior and intimate toward humanity. This is established by the following statement on pages 31-32:

Although Mormonism’s God is like them, he comes off as distant and detached. Even though it pictures God as being close to them in his nature, its view of him is quite fuzzy. The only thing Mormons see clearly is that God is human: both in nature and relationships

This is compared to their assessment of the Christian view on who God is as follows:

On the other hand, the God of the Bible is completely different from us and vastly superior to us but is highly interested and involved with us. He is warm, personal, and kind. Even though the chasm is incredibly wide, the Bible brings him into sharp focus.

This assumption further appears to follow that because Mormons view of God narrows the chasm between man and God it is therefore not Biblical. Whereas the supposed Christian view of God is a wider chasm between humanity and Deity. The difference appears to rest upon a God that is human in nature and relationships to that of a God who is vastly superior and there exists a wider chasm between humanity and God.

Assessing and examining the premise of Mark Cares and Jon Leach’s presentation of who God is fails to provide any significant insight into the difference between Latter-day Saint understanding and that of modern Christian understanding. The only chasm presented here is not the LDS view of who God is. It is the profound difference of viewpoint presented that is based on logical fallacies and faulty assumptions from Cares and Leach.

One thought on “Who God Is: Dismantling the Strawman Argument Fallacy

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